ISL’s Position Paper for the “Haifa Conference for the Right of Return and One Democratic State” (May 2010)

What do we stand for?

We, who came to participate in the “Haifa Conference “, are here to discuss the key question of the struggle for liberation: how to realize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, including the right of the refugees who were driven out by Israel in 1947-8, in all of its stolen land of Palestine. All the while, the persecution of the Palestinian people worsens, for example the persecution of Amir Makhoul and Omar Sa’id, or the worsening of the conditions of detention of Hamas prisoners. All the while, the representatives of U.S. and Israeli imperialism, together with the representatives of the cooperationist Palestinian Authority, are discussing the question of how could they ensure the existence and security of the Zionist imperialist state occupying more than 80 percent of Palestine and denying the Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. According to the local media,Abbas has offered the Zionists even more territorial capitulations; however, the Zionist expansionist appetite remains insatiable. All the while, according to local media, Hamas, who constantly sends messages of willingness to de-facto recognize Israel within the ’67 borders, is busy oppressing the Palestinians and plans for the destruction of 150 houses of poor families in the besieged Gaza, on grounds of unauthorized construction, with complete disregard to the damaged already caused by the Zionist army.

The Arab League, which represents the rulers of the bourgeois states in the region, has also expressed its support for the idea that peace could be achieved between Israel and the Arabs on the basis of the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state alongside Israel. However, in Palestine, there is no way to realize both the right of oppressor Israel and the oppressed Palestinian people to self-determination. One must choose sides and we have chosen to side with the oppressed. A Palestinian mini-state, even if established, won’t be anything but a sorry caricature of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

There will never be any peace in the region while imperialism, which includes the State of Israel, rules the Middle East. It was imperialism that tore the region apart and it was imperialism that stood behind the establishment of Israel. The main role of Israel is to serve as the spearhead of imperialist control over the region. Israel’s main export are imperialist wars and the oppression of the Palestinians and the Arab masses in the region. The Arab bourgeoisie and Monarchs are cooperating with imperialism because they are afraid of a mass revolutionary uprising and are willing to settle for a slice of the exploitation pie rather than risk losing control over the masses, which could lead to a socialist revolution.

Even the attempts of the more radicalized petty bourgeois, the Nasserites and the Ba’athists, to liberate the region and the Palestinian people from imperialism, have failed as a result of their own fear of socialist revolution. Thus, it is safe to conclude that the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, whether secular or religious, cannot lead an anti-imperialist revolution because there is no possibility to fulfill the historical roles of the bourgeois democratic revolution, within the framework of capitalist states, in the epoch of capitalist decay. The roles of the liberation of the region, including Palestine, the return of the refugees, rest solely on the shoulders of the super-exploited working class in the Arab states, Turkey, and Iran, while the Palestinians are already standing in the front line of the struggle and will be, without a doubt, the best fighters for the socialist revolution.

The main question at hand is: what would be the revolutionary program, perspective a strategy, that would lead to the liberation of the region and the establishment of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea.

The Class Nature of the State of Israel

Israel is an imperialist state. What is imperialism? An imperialist state uses its economic and military power to control and super-exploit the raw materials and the working class of poor nations. In order to understand this phenomenon one must understand that tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, or the FRP.

The development of capitalist economy leads to the Falling Rate of Profit. It is caused by the decrease of the share the workers’ labor power in the process of production. If capitalism could maintain its free market character, the competition between capitalists would have forced inefficient firms into bankruptcy and thus stabilize the rate of profit. However, in the epoch of imperialist, the economy is controlled by monopoly capital and big-business bankruptcy threatens the very existence of the capitalist system itself. This is why the bourgeois state rushes to intervene and bail the failing companies out, thus enabling the FRP tendency to continue uninterrupted. This is what caused the collapse of the USSR and this is the cause of the 2007 crisis which deepens nowadays. The only way left for monopoly capital to counter the FRP is to super-exploit the working masses of the “Third World ” through miniscule wages.

In this sense Israel is not different from the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada. It is the only society in the region which has been a (British) colony in its past and became an imperialist state. The other bourgeois states in the region, including Egypt and Iran, are not imperialist states, but part of the third world. Israel became an imperialist state in the 1960s as a result of the economic, political and military support of the imperialist states, which saw it as a strategic asset to be used against the region’s masses.

What’s special about Israel is that it is a society of colonialist settlers, much like South Africa under the Apartheid regime, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and “French ” Algeria, and it is the last state of its kind. Its fate will be the same as those of its sisters. Zionist ideology is racist and reactionary, expressing its colonialist expropriatory nature.

The Jewish working class in Israel is not revolutionary because it is part of the colonialist settler society. Historical experience shows that neither the poverty nor the ethnicity (as the experience of the Black Panthers and the Eastern Rainbow showed) of Jewish workers can cause them to fight alongside the Palestinian masses, nor even military defeats (as we have seen following the attack on Lebanon in 2006). The only event that could push some of the Jewish workers in Israel into revolutionary positions is a revolutionary victory of the working class in other countries, and especially the neighboring states.

The only consistent revolutionary force in this region is the super-exploited working class in Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and the rest of the region’s countries. It lacks revolutionary consciousness today, but this will change with the development of the class struggle in the region. What might push some Jewish Israeli workers to revolutionary positions is the victory of the working class in other countries and especially the neighboring states.

Historical experience since 1947 shows that those who support the partition of the land and giving most of it to the Zionists support the rulers of the Zionist state. It is not by accident that the CPI, which supported the partition, also imported arms to the Zionist gangs, which they used to expel the Palestinian masses while carrying out over 30 massacres.

In the past, the leaders of the CPI raised the slogan “what’s good for the worker is good for Israel”. In fact they are saying: what’s good for Israel is good for the Zionist worker. In this way they expose the fact that they express the interests of the professional and intellectual middle class on the one hand and those of the proletarian aristocracy, including parts of the Histadrut bureaucracy, on the other.

Those who support the idea of a Palestinian mini-state alongside Israel raise the same “solution ” of Apartheid rule in South Africa, with mini-states known as Bantustans. If such a state will be created, as a result of a severe crisis for Zionism or a grave defeat for the Palestinian struggle, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will be deported there with or without the lands which they occupy – so called “border corrections” or “Populated-Area Exchange Plan”. The refugees will not return as long as Israel exists.

The Right of Self-Determination

It is impossible to support the self-determination of the Israelis in any way and at the same time support the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. The Palestinians people includes five million refugees, and along with those living as second class citizens in Israel and those living in the territories conquered in 1967, numbers over 9 million people.

The imperialists and reformists who support the existence of Israel in fact support the oppression of the Palestinian people, and deny in practice the refugees’ right of return, even if the claim otherwise, as all Israel is occupied Palestinian territory, and many Israelis will fight with arms in hand to prevent the return of the refugees which will make them a minority. We, as revolutionary Marxists, support only the self-determination of oppressed peoples. Supporting the oppressors’ right of self-determination is the role of the imperialists states and its supporters.

The working class in Israel is different from that in the rest of the world. Whether in the third world, where the working class is super-exploited, or in the imperialist states, workers rose up time and time again against the rule of the oppressive bourgeoisie. Israel has no such history of struggle. In order to understand the difference, it is enough to see how the workers in the USA came out against the Bush administration after the failures of the American occupation in Iraq were exposed, while the great majority of Israeli Jews became more patriotic, right-wing and racist after the blows dealt to the army in Lebanon and Gaza.

Two States for Two Peoples?

Those who support the position of two states for two peoples are divided into two groups: those who call, like the CPI/Hadash, for the establishment of a bourgeois state next to the imperialist Israeli state, which will continue to control 80 percent of Palestine, and those like Maavak Sotzialiti (Israeli CWI) and similar groups, which call for two separate or federated “socialist ” states.

The difference between these two positions is in essence cosmetic, since the interest of the world working class is not in a state of Israel with a social-democratic regime with a nationalized economy, which will merely be a “socialist ” Apartheid state, but in a Palestinian workers state from the Jordan to the sea. Those who call for two states for two peoples base themselves on the proposition that the consciousness of Jewish workers in occupied Palestine is racist, and in order to please them and convince them to behave like a revolutionary class they must be given the right of self-determination. This argument only shows how much they have capitulated to this reactionary consciousness.

A Secular Democratic State?

The state has a class character, since every state is a tool for the rule of the ruling class. In a workers state the ruling class is the working class. Working class democracy has a form too, and this form is that of the rule of workers’ councils: councils whose representatives are democratically elected by the working class. The elected leadership of the supreme workers’ council is also the government. It is a necessary condition for the rule of the workers’ councils that their leadership would be a revolutionary leadership of the conscious working class. Workers’ councils under reformist leadership are not a revolutionary organ. Such a government can also come about as the result of a coalition of the revolutionary workers’ party with other parties which defend the workers’ revolution. A workers’ state can come about only as the result of an armed uprising of the working class at the leadership of the masses, after the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus.

The Bolshevik revolution has been the only victorious workers revolution in history thus far. But due to the isolation of this revolution, in turn due to the failure of the revolutionary wave in the 1920s and 1930s, the Stalinist counterrevolution took over the workers state and destroyed it during the time of the great purges. In WWII, Stalinist Russia was an imperialist state, and this explains its support for the establishment of the state of Israel as a wall against working class revolutions.

A bourgeois state also has a form of rule, and in periods of low class struggle, its normative for is the parliamentary regime. Today most of the groups opposed to the slogan of two states for two peoples support, in one way or another, the establishment of one bourgeois state, under the banner of a secular democratic state.

This program has an advantage over the two-state program since it does not give up on the entire territory of Palestine (river to sea) and does not betray the Palestinian right of return. However, its weakness is in as much as it cannot offer a strategy to bring about a revolutionary change. It does not recognize the fact that the national question in Palestine cannot be resolved within the framework of the capitalist system, and it does not view the working class as the agent which can lead the masses to a victorious revolution.

Can a bourgeois state be created in Palestine? In the conditions of South Africa, the struggle of the black masses led to the overthrow of the white racist regime. But with no revolutionary workers party in existence, the ANC and the Communist Party leadership managed to block the proletarian revolution. The result is the continuing suffering of the black masses, as a privileged layer of blacks joined the dominant white bourgeoisie. The state of the black masses, oppressed and exploited today in South Africa, is no different than that of the masses in Egypt, the Egyptian state being one of the pillars of imperialist control in the region – among other things, it collaborates with the Zionist siege on Gaza.

In the conditions of the Middle East, the establishment of an independent bourgeois Palestinian state with a parliamentary regime is even less likely than in South Africa. There millions of black workers and poor were ruled by a small racist minority. On the other hand, imperialist rule in the region leans not only in Israel but on the other bourgeois states. Without a working class revolution, imperialism will continue to dominate and will oppose with all its might the creation of a bourgeois Palestinian state all over Palestine, with the local bourgeoisie, including the Palestinian, assisting it – and anyone who observes the relationship of Fatah, the USA and Israel can understand this.

A workers’ state is a secular one by definition, i.e. it has undergone a radical separation of religion and state, and it is a democracy of the masses led by the working class and not a democracy of a small bourgeois minority.

The Palestinian masses, fighting in the front line against imperialism, are not strong enough to overthrow Israel. But their struggle is not isolated – it is part of the struggle of the working class and the masses of the region. This is a force which, if made conscious of its historical mission, can overpower the rulers of Israel and the collaborationist Arab rulers, the tools of Israel and American and European imperialism.

Our real comrades in this struggle are the workers of the world, who show active solidarity with the Palestinian people. The increasing isolation of Israel in the world today is the result of the actions of a mass movement, in which the working class plays an important role, and which clearly sees Israel as an enemy.

Permanent Revolution

The damage the Stalinists brought upon the workers’ movement is terrible. It keeps them away from understanding that a socialist revolution is the only way leading towards a more progressive society. The crushing of the USSR as a workers’ state by the Stalinists was a great service to the imperialists. The importance of Trotsky and the Trotskyist movement in the time when Trotsky was alive lies in the fact that it fought to defend the principles of revolutionary Marxism against the Stalinist corruption. Trotsky’s theoretical contribution, known as the “Theory of Permanent Revolution”, is the key to this region’s liberation as well as the liberation of the Palestinian people.

Trotsky explained that in countries which did not undergo a democratic revolution, the bourgeoisie is unable to fulfill the roles of the democratic revolution – emancipation from imperialism, industrialization, agrarian revolution, women’s liberation, and formal equality. The petty bourgeois class does not have its own mode of production and it can join forces either with the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. This is the reason why the roles of the democratic revolution fall on the shoulders of the working class at the leadership of the masses. These roles will be fulfilled once the working class seizes power and establishes workers’ states (transitional societies towards socialism). The success of working class in poorer countries to fulfill the socialistic roles is rooted in the success of the working class in the more technologically advanced countries in overthrowing their own bourgeoisie. That is why we recommend, that anyone who seeks a revolutionary solution to the Palestinian national question, should study this theory closely and understand that revolutionary workers’ parties could be nothing but Trotskyist. The problem with the Fourth International established by the Trotskyists in 1938 was destroyed as a revolutionary party of the world revolution by petty-bourgeois revisionists who developed theories and positions which serve the ruling classes, and that was the cause of its disintegration. The need today is to re-create the Fourth International on the basis of revolutionary Marxist principles, i.e. authentic Trotskyism.






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