Draft Perspectives, 2024-2025: Part One, A new generation of radicals stands against genocide

May 4, 2024

I. A new generation of radicals stands against genocide

II. Trump 2.0: A global threat

III. Russia’s war on Ukraine and the worldwide drive toward fascism

IV. The crisis in thought

V. Lenin and today’s contradictions

VI. Tasks

I. A new generation of radicals stands against genocide

When students at Columbia University in New York set up tents on campus to protest the ongoing genocide in Gaza and demand that their university cut ties with those arming the onslaught, they knew they would be denounced by politicians and meet resistance from wealthy donors with sway over university policies. University president Minouche Shafik, just returned from licking the boots of members of Congress eager to demonize the students, unleashed the New York police against them.

Far from ending the encampment, the April 18 police riot coupled with suspensions and evictions of students sparked a wave of protests and occupations at dozens of campuses across the country, which has now spread to Egypt, France, Germany, Canada, Britain, and Australia.

Palestine solidarity student protest at Columbia University on April 22. Photo: عباد ديرانية, CC0 1.0 DEED

What is becoming clear is that the new generation of radicals activated during the Trump reign of reaction and repression—especially in the Black-led revolt after the police murder of George Floyd, on top of the attacks on immigrants, women, workers, Trans people, Indigenous people and climate activists as well as the cold-blooded, negligent handling of the pandemic—has not gone away but is undergoing new growth and radicalization. Young protesters are asking how a genocide can be actively supported by a government claiming to act in their name, when they have already seen the powers that be fritter away their future in the face of climate chaos, school gun violence, precarious employment, women’s further loss of bodily control, surveillance and the specter of mass incarceration. At the moment college students are at the forefront of organized actions, but opposition to the genocide has spread widely, especially among young people.

All of the protests demanded ceasefire now and an end to university and government support for the war on the people of Gaza. Many of them linked those demands to others: Northwestern students called for divestment from companies supporting fossil fuels as well as those arming Israel; University of Chicago students demanded the abolition of the school’s private police force and funding for housing and education programs in the South Side communities amidst which the university functions as a hostile occupying power. Students at Emory University near Atlanta linked it to the university’s and city’s support of the infamous Cop City.

This generation is aware of the history of the 1960s and is determined to make this wave of revolt as militant, as radical, and more successful in fundamentally transforming society.


Which is one reason the repression has been so harsh. Police have viciously attacked nonviolent students on several campuses and arrested hundreds. At Northwestern they assaulted faculty members who lined up to shield the students. At Emory University, police fired rubber bullets and pepper balls at protesting students and tased some as well. Politicians, both Republican and Democratic, attacked students with incendiary rhetoric liable to incite violence against them, while some actually called for violence.[1]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking in English, howled, “Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.” Equating them with 1930s Nazis, he cried, “It must be stopped.” Not only was this a pack of lies, he deliberately erased the presence of many Jewish students and faculty participating in the solidarity protests.

Palestine solidarity protest and encampment in Stanford University (April 29). Photo: Suiren2022, CC BY 4.0 DEED.

As one Jewish woman student told News & Letters, “The fact that Netanyahu is commenting on what American students are doing—many of whom are Palestinian, many of whom are Muslim, many of whom are Jewish, many of whom are Black, and many of whom have a number of lived experiences and hold a number of identities—means that we’re doing something right and that he is scared.”

Jewish activists in solidarity with Palestine held Freedom Seders, a tradition dating to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. In Brooklyn, police arrested 300 Jewish participants in the Freedom Seder outside Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s home. Freedom Seders were also held at Yale, the University of Michigan, and the Northwestern Liberation Zone at Northwestern.

Netanyahu and other opponents of the protests—who generally evince no concern for the thousands of human beings in occupied Palestine, many of them children, being slaughtered and millions more having their lives devastated—accuse the demonstrators of being accomplices of Hamas, or even of being “terrorists.” One Jewish protester at Columbia responded:

“It’s true, the fact that Columbia University Apartheid Divest organizers fundamentally reject bigotry and hate has not stopped unrelated actors from exploiting opportunities to shamefully harass Jewish students with grotesque or antisemitic statements. I condemn antisemitism—which should seem obvious since I have experienced it many times myself….But the often off-campus actions of a few unaffiliated individuals simply do not characterize this disciplined student campaign. The efforts to connect these offensive but relatively isolated incidents to the broader pro-Palestinian protest movement mirror a wider strategy to delegitimize all criticism of Israel.”

It is also true that the horrific attack led by Hamas on Oct. 7 gave Israel the excuse to start its attack on Gaza and thus set off a terrible new round of war and reaction. And it is true that some on the Left celebrated the Hamas attack, revealing profound ideological pollution, as we detailed in “Israel’s War and Hamas Attack Stoke Retrogression.” That ideological pollution is anti-dialectics, incapable of grasping the symbiotic intertwining and interdependence of Netanyahu and the Israeli Right, on the one hand, with Hamas, on the other. Instead, anti-dialectics sees only a choice between Hamas and Israel, and anything deeper is “bothsidesism.” What that does show is the need for a revitalization of the movement from theory as well as of the movement from practice, and the need to combat ideological pollution not only politically but by hearing what Hegel called by the unfamiliar phrase “self-determination of the Idea” in philosophy as well. None of that justifies the false portrayal of the solidarity movement as a whole as tools of Hamas.

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith called protests “leftwing totalitarianism” trying “to silence anyone who dared to disagree with them,” saying they should be arrested. He did not mention the concerted effort to silence voices in solidarity with Palestinians, including assaulting, doxxing and firing activists from their jobs and cancelling the main commencement ceremony at the University of Southern California because they feared their chosen valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, would mention the genocide in Gaza, and because their silencing of her sparked more protests. The whole point of smearing the protests as a whole as antisemitic is to delegitimize and silence all opponents of the genocide. Heavy-handed government actions have also tried to silence events in solidarity with Palestinians in Europe and in Arab nations.

Donald Trump denounced the nonviolent campus protests as worse than the actually violent, actually antisemitic, racist, white nationalist 2017 Klan-like rally in Virginia that he has previously defended: “Charlottesville was a little peanut and was nothing compared—and the hate wasn’t the kind of hate that you have here. This is tremendous hate.” Today’s crop of Republicans follows his example, claiming to oppose antisemitism on campus while cozying up to the actual stronghold of antisemitism on the far Right.

Many politicians are calling protesters criminals who should be in jail. Senator Tom Cotton, who in 2020 called for troops to be sent against Black Lives Matter protesters, called for vigilantes to attack today’s protests. House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senators Cotton and Josh Hawley called for the National Guard to be deployed against the student protests, evoking memories of May 1970, when the National Guard killed four students at Kent State in Ohio and city and state police killed a high school student and a college student at Jackson State in Mississippi.[2]


Image of the destruction of Gaza in October 2023. Photo: Wafa, CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED

It is not only the physical and rhetorical attacks on protesters but above all the unprecedented slaughter of civilians in Gaza that reveals the depth of depravity to which our globally connected society has sunk. Deaths in Gaza include not only over 34,000 officially recorded as of April 20, but unknown thousands more buried under the rubble, the recently found mass graves and the growing numbers killed by the starvation and epidemics that have already begun, as well as people who died in besieged hospitals. As half of Gazans are children, they form a large portion of the victims.

For those still surviving, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are carrying out the demand from the former head of the Israeli National Security Council: “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.” The IDF’s scorched-earth approach has left destruction everywhere. Soldiers, drones, and bombs have terrorized Gazans, ruined most housing and displaced almost the entire population. If that wasn’t enough, Palestinians are targets of viciously dehumanizing rhetoric. The hatred and contempt from Israeli soldiers, government leaders, and a sizeable chunk of the Israeli population is palpable. Food, water, fuel, and sanitation are scarce. Healthcare and relief have been purposely decimated. No one, from babies to the elderly, can escape the physical and emotional trauma. The hostages taken by Hamas and its allies, aside from those who have already died or been released, are also living tortured lives and are in danger from both their captors and the massive Israeli bombing.

Israeli settlers and soldiers have also intensified their violent repression and displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. And the superpower with the capacity to intervene, the U.S. administration headed by President Joe Biden, keeps feeding the genocidal project with more weapons, money, and diplomatic support.

When precision IDF strikes killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers and demolished their convoy on April 1, it was a continuation of the same genocidal mission: deny every source of food and supplies to the people of Gaza. An IDF intelligence officer told Israeli media that the IDF command “knows exactly what the cause of the attack was: in Gaza, [every soldier] does as he pleases.”

Almost 200 aid workers have been killed, along with “scores of medical staff, journalists and civil response workers.” This time, Biden finally had to announce himself “outraged and heartbroken.”

Yet what did Biden say about the two-week siege of al-Shifa Hospital, which ended April 1, and, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, not only destroyed the hospital but resulted in the death of over 200 Palestinians, many of them “deliberately killed or executed extrajudicially after arrest”? He spoke not in words but in even more weapons shipments. Later, hundreds of bodies were found in mass graves at al-Shifa and Nasser Hospital, both of which had been taken over by Israeli forces. The IDF spun implausible stories to try to evade responsibility.

That same day, April 1, Israel bombed the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, killing 16 people, including two Syrian civilians. According to NBC News, three administration insiders said that Biden privately complained that Netanyahu was “trying to drag the U.S. more deeply into a broader conflict.” After Iran retaliated two weeks later with a performative attack that did little damage, and Israel countered on April 19 with air strikes on Isfahan, Iran, all-out regional war was averted, but the risk remains ever-present. Meanwhile, the exchange gave Biden cover to keep arming Israel despite his public criticism of the toll on civilians.


In part, Biden had to voice unease about the civilian death toll because he was stunned by the size of the protest vote organized to oppose his Israel/Palestine policy, racking up tens of thousands of Democratic primary “uncommitted” votes in state after state. In addition to the protests described above, Biden has faced international condemnation of his complicity with genocide and extensive dissent from within his own administration—including some high-profile resignations, such as that of Annelle Sheline from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, who wrote:

“As a representative of a government that is directly enabling what the International Court of Justice has said could plausibly be a genocide in Gaza, [my] work has become almost impossible. Unable to serve an administration that enables such atrocities, I have decided to resign from my position at the Department of State….So many of my colleagues feel betrayed. I write for myself but speak for many others….”

Could the brazen genocide ongoing in Gaza presage the world’s future? The signs are everywhere. Before the eruption in Gaza, 183 armed conflicts were going on in the world in 2023, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies. These include attacks by governments and militaries against their own populations to kill revolutions, as in Syria, Iran, Sudan, and Burma, some of them reaching genocidal proportions. And they include violent occupations by Israel and Russia trying to extinguish the quest for self-determination and freedom by the peoples of Palestine and Ukraine.

What must be grasped as integral to this terrain is the situation in many countries slouching toward dictatorship, fascism, even genocide. This can be seen in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party the BJP are reaching for totalitarian control of the media and supposedly independent state institutions while spewing ominous anti-Muslim propaganda and granting impunity to perpetrators of violence against minorities and women. It can be seen in most of Europe, to varying degrees, where centrist parties are ceding power to the far right by trying to co-opt its racist anti-immigrant positions. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, racism’s “ultimate logic is genocide.” And it can be seen in the United States, where Donald Trump has a serious chance of retaking the White House on the basis of a campaign openly based on racist, sexist, and queerphobic appeals, nonwhite-immigrant-bashing, fascist ideas or at least impulses, and stirring up violent passions.

Part II. Trump 2.0: A global threat

[1] As these lines are being written, thuggish counterprotesters—some screaming “Second Nakba!” using the Arabic word meaning catastrophe that refers to the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians at the time of Israel’s founding—physically attacked the UCLA Palestinian solidarity camp, also assaulting reporters from the student newspaper. Police were summoned bur reportedly stood by for more than an hour before intervening. It appears the administration will be using the violence of the counterprotesters to discredit the encampment.

[2] See “Nixon’s Wars at Home and Abroad,” by Raya Dunayevskaya, June-July 1970 News & Letters.

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