A few weeks ago in Vienna I heard from my friends in the Austrian young socialists an amazing story about some anarchist sect that defends Sharon, the Likud and the Israeli government policy in general. These groups call themselves "anti-Germans" and they support the idea that there is a collective guilt of all German people for the crimes carried out during the Holocaust. Staring from this position, these sectarians have reached the conclusion that it is the duty of the German and Austrian left to defend the policies of the state of Israel always and in every case, and they don't condemn the methods of the Israeli government.
For some all this may sound like a joke, it would seem madness because the anarchist doctrine is against any state in general, and especially militarist, clerical and racist states. The Israeli regime is guilty of innumerable crimes against its own civilians and against citizens of its neighbouring countries.
Considering this idea of the "collective responsibility" of the German and Austrian people for the Holocaust and the latest escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict I was asked by my friends in the Austrian Young Socialists to present my position on this question.
First of all we must understand what the Holocaust was. About six million Jews were massacred during the Holocaust, and about one million of these were children. The Holocaust had no analogous event in history in terms of the number of victims involved, but, unfortunately, it was not the first massacre of this kind and unfortunately will not be the last, so long as class society continues to exist and thus breed further ethnic conflicts.
The bourgeois historians stress the number of victims and the irrationality of this incredible massacre of innocent people without really explaining that such a terrible crime flowed from the very contradictions of the capitalist system at the time. They fail to explain how this kind of crime was repeated several times in different parts of the world. And the reason was always the same: the impasse of capitalism and the blind alley the ruling class found itself in necessitated scapegoats, a minority on which to put all the blame for the ills afflicting society.
During the First World War about two million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were killed in a barbarous manner by the Young Turk regime. About 200,000 Jews were massacred by the White Army and the Ukrainian nationalists during the civil war in Russia. Since WWII we have witnessed terrible crimes during the Indo-Pakistan wars, in Indonesia, in East Timor, in the ex-Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, etc. etc.
The responsibility for the Holocaust, as well as the other nazi crimes, first of all lies on the Nazi leadership itself and on its bourgeois supporters and allies. They planned and carried out this horrible crime. Part of the responsibility however also lies on the shoulders of the bourgeois regimes in the western countries who knew about the mass killings of European Jews. These regimes were prepared to ignore what was going on in order to appease local anti-Semitic movements or to maintain economic contacts with Germany. We must not forget that the hangmen that carried out the Holocaust came from the lumpenproletariat, the petit bourgeoisie and the collaborators among the East European nationalists.
But the German people themselves and especially the German proletariat that was lied to, betrayed and sold out by the Stalinists, the Socials-Democrats and the bourgeois parties, have no guilt to bear. The capitalists like the principle of "collective responsibility" because this gives them the opportunity of banding together the workers and their bosses under the idea of mutual responsibility. The capitalists push this idea in order to cover up for the responsibility of capitalism in this terrible crime and also to hide the fact that millions of German and Austrian workers were opposed to Hitler, and many Socialists, Communists and Trade Union activists also died in his camps.
This principle of "collective responsibility" was, and is, used to justify new crimes of capitalism. Basing himself on the principle of mutual responsibility Churchill planned to transform Germany into a "potato-field". Even Stalin could not openly support this "theory" of mutual responsibility and he publicly said that "Hitlers come and go, while the German people stay". (However this did not stop him from deporting the Tartars, Chechens, Volga Germans and others as "Nazi collaborators". And after the end of WWII thousands of Germans were deported from East Europe by the Stalinist regimes.)
Thus, the German and Austrian workers have every right to discuss the situation in the Middle East. They are not responsible for the crimes of the Nazis. In the same way, the murdered Jewish workers in the Holocaust do not justify the present crimes of the Tel-Aviv capitalist government. The people of Russia or the people of Yugoslavia paid a huge price in human lives during WWII, but nobody would use this to justify the crimes of Milosevic and Tudjman, or of Yeltsin and Putin.
The Zionist capitalists and politicians of today are not protecting the Jewish people. For them the Jewish workers are cannon fodder in their dirty games. In the 50-year history of the state of Israel more then 20,000 Israelis have been the victims of wars, terrorism and clashes caused by the adventurous policies of the Israeli bourgeoisie. Israel's policy of confrontation with the entire Arab world, is not a way out of the Holocaust, it is the road to a new Holocaust. Every person that is really concerned about Jewish workers' lives must put all the blame at the doorstep of the present Israeli regime! We could list the crimes of Israeli capitalism against the Jewish workers - how it exploits religious beliefs, its long history of victimisation of workers and left activists, the racist discrimination against Jews from Asia and Africa. Israel is not a state for "all Jews", it is the state of the Jewish bourgeoisie. The Jewish proletariat is exploited like the proletariat in all countries. This must be clear to everybody.
It is especially stupid and criminal to support the Israel right wing. For example, the "Likud" party, the main right wing party in Israel, is rooted in the so-called "revisionist tendency" of Zionism. This tendency was established by Vladimir (Zeev) Zabotinsky, and got the support of Zionism and Italian Fascism. One wing of this movement - the LEHI (Lohamei Herut Israel) - even contacted Nazi Germany (!) in 1942 and informed the German embassy in Istanbul that they supported the main principles of Nazism and that LEHI wanted to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Shamir, a member of this group, became Israeli Prime Minister in the second half of the 1980s. Surely support for these people is not the "best way" of paying one's respect to the memory of the Holocaust victims! All these facts are very well known inside Israel. And the Israeli right wing have never apologised for these actions.
People in Israel are very well aware of the fact that for many years the Holocaust survivors were discriminated against by the Israeli establishment. The authorities presented a miserable vision of the Holocaust victims. They were presented as a humble mass that succumbed to the slaughter in contrast to the "new Israeli Jews". Their name for these survivors was "Sabonim", which means "soap". The very good Israeli film "Aviva's summer" (Kaiz shel Aviva) gives an idea of how these people that emigrated after the Holocaust to Israel must have been feeling.
Supporters of the Israeli regime on the "left" assert that we can't criticise Israel because that would mean giving credence to the anti-Semitic views of the right wing and Nazis. But it has long been a well-known fact that the extreme right use social demagoguery to deceive the masses and then to betray them. Sometimes some of the slogans of the left and the right can appear to be similar, but they have absolutely diametrically opposite aims, because they represent opposing class interests!
Only the Jewish working class in Israel, in alliance with their brothers, the Arab workers, can offer a way out of the Middle East conflict and butchery. And it is they, and not the butcher Sharon, that needs international help and solidarity.