Fw: Abu Nasr on the PFLP (was South Lebanon)

Jay Moore research at SPAMneravt.com
Wed May 31 05:05:37 MDT 2000

Dear Jay!

Thanks for these forwards.  I've just signed onto the Marxism list so if all
the technology works smoothly I should be able to respond directly to such
issues as they arise.  Perhaps you could forward this to the Marxism list,.
however, in case I'm not quite up on it yet.

Sean's response to Sevag was good in its establishing the Marxist
of the PFLP -- something one would think would not need establishing after
years, but anyway....  Sevag seems to have objected to the pan-Arab
orientation of the PFLP and regarded this as un-Marxist or something.  This
strange, but I will deal with this a bit later.  First, there were a couple
little factual details that could be commented on.

Probably Sean didn't intend his comment that the Palestine Communist Party
always the rump of the CP of Israel to be taken entirely literally.  Let me
just review the history of that party (parties).  The Communist Party of
Palestine was founded back in the early 1920s by Zionist Jews.  The
insisted upon its admission to that world organisation that they Arabise
party.  When they didn't do so fast enough, the Comintern, in the early
took the unprecedented step of directly appointing three Arabs and two Jews
constitute a new leadership for the CPP.  Although the Arabs and Jews had
considerable differences, the Party did function and participated in the
1936-39 revolt, albeit on the periphery.  Later it split again along Jewish
vs. Arab lines.  After the partition of Palestine in 1948, Palestinian
Communists who found themselves in Jordan became part of the Jordanian CP.
Later, in the 1970s I think, the Palestinians in the CP of Jordan set
themselves up as the Communist Party of Palestine with a basically

Sean is right that this CPP dissolved itself and constituted the
social-democratic Palestine People's Party in 1991.  It supported the Oslo
"peace process".  But one group of CPP members rejected this approach and
rejected the Oslo peace process and formed the Revolutionary Communist Party
under Arabi Awwad.  Their headquarters is in Damascus and they joined the
PFLP, DFLP, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the PFLP-GC and others in forming the
Alliance of Palestinian Forces in 1993 after Oslo.  The RCP is not a large
organisation, but it should be mentioned in the context of the history of
CP of Palestine.  Thus the CP of Palestine has not quite "always" been a
of the CP of Israel, although its relations with opportunism and social
democracy -- revisionism, if you will -- have been complex to say the least.

Like Sean, I find it strange that Sevag should hold the PFLP to be outside
bounds of Marxism.  From reading Sevag's letter it seemed to me that he was
attacking the PFLP for its pan-Arab position, holding that for some reason
be non-Marxist.  Similarly, many years ago western Marxists criticised the
PFLP for being "too nationalist" -- i.e., committed to a Pan-Arab

At its inception, the PFLP did criticise the traditional Arab CPs that had
a long time confined their attention to within the borders carved out for
by colonialism, ignoring or largely ignoring the rising pan-Arab national
awareness of the 1950s and 1960s.  These parties suffered for this as well
were effectivley marginalised by the mid-1960s.

In those years the Arab nationalist parties tried to assert that the CPs had
always been "treasonous".  Marxist writers, like the distinguished Ilyas
Murqus, whose contribution was great but who has never to my knowledge been
translated, also critiqued this "isolationist" tendency that was marked over
the years among the traditional CPs of the Arab countries, with each working
almost entirely within the bounds of "its own" state.

The arrival of the PFLP with its pan-Arab perspective and its call for a
dialectical relationship between politics at the level of the individual
state with politics on a Pan-Arab level answered a vital need of the
life of the time and served greatly to revive interest in Marxism in the
world.  The PFLP did not espouse bourgeois nationalism, but advocated Arab
unity as a necessary progressive step, just as Marx and Engels had supported
efforts by Italian and German bourgeois (and even monarchists) to unite
respective countries in the 19th century.

In later years the Arab Communist parties came around more or less to
accepting the need to work on a pan-Arab as well as a single-state level.
They began publishing a joint journal, "al-Nahj", and as a result of all
has passed over the years the relations between the PFLP and the Lebanese CP
are indeed very good indeed.  I was not aware that anyone seriously would be
interested in returning to the narrow limits of CP work that were common in
the 1950s when Communists disregarded the pan-Arab dimension of Arab

Indeed the Communist credentials for that "isolationism" are themselves
questionable.  Comintern documents from the early 1930s emphasised that the
division of the Arabs into many states was the work of colonialism.  Even
Khalid Bakdash emphatically told the 7th Congress of the Comintern in 1935
that Arab CPs had to work together on a pan-Arab level.  "The
struggle in all the Arab countries must be united," he said, speaking in the
name of all the Arab parties participating in that last World Congress of
Comintern.  "This is an essential condition without which it is impossible
bring off a decisive victory over imperialism.  The Arab countries,
more than 60 million inhabitants are artificially divided into more than
twelve territories, dominated by English, French, or Italian imperialists.
They are: Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Transjordan, Egypt, Tripolitania, Algeria,
Tunisia, Marocco, etc.  Some of these territories are, in their turn,
not smaller parts.  There are, for example, in Syria five governments, each
possessing its own specific administrative apparatus, borders, etc.  But
despite these, the national bonds, common traditions, a single language, a
common history, and finally the geographic position of these countries,
closely unite them.

"It is true that this division has always enabled different imperialist
oppressors to put down the insurrections and uprisings of the Arab masses in
the different countries.  For example the insurrections in Syria (1925), in
Palestine (1929), in Iraq (1935), in Marocco (1924), etc.

"But it is no less true that the Arab people are ready to form an active,
reciprocal national soldidarity and always to express their hatred of the
splitting up of their countries.

"We must thus counteract this current division with the unity of struggle
solidarity of all the Arab people, against the oppressor imperialism for the
complete liberation of all the Arab countries, for the union of popular
independent Arab republics.

"There follows from this the necessity to coordinate the activities of the
Communist Parties of the Arab countries, above all in the domain of the
anti-imperialist struggle.  The Arab Communists, all working for the
of a popular front in each of their countries, must at the same time unite
their efforts to extend this onto the pan-Arab level.  This will help to
extend the influence of the revolutionary proletariat of the advanced Arab
countries to the other more backward countries where there is a weak
movement." Khalid Bakdash (delegate code named "Ramzi"), Speech during the
debate on the main report of Georgi Dimitrov, 9 August 1935.  Archives of
Comintern, fond 494, opis' No. 1, delo 291, listy 18-19, original in French.

It is true that the idea of pan-Arab activity and Arab national unity
dropped out of Communist discourse with the coming of World War II, and with
Soviet alliances with Britain and France, and even to some extent with
Zionists.  In later years Bakdash (who headed the Syrian CP from 1937 until
his death in 1995) was not particularly known for pan-Arab efforts.
Nevertheless the record shows that when the PFLP emerged in 1967 insisting
upon the need for just such a perspective, it was, in fact, returning to a
position already well established in the history of Arab Communist thought
practice.  To regard pan-Arabism as somehow alien to Marxism is clearly

With revolutionary greetings!

Abu Nasr

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