“Third Camp” means politics

Submitted by AWL on 7 December, 2007 - 9:50 Author: Rhodri Evans

In response to David Broder’s letter (Solidarity 3/122), I should first make my position clear on the kitchen sink. I’m for it. Definitely. As to other things raised about or as spin-offs from my little letter in Solidarity 3/120...

I mentioned the WAC’s opposition to “two states” in Israel/Palestine because Daniel’s article had been about resolving the national question there, not about trade-union struggles or elementary worker organisation.

Daniel described WAC as “politically sharp”, and gave no such credit to the Histadrut or the Fatah-linked Palestinian unions.

Just “two states” isn’t sufficient. To have a hope of uniting Jewish and Arab workers round a mutually-agreed democratic formula, it must be clear support for self-determination for both nations.

But a group which opposes “two states” outright can’t lead on the national question, however useful its efforts in economic struggles.

Neither Mark Osborn’s letter on the Gaza civil war, nor our earlier editorial, suggested political endorsement for Fatah. In fact, the opposite.

In Gaza you had a civil war between a more-or-less secular bourgeois-nationalist party and Hamas, which I think David agrees is clerical-fascist. There are small independent workers’ committees in Gaza (see below) which, understandably, disavow links with either side in the civil war.

We support those workers’ committees against both Hamas and Fatah; but, in circumstances where there is absolutely no chance of those committees triumphing against both Hamas and Fatah, is that all we have to say?

The “Third Camp” does not mean saying that all cows are black in the night of politics short of working class triumph - “they’re all bad! Workers, workers, workers!”

To build “independent working-class forces”, in the sense of organising workers independent of bosses, governments, and bourgeois parties, is indeed vital bedrock. But it is not yet the “Third Camp”, in the sense of independent working class politics.

I cited the example of Northern Ireland. There is a fairly strong, united, and organisationally independent trade-union movement there. For the last 40 years it has been unable even to influence the communal conflict, because of the lack of a workers’ political party within it able to win it to a consistently democratic and socialist programme.

We support those unions as unions. We opposed the moves on the British left in the late 1980s to disrupt the Northern Ireland union movement by demanding “British unions out of Ireland” (and the Paisleyites’ long but pleasingly ineffective campaign for “Irish unions out of Northern Ireland”).

But praise of the Northern Ireland unions is no positive help in resolving the communal conflict. Political ideas may be.

Of course we should try to give practical assistance to workers organising everywhere, on however limited a level. But AWL is not a vast resource centre full of kit to guarantee success in worker-organising in Gaza or Kabul, Nablus or Tel Aviv, Basra or Baghdad, whose task is just to deploy that kit. If only!

Our prime task is organising where we have activists, “saying what is” in politics national and international, and educating ourselves and those we can reach in consistent Marxist ideas.

David’s letter: www.workersliberty.org/node/9623

My letter: www.workersliberty.org/node/9435

Daniel’s article: www.workersliberty.org/node/9346

Workers’ Liberty 3/15:

www.workersliberty.org/taxonomy/term/650

Mark’s letter: www.workersliberty.org/node/9004

Editorial on Gaza civil war:

www.workersliberty.org/node/8784

Workers’ committees in Gaza: www.workersliberty.org/node/4862

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