Letter to a Comrade on the Jewish National Question
[E-mail; written February 2002]
Dear —— ,
Thanks very much for visiting and the prompt sending of documents.
I am delighted that the pre-conference is only the beginning of the discussion, far better to vote on immediate tasks and continue the discussion.
Time, and the test of practice, will show that we are basically in agreement. You still stress the differences and problems of Jewish and/or proto-Israeli-jewish nationhood . While I am trying, tentatively and with only Ed George and Gerry Foley actively helping me, to move 'beyond English Marxism' AND the specifics of the Welsh experience. Hence my ideas about the broad grouping of nations, such as the European Jews (your clarification, thanks), the Welsh, Romanies, Basques, the Scottish (maybe, or partially) and perhaps others.
I am motivated to examine the question in this way because I see so many similarities, not in the specifics of the oppression and political-historical context but in the nature, flavour even, of the millenarian religious-national revivalist response of both the Welsh and European Jews. And is it not the very duty of revolutionary socialists to respect the differences but also to CELEBRATE WHAT IS IN COMMON IN THE RESPONSES OF THE OPPRESSED (Lenin's 'carnival of the oppressed').
You wish to deny that Israeli Jews form a nation (or, at least, a 'proto-nation in decomposition'). What is more, you assert, in an abstract and ahistorical way, that Israeli-jews ARE NOT AND WILL NEVER BE A NATION - STATUS DECISIVELY DENIED. You imply that such a status can never exist, which I charge is an idealist anti-materialist position, since no-one can know the future (though we are allows to best-guess and your and my best-guess is that the Zionists will not succeed in creating an Israeli-jewish nation in any practical sense).
What I suspect this debate is really about is the fact that you are violently (and entirely correctly) opposed to the Zionist-inspired Israeli-jewish national project. Your problem, which may be unique (but probably isn't), is that you cannot pose an alternative national project at the level of the existing neo-apartheid STATE.
This is another way of saying that there is no national solution for the Jewish nation under capitalism, since the Jewish question is by its very nature an international one. The European Jews certainly show all the characteristics of an authentic 'historical nation', with a remarkable radical and revolutionary history on which to base a progressive-revolutionary Jewish project of national liberation. This is only practically conceivable after socialist revolutions in several countries, which would allow a national-flowering or renaissance of the (European?) Jewish nation. How the 'other Jews' fit in to all this I simply don't know, that is a job of detail and is down to you.
Furthermore, I repeat what I said in our meeting - you cannot deny nationhood to anyone on some spurious 'material' or 'political' basis, that is a job for history, struggle and national endeavour. Also, there are no 'ideal' or 'model' nations to which the Jews, or Welsh, need to refer. There are only nations who have established states in their name and those who have not.
Re-read Ed's piece again carefully - 'The Secret of the Woods is in the Trees' - this is not a tautology but an expression of a real contradiction.
I will read the material that you have sent me carefully.
Warmest revolutionary greetings
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