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D2. Socialism

Who should run hospitals?

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 20:58

Nurses at RWJBarnabas Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ—members of USW Local 4-200—have been on strike for more than 13 weeks. Despite this long duration, they are holding strong, with many nurses picketing every day. They are proud of their unity and strength.

Long strikes provide workers with the occasion to think and talk about many topics. When I visited the picket lines a few days ago (day 104 of the strike), I asked a number of groups of four to seven nurses who were holding signs and talking with each other whether the people who worked at hospitals should run them. No one in any of the five groups disagreed. Their responses showed that they have been thinking about this and how to change the health care system in the United States as it gets worse and worse every year.

One part of the problem, as they have told me on previous visits, is that health care jobs are deteriorating. For nurses and other staff, the decline takes the form of understaffing, which puts patients’ lives in danger, forces the nurses and other hospital workers to make morally-wrenching choices about whom to help and whom to make wait, and results in much stress, exhaustion, and overwork.

In addition, hospitals are closing or being bought out. Nurses are leaving the profession in large numbers, provoking management claims that hiring replacements is hard. (In spite of this protestation, the hospital is employing a large number of “traveling nurses” to scab on the 1,700 striking nurses.)

Photo by Sam Friedman.

Nurses in several of the groups I talked with said that the hospital had been a much better place before Barnabas took over the former RWJ Hospital. The previous hospital board, they said, had been made up of doctors, nurses, and community representatives. Now, it is people who care only for the bottom line.

At one of the groups I talked with, a picket captain agreed that having health care workers and the community make decisions about hospital operations was a good idea, but that it was a question of power. Hospital management was able to resist change effectively. Her example was that when the union went to city councils for resolutions of support, the politicians turned them down. And the governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy (D) has refused to support legislation to require adequate staffing in hospitals.

In two other groups, after I asked about hospital workers’ running hospitals, there was general agreement that this was a good idea. The conversation focused on money and how the people who ran this ostensibly nonprofit hospital made a lot of money out of it. One nurse talked about side deals through which money went to managers; another talked about management salaries of $10 million a year and more.

Meanwhile, the union has enlarged the community coalition supporting the strike. It also has begun actively to reach out to other nurses in the state to discuss how their unions can work together and how nurses who do not have unions can organize.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

In defense of school busing

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 11/25/2023 - 17:28
School busing revisited

This article began as a research paper eight years ago during my final year of graduate school, when I was studying to become a teacher at the University of Massachussetts, Boston. Since then, I’ve left Boston, where I grew up, and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where I currently teach high school social studies and am active with the Movement of Rank and File Educators, the left-wing opposition caucus of the United Federation of Teachers.

Growing up in Boston, Irish Catholic students are taught that busing, at best, was a well-intentioned but ill-conceived plan to address racial inequality that trampled the rights of white families in the city’s poor and working-class Irish neighborhoods. But as a teenager who became politically active in socialist organizing through the Iraq anti-war movement and the racial horrors of Hurricane Katrina in the early 2000s, this narrative never sat right with me. I knew the corporate media often lied, and conventional political wisdom, especially in a city with such a long and ugly history of racism as Boston, is seldom to be trusted. As a then soon-to-be radical teacher and union militant, I wanted to uncover the history and lessons of past class-based struggles for educational justice and Black liberation, as a guide for navigating the political terrain of today.

On the contemporary socialist Left, the history of busing and desegregation in Boston doesn’t get much attention. It is considered a chapter of the 1960s and 1970s Black freedom struggle that is localized; as a result, it is often overlooked in comparison to the movement’s national high points. If it is discussed, what’s focused on is of a negative character: the violent backlash, busing’s limitations, or the outcome of white flight that followed.

[T]he demand for school desegregation was the product of a decades-long campaign by Black working class families and their community allies built from the bottom up.

Few know that tens of thousands of Black and white students led walkouts in the 1960s to pressure Boston’s racist school committee, or that Martin Luther King Jr. and Angela Davis spoke at rallies and led mass marches on par with other civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the era. Far from being a plan concocted by white liberal elites imposed from the top down, the demand for school desegregation was the product of a decades-long campaign by Black working class families and their community allies built from the bottom up. These political agents dared to dream and fight for a brighter future not just for their children, but for an integrated society where all students are guaranteed the right to a well funded, robust, quality public education.

The political landscape has evolved in important ways in the eight years since this article was first written. First, the rank and file rebellion within the teacher union movement has expanded and grown significantly. From Chicago, to Los Angeles, and Red States across the American South, teachers have kicked out conservative, bureaucratized leaderships and organized successful strikes. By pursuing a strategy of “bargaining for the common good,” teacher unions have foregrounded the demands of students, families and the communities we serve as central to the improvement of teacher’s lives; smaller class sizes, more social workers and wrap-around services, greater investment in after-school and community-based programs, stronger pay and benefits. Secondly, the anti-racist rebellion in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd has altered the terrain of American politics, foregrounding issues of institutionalized racism in public consciousness.

School integration was part of a broader platform of reform demands for racial equality. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Image by Library of Congress.

Yet the data continue to demonstrate that throughout the United States schools remain nearly as segregated today as they were fifty years ago during the period of formal racial apartheid in the American South and de facto segregation in the North. In some areas of the country, school segregation along racial and class lines has become even more entrenched as patterns of residential segregation and concentrated poverty have intensified with neoliberal deregulation and privatization in the housing market.

The struggle for educational justice is no longer a topic relegated to the history books of a bygone 1960s era. New generations of students, families, and teachers in the years to come will continue grappling with the question; how do we build the schools we all deserve? The struggle for school desegregation in Boston provides invaluable lessons about the power of working-class, community-led movements, the centrality of the Black struggle, and the necessity of solidarity to winning. It’s a chapter in the Black Freedom struggle whose lessons deserve to be studied, debated and applied to our organizing today.

In defense of school busing

In September 2014, on the fortieth anniversary of the court decision ordering school desegregation, the Boston Herald published an op-ed by Ray Flynn, the former mayor and South Boston representative. Flynn described the busing that followed as an “ugly” time when “city government [lost] control over our schools” and “parents [lost] a voice” in choosing their children’s educational futures.

“The injustice to parents was ignored by ‘elites’ during this horrendously flawed and insensitive process,” he wrote. “I knew many of these parents. They were fine, decent and concerned mothers and fathers who were not racists or haters as they were sometimes described in the media.”

Flynn’s lamentations neatly encapsulated the conventional view of the busing program: that it was a failed experiment in social engineering, foisted on white working-class Bostonians by liberal-minded elites.

But while pervasive both in the Boston area and around the country, this account is profoundly misleading. It omits the three-decade-long fight for quality education led by Black Bostonians. It ignores the unrealized potential of busing to attack racism, deliver equitable education, and unite a fractured working class. And, perhaps most damagingly, it exonerates the principal enemies of racial and educational justice in Boston: the banks, real-estate companies, and government officials who colluded to keep Black people and poor whites in ghettos and deny them basic services.

The ruling class and the inner city

Post– World War II Boston was a city in flux. For one, the city’s racial makeup was changing dramatically; from the end of the war to 1970 the Black population increased fourfold, to 16 percent.

Often lured by dreams of a better life in the North, Black Bostonians instead faced exclusion on all sides. Restrictive government policies kept them from accessing housing and jobs in the suburbs, confining them to racially isolated inner-city neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty and underfunded schools. Residential segregation and gerrymandering denied them an effective political voice. And the only available employment opportunities were in the low-paying, non-unionized service sector.

At the same time, the ruling class that created and patrolled the bounds of the Black ghetto was undergoing shifts of its own.

A rising political machine helmed by James Michael Curley had dominated the city throughout the first half of the twentieth century. As mayor, Curley created a patronage system that doled out public services in exchange for votes, drove most of the Yankee business class into the suburbs, and stoked racial and ethnic tensions within the city’s predominantly immigrant working class.

As the political power of the city’s business elite swelled, the Irish-Catholic machine watched its cachet dwindle. One of the machine’s last bastions of power was the school committee.

But the 1949 election saw the traditional business class regain political power and the Brahmins—the elite group of Protestant families who had controlled the city from the colonial period until the 1900s—return as the other main ruling-class player.

As the political power of the city’s business elite swelled, the Irish-Catholic machine watched its cachet dwindle. One of the machine’s last bastions of power was the school committee. And they weren’t going to let it go without a fight.

A long struggle

In the decades leading up to the landmark 1974 desegregation decision, Black parents—through a variety of institutions and using a variety of tactics—fought a pitched battle to better their children’s education.

The formal fight for equitable education can be dated to 1950. That year, a coalition of African American parents, motivated by the belief that their children were entitled to “as many privileges as any other children in the city,” formed the Parents Federation.

Ruth Batson, a Boston Public Schools (BPS) parent who became a prominent leader in the desegregation movement, got her start in November 1950 when the Parents Federation protested Mayor Hynes’s refusal to build a new school for Black students in Boston’s South End.

But like many organizations pushing for civil rights during the McCarthy era, the Parents Federation was redbaited and eventually shut down.

Shortly thereafter, the Boston branch of the NAACP established a public education subcommittee headed by Batson. The organization immediately began agitating around issues affecting African American students and parents. As the African American population continued to grow, the NAACP observed, Black students were being segregated into resource-starved schools.

A formal study by the group—conducted after the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination refused to investigate the public schools, claiming discrimination did not exist in Boston—quantified the inequity.

Four of the thirteen predominately Black schools had health and safety problems so severe they were supposed to have been closed. Per-pupil spending for African American students was on average one hundred dollars less than than their white peers, meaning Black schools had less experienced teachers and higher turnover rates. The district employed virtually no African American teachers or administrators, and many white teachers and administrators were hostile and racist toward their Black students.

A multiracial crowd pickets the Boston School Committee on May 16, 1965. Image by Boston Public Library.

In order to protect this unjust status quo, the school committee constructed an elaborate tracking system that allowed them to bus Black and white students from the same neighborhoods to different junior high schools.

As the title of Jonathan Kozol’s 1967 book memorably put it, Boston’s apartheid education system was consigning Black students to “death at an early age.”

The revelations stoked panic among the school committee. Eager to ward off negative publicity, Louise Day Hicks, then chairperson of the school committee, set up a hearing with the local NAACP.

But the placatory strategy backfired. So many parents, teachers, students, and community members came out in support of the NAACP that eight hundred people were turned away. They rallied outside instead.

Inside, the school committee refused to acknowledge any of the grievances presented. Boston, the officials claimed, was not Little Rock. Racism and segregation did not exist in the “cradle of liberty.” As they saw it, the problem was irresponsible Black parents and students who didn’t value education.

Parents and community members were furious. “We were insulted,” Batson explained years later. “We were told our kids were stupid, and this was why they didn’t learn. We were completely rejected that night.”

It was a turning point for Batson and other activists, the moment that many realized school officials could not be reasoned with. The Black community would have to force them to act.

Stay out for freedom

Activists quickly shifted to a strategy of protest, direct action, and school boycotts. Just a week after the hearings, five thousand Black students stayed out of school to demand an end to school segregation.

The demonstration generated enough pressure that the school committee granted the NAACP another meeting. Supporters again packed the room with students and parents, but the school committee abruptly ended the meeting, just as Batson was beginning her presentation.

In the 1964 election, activists tried to get their revenge at the polls. Calling themselves Citizens for Boston Public Schools (CBPS), they put together a slate of Black and white desegregation candidates that included Mel King, a city teacher and prominent civil rights activist.

CBPS candidates advocated reforms to improve the entire school system, hoping that such cross-racial, class-based demands would help them garner white working-class support. But the election results demonstrated the stubborn entrenchment of white racism and opposition to desegregation, even among those who would benefit from the proposed reforms. The whole Citizens for Boston Public Schools slate of candidates came up short.

A second citywide school boycott took place on February 26, 1964. Thanks to the momentum created by activists and the increasing anger at the school committee’s intransigence, the walkout was even more successful than the first. Almost twenty thousand students boycotted, with over nine thousand attending Freedom Schools set up by civil-rights activists.

The school superintendent, however, was not moved: “Today’s demonstration was a success for no one,” he said. “Real freedom is manifested only through obedience to the law … a color line is being drawn now that never existed before.”

Activists, parents, students, and teachers came to a very different conclusion. They saw increasing opposition to segregation as the fruits of their labor—as proof of their collective power.

In January, Martin Luther King, Jr brought national attention to their desegregation struggle. Leading a multiracial march of twenty-two thousand, he charged the Boston School Committee with “de facto segregation.” Hicks and her colleagues refused to meet with him, illustrating that Boston wasn’t so unlike Little Rock, an embarrassing fact for the state’s political establishment.

The spring brought more momentum for the desegregation side. A state report found that seventy-eight public schools in Massachusetts were segregated—an affront, the study declared, to “the American creed of equality of opportunity” that harmed Black students’ self-confidence, educational experience, and job opportunities and “reinforce[ed] the prejudices of children.”

The report, the successful boycott, and the rising tide of the national Civil Rights Movement spurred what looked to be a turning point in the city’s desegregation effort.

The Racial Imbalance Act

On June 30, 1965, the Massachusetts state legislature passed the Racial Imbalance Act. The first legislation of its kind, the act made public school segregation illegal and prohibited state aid to segregated schools.

The state’s ruling class supported the law for a few reasons. First, they were feeling the heat from local and national civil rights activists. Second, they viewed it as an opportunity to weaken Boston’s Irish-Catholic machine. And finally, they knew that because the law was voluntary, they would not have to enforce it.

In Boston, school committee officials reacted with characteristic obduracy. Hicks called the Racial Imbalance Act “unfair, ridiculous, unworkable, and unconstitutional” and rebuffed mounting demands to desegregate her own committee.

Activists were exhausted. Despite the legislative gains they’d wrested from the state elite, it seemed impossible to achieve structural change in the city’s education system. Tired of waiting for politicians and sick of the school committee’s stonewalling, Black parents created their own programs to get their children into quality schools.

Operation Exodus and the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) ferried Black students to open seats in the city and suburbs, demonstrating the length African American parents would go to secure quality education for their children. In addition to disproving the school committee’s racist stereotypes about Black parents, the programs also publicly shamed the committee for violating the constitutional rights of Black students.

Yet however successful, the programs were stopgap measures—capable of improving the lives of enrollees but unable to effect fundamental change in the school district. With all other channels seemingly exhausted, activists turned to the courts.

The ruling

On June 21, 1974, two years after the NAACP filed a federal suit against the school committee on behalf of Black parents, Judge W. Arthur Garrity handed down a 152-page ruling that ordered the district to begin desegregating that year. The Boston Public Schools, Garrity wrote in his decision in Tallulah Morgan v. James W Hennigan, was intentionally segregated.

He cited patterns of overcrowding and under-utilization, gerrymandered district lines, feeder systems that created and enforced a dual system of secondary education, a reliance on less qualified and lower-paid teachers in predominately Black schools, and the restriction of Black teachers to Black schools to justify his legal intervention.

Garrity had no illusions about the impact of the decision. “He knew there was going to be a lot of opposition,” one of Garrity’s law clerks later told the Boston Globe.

South Boston: Louise Day Hicks at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1972. Image by majunznk.

The first phase of the desegregation plan called for busing high school students between Roxbury, the heart of Boston’s Black community, and South Boston, a close-knit, working-class Irish-Catholic neighborhood.

City politicians mobilized white residents immediately. Hicks, now a member of the city council, used her political influence in the city to form the Save Boston Committee—later renamed Restore Our Alienated Rights—and gave anti-busing activists full use of city hall offices.

That fall, almost all South Boston parents kept their kids out of school. Unsatisfied with silent resistance, white parents and their children violently confronted Black students as they made their way into South Boston High. They threw banana peels, hurled bottles and rocks, and carried signs that read “NIGGERS GO HOME.” At Hyde Park High School, located in the upper-middle-class neighborhood known as the High Wards, Black students faced some of the most violent attacks in the city.

In October, anti-desegregation protesters were emboldened when President Gerald Ford announced he wouldn’t send U.S. Marshals to protect Black students. “The court decision in that case, in my judgment, was not the best solution to quality education in Boston,” Ford explained. “I have consistently opposed forced busing to achieve racial balance as a solution to quality education.” Ford’s statement reflected the rightward turn underway in U.S. politics as politicians across the country sought to roll back social movement gains.

Meanwhile, Black parents in Boston were going to extraordinary lengths to protect their children from racist violence and ensure they had access to a decent education. Parents and civil rights activists set up grassroots support and mutual aid networks like the Freedom House Institute on Schools and Education, which helped students get to school and held information sessions on the desegregation process for parents, students, and community members.

And—contrary to the conventional history, which emphasizes one-sided, monolithic white resistance—supporters of desegregation organized mass, multiracial demonstrations and forums.

In October 1974, Black communist Angela Davis denounced the bigoted response to desegregation in a speech at a packed community forum. The Freedom House put together an “assembly for justice” that assembled a coalition of Black community organizations and their supporters the same month.

On November 30, Coretta Scott King led a march of several thousand in downtown Boston, and two weeks later, a pro-desegregation rally featuring Ralph Abernathy, Dick Gregory, and Amiri Baraka drew more than twelve thousand people to the Boston Common.

The largest demonstration in support of desegregation took place on May 17, 1975, when more than forty thousand people came out to defend busing. “We wanted to show Boston that there are a number of people who have fought for busing, some for over twenty years,” explained Ellen Jackson, one of the rally’s organizers. “We hoped to express the concerns of many people who have not seen themselves, only seeing the anti-busing demonstrations in the media.” Despite the press’s focus on the anti-busing movement, civil rights activists would continue to fight to keep racial justice in the public conversation.

That fall, following the rejection of a busing proposal that effectively called for maintaining segregation, Judge Garrity implemented phase two of his plan. Busing was expanded to make every school reflect the approximate racial makeup of the city.

But the school committee and many white families still refused to cooperate. More than 50 percent of white students stayed out of school in 1975–76. And by the beginning of the school year, nearly nine thousand whites had moved out of South Boston. Violence proliferated, with fistfights and even stabbings.

“Black communist Angela Davis denounced the bigoted response to desegregation in a speech at a packed community forum” in October 1974. This photo taken at an unknown location sometime between 1975 and 1982. Image by Gary Yanker.

The most well-known incident, captured by Stanley Forman in his Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph The Soiling of Old Glory, occurred in April 1976, when anti-busing activists attacked Ted Landsmark, an African American lawyer, with an American flag after an anti-busing rally at city hall. The picture became international news overnight, powerfully illuminating the endemic racism in America’s so-called “cradle of liberty.”

Given the racism of Boston’s political institutions, and the refusal of many white families to cooperate, civil rights leaders knew that the only solution was to take control away from the school committee and put it in the hands of an outside administration.

On December 9, Judge Garrity stepped in and removed the principal of South Boston High School and seven other administrators and put the entire school system under federal judicial control for refusal to comply with court orders. That same day, the NAACP office was firebombed.

Yet once the school district was placed under federal receivership, white families realized busing was not going away. More and more simply fled the city. By the fall of 1976 thirty thousand students had left the Boston public school system, more than a third of the district’s white students.

Phase three of Garrity’s plan went into effect the following year, making the district responsible for monitoring and implementing policies to ensure racial balance. By this point, the mass exodus of white families had weakened the anti-busing movement; Hicks lost her seat on the city council, and John O’Bryant became the first African American elected to the school committee.

For a brief moment desegregation slowly proceeded, delivering important material gains to the city’s Black working class. Boston’s school’s system was rendered more racially integrated, Black students received more resources, and more Black teachers were hired.

But these accomplishments were soon rolled back by further white flight, a racist backlash against the gains of the civil rights and Black Power movements, and employers’ neoliberal offensive. After decades of struggle and strife, class segregation and racial inequality had survived intact, relatively untouched.

“We saved this city”

Busing had the potential to weaken the racism that split Boston’s working class, giving white and Black workers a stake in building up the public institutions that they would together share. Instead, the city’s Irish-Catholic political machine fomented a violent, racist backlash that left Black and white parents fighting over scraps while elites accumulated massive amounts of wealth.

In the 1970s, South Boston had the highest levels of concentrated white poverty in the United States and an adult male unemployment rate of 40 percent. Southie led the city in drug overdoses and came in a close second to Roxbury in gun murders. South Boston and Roxbury High had parallel dropout rates.

White workers were not making out well, materially, by privileging ethnic pride over class solidarity. But because the radical Left never gained a foothold among the city’s working class, class politics never took root. South Boston became the perfect breeding ground for right-wing populism and racist scapegoating.

Rather than fighting the true architects of their misery, most residents of South Boston mistakenly turned their fire on Judge Garrity.

Garrity’s order wasn’t an attack on community schools and parents’ right to have a voice in their kids’ education. White parents had no problem sending their children across the city to attend all-white schools—opposition only arose when busing meant their kids would be learning alongside Black children. Calls to preserve “good neighborhood schools” were a rhetorical ruse manufactured by elites to shore up a racist, segregated status quo.

For a brief moment desegregation slowly proceeded, delivering important material gains to the city’s Black working class. Boston’s school’s system was rendered more racially integrated, Black students received more resources, and more Black teachers were hired.

Nor was Garrity’s ruling an overzealous, top-down social experiment. His court order only came about because of years of political organizing and pressure from civil rights activists and Boston’s Black community.

And even if integration was short-lived and partial—not least because Garrity’s plan didn’t extend to the suburbs—it dealt a blow to racism by weakening racial barriers and opening up the city’s political institutions to African Americans. As Ruth Batson argued in a 1991 interview, “The black people in this city, we saved this city. If we thought things were bad, God knows what would have happened [without our organizing for desegregation].”

Still, the failure to effectively desegregate the city left Boston’s working class divided and inert in the face of the employer offensive over the next forty years. The results have been devastating. This year Boston ranked as the most unequal city in the United States, and racial and class stratification still shape its urban geography.

Gentrification is rapidly remaking historically working-class neighborhoods like South Boston and Roxbury, displacing longtime residents and creating islands of wealth and power alongside concentrations of intense, debilitating poverty. The Boston public school system remains chronically underfunded and plagued by racial and class segregation.

If the battle over busing holds any lesson, it is that only collective, multiracial struggle from below can confront social injustice. Shying away from antiracist organizing only plays into the hands of economic and political elites.

In the 1970s, a justifiably aggrieved white working class misdirected its anger at Black students rather than the ruling class responsible for Southie’s social nightmare. They’re still paying the price.

Featured image credit: ThoseGuys119; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

A response to Jonah ben Avraham’s “Support Palestinians when they fight…”

Tempest Magazine - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 19:46

In the midst of Israel’s horrific slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, it would seem ill-timed to engage in debate with other members of the pro-Palestinian Left. But when a writer chooses to denounce as “pro-settler” those who uphold the fundamental Left position against killing innocent civilians, a response is required. And when a leftist dismisses the humanity of Israeli civilians as the “suffering of the Israeli settlers,” it is important to point out how this does a tremendous disservice to both the Left and the Palestinian cause.

The recent article in Tempest titled “Support Palestinians when they fight: Not just when they die” by Jonah ben Avraham praises Hamas’ October 7 attack: “In the images of fences toppling and resistance spreading—particularly throughout the Arab world—we saw a glimpse of new possibilities.” This is our vision of a new world? Slaughtered civilians? How does he believe this attack came about: “Last month, inmates of the Zionist state’s de facto concentration camp in the Gaza Strip executed a desperate, yet powerfully courageous, escape.” Yes, Israel had turned Gaza into a concentration camp. But no one “escaped.” These were not enslaved people breaking their chains and fleeing north. The planners of this action could not have failed to anticipate the horrendous and criminal Israeli retaliation that is currently slaughtering the people of Gaza. Sometimes desperate people spontaneously explode. But October 7 was not spontaneous. It was the carefully planned action of a rightwing, religious fundamentalist organization.

Ben Avraham seems to share with the Israeli government the view that Hamas and the Palestinians are one and the same. For the state of Israel, this means that Palestinians can be slaughtered in revenge for Hamas’s actions. For ben Avraham it means that our obligation to support Palestinians’ just cause requires us to support Hamas. Hamas won an election in 2006, but hasn’t faced voters in the ensuing 17 years. Pre-October 7, 2023 polls show that two thirds of Gazans had little or no trust in Hamas and only about a quarter considered Hamas their preferred party. Hamas rules Gaza dictatorially, allowing no opportunity for democratic participation. Hamas has long favored attacks on civilians—from bombs in restaurants to indiscriminate rocket fire—that the Left has opposed for its immorality and its strategic idiocy, as it strengthened the Israeli rightwing and discredited the Palestinian cause. And in recent years there has been direct support of Hamas from the Netanyahu government, as a way to build up a counter-weight to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to keep Palestinians divided.

Attacks on innocent civilians are war crimes and contrary to international humanitarian law and also contrary to basic leftist values. Yes, it is true that for 75 years Israel has often done as much and worse…but that does not lessen the heinous nature of Hamas’ attack.

On October 7, Hamas’ attack involved the killing of hundreds of civilians, including children. Over two hundred were taken as hostages, many of them civilians including children. Attacks on innocent civilians are war crimes and contrary to international humanitarian law and also contrary to basic leftist values. Yes, it is true that for 75 years Israel has often done as much and worse, and it is doing far worse right now, but that does not lessen the heinous nature of Hamas’s attack, which ben Avraham, unfortunately, is loath to mention.

Ben Avraham tells us that Hamas’s victims were settlers and those who mourn them “pro-settler.” (He’s not referring to the West Bank settlers, but to any Israeli.) Yes, Israel is a settler state, as are many other states in the world, and not just the major capitalist powers—Latin America for example. But should any leftist be morally indifferent to the slaughter of children because they are descendants of settlers?

Ben Avraham adopts old leftist language that should be retired from our liberatory lexicon such as “by any means necessary” and “unconditional support.” Socialists do not believe that “any means” are permissible in the struggle for justice. Ends and means mutually condition each other. Murdering civilians, especially children, will make achieving a common struggle for a new society more difficult, perhaps impossible for another generation or two. That is true of the October 7 attack and is equally true, and much more horrendous, in the case of Israel’s mass murder in Gaza.  We should also ban the term “unconditional support.” How can we not have conditions relating to our support? If a movement, even a movement of the oppressed, does things that are contrary to socialist principles and contrary to our ultimate goals, how can we not be critical?

The author writes, “This moment is a crystal-clear demonstration of the importance and meaning of socialist internationalism.” This suggests international solidarity which means international alliances. Who then do we wish to ally with? International socialists are not called upon to support Hamas in Palestine any more than we were called upon to support the Taliban in their struggle as they saw it to liberate Afghanistan. The Left supported the Ethiopians in their struggle against Mussolini’s Fascist Italy in 1935-1937, but never supported King Haile Selassie’s government. We supported the Vietnamese people in their struggle but criticized Ho Chi Minh’s Stalinist government. The tendency to overlook, excuse, or apologize for Hamas is not only a mistake in itself, but it tends toward the campist politics that support uncritically so-called anti-imperialist nations such as China, Russia, and Iran because they are opponents of the United States. Opposition to the United States or to Israel is not enough to win our support. We support movements from below for workers’ power, democracy, women’s and LGBT rights and against racism and religious bigotry. We support the Palestinians, but not Hamas which believes in none of those things.

Finally, ben Avraham slanders and defames many leftists and progressives—saying they prefer to mourn for dead Palestinians than to fight with those who are living. These are people who for years (depending on their ages) opposed U.S. imperialist wars from Vietnam to Central America to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been powerful voices for Palestinians in their struggle for justice. They march now for a ceasefire. Doesn’t ben Avraham want them building the movement?

At a time when we want to build a broad mass movement, why would ben Avraham want to condemn Naomi Klein who joined with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to call for a ceasefire in Washington, D.C.? He calls her “pro-settler,” associating her with the Israelis who violently attack and expel Palestinians on the West Bank—but of course for ben Avraham every Israeli is a settler.

Ben Avraham also denounces Joshua Leifer of the organization If Not Now, one of the groups involved in organizing protests to demand a ceasefire. If we are to build a broad movement for an end to Israel’s attack and also to end U.S. support for Israel, we will have to have an alliance both with Palestinian and Arab activists and with just such progressives as ben Avraham criticizes. His approach is absurdly sectarian and self-defeating.

The tendency to overlook, excuse, or apologize for Hamas is not only a mistake in itself, but it tends toward the campist politics that support uncritically so-called anti-imperialist nations such as China, Russia, and Iran because they are opponents of the United States.

There is an unfortunate view among some on the Left that we should not publicly criticize Hamas when it is under Israeli assault. But this does not help the people of Palestine. If critics of Israel suppress saying what they believe (that Hamas committed crimes) then they will cause many people who might object to Israel’s crimes to reject calls for a ceasefire because the calls seem to come from people who are indifferent to the killing of Jews. Our moral consistency is what encourages people to listen to us. Our willingness to condemn the killing of Israeli children shows people on the fence that our concerns for Palestinian children are motivated by consistent moral principle, not by hatred for Jews.

The Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination is a just cause. The occupation must be ended, the structures of Israeli apartheid must be dismantled, and the refugees have an internationally recognized right of return. Palestinians, like all oppressed people, have the right to resist, including by armed force, by all legitimate means. Refusing to condemn Hamas does nothing to advance this struggle and may retard it.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Political economy of passing

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 11/23/2023 - 21:04

November 20 marked the 24th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day of mourning that concludes Transgender Awareness Week and honors the trans lives lost to violence. In the past year, 321 known transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed worldwide, and at least 33 people in the United States.

A report from Transgender Europe shows that 94 percent of the 321 trans lives lost to violence globally over the past year were trans women or transfeminine and 80 percent were people of color. The most common age group is between 19 to 25 years old, and about three-fourths of the victims range between 19 to 40 years old. Victims were almost just as likely to be killed in their own homes (26 percent) as they were on the street (28 percent) and almost half the victims (48 percent) were involved in sex work.

In the United States, similar trends were present with 88 percent of the victims being people of color, and 54 percent being Black trans women. The average age was 28 years old. About half the victims (47 percent) were killed by a romantic partner, friend, or family member, and 50 percent were later misgendered or deadnamed by either the police or the press. During this same period, incidents of hate crimes against LGBTQ people increased by 32 percent. This figure includes the murder of O’Shae Sibley who was stabbed to death outside of a Brooklyn gas station in reaction to his voguing. The rise in physical violence corresponds with a rise in legislative violence. 2023 has seen the introduction of 500 anti-LGBTQ bills at statehouses across the U.S.

Last year’s observance of the TDOR was further impacted by the massacre at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO. From drag shows that have been criminalized, LGBTQ literature that has been banned, trans athletes like Lia Thomas, and trans celebrities like Dylan Mulvaney that have faced vicious attacks for attempting to exist. The shooting in Colorado Springs a year ago that killed five people along with the everyday violence that continues to see far too many mostly young mostly Black and Brown queer and trans lives violently cut short, and countless more lost to suicide is a result of these ongoing attacks against queer people and queer culture.

In honor of Transgender Awareness Week and of the trans lives foreclosed by physical and legislative violence, Tempest reprints this essay that originally appeared in the American Philosophy Association’s LGBTQ Philosophy Bulletin.

Photo by Ted Eytan. I. Furtivity

In 2012, eight years before millions of protesters were to rise in antiracist rebellion to proclaim Black Trans Lives (also) Matter, CeCe McDonald—a Black trans woman—is sentenced to three and a half years in prison. McDonald, just twenty-three at the time, pleads guilty to manslaughter for defending her own life against a white supremacist who, statistics project, would have killed her if given the chance. Writing from a men’s prison, where she would ultimately serve nineteen months, McDonald represents the asymmetry of law. Too often, weaponized judiciary statutes categorize and contain queer life, poor life, Black and Brown life. McDonald fits all three.

Like CeCe, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are often caught within a web of carceral logics. Trans people experience significantly “high rates of poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in schools and the workplace,” which, in turn, leads to “disproportionate contacts with the justice system, leading to higher levels of incarceration.”1National Center for Trans Equality, LGBT People Behind Bars: A Guide to Understanding the Issues Facing Transgender Prisoners and their Rights, 2018, /fles/docs/resources/TransgenderPeopleBehindBars.pdf. A 2018 report by The National Center for Trans Equality documents, “A history of bias, abuse, and profling towards LGBTQ people by law enforcement,” and notes that 47 percent of Black transgender people report having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

A year following CeCe’s January 2014 release, I attend Haymarket Books’ annual Socialism Conference, a gathering of authors and organizers, artists, and academics who will shape my thinking for years to come. Standing in a hotel conference room located inside the downtown Chicago Loop, I fidget with a notebook that will remain empty when I walk out of the conference room doors. Inside, the room is cramped; it is humid, and at its front, CeCe McDonald recounts the moments that lead to her incarceration. At her story’s crescendo, the room surges with emotion: “As I got closer,” she tells us, “I start to hear all types of epithets, you know faggots, chicks-with-dicks. You dress like that because you want to rape men, trick men.”2We Are Many Media, “The Struggle for Trans Liberation: A Conversation with CeCe McDonald,” YouTube, 2014, https:// Her attackers’ virulent transmisogyny is laced with anti-Blackness. “African baby,” she is told, “go back to Africa”–just moments before her attackers slice into her face with broken glass. The conference hall is standing room only; we lean shoulder against shoulder, separated only by the thin cotton of T-shirts, listening as CeCe speaks. We are silent; we know what comes next.

Fumbling for a pair of scissors in her handbag, CeCe will stab her attacker resulting in his death, and although she is acting in self-defense, CeCe will be handcuffed, arraigned, and ultimately found guilty: “What is considered a crime and who is considered a criminal” is determined always by social constructions.3Tia Sherèe Gaynor, “Social Construction and the Criminalization of Identity: State-Sanctioned Oppression and an Unethical Administration,” Public Integrity 20, no. 4 (2018): 358–69, https:// CeCe is attacked and incarcerated because CeCe can be seen; she can be recognized; and because her corporeality evades binary categorization, she is reconstituted as deviant, as criminal.

Too often, weaponized judiciary statutes categorize and contain queer life, poor life, Black and Brown life.

Years later, when I read Imani Perry for the first time, I think of CeCe and her refusal to die. This refusal, in itself, is a radical undertaking as Perry reminds readers of the “juridical foundations of modern patriarchy,” the “coercive power of legal words,” and the social identity constructions that legalese entreats. “Nonpersons,” Perry writes, are “those who lie outside the citizenship and the gender binary had [and continue to have] distinct rules applied to them, which are often mechanisms for violent domination.”4Imani Perry, Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018), 21. This domination might be legislative, it might be carceral, or it might be intimate and extralegal. For many, for me, it is in this context that passing earns its appeal.

To pass is the opposite of failure.5Lillian Maisfehlt, “On Passing,” in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community (Oxford University Press, 2014), 187. It is also to move or to proceed—as in CeCe passed through the prison walls and back into the world. Passing can refer to the transfer, control, or custodianship of property—as in CeCe was passed from the police to the courts, to corrections. To pass is to “go uncensured, unchallenged, seemingly unnoticed”—as in, there is a direct correlation between the violence trans people experience and the degree to which they can pass—a constant furtivity.6Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-trusted Online Dictionary, “Defnition of PASS,” accessed August 10, 2022, In Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano explains, “The problem is that words like ‘pass’ or ‘passing’ are active verbs. So when we say that a transexual [sic] is passing it gives the false impression that they are the only active participant in this scenario.”7Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Seal Press, 2016), 177. However, from moment to moment, trans people are interpellated through relationality; we are read as real or unreal, as belonging or unbelonging. Through a mix of signs and significations that precede our arrival, our queer bodies animate, arouse, and quicken the materiality of the street corner, the bar, the courtroom, the classroom. The decision to pass is never a simple one. While at its core passing remains an assimilationist practice, at times in my life, it has also been necessary for survival.

Closets are Dangerous Places.

Pressed against the slatted bifold doors,

a person’s vision becomes distorted;

slices of light

narrow the field of expectations.

An older millennial,

my queer trans experience

taut between two anchors.

On one end, a generation

who felt furtivity was a given;

on the other, a generation

who packed gender

with c-4 demolition blocks,

and set the world on fire.

II. Discipline

The authority of the state in moderating and disciplining gender remains unparalleled. On the one hand, the state coerces trans bodies into passing as their cisgender correlative. On the other, the state erects classed and racialized legislative barriers that prevent trans people from access to physical and social transition. Violence is central to this project. As a young radical, I must have read Lenin’s State and Revolution at least a dozen times—the pages of my copy are crowded with notes and yellowed with coffee stains. Although I have since moved away from some of the text’s argument, this still rings true: In its unadorned essence, the state is violence; it “is an organ of class rule. . .  it is a creation of ‘order’ that legalizes and perpetuates oppression.”8Vladimir I. Lenin, State and Revolution (annotated), ed. Todd Chretien (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014), 43. With its prisons and its “special bodies of armed men,” state power terrorizes; state power coerces; state power compels.9Lenin, State and Revolution, 45. To compel requires categorization; it requires the sorting and evaluation of bodies, so that some bodies become nobody, and other bodies become somebody.10Holly Lewis, The Politics of Everybody: Feminism, Queer Theory, and Marxism at the Intersection (London: Zed Books, 2016), 12. The recent wave of anti-trans legislation is intimately concerned with who those nobodies are, how those nobodies move; how those nobodies labor, and where and how those nobodies receive care. And when legal coercion becomes insufficient, vigilantism takes its place.

On March 12, 2023, I wake up to horrifying images of white supremacists and neo-Nazis outside a drag story hour event in Akron, Ohio. Hundreds of Proud Boys, members of Patriot Front, and “White Lives Matter” protestors descend on Wadsworth Memorial Park to disrupt a charity event for survivors of the mass shooting at Club Q, an LBGTQ bar in Colorado Springs where five people were murdered and twenty-five were injured in November of last year. Cellphone footage of the drag charity event captures right-wing protestors waving swastika fags, chanting “pedophiles get the rope,” and “Weimar conditions, Weimar solutions”—a reference to Nazi ascendency over the Weimar reform period in Germany.11J. Factora, “Neo-Nazis Spewing Racial Slurs Stormed an Ohio Drag Queen Story Hour,” Them, March 13, 2023, https://www A friend who attends a counter-protest event reaches out through a Discord channel and asks, What can anti-fascist organizing look like in a period of escalating violence? This is a fitting question. The far right is more dangerously emboldened than at any other period in my lifetime; nevertheless, extralegal violence has always been central to the containment and castigation of Black bodies, brown bodies, queer bodies, nobodies. Like the masked protestors in Akron, when CeCe’s attacker lunged at her eleven years ago, he was also decorated in Nazi iconography—a four-inch swastika tattooed across his chest.

The recent wave of anti-trans legislation is intimately concerned with who those nobodies are, how those nobodies move; how those nobodies labor, and where and how those nobodies receive care. And when legal coercion becomes insufficient, vigilantism takes its place.

Reflecting on these scenes, I am reminded that extralegal violence has been foundational to American settler colonialism—that pioneer vigilantes sought to impose order on newly settled frontier lands; that post-civil war vigilantes sought to reestablish de facto property rights over newly emancipated slaves, and that animated by anxieties over neoliberal decline, twenty-first-century vigilantes seek to rehabilitate the supremacy of the white and white-adjacent American family. In “The History of Vigilantism in America,” Richard Maxwell Brown notes that vigilantes are concerned with policing both geographic and behavioral boundaries, often using extralegal violence to do so.12Richard Maxwell Brown, “The History of Vigilantism in America,” in Vigilante Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc, 2016), 79–109. Queer bodies know this all too well. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, “LGBT people are nearly four times more likely . . . to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.”13Bianca D. M. Wilson and Illan H. Meyer, Nonbinary LGBTQ Adults in the United States, Williams Institute UCLA School of Law, 2021, /Nonbinary-LGBTQ-Adults-Jun-2021.pdf. Queer people are also more likely to experience both intimate violence and stranger violence.14Wilson and Meyer, Nonbinary LGBTQ Adults in the United States. As these statistics make clear, when CeCe is attacked, it is because her Blackness and her queerness transgress the boundaries of post-colonial acceptability, or as CeCe puts it, “I guess [my] presence kind of offended them.”15We Are Many Media, 06:58-07:01.[/footnote

Archives of Discipline

No one can interpellate like the state.

No other institution or entity

can manufacture identity,

can codify one’s

seemingly immutable being;

birth certificates,

marriage licenses,

tax returns,

all make legible

the corporeal misdemeanors

of those who don’t belong

or who sometimes belong.

III. Intimate discipline

The euphemism “intimate violence” lends a tenderness to the brutality of gender discipline that occurs between those known to one another. And yet, like vigilantism, it seeks to reimpose boundaries around acceptable gender-based behaviors resulting in both epistemic and physical violence. Here is a story I cannot stop telling: Just months before Ricky dies, he is caught. Noticed by the swish of his hips, the flick of his wrist; shadows follow his wake. On a warm evening, he emerges from behind the yellowed windows of a night class, and he is attacked for the first time. His ribs buckle, his eyes swell, and in the days that follow, protest sweeps the campus. It is a May afternoon when students gather on the grassy lawn outside of Buley Library. Some hold signs that read hate is not welcome here; others gather in small groups to hold hands. Across the quad, a collection of police officers looks on. Long wooden batons dangle from their utility belts, and Ricky slips decisively through the tension, a bruise spreading beneath one eye. He takes the megaphone in his palms. No Justice, he calls. No Peace, we answer.

Later that summer, Ricky is attacked a second time. Driving home from the nursing home where I work as a prep cook, a past professor calls me. I pick up the phone as I drive, sticky, hot, and covered in the sour smell of old food. She tells me, between sobs, that Ricky has gone. At the time, I am nineteen years old and just at the beginning of a gender transition. Same-sex marriage is illegal in forty-nine states, and Obergefell v. Hodges will not appear before the Supreme Court for another nine years. Time magazine’s “Transgender Tipping Point” is almost a decade in the future, and it is only six years since Mathew Shepard was tied to a barbed wire fence, beaten, and left to die in the cool Wyoming air.

Bearing witness to the speed at which a queer life, a Black queer life, could be undone alters my worldview, sending me to search for new kinds of justice.

The night that Ricky dies, he wears a halter top and miniskirt; local papers describe his assailant bashing his head against the steering wheel before throwing his body from the car. Witnesses tell of a dark green Honda pulling into Christ Temple Church before returning to the scene, where gunshots flash into the dawn.[footnote]Noelle Frampton, “Homophobia Possible Motive in Alleged Murder,” The Hour (Norwalk), May 2, 2007. It is 2004 and still possible to use fear of gay and trans people as a legal defense against murder in all fifty states.16Christy Mallory, Brad Sears, and Luis A. Vasquez, Banning the Use of the Gay and Trans Panic Defenses, Williams Institute UCLA School of Law, 2021, Ricky’s assailant, who has a documented “hatred for gay people” and who is later celebrated as “a faggot killer,” is ultimately set free.17Frampton, “Homophobia Possible Motive in Alleged Murder.” In life, I didn’t know Ricky well. We shared a single class together and, had he survived, he likely would have graduated the following year. But decades have passed and telling his story still ties me in knots. Bearing witness to the speed at which a queer life, a Black queer life, could be undone alters my worldview, sending me to search for new kinds of justice.

Aren Z. Aizura writes, trans citizenship requires “fading into the population . . . but also the imperative to be ‘proper’ in the eyes of the state: to reproduce, to find proper employment; to reorient one’s different body into the flow of nationalized aspirations.”18Aren Aizura, quoted in Jasbir K. Puar, “Bodies with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled,” Social Text 33, no. 3 (2015): 56. Similarly, comparing trans bodies to disabled bodies, Jasbir Puar writes, “Neoliberal mandates regarding productive, capacitated bodies entrain the trans body to recreate an abled body not only in terms of gender and sexuality but also in terms of economic productivity and economic development of national economy.”19Jasbir K. Puar, “Bodies with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled,” Social Text 33, no. 3 (2015): 47. This kind of assimilation asks the trans body to bend into its cisgender correlative in exchange for a limited and precarious promise of safety—a safety Ricky was ultimately denied. For seventeen years, I have pushed syringes full of testosterone into my thighs, the skin welting beneath. In 2010, I had my breasts removed during a summer spent drinking whiskey sodas from plastic straws to dull the pain. Six months ago, as the governor of Texas began defning gender-afrming care as a form of child abuse, a surgeon cut open my gums to ft masculinizing prosthetics against my chin and my cheeks. But I have been lucky; I have been passing.

IV. A world on fire

Ricky’s story reminds me that the promise of neoliberal freedom runs only as far as the body can bend. Thus, while trans peoples’ desire to pass must be respected and facilitated through access to robust gender-affirming care, the very logics of passing must also be decentered and destabilized, for to leave them intact allows the origins of harm to remain unabated. Writing about the medical technologies and resulting surveillance that make passing possible, Toby Beauchamp notes, “Concealing gender deviance is about much more than simply erasing transgender status . . . the primary purpose of medical transition is to rid oneself of any vestiges of non-normative gender: to withstand and evade any surveillance (whether visual, auditory, social, or legal) that would reveal one’s trans status.”20Toby Beauchamp, “Artful Concealment and Strategic Visibility:Transgender Bodies and US State Surveillance After 9/11,”
Surveillance & Society 6, no. 4 (2009): 357. The current wave of anti-trans legislation and escalation of vigilante violence present a context in which evading surveillance gains an urgent appeal, and yet a closeted life cannot guarantee refuge from such violence.

In celebration of the queer poet Susy Shock’s affirmation: “I claim: my right to be a monster/ let other be normal,” Joseph Peirce insists on an alternative trajectory—one that acknowledges the limitations of multicultural inclusion and posits that an aesthetic and corporeal refusal “to adhere to normative parameters of multicultural inclusion and neoliberal sexual citizenship” become central to a queer resistance.21Joseph M. Pierce, “I Monster: Embodying Trans and Travesti
Resistance in Latin America,” Latin American Research Review 55, no. 2 (2020): 308. Likewise, Susan Stryker’s gender manifesto, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein” leans into the grotesque insisting, “I assert my worth as a monster in spite of the conditions my monstrosity requires me to face and redefine a life worth living.”22Susan Stryker, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1, no. 3 (1994): 250, https:// In both invocations, monstering refuses authorization through medical violence and medical surveillance; however, to resist the limitations afforded through neoliberal inclusion requires more than an aesthetic noncompliance. In other words, neither passing nor the refusal to pass offer a sufficient means of resisting the constellations of violence that discipline both Ricky and CeCe as they attempt to move through public space. In “Passing as Privileged,” Daniel Silvermint offers, “The moral status of passing as privileged is complex . . . since passing allows victims to escape certain oppressive burdens.”23Daniel Silvermint, “Passing as Privileged,” Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5, no. 20201214 (2018), https://doi.
org/10.3998/ergo.12405314.0005.001. Likewise, Jasbir Puar establishes the limitations of aesthetic refusal, offering that resistance to passing often takes the form of “piecing,” which in effect establishes an alternative and exaggerated trans aesthetic, one that might be considered equally commodified and neoliberalized. Importantly, Puar reminds readers that “The transnormative body of futurity that reflects neoliberal celebrations of flexibility and piecing remains an elusive reality for many.”24Puar, “Bodies with New Organs,” 57. Taken as a whole, these observations highlight the complexities that accompany the construction of the trans self, which further complicates the act of coming out.

The promise of neoliberal freedom runs only as far as the body can bend. Thus, while trans peoples’ desire to pass must be respected and facilitated through access to robust gender-affirming care, the very logics of passing must also be decentered and destabilized, for to leave them intact allows the origins of harm to remain unabated.

Popular representation of the transgender narrative often centers on the moment of self-disclosure, but this reductive trope rests on the notion that there is a before and now an after. In a linguistic formulation that concedes ground to biological essentialists, trans subjects are “born into the wrong body” and as a corrective, they transition in an act that supplants the cisgender self with the transgender self. The self is reborn or made anew, severing the “deadnamed” former self from its present embodiment. And yet, this simplification erases the dialectical unfolding of being. There is no before just as there is no after. The self composes in present perfect: I have not come out, but I have been coming out. I have not transitioned, but I have been transitioning. Passing is not passive. The choice to move against it must continually be renewed. In transitioning, I learn to speak in a language that was kept from me at birth, to conjugate new forms of myself, and to code as male. The right constellation of signs enables me to move about undetected, and yet this constellation shines too dimly to reveal my trans multiplicity.

In 2019, fifteen years after Ricky loses his life and eight years after CeCe saves her own, I come out (again)—this time in the form of an open letter. I choose this form because written words approximate a permanence that verbal disclosure cannot. The letter, addressed to my former high school students, is posted to a social media account on the tenth annual Trans Day of Visibility. “It is my wish,” I confess, “that you see me and accept me not in spite of my transgender identity but also because of it. At the same time, I challenge myself to more fully see you. It is only through this mutual acknowledgment and affirmation that any hope for a better world is possible.”25Eric Maroney, “A Collision of Selves: Coming Out as a Trans Educator,” The English Journal 109, no. 2 (2019): 92–94. I sign off, “Your teacher, your friend,” and hold my breath for what may come. In the days that follow, I receive hundreds of public messages in support and thanks. However, despite this encouragement, fear takes hold. There is a long history of queer erasure from the classroom and although I no longer work in a K-12 setting, the city, where I taught twelfth-grade English for just shy of a decade and where I now teach community college, has long been my home.

A few days after my public disclosure, I find myself stretched over a weight bench in a big box gym not far from the high school where I used to work. Brightly colored fans pump overhead and the smell of sweat mingles with the air. I rack the bar loading 45 lb. plates on either end and lie across the bench squinting up at the fluorescent lights. I arch my back, tighten my grip, and lift off. Breathing in, I lower the bar to my chest. Breathing out, I press it into the air. When the set is complete, I re-rack the bar overhead, and, in my periphery, I feel the presence of a body that is not my own. From where I lie two former students tower over me crowding out the lights overhead. In comparison, my small stature is clownish. Breath catches in my throat. This is it, I think, the anticipated moment of judgment. I steel myself for the invasive questions that may follow. No doubt, the boys have seen the post as hundreds of their classmates shared comments in response. After a beat, a hand reaches for mine. I grasp it and pivot to a seated position. “Can we work out with you?” they ask, offering knuckles to bump.

On either side of me, benches remain unoccupied, but I nod in agreement and the three of us enter into a kind of masculinized communion. Often, boys love quietly; still, the meaning is felt. We talk about form and athleticism and where we feel the tension in our bodies—getting close but never invoking my recent disclosure. The whir of the motorized fans churns overhead, and when Ty places his hand between my shoulder blades to instruct my posture, the touch of his palm tells me that nothing of consequence has changed. In fact, my disclosure has opened the door for a kind of sacramental affection. In Cruising Utopia, Jose Estaban Munoz writes, “Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.”26José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York University Press, 2009), 1, http://www This moment, in this gym, with these boys exceeds warm illumination, and for this instant, we are better versions of ourselves. Queerness is a relationality; it is a refusal of the atomized neoliberal constructions that ask us to distrust those not immediately like ourselves. To move queerly is to unbutton capitalism’s expectations, which in itself, is a revolutionary gesture.

V. Fellowship and resistance

While wistful imaginings of queer futurity may unbutton capitalism’s expectations, these imaginings are neither enough to unravel capitalism itself nor enough to undo its prevailing harms; consequently, we must learn to move from gesture to embodiment. The stakes are enormous. Our moment is one of accumulated trauma. Even in the American context, the very center of post-colonial imperialism and Western hegemony, generalized want runs deep: Food insecurity, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental health crises abound. All of these crises have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting years of economic instability. Yet even before the pandemic, decades of neoliberal disinvestment from public goods has placed an untenable strain on the family, and this reality combined with aging workforce demographics is forcing an impasse. Neoliberal logics, having already cut to the bone, cannot offer a solution through restructuring and privatization. At the same time, prevailing wisdom has yet to accept that sustaining working families will require greater financial investment by the state. It is at this impasse that the regimenting of gender becomes all the more necessary based on the logics of capital and its increased need for both the productive and reproductive laboring of racialized and gendered bodies.

This crisis of productive and social reproductive capacity requires that capitalist logics attempt to assert greater control over our bodies generally, and this has resulted in a reissuing or tightening of definitions around what kinds of bodies fit into what kinds of categories. Renewed attacks on access to reproductive health care have attempted to redefine the pregnant body. This is evidenced by the 2022 explosion of state restrictions to abortion access, which ultimately preceded the direct overturning of Roe. Similarly, an attempt to redefine the child’s body is underway. Efforts to shift its legal categorization from eighteen to twenty-one to twenty-five seek to prevent trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care. Historically, Black and Brown children have experienced this redefinition in relation to sentencing laws, as youth of color are often sentenced using adult criteria. In fact, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice, “In 2014, Black youth were 14 percent of the youth population nationally, but 52.5 percent of the youth transferred to adult court by juvenile court judges.”27Jeree Thomas, The Prosecution of Black Youth as Adults, Campaign for Youth Justice, 2018, That the present moment insists on a renewal of boundaries to contain citizen bodies, gendered bodies, athletic bodies, becomes a process by which each of our bodies risks classification as a criminal body. In this context, what methods to reclaim the validity of our skin, our hair, our sex remain?

Listening to the words of Angela Davis, I am reminded that the present political reaction in response to transgender-affirming care is not only compelled by backlash to a human rights framework but is also concerned with creating and sustaining the conditions for criminality. As such, our resistance to the backlash must operate in a register both in and beyond that of liberal human rights. Again, trans access to social and physical transitions must not only be protected but also expanded. At the same time if we are to understand the origins of trans oppression as situated within a broader matrix of exploitative logics, then we must widen our emancipatory visions. When Davis observes that “the trans community is showing us the way” and “if it is possible to challenge the gender binary, then we can certainly, effectively, resist prisons and jails, and police” she seemingly anticipates the profound political reaction to both the George Floyd uprisings and the social and cultural advances made by queer and trans people over the past several decades.28Dream Defenders, Sunday School: Abolition in Our Lifetime
[Video], YouTube, May 14, 2020, Indeed, if our opponents recognize this queer and abolitionist kinship, so must we.

While wistful imaginings of queer futurity may unbutton capitalism’s expectations, these imaginings are neither enough to unravel capitalism itself nor enough to undo its prevailing harms; consequently, we must learn to move from gesture to embodiment. The stakes are enormous.

I have come to understand that abolitionist praxis begins in the material now, seeking to undo present harms while also reserving space for the imaginative work of conjuring Black, Brown, poor, and queer futures. Ruth Wilson Gilmore reminds us that criminality is manufactured and that the presence “of vital systems of support” renders criminality obsolete. Without criminality the process of categorization loses its coercive power, allowing new forms of the self to fall within our reach. Gilmore notes that “abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need.”29Rachel Kushner, “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind,” The New York Times, last modifed April 17, 2019, Echoing Gilmore’s call for systems of vital support, transgender Marxist Jules Joanne Gleeson insists, “Neither a legalistic nor reform-minded approach can achieve full trans liberation” because “the intense suffering faced by trans women [and trans people generally] does not find its origins in civic disempowerment or social “illegibility alone.”30Jules J. Gleeson, “Transition and Abolition: Notes on Marxism and Trans Politics,” Viewpoint Magazine, last modifed July 24, 2017, Gleeson warns that although trans “networks of mutual support and solidarity” often provide life-saving care work, these networks “reach their [emancipatory] limit” in that they usually “serve to supplant the work done by the heterosexual family, not replace it.”31Gleeson, “Transition and Abolition.” And while care work cannot be replaced altogether, it can be supported through state-funded welfare programs and the support for public goods. Taking Gilmore and Gleeson’s lead, I want to assert that resistance to the legislative, carceral, intimate, and extralegal violences that queer and trans people experience requires a commitment to a wider liberatory trans praxis— one that not only invokes queer liberation, but also centers progressive tax reform, state-funded health care, childcare, and eldercare. These vital systems of support necessarily precede the bodily sovereignty of all people, trans and cisbodied people alike. But wresting these resources from the state, and ultimately from the wealthy class, requires a political power we do not yet hold. Building this power necessitates that we embrace a brave new solidarity. Could it be that Ricky’s invocation of call and response, CeCe’s refusal of victimization, andtwo teenage boys’ gestures of beauty suggest that in places, we are already on the way?

Let’s hope


The alternative,

is ugly

My brother is six or seven, younger maybe. Dark hair hangs evenly across his face; bangs cut square over beady eyes— narrow and comical. We are in the driveway spinning in circles. He has pressed himself into the tulle-lined ballerina costume my mother purchased for a dance recital decades before doctors helped me change my sex and I became male. The dress is teal blue. It is the blue of artificial flavoring, soft drinks, cotton candy, the shade of the sky in a child’s drawing. We are spinning, spinning, spinning. Our arms stretch overhead and we laugh at the sky. Silver sequins are sewn into the breast of the garment; they glitter in the afternoon light and illuminate my brother’s smile. How sure we are of ourselves; how noble we are in our play, but nobility lacks permanence and childhood gives way.

When the garage door groans open, a neighbor, a teenage boy, steps out into the sunlight and calls my brother faggot, we each feel a shame neither of us knew existed.

But this shame can be resisted. Indeed, discriminatory legislation can be resisted; both state violence and intimate violence can be resisted; prisons, jails, and police can be resisted. If we come to view our queer bodies through a political economic lens instead of a human rights grievance, we become better positioned to respond to the backlash and to reach for new kinds of justice.

Featured image credit: girgirlrc625; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Academics protest Gaza genocide, face a clampdown on academic freedom

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 11/21/2023 - 20:52

An academic convention is perhaps the last place where you would expect to find a militant protest and defiance against institutional authority. But this is what happened at the National Communication Association (NCA) convention on November 17 in Washington, D.C. Ironically, given the events that would unfold, the theme of the conference was “Freedom.”

The NCA conference brings together thousands of communication scholars from across the country. The president of the Association is a Palestinian-American communication scholar named Walid Afifi. He was elected into this position well before the current conflict in Gaza.

The unfolding genocidal catastrophe of Israel’s attack on Gaza provided an opportunity for him to speak out. Other members of the association organized impromptu convention sessions on Palestine and a walkout, march, and rally.

On Saturday, a group of about three hundred students and faculty gathered and marched out of the elite Gaylord resort and conference center in support of Gaza. We spilled out into Washington, D.C.’s National Harbor, a highly artificial and bourgeois area featuring shops, restaurants, and bars along the quaint but fabricated streets in Washington, D.C. I’m sure that the vacationers and holiday shoppers were alarmed to see hundreds of people chanting and carrying signs marching down the quaint streets of this resort. However, march and chant we did.

Chanting “Ceasefire now!” and “Free-free Palestine!”, the demonstrators, who ranged from undergraduate students through senior faculty and representing a very diverse subsection of the academic association, moved through the streets, stopping at intervals to hear speeches from students and Palestinians condemning Israel’s attack on Gaza. Speakers implicated the United States and its aid to Israel in the genocide and connected events in Gaza with settler colonialism in the United States and elsewhere.

Photo by Dana Cloud.

That evening, Professor Afifi was scheduled to deliver his presidential address. He had arranged it as a collective performance protesting the association’s quiescence with regard to Palestine and other social justice issues and calling on the organization to continue the process, underway for several years, of diversifying membership, increasing inclusion and accessibility, and elevating scholars of color into leadership positions across the organization.

Palestinian members of the association were scheduled to speak during the event about the horrific situation unfolding in Gaza, where more than 14 thousand people have been killed to date, including thousands of children.

One of the presenters was Professor Ahlam Muhtaseb, a Palestinian on the faculty of California State University, San Bernardino. She had vetted her remarks with the national leadership of NCA on November 13. But on November 17, someone in the Association decided that her speech was unacceptable, as it mentioned genocide and colonization with regard to Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza. The leadership of the Association intervened to stop the address from happening, and Afifi and the rest of the presenters joined her in solidarity.

When told they would be removed by security, the group moved onto the plaza outside of the ballroom, chanting and assembling to continue the performance with a greater sense of outrage and urgency. The loud and defiant event competed for attention with the rehearsal of a Christmas performance by Cirque du Soleil. Then, security officers hired by NCA disrupted the performance.

The growing group of hundreds of Association members moved into an empty ballroom and occupied it to complete the performance.

Everyone was left reeling, and members vowed to challenge the association leadership, call for the resignation of the person who decided to cancel the event, and implement other measures in response to this heinous abuse of administrative power and attempt at censoring critical public conversation about Palestine and protest against Israel’s assault.

In addition to being an authoritarian act motivated by Zionism, the Association’s attempt to silence Professor Muhtaseb was a grave assault on academic freedom.

A group of NCA members is circulating a letter of protest, writing,

We are deeply concerned about this gross violation of participants’ academic freedom and freedom of expression at an academic conference, paradoxically organized around the theme of “”Freedom.” We are especially concerned that NCA has upheld and perpetuated strategies of Zionism and Islamophobia by silencing Palestinians who are witnessing the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

The signatories of the letter are demanding that NCA investigate its practices around free speech in general and the decision-making process surrounding the censorship of Professor Muhtaseb. The letter also demands that NCA offer Professor Muhtaseb and other participants a formal apology and create transparent and nondiscriminatory processes to make sure such censorship of free speech will not happen again. Finally, the letter asks the Association to provide a platform for the disrupted performance.

As one participant put it, “There is a profound irony in a communication association shutting down communication about a situation of global urgency–especially when we are here to honor the theme of freedom.”

Update: The NCA issued an apology to Professors Afifi and Muhtaseb and to the membership and indicated that it would investigate the incident.

Photo by Dana Cloud.

Featured image credit: iCephi; modified by Tempest

Categories: D2. Socialism

Challenging Raytheon’s complicity with Israeli Genocide

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 11/21/2023 - 19:59
El Segundo, CA, November 13–Denée Jackson and Neon

On Monday, November 13, autonomous organizers shut down the El Segundo Campus of Raytheon in response to the Palestinian Trade Union’s call to stop the flow of arms to Israel. Their goal was to shut down work for the day, blocking multiple entrances to the campus and preventing employees from entering. Organizers began showing up at 7 a.m. and blocked three targeted entrances by picketing, holding banners, and notably scattering a bunch of large rocks across the roads.

One anonymous organizer said,

This is not a specific organization. This is a collective of people that got urgently connected to each other with the sole intent of trying to do some tangible action, not just a symbolic action, that would disrupt business as usual. We chose this site because they are responsible for the upkeep of the Iron Dome as well as many other weaponry services.

At the main entrance on East El Segundo Blvd, there weren’t counterprotesters, but there was a large police presence. Police in riot gear shut down the intersection and blocked it with their police SUVs. At 1:20 p.m. they gave a dispersal order that everyone had to leave the intersection by 1:30 or be subject to arrest or violence. At 1:30, we dispersed east down the street. There was one arrest made.

Photo by Denée Jackson.

The back entrance, which had a connected security building and construction project, garnered a much higher police presence in riot gear, and dozens of different Los Angeles regional police (from Culver City to El Segundo) started to show signs of kettling the organizers in the back. The decision the group came to was that most would disperse at the first dispersal order–and did–and there would be a latter group who stayed and held the line. Some activists who dispersed were later followed and questioned and some were cornered in a nearby shopping plaza.

After the dispersal orders at the back and side entrances, the majority of activists funneled back to the “main” rally at the front. Vivid red paint on street poles and construction signs called Raytheon out for their complicit actions in genocide. One activist was notably able to douse the Raytheon company sign in the front with red paint to symbolize the blood on their hands.

There were three groups in communication with one another trying to block two main entrances as well as a third side entrance. The back entrance, miles away from the more public front campus, had higher security and police presence. As dozens of police in riot gear started showing up and blocking off the streets from the back, a call for support was answered by those in the front coming to add to the masses as well as observe the increasing police presence.

The atmosphere was energetic. There were folks holding banners at the intersection of the major entrance of Raytheon. Behind them, people were picketing and chanting “free free Palestine” and “not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes” among other chants. Folks took care of one another as there were bags of water and snacks at each of the three entrances.

As employees tried to enter the building and more confrontations happened with activists, tensions rose. One security guard at the turnstile entrance threatened an activist to take him on “one on one,” calling them “pussies.”

Police focused on the protesters gathering at the back entrance, and as dozens of police swarmed from the streets and police helicopters flew above, organizers had to regroup and plan  how they wanted to respond to dispersal orders. Support was also called to the back entrance as activists walked the miles from the front just to rally and stand with the smaller, but riskier group in the back. The mass escalation of police confrontation and attempted kettling increased tensions as nearby scouts noted dozens of militarized sheriff vehicles as well as a large mobile command vehicle all speeding towards the between thirty and fifty activists picketing in the back.

Photo by Denée Jackson.

There were two noted Zionist encounters – one who drove by with an IDF flag and one resulting in some fist fighting. Later reports said that the Zionists had suffered most of the blows.

The organizer commented,

This is the largest we’ve seen any kind of attention towards Palestine in a very very long time and it’s heartening to see people of all different creeds and colors come out because they recognize the fight for liberation is one of solidarity and can only be won with solidarity.

Another participant said,

We living here in the imperial core can’t just sit by and do nothing, our tax dollars are going toward this. This was an action in solidarity with the Workers in Palestine. We are doing what they have asked us to do and we are calling more people to do what they have asked.

Tucson, AZ, November 2–Hannah M.

The newly formed Tucson Coalition for Palestine, with co-sponsorship from Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance (APSA) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), planned a die-in that blocked one of Raytheon’s entrances in Tucson on November 2. People were lying on the ground with signs and white sheets to represent bringing the death and genocide to Raytheon’s doorstep. People lay on the ground for about 45 minutes and then continued with a 45-minute rally/chanting session.
There were over 120 people there and organizers used encrypted platforms to collect people to do further organizing. No arrests were made.

The start of it, which was the die-in, was silent, which was sober and intense, with a vigil-like vibe. However, people said it was a powerful moment of sharing collective grief. The second part was much more upbeat and energetic with a lot of chanting. We ended with a song that felt cool as a way to wrap up the event and feel our collective strength. There was one counter-protester in their car who did not affect the event.

People said they found out about the event through personal connections and through social media. The main message was that Tucson is rejecting the genocide/war economy in which the city is entrenched.

Photo by Hannah M.
Categories: D2. Socialism

Pat Robertson: Supervillain

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 11/20/2023 - 15:38

TTelevangelist Pat Robertson, who died in June, was a man with a strange assortment of friends and enemies. Among his friends was fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell, who blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians”. Other friends were Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor and the dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko. His enemies included Hinduism, which he called “demonic”, Islam which he said was “satanic”, and Episcopalians, Methodists, and Presbyterians who were “the Spirit of the Antichrist.” Venezuelan Presidents Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro were also in this category. Robertson called for both men to be killed.

One lesser reported Robertson foe was Marvel Comics’ Children of the Atom, the Uncanny X-Men. From 1966 until his death, Robertson had run a daily television program called The 700 Club. A 1984 episode of the show focused on the current state of comic books. Among those discussed was Marvel Graphic Novel 5 (January 1983), featuring the X-Men story God Loves, Man Kills. The members of the mutant superhero team are repeatedly referred to as “subhumans” (keep this in mind). Robertson calls the story, which features a televangelist as the antagonist and religious imagery, “blasphemous.” To cap it off, Robertson and company falsely claimed that the price of the graphic novel ($5.95) was typical, although the average monthly comic in 1984 cost sixty cents. The implication is that not only are comic books corrupting children, but the publishers are getting rich off it to boot.

While Robertson’s comments mainly focused on the religious aspects of the comic book, it’s more probable that he was upset about the story’s deliberate political commentary. The late 1970s and early 1980s were a bonanza for televangelists like Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the Christian Right. They had defeated the Equal Rights Amendment, gotten their man, Ronald Reagan, into the White House, and were eager to roll back the advances of the 1970s movements for gay and abortion rights. Hate groups were also on the march in Skokie, Illinois and Greensboro, North Carolina. Into this environment entered God Loves, Man Kills and its villain, televangelist Reverend William Stryker.

IMAGE Credit: Marvel Database.

Earlier Marvel stories had addressed bigotry too. In the two-part story in Avengers 3233 (September-October 1966), the superhero team battles a nativist, racist group called the Sons of the Serpent, obviously modeled after the KKK. However, when the story ends, it’s revealed that the Sons are led by General Chen, the head of a “hostile Oriental nation” (contextually, a stand-in for China). Chen wanted to use the Sons to sow division in America to make it easier to conquer. This is a reversal of the common segregationist argument that civil rights protestors were communist “outside agitators.” God Loves, Man Kills does not employ this plot. The bigotries of its villains are as American as apple pie.

X-Men writer Chris Claremont, who had a background in political science, described his parents as “young socialists in England” 1Russel W. Dalton, Marvelous Myths: Marvel Superheroes and Everyday Faith (Saint Louis: Chalice Press, 2011) 87. and was influenced in writing the story by the deluge of televangelism and the dramatic potential in the conflict between Christian extremism and the X-Men. Artist Brent Anderson, who replaced Neal Adams, agreed with the political thrust of the story saying, “Sure, it’s possible to exclude politics from comic books, but not from art. Comics produced through avoidance of the real world are hardly satisfactory on any meaningful artistic level.”

God Loves, Man Kills begins with one of the most shocking and disturbing scenes in a mainstream superhero comic. Two children are hunted down and shot dead by a gang known as the Purifiers. The leader of the Purifiers tells them they are being murdered because they “have no right to live.” The children’s bodies are strung up in a playground with the slur “Mutie” scrawled on them in a scene visually referencing countless lynchings and hate crimes, especially given that the children are Black. Unsurprisingly, the cover of the comics lacks the seal of approval of the Comics Code Authority, which would forbid this kind of on-panel violence.

“Once more, genocide in the name of God. A story as old as the race.”-Magneto

After some time X-Men’s enemy (and Holocaust survivor) Magneto retrieves the children’s bodies, where readers meet Reverend Stryker. Despite an uncanny similarity to former Vice President Mike Pence, the character was actually visually based on President Reagan’s Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, another right-wing political figure. It quickly becomes clear that the relationship between Stryker and the Purifiers is akin to that between Father Charles Coughlin and the Christian Front. He provides divine sanction to the violence that they carry out. Stryker’s speeches on mutants are very similar to what 1980s televangelists were saying about gay people and other groups. Take Jerry Falwell’s statement, “Gay folks would kill you just as soon as look at you.” Simply replace “gay” with “mutant” and it could be a Stryker quote.

Throughout the story, it is apparent to readers that Stryker’s views are not his alone. In one sequence, Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, gets in a fight with one of her classmates who supports Stryker’s crusade against mutants. Kitty’s classmate calls her a “mutie-lover,” unaware that Kitty is herself a mutant. When Kitty’s teacher Stevie Hunter, a Black woman, says that hateful words are just words, Kitty tearfully asks if she would feel the same about the term “n*****-lover.” Chastened, Stevie concludes that Kitty is right. Some have disagreed with Kitty Pryde’s, and by extension Chris Claremont’s, use of a racial slur to make the point that members of one oppressed group can be unsympathetic to members of another oppressed group. Recent prints and digital versions of the story have actually edited the word out, presumably to avoid controversy.

In 2020, Marvel Comics itself published the article “Solving For X: ‘God Loves, Man Kills’ Through the Lens of Now” by John Jennings, which addressed the issue of the use of the slur head-on. The article starts off on the wrong foot with an editor’s note saying, “The comics are products of their time, portraying the prejudices and discrimination that were commonplace in American society through an X-parable.” The reason that God Loves, Man Kills endures is not because it is a “product of its time” but because its anti-bigotry message is timeless. Furthermore, to regard the prejudices allegorized by the story as products of the past is simply wrong. Homophobia, transphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry still need to be fought against today. Cynically, I wonder whether the note has anything to do with then-Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter being a Donald Trump confidant. When Art Spiegelman referred to the former President as the “Orange Skull” in an essay meant for a reprint of Golden Age Marvel stories, he found that it was refused publication.

Jennings makes the point that Kitty Pryde is white and that while she is a mutant, she can “pass” as a human. She does not have the fangs, tail, and blue fur of her teammate, Nightcrawler, who is instantly recognizable as a mutant. Jennings states that because Kitty is also visually white she could not experience the same kind of prejudice as Stevie Hunter. However, Jennings limits himself to discussing the story as solely an allegory for racism and does not acknowledge another part of Kitty’s minority status. Like Magneto, she is Jewish and a mutant. She regularly wears a Star of David and her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. When the character was first introduced in Uncanny X-Men 129 (January, 1980), she was depicted as a resident of the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, IL. Chicago’s Marquette Park held neo-Nazi rallies in the 70s and was the headquarters of the National Socialist Party of America. Another Chicago suburb, Skokie, a city with 7,000 residents who were Holocaust survivors, was infamously the site of an attempted neo-Nazi march in 1977. It is safe to say that Kitty Pryde is well aware of that kind of prejudice through experiences with anti-Semitism.

The evening after the fight, the X-Men gather to watch an ABC news debate between Stryker and Professor Xavier, secretly the leader of the X-Men. The scene illustrates the role played by the media in debates with bigots. The TV station creates a false equivalency between the views of Stryker, who wants to eliminate mutants as a race, and Xavier, who argues for the humanity of mutants and that mutants should be judged as individuals. Watching the debate, Colossus complains, “They have switched to a commercial! They should’ve given the Professor a chance to respond.” Even one of ABC’s employees is aware of the weight of Stryker’s words saying, “He comes across as such a nice, personable guy… Too bad—’cause the man’s message is pretty damn scary.” We can see this attitude reflected in a modern setting when the CEO of CBS said the 2016 Trump Campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Pat Robertson is dead, but the views he espoused live on. Thankfully, so do the X-Men and the fight for justice, equality, and socialism.

At one point in the story, Stryker kidnaps Professor Xavier and uses a machine to brainwash him and weaponize his telepathic powers to commit genocide against mutant-kind. While mind control plots are fairly common in the superhero genre, in the context of this story, it is analogous to the discredited and harmful practice of “conversion therapy,” which holds that it is possible to convert queer people to heterosexuality. The sequence is given an orange/red coloration, giving it the appearance of Hell. Xavier is mentally assaulted with horrific religious imagery (this is the source of Robertson’s complaint about alleged blasphemy) in an attempt to turn him away from his mutant-ness. Anderson’s art is as important to the effectiveness of the story as Claremont’s writing. His characters and environments are frequently draped in shadow, giving the story a frightening, claustrophobic feel. God Loves, Man Kills is visually distinct from the standard monthly issue of the X-Men series, giving its message greater emphasis. Years later Anderson said he was “gratified and validated by Pat Robertson on his 700 Club televangelist TV show holding up that scene on camera and condemning it for being “blasphemous.”

At Reverend Stryker’s climactic religious rally, there is a sly reference to President Reagan’s friendship with fundamentalist televangelists through the presence of a White House aide who says, “The President is a fair minded man. He believes the Reverend’s views deserve a hearing.” Then, the X-Men, who have desperately allied with their enemy Magneto, rescue Xavier and confront the man of God in another of the book’s most memorable scenes. Stryker points an accusing finger at Nightcrawler snarling “You dare call that…thing human?” Kitty Pryde shouts back “More human than you! Nightcrawler’s generous, and kind, and decent! He had every reason to be bitter, every excuse to become as much a demon inside and out, but he decided he’d rather laugh instead! I hope I can be half the person he is and if I have to choose between caring for my friend and believing in your god, then I choose m-my friend!”

God Loves, Man Kills remains one of the iconic X-Men stories and is a high point within Chris Claremont’s lengthy run on the characters. Previous X-Men stories had addressed the issue of bigotry, but this one addressed the issue in a somewhat more realistic fashion and combined it with a sadly still relevant attack on the growing power of the Religious Right. The themes advanced in the story continue to be a large part of the X-Men’s appeal, including in the classic advertisements for “Fall of the Mutants.” Pat Robertson is dead, but the views he espoused live on. Thankfully, so do the X-Men and the fight for justice, equality, and socialism.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

DSA after the 2023 convention

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 11/15/2023 - 18:53

The Tempest website has published many fine articles on the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and has been a go-to source for news and analysis on the organization. Three Tempest articles from just before and just after the August 2023 DSA convention argue that DSA offered a window of opportunity that has now been largely or fully closed. This article presents an alternative view. The window was never open, if “open” means the possibility of winning DSA to revolutionary politics. The window is still open, if it means the opportunity to work with activists seeking to be socialists, to win some of them to revolutionary politics, and to advance the projects of left and revolutionary regroupment.

Natalia Tylim’s July 6 article The blush is off the rose: DSA and the revolutionary Left assesses DSA on the eve of the 2023 convention. Here are two summary passages:

At its best, DSA provided a space to debate different strategies for the socialist Left, while participants worked together to build short-term initiatives and toward the future goal of an independent working-class party. That possibility has been diminished and what is left is an organization that has, in practice and in outlook, limited its scope to a particular electoralist strategy and failed to build substantive structures through which members can shape the activity of their organization nationally and hold their leadership accountable to democratically-decided political positions.

Tempest’s position in relation to DSA remains: If there is work to be done and people to do it with, that’s great, go for it. But the reality in terms of our activity at the current time is that only a small percentage of Collective members who once found ample reason to be part of DSA are still active in it. This is less indicative of a shift in Tempest, but of a shift in the political moment and the subsequent disorientation and calcification of DSA.

Andy Sernatinger’s August 30 article Did the DSA Convention Move Left? reports what happened at the convention. His September 12 article The DSA moment is over assesses DSA after the convention. Here’s a summary passage:

The main conclusion to draw is that the DSA moment is over. The moment was when DSA became a center of the U.S. left, drew divergent tendencies into a single organization, and had a dynamic life that seemed much more like a social movement in terms of its creativity, bottom-up organizing, and transformative radical vision. This time has clearly passed, and the prospect of DSA making a radical course change has been foreclosed.

The three articles cited above summarize DSA’s recent history. There is no need to repeat that. Instead, for brevity, here are fifteen points that, taken together, make up an alternative balance sheet.

  1. DSA and its predecessors have attempted to organize the social-democratic labor left of the Democratic Party since the New Deal. Revolutionary socialists who had previously regarded DSA as irrelevant began joining it in 2016, as they saw that it was attracting young activists looking for a way to continue fighting after Bernie Sanders abandoned his Democratic Party presidential campaign and Donald Trump won the presidency.
  1. Some revolutionary socialists joined DSA thinking that they could win the organization to their politics. This was never a real possibility, since DSA’s most successful politicians are solidly in the Democratic Party fold. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad, like Sanders, vote with the Dems 95 percent of the time on all votes and 100 percent on votes the party regards as critical. The DSA left might win 30 percent of the delegate votes at a convention, but most DSAers, including those who support leftwing resolutions, see “the electeds” as essential, and the electeds see the Democratic Party as essential.
  1. In 2021, DSA peaked at 95,000 “constitutional members” (who are no more than a year behind on dues). Its membership has since fallen to 78,000 constitutional members, of whom 58,000 are members in good standing, i.e. active dues payers. This isn’t surprising, since DSA still positions itself as “the left wing of the possible,” as DSA founder Michael Harrington put it, and that ceases to inspire many when, in practice, that turns out to mean “the left wing of the Democratic Party.” But nearly 58,000 activists identifying as socialists — even if only 10 percent are really active — is still a large number. Even while it is shrinking, DSA annually recruits and loses more members than are in all U.S. revolutionary groups combined.
  1. Most of DSA’s life and work is in its chapters. Some of these are bureaucratic, dysfunctional, or moribund, especially those focused on electoral activity. But others, especially those that have developed labor or other mass work, are good places for local activity — with the added benefit of membership in a national organization connecting them with activists elsewhere.
  1. The August 4-6 DSA convention showed that at the national level DSA is pursuing its historic role as the social-democratic left of the Democratic Party. The convention was politically defined by the labor, electoral, and international resolutions it adopted and by its dissing of Palestine solidarity activists. Paradoxically, the convention elected a more leftwing National Political Committee (NPC) to carry out a more rightwing policy.
  1. The convention’s labor resolution reiterates DSA’s commitment to “the rank-and-file strategy,” but interprets that strategy narrowly: getting jobs with a view to union organizing; joining picket lines and raising money for strikers; and advocating union democracy and better contracts. It omits the political side of the strategy: consistently fighting the union bureaucracy; defying the capitalists’ laws when militant struggle or solidarity with other workers requires it; using the power of the working class to support the struggles of Black, Latinx, and other workers of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ people, and other oppressed groups, and to fight climate change and environmental collapse; opposing military spending and interventions; international solidarity; and promoting working-class political independence and a workers’ party — all in the perspective of achieving workers’ power and advancing toward socialism.
  1. The convention’s electoral resolution reiterates DSA’s intention to build a mass working-class party, but it misdiagnoses the problem and the solution. It sees the problem as DSA’s small size and the solution as building DSA’s electoral activity and “brand identity.” The real problems are the still low level of struggle by the unions and the social movements, their subordination to the Democratic Party, and DSA’s tenuous connection with the actual struggles of workers and the oppressed. The resolution’s misconception that elected office is power, its focus on electoral activity, rather than mass action, and its policy of “tactically” running candidates on the Democratic ballot line contribute to the problem, not the solution.
  1. The international resolution passed at the convention denounces U.S. imperialism, but it is far from internationalist. It mentions China only as the target of U.S. imperialism’s New Cold War, not as an imperialist rival. It doesn’t mention Russian imperialism or the Ukraine war. It’s a step backward from the brief statement DSA managed in February 2022, which at least condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It changes DSA’s public position from opposing U.S. military aid to “reactionary governments” to opposing U.S. military aid to all governments, even in the very few cases where the United States, for its own nefarious reasons, is arming a just fight, as in Rojava or Ukraine. The resolution is also silent on the complicity of DSA-endorsed politicians in the crimes it denounces.
  1. The convention’s international resolution gives the International Committee a monopoly on DSA’s misnamed “diplomatic work” with foreign governments, political parties, and social movements, and forbids other DSA bodies from relating to their counterparts in other countries. The first victim of this policy was the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) and Palestine Solidarity Working Group, which the convention disbanded as an autonomous body, subordinating its successor to the International Committee. DSA and its predecessors have an ugly history of collaboration between Stalinists and social-democrats to suppress rank-and-file activity. In this case, to suppress the BDS Working Group for demanding that DSA sever its ties with Jamaal Bowman for supporting Israel. Bowman repaid the DSA leadership’s loyalty by dropping his membership.
Two members of the Charlotte Metro Chapter of the DSA marching at the March for Palestine in Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, May 22, 2021. Photo by Bingjiefu He.
  1. Surprisingly, the DSA left was as strong at this year’s convention as it was in 2021. Socialist Alternative and Tempest have largely withdrawn from DSA, but others have stepped up their game. The Marxist Unity Group (MUG) and Reform and Revolution (R&R) collaborated on several convention resolutions and submitted others separately. Bread and Roses (B&R) collaborated with MUG on a resolution. Solidarity and Tempest members and others initiated an effort to amend the labor, electoral, and international resolutions, when it became clear that they would otherwise sail through. A separate B&R amendment to the international resolution, supported by the rest of the DSA left, garnered 36 percent of the delegate votes, the high-water mark of the left, about the same as two years ago.
  1. More surprisingly, the DSA left won seven of the sixteen seats on the National Political Committee. R&R was shut out, but MUG won two seats, Red Star won three, a representative of the anti-Zionist slate won one, and an independent associated with the left won one. B&R is divided between center and left currents, but its three NPC members might join the DSA left on some issues. That said, the DSA left is weaker than its numbers on the NPC suggest. It has no mandate from the convention and no common perspective. More importantly, the real power in DSA lies elsewhere, in the staff and the relationships with union officials, NGO administrators, and Democratic Party politicians it represents. There’s little reason to think that this NPC will chart a new course.
  1. The most likely long-term prognosis for DSA is an endless orbit around the Democratic Party and a downward spiral toward its pre-2016 stagnation. But DSA still has 58,000 paid-up members and attracts and loses thousands each year. In many cities it is an important vehicle for mass work, particularly labor work. DSA members want to fight against police brutality, for immigrants, for abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, and for the environment, although DSA’s activity is not as developed there. With the Israeli assault on Gaza, DSAers have plunged into Palestine solidarity. Many DSAers want to learn about working-class history and socialist politics. Some are open to revolutionary politics.
  1. In places where DSA is doing useful work and attracting activists, revolutionary socialists should participate. Even if DSA continues to fade, as seems likely, how it fades matters. Will the activists passing through DSA be exposed to more than social-democratic reformism? Will they learn to warn workers against relying on “support” from Democrats to whom re-election is more important than solidarity with striking workers? Will they participate in militant action? Will they build relationships with revolutionaries? Will they think about left and revolutionary regroupment? Will they have a place to go when they become disenchanted with DSA?
  1. A dozen or so revolutionary socialist groups have participated in DSA in the past few years. They have seldom collaborated, even if they agreed on key points, such as Palestine solidarity and beginning to break with the Democrats now. Disunity has contributed to their marginalization. The 2023 convention showed more collaboration than ever before, but not yet the coherent campaign that might have posed the issues sharply enough to build a solid left pole of attraction.
  1. The view that a window of opportunity has closed in DSA is based on a misconception. The window was never open, in the sense of winning DSA to revolutionary politics. But the window is still open, if “open” means the opportunity to work with other socialists in the unions and movements, to win a layer of activists to revolutionary politics, and to advance the projects of left and revolutionary regroupment.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

CUNY for Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 11/14/2023 - 19:31

This statement by people affiliated with the City University of New York and related colleges appeared on October 11 against the Chancellor’s opposition and alongside a number of other statements. It is a model statement in support of the survival and liberation of the Palestinian people. It, and a full list of signatories, is here. In response to the persecution of pro-Palestinian activists and the chapter of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Graduate Center responded with a resolution, which also appears below.

CUNY Community Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

We, members of the City University of New York community, stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine resisting the violence and oppression of Israeli settler colonial and apartheid rule.

We condemn the brutal bombing of Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, by Israeli forces. This represents the latest chapter of a nearly-fifteen-year illegal blockade that has transformed the territory into a prison for its two million inhabitants, most of whom descend from refugees expelled and driven from their homes during the Nakba that resulted from the establishment of the settler colonial state of Israel.

We condemn the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah—part of the broader colonial project of dispossession and expulsion, including unequal residency rights and discriminatory planning policies designed to advance the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. We oppose the raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque, and the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which is illegally occupied territory.

We mourn all loss of life. But we do not subscribe to a “both sides” rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine. This narrative  ignores and conceals the meaningful differences between Israel—one of the most heavily militarized states in the world that receives $3.8 billion of military aid annually from the U.S.—and a Palestinian population resisting colonial occupation and oppression. We pledge to do all in our power to change the conversation.

We assert that this is not a “conflict” that is too “controversial and complex” to assess. Since its inception, Israel has used violent force, punitive bureaucracy, and its legal system to expel Palestinians from their rightful homes and to remove Palestinian people from their land. Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Palestinians are cut off from each other by a network of checkpoints, laws, settler-only highways, and a separation wall that swallows illegally occupied Palestinian land. Both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have recently concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid, reinforcing a decades old analysis of Palestinian and international solidarity organizations.

We wholeheartedly endorse the “Palestine and Praxis” open letter and call to action, affirming our own commitment to speaking out in defense of “the Palestinian struggle as an indigenous liberation movement confronting a settler colonial state,” as well as foundational principles of scholarly integrity and academic freedom. We vow to support those who are most vulnerable to attack for organizing and speaking out on our campuses, including Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and other students, faculty, and staff of color.

We unequivocally endorse and amplify the call from the Palestinian Feminist Collective for “feminists everywhere to speak up, organize, and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation” and the solidarity statement from gender studies departments.

We hail the fortitude and determination of the Palestinian people, who remain, despite the fragmentation of their populations, united in their demands to end their oppression. May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine that drove over 750,000 Palestinians out of their homes, villages, and cities between the years 1947-1949. Today the vast majority of these Palestinians and their descendants are refugees in bordering countries and in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. We take our stand with Palestinians who have been resisting settler colonialism for more than one hundred years.

Therefore, we pledge to:

  • Initiate, support, and amplify campaigns in solidarity with Palestinian calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, at CUNY and in our wider communities. In particular, we echo the demands of the John Jay Student Letter to Demand BDS and Solidarity with Palestinian Resistance and stand with any and all student-led resolutions demanding CUNY’s immediate divestment from companies that aid in Israeli colonization, occupation, and war crimes. As of 2014, CUNY invests at least $1,093,900 in weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon; tech and security companies such as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, G4S, and Motorola Solutions; and construction firms such as Caterpillar and Cemex.
  • Demand that our individual campuses, and CUNY as a whole, endorse and support the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
  • Stand in solidarity with students, staff, and faculty organizing for justice in Palestine at CUNY and everywhere. In particular, we pledge to push back against attempts to repress Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, and similar student-led efforts, at CUNY or anywhere. The “Palestine exception to free speech” needs to end!
  • Highlight Palestinian scholarship on Palestine in syllabi, our writing, and through invitation of  Palestinian scholars and community members to speak at departmental and university events, and extend this approach to any and all indigenous scholars within the university and in our communities.
  • Support community efforts and legislation to pressure our government to end funding for Israeli military aggression.

Against the rain of bombs, against the roving murderous mobs, against settler colonialism, against the support of complacent Western governments, we stand with the people of Palestine. We join together in rededicating ourselves to working against all forms of racism, colonialism, and injustice at CUNY, in the classroom, on campus, in our communities, and beyond.

Photo by CUNY Graduate Center via Facebook Resolution Condemning CUNY Administration’s Persecution of Pro-Palestine Organizing and Disregard for Palestinian Lives

On October 13, the executive committee of the Graduate Center chapter passed the following resolution, which was also unanimously endorsed by all chapter stewards who voted. It will be voted on at the November meeting of the PSC-wide Delegate Assembly.

Whereas in public messages to the university, Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez has falsely ascribed nefarious motives to campus events whose purpose—Palestinian solidarity—he would not deign to identify by name;

Whereas in their outreach to the community, several top administrators have refused to even mention the word “Palestine,” let alone offer support to Palestinian students in light of the Israeli military’s blockade of Gaza and the mass killing of civilians there;

Whereas in doing so, the Chancellor and other senior CUNY administrators have disregarded the suffering of our community members and made a mockery of the free speech commitments they claim to hold;

Whereas the Chancellor’s actions build on the university administration’s long tradition of repressing free speech, as when students demanded an end to CUNY’s racist Jim Crow admissions practices fifty-five years ago, and university senior administrators policed and criminalized protests in a futile effort to maintain the status quo rather than fully integrate the university;

Whereas CUNY’s attacks on pro-Palestine speech and activism mark a cruel parallel to Israel’s internationally condemned apartheid system, as pro-Palestine organizers are themselves subject to a separate and unequal standard;

Whereas in Spring 2023, the Chancellor publicly defamed CUNY Law’s student commencement speaker as engaging in “hate speech” for describing the political reality in Israel and Palestine, bringing harassment and death threats to the commencement speaker and others at CUNY Law, even as multiple civil rights organizations came to the student’s defense;

Whereas at other campuses, administrators have deactivated the university IDs of pro-Palestine organizers and blocked them from campus;

Whereas while countless students, staff, and faculty reel from the past days’ tragic violence and the continuing bombardment of Gaza, CUNY administrators cynically pit our communities against one another even as in Israel itself, mainstream commentary has recognized apartheid as the ultimate source of the violence;

Whereas at CUNY, in advance of anti-apartheid rallies planned on multiple campuses, the Chancellor claimed without a shred of evidence that student organizers would “glorify Saturday’s violence and celebrate the killings, injuries and capture of innocent people;”

Whereas at Brooklyn College, where many GC students and faculty teach, President Michelle Anderson banned a rally from campus, informed the community she had “increase[d] campus security,” and encouraged students “not to come to campus,” forcing students to gather on the public sidewalk outside and leaving them vulnerable to the NYPD’s unconstitutional policing practices;

Whereas these messages assert that pro-Palestinian speech is inherently violent—an Islamophobic and anti-Arab dogwhistle—and also serve as a pre-emptive justification for criminalization;

Whereas the CUNY administration’s words and deeds have made common cause with the U.S. far-right, as the administration capitulates to city councilmembers’ demands to repress pro-Palestine speech and echo their characterization of Palestine solidarity as inherently violent;

Let it be resolved that the PSC-GC EC condemns the CUNY administration’s political persecution of Palestinian students, community members, and Palestine solidarity activists in recent days;

And let it be further resolved that the PSC-GC EC condemns the supposed leaders of our institution for lending credence to far-right campaigns to defund and dismantle public education; that senior administrators would help the far-right wield a political cudgel against CUNY’s grassroots organizing efforts is a profound betrayal of their duties to the university community.

And let it be further resolved that the PSC-GC EC demands an end to the repression of free speech and intimidation of organizers, which is a stain on our academic institution.

Passed by PSC-GC Executive Committee

co-signed by Graduate Center & School of Labor and Urban Studies Stewards

Featured image credit: Craig Fildes; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

A week of solidarity with Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 11/13/2023 - 21:24
San Francisco, CA, November 4–David Whitehouse

On November 4, in conjunction with mass rallies for Palestine in Washington, D.C. and cities around the world, about 8 thousand people rallied and marched in San Francisco. A multi-racial and intergenerational crowd gathered on the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza. The long list of speakers included Black, Palestinian, and other activists.

Burlington, VT, November 9, 2023–Paul Fleckenstein

Two hundred fifty protesters surrounded a fundraiser for Rep. Becca Balint (D) demanding a ceasefire and an end to U.S. support for Israel.

This was the second action initiated by the anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) targeting Vermont’s Congressional delegation. Tempest has reported on two other actions targeting elected representatives, Jimmy Gomez (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris in Los Angeles.

The Burlington protest started with a rally at City Hall endorsed by a dozen other groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine and Tempest. Protesters then marched two blocks to a bar where donors paying up to $1000 (visible through the windows) sipped cocktails with Balint.

While hundreds chanted “Cease Fire Now,” “No More Money for Israel’s Crimes,” and “Becca, Becca, You Can’t Hide, We Charge you with Genocide,” several members of JVP inside interrupted the event and read a statement. Invoking shared progressive politics, they called on Balint, the first LGBTQ representative to Congress from Vermont, to support an immediate ceasefire.

Balint cut off the JVP speaker when they started to read the names of children killed in Gaza and then explained the ostensible harm of calling for a ceasefire. Balint fully defended the Biden Administration’s support for the Israeli attack on Gaza and said Hamas would never agree to a ceasefire. It should be noted that Hamas has negotiated previous ceasefires with Israel.

Balint concluded, sharing a position with Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders (I) and Peter Welch (D), that Hamas and the Palestinian resistance to Israel must be destroyed to end the violence. Posturing for a ceasefire would harm this effort. Balint reiterated her commitment to a two-state solution—a “solution” imposed on Palestinians that would preserve Israel as an apartheid state and confine Palestinians to a fraction of their land.

Her supporters cheered her response.

JVP members were able to get an agreement for a future meeting with Balint.

As her donors exited the bar through a mass of signs and banners calling for justice in Palestine, the crowd shouted “Shame, Shame, Shame.”

Photo by Paul Fleckenstein.


Categories: D2. Socialism

Labor for Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 11/08/2023 - 17:47

“We need you to take immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade.” An Urgent Call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel (October 16, 2023)

The undersigned U.S. workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists join labor around the world in condemning the Israeli siege on Gaza that has killed or maimed thousands of Palestinians—many of them children—and stand with Palestinians’ “right to exist, resist, return, and self-determination.”

The latest Israeli attacks reflect more than a century of ongoing Zionist settler-colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, racism, genocide, and apartheid—including Israel’s establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 2.3 million people in Gaza are refugees from other parts of historic Palestine.

Israel’s crimes are only possible because of more than $3.8 billion a year (or $10+ million per day) in bipartisan US military aid that gives Israel the guns, bullets, tanks, ships, jet fighters, missiles, helicopters, white phosphorus and other weapons to kill and maim the Palestinian people. This is the same system of racist state violence that, through shared surveillance technology and police exchange programs, brutalizes BIPOC and working class people in the United States and around the world.

In response, we demand an immediate end to the genocide, and embrace the recent Urgent Call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel:

  1. To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel.
  2. To refuse to transport weapons to Israel.
  3. To pass motions in their trade union to this effect.
  4. To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution.
  5. Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the U.S., funding to it.

We further reaffirm the call on labor bodies to respect previous Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity by adopting this statement, and/or the model resolution below to divest from Israel Bonds, sever all ties with the Israel’s racist labor federation, the Histadrut, and its US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee, and respect the Palestinian picket line for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).

Initial Signers on behalf of Labor for Palestine

To endorse the following statement as a trade unionist, please click here. To endorse as other, please click here.
(organizational affiliations listed for identification only)

Suzanne Adely, Labor for Palestine, US Palestinian Community Network, Arab Workers Resource Center; Food Chain Workers Alliance (staff); President, National Lawyers Guild;
Monadel Herzallah, Arab American Union Members Council
Ruth Jennison, Department Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA; Co-Chair, Labor Standing Committee Pioneer Valley DSA
Lara Kiswani, Executive Director, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC); Block the Boat
Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Corinna Mullin, PSC-CUNY International Committee; CUNY for Palestine
Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired)

Labor for Palestine Model Resolution: [X union/labor body]

Stand With Palestinian Workers:

Cease the Genocide Now, End All Complicity, Stop Arming Israel!

WHEREAS, October 7, 2023 saw the people of Gaza collectively reject the culmination of 16 years of a brutal land, air and sea siege devastating the entirety of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents; and

WHEREAS, the 16-year blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip has devastated the economy, leading to the closure of many companies, factories, and farms, resulting in a high level of unemployment, and reducing the government’s ability to provide basic services to the Palestinian population in Gaza; and

WHEREAS, the siege has deprived Palestinians in Gaza of their basic rights to health care, education, work, and freedom of movement, with 81.5 percent of individuals in Gaza living below the poverty line and 64 percent are food insecure; and

WHEREAS, the latest Israeli attacks reflect more than a century of ongoing Zionist settler-colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, racism, genocide, and apartheid—including Israel’s establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 2.3 million people in Gaza are refugees from other parts of historic Palestine; and

WHEREAS, the section of the Gaza border that was bulldozed through on October 7th was the site of the Great March of Return, a 2018-2019 peaceful protest which Israel responded to with deadly force, killing 214 Palestinians, including 46 children, and injuring 28,939 a reminder that all forms of Palestinian resistance—even peaceful ones—are criminalized and crushed by Israel; and

WHEREAS, as in the last 16 days alone at least [update as needed] 4,741 Palestinians have been killed and 15,898 wounded, with over a million of the densely populated enclave’s people displaced; and

WHEREAS, there have been [update as needed] 51 attacks on healthcare facilities in Gaza with these attacks resulting in at least 15 health workers killed, 27 health workers injured, damage to 25 hospitals and other healthcare facilities and three hospitals in northern Gaza evacuated; and

WHEREAS, upon announcing his intention to reduce parts of Gaza to “rubble,” Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu ordered leaflets dropped from the sky telling Palestinians in the Gaza strip, of which 50 percent of the population are children, to “leave now,” knowing full well that there is absolutely nowhere they can go; a public declaration of intent to commit the international crime of forced population transfer; and

WHEREAS, Israel has consolidated all these tactics of extermination in the current attack on Gaza, including the prohibited use of white phosphorus weapons in densely populated urban areas. In addition, Israel is arming settlers with an additional 10,000 assault rifles, which has already further galvanized attacks on Palestinian communities in the West Bank; and

WHEREAS, Israel justified its decision to suspend all entry of food, water and fuel into Gaza by claiming that it was fighting “human animals”; As we have seen with past examples of US led wars on Iraq and Afghanistan , such dehumanizing language is used to manufacture consent for genocidal violence; and

WHEREAS, a majority of media, politicians and employers have demonstrated an inconsistent valuation of human life, with calculated omissions effectively endorsing Israel’s ongoing perpetration of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and genocide against the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza; and

WHEREAS, the tired trope of “religious conflict” has been used often to mask the reality of settler colonial violence and dispossession, essentializing and racializing both Jewish and Muslim communities and those critical of Israeli settler colonial violence have been falsely accused of anti-semitism; and

WHEREAS, the Union of Professors and Employees at Birzeit University in the West Bank, calls on all trade unions around the globe to reject the “criminalization of resistance… where all blood that is shed is blamed on the oppressed and all crimes of settler colonial invasion and dispossession are ignored entirely”; and

WHEREAS, all over the world and including our [city/workplace], workers of all faiths and backgrounds are united in their opposition to apartheid, occupation, genocide and settler colonialism; and

WHEREAS, the Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism as a structure of power designed to accumulate wealth through dispossession and maintain racial hierarchy links it organically to the struggles of Indigenous, Black and Puerto Rican peoples, as well as other oppressed peoples in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the institutions of organized violence that oppress working class, Black and Brown communities in the US train and share tactics of repression with Israeli institutions of organized violence, for example through the deadly exchange program; and

WHEREAS, since World War II, Israel has been the largest overall recipient of U.S. foreign aid, with over $150 billion since 1946 and U.S. President Joe Biden has just announced another $14.3 billion in aid for Israel as part of a broader “defense” spending package that is a boon for the military-industrial-complex and is being claimed as a job promotion program for US workers who are allegedly “building the arsenal of democracy”; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. began moving warships and aircraft to the region “to be ready to provide Israel with whatever it needed to respond,” including sending two U.S. aircraft carriers as well as special operations forces to “assist Israel’s military in planning and intelligence”; and

WHEREAS, Palestinian trade unions call for workers around the globe to stand in solidarity to “end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes” and to “pass motions in their trade union to this effect”; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that our [union or other labor body] condemns Israel’s ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people and calls for an immediate end to the bombings and destruction in Gaza as well as an end to all US military and economic aid to the settler colonial state of Israel; and

RESOLVED, that we endorse the October 16, 2023 Palestinian trade call:

  1. To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel.
  2. To refuse to transport weapons to Israel.
  3. To pass motions in their trade union to this effect.
  4. To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution.
  5. Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the U.S., funding to it.

RESOLVED, that our employer(s) publicly declare and divest from all financial ties with “the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid”; and

RESOLVED, that our union pledge to respect previous Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity by divesting from Israel Bonds, severing all ties with the Israel’s racist labor federation, the Histadrut, and its US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee, and respecting the Palestinian picket line for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS); and

RESOLVED, that our employer defend its workers [and students] who are routinely doxxed and attacked when voicing support for Palestine, including those who take part in the BDS campaign, and/or who otherwise oppose Israeli settler colonialism.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Statement

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 11/06/2023 - 21:22

Brothers and Sisters of trade workers’ unions in the United States of America,

From the midst of the rubble and at the center of the ethnic cleansing war committed by the apartheid regime of Israel against our people in the Gaza Strip, we send you this urgent appeal to bring you closer to the image of the massacres and the full-fledged war crimes against more than 2 million citizens in Gaza, including over seventy percent who are unemployed and live below the poverty line, enduring extremely difficult conditions.

Israeli aggression has exacerbated the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, and even demolished homes on their heads, depriving them for the tenth day in a row of electricity, water, fuel, medicine, and necessary medical supplies. As of the current date, the number of martyrs killed by Israel has exceeded 2,800, including unarmed, unemployed, working-class, and refugee civilians.

Additionally, over 10,000 have been injured, and approximately one thousand citizens are trapped under the rubble. The number of killed children exceeds 500, along with 400 women.

The apartheid regime of Israel is not satisfied with these heinous atrocities; it is also targeting journalists, medical teams, ambulances, and firefighters, leading to the complete destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. And Israel has escalated its crimes by targeting institutions and trade union offices, reducing them to ruins.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with deep sincerity and appreciation for the leadership role of unions and your constant support of our rights, we will never forget the previous vicious attacks in 2014 and 2021, when you made your voices loud and clear and when your heroic port workers blocked the boats (the Israeli-owned ZIM cargo ships). Now the aggressive, vicious attacks are continuing on a much larger scale, so we urge you to stand with us, again, and rise to the level of the war being waged against us all!

We ask your support for the following:

First, to exert pressure on the U.S. administration, and the international community as a whole, to immediately halt the apartheid regime of Israel’s aggression against defenseless civilians in Gaza and condemn the collective punishment that has been imposed on us for more than 15 years.

Second, to end the siege that has been imposed on Gaza and pressure Israel to recognize our legitimate rights preserved by international law. Israel is the main cause of instability in the region.

Third, to contribute to providing urgent medical and humanitarian aid to support our people in these tragic times as quickly as possible. We trust in your ability to take urgent action to apply pressure and offer assistance, believing in the justice of our cause and our legitimate rights.

In struggle for a better world –a world of peace and justice. As there can be no peace without justice.

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

Signed by

Basher Al-Sisi,

Member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

U.S. Trade unionists’ reply

Dear comrade Basher Al-Sisi and members of the PGFTU leadership,

We, trade union activists from across the United States, received your very powerful and moving letter addressed to the U.S. labor movement. We will distribute your letter — with its Call to Action – far and wide in the U.S. labor movement.

We thank you for your message, which has motivated us to redouble our efforts urging the labor movement to join the growing movement in the streets of our country to demand (1) an end to the bombing of Gaza and a halt to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, (2) an end to the siege of Gaza, and (3) massive (not token) medical and humanitarian assistance for a people who have been driven, in this second Nakba, from their homes.

As you may know, there has been an outpouring of support for the Palestinian people throughout the United States. Mass demonstrations, with thousands of people chanting “Free Palestine!”, are a daily occurrence. Hundreds were arrested for blocking the 11 entrances to the White House in Washington, DC. Sit-ins are taking place on college campuses. Jewish activists have joined the protests with banners that read, “Not In Our Name!” A growing number of political leaders have denounced the ethnic cleansing and are urging a ceasefire.

Hundreds of union organizers have also come together to support the embattled Palestinian people. On October 16, 266 union activists from all corners of the United States, including a number of union presidents, joined a zoom conference call in response to the invitation from Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union (AFL-CIO). Your PGFTU letter was distributed to call participants.

On October 19, more than 400 unionists participated in a video conference convened by U.S. Labor Against War and Racism. Both video conferences were aimed at building ever-greater support in the U.S. labor movement for the people of Palestine.

National Writers Union President Larry Goldbetter put it best when he stated the following in his letter of invitation to the October 16 meeting:

History did not start on Saturday [October 7]. Gaza is little more than a massive outdoor prison for its citizens. …

No doubt, Randi Weingarten and Stuart Applebaum are speaking for most AFL-CIO affiliated unions [when they support Israel], but not for all. Let’s do what we can to oppose the current slaughter of Palestinians that is now underway. The answer in Israel/Palestine, and everywhere, must start with international solidarity, anti-racism, and building the unity of Jews and Palestinians, which has been done before, yet today seems unimaginable.

The world is watching as events unfold in Gaza.

We, who sign this reply to your letter, pledge to do all we can to stop the slaughter of the Palestinian people and enable them to determine their own destiny, free from foreign intervention and oppression.

Many U.S. trade unions have a proud tradition of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The longshore members of the ILWU, for example, in 2014 and 2021 blocked the Israeli Zim ship from unloading cargo in the Port of Oakland, affecting commerce and the pocketbooks of the corporate elite. We will approach as many unions as we can to urge their support for your struggle.

We salute your courage in the face of an onslaught that you have had to endure for 75 years, and even before that. We will keep in touch as much as possible to make sure that you, your family members, and co-workers are safe.

Initial list of signatories; all unions and titles are for identification purposes only.

Gene Bruskin, Co-founder, US Labor Against the War, Member, National Writers Union, Washington, DC
Clarence Thomas, Past secretary treasurer, ILWU Local 10 retired, Oakland, CA
Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary Treasurer Emeritus, OPEIU, Washington, DC
Monadel Herzallah,Arab American Union Members Council (AAUMC), North Bay, CA
Gloria La Riva, First Vice President, Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521, CWA, San Francisco, CA
Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator Emeritus, US Labor Against the War, Berkeley, CA
Alan Benjamin, Past OPEIU 29 Delegate to SF Labor Council, Past SFLC Exec. Bd. Member, (now living in New York, NY)
David Van Deusen, Former President, Vermont AFL-CIO
Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA), National Writers Union (NWU), Charleston, South Carolina
David Newby, Member, AFT Local 3220, Madison, WI
John Braxton, Co-President Emeritus, AFT Local 2026, Philadelphia, PA
Tom Gogan, National Organizer Emeritus USLAW, member, National Writers Union, New York, NY
Bill Leumer, Former president, IAM Local 565 (title for id. only), San Francisco, CA
Sandy Eaton, RN, Chair Emeritus, Legislative Council, National Nurses United
Kathy Black, Philly CLUW Exec Board member, AFSCME DC47 retiree, Philadelphia, PA
Millie Phillips, member, CWA 9415, Oakland, CA
David Walters, IBEW Local 1245, Ret., Pacifica, CA
Don Bryant, National Association of Letter Carriers (retired), NALC-Branch 40 (for id. only), Cleveland, OH
Kathy Lipscomb, SEIU, retired, San Francisco, CA
Tom Lacey, Member, OPEIU, Local 29, Retired, San Francisco, CA
T. Weber, Peace and Freedom Party of California Legislative Liaison; delegate to Sacramento Central Labor Council


Labor Organizations that have adopted resolutions and/or statements in support of Palestinians:

Alphabet Workers Union
IBT Local 17 and 804
Industrial Workers of the World (Mid-Valley Branch)
Labor Express Radio
NJ State Industrial Union Council
National Writers Union (NWU)
Pacific Media Workers Guild (CWA Local 39521)
PNWSU 3000
Pride at Work/Eastern Massachusetts
Restaurant Workers United
Roofers Local
San Antonio Alliance of Teachers & Support Personnel NEA/AFT Local 67
So. Poverty Law Center Union
Starbuck Workers United
UFCW Local 3000
Unite Here Local 17 and 23
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

Featured image credit: delayed gratification via Flikr; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Support Palestinians when they fight

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 11/05/2023 - 18:20

Last month, inmates of the Zionist state’s de facto concentration camp in the Gaza Strip executed a desperate, yet powerfully courageous, escape.

The scene shocked the world. Just four years prior, Palestinian protesters had tried week after week for nearly a year to end their imprisonment in Gaza during the Great March of Return in 2018–2019. They paid a heavy price for their resistance as Israeli snipers killed more than 200 protesters, medics, and journalists, and wounded some 36,000 people in a centralized campaign to maim as many Palestinians as possible. Thousands of people were shot in their limbs, resulting in over 150 amputations due to Israeli bullets.

Then, on October 7, the border fence came down. Members of the Palestinian resistance streamed across the border, celebrated on captured Israeli tanks, and dealt the most serious blow to Israeli Occupation Forces in generations. In the weeks since, the Israeli regime has put an end to the celebrations in a brutal, genocidal bombing campaign spanning four countries and murdering more than 9,000 Palestinians and counting. But the spirit of resistance ignited by Al-Aqsa Flood has spread throughout the globe. Despite heavy repression of activism in solidarity with Palestine in the state of Israel’s many European and settler-colonial allies, the U.S. included, millions have taken to the streets in cities and towns around the world to call for an end to the bombing of Gaza and in support of Palestinians’ ongoing struggle for freedom from the river to the sea.

Gaza: The Great March of Return. Screen cap of a 2019 Al Jazeera video.

This outpouring of international support for the Palestinian struggle has challenged the foundations of political hegemony throughout the globe. Governments everywhere see the radicalizing potential of the Palestinian freedom struggle and thus have criminalized protests in solidarity with Palestine, banned the keffiyeh, the Palestinian flag, and other Palestinian nationalist symbols, and encouraged workplace-based repression of pro-Palestine sentiment. And yet, millions of people have proven the inadequacy of such measures to stem the tide of solidarity, turning out in massive numbers to illegal demonstrations because, for the exploited and oppressed of every country, the significance of the battle for justice in Palestine is apparent. Not out of charity but because of a collective recognition that a Palestinian David’s blow against the Goliath of Israeli apartheid and U.S. imperialism would reverberate through the struggles of working and oppressed people everywhere. In the images of fences toppling and resistance spreading—particularly throughout the Arab world—we saw a glimpse of new possibilities. And instinctively, in our millions, the Palestinian struggle became our struggle—and so the scope of protest and resistance ballooned.

This moment is a crystal clear demonstration of the importance and meaning of socialist internationalism. All our movements owe a tremendous debt to the Palestinian fighters and activists sacrificing everything in the struggle for freedom. We pay it back in small measure by staying loud, staying militant, and staying in the streets to demand an end to the genocide and a free Palestine.

Even as millions of people around the world have come to see themselves in Palestinians’ struggle for self-determination—and indeed, their fight for their very survival—a devastating number of our comrades on the broad left here in the United States have missed the significance of October 7th. In a minority of cases, but nevertheless too many, it was not the courageous act of resistance which drew activists’ solidarity, but the suffering of the Israeli settlers still dwelling in the racist, colonial communes that first enlisted Jewish workers from across Europe in the theft of Palestinian land and the eradication of Palestinian people.

While coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post would have one believe that the Left had responded to the violence of October 7th with a collective, crazed baying for the blood of Israeli children, the substance of this specter of a blood-lustful, anti-human Left was seldom substantiated with more than statements of basic, principled, unconditional support for Palestinian resistance. In many cases, this unfounded specter was raised from among the Left’s own ranks.

It is not Palestinian death which inspires us to struggle for a free Palestine and a freer world, but the courage and fortitude of Palestinian resistance in the face of it.

Naomi Klein, who wrote a piece condemning sections of the left for “celebrat[ing]” “Israeli Jews [being] killed in their homes,” failed to support this accusation with even a single example. Joshua Leifer, a member of the anti-occupation group IfNotNow and an editor at multiple left-wing publications, wrote a letter lamenting the “inhumanity” of Palestinian activists, citing as evidence a basic expression of pride in the courage of the Palestinian resistance. BLM Chicago was forced to remove a post that said only “I stand with Palestine,” because it was accompanied by a picture of a hang gliding resistance fighter. And Governor Kathy Hochul condemned an “All Out for Palestine” rally in New York City before it had even taken place. She did so not out of any specific critique of orientation toward the events of October 7 or political positions held by the organizers. The condemnable position was the very notion of supporting the Palestinian struggle at a time when resistance from Palestinians meant that Israelis were experiencing a dose of the fear and uncertainty that characterizes life in Gaza on a daily basis.

In each case, the Left was accused of adopting the callous anti-humanism of the far right. In each case, we were assured that it was not our solidarity with Palestine that was in question, but our alleged support for (often fabricated) acts of horrific violence removed from any sense of scale or context. And in each case, the examples provided to support such accusations were basic, unadorned statements of support for the actual Palestinians daring to resist. “Standing with Palestine” among these comrades is unobjectionable. Standing with real, living Palestinians, who ride on hang gliders and carry rifles and throw rocks and “glorify” their martyrs and “celebrate” their acts of resistance, according to Leifer, is “shockingly inhumane.”

When I was in college, I was subject to a misconduct investigation because a student group of which I was a member posted the popular movement slogan, “Long live the Intifada” on social media. The word “intifada” loosely translates to “uprising.” In English, the word is typically invoked to describe two periods of Palestinian resistance: the periods from 1987–1993 and 2001–2005. In Arabic, the word is used to describe any number of protest movements and revolutions, violent and non-violent. The protest movement that toppled Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, for example, was an intifada. The protests against the imposition of new taxes in Lebanon in 2019 were an intifada. To discuss the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Arabic, one would use the word “intifada.”

This slogan has a long history of being particularly triggering to Zionists and even anti-Zionist proponents of respectability politics—a fact which I can only attribute to a racist, orientalist sheen surrounding an Arabic word denoting a “shaking off” of the yoke of power. Recently, Marjorie Taylor Greene has used an appearance of the word “intifada” on an activist’s phone screen to label the Jewish protesters who staged a sit-in at the U.S. capitol “insurrectionists.” But why? “Intifada” clearly doesn’t designate an insurrection, nor even a particularly violent or inhumane orientation on the task of political change. The First Intifada consisted primarily of strikes, boycotts, and mass protests. So why does support for “the Intifada” prove so self-evidently objectionable to Zionists that anyone who utters the word finds themselves immediately attacked and discredited?

A crowd of Palestinians confront Israeli soldiers during the First Intifada; some in the front rank are throwing rocks. Image by Wiki4All.

Liberal Zionists who police support for “the Intifada” assure us that it is not the fact of our support for Palestinian wellbeing and freedom that is in question, but support for violence. “Long live the Intifada,” posted by our majority-Jewish student group, was a call for mass violence against Jews—or so read the complaints against us by our Zionist detractors. But just as was the case in the examples cited above, the tone-policing dimension of criticisms of the Intifada is in fact a red herring. There is no Palestinian resistance that falls outside the definition of the word intifada—no possibility for Palestinian freedom. It is well and good to speak abstractly of freedom and justice for all people (though not all people “from the river to the sea”). But from the perspective of the settler—even of the settler left—any actual manifestation of Palestinians freeing themselves is a threat. If it is not an intifada, it is a hang glider. If not a hang glider, it is a rock. If not a rock, it is Arabic-language chants. If not Arabic-language chants, it is glory. If not glory, it is celebration of resistance. It is fine to endorse Palestinian liberation in the abstract. I have no doubt that Klein, Leifer, and many more of the would-be comrades who spent the weeks following Al-Aqsa Flood punching left endorse Palestinian liberation in the abstract. But somehow, whenever that abstraction materializes in the form of concrete struggle by Palestinians, it becomes the subject of handwringing and self-righteous denunciations.

There is, of course, one notable exception to this rule: dying. The settler Left never fails to find common cause with Palestinians engaged in the liberatory act of dying at the hands of their oppressors. On October 8, every left-wing Israeli politician, every anti-occupation NGO, and every ally of the settler Left in the United States rushed to condemn those Palestinians who dared to cross the Gaza border while protecting their life, with a rifle if necessary, as they broke free from their open air prison. One could not help but contrast those condemnations to the solidarity that emanated from the very same sources during the Great March of Return. Ok, not totally—many on the Israeli and U.S. Left quibbled with tactics used during the Great March of Return and condemned violence on both sides. Still, the simple marchers, journalists, and medics slaughtered by Israeli snipers became the darlings—dare I say, the martyrs—of the Israeli left.

In one of the responses to October 7 decried as inhumane by Joshua Leifer, an activist asks, “What did y’all think decolonization meant?” In the last several weeks, the settler Left has shown us that they think decolonization looks like dying. After a few days of punching left, of condemning the resistance of Palestinians, and publicly grieving the deaths of Israeli civilians, settlers, and soldiers alike, Klein, Leifer, and the rest of the settler-aligned Left of U.S. politics rejoined Palestinians in the streets. What changed? Palestinians died. The images on social media (if not, still, on mainstream news) had rolled over from dead settlers to dead Palestinians, and the settler-aligned Left regained their appetite for struggle. Palestinian resistance—at least, the tip of the spear—had been subdued. And a layer of progressives could go back to supporting the abstraction of Palestinian freedom, unencumbered by the threat of real, living Palestinian resistance.

The Palestinian resistance plays a key role in the international struggle against imperialism, against capitalism, and for a freer world.

But this wasn’t, and isn’t, and can’t be the only script for solidarity. Because even before the first retaliatory bombs were dropped in Gaza, the first round of solidarity actions had been called in cities around the world. Because for the oppressed and exploited of Amman, Cairo, Beirut, London, New York, Chicago, Sydney, and Paris, to name just a few, it was not Palestinian death that brought us into the streets, but a brief glimpse of Palestinian life outside of a cage. It is not Palestinian death which inspires us to struggle for a free Palestine and a freer world, but the courage and fortitude of Palestinian resistance in the face of it. For a disappointing number of leftists in the United States, who felt the settlers’ pain on October 7 (and, I can only imagine, saw a little of themselves in the good, liberal, anti-occupation settlers who nevertheless lost their lives to Al-Aqsa Flood), the knee-jerk reaction was to condemn Hamas, condemn the Palestinian resistance, and join Gaza’s prison guards in mourning. For hundreds of thousands of people in Amman, many no doubt Palestinian refugees themselves, the knee-jerk reaction was to chant “All of Jordan are Hamas” in a breathtaking testament to the inspiring character of struggle in the face of impossible odds.

In moments of great resistance, and in moments of great horror, Palestinians need comrades who will stand by them unconditionally. This has always been true—not just of Palestinians, but of all the world’s exploited and oppressed. And this year, after a consolidation of power by the Israeli fascist movement, a dramatic escalation of settler violence in the occupied West Bank, and a serious isolation of the Palestinian movement through the Abraham Accords, it is truer than ever. An outpouring of international support in moments of both heavy resistance and heavy repression is one of the most crucial ways in which allies of the Palestinian struggle around the world can tip the scales in favor of an end to Israeli apartheid, because a free Palestine is unthinkable outside a revolutionary challenge to the imperialist world structure and to many regimes, both regionally and globally, that aid and abet the continuation of the Zionist settler regime.

If we are to mount that challenge, then the left must learn to identify not with Palestinians’ allies in the NGOs, in government, and in the state of Israel, but with Palestinians themselves. We must of course fight tirelessly for an end to the bombing of Gaza; but we must also support Palestinians not just as victims, but as agents of their own liberation, fighting by any means necessary to entirely dismantle the Israeli settler regime. The Palestinian resistance plays a key role in the international struggle against imperialism, against capitalism, and for a freer world. It can only succeed if it is joined in struggle by people around the world with a clear understanding of which side we are on.

Featured image credit: Graphic resistance; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

United Educators of San Francisco board calls for ceasefire resolution

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 11/04/2023 - 21:31

The United Educators of San Francisco executive board voted on November 1 to recommend that the UESF delegate assembly endorse a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The delegate assembly, a large policy-making body, will meet on November 15 to vote on the resolution “calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and for aid to Israel to be re-directed toward public education and social services.”

The resolution was submitted to the UESF executive board for review and recommendation by 23 rank-and-file union members. The two most important sentences of the resolution read:

Therefore, be it resolved, that the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a resolution to the ongoing violence, with the goal of ceasefire, the end of killing innocent civilians, suffering, and trauma for the people of Gaza; and the sharply escalating settler colonial violence in the occupied West Bank, and

Therefore, be it further resolved, that UESF again calls on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to stop aid to Israel, to give humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and to demand an immediate ceasefire.

How will UESF assembly delegates, elected representatives from union building committees at each of about 130 San Francisco Unified School District work sites, respond to this resolution? I hope that they will accept the recommendation of the union executive board and endorse the call for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

UESF leaders and members at a Palestine solidarity protest November 4. Photo by Alex Shmaus.

The condition of Palestinians is one of the great ethical problems of our time. The conditions of apartheid that exist across all of historic Palestine are wrong. The Military occupation of the West Bank is wrong. The repression and suppression experienced by diasporic Palestinians around the world is also wrong and these conditions do indeed touch the lives of students and educators in San Francisco. Furthermore, the ongoing siege and assault on Gaza is abominable. Genocidal levels of violence directed at one of the most densely populated places on Earth make this problem truly urgent.

The condition of Palestinians is also one of the great political problems of our time. Why are U.S. institutions so committed to providing material and moral support to Israel, despite the growing unpopularity among the U.S. public? Readers may have seen the results of a poll of Arab Americans that showed that their support for the re-election of President Joe Biden in 2024 has dropped from 59 percent to 17 percent. Biden may lose the election battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania because of his emphatic support for the ongoing assault on Gaza. U.S. politicians’ support for Israel cannot be explained as electioneering. Instead, it is because of the role Israel plays as an enforcer of U.S. and European interests in a strategic region.

Our union educator siblings in Palestine have called on us to show solidarity with them, and we have a responsibility to heed the call. However, calling for a ceasefire is only a beginning.

The urgent and deeply rooted nature of these problems compels UESF members to consider intently the questions that they pose. The perspectives of our peer educators in Palestine should carry great weight in these considerations. Informed of efforts to draft a ceasefire resolution by UESF members, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) made a statement on October 16 to share with us and other supporters of the labor movement. The GUPT statement makes repeated reference to violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinians, including

war crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Palestinian territories, especially in Gaza, which included killings, bombings, and destruction of homes, residential towers, civil and media institutions, in addition to preventing the entry of fuel and goods, and the cutoff of water, electricity and fuel for Gaza.

The statement continues:

The continuous attacks by the Israeli army with warplanes, heavy weaponry, and various types of genocide weapons against our people in Gaza constitute a war crime, while the Israeli government and its leaders, as the occupying power, should hold legal responsibility to ensure the protection Palestinian civilians in times of war. …

The occupation forces imposed forced displacement of about more than one million citizens, pushing them to flee to other unsafe and inadequate places, such as [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] schools and open squares. …

The targeting of the Israeli occupation forces of ambulances, hospitals, health facilities, media offices, news agencies, and journalists, constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, rising to the level of war crimes, especially that is paralleled with the preventing of the entry of basic medical needs and supplies and emergency aid necessary to shelter the displaced and ensure their lives. …

Closure of the West Bank, the limitation of the operation of the only international border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, and the closure of various illegal checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, which leads to isolating entire cities and villages from the rest of the Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, is another example on the systematic violations of Palestinian rights to freedom of movement, which forms an internationally prohibited practice of collective punishment. the occupation authorities grant settlers in the West Bank freedom of movement and travel, which indicates the implementation of the two-level legal system of apartheid. They even encourage and provide protection for settlers to carry out attacks against Palestinians. …

We call on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli occupying and apartheid state to comply with international law stipulated in the Geneva Conventions, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which focuses on protecting civilians during conflicts and occupation. In addition, we stress the need to immediately stop organized attacks on holy places, release all Palestinian prisoners, and hand over the bodies of Palestinian martyrs to their families.

The GUPT statement also explicitly condemns the support of the U.S. and European states for the apartheid conditions, military occupation, and extreme violence faced by Palestinians:

We consider the explicit and unconditional support provided by American and European officials to the “Israeli” occupation entity and ignoring the plight of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, as participation in the “Israeli” violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, including the crime of apartheid. We condemn the involvement of some states and their partnership in the aggression against our people, especially the United States, Germany, France, Britain, and Italy, with the occupying entity under the pretext of the right to self-defense. Also, we note the failure of the international community to hold the occupying entity accountable for its crimes and its impunity, and we consider it the reason for the current situation.

Finally, the GUPT statement asserts a positive vision of the rights of Palestinians:

We affirm the right of the Palestinians to resist the occupation and confront its attacks and violations of Palestinian national rights, and we believe that it is the duty of peoples with living consciences around the world to intensify their efforts to immediately stop the aggression, protect the Palestinians, end the occupation, and guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to obtain their freedom and rights, foremost of which is their right to return, self-determination, and establishment of an independent state on its national land.

Our union educator siblings in Palestine have called on us to show solidarity with them, and we have a responsibility to heed the call. UESF assembly delegates should endorse the ceasefire resolution when it is presented to them with the recommendation of the UESF executive board on November 15. However, calling for a ceasefire is only a beginning. The genocidal violence in Gaza needs to stop, but even if it does, the conditions of apartheid, occupation, siege, and repression will remain. UESF and other unions that have recently spoken in favor of Palestinian rights, including the Oakland Education Association, Chicago Teachers Union, Starbucks Workers United, United Electrical Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), IBEW Local 520, and others, also need to take action. We need political education on the issue of Palestine directed at union members, labor contingents at pro-Palestine demonstrations, and organizational support for the Palestinian campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against apartheid Israel.

Featured image credit: Rafaël Vinot; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson is not on our side

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 10/24/2023 - 20:35

The recent Tempest  article on the murder of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and its call to “build a mass anti-racist movement which is in solidarity with the people of Palestine,” is an important one. The tragic death of the young Al-Fayoume reminds us of the enormous stakes for doing so. This work has literally become a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, I thought the article fell short on any mention of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s crucial role in letting the Pro-Israel resolution, sponsored by Alderwoman Debbie Silverstein, pass overwhelmingly.

By tossing pro-Palestinian demonstrators from the council chambers during the debate on the resolution, Johnson made his position clear. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. During the runoff election this past spring, Johnson said, “Any speech or any effort to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist, that’s how I view antisemitism.” For those of us in solidarity with Palestine, Brandon Johnson is not on our side, and we should say so.

Johnson, a favorite of the labor-left, upon taking office has disappointed many supporters on several fronts, including signing a no-strike pledge with the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) during next year’s Democratic National Convention, signing a contract with GardaWorld, a dubious Blackwater-like security, to house the burgeoning migrants, and appointing Larry Snelling, the former head of the Chicago Police Department’s Counterterrorism unit, as the city’s next police chief.

The article also fails to mention Jim Gardiner, the 45th Ward Alderman, a so-called new “friend” of Palestine. Gardiner spoke eloquently against Silverstein’s resolution. “Palestinian people in our community are some of the nicest, kindest, warmest I’ve ever met as well as Jewish people. But I cannot again … if Palestinian members of our community are not in support, I cannot be in support,” Gardiner told the council.

Literally, within days of the city council vote on the resolution, Gardiner was slapped with a $20,000 fine by Chicago Board of Ethics for “retaliating against a frequent critic and political foe by directing a city employee to issue ‘unfounded citations’ that could have forced the Jefferson Park man to pay more than $600 in fines.” Gardiner has a long history of thuggery and is under investigation by the FBI for corruption. Like Johnson, he is no friend of Palestine.

Let’s be clear that the Chicago City Council pro-Israel resolution will further encourage hate crimes. The sight of Governor JB Pritzker and Mayor Brandon Johnson, along with a phone call from President Joe Biden, visiting Wadea Al-Fayoume’s family and expressing condolences after their offices and the city council expressed support for Israel is obscene. The Left must be clear-eyed in its analysis and willing to place blame where blame is due.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Public sector strike on the horizon in Québec

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 10/24/2023 - 18:53
A September 23, 2023 protest brought over one hundred thousand workers into the streets of Montreal. Photo credit: FTQ.

Over the next few months, there probably will be a major confrontation between the Québec government and public sector unions, the likes of which we have not seen since at least 2004, and possibly since the 1980s. One clear sign of that dynamic is the demonstration by one hundred thousand workers on September 23 in Montreal, on a Saturday. Several factors are leading in that direction: first, the arrogance of a bosses’ government determined to have their way; second, the accumulated frustration and outrage of public sector workers after decades of neglect and the slow erosion of public services; third, the sympathy of broad sections of the population for the people who have kept public services going during the pandemic and beyond.

The government

The government of François Legault—founding leader of the Future of Québec Coalition (Coalition avenir Québec – CAQ) and prime minister since 2018—is mostly made up of people who were executives in the private sector before getting into politics, including Legault himself who was CEO of an airline. Collectively, they are always on the side of landlords against tenants (most of them being landlords themselves), on the side of oil and gas companies against the climate, and in favor of roads and bridges instead of public transit, etc. It is a conservative party akin to moderate Republicans or the most right-wing Democrats in the United States. His government is Québec nationalist without being for independence, the most common political position for Québec governments since the 1880s.

The CAQ is a very recent political coalition with a very vague basis of unity, which was explicitly created to bring together former Liberals—unhappy with the turn of their party towards unconditional support for federalism (or Canadian unity)—and former Parti québécois (PQ) members (including Legault, a former PQ minister of Education) who were willing to give up the goal of sovereignty for the foreseeable future. But their autonomism remains very symbolic, with very few gains since they took power. Mostly, they have targeted migrants and religious minorities in the name of secularism and Québec nationalism, claiming to oppose racism while stubbornly refusing to recognize its systemic nature.

The last round of public sector negotiations took place at the height of the pandemic in 2020. The deals reached separately by the unions (there was no common front, or united coalition of unions, at that time) were for a three-year contract instead of the usual five and involved few gains from the last collective agreements of 2015. It seemed then that the government had decided to avoid a confrontation that would add to the crisis caused by the coronavirus, and to aim instead for a rematch soon after the general election of 2022. Having been reelected in October 2022 with an increased majority at the National Assembly,1Compared with their first general election victory in 2018, CAQ support went from 37.5% to 41% and from 74 Members of the Québec National Assembly to 90, out of 125. the CAQ government is now attempting to achieve the sought-after historic gains against the unions that they abandoned three years earlier.

The unions

Having anticipated that this current fight would be harder, four of the main unions representing public sector workers decided to form a Common Front (Front commun), meaning that they bargain together on common issues like wages, pensions, and family leave. Together, those four organizations (FTQ, CSN, CSQ and APTS), represent 420 thousand workers, about seventy percent of whom are women. They work in health care, social services, education, and other services managed by the province. Other unions outside the Front commun represent some of the teachers (FAE) and most nurses (FIQ). In total, more than half a million workers are currently bargaining with the province.

Having anticipated that this current fight would be harder, four of the main unions representing public sector workers decided to form a Common Front (Front commun), meaning that they bargain together on common issues like wages, pensions, and family leave.

The Front commun is asking for a three-year contract with wage increases about two percent over inflation each year. The government has responded with an offer of nine percent total over five years, which is obviously below inflation rates based on the government’s own predictions. It is also attacking pensions in order to punish people for retiring “early,”2Currently, a person with 35 years of service can retire without penalties. The government wants penalties to apply if the person is not at least 57 years old. They also want to start calculating the pension at 1.4 percent per year of service instead of two percent. Currently, a person retiring after 35 years of service gets 75 percent of the salary of their five best years. In the long run, the proposed change would bring that down to 49 percent. which is in line with their approach to solving the shortage of qualified people in many professions through coercion. At the many tables negotiating working conditions and other issues specific to each sector, there has been no movement on the part of the employer to meet any of the unions’ demands. But as a first “concession,” the minister in charge of government spending announced recently that the employer was going to prioritize its own demands. This announcement was made after the giant demonstrations and as the strike votes started.

A bit of history

The first Front commun was formed in 1972 and included most provincial public sector workers. This was after decades of bitter union struggles in the private sector and against successive governments, in a period of upheaval at a global level. During that strike, the leaders of the three main unions were sent to prison for encouraging their members to go on strike, in spite of a court injunction making those walkouts illegal. The charge was contempt of court and the sentence a whole year in prison. The outrage at that level of repression brought many private sector unions into the movement, with striking workers even taking over some of the towns. This was probably the highest level of class struggle anywhere in Canada at any point in time.

A 1988 demonstration by Quebec’s first Front Commun of public sector unions. Photo credit: André Querrry.

Ten years later, the PQ government of René Lévesque (sovereigntist and center left) decided to make public sector workers pay for the recession at the time. It imposed contracts through legislation and adopted a harshly punitive law banning strikes. This was the same government who, a few years earlier, adopted a law banning scabs and had several union activists in its caucus and cabinet. The sense of betrayal was even more demoralizing than the laws themselves. As a result, tens of thousands of workers left the PQ.

It could be argued that the Québec labor movement never got over this historic defeat. In the following decades, the leadership of the movement adopted a new strategic vision, going from a combative, class-struggle approach (syndicalisme de combat) to one centered on constant dialogue with governments and employers (concertation conflictuelle). During those forty years, public services have been undermined by rampant privatization, the introduction of management models taken from the manufacturing sector, the centralization of management structures, and the erosion of wages and working conditions.

Challenges for the Left

There hasn’t been an explicit return to a class-struggle strategy in the movement. The only reason we are looking at a possible major confrontation is the government’s determination to impose further setbacks on already disgruntled workers. It is still possible that either the government will make significant concessions before the strike or that the leadership will bring a mediocre settlement to its members in order to avoid having to manage an explosive mobilization. The fact that strike mandates are basically blank checks for the leadership to do as they wish in terms of the timing and duration of work stoppages means it will be very difficult to oppose any deal down the road and keep the struggle going.

This makes the expansion and coordination of rank and file networks across sectors in each locality and region an urgent task, as always. Québec solidaire is a broad left political party with 15 thousand members.3Québec Solidaire stands for Québec independence, feminism, social justice, inclusion and diversity, ecology and international solidarity. Founded in 2006, it has brought together various political sensibilities and currents, from election friendly anarchists to optimistic social-democrats and everything in between. It currently only runs for provincial elections and holds twelve seats in the Québec National Assembly (out of 125). The Québec solidaire union activists’ network (Réseau intersyndical) has good momentum at the moment and could play a role. Existing networks from previous attempts at rank and file organizing (like Lutte commune, a network of Left union activists of various political persuasions) can also be helpful. But it is unlikely that such efforts will lead to a large enough organized base to make a significant difference in the short term.

There hasn’t been an explicit return to a class-struggle strategy in the movement. The only reason we are looking at a possible major confrontation is the government’s determination to impose further setbacks on already disgruntled workers.

Québec solidaire can contribute in other ways, like the interventions of its MNAs (Members of the National Assembly) and its national spokespeople. Some of that is already happening, including explicit links being made between the party’s campaigning on inflation and the wage demands of the unions. The very vocal opposition of the QS caucus of MNAs to the wage increase of $30,000,4Canadian dollars – Eds. which most parliamentarians adopted for themselves last fall, was also important.

But the leadership of the party has, to date, been reluctant to confront the union bureaucracy’s conservatism in any way. So it is up to other structures in the party, like the union activists’ network and local associations, to play this role.

Another key issue is whether the government could try to impose contracts like the PQ did in 1982. An obstacle to that scenario is a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding public sector unions in Saskatchewan, which clarified the right to strike and collectively bargain. If we get to that level of conflict, it will be important to mobilize at the pan-Canadian and international level. There was the beginning of a mobilization in Québec last year when the Ontario government tried to force education support workers back to work. The resolution of that conflict preempted what could have been an historic level of class solidarity across provincial borders. Raising awareness of this struggle in the United States could also be useful, both to the movement in Québec and to union activists and the Left in the U.S.

Featured image credit: Djof; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Pro-Israel war fever feeds Islamophobic witchhunt

Socialist Resurgence - Sat, 10/21/2023 - 19:08


The recent attacks on Israel by Hamas and Israel’s genocidal response in Gaza has brought renewed scrutiny to the actions of the state of Israel and renewed charges that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. In recent weeks, the media and U.S. political and educational institutions have employed Islamophobic myths about Palestinians and have accused activists who condemn the 75-year occupation of Palestine and the dispossession of Palestinian people of being supporters of terrorism and antisemites.

This anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic rhetoric is responsible for the murder of six-year-old Wadea Al Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy from Chicago who was stabbed 26 times by the family’s landlord. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed more than a dozen times and could not attend her son’s funeral due to the extent of her injuries. After the attack, the Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded, “The Islamophobic rhetoric and anti-Palestinian racism being spread by politicians, media outlets, and social media platforms must stop,”

Students and activists who have spoken out since the Hamas attack have been doxed and harassed by far-right websites such as Canary Mission, a site that conflates neo-Nazi groups with activist groups and individuals who criticize the policies of Israel and stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. Harvard students who signed a statement in solidarity with Palestine were doxed and have faced threats. The law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell withdrew jobs offers from three Columbia University graduates because they had signed a petition in solidarity with Palestinians.

One Philadelphia activist, a supporter of the Workers World Party, told this reporter that he had received “hundreds” of threatening and harassing phone calls in one day after his personal information was recently published by Canary Mission. The backlash against Palestine solidarity activists is designed to sow fear, as a McCarthy-style campaign threatens careers. There also is a climate of fear on campuses that is calculated to chill free speech.

One of the organizations fueling this atmosphere of hate is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a supposed civil-rights group that has maligned advocates for the rights of Palestinians as being antisemitic by conflating criticism of Israel with hatred for Jewish people. Appearing on MSNBC, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt made outrageous and unsubstantiated claims concerning movements critical of Israel’s genocidal policies. He claimed that “governors, mayors, and people in positions of authority” had ignored an alleged Hamas call for a “Global Day of Jihad” because they don’t care about Jewish safety. Greenblatt also declared that all of the Palestine solidarity rallies being held worldwide are “pro-Hamas rallies” and repeated the now-debunked claim that Hamas decapitated babies. He went on to say that “anti-Zionism is genocide,” claimed that “every Jewish person is a Zionist,” and stated that “Zionism is fundamental to our existence.”

U.S. politicians join the anti-Palestinian chorus

Rhetoric on the right only serves to reinforce prejudice against Palestinians and support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Georgia GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted: “Anyone that is pro-Palestinian is pro-Hamas.” Senator Lindsay Graham called for Israel to level Gaza to the ground, saying, “Gaza is going to look like Tokyo and Berlin at the end of World War II when this is over. And if it doesn’t look that way, Israel made a mistake.”

Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis made the claim that all Palestinians are “anti-Semitic.” Breitbart News senior editor Joel Pollak openly endorsed ethnic cleansing, saying, “That’s an option, I think, after all this. … If it comes down to ethnic cleansing, you want to cleanse my people. I’ll cleanse yours first.” Senator Tom Cotton has come out against any humanitarian aid for Gaza and endorses Israel’s mass violence against civilians: “As far as I’m concerned, Israel can bounce the rubble in Gaza. Anything that happens in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas—Hamas killed women and children in Israel last weekend.”

Few voices in the Democratic Party are calling for an end to the violence. The Biden administration has pledged more deadly aid to the apartheid state and has given the Israelis the green light to “defend” themselves. Calls for a ceasefire and an end to U.S. aid to Israel by “progressive” Democrats Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) drew fire from within their own party, as the Democratic establishment jumps through hoops to demonstrate its own loyalty to Israeli policy.

In her statement, Tlaib said, “The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer. … We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) attacked Tlaib’s statement as “reprehensible and repulsive” and stated that “U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional.” Fellow Democrat Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) said, “We must continue to come together as a Congress and a country to disavow terrorism and support the Jewish state, our democratic ally, Israel.” Stevens also said that “Israel has a right to exist and defend herself.”

The Democratic Party in recent years has faced an unprecedented amount of doubt within its voter base about the U.S. relationship with the apartheid state. NBC News reports: “In March, Gallup reported that, for the first time since it began asking the question, Democratic voters are now more sympathetic toward Palestinians than Israelis, with a particularly steep drop in net sympathy for Israelis among young voters.” This spells trouble for the Democrats, who have been avid supporters of Israel for decades.

Nevertheless, NBC repeats the lie equating pro-Palestine activity to antisemitism, saying, “Groups like the Anti-Defamation League have warned that the left-wing movement that agitates against Israel in the name of Palestinian rights has made antisemitism more socially acceptable in left-leaning spaces like college campuses.”

It’s in this atmosphere that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), A Muslim-American civil rights advocacy group, was forced to cancel a planned 29th annual banquet in Arlington, Va., after multiple bomb threats and threats made against conference participants and hotel staff. According to a CAIR press release, “Anonymous callers have threatened to plant bombs in the hotel’s parking garage, kill specific hotel staff in their homes, and storm the hotel in a repeat of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol if the events moved forward.”

Why is U Penn. afraid of a literature festival?  

A recent Palestinian literature festival, Palestine Writes, held Sept. 22-24 at the University of Pennsylvania, drew ire from Zionists and their supporters, who claimed that the festival itself was a gathering of anti-Semites and terrorism supporters. The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) description of the event explains that the festival was a “gathering [of] dozens of writers, artists, publishers, performers, and scholars to explore the richness and diversity of Palestinian culture.” However, in the wake of the Hamas attack, elite donors of the Ivy League university are now withholding financial contributions while calling for the president of the university, Liz Magill, to resign.

In a conciliatory statement, Magill said, “I know how painful the presence of these speakers on Penn’s campus was for the Jewish community, especially during the holiest time of the Jewish year, and at a university deeply proud of its long history of being a welcoming place for Jewish people. … The university did not, and emphatically does not, endorse these speakers or their views. While we did communicate, we should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community.”

Palestine Writes executive director and organizer Susan Abulhawa responded to Magill via Twitter (X), stating, “It will stand in history as a testament to the grotesque privileged elite who stood behind a genocidal settler colonial state & cheered on the bombs obliterating the indigenous population. … We are not afraid, nor are we intimidated by craven statements of individuals who genuflect before powerful billionaire donors to attack the weak and marginalized.” Abulhawa’s Twitter account has been suspended due to her statements against the apartheid state.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine requires the erasure of Palestinian culture. How can you dismiss people as savages if you allow them to make art or write books and poetry? Advocacy for Palestinians and for human rights is branded as antisemitism.

Is criticism of Israel the same as antisemitism?

Certainly, in recent years, there has been a resurgence in anti-Jewish hate crimes and antisemitic speech as the far right has begun to grow. Attacks like the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting focused renewed attention on antisemitism. Conspiracy theories about how shadowy groups of sinister figures are behind world events—which appear in theories about financier George Soros, claims about the Rothschild banking family, the 9/11 tragedy, and elsewhere—have dangerous implications. Politicians on the right use terms like “globalists,” a code word for Jews.

Rather than tackling the real sources of bigotry against Jews, the capitalist media have repeated claims that antisemitism is a problem on “both the right and left.” Politicians of both parties have declared the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to be “anti-Jewish.” On campuses, pro-Palestinian activists have been subjected to attacks on their free speech. Thirty-five states have either passed anti-BDS laws or issued executive orders aimed at marginalizing BDS activists. In 2017, a bipartisan bill would have made advocating for a boycott of Israel a felony.

Marxists reject prejudice against Jewish people and oppose any attempt to target Jewish communities. We are clear that such hatred is not welcome on the left, echoing the words of German socialist August Bebel, “Antisemitism is the socialism of fools.” But at the same time, we reject the notion that criticism of the Israeli apartheid state, or the colonial-settler ideology of Zionism, makes supporters of Palestinian rights and self-determination anti-Jewish. In fact, many of the activists in the pro-Palestine movement are anti-Zionist Jews.

When antisemitism rears its head in the movement, socialists do not shrink from fighting against those backward ideas. We do this in the same way that we stand up to racism and sexism in the unions. The responsibility of revolutionary leadership is to take a strong stand against reactionary ideas wherever they present themselves. This means standing against manifestations of antisemitism in the movement.

The BDS tactic made it possible for activists to expose the connections between apartheid Israel and government entities, educational institutions, and corporations. By threatening the base of financial support for the occupation, including settlement building, the BDS movement undermined support for Israeli policy in U.S. society and internationally.

It is this threat to the legitimacy of the Israeli state that drove attempts to discredit the BDS movement. Zionist organizations and bourgeois politicians who try to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism reinforce the growth of anti-Jewish thinking by blurring the lines between the legitimate criticism of Israeli policy and actual hate speech.

In a period when the Palestine solidarity movement is under attack on campuses and in communities, it is imperative that we defend the right of activists to organize and speak. At the same time, we mobilize in solidarity with those communities targeted by the far right and their hateful speech and actions. Revolutionaries always stand with the oppressed.


In the days, weeks, and months ahead, it is imperative that all supporters of human rights and the right to free speech redouble our efforts to build solidarity with the Palestinian people. We must demand an end to the violence and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. This includes defending our right to criticize the colonial-settler apartheid entity without being labeled as antisemitic. Attempts to witch hunt students and faculty at universities must be vigorously opposed as an attack on the democratic rights of all. These vulnerable activists need our support now more than ever.

The compliant media, who act like press agents of the Israeli state and the U.S. State Department, must be held accountable for their slanted coverage, and the politicians of both parties must be exposed for their support for genocide in Gaza and the West Bank.

As the state of Israel prepares another Nakba, with the collusion of Western imperialism, it is necessary to build the broadest possible unity in action that mobilizes broad sectors of society to say, “No! Never again is now! Not in our name! Stop the killing and end U.S. taxpayer aid to Israel now!”

Photo: Hundreds of Philadelphia high school students walked out of class in solidarity with Palestine on Oct. 20 and rallied outside City Hall. (Sal Mastriano / Workers’ Voice)

The post Pro-Israel war fever feeds Islamophobic witchhunt first appeared on Workers' Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Emergency funds needed for water in Ukraine

Socialist Resurgence - Sat, 10/21/2023 - 18:08

Editor’s note: Below see the letter signed by trade unionists around the country in support of the Workers’ Aid to Ukraine campaign. Workers in Kryvyi Rih are in urgent need of funds to drill water wells after Putin blew up the Kakhovka dam. As you’ll read below and hear in the link to the video appeal the water in the region is essentially undrinkable. The environmental destruction from Putin’s invasion has been immense. Now we only have 2 weeks to raise the money before there is a danger of the ground freezing. If you are a union member and want to sign on to the letter please let contact the info below. Also please share widely, there is a downloadable version of the letter. Thank you for any contributions in advance.

Emergency funds needed for water in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine

One of the harshest consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. Yuri Samoilov, from the Independent Miners Union of Ukraine, reports on the current situation and asks for international help in order to build wells which will bring potable water to the population and the workers on the front lines. “I am Yuri Samoilov, president of Kryvyi Rih section of the Independent Trade Union of Ukrainian Miners. Thanks to the efforts of our comrades of unions in France, Poland, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Great Britain, the United States and other countries, we managed to buy some barrels to store water, since in our city, after the explosion of the Kakhovka dam, the water supply situation has become very critical. In some areas of the city water is only available for 2 hours a day, and in the villages around Kryvyi Rih water is brought by truck only once or twice a week.”

“Because of this, it is very important that our people have the ability to store water during this emergency. Thanks to our brothers and sisters in unions around the world we now have the means to provide these for our members and their families.”

You can watch the appeal from Yuri here:

The Workers’ Aid to Ukraine campaign is calling on all workers, students, and common unity members to help the union and people of Kryvyi Rih buy the machines to drill these vital water wells before the ground freezes as their members and family fight on the front lines of the Russian invasion and for the rights of all working people. Our goal in the U.S. is to raise $3,000 or more toward the $10,000 needed. Fundraising will need to be transferred by November 7 if not sooner.  The campaign is organized by the International Labor Network for Solidarity and Struggles which includes major labor federations like CSP-Conlutas in Brazil and Solidaires in France. Thank you for your contribution.

Donate here:

Or on Venmo: @WVCT1 

Interested in getting involved? Email:

In solidarity with Workers’ Aid to Ukraine, initial signers (unions listed for ID only): 

Christopher Hutchinson, Teamsters Local 1150 in Stratford, CT

Blanca Missé, San Francisco State University, California Faculty Association

Marcelina Pedraza, UAW Local 551 in Chicago, IL

Evren Pallares Ó Laoghaire, Teamsters Local 170 in Worcester, MA

David Rivera, Teamsters Local 177 in Newark, NJ

Jose Montenegro, United Educators of San Francisco

Coco Smyth, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, Local 304, Columbus, OH

Daniel Piper, CREC-EA CEA, in Hartford, CT

John Kirkland,  Carpenters Local 167, Retired, Philadelphia, PA

Download and share widely by clicking on the image!

The post Emergency funds needed for water in Ukraine first appeared on Workers' Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Standing for justice in Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Fri, 10/20/2023 - 22:40
Minneapolis–Paul KD

There have been two protests in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement this past week in Minneapolis. The first was on Monday, October 9, right after the “Al Aqsa Flood” attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli mass murder campaign began. Around 300 people showed up to a downtown rally and march led by the Anti-War Committee, American Muslims for Palestine-Minnesota, and Students for Justice for Palestine-University of Minnesota. It was a great, spirited march with lots of honks in support from passing drivers, and led by Palestinian youth. The Left was also present, as well as Anti-Zionist Jews.

On Sunday, October 15, the same groups organized another march in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. This one was absolutely massive, with somewhere between 2,000-5,000 people showing up. This would make it the largest rally in Minneapolis since the George Floyd Uprising, and the largest in the Twin Cities since a Planned Parenthood-led march after the Dobbs decision last summer. A lot of credit has to go to the organizations who have consistently led these marches for years, through lots of repression and American ignorance. Just this spring, for instance, the annual Nakba Day march in the same neighborhood, led by the same organizations, barely scraped by 100 people. It is a testament to their integrity that from small marches to huge ones they have never wavered from their strong messages of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance to 75 years of Israeli apartheid rule.

Photo by Paul KD. New York City–Sherry Wolf

On Friday, October 13 at sunset, a gathering of two thousand people led by Jewish Voice for Peace, Not in our Name, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice marched from Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to the home of Senator Chuck Schumer. Dozens were arrested during an act of civil disobedience.

The mostly-Jewish, multigenerational crowd, including numbers of new activists, came out in a visible show of explicitly Jewish opposition to Israel’s massacre.

The atmosphere was somber, as some were grieving loved ones on both sides who’ve been harmed or killed. Participants refused the idea that a forced exodus and genocide would be in the name of Jews. Chants of “Never again is now!” and “Never again for anyone!” rose alongside “Free Palestine!” A rabbi spoke and gave the shabbas prayer; they spoke of genocide not being a Jewish value. A Mizrachi Israeli-Turkish woman spoke about the need to reject tribalism.

The crowd grew as the sun set, and Jewish anti-Zionist leaders implored comrades to take the week off of work, disrupt our lives, take action to stop this genocide in any way we can. Mobilizations by JVP have been called for Monday and Wednesday in Washington, DC. with rides being coordinated online.

Dearborn, MI–Hank Kennedy

Today (October 14) there was a large rally for Palestine in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a large Muslim population. The liberal Detroit Free Press claimed hundreds attended but the alternative paper the Metro Times, more accurately to the observations of my partner and I, stated that thousands were present despite the drizzly weather. The rally was endorsed by numerous Palestinian groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and the Palestinian Youth Movement. Endorsers from left-wing groups included the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), the Communist Party-USA, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The University of Michigan Graduate Employees Organizing Committee also endorsed the rally, despite the pro-Israel slant of their parent union, the AFT. Notably absent from the endorsers was Detroit DSA. There was one counter demonstrator who carried a sign saying “The NSA Can See Everything” and played loud music from a portable speaker. At first I thought he was a crank, but my partner surmised that he was there to intimidate people and imply that marchers would face retaliation from the government.

Los Angeles–Denée Jackson

On Thursday, October 19, at a gathering organized by the organization IfNotNow, 70 protesters, all Jewish, held a direct action at the Los Angeles home of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Emhoff is Jewish and the crowd appealed to his values to demand a ceasefire now.

It was a very powerful demonstration. We prayed together in Hebrew (the Shema), did the mourner’s Kaddish together, sang songs in Hebrew (“Lo Yisa Goy” and “Olam Chesed Yibaneh”), sang “We Rise” by Batya Levine, which was written in the struggle of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and “We Have Not Come Here Alone.” We read poems by Palestinians: “To Our Land” by Mahmoud Darwish, “We Never Stop” by Najwan Darwish, “Out of Three or Four in a Room” by Yehuda Amichai. People shared personal stories about how devastated they are that Israel is and has been killing Palestinians. NOT IN OUR NAME was one of the main chants that was powerful from Jews to say we do not stand for genocide or the killing of Palestinians in our name. “My grief is not a weapon” was also shared on signs and in speeches.

We were urging Doug Emhoff to join us. A main theme was the Jewish principle in Halakha called “pikuach nefesh,” that saving a human life is the most important mitzva; it’s above any other good thing you could do in the world. We also say that to save a life is to save the world. All life is sacred, period. “Ceasefire now!” was also a main chant alongside “End, end the occupation, free, free, free Palestine,” “Up, up with liberation, down, down with occupation,” and “We say justice, you say how, end the occupation now!” The street we were on had plenty of cars driving by and there were lots of honks or cheering in support.

There were a few cars that doubled back a couple of times to call us terrorists. There was one Jewish woman who drove by a few times yelling and then parked and got out to yell at us more. She said we are not Jews and that we are Hamas, and not human, and terrorists. I was also harassed as I left by a white man who followed me to a car that was going to take me back to my car. He was trying to take my photo and I was covering my face with a sign and he asked why I was covering my face and if it’s because I’m a terrorist. He came across the street and continued taking photos and videos and said he was going to send the photos and pictures of my license plate to homeland security. The event ended with lots of cops and secret service people (maybe 10 of each) standing around and across the street.

Photo by Justin Kohlberg. Photo by Denée Jackson.
Categories: D2. Socialism

Why capitalism fails

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 10/19/2023 - 20:37

There is little debate among mainstream, radical, and Marxian economists that periodic crises mark the history of capitalism. In the US and globally, at least forty recessions and depressions, lasting six to eight years on average, have occurred since the early nineteenth century. Each of these cycles is marked by a three-to-four-year boom in investment and production, followed by a contraction in output and investment and a wave of business bankruptcies. In addition to these cycles, there have been at least four long periods of accumulation—1869-1914, 1914-1965, 1965-1983, and 1982-2008.

Source, Michael Roberts (2020, February 27), Marx’s Law of Profitability at SOAS.

Each of these long, accumulative waves was marked by twenty to twenty-five years of contractions, where recessions were deep and recoveries weak; and twenty to twenty-five years of expansion, where recessions were weak and recoveries strong. There is a general consensus that the capitalist world economy entered a new long period of stagnation and contraction around 2007-2008.

However, there is little agreement about the causes and consequences of this recurring economic turbulence. Mainstream economists insist that the “market economy” (their euphemism for capitalism) should produce smooth and steady growth. Recessions and long-term crises are the result of unexpected and unpredictable “shocks” to the economy. Radical and Marxian economists, on the other hand, argue that economic downturns are a necessary feature of capitalism. As Anwar Shaik argues, crises are “an absolutely normal phase of a long-standing recurrent pattern of capitalist accumulation in which long booms eventually give way to long downturns.”

Although radical and Marxian economists agree that capitalism is subject to periodic crises, there is no consensus on what causes crises. Today, most radical economists claim that the root of capitalist crisis is not located in the production process, but in the absence of “effective demand”—they are crises of “under-consumption.” In the 1970s and 1980s, most critical economists saw crises rooted in the struggle between capital and labor over wages and profits. These “profit-squeeze” theorists argued that some combination of wage increases or workers’ successful resistance to speed-up and deskilling led to declining labor-productivity in the 1960s, reducing profits and sparking the global crisis of that era. Finally, the defenders of Marx’s theory of the falling rate of profit argue that crises are a necessary result of the competitively driven process of capitalist accumulation.

For many on the Left, these debates appear to be abstract, academic disputes with little relevance to political practice. In reality, different socialist strategies rest, implicitly or explicitly, on different crisis theories. This talk will review the three main radical and Marxian theories—under-consumption, profit squeeze, and the falling rate of profit-to determine their theoretical consistency, factual accuracy and political implications. While there is no one-to-one correspondence between a crisis theory and political strategy, under-consumption and profit-squeeze arguments are generally associated with reformist, social-democratic politics. However, revolutionaries have also embraced these theories. We will focus on how each theory crisis defines not merely causes, but a range of possible resolutions of the crisis which then defines the concrete program a radical Left should fight for, and the social forces we rely upon.


Before the 1970s—and again since the 2007-2008 recession—the dominant crisis theory on the US and global Left is one or another variant of under-con­sumption. Economists associated with the US Communist Party, the Monthly Review school of Baran, Sweezy and John Bellamy Foster, the AFL-CIO aligned Economic Policy Institute, the Democratic Party liberal Paul Krugman and the “post-modern Marxist” Richard Wolf all argue that recurrent economic crises are the result of capitalism’s lack of any internal mechan­ism to generate demand sufficient to buy-back a growing supply of goods and services. In its simplest form, the fact that workers are paid a wage that is less than the value of what they produce is said to give rise to a gap between demand and supply. Under-con­sumption theories, like the profit-squeeze arguments, appeal to many on the anti-capitalist Left because the make the relationship of class forces the root cause of capitalist crisis. As capitalists pursue the greatest profits by restraining wages, they actually destroy the markets for their output, leading to crises.

The revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg argued that the inability of capitalist to sell their goods at “home” compels them to seek “external markets” abroad for their excess supply. She concluded that once the entire world became capitalist, the inability to find markets for goods and services would lead to the collapse of capitalism. Nevertheless, under-consumption theories of crises are usually mobilized to support the creation of a “regulated capitalism.” Many proponents of the theory argue that the “golden age” of capitalism from 1940 to 1975 overcame the problem of ‘insufficient demand” through capitalist state policies that redistributed income to workers and provided incentives for capitalist investment. Today they argue that a coalition of union officials, social movement leaders, and “progressive” politicians like those who lead European social-democratic parties or the US Democratic Party can secure a new “win-win” solution to the crisis that would raise living standards for workers and increase profitability for capitalists. Put simply, under-consumption theories generally support the reformist claim that capitalist crises can be avoided if the state, as a “neutral arbiter,” can successfully balance the interests of capital and labor—balancing supply and demand.

Under-consumption theories rest on a fundamentally false assumption about capitalism—that capitalists produce only consumer goods, and the only “market” for consumer goods are the workers who produce them. In reality, however, capitalists produce both consumer and capital goods—machinery, buildings, raw materials and the like. Workers employed in an expanding consumer and capital goods sector can earn enough to buy the output of the consumer goods sector; while capitalists in both the consumer and capital goods sector can spend enough to buy the output of the capital goods sector. As long as capitalists in both the capital and consumer goods sectors are investing, supply and demand can be turbulently regulated, leading to short-term business cycles rather than long periods of growth and stagnation. Continued investment—capital accumulation—ultimately depends upon rising profits. When profits fall, investment slacks, employment drops, and demand for both consumer and capital goods drops—leading to “over-production.” Put simply, “under-consumption” is the result, not the cause, of falling profits.

The political implications of the theory of the falling rate of profit are profound. Capitalist state policies, under any government whether of the “left” or “right,” cannot engineer a “win-win” solution to the crisis that simultaneously maintains employment, wages and working conditions and the conditions for profitable and competitive accumulation.

There is considerable empirical evidence to challenge the notion that insufficient demand causes crises. Most economists recognize that capitalist firms adjust to fluctuations in demand by adjusting capacity utilization—increasing or reducing the number of workers through the addition or elimination of work shifts. Shaikh has developed a statistical method to adjust profit rate data for capacity utilization. He found that profits, even when adjusted for capacity utilization—fluctuations in demand—still fall periodically. Michael Roberts has examined the relationship between fluctuations in consumption, investment and total output in six cyclical downturns since the 1950s. In each the primary driver of the decline in output is not changes in consumption, but sharp drops in profit-driven investment. In fact, during the 1980-1982 recession, consumption grew around one percent, while investment dropped over ten percent leading to a nearly one percent drop in output.


During the last long crisis of profitability of the late 1960s and 1970s, the profit-squeeze became the dominant left-wing explanation of the decline of profitability and accumulation across the capitalist world. Today few claim that the increased strength of workers—who have suffered nearly continuous defeats since the early 1980s—has caused the current crisis. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a number of radical economists argued that the increasing strength of workers, the result of wild-cat strikes and other workplace struggles, caused a sharp and general fall in profits in all of the industrial capitalist societies. Two revolutionary socialists, Andrew Glyn and Bob Sutcliff, were the first to argue that rising workers’ wages in the late 1960s led to a decline in capitalist profitability in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, three left social-democrats, Sam Bowles, David Gordon, and Tom Weiskopf, took up this argument, claiming that the ability of workers to raise wages, win broad social reforms that partially “de-commodified” labor-power, and blocked corpo­rate attempts to reorganize the labor process was the primary cause of the crisis. Workers’ struggles led to a declining rate of growth of labor product­ivity, rising costs of maintaining capital­ist control over workers in production, and a rising “social wage” (social welfare payments), all of which squeezed corporate profits.

Like under-consumption theories, profit-squeeze theories appealed to many anti-capitalists and socialists because they made class power— in this case, the strength of labor—the key determinant of profitability. However, making class struggle the central determinant of profitability actually led to a politics of class collaboration. Gordon, Bowles and Weiskopf were important propone­nts of workplace “co-management” and “labor-management coopera­tion.” They claimed that these experiments in “work-place democracy” would raise productivity, allowing both capitalists’ profits and workers’ living and working conditions to improve simulta­neously. Many advocates of this solution to the crisis argued that “workplace democracy” could be won by an alliance of labor officials and liberal Democrats. As Jane Slaughter, Mike Parker, Kim Moody and others have demonstrated, such experiments in labor-management cooperation have been, at best, a cover for the introduction and spread of lean production—weakening unions and fragmenting and intensifying work across the capitalist economy.

Logically and theoretically, rising wages or declining worker efforts can only reduce profits for short periods of time and only in certain branches of production. Capitalists in a particular industry can respond to rising wages or declining worker effort through either the introduction of new and more productive machinery; or, if this is not immediately possible, by diverting new investment into industries where wages are lower, worker effort more intense and profits higher. Put simply, neither rising wages nor declining worker effort can lead to a general and prolonged crisis of profitability like that of the 1960s and 1970s. Data also challenges the “profit squeeze” argument. The rate of growth of productivity began to fall in the mid-1960s—well before the upsurge of worker militancy—as the result of falling capital investment. The fall in capital investment was a response to falling profit. Put simply, the slowdown of productivity growth was an effect, not the cause of the onset of the crisis in the mid-1960s.

The falling rate of profit

Marx put forward the theory of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in the third volume of Capital, which was first published in 1894. However, most Marxists in both the Second and Third Internationals ignored the theory until 1929, when Henryk Grossman published his groundbreaking The Law of Accumulation. Today, Anwar Shaikh and Michael Roberts are among its best-known advocates. The theory roots crises in the same mechanisms that produce capitalism’s dynamism—accumulation and competition. For capitalists, real competition compels them to constantly reduce cost per unit output in relation to other capitalists. Capitalists, in order to survive the competitive war of all against all, not only have to reduce wage costs, but must also constantly reorganize work to increase labor-productivity—the rate of exploitation. Capitalists increase exploitation through both the fragmentation and routinization of tasks, and, crucially through the mechanization of the production process. Capitalism necessarily leads to debilitating, alienating work; constant pressure to cut wages and speed up the pace of work; and the replacement of workers with machines.

At the center of Marx’s theory of crisis is the increasing capitalization of production—or rising organic composition of capital.

The rate of profit can be expressed as a simple fraction. The numerator of the fraction is the total amount of unpaid labor—surplus-value (S)—pumped out of working people. The fraction’s denominator is the capitalists’ investment costs in buildings, machinery and raw materials—constant capital (C) — and wages – variable capital (V). We can also view the rate of profit as the relationship between the amount of surplus value produced comapared to wages—the rate of exploitation (S/V)—and the relationship between constant capital and variable capital—the organic composition of capital (C/V). This formula allows us to grasp the relationship between the rate of exploitation and the organic composition of capital. The higher the rate of exploitation and the lower the organic composition of capital, the higher the rate of profit. The lower the rate of exploitation, and the higher the organic composition of capital, the lower the rate of profit. When the organic composition of capital rises more quickly than the rate of exploitation the rate of profit will fall. If the rate of exploitation rises more quickly than the organic composition of capital—as the result of massive bankruptcies that destroy inefficient constant capital combined with increasing work-intensity and lowering of wages—the rate of profit will rise. Put simply, capitalist accumulation and competition produce both the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and its counter-tendency—both crises and recoveries.

Both Roberts and Shaikh have constructed measures of the rate of profit. Shaikh plots the movements of the Rate of Profit of Enterprise for US Nonfinancial Corporations from 1947-2007.

Source: Anwar Shaikh, “The First Great Depression of the 21st Century” In L. Panitch, G. Albo and V. Chibber (eds.), Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time (New York: Monthly Review, 2010).

The general rate of profit is the measured gross of monetary profit minus interest paid divided by the capital stock. The rate of profit of enterprise is the general rate of profit minus the rate of interest. According to Shaikh, the rate of profit of enterprise “is the central drive of accumulation, the material foundation of the ‘animal spirits’ of industrial capital.” It is the average rate of profit capitalists earn from productive investment—rather than investing in financial instruments. We can see three distinct phases of the movement of profitability since the Second World War. The first phase, from 1947-1966 was the post-war boom, which saw a relatively stable rate of profit of enterprise. The second phase, from 1966-1982 was the “Stagflation Crisis,” with a sharp decline in the rate of profit of enterprise, falling from 14 percent in 1966 to -5 percent in 1982. The third was the “neo-liberal boom” of 1982-2007, characterized by a sharp increase in the rate of profit of enterprise, from a low of-5 percent in 1982 to 10 percent in 2005.

Three factors ended the “Stagflation Crisis” and sustained the “Neo-Liberal boom.” The first were two waves of bankruptcies—the initial destruction of less efficient and less profitable firms during the recession of 1980-82, followed by waves of corporate reorganizations and mergers and acquisitions over the next decade which shuttered older, less competitive and profitable operations. These bankruptcies and corporate reorganization reduced the value of the capital-stock—devalorizing constant capital and reducing the organic composition of capital, the denominator of the rate of profit. The scale of the devalorization of constant capital in the 1980s paled in comparison to that of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Not surprisingly, the neo-liberal boom was not anywhere near as vibrant as the post-war expansion. Instead, the wave of bankruptcies in the 1980s were on a similar scale to those during the “long depression” of the 1870s and 1880s, which produced the less dynamic long expansion of 1894–1914. The second factor was the exceedingly low interest rates in the US and globally after c. 1983, that sustained the rate of profit on enterprise until 2008.

Source: Anwar Shaikh, “The First Great Depression of the 21st Century” in L. Panitch, G. Albo and V. Chibber (eds.), Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time (New York: Monthly Review, 2010).

Finally, a depression of wage increases and a radical increase in the labor productivity raised the numerator of the rate of profit. Shaikh’s establishes that hourly productivity (the rate of exploitation) rose sharply in the neoliberal era, while real wages were either stagnant (until 1997) or lagged far behind the increased rate of exploitation. He also demonstrates that if capital had not “taken matters into their own hands”—keeping wages and wage increases below the increase in the rate of exploitation—the rate of profit would have continued to fall after 1982. Instead, the increased rate of exploitation sustained a rising rate of profit during the neoliberal boom.

Anwar Shaikh, “The First Great Depression of the 21st Century” in L. Panitch, G. Albo and V. Chibber (eds.), Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time (New York: Monthly Review, 2010).

Most of us are familiar with the main ways that capitalists increased the rate of exploitation over the past four decades. On the one hand, the employers’ offensive saw renewed union-busting, the spread of two-tier wage and benefit systems. On the other, it introduced radical changes in work-rules which allowed the generalization of what Moody and others have called lean production – division and simplification of tasks, multi-tasking, reduction and elimination of breaks, speed-up, and other measures to “squeeze the pores out of the working day.” Lean production allowed capitalists to raise output per hour (rate of exploitation) while keeping real wages stagnant or rising at a slower rate than productivity.

Another factor reducing wages and increasing the rate of surplus-value was the creation of global production chains—what is generally called “globalization.” We should remember that 75 percent of global investment remains within the country of origin, and 70 percent of foreign direct investment flows from one industrialized country to another. For example, when Ford or General Motors invests, three-quarters of their investments are in the US, and seven-tenths of their overseas investments are in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. Most of the fifteen to twenty percent of global investment that flows from the global north to the global south is concentrated in the more labor-intensive, wage sensitive parts of production, for example auto parts and electronic components. These operations were moved to the global south to take advantage of lower wages—ensuring a rising rate of exploitation in the core of the world-economy. As during the imperialist expansion before the First World War, imperialist investment in low organic composition of capital industries in the global South raised profitability across the globe.

The long wave of expansion that began in the mid-1980s was not—and could not be permanent. As profits rose, capitalist accumulation began anew. The resulting increasing capitalization of production led to declining rates of profit, and eventually a stagnation in the mass of profits. The capitalist world entered a long wave of stagnation in 2007-2008 from which it is yet to emerge. This period is marked by lower profits on new investment in the face of productive overcapacity, resulting in longer and deeper recessions. It is this new economic context that makes financial meltdowns, like the collapse of cryptocurrencies or the Silicon Valley Bank, so dangerous for capital. Financial crises rooted in increased investment in “fictitious capital”—claims on future wealth—is a feature of the peak of every business cycle. If the underlying conditions of profitability and accumulation are healthy for capital, then financial crises are relatively mild and lead to a new cycle of strong growth. This was the case with the stock market crash of 1987, the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s, and the “ bubble” of the first decade of this century. However, when the underlying conditions of profitability and accumulation are unhealthy for capital—as they are today—financial crises carry with them much greater risks.

For capitalists, real competition compels them to constantly reduce cost per unit output in relation to other capitalists. Capitalists, in order to survive the competitive war of all against all, not only have to reduce wage costs, but must also constantly reorganize work to increase labor-productivity—the rate of exploitation.

Capitalist state bailouts of the financial system have, so far, prevented a total collapse of the financial system and a new 1930s style depression. However, preventing financial collapse—especially when combined with state ‘industrial policy’ that provide incentives for investment in manufacturing—allows the survival of non-competitive, “zombie capitals” and prolongs the crisis of profitability. Not only do cyclical recoveries remain anemic, but the infusion of money into the economy through policies to stimulate investment and consumption fuel inflation in a period of low profitability. The end of the “COVID recession” saw a return of the stagflation that plagued the capitalist world in the late 1960s and 1970s. The managers of the capitalist state, whether Democrats or Republicans, will attempt to walk a fine line between the political imperatives of reviving US industrial and military competitiveness (what has become a feature of “Bidenomics”) and maintaining employment, on the one hand; and the need to “tame inflation” to discipline both capitalists and workers and restore profitability on the other.

The political implications of the theory of the falling rate of profit are profound. Capitalist state policies, under any government whether of the “left” or “right,” cannot engineer a “win-win” solution to the crisis that simultaneously maintains employment, wages and working conditions and the conditions for profitable and competitive accumulation. Socialists engaged in any and all struggles that challenge capital—whether for better wages and working conditions, to expand social spending, and to build a mass challenge to the rising tide of attacks on people of color, immigrants, women and queer folks—need to understand that there are no “win-win” solutions to these struggles. Only independent, mass and militant movements of working people—capable and willing to engage in massive social disruption, in particular disruptions of production—will be able to stop the renewed capitalist offensive. The inability of the forces of official reformism (labor officials, middle class leaders of women, queers and people of color, liberal politicians) to organize these sorts of struggles is what has led them to abandon the struggle for reform. As we have seen time and time again, we cannot rely on these forces to organize a struggle to defend the existing gains of working and oppressed people, no less traverse the only road out of the long roller coaster of capitalist expansion and crisis—the revolutionary abolition of capitalism. Only a self-organized and militant working-class movement will be capable of defending past gains and ultimately replacing the current social order with a democratic and collectivist society—socialism.

Suggested Readings:

Henryk Grossman, The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System, Being Also a Theory of Crisis, (Haymarket Books, 2022).

Michael Roberts, The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism (Haymarket Books, 2016).

Michael Roberts Blog: Blogging from A Marxist Economist.

Anwar Shaikh, “An Introduction to the History of Crisis Theories” in US Capitalism in Crisis (Union of Radical Political Economics, 1978).

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism


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