Solidarity with Jodi Dean, and with All Victims of McCarthyist Attacks on Intellectual Freedom

This week, Professor Jodi Dean was dismissed from Hobart and William Smith Colleges over her article in support of Palestinian armed resistance. This is just the latest in a series of attacks on student and academic supporters of Palestine in the US as the ruling class defends the genocidal status quo.

by | Apr 18, 2024

On April 13, 2024, the President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York state summarily dismissed Jodi Dean, professor of politics, from her teaching position at the institution. The dismissal is ostensibly temporary, pending an investigation into claims that an article published by Dean at the Verso Books blog earlier in the month caused some students to feel threatened.

Dean’s article, “Palestine Speaks for Everyone,” is a clear-sighted and principled defense of the right of Palestinians to resist colonialism by any means necessary. Dean also highlights why the struggle for Palestinian liberation is at the heart of international struggles against imperialism and for a socialist future. Firebrand is in agreement with Professor Dean, whose position in support of Palestinian resistance closely parallels our own.

Dean’s suspension is the latest example of the vicious witch hunt against supporters of Palestine since October 7 in many areas of society, but especially within the education system.

Whether we agreed with Dean or not, however, we would vigorously defend her right to intellectual freedom. As Dean’s colleagues have correctly pointed out, her article does not incite violence, it does not target specific individuals, nor does it “create a clear and present danger” — the legal definition of harmful speech. Her suspension is, rather, an attack on her right to articulate views contrary to those in power, at her institution and in US society more generally.

Dean’s suspension is the latest example of the vicious witch hunt against supporters of Palestine since October 7, 2023 in many areas of society, but especially within the education system. It should be seen in the larger context of suspensions of campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP); censorship and intimidation of other pro-Palestinian activists on campus; and violent racist attacks against Palestinians, Muslims, and Middle Eastern students and academics.

Most recently, we’ve seen a Zionist UC Berkeley law professor assault a pro-Palestine student, Malak Afaneh, during her speech rightly denouncing Berkeley’s complicity in the genocide of Palestinians. Asna Tabassum, valedictorian of her class at the University of Southern California, had her graduation speech canceled by administration over bogus claims of “security concerns.” In reality, the administration caved to pressure from a pro-Israel group objecting to her expressed solidarity with Palestine. All this alongside coordinated actions by Zionists to subvert local democracy and inclusivity in local public-school governance.

The actions of the supporters of Israel speak clearly for themselves. The desperation, aggression, and sliminess of their tactics speak to their fear that the whole project of Zionist settler-colonialism is doomed. It has always been morally bankrupt, and this is becoming obvious now, even to the children of the Zionists. One pro-Israel lobby group whose mission is to redesign public-school curricula toward a pro-Zionist position instructs parents in Virginia: “Discourage students from conducting open internet research on current events lest they run into controversial content. Instead recommend approved websites such as the ADL [Anti-Defamation League] and the JewishVirtualLibrary.org.” This is not the sign of a confident, healthy movement.

In this era of US imperialist decline and its crisis of legitimacy across the globe, the necessity to defend Israel, and by extension, the “values” of racist exclusion, apartheid, and colonial theft, becomes more acute.

These are not scattered or disconnected events, nor do they represent some kind of conspiracy. Zionism is the official policy of the US government and ruling class, and these attacks on academic freedom represent local efforts to uphold the status quo. For the US bourgeoisie and that of the larger imperialist north, Israel is, as the historian Max Ajl has put it,

pound for pound … the best investment the US has ever made. Israel is the purest expression of Western power, combining militarism, imperialism, settler colonialism, counterinsurgency, occupation, racism, instilling ideological defeat, huge profitable war-making and hi-tech development into a manticore of destruction, death, and mayhem.

In this era of US imperialist decline and its crisis of legitimacy across the globe, the necessity to defend Israel, and by extension, the “values” of racist exclusion, apartheid, and colonial theft, becomes more acute. This holds true from “Genocide Joe” Biden’s staunch support for Israel even in the wake of genocide, down to government and police suppression of free speech and protest at the local level.

We demand that Professor Dean be immediately reinstated and that administrators at HWSC immediately refrain from any further interventions into the right of scholars, students, and campus workers to freely express their views.

As revolutionaries and communists, we view the defense of even the limited democratic rights in bourgeois democracy as non-negotiable. These are rights that our class has won through decades of protracted class struggle. They are invaluable building blocks for the fully democratic communist future for which we fight.

Sign the petition in support of Professor Dean’s reinstatement here.

Firebrand
is a communist organization in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky. We are committed to building working-class revolutionary organization that stands outside of and in opposition to the parties of the ruling class.

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