An excerpt from Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “How to Build a Mass Movement,” originally posted at SocialistWorker.org. Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor in Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies and the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.
The issue for the Left is how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner, and more working class. Simply complaining about it changes nothing.
There will no effective movement against Trump that doesn’t directly confront the issue of racism. It has to be front and center, and it seemed to me that the march organizers took that question seriously and made genuine efforts to shift shortcomings in their original approach.
The organized turnout of unions for the Washington demonstration was much smaller than it should have been. But at least some sections of the labor movement did feel the pressure from its own membership to devote greater resources to mobilization in the final weeks, and plenty of union members got themselves to the march as individuals and with rank-and-file members. That’s something for the Left to build on in making labor central to the anti-Trump resistance.
The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses, and strengths.
If the Left doesn’t engage with the aim of contending for leadership and influence, we just concede these forces to the Democrats and liberals, who will certainly try to confine the new upsurge of opposition to the political limits they want to define.
The point isn’t to bury our arguments, but to learn how to make them while operating in political arenas that aren’t just our own if we want to win people to more radical politics. Revolutionary socialists have a long and rich tradition of building united fronts, which seems more real now that three million people were in the streets.
We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion, and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want. But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.
There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches, and much more to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together, and stand up to this assault together.