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Re: Why is the left not internationalist anymore?
by Alan Spector
02 November 2003 05:22 UTC
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I would like to suggest a "sixth" weakness in the left movement in Europe
(and also somewhat in the US). I write this as a preliminary observation,
and I don't mean to be presumptuous or arrogant. It's just some preliminary

The sixth is the weak sense of unity between the traditional, trade union
oriented left movement and the struggles of immigrants in those countries,
especially immigrants from West Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Carribean.
I heard numerous excuses from leftists about how difficult it is to build
unity with many of the immigrants---that they kept to themselves, that they
were too passive, or too violent, or too culturally and religiously
"backward", etc. etc. etc.  I don't doubt that those stereotypes might apply
to some immigrants. But it is a stereotype. In reality, if the working class
is the main (not the only) agent for social change, and if the immigrants
are (generally, but not completely) the most oppressed segment of that
working class, then one would expect a disproportionate percentage of the
left movement to be from those immigrant groups. But that is not the case.
Many of the left groups do acknowledge that they are opposed to
racial-ethnic-religious discrimination and say that their groups are "open"
to the refugees and other immigrants, but in reality the effort seems (to
me) to be inadequate. My understanding is that much of the left did not
involve itself in the defense of the young South Asians arrested and given
long prison terms during the "Bradford Riots". In Germany, many Turks are
militantly anti-capitalist, but they seem to have separate organizations
with some contacts, but not genuine, grassroots unity with many of the
traditional left organizations.

The left in the USA is clearly less developed than the left in Western
Europe. But one thing that we have realized (although our efforts are also
inadequate in this regard) is that capitalism must segment the labor market
and that "race/ethnic/religious" segmentation is central to capitalism's
functioning. Therefore, the struggle against this discrimination is CENTRAL
to the struggle to build a working class movement. Not out of abstract
morality. Nor to build "convenient coalitions". But genuine, grassroots
solidarity. It is not a question of "winning these groups to follow the
traditional ("white?") left movement" but rather to incorporate more members
of these immigrant groups into the leadership of the whole left movement!
This will obviously impact on the internationalist perspective of the whole
movement by not merely adding more members to that movement, but
qualitatively making it politically stronger. And also by helping to
develop, via the immigrants, strong links to activists in other countries.

Western Europe is changing. The "white" populations are not reproducing many
children, and large numbers of immigrants continue to move in. While some on
the "traditional left" do address this reality, much of the rest seems mired
in the traditional labor union and electoral strategy in narrow ways. We can
expect to see more racial-ethnic divisions intensified by those in power who
understand this issue perhaps better than many on the left. Building this
unity is not a question of morality, of "helping" those immigrants......it
is a matter of survival for the whole anti-capitalist movement.

Alan Spector


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "g kohler" <kohlerg@3web.net>
To: "Seyed Javad" <seyedjavad@hotmail.com>; <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:58 PM
Subject: Re: Why is the left not internationalist anymore?

> Seyed writes:
>  [quote]But this new breed of Left is more idealist in their outlook and
> more of a materialist in their social life who guard against all the
> which undermine their sense of previliges or status. However there could
> plenty of other issues which are beyond the scope of my ability to
> analyze.[end quote]
> It seems to me that globalization critics of the First World (including
> myself) have a problem insofar as we desire a more just world, but we, qua
> being First Worlders, have the benefits of that unjust global distribution
> of wealth and, consequently, yell more softly when it comes to that. And
> that is reflected in the campaigning. And here Suzanne Berger puts her
> finger on a genuine problem. While in Germany this past summer and trying
> learn more about the globalization critical movement there, I found that
> their campagning is fairly strong in four areas and weak in a fifth. The
> Canadian scene is similar. The four strong areas are: (1) ecological (here
> you find people who sleep with Herman Daly's books under their pillow),
> anti-corporate (here you find celebrations of books like "Blue Gold" by
> Maude Barlow) and standard condemnations of the IMF etc, (3) defense of
> local welfare state (demonstrations as in France and Italy against the
> destruction of the social safety nets), (4) anti-war. The fifth area,
> namely, that of campaiging for global redisribution of wealth in favour of
> poor countries seems a bit weak and wishywashy. Suzanne Berger makes a
> point here. (Of course, I hope, that someone can point out that I am
> mistaken.) But then, perhaps, that is alright. Third Worlders do their own
> campaigning and don't need the First World left that much. Perhaps, the
> thing First World leftists can do for the Third World is campaigning
> the ecological destruction of the globe by ourselves and our First World
> corporations.
> Kind regards.

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