Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 17 Seattle protest reports

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  1. Posted by: Ben Seattle at Oct 17, 2009 16:21 on Seattle Indymedia

    1. My assessment was that the march was a big success. Approximately 60 enthusiastic marchers from many corners of the movement (including a number who have not marched before) walked down Broadway to Jackson and then to 1st Avenue (downtown) and along 1st Ave. to Pike Street and then to Westlake Plaza.

    I was pleasantly suprized by the militancy of the action as reflected in support for the many anti-imperialist slogans and chants that were given. I have been on many marches which to a large degree took place in silence. This was certainly not a silent march. The slogan I personally liked best was: "The Democrats won't stop this war--Let's take the fight to their front door!"

    2. Pedistrians and people in cars who saw the march took notice. My estimate is that:

    (a) 20 percent or more of onlookers gave signs of supporting the march (with their hands or enthusiastic voices)

    (b) a larger section (maybe 50 or 60 percent) studied the march intently. For many of these people this was their first exposure to mass opposition to the imperialist war in Afghanistan or to anti-imperialist politics. The high level of interest in the march was evidenced by many dozens of people taking photos or videos with their cell phones (this also gives a hint of how the emerging revolution in communications will amplify the reach of the mass movements in society).

    (c) 5 or 10 percent of the onlookers most likely opposed the politics of the march. This shows that the politics of the march were clear.

    Also of note was something I have not seen before: more than once Seattle cops were taking careful count of the exact number of marchers. The anti-imperialist movement is still small--but it has potential to grow and the political establishment wants to ready with both force and the tactics of co-option when it does.

    I am sure that more complete, all-sided and political summations will be posted later.


  2. Totaling things up, before the march I think that we passed out about 55 leaflets, and if we assume that maybe half of the various stacks of leaflets that we gave to others throughout the campaign were actually distributed, then I think that it’s safe to add on another 60. This gives a total of 5455, which I’m sure is more pre-event distribution of literature than has occurred in a good number of years.

    During the march SAIC distributed maybe 200 leaflets (a wild guess) to the people on the streets. From my perspective, this contributed to the political impact of the event, but I don’t think this number should be considered part of the O-27 mobe effort.

    More summation comments in a while.



  3. I agree that the march was a big success, and would add that the whole campaign was a success. But the really intriguing question is that while this was the largest anti-war mobilizing effort in a number of years, the turnout was 50-60 people. What’s behind this?

    Pouring-rain in the morning doesn’t explain it because good weather would probably have only doubled the crowd-size. Some problem with the SAIC appeal doesn’t explain it because there were a number of other appeals made by quite different voices. Boycott by a couple of Trotskyist groups and most of RCP doesn’t explain it because they’re not big. Nor does some kind of deep demoralization among the masses seem to explain it. No, during mobilization we had tons of people expressing support for the effort, with numerous people wanting extra leaflets, and so on. We even got to talk with several Afghan and Pakistani people who were militantly on our side, and who took extra leaflets. And during the march itself there was a lot of support from the sidewalks. (And I’ve never seen so many people snapping pictures of a march.)

    So my not-so-brilliant explanation is that while the masses don’t like the war, they don’t want to go to demonstrations against it…but they support those who do! And this presents an intriguing puzzle insofar as divining tactics with which to advance the situation.

    Of course, one always-necessary thing needing to be done is work to raise the level of the mass political consciousness, which is why SAIC mainly relied on a leaflet that dwelt on matters in some depth, and which is why I would have thought the campaign a success if even fewer people turned out. Indeed, I think that our experience with the turnout confirms how absolutely essential this hard-to-measure work (which few do) is. But besides this always-necessary work that can’t be skipped over, as individuals or groups I think we’ll also be pondering other tactics to use in the present situation for some time.

    From the angle of who came, I was excited by the turnout because it had a mass character, i.e., most people were not long-standing members of the various sects in the city. And perhaps the largest group there, VFP, itself has quite a broad political character.

    Personally, I thought that the march was incredible. Three miles of constant slogans. And if people with bullhorns let up for a minute, then someone else would jump in to lead. More, I thought 90% of the chants and slogans were politically strong. You had to love, humbly respect, and be inspired by this crowd that marched with us for more than an hour.

    Returning to our overall united-front effort, I think that we did really a lot that was right, and very few things that were wrong. (Comrades may think of some of the latter for Wednesday night, but right now I can only think of the most minor things.) It was an learning experience that I hope stands us in good stead for future collaborative efforts.


  4. Marches are ineffective.

  5. To the last poster, saying that marches are ineffective: It would be useful if you would give some more information to back your view, rather than just engaging in nay saying. As it is, we have no way of knowing what you do think is "effective" (lobbying? chaining oneself to the Federal Building doors? bomb throwing?) , or what your desired effect would be (appeal to the "morality" of the ruling class? "bear witness"? symbolic gestures of protest? terrorize the ruling class into some action?).

    I can only speak for myself, but my perspective is that a single march is not effective if what you hope ofr is to change the minds of the ruling class. They will only change their tune when they feel their rule threatened. But marches are very effective for what I want to accomplish:

    * to present a show of opposition to imperialist war, not for the ruling class, which knows quite well how broad the opposition to their wars is, but for ordinary people to see;

    * to reach out to ordinary people on the streets, and seek to draw them into action, through distribution of literature analyzing the wars and their underlying reasons in the nature of imperialism;

    * to start to build connections with these ordinary masses of people, who are made by capitalism to feel isolated in their opposition;

    * to build, and to encourage the building of, organizations independent of the ruling class, organizations which are not oriented toward appealing to the ruling class to "be nice" or to "listen to us";

    In fact, quite to the contrary, I think that it is _only_ through marches and other mass demonstrations of opposition, as well as through direct work reaching out to the masses of people, that these objectives can be accomplished.

    That said, I agree with earlier posters that this demonstration was a success despite its small size. Both building for and during the demonstration, we reached out to a significant number of people in Seattle. A large number of the 5400 pieces of literature passed out in building for this contained not only an announcement of the event, but also an analysis of the war, and an anti-imperialist perspective on the reasons it is being fought. They also advocated for an orientation that appealing to the ruling class and their bought and sold politicians is not the way to bring an end to this war, or any imperialist war.

    -- Alex