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'
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.
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.
This is an interesting
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:
...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,
In the text I refer to a
In the text I refer to a piece on Populism, this is it - http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/imperialism-and-populism-in-latin-america-the-case-of-peru-1968-75/
@ Caiman del Barrio 1. Lots
@ 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.
I don't see why that's
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.
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?
Quote: Quote: Communists must
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.
Also it has absolutely
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.
Quote: Why? Are you arguing
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.
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.
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'.
jmmer wrote: It doesn't make
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).
posi wrote: The problem with
this is a caricature. for example Against Nationalism includes one of the AF leaflets that spawned it, which explicitly states:
yeah, but: a) that appears as
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:
... you'd be supporting a struggle based upon fantasy, or a smokescreen, it would make no sense.
... 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.
posi wrote: What would a
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.
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
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).
davidbroder wrote: 1. Lots of
Some other bits in a similar
Some other bits in a similar vein,
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...
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?
Posi, you could at least
Posi, you could at least quote things in context rather than plucking 9 words from the middle of a sentence. the quote reads:
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.
Quote: er, if it's
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.
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?)
Whatever. The point is that you have no language to talk about the real world categories you want to.
posi wrote: Nah, I'm just
thanks for the pyschoanalysis. completely wide of the mark, but thanks for reading my mind anyway.
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'.
Just going to quickly correct
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 ;) ). The review demands a proper written response, which will be forthcoming.
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.
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.
Note here that David completely ignored what comes immediately afterwards, basically to change what is being said – here is the quote in full context:
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.
Quote: i think in that
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:
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...
posi wrote: In fact, that
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?
Quote: thanks for the
Any time ;)
Well, whatever, it's a structural relation which operates in just the way I described.
Absolutely, which is what I've been arguing.
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?
Vlad336 wrote: How is Popular
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 :lol: ).
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.)
posi wrote: And are you
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
Posi wrote: In fact, that
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: )
JK wrote: What I'm saying is
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.'
Anway, since when have the
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.
posi wrote: Yeah, but no one
Wrong. In the original article, bolded for emphasis:
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.
posi wrote: So the Popular
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.
Quote: We'd argue that these
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.
JK wrote: you're really being
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:
In this formulation, you affirm nothing which cuts against the reductionist interpretation.
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.
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:
But the truth is that the world contains both nations and classes in struggle.
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...
One more... Khawaga
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:
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.
posi wrote: (you can't buy
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.
If this refers to the anti-Wall struggle then I think you are simply incorrect (see my post above).
Quote: Ah well, I guess
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.
no, there are no knots. I
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.
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.
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...
Posi wrote: btw - on the
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).
posi wrote: yeah, but - with
Care to elaborate?
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).
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).
Django wrote: If you're
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.
Quote: no, there are no
Except you're not really recognising this as a mistake, are you?
The original comment was:
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.
A number of comrades have
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.
Quote: Note here that David
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.
Quote: One of the key issues
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.
davidbroder wrote: I do
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?
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.
Quote: all Palestinians are
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.
davidbroder wrote: I am yet
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.
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.
The AF's position on national
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 :)). 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.
It's such a cheap smear, but
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.
The earth is round and
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.
I also defend the idea that
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.
davidbroder wrote: As for
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.
This is the Palestinian
This is the Palestinian resistance at work.
Fair enough, the AF point has
Fair enough, the AF point has been around for longer than libcom.
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?
How are "settlement blocks" or "civilian areas" "the Israeli state"?! :confused:
Of course not.
Well, in my case, yes, but not only that.
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.
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.
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.
posi wrote: No, because the
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?
Well how is Palestinian vs. Israeli any different?
vlad wrote: I am clearly
Given the former, surely you're able to provide your own answer to the later. ;)
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/
Quote: If "common" means "the
"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.
posi wrote: as it happens
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.
A fundamental point in the AF
A fundamental point in the AF pamphlet is that
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
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)
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.
This is true. As the AF pamphlet briefly reminds us, the contribution of Rosa Luxemburg can not be ignored
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"
Quote: As anarchist
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.
this specific against
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.
twentyone - Hamas rule has
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.
Joseph Kay wrote: i read that
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.
trenchone wrote: the strength
That assertion is not made anywhere in the pamphlet, as far as I can see.
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?
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.
Er, do you not think that people being ruled by states stands in the way of anarchist-communism?
It is nice that DB thinks
It is nice that DB thinks that the ICC has such an influence on AF, but as comrades have pointed out: the AF position is not based on the analysis of the ICC. As other comrades have pointed out there various currents of thought that have lead to the defense of internationalist positions against national liberation. Within the Communist Left there has not been a unified understanding of the need to reject national liberation struggles in decadence, these differences are usually based on different understandings of the decadence of capitalism. Some Bordigists do not accept this conception and defend national liberation, in specific circumstances. Whilst the ICC and the ICT are agreed on the basic concept of decadence and the need to reject support for national liberation.
Historically the question of national liberation has been an important question for the COmmunist left. Our pamphlet Nation or Class deals with these positions, as well as explaining our position in more detail
Nation or Class.
It is a bit old now but a new version is available in French and is in the process of being produced in English.
Quote: if the palestinians
And if "the British" "want" to be ruled by the Conservatives (or Labour for that matter) we should just let them get on with it and not criticise that either? Same goes for if "the Americans" "want" to be ruled by the Republicans or Democrats, I suppose.
No we can't.
People who take drugs are harmful to themselves, but they don't generally go around breaking strikes, persecuting homosexuals, etc. There's a subtle difference there.
BiglittleJ wrote: Quote: On
Based on the way the word 'historical' is used by certain Marxists, I'm assuming he means that the AF doesn't have a theory of decadence. On the issue of nationalism, that usually means arguing that in capitalism's ascendent stage national liberation movements were a potential gain in the sense that they could establish an independent capitalist class, which is now impossible, due to world imperialism. So the theory goes, anyway.
But obviously thats very obscure political jargon, and isn't what most people think the word 'historical' means.
I’ve read the text “Against
I’ve read the text “Against Nationalism” and welcome it, particularly as a defence of the working class and the masses against the support for nationalism that it expressed within the Commune’s position. The text is an affirmation of the internationalism of the proletariat and denunciation of nationalism and the development of imperialism. I particularly liked its analysis of the development of strategic factors in imperialism over and above (and including) financial and exploitative reasons and its analysis of the development of state capitalism.
One point though. I tend to agree with Trenchone that the text tends to only ascribe a critique of nationalism to anarchism. This point is made throughout the text. Now, I’ve seen some stuff on anarchism opposing nationalism and clearly defending internationalism and I’m sure that there’s a lot more that I’m unaware of or previously underestimated. But this whole critique of nationalism is, in my opinion, an expression of the workers’ movement as a whole and the more that’s brought out the better. The text does mention Rosa Luxemburg’s position, although even here, given the importance of supporting national development for the interests of the working class, it shouldn’t be forgotten that even with her very clear analysis she still had some hangovers in supporting some elements of Polish nationalism. But my point here is to defend the critique of nationalism made by revolutionaries, communists and left communists that the text doesn’t mention.
Rosa Luxemburg’s position, summed up in the quote from the text by Trenchone, has been amply confirmed by history. Her critique of Lenin’s position and the rejection of national liberation began by accepting the basic framework of a discussion between communists. It was a question of power and not “rights” and national liberation represented a bourgeois capitalist framework beyond class. It ties the proletariat to the left elements of capital and directly attacks the unity of the working class. Her rejection of national liberation was directly tied to her analysis of imperialism. Bourgeois democratic revolutions were a thing of the past and gave way to states of conquest in which a return to an earlier capitalism was utopian.
Cohering around Rosa’s rejection of national liberation, even before WWI, was the German, Dutch and Polish left as well as the Kommunist group inside the Bolshevik Party. All these defended the idea of a decisive break with the past against Lenin’s position: the only answer to imperialism, “The modern imperialist pirate state” (Bukharin, 1915), was not to defend part of it, but the proletarian revolution. For Bukharin, self-determination from 1914 had become the defence of the fatherland. Lenin’s reply to him (State and Revolution) was to concede on the destruction of the bourgeois state but he still included self-determination and other bourgeois-democratic traits based on the previous period.
In the crucible of WWI it was becoming obvious to the clearest elements of the workers’ movement that any nationalist movement was against the interests of the proletariat. It was demonstrable in the cases of Ukraine (whose nationalism is still supported by elements (?) of The Commune today who have the advantage of one hundred years of hindsight), Poland and Finland – Rosa used these to drive the point home against Lenin and the Bolsheviks, adding the examples of Lithuania, the Baltic countries and the Caucasus. More elements of the Bolsheviks went towards Luxemburg’s position, summed up in the words of one of them in “Away with all frontiers”. Lenin’s position of trying to weaken capitalism by supporting national rights only strengthened it.
The First Congress of the CI was relatively clear on national liberation, colonial oppression and imperialism; victory could only come from proletarian revolution. Further congresses degenerated on these issues but there were still communist minorities that fought against it. The degeneration was further reinforced by the “disastrous” position of defending the (increasingly isolated) Russian bastion. Pannekoek also descibed the tactic of giving support to national liberation struggles as disastrous for the proletariat. Within the International there were still disagreements with the policy and even Lenin warned against the danger of “painting nationalism red”. But that didn’t stop the further disasters of supporting nationalist movements of the like of Turkish nationalism in 1923 and the Kuomintang in 1927 which a minority of communists opposed and which led to the massacres of numerous communists, expressing and developing the forces of the counter-revolution.
After the Treaty of Versailles, the “democratic peace”, recognised the rights of self-determination of all the countries in central and Eastern Europe: Finland, the Baltics, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Poland – all served the imperialist interests of either Britain, France or both and all of them were cut through with internal and external conflicts within and between themselves. This mess of national states, completely unstable with their own imperialist conflicts and desires, very quickly turned out to be not the factor of “peace and stability” seen by Versailles, but a new descent into the imperialist maelstrom, where as Luxemburg had noted, the ideology of nationalism was the weapon to persuade the workers to act as cannon fodder and massacre one another.
The work of left communism, and that of Bilan in the 30s, contributed to developing the analysis of nationalism and imperialism tying it in with the counter-revolution and the danger of another world war. And in the depths of the counter-revolution, up to and through WWII - a real test - the communist left was active in denouncing the nationalism of all the participants and analysing the developments of imperialism around it and from it.
I will later reply to the
I will later reply to the above, but just to say people may be interested in http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/imperialism-and-the-national-question-sheffield-tuesday-11th-may/ if they can make it, not to toot my own horn too much but I will be there and up for a discussion...
A few points: Quote: Baboon:
A few points:
The problem I have with this statement, as well as the whole passage (I may as well have quoted the whole thing) is that it just asserts all these failures without explanation. Baboon, I do not know if you attended our day school on the Russian revolution last August (which is perhaps why you mention Ukraine), but there Chris gave a presentation about how Russian imperialism in Ukraine, the underdevelopment and cultural oppression etc., were grievances in tandem with a general anti-capitalist one.
There was a mass movement which established an independent republic of workers' councils. I am no expert on Ukraine. But what I am putting forward is the idea that national struggle and support for the national bourgeoisie are not necessarily the same thing.
This is a case in point. Maybe you might provide evidence that this was not an example of that, or that the independentist streak weakened the class struggle (and then draw general lessons from that), but please do so by demonstration and explanation rather than simple assertion. I can take no responsibility for Lenin's support of Turkish nationalists or whatever, and nowhere said I did.
So what about in 1919 when the Ukrainian soviets were deprived of their autonomy? Does the fact that this also happened in other areas of Russia make the forced cultural/linguistic Russification less bad? And what about the Russian invasion of Poland in 1920? Did that bolster or weaken the Polish regime?
But it's not just all part of the class struggle. It may facilitate class struggle, and we would encourage a 'class struggle' approach to fighting such forms of oppression, but that is not limited to working-class people or possible to challenge solely in class terms. Working-class militancy which does not put resisting all hierarchies and forms of oppression at the forefront is not a movement for the liberation of humanity. Calling it 'all part of the class struggle' seems to limit what is specific and important about resisting other privileges/oppressions.
The racial self-determination thing is not comparable because nationality, people living in the same territory is not necessarily exclusivist (although it could be) whereas that is the strong implication of 'racial self-determination'.
I don't accept the idea that Palestinian workers (and the much larger mass of unemployed, refugees, petty bourgeoisie etc) only see their struggle as a national one because leftists and nationalists tell them to. That denies them any agency. Surely they do not only fight a national struggle because that is a banner or because there are flags, but because that is the main oppression structuring Palestinian society: the oppressor structures its oppression in national terms. If there are any Palestinians who are not oppressed on the basis of nationality then they are only those who are lackeys of the Israeli state.
As a general point I think as with a lot of debates on LibCom there may be more common ground than is represented in the discussion itself. The review and my comments above do bend the stick on nationalism but I also attempted to bring out some different points e.g. what is above and beyond class struggle.
Someone earlier said that the language of a more 'sophisticated' approach is one which masks a call for supporting national bourgeoisies, but I simply don't see that, and indeed, noticeably, nowhere at all have I advocated support for national bourgeoisies or the forces here referred to as 'national liberationists'.
Quote: the communist left was
OK, but even some Trot groups were revolutionary defeatist on all sides. Not the mainstream but e.g. the people who produced Arbeiter und Soldat for German troops in occupied north-west France and had no qualms about denouncing the imperialist character of Gaullist resistance and the PCF
I say that not to bolster Trotskyism or whatever, but simply to recognise that kind of position is not particularly specific to left communism, and indeed is also obvious to me.
there seems to be two main
there seems to be two main theoretical/conceptual differences underlying this argument; (1) the nature of the class and class struggle (davidbroder suggests that the unemployed are not workers, and that class is one of a series of oppressions alongside national oppression and others) and (2) the nature of imperialism (as an action of powerful states versus a tendency inherent to the states-system itself). i don't have time to reply right now, but these seem to be the substantive differences from which some of the other points derive.
Quote: Baboon:I’ve read the
On the Commune web site someone asked whether David's position was endorsed by the Commune as a collective. While there are some who would agree with David - it is not a position that can be attributed to the group. I am a member of the Commune and I disagree with the general thrust of David's argument although I would agree with some of the detailed points he has made. I agree more with the arguments made by Joseph (particularly the last comment), the AF and others, although I don't agree with everything that has been said in opposition to David either.
However, I don't have time to get involved in the debate right now so this is just a plea to recognise that there are diverse opinions within the Commune on a number of issues not just national liberation. No doubt we will be having the same debate within the group. ;)
And what about the Russian
And what about the Russian invasion of Poland in 1920? Did that bolster or weaken the Polish regime?
Just a quick point on this: it became evident to many of the Bolsheviks (and this was also a point drawn out more explicitly by Bilan in the 1930s) that the idea of spreading the revolution by military means alone was a fundamental error. The Red Army's advance into Poland did indeed tend to push the Polish workers into the arms of their own bourgeoisie. But that is an argument against imposing revolution from above or 'outside', which is a contradiction in terms. It is not an argument in favour of national self-determination. By the same token, if a smaller soviet republic had hesitations in fusing with a larger one, it would be counter-productive to try to force that fusion - real unity could only come about by convincing the workers of that area that their interests lie in a global council power. But again that's not the same as 'national self-determination'. The reduction of the autonomy of the soviets in the Ukraine in any case was part of a process which saw all the soviets throughout Russia losing their autonomy from the growing bureaucracy of the state
I have three points to make
I have three points to make on this. One has been made already, but I would like to add a little even if it is slightly off topic:
As people have pointed out the AF's point on nationalism in the aims and principles was adopted long before Libcom existed, and while many of the AF posters on here were still in short trousers, I imagine (I am pretty sure that it was in the late 80s).
Furthermore, political ideas do not belong to particular organisations, but to the class as a whole.
The ICC itself has not always realised this. An example could be a particularly shocking article we wrote about the AF: Left communism is not part of the anarchist tradition.
While the title itself may be true, unfortunately the rest of the article is awful. The work of communists/anarchists of the past belongs not exclusively to those who claim descendence from them but to the class as whole. Yes it is wrong to claim people belonged to a tradition that they didn't, which I don't think the AF did, but the political inheritance of the German left belongs as much to other revolutionary groups as to the groups of the communist left.
The second point is more connected to the issue at hand:
I think that it is lucky then that the Commune has a massive group in Palestine (which the writer was referring to at this point). That is implementing the correct strategy on the ground.
Internationalists are often accused of dealing only in abstractions by those who deal in exactly that. There are no Trotskyist groups, or anarchist groups in Palestine, nor any left communist ones for that matter. Personally I don't think that this is just by chance, but is a direct result of the weakness of the working class in that country.
If there was a revolutionary anarchist group there, I am sure it would have developed a practical orientation to day to day problems. This though is not the AF's task, though of course there input into discussions with groups in these situations will, of course, be valuable in the future. The task of the AF, and the ICC in the UK, is to put forward a communist perspective on these struggles, which I think the AF do admirably.
There are of course anarchist groups and left communist groups in countries where there are national liberation struggles. Two examples of groups from which there are people on these boards would be the anarcho-syndicalist 'Organise!', who in my opinion do a brave and necessary job in putting forward class politics in Northern Ireland, a country where the working class suffers from deep sectarian division, and the ICC in Turkey, who have recently been deeply involved in a struggle involving both Kurdish and Turkish workers where people really began to build class unity in the face of attacks on wages and living standards.
I think that the work done by both is much more relevant than weather a Trotskyist in England 'supports' nationalist movements, which in Northern ıreland entrench the sectarian division amongst the working class, and in Turkey go as far as shooting school teachers for teaching in Turkish. Neither of which in my opinion do anything to advance working class struggle, nor do leftists abroad who support them.
My final point concerns both the nature of the period and the development of confidence within the class:
I haven't noticed many people recently 'obtaining a better position for the working class in capitalist society'. What I notice is workers trying to hold onto the jobs and conditions that they have, and not become more impoverished. For us though it is through struggle that the working class develops confidence, but through its own struggle in its own interests. Why would a national struggle increase class confidence?
davidbroder wrote: Django:
Thats because its part of a section describing the development of the 'national idea', up to the point where a) national liberation struggles proliferate and have a significant effect on world politics and b) the 'national idea' as we can begin to recognise it from the modern world starts to come into play. That these ideas weren't manifested as a world of nation-states on an even playing field is acknowledged in the text, not just in the part of that paragraph you left out, but in other, more relevent bits of the pamphlet. (Plus its worth pointing out that the fact that during high imperialism powers like Britain could interfere in parts of the world like the middle east while claiming to be protecting the 'national independence' of the arabs, jews and armenians shows that the interaction of ideology and praxis isn't as simple either way, either in the 'flat earth' viewpoint you claim the AF holds or the one you counter it with).
So criticising the bit you've quoted for not providing an "insight into the relationship of the colonised world, and its nationalisms, to the imperialist powers" just looks like quotemining.
If some Trotskyist elements
If some Trotskyist elements denounced both sides in WWII – and I believe some small groupings did – then this would clearly put them on the side of internationalism against imperialism and this would be part of the expression of the workers’ movement to defend class positions.
Revolutionary wars, imposing soviet centralisation by force, were errors that could only be overcome by the extension of the revolution. But these tactics themselves had the effect of further strangling the revolution and were counter-productive. Also to echo Alf regarding the Ukraine soviets, their forced assimilation to the bureaucracy was the same as happened within Russia. Ukraine in this context can be added to all the other concrete examples given by Rosa Luxemburg above. In relation to these examples, Lenin pointed out the dangers of “Greater Russian Chauvinism” which he restricted to Stalin and others, blaming himself “before the workers”, for not intervening with “sufficient energy” beforehand. That Lenin blamed Stalin and his cohorts didn’t mean that he didn’t glimpse the general, overriding problem. The apparatus that the Bolsheviks inherited and used was no more than the old imperial apparatus “anointed with a little Soviet holy oil” and the incorporated idea of free secession was, according to him, “only a scrap of paper incapable of defending the minorities”. All the charges made by the Workers’ Opposition within Russia were first laid out by Lenin and just before his death, after his period of illness; he affirmed that the new apparatus is the same bureaucratic apparatus of the old regime “only slightly repainted on the surface” and here lay the nub of the problem.
DB says above that national struggle and support for national bourgeoisies is not the same thing. But the problem is that it is: one faction or the other. The question of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 (and all the other coloured revolutons elsewhere) is that support for national struggle could only support one side or the other, one imperialist configuration or the other. In 1997, the workers of Ukraine fought on their own ground for their own interests. This class struggle was not only absent in the cause of Ukrainian nationalism, it was totally wiped out in the fight of rival Ukrainian nationalist clans and the wider interests of imperialism.
Quote: Me: So what about in
Although I agree with much of your passage, I don't see how it effectively answers my question and there is a contradiction in it. The controlling from above/the centre of the Ukrainian soviets did take place as part of the gutting out of the Soviets in Russia proper, but I openly state this in my question.
Clearly spreading the revolution by force was counter-productive. So too was Russian chauvinism and denying the autonomy Ukraine. The idea that free secession was only a scrap of paper, does not tell us that it would not have been preferable for the Ukrainian soviet republic (it was not just individual soviets which happened to be in Ukraine) to preserve its independence.
Indeed had it done so it could have better facilitated the spread of the revolution into Hungary and beyond and moreover been a bulwark against the wider Great Russian statist project, both because of the interplay between the use of the Tsarist bureaucracy, statism and Russian nationalism, but also because the soviets in Ukraine had a more thoroughgoing multi-party soviet democracy for longer.
What all this does show is that it is meaningless for you to then go on to say: "DB says above that national struggle and support for national bourgeoisies is not the same thing. But the problem is that it is: one faction or the other." OK, how does that apply to the Ukrainian revolution of 1917, Hungary '56...
The marginalisation of communists as of the 2004 Orange Revolution is hardly evidence that all national struggles are merely ciphers for competing imperialist powers, given that (i) in the example of Ukraine in 1917-21 the independence movement and soviet democracy went hand in hand and bourgeois nationalists were marginalised (ii) I nowhere express support for one faction or another of the bourgeoisie (iii) it is actually quite rare for a country to be so 'in play' between two rival imperialisms as Ukraine is
By 1919 all was by no means
By 1919 all was by no means lost as far as the generalisation of class struggle and the revolution was concerned, even with the increasingly counter-revolutionary role of the Bolshevik Party. But it’s an unlikely possibility that an independent Ukrainian soviet republic, with the attendant dangers of nationalism therein, would have been, at its best, strong enough to turn the prevailing tide. It’s speculation.
I don’t think that it’s at all “rare” for a national state to be pivotal to imperialist rivalries as you pose it with Ukraine. Again, there’s the concrete examples of Rosa Luxemburg; Poland, the Baltics and so on. We can add Yugoslavia to these and Georgia and of course today Afghanistan and the Middle East, not least the question of a Palestinian nationalism. It’s the norm rather than a rarity.
I didn’t say anything about the absence of communists in Ukraine in 2004 but posed that event where the class struggle was completely drowned out and the workers mobilised by rival nationalist factions, to 1997, when workers in Ukraine fought for their conditions against both Ukrainian and Russian bosses.
On Hungary 56, the answer is revealing: Russia and Stalinism generally, called it a “fascist uprising”, whereas in the west it was a struggle for democracy, freedom, both lies but the main axis being that this was a struggle of the “Hungarian people”. But this was a high level of class struggle, in a counter-revolutionary period, against the most savage terror, attacks and exploitative speed-up – the “Stourmovtchina” regularly suffered by workers in Russia and other Russian satellites. Czech workers rose up in Pilsen in 1953, strikes in East Berlin the same year, Poland also with martial law declared in Warsaw, Krakow and Silesia. Terror upon terror was unleashed by the Russian and national apparatuses but this only provoked, in Hungary, more workers’ struggles. National independence was popular in Hungary even among some Stalinists and the national communists who called for the “Hungarian path to socialism”, epitomised by Imre Nagy, the “hero of the revolution” in the west. The “sovietised” army, under the control of the Hungarian officer class, who traditionally looked to the west, was also not averse to national independence. The “patriotic resistance” could be accommodated by this officer class and supported by intellectuals and their “aspirations of the Hungarian people”. These were lies to cover up a bitter struggle of the workers against state terror and tremendous levels of exploitation, particularly with Hungary being an important part of the Stalinist war machine.
Though the levels of self-organisation in Hungary 56 were nothing like that of the workers’ councils in 1917 and the contamination of nationalism was present, they nevertheless represented high levels of class struggle and potentially a threat to and possible contagion of world order. The workers were denounced by Stalinists and Maoism world wide and US secretary of state Dulles told the Russian bourgeoisie “Gentlemen, you are masters of your own house; it is up to you to clean it up”. In December, the Hungarian social-democrat minister said that the government would put to death 10,000 people to prove that it and not the soviets were the real government.
This was a workers, not a nationalist struggle. It was against capitalist exploitation and not for nationalist aims. To see it thus is to greatly underestimate it.
Further, to come back to an earlier point made by David which equally underestimates the class struggle. He says that Lindsey, London dockers and Ulster Workers’ Councils show the nationalism at work in workers’ struggles.
Firstly, elements of nationalism may have infected the Lindsey struggle, the bourgeoisie certainly did its best to make sure that they did, but again, this was a workers struggle for their own interests, taking place on their own terrain, ie, against increased attacks. This was a completely illegal strike (compare it to the ballot-bollocks of BA and the RMT) and there was no attempt by the state to enforce its law. The overall thrust of this movement was positive for the working class.
The London dockers (and Smithfield meat workers) did march behind racist slogans in 68 (the dominating Stalinist unions were out and out racist), but a few years later were at the forefront of a massive wave of struggle involving millions of workers which included all kinds of colours again fighting for their own interests.
The Ulster Workers’ Council strike however started off in a nationalist framework and from its “nationalist aspirations” had no chance whatsoever of breaking out of it. It was thoroughly reactionary from top to bottom and would seem to further undermine the sort of argument that David is putting forward.
You say: "DB says above that
You say: "DB says above that national struggle and support for national bourgeoisies is not the same thing. But the problem is that it is: one faction or the other. " i.e., national struggle is support for the national bourgeoisie.
I say "So what about in 1919 when the Ukrainian soviets were deprived of their autonomy? Does the fact that this also happened in other areas of Russia make the forced cultural/linguistic Russification less bad?"
You say: "to echo Alf regarding the Ukraine soviets, their forced assimilation to the bureaucracy was the same as happened within Russia"
I say "The idea that free secession was only a scrap of paper, does not tell us that it would not have been preferable for the Ukrainian soviet republic (it was not just individual soviets which happened to be in Ukraine) to preserve its independence. Indeed had it done so it could have better facilitated the spread of the revolution into Hungary and beyond and moreover been a bulwark against the wider Great Russian statist project, both because of the interplay between the use of the Tsarist bureaucracy, statism and Russian nationalism, but also because the soviets in Ukraine had a more thoroughgoing multi-party soviet democracy for longer."
Your reply "it’s an unlikely possibility that an independent Ukrainian soviet republic, with the attendant dangers of nationalism therein, would have been, at its best, strong enough to turn the prevailing tide. It’s speculation."
But earlier you argued that the demand for national independence is in fact just support for the national bourgeoisie! Hardly the same argument. Really you are just evading the nuance of the question. Surely you must be in favour of the independence of soviet Ukraine as against its integration.
Similarly as regards the evidence of Lindsey (which I supported) and the London dockers in '68. I already myself invoked these as examples of militant workers, yet you refer to them as if I didn't... my point is that militant workers can also be sectionalist, which I of course refer to in the original article.
I don't see why the Ulster Workers' Council strike undermines my argument at all, since Orange nationalism (accusing British imperialism of going soft) has nothing to do with anti-imperialism. Why do you even reference this? Where did I say I support this?
Perhaps you did not pay attention, but my argument is not just some sort of general call for people to be nationalists. That is easier to argue against though, I am sure, although it is an absurd and disingenous interpretation of my points. Like above when I referenced that Ukraine was denied autonomy at the same time the soviets were shut down, and your reply was "ah, yes, but the soviets were shut down!"
This reminds me of a talk I gave in Manchester where I explained the roots of Latin American populism and thus why a section of the ruling class supports state-capitalism, and why Hugo Chavez is a state capitalist.... only for an ICCer to counter-attack using exactly the arguments as if I had just said that state capitalism is the bee's knees!
[its integration by the
[its integration by the Bolshevik leadership into the Russian bureaucratic state etc]
I’m finding it increasingly
I’m finding it increasingly difficult to understand the “nuances” of your position David. I understand it’s based on the truth that all national entities, exemplified in the modern bourgeois state, have specificities: historical, cultural, economic and political elements more or less peculiar to themselves. Your conclusion to this is not clear to me and seems to imply some sort of nebulous support for national specifics and further implies a support, under the excuse of the pain and suffering of those peoples involved, for nationalist movements. You say it yourself: you can’t dismiss “the importance of fighting national oppression on its own terms”.
You don’t support the bourgeoisie outright but any support of the nation has to support one or the other sections of the ruling class of that nation or the machinations and exploitation of the leaderships of these “movements of oppressed peoples”.
You ignore the globality of imperialism, in which every nation and people’s movement is immersed; it “settles everywhere”. You ignore all the concrete historical examples above of the dangers of any sort of nationalism, particularly to the workers’ movement. And you underestimate the centrality of the class struggle which by its development poses the only real threat to imperialism possible.
I'm getting quite confused by
I'm getting quite confused by what David's actual position is.
From the review it seemed like you were arguing for some level of support for national liberation or national self-determination.
Now it seems you are definitively stating that this is not the case. And instead you just seem to be saying that you support "national struggle".
It would be helpful to me if you could define "national struggle".
Because it seems clear here that the AF/Solfed/ICC/libcom people have of course recognized that some oppressions can be based on nationality - of Palestinians in Palestine, or of non-EU citizens in the UK for example.
However, our response I believe is quite clear - we support class struggle in our own interests. And our interests can be against discrimination on the basis of our nationality - for example for employment rights, for civil rights in Ireland, against restriction of movement in Palestine etc. But we think it's important that these struggles are recognized as being class struggles, where all workers have the common interest of getting rid of discrimination, and that nationalist groupings do not mystify the situation in order to garner support for their own intentions of grabbing power, and setting workers of different nationalities against each other.
Similarly, for example, a Brazilian worker in the UK may suffer "national oppression" by being treated unfairly at work, paid below minimum wage as she doesn't have legal status, etc. In response to this, rather than support "national liberation" or "self-determination" of Brazilians in the UK we support working class organisation and struggle in the workplace against low pay, bullying, etc.
What is your disagreement with this? Is it just that you would not call this class struggle, but instead national struggle? Or what?
I hope that we will see some
I hope that we will see some sort of write-up of the recent discussions of The Commune on this question.
In the meantime, to return to one point mentioned by David above. He says, words to the effect, that "it is actually quite rare for a country (Ukraine) to be 'in play' between two rival imperialisms". This is quite a concrete observation and manifestly erroneous. Briefly, and without looking at a map (so there maybe some geographical errors), we can see major imperialist faultlines where national or ethnic entities are well "in play" between two, three or several imperialisms and where national and ethnic entities are, more or less, pawns in this play.
We could start with the Caucusus separating Europe from Asia: Chechnya, Georgia, Ossieta, Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Armenia - all involving ethnic and nationalist factions with greater power involvement.
At the heart of Europe we have the Balkans. The war of the 90s involving all the major powers (even China) and all the local factions and entities was totally immersed in imperialism and the war did absolutely nothing to settle any of the questions but, on the contrary, exacerbated them. Today, like many other imperialist faultlines throughout the globe, the Balkans remains a running sore ready to spread its nationalist poison with its local factions manipulated by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey and the United States, all of them expressing their own imperialist interests.
Then the Middle East: the Palestinian question involving a multitude of major and local imperialist interests with contingent alliances but mostly a war of each against all. Iraq, still a running sore with the involvement of Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia with French, British, German and American imperialist involvement.
The crossroads to Asia: Afghanistan involving India, China, Britain, Germany, Pakistan, America... The ex-southern republics of Russia and the tensions and rivalries on the back of national and ethnic movements involving the major powers of America, China, Britain, India, Russia...
And then we have the "offshoots": Africa - at least 5 million killed in the DRC with inter-ethnic strife stirred up by the major powers as they back their local pawns in order not just to establish their influence but to do down their rivals (an increasingly common factor of imperialism now). The Horn of Africa and the rivalries expressed here.
Latin America and some countries involvement in their own imperialist interests elsewhere as well as the involvement of the major powers in the continent itself: America, China, Britain, Spain, France...
I won't go on but its sufficient to see that imperialist rivalries over national, ethnic or proto-national entities is far from rare but is the norm for capitalist relations in spreading increasing suffering and misery on a global scale. Imperialism, as Rosa says, "settles everywhere, nestles everywhere" and this should be the overall framework for revolutionaries approaching the national question.
Amongst other things, Django
Amongst other things, Django and I will be debating at the upcoming The Commune summer school on June 19th:
Re-read this the other day.
Re-read this the other day. One thing which really jumped out at me was the ridiculousness of the title "the Earth is not flat" which throughout the entire text is completely unjustified.
... obviously it's
... obviously it's metaphorical - the claim in the piece is that the AF pamphlet says something akin to "nations aren't real, they're imaginary, so why struggle over national issues - all you need is do 'class struggle'", whereas - the reply says - this amounts to denying the independent reality of nationality (the unflatness of the world, if you will), its material basis, and its consequent necessity as an object of struggle in certain circumstances. I'm not sure we want to dive back into that though...
IMHO, recalling the debate (but not re-reading the above), it seemed to largely depend on whether you preferred to say that national oppression is merely an aspect of a given class position, or is something with distinct reality which has a different form of appearance depending on its class context - which is such a sufficiently boring and possibly even non-existant distinction that I don't particularly relish starting this again. But there you are.
Well clearly it's
Well clearly it's metaphorical. But believing the Earth to be flat is something which is completely obvious, and was demonstrated to be correct thousands of years ago. So comparing someone to a flat earther is basically saying that they cannot recognise completely obvious facts. For example someone arguing that the Earth didn't go around the sun, or that God created the world in six days.
It is not remotely comparable to a minor, completely subjective obscure political disagreement, and it is an extremely un-comradely and dismissive comparison to make.
In any case, your categorisation of the discussion seems pretty accurate, in that the claim in the article above invents a strawman position for the AF which you outline, then knocks it down. Whereas actually any disagreement was pretty unclear. I did try to ask David in my post #85 above exactly what the disagreement was, but he didn't come back on it, which I would still like him to to be honest.
OK. I didn't see the title
OK. I didn't see the title of the article as saying "the AF are flat-earthers" or something like that. I dunno, I think it's just normal to come up with a vaguely interesting title for an article, rather than calling it "AF position on nationalism not fully nuanced" or something like that.
... maybe a different title would have been better, my apologies if people did find it unduly aggressive - but I've gotta say I didn't think of that particular angle til you mentioned it now.
Re: your post #85, I can't answer for David, but this is my view.
The article does not invent a straw man. The article was based on a reasonable reading of the pamphlet and (in general) reflected my impressions having read the pamphlet as well: my memory is - I'm not going to read the whole thread again now - that some aspects of that understanding were challenged by people saying "yeah, but actually we don't think that, see this other thing we said here which contradicts it". For example, the pamphlet said "'national oppression’ has nothing to do with class struggle", and we pointed out this was wrong, and then people said something like "yeah, but you should have understood we didn't really mean that, what we meant was it does have something to do with class struggle, but in this particular way..." There were a few other examples throughout the debate.
But it's not necessarily obvious to someone reading a text like Against Nationalism that all inconsistencies are meant to be resolved in the way which they, the reader, would agree with. It's legitimate to criticise what's wrong in the text.
In my view, the thin distinction which I suggest above was not at all apparent at the beginning, and was only something which emerged in the course of the debate.
Furthermore, if me and D could be criticised for inventing a "straw man" position; what of all those who argued against us who created "straw men" of their own - who repeatedly insinuated or outright argued that the above was some sort of sophisticated support for Hamas?
OK - I could say more, but gotta run now.
D Broder wrote: 1. Lots of
That is damning national liberation with very faint praise; "the people" of, eg, Tunisia, have very different opinions (depending on their class) as to what 'Independence' has delivered.
Those totally un-Stalinist-like regimes Tunisia & Egypt, as confirmed by recent events.
I hear an important part of
I hear an important part of the rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt were the call for them to be reoccupied by European powers.
He is being sarcastic Jim,
He is being sarcastic Jim, implying that people still believe they are better off without foreign occupation
posi wrote: I hear an
no straw men you say? so if you oppose national liberation, you must support revived colonialism? come on, this kind of argument's beneath you.
fwiw i don't think you can characterise the AF argument as 'nations aren't real so don't struggle for them', it's entirely possible to acknowledge a material basis for something without supporting self-determination struggles for it. race for example is a clearly a construct, but not one without a material basis. but no leftists (to my knowledge) call for 'racial self-determination', because it's obviously possible to oppose racism without doing so.
posi wrote: I hear an
Right, because that's what anti-nationalism is about, calls for a renewal of colonialism.
posi wrote: OK. I didn't see
right, maybe I was being oversensitive, although that was the only way I could read it. I still can't really see any other way of it being interpreted other than it comparing the AF to flat earthers. But anyway…
you characterise the AF position described in the article above as: "nations aren't real, they're imaginary, so why struggle over national issues - all you need is do 'class struggle'". Whereas this is incorrect. From what I can recall it acknowledges that nationality can be a factor in people's oppression, as can race for example, but that is not a reason to support national liberation or national self-determination, like Joseph says anymore than we call for racial self-determination.
with that phrase, basically it would depend on your interpretation of the phrase "national oppression". Certain aspects of oppression on the basis of nationality, communists shouldn't have anything to do with them, as they are nothing to do with class struggle (for example, if a certain national group were denied the right to serve in a country's military, or be a business owner. This would be comparable to opposing sexism from a working-class perspective, but not caring about proportionality of men and women executives), whereas others would be relevant to class struggle - such as people of some nationalities not having employment rights.
this I agree with.
I don't recall that particular accusation (I haven't just re-read the whole debate). However, it would be a question I want to ask. Because it looks like David is attacking an article which argues that we should not support national liberation movements. I've tried to see what David's actual position is, but he did not respond. But it seems like if he's against not supporting national liberation movements, doesn't that mean he's trying to say we should support them? And if he does then what national liberation movements does he actually mean? If not Hamas, then who? And how?
JK wrote: no straw men you
Obviously it was a ridiculous thing to say. The point is that it was no more ridiculous than what Red was saying - if you read his last point, he's making exactly the inverse of that point (or seems to me to be).
Against Nationalism says:
I think they could have taken the position JK suggests "to acknowledge a material basis for something without supporting self-determination struggles for it" - and indeed some comments in the debate afterward might have suggested such an approach. But I think passages such as the one I just quoted are fairly characterised in the terms I suggested. It's a fairly straight reading I think - I'm sure you can see why I'd interpret it in the way I have.
But are you against national (state) self-determination (i.e. in every case, you'd rather it not happen)? I'm not.
I am against racial (state) self-determination though, always. I think that's one among several differences.
I think that a discourse has developed where one question people ask, politically on these boards, is "do you support national liberation?"; and - put in those words - I think it's not politically useful. In my opinion, it's no more helpful than starting with the inverse question "are you against national liberation?" and insisting on a Yes or No answer. I'm not "against national liberation", nor am I "for national liberation" in the abstract. In fact, very few people - including on "the left" - are. e.g. the SWP are for independence for Palestine, but against it for Scotland.
What is the real content of national liberation? In Palestine, would the end of the occupation lead to - indeed be materially identical with - the founding of a new nation state? Yes. Would you call it "national liberation"? I don't know if you would; I think you might, and can't immediately see why you wouldn't. Am I for the end of the occupation? Yes. Are you? I assume so. So... where does that leave us? Are we both "for the national liberation of Palestine"? If not, why not? Of course, you could say, "I'm for the ending of the occupation, not the creation of a new state" - but in my view that's more or less entirely semantic. (David may not hold this view, I'm not sure...) They would be the same event; and they were the same event in dozens of ex-colonies. Another option, is to say "I'm for meeting the needs of Palestinian proletarians, but neutral on the occupation" - I think that's an impossibly abstract position given the real relation between the two.
Saying you're not for national independence doesn't mean you're for imperialism - ok. But in any given case where the problem was concretely posed, there would be the alternative, one or the other. Sometimes, to read these boards, you'd think there was literally no greater threat to the global proletariat than some colonial or imperial relationship collapsing to be replaced by a new nation state.
Wine and Cheese - and CWO - also criticised the pamphlet, and both made some of the same points, whilst having, overall, a different perspective. But you don't assume either of them were for national liberation militias.
David's article starts off by saying that the pamphlet makes correct criticisms of Hamas, etc - I think it calls them "easy points", and repeats such criticisms throughout. It doesn't engage in the debate on the grounds of "are you for or against national liberation movements?", it puts that debate aside in the first few paragraphs. What it says is that the way the pamphlet theorises nation and nationality is wrong in more general terms. It comments on the way the pamphlet accounts for the emergence of nations and nationalism, the idea that all nations are imperialist (as well as also all being imaginary, as indicated above, presumably), and a few other things besides.
Although, for example, the pamphlet concludes - and has a post-script or something - saying that e.g. popular village committees in the West Bank, resisting the wall, are a good thing, and that they ought to be supported, nowhere in the pamphlet is it established - as I recall *why* they ought to be supported, apart from that they are not Hamas. No less than Hamas, they want their own state. If your line of demarcation is "do they want national independence" (or national rights in one state, which you presumably think is no less reactionary - this is what the PKK spent most of it existence campaigning for), then the popular committees are as bad as Hamas. But AF say they're not. Why not? Because they're struggling for their "needs", not a political vision (although in fact they are, as well, just a more low-key one)? Doesn't Hamas struggle to meet needs as well? Of course it does. So... ?
But what is the positive content of what what we can support in these village committees, go out demonstrating at the wall each week? It is clearly a national struggle of a sort - it is a struggle over national realities, and how they are defined, their concrete appearance. You could call it a national struggle or a national movement of a sort if you like. I don't think we've got a proposal for a tightly defined vocabulary to talk about these things.
To explain... JK argued before something like "we mustn't define our programme on the terrain of national demarcations; choosing between imperial occupier and national independence: we must, instead, struggle to assert our own needs - for land, food, water, freedom of movement, etc." (I hope that's a fair characterisation.) IMHO, this is more or less a category error; supposing that the struggle for those needs is somehow outside and separate from a struggle against national oppression, or that it can be, is misleading. To ask - for instance - that Palestinians resist the wall, settlements, road-blocks, but merely conceive of them each as isolated instances, not part of a general pattern (of national subjugation), is impossible. There is a concrete structure of oppression, the occupation, which really exists on the basis of national distinctions (and which creates/sustains those national distinctions). Recognising that there are national politics at play is just recognising reality.
Sorry, that could be alot more polished, and I don't have time to read it over before posting just now.
posi wrote: I think they
it's a while since i read it, but i'm pretty sure it conceptualised the nation as an imagined community. now maybe it's just cos i'm familiar with Benedict Anderson, but the concept has its roots in a materialist analysis of urbanisation and the spread of print media and concommitant standardisation of language. it also seemed to draw heavily on Hobsbawm's argument about the importance of the French Revolution in defining the nation in terms of a linguistic community. without reading the pamphlet again i can't say how well that comes across, but i don't remember the analysis being on the level of 'lol ur nationz izn't real'.
I was criticising the
I was criticising the convoluted notion that that classless entity called "the people" of the police states of Tunisia & Egypt would be "equally" as glad they weren't in Palestinian conditions as the subjects of Stalinist regimes would be disappointed by their conditions. A great "outcome" for all. As I said, damning with very faint praise, at best.
No more net access for a week and I probably wouldn't continue this old chestnut anyway.
Posi wrote: Wine and Cheese -
I suspect that's because neither concluded that a national struggle may provide the basis for communism, and because both lay out an internationalist/anti-national perspective and attempt to articulate that more sucessfully than Against Nationalism does. Neither do they imply that the 'independence' of countries would generally be beneficial from a communist perspective as the above does.
That's kind of disengenious, as you know the Bolsheviks had an organisational commitment to the "right of nations to self-determination" as a political principle, as did the second international. The Commune used to as well in the early days of the organisation.
Well, not really. What does an 'independent' nation look like? Any new nation would face a set of geopolitical realities it would have to navigate, and basically end up negotiating imperialist power relations. You can reject the notion of national independence being possible in a meaningful sense in today's world, let alone desirable from a communist perspective, whilst at the same time supporting concrete struggle against military occupation.
Overall though, I don't think sections of Against Nationalism read particuarly well now, and it doesn't give any analysis of the material basis for the success of nationalism and its persistance. I think a more nuanced and detailed explanation of why the idea of 'national oppression' isn't particuarly useful in describing reality is necessary. It could do with an overhaul.
Quote: I suspect that's
I don't think the above claims that?
No it's not, it leads on to the para after which asks some fairly specific questions.
Yeah, and Rosa L had a commitment to opposing imperialist intervention. The question is, as the next para suggests, what is the real content of "national liberation" in concrete cases, and its relation to either of those formulations? What does it even mean?
In general it's an important point, but in this context just semantics. Pick whatever word you like to illustrate the different situations present in Palestine and Tamil Eelam on the one hand, and France and India on the other.
Posi wrote: I don't think the
The article says this:
Which, yeah, doesn't say 'national struggles can be the basis for communism', but does say that a "national struggle" can be as much of a basis for it as "class" struggles.
I was commenting on your point that no-one on the left supports national self-determination in the abstract (and therefore implicitly there's no point laying out an argument against it) because clearly that tradition is there in the revolutionary movement, and it demands a response.
The comments on Tunisia are
The comments on Tunisia are completely unjustified. I did not, of course, say I supported the Ben Ali régime, but that it was better that the country was freed from French colonialism than not.
Steven complains about my "uncomradely" dismissal of AF because of the title 'The Earth is Not Flat'. In fact it was not my intention to compare them to dogmatic religious types five hundred years ago, but more simply to highlight the idea that e.g. not all states are imperialist.
It is also markedly less uncomradely than Steven's treatment of my piece. He does not pay any attention to what I say, instead assuming that the article is a justification of "national liberationists", apparently meaning Hezbollah, Mugabe etc. It is as if you cannot imagine any position other than (i) support for Hezbollah or (ii) limiting ourselves to narrowly economic concerns. Even though I quite straightforwardly argue that I do not support these groups, and that it is mistaken to identify particular groups with the idea of a movement against national oppression.
The comparison to "racial self-determination" is not at all comparable, nor that of the Brazilian migrant worker in the UK. To me "racial self-determination" sounds like exclusivism, whereas that is not at all the case with splitting one state unit up into multiple ones.
davidbroder wrote: Steven
To be fair, I didn't interpret the title the way Steven did and thought it was clear what was being referred to give the perspective articulated in Against Nationalism.
People often use the title of texts to make a political point so I think this is really a non-issue.
But, don't all nation-states operate around an exclusion mechanism, i.e. who is and is not part of the nation?
davidbroder wrote: The
Of course it does. To "split up" at all would require that some people will be excluded from belonging to one unit or the other. Otherwise it is no more than redistricting.
By 'exclusivism' I mean,
By 'exclusivism' I mean, like, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Racial self-determination is an absurd red herring.
It is not the same thing as saying e.g. a majority of people in a given area with common language, tradition, subject to foreign oppression, could get their own state. That by no means precludes the participationof minority national groups in its economic or political life.
In Israel-Palestine the exclusion already exists - against the Palestinians!
I am against border controls of any kind. Given its terrible poverty i doubt an independent Palestine would be a match for 'fortress Europe' (few countries in the Global South are except UAE etc). Some states e.g. Ecuador have basically no such controls. It just doesn't seem to be the issue, since it has nothing to do with the struggle over whether or not it should get independence.
Django wrote: Posi wrote: I
But, according to you (I think), and certainly some people in the thread above, the struggle - for example - against the occupation is an example of class struggle, no? Is it that you don't think it's also a national struggle? To me, it seems obviously to be a struggle over a national question. But if that's true, wouldn't it follow that sometimes a national struggle could be part of the class struggle?
Anyway, I don't agree with that way of framing it. What the para you quote would argue would be that struggles over national issues *can be* (but obviously, are not necessarily, and indeed are arguably very rarely) as much a part of the class struggle as *wage* issues... it's your identification, in what you say here, of class struggle precisely with wage struggles that has lead David, I think, to characterise your position as economistic.
(Happy Easter abstract communist debate fans.)
posi wrote: the struggle -
In Palestine a lot of the actual struggles going on now are all livelihood struggles basically over land and/or freedom of movement so you can get to work. So not a direct class struggle in terms of guns blazing, but more like the reaction to austerity measures that's hit parts of the world recently. The majority of Palestinians do, however, see them as part of the national struggle.
This debate is resurected
This debate is resurected just now on 'The Commune' website with an introduction along strong internationalist lines and perhaps closer to the content of the earlier AF pamphlet than the approach of David Broader here (though some weaknesses in the otherwise excelant AF text were acknowledged by it's authors elswhere).
I think this can still be found here:
along with some other contributions from Barry Biddulph.
Also now on this site here:
The author of this piece,
The author of this piece, David Broder, is now writing for Jacobin that the left should support France Insoumise and Mélenchon https://jacobinmag.com/2018/09/france-insoumise-melenchon-sixth-republic-labour - downplaying Mélenchon's whitewashing of post-war France's continuity with Vichy, while France Insoumise move to the right on immigration (see thread in French here on their rightward move since 2012: https://twitter.com/dareljedid/status/1046799415351156737).
Mike Harman wrote: The author
He's a stalinist these days.
Craftwork wrote: He's a
Given craftwork's form for misrepresenting people's political views I had to verify this myself, but here's a glowing obituary of Domenico Losurdo, so... yeah.
David Broder wrote: "On 24