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Palestine/Israel: Two States?

WHO ARE Martin Sullivan’s "leftists" ("Israel/Palestine: Two States?", What Next? No.22) who insist on retaining the agitational demand for the abolition of the state of Israel? While there are undoubtedly such people, their presence in active politics around the issue is hard to detect. Sullivan’s straw men allow him to support uncritically the Israeli reservists’ declaration. The extremely courageous reservists, Women in Black, anti house-demolition activists and other Israeli protesters certainly deserve international recognition and support, but those with some concern for the future of the region’s people want more than sectarian point-scoring.

Akin to the zionist "facts on the ground" arguments, Sullivan fails completely to advocate critical support for the reservists’ declaration. Critical examination of the declaration should have made it clear that it has little to do with the core injustices impelling Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination. Are the Palestinians who live within the 1967 borders beneficiaries of the declaration’s "principles of Zionism"? What are the "... the values we had absorbed while growing up in this country"? Is the price of occupation "... the loss of the Israel Defence Forces’ human character"?

Any exploration of zionist settler-colonialism should demonstrate that the only way a Palestinian state could survive would be as a neighbour to a state which renounced its chauvinistic and expansionist past. Renunciation of Israel’s law of return, fair distribution of resources such as water, across-the-board equality for all Israeli citizens and a rational approach to those Palestinians languishing in refugee camps would all threaten the existence of the Israeli state as it is.

Comparison with apartheid South Africa may encourage Martin Sullivan to help sever his party’s historical links with zionism and its Euro-centric roots. Such a proposition would suggest genuine concern for the welfare of both Hebrew and Arabic-speaking residents in Israel/Palestine.

Rod Quinn

Marxism versus Anarchism

ANDY ROBINSON is evidently fond of Marx’s dictum that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself, and quotes it ("Workers and Direct Action", What Next? No.22) to back up his refusal to condemn or even dissociate himself from the counter-productive antics of anarchist elements in the anti-capitalist movement. Perhaps he should pause and reflect on the actual origins of that phrase.

The exact wording is "the emanicipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves", and it is to be found in the opening sentence of the preamble to the General Rules of the International Working Men’s Association (the First International), drawn up by Marx in 1864.

The working men representing Britain on the General Council of the International were, of course, trade union leaders – and this at a time when trade unionism was limited to a narrow layer of skilled workers and consequently had a rather conservative character. Yet Marx was ready to work with these union leaders – Cremer, Odger, Applegarth and others – not because he thought they embodied a spirit of militant anti-capitalism, but because they represented working class self-organisation as it actually existed. Of course, Marx fought to overcome their conservatism and urged them to take a more radical course. But his central concern was to engage with the real labour movement.

This "soft" attitude towards men whom Andy Robinson would probably dismiss as trade union bureaucrats was in sharp contrast to Marx’s response to the anarchists. He bitterly opposed the latter as a disruptive force and got their leader, Mikhail Bakunin, expelled from the International.

In one of the far left discussion groups that litter the internet, a contributor recently criticised Marx’s involvement in an International dominated by non-revolutionaries. He condemned "the failure of Marx to seriously subject the trade union leadership on the International to criticism. He concentrated his fire on what were called sects by some – the Bakunists – while going easy on other elements actively present in the International. Even the entire purpose, structure and character of the First International makes the role of Marx in relation to it questionable. Much of the later opportunism and perhaps even revisionism within the Marxist movement can be traced back to the First International".

This is certainly ultra-left gibberish, but at least it has the merit of being consistent ultra-left gibberish, which is more than you can say for comrade Robinson’s attempt to use Marx’s views on working class self-organisation to justify his own anti-Marxist adaptation to Bakunin’s present-day followers.

Martin Sullivan

Correspondence welcomed. Please email us at whatnextmag@yahoo.co.uk or write to What Next? 24 Georgiana Street, London NW1 0EA.