Sunday, July 29, 2018

Book review: Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989 Jeffrey Herf

Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989
Jeffrey Herf


Herf is a U.S. bourgeois historian who has done important work burrowing into government archives of capitalist countries. (Counties whose politics and roles in the world he - and Washington - oppose or have opposed. Let's be clear, after all.)

Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989 is his latest, and a fine complement to previous books on Germany's fomenting of Jew-hatred at home and abroad during World War Two.

In Undeclared Wars with Israel Herf tells the diplomatic and foreign policy story of the German Democratic Republic's struggle to find a "place in the sun."

By the 1960s the GDR was still only recognized as a legitimate state with its own state role to play by fellow members of the Warsaw Pact. It had no UN seat. Its aid to bourgeois capitalist regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq with weapons, training, and military technology was an attempt to break the diplomatic blockade.

The GDR welcomed military officers and students from these nations with scholarships and seats in officer training schools. The PLO leadership was given medical care and free plane fare. Not to mention explosives, military hardware, and tens of millions of bullets.

The GDR moved to increasing support (logistical and practical) of the PLO after watching the capitalist Israeli state inflict decisive military defeats on its state allies in 1967 and 1973. While mouthing Moscow-approved Stalinist rhetoric in public about how Israel only won these wars because of overwhelming military and financial support from U.S. and UK imperialism, GDR military leaders drew far different conclusions in their own internal reports. They viewed Israeli soldiers and their officer class with envy and profound respect: here was training, motivation, and ideological unity taken to the highest degree possible under capitalism. (Conversely, in 1967 hundreds of Egyptian officers surrendered without firing a shot in anger; hundreds of Egyptian tanks were captured in drivable condition.)

In the 1970s, individual and small group terror attacks against civilians in Israel and abroad were seen as the armed-struggle way to defeat the "Zionist enemy." An even larger arena for the GDR's anti-Israel war was through diplomacy. (Herf excels himself in these depictions of  rhetorical warfare. You can tell he thinks this layer of the state apparatus plays a decisive role in world events.)

Herf alternates chapters in Undeclared Wars with Israel between actions within ruling circles of the GDR workers state and anti-Israel tactics of small ultraleft political sects in West Germany (FRG). These are some very sad pages, pointing-up the dead-end of a politics based upon Stalinism and the ethics of it's-not-what-you're-for-but-who-you're-against-that-counts.

Radicalized students coming out of West German SDS and galvanized by Israel's 1967 military victory were driven hysterically toward the dead-end of ultraleft terrorism. They saw this as a necessity to steeling themselves: they must attack Jews to act in solidarity with Palestinians, and must act violently to overcome their own inhibitions against doing so. Inhibition bred of living in a country that had, only two decades previously, killed six million Jews.

By 1976 any inhibitions were in the past. Revolutionary Cells cadre Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann probably never thought about the "selection" process at Auschwitz as they separated-out Jewish from non-Jewish passengers at Entebbe.

*   * *

In 1989-1990 the sun of GDR Stalinism set. The undeclared war on Israel by the GDR government and FRG ultraleftists went with it.

Declared and undeclared wars against Israel by bourgeois governments and Jew-hating "NGOs" continues today, now prosecuted by Tehran and groups like Hezbollah, and Hamas. Such thug groups still have their vociferous supporters in the global petty-bourgeois left.

As the slow-burning decade-long crisis of capitalist production and trade grinds on, such left Jew-hatred has blossomed and become firmly socially acceptable because it claims for itself the mantle of a smug and self-righteous "anti-Zionism," the phrase first promulgated in diplomatic and academic bastions of the old Stalinist workers states.

At each new stage of capitalism's degeneration such old filth returns: sand in the eyes of workers today.

29 July 2018

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