Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 26, 2018

Reflections on the March for Our Lives

Filed under: gun control — louisproyect @ 6:34 pm

(A guest post by Farans Kalosar)

A cross-section

The Boston contingent

Unopened water bottles (see below)

For gun control but possibly not?

Against gun control and the human race

I attended the MfOL rally in DC yesterday. I had a few observations:

  • A higher percentage of African-Americans were in attendance than at other marches in DC by my subjective count. African-Americans, as always, are at much greater risk of getting shot than the rest of us, so no wonder.
  • I saw virtually no counter-demonstrators. One unarmed and obviously safety-minded chap (wearing both a belt and suspenders) was selling pro-gun baseball caps. I saw another fellow carrying a sign reading “Socialism or Barbarism,” and, quite frankly, I think he was as much a counter-demonstrator as the first guy.
  • Speeches were mostly somewhat incoherent attempts by very young people trying their wings–dramatic repetition of “It must never happen again” and similar phrases, interspersed with exhortations to go out and vote for Democrats. As I was not there long, my impression of this may well be inaccurate, but that’s what I heard.
  • The truly enormous crowd (i can easily believe the 1+ million estimate) were bottled up around the intersection of 12th and Pennsylvania to the point where it took me half an hour to cross the street. from curb to curb. This was distinctly frightening, and I believe this confinement was a deliberate strategy by police to “protect” the demonstrators. Of course the tight-packed crowd would have been sitting ducks for a sniper, had one been in evidence. Luckily, nothing happened, and none of the people suffering from claustrophobia (me) freaked out or started a stampede. I was lucky enough to reach a porta-potty before my aged bladder gave out.
  • I noticed a big pile of pallet-sized bundles of plastic bottles of water on the Mall a few blocks south of the (virtual) corral in which the marchers were penned up. I wondered at the time how/why this had been abandoned there. Anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but it does suggest that the march’s organizers were not planning for the demonstration to be as tightly confined as it was. I noticed a column of bicycle police backed up by motorcycle police that formed just south of the 12th and Penn. intersection as I was approaching the area where the marchers were concentrated. It looked like herding to me, but what do I know? No complaints about police behavior have surfaced, to my knowledge.
  • The emphasis on voting for Democrats disturbed me. This movement could easily be co-opted by the neoliberal core of the Democratic Party power establishment–and people who can’t imagine anything nicer than Joe Biden in the White House. This is the perfect “moral” issue to wash away any taint of social equality from the reactionary DP and stampede potential radicals away from anything tainted with working class consciousness or Marxism.
I fear that if the elan of this moment can’t be captured by the left (and since this is very much a single issue, that will have to be something that leads temporarily opened minds in an unanticipated direction), the whole thing will dissipate sooner rather than later. It may provide a temporary Democrat majority in the House of Representatives and some sort of tightened gun control, but, without another mass movement altogether, will have little impact beyond the single issue of mass shootings and maybe the need to get rid of Trump as president. The melodrama of this issue certainly seems to point away from renewed labor militancy, as the great outrage of young people getting shot all over the place is likely to bypass all such effort in the public mind.
I’ve read some stuff about this being a venue for “intersectionalism.” Hillary Clinton claimed to be an intersectionalist. As a socialist, I don’t find that reassuring–quite the reverse in fact.
I took a few pictures of the event, but as I understand this is not an appropriate venue I have not attached them.
Farans Kalosar


  1. I also attended this event. I always go to any big political protest/march, etc., in Washington to check out the scene and take pictures. My only quibble with this post by Farans is the crowd size estimate. There is no way it was a million people. The National Park Service stopped giving crowd estimates in 1995 after a threatened lawsuit by the Nation of Islam when NPS said 400,000 people showed up for the Million Man March. Every group that comes in to DC inflates their turnout by at least 100% (and often much more). March For Our Lives said they had 800,000 attending. Since then, Digital Design & Imaging of Northern Virginia (https://airphotoslive.com/) which specializes in this sort of thing, has been providing figures. They said the turnout was this weekend was 203,000. Metro and other public transportation services in the DC area all ran a regular Saturday schedule (as opposed to a weekday rush-hour schedule) and had no major problems.They had to close the Archives station for a while (the station closest to the epicenter of the festivities). I also noticed that when coming into a station the trains had to stop and wait for the train ahead to clear the station virtually every time. Other than that all was quite normal and many of the trains were not crowded at all throughout the day (and I went to a half a dozen stations, Pentagon City, Pentagon, L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW, Archives, and Capitol South. I also took two bus lines, Arlington 87 and Metro 36). At any rate, 203,000 is a very strong turnout and this group was well organized. Plenty of water available and more porta-potties than I can recall seeing at an event in long time. Incidentally, the largest single day demonstration turn-out on record was last year’s Women’s March which DDIS estimated at 440,000. I attended that one and there was certainly a noticeable difference between that crowd and the one this weekend.

    Comment by Charlie — March 26, 2018 @ 7:24 pm

  2. We must remember, and teach, that the state is a neutral body, looking out for the interests of all. If it needs to be changed, even radically, this can be done peacefully, because the armed bodies of men making up the state will naturally respond to the democratic will of the majority. This is why all serious weapons must be in the hands of these men, of them alone.

    Comment by doug1943 — March 26, 2018 @ 7:51 pm

  3. Charlie–It’s subjective, but to me the crowd felt very big–at least as big as the Women’s March, but jammed into a few blocks of Penna. Ave. The aerial photographs that I saw on Sunday seem to bear this out, and I’ve never experienced being jammed together with other people to the danger point in a broad daylight event to the extent I did this time. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it took me half an hour to cross P. Ave from curb to curb. Thank Gob for all those porta potties.

    The more important question is whether the spirit of this event has revolutionary implications. Some have said so. I felt that at the Women’s March, but not here. It felt like a great big Democratic Party rally–despite the sincere outrage of the attendees. This big crowd didn’t show up just to get all teary-eyed about Joe Biden running for Pres.–no question that they were fired up about the mass shootings–but my buddy with the Rosa Luxembourg sign agreed with me that some very slick framing was going on. I worry about the consequences.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 26, 2018 @ 8:17 pm

  4. doug: The real force behind this demo, IMHO, was sincere outrage and revulsion against mass shootings and the crazy NRA line that Trump is pushing. I can’t fault that even though I worry about the political consequences when the Democratic Party uses this to push more neoliberal creep and “sensible, mature” politics as opposed to any form of socialism.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 26, 2018 @ 8:29 pm

  5. Gosh, I hope your observations aren’t as bad as your misreading of suspender guy. His hats read “Make America Safe Again” and feature a assault rifle with the circle and the “no” slash; he therefore appears to oppose assault rifles. Just saying, I usually like your remarks.

    Comment by davidbyrnemcdonaldiii — March 26, 2018 @ 9:51 pm

  6. I’m relieved in a way. He was a friendly guy and i liked him in spite of what I thought his gun symbols meant.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 27, 2018 @ 12:21 am

  7. We were fenced in in New York as well, eventually causing a number of people to leave early. I was trying to move a mere four blocks south to join my union but was unable to reach them. The metal barriers at every demonstration in NYC are about a lot more than “public safety.”

    Comment by Elliot Podwill — March 27, 2018 @ 2:51 am

  8. Eliot. Thanks for confirming. Is this a new police tactic? If so it is a dangerous one–indeed potentially lethal.

    The thing that sticks in my mind is all the blissful Democrats cooing, “Chill out, dude–it’s all mellow,” as I inched apologetically past.

    These chumps all think the police are their friends. Boy are they ever in for a surprise.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 27, 2018 @ 11:17 am

  9. Illegal and dangerous police herding is nothing new, but the willingness of Democrats to be herded (if indeed that is what is happening) certainly is:


    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 27, 2018 @ 11:53 am

  10. Fpr “democrats” above read “demonstrators.” Nevertheless, it’s astonishing that people whose lives may be endangered by police tactics would accept it with smug tranquility because it’s “all mellow.”

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 27, 2018 @ 11:58 am

  11. The biggest killer of young people between the ages of infant and 25 years old in America is traffic violence. Hands down. But the Great Taboo is talking truth about our diseased, addictive preoccupation with the automobile. If the guns don’t get you, the cars will.

    Comment by Al — March 27, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

  12. Well said, Doug. Let’s also remind the young that a revolution is like a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery.

    Comment by Tyler — March 28, 2018 @ 6:45 pm

  13. Tyler–such a revolutionary. We are in awe.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 29, 2018 @ 5:17 am

  14. I don’t think Leftists should support gun control, at least liberal Democratic-style gun control. Also, one fact is that gun violence and murder is way down since the early 90’s when NYC had 2,000 murders a year.

    Comment by purple — March 31, 2018 @ 6:02 am

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