Israel, the CPGB, and the National Question

In their statement on the Arab Spring and the general situation in the greater Middle East, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) makes some common but fundamental mistakes in dealing with Israel and the national question. By the national question we mean the spectrum of political issues dealing with national liberation and resistance movements, the self-determination of peoples, and questions of separatism, irredentism, and the counter-nationalism of states attempting to prevent these. Dealing correctly with the national question has often been the Achilles’ heel of Marxist movements, as the evolving and sometimes confused statements by Marx & Engels on the topic have been of little help, and later ‘authorities’ have disagreed so virulently on the subject. Moreover, nationalism takes many forms and guises and this has added to the inability of many Marxists to conceive of the issue properly. Yet there is no doubt that it is a question of real significance. Although some movements and parties have attempted to deal with it by simply setting the question aside, hoping it would go away, it is clear from the history of the last century that nationalist movements have been immensely powerful in determining both the success and failure of socialist politics. From the failure of internationalism at the outbreak of the First World War to the successes of socialist anti-colonial movements in harnessing nationalist ideas, there is no evading the importance of the issue. Using the CPGB’s statement as an example, we can elucidate some of the relevant considerations and show why the CPGB’s position on the Israel/Palestine conflict is the wrong one, although well-intentioned. Continue reading “Israel, the CPGB, and the National Question”