The day after Hamas attacked Israel, hundreds of Marxist revolutionaries joined militant Palestinian organizations to rally in Times Square and march through the streets of Manhattan, voicing their support for an attack that they view as a military success in their struggle for a global communist revolution.
That’s what articles covering the protests in New York City should have said. It is an accurate description of the events of the past week. Instead, across the media spectrum, from independents to mainstream media outlets, journalists misreported on a “DSA rally” and philosophised about the mental state of lefty kids.
Even when some outlets corrected the erroneous “DSA rally” articles, there was a stunning lack of interest in who actually organized, led, and attended these rallies. If it wasn’t the Democratic Socialists of America leading U.S. support for the Hamas attack, who was it, and why were they doing it?
You would think journalists would address these basic “who-what-where-why” questions. But for the most part, they have not.
Here’s a reality check:
There was no “DSA rally” in New York City the day after the Hamas attack, or the day after that. The Democratic Socialists of America did not plan or sponsor the rallies and marches that happened on those days.
As someone who reported on them, I can tell you that I did not see any DSA presence there. No signs, no t-shirts, no one chanting DSA slogans. The New York City DSA chapter had promoted the “All Out for Palestine” October 8th rally on social media, and I’m sure there were some DSA members who attended the event, but it was not in any sense a DSA-led rally.
And yet, DSA got all of the media attention. Major media outlets from the New York Post to the Daily News to the Daily Caller all erroneously described the rally as a “DSA rally” and provided no information about who actually organized it.
Even some of the most prominent independent journalists failed to report on the rallies accurately.
Bari Weiss—who ironically exhorted readers of her Free Press substack to “look carefully” at who is cheering on “decolonization” in the streets—ran an erroneous report that repeated the DSA canard and failed to identify any of the communist organizations who led the rally, as well as an article by Peter Savodnik that compounded the misunderstanding.
Over at Public, Michael Shellenberger and Alex Gutentag wrote:
The day after Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) held a protest “in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist 75 years of occupation and apartheid.”
Their article links to a Politico article that correctly describes the rally as merely “endorsed” by DSA’s New York City chapter, but continues to focus on DSA and bizarrely fails to provide any information about who actually held the rally. [10-16-23 correction: A reader pointed out in the comments that Politico’s article actually does mention ANSWER and Palestinian Youth Movement, and quotes Eugene Puryear, near the end.] The New York Times coverage was similar.
Independent journalists like Weiss, Shellenberger, and Gutentag have been heroes of the recent anti-censorship movement, and I applaud their efforts on that front. But I think their misrepresentations of this week’s protests underscore the need for the anti-censorship movement to be accompanied by support for transparent, accurate reporting.
That means reporters need to go in person, without a political agenda, and show the world what is happening at events, and media commentators need to pay close attention to their reporting.
All the independent journalists who got the story wrong had to do was watch the footage and look at the images they themselves published along with their erroneous descriptions.
They’re packed full of yellow and white signs emblazoned with the names of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and the ANSWER Coalition, with nary a DSA logo in sight.
So who organized and led the rallies?
You can listen to Eugene Puryear list them here:
Representatives of some of the groups that organized the October 8th “All Out for Palestine” rally and march speak near the Israeli consulate in New York City.
The groups sponsoring the October 8th rally were militant Palestinian organizations including Palestinian Youth Movement, Al-Awda, American Muslims for Palestine, New York for Palestine Coalition, and The Palestinian Assembly for Liberation, as well as Marxist organizations including The People’s Forum, the PSL, and the closely associated ANSWER Coalition.
Puryear is an organizer with ANSWER and a former vice presidential candidate for PSL. He’s a self-described revolutionary.
Despite the use of “Socialism” in its name, the Party for Socialism and Liberation is a communist organization that views socialism as a phase in the global Marxist revolution that will ultimately result in a communist society. You can read all about it in the detailed PSL program, which is similar to the Workers World Party program.
In fact, PSL is an offshoot of WWP, which was one of the organizers of this NYC rally and march on October 9th:
Protesters gather at the “Emergency Rally for Gaza” near the New York City Israeli consulate on October 9th.
Both groups have classic Marxist-Leninist platforms that have always included support for militant, by-any-means-necessary action for the Palestinian cause.
Why who’s who matters
At this point, you might be thinking, “Who cares if it’s DSA or PSL? Potayto potahto. They’re all some flavor of Marxist.” But it’s important to know what’s actually happening, who is doing what, and what they’re advocating if you want to draw any useful conclusions.
DSA may be one of the many anticapitalist groups in the U.S., but they’re generally Marxism lite. Their roots are in the labor movement and their focus is usually on things like workers’ rights, socialized medicine, and the Green New Deal.
Their literature doesn’t talk much about revolution, especially violent revolution. While DSA is the most visible socialist group in the mainstream now, they’re usually not the most visible at social justice protests in New York City these days. PSL is.
The past week’s protests celebrating the Hamas attack didn’t happen because militant Palestinian groups have massive membership numbers or because huge numbers of progressives and DSA members really want to show their support for Hamas.
The protests happened because the PSL and associated Marxist revolutionary organizations like The People’s Forum have built a multiethnic movement large enough to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters into the streets on a day’s notice.
The protesters chanted things like “From New York to Palestine, Globalize the Intifada!” not just because they want people all around the world to support the Palestinian resistance, but because they view that resistance as one of the frontlines of a global communist revolutionary movement.
Media misrepresentations lead to unhelpful conclusions.
In their article, Shellenberger and Gutentag elide the DSA and the more radical Marxist-Leninist left, and say this:
“For much of the last century, the radical Left was synonymous with peace and anti-militarism. Its celebration of Hamas terrorism shows how much that has changed.”
This is just plain wrong, and it’s surprising to see someone with Michael Shellenberger’s background of experience with left-wing organizations saying it.
Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyite groups in the United States have always supported revolution “by any means necessary,” and militant support for the Palestinian cause has been a mainstay of their platforms for many decades.
The massive rallies celebrating the Hamas attack show how much the radical left has grown and expanded its influence. It hasn’t changed at all.
PSL has become a driving force in the social justice movement. Go to any major protest against racism or police violence in New York City and you will see their yellow signs. You will hear speakers explain how anti-racism is inextricable from anti-capitalism.
Shellenberger also wrote on X that it was “shocking to see support for terrorism by Black Lives Matter,” but in his article with Gutentag, he describes the very people who mentored BLM leaders—former members of the Weather Underground such as Eric Mann—as violent radicals.
The Weather Underground was a revolutionary Marxist group that embraced violent direct action and some of whose members were involved in bombings and shootings during the 1960s and 70s.
There may be people with a variety of political views involved in local BLM groups today, but it shouldn’t really be surprising that at least some of them see violence as a legitimate revolutionary tool, given that BLM’s national leadership is a direct political descendant of the Weather Underground. There has also been a close association between BLM and PSL leaders like Eugene Puryear.
Peter Savodnik, in his article for the Free Press, described a moment of the October 8th protest like this:
“And as you might have seen, there was some sort of rave or desert party where they were having a great time until the resistance came in electrified hang gliders and took at least several dozen hipsters,” a speaker at a Democratic Socialists of America rally in New York proclaimed to whoops and laughter. (DSA members include representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.)
You might conclude from this description that it’s an issue to take up with AOC or Jamaal Bowman. But AOC actually came out with statements condemning both the Hamas attack and the “All Out for Palestine” rally. Bowman attended a vigil for the victims that I covered.
The moment Savodnik is describing had nothing to do with DSA, and the person speaking wasn’t just some random guy at a rally. He’s Eugene Puryear. You can hear him make those remarks in the “‘All Out for Palestine’ Rally Organizers Speak” video above at minute 06:09.
I haven’t seen a single journalist ask Puryear about his remarks or his position on using brutal attacks on civilians as a revolutionary strategy. I haven’t even seen a journalist or commentator mention his name.
I haven’t heard any media commentator talk about PSL, ANSWER, The People’s Forum, Workers World Party, or any of the other Marxist groups that were able to bring masses of people into the streets not just in New York City, but in cities around the country.
The fact that revolutionary Marxists have amassed such a large following, through years of dedicated movement building, and are activating their movement in cities all around the globe to address a major world event seems like an important story to me.
I know who’s protesting in other cities thanks to on-the-ground coverage there by reporters like Ford Fischer and Brendan Gutenschwager and Jonathan Choe. Check them out. And of course check out my reporting from New York on the NYCforYourself YouTube channel.
I hope all the commentators out there will take a closer look at our reporting too.
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