Manolo De Los Santos: 'Protests over Gaza have changed the center of gravity of US politics'  

Researcher and director of the People's Forum - who lives in the US - says there is a resurgence of socialist ideas

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP) |
Manolo De Los Santos: "The current times internationalism to overcome the evils we face as people" - The People's Forum

The wave of protests demanding an end to Israel's massacre of Palestinians and a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has unbalanced the political game and altered forces in the United States. That's the analysis of Manolo De Los Santos, researcher at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research and the co-executive director of the People's Forum. The organization aims to incubate movements for the American working class.  

Manolo De Los Santos also analyzes the disputes surrounding the November 5 presidential elections and how the defense of the Palestinian cause should influence the vote. He emphasizes that it is impossible to talk about politics in the US without talking about the position of politicians regarding the current genocide against Palestinians.  

He also highlights the diversity of categories involved in the actions, including students, journalists, trade unions, and even workers in the Hollywood film industry. Manolo argues that this whole political process is part of a resurgence of socialist ideas in the US, spearheaded by union mobilizations and other struggles such as race and gender.  

"It's a vast spectrum of American society, to the point that some audios have come to light in which the Zionist lobby discusses, for example, what to do about the emergence of this new political phenomenon. They suggest that it is no longer a " left vs. right" problem, but rather a generational problem," he points out.  

De Los Santos argues that this whole political process is part of a resurgence of socialist ideas in the US, spearheaded by union mobilizations and other struggles such as race and gender. "All over the country, from Amazon workers to Starbucks workers, new independent unions are springing up where the majority of workers are young and taking political action," he said.  

Check out the main excerpts from the interview:    

Brasil de Fato: The US presidential elections are scheduled for November 5, and a lot can still happen between now and then. With the current scenario, who do you think will win the elections? Will Biden remain in power or could Trump return to the White House?  

Manolo De Los Santos: Without a doubt, these are historic elections for the United States because of everything that is at stake. I'm a Marxist and not a magician to make that kind of prediction. So, more than saying who will win, I think there is a great deal of political wear and tear in society and, for the first time, compared to the last elections, there is little difference between what the candidates are proposing. People show little interest in what they present as a political program. In addition, the Palestine effect has generated a new conflict within US politics, making both candidates seem inadequate.  

Can anything change between Biden and Trump in terms of foreign policy and diplomacy? For example, do you see differences between the candidates' policies on the war in Ukraine or Latin America?  

I think there are slight differences between the two candidates. They don't have the same discourse, but they do have the same objective: to consolidate US hegemony in a world where, due to political tensions, the war in Ukraine and Palestine, and the emergence of a multipolar world, US interests are increasingly affected.  

I think that Biden is insisting on an increasingly and openly aggressive project and is trying to impose the US political will by force. Not only with threats of war but also with economic and financial policies affecting other countries. On the other hand, Trump has adopted what we call a policy of isolation, but one that nevertheless seeks to renegotiate the US position on the international stage.  

I think both of them, as a result of several years of what we call a new Cold War, have entered into a bipartisan consensus within the US that there are enemies like Russia and China that must be confronted aggressively. These are factors that have not changed, although there are slight differences in the way of thinking about the problem.  

There is a significant wave of protests in the US and Europe against the massacre committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. The marches are also putting pressure on President Biden for a ceasefire, and he has had to change his speech somewhat. Even during the primaries, he faced protests with the uncommitted vote campaign. How do you assess this attitude of the US population, and how will it impact the November elections?   

The most interesting thing to look at is before and after October 7 [the beginning of the current attacks against Gaza]. Before October 7, the pro-Palestinian protests were seen as something peripheral, exaggeratedly militant, and marginal because the US and cities like New York have always been the bastion of Zionist power outside Israel. 

Israel and the US say they have always had a special relationship. In the end, it is a strategic relationship in which the two projects protect each other from imperialist attacks around the world. One serves the other. Therefore, after October 7, a mass movement was generated, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people across the country and impacting millions worldwide.  

It has changed the center of gravity of US politics. For six months now, it has been impossible to talk about politics in the US without talking about the stance politicians took on the genocide [in Gaza]. Whether they are far-right politicians or even progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders, everyone has had to explain their stance on the conflict.  

It got to the point where President Biden's team had to say that it's tough to run a political campaign in an environment where every event, every act, every political meeting is confrontational, with people interrupting to talk about the Palestinian situation. So, the unexpected has happened and has generated significant political changes within the US. Is it big enough to change this unique relationship between the US and Israel?  

Not yet. However, these actions are a huge pressure factor in moderating Israel's actions to some extent. Not long ago, President Biden went public for the first time to challenge and disagree with the contradictions he feels about the Israeli government.  

We have politicians like Chuck Schumer, the most crucial senator for the Jewish community in the US Congress, who has openly said that Israel may not be able to exist in the future. It's a speech we could never have imagined, and it comes after mobilizations and public pressure, which is still going on. It's not over; it hasn't worn off. On the contrary, the movement continues to grow and enters the mainstream or the center of politics and public opinion discourse.  

Apart from the Palestinian cause, what other issues are mobilizing people in the US?  

I think this new phenomenon linked to Palestine is very much because, in the last decade, there has been a resurgence of socialist ideas within the US. Bernie Sanders' candidacy has opened up a new political space for these ideas to be debated in public, so I would say there is an increase in union struggles in the US for the first time in decades. All over the country, from Amazon workers to Starbucks workers. New independent unions are springing up where most workers are young and taking political action. 

We also see the tremendous unresolved issue in US politics, which is how long Black men and women in the US will continue to be murdered by the State and will continue to be imprisoned in massive numbers that proportionally exceed the country's Black population.  

So there are several issues. The women's struggle and the struggle for abortion, which Democrats, after so many decades saying they supported women's right to decide, at the end of the day, at this moment, have shown little political will to defend this right.  

All of this creates a political environment of great social struggle, and the Democratic Party, which has always seen young people, women, and Blacks as its social base, finds itself on the defensive, having to explain how to do politics in these times, and how to react to this crisis. In the end, as with capitalism in general, the Democratic Party has no answer to the great dilemmas of humanity. It has no answer for young people who, even after studying at university and earning a good degree, can't make ends meet, find a good job, pay off their student debts, or buy a house, as is supposed to be the American dream.  

Is the American dream dead, then?   

I'd say it's more than dead and that there's a generation that, for the first time, has to look for an alternative. 

Regarding Cuba and Venezuela - the most prolonged and extensive sanctions the United States has ever imposed on Latin American countries - how long is it before we see an end to these blockades?  

I think rather than saying whether it's a long way off or not, it's fundamental to see more of the contradictions these policies generate. For instance, US society is now facing the reality that sanctions and blockades are the main reason behind the mass migration of people from countries like Cuba and Venezuela.  

Why are people complaining that, suddenly, there is a massive wave of Venezuelan migrants across the US? It's the blockade; the sanctions don't allow life to happen as usual and in an effective way in these countries. Nobody wakes up one day and says: "I want to leave my country," do they? There are reasons, circumstances, and contexts behind it that are important to understand.   

And I think the migration situation in the US right now, in particular, is what is allowing for a much more open discussion about US blockades and sanctions. Regarding Venezuela specifically, which will also have elections this year, a coincidence with the US, Washington is watching the process closely and seems to be demanding attitudes from the Maduro government and Venezuelan institutions, but also, at the same time, not taking charge of its part in the Venezuelan crisis.  

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho