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