Sunday, January 11, 2015

First-World "Maoism" is Social-Fascism: Against JMP

JMP, author of the MLM-Mayhem blog and known member of the PRC-RCP, has written a post where he tries to stake an imaginary “Third-Way” position between what he calls “Tankyism” and “Anti-Tankyism.” Before I get into a full response, I want to take a few moments to talk about something that isn’t discussed very often.

In an attack on Bob Avakian, MIM had suggested to its readers that Avakian was more willing to accept Canadians as a separate nation than he was black people. Ever since engaging with Canadian “Maoists” online, including some of the better ones like Jason Unruhe, I’ve noticed there is always a distinct tendency for them to identify as separate from Amerikans. I am reminded of a racist joke in the South, that goes something like “What is the difference between a nigger in Georgia and a nigger in Florida? The state-line.” It has been my thinking for awhile now that a joke like this could be made about the Euro-Settlers in Klanada and Amerika. The reality is that the White Nation in North Amerika is ruled by two different governments. The imaginary line on a map separating Amerika and Klanada has no real meaning, especially since Klanadians mostly consume the same Zionist Hollywood shit as part of their collective cultural experience. The identity separating Klanadians and Amerikans amounts to little more than the differences between people that identify with individual states in America.

It should come as no surprise that JMP never touches on this theoretical issue, as the PRC-RCP is particularly disgusting in their opportunism on the National Question in the Klanadian context. The  political elephant in the room in Klanada, ever since the October Crisis, when the Marxist-Leninist organization Front de libération du Québec caused much ruckus in Klanadian politics by doing awesome things like bombing the Montreal Stock Exchange and trying to kidnap Zionist diplomats, has always been that Quebec is a separate nation of people. The PRC-RCP does not support this, even though they like to talk a big game about “Protracted People’s War,” no doubt to recruit young Klanadian social-fascist faggot-worshippers impressed by such rhetoric. Anyone familiar with the recruitment strategies of the far “Left” of the White Nation should see this game for what it is. If JMP and the rest of the White Nation “Left” faggot-worshippers wanted to get “Protracted People’s War” going, they would just immediately liquidate their idiotic organization and join with the Quebec Nationalists. Rather, the PRC-RCP was founded by Labor Aristocratic Quebec people to steer the self-determination of the Quebec Nation back into the embrace of the northern government of the White Nation.

Pretending the PRC-RCP is simply deluded on this issue, rather than conscious charlatans working as agents of the northern government of the White Nation, leads to a type of thinking that Lenin once heavily criticized at the Second Congress of the Communist International. In it, Lenin attacks the Italian communist Serrati, on the question of the “sincerity” of people who oppose the line of Bolshevism.

Comrades, Serrati has said that we have not yet invented a sincerometer—meaning by this French neologism an instrument for measuring sincerity. No such instrument has been invented yet. We have no need of one. But we do already have an instrument for defining trends. Comrade Serrati’s error, which I shall deal with later, consists in his having failed to use this instrument, which has been known for a long time.
“We are leaders elected by the masses, “ Comrade Crispien continues. This is a formal and erroneous point of view, since a struggle of trends was clearly to be seen at the latest Party congress of the German Independents. There is no need to seek for a sincerometer and to wax humorous on the subject, as Comrade Serrati does, in order to establish the simple fact that a struggle of trends must and does exist: one trend is that of the revolutionary workers who have just joined us and are opposed to the labour aristocracy; the other is that of the labour aristocracy, which in all civilised countries is headed by the old leaders. Does Crispien belong to the trend of the old leaders and the labour aristocracy, or to that of the new revolutionary masses of workers, who are opposed to the labour aristocracy? That is a question Comrade Crispien has failed to clarify.

JMP’s entire essay treats what he even calls “cruise missile socialism” as some sort of sincerely mistaken view. To JMP, “Anti-Tankyism” isn’t the ideology of a conscious set of First-World imperialist parasites fighting for the leadership of Oppressor Nation “workers,” they are potential recruits. In fact, the whole essay is one long attempt to recruit “Anti-Tankies” who are just too obviously imperialist agents of the White Nation Labor Aristocracy, to a much more refined Social-Fascist ideology, as espoused by various First-World “Maoist” organizations, like the PRC-RCP. With all this in mind, now I will review his post.

To JMP, it is “tankyism” for socialist countries to defend themselves from internal and external enemies. JMP makes this clear when he writes:

“What we end up, particularly in online debates about international politics amongst marxists, is a polarized discussion where one side endorses one type of tankyism (i.e. the right of supposed socialist states to role out the tanks and military suppression to protect their socialism, or the ghost of socialism)”

Perhaps JMP would like to take this idea back to the Russian Revolution itself. Was it “Tankyism” when the Bolsheviks organized people to hunt down and kill Mensheviks? Maybe JMP should read Trotsky’s Terrorism and Communism, particularly this passage:

But Kautsky goes further to develop his theme. He complains that we suppress the newspapers of the SRs and the Mensheviks, and even – such things have been known – arrest their leaders. Are we not dealing here with “shades of opinion” in the proletarian or the Socialist movement? The scholastic pedant does not see facts beyond his accustomed words. The Mensheviks and SRs for him are simply tendencies in Socialism, whereas, in the course of the revolution, they have been transformed into an organization which works in active co-operation with the counter-revolution and carries on against us an open war. The army of Kolchak was organized by Socialist Revolutionaries (how that name savours to-day of the charlatan!), and was supported by Mensheviks. Both carried on – and carry on – against us, for a year and a half, a war on the Northern front. The Mensheviks who rule the Caucasus, formerly the allies of Hohenzollern, and to-day the allies of Lloyd George, arrested and shot Bolsheviks hand in hand with German and British officers. The Mensheviks and S.R.s of the Kuban Rada organized the army of Denikin. The Esthonian Mensheviks who participate in their government were directly concerned in the last advance of Yudenich against Petrograd. Such are these “tendencies” in the Socialist movement. Kautsky considers that one can be in a state of open and civil war with the Mensheviks and SRs, who, with the help of the troops they themselves have organized for Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin, are fighting for their “shade of opinions” in Socialism, and at the same time to allow those innocent “shades of opinion” freedom of the Press in our rear. If the dispute with the SRs and the Mensheviks could be settled by means of persuasion and voting – that is, if there were not behind their backs the Russian and foreign imperialists – there would be no civil war.

This is how the Russian Revolution and it’s ensuing Civil War played out. One section of Russian Social-Democracy organizing the murder of another section. Is JMP not familiar with this? What does he imagine will happen in Amerika and Klanada, if revolution is to ever come here? Does he not think one section of people calling themselves “Marxists” within the White Nation Labor Aristocracy will be organizing the murder of another? The “Anti-Tanky” people he is trying to recruit to his brand of First-World “Maoist” Social-Fascist bullshittery are certainly capable of doing everything in their power to get people to go along with the imperialist mass-murder of other nations. What makes him think “Anti-Tankies” won’t organize to murder and terrorize their domestic opponents, as the bourgeoisie leans more and more on them as revolution approaches?

More to the point, what makes JMP think “Tankies” won’t organize the murder of these people in return? In the case of any Quebec Nationalists seeking the self-determination of their Nation outside of the northern government of the White Nation, I would personally advise them to hunt down and kill people in the PRC-RCP. A little investigation by any such people would quickly reveal that the people who formed the PRC-RCP are members of the imperialist Klanadian Labor Aristocracy, and are acting on behalf of the interests of the northern government of the White Nation, and not in the interests of the Quebec masses. One only has to look at the wishy-washy bullshit these people put out about Syria to understand this. It would be not only the duty of a Quebec Patriot to kill these “Left” agents of the northern government of the White Nation on behalf of his own people, such a Quebec Patriot would be acting in the interests of the entire international working classes of all Nations in doing so. It would simultaneously be a profound act toward the self-determination of the Quebec Nation, and a blow to imperialism that would be felt for decades.

Next, JMP likes to make up what the “Tanky” narrative is in regards to the DPRK:

“The tanky narrative, then, overcodes the reality of the DPRK, producing a very unscientific binary: either you’re a tanky who supports the DPRK unconditionally as a socialist paradise”

Despite the fact that the economy of the DPRK is the closest thing left on Earth to how the economy was structured in the USSR under Stalin, the pro-DPRK “Tanky” narrative isn’t that the DPRK is a “socialist paradise.” Only First-World social-fascist faggot-worshippers are interested in what is or is not a “socialist paradise.” The reality is that if revolution ever came to Klanada or Amerika, it would be an absolute nightmare for the vast majority of people. Their living standards would drop enormously, as their lifestyles would begin to reach an equilibrium with the rest of the planet. The ensuing Civil War would kill millions and millions of people, and would almost certainly lead to the creation of the Nation-States of Quebec, the New Republic of Africa, Aztlan, etc . And this is precisely what every genuine anti-imperialist wants to bring to Amerika and Klanada. Anyone who is telling anyone anything different is not only a liar, but will no doubt be the very people organizing the murder of the real revolutionaries. They will be the Mensheviks of North Amerika.

The DPRK is not a “socialist paradise.” Is it the embodiment of the will of a people to resist their own conquest by the Oppressor White Nation. It should be the natural and total embodiment of the will of a people to fight the White Oppressor Nation. If the resolve of the people of the New Republic of Africa, of Aztlan, of the Quebec Nation, etc, were equal to that of the absolutely heroic people of the DPRK, Amerika and Klanada would cease to exist as imperialist powers. The DPRK isn’t hated by worthless White Nation “Leftists” for any other reason. The Workers Party of Korea has resisted the will of the White Oppressor Nation as only a few others have. This is why the “Anti-Tanky” modern day Mensheviks hate it so much. It is because they are conscious White Nationalist servants of the imperialist Labor Aristocracy.

JMP announces his essential ideological unity with “Anti-Tankyism” in the next paragaph:

“Let’s be clear: I don’t think the DPRK is anything more than a revisionist socialism overdetermined by the siege mentality of isolation.  I think any socialist state that determines its leadership through some semi-feudal notion of patrilineal inheritance has serious problems; I agree with the assessment made by the CPC, when it was still a socialist country, that the DPRK was thoroughly revisionist.”

What JMP is trying to tell his potential “Anti-Tanky” recruits is that if they adopt the Ortho-Maoist line, they will stand on much better grounds to take a shit on the DPRK with. However, anyone who has seriously studied the foreign policy of Maoist China knows it became completely and utterly chauvinist. Ortho-Maoists will tie themselves into ideological knots trying to justify Maoist China’s support of Pakistan’s genocidal war on the Bengali Nation. The Bangladesh Liberation War is the Achilles Heel of Ortho-Maoist stupidity. It at once exposes the fact that the National Question never once even entered into the political calculus of Mao’s China when dealing with the rest of the world. China’s recognition of Pincohet was the turning point for the Cubans and most of Latin America, besides the CIA nihilist-guerrillas known as Sendero Luminoso. Most of the less-stupid Ortho-Maoists try to pin-point the ‘degeneration’ of Mao’s China to before the 9th National Congress, but this is mostly an exercise in stupidity. The truth of the matter is that the only imperialist country to ever have a proper communist revolution was Russia, and the struggle of Oppressor Nation Marxist-Leninists is completely different than what goes on in Oppressed Nations. In Oppressor Nations, there is a large “Left” Labor Aristocracy that has to be waged war against. In the Oppressed Nations, it takes much less convincing to get the majority on board with your program. You simply point the finger at who is working for the foreigners. There was no massive Labor Aristocracy Mao, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, etc, had to fight for leadership of the working class. Imperialists Oppressor Nations don’t usually support massive Labor Aristocracies in the nations they occupy (the Republic of Korea being a notable exception). That completely defeats the purpose of extracting imperialist super-profits. They instead rely on compradors, most of whom identify more with their masters than they do their own people, historically because they became converts to Christianity. In the case of China, their experience at keeping China together for them to stand up to the imperialists is completely different than what is needed in most countries. The only country who should attempt to follow the Chinese model is India, yet the “Maoists” in India, mostly Bengali-speaking fools who didn’t even support their own people’s National Liberation War against Pakistan,  don’t act or think anything like Chinese Communists did. Yet First-World “Maoists” love them!

JMP goes on to compare defending the right of Koreans to self-determination to other things he and the “Anti-Tanky” First-World social-fascist faggot-worshippers don’t like:

“Even still, it is also bizarre to me that there are people who will go out of their way to defend the DPRK as a socialist state on par with pre-Deng China or pre-Khrushchev Russia.  It is equally weird that some of these same people justified the rolling out of the tanks in Tiananman Square (as if these tanks were protecting “socialism”), or the rolling out of the tanks in Afghanistan to protect the puppet PDPA government in the 1980s”

It never occurs to morons like JMP the project of the Chinese Communists had more to do with holding Chinese people together than building the socialist-faggot-paradise that First-Worlders want. So naturally, JMP jumps in bed with the rest of the political-class of US imperialists in condemning the crackdown of a “movement” that worshipped White Nation “democracy.” JMP also has a thing for a tiny group of nobodies in Afghanistan, who can’t even be bothered to comment on the situation in Syria, least they expose themselves as nothing more than UNITA-style CIA assets.

JMP next hints to his potential “Anti-Tanky” recruits how they should begin phrasing the issue:

“While it is true that it is not an authentic anti-imperialist position to support the nascent imperialisms of Russia or China over US imperialism”

JMP, while often pretending to have affinities with Third-Worldist political economy and its calculation of the surplus-value extracted by the Oppressor Nations of the world, doesn’t actually believe any of it. Like the Labor Aristocracy Deniers within the imperialist White Nation Labor Apparatus, he can not tell you who is and who is not an exploiter within the First-World. JMP can offer no calculation of how much surplus value the imperialist populations of Amerika and Klanada are extracting from the Third-World, so why should anyone take anything people like JMP say about Russian and Chinese “imperialism” seriously? Do Russia and China have gigantic Labor Aristocracies who depend on imperialism for their way of life? Can JMP and the other Ortho-Maoist faggot-worshippers tell you how much surplus-value Russia and China are extracting from other nations around the world, when they can’t even tell you how much surplus-value the White Nation Labor Aristocracy is consuming? I personally welcome the day when those who have a serious understanding of the nature of Unequal Exchange enter the debate on Russian and Chinese “imperialism.” The truth of the matter is that the Oppressor Nations of the world exchange commodities with each other at roughly equal rates of Purchasing Power Parity, while the Oppressed Nations exchange commodities that are undervalued with the Oppressor Nations. Russia and China are working hard to break up this relationship, which will free the world from the currency-regime of the Western imperialist countries. Far from being “imperialist,” Russia and China are threatening to kill the imperialist system completely. This is the real reason why “Anti-Tankies” and other First-World social-fascist faggot-worshippers hate Russia and China with a passion.

JMP blows a dog-whistle for his liberal faggot readers:

“Interesting tangental point here: did you know that there are right wing US christians who are asking for political asylum in Russia because of their homophobia?”

That’s quite hilarious, if true. Of course, any serious Queer Theorist, like Jasbin Puar, has long recognized that Homo-Nationalism is linked at the hip with the Western imperialist liberal nation-state. When the bombs were failing down on Libya, “socialist” faggot-worshippers spread the remarks of Gaddafi about homosexuals and AIDS as wide as they could. This is because the “socialist-paradise” imagined by imperialist parasite First-World socialist-faggots is a land where all sorts of sexual perversions, including pedophilia, are celebrated. The imperialists are trying hard to turn Amerika into exactly this, because they rely on their “Left” Labor Aristocracy to maintain their rule. So it’s no wonder that JMP would bring something ridiculous like this up, because JMP cares more about the feelings of First-World faggots than the people actually resisting US imperialism.

The rest of JMP’s bullshit revolves around trying to pin Kautsky’s “super imperialism” onto the “Tankies.” One only needs to read Lenin’s Imperialism and the Split in Socialism to understand how idiotic this is. Lenin predicted the world we actually live in today. The people of Western Europe and Amerika (and a few other nations) live on the backs of the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. There isn’t merely a tiny imperialist class sucking super-profit out of the Third-World for themselves. Millions and millions, if not the vast majority of the people in the Oppressor Nations, depend on this as a way of life. Lenin said the only solution was to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses. The real masses are in places like the DPRK. Just as the vast majority of Euro-Settler Israelis support the genocidal policies of their state, just as most Amerikans support war abroad, so too do the masses of people of Korea hate Amerika, both in the North and in the Occupied South. They are not people blind to their own objective interests and national aspirations to self-determination, just as the parasites of Israel and the White Nation are not blind to their own objective interests. This is the truth the “Anti-Tankies” JMP seeks to recruit desperately want to obscure with a mountain of lies. And that is why the people of the whole world will rise up and kill them one day.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Zionism as Homo-Nationalism

(This article was not written by myself, but I consider it worth reposting here, despite not fully agreeing with all its contents. The link between fascism and homosexuality used to be well known, but “Left” discourse in Amerika wants to sweep all this under the rug. This article is reposted here in the interests of exposing the nature of White Nation “Left” discourse. The original blog post can be found here)
Introduction, or, The Zionist Voyeur

In her biography of the Labour Zionist leader Meir Ya’ari, the historian Aviva Halamish quotes the following passage from Ya’ari’s diary, depicting a night-swim with a male friend in the Kineret:

In the shade of an Acacia grove emanating scent and moon shadows.  We were tired and heavy like lead […] a revolt started to stir in me. “Hey man, you are 23. It’s Saturday. Freedom beckons you.” I sprang up. I pulled my friend, with the gentile’s face, by his shirt. He awoke immediately. Quickly we undressed. “Brother, let’s fish the moon in the water.” […] revolt and romantic fantasies were gushing in him too…we understood each other. We jumped into the water, rending their smooth surface and we frolicked until we were out of breath. He walked in front of me. Silver streams ran down his naked copper arms. They moved in a menacing rhythm and filled me with fear and desire. He went deeper and deeper, up to his shoulders, up to his neck, up to his head – to fish the moon out of the water. In moments like this you can betroth death.  Suddenly we heard some workers singing loudly. They approached us on their boat. We snapped back into “reality” and ran to the beach.

Halamish uses the passage to describe Ya’ari’s psychological state just before meeting A.D. Gordon and joining a kvutza where he could channel the angst and idealism so plainly apparent in his writing. She does not, however, comment on the homo-erotic facets of the text. Ya’ari is very explicit about the “fear and desire” that his friend, with his “face like a gentile’s” and “naked copper arms” incites in him. We may never know if Ya’ari would have acted on his desire since he and his friend were interrupted by the arrival of “workers” and that pregnant moment was cut short.[2]

My point here is not to out Ya’ari. His “true” sexual orientation is of no concern to me. I would like to argue, however, that the scene described by Ya’ari is paramount to our understanding of Zionism’s gender politics. It is a primal scene, echoed and repeated in the writing of Zionist (male) ideologues.[3] In this scene – which is always narrated from the point of view of an “old”, physically weak Jewish intellectual – the narrator encounters, surveys and sometimes gropes a young, beautiful and muscular “new Jew”. In the eyes of these ideologues, the “new Jew” is ever an Other – he is always the object and never the subject of desire, leaving him a present but elusive ideal.

The thesis of the present paper is that this encounter between the effete, neurotic Jewish male intellectual and the wholesome, broad-shouldered Jewish male worker/farmer/soldier is the main fantasy underlining the Zionist project. Zionism is a gendered answer to the dual threat of European anti-Semitism/assimilation and more specifically to the masculine anxieties of assimilated European Jewish men. The emasculation of European Jewish men by the surrounding Christian societies is well documented in scholarly literature; the Jewish man was considered by anti-Semites to be feminine, physically weak, submissive, passive and generally “queer”.[4] He wasn’t, to put it bluntly, man enough. As Sander Gilman and others have shown, major Zionists thinkers internalized those pernicious stereotypes.[5] Thus, if Zionism was aimed at the “regeneration” of the Jewish body politic, that body was specifically a male one.

I would like call a nationalist project that is concerned with the rehabilitation of the male body and psyche “homo-nationalism” because that strand of thought is produced by men and for men. The term was coined by the queer theorist Jasbir Puar and used to describe members of the LGTB community who hitch their ideological wagon to the liberal nation-state, while being used by the state as an excuse to imperialize homophobic, “terrorist” third world countries.[6] I would like, however, to use the term differently: I understand homo-nationalism as a continuation of homo-sociality, that is, a socio-political formation that is primarily concerned with the anxieties of- and interaction between men.

Contrary to Puar, I am not interested in the sexual orientation of the members of the nation. In fact, one of the aims of this paper is to show that rather than being a sublimation of sexual desire, non-sexual desires – in this case the desire for a healthy, virile, body politic – inform and shape sexual ones.

For that reason I do not treat Ya’ari’s description of his friend as an indication of homosexuality. The term homosexuality itself presupposes an innate, primal desire that is unhindered and unaffected by external circumstances.[7] I would suggest that Ya’ari desires his unnamed friend because the latter represents a national ideal that Ya’ari himself could never embody. This does not foreclose on the option of genuine homo-erotic feelings – just on the exclusivity of a homo-erotic reading.

Whatever Ya’ari’s feelings toward his object of desire were, his need to identify with the goy-like, muscular and hetero-normative Other turns into a desire for the Other. I would suggest that identification turns into desire because the Zionist voyeur cannot see in himself the corporeal perfection he sees embodied in the Other. Thus identification, which hints at similarity, gives way to desire, which hints at some modicum of otherness.[8] But since Zionists desire normalcy – read, hetero-normativity – the homo-nationalistic desire must be disavowed by the desirer and redirected into other venues. And so, that sexually charged moment between Ya’ari and his goy-ish friend, who “goes deeper and deeper, up to his shoulders, up to his neck, up to his head”, a moment in which “you could betroth death” turns into coitus interruptus when a group of “workers” – standing in for the Zionist collective – bring the two men back into “reality”: rather than realizing the homosexual option, Ya’ari would channel this desire into agricultural work and political activity.

The following is divided into two parts. First I will look at the scholarship of Daniel Boyarin and Todd Presner, who tried to historicize the invention of the modern (Zionist) Jewish man by locating his origin in fin-de-siècle German culture. Secondly, I will survey works by literary scholar Michael Gluzman and film scholar Raz Yosef, who studied the ways in which Israeli art has endeavored to prop up the masculine ideal of the muscular Jew, while at the same time demonstrating the necessary sacrifice needed to maintain it.  

Part One: The Rise of Homo-Nationalism

The historian George Mosse sees the ascendance of the European middle class and of European nationalism as inexorably linked.[9] From the French revolution onward, nationalist struggles were imbued with a moral tinge: patriotism, piety and perseverance were considered both nationalistic and bourgeois values.[10] The French revolution was also, according to Mosse, the moment when “the ideal of manliness came into its own”.[11] The new nexus of nationality/class/gender became prominent as the Jews of western and central Europe went through the process of emancipation, which allowed them to assimilate, to a limited extent, into gentile society. One could argue that modern anti-Semitism, configured as it was in scientific and racial language, was an attempt to differentiate between the assimilated Jew, who donned all the trappings of a bourgeois Frenchman or German, from genuine (read: Christian) Frenchmen and Germans. Assimilation, in other words, was understood by anti-Semites as dissimulation.

Although Christian fascination with the allegedly feminine Jewish body dates at least to the Middle Ages, the nineteenth century saw the medical pathologization of the Jewish body.[12] As the nation was seen more and more as an actual living body, the Jews’ stereotypically abnormal bodies marked them as national outsiders.

Jewish men bore the brunt of this new bio-political anti-Semitism. In the Yiddish culture which developed in Eastern Europe, the masculine ideal was of the scholar who devoted himself to his studies and was supported by his wife. This ideal, of course, negated most gentile masculine values: physicality, strength, independence, material success and sexual domination.[13] Since the scholarly Jewish man seemed to embody the very “countertype” to the ideal gentile man, he became the main target of a bio-political anti-Semitism which understood each individual body as a component and a representation of the national body. The Jewish man could not be a part of the body politic because he could not embody the national-masculine ideal.

This is the starting point of Daniel Boyarin’s project in Unheroic Conduct. The Yiddish yehsiva bokhur, claims Boyarin, was indeed gentle, effete and decidedly un-hetero-normative. But within Yiddish culture these characteristics were not considered faulty – on the contrary, they were desirable.[14]

Although Boyarin does not attack assimilation head on,[15] the fact that he locates the marginalization of the gentle Jewish man in the works of Freud and Herzl, two assimilated Viennese Jews, should alert us to the fact that Boyarin is trying to re-negotiate the term of Jewish assimilation. Both Freud and Herzl, he argues, internalized anti-Semitic stereotypes and gentile sensibilities.[16] Boyarin looks at the vicissitudes of Freud’s Oedipal theory in relation to Freud’s own homo-erotic attraction to Wilhelm Fliess and to his Jewishness.[17] Freud’s disavowal of his feelings towards Fliess came at a time when the modern category of the “homosexual” was gaining traction.[18] This category poised homosexuals as feminine men, and thus as metaphorically equivalent to Jews; conversely, it meant that Jews were queer even before the term acquired its modern meaning.[19] “The Oedipus complex” as Boyarin puts it eloquently, “is Freud’s family romance of escape from Jewish queerdom into gentile phallic heterosexuality”.[20] I believe that Freud’s insistence on the heterosexualization of the oedipal complex[21] validates my claim that non-sexual desires – in this case, Freud’s desire to be a manly gentile – can and have determined sexual desires. In Freud’s case this influence is quite literal as his writings have shaped the modern theory of sexuality to an unparalleled extent.

Zionism – at least its German strand – is for Boyarin “the most profound sort of assimilation” and a project whose aim was to “transform Jewish men into the type of male that [the Zionists] admired, namely, the ideal “Aryan” male”.[22] Herzlian Zionism, then, is an attempt at “an honorable conversion of Jews to Christianity, understood as it always was for Herzl as not a religion, but as Kultur itself, as civilization”.[23] The only way to convert to German-ness without inciting the same rancid bio-political anti-Semitism that was already apparent in Herzl’s Vienna, was to conduct the experiment outside of Europe.[24] The Land of Israel then becomes a heterotopia and a heterochrony, representing at the same time the biblical period and “a Camelot in the desert or rather, a Vienna on the Mediterranean”.[25]

The Jewish state, according to Boyarin, was supposed to be a re-education camp where “manly, honorable, dueling…Zionists” would transform the groveling, scheming Mauschels of Eastern Europe into true men.[26] The choice of the Land of Israel as the site of the Zionist Champ de Mars, then, had to do with more than religious longing: it served as a site of a “colonialist performances of male gendering…Herzlian Zionism imagined itself as colonialism because such a representation was pivotal to the entire project of becoming ‘white men’”.[27] The Zionist colonial project, according to Boyarin, is itself an example of colonial mimicry.[28] To build on Boyarin’s argument, Zionism, up until 1948, was a simulacrum of colonialism: a carbon copy without an origin (a metropolis) that needed to hitch itself to changing surrogate empires. 1948 was the beginning of an imperialization process which came to fruition in 1967: the creation of a genuine Israeli empire, with a “white” metropolis and “black” peripheries. If we take Boyarin’s analysis seriously, then the so-called occupation cannot be thought of as a conjectural historical accident; it is the fulfillment of Herzlian Zionism’s primal fantasy – to become a race of conquering, manly gentile-Jews. The constant belligerence demonstrated by Israel and its inability to let go of the settlements in the West Bank are creating time and again situations where Zionists have to affirm and re-affirm their colonial manhood.

Let us turn now to Todd Presner’s book Muscular Judaism. Presner locates the invention of the muscular Jew trope at the end of the nineteenth century, as part of a whole set of “regenerative” politics.[29] He stresses that muscular Judaism was at the same time a response to the deeply nationalistic and racist discourse prevalent in turn-of-the-century Germany, and an incorporation of its major themes.[30] Presner goes as far as claiming that “the birth of the muscular, healthy, and masculine Jewish body had some of the same cultural, social and intellectual origins as the Fascist body”.[31]

The term muscular Judaism was coined by Max Nordau during the second Zionist congress (1898). According to Presner, Nordau aimed at “the cultivation of certain corporeal and moral ideals such as discipline, agility, and strength, which would help form a regenerated race of healthy, physically fit, nationally minded, and militarily strong Jews”.[32] The need to regenerate the Jewish people stemmed from Nordau’s perception of the Ostjuden as “weak…powerless…Luftmenschen” and from the demographic decline of the rapidly assimilating Western Jewry.[33] As I have suggested in the introduction, when Nordau spoke of weak Jews he was referring to weak Jewish men, and indeed “women [were] conspicuously absent in the vast majority of discursive practices and representations of the muscle Jew”.[34]

Nordau made a name for himself as the author of entartung (1892), a book in which he attacks degenerated art – characterized by “overweening vanity and self-conceit” – and advances instead “an unflagging investment in the lucidity of science and the rationality of the Enlightenment”.[35] But degeneration is more than an intellectual state; Nordau connects cultural degeneration with “race-based, physical deformities”.[36] He, in fact, talks about the “end of race”, a play on the term fin-de-siècle.[37] It is clear, then, that for Nordau regeneration must include a prominent physical component. In fact, mental regeneration cannot come about without a physical one, and vice versa.

Nordau thus demanded from the Jews of his time soldierly discipline and Spartan devotion in their attempt to regenerate the Jewish people.[38] One important venue of regeneration was physical exercise. “In the cramped quarters of the Jewish ghetto” argued Nordau, “Jews forgot how to move their limbs freely; in dark houses, their eyes blinked nervously…their formerly strident voices turned in to mere whispers”.[39] Muscles are thus not just an indication of regeneration, but also a metaphor for regeneration, since muscles can atrophy and be re-built again.[40] One could say that in looking at biblical warriors for inspiration, Zionists were trying to recreate a Jewish “muscle-memory”.[41]

The Jewish gymnastics associations which spread throughout Central Europe at the turn of the century were seen as a national – if not always Zionist – endeavor.[42] This attempt at regulating the Jewish body, claims Presner, should be understood as a part of a bigger Jewish bio-political project that aimed at charting “the birth and death rates of the Jewish people, their life expectancies, their patterns of diet and habituation, their marriage regulations, their susceptibility to illness, their contraceptive practices and other statistical indicators of the population’s vitality”.[43] The health of the individual Jewish body, then, becomes both a component and an indicator of the general Jewish Volkskorper’s state. Not surprisingly, it was around that time that Alfred Nossig founded the Association for Jewish Statistics, which published its own journal, edited by Arthur Ruppin.[44]  Even before the establishment of a substantial Zionist apparatus in Palestine – marked by the arrival of the same Ruppin in 1907 – all those Zionist organs – sport associations, bureaus and journals – were geared towards state formation. In Presner’s words, “bio power functions…according to the ways in which regulative discourses on sexuality consolidate the will to a state.”[45] To conclude, Presner shows that German Zionism had developed as a bio-political project aimed at the regeneration of the Jewish body politic through Jewish body politics, and which created a “will to a state” by imbricating statism, statistics and (male) stateliness.

Part Two: The Pink Platter

Up to this point we have been concerned with the invention of the muscular Jew by Jewish intellectuals. Let us now look at the way Israeli writers and artists have questioned the myth of the self-assured, straight muscular Jew. Reading the scholarship of Michael Gluzman and Raz Yosef, we will see that Israeli writers, who were supposed to both embody and represent the new Jew, took apart the possibility of being an uncomplicated, cardboard cutup of a muscular Jew.

In his book, The Zionist Body, Literary scholar Michael Gluzman looks at a wide array of works by Jewish and Israeli novelists which deal with body- and masculine politics. Diaspora writers, like Bialik and Mendele Mocher Sforim, express a complex relation to the Jewish body, mocking it and denouncing Jewish male femininity and passivity while at the same time re-affirming their loyalty and admiration of Yiddish culture.[46] Y.H. Brenner, the enfant terrible of the pre-state literary circle criticized heavily the Zionist attempt to regenerate the Jewish man by having his protagonists immigrate to Palestine only to discover that their exilic anxiety and impotence travelled with them to the Promised Land.[47]

But Bialik’s, Abramovich’s and Brenner’s protagonists were all Eastern European men, already infected from birth with Jewish powerlessness. It is when Gluzman looks at Israeli novels that the impossibility of ever inhabiting the Zionist male ideal becomes clear.

He Walked through the Fields (1947) by Moshe Shamir is widely considered a seminal novel of the 1948 generation and its protagonist, Uri, the quintessential Israeli masculine fighter.[48] Uri, a kibbutznik and palmach officer, is supposedly a picture-perfect embodiment of the Zionist ideal, up to and including his “beautiful death”: jumping on a grenade to save his soldiers.[49] Gluzman, however, reads Uri’s death as a suicide, resulting from Uri’s Schreber-esque inability to assume the cultural position expected of him by his father.[50]

Uri’s breakdown is articulated in gendered and sexual terms. Shamir uses Mika, Uri’s older, non-sabra lover for two purposes: first, to serve as a countertype to Uri – she is female, feminine and non-native.[51] But more importantly, her descriptions of Uri’s body allow Shamir and his male readers to enjoy Uri’s physicality while eschewing the homo-erotic label.[52] When we compare Uri’s portrait to earlier scenes where Ya’ari and Herzl enjoy openly the presence of a beautiful male body, we can see that Israeli culture has fully embraced the invention of modern sexual definitions, and has become “normal” – that is hetero-normative and homophobic. For the 1948 generation – if not even earlier – homo-nationalistic desire must be circumvented through the female gaze, thus allowing for homo-eroticism in the guise of heterosexual desire.

Alas, Uri – despite his desirability – cannot assume the societal position prepared for him by the kibbutz (which here encapsulates and epitomizes Israeli society). Uri lives in the shadow of his father, an almost mythical figure in the kibbutz, and serves for Mika as a second-best replacement for his father, with whom she was in love.[53] The sexual encounter between Uri and Mika is written from Uri’s perspective, and instead of being registered as a moment of masculine conquest it is plagued with anxieties about inadequacy.[54] Uri, who cannot seem to measure up to his father, starts expressing masochist feelings, involving a strong wish to “be a victim” and “to be sacrificed”. His masochism and, one might argue, the generational masochism implied in the Altermanian “silver platter” ethos, results from the inability of the sabra sons to embody the masculine fantasies of the founding fathers.[55] Uri’s death, then, is a wish-fulfillment borne out of the impossibility of ever fully answering the clarion call of the Zionist super-ego.

Earlier I have suggested that given Zionism’s masculine fantasies, Israeli society should be read as a nation-wide boot camp. Yehoshua Kenaz’s novel Infiltration (1986), based on his own experience as a soldier in the 1950s, treats an IDF boot camp as a microcosm of Israeli society. The conscripts in the novel are infirm or disabled and thus already at the margins of Israeli masculinity. Nevertheless, their bodies are expropriated by the army, to the extent that one NCO yells at a private for damaging IDF property, that is, for cutting himself while shaving.[56] Turning those invalid youths into soldiers is explicitly described in gendered terms. Being a good soldier is synonymous with being – or rather becoming – “a man”.[57] Conversely, any conscript who cannot measure up to soldierly standards is branded “a female”. Gluzman describes Infiltration as an “encyclopedia of bodies”, most of them deformed in some way.[58] Immigrants, whether European or Arab, are portrayed in the novel as androgynous – the camp’s doctor, herself a camp survivor, is “neither a woman nor a man”.[59] Ben-Chemo, the laughable Arab-Jewish private performs a gender-bending belly dance that conflates femininity and Arabness.[60] Even the kibbutznik Alon, who seems to embody the Ashkenazi beauty ideal, has a heart murmur which prevents him from following in his father’s footsteps as an elite fighter. The novel ends with Alon’s suicide, and the similarities between him and Uri in He Walked through the Fields are obvious.[61]

The characters in Infiltration, all irrevocably marked as damaged by the IDF, engage in several forms of resistance; perhaps the most poetic of them is practiced by the protagonist himself, who narrates the novel in the first person. His form of resistance works, as Gluzman beautifully puts it: “contrary to the norms of personal narration, [as] we learn almost nothing about the protagonist. He makes his body disappear from the narrative and becomes an eye, a camera. By hiding his body, he tries to avoid the camp’s bio-politics, or at least watch it from a distance.”[62] The body is understood by Kenaz as a Kafkaesque surface on which the state inscribes its ideology. The only way to resist the statist inscription is to fashion the body into a separation wall by developing a “thick skin”.[63] The infiltration Kenaz writes about, then, is not that of the soldier into enemy lines, but of the state into one’s heart of hearts.

Film scholar Raz Yosef has written extensively about Israeli masculinity, and specifically about military masculinity. He understands Zionist masculinity as inherently masochistic: from the readiness for physical suffering expressed by the pioneers to the willingness of soldiers to lose life and limb for the nation, Zionist masculinity is deeply implicated in the pain and the destruction of the male body. Moreover, masochism allows new Jews to come to terms with the homo-eroticism inherent in Zionist culture without actually expressing it: the masochist gets off on the deprivation of pleasure and the disavowal of desire. The lack of any kind of sexual fulfillment then becomes a kind of pleasure in itself.[64]

Let us take for example the highly successful Israel movie Yossi and Jagger (2002). The movie depicts the love affair between two male IDF officers serving in Lebanon. Although Yossi and Jagger consummate their love physically, Yossi, who is Jagger’s superior, refuses to come out as gay despite his lover’s imploring.[65] At the end of film Jagger dies in combat. Yossi, visiting Jagger’s mourning mother cannot bring himself to tell her the truth about their relationship. Like Uri from He Walked through the Fields and Alon from Infiltration, the defected sabra must die in order to foreclose the option of queer Israeliness. Although Yossi comes out physically unscathed from his military service, he is still unable to come out as a gay man, confining himself to the closet, that is, to an emotional grave.[66] Tellingly, even a highly critical novel like Infiltration and a seemingly emancipatory film like Yossi and Jagger (which was produced and directed by Israel’s foremost gay power-couple, Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky), still succumb to the need to destroy the queer male body.
I would like to call this artistic trope “the pink platter”, after Alterman’s famous poem “The Silver Platter”. Alterman’s poem celebrates the heroic sacrifice of two Zionist fighters: a young woman and a young man.[67] I would like to argue that in order for this heterosexual sacrifice to take place, another sacrifice must be made: the disavowal of the possibility of a viable, happy queer existence, a disavowal symbolized in the continuous killing off of queer protagonists. I purposefully use the term queer rather than gay because I don’t believe that Zionism is inherently homophobic. Rather, Zionism is concerned with eradicating any kind of behavior that might brand Jews as non-normative. Thus, I believe, the toleration of gay culture in middle class Israeli culture is a mean of differentiating “white” Israeliness from the primitive Arabs (Jewish or otherwise) who surround it. In other words, it is exactly because gay-friendliness is perceived as normative in Western metropolises that the Israeli middle class embraces it. And so, while gay youths serve openly in the IDF, conscientious objectors, who are still viewed as queer and dangerous, serve sentences in military prisons for their refusal to enlist in the army. In Eytan Fox’s newest film, Yossi’s Story (2012), Yossi, the surviving protagonist of Yossi and Jagger, finally begins a relationship with a handsome paratrooper after years of self-denial. In contemporary middle class Ashkenazi Israel, being gay is alright as long as you are a veteran sleeping with other soldiers, that is, as long as your sexual choices are located well within the respectable ethnic boundaries of the nation.

Conclusion, Or, From Homo-Nationalism To Bi-Nationalism

In the present paper I have tried to offer a genealogy of Zionism’s relationship to masculinity. Using Boyarin’s and Presner’s work, I have suggested that due to the specific ways in which European anti-Semitism attacked Yiddish culture the care for the Jewish male body became Zionism’s most important cultural project. In the second part of the paper I have looked at the price Zionists and other Israelis have paid for Zionism’s constant need to banish the queer from the brave new Hebrew society.

I have also suggested that the alleged Israeli gay-friendliness is confided to certain sectors of Israeli culture which are concerned with keeping up with Western respectability. In other words, mainstream Israeli gay-friendliness is intimately tied up with Islamophobia. A true emancipatory project would be moving from homo-nationalism, a nationalism that is concerned with sameness and normativity, to bi-nationalism. Rather than a specific political program, I would like to use this awkward pun as an indicator that sexuality, gender and national politics are inexorably linked together. If homo-nationalism is indeed content with sacrificing its best and brightest on an altar of an impossible ideal, it should be replaced with a national contract that is willing to include the sexually, politically and culturally queer. One of the characters in Infiltration tells his comrade, a formerly religious soldier – “your body is still Jewish; it doesn’t know yet that it is Israeli”.[68] Maybe it is time that we claim our Jewish bodies – deformed, queer and imperfect as they are – back.  

[1] Aviva Halamish, Meir Yaari, A Collective Biography, The first Fifty Years: 1987-1947 (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 2007), p. 55. [Hebrew]

[2] Raz Yosef reads the same passage from Ya’ari in his “The Military Body: Male Masochism and Homoerotic Relations in Israeli Cinema”, Theory and Criticism 18 (Spring 2001), pp. 14-15 [Hebrew]. Yosef understands Ya’ari’s desire as a masochistic homoerotic desire, while I, as will become clear, understands it as an offshoot of a more general, national desire.

[3] The Zionist Body by Michael Gluzman (Tel Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad, 2007) [Hebrew], recounts many such scenes: for example, Herzl groping a bunch of Jewish porters in Jerusalem (p. 21); The writer Yaakov Ya’ari Polskin describing the muscular blacksmith “Sander Hadad” (p. 24); Moshe Smilanski writing about “Huja Nezer”, a beautiful Russian pioneer (p. 26); Friedrich Lowenberg, Altneuland’s protagonist, meeting David Litvak, once a Viennese beggar and now a pillar of the Zionist state (p. 56); Aharon, the teenager at the center of The Book of Intimate Grammar, trying to see his best friend, Gideon, naked (p. 251); Moshe Shamir observing Uri, his protagonist in He Walked Through the Fields, through the desiring eyes of Mika, his lover (p. 195); and finally, a strikingly similar scene in Yehoshua Kenaz’s After the Holidays (p. 221). See also Boaz Neuman’s discussion of the pioneers’ auto-erotic fashioning of their own bodies in Land and Desire in Early Zionism (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 2009) pp. 157-176 [Hebrew].

[4] Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 10-11, 210, 222; Gluzman, The Zionist Body, pp. 13-14.

[5] Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 291-296; Gilman, The Jew’s Body, (New York: Routledge), p. 40; Gluzman, The Zionist Body, p. 19; Todd Presner, Muscular Judaism, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 34.

[6] Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), p. 2.

[7] See the introduction to David Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York: Routledge, 1990).

[8] In that sense, the desire that self-fashioned “old Jews” felt for new ones is “hetero-sexual” regardless of their actual gender.

[9] George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality, (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985), pp. 4-5.

[10] Ibid., pp. 6-7.

[11] Ibid., p. 7.

[12] On medieval perceptions of the Jewish body, see: David Katz, “Shylock’s gender: Jewish male menstruation in early modern England” Review of English Studies 50 (1999), pp. 440-462; Irvin Resnick, “Medieval Roots of the Myth of Jewish Male Menses”, Harvard Theological Review 93 (2000), pp. 241-263.

[13] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 229.

[14] Ibid., pp. 51-64.

[15] And since he acknowledges the homophobic tendencies of rabbinical culture and the debt of LGTB rights movement to both Enlightenment and Liberalism, how could he attack a Jewish appropriation of those traditions?

[16] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, pp. 222, 277.

[17] Ibid., p. 212.

[18] Ibid., p. 208.

[19] Ibid., p. 210-212.

[20] Ibid., p. 213.

[21] That is, lusting after Mother and wishing to kill Father. See Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 219.

[22] Ibid., p. 276-277.

[23] Ibid., p. 294.

[24] Ibid., pp. 279, 295. See also: Todd Presner, Muscular Judaism, (New York: Routledge, 2007) p. 10.

[25] Ibid., pp. 295, 302-303. On the concepts of heterotopia and heterochrony, see Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”, Diacritics 16 (Spring 1986), 22-27. One might suggest that in the light of Zionism’s desperate attempt to un-queer Judaism, the formulation of the Land of Israel as a hetero-topia acquires a second, gendered meaning.

[26] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 296. One could also formulate Israel as a boot camp, where boys turn into men. Indeed, to a large extent Israel is one big boot camp.

[27] Ibid., p. 302.

[28] Ibid., p. 303.

[29] Ibid., p. xxiii.

[30] Ibid., p. 4.

[31] Ibid., p. 17.

[32] Ibid., p. 2.

[33] Ibid. Nordau was born Simon Sudfeld in Hungary, and re-invented (one might say “regenerated”) himself as the German intellectual Nordau.

[34] But not, as Presner stresses, from the actual praxis of “body culture”: Muscular Judaism, p. 12.

[35] Ibid., pp. 38-39.

[36] Ibid., p. 39.

[37] Ibid., p. 48.

[38] Ibid., pp. 55-56.

[39] Ibid., p. 58.

[40] Ibid., p. p. 59.

[41] Ibid., p. 61.

[42] Ibid., p. 107.

[43] Ibid., p. 108.

[44] Ibid., p. 109.

[45] Ibid., p. 111.

[46] Gluzman, The Zionist Body, chapter 2 and 3.

[47] Ibid., chapter 4.

[48] Ibid., p. 185.

[49] Ibid., p. 186.

[50] For an analysis of Schreber’s breakdown see: Sigmund Freud, The Schreber Case, (New York: Penguin Classics Psychology, 2003). In the movie version, Uri is played by Assi Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s son.

[51] Gluzman, p. 196.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., p. 200.

[54] Ibid., pp. 200-202.

[55] Ibid., pp. 204-205.

[56] Ibid., p. 222.

[57] Ibid., p. 227.

[58] Ibid., p. 229.

[59] Ibid., p. 231.

[60] Ibid., p. 232.

[61] Ibid., p. 233.

[62] Ibid., p. 234. My translation.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Yosef, “The Military Body”, p. 14-18.

[65] Raz Yosef, “The National Closet: Gay Israel in Yossi and Jagger,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 11: 2 (2005), p. 283.



[68] Gluzman, The Zionist Body, p. 209.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hutu Power!

The Ugandan raised Indian academic Mahmood Mamdani states that the Rwandan Patriotic Front used Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa as standard educational material for their cadres (Mamdani, 44). Walter Rodney makes the argument that the physical differences between the Hutu and the Tutsi were the result of a caste system, one in which the Tutsi had plentiful access to milk and meat from their pastoral cattle herding, causing them to grow much taller than their Hutu co-patriots (Rodney, 195). One could interrogate such a narrative by asking whether or not these phenotype differences have caused difference in genotypes amongst the Hutu and Tutsi, but that seems neither here nor there. This conflict threw the entire region into war, a war some have called The Great War of Africa, or Africa’s World War, and threatens to reignite tensions at any moment in the future. In November of 2014, the leader of the Rwandan backed rebel group M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, warned that conflict could begin again soon because of unresolved grievances (AFP). The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu group seeking to restore the majority Hutu rule in Rwanda, continues to operate out of the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, even though it has been given a deadline by the government in Kinshasa to disarm (Beith). A permanent solution to the crisis remains elusive. While the Hutu-Tutsi conflict is not the only conflict going on in Africa, there is a reason most observers have tied the 1994 Rwandan genocide to everything else that has gone on since within the Great Lakes region of Africa. Identity and ideology have collided in this conflict in such a way to drive most of Africa into the fray, and it is in the interests of all of Africa that there is a solution to it.

Rwandan society before the invasion of European colonialists was more hierarchal and feudalistic than anywhere else in Africa (Rodney, 198). A system was in place where a privileged aristocracy ruled the Kingdom of Rwanda, where control over cattle meant everything, and those who owned the cattle identified themselves as Tutsi. Like the feudal lords of medieval Europe, the Tutsi aristocracy were tasked with the military defense of the country by the ruling Mwami, and so had the force of arms necessary to enforce the social-system that benefited them. Writing in 1972, Walter Rodney states that the Hutu, the Twa, and the Tutsi evolved together to form the Rwandan nation (Rodney, 199), over a decade after the events of the Rwandan Revolution, or the muyaga (“Winds of Destruction”) had occurred in Rwanda. On Rodney’s own interpretation of the history of Rwanda, one would think the Marxist Rodney would see the events of 1959-61 in Rwanda as the final overthrow of feudalism in Rwanda, possibly with favorable comparisons to the celebratory attitude Marx and Engels wrote about the Great Peasants’ War in Germany. If the Hutu and Tutsi are indeed one nation, then the muyaga could have been nothing short of a great class conflict, one in which the masses of Rwandans overcame their centuries old oppressors. Yet Rodney passes over this event in silence, leading one to suspect this is why the Rwandan Patriotic Front has their cadre read this work in the first place. Whether or not the leaders of the Hutu majority originally turned a class division into an ethnic one, the division today is real. It is certainly just as real (if not more so) than the divisions separating the Spanish speaking peoples of Latin America, or the English speaking British settlers in Canada and America.

The 1959 Social Revolution brought the Hutu into power and ended the centuries old rule of the Tutsi feudal aristocracy. The uburetwa system of the Tutsi feudal lords was finally abolished, and a system of election by secret-ballot was setup (Collins, 51). A series of massacres ensued, leading to the exodus of tens of thousands of Tutsi into neighboring countries. The defeated Tutsi aristocracy that fled to neighboring Uganda would eventually create the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU), which was formed to facilitate the eventual return of all Tutsi refugees to Rwanda. The RANU would soon involve itself in Uganda’s civil war on the side of Museveni’s National Resistance Army, helping to bring him to power 1986. The RANU would change it’s name to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1987, and with their military experience gained in the Ugandan civil war, invade Rwanda on October 1st, 1990 (Herman, 53).

It would be four years later before the RPF would militarily seize power in Rwanda. The initial invasion by the RPF was a failure. Paul Kagame, who was in the United States at the time, taking courses at a US military college (Herman, 55), was flown to Rwanda to take over command of the RPF. Under Paul Kagame’s command, the RPF militarily turned the situation around for the exiled Tutsi. Unable to defeat the RPF solely by military means, the ruling government in Rwanda would seek out an end to the civil war, leading to the Arusha Accords. While the RPF was able to turn its military success into partial government power, the Arusha Accords mandated eventual multi-party elections. The history of Rwanda, before and after the muyaga, and the recent invasion by the RPF from neighboring Uganda, would not translate into electoral success for the RPF, even assuming ever single Tutsi minority in Rwanda would vote for the RPF. There was no possibility of an electoral victory for the RPF on the horizon (Collins, 116). The RPF would surely have realized this, and it is why today they still reject the concept of rule by the majority as illegitimate (Reyntjens, 41).

The time from the formation of the Broad Based Transitional Government (BBTG) established by the Arusha Accords to the start of the Rwandan Genocide would be about 9 months. Intense fighting would resume by RPF forces in the beginning of February and end before the month was out. The plane of president Habyarimana would be shot down on April 6th, 1994, and within two hours, the RPF would begin military operations on two fronts (Herman, 56). The Rwandan Genocide had started, and the killing would last three months before the RPF would capture the whole of Rwanda and drive the government forces and much of the Hutu population into neighboring countries where they would setup refugee camps. Of the 700,000 or so Titsu killed, over 800,000 Tutsi exiles would come to Rwanda after the RPF came to power (Prunier, 5).

The refugee situation created by seizure of power by the RPF in Rwanda would lead directly to the Congo wars. The illusion of a national unity government would collapse after the Kibeho massacre (Prunier, 42), with most of the prominent Hutu members of government resigning. Eighteen months later, on the pretext of getting rid of another militarized refugee camp on the Rwandan border, Paul Kagame wound send the armed forces of the RPF into neighboring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). This would set off a chain of events not only leading to the overthrow of the hated Mobuto (whom the heads of most of the states of Africa had conspired to overthrow as early as 1994 (Prunier 67)), but to the first and second Congo wars, and the military intervention of nearly all of the governments of Africa into the conflict, not once, but twice.

The fuel for the Congo wars and the conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa continues to be the divide between the Hutu and the Tutsi. Like the state of Israel, the national motto of the Tutsi regime in Rwanda seems to be “Never Again” (Gettleman), and the international community has largely looked the other direction when it comes to the violence of the RPF regime itself. Despite being based around the Tutsi ethnic group, the RPF managed to get 75% of the vote in the last election. Even though the US government is a staunch ally of the RPF regime, the US embassy in Rwanda even called the vote into question, noting several irregularities (Embassy).

While there may be many grounds to question the racialization of the conflict by proponents of Hutu Power, the Tutsi counter-narrative itself would lend support to the Hutu as the majority of the Rwandan people seeking their right to fully partipate in society. If the events of the 1959 Social Revolution in Rwanda were not one ethnic group overthrowing their oppressors from another ethnic group, then it can only been seen as the culmination of a class conflict against a feudalistic aristocracy. The remnants of this ousted feudal aristocracy then fled the country as exiles, only to return decades later with an army to reimpose their will on a peasant population that had overthrown them. Even the events of the Rwandan Genocide itself could be interpreted in the framework of classwar. The narrative of the RPF and its backers doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and critical interrogation anymore than the ‘Hamitic Hypothesis’ does. The only political solution that comes to my mind is a thorough-going Pan-African socialism, one that is capable of weaving the bits of truth contained in both the Hutu and Tutsi narratives, and rightfully recognizing that the majority of the oppressed in Rwanda are the people with the right to rule their nation.


Beith, Malcolm. “Congo Rebel Group Faces Military Action Over Failure to Disarm.” Bloomberg, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014

“DR Congo’s M23 Rebels Warn of New Conflict Risk.” Agence France-Presse, 7 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

Collins, Barrie. Rwanda 1994: The Myth of the Akazu Genocide Conspiracy and Its Consequences. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.

“Embassy of the United States Kigali, Rwanda.” U.S. Embassy Observation Mission to the 2013 Chamber of Deputies Election Statement. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

Gettleman, Jeffrey. “A Wound in the Heart of Africa.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Apr. 2009. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

Herman, Edward S., and David Peterson. The Politics of Genocide. New York: Monthly Review, 2010. Print.

Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Prunier, Gérard. Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Reyntjens, Filip. The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Print.

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. London: Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, 1972. Print.