Khaled Barakat: The “Modern Marx” – by Thomas Hofland

by Thomas Hofland

The last issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, edited by Marx and banned in Germany in 1849.

May 5 is a national holiday in the Netherlands. We celebrate our liberation from the Nazi occupation from 1940-1945. On the same date in 1818, Karl Marx, one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries, was born. As I stayed inside the whole day due to COVID-19, I started scrolling through the liberating writings of Marx. The text that most resonated with me was not one of his famous economic or ideological writings. Instead, it was the last issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (May 18, 1849, No. 301), by chief editor Comrade Marx. It was the last issue because the newspaper was being banned by the German regime in Berlin.

The German authorities did not like Marx’s calls for “violent revolution” and “establishing a social republic.” Marx quotes himself: “there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror. […] the only alternatives are either a feudal absolutist counterrevolution or a social republican revolution.” With such articles, the authorities argued, Marx “abused” the “hospitality” of the German state. Marx was forced to leave his country. If he would not leave “voluntarily,” the police would kick him out.

While reading these strong and true words of Marx, which are so often left out of whitewashed popular images of Marx as a philosopher instead of an active revolutionary, I couldn’t help but think of Khaled Barakat, the Palestinian left-wing writer who was expelled from Germany last year.

On June 22, 2019, Barakat was on his way to deliver a speech on Donald Trump’s upcoming “Deal of the Century” in Berlin. While leaving the metro, he was stopped by dozens of German police officers. They told Barakat that, starting tonight, he would be forbidden from giving any speeches, participate in political meetings, or get together with more than ten people. Violating these sanctions would cost him one year in prison. Next to this, the residence permits of Barakat and his wife Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun, were not renewed, forcing them to move to Canada a few months later.

The arguments put forward by the German state to ban Barakat resonate the words used against Marx. They accused Barakat of fueling “political conflict” in Germany. His outspoken support for the establishment of a democratic state on the whole of a liberated Palestine from the river to the sea amounted to support for “terrorism” and was “antisemitic.” In 1849 the call to revolution from a Jewish German writer was not tolerated. In 2019, the call to revolution from a Palestinian writer is not tolerated.

Barakat and Kates have since moved to Canada, but the German state does not think about leaving them alone. In March 2020, Germany escalated the attack on Barakat by imposing a four-year entry ban for the entire Schengen zone on him. Why? Because Barakat is “extreme”. His opposition to the dead-and-buried two-state solution is “extreme”. His call for the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, is “extreme.” His support for the BDS movement is “extreme”.

Barakat’s expulsion also serves as an example for other freedom fighters. “Your expulsion is also considered necessary to deter other foreigners… your expulsion must also make other foreign nationals aware that the state does not tolerate anti-Semitic statements approving the use of force and boycotts against sovereign states.” These so-called “anti-Semitic statements” are the same as the previously mentioned “extreme” statements. You can judge them for yourself:

“Palestinians have been resisting occupation and colonization for over a century. They have waged revolution after revolution. Their revolution is continuous; it has never stopped, and it will remain until the liberation of the land and people of Palestine. Palestinian resistance is a right, and this right belongs to all Palestinians. This right stems from the legitimacy of our just cause: the liberation of Palestine and the return of the refugees. If our aims are met, when our goals are achieved, then there will be no need for armed resistance.

But so long as Palestine is occupied, so long as colonization confiscates our homes, so long as there is a settler-colonial, apartheid system implanted in Palestine, Palestinians will continue to resist through all forms. Palestinians will resist through popular protest, by building their popular movements, and by strengthening their military resistance to occupation.”

Clearly, Khaled Barakat is appealing his banishment from Germany. The German state has no right to deny him access because of his revolutionary views and criticism of Germany and Israel. It is after all the German state itself which steals raw materials from “Third World countries” and wages deadly imperialist wars around the world. It is the German state which sponsors Israel’s state terrorism against the Palestinian people. In 2015, Germany subsidized the delivery of four warships destined for Israel to ensure their exploitation the occupied Palestinian gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea.

Let us face it, how ironic is it that the German state expels a Palestinian from the country because of “extreme” and “anti-Semitic statements” that are really a critique of Israel’s and Germany’s colonial policies? Just like in 1849 and 1933, the German state again positions itself at the forefront of reactionary politics and suppression of freedom fighters.

Marx and Barakat share the vision of a revolutionary and liberated world. And because they do not water down their rhetoric and are actively involved in organizing their communities, they are labeled as dangerous by the German state. As Barakat noted:

“They are not just worried about one writer who writes articles and gives talks. They are concerned about the strength of the Arab community in Berlin. They want to undermine the community’s attempts to organize itself, particularly the activities of Palestinian and Arab youth, who can become a real power if they come together, mobilize and organize for justice in Palestine, but also in Germany, fighting against racism and all forms of oppression” ( ).

To conclude, while we celebrate Dutch liberation from the Nazi occupation, we have to actualize that history in the fight against Israeli occupation. It is our duty to join forces with Khaled Barakat, the Palestinian liberation movement and all progressive movements in Germany, The Netherlands and around the world.

Just like Karl Marx was (and is) an important German voice, Khaled Barakat is an important Palestinian voice. But while Marx’s body – though certainly not his ideas – has been dead and buried for quite some time, Barakat is very much alive. Let us amplify Barakat’s call for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea. Or as Marx said: “And in the East, a revolutionary army made up of fighters of all nationalities already confronts the alliance of the old Europe.”

About Khaled Barakat:

By Khaled Barakat: “Primary and secondary contradictions in the Palestinian struggle”

By Karl Marx: Neue Rheinische Zeitung, no. 301