All of Washington D.C. resounded with cries of frustration and freedom, in a general call for peace, an immediate and unadulterated end to the "war on terrorism" and of solidarity for the suffering Palestinian masses who bear the burden of Sharon's racist war on April 20th. As police flanked every side street, and even shut down what would have been a rally against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the crowd pressed on with positive revolutionary enthusiasm, determined to be heard and recognized as a capable united force.
It was the first major protest since Bush's blatantly reactionary policies after September 11th. Even the heroic anti-war rallies that emerged in the days after the attack on New York, and the following World Economic Forum protests could not compare to huge number of activists. As many as 100,000, protestors showed up to discuss ideas, to hand out literature and to demand an end to the war. While the protest itself was divided into unified yet separate rallies, everyone present recognized the War on Terrorism as being of utmost importance.
The respective rallies reflected the major contradictions that have shaken the capitalist and imperialist infrastructure since September. There was, of course, the anti-war rally where a large range of activists convened to discuss solutions to Bush's open ended war that is apparently unstoppable. Everyone from the pacifist "defenders of peace", to the ultra radical left agreed on the necessity for immediacy. Iran, Iraq, North Korea - countries in which absolutely no proof has been put forward of their connection to Osama Bin Ladin, are being threatened for standing in the way of American interests. In the US, 2.5 million are jobless, 45 million have no healthcare, and job security is precarious - despite the zealously celebrated "bounce back" from a recession.
Not far from the main green was the rally in support of the people of occupied Palestine. Speakers lectured on the truth about Sharon's racist war, and the true ambitions of the openly racist and imperialist backed Zionist movement. The crowd called for an immediate return to the borders outlined in the 1948 mandate, and for the recognition of an independent state of Palestine. They called for the investigation of Sharon's involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in which an estimated 2,750 Palestinians were mowed down with machine guns, uncalled for and unclaimed. The Zionist expropriation campaign, which consists of the expulsion of 800,000 largely Arab Palestinians, has taken a turn for the worst as all eyes intently watch the developments in the Middle East. Just weeks before the protest, Israeli tanks ploughed into a refugee camp in Jenin and ruthlessly shelled it deep into the night, leaving countless dead. With the "leadership" of Palestine all but annhilated, or trapped under house arrest, what else can the masses do but turn to the streets?
As Marxists, however, we understand that all of these crucial issues can only be understood through a class analysis - by understanding what class forces are involved. The anti-globalization movement and the anti-war movement need to unite under a working class leadership against the common enemy: imperialism. Bush's war is but a tool of imperialism. The farce of terrorism has allowed him to haphazardly threaten countries around the world by labeling them as terrorists, or just down right "evil". We urge the activists to understand the connection and hold no illusions as to the real terrorists - the ruling bourgeois who set the stage for genocidal tools of the class system, people like Ariel Sharon, Osama Bin Ladin and George Bush.
It cannot be denied that the loudest cries were those for Palestinian liberation. And why should it have been any different? Palestine is, after all, one of the most palpable manifestations of the contradiction of capitalism. But we ask those calling for Palestinian freedom to challenge the very notion of "freedom" as it is seen by the bourgeoise. Free Palestine to what? To capitalist exploitation? So that the slaves may wake up to find themselves in another set of chains? Sure, the world might call it "democracy" but they are chains nonetheless, behind the bankrupt fallacy of capitalist dogma, they leave the scars of Sabra, Shatila, Jenin, and suicide bombings by eighteen year olds with no hope for the future. What is needed is genuine freedom and democracy - the freedom to have a quality job, housing, healthcare, and to live in peace without fear of bombs from above or from individual terrorists. What is needed is a united struggle of the workers of Israel and Palestine against their real enemy - the capitalist class which divides them and sets them at each other's throats for a scrap of bread and a foot of land. It is only the ruling class which benefits from this situation!
The other protest, specifically against the bourgeois IMF and World Bank was shut down by a surprisingly organized police presence. Every alley way, side street and access to the buildings were shut down for blocks, with anywhere from one to three levels of metal barricades, (one at either end of the street, and one in the middle) all complete with gangs of police in riot gear. It was obvious then the real concern of the police, and illustrated quite perfectly how the police, though still members of the working class, serve mainly to protect the private property of the bourgeois. They are part of the state apparatus of repression which maintains the ruling class in power at the expense of the majority of society. It was these same police who forbade the selling of Socialist Appeal at the Capitol building, trampling our Constitutional Rights in the interest of "calm".
As the day drew to an end, and the crowd drew more and more protestors, all of the respective marches moved on the Capitol, for a truly amazing spectacle. Grown men were sitting on the shoulders of other men as children ran in between the crowd. No matter where you were standing, you heard the same phrase Free Free Palestine! shouted in unison by the old and young, the Palestinians and Americans, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Atheists. Signs called for Peace, to "End Israeli Occupation," to "indite Sharon," to and "free Palestine." Chants like "one two three four, we don't want your dirty war, five six seven eight, we will not cooperate!" were held high, along with raised fists and Muslim headdresses. Stickers read "We are all Palestinians", as students climbed into trees and on top of busses to fly the flag of Palestine.
While the protest was an obvious success, we stress the need for more active participation, not only among the disillusioned youth, but also among the mighty working class of America. Only through trade union solidarity and participation in these protests and on a daily basis can progress begin to be made for a socialist solution to the problems facing workers in the US and around the world. Yearly protests are not enough to combat the decrepit class system, and to battle its symptoms both domestically and abroad. The student activist youth must ally itself with the working class, along with the the anti-war movements, Palestinian movements, and anti-globalization movements. It is on this platform that we urge the rising movements towards a socialist perspective, for a true and lasting solution. Only through understanding the world in this manner, can one begin to solve what is the global problem: the cancer of Capitalism. Only through ridding the world of profit can we move forward with truly humane and compassionate ideals.