Revolution #228, April 3, 2011

Thousands in Texas Protest Cuts

We received the following report from a reader:

On Saturday, March 11, 12,000-14,000 people came from across Texas to the capital of Austin, to march against the slashing of funds to schools, and the gutting of programs like Pre-K, medical care for children, the elderly and people with mental illnesses. This was a largely white crowd, with buses organized by parents and schools from the suburbs of Dallas and Houston and medium size towns—tourist destinations like New Braunsfels. Others came from San Antonio and even as far away as the Rio Grande Valley. A fair number of Chicanos participated but just a handful of immigrants. Nevertheless several Spanish speaking contingents formed up to make their voices heard, mixing "Si, Se Puede" with English language chants. This was important as much of the rant on talk radio blames immigrants from Mexico for the "budget crisis."

A majority of the crowd were younger teachers and parents—mothers with teenage children. 40 percent were youth, from junior high to young 20-somethings. We saw a few Farmworker signs and banners from community organizer groups but this was not the "activist" crowd; there were many fewer people of the '60s generation than usually show in Austin, but music from the '60s like "Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!" set a tone. High school marching bands headed up the demonstration and there was lots of picture-taking, nervousness and excitement and chanting as many people, youth especially, seemed to be attending their first political action of this kind.

Sections of people who were not so present were African Americans, people from the Texas panhandle and the eastern part of the state. We need more investigation of the reasons for this.

One very popular slogan among students was "Power to the Pupil"; also a number of youth carried home-made signs expressing concern for the future. Parents' signs railed against the mindlessness of the governor and other politicians, threatening to vote them out or called out their "priorities," like one that read "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Still other signs had a more militant tone—a number of posters had a symbol of education, and dared the politicians to "come and take it." We also saw slogans like "Fight Like an Egyptian" and "Demandamos justicia!" One very interesting phenomenon—there were very few American flags.

We arrived early and immediately busted out with the Message and Call. "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," agitating to groups of students and parents gathered along the street before the march about what kind of a system steals the future from the youth. The slogan, "This system has no future for the youth but revolution does" captured a lot of attention among middle strata moms as well as teachers and of course the youth. But there was some hesitation, and on reading that this statement was from "the communists" some people handed it back, with a polite "no thanks." That clued us and as the march took off we stood in the middle of it, people flowing past on both sides, calling on people to get this message from the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the revolution we need—a revolution aimed at emancipating all humanity. This divided people out, and while some averted their eyes, many others reached through the crowd to get copies. There were smiles and I felt a little firming of the spine among some folks at this kind of boldness. And again we were throwing in points from the Message & Call about what this system offers youth—like becoming a mindless killing machine for the system itself, etc.

Another of our small team stood on a corner as the march took a turn, agitating about revolution being the solution. At times so many people left the demonstration to grab the statement from him, that he had a hard time keeping up with the demand. He thought that our presence there was very important in letting even the more conservative sections of this Texas crowd know that there is such a party/the communists are here. We were there representing for the future.

At the end of the demonstration we spread out across the edge of the crowds on the walkways out of the park, to reach people with the RCP's statement "On the Strategy for Revolution." This provoked a lot of curiosity and a number of people approached us for a copy. They were not sure what they thought about revolution but felt things were taking a radical turn and were reaching for radical perspectives. They wanted to read it. There was interest in the fact that the RCP was a national organization, with a regular publication, and when asked people readily donated something for materials. Teachers especially expressed outrage at what they saw as a stealing of the future from the younger generation. Many spoke about the need for more awareness about what the cuts would mean; others wanted to see a tsunami of people challenging those in power. It was obvious that there is a very important section of teachers that need to be reached with this whole revolutionary program, and we did bring out the new Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) several times—but probably not enough!

Among the more advanced, especially among the younger people, there was a lot of grappling with questions of "how" and what kind of revolution is needed. Some of these youth came to the event specifically looking for information on this battle and political literature in general. They raised questions about communist conceptions of "each according to their need"—like who would decide that? The vision of the people all over the place struggling over those kinds of big questions—what do people need—lifted a veil from the eyes of one youth who took a bundle for his friends. A young woman wanted to know if "fighting could be creative," saying she did not see it that way. We talked about the critical role of art and culture in this revolution, and they ended up asking how to join us.

One teacher, who had distributed Revolution newspaper 10 years ago, wondered if it was even correct to be promoting an educational system that trained children to be minions of the system, and talked about his frustration that people were concerned about their kids' education but not the children who were dying under the bombs of the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world. We struggled with him around points in the Strategy statement regarding the need for revolutionary leadership and for fighting the powers while transforming the people—for revolution. He gave us a way to be back in contact.

I will end with a few other comments regarding the sentiments from some in the crowd :

  1. Numbers of people brought up the need for people to unite, to have a massive determined wave of people power and the need for more information about what was going on.
  2. Talking with one young Chicana later, she felt that the main thing that was accomplished at the march was solidarity—people of different nationalities coming together around the battle. She is from the Rio Grande Valley and thinks many teachers where she lives are basically working class, i.e. tied to working class communities, and talked about a war being waged on the working class. She (and others too) think that the "budget crisis" in Texas is fake, and pointed to the record profits Wall Street is making, the tax cuts for the wealthy, etc. She thinks that these attacks are what Republicans have been long wanting to carry out. There is great fear in her community that resolves down to inaction and even apathy. Also a significant amount of limitations on the role of women—she broke up with her boyfriend over her participation in this struggle. She is concerned about the racism against immigrants that is being spewed as part of the excuse for the "crisis," as a way of dividing people—and imposing more of a clamp down.

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