The Drums of War

The Drums of War

I am absolutely immobilized with grief and rage at the situation in Palestine. In the face of collapsing domestic support and legitimacy, Netanyahu has been escalating his already genocidal policies in Gaza for weeks. He gambled, successfully, that Hamas, facing their own domestic unpopularity, and trapped in an open air prison camp, would eventually join him in escalatory brinkmanship and hand him a path to all out genocidal war.

It worked, probably much better than he had expected (Hamas’ attacks revealed deep vulnerabilities in the Israeli police state), through horrific violence that not only killed hundreds of civilians, but took the lives of a handful of Americans living in Israel.

This is excellent news for that ghoul Netenyahu, and the Jewish dead weren't even cold, nevermind counted, before he more or less declared he would wipe the Gaza Strip off the map.

Meanwhile here in the US, another deeply unpopular leader is facing an election, and his administration is putting out statements that the attack in Israel has all the hallmarks of Iranian involvement, and is “investigating” Iranian participation in the operation.

Thus the one ally who might have been able to rein in Netanyahu's proposed ethnic cleansing (in theory, if not in historical practice) has instead found its own casus belli to expand conflict with Russia’s proxies in the Middle Eastern theater.

Meanwhile, the suddenly isolationist far right in the US has been making strides questioning support for Ukraine—Ukraine policy was the centerpiece of their congressional obstructionism—and they seem to have found the key to their dreamed of red-brown alliance through the issue. Grey Zone and Marxist-Leninist influencers are finding common ground—and sharing air time—with Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon over “anti-imperialism”. An “anti-war” authoritarian coalition is building, one that may successfully overcome the contradiction between its Christian Zionist and anti-Zionist participants by way of a dogmatic isolationism.

Of course, if he’d wanted, Biden couldve found his excuse to ratchet up tensions with Russia in the unpopular fascist regime in Azerbaijan, whose Kremlin-backed blitzkrieg of Nagorno-Karabakh has already led to ethnic cleansing of Armenians from the putatatively independent republic. But much like in the First World War that events are less and less faintly echoing, no one is coming to the aid of the Armenians.

I wish I had more to offer than love and solidarity to all Armenians in this moment of continued global abandonment, but if we can do what we can to connect events in Gaza to events in Nagorno-Karabakh then we can push back against the “civilizational war” angle that will be inevitably invoked to justify saber rattling—or maybe even drawing—against Iran. After all, the Azerbaijani regime hides its petrostate grifterism behind a veneer of patriarchal Islamic theocracy.

All over the world unpopular leaders use war and genocide to shore up their failing legitimacy. The only way out is a true proletarian internationalism that refuses to pick the sides of any of these states or their governments, that does not confuse Netenyahu with all Israelis any more than it confuses all Russians with Putin, that does not simply fall in line behind Hamas or other state actors that support Palestine despite the absolute righteousness of the Palestinian cause, any more than it worships Zelensky or NATO despite the absolute righteousness of the  Ukrainian people's self defense.

It is a politics that recognizes that the ones doing the dying and suffering here on all sides share a common enemy, a colonialist exploiter class that would rather drown the world in blood than give up an iota of its power.

This is a difficult road to walk, and a lonely one, as the simplicity of picking sides in a predetermined conflict is the most seductive reactionary impulse in the face of war. In the build up to World War I the US and European socialist movement overwhelmingly went patriotic, supporting their governments. The IWW, alone in the US, remained staunchly anti-war, and jingoism was used to finally smashed the movement in a wave of brutal repression. The Bolsheviks’ lonely but principled anti-war position in Russia, meanwhile, built their legitimacy among the soldiers who would ultimately fortify their regime.

These are neither of them happy results, but they occurred because the vast majority of the rest of the left was overtaken with patriotic fervor and utter cowardice. We cannot leave opposition to the coming storm to only our best or most opportunistic allies, nevermind to the far right seeking a new angle toward popularity.

And the positive lesson, such as it is, is that the IWW, by staying true to their principles, has remained today a leading beacon for revolutionaries and organizers, while I'm willing to bet only a handful of you can name a single one of the US parties, organizations or left-formations that supported entry to the war.

I realize, however, that I am retreating to a safe space of historical reflection and lesson-learning, because I am terrified. I am terrified to face rising anti-semitism at the same moment that mass appeals to Jewish solidarity will be built behind a defense of the Israeli settler state. I am terrified that the Zionists may get their wish, may successfully and fatally link our millenia old traditions to the blood and soil cruelty of a few of the worst men to ever identify with those traditions. I am terrified that the fascist fever dream of Zionism may attempt to finally purge its self-hating victim complex once and for all by committing a crime so heinous that history will remember them in the same breath as our most horrific opressors.

I am terrified Palestinian allies will continue to use them as a pawn in their global power games, that the only material support they will have will be deeply self-interested state actors who dont actually care about Palestinian people. I'm terrified that the Azerbaijani crimes will continue to be ignored and Armenians will once again face genocide alone. I'm terrified that all these deeply unpopular and fascistic leaders will pull us into another cataclysmic nightmare because it is what states do in the face of crisis, that any such war will only accelerate the crises of pandemics, refugees and ecological collapse that they all refuse to acknowledge, let alone face. And I'm terrified that the movements we have built will not be nearly strong enough to make a difference.

I keep typing then deleting something hopeful, something which reflects the optimism that still hums through me despite all this, that reflects my belief that the oppressed of the world are capable of taking care of one another and ending this horror. On indigenous people's day, commemorating the most horrifying genocide this world has ever seen, here in the unending apocalypse of settler-colonialism, the only hope that feels honest to name is that we can survive. We can hold one another and fight like hell, and we may not win but we can never lose, as long as we dont turn our back on our dreams of freedom, liberation and of ending this miserable world, not through their wars but through ours.