The hard challenge of rebuilding the American democratic dream

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Gathered in the historic and combative city of Chicago, several thousand activists of the "political revolution" raised by Senator Bernie Sanders discussed, for three days (last June 17-19), an agenda with tasks for before and after the November presidential election.


At the site where today the huge McCormick Place convention center rises, and where 140 years before (one May 4, 1886) the police had shot and killed striking workers where the McCormick Harvester Works factory stood, more than 3,000 activists coming from all corners of the USA, were recovering history and programming a future without fear.


In an atmosphere of heartfelt brotherhood and collaboration among activists in the "People's Summit" whose repeated political motto is solidarity and action to build political revolution, there was a sequence of speeches by prominent social leaders, followed by grass-root testimonies, which came to land in the exchanges of views among hundreds of small groups of varying composition.


There was a notable predominance of women and young people of both sexes and other preferences and facades, such as RoseAnn DeMoro, Secretary of the relatively new and important National Union of Nurses, social movement intellectuals such as Naomi Klein, former Senators such as the impressive and bewitching mass speaker Nina Turner, or the spiritual and pacifist parliamentarian Tulsi Gabbard, from Hawaii.


By listening to these new social activists, how could we not remember the narratives retrieved by the unforgettable historian Howard Zinn? One deep root was the participation of women in trade union and civil strife in Chicago and in the history of this nation, recreated today with the intention of participating in a political revolution of the XXI century.


The testimonies of the "millennials" broadly cover denunciations of racism, discrimination of sexual diversity, low wages, lack of access to health services, lack of democracy in the rules and operation of the dominant political parties that have refused to give way to the desire to participate in the vote to change the scandalous concentration of wealth in the oligarchy of the 1%.


The fiery and radical students, promoters of the defense of labor rights in so-called "sweatshops" or maquiladoras, relate the success and the importance of recognizing the power of youth in all areas. In this case students, to force universities to punish employers and intermediaries who violate human rights and aim to put them in uniform.


The strong rhetoric of youth and social activists denouncing and proposing strategies against the corrupt power of banks and financial groups, ill-defined as "too big to fail", raised cries of euphoria and applause when the demand became "too big to exist".


Memories are still fresh of the movement, platform and struggles of "Occupy Wall Street" (2011) and certainly some of those activists were also involved in this huge and important meeting.


The issue of immigration reform was approached by Chicano activists and leaders who have reached posts in local authorities and who emphasize the positive and historic multi-ethnic contribution in building the country alongside clear rejection of conservative or reactionary D. Trump hypernationalism. There was emphasis on denouncing the attitude of contempt and disrespect, not only as an ideological position, but also as political opportunism to exploit the fear and deterioration of living standards among white Anglo sectors, as well as the anachronism of the political system.


In the numerous brief workshops held in the huge complex, experiences and knowledge were shared on many subjects that, while well-known, do not lack originality: agriculture, GMOs and food health; strategies against fracking and for water conservation in communities and the ecosystem; expansion of the coordination against the mega-treaties TPP, TTIP, TISA, TESLA; labor rights, human rights and the minimum wage increase to $ 15 an hour; a moratorium on student loans; strategies to expand health coverage, and a reduction of subsidies and power of pharmaceutical transnationals; tasks towards the national convention of the Democratic Party; how to address "trumpismo" for political revolution; new strategies for the digital revolution and many more.


A whole wave of creative young activists involved in the "political revolution" that the call for solidarity of "Bernie", as he is affectionately called, surprisingly stirred up, to the envy and concern of the bureaucracy and elite of both Democrats and Republicans.


But what's new about the agenda or proposed actions. Why in this tidal wave of activists, organizers, and communicators of the digital revolution, was there no mention of either the verdict or the question that abroad even people on the left have been posing? That is, "if Sanders has lost, why doesn’t he withdraw from the campaign? "


The answer Bernie Sanders himself has given, reiterating that "In the transformation of America ... it’s not just about the transformation of the elections" ... "We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America we know we can become."


The unexpected and unpredictably successful campaign not only accumulated more than 12 million voters in favor of Bernie Sanders, while thousands or millions more young people were prevented from voting due to the discretional or outdated rules of the Democratic Party, it has also managed to penetrate the consciousness of further millions of Americans and the admiration -- or disbelief and even hatred -- of foreign progressives or conservatives.


A presidential candidate who presents himself as a "democratic socialist" in the heart of the American empire? A platform denouncing the scandalous power of Wall Street and demanding a policy that benefits everyone, not just the 1%?  A campaign that forces the Democratic candidate favored by the oligarchic and financial groups to speak out against the TPP, when she previously supported it, or to promise a wage increase that she covertly opposed, as well as a reform of the financial system? A candidate who, according to polls, would have a better chance of defeating the conservative billionaire Republican candidate?


Are we not in the midst of the triumph of neoliberalism, of the transnational globalization of market power and of the mass media?


Knowing how to build their citizen power, from the bottom up, using the digital system of collecting micro contributions that cumulatively exceed 222 million dollars, they have demonstrated the corrupting power of campaign finance by the financial oligarchy and prevented its entry to the campaign; with 45.2% of Democrat delegates to the Democratic national convention; and the support and sympathy of millions of citizens, the tasks of the immediate period focus on:


Actively supporting candidates for local, state and federal legislative posts; achieving an electoral platform of the Democratic Party that reflects the main demands of the campaign and participating in drafting it and if necessary fighting for it until the late July convention in Philadelphia; defeating D. Trump and his proposals.


Tasks after the November elections are apparently synthesized in keeping alive the movement for changes in domestic and foreign policy, in information and in action with an obvious view towards 2018 and beyond.


The political developments following the Summit of the Peoples of Chicago, especially the obstacles members of the Platform Council and some Democratic legislators have interposed to an open rejection of fracking, the TPP or expanding health coverage, highlights the fact that the struggle to transform America doesn’t end, either in the so-called primaries, or in the elections.


Let’s not forget:


The Workingmen's party of Illinois, at a July 4 celebration organized by German socialists in Chicago, said in its Declaration of Independence:


The present system has enabled capitalists to make laws in their own interests to the injury and oppression of the workers.

It has made the name Democracy, for which our forefathers fought and died, a mockery and a shadow, by giving to property an unproportionate amount of representation and control over Legislation.


It has enabled capitalists ... to secure government aid, inland grants and money loans, to selfish railroad corporations, who, by monopolizing the means of transportation are enabled to swindle both the producer and the consumer.



We, therefore, the representatives of the workers of Chicago, in mass meeting assembled, do solemnly publish and declare ...


That we are absolved from all allegiance to the existing political parties of this country, and that as free and independent producers we shall endeavor to acquire the full power to make our own laws, manage our own production, and govern ourselves.. Source: A People's History of the United States: 1492 to present. Howard Zinn, pág 181.


I think the words that the great Howard Zinn pronounced two decades ago also help us understand the meaning of what happened in the recent Peoples Summit in Chicago:


“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnicently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an innite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in deance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”


Source: The Progressive Magazine On Line. January 31, 2010 — Lew Rosenbaum.


- Alejandro Villamar/RMALC, Mexico City, July 1st, 2016


My gratitude to the sisters and brothers, organizers of the People's Summit, for the opportunity they gave me of sharing hopes.



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