Protest Yields Change

“We have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We are still called upon to give aid to the beggar who finds himself in misery and agony on life’s highway. But one day, we must ask the question of whether an edifice which produces beggars must not be restructured and refurbished.” This statement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 1968 sounds more appropriate today following Katrina’s striking of New Orleans and the inexcusable government (non)response which followed. Sadly, in the aftermath of this disaster, Rob Wilhite has decided to attack not the government’s lack of response, but the International Socialist Organization for being the only group outside of the Bailey/Howe library accepting donations for the NAACP’s relief fund, and talking about the political undercurrent of racism and class discrimination involved in this crime consciously executed against the people of the Gulf Coast. His arguments are commonplace and fairly simple – that political protests “have proven to be an outdated means to an end,” and that, therefore, the ISO should engage in charity work instead of trying to organize a broad mass-movement against war and racism. Unfortunately these statements rest on a false dichotomy, that charity and political protest are disconnected, one which I believe Dr. King and the entire history of the civil rights movement disprove rather easily. Also, it may come as a shock to Mr. Wilhite that the Vietnam war was not just ended by charity efforts in local food shelves, but was ended by the resistance of the Vietnamese, the identification of American troops with that resistance, and by a mass anti-war movement in this country which threatened the political establishment to the core. Far from being obsolete tactics, political protest combined with community self-defense and organization represented the height of the movement of the 1960s, exemplified by slogans like “from protest to resistance” and “black power.” The movement today has gotten back on its legs, and the ISO is committed to working with all other groups to re-forge a movement not only against the war in Iraq, but which challenges the racism that is at the heart of American society. In this spirit I would like to be the first to invite Mr. Wilhite to join the ISO and others who are organizing a trip down to New Orleans during Thanksgiving break to “swing some hammers” as he puts it, to join the Black Student union in mobilizing for the Millions More Movement in D.C. on October 16th, the first national protest against racism in a decade. Also, check out Sports, Rap, and Resistance with author Dave Zirin and rapper Son of Nun this Wednesday.