The Vision of No-State
By Israel Shamir
In his discussion of a future desirable condition for Palestine/Israel, Noam Chomsky proposes to consider, besides the One State and Two State solutions, the possibility of "No-State." He writes:
"No-state settlement, generalizing multi-nationalism (in the broad sense indicated) beyond the borders of a state… based on the recognition that the nation-state system has been one of the most brutal and destructive creations of Europe … For the region, it would mean reinstating some of the more sensible elements of the Ottoman system (though, obviously, without its intolerable features), including local and regional autonomy, elimination of borders and free transit, sharply diminishing or eliminating military forces, etc. "
The No-State option should certainly be considered, but Chomsky actually proposes to 'reinstate' the Ottoman system of millets as a form of no-state. Millets were self-governing ethno-religious communities in the Turkish Empire, including Palestine. Thus, the Jewish, Armenian, Greek communities were rather autonomous, had their own courts and administration, collected taxes and instituted punishments. They formed non-territorial states within the Empire. In Europe, the Jews formed a millet until 18 c. and their leaders were quite content with it.
Not so their dissidents: Spinoza suffered a lot after being pushed out of the Jewish millet.
If Noam Chomsky's proposal were to be implemented in the US today, he would find himself under the gentle rule of Messers Bronfman and Foxman, the titular heads of American Jewry. This idea is so close to apartheid that is indeed Tribes with Flags, in the idealised American pre-1950s form. While some cultural autonomy is created naturally, by people's preference, it would be a big mistake to legalise the segregation of peoples sharing the same territory. Chomsky proposes to use this idea in the partly Hispanic states of the US. He writes:
"Applied to North America, it would entail reversing Clinton's post-NAFTA militarization of the (previously quite porous) Mexico-US border, and dealing in a humane way with the fact that the US is sitting on half of Mexico, acquired by brutal conquest."
This sounds good but it is not: the Hispanic residents and Mexican immigrants would have to share their meagre resources and manage their "autonomy" facing the much more prosperous Anglos. Parallel systems of welfare would make the inequality even greater. In Europe, such a system would entail the creation of separate Muslim millet complete with its own courts, welfare, schools; it would set back the attempt to integrate immigrants.
Does this critique mean that no-state idea should be discarded? Not at all. But instead of non-territorial millets, we may support small semi-independent territorial communes, as envisaged by Marx in his Civil War in France and by Lenin in his The State and Revolution, or indeed by Plato in his Republic. Such a solution is extremely suitable for Palestine and for the US, and for the rest of the world.
In the US, it would solve many problems; people would be able to choose whether to live in a mixed or a separated community, a liberal or conservative one, with or without abortions and gay marriages, and would not be imposing their social vision upon others.
The federative framework consisting of independent units would not be an aggressive state prone to send troops to Iraq, but it would be able to organise its mutual self-defence. It would mean undoing the lifework of a Bismarck or Garibaldi, and good riddance, too!
Full autonomy for every commune would slow down if not eliminate migration flow and would help people to regain their roots. Indeed, let the people of Boston or Atlanta decide whether they want to accept immigration from Ghana or Sweden, instead of having this question decided for them by the New York-based media and Washington lobbies.
This was the rule in Switzerland: Alexander Herzen, a Russian noble and dissident of 19th century, discovered that the Swiss federal government had no power to grant citizenship or even rights of residence to a stranger; it was a prerogative of a local commune. This wise rule can be implemented today everywhere.
For the US, such transfer of power from Washington downstream to the grassroots, to states and to small autonomous communes, is extremely desirable. The current Presidential election campaign with identical twins Bush and Kerry is a clear sign that the political process in the Republic has reached an impasse. The preferred solution would be to leave Washington to care for the US Mail, while all other functions would be transferred to the states, during the first stage, and to communes during the second stage.
Relationship to local autonomy allows us to form a meaningful criterion to understand political groups in modern society, in addition to the old left-right division. Parties and movements supportive of local power form a localist wing while parties supportive of the central government express the centralist tendency. Thus, the modern American liberal Left is in full union with the flag-worshipping right as they both prefer centralism and the federal powers against these of the states. On the other side, there is libertarian radical Left and 'paleo-conservative'
individualist and traditional Right who have much in common.
Arms to the People
The centralists have an obsession with disarming people. This obsession begins with our manicure scissors being taken away at the airport check-in, it continues with Hollywood's paranoid hatred of American militias; it comes into full bloom with the drive to disarm Iran. This disarmers' obsession was characteristic of medieval Jews who feared most a moujik with an axe, who is liable to dismiss the legal intricacies and sweep away the carefully woven web of debt and deceit with one mighty blow.
The way to a new setup of independent communes lies through empowering of people by shifting the weight down to grass roots. In the American controversy of Montana militias, Vladimir Ilich Lenin would support the right of local folks to bear arms and to form militias. Like George Washington, Lenin considered the right to bear arms as an unalienable and most important right of people. Lenin would reject Bowling for Columbine as bourgeois demand for monopoly on arms. Indeed, it is a misunderstanding that Lenin, the leading libertarian of 20th
century is considered totalitarian, while totalitarian American liberals, enemies of militias and of arms are considered proponents of freedom.
A leading American libertarian, Noel Ignatiev writes in his magazine The Race Traitor:
"Time was one might have expected opponents of official society to welcome a grassroots movement arming to defend individual liberties against federal encroachment. Contrary to such expectations, many who are pleased to locate themselves on the "left" have raised a cry of alarm at the militia movement surpassing even that from government circles. A flyer published by a group that describes itself as 'Against Hate' seeks to warn the public about the militia movement. 'Blood will be spilled in the streets of America,' it quotes one militia leader
saying. People join militias for various reasons, explains the flyer: 'They see the violence at Waco, Texas or the incident between white supremacist Randy Weaver and federal officials and believe they too will be attacked; others see the ban on assault weapons in 1994 as a sure sign that the Federal Government is out to subvert the Constitution.'
"'The Government did make mistakes at Waco and with Randy Weaver,' admits the flyer. So the incineration of eighty people and the assassination of a woman and child by federal officials are 'mistakes,' when they happen to people these opponents of 'hate' disagree with. But the militias are paranoid, we are told. 'They believe that there will be an armed confrontation with the Federal Government sooner or later. Militias say that our [our?] government and the United Nations are going to create the New World Order, where Americans will be slaves to
international bankers and if you resist, militia leaders claim, you'll be hauled away to a concentration camp.'
"If the authors of the flyer expect these views to turn us against the militias, they will be disappointed. So far we have agreed with the opinions cited above. The flyer advises us, 'The key to protecting the rights and civil liberties of all Americans does not lie in forming armed paramilitary groups who want to take the law into their own hands.' We can think of no better way. We think it was Dwight Macdonald who said that what gave him hope for the future of this country was the deeply ingrained tradition of lawlessness."
In an American context, "arms-to-the-people" was and remains a valuable slogan. Activists-for-disarmament like Daniel Lazare of the Nation weekly manifest their deep distrust of the general populace; they are 'Hobbesian' in their belief that the State acts as an arbiter and a benevolent policeman. Indeed, Lazare wants people disarmed and forced to conform to his set of ideas focusing on gay marriages and active anti-racism. In order to enforce this vision, Lazare accepts a high degree of centralism. Thus he constructs the left leg of the
centralist and aggressive America of Pentagon and Wall Street.
For left and right radicals, the State is a form of Mafia-like control in the interests of the rulers; it should be limited and eventually dismantled. Let people bear arms; let them decide their civil matters locally, let us shift power to the grassroots, whether in Palestine, in Europe or in the US. There is no chance within the two-party system to have a good president of the US: both Bush and Kerry will bomb Iran and suppress freedom. Thus the office of the
president and of the central government should be emptied of its powers; in order to achieve it the localist left and right should join forces, confront and reject centralist tendencies.