An afternoon demonstration on July 18, 2014 following the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. Dearborn City Hall, Michigan Avenue.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Apologies for not updating the last week. We’re into exams and, as usual, that becomes consuming. One more week of it and then break. Here’s Steve Downes giving some background before the recent wins by reformers in TWU Local 100 and Teamsters Local 804 in New York City. It’s pessimistic, but it is hard not to share much of the assessment of the US labor “movement.” Things can and do change quickly though. Even when all of your antennae are telling you things are going to go one way something happens and they go another. Wins like those in New York could translate into greater struggle with the bosses and struggle changes things.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Here is Dave McNally of Canada’s New Socialist Group opening Solidarity’s Northeast Conference in New York City last weekend. Many more videos from the event can be found here and are well worth watching. NY Solidarity is here.
I know that this defense is available elsewhere on the web. Still, I wanted to post here in solidarity. RR
A Slander On Our Movement
Lichi D’Amelio responds to the charge, sadly made in a left-wing newspaper, that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid is anti-Semitic. from socialistworker.org
April 8, 2009
“PART OF the deepening pattern of Jew-baiting and anti-Semitism in the middle-class left worldwide.”
You might think that such an ugly and provocative statement had to come from a right-wing, pro-Zionist publication, where the accusation of anti-Semitism is routinely used against all expressions of opposition to Israel’s war on the Palestinian people.
But no. It is part of an article titled “Israel Boycotts and Divestment Serve as Cover for Anti-Semitism”  in the April 6 edition of the Militant, the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In it, writer Paul Pederson attacks other socialists and their organizations (including the International Socialist Organization, and myself in particular) for participating in the growing international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid.
We face the same charge of anti-Semitism from the pro-Israel side in its campaign to try to intimidate and silence anti-Zionist activists. Considering that I recently spoke on a pro-Palestine panel alongside SWP member Dan Fein, the Militant seems an unlikely source for the argument. So it’s fair enough to ask just which side these socialists are on.
The growth of the global BDS movement that is helping to shine a spotlight on Israel’s barbaric and racist policies towards Palestinians is perhaps the most exciting and positive development pro-Palestine activists have seen in a long time.
In a struggle that has unfortunately been artificially separated from the broader antiwar movement and has faced a number of obstacles in building solidarity–not least of which is the incessant accusation of anti-Semitism–leftists and progressives everywhere should be welcoming this urgently needed step forward.
The call for BDS against Israel comes from Palestinians themselves. More than 170 Palestinian organizations, including unions and civil society groups, were part of the July 2005 call for activists around the world to:
impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
In the wake of the Israeli assault on Gaza that began at the end of last year, the initiative gained new momentum. Students on campuses across Britain and the U.S., for example, have been organizing to put pressure on their administrations to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s ongoing war on the Palestinian people. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., won this demand, making Hampshire the first college in the U.S. to divest.
It seems like a no-brainer that these students should be applauded and their efforts seen as a source of inspiration for other students that we can actually win. Instead, the SWP has chosen to condemn them as undercover anti-Semites.
In February, South African dockworkers in Durban refused to offload a ship carrying Israeli cargo and successfully blocked scab labor from doing so. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) issued a statement shortly afterward, encouraging “other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.” And the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) stated that “the worker victory in Durban yesterday spurs COSATU members on to more determined action in order to isolate the apartheid state of Israel.”
This dockworkers’ action and the South African unionists’ comparison of Israel to South African apartheid are curiously missing from Pederson’s article. Does he make an exception here? Or does the SWP think that these dockworkers were “Jew-baiting”?
UNDERLYING PEDERSON’S criticism of the BDS movement is his contention that Israel is not really an apartheid state that should be compared to South Africa. He dismisses the idea that the daily suffering, humiliation and death endured by Palestinians should be compared to the apartheid system. “Applied to Israel,” he writes, “the term ‘apartheid’ is simply an epithet, rather than a scientific description of a social structure.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and famed opponent of apartheid, has an entirely different take on the matter. In an article titled “Apartheid in the Holy Land,” he wrote:
I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us Black people in South Africa…Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?
I’m going with Desmond Tutu’s firsthand experience on this one, rather than whatever Pederson means by “a scientific description” (incidentally, he never actually provides one). There is, in fact, quite an impressive list of people, including Jewish South African leftists Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky, who agree wholeheartedly that what exists in Israel is some form of apartheid.
Today’s anti-Israel BDS movement is very proudly modeled on the international campaign against South African apartheid, which played a crucial role in bringing down the system of racial separation.
But Pederson is content to ignore these voices and concentrates instead on his straw-man argument that misrepresents the comparisons activists are making between Israel and South Africa. “The attempt to paint [Israel and South Africa] as the same simply obfuscates the real social and class relations in Israel and the tasks facing the toilers there to chart a revolutionary course forward,” he writes.
Now, I’ve been to a number of meetings in New York City recently on the topic of Israeli apartheid, and at every single one of them, the differences between the two racist states are always analyzed and discussed. Pederson is simply being dishonest.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue that South Africa and Israel are exactly the same–of course they are not. But the similarities are simply more overwhelming than the differences, and they certainly merit a discussion.
What would Pederson call a state whose indigenous inhabitants have been shoved into refugee camps on their own land, with the bogus promise of eventual “nationhood,” only to be controlled, harassed and brutalized by an occupying force?
How does he explain the monstrous wall that tears through historical Palestine, separating Palestinians from their land, resources, livelihood and families?
How does he explain a state that has “Jewish-only” roads and settlements, is filled with checkpoints and trigger-happy soldiers, and issues ID cards that indicate whether or not someone is Jewish?
What “scientific description” would he use for a state that has a law proclaiming the right of Jews everywhere around the world to live in what is now Israel, but that explicitly denies that same right to Palestinians who were born in the Arab villages that Israel is now built upon?
If he’s going to claim that Israel isn’t an apartheid state, then he needs to have some good answers to these questions, beyond twisting the arguments of Palestinian solidarity activists.
There are some important differences between the particular forms of apartheid in today’s Israel compared to yesterday’s South Africa.
The white South African regime, for example, sought to exploit Black labor while forcing Black South Africans to live separately, in “homelands,” infamously known as bantustans, or townships on the outskirts of cities and towns.
The goal of the Israeli state, however, is to exclude Palestinians from playing any active role in the economy. In fact, the concept of “Jewish land, Jewish labor, Jewish produce” was instrumental in the Zionist colonization of Palestine and was implemented through Histadrut, Israel’s twisted version of a trade union. In an excellent article on ElectronicIntifada.net titled “Histadrut: Israel’s racist ‘trade union,'”  author Tony Greenstein explains “that Histadrut, an organization of the settler Jewish working class, was the key Zionist organization responsible for the formation of the Israeli state.”
FRANKLY, I don’t think Pederson actually understands “the real social and class relations in Israel” that he feels so confident in schooling the rest of us about. His attempt to apply Marxism to the historical oddity that is the state of Israel is clumsy in the extreme.
Pederson’s charge of anti-Semitism rests on the idea that working-class Israelis and Palestinians have a common interest in overthrowing the Israeli capitalist class–therefore, boycotts and divestment only alienate the Israeli working class, who we should be trying to win away from Zionism.
This may sound like a Marxist argument, but it isn’t. In fact, by this logic, it’s unclear why anyone should have supported the divestment movement against South African apartheid. Wouldn’t sanctions against apartheid have alienated the white South African working class? Pederson’s claims about Israel sound a lot like Ronald Reagan’s explanation for opposing sanctions on South Africa–he called his policy “constructive engagement.”
Moshe Machover and Akiva Orr, former members of the now-defunct Israeli Socialist Organization, provide us with a much better approach to understanding the peculiarities of the Israeli state in their 1969 article, “The class character of Israel”:
The experience of classical capitalist countries has often demonstrated that internal class conflicts and interests dominate external conflicts and interests. However, this theory fails to hold in certain specific cases. For example, in a colonized country under the direct rule of a foreign power, the dynamics of the colonized society cannot be deduced simply from the internal conflicts of that society, since the conflict with the colonizing power is dominant.
Israel is neither a classic capitalist country, nor is it a classic colony. Its economic, social, and political features are so unique that any attempt to analyze it through the application of theories or analogies evolved for different societies will be a caricature. An analysis must be based rather on the specific characteristics and specific history of Israeli society.
Pederson seems to base some of his case on the fact that there are Palestinians who live inside Israel, and they are considered Israeli citizens (though it is second-class citizenship). The BDS movement, he insists, might hurt them, too. This gives the impression that Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel are in the same boat.
But what Pederson doesn’t understand is that Israel is not a state of its citizens. It is explicitly a Jewish state. This means that special rights and privileges are afforded to Jewish Israelis, while Palestinian citizens of Israel are subjected to racist policies in virtually every aspect of life.
THE REAL problem with Pederson’s argument is that in his insistence that Israeli workers must not be alienated, he ends up alienating Palestinians instead. Just as socialists would not tailor our tactics so as to avoid offending the white working class under apartheid–or racist white workers in the Jim Crow South, for that matter–we shouldn’t in the case of apartheid Israel either.
Pederson’s rigid formulas extend to his position on the Palestinian national liberation movement.
He takes issue with me in particular over the idea that I would agree with anything said by Khaled Meshaal, a leader of Hamas, the organization that was democratically elected by Palestinians to a majority in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative assembly.
Again, Pederson takes the low road by using a questionable quotation from the Hamas charter from 1988 to try to imply that I’m an anti-Semite–as if I ever said I agree with everything Hamas has ever written, and as if Hamas is the same organization today as it was in 1988.
Here’s what Khaled Meshaal said in a 2006 interview, when asked if there was any truth to the claims we hear in the mainstream media that Hamas just wants to “kill the Jews”:
This is not correct. Killing Jews is not our aim. For centuries, we have lived in Palestine peacefully with Jews and Christians of all kinds.
We are fighting Israel because it occupies our land and oppresses our people. We are fighting Israel to finish this occupation. We want to live freely on our land just as other nations. We want to have our own country just like other people. But the Zionist movement came from all over the world to occupy our land. And the real owner of the land has been kicked out. This is the root of the problem.
I agree with that statement. And clearly, a large number of Palestinians do, too.
Perhaps most enraging about Pederson’s article is that nowhere in it will you find even a recognition that Palestinians might be suffering more than Israelis! There is no excuse for this, especially in the aftermath of Israel’s most recent onslaught on Gaza that killed over 1,400 Palestinians in 22 days, leaving the already blockaded territory in ruins.
And, incidentally, Israel’s Gaza assault had the support of 84 percent of Israeli Jews, according to opinion polls.
Of course, there are Israeli Jews who will become disgusted with Zionism and turn against it (Orr and Machover are clearly testament to this). But we can’t ignore the fact that an overwhelming majority of Israelis support their government’s violent and racist policies against Palestinians–because those policies allow Israel to continue existing on stolen land.
Marxists shouldn’t ignore reality. The fact is that the Israeli working class materially benefits from the financial support the state receives from its patron, the U.S. government. (The ISO, by the way, has never argued that the “Israel lobby” controls the U.S. government, as Pederson’s article disingenuously suggests–we have written many articles in our publications arguing the opposite).
As Machover and Orr explain:
Israel is not a country where foreign aid flows entirely into private pockets; it is a country where this aid subsidizes the whole of society. The Jewish worker in Israel does not get his share in cash, but he gets it in terms of new and relatively inexpensive housing, which could not have been constructed by raising capital locally; he gets it in industrial employment, which could not have been started or kept going without external subsidies; and he gets it in terms of a general standard of living which does not correspond to the output of that society.
That is the reality of the state of Israel. And that is why a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel can play such an important role. It can help to build international working class solidarity–which we caught a glimpse of, thanks to the brave dockworkers in Durban.
How’s that for “charting a revolutionary course forward”?
Pederson and the SWP need to get a grip. Rather than using half-truths and lies to slander other socialists and pro-Palestine activists (when we finally have some real momentum going!), they should take up some of the real questions facing the movement. And then they should decide which side they’re on: the oppressor or the oppressed?
1.  http://www.themilitant.com/2009/7313/731336.html
2.  http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10379.shtml
3.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0
John McAnulty of Ireland’s Socialist Democracy
25 January 2009
“A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in
chains, and a slave who through cunning and violence breaks the
chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are
equals before a court of morality!”
–Leon Trotsky, “Their Morals and Ours,” 1938
The month of total war waged by Israel on Gaza has halted for the time being, although the struggle to crush the Palestinian people continues unabated.
The Gaza massacre generated deep revulsion across the globe. In Ireland, as in many other places, substantial protests took place. The protests didn’t involve the main body of workers but they did offer the opportunity of building a substantially stronger solidarity movement. That opportunity was not taken. There are many reasons for this, but a key reason is the mistaken ideas about building united action held by many militants.
The majority of activists believe that any movement should be as broad as possible, and that the way to achieve that is to rely on humanitarian sentiment. This apparently common-sense approach is actually profoundly mistaken at a number of levels and fails every time it is applied.
The point is that unity requires an object. The broader the movement, the weaker and more diffuse its aims. The agreement may fall far short of the needs of the situation and may be so loose that in practice there is only limited common action.
These are really organisational issues. For socialists there are deeper political issues. We believe that only the working class can resolve the major issues facing humanity. In each new struggle we seek to promote the self-organisation and self-activity of the workers. Class struggle doesn’t stop at the door of a new campaign, so there are political battles to be fought to establish the class interest that will dominate.
These issues were worked out long ago in the mass struggles of the working class. In sudden crises single issue campaigns, cutting across classes, can be established but these are inherently unstable.
United fronts are meant to unite different sections of the workers, and sometimes sections of the small farmers and small shopkeepers with the workers. The different sections unite around a common policy. They act together but continue to advance their own programs. A democratic structure allows the movement to change and advance new demands as the situation changes.
The rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy within the working class led to the policy of popular fronts. A good example of the popular front policy was the battle against fascism. Stalinists argued that this transcended class and was best advanced by an all-class alliance. They built alliances with the right and used savage repression against workers advancing demands of their own. The popular fronts, limited to the policy of the capitalists, were inevitably defeated.
Care must be taken in using the terms popular front and united front. As with all Marxist terms, they depend heavily on context. The working class in Ireland today is fragmented and demoralised by decades of social partnership and the defeat of the republican movement. Neither is there a dissident section of the capitalist class at whom a popular front could be aimed.
It makes more sense to talk about a popular front approach. In that way one can focus on the reality of the views of small groups rather than imagine we are talking about significant class forces. So what is the effect of this sort of thinking on the conduct of solidarity actions with Gaza?
The organisational effect is to establish a virtual movement, insubstantial as any other form of virtual reality. This had two effects. The first was to bring in essentially right-wing figures on their own terms, so platforms were crowded with speakers who did not oppose imperialism and with no real connection with a solidarity movement. The strongest example of this was the plethora of clerical speakers bolted on to the trade unions demonstration in Belfast in a vain attempt to defuse loyalist opposition. It was quite bizarre to witness the Socialist Workers party intervention in Dublin They themselves had moved to the left under the pressure of events, but were totally unable to obtain a response from the movement they had partially created.
The insubstantial nature of the movement also left it open to adventures. Again the Belfast demonstration was a good example, with republican activists staging stunts in local stores, making no attempt to discuss tactics with other groups in the campaign.
But the real weakness of a popular front approach is political. Any serious solidarity movement should demand an end of Israeli occupation and the siege of Gaza and the West Bank. As it was, the main demands were for a ceasefire, balanced in many cases by demands that Hamas should not respond with rockets. Calls were made for the ‘international community’ to intervene, ignoring the fact that it had already intervened decisively on the side of Israel. A number of the speakers were the left face of imperialism, supporting the aims of the massacre while bemoaning the bloodshed.
A humanitarian campaign cannot survive a ceasefire. Activists gravitate towards individual moralism, either in the form of charitable donations or individual boycott of Israeli produce. The political demands of the boycott remain unclear.
And it is here that the fundamental weakness of the Irish solidarity movement lies. One of the main organisations declaring solidarity with Gaza is Sinn Fein, closely followed by the trade union leadership and the left organisations. In practice they all support the Irish peace process and the partitionist solution it produced. It follows as night follows day that the Middle East peace process and the two-state solution represent the way forward. We should all be dancing in the streets at the news that heros such as Tony Blair and George Mitchell are to lead the Middle East process forward!
Of course this is all nonsense. The peace process in the Middle East is imperialist policy, with its main aim the crushing of Palestinian resistance. The two state solution is what we see already in Gaza and the West Bank – open prisons, constantly at the mercy of Israeli aggression. The difficulty for many is that to admit this would be to cast new light on the Irish peace process and the sectarian sewer formed in the North.
Just as solidarity with Gaza requires the self-organisation of workers, so to does a genuine peace and justice in Ireland.
The following is part of a larger discussion document put forward in Solidarity’s discussion running up to convention early next year. The rest of the document can be found at the Solidarity website here. Just to be clear: this is not my document. I hope to put up other discussion pieces relating to regroupment/refoundation in the next couple few months.
These issues are often knocked around, almost by habit, and yet we seem to lack the will to make our aspirations reality. While recognizing the process, the process has to be towards something and that has to be defined. The task is political and organizational. The goal matters.
Refoundation is a conscious act and requires a certain tenacity, if history is judge, that the left seems to lack at the minute. We need an approach that doesn’t substitute “sobriety” and “pragmatism” for seriousness and a willingness to take real steps forward. We won’t know if we don’t try.
A forceful renewal of the socialist left is not entirely a matter of our will alone. It ultimately depends on developments of a more massive scale both here and around the world that in one way or another pose a significant challenge to the capitalist agenda from a left direction. These developments provide the proverbial “tests” that are supposed to prove out the necessity for diverse revolutionary organization. Here, in the United States, we are no where near them. At this stage, most existing revolutionary organizations feel their fragility and place a question mark over their possibility for survival in any meaningful sense. The era of competition and triumphalism has pretty much ended.
Does this mean that we circle the wagons, soldier on and wait? Solidarity rejects this approach. Even as a body at rest, an organization will change – and inevitably not for the better. The risk runs the gambit from membership drift-out to downright cultification.
The process of socialist renewal has to begin now, and should have begun at least a decade ago. Working together at varying levels, the social movement left and the organized left together can produce a modest pole that would be more attractive to those who do not belong to any socialist organization. It would have a remoralizing effect on all our respective members and networks. What forms could this working together take?
For example, too often the left’s “model” tends to drift back to a one-sided application of “Leninism” as people imagine this concept was implemented in czarist Russia nearly a century ago. Is this appropriate today — under conditions of formal democracy and with new methods of communication, not to mention lessons from the 20th century experience on the transition to socialism and the durability of capital? What organizational forms and modes of operation can be most effective in bringing about the renewal we seek? Today’s activists must be full-fledged participants in such a dialogue, bringing their questions, expectations and experiences as well as their commitment to the intersection of class, race and gender.
Starting in the 1960s, significant challenges have successfully altered the standards of internal practice and culture in revolutionary organizations. The changes that have been brought about are profoundly political, and address a concept of democracy that goes beyond the requisite and anonymous formality of one person, one vote. Solidarity’s organizational practice has been influenced by people of color, women, and LGBT liberation movements. The changes include the institutional existence of caucuses within our organizations based on those oppressed because of race, gender and sexuality. These caucuses play a role not only in guiding our external relationships to movements of the oppressed, but also act as an internal corrective. They help our organizations to be inclusive and capable of acting with a collective understanding of how oppression manifests itself even among revolutionaries, who are not immune to the pressures of the broader society.
The stereotype of the ’70s revolutionary organizations as being dominated by (charismatic) males, with a heavy polemical, defeat-your-opponent factionalism is – or should be – dead and buried. To whatever extent it was practiced, it was an exclusive, self-defeating model based on a caricature of the early 20th century movement. Today’s revolutionaries are striving for what some call “feminist functioning” – a respectful, egalitarian and uplifting internal environment grounded in democratic functioning and pooling of the strengths from all the members.
The ’70s model tended to see “the party” as a thing onto itself; floating above the members with some kind of existence of its own (often defined by these same white males). In our organizations today, this reification has to be combated. The “party” is the human beings who come together to act together. They are the locus of ownership. Solidarity has been mocked by other revolutionary groups because our members sometimes voted for different proposals at movement meetings. We have attempted to build consensus positions around our founding principles and encourage members to express judgments based on their experiences. Sometimes this has meant differences that we have not attempted to shut those down in the name of a “line,” requiring members to vote against their real convictions at the loss of their integrity.
Imagine how much richer it would be to discuss – or even build — a 21st Century internal revolutionary culture together, instead of in small groups that are grappling with the same basic need to make deep structural-democratic changes. Together, we could make a more coherent contribution that could enter the arsenal of models of revolutionary organization and theory.
For example, developments of defiance of the imperialist world market diktat in Latin America – highlighted by political developments in Venezuela and Bolivia, and before that Brazil and Argentina – have to be assessed based on the current world relationship of forces, which is qualitatively different from the global reality for most of the 20th century. We should be taking inspiration from, and carefully examining, today’s processes of struggle as they unfold, offering them our solidarity. Approaching this as a broader collective will give us an opportunity to expand our common experience and analysis.
The socialist left in Europe has experienced a similar stagnation, yet has managed to maintain a more vibrant existence, in good measure due to greater levels of residual class consciousness. Many organizations are engaged in building new forms of organizations that have something to teach us about the possibilities – and in some cases the limits or obstacles – for unity or united action among previously competing revolutionary organizations. These include the Red Green Alliance in Denmark, the Left Bloque in Portugal, attempts to build Respect in Britain and the evolution of Rifondazione Comunista in Italy. The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire of France has decided to dissolve and form an entirely new left socialist organization that would be more of an appropriate refoundational home for thousands of activists not currently in any socialist organization. Though we do not have the means to duplicate these efforts here – they require a level of social weight we don’t presently enjoy – we should be watching and discussing these efforts at left foundation together.
For its part, Solidarity believes that agreement around a broad set of principles, and not agreement around historical questions, is the root base for organized renewal of the socialist movement. We believe that the left has yet to perfect the art of “agreeing to disagree” – while still finding ways to act together in a coherent fashion — once basic agreement of this type has been achieved. (Solidarity is not an exception to this statement.) The notion of “homogeneity” in an organization as the 20th century left perceived it did not serve well at all; it ended in sectarianism and irrelevance.
We believe that unity in action does not require unity of thought. Solidarity is thus, in the broad sense, a proudly multi-tendency group. However, there is an important proviso to this: unity in action may not require unity of thought, but it most certainly requires thought – not just individual thought, but collective thought.
That is, we do not believe that “democratic centralism” is an appropriate mechanism through which such a diverse group of revolutionaries can function effectively. Yes, there needs to be a set of key principles around which membership is constructed. Within that framework it will be necessary to listen to the ideas and experiences of all comrades, and to move forward with the understanding that there will be differing assessments and therefore decisions will be revisited. Diversity can be the source of an organization’s strength because it allows for a pluralism from which a more nuanced assessment may be possible. Additionally, we believe that tactical decisions are just that, tactical.
Marxism should be a method and not a set of formulas we have learned from the past. We also see that the insights from other philosophies of liberation and the living movements they spring from must renew and revitalize Marxism.
Solidarity remains hopeful that today’s socialist left is capable of taking some or all of the steps can lead off the process of renewal. Though recent modest initiatives, we are attempting to bring about a frank discussion with other organizations as well as local collective/study groups and national networks of the social movement left on how – or whether – they see a process of left renewal taking root.
There is an explosion of left wing sites, blogs and forums out there. All that is to be welcomed. While letting a thousands flowers bloom is often a good idea, especially in such times as these where the US left is in, how shall I say it, really dire straights the revolutionary Marxist left ought to find its way to collaboration on and off the web.
Solidarity has recently launched a webzine on the site. The webzine is getting better and better as more people contribute to it and respond. There is currently a great review and discussion of the emergence of blogs whose traditions come from the New Communist Movement and 1970’s Maoism. Solidarity’s website has come a long way and looks great.
Solidarity has also just published “Hell on Wheels”; a pamphlet on the reform movement in New York’s Transit Workers Union Local 100. A must read for any labor activist. Against the Current, Solidarity’s venerable magazine, is also on line and the latest issue is chock full of good articles on everything from American Axle, Jeremiah Wright and the global economic crisis to Winter Soldier reports.
One of the very best Marxist publications in the United States is International Socialist Review put out by the ISO. ISR routinely has some of the best long form articles on the left. Far from shying away from theory and historical context the ISR has the exemplary quality of raising key Marxist concepts without being stodgy (see Lenin’s Return from the latest edition). Now the ISO has relaunched the site for their paper Socialist Worker. It looks good, if a little busy, and is well stocked with updates, features and activist info. Here’s the video introduction to the new site.
Now how about a collaborative site between the ISO and Solidarity? Here at the RBR we cannot see a whole lot of compelling reasons for these two organizations to exist separately. I know there is plenty of blood under the bridge from previous splits and disagreements, but I can’t help but thinking that the strengths and weaknesses of these two organizations are so complimentary as to beg unity.
The differences that exist between the two organizations already exist within the organizations. It would change the landscape of the American left, that’s for sure. While not on the agenda of either organization right now it ought to be. Unity just for the sake of unity would, of course, fail. What are the programmatic or principled differences then? Let us find out; I don’t expect we would find many. Differences in practice are real, but again those differences exist within the organizations already.
In the meantime collaborate, collaborate, collaborate and hopefully collaboration will clarify the issues and ease some fears. And that is saying nothing of the positive practical consequences to the class struggle of closer work. Organizations tend to get in a routine over the years and then that routine gets an organizational logic all of its own. Time to break some 20th century routines.
There is more than enough room politically for a revolutionary Marxist organization of the combined qualities of the ISO and Solidarity. Of course what constitutes a revolutionary Marxist organization and if that is even desirable continues to be a debate. The key is for those who agree on its necessity to engage. It seems to me that in times of crisis, and what a crisis the world is in, organization (not artificial nor artificially denied) becomes even more necessary as does the utilization of the awesome tools of Marxism and the Marxist tradition.
Statement of Refoundation and Revolution on the firing of Orlando Chirino by the PDVSA
We, the comrades of Refoundation and Revolution in the United States, condemn in the strongest terms the politically motivated firing of the internationally-known Venezuelan revolutionary union leader and National Coordinator of the UNT Orlando Chirino by his bosses at the state-run PDVSA oil company. In apparently treacherous fashion, this unwarranted, illegal and ultimately counter-revolutionary act was accomplished with the connivance of factional opponents within the union as well. We are aware that comrade Chirino has proven himself many times over to be willing to risk his personal safety for the defense of the revolution in Venezuela and for principles of working class solidarity. This politically motivated firing and denial of deserved benefits against a prominent working-class revolutionary socialist leader in Venezuela must be seen for what it is: an attack on the existence of an independent workers' movement and an attack on the working class broadly. From within the revolutionary camp, comrade Chirino has raised many criticisms of the incompleteness of the Bolivarian Revolution and has been unwavering in his fight for workers' power and control of the major components of the economy. Much of his analysis and critique are shared by broad layers of revolutionary forces in Venezuela and worldwide. He has fought for working-class independence and has never hesitated to criticize the government for its hesitations and to criticize those in government who are guilty of corruption. He has on numerous occasions denounced the treachery of politicians or PDVSA management who may posture as "revolutionary" and "socialist" and wear red, but in reality act against the interests of the working class. It would be a negative trajectory of the revolution in Venezuela if the ability to have uninhibited and free-ranging criticism within the revolutionary ranks were curtailed. If the National Coordinator of the UNT and one its best-known leaders is successfully sacked for political reasons, what does that communicate about democracy within the revolutionary camp? For the Venezuelan revolution to make genuine advances in a socialist direction, it means that there is going to have to be a deep political discussion within the revolutionary movement. The perspectives of Orlando Chirino--whether one agrees with all his positions or not--represents part of the range of debate within the ranks of revolutionaries. This attack against comrade Chirino is an attack against all those who believe in the right to full debate and democracy within the revolutionary movement. Thus, it is an attack on all revolutionaries and on the revolution itself. It must be reversed We demand the reinstatement and full restitution of Orlando Chirino in accordance with his just demands
Declaración de Refundación y Revolución en el despido de Orlando Chirino por la PDVSA Nosotros, los compañeros de Refoundation and Revolution (Refundación y Revolución) en los Estados Unidos, condenamos en los términos más fuertes el despido, motivado por la política, de Orlando Chirino, líder sindicalista revolucionario Venezolano, conocido internacionalmente, y Coordinador Nacional del UNT, por los jefes de la compañía pública del petróleo PDVSA. En una moda aparentemente traicionera este acto injustificable, ilegal y últimamente contrarrevolucionario fue alcanzado con la connivencia de adversarios faccionarios dentro el mismo sindicato. Sabemos que el camarada Chirino ha probado muchas veces estar dispuesto arriesgar su propia seguridad por la defensa de la revolución en Venezuela y por las políticas de la solidaridad de la clase obrera. Debemos ver este despido y la negación de los beneficios merecidos motivado por la política contra un líder revolucionario socialista para lo que es: un ataque en la existencia de un movimiento independiente obrero y un ataque en la clase obrera entera. Dentro del campo revolucionario, el camarada Chirino ha levantado muchas críticas de la Revolución Bolivariano por no ser una revolución completa y ha sido firme en la lucha para el poder del trabajador y su control de los componentes mayores de la economía. Mucho de su análisis y crítica está compartido por muchas partes de las fuerzas revolucionarias en Venezuela y en el mundo. Él ha luchado por la independencia de la clase obrera y nunca ha vacilado criticar el gobierno por sus vacilaciones, ni a criticar a los en el gobierno que son culpables de la corrupción. En muchas ocasiones, él ha denunciado la traición de los políticos o la administración que pueden fingir como "revolucionaria" o "socialista" y muestran rojo, pero en realidad actúan contra los intereses de la clase obrera. Sería una trayectoria negativa de la revolución en Venezuela si la capacidad de tener una crítica sin inhibición y libre dentro de las filas revolucionarios fuera reducida. Si el Coordinador Nacional del UNT y uno de sus líderes mejor conocido está despido por motivación política, ¿qué significa eso sobre la democracia dentro del campo revolucionario? Para poder hacer avances genuinos en una dirección socialista en la revolución Venezolano, significa que hay que existir un dialogo política muy fuerte dentro del movimiento revolucionario. Los perspectivos de Orlando Chirino – si uno concuerda con todas sus posiciones o no – representa una parte del debate dentro de las filas del movimiento revolucionario. Este ataque contra Chirino es un ataque contra todos los que creen en el derecho a debatir y en la democracia dentro del movimiento revolucionario. Así, es un ataque contra todos los revolucionarios y la revolución misma. ¡No debe ser permitido! Demandamos la reintegración de Orlando Chirino a su trabajo anterior, y restitución completa según sus demandas justas.