Peter Camejo memoir. North Star

The Spanish Prisoner reviews Peter Camejo’s memoir, North Star.

There are two aspects of this book that may well prove controversial. The first is his critique of Trotskyism. The second is his discussion of the left’s capitulation to the Democrats during the 2000’s. Camejo argues that during the 1930?s, when the Trotskyists were trying to differentiate themselves from the Stalinists, they became obsessed with having the “correct” interpretation of Marx and Lenin, as well as of events in the Soviet Union. The result, Camejo argues, is that they developed a rigid view of the world. (I have met Trotskyists who did seem to me ideologically rigid and obsessed with having the “correct” line on everything.) However, Camejo does admit that Trotskyists have played useful roles in political struggles – as his own participation in the 1960?s anti-war movement shows.

Their very fanaticism is what makes them tireless though not necessarily effective organizers. That’s because their primary focus is on recruiting for their party, which comes at the expense of whatever the overt cause is.

Camejo was a major organizer in the antiwar movement of the 60’s, ran for president for Socialist Worker’s Party in 1976 and got expelled a few years later. He later was active in the Green Party and ran for governor of California three times.

Camejo sees the left’s capitulation to the Democrats as an unmitigated disaster. It has paralyzed the left and made it easier for the Democrats to pursue pro-war and pro-corporate policies. Camejo has harsh words for Michael Moore, Medea Benjamin and others who threw their principles away to elect politicians whose positions they oppose. On this point, I agree completely with Camejo. It is going to take a long time to overcome all the damage that has been done.

Camejo’s 2004 “Avocado Declaration” details how the Democratic Party functions to channel genuine dissent and protest into itself, where it is then co-opted and rendered meaningless. It’s a classic and is more true than ever.

(European right-wingers used to call leftie greens “watermelons,” saying they were green on the outside and red on the inside. The left picked this up as a compliment. Naming it the “Avocado Declaration” was Camejo’s reference to this saying, I’m green on the inside and green on the outside.)


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