PSL: ‘Still marching for jobs and freedom’

Party for Socialism and Liberation:

By: Eugene Puryear

Lessons from the 1963 March on Washington and the movement we need today

 March on Washington
In addition to civil rights, marchers in 1963 demanded jobs, quality education and housing.

On Aug. 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands participated in the massive March on Washington, which many call the high point of the Civil Rights Movement.

The movement radically transformed society, but any honest appraisal will admit that we still have not achieved its central demands: jobs, freedom and equality. And so, 47 years later, we are still marching.

The speech that was not given

The March on Washington is best known for the “I Have a Dream” speech, but today it may be more useful to remember the speech that was not given.

John Lewis and other youth activists of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee had drafted a speech for that day that was heavily censored for its “immoderate” tone. In its original form, it began, “We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all.”

Calling the drafted civil rights bill “too little, too late,” it made the point that, “There’s not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality.” On the basics of economic security, he asked, “What is there in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in a home whose income is $100,000 a year?”

Explaining that a “serious revolution” was “at hand,” the original speech warned against all attempts to “take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts.” The speech made clear that both the Republican and Democratic parties were filled with “cheap political leaders” with no real interest in overturning the social and economic exploitation facing the Black masses.

The content of this speech was too explosive, too dynamic and revolutionary, for those who feared it would alienate the Black struggle’s half-way “friends” in Washington. Although its analysis remains relevant, it is a sad fact that many would oppose such a speech today for the very same reasons.

The unfinished Civil Rights revolution

The heroism of the Civil Rights Movement produced real results. Jim Crow apartheid was overthrown. African Americans in the South won the right to vote. In every corner of the country, U.S. society was forced to come face to face with the inequality and injustice on which it was built. It inspired a new phase of radicalism and organizing both inside and outside the Black community. The movement initiated a decades-long challenge to the racist attitudes held by a large section of the white population.

Without the gains of that movement, it would be impossible to think of a Black president. There are African Americans in every level of government administration, from housing to education to the Justice Department. There are now also Black governors, and lots of Black mayors. There are Black judges, police chiefs and officers, prison guards and wardens. While certainly discrimination persists, there are also quite a few Black faces in high places in the corporate world.

But what about the rest of us? Today, real unemployment is well above the headline number of 9.5 percent. When you include all those who have given up looking for work, it is roughly twice as high. There are in fact over 30 million unemployed people nationwide. For African Americans, the unemployment rate is nearly double that of whites. For Latinos, it is scarcely any better.

The rates of incarceration, tied to the never-ending police harassment of Black and Latino youth, have not gone down in recent decades. Quite the opposite. The education system is still underfunded. Landlords are as relentless today as ever before. Public housing is still dilapidated and inadequate. Even those who have played by the rules and are attempting to get a college education are facing rising tuitions and racist admissions policies. Millions of African Americans bought houses only to face foreclosure because of the predatory banks.

Only the masses can bring about radical change

In the speech that was not given in 1963, Lewis asserted: “If any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about. … We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually. We want our freedom, and we want it now.”

That has to be our attitude today, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. In 1963, Birmingham youth, from elementary to high school, marched in defiance of “respectable” opinion—Black and white—and faced dogs and firehoses. They filled the jails and cattle pens by the thousands day after day, and in the process helped bring segregation to an end.

The Black masses, and progressive people of all backgrounds, knew in 1963 that they could not sit back and hope the president would do the right thing. They took action that forced the government to prove which side it was on, whether it was friend or enemy. It was against this backdrop that the March on Washington came together.

It is in that spirit that we need to be marching and organizing once again. But as we march for “freedom,” let’s be clear about what “freedom” means. The oppression of Black people in this country was not just about lacking the right to vote, so getting that right did not make us free.

Towards their last days, both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X questioned whether Black people could ever be free under capitalism. They saw that the system had been built on exploitation—and thus we need a new system.

Glenn Beck and the Tea Party distort Dr. King’s politics and the Black Freedom Movement as if they simply were about “individual liberty.” They dishonestly talk about a “color-blind society” to oppose affirmative action and the very social programs that Dr. King championed. They oppose labor unions, while Dr. King went to his death supporting the right of workers to organize and fight for a fair wage, seeing this as a starting point in a campaign to eliminate poverty.

The Tea Party, composed of racists and fools (often both), have a capitalist definition of “freedom.” For them, it is the freedom to starve, to be evicted, to live without health care and work a whole lifetime without guaranteed retirement.

Beck uses the same anti-communist rhetoric today that the ruling class used in the 1960s to make the Black movement afraid to talk about economic justice. But despite those intimidation tactics, the Black masses engaged in a vibrant debate over tactics, strategy and what it would take to win real equality. We need that same debate today, and the existence of a Black president should make it sharper, not less pressing.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is fighting for a system in which the wealth of society belongs to those who produce it, the working class, and is used in a planned and sustainable way for the benefit of all. In place of greed, domination and exploitation, we stand for solidarity and cooperation between all peoples. On a day-to-day level, we are out in the streets fighting against war, budget cuts, police brutality, racism and bigotry. Drawing inspiration from the heroic struggles of the 1960s, we are trying to build a movement of poor and working-class people of all nationalities today—and we invite you to join us.

2 thoughts on “PSL: ‘Still marching for jobs and freedom’

  1. pete healey

    You hold up John Lewis as an avatar of radicalism? Really? Isn’t he the Democratic congressman who’s upholding the system he denounced and decried so many years ago? He allowed the censorship of his radical views back then, shoved the speech in his pocket and forgot about it. You guys found it in the trash and in your wishful thinking kind of way declared “what if…?”
    Didn’t happen, not gonna happen. They rolled over you, bought in to a comfortable place in their two-party system, and won’t return your calls. Get over it.

  2. Wingnut


    Although the PSL has SOME good ideas, fighting is not one of them. First, let me define MY version of TRUE socialism… in that it is NOT an economic system. It is the act of NOT using economies and NOT using ownershipism. We would, instead, follow the animals, and NOT use such things. Economies and ownership are man-made-up things and are not part of a socialist, commune, or even Christian… society.

    Now, commune folk don’t compete. They, instead, use cooperation, yet they do not cooperate with servitude/pyramid systems like capitalism… which forces 18 yr olds to join or starve. TRUE socialists don’t do ANY of the capitalism felony extortion such as “join or die” or Chicago mob-like extortion seen in “pay up or lose your wellbeing”. We also don’t subscribe-to capitalism’s favorite hand-washings of “whatever the market will bear”, and “there’s nothing wrong with making a good profit” and “don’t take it personally, its just busyness”. We TRUE socialists know these to be bison snot.

    Now, about fighting. If you’re into general socialisms/communes, you know such folk don’t fight or compete… but we DO teach via logic and heart. Socialism doesn’t WIN over capitalism. That would place our strife into the US vs THEM wars that capitalism/economies promote, and we don’t like that. We’re lovers, not fighters. And this is where the PSL seems to stumble. they want to fight/compete, just like the capitalists. Not good. Convince others of the wonderfulness of socialism/communalism via NON-fighting means. Anything less, and you’ve joined an US vs THEM war yet again.

    I suspect you could have been using the term ‘fight’ in a more generalized context, and I understand that, if true. I tend to “fight” capitalism myself… as you will see in my anti-capitalism campaign poster below. But disgusting systems are best abolished via laws and policies, and not beat into submission with a stick. Unless you show, in the history books and horse-sense law books, WHY capitalism is disgusting and WHY socialism is the inevitable and better way, then it won’t “stick”. It has go into “the books” as to why custodianship-not-ownership socialism is SO MUCH WISER than rat-racing on pyramid schemes over green coupons. Blood-boiling at some group of people stuck in roles within a pyramid scheme… will get you nothing but arguments. Make it look like THEIR idea… for best results. And show high-humility by giving them credit for the stolen ideals, too. Its the loving commune way.

    Ok, here comes my anti-cap campaign poster. Some have seen it before, some maybe not. I hope some folks can gain some insight from it, and I hope the PSL can use some points in a NON-FIGHTING way, somehow. Love and teach them into submission, wherever possible. Here’s some tough love…

    Capitalism-lovers… you DO see the pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA one dollar bill, right? You DO see the servitude infestation in capitalism, right? And do you see the “pay up or lose your wellbeing” Chicago mob-like felony extortion widespread within capitalism? Do you see the “join or starve” felony extortion done to the 18 year olds… by this ugly competer’s church called capitalism? See how forcing competer’s religions onto 18 year olds… kills membership in the cooperator’s church (Christianity/socialism)?? Do you understand that AmWay (American Way) (New World Order) got “the exclusive” (legal tender) on the TYPE of survival coupons (money) accepted in supply depots (stores) and leverages 18 year olds into the organization via that felony activity as well? (It puts AmWay-coupon slaving requirements called price tags… on all the survival goods). Do you understand how farmyard pyramids work… from your childhood?? Remember?? Upper 1/3 are “heads in the clouds” while the kids on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world’s knees in their backs? Still with me? Do you see anything illegal, immoral, or just plain sick… in any of this pyramid scheme’s activities?

    Us American Christian socialists are still patiently awaiting the natural fall of the pyramid-o-servitude, or the busting of the free marketeers felony… by the USA Dept of Justice. Us Christians are VERY CLOSE to issuing a cease and desist order until the servitude and inequality goes away… which means it turns into a commune. Commune is a word we LOVE when used in the word “community”… but its one the caps HATE when used in the term “commune-ism”. Go fig. PROGRAMMED!!

    Do a Google IMAGE SEARCH for ‘pyramid of capitalist’ to see a full color picture made way back in 1911, when capitalism was first discovered to be a con/sham instigated by the Free Masons/Illuminati. Folks sure bought into the thing… hook, line, and sinker just the same. The caps didn’t even check if a string was attached! Now THAT’S easy fishing, eh?

    Time to level the felony pyramid scheme called capitalism. Abolish economies and ownershipism worldwide, and hurry. Economies just cause rat-racing, and rat-racing causes felony pyramiding. BUST IT, America! Look to the USA military supply/survival system… (and the USA public library system) for socialism and morals done right. Equal, owner-less, money-less, bill-less, timecard-less, and concerned with growth of value-criteria OTHER THAN money-value. Quit doing monetary discrimination immediately, and make it illegal. There are MANY measurement criteria of “value”… not just dollars. Try morals, efficiency, discrimination-levels, repairability, etc etc. Economies are cancerous tumors, and to cheer for their growth… is just insane. Profiting causes inflation, so if caps LIKE inflation, and if they LIKE a terrible time in afterlife when they meet the planet’s ORIGINAL OWNER before caps tried to squat it all with ownershipism, then keep it up with the felony pyramiding. I dare you. While us Christians are finally bulldozing that pyramid scheme back to level, lets make servitude and “join or starve” (get a job or die) illegal in the USA, and lets level the architecture seen in USA courtrooms, too. Right now, USA courtrooms are church simulators or “fear chambers”, by special design. Sick.

    Isn’t that back-of-the-dollar pyramid… a Columbian freemason symbol? And WHERE is the USA gov located? District of Columbia? (Not even part of the USA!) How much more blatant can ya get? The “Fed” runs a pyramid scheme called the free marketeers. If you’re using the “federal reserve note” certificates, or using no-other-living-thing-on-the-planet entitles of ownership, you’re bought into a servitude/slavery con/sham… called capitalism. Pyramiding 101.

    Gruesome, eh? You’ve got the problems well-seen, Mr. Puryear. Now look carefully at your methods of trying to repair those problems. I think you’ll find that once “they” SEE the problems with pyramiding… it will not take much “fight” to get them to climb over the fence to greener pastures. Our work is a two-stage thing. Step one, blatantly SHOW how and why capitalism and similar earn’n’deserve’n’afford systems… are disgusting and harmful. Prove it beyond even the slightest shadow of a doubt, or else some enjoyment and empowerment addict will be able to ignore us. Get the proof and expose the disgusting system… in neon.

    Step 2 is figuring out a way to install something better… something that is level and has fairness laws and NO monetary discrimination. You can’t just SHOVE socialism onto an enjoyment-addicted capitalism infestation. You need to make room for it to slide into place willingly and logically… and thus… no fighting. Yes, the fairness laws in our New America commune will seem restrictive at first… until we see the added freedoms they bring. Just look at relationships and sharing tendencies and LACK OF FEAR FOR SURVIVAL… seen in members of the USA military. Notice the military’s knowledge of the difference between a necessity and a luxury. Follow that model. The military’s supply/survival system is the best socialism EVER. Not ONE drop of money, ownership, or monetary discrimination (or ANY discrimination) seen… because they use custodianship… and because they use freely handed-out requisition forms instead of highly-rationed and false-idol-worshipped AmWay greenbacks.

    Take care, gang! Thanks for the piece, EP! Keep on keepin’ on.

    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists) (anti-economies/anti-ownershipism)
    (pro-people, even role-playing enjoyment and empowerment addicts)
    Bessemer MI USA

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