Hammer, Sickle and Four logo
The Internationalist
16 November 2023

Marjorie Stamberg Protests Gag Order, Speaks Up for Palestinians

Marjorie Stamberg at protest called by Class Struggle
              Education Workers outside NYC Department of Education
              headquarters on 16 November 2023 protesting gag order by
              chancellor that sought to suppress solidarity with Gaza by
              teachers and staff.Marjorie at protest called by Class Struggle Education Workers outside NYC Department of Education headquarters on 16 November 2023 protesting gag order by chancellor that sought to suppress solidarity with Gaza by teachers and staff. (Internationalist photo)

Marjorie Stamberg died on 29 May 2024 after a lifetime, cut short at age 79, of fighting for socialist revolution. She was a defender of the communism of Lenin and Trotsky, a key leader of the League for the Fourth International and its U.S. section, the Internationalist Group, a Marxist educator, a militant trade unionist and a champion of all the oppressed. In November 2023, when it was becoming more difficult for her to walk, Marjorie attended three Palestinian solidarity protests in one week.

On November 9 she made her way into a crowd of several thousand on the steps of the New York Public Library with a sign that said “Defend the Palestinians Against Genocidal U.S./Israel War.” On November 15 outside the United Federation of Teachers headquarters, while the official demands were for a ceasefire in Gaza, Marjorie's sign called for “Israel Out of the West Bank and Gaza Now!” And on November 16, she spoke at a rally called by Class Struggle Education Workers on the steps of the New York Department of Education, denouncing a gag order intended to silence any support for Palestinians by teachers, students or staff.

Marjorie would not be silent. She was determined to speak out against the genocidal war on Gaza by Israel and the U.S., which furnishes all the bombs and planes that make the slaughter possible. Here is a video of what she said: https://youtu.be/B7H6deSTuAA

Text of her remarks:

My name is Marjorie Stamberg, I’m a retired teacher in the Department of Education, and a very proud member of the UFT (the United Federation of Teachers). We have always said the UFT is not the leadership. The UFT is the teachers, it’s the paras (paraprofessionals), it’s the nurses, it’s the people who make up the body of the UFT. We’re always fighting with the Unity leadership [the UFT bureaucracy caucus] that right now, in terms of health care, in terms of Palestine, I see them as working for [Mayor Eric] Adams. We're working for the UFT.

Now, there is a lot of stuff going on, a lot of threats against teachers … for teaching. Basically, as teachers, our job, in the classroom, is to talk with people about how for 75 years Gaza has been the world’s biggest open prison. We’re not allowed to show our personal preferences in the classroom. Alright, that’s something that’s been there for a while. But the letter from Chancellor Banks says teachers may not talk about their personal feelings about this issue anywhere on school grounds. That means not in the lunch room, not in your prep (preparation time), not before and not after. That’s point one. Point two is worse: you may not talk about your personal feelings on the issue outside of the school day.

So you know, you guys can come and get me, but I’m retired and I have tenure, so come on. But for many, many teachers who do not have tenure, their jobs could be on the line if they come into the forefront. Still, many people are doing it.

Yesterday we had about a hundred people down at the UFT to pass a motion for a ceasefire. It did not pass, but it split the body much deeper than I’ve ever seen anything go. Now we in my group, Class Struggle Education Workers, are not for the ceasefire, because that would mean stop right now, with Israeli troops in the hospitals, taking over half of Gaza, pushing the Gaza people into the desert, into the Sinai. We are for a Palestinian and Hebrew united workers struggle, because there are many contradictions in Israel as well, and people who do not want to be part of a Zionist state.

And I want to tell you, one of the big lies that is going on around here is that anybody who defends Palestine has got to be an antisemite. They’re just trying to intimidate you. They are anti-Zionism. [Anti-]Zionism is not antisemitism. Jewish people throughout the world have been victims who are not, fundamentally, for the most part, committed to having a garrison state in the Middle East. Many of them were victims of the Holocaust, and they could not come to the United States, which forbid them to come in, also in many other countries in Europe, so they came to Israel.

The problem is, when you have two groups of people occupying the same land, you really can’t solve it unless you have socialism. Because if you have two states, which state is the stronger, which controls the fuel, which one controls the land, which one has the biggest army? So that idea [of a “two-state solution”] has gone down the way. And we see what we need is a revolution in Gaza, in Israel and throughout the Middle East. And we can’t forget the U.S. role.

Yesterday, at the demonstration at the UFT, the colleagues were saying “Michael Mulgrew, you can't hide, you are funding genocide.” Well, I thought, we usually say “U.S., you can't hide, you are funding genocide,” which is also true, but in fact, the UFT coffers are going into Israeli bonds and to support Israel. So we have a fight inside our union, for our students and for our teachers to have the right to express their own opinions and teach. That’s what they’re there for, and now they’re being threatened. Thank you very much. ■