The Five Borough Report


Five Borough Report   June 2003



From 9/11/01 to a Political "9ll"  in 2004:

Notes on New Yorkers at the Global Ground Zero

Robb Burlage

Putting a solidly-progressive foot forward now: Planning for a  Convention of American Working Families with local and national organized labor and allies in the original New Deal-revival spirit of 9/11 – providing grounded visionary leadership for the world marching on Manhattan in August, 2004.

We gather at a Symposium on June 20th, 2003, with Sumner Rosen (upon his 80th birthday) in lower Manhattan at the Local 32BJ SEIU union hall to discuss vital strategic analysis and action - toward the looming epochal 2004 Presidential and Congressional elections.  As Bill Moyers has recently keynoted, we are challenged to action in the coming months for nothing less than the preservation and expansion of democracy itself in a society suddenly transformed, as he put it, into "half oligarchy and half democracy."


We seek together to confront the new permanent global war political economy, coupled with anti-government corporate greed not seen in 100 years, and to assess their impact on New York and all U.S. cities.  We also seek to support a new resistance coalition uniting cities, organized labor, and the anti-cutback and the anti-war/anti-globalization movements in a "New New Deal" offensive that is necessarily both defensive/preservationist and visionary.

In fourteen months, when the Republican Presidential Renominating Convention hits town, the whole world will be marching on and around Manhattan.  We, therefore, have special political leadership and stewardship responsibilities and opportunities, analogous to those after 9/11/01 when we, along with the Nation, experienced a revived "New Deal" national solidarity with the working family victims and first-responders. We have responsibility now to (1) contribute to a shared understanding of the epochal challenge of this new global and domestic political economy represented by this Administration and Congress; and (2) begin comprehensive coalition-building with a practical but visionary program uniting and energizing us.  

These times and this place are and will be quite unlike Chicago Summer 1968, with the demonstrators chanting (to the TV cameras): "The Whole World is Watching!" In this time in this place, after the globally-unprecedented protest marching against the unilateral U.S. war on Iraq, the whole world will be marching…a million or more predictably to and surrounding Manhattan, from Madison Square Garden and even as close as possible to Ground Zero to "defend" the continuing civic, working-families, community-rebuilding spirit of Lower Manhattan. 

                All this will be in obvious protest of this Republican attempt at a global imperial coronation, including a planned, doubly-insulting Ground Zero working-families-graveyard photo-op.  Ground Zero is indeed the mass gravesite of mostly working class New Yorkers, as well as people from many nations.  It would be insulting to the heroes, including uniformed (and unionized) first responders.  It would be insulting as well to the "New Deal" moment of cooperation and support of the working and immigrant families.


Our responsibility now is to begin preparing for an energized, visionary, policy-meaningful grass roots Convention for American Working Families.  This will help provided grounded program and visionary leadership for the world marching in New York.  We will by then have been through the experience of the "vision primaries" and platform hearings producing the Democratic Party opposition candidate ticket in Boston a few weeks before.  Our responsibility is to help plan humanly respectful and politically meaningful anti-Bush Administration demonstrations among the diverse global multitude, amidst what otherwise might be provoked, repressed, and potentially counter-productive havoc.

            Those grieving, mostly working families, of 9/11 victims, not only will be called forth to protest the cynically opportunistic political "use" of this gravesite of 9/11/01.  These and all working families are also now increasingly aware, and are increasingly angry, about the actual impacts on our city and cities across America, as well as directly on unionized families and retirees and on the most vulnerable and needy among us.

            Those grieving 9/11 working families, supported by and allied with New York and national organized labor, should and must lead any protest demonstrations "up front", including with their impassioned, disciplined seriousness about what united opposition must mean in the epochally pivotal '04 election.

            We and they together will indeed demonstrate and march together in and around Manhattan and Ground Zero…and across the world.


            Here is a vital and predictably historic event to be centered on our City in the next fourteen months - far more than symbolic; yet certainly hopefully not "Chicago-'68-like, chaotic" (though Administration spinning and event "provacateuring" can also be expec-ted).  We are anticipating (and organizing) a kind of 9-1-1 emergency political alarm in the working spirit of 9/11/01.  It can be a real expression of anger and hope in the streets (and on the webs and listservs and desktop presses); as well as shoring up the campaigning in the precincts. It is also the opportunity for a major grass roots, energizing, visionary, policy-practicable Counter-Convention, following weeks after the Democratic Nominating Convention in Boston.

            May the strategic analysis and on-the-ground political strategy discussions around the June 20th Sumner Rosen Symposium/Honoring Luncheon be further developed in more profound analysis for more united and dedicated action…from this so appropriate ---- we hope well and timely utilized - June 20th, 2003 day of recognition.

June 2003

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