Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 6, 2010

New Yorkers protest Zionist brutality

Filed under: middle east — louisproyect @ 9:00 pm

On Friday and Saturday I emerged from my bedroom bunker, leaving behind my computer, television set, books and magazines, to join with fellow New Yorkers in protesting Zionist crimes. It was an opportunity to continue with my video/youtube projects as well as to get a handle on the strengths and weaknesses of the local movement.

Friday’s protest was called by Al-awda (sorry for the misspelling in the Youtube title), a Palestinian group that has worked with the International Action Center (IAC) over the years.  The IAC is a more or less of a coalition that is tightly controlled by the Workers World Party. ANSWER serves the same purpose for the Party of Socialism and Liberation, a split from the WWP. The two groups present nearly the same analysis in their newspapers but can’t co-exist in the same organization. This is bad enough, but it is made worse by their failure to explain why they split. This kind of fracturing of the left is symptomatic of the age we are living in unfortunately.

Fortunately, the organizers were able to reach their base sufficiently to turn out several hundred people, including about 20 Turks from what I could gather from overheard conversations. There was a rousing rally in Times Square and concluded with a noisy march through midtown Manhattan that terminated at the Turkish Mission to the UN. The marchers got thumbs up from many cab drivers and truckers.

(Apologies for this video clip having been private. I just fixed it to public. The stupid IMovie software uses private as a default when uploading to Youtube. Who in the world would bother making a Youtube video visible only to friends?)

A day later I went out with a smaller group called Adalah (the word for justice in Arabic) that targeted three New York businesses intimately connected with Israel. We started at Union Square and marched from business to business. My impression is that the ISO is working with this group since I saw them out in force, more or less.

I got a big kick out of this action because it targeted the kind of yuppie enterprises that rub me the wrong way, especially when they have a connection to Israel. If you listen closely to one of the songs that are sung in front of one of the stores, it might ring a bell especially if you are a Yid like me. The words are “Don’t buy Israeli” to the tune of Hava Nagila, a Hebrew folk song heard frequently at weddings, etc.

The first target was Ricky’s, a store that is on 3rd avenue about 3 blocks south of my building. I could never figure out the purpose of this store, besides selling very cheap looking novelties, sunglasses, cosmetics, etc. It turns out that Ricky’s is a prime outlet for Ahava beauty products. Adalahny.org reports:

According to whoprofits.org, “Ahava manufactures cosmetics products using minerals from the Dead Sea. The company has a factory and a visitors’ center in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. 34% of the company shares are held by the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem… 6% by Kibbutz Kaliya (settlement).” All Israeli settlements violate international law.

From there we went to Max Brenner’s, an Israeli chocolatier with two stores and a corporate office in Manhattan. Max Brenner is 100% owned by the Israeli company the Strauss Group . The Strauss Group is the second largest Israeli food and beverage company and is widely touted as one of the great successes of Israeli industry.

On its website in the section on “Corporate Responsibility,” the Strauss Group emphasizes its support for the Israeli army, noting in a section entitled “In the Field with Soldiers”, “Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path. We have also adopted the Southern Shualei Shimshon troops from the Givati platoon with the goal of improving their service conditions and being there at the front to spoil them with our best products.”

(Adalah.org)

Finally, we went to Aroma, a Starbucks type coffee shop on trendy Houston Street that is a branch of an Israeli chain that has plans to open another shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It also has at least one cafe located in an illegal Israeli settlement, Maaleh Adumim. (All Israeli settlements violate international law.)

While I was happy to take part in these protests and was glad that the movement is beginning to react to Israeli brutality, I couldn’t help thinking of the bigger opportunities that a divided movement cannot take advantage of.

Al-adwa and the NY chapter of Adalah appear to represent different constituencies that would be better served by a more massive and visible demonstration. My impression from the mass media is that there is unprecedented anger against Israel, even in NY, a city with a massive Zionist movement.

Notwithstanding the hard work and dedication of the groups that organized these protests, a vacuum exists that must be filled in order for a more powerful response to Zionism to be mounted. This would involve reaching out to people who might only be committed to ending the blockade but not as far to the left as the people who took part in the protests.

During the 1970s, the anti-apartheid movement had an established leadership made up of people like Randall Robinson of the Trans-Africa foundation. Something like this is sorely needed that all groups and individuals on the left can get behind, as well as the Arab community in the U.S. that can be a powerful force for social change.

25 Comments »

  1. This afternoon there will be the third in a series of mobilizations protesting against the Israelis attack on Gaza-bound humanitarian aid shipments. The Israelis have commandeered the Irish vessel Rachel Corrie. These protests take place outside of the Israeli consulate in Beverly Hills, California.

    This will be the third mobilization since last Monday. There were no pro-Israel counter-protesters for the first march, which drew something in the 200 range. The second, Friday afternoon, drea perhaps 150, and maybe 80 pro-Israel counter-picketers on the other side of Wilshire Boulevard. ANSWER and the IAC were present, as were individual members of Solidarity, the CPUSA, COC and various unaffiliated radicals.

    Considering that the media coverage is largely pro-Israel, it’s remarkable that a pro-Palestinian perspective is beginning to be reported on National Public Radio. Last night’s All Things Considered had two such reports.

    The first reports on the decline in 100% support for Israel among younger Jews in the US:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=2&prgDate=6-5-2010

    The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
    June 10, 2010
    by Peter Beinart
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/jun/10/failure-american-jewish-establishment/?pagination=false
    Then this:

    Israeli Raid Presents Opportunity For Palestinians[4 min 45 sec]
    http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=127501647&m=127501642

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — June 6, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  2. Your second video is private, according to the message I get when I try to play it. It says I need to accept a friend request.

    Comment by Will Shetterly — June 6, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  3. “During the 1970s, the anti-apartheid movement had an established leadership made up of people like Randall Robinson of the Trans-Africa foundation. Something like this is sorely needed that all groups and individuals on the left can get behind, as well as the Arab community in the U.S. that can be a powerful force for social change.”

    Yes, what’s needed are even more opportunist open coalitions welcoming people of any and all classes who agree on even one issue …because today’s South Africa, run by a coalition of black and white capitalists, is an incredible advance over yesterday’s South Africa, run only by white capitalists.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 6, 2010 @ 9:55 pm

  4. Yes, what’s needed are even more opportunist open coalitions welcoming people of any and all classes who agree on even one issue …because today’s South Africa, run by a coalition of black and white capitalists, is an incredible advance over yesterday’s South Africa, run only by white capitalists.

    —-

    You know something, I think that a unified Palestinian state based on bourgeois democracy and the right of return would be an enormous advance over what exists today.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  5. In other words, according to you, capitalism still has a progressive role to play in the world. Thanks for putting it in terms that even an idiot can understand.

    What we’ve got here is a “post-Trotskyist” slant on the mechanical old official Communist line that postpones proletarian revolution to the distant future, of course allying with the bourgeoisie in the mean time.

    Workers: throw your lot in with your oppressors immediately to ensure the future of your class.

    Sounds like a washed up collegiate leftist’s version of the old religious “suffer now in peace so that you can enjoy the kingdom of heaven after you die” fable.

    Meanwhile workers in South Africa continue to be exploited in South Africa just as they were decades ago. At least more of their bosses have the same skin tone as they do though… right?

    Comment by The Idiot — June 6, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  6. What we’ve got here is a “post-Trotskyist” slant on the mechanical old official Communist line that postpones proletarian revolution to the distant future, of course allying with the bourgeoisie in the mean time.

    You are not an idiot. You are insane.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

  7. I enjoyed these videos immensely. Truly the movement in the States will be worrying the Israelis and the American ruling class more than anything with the possible exception of the change in Turkey’s position.

    You are right about breaking out into other layers. Here in Brisbane the Left has gotten so tiny now that we cannot do much. But at our last demo the presence of the Turkish protestors gave the whole movement a very different and much more militant feel.

    The next wave of ships could be very significant. If they are accompanied by Turkish warships then it is end game for the blockade. However I remain sceptical about the prospects of that, but Erdogan is certainly being pushed in that direction.

    comradely

    Gary

    Comment by Gary MacLennan — June 6, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  8. I was in ANSWER but not in WW when the split happened. It was an internal fight over which faction would be in control and was not able to be reconciled.

    So, 60+ WW members resigned en masse one Sunday and started PSL a few months later. Which I joined out of curiosity and ended up getting purged from a few years later. “I used to be disgusted but now I’m just amused.”

    Yes, their ideologies and tactics are near-identical.

    Comment by Bob Morris — June 7, 2010 @ 12:18 am

  9. OK Louis. I am insane. That doesn’t change the fact that your arguing for workers to collaborate with the class that exploits and oppresses them and in the process saying that capitalism is still a progressive force that has something to offer workers.

    The days of democratic national revolutions lead by the bourgeoisie are over. The only new capitalist states created today come by way of imperialist dictate like Montenegro or Kosovo.

    The democratic tasks in places like Palestine fall upon the working class to carry out, but in order to guarantee the continuing existence of such advances, when they make them, the workers have to go all the way and expropriate the capitalists. The preservation of that victory requires the international extension of the revolution.

    This is the reality of today.

    Your call to join the capitalists now for a brighter tomorrow will deliver only more of what already exists: misery and suffering.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 7, 2010 @ 12:29 am

  10. I am an idiot and insane too. It has never been as clear as it is today that a section of the working class does not have a choice but to fight against the state to move forward. The historical relationship with the ruling class has been broker by the qualitative developments in the means of production. The rate of profit is falling because of labor-replacing technology. If you can’t even be exploited, then what choices do you have?

    Quote from Marx:

    [I]n order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can at least continue its slavish existence. … The modern laborer … instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society. … It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery. … Society can no longer live under the bourgeoisie; in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.”

    Comment by Jim — June 7, 2010 @ 1:33 am

  11. wow. Not sure why I should bother to respond except to support Louis, but his main point about the problems of fragmented socialist leadership in the broad movement for “social change” (sorry, it’s just shorthand, don’t get your buns in a bunch about the term) is only illustrated by this commentary. In Israel, workers and youth–Jews and Arabs–marched today seeking to forge an alliance chanting “Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!”; dockworkers in Sweden are boycotting cargo to Israel; and countries like Nicaragua not only reiterate their opposition to the Zionist state, they break diplomatic ties in protest of the murders. . . all because of a little cement and a lot of principle; by ambassadors, young activists, and Nobel laureates no less. It puts narrow “leftists” to shame that such “narrow nationalist”-leaning non-Marxists are showing you up.
    These events indicate something and not to respond with willingness to unite all the forces together and draw the connections between this “democratic” struggle for self-determination, the apartheid emerging in Arizona, anger against Wall Street, and the growing exposure of the lesser-evil politicians of the capitalist parties is well, tragic at best, treacherous most likely, and criminal (at least in the political sense)at worst.
    Louis, I hope sometime more reasonable revolutionists will see the writing on the wall (soon, I hope) and heed the call to bring unity to the revolutionary vanguards. I see opportunity slipping from us.
    Manuel

    Comment by Manuel Barrera, PhD — June 7, 2010 @ 3:57 am

  12. The Idiot– I at the very least admire the honesty in an age deceit — a bourgeois democratic state in Palestine would be the end of the blockade that costs thousands of Palestinian lives a year and at least a reprieve from the constant harassment of occupation and like Louis said, that’s a condition worth fighting for. And no, a proletarian Palestinian state standing alone wouldn’t be an advance, because what good would an island of socialism in an undeveloped, war-ravaged country be? Would feasible options would there be for such a state? The model of Hoxha?

    Comment by Bhaskar — June 7, 2010 @ 4:01 am

  13. It seems you’ve missed the point. I will make it as simple as possible:

    1. Capitalism is in decline. It ceased being progressive many, many decades ago. The bourgeoisie is no longer fit to rule, let alone improve our lives.

    2. The bourgeoisie in places like Palestine is no longer willing or capable of carrying out national revolutions because of its fear of the working class and its ties with the bourgeoisie of other countries.

    3. The only way a capitalist Palestine could come into existence is if it received the support of an imperialist power; unlikely to happen.

    4. Were it to somehow come into existence, a capitalist Palestine would not be any more “independent” than the various other neo-colonies in existence. It would be tied by a million strings to the global capitalist economy, in which it would be but a very minor player. It would not be any more protected against attacks by imperialist powers like Israel than Lebanon is (or than Iraq or Afghanistan were).

    5. The only force capable of carrying out the democratic tasks in Palestine is the working class. It can only do that by taking the struggle to its conclusion: the overthrow of capitalist property relations. That overthrow can only be made permanent by the international extension of the revolution.

    6. Being exploited by a capitalist of “your own” nationality, religion, or whatever is no “better” than being exploited by any other capitalist. Just as the election of a female president doesn’t mean women will be any better off, being ruled by capitalists who live within the same country as you doesn’t mean your lot will improve either.

    7. There is no local or regional solution for the working class. It is an international class with an international task. Either world revolution or global catastrophe. Those are the options that exist today.

    8. We’ve had about enough multi-class “vanguards” and cross-class fronts. “How long it will be until the Socialists realize the folly and inconsistency of preaching to the Workers that the emancipation of the Working Class must be the act of the workers themselves, and yet presenting to those workers the sight of every important position in the party occupied by men not of the Working Class?” asked James Connolly.

    How long indeed.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 7, 2010 @ 5:28 am

  14. “a bourgeois democratic state in Palestine would be the end of the blockade that costs thousands of Palestinian lives a year”

    The DPRK is an independent country that is more free from the interference of foreign capitalists in its economy than any other in existence yet it is subject to all sorts of blockades, sanctions and attacks. Cuba, while having a larger part of its economy open to foreign investment has been under a blockade for decades. So that argument doesn’t really hold water does it?

    Comment by The Idiot — June 7, 2010 @ 5:32 am

  15. but they are both not bourgeois democratic states…

    Comment by PfromGermany — June 7, 2010 @ 7:38 am

  16. Right, which means they’re even less subject to the whims of global capitalism than a tiny capitalist state would be… a part of why capitalist Iraq not only faced sanctions but an outright invasion.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 7, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  17. Louis,
    This is one of the best of your messages, especially because you took part in the protest with others. I fully agree that One State of Palestinians and Jews of Israel, could prosper together. As Ilan Pappe once suggested and so did Jeff Harper, for that matter, it may be called ‘Palestein’ or whatever! Democracy is never possible without Diversity. Our Zionist ‘foes’ in Israel must think and give up their morbid and foolish dream of an exclusively a Jewish state of ‘chosen’ people, whoever ‘chose’ them, by the way, on what criteria? Do they have horn like unicorns???

    Comment by Zarina Bhatia — June 7, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  18. an excellent post, and, as someone who participated in a protest here in Sacramento last Tuesday, I by and large agree with your perspective

    one thing you might find interesting about the Sacramento event, it was a crowd of mostly middle class Middle Eastern people with their children, along with some anti-Zinonist Jews (although I’m not either), something that you don’t often find in relation to protests about other issues, and you don’t often find such a family presence at protests, with the exception of immigrant rights, and there are some opportunities there that should be pursued

    I enjoyed watching my three year old son lick his snow cone on the curb with a group of Palestinian American kids, even if it didn’t necessarily advance the cause, because, after all, fun and political commitment need not be mutually exclusive

    as an aside, you might give some thought as to why anarchists, and those of us influenced by them, like me, are willing to support the Palestinians unconditionally, because the right of self-determination is important to us, even if it doesn’t promptly result in the creation of our ideal society, while a Marxist like The Idiot doesn’t

    Comment by Richard Estes — June 7, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  19. Richard Estes Idiot is the not the official representative of Marxism. Many of us are very sympathetic to self determination claims, as was one marxist by the name of Lenin.

    Comment by SGuy — June 7, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  20. of course, I was just pointing it out because Louis tends to post overly broad general statements to the effect that Marxist-Leninists have the capacity to politically engage with the world, while anarchists aspire to the passivity of sainthood

    in this instance, the opposite is true, as it relates to the Idiot, suggesting that the truth of the matter is a little more complex

    Comment by Richard Estes — June 7, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  21. I’m not a “Marxist-Leninist.” Then again, neither was Lenin.

    Speaking of the guy though, let’s see what he had to say.

    “…. the Communist International should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their special tasks, i.e., those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form; ….”

    “The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself. All the other classes of present-day society stand for the preservation of the foundations of the existing economic system.”

    “Pacifism, the preaching of peace in the abstract, is one of the means of duping the working class.”

    “People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes.”

    Dick, pragmatism has long been the go to argument for opportunism and class collaboration. Nothing new there.

    And SGuy is completely right. I don’t have anything more to do with “Marxism” than Marx himself did. As for me, I am no Marxist.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 8, 2010 @ 1:12 am

  22. If I were an unemployed Palestinian starving in Gaza, or for that matter a street urchin in Sao Paulo, a refugee in the Congo, or a beleagured Pashtun tribesperson, I’d trade anything, even my soul & my kid’s souls, to have my homeland be imediately transformed into the worst nuclear armed Stalinist state that ever existed. At least I’d have a job, an education, 3 hots & a cot, free child & health care, and very little fear of white phospherous bombs or marauding predators, both people & drones.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 10, 2010 @ 11:03 pm

  23. That’s pretty worthless guess work. Of course anyone would like to have their living conditions improved. The questions we have to deal with involve reality. Will a “nuclear armed Stalinist state” be forged in Palestine? Do the forces for that exist? The fact is they don’t anymore than the conditions for an “independent capitalist Palestine” exist.

    And even if they did why should we stop there? Why advocate something like that? It’s better to fight for what you want and loose than to fight for what you don’t want and get it. I guess a lot of leftists do want it though. Others want to prevent any sort of independent proletarian movement, which is why they aim to tie the working class to “its own exploiters” with false promises of something like a “little America” in Palestine.

    Comment by The Idiot — June 11, 2010 @ 7:07 pm

  24. Others want to prevent any sort of independent proletarian movement,

    That must mean me. Just yesterday I tackled 3 bus drivers on their way to a workers council meeting on West 131st Street and over their supine bodies presented a neo-Kautskyite argument for class collaboration. After I allowed them up, they thanked me and promised to burn their Lenin.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 11, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

  25. Ah, more sarcastic jibes.. as devoid of content as they are of whit. It’s too bad that’s all your capable of producing (besides long winded rants against other “intellectuals” who are as separated from reality as they are unknown by the general public).

    Yeah, we all know you and your ilk use pragmatic arguments to justify your opportunism and class collaborationist crap. You “Marxists” have abandoned the cardinal principles Marx laid out in the International he help found, and repeated time and time again:

    – The emancipation of the working class must be carried out by the workers themselves.

    – The working class is the only revolutionary class.

    “Workers aren’t setting up soviets right now. This isn’t 1917!” So then, let’s settle for acting in our exploiter’s interests now. Because that’s what’s realistic right?

    Wrong.

    “If it seems somewhat absurd to talk of revolution, this is obviously because the organized revolutionary movement has long since disappeared from the modern countries where the possibilities of a decisive social transformation are concentrated. But all the alternatives are even more absurd, since they imply accepting the existing order in one way or another.” – Situationist International

    Comment by The Idiot — June 12, 2010 @ 7:20 am


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