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Submitted by Daniel_Randall on Tue, 12/08/2008 - 23:03

Dan -

I agree with you to an extent when you say (I think you garble this, but this is what I take from your argument; correct me if I'm wrong) that it's conceivable that, during a united working-class struggle for two equal states, such a degree of workers' unity and militancy would have been achieved that you'd be talking about post-national solutions (e.g. workers' federations of some sort). Fine; that's legitimate and as I said quite conceivable, but in my view it's more than a bit abstract to say "what we need is workers' unity, and once we've got that everyone will develop post national consciousness and the whole debate will be redundant."

But of course, that's not what you're saying; you counterpose to my position a position of opposition to "the Zionist state" and positive advocacy of "one state." This position is fraught with contradictions, Dan; firstly, what does "the Zionist state" mean? The existing Israeli state? Well, fine; I'm opposed to that too. But then why not be specific? Perhaps because by "the Zionist state" you actually mean any expression of the self-determination of the Israeli-Jews. (Perhaps you don't mean that; feel free to correct me. I'm just trying to work through what I see as the inconsistencies in your position.) In which case we have a fundamental point of difference; I don't think the Israeli-Jews should simply have the right of an ethnic minority in a Palestinian state, I think they're a national group in their own right and historically that has meant something specific for Marxists in terms of national rights.

I said that the bankrupt maximalism that counterposes abstract workers' unity to actually raising any concrete democratic demands wasn't your position, but there was more than an element of it in your response to Paul. It doesn't seem to me that your position has any way of negotiating the issue that no national group in history has simply been persuaded to give up their national rights. Again, you can circumvent this whole question entirely if you don't see the Israeli-Jews as a national group but rather as a colonial settler caste (such as the white South Africans), in which case it'd be perfectly legitimate to advocate their removal from their current position by any means necessary.

But what you've said about the importance of workers' unity (and the implied revolutionary potential you see in the Israeli-Jewish working-class) suggests you *don't* crudely draw an equals sign between the Israeli-Jews and the white South Africans, in which case your position *does* oblige you to have a far more worked-out and comprehensive answer to Paul's question than the one you gave.

I have no particular brief for a two states settlement in the abstract or because I have a particular interest in partioning bits of land. Ultimately of course I think "no states" is the only real "solution". But I think the demand for two states (that is, a recognition of the existence of two distinct national groups who should be entitled to full national rights, up to and including independence, if they so wish it) is useful because it's a demand around which workers' unity could be built in the here and now. The fact that the existing Israeli ruling-class (the "Zionist/apartheid state" as you very misleadingly and, in my view, incorrectly, call it) would be hostile to such a development is frankly neither here nor there; your argument on that point reminds me of Luxemburg's argument against Lenin that it was pointless to advocate self-determination for small national groups because the big imperialist powers would never stand for it.

As I said before, the key thing is workers' unity. The geographical settlement is secondary, and yes - perhaps (hopefully, in fact) in the course of united working-class struggle the demand for a single bi-national federation (or, better still, a workers' federation of the whole area or region) will emerge and take hold. But the question facing us now is how to initiate the building of that unity in the here-and-now. And I believe that only a programme that recognises, as I say, the existence of two distinct national groups who should be entitled to full national rights, up to and including independence, if they so wish it is capable of gaining a platform amongst Palestinian and Israeli workers and forging the necessary unity. I call the basis of that programme 'two states'. If you have a problem with the semantics, I'm not wedded to the words.

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