Strategize for the Long Haul at the People’s Conference for Palestine

The People’s Conference for Palestine on May 24th-26th will be a mass meeting for organizers building the pro-Palestine solidarity movement in the United States. This conference will bring together over 2,000 students, workers, faith leaders, artists, and activists to develop a cohesive strategy for ending the genocide and siege in Gaza, ending all US aid to Israel, and building a free Palestine. The conference will have four tracks: labor organizing, student organizing, the battle of ideas, and moving from mobilizing to organizing. DSA and YDSA members across the country should register for the conference. Registration will not close until Friday, the first day of the conference. 

The conference is taking place amid the largest pro-Palestine protests in US history and the largest campus-based protests since anti-Vietnam War protests. Universities across the country have responded with mass arrests, police violence, and labeling the protests anti-semetic. In response to this brutal crackdown on the rights of students, unions are starting to take action. Most notably, 48,000 academic workers represented by UAW 4811 authorized a strike against the University of California’s (UC) administration’s brutal crackdowns and inability to protect students against counter protestors. This “stand-up” strike, which will reach across the UC system, has begun at UC Santa Cruz. This will be the largest strike in support of Palestine in US history. The labor organizing track at the People’s Conference will be an excellent forum to discuss how to expand this strike action across the country. 

A supermajority of Americans support a ceasefire and a majority of Democratic voters believe that Israel is currently carrying out a genocide. Despite this support for a ceasefire, our politicians remain largely intransigent to our demands. It is imperative at this moment to develop a plan for harnessing the energy of protests in the streets and on campus into long-lasting organization and political action. Protests provide a highly effective tool for disrupting day-to-day business and forcing short term concessions, provided that they are massive and disruptive enough. But protests must be combined with political action that can combine disruptions in day-to-day business with the ability to threaten seats for pro-genocide candidates.

The “uncommitted” campaign, which mobilized more than half a million voters across the country, sent a powerful message to the Biden campaign: despite the limitations of the two-party system, ordinary people stand against genocide and will create a political crisis for a presidential candidate that already has historic levels of disapproval. A plenary at the People’s Conference will discuss this campaign and dissect the manner in which this represents a fracturing of the fragile Democratic Party coalition. Directors for the “uncommitted” campaigns in Michigan and Wisconsin will be present at the conference. 

The long-term task of building political power requires our organizations to be capable of not just disruption, but also winning over millions more to our cause. The battle of ideas is a crucial component of this task. This requires us to make arguments that reach people where they’re at politically and to connect the struggle against imperialism to a broader struggle for political and economic democracy domestically. Palestinian journalists Hind Khoudary and Wael Dahdouh have provided critical insight into the situation on the ground in Gaza, at great personal sacrifice. Their brave reporting provides the basis for us to carry out the battle of ideas at home, and their presence at the People’s Conference will facilitate the exchange of strategies for winning over millions to the cause of Palestinian liberation. 

In developing a strategy for Palestinian liberation today, learning from successful historical liberation struggles is key. The crucial role that international solidarity played in defeating the South African apartheid regime and the manner in which anti-apartheid activists facilitated this solidarity are key examples for organizers in the United States to learn from today. Mandla Radebe, who will be present at the conference, from the South African Communist Party will be an excellent resource for activists developing strategies for the Palestinian cause.

Our goal is to win a permanent ceasefire in the immediate term, but what is our long-term strategic vision? Our long-term political vision will inform our political organizing in the current moment. Our goal is not simply to raise consciousness – it is to connect the antiwar movement’s energy towards the long term project of Palestinian reconstruction. This will require us to put forward a positive vision of reconstruction for one democratic, secular, and egalitarian state of Palestine. The People’s Conference will be a crucial convening for strategists of this political project, and everyone who can should attend. DSA and YDSA members across the country should attend the People’s Conference and organize contingents from across the country to participate.