The Importance of Mass Solidarity

Brother Gilad Atzmon recently wrote a piece entitled “The Sycophantic Palestinian Solidarity Movement.” The article deals with famous musician Roger Waters and his criticism of the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli Jews and the subsequent fallout.

Among the supposed crimes of Waters was using the “J word” — as Atzmon refers to it. A special rule seems to be in play whereby Jews must not be referred to as Jews, and when referring to Jews (or or non-Jews) who support the state of Israel, the the term to be used is “Zionists.” I do not recall a similar distinctive rule being in place during World War II when Nazis were referred to as Germans or even “Jerrys” or “Krauts.” It is axiomatic that all Germans were not Nazis, just as all Jews are not Zionists. I am also unaware of particular outrage to the term “Americans” being used when criticizing US foreign policy instead of, for example, “imperialists”; after all, not all Americans are imperialists, are they? Linguistic accuracy is preferable, but such demands for accuracy must be applied evenly.

Waters is now being pilloried by Zionists, like Atzmon and so many other opponents (famous or less famous) of Jewish supremacism, racism, etc.

A coherent solidarity is required to hasten the defeat of Zionism, Israeli colonialism, apartheid, much as solidarity is a sine qua non to bring down capitalism and its inherent classism.

There will be differences of opinion within any mass movement, and of course the comments of individuals within the movement must be open to scrutiny and criticism where warranted, but afterwards the “movement” must close ranks. To not close ranks risks fracturing and splitting a mass movement. When many furcations occur, then at some point, a mass movement ceases to exist, and occupations/oppression like against Palestine continue, and, on a larger scale, a revolution becomes a daunting if not impossible prospect; the result is that capitalism continues and the poor get poorer while the rich get richer. Thus, what some define as ideological purity, arguably, winds up serving the ends of the oppressors.

Furthermore, criticism must not take the form of ad hominem (which undermines solidarity and strengthens Zionists while weakening Palestinians and their supporters) but be based on challenging the factual accuracy, morality, and logic of what opponents say. Unless supported by evidence, ad hominem does not even reach the criterion for being considered criticism; it is merely defamation.

Initially, I dissented from one paragraph in Atzmon’s piece:

Here’s the problem. Celebrities are often famous and successful because they’re clever and independent. Unlike our progressive, dysfunctional activists, who in most cases lives on income support and repeat our ‘party line’, the celebrity is a confident, career-oriented, self-sufficient subject and, because of their capacity to make autonomous decisions, he or she is assertive and thriving. In short, the activist and the celebrity are made of very different stuff and so a collision is inevitable.

“Celebrities are often famous and successful because they’re clever and independent.” This is a very loose statement and could be framed in so many other ways, such as, and I submit this is much more accurate: Celebrities are most often famous and successful because they’ve been privileged by their environment. Moreover, I disagree with placing any humans on a pedestal. I submit that it smacks of elitism and supremacism. Celebrity is often based on appearance or the fact that one skill that gets magnified and accorded more recognition than others from among the multiplicity of skills that various individual humans possess.

“Unlike our progressive, dysfunctional activists,” … “Progressive” needs to be defined. What Atzmon writes is an oxymoron. I define progressivism as an umbrella term for movements based on moral principles and not as a political orientation, although that political orientation will be what is generally regarded as leftist. That being said, I submit there is a major difference between a compromising liberal and an uncompromising anarchist. They are often both included under the umbrella of progressivism … meaning something like: to move forward toward for the good of society. There are, however, hypocrites and fifth columns within many movements, especially progressivist movements.

Atzmon emailed me: “Progressives are the people who call other people reactionary: a category defined by choseness, very different from liberals. Okay, we were at a definitional impasse.

“who in most cases lives on income support and repeat our ‘party line’,…” Well there is no “party line” in progressivism; Communists, yes; it is hardly likely among anarchists, while liberals (the American definition) tend to be all over the place. In addition, attacking people for being on income support is just plain wrong. It ignores the Man/the system/the establishment. The system (i.e., capitalism) demands that joblessness exists. In this manner the bargaining power of workers is attenuated and conversely the power of the capitalist is strengthened. Since there are so many jobless workers on the labor market, the capitalist can threaten workers with job loss to try and cow them into taking an undeservedly lower piece of the monetary pie while the capitalist gorges himself. It is the system that creates joblessness and creates the need for income support.

Yes, object others, but some people take advantage of income support. First, that a few individuals might take advantage of income support does not obviate the need to address the inadequacies brought about by the system; capitalism is to blame — not the workers and those without jobs that don’t exist. Second, income support should not exist. All humans should be accorded the right to decent, meaningful employment that provides for respectful living standard. If a guaranteed income where in place, as it should be, then income support would not exist. It is fruitless to attack people for the faults of the system. This is nothing revolutionary. It is article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all capitalist nation-states are signatories. These nation-states are merely required to honor the parchment that they signed.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

“the celebrity is a confident, career-oriented, self-sufficient subject and, because of their capacity to make autonomous decisions, he or she is assertive and thriving.” This is just hyping celebrities and might well contain much truth, but it comes across as an attack on non-celebrities by exclusion; thus it approaches elitism or (shudder) supremacism. Look at how many pampered, cerebrally challenged and/or non-activist celebrities are out there. I will remain from naming them (that might be considered ad hominem, but the truth cannot be ad hominem because once it is adduced, then the truth is what it is, whereas ad hominem in a vacuum stands as an unsubstantiated slur) but I submit a search of, for example, “celebrities+support+israel” or “celebrities+support+imperialism” will provide some famous names.

“In short, the activist and the celebrity are made of very different stuff and so a collision is inevitable.” In short, I submit that this thesis is dead wrong. The activist and the celebrity are made of the same stuff. First a celebrity can be an activist, as Roger Waters and Atzmon demonstrate. And where they do not overlap, celebrities and activists are both humans. The collision is not brought about by any imagined status of the person; the collision is a result of divergent moral positions that each have taken.

In the end, the essay revealed the wit of Atzmon.

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.