It’s difficult to know where to even start. There is so much to say about yesterday’s San Francisco protest against Israel and Biden’s support for their war crimes. The photos below hopefully will give some sense of the protest. It was large – tens of thousands, according to the SF Chronicle – and very youthful. The majority of the printed signs were from the pro-Putin ANSWER coalition. However, thousands of people had just written up their own signs, some of which I show below.
The most interesting and hopeful of the groups was a small group from a Chinese student association. As you can see, they came with signs linking up the oppression of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang with Gaza/the Palestinians. Many on the “left”, those in ANSWER included, prefer to either ignore or outright deny the fact of the oppression of the Uyghurs.
The same is true, of course, for the question of Ukraine. I made up (in a hurry) a sign making that link. It led to some good conversations, including with a Palestinian family next to me on the train ride to San Francisco. I did not sense any hostility to my message.
Where this movement goes from here will be largely shaped by events.
Biden’s approach to Israel is similar to his approach to the QAnon Republicans. He and the mainstream of the US capitalist class see Israel as the one and only reliable ally in the entire region. (They are right!) But the Israeli government has become so extreme (to the point that they even had had a cabinet member who advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza) that it makes things difficult for US capitalism in the region. In fact, as the Wall St. Journal explained, even the goals of the US and Israel are not exactly the same. The main US goal is to build an alliance against Russia and China in the entire region. Israel’s goal is to simply wipe out Hamas and, beyond that, complete and total domination of Gaza and also the West Bank – although the WSJ article doesn’t state that. If for Israel doing so makes Washington’s longer term goal difficult, that’s their problem. For Biden & Co., they have to take into account not only the rising domestic opposition, but maybe even more so the threat of a massive new uprising throughout S.W. Asia/North Africa.
Biden takes a similar approach towards the QAnon Republicans. He opposes their extremism, but he refuses to recognize that there is no turning back for them. Because he continually tries to reestablish “bipartisanship”, he is unable to fully expose the extent to which QAnonism has taken over the entire Republican Party.
And Biden must be aware of his slipping support at home.
On top of this is all sorts of other possible events – a very possible government shutdown for one and a possible economic crisis in the next 12 months.
Right now, there is increasing opposition to Biden’s support for Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza. At yesterday’s protest, the main slogan was for a ceasefire now. But what comes next? Yes, a next step would be a complete end of US support for Israel, but even Barbara Lee – the congresswoman who more than anybody else has represented the “peace and justice” crowd – doesn’t agree with that, as this debate I had with her ten years ago showed.
Is an actual split in the Democrats possible? Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib recently posted a video in which she denounced Biden for supporting “genocide” (yes, she actuall used that word!) and threatened that she would not support his reelection. I have always said that a split in the Democrats would only come under the pressure of a movement from below, but that might be exactly what is developing. If Tlaib makes that break (and that’s a big “if”), she and others around her will have to more forcefully take up all the surrounding issues around which Biden and the Democrats are failing. The question is whether she will turn towards a more clearly working class basis.
I want to feature this group who was there – a group of Chinese students who make the link between US/Israeli imperialism and oppression and that of the Chinese regime. But their presence at the protest really drives home a fundamental problem: Last February, the Ukrainian/American community held a huge protest agains the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They were almost alone. There have been protests against the coup in Myanmar/Burma of people from that community here in this area. They were alone. Similar with protests in support of the revolution in Iran. Not only were those communities alone, they were also almost entirely absent yesterday. And as far as the left – it tends to oppose anything that is related to the US government and nothing beyond that. The left in the US has been badly infected with identity politics rather than politics of principle. It we want to make any progress, we will have to go beyond that.
That, in reality, is the question of the hour for the movement as a whole. In our article on the developing new protest movement, we raised some of the questions that such a movement will have to take up. These questions revolve around how to build a truly working class base and how that can lead to an independent working class party. It may seem like an aside, but the issue of the “left” opposing US imperialism while defending or making apologies for Russian and Chinese imperialism will be critical.
One word of warning: In the years leading up to 9/11, there was a rising tide against globalization. That tide was exemplified by the famous “Battle in Seattle”, in which protesters shut down the global World Trade Organization conference in November of 1999. Less than a year later came the 9/11 attack on the world trade center. That attack overnight completely reversed the mood in the U.S. and internationally. It is not impossible that some terrorist group could stage a similar attack in the US, to similar effect.