Randy Shaw should be commended for identifying a serious problem, which is the paucity of experienced organizers to effectively defend our vital programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I would add another very important dimension. Major organizations, many of which who do have the resources to organize large numbers of people, have been lackadaisical even though their own members will be adversely impacted by massive cutbacks. Labor unions have done very little, and what they mainly do, which is to lobby and get publicity, is not sufficient because they are confronted by very powerful and determined opponents.
What is required is taking to the streets. Labor along with other organizations should be organizing major marches and continually engaging in direct action tactics. But our current crop of labor leaders don’t think this way. Rather, they see themselves as statesmen who engage mainly in reputable strategies. They really don’t want to be too offensive. Because most unions are undemocratic institutions they do not have to worry very much about what their members think.
Senior citizen and other social minded organizations are no better. AARP, which is regarded as the largest senior citizen organization, is establishment oriented and to a considerable extent is captive of the insurance industry. Of course they are not going to raise hell. Other senior citizen and progressive organizations that have the best of intentions are constrained by a culture of respectability as defined by the establishment. So like labor leaders, its officials tend to be more verbally precocious than politically militant. The Gray Panthers, which is the most progressive senior citizen organization, has excellent organizers who are doing what they can. But they are too small to carry the load by themselves.
Unfortunately, the establishment is very aware of the very moderate posture of the unions and the major progressive organizations. So it may feel that it can make savage cuts with impunity. What can be done? The many who will be directly affected by the cuts must take things into their own hands. Grass roots organizers must set an example by their own actions that will encourage others to engage in militant protests against those who are attempting to steal what belongs to them. In other words, the determination and militancy of the establishment must be countered by the determination and militancy of the grass roots.
Harry BrillFiled under: Letters to the Editor