Nationalism – the false defense against imperialism Ruthless Criticism

Translated from MSZ 3-1986


“A progressive Palestinian state”

In regards to your article “Reagan judges Gaddafi” (MSZ 2/1986), in particular the section “The Palestinians: From ‘problem’ to legal title for ‘fighting terrorism’: The comparison of the Palestinian revolution with the Zionist movement is rather malicious, and this is not made any better by pointing to some similarities in the forms of action (gathering as a people, terrorism, aim: founding a state). Zionism is a racist ideology, the state of Israel an imperialist bridgehead, supported by Germany and the USA. However, every faction of the PLO, from Arafat to the legendary Abu Nidal, is united in their rejection of all racism: while the state of Israel is based on the expulsion of Arabs, the PLO Charter explicitly calls for a “democratic state of Palestine in which Arabs, Jews and Christians can live together as equals.” Furthermore, Israel, as this reactionary imperialist entity, has the function of fighting all revolutionary movements not only in the Middle East, but also elsewhere (South Africa, Taiwan, the contras in Nicaragua), while the PLO (all its factions are also united on this) explicitly has the “fight against Arab reaction” in its program and also pursues it. That’s why Hussein’s Black September happened, precisely because the Palestinians did not want to become an instrument of the Arab states. It can’t be denied that leftist Palestinians also have a lot of illusions about the blessings of a genuine Arab state authority. But the fact that a progressive Palestinian state is in any case a step out of the worst shit can be seen from the Libya article in the MSZ, where you yourselves write that the people under Gaddafi are not doing so badly. They really do have it better than the masses in the other Arab states.

SA, West Berlin

Nationalism – the false defense against imperialism

You will surely have noticed that the state of Israel gets indestructibly positive media in the Federal Republic of Germany, whereas the PLO is demonized in the name of morally condemning terrorism. The “comparison,” which you reproach as “malicious,” between the Zionist state-founding movement and that of the Palestinian Arabs is intended to rebut this point of view. The habitual hypocrisy of the democratic media requires always having to point out, over and over again, that condemning the use of murderous violence for political purposes, and certainly for the establishment of a new state or the enactment of a new government, only follows one not at all moral criterion, namely: the respective national interest in the result.

Every nationalism contains a racist ideology. Because no nation wants to be understood as what it is: a coercive social bond created by state force, useful for its power and the conditions of exploitation it protects, which confronts the affected people as a totality of predetermined living conditions and thereby turns them into a people. Nationalism consists essentially in the lie that the state is at the service of the people who are determined by it, and thereby of the people whose identity lies in belonging to this nation. The lie of a Jewish human species that needs a strong state power for its well-deserved historical success is no more and no less racist than interpreting one’s existence as a West German proletarian or student as a natural membership in a national body that claims a right to a “reunited” Greater Germany, if not to a “Europe without borders,” as its own. Every nation attests to some sort of elite status to its people; whether skin pigments are also counted, skull shapes measured, or forefathers researched, is a secondary question to this.

Part of the idea of a people and their homeland is always the dubious self-praise that it is above social antagonisms. That’s what political racism is all about: the left as well as the right, the poor as well as the rich, women as well as men, Christians as well as the godless, Bavarians as well as East Frisians, etc., should accept the identity of the rule to which they are subjected as their quasi-natural common nature and as their overriding duty above all special interests and loyalties. The flip side of nationalism is the decisive definitions it makes against those who are not entitled by birth to the passport of the country with its rights and duties. Saxons yes, Tamils no, but certainly “Volga Germans” because they are suitable for a national claim, South Tyroleans, on the other hand, no, because Italy is an ally, and so on. The state of Israel combines generosity and pettiness in the same way: Ethiopian sects yes, Arab Mohammedans no or only as second-class citizens, Jews from the Soviet Union always. The state power, even a democratic one, does not maintain and curb nationalistic and racist delusions originating in private, but creates the boundaries that are useful to it and then enjoy general appreciation.

And the longed-for new Palestine? We do not think that the goal of a “home between the Jordan and the Mediterranean,” including its promised guarantee that three religiously delimited human types “can live together as equals,” is anything special. How did this selection come about? If this is to be applied to the 2nd to 4th generations as well, a few, even if well-intentioned, racist interpretations must have entered into it. In this sense, there is certainly a “Palestinian identity,” namely precisely as a work of the Israeli policy of expulsion. And in this respect, Palestinian nationalism is innocent because it is powerless, and morally honorable because it is the viewpoint of victims. But that’s precisely why there is nothing correct about it. When the point of view from which the Zionists emptied their “promised land” is reversed; when the neatly divorced peoples with their recognized ways of life and idiosyncrasies are handed over to the supervision of a new nation whose state force then has to guarantee peaceful coexistence; then the world of states will only have been enriched by a newly recognized racism and its associated “constant problems,” but no benefit for the affected people will have been decided and set in motion. As a matter of fact, this, incidentally, can be learned from the masses of Jews who find in the Zionist state exactly the abstraction that was promised to them, namely: a political homeland.

The Palestinian “fight against reactionary Arab states” has failed. Perhaps not even necessarily: If the PLO had really led it, e.g. stirred up Hussein’s subjects, purposefully undermined his army – who knows how “Black September” would have turned out. Beyond such speculations, however, it must be noted that the PLO has always measured the “reactionary” character of Arab regimes according to their support for its state-founding project and not vice versa. It fought against Hussein’s rule as an obstacle to its “state within a state” and not against this King by American grace because of the way he treats his subjects – his “own” as well as the refugees.

There is a necessary reason that this fight failed. It is a contradiction to demand and find acceptance and support from the established Arab states as a kind of Palestinian state in preparation and not want to serve as an instrument for their political interests. The PLO’s reactionary host countries would be the first selfless powers that the “family of states” has ever counted among its members!

With their fight for their own state, however, the organized Palestinians are not at all revolutionary opponents of the Arab governments, but are dependent on their good will and are therefore also their “useful idiots” – otherwise they could do what they want. That under a President Arafat they would have more political possibilities and a sovereign power doesn’t help at all: that’s precisely why they don’t get any autonomy.

Unless the imperialist powers of the USA and Western Europe could develop a taste for the establishment of the West Bank and Gaza as an autonomous small state. Would the “revolutionary” Palestinians now be satisfied with that? Arafat certainly would be. But that would not be “a step out of the worst shit”; the birth deliverers would certainly guarantee that. By the way, as far as Libya’s prosperity is concerned, this does not come from Gaddafi’s “progressive” attitude, which we do not want to judge any further, but from the country’s oil revenues, which Gaddafi uses in such a way that some humane effects can be seen.

What ultimately is your point that Israel is “fighting all revolutionary movements ... also elsewhere”? Not to excuse Israel, but to notice its proportions: Even the “Socialist International” of the most honorable Willy Brandt, not to mention every single member state of NATO, does more counter-revolutionary work wherever insurgents are stirring than Israel, which provides its special services on the basis of the American-European control over the Western world. It is important to observe this ranking because it could otherwise appear as if the global rule of imperialism stands and falls with Israel; as if Nicaraguans, for example, have to be “helped” by anti-Zionism. Or is that your opinion?

MSZ Editors