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Some Thoughts on the Recent Round of Israeli Settler-Colonialism

The supposed "shock" of the NDP's support of Israel's attack on Gaza is merely an echo of the same shock, experienced by the mainstream left, of the NDP's further shift to the right in the most recent Ontario elections.  More evidence that this party is no longer "left", more horror at being betrayed.  The problem, however, is that the NDP's reinvention of itself as a neoliberal party is less of a betrayal and more of completion of its own logic as a parliamentary bourgeois party.  There will be those who claim that is position on Israel-Palestine now is just the result of its recent shift to the right, but this is merely willful denial of a pre-existing tendency.

Let's be clear, Canada is a settler-colonial state as much as it is capitalist and imperialist; these three aspects cannot be divorced and determine the structure of its class struggle.  Since the NDP has been a bourgeois party, even when it was still social democratic, it has always identified itself with a settler-colonial ethos.  At no point in time has this party supported the unqualified self-determination of its internal colonies––and its record in every anti-colonial uprising is clear, it sides with the repressive state apparatus––and so its long-standing attitude to the colonialism in its own backyard cannot but help influence its attitude to colonial states elsewhere.  Settler-colonial states stand together; it would actually be shocking if the NDP chose to speak out against Israel considering the positions it has taken against its own indigenous nations.

Indeed, the NDP has a long history of placing itself in the imperialist camp and has never been anti-zionist.  Quite the contrary: many of its electoral officials are zionists, and its current leader has a history of openly declaring his support of Israeli colonialism.  There are zionist members of my union local who have been proud NDP supporters for a long time, seeing no contradiction with their reactionary ideology and a party that is supposedly left.

But forget the NDP for the moment and think instead of a left that bases itself on an analysis of class struggle that is infected by a commitment to colonial-capitalism, unable to grasp how colonial contradictions affect the structure of class.  Take, for example, at least one Trotskyist group's rightful condemnation of this current offensive and compare it to its stance on BDS and the "solution" to colonialism.  It is all fine and good to complain about the NDP's stance and challenge the current attacks on Gaza––these are clearly heinous, easy to understand as manifestations of imperialist belligerence––but if you maintain, at the same time, analysis of Israel and Palestine that treats a settler-colonial working-class as the only force capable of ending Israeli colonialism (i.e. some white saviour narrative), then you shouldn't have the right to even condemn these attacks.  Why not?  Because you claim that only a settler-colonial working class will lead the revolution, that the largest movement of Palestinian solidarity at the moment [i.e. Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions] is shit, and have refused to be part of any pro-Palestinian solidarity because of this analysis.

While it is true that are factions of the Israeli working-class––a hard core composed of Palestinian workers with Israel citizenship, migrant workers, non-unionized proletarian elements––that do possess revolutionary agency, this agency is not such that such a movement will liberate, by itself, Palestinians from colonialism.  If such a movement was ever organized it would have to declare itself an ally to an autonomous Palestinian movement for self-determination led by the most revolutionary elements in the occupied territories.  More to the point: the most revolutionary movements in this region have been led by Palestinian communists, all of whom taught the most radical elements of the proletariat in settler-colonial Israel something about class struggle.  The PFLP and the DFLP, for example, were far more revolutionary––constituting the most advanced elements in the region––than the settler-colonial "communist" Maki that, based on the struggles of its settler-colonial rank-and-file, chose to abandon a previous commitment to anti-zionism, inherited from the Second Congress of the Third International, and embrace zionist domination.

What is the lesson here?  The upper echelons of the working class in every imperialist and/or settler-colonialist state are not essentially proletarian, let alone capable of, or even willing to, overthrow their basis of privilege.  Thus, when some marxist group that dismisses all of the Palestinian solidarity work that takes its cue from the Palestinian people themselves by claiming that "no force on Earth other than the Israeli working class can destroy Israeli imperialism," and then complains about the continuation of said Israeli imperialism, we must ask why.  After all, such a slogan is akin to claiming that "no force on Earth other than capitalists can destroy capitalism" or more accurately "no forces on Earth other than the colonizers can destroy colonialism"––the oppressors and exploiters are the only agents of destroying oppression and exploitation.  If this is what is promoted, then why be shocked at the continuation of an oppression and exploitation that your "agents of revolution" can only benefit from?  Some of us, however, believe in taking our cue from the oppressed and exploited.

These simplistic class analyses are precisely what allow us to imagine that particular bourgeois parties, such as the NDP, should take a staunchly moral stance against the current round of Israeli colonialism.  After all, if the traditional sectors of the Israeli working-class is supposed to fight against this colonialism, then the NDP that once claimed to represent the same strata of the Canadian working-class should be doing the same.  Except they aren't, and they aren't interested in doing so.

The context of colonialism mediates the proletarian-bourgeois contradiction, and no settler-colonial "proletariat" will liberate a subject nation for the same reason that any oppressors are incapable of liberating their oppressed.  Now that we find ourselves again in a situation where Israel is mercilessly pummelling the nation that it has colonized––something that happens every few years when it isn't slowly murdering this nation without spectacle––we should stop hoping that any of our politicians will break from the imperialist camp, or that some imaginary Israeli proletariat will become a colonial saviour that has never existed.  Instead we should continue to use the mechanism of BDS to put pressure on the Israeli state, build up our revolutionary forces at home to attack the imperialist camp from its interior, and hope that we can produce the breathing room for the Palestinians to renew its liberation movement that has inspired so many of us.


  1. With you 100% here.

    No way the labour aristocrats in Israel or in Canada are going to support the Palestinians or any other resistance to imperialism.

    While up in mining precious things in the NWT, I noticed a demo was staged at home by the, very significant Palestinian and Arab diaspora. It was frustrating to see pictures of some of these folks engaging a local NDP MP and while he tried to look all concerned and shit. Meanwhile, it's safe to assume, the majority of his constituency is all for Israeli apartheid (not to mention apartheid anywhere else for that matter).

    This post of yours, combined with the demo, has me thinking that one of the battlefields we need to take and hold the high ground on is that of culture. A good way to "attack the imperialist camp in its interior" is to disrupt, in this instance, the labour aristocracy's hot fun in the summer time. We know full well that the recent anti-genocide demos took place in so-called public spaces where the LAs like to hang out and get their drunk, shop, cruise and lounge on. For instance, the downtown of my hometown.

    Disrupting their little petit bourgeois/LA outings with loud hollering for justice, occupying roadways otherwise meant for Harley rides, drunken stumbling, etc. is a good tactic. We can be sure we're not going to sway them our way (and we shouldn't try to convince ourselves otherwise), so a good way is to make them feel just a little uncomfortable, a little inconvenienced. Call it a cultural al Qassam if you will. This is a war, and we (anti imperialists) should make no bones about it.

    Aside: Please note that this does not mean I subscribe to the whole protest as sole, or even central, means of fighting. It just means I see it as one useful tactic out of many. The left over here has fetish for protests. Especially protests that go nowhere. But I'm sure you've guessed my position on this a long time ago.

    Just reading the comments on the local rag's website regarding the demo displayed the effectiveness of the tactic. The settlers were on there constantly posting things such as "we have no dog in this fight", "go over there and volunteer if you feel so strongly about it", "Israel has the right to defend itself" etc and so on. They knew, on some level, their space (what they claim as their space-- here and in the land of Palestine) was being challenged. They were mightily disturbed about this.

    Good. They should be mightily disturbed. What right to peace, even the peace the downtown bar patio, do those who wage occupation and war on others have anyway. I say none, so do a good many Arabs in my community.

    Oh and a note. While watching a CBC reporter in Israel, I believe he was in the town of Ashqelon(sp?) rambling on about the terrifying "Hamas" rockets, it was hard not to miss Israelis sauntering around in the background with shopping bags looking very un-terrified. In fact, a couple I presume, took the time to clown around in the background, smooching, laughing and so-on. I could not help but see our own LAs in them. Same clothes, same habits and mannerisms. How wouldn't these here support those there? Didn't Sakai say "Like is attracted to like"?

    Not that I believe what I am writing is something original. It's more of a display of awareness of the need and desire to fight.

    Past the above,

    I've been reading Boer's blog quite a bit. Have you seen his posts on Losurdo's Stalin? The book hasn't been published in English yet but I think my German is good enough to give it a whirl.


    1. With you on a diversity of tactics: I do happen to support an organization that believes in militancy. Of course, figuring out how best to create the kind of disruption you're talking about in a way that brings more people into the movement requires a certain level of creativity and organizational strength.

      I haven't seen Boer's posts on Losurdo, but I have heard of this book. I haven't read "Stalin's Moustache" for some time, though I've always loved it and have found that some of the historical things Boer tends to put up there are quite interesting. I first encountered Boer with his book "Criticism of Heaven", which was a very good treatment of marxism and religion.

  2. It is amazing to see how many apologists directly or indirectly for israeli settler colonialism have been coming out with this recent attack against gaza. IN terms of revolutionary forces out in palestine, what are your thoughts on the PFLP and DFLP? It seems at one point they were more relevant as revolutionary organizations back in the 60s and 70s. I wonder what exactly happened? Yes, they are communists but i also know but at they M-Ls or M-L-MZT?

    1. I think the PFLP and the DFLP were extremely weakened in the past and are not even close to their original strength. The PFLP is ML, but the DFLP split from PFLP because it felt it wasn't MZT enough––I'm simplifying, here, but this is one of the differences. I think the PFLP waned because of a variety of issues: splits within its own camp (i.e. the DFLP split, but more importantly the PFLP-EO), problems with its strategic approach (instead of PW it relied on a focoist strategy and a large anti-imperialist network from organizations elsewhere in the world), an inability to wage a proper line struggle against Fatah's hegemony over the PLO, and the rise of cultural nationalism (which was given a lot of "breathing space"––term used by the Mossad––by the Israeli state so as to weed out the communists).

    2. No doubt i agree with your breakdown of the revolutionary forces thats beind said. What is the MLM position at this conjuncture on who to support in palestine? I definitely see that hamas goals arent compatible with that of MLM since they are driven by islamist ideology. However, one cant deny that they are the force who is resisting and fighting back against zionist settler-colonialism. At the sametime there is the PFLP/DFLP who arent the force they used to be, but yet despite their ideological adherence to Marxism-Leninism and not Marxism-Leninism-Maoism their goals are more aligned to ours

    3. Best way to know an MLM position on Palestine is to read the statements by groups such as the CPI(Maoist) or even, back when they were still MLM and unified, the CPN(Maoist). To be honest, there is probably more than one MLM position on Palestine, and it is more accurate to speak about *positions*, although there were be some things that all of these positions share. Here are what I believe to be some general characteristics of an MLM position:

      1) Since the global contradiction of this conjuncture is between imperialism and the oppressed masses, then we should support Palestinian self-determination since it is a struggle of the oppressed masses against imperialism.

      2) Following the above point, as in every settler-colonial context, the primary internal contradiction in *Israel-Palestine* is the contradiction between colonizer and colonized. Thus the anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinians against the settler-colonial state of Israel, and thus the struggle for national self-determination (with all of the qualifications of "the national question" as articulated as early as the Second Congress of the Third International), is of primary importance and is the lens through which the universal class contradiction of proletariat-bourgeois is refracted.

      3) If revolutionary communist forces were operating at the same level as they used to operate, then we should be backing them as the main force. Clearly they are not, and clearly Hamas represents to some degree the will of the Palestinians (to some degree, but this is important) and so we cannot take some juvenile anti-Hamas position in the hope of backing a revolutionary movement that does not exist. While the kind of government that Hamas represents would not be tolerable if it ever was in charge of a liberated Palestinian state (though of course, due to point [1] this does not mean we should back and imperialist adventure to topple it in some sort of Syrian-FSA kind of way), then of course the hope would be that a communist movement would emerge within Palestine itself. Chances are, though, if Hamas wasn't in the position that it was in it would be more than happy to cozy up to the imperialists. But at this conjuncture it is their enemy: that is important.

      4) An MLM position would be to support the Palestinians against the Israelis and their self-determination as a nation. We believe that this self-determination is best accomplished through a struggle where revolutionary forces are leading the masses, but since organizations like the PFLP/DFLP are no longer what they once were (let alone a modern MLM movement), then there's no point in being self-righteous and revolutionary purists. The hope would be that such a movement would arise in the future, organically from the Palestinian movement's history of struggle, but to just dismiss the struggle of the Palestinians against the extreme violence of Israeli colonial aggression because it doesn't look like the best possible version of a revolutionary movement is some sort of asshole academic position to take.

  3. Do you think that a PW is possible in Palestine?

    1. A PPW is always possible because it is the universal strategy of making revolution, though it differs in its particular context in place to place (i.e. the theory of PW is not a theory of "peasant war" reducible only to its particular implementation in China where the the underdeveloped countrysides surround the cities), based on the general phases: i) accumulation of forces; ii) strategic defensive; iii) strategic equilibrium; iv) strategic offensive. I've written a lot about what this means on this blog and have cited various articles, so I'm not going to repeat either myself or my source material in a comment.

      As for the situation of Palestine I think it is even more clear that it would have been possible because at the height of the Palestinian resistance in the 1960s/70s for obvious reasons: a) the PFLP was able to carry out a guerrilla war that did indeed have aspects of PW in its implementation though ended up Gueverist/focoist––at the very least it was at the stage of strategic defensive, though it did conceptualize itself according to this general theory of strategy; b) it was a colonized country and thus one of the supposed social contexts where something close to the "classic" method of PW could happen.

    2. On your last comment, I agree with you that a PPW should be possible in Palestine. I do think, however, that your b) as for the reason why it should be possible is pretty limited analytically - no certain strategical prescription can be derived by the mere fact that Palestine was once colonized. And we shouldn't shy away from the immense difficulties such a strategy would have to overcome: the CPP have spoken about the difficulties associated with a unified military strategy over an island polity, but here we have something much much worse: two micro territories, divorced from each other and facing an over-militarized high-technological first world state. There are none of the cracks, weaknesses and large scale absences of state power that we usually associate with the old state here. The situation needs innovation, not blanket statements referring to a common past - when present reality is so very different. That having been said, I think a PPW is possible.

    3. You really didn't read what I wrote, did you? I argued that PPW is applicable universally (for reasons given in previous entries and by other organizations), but that Palestine fit the simplistic bill of "it works here because of semi-colonial/semi-feudal, etc. etc." (i.e. that it was a region that is given as the classic place where *only* PPW is the method). Of course PPW encounters immense difficulties, but this is a read herring of strategy. Making revolution encounters immense difficulties and the other theory of strategy is far more simplistic and has failed in every case since Russia, thus possesses more difficulties, no?

    4. Oh I did read it, and re-reading it now there is nothing I would change in the comment above. Granted that there are always immense difficulties involved, but those may still be relatively more or less so. I am not very convinced by your rejection of 'the other theory of strategy', as if we have two ready made, and more importantly, separate, models, that we are forced to uphold or reject wholesale. Palestinian revolutionaries will have to do much better than that, and cannot deny the particularities of the situation they face. Perhaps this is a reason why Palestinian liberation movements historically have spent so much energy attempting to internationalize their struggle?

    5. Not sure what point you're trying to make, then, or why you even think there are "two ready made models" when it is clear that one of the models isn't one that really works for various reasons laid out elsewhere. Like I said, don't want to get into this tangent here since I've written about it elsewhere on this blog and it has been theorized every since the RIM declared that PPW was the universal theory of making revolution, feeling this was an insight that was part of MLM.

      I have never denied that there are particularities in the Palestinian situation, but every context is particular. Again, my comment about the Palestinian situation being a classic example of one where PPW would work is more of a critique on a certain conceptualization of PPW that I disagree with––the simple "insurrection for the centres of world capitalism, PW for the peripheries" understanding of things.

      More than one movement has spent a lot of energy internationalizing its struggle, but now that the internal liberation movement has collapsed in the case of Palestine it seems that all that is left is internationalist support. At the same time, however, no nation will be freed by international demonstrations and boycotts, though I support these whole-heartedly; at best they give them breathing room.

      Once more we go back to what Palestinian revolutionaries need to do and return to the theory of PPW which I don't think you get. Your understanding, here, seems based on a very vague notion of it and what I wrote in my comments (that I indicated, already, was not intended to describe it since, yet again, this has been done elsewhere), or maybe I'm wrong?

    6. Although I find your recurrent need for personal derogatory statements ("you did not read what I wrote", "I don't think you get [it]", "Your understanding ... based on a very vague notion") highly unappealing and distractive, I do not believe you are wrong in the main (with regards to the possibilities of PPW in Palestine). However, I believe, to be taken serious, anyone who argues for the application of any model strategy - be it universal or not - should be willing to discuss its feasibility according to the prevailing conditions, including the specific difficulties. Of course, one can choose to make blanket statements to the end that difficulties will be faced everywhere, but I doubt that this will convince anyone who is seriously contemplating the implementation of such strategies. As for the internationalization, international demonstrations and boycotts are certainly one side to it, but probably the lesser side. Another side is the attempt to draw neighbouring states into the conflict, and this latter side, I believe, holds a higher potential for national liberation, although probably not social revolution.

    7. Apologies for these statements, it's just that I feel that many of your comments read like red herrings and that you haven't really paid attention to what I've said about the tangental nature of this discussion. To be fair, I agree completely that vague models cannot just be noted as formulaic––so maybe part of my frustration that has mediated the comments here is due to my feeling that you're making me say things I'm not really saying––and that the particular situation needs to be taken into account. So apologies for that.

      My main point is that since I agree with you on many of your statements, and that my comments about the universal aspect of strategy were originally due to a very open-ended question that, at least from my reading, has been shifted (but fair enough, this is probably due to the medium of blog comments and I am doubtlessly making the same error I've attributed to you), I feel like I've been reading a series of comments that are misattributing a position to me.

      As to your last point, I also agree. One of the strengths of the last period of internationalist anti-imperialism was the ability of movements such as the struggle in Palestine to connect with movements elsewhere and, as you not, even go so far as to draw in the neighbouring states.

    8. No offence taken, part of the misunderstanding may originate in the fact that I, the "Anonymous" who wrote the last three comments above, am not the same "Anonymous" as he/she who posed the original question on whether "you think PW is possible in Palestine". Next time I will opt for the name/URL option instead to avoid such confusion, but I only now saw that it was available.

    9. Ah, that explains things. This is one of the reasons that I usually ask people to make a consistent alias instead of using anon accounts.

  4. I'm afraid it is not at all obvious how PPW is a universal and valid strategy. you say you have covered it, maybe, but where? i have not seen it.

    I am aware of the RIM and those who say PPW is universal, but in some cases the idea of PPW is so stretched that it is no longer PPW in any real sense. I don;'t believe it is possible for a PPW in Canada and nothing I have seen in your blog or from the RIM convinces me otherwise.

    1. Are you the same anon as the one on the above string? If you have read my thoughts on the matter, then respond to them where appropriate rather than just popping in with an opinion that isn't an argument. I say PPW possesses a larger universal dimension than other theories of strategy for very particular reasons, that respond to the argument of insurrection, and it is unclear to me, from this very vague statement, whether you are aware of what those of us who take this position mean by the theory of PPW. My arguments for PPW in previous entries on this blog are reliant on the literature produced by other organizations, particularly the one I support, that I've linked to.

      So again, if you're not convinced otherwise I'm not responsible for trying to look into your mind and see the arguments you've formulated, or imagine what you think PPW means. As I say to my students: provide an argument, those of us who think of PPW as a theory of strategy with more potential have.

    2. Also, let me reiterate the fact that I have a comments policy. Comments that are just an "opinion" rather than an argument are bothersome. As is the parachuting in with an anon account that, at the very least, makes it very messy for me to separate some of the same people arguing on the same string.

      (For other readers, one of my pet peeves, though not a violation of the comments policy, is people who say things like "nothing you've written convinces me of x" which is not an argument but a statement of opinion. Reactionaries can be given the most logical arguments for why capitalism is wrong or why the world wasn't created in six days and they'll say the same.)

    3. Nothing you've written has convinced me not to post comments like this

    4. So basically you think it is the height of good argument just to post an opinion such as "I don't agree with x" without providing your argument? Really: this is what is known as an argument from ignorance. What I demand, here, is that people who take contrary positions actually express them by responding to arguments with arguments rather than acting like some first year undergrad and writing what amounts to "I don't like this so I think it's wrong just because"––which is pretty much what you've done. See my point?

      Really, if you have a problem with my position on PPW, then reply to the relevant post (rather than this one which had nothing to do with it in the first place) with a counter-argument. Otherwise you're just repeating a groundless opinion.

  5. all i'm asking for is a document, a link, to your conception of PPW. or a definition, or a link to someone's definition.

    you ask:"... whether you are aware of what those of us who take this position mean by the theory of PPW"
    No, I don't. that is what i am trying to ask. nothing more. a definition. I am not implying anything more.

    1. And all I'm saying is: 1) read the stuff I wrote on this and if you don't like it provide an actual argument; 2) read the links with the thorough arguments I've provided in said articles. But since you seem unwilling to do that, here are two articles that you should read thoroughly and then reply in the *relevant* context (i.e. not on this string, it has nothing to do with PPW):

      And then one about how just being dismissive about strategic questions without having one yourself:

    2. ok, thanks, i have read the documents you posted.

      i suppose it strikes me as unrealistic, but good luck with that.

  6. In the face of opinion polls suggesting that some 95% of Israelis support Operation "Protective Edge", I'm inclined to agree with your analysis. At the same time, isn't the perspective you offer here essentially a rejection of class analysis when it comes to Israel, which is reflected in the entire concept of BDS?

    Rather than differentiating between classes in what is an incredibly unequal society, BDS essentially argues that the fault lies with Israel as a nation -- and by extension, all Israelis. This means that you have essentially given up on the Israeli working class as an agent of change. And perhaps you are right to do so, given the obvious dominance of settler-colonial ideology in that state. Yet this strikes me as a pessimistic view, one that sees the majority of Israelis as beyond hope (a sentiment I can only compare with the occasional WW2-era Soviet proclamation that "the only good German is a dead German").

    This whole subject reminds me of a book I had been reading recently -- "Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression" -- detailing the struggles of the CPUSA in Alabama in the 1930s. While the Communist Party attracted plenty of black supporters, it seems that white workers in the South at the time, by and large, were too reactionary to be able to offer much of a progressive influence.

    When you consider the Israeli mobs that have recently been rampaging around Jerusalem chanting "death to Arabs," it is admittedly difficult to consider how a population so seemingly enraptured by the lynch-mob mentality could offer much of a solution to the Palestinian struggle, even by its most exploited (proletarian) elements.

    1. I think this is a very simplistic way of looking at things. If we do a concrete analysis of a concrete situation we have to recognize that Israel is both a capitalist and settler-colonial state (as well as an imperialist state) and that this produces multiple class contradictions, one of them being the contradiction between colonized and colonizer––which is a social class that affects the way in which the proletariat is composed.

      So within "Israel proper" there is a large population of Palestinians who also form a hard core of the working class. There is also a massive migrant population. Any organizing would begin there and slowly spread its sphere of influence throughout other sectors of the working-class; it would not begin by accepting a traditional view of the "proper" Israeli working-class (meaning those in zionist unions who identify as Israelis more than anything else) since this also refuses to understand the nuances of a colonial society.

      History is the basis of judgment. In every settler-colonial society that was closer to the moment of colonization, the settler working-class has never been an agent of change and has in fact identified violently with the colonial project.

      BDS is an international tactic and one that has never been understood, except by the most naive and over-excited first world activists, as being able to liberate the region. At best it is conceived as a method of consciousness raising to put pressure on the state of Israel to give Palestinian resistance some breathing room. It does not attack "all Israelis" since the most radical elements of Israeli society have supported BDS; it has in fact been very useful in locating these people. In any case, once you conceive of the Israeli nation as a settler nation that needs to go to make room for something else, as with all colonial nations, then you should find a way to boycott it. This is about structures, not individuals.

      Similarly, organizing in Canada needs to grapple with the fact that Canada is a capitalist, settler-colonial, and imperialist state. This produces different vectors of organization and an ability to identify the advanced forces. Canada is farther along in the colonial process than Israel, of course, since it has been going about its colonial policy for five centuries. Even still, when we organize here and say that the Canadian nation as a settler nation needs to go, that the national question of colonial peoples must be accepted 100%, we do not give up on a Canadian proletariat; rather this teaches us how to locate the advanced elements of the working class––those who are drawn towards a revolutionary ideology, who think of themselves as having nothing left to lose but their chains.


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