Report on Mayday activities in Seattle 2013
(Letter to comrade M)
I am writing this with some help from Ben, in the Cyclo Cafe on Broadway.
I arrived at the [immigrants rights] march a little late at the top of Jackson, after taking a bus-ride from Everett. The bus ride was interesting because I was able to make conversation with a former carpet layer about what the march today is about, and what are some of the problems and potential avenues for movement for working people today.
These are the primary themes of the May Day demonstrations:
On the one hand, we had the theme of problems facing workers: A large percentage of workers deemed "illegal" and therefore socially expendable without rights, a weakened trade union movement, and a bourgeois government that will not "listen."
On the other hand, we had the theme of solutions (or a potential theme) as demonstrated by the anti-capitalist march. These solutions include Anarchism and Marxism, or some kind of Social Democratic variation of one or the other.
The March for Immigrant Rights
The immigrant rights march was carefully managed and coordinated by the Democratic Party and its allies, reformist immigrant groups as well as the trade unions. Most radical activists were unfortunately put into a position to "tail" the march. My original intention at the march was to meet with the comrades at the Communist Voice Organization (CVO) and distribute their leaflet on Immigration Reform. I was going to present a cover letter describing why I was doing so, and that while I don't endorse recruitment for the CVO, I do find the leaflet to be helpful. Based on my lead-up to May Day, they and the Internationalist Group in Portland were the only groups to come up with effective analysis on May Day in regards to the reforms which the unions and mainstream immigrant groups promoted. It is important to expose the Social Democratic institutions as mouthpieces for the bourgeoisie and broken dreams to the broad masses, and it was because of this reason that I promoted the CVO's leaflet (None were distributed by me however due to bad coordination with their members. From what I gathered they had success).
The march grew from about 2 to 3-4k. I had an interesting conversation with Nico about the march, and partial demands, I hope that this conversation can continue with you and the rest of the Black Orchid Collective (BOC), as well as other activists. I later spoke with Frank of the CVO and secured his willingness to be a part of that. I did not see the end of the march since we broke for lunch.
After lunch I met Ben and Frank at the Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) campus. We continued the conversation for partial demands among ourselves. Ben corrected me in my analysis of the role of the trade unions--and how far they can even be trusted for trade unionist demands. At the high point of the struggle, the bureaucrats will generally do everything possible to railroad and sell out the workers.
The ONRA leaflets are more tailored to the idea of solutions with the conscious element as the target audience, the CVO writes for the masses. Both types of leaflets are useful, but writing both types are probably too much for one study group alone. I did distribute some of the leaflets from my discussion group with Ben, which gives his views on the strategic and class perspective of the working class.
The Anti-Capitalist March:
The march of roughly 400 began with a rally with perhaps some of the most amotivational and confusing speeches I have ever heard. The good news is that the speakers did not waste too much time making statements that made no sense. The march's greatest strength I think was its early restraint from doing stupid actions that would jeopardize the march, and taking a route down Broadway and through the backside of Cal Anderson Park. The residential path was good for exposure and safety. The march turned toward Westlake down Pike and over the freeway into downtown. Both Ben and I think it would have been preferable to stay in residential neighborhoods. There was a slight tension at Nike Town, where one activist threw a stick at a window, followed by a scuffle and one or more arrests at 4th and Pine.
I do not know the details of the scuffle, but there was a confrontation between one or two activists and a bourgeois reporter. Ben noted that immediately prior to the incident, a group of activists appeared to be smoking marijuana; which may have attracted the attention of a nearby reporter with a video camera-- leading to a shoving match between the activists and reporter. This is mainly speculation by Ben, since a lot was going on in the area and it was hard to see. If this sort of scenario was what happened, I think it is a sign of a lack of professionalism which is capitalized on by the bourgeois press for public appeal. The escalation to a shoving match with the reporters was harmful. [Noted: Ben believes that smoking pot is symbolic action that amounts to nothing, and mainly symbolized the empty politics which revolve around the idea that nothing is more militant than "confronting the man".]
After the first arrest, the cops created a perimeter around the arrested comrade and the paddy wagon. The other anti-capitalist activists encircled the perimeter and followed it one block north on 4th. The cops at this time reconfigured their perimeter, moved the prisoner from one paddy wagon to another, and held position for several minutes. Tension was pretty high, and, at the front of the convoy, a flash-bang grenade was thrown to disperse the crowd. Activists cleared for a few moments, unsure of what was going on, then cheered and regrouped to block the convoy. The cops threw another grenade, but made no progress. I had a good vantage point from the flowerbed of a fancy restaurant--until an activist shattered the window next to me--leaving me to look like I had done it. The cop's attention was however on the convoy and its immobility. We soon heard a dispersal order and a dozen flash-bang grenades over 20 minutes, as the cops attempted to push through. I am not sure if anyone was arrested after the dispersal order. The action continued for some time and we were both coughing from the tear gas as we left-[Note: While we both witnessed objects being thrown, we cannot verify the type, weight, or lethality of the objects].
Probably, at least fifty to a hundred of the activists there wanted this kind of confrontation with the cops, although Ben offered the opinion that it would probably have been better for the march to disperse at a time and place of its choosing rather than by the order of the police.
So what can we learn from this? The anti-capitalist movement has some sections that are more conscious than others. Some have experience from Occupy and other struggles; some are new and more immature. The immature tactics near the end of the action probably reflect several things:
(a) The lack of political ideas based on building a conscious movement capable of drawing millions into action, and
(b) the inability for the more conscious section to have greater command and control over the action once it had become clear that it would be necessary to keep moving rather than get bogged down in one place, face arrests, and lose momentum and (eventually) confidence.
Why is it that the most conscious section of the movement is unable to do more to win the movement to political ideas that aim for something higher than confrontations with the cops?
Why do we have groups that have such poor coordination and communication with one another? Why can't we have a centralized source of information that fairly represents the thoughts and theory of everyone, and allows us to better discuss and sum up the best and worst ideas and practices of the movement?
Why, for that matter, would it not be possible for experienced and dedicated activists to talk about the strategic perspective of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat?
These are things we have to discuss if we are serious about creating an effective machine to defeat the bourgeoisie and replace capitalism.
Ben and I meet when we can at the Black Coffee on many Sundays and hope that, sooner or later, you or other members of the BOC will stop by and say hello.