Pick of the Quarter

Issue: 183

Joseph Choonara and Sascha Radl

Authors associated with International Socialism have played an outsized role in theorising the relationship between the rank and file and the bureaucracy in the trade union movement. An article by Alexis Vassiley, “Once More on the Rank and File-Union Bureaucracy Interplay: Mining Unionism in Australia’s Pilbara Region”, in Capital & Class (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/03098168241240462) seeks to broaden what has often been viewed as a anglocentric debate by analysing mining unions in Australia. The study, looking at a mining region in Western Australia over a two-decade period, offers strong support for the kind of approach we have taken, emphasising the potential for the bureaucracy to act as a relatively conservative force within the labour movement.

Jacobin magazine offers articles from a broad range of left perspectives. A piece published by their website in May on imperialism, “We Live in a World of Growing Imperialist Rivalries” by Ilya Matveev (https://jacobin.com/2024/05/us-china-rivalry-imperialism-brics-periphery), focuses on the rivalry between the United States and China, which now forms a key ­faultline within the global capitalist system. It is an interesting attempt to trace this ­conflict—and the various other forms of inter-imperialist rivalry, notably the clash between NATO and Russia taking place in Ukraine—back to a ­sophisticated version of the Marxist theory of imperialism.

In their March-April issue, New Left Review have made the rather odd choice of presenting a major interview with the German politician Sahra Wagenknecht, who recently broke with the major left-reformist organisation Die Linke to establish her own party. The interview is entitled “Condition of Germany”. The interviewers do their best to hold her to account for some of her political positions. These include her criticisms of immigration and many ecological measures, her hostility to what she regards as the “woke” positions associated with “identity politics”, and the Islamophobic manifesto of her new party.

What emerges is a depressing picture of a figure articulating a dead-end politics that downplays struggles over oppression and other political questions in the interest of a supposed orientation on the economic demands of “left behind” workers—although this seldom goes much beyond a reheated Keynesianism. In other words, Wagenknecht’s politics are not dissimilar to those currently advocated in Britain by George Galloway, who is discussed in detail by Charlie Kimber’s article in this issue.

In another Jacobin article, “Germany’s Anti-Palestinian Stance Is Rooted in Anti-Communism” (https://jacobin.com/2024/04/germany-anti-palestinian-anti-communism), Leandros Fischer delves into the history of state repression and allegations of antisemitism in Germany.

The post-1945 German state is ideologically built upon on the notion of ­“militant democracy”, that is, combating perceived domestic threats to the liberal ­democratic order. Linked to this is the idea that the radical left and the radical right must be fought in equal measure. However, whereas the “collusion of the German ‘deep state’ with neo-Nazi militants”, which began almost ­immediately after the fall of Hitler’s regime, has never been broken, the ­radical left has faced wave after wave of state repression. Anticommunism has functioned as an important justificatory ideology behind these attacks.

German anticommunism is rooted in the Federal Republc of Germany’s ­integration into the Western bloc during the Cold War. Particularly following the Israeli military victory over the Arab states in 1967, this anticommunism fused with a form of philosemitism that equates Jewish people with the State of Israel. Since the 1980s and 1990s, a specific form of Holocaust remembrance became a national “source of pride”, culminating in Angela Merkel’s 2008 declaration that ensuring Israel’s security is a fundamental principle of the German state.

Domestically, allegations of antisemitism have been weaponised against the labour movement and the left as well as migrant communities. The accusation is most commonly directed at the large section of the German working class that has Arab or Turkish nationality or heritage, thus propagating the idea of “a ‘sacred union’ of German workers with their bosses and the state against ‘imported antisemites’.”

JC & SR.