Noel Ignatiev's Blog

What are WE doing?

Posted by Noel Ignatiev

The following exchange, which took place on facebook, raises an important issue in my opinion. 

Jesse Lemisch

Obama the mad bomber. Maybe not so mad: in Iraq (again) he is acting out Samantha Power’s doctrine with his own icing on it: look for an occasion on which to display US military power, masking it as “humanitarian.” The hypocrisy and cynicism is amazing: his justifications for this, if held to consistently, would justify humanitarian intervention on behalf of Gaza against Israel.

And where is the US anti-war movement in all this? Buying the Israeli notion that they have once again mowed the lawn, so it’s over? All that’s left is to mourn the dead and raise money to rebuild a hospital? Every day we find out that the horrors we knew about don’t compare with what was really happening: Israel’s fascist troops shitting on the floor of girls’ schools and homes, leaving behind vile graffittti. And Gaza converted into a vast wasteland, bombed back into the stone age, factories destroyed. In England. protesters shut down a plant manufacturing drones. What are WE doing?

Carl Davidson Easy to ask, difficult to answer. We go with the ‘tried and true,’ hold a vigil, call a street demonstration. This gives voice to a prophetic militant minority. But how to turn an anti-Zionist minority into a majority that will cut off the money to Israel? Then make the streets ungovernable, isolate AIPAC and elect people to Congress who will implement it.? Those questions are the tougher nuts to crack.

Noel Ignatiev Carl, One lesson I learned from the abolitionists, the women’s suffragists and the freedom movement is that it does not take a majority to make the streets ungovernable.

Carl Davidson True, but it takes a majority to cut off the money. In any case, I’ll settle for one third in the streets, one third wavering and one third in opposition.

Noel Ignatiev So it’s about the money. Did those people in Birmingham, UK who shut down the arms factory go after the money, and did they wait for a majority before they took action?

John Halle As Stuart Hall put it, “Politics does not reflect majorities, it constructs them.”

Noel Ignatiev Stuart Hall is right. I remember, and so should Carl, the days when radicals turned over the CIA recruiter’s table, and then explained why. But we are way beyond that. If ever there was a time when millions will understand and look favorably on direct action, that time is now.

Carl Davidson The progressive majority is a force to be constructed and developed, work which is fired up by the militant minority, among other factors. One needs both, like breathing in and breathing out. John Brown and Frederick Douglass needed their Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln and Grant. Occupy is a recent example, a critical force, a militant minority that got resonance among a progressive majority-in the-making, a grouping, to crib from Hegel, ‘in itself’ but not yet ‘for itself.’

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