A general election is a useful means with which to capture the mood and political direction of a state. But it is a snapshot and has its limitations. It is not an all-encompassing explanation and, depending on one’s political analysis, different people will draw different conclusions.
Israel’s March 17 general election was useful in helping us understand the political trajectory of the world’s premier settler-colonial state. Its importance lies in the strategic placement of Israel and its alliance with the United States and its Arab clients. However, while Moshé Machover’s recent article contained some interesting and innovative ideas, it was over-prescriptive and even conspiratorial (‘Searching for a pretext’, March 26).
The idea that the official reason for the breakdown of the previous coalition, over the Jewish State Bill, was a ruse, is problematic. Moshé suggests that the real reason for the parting of the ways between Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, on the one side, and Tzipi Lapid of Hatnuah and Yair Livni of Yesh Atid, on the other, was Iran and the new approach to relations with the United States. However, if this is true then why was it not articulated as such at the time? If the reason for the breakdown in the coalition lay in Israeli relations with the United States and Iran, this raises a number of questions - the most obvious being why was there a need for such a pretence.
That the exit of Yesh Atid and Hatnuah from the coalition government was engineered by Netanyahu may indeed be true, but that does not explain why the real reason was different from that which was given: ie, differences over the Jewish State Bill. This dispute was a very real one, which also caused a split within Likud and between Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel.
The attitude towards Israel’s Arab or Palestinian population is not a question of national oppression (as opposed to settler racism directed towards a minority). The suggestion that Israel’s Arab population are members of another nation, which is an idea that many subscribe to without even thinking of the consequences, is a dangerous one. It suggests that their real ‘home’ lies elsewhere, over the borders. Although the context is different, this was precisely the charge made against European Jews and concretised in the Nuremberg laws: ie, that they belonged to a different nation.
Above all, this idea depends on whether or not you see Israel’s Jewish population as forming a nation separate from that of the Palestinians. I do not accept that because of the nature of settler colonialists: they are incapable of forming separate nations unless they utterly vanquish or exterminate the indigenous population. The alternative is to accept the two-nations theory that the Communist Party and Stalinism espoused in Ireland. If you see a settler population as being incapable, be it in South Africa, Algeria or Ireland, of forming a separate nation, then the obvious conclusion is that Palestine, in the borders of the British mandate, contains one nation - Jewish Palestinians or Hebrews and Arab Palestinians. To argue, as the majority of Jewish settlers do, that Israeli Arabs are a different nation and do not belong within the Israeli state, that they should be ‘swapped’ for the settlement blocs, is a primary example of racism.
I agree that Netanyahu’s war-making and his alliance with the Republicans has nothing to do with any threat from Iran and everything to do with domination of the region. However, this has been true for the whole period of this and the previous government. I would have expected Lapid and Livni to have broken with Netanyahu far earlier, or indeed to have refused to form a coalition government in 2013, if this was the real reason for the breakdown in the governing coalition earlier this year.
The primary difference between Isaac Herzog of Zionist Union/Israeli Labour and Netanyahu is over the approach to the relationship with the United States: Netanyahu believes in biting the hand that feeds Israel; Herzog is more reticent and would prefer to maintain good relations with both the Democrats and Republicans rather than relying on the latter. However, Herzog (and Israeli Labour) has never politically broken with Netanyahu’s warmongering over Iran, confining himself to saying it was not an existential question.
What the election did mark was a swing among Jewish Israelis (except the small number who voted for the Arab-Jewish Joint List) to the overtly racist Zionist right. I must confess that I do not therefore understand Moshé’s point that there was a slight shift to the left, of two seats, in the Knesset. This was entirely due to the increase in seats for the Joint List (from 11 to 13), nearly all of whose votes come from Israeli Arabs. Israeli politics, like so much in the Israeli state, is firmly compartmentalised between the Jewish and Arab populations.
Amongst the Zionist parties, the only remaining left-Zionist party, Meretz, saw a decline from six to five seats and the Zionist Union’s 24 seats compares with 23 for Labour, Kadimah and Hatnuah before the election. The emergence of Kulanu (10 seats), a party hawkish on the Palestinian question and populist on social issues, cannot be seen as a move to the left.
Incidentally the Joint List refused a vote-sharing agreement with Meretz, which was in danger of losing any presence in the Knesset owing to the 3.25% hurdle. Hadash and the Communist Party were in favour of such an agreement, but Balad (nationalist) and Tal (Islamic) were opposed. My own view is that, despite the fact that Meretz is a Zionist party, a voting arrangement should have been agreed to, since Meretz has differentiated itself within the Zionist bloc on issues such as anti-Arab racism.
I am also perplexed by Moshé’s statement that Netanyahu’s victory in the election was no surprise because “both of us [ie, Moshé and myself] could read the polls and they did not lie”. In fact the opinion polls did lie, putting the Zionist Union marginally ahead or on parity with Likud. It was on this basis that Moshé wrote before the election: “... even assuming that the Likud gets more votes than the Zionist Union, Bibi may have difficulty in finding partners for a new coalition” (‘Netanyahu’s double gamble’ Weekly Worker March 5). Moshé went on to say: “Another complication, which may prevent Netanyahu heading a government even if Likud wins a plurality of seats, is the formation of a joint electoral list … sometimes referred to as the ‘Joint Arab List’.”
In fact the opinion polls were a very poor guide as to who would form the next Israeli government, because what was important was the overall balance within the Zionist camp. The far right and further-still right, coupled with the Orthodox Jewish vote, favoured a Likud coalition.
What does Netanyahu’s victory entail? Moshé envisages a major ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. However, this will be very difficult politically in the short to medium term and it may not even be necessary from a Zionist perspective. Whereas the Zionist ‘left’ does not want to be tarred with the apartheid brush, it is of little or no consequence to Netanyahu. The present situation also has a number of advantages, including a captive market, a cheap pool of labour, a quisling Palestinian Authority and in Gaza the opportunity of a cost-free war, whenever it is politically advantageous.
The conclusions one can draw from this are that there is no possibility of a two-state solution and that the Jewish settler population in Palestine has no alternative to living in a single state with Arab Palestinians. The primary question is whether the Arab Israelis or Palestinians are accorded equal political, civil and religious rights to those of Jewish Israelis. The other conclusion, as one looks around the Middle East, is that a precondition for the removal of Zionism is the overthrow not only of the principal Arab regimes in the region, but the defeat of counterrevolutionary forces such as Islamic State and al Qa’eda.
Will capitalism collapse or - albeit at a declining rate - is it capable in principle of expanding the productive forces indefinitely? Either view may be compatible with a theory that the rate of profit tends to decline, but it is not so clear that potentially unlimited capitalist expansion is compatible with historical-materialist principle: a system is replaced only after exhausting its possibilities.
That the linear trend to zero rate of profit converges at the middle of this century, as Maito and Roberts report, supports the collapse view (‘The lucky generation and the historic limits of capital’, March 12). Maito and Roberts don’t hesitate to term the end point ‘collapse’ - a term of art which means that the long-term trend of capitalism has become upside-down; then after, the economy loses more in contraction than it gains in expansion.
Mike Macnair recently pointed out that the Second International - all of its factions - adhered to the collapse view. Not just that, but the universal opinion was that collapse was imminent. Bolshevik theoreticians even calculated that capitalism had exhausted its net productive possibilities by 1907. Trotsky, to his death, continued to believe that capitalism had collapsed, writing in 1939 in Marxism in our time: “Marx foretold that out of the economic collapse in which the development of capitalism must inevitably culminate - and this collapse is before our very eyes - there can be no other way out except socialisation of the means of production.”
Trotskyists continue to proclaim that capitalism is in ‘decline’, although productive forces obviously have expanded over the post-war period. We followers of Lenin have assumed that an error of 150 years in assessing tempo was innocuous. To the contrary, a generalised crisis underpins expectations of international revolution.
Comrade Paul B Smith mixes truth and irony in a very fine way, exposing the fundamental problems of socialist-communist politics (Letters, April 2). Before I go further, however, there has been a parliamentary-boycott Marxist party available since 1904 - the Socialist Party of Great Britain. In fact, you now have two to choose from.
Arguments about the route to revolution have often been lost because workers need to live. Spoiling a vote may feel good, but does it feed your family? It is a discussion that needs to be had. One can denounce ‘halfway houses’, but the working class needs to live. It isn’t an academic ‘reproduction of labour power’.
The flipside, of course, is that you endlessly seek that extra wage rise, forever putting off changing the world. Don’t rock the boat.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we can find it.
The general election highlights the true positions, policy and priorities of the British left. In England some are backing Miliband’s Labour Party. To the left is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, an alliance or front for the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party and RMT union bureaucracy. The election is establishing it as the major power with over 120 candidates and rising. Left Unity has lined itself up as a junior partner. If Tusc does well, then merger is surely inevitable.
Left Unity, a halfway-house party, is backed by Socialist Resistance, the CPGB, Workers Power and has various tendencies, including the Republican Socialist Tendency. For some unfathomable reason the Republican Socialists have decided to come out in the open and appeal directly to the working class.
Why have they done such a mad thing? It is one of the mysteries of this election. Many theories have been advanced on social media, such as maverick actions, sectarianism, egomania, sheer hatred of halfway house parties and general unreasonableness. I am sure there must be some more reasons we haven’t even begun to comprehend.
The smart money is on the Scottish referendum. British politics has changed significantly as a result of the 45% that voted to reject the Westminster constitutional system. This election will confirm we are now in a different place, even if the left in England is determined to carry on up the Khyber. Republican Socialists have a very different approach from Tusc and Left Unity. The election will surely make this clear.
Republican Socialists are anti-unionist, whereas Tusc-LU are British unionists. But, more than that, anti-unionism is and must be the policy of the advanced part of the working class in England. The problem in England is not ‘left nationalism’, but English chauvinism. The British ruling class has and will mobilise English chauvinism in defence of the union. The UK Independence Party and the English Defence League are one manifestation of this.
Therefore the working class movement in England must be won to anti-unionism. Communists must be hard-line anti-unionists and call openly for the immediate end to the Acts of Union and a new democratic relationship between the people of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The election in Bermondsey is a test for the CPGB to see where it stands - not as a theoretical abstract, but when choosing whether to back the unionist Tusc-LU or the anti-unionist Republican Socialist.
All the signs and predictions are bad. Since you have ‘Great Britain’ in your party name, it is going to be very difficult for you. This will weigh like a nightmare on your brain. I realise that you would have to be revolutionary to turn your world upside-down, but I am ever the optimist. Being a conservative on this matter is not a good sign.
So you should be thanking me for giving you the opportunity to escape your past. It was not a good start to come forward and offer yourself as the executioners for the moves of Socialist Resistance and the LU leadership. You would have thought after the disastrous line of abstentionism which LU (and the CPGB) took in the referendum there would be more caution.
Not a bit of it. The CPGB rushed to the front of the queue. Perhaps you might ponder on the irony of moving from opposition to this halfway-house party to volunteering to be Socialist Resistance’s bouncers on the door. I hope they are paying you the living wage, not the minimum wage!
Republican Socialist candidate, Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Party up north
Some of your readers may note with interest the formation of the Northern Party.
The key demand of the new party is a devo-max government with tax-raising powers for the North of England. Although it is not a ‘socialist’ outfit, I believe it has the potential to attract those on the left in the north who are fed up with the London-centric nature of British politics and have given up hope of a viable leftwing party emerging onto the political scene.
As the party says in its manifesto, “We believe the current political system in Britain is no longer fit for purpose and that, instead of the present centralised system in which unfairness, corruption, inefficiency and waste are institutionalised, Britain urgently needs radical devolution and a new political system, in which the regions, rather than London, hold the balance of power.”
I’d encourage comrades to have a look at the party’s website (www.northern.party) and make up their own minds.
Not reptiles …
I am grateful to Tony Clark for his response (Letters, April 2) to my letter (March 28). I certainly do not subscribe to the theory that humanity is controlled by an alien reptilian race for nefarious purposes or that Earth is being ‘buzzed’ by alien UFOs, using the moon as a pit stop.
I happen to think that the science of Marxism, especially through its key concepts of the materialist conception of history, the labour theory of value and the political theory of the class struggle, provides more than an adequate explanation and understanding of the world today, where it has come from, and what is required through the revolutionary reconstruction of society to end class division and to commence a new phase of genuine human civilisation, where humanity can prosper in harmony with the Earth’s natural resources.
Everything in human history can be explained in terms of class-divided society and human motivations and behaviours. The science of Marxism requires an equally scientific approach to understanding other aspects of our reality. On the question of our moon, its creation, role and purpose, I confess there is a genuine mystery around its origin and potentially its purposes. The principal theories simply don’t stack up.
The moon’s composition and structure is completely different from that of Earth, yet appears to have been in place for at least four billion years. It is, however, far too large to have been randomly ‘captured’ by the Earth’s gravitational field, still less to have randomly settled into such a ‘perfect’ orbit with such exact mathematically relationships with respect to the sizes and orbits of the Earth and the sun.
I have indeed read Who built the moon?, the Knight and Butler book referenced by Tony, and think they are correct that the mathematical relationships I reported in my letter at the very least seem to indicate some degree of artificiality and intelligent design. While much of their book is interesting, rigorous and thought-provoking, I am afraid they lost the plot completely with their principal conclusion that the moon was created by a future human generation who realised its existence in Earth’s prehistory would have been essential to the creation and stimulation of life on Earth and who went back in time to the point of the Earth’s formation and created the moon out of the raw solar material available to them.
We are in the realms of Douglas Adams’ the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy here, where God, challenged to prove he existed, said: “I refuse to prove that I exist, for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing”, but, having proved his existence by speaking, he then promptly disappeared in a puff of logic.
The Marxist materialist conception of history shows how different forms of human society have emerged and subsequently fallen, how primitive communism gave way to class-divided society, where increasing organisation and complexity in the production of the means of life meant a division of labour, and the emergence of strata able to exercise influence, control and direction over the production of the means of life, the social product itself and those who laboured to produce it.
But this conception only goes back around several hundred thousand years, when evolution theory suggests the human race started to emerge and was inevitably highly speculative as to the nature of pre-class-divided human society. Its main contribution is the explanation of how capitalist society emerged from feudal society, how capitalism operates and functions, and how and why it must be replaced by communist society.
If Engels, Darwin et al turn out to be wrong that this is the first evolution of human society on this planet, does that in any way invalidate the materialist conception of history, the case for communism, and the role of socialists and communists in the here and now? I would not have thought so.
I personally do believe that up to several million years ago there was a very advanced civilisation on both the Earth and other planets in the ‘habitable zone’ of our solar system. Indeed, it may well have been solar system-wide, capable of both planetary and interstellar travel. These ‘ancients’ probably originated from a far distant solar system, maybe because their sun was dying (as will ours), or simply as explorers and scientists wanting to discover new solar systems, planets and life forms, to experiment with the creation and development of different forms of societies, perhaps even looking to create an ‘ideal’ system and structure.
Around a million to two million years ago, this civilisation appears to have suffered a series of cataclysmic events, affecting Earth and what is left of Mars, which ended with the destruction of that civilisation and the near wipeout of that race of people. Whether those events were natural, generated through conflict either internal or external, or through inherent contradictions in that civilisation, we simply do not know. On Earth, stories of the great flood in a number of modern religions and the destruction of Atlantis in Greek mythology may well stem from this catastrophe.
It is claimed that remnants, artefacts and long eroded and shattered structures from this past civilisation have been photographed by Nasa on both the moon and on Mars, and some may even have been recovered by the Apollo space programme.
The survivors of that population, I believe, managed to establish the ancient Egyptian civilisation, at a time when mankind was meant to be in the Stone Age, an astonishingly highly developed society, which appears to have created out of the blue. Plato described the ancient Egyptians as far superior in every aspect to all other peoples at that time, even the Greeks: “Egypt has recorded and kept eternal the wisdom of the old times, all coming from time immemorial when gods governed the earth in the dawn of civilisation.”
‘Gods ruling the earth’ is the faintest and most distant of human memories of the time of that original civilisation, that ‘first human evolution’ - what ancient Egyptians called the ‘Zep Tepi’: the ‘first time’.
The high priesthood and the pharaoh (the Horus-king, the living embodiment of the ‘gods’) were the repositories of the knowledge and powers of that shattered former civilisation, entrusted to keep them secret, protected and preserved, and transmit them to future generations.
The ancient Egyptian texts, religions and rituals point to a philosophy and a science which enabled the initiate to cross realms and boundaries which to us today appear separate and opposite: life and death, the material and the spiritual, the mental and the physical, and to communicate directly with the leading figures of that original society across space and time, since deified and then largely forgotten as ‘gods’.
The second evolution of the human race appears to have lost that connection set up between the survivors and the ‘ancients’, probably during the period of ancient Egypt itself, accounting for the failure of that ‘perfect’ society to develop ‘normal’ features of subsequent human societies.
Was there, as Arthur C Clarke suggested in 2001, some form of ‘helping hand’ to trigger the formation, evolution and development of the (second evolution of the) human race? Did the remnants of the first human evolution become part of the second? If humans were not originally indigenous to Earth or even to our solar system, who or what would we consider to be ‘aliens’?
But we come back to the beginning and to Marxism, the future of the human race, and our role as human agents and actors in 2015. If we allow capitalism to continue, it will surely result in more catastrophe and destruction, ultimately threatening life on Earth itself. The solution and the future are in our hands, not in any god or alien master race. It is to make the socialist revolution, to make it worldwide, and to create a(nother) great human civilisation on this planet and to realise and understand our true destiny and purpose.
In response to the previous week’s numerology about celestial bodies (Andrew Northall, Letters, March 26) we got a message from Tony Clark (captain’s log, star date April 2, warp 10, space coordinates not disclosed), claiming there’s scientific evidence that the moon may be like an Easter egg: hollow.
I know the Age of Aquarius has dawned, and that this is the time of year to openly fool around, but it all makes sense now, why Oliver Postgate, son of a co-founder of the CPGB, creatively went from the adventures of Noggin the Nog to trump Nasa’s plonking of Neil and Buzz on the Green Cheese by conjuring up the onomatopoeic Clangers. Never let anyone tell you that we lack a sense of humour.
Indeed, Tony may even have the Soup Dragon in his kitchen. Perhaps Mark Fischer has already booked her for the Communist University this August - ensconced in a nice temporary home, a protective environment, designed by that caring and well-intentioned little earner of the Left Unity leadership, the one still with a lingering love for the ‘red wedge’ aesthetic, Safe Spaces Я Us. Communist transparency demands that we should be told.