Monday, 2 May 2016

The Mass Relocation of Peoples

The rapid, large-scale relocation of peoples rarely turns out well. Where such a relocation is forced on a people, it has fairly obvious negative consequences for those being moved; where such a relocation is a voluntary action by a peoples themselves, it has serious consequences for any other peoples into whose midst they are relocating.

In the 19th century, following on from his success in the US Civil War, General Sherman was given the role, by the US state, operating on behalf of the railroad companies, to suppress opposition from Native Americans, to their land being stolen for the purpose of railroad construction.  Sherman is reported to have commented,

"...we are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of [the railroads].", and after the 1866 Fetterman Massacre, Sherman wrote to Grant that "we must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children."

Although the Indian Wars continued until 1924, they had been taking place since the original colonisation by European settlers. Standing behind the policy of colonisation and removal of the Native American population was economic interest, but it found ideological expression in the concept of Manifest Destiny, by which it was argued that the settlers were destined to spread across America from coast to coast.

As Wikipedia states,

“From the 1830s, the United States had a policy of Indian removal east of the Mississippi River, which was a planned, large-scale removal of indigenous peoples from the areas where Europeans were settling. Particularly in the years leading up to Congressional passage of the related act, there was armed conflict between settlers and Native Americans; some removal was achieved through sale or exchange of territory through treaties.” 

The policy was undoubtedly, a policy of genocide undertaken against the Native American tribes. Not only were large numbers of Native Americans murdered, including men women and children, as part of this genocide, but even larger numbers died as a result of other causes such as disease and famine. Estimates of the Native American population prior to European colonisation range from as low as 2.1 million, up to as many as 18 million. Even today, the Native American population is only 2.9 million. Not only did large numbers of Native Americans die, but they were dispossessed of their lands, and relocated into reservations, usually on land that the settlers did not want. 

At the start of the twentieth century, millions of people died as a result of the crazy nationalist policies of Stalin in the USSR, as again huge numbers of people were forcibly relocated from their homes, often to locations thousands of miles away.

Its estimated that around 6 million people were forcibly relocated by Stalin, of which 1.5 million died in the process.

More recently, the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands had lived there for over a century. Between 1967 and 1973, the British Governments of Harold Wilson and then Edward Heath, forcibly evicted the islanders from their homes, in order to enable the US to establish a military base on Diego Garcia. Since 1971, only Diego Garcia is inhabited of all the islands in the archipelago, and those inhabitants are solely military and civilian contractors.

The islanders having been forcibly deported by Britain, have again suffered in the last forty years. Many have again died, and suffered ill-health.

In many of these cases, the forced deportation of some peoples is itself the consequence of the voluntary relocation of others. European settlers voluntary relocated, in large numbers, to their colonies in Asia, Africa, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as, for example, the British Protestant settlers into Ireland. The consequence in most cases, was not just that indigenous populations were evicted from their lands, as the settlers wanted the best, most fertile land for themselves, but was the enslavement of the indigenous population, by what were still European feudal ruling classes, operating to their mutual economic benefit with developing merchant classes, and money-lending capitalists, who sought profits from buying cheap and selling dear, and from usury.

In the case of Africa, not only were indigenous peoples evicted from their lands, but they were turned into slaves shipped to British sugar plantations in the West Indies, and to plantations in the Southern United States. Millions of Africans were enslaved over several centuries, and Marx describes the way this process was rapidly increased as capitalist production led to a sharp rise in demand for the products of the plantations. Once again, millions of these slaves died before they were even transported. The British explorer David Livingstone, declared that 80,000 slaves died each year before even reaching the slave markets of Zanzibar. 

In North America, the initial settlement by Europeans caused little difficulty because they were few in number, and the amount of available land was so great. Indeed, the celebration of Thanksgiving, in the US, goes back to a celebration that the first settlers, in danger of dying out from starvation, were saved by the assistance of Native Americans. But, it was inevitable, as the process of settlement and colonisation increased, and as small peasant farms began to be replaced by large capitalist farms, that required huge amounts of land, not to mention the development of large urban areas, of roads, railroads, and other transcontinental communication systems, that a conflict between the settlers, and the indigenous populations would occur.

Similar conflicts and problems arose everywhere that such colonisation took place. 

There is obviously a difference between a situation where a people are being forcibly deported or relocated, as where the Native Americans were rounded up on to the reservations, Soviet nationalities were being deported in their millions to Siberia and elsewhere, or the Chagos Islanders were being deported from their homeland, and where a people voluntarily seek to relocate. Yet, where such relocation occurs on a large scale, over a relatively short period of time, it is inevitable that this is likely to create problems for the indigenous population. In fact, something similar can be seen in relation to the migration of people from North Africa into Europe at the present time.

Moreover, there is clearly a difference between the proposal of Marcus Garvey, the American black nationalist, for the establishment of a homeland for black Americans, within the United States, and his support for Liberia, to which they could relocate, and proposals by racists and fascists to forcibly deport blacks to such a bantustan, as for example, the South African government sought to do with Black South Africans.

Similarly, in the 19th century assorted utopian socialists dreamed of establishing islands of socialist utopia, Little Icara, as Marx describes them in the Communist Manifesto, in the United States and elsewhere. Similarly, as unemployment soared in the late 19th century, in Britain, a number of trades unions formed emigration societies, through which members could contribute, and participate in a lottery to move to the United States.

There is also a difference between a forcible deportation of peoples, and a voluntary relocation driven by a desire to escape such economic hardship, or political oppression. The Pilgrim Fathers are portrayed as escaping religious persecution in Britain, but in reality, they were voluntarily relocating because of the growing religious tolerance towards Catholics in Britain at that time, a tolerance they opposed, due to their Puritanism.

By contrast, millions of Irish people voluntarily relocated in order to escape the famines of the 1840's, which decimated the population. In short, although there is a difference between those who are forcibly relocated, and those who voluntarily relocate, there is also a difference between those who voluntarily relocate, from a position of strength and power, i.e. essentially moving as settlers and colonisers, and those who voluntarily relocate in order to escape, i.e. from a position of weakness.

In terms of the recent furore over anti-semitism, anti-zionism and so on, Jews had been persecuted throughout Europe for centuries. They had suffered pogroms of varying ferocity in most European countries. As with the suggestion for the establishment of a black homeland in the United States by Garvey, Zionism is a nationalist solution for the problems faced by an oppressed people. But, as with all nationalist solutions in the modern world, it is ultimately reactionary. It sees the solution to oppression as being a clinging to your own nation, irrespective of class, and worse the creation of an artificial nation where none exists. It sees the cause of oppression as being national divisions rather than class society, and so sees the solution to those problems flowing from national separation, rather than class unity. It is the expression of communalism par excellence.

Opposition to such nationalistic ideas is fundamental to counterposing a socialist alternative to them.  It is what led the Communist International to warn of the dangers of Pan-Islamism, for instance.

"...the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc."

And Lenin had emphasised this earlier in his writings on the national question and self-determination stating that Marxists could only support the establishment of a new bourgeois state, in the most exceptional conditions.

“In our draft Party programme we have advanced the demand for a republic with a democratic constitution that would guarantee, among other things, 'recognition of the right to self-determination for all nations forming part of the state.' Many did not find this demand in our programme sufficiently clear, and in issue No. 33, in speaking about the Manifesto of the Armenian Social-Democrats, we explained the meaning of this point in the following way. The Social-Democrats will always combat every attempt to influence national self-determination from without by violence or by any injustice. However, our unreserved recognition of the struggle for freedom of self-determination does not in any way commit us to supporting every demand for national self-determination. As the party of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic Party considers it to be its positive and principal task to further the self-determination of the proletariat in each nationality rather than that of peoples or nations. We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state.”

The National Question in Our Programme

Ultimately, by removing class from the analysis, it leads to the kind of equating of people and state that has been seen recently in terms of the amalgamation of any criticism of the state of Israel with criticism of Jews, and so an equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. There has also been a lot of bad history, and distortion of history. For example, because of the biblical accounts of Israel, this is jumbled together with an historical account whereby the establishment of the modern state of Israel was somehow just a coming home of the Jewish people to their natural homeland, even though they had not lived there, as a nation, for more than 2000 years!

The reality is that the existence and creation of the modern state of Israel has nothing to do with the Israelites of the biblical accounts. For one thing, the establishment of nation states, in general, is a phenomena that only arose over the last two to three centuries. Germany was not created as a nation state until the latter part of the 19th century, the same for Italy, France was formed out of over two hundred different nationalities, and so on.

The Zionist movement arose as a nationalist solution to the problems that Jews had repeatedly faced across Europe. The fact, that the creation of the modern state of Israel had little to do with the biblical Israel is indicated by the fact that the Zionist movement considered a number of different locations as to where the new state could be established.  But, such a nationalist solution, demonstrates all of the objections to such an approach that Lenin and other Marxists at the time had discussed, precisely because it involves acceptance of the idea of annexationism.  Lenin, answers the question why are Marxists against annexations, by saying,

"In our view the answer is obvious: because annexation violates the self-determination of nations, or, in other words, is a form of national oppression."

The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up

On suggestion by Mordecai Manuel Noah, in 1820, was to establish a Jewish national homeland in the United States, at Grand Island on the Niagara River. In 1903, Britain offered to provide land in Uganda for the establishment of a homeland for Jews. The British government offered 5,000 square miles of land, in what is now Kenya. The proposition was discussed by the World Zionist Organisation, which voted to investigate the proposition, and sent a delegation to check out the potential. The proposal was not rejected because it was not in the biblical lands, but because the organisation felt that any such settlement would face hostility from the indigenous peoples. Even so, some members of the organisation who thought the decision to decline the offer was a mistake, formed a new organisation with the intention of trying to establish a Jewish homeland anywhere!

And, when all of the shouting at one another has died down, and the Blair-rights have stopped trying to whip up hysteria for their own sectarian ends, the fact is that Ken Livingstone, was correct that the Nazis had initially had discussions with the German Zionist organisation in order to promote the relocation of German Jews to Palestine, which the Nazis were feeling a need to do at the time, because the German economy was suffering, as a result of a growing boycott of Germany in protest at its anti-semitic policies. 

To relate that matter of historical record, is not in any sense to suggest that the Nazis were supporters of Zionism, or the same as Zionists. The Nazis from start to finish were anti-semitic, murdering bigots, and the policy was designed only to benefit the Nazi regime in dealing with a problem it was facing, both in removing German Jews, and of ending the boycott.

As the BBC website reports,

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu provoked widespread criticism in October when he said a Palestinian leader persuaded the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust.

Mr Netanyahu insisted Adolf Hitler had only wanted to expel Jews from Europe, but that Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini had told him: "Burn them."

If the Prime Minister of Israel is prepared to accept the historical record concerning the Nazis relation to the German Zionist movement (albeit for Netanyahu's own bigoted purposes of making Muslims appear worse than Nazis) it is rather odd that British politicians, from the Blair-rights, through to the AWL, and the Tory media do not seem able to confront confront that reality, and reconcile it with their own moral compass of how the world should be, but maybe the reason for that is also because these various British politicians have their own political axe to grind, in making use of this furore too.

And, clearly the establishment of the modern state of Israel is another example of where the voluntary relocation of a people, into the territory of some other peoples results in bad consequences for the indigenous people, in this case, the Palestinians, who were thereby themselves, forcibly removed from their land and homes, and who in the process faced their own genocidal attacks. It is again evidence that such nationalist solutions to the problems of oppression always end up bringing reactionary consequences, which in this case has led to 70 years of war, civil and communal conflict, increasing division between the Jewish and Arab working-classes, and the imposition of strong states across the region, which when they fail, as in Libya, Iraq, Syria, then collapse into reactionary failed states, providing a base for international terrorists and clerical-fascists.

But, a distinction must again be made here. The creation of the United States arose on the back of the genocide against Native Americans, and their confinement in reservations. But, no one seriously thinks that because of this violent and morally indefensible action against the indigenous population of America, that the US is not a legitimate state, that it has to be forcibly destroyed, and handed back to the Native Americans! 

The same could be said of Australia, and most other modern states, all of which were established only after violent national revolutions. In Britain, a series of wars occurred between competing kingdoms and principalities before a nation state was consolidated, for example. Even a rational bourgeois democrat would not propose trying to run history backwards several centuries to try to revert to some unachievable position prior to the offending moral outrage occurred. Still less can a Marxist, or a rational socialist or social democrat wish to do so.

We deal with the world as it is, warts and all, and attempt to move forward from it. The basis of our programme for moving forwards is to build the greatest possible unity of the working class across borders, against our common enemies. It involves a rejection of all nationalist solutions, which act to divide the working-class by lining the workers up behind their own ruling classes.

On that basis, it may not be overtly, or necessarily, anti-semitic to offer up a suggestion that a problem to the Israel-Palestine conflict might be to relocate Israel within the borders of the United States. If as has been suggested, the post from Naz Shah, which was put forward on social media, and not in some august journal of politics, or proclaimed from some political tribune, was not intended to be taken seriously then it should be treated accordingly. People really need to think about the crap they write needlessly on Twitter, but other people really need to get a life and stop treating every comment on Twitter as being some deeply thought out and serious comment. There again its obvious that the Blair-rights and Tory media having been trawling for such comments, in order to blow up this hysteria, ahead of next week's elections, so as to undermine Corbyn.

But, even if the comment were intended to be a serious proposal for discussion, it is no more anti-Semitic, in itself, than the original discussions, including amongst the World Zionist Organisation, as to where a Jewish homeland might be established. It is, however, implicitly anti-Semitic, for the simple reason that, in the real world, the existing Israeli state is not going to simply dissolve itself and relocate to some other location! The existing Israeli state could only be relocated to some other location, if the existing state were forcibly destroyed, and the Jewish inhabitants of that state forcibly moved. In reality that would mean a war, in which millions of people both Jewish and Arab would die.

It is not a solution that is designed to forge unity between workers, but to drive a deeper wedge between them. The very fact of the killing of millions of workers in such a process is not something that any rational socialist could support. Lenin dealing with a similar question about the way bourgeois democratic rights, including the right to self-determination have to be subordinated to the task of fighting for the international unity of the working-class wrote,

“Let us assume that between two great monarchies there is a little monarchy whose kinglet is “bound” by blood and other ties to the monarchs of both neighbouring countries. Let us further assume that the declaration of a republic in the little country and the expulsion of its monarch would in practice lead to a war between the two neighbouring big countries for the restoration of that or another monarch in the little country. There is no doubt that all international Social-Democracy, as well as the really internationalist section of Social-Democracy in the little country, would be against substituting a republic for the monarchy in this case. The substitution of a republic for a monarchy is not an absolute, but one of the democratic demands, subordinate to the interests of democracy (and still more, of course, to those of the socialist proletariat) as a whole.”

Our task is not to fight for bourgeois democratic rights, other than to the extent that they assist the struggle of the working-class for socialism. Nor is it our responsibility to act as history's moral guardians. We have enough to do in terms of the class struggle without attempting such a mammoth task. As Trotsky put it,

“Should the proletariat attempt at the expense of the clarity and irreconcilability of its fundamental policy to chase after each episodic danger separately, it will unfailingly prove itself a bankrupt. In time of war, the frontiers will be altered, military victories and defeats will alternate with each other, political regimes will shift. The workers will be able to profit to the full from this monstrous chaos only if they occupy themselves not with acting as supervisors of the historical process but by engaging in the class struggle. Only the growth of their international offensive will put an end not alone to episodic “dangers” but also to their main source: the class society.”

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