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In Chicago: A Movement not a Moment

Richard Monje  |  Issue: April | May 2015
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia Campaign photo

PHOTO: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia Campaign


CHICAGO, IL — On February 24, the workers won, and money lost. Against all odds, the workers stood firm and forced a runoff election. Neither the endorsements of President Obama and Luis Gutierrez, a war chest of over a $15 million did not help Rahm Emmanuel the contending candidate or deter the people from voting for Jesus Chuy Garcia, the candidate who in their opinion best represents their interests.

The runoff election for the mayor of Chicago will be on April 7.

Chicago has always been a tale of two cities. Once a city thriving with job creation, driven by manufacturing and industrialization Chicago has been controlled by “the machine” headed by the Daley coalition. As the city went through restructuring, new forms of capital have moved in and consolidated their political power. The workers, except for a shrinking sector are excluded from the new coalition now headed by Rahm Emanuel.

Gentrification of entire neighborhoods drove out working class people and making much of the city unaffordable.  As in much of the country, costs of running the city are shifted to the working class while incredible tax breaks benefit the 1%.

People struggle to wrest concessions from the Daley coalition, fighting gentrification, job loss, falling standard of living, defunding of services and for a fairer distribution of programs and access to political decision-making. The Harold Washington coalition formed in the 1980s was a valiant attempt to consolidate a political movement. Many economic forces conspired to force a restructuring of the country and the city, driving the emergence of a new opposition and creating the conditions for a broader coalition with new leadership.

Rahm consolidated his coalition, initiated an attack on education, communities and the teachers generating new types of struggle and more forces resisting and shaping a new class content. Privatizing everything in sight and shifting the cost of running the city to the workers builds resistance. The Occupy movement, immigrant rights movement, fight for 15, minimum wage, environmental struggles, resistance to attack on collective bargaining and standard of living of workers and thousands of fights against the “new machine” added to the resurgence and potential for a new political movement.

Opposing or supporting an individual you like does not make a movement, nor can it be consolidated on such a shallow foundation. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia represents a temporary unity of forces. The pundits and most “political” leaders rejected the possibility of a runoff election involving Rahm.

Consultants and pundits use formulas to determine whom to support and control elections; some elements used are: money, name recognition, incumbency, retaliation, base of support and self-interests. However, Chuy did receive 36%. A shift is taking place in Chicago galvanizing around a class content not simply a coalition of self-interests.

“Progressives” and revolutionaries should strengthen the class content that this election objectively represents, even as forces move quickly to influence the Garcia campaign around Rahm and the 1%.

We can influence politics and unify around a program, shifting investment to begin a new direction for Chicago rather than the self-interests of only some communities. We should be proud for taking this first step toward a new class politics and toward a new organizational unity. Conscious leaders must participate and contribute to this new revolutionary motion in Chicago and contribute to the general formation of a new form of US politics.

Are we for the new Chicago Rahm wants or for a new Chicago that is based on our needs and future of our communities? Which one will you fight for…?

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