Archive for March, 2010

Judith Butler on Hamas, Hezbollah & the Israel Lobby (2006)

This is Judith Butler’s reply to a bundle of four questions asked in Q&A during a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley about the war between Israel and Hezbollah.  Audience members asked:

1. Since Israel is an imperialist, colonial project, should resistance be based on social movements or the nation-state?

2. What is the power of the Israel Lobby and is questioning it antisemitic?

3. Since the Left hesitates to support Hamas and Hezbollah “just” because of their use of violence, does this hurt Palestinian solidarity?

4. Do Hamas and Hezbollah actually threaten Israel’s existence, as portrayed in some media?

Judith Butler:

“Ok, well, I would just briefly say: I think its imperative to figure out what the mechanisms are of the various lobbies in the US – the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League – how they work to help to formulate US foreign policy toward Israel. I think there’s no question we need an honest, rigorous appraisal. I think there are some versions of it that strike me as perhaps a little too easily subscribing to conspiracy theories, and I think that there can be an antisemitic version, and there can be a really useful, critical version as well. I have no doubt it’s a very powerful lobby – I actually think of it as multifaceted – and I think we need more careful, rigorous analyses of it.

So you know the short answer is: one neither has to dispute the existence of such a lobby, or its power, to prove that one is not antisemitic; but neither does one have to accept every version of that, given that some versions are, I think, problematically bound up with conspiracy theories.

Similarly, I think: Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement.”

[[ audience claps]]

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Thanks to Camila Bassi for pointing out this video in her essay “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’: A Cautionary Story on the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War Movement”

NOTE: The questions start at 10:30 and Butler starts her answer at 14:55. [June 2012: video is no longer at original link, but is now available on youtube]

description from URL where video was originally available at:

(http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1054740516888584797#):

Berkeley Teach-In Against War – Part VI – Question and Answer Session

Concerned about the devastation currently being inflicted on the people of Lebanon and Palestine by the Israeli Military Forces and with the very limited and biased reporting on these conflicts presented by most American media networks, we have organized a teach-in on the UC Berkeley campus in order to give students, faculty, and the Bay Area community at large a chance to gain a greater understanding of these events and to participate in an open discussion on their significance for both Americans and the people of the Middle East. During the first hour of this two-hour event, four scholars with expertise in the Middle East will present short analyses (15 minutes each) of the historical and political dimensions of this conflict, focusing on the following themes:

1. The role US foreign policy has played in enabling and authorizing the Israeli bombardment;

2. The origins and historical development of Hezbollah, and the role of this movement within Lebanese social and political arenas;

3. The shifting political alignments within Israel, and their relation to the current war on Lebanon and to Israel’s role in the region more broadly;

4. The impact of Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank on the lives of Palestinians and the political landscape of the Palestinian society.

The second hour of the teach-in will be reserved for audience questions and comments. Confirmed speakers are UC Berkeley Professors Judith Butler (Rhetoric and Comparative Literature), Beshara Doumani (History), Charles Hirschkind (Anthropology), Saba Mahmood (Anthropology), as well as Zeina Zaatari, Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, The Global Fund for Women.

The teach-in took place in 145 Dwinelle on September 7th

http://www.btiaw.org

Nettlau on Bakunin and syndicalism (1914)

Here Bakunin’s Socialism sets in with full strength: mental, personal, and social freedom to him are inseparable – Atheism, Anarchism, Socialism an organic unit. His Atheism is not that of an ordinary Freethinker, who may be an authoritarian and an anti-Socialist; nor is his Socialism that of an ordinary Socialist, who may be, and very often is, an authoritarian and a Christian; nor would his Anarchism ever deviate into the eccentricities of Tolstoi and Tucker. But each of these three ideas penetrates the other two an constitutes with them a living realisation of freedom, just as all our intellectual, political and social prejudices and evils descend from one common source – authority. Whoever reads “God and the State,” the best known of Bakunin’s many written expositions of these ideas, may discover that when the scales of religion fall from his eyes, at the same moment also the State will appear to him in it horrid hideousness, and anti-Statist Socialism will be the only way out. The thoroughness of Bakunin’s Socialist propaganda is, to my impression, unique.

From these remarks it may be gathered that I dissent from certain recent attempts to revindicate Bakunin almost exclusively as a Syndicalist. He was, at the time of the International, greatly interested in seeing the scattered masses of the workers combining into trade societies or sections of the International. Solidarity in the economic struggle was to be the only basis of working-class organization. He expressed the opinion that these organisations would spontaneously evolve into federated Socialist bodies, the natural basis of future society. This automatic evolution has been rightly contested by our Swiss comrade Bertoni. But did Bakunin really mean it when he sketched it out in his writings of elementary public propaganda? We must not forget that Bakunin – and here we touch on one of his shortcomings – seeing the backward dispositions of the great masses in his time, did not think it possible to propagate the whole of his ideas directly among the people. By insisting on purely economic organisation, he wished to protect the masses against the greedy politician who, under the cloak of Socialism, farms and exploits their electoral “power” in our age of progress! [[7]]

I say again: it is preposterous to think that Bakunin would have been a syndicalist and nothing else – but what he would have tried to make of Syndicalism, how he would have tried to group these and many other materials of revolt and to lead them to action, this my imagination cannot sketch out, but I feel that things would have gone otherwise, and the capitalists would sleep less quietly. I am no admirer of personalities, and have many faults to find with Bakunin also on other grounds; but this I feel, that where he was rebellion grew round him, whilst to-day, with such splendid material, rebellion is nowhere. South Africa, Colorado, are ever so hopeful events; but think what a Bakunin would have made of them – and then we can measure the value of this man in the struggle for freedom. [[11]]

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Max Nettalu, “Michael Bakunin” in Writings on Bakunin (London: Carl Slienger, 1976), pp 7, 11.

The book’s notes indicate that the essay was originally published in Freedom, June 1914.

Anarchist ‘Views & Comments’ on Hal Draper and the International Socialist League (ISL) (1956)

STALINISM WITHOUT STALIN

In spite of serious ideological and political differences with the Independent Socialist League, we have long considered their weekly paper, LABOR ACTION, to be one of the best radical publications in the country. The current series of articles by Hal Draper on “Stalinism Without Stalin” should be read carefully by every one interested in the recent switch inside the Soviet Union.

After giving considerable background material, much of which is already well known throughout the anti-Stalinist left, comrade Draper takes issues with those who see in the events in Russia changes of a fundamental nature in the regime itself. He declares that Stalinism continues intact without Stalin. He demonstrates conclusively, with a wealth of detail and examples coupled with sound reasoning, that the present “collective leadership” in Moscow is every bit as totalitarian as was the one-man leadership of Stalin. Numerous examples are given and the whole subject is done up brown – except for one important part, and this to us is decisive.

Continue reading ‘Anarchist ‘Views & Comments’ on Hal Draper and the International Socialist League (ISL) (1956)’