The earth is not flat: a review of 'Against Nationalism'

David Broder of The Commune critiques the Anarchist Federation pamphlet Against Nationalism. We do not agree with the critique but reproduce it as part of a constructive debate.

by David Broder

Against Nationalism is a pamphlet produced by the Anarchist Federation. The introduction explains that the document has its origins in arguments around the time of the winter 2008-09 war in Gaza, at which time AF argued for a 'no state' solution to the conflict.

The pamphlet scores a number of easy points against Trotskyist cheerleaders for movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas and details such groups' anti-working class credentials. However the far more interesting question posed by the pamphlet is the distinction between 'nationalism', 'resisting imperialism' and 'class politics'.

How did nation(alism)s come about?

"The nation is a smokescreen, a fantasy which hides the struggle between classes which exists within and across them. Though there are no real nations, there are real classes with their own interests, and these classes must be differentiated. Consequently, there is no single ‘people’ within the ‘nation’, and there is no shared ‘national interest’ which unifies them."

The pamphlet explains in some detail the consolidation of European nation states in line with the development of capitalism in the 16th to 19th centuries. Factors like the invention of the printing press and the establishment of a central state bureaucracy, added to the bourgeois-democratic ideas of popular sovereignty and citizenship, were the underpinning of the nation-state. Nation-states are not just an outgrowth of some common culture but a top-down project of galvanising the population behind the apparatus of the capitalist state.  Many of the arguments here are similar to those in Imagined Communities.

Yet here Against Nationalism explains the development of nationalism wholly in terms of the development of European nation-states hundreds of years ago, even though its main polemical target is left-wing support for anti-imperialist nationalist movements. But the criteria explaining the consolidation of the French nation state tell us little about the formation of Palestinian nationhood, nor Irish nor Algerian, nor any nation subject to colonialism.

Of course, if you think that all nationalisms are the same then this would appear not to matter. But this merely divorces particular nationalisms from their historic roots and thus makes them impossible to understand, whether or not one thus attributes them progressive characteristics. This is a common failing of anarchist and Trotskyist schemas on the national question alike. But the earth is not flat, not all nation-states have the same basis for existence. For example, it is easy to think of many Third World nationalisms which emerged not from the gradual development of an industrial bourgeoisie who wanted to strengthen the apparatus of state, but rather as a reaction to imperialist rule.

This also relates to how we relate to everyday nationalist assumptions. AF also point to the fact that although a social construct, this set-up is presumed to be a natural state of affairs, "Whenever we involve ourselves in everyday life, we find ourselves defined in national terms… The division of the world’s population into distinct nations and its governance accordingly is a given, and seems as straightforward as anything occurring in nature."

This argument does not only reveal that allegiance to a particular nation-state is an example of alienation, where we are ruled by attachment to social constructs which are not natural. It also shows that the national question has a real impact in the real world and cannot just be sidestepped. It is not merely a capitalist 'smokescreen' external to the mass of people, but rather a real factor in most people's consciousness. Money is as much of a social construct as freedom from national oppression. So too is the whole idea of democratic 'rights'.  But that does not mean we do not want more of all three.

The national question and nationalists

The very fact that imperialism and states exist and create a national question means that it is real and not a fantasy. Palestine has never been a united, independent nation-state. So that might make one think the idea of Palestinian nationhood is a fake. But the Palestinians do have a shared culture and identity, because they have lived the common experience of subjugation by the Israeli state, which they commonly want to stop, and their national cause has developed accordingly.

Attempts to dismiss the national question are also problematic insofar as they sustain Eurocentric illusions in our rulers' internationalism. Against Nationalism comments 'By the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, the idea that each ‘people’ had a moral right to their own nation-state was solidly established. The concerns about viability which defined earlier debates had disappeared. It was now a right of ‘peoples’, defined in whichever way, to a state of their own.'

This is an utterly mistaken view of the world as it was 100 years ago, and even today. At the end of the Nineteenth Century the majority of the world population were the subjects of colonial empires. The argument that these people could not govern themselves – and needed a civilising mission – was a commonly accepted justification for empire, not least among socialists such as Henry Hyndman and many leaders of Germany's SPD.

Even though Brown, Obama etc. no doubt consider themselves liberal internationalists, we hear echoes of the same
attitude today – the endless occupation of Afghanistan and repeated US interventions in Haiti are also justified with the rhetoric of stopping contagion from 'failed states'. Not subjectively racist, not unwilling to co-operate with local elites, the leaders of the imperialist countries do nonetheless hold the assumption that certain states have the right to lord it over the world, and invade other countries, whereas others are irresponsible threats to the current world order, who ought to know their place.

True enough that freedom from the imperialist yoke may not bring peace. When the British left India there was a bloodbath. If the troops left Afghanistan, forces even worse than Hamid Karzai's government might take over. If the US troops had not intervened in Haiti after the recent earthquake the government would have collapsed entirely. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: imperialism has shaped the world in its own image, and has created a 'stability' based on imperial domination which if disrupted could have 'chaotic' consequences.  Against Nationalism sidesteps this question, however. AF demand the troops leave Afghanistan yet also argue that national independence is pointless and will merely produce more warfare, asserting that nationalist forces are proto-states and thus bound to produce renewed oppression upon victory.

This is to ignore the distinction between a national cause – the struggle against national oppression and thus some limited extension of popular sovereignty – and a particular nationalist movement. Support for the Palestinians does not have to entail support for Hamas, even if it is Hamas who most ardently fight the Israeli state, and we must strongly oppose Hamas sexism, homophobia and hostility to strikes. The reverse is also true: nor do these actions on the part of Hamas somehow taint and render untouchable the Palestinian national movement, as Zionists who appeal to liberal public opinion would have us believe.

In this sense, conflating a particular nationalist grouping with all 'national' movements, AF in part mirror the mistake of groups like the SWP who cheerlead for Hezbollah. Such Trotskyist ideas are typified by Leon Trotsky's 1938 argument that in the hypothetical case of a war between fascist Brazil and 'democratic' Britain, he would support fascist Brazil, since the alternative was the British imposing 'their' fascism on Brazil in place of the existing dictator Vargas. But what he does not explain is why Brazilian communists should 'mediate' their opposition to the British via the existing state apparatus and a regime which would deny them any space for political action. This position has been mimicked repeatedly for decades, for example in some groups' support for the wars of Saddam Hussein and Argentina's General Galtieri.

Are all states imperialist?

One of the main themes of Against Nationalism is that there are not a few imperialist states, but rather that all nation states are imperialist. This does relate to one relevant point worth making, namely to combat the idea that there are 'good peoples' and 'bad peoples'. The pamphlet argues that the fundamental equivalence of all nation-states is because the interest of every state is to advance the interest of its 'own' capitalism.

"The state negotiates access for domestic companies to resources, investment, trading and expansion abroad. The success of this process brings profits flowing back into the country in question and by enriching its business and the ‘national economy’, the state secures the material basis of its own power: it increases its own resources, wealth and ability to project itself. It is therefore not simply a puppet of ‘corporate interests’, but is an interested party in its own right."

The Commune often argues that we should not advocate statist measures, or some sort of 'socialist' control of the state, since in reality the state works in the interests of the capitalist class as a whole. However, as I have argued in a previous piece on imperialism and populism in Latin America, the analysis underlying that position needs more definition.

To take an unambiguous, if not typical, example, in Colombia it is not really the case that the government and the state advance the general and long term interests of the Colombian capitalist class. A very small elite, dependent on alliance with multinational corporate interests own the vast majority of land and sell natural resources at below-market prices. They systematically underdevelop infrastructure. There are railway lines straight from the mines to the coast for the purpose of exports, but not much of a passenger train service. The US had a similar relation to Fulgencio Batista's Cuba in the 1950s, and that is why Fidel Castro could appeal to a 'national' sentiment even though Cuba already had formal political independence.

In such circumstances a government of state-capitalist development would totally undermine the existing elite by rendering inoperable its dependent alliance with US imperialism: that is why in return for its many favours its rule is protected by seven US military bases and huge funding for the paramilitary drive against the FARC rebels. There is a long history of coups within Latin American ruling classes, including recently in Venezuela and Bolivia, as the result of such tensions among the capitalist class.

The mere fact of international alliances or promoting 'ideology' does not make a state imperialist. Colombia is not imperialist but its rulers are little but proxies of US imperialism. Where is the Bolivian, or Congolese, or Afghan corporation which gets cut-price privatised resources and controls foreign governments in the manner that American ones can?  The reason is that the US state is massively more powerful than all others, indeed to the extent that they are the lynchpin of all international treaties and the only power that can act with total impunity and with no fear of meaningful sanctions.

This is, I repeat, not because there are 'good peoples' and 'bad peoples', but because of capitalist interests. But there is an established hierarchy of nation-states which orders the world capitalist system. The WTO, IMF, UN etc. all express the existing relations of dominance. It would not be somehow metaphysically 'better' for the US, EU and China to swap places in the ranks the preponderant powers, or to 'reverse the poles of national oppression'. But it is meaningless to oppose slogans such as support for the Palestinians or Haitians on the ground that they might somehow be elevated to the ranks of imperialist powers.

Gender, race and national oppressions

There are oppressions and divisions of labour which structure capitalism other than straightforwardly defined social class. These are facets of an alienated anti-human class society but are not simply binaries of class: for example, the division of labour and power in society to the disadvantage of women; the differing roles migrant workers as opposed to 'British-born' workers (as well as overt racism); homophobia and sexual repression.

There are different responses to such questions, but most left groups would consider their own to be one of 'class politics' rather than 'identity politics'. As opposed to merely rendering the ruling class more 'diverse' – more black people on company boards, more women MPs – they stress the importance of working-class unity across gender, national, racial etc. lines. Normally this would be coupled with some alternative approach to organising (collective, democratic, in unity with other workers) as opposed to liberal lobbyist organisations like the Fawcett Society.

Nonetheless, in spite of these different approaches to organising, fundamentally these struggles do not only affect workers, and go beyond the mere economic structures of class society. For example, a socialist feminism is not just 'equality with men', but one which challenges fundamentally the hierarchies and alienation in society, including those rooted in capitalism but also those within the working class and left organisations. It is much more than trade union militancy which happens to include women, as well as being far removed from radical feminism.

So too can the national question be defined in terms other than those of divisionism and bigotry. Communists do not have to simply tail nationalist militias nor grant them sole ownership of the struggle over national oppression. For example, mass collective action rather than terrorism; effective direct action  in the imperialist countries against wars and multinationals rather than liberal lobbying of MPs or peaceful protest marches; attempts on the part of the oppressed to appeal for solidarity from soldiers and civilians in the imperialist countries; and so on.

What are 'class politics'?

The slogan, as perpetrated by the likes of the Socialist Party (and in their own way, the ICC), that all workers should organise together irrespective of their gender, race and nationality, is an inadequate response to the question. Even if desirable, it is not incumbent on black workers to wait on unity with white workers before they can take action against racism. Just like 'Black and white, unite and fight', the idea of Palestinian and Israeli workers' unity is a fine ideal: but cynical deprecation of the existing Palestinian movement, and demanding of it that it wait forever on the support of the Israeli working class, is illusory. Workers in imperialist countries and underdeveloped ones cannot just unite around wage demands and common material interests: imperialism is a class question, and too much of the British labour movement is on the wrong side.

Against Nationalism asserts that "It is through mass struggle that consciousness develops. Under capitalism, ‘pure’ struggles rarely exist. It is through struggle in the defence of material working class interests, related to material demands – more pay, less hours, access to services, eventually against work and capitalism altogether – that the bonds of nationalism can be severed by posing the incompatibility of our needs with the needs of capitalism to stay profitable. The separate interests of classes become apparent in such struggles, and the ability to draw the conclusion that the capitalist system itself must be destroyed can and has spread like wildfire."

Thus underlying the pamphlet is the assumption that better living conditions and more welfare are 'class questions', and fighting for these is the way to develop consciousness of the need to overthrow capitalism. Nationalism (and presumably, gender oppression and racism…) melt away with the advent of militancy. This is very similar to the politics of the Socialist Party – everything is reduced to 'class politics'. Nowhere do AF advocate, for example, what kind of means the oppressed should use to combat imperialism itself, only abstractly advocating a struggle against capitalism.

This kind of attitude is wrong for three reasons. Firstly, there are plentiful examples of workers militant in the struggle for their own interests but sectional and indifferent to other oppressions. Indeed, the dockers who marched in support of Enoch Powell in 1968 – which gets a mention in Against Nationalism – were very militant in the fight against their own bosses. There is a very long and deep history of protectionism, 'skilled-ism' and chauvinism in the British labour movement, and even more so in American trade unions. The Lindsay oil refinery strike's slogan 'British Jobs for British Workers' was not particularly new, even in the miners' strike there was much waffle about the British miners being best in the world.

Secondly, economic interests are neither the only concern of the working class nor the only way in which class exists. To again take the most obvious and extreme case in point, Israeli and Palestinian workers cannot unite and fight over workplace concerns: the disparity between them is huge, and most Israeli workers are pretty happy about that; they do not have common employers and most Palestinians are not employed as workers at all; and the single most important oppression in both countries, tying the Israeli workers' interests to those of the Israeli state and affecting everyday life in Palestine, is the Israeli state's merciless oppression of the Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land, water and resources. If your home is demolished, if your union is terrorised by US-backed paramilitaries, or you cannot have your children educated in your own language, then national oppression structures your whole existence. It is crude indeed to try and displace the movement against such attacks in favour of workplace organisation on 'class struggle'
grounds.

Thirdly, obtaining a better position for the working class in capitalist society is not communistic as such. It may help build a movement or build people's confidence and solidarity such as to overthrow capitalism: that could result from a national struggle as much as one for higher wages and shorter hours. But AF simply have no strategy for national or anti-imperialist struggles. Ever-better working conditions and a bigger welfare state will not eventually 'open out' into a stateless, moneyless society either: in fact, the communist project is one which seeks to dissolve class relations and hierarchies in society, not merely advance a 'militant' workers' movement. Higher wages or more public services do not fundamentally challenge class society any more than other particular struggles nor necessarily prove the common interests of all workers.

Conclusion

Against Nationalism draws very broad lessons from a few specific cases, dismissing the importance of fighting national oppression on its own terms, but rather 'militarism, nationalism and war'. Rather than addressing the national question it papers it over with vague references to proper class politics. Essentially, it lacks any solution to national oppression other than general advocacy of getting rid of capitalism.

But there can be a communist approach to the national question which neither supports elitist nationalist groups –
who merely want their 'seat at the table', equality with other states – nor ignores the need to combat national oppression on its own terms.

It is quite possible to call for the independence of a country, and oppose the exploitation of its resources by multinationals, with a movement which does not ally with state-capitalist or Islamist national movements; which is based on mass collective action and not on suicide bombings or deals with this or that other power; which does not construct new relations of oppression or a new state apparatus. Fleetingly this was attempted in the Ukrainian revolution, both Hungarian revolutions and the Kurdish workers' councils of 1991, and today in the indigenous Minga movement in Colombia.

There is nothing about the idea of 'nationhood' which any more than gender or race binds a movement to bourgeois politics: that is merely part of the projects of certain forces arising in opposition to imperialism. Communists must not sideline or dismiss the national question in order to solely focus on 'class politics', but rather confront all such obstacles to a truly human society head-on.

Comments

Caiman del Barrio
Apr 29 2010 02:52

This is an interesting pamphlet, and it is to be commended for its attempt to reorient itself towards the postcolonial world(s). However, for all its attempts to extract itself from the Trotskyist swamp, I don't see how this:

Quote:
True enough that freedom from the imperialist yoke may not bring peace. When the British left India there was a bloodbath. If the troops left Afghanistan, forces even worse than Hamid Karzai's government might take over. If the US troops had not intervened in Haiti after the recent earthquake the government would have collapsed entirely. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: imperialism has shaped the world in its own image, and has created a 'stability' based on imperial domination which if disrupted could have 'chaotic' consequences.

...squares with standard 'anti-imperialist' dogma of supporting national independences. Moreover, extrapolating the logic of oppression being felt on terms, then were the anti-imperialist struggles which brought the types of societies defined by Mugabe and the Taliban really worth it?

In the end, I think the best solution for imperialist war and domination is, as you say,

Quote:
For example, mass collective action rather than terrorism; effective direct action in the imperialist countries against wars and multinationals rather than liberal lobbying of MPs or peaceful protest marches; attempts on the part of the oppressed to appeal for solidarity from soldiers and civilians in the imperialist countries; and so on.
davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 06:56
davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 11:25

@ Caiman del Barrio

1. Lots of national independence movements do not have bad outcomes, and of course we can only ask what would happen if the occupiers etc. stayed in charge. In the thread below the original AF pamphlet, someone said that the supporters of Palestinian independence should ask themselves why that is so worthwhile given what happened in various Stalinist-ruled countries who won independence. Well, equally, might not the people of e.g. Ghana, Tanzania, Tunisia etc. not be glad they did not suffer the same fate as the Palestinians?

2. The national question will not easily go away, so presumably the role of communists in e.g. India after 1947 would have been to argue against partition, against religious etc. chauvinisms in politics, and try and shape the outcome. Saying independence doesn't matter or is bad would have been wrong (what if the British had stayed?) and totally cut them off.

3. It is very useful for Third World leaders to be able to allege imperialist interference (whether real or imagined) and imperialism thus stifles the prospect of seeing the national bourgeoisie for what it is. Sanctions against Iran are very useful propaganda for Ahmedinejad, for example.

4. Continued imperialist interventions and insufficient resolution of national oppression can feed even worse leaders and more militant chauvinism. E.g. the failure of the secular/populist left in Lebanon and Palestine has opened the way for Hamas and Hezbollah, whereas in Afghanistan the Taliban are strengthened and winning support because they are the only people fighting the troops. Who do have a really terrible influence on a lot of people's lives. In such cases it would surely be better for communists to present an alternative anti-imperialism, rather than just organise workplaces, in order to undercut their 'own' country's chauvinists.

davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 13:57

I don't see why that's interesting. What insight does it give?

"The struggle against Israel begins with the struggle against Palestine; and for the Israeli's: the struggle against Palestine begins with the struggle against Israel" is, to coin a phrase, pretentious waffle. I can play that game too. La spectacularisation du monde est la mondialisation du spectacle. Fun.

The question is not 'who is more proletarian?' (what does that even mean?) but rather how we fight the many and different ways in which people are oppressed.

This is just meaningless: "Even this formulation is flawed and we are sceptical about it, but we make it to build bridges wrth the conventions of this milieu, at least it's a counter to nationalism." The point of communist politics is not to be seen to adopt 'correct' postures but to analyse and change the reality we find ourselves in. Which starts from taking stock of what that reality is.

Quote:
How can you say there can be a communist approach to the national question?

Well, perhaps you didn't read my article but I did try and explain. I would have thought it obvious, much as there are communist approaches to the state, money, gender, racism...

What you are advocating seems to be that the Palestinians should just wait for the Israeli working class to join forces with them... although even to say that is to exaggerate the extent to which you are proposing any strategy. What would the movement you suggest look like, how is it different from what I propose?

davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 14:30
Quote:
Quote:
Communists must not sideline or dismiss the national question in order to solely focus on 'class politics'
which I totally disagree with.

But in the article I also explain the problem of seeing class politics as just economics and why other things structure class society other than class.

davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 14:31

Also it has absolutely nothing to do with Leon Trotsky or Trotskyism, in fact the positions of the Trot group I was once a member of, the AWL, are in many ways closer to yours than mine on this question.

davidbroder
Apr 29 2010 14:49
Quote:
Why? Are you arguing that they don't have the potential to become 'imperialist' powers?

Pretty much. If Haiti occupied the position in the world hierarchy of states the US does now, it wouldn't really be Haiti, and of course someone else would occupy its own subordinate position. There have always been a very small number of states at the heart of international institutions etc.

Also it's like asking 'can white people be subject to racist attacks?' 'can men be subject to sexism?'. Well, yes. I think racist attacks on white people are deplorable. But when that spectre is invoked it just smothers in abstractions the real, structural racism in society.

Much as how in Israeli-Palestinian relations, the constant media cacophony about Arab anti-semitism and 'terrorism' (both of which are deplorable) creates a totally false impression that the Israeli state is just defending itself, or 'they're all as bad as each other'/'religious nutjobs' and other defences of the status quo.

Quote:
It doesn't make any difference if one state is wealthier/more powerful than another to us as communists. What matters is the conditions that the working classes in those nations find themselves in and how they fight for their needs, rather than the needs of the 'oppressed nation'.

But surely it does matter if a group of people, a nation, are forced to live in worse conditions because of their nationality? Denied equal access to resources and land? Denied the right to educate their kids in the language they want? (obv. not all references to Isr/Pal) Maybe it doesn't matter to us that there's not more women in boardrooms and black MPs, but it does matter that people are subject to different treatment because of their gender, race or sexuality.

Quote:
But I think you're missing the point here. When Palestinian workers fight for their own needs, then I would support them, in the same way I would support Israeli workers doing the same, but I wouldn't make the mistake of conflating their needs with those of a nation.

But all Palestinians are oppressed because of their nationality. Much as all black people can be subject to racism. Fighting against the Israeli occupation is fighting for their needs, it is fighting to make life more tolerable. All sorts of struggles are not anti-capitalist as such but do make life more tolerable.

As I outlined, there is a more 'class struggle' version of fighting that oppression (mass, collective, not reliant on elites or just changing the composition of the ruling class) but I support 'the Palestinians', not just Palestinian workers, against the Israeli state. As I also mentioned, most Palestinians are not 'workers'.

posi
Apr 29 2010 15:27
jmmer wrote:
It doesn't make any difference if one state is wealthier/more powerful than another to us as communists. What matters is the conditions that the working classes in those nations find themselves in and how they fight for their needs, rather than the needs of the 'oppressed nation'.

but obviously, for example, the major influence on the conditions of working class (and subaltern) Palestinians, Tamils, etc. is the imperialism/colonialism/national oppression to which they are subject. This position amounts to (though obviously no one says this): "at risk of being shot or beaten on a daily basis due to your nationality? Family's land being expropriated due to your nationality? Not allowed to speak your language? Ignore that - go on strike for higher wages!"

The nation is no more of an abstraction than class. The point of class isn't that it's "more real", but that it's especially privileged as a bearer of communist agency. Gender and race aren't so privileged either, but I think most of us accept (indeed, positively advocate) movements against oppression based on these categories, and advocate that such movements take place on the basis of a class analysis.

The problem with the ICC/AF position is that while they are (presumably) against national oppression, they admit of no possible perspective for a movement against it. I think what David's saying - and what I believe - is that:

a) there must be movements against real national oppression
b) that there must be such movements is not conditional on the support of the working class of oppressor nation-states.
c) but that such movements must - communists advocate - take place on a class (i.e. internationalist) basis.

(Incidentally, some people are equating any national movement with an attempt to establish an independent state. Often that's true, but for most/much of their existence the SPLM/A and PLO were for national rights - i.e. an end to national oppression - within the existing state. I believe the PKK, or whatever it's officially called now, is still primarily for national rights.)

By the way, 3 of the 12 pages of the latest paper are taken up with concrete, empirical critiques of national liberation movements - in Namibia (Jade McClune), South Africa (Adam Ford) and Palestine (Aitemad Muhanna).

http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/terre%E2%80%99blanche-%E2%80%98black-boers%E2%80%99-and-the-class-war/

http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/gender-nation-class-and-the-first-intifada/

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 15:35
posi wrote:
The problem with the ICC/AF position is that while they are (presumably) against national oppression, they admit of no possible perspective for a movement against it.

this is a caricature. for example Against Nationalism includes one of the AF leaflets that spawned it, which explicitly states:

AF wrote:
That this seems like a ‘difficult’ solution does not stop it from being the right one. Any “solution” that means endless cycles of conflict, which is what nationalism represents, is no solution at all. And if that is the case, the fact that it is “easier” is irrelevant. There are sectors of Palestinian society which are not dominated by the would-be rulers – protests organised by village committees in the West Bank for instance. These deserve our support. As do those in Israel who refuse to fight, and who resist the war. But not the groups who call on Palestinians to be slaughtered on their behalf by one of the most advanced armies in the world, and who wilfully attack civilians on the other side of the border.
posi
Apr 29 2010 16:03

yeah, but:

a) that appears as an ad hoc stipulation, there's no general theoretical perspective of which that is an example. What would a movement made up of such supportable resistance be called and would you support it as a whole?

And how would you possiby square such support with flat-footed statements like this:

AF wrote:
We do not see a world of nations in struggle, but of classes in struggle. The nation is a smokescreen, a fantasy which hides the struggle between classes which exists within and across them.

... you'd be supporting a struggle based upon fantasy, or a smokescreen, it would make no sense.

AF wrote:
The ‘national interest’ is simply the interest of capital within the country in question

... so the interest of capital within Palestine is expressed by the Popular Struggle committees? Or the Popular Struggle committees do not express any 'national interest'? Which? (Or is it true that there are - if you will - "national interests", plural, intersected by class, gender, etc. etc?) Whichever, there's no articulation of the answer in the AF position which helps us to understand why and on what grounds Popular Struggle should be supported... btw, I agree it should be supported, but it is strictly a (working class-petit bourgeois) coalition, and you should be aware of that.

b) you yourself, on another thread, referred to particpants in such protest - on reflection only those waving Palestinian flags - as "national liberationists", thereby implicitly placing them in the same category as Hamas etc. This is because you, also, have no general theoretical account of what elements of national resistance are suportable and why.

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 16:17
posi wrote:
What would a movement made up of such supportable resistance be called and would you support it?

er, if it's supportable resistance supporting it seems pretty circular. why is what it's called and not what it is important? certainly we shouldn't muddy the waters further with our terminology, nor perpetuate obfuscations spun by nationalists if that's what you're getting at.

posi wrote:
... you'd be supporting a struggle based upon fantasy, or a smokescreen, it would make no sense.

a struggle against racism, expropriation, violence and so on is not an inherently 'national' struggle, it's leftists/nationalists insisting it is which is the smokescreen. proletarians struggling to defend or improve their material conditions is an aspect of class struggle*, conflating this into 'national liberation' serves no purpose for communists (even if the protagonists in the struggle wave national flags - what is important is what the struggle is not what it is labelled. if participants identify their material needs with 'the nation' that's something communists should be trying to unpick rather than propogate).

* petit-bourgeois proprietors resisting expropriation are also waging a class struggle on behalf of their class interests

posi wrote:
you yourself, on another thread, referred to particpants in such protest - on reflection only those waving Palestinian flags - as "national liberationists", thereby implicitly placing them in the same category as Hamas etc. This is because you, also, have no general theoretical account of what elements of national resistance are suportable and why.

if i was going to criticise someone's theoretical position, i'd definitely source my quotes from a post about people dressing up as characters from a shit hollywood blockbuster (in fact the Na'vi analogy is massively problematic for a whole host of reasons, not least that Palestinian society is not some idealised noble savage utopia but a desparately impoverished society ruled by various murderous, wealthy cliques - covering that over with a national flag is not something communists should be doing).

Boris Badenov
Apr 29 2010 16:27
davidbroder wrote:
1. Lots of national independence movements do not have bad outcomes

Any examples?

posi
Apr 29 2010 16:31

Some other bits in a similar vein,

AF wrote:
'national oppression’ has nothing to do with class struggle

ah, ok. So remind us why you support Popular Struggle then? Is it that you don't support it, or that you support opposition to some things which have nothing to do with class struggle? Well, apparently...

AF wrote:
Class struggle, in the arena of war and in the antagonist nations is the only strategy we can support if we seek a world without wars – of national liberation or otherwise.

So the Popular Struggle committees are "really" class struggle, are they?

But wait! If they are, then surely they are class struggle in response to national oppression? OK. But the earlier quote denies that national oppression can have anything to do with class struggle... so what's up?

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 16:41

Posi, you could at least quote things in context rather than plucking 9 words from the middle of a sentence. the quote reads:

Against Nationalism wrote:
Following the logic of support for national liberation struggles, and the need to discover a proxy to support, leftists will often cheer-lead the regimes of states which are subject to the machinations of Western Imperialism. However, ‘national oppression’ has nothing to do with class struggle, and the support for regimes which are active in the suppression of ‘their’ workers and the persecution of minorities in the pursuit of ‘anti-imperialist’ politics is completely reactionary.

i think in that context it's quite clear what's being said. if people are being oppressed on the grounds of their national status, either as migrants or in an occupied territory, that may or may not have something to do with class struggle. for example a tax on a given nationalities businesses would be national oppression, but of no interest to communists. it would have been accurate to say 'national oppression per se has nothing to do with class struggle, although sometimes nationality provides the grounds to attack workers...' but in the context it's quite clear that the AF are saying treating an oppressed national entity as a single bloc only benefits the rulers of said nation. that is correct, and communists should be unpicking their mystifications, not perpetuating them.

posi
Apr 29 2010 16:56
Quote:
er, if it's supportable resistance supporting it seems pretty circular. why is what it's called and not what it is important? certainly we shouldn't muddy the waters further with our terminology, nor perpetuate obfuscations spun by nationalists if that's what you're getting at.

Nah, I'm just implying that you aren't willing to create a general category for it. You're positively nervous about the prospect of having clear theory on the point, because you're concerned about anything which smacks of a concession to the trots.

JK wrote:
posi wrote:
... you'd be supporting a struggle based upon fantasy, or a smokescreen, it would make no sense.

a struggle against racism, expropriation, violence and so on is not an inherently 'national' struggle, it's leftists/nationalists insisting it is which is the smokescreen. proletarians struggling to defend or improve their material conditions is an aspect of class struggle*, conflating this into 'national liberation' serves no purpose for communists (even if the protagonists in the struggle wave national flags - what is important is what the struggle is not what it is labelled. if participants identify their material needs with 'the nation' that's something communists should be trying to unpick rather than propogate).

* petit-bourgeois proprietors resisting expropriation are also waging a class struggle on behalf of their class interests

But this is total nonsense, as much as "there is no class struggle, there are merely people seeking better lives". The oppression happens on grounds of nationality, and the category of nationality is created through the oppression (which the pamphlet has difficulty recognising, because the general theory of the nation is historicised by referenc to 15th-18th Century Europ.) Class is not in outline different. Class exists precisely because of the structural oppression to which its members are subject, and because the membership of the class leads to being subject to that oppression.

Their material needs really are bound up with the nation, insofar as - i.e. to the extent that - whilst structural national oppression exists, they themslves will be subject to it. Consider the case we're talking about. It is totally inconceivable that the villages in question should keep their land, not be at risk of incursions, beating, shooting, stolen water, have freedom of movement, etc. whilst the occupation continues. How could that possibly happen? You're talking in abstractions.

"National liberation" is not a category introduced by me, or David. It's a term of art on libcom - introduced in its current sense by the ICC - and is defined in the pamphlet as a movement for a nation state. You're the only one conflating it with anything, not me. And the reason that you're so conflating it is that you have no means to decribe a struggle based on nation as anything other than a project of state or proto-state conflict. And that, itself, is because of a limited analysis of reality, such as that contained in the AF pamphlet.

It is equally ridiculous to assert that the category is imposed by leftists, when in fact it is asserted most strongly by the people involved themselves.

And are you really saying that everything is reduced to class interests? So is there no such thing as gender oppression or sexism, there are only proletarians who have class interests against all the individuated instances in which they are oppressed which are related to their gender? "Feminism" would therefore be unnecessary and potentially reactionary...

Finally, see my previous post, which quotes the AF unambiguously disassociating class struggle and national oppression.

(Serious question btw: do you accept that there is such a thing as national oppression? i.e. are you really saying people are never oppressed on ground of their nationality?)

JK wrote:
if i was going to criticise someone's theoretical position...

Whatever. The point is that you have no language to talk about the real world categories you want to.

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 17:07
posi wrote:
Nah, I'm just implying that you aren't willing to create a general category for it. You're positively nervous about the prospect of having clear theory on the point, because you're concerned about anything which smacks of a concession to the trots

thanks for the pyschoanalysis. completely wide of the mark, but thanks for reading my mind anyway.

posi wrote:
But this is total nonsense, as much as "there is no class struggle, there are merely people seeking better lives". The oppression happens on grounds of nationality, and the category of nationality is created through the oppression (which the pamphlet has difficulty recognising, because the general theory of the nation is historicised by referenc to 15th-18th Century Europ.) Class is not in outline different. Class exists precisely because of the structural oppression to which its members are subject, and because the membership of the class leads to being subject to that oppression.

class isn't defined by 'oppression', and isn't one in a list of 'oppressions', but that's a slightly different argument. the point is 'national oppression' may or may not have anything to do with class struggle depending on who is being oppressed, who by and in what way. senior Fatah/Hamas officials are not 'oppressed' in the same way as small farmers/proles, and it obfuscates things to claim that they are by collapsing class analysis into 'national oppression'.

Django
Apr 29 2010 17:19

Just going to quickly correct a few of the misrepresentations in this article – its a shame that this needs to be done again given I explained the arguments at length to David in person recently, and corrected some of his misapprehensions about the texts (after I'd bought him a drink too – cheeky bugger wink ). The review demands a proper written response, which will be forthcoming.

Quote:
Yet here Against Nationalism explains the development of nationalism wholly in terms of the development of European nation-states hundreds of years ago, even though its main polemical target is left-wing support for anti-imperialist nationalist movements. But the criteria explaining the consolidation of the French nation state tell us little about the formation of Palestinian nationhood, nor Irish nor Algerian, nor any nation subject to colonialism.

I think its pretty disengenious to say that the invention of the 'national idea' has nothing to do with nation-states formed later on in history; there's a case in the pamphlet that there's a historical line between the development of a national ideology, the later development of the idea that all nations have the right to self-determination, and the development of national liberation politics. Given that nationalism in France in the 18th century gets differentiated from nationalism in France in the 19th century, to imply that we apply 'the criteria of the consolidation of the French nation-state' to the fromation of Palestinian nationalism is pretty misleading.

Quote:
Of course, if you think that all nationalisms are the same then this would appear not to matter. But this merely divorces particular nationalisms from their historic roots and thus makes them impossible to understand, whether or not one thus attributes them progressive characteristics. This is a common failing of anarchist and Trotskyist schemas on the national question alike. But the earth is not flat, not all nation-states have the same basis for existence. For example, it is easy to think of many Third World nationalisms which emerged not from the gradual development of an industrial bourgeoisie who wanted to strengthen the apparatus of state, but rather as a reaction to imperialist rule.

Again this is really a different point to that which gets made in the pamphlet, in which the origin of the national idea is traced to a certain time and place (with an explanation for why that happened), with an analysis of how the idea was applied in different contexts as a result of a number of factors, but given that the nation-state is the basic structuring unit of capitalist society on an international level.

Quote:
Attempts to dismiss the national question are also problematic insofar as they sustain Eurocentric illusions in our rulers' internationalism. Against Nationalism comments 'By the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, the idea that each ‘people’ had a moral right to their own nation-state was solidly established. The concerns about viability which defined earlier debates had disappeared. It was now a right of ‘peoples’, defined in whichever way, to a state of their own.'

This is an utterly mistaken view of the world as it was 100 years ago, and even today. At the end of the Nineteenth Century the majority of the world population were the subjects of colonial empires. The argument that these people could not govern themselves – and needed a civilising mission – was a commonly accepted justification for empire, not least among socialists such as Henry Hyndman and many leaders of Germany's SPD.

Note here that David completely ignored what comes immediately afterwards, basically to change what is being said – here is the quote in full context:

Quote:
By the last decades of the Nineteenth Century, the idea that each ‘people’ had a moral right to their own nation-state was solidly established. The concerns about viability which defined earlier debates had disappeared. It was now a right of ‘peoples’, defined in whichever way, to a state of their own. To be ruled by another nation or its representatives was abhorrent (in theory at least – imperialism had its own logic).

I've no idea why David excerpted this, but its clear that the quote is saying precisely the opposite of what is being claimed – that the bourgeois theorists' views of the world aren't being differentiated from the reality by the AF. The text also points out that the more overt attempts to turn the idea of 'every nation a state and one state for every nation' into reality, such as after WW1 when the map of Europe was redrawn, actually failed. Its a pretty cynical misrepresentation, if I'm being honest, and one below an organisation which is usually as comradely and open in its behaviour as The Commune - as is the implication that the AF are a backwards in their view of the world as medieval flat-earth theorists, unlike the Commune.

Most of the section on 'imperialism' is down to differing analyses of what constitutes imperialism, which I'll expand on a bit when I get the time, I'll try to respond to some more of the aguments in the article too when I get time.

posi
Apr 29 2010 17:17
Quote:
i think in that context it's quite clear what's being said. if people are being oppressed on the grounds of their national status, either as migrants or in an occupied territory, that may or may not have something to do with class struggle. for example a tax on a given nationalities businesses would be national oppression, but of no interest to communists. it would have been accurate to say 'national oppression per se has nothing to do with class struggle, although sometimes nationality provides the grounds to attack workers...' but in the context it's quite clear that the AF are saying treating an oppressed national entity as a single bloc only benefits the rulers of said nation. that is correct, and communists should be unpicking their mystifications, not perpetuating them.

Actually, it's not clear. It doesn't just say what you say it says, and quoting a biger bit gives no exposition along the lines you suggest. It is making a much stronger claim, accurately reflected by what I quoted.

In fact, that passage itself is part of a larger section which essentially identifies all struggles based on nationality with struggles for/of a state elite. But that isn't true (as the example of Popular Strugge exists).

Really, then, the disagreement is over whether struggles which we all agree are supportable can be characterised as emanating from nationality, or solely from class (whether they are "really" just class struggles).

First, you said:

Quote:
a struggle against racism, expropriation, violence and so on is not an inherently 'national' struggle,

Then,

Quote:
if people [inc. working class people] are being oppressed on the grounds of their national status...

You appear to have shifted. First, the alleged national oppression was really just a refraction of class interests, later it appears as a possible cause of the oppression itself...

Boris Badenov
Apr 29 2010 17:24
posi wrote:
In fact, that passage itself is part of a larger section which essentially identifies all struggles based on nationality with struggles for/of a state elite. But that isn't true (as the example of Popular Strugge exists).

How is Popular Struggle not an example of a project of "liberationist" state-building if it hails the ANC as a model organization on its website?

posi
Apr 29 2010 17:26
Quote:
thanks for the pyschoanalysis.

Any time wink

Quote:
class isn't defined by 'oppression', and isn't one in a list of 'oppressions', but that's a slightly different argument.

Well, whatever, it's a structural relation which operates in just the way I described.

Quote:
the point is 'national oppression' may or may not have anything to do with class struggle depending on who is being oppressed, who by and in what way.

Absolutely, which is what I've been arguing.

Quote:
senior Fatah/Hamas officials are not 'oppressed' in the same way as small farmers/proles, and it obfuscates things to claim that they are by collapsing class analysis into 'national oppression'.

Yeah, but no one has been claiming that they are the same, have they? That's just a straw man. Can you can infer from the fact that someone is a feminist that they think that working class and ruling class women are oppressed (why the quote marks?) in the same way? No, obviously not. There are very few who think this, even amongst liberal feminists.

So why on earth would you think that's what I'm saying?

posi
Apr 29 2010 17:36
Vlad336 wrote:
How is Popular Struggle not an example of a project of "liberationist" state-building if it hails the ANC as a model organization on its website?

ah, well, of course that's one possible analysis: and one that - as I've said above - that I think JK has steered close to in the past (albeit, I accept, on an off hand post about a stunt which involved people painting themselves blue laugh out loud ).

My point is that JK and the AF pamphlet do appear to support the popular struggle committees.

I support them because I see them as being amongst the best possible expressions of a necessary struggle, i.e. a national struggle that is practically internationalist. What I'm saying is that it's less clear why JK and AF also support them; i.e. that the pamphlet as it is doesn't articulate a general perspective for doing so, and contains several phrases, as I've quoted, which might imply that they wouldn't.

(The honest answer, btw, is that the post-Apartheid record of the ANC probably doesn't seem that important if you're living on the west edge of the West Bank, and I don't think it really defines either their intentions or their practice - that sort of statement, in the circumstances, is not a big deal.)

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 17:39
posi wrote:
And are you really saying that everything is reduced to class interests? So is there no such thing as gender oppression or sexism, there are only proletarians who have class interests against all the individuated instances in which they are oppressed which are related to their gender?

...

posi wrote:
You appear to have shifted. First, the alleged national oppression was really just a refraction of class interests, later it appears as a possible cause of the oppression itself...

there's no shift, and you're really being quite disingenuous with the 'reductionist' charge, which requires you first to define class struggle in a much narrower way than claim i must be reducing everything else to a definition i never profferred. i do suspect this has to do with seeing class as one of a series of 'oppressions' rather than a condition of dispossession, but i've written plenty on that elsewhere and don't have time to get into it now.

class struggle is proletarians asserting their concrete needs. sometimes those needs are 'economic' as in wages or hours. sometimes they are gendered as in the struggle of women to break out of being housewives or challenge gendered violence and discrimination. sometimes proles are oppressed on national grounds, such as migrants lacking the correct papers or being harassed at checkpoints for having the wrong passport. that doesn't mean that those suffering that particular oppression immediately join an 'oppressed nation' with common interests.

even when oppression is on national grounds, the communist response should not be to affirm the 'nation' and its 'rights' but to urge proles assert their needs against those who deny them, foreign or domestic. that could mean a range of things from civil rights type struggles for equal rights ('i am a man' etc) to strikes against discriminatory practices*. there's nothing to be gained from lumping this all into a 'national' struggle - even if it self-identifies as such - since national self-determination is largely a fiction that covers the shift of surplus extraction from the public political sphere of direct imperial rule to the private economic sphere of indebted poor countries beholden to their creditors.

* which depends on the imperial objectives including surplus extraction, with Israel/Palestine specifically this doesn't seem so much the case

Django
May 4 2010 21:11
Posi wrote:
In fact, that passage itself is part of a larger section which essentially identifies all struggles based on nationality with struggles for/of a state elite. But that isn't true (as the example of Popular Strugge exists).

Well if you've read the text you'll notice that the example of struggles over issues like Land, Water, Work etc, frequently organised by various committees some of which are affiliated with Popular Struggle are flagged up as examples of what are basically class struggles against the occupation. So their existance is hardly something overlooked in the texts.

The difference of persepective is basically that you're arguing that these struggles should be seen as struggles against 'national oppression', wheras I don't think it really describes the complexity of the situation and the fact its a completely different predicament to that faced by E.G. a Hamas or Fatah bureaucrat.

We'd argue that these aren't 'national liberation' struggles, they're class struggles in which the predicament of a certain section of the class is compounded by their national status - on this case being subject to occupation in a massively assymetric 'war'. These issues aren't something which you don't have to go onto the frontlines of the 'national liberation struggle' to see in different forms - having witnessed a UKBA raid on a textile factory in Manchester recently for example.

To roll up these kinds of struggles in a struggle for 'national liberation' is precisely the kind of broad-brush oversimplification that the Commune are attacking on the part of AF/Solfed/Libcom etc (supposedly imported from the ICC roll eyes )

Joseph Kay
Apr 29 2010 17:43
JK wrote:
What I'm saying is that it's less clear why JK and AF also support them

i don't know much about them actually, although i'm told they're relatively independent from Fatah/Hamas influence. i support workers struggling to defend or advance their interests, if that at any given time means resisting oppression on national/ethnic/racial/gender/sexuality/etc lines that's fine, and all part of the class struggle. the point is i don't drop the class analysis by lumping it into 'national oppression' as if rulers and ruled share the same conditions and interests, just like i wouldn't respond to racism by calling for 'racial self-determination.'

Django
Apr 29 2010 17:47

Anway, since when have the Commune had watertight "general perspectives" on issues?!? I know a Commune member with very similar views on this issue to the AF.

Yorkie Bar
Apr 29 2010 17:45
posi wrote:
Yeah, but no one has been claiming that they are the same, have they? That's just a straw man.

Wrong. In the original article, bolded for emphasis:

Quote:
Palestinians do have a shared culture and identity, because they have lived the common experience of subjugation by the Israeli state, which they commonly want to stop, and their national cause has developed accordingly.

This is precisely the problem with your analysis. Senior member of Fatah or Hamas do not have a 'common experience of subjugation' with working class Palestinians.

Kindly read what you are trying to defend before defending it.

~J.

Khawaga
Apr 29 2010 18:18
posi wrote:
So the Popular Struggle committees are "really" class struggle, are they?

But wait! If they are, then surely they are class struggle in response to national oppression? OK. But the earlier quote denies that national oppression can have anything to do with class struggle... so what's up?

and

posi wrote:
... so the interest of capital within Palestine is expressed by the Popular Struggle committees? Or the Popular Struggle committees do not express any 'national interest'? Which?

The popular struggle committees formed around where the Wall is built are, in my experience, first and foremost livelihood struggles for specific villages affected by the Wall. While the committees see the struggle as somehow connected to the liberation of Palestine and uses nationalist symbolism, this is all secondary. In those places where the struggles have ended (e.g. Budrus and Biddu), it's not like these villages keep fighting for some abstract national liberation - for villages who are already suffering there is no point in risking life, limbs and jailtime for something that does not affect them.

IMO these struggles are connected to class struggle as they all appeared after Israel stopped issuing and canceled existing work permits. In those villages where resistance against the wall has been most pronounced are those villages where the majority income came from those with jobs inside Israel. When they lost their income, agriculture became the primary livelihood for the villages - land therefore becomes all-important. And this is not some metaphysical attachment to the land (although that does play in), but is directly linked to survival.

So this is all linked to class struggle, but is mediated by the colonial context. So it's not a response to "national oppression", but to fewer opportunities of earning a livelihood.

knightrose
Apr 29 2010 18:37
Quote:
We'd argue that these aren't 'national liberation' struggles, they're class struggles in which the predicament of a certain section of the class is compounded by their national status - on this case being subject to occupation in a massively assymetric 'war'. These issues aren't something which you don't have to go onto the frontlines of the 'national liberation struggle' to see in different forms - having witnessed a UKBA raid on a textile factory in Manchester recently for example.

My take on it is the same as Django's. Many of the the struggles that take place in Palestine or other places are examples of class struggle or struggle against the existing state. I support those struggles. What I don't support is the bourgeois mystification of nationalism that is superimposed on those class struggles and which ultimately seeks to undermine the class struggle in the creation of a new regime. In the same way, I support a strike without supporting the political programme of the unions that are involved in it or the political views expressed by the striking workers.

I really would like to hear of a national struggle that has had a good outcome or that has advanced the interests of the working class.

posi
Apr 29 2010 19:46
JK wrote:
you're really being quite disingenuous with the 'reductionist' charge

I'm not... I accept that perhaps that's not what you're trying to express, but I hope you can see that you've said things that have reasonably given that impression. This, earlier, was fairly suggestive:

Quote:
a struggle against racism, expropriation, violence and so on is not an inherently 'national' struggle, it's leftists/nationalists insisting it is which is the smokescreen. proletarians struggling to defend or improve their material conditions is an aspect of class struggle*,

In this formulation, you affirm nothing which cuts against the reductionist interpretation.

Django wrote:
Anway, since when have the Commune had watertight "general perspectives" on issues?!? I know a Commune member with very similar views on this issue to the AF.

The above is not a Commune position. It's by David and is signed by him - I saw a draft informally, but no one else saw it before publication AFAIK. As you suggest, it is not a Commune vs. AF question, some Commune members are closer to AF on this, some further. So the fact that it's me and David arguing for this here is a coincidence. I'm sure this is part of an ongoing dialogue etc. etc.

btw - on the chopped quotation, the point is that it is not merely that "imperialism had its own logic" (i.e. a material, historical logic, independent from the ideas of the time, which were really all about national independence). But that this logic was, in fact, still dominant at the level of the dominant ideology, despite the efforts of Mazzini, assorted Zionists, etc.

Quote:
The difference of persepective is basically that you're arguing that these struggles should be seen as struggles against 'national liberation', wheras I don't think it really describes the complexity of the situation,

ok, I'm assuming you mean "for national liberation"... but no, as I've said, the term "national liberation" is one introduced by JK and you, it isn't something I've affirmed at all. ... or you mean "against national oppression"... in which case, Yes. Of course, they aren't simply or only that. If you like, they are aspects of the class struggle, but specifically national aspects, aspects which are necessary, important, and have material foundations. But, implicitly, as I've argued the AF text/JK have at times suggested (perhaps not giving expression to their full position at these times) that they aren't even partly struggles against national oppresion, whereas I would say that it is this which overwhelmingly characterises them.

If you like, the review "bends the bow" somewhat against the perception that the pamphlet actually denies the reality of national oppression as a distinct category, and the positive necessity of struggle against it:

AF wrote:
We do not see a world of nations in struggle, but of classes in struggle.

But the truth is that the world contains both nations and classes in struggle.

BLJ wrote:
Senior member of Fatah or Hamas do not have a 'common experience of subjugation' with working class Palestinians.

Ah well, I guess that's badly phrased. I think we might have talked about editing that from the first draft, but I guess it didn't happen. There is, in a sense, a "common experience" (you can't buy immunity from the occupation and live in the West Bank or Gaza, being at a check point is kind of the same, independent of your status in production), and the fact of the nation is based on the commonality of this experience, to a certain extent real, to an extent imagined. But yes, of course, there are also variegations by class, so insofar as that was not made clear, that would indeed be a fault of the above review.

Anyway, I've got to bug out for a while. I'm sure David will be back soon enough...

posi
Apr 29 2010 19:59

One more...

Khawaga wrote:
IMO these struggles are connected to class struggle as they all appeared after Israel stopped issuing and canceled existing work permits. In those villages where resistance against the wall has been most pronounced are those villages where the majority income came from those with jobs inside Israel. When they lost their income, agriculture became the primary livelihood for the villages - land therefore becomes all-important. And this is not some metaphysical attachment to the land (although that does play in), but is directly linked to survival.

So this is all linked to class struggle, but is mediated by the colonial context. So it's not a response to "national oppression", but to fewer opportunities of earning a livelihood.

Now this is reductionist. There is presumed antimony here between things connected to "earning a livelihood" and things connected to "national oppression". Yet there is no such antimony. A given attack on "earning a livelihood" can be based on class, gender, nation etc. etc.

The whole point is that national oppression has a material base, a material reality (not all connected to "earning a livelihood" - e.g. the risk of arbitrary lethal violence) of its own. I think (?) people accept that there is oppression consequent on nationality. From this, it necessarily follows that there is a struggle around nation, just as it from the fact of sexism it follows that there must be a struggle around gender. (And in all such struggles there is a tension betwen the affirmation of these categories as a condition of both analysis and concrete action and the need to supercede and destroy them.)

So of course it's all "linked to class struggle". Definitely, 100%. In fact, large parts of the above review are about that:

Quote:
economic interests are neither the only concern of the working class nor the only way in which class exists. To again take the most obvious and extreme case in point, Israeli and Palestinian workers cannot unite and fight over workplace concerns: the disparity between them is huge, and most Israeli workers are pretty happy about that; they do not have common employers and most Palestinians are not employed as workers at all; and the single most important oppression in both countries, tying the Israeli workers' interests to those of the Israeli state and affecting everyday life in Palestine, is the Israeli state's merciless oppression of the Palestinians and theft of Palestinian land, water and resources

I take it to be saying: ok so these things are part of the class struggle, but nationality is a dependent but distinguishable reality (not just a "smokescreen", or what have you) interpolated with that, and consequently not all national struggle is bourgeois, rather, it is necessary from a class perspective.

won't be back for a while.