Organize the mass struggle! A communist program to escalate the Gaza solidarity encampments

Student activists have escalated the Palestine solidarity movement significantly over the past week, establishing encampments at campuses across the country. The goal of the students is to divest—that is, cut all financial ties—from companies that are aiding Israel’s war.

[Originally published at]

This kind of escalation is exactly what the movement needed. Israel’s savage war on Gaza continues and may soon reach a new crescendo with an assault on Rafah, despite months of pro-Palestine protests across the United States and around the world. In fact, Genocide Joe just signed a new “aid” package that includes $15 billion in military funding for Israel to help facilitate the Zionist state’s crimes against humanity.

It is clear to all that Biden and Netanyahu will press on with their genocidal war at all costs and that we need to take matters into our own hands.

The Revolutionary Communists of America wholeheartedly support this movement and seek to help escalate it however possible. We encourage all communists, pro-Palestinian workers, and young people to help build this movement nationwide. Below, we offer our proposals for how we can collectively escalate the movement further.

Divest and disclose

Columbia reinstated Gaza Solidarity Encampment Image عباد ديرانية Wikimedia CommonsStudent activists have escalated the Palestine solidarity movement significantly by establishing encampments at campuses across the country / Image: عباد ديرانية, Wikimedia Commons

In addition to Gaza, the general crisis of capitalism and the hypocrisy of the ruling class weigh heavily on the minds of millions. Wide layers of students are correctly looking for a concrete way to make a material dent in Israel’s war effort. In this context, the call to divest and disclose is filled with progressive content and provides a concrete focal point for the movement. Students naturally understand that they alone don’t have the power to shut down the war, but they’re doing everything they can to play their part in the broader Palestine solidarity movement.

The financial assets, investments, and ties of the private universities cracking down on the movement should be immediately disclosed and divested. But who is going to make that happen? Clearly, the school administrators cannot be trusted to do this. They’re only concerned with expanding their endowments, tuition fees, real estate, and other assets. Even if they temporarily offload their current holdings under pressure from the movement, this amounts to selling those assets to other capitalists, and they may well reinvest in these companies later on.

That’s why students, teachers, and campus workers need control and management over these institutions. The unelected administrations are using tuition fees and other income to invest in companies that profit from the Zionists’ war in Gaza. These people should not be in charge. They have forfeited their right to govern these centers of learning, research, and cultural enrichment.

The majority should dictate how society is run—what and how things are produced and distributed—and this includes all institutions of higher education.

The need to link up with the working class

Berkeley Free Palestine Camp Image Mx. Granger Wikimedia CommonsStudents, teachers, and campus workers need control and management over educational institutions / Image: Mx. Granger, Wikimedia Commons

Achieving divestment through mass collective action would be a step forward for the movement, educating students and pro-Palestine workers on the efficacy of mass struggle. But this alone would not be sufficient to stop the war. The university investments are a drop in the bucket of the billions that are sent and invested in Israel by governments and capitalists worldwide. Students must urgently link up with the broader working class if we are to achieve a serious escalation of the movement. Otherwise, our impact will be limited.

A great way to start this process would be to appeal to teaching staff and campus workers to join the movement. The universities can only run due to the labor of professors and adjuncts, janitors, groundskeepers, maintenance, cafeteria, and other workers. We should appeal to these workers on a class basis to strike in solidarity with this movement.

Faculty and staff and the University of Texas have shown the way forward in this regard, releasing a statement condemning the university president’s outrageous decision to call in state troopers to violently suppress the protests on Wednesday. Faculty members at Columbia and NYU also joined the protests earlier this week. At Emory University in Atlanta, an economics professor and the chair of the Philosophy department were among those arrested amidst a brutal display of police violence.

We must also appeal to the unions to mobilize their membership in support of this fight. UAW Region 9A should be applauded in this regard.

Now it’s up to UAW President Shawn Fain, who has previously called for a ceasefire in Gaza and led his workers on a major strike, to mobilize the entire national membership in support of the movement. The rest of the labor leaders should likewise mobilize their members in international solidarity.

Through the faculty and staff on campus, as well as other workers we can recruit to the movement, we can appeal to the broader working class to join in. The decisive power lies with workers involved in shipping, arms manufacturing, media, and other key industries that are necessary for sustaining the war. These workers have an exceptional role to play in halting the US-Israeli war machine. As we noted in a previous article:

The Biden administration recently approved the transfer of 25 F-35 fighter jets to Israel. Final assembly of the planes takes place at a Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, employing over 18,000 workers. Beyond these 18,000 lies a vast network of workers producing and transporting materials and parts. In total, producing the planes requires the efforts of 240,000 workers across 47 states.

Any disruption at any of these or other nodes of production or distribution would gum up the whole works. And an all-out, coordinated strike across the entire sprawling network could shut down huge swathes of the imperialist war machine altogether.

Giving the movement an organized character

comrades Image Revolutionary Communists of AmericaStriking a blow here in the heart of imperialism would upend the political landscape / Image: Revolutionary Communists of America

Coordinating these efforts will not be a simple matter. It will require disciplined, orderly, democratic decision-making and thorough planning. The experience of the Columbia encampment, which sparked the national and international movement and was carefully planned well in advance, shows the importance of this. As one article put it:

In hours of planning sessions, [student organizers] discussed communications strategies and their willingness to risk arrest, along with the more prosaic questions of bathroom access and trash removal. Then, after scouring online retailers and Craigslist for the most affordable options, they ordered the tents.

Daily mass assemblies at each encampment should be organized to debate and decide on concrete ways to sustain the movement and draw in ever-wider layers of workers and students. A democratically elected, accountable, and recallable executive leadership should be created to lead the encampment between mass assemblies. After a reasonable time for debate, decisions should be taken on the basis of a simple majority-rules vote, not consensus, which offers individuals veto power over the collective whole. These committees could then be linked up on a city-wide, state-wide, and national level to coordinate a unified national movement to crush Israel’s genocidal war effort for good.

Meanwhile, we should continue to hold political discussions and teach-ins at the encampments. Committees for things such as security and resistance against police violence, cleanliness, media relations, and labor-movement outreach should be established to sustain and broaden the movement, with regular reports by these committees to the mass assemblies.

The heroism of students across the country has opened up a new chapter for the Palestine solidarity movement—and the ruling class is nervous it will spread further. Disgraced UT President Jay Hartzell, who called in state troopers to brutalize student protestors on Wednesday, acknowledged this in leaked texts in which he worried about the “100 ways” the movement can reignite. He’s 100% right!

Properly coordinated and expanded, the movement has the potential to surpass the historic 2020 uprising that followed the police murder of George Floyd. With the presidential elections just months away and the DNC in Chicago in August, there’s no reason for finals or the end of the semester to take the wind out of our sails. Now is the time to spread it to campuses, cities, streets, and workplaces across the country, link it to the broader working class, and shut down the war machine altogether.

Striking such a blow here in the heart of imperialism would upend the political landscape and qualitatively transform the class struggle in this country and beyond.

  • Divest and disclose! Not a single penny for Israel’s war machine! Cut all financial ties with Israel and open the books!
  • Convene mass assemblies and form committees of struggle on a campus-wide, city-wide, and national level!
  • For teachers’, campus workers’, students’, and trade union control and management of the universities!
  • Nationalize the Ivy League and all other private universities! For free, fully funded education and an end to student debt!
  • For a workers’ boycott of any industry or company that enables Israel’s crimes! Dockworkers in India and Spain and tech workers at Google have shown the way forward!
  • Down with US imperialism! For a workers’ government! Build a communist party!
  • Free Gaza! Free Palestine! Worldwide intifada until victory!

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