Federal Troops to the South? (Was: Re: DSP on Palestine)
Jose G. Perez
jg_perez at SPAMbellsouth.net
Thu Nov 23 19:44:58 MST 2000
It seems to me your reasoning is way too abstract on this.
First, on the general, "principled" issue. Any and all demands on the
bourgeois state involve its use of its monopoly of force. A demand that the
government desegregate schools, for example, is implicitly a demand that the
government use force or the threat of force to accomplish that goal. In some
cases the demand that force be used is quite transparent and on the surface,
e.g., in demanding killer cops be arrested and prosecuted.
And by extension, I believe that if we can demand that the UN recognize
the rights of the Palestinians and condemn the Israeli occupation and
Zionist massacres, then I believe we can, in principle, also demand that it
go beyond mere words. Note I say "in principle," I'm not talking about
raising such demands willy-nilly.
Yes, there are a million more complications and considerations to take into
account when dealing with issues on this level, but in principle, I see no
reason to reject a call for a multinational force in certain circumstances.
IF we can demand that the UN express its verbal opposition to something,
then, again in principle, it seems to me there is no reason we cannot demand
that it do MORE than express its verbal opposition.
Now, on the demand for police protection/federal troops/etc. versus
A demand that the police, for example, arrest company goons that tried
to break up a striker's picket line does not in any way contradict the
workers organizing to defend themselves. The matter has to be carefully
considered and thought through, because the police are going to be
predisposed to support the scabherders and strikebreakers, so it is a
complicated tactical question whether to demand their involvement. I would
not, in general, be predisposed to workers inviting the police to "defend"
them on picketlines, for example. But demands like that the cops arrest and
put on trial certain people who assaulted the strikers, etc., are not as
Politically they can be misused by reformists who will say, there's no
need to organize the picketline and make sure we mobilize everyone for it,
because the police will take care of things. But by focusing attention on
the crimes and violence of the scabs, and on the inaction of the
authorities, we help to underline the need for workers to organize their own
defense. The two things are not counterposed AT ALL.
As a practical matter, I think demands like that the federal government
send troops, or the Timorese demand for a multinational force, or the demand
that Reno rescue Elián by force, tend to arise in circumstances where there
is a policy conflict, at least on paper, between what the local agencies of
the ruling class are doing and what the "higher bodies" of the rulers have
promised.That's why I said in a previous post that what's decisive here is
not an analysis that shows the "class nature" of the army or the courts or
the cops which we are demanding do X, Y or Z, but rather a policy or
In the case of East Timor, I believe that the imperialists decided to
change policy and accept a decolonization process for that country because
the policy of direct military occupation had not worked.
In the case of Palestine, clearly the position of the U.S. and other
imperialists has been that it would be better for Israel to reach a modus
vivendi with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians, although that's
subordinate to the continuing existence and strength of Israel as the main
imperialist outpost in the region. In the Elián case I think similar
considerations were involved, US ruling class opinion was that the boy
should be returned to his father, but they did not want to do it at the
price of undermining the right-wing Mafia in Miami.
It is true that in such cases the rulers will act as they do because it
serves their interests to do so. But this does not mean that what working
people do or demand is irrelevant, and therefore why bother to demand the
sending of troops or whatever. The political price to be paid for inaction
is part of the calculation of the ruling class's political operatives in
making this kind of decision. And how high that price goes does depend on
what working people do. If Cuba had not led the kind of international
campaign it did around the Elián case, and had limited itself to diplomatic
notes, I doubt very much that Elián would have been returned to his father.
Your approach, of figuring out what revolutionaries should do separately
from what working people are doing, or should be doing, is a sect-like
approach. I think we should do and say exactly what we urge working people
in general to do and say, and not take a "tactical" line that calculates,
because the liberal civil rights groups are already demanding the sending of
troops, and we have little influence, we're better off not dirtying our
hands by raising such a demand, and instead set ourselves up as a pole of
attraction to the left of the mainstream groups. If the demand is rational
under the circumstances, we should also adopt it. And it will, among other
things, lead to our getting a better hearing for our explanations of why the
government is not to be trusted, why we have to organize and mobilize
independently, etc. etc.
I would not say that the masses are "reformist" to begin with. Many
people will have all sorts of illusions, but I tend to think of reformism as
something more, a hardened commitment to the "system," which is, of course,
another way of saying bourgeois rule. I think once they are in motion,
concern about the stability of the "system" is not even on the radar screens
of most rebels, they are concerned about their demands, their goals. Not so
the hardened reformist leaders.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lou Paleness" <wwchi at enteract.com>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Thursday, November 23, 2000 1:01 PM
Subject: Federal Troops to the South? (Was: Re: DSP on Palestine)
From: Jose G. Perez <jg_perez at bellsouth.net>
In the context of the discussion of the demand 'UN peacekeepers to
Palestine!', José observes:
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