Today we march to commemorate May Day – the day symbolizing the struggles of working-class and poor people against capitalism’s exploitation and oppression – at a time of great opportunity, as well as great danger.
The global capitalist economy teeters on the brink of another Great Depression, and the chain of states that keep down the masses of workers and oppressed people has started to break at its weakest links. The popular revolutions that have shaken dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa have demanded not only democratic freedoms, but also jobs and an end to poverty. They are a challenge not only to local dictators, but to the imperialist powers who rely on them to keep defend their economic and strategic interests. For the Palestinian people, they point to the possibility for their final liberation from Zionist oppression – from the river, to the sea!
The “Arab revolutions” have already inspired struggles from Europe to the United States. As the world economic crisis deepens, and the capitalists’ attacks on the standard of living and democratic rights of workers in the imperialist countries escalate, the workers of those countries will also have no choice but to launch great struggles.
By overthrowing capitalism, the workers and oppressed peoples of the world will be able to take charge of their destiny and build a world of abundance and freedom for all.
The uprisings in the Arab world have shown that the masses have the power and the ability to fight for their liberation from imperialism and from its corrupt client regimes. But they have also proven that victory is impossible so long as the struggle is not extended to an anti-capitalist struggle. We believe that the fate of the Palestinian struggle, which is linked to the struggle of the masses in the Middle East, will be decided by the extent to which the exploited and oppressed masses here and all over the world understand that they must take power themselves in order to build a socialist society, in which freedom and economic plenty will be enjoyed by all. We are convinced that the Palestinians in both the 1948 and the 1967 territories will play an important role in this struggle.
The old and new regimes have used violent oppression against the masses. However the “Arab revolutions” also face a crisis of leadership. In Egypt and Tunisia, the Islamist leadership is trying to collaborate with the remnants of the old regimes in order to share the fruits of ruling the masses. In Libya, the Islamists joined with ex-Qaddafi henchmen to hi-jack the mass struggle, with the help of the Western imperialists and the Gulf monarchies and today the Libyan masses are trapped in a struggle between the different reactionary forces. In Syria, Assad is mercilessly slaughtering his own people, while the “official” opposition leadership, the Syrian National Council, attempts to play the same role that the pro-imperialist Libyan Transitional National Council played In every country, the pro-imperialist forces, whether nationalist or Islamist, understand that their role is to keep the masses down.
While the West condemns the terrible oppression in Syria, the openly pro-US regimes continue to oppress protesters in their countries, with the quiet support of the hypocritical imperialists. For example, during the wave of protests by the oppressed Shi’ite majority in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent its army to assist the king of Bahrain’s slaughter of protesters under the excuse that it is doing so to prevent an Iranian takeover. Indeed the Gulf monarchies are the vanguard of the regional counter-revolution. They are the closest allies of the Zionist state, and they are the main bankrollers of the Islamic parties in Egypt and Tunisia, which serve their agenda of stabilizing capitalism in those countries. At the same time, they support imperialist intervention in Libya and Syria.
The Palestinian masses face similar problems. The Zionist state has military superiority and it has proven again and again that it is willing to use acts of mass murder in order to preserve its power. Without diminishing the responsibility of Zionism for Palestinian suffering, though, we must recognize the part of Palestinian bourgeois leaders in creating this situation. In the territories that Israel has conquered since 1967, the corrupt Palestinian Authority has acted for decades as an arm of Israel. While it plays the game of creating an imaginary Palestinian state next to Israel, Israel continues to steal the lands. Already in February of last year, the Palestinian Authority used its police force in order to break solidarity demonstrations with the mass struggles in the Arab countries. Hamas behaves similarly, as it signals to the US and Israel that it is ready to reach an agreement with them in exchange for the imperialists accepting them holding a share of power in a future Palestinian mini-state.
We join the demand to free all Palestinian political prisoners. Israel has no moral authority to judge the Palestinians, which it has been oppressing and whose land and property it has been stealing for decades.
An important aspect of Israeli and US policy is the attempt to force Iran to discontinue its nuclear project, using sanctions against the Iranian masses and the threat of imperialist military intervention. While we oppose the reactionary capitalist Iranian regime, we also oppose imperialist intervention, sanctions and war threats by Israel and the US. We do not recognize the “right” of the imperialists to dictate to the masses what sort of regime they are to have and by what means they are allowed to defend themselves from imperialist attack.
Socialist revolutionaries have a crucial role to play in Israel. Israel is an Apartheid state not only in the 1967 territories, but also in respect to the Palestinians living in Israel. Aside from the oppression by them since the creation of the state, in the last few years the Zionist attacks have been increasing in their intensity, as one can see by both the racist laws passed in recent years as well as the intensification of violent attacks on Palestinians inside Israel.
But Israel is also a capitalist state which exploits the Jewish workers. We support the struggles of Jewish workers against the capitalists so long as they are not aimed at reinforcing Jewish privileges at the expense of Palestinians, because we care for the fate of Israel’s Jews. At the same time, we explain that the most important reason why we support the struggles of Israel’s Jewish workers is that they weaken the strength of the Zionist state and can in this way help the cause of Palestinian liberation and world socialist revolution.
Israel’s Jewish workers will only be able to help free themselves from poverty by breaking from Zionist racism and learning to view Palestinians as comrades. As the decline of the tent movement has shown, even a movement with great momentum which refuses to recognize this fact will be beaten once it enters into a conflict with the state. As far as we know, we are the only organization on the left in Israel which has been warning against this danger from the beginning.
We believe that the greatest obstacle to a socialist revolution in our times is the lack of a revolutionary working class political leadership. Therefore, we believe that revolutionaries are obligated to discuss, and, when needed, criticize other groups claiming to be socialist or revolutionary. We place special importance on debates with groups claiming to represent Marxism which, in practice, take pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist positions. The motive behind this is not sectarianism, but the understanding that a socialist revolution is impossible without a vanguard party leadership that is clear in its theory and program.
The largest of all such organizations in Israel is the Communist Party. In his speech at the 26th convention of the CPI, party General Secretary Mohammad Nafa emphasized the party’s support for the corrupt, repressive, pro-imperialist Palestinian Authority. The Communist Party supports the creation of a Palestinian mini-state next to the imperialist Israeli state, which will continue to control 80% of Occupied Palestine. This position denies the Palestinian people’s right for self-determination, including the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and helps the Zionist state continue to use the fake peace process to legitimize its continued colonialist oppression.
The CPI’s pro-Zionist positions force it into collaboration with Zionist parties. Recently, the party has joined an electoral front in the Histadrut consisting of Labor’s Eitan Cabel, Kadima, Meretz and former members of Likud. In many cases, revolutionaries are forced into cooperation with non-revolutionary and even reactionary organizations in order to fight for some concrete demand. But this is very different from taking responsibility for the politics of members of the Zionist ruling parties.
The CPI speaks in two voices with regards to the Syrian uprising. While it is of course necessary oppose imperialist intervention in Syria, the CPI has gone to the other extreme when it expressed support for a statement in the Athens conference to the effect that “there is a conspiracy against Syria whose goal it is to re-establish colonialist hegemony in the region by destroying the Arab national liberation movement ... the parties gathered here reject all foreign intervention or attacks on Syria, and condemn support for criminal elements and terrorist which are damaging the social infrastructure and killing hundreds of innocent people in Syria”. This is not support for the Syrian people, but for Assad’s murderous dictatorship. Attempts by pro-imperialist and reactionary forces to take advantage of opposition to Assad does not mean that we can ignore the genuine popular uprising in Syria that began in its poorest areas and has made great efforts to oppose sectarianism. At the same time, other party members criticize Assad’s oppression without criticizing pro-imperialist forces active in the opposition, like the Muslim Brotherhood which dominates the Syrian National Council.
Another organization which supports the two state position is Maavak Sozialisti. We must praise MS for preparing a leaflet for Land Day which contained concrete references to struggles against the expropriation of the Palestinian people, and which was accurately translated into Arabic. But this leaflet only discussed the Nethanyahu government’s part in the expropriation of Palestinians, and it has not been put up on their website. This is not the first time that a more radical leaflet by this organization, aimed at Palestinians, has failed to appear on the website (see our article on the tent movement). Since MS never bothered to explain these omissions, we have no choice but to conclude that the reason for this is their fear that their Zionist sympathizers might be put off by such leaflets.
The organization supports the creation of two socialist states instead of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea. In a document from its 7th convention, MS wrote that “recognizing the equal right of self-determination for Palestinians and Israelis is the necessary bridge to overcome nationalist divisions in the struggles ... the debate over “two states” versus “one state” is not relevant when discussing ... leaving control of the fate of the conflict to Israeli and Palestinian elites and the Western powers”.
Genuine Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists do not approach national questions from a bourgeois liberal perspective of “equal rights” but rather from the perspective of the oppressed people and their struggle for liberation. The leaders of MS are incapable of telling the difference between Israel, an oppressive colonialist settler state, and the oppressed Palestinian people whose lands the Zionists have stolen. The problem of a settler society is that the settler working class, even when it is exploited by capitalism, wants to preserve the privileges given to it as a direct consequence of the oppression of the native population, and thus cannot be the engine of the socialist revolution. The only way to enlist some part of the Jewish working class to the revolution is to convince it to relinquish its claim to these privileges and join the revolutionary Palestinian struggle.
We have no doubt that among the members of these organizations there are comrades who truly want to see a revolution take place. To them we say: we will stand with you in every struggle against oppression and exploitation, but the road to revolution goes through the creation of revolutionary working-class parties, not through compromises with Zionism, imperialism, or pro-capitalist political forces.