NEW YORK — “The Socialist Workers Party unconditionally opposes U.S. threats and economic sanctions against Iran,” Socialist Workers Party National Committee member Steve Clark told those at the Militant Labor Forum here May 25.
“We’re not predicting a war between the United States and Iran. But whenever the U.S. government makes statements threatening military actions, and at the same time tightens economic strangulation, it’s the obligation of working people and especially of communist workers to respond with public actions.”
The title of the forum was “The Mideast and the Jewish Question: Acting on the Communist Program Today. U.S. Hands Off Iran! End the Sanctions!”
Clark encouraged the more than 40 participants to join protests demanding “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela! U.S. Hands Off Cuba!” as well as “U.S. Hands Off Iran!”
The bourgeois-clerical regime in Iran uses groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and militias it organizes in Iraq and Syria to carry out its counterrevolutionary policies in the region, Clark said. “This reactionary course hands Washington its pretexts for intervention on a silver platter.”
But the U.S. rulers’ military and economic moves are based on defending the profits and class interests of American imperialism, Clark said. These moves are deadly dangers to the interests of working people in Iran, elsewhere in the region, the United States, and around the world.
Communists have an obligation to present the facts about the US rulers’ policies and extend a hand of class solidarity to working people in the Middle East.
“We are not a communist party during peace time and a ‘peace’ party during times of war,” he said. “When faced with stepped-up war threats by the U.S. rulers, we do more of what we are already doing.
“This includes going more deeply among our class, campaigning door to door among working people of all nationalities, from big cities to small towns and rural areas. It means continuing to join strikes, organizing drives, and social and political protests in the interests of the working class.”
Clark described how he and other leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and its sister Communist Leagues in Britain and Canada were invited to speak on our movement’s program and activities at a public meeting of 100 organized by the Kurdistan Communist Party in April in Ainkawa, just outside Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This meeting, which included leaders of the Iraqi Communist Party and others, was “unprecedented in the history of our movement,” Clark said.
At the heart of this exchange of views was how to organize to lead workers to break from the capitalist rulers’ state and political parties and fight for their own class interests, the question of independent working-class political action, Clark said.
Several participants commented later that they appreciated the Socialist Workers Party’s unconditional support for independence for Kurdistan, noting that not a single Communist Party around the world outside of Kurdistan and Iraq, supports their fight for self-determination. (For a fuller report on the meeting see the Militant ’s May 6 issue.)
Recognition of Israel and Palestine
Clark encouraged New York forum participants to “read and reread” the party’s December 2017 statement “For Recognition of a Palestinian State and of Israel.”
The statement calls for negotiations to reach an agreement recognizing “the right of Jews everywhere to take refuge in Israel in face of the global rise of Jew-hatred and anti-Semitic violence, as well as the unconditional right of the dispossessed Palestinian people to a contiguous, sovereign homeland on territory — including East Jerusalem — conquered and occupied by the Israeli government during the 1967 war.”
Clark underlined the reasons why such an agreement must include the right of Jews the world over to return to Israel. “Between 1933 and today,” he said, “the population of the world has increased 350%, but the Jewish population is still lower than it was in 1933. Some two-thirds of the Jewish population was exterminated at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Those who survived had no place to go, as the rulers in Washington and other imperialist countries refused them entry.”
“On the one hand, anti-Semitism among working people today is less than ever,” Clark said. “But on the other hand, amid a deepening world capitalist crisis, there is a rise in Jew-hatred and violent anti-Semitic acts.”
He pointed to a recent anti-Semitic cartoon published in the New York Times that portrayed a blind President Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke being led by a guide dog wearing a Star of David and having Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face. The Times later “apologized.”
Much of the anti-Semitism today comes from the middle-class left, Clark said, who back groups like Hamas that call for destroying the state of Israel. It’s worth going back to the interview that Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro gave to The Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in 2010, Clark said. Castro told Goldberg that “there is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” Castro said he supported Israel’s right to exist.
Castro said that no one “has been slandered more than the Jews…. They are blamed and slandered for everything.”
Jew-hatred “is not just another form of racism or of xenophobia,” Clark said. When the crisis of their system deepens, the ruling class will use Jew-hatred to divert attention from the true source of economic and social catastrophes and war, the capitalist system.
During the discussion period, one forum participant said she has a problem with Clark’s position on the state of Israel. “The Israeli government plays a role in the world carrying out the policies of U.S. imperialism,” she said. And she pointed to reactionary laws in Israel, such as obstacles to divorce.
The view of almost the entire middle-class left is that there is no class struggle in Israel, that the working class there has blood on its hands from the policies of the capitalist government, Clark explained. “But there is a class struggle in Israel,” he said, “and you won’t find out about it by reading the bourgeois press. The best place to read about that is in the pages of the Militant.”
The logic of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions groups, and the chant “from the river to the sea,” is for the destruction of Israel. There is no boycott movement aimed at Washington, Paris, Berlin or the Netherlands, Clark said. By refusing to recognize Israel, today’s bourgeois Palestinian misleaders undercut prospects for Jewish and Arab workers fighting together against their common class enemies.
The place of the Jewish question and the fight against Jew-hatred is crucial for the revolutionary workers movement everywhere in the world, Clark said.