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Simin Jawabreh: The anti-colonialist Marxist

What does being a Marxist mean to a 24-year-old political scientist of Palestinian descent living in Berlin?

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Simin Jawabreh is a political scientist who focuses on oppression, capitalism and decolonial studies. Photo: Liv Toerkell

For me, being a Marxist goes beyond just Marx. To be a Marxist entails a critical analysis of capitalism that is not limited to an individual perspective, but a communal one. Marxism is the theoretical lens through which I view the world and my work. I didn’t have that one moment reading Marx when an epiphany hit me. I don’t think that would be good either, because there are also things I’m critical of in his writing.

It was a gradual process for me. I’ve considered myself an anti-capitalist for a long time, even as a teenager. I became politicised about the exploitation of people in the global South, how people are forced to flee and how they are denied political representation and participation here. My own family history suggested that as well. I came to read Marx through other Marxists like Angela Davis or Assata Shakur.

The history of protest movements and resistance interested me and I wanted to learn from them. It was crucial to gain a fundamental understanding of capitalist socialisation – the violence of wage labour, the dependence of capitalism on colonial plunder, the exploitation inherent in every single relationship of employment in a profit-oriented system, and what the privatisation of things such as property means. In short: why this system will destroy itself. All these realisations have influenced my everyday life and what I fight for politically. Through Marx, I realised that we need to question the system on a fundamental level in order to drive sustainable and inclusive change.

In my own work, I focus on the role of racism and sexism and their function within capitalism. Tackling those topics necessarily requires both the application and a self-reflexive critique of Marxist thought, especially when theorising “borders” and border controls. Here I position myself as an abolitionist.

Colonial systems of categorisation live on in border systems and policing. Even today, institutional mechanisms, logic, and thought patterns uphold the productive system of racial capitalism that relies on colonial structures like the production of oppressed Black subjects. We can see this when looking at land theft in Latin America for example. I believe Marxism is not only still relevant, but will be vital if we are to face the crises of our time effectively and sustainably.

He says, “Communism is for us not a state, that is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will have] to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement that abolishes the present condition.” I live by that every day.

Simin Jawabreh is a 24-year-old activist and political scientist of Palestinian descent living in Berlin. A declared communist and feminist, her main topics of study are oppression, capitalism, and decolonial studies.

My Marx: We spoke with seven Berliners on what Marx means to them today. Check out the next in the series here.