Pohrt on National Liberation

Nate at Libcom dug up the following translation of the criminally under translated Wolfgang Pohrt from a defunct blog:

From: Wolfgang Pohrt, Linksradikalismus und nationaler Befreiungskampf (1982) , collected in the book Kreisverkehr, Wendepunkt. Über die Wechseljahre der Nation und die Linke im Widerstreit der Gefühle. The first paragraph has been omitted from this translation, as it contains an ephemeral polemic of little interest to a contemporary English-speaking audience.

Translated by Anthony Fano Fernandez

The usual accusation made against Israel or Zionism is that this state was founded where other people were already living. But the founding acts of all hitherto existing polities were never acts of justice, but rather always acts of violence. Even the storybook peace of idyllic tribes and peoples cultivating the land of the fathers in concord and harmony with their neighbors is usually a peace resting upon an original act of land seizure and displacement. The right of nations, peoples and tribes to distinguish between themselves and foreigners and to regard these foreigners as intruders and chase them away when they wish to take up residence – a right as inseparable from the concept of the nation as it is logically imperative – this right is merely the original violent act of land seizure and expulsion made legal and continuous.

No people ever had its place on earth adjudicated by an extraterrestrial authority according to the stipulations of legal tenure. Rather, at some point in history every people took its place by force; not just for practical reasons – there is no righteous extraterrestrial authority granting such claims – but also because in an emphatic sense there can be no exclusive right of Germans, the French, or Israelis to possess any patch of land and because it is an injustice when people can‘t live on some patch of land merely because they are Turks, Vietnamese, Jews, or Palestinians. The right of national autonomy and state sovereignty is merely another name for the injustice of harassing, deporting, and expelling people on the grounds that they possess the wrong passport or birth certificate. And this injustice is not a corruption of the idea of the nation-state but rather its essence – admittedly rendered milder on occasion by the tolerance of reasonable people.

The legal claims of human beings, peoples, or nations to a piece of land is just another name for the right to expel others from the same piece of land. In every festive proclamation of a people’s right to exist lurks the threat of revoking another people’s right to exist. But in truth, human beings no more possess a right to exist than they do a right to inhabit the place they happen to be at the moment, or a right to breathe. This is quite simply the case because neither mere existence, nor the concomitant act of inhabiting a piece of land, nor breathing are things that fall under the purview of the law. No human being has the right to live in a particular place, since the act of inhabiting a particular place is not an act of injustice, and therefore does not require a legal justification. All Turks should be able to remain in Germany not because they‘ve earned a right to be present through hard work, but rather because they‘re already there. The act of expelling the Palestinians from Israel was an injustice not because they possessed a right to Palestine, but because they were already there.

In the past, the radical left would relinquish the act of playing chess with the territorial claims of population groups to those in power, since it was not the existence of these populations that was subject to debate, but rather the relations of production, the relations of power, the government. For that reason, a war between two population groups, both of which have the goal of expelling each other from a piece of land, would have merely confirmed this and rendered the radical left helpless from a practical viewpoint. A war such as that going on for years between Israel in the role of the displaced displacer and the Palestinians as the displaced would have confirmed the understanding of the radical left that there is no national solution to social problems, or at least none other than endless bloodshed. This war would have rendered the radical left helpless because it offers no possibility of taking sides, since:

1.Both parties want the same thing: the exclusive claim of ownership to the same piece of land; their own flag, their own army, their own state.

2.The development of Israel shows once again that every nation-state, even when created by humanitarians with the sincerest of motives and the best intentions, tends to become a ravenous monstrosity.

3.The terrible past and present of Israel must be understood as a prognosis and a warning against any future Palestinian state, since such a state would only distinguish itself from Israel by the fact that its residents would be called Palestinians instead of Israelis. In Lebanon, Israeli troops were celebrated as liberators and the Palestinians were despised; not because Palestinians conducted themselves in Lebanon like friendly, discreet, and modest guests when they had a majority and the PLO had power; not because Palestinians are unsympathetic people, but because humans, when they assume the role of a people, never treat minorities gingerly and with tenderness.

4.The national liberation struggle of the PLO is not a struggle for the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression. Rather, it is a struggle to obtain the preconditions under which all conditions of exploitation and oppression can be replicated.

5.Because radical leftists do not recognize any advantage or fine distinction that supposedly exists when people are not massacred by foreign troops, such as in Lebanon, but rather by troops of their own country, such as in Hama, or at least the troops of related peoples, such as in the war between Iran and Iraq. It is not only the case that the radical left cannot ally itself with those who oppress national minorities; it is also prohibited from forming alliances with oppressors of the great majority of the population, as is the case with all present-day Arab governments.

If, nonetheless, militant leftists today do not see a reason for helplessness or even resignation in the idiotic conflict between two ethnic nationalisms, but rather a welcome opportunity for getting involved, blindly and fanatically taking sides and jumping into the “national liberation struggle” with all force of the imagination, then that has nothing to do with radical leftism, but rather with the evil, secretive desires that slumber in the hearts of German people. The Palestinians will not benefit and Israel will not be harmed. Rather, the victims will be foreigners within Germany, when the Germans cease to wage the struggle of national liberation vicariously for others and start to do so on their own behalf, and when the alliance between militants and the mob obtains a realistic political base.

Originally posted here:


Posted in critical theory | Tagged | Leave a comment

Right of Asylum

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Gallery | Leave a comment

Value and Misery

Interesting to think of the following Horkheimer aphorism as a criticism and corrective to  derivationism:Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 2.00.42 PM



Posted in Horkheimer | Leave a comment

Horkheimer on Social Domination

From “The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom in” Dawn in Decline, thanks to the discussion in Abromeit’s book on Horkheimer:

“The businessman is subject to laws which neither he nor any power with such a man- date created with purpose and deliberation. They are laws which the big capitalists and perhaps he himself skillfully makes use of but whose existence must be accepted as a fact. Boom, bust, inflation, wars and even the qualities of things and human beings the present society demands are a function of such laws, of the anonymous social reality, just as the rotation of the earth expresses the laws of dead nature. No single individual can do anything about them.

Bourgeois thought views this reality as superhuman. It fetishizes the social process. It speaks of fate and either calls it blind, or attempts a mystical interpretation. It deplores the meaninglessness of the whole, or submits to the inscrutability of God’s ways. But in actuality, all those phenomena which are either experienced as accidental or given a mystical interpretation depend on men and the way they arrange their social existence. They can therefore also be changed.

If men consciously took their life in society in hand and replaced the struggle of capitalist enterprises by a classless and planned economy, the effects the process of production has on human beings and their relationships could also be understood and regulated. What today appears as a fact of nature in the private and business dealings of individuals are the effects of social life as a whole. They are human, not divine products.

Because these effects of life in society are present but not conscious, willed or controlled, and are the results of an equal number of individual wills that grasp neither their dependence nor their power, the limitation on individual freedom in our time is immeasurably greater than would be necessary, given the available means…..The reality they themselves created through their social activity appears as something alien by which they must abide, it follows that there are many agents but no conscious and therefore free subjects of social conditions. Man must submit to conditions they themselves constantly create as to something alien and overwhelmingly powerful.”

Posted in Horkheimer | 1 Comment

Institutional Critical Theory and Crisis

The following historical irony occurred to me: the tenants that might be said to characterize the development of post-Habermasian critical theory — the complexity and differentiation of social spheres and the importance of a normative standpoint — have made it-ill suited to criticize the global crisis. For the latter seem to indicate the interconnection of different social spheres and its not clear to me how the dynamic of the world market might be criticized, or even remedied, from a normative standpoint within society.

At the very least the development of these presuppositions lead to a further historical irony: revisiting and adapting the theory of reification on these bases at the very same time as the global crisis erupted and spread indicating the importance of returning to the question of critical theory and the critique of political economy.

Posted in crisis | Leave a comment

Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy as a frame.

Building upon the last post, the way that I plan to argue that revisiting the work of Adorno, Lefebvre etc. can help develop the critique of political economy as a critical social theory is by criticizing the Anglophone reception of critical theory and the critique of political economy. To do so, I can start by pointing to the divorce between the two: how contemporary critical theory has abandoned the critique of political economy and how work on the critique of political economy has yet to successfully link it back to the critical theory of society.  This will then lead to an overview of the reception by the two. I will first show how contemporary ‘critical theory’ misconstrued the relationship between the early Frankfurt School and Marx by looking at its initial reception, the formulation of the discourses of Western Marxism and the institutionalization of the ‘Frankfurt School,’ and how such a reception pointed to the sundering of the relationship between post-Habermasian critical theory and the critique of political economy. I will then show how those working on the critique of political economy distinguished themselves by likewise developing a reception that placed these thinkers in ‘Traditional Marxism’, sundering the relationship between critical theory and the critique of political economy on the basis the formers insufficient reading of Marx.  This will provide me with the justification of returning and re-reading these figures from the perspective of re-establishing this relation, criticizing the narrative of western marxism and the institutional reception of the Frankfurt School whilst arguing that despite the inadequacies the New Reading points to that much of these figures social theory is still valuable.


Posted in Adorno, critical theory, Hegelian Marxism, Lefebvre, Lukacs, Marx | Leave a comment

Reconsidering Reconstruction

I have been thinking about the following passage from Werner Bonefeld’s Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy for some time:

Helmut Reichelt is right when he argues that the time has come to reconsider the purpose of reconstruction, moving it on from an attempt at finding the veritable Marx to the development of the critical themes and insights that the new reading of Marx has established as fundamental to the critique of ‘the monstrous objective power’ of economic things.

I think its quite important and given me a new way of looking at my ‘work.’ For whilst the pioneering work of the New Reading made the insufficiencies of ‘Traditional Marxism’ abundantly clear, you might say with some exaggeration, that such a distinction and the call to reconstruct a new Marx lead the New Reading to bite of more than it could chew. Not only did it become clear that the esoteric Marx was incomplete, but the enormous projects people like Postone set out for themselves likewise remain incomplete.  Yet, as Bonefeld indicates, the critical themes and insights in such a new reading are invaluable and it seems to me that one way to develop them is to re-read and adapt the complementary aspects of traditional Marxists such as Adorno, Lefebvre etc. in order to further develop the critique of political economy as a critical social theory from the perspective of the new reading.

Posted in valueformtheory, western marxism | Leave a comment