Monday, April 21, 2008

Dublin Palestine march: Socialists supply the bodies, liberalism supplies the politics

An Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Committee (IPSC) march of around 300 people was held in Dublin on Saturday April 12th. The demonstration was part of a series of IPSC events to commemorate the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine which led to the establishment of the colonial-settler and apartheid state of Israel. It linked the most infamous massacre of 1948 – Deir Yassin where around 120 people were killed, and the ethic cleansing on which Israel is founded established, with the ‘collective punishment’ endured by the people of Gaza today.

It was an issue worthy of protest, but one could only blink at the role of the Dublin left. The socialist movement, along with Palestinian émigrés, made up the whole of the demonstration, hosting a platform largely dominated by forces far to their right. The most glaring example was the keynote speech by David Norris in which he indicated his support for the state of Israel, qualified with a call for more humane treatment of Palestinians. He was followed by bluster from Michael D Higgins of the Labour party and blather from SIPTU bureaucrat Mags O'Brien and Sinn Fein apparatchik Mary Lou McDonald. The only figure who could be definitely identified with socialism was Eamonn McCann.

Socialists have been holding demonstrations throughout the lifetime of the modern working class. They have hosted non-socialist speakers with very distinct ground rules. One – an attempt to broaden the movement by engaging with new forces the speakers bring with them, two – to debate issues and win workers away from liberalism, nationalism and social democracy.

These ground rules no longer apply. The grandees never bring anyone but themselves. Michael D could claim to have brought Labour youth – but they would have come anyway. Norris had no-one to bring. Sinn Fein will keep their own supporters as far away from the left as they can. As for debate – the fact that Norris can support Israel without facing anyone protesting and pointing out that that state can only survive by maintaining ethnic cleansing and apartheid is a sign of the deep demoralisation of the left.

This behaviour is clearly suicidal, Sinn Fein in particular are clearly using the issue of Palestine to re-establish a little of the leftist glitter that tarnished so quickly in the last election. If they succeed they will obliterate the left’s own pretensions to electoral success. How can we explain it?

The answer seemed to be summed up in the platform calls for the EU to suspend the Euro-med agreement that gives Israel special status. This is nothing but another call for the ‘international community’ to act. The EU is clearly with the other imperialist powers in supporting Israel. The job of the socialist movement is to try and convince workers to intervene on the side of Palestine. It appears that the left have given up trying to climb that particular mountain and are willing to allow liberalism to set the agenda.

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