On April 10th, the LRP published a leaflet aimed at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York City. This leaflet contained an editorial box criticizing those groups that had organized, in sectarian fashion, two separate, competing, demonstrations in the city instead of one united protest. In the course of the statement, we indicated that:
In contrast to these false friends of the Palestinian struggle, genuine revolutionaries stand for a united front. This means freedom of discussion and debate, unity in action. We will march with anyone, whatever their political views, who wants to put a stop to the Israeli massacres of Palestinians. All we need to agree upon is the time and place to do so.
While this statement was clear and accurate in the context of the actual demonstrations taking place in New York City, interested supporters elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad raised a legitimate and very important question about its general application. While the likelihood of fascist outfits now joining such an anti-Zionist protest demonstration is tiny in New York City, it could be a very real question elsewhere. We have already heard of such an incident in Germany.
Of course, we would not join nor work with any demonstration called by, jointly called by or significantly influenced by fascists. That is a clearly defined permanent position rooted in revolutionary principle. If we were to detect their presence at legitimate demonstrations, we would do our best to remove that presence by whatever means which were possible under the circumstances. These elements are the proven enemies of all humanity, all workers and certainly of all oppressed peoples, Palestinians included.
As anti-sectarians we are committed to the historic Leninist position on united fronts and practical blocs. Because we favor the united action of masses against their oppressors and exploiters, this often means we must temporarily unite in common actions which include political opponents. In our view, the interests of those who are building the revolutionary party are identical to the interests of the masses. The need to pose common actions, even with political opponents, stems from the fact that the masses are being attacked but are not yet won to revolutionary leadership. The need is to fight for the most powerful immediate defense which can only be mobilized by the current leaders of the masses, leaders who most often do not wish to struggle. We do not demand political agreement because it would mask the fact that such agreements would be only on paper and would be lies. Bolsheviks in fighting for a united struggle, ask only that all participants have the right to express their different views and to discuss and criticize other paths. We do not hide the fact that we seek to win those who currently follow misleaders to Marxism by showing that the revolutionary class struggle is the only way to smash our common enemy. (In this immediate case that is Israeli and U.S. imperialism.)
The reason that we draw the line at collaboration with Nazi groups within such common actions is that they are not political opponents in the same sense. They are criminal gangsters with whom one cannot associate, nor debate, nor argue. In contrast to real political opponents, we give these scum no platform whatever.
However, there are more difficult questions which arise as to possible revolutionary participation in demonstrations led by other kinds of reactionaries which present more difficult tactical problems for communists.
We know that many Palestinians who are suffering under the murderous Israeli terror assault do not now distinguish between Zionists and Jews. It was also true that many Jews who withstood the Nazi slaughter also did not distinguish between Nazis and Germans. Likewise, many Blacks faced with a lynch-mob America often saw all whites as enemies. It is the duty of every revolutionary – indeed of every genuine anti-chauvinist – to try to convince such oppressed people that they are wrong. However, it would be a terrible error to equate the racism of the oppressed with the racism of the oppressors. The failure to understand the difference between the murderous anti-Semitic racism of the Nazis and the anti-German chauvinism of the Jews would be a disaster. Likewise, seeing no difference between the racism of white Americans and the anti-white hostility of Black Americans is to play into the hands of white racism. Just so, we cannot we compare the “all Arabs are dirt” stance of those who support the Zionist anti-Palestinian terror with the anti-Jewish chauvinism of their bloody victims.
Obviously, we would not participate in any anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic or any other racist demonstration of any kind or among any people. We openly attack the racist demagogues who whip up the prejudices of those masses who belong to the oppressor nations or races. And, the fact that we do not equate the racial and national prejudices of oppressed peoples, does not give any excuse for moderating our open hostility to the reactionary and racist misleaders who demagogically use those prejudices to undermine the struggle being waged by their followers.
However, given the present clerical reactionary misleadership accepted by many of the oppressed Arab fighters in Palestine and elsewhere, we know that anti-Zionist demonstrations which would include anti-Semitic chauvinism can occur in many countries. If sufficient masses of oppressed people are attracted to such demonstrations and there is the serious possibility of openly putting forward our counterposed views in an effort to win them away from the demagogues, we would be poor revolutionaries if we didn’t participate, intervene and fight such racism. We believe that it is the duty of the international working class and, especially, its revolutionary communist detachments, to struggle side by side with fighting Palestinians while arguing for an alternative to their reactionary and chauvinist Islamist and nationalist misleaders. Communists must stress the fact that the chauvinist hostility of oppressed masses serves to aid those leaders who betray their fight against imperialism, fascism and racism. Unopposed, it would be an important factor in the defeat of their struggle and ours.
On the other hand, united front demonstrations called by the reactionary leaders of the oppressed for the central overt purpose of whipping up racist and chauvinist attitudes clearly cannot be joined by revolutionaries. There is no denying that in practice, there will be situations where the line between an anti-Zionist demonstration and an anti-Semitic demonstration must be carefully weighed. A tactical decision will have to be made taking into account the specific circumstances. Any petty bourgeois moralist who equates the two and automatically abstains from both, abandons the struggle against the racism of the oppressed and thereby aids their betrayers and their oppressors.