[Marxism] The "anti-semitism" of the oppressed, etc.?? (was: How to answer these questions?)

Lou Paulsen loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net
Fri Aug 4 10:43:31 MDT 2006

Continuing the discussion with Adam - first, there are two very different kinds of situation that we have to distinguish.  You are writing about ongoing concrete work in the U.S. in a movement with heavy Palestinian participation and leadership.  I'm sorry if you thought I was being dismissive when I referred to "people writing leaflets together" - that wasn't my intention.  I was trying to emphasize that there is active ongoing collaboration in real work.  I don't think anyone is suggesting that we can't be honest with people whom we actually have an active working relationship.
But that isn't the sort of context that was being discussed when the thread started.  The thread started when someone asked how we deal with it if some resistance organization in the Middle East which we do NOT have a direct working relationship with - and which by the way it would probably be illegal to have a direct working relationship with - has material on their website attacking the Jewish people and maybe even has a link to the "Protocols".  Here we are dealing with people who are separated from us, not only because of their politics but also because separation and isolation is deliberately imposed on them by the United States.  This also applies to other people in the oppressed community here, though.  
Now, I hope you will agree that some of your comments are not very applicable to this second situation.  You are writing about "entering into political discussion" with Palestinians, but what if that's not possible?  What if there's no way to talk with them?  What if you are reading a news account about people who have no idea who you are and have no history of working with you and no real reason to trust you?  
Actually I do believe in entering into discussion with them, in a sense, but not by writing them letters so much as by putting our own views out there.  If we can read Hamas's website, well, Hamas can read our website.  They can read the material on the IAC website (www.iacenter.org) and read about the demonstrations taking place today and tomorrow making clear our position that the war on Palestine and Lebanon is a U.S. war rather than a Jewish war.  In fact our leaflet has on it a picture of a Hezbollah banner that says the "U.S. is the head of the terrorists"; it doesn't say the Elders of Zion are the head of the terrorists.  That's our side of the discussion.  That's our attempt to avoid being isolated and to say something meaningful about all this.  You and other people are participating in this kind of "discussion" all the time.  It will give our socialist comrades in Palestine and Lebanon and throughout the oppressed world some back-up as they themselves participate
 in "discussions" all the time with people in their own nations and shape the future of their own struggles.
You then goes on to say something that I really think you should re-read and apologize for, since it's really offensive:
"Yet what Joaquin is advocating is that we decide that our enemies'
propaganda is *correct*, that Israel represents world Judaism, that the
Palestinians are filled with blood-lust against the Jewish people, and
we should simply unquestioningly accept and promote anti-Semitism (as
hatred of Jews, whatever the cause, is commonly known) within the
I think it is entirely unfair to say that Joaquin is saying that any Marxists should promote the hatred of Jews.  He may have said such feelings were "justified" but that's different from saying that they're true or that he as a Marxist is going to go around promoting them.  Furthermore, I also don't believe that he thinks we should promote the hatred of whites.  I am not Jewish myself, though my wife and son are, but I am white, and it is not particularly likely that I am going to want to promote the hatred of whites.  So, how do I react when Joaquin writes about Latin at s chanting "Gringos - matenlos!" ("Kill the gringos!")  Do I become terrified of such people and think they are going to kill me with machetes at any time, and that Joaquin is promoting this, and feel that I have to go and caution young Latin at s against "reverse racism, as hatred of whites, whatever the cause, is commonly known" or some such thing?  The oppressed are going to react to their oppression! 
 Surely we can identify with this!  Of course this isn't a good analogy since the situation on the ground in Palestine is much more intense than in a demonstration in the US, but if I thought that people in the oppressed community in the US really were organizing to push white people into Lake Michigan, would any level of 'discussion' by white leftists be likely to change that?  Wouldn't it be a time, rather, to demonstrate in practice whether we are on the side of the oppressors, or unconditionally on the side of the oppressed?  (Actually this is not entirely a hypothetical situation, since back in the 1970's the state DID charge that a group of Blacks in Chicago was engaged in random murders of white people and whipped up a racist campaign of fear, and my party came to their defense.)
I also think that you are sliding into metaphysics even when you think you are getting out of it.  Let's look at this "hatred" for example.  There is a difference between hating people who are killing you and hating people who are not killing you.  There is a difference between hating the oppressed nation and hating the oppressor nation.  There is a difference between hating people who will not disappear and let you steal what they have, and hating people who will not get their foot off your throat.  Marxists are not interested in promoting national hatreds.  We are not nationalists.  But it is national oppression that underlies all of these discussions of psychology and mental states.  
And when you say that "Palestinian anti-semitism is STILL reactionary", well, reactionary compared to what?  Really, everything that falls short of revolutionary communism is reactionary by comparison if that's the standard you are going to use.  There are a lot of ways for oppressed people to be reactionary.  The number one worst way for oppressed people to be reactionary is to identify with the oppressor, to betray their people and serve the imperialist.  Another way for the oppressed to be reactionary is to be passive and subservient. Another way is to have illusions that the oppressor will solve the problem - belief in the good will of the United States, voting for Democrats, and so on.  There are a lot of ways to go wrong that don't lead you to struggle at all.  But how would "push the Jews into the sea", if raised by Palestinians in Palestine today, differ from "push the French into the sea", if raised by Black slaves in Haiti in 1790, or "push the Boers into the
 sea", if raised by South Africans in 1970?  Those are basically nationalist slogans.  So is the nationalism of the oppressed reactionary or progressive - in relation to imperialist oppression itself?  I know that socialist organizers among the oppressed nation would view a narrow nationalist point of view as "reactionary" in comparison with the socialist perspective they are advocating, but that's a different issue.
Finally, writing that "Joaquin being from an oppressed nationality does not exempt him from criticism" is off the mark.  Joaquin and I have criticized each others' politics before.  But in this particular case you are writing about whether it is or isn't "reactionary" for oppressed people to react to their oppression in a certain way, and in that case I think we all have to listen better to what people of oppressed nations say about it.  Which will not be in one voice.  After all there are many Black and Latin@ members of PLP who will declare that the nationalism of the oppressed is in fact reactionary.  On consideration, I disagree with them.  Anyway, please don't confuse me with some kind of super-liberal who is afraid to talk around people of color, and in return I will try not to confuse YOU with people like my boss who came away from the training session on sexual harrassment going "HUMPF!  Well, I guess you just can't say ANYTHING any more!"
Lou Paulsen

member, wwp, chicago

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