Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Protests and Elections in the Great Depressions- Some Useful Examples for the Occupy Movements

Just to set the record straight on the Left's role in elections during the Great Depression. The Communist Party, the most important force organizing mass protest during the 1930's, did not support FDR, even indirectly, at the polls until 1936. Between 1929 and 1935, the Communist Party ran its own candidates for office, virtually none of whom won elections, while concentrating the vast majority of its energies on organizing people in their workplaces and communities for protest activities ranging from resistance to evictions and foreclosures, to hunger marches on charities and government agencies,to protests against lynching and Jim Crow, and to strikes, boycotts and campaigns for union recognition.

These protests some of which attracted hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, some of which brought whole cities (eg. San Francisco, Minneapolis) to a standstill, helped create a climate where the Roosevelt Administration had to provide cash and work relief to the jobless, institute unemployment insurance and old age pensions, and provide legal protection for workers seeking recognition of their unions

Of course, the Communist Party and other radical organizations were hardly the only forces organizing the working class during those years. Labor unions, unaffiliated with the Communist or Socialist Parties mobilized in behalf of progressive, pro union candidates, the vast majority of whom were Democrats, helping assure not only multiple terms of office for FDR, but a Congress that for the most part- at least from 1933-1938, was willing to pass progressive legislation

But there was an informal division of labor. The "grunt work" of organizing Depression Era protests- at least until 1936- was done by radicals who for the most part eschewed, or de emphasized electoral politics

I think we need a comparable division of labor now, with the Occupy forces building the mass protest movement and others mobilizing for local and national elections

Mark Naison
November 29, 2011


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