Against Nationalisms

Of War and Class War


The attack by Hamas on Israel on Saturday, October 7, has provoked an immediate military response from the Netanyahu government, which has declared a state of war and has begun the systematic bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, under the cheers of the regime of the Ayatollahs’, Hezbollah has taken advantage of the situation by launching missiles into Israel from the Lebanese border. The confrontation has already (October 9) caused more than a thousand deaths between the Israeli State and the Gaza Strip, in addition to thousands of wounded and kidnapped. The coming days and months will see the misery and suffering of the workers on both sides increase, aggravating the harsh general conditions of the majority of the population, both those of the Strip and the impoverished proletariat of Israel.

And in addition to the misery that the Palestinian proletarians have to endure both inside and outside the Strip, under the existing segregation regime in Israel, there is a more general process of pauperisation of the proletariat in the region as a whole after the covid-19 pandemic and the beginning of the war in Ukraine: a rise in the price of raw materials, of energy and of food which already keeps half of the Arab families in Israel, more than a fifth of the Jewish families and practically the entire population in Gaza —that large refugee camp that maintains itself with the crumbs of the United Nations— under the threshold of poverty.

What has led Hamas to act now? Certainly not the defence of the interests of the proletariat in Gaza, who once again find themselves under Israeli bombardment. Its surprise attack, which has come to intensify an already long-standing conflict, cannot be understood as a response motivated by popular rage against the Israeli occupation. There is no “Palestinian people”, nor an undifferentiated unit of aggrieved people who respond heroically to their old aggressors. The proletariat in Gaza which just a few months ago was protesting against the Hamas regime, against power cuts, food shortages and the government’s fierce repression, does not share the same interests as the apparatus subordinate to the Ayatollahs’ regime, nor the “brave” militias that use the civilian population of both sides as human shields. The Israeli response to the attack may revive the nationalist closing of ranks on both sides of the conflict, but it cannot deny this fact.

Because it must be said clearly and distinctly: the forces at work on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides are profoundly reactionary. Since the very formation of the State of Israel in 1948, the region has not ceased to be one piece more on the chessboard of the global inter-imperialist struggle. Israel quickly positioned itself as a pawn in the service of U.S. interests. Since then, whether under Ben-Gurion’s Labor Party or under the various conservative governments, it has pursued a systematic segregation and repression of the Palestinians within and outside of its borders, as well as a militaristic and securitarian policy that has served up till now to divert attention from the profound social inequalities within the Jewish population. For their part, the various factions of Palestinian nationalism after the British Mandate emerged under the auspices of the pan-Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and later under the secular umbrella of Stalinism under Nasser, to pass on after the fall of the USSR to be under the orders of Iran as a regional power. In the form of political Islamism, the military apparatus of Palestinian nationalism has always been linked to the most reactionary manifestations of the 20th century. After all, it could not be otherwise: As Rosa Luxemburg had already pointed out decades earlier in her debate with Lenin; any nationalist movement can only, outwardly, fall under the wing of one of the great powers in the imperialist struggle, and inwardly repress all class expression in order to fix internal cohesion against the national enemy.

For reaction feeds reaction and both need each other. Whether Netanyahu had any knowledge or not of the Hamas attack, whether he ignored or underestimated its magnitude or directly decided to allow it to happen, in any case it has not failed to be very convenient for him to favour a closing of ranks in the midst of a political crisis of his government while he himself is threatened with a corruption trial.

For their part, Hamas and Hezbollah, like the Iranian regime itself, obtain as such a moment of respite from the growing social discontent in the three territories, which in Lebanon was expressed by the slogan of All of them means all of them —that is, also Hezbollah— during the 2019 protests and which in Iran has been propelling strikes and mobilisations since 2018, exploding last year in the protests against the hijab mandate following the assassination of Mahsa Amini.

When at night the anti-aircraft sirens sound, and the Israeli and Palestinian military apparatuses hold their population hostage under bombs, revolutionaries must oppose this barbarism with all our strength. To the flags of nationalism, no matter the colour of each one, progressives counterpose the joint struggle of the Palestinian and Israeli workers. For the Israelis, their bitterest enemy is the apparatus of the Jewish state, just as the PNA and Hamas are implacable enemies of the Palestinians. Only by confronting them directly will they be able to get out of the hellish labyrinth in which they find themselves. In short, against imperialist war–and this is one–there is only room for its transformation into a class war.

[Translated in English from Spanish by Malcontent Editions]

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Vol 56, No. 27, Dec 31 2023 - Jan 6, 2024