[Marxism] Israel, the Austro Hungarian Empire and South Africa (was Re: Is Israel an apartheid state?)

Nestor Gorojovsky nmgoro at gmail.com
Mon Aug 23 15:06:11 MDT 2010

I think that Fred is quite right in his criticism. Similitudes should 
not hide particular hues (and sometimes not just hues) if we are to 
establish a practical road to socialism.

Take the gross assimilation of Israel to South Africa in face value: the 
Israeli citizen Daniel Barenboim -a man of Argentine birth and an 
Argentinean citizen by his own right- has just finished a series of 
presentations of his East-West Diwan Orchestra in Buenos Aires. In South 
Africa he would have been subject to legal process for the initiative of 
the Orchestra itself. And during the public, free, out of theater, 
presentation (which was held at a most central location in Buenos Aires 
with great attendance) he publicly and openly advocated for an immediate 
and unilateral declaration of independence for the Palestinians. This 
would have been subject to another legal process in South Africa, too.

I can´t imagine even the most liberal-minded South African White, 
Britain-born, orchestra director leading a rehearsal in London, for 
example, of a joint South African Black-White orchestra, and immediately 
afterwards issuing a declaration on behalf of the right of the South 
African Black to be considered fully equal, in bourgeois terms, to the 
South African Whites.

He would have been persecuted under the apartheid regime, and rightly 
so. This legal order made it impossible to belong to the privileged 
minority AND advocate the rights of the oppressed majorities without 
risking prison. The Israeli legal order doesn´t. The difference between 
Israel and South Africa makes it possible that a honest Zionist as 
Barenboim can step ahead in his ideas towards practical positions that 
in the end negate his Zionism. In South Africa nothing of this kind 
would have ever been not just possible but even thinkable. That we can 
see a TREND in Israel towards apartheid (which of course is a practical 
fact) does not mean that the trend has become a fact of life. The 
struggle against this evolution is still open to Jews in Israel in a way 
it was unthinkable in South Africa.

But of course THERE EXISTS a common ground between Israel and South 
Africa. However, it does not of necessity lie in /racism/ as such. Yes, 
of course, in South Africa there was and there still is -witness the 
rugby (white) versus soccer (all colors, mostly Black) debate today- a 
strong racist vein beneath the general issue, but this is harder to 
hammer into the Israeli mindset not just because of German "racial" 
laws, etc., but also because there are not few Israeli Jews with an of 
Arabic or even Black racial origin (whatever "race" means in the human 

The common ground is of a different stuff.

Please note that not even the apartheid regime simply divided the 
population into a White and a non-White (and a third, "Colored") caste. 
Much to the contrary, differences among non-Whites and Colored were 
functional -and essential- to the system. That is why there were MANY 
"national" Bantustans, not just a single "Black" state.

This has to do with the idea of a "democratic and multinational state" 
with privileged nationalities in its constituency. Such as it was 
represented by the late Austro Hungarian Empire, where a privileged 
nationality (Germans and Germans/Hungarians in the AHE) enjoyed concrete 
advantages over the remaining nationalities. Concrete national 
discrimination on behalf of the Anglo-Boer minority was cynically 
depicted as "separate development" of the different "nationalities" in 
South Africa in the same way that the exploitation of the Slav and 
similar nationalities by the German and Hungarian (and to a minor degree 
"German Slav", that is Czech, Slovenian, Croatian) nationalities was 
termed "national-cultural equality" under a "liberal monarchy". The 
latter, in Israel and South Africa was or is referred to as a 
"democracy". The general line of defence of "separate development" in 
South Africa holds incredibly astounding similitude with the 
"national-cultural equality" of the AHE. And the same can be said of the 
general line of defence of the Zionist "exclusively Jewish" state.

In the AHE, the German and Hungarian aristocrats lived off the 
hyperexplotation of the -usually Slav- peasants in the Eastern fringes 
of the Empire. The produce of this exploitation was large enough to 
co-opt the German and Hungarian subordinate classes to the interests of 
their highly reactionary aristocracies, and this is exactly why Bismark 
decided to shrug off his back the South Eastern Germans in his Kleine 
Deutschland crusade in 1866 and 1870 (he even considered leaving Bavaria 
out of the new nation in the making, if the price of holding it within 
the new Empire proved to be too high). He saw them as a great danger for 
the German national unity. They were a dead weight, the Eastern landed 
aristocracies were centrifugal to the general project, and he was 
decided to impose the latter even at the price of splitting the "German" 

In South Africa, the White minority grabbed the best land tracts and 
enjoyed the exclusive benefit of the connections with the British 
Empire: this was the "Glorious Settlement" that put an end to the 
Anglo-Boer wars. In this sense Samir Amin wrote that apartheid is not 
exactly a Boer creation but an Imperial creation, because the old Boer 
agrarian economy rather coexisted with the remaining peoples without of 
necessity subduing them in the way they became subdued after the gold 
mines in the Witwatersrand area were discovered.

Afterwards, apartheid created the Bantustans in order to keep the 
non-White South Africans deprived of full South African citizenship. In 
Israel, what took place in 1948 was an imperfect ethnic cleansing, and 
the idea was NOT to create a settler state where the privileged minority 
would live off the rent put up by the subdued Palestinian peasants (this 
had been the lot of the old Ottoman aristocracy up to 1918), but a 
"clean" Jewish state without allogenous populations. As it turned up to 
happen, there remained some fractions of the Palestinian nationality 
within the new "Jewish" state, but the size of the remaining population 
seemed to make it possible to asphixiate them by way of a perverted 
legal system focused on the ownership of the land. But the war of 1967 
reintroduced in the country the "South African" tendencies that the 
leaders of the 1948 Zionist uprising had thought to have elliminated by 
way of sending "Arabs" in Israel to their brothers outside the border (a 
"reversed Bantustan", if you prefer).

These are important differences, and Fred is right on the spot when he 
suggests that they should not be thrown away. What I would stress, 
however, is that all of them share the general idea that there is not, 
/nor can there exist/, a common "Austro Hungarian", "South African" or 
"Israeli" nation (not "nationality"), the basic status of each citizen 
being predicated on the /nationality/ they belong to, and not on their 
being part of a /nation/ in the sense created by the bourgeois 
revolutions after the example of the French nation as built by the 
French Revolution.

In this, they simply enhance the basic trend of imperialism to divide 
the human species into separate and mutually antagonistic, or at least 
non-mutually-collaborative, "national" ghettoes -for the benefit of a 
minority of the human species. In _this_ kind of "multinational" states, 
which put to the service of capitalism differentiations created by 
pre-capitalist modes of production, the whole thing sums up to the 
privilege of a SINGLE (or at most a COUPLE OF) "national minorities". In 
the end, they express the "national" theory of the imperialist 
bourgeoisie as against that of the revolutionary bourgeoisie of the 
earlier stages of the history of the capitalist mode of production.

It is by no means a matter of chance that the first branch of the Nazi 
party was created not in Germany itself, not in "Bismark´s Germany", but 
in a German village in Südetenland, that is among a spliner of the 
"South Eastern" German populations that had been reduced to minority 
status within a -now- Slav dominated country. Nor is the Liga Nord 
movement in Northern Italy completely different from this. Mussolini 
himself thought (and wrote) that SOME Italians (e. g. the "South) were 
born to be slaves of others (that is, the bourgeois kernel North of Rome 
and, if you want, North of Florence).

Whatever one can say on the pro-capitalist and even pro-imperialist line 
followed by the ANC after apartheid was defeated, the general idea that 
all and every South African, regardless of her or his "nationality" or 
color, is an equal citizen with any other South African, by the very 
fact of being South African, is a step in the right direction. THIS 
merit is not a minor achievement, and we Marxists should take it into 

There is a deep truth with Permanent Revolution: outside the core, it 
does not start with 1917 but with 1789. The popular-democratic contents 
of the bourgeois revolution is still part of our legacy, not only in the 
sense that in the core countries the great ideals of the French 
Revolution can be achieved by socialism, AND ONLY BY SOCIALISM, but also 
in the sense that the whole bunch of national-democratic goals must be 
achieved under the leadership of the working class and with socialist 
means and objectives. And this does not just relate to abstract 
democratic legislation and the right to equal vote but also (and in many 
cases essentially) with the basic idea that there exists a "right to the 
nation" as against the "right to a nationality".

Austro Marxists held the opposite view. The results are everywhere to be 
seen. Their theses  became the basic Credo of the imperialist 
bourgeoisies. Their best heir was Kurt Waldheim, not to say -Verwoerd!!!!

Fred Feldman escribió:
> Louis Proyect wrote:
> The answer is yes.
> http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/greenstein220810.html
> Fred Feldman:
> Although I am completely in support of Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions against
> Israel, I have to ask:
> If Israel is an apartheid state, does that mean that South Africa was a
> Zionist state?

More information about the Marxism mailing list