DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

Working Class Political Theory - Israel, Palestine and The Lebanon

206 posts / 0 new
Last post
Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 2 2006 16:57

In the wake of the Paris Commune, Marx seems to conclude that national wars were over as far as Europe was concerned, having witnessed the unity of the German and French bourgeoisies against the Communards. This didn't mean that he had been mistaken to support movements like the the one for Italian reunification prior to that. Neither did he think that there was no possibility of progressive national wars in the regions outside the capitalist centres. The imperialist period really begins at this point, but precisely because it was a new phenomenon, it was not yet clear what form movements of resistance to imperialism in the peripheries would take. The 1914 war was a watershed because it made it clear that the world had already been divided up between the imperialist powers. Both Lenin and Luxemburg agreed on that. But whereas Lenin thought that national movements could still play a progressive role in weakening imperialism (although his position was much more nuanced than today's leftists), Luxemburg was much quicker in seeing that from now on such struggles would essentially be proxy wars between the great powers.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Sep 3 2006 00:01
joelalevitt wrote:
We evolved in an environment of scarcity, where fear is an essential characteristic. Still, I hope that you are right, and that I am wrong.

We evolved in an environment of scarcity, that is true, but human competition was based around the group. Humans, due to the long pregnancy and long childhood of the offpring are forced to be social animals. So whilst we may be competitive and anti-social, these are relics from competition in an age of scarcity that no longer exists (or at least only continues to do so due to inequality) whereas cooperation is fundamental. Humanity could not have survived without cooperation, competition whilst it has informed our behaviour for a long time, does not seem to me to have as strong a base. I am hopeful, or at least, I am sometimes.

Quote:
The character of my Bronx neighborhood arose because of the unifying experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. It has passed away, but I believe that, however transient, this has been the dominant character of many other locales and will be again.

I think that the character of my Bronx neighborhood was a function not of what was available to steal, but of my neighbors expectations. In the '50s, when I was an undergraduate, I sold five gallon cans of insecticide for $5 cash door-to-door in a area of Afro-American Harlem, where the police patrolled two-officers-to-a-car, two-cars-to-a-patrol. The entrances to the buildings there were always crowded by unemployed men, who had nothing better to do. Everyone knew that I was carrying cash, and it was apparent that I was defenseless. No one ever bothered me. Everyone knew that their neighbors expected them to be honest and to be proud of their honesty.

Well this is interesting, it's hard for me to disagree but the evidence of my own experience contradicts it. I don't have the information to analyse your experiences, but I will say that it seems as if it was due to ethical considerations that people behaved in a certain manner. I'm not sure if society is worse today, it often feels like it.

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Sep 3 2006 17:13
Alf wrote:
Felix: are you really curious or do you already think you know our answer?

Yes, we think that Marx was right to support some national struggles in his day. Fundamentally because creating new nation states was a precondition for the formation of a world economy and thus for the world revolution. Today the very existence of nation states is a source of endless war which, if it reaches its ultimate conclusion, could destroy all possibility of communism. What do you think?

Yeah, I did expect you would say something like that, but I don't find it very satisfactory. First of all, Marx didn't argue in favour of Irish independence because he wanted to develop capitalism in Ireland or create a world market. His main argument was that ending the occupation of Ireland would lessen the grip of nationalism over the English working class and weaken British militarism, something which would seem equally applicable to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Also, haven't nation states always been a source of endless war?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 3 2006 21:14

Felix: you're right that in the case of Ireland, this was often Marx's argument. I was referring to the overall understanding that Marx had of national struggles in his time. In any case, the support for an independent Ireland as a means of 'unblocking' the class struggle was not in contradiction with his idea that constituting new nation states could still be a factor of progress. When this is no longer the case, the possible benefits to the class struggle are also undermined. The question of 'endless war' is relevant here. By calling on workers to support national struggles in the Europe of say 1848 or 1864, Marx was not implicating them in a virtually permanent imperialist conflict which had lost all rationality and was threatening to destroy humanity.

But where are we going with this? Do you support the formation of a Palestinian state today?

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Sep 3 2006 22:43

I don't actually care if there will be a Palestinian state or not, but I do think it would be a good thing to end the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This would be good not just for purely humanitarian reasons, but also because it would help undercut the hold that nationalism and militarism has on people on both sides of the conflict.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Sep 4 2006 13:59

Revol, what is your position on the IRA. What is your position on "the battle of the Bogside"? Just remind me. You say there's no imperialist metropoles but "nodes" of imperialism; come on revol, you can do better than that surely? Or does your ambiguous analysis about "the reality on the ground" deny the existence of Washington, London, Paris, etc., etc., and the reality of all the bourgeois factions that plot, scheme and foment war within the framework of imperialism?
This is a fundamental theoretical question of method. The "reality on the ground" in the Middle East is imperialist war. That is the main, overriding reality and understanding that clearly provides the elements for the development of class consciousness.
Within this, there are many "realities on the ground" and one vital one, the one that holds the anti-thesis to imperialist war, is the development of class struggle, primarily in the major centres (or you could call them "nodes" if you wanted to be deliberately obscure and confusing) of capitalism, but independent action in and around the war zones would be a welcome development. There is a workers' terrain to fight on that doesn't exist in the abstract but has been demonstrated by masses of workers, time and again all over the world. It is fighting for its own interests with the solidarity needed to take on the ruling class.
In war zones this is more difficult but obviously not impossible judging from Palestine and Iraq in recent days.
The news we recieve is very well managed so that the appearance of "the reality on the ground" can be fine tuned by the bourgeosie either to strengthen nationalism or a support a particular imperialist interest or distort lessons of the class struggle (when they don't just ignore it). For example, during the miners' strike all the media were reporting about the police ranks being swelled by active soldier when in fact active soldiers were joining the strike in some numbers. The reality on the ground tells you nothing and is, at best, a snapshot that tends to take one into confusion and immediatism. A theoretical framework is essential for understand all the global and ever-changing "realities on the ground".
"Nodes... don't make me laugh.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Sep 4 2006 14:19
baboon wrote:
Revol, what is your position on the IRA.

Oh Revol's a notorous IRA supporter all right, why in Dublin he's popularly know as a wee chucky bastard. His habit of singing 'Come out you black and tans' (see http://www.chivalry.com/cantaria/lyrics/black-tans.html )at 3am at the Anarchist summer camps annoyed everyone so much that this summers one was cancelled to protest his rabid nationalism.

This thread is one of the funniest examples of where ivory tower leftism leads that I've seen in decades. Denounce each other a bit more for me.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Sep 4 2006 17:42

Hi

It's astonishing. I don't really understand the Internationalists' point to be honest. After all, even if revol68 is being inconsistent, Ludwig Wittgenstein went some way towards showing that contradictions do not count as flaws in a system of thought.

Love

LR

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Sep 4 2006 21:00
revol68 wrote:
Ahh see you've fallen into that terrible ambiguity that trapped me.roll eyes

Yeah, it must be the leftism of the dead generations that are weighing us down.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Sep 4 2006 21:33

Hi

Ho ho. But isn't refuting Internationalists' a bit easy for the likes of you Felix?

Felix Frost wrote:
I don't actually care if there will be a Palestinian state or not, but I do think it would be a good thing to end the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This would be good not just for purely humanitarian reasons, but also because it would help undercut the hold that nationalism and militarism has on people on both sides of the conflict.

I’m pretty sure that ending the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza implies a Palestinian state taking its place. I haven’t got a problem with that, but caring about one without the other seems like washing one’s hands of the practicalities.

I’m interested in your take on how nationalism and militarism will have less of a hold on the people post-Israeli withdrawal than it did before 1967. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Love

LR

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Sep 4 2006 23:44
Lazy Riser wrote:
I’m pretty sure that ending the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza implies a Palestinian state taking its place. I haven’t got a problem with that, but caring about one without the other seems like washing one’s hands of the practicalities.

I also assume that this will imply a Palesinian state, but I don't see any reason why I need to concern myself with such practicalities. Especially since these practicalities will in any case be decided by an agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian ruling classes.

The alternative put forward by a lot of leftists is the "one democratic state for everyone" model, or an Israeli/Palestinian confederation. I don't see this as realistic in the short term, but I wouldn't have a problem with it. Another fine solution would be to give the territories to Jordan, who used to claim them, but I'm afraid King Abdullah has decided that he has too many troublesome Palestinians in his country as it is. Perhaps they could set up a UN protectorate like Kosovo?

Quote:
I’m interested in your take on how nationalism and militarism will have less of a hold on the people post-Israeli withdrawal than it did before 1967. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

There was actually not that much Palestinian nationalism and militarism before 1967, and even less islamism (but admittedly a lot of Pan-arabism). The 67 war was between Israel and the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Both Egypt and Jordan have now normal relations with Israel, with Israelis going there for shopping or on vacation. Syria is more than willing to make a deal with Israel too, if they get the Golan Heights back.

So I think the hold these reactionary ideologies has on people can change rapidly, and has a lot more to do with the current political and social situation, than who massacred who in the 30'ies.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Sep 5 2006 00:00

Hi

That's great Felix thanks. It seems to me you have a uniquely common sense take on this, advocating a number of preferable scenarios rather than the usual vacuous blanket "against the occupation" line.

I'm the same as you. If everyone can live with the 1967 borders, two state solution, then that's cool enough.

I'm slightly more suspicious of its stability than you, but I've got nothing better up my sleeve. I’d imagine it would need a heavy UN peace-keeping force to keep it together.

Love

LR

joelalevitt
Offline
Joined: 31-08-06
Sep 5 2006 01:28

Lazy Rider,

I share your suspicions about the stability of a two-state Israeli/Palestinian solution. The understandable hatred felt by many Israelis and Palestinians will re-ignite conflict, unless the two states provide continuing tangible benefits to each others populations. Fortunately, there is ample opportunity for this to happen.

In Peace,

Joel

joelalevitt
Offline
Joined: 31-08-06
Sep 5 2006 02:26

Hi All,

In his response to my 010906 communication, Joseph K. seemed to me to be hopeless about improving the situation of the Palestinian and Israeli proletariat short of a final class revolution solution. Similarly, Alf wrote, … “the solution for the workers and the oppressed in Israel and Palestine does not lie in the formation of a new capitalist state, or two new capitalist states. … the only road to peace lies through the class war and a revolution against the present system.”

In my subsequent response, I argued that, human nature being what it is, no final solution to damaging class conflict is or ever will be possible. But, the ills of class conflict will be attenuated, as, through the advance of technology, more and more of the means of production become controlled (owned) by each individual.

I believe that there are some options for diffusing control that can be encouraged, today. These include: solid-state-solar and thermal power production; kitchen gardens, now more economically appealing because of available small scale agricultural power tools, and food coops, local retail establishments for the bulk purchase and resale of groceries, produce and meats.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about implementing Gandhi’s idea of establishing local manufacture to fill local needs.

In Peace,

Joel

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 5 2006 05:39
joelalevitt wrote:
Joseph K. seemed to me to be hopeless about improving the situation of the Palestinian and Israeli proletariat short of a final class revolution solution.

i don't think it's all or nothing, but action on nationalist grounds can only advance the interests of one 'nation' vis the other, and will most likely result in spirals of violence, whereas action based on class grounds has the potential to improve things all round.

joelalevitt wrote:
I argued that, human nature being what it is, no final solution to damaging class conflict is or ever will be possible

and like i say class is not a product of some fixed human nature, but of specific property relations maintained by the coercive force of the state, something even pro-private property Adam Smith readily admitted. Our 'human nature' is no more than a wide range of potentialities - we can't even say how/if a gene codes for a protein's tertiary structure (as opposed to it's constituent amino acids), let alone for whole tissues, organs or something as vast and contingent as social relations. Class is not 'natural', the belief that it is is understandable but one of the strongest ideoligical weapons capital has, kinda like "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he was an inevitable part of everyone", if you'll pardon my buggery of classic cinema wink

joelalevitt wrote:
I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about implementing Gandhi’s idea of establishing local manufacture to fill local needs.

local production has all sorts going for it on ecological grounds (lower 'food miles' etc), but in terms of fostering peacr it seems isolationist and parochial. i want to see a world human community, which neccessitates the abolition of class relations but would mean less work for all and neccessary solidarity if we had a global division of labour (but not like the current one where whole regions do virtual slave work while we get bored and surf the net in offices). And this isn't just 'after the revolution' utopianism, we can try and build the links and networls today which mke it possible tomorrow.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 5 2006 08:22

I go along with Joseph's reply. The class response is not utopian. It is the only one that can lead out of the labyrinth, even if it seems a very thin thread at the moment, and especially in the Middle East.

Holding on to the class response at all times will also guide us through the various 'solutions' that the ruling class comes up with. It's possible that a 'two state' solution will be concocted at some level. But we can never lose sight of the fact that it would be done by the enemy class for its own ends. The worst response by revolutionaries would be to forget the need for the autonomy of the class, the need to continue defending itself against the new arrangement of bourgeois power. Moments of 'democratic' and 'peace' euphoria are particularly dangerous in this regard (for example, in the period after the end of apartheid rule in South Africa).

joelalevitt
Offline
Joined: 31-08-06
Sep 5 2006 15:21

Joseph K. and Alf et al.,

Joseph, in your 050906 note you pointed out that both nature and nurture are important. I agree. I also agree with the point suggested in Jef Costello’s 020906 note, that while early humans manifested fear and competition, it was competition between groups of humans, which indicates the importance of equally time-honored cooperation.

We are then led to ask whether competition or cooperation, one, perhaps, being the product of nurture and the other, perhaps, of biology, can be eradicated by changing our nurturing culture? I think that they are both with us for all foreseeable time. We ought not see ourselves as so very different from other animals. If we look at the behavior and cultures of most apes, we find the same behavior as was manifested by early humans and which continues to be manifested today.

Even if a different nurturing system could extinguish competition, a government-like structure would probably be required to maintain that system. Stalin ran into this problem and required the Lysenko fraud, to establish that nurture could be converted to nature, before the withering away of the state becomes plausible.

If we shall continue to be both competitive and cooperative, then we have to recognize this before we can begin to increase the freedom and justice of our societies.

In Peace,

Joel

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 5 2006 15:40
joelalevitt wrote:
If we look at the behavior and cultures of most apes, we find the same behavior as was manifested by early humans and which continues to be manifested today.

but if we look at the behaviour of modern humans (e.g. Henrich et al) the behaviour of apes is not particularly important. The main demarcation between Homo sapiens and other animals is relative brain size, and it is the brain which has most to do with behaviour, so a common-sense appeal to look at how other animals behave is not very illuminating.

Competitive behaviour is a part of human behaviour, and you'd be hard pushed to find a libertarian communist who'd disagree. The same could be said for murder - people have been killing each other for thousands of years - but we don't make murder the organising principle of our society, and nor should we with competition.

And co-operation really doesn't require a coercive state to flourish over competition, in fact its the view of most free-marketeers that a coercive state is needed to prevent co-operation, between bosses as cartels and workers as a collective bargaining agent. So if anything it takes great violence to maintain a society founded on competition.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Sep 5 2006 16:05

In terms of human behaviour I don't think it is possible to do away with cooperation for the reasons I have already given. Now that we are no longer subject to evolution I think that we can do without competition, I'm not sure how to implement it though.
I did read a book that said that Children in the Soviet Union were taught to work cooperatively, is there any truth in this? It was a reference to a study but I never saw the study so I couldn't judge its efficiency.
I'm not proposing the USSR as a model btw, just wondering if they succeeded in fostering a greater cooperative mentality. (judging by the prodigious greed of the oligarchs I doubt it)

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Sep 5 2006 16:14

I still don't know what revol's position is on the IRA - though some of his mates seem to be in on the secret. And the "postive" slant put on the "battle of the Bogside" - what is that? We can learn a lot from the situation in Ireland at the end of the 60s (basically for me a bourgeois success story, particularly the British bourgeoisie) and the "reality on the ground" in the Middle East today.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Sep 5 2006 17:23

Hi

baboon wrote:
I still don't know what revol's position is on the IRA - though some of his mates seem to be in on the secret. And the "postive" slant put on the "battle of the Bogside" - what is that? We can learn a lot from the situation in Ireland at the end of the 60s (basically for me a bourgeois success story, particularly the British bourgeoisie) and the "reality on the ground" in the Middle East today.

Hey "baboon", get with the new beat. You Internationalists are so square, but baby, I don't care. Revol's position on the IRA is irrelevant. Correct, but irrelevant nonetheless. You should go back to my excellent Ludwig Wittgenstein post. It ushered in a new era of love and understanding.

Alf wrote:
But we can never lose sight of the fact that it would be done by the enemy class for its own ends.

True I suppose. Like the way they let you have your own website and everything.

Alf wrote:
Moments of 'democratic' and 'peace' euphoria are particularly dangerous

Dangerous to the bourgeoisie.

Love (and understanding)

LR

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Sep 14 2006 11:40

Revol, I want to come back to your position about "nodes". It's a bit late because I don't have ready access to the internet. I apologise for dismissing the idea of "nodes" out of hand because as a "lump", point of intersection, terminal or point in a network, it could be descriptive of the capitalist metropoles. Places where "a message can be created, reveived or repeated" according to the dictionary, are descriptions of the centres of capitalism. Imperialism begats imperialisms - I think this is a very useful analysis - and we can be concrete in naming them which goes beyond description. You like to be concrete and that's absolutely right if we want to explain our positions clearly. The capitalist metropoles of London, Washington, Moscow, Paris, and so on are easily identified imperialist metropoles; they are nation states and capitalism cannot go beyond nation states. And, as imperialism is also a process in movement (irrational and decaying, I would argue), we see its concrete manifestations in all the expressions of the nation states - not least their antagonisms, rivalries that are basically common to all and all that that entails. Nodes is not a bad description of the expressions of imperialism, but we can say much more than that.
I accept what you say about the IRA but Irish nationalism was the main force behind the "battle of the Bogside" and it was certainly the big winner from it (the working class lost).

Jason Cortez
Offline
Joined: 14-11-04
Sep 15 2006 19:54
Quote:
and that's absolutely right if we want to explain our positions clearly. The capitalist metropoles of London, Washington, Moscow, Paris, and so on are easily identified imperialist metropoles; they are nation states and capitalism cannot go beyond nation states.

London a nation state? capital contained by nation states? Your position is clear as mud.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Sep 15 2006 23:12

London is just a short hand term for British imperialism, like the White House for US imperialism and the Kremlin for Russian imperialism.

Capitalism cannot abolish the nation state despite all the mystifications about 'transnational' capitalism which are current in the 'anti-globalisation' milieu. There is certainly a contradiction between the global nature of the productive forces engendered by capitalism and the narrow confines of the nation state, but capitalism cannot resolve it. On the contrary, it manifests itself in a state of almost permanent imperialist war.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Sep 16 2006 02:21

Hi

I think this is true. But the ICC's transitionary programme allows for a temporary nation state under working class control. If we apply a modern systems-theory model of civilisation building, locally self sufficient economic legislatures are a prerequisite of progress.

Love

LR