[Marxism] Relevant to the German left discussion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 23 12:14:24 MDT 2009


For Unlimited Distribution           Excuse Double Posting
 From the desk of Reuven Kaminer      March 23, 2009

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Expands its Activities in Israel

Most of those on the left here in Israel welcomed the foundation and the 
growing success of the party of the German left, “Die Linke.” The party 
was created two years ago with the unification between the PDS (Party of 
Democratic Socialism), which rose in East Germany after the collapse of 
the Communist regime, and a radical wing of the Social Democrats which 
left their parent party. The unified party appears to be doing quite 
well and it is expected to earn some 10% (or more) of the vote in the 
next elections to the Bundestag.

Each of the two components is a story in itself, but, at this point, a 
few comments on the PDS may be helpful. The PDS established its own 
identity after the “fall” managing to break with Communist East German 
orthodoxy but insisting on the need to find its own path to the left of 
the cold-war Social Democrats. For a combination of strange historical 
factors, the PDS became a major party in the regions of the former 
German Democratic Republic. One of the important elements in its success 
was the task of exposing the hypocrisy of the German Federal Republic 
establishment which neglected and spurned the needs of the region, while 
waxing sentimental about the reunification miracle.  The PDS continued 
over the years to do well in the eastern regions but had little or no 
presence in the other regions of the Federal Republic of Germany. This 
changed radically for the better after the unification with the 
breakaway Social-Democratic formation.

According to German law, each faction in the Bundestag (which must meet 
the 5% minimum for representation), receives in proportion to its 
strength, an allocation for cultural and educational activity conducted 
both within Germany and abroad.  Here in Israel, we are familiar with 
the long active Adenauer, Ebert and Heinrich Boel foundations linked to 
the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Greens, respectively.

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which has been active in Israel for a 
number of years has recently upgraded its level of representation and 
activities, including the establishment of two new offices in Tel Aviv 
and Ramallah. It sponsored on March 11, 2009 in Tel Aviv a very 
impressive full day seminar devoted to Rosa Luxemburg and relations 
between the Israeli and the German left. It is almost superfluous to 
note here that the Polish, German, Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, 
was one of the giants of revolutionary socialism, an important 
theoretician, and an indefatigable proletarian leader. Luxembourg was 
murdered in 1918, a few days after she was released from prison where 
she was held because of her consistent opposition to the war.

A Complex and Sensitive Mission

Representing the German Left in Israel is a complex and sensitive 
mission.  The relations between the German people and the Jewish people 
are suffused with painful memory and fraught with tensions on the 
background of the Holocaust, after the horrendous murder of a third of 
the Jewish people.  Matters become more complex when one remembers that 
the “return of Germany to the family of nations” after the WWII was 
facilitated by a budding Israeli-German romance.  Back then Germany was 
being transformed into the faithful ally of the United States and a 
major force in NATO.  On this background, Israel, led by David Ben 
Gurion, initiated the historic reconciliation which included the 
(in)famous reparations agreement, thus granting major assistance to 
restoring the moral stature of the “new”  Germany.

There are those on the German Left who believe that the traumas of the 
past dictate a common German position in favor of Israel, which includes 
special consideration for all and any of Israel’s actions.  Gregor Gysi, 
a central political figure in the German “Die Linke” is a typical 
representative of this current of thought.  In an important speech, 
marking the 60th anniversary of Israel (“The Position of the German Left 
Towards Israel ”-April 14, 2008)  Gysi calls on the German left to 
maintain its embrace of the “pro-Israeli” approach of the German 
establishment. The practical effect of this approach is to render Israel 
immune to any serious criticism.  With all due respect, this approach to 
the matter is unacceptable in terms of its content and its political 
implications.  According to Gizi’s approach, Israel is the direct and 
legitimate heir of all the victims of Nazism.  It is Israel which 
represents them and is authorized to act in their name.  Therefore, all 
the governments of Israel must receive special consideration in every 
area, and this includes, of course, the Israeli-Arab conflict.

In the Israeli left, we are quite familiar with this thesis, according 
to which Israel is the authentic expression of  all Jewish aspirations, 
past and present and that Israel’s establishment is in some way 
compensation for the crimes by Nazism against the Jewish people.  It is 
obvious why the Israeli establishment adopted and energetically advanced 
this thesis which became over time an important ideological weapon in 
rationalizing its behavior in the Middle East conflict.  But there is no 
basis in fact for this thesis in historical reality.

Gysi does try to be honest and objective, but one senses that feelings 
of  guilt  have taken precedence over political logic.  This is clear 
from the extreme credibility that he extends to claims by the Zionist 
establishment and Israeli governments according to which Israel is 
“surprisingly democratic” and “forced to act” as it does.

The editors of the Israeli publication of Gysi’s speech did well to cite 
the fact that the speech is not an official party position, but a 
contribution to a discussion which evoked stormy and excited discussion.

With all the appreciation for the goals of the Rosa Luxemburg 
Foundation, one must express some apprehension that its efforts may be 
over responsive to current official German positions, especially in the 
light of the mutual admiration interaction governing relations between 
Israel and Germany.  Any   tendency to equate criticism of Israel with 
anti-Semitism must encourage apologetics for actions by Israel.  It is 
well known that Israel makes every effort to brand justified criticism 
of its actions as anti-Semitism.  In such circumstances, why should 
Germany (and Europe) make life easier for Israel by indulgence and 
leniency towards actions by Israel which would be defined as clearly 
criminal if perpetrated by anyone else.  Does Israel deserve this kind 
of forgiveness as it operates as a regional power in close alliance to 
US interests in the region?

It is to be hoped that the Foundation and its staff, who are democrats 
and socialists, will be discerning regarding the attempts by the Israeli 
establishment to exploit any tendency to leniency regarding the 
realities of the occupation and war crimes against the Palestinians. 
The Israeli establishment is quite adroit at exploiting the crimes of 
the past against the Jewish people as a blanket justification for its 
policies.  It is suggested that the German Left, instead of any 
rapprochement with the Israeli establishment, might well  cultivate and 
deepen relations of mutual understanding and solidarity with those in 
Israel who are fighting for peace and democracy, and with the 
Palestinian population in Israel.  It is the view of the Israeli Left 
that the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation will fulfill its goals successfully 
if it refrains consistently from any whitewash of the sins and crimes of 
Israel and its policies.  This is particularly true according to the 
legacy of Rosa Luxembourg who castigated all forms of militarism and 
unjust war.  Her legacy continues to be a guideline for every democrat 
and every partisan of peace who recognizes the horrors of militarism in 
general and in its local and contemporary version, in particular.

The Real Rosa

It is quite normal that the authentic meaning of past legacies is 
subject to differences of opinion. Everyone is permitted to quote those 
passages that seem most important and characteristic in the legacy of 
this or that historical figure.  But there is cause for concern that 
there are those who might forget, even though unintentionally, the most 
all important  element in Luxemburg’s legacy:  revolutionary theory and 
practice.  The essence of her political life was devoted to elaborating 
revolutionary thought and practice.  Here we have a problem – the 
interpretation of Luxemburg for those who operate in non-revolutionary 
periods and circumstances. This problematic is known in Marxism as 
“revolutionary practice in non-revolutionary circumstances”.  It is 
therefore not totally surprising that those operating in a 
non-revolutionary period will try to “round off” some of Luxemburg’s 
“rough edges” and to emphasize those elements that tend to gloss over 
the tremendous contradiction between her position and reformism.  It was 
precisely Luxemburg  who delved deeper than anyone else into the roots 
of the conflict between revolution and reform.

One could argue that the lack of real revolutionary perspectives 
explained the surrender of reformism to the capitalist regime. But 
nothing can justify the faithful and blind support by social democracy 
for the imperialist project of their own ruling classes.  In England, 
Germany, Holland and Belgium, among others, reformism enthusiastically 
supported the project of colonialist exploitation, whose dimensions 
approached that of a holocaust.  It is worth recalling that the roots of 
the Holocaust of the Jewish people appeared and developed in the dark 
depths of racism which served so well the arguments for colonial 
expansion.  Thus, Rosa Luxemburg should properly be seen as an opponent 
of all forms of imperial domination.  In this sense, Luxemburg’s legacy 
would symbolize, more than anything else, solidarity with the victims of 
the Israeli occupation and with the workers and the down trodden here in 
Israel.

A Source For Concern

Hermann Dierekes, an activist in the German Left was a representative of 
the Die Linke in the Duisberg City Council and also a candidate of his 
party for mayor.  Dierekes participated recently in the World Social 
Forum in Belem, Brazil and wanted to relay the decisions of the Forum to 
the German public.  After Dierekes granted an interview to a 
conservative paper in Essen he was viciously attacked in a number of 
right-wing papers in Germany.  But this was not enough, according to 
information at our disposal,  Dierkes was severely attacked by central 
figures in the Linke and forced out of the party.  This version of 
events is from Palestinian sources, but we were unable, despite our 
attempts, to find a different or an official version from Die Linke.  We 
cannot be responsible for any Dierekes’ formulations, but it seems quite 
clear that he was a victim of those in the Die Linke who do not accept 
the very idea that it is possible and necessary to criticize Israel. 
How did Rosa  put it?  “Freedom is only the freedom for those who think 
differently.”


Comments

1) This article is based on, but not identical to an article by the 
writer published last week in Hebrew on the “Ha’gada Ha’smolit” website.

2) My arguments with certain tendencies in the German left which want to 
render exceptional consideration to Israel are part of a   “family” 
dispute. I do appreciate the bitter hatred of anything remotely fascist 
or anti-Semitic in the German left. I am convinced that the motive on 
the left for avoiding sharp controversy over Israel is usually a noble 
one. However, bending over backwards to avoid confrontation with 
Israel’s actions may result in a dangerous lack of clarity on this and 
related issues and make it that much harder to distinguish between 
Israel’s state apparatus, on one had,  and Jews and the Jewish people, 
on the other, such a distinction being basic to understanding events.

3) This actually happened one day during the eighties of the previous 
century. We were shopping at the local super in Jerusalem when a young 
woman came up and informed us (in complete innocence): “You are lucky, 
we have a special sale today on soap from Germany.”




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