January 2021Campaigns

DMV socialists demand relief for the working class

In December, DMV socialists led to demonstrations meant to highlight the urgent needs of the working class and to reject the calls for budget cuts coming from Republican leadership and neoliberal corporatists nestled in the Biden administration.

Action began on December 11th in DC. The demonstrations sought to make it clear to Democratic Party leadership that only bold action will be capable of answering the deep public health, economic and environmental crises facing the working class. The demands outlined by national activists called on President-elect Biden and the Democratic Party to embark on an agenda that would truly save the working class:

  • Pass a People’s Bailout and provide everybody $2,000 per month through the remainder of the public health crisis.
  • Fund a Green Stimulus, including a trillion dollars to bail out state and local governments’ budget crises.
  • Enact a Federal Jobs Guarantee.
  • Pass the PRO Act to protect and expand workers’ right to organize.
  • Pass the Healthcare Emergency Guarantee Act to ensure everyone has access to free health care through the duration of the public health emergency.

The demonstration was waxed with metaphor — featuring an intricately designed puppet of Joe Biden being hauled across DC streets by activists in suits, evocative of the corporate boosters who are set to be the main influencers of Biden's incoming administration. For over two hours, protesters marched across the city to highlight the ongoing corrosive influence of fossil fuel, corporate and war profiteering interests on the Democratic Party’s climate, economic and foreign policy.

Stray Trump supporters stared in wide-eyed confusion. Many who were in town for a violent getaway were visibly befuddled to see socialists and anti-fascists protesting Joe Biden and his big pocketed backers. The media circus they follow tells them Joe and Kamala are secret communists who lead the forces of Antifa — why would a pack of socialists make an impassioned demonstration against their dear leader?

The march targeted specific appointments to Biden’s cabinet, each of whom raise numerous concerns about the incoming administration’s commitment to bold action:

  • Janet Yellen, Biden’s Treasury Secretary nominee, has a long history of advocating for austerity politics as a board member of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, a group backed by corporations such as ExxonMobil, BP and General Motors that resists transformational climate policies like the Green New Deal.
  • Anita Dunn, Biden’s senior campaign advisor and co-chair of the transition team, is a managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, a corporate lobbying firm that represents fracked gas giant Dominion Energy and has consistently lobbied to overturn regulations in service to corporate interests.
  • Tony Blinken, Biden’s Secretary of State nominee, co-founded WestExec Advisors, an opaque defense consulting firm, and serves as a partner with Pine Island Capital Partners, which is promising profits in the US defense market by utilizing their “relationships and networks.”
  • Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, Biden’s Secretary of Defense nominee, serves on the board of numerous private weapons manufacturing corporations and his appointment directly violates the norm of civilian rule over the military.
  • Brian Deese, Biden’s nominee for chair of the National Economic Council, was the Global Head of Sustainable Investing for BlackRock, the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels, leading the greenwashing efforts of BlackRock’s destructive investment practices.
  • Neera Tanden, Biden’s Office of Management and Budget Director nominee, is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, where she disbanded an employee union, backed policies that would slash Social Security benefits and cut Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and led opposition to the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

The event was marshalled by the delegate of Maryland’s 39th Legislative District Gabriel Acevero, a DSA member who has taken the role of championing the interests of activists, organizers and the working class in the Maryland General Assembly. Del. Acevero, along with other local speakers, compared what it means to fund systems that enable a safe and supported multi-racial working class against an austerity regime that only finances war and violence: “We’re here to say: fund housing, fund transit, fund healthcare, fund schools, fund our future, and defund the police! Don’t just name a plaza after Black lives, pass the policies that will make Black lives matter!”


Late December Developments

At first, it felt as if these demands occurred in a vacuum. National and local attention seemed to be fixated on Trump’s consistent refusal to accept the results of the election, as well as the racist violence perpetuated by his supporters, rather than peaceful demonstrations organized by the left.

But as the weather cooled, the precariousness of our national situation strengthened calls on the US government for bolder action in order to meet the needs of its people. A deal was eventually reached in Congress which, among other concessions, provided citizens a measly $600. But negotiations were confounded when Trump issued a late-night threat to halt the stimulus deal echoed by Congress while simultaneously announcing his support for $ 2,000 checks.

It’s unclear how serious his commitment to this is — in fact, this chaos may have just been a ploy to introduce a smoke screen for his issuance of a wide array of pardons to henchmen and his political allies. But given the widespread popularity of this idea, elected socialists, such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pushed Democratic leadership to take up Trump’s proposal and deliver needed relief to the American people.

Local activists were prompted to back up their allies in Congress, making their way to Capitol Hill on Christmas Day to join Santa and his socialist elves who declared that Congress had made the naughty list on account of the miserly stimulus package both chambers passed earlier that week. Santa emphasized that as Congress voted to give working Americans a measly $600, they were able to provide $2.3 billion for a new submarine for the Navy, $2 billion for the Space Force, $500 million to uphold apartheid in Israel, and $33 million to help Juan Guaido try, once again, to usurp the democratically elected Venezuelan government.

It appeared that Democrats eventually came around — emboldened to act on providing relief to a public in need, they opted to bolster the rally cry demanded from their working class base. The House quickly passed a measure to increase stimulus checks to $2,000, and in rare form, they allowed the often sidelined Senator Sanders to lead the charge in halting a vote on a major Pentagon spending bill until the stimulus bill would be brought to a vote.

But by the end of the day, most of the Democratic caucus capitulated to McConnel’s leadership, giving up the only leverage they had to force a vote on the bill. In the end, only six Democratic senators held out for stimulus relief: Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey and Ron Wyden.

It’s unclear where this leaves us now — with key leverage abandoned by Democratic centrists, it appears unlikely that Mitch McConnell will feel pressured into calling the measure up for a vote. But socialists will continue to rally against this austerity regime and push for Americans to receive the relief they need. The streets are running with envy, and the call for bolder leadership in the face of compounding national crises is shared by a working-class that is tired of its blood being used to grease the wallets of billionaires. 

If we won’t fight for our lives, who will? 

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