Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

How an Epiphany about BDS can Provide a Platform for a Progressive People’s Party

by Peter A. Belmont / 2017-04-26
© 2017 Peter Belmont


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Talk of a People’s Party

There’s talk about a People’s Party to challenge (or replace) the moribund oligarchy-dependent and oligarchy-protecting Democratic Party. I favored it as soon as Hillary Clinton was nominated, but now well-known people are talking about it:
CORNEL WEST: No, there’s no doubt that when you talk about social issues—white supremacy, male supremacy, homophobia—these are not marginal issues. At the same time, class issues, economic justice, also militarism, imperial policies, Israeli occupation and so forth, these are all integral elements that constitute a progressive viewpoint, and therefore we ought to be critical of those who want to pull back on one set of issues and be strong on another. Same is true with our identity politics. We can talk about racism, sexism all we want. But if we don’t have a critique of Wall Street, if we don’t have a critique of militarism, if we don’t have a critique of the way in which class formation is so fundamental, and the increasing wealth inequality, then we have to be critical of each other.

Epiphany About BDS

And then there was my epiphany during a 4/25 meeting in Brooklyn at which Omar Barghouti and Nyle Fort discussed BDS.

BDS is, of course, the Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel to compel Israel:

     • to end the occupation;
     • to allow the refugees (exiles) from the wars of 1948 and 1967 to return to their homes; and
     • to end discrimination (and most importantly, to end the apartheid systems alive and well both inside Israel-48 and inside the territories first occupied by Israel in 1967).

You might ask, what has BDS to do with progressive American politics? And what was my epiphany?

Well. to start with, my “epiphany” was like one of those ideas you have in a dream that you write down when you wake up. It might be good—and it might not—but it’s unlikely to be complete. So think of this as a starting point, not a finished plan.

Reflecting on the three-pronged goals of BDS, I saw how the Palestine-focused goals of BDS could, almost without significant change, be universalized in a way either consistent with any American “progressive” political viewpoint or perhaps even fundamental to such a viewpoint.

I saw the 3-point goals of BDS as standing for (or capable of being restated universally as):

     • no more discrimination, legal or social, anywhere
against anyone (no discrimination against women, minorities, immigrants, people-of-color, indigenous peoples, including equal per-person political power;—and including ending Israeli apartheid);

     • human rights for everyone (including rights to a healthy climate, health care, housing, food, and freedom from unwarranted governmental violence;—and including the Palestinian right of return); and

     • enforcement of international law everywhere (including laws against aggressive/imperialist warfare;—and including ending the so-called Israeli-occupation, which, after 50 years, is no longer an occupation but has morphed into a de facto land grab, contrary to international law).

I want to see the principles of BDS as a model for the rescue of all oppressed humankind, lifted from Palestinian particularity and universalized, so that, for instance, Black Lives Matter in the USA and various movements for Indigenous Rights in the broader Americas, and all “identity” political movements in the USA can see that they are not separate from each other, and not separate from the movement for Palestinian Rights, but part of a single global movement, cut of the identical cloth, one and not many.

And since all human life is threatened by global warming climate change (GWCC) and particularly threatened by GWCC-deniers (most notably the Trumpery), this movement (as I imagine it) to rescue all humankind must also rescue us all from the GWCC-deniers. And since capitalism has been transformed over the decades from a system for more efficient doing of business into a system for the capture and imprisonment of governments (neoliberalism as a component or symptom), the rescue of oppressed humanity must also include the near-total diminishment of the power of capital to “buy” or otherwise control governments—in the USA and elsewhere.

Now it is true that BDS does not directly address economic issues and does not directly address the capture of government by global capital—the oligarchs.

But BDS does state the goal of non-discrimination. And one facet of non-discrimination, surely, especially in any country which calls itself a democracy, is to end the very discriminatory practice of locating all or most political power in the hands of a very, very few very, very rich people—the billionaire CEOs of the relatively few giant corporations that have long ruled the USA and other countries.

Let each billionaire have a voice in politics—sure—but only the same voice as the village blacksmith. The wealth of the CEO of Exxon does not make him any wiser or any more important politically than anyone else.

(Bur democracy is dangerous, the billionaires will argue. People are foolish. As indeed they are. Look at the election of November 2016! But if people are foolish, at least they are not inevitably and incurably evil. By contrast, over the last 45 years, since 1970 when we first started to hear about GWCC, the oligarchs did nothing to limit GWCC and in fact opposed doing anything to limit GWCC. That was worse than foolish—that was evil. So I go with the village blacksmith, even the village idiot, in preference to sole rule by the CEO of Exxon and the like.)

And what about the BDS-goal of enforcement of international law? What’s that got to do with an American Progressive People’s Party?

Well, progressives would wish to oppose America’s (and Israel’s) imperialist wars (Eisenhower-era to present), which are mainly for the enrichment of little-tax-paying (oil, “defense”, and other) corporations. These wars are mostly violative of the UN Charter and international law. The USA gets away with these wars because there’s nobody outside the USA to stop them. But a Progressive People’s Party could stop these wars from the inside.

Similarly, while Trump (and Clinton) were so busy protecting the oil, gas (fracking), and coal interests, claiming they were protecting “jobs” (and busily destroying the planet), it was increasingly becoming known that there are more jobs in the newly-born green energy industry than in the dying oil-gas-coal industry:
Worldwide, employment in green energy grew 5 percent in 2015, to 8.1 million jobs, while the slump in oil prices that began in the fall of 2015 eliminated an estimated 350,000 oil jobs across the planet.


OK, that’s my “epiphany”! That’s my three-point platform for an American People’s Party to replace the moribund Democratic Party—that was more interested in preserving the privileges of the oligarchs—such as BIG-BANKS, BIG-OIL, BIG-GAS, BIG-WAR, BIG-PHARMA, BIG-ZION (AIPAC)—than it was in preventing Donald Trump’s election.

It assumes that all us “little folks” can pull together to overcome mostly common oppressions irrespective of our differences.

It assumes that we can get together enough electoral money—as Bernie Sanders did—and enough local and state and national candidates to challenge the existing oligarch-friendly Republican and Democratic Parties.

A People’s Party might not need to oppose the Democratic Party—it might be able tp replace it from within! But we’ve seen with the Perez appointment as DNC chair that the existing Democratic Party is sclerotic and wedded to a sort of “better dead than red” Clinton/Obama opposition to anti-oligarchic principles.

I’m not sure Americans can afford to allow the existing parties to squander our next four years in silly traditional politicking while GWCC destroys the planet.

We need to save the planet and save ourselves at the same time. Now.

Hence my dream. Sorry, “epiphany”.


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