Kana’an – The e-Bulletin
كنعان النشرة الألكترونية
24 April 2008
Volume VIII – Issue 1503
In This Issue
· Lest We Forget: Collective Massacres, Land Theft and Demolitions of Homes, by Nizar Sakhnini
US 2008 Presidential Campaign
· The Sorrows of Race and Gender, by Robert Jensen.
Lest We Forget:
Collective Massacres, Land Theft and Demolitions of Homes
By Nizar Sakhnini
In order to achieve their pre-planned and pre-meditated goal of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, two major tools were used by the Zionists:
1. Massacres to instill awe and cause flight.
2. Demolition of Arab homes and villages to make sure that those who left have no place to return to.
The first massacre committed by the Zionists took place at Balad al-Shaikh on 31 December 1947 when the Haganah stormed the village killing hundreds of women and children, most of whose corpses were found inside the houses of the village.
On 10 April 1948, the Zionist gangs raided the Arab village of Deir Yassin at 2:00 a.m. and began killing everyone within shooting range. After this they began throwing bombs inside the houses to destroy them along with everyone in them.
Menachem Begin boasts about this massacre in a book of his, where he writes, “This operation had tremendous, unanticipated results. After hearing the news of Deir Yassin, the Arabs were panic-stricken and began fleeing in terror...”
This massacre in Deir Yassin resounded throughout Palestine, and coupled with other massacres in other villages, spread panic leading to a widespread exodus of Palestinian Arabs.
On 19 July 1948, a second truce in the war was agreed upon. On 24 July 1948, and in spite of the truce, Israel launched a military operation against the three villages of Jaba, Ijzim and Ein Ghazal comprising the ‘Little Triangle’ about 20 kilometers south of Haifa. Units of the Golani, Carmeli and Alexandroni brigades moved in and captured the three villages on 26 July, with almost all the inhabitants being forced to leave or spontaneously fleeing eastwards while Israeli soldiers and aircraft repeatedly fired upon the fleeing refugees.
On 15 October 1948, and again in spite of the truce, Israel launched an operation against the Egyptian army in the South.
Mass murder took place in many of the towns on the southern front during the October offensive. One of the worst massacres during the offensive took place at Dawayma.
A Company of the 89th Commando Battalion, which was composed of former Irgun and Stern terrorists, took Dawayma. A veteran of the unit has published an account of the massacre. He noted that in order “to kill the children they fractured their heads with sticks. There was not one house without corpses”. After murdering the children, Israeli soldiers herded the women and men into houses where they were kept without food or water. Then the houses were blown up with the helpless civilians inside.
An Israeli veteran who revealed these events stressed that “Educated and well-mannered commanders who were considered good guys” committed them. They became “base murderers and this was not in the storm of battle but as a method of expulsion and extermination...”
On 17 November, Agriculture Minister Aharon Zisling told the Israeli Cabinet, “I feel that things are going on which are hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here… Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken.” (Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe, pp. xii-xiv, citing US State Dept. Files, National Archives – Washington D.C.; Davar, 6 September 1979; and Tom Segev, 1949, The First Israelis, p. 26)
Many other massacres were committed during the 1948 war and continued to be committed ever since. The list is long and includes, among many others, the massacres committed in Lydda (July 1948), Eilaboun (October 1948), Qibya (1October 1953), Kufur Qasim (October 1956), Sabra and Shatila (September 1982), al-Aqsa Mosque (October 1990), the Ibrahimi Mosque (February 1994) …
In addition to the massacres committed during the war in 1948, over 400 Arab villages were fully destroyed.
Massacres and killing of Palestinian Arabs as well as demolition of their homes are still going on to this day.
It is about time for the Arab Governments and rulers to wake up and support Palestinian struggle for Return and Restoration of Stolen Lands, Homes and Rights. Peace and Zionism are incompatible; stop this hopeless marathon of endless talks over an illusive peace.
The 2008 Presidential Campaign
The Sorrows of Race and Gender
By Robert Jensen
It may seem odd to talk of sorrows around race and gender in politics when we are a few months away from being able to vote for a white woman or a black man for president of the United States. When I was born in 1958, any suggestion that such an election was on the horizon would have been laughed off as crazy. In the first presidential campaign I paid attention to as an eighth-grader in 1972, Shirley Chisholm -- who four years earlier had become the first black woman to win a seat in Congress -- was to most Americans a curiosity not a serious contender. Today, things are different.
Today Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s battle for the Democratic Party nomination suggests progress. Though the pace of progress toward gender and racial justice may seem slow, we should take a moment to honor the people whose struggles for the liberation of women and non-white people have brought us to this historic moment. If not for the vision and courage of those in the feminist and civil-rights movements there would be no possibility of a contest between Clinton and Obama, and the debt we owe those activists is enormous.
But instead of getting too caught up in this moment, we should reflect more deeply on that history -- not just on what was won but what has been lost. We have an obligation to those who sacrificed in those struggles for liberation to reflect honestly, and if we do that I believe it will lead to sorrow.
I don’t take this sorrow to be a bad thing. Today one of the most important virtues is the ability to understand sorrow clearly, to confront sorrow openly, to feel sorrow deeply, and in the end to accept the sorrows that come with being human in the modern world. Such sorrow is especially important in a society built on delusional beliefs about manifest destiny and endless expansion, world domination and American exceptionalism. The best of a people is carried not by those who pander to a pathological sense of entitlement, but by those who are not afraid to live with sorrow.
As one of my favorite songwriters has put it, “Those are lost who/try to cross through/the sorrow fields too easily.”
So, let us heed Eliza Gilkyson and not race across those sorrow fields. Let us walk through them deliberately, carefully, and responsibly. Let us learn from that journey.
What are the sorrows to which I’m referring? I don’t mean the disgust and distress that many of us feel when we read the blogs, listen to talk radio, or watch cable TV news -- places where some of our fellow citizens and journalists wallow in the sexism and racism that still infects so much of this society. I don’t mean the ways in which, even in polite liberal circles, Hillary Clinton is scrutinized in ways no man would ever be. I don’t mean the ways in which, even in polite liberal circles, Barack Obama’s blackness is examined for either its inadequacies or excesses.
The attacks on Clinton because she is a woman and Obama because he is black should make us angry and may leave us feeling dejected, but for me they are not the stuff of sorrow. We can organize against those expressions of sexism and racism; we can mobilize to counter those forces; we can respond to those people.
Remembering the radicals
My sorrow comes from the recognition that the radical analyses of the feminist and civil-rights movements -- the core insights of those movements that made it possible when I was young to imagine real liberation -- are no longer recognized as a part of the conversation in the dominant political culture of the United States. It’s not just that such analyses have not been universally adopted -- it would be naïve to think that in a few decades too many dramatic changes could be put into place, after all -- but that they have been pushed even further to the margins, almost completely out of public view.
For example, when I talk about these ideas with students at the University of Texas it is for some the first time they have heard such things. It’s not that they have rejected the analyses or condemned the movements, but they did not know such radical ideas exist or had ever existed. These students often do not know that these movements did not simply condemn the worst overt manifestations of sexism and racism, but went to the heart of the patriarchal and white-supremacist nature of U.S. society while at the same time focusing attention on the imperialist nature of our foreign policy and predatory nature of corporate capitalism. The most compelling arguments emerging from those movements didn’t suggest a kindler-and-gentler imperialist capitalist state, but an end to those unjust and unsustainable systems.
The irony is that Clinton and Obama, who today are viable candidates because of those movements, provide such clear evidence of the death of the best hopes of those movements. Those two candidates have turned away from these compelling ideas so completely that neither speaks of patriarchy and white supremacy. These are not candidates opposing imperialism and capitalism but candidates telling us why we should believe that they can better manage the system.
I recognize that this may seem condescending coming from a white man living in the American middle class -- that is, someone whose material standard of living is enhanced by these very systems of domination and subordination. One might point out that it’s easy for me as a person with privilege (especially one who is not running for office and not appealing for votes in a reactionary country) to talk about liberation and radical movements. What right do I have to demand that Clinton and Obama articulate a radical political vision as they grapple with the reality of a political campaign?
Let me be clear that I am not attacking Clinton and Obama for not sharing my politics; I’m not really attacking them at all, though I disagree with many of their political positions. Instead I’m arguing that these candidates offer a political ideology very different from that which animated the best of the movements that made it possible for them to run. This is not simply a critique of the candidates’ campaign platitudes, not an examination of whether either candidate talks enough about “women’s issues” or “racism.” This is part of a larger examination of the unjust and unsustainable systems -- patriarchy and white supremacy, imperialism and capitalism -- that we must take seriously if we are to talk seriously about the possibility of a decent future, or of a future at all.
Radical feminism, which I think was the crucial core of that movement, offered a critique of patriarchy and the hierarchy created by patriarchal values. Those activists spoke not only of equal rights for women but of an end to all hierarchies. The radical civil-rights forces, which I think were at the core of that movement, offered a critique of white supremacy and the hierarchies reinforced by white-supremacist values. Those activists spoke not only of equal rights for non-white people but of an end to systems of domination more generally. The most powerful articulations of feminism and the civil-rights movement did not simply say, “Let’s leave these fundamentally unjust and unsustainable systems in place but put some women and non-white people in positions of power.” They argued for a transformation of the systems.
For example, as the U.S. pursued its brutal attack on the people of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and ‘70s, these movements argued for the end not only of that war but of U.S. imperialism. Radical feminist and civil-rights activists weren’t dreaming of the day that Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell could be appointed Secretary of State to help run an imperialist U.S. foreign policy that would continue to engage in crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes -- as all three did during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The goal was not simply to change the players, but to change the nature of the deadly game.
Albright, Rice, and Powell are not the fulfillment of a liberatory dream but are part of our long national nightmare. If Clinton or Obama were elected and continued the same basic policies that allow the United States to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources -- as they both indicate they will -- then they will haunt us as well.
More radical understandings of the source of social problems were common in the
civil-rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. made that clear in his April 4,
1967, speech in opposition to the Vietnam War:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Feminists routinely argued that patriarchal conceptions of power would prove to
be the end of the world if not challenged. The poet Muriel Rukeyser identified
the nature of this power and why we should reject it:
Dead power is everywhere among us -- in the forest, chopping down the songs; at night in the industrial landscape, wasting and stiffening a new life; in the streets of the city, throwing away the day. We wanted something different for our people: not to find ourselves an old, reactionary republic, full of ghost-fears, the fears of death and the fears of birth. We want something else.
Many of us still want something else. At this moment in history, the writers and
activists who carry forward the radical vision of the feminist and civil-rights
movements, such as bell hooks, argue against nationalism and for a vision of
self-determination rooted in a critical analysis of race, gender, and class:
It’s no accident that people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were destroyed at those moments of their political careers when they had begun to critique nationalism as a platform of organization; and where, in fact, they replace nationalism with a critique of imperialism; which then, unites us with the liberation struggles of so many people on the planet. If we don’t have that kind of global perspective about our social realities, we will never be able to re-envision a revolutionary movement for Black self-determination that is non-exclusive, and doesn’t assume some kind of patriarchal nationhood.
This vision of the world rejects patriarchy and white supremacy, in the context of a critique of U.S. imperialism and capitalism. It is not the vision of the Democratic Party or its candidates. I don’t know what Clinton and Obama really think about such an analysis, but whatever they may think they do not articulate such ideas in public. While they have plans that may help curb the worst excesses of the imperial state and corporate capitalism, they do not confront the brutal nature of these systems.
The problem isn’t that they fail as revolutionaries (one doesn’t expect revolutionary rhetoric from mainstream candidates), but that their calls for reform have no radical -- and therefore no realistic -- analysis at their core. Clinton and Obama offer rhetoric about empowering people and protecting the environment, but both propose to do that without coming to terms with the nature of the institutions that disempower people and draw down the ecological capital necessary for life. Both candidates offer more of the same failed “solutions,” trying to take their place among the gang that exercises “dead power.”
A plea for politics
While this is not the first time the human community has faced trying times, the stakes have been raised in new ways. Dead power has put us on a trajectory that can end only one way. When I was younger, I thought that trajectory would play out over many decades, maybe even centuries. As we see the consequences of dead power mounting -- in human and ecological terms -- I now think we have decades, maybe only years, to correct our course. But most of the modern world, especially the narcissistic United States, is unwilling to even think about what it will take to change that trajectory. Political leaders, including Clinton and Obama, cater to these delusional fantasies rather than confront difficult realities.
The sorrow of which I speak flows not from the fact that liberation has not yet been achieved but from a fear that the possibility of liberation may be lost forever, that our world may have passed the point of no return, psychologically and ecologically. Such fears are not grounds for abandoning politics, however. If you believe there is something to what I’ve said, it suggests only that we should think more carefully about where we put our political energies. I believe that the last place we should be sinking our energy is into presidential politics. When the political leaders vying for our votes make it clear they are committed to systems and institutions that keep us locked in the death trajectory, why should we offer them anything that is precious to us?
The most common response I get to that challenge is the claim that these candidates actually have a more radical agenda but realize that they must keep it under wraps in order to get elected. Just wait, I’m told, until after an election victory. That is likely to be a long wait, for there is no historical precedent for such a development, and nothing in the biography of either candidate that suggests a break with history. This observation typically is dismissed as cynicism, but I am not cynical. I am simply trying to deal with reality.
If only a center/right candidate who plays to the greed and delusional self-indulgence of the United States can win, that is more evidence that this empire cannot be transformed into a decent society in the time available and that it is time to say of conventional politics, simply, “game over.” If that is the case -- and I believe it’s a reasonable account of our society -- more than ever the work is not to turn over our time, energy, and resources to any political candidate but to build alternatives on the ground. That is a political response to a political problem. It isn’t a question of hope v. no hope. It’s a question of reality v. delusion. To believe that an unsustainable system can be sustained indefinitely -- and to support political candidates who believe that -- is a sign not of hope but of desperation and defeat. To be realistic and hopeful, one must be radical.
Yes, we can
Let me end with the popular call to action, “Yes, we can/Sí, se puede.” I agree that we can, but the slogan is incomplete. Yes, people can do things, but what is it that we believe we can do? Can we remain an imperial state -- as both Clinton and Obama want us to remain -- but somehow become a force for peace in the world? By what logic is that possible? What historical example is there to support such an assertion? Can we remain a corporate capitalist economy -- as both Clinton and Obama want us to remain -- but somehow eliminate inequality? By what logic is that possible? What historical example is there to support such an assertion? It is in the nature of imperial states and capitalist economies to be predatory and destructive, and the affluence of the United States is based on those predatory and destructive practices. To pretend these systems can remain in place but be transformed into vehicles for justice and sustainability is, quite literally, insane.
There is no easy route to a different future. In our laziness and greed we have narrowed the range of our choices and eliminated too many options for us to pretend there are easy solutions. I can’t predict the future, but I am relatively certain that the future will be hard. There is sorrow in coming to terms with all of this, but sorrow is not the same thing as despair. Sorrow need not lead to paralysis; sorrow isn’t the end. Sorrow is simply a part of life, which can help us understand where we’ve been and in what direction we must move.
So, is there hope? Of course, but hope is not the kind of thing one gets from speeches and slogans, from rock-star political rallies and emotionally charged music videos. Hope, like anything of value, must be earned. Hope comes not from believing but from doing. If we want to feel a sense of hope, we should study the world and come to our own conclusions about the systems and structures of power in which we live. We should decide whether those systems and structures are compatible with justice and sustainability. If they are not, then we should work to build alternatives on the ground where we live.
Yes, we can. We can name honestly the death trajectory of this culture.
Yes, we can. We can stop pretending that rhetoric -- no matter how inspirational -- will mask the fundamentally unjust and unsustainable nature of the systems in which we live.
Yes, we can. We can stop looking to those who peddle delusional hope and start creating the conditions that make authentic hope possible.
Yes, we can. Sí, se puede.
But if we are to do this, first we must not turn away from the sorrow. We must grieve.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, the writer Alice Walker reminded us that:
To grieve is above all to acknowledge loss, to understand there is a natural end to endless gain. To grieve means to come to an understanding, finally, of inevitable balance; Life will right itself, though how it does this remains, and will doubtless remain, mysterious. … It is this natural balancing of life that we fear.
We are out of balance, within the human community and with the non-human world. We are reaping what we have sown in the fields of greed and self-indulgence. If we are to live in a decent future -- if there is to be a future for our children -- it will be because we moved out of those fields left dead by power and into fields of liberation to plant anew.
Between those two fields lie the sorrow fields. It is time -- long past time -- that we begin the difficult journey through those fields. If we are deliberate, careful, and responsible in that journey there is no guarantee, but there is hope, that yes we can find our way.
[This is an expanded version of a talk given to the University Democrats at the University of Texas at Austin, April 16, 2008.]
Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Eliza Gilkyson, “He Waits for Me,” from the CD “Beautiful World,” Red House Records, 2008.
 Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., James M. Washington, ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 240.
 Muriel Rukeyser, quoted in Adrienne Rich, What is Found There, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), page preceding preface. Originally published in The Life of Poetry (New York: Current Books, 1949).
 “Challenging Capitalism and Patriarchy,” interview with bell hooks. http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/dec95hooks.htm
 Alice Walker, Sent by Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001), p. 42
The Real Movement will be Need After the Election
Obama and the Prospects for a Renewal of the Left
By Steven Sherman
If Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination, and goes on to win the presidency, and the Democrats hold onto (and probably gain seats) in the House and Senate, it will be the first time in 16 years that the Democrats hold the White House and both houses of congress. To better understand what will be necessary to make 'change' a reality, it is worth briefly looking back to that earlier period. There are some striking parallels.
Clinton came to power in good part because of a recession; now, as well, the economy appears to be in trouble. Then too, the US was locked into a war-like posture towards Iraq, after a 'mission accomplished' attack several years earlier. But the disparities are also striking. There is a widespread feeling that we may now be entering something that is not simply a standard recession. No longer implementing sanctions that could be ignored by the American public, the US is now in a quagmire of an occupation of Iraq. Clinton came to power by in part by appealing to racism, Obama has little choice but to appeal to the electorate's better instincts.
And long term trends are also striking. Clinton entered office when the US was riding high on the a wave of popularity after the demise of the Soviet Union; if he wins, Obama will take power with the US at a low. Class inequality has widened in the US to such an extent that alarm and handwringing over this are common even in the mainstream media. And global neoliberalism, nearing its peak in 1992, is a spent force in 2008. In 1992 the labor movement was just starting to stir from its slumber, still led by conservatives. Without glorifying them too much, both John Sweeney and Andy Stern have come to power as a result of a deeply felt need in the labor movement for change.The antiwar movement (awake during the 80s when it was in solidarity with Central American revolutionaries) was moribund by the time Clinton entered office; although it is not in great shape today, it is recognizably livelier. Last, and certainly not least, while Clinton was the safe candidate of choice of the Democratic Leadership Council, the Obama campaign has turned into a movement. It has generated remarkable support among students in particular, bringing new people into politics. Clinton expended considerable political capital (already compromised by his support for NAFTA) on the unsuccessful health care battle; soon after the Republicans won the congress back and Clinton retreated to basically supporting a Republican agenda. Given all the differences noted above, there is some prospect for a different outcome this time.
Many writing on the left have attempted to assess Obama in terms of his political record. This is not altogether without value, but I think it is more useful to consider who he is likely to bring into a coalition of support. Before this campaign started, it was fairly clear that he made his home among highly educated, relatively wealthy liberals for whom economic populist ideas don't typically resonate. This crowd is alarmed by George W. Bush's fiscal irresponsibility and his undermining of US status in the world through reckless interventions. On the latter issue they want more diplomacy but are by no means anti-imperialist, much like Obama himself (Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, represents a certain type of traditional establishment Democratic hawk, only belatedly discovering that the constituency for this position in the Democratic party is vanishing). Had he not won votes beyond this constituency, he would have faded like Gary Hart or Howard Dean. Instead, he won the overwhelming majority of African American votes in South Carolina (not something everyone took for granted before his campaign began), and has since made incursions into the white working class and Latinos. If he wins the nomination, these constituencies are likely to embrace his candidacy, and his movement will swell. In contrast to Dean, he is an inspirational politician--and by inspirational, we mean that he borrows phrases ('Yes, we can') and cadences from the civil rights movement and other struggles. This has made him a far more potent politican, with a larger coalition behind him, than Howard Dean or Gary Hart could ever imagine.
The key issue is what kind of change Obama and his movement will try to make. Although the candidate has been vague, so far it appears that he is appealing to two rather implausible types of 'change'. Many of his working class supporters hope a reversal of NAFTA might bring their manufacturing jobs back. It is a little late to lock the barn door on that front. Simply writing in protection of labor rights into NAFTA or new trade agreements won't begin to create the kind of integrated production complex that has made China so competitive. On the other hand many of his middle class supporters hope a wiser and more fiscally prudent approach can restore US standing in the world, and the fresh start he represents might help spring the economy out of its doldrums and bring back the good old days when they could count on 10% annual returns on either their stocks or real estate. Until very recently, a sizable chunk of the population (perhaps 20%) was doing well with their investments (and much of the 'netroots' is drawn from this class). This helps explain why populism of the 'only 1% is doing well' sort has not found a national electoral constituency. But their well being depended on a steady inflow of foreign capital to the US, and the conditions for that are deteriorating. It isn't obvious what president Obama could do to change that.
Obama will be faced with a working class and middle class with not particularly dishonorable ideals (securing a decent livelihood for themselves and their families) but unrealistic ideas about how to do so (the return of manufacturing jobs, the return of good investment returns).
The most plausible way to achieve the goals would be to take steps that dramatically break with the policies of the last twenty five years--rather direct efforts to both unleash the wealth that has been clotted up at the top 1% for the general betterment of society (tax wealth, as well as income, for starters), and improvements of those at the lowest end through sharp increases in the minimum wage and public spending. A renewed discussion of the US role in the world, what size military we need, and how much of the economy we wish to pour into the military industrial complex will also be needed. This is far more than Obama anticipates doing, but events in the next four years may overtake the moderate, partial measures he has staked out. As noted above, 2008 is not 1992. A real movement would be needed to push him farther to the left in the course of such a crisis, and to push back the opposition that would undoubtedly be unleashed.
To overcome that opposition, we would require a more organized and unified working class. The working class is presently deeply divided. One division is between organized and unorganized workers. The Democrats have promised to pass EFCA, which should help to expand union membership (it makes 'card check off' organizing campaigns possible), particularly if the unions come up with good reasons for people to join them. A second division is along racial lines within the working class. This is not simply because of prejudiced views, although there is plenty of that. It is also because working class blacks, latinos and whites are differentially integrated into labor markets and the political system. Blacks in inner cities are to a large extent excluded from the private labor market, and face prison in staggering numbers for minor offenses. Another large chunk of the working class consists of people who are not US citizens (mostly Latino), and have been increasingly criminalized, particularly since 1996. They work for extremely low wages and have consumption patterns that bear little resemblance to those of most Americans. Whites face an easier legal environment (although they work in fiercely anti-union conditions, and are among the most oversupervised workers in the world), and greater prospects of entering the middle class through marriage. Finally, even the most liberal sections of the predominantly white middle class (the people who turned out in large numbers for anti-war protests, for example) continue to be largely indifferent to the political and economic challenges faced by the working class, and uneasy about developing coalitions with Blacks and Latinos.
If the left can shape a narrative in which the interests of these groups come to seem dependent on the advancement of one another, the prospects for progressive change over the next fifteen to twenty years will be immensely strengthened. One avenue to explore might be a more expansive sense of civil liberties than those which currently interest the white liberal/left--i.e. curtailment of the executive branch, alarm at the embrace of torture by the Bush administration, and fear of the growing incursions on civil liberties more generally among peaceful protesters. An expanded notion might include de-incarceration for non-violent offenses, decriminalization of immigration regulation (and an easy path to citizenship), and expanded union rights (including collective bargaining for public employees where that is not presently allowed, and the revocation of Taft Hartley). An economic plan involving remaking our urban spaces through public transport and public space, and technologically upgrading our rural areas (all funded through taxes on wealth and reductions in the military budget) might also be a start.
The question is whether the left can transform itself from a grouping of ideas into a movement that can meaningfully intervene in the emergent political environment, likely to be one of heightened class struggle and nationalist frustration.
Obama's candidacy has demonstrated that fairly well-to-do liberals can come together with African Americans around the mantra of 'change'. If he is elected, the challenge of the left will be to broaden that alliance, and deepen it so that change might become a reality.
Steven Sherman can be reached at threehegemons at hotmail.com. He maintains the website lefteyeonbooks.org.
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