By Burn the Tombs
During the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, a coalition of nominally left parties will be seeking unity with elements of the white populist wing of the Democratic Party currently represented by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Under the banner of a “Socialist Convergence,” the political goals of this collection of panel presentations and workshops are framed as responses to two guiding questions: “What’s next for the movement? How do we make a political revolution in this country?” For many involved, the aims of the conference are more concrete. One principal organizer, Tim Horras of Philly Socialists, has stated that his hope is for a “liberal-left alliance” to emerge from Socialist Convergence in order to pursue a “municipal strategy” together with Socialist Alternative. Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative has called for the founding of a “party of the 99 percent” to extend the expiration date Sander’s “political revolution”.
Socialist Convergence features an array of sponsors from the u.s. nationalist left. Given this, and the organizers’ claims that conditions for settler left unity are ripe, it is profitable to take a look at who and what is left behind in the name of unity: namely, Indigenous liberation and the global proletariat.
Left unity on whose backs?
No panel at Socialist Convergence will uphold a principled and comprehensive commitment to anti-imperialism as a cornerstone of left unity. Instead, notably, the conference will host a number of groupings with objectively Zionist politics as participants. The elevation of the sewer socialism of Socialist Alternative as a model for socialist organizing is revealing in this regard, and it is certain that this party’s Zionist predilections will not be contested as one of the conditions of unity. Indeed, the notion that Israel has a “right to exist” – that is, that a white supremacist settler colony has a right to exist – is a value Socialist Alternative shares with other sponsors, including the Democratic Socialists of America and the Green Party.
Socialist Alternative’s white supremacist political line on Palestine demands that the colonized, Indigenous Palestinians unite with the parasitic Zionist settlers to oppose the Israeli and Arab bourgeoisie, a formula that must flatly deny the reality of settler colonialism as a structure in order to claim coherence. Further, Socialist Alternative embraces Israel’s fascistic obsession with national security, legitimating a discourse used to justify genocide, stating it is paramount that “the security concerns of the Israeli people [sic]” – colonizers – “be taken into account,” and that Zionist opposition to a free Palestine in all of their homeland must be honored. Instead, Socialist Alternative defends colonization as an inviolate “right” of the settler.
Through the colonial lenses of Socialist Alternative, “the national consciousness of Israeli Jews simply cannot be ignored. Socialist Alternative and the CWI, therefore, defends the right of the Israeli people [sic] to have their own state, Israel, alongside an independent Palestinian state.” For Socialist Alternative to so delimit the national aspirations of a colonized nation due to fretting over the fate of their colonizer is Eurocentrism at its most noxious nadir. Those who uphold Palestinian liberation beyond progressive liberal demands to “end [only part of] the occupation” will be required to either stay silent, render this an area of compromise, or find themselves outflanked. A free Palestine “from the river to the sea” and the concomitant destruction of the Zionist settler colony are part and parcel of a basic commitment to class struggle and internationalism, but these will assuredly not be a plank in any platform to emerge from the Socialist Convergence.
In light of this abdication, and coupled with the event’s derogation of internationalism and sidelining of anti-imperialism, it is clear that any “unity” emerging from this conference will be a national chauvinist unity, opposed to the interests of the global proletariat and oppressed nations of the Third World. Palestinian liberation is just one emblematic example of what such a convergence will leave behind. As Zak Cope and Torkil Lauesen conclude in their analytical introduction to Marx and Engels: On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly, and the Working Class Movement, “Fighting for higher wages and better living conditions for First World workers is reactionary outside of the struggle against imperialism. Government deficit spending, expanded welfare measures, and protected industry in the affluent countries are not necessarily socialist measures. Those groups, whether ostensibly left-wing or right-wing, which act to preserve the inequality of imperialist relations invariably promote national chauvinist solutions to problems of unemployment and declining living standards” (p. 52). Supporting the creation of a new, narrowly nationalist and social democratic electoral formation in the wake of the Sanders campaign is a call for a more “equitable” distribution, within the imperialist core, of the spoils of the global transfer of value from the Third World to the First World.
Socialism in one settler colony
From the standpoint of Indigenous peoples the so-called 99% are not simply united in their collective indignation, but, more significantly, by their settler status. This is Indigenous Land.
– Sandy Grande
Every inch of the settler colonial and imperialist nation now called “the united states of america” is stolen land. Specifically, this meeting is to take place on Lenapehoking, the Lenni-Lenape nation’s homeland, which was stolen through a series of genocidal frontier assaults and ethnic cleansing campaigns. Socialist Convergence does not even acknowledge this in their materials, nonetheless deal with its ramifications for communist struggle, as their politics and strategic considerations require its denial. A left unity emerging from a coalition of liberals, progressives, Greens, social democrats, anarchistic academics, and Cliffites will as a matter of course jettison Indigenous liberation and uphold the oppression of Global South workers. Without a commitment to decolonization, the restoration and return of Native land and sovereignty, what Socialist Convergence seeks is merely socialism in one settler colony – or in Fred Ho’s phrasing, a “Manifest Destiny Marxism.”
Against the settler left characterization of support for the struggle against colonialism as a species of “ultraleftism” and an inevitable failure, as all colonizers have historically averred, grasping the entwinement of settler colonialism with capitalism and class formation, including its embourgeoisiement of the settler “masses” as a material basis for chauvinism, is essential in understanding the class dynamics of the settler colony, and thus for revolutionary theorizing. Following the insights Enāēmaehkiw Thupaq Kesīqnaeh arrives at in his essential intervention “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor,”
It’s been said before that under imperialism nations become almost as classes, and this is true of the situation here on Occupied A’nó:wara Kawè:note. The class struggle remains of central importance, however it does not take the form classically prophesized by marxists and class struggle anarchists of an antagonistic contest between an amorphous multinational ‘proletariat’ at one pole and the bourgeoisie at the other. Rather the class-struggle is concentrated within the national-colonial question between oppressor nations and oppressed nations. This ‘(inter-)nationalization’ of the class struggle transforms it into a fight to the death between the proletarian, de-classed and other popular elements of the domestic colonies against the imperialist nation bourgeoisie and its enriched, bought-off garrison of petty-bourgeois settlers.
If there is to be a left unity that is not reducible to oppressor nation populism, parasitism and settlerism, it must be one that is uncompromisingly anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and internationalist in character. The ongoing theft of Native land and attendant genocidal assault on Indigenous nations and the super-exploitation of Global South workers constitute two foundational bases of the settler nation and its wealth. Those whose politics seek only to topple a capitalist settler sovereignty in order to erect a “socialist” settler sovereignty locate themselves as the left wing of fascism and imperialism.
Cope, Zak, and Torkil Lauesen. “Introduction.” Marx and Engels: On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly, and the Working Class Movement. Montreal: Kersplebedeb, 2016. 5-60.
Grande, Sandy. “Accumulation of the Primitive: The Limits of Liberalism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street.” Settler Colonial Studies 3:3-4 (2013): 369-380.