Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Street Demonstrations

[Signs by ANSWER, people by local Palestinians]

The agenda of the Left has eroded more and more with the passing years until substantially nothing is left of it. Even more so for the hard Left.

Advocacy of pro-Soviet and pro-Communist positions has vanished with the Soviet Union and all but a few Leninist fossils. The Left's membership has always been middle class and hostile to workers, wages, and unions, so in the one area where the Left could be relevant, they aren't. They have always taken great pleasure in calling absolutely everyone in America racist. In the months after tens of millions of their fellow racists elected a person arguably a negro to lead them, and who is shortly to be entrusted with a virtual carte blanche for national leadership, that may not have quite the traction it once had, even for the simple. Internationalism is gone now that Americans fear their jobs will be sent overseas by predatory capitalists. The establishment of democracies throughout Central and South America has cost them that set of issues. The former Left demand that the United States intervene against dictatorships abroad is now called the Bush Doctrine. What is an angry young Red to do?

The Left has become irrelevant politically, yet we are at a period in our history when the urge to rebel against and defy the system of society that has so clearly failed us, is stronger than ever. The mood of anger will grow with the unemployment rolls and increasing job insecurity for the still-employed. There is much to be angry about and not many ways to vent it.

Israel is central to Left thinking because it is all they have left. And even that issue barely draws flies. I was at a counter-demonstration when the major Left organization, ANSWER, ran a demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate on Montgomery Street in the city. There were about 500 of them to 100 of us.

But thinking about who each group was was instructive. The main party affiliation of ANSWER members is the WWP -- the World Workers Party, a Trotskyite splinter from the Socialist Workers Party. The main party membership of those on our side was the Democratic Party, a splinter group which controls both houses of Congress and the White House. Our position is shared by the Republicans and the Democrats. Similarly, the leading members of the European Union support our position. It is very hard for politicians anywhere to articulate a position that makes it right for the Palestinians to bombard Israeli towns and wrong for Israel to prevent them from doing it.

But not hard at all for angry street leftists to shout slogans and to wave signs. But they cannot put anyone in a suit at a table who has anything defensible to say. So the rallies go on and signify nothing because they cannot lead to political organizing or political influence, let alone electing anyone.

Even with that, the considerable majority of people whom ANSWER was able to bring out were Palestinians living in the Bay Area. Which is an inherently limited constituency.


  1. Although I am firmly oppossed to Israeli action, as is obvious from my previous posts, I 100% agreee with this. Indeed in Dublin, I seen a protest recently mainly compromised by Sinn Fein supporters shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Palestinian flags. The party's idelogy is marxist and their history is embedded in terrorism. I doubt very few at the protest had the slightest grasp of Middle-Eastern politics. The average bedroom of such Sinn-Fein pro-Paelstinian supporters consits of a Palestinian flag and a large poster of a brutal tyrant, Che Guevarra. This sickens me and it pains me to see as it washes a lot of credibility away from a viewpoint that disagrees with Israeli activity in gaza.

  2. These protestors were also the same group of people spear-heading the No vote rallies for the Lisbon treaty, irionically along with a man, Declan Ganley (a staunch capitalist with strong economic links with the U.S. military). This no vote was the ultimate "up yours" to Europe and integration, the very essence of this states economic future. I may have strayed off topic, but it sickens me really

  3. Christy8:58 AM

    "They have always taken great pleasure in calling absolutely everyone in America racist."

    Ha! What about your 'tendency' (To put it mildly) to accuse all of western civilisation of constant and continuous Jew-hatred?

  4. Damien writes --
    "I may have strayed off topic, but it sickens me really"

    I will concede pride of place for short attention span and wandering off-topic to no man (though to several women) but I think there is a valuable connection here.

    What you saw and heard at anti-Treaty of Lisbon rallies is "yammering", shouting with no thought or content. That is what I see and hear at anti-Israel rallies.

    But I had not realized how central the Irish vote has been to the prospects of the Treaty until I looked at a few Wikipedia entries about it.

    I was living in Paris at the time of the 2005 referendum there. I thought it was a no-brainer and was surprised that there was any real debate about it. I was even more surprised when both the French and Dutch electorates rejected the treaty.

    But just as the Palestinians repeatedly act against their own interests, catastrophically against their own interests, so too do the French and Dutch sometimes.

    My own thoughts as an American in Paris were half good wishes to see Europe unite and thrive and put a millenium of intra-European wars behind them. And a quarter a selfish desire to see them fail so that American world dominance would remain intact. A quarter bemusement at the ridiculous text of the treaty which included among many many other things, standards for construction of resorts on Malta. Compare the majestic brevity of the US Constitution.

    All that said, I find it dubious that the response to repeatedly losing referenda is to hold no more referenda. In every country in which the treaty has been put up for parliamentary and executive approval it has passed. In at least three cases where the people have spoken, they have said 'no'.

    The merits of European integration I think are clear especially for small countries like Ireland, as you have pointed out. The treaty itself seems clunky and bureaucratic but that is a small matter. The manner of its adoption is not.

    Without popular assent the treaty and constitution will seem like a set of obligations and conditions imposed by one class on another. And its legitimacy will always be open to dispute.

    Since your country has gone through a prolonged debate on the question and I am just a passer-by, I am pretty sure that my arguments will seem simplistic. I put them out not to convince you but to elicit your -- and Christy's -- thoughts.

  5. Christy1:19 PM

    Personally I am Pan-European in principle, but am very loath to accede to a constitution, or even a Treaty which doesn't address the Democratic Deficit in Brussels (And Strasbourg) as a rule. The central problem for a lot of voters (But granted, not in Irelands case) is that the EU is a non-representative bloated buraucracy. With little democracy.

    I reluctantly voted for Lisbon because I recognise my economic interests are tied to European integration. But the politicians have to realise that by fobbing us off (Which they do by never questioning or attempting to reform the Democratic Deficit) they risk a lot of (Potential) good feelings for Europe that a lot of Irish people have.

  6. Please expand on what you mean by the "Democratic Deficit" in Brussels and Strasbourg.

    We have enormous bureaucracies in Washington but our objections to them are mainly objections to bureaucracy per se. You seem to have some more specific objection in mind.

    You distinguish between the attitudes toward Brussels and Strasbourg of Irish voters versus other European voters. What do you consider to be the differences?

  7. Christy3:41 PM

    Glad to see you are interested in European politics - a refreshing attitude from an American!

    There are huge cultural differences between the average continental European and the average Irishman. We have much more in common with the Brits, which is quite ironic considering our history. My comment was simply a reflection of the low-brow nature of the Treaty debate and the reason why most (Not all, several very intelligent opposed it on completely understandable grounds. I was indecisive on polling day) opposed it. Cynicism with out government played a big part too. Read up about in on Wikipedia, if I remember right there's a good article on it somewhere.

    The Democratic Deficit is a term used by people like me (Generally apathetic to most politics, but still follow it vigorously) to describe the complete impotence of MEPs (Elected members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg - our only representative institution in the EU) to implement any policy at this level. In reality they are a consultive assembly to the Commissionors (I'm a bit shaky on the exact institutional framework of the EU - needless to say its vastly more complicated than the relatively straight, simple and effective seperation of powers in the USA)

    The Commission (It even sounds Orwellian) are nominated by our respective governments - so you may make the argument that the decision making in the EU rests largely on representatives from our governments to the EU. Or the fact that EU agreement or treaty requires unanimity in approval. This is all positive in terms of the consensus-building nature of the European Union. However, I struggle to see the point of even having a Parliament if it has no political power? Why is it even there if it not to be the basis of decision making in the EU?

    This is what I find most repulsive about the EU (Or rather, what I find could become most repulsive) Unless the system is based on democracy then it has the potentiality to turn into an oligarchy of elites.

    And apologies to Damian for echoing the repulsive Declan Ganley. But he does have a point sometimes.