The Palestinian Liberation Struggle and the CWI’s Centrist Adaptation to Zionism
By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 12.11.2015, http://www.the-isleague.com/
Prior to Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu visit to the US, many reporters around the world had expectations that the visit will be a failure as the US is distancing itself from Israel and, as a result, US military support for Israel will be reduced. Today the right wing in Israel is celebrating this visit as a great victory for Netanyahu’s policies.
Following the meeting on Monday, November 9, Obama made it clear that US military aid would be renewed and even increased.
“It will be expiring in a couple of years. but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the US and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward,” said the US president. It’s no secret the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas and, as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities and that has expressed itself not only in words but in deeds.” (1)
Obama not only did not condemn Israel for making the life of the Palestinians so miserable that Palestinian youth are ready to die by attacking soldiers, policemen, settlers and even Israeli non-armed civilians with knives, face the armed forces of Israel, the armed settlers, and the Israeli lynching mobs, but he actually praised Netanyahu and his government, the most right wing regime in the history of Israel.
Obama said: “I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens and I want to repeat once again that it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but an obligation to protect itself.” (2)
No Support for the Two-State Solution
Even though it is appropriate politically to distinguish between the armed forces and the settlers on the one hand and the common, non-settler Israelis on the other, most Israelis are far from innocent and support the repression of the Palestinians. It would be a mistake to believe that most Israelis are for the creation of a miniscule Palestinian state, regardless of how much Maavak Socialisti (the section of the CWI in Israel) goes on and on promoting the idea of two socialist states. According to a poll published on October 20, 75% of the Israelis even oppose the creation of such mini-Palestinian state.
“Some 75 percent of Israeli Jews oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, according to a new survey published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The poll was conducted from October 12-14 and asked 505 Israeli Jews about the peace process and Israeli concessions in the West Bank. Among the respondents, 304 identified as right-wing, 125 as centrist and 68 as left-wing. According to the survey, 74.3 percent of Israeli Jews oppose the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.That number increases to 74.9 percent if the creation of a Palestinian state would require Israel’s withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, and inches up to 76.2 percent against such a state if it meant Jerusalem would be divided.” (3)
Thus the formula of two states that Obama claims he supports is no more than a cover for the Israeli policies that enable Israel to steal more lands and further repress the Palestinians.
The Palestinians understand this reality as the following poll shows:
“More than half of Palestinians no longer support a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, a survey released on Monday showed, rejecting the goal that has underpinned four decades of international diplomacy. The poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a leading research group in the Palestinian territories, found that 51 percent of Palestinians oppose the two-state solution while 48 percent support it. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (65 percent) said they did not believe the two-state solution was any longer practical because of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians (65 percent) want Abbas to resign and 42% support armed opposition to Israel.” (4)
Thus it is possible that the rebelling Palestinian youths who have been killed over the last several weeks have not sacrificed their lives in vain, but rather were the birds that announce the coming spring.
We of the Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) have consistently opposed the phony propaganda of a “two state solution” as totally unrealistic, whether in the form of two capitalist states (Hadash) or two “socialist states” (Maavak Socialisti). Rather, we support the only realistic option: a single multinational workers’ state as part of the socialist federation of the Middle East.
Right of National Self-Determination for Israelis?
The reformists and the centrists who adapt their positions on Palestine to the interests of their respective ruling classes have always supported, in one form or another, the self-determination of the Israelis. Some of them claim that support for the self-determination of all nations is a Marxist principle. Others claim that without convincing the Israeli working class to fight for socialism, a socialist revolution is impossible, and so to convince the Israeli workers to go this route it is necessary for the Arab working class to grant the Israelis the right of self-determination.
As a matter of fact neither Marx nor Lenin supported the right of self-determination for all nations. Before the outbreak of the American civil war, the southern states justified slavery as part of their right of self-determination. Marx opposed them and supported the North. Marx similarly opposed the self-determination of the southern Slavs because at that time they were an instrument of Russian imperialism, as Lenin explained:
“Marx is known to have favoured Polish independence in the interests of European democracy in its struggle against the power and influence — or, it might he said, against the omnipotence and predominating reactionary influence — of tsarism. That this attitude was correct was most clearly and practically demonstrated in 1849, when the Russian serf army crushed the national liberation and revolutionary-democratic rebellion in Hungary. From that time until Marx’s death, and even later, until 1890, when there was a danger that tsarism, allied with France, would wage a reactionary war against a non-imperialist and nationally independent Germany, Engels stood first and foremost for a struggle against tsarism. It was for this reason, and exclusively for this reason, that Marx and Engels were opposed to the national movement of the Czechs and South Slavs. A simple reference to what Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 and 1849) will prove to anyone who is interested in Marxism in real earnest and not merely for the purpose of brushing Marxism aside, that Marx and Engels at that time drew a clear and definite distinction between “whole reactionary nations” serving as “Russian outposts” in Europe, and “revolutionary nations” namely, the Germans, Poles and Magyars. This is a fact. And it was indicated at the time with incontrovertible truth: in 1848 revolutionary nations fought for liberty, whose principal enemy was tsarism, whereas the Czechs, etc., were in fact reactionary nations, and outposts of tsarism.” (5)
Lenin only supported the right of self-determination for oppressed nations, as he wrote:
“The several demands of democracy, including self-determination, are not an absolute, but only a small part of the general-democratic (now: general-socialist) worldmovement. In individual concrete casts, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected. It is possible that the republican movement in one country may be merely an instrument of the clerical or financial-monarchist intrigues of other countries; if so, we must not support this particular, concrete movement, but it would be ridiculous to delete the demand for a republic from the programme of international Social-Democracy on these grounds.“ (6)
Thus the true question is not whether the Israeli workers demand self-determination but rather whether Israel as a whole is a bastion of reaction and part of the imperialist domination of the Middle East.
Centrist CWI adapts to Zionism
The fact that 75% of the Israeli Jews oppose even a Palestinian mini-state cannot be attributed to the Palestinians’ not having been prepared to grant the Israelis the right to their own state on most of Palestine. Until very recently, the majority of the Palestinians supported the idea of a political solution in the form of a mini-state alongside Israel. The Israelis have rejected this option because of the nature of Israel as a society of colonialist settlers, in the same way that most whites in South Africa under the Apartheid regime opposed equal rights for blacks. The Israelis support the Likud not because Netanyahu is a great manipulator, but because they support the racist policies of the Likud. No argument will change their mind. Without breaking with the Zionist ideology they will continue to support the Likud and even more right wing policies. Thus, breaking with Zionism is the absolute precondition for a struggle for a socialist society, and not the granting the right of self-determination as claims Maavak Socialisti – the Israeli section of the CWI which adapts itself to the Israeli ruling class.
As the leadership of the CWI is well aware, history has not given the whites of South Africa the right of self-determination and only white racists have claimed this right.
But, the CWI objects, in South Africa the ratio of blacks to white was very different than the ratio of Palestinians to Israeli Jews. Peter Taaffe, central leader of the CWI, argues:
“There were seven times more Africans and others than the white population in South Africa. This is not the situation in Israel/Palestine at this stage. If threatened with destruction, the Israeli population will fight.” (7)
Yes indeed the ratio of Israelis to Palestinians is very different from what was the case in South Africa. However, the number of the Israelis is a little more than 6 million while the Arabs number more than 400 million and most of them are workers and poor peasants. Thus the ratio is about 70 to 1 but in favor of the Arabs. Is it their opinion that the Arabs outside of Palestine, including their poor peasants, cannot participate in the liberation of Palestine?
Seeing the national question within the limits of the borders of an isolated state is reflection of nationalism and opportunism. This is a path that leads to the ideology of socialism in one country.
It is inevitable that the Arab masses will participate in the struggle against imperialist Israel as the deeply rooted solidarity with Palestine amongst the Arab people shows. At the same time, the Arab regimes which serve the imperialists. The situation in the Middle East will not remain as it now is forever. The only question is under what banner and which leadership the struggle will take place. The position of the CWI and its section in Israel, whose program is a form of soft–Zionism, helps only the Israeli ruing class. (8)
In the eyes of those who cave in to the imperialists, the latest Palestinian uprising is not a popular struggle. In their eyes it is shocking that young Palestinians use knives to attack Israelis in a blind fury, even when out of despair. Yet anyone who has studied the history of the Jews knows that the great rebellion of the Jews against Rome that began in 66 CE and ended in 70 CE was, at the same time, a class struggle. Some of the Jewish rebels, the Sicarii, raided Jewish habitations and knifed to death Jews they considered collaborators with Rome. As Josephus Flavius wrote:
“The term [Sicarii] applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, to the Jewish Zealots who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from the country, even resorting to murder to attain their objective. Under their cloaks they concealed “sicæ,” or small daggers, whence they received their name; and at popular assemblies, especially during the pilgrimage to the Temple mount, they stabbed their enemies or, in other words, those who were friendly to the Romans, lamenting ostentatiously after the deed, and thus escaping detection. (Josephus, “Ant.” xx. 8, § 10; idem, “B. J.” ii. 13, § 3)” (9)
The class struggle is not always pretty nor adheres to some nice dogma that exists in the mind of the middle class radicals. But for Marxists it is always necessary to reveal the essence which is the class struggle in all events. Yes, this struggle of the Palestinian youth cannot be won by them and it is not justified in cases where the target is not a settler or soldier or police. Nevertheless it is part of the struggle against oppression and those who cannot see this are worthless to the cause of the working class cause.
Shifting Winds among the Palestinians
A few days ago 32% of the Palestinians thought that only armed struggle will lead to their liberation from the Israeli oppression. (10) The reports about Obama’s full support for Netanyahu is likely to increase this percentage.
These days growing numbers of Palestinians, including some inside the PLO, speak about the need to return to the 1968 charter. This charter in Article 10 stated that the fedayeen [“those who sacrifice themselves”] were the nucleus of the armed struggle. In resolutions adopted during the same period, the Palestine National Council suggested that Israel be replaced by a democratic, secular state.
A democratic secular state for the Palestinians and all Jews that accept it is definitely a better place than the existing apartheid state from the river to the sea. The question is how to achieve it, and what will be its class character?
As a strategy, guerilla warfare failed the Palestinians and that failure eventually led to the capitulation of the PLO in the Oslo agreement in 1994. History has shown that guerilla tactics can be useful when subordinated to the overall strategy of a mass uprising led by the working class.
The mass struggle during the Intifada that began in December of 1987 was the only time Palestinians achieved a real gain. They were recognized as a nation with a right to self-determination. A future Intifada led by the working class with a revolutionary leadership that will tie the Palestinian democratic and revolutionary struggle with the struggle against imperialism and for demands like the expropriation without compensation of the large capitalists, and the placement of their property and wealth under workers’ control, will be able win this struggle.
While by itself a Palestinian armed struggle cannot defeat Israel, it will intensify the Palestinian struggle and prevent the PLO from continuing to serve as policeman for the Israeli state against its own people. In South Africa, the liberation movement adopted armed struggle after decades of protest and non-violent actions failed to achieve any results, and after the apartheid government used violent repression. The 1960 Sharpeville massacre and the illegalization of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress led to the formation of the armed Umkonhto we Sizwe (MK) and Poqo.
At the beginning Umkonhto we Sizwe (MK) and Poqo sabotaged state-controlled facilities without injuring any people. Later members of the ANC and PNC went into exile, and joined ANC military camps in neighbor countries. The armed struggle could not hope to defeat the apartheid government forces militarily. But, it was regarded as one element of the mass struggle, together with mass mobilization and resistance inside South Africa and international economic and political pressure to end apartheid.
Clearly, if it were not for the betrayal of the Communist Party of South Africa, and had there been a revolutionary working class leadership, today South Africa would be a workers’ state.
A single Democratic State from the River to the Sea
A single democratic state (a Republic) from the river to the sea is a very correct political demand as long as it is clear that it will include all Jews who accept such a state. It can be used as a demand for an anti-imperialist united front. However, if the Palestinian small capitalist class or the petit bourgeoisie will lead this struggle and not the working class supported by the poor peasants, sooner or later it will be betrayed as happened in South Africa. The struggle to achieve a democratic state must lead without any intermediate historical stages to a workers’ republic with a working class democracy.
Of course, with the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Palestinians will be the majority; but this does not mean that the Jewish workers and poor will be oppressed, the state will be a multinational workers’ state with equal rights for all who accept it. This means that Jews will have the right to maintain their culture and languages (including observing holidays, obtaining kosher food, founding their own schools, and establishing media in their languages, etc.) Jews, however, will not have the right to establish their own separate state that once again will attempt to repress the Palestinians.
The CWI claims that Trotsky modified his position on the right of self-determination of the Jews on the Eve of WWII. In the article quoted above Peter Taaffe wrote:
In Marxism in Today’s World we wrote: “The most important law of the dialectic is that truth is concrete. On the historical issues, it is indisputable that Trotskyism, starting from Trotsky himself, opposed a Jewish state being formed on the territory of Palestine. That was his general position in the inter-war period. However, he modified his stance after the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews became evident. A new situation had emerged. Trotsky was always flexible when taking account of new important factors. There was a feeling on the part of the Jewish population to get out of Germany and Europe and with this went increased support for the dream of a new homeland. Under socialism, reasoned Trotsky, if the Jews wanted a state in, say, a part of Africa, with the agreement of the African people, or in Latin America, it could be considered, but not in Palestine, where it would become a death trap for the Jews. It is amazing how this prediction has been borne out… The Trotskyist movement opposed the establishment of a separate Jewish state in Israel because it was a wedge against the Arab revolution. Israel was set up as a result of the colonization of Arab lands, by driving out the Palestinians and by using a mixture of radical and even ‘socialistic’, nationalist rhetoric directed towards a Jewish population who had escaped the nightmare of the Holocaust and the second world war.”
But if Trotsky was right and opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and Israel is a death trap for the Jews why then support a Jewish “socialist” state in Palestine?! Second, Trotsky supported the idea of a Jewish state in Africa or Latin America conditional on the consent of the native populations. What has this to do with the plundering of the Palestinians by the Zionists? Third, today the Jews do not face Nazis’ persecution and the Zionists have become a full partner in Islamophobia. Today about half of the global Jewish population live in the USA where they are protected, while most of the other half live in Israel, the most dangerous place for a Jew.
Because of the nature of Israel as a colonialist settler society, the Israeli working class doesn’t even have a reformist labor party and most Jewish workers support the Likud. Its struggles for social gains can not lead to a revolution. However, the Palestinians are struggling heroically against the Zionist oppression and their struggle can lead to a revolution. Why, after a socialist revolution, would the revolutionary working class seriously want to divide the country once again?!
(1) Dan Roberts: Obama and Netanyahu strike hawkish tone on US military aid to Israel, The Guardian, 9 November 2015,http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/09/obama-netanyahu-us-visit-military-aid-israel
(3) Haaretz: Poll: 75% of Israeli Jews Oppose Palestinian State on ’67 Lines, Oct 20, 2014, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.621568
(4) Ali Sawafta: Most Palestinians no longer support two-state solution, Reuters, 21 September 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/21/us-palestinians-israel-survey-idUSKCN0RL1DF20150921
(5) V. I Lenin: The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up (1916), in: Lenin Collected Works (LCW) Vol. 22, p. 340,https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jul/x01.htm
(6) V. I Lenin: The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up (1916), in: Lenin Collected Works (LCW) Vol. 22, p. 341,https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jul/x01.htm
(7) Peter Taaffe: Socialism and national rights. Ukraine, Israel/Palestine and other countries, in: Socialism Today No.181, September 2014, pp. 13-17,http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6875
(8) For a critique of the CWI’s position during the present Palestinian uprising see e.g. Yossi Schwarz: The recent Escalation of Israeli Repression and the Pathetic Reaction of the Israeli “Left”, 22.10.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/intifada-and-left/.
For an extensive discussion of the CWI’s position on the Palestinian liberation struggle see Michael Pröbsting: The CWI’s “Socialist” Zionism and the Palestinian Liberation Struggle. A Reply from the RCIT, 15.9.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/cwi-and-israel/
The ISL’s program for Palestine can be read here: http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/summary-of-isl-program/
(9) Richard Gottheil, Samuel Krauss: Jewish Encyclopedia, SICARII (Greek, σικάριοι = “assassins,” “daggermen”), http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13630-sicarii
(10) Jewish Times of Israel: Growing number of Palestinians back ‘armed struggle’ against Israel, November 9, 2015 http://www.timesofisrael.com/growing-number-of-palestinians-back-armed-struggle-against-israel/