Statement by the League for the Revolutionary Party
August 25, 2006
Israel’s barbaric invasion of Lebanon – armed, funded and fully supported by the United States – has turned into a major setback for imperialism. Along with its underreported assault on Gaza, Israel’s relentless war on Lebanese civilians, buildings and infrastructure horrified people across the world. It further exposed the truly savage nature of the imperialist ruling classes, who do not hesitate to commit mass murder in their pursuit of power and profits.
Hezbollah’s success at resisting the Israeli invasion stunned the imperialists. In its last full-scale invasion of Lebanon, Israel had reached Beirut in a handful of days. This time, after over a month of fighting, it failed to control even the country’s southernmost section. Meanwhile, mass protests against the invasion took place throughout the Arab world, posing a growing challenge to the region’s pro-U.S. rulers, particularly in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in solidarity with Hezbollah. And the longer the war lasted, the more it threatened to trigger a mass uprising against the U.S. occupation.
With Israel’s losses mounting, Lebanon looked increasingly like it was becoming another quagmire for the imperialists. So Israel and the U.S. were forced to accept a cease-fire agreement to save themselves from an even worse defeat. But the U.N. deal is itself an imperialist attack that promises to try to achieve what the Israeli invasion didn’t: occupy southern Lebanon and disarm Hezbollah. Under cover of the agreement, Israel has continued to launch assaults against Hezbollah forces, and the imperialists will try to use the shaky cease-fire to regroup their forces in preparation for another offensive.
Hezbollah certainly suffered losses on the battlefield, but they have emerged from the war intact and with broader support than ever. The Lebanese masses suffered horribly from Israel’s invasion, and continue to be the victims of Israel’s blockade of the country. But the imperialists’ defeat has given them, and the Arab and Muslim masses in general, a huge boost in confidence. While Israel’s invasion aimed to terrorize the workers and poor of the region into a cowering submission, its defeat will only encourage greater struggles in the future.
The workers and oppressed of the world have a common interest with the Lebanese and Palestinian people, as well as the Arab and Muslim masses worldwide, in seeing imperialism defeated. To forge a united struggle of the international working class against capitalism, workers in the imperialist countries must take the side of oppressed peoples in every clash with imperialism. Indeed every blow against the imperialists abroad benefits workers in the imperialist countries too, weakening their ruling classes and making them more vulnerable to mass struggles at home. So from the outset of the Israeli invasion, we working-class communists of the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) stated clearly that in spite of our political opposition to Hezbollah, we stood on their side against the invasion and wished to see it defeated.
However, the potential for even greater struggles against imperialist war-mongering abroad, and exploitation and oppression at home, is held back by the working class’s crisis of leadership. In the Middle East, the masses struggle under Islamic and nationalist leaderships who offer no alternative to the system. In the imperialist countries, the working class is burdened by pro-capitalist politicians and bureaucrats who served to restrain and betray their struggles. The most classconscious workers must come together to build a revolutionary party armed with a Marxist program that can explain the sources of imperialism’s horrors and chart the way forward in struggle to a world of freedom and plenty. By further analyzing the recent war, we hope to further this cause.
Israel’s excuse for its offensive was the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas guerrillas in Gaza and two soldiers by Hezbollah in July. This was a ridiculous lie. Israeli forces had, only the previous day, crossed the border into Gaza and abducted two Palestinian brothers, Osama and Mustafa Muamar, who are still being held without any charges against them. Moreover, as U.N. observers have witnessed, Israel has led in cross-border forays, having launched attacks into Lebanon on an almost daily basis since they withdrew their occupying forces in May 2000. (No wonder the Israelis blew up a U.N. observation post during their invasion, killing four international observers!) And Israel’s jails imprison thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese; Hezbollah was expecting another exchange of prisoners, which had become routine on the border.
Rather, Israel’s invasion was planned well in advance and had deeper reasons:
This summer’s wars are only the latest crimes by Israel and its fellow imperialists. Israel has repressed the Palestinian population, imprisoning and killing those who resist, since its foundation in 1948. This has been the consequence of the establishment of an exclusively Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world. Today Israeli historians admit to the huge ethnic cleansing required by the formation of their state. The colonial-settler state founded on the blatant theft of territory could only survive as a heavily subsidized outpost of imperialism. For the over 1 million Palestinian Arabs living within Israel’s 1948 borders, and for the 5 million refugees descended from those expelled, there can be no justice as long as Israel exists as a racially based state. All Israel is occupied territory. As the Lebanon war proves once again, Israel’s oppression cannot stop at the borders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And neither can the struggle against it. “Peace” is absolutely impossible as long as the Zionist state exists.
The Middle East is the site of the world’s largest oil supplies, which power the international economy. That wealth is exploited by a handful of imperialist oil companies and the local ruling classes that serve them. Meanwhile the region’s peoples live in desperate poverty, divided and oppressed in a chain of dictatorial prison states – most of them also supported and armed by the United States. Israel, armed to the teeth, serves as the region’s prison warden, dealing bloody punishment to the restive masses and even to regional Arab capitalists who threaten to rock the boat.
Their overlapping imperialist interests mean that Israel’s wanton attacks have been fully supported by the United States, which for decades has armed it with the latest and deadliest military technology. This general policy, as well as Israel’s latest assaults, have been endorsed by all leading Democratic as well as Republican politicians, even those who style themselves “anti-war” with regard to Iraq. As in Iraq, Bush, Clinton & Co. shed crocodile tears over civilian “collateral damage” while hailing Israel’s assaults and postponing any diplomatic “solution” until Israel could fulfill its bloody military goals. Contrary to their denunciations of Hamas and Hezbollah, the world’s greatest terrorists are in reality the U.S. and Israel.
Since the U.S. and Israel have no way to win over the people of the Middle East, their only hope is to teach a bloody lesson to the Arab masses in general and the resistance fighters in particular. This is especially necessary given the U.S.’s mounting debacle in Iraq, which has plunged into a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war. “Regime change” in Iraq was meant to be the key to U.S. domination. Now the U.S. is making threats against Iran, with the same aim. Because of both their domestic and international failures, the Republicans fear losing their control of Congress this year and the presidency in 2008. That is another major reason for the demonstrative support for the Israeli invasion from Bush and Condoleeza Rice. They hope it will energize the Republicans’ right-wing “Bible Belt” supporters, many of whom themselves have been disillusioned by Bush’s other numerous failures.
Israel’s assault and its retreat united the masses of the Arab countries behind Hezbollah. They see their compliant governments ever more in league with the imperialists. Several Arab governments, notably the Saudis, Jordan and Egypt, initially criticized Hezbollah but then had to back off lest they further alienate their own people. They hoped that a divide-and-conquer strategy of raising Sunni prejudices against the Shi’ite Hezbollah would be enough to keep the masses down. But mass solidarity with the beleaguered Lebanese and Palestinians remains high among Sunnis as well as Shi’ites. Even the Iraqi prime minister installed by the U.S. was forced to condemn Israel.
The escalation of U.S. threats against Iran remains. Israel’s assault on Hezbollah served as an indirect warning to Iran. But an actual military attack on Iran at the moment would threaten to ignite mass struggles throughout the region that imperialism could not control. It would also threaten action by Iran’s allies, Russia and China, who have been backhandedly defending Iran’s right to nuclear development. The imperialist powers sit atop a system wracked by unresolvable and explosive contradictions. As the last century’s two world wars and many smaller ones testify, they are often forced to act in ways that risk even worse consequences. In this context, Israel’s onslaught against Lebanon was a very real threat against Iran, but its retreat has taught at least some imperialist spokesmen that they have to tread far more carefully.
Hezbollah, despite its success, cannot lead the masses to a decisive end to imperialist rule. For all its populist declarations and anti-imperialist actions, Hezbollah is a capitalist party, and like all such parties it inevitably seeks to make its peace with imperialism while enlarging its own slice of power. It unambiguously opposes a strategy that could overthrow imperialism: the arming of the working class masses themselves under the leadership of their class conscious vanguard.
Hezbollah participates in the cabinet of an explicitly pro-American government established after last year’s U.S.-backed “Cedar Revolution.” It combines elements of reactionary Islamist ideology with social-democratic-style public services for its impoverished supporters. Like the Iranian regime that helps to fund and arm it, it plays a dual game with imperialism of resistance and accommodation. Thus Hezbollah did not call on the angry Iraqi masses, or those in the other Arab countries, to rise up and oust their pro-imperialist rulers. This fits in with its continuing policy: like the Iranian Islamist regime, it has not challenged the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the coming to power of the Shi’ite parties under the occupiers’ rule (although it opposed the invasion). It will never be a consistent opponent of imperialism.
In the war, Hezbollah’s barrage of rockets against Israel inspired millions who had witnessed Israel’s past bloodletting go unanswered. But by victimizing civilians (including Israeli Arabs) it helped Israel justify its far deadlier slaughter of Lebanese civilians. We do not equate the violence of the oppressed with that of their oppressors – Hezbollah’s rocket attacks were a defensive effort to force Israel to halt its blitzkrieg. Nevertheless, like the suicide bombings of Israeli civilians supported by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups, they play into the imperialists’ hands. At the end, Hezbollah accepted not just a welcome cease-fire but also the one-sided U.N. peace deal.
Imperialism divides the world so that a handful of powerful states benefit from the super-exploitation of the neo-colonial world (with the assistance of local ruling classes). The super-profits they accrue strengthen capitalist rule at home, affording a more peaceful, “civilized” exploitation of the working class there. As extreme as the imperialists’ means of rule abroad may be, however, they exercise fundamentally the same methods at home. While anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice is whipped up to help justify imperialism’s brutal domination of the Middle East, racism is used at home in the U.S. to super-exploit Blacks, Latinos and immigrants – in order to prevent united struggles by the entire working class. When workers rise up in struggle, the capitalists do not hesitate to turn to their police, courts and other thugs to defend themselves.
The workers and oppressed of the world thus have a common interest in struggling against imperialism. Indeed, it is in the material interests of increasingly beleaguered American workers to rally to the side of their brothers and sisters in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Every blow against imperialism is a victory for the oppressed and exploited everywhere B workers and oppressed people everywhere should side with the Palestinians and Lebanese in every clash with imperialism. The Iraqi resistance, for example, despite the reactionary and oppressive character of most of its religious and secular leadership, is tying down over a hundred thousand imperialist troops and thereby preventing them being used against targets of imperialist anger elsewhere, such as Cuba or Venezuela. In the U.S., the defeats imperialism has suffered abroad have helped erode the wave of patriotic jingoism that swept the country after September 11. A rising level of working-class struggle, from the New York City transit strike to the massive marches for immigrant rights, has begun to erupt.
The only alternative to imperialism’s brutal rule is working-class struggle culminating in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. The world economy now has the productive power to produce an abundance of all humanity needs to live in peace and prosperity. But capitalist ownership limits that potential production to private profit, fueling a war of all against all over scarce resources. With power in the working class’s hands, redirecting economic production to people’s needs, a new society of freedom and equality can be built: a classless communist society.
In the Middle East, revolutionary communists aim for the overthrow of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian workers’ state that includes the whole territory now called Israel and in which all people would have the right to live free of religious or ethnic discrimination. Such a workers’ state would be part of a revolutionary federation of Middle Eastern workers’ states, a federation which would defend the democratic rights of Arabs, Jews, Kurds, Persians, Turks and other peoples in the region.
Working-class struggle most often arises out of workers’ economic clashes with the capitalists and their government. But revolutionary communists cannot stand aside from any struggle that confronts workers and the oppressed, including military struggles against imperialism. Indeed working-class leadership is essential for those struggles, as pro-capitalist leaders of the oppressed inevitably betray the masses to imperialism. That is why we always work to expose pro-capitalist leaders’ pretensions to oppose imperialism and promote independent working-class organization and struggle and develop specific tactics to advance these aims.
In the present struggle against imperialist oppression in the Middle East, two particular tactics are vital to advance the struggle. First, throughout the Arab and Muslim world, pro-capitalist clerical and nationalist leaders seek to cover their collaboration with imperialism with rhetorical solidarity with its victims. The rulers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all mouth sympathetic words for the Palestinians and Lebanese and condemn Israel, while doing nothing to help them. In Iraq, Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr rallies hundreds of thousands in solidarity with Hezbollah. With such power, the Shi’ite masses could easily cut off the U.S. occupation forces’ supplies lines from the South, but al-Sadr refuses to call for such action. Even Iran and Syria, while railing against Israel, limit their supply of arms to Hezbollah to that which will help keep Israel and the U.S. at bay. They provided Hezbollah with modern anti-tank weapons but refuse to supply the Palestinians with the same. They provide Hezbollah only with half-century old unguided rockets, not guided missiles that can hit military targets. Contrary to their protestations, they do not want to see Israel overthrown. To expose these leaders’ antiimperialist pretensions, revolutionaries should seek to mobilize the masses to demand acts of real solidarity. Arms to the Palestinian and Lebanese Resistance! Drive the U.S. Out of Iraq!
Also, to build the working class’s sense of its own power and encourage it to take the lead in the antiimperialist struggle, revolutionaries would promote the idea of oil and transportation workers’ fight to cut off oil supplies to the U.S., Israel and all the imperialists. Such struggles would quickly gain in popularity in countries whose rulers have anti-imperialist pretensions, like Iran and Venezuela. They could expose those leaders and thus advance further working-class struggle.
In America, the belly of the imperialist beast, the working class shows signs of reviving its mass struggles. In struggle it will come to see that it cannot just fight back against the capitalists’ anti-working class and racist attacks at home. It will have to rally to the side of the oppressed around the world. The key task for the most class-conscious workers and youth is to come together to build a revolutionary socialist party capable of leading our class in all its struggles aimed at overthrowing the rulers of the bloodiest empire in history.