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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Next for The North Star?

Last month Pham Binh one of the founders of The North Star website, a Left online discussion list, announced his resignation as editor, for personal reasons. This news caused an immediate discussion as to whether this would result in a change of direction for The North Star and if so, how would this change be defined.

The North Star website started out with the purpose of being an all inclusive online discussion board, with the purpose of uniting the Left in the U.S. Some even saw The North Star serving the same role as the now defunct Guardian newspaper during it's 34 year existence, 1948-1992.

From the very beginning of it's existence The North Star began to drift away from that goal. Instead it became dominated, by those who support U.S. military intervention in the Syrian conflict, and others who take offense at the very existence of organized Socialist groups. The interventionist position was represented by a group of Australians, including Arthur Dent, who are affiliated with The Last Super Power, and U.S. blogger Clay Claiborne, who apparently sees himself as the replacement of the late Christopher Hitchens

The attacks on the organized left, were for the most part directed at the International Socialist Organization, the ISO. The steady stream of ISO bashing appeared to be motivated by the ISO being the largest Socialist group in the U.S., as well as Binh's former membership in the organization. many of the contributors to the site lent credence to the claim that some of the worst sectarians are the "anti-sectarians."

The new editorial board of The North Star claims their position is neither pro nor anti U.S./Nato intervention in Syria, as stated in the  most recent article, Moving Froward? Hopes for the Future of the New North Star. The article would seem to contradict the non intervention claim. The article uses the example of Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Vietnamese liberation movement, the Vietminh, accepting U.S. assistance to fight the Japanese. The U.S. aid was offered to assist the Vietminh in fighting Japan, who the U.S. was at war with. When the Vietminh fought their war of independence against the French, no U.S. aid was forthcoming. The article uses the example of the international arms embargo against the Spanish republic during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. What is omitted is that the armed forces of the Spanish republic, were fighting for the legally recognized government of Spain. The situations that existed in Spain and Vietnam are different than the current situation in Syria.

My own position is those in rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria, have the right to accept weapons and armaments from anyone offering such aid. This is not the same as calling for air and possibly ground operations against the Assad forces in Syria. The North Star is correct in their critique of those forces on the Left who support Assad.

Rather than engage the various Socialist groups in discussion, the strategy  of The North Star, has been to entice individual members of these groups to drop out of their respective organizations. This does nothing to build left unity.

Can The North Star be all things to all people? Is there common ground between those who support and those who oppose US military intervention abroad? Is their common ground between those who support Democratic Party electoral candidates and those opposed to such an orientation? Can their be unity among those who believe in membership based Socialist organizations and those who have total contempt for the organized Left? Would honesty not demand that the points of unity, for supporters of The North Star be, "yes to US intervention in Syria" and "no to a revolutionary party?"  These questions need to be addressed.

Recommended further reading:


  1. hi ken. thanks for this interesting article. as one of the two managing editors, i'd like to point out that christian wright's article is just that: christian's article. it does not reflect the opinion of the editorial collective, but it one long-time contributor's view, which we thought was valuable and worth sharing with the rest of the participants in our project.

    1. Pavel, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the article.