The War for Quadrant Two

Quadrant two will prove to be the quadrant of victory for the proletariat

Archive for August, 2014

► Gaza – Proposal for a City-Wide Campaign to Blockade Zim Shipping – [WQ2.14.08.26]

Posted by Ben Seattle on August 26, 2014

Proposal for a City-Wide Campaign
to Blockade Zim Shipping and
Help Break the Siege of Gaza

Activists in the Northwest, from Olympia to Everett, from Oakland to Alaska, recently concluded two attempts, at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, to block the unloading of ships owned by Zim, Israel’s largest shipping company. These actions were part of a campaign to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the siege of Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians exist in what is widely considered to be the world’s largest open-air prison.

Simply put: we aimed to blockade the blockaders. As long as they blockade Gaza–we can give them a taste of their own medicine–and punish them financially–by causing expensive delays to their shipping.

The action in Tacoma may have delayed the unloading of the Zim Chicago because it forced the ship to wait until an alternate terminal was empty. And it appears likely that Zim was forced to divert shipping customers to unload their goods from Vancouver, instead of Puget Sound. A similar action, a few days earlier, at the port of Oakland was even more successful, delaying a different Zim ship by 3 or 4 days.

The actions, moreover, were successful in another way: hundreds of activists came together in a mass action that was aimed at doing something. They came in high spirits and, for the most part, left in high spirits, with an understanding that the actions of the last few days are part of the long-term work of building a powerful movement.

It is possible that other actions may take place in the near future. I am writing this short summary and proposal as part of what I hope will be a more general process of summary and assessment, as activists take stock of both the strengths and weaknesses of our movement, and begin to sort out the next steps forward.

In looking for how to overcome our weaknesses and build on our strengths, we can start by understanding the basic tactic that is usually associated with a successful Port Blockade, which involves the skillful combination of actions which are completely legal, with actions which are of uncertain legality, or outside the bounds of legality altogether. This tactic involves a picket line (a moving wall of activists, armed with signs and voices, walking back and forth in a pattern) which blocks the gate through which port workers must drive or walk. Reduced to its essentials, we are asking the workers at the Port to respect our picket line.

Many or most workers are inclined to respect a picket line. Not everyone understands what is happening in the Middle East because, among other reasons, the news media in this country, like in other countries, hides the truth and greatly distorts everything that happens there. But workers are part of a class that has a long history of struggle. Much of this struggle has been focused on picket lines. Many individual workers, of course, are not familiar with this history of struggle, because our ruling class has done everything possible to eradicate knowledge and erase memory of everything important from our culture. Nonetheless, enough of this knowledge and memory exists that a large, militant and moving picket line has proven itself to be an effective tactic.

There was a good turnout at the Port of Tacoma, with nearly two hundred activists showing up for a 6:30 am rally, which kicked off the picketing during the morning shift. The turnout in Seattle, unfortunately, was a bit smaller.

There was one arrest in Tacoma, and one in Seattle.

The Port of Tacoma, in collaboration with the conniving trade union bureaucrats of the ILWU, arranged for workers to enter through gates which are not normally used and which were unknown even to many who had worked there for years.

In Seattle, the police were able to push back activist picket lines, in part because of the low turnout, but also because of they were helped by the ILWU bureaucrats.

The collaboration of the trade union bureaucrats (TUB’s) of the ILWU with the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle is deserving of special mention because of the critical role they were able to play in opposing the blockade of the ports. Historically, unionized workers in the ILWU would refuse to cross a picket line across their gates on the basis of language in their contract which protected them from unsafe working conditions. The determination of what was unsafe was made by an arbiter, following a request from union officials. It was on this basis that all gates to the Port of Seattle were closed on the night of December 12, 2011, when pickets and a barricade by 400 activists led to a decision by the arbiter to tell the port workers to go home. Because of the nature of their union contract, the workers still got paid.

In the past few days, however, the scab nature of the TUB’s was further exposed–as they actively worked with the cops to break our blockade.

The above are some of the basic facts about what happened. Can we draw conclusions from these facts above to develop more powerful actions in the future?

I believe we can.

The first conclusion is that we need more activists at the gates in order to be effective. There is a difference in strength between 200 activists and 400 activists. The second conclusion is that we should find a way to make it more difficult for the TUB’s to act like scabs and help the police break our picket lines.

Both of these objectives, it appears to me, may be achievable if we approach them with a long-term and (above all) political perspective.

The blockades at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle were organized on short notice, with only a few weeks to organize hundreds of activists. Much of the discussion and political work necessary for a city-wide campaign was not done. This work was not done because (a) there was not time to do it–but also because many activists either (b) do not believe it is necessary–or (c) do not know how to do it–or because (d) it has seemed impossible to do it effectively.

So this is where we are left: larger and more powerful actions would probably require a city-wide political campaign to raise the consciousness of many thousands of workers, students and oppressed youth. The material factors for such a campaign exist and, in my humble opinion, we should recognize and act on them.

I hope to see, in the period ahead, a process of public summation of our recent experience, and public discussion of the road ahead. In particular, I would like to see discussion of the need for a city-wide political campaign, in which activists get together and work out what needs to be printed, in thousands of copies, and distributed to schools, workplaces and in front of grocery stores.

In our present, class-divided society, political campaigns are often “watered down”, not only in order to appeal to the widest possible sections of society, but also to avoid antagonizing our ruling class and its institutions and flunkies. I believe that a city-wide campaign should go deeper than an appeal to humanitarian concerns. It should go deep enough to expose the fraudulent nature of the two-state “solution” and also make clear to readers that we share with the Palestinians of Gaza a common enemy: the U.S. imperialist ruling class (also known as the bourgeoisie) which sacrifices the Palestinians as part of its strategy for world domination, while sacrificing us for its domestic profit-making–by means of speed-up, wage-cutting, austerity and lack of rights for immigrants and racial discrimination and police murders. [1]

A campaign of this depth would, in some ways, be more difficult to get off the ground: It would require confronting illusions and raising the consciousness of activists within our own ranks. But it would also have a more powerful long-term impact.

A campaign such as this would not only help to mobilize forces for a successful blockade–but would also make effective use of the blockade to raise the consciousness of thousands of workers, the youth, and the oppressed concerning the need to eliminate the main source of the misery in Gaza and the world: the rule of capital. In this way, we can be laying the foundation for more powerful movements in the future.

Notes

Note 1: I copied much of this sentence from a leaflet by a group of activists I know.  I have problems with their group, but they often write well.  Their leaflet is posted in full here.

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► Gaza – Build Movement Against Imperialism and Rule of Capital (leaflet) – [WQ2.14.08.09]

Posted by Ben Seattle on August 10, 2014

The PDF formated version (much easier to read) is here: https://warforquadranttwo.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/2014-08-09_gaza.pdf

Our Response to the Massacres in Gaza:

Build the Independent Movement
Against Imperialism and the Rule of Capital

Leaflet by Art Francisco and Ben Seattle, with help from others – August 9, 2014

Read our blogs at: http://StruggleForUnifiedTheory.wordpress.com and http://WarForQuadrantTwo.wordpress.com

For weeks now we have been seeing and hearing the
news in our newspapers, radio and TV. Another
school, hospital or UN refugee center is bombed and
dozens more civilians killed for the crime of living in
the world’s largest open air prison—Gaza (with a
population of 1.8 million crammed into a space the
size of Seattle). Now there are more than 1800 dead
and ten thousand injured, nearly all civilians, and the
numbers are steadily rising.

And while the citizens of Gaza are bombarded with
bombs, shrapnel and white phosphorus, here at home
we are subject to a bombardment of cynical lies by our
own imperialist media: “It is the fault of Hamas
because they use civilians as human shields,” and “The
Israeli government is only defending itself.” Reporters
who have told the truth about the carnage have been
taken off the story—such as the reporter who
photographed four young boys killed on the beach
while playing soccer. And anyone who challenges
these lies and doublespeak is called anti-semitic.

What is the cause of the bloodbath
in Gaza and what can we do about it?

There is a long and tortured history behind the current
massacres. It is the story of the Palestinian people—
driven from their homes by death and terror in 1948,
herded into squalid concentration camps and
threatened and betrayed from every direction. It is the
story of cynical European and U.S. diplomats who
created a settler state – the modern country of Israel—
as a military outpost of western imperialism in the
heart of the oil-rich Middle East—by displacing and
driving out the original inhabitants—the native
Palestinians. The Palestinians, to this day, are
threatened and starved—and denied the right to either
(a) form their own nation—which could then engage in
manufacturing, trade and commerce or (b) live as equal
citizens within the so-called democratic state of Israel.

This leaflet represents an attempt by a few activists to
provide some background and perspective to other
activists—as part of the work to build a movement,
here in the U.S., with the aim of overthrowing the
rule of capital from which imperialism grows and from
which imperialism can never be separated.

There is a lot of confusion within our own movement
over fundamental questions. We intend, in this leaflet,
to provide clarity, to the best of our ability, on some of
the most important questions which are either related
to the massacres in Gaza or which come up each time
U.S. imperialism invades another country, launches
another military adventure, or supports some
particularly bloodthirsty action by a client state.

Help Break the Siege of Gaza!
Join Us As We Blockade the Israeli Ship!
The Zim Chicago, which is largely owned by the Israeli state,
will be docking at the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle on or
about August 20 and 21. Activists from Olympia to Everett
will be there to stop the ship from unloading. There will be
a green zone for safety—like at the Dec 2011 Port blockade.
More info: http://BlockTheBoatNW.wordpress.com/

The Siege of Gaza

The current bloodshed has everything to do with Israel
maintaining and tightening the siege of Gaza, in order
to force the population of Gaza into abject submission.
The Israeli and Egyptian governments, with the full
support of the U.S., prohibit the movement of any
goods or people into or out of Gaza beyond the barest
minimum necessary to prevent mass starvation. This is
a deliberate policy, engineered as part of a policy of
collective punishment of the entire population for
voting Hamas into power in Gaza seven years ago.
(Hamas is a reactionary political organization, but it
won the election because, unlike the more corrupt
Palestinian National Authority, it refused to become an
obedient servant of the Israeli government.)

The Hamas Rockets

The siege and blockade of Gaza is itself a crime
against humanity, and in our view it is not much of an
exaggeration to compare it to the walls which the
Nazis built around the Warsaw ghetto.

In order to put pressure on the Israeli government to
end the siege, and in an attempt to call world attention
to this crime, Hamas and other groups in Gaza have
been firing rockets into Israel. From a military
perspective, these rockets are more of a nuisance than
a of threat—but they have been effective in capturing
media attention and drawing attention to the siege—
because Hamas has announced that it will not stop
firing the rockets until the siege is lifted. And many in
Gaza, even those who oppose Hamas, support any
action that may force an end to the siege. They say it is
better to face a quick death by an Israeli bomb than the
slow suffocation of the siege.

Murderous Reprisals

The Israeli government, of course, does not want to lift
the siege, because it sees the siege as the most effective
way to force the Palestinians in Gaza to put in power
some trend which is willing to become an Israeli
puppet. If Israel cannot force Hamas to stop firing
rockets—it knows that it has the power to kill
Palestinian civilians in reprisal—and to make hundreds
of thousands of families cower in the dark in fear—and
this is exactly what it is doing. Their cynical political
calculation is that if they kill and injure enough
civilians, destroy enough homes and infrastructure, and
create enough misery—the Palestinian people will
eventually learn their lesson and turn against, not only
Hamas, but any trend which continues to defy Israel.

This is the reason that every few days a tank or
airplane attacks a school, hospital or refugee center.
The Israeli state knows that it has the full support of
U.S. imperialism, which gave a green light to these
murderous reprisals. Moreover, no matter how many
women, children and old people it kills, it can in effect
say, “Hamas made us do it.”

The Israeli tactic of murdering thousands of Palestinians
every few years in order to keep them terrified is called
“mowing the grass” and is supposedly aimed only at
reducing the military capability of Hamas. But if this were
really true, it would be difficult to explain why U.N. refugee
centers keep getting bombed. Were the kids on the beach
hiding a rocket in their soccer ball?

Solidarity

The problem with the Hamas tactic of firing rockets at nonmilitary
targets is not only that it provides a pretext for the
current bloodshed but, more importantly, that it undermines
solidarity between the Palestinian and Israeli working
classes. It is this solidarity that will be the basis of progress
in Palestine and Israel. We, the authors of this leaflet, do
not feel we know enough about the situation and the tactical
alternatives to either approve or condemn the tactic of firing
rockets. What is clear is that these rockets, which have so
far killed a total of three people, are insignificant in
comparison to the brutal siege of Gaza, which must be
broken. And it is also clear that activists in the U.S. do not
need to take positions on tactical questions thousands of
miles away. Our task is to build a powerful movement
here at home against the number one terrorist in the world;
as well as the ultimate architect of the bloodshed in Gaza
and elsewhere: U.S. imperialism.

Syria, Iraq and the Brutal Legacy
of Divide and Rule Colonialism

The events in Gaza are not unrelated to the civil wars taking
place in nearby Syria and Iraq, and the US-backed coup in
Egypt aimed at reversing the gains of the mass uprisings
there in 2011.

Part of what we are seeing in the current civil wars is the
legacy, not only of the first world war, which created a
series of artificial countries in the Middle East, but also of
many decades of European colonialism—which, using the
time-tested tactic of divide and rule—made use of ethnic
and religious differences to set different sections of the
population against one another. For example, in a territory
with a majority Sunni population, such as Syria, the French
colonial administrators selected a minority tribe (the
Alawites) to help them oppress and rule the Sunnis.
Similarly, in a territory with a majority Shiite population,
such as Iraq, the British administrators selected minority
Sunni tribes to help them rule.

The advantage of this tactic was that the tribes and ethnic
groups which helped the European colonialists rule, being
minorities who had helped suppress the majority, would
now be hated and vulnerable to violent retribution from the
majority if the colonial rulers were overthrown and no
longer able to protect them. This meant that these groups
now had a material interest, as a matter of their own
survival, in supporting continued colonial rule.

Of course this also meant that, as these territories, arbitrarily
shaped by the European colonialists, became semiindependent
countries in the 20th century, members of these
minority tribes and ethnic groupings became the ruling
families in an unstable situation full of ethnic and religious
hatreds. These countries have never experienced a period
during which democratic rights existed and workers of
different nationalities and religions had opportunities to
overcome the hatreds created or amplified under
colonialism.

It is not only in the Middle East that this legacy has been
created—but also in Africa and elsewhere. The genocide in
Rwanda, for example, was based on hatreds between Hutu
and Tutsi that were largely created by German and Belgian
colonialists.

Seen in this light, we can better understand the strategic
situation of Israel. U.S. imperialism needs a reliable ally to
help it control the region. And what could be more reliable
than an ally which is totally hated in the region and is
completely dependent on U.S. imperialism for its survival?

The “Two-State Solution”
Has Always Been a Fraud

False friends of the Palestinians have long preached what
has become known as the two state solution, in which two
countries, Israel and Palestine, would exist side by side.
The problem with this solution is that it has always been a
fraud. The Israeli state winds up with nearly all the land, all
the water, all of the economy and capital and all the military
equipment and know-how—while the Palestinian side gets
ghettos separated by checkpoints—and a denial of all rights
at the hands of a supposedly independent Palestinian
government that is nothing more than an Israeli puppet. In
fact a two-state solution was the premise of the original
partition of Palestine in 1948 that resulted in the ethnic
cleansing of most of the Palestinian population.

The only democratic solution to the needs of the Palestinian
and Israeli working class and masses is the end of
Apartheid: a single democratic state in the region, in which
everyone, whether Arab or Jew, has equal rights. This
would mean equal rights to land, water, jobs and education.
This would mean full and democratic political rights for
everyone.

From the River, to the Sea
Palestine Will Be Free

Of course, in such a situation, the modern state of Israel, as
we know it today, which is based on a thousand exclusive
privileges for the Jewish population—side-by-side with
poverty and violent repression for the Palestinians—would
not exist. In its place would be a more ordinary country—in
which rights would not be based on religion or nationality.
Such a one-state solution is the only way to meet the
democratic rights and material needs of both the Arab and
Jewish masses.

Palestinians would constitute a slight majority in a single,
democratic state. The racist capitalist media in both Israel
and the U.S. say that a single state would never be
acceptable and would be anti-semitic because it refuses to
recognize what they call “Israel’s right to exist” and would
lead to what they call the “destruction of Israel”. They
make it sound like the Jewish population would be thrown
into the sea.

But a single, democratic state would really mean that,
instead of a state based on a religion, everyone would
get land, water, jobs, democratic rights—and an
opportunity to have a life. And the opponents of a
single democratic state can only offer the alternative of
keeping millions of Palestinians voiceless and in
chains—and to keep “mowing the grass” until the end
of time.

The US-Israeli Partnership:
Who is the Dog and Who is the Tail?

There is a myth in circulation that the Israeli lobby has
taken control over the foreign policy of the U.S. and that
this is the reason that the U.S. government supports Israel
so much. We want to make it clear: this is bullshit.
It is true that there is a powerful Israel lobby in the U.S.
But this lobby is allowed to function as an informal cog in
the state machine only because this cog perfectly fits the
strategic interests of U.S. imperialism.

The U.S. helped create and shape Israel as a military outpost
in an oil rich region of the world that it is determined to
control as part of its strategic rivalry with other major
powers past (the former Soviet Union) and future (China).
The so-called tail wags the dog theory supports, and is
supported by, a range of anti-semitic ideas. More than this,
it goes against an understanding of how modern imperialism
works as an economic and political system in which the
entire state apparatus and commercial infrastructure of
society is integrated with and subordinated to the needs of
capital markets. And understanding how modern
imperialism works is key to understanding the modern
world, and key to understanding that imperialist wars, and
the kinds of bloodshed we see today in Gaza, are inevitable
as long as our world is ruled by capital.

Building an Independent Movement
Against Imperialism and
the Rule of Capital Here at Home

The working class and oppressed in Palestine and presentday
Israel clearly have their work cut out for them. In order
to move forward they will need to form bonds with one
another and unite in struggle against the rule of capital and
the associated ruling classes in the region.

And, here at home, we have our work cut out for us also.
Our movement is flooded with illusions that, by
enlightening the conscience of our ruling class, or by
electing the right saviors, we can (somehow) end the
“policy” of imperialism.

But imperialism is not a policy. Imperialism is the name of
the economic and political system that is the inevitable
result of the rule of capital. The only way to bring an end to
the system of imperialism is to bring an end to the rule of
capital. And bringing an end to the rule of capital will
require that we bring an end to the rule of society by the
social class, the bourgeoisie, that was created by and is
attached to the circulation of capital.

After the class rule of the bourgeoisie is overthrown, society
will begin a lengthy transition period during which an
economy which is not based on commodity production will
grow, side-by-side with the commodity economy. It is only
when this new economy (which will be based on voluntary
labor and the free distribution of goods and services, rather
than the sale or exchange of one good or service for another,
or for any form of money) becomes large enough and
efficient enough to compete with the commodity economy
and render the commodity economy obsolete—that the
distorting and corrupting power of commodity production
and capital will be eliminated.

The creation of goods and services on the basis of voluntary
labor and free distribution exists today in small scale in
various ways, including certain forms of software and
entertainment videos on YouTube. But this mode of
production will be able to expand to create freeways,
airplanes, homes and hospitals only after the present-day
system of the class rule of the bourgeoisie is overthrown.

It is the working class here in the U.S., supported by all
oppressed sections of society, and by the working classes
and oppressed from the entire world—that will overthrow
the class rule of the bourgeoisie. This is the historic
mission and destiny of the working class.

Our task, as activists, is not only to organize
struggles for worthwhile partial demands, such
as higher wages, livable rents, fewer brutal
police attacks and legality for all immigrants—
but is also to help the working class organize a
conscious political movement for the
liberation of humanity from the rule of capital.

Such a movement will need, above all, to be independent of
those political trends which are on a leash in capitalist
society—whereby they are (1) dependent on institutions and
power brokers controlled by the capitalists—but also
(2) maintain the appearance of being independent. The
name for such political trends which are on a leash but have
the appearance of being independent is “social democracy.”

Here in Seattle, we
have many good
examples of social
democracy—but the
best and most well
known example is
that of “our own”
Kshama Sawant. It
is great that workers
will soon have a
higher minimum
wage. But we also
need a movement that cannot be ordered around by the trade
union bureaucrats or the Stranger newspaper.

Join Us at the Black Coffee

The authors of this leaflet often meet on the weekends at the
Black Coffee to talk about how to confront and resolve the
problems of the movement. Readers are welcome to join
us. You can contact us through our blogs.

 

 

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