Thoughts about the general strike in Israel.

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Tojiah
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Nov 29 2006 16:57
Thoughts about the general strike in Israel.

You've probably heard that a general strike has started in Israel today. As far as I know, since I'm not a Histadrut member (Histadrut being the oligarchic Israeli federation of trade unions), I cannot, legally, even ask to take part in this legal strike. Anyway, I'm working on an hourly basis with a contractor, so it would be meaningless to just not come to work. Actually striking would therefore mean going over to the construction site to picket it. Would it make any sense? What else can I do? Should I even bother to do anything?

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 17:34

I don't think it'd be unreasonable to picket your workplace - are all the people working there contractors as well? Do you think you'd be able to persuade anyone else to come out? Do you think you'd get the sack/blacklisted because of picketing? Any places on strike near you? Any places not striking (but "eligible" that could be picketed/disrupted?

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Tojiah
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Nov 29 2006 19:41
Mike Harman wrote:
I don't think it'd be unreasonable to picket your workplace - are all the people working there contractors as well? Do you think you'd be able to persuade anyone else to come out? Do you think you'd get the sack/blacklisted because of picketing? Any places on strike near you? Any places not striking (but "eligible" that could be picketed/disrupted?

Everyone there is paid by the hour, yes. It's construction work. I know maybe two people who work there who could come out to picket. If we do picket, I think we'll all just not get asked to keep on working; It's not a matter of firing, per se. I'll ask them, though.

I'm not sure I want to get in to this whole Histadrut strike dynamic: strike to make your power known, get some half-assed concessions, declare victory, then have those concessions disappear come budget time.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 19:49
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I'm not sure I want to get in to this whole Histadrut strike dynamic: strike to make your power known, get some half-assed concessions, declare victory, then have those concessions disappear come budget time.

Well that's a decent reason not to bother, or possibly a leaflet to hand out at Histradut pickets wink

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 29 2006 19:57

Hi

It looks like a set piece public sector strike comrade, I think you can let yourself off picketing your own contract. Cut yourself some slack. I wonder how long it'll last, presumably they're not getting paid.

Love

LR

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 20:01

Does sound like a set piece, but also not just a one-off, fair amount of news from Israel this month - http://libcom.org/news/israel

Hard to tell if it's just us looking more though of course.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2006 20:09
Lazy Riser wrote:
presumably they're not getting paid.

It appears they aren't: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/794209.html

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Nov 29 2006 20:22

A mere 'set piece' doesn't usually go on for more than a day or a half a day. It also doesn't usually take place in such proximity to a war. The fact that the Histradut is calling out so many sectors (on an indefinite basis?)seems to point to an extremely widespread discontent.
I sympathise with your situation treeofjudas - workers who decide not to become members of unions (in my case, because I consider them to be state organs, something I would say is fairly obvious in the case of the Histradut)are often put in a difficult position when they call 'legal' strikes. But if there is a real discontent, then there is also the potential for 'illegal' strikes or assemblies. And the Israeli working class is certainly no stranger to taking illegal, wildcat strike action. I agree with Catch that a leaflet is a good idea, preferably in conjunction with others who share your views. It would be impossible to avoid 'politics' though: like the struggle of the Palestinian civil servants few weeks ago, this is fundamentally against the national interest and the 'war effort'.

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Tojiah
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Nov 29 2006 22:08
Alf wrote:
A mere 'set piece' doesn't usually go on for more than a day or a half a day. It also doesn't usually take place in such proximity to a war. The fact that the Histradut is calling out so many sectors (on an indefinite basis?)seems to point to an extremely widespread discontent.

Actually, a strike like this, mostly lasting a few days, takes place before every yearly Knesset budget vote, just like threats of a general teacher's strike start resounding near the beginning of the school year (sometimes manifesting in an actual strike, sometimes not).

The next step, as has already been reported, is the threat of refusing to pay for strike days. Throughout the strike, there will be negotiations at odd hours, and the rhetoric will heat up, with the Treasury presenting a more neo-liberal approach, while Histadrut will pull out all their socialistic imagery (just like Peretz did at election time).

Eventually, our Ever Victorious Labor Leaders gains vague promises, which are never kept, of course, under tacit agreement by Histadrut, which will just use parts of it as fuel for the next yearly Great Strike.

In this sense, it is just muscle-flexing by the Histadrut leadership.

Alf wrote:
I sympathise with your situation treeofjudas - workers who decide not to become members of unions (in my case, because I consider them to be state organs, something I would say is fairly obvious in the case of the Histradut)are often put in a difficult position when they call 'legal' strikes.

Let me make my personal situation much clearer: I've only started working for this employer a week ago, I have zero experience in the labor market (this is my first actual job) and I will go broke soon without a steady income. This makes me timid when approaching the notion of strike action.

Alf wrote:
But if there is a real discontent, then there is also the potential for 'illegal' strikes or assemblies. And the Israeli working class is certainly no stranger to taking illegal, wildcat strike action.

Could you give me some examples?

Alf wrote:
I agree with Catch that a leaflet is a good idea, preferably in conjunction with others who share your views. It would be impossible to avoid 'politics' though: like the struggle of the Palestinian civil servants few weeks ago, this is fundamentally against the national interest and the 'war effort'.

That gives me an idea for a poster/leaflet, but I wouldn't even know where to start distributing such a thing.

I think my real problem is a lack of contact with local class-struggle activists. Most of the political people I'm in contact with lean more towards what you would call lifestylism and Palestinian national liberation. Additionally, I do not yet feel well-versed enough in the relevant theory and praxis to start things up on my lonesome. I'll have to act to remedy these failings.

By the way, can any of you point me examples of strike action in construction sites, and/or by contractors?

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Nov 29 2006 23:00

well, you may be right that this is just muscle-flexing by the Histradut, but it takes place in a context of rising working class militancy in many countries. And while there is always a very strong effort to separate 'industrial' disputes in Israel from the question of war, the burdens of the war effort are certainly directly contributing to the erosion of working class living standards. In addition to which, the conventional interpretation of the Israeli public's reaction to the recent fiasco in the Lebanon is that people are becoming more nationalistic than ever, but amdst all this there can be a confused but real development of class consciousness, at least among a minority, and a more general growth of class militancy.
On wildcat strikes in Israel: if my memory serves me well, the recent airport workers' strikes were illegal, and there have been similar struggles among dockers. The tradition goes back much further than that however: the book The Other Israel edited by Arie Bober contains a chapter on the Histradut which mentions the struggles between striking workers and the union among seamen, in 1951, in 1962 during a wave of wildcats following the devaluation of the Israeli pound, and in 1969 when postal workers and dockers struck in Ashdod. In the latter two cases workers formed action committees outside the Histradut. Again, in November 1974:
"the devaluation of the Israeli pound provoked further confrontations between workers on the one hand , and the police and trade unions on the other. The announcement of the devaluation provoked hundreds of workers to demonstrate outside the Histradut HQ in Tel Aviv. Before long the working class district of Hatikva in Tel Aviv had become a battleground. Barricades were erected, supermarkets ransacked, and there were pitched clashes between police and workers. There were also wildcat strikes in the port of Ashdod and elswhere, with some strikers engaging in physical attacks on officials of the Histradut, who naturally argued that new sacrifices were necessary if Israel were to 'defend itself from Arab aggression' " (World Revolution no. 3, april 1973).

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 00:36
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By the way, can any of you point me examples of strike action in construction sites, and/or by contractors?

There's some here, can't think of anything specific off the top of my head though:
http://libcom.org/sectors/construction

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Felix Frost
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Nov 30 2006 07:36

The best thing you can do, is probably to use this as an opportunity to discuss politics with your workmates.

The only value of such a strike is to show the collective power of the working class. Standing alone outside your workplace, handing out leaflets, with the result that you loose your job, pretty much just shows the opposite.

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Nov 30 2006 09:34
Felix Frost wrote:
The best thing you can do, is probably to use this as an opportunity to discuss politics with your workmates.

The only value of such a strike is to show the collective power of the working class. Standing alone outside your workplace, handing out leaflets, with the result that you loose your job, pretty much just shows the opposite.

This is exactly it. By making it an individual stance resulting to a job loss would remove the collective action side (which is the whole point) and would also show to your workmates that striking is a very bad idea resulting in huge personal costs.

But yeah, strikes politicise workmates no end and its a great opportunity to talk stuff. Also you will be able to suss out who is who when you start casually talking about the issue and maybe root out some potential comrades for the future. This is very handy, because the times i have worked in construction have always had some wildcat actions going which get sparked from unexpected incidents or management actions. Cant see why it would be greatly different in different countries.

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Nov 30 2006 11:13

Just to be clear, I am not for heroic self-immolating individual gestures. judastree has to make a sober judgment about what he should do as an individual worker. With regard to a possible leaflet, it wouldn't be necessary to stand outside his own workplace. If the content was general it could be distributed more generally, whether at other workplaces, bus depots, etc. But again the security situation in Israel is extremely tight, with private guards, police and soldiers everywhere, so a more discreet method of distribution may be necessary.

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Tojiah
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Nov 30 2006 13:42
Felix Frost wrote:
The best thing you can do, is probably to use this as an opportunity to discuss politics with your workmates.

JDMF wrote:
But yeah, strikes politicise workmates no end and its a great opportunity to talk stuff. Also you will be able to suss out who is who when you start casually talking about the issue and maybe root out some potential comrades for the future.

I actually did. My workmate is pretty political to begin with, though. He brought up an interesting point: most strikes in Israel, especially those run by Histadrut, involve the public sector, and just have the workers either not show up for work or stay in their offices refusing to go about their business. This just pisses (the) people off, without gaining much except for a sense of Histadrut's power. A more reasonable strike tactic would be to picket the workplace, and talk to people coming in for services, or to commit sabotage, like, say, if it's a bus company, taking on passengers for free and handing them leaflets about the situation, or if it's in a school, teaching children about (left-) communist issues instead of the corriculum.

As for what we can do, he thinks that it makes more sense for us to just join other sectors` actions in solidarity, rather than striking or intervening in the reconstruction being done in some obscure building. I tend to agree. Thoughts?

Alf wrote:
With regard to a possible leaflet, it wouldn't be necessary to stand outside his own workplace. If the content was general it could be distributed more generally, whether at other workplaces, bus depots, etc. But again the security situation in Israel is extremely tight, with private guards, police and soldiers everywhere, so a more discreet method of distribution may be necessary.

I've actually been able to distribute a leaflet of my own making, reprinting a report by Doctors for Human Rights, and urging soldiers to refuse service, right in front of the Ministry of Defense/Chief of Staff building. The security guard checked me out, then let me go on with my business. (I was then kicked off the bridge I was distributing at because it was owned by the adjacent mall)

So something focusing more on labor issues would cause me even less hassle. We've also been handing out fliers about GLBT rights in Jerusalem every Friday since almost three weeks ago, with no trouble at all from the authorities.

Israel proper isn't that horrible, at least in some ways. (We export our fascism to the Occupied Territories.)

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 18:53
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(I was then kicked off the bridge I was distributing at because it was owned by the adjacent mall)

Not literally I hope!

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2006 21:53

Stopped now apparently:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1162378514083&pag...

And the Jerusalem post claims "this time it's a bit different":
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1162378513670&pagename=JPost%...

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Dec 4 2006 16:39

Treeofjudas: we did a short piece on the strike in the new World Revolution. Your comments beforehand were helpful in assessing the situation, so I'd be interested in hearing your comments on the article:

Despite the spiral of nationalist hatred which often paralyses the class struggle in Israel and Palestine, the severe economic privations resulting from a state of permanent war have pushed workers on both sides of the divide to fight for their most basic material interests. In September, tens of thousands of civil servants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip staged strikes and demonstrations to demand that the Hamas government cough up several months of unpaid wages. Ironically, on November 29, libcom.org news reported that “A general strike has broken out in the Israeli public sector with airports, ports, government offices, and post offices all being shut down. Histadrut (General Federation of Labour) has called a strike in response to violations in agreements between the union and local and religious authorities. Histadrut is claiming these authorities are in arrears over salaries and em-ployers money due to be paid into pensions funds has disappeared”
Imperialist war means economic ruin. In this case, the bourgeoisie on both sides is in-creasingly unable even to pay its wage slaves.
Both these struggles were subject to all kinds of political manipulations. In the West Bank and Gaza, the opposition nationalist faction, Fatah, aimed to use the strikes as a means of putting pressure on its Hamas rivals. In Israel, the Histradut has a long tradition of calling tightly controlled ‘general strikes’ to back particular bourgeois policies and parties. But it is significant that in Israel the Histradut’s general strike (which was called off almost as soon as it had begun) was preceded by a wave of less well-marshalled strikes among baggage handlers, teachers, lecturers, bank workers and civil servants. Disillusionment with Israel’s military fiasco in the Lebanon has no doubt fuelled this growing discontent.
During the September strike in the Palestinian territories, the Hamas government de-nounced the civil servants’ action as being against the national interest. And despite all the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie, the class struggle does fundamentally remain opposed to the national interest and thus opposed to the march towards imperialist war. 2.12.06

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Dec 4 2006 17:31

Alf, I like the piece, but I think it needs a couple of minor corrections:

  • Although both the widespread strikes in the occupied territories and the "general" strike in Israel concerned the unpaid civil servants in local monicipalities, they were not coordinated. At this time, as far as I know, there is no viable organization, network, coalition or federation that can mediate between Israeli and Palestinian workers in order that they may stage combined, Palestine-wide strikes.

    In my opinion, this has a lot to do with the commitment that the overwhelming majority of radical leftists in Israel have towards Palestinian national liberation.

  • You need to be explicit about the significance of November 29th.
Mike Harman
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Dec 4 2006 17:40
tojiah wrote:
  • Although both the widespread strikes in the occupied territories and the "general" strike in Israel concerned the unpaid civil servants in local monicipalities, they were not coordinated. At this time, as far as I know, there is no viable organization, network, coalition or federation that can mediate between Israeli and Palestinian workers in order that they may stage combined, Palestine-wide strikes.

I think the fact that they happened at a similar time is instructive though, although I'd agree there's zero sign of any planning/co-ordination. Within Israel/Palestine what level of communication of these strikes will there have been on either side through either mainstream media or other channels? Would most people in both groups of strikers even know about the other? That and a communication network would seem to be a pre-requisite to any kind of co-ordination at a later date.

Quote:
In my opinion, this has a lot to do with the commitment that the overwhelming majority of radical leftists in Israel have towards Palestinian national liberation.

By this do you mean that commitment to national liberation on the part of leftists in Israel means there's very little chance of a co-ordinated class movement? Is there any sign of something pointing beyond that?

Quote:
  • You need to be explicit about the significance of November 29th.
  • Er, yeah, because without googling that date wouldn't mean anything to me off the top of my head.

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    Alf
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    Dec 4 2006 18:55

    Treeofjudas, thanks for replying so promptly. Well, I would agree with Catch: there was no coordination (and I don't think the article suggests there was) but the near-simultaneity and the similarity of economic demands were certainly significant.
    Not sure what you mean about being explicit about 29 November, but I would be very interested to know what your own view of national liberation is.

    Mike Harman
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    Dec 6 2006 19:11

    back on, maybe: http://libcom.org/news/israel-general-strike-to-continue-tomorrow-061220...

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    Tojiah
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    Dec 10 2006 09:17
    Mike Harman wrote:
    Within Israel/Palestine what level of communication of these strikes will there have been on either side through either mainstream media or other channels? Would most people in both groups of strikers even know about the other?

    I happened to attend the demonstration against the Israel Business Conference. I spent a lot of my time observing my various comrades. Most of them were members of such Zionist youth groups as HaShomer HaTzair (who organized the demo), Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed and so on. There were also members of CPI's youth organization, Banki.

    "Adult" leftist organizations included CPI, ICF, ODA and Maavak Sozialisti (a local section of CWI). Oh, and this crazy Stalinist fellow1

    Then, of course, there were the anarchists, who got into a ridiculous confrontation with the cops and, consequently, beaten up. I, of course, came in to show solidarity, and got to test the muscles covering my solar plexus for my troubles (working quite well, thank you very much), though I don't really approve of their action.2

    Finally, there was a three-person counter-demonstration by trickle-down economics advocates (I can translate their pamphlet for you if you like).

    The speakers included members of these groups, some delegates from Histardrut3 and a few social activists, who avoid foreign policy like the plague.

    No-one mentioned the Palestinian strike, or anything about Palestinian workers` struggle. The only reference any of them made to Palestinians is the oft-heard notion that the occupation is largely responsible for the current economic crisis, and that stopping it will benifit Israeli society. Hence calls for peace and end for occupation, etc.

    Mike Harman wrote:
    By this do you mean that commitment to national liberation on the part of leftists in Israel means there's very little chance of a co-ordinated class movement? Is there any sign of something pointing beyond that?

    Of the leftist organizations, only the latter two are internationalist, though in the Trotskyite manner (whatever that means). ODA's party organ critiqued CPI's ambivalence towards Hezbollah. Maavak Sozialisti's position explicitly condemns Hamas as the oppressive, reactionary organization that it is. On the other hand, CPI is, as I had said, ambiguous on this point, while ICF is almost explicit in its support for Hezbollah and Hamas's actions (that Stalinist guy is completely explicit about it, calling Hezbollah an "advanced group" which should be supported against US imperialism).

    As for the anarchists, I'm not sure of their positions regarding national liberation/internationalism, even though I am kind of affiliated with them. I'll have to ask them about it.

    To conclude, I may have been too pessimistic, since there are, in fact, organizations through which a transnational position can be articulated. Nevertheless, there are miles to go towards a transnational class-consciousness, as such, in Israel/Palestine. Moreover, these organizations are marginal even inside the Israeli radical left.

    PS: This CWI section seems promising, but I'll appreciate input from you people regarding your experience with CWI internationally. (ODA has been looking good to me for a while, now, but they're hard to get at, for some reason)

    • 1. Sorry about the Hebrew, I can't find his stuff in English.. His name is Angello Aidan, and he seems to have been a member of ICF at some point.
    • 2. While we were being attacked by the cops, the rest of our alleged comrades kept right on with their stupid rock show/demonstration farce. How these people seem to think that they're going to bring about social justice without confronting the police, at some point, is beyond me. "The cops are there to keep things orderly," as some HaShomer HaZair big-wig told me, to which I replied that it is this same order that brings about injustice. Didn't manage to convince any of those "Socialist"-Zionists with that, though.
    • 3. Ironically, the director couldn't arrive due to illness. His talk at the Business Conference is still on schedule, though.
    Mike Harman
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    Dec 10 2006 12:05

    Thanks for the run-down, that was interesting to read. I know next to nothing about Israeli left groups at all.

    I don't have much personal experience with the CWI. In the UK they were the Militant tendency within the labour party, were in control of a lot of the anti-poll tax campaigns, but someone who was at least in their teens by then could probably do a better job of explaining their role in that.

    There's a group in my part of London, and they do stalls in the high street around hospital closures, job cuts in council departments etc. but they also run for parliament and have a crappy manifesto (nationalise the top 100 companies etc.)

    I know in Ireland they were involved in the anti-bin tax struggle, Irationally Angry who posts on here is a member, and some of the WSM members could probably give you more detail since I think they worked together on some things, there's stuff here:
    WSM: http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/wsm/bins.html
    SP: http://www.socialistparty.net/bintax/bintop.htm

    My general impression of them is that they're a lot more straightforward than the SWP, and a lot less fantasist than groups like Workers Power, but still Trots innit.

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    Tojiah
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    Dec 10 2006 13:20

    Thanks for the info and the links.

    Mike Harman wrote:
    ... but still Trots innit.

    It's probably been beaten to the ground around these forums, but precisely what's wrong with Trotskyists? Or, to put in in more practical terms, what kind of negative actions do Trotskyist movements inevitably indulge in?

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    Dec 10 2006 23:21

    hello. Interesting to hear about the leftist groups/ anarchists etc in Israel. I used to follow that scene more closely, but I haven't got such a clear picture as I used to have. I began political life as a libertarian left Zionist back in the 70s! I've done some posts on that, which I will try to find. I am now against nationalism in all its forms. I don't think any of the Trotskyist organisations are internationalist, because all of them support nationalism in one form or another, and always look for the 'lesser evil' in imperialist wars, when the working class has to oppose both camps. This became absolutely clear to me at the time the 1973 Yom Kippur broke out and the Trotskyists were calling on workers to support Egypt and Syria (and Russia, which backed them).

    I still visit Israel from time to time as I've got family there - it would be good to meet some politically involved people next time.

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    Dec 11 2006 21:08
    Alf wrote:
    I don't think any of the Trotskyist organisations are internationalist, because all of them support nationalism in one form or another, and always look for the 'lesser evil' in imperialist wars, when the working class has to oppose both camps.

    Hmm. Yeah, that's a definite no-no. Maavak Sozialisti seems to be of the same opinion, though they're not too clear on who they deem worthy of leading the national liberation of Palestine. It's not Fatah or Hamas, apparently.

    Alf wrote:
    I still visit Israel from time to time as I've got family there - it would be good to meet some politically involved people next time.

    PM me when you're around.

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    Tojiah
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    Jan 3 2007 23:36

    Well, the 2007 budget has passed, and the Israeli left is mostly silent. No protests, no demos, no strikes, no nothing.

    I am disheartened at this, though I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised.

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    Jan 3 2007 23:52
    tojiah wrote:
    It's probably been beaten to the ground around these forums, but precisely what's wrong with Trotskyists? Or, to put in in more practical terms, what kind of negative actions do Trotskyist movements inevitably indulge in?

    Well you can get a good idea of what Trotsky did to destroy the revolution in Russia from these texts. Trotskyists today support all his actions then:
    The Bolsheviks and Workers Control - solidarity
    The Strategy and Nature of Bolshevism - the cohn-bendits

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    Tojiah
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    Feb 26 2007 14:54

    Well, there's going to be a general strike again. What's it about this time? You guessed it, same reason as before: unpaid wages for municipal workers. Histardrut gets to rattle their saber, the government gets to look compassionate, and the municipal workers get nothing.

    Save me jeebus. :-/