Robin D. G. Kelley: Working Class Democracy and the Question of Palestine

Original online here.

Robin D. G. Kelley will deliver the 13th Annual Robert Fitch Memorial lecture at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY on Monday, March 18th at 1 pm. Introduced by Doug Henwood.

0:03hi thank you so much for coming um I want to welcome you to this the 13th

0:10annual Robert Fitch Memorial lecture my name is Karen Miller I’m a professor here in the social science department

0:17and I’ve been organizing this lecture since its Inception um it’s this this it’s this

0:24event is also being live streamed by Boston Review and we’re really grateful um for them putting it up on the web so

0:31thank you and hello everyone out there um thank you to everyone who came to

0:38what promises to be an excellent talk one that honors Bob fit’s Legacy by

0:43connecting some of his ideas to questions about Palestine solidarity and

0:49working-class democracy I am so honored that Robin G Kelly who I first met in

0:551992 when I was a fifth year undergrad at the University of Michigan agreed to be our speaker this year Robin joins

1:03what has become a long line of inspiring Scholars and thinkers um who’ve given this talk and

1:10they include Doug Henwood who I’m about to introduce um John Hy Ruth Wilson

1:16Gilmore Sharon zuken Peter Quang Peter maruza kianga yamat Taylor Richard

1:23Walker Terry hum suku Meha Kim Phillips fine and Cindy cats

1:31after this talk please join us for a name reading memorializing those who have been killed by the Israeli Siege

1:38and bombardment of Gaza organized by the faculty and staff for justice in

1:43Palestine at cuni this vigil will be will begin at 2:15 it will be held in

1:50the E Atrium which is on the first floor just outside of our library um and people will be walking

1:57there um Doug Henwood will do the honors of talking more about Bob and introducing Robin um but I’m going to

2:04tell you who he is Bob is a Brooklyn based or Doug is a Brooklyn based journalist and broadcaster who

2:10specializes in economics and politics he published the left business Observer

2:15from 19 1986 to 2013 he’s the host of behind the news a

2:21fantastic weekly radio show which I highly recommend that that um originates in at kpfa in Berkeley and it’s

2:29syndicated across the country and the web presence across the world um his work has appeared in Harper’s jackan

2:37book Forum Grand Street and the nation where he’s also a contributing editor um among other Publications and

2:44his books include Wall Street how it works and for whom still really great um

2:50from the late ’90s after the new economy an analysis of the boom and bust of the

2:5590s and my turn Hillary Clinton targets the presidency he is currently working

3:00on a book about the American ruling class thank [Applause]

3:10you uh thank you Karen and thanks for all the organizing work you and your colleagues do for this uh it’s become a

3:16regular um event in my spring calendar uh welcome to the 13th annual Robert

3:21Fitch Memorial lecture I hope that number doesn’t Tri trigger anyone suffering from

3:27triskaphobia as I’ve said every year introducing these when I gave the first Fitch lecture in 2012 I was worried

3:34there wouldn’t be a second I never could have imagined there would be a dozen more and featuring so many distinguished

3:39speakers we feel very honored that Robin Kelly is doing today’s Bob taught at LaGuardia from

3:451993 until his death in 2011 he is deeply devoted to the college and his students here and there is no better

3:52place to honor him a few words about Bob I met him in the late 80s when we were

3:57both writing for the Village Voice he just come out of hiding a few years earlier a publisher gave him an advance

4:03for a book he never wrote and the publisher wanted the money back Bob never had any money to speak of so that

4:10Advance was long gone and of course he couldn’t repay it just after meeting him I read his essay planning New York a

4:17look at the 1929 Master scheme by the regional plan Association I’d lived in New York for about a decade by then I

4:23still didn’t really get how the place was run after reading Bob’s essay I began to by Bob’s tell telling the rpa’s

4:31plan uh laid out a vision of the metropolitan area with Manhattan as an Office hub and a network of Highways

4:37moving people in and out of the city and the suburbs that’s pretty much what had happened in the ensuing decades more

4:44recent Plans by the RPA the city and the real estate industry have extended the development of Manhattan out to downtown

4:50Brooklyn and to this neighborhood Long Island City the high rises that have sprouted in this once lowrise

4:56neighborhood are the visible fruits of those plants but now with so many Office Buildings empty and unlikely ever to be

5:02filled to capacity anytime soon the planning apparatus has a problem there’s

5:07talk of converting them to Apartments but progress if that’s what you want to call it has been slow will it happen

5:14will it work sad to say there are a few people writing critically on these matters with the Insight Insight that

5:20Bob brought to them Bob’s analysis of New York City is exemplified by his 19 uh 96 book the

5:27assassination of New York whose covered picture depicts David Rockefeller driving a bulldozer flattening the

5:33buildings whose profit potential didn’t please him but that’s not all Bob wrote about he was a real he wrote a book

5:40about Ghana in the late 1960s he studied Chinese language and literature he wrote

5:45very critically about the miserable office oifc of American unions a critique that didn’t win him many

5:50friends and who’s an extremely warm and generous person I miss him terribly as a

5:56friend and as a thinker much of our uh friendship was conducted Ed in Long phone conversations about the miserable

6:02state of things sad to say they were mostly miserable alas I wish I could hear his analysis of Eric Adams the cop

6:09and austerity mayor but who despite his love of law enforcement seems to keep some shady company at a time when the

6:16city could use some energetic leadership given the slowness of our recovery from the covid shock we have a vain demagogue

6:22who wants to blame desperate migrants for our troubles instead with the New York Post whipping

6:27up invented Tales of a crime wave Amplified by Donald Trump who bellowed at his truth social platform a few

6:34months ago murders and violent crime hit unimaginable records all in caps with an exclamation point to top it off um in

6:41the city we could use a mayor who could calm things down with a little truth-telling but that’s not the Adam

6:46Style just to set the record straight let’s look at murders these are the best measure to look at according to criminal

6:52justice conosur murder isn’t only the most serious crime around the stats on

6:58them are the most reliable because other types is subject to reporting and classification errors last year there were 391 murders

7:05down 11% from 20122 20% from 2021 and 83% from the all-time high in 1990 so

7:14far this year murders are down 25% from the same period last year if that is rate if that rate is sustained through

7:202024 we’ll be back to preco rates of murder there is no crime wave but

7:26reactionaries like Trump and Adams want you to think so you can almost understand Trump’s motivation he wants

7:32to ride fear into a second term a terrifying concept and to distract

7:37attention from his troubles with the prosecutor he mysteriously calls peekaboo James but Adams has no excuse so I guess

7:45it’s easier for the cops and landlord’s mayor to give into a manufactured Panic than it is to talk about the cost of

7:51housing or adapting to climate change on those things at least Bill DeBlasio could talk of good games Adams can’t

7:57even do that better to sto fears of our neighbors and of refugees enough local news it’s time to

8:04introduce our today’s speaker Robin DG Kelly distinguished professor and Gary B Nash endowed chair in US history at UCLA

8:12among his books are hammer and ho Alabama communist during the Great Depression Freedom dreams the black

8:17radical imagination and thonus monk The Life and Times of an American original I read some of Robin’s recent

8:24writing on Palestine and was very interested in his history of how black intellectuals and activists in the US

8:30supported the founding of Israel at first seeing it as a Homeland for people who have been persecuted for centuries

8:35but then that view evolved into seeing as the settler colonial state of A Sort they were all too familiar with at home

8:41that began a long history of solidarity between Palestinians and black Americans with the solidarity running in both

8:47directions reinforced over the last decade with Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza and Rising protests in the US

8:54against police murders of black people I’m told that Robin Kelly will draw on Bob Fitch’s critique of the labor left

8:59focus on Union democracy at the expense of working-class democracy a system of representation that offers workers a

9:06choice of political ends and promote solidarity from that Robin we’ll discuss divisions in the US Labor movement over

9:12Palestine though we’ve never seen anything like the uaw’s recent endorsement of a ceasefire I say on toll

9:18because you never know what a speaker will say until they say it looking forward to hearing more Robin

9:28Kelly [Applause]

9:38okay good afternoon I just got off a red eye from

9:45La I was just in Hawaii before that I had about 5 hours between

9:52flights um so um I’m tired but I will do the best I can this

9:58is so great this is so important and I’m very nervous because this is a very important lecture and this lecture this

10:04talk uh which by the way is about 35 minutes and just keep just notice the

10:10time it is 1:18 so if I go to to um 2 o’

10:17don’t be mad at me right um because I do want to have some time for Q&A but it’s

10:22very important because I what I’m going to talk about really is thinking with

10:28Bob fit who I knew a little bit met a few times here in New York in those days but

10:34before I do that let me just first of all thank my my dear friend Karen Miller who I’ve known many many years uh for

10:40the impromptu invitation I think was on a plane um for the students and the

10:45faculty and staff at the Guardia Community College who kind of put this together and especially uh Doug Henwood

10:53who’s work I’ve been reading for many many years and I keep learning from and of course for my friends who who came

10:58out uh this afternoon so I want to uh honor Bob by

11:05talking about what I think he would be talking about in the situation in

11:10Palestine and more importantly how he might be thinking about the genocide in

11:16ways that would be attentive to political economy in history things that

11:21he was really really care careful about now I don’t have a clue what he would say um in fact I don’t have a clue what

11:28I would say uh but and even if I do even if I did know what he’d say I wouldn’t want to

11:33repeat it however I do think there are lessons that could be drawn out from his

11:39work by looking at Palestine and Palestinian solidarity through a labor

11:45or workingclass lens um and of course you know I just want to open up by

11:50saying by sort of acknowledging the UAW making history uh by being uh the

11:57largest Union in the country to call for ceasefire and I think that’s very very

12:02important of course new leadership under sha Fain is pretty spectacular um I was

12:08rooting for him when he was running uh for the position um and of course we

12:14should ask the harder question was where was Labor

12:19overall in 2006 and 2008 and 2012 and 2014 and 2019 and

12:262021 in fact especially 2021 because on May 18th 2021 Palestinian workers inside

12:3448 borders um inside Israel and inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem and

12:39Gaza organized a daylong general strike to protest the assault on Palestinians

12:45and shik gerar neighborhood uh at the alaxa mosque and also uh the protest of

12:51Sian Gaza they called it a dignity strike mostly workers in construction

12:56sanitation hotel and restaurant uh work Transportation like taxi and bus drivers and hundreds of workers were fired for

13:04participating in that general strike in 2021 so imagine if us labor unions had

13:10come out in solidarity with that general strike in May 18 2021 how the landscape

13:16would look different of course you didn’t have a Shan Fain uh in those days um all things considered the uaw’s new

13:24leadership was ahead and is ahead of most US Labor leaders um even the AFL C

13:31which you know opposed any statement in support of ceasefire quite recently kind of came around um and you know of course

13:39there were always the left Le unions that launched the National Labor Network for ceasefire uh headed by The Usual

13:46Suspects national nurses United which is one of the greatest unions on the planet

13:51um American uh postal workers union the association of flight attendance the

13:56Chicago Teachers Union the international un of ofes the national educational

14:02Association International Longshore uh and of course UE United Electrical

14:08Workers so in this case a ceasefire is the minimum Palestinian labor unions had

14:16actually issued a statement on October 16th calling for more than the ceasefire

14:21they called for uh organized labor to literally stop the flow of weapons to

14:27Israel by any means that their disposal they specifically asked workers to refuse to manufacture weapons earmarked

14:34for Israel to refuse to transport weapons to Israel to take action against

14:39firms complicit in The Siege on Gaza and to press their governments to end

14:45military and financial support for Israel so ceasefire is minimum um but even Shan fain’s position you know was

14:53compromised in some ways after he endorsed President Biden who Bears much of the responsibility for the ongoing

14:59genocide and I understand why but you know we all know that air dropping

15:0638,000 single meal packs to half a million Gins on the brink of famine as

15:12children literally die of starvation and dehydration is a kind of cruel

15:19performance we also know that Biden can easily change the situation by simply

15:24cutting off the supply of us uh weapons but instead he sends more arms through

15:29secret back channels while Congress votes to send Israel a whopping $14 billion to finish the job Biden’s

15:37obligation in accordance with icj’s uh finding of plausible risk of genocide is

15:42to act decisively to stop genocide that’s international law um findes

15:48endorsement of Biden for some uh Rank and file members particularly those uh

15:54who represent Michigan’s Arab American Community were seen as a slap in the face um and that’s why you have so many

16:01workingclass voters voting uh uncommitted which brings me back to Bob Fitch in a talk he gave in 2010 he

16:10argued that the labor left should focus Less on Union democracy and instead

16:15fight for what he’s calling workingclass democracy the genuine left he argued uh

16:22seeks not to democratize the machines from within but to defeat them by

16:27extending the scope of conflict and this is okay um Bob speaking breaking down

16:33local boundaries nationalizing and even internationalizing class action and

16:39Union representation and he goes on to say quote the first step in the

16:45transformation of American unionism in the 21st century is to get Beyond exclusion a labor left that breaks with

16:52the old Playbook will bypass the autonomous Local Union it will fight to end Monopoly unionism

16:59creating a system of representation that offers workers a choice of political ends transforming finally a culture that

17:06breed sectionalism into one that promotes solidarity so what does this

17:12mean for Palestine first of all internationalizing class action means

17:18recognizing the people of Gaza and the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of a class an especially exploited

17:27oppressed and vulnerable segment of the global working class there is no way

17:33that stopping genocide and demanding Justice for Palestinians should divide

17:38the class right and there’s nothing Democratic about union leaders speaking

17:44for the class investing its dues in support in supporting actions that

17:49contribute to the subjugation of Palestinian workers or setting Labor’s International political agenda as a

17:56consequence Union leadership has a essentially foreclosed Avenues of

18:01solidarity with Palestinian workers despite pressure from below and there

18:06are too many examples to site but I suggest checking out um Jeff sh uh sher’s um excellent writing on the

18:13subject in jacoban but I do recall in my lifetime in fact living

18:19here in New York uh the shameful position taken by national union leaders

18:25in the aftermath of 9/11 uh during the second inter F and in in 2002 Israel

18:32destroyed the offices of the Palestinian General uh General fed Federation of

18:38trade unions in Napolis and US Labor leaders you know were basically Silent

18:44One exception of course was the San Francisco labor Council which passed a

18:50resolution condemning Israel for quote the bombing of Civilian and political

18:55targets and upholding um Palestinians to self-determination in in the resolution

19:01but Zionist within the afci pressured the council to resin the resolution and

19:07this was during the era of uh Labor’s quote unquote left turn when the

19:14triumphant of John Sweeney Richard trumka Linda Chavez uh Chavez Thompson

19:20had taken over the AFL CIO Sweeny especially was out of step with a growing Rank and file increasingly

19:27critical of Israel he addressed the national rally for Israel in Washington DC just a month

19:34after the San Francisco labor Council had passed a resolution and and here’s

19:39Sweeny on the steps um near the capital joining uh Netanyahu joining Rudy

19:47Giuliani in declaring that quote working men I’m sorry working women and men of

19:52the AFL CIO stand with you to express our support for the people of Israel in the darkest hours

19:59angry Rank and file members responded swiftly with a petition condemning

20:05Sweeney Israel’s invasion of the West Bank in the name of Labor so my basic

20:10intention is that had the labor left developed the kind of boundless

20:17borderless worker democracy workingclass democracy that

20:22Bob fit proposed the political landscape with respect to US policy toward Israel

20:28might look very different today indeed it would be it would probably more closely

20:33resemble organized Labor’s position Visa a parted in South Africa in the 1980s in

20:39fact I would say uh resemble much of the working class organizing around the world outside the United States uh and

20:47this is the time when you know boycott was considered a legitimate nonviolent

20:52tactic and not a malicious Act of anti-Semitism this is when doc workers

20:58um which they still do use their power to refuse to unload cargo headed to

21:04Durban imagine how workingclass democracy workingclass power and

21:11internationalism might have inspired a general strike in solidarity calling for an end to genocide why not a general

21:17strike to end genocide why not but to understand the obstacles to

21:23this scenario requires some explaining um and for those of you who may know this history for me I’m I’m not assuming

21:30that you know this history because some people don’t but part of the issue is that for

21:35much of its history Israel was regarded as a kind of worker State and Zionism

21:42was associated with the labor party the ruling party the mapai party and some equated Zionism with socialism initially

21:49Labor zionists uh were in fact the minority especially in the early 20th century I we could talk about that but

21:56Zionism grew in popularity during the rise of Nazism in the

22:01Holocaust and for survivors of Thea uh Israel became a safe haven for Jewish

22:08resettlement and a vehicle through which Germany uh could pay reparations labor zionists look to

22:15Palestine as a potential socialist promised land so therefore it’s no

22:21surprise that us labor unions gave millions of dollars to support Israel

22:26they bought Israeli bonds they donated money uh to Zionist labor organizations

22:32uh specifically the hisp um in fact labor and the international

22:40communist movement support for Zionism obscures uh uh Israel’s formation as a

22:46settler colonial state now I’m guessing you probably know

22:53what happened next but it Bears repeating so Zionist accept the UN

22:58partition plan in 1947 dividing Palestine into Jewish and Arab states with the former receiving

23:0656% of the land uh in theory and Palestinians getting the other 44% of

23:12course uh the Arab population did not agree to the settlement Palestinians argued that the

23:18partition was illegal and in fact requested that the matter be referred to the international court of justice uh

23:25for an advisory opinion but pressure from the US blocked it now publicly uh the mapai

23:33party the labor party accepted the terms of the partition but then waged the war

23:39to expel Palestinians and seize additional territory it was a plan under

23:44David benguan leadership Israeli mil militias Z Haag uron the stern gang the

23:50palmach waged a deliberate campaign to terrorize kill or injured and

23:57dispossessed pal Palestinians raise their Villages take or destroy their property and above all take the land so

24:05from December 1947 to July 1949 Zionist militias drove 3/4 of a million people

24:12off of the land 80% of the Palestinian population um destroyed or emptied 500

24:20Villages demolished homes sometimes setting them a blaze or blowing them up knowing that there families inside men

24:27were lined up been shot women killed uh children shot wholesale massacres in the

24:34village of uh Derek Yassin and tantura are etched in Palestinian Collective

24:40memory in hia the militias rolled barrels of explosives and large steel

24:45balls into Palestinian neighborhoods followed by a generous stream of oil and gasoline which they then set Al light

24:53David benguan used fear to mobilize Jewish support in World opinion by

24:59making public statements comparing Arabs to Nazis in warning of a second Holocaust in private he used language

25:07similar to that of colonial officers preparing for a campaign and this is from a man who fashioned himself he

25:14called himself a Zionist Lenin okay not you know the other Lenin

25:20just so you know um and he wrote in his in his diary January 1st

25:251948 quote there is a need now now for strong and brutal reaction we need to be

25:32accurate about timing place and those we hit if we accuse a family we need to

25:39harm them without Mercy women and children included otherwise this is not

25:44an effective reaction during the operation there’s no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty okay so by

25:52the armus of 1949 the state of Israel occupied 78% not to 56%

25:59allotted of Palestine and passed laws denying those expelled the right to

26:05return or to retrieve their property the 160,000 Palestinians remaining within

26:12Israel’s borders were placed under the military Administration until 1966 Egypt Jordan Syria Lebanon

26:19ultimately and reluctantly absorbed tens of thousands of nakba survivors the the

26:26responsibility for providing food shelter education and initially jobs

26:32that’s another story um and other necessities fell on the UN relief uh and

26:37works agencies UNR now the UN Bears some responsibility

26:44for the nakba in the absence of accountability because similar to the League of Nations the UN never declared

26:52at least at that’s in the early stages declared colonialism a crime against humanity Gandhi

26:58WB de boys member states like Haiti tried but failed why one in

27:061945 uh the UN made a distinction between civilized Nations and the

27:12rest secondly the UN was designed to recognize Nations and not peoples only

27:20Nations had rights therefore an attack on colonialism was interpreted as an

27:26assault on the sovereignty of colonizing Nations and Debo put it clearly in his

27:33book The World in Africa when he wrote quote there will be at least 750 million

27:39colored and black folk inhabiting colonies owned by white Nations who will

27:45have no rights that the white people of the world are bound to respect revolt on

27:50their part can be put down by military force they will have no right of appeal to the council or the assembly they will

27:58have no standing before the international court of justice and that was the context for the

28:05nakba in any case the birth of Israel was widely celebrated in left and labor

28:10circles including by people like Paul Robinson not just in the US but again

28:16around the world and it was bizarrely seen as a war of National Liberation against the British and Arab armies um

28:23and note you know we don’t always talk about this but Israel guided weapons

28:29from where Soviet Union Czechoslovakia and of course the Communist Party back

28:34Zionism even as Israel continued to dispossess Palestinians in Gaza for

28:40example in 1956 there were at least two massacres um and Israel actually tried to hold Gaza at that point and uh

28:47couldn’t but end up getting it’ 67 it nevertheless portrayed itself as a friend of the third world a

28:56friend of the non- allign movement and offered Aid to African nations

29:01especially military aid but then this changes in 1967 after the Arab Israeli War or what Palestinians call the noxa

29:09or setback so Israel

29:14represented itself as the David against the Goliath of uh Egypt Syria and the

29:20Arab Nations um and you know but that that self-representation did not

29:26persuade a new generation of leftists including anti-zionist Jews and black radicals who regarded Israel’s

29:33occupation of the West Bank East Jerusalem Gaza the Golan Heights as further proof that Zionism was a form of

29:41settler colonialism akin to American racism in South African apartate so in

29:46Detroit for example where black students and black workers were very were closely

29:52aligned we see more strident examples of solidarity with Palestine in fact in the

29:58months after the war in 1967 the Arab student organization uh as well as the

30:04staff of the inner city voice which is a black uh left black publication members of Snick uh and members of uh people

30:12Against Racism picketed a speech by ABA iban uh Israel’s representative in the

30:18UN um and and in that uh protest it called Israel a race a state that quote

30:23practices a parted far more ruthlessly than the Union of South Africa this is

30:301967 that ibom was actually from uh South Africa uh prompted many the

30:35protesters to draw direct links between the two countries in fact they held signs that

30:42read Israel used Napal mon Arabs why or another sign it read South Africa and

30:48Israel both race supremacist John Watson who’s one of the founders of the league

30:54of revolutionary black workers and editor of the South End at Wayne State University which is a student paper that

31:01Watson and his comrades just took over and made it into a radical Community labor publication ran articles

31:08supporting the PLO as early as 19669 and the league and the Dodge

31:14revolutionary union movement drum also organized uh Arab American Auto Workers

31:21and printed some of the leaflets in Arabic in 1973 time of the Y uh ker War Arab

31:30workers counted accounted for about 2,000 of the 35,000 workers at the forge

31:36Ford uh Rouge Plant in Dearborn in the union was uh there was predominantly

31:42black those Local 600 very famous Union um and in fact uaw’s largest local

31:49so when word got out that the local had purchased $300,000 in Israeli bonds without

31:56approval from the rank and file again this a promly black Union the UAW um as a whole by the way bought like

32:02750,000 bonds across the country but Arab workers mobilized against uh Local

32:08600 leadership and led a mass March uh in October 1973 uh from the streets of South End

32:16which is largely um Arab American community in Dearborn to the offices of Local 600 and there they protested uh

32:24UAW purchase of these Israeli bonds and in fact challenged black leaders um

32:29asking them uh how would you you know how would you feel if if the UAW bought

32:35like South African bonds for example and it really kind of um disrupted the

32:41politics within the UAW then and in fact uh November 28th this is like a month

32:48and a half later Leonard Woodcock uh was leader Local 600 was

32:53being presented a humanitarian award of uh from Bai Brit at this you know dinner and 2,000 mostly

33:02Arab workers demonstrated outside of the dinner and some of them had actually waged a wildcat strike at the Dodge main

33:08plant earlier that afternoon which of course pissed off UAW leadership who denounced a protest as communist

33:15inspired so you could see underneath the Circ surface bubbling up is this Pro

33:22Palestinian position but 1967 is important for other reasons which I think we can draw from uh by reading uh

33:30Bob fit’s work on Ghana so let me just take a little detour here so I think Bob

33:36fit’s core ideas about workingclass democracy uh grow partly out of his research on

33:43Ghana’s Independence Movement which was published in 1966 so he was at UC Berkeley doing a

33:50master’s degree in history uh and he was working on the thesis which he completed

33:56in ‘ 66 titled um opposition movements in Ghana 1954 to

34:021958 and so what he did was he sent three chapters of the thesis to a monthly

34:07review uh and to see if they’re interested in a book and of course you know Paul Sweezy Paul Baron they were

34:14like the major figures behind monthly review press uh they received the thesis

34:20or parts of it like literally days before the coup that overthrew quami

34:25Kuma so the timing was perfect like like that’s the best time to submit a book manuscript um and so Paul Sweezy and

34:33Paul Baran they’re like this is great and they wrote him they said drop everything else and bring the story up

34:39to date and we’re going to publish it in the summer issue of monthly review um and so the he recruited Mary

34:46Oppenheimer who’s also a fellow graduate student and together they wrote this book uh publish in 66 called Ghana end

34:53of an illusion now I’m not going to repeat the full argument here but see they were interested in understanding

35:00why in Kuma then considered by the left as a

35:06Visionary uh and by the right as a megalomaniac whose radical delusions drove Ghana’s economy into the ground

35:13was overthrown but not just overthrown by the CIA we know that part but overthrown

35:19uh you know with basically no opposition in other words it was a popular support for his for his aler um and so they

35:27reject the easy arguments that blame his personality or the minations of the CIA and instead place the coup within a

35:34broader International framework um they place it within the context of algeria’s

35:40counterrevolution the counterrevolution in Nigeria a Brazil Indonesia Congo and

35:46I would add Dominican Republic so fit and Oppenheimer offer an

35:52elaborate analysis of the political economy class forces Etc but the key in

35:57the peace um to to in Kuma’s defeat is a suppression of working-class democracy

36:04the energies of the mass is in motion and they note how in 1949 50

36:10inuma kind of rode uh the mass Rebellion until they called a general strike and

36:17then he suddenly you know distanced himself from the working class and fit and opheim called This Moment quote the

36:23nater the nater of the Gold Coast Independence Movement uh so the first four years uh Ghana took

36:31the course of kind of neocolonial development then in 1961 after the overthrow of of Patrice lumba in the

36:38Congo inuma announced a turn towards socialism and he established ties with

36:44the Soviet Union meanwhile as he’s making the shift uh the the conditions

36:50of workers in Ghana just are deteriorating so they organized a general strike which includea crushed he

36:57rest of the leaders of the strike um and and just you know undermine Labor’s you

37:03know democracy and uh I think you know Fitch and Oppenheimer make this really

37:09important observation they write uh the convention of people’s party’s government this is kumman government

37:15rationalizes police measures against the organized working class by equating

37:21independence with socialism did not the same thing so the book closes with an

37:27argument for revolutionary Warfare against neoc Colonial Elites and

37:32Colonial forces now in their conclusion what is to be done okay you know it’s written in

37:391966 so it’s kind of romantic it reflects the era’s Marx’s dedication to

37:45growth and industrialization which actually when you read Walter Rodney’s how Europe underdeveloped Africa it’s the same argument you know there’s this

37:51kind of fascination with growth and industrialization nevertheless they conclude that the experience of guilla

37:58War not the violence per se but the the experience prepares a masses to seize

38:04the future and they right peasants proletarians and revolutionary

38:10intellectuals develop into a homogeneous disciplin Force learning at the same

38:16time the technical skills in the inventiveness needed for industrialization and then they continue

38:23if as the evidence of recent history suggests this is the road forward for the exploited Colonial and neoc Colonial

38:30peoples of the world then it will be in the forests in the savanas with the

38:36roads turn into paths and the Sun beats down on thatch roof Shacks that Ghana’s

38:43working classes would join together to prepare the future

38:48okay so now this excursion into Ghana into the the Ghana book is more than a

38:54detour I would argue that the Arab Israeli War in ‘ 67 reflects this

39:00counterrevolutionary trend and the Revolutionary hope that they’re talking

39:06about in a different way the PLO was that gorilla Army right that they

39:11described that they imagin but there was no Revolution if anything fata became

39:17Israel’s police force after the AIL Accords the problem with Palestine comes

39:24back then to fit’s insistence on what workingclass democracy labor had little

39:30or no say in the leadership and direction of The Liberation struggle France Fon made this

39:36point and it’s no accent the first epigraph in the book is from Fon um so

39:43there was a Trade union movement in Palestine before the Naka uh you know the Society of of Arab

39:51workers um some Arab workers were organized by the Communist Party of Palestine the Federation of Arab trade

39:57unions and labor societies Arab workers Congress so forth in

40:031948 Israel banned the Arab workers Congress in

40:081952 Palestinian workers uh were allowed to join the Zionist hute but many of

40:15them were actually excluded from membership denied work and few Arab workers were even allowed to stay um in

40:24the his those who were allowed to stay couldn’t vote uh in the union elections until 1965 so basically organized labor

40:33in Palestine was kind of forced on the ground during the Israeli occupation union leaders were harassed jailed

40:40deported throughout the 1970s and yet unions grew nonetheless and in the late ’70s there

40:47were some 12,000 Palestinians who claimed union membership in part because

40:53they were working inside of Israel they were crossing green line and

40:58in some ways that labor you know kind of drove organization but they were also a

41:05pages of The Liberation movement which also reflected the kind of factional divides uh so for example um there’s

41:13some unions that identified with the PLO and the pflp the popular front for liberation of Palestine and there’s

41:20another faction of unions that identified with the Democratic front for the liberation of Palestine so they were

41:25organized less along lines of um occupation and more along lines of

41:31politics um and then of course when the general Trade union Federation uh was

41:37formed the political division still prevailed either way unions were

41:42subordinated to The Liberation movement labor leaders agreed arguing that the

41:48class struggle had to take a backseat to ending the occupation but there were extraordinary moments of General strikes

41:54for example land day which we know to today kind of as the the march of return

42:00but lande was a general strike on March 30th 1976 organized across Palestine to

42:06protest the Galilee development plan which would have created uh Jewish settlements out of confiscated land that

42:11was owned by Palestinians um and you know there’s uh

42:17subsequent to to land strikes you know was really it was very bloody as we’ve

42:23seen with the March return now it’s axiomatic almost to claim that Israeli

42:29settlers wanted nothing more than to eliminate the indigenous population however like I said

42:36Palestinians crossed the green line to work and when they did Israel

42:42imposed a workers Tax Plus welfare deductions on their checks plus uh hrud

42:51um collected 1% of their pay as dues but did nothing to address their low wag

42:57poor health and safety standards or provide services um even as their

43:02leaders complain that Palestinians from the occupied territories were undermining employment opportunities for

43:08Israeli Nationals so um the Palestine um General Federation trade

43:14unions estimated that uh the hist rout uh pocketed something like 400 million

43:21shekels or about $110 million out of the 1% dues which they never paid back the

43:28Palestinians this between 1970 and 1994 at the time of the oo cords Israel

43:33continued to exploit Palestinian labor in both the West Bank and Gaza and in

43:38Gaza tens of thousands of Palestinian workers gathered at the arids uh checkpoint in what really was called um

43:47a modern slave market to take construction jobs they get up at 3:00 in the morning and take these construction

43:52jobs inside of Israel and come back wages were on average 13 less than the

43:58prevailing wages for Jewish workers in the same industry um but pay as poultry as it was still nevertheless made up 30%

44:06of gaza’s GMP and then the number started to shrink uh before the Gulf War about

44:13180,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories uh worked in Israel about

44:1880,000 from Gaza after the war about 100,000 with 35,000 from Gaza by 199

44:27about 45,000 uh you know Palestinian workers from from occupied territories with

44:3316,000 coming in from Gaza and this is due in large uh part due to um rabine

44:39separation policy um and of course how did they make up for the shortfall well

44:46we know they began importing workers from Southeast Asia right 59,000 workers

44:51from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe um once the the Palestinian Authority assumed government Gover

44:57responsibilities in 1994 the cost of living went up 25% unemployment in Gaza

45:03Rose 50% and the Palestinian authorities uh basically subordination

45:09of unions right which is the absence of working-class democracy kind of explains

45:15why unions were so weak uh in in in post Oslo um Palestine so just a couple final

45:23things leftists within the labor movement like baruti of the Democrat

45:29democracy and workers rights Center in rala hope that Palestinian workers would

45:35lead a broad Democratic Coalition made up of Palestinian Civil Society

45:40organizations women’s groups and Palestinian political factions and in 1995 he observed which is really a

45:47parallel to Bob fitcher’s Vision of the workingclass of working-class democracy he said our struggle is not going to be

45:54confined solely to economic issues will also include law democracy human

46:00rights social provision and education ens short development the next stage

46:06requires a new kind of struggle in which workers should take a main responsibility for the welfare of the

46:12Palestinian Nations um nation of course that didn’t happen uh for various reasons um and in

46:22fact I’m going to skip over this but the Palestinian Authority actually played a a role in kind of undermining uh

46:29independent labor organizing so for example there’s no social contract no minimum wage laws uh wages were were not

46:36tied to cost of living and no right to strike so when teachers went on strike in

46:411997 independent of of the

46:47pgf um and they were just looking for they were making like $300 a month and they’re trying to

46:53double their salary um the Ministry of Education offered 10 % increase so they

46:59struck and what did the state do I mean when I say the state the kind of fake state of the Palestinian Authority the

47:05Ministry of Education suspended 19 members without salary Arafat himself

47:10had 15 members of the strike Committee in Jericho jailed okay um and while all

47:16this is happening by the way something we don’t talk about there was a kind of neoliberal move to create um industrial

47:25zones right Enterprise zones uh moded off of Taiwan and after the Maki adoras

47:31and in Mexico that were adjacent to Gaza for example um they were used to attract

47:37Israeli and Palestinian foreign Capital they had food processing textiles

47:42furniture making inside of Gaza but at on the border of Israel Israel would was

47:48the sole recipient of tax revenue us investors got tax breaks but firms would

47:54be located again inside Gaza which save money in terms of not investing in heavy security infrastructure and these zones

48:01of course were demolished in 2004 with the withraw withdrawal of sellers but

48:07the idea is not dead in 2021 there plans a foot although now they’re probably um

48:14scuttled to create these new industrial zones in Gaza on the ruins of the old

48:21and if you pay attention to like these free trade agreements uh between Israel and Jordan

48:27Israel and UAE they’re all building these industrial zones to exploit Palestinian labor so don’t tell me that

48:34no one wants Palestinian labor you know they want them under the conditions of the macador right in any case in closing

48:44clearly Israel is not nor has ever been the worker state that labor Zion is

48:50dreamed it would be it is a settler colonial state built on dispossession

48:56and Military occupation and it is clearly a part of the global capitalist

49:01system Bob Fitch understood the class struggle he knew from his work on Ghana

49:07that crushing workingclass democracy arrests class struggle or at least weakens workingclass power he asked us

49:16to imagine the working class not as an interest group not as a sector but as a

49:23movement the movement to recognize that a gen working-class democracy is not

49:28constrained by nation and to also recognize that you

49:34know you can’t have a workingclass democracy that oversees an ethn State

49:39that’s impossible workingclass democracy is what the Communist International was supposed to be and what some dreamers

49:47thought the UN could be if it had declared colonialism a crime against humanity and recognized peoples the

49:53proletariat rather than nation states it’s kind of like that song pinned by Eugene Patia in 1871 the French

50:02Anarchist poet and transport worker and wrote the song during the Paris commune the song that can never fit comfortably

50:09Over The Melody of uh La Mar since the national anthem never made good

50:15internationalist music song the song whose melody was composed by the Belgian

50:21socialist Pierre Deer uh and first performed in the summer of 18 1988 5

50:27years after Marx’s death it is that song that song dedicated to workingclass

50:33democracy to the inexorable Rise Of The Wretched of the Earth the promise of a

50:39free world the promise that a better world’s in birth free the Land free

50:45Palestine thank


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