Critique, Event Reports, Solidarity with Workers

May Day assault from the reactionary American left

stop hate

by Maria Rohaly

This is just a brief note on something that occurred today while I was participating, in solidarity with Iranian workers, in the May 1st March at Union Square in New York City, USA, organized by the May 1st Coalition. I’ll put the complete event report up shortly, but I need to start with this.

It was at any rate a lovely sunny day in New York City. I had just finished talking to one of the guys from Platypus 1917 who had noted my sign expressing solidarity with Iranian workers. One side of my sign said: “Expel the Islamic regime of Iran from the ILO: Solidarity with workers in Iran,” while the other side read, “May Day 2010: International solidarity with the people of Iran.”

My new Platypus friend was discussing the reasons for the weak support among the American left for the struggle for Iranian freedom. I have been so focused on the situation in Iran itself that I have paid little attention to the response of the American left to the human rights crisis exploding in Iran. He reminded me that there is a significant current within the American left that supports or at least does not critique the Islamic regime because it takes an anti-imperialist stance against the imperialism of the United States: an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach.

Not 10 minutes later, as I was still shaking my head at the thought that any single person, let alone an entire political current, could for one moment accept the atrocities of the Islamic regime against the Iranian people just because the regime shares a dislike for American imperialist hegemony, I was rudely jolted out of my reverie. As I was making my way through the crowd with my sign for Iranian workers held high in the air, a man’s hands roughly grabbed me by the shoulders from behind hard enough to bruise, he shook me, and tried to tear my sign out of my hands to destroy it, while another abusive male screamed something unintelligible in my face. They both kept pushing me into the crowd of people, trying to push me out of Union Square and into the street. They were the staff of the May 1st Coalition responsible for the organization of the May Day March.

They screamed at me, “YOU’RE OUT OF HERE! GET OUT! YOU IMPERIALIST WARMONGER!” as they pushed and shoved me for what was assuredly a few seconds but felt like long, long minutes. I wanted to explode with screaming at the violation I felt from this man’s horrid, violent hands that would not leave my body. Because of the crowds and because these two men had me pinned between them, there was no way for me to move or defend myself.

They couldn’t push me far, however, because the crowd was thick and, though they were not at all concerned about my safety or well-being, they didn’t want to hurt the migrant workers they were pushing me into. At some point, the Iranian friend I was there with gently intervened and said to these barbaric individuals, “It’s OK, we’re going. We’ll go.” As much as I felt under assault by these violent men, I reacted strongly to the idea that we should be forced by violence to shut up, to be silenced, to be forced out of a public place, where it was our rights as Americans to be, to speak. So I turned to the most violent man and I told him that he was being undemocratic. He again let spill a torrent of word salad, with ingredients like “imperialist!” “warmonger!” “you’re supporting war against the Iranian people!” and “do you know how many people our country has killed in the Middle East!?” He was referring to the demand that the regime be kicked out of the ILO – he screamed that it was a Western imperialist position.

He finally stopped screaming at me for long enough that I could tell him, “These are the demands of the Iranian workers.” Of course, he looked at my blue eyes and blond hair and asked me who was I to speak for the Iranian workers, and no, kicking the Islamic Republic out of the ILO was a Western imperialist demand, not an Iranian worker demand. My Iranian friend, with his Iranian face and his Iranian accent told this non-Iranian violent white American male that he was wrong. This member of the May 1st Coalition then proceeded to tell both of us with religious and irrational fervor that we were supporting the bombing of Iran. I turned my sign over and I said, “Look: “‘SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE IN IRAN.'”

The most violent one of the two finally started to back off, though his friend kept hounding me. The most violent one told his buddy to back off, then said, in the closest expression that he could come to an apology, “Well, you shouldn’t have put that on your sign. Your demand should be that the US should not go to war against Iran.”

Of course the US should not go to war against Iran. And we work against that outcome too.

But that was not the demand for May Day.

May Day is a day where we stand in solidarity with all of the working people in the world. And we came out to celebrate May Day with particular solidarity with Iranian workers. We went to Union Square to make sure that people in the United States remembered Iranian working people on May Day, and heard some of their demands, and learned more about the paralyzing conditions that are being imposed on the Iranian workers and the deepening impoverishment of the entire working class.

And we did all of that.

I also learned a lot today too. I learned that I no longer recognize the activists among the American left. What I saw from these men, and later heard and saw from other members of the May 1st Coalition was total intolerance for freedom of expression: unless the message was dictated and approved by them, it should be met with violence or silencing or disapproval. Since when did the American left become so fascist?

Furthermore, these activists seem to have staked out their position on Iran from a place of ignorance. The Worker-communist Party of Iran has been demanding the Islamic regime’s removal from the ILO at least since 2006, and every year they go to the ILO’s annual meeting to repeat their demands. Ejecting the Islamic regime from the various UN bodies is no demand from the imperialist West! The imperialist West rolls out the UN’s red carpet for the Islamic regime, even inviting the gender-apartheidist murderers to sit on the UN Commission on the Status of Women!

This current of the American left needs to get educated about Iran so that it can take informed positions that echo the demands from inside Iran. They also need to get civilized. In this day and age, we discuss and we debate when we disagree. Using violence to silence is not acceptable under any condition in a free and democratic society.

Discussion

13 thoughts on “May Day assault from the reactionary American left

  1. hi, i was the person who were speaking to right before the guy from Platypus came up (btw, their correct website link is http://platypus1917.org/).

    anyway, i am sorry to hear that you were assaulted by demo goons, but not surprised. the May 1 Coalition is organized out of the International Action Center, who are a front group for the Workers World Party (WWP). The WWP are a bizarre communist grouping that has a particular fetish for dictatorships, wherever they can be found: Milosevic, Kim Il Jung, Hussein, Hamas, etc.

    Their belief is that the communist revolution will be lead by “oppressed nations” – which are both “internal” (ie non-white people in the US) and external (ie “non-imperialist” countries, ie, any country outside Europe & North America, and who is opposed to this influence).

    So while WWP might support immigrants’ rights in the US (as the struggles of people of color against a white imperialist society), they also want to build support for non-Western governments that oppose “imperialism”.

    What you did, by carrying that sign, was to run directly against their politics. And this demonstration was a front organization for them, where they tightly control the political line there (did you notice how everyone has the same signs that they made?). That’s why they wanted you out.

    And no, as you correctly noticed, they do not care about the rights of workers in May Day.

    Posted by radicalarchives | May 2, 2010, 2:03 pm
  2. Dearest Radical Archives,

    I can’t thank you enough for orienting me to the politics of yesterdays’ organizers. All of what you say in terms of these peoples’ orientation corresponds to the vibes that I got while I was there, not from the people that were there to represent the legitimate situation of workers and migrants, but from the event organizers.

    For example, with those who were clearly affiliated with the Coalition, I was very much made to feel my color and outsider status, which corresponds to their privileging of non-white peoples (i.e., racism).

    Ironically this was done by European Americans, who somehow wielded their status as a “white insider” as a weapon of moral superiority which gave them divine authority to use violence against other people.

    To say the least, these are not the politics of the communities that I circulate in, so it was a bit of an awakening for me. :)

    Worst of all is your final statement: that they do not care about the rights of workers in May Day. I searched for weeks for a May Day event with which to celebrate May 1st. I had to travel from DC to get to the NYC event, as it was the only one I found.

    The fact that the only May 1 celebration going on the East Coast (that I could find) doesn’t even stand in solidarity with workers and their rights means that international working community is going sadly unrepresented in the US on that special day. I am not surprised by this; just disappointed, and thinking about how to rectify the situation.

    Anyway, I enjoyed talking with you yesterday, I greatly value your contributions here, and I also very much appreciate you pointing out my incorrect link. I hope to keep in touch.

    xoxo
    Maria

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 2, 2010, 2:40 pm
  3. well, there should have been May Day events everywhere. in fact, there was a joint union/immigrant march in NYC that went down to Wall Street – we all probably would have been more comfortable there:

    http://www.indypendent.org/2010/04/21/may-day-marches/

    you should look at the local IMC’s to get more oriented towards local events. i recommend you find local or national groups that you share issues and worldview with, and link with with them.

    also, you should have flyers to pass out next time, with background information on the situation and your analysis of it; contact information for you and your blog; and any calls to action that are current.

    btw as we went around to the small Socialist groups there, at least one (Socialist Appeal) was selling pamphlets supporting the recent demos in Iran.

    Posted by radicalarchives | May 2, 2010, 3:25 pm
  4. Comment from Ahmad:

    Great job on May Day, thanks! But using the term “leftist” for those people is wrong. What is a reactionary leftist? Do you call them leftist because some one else , like the Fox news calls them leftists?

    Is Islamic republic a republic?

    Is Democratic Republic of Congo a DEMOCRATIC Republic?

    Was the USSR a communist state?

    Is China Socialist?

    What you call “left” is a right wing politics based on dividing the world idiotically into two camps: one is the Imperialist camp with the USA as the leader which should be fought against, and the other camp is the third world countries “progressive capitalism” which are opposing the Empire.

    Ahmadinizhad and Chavez and Castro are their heroes, and little dilemma is how to explain atrocities committed by these latter. They have their fucked up ideology, and politics which has nothing to do with socialism , which was politically and theoretically smashed to the point that they can not return, many years ago by us the Iranian left the revolutionary Marxism then worker communism but it is still strong enough to assault people like you and I in the US and call you what ever.

    Pity they don’t get their asses handed to them by American LEFT.

    Ahmad

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 3, 2010, 9:21 pm
  5. Dear Radical Archives,

    Thanks again for the addition insights and information.

    It has been a while since I was on the protest/demo scene, and what I saw on May 1 is not at all how I remember past actions I’ve participated in, against war in Iraq, the Day without a Pentagon marches, the IMF/WB protests, etc.

    Of course, all of those were much larger than this one, and because they were even broader coalitions, it probably had the effect of diluting the strength of any particular ideological orientation.

    Anyway, my education continues… :)

    xoxo
    Maria

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 3, 2010, 9:38 pm
  6. Interesting – thanks for this, Sia. I called them left because that is what they call themselves, but I admit that while writing it, I was having difficulty seeing the resemblance between your left and theirs, and wondered if it was the right thing to call them. I’m going to go put this in the comments section, and then think more about how to work on handing their asses to them in a future article. Because what I saw was appalling. The worst part about it was not the assault part, but the fact that there were people there with real needs and demands for whom this was probably a rare opportunity to be heard by the larger community, and the organizers were using them as props to further their political agenda.

    After the incident, I noticed a group of three organizers standing together talking amongst themselves. One, an African American woman, kept looking up in my direction. The side of my sign that was facing her was the one that said “Solidarity with the people of Iran.” She pointed to it, frowned, and shook her head “no.”

    I guess the only people who are “worthy” of being free are those who serve these peoples’ agenda.

    xoxo
    Maria

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 3, 2010, 9:42 pm
  7. From Ahmad:

    Remember their brothers in arms have served Islamic republic against the revolution in 79. I am talking about what they call “left” of Iran on BBC and FOX like tude party and Aksaryat.

    They intentionally use the term left for the right as they use the term communist for the wildest capitalism like China. There is a reason. You and I have talked about this before.

    See you folks, you American infidels have some reading about your political reality, don’t you?

    Ahmad

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 3, 2010, 10:52 pm
  8. Yes my dear Ahmad. :) I remember those discussions. Very strange to come up against the exact same thing in my own back yard. Guess I need to get out more. :)

    Love from the American infidel,
    Maria

    Posted by missionfreeiran | May 3, 2010, 11:08 pm
  9. Ahmad,

    you say “Do you call them leftist because some one else , like the Fox news calls them leftists?”

    actually, i call them Left because they come, politically, from a Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist background. do some research on who the Worker World Party is. they split off the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) in the 50s because they supported China during the Sino-Soviet split, among other things.

    if you study the history of the Left, you’ll see all kinds of fucked up shit that it does. For example, in the US the Socialist Party refused to challenge segregation, and the Communist Party expelled its Japanese members from the party during WW2. What Stalin did does not require elaboration. But even Lenin let the Turkish Communists be massacred because it fit his foreign policy.

    it’s nice to think that the Left is always principled. But it’s not. Anyway, this particular demonstration was one of the worst examples of this, from one of the worst groups.

    And yes, the situation in Iran is terrible vis-a-vis most of the US Left.

    Posted by radicalarchives | May 3, 2010, 11:12 pm
  10. For more information about the WWP, see Kevin Coogan, “The International Action Center: “Peace Activists” With A Secret Agenda?”

    unfortunately the original link is down, but it is available on the right-wing website (sorry to have to direct you here)

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/586025/posts

    also, here is what DC anarchists (who helped organize many of the other demos you have been to like the anti-IMF/WB stuff) have to say about the group:

    http://infoshop.org/page/WWP-FAQ

    Posted by radicalarchives | May 3, 2010, 11:40 pm
  11. fortunately, the position of most leftist organisations (apart from parts of the peace and anti-globalization movement and some weird splinters) in Europe is much better than that of the WWP & Co.,

    Posted by entdinglichung | May 6, 2010, 7:53 am

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