mobilisation and militancy in the anti-war movement: photos and report of 10th january palestine demo

1081For Gaza

Notice: Demonstrate against police brutality in solidarity with yesterday’s arrestees.  This evening (Sunday 11th) at 5pm outside Kensington Police Station, 72 Earl’s Court Road.  Directions: Come out of High Street Kensington tube and turn left. Left again at the next big cross roads.

On Tuesday, the Israeli army shelled a school designated as a refuge from the assault, killing 42 and injuring scores more.  Two days later, thirty more civilians were killed as a second refuge was shelled.  By Saturday, the number of dead from the past fortnight stood at over 800, with a little under a quarter children.  Later that day in West London, cold as it was, and with frost on the ground, around 70,000 people marched against the massacre in Gaza.

Clashes between police and protesters erupted on a scale not seen for a decade in this country.  This is a report by eye-witnesses associated with The Commune, who have also been at many of the demonstrations outside the Embassy over the past fortnight.  We also reflect on the significance of the days’ events.

March, hope and pacify

The generation that rioted last night is the generation that witnessed the abject failure of the strategy adopted by the Stop the War Coalition leadership – i.e. the Socialist Workers Party.    That strategy is the same one proposed by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  In a nutshell, hold peaceful A to B marches, do as you’re told by the police, go home and write to your MP.  A few public meetings aside, that is the limit and extent of their vision.  Direct action was condemned as ‘elitist’ by SWP grandee Lindsey German, and when a mass invasion of the Fairford airforce base was announced, Stop the War rapidly called a march in London on the same day.  The same approach was taken around the country, with local SWP groups distancing themselves from direct action and militant activity.

This approach has been seen to be inadequate by a whole generation.  Interestingly, some leadership figures such as George Galloway have recognised this, saying “I think we’re reaching the stage where this form is no longer sufficient … we’re going to have to discover new ways of protesting”, though this recognition is purely formal: they still run an organisation which discourages any sort of independent or militant action.

Young British Asians and young Muslims have found this failure especially bitter.  Amongst this group there is a very sincere identification with the sufferings of other Muslims around the world.  This spirit of international solidarity, structured by religion though it is, is nonetheless stronger than that held by any other component of British society.  Their rejection of compromise with imperial war is more complete; and their willingness to take risks in action is consequently greater.  They are used to police harassment as a matter of every day life.

Perhaps recognising this, the march organisers prepared steadfastly to keep control.  A group of anti-capitalist activists organising around the Gaza demonstrations sent a ‘delegate’ to the official stewards’ meeting.  They reported that stewards were being organised to isolate any attempts to stage a sit down. A ‘crack team’ of stewards, which was closed to new volunteers, was to move marchers on near the embassy.

From demonstration to resistance

We started out from Hyde Park corner, West along Bayswater Road.  If anything, the crowd was remarkably placid and quiet, and our contingent was therefore surprised to come across several demonstrators on top of a gate which lead to Kensington Palace Gardens and the embassy.  A large crowd had gathered round, and began to burn flags.  A small number of police in ordinary uniforms attempted to enter to restore order, but were pushed out in a ruck.  The crowd preceded to knock down one of the gates (heavy wrought iron, and about ten feet high).  Just before people could decide whether to make their way through and confront the vast numbers of riot police in Kensington Palace Gardens, a squad of armoured police charged in from one side, and proceeded to baton charge the crowd several times.  This stand off lasted for some time.  Our contingent decided to continue to the embassy.

On our way, there were indications, of what was to come.  The window of a Starbucks was cracked (the company is held to be supportive of Israel), with police inexplicably guarding a Pizza Hut a few doors down.  Files of five to ten young, mostly Asian, men wearing masks filed through the crowd quietly, and with determination.  They knew what was going on ahead.

By the time we got to the embassy, the fearsome physical defences which we had seen that morning were gone.  Rows of metal barriers had been torn up, and were being thrown at police, along with sticks and other projectiles.  A very small number of police were in front of the gates to Kensington Palace Gardens, skirmishing with the crowd.  Paint bombs had been thrown, and two police had lost their long riot shields.  They were not in control.  One protester was seen being carried, unconscious, back from police lines.  He was later seen being carried unconscious, back from police lines again – having returned to the fight.  So much for the ‘crack team’ of stewards.  One of us heard one of this team talk about how they tried to stand in between police and rioters.  To little effect.

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The police response was predictably reckless.  Police baton charged from two sides (the gates, and the road from the West), crushing the crowd against barriers on the south side of Kensington Road.  Police and some stewards initially tried to keep the crowd in, before the crowd turned the barrier over and spilled onto the pavement, many people falling and trapping limbs.  According to a report on Indymedia, at least two people left in neck braces.

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The crowds thoroughly trashed another Starbucks, and distributed smoothies and sandwiches to the crowd, continuing to fight the police with projectiles and hand to hand.  The police strategy from here on in was to push the crowd East along Kensington Palace Road, continually bringing reinforcements from the East to draw lines across the road and surround groups of demonstrators.  The first contingent of police to attempt this was very hard pressed, and at least one fully armoured riot cop was carried away by colleagues, completely prone.

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The second contingent arrived in three vans. The crowd reacted quickly, surrounding the vans with barriers. The drivers clearly panicked and attempted to reverse and leave while more barriers were heaved at the van windows, but found it impossible.  No one was prepared to get out to remove the barriers until a squad of riot cops charged to their rescue.

By this time the official rally (which was apparently predictably boring and pointless) was well over, and those of us who were able to get away did so, just as another large squad of riot police charged up from the East, and began to charge West.  It should be said that a relative minority of demonstrators participated in the riot, with many being completely oblivious that it was taking place at all.

The presence of young Muslim women, and their physical bravery, will probably be downplayed.  In fact, along with many non-Muslim women, most resisted the calls of men to move to the back.  “We’re the same as the boys”, shouted one.  Another group were seen preparing to re-enter the fray, despite at least one having been seriously hurt, and denouncing a group of boys retreating as “cowards”.  Sexism manifested itself in other ways.  Unfortunately, some men were unwilling to link arms with women in the crowd; dismissing their willingness to fight.  The most blatant however, was the cynical chant of the stewards: “please move on, women and children are being crushed”.  Clearly this reflects an assumption that women are essentially vulnerable, and incapable of making the choice to confront the police physically.

Stewards should reject the role of movement police.  They can let people make up their own minds about what level to engage on (some people wish to protest peacefully, this is a legitimate choice), facilitate, spread information and record police violence. They should be accountable to the movement, or not in it at all.

What just happened?

Yesterday shows that many anti-war activists, radical young Muslims in particular, are dissatisfied with the march-and-hope policy of the STWC, SWP and PSC.  This generation, angry and sad beyond belief about the murders of imperial war, has exploded onto the streets of Europe in the past week.  Oslo has seen its biggest riots in decades, and the following report, from a correspondent in Paris on the demonstration of a week ago, suggests points of similarity between the composition and message of the mobilisations.

“The demo yesterday was startling. police have revised their original claim of 6,000 to 21,000, but i swear there must’ve been twice that. surprising lack of police presence throughout was explained when we reached place Saint-Augustin, where a quick left would’ve taken us to the Israeli embassy…police fucking everywhere, they’d cut off every road and blocked the entire protest into the place – a ludicrous idea considering the size of the cortege. so now you have around 3,000 disaffected youth already there with at least another 20,000 arriving behind them and police in riot gear everywhere…it kicked off. cars were burned, they smashed up the shops (this is the most affluent, bourgeois part of Paris – Les Galleries Lafayette and all that) and lots of burning of Israeli flags from the top of bus shelters. police moved in … some sort of gas was fired…none of this has made the papers really, just claims that 20 people were arrested after vandalising some cars.  I was about the only white person in this parade … [one chant was] “Regarde Francaises, comprennent la verite”…”look Frenchies, understand the truth”.”

As well as opportunities in the form of militancy, there are also risks in the form of religious and ethnic sectarianism.  We need to make sure that the young (largely Muslim) people confronting the police are not left to do so alone, and that the movement is built as far as is possible on an internationalist secular basis. We can only do that if we are part of it.

Secondly, the events of yesterday show that the British police’s ‘containment’ model (as opposed to the ‘dispersal’ model of European police), is not invincible if enough people are prepared to be militant enough.  The Metropolitan police has limited resources, and is generally very cautious in making deployments that may put officers at risk.

Conclusions

What is the significance of militant street mobilisations in social movements?  It is primarily this: that they are the expression and the birthplace of a defiant, collective spirit; that they constitute a movement on a whole different set of terms to those laid down by the movement bureaucracy.      They are the incubator of a spirit that can grow, and spread.  In the next weeks, the official movement – PSC, STWC, etc. – will redouble their efforts to achieve a passive, pacifist movement.  This will be reflected in the timing and routes of demonstrations called, and intensified stewarding.  Similarly, the police will be looking for an opportunity to re-establish their myth of invulnerability, probably through the traditional means of knocking a few heads together, and making arrests.

Sometimes, riots themselves are beneficial.  For example, the 1981 Brixton riots led to the Scarman report, and researchers of the depression era in the US found that increase in the locally-set rates of income support were greater when there had been riots in the town in question (c.f. Piven and Cloward, Poor People’s Movements, p274).

Street mobilisations are nonetheless limited and insufficient – particularly in dealing with international issues.  We need to make the argument that Israel’s murders in Gaza implicate directly the social relations of global capitalism, and expose the limits of the state as a solution to that.  In consequence, we should say, the movement needs to aspire to mass action, such as strikes at school and work, and occupations of university and public buildings.  We do not say these things for ritual effect, or because we expect a ‘call’ on our part to have any great resonance.  We say them because they are an accurate reflection of the real dynamics of the world; and we want those social processes to be as widely understood as possible.

(In order to avoid abstraction, it should be noted that the most militant demonstrators are probably less likely than most people to have access to opportunities for significant institutional disruption: steady jobs, university places, nationally significant institutions that rely on them.  As Piven and Cloward put it (p25), referring to a different group, they participate so little that the main “’contribution’ they can withhold is that of quiescence in civil life: they can riot”.  The position is not therefore hopeless, but it is difficult.)

Our immediate task is solidarity with those arrested already; and the many more who will no doubt be arrested over the coming months, as police trawl through hours of footage and acres of still photographs.  See the notice of the demonstration above.  Even aside from that, we must continue to mobilise outside the embassy on a daily basis.

The movement continues.  The militant demonstrators yesterday drew a line in the gravel, as well in their own hearts. We know which side of that line we are on.

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36 thoughts on “mobilisation and militancy in the anti-war movement: photos and report of 10th january palestine demo

  1. Firstly good on you for backing extra-parliamentary action so unashamedly and with such a close frame of reference to the anti war movement. I grew up in it, and that is exactly what it has been like – every step of the way practical action, most of it totally nonviolent, was subverted by those wankers. I’m glad you are aware of the fairford incident, most aren’t outside of the direct action and anarchist scenes. For people our age, even if we were always open to direct action, the sheer number a repetition of the marches has taken its toll – no one really wants street confrontation to stop, anger has built up unformed. I think we are seeing it kick off all over europe, and over here it probably broke at the Bush visit last year.

    I like the fact you leave the neccessary qualifiers – riots not being enough, workplace struggle etc – to the end, and you leave the riot like it was.

    I like this piece a great deal. Well done.

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  2. During the last two weeks some anti-capitalist activists have been distributing leaflets (updated a couple of times) with the title “Keep on fighting” and I think it’s very important that the daily pickets of the Israeli embassy keep going this week, as well as actions against agencies/supporters of the Israeli state machine. We should continue to demonstrate, raise awareness of what’s going on and keep our protests/solidarity actions in the media.

    I think the tone of the above article is spot on. The demo on Saturday was hugely inspiring, and had a very assertive/militant sentiment compared to the “troops out of Iraq” demos which take place every few months. It is quite right that we should come to the event with our own politics and argue for them (e.g. against stewards trying to tame/demobilise the struggle, and particularly against people making chauvinist comments), but nonetheless, we definitely know what side we’re on.

    Certainly, for a significant proportion of the people fighting the police, their motivations and solidarity with Palestinians were to varying degrees driven by religion, and at the embassy gates the most common chant was “Allahu Akbar” – the radical left was less in presence than Islamists. Some young Muslim protesters event told off others who were smashing up shop windows (other than Starbucks, which has specific ties to Israel), saying destruction of property is haram (forbidden). But out of our own solidarity with Palestinians – and indeed to be taken seriously by other protesters – anti-capitalists must wholeheartedly and actively support demonstrators against the police and state brutality.

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  3. Excellent post, and extremely detailed. I put a link in my account of the demo. Your photos are good and the focus on the bravery of women is very much welcome.

    “The crowds thoroughly trashed another Starbucks, and distributed smoothies and sandwiches to the crowd, continuing to fight the police with projectiles and hand to hand.”

    Smoothies while fighting the police… Nice.

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  4. Great contribution to the debate comrades, check out the cooments on Indymedia Scotland.The tired labour movement model that the SWP/ STW imposed on the anti-war movement has been tried, tested and failed. Time to build a movement which is genuinely open, broad and active, based on the principle of opposition to imperialism and racism and welcomes all to the struggle.

    Venceremos!

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  5. That depends which labour movement or part of it you are referring to, the STW was far less democratic than most bodies of the labour movement, the main problems with STW were not however simply about democracy but its politics of tailending political islam, pacifism regarding the British state and absence of any class politics. I would not support welcoming all to struggle – there are people opposing Israel, and may well come over militant and maskd up on demos, who are nothing but clerical fascists chanting ‘death to Jews’ – communists and workers in general should not touch them with a barge pole!

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  6. So you go on a rather small-scale rampage (hey, like baby, ever been in a real European riot? Eh – like really?) with those who chant “Allahu Akbar”.

    Shame on you.

    May the blood of the thousands of Algerian comrades, murdered by your Islamicist mates, be upon your head.

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  7. What on earth are you on about? Where do you find support for Islamicism on this site? Do you seriously think we’re unaware of the difference between British and continental riots, given that the article included a report from France? Come on.

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  8. Well done on this report comrades. I was up near the front near the MAB banner at the top gates and standing shoulder to shoulder with the most militant sections at one point earlier in the demo. A younger Arab gentlemen came up to me and said “Please, be careful”, presumably because I was a woman. I smiled and said “I’ll be alright, thanks!” and continued with the others to push back en masse everytime the cops charged. I felt a bit old when I thought to add that I was a veteran of anti-cap demos in the states!!! I think another aspect that wasn’t mentioned was the insistence not just by stewards but by men who I believe were MAB representatives to calm the crowd down, telling people not to push back and so forth. This may have to do with the fear of negative publicity for the Muslim community.

    I must note however that very few far left activists were up near the front taking it on the chin with everyone else and heard a number of people saying things like they didn’t want to be in the middle of it and so forth. I was thinking – how many of these people said that when the Miners’ Strike was going on? Are these the same people who stood up to the police then? Is it really that different now? We’ve really got to not be afraid of the kind of direct action that has been used for years by anarchists and anti-cap demonstrators. So what, you get a scar or two or spend a night in jail, people are being slaughtered! It’s time to put your beliefs into practice!

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  9. In today’s Guardian, Labour MPs who are also Muslims offer a related analysis of where many British Muslims ‘are at’ – identifying the same anger, and disenfranchisement which we mention above (albeit not with specific relation to militant mobilsations!).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jan/12/foreignpolicy-israelandthepalestinians

    The refusal of those senior figures to call for anything concrete, like an arms embargo to Israel, shows that their tears might as well be wept by crocodiles. (Not that we ever thought they would or could call for such a thing!)

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  10. Well, you were not the only white. In a demo of 50000 I think (when the police give more than 20000, it like in england, you are suppose to at least x 2 to have the real numbers, 40 or 50000 that’s the reality)), it is difficult to have a general view. The political organisations and the unions were the last to demonstrate. In the front of the demos they were mainly muslims associations (but not only arabs) but behind it was the contrary political organisation and unions (maily white but not only).
    That is a problem, clearly but don-t give a false idea of the situation in France.
    The social left, the radical left, all the left except the socialist party even if part of it was there, were in the street was in the street.

    The 10 we were 100000 in the street of Paris.

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  11. Yes good report and it was an excellent demo. The bravery of all the youth, predominantely Muslim men and woman was amazing. But you’re right about the sexism of the STWC stewards, they were trying to clear the women away “for their own safety” is what they said to me.
    I’ve written a brief report of the police riot here

    http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/2516

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  12. OK, well done, again, for breaking with the AWL’s 2 states nonsense and all the guff about left anti semitism.
    But do you have any politics to put in the place of what used to be filled with the AWL’s line? For example, militancy, for political people is not enough. Lots of people are ‘militant’. E.g. the dockers that marched for Powell, Islamists etc.
    So, do you have anything to say about, umm, the war that’s being fought; the different types of militancy we can see on the UK demos against the attack on Gaza?

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  13. There is nothing nonsense about two states, its is the solution to the national questions which communists and the labour movement should champion. As for left anti-Semitism there is a long and despicable tradition of real anti-semitism in the international socialist and labour movement, which should not be ignored or considered as a problem relegated only to the history books. Whilst it is clearly erroneous so see it under every criticism of the Israel or Zionism it does not mean that prejudices towards Jews do not exists in our labour movement. Many of the anarchists could start with a closer look at Bakunin for instance. There has been a rise in anti-semitism and the left should take a clear stand alongside the victims. Just because this may even mean defending people who may well hold views towards Israel which communists disagree with does not mean we should defend them any the less from any growth in anti-semitism.

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  14. positive note(s) first: organisers are claiming 100,000 for yesterday, which while possibly a bit exaggerated is certainly closer to the truth than police estimates of 30,000. we marched from place de la republique to the bastille, and from there to place de la nation. the significance of protesting at the bastille wasn’t lost on the organisers and a we all made a good show there – lots and lots of noise and chanting.

    the focus yesterday was european governments and, given we’re in france, sarko. lots of “israel: assassins, l’europe/sarko: complice!” and “arrete aux accords Europe-Israel, pas de commerce avec ces criminels” (end agreements between europe and israel; no business with these criminals). and finally a lot of anger versus media coverage. one guy spelled out the seven rules for understanding the news these days, without which “on ne comprend rien”; israel can do/kill who it likes and this is described as “self defense”, that anything goes in Gaza as long as you say “le mot magique: terroriste” etc. i’ll come back to this…

    finally reached place de la nation where the organisers had hoped to gather 100,000 people in a massive united protest to demand the french govt ends all support for and business with israel until a fair peace is reached. along the way we had a sit down protest and did the same again at nation, with 900 ‘dead’ bodies lying down to represent the dead in gaza, followed by speeches from the head of the general union of palestinian students and the wife of one of the guys who drafted the declaration of human rights (missed his name but i’ll try to find it…).

    naturally every exit from the place was, like last week, barred by police in riot gear with trucks and barriers. despite pleas from the organiser for protesters to stay calm trouble did flare by the boulevard voltaire exit. i was near the main truck so couldn’t see what happened but a huge surge of people rushed towards us as riot police evidently forced the crowd back, who responded by throwing bottles and even the metal grills which are placed at the feet of the trees in paris. apparently a burning scooter was also launched at the police. a few clouds of gas exploded about 300 feet from me, which was tear gas fired by the police, at which point the whole crowd started running to the opposite side of the place. calm was restored though (by the organisers, not the police, who ended up arresting 180 people!) and the protest finished relatively calmly, with a great show of solidarity and huge chants of “nous sommes tous des palestiniens” and “Gaza Gaza, on est tous avec toi!”

    last point: the media coverage has been shameful, especially a sickening report in the figaro which artificially and misleadingly builds tension as it progresses towards the pathetic conclusion that this was an expression of immigrant “hatred” and that organisers’ “hopes” for a “dignified” protest were “disappointed”. it’s disgusting…the protest was generally respectful until the 3,800 (three thousand eight hundred!!) police showed up, and even then the vast majority remained calm. it also included french, americans, brits, the political left and even jewish groups opposed to the war. fucking figaro. it’s bullshit.

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2009/01/10/01003-20090110ARTFIG00578-maree-humaine-sous-tension-contre-les-massacres-a-gaza-.php

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  15. Chris, are you part of the Commune group? If so don’t you think it is a bit odd for me to have to prod you to find out what you think? Now, in the middle of this crisis?
    OK, you’re still (quietly) for 2 states. Why don’t you push the position, argue it?
    And, of course, we’re all opposed to anti-semitism. And, yes, I’d stand alongside Jews of any political type to, e.g. defend a synagogue from attack. But the AWL goes much, much further (see Matgamna’s deranged comments on their site). You write about the recent UK marches in a completely different way to the AWL who are concerned to attack the (politics of) Muslim youth, SWP. Of which, not even a little echo from you.
    So, again, I guess, at least you’ve shifted, even if not fully broken…

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  16. I am indeed a communard, I dont know what you mean by being quietly for two-states. In fact I have been since I was a supporter of the Marxist-Humanists and before. The AWL is not and has never been the only left tendency for two-states, Raya Dunayevskaya and the Johnson-Forest Tendency were for it, as was Draper etc, and arguebly in Trotsky’s later writings. As for prodding people dont you think you are viewing things little too much through the prism of the AWL here and not on their own politics.

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  17. Two states is basically a racist segregationist position. It can only be implemented by Jim Crow style apartheid laws to keep the races/religions apart. Socialists should never support it.
    The PLOs position for two states, which is usually sited in support of this terrible line, is essentially a retreat from justice but is anyway incoherent as they continue to support the law of return which makes two states an impossibility in practice.

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  18. Has anyone reflected on the phenomena that this level of militancy in Britain is expressed at date only in terms of hatred against Israel spurred by a bunch of fascists like the Hamas , brainfucked liberals and the SWP with all their anti-imperialist supporters.

    remember the spirit of Cable Street!

    http://www.af-north.org/?q=war+in+gaza

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  19. Hiroshima: sitting on the sidelines abstractly denouncing everyone involved isn’t exactly gonna help u reach out to young muslim guys ont he Demo and break them from the influence of the Mosque and the “community leaders”. You can’t fight Islamistm on the demos sitting at home with your keyboard.

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  20. you r right, but what exactly is your tactics on the demo, or any ideas how to break their communities influence. Think when you voice a straightforward proletarian solution to this mess on the streets, you will find your butt kicked instantly. Some Maosits try to impress in beeing more violent then anyone else. But that s exactly how the PFLP came about in sending suicide bombers to kill jews. Yeah, but I am interested to hear what can be done, other than fighting those who deserve it. You know, antifa is for self-defense of the working class. Those Islamists and their young followers are the problem, you have to confront them and they enough is enough and make your position clear. Otherwise you will end up beeing the social worker per excellance. And we know all what approach is instantly hated by every working class youngster anywhere.

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  21. I would accept the criticism that we have not expressed any very clear collective position on the ‘big politics’ of the region. I think this is more or less a combination of people not having had the time, and it being very difficult to compress the complexity of the area into something small enough to hand out. (I’d be very reluctant to hand out something as blunt as the latest AWL bulletin for instance.) I should probably take alot of the responsibility for this failure, as I’ve said I’m trying for over a week, and have so far failed to produce anything beyond about eight pages of notes. But that’s probably because I’m relatively new to polemical writing.

    In my view, most of the slogans raised above by Bill and Marcus (as well as those adopted by the AWL) are massively crude, and totally unhelpful for understanding the area, and formulating a response to it. Something more subtle when we’re able too…

    I think the AF leaflet linked to above is quite good.

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  22. Unhelpful?
    Really it is very simple, but people like to complicate things when they want to adopt reactionary and in the case of Israel racist/segregationist positions, and it boils down to the old adage, that no nation that oppresses another can ever be free.
    Israel was founded by a criminal act – the forced separation of the Palestinians from their land. This act is compounded every day by new acts of separation and oppression.
    Until the root of oppression is removed – this criminal act – then there can be no solution to the national question in Palestine.
    The only democratic solution to it is then a one state solution where everyone shares the same democratic rights irrespective of their race/religion or background. As in the imperialist epoch the bourgeoisie cannot complete the democratic revolution, that it must be lead by the working class, so it must also be permanent and therefore socialist as well.
    It is simple because it is true.
    Every two state solution must mean, can only mean, the forced and continuing separation of the Palestinians from their land. It must mean racist and discriminatory immigration and segregationist – Jim Crow laws. There is nothing socialist or democratic about being a racist/segregationist and therefore nothing socialist or democratic about a two state racist/segregationist non-solution.

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  23. If I understand it right, AWL calls for a ‘two state settlment’, rather than, as such a ‘two state solution’. It would betray some sort of quasi-racist valorisation of ethnic/national categories to be positively in favour of ethnic segregation on state lines, but it is not racist to recognise that a two state settlement (despite all that Ali Abunimah and friends have to say) is still the most plausible interim step for peace.

    I support the right of return, but I also support a countervailing and incompatible right: of children born in Israel, and all those who came to live within the Green Line in good faith, to not be turfed from their homes by force. There is therefore a need to work out how these rights might be balanced. The PLO’s de facto interpretation of its commitment to the RoR in negotiations (Oslo, Taba) has always amounted to a) a token number of returners (of the order of 10,000 or so), plus b) compensation to all others.

    I don’t see why the bourgeoisie can’t lead the resolution of this conflict, if they could do the same in South Africa and Northern Ireland. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen without working class activity and pressure. But working class pressure can bear upon the bourgeoisie short of a revolution. Obviously, right?

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  24. problem with a two state solution is that in palestine everyone knows unconsciously that to have a own state won´t bring any economic solution to their problem. the palestinian people have to live in a shit hole and are simply too late to start up within the world system. mass labourers with no future at all. and their political rackets know that if a state solution is reached they will have to abondon the fight against Israel which means a bloody civil war for limited resources since their their political power, objectives and income nowadays is largely based on the funding of terrorists. the arab states have no interest in such a solution since they managed to slaughter and drive the palestinian refugees from their territories. In a two state solution the bourgoise in Israel at least gains cheap labour power and peace for its citizens. Mean there will be no shiny state solution for the palestinians and that is why their nationalism runs mad in projecting their own lack of hope in their phantasies of extermination. So problem is, no one with an understanding of fun is up to book their holiday on the beaches of Gaza where your live is threatened when you start to play ball games. To promote state solution for Gaza (or worse, the extinction of Israel as a Zionist state) is actually what hinders the emancipation of the Palestinian working class. Well, they should give it a try, but for this all people have to fight the Islamists as a first step to progress.

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  25. The bourgeoisie have not resolved the problem in either South Africa or Northern Ireland, in both states separation/partition and racial discrimination are rife. In the case of Northern Ireland more so than during the “troubles”.
    There is no problem whatsoever with giving all the residents of the region the same rights, but equality i.e. the same rights, are the only basis upon which such “counter-veiling” rights can be equitably resolved.
    If equal rights are granted – including the elementary democratic right of being able to live where you want, Israel as presently constituted i.e. as Jewish state, ceases to exist.
    That is why only a one state solution at least holds out the possibility of justice.
    That is why a two state “solution” is only a continuation of racism/apartheid segregation.
    A two state “solution” means that Jim Crow style laws will be necessary to police the borders of the two states – perhaps on the basis of skin colour, religion, language or whatever, to prevent people from living in their non designated area – in other words apartheid style racist segregation laws.
    Or Jim Crow for short.
    As socialists we know that only the working class can solve the national question once and for all – and only with socialism will the material resources be available to ameliorate any problems caused by the consistent application of democratic rights. Hence the democratic struggle needs to grow over into the socialist one. The revolution must be permanent.
    But before that we need to ditch AWL style racism – two state apartheid – for good.

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  26. Chris, you may well have been for two states in the past, perhaps even loudly, perhaps for many, many years. I don’t know, I’ll take your word for it. What I do know, however, is that you’re not now, clearly obviously, loudly, for two states, on this site, during this crisis. I had to find out by asking you!
    So it is nice that Communard states he/she “would accept the criticism that we have not expressed any very clear collective position on the ‘big politics’ of the region.”
    But I would suggest that Communard’s justification (” I think this is more or less a combination of people not having had the time, and it being very difficult to compress the complexity of the area into something small enough to hand out.”) is, with all due respect, absolutely ridiculous!
    Surely, Communard, if the Commune is worth anything as a political outfit it has to, in the first instance, concentrate on “big politics”. Otherwise you’ll end up tailing others.
    And, Communard, I’d agree that not everything complex can be fitted onto a leaflet. So, at this point you face a choice: don’t write about complex things, or produce material in other formats…
    You can say what you like about the AWL (and I think they are very poor), but they do have theory. Good for them, on a certain level…

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  27. Marcus, I would suggest your comment is rather silly. So what if I have not written prominently on The Commune on Gaza or two-states. Since when does every member of an organisation have to register publicly their views in order to satisfy the curiosity of others. For a political organisation – big or small – to function in such a manner would be simply ridiculous. There is such a thing as a division of labour you know, the views of The Commune have been made clear in our publications issued in the course of the conflict. I think the choice we face is whether to sink into dogmatism so common on a left stuck in a false sense of confidence it has answers to all questions when in fact it does not or be serious critical communists, with a sense of modesty and not pretentiousness. Which means admitting you don’t have a bag by which to reach in and pull out ready made answers but may actually engage in a process of critique and self-critique.
    In conclusion we can perhaps take a leaf out of Marx’s book, when the young Marx broke from capitalist society he defined the task of the journal he wanted to publish in the following terms:

    We should avoid presenting ourselves to the world in a doctrinaire fashion and with a new principle, declaring: here is the truth, bow down and worship it. We should develop new principles for the world out of its old principles. We must not say to the world: stop your quarrel, they are foolish, and listen to us. We posses the real truth. Instead we must show the world why it struggles, and this consciousness is a thing it must acquire whether it likes it or not

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  28. Ey Bill J, following your definition we are living under Jim Crow laws these days ?! Your justice talk is only rethoric, the only thing you think about is the destruction of Israel as a Zionist state. Better start hating your own country and than engage in saving the kittens. Palestinians and their land, what a bullshit. Ever wondered why you have not joined the BNP. Think of inviting your Palestinians to live in Scotland or in your neighbourhood, with such a justice no border approach, maybe they ll cool down a bit. Maybe not. Then you ll think twice before hugging em. Stubborn self-hating morality you show up here.

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  29. Chris, your ‘division of labour’ involves not telling us what you think about the most important questions. Unless, as you hint, their is an important body of work which you could reveal to the users of this site, but have chosen not to. Let us see!
    And Chris, having a position on something, say a war, amounts to dogmatism?
    I could understand – a little bit more – if you had concluded, say, that you’d discussed the political situation on Gaza and the events had put a question mark over your long-held positions. You might declare the need to rethink, open up a discussion period or something similar. You’d have a big problem – you’d be paralysed.
    Forgive me but isn’t the Marxist way to rest on your tradition, just a little bit? Rather than forget about what we said in the past? Isn’t it important to measure current reality against past positions? Or does ‘new thinking’ just well-up from no-where, spontaneously shining out its beautiful light?

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  30. The LRC has over 1000 members, is it a disgrace that everyone of them has not issued as statement of their position on Gaza or is it suffice that the organisation has made it position clear? I think the answer is straightforward dont you. And it applies I think to small and large organisations.

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  31. I’m not measuring the Commune against the LRC, the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, the GMB or the Women’s Institute – but against what reasonably should be expected from Marxists, from a revolutionary socialist group.
    A small or large revolutionary socialist organisation? – size is not the issue. Political necessity flowing from what you (should) understand your political role to be, should force you to comment.
    The fact you haven’t, just tells us all something about what you think you’re doing and the political ‘density’ of your group.

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  32. Agree with Marcus. If there was ever a time to clarify what your position on Israel/Palestine is then its now.
    The two states position is racist – as is demonstrated quite clearly by Hiroshima – as it depends on racial discrimination between Palestinians and Jews. Its really as simple as that. If you’re a socialist you can’t support racial discrimination and therefore you have to be against two states. As I pointed out before the PLO’s position is ambiguous but fundamentally incoherent as at the moment when they support two states, they also support its abolition through the right of return.
    Of course the AWL do support two states and oppose the right of return which is why they are a bunch of racist non-socialists. Simple really.

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  33. Bill, you’ll find the PLO have negotiated for a seriously limited ‘right of return’ (e.g. at Taba), involving as few as 100 000 Palestinian refugees. So, you’re factually wrong.
    I’m a million miles from the AWL but I find the idea that they are racist wrong and unpleasant.
    And ‘anti-socialist’ too? Why can’t you say, ‘I don’t agree with them’ instead? Leave out the hype.
    It is the sort of demonising that got their people attacked (i.e. their placard ripped up) by leftists and Palestinian solidarity activists last weekend (have you seen this stupidity in Sheffield? – on Indymedia and elsewhere. It is shocking, just too bad.)
    Let’s argue properly with these people, not resort to nonsense.

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