Marches are the supreme symbolic subsumation of the ego. Individuals do not march, only unified groups of people sharing a common mass identity march. Soldiers, who qua soldiers, have had their individualities destroyed and been taught to obey unquestioned and unquestionable orders, move as one. The very uniform movement their uniformed bodies, the sight and sound of their precision – the thunderous sound thousands of boots hitting the groundat the same second, the swaying of their arms in the same way at the same time, evokes pride or fear depending upon who it is that observes them. Their unity, their uniformity of sight and sound in and of itself bespeaks power for there is no true power in the individual, but only in the unified whole. A leader is a leader of a unified whole, a totality in the context of which his power is delivered to him and given legitimacy.
History has been punctuated by horrific death marches in which groups of people sharing a common identity have been marched to death. Far simpler than death squads, less destructive to the environment and other people than weapons of mass destruction, far more efficient than gas chambers, the slow and steady marches killed people one by one along the roads thus, eliminating the need to burn or bury them. Among the most horrific of these was the 1830 Cherokee “Trail of Tears” March when approximately 16,000 native Americans were forced to leave their homes as a result of the “Indian Removal Act.” Twenty five percent of the marchers died. The Cherokee March was only one of many “Trail of Tears” marches.
As the Nazi defeat in WWII became an inevitability, the gas chambers and ovens could not longer keep up with the Nazi’s frenzied final attempts to rid Europe of its Jews, and dead bodies piled up by the thousands in the concentration camps.The Nazis, hoping to keep their crimes a secret, forced the starving frail people to march away from the camps where they died one by one from hunger, thirst and hypothermia.
Americans and Filipinos suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Japanese. Filipino and American prisoners who had surrendered to the Japanese were forced to march to their prison camps some 65 miles away. In what became known as the Bataan Death March, thousands of troops died because of the brutality of their captors who starved and beat them to death.
Then there were the brave, the mighty, the glorious matches in the name of human dignity rights. One of these The March of the Mill Children from Philadelphia to New York in 1903 led Mary Harris “Mother” Jones which sought to reform the terrible conditions under which the American working class, which included many women and children, were forced to work under. It brought to public attention the factual conditions of child labor. Matches are in fact the primary way in and through which Americans seek redress of their grievances: women marched forthe right to work, Afro American’s marched for their civil rights, gays marched to bring an end to their persecution, people matched for an end to war and once upon a time, Communists matched down 5th Avenue to demand an end to Capitalism.
As I write, people are marching today. They are not called “marches” but rather caravans or flights of refugees. Whether they are conscious of the fact or not, the identity which unifies them is that they are all poor, oppressed, downtrodden, the wretched of the earth who want nothing more than to settle into the lands of those who have oppressed them, trodden upon them, exploited and terrorized them so that their lives were made wretched. One can say that no one is forcing them to march, but this would not be true. The foreign policy of the United States (although not just the United States) in the Middle East has driven people to flee their countries and seek refuge in the lands which were once great imperial powers. Since July 26, 1947, the CIA has played a role in hundreds of assassinations, military coups, and rebellions around the globe, from Argentina to Zaire. It has worked tirelessly to support American political and economic interests first and foremost by preventing the spread of socialism or communism, and secondly by preventing individual nations from acting in their own best interests.
Around the world we witness a perfect dialectical reversal. Whereas in the past, through imperialism or neo imperialism or covert imperialism, the great empires of the world moved into, took control over and used in any way they saw fit the people of other nations, their labor and their lives, and left them poor and backward when they receded, we now find the people of those nations marching and moving towards the lands of the white and wealthy – those very people whose wealth and privilege came at the expense of their own. The oppressed are flooding into the lands of the oppressors. No wall can hold them and there is fear at the gates. And that fear of the people who march and demand entrance, is feeding the rise of right-wing nationalism and fascism around the world. The poor of all nations; the Muslims now as the Jews once were, are being herded into camps. Such is the fear, such is the hatred that the marches are evoking, that anti-Semitism raises its head boldly and American in America kills Jews.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.