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Student revolt exposes the drive to genocide and repression by the US and its allies

08 May 2024


Pro-Palestine protest at the University of Chicago.

Veterans of mass protests around the world and across the decades will be very familiar with the struggle at the University of California, Los Angeles.  The police suddenly disappear.  They are replaced by masked and armed right wing Zionist vigilantes.  In this case the students are successful in beating back the attack in a battle that lasts many hours. The attackers withdraw under the protection of the police.  The police return. It is they, the state, that aim to dismantle the camp, not the right wing.

The police assaults on the universities are directed by the Biden administration, which pours out an endless stream of lies and smears aimed at the students with the support of the mainstream media in the US and across the West.  The physical attacks and the smears are accompanied by new legal measures at federal and state level aimed at crushing freedom of expression and outlawing opposition to Zionism.

Critical US lawyers explain the governmentís ability to suppress free speech.  Universities are supposed to defend Article One of the Constitution which allows for such speech.  The universities ignore this law and instead deploy a concept called Chapter 6 which outlaws discrimination.  The argument is that, by demonstrating in favour of Palestine, students are discriminating against Zionists who support the genocide of Palestinians.

But what really lies behind the decision of the Biden administrationís attempt at using the state to crush these protests?

What these events do is give the lie to the idea that the administrationís policy is based on local political calculations. Since the start of the genocide in Gaza, the US has poured out empty words, but at no stage have they turned away from the genocide. Rather, they have continuously enabled it. Now Biden is taking the risk that by alienating young voters, he will lose the coming presidential election and is pressing ahead anyway.

The arguments that Biden is trapped by his personal Zionism or by the overwhelming power of the Zionist lobby in the US does not really hold water. There is really only one conclusion. That is that the US administration view the military victory of Israel as central to their own strategic interests. They want the outcome of this struggle to be Israelís military domination of the Middle East just as they see the ongoing reckless escalation in Europe and with China as central to the US asserting military domination across the globe.

Many analysts argue that it is the domination of the Israeli lobby in Washington that forces America to follow this line. A momentís thought will tell us that the lobby system is actually the form in which capitalist government is structured by US capital. If the Israeli lobby is the largest lobby. It is because US capitalism views Zionism as a central weapon in advancing its interests.

Bidenís administration has created a smokescreen where it feigns disagreement with Netanyahu while constantly providing arms and advancing towards genocide. The negotiations are with Arab regimes to pressure Hamas to surrender while preserving the elements of the Abraham accords for future collaboration with Israel.

Under this scenario the main aim is to crush the studentís opposition before it becomes a threat.  The hope is that the shock of overwhelming violence and the pressure of the US legal system will demoralise and disrupt student action. The danger for the administration is that a failed offensive will lead to a completely different political consciousness among the students and a broader mobilisation. That broader mobilisation will need to break out of the universities and link up with oppressed people. Most obviously the black community that faced many of the issues of state violence for many years and also with the American working class, suffering greatly from the oppression of American capital. All of these groups have the advantage of knowing through past betrayals the futility of yet again being shepherded into the Democratic Party. No matter how difficult it is, a new party of the working class is necessary.

This is what makes the US student revolt so dangerous for capital.  The activists are in the process of discovering the central lesson of solidarity: that the oppressors of the Palestinians are also their oppressors.

On a weaker scale this battle is playing out in the West and Europe. Even in Ireland university authorities have not been able to resist following the US and Zionist playbook with threats and by imposing financial penalties. However, determined action by students has seen the authorities pull back and engage in some level of negotiation.

The central issue to be thrown up by the Gaza genocide, beyond the genocide itself, is that our own political establishments in the West are themselves genocidal, that they appear hell bent on global war, that our societies are being militarised and that democratic rights are disappearing.

The Western opposition movement has so far proved inadequate in dealing with this due to the stultifying effect of a leadership from decayed trade union forces and parties and groups who have moved sharply to the right.

Many commentators reference the student upsurges of 1968 in the US and Europe. They are right to reference the political transformation that dominated left politics for many decades after. However, we must also recognise the difficulties facing a new movement. In Ď68 students were able to exploit an ideology of Liberal education and academic freedom that has long disappeared under Thatcherite and Reaganite counterrevolutions. The Ď68 revolt also included the Kent state massacre of 1970.Veterans of mass protests around the world and across the decades will be very familiar with the struggle at the University of California, Los Angeles.  The police suddenly disappear.  They are replaced by masked and armed right wing Zionist vigilantes.  In this case the students are successful in beating back the attack in a battle that lasts many hours. The attackers withdraw under the protection of the police.  The police return. It is they, the state, that aim to dismantle the camp, not the right wing.

The Universities are large corporations working on behalf of transnational companies and the state and both staff and studentsí liberties have been suppressed.

However, the new student movement will have many fewer illusions than in the past. The task, then as now, will be to break out of the universities and link up with the working class and oppressed.


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