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D2. Socialism

Response to Camfield and Post on “What would it take to win in Palestine?”

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 01/11/2024 - 16:56

I found the article “What would it take to win in Palestine?” by David Camfield and Charlie Post a real missed opportunity to discuss the current conjuncture. In many ways, it reads as if it could have been written forty or fifty years ago.

I don’t see a possibility of breaking any section of the Israeli Jewish working class from the Zionist order, any more than it was possible to win over sections of the white working class in South Africa. While you acknowledge that in the article, the piece does still quote Moshe Machover approvingly that Zionism cannot be overthrown without the participation and consent of a section of Jewish workers. How do you square this circle?

I also worry about the notion that Palestinians should avoid harming Jewish Israeli non-combatants. These non-combatants are settlers in Palestine ‘48 (Israel) and in the occupied territories, serve in the Israeli occupation force; thus, they  are part of the state machine involved in committing genocide. They are hardly civilians. In fact, the one major group not involved in the colonial armed forces are Orthodox Jews, whose leaders call for the expulsion of all Palestinians (and worse).

Clearly, you are correct in arguing for a regional revolutionary strategy, and, yes, the role of the Arab working class in Egypt and elsewhere is crucial, but Marxists have argued that for years. Moreover, it is likely that renewed working class struggle in the Arab metropolises will shift opinion among the settler community even further to the right rather than leading to a fracturing of the settler working class.

We are currently in the midst of the largest popular movement in my political lifetime, at least in Britain, at the center of which are hundreds of thousands of young people and in which Palestinians and people of color, particularly young women, are playing a leadership role. Yet the article has no Palestinian voices, other than from the past. There is no engagement with the debates in the current movement about the way forward, no sense of the anger and passion on the streets and the role this movement can play in weakening the resolve of the rulers of the imperial heartlands who are backing genocide.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

We are fighting for Palestinian liberation

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 01/08/2024 - 20:04

In early December, the Los Angeles branch of Tempest Collective co-organized a Palestine teach-in at All Saints’ Church with Pasadena City College’s Anti-War Club, Middle East and North African Students’ association, and other campus and community allies. The event drew around 70 attendees at its height, featuring presentations from Tempest members, Anti-War Club students, and a local Palestinian community member who came from Gaza. We publish here an edited transcript of Tempest LA member Denée Jackson’s speech on centering solidarity with Palestine from the position of intersecting identities.

I want to begin by sharing my identities to position myself in this conversation. I’m biracial—Black and white—queer, Jewish, working-class, and a woman. Intersectional solidarity is important to me. It’s life for me and for my people who identify with multiple marginalized identities. Many of these identities, as some of you may know already, have been weaponized by Zionists in their propaganda to support the genocide of Palestinians. So, what I’m going to be talking about today is solidarity, and I will begin by talking about Black solidarity with Palestine.

In the 1960s, Black liberation struggles were fighting for basic human dignity, which Black folks have never had in the United States. There were many movements going on at the time, such as the Civil Rights Movement.

I want to quote Martin Luther King Jr., who has been weaponized by Zionists to say that he supports Israel. And indeed, he was once in support of the State of Israel and had a trip scheduled with a delegation to the Holy Land. It was interrupted by the Six-Day War, and so he canceled his trip. Later he was quoted in an interview saying that Israel should “give up the land” back to the Palestinians. Today, we have all kinds of social media to figure out what is happening on the ground in Palestine. In 1967, that wasn’t the case. But once he learned about what was happening and raised his political consciousness, King knew better. He knew that solidarity with Palestinians meant land back. Also, the Black Panthers used an image of Leila Khaled, who was a fighter for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I highly recommend reading her biography. The Panthers used her image to articulate their politics around the global struggle against colonial powers, because they knew that it was the same colonial powers that oppressed folks all over the world.

I also want to share a victorious example of Black-Palestinian solidarity. In Detroit in the early 1970s, Palestinians and other Arab Americans took inspiration from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers to create their own organization. In 1973, they went on strike to pressure the United Auto Workers (UAW) to divest from Israeli state bonds. Today, the UAW is the largest union to sign on to a ceasefire resolution, building on this legacy of workers’ solidarity for Palestine.

We know Black folks in the United States were stolen from their ancestral lands, just as Palestinians have been displaced from theirs. Neither group has ever been given equal opportunities in life, and similar structures of oppression are shared between Black and Palestinian peoples. So, I want to talk about abolition as a step toward liberation led by Black people in the United States, which also means applying abolitionist principles to a free Palestine.

I want to call in a couple of books that have really helped to define my identity as a pro-Palestine abolitionist: Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ’Til We Free Us and Angela Davis’ Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.

So, first, what is abolition today? Abolition is completely eliminating systems of surveillance, policing, and imprisonment. It’s not just “don’t give them any more funding,” but completely destroying them because we know that policing and prison are death-making institutions and they serve to reproduce violence, even though we’re taught that they are supposed to promote safety.

Surveillance companies and punitive tactics in the United States operate the same as those in Israel. Israel is central to the militarization of police forces globally, and in the United States, police chiefs to campus police have been trained by Israeli forces.

Solidarity is the principle that I want life for myself, I want my basic needs met and safety, and maybe I even want to thrive. And therefore I want that for every single human because I know that my liberation is completely bound to theirs.

We also know that reformist alternatives to prisons don’t work: house arrests and probation-these are not unlike the harsh carceral systems in Gaza that also limit life. So, again, we need complete elimination. This is one aspect of abolition, but the other important piece is building up new institutions with love. We advocate for safe housing, youth programming, training up street medics, first responders, and transformative justice practitioners. We create these things at the same time as we abolish those things. And a lot of the time it’s trial and error. We try and fail, and we try again, because we know that anything is better than this current system that we have right now.

So when we apply this to Palestine, we need to remember that we are fighting not just for a ceasefire and an end to the ongoing violence. We are fighting for Palestinian liberation. It’s about building the structures that would support life in Palestine, too. And this is what differentiates our vision—the abolitionist vision—from the Democrats’ vision, which waters down what ceasefire means (if they even talk about ceasefire at all). We’re talking about liberation.

As a Black Jewish person, I also want to make a connection to Jewish solidarity with Palestine, and how Zionists are not for Jewish liberation, whether for Jews in Israel, Jews in the diaspora, and especially for those of us with multiple marginalized identities. I want to draw one parallel to pull in why we will never win liberation under capitalism and colonialism. In the United States, settlers armed white folks to protect property, particularly human property—enslaved Africans—and then created the police force to also protect their property and therefore their capital. And after the Holocaust, when Zionists settled in occupied Palestine, Israel also armed Jews to massacre Palestinians—thus committing atrocities that they themselves had experienced only a few years earlier.

They militarized Israelis to first steal property with lethal force and then protect their property with lethal force. And today they’re arming settlers in the West Bank to shoot and displace Palestinians. Zionists turned Jews into murderers and said you can only be free if you oppress and kill other people. That is not liberation. Anti-Zionist Jews today are crying “Not in our name.” Not in our names should Zionists have ever been allowed to steal Palestinian land and murder Palestinians. As a Black person with ancestors who were enslaved in the United States and a Jewish person with ancestors who came to New York to survive the Holocaust, I will absolutely never support genocide against any humans in my name.

A note about solidarity in general: Solidarity is not transactional. It’s not showing up for someone just because they showed up for you, or showing up for someone with the expectation that they must show up for you in the future. Solidarity is the principle that I want life for myself, I want my basic needs met and safety, and maybe I even want to thrive. And therefore I want that for every single human because I know that my liberation is completely bound to theirs.

James Baldwin wrote to Angela Davis, “If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” History teaches us this is true. This is what imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism do: they create hierarchies of life and dispose of people who are at the lower rungs of these hierarchies, particularly poor people, people with disabilities, people of color, and people who live in places where capitalists want to extract natural resources.

I would like to end with hope. Mariame Kaba says, “Hope is a discipline.” We have to practice it, especially when it’s not easy at the moment. We have to have hope that change is possible. We have to build independent grassroots organizations, which I see us doing—and we can do more. We have to divest from this two-party system. Democrats will never win us liberation. We have to boycott and divest from U.S. corporate entities that support Israeli occupation. And we have to have hope that we will free Palestine.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Featured image credit: “Palestine sunbird standing on a fence,” Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Anti-racist rebellion and the Left

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 01/07/2024 - 20:29

It has been a little over three years since the beginning of the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020. Given the intense conservative backlash in the wake of the movement, 2020 in some ways feels like a distant, foggy memory. Since those protests, and especially more recently, I’ve found myself thinking about that summer—both struggling to remember what it felt like and asking myself a number of questions: How did it feel to be out on the streets? How open was the political moment for a more radical social transformation? What did we think was possible? What were the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the movement? What impact were the protests going to have moving forward, and how were things going to change?

With the benefit of hindsight, we perhaps have partial answers to some of these questions. There is still much that the Left has to discuss in order to make sense of what happened; in a way, it feels like this momentous, historic series of events took place, and then things just returned to “normal,” if we understand normal to be the dystopian times in which we are living. Although the opening created by the movement that summer has closed for now, things will undoubtedly never be the same. Whatever shortcomings they contained, the protests altered the discourse, logic, and trajectory of American society.

For there to be an anthology of essays, many of which were written in real time during the uprising, is invaluable. The discussions we can have as a result of these contributions and how they help us tap back into our own individual and collective experiences of this time period cannot be overlooked.

For these reasons, The George Floyd Uprising edited by Vortex Group represents a significant contribution to our collective memory, understanding, and experience of the summer of 2020. The collection brings together numerous accounts from and about the uprising, ranging from June 2020 to May 2021. As the editors acknowledge, the contributions are far from homogeneous: “in spite of a shared commitment … [the] authors diverge around a number of key political, social, and strategic questions,” including those of “race and identity, abolitionism and reform, the role of weapons and ethics,” and more (5-6).

For there to be an anthology of essays, many of which were written in real time during the uprising, is invaluable. The discussions we can have as a result of these contributions and how they help us tap back into our own individual and collective experiences of this time period cannot be overlooked. At the same time, knowing what we know now, it is clear that some of the contributions were overly optimistic about the potential for the protests to mark a revolutionary moment. “At the risk of sounding naive,” writes Idris Robinson, “I sincerely believe that the riots that we have all witnessed and hopefully participated in this summer have opened the window to insurrection and even a full blown revolution” (76). Additionally, a number of the political and strategic conclusions lend themselves to criticism.

The authors of the book provide analyses and first hand accounts from New York City, Portland, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kenosha, and Louisville, and engage with topics including tactics and strategy, the role of identity, race, and class, the cooptation and repression faced by the uprising, the absence of the organized Left from the struggle, the question of organizational forms, and more. There is so much we have yet to discuss and learn from what happened in the summer of 2020, and this book represents an important resource for doing so.

Political Conclusions from the Struggle Context

As noted above, the authors of the various contributions approach the events of the summer from a number of different perspectives based on where they were, in what capacity they participated, and the distinct political views they brought with them into those experiences. That said, there are a number of shared observations and conclusions that authors draw throughout the anthology. These political conclusions imply, or rather highlight, an element of universality across the struggles (despite the differences between each place) and are worth examining in some detail.

An important starting point is the larger context in which this uprising occurred. While the uprising itself was specifically a response to racist police violence and inequality, it was also about “class, capitalism, COVID 19, Trump, and much more” (26). At the end of May 2020, when the protests first erupted after the murder of George Floyd, the country had been in lockdown for over two months. At least 36 million Americans were on some type of unemployment, “essential workers” were risking their lives daily to provide essential services and to increase the profits for the capitalist class, and millions were facing eviction due to their inability to pay rent. Many people faced or experienced precarity in a way they had never before, creating a situation in which the contradictions and shortcomings of the capitalist system—which prioritizes profits over human need—became more apparent to increasingly large portions of the population (41). It was this larger context that created an even more combustible terrain on which the uprising would unfold.

Healthcare workers join a march for Black Lives in Seattle on June 9, 2020. Photo by Backbone Campaign. A Black-led, multiracial uprising

A number of authors make two related and important observations about the nature of the uprisings: It was the Black proletariat that initiated and sparked them and served as their most militant element. In these ways, it provided leadership to the movement. At the same time, however, the uprising was multiethnic/multiracial, and it would be inaccurate to say it was simply a Black rebellion or Black uprising.

The fact that the uprising was Black-led and also deeply multiracial is important for several reasons. First, it highlights the fact that in the United States, “the Black struggle has served a singular role in American radical politics, often acting as the igniting element that sets wider layers of society into motion” (6). Crucially, though, while “the Black proletariat is the most revolutionary of the US proletariat … it can’t defeat capitalism on its own” (210). It is imperative for anyone interested in overthrowing and dismantling capitalism to “respect and support the autonomy of the Black revolutionary struggle” in order to ensure that the desire for multiracial solidarity does not “come at the expense of Black liberation” (29). In other words, it will be necessary to simultaneously respect and support the uniqueness of the struggle for Black liberation, born of the foundational role of anti-Blackness in this country, while also connecting that struggle to larger struggles that aim to move beyond capitalism.

A crowd gathers before a mural by Peyton Scott Russell the evening after George Floyd’s memorial service. Photo by Lorie Shaull.

Some of the authors note that while it is easy to draw parallels between the George Floyd uprising and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the 1960s, they are qualitatively different in several important ways. First, “white workers were largely absent from the urban rebellions that took place” in the 1960s. While this isn’t necessarily to say that white workers, or workers as organized workers, participated in the George Floyd uprisings en masse, it was “a multiracial proletariat that rebelled” this time, making “comparisons of this rebellion to 1968 wrong” (29).

Furthermore, today, unlike the 1960s, there are a number of Black mayors, police commissioners, and district attorneys throughout the country. We have also seen the proliferation of NGOs and nonprofits, a number of which are Black-led. In other words, the struggles of the 1960s gave rise to new obstacles and contradictions that played an important role in the summer of 2020 and that were not present in 1968 or the 1960s more generally.

Repression, cooptation, and other challenges

It was in the interest of various groups and actors to crush the uprising. While these groups had a range of politics and deployed a variety of methods to defang, demobilize, and/or extinguish the uprising, they all set out to ensure the movement was as contained and limited as possible.

Of course, the far right, the state, the police, and similar actors set out to crush the movement as swiftly as possible, often opting for more openly violent forms of repression, including murder. The authors highlight the fact, however, that the reformist/progressive Left—including NGOs, nonprofits, the Black Lives Matter Foundation, and the Black middle class, and many if not most local politicians and community/religious leaders tied to those organizations—also played a central role in demobilizing the uprising.

“Black NGOs, including the Black Lives Matter Foundation,” write Shemon and Arturo,

hardly had any relationship to the militant phase of the rebellion. In fact, such organizations tended to play a reactionary role, often preventing riots from escalating and spreading. Black NGOs were the spearhead of the forces dividing the movement into “good” and “bad” protestors. The social base of Black NGOs is not the Black proletariat but the Black middle class and, most importantly, a segment of the radicalizing white middle class. (26)

Other authors also note that the Black middle class played a particularly reactionary role in the uprising, writing that it “uses Black proletarian struggle to advance its own cause” and arguing that a “Black led rebellion could only be crushed by a Black led counterinsurgency program” (187).

The Black middle class, though, is far from the only group which sought to limit the possibilities of the uprising and steer its achievements towards its own—less radical—ends.

Building on the false distinction between good and bad protestors, in which ‘good’ protestors were ‘peaceful’ and ‘bad’ protestors were ‘rioters’ who engaged in looting and property destruction (80-81, 84), the state and media widely spread lies about the “outside agitator” in what one author describes as “a phase of advanced misinformation.” This narrative aimed to further divide the uprising by race and identity. The media “simultaneously claim[ed] the movement had been ‘hijacked’ by white people, ‘antifa,’ and ‘insurrectionary anarchists,’ as well as by undercover white supremacists” (93). Not only were the participants, therefore, necessarily extremists, they were also white and coming in from the outside to sow and exacerbate discontent. Accordingly, Nevada writes that “the state used the fictional or exaggerated figure of the ‘white supremacist agitator’ to perpetuate anti-blackness and capitalist property relations” (103).

The “outside agitator” narrative also implied that Black people themselves were either not engaged in the protests or were not supportive of more militant tactics and forms of protest. This narrative has deep racist roots in this country’s history and “first began to take shape during the era of Black chattel slavery. The old racist story goes that slaves were happy until white abolitionists from the North excited them to revolt” (207).

“A counterinsurgency campaign has fundamentally altered the course of the movement,” writes Shemon, highlighting the fact that we cannot understand the waning of the uprising without analyzing the repression and cooptation that occurred (186).

Tactics (means and ends)

Throughout the book, various authors put forth analyses of a number of tactics and questions ranging from looting, property destruction, and the use of arms/weapons to how to engage with race and identity. The authors ask what constitutes abolition and how to actually win it.

All of the contributors who discussed looting supported it as a tactic, identifying “social” looting (80) and the caravans of looting in particular as requiring a high degree of “coordination, organization, and boldness of initiative” (181). On the question of property destruction, Nevada cites Idris Robinson when they write that “whenever property is protected, it is protected for white supremacist ends” (109), going on to argue that we should understand “every act of property destruction or looting as an expression of a grievance” (107).

A police car burns not far from Philadelphia’s City Hall on May 31, 2020.

On the question of arms/weapons, several authors argue that the use of arms represented a shortcoming, or mistake, from a strategic perspective. These questions were particularly relevant at the Wendy’s occupation in Atlanta, but were also pertinent in places like Kenosha and Louisville, as well. They argued that “the strength of the movement will depend on broad social support more than on purely military victories” (159) and that armed struggle alone is not terrain that we will be able to win on (153). Importantly, it wasn’t that arms in and of themselves were the issue, but rather the fact that the use of arms “tended to specialize itself, resulting in a form of social closure” and that

the more that armed violence detaches itself from other forms of struggle, the more it becomes something we treat as a specialized technical problem…[and] the more it will tend to become divorced from the intelligence and confidence of the crowd. (216)

Abolition is not a central topic the authors take up, but some raise questions around what constitutes abolition, as well as criticisms of “defund” as it relates to abolition. Shemon argues that revolutionary abolition was largely displaced by reformist abolition after the first week of the uprising. They write that reformist abolitionism is characterized by

the activity and politics of professional activists, NGOs, lawyers, and politicians and concerned primarily with “defunding,” policy, and legislative shifts … [and that] proposals to “defund” amount to little more than a monetary displacement from one section of the state to another. (190)

As it relates to the content of abolition itself, one author argues that, “Each structure fire contributed to the material abolition of the existing state of things” (22), whereas another argues that the “rebellion began not as an abolitionist politics centered on policy changes but as a viral contagion of demolitionist desire” (224), citing the burning of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis as an example of demolitionist and not abolitionist practice (231). Nevada argues that the neighborhood watch and citizen patrol groups that emerged in Minneapolis “cloak[ed themselves] in the language of police abolition,” but rather than prefiguring what would replace the Minneapolis Police Department, instead “assum[ed] the enforcement of the very same legal order here and now,” only with nicer faces (108-109).

The absence of the organized Left: lessons from the 2020 uprising

The role of the Left in the 2020 uprisings is generally underexplored throughout the book, which is revealing. There is widespread agreement amongst the authors that the organized Left—including socialist and other revolutionary organizations—played little to no role in the emergence, development, or deepening of the uprising. Shemon and Arturo write that the uprisings “transformed an entire generation [and] it is not the NGOs or the left, not even the revolutionary left, that has done this. It is thousands of brave young people acting on their own initiative …” (211).

I agree with the assessment that the organized/revolutionary Left played a negligible role in the uprisings; members of the organized Left did participate, but as individuals or small groupings rather than as part of an organized left as such. The anti-organizational conclusions that various authors draw, however, are a major weakness of the book.

The organized Left and revolutionary organizations are weak and, accordingly, played no significant role in the uprising … [but] the authors who argue that revolutionaries must adapt to these conditions by adopting their logic are confusing the symptoms of the problem for its cure.

One author argues that we must “embrac[e] a model of decentralization” because “the implosion of mediating institutions [is a] basic feature of our chaotic times” (139-140), while another writes that:

Twentieth-century proletarian revolution, [which] was imagined as a process whereby the working class would grow exponentially up to a crucial threshold, at which point it would become politically hegemonic, take power, and produce a new world out of the shell of the old … is no longer conceivable. (160)

Another author argues that our ability to

fac[e] the organizational problem with an understanding of fragmentation as a condition rather than a shortcoming will be crucial to allowing our movements to flourish—rather than decay—under the mark of leaderlessness. (149)

Several authors also question and problematize the role of class as both a framework of analysis and potential revolutionary subject. One author writes that the “crowd,” rather than class, is a more effective framework for understanding the uprising (12, 19).

Adrian Wohlleben takes this further, arguing that

it is difficult to imagine an insurrection in the USA today taking the form of a disciplined consolidation of marginal social groups—e.g., a crystallization of crowds into “classes” through solidarity … (230).

They argue that focusing on the sphere of production represents a strain of “ultraleft thought” (244), pointing instead to the Yellow Vest movement as an example of a contemporary uprising that put forth a new and potentially revolutionary logic. Namely, it focused on a “leading gesture” (in this case, putting on the yellow vest) which “becomes a vessel into which a broad swath of singular antagonists feel invited to pour their outrage, aggression, and ferocious joy” (227-228). Additionally, such movements “allow individuals to move alongside one another, while preserving their own respective reasons for fighting, thereby inviting each of us to trust in our own singular evaluation of the situation” (229). Rejecting class and notions of mass revolutionary parties, they argue that “it is considerably easier to imagine a viral contagion of actions that respond intelligently to their moment escalating into mass experiments in communist sharing on a variety of scales” (230).

I agree with the authors that the current conjecture is characterized by fragmentation, decentralization, and a lack of leadership. The organized Left and revolutionary organizations are weak and, accordingly, played no significant role in the uprising. That said, the authors who argue that revolutionaries must adapt to these conditions by adopting their logic are confusing the symptoms of the problem for its cure. This is not to say that we should simply attempt to reproduce or copy examples from the twentieth century. Today’s terrain is different and experimentation will undoubtedly be necessary as we work to rebuild a revolutionary movement. However, as we take stock of past successes and failures and examine them in light of today’s conditions, it would be a massive mistake for the Left to reject the importance of class, production, labor, and revolutionary organizations.

Importantly, several authors note that the absence of an organized Left had a negative impact on the uprising. In New York City, the riots and the more radical elements of the uprising melted away only a week or so after beginning. The New York Post-Left writes that the movement found itself “unable to develop new tactics in order to stay dynamic,” and therefore at “something of an impasse [that] currently lacks direction.” They continue, “pro-revolutionaries need to be durably organized to sustain their capacity through the valley to prepare for the next peak” (82).

Echoing this, another author writes that “there was no legible pro-revolutionary pole in the streets,” and that “the role of a revolutionary minority, those who help build the capacity and collective confidence of revolt, may become more important. In this sense the absence of a pro-revolutionary pole was felt” (174-175). Last, Shemon writes that “on the whole [proletarians] lack the mechanisms or institutions in racial capitalism to develop [proletarian multiracial] unity,” concluding that “without fetishizing organizations, some organizational forms will be needed to crystallize and concentrate this alliance” (193-194).

We need to highlight the conclusions that stem from these important observations—namely, that decentralization, a lack of leadership, and the absence of organizations limited coordination, tactical creativity, strategic clarity, and ultimately the potential of the uprising, rather than furthering or bolstering it.

One author argues that operating effectively in the current political moment requires “giv[ing] up politics” (101), but I would argue that the uprising taught us the exact opposite—we need explicitly revolutionary politics now more than ever. Depoliticization will only lead to further fragmentation, which will limit rather than foster our ability to build power and develop the knowledge, practices, and forms necessary to destroy capitalism.

Since the uprising, the Left, oppressed groups, and working people generally have been on the backfoot. In many ways, we have struggled to translate the uprising into tangible changes or power, at least in the short term. The powers that be, on the other hand, have responded with a highly organized offensive, and while there has been resistance to these attacks, the Left has been unable to meaningfully propose a clear alternative, let alone implement it.

It would have felt unthinkable in the summer of 2020 that just a year later, New York City would end up with a law-and-order, tough-on-crime, Black former-cop as mayor. The absence of an organized Left, though, has allowed Adams to carry out his anti-migrant, anti-tenant/homeless, pro-cop, anti-worker agenda. A revolutionary organized Left is deeply necessary to articulate and develop a real alternative to what’s currently on offer. A decentralized, leaderless, fragmented Left will not be able to meet the needs of the moment.

The 2020 uprisings were historic insofar as Black proletarians led a multiracial uprising that shook the country to its core in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, unemployment, evictions, and a social and economic crisis. Developing an organized revolutionary Left will be necessary in order to ensure that the next uprising is able to go further than that of 2020.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Featured image credit: Lorie Shaull; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Making sense of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Tempest Magazine - Fri, 01/05/2024 - 20:57

The Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine in 2014, and its full-scale war against Ukraine in 2022, led to many fissures on the Left in the United States and internationally.

As a member of the Ukraine Solidarity Network, an author of an early article about the struggles in Ukraine in 2014 (which I  recently updated), and as someone who has worked with Ukrainian and Russian public health researchers around HIV/AIDS and related issues for much of this century, I have been frustrated by the lack of a good books to ask others to read. It is therefore a pleasure to read Paul Le Blanc’s Making Sense of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, which is very short and can easily be read in ebook format.

Unlike such earlier books, such as War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict by Medea Benjamin and Nicholas Davies (reviewed critically on this site), Le Blanc’s study gives respectful consideration to the views of people who disagree with the author. Of particular note, Le Blanc (unlike Benjamin and Davies and most other commentators who support Russia in its war) presents the views of both Russians and Ukrainians. In this, he is in accord with the “nothing about us without us” principle that any analysis of an oppressed or otherwise suffering group of people needs to include their views. As anyone who has looked carefully at the history of Ukraine over the last few centuries knows, Ukraine has a long history of being oppressed by the rulers of Russia. The current attempt by Russia to seize the country is one of the most horrible, though still less destructive than the massive starvation that Russia’s so-called Communist rulers imposed on Ukraine and other parts of the USSR in the 1930s.

Le Blanc makes his position on the war clear from the outset. As he puts it:

  • I favor the defeat of [Vladimir] Putin’s invasion and victory for Ukrainian self-determination.
  • I oppose imperialism in all its forms—including Putin’s invasion, including NATO.
  • I oppose capitalism and favor its replacement with genuine political and economic democracy everywhere: the United States, Ukraine, Russia, etc.

Le Blanc discusses the argument that the expansion of NATO instigated the attack. In doing so, he does conclude that Putin may have seen this expansion as threatening, but also points to other reasons for the invasion that were more important: the need of Putin and the capitalist Russian to deflect growing opposition within Russia and lay the basis for the repression of opposition by attacking a neighboring country; the “Greater Russia” imperialist mindset of much of the Russian ruling class (which in some ways analogous to the “Manifest Destiny” beliefs of U.S. rulers in the 1800s and since); and the principled anti-revolutionism that Putin widely expressed in supporting Bashar al-Assad’s attacks on Syrian revolutionaries and in opposing the Maidan uprisings in Ukraine in 2014.

Le Blanc’s discussion of the Maidan uprisings is perhaps too short. He points out that this uprising in no way attacked capitalism, which is true. He does not discuss, and perhaps does not fully understand, the extent to which it led to important reforms, including greatly reducing the ability of police to exact bribes from citizens in everyday encounters. He also does not note that, like other movements, such as the U.S. Civil Rights Movement during the first part of the 1960s, the Maidan movement had many possibilities within it in 2014. It did indeed include right-wingers, even some fascists, as the campists have fetishized, but it also included many socialists, anarchists, feminists, social democrats (who looked to German or other Western European welfare states), and others. I anticipated at the time that many of its participants might well have turned sharply to the left when the nearly inevitable financial crackdown by the International Monetary Fund and others hit in the spring of 2014, but Putin’s seizure of Ukraine foreclosed that possibility (as he probably intended) by strengthening Ukrainian militarism.

Le Blanc discusses the arguments that the anti-Ukrainian Left makes about Ukrainian reactionary fascism. In doing this, he confronts myths with realities. The fascist right wing has little support in Ukraine, there is a fairly strong fascist movement in Russia, and Putin and his allies are in many ways a pole of attraction for rightwing ultra-nationalism globally. He also, and rightly, describes the strongly neoliberal beliefs and actions of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government—and documents the struggles of Ukrainian socialists and unions against this.

In presenting these arguments, Making Sense of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine uses a number of long quotes from Russian and Ukrainian socialists who make many insightful observations about how the war is hurting both Russian and Ukrainian workers and about the necessity of supporting Ukrainians in their struggle against Russian oppression and destruction. Le Blanc ties this analysis to classic discussions among Marxists such as V. I. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg about the right of self-determination and the role of socialists in such struggles.

Finally, Le Blanc discusses the issue of the Ukrainians’ asking for and relying on weapons from Western imperialist powers in their war of self-defense. Many on the Left who say they oppose the Russian assault have called for an end to arming the Ukrainians, and have argued that this dependency makes the Ukrainians tools of imperialism. Le Blanc presents useful historical background on this debate, including the fact that the Left globally was largely united in arguing that the Western powers should arm the Republicans in Spain against the Spanish fascists in 1936 and after—and that they should also send weapons to the Chinese nationalist forces under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek when Japan invaded China during this same period. I would add that the Left also supported providing arms to the reactionary government of Ethiopia when Italian fascism invaded that country.

The point Le Blanc makes is straightforward: Failing to support arming a people defending its right to exist is to make a mockery of saying you oppose the oppressors in their invasion. This clear argument is denied by much of the Left today when they call for ending arms shipments in order to further “negotiations” by the great imperialist powers to impose a settlement on the Ukrainians.

Le Blanc’s Making Sense of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine is useful both for our own education and as a way to help educate others.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Featured image credit: World at Large News; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

University of Michigan graduate workers’ protest for Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 12/23/2023 - 20:44

Promise Li: Your union, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), or Local 3550 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-UM), was one of the first and most prominent graduate workers’ unions to come out in solidarity with Palestine. How did the union come to this decision? What are some of the actions you’ve planned?

Michael Mueller: This decision was really a continuation of a path GEO has been on for a while, of rank-and-file members (including Arab, Muslim, and Jewish members) participating in Palestine solidarity actions and pushing to incorporate Palestine solidarity in our union work. Like many unions in the imperial core, in the past GEO has operated in a “depoliticized” and service-model framework, which tends to limit our horizons as well as our understanding of the scope of workers’ struggle. However, in the past several years, rank-and-file members have shifted our union in a more militant direction, culminating in our recent long-haul strike for a living wage. This transformation (at times messy, and still unfinished) has included a broadening of our understanding of our interests as workers and of the solidarity work we engage in.

In recent years, members have fought for the right to practice BDS in our workplaces, for a condemnation of Israel’s ethnic cleansing (contrary to our parent union AFT), and so on, while participating in solidarity initiatives led by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), the primary Palestine solidarity organization on campus. This context—a product of discussions, debates, and labor actions in GEO over the years—led to our Organizing Assembly approving a statement and to a robust core of members participating in pro-Palestine campus organizing.

Palestine solidarity work at UM has a significant history, particularly SAFE’s struggle for UM to divest from companies that profit from the genocide of Palestinians—including a hard-won student government BDS resolution in 2017 that administrators refused to implement. In recent months, the student movement for divestment has grown, with SAFE and other groups (including the Black Student Union and united Asian American organizations), Jewish Voice for Peace, GEO, and 50+ other student organizations) forming the campus TAHRIR coalition. Many of the actions GEO members have taken have been as participants in this coalition, from student walkouts and sit-ins to civil disobedience for divestment.

UM GEO die in for Palestinian liberation; image credit Graduate Employees’ Organization.

PL: Unions and workers speaking up for Palestine have been facing widespread backlash. What are some of the instances of backlash that you have experienced from the UM administration and other actors?

MM: Palestine solidarity organizers have always recognized that there is a Zionist playbook with a variety of tools meant to discipline and inhibit solidarity with Palestine: doxxing, threats to employment, false accusations of antisemitism, and so on. As a labor union of graduate student instructors (GSIs), we’ve worked to elevate understanding of the Zionist dynamics in our workplace and to defend against the repression that universities like UM, which prioritize their racist donors, levy against us as workers (especially Arab and Muslim workers). Zionist groups like Hillel encourage students to report their instructors for spreading “misinformation about the current situation in Israel,” which has enabled doxxing and disciplinary threats against GSIs; our administration has instituted or enabled forms of censorship that aim to inhibit pro-Palestine workplace speech; and Zionists on campus have engaged in racist behavior that UM refuses to properly address.

As the campaign for divestment has progressed, we’ve seen repression from the administration escalate. After several demonstrations in the weeks since October 7, some administrators finally met with the student coalition, admitting that the University prioritizes investment return over “political factors”—i.e., Palestinian life. On November 17th, given President Santa Ono’s refusal to meet with students about divestment, students entered UM’s administrative building (some calling to meet with Ono) and were met with racist police violence. Over fifty cop cars from at least ten Michigan jurisdictions were brought in to repress students who entered a public building during business hours, highlighting how far we know administrators will go to avoid accountability and divestment. With over forty arrests, campus police continue to attempt to intimidate students who are advancing a powerful campaign in service of Palestinian liberation.

In parallel, we’ve seen administrative suppression on the terrain of campus speech. A pro-Palestine referendum in student government elections on November 28-30, which called for UM to recognize the genocide and take action toward divestment, was canceled by the administration and ended in the doxxing of Muslim student activists.

PL: What were some methods you all used to counter and out-organize this backlash? What advice would you give to other workers organizing for Palestine and facing repression?

MM: Countering backlash is an ongoing task, and one that the student coalition has incorporated into our messaging and demands alongside the call for divestment. On the legal front, the student-created legal fund to help defend against police repression has raised over $20,000 to date. Speaking generally, students and workers have tried to respond to backlash through mutual support and collective action, such as organizing around grievances and department-level petitions,  one example being an ongoing campaign to remove a board member in the School of Information after her racist assault on a student at a pro-Palestine protest.

My personal advice to other workers facing repression for pro-Palestine action would be to process and deal with it collectively. This backlash should always be expected, and is not going away anytime soon, but building strong communities makes backlash more manageable and resistable. At the end of the day, we need to recognize that the harm of silence or inaction is far greater than the harm of Zionist backlash, and so we must keep speaking out, fighting the impacts of Zionism in our workplaces/campuses, and participating in the Palestinian solidarity movement as we continue to defend each other. Palestine solidarity organizers have pointed out that repression in the West reflects the ongoing violence of Zionism against Palestinians, and the stakes for Palestinian liberation are huge.

Palestine is a cause for the whole international working class. Many U.S. universities and other employers support Israel’s ongoing genocide while underpaying and exploiting us, opening up the opportunity to link up our struggles.

PL: GEO just wrapped up a historic months-long strike as part of a rising wave of labor militancy and unionization across the nation in the past year. What is the relationship between the union’s Palestine solidarity work and labor organizing? Why is it important for workers to connect between these things?

MM: One connection I mentioned between Palestine solidarity work in GEO and our role in the rising wave of grad worker strikes is that both have emerged from a process of rank-and-file transformation of our union over the years. To advance the struggle beyond a “fair raise” to consider how we need to lead dignified lives as workers—building on our recent campaign’s demand for real living wages and working conditions— requires a more militant union with strong rank-and-file participation. This also means a willingness to recognize and challenge injustices we face in the workplace like police violence, racism, and anti-Palestinian repression.

As workers, our material interest in organizing for Palestine also goes beyond the harms of Zionism in our own workplaces. Palestine is a cause for the whole international working class. Many U.S. universities and other employers support Israel’s ongoing genocide while underpaying and exploiting us, opening up the opportunity to link up our struggles. Meanwhile, Palestinians who continue to resist the Zionist regime have called on international trade unions to heed their call for BDS. Making this a reality—shutting down weapons production, boycotting Israeli universities, backing divestment campaigns, and so on—is a crucial task for all of us in the United States, the heart of imperialism and the biggest material backer of Israel’s genocide.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Forced to resign over Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Fri, 12/22/2023 - 19:46

On November 7, a New York City public defender was forced out of her position at New York County Defender Services (NYCDS) after the New York Post shared a video of her attending a vigil for victims of Israel’s war on Gaza. In the video, posted by the zionist group StopAntisemitism, the cameraperson accuses her of tearing down posters of Israeli hostages; in fact, the posters had just been put up by a group of counter-protesters, who began heckling and harassing vigil-goers. The posters themselves featured statements “justifying the bombing of Palestinian civilians.” At the time of the vigil, the death toll among Gazans had surpassed ten thousand (as of this writing, the death toll has doubled to nearly twenty thousand).

Based on the misleading video, zionists launched a change.org petition calling for the public defender’s termination from NYCDS. She was harassed over the phone, online, and in three additional New York Post articles about the incident. In response, NYCDS threatened to fire her. She resigned instead.

Below, we share her resignation letter.

This incident is part of a disturbing trend in which New York public defense organizations have cracked down on solidarity with Palestine in and out of the workplace, equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Last month, members of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, United Auto Workers Local 2325 (which previously passed a resolution in favor of divestment from Israeli bonds) debated a resolution calling for a ceasefire, an end to Israeli apartheid, and an end to the occupation of Palestine. In response, the heads of several legal service organizations attempted to intimidate union members before they had even voted, issuing internal cease-and-desist letters to staff who discussed Israel/Palestine at work and citing threats by private donors to pull funding if the resolution passed. The Legal Aid Society went further, issuing a public statement that decried the resolution’s language as “antisemitic” and holding a town hall in an effort to influence the vote.

Meanwhile, pro-Israel attorneys at Legal Aid of Nassau County secured a temporary restraining order to stop their own union from voting on the resolution. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of the union’s attorneys, union members, and supporters who mobilized to the court hearings, a federal court dissolved the restraining order, allowing the vote to proceed, with union members passing the resolution on December 19 in a landslide of 1,067 to 570.

The struggle continues to resist managers’ and zionist funders’ efforts to silence solidarity with Palestine and assert workers’ right to speak out against atrocities committed by the Israeli government with the support of the U.S.

To My Colleagues at New York County Defender Services [NYCDS]:

I regretfully write this letter to announce my resignation from this office. NYCDS was my first home as a public defender, and I have worked here now for three years, alongside all of you, whose dedication I respect tremendously. I am honored to have represented hundreds of clients who have trusted me in their most vulnerable moments. I am lucky to have done this work with you, and I love being a public defender.

Last Friday, I concluded a jury trial at NYCDS, and was so happy that we obtained an acquittal for our client. That night, after we received our verdict, I worked an arraignment shift. On Saturday night, I found myself unexpectedly subjected to a ruthless online doxxing campaign, based on serious misrepresentations about private political activity I engaged in with absolutely no intention of drawing attention to myself or implicating my workplace. And by Monday, after over 24 hours of pressure from NYCDS management, who were uninterested in hearing about my side of events, I submitted my notice of resignation from this job and organization that I love and was prepared to dedicate many more years to. I can’t believe this is where things stand—the last thing I ever wanted to do was to leave this organization. With this resignation I would like to give a fuller picture of what has happened over the last 48 hours, and why I am leaving NYCDS.

Last week, I attended a vigil to mourn the lives of the many thousands of Palestinian civilians that have been killed over this past month. As the vigil was going on and people were reading names of those who have died, a group of agitators arrived and began heckling those of us there mourning. The person who took the video of me was among this group. The group began putting up posters around the vigil. I saw that one of the posters contained handwritten statements justifying the bombing of Palestinian civilians—the same people whose deaths we were there to mourn. I was deeply offended by the statements on the poster, and went over to take that poster down. At that point, the individual from the group approached me and started recording the video, verbally misrepresenting on the video what I was doing and what I was taking issue with.

I reject antisemitism, and I take very seriously the troubling rise in both antisemitism and Islamophobia in recent weeks. I also mourn the tremendous loss of all innocent lives, and would never seek to disparage or devalue any life, including the lives of Israeli civilians.

This past week, the video was published and then promoted online by a group which has been aggressively doxxing New Yorkers in recent weeks, leading to harassment, threats, and calls forthem to lose their jobs. After I learned about the video on Saturday, I contacted NYCDS to alert them. From Sunday to Monday, I faced escalating pressure from NYCDS management to remain silent about context for what had happened to me; and then subsequent pressure to either resign from my job, or be terminated. Management did not want to consider context or details from me about the night of the vigil, and they made clear that they did not want me to share those details with my colleagues. Management spoke to press outlets like the New York Post about what was happening to me, without giving me any notice that these articles were in the works or any opportunity to comment directly to journalists, even through counsel. These articles resulted in a huge onslaught of threats to my personal safety that are continuing as I write this letter.

I did not want to be terminated, but if I had to leave, I wanted to leave on my own terms with dignity.

I let NYCDS know that I wanted to find a path forward for both me and the organization that would start with an unpaid leave of absence. However, over a series of calls, where I did not have the opportunity to be represented by counsel, management’s position on my employment at NYCDS went from affirming that I would continue to be able to work at the organization and had been a dedicated employee; to indicating that I needed to resign immediately, or the board would be looking into termination proceedings.

This shift in management’s position on my employment occurred after the New York Post article was published, and after I requested the ability to have a meeting with them where I was represented by legal counsel, rather than have ad hoc conversations. I did not want to be terminated, but if I had to leave, I wanted to leave on my own terms with dignity, so on Monday evening, I chose to resign.

As public defenders, we stand by our clients when their lives are reduced to mischaracterizations, and we give voice to their humanity and their truths. And as public defenders, we stand up for our clients’ constitutional rights when they are under attack. But throughout this process, I felt that my own truth was diminished and unimportant to this organization; and that my First Amendment right to hold personal political views and act pursuant to those views, outside of the workplace, was neither respected nor defended.

I am devastated that I will no longer be working with you all, my amazing colleagues who have mentored me and served as role models for me during such formative years of my career. I am especially grateful to those of you who have reached out to me to offer support during these very difficult last few days. I will not forget your compassion and solidarity. I will carry forward all that I have learned from you at NYCDS and will continue to advocate for a more just world.

Categories: D2. Socialism

From Taiwan to Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 12/21/2023 - 20:09

 
In late November, an emergent network named “For Peace Taiwan” (可以自由巴) organized two solidarity events for Palestine in Taipei. I was the emcee for both events. The first event was on November 21. The second—a rally on November 25—attracted around eight hundred local and international attendees. The rally featured speeches, artistic performances, an open mic session, and a march around Da’an Park in Central Taipei. A majority of the participants were from Muslim communities in Taipei, and a few of them also gave speeches. Some Palestinians participated in the rally, and most of the local Taiwanese participants were young people. We chanted slogans like “Ceasefire Now,” “End the Apartheid,” “Free Palestine,” and “End Genocide.”

Rally-goers march in Taipei in solidarity with Palestine. Photo by Yang Kang.

The two events did not attract significant media attention, nor were we able to engage with the Israeli Representative Office in Taipei, who marked us as ignorant student activists who “did not condemn Hamas” in their official reply to our mobilization. But speaking as the emcee, I do believe that these events provided an important platform to bring together some local Taiwanese activists and a marginalized, and often invisibilized, Muslim and Palestinian community in Taiwan to build solidarity and find solace together.

The Taiwanese Left is weak and scattered, so it was significant that these two events provided a rallying point for the Left, while marking the first time in recent memory that discussions about Palestine actually turned into activist engagement with Palestinian voices in Taipei. Despite the informal and hasty manner in which we gathered, activists from different social movements and backgrounds, including artists, human rights organizations, anti-imperialist collectives, and queer organizers, were able to come together. This emergent coalition proves that bringing the local Left and Palestinian migrants together is, indeed, possible.

These insights point us toward a horizon of genuine internationalist solidarity, one that defends the right to self-determination for everyone from Ukraine to Hong Kong, from Tibet to Palestine.

As an ethnically Han Taiwanese person born and raised in the settler-colonial state of Taiwan, which has been described as “the next geopolitical flashpoint,” I find that organizing these events helps provide an alternative to a few dominant modes of politics. It rejects the ruling party’s strategy of aligning with U.S. imperialism and other authoritarian regimes like Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), exemplified by the Tsai Ing-wen administration’s ties to King Mswati III and Taipei 101’s visual tribute to former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the past. We cannot equate these struggles, but still, the events provided an opportunity for many Taiwanese people to see parallels between Chinese colonial claims on Taiwan (“keep the island, kill the populace”) and Israel’s treatment of Palestine.

While the U.S. military-industrial complex plays a key role in funding Israel’s genocidal operations, it is also necessary to remember that the China-Israel technology exchange has helped strengthen authoritarian surveillance infrastructures in Palestine. These insights point us toward a horizon of genuine internationalist solidarity, one that defends the right to self-determination for everyone from Ukraine to Hong Kong, from Tibet to Palestine.

In these turbulent weeks, I am constantly reminded of my trip to the Socialism Conference in Chicago earlier this year, and the glimmer of hope I felt there: a hope that true solidarity can be built, and that a better world is, indeed, possible; a world that can bridge struggles for democracy in Taiwan and Palestine; a world where we reject campist politics that leads those to see the enemy of my enemy as their friend; a world where people dismantle empires, be it an empire often labeled as the leader of a democratic world order or one falsely seen as a bulwark against the capitalist West.

I am not an optimistic person, especially when I think about the looming climate catastrophe and the global rise of fascism. But witnessing the growth of Taiwanese solidarity with Palestine, I see images of a new world. I hear the future echoes of broken chains. I feel the heat of empires burning up in flames. I tangibly remember what radicalized me in the first place—the coming future of friendship, joy, love, liberation, and power.

Follow “For Peace Taiwan” on Facebook and Instagram at @forpeacetw.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Against colonial narcissism

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 12/20/2023 - 20:49

During the period of decolonization the colonized are called upon to be reasonable. They are offered rock-solid values, they are told in great detail that decolonization should not mean regression, and that they must rely on values which have proved to be reliable and worthwhile. It so happens that when the colonized hear a speech on Western culture they draw their machetes or at least check to see they are close to hand.

– Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

At the beginning of the 20th century, under the reign of King Leopold II of Belgium, the rubber plantations of the Congo were perpetually littered with the severed hands of insufficiently productive colonized workers. While the peoples of Africa and Asia were dehumanized, tortured, and murdered, far away in distant Europe, the socialists of the Second International came together to debate their colonial policies.

Belgian “socialists” like Hendrick van Kol and Modeste Terwagne lauded the civilizing mission of colonialism and the immense benefits brought by colonial economic development.1See Mike Taber (ed.) Reform, Revolution, and Opportunism: Debates in the Second International 1900-1910 (Haymarket, 2023), chapter 2.British socialists went back and forth on the proper “socialist” methods of colonial rule, completely oblivious to the Swadeshi movement in colonial India, where the workers and peasants of Bengal engaged in mass civil disobedience, boycotts, strikes at jute mills, and even armed resistance. For the so-called socialists in the center of the empire, the agents of liberation could only emerge in London and Paris, not Calcutta.

Recently, Dan La Botz and Stephen R. Shalom took it upon themselves to upbraid those socialists in the United States of America whom they deem insufficiently critical of Hamas’s actions on October 7, demanding condemnations as a moral imperative for all socialists. La Botz and Shalom make some faulty assumptions in their piece: that Israel is winning this war (it is not), that Americans and others retain significant faith in public institutions like legacy media, international law, or the institutions of liberal democracies (especially for younger people, they do not), and that the audience for revolutionary politics can be found among settlers of the Zionist entity (they cannot).

But perhaps the most egregious assumption that La Botz and Shalom make in their short article is that socialists in the United States are the proper referees of anticolonial movements the world over.

The ongoing Nakba

On April 9, 1948, Zionist forces burst into the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, spraying the houses with machine-gun fire and murdering many of the villagers. Those who survived were rounded up and murdered, their bodies abused and the women raped before being killed. Fahim Zaydan, a twelve-year-old, witnessed his own family being murdered in front of his eyes:

They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him—carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her—they shot her too.

Ilan Pappe has written of the Zionist forces’ complete disregard of any combatant/civilian distinction, extending even to the slaughter of thirty babies in Deir Yassin.2Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Simon and Schuster, 2007): 90-91.The stories of gang rapes during the Nakba, including of children, are too brutal to recount here.

These atrocities served a political end for the emerging Zionist entity. As the scholar of settler colonialism Patrick Wolfe has argued, settler society requires the “elimination of the native” in order to establish the settler society on their land. This is not just a one-off occurrence: “Settler colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.”3Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research 8 (2006): 388, available in an online version here. For a less exclusive and arguably more useful definition of settler colonialism, see Sai Englert, Settler Colonialism: An Introduction (Pluto Press, 2022).

The history of the Israeli occupation is filled with atrocity after atrocity. For years, Israel has limited the calories and electricity allowed to enter the Gaza strip, allowing just enough food and water in to maintain the Palestinian population at subsistence level. La Botz and Shalom invoke Israeli children five times in their short piece, but for Palestinians in Gaza the very concept of childhood has been robbed from them. Thousands of Palestinians have languished for years in Israeli jails, and almost every single freed Palestinian prisoner in the last month reports abuse, sexual assault, and torture. A 16-year-old child in Gaza today has lived through six different wars already, subject to deep poverty and intense, prolonged, and repeated trauma their entire lives.

Source: visualizingpalestine.org.

Since October, the settler colonial entity known as Israel has been conducting a systematic genocide of Palestinians. With cold intention, Israel targets journalists, doctors, and vocal critics. Israel sought out the brilliant poet and teacher Refaat Alareer, silencing the “voice of Gaza” and many from his family forever with a missile. Right now, the world watches Al Jazeera and Instagram as beloved Palestinian journalists document unspeakable horrors, rescue children from collapsed buildings, and find small joys in shared meals with the survivors. The world watches while Israeli airstrikes obliterate hospitals, shelters, and anyone willing to speak out defiantly against the colonial occupier.

All of this is made possible by the unconditional political backing of the United States. The United States supplies weapons, including hellfire missiles and white phosphorous, for seemingly endless Israeli war crimes. The U.S. is chiefly responsible for preventing other states from intervening to stop the bloodshed. This is the context in which La Botz and Shalom are dissecting the Palestinian resistance.

Writing from the United States, La Botz and Shalom argue that we should “retire” Malcolm X’s famous slogan “by any means necessary” from our liberatory lexicon, and “ban the term ‘unconditional support.’” “How can we not have conditions relating to our support?” they ask. Only “legitimate means” are permissible in the struggle for liberation, according to La Botz and Shalom. The arbiters of such legitimacy, presumably, are also to be found in the United States of America.

Such sentiments, expressed from the U.S. imperial core while the U.S. government is supplying the bombs dropping on Palestinians, are at best irrelevant and at worst quite harmful to the cause of Palestinian liberation. They are also out of step with a longstanding historical approach to the alleged “excesses” of liberation movements among the oppressed.

The violence of the oppressed

It may be surprising given the intensity of today’s moral outrage among some sections of the Western Left, but violence by resistance movements of the colonized and oppressed is not a historically new phenomenon.

Black slaves killing white slavers in the Haitian Revolution. Source: Picryl.

Slavery began in Haiti soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. For more than two centuries, the white slaver class subjected an enslaved Black population to unspeakable atrocities, torture, and comprehensive dehumanization. In the early months of 1791, “neglected and ignored by all the politicians of every brand and persuasion,” the enslaved people of Haiti organized themselves to take their freedom into their own hands. C.L.R. James repeatedly emphasizes the “thoroughly prepared and organized” character of their revolt.4C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins (Vintage Publishers, 1989):84-88.

Righteous as it was, the insurrection was replete with brutality:

The slaves destroyed tirelessly. Like the peasants in the Jacquerie or the Luddite wreckers, they were seeking their salvation in the most obvious way, the destruction of what they knew was the cause of their sufferings; and if they destroyed much it was because they had suffered much. They knew that as long as these plantations stood their lot would be to labor on them until they dropped. The only thing was to destroy them. From their masters they had known rape, torture, degradation, and at the slightest provocation, death. They returned in kind. For two centuries the higher civilization had shown them that power was used for wreaking your will on those whom you controlled. Now that they held power they did as they had been taught. In the frenzy of the first encounters they killed all, yet they spared the priests whom they feared and the surgeons who had been kind to them. They, whose women had undergone countless violations, violated all the women who fell into their hands, often on the bodies of their still bleeding husbands, fathers and brothers. “Vengeance! Vengeance!” was their war-cry, and one of them carried a white child on a pike as a standard.

And yet they were surprisingly moderate, then and afterwards, far more humane than their masters had been or would ever be to them. They did not maintain this revengeful spirit for long. The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased. As the revolution gained territory they spared many of the men, women, and children whom they surprised on plantations.5C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, 88-89.

There is nothing to celebrate or condone in such horrors. But do socialists have a moral responsibility, when discussing the world-historic revolution of the enslaved people of Haiti and the social earthquake it caused around the world, to forefront a condemnation of the “immorality and strategic idiocy” of their means, as La Botz and Shalom advocate now?

The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression.-C.L.R. James

The horrors of U.S. American slavery—its centuries of the most intimate cruelties, family separation, bodily disfigurement, rape, daily degradation, torture of the most extreme and unimaginable kind—have been well documented. In 1831, Nat Turner led a slave insurrection in the United States against this brutal system. Over the course of 48 hours, Turner’s insurrection butchered some 60 white people, including men, women, and children. For a moment, the grim devastation wrought by the revolting slaves came close to the sadistic cruelty perpetrated by the slaveowners on a daily basis. White southerners and northerners almost across the board denounced Turner’s “fanatical delusion,” demonizing his savagery as a means of obscuring the barbarous system he was responding to.

The Nat Turner rebellion is “probably the most famous now because it was the most notorious then, killing as it did the most white people.” Engraving from Authentic and impartial narrative of the tragical scene which was witnessed in Southampton County. [New York], 1831. Digital image from Library of Congress.

There were exceptions, however. White abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison (who was, notably, an avowed pacifist) and the movement he represented, while horrified at Turner’s “excesses,” did not condemn the revolt. “I do not justify the slaves in their rebellion; yet I do not condemn them,” Garrison wrote. He denounced the “patriotic hypocrites” directly: “Cast no reproach upon the conduct of the slaves, but let your lips and cheeks wear the blisters of condemnation!” For his refusal to condemn an insurrection against slavery, a $5,000 price was put on Garrison’s head.

Should socialists living freely in a country built on slavery and genocide tell the story of Nat Turner’s rebellion as a lesson in illegitimate methods? Is it a socialist responsibility to deplore the violence of the oppressed in great detail, so the leftists of the Global North today don’t get the wrong idea?

Chief Little Crow Taoyateduta in Washington, D.C., 1858. Source: Picryl.

The genocidal westward expansion of the United States across Turtle Island was filled with grisly atrocities against the Indigenous peoples of this land. In brutal ethnic cleansings like the Trail of Tears and the Trail of Death, hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly expelled from their homelands, facing disease, starvation, and unceremonious death. By 1862, the Dakota people had been reduced to starvation and stripped of most of their lands, arms, and horses. In August of that year, Dakota warriors under the leadership of Little Crow began to fight back, expelling whites from the Dakota homelands, and killing more than 800 of them, including settlers, traders, and soldiers.6Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (Penguin-Random House, 2023): 101.

In the view of La Botz and Shalom, should socialists condemn the Dakota and other brave Indigenous warriors and insist on the use of the “legitimate means” of peaceful protest and moral appeal during the ethnic cleansing of Turtle Island?

In Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War, almost a half million Jews were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, an area covering just over a square mile. For years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish people subsisted close to starvation while awaiting deportation to the Nazi extermination camps. Drawing on the heroic tradition of Jewish resistance, inhabitants of the ghetto refused to accept such barbaric degradation and slaughter. Starting in April 1943, they organized the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising primarily under the leadership of the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB). Nazis retaliated with a plan to “liquidate the Ghetto.” One report of a German woman details some of the methods of the resistance. These included attacks not only on Nazi soldiers, but also on civilian officials; and mailed bombs, assassinations, and more. She describes the situation in a letter to the SS Command:

Under Ghetto buildings there is an impenetrable maze of passages, connecting a well-disguised bunker network and leading through sewer exits as far as the Vistula in the Polish sector. A wealth of property has been destroyed, and Jews and gangs continue attacking, even after termination of the Ghetto campaign. Grenades were thrown at the Adriatic Lounge and a coffee shop in the central railroad station.7Cited in Bernard Mark, Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto (Schocken Books, 1975):173-174.

Should socialists condemn the killing of innocent café visitors by the Jewish Combat Organization during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and does that condemnation “show people on the fence that our concerns are motivated by consistent moral principle”?

Fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Image: Warsaw Uprising Museum/ Public domain.

Today we rightfully hold up the heroism and indisputable righteousness of the Haitian revolution, Nat Turner’s rebellion, Native American resistance to genocide, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. No person committed to human freedom and justice looks back on any of these movements and celebrates the excesses and atrocities committed by them. Nor should we today. With hindsight and a moral compass, however, we are capable of locating their root cause and assigning ultimate responsibility to the slavers, the colonizers, and the fascists. The violence of the oppressed in such historical situations must be understood as a byproduct of the much greater and crueler violence of the oppressors.

Decolonization and socialism from below

In their eagerness to condemn the non-condemners, La Botz and Shalom casually throw out another dangerous accusation:

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.

The implication is that anyone refusing to fixate on October 7 and the violence of Hamas is, at best, naïve and ignorant of the importance of principled criticism, and, at worst, a closeted Stalinist. La Botz and Shalom attempt thereby to forge a connection between their own pedantic lecturing and the liberatory tradition of socialism from below. Such slanders cannot be allowed to stand.

Revolutionary socialism from below stands for the self-activity of working and oppressed people for self-determination. That means genuine solidarity with movements from below all around the world, even against governments competing with our own government. Like capitals on the global market, these states are a band of hostile brothers competing with each other in various ways, but they are always on the same side against the working people of the world and will come to each other’s aid to maintain the stability of the capitalist market. True solidarity means building relationships with organizations and individuals in struggle in these countries.

Socialism from below is an affirmation of self-activity, of liberation, and the cause of the oppressed wherever they are fighting. We may have political differences, but not conditions for our solidarity against brutal oppression.

These social movements, of course, are not monoliths. Just like social movements in the United States, they are contradictory and involve competing trends, strategies, and visions of liberation, all of which have important consequences for the outcome of social struggles. In Palestine, for example, a decentralized and sporadic youth-led movement has been brewing since 2015, culminating most prominently in the Unity Intifada of 2021 that enveloped all of historic Palestine. The cross-party, locally rooted movement has rejected the conciliationism of the Palestinian Authority and has begun to incorporate armed resistance groups in the West Bank.

From a socialist perspective, this is a far more promising basis for an egalitarian national liberation movement than Hamas alone. In many ways, the reconfiguration of Palestinian resistance represents the future of the Palestinian liberation struggle, and Western leftists should do everything we can to build relationships with these forces and provide meaningful solidarity.

Faris Odeh (December 1985 – 9 November 2000) was a Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli military forces near the Karni crossing in the Gaza Strip while throwing stones in the second month of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Photo by Samer via Flikr.

Issuing condemnations and policing the non-condemnations of others in the West during an active genocide does nothing to help these forces resisting apartheid and occupation. Furthermore, while critiques are a constant feature of evolving social movements, those critiques are only taken seriously because they come from within the resistance and liberation movement itself and share its general aims and its fate. La Botz and Shalom write from a place not of unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement, but instead make their support for the actual resistance happening dependent on the politics of its chief drivers.

Socialism from below is an affirmation of self-activity, of liberation, and the cause of the oppressed wherever they are fighting. We may have political differences, but not conditions for our solidarity against brutal oppression.

Western attempts to dictate the proper terms of resistance to colonialism, like that of La Botz and Shalom, undermine efforts at building a genuine internationalist left from below. Their sole outcome is to show Palestinians and others living under the yoke of U.S. imperialism that they cannot trust the Left within the belly of the beast. That is precisely what has led to the results described by Steven Salaita:

Palestinians have determined to proceed without their Western custodians. Decolonization is a grueling project, generally beyond the acumen of those weaned in comfort. The professional classes are stuck in bourgeois abstractions (from which they derive so many rewards) or profess a material politics they don’t in reality support. They demand a bloodless liberation, but only without the colonizer’s blood, even as the native bleeds out in full view of the world. They demand a revolt without consequence, a caucus of pristine victims politely asking to stay alive.

This outcome is not inevitable. Other socialists in the U.S. can and do affirm the rights of colonized people to resist colonization and understand the desperate circumstances in which they find themselves. Amid the suffocating discourse condemning and dissecting every attempt at Palestinian resistance, we must remind ourselves what Palestinians are fighting for: survival, self-determination, and liberation. It is to the eternal credit of the Palestinians that they have never given up on the demand for liberation. If we give up on this demand, in the words of Andreas Malm, “There is nothing left, other than learning to die.”

A time for courage

The effect of the continual, obsessive demands to condemn Hamas is to obfuscate the genocide still being enacted now. It fabricates an ethical stance from which Israel’s industrial-scale slaughter can be considered as part of violence “on both sides.” Such condemnations are the master’s tools.

Socialists who want to contribute to real international solidarity must refuse to play the condemnation game. It does not build solidarity. It does not strengthen the cause of the globally exploited and oppressed. It does not prevent a genocide. Ultimately, the historic moment we are currently living through is not about individuals in the U.S. and their real or perceived moral integrity. As the clear-eyed New Socialist editorial put it,

It isn’t about what ‘public opinion’ thinks of anti-genocide protestors, or about forming ‘compelling narratives’, or about how we ‘feel’ as spectators. We are not the story here. Our personal brands and public images do not matter. What matters is the imminent and ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people—a collective punishment that is effectively co-signed every time we take our eyes from the horizon of liberation or the bonds of solidarity, and focus instead on our own navels.

There is no need to excuse the violence on October 7 in order to recognize it for what it is: a direct product of settler colonialism in all its brutality. The attempt to extract one moment of violence for special scrutiny out of the decades of bloody occupation, especially during an ongoing genocide of Palestinians, is an act of colonial narcissism.

The socialist movement, such as it exists, has a choice. We can attach conditions to our solidarity and lecture the courageous anticolonial movements of the world on the proper, Western-approved methods for their struggles. Or we can heed the calls of the Palestinians for full-throated condemnation of empire and its Zionist settler-colonial outpost. We can either join Michael Walzer in asking, “What are the obligations of the oppressed?” or we can join the courageous Palestinian liberation movement by doing everything we can to grind the tanks of empire to a halt from where we are.

If unconditional commitment to Palestinian liberation is too unsubtle, too vehement, too philistine, then so be it. It is not equivocation or nuance, but courage that is demanded by the scale of the crises we are facing and the intractability of the ruling classes perpetuating them. Only that courage will fuel the revolutionary movement required to bring about a lasting human liberation. That is why we must declare with the Palestinians:

Glory to the martyrs!

Long live the Intifada!

Categories: D2. Socialism

Venezuelan ambitions and Guyanese oil

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 12/19/2023 - 20:03

On December 3, Venezuela held a referendum on whether to establish a new Venezuelan state in the Essequibo region, which is governed by Guyana. Two million people—about 10 percent of eligible voters – participated. Ninety-five percent of those who voted answered “yes.” Now Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is moving to annex 160,000 square kilometers of oil-rich land—around two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

For over a century, Guyana (and British Guiana before it) has controlled Essequibo, but it has long been claimed by Venezuela. Venezuela maintains that Essequibo fell within its borders when it was a Spanish colony and that an 1899 arbitral tribunal decision concerning the border between Venezuela and what was then British Guiana was unfair. As such, Maduro frames his actions in anti-imperialist terms. One sees this in the wording of the referendum question: “Do you agree to reject by all means in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently interposed by the 1899 Paris Arbitration Award, which seeks to deprive us of our Guayana Esequiba?”

Satellite border map of Venezuela, Guyana, and Surinam, including, Guyana Esequiba,  the region targeted by Venezuela for annexation. Image by SurinameCentral.

Despite the low turnout and how, formally speaking, the referendum was only consultative, Maduro is treating the result as binding. Already Maduro has ordered PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.), the Venezuelan state oil company, to issue extraction licenses in Essequibo, and signed a presidential decree creating the “High Commission for the Defense of Guayana Esequiba.” He has proposed that the National Assembly pass legislation to make the territory part of Venezuela and to give companies in the region three months to leave. On December 5, he unveiled a new map of Venezuela that includes Essequibo, declaring that it would be distributed across schools and public buildings.

While the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana is long-running, there are three key contexts for understanding why Maduro chose to hold the referendum now. Firstly, Venezuela is caught in a major, long-term political and socio-economic crisis. Following Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013, Maduro became president. Since then, the economy has lost 80 percent of its value. In 2023, inflation reached a sky-high rate of 360 percent.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Finances, by March 2023, private and public sector salaries averaged 139 U.S. dollars (USD) per month and 14 USD per month, respectively. With the average family grocery shop at around 370 USD per month, low pay and chronic shortages of basic amenities have left many Venezuelans struggling to buy food. Widespread malnutrition and a crumbling healthcare system have increased infant mortality and deaths in childbirth. Seventy five percent of hospitals lack drinking water. Power cuts have been common since 2019. Over 7.7 million people have left the country to seek protection and a better life.

In January 2019, Juan Guaidó, then the speaker of the right-wing-opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim President with the National Assembly’s backing, alleging that the May 2018 presidential election had been rigged. However, the Venezuelan military’s top brass remained loyal to Maduro. This left Maduro in firm control despite more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., recognizing Guaidó as president; large, clashing protests in the streets; and Guaidó attempting to seize power through an armed revolt on April 30, 2019. In December 2022, the majority of opposition parties withdrew their support from Guaidó and dissolved his “interim government.”

While Maduro has held onto power, after years of crisis his approval rating is down to 29 percent. By calling the referendum on Essequibo, Maduro hopes to bolster support for his regime through nationalist demagogy.

The second, related context is the Venezuelan presidential election due to take place by the second half of 2024. Under a deal with the Biden Administration in October 2023, Maduro promised to start lifting bans on opposition party candidates and releasing political prisoners in exchange for the broad easing of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. The referendum and other saber rattling over Essequibo are Maduro’s attempt to energize and reconsolidate his voter base ahead of the 2024 election by appealing to patriotic sentiments.

The third context is foreign commercial and economic interests in the region’s oil. In 2015, Exxon struck a significant oil find off the coast of Essequibo. While Maduro tries to strengthen the “anti-imperialist” framing of his actions by pointing to how Guyana has handed oil resources to U.S. companies, it appears that Maduro wants to let Russian and Chinese companies extract oil in the region. This would strongly echo what has already happened with the ecologically destructive Arco Minero project in Venezuela’s Amazon region, where Maduro permitted multinational corporations to mine for natural resources under joint venture contracts.

The referendum has shaken residents of Essequibo, who are mostly indigenous people and have never believed that the land belongs to Venezuela.

The international Left should oppose what Maduro is doing and call it what it is: an authoritarian regime’s demagogic attempt to preserve itself by inflaming militarism and national chauvinism.

While there have been troop movements on both sides of the border, it is unclear what Maduro could realistically do to bring Essequibo under Venezuelan control given Venezuela’s weak military capacity and the international response that an invasion of Essequibo would likely trigger.

The international Left should oppose what Maduro is doing and call it what it is: an authoritarian regime’s demagogic attempt to preserve itself by inflaming militarism and national chauvinism. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) positions itself as pro-worker and blames the country’s troubles on U.S. imperialism. In reality, the Maduro government systematically attacks the working class through austerity measures. It is itself backed by imperialist powers like Russia and China. It keeps a Mafia-like grip on the unions and persecutes labor activists like Rodney Álvarez, who was imprisoned for over ten years.

Socialists should perform actions in solidarity with political prisoners and workers in struggle in Venezuela. They should amplify and make connections with the anti-regime Venezuelan Left. Simultaneously, they should push back against right-wing calls for intervention.

In brief, socialists should support the Venezuelan working class against the attacks it faces from the Maduro government and imperialist powers alike.

Featured image credit: Vector Portal; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Report from Bogotá

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 12/18/2023 - 19:18

Through the streets of Bogotá, the declaration resounded. Its validation could be found in the enormous banners that called for a revolutionary end to occupation and apartheid. In the innumerable Palestinian flags held in the hands of everyone from the very young to the very old. In the stickers of radical solidarity that were slapped on street signs and store windows, visible in the march’s wake like seashells when a wave recedes. In the cheers of restaurant workers brought out to the sidewalks by the commotion. In the scores of trade unionists and socialists leading the way.

In English, it goes: “People of Palestine, Colombia is with you!” (“¡Pueblo palestino, Colombia está contigo!”)

And indeed, it was for Palestine that many hundreds were marching the nearly two miles from the Parque Nacional to the Plaza de Bolívar.

“If the imperialists globalize violence, we globalize resistance”—Arturo Bravo

The long march teemed with passion and resolve, fervor and fury. Leftists sped around, handing out newspapers and stickers, or selling bandanas of red, black, white and green. Some bandanas showed a Palestinian woman firing a slingshot, while others declared, “¡Palestina para los palestinos!” and “¡Por una palestina laica, democratica y no racista!” (“For a secular, democratic, and non-racist Palestine!”)

Many people walked together with an enormous Palestinian flag, maybe fifty feet long and ten feet wide. Several of its bearers were young children. Elsewhere others carried an enormous papier-mâché key that took three people to heft. On it was painted, in part, “Derecho al retorno” (or “Right of return”).

People had stood their bicycles at crosswalks to impede oncoming traffic, and their bikes towed giant signs, such as one that read, “No dejes de hablar del genocidio en Palestina.” (“Don’t stop talking about the genocide in Palestine.”)

Banners representing Liga Internacional Socialista, Impulso Socialista, Congreso de los Pueblos, Comunes, Alternativa Revolucionaria Socialista, Brigadas Antimperialistas, Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores, and more leftist organizations were everywhere.

Photo by the author.

A car hooked up with rooftop speakers crawled along with the crowd, too, and orators alongside it blasted out messages of solidarity, and condemnations of complicity in Israel’s genocide by governments across the world, and most prominently the United States.

Chants buoyed the march along: “¡No es una guerra, es un genocidio!” (“It is not a war; it is a genocide!”), and “¡Desde el río hasta el mar, Palestina vencera!” (roughly, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will overcome!”, a cousin of the English chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”).

More than halfway through the march, a cadre of activists suddenly stopped much of the crowd at a busy intersection. Several people unfurled and raised a massive banner displaying an image of linked Israeli and American flags (the latter complete with fifty skulls), intertwined in barbed wire. Bottles were pulled from backpacks, and the banner was doused in gasoline. In an instant, it went up in flames. In fervor and fury.

Two participants in the demonstration were Arturo Bravo and Valentina Perafán, self-described militantes of la Liga Internacional Socialista (International Socialist League) and its Colombian branch, Unidad Obrera y Socialista, or UNÍOS.

For Bravo, who’s familiar with demonstrations in Bogotá, the march and ardor of November 29 signified something in motion. This time, the action wasn’t limited to a minority migrant community whose homeland faced heightened oppression, or even to their perennial activist supporters. This time, it garnered vital support from the working class.

“The genocide in Palestine has acted as a catalyst, rekindling the mobilization of workers who typically respond to bureaucratic leadership,” Bravo told me the following day.

Previously, their mobilization was mainly driven by support for government reforms, lacking a broader willingness to take to the streets for just causes. The hope is that as they become less reliant on mobilizing solely for reforms, the union movement, in collaboration with a strengthened Left alternative, will prioritize the fight for substantial and genuine changes.

During the march, union representation and pride were everywhere you looked. The streets were filled with signs and banners—many of them attached to Palestinian flags—representing la Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, la Confederación General del Trabajo, la Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia, la Asociación Distrital de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Educación, la Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación, and more.

Photo by the author.

Importantly, hundreds of Colombian workers were mobilizing not only in solidarity with Palestinian struggle, but doing so consciously and visibly as members of the working class.

Though the rekindling has opened new horizons for a radicalizing working class, Bravo nonetheless admits the limits of the current environment. The demonstration was organized by trade unions and political organizations coalesced by the reform-oriented Pacto Histórico por Colombia alliance, a coalition founded in early 2021 of center-left and progressive movements and political parties, and which includes Colombian president Gustavo Petro. Bravo said:

While the Colombian Left engages in ongoing debates, there is a shared consensus in denouncing Israel’s genocidal invasion. However, reformist elements still accept the progressive government’s decision to maintain relations, and they endorse this stance. Socialists, on the other hand, reject maintaining relations and demand that they be broken immediately. Unfortunately, it seems that the Colombian working class does not mobilize as immensely against the genocide as in other countries. That is why political organizations have a lot to do to expose the tepidity and lack of resolve among the reformists.

Despite the restraints of reformism, indications of more radical stances, of evolving consciousness, were unmistakable in the signs, chants, and militancy of many union members.

Some carried banners and signs that were resolutely intersectional, too. A woman representing FECODE, or la Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación (Colombian Federation of Education Workers) carried a sign that began “En el Dia Internacional de la No violencia contra lus Mujeres…” and ended, “¡FECODE de pie con las mujeres palestinas!” (in total, “On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women… FECODE stands with Palestinian women!”).

For Bravo, the solidarity was both encouraging and very urgent:

It is very important that Colombian workers express their solidarity with Palestine. Such expressions of solidarity exert pressure on respective nations to take a stance against genocide. Each protest action is crucial in demonstrating that workers are committed to resisting imperialism and opposing genocidal practices.

For Bravo’s comrade Valentina Perafán, it’s not at all surprising that the Palestinian struggle resonates with the people of Colombia.

In UNÍOS, we understand that Colombia remains a semi-colony of U.S. imperialism,” she said. “Our regime is an ally of NATO, and on our land there are eight U.S. military bases. So we are too conditioned and dependent on the U.S. regime; we don’t have independence in almost anything. Also, because of economic interests, we have been living in an armed conflict for too many decades. We know about genocide and we have lived in war as our normality. Because of all of this, we can understand too well the Palestinian fight and empathize with their desire for freedom and sovereignty.

In this context of overlapping oppression, for Perafán the way forward follows international working-class solidarity:

We need to keep up the international mobilization to show that our class supports the Palestinian people. International support is essential. With it we can stop this genocide, and show that U.S. imperialism and the Israeli government are the real perpetrators of this genocide. Apart from international pressure, the Palestinian people must organize to recover all their lands with a socialist and feminist perspective because with anti-capitalist politics, they will be able to be free.

Within and beyond contributing to a militant trade-unionist and working-class movement, Bravo says the Colombian Left is pushing forward by many means:

Within la Unidad Obrera y Socialista (UNÍOS), we released a letter urging President Gustavo Petro to sever ties with Israel. Geopolitically isolating Israel is crucial, and as we persist in our street demonstrations, it is essential for Latin American governments to also cut their connections with Israel immediately. Our ongoing efforts should involve supporting protest actions, exposing and denouncing companies that fund Israel, and actively advocating for their boycott. We must stand in solidarity with our Palestinian comrades who join us in the streets, fighting alongside them. The unity of the working class transcends borders!

Of course, Bravo’s call to action includes anyone in the United States committed to supporting struggles against imperialism, colonialism, racism, and any phobia or form of injustice in Palestine, Colombia, and beyond. Bravo stressed:

Our American comrades have the opportunity to support our struggles, participate in our solidarity campaigns, and mobilize alongside us. It’s crucial to emphasize that the recent days of solidarity with Palestine have seen actions all over the world. If the imperialists globalize violence, we globalize resistance.

Photo by author.

Anderson Bean assisted in translating the interview with Arturo Bravo, which has been edited for succinctness.

Categories: D2. Socialism

What solidarity requires

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 12/17/2023 - 20:40

The recent article “The Legacy of October 7” written by Mel Bienenfield criticizes two of my recent articles on the current situation in Palestine. In his description of what he calls the inadequacies of my pieces, Comrade Bienenfeld makes three claims. Each of them reflects a methodological and political error that speaks to larger questions on the Left. It is for that reason I am responding, as getting these questions wrong holds us back from building solidarity with a radicalizing Palestinian movement both in the U.S. and internationally.

Bienenfeld implies that my articles “uncritically support” and “flinch from an independent assessment of” Hamas. I disagree. I argued then that:

There are legitimate strategic criticisms of the emphasis on armed struggle, concerns about the relegation of the kind of mass resistance of the First Intifada, Great March of Return and 2021’s Unity Intifada, and concerns about Hamas’ sectarianism and increasingly authoritarian internal regime—a function, in part, of its isolation in Gaza. In the deadlock of Palestinian politics and with general mass dissatisfaction with the traditional Palestinian political groups.

My latter article made similar points when I argued that criticism of Hamas “must be made”—while cognizant of the ideological minefield of the Zionist backlash—on a strategic, not moral basis. So what Bienenfeld finds inadequate is not that I am “uncritical” of Hamas but rather that he disagrees with my assessments.

He makes three claims about the apparent inadequacies of my articles as it relates to the events of October 7. One, that these events reflect “the most profound defeat” for the Palestinian liberation movement. Two, that the actions taken by the armed groups on October 7 need to be perceived in a negative light because they set back the development of a peace movement in Israel and “enhanced” and helped “gain credibility” for the fears of antisemitism in the United States. Third, that the ability of revolutionary socialists “to shape a perspective for our activity” apparently requires a clearly stated “moral” opposition to at least some of the actions of October 7. I will take up each of these in turn.

“A positive step for Palestine”?

Comrade Bienenfeld faults Hamas for the events of October 7 on the basis of his assessment of its “legacy”—as his article is titled. He argues that there is “no getting around the fact that the outcome of October 7, in military terms, is a severe setback to Palestinian liberation—as could have been easily predicted, and should have been.” He argues that Hamas’s military strategy has paved the way for “the most profound defeat” for Palestinians since the 1948 Nakba and claims that “it’s hard to see how these people will be able to contribute to active resistance any time soon.” This is a simplistic view.

It is demonstrably the case that since October 7, the genocidal violence enacted on Gaza is catastrophic. Many, like Bienenfeld, have pointed out that the current death toll in Gaza has exceeded those murdered by Zionists during the 1948 Nakba that established the state of Israel on its foundation of ethnic cleansing and massacre. The razing of Gaza and Israel’s potential plans for Gaza’s Palestinians in many ways could be clearly a setback. It is uncontroversial to see how the wake of October 7 has led to a situation of calamitous disaster and unfathomable human cost for Palestinians.

The actions taken on October 7—that I and others characterized as having a desperate quality—was a calculation at choosing a military gambit perhaps risking genocide in the context of facing a slow-motion genocide underway.

Most importantly, the notion that this is simply a “profound defeat” very critically obscures and tragically minimizes the conditions before October 7. This claim depends on an assumption in Bienenfeld’s analysis that if Hamas had not carried out the attacks on October 7, or perhaps if the fighters had shown greater restraint, that somehow things would be better off for Palestinians. Without minimizing the extent of the current violence still one must ask, “What would you have them do?” The context of sixteen years of the siege of Gaza accompanied by the routinized Israeli bombing sprees, the continual international isolation of the Palestinian cause due to normalization, the pending Saudi/Israel deal, the rise of a right-wing government in Israel that was fervently explicit before October 7 about its aim of carrying out the final annexation of the remainder of historic Palestine, this aim beginning to be implemented with pogroms of Palestinian villages carried out by settler organizations, record levels of violence directed at Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as the targeting of Al Aqsa Mosque with multiple armed demonstrations of right-wing settlers with ministers in the current government at the lead.

The actions taken on October 7—that I and others characterized as having a desperate quality—was a calculation at choosing a military gambit perhaps risking genocide in the context of facing a slow-motion genocide underway. The slow certainty of death of the siege of Gaza and the withering of the Palestinian resistance versus an attempt to upset this status quo with great immediate cost is a decision that for some is hard to grasp from afar. But it is a decision that rests firmly with the Palestinian movement.

I would also add that it is too quick and too narrow to proclaim defeat and have the assessment stop there. Other political dynamics show a more complicated balance sheet. The global display of solidarity with Palestinians has been unprecedented. Regional demonstrations, some directed at Arab governments complicity with Zionism, have re-emerged. Israel has been increasingly discredited, the normalization deals with the other Arab countries is at least temporarily stalled and problematized, several South American countries have symbolically broken ties with the apartheid state, and Joe Biden’s unwavering support for genocide has created a deep divides in his standing globally and domestically.

A recent poll found that among “young Democrats” dramatic shifts towards support for Palestine have occurred and that this is, according to the director of the poll, “the deepest shift in a short time I have seen” and that “this isn’t episodic.” Others, like in a Nation piece entitled “Israel Is Losing This War,” have pointed out that even while it appears that Hamas may face a short-term military setback there is a convincing argument to be made that some of its long term political objectives have made gains. The article argues that “by shattering a status quo that Palestinians find intolerable, Hamas has put politics back on the agenda. Israel has significant military power, but it is politically weak.”

Even imperialist goons like Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have publicly commented that this situation will lead to Israel “replac[ing] a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.” While I probably share with Bienenfeld an analysis that “It seems tragically unlikely that the armed resistance in its current state will be able to militarily defeat the enormous Zionist military apparatus” (even though he seems to ignore that this is the conclusion of my October 8 piece) I think that to simply declare the “legacy” as a profound defeat is too early to tell.

Comrade Bienenfeld’s analysis also completely—and problematically—excludes the viewpoint of Palestinians in his assessment. Much of the assessment of October 7 from Palestinians acknowledges the immense and threatening danger of Israel’s response but also contains a sense of hope. This needs to be engaged with. If it is such an “easily predicted” setback, why is it that one of the few polls conducted among Palestinians since October found that 73 percent of Palestinians polled had “expectations of victory” and over 80 percent viewed as favorable the Al Qassam and Al Aqsa resistance brigades? Obviously opinion polls don’t immediately translate into material gains but the subjective experience of the Palestinians in struggle should be centrally considered. We can imagine that this has everything to do with the strategic alternatives on offer. It also seems to reflect that Palestinians are thinking in political, not purely military, terms when they speak of victory.

This is why the events of October 7, the literal tearing down of the fences and puncturing the myth of the invulnerability of the Zionist enemy for many Palestinians meant—as Basil Farraj recently told me in an interview—”thinking about freedom, about breaking metaphorical and literal walls.” He stated that there is the sober awareness that “if we get defeated now, it would take us, if not decades, centuries back.” And with that he also said “we are talking about hope and an unleashing of our imagination.” This is a common perception that cannot just be discounted.

Free Palestine demo – Oranienplatz. Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany, October 21, 2023 . Photo by Montecruz Foto.

It is also hard to simply intone “defeat” when you see the joyful reunion of Palestinian political prisoners and their families released by the prisoner exchange. The refrain of thanks they give to the armed resistance and to the solemn sacrifice of Gazans is universal. They do so in awareness of the costs. While it is true that we need to “face the hard facts” that this exchange is a drop in the bucket of Palestinian political prisoners, and that Israel arrested more than they released in that period, for someone who emphasizes the need to empathize with others this subjective reality should be noted. One Palestinian comrade remarked to me that when October 7 occurred, many Palestinian political prisoners who faced life sentences packed their clothes up and placed them by the door of their cell because they expected that this—in contrast with the impasse of negotiations—would be their way out. There is hope here amid the despair.

Bienenfeld places too much emphasis on the specifics of Hamas’ actions instead of seeing what transpired as the product of the conditions imposed by Israel, what Tareq Baconi (who Bienenfeld quotes while ignoring his conclusions) calls the “inevitable rupture” caused by “Israel’s relentless and indeterminable provocation.” It was an attempt to change the balance of a status quo that was completely untenable. What Baconi calls “a new reality” “has left in tatters the illusion that ethnic partition in Palestine is either a sustainable or effective form of demographic engineering, let alone a moral or legal one.”

Overall, the inauguration of this new reality, which seems likely to be a part of the calculus of Hamas’ actions, now exists. As that relates to the question of “defeat” it is too early to tell, and the evidence points to a more complicated picture, even if one possible conclusion might terrifyingly indeed be a generational setback. Our analysis should engage with this reality, and also engage with the element of hope that October 7 brings for Palestinians while not minimizing the immense existential threat that Israel’s current aggression presents. That also means a political method that understands the difficulty of the situation and the narrowing of the horizon of political action because of the situation imposed by Israel. Comradely criticism is not only permissible, but should be aired. And, of course, I agree with Comrade Bienenfeld that to avoid reality “does a disservice to the Palestinian struggle and to those building solidarity with it.” However, the “reality” presented by Bienenfeld is too narrow, minimizes the conditions that preceded October 7, and neglects current Palestinian viewpoints.

“Conditions created for the Israeli and US movement”

Comrade Bienenfeld similarly finds fault with Hamas’ actions for foreshortening the chance of the emergence of an anti-war movement in Israel and with “enhancing” the “credibility” of the slanderous association of anti-Zionism with antisemitism. In regards to Israel, he claims that the actions of October 7 provoked a revulsion that would make “the development of an internal [Israeli] anti-war movement or other forms or resistance—even in the name of liberal Zionism—vanishingly slim” and will drive people into an “increase reliance on a powerful military.” Bizarrely, Bienenfeld uses as evidence the entry of ex-general Benny Gantz’s (a war criminal himself who in 2019 bragged that he “bombed Gaza back to the stone age”) rightwing National Unity Party into government. This far from reflects anything aside from some consolidation of the Israeli right-wing as Gantz’s party differs politically from Likud only in its criticism of Netanyahu’s corruption. In the U.S., Bienenfeld says that Hamas’ actions made it “very easy to propagate” “the narrative that those supporting Palestinian liberation are antisemites…” and that as a result, “the voices of capitalist politicians and pro-Zionist forces denying the legitimacy of Palestine’s liberation movement have been enhanced.”

To his credit, Comrade Bienenfeld appropriately calls attention to the propaganda of Israel and the U.S., Zionist groups like the ADL, along with corporate media and university administrators, for promoting the hawkishness in Israel and the angle of antisemitism in the US. Still his method of critique presents problems.

In general, putting the blame on the actions of the oppressed—even if we may think they are unstrategic—for racist reaction is to abdicate the role of socialists as “tribunes of the oppressed.” To see the litmus test for how the oppressed should resist as being what is seen as acceptable by the oppressor is completely backwards. In the context in which—as Marx points out—the dominant ideas of any age are those of the ruling class, the notion that resistance should conform with and pander to those ideas is absurd. Should the Algerians have determined their method of resistance based on the tastes and fancy of the French colonists? In the United States should the Black Lives Matter protest have been less militant in its slogans because it provoked reaction among some? No. Resistance will always provoke reaction and the utilization of backwards ideas to attack it. Our responsibility is to blame the racists, condemn the powerful, attack the rulers and oppressors, expose their cynicism, hypocrisy and complicity rather than accidently lend support to their grotesque characterizations of the most backward elements of society.

Even before the events of October 7, Israeli society was already politically shifting right with its right-wing government and settler movement, increasing polarization, the roughly 50 percent support for annexation, among many other examples. The recent mass movement against Netanyahu’s judicial changes not only did not make mention of Palestinians at all but banned Palestinian flags from the demonstrations.

Resistance will always provoke reaction and the utilization of backwards ideas to attack it. Our responsibility is to blame the racists, condemn the powerful, attack the rulers and oppressors, expose their cynicism, hypocrisy and complicity rather than accidently lend support to their grotesque characterizations of the most backward elements of society.

The Israeli working class operates in a settler-colonial context, in active collaboration with Israeli capitalism in the continued ethnic cleansing and occupation project of Israeli apartheid.1Also see the chapter by Daphna Thier in Palestine: A Socialist Introduction for the most comprehensive articulation of this position. Despite the actions of some individuals of conscience, the class character and relationship to the state means that as a class Israeli workers are not allies in the struggle for Palestinian liberation, for democratic rights for all, and for the right of return for the generations of Palestinian forced into the diaspora. This is the material reason why the Israeli peace movement has, tragically, always been, and currently is even more so, small, isolated, and insignificant. This is an unfortunate reality that we wish were different. However, it is a fantasy to think that there was some nascent movement waiting in the wings that now is discouraged due to revulsion to the killings on October 7.

Actually, it is notable that there has been little public opposition to Netanyahu’s bombardment and attempts to reinstate the death penalty and that opposition has come from one section of the families of those taken hostage, precisely the individuals who, per Bienenfeld’s equation, should be more uncritically supportive of the genocide.

This same error applies to the points made about the United States. Of course the shrill McCarthyite calls have resulted in fierce reaction, legal challenges to the movement, people losing jobs, etc. But placing the emphasis on this being the “result” of Hamas’s actions is a mistake. By extension, would Bienenfeld say that similarly the “revulsion” to October 7 “enhanced” Islamophobia and that led to the killing of 6-year old Wadea Al-Fayoume in Chicago or the shooting of three Palestinian students in Burlington, VT. Should we criticize Hamas actions on the basis that somehow they are “to blame” for this racist violence? I am sure that Bienenfeild would not, but the logic he lays out walks dangerously close.

Lastly, Bienenfeld writes of how these events are being used to build pro-Israel sentiment in the U.S. and points to a pro-Israel rally in Manhattan. I think the political mood here is certainly quite polarized, but I think he skips over the dynamic that rather than a consolidation of support for Israel, the stunning spread of massive protest and civil disobedience carried out by groups like Jewish Voice for Peace reflect that there is also—and I would claim much greater of—an impact of these events in breaking a substantial number of young American Jews from Zionism and bringing them into the the struggle. There really is no comparison between a few, often measly pro-Israel rallies and the massive pro-Palestine demos that almost occur daily in major cities.

The events of October 7 have certainly polarized public opinion, but the notion that Hamas’ actions are causally related to the lack of an Israeli peace movement or the rise of a new McCarthyism is incorrect, and his description of consciousness in the U.S. is one-sided. While we can talk about these things in a descriptive fashion, to use these as a point for criticism as Bienenfeld does in his piece, and thus making the actions of Palestinians responsible for the racist hate and violence being directed at them is perverse and should be rejected completely. No socialist should be blaming the oppressed for the conditions of their oppression or actions of the oppressor.

“Misplaced moralism”?

Lastly, Comrade Bienenfeld argues that I use the wrong adjectives in describing the violence of October 7. “Stronger words” need to be used to decry the violence because our “judgment of tactics” has to be “partly informed by moral considerations.” My basic response to this is, simply, “why?” Bienenfeld does not offer an explanation. I don’t think that a solidarity movement in the imperial center has any imperative of responsibility to condemn actions of anti-colonial violence. The reason is that this kind of violence is a product of the conditions of settler colonialism itself; it should neither surprise nor shock us; we see it as not just expected but reasonable in context, even if we think that strategically military action alone will not liberate Palestine. That the violence of the oppressed reflects the actions of the oppressor should be our simple maxim.

Bienenfeld mentions a quote that I use from Marx in a way that I think is instructive. He asks me if I “would allow” the term “infamous conduct” that Marx uses to describe the anti-colonial violence in India to apply to Hamas. Simply, I would say, of course, because that is why I used the quote. But I want to use this to emphasize something else. The actions that Marx was describing in the 1857 Indian rebellion were of a violence far greater in scale than anything that Hamas did on October 7. By some estimates a full 15 percent of all British citizens living in India were killed. Civilians were slaughtered, sometimes with hatchets, and wells were filled with bodies and limbs. This would be the equivalent of 139,000 Israelis being killed. And yet, even with a level of violence that dwarfs October 7, the emphasis Marx makes is: “There is something in human history like retribution: and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself.” This mode of analysis differs sharply from those expressing the imperative to deplore, or even worse, “condemn” Hamas.

“Hanging of Rebels.”  Photo by Felice Beato. Persons who participated, or were suspected of participating, in the 1857 rebellion risked the death penalty. The photograph shows two participants (or suspects) being hanged at an unknown location in 1858.

Socialists in the imperial center should not see themselves as the “referees” of anticolonial struggle, assigning moral categories to different actions of the anticolonial resistance. To be clear, again, this does not mean being uncritical. BUT there is a huge chasm between criticism about the strategic effectiveness of a political act and issuing moral determinations on appropriate or inappropriate forms of struggle. The reason for this is connected with how we understand anticolonial struggle in that it is and has always been violent for reasons. Thinkers like Fanon have laid this out at length like in The Wretched of the Earth where he writes that:

The violence that governed the ordering of the colonial world; tirelessly punctuated the destruction of the indigenous social fabric; and demolished unchecked the systems of reference of the country’s economy, lifestyles, and modes of dress–this same violence will be vindicated and appropriated when, taking history into their own hands, the colonized swarm into the forbidden cities. To blow the colonial world to smithereens is henceforth a clear image within the grasp and imagination of every colonized subject.

We have to understand that the conditions of colonialism produce its response and that this often includes violence, to which perhaps revolutionary socialists can feel free to use a variety of adjectives. I don’t cheer joyously at the killing of noncombatants. On the human level, I find it sad that families have been broken. I find the murder of civilians in war usually counterproductive. At the same time, I see absolutely no reason to “condemn Hamas” for violence that I hold as a component of Zionist oppression and occupation. Even more so, I see it as vitally important to reject even the suggestion that condemnation of these actions has any merit to describing the political contours of the anticolonial struggle.

It doesn’t matter if I find it acceptable or not. It is not for me to decide. What does matter, and what is critical for the movement to build solidarity with Palestinian liberation and against Zionist settler colonialism is that our description and analysis of violent acts like what happened on October 7 centrally acknowledge that as long as the settler-colonial project of Zionism persists, so will anti-colonial violence. We should not deny that the violence occurred, or be shocked or surprised as it should be unfortunately expected, but point to the fact that the guilt is Israel’s and that the solution—the image that we must see clearly—is the abolition of settler colonialism.

I consider these to be basic socialist principles, and the long block quote from David Finkel that Bienenfeld presents as a positive example of a revolutionary socialist description of the situation does not hold up to this. Socialists—particularly in the imperial centers—have no role in moral judgments of anti-colonial violence as a component of their political analysis. And more often than not our role is to help point out how—and why—the violence of the colonized arises and how it can be appropriate in the course of resistance.

To conclude

In anticipation of what I fear will be an ungenerous read, I want to conclude by reiterating that I am not arguing an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend approach to Hamas. I think more Left analysis and critique of Hamas is warranted. The general position of the need for a Left alternative still stands. Whatever critique also needs to be done without a shred of the Islamophobia that still saturates sections of the Western Left. But I don’t think that an analysis of how we understand Hamas is what this debate is about; rather it is about how to talk about, understand, and analyze the events of the Al-Aqsa Flood and the current Palestinian resistance.

The three claims that comrade Bienenfeld makes of my articles reflect larger positions that are politically faulty. In assessing any events the subjectivity of the oppressed in struggle needs to be included and the absence of Palestinian views and agency in the analysis of October 7 is an error. It is backwards to fault the events of October 7, Hamas, and Palestinians for various elements of reactionary racism, like the new McCarthyism in the U.S. The notion that there was any anti-war movement in Israel that could be sabotaged sadly has no inkling of reality. Lastly, those in solidarity with anti-colonial struggles would be wise to not go down the patronizing lines of moral judgments about anticolonial violence as different from, as Marx says, “a retribution forged by” the colonial oppressor. Failure to grasp this appears out of touch with the sweeping radicalization standing in solidarity with Palestine that has not stumbled in the face of these questions. A recent Harvard poll found that 51 percent of Americans 18-24 thought that the actions on October 7 were “justified by the actions of Israel.”

This is the milieu in which the vanguard for building a new movement operates. And similar engagement by socialists in the U.S. with the international Left and critically in the Middle East/North Africa region are equally necessary. It is precisely such engagements—wherever possible—that will best facilitate building a movement up to the enormous tasks of the moment, an issue which should be at the forefront of our thinking on all of these questions. Viewing the events of October 7 and its aftermath through the wrong lens, or with the wrong focus, or with misplaced moralism weakens our ability to do that.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Kissinger’s bloody legacy

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 12/16/2023 - 20:34

We can rejoice that we no longer live in a world with Henry Kissinger. But we are still living with his blood-soaked legacy, which has turned the entire world into an endless battlefield.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a darling of the U.S. establishment, finally died on November 29. As one of the most powerful people in U.S. history, the odes and eulogizing from those on high will speak of him as a great statesman, an accomplished global strategist, a brilliant intellectual, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and America’s most famous diplomat.

But no. Henry Kissinger was an enemy of democracy, a war criminal, a man responsible for crimes against humanity, a man implicated in three genocides, and a butcher who orchestrated the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians on four continents. In Latin America alone, the military dictatorships that Kissinger encouraged tortured and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. It is good that he is dead, and what is sad is not his passing but the disgusting fact that he sloughed off his mortal coil, completely unaccountable for the innumerable crimes for which he is directly responsible. While the sheer extent of his malfeasance fills whole books, a brief survey of his real legacy shows the darkness of the shadow he cast on the world.

ESMA and Argentina

The first thing I thought of after Kissinger passed was my trip to the Navy Petty-Officers School (ESMA) located in the middle of downtown Buenos Aires. During Argentina’s Dirty War, the military dictatorship disappeared up to thirty thousand “dissidents,” “subversives,” and anyone suspected of “subversive” activity. ESMA was Argentina’s largest detention center during the Dirty War.

From 1976-1983, ESMA operated as a secret detention center where the military dictatorship “disappeared,” tortured, and executed students, activists, artists, trade unionists, writers, and journalists.

ESMA has since been converted to a memorial museum to honor those who were “disappeared” during the Dirty War. On my tour, I saw the small dark rooms where the “disappeared” were housed and tortured, many of them held until they were drugged, blindfolded, forced onto military aircrafts, flown over the ocean,  and pushed out to drown in the waters below. These “death flights” led to hundreds of bodies washing up on beaches south of Buenos Aires.

Over 4,800 prisoners were murdered at ESMA. Many were drowned, many others were electrocuted, many died from injuries sustained from the military’s brutal experimentation to see how well the human body could handle the removal of organs, the fluctuation of hot and cold temperatures, and the severance of limbs. Some were left in the middle of the jungle to die. Others were simply shot.

Women were subjected to sexual abuse and assault. Those whose abuse resulted in a pregnancy were often forced to give birth to the child in order to give the child away to associates of the regime. The women were then returned after they gave birth to ESMA without any knowledge of the child or even their whereabouts.

Kissinger was a strong supporter of the brutal military dictatorship in Argentina despite knowledge of these clandestine centers of detention, torture and execution. On June 10, 1976, Kissinger met with the Argentine Armed Forces shortly after the military coup that installed the dictatorship and advised the regime to destroy their opponents quickly before there was too much outcry over human rights abuses. Kissinger gave the same advice he would give to other brutal dictators, “if there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”

In other words, Kissinger gave military dictator Rafael Videla the green light for the kidnappings, disappearances, murder and torture so long as he could get it done “quickly” before public opinion turned against him. Kissinger reassured foreign minister Argentine Admiral César Augusto Guzzetti that he had U.S. backing in whatever he did and promised the regime that Washington would not cause any “unnecessary difficulties.” Near the end of this meeting, Kissinger requested to speak with Guzzeti privately, off the record, away from the note-taker. Kissinger subsequently wrote a request to grant $50,000 (over a quarter of a million dollars adjusted for inflation) in security assistance to the regime.

What was said in that four-minute conversation is unknown, but what we do know is the following day several deadly operations and assassinations were carried out including one operation where Argentine death squads abducted and tortured twenty-four Chilean and Uruguayan refugees living in Argentina.

The military junta stayed in power for seven more years after this meeting and one estimate of those murdered or disappeared numbered upwards of 22 thousand by July 1978. After these tens of thousands of Argentines were murdered or disappeared, and in the middle of the dictatorship’s brutal torture and extermination regime, Videla invited Kissinger to be his guest of honor for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. In what became his most visible meeting with Videla, Kissinger accepted the invitation and publicly participated in this attempt to use soccer to whitewash the concentration camps and torture chambers the regime was operating across the country.

Chile

No better words describe Kissinger’s aversion to democracy than the words of Kissinger himself. In the 1970s, Chile had a reputation for having one of the most developed pluralistic democracies in the southern hemisphere. In Chile’s 1970 free and democratic elections, socialist Salvador Allende was elected with a plurality of votes. A socialist president in Chile was unacceptable to the Chilean Right and to certain powerful U.S. corporations doing business in Chile (ITT, Pepsi Cola, Chase Manhattan Bank). Kissinger’s now famous response to the elections was clear: “I don’t know why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” Even before the election, Kissinger’s position on Allende was made plain in a CIA cable that stated: “it is a firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup.”

In the days following Allende’s electoral victory, Kissinger met with President Nixon and the director of the CIA, Richard Helms, to devise a plan to instigate a coup to prevent the democratically elected Allende from coming to power. Kissinger pressed the CIA to foment a military coup. Project FUBELT (Track II) was the codename given to the secret CIA operation to prevent Allende from coming to power before his confirmation. When word of a possible military coup reached General René Schneider, head of the Chilean military, Schneider responded by saying that he would uphold the Chilean Constitution and respect the elections. Without knowledge or authorization from the U.S. Congress, Kissinger began a plan to remove this obstacle by getting rid of General Schneider.

The plan was to kidnap Schneider, replace him with a coup supporter, claim that the kidnapping was done by Allende supporters, declare martial law, wipe out Allende supporters, and declare the elections null. A sum of $50,000 was offered to any Chilean officer who would take on this task. Kissinger then authorized machine guns and tear gas grenades to several Chilean officers interested in kidnapping Scheider. One of them was General Roberto Viaux, who had ties to Patria y Libertad, a fascist paramilitary group. On October 22, General Viaux’s gang kidnapped and murdered General Scheider, and his $50,000 was promptly wired to his bank account. Viaux was later convicted on charges of kidnapping and conspiring to cause a coup, but Kissinger, who essentially created the plan and greenlit funding for the operation of the Schneider’s murder, was never held accountable.

Despite removing one of the key obstacles to overthrowing Allende, the initial attempts at a coup failed. Over the next three years, there were five more attempts to overthrow Allende. Finally, on September 11, 1973, Washington and the Chilean armed forces would be successful in overthrowing the democratically elected Chilean president.

An exhibition by the Salvador Allende Foundation on the 30th anniversary of his death shows photographs of missing people after the U.S.-backed coup in Chile on September 11, 1973. Photo Credit: Marjorie Apel.

After the coup, Kissinger supported the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. Under Pinochet, Chilean security forces killed, tortured, and disappeared thousands of Chileans. The regime turned Santiago’s soccer stadium into a concentration camp. On several occasions, Kissinger pushed back against Congress’s attempt to censure the regime for its human rights violations.2Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books) 148.

It is worth mentioning that Kissinger was well-informed of the minute details of Pinochet’s atrocities. Kissinger met with Pinochet in Santiago, Chile on June 8, 1976, and told him that whatever mild criticism he may hear in his remarks to the Organization of American States (OAS) the following day should not be taken seriously. Kissinger let Pinochet know that he would have to make a few comments about human rights violations in Chile but he could safely ignore them because “the speech is not aimed at Chile.”

Operation Condor

But for Pinochet, the torture, execution, and “disappearance” of domestic dissidents was not enough. Pinochet, along with other right-wing military dictatorships in South America (Stroessner’s Paraguay, Videla’s Argentina, Banzer’s Bolivia, and other regional dictatorships) organized an international death squad consortium whereby security forces carried out cross-border assassinations, torture, kidnappings, rape and intimidation on three continents. In effect, it was the internationalization of Pinochet’s domestic death squads. What came to be known as Operation Condor was established at a meeting in Santiago Chile on November 26, 1975. The meeting was attended by various South American military officers and heads of state.

Many prominent dissidents were murdered by this campaign including Chilean General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires, Bolivian general Juan José Torres, and Chilean ex-Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his aide Ronnie Moffit in Washington D.C. Letelier held a number of high-level positions in the Allende government and after the coup moved to the U.S. where he could lobby Congress to impose sanctions on Chile. For this crime, Letelier was murdered in broad daylight by a car bomb in downtown Washington D.C. Letelier, along with his U.S.co-worker Ronni Moffit, was killed and Moffit’s husband Michael Moffit who was also in the car was injured but survived.

The United States government’s cooperation and complicity has been uncovered at every level of Operation Condor. U.S. communication installations in Panama facilitated the communication and coordination of the South American heads of state regarding Operation Condor which allowed them to maintain the confidentiality of their communications. Kissinger was briefed frequently about Condor, he knew very well what type of operations Condor was conducting. It was not until after Kissinger met with Pinochet and Guzzetti that Operation Condor transitioned to what was called phase III operations, which was the carrying out of executions outside Latin America. It is fairly uncontroversial to assert that the expansion of the assassination campaign was a consequence of Kissinger’s explicit go-ahead as his behavior in prior coups in Argentina and Chile reflect.

Many of those involved in Operation Condor were held to some sort of account. Stroesner was overthrown, Videla was convicted of homicide, kidnapping and torture, and was sentenced to life in prison, Pinochet was arrested on charges of genocide and terrorism yet, once again, Kissinger escaped accountability.

Vietnam

Kissinger is probably best known for his role in the Vietnam War. But what is less known is that despite his continued public support for the war and his constant campaigning to build popular support for ongoing intervention, he knew from the beginning that the war was unwinnable. He often said in private conversations that “we couldn’t win” the war in Vietnam. Despite knowing it was unwinnable, Kissinger was one of the biggest proponents for the continuation of the war in Vietnam. Let us take a look at some of the consequences of his efforts to continue and expand the war in Southeast Asia. We will start with his role in the 1968 presidential elections.

In the 1968 election between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon, the question of the war was the central issue of the election. Both candidates claimed they were the best chance for “peace.” At the time, the Johnson administration was engaged in the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam.

Kissinger privately assured the South Vietnamese that an incoming Republican administration would offer them a better deal than the one the Johnson administration was offering them. The purpose of sabotaging the Paris peace negotiations was to both derail the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey. The idea was that if Kissinger could undercut Johnson’s peace talks then a frustrated U.S. electorate would turn to the Republicans to end the war. But of course, ending the war was never Kissinger’s aim. Any progress in the talks between Washington and Hanoi that were happening at the time would have benefited Humphrey.

[D]espite his continued public support for the war and his constant campaigning to build popular support for ongoing intervention, he knew from the beginning that the war was unwinnable. He often said in private conversations that “we couldn’t win” the war in Vietnam. Despite knowing it was unwinnable, Kissinger was one of the biggest proponents for the continuation of the war in Vietnam.

Kissinger used his contacts in the Johnson administration to acquire information about the negotiations, and then passed that information on to the Nixon campaign. Nixon then used the intelligence to forestall a possible truce. Kissinger’s tactics worked; the South Vietnamese withdrew from the talks on the eve of the elections, undercutting the “peace plank” that the Democrats were depending on. Humphrey’s momentum faded and Nixon won the election. Nixon rewarded Kissinger for his work by appointing him National Security Advisor.

The sabotaged negotiations that ended the Paris Peace Accords in Vietnam may have marked Kissinger’s ascent to power, but they were disastrous for the Vietnamese. Kissinger’s cynical subversion of the peace talks extended the war by five more years (seven if you count the two years of fighting between the 1973 peace accords and the 1975 fall of Saigon). The deal the Vietnamese signed five years later in 1973 was essentially the exact same as those that had been offered in the Paris peace talks in 1968.

In that five-year period, more than three million civilians were killed, injured, or rendered houseless. In that same four-year period, the U.S. dropped over four and a half million tons of high explosives on Indochina, which is more than twice as much tonnage dropped in the entirety of World War II. This doesn’t include the pesticides, chemical defoliants, and landmines that continue to detonate to this day.

The millions of deaths in these intervening years were completely avoidable, and were even more pointless than those killed prior to the Paris peace negotiations. Had the Paris negotiations not been sabotaged, tens of thousands of lives could have been spared. Kissinger knew the war was unwinnable. The only real winner of these four years of slaughter was Kissinger himself.

During the war, Kissinger, along with Nixon, carried out a number of devastating bombing campaigns on North Vietnam. Perhaps none more catastrophic than the Christmas Bombings. In December of 1972, the U.S. carried out one of the most concentrated bombing campaigns in history. In the campaign, 129 B52 bombers dropped forty thousand tons of bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong. This twelve-day campaign was the largest bomber strike launched by the U.S. since  World War II. The attacks targeted civilian buildings, including hospitals and schools. Nixon said at the time that the bombs were designed to cause “the utmost civilian distress.” Over 1,600 Vietnamese civilians were killed in this campaign and that was precisely the goal as expressed by Kissinger and Nixon.

North Vietnamese civilians in Hanoi’s Kham Thien district in March 1973 working through the rubble following the Christmas bombings in December 1972. Photo Credit: Horst Faas.

What makes this bombing particularly heinous is that it was not conducted for any military purposes. The bombings were carried out solely for political purposes. The first political purpose of the bombings was to make a show of strength. The second was to show the South Vietnamese government that the U.S. wouldn’t abandon them after the December 1972 peace talks collapsed. The Christmas bombings were their way of showing it. As Christopher Hitchens described it: “It was a public relations mass murder from the sky.”

Cambodia and Laos

In Cambodia, Kissinger conducted an illegal, secret bombing without congressional knowledge or approval on a neutral country that the U.S. was not officially at war with. Less than a month into Nixon’s term Kissinger began to plan an attack on North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Eastern Cambodia. Cambodia hoped to remain neutral in the Vietnam War, but Kissinger had other plans. Because bombing a neutral country is illegal, Kissinger had to carry out his attacks in secret. The planning of these secret bombings took place in a meeting between Kissinger, his aide Alexander Haig, and Air Force Colonel Ray Sitton in February 1969. The operation was named Operation Menu, with the names of the targets named after meals, Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert. Starting with Breakfast Kissinger approved a plan to conceal the Cambodian bombing missions from military retinas.

The plan was as follows. B-52 planes were given preassigned targets in South Vietnam, then in mid-flight they would be rerouted by ground radar stations and guided to secret targets in Cambodia. It is also important to note that B-52 bombers fly at an altitude too high to be observed from the ground, give no warning of approach, and are incapable of accuracy or discrimination. The pilots would bomb these targets in Cambodia, then upon their return would write up false “post-strike” reports indicating that their bombs had been dropped in South Vietnam.

Any documents that revealed the deception – maps, radar reports, computer printouts, etc, would be burned. Cambodia would never appear on the record. These forged documents and “phony target coordinates” would be sent to Congress and the Pentagon for accounting purposes, to continue receiving money for bombs, fuel, etc, while never having to disclose that Cambodia was the actual target of these bombings. Under Kissinger’s supervision, the U.S. flew over 3,800 secret missions over Cambodia in 14 months, dropping 110 thousand tons of bombs. Kissinger was intimately involved in the direction and timing of the bombing raids, and nobody knew more about them in intimate detail than he did.

Kissinger supervised every aspect of these bombings, including designing the missions, picking the specific targets to be bombed, the timing of the bombs, oftentimes even overruling and altering plans that generals and other military men had proposed. Kissinger enjoyed the roll of bombardier and was even reported to “express enthusiasm at the size of bomb craters.”2Quoted in Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books) 63.

The bombings in Cambodia were purposefully indiscriminate, with a majority of victims being civilians. Over a hundred thousand Cambodians were killed and over two million (one-quarter of the country’s population) were forced to flee their homes. Entire families were wiped out, whole villages were destroyed, and hundreds of acres of crops were scorched.

Shortly after the bombings, rumors of the operations began to leak in the press. Kissinger was determined to keep these bombings secret. He responded by contacting the FBI to request wiretaps to be used to find the source of the leaks. Journalists, associates, and aids in the Pentagon were subsequently wiretapped.

Operation Menu created a major crisis in Cambodia, which led to a coup in 1970 and the broadening of support for the Khmer Rouge as a resistance to the bombing. The coup provoked a U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. Kissinger’s response to this crisis that was created by his own bombing was more bombing. This time the bombings were not limited to North Vietnamese sanctuaries but spread to cover nearly all of Cambodia. Kissinger’s bombing of Cambodia created the conditions for the rise and eventual triumph of the Khmer Rouge. U.S. bombs were a major recruitment tool for the Khmer Rouge. When Nixon and Kissinger began bombing Cambodia in 1969, the Khmer Rouge had a membership of just five thousand. By 1973, after four years of U.S. bombings, the Khmer Rouge grew to over two hundred thousand troops. The Khmer Rouge, as is widely known, carried out a genocide that killed two million people.

The worst of the bombings occurred after Washington, Hanoi, and Saigon signed the peace accords in 1973. Between February 8 and August 15, 1973, the U.S. dropped over 250 thousand tons of bombs, targeting most of the country.

The bombing of Cambodia and Laos was one of the most brutal military operations in U.S. history. According to one study, 790 thousand cluster bombs were dropped on Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam combined, releasing just under one trillion pieces of shrapnel.3Ibid, 69 As Greg Grandin points out “more bombs were dropped separately on Cambodia and Laos than combined on Japan and Germany during WWII.”4Ibid, 69 Grandin summarizes the bombings in his 2015 book Kissinger’s Shadow:

The bombing of Cambodia was illegal in its conception, deceitful in its implementation, and genocidal in its effect. It destroyed the fragile neutrality that Cambodia’s leaders had managed to maintain despite the war next door. It committed Washington to a program of escalation, including its 1970 invasion, which hastened the collapse of Cambodian society.

5Ibid, 68

When the German Newspaper Die Ziet asked Kissinger in 1976 if he had any “pangs of conscience” about his role in Cambodia, he promptly replied “no.”6Quoted in Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books) 173.It is no wonder that chef and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain once said, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger with your bare hands.”

But Cambodia and Vietnam were not the only countries in Southeast Asia that were bombed by Nixon on the advice of Kissinger. Though Lyndon Johnson began the bombing of Laos, it was Nixon and Kissinger who expanded and intensified them. And much like the initial bombing campaigns in Cambodia, at first, the bombings in Laos were done in secret. Between 1964-1973 the U.S. dropped 270 million bombs on Laos. Despite that, the two countries were never officially at war. During this period the U.S. carried out over 580 thousand bombing missions in Laos. In other words, U.S. pilots dropped a plane full of bombs on average every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, every day for nine straight years. That is the equivalent of a ton of explosives dropped for each and every Laotian for a total of 2.5 million tons in nearly 600 thousand runs, making Laos, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in history.

Over eighty million of these bombs never exploded and remain live, buried all over the country. So in addition to the thirty thousand Laotians that were killed in the initial bombings, almost a half a century after the bombing ceased, the bombs dropped by the U.S. are still killing and maiming hundreds of Laotians each year. Over twenty thousand Laotians were killed by these delayed explosions as of 2009. Forty percent of the victims are children and many more are scarred and maimed.7Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books) 72.

In the end, as many as 350 thousand civilians in Laos and 600 thousand in Cambodia lost their lives as a result of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s expanded and intensified bombing campaigns.8Christopher Hitchens, The Trials of Henry Kissinger. (New York: Twelve, 2001) 49. Not to mention the millions of refugees created by the bombings or the widespread health crisis that persists to this day (particularly for young children, nursing mothers, and the elderly) that resulted from the widespread use of toxic chemical defoliants.

East Timor and beyond

Just under three thousand miles southeast of Laos, Kissinger aided and abetted another genocide. On December 6, 1975, Kissinger and Nixon met with Indonesian dictator Suharto. In this meeting, Kissinger and Nixon gave Suharto the green light to invade East Timor. As he had advised Videla in Argentina, Kissinger told Suharto that “it is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.” Kissinger also asked that Suharto not begin his invasion until after Nixon and Kissinger had returned to the United States. The day after they left Indonesia, Suharto invaded East Timor. According to a United Nations Truth Commission over one hundred thousandTimorese were killed in the invasion and occupation of East Timor, while some estimates are even higher. Given that East Timor had a population of under seven hundred thousand  people, the genocide of East Timor killed more than one-seventh of the entire population. Suharto also forced hundreds of thousands of Timorese into concentration camps. Timorese civilians were forced into school buildings, which were then set on fire, and anyone who tried to escape was shot. Most people were burned alive. Throughout the genocide, the United States provided most of the weapons, armored cars, uniforms, aircraft, logistical support, ammunition, and other expendables the Indonesian military needed to conduct these atrocities.

Henry Kissinger was an enemy of democracy, a war criminal, a man responsible for crimes against humanity, a man implicated in three genocides, and a butcher who orchestrated the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians on four continents.

East Timor was just one of many genocides supported by Kissinger. When West Pakistan (now Pakistan) invaded East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Kissinger silently extended military aid to West Pakistan even after being debriefed by the U.S. consulate in Dhaka of what they termed “selective genocide” and brutality that was taking place. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped, millions were displaced and an estimated three million were killed. Even Nixon compared the slaughter to the Holocaust, but Kissinger convinced him to not worry about it.9Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books) 117. Kissinger wanted to appease China and Pakistan was an important ally in the Cold War so Bangladeshi civilians had to pay the price.

Legacy

Kissingers’s crimes and the tens of thousands of people murdered as a result of his actions extend far beyond the examples described in this article. In addition to backing a brutal coup in Chile (where Pinochet slaughtered over forty thousand), backing murderous dictators in South America, from Videl (who murdered upwards of thirty thousand), in Argentina and beyond, extending the war in Vietnam (which resulted in three million civilians killed, injured, or rendered houseless), secretly bombing Cambodia (which took the life of six hundred thousand Cambodians),10Christopher Hitchens, The Trials of Henry Kissinger. (New York: Twelve, 2001) 49.
murdering civilians in Laos (as many as 350 thousand),11Ibid, 49. participating in the organization an international death squad in Operation Condor that carried out assassinations against dissidents and foreign leaders, backing genocides in East Timor (where Indonesia killed a third of the Timorese population), Bangladesh (where upwards of three million were killed), Kissinger also strengthened ties with the white supremacist nations of Rhodesia and South Africa, backing the latter’s murderous invasion of Angola. Elsewhere in Africa he backed Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara and instigated counterinsurgency in Mozambique (which cost the lives of millions). He also supported Turkey’s assault on Cyprus (which resulted in the murder and dispossession of many thousands of noncombatant civilians).12Ibid, 121. And even this list is incomplete.

With Kissinger’s death, his bloody legacy continues to play a role in creating the world we live in today. His endless open-ended wars set the precedent for today’s endless open-ended wars. Denying “safe havens for terrorists,” a common Kissinger justification for war or the idea of carrying out cross-border raids to destroy “enemy sanctuaries” as Kissinger did in Cambodia, was outside of international law in the 1970s.13Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. (New York, Metropolitan Books), 228. Today these justifications are all too common and largely unquestioned. It is a shared assumption held by both Democrats and Republicans that the U.S. has the right to use military force against ‘safe havens’ of terrorists or potential terrorists even if those ‘havens’ are found in sovereign countries that we are not at war with.

NBC host and long-time foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell poses for a picture with then U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Henry Kissinger in October 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State.

This was precisely the premise for the disastrous war in Afghanistan and for the expansion of the ‘war on terror’ to Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. Kissinger played an outsized role in shifting those standards. Today the U.S. has used this logic to sanction U.S. involvement in over seventy global conflicts.14Ibid, 188 According to journalist Nick Turse, by 2014, the U.S. forces were operating in over 130 countries. This aggressive militarism which blurs the lines and turns the whole world into a battlefield is Kissinger’s most lasting legacy, and this is how Kissinger should be remembered.

Despite the fact that near the end of his life it was reported that Kissinger could no longer travel to many countries in fear of getting arrested, Kissinger was never held accountable for his crimes or the tens of thousands of civilians across the world that would die as a result of his actions. So while we rejoice at his death and cast scorn against the solemn tributes given to him by the rulers, we mourn and rage against his escaping to the grave from justice for his bloody legacy.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

TPUSA Event Shines Light on the Organizational Contours of MAGA-World

College-oriented far-right group Turning Point USA’s(TPUSA) AmericaFest is scheduled for this weekend, December 16-19, in Phoenix, Arizona. TPUSA and its national leader, Charlie Kirk, have long been aligned with the Trump camp. As such, the event gives a glimpse into the organization-level character of MAGA-world that we can expect in 2024.

Last year’s AmericaFest featured far-right sponsors like Gays Against Groomers and No Left  Turn in Education, hinting at a year of bigoted book bans and efforts to erase Black history. This year, the list of speakers and the over one hundred sponsors point to a swell of anti-choice and white dispossession MAGA-world activism ahead.

Former Trump Officials

One constituency with a strong presence at the TPUSA event includes former Trump campaign and administration officials, which makes this event reasonably representative of MAGA-world. Announced speakers include Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Trump adviser who once boasted about raising millions for the January 6, 2021, rally that preceded the insurrection.[1] Other prominent speakers include individuals who served in government under Donald Trump, including Steve Bannon, the far-right former member of Trump’s National Security Council; Michael Anton, a onetime spokesperson for Trump’s National Security Council; and previous Trump administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.[2]

Another event sponsor is the anti-immigrant organization Border 911, headed by Tom Homan, a former Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Donald Trump.[3] Another sponsor, Look Ahead America, is run by Matt Braynard, director of data and strategy during the 2016 Trump campaign.

Older Generation Conservative and Christian Right Organizations

Some sponsors include older conservative and far-right organizations that have transitioned to MAGA-world and provided precursors to MAGA. For the first time, AmericaFest includes Tea Party Patriots Action as a sponsor–-the Tea Party movement providing the most direct mass-based far-right precursor to the MAGA mobilization.

Another old-guard conservative organization sponsoring the TPUSA event is the Heritage Foundation, notably its “Project 2025,” dubbed a “Presidential Transition Project.” The “government-in-waiting” project aims to provide a policy agenda, staffing, training, and a 180-day playbook for a hoped-for “conservative” administration. In addition to purging much of the federal government, the plan would reverse progress on racial equality, eviscerate LGBTQIA+ rights, limit reproductive freedom, impose draconian immigration rules, roll back climate action, harm public education, and curb human rights. Through its alignment with MAGA, the Heritage Foundation is arguably no longer a conservative organization. The project grew out of the organization’s “Mandate for Leadership,” which was embraced by the Trump administration.[4]

In an even older guard, the event sponsors include the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Christian right media mogul Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

Other old-guard organizations sponsoring the event are U.S. Term Limits and The Atlas Society, which boosts the “thinking” of libertarian Ayn Rand.

National Conservatives

Another camp present at the TPUSA event is National Conservatism. TPUSA’s relationship with this faction is close. In 2022, TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk signed onto “National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles,” a manifesto issued by the Edmund Burke Foundation.[5]

Several speakers at past National Conservative events hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation are scheduled to speak at the TPUSA soiree. These include U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, Michael Anton of Hillsdale College, Seth Dillon of the Babylon Bee, racist former Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, Yeonmi Park, and “anti-woke” activist Vivek Ramaswamy.[6] Former Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Issac, also appearing at AmericaFest, sat for an interview by Dave Rubin at the Burke Foundation’s 2021 National Conservatism Conference.[7]

National Conservatism refers to institutions and “intellectuals” who promote an openly nationalist re-making of the United States and European countries. As quickly emerges in look at the Burke manifesto, National Conservatism takes its place as a variant of Middle American Nationalism–a set of ideas descended from Middle American Radicalism (MAR), first described by sociologist Donald L. Warren in his 1976 book The Radical Center.[8] 

Warren found evidence of MAR ideology in segregationist George Wallace’s electoral campaigns. Warren defined this MAR ideology as individuals who viewed themselves squeezed from two directions: one, economic and from political elites whose influence and access to wealth favors give them an advantage; two, people of color and poor people.[9]

In Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, IREHR founder Leonard Zeskind explored the transformation from Middle American Radicalism to the emergence of Middle American Nationalism, a nationalist ideology sharing the basic structure of Warren’s MARS. Today, variations on the Middle American Nationalist ideology can be seen in organizations and movements ranging from the Tea Party to far-right militias to racist groups like the Proud Boys to white nationalists.

On the threat from above, the National Conservative manifesto casts a danger from the peril of “liberal imperialism” as well as China and Russia. The group offers the “idea of the nation” as the “only universalist ideologies now seeking to impose a homogenizing, locality-destroying imperium over the entire globe.” Also, from above, the Burke Foundation castigates “trans-national corporations showing little loyalty to any nation [that] damage public life by censoring political speech, flooding the country with dangerous and addictive substances and pornography, and promoting obsessive, destructive personal habits.”

As a result of these and other forces, the manifesto declares that “We are citizens of Western nations who have watched with alarm as the traditional beliefs, institutions, and liberties underpinning life in the countries we love have been progressively undermined and overthrown.”

From below, the document also casts as a key threat “today’s penchant for uncontrolled and unassimilated immigration,” describing it as a “source of weakness and instability…threatening internal dissension and ultimately dissolution of the political community…We call for much more restrictive policies until these countries summon the wit to establish more balanced, productive, and assimilationist policies. Restrictive policies may sometimes include a moratorium on immigration.”

The National Conservative manifesto also offers up the “equal rights” framing that has dominated the long period of reactionary attacks on policies to address racial inequality, such as affirmative action, declaring, “We condemn the use of state and private institutions to discriminate and divide us against one another on the basis of race.”[10]

As for its nationalism, the Burke declaration promotes a decidedly Christian variety, proclaiming that,

“The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and non-believers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private.”

In the context of this open Christian domination, “Jews and other religious minorities,” it continues, shall be protected in observing traditions, governing “their communal institutions” and “all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children” – but not, apparently, in the state. In keeping with a Christian nationalism, the Burke Foundation statement also declares that “The traditional family, built around a lifelong bond between a man and a woman, and on a lifelong bond between parents and children, is the foundation of all other achievements of our civilization.”

Authoritarian attacks on “immorality” and higher education are also part of the mix. While endorsing “a drastic reduction in the scope of the administrative state and the policy-making judiciary” and recommending “the federalist principle,” the document clarifies that “in those states or subdivisions in which law and justice have been manifestly corrupted, or in which lawlessness, immorality, and dissolution reign, national government must intervene energetically to restore order.”

This leaves National Conservatives to determine what amounts to “immorality” to be suppressed through an “energetic” state. Also on this front, the group advocates “large-scale public resources on scientific and technological research with military applications” and manufacturing. However, it describes,

“On the other hand, we recognize that most universities are at this point partisan and globalist in orientation and vehemently opposed to nationalist and conservative ideas. Such institutions do not deserve taxpayer support unless they rededicate themselves to the national interest.”[11]

Given the ubiquity of the “globalist” threat in the eyes of National Conservatism, this would undoubtedly amount to a wholesale assault on higher education.

Racism Denial and Dispossession Narratives

In the wake of the collapse of Jim Crow segregation and the decline of support for open, biological racism in the broader public, two approaches to reproducing white domination in government and society include (1) in the context of persistent racial inequality, denying that it exists and taking steps to end government efforts to address it; (2) crafting a white nationalism, or highly racialized nationalism, that privileges white people vis-à-vis the state.

One transition ideology that bridges the gap between the two is the myth of white dispossession. James Mitchell, an author of the National Conservative manifesto, offers a religion-couched version of this in his book American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time. For Mitchell, white heterosexual men have become the ultimate scapegoat that “identity politics offers up for sacrifice.” Mitchell writes,

“[W]hite heterosexual men – the current prime transgressor in the identity politics dystopian moral economy – must adopt every species of political madness offered up by identity politics or suffer social death.”[12]

Another dominant form of racist mobilization underway across the country is the attack on the myth of critical race theory, an academic field of study that looks foremost at the persistence of racism in American law. TPUSA speaker James Lindsay is a national leader in this effort. While Manhattan Institute figure Christopher Rufo has been the most publicized figure kicking off this effort, Rufo said of Lindsay,

“James is really the theory expert…And then I think I come in as a complement to what James is doing, really following his lead with the praxis or the practice, which is translating the theory into the realm of practical politics and then translating this kind of esoteric knowledge that school moms and school dads can use at school board meetings and hammer their school boards with.”[13]

It suffices to reject Linday’s “thinking” on the issue to note his argument that because W.E.B. Dubois referred to black and white “folk” in his book The Souls of Black Folks, his thinking and critical race theory, by extension, is akin to German volkisch nationalism. This nationalist and antisemitic cultural movement paved the way for the rise of the WWII-era German Nazis. Lindsay writes, I do not think Critical Race Theory can be understood without realizing it seeks to establish a racial Völkisch nationalism.”[14] 

Announced TPUSA speaker Pastor Rob McCoy of the Godspeeak Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks (California) also assails critical race theory as “a cancer.” McCoy achieved notoriety early during COVID denial mobilizations when he defied closure orders aimed to stem the spread of the disease.[15]

In an interview with WallBuilders, an outfit known for spinning dubious Christian nationalist takes on U.S. history, Rob McCoy said:

“So there’s an author’s His name is James Lindsay, and he wrote a book called Cynical Theory. And it’s an unbelievable academic work on dissecting critical race theory and critical theory that has permeated, this is a cancer that is infused itself in every vestige of American culture.”[16]

Christian Nationalism and the Christian Right

Another addition to the TPUSA event mix is sponsorship by older Christian right institutions, including Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Christian right media mogul Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

TPUSA speaker Christian Collins founded the Texas Youth Summit, a non-profit “dedicated to educating high school and college-age youth with Judeo-Christian and Conservative values.” Collins describes himself as a  consultant “specializing in public relations and strategic communication for political campaigns, non-profits, and businesses.[17]

The Texas Youth Summit’s mission is to “identify, educate, and train students to promote principles of fiscal responsibility, free market, limited government, American Exceptionalism, and the Judeo-Christian principles this country was founded upon.” Through the Summit, Collins, who claims to have gotten his political start working on U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign, built a relationship with TPUSA and the Trump camp, the group’s annual event featuring Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr. in recent years.[18]

Demonstrating the contours of the group’s support,  sponsors of the Texas Youth Summit’s September 2023 conference included, among others, Michael Seifert’s Public Square, Texas Right to Life, Texans for Vaccine Choice, Texans for Strong Borders, TPUSA Faith and the Republicans for National Renewal.[19]

Anti-Choice Movement

Related to the Christian Right, another faction present at the TPUSA event includes anti-choice groups looking strategically at how to end abortion rights in the post-Roe v. Wade context. For the first time, there are six different explicitly anti-choice groups sponsoring AmericaFest in 2023. In the two previous years combined, there was only one.

One such group, a sponsor of the TPUSA event, is PreBorn! (Mission Pre-Born Inc.), which declares that “The overturning of Roe v. Wade was a victory for Life as national legislation no longer protects the killing of the most vulnerable.” In this context, PreBorn! observes that “abortion’s new address lives in the privacy of our own bathrooms, in our own homes. That is the future – an online battle delivered straight to a woman’s home.”[20]

The Indianapolis-based group advances its aims by supporting so-called Pregnancy Clinics and efforts intended to “reach women considering abortion” through “digital marketing strategies that are designed to connect with these women, offering them free ultrasounds and support, as well as providing Pregnancy Clinics with vital grants for state-of-the-art ultrasound machines, evangelism training, and additional resources.”[21] This group claims some 187 such clinics in its national networks, PreBorn! (Mission Pre-Born Inc)  reported more than $23 million in income on its 2021 IRS-1990 and claimed more than $24 million in 2022.[22]

Students for Life of America is also sponsoring the TPUSA event. The group provides $30,000 grants to “innovative organizations to partner with in embracing a Post-Roe America through collaboration on a culture-changing idea. This program is for existing pro-life organizations to receive sponsorship and resources to further the mission to abolish abortion in a way that impacts and shapes the pro-life movement.”[23]

Priests for Life, also sponsoring the event, works to “galvanize the clergy to preach, teach, and mobilize their people more effectively in the effort to end abortion and euthanasia.”[24]

The Far Right Gun Lobby and the NRA

The gun rights lobby is also present, including the sponsoring National Rifle Association (NRA)-affiliated Students for 2A. Another sponsor, however, stakes out positions to the right of the NRA and has a history of promoting armed militias. This is Gun Owners of America, the far-right group founded by Larry Pratt – who in his active leadership days was notorious as an early proponent of armed “citizen” militias and a willingness to rub elbows with neo-Nazis and Klan-types to advance the cause.

Media Outlets and Personalities

One feature that has become apparent is that the MAGA movement has built up a set of media institutions and relationships with social media figures, giving this mobilization independence from mainstream media and social media platforms to spread its message. This characteristic can allow the movement to continue past its association with Donald Trump.

One social media personality speaking at the TPUSA event is Allie Beth Stuckey, the podcast host of Relatable. Casting her show as one that “analyzes culture, news, and politics from a biblical (sic) perspective,” Stuckey makes clear that hers is a perspective rooted in anti-LGBTQIA+ bigotry. For instance, one recent show was titled “Did Satan Tell ‘Elliot’ Page to Transition?” and another, titled “How LGBTQ Became Our State Religion,” claimed to address “the rainbow brigade’s insistence on exposing children to sexuality early on and how this is the key to predation.”[25]

The Relatable podcast description also states that,

“We also discuss Ted Cruz tweeting out against Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law (of all humanitarian issues to speak up about) and how he bought into the rainbow narrative.”[26]

The Uganda law, among other things, outlaws the “promotion of homosexuality,” imposes a life sentence for consensual same-sex acts and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as including consensual same-sex acts with a disabled person, someone with a mental illness and that is “of an advanced age.”[27]

Like many on the TPUSA podium, Stuckey also lashes out at the myth of critical race theory. A 2020 Relatable episode declared, “Much of the Left’s insanity can be traced back to critical race theory.”[28]

Also slated to speak is Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee, who refers to Black Lives Matter as a “terrorist organization” and declares that “Wokeness itself is anti-white.”[29] Dillon also spews the white dispossession narrative that “White men are the most maligned group and it’s not even close. And the trans community—far from marginalized—is unrivaled in cultural power.”[30] Deploying distorted ideas about African chattel slavery in the U.S. – a common feature of this movement – Dillon writes, “Leftists are intellectual slaveowners who become enraged whenever a black man or woman escapes and begins to think freely.”[31]

Dillon is also an anti-LGBTQIA+ bigot, deploying the “groomer” language that viciously accuses the LGBTQIA+ community of prepping children for pedophilia. In June, Dillon took this up in the context of assailing drag shows, writing, “We need a show called ‘To Catch a Groomer’ where cops organize fake “family-friendly” drag shows and then arrest all the parents who show up with their kids.”[32]

Other media outlets involved in the event include The College Fix, Elijah Streams, FlashPoint Army, Stantz.news, Patriot Post, O’Keefe Media Group, Winning Teams Publications, BeneathSheepsClothing.movie, and Blaze Media. Public Square, another organization, seeks to connect movement activists with like-minded businesses.

Election Denial and January 6 Insurrectionist Support

Other sponsors, such as Look Ahead America (LAA), have been active in election denial activism and organizing events supporting those arrested in connection to the January 6 insurrection – characteristics that often go hand-in-hand. In February 2022, for instance, LAA announced the launching of the “J6 Question Project,”

“We encourage all of our fellow Americans to ask candidates for Federal office the following question: What are you going to do about the patriots who are being politically persecuted for their participation in the January 6th Capitol Protest?… We invite supporters to submit those videos to us at lookaheadamerica.org/j6question so that we may publicize those videos and create an index of candidates answer to better inform the electorate.”[33]

The group’s press release continues, boasting, “For the last year, Look Ahead America has successfully held approximately seventy events across the country to raise the profile of the hundreds of Americans who have been politically persecuted.”[34]

Look Ahead America also demonstrates the oft-close relationship between support for January 6 insurrectionists and engagement in efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election. For instance, LAA Executive Director Matt Braynard’s testimony in a related case in Georgia drew the following from Stephen Ansolabehere, the Frank G. Thompson Professor of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge and former Board of Overseers member of the American National Election Study, wrote,

“None of these claims meets scientific standards of my fields of research, including survey research, political science, statistics and data sciences. There is no scientific basis for drawing any inferences or conclusions from the data presented. None of the estimates are presented with statistical measures that meet standards for evaluating evidence.”[35]

Matt Braynard, director of data and strategy during the 2016 Trump campaign, also attended white nationalist Nick Fuente’s 2021 AFPAC II conference.

Another sponsor, The America Project, has also taken up the “election integrity clause,” spuriously sowing doubt about the 2020 election by proclaiming, “We believe the American public deserves to know the facts, whatever they ultimately are, about what took place in their local election during the 2020 elections.” The group also promotes a “Border Security” project and boasts a page on its website titled “Support for the J6 Prisoners.”[36]

Also speaking is election denier and pillow-peddler Mike Lindell.[37]

Educational Institutions

In addition to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Pat Robertson’s Regent University, MAGA-world has built strong relations with other established educational institutions. For instance, one sponsor is the Hillsdale, Michigan, and Washington D.C.–based Hillsdale College.[38] Speaker Michael Anton is also a Lecturer in Politics and Research Fellow at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, DC.[39]

Other educational institutions sponsoring the event include Ashbrook, Reliance College, OptimaEd, and Grand Canyon University.

Anti-Immigrant

Another sponsor is Border 911, an organization headed by Tom Homan, a former Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Donald Trump.[40] In May 2022, Homan was a signatory to a letter issued by the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The letter announced the formation of a new anti-immigrant coalition. Described by FAIR as the “Strongest-Ever Assembled Coalition,” the letter cast its effort in nationalist and conspiracist terms, assailing the “Biden Administration’s purposeful dismantling of our nation’s borders and our immigration enforcement infrastructure,” including the “weaponization” of “loopholes in the immigration system” to “purposefully drive mass illegal immigration to the United States.” [41]

“On top of excluding amnesty of any kind,” the letter called for Congress to “Create an authority to immediately expel illegal aliens across the border;” “Substantially reform asylum system, including clarifying that an alien is ineligible for asylum in the U.S. if they traversed a safe third country;” and “Mandate full implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as Remain in Mexico,” among other things.[42]

Movement-Affiliated Businesses

More than 30 sponsors of the TPUSA event are movement-affiliated businesses. These include Fisher Capital, America First Pharmacy, Patriot Red Coffee, America’s Christian Credit Union, Christian Healthcare Ministries, Patriot Mobile, and MAGA Mall. Another is, unsurprisingly, the USA Trump Store.

Flirting with White Nationalists and Fascists

While MAGA, as reflected in the groups involved in the TPUSA event, is centered more in racism denial and attacks on efforts to educate about and counter racism in our society, we have also seen attendees pushing white dispossession narratives – a potential transition ideology toward white nationalism and further radicalization. Some have also shown a willingness to flirt with known white nationalists and insurrectionist groups. For instance, announced speakers include U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), notorious for promoting conspiracy theories and attending a conference put on by white nationalist Nick Fuentes. U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz was known for having Proud Boys perform security at an event.[43]

And we have seen that sponsors Look Ahead America and Gun Owners of America have had their brushes with white nationalist and hardcore racist groups.

Conclusions

This look at organizations involved in TPUSA’s upcoming conference offers a glimpse into the range of organizations that can reasonably be said to comprise the MAGA universe. As this demonstrates, with roots in a range of far-right and bigoted causes, media outlets, and associated businesses, MAGA has built out an infrastructure that, while presently devoted to Donald Trump, is positioned to continue the cause without him.

NOTES

[1] Sapien, Joaquin, and Kaplan, Joshua. “Texts Show Kimberly Guilfoyle Bragged About Raising Millions for Rally That Fueled Capitol Riot.” ProPublica. November 18, 2021. https://www.propublica.org/article/texts-show-kimberly-guilfoyle-bragged-about-raising-millions-for-rally-that-fueled-capitol-riot

[2] USA Today. “Trump’s Cabinet and top advisors.” https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/trump-cabinet/; Turning Point USA. Americafest. https://www.amfest.com/. Accessed November 30, 2023; Barron, Laignee. National Security Council Spokesperson Michael Anton Becomes Latest to Leave Trump’s White House. April 9, 2018.  https://time.com/5232697/michael-anton-quits-national-security-council/;

[3] Border 911. “About.” https://border911.com/about/. Accessed December 11, 2023.

[4] Project 2025. “About Project 2025.” https://www.project2025.org/about/about-project-2025/;  Project 2025. Advisory Board. https://www.project2025.org/about/advisory-board/. Accessed December 12, 2023.

[5] The Edmund Burke Foundation. “National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles.” June 15, 2022. https://nationalconservatism.org/wp-content/uploads/mailings/2022/statement/

[6] National Conservatism. “A Conference in Miami, Florida.” September 11-13, 2022. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-3-2022/; National Conservatism. A Conference in Miami, Florida. September 11-13, 2022. Michael Anton.       https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-3-2022/presenters/michael-anton/; National Conservatism. National Conservatism. A Conference in Orlando, Florida. Otober 31, 2021 -November 2, 2021. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-2-2021/;   National Conservatism. National Conservatism. A Conference in Orlando, Florida. Otober 31, 2021 -November 2, 2021. Seth Dillon. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-2-2021/presenters/seth-dillon/; National Conservatism. National Conservatism. A Conference in Washington, DC. July 14-16, 2019. Tucker Carlson. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-dc-2019/presenters/tucker-carlson/; National Conservatism; National Conservatism. A Conference in Miami, Florida. September 11-13, 2022. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-3-2022/presenters/yeonmi-park/; National Conservatism. A Conference in Orlando, Florida. Otober 31, 2021 -November 2, 2021. Vivek Ramaswamy.

[7] National Conservatism. “National Conservatism. A Conference in Orlando, Florida. Otober 31, 2021 -November 2, 2021.”  Dave Rubin. https://nationalconservatism.org/natcon-2-2021/presenters/dave-rubin/; Tampa Dispatch. NBA STAR JONATHAN ISAAC TO ADDRESS NATIONAL CONSERVATISM CONFERENCE. https://www.tampadispatch.com/nba-star-jonathan-isaac-to-address-national-conservatism-conference/.

[8] Warren, Donald I. 1976. The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

[9] Warren, Donald I. White Americans as a Minority. Telos. Summer 1995 (104).

[10] The Edmund Burke Foundation. National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles. June 15, 2022. https://nationalconservatism.org/wp-content/uploads/mailings/2022/statement/

[11] The Edmund Burke Foundation. National Conservatism: A Statement of Principles. June 15, 2022. https://nationalconservatism.org/wp-content/uploads/mailings/2022/statement/

[12] Mitchell, Joshua. 2022. American Awakening: Idenitty Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time. Encounter Books: New York.

[13] Joyce, Kathryn. Meet James Lindsay, the far right’s “world-level expert” on CRT and “Race Marxism.” Salon. February 17, 2022.  https://www.salon.com/2022/02/17/meet-james-lindsay-the-far-rights-world-level-expert-on-crt-and-race-marxism/

[14] Spopic, Alex. James Lindsay’s “Race Marxism” is Ignorant About Both Race and Marxism. Current Affairs. December 2022. https://www.currentaffairs.org/2022/12/james-lindsays-race-marxism-is-ignorant-about-both-race-and-marxism

[15] Kumar, Anugrah. ‘We’re standing in defense against gov’t overreach,’ Pastor Rob McCoy says after court ruling. Christian Post. August 24, 2020. https://www.christianpost.com/news/were-standing-in-defense-against-govt-overreach-pastor-rob-mccoy-says-after-court-ruling.html

[16] Wallbuilders Live! Victory For Godspeak Calvary Chapel And More With Pastor Rob McCoy. April 19, 2021. https://wallbuilderslive.com/godspeak-calvary-chapel-pastor-rob-mccoy/#

[17] Christian Collins. I’m Christian Collins. https://www.christiancollins.org/. Accessed Dcember 6, 2023.

[18] Texas Youth Summit. About. https://www.texasyouthsummit.com/about. Accessed December 6, 2023.

[19] Texas Youth Summit. Events. https://www.texasyouthsummit.com/events. Accessed December 6, 2023.

[20] PreBorn! Our Mission. https://preborn.com/about/. Accessed December 5, 2023.

[21] PreBorn! Our Mission. https://preborn.com/about/. Accessed December 5, 2023.

[22] PreBorn! 2022 Annual Report. file:///C:/Users/crorg/Downloads/2022-Annual-Report.pdf; MIssion Pre-Born Inc. IRS 990. 2021. ProPublica. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/208755673/202342199349301504/full

[23] Students for Life. The Post-Roe Generation Accelerator Program. https://studentsforlife.org/accelerator/. Accessed December 5, 2023.

[24] Priests for Life. Who We Are. https://www.priestsforlife.org/intro/introbrochure.aspx. Accessed December 5, 2023.

[25] Allie Beth Stuckey. https://alliebethstuckey.com/; Allie Beth Stuckey. The Relatable Podcast. https://alliebethstuckey.com/category/podcast/. Accessed December 6, 2023; Allie Beth Stuckey. The Relatable Podcast.  Ep 818 | How LGBTQ Became Our State Religion | Guest: Auron MacIntyre. June 7, 2023. https://alliebethstuckey.com/2023/06/07/ep-818-how-lgbtq-became-our-state-religion-guest-auron-macintyre/

[26] Allie Beth Stuckey. The Relatable Podcast.  Ep 818 | How LGBTQ Became Our State Religion | Guest: Auron MacIntyre. June 7, 2023. https://alliebethstuckey.com/2023/06/07/ep-818-how-lgbtq-became-our-state-religion-guest-auron-macintyre/

[27] The Republic of Uganda. The Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2023.  Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. https://www.parliament.go.ug/sites/default/files/The%20Anti-Homosexuality%20Act%2C%202023.pdf

[28] Allie Beth Stuckey. The Relatable Podcast. Ep 327 | The Truth About Critical Race Theory. November 16, 2020. https://alliebethstuckey.com/2020/11/16/ep-327-the-truth-about-critical-race-theory/

[29] Seth Dillon. Telegram. October 7, 2022. https://t.me/sethdillon/2293; Seth Dillon. Telegram. September 14, 2022. https://t.me/sethdillon/2216

[30] Seth Dillon. Telegram. Deceber 13, 2021. https://t.me/sethdillon/1205

[31] Seth Dillon. Telegram. November 5, 2021. https://t.me/sethdillon/1077

[32] Seth Dillon. Telegram. March 10, 2022. https://t.me/sethdillon/1425; Seth Dillon. Telegram. April 12, 2022. https://t.me/sethdillon/1566; Seth Dillon. Telegram. June 5, 2022. https://t.me/sethdillon/1763

[33] Look Ahead America. Press Release: Look Ahead Launches J6 Question Project. February 24, 2022. https://lookaheadamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/LAA_PR_J6Question-1.pdf

[34] Look Ahead America. Press Release: Look Ahead Launches J6 Question Project. February 24, 2022. https://lookaheadamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/LAA_PR_J6Question-1.pdf

[35] Corn, David. A Trump Voting “Expert” Was Questioned About His Data. It Did Not Go Well For Him. Mother Jones. December 11, 2020. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/12/a-pro-trump-voting-expert-was-questioned-about-his-data-it-did-not-go-well-for-him/; Stephen Ansolabehere. Response to Matthew Braynard Expert Report. Case 1:20-cv-04809-TCB Document 62-1 Filed December 5, 2020. https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.gand.284055/gov.uscourts.gand.284055.62.1_1.pdf

[36] The America Project. Election Integrity Inspections & Audits. https://americaproject.com/election-integrity-3/; The America Project. Border Security. https://americaproject.com/border-security/; Support for the J6 Prisoners. https://americaproject.com/video/support-for-the-j6-prisoners/. Accessed December 11, 2023.

[37] Turning Point USA. Americafest. https://www.amfest.com/. Accessed November 30, 2023.

[38] Hillsdale College. Mission & History. https://dc.hillsdale.edu/About/Mission-and-History/. Accessed December 6, 2023.

[39] Hillsdale College. Michael Anton. https://dc.hillsdale.edu/Profiles/Michael-Anton/. Accessed December 12, 2023.

[40] Border 911. About. https://border911.com/about/. Accessed December 11, 2023.

[41] Federation for American Immigration Reform. Strongest-Ever Assembled Coalition Calls for Immediate Consideration of a Flagship Border Security Bill in the 118th Congress. May 11, 2022. https://www.fairus.org/press-releases/border-security/strongest-ever-assembled-coalition-calls-immediate-consideration; Heritage Foundation. New Border Security Coalition Provides Congress With Roadmap to End Biden Border Crisis, Reduce Illegal Immigration. May 11, 2022. https://www.heritage.org/press/new-border-security-coalition-provides-congress-roadmap-end-biden-border-crisis-reduce; Texas Public Policy Foundation. TPPF, Conservative Allies Forge Border Agenda for Next Congress. May 11, 2022. https://www.texaspolicy.com/press/tppf-conservative-allies-forge-border-agenda-for-next-congress

[42] Federation for American Immigration Reform. Strongest-Ever Assembled Coalition Calls for Immediate Consideration of a Flagship Border Security Bill in the 118th Congress. May 11, 2022. https://www.fairus.org/press-releases/border-security/strongest-ever-assembled-coalition-calls-immediate-consideration

[43] Castor, Rebekah. ‘Proud Boys’ provide security at pro-America rally in Milton. WEAR News 3. October 23, 2020; Iannelli, Jerry. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz Photographed With Proud Boy in “Pepe the Frog” Shirt. Miami News Times. November 12, 2018.

The post TPUSA Event Shines Light on the Organizational Contours of MAGA-World appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Argentina: from Pink Tide to reactionary wave

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 12/13/2023 - 18:36

Tempest: What do newly elected President Javier Milei and his party represent politically? What is his core political base?

Cele Fierro: Milei is an expression of the far right. The bourgeoisie and the traditional political parties allowed him to grow by giving him a lot of air-time in the media and financing an important part of his campaign. At the beginning he lagged behind the more traditional forces and they tried to slow his growth in the run-up to the primary elections, but his performance caused a major crisis in Juntos por el Cambio/Together for Change,15Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) is the coalition of the more traditional conservative forces including the party of former president Mauricio Macri, Propuesta Republicana/ Republican Proposal (PRO), and the Unión Civica Radical/Radical Civic Union (UCR). In this election they ran Patricia Bullrich as their presidential candidate. – Eds. and attracted an important part of the base of that coalition and its most right wing sectors, headed by Mauricio Macri. The latter finally decidedly supported Milei in the runoff election.

Milei’s social base is still in the process of consolidating and reflects different sectors. There is a hard core of the right and middle-class sectors affected by the economic situation who oppose the social movements and are strongly influenced by the government’s economic failures. There are undoubtedly also voters from popular sectors and the working class who suffer the brutal deterioration of living conditions, inflation, low salaries, the lack of perspectives for the future, and who are furious with what Milei calls “the caste,” that is, the conglomerate of politicians marked by corruption and mismanagement of public affairs. And there are sections of youth—mostly middle-class men—who react against the gains of the Green Wave2Name popularly given to the rise of the feminist movement in Argentina which won the struggle to legalize abortion. – Eds. and the LGBTIQ+ community, as well as right-wing expressions that are still marginal but exist within the armed forces and police and their circles.

It is a complex social base without a completely defined identity yet, with sectors that even position themselves against some of the measures proposed by Milei in the electoral campaign, for example in relation to public education and healthcare. An important test will come from the response to the measures he will try to carry out, as most of them are aimed squarely at his own voters.

Argentinian President Javier Milei. Photo by  Mídia NINJA

Tempest: Since the Argentinazo in 2001, Argentina has been seen as a bulwark internationally against neoliberalism. It was one of the cornerstones of the so-called Pink Tide. Kirchnerism built much of its popularity through reformist policies that were limited but showed there was mass support for an agenda of structural change. In recent years there has been an electoral base for revolutionary socialist politics of at least half a million people. Given all this, how do you account for the election of such a far right populist? How does it relate to the limits and failures of Peronism/Kirchnerism?

CF: I think that the central aspect to understand this is the disaster caused by Peronism in its different variants during their government. They did not meet the expectations of their voters who wanted profound changes and transformations after Macri’s government. Without a doubt, the disappointment caused by a government that ended up applying very harsh austerity in agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the main reason the far right came to power. They capitalized on the disappointment and anger against those who have a progressive or center-left discourse but governed in defense of the status quo.

At the same time it is important to point out that in these conditions the political space for the Left did not dissipate. We maintained around 800,000 votes and we even managed to expand our parliamentary representation. That is to say, a new far right political actor has appeared but the anti-capitalist and socialist Left maintained our space and social insertion. These are contradictions, or rather combined processes, that can be explained by a phenomenon that is not exclusive to our country, but that we can observe globally. I am referring to the social and political polarization that translates into a development of the forces located at the poles of the ideological spectrum.

Without a doubt, the disappointment caused by a government that ended up applying a very harsh austerity in agreement with the IMF is the main reason why the far-right came to power.

In our view, the Left had greater difficulty in capitalizing on this situation and making an important leap for two central reasons. On the one hand, due to the limitations of the Left that are under debate and that our party—the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores/ Workers’ Socialist Movement (MST), section of the Liga Internacional Socialista/International Socialist League (ISL) in Argentina—has raised within the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores/ Workers’ Left Front-Unity (FIT-U). We need the FIT-U to stop being just an electoral front and truly act together in all areas.

On the other hand, because Kirchnerism has been presented by large hegemonic media as “the progressive Left,” its failure, unfortunately, ends up being associated with policies that appear to be left-wing, even though they are not. Without going any further, during the campaign itself and for several years Milei has accused even the head of government of the City of Buenos Aires—a member of the PRO (Propuesta Republicana/Republican Proposal) and representative of the most traditional right—of being on the Left and a Marxist. This combination has hit hard, generating great confusion.

Tempest: Inflation in Argentina is forecast to surpass 200 percent by the end of the year. Net foreign currency reserves are billions of dollars in deficit. And the country still owes the IMF and foreign bondholders more than $44 billion from loans agreed by the last right wing government led by Mauricio Macri in the final days of his term in 2019. What are the structural constraints on Milei? When he promises to “smash the Central Bank” and dollarize the economy, are these realistic possibilities? How should socialists understand and respond to these policies?

CF: In the last stretch of the campaign—between the general elections and the runoff—a new coalition began to take shape around Milei. Macri, Bullrich, and a considerable portion of leaders who governed between 2015 and 2019 joined not only in support of his candidacy, but also in the construction of a kind of co-government. This process is underway. They are debating the cabinet and the first measures. They agree that a very important austerity program must be implemented and that they must do it quickly, precisely due to the fragile conditions of the economy. In this framework, it is unlikely that they will move forward with the destruction of the Central Bank and they have already said that they will not advance in adopting the dollar, at least in the beginning.

They are talking about a strong reduction in the fiscal deficit of between 15 and 20 percent of the GDP, a plan to reduce state agencies by removing ministries, firing contracted workers, and some privatization. What we could call a radicalized classic adjustment. The plan is under debate. They have just traveled to the United States to receive directives and agree on the roadmap. But it is clear that to meet these proposed objectives, very strong cuts are coming— which will surely be met with a strong resistance. Milei promised from the outset to guarantee all payments to international credit organizations and has explained from the first minute that they voted for him to produce an adjustment, and that is what he is going to do. Also, foreseeing problems, he has already begun to shift blame, saying  the country was handed over to him in such bad shape, and he is already saying that lowering inflation will take about two years and that meantime there will be stagflation, which means that in addition to high inflation, there will be recession and layoffs.

[The Milei government is] talking about a strong reduction in the fiscal deficit of between 15 and 20 percent of the GDP, a plan to reduce state agencies by removing ministries, firing contracted workers and some privatizations. What we could call a radicalized classic adjustment.

Tempest: Milei is harshly anti-abortion, openly misogynistic, but apparently against the state regulation of sexuality, prostitution, or drugs, though tied to a deep reactionary moralism. He is also a virulent anti-leftist who has tied the “LGBT lobby” to a “socialist agenda.” How are we to understand the ideological elements of Milei’s purported “libertarianism”?

CF: Milei has managed to gather around his figure—essentially that of an “economist”—a true community of reactionaries. Adding to what you listed, he openly defends Zionism and the barbarism carried out by the genocidal State of Israel against the Palestinian people.

This mirrors other far right forces internationally that group around themselves the reaction to the advances of recent years in terms of civil rights, gender rights, and so on. In our country, where the struggle for many of these rights has been and still is very important, it is logical that the reaction seeks to unite to push back. That is partly what Milei has achieved, as Donald Trump was able to do in the United States at one point.

He combines an extreme form of economic “liberalism” and a strong reaction in social terms. This is not contradictory, since to advance in the application of his economic plans he will need a society strongly conditioned and disarticulated into the different “identities” that compose it. It still constitutes a way of veiling the class struggle and opening multiple fronts that divide the struggles. This point represents an important challenge for us on the Left and among LGBTIQ+ collectives.We need to be able to articulate a common struggle that also does not detach itself from the most heartfelt demands of the popular and working classes, who in many cases are bombarded with the propaganda that their rights are violated so that minorities can have theirs.

Tempest: Relatedly, Milei positions himself as a “law and order” politician, a friend of the police and the military. At the level of state violence and the far right, what do you expect to be the short-term impact of these elections?

CF: This is one of the most important issues to take into account. Milei’s space—especially around the vice-president Victoria Villarruel, who defends the dictatorship and denies the genocide they committed—has a policy of responding with “law and order” to any claim that may arise against the application of their plans.

To be specific, we have not yet seen expressions or actions of paramilitary bands or sectors physically confronting the mass movement in their abundant demands and mobilizations, other than in a marginal and isolated manner. But it is true that with the electoral victory, the support for this type of action is strengthened. And Macri himself declared that Milei’s young voters have to take to the streets to defend the project, encouraging this confrontation.

[W]e have not yet seen expressions or actions of paramilitary bands or sectors physically confronting the mass movement in their abundant demands and mobilizations, other than in a marginal and isolated manner. But it is true that with the electoral victory, the support for this type of action is strengthened.

It is important to prepare ourselves politically for a scenario in which such confrontations can occur and these conflicts become increasingly harsher. At the same time, we trust in the important democratic reserves that the workers and the people have shown whenever an attempt has been made to confront demands with repression or to roll-back gains. At the same time, they have also begun to propose lowering the age of imputability to 14 years, seeking to repress and criminalize youth without a future, instead of guaranteeing them work and education.

I think that in the coming days we will have to evaluate the level of response to the first measures of the government and closely follow the expressions of violence that may arise in order to take the necessary measures to defend each process of struggle so that they can win.

Tempest: What impact has the election of Milei had on the parties of the traditional right and center-left?

CF: As I mentioned, we are seeing a reorganization of the system of parties and coalitions that was established in recent years. The election blew up what was the main bourgeois alternative coalition (Together for Change) and a part of it is in the process of constituting a kind of co-government with Milei. For example Bullrich, a former candidate for president, has just been appointed Milei’s security minister. This government team and this political unity is in its infancy and surely the result will depend on the success they have in implementing their plans, but it is a fact that there is a new coalition in place that is farther to the right. It will also be important to follow the path of those who didn’t support Milei in the center-right space of Together for Change to see how they will reorganize and what space they intend to occupy.

Peronism is also at a watershed moment. The candidacy of Sergio Massa constituted a withdrawal of the Kirchnerist sectors from the center of the scene. Cristina Kirchner did not attend a single campaign rally and practically did not appear in any way in the whole process. Even Axel Kicillof, 3Governor of the province of Buenos Aires. – Eds. the representative of this “progressive space” of the Partido Justicialista/Justicialist Party (PJ), had strong friction with Máximo Kirchner over a government official who was discovered on a yacht in the middle of the electoral process and was accused of corruption and so on.

On the other hand, the result of the election left Massa badly hurt. He even speculated on the possibility of leaving politics and going into the private sphere. On the night of the election, he also threatened to resign from his position as minister. Peronism is an increasingly feudalized structure that will have the challenge of being the opposition in the context of a brutal structural adjustment plan that will require levels of political support from provincial governors and also in parliament. That will be a first important challenge that will help determine if they are able to recover.

The governor of Córdoba, for example, who is a Peronist but not a Kirchnerist, has already contributed members to a future Milei government, and the same has happened with some union structures. Without a doubt it will be a relationship of dispute and collaboration with “governance.” That is why we propose to the working class base and to the young people who voted for Peronism, and today are disappointed, that we do something new with the Left and outside of the Justicialist Party.

Tempest: Milei has expressed his unconditional support for U.S. imperialism and Israel, and opposition to China. Given the important role China has played in recent years in the Argentine economy, what are the expectations at the level of international politics?

CF: On this point evidently the priority for Milei and his government will be to increasingly realign the country with the United States. That is the axis of his international position and that is why he rejects Argentina moving forward with the BRICS (The alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – Eds.). However, thinking about not having commercial relations with China or Brazil is ridiculous, and no section of the bourgeoisie thinks of this. They have million-dollar businesses, so they will have to allow them to continue. Therefore, beyond the campaign’s bravado and madness, it is very likely that trade relations will not, at least initially, undergo major alterations. We are talking about China, Brazil, and other countries that are the main trading partners of our country and the region. It would be practically suicidal to put a stop to that.

All of this, of course, takes place within the framework of an international struggle for imperialist hegemony, where the United States will seek to take advantage of the government’s alignment under its orbit. We’ll see how it plays out, but I tend to believe that the madness is more of a campaign slogan than a concrete decision to sever business relations.

Tempest: How do these elections change the strategic perspective for the Left in Argentina? To the extent that the election of Milei can be understood as an expression of crisis and exhaustion with the Kirchnerite/Peronist politics, is the Left up to the task to presenting a viable alternative between developmentalism/reformism in a period of global stagnation and unbridled free-market capitalism with a reactionary face?

CF: The possibility of capitalizing on the crisis of Peronism/Kirchnerism is without a doubt the main challenge that the revolutionary Left faces in Argentina. There is no real possibility to achieve revolutionary change if we do not put an end to the hegemony of a force that for years has represented a wall of contention between the mass movement and socialism.

The first thing to say is that our party works to achieve that objective. We believe that “objective” conditions, so to speak, are more than sufficient. But it is important that the Left carry out a deep debate about the methods and politics to achieve this. The MST deeply defends the construction of the FIT-U as the most important expression of the unity of the Left in our country and even at the continental level. At the same time we are very critical that we have not been able to move beyond the electoral stage— a problem that deepened in this last election, since forces such as the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialista/ Socialist Workers’ Party (PTS)4The largest of the four constituent parties of the FIT-U that also includes the MST, the Partido Obrero/Workers’ Party, and Izquierda Socialista/ Socialist Left.- Eds. intend to assume a hegemonic and undemocratic role for the development of the Front, imposing formulas, refusing to hold plenaries and democratic assemblies of the membership, and preventing the coordination of a common campaign.

In this context, the debates that we have been putting forward from the MST for the last two years, and to which in the last elections the Partido Obrero/Workers’ Party  joined to a limited extent, are key. The FIT-U needs to provoke changes that allow us to take advantage of the situation that is opening.

Returning to what progressivism will do, an expression that aims to r-launch that space to the left of the PJ is that of Juan Grabois, a Vatican activist. But for now he has done nothing other than remaining under the wing of the rotten structure of Peronism. That is why, more than ever, it is key that the FIT-U becomes something more than an electoral front that can play a role in the unions, the places of study, the popular neighborhoods. We need to establish an alternative capable of being tested in the confrontation with the structural adjustment that is coming and temper a program and an organization with chances of bringing together a sector of the mass movement in the next period.

That is what the MST works for. And the legislative seat that I will occupy and the others that we conquered, as well as all our strength in the neighborhoods, the workplaces, and among the youth will be at the service of this task.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Global crises and global revolts

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 12/11/2023 - 21:08

At the time of this presentation, protests had entered their third week in the largely Druze city of As-Suwayda in southern Syria. The demonstrations initially erupted due to an ever-worsening economic crisis prompted by the regime’s scaling back its fuel and gasoline subsidies and weakening social services, creating an ever worse cost of living crisis.

From basic economic demands, soon the protests moved to calling for the downfall of the regime. The protests have been marked by the multicolored Druze flag and the leadership of As-Suwayda’s women. In the first week, protesters welded shut Assad’s Ba’ath Party headquarters and spray painted anti-government slogans on the walls.

What is unusual about this is that As-Suwayda is in a government-controlled region of Syria that largely stood on the sideline of the revolution and counterrevolution that overtook much of Syria for the past 13 years. In fact, Assad claimed to be the protector of religious minorities (of which the Druze are one) in a bid to keep them on his side. Nonetheless, after over a decade, As-Suwayda has erupted in protest, as have several other regime-held cities, though to a smaller extent. This is the case even though the regime has consolidated its iron fist over the vast majority of the country, and its victory seemed all but complete after a decade of brutal defeats for our side.

The pace of revolts and revolutions has risen over the past two decades, since the entrenchment of neoliberalism globally, and since the 2008 economic crisis.

But popular rage has become rampant today in multiple countries around the world. In late June and early July, riots spread across France after the police murdered a 17-year-old of North African descent, Nahel Merzouk. The riots of the banlieues (suburbs) quickly spread across the country, as well as to France’s overseas colonies in a way similar to the spread of the Black Lives Matter rebellion of 2020.

In response to the violence of the French state and its particular oppression of North African, Arab, and Muslim populations that the state has neglected and marginalized economically—as well as brutalized—protesters (many of them under the age of 18) torched cars, barricaded streets, and firebombed police stations.

The rebellion lasted just over two weeks, with massive crackdowns and thousands arrested by the state in order to quell the rebellion. Still, the rage at police violence and the Islamophobic French state remains and will inevitably re-emerge. This is because we are in an era of global rebellion and mass popular uprisings.

In the past year alone, we have seen revolts erupt in France, China, Iran, and Peru. And in the past four years people have risen up in Chile, Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Hong Kong, Belarus, and Palestine. The Black Lives Matter uprising that started in the U.S. spread globally, demanding an overthrow of racist violence and challenging racist and colonial history.

The pace of revolts and revolutions has risen over the past two decades, since the entrenchment of neoliberalism globally, and since the 2008 economic crisis devastated the livelihoods of the global working class. The revolts have been most acute in the Middle East/North Africa region, which has seen a long-term revolutionary process due to pronounced and unresolved structural issues.

According to Mark Bessinger’s research, from 1900 to 1950, there were an average of 2.4 revolutionary episodes per year, then 2.8 per year from 1950 to 1984, and over 4 per year from 1985 to 2014. But the number of revolts exploded after 2008. As Jamie Allensin wrote in his book The Age of Counter-Revolution, the 2010s witnessed a wave of protests greater than any since that sparked by the Russian Revolution of 1917.

August 2020, Belarus Government House: Protest in Minsk against Alexander Lukashenko after he won the presidency in a fraudulent landslide. The protests of 2020-2021 were the biggest in Belarusian history. Image by homoatrox.

Across the world, anti-government protests increased by 11.5 percent each year through the 2010s. Although the COVID pandemic of 2020 put a temporary pause on mass revolts, it has not stopped the wave of revolts, including, for example, Iran’s revolution emerging in September 2022.

I want to make a few arguments about the nature of these revolts before delving deeper into a few examples. The revolts vary in character and size, with some being week-long rebellions and others lasting a year or more. Although there are different lessons to learn from each, they are worth studying as a phenomenon. From these events, we can draw several conclusions.

First, the pace of global rebellion will continue. Revolts and uprisings will continue to erupt with increased frequency due to the economic crisis, cost of living crisis, climate crisis, and the fact that political parties in power have marched further to the right for the past 50 years. The massive uptick in revolts and uprisings should be understood largely as a response to decades of neoliberalism and neoliberal austerity.

Under neoliberalism, the welfare state was essentially eradicated on a global scale with the privatization and removal of social provisioning, and the transfer of immense wealth to a smaller, wealthier elite. At the same time, while neoliberalism entailed the destruction of the welfare state, the armed aspects of the state were made more powerful.

In the logic of the capitalist class, this makes complete sense. Increasingly authoritarian and repressive measures are needed, including more militarized and massive police forces, to enforce untenable levels of economic inequality that otherwise the working classes would reject. In recent years, counterrevolution, war, and economic and climate crises have driven up migration, and states have responded, again, by bolstering their border regimes and global repressive apparatuses.

Neoliberalism has brought about an increased burden on those who provide care, which globally is largely women.

This repression has accompanied a rightward march of politics globally as centrist, neoliberal policies fail to address the crises they create. The only political alternative for the ruling class is an increasingly reactionary right-wing movement in not only the United States, but also globally.

Second, working-class struggle over the past decade has taken the shape of anti-racist, and emergent feminist revolts and insurgency. As Tithi Bhattacharya writes in Salvage, given that in the last five decades neoliberalism has either smashed or chipped away at workplace organizing and organizations, the Left should expect struggle to erupt in domains of social reproduction. International struggles against oppression and racism and feminist struggle should be understood as central to working-class struggle rather than at the margins.

These struggles cannot and should not be viewed as separate from working-class struggle or, even worse, as a distraction from working-class struggle and demands, which some have unfortunately continued to argue about Black Lives Matter and Palestine, among others.

Bhattacharya also poses the question of organization. She explains, “Marx urges us to expect new organizational forms during social movements. Though these movements presuppose a certain degree of previous organization, they are equally a means of developing this organization.”

The question of organization is one that we must pay attention to in the revolts that emerge. Since the organizations of the Left and the working class have been hollowed out over the past half century, the revolts that emerge take the form of justifiable outbursts of rage at deep, deep systemic issues, but lack long term organization that can lead to victory.

We are starting from a position in which the right is in power and we are in the streets, but often not organized beyond these periodic outbursts. In revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, and in particular in Sudan, we do see experimentation with organizational forms to figure out what will work today, but there remains the obstacle of challenging the state. These experiments have not been enough to successfully take on the state and remove its bodies of armed men.

Third, there is an emergent feminist consciousness, and in the past few years, we have seen revolts sparked by feminist demands. This is due to a crisis of social reproduction, a crisis of care also caused by decades of neoliberal austerity.

Neoliberalism, in removing social provisioning and welfare measures, has put more of a burden on individuals to take on tasks of social reproduction and drastically increased pressures on the global working class. Social reproduction is how, in between the work days or work shifts, people do all the tasks they need to do to reproduce themselves for the next day or week, including feeding themselves and their families, doing the laundry, taking care of children and the elderly, and so on.

International struggles against oppression and racism and feminist struggle should be understood as central to working-class struggle rather than at the margins.

Neoliberalism has brought about an increased burden on those who provide care, which globally is largely women. For example, in the U.S., cuts to welfare and benefits like WIC paired with privatized and unsubsidized child care means that child care can cost up to twenty percent of median family income per child, sometimes more. So how can the working class reproduce itself under such conditions of privatization and the excessive burdens on the individual?

The right wing globally has their own solution to the problem, which they are doubling down upon with renewed vigor: to re-emphasize the nuclear family, traditional gender roles within the family, and the woman’s role as caretaker. Along with this ideology, there are more attacks on trans people and gender non-conforming people. There are more efforts to control women’s bodies, limit abortion access, and prescribe what women can and cannot wear, whether that is the mandatory hijab in Iran, or in France, the forbidden burqa, forbidden abayas in school, and forbidden hijabs in sports, and so on.

In response, we see new feminist insurgencies springing up in various countries and through various uprisings, holding a mirror to the sexist and heteronormative oppression and connecting sexist oppression to the state.

In the uprisings that erupted in 2019, this spirit was most visible in the Chilean anti-rape anthem, which connected rape to state and police violence. Its lyrics included, “It’s the cops, the judges, the state, the president. The oppressive state is a rapist.” Activists, feminists, and revolutionaries translated this protest song and performed it in protest movements and solidarity demonstrations from Mexico to Lebanon.

It was also visible in the iconic images of Sudanese women revolutionaries, pointing to the historic women’s leadership in Sudanese revolutionary politics.

Sudanese woman at a demonstration in Khartoum in April 2019. She has written “Just fall” on her arm—calling on President Omar al-Bashir to resign. Image by Ola A. Alsheikh.

France’s rebellion this past summer put a spotlight on its colonial history, racism and Islamophobia and increasing police violence against Arabs and North Africans. It also served as a reminder that the political forces in power have moved further to the right, as is the case with Macron.

France has never reckoned with its 132-year colonization of Algeria, during which it killed a million Algerians. This colonial relationship still saturates French politics. In 2017, while 85 percent of France’s general population had not undergone a police stop in the previous five years, 80 percent of young Arab and Black men had been stopped by the police.

In addition, Muslims, largely North Africans, make up an estimated 30 to 40 percent of France’s prison population. Three days into the rebellion, France’s largest police union issued a statement calling the protesters savage hordes and vermin. Macron issued no response to this racism, but moved to crush the rebellion.

Macron issued nightly curfews to crush the revolts. In the streets, police shot rubber bullets and maimed many of the young protesters. Police ripped off female protesters’ hijabs and banned them from wearing their headscarves in courts after their arrests when they had to come to trial. It should be clear from these examples alone that the rebellion was an outburst of justifiable anti-racist and anti-colonial working-class anger.

In fact, the Arab and North African youth of banlieues have been organizing and resisting police violence in the background of France’s social movements for years now. Both the Yellow Vest movement and this year’s anti-pension reform protests against Macron provided fertile ground for this summer’s rebellion. France has been a powder keg on a knife’s edge, and the anger at Macron is likely to explode again at any moment.

In September 2022, a mass uprising began in Iran after the killing of Jina Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police. The funeral of the Kurdish Iranian 22-year-old transformed into an uprising that spread beyond the country’s Kurdish regions to the rest of the country. The revolts coalesced under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom,” and the demand to end the compulsory hijab and abolish the morality police.

We are starting from a position in which the right is in power and we are in the streets, but often not organized beyond these periodic outbursts.

But soon the uprising spread to encompass economic and political demands and to include large sections of workers who went on strike during the uprising, and oppressed minorities within Iran, from Kurdish to Baluchi (an Arab minority largely based in Khuzestan).

Prior to the uprising, the state, under right-wing President Ibrahim Raisi, had ramped up surveillance of women’s dress by the morality police. At the same time, the working class faced inflation, economic hardship, neoliberal reforms by the state, and the effects of U.S. sanctions as well.

In the early months of the revolution, young women led the movement. They burned hijabs in the streets, cut their hair in public, and soon called for the downfall of the dictatorship. It should be stressed that this was not a movement against Islam, or even the hijab per se, but against the state’s use of women’s bodies and clothing as a means of control and part of its right-wing ideology.

An Iranian writer, writing under a pseudonym, noted that the early chants of the revolution, from university students to protesters in the street included, “Down with the dictator, poverty, corruption, injustice, shame on all this tyranny, exploitation, unemployment, and the forced hijab for women,” among other slogans against the morality police.

In another article, this writer explores how workers took on strikes throughout the uprising. For example, the Union of Truck Drivers and Owners called a ten-day strike in November 2022 in solidarity with minority communities who had faced repression during the uprising and in protest against their own working conditions.

In February of this year, twenty independent Iranian trade unions and a few feminist groups and student organizations issued a joint charter listing their demands, including the freedom of all political prisoners, abolition of discrimination against women and LGBTQ populations, full gender equality, etc.

While the mass protests in Iran may have subsided for the time being, the struggle is certainly not over. The movement has planted seeds that can last and grow, especially in terms of labor organizing.

One must take power. Without that there will be counterrevolution.

In the Middle East and North Africa, acute revolutionary crises have also meant severe and brutal counterrevolution.

In Sudan, protests that erupted over the price of bread in December 2018 turned into a long-term revolutionary movement that followed the footsteps of the region’s revolutions in many ways, and, in some ways, going far beyond them. After successfully toppling their dictator in 2019, Sudan’s slogan was “Victory or Egypt,” using the example of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, backlash, and defeat as a reminder not to abandon the streets, and that overthrowing the figurehead of the regime is not enough. Revolutionary movements must also abolish the police and the military and establish civilian rule. But establishing civilian rule, getting rid of the police and military, has proved extremely difficult.

The leadership of the movement in Sudan shifted from the Sudanese Professionals Association, which is a middle class grouping of unions that was in the lead of the revolution at the start, to more radical but decentralized neighborhood resistance committees. Although Sudan has seen experimentation with revolutionary forms that have advanced beyond most other revolutions globally, the movement has faced the refusal of the military to relinquish power.

A brutal massacre in 2019 brought about counterrevolutionary negotiations, a power-sharing agreement that opened the way to a military coup in 2021, which then led to this year’s war between the two factions of the military, who have now devastated the capital Khartoum, creating a massive humanitarian crisis which set back the revolution.

The neighborhood resistance committees were in the process of cohering into a national charter when the war broke out. This shows that a protracted situation of dual power cannot be sustained, as it will open up the door for counterrevolution and brutal repression. It’s a reminder that militaries and militias must be removed from power and dismantled in an alternate, well-organized and forceful movement of the left wing.

One must take power. Without that there will be counterrevolution. Of course, doing so is easier said than done.

Featured image credit: seven resist via Flikr; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Solidarity against Anti-Palestinian hate crimes

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 12/06/2023 - 20:35

Paul Fleckenstein: Wafic and Ashley, what is your reaction to the shooting last month and what is the context for it that you think we need to understand?

Wafic Faour: My first reaction was shock and anger. But I was not surprised. I was not surprised because the atmosphere in this country from Trump’s Muslim ban in 2017 to the University of Vermont’s decision to ban Muhammed el Kurd from speaking in October has laid the groundwork for hate crimes against Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and anyone else that supports the Palestinian struggle.

Campus and community solidarity groups have been harassed. Every time we stand up for Palestine, we get attacked as anti-Semitic. For example, when we brought a BDS resolution to the Burlington City Council in 2021, we got attacked mercilessly.

So, I wasn’t surprised, but I took it personally. I have children who are the same age as these students who were shot. They wear keffiyehs when they are on the streets in Burlington. They are proud Arabs, they’re proud Palestinians. So, I felt it directly as an attack on my community and as a threat against my own family.

Every time we stand up for Palestine, we get attacked as anti-Semitic. For example, when we brought a BDS resolution to the Burlington City Council in 2021, we got attacked mercilessly.

Ashley Smith: This brutal, racist hate crime reminds me of what Martin Luther King Jr. said during the Vietnam War. He said the bombs dropped abroad explode at home. Any war abroad generates a war at home.

The U. S. has supported Israel for decades. It has funneled over $260 billion to it since World War II, the most of any country in the world. The U.S. has backed its apartheid regime and its relentless occupation, conquest, and colonization of Palestine for decades.

To justify that, the U.S. along with Israel has turned to racist, anti-Arab, and specifically anti-Palestinian ideas and spread them throughout our society. As a result, people look upon Palestinians as terrorists, as a security threat, and in the language of Israeli state officials, as less than human. Inevitably, such racism has caused waves of anti-Arab and Islamophobic hate crimes here at home.

That racism is the cause of this hate crime against the three students in Burlington. The individuals who commit those hate crimes are just the retail bigots. The wholesale bigots are in the U. S. government and the Israeli government.

Their collusion in the endless occupation, siege, and apartheid system imposed on Palestinians generates racist violence against Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians in the U.S. Those crimes are the bitter fruit of U. S. imperialism and its support of Israel and its settler colonial project.

Banner used at protest of U.S. Representative Becca Balint’s fundraiser on November 9, 2023. Photo by comrades.

WF: The problem with the U.S. is more than support for Israel. The U.S. is fully part of all of Israel’s wars. It not only gives Israel money and guns, but it also deploys its military forces and advisors to guide Israel in carrying out its atrocities. Right now, it has its generals in the Israeli war room.

The U.S. tries to get people in this country to side with Israel against Palestinians and Arabs. That leads people to see anyone who opposes Israel as opposing the U.S., as an enemy of the U.S.

The war there produces a war on us, the Palestinians, here. So, when Washington and Israel imposed a siege on Gaza for the last 17 years, it imposed a political and ideological siege on the Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian communities in the U.S.

Let me be specific. States [U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar resolution this week after this interview was conducted] across the country have passed laws based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which declares that any criticism of Israeli Apartheid is antisemitic.

Of course, the liberal Zionists call for dialogue and understanding. But behind the scenes, they collaborate with far-right Zionists to weaponize anti-Semitism to demonize us, block progressive resolutions in solidarity with Palestine, and cancel our speakers.

This is what creates the atmosphere in which a racist shot three young college students walking on North Prospect Street. The war came home to Burlington and the state of Vermont.

[T]he liberal Zionists call for dialogue and understanding. But behind the scenes, they collaborate with far-right Zionists to weaponize anti-Semitism to demonize us, block progressive resolutions in solidarity with Palestine, and cancel our speakers.

PF: Can you talk more about Vermont and what role politicians and pro-Israel forces have played here?

AS: I would emphasize the specific conditions in our state and city that led to this racist shooting. Right after October 7th, the entire political, corporate, and institutional establishment of our state united lockstep behind Israel’s genocidal war without exception.

The governor of Vermont, Phil Scott (R), the mayor of Burlington, Miro Weinberger (D), and representatives from the entire congressional delegation joined a rally in support of Israel. They all supported Israel’s so-called right to defend itself, that is its right to enforce its colonial rule over the Palestinian people and their land.

They thus endorsed Israel’s genocidal war. Our state and local political establishment took the side of the oppressor against the oppressed. So did the University of Vermont (UVM). It in particular helped foster the climate that led to this hate crime.

UVM justified its cancellation of Muhammed el Kurd on the grounds that it could not guarantee security for the event, implying that he was somehow a threat. That sent a chilling, silencing, intimidating message to all Palestinians and solidarity activists.

It also sent a signal to all the racists that Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are dangerous, that they are a security threat. Unsurprisingly, a racist drew the logical and barbaric conclusion, grabbed his gun, and from his porch shot three students for being a threat, for being who they are, for speaking Arabic, and for wearing a keffiyeh.

WF: What’s worse, the local authorities have still not called the shooting a hate crime. And the media have already found a way to excuse the crime, pointing to the shooter’s mental health problems.

This is unacceptable and must be protested. It is a double standard. When a white person carries out a hate crime, the authorities and media point to mental illness. But if they are a person of color, and particularly a Palestinian, the authorities and media unite in calling it a hate crime and denouncing them as a terrorist.

So, this shows how Washington’s war from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria have directly led to us being portrayed as enemies in the eyes of racists in this country. The U.S. government has declared open season on us as an enemy.

During the Cold War, the U.S. used anti-communism and the Red Scare to demonize the Left. During the so-called War on Terror, they used anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia naming Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians as the enemy. It is as you called it, Ashely, a racist version of McCarthyism.

PF: How has the movement in support of Palestinian rights responded to the hate crime?

AS: The response was immediate and powerful, beginning with the three students themselves. As Hisham Awartani wrote in his statement, they see the attack on them here in the U.S. as part of the U.S. and Israel’s attack on Palestinians in Palestine.

And he also said, don’t see me as a victim, see me as part of a proud people resisting our oppression. These three students are part of the liberation struggle.

The families have also seen the attack on their children in the same light. Their joint statement on the question of mental illness is brilliant. It names how the establishment uses it to implicitly exonerate somebody who’s committed a racist hate crime.

They wrote in their statement that,

millions of people in America and across the globe struggle with mental health challenges. That does not make them pick up a gun and attack people based on their identity. We do not accept what this wrongfully implies about people who struggle with mental health, nor do we accept it as justification or context for this heinous hate driven crime.

Further, we see the clear double standard. When white men commit crimes, they are described as victims struggling with their mental health, and testimonies from family members are shared to describe them as good people. People of color are not given the same treatment. Jason Eaton committed an act of horrific violence against our children.

One of our kids may never walk again, and they will all live with this trauma for the rest of our lives. And they go on and they say our families are devastated.

Our lives are forever changed by this hateful attack. And we have no doubt that parents across America, particularly of Palestinian children, are shaken by this attack. We urge those in the media covering the attack on our children to do so responsibly and respectfully by not attempting to turn their attacker into a victim.

I think that is such a profound statement that cuts through all the lies and propaganda churned out against the Palestinian people and exonerates perpetrators of crimes against them as if they’re somehow the victims.

WF: At the same time, this attack has terrified our community. UVM students are frightened to speak out because of fear of retaliation from the administration. They are terrified that their professors will use anything they say or do against them in grading. They are terrified just to show their faces.

None of us are immune. I mean, I can feel it. I can also feel their pain. I lived it with my daughter when she and others in SJP at Middlebury College were under attack. She got sick for weeks.

She’s had the same experience at Tufts Medical School where she goes now. On October 7, the dean sent the whole first-year class a text. He said, if you have any anxiety because of what’s happening overseas, we have made the rabbi available for you to speak with.

She was furious and started crying right away. She went to the dean’s office and told them; how can you tell us all to go to the rabbi. What about my people? Where am I going to go? This is just one experience of the erasure and oppression Palestinians feel all across the country in every institution, workplace, and community.

AS: Vermont is no exception to what Wafic is describing. Vermont likes to paint itself as some liberal, progressive, or even socialist haven. In reality, it’s, as people say, Mississippi with mountains.

There is institutional racism against Arabs, Muslims, and specifically Palestinians here. It’s been a battle for Students for Justice in Palestine chapters (SJPs) and for community organizations to organize solidarity with Palestine. Every time they do, people in power denounce their criticism of Israel’s settler colonial oppression and apartheid against Palestinians as anti-Semitic.

It’s one of the weirdest tricks in world history. Perpetrators and defenders of oppression attack their victims as racists. This weaponization of charges of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of the state of Israel and its genocidal war is the key tool of the racist New McCarthyism.

It is being used to kick people out of schools, ban SJP chapters, withdraw job offers, and fire people from their jobs. This is part of a massive campaign of repression in defense of Israel to carry out ethnic cleansing in Gaza.

But the hopeful thing is that people in mass numbers are refusing to be intimidated and they are standing up against each and every attack in every school, every workplace, and every community. They are resisting.

That’s what’s important about this moment. And you can feel it in Vermont and all across the country. In these rallies, marches, and sit-ins, a whole generation of young Arab, Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, Black, Latino, and white people are refusing to be silenced and are protesting the genocide in Gaza and the racist New McCarthyism.

That’s the hope in this horrific situation. We have two forces colliding. On one side, the establishment is trying to whip up a kind of 9/11 hysteria to unite the whole political and economic establishment behind this genocidal war.

Perpetrators and defenders of oppression attack their victims as racists. This weaponization of charges of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of the state of Israel and its genocidal war is the key tool of the racist New McCarthyism.

But on the other side, our forces built through the anti-Iraq war movement, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, BDS, the waves of labor militancy, and the new socialist movement have hit the streets in solidarity with Palestine. Palestine solidarity is a deep part of a whole new generation’s politics.

That means there’s a deep wellspring of resistance. That explains why we were able to mobilize three hundred people on two hours’ notice for an emergency rally in response to the hate crime. They were not intimidated even though the shooter at that point was still on the loose.

This is happening everywhere. In response to Israel’s genocidal war, the world is marching for Palestine from Burlington to Barcelona, London, Jakarta, Johannesburg, and Santiago.

The only thing analogous in recent U.S. history is the Vietnam War. It radicalized an entire generation and changed U. S. society in a profound way. It grew out of the civil rights movement and in turn contributed to further struggles from the women’s movement to the labor movement of the 1970s.

It was the epicenter of radicalization for a whole generation inside the United States and throughout the world. Palestine is our epoch’s Vietnam.

PF: What are some immediate next steps and some longer-term priorities you see for the movement locally and in Vermont?

WF: We have a lot of work on our hands. We have education to do. For the first time, there is a conference that teachers have organized to discuss teaching about Palestine. They are organizing it despite attempts at intimidation. Similar educational events are very important to broaden and deepen our forces.

We have to build the coalition we have started. It is strong so far because we allow freedom of action from multiple organizations to take the initiative and to support their actions. We have been able to build protests of all sorts, including in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Our ability to mobilize people from below will be key to pressuring the politicians. I have started to hear from many of them because they know they didn’t take the right stance. They are reaching out to hear from me and others about what they should advocate.

Even the lieutenant governor, David Zuckerman (D), has called me. But they are also talking to the local liberal Rabbis, the very people who attacked us as anti-Semitic for bringing the resolution to the city council a few years ago. They are also against a ceasefire!

So, we have many liberals who are trying to straddle incompatible positions, instead of taking the right stand. And we have the mayor who opposes bringing a resolution to the City Council for a ceasefire.

They are still living in a pre-October 7 moment. They still believe they have the upper hand and can carry out ethnic cleansing and get away with it.

AS: What Wafic describes is the united front of the political, corporate, and institutional establishment of the state. But our struggle is beginning to split them. We’re actually beginning to flip some politicians and force them to adopt positions that only a few weeks ago they would never have dreamed of advocating like a ceasefire.

Take, for example, Representative Becca Balint. From the start of Israel’s war, she took the side of Israel, whatever qualms she had about Netanyahu or Israel’s slaughtering children. Whatever her reservations, she still supported Israel lock, stock, and barrel.

But the brutality of Israel’s genocidal war and our protests put enormous pressure on her and the rest of the political establishment. We have had several large rallies including one of over a thousand people in Burlington, a town of only forty thousand.

We then organized a march of three hundred people on Balint’s fundraising party in Burlington. We chanted, “Becca, Becca, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” through the windows as she met with her donors—the wealthy political class of the city. Others inside pressured her and then met with her in the next couple of days.

Then, low and behold, she changed her position, coming out for a ceasefire. Of course, she doesn’t have our position. She supports Israel, its so-called right to defend itself, and its war to crush Hamas and the Palestinian resistance. She just doesn’t like the indiscriminate way Israel is carrying it out—its collective punishment and massacre of innocent men, women, and children.

Of course, she’s naïve or trying to have it both ways, support Israel but have it conduct its war in a kinder, gentler, way. In reality, however, the Israeli state is committed to doing exactly what it’s doing.

This war is not really about Hamas. That’s an alibi for its war of ethnic cleansing, a second Nakba, to complete the task it started in 1948. So, we flipped Balint. But we are still demanding more—that she oppose all funding of Israel and many other more radical demands. So, we’re keeping the pressure on her.

We also scored another victory, flipping our senator, Peter Welch (D), who had also opposed a ceasefire, to now support it. Clearly, he wanted to avoid the heat Balint took, so he changed his position before we could start protesting him.

But he, like Balint, still supports Israel and its so-called right to defend itself and has not come out against aid to Israel. And neither of them has signed on to the ceasefire resolution. So, we’re going to be protesting them in the coming weeks, especially when the funding bill comes before the Senate and the House.

This war is not really about Hamas. That’s an alibi for its war of ethnic cleansing, a second Nakba, to complete the task it started in 1948.

The only remaining politician to still oppose a ceasefire is Bernie Sanders (I). We have to push him to stand up for his avowed socialist principles, of always standing with the exploited and oppressed.

Frankly, he is violating them. He is in reality a progressive except on Palestine. Of course, he is for a pause, he opposes indiscriminate bombing, and wants to make aid conditional. But these positions make no sense.

You don’t call for a pause in a genocide, you stop it. You don’t support “discriminate bombing,” whatever that is. That is a pro-war position.

And you don’t put conditions on aid to an apartheid regime. That was what Reagan and Thatcher called constructive engagement with apartheid South Africa. Instead, you oppose any and all aid, period.

And you support boycott, divestment, and sanctions. But, truth be told, Sanders is a liberal Zionist; he does not oppose Israel’s settler colonial project. So, we have to pressure him to change. There can be no Palestine exception among socialists.

PF: You are both part of the new Vermont Coalition for Palestinian Liberation that is coordinating this work. What is it demanding and doing?

AS: We are building a coalition and a movement with immediate and long-term demands. We want a permanent ceasefire now, but we want to cut off all aid to Israel. We want an end to the siege of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank, and the apartheid system in Israel. We support the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel to force it to change.

We want unrestricted humanitarian aid to all Palestinians. We want all the Palestinian hostages freed. We want to defend and expand Palestinians’ civil rights and civil liberties here and everywhere. In a phrase, we support Palestinians’ right to self-determination, their right to return, and their full and equal rights in their historic homeland.

Here in Burlington, we are campaigning to get voters to pass a resolution to make our town an apartheid-free city. We want other towns in the state to take this up and organize their own resolution campaign.

So, we are building a whole movement in solidarity with Palestine, and we are calling for all progressive organizations, student groups, community organizations, and unions in the state to join us.

WF: Ashley summarized the demands of our coalition. These are strong and they provide a basis for long-term organizing. We are beginning to build real trust between people, organizations, and generations.

We have built a sense of trust, especially between older activists and younger ones. They bring energy and new ideas, and we bring the lessons of experience of many years of struggle among the older generation.

The younger ones, they believe in us, and we believe in them. What they need is care and love. And we are providing that, and we are respecting what they do. We are building a movement in the most difficult of times against the combined forces of the political establishment. But I have hope in it.

People are joining from all walks of life, and hopefully we can help all other movements. Now more than ever, we need solidarity. We need to build on the idea of collective liberation, the idea that I will never be free if you are not free. Our destinies are bound up with each other.

Categories: D2. Socialism

The Legacy of October 7

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 12/05/2023 - 20:11

On November 24, a “humanitarian pause” was declared in Israel’s war on Gaza. It continues as I write this, but in no sense does it signal an early end to the genocidal assault. Netanyahu has made clear to the world—if indeed it even needed to be made explicit—that his government plans to continue the siege for a long time, and in fact that Israel intends to remain to administer Gaza after active hostilities cease.

Already over 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, close to 2 million displaced from their homes, and survivors exposed to hunger, dehydration and disease. Israel’s army continues to get billions in support from the United States. Prospects for Palestinian liberation from colonial oppression can seem slim indeed.

But at the same time a large and growing movement of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle has emerged. The energy, creativity, and passion of this movement offer inspiration and hope. Tempest and the rest of the anti-Zionist Left has, correctly, thrown itself into building it. We must continue to build a movement for an immediate ceasefire (rather than the “humanitarian pause”), help reenergize the campaign for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and demand an end to all US military and economic aid to Israel.

Our solidarity with movements of national liberation … is unconditional. However, as Marxists, we understand that unconditional solidarity is not uncritical support.

Given the ongoing genocide and the enormous international protest movement in support of Palestine, our assessment of the event that triggered the current war—the incursion into Israel by Hamas fighters—is secondary. But because actions and events have consequences, our ability to shape a perspective for our activity depends on a careful and thorough assessment of what happened on October 7.

Our solidarity with movements of national liberation—currently, both in Palestine and Ukraine—is unconditional. However, as Marxists, we understand that unconditional solidarity is not uncritical support. Our solidarity with Ukraine does not prevent us from criticizing the Zelensky regime’s growing dependence on NATO and the IMF or its banning of strikes for undermining the Ukrainian struggle against Russian imperialism. Nor should we flinch from an independent assessment of the strategy and tactics of the leadership of the current Palestinian struggle—both Fatah and Hamas—and their impact on the prospects for a free Palestine. I hope what I write below, and any responses to it, can contribute to that assessment.

What has appeared so far on the Tempest website is inadequate. The article by Tempest member Jonah ben Avraham has already been critiqued on the site by Dan LaBotz and Stephen R. Shalom, and I won’t have more to say about ben Avraham’s piece. I will address, though, what I see as the inadequacies of the two articles by Tempest member brian bean.

A positive step for Palestine?

Hamas is a political party rooted in the Palestinian population. It has a significant base of supporters. With a well-organized military arm, it is a major force in Palestine’s resistance movement. It is not simply an Islamist terrorist organization of individuals motivated purely ideologically, like Al Qaeda or ISIS. Both its politics and its activities should be evaluated from the standpoint of how well they contribute to Palestinian liberation.

Without question, the October 7 incursion revealed that the Israeli security apparatus did not possess the omnipotence and omniscience that it claimed for itself. But whether that increases the likelihood that Israel’s apartheid state will be dismantled any time soon is at the very least highly debatable. Indeed, we have not seen any attempt, from within the Left or outside it, to make such an argument.

brian bean, in both of his recent Tempest pieces, correctly centers the need to support Palestinians in their struggle. In the first of these articles, after condemning the hypocritical stance of U.S. liberal politicians (Sanders, AOC, Bowman) who see October 7 as nothing but an unprovoked act of terror, he writes, “Rather, we should fervently defend Palestinians’ right to resistance.” Does such defense imply that any criticism of Hamas’ actions on that day is off limits? In the same article, he says that “the attempt to take action to do something to change the balance of forces is audacious and should be defended.” Does “defending” this attempt mean defending the right to make such an attempt or refraining from making any criticism of it? To me his piece reads as implying that to criticize a specific act of force is to deny the right of oppressed people to use force and to determine for themselves when force is necessary. I don’t understand that logic.

Lebanese scholar Gilbert Achcar is forthright in his assessment of the Hamas-led action. In an October 8 blog piece he wrote:

There can be no doubt that this new chapter will end with a terrible cost for the Palestinians in general, the Gazans in particular, and Hamas specifically—much higher than the cost endured by the Israelis, as has unfailingly been the case in every round of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. And whereas it is not difficult to understand the “enough-is-enough” logic behind Hamas’s counter-offensive, it is much more doubtful that it will help advance the Palestinian cause beyond the blow to Israel’s self-confidence mentioned above [the demonstration of Israeli vulnerability—MB]. This would have been achieved at a hugely disproportionate cost for the Palestinians.

Achcar went on to point out that, in the face of Israel’s massive military superiority, the consequences of the ensuing war were bound to be devastating. Indeed, with so many Gazans killed and many more spending weeks living in terror, uncertain whether they will ever be able to return to their homes in Gaza or elsewhere—or even whether those homes are still intact—it’s hard to see how these people will be able to contribute to active resistance any time soon. The West Bank, of course, is another story, but there’s no getting around the fact that the outcome of October 7, in military terms, is a severe setback to Palestinian liberation—as could have been easily predicted, and should have been.

Damage in Gaza in October. Image by Wafa.

We must face the reality that Hamas’ militarist strategy and tactics have opened the way to what may be the most profound defeat of the Palestinian struggle since the first Nakba in 1948. Any attempt to avoid this reality does a disservice to the Palestinian struggle and to those building solidarity with it.

I realize that bean’s motivation in writing is to urge support for Palestinian liberation, and there is much in both of his articles that I find useful and would agree with. But when it comes to the events of October 7, he shies away from a clear assessment.

In his second article, bean asks us to confine our criticisms of Hamas to pointing out the need for a principled, internationalist left-wing leadership. He asks us, in effect, to be silent on the aspect of October 7 that has received the most attention: the attacks on civilians, including the murder of about 1200 and the taking of hostages.

We need more thoughtful analysis, not less. It should not be taboo to take a critical stance towards Hamas’ actions, even if it risks a disagreement with some Palestinian and other militants. Advancing ideas that others disagree with does not prevent us from being respected by them, as long as we present those ideas in a comradely and non-sectarian manner, do not let disagreements dominate what we have to say, and contribute constructively and actively as loyal members to building the movement.

Hamas’ attacks on civilians

“In war,” bean writes, “the intentional and targeted killing of civilians is almost always counterproductive and regrettable.” This abstract generalization tells us next to nothing. What about this instance of the killing of civilians? What do we have to say about it? Revolutionary socialists need to look reality in its full specificity squarely in the face and draw conclusions from it.

Israel is a small country. Its Jewish citizens, by and large, strongly identify with the state and its strength. They are accustomed to feeling that any violent attacks on Jews by Palestinians or other Arabs are strictly contained. Jews living in one area of the country often have ties, direct or slightly less so, to those living in another. What happens after an attack that leaves 1200 dead, many of them teens and young adults attending a music festival, could easily be predicted. The entire country is going to experience tremendous shock, grief, fear, and anger.

[T]here’s no getting around the fact that the outcome of October 7, in military terms, is a severe setback to Palestinian liberation.

The stated war aim of “eliminating” Hamas was therefore met with solid enthusiasm: Something must be done! Despite Netanyahu’s unpopularity he was able to assemble a “unity” war cabinet including the National Unity Party’s Benny Gantz. Hamas succeeded in uniting Israelis at a time when deep divisions (to be sure, all within the bounds of Zionism) were the order of the day.

I am not arguing that Israel would have refrained from carrying out its assault in the absence of civilian deaths. bean is absolutely right that the simple breach of Israeli defenses would have precipitated the incursion into Gaza (or provided a convenient excuse for it). After what happened, though, internal voices calling for an end to the genocide remained very few indeed. There is certainly some revulsion at the more extreme mass murder being carried out by the IDF. But the chance that this revulsion could lead to the development of an internal anti-war movement or other form of resistance—even in the name of liberal Zionism—is vanishingly slim.

It is possible that a massive attack on civilians was part of Hamas’ motivation: to demonstrate to ordinary Israeli Jews that the Zionist state can never be a safe place for Jews. The Palestinian historian Tareq Baconi (whose appearance on the podcast The Dig is an invaluable summary of the history of Hamas) implies in an October 11 New Yorker interview that this may indeed have been their motive. Even this “rational” motive, though, achieves nothing beyond terrifying people into increased reliance on a powerful military.

Conditions created for the U.S. movement

Americans are, if anything, more ignorant than Israelis of the conditions under which Palestinians have been living. The mainstream press presented what happened on October 7 as nothing but an unprovoked attack by a terrorist group that hates Jews. There was no chance—in fact no attempt—to provide the context of displacement followed by decades-long occupation that might lead Palestinians to seek ways to resist.

The narrative that those supporting Palestinian liberation are antisemites was thus very easy to propagate. (It is not new, of course, but in the context of current events larger segments of people have been exposed to it over and over). In New York State, this began even before the October 8 Times Square demonstration, when governor Kathy Hochul stated that those planning to protest were supporters of Hamas’ terrorism.

We find ourselves in a situation where the discourse in many spaces is all about antisemitism even when what is really going on is the suppression of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian voices because they oppose Israel. The dominant Jewish organizations, news media, and political forces have always promoted this narrative, but a growing fear of rising, uncontrolled antisemitism seems to have created a panicked atmosphere that further enables them.

The New York Times ran an article on November 9 whose headline referred to “antisemitic attacks” on college campuses. Jewish students, the article said, lived in fear because of these attacks. The first example it provided was of a Northwestern University student who felt unsafe after seeing a poster on a bulletin board calling Gaza “a modern day concentration camp.” The student called the mood on campus antisemitic. At Cornell, a student did in fact post online death threats to Jews on campus. Though the threat referenced Israel and Palestine, there was no evidence that the student in question—a psychologically troubled individual who was later arrested and charged—had any connection to pro-Palestine organizations or participated in any of their activities. (The student was neither Middle Eastern nor Muslim.) No matter, the vice president of Cornell’s Hillel Chapter, even after this student was arrested, said she was afraid to walk outside, according to the Times.

Demonstration in Kreuzberg, Germany, October 21, 2023. Image by Montecruz Foto.

The article goes on to outline raging campus debates over what constitutes antisemitism and what speech should be considered offensive. These confused, impassioned debates, of course, drown out reasoned discussion of Zionism and its relation to imperialism, and grab headlines while repression of pro-Palestinian speakers and organizations gets little attention until protests make it impossible to ignore.

The October 7 attacks don’t necessarily fully explain the rising fears of perceived antisemitism. And I want to be clear: The Anti-Defamation League and other strongly Zionist groups would scream “antisemitism” even in the absence of any civilian killings. Certain University Trustees would pressure administrators to ban pro-Palestinian groups and speakers, donors would pull the plug, etc. But all of this has gained credibility in the current highly polarized environment, and I think it’s important to discuss this piece of the reality. Ubiquitous posters (in neighborhoods like mine) with images of Israeli hostages create momentum for pro-Israel rallies like the one that took place in early November on Manhattan’s liberal Upper West Side. Memories of the attacks, especially given that many U.S. Jews have relatives or other connections in Israel, help build events like the DC rally in support of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Thus the voices of capitalist politicians and pro-Zionist forces denying the legitimacy of Palestine’s liberation movement have been enhanced. While it may be that some of the reported instances of antisemitic events on campuses—scrawled graffiti targeting Jews, etc., — are in fact coming from those angered by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the overwhelmingly dominant source of rising antisemitism in the US today is the far right. This is now being obscured, as an equivalence is drawn between the killing of Jews by a segment of the Palestinian liberation movement and anger at supporters of Zionism in the US. And the attribution of a sharp rise in antisemitism to the Palestine solidarity movement is being mobilized in support of a new McCarthyism that has made denouncing Hamas the prerequisite for even the mildest criticism of the Israeli barbarities in Gaza.

“Misplaced moralism”?

The strongest statement that brian bean makes against the targeting of civilians is to say that “regrettable actions were taken by Hamas.” Karl Marx, in the quote bean cites about the Indian rebellion of 1857, explains what Marx calls the “infamous…conduct” of the Sepoys as a response to colonial oppression. I wonder if bean would allow “infamous conduct” to apply to Hamas.

bean wants us to refrain from criticizing Hamas out of “misplaced moralism.” (I wonder how he proposes to determine what moral points are properly placed?) The ability to empathize with others is not an optional extra skill for revolutionary socialists. Solidarity among groups and movements, and our own solidarity with all of capitalism’s victims in struggle, including the victims of colonial oppression, depends partly on human feelings of ethics and moral behavior. And our judgment of what tactics are or are not consistent with the revolutionary socialist project also has to be informed partly by moral considerations—that is, human considerations—and not some cold calculus of gain versus loss.

Others have used stronger words than “regrettable” to the attacks. I want to suggest that we ought to as well. Tareq Baconi, in the New Yorker interview, says this:

This is the first time I have been interviewed by The New Yorker, and it’s happening because Israelis were killed. What happened when Palestinians were killed in the thousands, just in the fifteen years that I’ve been covering Hamas? And so, when we really want to think about what this driver of violence is—and the pictures that have been coming out are sickening—we need to understand that colonial violence instills dehumanization both in the oppressor and in the oppressed. And it’s completely out of mind. It’s mind-boggling to me that Israeli protesters go out to protest for democracy in an apartheid regime. The only way they can hold that contradiction is if they accept that Palestinian lives are absent or expendable. And so we have to understand this violence, which, again, is heart-wrenching, in that context.

Baconi is absolutely clear about the ultimate source of violence, and about which side he is on. Yet he can use the terms “sickening” and “heart-wrenching”—that is, he can describe things as they really are—when describing what Hamas did. May revolutionary socialists use those terms?

Palestinians have used even stronger language. Jewish Voice for Peace cited the Israeli Arab human rights group Adalah which mentioned the “brutal and illegal” Hamas attack. (JVP itself refers to “massacres” and “horrific war crimes.”) Both groups used this language in the context of statements demanding a stop to the genocidal response of the Israeli government.

Turning to the revolutionary socialist Left, I urge Tempest members, friends, and readers to read David Finkel’s article in the latest Against the Current. Finkel has written on Israel/Palestine for many years and has decades of experience observing international events. The entire article is useful. But Finkel, never one to mince words in criticizing the Zionist project and its effects, has this to say about October 7, under the heading “Facing Brutal Facts”:

It is necessary to face hard facts of October 7 and the aftermath. The extraordinary organization, secret preparation, complexity and sheer power of the Hamas attack truly shocked the world.

So did the extreme brutality of the mass murders that it committed. Unless there was a breakdown of command and control, it would appear that the raid’s principal purpose was to kill people—even more than taking captives to exchange for more than six thousand Palestinian prisoners (including 360 children) held in Israel, many under “administrative detention” orders without charges or trial.

Claims that some Israeli citizens may have been killed in the army’s assaults to regain control, for example, “A growing number of reports indicate Israeli forces responsible for Israeli civilian and military deaths following October 7 attack” are unverified, but wouldn’t be unprecedented in Israel’s history of dealing with hostage crises.

Nonetheless, large-scale murders on October 7 by Hamas militants are extensively documented in body-cam and cell phone footage as well as survivors’ accounts. It included indiscriminate butchery of families in their homes—and of many civilians who could have been captured but instead were gunned down.

The extent of the killing beyond any evident strategic goal marks this as a hideous action, nothing to do with advancing Palestinian resistance or any progressive purpose.

It displays even more appalling indifference to the incineration it would bring down on the civilian Gaza population. In what way would this “advance” the struggle?

The moral and political crimes of Hamas include its failure to carry out construction of civilian bomb shelters and emergency supplies in the face of repeated rounds of Israeli air and ground assault.

Supporters of Palestinian freedom need to face what this says about the real nature of Hamas, as well as the way it has ruled in Gaza. Recognizing the absolutely essential right of oppressed peoples to resist, including with arms, does not absolve us of the responsibility to analyze the methods and politics of the forces acting in their name.

The criminality is all the greater if, as some analysts suggest, a purpose of the Hamas attack was deliberately to draw Israel into a ground invasion. Could the organization’s military or political leadership have imagined that regional state powers would come to its rescue?

I hope that revolutionary socialists will agree with Finkel that “it is necessary to face hard facts.” I offer this submission as a contribution to a conversation in that regard.

The author wishes to thank Sam Farber, Tom Harrison, Bill Keach, and Charlie Post for their comments on a draft of this article.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Palestine 101

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 12/04/2023 - 20:00
brian bean

In what is now a viral clip from an obscure 1986 congressional debate, Joe Biden proclaimed: “It’s about time we stop … apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.” He proudly repeated this again in 2022 when meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

Joe Biden loves Israel, and he expressed his love on October 13, with more than two thousand Palestinians dead, the State Department released an internal memo directing diplomats to not use the words or issue press pieces using the terms “ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed,” “restoring calm,” and “de-escalation/ceasefire.”

Ten days later with more than five thousand dead, and thousands injured, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said, “[W]e don’t believe that this is the time for a ceasefire.” Two days ago, with ten thousand dead, Biden was asked about a possible ceasefire, and his response was “None. No possibility.”

Five hundred and eighteen out of the 535 sitting members of Congress oppose a ceasefire. But it is not just that they oppose a ceasefire. They actively aid and abet Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians with the various bills moving through Congress, including the $14.5 billion supplemental funding for refilling Israel’s weapons that passed in the House, loyalty oaths in proclaiming support for Israel aggression, Senate bills condemning of all things campus Student for Justice in Palestine organizing, amending policy to allow Israel greater access to U.S. weapons, and the racist censuring of Rashida Tlaib for saying “from the river to the sea.”

I think it is only mildly stating it to say that the U.S. state, largely incapable of doing anything to provide anything in the form of services and support that people in this country need, is currently basically functioning only as an arms trader and booster and facilitator of mass murder and genocide. Every one of them who oppose a ceasefire, and every member of Biden’s administration, is, in my opinion, a war criminal. That includes Bernie Sanders, who once was thought of as the savior of the socialist movement by many and now functions as the champion of the bullshit language of “humanitarian pause”—the perverse neologism that Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu cooked up to try to cover the fact that they have no regard for a single of the 2.3 million lives crammed into the concentration camp of Gaza.

I am also glad that there are 17 congresspeople who are calling for a ceasefire [as of December 2, sixty members support a ceasfire], but I think we should also not forget that many of them, including Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), voted in 2021 in favor of the $4.3 billion in direct military aid to Israel, the largest amount given in at least forty years, which is a number to be dwarfed should the $14 billion increase that Biden has asked for pass through Congress.

But it is important that we ground our understanding of why what is happening apart from the personal failings or beliefs of Genocide Joe. While I think that Congress is generally a racist institution, it is not just simple racism that motivates the support for Israel and the abetting of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Rather the fact that support for Israel has been one of solemn bipartisan agreement since at least the 1960s. From Democrat John F. Kennedy to Republican Donald Trump, every U.S. president has avowed the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. What motivates this is U.S. imperialism and the fact that Israel is a central pole in the competition of the U.S. ruling class with the ruling classes of other states. And it feels a bit strange in the midst of the crisis to then shift in my presentation to talking about history and theory, but I think painting a picture of imperialism’s motivating role is essential for understanding what is happening and also what is required of us.

Israel for most of its existence has been the military outpost for the United States—Netanyahu in 2017 described Israel as the “mighty aircraft carrier.” Direct military funding to Israel makes up 59 percent of all the foreign military funding spent by the United States. And twenty percent of Israel’s defense budget—Israel spends a greater percentage of its gross domestic product on defense than most countries in the world—is paid by the United States. The United States and Israel have a memorandum of understanding in which this amount was guaranteed for a decade.

The damage following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City in October 2023. Photo Credit: Wafa.

While the military angle is the clearest expression of U.S. support, imperialism is not exerted through the threat of war power alone, but by economic and political power. The U.S. government’s use of its veto in the Security Council in the court of pointless pageantry of the United Nations, used more than thirty times in support of Israel, and its shielding of Israel against the International Criminal Court [The United States and Israel, along with Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are not state parties to the Rome Statue treaty that established the ICC]  are examples of this. The United States also expresses its dominance not in just backing Israel as the rabid watchdog of its interests, but in “holding the leash” as the dominant power and through its political and economic activity to integrate Israel into the global order.

Ensuring the stability and dominance of Israel in the region has meant the sacrifice of Palestinians to the gods of imperialism. This historical feature has deepened even further in the past few years. After the end of the Cold War, the United States worked to draw the entire region into a single economic zone characterized by free trade and investment flows under the thumb of U.S. economic power. The question of Palestine was a fly in the ointment of this project because the cause of Palestine is tremendously popular among the Arab masses. So implementing some kind of “peace process” was necessary to give cover for the despots of the Arab states. But the “peace process” was purely a white rag of surrender forced into the mouths of Palestinians. This peace process was only the first step of a decades-long move to integrate the markets and circuits of capital in the region between Israel and the Arab states.

One year after Oslo, en route to a Middle East and North African joint economic summit, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state proclaimed, “The Middle East is open for business.” While this has been the bipartisan strategy of successive presidents since Clinton brokered Oslo, it was Donald Trump who rapidly accelerated this process with the official normalization efforts that came out of the Bahrain Conference and his so-called Deal of the Century, or what some call the Abraham Accords. And Biden has picked up where Trump left off. In order to compete with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative to connect up Chinese economic and political spheres of influence, Biden is launching projects like his announcement of the new IMEC trade corridor connecting India with the European Union via the Middle East. That includes the construction of transport infrastructure culminating in Israel.

Securing stable control of the Middle East is key for the exertion of U.S. capitalist power. This has fueled the normalization of diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and the states of the region. Israel is increasingly being integrated into the region through trade deals, security cooperation, transport, and beyond. The goal, to quote the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, is “to truly tap into the major potential of these markets.” This process of normalization with settler-colonial Israel strengthens the investment of the United States and regional powers in maintaining the Israeli state.
Normalization looks like everything from the symbolic—the Israeli flag has been hoisted over regional sporting events, yet the Palestinian soccer team is refused travel visits—to the $28 billion in trade between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel, to the existence of qualified industrial zones (QIZ) that pay off duty-free access to U.S. markets in exchange for a percentage of inputs being sourced from Israel. These makeup huge sectors of the economies, with seventy percent of Jordanian exports coming from QIZ’s and one-third of Egypt’s total exports to the United States, as well.

The normalization advances in the past couple of years—literally paid off with trade and arms deals—have meant that the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco have all normalized relations and more will follow. Saudi Arabia’s normalization process with Israel, the golden goose for U.S. imperialism, has started, though the current events in Palestine have temporarily put it on pause. What drives this is the competition between the capitalist class of the United States and that of China. The economic rivalry between these two countries profoundly shapes the global geopolitical framework.

All this is because the Middle East region is of prime global importance. It is rich in capitalism’s favorite fuel—oil. And here the U.S. interest is not just access to oil—the United States is a fossil fuel exporter—but because it wants to control a natural resource that is essential to China’s economic engine. The Middle East is geographically positioned at the axis of global shipping. Ships carry not only the essential fuel to the factories of the world, but are also the waypoint of the shipping of goods through the Suez Canal and via Dubai’s Jabra Ali port in what Laleh Khalili calls a “maritime silk road.” The massive oil monies reaped by the Gulf States have been a boon for a new finance sector and new flows of investment.

One example of this is the 2016 joint Saudi-Japanese venture to launch the world’s largest private equity fund with the creation of the $100 billion dollar SoftBank Vision PE firm, a sum larger than the total amount that U.S. venture firms made over a two and a half year period. Israel being integrated politically and economically into regional trade and capital flows only deepens the connection already established by its military role. And this directly invests regional states and capital in the maintenance and support of the stability of Israel. The stability of Israel in turn means the continued erasure of Palestinians and the furtherance of the settler-colonial project, which has been expressed in the dramatic escalation in settler violence and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and Israel’s stranglehold over Gaza.

Additionally, the role that the Oslo Accords have established the Palestinian Authority (PA) in managing the occupation in the West Bank actually integrates the burgeoning Palestinian capitalist class and PA bureaucracy into a regional economic relationship with their occupiers and oppressors in the Israeli state. The PA largely functions as an NGO siphon for aid money from the major Western capitalist countries and a police force (largely funded by the United States) collaborating with Israel to repress Palestinian resistance and anger.

This picture hopefully paints a clear picture of the current situation. U.S. imperialism has been so far successful in building up Israel and backing it with the full force of the world’s most powerful military, defanging the Palestinian resistance by establishing a client in the PA, and further isolating Palestinians by integrating settler-colonial Israel with its Arab neighbors. But October 7 was a massive blow to Israel’s mythological invulnerability. The “Iron Dome” was punctured, and the wall briefly fell. That represented a massive threat to this core pillar of U.S. interest in the region, which is why Biden has leaped to Israel’s defense and sent two aircraft carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean to join the other aircraft carrier based there—the State of Israel. It also explains why the Arab regimes surrounding Israel have given at best lip-service to the Palestinian cause, hoping to deflect mass sentiment in solidarity with Palestine held by the Arab working classes. While Bahrain has withdrawn ambassadors and Saudi Arabia has paused the normalization process, the response has been useless to Palestinians.

A whole month after the escalation of October 7, the Saudi’s convened an emergency conference of the Arab League that was attended by the Iranian president. They passed some verbose rhetoric but nothing will come of it, and a conference is not what the Palestinians need right now. Egypt, Gaza’s other jailer, criminally allows their border to Gaza to be mostly closed, and the trickle of aid allowed in is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi carried out a wave of arrests of those who demonstrated in solidarity with Palestine weeks ago, and Jordanian police physically beat protesters attempting to get to the border.

What drives all of this is the regional economic and political connections facilitated by U.S. imperialism. This is also why regional actors like Iran and Hezbollah have similarly carried out a small number of rocket attacks that, despite Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s boasts of “exhausting Israel’s defense systems,” are more akin to what Israeli journalist Zvi Ba’rel described as a “measured and precise … campaign of mutual responses.”

China has also taken a measured position of neutrality in its appeal to international law and a precise “violence on both sides line” with its own imperialist interests in mind. Israel’s largest trade partner after the United States is China, and China is invested in the illegal settlements, has defended the Jewish-only nature of the Israeli state, and has its own security/surveillance state interconnections with Israel, such as the Chinese corporation Hikvision’s development of the facial recognition cameras that cover the West Bank, which were tested on China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghar minority.

While the endgame in Gaza is unclear, the United States, as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has indicated, has a clear desire to facilitate some sort of transfer of whatever is left of Gaza to its loyal Palestinian Authority and to apply the model of Area B of the West Bank, where Israel maintains a strong security presence, to Gaza. Internal Ministry of Intelligence documents show, on the other hand, that Israel is entertaining the idea of moving the entirety of Gazan Palestinians to Egypt’s Sinai. I say this not to speculate about the likely outcome, but to underline that what will happen to Palestinians is not being determined by Palestinians but jointly by the United States and Israel.

If the “lesser evil” of Biden means genocide, then maybe this is a political calculus we should abandon. More importantly, it means we need to seize this current moment to build the mass movement, build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and cohere a Left that is clear on the challenges ahead.

To close, I think it is important to understand that the forces that drive this current bloodshed— and the conditions that led to it—are rooted in global imperialism. The staunch U.S. support for the State of Israel is because it is in the interest of the U.S. capitalist class to secure the U.S. political and economic sphere of influence in the strategically important Middle East. Increasing competition with Chinese imperialism has already and will further sharpen that. This means that if we are going to build a movement in the United States to support Palestine, we need to be clear that challenging U.S. support for Israel means challenging a key plank of U.S. capitalist interest, and thus building a movement for Palestine needs to challenge capitalism if we want it to win.

This means challenging both the Republicans and the Democrats—the two parties of capitalism. If the “lesser evil” of Biden means genocide, then maybe this is a political calculus we should abandon. More importantly, it means we need to seize this current moment to build the mass movement, build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and cohere a Left that is clear on the challenges ahead. The friends and allies of the Palestinian people are not with the capitalist states and their shadow play of international institutions and conferences, but with the people of the world who have filled the streets in the millions since Israel’s most recent bloody campaign commenced.

The hope lies in the streets with the people who chant “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea!” Who chant, “Long live the intifada!” The hope is there, in intifada and resistance. To quote from an old slogan in the movement, “We need revolution until victory.”

Sherry Wolf

I want to address three questions

  1. Does Israel have a right to defend itself?
  1. Is the rallying cry “From the river to the sea” tantamount to calling for driving the Jews into the sea?
  1. Is Israel a global bulwark against antisemitism?
Does Israel have a right to defend itself?

The rallying cry of virtually every U.S. politician from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders is that Israel has the right to defend itself. It’s screamed from the podiums of Congress and the Israeli Knesset in the face of an unprecedented global upheaval for Palestine. Every mainstream U.S. media news outlet repeats this line ad nauseam, as if the mantra “Israel has a right to defend itself” were a rhetorical slam dunk, irrefutable to anyone who isn’t an antisemite.

But what does it even mean to say Israel has a right to defend itself? What Zionists would like us to think it means is that Israel is the embodiment of Jewish national aspirations and the survival of Jewish people and our history is tied to the project of Zionism. Academics would say this assertion is, at best, historically inaccurate. I just call it bullshit.

Zionism is not some “2,000-year-old yearning” of the Jewish people. Israel isn’t the product of a national liberation movement. Israel is the product of European society in the age of imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century. Israel is a colonial-settler state that is unapologetically racist in its legal system and denies basic human rights to its Arab population. And, of course, Israel is openly engaged in acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

That begs the question: What state has the “right” to genocide and ethnic cleansing? What state has the right to racial apartheid and dispossession? None.

Zionism’s founders at least were honest about what they stood for. Over and over in their charters and statements and correspondence the same word appears: not national “liberation,” but “colonization.” Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist movement, wrote in 1923, “Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot—or else I am through with playing at colonization.”

They were unapologetic about their colonial aspirations. The first bank was the Jewish Colonial Fund managed by the Jewish Colonization Association.

Early Zionists, rather than seeking to break free from imperialism, sought out patronage from imperialist powers. Rather than promising self-determination to the people of Palestine—almost all of whom were Arab—Zionists expelled them. And rather than representing a widely popular expression of the fight against Jewish oppression, early on Zionism represented little more than a tiny upper-class sect for most of its existence prior to the Second World War and the Holocaust. There were, as has often been repeated, more Jewish members of the Lower East Side New York Socialist Party branches than the World Zionist Organization in the early twentieth century.

Zionists speak of the sanctity and inviolability of Israel, of its supposedly ancient Biblical roots. But the planning for the modern State of Israel was declared at the corner of 43rd and Madison in the old Biltmore Hotel at a Zionist conference of six hundred people in 1942. Israel isn’t the legacy of an ancient yearning. It’s the concoction of a layer of Jewish separatists who received the backing of the world’s most powerful empires because there was a convergence of needs. Britain and later the United States needed an outpost in the Middle East, where the oil was, and Zionists sought a separate homeland and were fully prepared to become an aircraft carrier for empire, populated by loyal white European Jews who would act as a bulwark against the region’s Arab and Muslim populations.

Is the rallying cry: From the river to the sea tantamount to calling for driving the Jews into the sea?

James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, wrote on Twitter, “On the ‘the river to the sea’ controversy: 7 yrs ago we polled Israelis & Palestinians. A strong plurality in both favored 1 state. When asked how that would look: Israelis said it meant expelling all Palestinians; Palestinians said it meant equal rights in 1 state. Just sayin’.”

Yousef Munayyer explained it this way in The Nation after Congressperson Rashida Tlaib was disciplined for using this phrase:

Today between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there is effectively one state, the state of Israel, and it rules over millions of Palestinians who are denied justice and equality. When we call for freedom from the river to the sea, it is this context we are responding to. We are calling for an end to Israeli domination, not for destruction of anyone but for the dismantling of unjust laws, systems, and practices. But to those who want to undermine our calls for freedom and support this system of injustice, it does not matter what we say our words mean.

I agree with Yousef. Israel is a colonial-settler state governed by an ethno-racial legal system. Its Law of Return allows a Jew like me born in Brooklyn to become a citizen while Palestinians whose families have lived on the land for generations have their homes bulldozed and their lives destroyed.

The claim that Zionists make about “from the river to the sea” being a call to genocide for Jews instead of a call for a democratic secular state where Jews, Arabs, and everyone else live together is the projection of a “mirror world.” Naomi Klein writes about this in her brilliant new book, Doppelganger. The Right is adopting concepts and realities from the Left to concoct a victim narrative for themselves.

In the “mirror world,” college students fighting against the bombing of refugee camps are recast as Nazis and the Biden administration compares those marching for a ceasefire and a free Palestine to the fascist thugs of Charlottesville.

The simple fact is no organization or mass of people on the Left is calling for “Jewish genocide” at these protests. And anyone arguing otherwise is lying.

I live in New York City, an archipelago of islands inhabited from the river to the sea, one might say, by 1.5 million Jews, at least 800,000 Muslims and millions of others who live together in a democratic secular state. The demand itself is not even that radical.

Is Israel a global bulwark against antisemitism?

My short answer: No!

Zionism’s reason for existing, from its founding through today, rests on the contention that antisemitism is inevitable. Zionists drew the conclusion that Jews must have a national home of our own in order to never again face a Holocaust. Zionists unapologetically accept the racialized understanding of Jews that, perversely, was most fully developed under Naziism. To them, Jews constitute a separate race of people.

Zionism’s founding father, Theodor Herzl, after covering the trial of a Jewish-French officer Albert Dreyfuss in the 1890s, wrongly accused of treason, wrote, “In Paris … I achieved a freer attitude toward antisemitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.”

By contrast to their acceptance of antisemitism, the broader swath of worldwide Jewry supported a different vision: socialism. Socialists defended Jews who faced persecution. Socialists combated anti-Jewish racism as a poison to the workers’ movement. Socialists fought for multiethnic societies and democracy. In this period, August Bebel, a leader of the German Social Democratic Party, famously denounced antisemitism as “the socialism of fools” for diverting workers’ rage away from their true enemy, the ruling class, onto Jewish scapegoats. In contrast, socialists connected the fight against antisemitism to the fight for workers’ power.

Because socialists stressed the need to fight—not accept—antisemitism in the countries where most Jews lived, the socialist movement recruited Jews in huge numbers. The Russian tsar’s finance minister once complained to Herzl that Jews “comprise about 50 percent of the membership of the revolutionary parties,” while constituting only five percent of the Russian Empire’s population.

Zionism’s most powerful claim to legitimacy is that the State of Israel is necessary to prevent another Holocaust. The legacy of the Holocaust is invoked, and in fact weaponized, to justify every atrocity committed by Israel. But the actual record of how the Jewish Agency, the Zionist leadership governing Jewish settlements in Palestine before the establishment of Israel in 1948, responded to the Holocaust provides the most damning evidence against Zionism.

To the leaders of the Jewish Agency, the rise of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s had a definite upside. One leader, Menahem Ussishkin, argued, “There is something positive in their tragedy and that is that Hitler oppressed them as a race and not as a religion. Had he done the latter, half the Jews in Germany would simply have converted to Christianity.”

During World War II, the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency wrote a private memorandum about the prospects for their work. At the time this was written, it still could have been possible to save millions of Jews from Hitler’s Final Solution. But they didn’t even try.

Whom to save: Should we help everyone in need, without regard to the quality of the people? Should we not give this activity a Zionist national character and try foremost to save those who can be of use to the Land of Israel and to Jewry? I understand that it seems cruel to put the question in this form, but unfortunately we must state that if we are able to save only 10,000 people from among 50,000 who can contribute to build the country … as against saving a million Jews who will be a burden, or at best an apathetic element, we must restrain ourselves and save the 10,000 that can be saved from among the 50,000—despite the accusations and pleas of a million. (See Sumaya Awad and Annie Levin, “Roots of the Nakba,” in Palestine: A Socialist Introduction.)

Rudolph Kastner, a top official in the Israeli Labor Party and the person in charge of the Rescue Committee in Hungary during the war, had actively collaborated with the Nazis. Kastner negotiated with Nazi official Adolph Eichmann (one of the architects of the Holocaust) to get approval for a “VIP train” of 1,685 Hungarian Jews to leave Hungary safely. Kastner personally selected the passengers for the train, which included several hundred people from his hometown and a dozen members of his family. He worked with SS officer Kurt Becher to make the financial arrangements. In exchange for the safe passage of the train, Kastner agreed not to warn the Jews of Hungary about Hitler’s plans for their extermination and not to take any action to protect them. Worse, he helped to deceive Hungarian Jews, convincing them that they were simply being relocated. After the war, it became clear that Kastner had not acted alone but that his plan for the VIP train had the support of the highest leaders of the Jewish Agency.

It’s not simply that anti-Zionism is not at all the same as antisemitism, but Zionism actually fuels antisemitism by fusing its project to ethnic cleansing. Israel’s need to expel, oppress, and eliminate Palestinians in order to first create and now maintain an ethnic Jewish majority absolutely guarantees that hatred toward the perpetrators, who insist their actions are in the name of Judaism, will create blowback against Jews—including those of us who abhor Zionism.

And those in government and university administrators stifling dissent who say that calling for a ceasefire is antisemitic implicitly portray Jews as bloodthirsty savages and racism as a Jewish value. In the name of my ancestors who fled pogroms, I reject this nonsense completely.

Israel’s need to expel, oppress, and eliminate Palestinians in order to first create and now maintain an ethnic Jewish majority absolutely guarantees that hatred toward the perpetrators, who insist their actions are in the name of Judaism, will create blowback against Jews—including those of us who abhor Zionism.

In sum, if Israel’s reason for being is to create a national home where all Jews of the world can be safe, it has failed. I will take my chances on the B39 bus in Brooklyn any day over a bus in Tel Aviv. Nowhere in the world are Jews in greater danger of being harmed, including by their own government if they dare to dissent, than in Israel. Even by its own claims to Jewish sanctuary, Israel is a dismal failure.

Shireen Akram-Boshar

What we are witnessing today is a second Nakba: the unprecedented destruction of Gaza, an outright genocide of its population, and forced ethnic cleansing at a scale not seen since 1948.

Since 1948, Palestinians have waged various forms of resistance, all of which have been viciously attacked by Israel, and all forms of which have been condemned and vilified by Israel and the United States. Nonetheless, a historical account of various forms of Palestinian resistance is necessary to assess strategies that have worked and those that have not, and to understand the current moment.

Palestinians in 1948 were forced to leave their homes in Galilee, a mountainous region in historic Palestine during the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic). Photo Credit: Fred Csasznik.

Palestinian resistance predates the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and dates back to when the British Mandate controlled Palestine after World War I. The 1920s and 1930s witnessed protests and strikes against the British and its policies, including against Britain’s efforts to resettle Jews in Palestine according to its Balfour Declaration and the land grabs that process entailed. These protests and strikes culminated in a six-month-long general strike in 1936. The strike was inspired by the Syrian general strike of earlier that year, which had won a promise from France to give Syria its independence, thus giving inspiration to its neighboring anti-colonial struggle.

The six-month strike in Palestine was one of if not the longest strike in anticolonial movement history, and marked the start of the 1936 to 1939 Great Arab Revolt in Palestine. This three-year movement has been described by some as the closest Palestine came to liberation. It had a strong class character as well as divide: initially, port workers and urban Palestinians were involved in the strike, but it later became a largely rural peasant revolt. Peasants canceled debts and rents on apartments, for example, and called for everyone to wear the clothes of rural peasants, which included the keffiyeh instead of the fez, so that the colonial authorities could not tell who was a peasant fighter and who was not.

This revolt was repressed by both the British and the new Zionist militias that the British encouraged to attack Palestinians, but in the end, the Palestinian and Arab elites called it to an end, an act that would become a pattern in terms of Palestinian elites betraying the liberation struggle. In fact, these were the very elites that included large absentee landowners who sold land to Zionists, displacing Palestinian workers and farmers. This was only the first of such class-based betrayals.

What we are witnessing today is a second Nakba: the unprecedented destruction of Gaza, an outright genocide of its population, and forced ethnic cleansing at a scale not seen since 1948.

In 1948 and 1967, Palestinians experienced massive forced transfer and ethnic cleansing, land grabs by Israel, massacres, displacement, and new occupations as Israel established itself and moved forward with its colonial project. These transformed and of course, drastically weakened the possibilities for Palestinian resistance. In 1968, Palestinians attempted to organize guerrilla warfare from the neighboring countries where they had been forcibly displaced and lived in refugee camps. This was a tactic perhaps of desperation, of defeat after 1967, of loss of faith in Arab nationalism and the surrounding states, and also was inspired by anticolonial revolts globally. Fatah, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, had just been founded in the diaspora, and a few years later, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which has since its inception been dominated by Fatah, was established.

While Fatah originally had guerrilla struggle tactics and was inspired by third-world revolutions, its character and how it developed was also related to the fact that it was created in exile, and by Palestinians who had accumulated wealth in the Gulf, in places such as Saudi Arabia. They became a nationalist bourgeoisie that would end up making numerous concessions to Israel, even making decisions from afar that went against the wishes of the Palestinian people. But from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Fatah and the PLO organized and attempted to wage guerrilla struggle outside of Palestine, in Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia, each time facing brutal repression and massacres from Israel and from the Arab regimes, as in Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

Twenty years after Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the First Intifada, or uprising, began in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, lasting from 1987 into the early 1990s. Beginning with mass daily protests in the tens of thousands in the refugee camps of Gaza and then in refugee camps in the West Bank, Salim Tamari has characterized this phase as an uprising “of the urban poor…against their class and national oppression.” This phase has also been called the “War of the Camps,” composed mostly of migrant day laborers who worked inside Israel and the unemployed. Israel responded to the nonviolent protests by killing tens of protestors and imposing harsh curfews.

The First Intifada is known for its grassroots, largely nonviolent character and mass participation, with the emergence of educational, defense, medical, and central committees, and then an underground leadership. Israel responded with the “breaking bones” policy, literally beating and breaking the bones of Palestinian protesters, with curfews, deportations, forced closures of most Palestinian schools, and assassinations and killings. But the uprising that started with a mass popular character and caught the Palestinian leadership by surprise was eventually eclipsed by this traditional Palestinian party leadership, which was increasingly dominated by the pressures and pull of Fatah and the PLO in exile.

After a period of tension where the grassroots had all but established a situation of dual power on the ground, the external Palestinian leadership maneuvered to take control of the uprising, and brought about negotiations with Israel that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which set up the Palestinian Authority, allowed for the growth of Israeli settlements, increasingly fractured the West Bank into enclaves or bantustans, brought free market capitalism into Palestine, increasing the wealth disparity in Palestinian society, and so on. These concessions were made by Fatah and the PLO, the secular, bourgeois leadership in exile, who then came back to Palestine to fulfill their state-building process, which has been recognized as a farce by the majority of the Palestinian population.

In 1988, during the First Intifada, Hamas was created in the Gaza Strip, founded as a critique of secular Fatah and the PLO and as a need to turn an Islamic movement in the direction of resistance against Israel. At the time, Fatah and the PLO were already moving away from the strategy of guerrilla struggle and toward diplomatic relationships and negotiations.

In September 2000, the Second Intifada broke out. It can be understood as a rejection of Oslo and a recognition of the failure of (or the farce of) the state-building project. The Second Intifada also began with mass popular protests, but Israel’s immediate massive repression and shoot-to-kill policy, at a level not seen in the prior uprising, helped push it into a more violent armed conflict. The Second Intifada lasted until 2005. During this period, Israel began to build its apartheid wall, which snaked through the West Bank and grabbed more land for Israel while shrinking Palestinian freedom of movement. Israel increasingly cut off and isolated Gaza, and cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

In early 2002, Israel invaded the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, claiming it was necessary to root out resistance fighters, and flattened over a third of the camp and killed dozens. Israel blocked humanitarian assistance from getting to the camp and denied the wounded medical assistance. This raid and repression foreshadowed the repression of the refugee camp that we are seeing this year, and also, according to Naseer Aruri, reflected the fact that the new U.S.-led War on Terror was already giving Israel more of a green light to ramp up violent repression.

Image on the left: An IDF soldier during the First Intifada stops a driver to inspect their car at a roadblock in Jabalia, also spelled Jabalya, a Palestinian city in Northern Gaza. Photo Credit: יעקב. Image on the right: Faris Odeh, 14, throws a stone toward an Israeli tank near the al-Mintar crossing in Gaza during the Second Intifada. Photo Credit: Eleland.

In 2005, hundreds of Palestinian civil organizations put forward the call for global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), to pressure Israel to end the occupation, allow for the right of return to the villages Palestinians were displaced from in 1948 and 1967, and to end apartheid policies against Palestinians inside Israel proper. This clearly nonviolent form of resistance has been demonized and smeared, and in the United States alone there are numerous laws against support of BDS. In many states, one has to sign an anti-BDS clause when starting a job, for example.

In 2006, Hamas was elected, in democratic and moderated elections, as the leadership of both the West Bank and Gaza. This was due to exasperation with Fatah—which continues to this day—over their concessions with and willingness to work with Israel and the lack of secular alternatives that had not conceded to the two-state solution model, which meant giving up 78 percent of historic Palestine, as even the left-wing parties, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, had accepted such concessions. Hamas had also been successful in its use of charity, typical of bourgeois Muslim Brotherhood organizations, which also distinguished it from the more obviously neoliberal capitalist Fatah.

But Israel responded to these elections by encircling and besieging Gaza, invading and attacking sites within it, and stoking a civil war between Hamas and Fatah. As a result, Hamas became the leadership of Gaza, while Fatah and the Palestinian Authority remained the leadership in the West Bank. Israel’s siege and blockade of Gaza has lasted until today, making Gaza increasingly unlivable. It has seen five wars on Gaza, each of which has been increasingly genocidal and murderous.

While groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have continued to be active in Gaza, propelled in large part by the horrific conditions of the siege and blockade, Gaza has also seen popular nonviolent movements—in the First Intifada and most recently in the Great March of Return, which took place in Gaza from March 2018 through December 2019. Largely youth-based and unaffiliated with any political faction, Palestinians organized weekly Friday mass protests and peaceful marches to the separation barrier cutting off Gaza, calling for dignity, the right to return—70 percent of Gazans are refugees from elsewhere inside historic Palestine—and freedom of movement in the face of the crushing blockade. Israel responded by shooting to maim, aiming to render Palestinians disabled and unable to walk. Further, the Western media almost completely ignored this popular movement for freedom and dignity, turning a potentially hopeful movement into a more obviously desperate situation for Gazans. The United Nations had already predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020, and the options for Palestinian resistance seemed to become more and more narrow.

In 2021, some hope emerged with protests that came out of the struggle to protect the East Jerusalem town of Sheikh Jarrah. These generalized and were taken up by Palestinians inside Israel proper, and then in the West Bank and Gaza, too. It became known as the Unity Intifada, and was an unprecedented unified action not seen in decades, using anticolonial frameworks and progressive and largely secular and nonviolent means. But it also faced increasing Israeli settler violence and an increasingly right-wing and fascist Israeli government. The Unity Intifada, like the Great Return March, was largely independent of the political parties, and even included a revolt within it against the Palestinian Authority, and witnessed a nascent young Palestinian leadership, not yet organized enough, however.

In 2011, the Arab Spring revolutions broke out in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain, and beyond. These protests held Palestinian liberation as a central tenet. The region’s masses—just about everyone except the elites—were in solidarity with Palestine and saw the oppression of Palestinians as a reflection of their own oppression by imperialism and their own authoritarian regimes.

Another era of resistance is worth recalling. In 2011, the Arab Spring revolutions broke out in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain, and beyond. These protests held Palestinian liberation as a central tenet. The region’s masses—just about everyone except the elites—were in solidarity with Palestine and saw the oppression of Palestinians as a reflection of their own oppression by imperialism and their own authoritarian regimes. On May 15, 2011, thousands of protestors from Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan marched to the border, and some entered into Palestine. This was more than a glimmer of hope for Palestinians and broader liberation. Solidarity with Palestine has always been a demand of the region’s peoples to their reactionary regimes, and each Palestinian Intifada has inspired protests and even protest movements in surrounding countries.

While other anti-settler-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles, like in South Africa, have relied on workers’ strike movements to defeat their apartheid system, Israel has learned from the case of South Africa and largely marginalized Palestinians from its labor force. This means that an outside force is all the more important—in this case, the working classes across the region, which must pressure their regimes to end normalization with Israel and demand a change in the balance of power regionally.

Unfortunately, the 2011 revolutions have faced a decade of defeat by regional and international actors, giving even less hope to Palestinians and Gazans in particular, and making their options for struggle all the more narrow. So when mainstream voices say, “Why have Palestinians not tried nonviolence?” or ask, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?”—we should remember Gaza’s Great Return March, the First Intifada, BDS, and the 1936 general strike.

After the prepared remarks were delivered by brian, Sherry, and Shireen, a private discussion for those in attendance took place. A question regarding the viability of a two-state solution and a question about electoralism was asked. We have decided to include here the responses given to these questions from brian and Shireen.

brian bean

Jumping off of what Sherry and Shireen said—relating back to the question about the so-called two-state solution, the demographics on the ground, and the imposed geographical separation of Palestinians, which has been the project of settler-colonialism—the two-state solution is impossible.

Rather than two-state as a possibility, what we’re looking at is two possible one-state solutions. The first is a racist one in which settler-colonialism is completed. That is the explicit articulation of the Zionist right, who want to annex the occupied territories. These are the people who are burning down villages in the West Bank with settler militias backed by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces), at the same time that Israel razes Gaza. This is their explicit project and they are very clear about this. They want one state, a Jewish-only ethnostate.

And so I think the question is not one state or two states. The question is do you want a racist one-state with the complete expulsion, demolishment, and extinguishing of the memory of Palestinians? Or do you want a single secular democratic state in which everyone can live with equal democratic rights for all, and Palestinians have the right to return? I think that that is the main juncture.

The whole notion of the two-state solution is an antiquated idea that politicians of the United States like to trot around because they stridently support Israel and want to pretend to care about an illusory image of a Palestinian state that comes to be without any altering of Israel’s racist, settler colonial core. It’s pure fantasy, cynically applied. I think that we need to reframe the whole “debate” about two states or one quite militantly and sharply.

The question is do you want a racist one-state with the complete expulsion, demolishment, and extinguishing of the memory of Palestinians? Or do you want a single secular democratic state in which everyone can live with equal democratic rights for all, and Palestinians have the right to return?

That relates to the question of: What movement do we have to build? And for me, the central question is the question of social, and class power.

It is really, really inspiring to go to these massive demonstrations. This past week, we blocked traffic in front of a politician’s home for three hours, and people all over the place are taking initiative and taking part in a seriously amazing level of civil disobedience and disruptive action. It’s really inspiring to see the global solidarity that is so palpable. It is also notable that despite a million in the streets of London; despite protests here, multiple days a week, pretty much every city, oftentimes quite sizable, Biden has not changed his tune at all. And so that raises the question of social power. What will it take? Would it take something like a general strike that could actually stop production? What would it take to actually challenge imperialism at its center? What would it take to get there? I think that question of social power is one that is essential.

An example: We had this fantastic, really militant protest in Chicago just this past week. Genocide Joe Biden himself was in town and people were angry, fired up, and furious. Chants of “intifada, revolution” rang out outside of his fundraiser. And still part of the political framing in some of the speeches focused on the threat that “You’re not going to get our vote.” But we don’t really live in a democracy. They don’t care about our votes. Their power is not rooted in that of democracy but in a class dictatorship of capitalism.

The moment is so dire. I think that our task is really big. But the potential is there because the people are there, active, moving, struggling, fighting, and so politically trying to orient on that and develop the movement is crucially important. It feels like a very heavy, but important weight on all of our shoulders. And I hope we take that seriousness out of this meeting and find whatever we can do to organize, because so much is at stake.

Shireen Akram-Boshar

We have to have more people break out of electoralism. There’s a rejection of Biden, and likely to the extent that he won’t be able to run again, but is there the understanding that this is the Democratic Party’s fundamental relationship to Israel based on imperialism?

I have a lot of hope for the movement here, in spite of the repression. The first few days were frightening. But we’re seeing the rebuilding of anti-war organizing, the creation of organizations like Moms for Ceasefire, the fact that organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace are transitioning from a partially paper membership into having to figure out actions on the ground.

The situation in Gaza is horrific, and as Sherry said we are seeing Israeli fascism as it confronts Gaza and the West Bank with its aim to ethnically cleanse and complete its ethno-state project. Israel is attempting to take over and completely flatten northern Gaza, pushing everyone who survives into the southern half of Gaza, in the hopes of kicking them all out to Egypt. Israeli violence is also rearing its head in the West Bank, and the future is really terrifying.

While the movement in Palestine is perhaps at its weakest, and there is a loss of faith in the traditional leaderships still, the Unity Intifada was a positive shift in popular Palestinian consciousness. But the movement did not create a new organized leadership. The strength is more in the protests in Egypt and Jordan.

I think the demand for a ceasefire can be combined with and is being combined with more radical demands like an end to the Israeli siege, occupation, and apartheid. I also think it reveals starkly how the Democratic Party stands, with Bernie and Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi refusing to give it an inch. It makes clear what side they’re on.

I think one weakness in our movement that I would bring up is Stalinism, or uncritical support of regimes and other imperialist or reactionary states, movements, and parties. This extends to the idea that armed struggle is the solution for Palestine, rather than popular protest and rejection and popular overthrow of the region’s regimes.

Featured image credit: Picryl; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

In Memorial of Dr. Rudolph C. Ryser

IREHR is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Dr. Rudolph C. Ryser of the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS). We send our deep condolences to his family, friends, and those at CWIS who worked by his side.

Dr. Ryser worked for more than 50 years to advance the cause of genuine tribal sovereignty and self-determination. This included serving as a specialist on the U.S. government’s federal administration of Indian Affairs on the American Indian Policy Review Commission; leading the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington; serving as a Special Assistant to World Council of Indigenous Peoples President George Manuel; advising tribal leaders in the Pacific Northwest; and founding CWIS in 1979 with George Manuel.

Read CWIS’ Memoriam for Dr. Ryser here: https://www.cwis.org/2023/10/in-memoriam-dr-rudolph-c-ryser-founding-chair-cwis/

CWIS continued and expanded Dr. Ryser’s works. Over the years, CWIS has addressed myriad issues confronting indigenous societies around the globe. CWIS’s work ranges from supporting food sovereignty and traditional medicines, including examining the impact of climate change on these and other critical tribal resources, promoting clean energy policies informed by indigenous knowledge, and conceptualizing forms of governance and tribal strategies to attain political sovereignty.

For a look at CWIS’s substantial legacy and ongoing contributions, please visit their website and support their important work: https://www.cwis.org/

My own path crossed Dr. Ryser’s when he worked with civil rights groups and leaders to counter organized white supremacist activity, serving from 1987 to 1990 as chair of Puget Sound Task Force on Human Rights.

I met Dr. Ryser in 1991 when I became involved in tracking and attempting to counter the organized white supremacist movement. Dr. Ryser was involved with citizen hate crimes hearings in Seattle’s University District in a project that included the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR). The hearings focused on recent neo-Nazi skinhead activity in the area, and I was immediately taken with Dr. Ryser’s efforts to steer the discussion toward finding concrete ways to counter their activities.

Some years later, when I worked with the Coalition for Human Dignity in Portland, our organization began seeing the same characters we tracked – organized white supremacists and the Christian right – showing up at events targeting tribal sovereignty.

We quickly learned that the foundation for understanding this confluence had already been laid in Rudolph Ryser’s Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier, the first detailed examination of the organized anti-Indian movement. Mr. Ryser tracked its emergence in the 1970s in opposition to efforts of tribal nations to govern their territory; examined the development of treaty rights as a key movement target; outlined the movement’s creation of national networks and peak organizations; and documented its ties to elected officials, the burgeoning property rights movement and organized white supremacists.

In the Prologue to a 1992 edition (I believe our first edition at CHD was 1994), Dr. Ryser thanked the Center for Democratic Renewal for “substantive contributions” to the report. At the time, IREHR founder Leonard Zeskind worked as the research director at the CDR.

Dr. Ryser’s work had a lasting effect on how I and others at IREHR understood our anti-democratic foes and the context in which they operated. Ryser’s seminal report laid the groundwork for understanding this movement and its place in the broader far right. It paved the road we aimed to traverse, leaving little more for us to do than update the direction he had set and continue to watch developments in this movement.

IREHR continued to track the anti-Indian movement and its place in the far right – seeing the kinds of organizations Dr. Ryser documented decline in centrality as they won key victories in the courts (especially in the area of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians on reservations) and lost important cases addressing treaty rights. And, we watch as key leaders of the organized anti-Indian movement continued to provide “expertise” to far rightists, from the John Birch Society, to northern California secessionists and property rights groups, to armed activists, when they encountered tribal issues.

Over the years, I have returned numerous times to the Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier to check my facts, think through the nature of changes we saw, and refresh my understanding of this movement’s more profound connection to America’s settler colonial past and present.

In this latter arena, Dr. Ryser’s work perhaps had the most profound effect on my own thinking. As I grappled with how to understand organized anti-Indianism and the context in which it operates, I again found his insights key. From his work on the notoriously colonial U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brendale v. Yakama to his 2012 book Indigenous Nations and Modern States, Dr. Ryser’s work drove home for me that ongoing settler colonialism in American law and politics continues to shape the landscape in which tribes struggle for self-determination and the strategic terrain of anti-Indian racists.

And, given anti-Indianism’s deep roots in our country’s history of racism, Dr. Ryser’s work also made clear that supporting and allying with the indigenous struggle for genuine political sovereignty must be part and parcel of our own movement’s struggle for civil rights and economic and environmental justice in the U.S. and globally.

At the time of his death, the Center for World Indigenous Studies describes that Rudolph C. Ryser’s ongoing projects included a documentary project on the struggle for indigenous self-determination and working to establish protocols for accountability under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On his last trip to our region, we had planned to meet about the CWIS documentary project. Unfortunately, his arrival in Seattle coincided with a bout of COVID-19 in our household, and we could not meet before he left. I will always regret that.

As we move forward in our struggle for human rights and equality, including the equality of indigenous nations, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Dr. Rudolph C. Ryser is one of them.

The post In Memorial of Dr. Rudolph C. Ryser appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Report from the West Bank

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 11/29/2023 - 21:15

While the eyes of the world are correctly focused on the genocide in Gaza, the occupied West Bank has also erupted in a calamitous escalation of horrific settler violence, Israeli repression, and heroic resistance. The situation is critical.

For years now, leading up to October 7, the West Bank has been ready to explode. While the violent machinations of Israeli settler colonialism have rapidly intensified, its trajectory has been developing for years. In the occupied West Bank, Israel is using the pretext of its genocidal war on Gaza to speed up its policy of annexation. Israel seeks to break the steadfast resistance of Palestinians that continues to rage against the walls of the Oslo prison.

In the West Bank, there have been regular and consistent outbursts of resistance that encompass a broad demographic of Palestinians living under occupation. These can be traced back to the “Knife Intifada” of 2015 that started among young people many of whom were children or had not yet been born at the time of the Second Intifada. Despite the impasse of the political factions, people took action, often in unorganized, asymmetrical ways, in response to the entrenchment of the surrender of Oslo. The most developed of these surges of resistance was the Unity Intifada of 2021 in which all of historic Palestine rose up. Since 2021 there have been outbursts every few months that were repressed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) or quashed by the Israelis.

Protests in Bilin 2010. At this time, after Friday noon prayers, villages throughout the West Bank dramatically and theatrically confronted the occupation, including challenging the Israeli diamond trade, which accounted for one third of Israel’s export economy. Photo by scottmontreal.

Last year these outbursts became larger and included the formation of new armed resistance groups in the cities of Nablus, Jenin, al-Khalil (Hebron), and Tulkarem. These are all places where the most substantial Israeli invasions took place during the Second Intifada. These new formations are different from those of the Second Intifada in that they are multi-party brigades organized locally. They have engaged in more daring resistance acts and have endured violent attempts to repress them and murder their leadership.

On the Israeli side, the far right has been advancing and settler violence has been increasing. Itamar Ben-Gvir’s rise in the government has given the settler organizations a go-ahead in a way that has not been seen before.  Even prior to October 7, they have become more bold in assaulting Palestinian villages and occupying Palestinian land. Events, like those in Huwara, have become more and more common. In that village, in February 2023, settler organizations carried out what an Israeli general described as “a pogrom” with the support of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). In response, Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli Minister of Finance, publicly stated that “Huwara needs to be erased” giving a green light to settler violence. The whole situation has been ready to explode.

In the last seven weeks, using the pretext of October 7 and the Israeli’s subsequent genocidal assault on Gaza, the settler violence in the West Bank has evolved from first uncoordinated acts of revenge to an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing. This involves the intimidation and murder of Palestinians and systematic arson and property destruction. Settlers will enter into Palestinian towns and set them on fire, then set up roadblocks and randomly shoot at Palestinian cars (Palestinian and Israeli cars have color-coded license plates).

In dozens of villages, like in Wadi al-Siq, armed settler organizations have literally driven out entire communities of Palestinians to steal their land under threat of death and force of arms. In the town of Qusra, settlers attacked and killed four Palestinians then returned the following day and attacked the funeral killing two more. All of this is happening during the olive harvesting season during which settler violence often increases because Palestinians have to travel away from the town centers in order to carry out the harvest.

Resistance

Three years ago, during the massive Unity Intifada, many people thought: “here it is, the Third Intifada we have been waiting for, that we have been building towards.” But it wasn’t. It was a very significant, special event but it was not “the thing” that the people had been waiting for. It did not spread and sustain enough to reconfigure the political moment. The need—that some expressed at the time—to cohere a new revitalized political charter for liberation did not have time to coalesce in a real way due to a variety of factors, Israeli repression chief among them.

Nonetheless, when October 7 transpired everyone was astonished, surprised, proud, anxious, a whole spectrum of feeling. And then everyone started moving, all the different elements that had taken part in different uprisings, different acts of resistance, over different timelines in the past few years, started working together. This was because: 1) the mass bombardment of Gaza created an urgent need; and 2) people saw the opportunity to do something to try to change the status quo; and 3) anything we could do might help take some of the pressure off Gaza where Israel shifted a massive focus of the IOF. After the first three days, there were mass demonstrations and a few small acts of armed resistance. This has increased as the brutality in Gaza became more intense. In all the cities of the West Bank there have seen daring resistance acts and a flourishing of every kind of tactic—armed and peaceful —with all the players doing the same thing: resisting. The Palestinian Information Center said there were two thousand resistance acts in the West Bank in this past month alone, over six hundred were armed resistance acts.

Israel has responded by carrying out proactive mass arrest campaigns in the West Bank that are so broad that it is easier to list who was NOT arrested. Israeli mass raids basically round up and arrest whole villages, the whole student union, and give them all administrative detention for six months while Israel determines how to respond. They want to take anyone who they think might do anything to resist. But of course “anyone who might resist” is basically everyone. Prominent activists like Iyad Burna, have been arrested, and political activists whom we know sleep with their clothes and shoes on in anticipation of being raided in the middle of the night. These acts of collective punishment have inflamed things even more.

And while the release of political prisoners accompanying the temporary pause in Israel’s genocide is being met with great joy and elation, even if all 150 Palestinians are reunited with their families, it is a drop in the bucket in Israel’s carceral regime. And the cost has been great. Even the conditions of their release reflect the tension in the West Bank as Palestinians awaiting the return of their loved ones at Ofer prison have been greeted with tear gas and shooting.

The political mood of the resistance in the West Bank shows that collectively the Palestinian people have moved beyond the political parties… All of the parties have been touched by Oslo.

Along with the mass arrests, there has been an increase in Israeli military incursions into the cities. Jenin has been invaded six times since October 7 with an intensity we have not seen since 2002. Three weeks ago an airstrike destroyed a mosque, again harkening back to the days of the Second Intifada. Last week the IOF murdered 14 Palestinians in Jenin in one day. This is happening in Nablus, Tulkurum, everywhere. In response, the size and militancy of the mass demonstrations and resistance acts from our side approach those of the Second Intifada. If it wasn’t for the catastrophic acts happening in Gaza, people would clearly call this the Third Intifada in the West Bank. All this level of activity continues despite the fact that over the past year, many leaders have been killed and many activists have been arrested. While that has had its toll on the level of resistance it is still very intense.

The political mood of the resistance in the West Bank shows that collectively the Palestinian people have moved beyond the political parties. Of course, these parties exist and they have their leadership and their adamant followers, but the majority of the people don’t see a substantial difference between them. All of the parties have been touched by Oslo. This was even the case with Hamas when they went into elections in 2006 and took on governing Gaza. All the parties have, to some extent, been politically dishonest. They have not treated the people with the needed level of respect and independence. This is of course most clearly exemplified by the PA. But the Left also is not a Left anymore. The only parts that are still “Left” are in the student movement though there they are relying more on the legacy of the Left parties and not on any actual Left party currently existing. If you analyze the speeches of their leaders you will find that they are like a slightly modified PA speech, it criticizes the PA, but with a gentle tone. They are ineffective. All of the resistance movements—especially in the West Bank—have moved beyond parties.

In the different cities, the resistance is made up of unity of the different factions working together, but each local faction is not reporting to, or following the directive of their respective leadership. Individuals personally have their political leanings but their activity is not being done “on behalf” of their parties. Rather it is a sort of unity from below that characterizes their activity. The only common thing holding them together is their location and their personal connections with each other. In Nablus, for example, you see everyone living in the old town, and here you have the baker’s son, and here you have the barber,, and here you have the plumber and they have all been carrying out resistance acts that have been more brave than all the parties together.

If you ask [people], “What do you think about Hamas?”, they will say right now they are all supporting the current resistance. But their overall opinion of Hamas hasn’t changed, it is only the resistance acts, the resistance wing itself, that the people are supporting.

Even with Hamas today, people’s opinion of them has not changed.  If you had a fair election now the existing polls would generally not change. People have a strong positive opinion of the resistance wing of Hamas, they will listen to the Abu Obaida speeches but they will not follow Ismail Haniyaand they don’t care what he says.1Abu Obaida is the spokesperson for the Izz al-din al-Qassam Brigades, the military grouping affiliated with Hamas. Ismail Haniya is Chairman of Hamas’ Political Bureau. They will chant for Mohammed Deif but don’t mention the name of anyone from the political wing. If you ask them, “What do you think about Hamas?”, they will say right now they are all supporting the current resistance. But their overall opinion of Hamas hasn’t changed, it is only the resistance acts, the resistance wing itself, that the people are supporting. It can’t be described as political support. Of course, there are some PA leeches that hate Hamas and will tell Western media that you have to destroy them. But when you talk about normal people that is not the opinion held. We know many people who—for example—strongly oppose Hamas because of their religious leanings and conservative views but right now if you ask them they will listen to Abu Obeida and wish him well.

Another example involves Fateh. People love Marwan Barghouti and think very highly of him. In 2021, when he was going to run independently of Fateh in the imaginary future election the PA went crazy. His popularity and legitimacy made him someone who could challenge Mahmoud Abbas not because he is Fateh or even because of his political views but because of his role in the resistance and his being in prison now. This same schism of opinion is present in regards to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—which is officially aligned with Fateh but played an instrumental role in the creation of many of the brigades, like in Nablus, that Fateh in the PA now is trying to repress.

London Solidarity Protest, October 14, 2023. To Stand Up For Gaza You Only Have to be Human.” Photo by Alisdare Hickson.

That Palestinians, in the course of the current resistance, have moved beyond political parties in their traditional sense might have to do with the fact that there are few connections to any formal democratic practice. We don’t have elections other than the student unions in the West Bank. Oslo has muted all the differences between the political parties, they are all different shades of the same color. It is the resistance acts that the people are cheering for and have a high opinion of, not the political party itself, not the right, nor the Left, or Fateh. What shape or form this will take, and what this means for the resistance is not yet clear. In any case, it is clear that an actual progressive Left, unaligned with authoritarian regimes is needed.

This is a critical moment. In the face of a settler state whose racist violence is its central core; people struggle. They do so with the knowledge that defeat could put the movement back decades but also with the hope that the prison walls of Zionism can indeed be torn down. Popular resistance beyond the boundaries of what was thought politically possible, beyond the barriers of the old politics, needs to continue to grow. This is equally true for the movements of solidarity internationally against the Zionist entity and its imperial backers both in the West and within the region. While the moment is uncertain in many ways, what is certain is that explosive struggle and resistance will continue.

Glory to the martyrs, long live the intifada, free Palestine from the river to the sea.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

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