The Intifada and Marxism

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sun Feb 18 19:42:11 MST 2001

CWI Israeli section statement:

>The capitalists have failed to bring peace. Only the working class can
>bring genuine peace!

One of the big probelms here is that this kind of generality, which is
found so often in CWI stuff, is an evasion of the national question.  The
British CWI section (the old Militant Tendency, whose remnant is called the
Socialist Party) denounced the national liberation movement as 'Green
Tories' and not only refused point blank to campaign for British troop
withdrawal but did everything they could in the Labur Party, where they
were esconced at the time, to obstruct other people campaigning for this.
During the Argentina-Britain war on the Falklands, the CWI in Britain
basically took the side of British imperialism, virulently opposing calls
for the british armada to be withdrawn.  I was in the Militant-dominated
Labour Party Young Socilaists at the time and our branch (Peckham), in
which thankfully the Militant chauvinists were a small minority, moved an
emergency motion at the LPYS conference that the LPYS adopt a position for
British withdrawal.  This position was denounced by speaker after speaker
from Militant.  Militant leaders went on about how Buenos Aires had a stock
exchange (this was supposedly evidence that Argentina was on a par with
Britain) and their whole emphasis was how a defeat for Argentina could
bring down the Galtieri dicattorship.  Of course, since we were in Britain,
our man focus on Marxists should have been how a defeat for British
imperialism could bring down the Thatcher regime and create a crisis for
the British imperialist state.

The Israeli CWI statement tends to smack of the same kind of approach, in
which the Arab regimes and the PLO leadership are put on a par with Israel.
In fact odious as the Arab regimes are, and as sell-out as the PLO
leadership is, none of these forces are on a par with the Israeli state -
an imperialist state.

The emphasis of an Israeli Marxist organisation should not be on what the
Palestinians should do, but on what Israelis should do.

Their two-state solution is also scarcely Marxist.

What is needed in Israel is for Israeli workers to break with the state of
Israel and link their future with the Palestinians in a single state: a
democratic, secular Palestine - a state which, surely, could only be
socialist anyway.

>   After all the blood that has been needlessly spilled in the last days,
>   we stand today facing the danger of an even more unnecessary regional
>   war, that will multiply the number of victims of the idiotic policy of
>   solving political problems by military means.

The Israeli policy is not 'idioitic'.  It is probably a quite sensible
policy if you are an imperialist oppressor.  You terrorise the hell out of
those you oppress!  Perfectly logical.

>   Events of the last days prove beyond doubt that it is impossible to
>   genuinely solve the national question under capitalism,

A truism.  But an opportunist one, as it neatly ignores the *state of
Israel* as the key immeidate porblem.

>   by way of
>   discussion between two leaderships, whose narrow political and social
>   base continues to be reduced on a daily basis, and by means of the
>   peace accords that serve only a small minority of capitalists on both
>   sides, and US imperialism.

As if the Palestinian bourgeoisie is on a par with the Israeli ruling class
and its imperialist allies!!!

>Arafats weakness is revealed in the fact
>   that he was forced to include the Hamas in government, and allow them
>   to appear in the Palestinian media, and release Hamas prisoners.
>   Arafat was forced to do all this in order to stay in power. In Israel,
>   Baraks government has never been weaker, and is based as it is on only
>   a quarter of members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Barak, who
>   disappointed his voters in every possible way, will perhaps succeed in
>   including the Likud under Ariel Sharons leadership in a national unity
>   govrenment, under cover of the noise of war drums, but such a step
>   will only prove the governments weakness, and will not flow from the
>   national interest.

"The national interest"?

>   Only the Israeli working class and the Palestinian
>   masses can show the way forward to bring genuine peace, through the
>   struggle to overthrow the capitalist regimes that brought the region
>   to the brink of disaster.

Another truism.  But what is the concrete strategy?

>   In embarking on a popular struggle, the Palestinian masses
>   rediscovered their potential power, and will not be quick to
>   compromise it in the interests of their politicians, who havent
>   delivered the goods up till now. With this return to the mass
>   struggle, attempts to revive Oslo seem impossible. In its present
>   form, the uprising could achieve a Palestinian state or nominal
>   independence in virtually the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, also
>   without the Oslo agreements. But such an independence, without
>   overthrowing Arafats rotten capitalist regime, will not release the
>   Palestinians from the political and economic oppression of their own
>   capitalists and from continued economic exploitation by Israeli
>   capitalism, and therefore will not amount to genuine independence. An
>   independent capitalist state will not fulfill Palestinian hopes to
>   genuine freedom from oppression, and the elimination of poverty,
>   unemployment and exploitation, hopes that are the main component of
>   their struggle for genuine independence.

Eliminatging poverty, unemployment and exploitation are, of curse, vital.
But it is freedom from national oppression which is "the main component" of
the Palestinian struggle.  The three things mentioned earlier are elements
of the national oppression.

>   The uprising may have been lit by a religious spark, and the slogans
>   and perceived enemy may be nationalistic and religious, but the root
>   cause of the problems and frustration (poverty and national
>   oppression) is the capitalist system.

The root cause is *ultimately* the capitalist system, just like capitalism
is the *root cause* of everything that is fucking up the planet.  But,
again, this avoids the *concrete immediate question* - the national
oppression of the Palestinians.

>  The so-called
>   peace dividends consist of the right of Israeli capitalists to exploit
>   cheap, Arab labour, leading to the closure of plants in Israel, and
>   increased unemployment for Israelis, and the right of Palestinian
>   capitalists to make fat profits out of monopolies in Palestine, such
>   as the cement industry and tourism. The leaders on both sides do not
>   represent the interests of Israeli and Palestinian workers and youth -
>   who want decent jobs, housing, health care, security and freedom of
>   movement but the interests of these capitalists.

Again, the pathetic little Palestinain bourgeoisie is placed on the same
scale as the Israeli bourgeoisie.

>The way forward
>   The only people really capable of bringing genuine peace to the region
>   are the Israeli and Palestinian masses. The current uprising in
>   Palestine and in the Palestinian towns within Israel shows an enormous
>   anger and determination to struggle. Tragically, this movement lacks a
>   leadership with a clear programme, strategy and a set of demands, able
>   to link up with Israeli workers based on a class appeal, and channel
>   this energy and sacrifice into positive gains.

Once again this is the wrong way around.  Where is the *Israeli leadership*
with a clear programme to link up with the Palestinians.  The Palestinians
are doing OK, in the sense that they are way in advance of the Israeli
masses.  Shouldn't Israeli Marxists be busy up to their eyeballs in trying
to giddy-up the Israeli masses instead of berating the 'inadequate' nature
of the Palestinian movement.

The lack of such a
>   leadership means that the uprising has led to some actions that serve
>   no purpose, and are even counter-productive In Israel, Palestinian
>   demonstrators threw stones at buses that carried Jewish workers. These
>   kinds of actions, instead of uniting Jewish and Palestinian workers
>   against their true enemies who are responsible for all the problems
>   the capitalist class and the capitalist system only deepen the
>   divisions between the two sides of the working class.

The biggest problem is that lack of a revolutionary Israeli movement, or
even a movement that is half as advanced as the Palestinian masses.  This
kind of criticism of the Palestinians is just a concession to Zionist

>   A genuine, grass-roots socialist leadership in the West Bank and Gaza
>   could demand the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian areas,
>   the overthrow of Arafats corrupt regime and the establishment of an
>   independent, socialist Palestine.

Instead of lecturing the Palestinians about what kind of leadership they
need, which only the reveals the chauvinism of the Israeli left, how about
this CWI organisation immersing itself in the task of explaining to Israeli
workers the nature of the state of Israel and why they should throw in
their lot with the Palestinians.

>     * For a socialist Israel alongside an independent, socialist
>       Palestine, as a step towards a socialist federation of the Middle
>       East, with participation on a free and equal basis.

This is another concession to Zionism.  Funny isn't it, that many early
Zionists said they were building a socialist Israel.  You'd think that
after 50-plus years of the existence of this state, Israeli Marxists might
have cottoned onto the idea that no Israeli state can be socialist.  The
notion of a socialist Israel is rather like the notion of a socialist
Confederacy in the US in the late 1800s!

Socialism in the area requires the *destruction* of Israel and the
banishing of any idea of an Israel, not some fig-leaf 'socialist' cover.

Philip Ferguson

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