Most of us have been to demonstrations for a single issue – the anti-war movement, same-sex marriage, etc. But have any of us ever been to a march where the slogan of the day was the very system we believe will actually get to the root of all these problems?
Imagine a demonstration for socialism. It’s not a conventional concept! Most activist coalitions are based on the socialist concept of a “united front”: the entire point is to place political labels as secondary, so people of different labels can come together. This allows for the maximum number of people who may have different views, but care about the same issue. (It also allows radicals to circulate among non-radicals, for the purpose of persuasion and recruitment.)
But there’s more to life than united fronts.
Socialists are good at promoting their own group, and good at jumping into broad coalitions with liberals for the sake of having a united front, but are so far no good at coming together as socialists specifically for the purpose of promoting socialism openly. This has got to change. A renewed socialist visibility on May Day would be a great place to begin practicing this possible socialist unity.
Some people say demonstrations don’t accomplish anything. I disagree. They create waves of opinion-shift throughout the population which can sometimes react against the state, to the point of causing a shift in policy. Sometimes the state ignores protest, but as revolutionists this doesn’t bother us: (1) when the state ignores protest, it de-legitimizes the state; (2) we don’t entirely care if the state ignores protest, because while shifting policy would be nice, the real target is to move the minds of the proletariat – to shift public opinion.
After 9/11, this country was headed straight to the Right, until the Day X protests against the Iraq War in 2003. Ever since the recession in 2008, the first group to take to the streets was the Tea Party, which everyone knew was crap, but since they were the only visible force, the dialogue was hijacked by people who think the only problem with the economy is taxes and the public sector. Occupy Wall Street, essentially an extended protest, succeeded in ripping the public dialogue wide open to the Left, and class war rhetoric became commonplace. People may not like protesters, but they are nonetheless begrudgingly affected by protest — the tool of protest succeeds in shifting opinion and dialogue.
So again – if we can insert socialists into single-issue demonstrations, why can’t we just openly demonstrate for socialism? It has the same effect of energizing the forces you have, and acting as an opportunity to possibly call out and have first contact with a layer of forces you’ve never met before (as long as you actually promote the event).
In the Sawant campaign, volunteers had events called “stand-outs,” where they picked high-traffic areas, brought signs, and simply had miniature rallies for Sawant. There is no reason this couldn’t be done for our label itself.
Of course people might ask themselves “what is the point?” If this effort is not feeding into any larger movement for socialism, it might seem pointless. The effectiveness of protest in meeting new people and energizing existing forces was already mentioned. But actually, it is a problem. We do need a united socialist party in order for such a renewed socialist visibility to become something which can build momentum instead of just fizzling. But actually undertaking to turn May Day into a demonstration for socialism is a good place to start.