ROSA Luxemburg was a Jew and a communist. She was murdered by proto-Nazi Germans for being both. Several years ago, at the Mumbai World Social Forum, I acquired a largish haunting picture of her, which I now keep framed in my study.
Her piercing eyes remind me of the mortality of her beauty, of her gushing wisdom, of her intense selflessness and above all of her dedicated caring for the dispossessed. In the dark alleys of history we all are groping through it would be excessively poetic to describe her as immortal.
The right-wing upsurge across the world has laid low many a hope of an ideal world that women and men like Luxemburg fought for. She had differences with her comrades such as the autocratic Bolshevik ideologues from Moscow.
But could she have believed that in a not-too-distant future her fellow Jews, sufferers of racism and holocaust, would assume many of the trappings honed and crafted by the Nazis in Germany? Experiments with violence in Guantanamo Bay and Gaza come to mind.
It was by a pleasant accident that I strayed onto the website of the Communist Party of Israel this week. As with so many struggles waged each day by ordinary people the world over the international media largely ignored the Israeli communists’ party congress organised this week in Haifa and Nazareth. If nothing else its deliberations would make some very shrill critics of Jews feel small for holding an entire race responsible for the atrocities committed by a few right-wing turncoats.
The Israeli communist party’s understanding of the international crisis of capitalism is especially worth noting just as is its critique of the government’s dangerous preparedness for a potentially insane war with Iran. In its resumé to the 26th party Congress held at Nazareth between March 15 and 17, the central committee said things that would make the picture in my room break into a dialectic dilemma.
It says for, example, that 2011 will be remembered as the year of ‘socio-political protest’ across the world. The ‘Arab Spring’, which began in December 2010, heralded a tide of social rage.
It engulfed many countries, among them Israel. The party noted that “cities all over the world sported protest camps and saw demonstrations by workers, women and above all — the youth, against the attempt to shift the burden of the ongoing economic crisis in the advanced capitalist countries onto their shoulders.
“The great corporations and their governments, first and foremost the US Administration, were at first hesitant in their response to the protest but soon regrouped and commenced violent repression of social protests, deepening their imperialist military and diplomatic interventions in the Middle East and North Africa, where the wave of protest began. “Imperialism is investing greater and greater efforts into turning the struggle of the peoples for democracy and social justice to its advantage, joining forces for the purpose with various reactionary regional actors, including religious fundamentalists.”
A guiding principle with the party is “support for the rights of the peoples and their role in rising up to depose despotic regimes which trample on human and civil rights, replacing them with advanced democratic regimes”.
The insurgency in the Arab world, which began in December 2010 is one of the “most important, unique and significant developments” among the Arab people.
Not all of the Arab Spring is acceptable, of course, the party says in a nuanced interpretation of the upheaval.
“The US and its allies, including Israel, are being hypocritical when they speak of democracy and claim to demand liberty, free elections and human rights in the Arab world.
“The opposite is true: they have historically, and do still, represent the greatest obstacle to democratic change in the Middle East. It is they who prevent the realisation of human and popular rights, first and foremost in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya — and their attitude towards Syria is no different.”
The Israeli communists recognise that the revolt of the Arab peoples has deep social class and political roots. “Neo-liberalism is the real reason for the deepening poverty, growing unemployment, repression and corruption of the Arab states.”
Of North African changes, it says a “regional capitalist regime, dependent on international corporations, has turned countries like Egypt and Tunisia into a paradise for capital and foreign investors and an inferno for workers and the broad popular strata, including the middle class.
“As far as the US is concerned, the future regime in Egypt must make sure to maintain Egypt’s dependency in the geopolitical sphere (with regard to ties with Israel and American strategy in the area), in the economic sphere (neo-liberalism) and in the military sphere (subordination of the military establishment to Washington).
“The US plans to strengthen the hold on power of the reactionary bloc comprised of the grand bourgeoisie, which is dependent on global capital, the landowning stratum, and the leadership of political Islam. As expected, the American plan has been adopted both by the leadership of the military establishment and by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The victories achieved by Islamic movements in the general elections in Tunisia and Egypt, and the Islamic regimes installed earlier in Sudan and the Gaza Strip, all indicate the emergence in the Arab countries of a religious-Islamist wave, fed by the rage of the masses. But the communists take a subtle position on it.
“Our basic position has not changed. We unhesitatingly declare our allegiance with the Arab peoples against imperialism, never with imperialism against the Arab peoples.” In response to the Arab insurgency we have updated this slogan to: “with the Arab peoples against imperialism and the regimes of repression and dependency”. This is a more complex formula, but these complex situations have no simplistic solution.
The Israeli communist party warned against the escalation of civil war in Syria and against the disaster which direct or indirect “imperialist military intervention” will impose upon it. “We denounce the complicity of the Arab League and Turkey in the attempts of the American administration, Nato and the Israeli government to yoke Syria to the hegemony of the US and the West.”
I can see Rosa Luxemburg smile with relief. I can see the usual frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Jewish Muslim extremists looking lost. I can see the Hindu right-wing of the Hindu-Jewish-Christian triad looking disoriented by this mostly unexpected and little known ‘Jewish conspiracy’ against their core beliefs.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.