Remarks Presented at Progressive Strategy Conference, December 5, 2020
We are in a very delicate moment. We’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand we have gotten rid of Donald Trump. His faux-populist, openly racist, authoritarian politics were beaten back, at least for now – enough to allow progressive forces to regroup and fight on more favorable terrain.
But the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration by itself won’t be able to make the changes in the country that are necessary, either in policy or in politics. In the highest turnout election in history, 75 million eligible voters still did not vote. Although a record 81 million voters elected Biden, 74 million voted for Trump, and 2/3 of them think the election was stolen. Millions of right wing Republicans are energized, many are armed and desperate to cling to a white supremacist past in an increasingly multicultural nation. Democrats not only fell short of a landslide repudiation of Trump’s fascist agenda, but almost lost the House and fell short—so far—of capturing the Senate.
Biden and a divided Congress won’t pass a Green New Deal — unless we make them. They won’t pass Medicare for All — not even in the middle of a pandemic which has already claimed 276,000 Americans. Although Biden has proposed taxes on the 1% to pay for green jobs, housing and expanded Obamacare, the Senate remains an obstacle to even these modest proposals. And Biden won’t stop trying to control the world with sanctions, the US military, and nuclear weapons — he won’t cut the Pentagon budget one dime — unless the peace and progressive movements say no.
So the progressive movement needs to come together independent of the Biden Democrats. The Sanders – Warren wing of the Democrats, and independents, Greens and Socialists, need to come together to fight for a people’s agenda, and organize masses of people behind it. We both have to join with Biden to stop the extreme right dead in its tracks — AND fight Biden to get the systemic changes our people really need.
So at this conference we are calling for the Massachusetts and national movements for peace, climate, and racial and economic justice, to come together to fight together. We will require sustained, collaborative and strategic action if we are to meet the challenge that now stares us in the face.
What are The Issues?
The Pandemic – We critically need a competent, coordinated national response to COVID-19. We must control the pandemic before a safe and equitable recovery can begin, as a first step toward a well resourced public health system to prepare to avoid future pandemics.
The Economic Crisis – The first action of the Biden administration should be the enactment of a major economic relief package responding to the economic needs manifested by the pandemic. We need an emergency Green New Deal public jobs and infrastructure program. No longer should your access to health care be dependent on what job you have; health care should be provided to all as a human right. We need to guarantee affordable housing, food security, child and family support and education as human rights and social goods.
Racial Injustice –The murder of George Floyd has sparked a nationwide movement against racist violence, police brutality and mass incarceration. We must fight with fierce urgency to end, repair and redress the centuries of institutionalized oppression of Black and Brown people that have plagued our history and poison our present.
Climate Change – As apocalyptic fires consume the West, hurricanes assault the South, and melting ice caps flood the coasts, and the permafrost releases methane, the US must act. We must regenerate our life support systems on land and water. We must embrace the Green New Deal and the THRIVE Agenda NOW to save the planet before it is too late.
Endless War– We must re-define national security by promoting international cooperation, not endless warfare to defend a far-flung empire. We must reverse the new cold war with Russia and China and dismantle life-threatening nuclear weapons. We must redirect resources from the Pentagon and militarized police to combat actual threats to our security from extreme poverty, inequality, and climate disaster.
Political Polarization – We must address the explosive political polarization that will continue regardless of who wins the election – and consider any role we may be playing in that polarization. Our Movement must stand with the vast majority of people, represent their interests, and build a society based on truth, science, and justice.
This is a unique moment in history. From the ashes of disease, depression, dystopia and disaster, we gather today to take stock, join forces and build a powerful movement for radical yet winnable social transformation based on our shared vision of hope, justice, equity and peace.
I want to thank the 16 progressive organizations came together to organize today and tomorrow’s event: Massachusetts Peace Action, 350 Mass, Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, American Friends Service Committee – Northeast Office, Progressive Massachusetts, Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, Progressive Democrats of America, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, Boston Independent Drivers Guild, Our Revolution Massachusetts, Cambridge Residents Alliance, Peace Action Maine, Veterans for Peace/Smedley Butler Brigade, Jewish Voice for Peace Boston, and Boston Democratic Socialists of America.
I also thank our endorsers: Witness Against Torture; Newton Dialogues on Peace and War, Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment, and Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries.
Our keynote speaker at noon will be Senator Ed Markey, whose victory over a centrist Democrat with a famous name but cautious policies was a signal accomplishment this year. We’ll also hear from three plenary panels presenting speakers representing a variety of parts of the people’s movement. They’ll all talk not only about their own movement, but about how the progressive movements can work together to support each other. We’ll also present analysts who will decipher the political developments for us.
During the sessions, pose your questions by typing them in the chat, or by opening Zoom’s Participants window, and clicking Raise hand. A blue hand will appear next to your name indicating that you have a question or comment.
We’ll divide into small breakout groups twice today, to dig deeper into specific issues, hear from organizers who are building successful projects on the ground, and have an opportunity to exchange ideas in person and meet new allies.
The breakouts will be conducted as Zoom breakout rooms. When it’s time, we’ll open the rooms and you will use your Zoom software to choose the room you want to enter. While many of you chose your breakout topics when you registered, we are sorry to say that we couldn’t get the software to assign the breakout rooms for you, so you’ll have to make that selection again when the breakout sessions begin. We’ll continue to use this same Zoom meeting id throughout the weekend.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll have a two hour session on what we can do practically to bring our work together. Can we work together on bills in the State House? Can we make a difference in Congress? Should we rally on Inauguration Day? What should we do about extreme polarization? We’ll hear proposals for common work and we will try to form a continuing body to coordinate our work together going forward, and we invite all Massachusetts organizers and organizations to come together tomorrow morning for that.
If you have Zoom problems, or any problems participating, contact any of our support team members for help. They are Brian Garvey, Amar Ahmad, Christine Rostampour, John Minkle, Sam Payne, or myself. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach the support team.
In this conference, the plenary presentations are on the record. In breakout groups, press should identify themselves to the convener and check. Tomorrow’s session is off the record.
I have two announcements. The Fund Healthcare Not Warfare project is launching a sign-on letter to call on both Congress and the state Legislature to take urgent action to address COVID, cut the Pentagon budget, and enact single payer health care. Amar will put the link in the chat, and please sign yourself and your organization on to that letter. Also, UU Mass Action and Mass Peace Action will hold an Advocacy Day on Thursday the 10th to press the state legislature to act on long-delayed bills on changing the state flag and seal, prison reform, preventing evictions, emergency paid sick time, environmental justice, and protection for immigrant families. Do you have an event to announce? Send me more announcements — I will read them after the afternoon session.
We have a busy day planned. We’re planning to stay on schedule, so we ask all speakers to stick to their allotted time.
And Now, I’ll turn it over to Savina who will introduce the first panel. Savina Martin is a coordinator of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, an activist with the National Union of the Homeless, and a board member of Massachusetts Peace Action. Savina?