Communist Worker

Archive of Communist Workers Group of Aoteaora/New Zealand up to 2006

Archive for the ‘national question’ Category

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS

leave a comment »

Last year the memoirs of a retired French General about the use of torture during the Algerian war of independence 1955-1962 again lifted the scab on French colonisalism. Torture was officially documented by a Commission in 1957, described in Franz Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’ in 1961 and shown in Pontecorvo’s film ‘Battle of Algiers’ in 1966. Why all the fuss? Well, for the first time a French President has owned up to the atrocities and officially condemned them so that imperialism stands exposed as the cause of ‘terrorism’.

Recently Le Monde carried a story of a controversy that had broken out in France with the publication of the memoirs of a retired General who had fought against the FLN during the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s. In the book, Services Speciaux, Algerie 1955-1957, General Paul Ausaresses makes no apology for his “clinically detailed” accounts of the many “terrorists” he tortured and murdered. Such practices were authorised by ‘special powers’ passed by the French parliament in 1956. They have been suppressed or explained away in French schools as the response to “terrorism”. They have been justified politically as ‘excesses’ which did not negate the positive achievements of French colonialism. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin as recently as December 2000, said that these atrocities were the acts of “deviations involving a minority”. (Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2001)

While these confessions have raked over old scabs for many French people today, the use of torture was well documented during the war, by a Commission for the Protection of Individual Rights and Liberties in 1957, and by Franz Fanon a West Indian psychiatrist who observed the effects of torture and wrote condemning the practice while at the same time calling for an Algerian revolution of national liberation. Fanon is famously accused of advocating the use of violence against the colonial powers. Fanon recognised that the French would never hand over real power unless defeated. Fanon’s books Black Skin, White Masks, Wretched of the Earth, a Dying Colonisalism and Toward the African Revolution have become classics of national revolution. Fanon died at the age of 36 in 1961 the year before Algerian independence.

Torture was also featured in the film The Battle of Algiers made by Gillo Pontecorvo in the 1966. The film re-enacts the heroic urban insurrection in Algiers in 1957. The film portrays the liberation struggle from the colonised standpoint and counters the usual imperialist propaganda that colonials are backward, ignorant terrorists. It shows that the use of terror by the rebels was in response to the official terrorism of the French. The French used torture to extract information from suspects about the FLN leadership. Despite its mass following, the leadership was tracked down and ruthlessly eliminated by the military. The film demonstrates that unlike Vietnam where the French forces were defeated by a guerrilla army at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, in Algiers in the following years, the urban guerrillas were separated from some 30,000 guerrillas in the countryside by massive floodlit barbed wire fences, isolated and defeated.

France agreed to a Provisional Government in Algeria in 1958 and Muslim Algerians were granted full French citizenship. In 1959 De Gaulle accepted the right of Algeria to independence. The white settlers formed a terrorist force (the Secret Army Organisation or OAS) to oppose independence. They were defeated and on July 1 1962 a referendum on independence was won 6,000,000 votes for to only 16,000 against. The price of independence was more than 250,000 Muslim dead and over 10,000 French dead.

The price of colonisation is still being paid. Algeria has been riven by civil war and over 100,000 have been killed since 1992. As Fanon warmed the nationalist leaders are only interested in getting rich from independence. The so-called ‘socialist’ regime of the FLN became the basis for a rich ruling class exploiting a growing impoverished mass that became ripe for recruitments to Islamic fundamentalism. The army opposes the Islamic militants but both still employ the terrorist methods of the war of independence.

What the scandal over torture in the 1950s shows clearly is that it is imperialism that must be held responsible for terrorism and violence. It is a lie to claim that today’s terrorism is the product of a backward Islamic state that must be guided by the West through a process of ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ towards standards of democracy and human rights that are the achievements of Western civilisation.

No! The truth is that Imperialism is the cause of systemic violence. Justice will not come until there is a Socialist Republic of Algeria, in a Federation of African Socialist Republics!

From Class Struggle No 39 June-July 2001

Advertisements

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 10:35 pm

A PRE-REVOLUTIONARY SITUATION IN RUSSIA?

leave a comment »

The ongoing debate between Zaschita and Stachkom over how to mobilise wokers in Russia today highlights the need for clarity of theory and practice united in a revolutionary program. What is needed is a Transitional Program for Russia based on the theory and method of Lenin and Trotsky. We outline here what we think are the essential elements of such a program.

First, in order to decide this question we need clarity on the character of Russia in relation to the global imperialist economy. Lenin regarded Russia as imperialist before the October revolution. It plundered its colonies no less than the Western powers. Today those who take the view that the SU succumbed to either state capitalism or semi-feudalism in the first decades after the revolution are inclined to see Russia as imperialist today.

Trotskyists however viewed the SU as a degenerate workers’ state until its downfall at the hands of the bourgeoisie after 1991. The restoration of capitalism was not driven by a national bourgeoisie, but by Western imperialism. So Russia today is a semi-colony of Western imperialism. Its weak national bourgeoisie dreams of a reborn Greater Russian imperialism but the re-emergence of capitalism in Russia is too late and too backward to compete with the US, the EU or Japan other than by building a fascist empire like the Nazis.

Russia’s character says a lot about its current situation. Russia is super- exploited by imperialism and this is the ultimate cause of its economic collapse, the smashing of industry and the loss of jobs and wages. Russia is therefore oppressed by Western imperialism 100 times more than it oppresses the Chechens or other nationalities. Of course a big oppression does not excuse a small oppression. But this imperialist oppression is a material reality that makes the appeals of Great Russian chauvinism influential within the working class.

The second point is that Russia’s relation to the imperialist economy is compounded by a global structural crisis of capital. Therefore the economic ‘shock therapy’ after 1991 was not an optional extra imposed by the IMF (US imperialism) but a necessary application of the law of value (structural adjustment) to restructure Russia’s economy as a source of imperialist super profits to boost flagging profits. The crisis in Russia became intensified as a result and can only be resolved in imperialism’s favour at the expense of further severe attacks on workers’ jobs and living standards.

Since the Russian masses are superexploited and oppressed by imperialism at a time of global structural crisis, can it be said that Russia faces a pre-revolutionary situation? Of course, such a situation does not follow mechanically from even the most severe economic collapse or hardship. It requires also a working class mobilised as a threat to the class rule of the bourgeoisie. Without that threat to the bosses class rule, the bosses can go on ruling in the ‘old way’ and can hide behind the ‘fig leaf’ of parliament without openly declaring a naked struggle of force. In Russia today, the workers are not yet mobilised as a force capable of beginning to pose that threat.

In this situation it is normal that the class struggle should take the form of a struggle against national oppression, and that external and internal enemies of the ‘people’ become the target of ‘red-brown’ politics. This means that Russia’s semi-colonial economic crisis is being resolved in a reactionary way on the basis of the patriotic front which unites all Russian ‘people’ against ‘foreign’ and ‘alien’ influences. If workers do not break out of the patriotic front then no pre-revolutionary threat is posed and Putin’s regime need not resort to open class violence. If they do begin to break out then events can quickly create a revolutionary situation.

If we learn the lessons of the interwar years in Europe about the causes of the rise of Fascism it is clear that a mass workers movement organised by Communists and by social democrats posed a challenge to the weak ruling class. It made it necessary for the ruling class to embark on a fascist front to smash the working class. We had a revolutionary situation in which the power bases of both classes were balanced on a fulcrum. It was only necessary for the Communists to bloc with the social democrats against Hitler to tip the balance of power in the workers’ favour.

Had the Stalinists taken Trotsky’s advice a revolutionary outcome would have been possible (see Class Struggles in Germany). Instead the Stalinists divided the workers and Hitler captured the vacillating petty bourgeois and the more backward sections of the workers. A revolutionary situation ended in counter-revolution.

What of Russia today? While the economic crisis propels workers into struggle, this struggle is largely coopted by the patriotic front. Before a pre-revolutionary crisis can emerge fully it is necessary to break the best workers from the patriotic front into a workers united front lead by revolutionary communists. As the threat posed by the united front forces the bourgeois regime towards fascism it will be necessary for revolutionaries to counter this mortal danger by manoevering to bloc with all anti-fascist forces, at the same time building an independent revolutionary workers movement.

In Russia today the workers forces are divided between first, those who neutralised and remain part of the patriotic front; second, those like Zaschita that are struggling to form an independent union movement and who bloc defensively with democratic forces; and third, those like Stachkom that call today for an offensive movement based on workers’ occupations.

Only a revolutionary party with a Transitional Program based on the theory and method of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky can unite these tendencies around demands that combine immediate and democratic demands with organisational methods that break workers from the patriotic front into the united front, and which direct this movement towards workers control of industry and ultimately the seizure of power.

Down with Putin’s Labor Code!
Down with Great Russian Chauvinism!
For an All-Russian Democratic Fighting Union!
Defend Jobs and Wages by Occupations!
Build Workers’ Factory and Self-Defence Committees!
For a new Leninist-Trotskyist Party!
For a Workers’ and small Farmers’ Government!

From Class Struggle No 36 December 2000-January 2001

THE POLICE KILLING OF STEVEN WALLACE

leave a comment »

The North Taranaki town of Waitara has known since the colonial wars of last century its share of hard times. But nothing in recent memory has focused as much attention on the little town as the early morning police killing of 23 year old Steven Wallace on 30th April. As has been already said in the popular press and media, the incident has raised more questions than people are prepared to answer. Here we give our answers to what we belief are the right questions.

Nationally, the public debate has centred around the possibility that the fatal shooting of Wallace who was armed only with a baseball bat was racially motivated. The media debated the shoot to kill policy of the police and asked why in this case, when Wallace was obviously out of control smashing windows, pepper spray or some other less lethal method of subduing him was not used. In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, many drew the conclusion that the killing was racial. The final police report had yet to be released at the time of writing. But whatever its conclusions there is no doubt that it will fall short of explaining the context in which the killing occurred. It will focus on immediate issues and try to justify the action of the police officer.

So what are the grounds for talking of a racial killing? From day one when the story broke, the immediate response from the local iwi (tribe) was that the incident was the culmination of hostility directed at local Maori by the police over long period. Even the Prime Minister Helen Clark commented that there appeared to be some evidence of racism involved in the background. The acting Police Commissioner admitted on National Television that surveys had found that some police had racist attitudes towards Maori. Rajan Prasad, Race Relations Conciliator, was dispatched to Waitara to come up with a “plan of action” to deal with racism at Waitara. He was overwhelmed by accounts of police racism told to him by local Maori.

Police denial fuels racist backlash

The police attitude to the incident was expressed by Police Association (police officers union) president Gregg O’Connor. He claimed that the shooting was isolated and unrelated to any wider political or social context. The officer who had shot Wallace was part Maori. He had no option but to shoot five bullets into Wallace’s chest as Wallace had cornered him with the baseball bat. Shooting at the chest to stop an offender was standard police practice.

He rejected the charge of racism. If the Police target local Maori it is because they continue to offend he said. The media started to line up behind this story and oppose the publication of the name of the officer concerned. The implication was that his life would be threatened by parties unknown, but it didn’t take much imagination to picture the ‘lawless’ elements of Waitara seeking revenge.

The more the issue of police racism became highlighted the more vocal became the right-wing racist reaction in support of the cops in editorials and talkback radio. The deeper historical grievances underlying the incident that go back to the land seizures of the last century were not to be raised like the Maori Sovereignty flags that appeared over the main street the morning Wallace died. Even Helen Clark blamed the victim when she stated that the local tribe, Ngati Te Atiawa, was the author of its own misfortune in failing to administer adequately the paltry sum of $34 million as its share of the $170m offered to Taranaki tribes in the Treaty settlement process.

The backtracking of Helen Clark on this issue is a response to the rapid fall from grace of the Labour Party. Clark’s talk of racism touched the redneck nerve of middle NZ. Shifting of the blame for the depressed economy of Waitara onto the iwi which is expected to make up for 150 years of colonisation with a pathetic $34m shows that she expects the Treaty Settlements to close the ‘gap’ between Maori and Pakeha.

Belittling all attempts by local Maori to put a historical focus on the causes of the social problems in the region has become the order of the day for many in the white establishment. They are threatened by any challenge to their monoculturalist identity founded on expropriated Maori land when many of their settler antecedents were members of militia which fought against the armed resistance movement of Titokowaru (see James Belich I Shall Not Die) or the passive resistance of Te Whiti at Parihaka (see Dick Scott Ask That Mountain).

The racist reality

The fact that three Crown judgments since 1860 have determined that land stolen by the Crown in the Waitara area must be returned to the Te Atiawa have never been implemented shows that successive governments have never been serious about returning the land and now attempt to resolve the long-standing grievances with petty cash. Local Maori have every justification for seeing the whole of the Pakeha society stacked up against them. Perhaps this sense of social and cultural trashing had something to do with Steven Wallace’s rage in smashing the windows of the Waitara police station?

According to accounts told to the Race Relations Conciliator, the Police racism directed at Maori is a daily reality. Many of those who spoke to the Conciliator told of cases of repeated harassment of individuals as well as their families. Discrimination was not isolated to younger Maori as one might expect, but across all age groups. Many felt powerless against this institutionalised racism with a history of over 150 years. There was not use appealing to those same institutions that dealt out the racism. It is this same racism that generates the level of denial that says that a part Maori cop cannot be a racist.

Part of the brief for being a cop in the Taranaki district is to have some familiarity with the Crown version of local history. To be told that places like Parihaka are synonymous with rebellion and lawlessness. Or that Waitara and the surrounding lands were among the first to be confiscated by the Crown because Te Atiawa dared to assert authority over their own lands against the imposed laws of the Crown. An authority which the Police ever since and today are expected to uphold. That any trouble caused by local Maori is to be seen as a spillover from past lawlessness. And so the basis of the present police attitude is established and institutionalised.

The general view about racism in the wider community in the Taranaki district, has been one that has been avoided by the mainstream media. Its sits uncomfortably with many who prefer to see the issue as between the Police and Maori. The Police are there to keep the Maori in check and to stop them from rising up and exposing thinly veiled prejudices in the general population. It keeps the lid on the rampant racism such as that found in the local High School in Waitara by a Human Rights Commission report in the early 1990’s.

This ingrained racism is a trait shared by conservative rural districts throughout much of the country. Attempts to gloss over this fact by pointing to rugby as an example or racial harmony are about as relevant as the pretentious patriotism surrounding the America’s Cup and a bunch of mercenaries whose pursuit of profit plunged much of the country into a fit of fake unity where the best got richer and the rest were awarded the booby prize of national gullibility.

If such pseudo celebrations do not paper over the racist cracks what about Wallace’s mixed race? If he chose to identify as a Maori with 150 years of racial oppression wasn’t that a personal lifestyle option? Like the cop who shot him, Wallace was also part Maori part Pakeha. This was used to argue that killer and victim were racially united as harmony personified. This is the biological determinism of ‘blood’. As many ethnically mixed people will tell you, it is that side that you most stongly identify with that will determine your identity and how the community judges you.

Hometown Waitara

As an architecture student at Victoria University in Wellington, Steven Wallace was seen as a rare example in his community. His prowess in Taha Maori and sport together with his intellectual and academic ability, meant that he should have had a promising future. Here was young Maori who against the odds seemed to have survived a town which had suffered the loss of its major employers. First the closure of the Subaru assembly plant and then three years ago the local freezing works were devastating blows to the local Maori community.

The result has led Waitara to be dubbed the town with the lowest per capita income in Taranaki. Attempts by the local iwi as part of their land claims to get access to oil and natural gas, have been stifled by successive governments who have sold off the rights to these reserves to multinationals without consulting the local iwi. Moreover the Governments on behalf of multinational oil companies have ridden rough shod over local iwi invoking the Public Works Act to gain access to exploration sites on tribal land without compensation. It is against this background that the tragedy of Steven Wallace unfolds. For despite his talents and abilities Wallace could not escape this social environment.

Wallace’s family had no money to pay for his education. He had to get a student loan for his Architecture course. Perhaps because he feared not being able to pay back his student loan Wallace abandoned his course and returned to his home town. This would not have been unusual. Research by universities show that many young people from low socio-economic status (working class, Maori or Pacific Island backgrounds) either do not go to university or drop out because of fear of getting heavily into debt. In previous years Wallace had had encounters with the Police like many of his contemporaries. These experiences together with the social tensions in Waitara compounded into a situation that was to end in tragedy.

Why shoot to kill?

The mechanics of the actual shooting are still currently under three separate investigations: an internal police review, a Police Complaints Authority review, and a separate review of the Police use of firearms set up by the Government. The Police Complaints Authority is widely recognised as not being independent. It has been criticised in the past for setting terms of investigation and restricting criminal liability to favour the police. Recently the PCA ruling that no illegal search of Christchurch political activist David Small’s home by the Security Intelligence Service had occurred was overruled by the Courts. We expect the PCA report of the Waitara shooting to justify the shooting as necessary in the circumstances, and to whitewash the history of racism that surrounds the case.

Nor has the behaviour of the Police since the shooting done anything to lessen the racial tensions. The use of an external liaison officer as mediator between Police and local iwi has failed to impress as anything more than a token gesture and final decisions will be left to the local Police Commander. The decision by Police in fire hosing Wallace’s blood down the drain and into the river which is a source of food for the local people was made be a senior officer over the protests of local Maori who saw it as a breach of Taha Wairuatapu (sacredness). A clear sign that the Police authorities have no serious interest in coming to grips with the real causes of local grievances.

The shoot to incapacitate policy which amounts to shoot to kill, is the subject of a review ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office, designed to determine if there is an alternative to the use of deadly force currently in practice. Police spokesman Gregg O’Connor maintains that it is unrealistic to expect a more effective way of dealing with a situation such as Waitara if it is deemed that the officer on the spot is in mortal danger.

There has been a marked increase in the use of firearms in situations where the threat to police or other lives do not justify them. When the Police are under pressure, underfunded and understaffed, resorting to quick and fatal solutions can be cost-effective. This is the policing policy of zero-tolerant neo-liberal regimes who take the line that crime is individually motivated and that even minor crimes against property, such as that of Steven Wallace, can be escalated by confrontational policing methods that justifies police killing the offenders.

NZ Police now routinely carry loaded firearms in their cars. One went off accidentally while a police car was being serviced in Christchurch several years ago. Police allegedly took firearms with them when they visited a Waitara Marae to talk to elders recently. This is hardly surprising considering that the present Police firearms policy is modeled on US practice whose catalogue of misadventure and paranoia goes beyond anything seen in NZ to date.

We do not expect the Review of the use of firearms to seriously challenge the zero-tolerance, law-and-order policing. There may be some other options such as plastic bullets or stun guns, but the focus will remain that of stopping the criminal, rather than the human rights of victims of capitalist oppression. The Labour-Alliance Government is moving quickly down the Blairite path to put the main responsibility for their actions onto individuals rather than society. Why is this?

Well, the Government cannot tax the rich to close the ‘gap’ between Maori and Pakeha in society without losing business confidence, so it must shift the burden of responsibility from a history of colonial oppression which costs big bucks to put right, to one of individual self-reliance. The blanket hostility to Alliance MP Matt Robson’s proposals to introduce conjugal rights in gaols, a policy that is widely adopted overseas and even in Australia, shows how reactionary (the PM’s word is “pragmatic”) the Governments’ thinking on such social issues is.

The Role of the Media

The role of the media in building and maintaining a racist consensus on the Waitara shooting is clear. The bourgeois media generally have an interest in backing capitalism because they are capitalist firms themselves. They defend the rights of private property and individual rights are subordinated to these. The Waitara case illustrates this well. The decision by most of the media except for the National Business Review , to buckle under to the Police Association’s emotive appeals not to publish the name of the officer who shot Steven Wallace, shows that it puts its profits before moral or democratic principles.

The New Zealand Herald refused to publish the name of the officer on the grounds that there was police inquiry pending and that to do so would endanger the him and his family. This was despite a Court ruling that his name could be published and the fact that his name was already widely known. This line is at least consistent with the NZH pro-police editorial position. It is also consistent with making profits. The threat of a massive backlash by right-wing readers would have put a severe dent in the NZH’s bottom line. Even though daily newspapers in NZ command a regional monopoly (and are owned by the multinational monopolies of Murchoch or O’Reilly) and it was hardly likely that the readership would have much choice in switching to alternative print media sources. But the NZH chose to back the establishment and the racial consensus on the Waitara shooting.

In an earlier case the NZH buckled under to a Court ruling that prevented it from naming an American billionaire who had been ‘let off’ on possession of marijuana charges and had his name suppressed causing widespread outrage of ‘one law for us and one for the rich’. The NZH was not prepared to challenge the Court in the interests of ‘freedom of the press’ or ‘justice for all’ since that same Court defends its own private property rights. Clearly the need to maintain the legal framework of property rights and to boost profits is paramount when compared to the shallow and insincere dilly dallying over the ‘public’s right to know’ and ‘freedom of the press’.

The decision of the National Business Review to publish the police officer’s name reflects both the editorial line of this right-wing business paper devoted to individual accountability, especially on the part of state employees, and also its scooping other media to boost its subscribers. Its sales of the issue in question rose and subscription cancellations are not likely to be very many. Interestingly, the more crusading Independent edited by Warren Berryman and Jenny McManus who pride themselves on their “independence” did not publish.

Of the mainstream media, only the social democratic leaning Listener (May 20) chose to talk about the social and racial issues surrounding the Waitara killing as having a real bearing on the tragedy. But its main editorial thrust was against the Police Association for taking the line it did in to close down any public questioning of the shooting. The Listener also indirectly identified the officer who shot Wallace by speculating about the theory that Wallace had a personal problem with the police officer who was also Waitara’s fire chief.

The Legacy of Waitara

The legacy of the Waitara shooting will continue to haunt the forces of capitalism for some time to come. This small Taranaki town encapsulates all of the elements necessary to understand what forces are at play governing the lives of ordinary workers. How historical events impact on actions in the future like falling dominoes. Where a series of incidents drawn out over many years cannot be judged in isolation like an experiment in a laboratory. The questions thrown up over the shooting of Steven Wallace are not rhetorical, consigned to some blank oblivion where much of the bourgeois commentary ends up. They are about ongoing capitalist exploitation by multinational capital of land and resources ripped off by colonialism, the creation of a landless class, and the destruction of rural communities without an economic base for survival.

The refusal to see the connection between unemployment and crime, disenfranchisement of communities and brooding hostility, creates its own paradoxes and contradictions before finally digging its own grave. It creates a growing dispossessed reserve army of labour with no respect for private property and law and order. The growing breakdown of community and family life as the economic gap widens must create more discontent and threats to social order that the state has to suppress.

The campaign in recent years to recruit more Maori police, particularly in rural areas, highlights the cosmetic attempt by the bourgeois state to gloss over past histories, to create ‘overseers’ in much the same way as union bureaucrats who act as intermediaries between workers and bosses to the detriment of workers. What has to be understood by workers is the true role of the police in capitalist society as functionaries that serve the interests of the state and of the capitalist class.

In the last analysis, whatever the peripheral factors that contributed to the shooting, Steven Wallace was a bright young Maori man who like so many others could not beat the odds and ‘make it’ in the bourgeois world. As he was dragged back by his past; by the legacy of landlessness, of debt, despair and anger and the destruction of his working class community by capital, he called out to the cop who shot him “you pushed me too far”.

That his death should not be in vain, we have to ensure that all young working class men like Steven Wallace do not die unnecessarily by throwing themselves against the power of the state, but instead organise as oppressed workers into a collective force that will ultimately take power and bring about a society in which it is the needs of the people that at put at the fore and not the profits of the few.

From Class Struggle No 33, June-July 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 3:18 pm

AUSTRALASIAN MARXISM AND INDIGENOUS STRUGGLES: PART 2

leave a comment »

Part Two: Towards a Socialist Polynesia

Towards a Socialist Polynesia (TSP) was written by Owen Gager in mid 1982. It was the NZ Spartacist League’s (a forerunner to the CWG) response to the events of the previous decade culminating in the Anti-Springbok tour movement, and the publication of Awatere’s Maori Sovereignty. Against the petty bourgeois nationalism of both Maori and Pakeha, TSP tried to present a materialist analysis of the real history of race relations as a result of NZ’s white-settler colonisation and ongoing semi-colonial development. Petty bourgeois nationalists came out against British imperialism and its NZ ‘imperialist’ pretensions at the expense of Maori, and identified with Maori opposition to imperialism. In this way the struggle was posed in nationalist/racist and not class terms.

Gager’s pamphlet shot through this nationalist front with a Marxist broadside. NZ was a capitalist colony. Capitalism was not imported into the South Pacific completely knocked down and ready for assembly. It had to be imposed by a process of bloody conquest and ‘primitive accumulation’. That meant dispossessing Maori by force if necessary. The object was not to destroy Maori society for its own sake (though some settlers regarded Maori as civilised only in their “graves” and one Atkinson, saw it as his scientific duty to “shoot the natives”) but to destroy their primitive communist resistance to class society –capitalism. The Treaty was a fraud. It was a ‘trick’ admitted at the time, to pacify the savages while the pakeha ruling class was able to muster the imperial troops to take the land. All of this rotten history had one purpose –to convert tribal land into capitalist property, and to convert Maori into landless labourers so that they would be forced to work as wage workers and be exploited by capitalism.

TSP proved that this was the case by demonstrating that the history of Maori resistance to their expropriation and super-exploitation as waged workers was anti-capitalist. This process was part of the ongoing capitalist expansion into the South Pacific in the 19th century and it set the pattern for NZ’s semi-colonial development in the 20th century. The post-war boom accelerated this process by propelling Maori from the rural reserves into the urban ghettos. But the end of the boom brought with it a massive shock as the new jobs, incomes and expectations were suddenly dashed. Awatere and the new generation of rebels expressed outrage at this betrayal of the dream of assimilation by economic progress. In its place they raised the demand “Aotearoa is Maori Land.!”

What TSP did was to point out clearly that it was a sham for a few petty bourgeois Maori to stage a national revolution when the majority of Maori were already detribalised and in the working class. Awatere was merely putting out the claim for a Maori fair share in kiwi capitalism. The sovereignty gambit was an opening shot designed to guilt-trip the petty bourgeois pakeha anti-racists behind the movement and to up the ante in the Treaty settlement process. TSP rejected this petty bourgeois nationalism as anti-migrant when Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere’s collaborator, called for Pacific Island migrants to “fuck off” home. Their “Black Unity” did not extend to their Polynesian cousins. But most pakeha anti-racists joined forces with petty bourgeois Maori nationalism at the expense of other migrants. To make it worse so did most of the so-called Left when they found reasons to call Awatere some kind of ‘Marxist revolutionary’.

The Republican left.

TSP rubbished these so-called Marxists fawning on Awatere. For example, Peter Lee claimed that Awatere was some kind of antipodean Walter Benjamin (The Republican, #43 December 1982). Then Jesson took Awatere’s reference to Gramsci at face value to mean that the Maori people could recover their “treasures” and lead the struggle of New Zealand’s independence. He failed to notice that Awatere’s ‘counter-hegemonic bloc’ fundamentally misrepresented Gramsci. Her bloc was not Gramsci’s class bloc where other classes were led by the working class. Rather it was an alliance where the working class was led by the Maori people! Thus the Republican Marxist” left of Jesson and Co took this to mean that the Maori Question could only be resolved by a national independence struggle in which the working class remained subordinated to the Maori as a people. (Jesson, “Reviewing the Maori Sovereignty Debate” The Republican, #48 December 1983; #49 February 1984). The Maori People were a liberating force who in alliance with Pakeha radicals had a common interest in a “Republic of Aotearoa” (The Republican, August 1984 “The Latest Contribution to the Maori Sovereignty Discussion”). But for Jesson the Maori as part of the proletariat and therefore as a force for socialism was non-existent. Since Maori People were a figment of petty bourgeois Maori nationalists, this was his way of putting the petty bourgeois in front of the working class in the national revolution.

Gager anticipated Lee’s argument by showing that the European Marxist Walter Benjamin had long ago warned that appeals to tradition were not a basis for as progressive national movement but rather a reactionary ploy to divide and rule the working class:

“Walter Benjamin, in Illuminations, saw fascism’s role as rendering politics aesthetic, while ‘communism responds by politicising art’ His understanding of the reactionary implications of making politics “cultural” still expressed the perspective of Leninism. ‘Cultural treasures’ writes Benjamin are the spoils of war between ruling classes which owe their origin not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries – in Maori society, all those who could not claim to be ariki or rangatira.”

Gager continues: “Maori culture, as it is now, consists of the spoils of war which the white ruling class has plundered. Historical materialism, on the contrary, wishes to retain that image of the Polynesian past which unexpectedly appears to the Polynesian worker in crisis, singled out by history at the moment of danger. That danger affects both the content of Polynesian tradition and its receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming the tool of the ruling classes. In every area that attempt must be made anew to wrest Polynesian tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Only that militant will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the Polynesian past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from enemy if he wins. And that enemy has not ceased to be victorious”. (TSP 22)

Stalinist Left

Even worse than the Republican left was the Stalinist left. Stalinist political groups such as the Workers Communist League (now defunct), the Stalinist SUP dominated trades unions and the Stalinophile (literally, loving Stalin) ‘trotskyist’ Socialist Action League (and their Young Socialists) flocked to the cause of Maori Sovereignty. TSP exposed them as racists who limited their support for Maori struggles to that of becoming equal under capitalism. But where the Republican left wanted Maori in the vanguard, most Stalinists wanted them in the rearguard. So when Maori workers overstepped their subordinate role in the labour movement they got dumped just as The Polynesian Resource Centre –Te Moana –was evicted from the Trade Union Centre in 1981 when Ripeka Evans criticised the white trade union leadership. “By ‘allowing’ Maori people to lead the ‘anti-racist’ struggle, but in limiting their demands to ‘full equality’ and ‘minority rights’, WCL actively suppresses the revolutionary potential of the Maori proletariat in order to maintain its ‘leadership’ of the white working class.” (TSP, 9).

The reason for this was the rotten legacy of colonial racism embedded in the pakeha ‘labour aristocracy’ and ‘bureaucracy’, which were the class fractions the Stalinists were based on. This was amply demonstrated by the WCL.: “The Stalinist Workers Communist League claims it has a “class” analysis of racist and colonial oppression in New Zealand. But their programme itself is clearly racist. For them, the history of New Zealand’s movement towards independence is a pakeha history, to which the Maori people are an appendage…For them, the achievement of white settler power based on denial of Maori suffrage in New Zealand is an “advance”. The failure to see that white “independence” achieved at the expense of Maori independence assumed a reactionary and imperialist character leads logically to a recognition of Polynesian workers as a class with no revolutionary potential, and which must limit itself to a “miniumum programme” of democratic rights, forgetting ‘independence’ and ‘socialism’.” (TST 9)

Permanent Revolution

Against the petty bourgeois “Marxists” TSP argued that Maori were historically an oppressed people. It supported Maori self-determination up to and including secession if the majority of Maori demanded it. Support for self-determination by Pakeha workers would then be necessary to win Maori workers to the struggle for socialism. This was because Maori were trapped in the reserve army of labour and could not win equal rights under capitalism. Nor could the Treaty settlement process honour a fraudulent treaty. It could only fake this by creating local versions of Bantustans – like the independent Pacific Islands whose ‘cultural treasures’ were returned in exchange for the wealth that was spirited away. The whole process would have the effect of encouraging and reinforcing class divisions in Maoridom – an effect that capitalism could not possibly avoid – but in the name of sovereignty (now tino rangatiratanga). This would devolve the responsibility for poverty onto Maori themselves and not the oppressive racist state that has ruled over them for nearly two centuries. Therefore, Maori could only win their democratic rights by means of a ‘permanent revolution’ ie. socialist revolution.

TSP called Awatere and Co petty bourgeois nationalists. And hasn’t she proved TSP right 1000 times as cheerleader of Maori in ACT! They were not the voice of the majority of Maori workers. They rapidly turned to “honouring” the Treaty. TSP predicted the role that petty bourgeois nationalists would play in getting “10% Kiwi capitalism” in the name of a re-invented cultural tradition. Events have proven Gager correct. The Treaty is still a fraud. The whole Treaty process has seen Maori coopted by class further into capitalism – a few have become bosses and the majority stayed workers with a widening gap between. It can be nothing else when the land, resources and labour-power expropriated for 150 years are now accumulated as capitalist private property. The token settlements that have been trickled back are little more than capitalised benefits advanced as seeding capital to spawn mini-corporations who will swim as sprats among the MNC sharks. The Treaty Settlements work like a local version of the World Bank/IMF. The local NZ state hands out seeding capital but locks everyone into the local economy, just as the IMF/World Bank locks it into the global economy on the terms of the imperialists.

Neo-Marxist analysis.

Who else has been able to see all this? What other left analyses have followed? And do they add or subtract from TSP? We can look as several recent attempts to develop an Antipodean Marxism on the Maori question before passing judgement on their strengths and weaknesses. They all put class before ethnicity or nationality and attempt to explain Maori politics in terms of the integration of Maori into global capitalism. Yet they all have problems in the way they integrate their analysis of the Maori struggle into the development of NZ’s semi-colonial capitalism.

The strengths of Evan Poata-Smith’s work is that it is based on an analysis of New Zealand as a capitalist country. Therefore Maori inequality/oppression is NOT the result of the primitiveness of Maori or the inherent racism of Pakeha. The Pakeha (and more recently the brown table) capitalist class is the problem. Poata-Smith recognises that what he calls “cultural nationalism” is not a strategy for liberation. It is similar to the concept of petty-bourgeois nationalism raised in TSP since it is middle class or petty bourgeois Maori who benefit from it at the expense the majority of working class Maori. “Real liberation for Maori will not occur without a fundamental transformation of capitalist society”.

What weaknesses? These result from a failure to explain clearly how Maori fit into a class system or how the experience of exploitation of Maori workers by Maori capitalists will generate a break from the trap of a reactionary nationalism. So Poata-Smith does not explain how the transition to socialism has to have a concrete programme and revolutionary leadership to make it happen. While academic articles are not usually the place for calls for revolution, this failure is also evident in Andrew Geddes’ pamphlet The Way Forward to Tino Rangitiratanga which draws heavily upon Poata-Smith. Published by the Socialist Workers Organisation in 1997, apart from general statements about Maori liberation happening only in a “socialist society”, there is not much indication in this pamphlet on how to get there.

Geddes uses the examples of fighting for democratic rights such as the funding of Maori language broadcasting, and the return of stolen land and taonga, as part of the struggle for socialism. True as far as they go. These are democratic demands that must be part of a transitional programme. But there are two problems with this. First, the SWO does not define self-determination to include the right to secede.

In anticipation of this, TSP stated that if the majority of Maori respond to their worsening economic oppression with a call for secession (independence), then pakeha workers must support them in order to win them to socialism. How this will happen needs to be spelled out. Specifically, pakeha workers need to give critical support the demands of urban iwi for inclusion in the Treaty settlements, and for a share of fisheries and other resources. But at the same time revolutionaries must fight to extend the struggle to the expropriation of all capitalist property on the grounds that both Maori and Pakeha have contributed generations of labour to create the wealth of the country. Concretely, this means supporting the return of Maori land, fisheries, compensation etc as part of a programme that, at the same time, calls for the nationalisation of the land and fisheries under workers’ control (with Maori guaranteed traditional rights of use), the re-nationalisation of state assets without compensation, the expropriation of capitalist property, for a workers state able to plan the economy, and a workers’ militia to defend the state from the international bourgeoisie.

Second, the SWO does not integrate immediate, democratic demands with transitional demands that include many other demands to unite Maori and non-Maori workers in class struggle all the way to “workers power”. Therefore there is a split between the immediate demands and the goal of socialism that becomes, like the petty bourgeois Marxists, a split between a minimum and maximum programme, in which Maori have minimum (democratic) rights, but Marxists have the maximum (socialist) solution. Ironically in a strongly Stalinophobic (literally a fear of Stalinism) socialist organisation, the petty bourgeois “Marxist” notion of stages is slipped into its politics in a disguised form of support for Maori liberation.

Against this petty bourgeois position, communists link immediate and democratic demands with fully revolutionary demands for workers’ militia and a workers’ state in a transitional programme. This requires concrete analysis to be fused with revolutionary practice. There is a need to relate the Maori and Class questions in a programme of action all the way to the seizure of power. First, the inability of capitalism to deliver to Maori has to be explained by reference to NZ’s semi-colonial character, where the local economy is dominated by US, Japanese and Australian companies. Thus the polarisation of classes and divisions in Maoridom will intensify and further impoverish Maori workers and small farmers as well as squeeze Maori petty bourgeois and small capitalists down into the proletariat. The fate of the Sealords deal and the legal battle over urban iwis highlights the contradiction between class and nation dramatically. Only by applying the theory of NZ as a semi-colony in crisis to understand the clear limits to the Maori Nationalism struggle can it be turned into a united class struggle.

Pink-Greens.

What about the liberal left like Jane Kelsey. Has their critique of Rogernomics as incompatible with the Treaty resulted in any serious analysis or programmatic options? No. Because the cause is defined as merely a neo-liberal elite that can be defeated in parliament. What of the latter day radicals like Tama Iti etc? Where have all their protests gone? Gone to parliament under MMP, which is the latest fraud to be perpetrated on the workers and oppressed. From Mat Rata to Mason Durie, the Maori intelligentsia envisages Mana Motuhake as sharing power in the bourgeois state. Maori will have their own economic base and governance. All that is required is for Maori to mobilise as a people and assert their right to share power under a new constitution. Even the centrifugal forces of globalisation can be offset by counter-hegemonic indigenous rights movements backed by international law.

For example, Elizabeth Rata applies Regulation Theory to NZ and sees tribal capitalism as a post-Fordist mode of regulation. That is, she recognises that Maori have been coopted into state-defined tribal entities to produce a settlement that is in the interests of international capital. The problem is that Regulation theory is neo-Ricardian rather than Marxist. It explains that the exploitation of Maori requires a political conspiracy on the part of the white ruling class to deceive Maori by reinventing tribalism so the white elite can keep most of the land and wealth ripped off under colonialism. (“The Theory of Tribal Capitalism” in Review –The Fernand Braudel Centre, Vol XX11 (3) 1999). This is similar to Kelsey’s view that if a section of the ruling class is imposing a neo-liberal mode(l) of regulation (capitalist conspiracy) then it must be possible to mobilise to remove that mode(l) by a process of radical social democratic evolutionary socialism. But while the pink-greens still regard the issue as about land or capital –ie. an economic base of sorts, to which end political and cultural movements are put, the post modernists see it as about indigenous rights and nothing else. The means become the dead end.

The promised land: post-modernism meets Maori

Now that most of the Maori compradors have been bought off and the pakeha liberal left have bought into the honouring of the Treaty the debate is now about how much? First the fiscal cap was imposed and rejected. Then a sped-up process of settlements by iwi rather than hapu. But the liberal nationalists are satisfied that the Maori nation can now take its place alongside the pakeha nation in a multinational commonwealth of difference. All that is required is some attitudinal change and goodwill. So we see the post-modern turn as Maori are transformed into fully blown ‘subjects’ in the marketplace –with the past “pardoned”. The Treaty will be turned into the base document of a Constitution. What the new right and the postmodernists all agree on, is that the market creates the conditions for freedom and these can now be realised. Every ethnic group and nationality can take their place in international society – with their “difference” recognised and respected. The Treaty Industry becomes part of the ‘culture industry’ looking to protect Maori ‘culture’ as a commodity that can fund their ethnic “difference”. This means that “difference” becomes reduced to consumer taste ie. a difference that the sovereign consumer notes when s/he buys a commodity. Maori have been re-landed and re-branded. The ‘promised land’ of liberation becomes the freedom to buy and sell in the market. But as we know NZ semi-colonial capitalism will deny that freedom to most Maori so long as we do not revolutionise the relations of production.

Proletarian politics

As TSP predicted, most Maori “honoured” as a reserve army of labour find themselves trapped still in the proletariat with the obvious consequences. There are few bosses. Not because of ‘stone age’ economics like neo-liberal mouthpiece Gareth Morgan thinks, but because if you didn’t have individual title you couldnt raise capital. Talk about the new right blaming the victim. Today the corporatisation of iwi opens up the capitalist road, but too little too late to get anywhere. As we have seen, NZ semicolonial capitalism is in the hands of the MNC’s. They won’t sacrifice their profits for the sake of any Treaty. We have “the GAP” instead. Maori still own no more than about $10 Billion in assets. The majority earn well below the average wage. Maori youth unemployment is over 20%. The new Maori bosses’ economic prospects are as small fish among the sharks, not good. The self-employed have been dispossessed. Small farmers and fishers swamped by globalisation. Which class will benefit and what will the masses do? Are urban iwi any answer? No. But as multi-ethnic working class organisations they have potential. This potential is not to set up a separate backward economy for an urban peasant existence, or try to compete in the corporate rat race, but to mobilise Maori along with all workers through the unions to expropriate the national wealth as their historic stake in socialism.

So the answer is to transform the national question into the class question. It means not trying to survive in ‘bantustans’ like the Pacific Island neo-colonies, but taking a proletarian stand to take back the lot! Why stop at reclaiming bits of land etc on the bosses Treaty terms? That’s still fraud. Maori as proletarians helped make this country. Accumulated generations of surplus labour is congealed as the wealth of the nation. The working class needs a revolutionary programme to unite the masses in the struggle for socialism. Nationalise the land under workers control with Maori rights guaranteed! Re-nationalise privatised state assets without compensation under workers control! Expropriate capitalist corporates! Fight for a workers’ and working farmers’ government based on workers councils and militia! For a socialist republic of Aotearoa in a federation of Asia/Pacific socialist republics!

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 11:14 am

AUSTRALASIAN MARXISM AND INDIGENOUS STRUGGLES: PART 1

leave a comment »

Introduction (updated 2001)

Today the struggle of indigenous peoples in Australasia is becoming institutionalised in international law and the post-modern politics of multi-cultural ‘difference’. When Derrida can visit Australia and NZ and be hailed as a partisan of indigeneity (Bedggood, 1999); when Lyotard can be invoked to bring Kant to the rescue of ‘native title’ (Green, 1994); we see that the colonial missionary has been supplanted by the post-colonial emmisary. Thus the official policy has gone from forced integration, relocation, stolen children, suppressed language and customs etc, towards a liberal paternalism under the guise of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘biculturalism’ and more recently ‘post-colonialism’.

Such a move tokenises indigenous peoples’ rights conferred by the bourgeois state and celebrated by the rituals of cultural reconciliation. But the cultural turn in indigenous peoples struggles is not new. It is a time-honoured strategem for political incorporation and economic assimulation into global capital accumulation.

Today indigenous peoples remain heavily oppressed by racism on top of systemic class exploitation. What then do Australasian Marxists have to say about the prospects of indigenous peoples overcoming their historic oppression and joining forces with the international proletariat in the overthrow of capital? Do they have a future as a people or as a class? Or, what is the difference?

Materialist premises

We should begin by defining some materialist premises. In the case of Australia and New Zealand, white settler colonisation arose from the first crisis faced by the leading capitalist state in Europe, Britain. These colonies went through a process of a bourgeois revolution (as yet incomplete) in which bourgeois land, labour and capital were formed (but which remain semi-colonies of the US and Japan).

Internal to these countries however are the indigenous peoples who remain oppressed minorities without equal rights to land, labour and capital. How can these oppressed peoples’ gain their liberation? All arguments about liberation have been drawn from European sources and imported into the Antipodes. Are they therefore necessarily examples of cultural imperialism? I would say Yes, if they continue to deny the same rights to indigenous minorities that were fought for and won in Europe, or attempt to contain these rights inside the framework of the bourgeois constitution rather than the socialist commonwealth.

Full Text

Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm

Yugoslavia: Whose side are you on? [June 1999]

leave a comment »

We cannot understand the significance of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia unless we trace the role of imperialism in the breakup of Yugoslavia as a political campaign to destroy “communism” and consolidate the post-cold war US hegemony. Without this analysis the left strays from a proletarian perspective.

The ‘democratic imperialists’

On the issue of the war most of the left are moving right behind Social Democracy which has become the “new right” according to the Le Monde Diplomatique. It is no accident that Blair, Clinton, Schroeder etc are all rightwing Social Democrats. The Greens are also totally compromised by their support of the bombing. Talk of splits in Social Democracy and the Greens may become real if the war continues if the pacifist rank and file rejects their leaderships. This may restore some reformist credibility in the sense of providing a ‘left cover’ for the Blairite centre.

Already providing a cover for the ‘new middle’ is the pro-imperialist pacifist ‘far left’. This sucks up to imperialism by opposing NATO bombing, yet defends imperialist intervention in some form or other in the name of Kosovo’s human rights and bourgeois democracy. These include the Usec (International Viewpoint) and Rouge in Europe, and Green Left in Australia

Fundamentally these criticisms of the bombing are not unconditional opposition to imperialism, but criticism of war as a tactic in advancing human rights! Some say Serbian ‘fascism’ is equal to or worse than NATO imperialism (Australian Green Left Weekly, Michael Karadjis, “Chossudovsky’s frame-up of the KLA”).

Underlying this capitulation to ‘democratic imperialism’ is a Eurocentric racism which brands and demonises Slavs as backward, uncivilised etc needing to be taught a lesson by the West’s moral campaign for human rights. It is no surprise that these groups tend to hate Stalinism as totally reactionary. That is, they have always backed anti-Stalinist bourgeois democratic social movements as being more progressive than the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Degenerated Workers States.

The Socialist Workers: some history

The most obvious case is the International Socialist current, often called the ‘Cliffites’ after their main historic leader Tony Cliff (SWO in NZ). Their hostility to Stalinism is legendary originating in a split between Shachtman and Trotsky in 1939 over the defence of the Soviet Union. Trotsky distinguished between a healthy workers’ state and a degenerated workers state ruled by a Stalinist bureaucracy. This bureaucracy would have to be overthrown by a political revolution to create a healthy workers state.

Yet Trotsky subordinated the overthrow of the Stalinists to the defence of workers property against imperialism. He said that this might mean blocking with the Stalinists to defend the Soviet Union. But the Cliffites were hostile to Stalinism, and they rejected Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. They put forward instead their theory of ‘state capitalism’ which had no progressive features worth defending. They took the infamous double defeatist position -“neither Washington nor Moscow.”

The first test of this position came in 1950 with the Korean war when the Cliffites refused to take sides in the UN/US attack on the Democratic Republic of Korea. Today in the case of Yugoslavia where capitalism has been restored the Cliffites hostility to Stalinism is still evident in the opposition to the former Stalinist Milosovic.

To call for the defeat of NATO and Milosovic in Kosovo at the same time is to take a dual defeatist position on the war, equating the two sides as equally bad.

The social base of this dual defeatist position is the petty bourgeois labour aristocracy in the imperialist states. Trotsky’s original critique of Shachtman still holds. The “petty bourgeois opposition”, as he called it, was adapting to the onset of the cold war which hyped-up US workers against the SU as a Stalinist dictatorship equal to Hitler’s fascism. The opposition caved in to this media blitz and adopted the state capitalist position. This adaptation to anti-Stalinist public opinion is still evident today. It accounts for the Cliffites inability to withstand NATO’s media campaign to demonise Serbia and Milosovic, and their call for Milosovic to get out of Kosovo when the effect of that call is to weaken Yugoslavia’s defence against NATO!

Solving the National Question

On the other hand, the so-called ‘ultraleft’ says the national question is now wholly subordinated to the defence of Yugoslavia. For example, the ICL (Spartacists) and the Marxist Workers Group (MWG) “subordinates” the national question to the united front against imperialism as if they were separate questions. While it is correct to unconditionally oppose NATO (i.e not making the defeat of Milosovic and the defence of the KLA conditions of that stand) we cannot eliminate the national question from our programme by making it merely an effect of a future working class revolution. We have to do more than proclaim the end of the Kosovo question; we have to actively turn the national question into the class question (as we explain below).

Former Stalinists, and Trotskyist currents like the Spartacists and the MWG, take a view of the national question, which reduces it to its leadership. This misses the point of the Leninist fight to champion the national rights oppressed workers in order to win them away from their reactionary chauvinist leaderships to the struggle for socialism.

Therefore, for these tendencies, the fact that Kosovo liberation is led by the KLA which is covertly armed and trained by the US, and which now acts as the “ground troops” for NATO, disqualifies the Kosovo struggle as reactionary.

But why should the reactionary leadership disqualify the national rights of the majority? All national struggles against oppression are led by reactionary, or potentially reactionary, leaders whose interests are much closer to imperialism than those of workers and peasants. InYugoslavia, the anti-imperialist UF against NATO is led by Milosovic, who is no democrat. Yet he is no fascist. But even if he were a fascist that would still be no reason to abandon the defence of Yugoslavia.

Trotskyists defend oppressed countries from imperialism despite their reactionary leaderships. This is because imperialism is the main enemy. It creates the conditions for reactionary leaders. A victory for imperialism is always an outright defeat for workers because it allows imperialism a free hand to impose worse economic and political conditions on workers. This is why the defence of on an oppressed country in a war with imperialism is unconditional.

However, while our military bloc against imperialism is unconditional workers must maintain a political and military independence from the bourgeois leadership. This is because in the national struggle an independent working class leadership can emerge capable of replacing the bourgeois leadership and winning against imperialism by turning imperialist war into class war.

So just as we bloc militarily with Milosovic while he is fighting against NATO, the fact that the Kosovo struggle is currently misled by the KLA in league with NATO is no reason for abandoning the national rights of the majority of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Inside the UF against imperialism we fight to build workers multi-ethnic militia which can prevent ethnic violence from dividing and destroying workers unity.

It is because this ‘ultraleft’ current is pro-Stalinist, and tends to put its faith in Stalinist (or ex-Stalinist) bureaucrats, that it rejects national struggles led by non-Stalinist elements, and turns the struggle to build an independent revolutionary leadership into a lifeless abstraction. It fails to see that the while the Kosovo national question has to be subordinated to the Yugoslav national defence against NATO, nevertheless inside the anti-imperialist UF, Kosovo has to be raised in order to create the conditions for workers internationalism. Without that internationalism there can be no socialist revolution capable of resolving all national questions by a free choice of peoples to form Socialist Republics within wider Federations.

Revolutionary dialectics

Our position is neither of these flipflops. The clearest way to understand revolutionary politics is to follow the class line of dialectics. It is no accident that Trotsky saw dialectics as the key to socialist revolution and the abandonment of dialectics as the sure evidence of capitulation to bourgeois ideology and abstaining from the leadership of the proletariat. Once again, imperialist war becomes the crucial test of the ability of Trotskyists to understand the class line.

As Trotsky taught us, imperialism represents the main capitalist enemy with the power to set-up and destroy whole nations by economic, political and military means. Therefore we must subordinate our struggle against any given national bourgeoisie to a united front against imperialism. But since the national bourgeoisie are ultimately serving the interests of imperialism, only a working class opposition to imperialism can ensure the defeat of both.

Thus, in the case of the current war, while we subordinate the Kosovo question to the defence of Yugoslavia, we subordinate both to the building of an international working class opposition that can win a victory over imperialism and allow the free development of national rights within the framework of a Federation of Socialist Republics.

We can see that imperialism has successfully divided and ruled the former Yugoslav Federation of degenerated workers states. It has restored capitalism and imposed -IMF austerity programmes. And it has promoted former Stalinists or fascists as ultranationalist bourgeois leaders all bent on grabbing territory and ethnically cleansing any opposition. Any imperialist intervention, military or ‘humanitarian’, as we have seen in many places as well as Yugoslavia, cannot defend national or human rights, and only strengthens the hand of reaction. It is designed to set up compliant client mini-states of imperialism as “Mafia republics”, or military bases as part of the strategy to partition and exploit the resources of Central , South and East Asia.

Because of imperialism’s divide and rule tactic we are on the side of oppressed nations. We are for the unconditional right to self-determination of any oppressed people which democratically expresses this right. However, we do not support the reactionary leaderships of independence movements, or its imperialist backers, since this the opposite of self-determination.

So while we unconditionally defend Yugoslavia against NATO and the KLA, we also call for the right of Kosovars to self-defence against Yugoslav repression. This right has to be raised along with the demand for multi-ethnic militias capable of uniting workers against repression on all sides.

We do not call for Independence for Kosovo now because that would mean a victory for the KLA. Not because it has got its arms and supplies from imperialism, but because it has accepted the imperialist strings attached to these- that is, support of NATO bombing Yugoslavia to make Kosovo free!

Against US domination of the whole Balkan region, Serbian, Kosovar Albanian, Albanian, Croatian etc., self-determination can only result from the united Yugoslav workers overcoming the imperialist divide and rule strategy of fomenting ethnic chauvinism and removing their ultranationalist leaders to create a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Balkans.

But this will only happen during the unconditional defence of Yugoslavia where the bourgeois misleaders will be shown to be on the side of imperialism not the workers of Yugoslavia. Milosovic cannot defend Yugoslavia and will do a deal, probably brokered by Russia, another US semi-colonial dependency desperate for IMF funds, for the partition of Kosovo under UN “peacekeeping troops”. The KLA and the Albanian bourgeoisie in the pay of the US have already done their deal – and the price for ordinary ethnic Albanians is bombing, displacement and chaos.

Such deals are a major defeat for Yugoslav, Kosovar, and all Balkan workers, as well as workers everywhere, as they legitimise a NATO/UN “hardcop-softcop” routine to intervene at will in any oppressed country on the pretext of defending ‘human rights’.

Therefore, it is necessary to actively call for workers to unite across ethnic lines as the only way that Yugoslavia can be truly defended. This internationalism must be taken up by workers in the NATO countries following the example of Italian and Greek workers.

The main enemies are at home!

Turn Imperialist war into civil war!

From Class Struggle No 27 May-June 1999

Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm

Against Zionism [December 1998]

leave a comment »

By John Stone

Israel has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. The ‘peace settlements’ have pushed the PLO leadership, Egypt and Jordan to recognise Israel. It seems that Syria and other Arab states will do the same. There are almost 4 million Jews in the State of Israel and many elements of a Hebrew-speaking nation. Is it the time to abandon our demand for the destruction of the Israeli state and its replacement with a secular, multi-ethnic, democratic and Soviet Palestine, and to advocate a united front with the PLO and the Zionist left in order to achieve a bi-national state or a two-state solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict? This article will examine the programmatic positions of the most left-wing Zionists. We will explain what the Marxist position on the Palestine question must be and why we cannot recognise any national rights of Israel.

Left Zionism’s backward evolution

In the early years of the Communist International, Poalei Zion (Workers Zion) participated as observers in some of its activity. This current tried to fuse Marxism with Jewish nationalism. For them the Jews where a nation without a territory. In order to make a socialist revolution the Jews needed first to create its own state and multi-class society.

Poalei Zion initially accepted the possibility of a bi-national Arab-Hebrew state but later they backed the division of Palestine and the creation of a pure Jewish state. Poalei Zion became one of the pillars of the MAPAM, which achieved around one fifth of the votes in the first Israeli elections. The MAPAM initially combined Marxist and Leninist phraseology with its active integration in the Hagana (Israeli army), the Histadrut (Israeli anti-Palestinian corporate union) and the Labour Zionist cabinets. They built many kibutzim and they believed that these islands of rural collectivism where the seeds of socialism.

MAPAM survived as the left wing of Zionism and many Labour governments. It backed Israel in all its wars against the Arabs. In the late 1940s the MAPAM capitalised on the pro-Moscow sentiment that was created all over the world resulting from Hitler’s defeat and Stalin’s backing the creation of Israel. Before the creation of the Israeli state many thought that the Jews where in general an oppressed people despite that the Zionists wanted to transform them into colonial settlers against the Arab native population. However, Israel became an oppressor whose existence was based in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians, and the founding of a US pillar against all the anti- imperialist movements in the Middle East.

A “Marxist” movement that adapts to forms of third-world nationalism can survive with some radical proposals. However, a socialist movement that became an apologist of an expansionist and colonialist power would become more and more reactionary. Moving to the right MAPAM was loosing its initial roots and became confused with the pragmatic Zionists.

Around ten years ago MAPAM, Shilumit Aroni’s Ratz and Shinui created Meretz, a political front that in 1997 became officially a united party. Ratz was a movement in favour of constitutional rights and Shinui was an ultra-liberal organisation committed to Thatcherite economics in a context of liberal concessions to the Palestinians. The Shinui believed that the best way to develop an open `free market’ was to allow Israel to be a county at peace with its neighbours and with the capacity to export capital to them.

On February 1997 the founding convention of the new Meretz Party adopted its `Basic Principles’. In it there is no mention of the struggle against imperialism or for socialism and for a working class based party. MAPAM simply abandoned any class reference. Meretz proclaimed the combination of `the values of enlightened liberalism and democratic socialism’. A few countries had already experienced the fusion between their political extremes on economic issues. Just as it is impossible to fuse oppressive nationalism with any form of socialism, nor is it possible to combine Thatcherite economics with any form of progressive economic reforms. The former Zionist collectivists abandoned their initial goals and accepted a neo-liberal agenda.

MAPAM gave up all its former demands for state intervention and rural collective expansions. Now it accepts neo-conservative economics. `Initiative, profitability, and fair competition between all sections of the economy will be facilitated’. Meretz is in favour of privatising some of the companies that the `left Zionists’ put under public ownership. They only oppose privatisation of natural monopolies, education, postal service and the welfare state. The rest, transport, communications, industries, arm production, etc. could be sold.

For an exclusionist state

In all of its Basic Principles Meretz does not mention the struggle against anti-Semitism. The main purpose of Zionism is to “struggle against assimilation which threatens the existence of the Jewish people in the Diaspora”. Assimilation means that Jews should abandon their religious-cultural values and became assimilated into the nations in which they live. They want to stop that process. In places in which the Jewish workers are struggling alongside their own class brothers and sisters against the bosses, they want to divide the workers. The Jews have abandoned other workers to migrate to Israel in order to help Zionist capitalists to build their own state.

“The Zionist objective of the State of Israel is to provide an open door for any Jew. Aliya [mass Jewish emigration to Israel] is also a source of reinforcement for the State of Israel. Meretez sees Aliya to Israel, with the goal of gathering the majority of the Jewish people in the state”.

Meretz wants to move the majority of the fifteen million Jews all over the planet to Israel. Eight million Jews in Israel would be a strong basis for maintaining a state. Its aim is doubly reactionary. On the one hand they try to dislocate many Jews (some of which were the basis of many socialist and progressive movements in their own countries) from their own homelands and to divide the working classes. On the other hand they want to use the Jewish as colonial tools to consolidate a state founded on the expulsion of its native population.

Regarding the Arabs, Meretz is the most `heretical’ of all the Zionists. It is in favour of granting the right to create a weak state in a minority of their former lands for `the Palestinian Arab people, which has lived in this land for generations and which is now beginning to realise its right to national self-determination’. The ones who are starting `to realise its right to national self-determination’ are, precisely, Meretz. The Palestinians fought for their own state in the 1947-48 wars and even before (like in the 1936 upheavals). It was the Zionists who destroyed their aspirations.

In which territories will Meretz grant a Palestinian state? “In a context of the permanent settlement, Israel will be obliged to vacate most of the territories occupied during to the Six Day War.” Before the mass expulsions of Palestinians after the creation of Israel, two thirds of Palestine where inhabited by Arabs. In 1947 the UN resolved to divide that land in around two halves. In 1947 Israel managed to conquer around 40% of the Palestinian half. Therefore the territories that Israel occupied after 1967 represents a small fraction of Palestine.

For the left Zionists the Palestinians should accept not only the loss of the majority of their land but also of some of the post-1967 occupied territories as well as their historically claimed capital. For the Palestinians Jerusalem is their capital. For the Christian and Islamic Arabs it is one of their holy cities where they were the majority of its population from the beginning of the first millennium until 1948. Until 1967 Eastern Jerusalem (where is the historical city) was in Arab hands. Since then the Zionists have tried to buy Arab land or to expel Palestinians. For Meretz “Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, will never again be divided.”

First the Zionists expelled the Palestinians. Next its left wing `discovered’ that they want national rights. Now, its most radical wing is prepared to concede a sort of independent Bantustan for them. For Meretz the new Palestinian State should occupy less than a half of that half of Palestine that the UN undemocratically resolved to give them in 1947. The Palestinians should give up 100% of Jerusalem and at least 75% of the land in which they where the majority of the population when the British left 50 years ago.

The new Palestinian State should not have a contiguous territory and between its two main areas (Gaza and the West Bank) Israel should be allowed to maintain a heavily guarded territory. The Palestinian State not only would have to accept the ethnic cleansing of its own people by Israel but also to be an impotent and unarmed scattered country surrounded and patrolled by Middle East’s main Nuclear Power.

Meretz is also in favour of keeping and developing the strength and superiority of the Israel army: “The protective might provided by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is the main guarantee for Israel’s security, even in an era of peace. The strength of the IDF and its technological and personal superiority over all the other armies in the region must be ensured.”

Israel a reactionary military machine

Israel has one of the most reactionary military machines. It destroyed the Palestinian State in 1948 and led to millions of Palestinians being forced to live in the worst humanitarian conditions. Israel sided with France and the UK against Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal. It invaded Egypt in 1956,19 67 and 1973; Jordan and Syria in 1967 and 1973. It helped the Kingdom of Jordan’s bloody repression of the Palestinians in 1970. It occupied southern Lebanon in the 1980s.

It unconditionally supported every US and NATO reactionary movements against any regime that has had clashes with imperialism in the Middle East (Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, etc.). It backed Turkey against the Kurds, the largest nation without a state. It was one of the main enemies of all the de-colonising and anti-imperialist movements through the entire planet. It legalised torture and killed many Arab children in the Intifada and in its terrorist bombing and incursions into Lebanon. It helped the anti-`terrorist’ commands in Somoza’s Nicaragua and in Peru. And what does it mean to “ensure” IDF’s “superiority”? Perhaps to develop more nuclear and bio-chemical weapons which can be used to make a holocaust that could be a thousand times more devastating than Der Yasin?

In a country that has a very strong Jewish colonialist-fundamentalist camp, Meretz appeared as the most extreme Zionist force concerning civic rights. In the state of Israel every Jew who was born in any other part of the globe can have citizenship automatically. However, a Palestinian whose family inhabited that land for centuries, is a second class citizen and does not have the right to return to the land or home from which he/she was expelled in 1948 or 1967.

No Palestinian occupies any leading position in any Israeli government, the state or the army. Who decides who is a Jew? It is not a secular entity or even any Jewish religious congregation. That right is in the hands of the most orthodox and archaic rabbinate. This is such a reactionary body, that even the US Conservative Jews are to its left. The State of Israel does not have a constitution because it is based on a Jewish religious code.

Meretz ‘radicalism’ is limited to “the separation of religious institutions from the institutions of the state”. Israel should be “governed by the rule of law, rather than by the rule of the Halakha.” Nevertheless, Meretz vindicates that “Jewish heritage and the Jewish legal core are a cornerstone of our national culture and a source of inspiration in our lives and in creativity”.

As we saw, Meretz’ programme does not have any reference to the working class. It has very reactionary goals. It wants to keep a Jewish identity based in elements of Jewish religion. It tries to separate progressive Jews from their non-Jewish compatriots and to transform them into colonial settlers, dispossessing a native population. It wants to maintain a purely Jewish exclusionist state. It has a neo-liberal anti-working class economic programme. It differs from the hard-liners only in the sense that it is prepared to soften the rabbinical influence on the state institutions and allow Palestinian ‘self-determination’ in the form of a fragmented and powerless ‘independent’ Bantustan.

The peace accords, instead of pushing ‘socialist Zionists’ to the left, are causing a backward evolution towards neo-liberalism and reaction. Despite the possibility of organising common demonstrations and actions with them against the colonialist settlers and hard-liners, it is impossible to make any kind of anti-imperialist united front with currents that are advocating an imperialist and segregationist solution to the Palestinian question.

Zionism has no single progressive aspect

The doctrine of Zionism was created by Theodor Hertzl. He wanted to convince the Tsar and all the great powers that the best solution to the `Jewish question’ was to provide the Jews with a state. Instead of being persecuted, the Jews could `expand ‘Western civilisation’’ against `barbarians’. Hertzl offered his services to transform the Jews into a colonialist tool against native peoples.

When Zionism was born (one century ago) hundreds of thousands of Jews were very active in the labour and anti-capitalist movement and many socialists were Jews (as was Marx, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Zinoviev, Kamenev etc). Zionism was also used to divide the Jew workers from their fellow classmates. If Marxists advocate the unity of all the workers of all nations and communities against the capitalists, the Zionists advocated the unity of the Jewish workers with and behind the capitalist Jews and their imperialist associates against other peoples. The Zionist emigration to Palestine had a reactionary goal. Jewish capitalists, unions and co-operatives excluded the natives from their ranks. Arab lands where purchased and given to Jewish colonial settlers. The Arab population felt that they were being driven away from a new colonialist movement.

After the holocaust the imperialist powers and the USSR where prepared to give the Jews a state in Palestine. In 1947 the UN partitioned British Palestine and created two states. In its war against its neighbours, Israel captured many Arab lands and the rest of the Palestinian lands where taken by Egypt and the Transjordan kingdom (since then it became Jordan). Comprising less than 10% of the world’s Jewish population Israel was created as the homeland for all the Jews. The Jewish minority in Palestine (most of them where settlers born in Europe) took most of the country. Zionism managed to transform a persecuted people into Western colonialists. Zionism did not end with anti-Semitism. On the contrary, it produced the expulsion of most of the Jews from the Arab world (a region which had a much less anti-Jewish traditions than the West). Zionism became another form of anti-Semitism. A new state was created expelling and oppressing a Semitic people (the Palestinian Arabs).

Marxists need to address the Israeli Jewish working class. A big difference that we have with the Arab nationalists and fundamentalists is that they don’t want to create a bridge or form an alliance with the Jewish proletariat. We should support the Hebrew workers struggles for better wages and labour conditions, against privatisation and for de-militarisation and civic rights.

However, we need to understand that imperialism can create communal privileges amongst one ethnic section of the working class against another section. In South Africa and Northern Ireland the White or Unionist workers achieved better social conditions than the Black and Republican workers. Some of the most reactionary terrorist forces where recruited amongst that layer of privileged workers.

We need to address the most oppressed sections of the proletariat. The anti-Unionists in the six counties and the Black workers in South Africa are the vanguard of the anti-imperialist movement. The actions of these layers should influence workers from the privileged communities. The only way to win the workers from the oppressor states is to win them to solidarity with the most oppressed sections of society and to show them that, instead of maintaining their privileges, they need to fight together with all the working class against their common enemies: the capitalists.

Marxists are champions of the right of self-determination for every nation. However, we can deny such rights in some concrete circumstances, like when the national right of one community would clash with the rights of another community. In Northern Ireland and South that would mean an attack on the oppressed population. The same principle we apply to Israel. The Africa we are against the right of the Protestant Unionists and the Afrikaners to form their own states because, like the Israeli nation, they would have their inception in the oppression of the native population.

A society created around discrimination

While the Boers and Ulster Protestants can show that they were the majority of the population of some part of their lands for many centuries and that they had some historical-territorial continuity, the Israeli Jews only started to arrive to Palestine in this century. They arrived from all the corners of the planet. The Jews from Western or Eastern Europe, Yemen, Mesopotamia, Maghreb, Central Asia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, South Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Australasia, India or Ethiopia had different histories, cultures, histories, traditions, religious practices, languages and races. Some of them evolved in a near complete isolation from other Jewish communities. There are tens or even hundreds of different Jewish religious congregations. The only thing that unites all of them is their common belief in the first Testament and in a common vindication of the old Jerusalem faith.

Hebrew, a ‘dead’ classical language only used for religious rituals and education, was modernised and transformed into the new `national’ language. In order to develop Hebrew, Zionists undermined Ladino, the traditional Jewish mother tongue of the Jews in the Ottoman empire based in old Spanish, and Yiddish, the traditional European Jewish language based in old German. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, massively promoted Yiddish Publications, Higher Education institutions, schools and even set up a territory (Birobidjan) for the development of the Yiddish culture and language.

Arabic was the language spoken by the overwhelmingly majority of the population in Palestine until 1948. Around half of the Jews that came to Israel after 1948 came from Oriental countries where most of them had Arabic as their mother tongue. Like all discriminatory society Israel had a system based in different levels of privileges. The Arabs are the most oppressed. Among the Jews, Oriental Jews are oppressed by Azkanazim Jews of European origins. The Black Jews (Falasha) suffer racism and discrimination. The Chief rabbinate does not fully recognise Falasha as having Jewish status. They are a sort of inferior Jew.

Israeli society is also divided amongst religious believers. The most orthodox minority (like the small Naturei Carta) is against the Israeli state because they think that a Jewish state could only be created with a Messiah and that the actual one tries to eliminate the Jewish traditional community in order to create a modern secularised state. The majority of the orthodox (the `crows’) wants a fundamentalist Talmudic and segregationist state. They even attack non-orthodox Jews when they drive cars on the Sabbaths (holy Saturdays) or when they see women with `improper’ clothes. Many Israelis wants a modern and secularised life.

Most nation-states were created claiming the continuity of a people that lived in the assigned territory for many centuries. Most of the nations, despite having an official religion, adopted some secular and non-confessional legal basis. Pakistan was divided from India around religious allegiances. However, most of the people that inhabited Pakistan where the native population. In India Marxists are against the creation of Khalistan. A Sikh state could be based in a community that is the majority of the population of certain parts of the Punjab. However, it would be created under religious and segregationist/communalist basis and would became a reactionary tool against the most secularised Sikhs and the Indian population.

The Israeli nation cannot offer any territorial-historic continuity. Until the last century less than 5% or even 1% of Palestine where Jews. The Jews which arrived in that land had different histories and they and their immediate ancestors lived mainly in other countries or continents. Their only territorial claim to that land was that of descent from the old Israelis who inhabited that land 2,000 years ago. The Welsh, Gaelic and Bretons could claim Britain and even most of Western Europe because the Celts where the majority of the population 2,000 years ago. Different regions in the Balkans and Eastern Europe could have been claimed by Albanians, Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Germans, Hungarians, Turks or Polish because only one century ago they used to be the majority of the population. With this kind of territorial claims the Canaanites or the Philistines, who inhabited Palestine before the Jews -as the Bible related- bloody invaded them, could have better claims. In fact, The Palestinians can claim to be the direct descendants of them.

A Jewish state can be created only around some religious allegiances because that is the only thing in common that all Jews share. A secular state would mean a republic based on a constitution in which every citizen has equal rights. In the Bolshevik Soviet Union, Jews, who were only 2% of the people, were allowed to lead the Red Army, the two main Soviets and the ruling International Party. Would an Israeli entity allow an Arab to become Prime Minister, mayor of Jerusalem or chief of the army? This is impossible because the state is founded on religious segregation. A Jewish state in a territory that was populated by a heterogeneous Jewish minority for less than half a century and founded on the expulsion/oppression of its native population, can only survive by means of its Apartheid character.

Can we recognise the right of a Jewish nation?

Palestinians (and progressive Jews) should not recognise the right of Israel to exist. A two-state solution would imply that the Palestinians must renounce most of their lands from which they were pushed in the last five decades.

In Argentina, Australia and the USA the native population was largely wiped out and new modern White settler nations where created on the basis of massive European emigration. We cannot demand that these big countries should be given back to their original peoples. The indigenous populations where reduced to few hundreds of thousands. On the other side tens of millions now constitute industrialised societies. In these countries we defend the First Nations rights to use their mother tongue in their education and every day life, to have lands and even to achieve self-government in the areas that remain under their control.

Palestine does not offer the same scenario. The Zionists could not annihilate large chunks of the local population. There are more than four million Palestinians living under Israeli control or in neighbouring countries. The Palestinian working class and intelligentsia are among the Middle East’s most enlightened and militant ones. Palestinian fighters are at the forefront of the region’s anti-imperialist struggles. Palestinian demonstrations are a major source of inspiration especially for the hundreds of millions of Arab and Muslim masses.

The idea that the Arabs have to accept the colonist entity as a nation with the right to have its own state, is a demand to surrender made by the most pro-imperialist wings of the ruling classes. The left-wing Palestinians are resisting that capitulation. If the Arab left came to terms with Israel it would reinforce the Islamic fundamentalist attempt to monopolise the anti-Zionist Arab sentiment. That would be a colossal tragedy.

A bi-national Israeli/Arab State would be an unworkable contradiction. Palestine is the historical denomination of a territory. It does not have an exclusive, segregationist or religious connotation. Christians and Muslims, and even some non-Zionist Jews, also use that name. Israel means by its name the desire to create a separate and pure Jewish communalist state. It is possible to talk about a bi-national or bi-lingual country in Belgium or Wales. In these places different linguistic-cultural communities developed alongside each other without any strong degree of discrimination.

In Spain, Iran, the Andes, India and other countries it is possible to argue in favour of the right of self-determination for all its components or even for a multi-national federation. Basque, Kurds, Quechuas, Tamils are oppressed nationalities which had historical roots in territories in which they were the majority of the population for centuries.

A bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state would not be based on the equality of both communities. The Arabs have the worst jobs and not have the same rights as the Zionists. Israel and Aliya are inseparable. Israel needs to grant citizenship to every Jew no matter if he/she was born in Argentina or Australia and has never been before in the country. Israel provides housing, jobs and benefits to theJewish emigrants while the Arab native population are denied their rights to return to their lands or homes and they cannot have important positions in the state, the police or the army.

Marxists oppose Aliya. We are, of course, in favour of free frontiers and against people’s displacement. We want open borders for all the Jews, Gypsies and other peoples who suffer discrimination. However, we have to oppose colonialist emigration. We opposed the French or Italian attempts to resettle poor peasants or workers as colonial tools in Northern Africa. We rejected the Rabat’s kingdom mass march on Western Sahara because they wanted to solve a land problem in Morocco at the expenses of the Sarahui local population. A democratic secular Palestine should welcome citizens from all countries but they could not accept émigrés that try to create a segregationist state at the expense of the original people.

In Ecuador the Council of Indian Nations (CONAI) demand that this state should accept its multi-national character. The achievement of that goal would imply a great conquest for all the Indian peoples. In Palestine the native population is not fighting to be considered just one of several cultural and national components of the state. Israel is, by definition, based in a Jewish supremacist and segregationist platform and in the necessity to ethnically cleanse Palestine. The Palestinians are claiming their land back. Their historical aim was to refuse to recognise the state that deprived them of their lands and citizenship.

We are not in favour of a bi-cultural Northern Ireland or of a bi-national White/Black South Africa. It does not mean that we are in favour of a clerical Catholic all-Ireland or for expelling all the Whites from South Africa. It means that the former privileged community has to accept that they should stop considering the rest of the population as inferior and to accept that they should be an equal minority.

We are for the destruction of a purely Jewish segregationist and confessional state. But that does not mean that we want to drive all Jews into the sea or to support yet another genocide. We want to convince as many Jews as we can that the best thing for them is to unite with the Arab workers in order to create a secular non-religious and non-racist egalitarian republic.

The communists promoted the Yiddish culture and they designated a territory for Jewish colonisation. The Jews did not arrive in Birobidjan as a racist segregationist colonist who tried to exclude the native peoples. They coexisted peacefully with the locals. Today, for example, Birobidjan’s Slav majority is very keen in maintaining the Jewish identity of that country as a means of attracting investment, technology and people.

In countries where the Jews constituted a compact oppressed majority in some territories (like the Falasha in Ethiopia) it was possible to advocate their right of self-determination, including autonomy or separation. However that right could not be extended to a group of people that wants to come into a new country to ethnically cleanse the local population.

Zionism needs to trample on the rich cultural and linguistic traditions of the Arab, Ladino, Yiddish, Falasha and other Jewish communities in order to create a new Hebrew oppressive nation which is forged in bloodiest battles against the Arab natives. We need to emphasise the fact that the Israeli Jew community is, in fact, a multi-ethnic amalgam. Zionists try to unite them against a common enemy: the native Arab peoples. We should not help them in doing that.

We need to defend many of these communities against the Zionists attempts to deny some of their most progressive traditions (like the Yiddish working class movements) and its discriminatory conditions in Israel. Begin and Likud tried to use the Oriental Jew resentment against the Azkenazim in a reactionary way: trying to transform them into the most patriotic anti-Arab pro-Israeli force. We should address the oriental Jews explaining that their enemies are not the Arab neighbours or natives but the capitalists and Zionists.

A socialist, secular, multi-ethnic Republic.

Our demand is for a socialist, secular, multi-ethnic and democratic Palestinian republic. In that country there live scores of communities: non-religious Jews and Arabs, secularised Russian-speaking Jews, Ladino-speaking Jews, Yiddish-speaking Jews, Arab-speaking Jews, Hebrew-speakers; non-Talmudic Jews (Samaritans, Falasha, Karaite), as well as Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews; various Christian congregations (Armenians, Copts, Catholics (Roman and Orthodox); Maronnites, Protestants, etc.); Muslims (Shias, Sunni, etc.); Druses, Bedouins, Bahai, etc.

All these communities should have equal rights. No single community should impose its own religion onto the state. A secular constitution with a secular civic code should regulate their activities. There would not be special treatment for those of the same religion that come from other countries. Palestinians should have the right to return.

A democratic multi-ethnic Palestine could only be achieved as a result of a socialist revolution based on workers councils and militias. It would also be part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. In that context not only Palestinians would have the right to return but also Arab Jews would have the right to return to Syria, Morocco, Iraq and other Arab countries. Kurds, Assyrian and other nationalities would achieve self-determination and equal rights.

LCMRCI December 1998

Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 10:47 pm