1. Like January 21, 2017, yesterday’s women’s marches electrified the country, and its echoes were heard around the world. Once again, millions of people, led by courageous women, young and old, took to the streets of our nation’s capital and hundreds of other cities and towns. It was an explosion of social protest, both organized and spontaneous, as well as a dramatic assertion of women’s autonomy and an insistence for a society free of sexual harassment, exploitation, and violence. Not least, it constituted a massive repudiation of Trump and everything he stands for. And not left out of the mix were other urgent concerns, including the fate of the Dreamers, racism, the threat to the environment, and the upcoming midterm elections.
It would be a stupid’s man’s bet to think that the energy and righteous demands on display yesterday will go away anytime soon. Though Trump, the GOP and a patriarchal society don’t realize it, a political juggernaut, guided by a vision of gender equality, justice, peace, and the eradication of Trump and Trumpism is IN for the long haul. As the Civil Rights song says, “ain’t nobody going to turn us around.”
2. My Take — the shutdown could have been easily avoided had it not been for Trump and the extreme right of the Republican right in Congress and the White House.
Democrats were ready to make a compromise that would keep the federal government open, while at the same time protecting Dreamers, health care for children, and others living on the edge. Bernie Sanders made the point yesterday that DACA was essential, but Democrats were also committed to funding other essential programs — not later but now.
The challenge for the larger movement now is twofold. First, counter the Trump-right wing narrative that Schumer and the Democrats are responsible for the shutdown. And, second, express support for Congressional Democrats as well as remind them once again that the defense of Dreamers and other people in vulnerable situations shouldn’t be bargained away.
3. Small-d democratic movements which capture and energize millions of people can’t be rolled out smoothly. There will be missteps, wrong turns, excesses, tensions, competing priorities and centers, etc. They can’t be choreographed. That’s the nature of movements with a mass and spontaneous character.
The main thing, it seems to me, is twofold. First, resist the movement’s opponents who do everything to depreciate its just demands and divide its participants. And, second, lend energy and a unifying (and principled) spirit to these mass, popular, long overdue democratic surges.
4. Any compelling economic narrative on the part of Democrats and the rest of the resistance movement has to give special attention to raising living standards in general and among the lowest paid workers in particular. And the ways to do that are many, although it should be unequivocally said that such a narrative shouldn’t be set against so-called “identity” issues. The class struggle will quickly hit a dead end if it isn’t organically connected to the struggle for equality, democratic rights, and democracy in general.
5. Marxism understands class as a wide brimmed, variegated, inclusive, and fluid phenomenon, grounded in an exploitive production process. But it has become evident that sections of white workers don’t abide by this understanding. In voting for Trump the candidate and supporting Trump the president, they set aside, if they ever embraced, this understanding of class.
In its place, they substituted a notion of class that is sectional, racialized, gendered, nativist, exclusivist, and zero sum. Whiteness, masculinity, and americanness became the main markers for their social identity and political outlook.
This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, the default position of the U.S. working class historically hasn’t been that of a tightly knit and politically progressive social grouping. If anything, that has been as much the exception as the rule. Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Wallace’s presidential bid, Reagan’s ascendency, and the rise of the right over the past 40 years — each was able to draw a section of white workers into their camp. Seen from this angle, Trump’s support among white workers isn’t an aberration.
I would also add that full blown class understanding-consciousness doesn’t simply and inexorably issue from a worker’s position in a system of social production. It is, instead, historically conditioned and politically constituted in the the course of a protracted struggle.