On Tuesday evening I went out to Astoria, Queens for a protest rally against Golden Dawn that was trying to establish a foothold in this mostly Greek neighborhood. Held in the Church of the Redeemer, it drew upwards of 150 people, an amazing turnout. I had a feeling that about one third of the audience was local Greeks.
With all proportions being guarded, you felt transported back to 1938 or so for a meeting in solidarity with the Republicans fighting against Franco in Spain. As Alan Akrivos, one of the panelists and a member of Socialist Alternative, put it: “It is going to be like Spain in the 1930s.”
By the time of the meeting, Golden Dawn had already been beaten back as the chairperson of the event would tell us. The Queens Tribune reported:
Golden Dawn Office Sparks Protests
By ROSS BARKAN and MEGAN MONTALVO
It was a message they hoped would be heard in Greece: Golden Dawn, we do not want you here.
Elected officials, religious leaders and concerned residents gathered in front of Athens Park in Astoria on Oct. 5 to condemn Golden Dawn, a far-right Greek political party that now holds 18 seats in the Greek parliament, for planning to open up an office in Queens.
The party was founded in the 1990s but rose to prominence in Greece only recently as economic conditions worsened. Blaming immigrants for Greece’s economic collapse, the xenophobic party has won a small following among the disaffected population.
The exact location of the office, very likely to be in Astoria where there remains a relatively high Greek population, is not currently known.
Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio called last week’s press conference. For de Blasio, it was yet another foray into Queens, where he is looking to build a support base in anticipation of next November’s election.
“Golden Dawn does not belong in New York City,” de Blasio said. “Golden Dawn stands for something that is absolutely foreign to this great city. They stand for intolerance, they stand for division, they stand for a kind of negative attitude toward people who are not like them.”
I have a soft spot in my heart for Bill de Blasio, even though he is a Democrat. Back in the late 1980s he used to drop in on the Nicaragua Network in New York to discuss ways in which his office could be used to fight against Contra funding. I know that he was anxious to burnish his reputation among left-leaning voters that are legion in the city but I always got the idea that he was genuinely opposed to U.S. imperialist intervention there as well.
I got the impression that Socialist Alternative was very involved with organizing the event since one of their members was speaking. I also noticed their literature on the registration table when you walked in, probably something that was not a great idea but understandable given where they have come from.
Socialist Alternative (SA) is the American “section” of Peter Taaffe’s Trotskyist Committee for a Worker’s International whose leading party is in Britain and carried out an “entryist” tactic in the Labour Party for many years until it was expelled. I put the word “section” in quotes because reactionary legislation in the U.S. prevents American parties from being formal members of world organizations even though the International Monetary Fund and the Central Intelligence Agency face no such obstacles.
Although much smaller than the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Socialist Alternative has the ability to recruit young people with similar talents, including Dan DiMaggio who is at New York University now and very involved with building support for the Occupy movement and trade union struggles around the city.
In a lengthy article entitled “Road maps, dead ends and the search for fresh ground — How can we build the socialist movement in the 21st century?”, DiMaggio explained why he was dropping out of Socialist Alternative. Among the very salient points he made was this:
The question today is how to lay the groundwork for the eventual development of a powerful socialist movement in the U.S. Many who are new to the movement often quickly ask why all the existing socialist groups can’t just get together and build a united organization, or at least work more closely together. The usual answers are that the differences between the groups are too great to justify uniting. Even if a number of groups all came together, it would just result in a still small grouping burdened by even worse infighting than exists today. Plus, each group believes it is the embodiment of the true Marxist program and methods, which it must preserve and defend against other groups.
Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but I would like to think that both the ISO and SA are beginning to move slowly but inexorably in the direction that DiMaggio outlined. Not long ago, the ISO decided to stop making “state capitalism” a litmus test for joining, something that most assuredly made it easier for Paul LeBlanc to join. (I myself could have never followed suit, since I strongly believe in the wisdom of Groucho Marx’s words, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”.)
Meanwhile, the gist of Alan Akrivos’s talk was the need for a SYRIZA-type party in the U.S. In fact, he referred to an initiative that Socialist Alternative is involved with, to build a Left Movement in Queens. These are exactly the kinds of organizations that are on the agenda today all over the world and one hopes that the SA comrades will continue to move in this direction and take the next logical step, which is to become part of a process that will enable all socialists to belong to a common framework focused on the task of opposing capitalism rather than splitting hairs over “the Russian questions” that defined the Trotskyist movement in all its 57 varieties.
When you listen to Akrivos’s powerful speech, you get a feel for what it would be like to have the natural leadership of the working class united into a single organization.
There are thousands of others like him around the country who—if speaking for a common organization—could begin to get the hearing of American workers.
Much to their credit, the Socialist Alternative comrades have begun to push for a strategy that I raised myself a while back, namely to run candidates in the name of the Occupy movement. Any group that has such insights is to be reckoned with. Here’s their statement on that on The North Star, a Web site committed to unifying the American left.
In years past, this might have seemed an impossible task but in the face of a deep-seated and apparently endless economic crisis, the urgency of our tasks might begin to persuade the left to finally get its act together, as we used to put it in the 1960s.