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(en) US, Washington, IWW Report back from the "Million Workers March" MWM

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 19 Oct 2004 15:11:05 +0200 (CEST)


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To see the red and black IWW banners, flags and balloons flying above the
gathering of Wobblies on October 17 at the base of the Lincoln Memorial,
you'd think you had stepped back in time. Considering the efforts
undertaken by bosses and the state to crush the Industrial Workers of the
World in the first half of the twentieth century, this was perhaps the
largest showing of Wobs in 70 years.
Close to 100 Wobblies joined several thousand other workers, students and
activists for the Million Worker March in Washington, DC as an organized
contingent. The rally and march itself was initiated by the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU. While the overall turn-out for the
rally itself was disappointing, numbering perhaps 5,000 or less due to a
de facto ban by the AFL-CIO leadership, police interference with union
buses and internal labor coalition shortfalls, it was inspiring to meet,
sing and march in a large and visible presence.

An initial contingent comprised of the IWW, the Federation of
Revolutionary Anarchist Collectives, or FRAC, the NorthEastern Federation
of Anarchist-Communists, or NEFAC, and the Workers Solidarity Alliance, or
WSA, met between 11:00 and 11:45 am on the west side of the Washington
Monument until police demanded the gathering leave, calling the
convergence a "demonstration" that was not allowed on monument grounds.
The contingent then left the area marching along the southern edge of the
Reflecting Pool singing songs such as "Solidarity Forever," "There is
Power in a Union," and "A las Barricadas" among others. Wobblies set up a
merchandise and information table at the edge of the Reflecting Pool near
the Lincoln Memorial that drew large crowds throughout the day.
Additionally, a massive amount of literature was distributed, both by the
IWW (the Industrial Worker) and NEFAC (Strike!) as well as through FRAC's
table, and folks were incredibly receptive.

The rally itself consisted of speaker after speaker addressing the crowd
from noon until just after 4:00 pm, leaving many wondering if there was
going to be a march at all. A Wobbly had initially been invited to speak
only to be "uninvited" at the last minute. A feeder march assembled
outside of AFL-CIO headquarters as the "Coalition of Imaginary Anarchists"
before the rally, but there were some concerns among Wobs as to the choice
of assembly points and in the end, plans were not worked out well enough
in advance to facilitate coordination, thus the IWW, if not others, did
not participate. As a union, the IWW's power rests in its ability to
organize and energize workers and perhaps the most persuasive argument
against the business unionism of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy is the example
set by solidarity unionism in a constructive and practical form.

One criticism of the rally itself, apart from the external actions of
police or AFL-CIO leadership, was the seeming lack of accessible
information as to how it would progress. There were plans for a march to
take place after the rally in support of HERE hotel workers, but
conflicting reports and a lack of specifics confused many. A discussion
took place among the IWW, NEFAC, FRAC and WSA regarding post-rally plans
but a solid consensus could not be reached, prompting many to leave before
the march in support of hotel workers occurred. All present wished to
support the hotel workers, but again, information on how to plug-in was
next to non-existant. Regardless, many Wobblies who traveled from as far
away as the Bay Area, Lawrence, Kansas and Detroit, Michigan had a time
limit for any further activities and were unable to participate.

An incident did occur during the discussion that should be addressed. When
an African-American organizer with the ILWU approached the meeting,
unfamiliar with its process, he was rather rudely told by a non-Wobbly
that he should leave as he was not a member of any of the groups present.
This reaction was apparently due to a misunderstanding, but lead to an
open argument that was only resolved when members of the IWW and NEFAC
apologized to the ILWU organizer for the indiscretion of the person in
question. To that person's credit, he later apologized face-to-face and
hopefully resolved any outstanding issues.

As Wobblies, or as others whether you consider yourselves anarchists,
socialists, workers, unionists or just plain folks, we must strive to
fight the bosses and the ruling class first and formost in solidarity with
our sister and brother workers, no matter what their affiliation, so long
as certain consistent principles are held in common. This means working
side by side with those who support our principles while maintaining a
clear focus on our objectives. As a Wobbly, rallies, marches and mass
mobilizations are important but can never replace organizing and action
undertaken on the job by workers for workplace democracy and the abolition
of the wage system.

That being said, it is always good to see others and hopefully the
momentum our larger movement has been building in recent years will
continue through sustainable organizing campaigns, reinvigoration of our
traditions and solidarity as we head into the coming years.


Link: http://www.iww.org


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