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May 2024

Spartacist League: A Weird and Desperate Frenzy

For Mass Student/Labor Action Against U.S./Israel War and NYPD Repression

“Anti-terrorism” police of NYPD Strategic Response Group mass outside entrance to the City College of New York (CCNY) late on April 30 preparing for mass arrests of Gaza Solidarity Encampment participants. We demand: Drop the charges! Cops off campus! (Internationalist photo)

By the CUNY Internationalist Clubs

MAY 11 – Late on April 30 and in the early hours of May 1, close to 300 students at Columbia University and the City College of New York were arrested, some beaten and brutalized, by the notorious New York Police Department (NYPD), after university administrations called in the cops to “sweep” campus Gaza solidarity encampments. At CCNY, which is part of the City University of New York, protesters in the encampment and in the crowds outside the gates that rushed there in solidarity were assaulted. Hunter College student government president Bassrou “Bashir” Juwara was the first arrestee; young Muslim women reportedly had their hijabs pulled off by the thugs in blue; a 73-year-old adjunct professor had a rib broken and her knee injured. Plus innumerable other outrages. The cop attacks were part of the nationwide onslaught, that is still continuing, incited by capitalist rulers from Democrat “Genocide Joe” Biden and Republican House of Representatives speaker Mike Johnson to New York governor Kathy Hochul and her fellow Democrat, NYC’s cop mayor Eric Adams. Against this, the CUNY Internationalist Clubs call for mass mobilization of students, faculty and staff from all area campuses, together with powerful sectors of NYC labor, to demand: Drop all charges – Cops off campus! End the NYPD occupations/lockdowns! As for CUNY chancellor Félix (“Felo”) Matos-Rodríguez and CCNY president Vincent Boudreau, who called in the cops, we say, Felo and Boudreau must go!

Four young activists from the Hunter Internationalist Club, including its president, were among those arrested at CCNY, charged and held overnight. From the encampment’s first day (April 25) through its forcible eviction by the cops, CUNY Internationalists stayed there night and day, putting forward our revolutionary program in defense of the Palestinian people, for international workers action to defeat the genocidal U.S./Israel war, and for a Palestinian Arab/Hebrew workers state as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East. As the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group and hundreds of other cops were deployed in the buildup to the raid, more Internationalist Club members rapidly mobilized alongside other students and faculty/staff unionists outside the entrances sealed off by the police. Then after the arrests, at 6 a.m., Club members again protested outside the CCNY gates, denouncing the cop occupation of the historic campus and demanding the immediate freeing and dropping of charges against the arrestees.

CUNY Internationalists at CCNY encampment early on May 1 as mass arrests loomed. Four Club members were arrested. (Internationalist photo)

Four hours later, at 10 a.m. on May 1, the CUNY Internationalist Clubs started distributing the flier we crashed out titled “Protest NYPD/CUNY Repression Against Pro-Palestinian Demonstrators,” calling for a speak-out protest at noon outside Hunter College’s West building. The speak-out drew close to 200 students together with members of the CUNY faculty/staff union, the Professional Staff Congress, DC37 and others. In addition to many students, the speakers included five members of the PSC’s Hunter chapter, with members of other union chapters attending too. Key to bringing out this crowd on such short notice was the Clubs’ consistent and serious history with students, campus workers and faculty. Over the recent period, this included our 7 November 2023 rally against the McCarthyite witch-hunts, playing a leading role in the successful campaign to defeat the administration’s attempt to ban the showing of a film critical of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians (Israelism), helping build a Palestinian film festival on campus, and repeatedly bringing out Hunter students to innumerable protests against the war on Gaza.1

At the noon protest on May 1, Club speakers emphasized a point highlighted in our flier calling the protest: “On this May Day, the Internation­al Workers Day, workers around the world are coming out in solidarity, with defense of the besieged Palestinian people being one of their key themes. This power must be brought to bear against the genocidal U.S./Israel war on Gaza – with yet another air-strike on the city of Rafah last night – and in defense of our right to protest. The power of NYC labor must be brought into the struggle to defend the student protesters, now!” Concretely, this means well-organized mobilization of students together with workers and the mass-based organizations of labor (the unions). Speakers highlighted resolutions that our comrades in Portland, Oregon got passed in Painters Local 10, Ironworkers Local 29, the Portland Federation of School Professionals and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, calling for “labor everywhere to stop the shipment of arms for this U.S./Israel war” and “for the immediate end to Israel’s bombing of Gaza; Israel out of Gaza and the West Bank; end all arming and funding for it now.”2

Enter the Spartacist League…

As for the Spartacist League, it put out three brief fliers for May 1, 2 and 3, calling to “Strike the Campus!” and for a walkout at Hunter College. There was no strike or walkout, and in response to their failure to suck one out of their thumb, the SL issued an unhinged leaflet (dated 2 May) that it passed out at Hunter, titled, “Just Asking: Is the Internationalist Club Opposed to a Walk-Out?” Mind you, this was the day after the CUNY Internationalist Clubs had organized an emergency speak-out on 2 hours’ notice to protest the busts earlier that day, which drew some 200 students and unionists, and where the SL had a speaker. Not a word about any of that, or our arrested comrades, in the SL’s bizarre and ranting leaflet.

This is from the used-to-be-revolutionary group going under the misnomer Spartacist League/International Communist League that sat out the mass protests against racist police terror after the murder of George Floyd. (We say misnomer because it has since renounced just about everything the SL/ICL once fought for.) The “new” SL denounces itself as having repeatedly betrayed the working class on a whole range of key issues, and is now rapidly embracing openly class-collaborationist politics. Those familiar with the spectacle of political degeneration of the SL/ICL won’t be surprised to learn that when the arrests came down on April 30-May 1, the Spartacist League was nowhere to be seen on the CCNY campus. (At Latin America’s largest university, the National University of Mexico [UNAM], they’ve never lived down their comrades’ similar absence when 1,000 students were arrested during the huge 1999-2000 strike that kept UNAM tuition-free.)3

The SL’s 2 May tract trying to scapegoat the Internationalist Club for the SL’s failure to make good on its latest gimmick – a “strike” and walkout at Hunter which they apparently thought would materialize because they wanted it to – ignores the fact that it had no contact with Hunter campus unionists, let alone consultation with them, the Hunter workforce (or the arrestees), and that these fakers have no base or systematic work there in the past. The SL is not the only gimmick-prone outfit around. In recent years, petty-bourgeois groups like CUNY Struggle and Left Voice have proclaimed “walkouts,” immediate “strike” and/or “sick-out” calls, etc., seeking ever new stunts to go around the workers’ unions and with virtually no backing among the masses of undergraduate students. What actually does “stand as an obstacle to the necessary struggle” (to use a phrase from the SL’s 2 May leaflet) is the kind of performative unseriousness they display.

To repeat: we CUNY Internationalists are for real mass mobilizations (including an actual worker/student strike, which our comrades have fought for in the unions and among students at CUNY for years), including walkouts – which to actually happen require serious organizing, preparation and roots.

On two hours notice, almost 200 students and faculty joined emergency speakout called by CUNY Internationalist Clubs at 12 noon, May 1, against arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters at CCNY hours earlier. (Internationalist photo)

The SL leaflet rants that we supposedly “undermine[d]” their efforts. This is an odd claim given that, immediately after our successful May 1 noon speak-out, a contingent of Internationalist Club activists made up the majority of the (small number of) students that attended a protest called by the SL at 2 p.m. that day. We had a speaker there, and two at a subsequent one they called on May 3. At the end of the May 3 protest, the SL announced a “planning meeting” to be held in the same location outside Hunter West on May 6. We showed up for that too – but the SL didn’t.

With its erratic behavior and unshakeable belief that the world revolves around itself, and desperate to recruit some youth, no matter how, the SL is angry that, with a grand total of one student supporter at CUNY (none were part of its contingent of eight people at the huge Palestine march from Hunter into Central Park on May 6), reality has not obeyed its calls and wishes. Meanwhile, on the morning of May 6, over 60 faculty/staff unionists came out to protest in front of CUNY’s central office on 42nd Street, demanding “Drop the charges” and picking up a class-struggle militant’s chant of “Felo must go – Cops off campus!” What wasn’t there was the SL. As we continue to systematically bring out students against the police repression and the war on Gaza, class-struggle activists in the faculty/staff union are fighting for a mass CUNY- and city-wide union/student march against the repression and witch hunts targeting pro-Palestinian protesters.

At the SL’s small protest on May 1, we saw a microcosm of its galloping opportunism and latest gimmicks, which include a caucus in the Democratic Socialists of America, an appendage of U.S. imperialism’s Democratic Party of genocide, whose star Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is boosting Biden for re-election; calling for an “anti-imperialist front” with the president of Mexico, who is acting as a border guard for the U.S., etc. Supporters of the “Revolutionary Communists of America” (RCA, formerly International Marxist Tendency), which had joined them in calling the 2 p.m. May 1 event, raised the chant, “The students united will never be defeated.” This is a studentist variant of the slogan of the popular front of class collaboration in Chile (“the people united…”) that paved the way for the 1973 military coup of General Augusto Pinochet. The SL loudly joined its RCA bloc partners in chanting this. It also did and said nothing when the RCA tried to shout our speaker down for referring to the IMT/RCA’s long record of supporting police and prison-guard “unions.”

Large numbers of student youth are being radicalized today as they seek a way to struggle effectively against the genocidal war on the Palestinian people armed, backed and funded by U.S. imperialism under the Democratic Party of Biden, Sanders, AOC & Co. It’s clear that to defeat the murderous onslaught against the Palestinian people, and to smash the capitalist system of imperialist war, racist oppression and exploitation, what’s needed is not only seriousness but a fighting program to do it. This program to link up with the power of the working class, and fight for socialist revolution here and around the world, is what the CUNY Internationalist Clubs, working with the Revolutionary Internationalist Youth (youth section of the Internationalist Group), are bringing into the struggle, in the protests, on the campuses, in our paper Revolution, our Marxist study groups and everything that we do. Join us in the struggle! ■