[Marxism] "The National Question" in the UPFJ-ANSWER Debacle is an Epic Farce

M. Junaid Alam alam1 at lefthook.org
Wed Aug 3 23:23:23 MDT 2005

Feldman writes:

"Now let's see if I am getting the drift of the discussion right:

The UFPJ was correct to drop the demand to end occupation of Palestine, 
which has been part of its basic demands from the beginning of its 
existence, because linking the war to Palestine in slogans hurts the 
attempts to reach out.  If this is true, then the split is simply the 
necessary overhead of the struggle to create a movement that can reach 
out to US working people who are beginning to understand the necessity 
of opposing the Vietnam war.

If that is true, then the UFPJ is right to see the split, as it does, as 
a basically positive development which frees their hands to reach out by 
segregating the Arab groups with their Palestine fetish and radical 
sloganeers in their own rally."

The UFPJ leadership was not correct. That's not the bloody issue. The 
issue is that GIVEN the position of the UPFJ leadership, what can be 
done that will best boost the chances of increasing anti-war 
consciousness in America during this demonstration?

No, including Palestine in the demo would not alienate most people. But 
since the issue will not be in the official platform, regardless of what 
we wished for, it is the absolute height of idiocy to go and run off  
holding a smaller separate demo preaching to the choir. To do that is 
the *ultimate* capitulation to UPFJ liberalism. It is to do exactly what 
UPFJ right-wing wants: get rid of the radicals and have a fully neutered 

The ANSWER segregation analogy is interesting because if you follow it 
to its natural conclusion the logical thing to do is the opposite of 
what ANSWER is doing. UPFJ leadership isn't saying, "no radicals allowed 
on the bus." It's saying, "no radicals allowed in the luxury seats on 
the bus." Well, how do we respond to that? Do we do them a huge favor by 
getting off the bus to travel in a fucking Pinto? Or do we get on the 
bus anyway, engage and influence the *ordinary masses* who are not UPFJ 
leadership who will be on the bus, and then make a move toward deciding 
which way the bus is headed?

Some cats like Fred have gone out of their minds trying to Malcolm X-ize 
the ANSWER position, which is somehow anointed as some kind of "national 
question." The amusing thing about this is that, for all the greatness 
Malcolm X represented, it wasn't his route but rather the MLK route the 
Civil Rights movement and the vast majority of Blacks embarked on; a lot 
of Blacks supported what Malcolm said but damn few joined the NOI; and a 
more developed post-NOI Malcolm understood that he was wrong to stay 
outside the struggle.

The other  poorly understood issue here is that the small section of 
American Muslims in ANSWER isn't analogous to Black radicals in the 60s 
anyway. This is a convenient but sloppy polemical tool because if true 
it would paint their opposition as softy quasi-racist liberals of the 
60s. But it's nonsense. They're not representing the "Muslim nation" 
located in America like Black Americans. They're t an isolated, 
semi-exiled, sliver of the Muslim world, and because of conditions of 
mainstream hostility, they are desperately rushing into the arms of 
whatever propaganda outlet is shouting slogans that are closest to their 
political beliefs. It's emotional self-gratification of a privileged 
section of the "Muslim nation" taking priority over hard political calculus.

And what is that calculus? Are the Muslim victims really suffering, 
those in Iraq and Palestine, going to be helped most by one big neutered 
protest where newly anti-war people will not be opened up to radical 
perspectives, and one small radical protest where radicals will hear 
themselves say what they already know? Or are these Muslims abroad going 
to be helped most by radicals increasing the size and the political 
sharpness of one huge demonstration? Are the Arabs going to be most 
helped by a small group of American Muslims and sympathizers 
demonstrating because Palestine is occupied? Or are they going to be 
most helped by a big group of a cross-section of Americans demonstrating 
because Iraq is occupied? Which kind of event is going to have a greater 
political impact on America's ruling class?

I'm a Muslim-born and Pakistani-born socialist. I know what it's like to 
be harassed by the right wing, hell even Fox News and leading Zionists, 
because of their attacks on my father.  Of course I'd rather hear 
satisfying sloganeering that dovetails exactly with what I think about 
Palestine and Zionism instead of listening to the wimpy pussyfooting of 
the UPFJ leaders and coping with pro-Israel racists in their ranks. But 
you know what? I'm not in this shit because it's supposed to satisfy me 
or because it's supposed to be a fucking picnick or music to my ears. 
What's going to help the ultimate victims most is not  me bathing myself 
in soothing rhetoric, but meeting and engaging ordinary Americans who 
have just turned against the war and winning some of them to 
anti-imperialist politics.

Abd I'm not going to let the bastards running UPFJ prevent me from doing 

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