Only the Workers and Poor People Can Lead the Arab Revolutions to Victory!
This year, we commemorate Land Day – the day of protest and anger of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression – against the backdrop of the revolutions in the Arab world.
The Arab masses have always been inspired by the Palestinian people’s struggle to liberate themselves from Zionist oppression. Living in imperialism’s shadow and under the boot of dictators themselves, they too have yearned for freedom from tyranny and poverty. We in the Internationalist Socialist League have based our strategy on the belief that where elitist guerilla forces and others failed, the masses of the region themselves could rise up and challenge the dictators that Zionism and imperialism relies on to maintain their order. We have argued that such revolutions can ultimately unite and make possible the overthrow of the Zionist oppression and the construction of a new society of freedom and justice for all peoples in these lands.
The uprisings that have swept the region in the last year have proven the masses’ revolutionary potential. But they also confirm our warning that the struggles against imperialism and for democratic freedoms cannot succeed if they remain trapped within the limits of capitalism. We believe that the fate of the Palestinian struggle will be determined by whether the exploited and oppressed masses here and beyond come to realize that they must seize power themselves to build a socialist society of abundance and freedom for all. As we will explain, we are convinced that Palestinians both inside and outside of the Green Line have a great role to play in this.
FORCES THAT ARE HOLDING BACK THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS
Capitalist profit-making in general demands that the masses in the oppressed countries be kept in desperate poverty. The ruling classes of the great imperialist powers in particular must continue their super-exploitation of the natural resources and labor of the neo-colonies. Under these conditions, democracy cannot flourish and true national liberation is impossible. This goes a long way to explain why the Arab revolutions so far have been frustrated in achieving many of their aims.
In some cases the masses have simply faced the overwhelming military power of dictatorships that have been willing to commit mass murder to keep their grip on power. But in other cases the most important factors holding back the revolutions are the bourgeois forces that have come to dominate the struggle. In some places they are volunteering to share power with the old forces of dictatorship and enforce peace with imperialism, in other places they are trying to divert the struggle into open alliances with imperialism and racist and religious sectarian fratricide. In all cases, however, all pro-capitalist forces, whether nationalist or Islamist, agree that ultimately the masses must be kept in their place, at the bottom of society, powerless and exploited.
● The Tunisian masses won a relatively quick victory in Tunisia but are now learning that their new Islamist rulers are more concerned with making their peace with the Zionists and imperialism and guaranteeing capitalist profit-making than the welfare of their people. The unions and leftists who played such an important role in the struggle against Ben Ali are now standing up to attacks by the new Ennahda government.
● In Egypt, the revolution forced the ouster of dictator Mubarak, but the military dictatorship remains. Millions hope to realize their demands by electing the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but the MB is preparing to act as a new democratic façade for the military. In return for a slice of power, it plans to protect the military and maintain peace with Israel. Meanwhile, young people still protesting for democracy and the new and powerful union movement striking to raise workers’ living standards, face increasing repression.
● In Libya, the uprising against Qaddafi’s dictatorship was diverted early on away from fighting for the liberation of all oppressed people. Islamist forces sought to prevent the revolution from threatening capitalist interests by chasing away the country’s massive immigrant workforce. Amid brutal repression by Qaddafi’s forces, the uprising was hijacked by NATO forces who bombed the country and the Gulf oil kleptocracies who sponsored fundamentalist militias which now terrorize the masses, especially black people who suffer from brutal racist oppression.
● In Syria, the Assad dictatorship claims to be a force against imperialism. In reality Bashar continues the policies of his father, who did imperialism’s dirty work in the 1970s and ’80s, invading Lebanon to crush popular uprisings and murderously repressing Palestinian and other struggles inside Syria as well. To keep his grip on power, Bashar al-Assad has balanced between rival powers, for example supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon as a bulwark against Israeli aggression, while at the same time enforcing peace on Syria’s border with the Zionist state and never really challenging Israeli control of the Golan Heights. No wonder so many figures in Israel’s ruling class fear the consequences of Assad’s potential fall from power.
In the past year, the Assad regime has responded to peaceful protests demanding democratic reform by unleashing brutal repression, and has sought to divert the struggle against it into sectarian warfare. Whenever the most important immediate question of struggle is the masses’ need to defend themselves against counterrevolutionary repression, as it is in Syria today, revolutionaries are prepared to fight alongside all forces willing to defend the masses. At the same time, revolutionary socialists must not neglect any opportunity to advance the independent organization of working-class and poor people, or to criticize the role of all forces tied to capitalism, whose treacherous role must be guarded against.
Thus, we defend the masses’ right to obtain weapons for self-defense from any possible source, while warning against the political strings bourgeois forces try to attach to such supplies. In particular, we must oppose all calls for the imperialists or their proxies to intervene against Assad; imperialist intervention could only result in exchanging one tyranny for another while encouraging further devastating interventions elsewhere. The common struggle forced upon the masses by an enemy like Assad makes criticism of pro-capitalist forces in the struggle all the more important. A range of bourgeois reformist forces have dominated the Syrian struggle from the start, from liberal reformists to Islamists. In particular, we must recognize and speak out against the apparently growing influence of reactionary Islamist forces in the resistance to Assad, some of whom seem willing to play along with the regime’s encouragement of sectarianism. In the struggle for democracy, revolutionaries must also champion the rights of all minorities and seek to mobilize a struggle for workers’ power by advocating the specific demands of interest to working-class and poor people.
Indeed, it is important to note that the reactionary Gulf oil monarchies are playing a particularly important counterrevolutionary role in the region’s struggles. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent troops into Bahrain to save that country’s minority Sunni monarchy from the democratic uprising of its Shiite majority. The most reliable collaborators with Zionism of all the region’s rulers, they have been joined by Qatar in funding Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt with the aim of stabilizing capitalist rule there, while they have backed imperialist intervention and the rise of Islamist forces in Libya and Syria.
THE ROLE OF ISRAEL AND THE REVOLUTION IN PALESTINE
The Palestinian masses face all of these problems. The Zionist state has an overwhelming military advantage and continues to prove ready to commit mass murder to defend its power. Without lessening the Zionists’s responsibility for the Palestinians’ plight, it is important to note that the bourgeois leaders of the Palestinians have also played their role.
The uprisings have made it clear for Israel that it cannot depend on its old collaborators if it is to continue to dominate the region. Its growing isolation leads it to sharpen its attacks on the Palestinians and its threats against Iran. An important aspect of this is Israel’s and the US’s demand that Iran cease its nuclear energy development project, by enforcing sanctions on the Iranian masses and threatening them with a military assault. While we oppose the reactionary capitalist regime in Iran, we also oppose the Israel and the United States’ imperialist interventions, sanctions and war threats. Only the masses in Iran should have the right to decide what sort of regime they will have.
Meanwhile, in the Occupied Territories, the corrupt Palestinian Authority has been serving as an arm of the Israeli state for years now. While it plays the game of establishing an imaginary Palestinian state next to Israel, Israel continues its land theft. Already in February of last year, the Palestinian Authority used its police force to violently block the demonstrations of protest and solidarity with the masses in the Arab countries. The Hamas government handled protestors in Gaza similarly, all the while signaling to the US and Israel that it is willing to strike a deal with them in return for recognition of its control over Gaza.
At the same time, while the leaderships of the PA and Hamas are busy oppressing the Palestinian masses, a small but significant victory was gained when Israel had to free Khader Adnan of Jenin, whom it held in administrative detention without trial. Details of Adnan’s hunger strike, which lasted close to 40 days, were widely published, and led to an announcement that at the end of the current 60 days of arrest, he will be released. We join the demand of the Palestinian masses to free all Palestinian political prisoners. The Israeli state, which has much blood on its hands, has no right to judge the Palestinians, whom it has been expropriating and oppressing for decades.
REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY FOR WORKERS AND POOR PEOPLE
The nationalist and Islamist forces in the region will not overthrow capitalism. Their ties to the bourgeoisie and imperialism give them a vested interest in preserving the system. Despite their radical rhetoric, their strategy is to pressure the imperialists to accept them and allow them to enjoy their part of the profits they receive from the exploitation and oppression of the masses.
The masses of Arab workers and poor people, however, have nothing to gain from the preservation of the current capitalist states that oppress them; as Marx said, they have nothing to lose but their chains and everything to gain in uniting across national and religious divisions. The working class’s drive toward unity, and its power in all capitalist production, allow it to confront and ultimately get rid of capitalism – and to offer an alternative to the way in which society is run, something which the Islamists are incapable of doing.
But as the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have shown, the working class cannot win without a leadership prepared to show it the way to power – a revolutionary leadership. The most important task that revolutionaries face today is to build workers’ parties, composed of the most politically advanced layers of the working class and dedicated to ending capitalist rule through socialist revolution and the creation of genuine workers’ states.
This revolution will create a federation of states ruled by the working class and poor people, including a Palestinian workers’ state from the river to the sea. The national character of this state will be Palestinian, not only because with the return of the refugees the Palestinians will form the majority in this land, but because the Palestinian masses will be at the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle of the Arab working class.
In Israel, the knowledge that the Zionist state secures territory and privileges for Israelis at the expense of Palestinians corrupts the political consciousness of many of even the poorest Israeli Jews. It would be a mistake for Marxists to think that Israel’s workers can be expected to rise up against their rulers like in any other country. But at least an important minority of Israeli Jews can be won to actively supporting the Arab masses’ revolutionary struggles.
Importantly, we note that the deepening crisis of world capitalism is weakening the Zionist state, opening divisions of exploitation and oppression that will provide opportunities to advance the cause of Palestinian liberation. By far the most important task of struggle is for a renewed campaign of mass protests by Palestinians demanding their rights. At the same time, protests against injustices faced by others in Israel can provide opportunities to win new allies to the Palestinian cause. Last year’s Tent City protest movement in Israel against housing prices showed a disgusting contempt for the plight of Palestinians. Recent protests against rising attacks on women’s rights in Israel also ignored the Palestinians’ total lack of rights. Nonetheless, by siding with the poor and oppressed Israelis against their rulers, the Palestinian struggle can strengthen its cause at the expense of the Zionist state.
We in the ISL hope to find more opportunities to participate in organizing protests against Zionist oppression. We encourage the most class-conscious individuals to get in touch with us to discuss the Marxist ideas that are essential for building a revolutionary party leadership that can take the masses’ struggles to victory.