Thoughts on the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Revolution, and the admissibility of disciplinary violence

We can easily enough attribute the fact that the PA is forced to use political violence to maintain its position of dominance and control to its failure to carry a revolutionary line; its failure to speak for the will of the people. This failure is materially exemplified by the rise of Hamas, the defections from the PLO following the Oslo agreements, and perhaps contemporary protest movements which oppose the PA’s neoliberal policies such as “Palestinians for Dignity”. 

But this does not mean that the revolution can take place without secret police, that somehow no disciplinary violence would be required if the PA carried the “right” political line. Whenever there is going to be real conflict over political lines, such as in the change of direction of the Irish Republican movement with the election of the Adams/McGuinness leadership and SF/RSF split in 1986, this conflict is decided by a combination of the popular will and force. We call justified the disciplinary violence committed by the group that carries the revolutionary line, and retrospectively this violence could even appear necessary.

The true political affect today is not the empty assertion of a human rights discourse, but to struggle in the jaws, in the tensions of a chiasm between real and ideal, between actual and pure. In the face of real tensions over what line to take, a tension perhaps only experienced by those who’s genuine future is determined by the outcome of a struggle, any simple recourse to a universalistic discourse is reactionary. In the face of the struggle, in the midst of the struggle, reference to human rights, or to Marx, is reactionary – the analysis must be born out of the need, experienced as absolute, to change and redeem the situation.

Obviously I am drawn to peoples in revolt…because I myself have the need to call the whole of society into question – Jean Genet

I am drawn to Genet because I identify with this position. But I recognize that this position is not purely one of solidarity, because it also wants something, even if that is merely to call something into question. That need – the need to call into question – is not the need of the revolutionary. The revolutionary needs his freedom, not to write a book. The revolutionary is right to ignore the discourse that does not come to his aid, to snub the one who calls his ideas “problematic”. For the revolutionary, truth is the property of the movement, and the hermeneutics is not a discussion at a conference but primarily the struggle for the line and for the cause.

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