Gaza: An Extreme Militarization of the Class War

construction workers tel aviv

Emilio Minassian interviewed by Serpents de la mer., October 30, 2023.

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 10, 2024

You’ve been interested in the Palestinian question for a long time, without being a pro-Palestine activist. What does a revolutionary critique have to say about what’s happening there?

I’d say that the first thing to consider is that there are not two camps, one Palestinian and one Israeli. These people live in the same state and the same economy. Within this Israeli-Palestinian whole—which is entirely dependent on Israel—social classes are not only determined by different legal status based on ethno-religious criteria, but are also “zoned.” The Gaza Strip has been, over time, turned into a “reserve-prison” in which two million proletarians are stuck on the margins of Israeli capital. But at the end of the day, the latter remains their master. Gazans use Israeli money, consume Israeli commodities, and have identity cards issued by Israel.

The current “war” corresponds in reality to an extreme militarization of the class war.

The “one land, two peoples” analysis of the situation is nonsensical. The land does not belong to the people [proletariat], anywhere in the world. It belongs to those [bourgeoisie] who own it. This might seem very theoretical, but the mere existence of social relations on the ground shows to whom the idea of two camps belongs, i.e., the ruling [bourgeois] class.

The refugee camps in the West Bank, which we might see as the beating heart of “Palestine,” are still just suburbs of Tel Aviv. I’ve spent nights listening to the day laborers of one of these camps talk about how the ethnicization of the workforce was taking place on the building sites of the Israeli capital: the Ashkenazi Jewish developers, the 1948 Palestinians servicing the transfer of labor from the occupied territories, and the Sephardi Jewish foremen who are also Arabic-speaking, etc. Then there are all the other imported proletarians—Thai, Chinese, and Africans—who are actually in the worst situation as they are all undocumented. None of these groups can mix, because each has a distinct place and status in the relations of productions. These worlds are not porous; they’re boxed in, yet they see each other, know of one another.

Dozens of Thai agricultural workers exploited on the periphery of the Gaza Strip were killed and kidnapped by Hamas. Now, Israeli bosses are withholding wages from others to force them to work in a war zone. Any social critique worth its name should, when it comes to what is happening in Israel-Palestine, integrate the point of view of the Thai workers. This country will not belong to Palestinian proletarians any more than it will to Thai ones.

Isn’t it a bit of a cop-out to try to avoid the “national question” in Israel-Palestine?

Israel has managed to produce a situation seen nowhere else in the world: the integration of an ethnicized—“Jewish”—proletariat into the state, against the “Arab” part of the proletariat, also ethnicized. The Israeli state accumulated a “national” capital in record time, imported a “national” proletariat, and set itself up as the guardian of the existence and reproduction of the latter, based on the notion that its own existence was threatened by another proletarian fringe, the Palestinians. But if we look beneath the phantasmagoric prism of “the State as guarantor of people’s existence,” it becomes easier to see that Jewish Israeli proletarians constitute something like spoils of war in the hands of the state.

This is not the case with respect to the Palestinian proletariat, whose struggles have maintained a certain autonomy, while coexisting in a complex way with the instrumental logic of their politically nationalist management.

While it might sound counter-intuitive, I think Hamas should be seen as Israel’s subcontractor for the management of the Gazan proletariat. As I said, Gaza, in the last instance, “depends” on national Israeli capital. And as long as Israeli capital hasn’t authorized the development of another, “Palestinian” capitalist entity at its side, the Gazan proletariat, even under siege, is regulated by its economic circuits. However, such a situation cannot function without an externalized social formation responsible for regulating the imprisoned—there are no prisons without screws.

What’s happening is not an inter-imperial war. It’s essentially an “internal affair” for which “national” camps act as smoke screens. There’s no proletarian struggle in the current events. The militarization of antagonisms produced by Hamas and the Israeli ruling class have produced a “resistance” which contains no logic of autonomous proletarian struggle, even in infancy.

It’s not a war, but rather the management of a surplus proletariat by the military means of total war, by a democratic, civilized state belonging to the central bloc of capitalist accumulation. The thousands dead there seem to me to have a particular meaning as they sketch a terrifying image of the future—of capitalist crises to come.

The management of the surplus proletariat by means of carpet bombing, in as much as it’s legitimated by the central states of the capitalist world, relates, I think, what is happening to an international offensive. This international character is particularly salient in France: we’re in a phase where even political slogans couched in humanist language are repressed, as soon as they might meet with street mobilizations of the dangerous classes. There is no “importation” of the conflict. There is a global offensive. In this sense, the struggle for us in France happens right here, against France. We have our own nation to betray, always, as soon as possible.

What does Hamas have to gain from such a situation?

Before October 7, I had the following view of the situation. On the one hand, an offensive by the settler far-right to annex the West Bank and take control of the levers of the Israeli state. On the other, two Palestinian state apparatuses, living exclusively off rents, with the sole aim of reproducing themselves as such. I thought that these latter powers were on the defensive, and were primarily preparing themselves to confront the loss of control of their populations both in Gaza and the West Bank.

A few months ago, everyone I spoke to in the West Bank, whether leftwing academics or the armed lumpenproletariat, said the same thing: “Hamas is not supporting resistance on the ground. It’s only thinking about its own interests.”

And in fact on October 7 Hamas did not function according to a logic of organized struggle but like a military structure, a state. Yet its operation had the particularity of necessarily presupposing an Israeli riposte in relation to which it would be in a position of massive inferiority. Hamas behaved like a state without having the means of a state, sacrificing parts of the interests of a section of its organization and its social base in Gaza, hoping to gain more in the future. A number of leaders, too, will lose their lives in this affair.

The October 7 operation was an astonishing act on the part of a ruling class, but one which can be understood, above all, I think, by the contradictions that cut through Hamas itself. It’s only a hypothesis, but it’s not unimaginable that October 7 was conceived by the armed wing of Hamas without much consultation with its political direction. (It’s also possible that the size of the breaks in the wall surprised even those who conceived the attack, who might have sought something more like a suicide operation, without such a collapse of the Israeli military, which then opened the door to large-scale massacres.)

Hamas’s operation was in no way the fruit of a fanatical millenarian delusion. It was a risky gamble, but one which could bear fruit. The Israelis have few options: there’s either negotiation or regional warfare and not much in between. But it remains a gamble, because it’s not clear that Israeli capital or the state will opt for stabilization.

In any case, “massacre” by carpet bombing was practically inevitable. But that’s another question, as it clearly doesn’t pose a problem to the ruling classes.

You mention that Hamas behaves like a state, but without the means of one. You also said that if it is sacrificing some of its interests, it’s to gain more later. Can you develop on this?

Simply to be recognized as part of negotiations. Probably not with a view for a peace deal, we’re not there yet and I don’t really think that either Hamas or Israel are interested in a global agreement. But the eradication of Hamas, from the Israeli point of view, is not seriously conceivable. By showing its military strength, Hamas is hoping to establish itself as a relevant factor in the regional balance of power.

The failure of Iran and the US to resume negotiations over the last few years proves that it’s not the time for “solutions.” For Hamas, everyone agrees, the attack is about blocking the American solution of a Saudi-Israeli deal. What it has to gain here is, first, to impose itself as an interlocutor with the Arab countries of the region, and second, to continue the marginalization of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Fatah is part, but also the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) in the West Bank and in Lebanon. To conquer, that is, small markets of Palestinian representation to the detriment of its competitor, the PLO.

Are the interests at stake really so narrow?

I don’t really know how to reply to this question. Of course, this military operation and the war it has triggered also have to be seen in a global context in which the channels of capitalist regulation are in the process of breaking down.

War is always, I think, an attempt to resolve a crisis of capitalist valorization—an operation of disaccumulation. But it’s also the expression of the disruption of that balance of power which governs the relationship between state and capital. It’s a moment of crisis in which the control of capital, of global capital, over the state comes loose, which enables the appropriation of the state by particular capitalist sectors, even clans of politicians. War between capitalists is not only war between imperialisms. It pits multiple players against each other, who, in the absence of safeguards, will sometimes make risky gambles, play a card to try and take advantage of an upheaval in the present balance of power. This is the kind of chain of events we are witnessing since the war in Ukraine. The frozen fronts awaken: we had Nagorno-Karabakh, now it’s Gaza.

The general staff advance, try out plans, test resistances, take the plunge. It’s what they always spontaneously want to do. What’s been surprising about the last two years is the extent to which the safeguards holding them back seem to be breaking down.

What is the nature of Hamas's domination over the people of Gaza? How does it prop up its power? What advantages do its leaders gain? What links (explicit or not) does it have with Israel?

Hamas came out of the Muslim Brotherhood. As in many parts of the Arab world, it developed in the 1980s among the Palestinian petite-bourgeoisie, both in the occupied territories and in the diaspora. Since its entry into the struggle against Israel in the wake of the First Intifada, this social base grew to include more proletarian segments, before the siege and militarization of the Gazan territory profoundly changed its nature. It found itself, as mentioned, in the position of a state apparatus, required to integrate many diverse and antagonistic interests, to juggle and arbitrate among them. At the same time, since Gaza is not a real state, Hamas also became a militia party, like Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This double evolution has a contradictory dimension. I suggest that the current war marks in a way the victory of the second – militia – logic over the first. The armed wing beat the state apparatus; the military rent circuits (coming from Iran) beat the civil rent circuits (coming from Qatar).

Hamas is an interclass movement, something which explains its erratic behavior. The commercial bourgeoisie in the West Bank ended up massively identifying with it in the middle of the 2000s: the movement won the 2006 legislative elections as a party of order, promising to end the security chaos, to quieten the arms, to combat corruption, and to develop an honest state apparatus, insuring social order, with a program of charitable social redistribution. It appeared then, paradoxically, as the anti-Intifada party, and the majority of notables of the two economic centers of the West Bank—Nablus and Hebron—were on their side at the time, while remaining linked to Jordanian economic interests. Hamas won the same legislative elections in Gaza, but by calling for and prioritizing resistance and military recruitment aimed at the lumpenproletariat in the refugee camps. This was not part of a strategy of uprisings or social movements, but a matter of military clientelism. Unlike in the West Bank, Gaza does not have a commercial and urban bourgeoisie.

The interclass nature of Hamas has not massively changed since then. It continues to use opposing mobilization strategies. The leader of its armed wing, Mohammed Deif, is a kind of mythic icon, a survivor of several assassination attempts. He’s a sort of James Bond figure useful for recruiting the youth of the refugee camps. Meanwhile the leaders in three-piece suits parley in five-star hotels in Qatar eating all sorts of good food with ministers and capitalists of the Arab and Turkish world. And if it’s the Mohammed Deif wing that launched an attack such as that of October 7, then the suit-and-tie wing lets it do so because it secretly hopes to reap fruits in the diplomatic corridors.

I’m more circumspect as to what the comprador bourgeoisie of Gaza City thinks, as its villas are flattened by bombs.

What are the characteristics of the exploitation of proletarians in Gaza?

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the West Bank, but I don’t know the Gaza Strip directly. Due to its political and geographical position, stuck in a space of intense capitalist accumulation, we could say that Gaza is Israel’s massive “rubbish bin.” But there are social divisions even in the capitalists’ rubbish bins.

Is it a kind of ghetto, then? Concretely, do the Gazan proletarians have work (formal or informal), or are they mainly a surplus population?

‘”Surplus” in the sense that work, anywhere in Gaza, doesn’t allow for almost any capitalist accumulation. The capital that circulates in Gaza comes essentially from rents (and these remain very small rents), that is, from foreign aid (Iran and Qatar) and from monopoly situations (the tunnels). The profits generated don’t come from the capitalist exploitation of labor. The reproduction of proletarians and valorization are two distinct processes, as they say. Bosses are almost exclusively small-scale and the state doesn’t regulate anything.
Like many other peripheral places of the world, Gaza is a space completely separated from the circuits of capitalist valorization. There is no “national bourgeoisie,” because there is no Gazan capital. Nor is there a “traditional bourgeoisie” as in the West Bank or in Jerusalem—those old families reliant on dusty mercantile and land capitals that remain effective within the local social relations. On the other hand, there is in Gaza a kind of new “comprador” bourgeoisie reliant on rents from circulation. It’s not a class in the strict sense of the term, rather a social formation which draws its massive revenues from its intermediary position in exchanges with foreign capitalists (in opposition to a bourgeoisie whose interest is in developing the national economy).

A part of this bourgeoisie comprises the political apparatus of Hamas, because the circulating capitals issue largely from a geopolitical kind of rent, from states such as Qatar or Iran. But there are also other rents, for example those linked to capital circulating at the border with Egypt. Fortunes were built around the contraband tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, and in this instance we’re looking at a kind of globalized feudalism—typically a boss-worker relation. In 2007, there were intense armed clashes between clan-based social groups and Hamas’s politico-military apparatus in Rafah, in the south of the Strip, over the taxation of the commodities in circulation.

Hamas, unlike the Palestinian Authority (PA), are not in charge of public services, they don’t pay wages, it’s still the PA who pay these. This is, as it happens, used as a means of permanent manipulation: the PA regularly reduces the wages of Gazan civil servants to weaken Hamas.

There are, no doubt in part as a result of this, regular “social” mobilizations to reclaim dignity—typically access to water, electricity, and wages. Hamas represses them, more or less violently, but with a little reserve, giving the impression that they are wary of throwing oil on the fire. The current military offensive followed an episode of this kind over the summer. It’s not hard to imagine that there is a link, or at any rate a logic, which connects these two kinds of events.

The contestation against Hamas’s politico-administrative wing and the support for the fighting wing are not at all contradictory. The former attacks your dignity, the latter avenges it. Without Hamas’s military wing the politico-administrative wing would no doubt have to face much more contestation in Gaza.

You mention that you “know” the West Bank better than Gaza. Between these two territories, are there important differences or are we, on the contrary, looking at two variants of a single logic?

The Gaza Strip has for a long time been the surplus “rubbish bin” I mentioned earlier: a tiny territory into which a stream of refugees were pushed in 1947–48, submerging the local, essentially peasant, population. There are no resources there. In the West Bank, class formation is different: there are cities and notables. There are agricultural and hydraulic resources that Israel controls. Wages are twice as high, and there are some industries, based on the relative integration of the PA’s comprador class into Israeli capital. Fatah, which governs the cities, is a party without social coherence. It lost the elections in 2006 to Hamas. In 2007, supported by Israel and the US, it made a power grab to retain the levers of public power in the cities of the West Bank, “abandoning” Gaza to Hamas. Since then, it has no legitimacy based on any kind of democratic procedure. Its power is based on cooperation with Israel, which gives its nationalist discourse a dissimulatory tone. It governs enclaves separated one from the other, increasingly encircled by the settlements, into which the Israeli army regularly penetrates. The proletariat of the West Bank is much more integrated into Israeli capital than its Gazan counterpart. Lots of Palestinian laborers in the West Bank work, legally and illegally, either on Israeli territory or in the colonies. They have economic links with the 1948 Palestinian citizens of Israel, who often speak Hebrew.

What’s currently happening in the West Bank? What is Fatah doing? Are there social or political forces which have a more or less proletarian character, which might strengthen in this moment of crisis?

The Gaza Strip seems to me to be lost at the moment from the point of view of proletarian activity. But it’s different in the cities of the West Bank, where the inter-Palestinian struggle for political control has been running its course for years with autonomous manifestations of class struggle. Social control is assured both by the security apparatus of the comprador bourgeoisie, dependent on Israel, as well as urban baronies linked to Jordan. The coherence of this class continues to disintegrate, Fatah no longer regulates anything, and everyone is trying to carve out their own fiefdom at the expense of others. The expected event that was supposed to clarify all this was the death of the paranoid dinosaur Mahmoud Abbas, but things will necessarily speed up now.

For fifteen years Hamas has been asleep on the West Bank, with no direct public or military activity. They maintain discreet loyalties, but the armed groups which have reappeared in the North—in Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm—are not linked to Hamas. This passivity gave the impression that Hamas had ratified the situation there and didn’t want to break the status quo. This gave it bad press among the armed groups in the refugee camps which saw it as nothing but the mirror image of Fatah: all talk with no substance, only political interests distinct from those of the people. But now, this operation clearly changes the perception of Hamas. Whether we like it or not, it's going to seriously restore their image. We already see lots of Hamas flags in demonstrations, which was unimaginable even a month ago. Will Hamas directly contest power with the PA in the West Bank? Unlikely, because its activities are strictly surveilled not only by the PA but also by Israel, and the Palestinian enclaves of the West Bank don’t form a coherent territory: they can’t be controlled militarily without negotiating with the Israeli army. But it could change strategy, by supporting in one way or another the activities of the armed groups.

Whatever happens, things will necessarily change. The PA will struggle to maintain its grip on security. The coherence of the politico-security class will be severely tested.

The army and the settlers, in parallel with the Gaza offensive, have launched a series of attacks on the West Bank. This offensive will intensify, with its share of massacres, more limited than in Gaza but no doubt also more “self-organized”.

However, I can sense a certain excitement at the idea that the taboo imposed on the repression and immobilization produced by the PA for fifteen to twenty years can be brushed aside, and that the collapse of the police might permit the social explosion longed for for years. Class relations in the West Bank are exceptionally violent. The bourgeoisie in the West Bank has long profited from cooperation with Israel; it has gorged itself to the brim. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if it felt a little fear.

For a while there has been social contestation in Israel, against Netanyahu and in particular his judicial reforms. What effects do those struggles, if any, have on the current situation? To what extent do the “civil” protests of the Israeli population (e.g., those against judicial reform) express any such aspirations?

This war seems to me a symptom of the loss of coherence of the Israeli capitalist class, with military unity working to cover for this loss of coherence. The Israeli military collapse on October 7 ensued from the struggle among the capitalist class, which, for the first time, reached the military institution. The struggle has been intense these last few months and spilled over onto the street. The old Israel—Ashkenazi, bourgeois, secular, and military—which accumulates capital vertically (top down accumulation through the global market: big-tech, start-up nation, etc.) in Tel Aviv clashed with the Sephardic, revanchist, far-right in power, which accumulates capital horizontally (through settlements and territorial expansion) in the hills of the West Bank. But nothing proletarian ever came out of these demonstrations. And worse, nothing democratic, in the “civil” sense you mentioned. The Israeli proletariat, despite suffering a high level of exploitation, is muzzled by its existential integration into the Israeli military.

The national unity of war temporarily sweeps this struggle among the ruling class under the carpet: everyone agrees that Gaza should be carpet bombed; everyone agrees that iron-fisted security should be instituted. Since the general mobilization, the hunt is on for the enemy within. These are the handful of leftists still around, but particularly the Muslim proletariat (the 1948 Palestinians), whose solidarity efforts, even the smallest, towards the victims of the indiscriminate bombardments are stifled. What will happen in the next few months? Will the war lead to an alignment of the ruling class around the party of settlers? Although the majority of the bourgeoisie has contempt for this party because of its religious backwardness, it remains the most adapted to a mobilization focused on the hunting down of Arabs which is unlikely to stop any time soon.

Do you think that the purely colonial prism of analysis defines the relations between the Israeli and the Palestinian proletariat?

Yes and no, of course.

The stakes here are less those of the exploitation of an Indigenous labor force than those of the management of a surplus proletarian population, in proportions that are unique among the centers of capitalist accumulation. For each worker with a contract to work in Israel, there’s another restrained in the big enclosed suburbs which constitute the centers of settlement under Palestinian jurisdiction: the Gaza Strip and the cities of the West Bank. That’s around five million invisible proletarians penned in a few kilometers away from Tel Aviv, living off their labor power day by day, guarded by soldiers to prevent them leaving their cages.

This massive enclosure, this separation between useful and surplus proletarians based on ethno-religious differences, began at the same time as the peace process, which was in reality the process of externalizing the social control of the surplus population. Before that, in the 1970–80s, Palestinians were employed in large numbers by Israeli capital.

In this sense, the term “colonial” does not quite fit the social relations which have been obtained since the beginning of the 1990s in Israel-Palestine. It also has the disadvantage of cementing the idea of an opposition between two national formations, which are in reality produced and reproduced together. Palestinian and Israeli proletarians are segments of the same whole. What’s been happening since October 7 should be seen as a negotiation through violence between the Gazan subcontractor—Hamas—and its Israeli employer. This must be clearly distinguished from the struggles of the Palestinian proletariat, which are directed primarily at the subcontractors Hamas and the PA. This struggle has never stopped, but nationalist recruitment will deal it a heavy blow, at least in Gaza.

Beyond all moral considerations, the term “resistance,” which evokes the colonial imaginary, seems to me inapt to describe the military operation of October 7: Hamas’s interests are not those of the proletariat, they are not those—to use the current vocabulary—of the “Palestinian people.” Gaza’s proletariat, whatever the result of these negotiations, will be massively sacrificed—they already have been. Currently, if Israel feels confident to get rid of its subcontractor Hamas, that would imply getting rid of its Gazan surplus proletariat. One cannot go without the other.

But on the other hand, I don’t think we can avoid an analysis based on the colonial.

Israel has inherited that European logic which consists in “animalizing” the workforce on the basis of racial criteria, erecting a barrier between the civilized and pre-civilized world. This paradigm is in full force in Israel, and openly so. At the moment, they massacre Gazans according to the following logic: we flood them with bombs without any other objective than to “calm them,” to remind them of the hierarchy which separates human groups in this part of the world. A dog bites, the pack is shot down.

We should remember that the boundaries between the civilized and the animal are mobile. They were and remain in force among the Jewish Israeli citizenry itself. The Arab Jews (Mizrahi) or the Ethiopians (Falash Mura) were for a longtime on the wrong side of the fence, acting as a kind of Indigenous auxiliary to calm other natives.

The colonial, as inheritor of the colonial period proper, generates a kind of economy of “drives” around which social categories are built up. This is just an enlarged image of what’s happening throughout the “fortress” constituted by the central countries of capitalist accumulation. We see it here in France with the immediate transfer to the domestic social scene of the “war of civilizations.”

The current dynamic, with its disposal of surplus proletarians, carries with it a torrent of affects built on humiliation. Faced with the impossibility of intervening collectively on social relations, powerlessness produces a double logic of resentment: search for recognition on the one hand, revenge on the other.

Because Hamas’s politicians have no bourgeoisie to rely on, no proletariat to exploit, they are led to rely on the exploitation of these affects, of which they become the incarnation—for want of anything better, for want of more.

To come back to Israel, if we consider that its capital accumulation relies primarily on a permanent “war economy,” on land appropriation, and on the more or less formal exploitation of the Palestinian proletariat, should we assume that any solution—e.g., the two-state solution—is impossible?

Starting from the 1990s, when Israel wanted to rid itself of the management of the Palestinian labor force in the territories, it entrusted it to a subcontractor, the Palestinian Authority. But Israel didn’t respect the contract which was supposed to produce a form of symbolic sovereignty. It mistreated its subcontractor [who in turn mistreated its contracted workforce]. So the subcontractor revolted: that was the Second [28/9/2000-] Intifada, in which were mixed the PA’s struggle against its employer and [was counterposed upon] a full-scale proletarian struggle, both against Israel and against the PA. But the proletarian struggle was snubbed by this triangulation. After this historic sequence, the PA contract split. Israel then has a mistreated but docile subcontractor in the West Bank, and another, equally mistreated, but agitated one in Gaza. Israel can treat Hamas as the enemy all it wants, but the fact is that it cannot do without a subcontractor in this context.

Let’s quickly go back over this process and its failure. Why didn’t the capitalists opt for the “peace” which consisted in supporting a Palestinian “national process” in Gaza and the West Bank? What they were then offered was the opening of regional markets with the surrounding countries, the possibility of investing in countries where labor was cheap. It would have been enough to leave the PA with the attributes of a rump state, financed at arms length by external donors, while it remained a captive market. For me, the answer to this question is not clear-cut. I have two hypotheses. The first is that of the weight of “military” capital, supported by the American military rent which pours into Israel. This military capitalism, linked to the high-tech sector, is internationalized over and above the regional market. The second hypothesis puts the failure of the peace process in the context of the great catastrophe of America’s attempt to reshape the Middle East in the 2000s. Israel anticipated maintaining the status quo by waiting for the easing of (military) capital circulating in the region and thereby realizing that it was possible to continue subcontracting the control of the Palestinian reserves without needing to cede anything to the authorities in place. This situation lasted for nearly twenty years. It even created the possibility of opening new markets in the Arab world (with the so-called Abraham Accords and the Saudi-Israeli peace deal promoted by America). This is what has undoubtedly just been shattered. What October 7 showed was that Israel could not have its cake and eat it for too long: it will have to deal with the Palestinian jailers of the reserves to contain the reserve-ghettos built on its territory. Alternatively, it can just get rid of the reserves, which would certainly open a new page in the history of capitalist violence in the countries of the central accumulation bloc. This isn’t impossible, but it’s terrifying.

To move beyond social divisions, is not the idea of a “Palestinian people” still operative, including among the oppressed classes?

Social critique is, I think, first and foremost about the production of categories that make it possible to think of antagonisms in terms of social contradictions. In a context such as that of Israel-Palestine, this can seem to contort the subjective categories which circulate, on the basis of which the effects of combat are built, on what is perceived as identity.

The idea of a “Palestinian people” opposed to “Israel” is clearly operative in lots of ways: on identity cards, and in most minds, as well as a mode of legitimation during proletarian struggles.

But the ethnicization of social relations has a history which is primarily that of the ruling classes: it’s the history of the formation of a Jewish capitalist bourgeoisie eradicating a feudal-mercantile Arab bourgeoisie; the fusion of this bourgeoisie into a military state, etc. Proletarians find themselves caught up in this ethnic rendering of antagonisms by the ruling classes.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the “Palestinian struggle,” including that fought under the banner of Hamas, has to be read primarily as one led by the Arab ruling classes—and of those who aspire to them—for their integration into Israeli capital. The interests of proletarians, even as they at times find themselves under the banner of the national struggle, are, in the last instance, contradictory with those of their bourgeoisie.

I think solidarity should be shown not to the “Palestinian resistance” per se but to the struggles fought by proletarians against their conditions of existence. Yet proletarians will hold the flag that is available to them.

We shouldn’t look at the flag, but at the struggle itself. A Palestinian flag, even a Hamas or Fatah flag, might signal struggles that will, depending on the context, escape the control of the political managers. And we needn’t shit on Hamas because they are Islamists, but because they’re an apparatus for controlling the proletariat, a state in the making.

Still, social critique can at times seem very cold and distant from the lived struggle which makes use of other categories. The cool way I talk about dialectical materialism differs from the way I talk about a situation unfolding before my eyes, with its violence, struggles, and subjectivities.

In a context so full of identifications, doesn’t a materialist critique run the risk of appearing too theoretical and detached?

I feel like in this kind of a context, there’s not so much a position to be held, but a point of view, a method. A revolutionary view must first of all not let itself be blinded by the autonomization of moral categories brandished by the left. At the moment, in conversations, there are two that I see constantly threatening to flatten dialectical thinking. The first is the reflex to deplore that “the proletariat is not as we would like it to be”: antisemitic Muslim proletarians, racist Jewish proletarians, etc. Beyond the fact that this way of thinking, which consists of taking an intellectual position on the interiority of the proletariat, is by its nature bourgeois; it is particularly inappropriate in an antagonistic situation such as this in which no form of proletarian autonomy has manifested itself [the interviewee has developed a sudden amnesia as to the words he spoke moments earlier: "Intifada,... a full-scale proletarian struggle"].

What is currently happening is the military recruitment of the proletariat on the one hand and a straightforward massacre of surplus proletarians on the other. Some people might miss the good old days when Palestinian political formations (and, as a result, we suppose, the people itself) were on the left. This seems stupid to me. The ideology of political groups is secondary, as soon as we consider the fact that they are struggling primarily so that their leaders can produce and reproduce themselves as a ruling class. When it comes to tactics, remember that, to take one example, it was a commando of the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine), an ideologically far-left Palestinian group (with links to parts of the Israeli far-left, such as the Matzpen), which committed the massacre of twenty-two children in a school in Ma’alot in 1974.

A second problematic reflex lets metaphysics enter into the analysis, in the form of the idea of repetition, freezing the mind. It’s at work in notions around the “massacre of Jews,” but also around the “Palestinian tragedy.” Even when they emerge spontaneously in the depths of the psyche, these ideas are not thereby more than the products of the way bourgeois thought displaces social relations into the heavenly sphere of ideas.

Let’s forget about the farces and tragedies of history: history doesn't repeat itself. Unfolding antagonisms are always, first and foremost, present antagonisms.

Translated by Tegan Jaye-Luzhin

Additions in square brackets by westartfromhere




1 month 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 11, 2024

Emilio Minassian (Gaza: An Extreme Militarization of the Class War), wavering:
The militarization of antagonisms produced by Hamas and the Israeli ruling class have produced a “resistance” which contains no logic of autonomous proletarian struggle, even in infancy. ...
Intifada, in which were...a full-scale proletarian struggle, both against Israel and against the PA. ...
This is not the case with respect to the Palestinian proletariat, whose struggles have maintained a certain autonomy ... antagonistic situation such as this in which no form of proletarian autonomy has manifested itself.

Craftwork (Solidarity with the proletariat. Abolish Israel and Palestine.): In 2017, the working-class of Gaza rose-up against Hamas in protests over blackouts and shortages. They stormed the offices of the electricity company and cursed the names of the leadership of Hamas and Fatah. In response, Hamas fired shots to disperse the crowds.

There is a reluctance to accept/acknowledge that the terrible massacre in and around Gaza is capital's reaction to proletarian uprising. Perhaps for fear of illiciting liberal indignation and heart wrenching?


1 month 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 12, 2024

Fearless-Patient wrote:

This was the one part of the interview that made me raise my eyebrow. On one hand, I agree with Minassian. The population of Gaza specifically represents surplus humanity par excellence; neither the Israeli national bourgeosie or the Transnational Capitalist Class has any need to exploit to it or otherwise allow for the population to be socially reproduced. And the fact is that the majority of Gazans have been physically prevented from being able to organize into any kind of authentically proletarian organization (much less ensure their own physical survival).

The intifadas (both of them) were certainly spontaneous, autonomous working class movements (especially the second since it engaged in actual struggle against the PNA). Where I think Minassian falters is that he kind of seems to dismiss Gaza. But I'd argue that the fate of Gaza matters for the entire world proletariat, as it gives a glimpse into what surplus proletarians face as capitalism dies a slow death and imperialist struggles instensify

westartfromhere wrote:

The intifada itself, before it was misdirected by national Islamic forces and violently suppressed by Zionist forces, is the "authentically proletarian organization".

Perhaps I'm way off the mark but in my mind the massacre of 30,000 in and around Gaza is akin to the massacre of 30,000 at the fall of the commune:

'So it was. The civilisation and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters.'

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