Power to the Jews and Therefore the Class!

SteveO writes:

One important component in the radical Left’s impulse for solidarity with oppressed people across the whole world is a condemnation of Israel’s relationship with Palestine, which is considered racist, colonial, fascist – a settler state par excellence. In our critique of Israel, we forget that nations are composed of antagonistic classes, and that the dialectic of class struggle in Israel-Palestine is not exclusively an anti-colonial one. The duty of a conscious Israeli to the world proletarian struggle for liberation does not lie in a self-sacrificing or suicidal “traitor-ism” wherein good Jews give themselves over to the Palestinian cause as a servant to it.

Israeli Jews have battles to fight of their own, bones to pick with other Israeli Jews, those who are their class enemies. Leftists in general, and Marxists especially, could consider the Jewish working class their sibling for once, rather than limiting our orientation to the contemporary Jewish question to the colonial aspect of the Jewish state. None of this is to say that we should stop criticizing and organizing against Israel’s apartheid regime. But we could and should consider a strategic re-orientation toward support for the working class Israeli, urging its alignment with its Arab counterpart, and forging a common interest between the two against racism, apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism.
This 7 part series serves as an accessible tutorial on the economics of Israeli Occupation:
These stories highlight some of the class contradictions between Israeli workers and capital, and the  action that Israelis are taking against “their own” government.

In May train workers wildcatted against the political arrest of union members for protesting privatization of the trains

On Tuesday hundreds of doctors in training (medical residents) walked out in response to a draft agreement with the Israeli Finance Ministry.  The strike has been happening since April, and a hunger strike is growing.
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21 responses to “Power to the Jews and Therefore the Class!

  1. Here’s a famous piece to read that touches on some things you address here: http://www.isreview.org/issues/23/class_character_israel.shtml. It’s old, and there are debates to have about whether the conclusions sill apply; I tend to think that recent history shows that they’ve been aggravated, if anything.

    • diabolica, i agree with the post on Lenin’s Tomb. This quote from it highlights why i strongly disagree with this Advance the Struggle post:

      “Important strategic consequences follow from Machover and Orr’s analysis. If the class antagonism is dominant, then the Left should focus its activism first on organising the Israeli working class as the key to breaking the colonial project. The self-organisation of that working class would be central to the downfall of that colonial system. If the colonial dynamic predominates, then Machover and Orr are right to conclude that ‘as long as Zionism is politically and ideologically dominant within that society, and forms the accepted framework of politics, there is no chance whatsoever of the Israeli working class becoming a revolutionary class’. In which case the only solution is a regional revolutionary upsurge.”

      • To clarify, i agree with the second part of the paragraph i quoted above; the part that reads, “If the colonial dynamic predominates, then Machover and Orr are right to conclude that ‘as long as Zionism is politically and ideologically dominant within that society, and forms the accepted framework of politics, there is no chance whatsoever of the Israeli working class becoming a revolutionary class’. In which case the only solution is a regional revolutionary upsurge.”

        After looking over the post on Lenin’s Tomb again, i couldn’t figure out what side was being argued, so i have to make clear my own position. i disagree with the message in “Power to the Jews and Therefore the Class,” that Israeli workers should be seen as the agents of revolutionary change in Palestine.

      • The post does not give exclusive agency to Israelis of any stripe. In using the word “we” it speaks to revolutionary marxists and THEIR role in uniting the workers of the world.

        The post reads:

        “we could and should consider a strategic re-orientation toward support for the working class Israeli, urging its alignment with its Arab counterpart, and forging a common interest between the two against racism, apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism.”

        Left to their respective nationalisms and narrow sectoral interests, Israeli and Palestinian are not likely to spontaneous align themselves. Although the fact that the epicenter of Israel’s activism has been dubbed “Tahrir” is a nice surprise dash of internationalism, no?

        Isnt it true that left to their own devices (meaning, left with ideological tools handed them by the bougeoisie) no working class will become a revolutionary class? Why is Israel singled out? And how will the colonial dynamic cease to predominate? I would argue that the Israeli working class might be particularly open to considering abandoning the colonial dynamic now that they see it is against their own economic/material interest. This is true at least for the US working class, which tends to shed its jingoism as wars drag on and drain public coffers that could be used domestically for things like education, healthcare, housing… you know, the core issue being represented in Israel’s Tahrir!

        Gila, now that a “regional upsurge” is no longer speculative but manifest, do you see the potential to a solution to be increasing or decreasing?

  2. i’ve been thinking about this post lately, but i’m still formulating my comment. in the mean time, here are a few articles that i’m reading to get a firmer grasp on the class character of Israeli & Palestinian societies:

    “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Arab Awakening ”
    http://www.merip.org/mero/mero080111

    “The sham solidarity of Israel’s Zionist left”
    http://electronicintifada.net/content/sham-solidarity-israel-s-zionist-left/10213

    “The agonising transformation of the Palestinian peasants into proletarians”
    http://libcom.org/history/agonising-transformation-palestinian-peasants-proletarians

    “Behind the 21st Century Intifada”
    http://libcom.org/library/21st-century-intifada-israel-palestine-aufheben

  3. This post is a slippery slope position that will lead to soft zionism. One facet of this blog’s politics that I really do appreciate is a dead serious opposition to racism and ‘great nation’ chauvinism. Ya’ll should re-think this one.

    The new movement against neoliberal policies in Israel cannot continue to ignore the Palestinian question:

    http://socialistworker.org/2011/08/12/anatomy-of-israels-protests

  4. Your curt, vacillating 3 sentence reply is enigmatic. First you say the post is on the path to zionism, then you say you appreciate it, and you conclude that AS should re-think what you appreciate about it. Can you clarify where you see AS failing to make the point that the new movement in Israel must address the Palestinian question?

    You write:

    “The new movement against neoliberal policies in Israel cannot continue to ignore the Palestinian question”

    Agreed, but you are not contradicting the post by saying that. What are you adding to the conversation exactly, other than an ad for Socialist Worker (a fine publication)?

    The AS post reads:

    “..we could and should consider a strategic re-orientation toward support for the working class Israeli, urging its alignment with its Arab counterpart, and forging a common interest between the two against racism, apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism.”

    (Same excerpt as my comment to Gila. It is the most prescriptive section of the post. That’s why its good to “re-think” it.)

    “forging a common interest between the two against racism, apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism” does not seem to be ignoring the Palestinian question at all, and in fact seems friendly to (what I think is) the ISO’s one-state solution to that question, is it not?

    Does the ISO-affiliate in Israel (I’m assuming there is one) be pushing the strategy outlined in the AS post? Should Israeli workers not go on strike and protest high cost of living? Should they not align those demands with the demands of Palestinians, who in addition to those demands have anti-colonial ones as well? What other pathway to unity does the ISO imagine there to be, if not one forged through struggle around a common class basis?

  5. watch this video from The Real News Network…

    …to get a perspective sympathetic to the original post and Zufrahim’s commentary. it documents a very real element within this movement that seeks to align itself with the global anti-austerity movement in general, and the North Africa/ Arab/ Middle East political upheaval to topple regimes. Especially the woman’s words at minute 2:40, and the footage up to minute 3:30… the perspective is explicitly against the Israeli security apparatus and against the notion that settlement of Palestinian is a solution to the crisis facing the working class, and connects these “political” issues (state oppression) with “economic” ones (high prices). Im FLABBERGASTED (yeah i said it, flabbergasted!) that no readers think this is a good thing and give their support to such developments in ISRAEL of all places!!!! C’mon people!!! If you do support what you see in this video move your fingertips a little bit and represent for class struggle – DAMN!

    This is not to claim that its a perspective that dominates the movement, but its there, it exists, and if anyone reading this now were born to immigrants to Israel (be they Russian, Ethiopian, or otherwise), you would be on this video saying the same stuff! … i would hope so anyways…

    That was hella clean when the protestors said boo to that reactionary orthodox fundamentalist religious colonialist dude. That’s Euro-Jewish Israeli against Euro-Jewish Israeli, motivated by power for the workers and basic humanistic love and sense of justice. Until the founding of the state of Israel, Jews were world-renowned for their genius in the arenas of revolutionary theory and sense of justice.. Good for them for taking steps toward reviving that struggle which was the basis for that talent and that well-deserved reputation.

    Power to the tradition staying alive and manifesting in practice today. Power to THOSE Jews who apply the spirit of their Passover myth (freedom from bondage) and Original Ghetto rebellion! We see these Jews in the video linked above.

    Word to the fact that they throw down against their government for their own reasons with an eye to their Palestinian sistren and brethren. Type a word in solidarity with that, and ask them to extend their hand out to where their eye looks.

    Suckers criticize Zionism but cant lift a fingertip to type a positive word of support to the developing consciousness of Israeli masses. Hypocracy, coming from radical Americans whose daddy’s house they grew up in was probably kept by a Latin woman from the other side of the US’s apartheid wall trespassing Indigenous land – you could write off everything every middle class radical does as a privilege of empire (nice laptop) but that would be just as misdirected as discrediting our venerable Israeli Jewish counterparts. I mean, damn, these people are making the US look HELLA reactionary in comparison. Relatively speaking, we dont got shit going on in the US.

    Power to the Israeli revolution – Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Europeans, Africans, gays, straights, and the rest of the diverse population of that country but especially… you know what’s coming next… THE WORKERS OF THE WORLD!! Will you unite with them, and struggle to pull their ideology toward the communist? Or will you bar them from your scope to make your square framework fit the round hole of reality?

    Fuck capitalism, nationalism, imperialism, and white guilt. Solidarity not charity. Power to the class and therefore the jews. The US working class would do well to follow the lead of their Israeli counterparts, just as the Israeli working class has followed in the steps of their African and Arab antecedents.

  6. Important debate! Societies must be analyzed in their specificity. Generally , the fundamental contradiction in society is class. However there are rare exceptions. The article in ISR 23 and others like it are a must read to understand the class dynamics in Israel. The Israeli working class is so heavily subsidized by Imperialism that it is barely if at all exploited and is therefore hardly a traditional working class in the usual sense. It does not have a class interest in overthrowing Zionism. This would end the imperial subsidy to its lifesyle. Rightfully returning the land to the Palestinians would take away its basis of existence. Orienting to its economic struggles is akin to orienting to the struggles of small capitalists against large ones. The small capitalists want a bigger slice of the pie created by exploitation , but they do not want and CANNOT want to end exploitation.—no matter how militant the small capitalists appear. Empirical studies of Israeli attitudes in Tent City and generally confirm this attachment to Zionism.—but the key to those attitudes is structural. An interesting study is the “Palestine Communist Party” recently republished by Haymarket Books. It details how difficult and ultimately impossible it was to build a real communist party among the Zionist colonial settlers from the 1920’s on. There is simply no political space for building a mass anti-Zionist revolutionary movement within the Jewish Israeli population. Anti-Zionist Jewish revolutionaries should support the Palestinian struggle, not orient to Jewish workers. The solution will be regional, not internal to Israel. There are similarities and differences with Apartheid South Africa but there is one strong similarity—the South African anti-apartheid revolution was a Black Working Class revolution. The white “working class” as such was not the agent of change. Individual whites could and did support and even join the Black Working Class Struggle just as individual Jewish workers can join the Palestinian struggle..

  7. I think the key thing that trips people up is that while a relatively small number of Jewish Israelis can be brought over to the Palestinian side on a moral basis (and even then, they’re usually soft Zionists), they do not have a material interest in Palestinian liberation (at least not until their privileges are eroded by a weakening of Israel and US imperialism due to regional Arab revolts). The Lenin’s Tomb piece is good at explaining that while neoliberalism has exacerbated class inequality between Jewish Israelis and has pushed down the living standards of many, overall the living standards of Jewish Israelis are still immensely higher than their Palestinian counterparts and are so because Palestinians live in destitution. Moreover, everything Jewish Israelis have is based on taking it from Palestinians or being rewarded by imperialism for taking from Palestinians. Every apartment building that Jewish Israelis are fighting for lower rent in was either stolen from Palestinians or built on top of Palestinian housing. I think that says it all.

  8. Things are up in the air over there right now, that’s for sure. I haven’t been following the protest movement in Israel as closely as I should have–who can stay on top of everything, with the whole world on fire?–but it’s clearly the biggest fracture within the Zionist project since 1948.

    The position of the ISO has traditionally been that the political economy of settler-colonialism provides material incentives for the Israeli working-class to support the occupation of Palestine. Meaning that Israeli workers cannot be real allies of the Palestinian liberation movement.

    On the other hand, others on the revolutionary left have put forward what I would characterise as a workerist and soft-Zionist position–that the Palestinian movement should avoid doing anything that will alienate Israeli workers. In other words (my words, of course!) the movement should allow the working-class of the oppressor nation set the tactics for the liberation of the oppressed nation.

    Without wanting to speak for Alex, I guess this is what he means when he mentions the dangers of soft Zionism.

    I’m not sure whether the current movement in Israel requires us to change this analysis. It’s certainly interesting and important that Israeli protesters are declaring their solidarity with Tahrir. But have the basic class dynamics changed in Israel? I’m not sure, and I’d like to hear what others think.

  9. I intended to communicate that this blog has taken issues of racism and great-nation chauvinism seriously in the past, and that I don’t see how this posting is consistent with that.

    I was kind of shocked by the slogan ‘power to the jews and therefore the class.’ This seems soft on Zionism to me. Would you raise that slogan at a Palestine Solidarity rally?

    I think that it is important to recognize that while the class struggle in Israel is getting more intense, anti-zionist left politics are still very marginal.

    There is a very grave danger that the forces of the right, who advocate colonial ‘solutions’ to the problem of neoliberalism, end up winning leadership of the new social movements in Israel.

    That said, I have given this post more thought. I think that the slogan is very problematic, but the gist of the post is maybe more on point.

    Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli Marxist, has reported that a radical-wing of the J14 movement, willing to take up the question of Palestine, has begun to emerge.

    http://socialistworker.org/blog/critical-reading/2011/09/04/moshe-machover-protests-israel

    I suggest that the slogan being raised by those activists is much more appropriate: “Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies!”

  10. Pingback: “MAKE THE GENERAL STRIKE IN ISRAEL AN INTIFADA!” « it ain't where ya from

  11. The fact of one society’s exploiting another has only a limited effect on a class analysis of each of those societies independently. Conditions in England during the worst of the industrial revolution were terrible. Marx and Engels analyzed these conditions and called for revolution. They didn’t ignore the English working class because it was part of the dominant imperialist state of its day, they didn’t call for strikes to stop because the conditions of Irish or Indian workers were even worse. In fact, they correctly held that only in England had capitalism developed to the point of being ripe for revolution, and that the fate of Irish and Indian workers was dependent on revolution by the English working class. Realistically, political action is only possible within a defined, limited section of society – when workers strike for better wages it’s the exploiters who try to break the strike by passing over these limits, not the organizers (“you’re fired, there’s someone poorer than you who’d love to take your place”). We have to fight Imperialism and we have to fight class dominance – one at a time. To say that no progress can be made within a society that is exploiting another one, as a colonial power for instance, is wrong, and defeatist. Support the class struggle even in imperialist societies, at the same time that you fight imperialism internationally. And don’t forget that just being imperialistically exploited doesn’t make a society progressive – on the contrary it’s likely to be even more internally exploitative. Over and over the left has celebrated victories over colonial oppressors that left those societies worse off than they were before. Algeria? Idi Amin’s Uganda? Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Capitalism must both be addressed, but if anything, Anti-Capitalism takes precedence.

  12. Pingback: Debate on Palestinian Liberation and Israeli Class Struggle | Advance the Struggle

  13. I just saw this piece, thanks AS comrades for pointing it back out.

    “In our critique of Israel, we forget that nations are composed of antagonistic classes, and that the dialectic of class struggle in Israel-Palestine is not exclusively an anti-colonial one. The duty of a conscious Israeli to the world proletarian struggle for liberation does not lie in a self-sacrificing or suicidal “traitor-ism” wherein good Jews give themselves over to the Palestinian cause as a servant to it.”

    While in almost every place on the planet this statement is true, I do not believe it is true in Palestine. There are some places on earth such as Palestine or Batulozabwei (South Africa) where, in fact, there is no significant proletariat among the colonial nation. This is what the statement “settler-state” means. It is not just a matter of settlers composing a racist state (which is part of it), but an actual mode of production upon which the basis of the existence of the settler nation state is the domination and oppression of a whole other nation of people.

    I disagree with some people (J. Sakai) who have argued this is also the case of the United States, and I think a close-up comparison of the two societies is instructive:

    It is no secret that the United States is a genocidal empire formed on the basis of colonization of the Native peoples, and the enslavement millions of Black people. But, for example, if J Sakai’s theories are examined up close, there are some remarkable blind spots: little mention of the exploitation of European immigrants, of the militant white coal miners of Appalachia, of revolutionary insurrections like Shay’s Rebellion, of German immigrant workers in the south taking up arms to fight for their enslaved brothers and sisters, little appreciation for the reality that large sections of whites in the north of the US sympathetized with John Brown and Nat Turner, the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of whites during the 1960’s who, either passively or actively, supported the Black Panther Party and ultimately produced the New Communist Movement, and the list goes on.

    Where does that kind of history exist among the whites of South Africa? Through the whole course of that revolution, no significant section of the white society aided the revolution.

    What about the white Israelis of the Israeli settler-state? There are some small scores of intellectually developed white anarchist activists, but that is a different thing than an actual revolting base among a class section of the society.

    And it was remarkable to see, for example, Occupy Israel, who through the entire period of the bombing of Gaza was either silent, or running pieces about opposing rockets from “both sides.” An end to the occupation of Palestine, or the righteous demand of a single secular state called Palestine were nowhere to be heard, even in the original occupations.

    I don’t write this to argue that all Jews of the Israeli state are class enemies (I don’t agree with that kind of misanthropy), but rather to argue that the mode of production of that society (based upon foreign aide, colonization, expansionism, and military domination) has meant that there is not an Israeli proletariat, which is different from an Israeli working class, with the radical and emancipatory world view that our class aims to bring into being.

  14. Part of the core of this debate is what “proletariat” actually means to us. Obviously, no one can question the reality that there are class contradictions in Israel. But what is the essence of those contradictions in their totality? Does this Israeli working class have the same radical aspirations as the Arab and Jewish proletariat that composed Palestine? Is it a class that aims to go out of existence, along with the nation that created it in the first place?

  15. Return to Lenin…

    The basis of Lenin’s writings, IMO, on this question is NOT placing an equal sign between an oppressed nationality and the oppressor nationality. If one loses site of this all discussions of the “proletariat” is so much chatter. It is a basic character of charlatans on the left that seek to think that only through “unity”…meaning oppressor nationalities suppressing their national aspirations…to the ‘majority’ oppressor nationality that most workers may be a member of. We see this with false calls for ‘unity’ of “catholic and protestant” workers in Ireland and downplaying the National Questions there and the occupation of Ireland in the north by the colonial British state.

    We respect/support and even defend the democratic right of any one to believe in their god or gods, speak their own language, etc. But this is predicated on renouncing their predatory and oppressor chauvinism.

    Israeli workers are part and parcel of the oppressor Zionist entity. *Until* they realize that Zionism…Jewish exclusivity…is their enemy and agree to Arab-Palestinian MAJORITY rule and the right of Return of expelled Palestinians, this conflict will continue for quite some time.

    The use of ‘unity’ based on exorcising legitimate national demands of the oppressed is a capitulation to Imperialism.

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