A Debate: Should We Organize Americans and Brits to Fight the Plutocracy, Or Should We Write Them Off As Oppressors Themselves?
by John Spritzler (www.spritzlerj.blogspot.com)
Should we even bother to try to organize our fellow citizens in the U.S. and Britain against the warmongering plutocracy that rules over us? Or would that be a waste of time?
Some people imply that it would be a waste of time. They insist that ordinary Americans and Brits are themselves the oppressor. Ordinary Americans and Brits, they say, re-elected Bush and Blair to office, they consume products of an imperialist society, and they don't attend anti-war demonstrations in large enough numbers, so therefore they are the oppressor. To the extent that we believe that our friends and neighbors and co-workers are the oppressor, we can hardly be hopeful about the prospect of organizing them to oppose oppression.
Sure, we could appeal to Americans and Brits to "stop being an oppressor," but this is a recipe for remaining a weak and marginalized collection of alienated individuals. Ruling classes are not defeated by people who blame themselves. Anger at wrongdoing and hopefulness about being able to stop it are what enable powerful opposition movements to grow, not guilt. Popular mass movements with the power to change the world derive their strength from people being confident that their values, and not those of the current rulers, should shape society. Telling people that "you are the oppressor," on the contrary, is the opposite of telling them that their values are right and the plutocracy's values are wrong.
But, one might object, is it really true that the values of ordinary Americans and Brits are different from those of the plutocracy, and ought to shape society? This question is addressed in the debate that follows.
I recently had an email debate with several people who say that ordinary Americans and Brits are the oppressor. It started with my critique of an article by Gilad Atzmon. Then Gilad and Jeff Blankfort replied in defense of Gilad's article, and we went back and forth a couple of more times. Below are all of my replies, followed by the article and all of the emails of Jeff and Gilad; each set of emails is in chronological order.
From: John Spritzler
To: Spritzler, John (Comcast)
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2005 8:45 AM
Subject: A critique of "Blair the Camera Man by Gilad Atzmon"
The article below by Gilad Atzmon, a staunch opponent of apartheid Israel and of the "war on terror," exposes the deceitfulness of Tony Blair but unfortunately accepts the central lie behind the "war on terror." Atzmon accepts the lie when he writes in his last paragraph: "Unfortunately, and it is hard to admit, we are the oppressors in this story."
As so famously (and apochrophally) uttered by the Lone Ranger's Indian sidekick, Tonto, "What you mean 'we', Kimosabe?"
To say that "we are the oppressors" is to grant that ordinary citizens of the U.K. and of the U.S. are truly represented by the ruling class leaders of these nations. It is to grant that the values of ordinary citizens are the same as the capitalist values of the ruling plutocracy -- inequality not equality; top-down control based on lies and fear, not genuine democracy; greed and self-interest and competition leading to pitting people against each other in wars of mass murder just to control them, not solidarity and concern for one another.
If "we are the oppressor" then how come ordinary people in the U.S. and U.K. haven't a clue what the real purpose of the war in Iraq is, and know only that whatever the real purpose is we aren't being told it?
If "we are the oppressor" then how come we aren't being told by our leaders that the war in Iraq is being waged so that we can more effectively oppress the Iraqi people and steal their oil or make them our slaves or whatnot? After all, if "we are the oppressor" then that's excactly what we'd want to know and that's exactly what would make us support the war even more.
If "we are the oppressor" then we'd certainly not be interested in supporting a war to bring Iraqis democracy. So if "we are the oppressor" why do Blair and Bush need to tell us the lie that we're spreading democracy?
We are not the oppressor. We are part of the same international working class as the most direct and obvious victims of "our" plutocracy's warmongering -- the Iraqis and Palestinians and Afganis. The warmongering is an Orwellian strategy for controlling not only the obvious victims but of controlling us.
We need to reject the BIG LIE that we have values or aspirations or "interests" that are in any way the same as those of our rulers -- the Blairs and Bushes and the wealthy families who rule through politicians like them. We need to see that we and the Iraqis and Palestinians and others are on the same side of the class war that rages in the world, that we share the same working class values of equality and solidarity and democracy. And we have the same enemy -- the plutocracy that now runs the world. This understanding is the very bedrock of any successful effort to make a better world. Please, Mr. Atzmon, don't grant Tony Blair the biggest lie when you expose his other lies.
From: John Spritzler
To: Spritzler, John (Comcast)
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 12:00 AM
Subject: Gilad Atzmon reponds to my critique of his "Blair the Camera Man"
Gilad Atzmon's reply to my critique of his "Blair the Camera Man" is below.
It reflects a kind of hopelessness among many of us which cripples our ability to defeat our enemies and make a better world. It is the hopelessness of feeling alone, of feeling that we are surrounded by fellow citizens who are against us and for our enemies. To the extent that we have this perception of hopelessness, the emails and articles we write condemning and analyzing the atrocities going on around us are written more as a kind of self-therapy than with any expectation that it will stop the atrocities. It's a way of keeping our self-respect and connecting with like-minded souls to reaffirm that it is not we who are crazy, but the world we live in. But self-therapy is not what we need. We need a determination to reach out to billions of people and build a movement that can win.
Our enemies work hard to make us feel hopeless. They tell us we live in a demooooocracy, and therefore since Bush and Blair got re-elected it means only one thing -- "YOU ARE ALL ALONE -- ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ARE FOR JUSTICE!" That's what this "we are the oppressors" and "we must look in the mirror first" stuff is really all about. It is a veiled way of saying what is really believed but which is too terrifying to say out loud -- that one has abandoned all hope in the possibility of building a popular movement of our fellow citizens to overthrow our ruling classes and make a more equal and just world. Saying "we are the oppressors" is just another way of saying, "I give up."
Come on folks. There is no reason why we need to give up. Our fellow citizens share our values of equality, genuine democracy and people helping each other instead of killing each other. They may be lied to and frightened and manipulated, but they are not the oppressors. This means we can forge a winning movement. It is a cop-out to give up the fight with the silly excuse that "we are the oppressors."
"But," you say, "they all voted against us and for Bush/Blair." Nonsense! In the U.S. a lot of people eligible to vote do not register. Of the registered voters, about half vote. Of the half who vote, about half vote for tweedledee and the other half for tweedledum. (I jokingly asked people at work just before the 2004 U.S. election if they had made up their mind who to vote for and to my surprise one young black woman said no, she hadn't. I asked her what was making her choice difficult. She said it was the stem cell research issue. I don't know who she voted for. If she picked Bush, does that prove she supports the Iraq war, for which Kerry wanted to send 40,000 more troops?)
No, a majority did NOT vote for Bush the second time around. Of the people eligible to vote, not even a majority voted at all, nevermind for Bush. Stop believing the lies our newspapers tell us about "the people" electing "our leaders" in a "demoooocracy." (I don't know the details in the U.K. very well, but I did read something that explained why even people against the Iraq war voted for Blair. Maybe somebody can fill us in on that who lives in Britain.)
This nonsense about "we are the oppressors" would never be taken seriously by anybody who was trying to build a popular movement against the ruling elites. Think about it. If you go up to your friend or neighbor or fellow worker or if you go door to door talking to people or in any way reach out to your fellow citizens (and people who aren't citizens but who live and work in your neck of the woods), how do you address them? Do you say, "Hi Mrs. Smith, I think you and your friends are all the oppressor and I was wondering if you'd join me in fighting oppression?" Then you really would be crazy!
Come on folks. Let's get serious about this. We are in the middle of a class war. Our friends and neighbors and fellow workers are on the working class side of this war and we need to help them understand what's going on and gain the confidence and clarity to overthrow the ruling plutocracy. We need to appreciate this fact. We need to reject the elite's poisonous propaganda designed to paralyze us with hopelessness based on the perception that our friends and neighbors and fellow workers "are the oppressors."
From: John Spritzler
To: Blankfort, Jeff ; Atzmon, Gilad
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 4:31 PM
Subject: Gilad Atzmon, Jeff Blankfort and me (3rd round) re "we are the oppressors"
Dear Gilad, Jeff and Friends,
This question we are debating here (both your latest emails are below) is perhaps the most important question in our political lives: What is our view of the people among whom we live, the people -- if any -- that we might influence and organize? Ordinary Americans and Brits -- are they oppressors from whom we should not expect any world-changing support, or are they people whose values make them a potential revolutionary force opposed to our enemies?
The capitalist view is that of Adam Smith (and as far as actual living breathing workers are concerned, Karl Marx endorsed it). It says that all people act in their self-interest. In this view, ordinary Americans and Brits are self-interested consumers, some of whom are workers and some of whom are businessmen. There is no conflict over values in society, just a bit of conflict over how to divide the pie between workers versus employers and between other competing groups. Society is just a bunch of competing groups, each with its own self-interest. Nobody (except a few "radicals") objects to the way society is; they're too busy looking out for number one within it. Unless it hurts them in their pocket book or gets a loved one killed, nobody cares if their government wages unjust wars of oppression in foreign lands. Jeff and Gilad, correct me if I'm wrong, but your writings make me believe that this is your view too.
The revolutionary view (as I define it) is very different. It says that most ordinary Americans and Brits care very much about what is morally right or wrong. They value equality, fairness, people helping one another, decisions being made democratically. They value these things more than they value self-interest. Capitalism puts enormous pressure on people to reject these values and to adopt the opposite capitalist values of competition, self-interest, inequality and top-down control. Despite this pressure, people try to shape what little piece of the world they have some control over by positive values; they create relations with friends, neighbors, family and co-workers of mutual support and equality and concern for others. If this were not true, then we'd be living in a nightmare jungle shaped exclusively by capitalist values. There is much that is good in our society, and it exists only because of the efforts of ordinary people to resist the values of capitalism. This means that ordinary people constitute (today, not just potentially in the future) an implicitly revolutionary force. Revolutionaries should see their role as nurturing this force and making people more aware of its existence and its significance so they derive from it the hope and confidence they need to change the world.
In the Hormel meatpacking strike 20 years ago, for example, the workers (who might very well have replied "yes" if you asked them if they were "middle class," Jeff) continued their strike long after they knew there was no way they could win enough to make up for lost wages (and for some, lost homes) incurred during the strike. They stayed on strike to prevent a terrible precedent from making the world more unequal for working people in the future. That wasn't self-interest. That was fighting to shape the world by anti-capitalist values. This happens in small ways, and occasionally large dramatic ones like the Hormel strike, all the time, but we generally either don't hear about them at all or we fail to see their significance as examples of the class conflict over values.
So, which view of ordinary people is most accurate? I have recently spent a lot of time collecting signatures in Somerville, Massachusetts (a small working class town near Boston) to place an Israel divestment referendum on the ballot. I have spoken with literally hundreds of people by going door to door in residential neighborhoods and standing on the street and in front of grocery stores. In all of that time I have come across exactly one individual whose attitude was "what's in it for me?" Virtually everybody, pro or con, explains their point of view in terms of what they believe is fair and just. Since we live in a capitalist culture which praises self-interest, you'd expect that people who approached the issue that way would not hesitate to say so. The fact that people don't do so means that they don't think, "What's in it for me?" when I ask them to sign the petition.
Gilad, you write that: "Being an oppressor isn’t a matter of awareness it is rather the lack of awareness, it is merely a practice." True enough: working class Americans and Brits in the military do terrible things to Iraqis, like at Abu Ghraib and Falluja, and what they do deserves to be called oppression regardless of whether or not they understand the wrongness of their actions. Iraqis are perfectly justified in violently resisting these armed and violent Americans and Brits.
From the point of view, however, of our political practice -- whether we seriously make the effort to build a movement among our fellow Americans and Brits to defeat the plutocracy -- the question remains: which view of ordinary people is most accurate: the capitalist view which leads to hopelessness, or the revolutionary view which provides hope? As I have written about Abu Ghraib (Abu Ghraib: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Not Us), the significance of a person like the prison guard Pfc. Lynndie England is the enormous amount of plutocracy-sponsored lying, from kindergarten through boot camp, by schools and the media and the military, that was required to make people like her think (at the time) that what she did to Iraqis was right -- that she was fighting the bad guys and defending the good.
There is a fundamental difference between the people (like our plutocracy and their loyal politicians) who oppress because they know the truth and are in fact deliberately spreading the lies, versus the people like the Lynndie Englands who oppress because they believe the lies. Yes, when either one of them is shooting at you, you need to shoot back. But when the friends and neighbors of people like Lynndie England are not shooting at you, when they are civilians living next door to you or working along side of you, then -- from the point of view of being able to win them over to joining us in fighting the plutocracy -- it makes all the difference in the world whether they are the people spreading the lies or the people who believed the lies. It makes all the difference whether they think the world should be more equal and democratic, or more unequal and more undemocratic.
Gilad, the fact that you can come up with a definition of "oppressor" which includes both kinds of people should not be used to obscure the extremely important difference between them. The more you harp on the "we are the oppressors" theme, the more you reinforce the capitalist view of people and thereby spread hopelessness among those who need, on the contrary, to see the basis for hope in building a revolutionary movement among our fellow citizens.
Gilad, you elaborate your point, that being an oppressor doesn't require awareness, by writing: "The SS were far from being familiar with Hitler’s decision-making process. They just did their job. We are doing our job just by being consumers." This is an absurd point you are making here -- that being a consumer in an unjust society makes one equivalent to a fanatical and violent oppressor like Hitler's SS Nazis. Are the people of Somerville consumers in an imperialist U.S. society? Of course they are. But to draw from this fact the conclusion that they are ideologically allied with our enemies and opposed to us is absurd. (Jeff and Gilad, aren't you also consumers in our imperialist society? Does this demonstrate that you are hopelessly allied with imperialism the way Hitler's SS was allied with fascism?) By this illogical reasoning, the fact that the slaves in America consumed food grown on slave plantations would mean that the slaves were complicit in the system of slavery, and those slaves who didn't want to starve were "part of the problem" in supporting slavery. One could argue that the slaves may not have liked slavery, but the fact that they did the work that made the system of slavery tenable meant they were objectively ("merely by their practice") pro-slavery. Why would anybody make such a crazy argument? What would be their point?
Just as important as asking which view of people is more accurate, is asking which view of people best facilitates changing the world. In my previous posts I said why the "we are the oppressors" message undermines building a movement against the plutocracy. I said it would mean addressing our friends and neighbors and fellow workers by saying something crazy like, "Hello Mrs. Smith. I think you and your friends are the oppressors. Will you join me in fighting oppression?" If we adopt this approach we are guaranteed to fail.
Jeff and Gilad, neither of you addressed this point. Why not? It's the key issue here.
Jeff, you give all sorts of arguments about why we should give up. You say that people don't attend anti-war demonstrations anymore. But so what? Lots of people think demonstrations won't make a difference now that they've seen the huge ones ignored. (I feel the same way!) Instead, there is a mass refusal to enlist in the military in the U.S. How come you don't point to that?
You dismiss the American workers as middle class and lacking class consciousness (a common elitist theme of Marxists which justifies their anti-democratic regimes.) But if American workers are so enamoured of the war in Iraq, how come the delegates at the AFL-CIO convention felt obliged to pass a resolution against the war? (Sure, the AFL-CIO leaders will not do anything to back it up, but that's not the point. The point is about what the rank and file think.) You cherry pick your facts to prove that we should abandon all hope.
Jeff and Gilad, why are you so intent upon making people feel hopeless about defeating the plutocracy? Jeff, you say, "The only thing that keeps me going is outrage. The notion that we can reach billions of people and build a movement that can win is a beautiful one but it has no remote basis in reality..." If that's the way you feel, then please express your outrage in a manner less destructive of the efforts of people who are indeed trying to build this movement in the U.S. and Britain. Stop telling them to give up and abandon all hope. We need that like we need a hole in the head. Better you should express your outrage by just expressing your outrage at the plutocracy. Why do you have to label good people -- who are trying to extricate themselves and their fellows from the lies and manipulative tactics that the plutocracy uses to hood wink and control us -- as "oppressors"? If I took your views seriously (and this is the entire point of this long letter) I would stop "wasting my time" talking to my fellow citizens in Somerville. Is that your intent? If not, then please think harder about the actual detrimental effect your words have on people like me who are trying to organize against the plutocracy among ordinary Americans and Brits.
From: John Spritzler
To: Atzmon, Gilad ; Blankfort, Jeff
Cc: Spritzler, John (Comcast)
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2005 12:29 AM
Subject: Gilad Atzmon & Jeff Blankfort have the last word
Thanks for engaging in an important discussion.
From: Jeff Blankfort
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 10:58 PM
Subject: Blair the Camera Man by Gilad Atzmon
Blair the Camera Man by Gilad Atzmon
In case you missed them, here are the words of wisdom Tony Blair uttered yesterday:
“Until we get rid of this complete nonsense of trying to build some equivalence between what we are doing helping Iraqis and Afghans build their democracy and these people going and deliberately killing people for the sake of it, we are not going to confront this ideology in the way that it needs to be confronted.” - Tony Blair (Guardian article).
Tony Blair is an advanced political thinker. Following his articulate analysis, terrorists are killing people for the ‘sake of it’. The soldiers that he made certain the Great Britain sent to far off lands, on the other hand, kill only because Blair and Britain want to help Arabs and Afghanis to ‘build their democracy’. Come on Tony, do we look that stupid?
Determining what the political message of Blair is all about leaves us with two options. He either is an intellectually limited being or alternatively, he deliberately produces the most idiotic simplistic messages under the assumption that the British public is stupid enough to accept everything he says. He probably thinks to himself: if it works for Bush in America it very well may work for me in Britain.
Blair repeatedly speaks about the evil ideology behind terrorist acts, but he fails to share with us what that ideology is. In fact, he tells us that those evil beings ‘deliberately kill people for the sake of it’. But then, if this is the case, it isn’t ideology but rather sheer bloodthirstiness. Let me assure you, Blair isn’t very innovative here. Anglo-Americans traditionally have presented their enemy as being savage, barbarian, and bloodthirsty primitives. They did it with the Native American Indians, they did it with Germans already since WWI and now they are doing it with Arab nationalists. This is very much a general common tactic used by colonialists and supremacist polemicists. But then one would expect that at the dawn of the 21st century, a prominent ‘liberal democrat’ leader would leave this old rhetorical formula behind. Let’s face it; Blair is neither a democrat nor a liberal. In fact he is a devoted servant of hard capitalism and brutal colonialism.
Blair is determined to be victorious over terror. His philosophy is simple: if terror is bad all we have to do is to kill the terrorists. Apparently, it is the Israelis who invented this kindergarten philosophy. At the time it had a catchy name; they called it ‘War Against Terror’. For the Israelis it was a local war with a conflicting nationalist movement. Thanks to the fully Zionised Blair and Bush, this local conflict is now expanding rapidly into a global crisis or even a world war.
But then, we may want to review the tactics Blair is there to offer. How can we really fight a faceless, anonymous enemy? It is very simple, we merely attach a face to the faceless.
In terms of CCTV (closed circuit TV), Britain is a leading European nation. No country in the continent has more CCTV cameras per capita. If the data are to be believed, apparently every British inhabitant just in the course of going about his business, is captured around 300 times a day by the many cameras around. Unsurprisingly, the Metropolitan Police was very quick to release the photos of the alleged ‘suicide terrorists’. Three days after the 7/7 attack we saw them entering Luton station carrying massive rucksacks. Less than 24 hours after the second London attack the Metropolitan Police released the photos of the four suspected bombers.
No doubt, modernity and technology are a great advantage. But we should not stop there; we must capitalise on our technological superiority and put it to the use of society at large. We must place many more cameras. They should be in every home, in every bedroom, in every restaurant, in every public toilet. We can then, just minutes after the next attack, be able to see the suspected terrorists eating, shitting, fucking, picking their noses or even picking other people’s noses. It will look great on TV and it will even look better on a tabloid newspaper. This must be Blair’s prophecy for the Western world: more cameras, more identity cards, in short, more control.
Apparently, we love photographic images. Living in the scientific and technological society we call our own, we are obsessed with ‘evidence’. We love terror to be pornographic. We can sit for days watching Boeing airplanes getting chewed by the Twin Towers. We love explicit images and we want more of them. We want to see the body, the face, and the eyes of evil. But surely we do miss something. We can’t read the minds. Those alleged suicidal demons remain a mystery. We have more and more evidence but we have less and less comprehension. In fact, Blair’s empty rhetoric proves how little some of us do understand. Twenty days after 7/7 London attack we still don’t have a clue what really happened there. Who was behind it and why did it happen? All we get from Blair is empty rhetoric coupled with pictures of olive skinned faces.
We’d better accept it once and for all; photos or any other positive evidence won’t get us anywhere. Surely, it is not going to prevent the next attack from happening. Religiously motivated terror is ideological, a term completely foreign to Blair and his followers. Millions of sporadic bits of fragmented evidence won’t bring us any closer to an ideological understanding. Ideology and evidence are two different and distinct categories.
To quote Mark Jurgesmeyer: “one person’s ‘suicide terrorist’ is another person’s ‘freedom fighter’. For those who fail to realise, suicidal war is the ultimate form of freedom fighting. The martyr is never alone. He is always supported by a community.” Jacques Lacan, the legendary French psychoanalyst, taught us that ‘unconsciousness is the discourse of the other’. He is probably right. Suicidal attack is better grasped in terms of a fatal exchange between a protagonist and more than a few discourses. In other words, the suicide bomber leaves behind an image of sacrifice. This image is planted forever within the discourse of his supportive community as well as within the community of the victims. In a word, suicidal terror is a form of communication. Clearly, Blair fails miserably in understanding this form of communication, but as it seems, the majority of British people are more than willing to listen, and hopefully to comprehend.
According to several UK polls, most Britons do realise that the recent London attacks are the outcome of Blair’s grave policies in the Middle East. Seemingly, they understand better than their Prime Minister what the message of terror is all about.
Martyrdom is the outcome of a community which has been humiliated and oppressed. Unfortunately, and it is hard to admit, we are the oppressors in this story. In fact, martyrdom is a message addressed to each of us. It is about time we try to confront this message. If we want to confront suicidal terror, we are obligated to attempt to understand it. We must learn what really motivates young people to sacrifice their lives. If we want to challenge it, first we must recognise and respect it. As long as we have locked ourselves within a scientific technological discourse we will never be able to get to the bottom of this emerging problem. Millions of CCTV cameras won’t let us into other people’s minds. Three million cameras won’t help us to grasp the extent of the humiliation that leads human beings to take other people’s lives as well as their own. If we want to tackle those who are determined to kill us, we must look in the mirror first. Blair’s rhetoric is all about stopping us from doing just that.
From: Jeff Blankfort
To: John Spritzler
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2005 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: A critique of "Blair the Camera Man by Gilad Atzmon"
This was Gilad's reply, posted on a list that carried your critique:
As painful as it may sound, living in a democracy makes us all responsible. Blair’s and Bush’s crimes in Iraq are made on behalf of the British and the American peoples. Similarly, Sharon’s crimes in Palestine are made on behalf of the Israeli people or even the Jewish people (in case one regards Israel as ‘the’ Jewish State i.e. Zionist). Responsibility is a matter of degree. While Blair, Sharon and Bush are first-degree mass murderers; the British public is merely involved indirectly in a major war crime.
I wrote about the subject in the past, the‘not in my name’ philosophy is not going to help here. We all know that the majority of the British public was against the war in Iraq at the time, and yet it is a British elected PM who declared this war. If this isn’t enough, Blair, a war criminal,was re-elected to serve as a prime minister after taking this country into an illegal war.
Our responsibility as a society is proved beyond doubt. The war in Iraq was declared in the name of the British people and since this is a colonial war we are all doomed by Blair and Bush to be seen as oppressors. I am responsible being British as much as i was responsible when i was Israeli! I am far from being happy about it, as you probably realise I am very active about the subject.
I may mention as well that this situation exposes a major flawed in the Western democratic system. I tend to argue that this is where we are all becoming Zionised. In fact, both America and Britain act at the moment as a Zionist mission force.
In a way, being a devoted Palestinian supporter I want to believe that this is positive shift (in the long run). I think that it is Just a question of time before the majority of British public realises that the ties with Jewmerica and IsraHell made us all into victims of Zionist policies. In other words, we are all becoming Palestinians. When this happens Israel ll become an historic event. Just to mention that I end every concert of mine playing a tune called Jenin. The tune was composed after the Jenin massacre and was dedicated originally to the Palestinian people and their right of return. For the last two and a half years I dedicate Jenin to the Palestinians as well as the Iraqi people. Two days ago I dedicated Jenin to the Palestinians, Iraqis and …as well as ourselves. We are now becoming the victims of Zionised Britain.
I would say that we will stop being the oppressors when we realise that in practice we are the victims of Blair Zionised policies. In other words we are all Palestinians. I hope that you can see my point.
From: Jeff Blankfort
To: John Spritzler
Cc: Gilad Atzmon
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 1:15 AM
Subject: Re: Gilad Atzmon reponds to my critique of his "Blair the Camera Man"
I am now 71 years old and have been an activist for justice since I was 10 although I was conscious enough to take the radio under my bed covers to listen to Roosevelt's third election victory when I was six. In my early years, I participated in the Democratic Party in which I supported candidates far to the left of anything you find in the party today. Some of them won and all who won sold out, sooner than later. Over the years I have been a labor organizer, protested every war in which the US has participated since the end of WW 2, my photos of the 60s anti-war movement and the Black Panthers have been published all over the world, and yet, I have been and continue to be a pessimist when it comes to thinking about the future of human society. Human problems are not math problems that have a solution if we can only find it. To believe that there is an attainable solution to every human problem is to be religious and I am an an atheist. If you look back at history what appeared to be a solution to every problem created a new problem. Thirty years ago, I had already concluded that the technology we had created by then was beyond our means to control it. Now, the situation is much worse. When people ask me then, why are you still active, I answer, "The only thing that keeps me going is outrage." The notion that we can reach billions of people and build a movement that can win is a beautiful one but it has no remote basis in reality, certainly not, at least, in what we call our advanced capitalist societies where people have become addicted to technology and general consumerism and thus further alienated than before.
Whether we like it or not, an increasing percentage of what we call the third world, and certainly those in the Middle East who have felt "our" violence, see the civilians of the US and the UK as complicit in the war against them, whether or not Bush won the election or not, since his opponent, what's his name, also supported the war. And how large have the protests against the war been? Embarrassingly small and this coming September's will be no different. In the UK, despite Blair's lies about Iraq and full coverage in the press about it, the majority of Brits re-elected him. Atzmon was right. What message did that send to Iraq? Have there been any more bombings in Spain? In France? I certainly don't endorse these attacks on civilians, but when we live in a country that is engaged in a criminal enterprise, we are all a part of it to the extent that we do not do our utmost to end that enterprise. Today, most people's so-called activism is the time they spend on their computers, theorizing about this or that. How many more exposures do we need to know about the fallacy of the 9-11 scenario before we move on, and what good does it really do to speculate about who was behind the London bombings and then fall into the same trap as the 9-11 fanatics who may be right, but so what?
In sum, I am afraid it will take a major catastrophe to bring about a change in US society for sure, where the prospects for organizing on a national level are nil. If they are not nil, please tell me where even the spark of change exists. And please don't mention the labor movement, where united ot split, the term "working class" has been replaced long ago by "middle class" and what was once described as "working class consciousness: is non-existent.
From: Jeff Blankfort
To: John Spritzler
Cc: Atzmon, Gilad
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 6:28 PM
Subject: Re: Gilad Atzmon, Jeff Blankfort and me (3rd round) re "we are the oppressors"
When I say what keeps me going is outrage, I am only being honest. I express my outrage on international and local issues by my radio broadcasts, by my writings, my public appearances. But I do not believe in giving people false illusions, by pretending there are any revolutionary possibilities either now or within the foreseeable future in the US or any Western country and using the term, "revolutionary" to describe myself or anyone I know is equally illusory.. From my experience in living in the US for most of my life and abroad for a number of years, including the UK, I do not agree that "most ordinary Americans and Brits care very much about what is morally right or wrong" as you and I might define it, for if they did they would give some evidence of it. I do think, speaking of my fellow Americans, the overwhelming majority care far more about acquiring the latest technological toys than they do about bringing justice to this deteriorating planet. Thanks to this gadgetry, of which the cell phone is the worst offender but the computer the most insidious, we have become increasingly alienated from our fellow citizenry as every survey on the subject has indicated. Ironically, by devising more sophisticated means of communication electronically, we have greatly reduced communication at the personal, face to face, level. All those positive relations that people develop among their friends and co-workers, within their communities, that you describe, have diminished as a result.
Regarding the Hormel strike of 20 years ago, those workers did have class consciousness and they had to battle, as I recall, the rest if labor including the AFL-CIA's (!) lack of it. Try and find that consciousness today and you have to go South of the border. Even those unions that go on strike today, such as hotel and restaurant workers in San Francisco, made up of largely of poor immigrants, simply and understandably, want better wages, a better health care plan, not a worse one, but changing the system is not part of their agenda. It was ironic the other day when I was part of a 150 person march towards the Brazilian consulate, protesting the violence of Brazilian troops in Haiti, and we passed, heading in the other direction, a large march of the hotel and restaurant workers heading in the other direction. That seemed to symbolize the sad statement of political struggle within the US today. In our march, were the "usual suspects," honoring a struggle that that what passes for a progressive movement in this country has historically ignored as it has ignored the struggle for Puerto Rican rights, as it has ignored the struggles of Native Americans who are still resisting ethnic cleansing in parts of the West. On the other side, were immigrants from Mexico and Central America, the Philippines, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Yemen--maybe even some from Haiti-- all looking for a large enough piece of the American pie that would enable them to survive and help their families back home. They are among the hardest working and poorly paid people in this country but the revolutionaries, in the truest sense, are not to found in their ranks or among their other countrywomen and men in the US, but back in their home countries.
Re, the AFL-CIO resolution, if you read it in its entirety, is a basically the position of the Democratic Party, of which it has long been a part, so while it was critical of the war it did not demand immediate withdrawal but as rapidly as possible. Even Rummy couldn't object to that. I worked a long time within the labor community on the Palestinian issue and was able to get expressions of solidarity from rank and file workers with Palestinian workers when the latter were portrayed as fellow workers, not victims of which the world has far too many, but I was one of only a handful across the country doing so. The truth is that today rank and file workers have watched jobs be outsourced, their pensions challenged, their planned futures threatened, and they have been much more accepting of this than workers would be in any other country, developed or underdeveloped. I have had workers in Sardinia, no less, ask me, 30 years ago, what was the problem with American workers? That workers around the world celebrate May 1, a holiday based on US worker resistance, as International Workers Day, and US labor, except for the radical fringe celebrate it in September is not insignificant.
Of course, in speaking with people as I do all the time, I do not accuse them of being oppressors or part of the oppressor's machinery in those terms, but rather point out how their tax dollars are being used to fund oppression and fund it at a time when cutbacks are being in social services, in education, in health care, and so I want them to see, as they do, that what the government is doing in their name is not in their interest. At the same time I don't suggest that the solution is overturning the system (which defines revolution in a political context) because, given the objective conditions (which you either ignore or romanticize) that is not within the realm of possibility. On the other hand, fascism is and if anything concerns me is to what degree would the majority of Americans resist it. During the Vietnam war, or perhaps, it was the McCarthy period, someone tried to get signatures in Madison, Wisconsin, progressive Madison, on a petition that contained the text of the Declaration of Independence and people were afraid or refused to sign it. How does that fit in with your prognostications?
As far as people being unwilling to sign up for the military, that has become understandable as the nature of the war and the degree to which US soldiers have returned to their communities,. maimed either physically or mentally, or both, for life. But for the young who don't have relatives or friends serving there, Iraq is not on their mind and I say that because, as a former teacher, and now substituting in my local high school, I have had many discussions with students on the subject. If we had a draft, then we would have a base for a movement because suddenly, the prospect of going into the military and serving in Iraq would be very real. We would then have draft resistance, draft counseling, draft dodging (of course) and serious actions at military recruiting centers, not useless vigils that make the vigilers think they are accomplishing something and marches every two months that have dwindling turnouts. And that's why Nixon stopped the draft and why Dubya knows he will face a real anti-war movement if he tries to re-institute it.
One of the differences, by the way, with this war and the Vietnam war, was the vast difference between the attitudes of the NLF and the North Vietnamese and the Iraqi resistance to the anti-war movement in the US. The Vietnamese carefully studied the US media every day, saw visiting sympathetic Americans as a source for information, and made it clear that their war was with the US government and not the American people. They were successful to the degree that the US was never able to demonize the Vietnamese as they wished and in some areas like San Francisco and Berkeley, people were able to hang giant posters of Ho Chi Minh in their windows and carry North Vietnamese flags at anti-war protests. The Iraqis, on the other hand, obviously don't give a damn about making such distinctions, don't give a damn about whether or not they get support within the US or at this point even in the UK. Were there an anti-war movement in the US commensurate with what we saw in the Vietnam War period, things might be different. Right now we have a bunch of activists, mostly over the hill age-wise who have no vested interest, in the Marxist sense, in stopping this war--certainly not like some teen about to be drafted--and thus there is no base for the movement such as we had in Vietnam. Labor? Will AFL-CIO contingents or the splitees, the SEIU, for example, march in September in Washington? Will they truck in workers from the Eastern states to be there? You and I both know the answer. Compare that with a protest I attended in Rome in 1966 against the US war in Vietnam, not the Italian War, where 100,000 workers, arriving in busses from around the country, came to hear anti-war speakers, including Americans, in the pouring rain. Enough. I rest my case. We have to stop talking about building a revolutionary movement, stop even using that term, and do everything we can to undermine the war machine, but with the rose colored glasses set aside where you won't ever be able to find them again.
From: Gilad Atzmon
To: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Jeffrey Blankfort Blankfort
Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 10:35 PM
Subject: Re: Gilad Atzmon, Jeff Blankfort and me (3rd round) re "we are the oppressors"
I am sorry to disappoint you, we are the oppressors in this conflict. We are members in a society that is involved in a major crime . By paying taxes to the British government I finance the invasion of Iraq, how do I pay tax? I just buy petrol. You see being a consumer is collaborating with evil. This is the situation here. Whether we can change it or not is a different question.
I believe that by telling people: wake up, you are the oppressors here, or alternatively, open your eyes, London bombs are an open message, I make a change. I think that I help people to engage in moral thinking or at least moral awakening. And yet, there is one thing I never do: I never tell people what is right and what is wrong. Once you think ethically you are supposed to find out yourself.
I must tell you John that I am slightly tired of people who try to tell me what shape a social struggle should take. If you think that you know how to save the world just go for it and save us all. Make sure to send me an email once you succeed….
I admit that I do not know how to save this world. But I am pretty good in deconstructing Zionised messages. This is what I am doing. You see I am just an ordinary soldier. I publish books and papers and play my concerts every night talking to one –three thousand people a week. It isn’t too much but it is more than nothing.
Anyhow, the point that concerns you that much, has very little to do with my last paper or my general philosophical stand. Thus, I really feel as if I can’t contribute much to this debate. I am not that interested in working class politics. I hope that you understand
From: Gilad Atzmon
To: John Spritzler
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2005 10:54 AM
Subject: Re: Gilad Atzmon & Jeff Blankfort have the last word
My entire pleasure