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.

libcom editor's note - this article was written while David Broder was a member of 'The Commune', he has since become a contributor to Jacobin Magazine and shifted towards an increasingly Stalinist politics, as well as endorsing French left-nationalist Jean-Luc Mélenchon

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.

Posted By

davidbroder
Apr 28 2010 23:42

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Khawaga
Apr 29 2010 20:01
posi wrote:
(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)

actually, you can (or at least could). During the Oslo process the Fatah apartchicks had complete freedom of movement, something which is denied to anyone else. (Local Palestinians termed them the Tunisians, from the last HQ of PLO). In this case the wannabe bourgeoisie of the future Palestinian state was in direct collusion with the Israeli bourgeoisie.

posi wrote:
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 this refers to the anti-Wall struggle then I think you are simply incorrect (see my post above).

Yorkie Bar
Apr 29 2010 20:32
Quote:
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.

You're tying yourself in knots here. "I think we might have talked about... in a sense... to one extent... to another extent" Just listen to yourself. You are every national liberationist trying and failing miserably to reconcile class politics with nationalism and failing.

posi
Apr 29 2010 21:29

no, there are no knots. I recognise annd acknowledge mistakes as I see them - including those from myself, and from those in my organisation (a rare but valuable practice - and I have no hesitation in doing so). I can read what I wrote - as can everyone else - and I stand behind it. The contradictions I recognise are the ones present in the real world. But I do see them: if you can't... not my problem.

Khawaga wrote:
actually, you can (or at least could). During the Oslo process the Fatah apartchicks had complete freedom of movement, something which is denied to anyone else. (Local Palestinians termed them the Tunisians, from the last HQ of PLO). In this case the wannabe bourgeoisie of the future Palestinian state was in direct collusion with the Israeli bourgeoisie.

yes, but this - re freedom of movement - is not generally true, you acknowledge there was a very historically specific window... sure, but it was very specific, the general case is as I set it out - the Oslo period was different on a whole number of levels, being specific to that would have changed much of the above thread. Obviously there is rampant Fatah/Israel collusion - acknowledged here - http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/rachel-corrie-1979-2003-internationalism-in-action/ - but it is still true that membership of a different class does not allow people to excerpt themselves from many of the most characteristic affects of national oppression. (Though, many - in terms of food in Gaza, etc, - it does.)

Oslo... starts with 0, end with 0, innit.

Quote:
If this refers to the anti-Wall struggle then I think you are simply incorrect (see my post above).

yeah, but - with respect - I don't think the content of your post supports your conclusions. I don't disagree, empirically, with most of what you say, what I disagree with is how your dealing with the categories in question.

I might not have spent as much time there as you, bu I did spend a few weeks, and I have my memories, too, of how things were represented to me...

Django
Apr 30 2010 06:16
Posi wrote:
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.

Well, even if you look at say, how the British government articulated their imperialist intentions at the end of the First World war, they justified themselves (even in internal correspondence between departments and Imperial offices) as safeguarding the independence of various peoples subject to the yoke of Ottoman tyranny - securing the 'national independence' of the arabs, etc. And then you have the politics of Wilsonian idealism and so on. If you're interested David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace covers this in vast detail.

If he's saying that the quote from Against Nationalism is incorrect not just at the level of the history of ideas (I don't think its clear he is, and scholars on the subject such as Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson say the same thing - the history wasn't pulled out of the air, so presumably they're "utterly mistaken" too) but because of the reality of the imperialism and the international balance of power - "This is an utterly mistaken view of the world as it was 100 years ago, and even today" - then exerpting the next sentence is pretty significant, given it says exactly this.

So yeah, it looks pretty bad, especially given as we're supposed to be as ignorant as flat earth theorists and eveything (as are members of the Commune who share this viewpoint, I'm assuming).

Khawaga
Apr 29 2010 23:04
posi wrote:
yeah, but - with respect - I don't think the content of your post supports your conclusions. I don't disagree, empirically, with most of what you say, what I disagree with is how your dealing with the categories in question.

Care to elaborate?

Quote:
I might not have spent as much time there as you, bu I did spend a few weeks, and I have my memories, too, of how things were represented to me...

Fair enough, but my point is that how Palestinians represents the struggle is very different from how it actually plays out. Labour actions might not be represented as anti-capitalist, communist or whatever, but a strike still stops the flow of value at its source and is directed against capital.

The villages where the 3rd "intifada" is taking place now were often part of Sharon's village leagues; this is their time to shine so they will dress up their localized livelihood struggles as being part of national liberation. While the aim of the struggle is to liberate the land from the occupiers, this is for the purposes of agriculture not for some abstract national determination. As soon as the wall is built or (if villages choose to continue the struggle) its route moved the struggles stop because there is no purpose in risking life and limbs anymore (apart from the shabab who rebel against their parents' generation and perform their masculinity by throwing stones at the IDF).

posi wrote:
yes, but this - re freedom of movement - is not generally true, you acknowledge there was a very historically specific window... sure, but it was very specific, the general case is as I set it out - the Oslo period was different on a whole number of levels, being specific to that would have changed much of the above thread.

I should have added above that it is during this period that the new bourgeoisie was formed. Relative freedom of movement was taken away post-2nd Intifada, but by then the "Tunisians" have established themselves as the ruling class in possession of a proto-state (although the way this state worked was more like an "Arab tribe" based on political affiliation). It's still the same guys on the top today and the challenge posed by Hamas was for control over the proto-state and basically who should be the dominant faction of the bourgeoise. This pushed Fatah into collaborating with Israel, which has allowed freedom of movement for lots of Fatah goons (specifically the Dahlan ones).

Khawaga
Apr 29 2010 23:08
Django wrote:
If you're interested David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace covers this in vast detail.

I second that; it's an excellent history about the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and how the ME was accepted into the nation-state system. I would add Albert Hourani's Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939 that charts the rise of nationalism within the Ottoman Empire and as against the colonial powers.

Yorkie Bar
Apr 29 2010 23:11
Quote:
no, there are no knots. I recognise annd acknowledge mistakes as I see them - including those from myself, and from those in my organisation (a rare but valuable practice - and I have no hesitation in doing so). I can read what I wrote - as can everyone else - and I stand behind it. The contradictions I recognise are the ones present in the real world. But I do see them: if you can't... not my problem.

Except you're not really recognising this as a mistake, are you?

The original comment was:

JK wrote:
senior Fatah/Hamas officials are not 'oppressed' in the same way as small farmers/proles,

You responded "no one has been claiming that they are". I then pointed out that this wasn't true, indicating the passage where that claim was made. You said you thought it was "badly phrased", indicating that it did not in fact mean what it obviously did, that the Palestinian ruling class "was 'oppressed' in the same way as small farmers/proles" by the Israeli state. But you then went on to say that you thought that "There is, in a sense, a "common experience", and then offered that this common experience was "to a certain extent real, to an extent imagined.".

I'm sorry, but you can't just offer up that sort of contorted argument and expect people to accept it. Saying 'the real world is contradictory' does not excuse sloppy thinking.

So if the original passage was poorly phrased, hows about you, or David, spell it out for me. Is there a common experience or isn't there? In what sense is there one, and to what extent is it real? Do the Palestinian elite experience 'national struggle' in the same way as Palestinian workers? Which is it to be? Because either way, it seems to me that you run into real difficulties, either in justifying "national struggle" as something distinct from class struggle, or in having any coherent class analysis at all.

Alf
Apr 30 2010 04:34

A number of comrades have already made some very good arguments against David and Posi's position, but just a couple of points.
I don't think that anyone is arguing that capitalist society does not engender all kinds of oppressions, or that these oppressions are purely pyschological, having no basis in history and material reality. Nor that proletarians (and oppressed strata who are not necessarily proletarian, such as poor peasants) may not initially be pushed into struggle around issues of specific oppression. If I recall righly one of the sparks that lit the fuse in 1968 was the issue of the university authorities preventing male and female students from associating in the Sorbonne residential halls. The real difference seems to be around how internationalists respond to movements which are essentially struggles of the exploited but which are confronted with specific issues of racism or national oppression. The response of most comrades, which I agree with, is that our role is to push for the struggle to broaden out and to recognise its commonality with other class movements, to become clearly and unambiguously a class struggle; and this will very soon involve a direct confrontation not only with nationalist ideology but also with the nationalist gangs who take on the job of channelling all struggles in an explicitly nationalist direction. The approach adopted by David/posi seems to lead to accepting the national framework, even when criticising the existing nationalist gangs, to freezing it around specifically national goals such as national self-determination. True, the national self-determination advocated here seems to be a total abstraction, an ideal national self-determination separate from reallly existing bourgeois factions and imperialist entaglements, but the very fact of putting it forward plays into the hands of those real nationalist factions by adding one more obstacle to the break between class and national interests.
At our college recently we organised a discussion forum around the issue of Israel/Palestine. It was well attended - about 80 students and a number of staff. The 'ethnic' mix of the college meant that the majority were 'pro-Palestinian', although the discussion was very serious and open-minded. One of the key issues was whether it makes sense to support 'the Palestinians' (a term David insisists on) when the Palestinians are not a homogeneous entity but are divided into different class interests. The basic concept of class is not very easy to get across in such an environment, but it seemed to me essential as a way of challenging the automatic 'side-taking' which gets drawn into support for the actual power structures in the region. And perhaps the worst intervention at the meeting - but one which received a fair amount of support - was by a teacher who belongs to the SWP and tried to dismiss all this talk of class differences among the Palestinians by insisting that we must indeed 'support the Palestinians' against the US and Israel.

davidbroder
Apr 30 2010 08:30
Quote:
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.

Django: this doesn't change the meaning of the quote though... That is not the opposite of what is being claimed. Against Nationalism cites the examples of Belgium, Catalunya etc as evidence of national movements emerging in this period given the rising (risen) idea of nation-states/popular sovereignty.

"To be ruled by another nation or its representatives was abhorrent (in theory at least – imperialism had its own logic)." is not exactly an insight into the relationship of the colonised world, and its nationalisms, to the imperialist powers, which is the fault I was pointing out.

To summarily reply to all the above, I am yet to see a single response which explains why fighting national oppression - something distinct from, albeit interlinked with class exploitation - is so different from gender, race etc. Does socialist feminism tie working class women to the female bourgeoisie? Did socialist feminists support Thatcher?

As for examples of better outcomes from national independence, well, I can only ask whether you think it better or worse that India is no longer under the jackboot of our very own, terribly democratic British imperialism.

In response to BigLittleJ, yes, sorry, all Palestinians are oppressed by the Israeli state, including those who oppress other Palestinians. To varying degrees but definitely they are. Look how many political prisoners there are in Israel.

davidbroder
Apr 30 2010 08:33
Quote:
One of the key issues was whether it makes sense to support 'the Palestinians' (a term David insisists on) when the Palestinians are not a homogeneous entity but are divided into different class interests

Black people have different class interests but all can be subject to racism.

I do support the Palestinians against the Israeli state and don't feel particularly apologetic for that. It is a pity that ICC dogma is copied by others on LibCom, utter cynicism and disregard for the specific ways in which people are terrorised.

Khawaga
Apr 30 2010 09:24
davidbroder wrote:
I do support the Palestinians against the Israeli state and don't feel particularly apologetic for that.

So would you support armed attacks on large settlement blocks like Ariel? Hamas shooting rockets into civilian areas? Are you referring to the West Bank villages against the Wall?

And against the Israeli state for what? And what about supporting Israelis against the Israeli state or Palestinians against Hamas and the PLO?

Quote:
It is a pity that ICC dogma is copied by others on LibCom, utter cynicism and disregard for the specific ways in which people are terrorised.

That's just a bollocks. It is one thing to empathize with people who are terrorized and a completely different thing to support national liberation movements because people are terrorized.

Yorkie Bar
Apr 30 2010 09:24
Quote:
all Palestinians are oppressed by the Israeli state, including those who oppress other Palestinians. To varying degrees but definitely they are. Look how many political prisoners there are in Israel.

Alternatively, look how many non-political prisoners there are in the UK; conclusive proof of how the prison system is equally oppressive to workers and bosses.

Fucksake.

Joseph Kay
Apr 30 2010 09:47
davidbroder wrote:
I am yet to see a single response which explains why fighting national oppression - something distinct from, albeit interlinked with class exploitation - is so different from gender, race etc.

you can oppose racism without demanding racial self-determination and oppose sexism without demanding a sovereign womens' state. that's the point here; if people are oppressed on certain grounds, it's not our duty to reify those grounds but to reject them; the point of anti-racist and anti-sexist struggles is not to raise up racial and gender differences to the fundamental organising principle of society but to reduce them to characteristics as consequential as blood type or eye colour.

davidbroder wrote:
It is a pity that ICC dogma is copied by others on LibCom

this is factually incorrect. i was heavily involved in palestine solidarity stuff for example and came to my own criticisms of it before ever posting here, many others have come to this position independent of the ICC (and it's not the ICC position, which is that national liberation only became reactionary in decadent capitalism - i don't think capitalism is in decline, therefore i should support national self-determination struggles accordng to the ICC position). this is something that gets thrown at libcom by certain platformist critics too and it's completely dishonest, as if people can't form views of their own and are just naively parroting the line of another party.

knightrose
Apr 30 2010 11:15

The AF's position on national liberation was, in fact, argued for by many groups before the ICC emerged. Solidarity, for example, held it very clearly - and that's a group the Commune seem to refer to for inspiration. Sadly, they pick and choose too much. The SPGB has held a variant of it for years. When we split from them in the 1970s, the group that went on to become Social Revolution did too - and that was before the ICC too.

In other words, a recognition that nationalism is of no value to the working class has long been a communist position.

Sharing common experiences is no argument anyway. In the summer, I like many others will be avidly watching the World Cup. I'll be supporting England, like I always do (until they get knocked out in the quarter finals smile). That doesn't mean I share identical interests with Richard Branson or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Clearly, a Palestinian worker in Gaza will see their primary oppressor as being the Israeli state. In part that's reality, in part fabrication (why not the Egyptians who guard the other half of the wall?). But they are also oppressed by the Palestinian state in its Hamas guise. National liberation ideology helps to mask that oppression and diffuse class struggle.

Yorkie Bar
Apr 30 2010 11:16

It's such a cheap smear, but it does get chucked around a helluva lot. Comparing people to the ICC is fast becoming the anarchist equivalent of the mainstream left calling people anarchists.

baboon
Apr 30 2010 11:52

The earth is round and imperialism is global

I haven’t read the text “Against Nationalism” yet but will do so soon. In the meantime, some thoughts on DB’s position above.
There’s no doubt that particular forms of oppression exist in various parts of the world outside of the working class. Communists should support struggles of the peasantry and the poor against such oppression and call for as much fraternisation as possible in the case of divided territories. The danger for workers and the masses in getting involved in struggles against national oppression, or any oppression, black, women and so on, is the potential for identification with the ruling class or aspiring members of a ruling elite, ie, the idea that national interests are common interests beyond or above class. The position of DB, that aspects of national “culture and identity” should be supported, that “some limited extension of national sovereignty” is positive carries the potential for supporting any nationalist movement as the lesser evil against the greater evil of imperialism.

The fundamental problem with the above position is, under the guise of understanding the specifics, its partial and restricted view of imperialism opens it up to seeing positive aspects to certain national illusions; particularly cause celebres such as the VietCong, the Mugabe regime, the ANC, Ukrainian nationalism and Palestinian statehood. For this position, only the major powers are imperialist and there are non-imperialist national states or factions that are outside of this equation such as those above. The US and Israel are often seen as the main or only imperialisms which opens up the possibility of supporting anyone fighting against them, ie, as DB says “reaction to imperialist rule”. But no country, no aspiring national faction can step outside of the global phenomenon of imperialism. It’s interesting that in Britain, leftism, while denouncing US and Israeli imperialism, give British imperialism a relatively easy time – not surprising because underlying their activity is the support of the national interest. All countries, as the national entities that they are, are imperialist or part of imperialist machinations. This obviously doesn’t mean total equivalence given the development of capitalist states (which is why the development of the European nation states is not at all “Eurocentric” in this respect); Columbia is not the United States but both are imperialist. In the Middle East alone, the whole twentieth century shows that no national faction or aspiring national faction could stand outside of the framework of imperialism. On the contrary, they were part of it and used by all the major powers as such, not least against their own populations. The history of Africa and the Balkans tells you the same over the same period. Once the British left India it didn’t in the slightest become less of a factor in imperialism – in fact the departure and everything subsequent to it was a question of imperialism.

We can give many examples of where, during the 20th and 21st centuries national aspirations (including “culture and identity”), asking, begging to be recuperated within global imperialist tensions, have provoked even more misery on the poor and the peasantry of those territories involved and provoked wider and longer lasting carnage and misery. With a couple of posters above, what examples of nationalism can you give where it has improved the lives of the impoverished and oppressed and been positive for the working class?

This discussion is important, fundamental for the working class because the enemy is at home. This is particularly the case in the major powers, the European nations, the US, China, etc., where the real seeds to the end of oppression lie in not supporting national or "cultural" factions here and there and thus increasing oppression and misery overall, but in attacking the ability of these powers to wage their imperialist wars and conduct their imperialist machinations with their local nationalist factions. And the only way to do that is for increasingly higher levels of class struggle.

baboon
Apr 30 2010 13:15

I also defend the idea that the development of the analyses of nationalism and imperialism took place within the workers' movement and no particular section of that has "copyright" over it.

Boris Badenov
Apr 30 2010 13:45
davidbroder wrote:
As for examples of better outcomes from national independence, well, I can only ask whether you think it better or worse that India is no longer under the jackboot of our very own, terribly democratic British imperialism.

If India is the role model here, then I think you're undermining your own argument.
No one in their right minds will try to apologize for the inhumanity and barbarism of the British Raj, but I think it's worth considering some facts:
-the first years after independence saw the displacement of large groups of people (millions in fact) according to the nationalist politics of the Pakistani and Indian governments. If the point of independence was to protect one's home and community, then national liberation failed a whole bunch of people here
-several thousand people were killed in the war of 1947; may not seem like much ("just a statistic" to quote Stalin), but if the point is to bring about peace, how do you explain that the most immediate outcome was in fact war?
-sectarian violence intensified; millions of hindus and muslims were killed in communal wars, until the Pakistani and Indian states realized that this meant a drain on their respective labour forces and decided to put an end to it.
-1949: a million Hindus flee to West Bengal due to sectarian violence
-in the next couple of decades, the Pakistan army commits atrocities against the Bengali population of East Pakistan, leading to approximately 10 million people fleeing East Pakistan and taking refuge in the neighboring Indian states. This led to yet another great "liberation" and to the formation of Bangladesh.
-Today in Bangaldesh the army butchers the natives of the Chittagong tracts in much the same way as the Pakistani army did with the East Pakistanis in the 60s and 70s.
How many more "liberation" wars do you think need to happen before the killing stops?

The fact is that there was no Indian nation or Pakistani nation in 1947 except in the minds of the bourgeois nationalists. Most people had ethnic and religious allegiances. Should communists then have supported Hindus against Muslims or vice versa? Or this ethnicity against that ethnicity?
There is nothing about nationalism that is salvageable; it is wholly destructive and pernicious to workers everywhere. History confirms this and no leftist sophistry can change it.

Khawaga
Apr 30 2010 15:59

This is the Palestinian resistance at work.

Haaretz wrote:
Security forces of the Islamist group Hamas detained Palestinian political activists overnight for distributing leaflets urging them to ease up on the people of Gaza or face a possibly explosive revolt.

An official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) told Reuters several members were arrested late on Tuesday and set free on Wednesday.

The PFLP leaflets were the strongest public criticism yet of Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and has been clamping down on any behavior it sees as un-Islamic, while recently levying new taxes on the 1.5 million inhabitants.

"People are under huge pressure but they are also afraid to express themselves and we took the responsibility to voice their concerns," PFLP official Jamil Mezher told Reuters.

The leaflet warned Hamas to beware increasing pressure on the people in a way that could "push the community to rebel against these practices and even to explode in the faces of those responsible."

It urged the territory's Islamist rulers to stop violating freedoms, oppressing political opponents and imposing taxes on small businesses in the enclave, whose borders with Israel and Egypt are tightly controlled.

The price of a pack of cigarettes, most of which are smuggled in via tunnels from Egypt, has been raised to cover a NIS 3 (80 cent) tax which goes to Hamas.

Another group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), urged peaceful protests against Hamas taxes.

"The DFLP condemns the increase of taxes and fees ... which have led to an unprecedented rise in prices amid deteriorating economic and social conditions," it said. "We call for popular action and peace protests to stop these measures."

Israel invaded Gaza in a three-week offensive 16 months ago to force an end to rocket fire by Hamas and other groups aimed at towns in southern Israel. But the border remains tense and violent incidents involving troops and militants are frequent.

Local traders say the group is trying to patch up its depleted finances and calculate this tax will yield it about $6 million per month.

The PFLP also noted a new Hamas move to take over uninhabited housing and offer it to their members.

Economists say half the people are jobless in Gaza, which subsists on United Nations aid. They cannot leave the enclave.

PFLP leaders said they had urged Hamas in a face-to-face meeting recently to ease up.

The Hamas administration denied it had imposed any new tax and said it had only "activated a tiny section of the taxation system."

Mezher said the PFLP had plenty of testimony to the contrary from ordinary people. Many government employees said they had not yet been paid for the month of March.

Hamas Islamists are allied with Iran and refuse to recognize Israel, unlike their arch rivals in the Fatah movement, which is dominant in the West Bank and open to a peace treaty that would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Prospects of the two groups reconciling to heal the split in Palestinian ranks are seen as remote.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1165992.html

posi
Apr 30 2010 16:14

Fair enough, the AF point has been around for longer than libcom.

JK wrote:
Is there a common experience or isn't there? In what sense is there one, and to what extent is it real? Do the Palestinian elite experience 'national struggle' in the same way as Palestinian workers? Which is it to be?

If "common" means "the same" then no one has a "common" experience with anyone else, and there is not even a "common" working class experience of occupation (or anything else), since experiences differ not only by gender, physical and mental health etc., but person by person.

Th experience of occupation is structured and altered by class and a thousand other things (though class is amongst the most important). It nonetheless makes sense to speak - although this sense should be qualified, which is a problem with the original phrasing - of a common experience. I haven't been vague about the sorts of thing this means. It means, for example, humiliation at checkpoints, it means your brother walking down the street one day, and a shell, as if from nowhere, landing next to him, killing him instantly. Gunfire all through the night. No electricity or phone reception again. Do you see what I mean?

Quote:
davidbroder wrote:
I do support the Palestinians against the Israeli state and don't feel particularly apologetic for that.

So would you support armed attacks on large settlement blocks like Ariel? Hamas shooting rockets into civilian areas?

How are "settlement blocks" or "civilian areas" "the Israeli state"?! confused

Of course not.

Quote:
Are you referring to the West Bank villages against the Wall?

Well, in my case, yes, but not only that.

Quote:
And what about supporting Israelis against the Israeli state or Palestinians against Hamas and the PLO?

Of course.

jk wrote:
you can oppose racism without demanding racial self-determination and oppose sexism without demanding a sovereign womens' state.

Sure, but that is in fact not the debate here, at all. We haven't even broached the question of "self-determination", statist or otherwise. We are talking about the real bases of oppression and struggle.

Quote:
the point of anti-racist and anti-sexist struggles is not to raise up racial and gender differences to the fundamental organising principle of society but to reduce them to characteristics as consequential as blood type or eye colour.

Yeah, but nowhere do we say nationality is "the fundamental organising principle of society". And you can't reduce the importance of such diffrences by wishing, or arguing, them away. Their material basis needs to be destroyed by a real movement (or external event), and any such movement requires the recognition of such a category as real. It is no more of a construct than class.

vlad wrote:
If India is the role model here, then I think you're undermining your own argument.

No, because the question is not whether capitalism and all sorts of other bad things survive the end of imperial rule. Of course they do, it's not the communist revolution. But in the late 19th C, the British empire effectively caused between 12 and 29 million deaths in India by provoking a famine, by exporting wheat to England. It isn't about whether you're making "excuses" for imperial rule, it's about whether you're clearly against it... or whether you equivocate.

vlad wrote:
Should communists then have supported Hindus against Muslims or vice versa? Or this ethnicity against that ethnicity?

No. Obv.

Boris Badenov
Apr 30 2010 16:23
posi wrote:
No, because the question is not whether capitalism and all sorts of other bad things survive the end of imperial rule. Of course they do, it's not the communist revolution. But in the late 19th C, the British empire effectively caused between 12 and 29 million deaths in India by provoking a famine, by exporting wheat to England. It isn't about whether you're making "excuses" for imperial rule, it's about whether you're clearly against it... or whether you equivocate.

and the Pakistani/Indian/Bangladeshi governments have caused, and are causing, millions of deaths through warfare, encouraging sectarianism, forced displacement, genocide even, and so forth.
If "national liberation" hasn't caused more deaths in the region than the British Raj, the numbers are at least comparable. So why does it matter if it's foreign or local state-sponsored aggression?
I am clearly against British imperialism. Are you clearly against Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi imperialism, or indeed, against what will absolutely become Palestinian imperialism if the "national liberation" succeeds?

posi wrote:
Quote:
Should communists then have supported Hindus against Muslims or vice versa? Or this ethnicity against that ethnicity?

no obv

Well how is Palestinian vs. Israeli any different?

posi
Apr 30 2010 16:40
vlad wrote:
I am clearly against British imperialism.
Quote:
why does it matter if it's foreign or local state-sponsored aggression?

Given the former, surely you're able to provide your own answer to the later. wink

Quote:
Well how is Palestinian vs. Israeli any different?

It's not.

Khawaga. Of course - though the Ha'aretz article doesn't in any way conflict with my world view (or indeed relate to the debate), and as it happens somewhat whitewashes PFLP and DFLP, who opportunistically refuse to criticise Fatah in the WB in similar terms, because Fatah gives them money through the PA. You may be interested in this, as a critique of even the "left" of the official resistance: http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/gender-nation-class-and-the-first-intifada/

Yorkie Bar
Apr 30 2010 17:12
Quote:
If "common" means "the same" then no one has a "common" experience with anyone else, and there is not even a "common" working class experience of occupation (or anything else), since experiences differ not only by gender, physical and mental health etc., but person by person.

"Common" patently does not mean "the same", this is just a futile word game you are playing to try and plaster over the cracks in your argument. The question is whether Palestinian workers have *broadly similar* interests with Hamas/Fatah bigwigs in resisting the Israeli occupation.

Let us assume that they do. In that case, there is a clear case for a discrete 'national struggle' of Palestinians, as Palestinians, against the Israeli occupation. However, such a cross-class alliance requires, as a very fact of its existance, the suppression of class struggle. A house divided is obviously not going to stand against one of the most technologically advanced militaries on earth. Unity of workers and bosses is *the* essential feature of the nationalist project.

Alternatively, let us assume that they do not. In this case, the equally unambiguous conclusion is that Palestinian workers should resist persecution on national grounds as Palestinian workers. However, this undermines any possibility of a Palestinian nation as something based on a genuine, shared experience of/struggle against oppression.

Khawaga
Apr 30 2010 17:26
posi wrote:
as it happens somewhat whitewashes PFLP and DFLP, who opportunistically refuse to criticise Fatah in the WB in similar terms, because Fatah gives them money through the PA.

It does indeed whitewash them; though me posting that article was not meant as an endorsement of either P or DFLP. My comment about the proto-state of the PA being more like a tribe was meant to include stuff like doling out money to keep people in control. Even the ISM was offered (several times apparently) money, office space and free transportation by the PA/Fatah, supposedly with no strings attached. The offers have always been refused.

trenchone
May 1 2010 06:17

A fundamental point in the AF pamphlet is that

Quote:
Nationalism, then, is something with a very real history and origin. Its power lies in the way it is presented as a natural state of things, and the assumption that national divisions and national determination are a natural part of human life, always have been and always will be. Anarchists take a very different view. The same period of history which created the nation-state and capitalism also created something left out of nationalist accounts – the dispossessed class of wage-workers whose interests stand in opposition to those of the capitalist nation state: the working class. This class which is obliged to fight in their interests against capital are not a ‘people’, but a condition of existence within capitalism, and as such transcend national borders. This antagonism led to the development of revolutionary perspectives challenging the world of capitalism, and posing a different world entirely.

This is the strength of the pamphlet: the assertion of a class position against all varieties of nationalism, left and right. Its weakness is claiming this as just an 'anarchist' point of view. Marxism also sees wage-workers as the gravediggers of capitalism, created by capitalist development.

In addition the pamphlet's insistence that

Quote:
As anarchist communists, we have always opposed nationalism, and have always marked our distance from the left through vocally opposing all nationalism – including that of ‘oppressed nations’.

is contradicted by Schmidt and van der Welt's idiosyncratic Black Flame. On the question of nationalism they say (in a typically timeless way, a bit like the unhistoric approach of the AF)

Quote:
One anarchist and syndicalist approach was to support nationalist currents fairly uncritically, regarding their struggles as a step in the right direction. For some, this meant supporting the formation of small states in preference to large ones - a view that most anarchists rejected. For others, this meant supporting the creation of new national states as a partial break with imperialism. The opposite approach was to simply reject all participation in national liberation struggles on the grounds that such struggles were irredeemably tainted by nationalism and must always fail to deliver genuine freedom to the popular classes. National liberation struggles were viewed as futile, and national questions as something to be resolved in the course of a world revolution. The third, more sophisticated approach was to participate in national liberation struggles in order to shape them, win the battle of ideas, displace nationalism with a politics of national liberation through class struggle, and push national liberations struggles in a revolutionary direction

This 'more sophisticated approach' looks like the abandonment of class politics while falling in with local bourgeoisies. What is this 'battle of ideas'? Whatever the differences there is agreement that the nation comes before class interests.

knightrose says

Quote:
The AF's position on national liberation was, in fact, argued for by many groups before the ICC emerged.

This is true. As the AF pamphlet briefly reminds us, the contribution of Rosa Luxemburg can not be ignored

Quote:
Luxemburg recognised that the matter of ‘national independence’ was a question of force, not ‘rights’. For her, the discussion of the ‘rights’ of ‘self-determination’ was utopian, idealist and metaphysical; its reference point was the not the material opposition of classes but the world of bourgeois nationalist myths

.

This is the materialist point of view. The material 'opposition of classes' is denied by all the forms of nationalism. It is significant that the most vicious attack on Luxemburg that I've ever heard was from a member of the Commune group, in a meeting where he insisted that it was "disastrous" to follow her ideas. There was no ambiguity. The national struggle came before the class struggle. Although, of course, this was phrased in the language of the "more sophisticated approach"

Joseph Kay
May 1 2010 08:39
Quote:
As anarchist communists, we have always opposed nationalism

i read that as them saying they as in the AF have always opposed nationalism, rather than all anarchist-communists, which wouldn't be true.

twentyone
May 2 2010 07:16

this specific against nationalism seems really regressive and defeatist. lets not make excuses for isreal controlling and ruling palestine. we cant sit here and say ''no no no palestine, not like that!'' we cant be telling the palestinians to organize themselves in a perfect way while we're not doing it ourselves. if the palestinians want to rule themselves as a nation state, we should allow that. this doesnt stop us from advocating a more communist/anarchist/non hierarchical society. but lets not make excuses for imperialism. we can throw imperialism out now, but waiting to throw it out until the human race becomes fully class conscious and overthrows homophobia, sexism, and capitalist class society is absurd. part of reaching our goal of a more democratic society is going to entail people inevitably doing self destructive things, but this responsibility is liberating. i see palestinians electing hamas as if drugs were legalized, is hamas and drugs harmful to ourselves? yea, but having this sort of self rule is also liberating, and with this freedom comes some responsibility. we take responsibility for doing drugs, and the palestinians will take responsibility for their form of governance. self rule is better than foreign rule, period. i see a lot of excuses for imperialism, when we're making excuses for imperialism aren't we getting sidetracked? isnt something wrong with that? if we waited until everyone reached a full class consciousness and awareness of capitalist society we'd all still be ruled by our imperial countries, surely that cant be a good thing.

Anarchia
May 2 2010 08:28

twentyone - Hamas rule has nothing whatsoever to do with self-rule. Having your bosses/rulers come from the same ethnic background as you doesn't mean they aren't still a boss/ruler.

Django
May 2 2010 08:33
Joseph Kay wrote:
i read that as them saying they as in the AF have always opposed nationalism, rather than all anarchist-communists, which wouldn't be true.

Yes - it also covers weaknesses in the anarchist tradition in this regard, but doesn't spend ages on the history of anarchist positions because its more relevant to articulate what our politics are about, not to plant our flag in this or that branch of the workers' movement.

Yorkie Bar
May 2 2010 09:50
trenchone wrote:
the strength of the pamphlet: the assertion of a class position against all varieties of nationalism, left and right. Its weakness is claiming this as just an 'anarchist' point of view.

That assertion is not made anywhere in the pamphlet, as far as I can see.

Quote:
In addition the pamphlet's insistence that
Quote:
Quote:
As anarchist communists, we have always opposed nationalism, and have always marked our distance from the left through vocally opposing all nationalism – including that of ‘oppressed nations’.

is contradicted by Schmidt and van der Welt's idiosyncratic Black Flame.

Right, so you're taking what we've said, then taking issue with it on the grounds that people who are not affiliated with the AF and have absolutely nothing to do with the pamphlet wrote something different. Y'wot?

Quote:
On the question of nationalism they say (in a typically timeless way, a bit like the unhistoric approach of the AF)

How on earth do you make that out? The pamphlet spends a great deal of time dealing with the history of nationalism, and goes to great lengths to set it's subject within its historical context.

twentyone wrote:
if the palestinians want to rule themselves as a nation state, we should allow that. this doesnt stop us from advocating a more communist/anarchist/non hierarchical society.

Er, do you not think that people being ruled by states stands in the way of anarchist-communism?