[Marxism] Lessons of the abortive AUT boycott

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 28 09:56:26 MDT 2005

Counterpunch Weekend Edition
May 28 / 30, 2005
Lessons to be Learned
The Reversal of the AUT Boycott


I am not in a position to comment upon the details of what took place in 
England with regards to the outcome of the 26 May special vote within the 
Association of University Teachers, and its result of rolling back a 
previous resolution calling for a selective boycott against Bar Ilan and 
Haifa Universities. Nor do I wish to engage in the propriety of the boycott 
itself, especially when there have already been sufficient articles written 
explaining why indeed a boycott against these institutions is necessary ­ 
the most convincing of which have actually emerged from Israeli academic 
and activist circles. I do however wish to delve into the question of what 
the lessons of today's reversal are for the Palestinian national movement 
and what the salient questions it poses for future activism are.

First, let it be acknowledged that the attempt to selectively boycott a 
particular manifestation of Israeli colonialism through the avenue of a 
Western trade union cannot be understated. Although critics might argue 
that though the cause of solidarity with the Palestinian national movement 
has made small advances through this campaign, the end result places us 
squarely back in the position we were in before the boycott ­ perhaps even 
a step back, considering the demoralization that might emerge amongst 
activists given the result of today's election. But it is important to cut 
against such sentiment. The process of attempting a boycott in the first 
place, whatever its final results, have exposed a veritable panoply of 
strategic questions which the activists in solidarity with the Palestinian 
question are long overdue in addressing, and which I will argue, are 
necessary to take up if the Palestinian national cause is to make real 
tangible advances.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the attempted boycott in the first 
place was its efforts to link the just cause of the Palestinian national 
movement ­ its right to self-determination, for return of refugees, and for 
freedom from racism, exclusionism and colonialism practiced by Israel - to 
the domestic struggles of the Western working class, in this case, the 
struggle of university lecturers in the UK. No doubt the enormous 
mobilization witnessed by pro-Zionist forces to help overturn the vote is 
evidence of the degree to which Israel and its allies perceive the 
strategic threat of initiatives like this in the future. This cannot merely 
be attributed to the conspiratorial powers of Zionist lobbies or the arm 
twisting that may or may not have taken place behind closed doors, and 
which are yet to be exposed. Rather, Israel and its allies perceive 
attempts to build an international boycott campaign against them as a 
strategic threat, precisely because it mobilizes a force that has largely 
been absent from the traditional theatre of struggle ­ the working classes 
in the West.

Though university lecturers are hardly the stereotypical representation of 
working class struggles, they do represent a sector with considerable moral 
weight in setting the agendas of class struggle in their given social, 
political and economic manifestations. Furthermore, the possibility of 
selectively boycotting Israeli institutions, organizations, and 
universities, remains a possibility amongst wider sectors of the Western 
working class, including amongst its productive/ industrial/ service 
sectors. Here lies a crucial strategic weakness of Israel and its US 
partners. UK and US complicity in the crimes of Israel can indeed be 
threatened if "industrial quiet" which facilitates profit making, is 
disturbed and interrupted domestically. This relates to the classic power 
of the working classes whose interests ­ distinct from any other class ­ 
are to resist its own exploitation and the machinations of its capitalist 

full: http://www.counterpunch.com/haddad05282005.html

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