Tuesday, January 20, 1998

What Does This Mean, If Anything?

After quite a bit of trepidation, I have decided to put the following account of a recent Tel Aviv meeting (December 27, 1997) on the net. My doubts on this score stem from my being quite subjective about the meeting which I moderated (due to Prof. Benyamin Cohen’s illness) and my tendency to wax optimistic over any positive indicator.
Now, for some facts. The Israeli Committee to Mark the 150th Anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto (in 1848) came into existence last spring. The establishment of the committee was a direct response to an initiative in Paris. This initiative, bearing the rather intriguing name, EspacesMarx, was the joint project of all the main forces in the French left: Socialists, Communists and Trotskyists and many independent intellectuals. EspacesMarx called for the creation of local, national committees all over the globe; tens of such committees are already in operation in an interesting expression of some sort of “Marxist globlalization.” The guiding spirit in the Israeli committee, from its very inception, has been Prof. Benyamin Cohen, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.
A detailed, official summary of its activities will, no doubt, be issued in the near future. Here, let me mention that the Committee has inspired the coming publication of a new Hebrew edition of the Communist Manifesto, with a specially written new introduction by Prof. Eric Hobsbawm. The meeting under review here was the first public activity by the Committee.
Ahad Ha’am #70 Was Packed
For the record it is important to note that we had a good panel of speakers. Tzvi Tauber and Moshe Zuckerman from Tel Aviv University, MK Tamar Gozanski, Dr.Walid Salim, a member of the Palestinian affiliate of Espaces Marx, and Michael Lowy, from Paris, representing the EspacesMarx Secretariat. Certainly, when all is said and done, it is the content of the various interventions which is of critical importance. But alas, this is simply not the occasion for such an evaluation, and it would be unfair to do it without benefit of written texts. I do have the feeling, though, that the day is not too far off when we will have a renewed dialogue between Marxists – here in Israel.
A rather significant aspect of this meeting was the presence of 150 participants, representing two major age groups. It is common knowledge that we often have to note the very high average age of those in attendance at meetings of the left. This time, you would have to relate to two average ages, because there were at least 50 people in the audience who could be considered of student age (which is slightly older in this country than abroad).
I may be “over” analyzing a minor event, but I think that the number of participants and their age stemmed from (1) the presence of lecturers from Tel Aviv U. who identify with the continuing importance of Marx and the Manifesto; (2) the intense class and social struggles in Israel during the month of December: a) the general strike at the beginning of the month; b), the outcry and struggle over unemployment symbolized by the situation in the development town, Ofakim and c) the battle to defend the public health system and the criticism of the proposed budget [which, incidentally, is still going on]; (3) It may well be that the current rumblings in the international capitalist economy have generated new interest in social(ist) criticism.
At any rate, the existence of a well-attended meeting of this kind in Tel Aviv is a breath of fresh air. Moreover, the amicable presence of Marxists from different, “clashing” points of view seems to suggest the slogan for 1998: “Marxists of all schools and approaches, unite in a dialogue of mutual respect, for unity in diversity: you have nothing to lose but your (our) state of marginalization.”