Israel outwards and inwards

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d-man
Israel outwards and inwards
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In 2019 the leading Marxist Jørgen Sandemose died (some of his bibliography in English can be viewed here).

Given the news about Israel this week, I post a quick translation of a piece (or comment on a Norwegian forum) which Sandemose wrote apropos the November 2014 "Nation-State Bill" of Netanyahu.

Sandemose's general theory (at the risk of summarizing) is that capitalism has not fully or properly developed in the rest of the world (outside Western Europe and US), that is, the economies of Latin-America, Africa, Asia (including even Israel as you will read) are still Asiatic formations. By the way, I think this contrast with the progressivist view (of eg even Luxemburg herself) that capitalism would (or has) simply spread itself everywhere. That is, Sandemose's view is more pessimistic and thus I think compatible with a theory of decadence of capitalism.

Anways, here's the translation (not perfect):

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Israel outwards and inwards

Netanyahu is pursuing constitutional religiophobia adapted to a state built on cartels.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opening to legalize Israel "a Jewish state", which will exclude one and a half million Arab citizens, is not a proposal for a coup d'état, as one could easily have thought. On the contrary, it can be carried out under circumstances that cannot possibly break with Israeli constitutional principles.

On November 20, an editorial in the (mainstream Norwegian) Aftenposten stated: "Friends of Israel, and we count ourselves among them, have often justified their sympathy for Israel being a democracy in a part of the world where such is a rarity. If Israel does something that undermines this position, it will have negative consequences that are difficult to foresee. "

Aftenposten is in the wild in its relation to definitions of democracy. Israel is not a democracy, and this is true for two main reasons:

First, Israel has never enacted any constitution that commits the nation to a particular system of government. Apparently democracy is represented at the national level by the Knesset, but this is only in the form of a parliament, as it is still, in line with "provisional" provisions of 1948 and 1950, to be regarded as a working group whose objective is to set forth proposal for a constitution. This obviously never happens. (Or as the Romans said: it does happen "ad calendas graecas".) So far, there are some "basic laws" that are sometimes considered valid surrogates for a constitution, but there is just no constitutional basis for attributing validity to these laws.

If the Knesset was dissolved, and it could happen without constitutional problems overnight, then there is nothing formal in the way that certain positions of power (such as the Army leadership or the Supreme Court) may require a new "temporary" regime. Then we will see how serious it is being taken.

Second, Israel does not have the economic foundation, including property forms, that is the necessary precondition for a bourgeois democracy. While many believe this to be the case, it is often due to the vague term "market economy", which many consider to be a word that covers a traditional capitalist economic system. Although Israel may be called a market economy, it does not have a capitalist ownership structure. The country's economy depends on cartel-like “Business Groups”. This system characterizes virtually all industrialized economies outside Western Europe, the United States and English-speaking countries in general. Here, for example, there is no opportunity for freedom within real corporations; On the contrary, the ruling is around manipulations from co-ownership and unified family groups that have the real dominion, independent of any possible majority of shares. The OECD has long expressed its concern on this occasion, but the same could be said with regard to any industrialized country of this type – from Russia and China over Japan to Chile, to name the last country that has given this mafiotic property form a legal basis in its constitution.

In short: Israel itself forms a part of the world where 'democracy is a rarity' to paraphrase the Aftenpost-leader. To the extent that e.g. Muslim countries are industrialized, they build on exactly the same quasi-capitalist model, which is nothing more than a continuation of primitive family property, full of unpredictability, and constantly threatened by stagnation – which is especially true of Israel's economy, regardless of the current world crisis. More than half of the value of the Israeli economy is controlled today by dozens of family conglomerates.

It is often emphasized that Israel stands out negatively by being the only country in the world that has not defined its borders. Equally important is to see that this external indeterminacy has its counterpart in the country's inner structure.

This apparent indeterminacy is best expressed in an official state ideology based on faith, in this case Judaism. Political action then takes place on a basis that, as with any given apartment, need not be rationally justified. For example, it would be a mistake to call Netanyahu's threats racist. They do not deal with so-called racial differences, but rather are religiophobic, as is characteristic of currents in Islam.

In the same way, it is wrong to call the threats "fascist", in parallel with the meaningless term "islamo-fascism". Fascism is a phenomenon related to corporate features of real capitalist nations. Like Arab countries, Israel is well below that level.

d-man
The latest ICC article

The latest ICC article criticises a position by the ACG on anti-Zionist activism, especially their sentence that: "A secular, non-discriminatory, democratic state of Israel is acceptable". But perhaps the criticism is a bit too abstract. The ACG is answering the question: "how do we voice our opposition to what we used to safely call Zionism?" That is, in so far as mobilisation/activism around a particular subject is called for, becomes an issue - how should this be orientated, and in what particular sense. They say: "Let us leave to one side for now our opposition towards the concept of states." – by which I think they mean, that such a general position doesn't answer the particular question. The ICC meanwhile rejects the question: '[the ACG] is still submerged in the international campaign that forces each and every one to support or reject the “legitimacy” of the Zionist state.' Yes, the ACG is "submerged" in it, but that's because they're addressing the particular question, giving it attention. Take any other particular subject, eg work safety. The ACG reasoning would be similar: our general position is against wage-labour, but as to the particular question and campaign, "we accept" workplaces if they comply with the following safety criteria. That is, as they put it, "we need to work within the reality we have before us." Even if the general ICC position is, that no particular issue now can be reformed, I think that doesn't mean in practice that the ICC wouldn't intervene in a safety campaign, against particular workplaces. The criticism that I'd make of the ACG's position is rather, that their position is not particular or distinct enough. To return to the workplace safety anology, it's like they're saying, we support workplace safety campaigns, but not detail the criteria of safety. But, taking into account a small group's limited time and forces, I could hardly blame the ACG for not going into sufficient depth on every particular subject.

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I post now my unpublished letter apropos an article by the anti-Zionist campaigner Tony Greenstein (it's not about Greenstein, but just an occasion to comment on a general anti-Zionist tendency):

Tony Greenstein (in 'Contradictions of Zionism') rightly selects Max Nordau as an important historical figure, but instead of being a quasi-fascist ('a believer in social Darwinism', 'his ideas on art were similar to those of Hitler', citing Nordau's Degeneration on "racial instinct", etc.), I argue that this key Zionist leader is a socialist. Nordau's Degeneration attacks Nietzsche and Wagner, the term 'racial instinct' refers to species-being, and a footnote defends Lamarck. In 1884 in Die Neue Zeit Kautsky reviewed Nordau's Conventional lies of our civilisation, a book, by the way, from which the anarchist R. Rocker translated two chapters into Yiddish. Kautsky noted, that 'Marxism is not a stranger to Nordau, like many echoes of one of the main representative of this direction in France, Paul Lafargue, testify ... In the chapter on the "economic lie" he holds e.g. positions which, leaning on Lafargue's Droit à la paresse, sound completely Marxist'. Nordau's work is referenced in passing in the writings of Plekhanov, Trotsky and Bukharin. And more explicit still, after he became a Zionist, Nordau (in The Interpretation of History) approvingly quotes the The Origins of the Family: 'Engels observes correctly that civilized society is organized in a State which is "exclusively the State of the governing class, always a machine whose essential purpose is to keep down the oppressed and exploited class"'. In the 1906 year overview in Neue Freie Presse Nordau wrote on the aftermath of the 1905 Russian revolution: 'On the day when the Russian people will have overcome its stranglers – and that day is despite the momentary superiority of the government and despite the support of its foreign political and financial helpers close at hand – on this day in Europe many other things will collapse besides Tsarist despotism'. In 1905 he had written that the Russian revolutionaries are still too disunited. He thought that the Russian proletariat will be disappointed in their socialist hopes because they haven't a practical plan worked out (which he adds neither exists in the more advanced countries). He believed the artificially developed Russian big industry would collapse and the Russian empire dissolve into different nationalities (a situation which he didn't romanticize). He predicted WWI, and the destruction of 6 million Jews (suspicious prophecy according to Jew-haters). Although the veracity of this anecdote (from Buber's memoirs) may be doubted, the sentiment fits the man: "When Max Nordau, Herzl’s second in command, first received details on the existence of an Arab population in Palestine, he came shocked to Herzl, exclaiming: ‘I never realized this – we are committing an injustice.’"

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By themselves these facts, that the leader of the Zionist movement (after Herzl) eg can approvingly quote Engels on the state as a machine of class domination, or can look forward to (and expect) the overthrow of Tsarist despotism, etc. are enough to undermine the (anti-Zionist, but not exclusively) caricature of Max Nordau (and thus in general of the Zionist movement). It's not just an academic historic question about Nordau, but how the anti-Zionist overzealous attempt to discredit the whole of Zionism (as quasi-fascist) simply carries water for the Revisionist (righwing) Zionism which today dominates.

But don't I exaggerate when I go so far as to call Nordau a socialist though? - it could be asked.

In 1884 August Bebel in passing mentioned Nordau's Conventional lies of our civilisation, a book which was popular also among bourgeois classes:

Quote:
What a judgment is cast in this book upon marriage and upon the nobility, upon Christianity and religion! That is everything, which Social-Democracy has said, no objection againt that. Indeed, when I first read the chapter on marriage, I repeatedely clasped my hands on my head, and said to myself, if your book Woman and Socialism wasn't written 4 years before Nordau, I would have been faced with open accusations of plagiarism. Because almost entire pages of Nordau's book sound identitical to my book.

Nordau's book was read by the Mexican land-reformer Andrés Molina Enríquez. Also in Mexico before the revolution, Nordau's book was reading material of the Casa del Obrero Mundial (House of the World Worker), alongside Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread. The Spanish translator of Nordau's works was Nicolás Salmerón y Garcia, one of the pioneers of radical socialism in Spain. In the epilogue to the Spanish edition (1902) of Degeneration, Nordau highlighted its political motive, namely to expose and combat the reactionary, irrationalist obscurantism of the self-proclaimed radical avant-guard artists and thinkers in the late 19th century.

When in the 1900s Nordau wrote an article modestly defending the French revolution (despite its terror), he was attacked in the antisemitic La Libre parole.

The rightwing Zionist Leo Strauss in 1923 agreed with Herzl's complaint about Nordau"s "sympathy for socialism as well as [his] antipathy for secret diplomacy [namely of Herzl]". Nordau in a speech had declared that socialism and Zionism were compatible.

Again, I mention all this not mainly to undermine the anti-Zionist simplified black-and-white picture, but in order not to naturalize (ie project back in time) today's rightwing Zionism. If the 20th century sees a worsening rightwing trend in all countries and movements, then Zionism wouldn't be an exception. Today's Zionism has no interest in remembering more radical elements of its origins, just as today's bourgeoisie wants to forget (render harmless or discredit) its once more revolutionary heroes.

 

d-man
Syndicalism (1911 article by Nordau)

Max Nordau also wrote this (positive) article, titled 'Syndicalism - A world power', in The Agitator (15 December 1911, see last page), which was a US revolutionary syndicalist paper (inspired by the CGT in France).

Again I stress, this was written while Nordau was the key leader of the Zionist movement.

Nordau draws out the broader implication of the 1910 French railway strike (victorious in 1911); he sees it (ie syndicalism) as heralding the beginning of a new epoch in human history (citing Goethe's words, apropos the French revolutionary army's first victory in 1792).

This is time of the debate on mass strike/action among Marxists (involving Kautsky, Luxemburg, Pannekoek, etc.). I think Nordau definitely falls on the radical side of this debate (with Luxemburg et al.), though he counter-poses socialism (a doctrine injected by intellectuals) to the more effective syndicalism (masses' self-activity).

Given eg that later the Bolsheviks' stress on the importance of soviets was sometimes denounced as "syndicalist" (by Kautsky/menshevik types), etc., I could even see Nordau endorsing the soviets (and tbf, even Kautsky was forced to recognise the soviets as heralding a new important method of struggle for the future).

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Btw, as regards antisemitic allegations, in 1920 Nordau wrote an article on Judaism and Bolshevism, where he rejected the allegation that Judaism was responsible for Boshevism, eg by making an anology of Trotsky to Jesus, namely that Jesus was a Jew, doesn't mean (in the eyes of antisemites) that Judaism is responsible for Christianity.

 

 

Kamerling
zionism and socialism

I welcome the initiative by d-man to start a thread on the question of Zionism, the Israeli State and the policy of the ACG. It is the subject of an article “The ACG rejects identity politics but “accepts” a democratic secular state of Israel” published on the website of the ICC in response to an article of the ACG. The article of the ACG simply “forgets” to defend the communist position that all bourgeois states are an enemy of the working class. But on libcom, where the ACG article has been published as well, no one seems to see the need to take up the challenge and to defend the proletarian internationalism. Therefore it is important that this discussion takes place on the forum of the ICC.

The first point I want to take up is the comparison d-man makes between the internationalism and the working place: “Yes, the ACG is "submerged" in in [the Zionist anti-Zionist trap], but that's because they're addressing the particular question.”(…) Take any other particular subject, eg work safety. The ACG reasoning would be similar: our general position is against wage-labour, but as to the particular question and campaign, "we accept" workplaces if they comply with the following safety criteria. That is, as they put it, "we need to work within the reality we have before us”.

The comparison the comrades makes here is not right, since he compares two situations that are of a completely different quality. Concessions on the level of the proletarian internationalism have far greater and more dramatic consequences than concessions on the level of the working places. In the end such concession on the level of proletarian internationalism leads us to accept the bourgeois state as something we need to reconcile with.

In its attempt to be concrete, which is the consequence of its activist politics, the ACG regularly falls into the traps of the bourgeoisie whether it is “unionism versus anti-unionism”; “Zionism versus anti-Zionism” or “racism versus anti-racism”, “democratism” or “anti-democratism”. In all these questions the ACG is not able to develop a clear and consequent proletarian politics. And its decision no longer to use the word “Zionism” is no solution either. On the contrary: since the Zionist state has been qualified as a racist state and “anti-Zionism have become increasingly colonised by anti-Semitic forms”, the ACG is so fearful of being called anti-Semitic and racist that, instead, it falls into the trap of a defence of an Israel democratic state, to be realized somewhere  ….. in the future?

Another point is that d-man, by means of several quotes, tries to show us that Max Nordau belonged to the workers’ movement: I argue that this key Zionist leader is a socialist”.

It may be true that Nordau was recognized by some parts of the workers’ movement as a socialist, maybe he considered himself a socialist. He may have written an article in a syndicalist paper, he may have quoted from Friedrich Engels’ book The Origins of the Family. But that does not mean that he was a socialist when he became a member of the Zionist movement in 1897. Apart from the facts d-man puts forward, it is also a fact that Nordau has never been member of any workers’ organisation.

The main question we have to clarify here is why d-man tries so hard to prove that Max Nordau was a socialist. Is it because he thinks, together with Max Nordau, that socialism and Zionism are compatible? I think it is. And that means that he still thinks that, in the core, Zionism also contains certain values worth defending. That’s probably also the reason why he says that “the anti-Zionist overzealous attempt to discredit the whole of Zionism (as quasi-fascist) simply carries water for the Revisionist (rightwing) Zionism which today dominates.” This phrase raises a lot of questions, but I will mention the most important.

In this phrase d-man reproaches the anti-Zionism that they reinforce the rightwing Zionism by their stupid accusation of “quasi-fascism” and, consequently, weaken the leftwing Zionism. Why is the defence of the leftwing Zionism so important for d-man? Why is it so bad that the leftwing Zionism is weakened in relation to the rightwing? Is this maybe the so-called socialist wing that defends the legacy of the socialist Nordau in the Zionist movement?

But in contrast to what this phrase seems to imply, Zionism has nothing to be defended by the communists. Zionism is a state-ideology. And the ‘progressive’ kibbutz movement within Zionism (the collective communities characterized by collective ownership of property, an emphasis on the dignity of manual labor, a system of direct democracy, and communal child care) was only the flag that became a cover up for the ultra-nationalism, the terrorism and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestine territory. From the very beginning Zionism was nothing else than an ideological justification for the constitution of independent Jewish nation-state, something Trotsky already understood in 1904.

“You understand what a devilishly cunning plan this is [of Herzl)? You pretend that you are buying a homeland in a distant street, you use supposed “serious negotiations” to dull the vigilance of the Sultan, and then… and then you squeeze Palestine out of him and spring it on the Jewish people.”  (The Decomposition of Zionism – And What Might Succeed It (1904)

 

 

d-man
Kamerling wrote: In its

Kamerling wrote:
In its attempt to be concrete, which is the consequence of its activist politics, the ACG regularly falls into the traps of the bourgeoisie

Perhaps I'm in a more charitable mood than you are, but I interpret their text as an attempt to avoid falling into the cheap leftist activist politics, which, in slight caricature, chants a thousand times "Zionism is baaaaaaad" (or more simply, adopts a sneering tonal expression when uttering the word "Zionism").

Quote:
Concessions on the level of the proletarian internationalism have far greater and more dramatic consequences than concessions on the level of the working places.

The national question is certainly important, but the trade union, ecological, women, immigration, etc. questions are also important. Sometimes it's said that there is too much stress on the national question, so one should just avoid it (pretend it doesn't exist). Or that when it's about more distant places like Palestine, Kurds, etc., that it functions as a distraction, symbolic posturing, and we don't have any real influence anyway (like connections to like-minded organisations there, if they even exist). Again in a charitable interpretation, the ACG text can be said to attempt to neutralise/downplay the issue somewhat.

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But that does not mean that he was a socialist when he became a member of the Zionist movement in 1897. Apart from the facts d-man puts forward, it is also a fact that Nordau has never been member of any workers’ organisation. The main question we have to clarify here is why d-man tries so hard to prove that Max Nordau was a socialist.

It's simply a matter of correcting a blindspot. Nordau didn't change his socialist (or anarchist, communist whatever) views after he co-founded the Zionist movement. Membership in a workers' organisation is a sign of commitment (but on the other hand, perhaps such activism is to be looked down upon), but is not a necessary requirement to claim that someone's poltical intellectual views/writings are socialist.

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Is it because he thinks, together with Max Nordau, that socialism and Zionism are compatible? I think it is. And that means that he still thinks that, in the core, Zionism also contains certain values worth defending. ...Why is the defence of the leftwing Zionism so important for d-man?

Of course there are leftists, but not necessarily myself included, who think that socialism and the right to self-determination (in this case of Jews) are compatible (in Holland eg Sam de Wolff and Salomon Kleerekoper, cf. research by historian Evelien Gans). A bit more interesting is when the co-founder (not just a sympathiser, member, or splinter faction) of a national movement is a socialist, but then, from the national side, this movement mostly comes to think of itself as incompatible with (/opposed to) socialism, despite still celebrating that same co-founder (even saying that Nordau was more important than Herzl).

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(Nordau's article on syndicalism first appeared in April 1911 in La Revue ('Un pouvoir naissant'). The English version is just an abbreviation. It had also appeared in the 23 July issue of the Los Angeles Examiner, as reported by William C. Owen in the Mexican anarchist paper Regeneracion (last page here).  

Btw, apparently in the 14 September 1919 issue of the Argentinian La Nacion (though I don't find it there) Nordau wrote an article on the 8-hour work day, in which he affirms his positive endorsement, forty years earlier, of Lafargue's book on the right to laziness.