The excerpted remarks are from a May 27 webinar: “From Palestine to Alabama — The Revolutionary Transformation of the Working Class — A Conversation with Larry Holmes,” sponsored by Workers World Party. Holmes is WWP’s First Secretary. Go to tinyurl.com/23u6b5he to see the entire program.
This is such an auspicious occasion with the tremendous developments in Palestine. It had felt like the repression of the U.S.-backed racist Israeli state had paralyzed the movement and even had an impact on the solidarity movement.
But what we’ve seen in the month of May is nothing short of a revolutionary revival of the Palestinian Liberation struggle, in a way that on many levels is unprecedented. Because, in addition to the brave resistance of Hamas soldiers fighting with inferior weapons against the tanks and the planes and the bombs that the Israelis are supplied with by the U.S., you had a general strike [on May 18].
This is the first of its kind, not only in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, but even in the Arab communities inside Israel.
It’s the first general strike joined by millions, supported by the Palestinian General Labor Federation, by other unions and by community organizations.
And this brought into this resistance struggle — against this new violent Israeli attack on the Palestinian people — different social forces and gave the liberation struggle a class character. That’s what a general strike does: ratchet the struggle up a couple of knots.
The world on both sides of the class barriers is paying a lot of attention to it. Maybe we are being a little equivocal because we have to see what happens now. This very well may be the beginning of the third Intifada of the Palestinian people, on top of what happened 20 years ago when they offended the Palestinians by going to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and then what happened approximately 13 years earlier with the first Intifada.
And this could be the biggest Intifada. It seems there is more unity and more solidarity by millions of Palestinians and Arabs in the occupied areas and around the Middle East. And to my recollection, there’s never been more international solidarity.
One has never seen so many protests, not only in large numbers but thousands of protests all over the globe — Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, South Africa, the Middle East, the United States — but also the size of these demonstrations in the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people.
Palestine electrifies the world
This revival of the struggle of the Palestinian people in such a strong united way, demanding an end to the apartheid Israeli state, may be the struggle that wakes up the workers and the oppressed of the world — because it appears to have electrified the workers and the oppressed everywhere. And the analogy with the struggle of the people of the United States, particularly Black and Brown people against racist police terror, is obvious.
It is the obligation, the revolutionary duty of communists, and all those who are in the class struggle, to help lead ultimately toward worldwide socialist revolution. In order to make that real, we have to support the national liberation struggles. And none is more important than the struggle of the Palestinian masses, their liberation forces against the racist, apartheid Zionist state and its occupation.
The workers have to support that — just like they need to support the uprising against the police here in this country. And it’s our job as revolutionary communists to do whatever we can, not only to make statements but to turn those statements into actions. And the U.S. workers have a special role in this.
The Israeli apartheid state is more than the racist oppressor of Palestinians and Arabs; it’s a bulwark of U.S. imperialism. Its tanks, its weapons, its bombs are paid for by the U.S. And so we in the U.S. have an extra responsibility. And the U.S. labor movement must now feel the hot global pressure to reverse its longtime, sad unfortunate position of supporting the reactionary racist state of Israel.
Self-determination means breaking with imperialism
It is not up to the oppressor, to the imperialists, to the colonial colonizer to determine who negotiates or who represents the national liberation struggle of a people — it’s up to the people. And this tremendous powerful unity amongst the Palestinian people, manifested through a general strike, shows that they’re united.
The Israelis want to be recognized as the official representatives of the Palestinian people. The unity on the ground is so overwhelming that the Palestinian people are even thinking about that. They’ve demonstrated where the power lies.
As for the workers, the workers’ movement, the U.S. labor movement and for the left, we’re improving based on some of the statements in solidarity with the Palestinians coming from various unions, various radical trade unions. They’re a good start, but they can only be viewed as a start.
Ultimately, every struggle is a continuation of a struggle that must move to a higher and higher level. The aim of our struggle with respect to the labor movement, however you define that in this country, is to break with U.S. imperialism — period! Break with being associated with or supporting U.S. imperialist policy in relation to Palestine, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and all over the world.
That’s the only solution, and it’s what we used to call working-class internationalism, where the goals of the imperialists mean nothing. We are against them [the imperialists]. The objectives and goals of a global working-class movement include all the oppressed people, have no boundaries, no geographical boundaries, no language boundaries, not even cultural boundaries. As important as culture is, that has to be the direction.
That’s what the Palestinian response to this latest aggression has reminded me of, what this new Intifada is showing us, whether it’s supporting the uprising or the Black Lives Matter struggle, which is so important.
Remember what was happening a year ago; it was a global rebellion by the millions happening in Seattle; Portland, [Oregon]; as well as Minneapolis and all over the country, in London and other places.
Workers’ assemblies on Palestine
It’s our job to fight, to strategize, to plan to work with others to see that this struggle has an anti-capitalist character and also has a class character, which means calling on unions, on the labor movement, to hold work stoppages in solidarity with the struggle against racism, so that it is known that this is a class struggle.
If we don’t do this, then we know what will happen one way or another, even after tremendous uprisings with millions of people militantly taking the streets and shutting shit down. As that unravels and slows down, the message will be usurped by the Democrats. The only way that you can stop that is if the struggle, more and more, takes on an anti-capitalist and class character.
We’re going to have to come up with a strategy for labor in relationship to showing maximum solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just liberation struggle.
I’ve raised the wisdom of having a workers’ assembly in solidarity with Palestine. Maybe because of COVID, it still needs to be a virtual event. But people can strategize and see if it’s safe for something on a local or regional level, to be face to face.
But wrapping our heads around the prospects and the timing for a national workers’ assembly in solidarity with Palestine, as a planning session with trade unionists and workers, to map out a strategy that pushes the labor movement in the right direction — maybe that’s not the most important thing. But until someone can think of something better, I think it should be on the table.