National question

In his interesting talk on ‘Marxism and revolutionary defeatism’ at the recent Communist University, Marc Mulholland correctly identified the right of national self-determination as relative - not a right that trumps all other collective rights. However, he seems to miss the point that self-determination can be exercised for unity - not always for independence or secession.

Of more concern, he develops the idea for a “moral right” of national revolution that exists “regardless of how much time has passed”, as opposed to what he calls the “abstract” national self-determination based on “Stalin’s checklist” (historically constituted, stable community, common language, territory, economic life, psychological makeup as common culture). But it is in fact his approach that is abstract, while the “Stalin checklist” is far more materialistic.

To back his position up he says: “You can’t just change the boundaries of a state by force, violence or subversion. Therefore, socialists accept the legal position that the occupied territories are illegitimate Israeli entities regardless of how much time has passed and regardless of any ethnic changes since they were seized. You can’t create a new right of national self-determination by creating a new national people” (emphasis added).

This is a completely idealistic and ahistorical approach to the national question. Applying a “moral right” to revolution “regardless of how much time has passed” is a nonsense.

New ethnic, clan and national groupings have been created by force, violence and subversion since the dawn of time. Even in the modern era, ‘illegal’ and ‘immoral’ settler-colonial nations have been formed throughout Latin and North America, Australia, New Zealand. These have become historically constituted nations in a material sense - and they certainly were not democratically nor morally constituted. They were largely based on acts of genocide.

Our approach to the national question is political, concrete and, fundamentally, based on human beings, not borders nor timeless morality. This doesn’t mean that Israel annexing parts of Gaza, ethnically cleansing it and flooding the territory with settlers would make it part of Israel. On the contrary. But we must be concrete and political, not create ahistorical and moralistic frameworks. Otherwise, we would need to call for the expulsion of Europeans from the Americas to reconstitute the ‘moral right’ of the native American tribes.

While some might advocate this, it is not a socialist approach for a just and democratic solution to national questions.

Martin Greenfield

Absolute farce

What an absolute farce that we have a Conservative government making new definitions of ‘extremism’ - bringing in what people tweet and/or what they chant whilst protesting on the streets. At the same time they are selling arms to repressive regimes across the world and have actually recently joined the US in a bombing campaign. You couldn’t make it up!

There are people now residing in British prisons for selling stickers, but, I can’t imagine any slogan on a sticker that comes anywhere close to the extremism now taking place in Gaza, which the British government seems in no hurry to neutralise. In fact, even having a debate in the House of Commons seems beyond the realms of decency for large swathes of the members of parliament, but they are happy selling arms to states across the world that are blowing human beings to bits - or supposedly will at some future date use the arms acquired from British firms to do that.

Is it not true that people are being blown to bits now in Yemen and that the British government is supporting Saudi Arabia in a conflict where that is happening? And this form of extremism - if we can stretch the meaning of the term to include ‘blowing human beings to bits’ - seems to be not a problem for mainstream thinking. The government could be suffering from what’s called ‘cognitive dissonance’, but that would be giving it a distinction approaching respectability - ironically a better term would be ‘extremist’.

The government seems more reluctant to displease the arms manufacturers and their shareholders rather than protecting innocent lives here and abroad and actually making inroads into banning war. Imagine that - a British government intent on banning war!

But it’s these very convictions which are labelled ‘extremist’. As I said before, you couldn’t make it up.

Louis Shawcross
Co Down


Last week Gerry Downing (or is it Dowding?) had a long and barely comprehensible letter ranging over a multitude of subjects (March 14). He started by telling us that a previous letter regarding Tommy Robinson should not have been published because he (Tommy) is a fascist.

Perhaps, just as a nice change, Downing might wish to provide some evidence for this accusation more definitive than his own assertions.

Ted Talbot

Kick Elbit out

Activists have submitted evidence of an action taken at Somerset council, where they covered the building in red paint, bloody hand-prints and spray-painted messages, which read “Elbit out” and “Evict Elbit”.

Somerset council are the landlords of Aztec West 600, the headquarters of Elbit Systems UK. Elbit is owned by Israel’s largest weapons firm, who market their weaponry as “battle-tested” after they’re developed through assaults on the Palestinian people.

The Israeli weapons-maker manufactures 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet and land-based equipment, as well as missiles, bombs and bullets. Elbit’s CEO, Bazhalel Machlis, boasted of how the Israeli military has thanked the company for their “crucial” services during the ongoing genocide in Gaza - since October 7, Israel has killed over 31,000 Palestinians, injured over 73,000 and displaced the vast majority of Gazans.

On two previous occasions, Somerset residents have disrupted council meetings, urging immediate action to be taken and for Elbit’s lease to be terminated. Amidst financial issues, the council has made plans to sell all of their commercial properties. However, residents have repeatedly emphasised that selling the property doesn’t absolve the council of their responsibility, and before any sale takes place the council must evict Elbit.

As the council has not yet taken such action, they remain on Palestine Action’s database of institutions and companies who profit from and enable Israel’s weapons trade.

The local group said: “By taking Elbit’s money, our council have Palestinian blood on their hands. By default, they’ve made the whole county of Somerset complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza. We refuse to stand by whilst the council continue to ignore our requests to evict Elbit. For the Palestinian people at the other end of Elbit’s weapons, we will continue to take action until the council kick Elbit out of Aztec West 600.”

Palestine Action

Israel and BDS

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has launched an ambitious global ‘#BoycottIntel’ campaign targeting the US chipmaking giant, INTC, due to its decision in December to invest $25 billion in Israel despite its ongoing genocide in Gaza. The International Court of Justice in January decided that Israel is plausibly committing crimes in Gaza that violate the genocide convention.

Our campaign calls for a boycott of computers with Intel chips, and it urges investors to divest from Intel stock and major institutions to exclude this “manufacturer of apartheid chips” from tenders. Intel has been aiding and abetting Israel’s apartheid for decades, and now it is directly feeding its war chest, while it continues its unspeakable genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. Intel is complicit in Israel’s genocide and its underlying system of apartheid. Intel’s MO seems to be, ‘Make apartheid great again!’

Since Israel launched its war on Gaza last October, its economy has shrunk by a whopping 20%. On February 9, Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit rating, for the first time in the state’s history, lowering its outlook to ‘negative’. Days later, Moody’s downgraded the deposit ratings of Israel’s five largest banks.

This follows major economic setbacks for Israel throughout 2023. International investment in Israel’s once thriving hi-tech sector, for instance, plummeted in 2023 by 74%. Well before October, recognising this downward trend and the exceptionally high risk of investing in Israel at a time of ‘armed conflict’, some large Israeli and US companies moved operations outside Israel and cut investments in it. More recently, Tower, an Israeli chipmaking company that Intel has tried (and failed) to acquire, announced that it “will not build a new chip factory in Israel”, opting for investing in India instead.

Ethical responsibility and international law aside, by insisting on investing tens of billions of dollars in Israel, a ‘war zone’ only miles away from occupied Gaza, Intel is putting its leaders’ fanatic ideological commitment to Israel over financial and fiduciary responsibility. Why else would Intel freeze plans to expand its chipmaking manufacturing in Ohio, while throwing those billions into Israel, a state committing genocide?

We call for a global boycott of Intel, for divesting from it, and for excluding it from tenders until it drops its bloody investment in genocidal Israel.

BDS Movement