On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine

Thoughts on some exceptionalities of the Israeli state, the national oppression of the Palestinian people and its consequences for the program of the Bolshevik-Communists in Palestine

 

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), May 2013

 

The Palestinian Revolution has been a central issue of the international class struggle for more than half a century. The reason is that it constitutes one of the biggest crimes of imperialism in the 20th century. It symbolizes the barbarism of the imperialist Great Powers who expel a whole people from its historic homeland by the artificial creation of a colonial settler state in order to control a geo-strategically highly important region – the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, Palestine and Israel have been the focus for a number of wars – 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, 2008/09 and 2012. In addition to this we have already seen two popular Palestinian Intifadas which started in 1987 and 2000 respectively and lasted each for several years. The Arab Revolution which started in early 2011 has even more increased the centrality of the Palestinian Revolution.

For us Bolshevik-Communists the Palestinian question has always played a central role both in theory and practice. One can not be a revolutionary in any meaningful way without consistently fighting against Zionism and the Israeli Apartheid state and for its replacement by a single workers state from the River to the Sea with the right of all Palestinian refugees to return.

This was and is the position of those who stand in the tradition of authentic Marxism. Such a common revolutionary approach to the Palestinian Revolution forms an important element in the fusion between the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and the Internationalist Socialist League (ISL) in Israel/Occupied Palestine. Both organizations defended in the past a revolutionary perspective against Zionism, for the unconditional support for the Palestinian liberation struggle and for a single workers state from the River to the Sea with the right of all Palestinian refugees to return. However, the discussions around this fusion process were very fruitful and helped us to deepen our common understanding. An important result of this has been the draft for an Action Program for National Liberation and Socialist Revolution in Palestine.

In the following document we intend to outline a number of important questions for the strategy of Permanent Revolution in Palestine.

 

Trotsky’s Theory of the Permanent Revolution

 

Let us begin with a brief summary of Trotsky’s concept of Permanent Revolution. It is based on the dialectical concept that the revolution cannot be divided schematically into stages which are separated from each other. This does not mean that there are not different stages in the development of the revolution. This is of course the case. But in all stages of the revolution it is one and the same class which must lead the struggle in order to win the democratic as well as economic goals of the revolution: the working class. Naturally the working class must seek allies amongst the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie. But it is the proletariat and only the proletariat which can lead the struggle to victory. The reason for this is that the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie – regardless of their numerical size – are not classes that can act independently and therefore they cannot play a leading role. They must rather subordinate themselves sooner or later under one of the two main classes of capitalist society - the proletariat or the bourgeoisie.

From this follows that in all stages of the revolution the strategic goal is to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and not the power for any other class. While temporary blocs with sectors of the bourgeoisie cannot be excluded, it would be criminal for the working class to subordinate its goals and interests in order not to wreck a potential alliance with such bourgeois forces. It would be even more criminal to support the taking of power by bourgeois forces. Every sector of the semi-colonial bourgeoisie will look for a compromise with imperialism and betray the working class and the popular masses.

The theory of permanent revolution assumes that if the revolution is not continued up to the socialist seizure of power, it will inevitably end with the victory of the ruling class and a counter-revolution. Similarly, the theory of Permanent Revolution considers that the revolution cannot last victoriously in a single country (as Stalin claimed), but must be spread internationally. The modern economy, especially in the age of global capitalism, makes all countries dependent on the international exchange of goods, technology and knowledge. Moreover, sooner or later the imperialist powers would not tolerate a victorious revolution in a single country. Marxists therefore support the strategy of permanent revolution not because it is more radical or "exciting", but because it represents the only realistic way to overcome the capitalist system and establish a truly socialist society. [1]

In his book “The Permanent Revolution”, written in 1929, Trotsky explained the three basic elements of this theory:

The permanent revolution, in the sense which Marx attached to this concept, means a revolution which makes no compromise with any single form of class rule, which does not stop at the democratic stage, which goes over to socialist measures and to war against reaction from without: that is, a revolution whose every successive stage is rooted in the preceding one and which can end only in the complete liquidation of class society.

To dispel the chaos that has been created around the theory of the permanent revolution, it is necessary to distinguish three lines of thought that are united in this theory.

First, it embraces the problem of the transition from the democratic revolution to the socialist. This is in essence the historical origin of the theory. (…)

The theory of the permanent revolution, which originated in 1905, declared war upon these ideas and moods. It pointed out that the democratic tasks of the backward bourgeois nations lead directly, in our epoch, to the dictatorship of the proletariat and that the dictatorship of the proletariat puts socialist tasks on the order of the day. Therein lay the central idea of the theory. While the traditional view was that the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat led through a long period of democracy, the theory of the permanent revolution established the fact that for backward countries the road to democracy passed through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus democracy is not a regime that remains self-sufficient for decades, but is only a direct prelude to the socialist revolution. Each is bound to the other by an unbroken chain. Thus there is established between the democratic revolution and the socialist reconstruction of society a permanent state of revolutionary development.

The second aspect of the ‘permanent’ theory has to do with the socialist revolution as such. For an indefinitely long time and in constant internal struggle, all social relations undergo transformation. Society keeps on changing its skin. Each stage of transformation stems directly from the preceding. This process necessarily retains a political character, that is, it develops through collisions between various groups in the society which is in transformation. Outbreaks of civil war and foreign wars alternate with periods of ‘peaceful’ reform. Revolutions in economy, technique, science, the family, morals and everyday life develop in complex reciprocal action and do not allow society to achieve equilibrium. Therein lies the permanent character of the socialist revolution as such.

The international character of the socialist revolution, which constitutes the third aspect of the theory of the permanent revolution, flows from the present state of economy and the social structure of humanity. Internationalism is no abstract principle but a theoretical and political reflection of the character of world economy, of the world development of productive forces and the world scale of the class struggle. The socialist revolution begins on national foundations – but it cannot be completed within these foundations. The maintenance of the proletarian revolution within a national framework can only be a provisional state of affairs, even though, as the experience of the Soviet Union shows, one of long duration. In an isolated proletarian dictatorship, the internal and external contradictions grow inevitably along with the successes achieved. If it remains isolated, the proletarian state must finally fall victim to these contradictions. The way out for it lies only in the victory of the proletariat of the advanced countries. Viewed from this standpoint, a national revolution is not a self-contained whole; it is only a link in the international chain. The international revolution constitutes a permanent process, despite temporary declines and ebbs.“ [2]

Such is the theoretical concept of revolutionary Marxism for the inner mechanic of the revolutionary process. Let us now move to discuss specific problems of the permanent revolution in Palestine.

 

The uniqueness of Israel as a colonial settler and oppressor state

 

The national oppression of the Palestinian people has a special character which is the consequence of the special character of the oppressor state Israel. It is not a “typical” state which oppresses another nation. This is a wrong assumption which is widely held by many centrists like the IMT, the CWI, the various groups in the Spartacists tradition (ICL, IBT, IG), etc. In fact, Israel is – as both the ISL, the RCIT, and its respective predecessor organizations have stated for many years – a colonial settler state. It is based on the expulsion of the huge majority of the original population – the Palestinians – from their homeland and their replacement by a settler people. This settler people had to be transferred with the help of Zionist institutions and imperialist Great Powers – mostly from Europe – during the 20th century to Palestine. Only by this displacement of the Palestinians were the Zionists capable to build a “Jewish State” in a country where the Jews where historically a tiny minority. According to the official statistics of the Ottoman Empire they originally formed only 4% (in 1880) and respectively 5% (in 1914) of the total population. [3] Even at the time of the creation of the Israeli state in 1947/48 – after decades of systematic expulsion of Palestinians and the waves of Jewish settler immigration – did the Jews constitute only 1/3 of the total population.

So, we see already three important differences to other capitalist states which oppress another nation:

The Israeli-Jewish oppressor “nation” always constituted a minority compared with the nation it oppressed. Today the relation between Israeli Jews and Palestinians is 1:2.

* Secondly, it oppresses the Palestinians not where they originally lived but expelled the majority of them from their homeland.

* Thirdly, it is an oppressor nation and state which has been artificially created via a systematic population transfer policy. (Nevertheless it still doesn’t possess all characteristics of nation as we will discuss below.)

True, if we consider the whole history of capitalism, Israel is not the only colonial settler state in the world. The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have a similar history. These states also expelled and murdered the Native Americans, Aborigines and Maoris. There are indeed strong similarities which, by the way, show the hypocrisy of these imperialist “democracies” and which are the reason why we fully support the struggle of the Native Americans, Aborigines and Maoris for their national rights.

However, from a historical-materialist point of view there are also important differences. Colonial settler states like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all been formed in the ascending epoch of capitalism in the 16th to the 19th century. In opposite to these examples, Israel and the Israeli-Jewish “nation” have been formed in the imperialist epoch in the 20th century, i.e. in the epoch of capitalism’s decline.

This had important consequences. The white majority nation in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand could nationally integrate and develop over a long historic period and at the same time they could successfully reduce and imprison the aboriginal people into small enclaves. Hence the aboriginal people in these countries today form only small minorities and have been denied, to a larger or smaller degree, the possibility to develop themselves as proper nations.

Israel and Zionism on the other hand came – historically speaking – “too late”. As a result the Israeli-Jewish “nation” itself has important deficiencies in its national formation as they still constitute only a minority in Palestine while the Palestinians, on the other hand, are a fully developed majority nation (with the support and sympathy of the whole surrounding Arab and Muslim world).

For all these reasons the RCIT and our Arab and Jewish comrades in the ISL consider Israel as a unique colonial settler state and hence we recognize the special form of the national oppression of the Palestinian people. It can only exist and reproduce itself as a state and nation by permanent brute force and wars of aggression. Only by this it can continue to expel the Palestinians from their homeland and grab their land as well as rob their water reserves. Thus for example half a million Israeli-Jewish settlers in the West Bank grab 85.7% of its water reserves while 2.6 million Palestinians have to make ends with the rest. It is worth noting that Israel is also – together with the USA, Britain and China – one of the biggest global land grabbers. [4]

The ruling class of Israel knows that it must permanently attack, humiliate and put down the Palestinians and the Arabs in the region since otherwise its days are numbered.

Various centrists use a formally correct but abstract criticism against Arab nationalism as a pretext to ignore the specific problems in the revolutionary struggle against the Israeli colonial settler state. Let us take the example of the centrist IMT of Alan Woods. They claim that it is the Palestinians and Arabs fault that the Israeli-Jewish working class has not rose up against their ruling class:

We understand that the Israeli Jews fear being literally killed and destroyed by the hostile neighbouring Arab states. This is what drives them into the arms of Netanyahu and co. And so long as groups such as Hamas until recently and the PLO in the past raise the idea of driving out the Jews, rather than weakening the Zionist state, the bulk of the Jewish population is pushed into rallying around the Israeli ruling class, thus strengthening and not weakening Zionism.” [5]

It is certainly true that a revolutionary party and a Workers and Peasants Republic in the Arab world would have conducted systematic internationalist propaganda and appealed to the poorer Jewish workers to break with Zionism. It is also true that revolutionaries all over the world have to fight systematically against all forms of Anti-Semitism. But the centrist leaders of the IMT reduce the problem of Zionist loyalty of the Israeli-Jewish workers only or mainly to the existence of Arab nationalism. This is utterly wrong and betrays a lack of dialectical-materialist understanding! The main reason for the Zionist loyalty of the Israeli-Jewish workers is not Arab nationalism but the huge material privileges which they gain as a result of the imperialist colonial settler status of the state they are living in (more on this below). But as the IMT (and most other centrists) refute the Leninist conception of labor aristocracy and their relative privileges paid from the super-profits of the imperialist monopolies and states as the material basis for their backward consciousness, so do these centrists ignore the ideological consequences of the material factors of an imperialist settler state on the consciousness of its privileged population. [6]

 

The Israeli Jews as a nationality or an “almost nation”

 

Exactly for the reason of its late, artificial and brutal formation, the Israeli Jews did not experience a full nation-formation process. True there a number of important elements of a nation-formation process. In addition to having a common territory as well as a common economy, the use of a common language made important progress. At the beginning of the state of Israel only a minority spoke Hebrew. However a conscious effort by the Zionist state to create a national consciousness led to the situation, where today a majority of Israeli Jews speak this language.

However the limitations of this nation-formation process become obvious from the fact that despite the most determined efforts of the Zionist state, still today a significant minority of Israeli Jews doesn’t speak Hebrew. According to the latest official statistics of Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, only 49% of the country’s total population report Hebrew as their mother language, 18% Arabic, 15% Russian, 2% Yiddish, 2% French, 2% English, 1.6% Spanish and 10% other languages. [7] This means that still today – after 65 years of Israel’s existence as a state – only about 3/5 of Israel’s Jews use Hebrew as their mother language.

Additionally, the Zionist self-conception of Israel as a state of all Jews world-wide – which they claim to be a nation – is an obstacle for a national identify of the Israeli Jews.

The ISL comrades wrote on this some years ago: “The Israelis have many objective attributes, which characterize a nation: territory, common economy; a state and common culture. However, there can be no nation where there is no national consciousness, i.e. a bourgeois consciousness of a common interest separated from other nations (reflecting the reality of national economy which has unified local markets). The Israelis however have a Zionist consciousness not an Israeli national consciousness.[8]

Related to this is the fact that the Israeli Jews are sharply divided not only by class lines – as it is the case in all nations living in capitalism – but also along ethnic and religious lines. Hence we have the traditional Ashkenazi Jews coming from Europe, the Russian Jews who came after 1991 from the former Soviet Union, the Sephardic Jews and Mizrahi Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. And more recently there has been a new wave of Jews coming from Ethiopia. There are various forms of discrimination against the Jewish communities coming from poorer countries. In addition we see the increasing discrimination of the poor ultra-orthodox Jews – the Haredim – who are a growing minority of about one million. [9]

These deficiencies in the Israeli-Jewish nation-formation process are another important factor which explains the permanent Israeli expansionism. Only by permanent war against the Palestinians and the whole Arab and Muslim world can the Israeli ruling class hope to unite the Israeli Jews.

Finally, one has to take into account that because of the unique character of Israel, the national consciousness of the Israeli Jews is necessarily interwoven with reactionary chauvinist attitude towards the Palestinians and the Arabs in general. [10]

For all these reasons we come to the conclusion that the Israeli Jews are a group which possesses important elements of a nation. But they have been prevented to develop into a full nation because of specific characteristics which are related to the Zionist project (claims that not the Israeli Jews as such but the all Jews in the world are a nation, permanent waves of immigration which cause international ethnical divisions). Thus we can characterize them as a pre-form of a nation – a nationality or an “almost nation”.

 

Can Marxists support the right of national self-determination for the Israeli Jews?

 

The Bolshevik-Communists reject the right of national self-determination for the Israeli Jews. For this question it is not decisive if Marxists consider the Israeli Jews as a nation or an “almost nation”. The RCIT and the ISL oppose the right of national self-determination for the Israeli Jews because the realization of such a right automatically implies the denial of the right of national self-determination for the oppressed majority nation – the Palestinians. [11]

On the other hand many centrists support the right of national self-determination for the Israeli Jews. Let us give a few examples for this. Already in 1973 leaders of Matzpen, A. Said and Moshe Machover, raised it in an article published by the centrist “United Secretariat of the Fourth International” of Ernest Mandel. [12]

A similar approach is repeated by the Spartacists school who call explicitly for “the right to self-determination for Palestinians and Hebrews[13] Similarly the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT), who split from the Spartacists: “For Leninists, all nations, including the Jews in Israel, have a right to self-determination[14] The same idea is repeated by another Sparts split, the Internationalist Group of Jan Norden who calls for “recognizing the right of self-determination for both Hebrew speakers and Arabs in Palestine”. [15] Consequently the crude Spartacist school of “internationalism” defends the right of the Israeli Jewish colonial settler people to form their own state after the socialist revolution: “Nevertheless, if the level of hostility is such that by democratic means one or the other people wishes to lead a separate national state existence, a revolutionary workers government would recognize this as their right, which, unlike under capitalism, could be accomplished (with difficulty) in a way that is not discriminatory toward one or the other community, in the framework of a socialist federation of the Near East.” [16]

We note in passing the funny fact that the Spartacists demonstrate their ignorance of the situation in Israel by consistently referring to the “Hebrew-speaking” people instead of the “Israeli Jews”. They seemingly do not even know that many of those, whose “right to self-determination” they advocate, do not use Hebrew as their mother language.

While more hidden, the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) of Alan Woods and the late Ted Grant argues in a similar direction. They call for “autonomous homelands and full respect for all national rights” for Arabs and Israeli Jews which is a concealed support for a separate “socialist” Israeli-Jewish state: “Nevertheless, Israel now exists as a state, and the clock of history cannot be turned back. Israel is a nation and we cannot call for its abolition. The solution of the Palestinian national problem can only be achieved through the establishment of a socialist federation of the Middle east in which Arabs and Israelis can co-exist with their own autonomous homelands and full respect for all national rights.” [17]

The most consistent “Socialist” Zionist amongst the centrists is the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which has a section in Israel (Maavak Sotzyalisti). For many years they have called “for a socialist, democratic Palestine and a socialist Israel, as part of a equal and voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East.[18] The CWI leaders are aware that this is against the wishes of the oppressed Arab people: “We accept that many Arab workers have the hope that the Israeli state must be destroyed. It is an imperialist wedge against the Arab Revolution.[19]

Nevertheless, the CWI calls for a continuation of the Israeli state (on a “socialist basis”) and therefore the continuation of the collective expulsion of the Palestinian people from their home territory. How does the CWI leadership justify such an awful ignorance of the wishes of the oppressed Palestinian people? By referring to the wishes of the oppressor nation, the Jewish-Israeli people, as the following quote shows:

They will come to nothing as the Palestinian masses will not give up their demands for a separate state. Equally, the Israeli population will not accede to the demand that they form a possible minority in a ‘common state’. To do so would mean that they would take the place of the oppressed Palestinians; this would be inevitable on a capitalist basis. Our demand for a socialist, democratic Palestine and a socialist Israel linked to a socialist confederation of the Middle East retains all its validity.[20]

We consider such a position as reactionary and a capitulation towards Zionism. The right of national self-determination implies naturally the right of separation to form an independent state. Any such right would constitute a denial for millions of Palestinian refugees to return in their homeland. Let us not forget that out of (officially) 11.6 million Palestinians, 5.8 million live in the Diaspora (mostly in Arab countries). Of the 4.4 million Palestinian living in the West Bank and Gaza, 44% are refugees. Add to this a number of those 1.6 million Palestinians who live inside the 1948-occupied Palestine but who are refugees too. All in all about ¾ of all Palestinians are refugees living in the enforced Diaspora. [21]

Naturally this violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people would be closely related to economic discrimination since Israel – i.e. 1948-occupied Palestine – is industrially much more developed than the Palestinian inhabited areas. Any two-state solution would automatically mean a rich Israel exists beside a poor Palestine – and would therefore continue the massive gap and hence oppression.

This does of course not mean that the Israeli Jews would have no rights in a single Palestinian workers state, as we will see below.

A favourite argument of the centrist supporters of the right of national self-determination for the Israeli Jews is their claim that Marxists apply this right to all nations and thus also for the Israeli Jews. In fact this is a caricature of Marxism. The right of national self-determination is not a juridical right in the abstract realm but a tool of an oppressed nation (or ethnic group) to liberate itself from the oppressor nation.

Thus the right of national self-determination is a right for oppressed nations, not for all – oppressed and oppressor – nations. This becomes clear if one considers the various tactics which flow from this right. In a conflict between oppressed nation and oppressor nation we defend the former against the later. Marxists defend the right to separate and form an independent state of oppressed nations. But which sense would it make to defend the right to separate and form an independent state of an oppressor nation?! Shall we call for the right of Spain to separate from Basque Country or of the Sinhala majority population in Sri Lanka to separate from the Tamils?!

Supporting the right of national self-determination and thus the right to separate and form an independent state of an oppressor nation would not only be absurd but is potentially reactionary. It could form a pretext for the ruling class of an oppressor nation to get rid of and ghettoize an oppressed people under its conditions. This is exactly what happened when Israel exercised such a “right to separate” in 2005 when it withdrew from the Gaza strip and transformed it into an open prison camp. Or it can be a pretext for the formation of a reactionary vendee in order to keep the privileges of the old oppressor minority. The fascist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging of the late Eugène Terre'Blanche in South Africa, which calls for secession and the creation of an independent Boer-Afrikaner republic ("Volkstaat/Boerestaat") in parts of South Africa, is an example for such a reactionary, aristocratic application of the “right to separate” for an oppressor nation.

Similarly Marxists defend the right of oppressed nations to protect its economy against the domination by imperialist multinationals. But at the same time we oppose any protectionist barriers of imperialist economies against products of the semi-colonial countries. To give another example: Only a reactionary chauvinist – like the right wing parties, social democracy, Stalinism or centrists like the Spartacists – can defend the right of oppressor nations to close its borders for migrants from the poor, semi-colonial countries. On the other hand, oppressed nations have a right to defend themselves against reactionary settlements projects which have the purpose to undermine their national existence. The justified opposition of the Palestinians against the Zionist settlement policy in Israel is such a case.

Our rejection of a “right of national self-determination” for the Israeli-Jewish nationality is not a denial of a revolutionary democratic right. It is the refusal of their right to oppress the Palestinians, to continue their expulsion from their homeland. It is the refusal to continue the inherently racist political project of Zionism.

 

The Marxist classics and the right of national self-determination

 

“Socialist” Zionists like the Spartacists school claim that the right of national self-determination applies both to oppressed nations and oppressor nations: Basic to the Leninist position on the national question—the only consistently democratic position—is that all nations have a right to self-determination.[22]

This is of course complete nonsense. Marxists understand the right of national self-determination as a revolutionary democratic right of oppressed nations. This was also always the meaning and understanding of the Marxist classics on this question. Lenin underlined again and again that it is the division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism“. [23]

For Lenin and Trotsky it was clear that the right of national self-determination applies for oppressed nations and not for oppressor nations. In every major document on the national question, they made this clear.

We shall give just a small selection of the numerous quotes from major works of Lenin on the national question:

Socialists cannot achieve their great aim without fighting against all oppression of nations. They must, therefore, unequivocally demand that the Social-Democratic parties of the oppressor countries (especially of the so-called “Great” Powers) should recognise and champion the oppressed nation’s right to self-determination, in the specifically political sense of the term, i.e., the right to political secession. The socialist of a ruling or a colonial nation who does not stand for that right is a chauvinist. [24]

Victorious socialism must necessarily establish a full democracy and, consequently, not only introduce full equality of nations but also realise the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political separation.[25]

As regards the right of the nations oppressed by thetsarist monarchy to self-determination, i.e., the right to secede and form independent states, the Social-Democratic Party must unquestionably champion this right.[26]

That is why the focal point in the Social-Democratic programme must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. It is from this division that our definition of the “right of nations to self-determination” must follow, a definition that is consistently democratic, revolutionary, and in accord with the general task of the immediate struggle for socialism.[27]

The right of nations to self-determination implies exclusively the right to independence in the political sense, the right to free political separation from the oppressor nation. (…) It implies only a consistent expression of struggle against all national oppression.[28]

In its program, the Bolshevik Party also spoke about the right of national self-determination and thus the right to separate in connection with the oppressed people:

In order to overcome the distrust felt by the working masses of oppressed countries towards the proletariat of states which used to oppress those countries, it is necessary to abolish all the privileges enjoyed by any national group, to establish complete equality of rights for all nationalities, to recognise the right of colonies and dependent nations to separation.” [29]

This is also how Trotsky understood the Bolsheviks and his own approach towards the national question:

But the very conjuncture of the national movements with struggle of the proletariat for power was made politically possible only thanks to the fact that the Bolsheviks during the whole of their history carried on an irreconcilable struggle with the Great Russian oppressors, supporting always and without reservations the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination, including separation from Russia.

The policy of Lenin in regard to the oppressed nations did not, however, have anything in common with the policy of the epigones. The Bolshevik Party defended the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination with the methods of the proletarian class struggle.” [30]

 

Revolutionary Defeatism against Israel in its Wars and Revolutionary Defensism for the Arab countries

 

Israel’s inherent reactionary character entails that revolutionaries supported the Palestinian guerillas and the respective armies of its neighboring Arab countries in all wars which took place in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, 2008/09 and 2012. Both the ISL and the RCIT and its respective predecessor organization did and do take a revolutionary defeatist position in relation to Israel – this means we call for its defeat and for actions of the working class and the oppressed both inside Israel and its army as well as internationally to foster such a defeat. At the same time we are revolutionary defensist in relation to the Palestinian guerillas and the respective Arab armies – this means we support their military struggle and call workers and oppressed in these countries as well as internationally to support their struggle by proletarian methods of struggle.

However, this support is unconditional but critical. We call to support the Palestinian and Arab struggles with the working class methods. We warn against any illusions and reliance on the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois leaderships. We call for independent mass organization of the working class as well as the formation of a revolutionary party in order to replace the non-revolutionary leaderships. [31]

It is not accidental that those who wholehearted defend the “right of national self-determination” for the Israeli Jewish oppressor nation have often failed in the past to side unconditionally with the Palestinian resistance and respective Arab countries in their wars against the Zionist state. As we have shown with a number of examples in our recently published book “The Great Robbery of the South”, centrist organizations like the CWI or the IMT have failed to call for the victory of the Palestinian resistance, of Hezbollah, of Iraq or of Afghanistan and for the defeat of the imperialists or of Israel in their wars in the Middle East in the past two decades. [32]

Surely, the centrists like to cover their betrayal by radical sounding denunciations of Palestinian (petty-)bourgeois nationalists. Such the IMT recently wrote “The idea that the fundamentalists are somehow "anti-imperialist" is absurd. The Islamic fundamentalists are utterly reactionary and play no progressive role whatsoever. [33] It is certainly true that Hamas is reactionary. However, because of their roots amongst the Palestinian masses and the pressure of the later, Hamas is forced to fight (inconsistently) against the Israeli aggression. This is not a lot but certainly much more than the Western middle class centrists of the IMT ever managed to do! They did not even support the Palestinian and Arab military struggles against Israel in the wars in the last decade in their agitation in mass demonstrations in the West! Sure, the Hamas leadership is ready to betray the Palestinian liberation struggle. But how can socialists gain the confidence of the Palestinian and Arab workers and oppressed if they don’t support their resistance even if it is under a non-revolutionary leadership and if they justify this absence with pseudo-radical sounding phrase-mongering?! And, by the way, it is hypocritical to the extreme to state that Hamas is not anti-imperialist in any way and “utterly reactionary” while at the same time the IMT tail and work inside the social democratic labor parties and even the bourgeois, popular frontist PPP in Pakistan. These parties which the IMT supports and has helped to build for decades certainly undertook much less “anti-imperialist” actions than Hamas!

Characteristically such organizations like the CWI, the IMT or the Spartacists equally failed to side with Argentina in the Malvinas War against British imperialism in 1982. One of the favourite arguments of the CWI to justify their capitulation towards British imperialism was the “right of national self-determination” of the 1,800 colonial British settlers on the Malvinas islands in front to the Argentine coast. [34] One can easily recognize the same aristocratic logic in the case of Malvinas and Israel: Imperialism uses its dominance to send settlers in this or that region in order to expel the native population respectively to gain control over a territory. Once it has succeeded in this and the colonial people rebel against this blatant act of robbery and expansionism, the imperialists invoke the “right of national self-determination” for their colonial settlers. Unfortunately they find supporters in the camp of centrist “Marxism”!

In fact the settlers right of national self-determination” invalidates the authentic right of national self-determination of the oppressed nation. This is why Marxists can only support the right of national self-determination of oppressed nations.

 

Israel’s development into an imperialist state

 

Israel has become a small imperialist power. We hope to deal with this issue more in detail in a future document. [35] We limit here ourselves to a brief overview.

Israel has developed a powerful monopoly capital in the last decades. It has developed into a highly industrialized economy which is superior to all other countries in the region. In addition Israel has a very powerful military. It is – despite the small size of the country – the eighth largest nuclear power in the world as well as the number 10 of the world’s arms exporters. [36]

Israel’s monopoly capital controls the country’s economy. According to the Bank of Israel "some twenty business groups, nearly all of family nature and structured in a pronounced pyramid form, continue to control a large proportion of public firms (some 25% of firms listed for trading) and about half of market share." [37]

These monopolies do not only dominate the domestic economy, they also lead a massive surge of capital export. Many of the top Israeli multinationals are based on High-Tech industries, pharmaceutical etc. The Top 20 Israeli Multinationals have foreign assets of nearly 16 billion US-Dollars and their foreign sales were just over 35 billion US-Dollars. They have 667 affiliates abroad and their employment abroad exceeded 87,000 (Figures from the year 2010). [38]

Reflecting a strengthening of Israel’s imperialist character, the stock of foreign direct investment abroad has risen much stronger in the past two decades than inward foreign investment in Israel. While FDI in Israel grew from 4.5 to 66.8 billion US-Dollars between 1990 and 2011, Israeli FDI abroad rose from 1.2 to 71.6 billion US-Dollars in the same period. [39]

Another reflection of the Israel’s imperialist character is the increasing global role of its monopoly capital. In The Forbes Global 2000 – a ranking of the biggest, most powerful companies in the world – 10 multinational corporations from Israel are listed. This is similar to other smaller imperialist countries which have a much longer history of imperialist development like Austria or Belgium (each 11 corporations) or Finland (12). [40]

Israel’s Gross domestic product per capita is 28,611 US-Dollars which is above the level of Greece and Portugal and slightly below the level of Spain (30,222). [41] According to another calculation by the United Nations, Israel Gross National Income Per Capita was slightly above the level of Italy in 2012. [42]

Certainly, Israel is a rich, imperialist fortress in the poor region of the Middle East. It’s GDP per head is double as high as Turkey, five times as high as Egypt’s, six times of Jordan’s and seven times of Syria’s. [43]

 

Is Israel a fascist state?

 

Some left-wing organizations – like various Maoists or the comrades from the FLTI (the International Leninist Trotskyist Fraction led by Carlos Munzer) – call Israel a “fascist state”. [44] While it is understandable if such a characterization comes from a political uneducated person as a spontaneous expression of outrage, it is utter unscientific nonsense if it comes from political organizations which raise the banner of Marxism.

Fascism as a specific form of bourgeois class regime does not differ in essence from other forms of bourgeois rule by the brutality of its suppression of another nation. It rather differs by the fact that it mobilizes the petty-bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat in order to totally smash the working class and its organizations and to annihilate all forms of democratic rights. Trotsky explained this in the following way:

The Social Democracy, which is today the chief representative of the parliamentary-bourgeois regime, derives its support from the workers. Fascism is supported by the petty bourgeoisie. The Social Democracy without the mass organizations of the workers can have no influence. Fascism cannot entrench itself in power without annihilating the workers’ organizations. Parliament is the main arena of the Social Democracy. The system of fascism is based upon the destruction of parliamentarism. For the monopolistic bourgeoisie, the parliamentary and fascist regimes represent only different vehicles of dominion; it has recourse to one or the other, depending upon the historical conditions. But for both the Social Democracy and fascism, the choice of one or the other vehicle has an independent significance; more than that, for them it is a question of political life or death.

At the moment that the “normal” police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium – the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy. From fascism the bourgeoisie demands a thorough job; once it has resorted to methods of civil war, it insists on having peace for a period of years. And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, directly and immediately, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive, administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the cooperatives. When a state turns fascist, it doesn’t only mean that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance with the patterns set by Mussolini – the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role – but it means, primarily and above all, that the workers’ organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism.” [45]

Using the term “fascist” to characterize Israel is simply wrong and radical phrase-mongering. It doesn’t help to clarify an understanding of the specifics of the Israeli state but rather confuses it.

Israel built a bourgeois-parliamentary regime with democratic rights for the Israeli-Jewish population including trade unions, the right to strike, even the right to express Anti-Zionist viewpoints, etc. It also knows limited democratic rights even for the Israeli-Arab citizens. Thus it has not smashed and annihilated trade unions and democratic organizations. This is possible because Zionism expelled most of the native Palestinian population from their homeland. As a result it is a totally aristocratic rich oppressor nation which can afford a limited amount of democracy. The Israeli ruling class in the last decades did not need fascism because it was strong enough to bribe a huge Israeli-Jewish labor aristocracy and middle class and rule via parliamentary means.

Of course it killed many Palestinians and continues to do so. But let us not forget that all bourgeois – including “democratic” – regimes oppress the working class and (semi-)colonial nations. Such oppression often includes brutal killings and expulsions. It would amount to a dangerous and naïve praising of imperialist bourgeois democracy if Marxists would conclude that a regime must be fascist if it is killing and oppressing. Such people stop being Marxists and turn to become petty-bourgeois moralists. No, bourgeois democracy is killing and oppressing too!

Finally, let us not forget that the fascist states – in Germany, Italy, and Spain etc. – did not only brutally oppress other nations, it also smashed all organizations and democratic rights of the working class in its domestic countries. Only a fool can ignore the fact that the Israeli-Jewish working class has much more rights than the German, Italian or Spanish workers had in the 1930s and 1940s.

Naturally this can change in the future and Israel can become a fascist state in a period of sharp crisis. But this has not been the case in the past 65 years and it is therefore wrong to characterize Israel as a “fascist state”.

As a side note we remark that such a mistake is similar to the characterization of Turkey as a fascist state by most Turkish Maoist groups. Despite the existence of a bourgeois-bonapartist regime with a limited parliamentary democracy these groups continue to denounce the state as fascist. Such a characterization is only confusing for the working class and serves as a pretext for a combination of popular-frontism and ultra-left guerillaism.

 

Who will the vanguard of the Revolution in Palestine?

 

The massive historic support of the Western imperialist powers and the emergence of Israel as an imperialist state have given the Zionist ruling class massive resources to bribe huge sectors of the Israeli Jewish working class. The living standard of the Israeli Jewish working class is not far away from workers in some Western European countries. For example Israeli Jewish people have a similar level of actual individual consumption to people in Spain. The OECD in an international comparison of social developments came to the conclusion that the average Israeli household income is above the level of Portugal and about 18% below the level of Italy. [46] Another indicator for the Western standards of living for Israeli Jews is the so-called Human Development Index which the United Nations regularly measures and which calculates income, poverty, education, health etc. According to the latest reports, Israel is ranked on place 16 amongst 186 states, before countries like Belgium, France and Austria. [47]

One has to bear in mind that this comparison is distorted insofar as the figures for Israel in these statistics include the Arab Israeli citizens as well as the Haredi Jews who are both massively poorer than the majority of the Israeli Jews. Hence in reality Israeli Jewish workers (except the Haredi Jews) have a living standard equal to countries like Italy or Spain.

The average wages of the Palestinian and migrant workers as well as of the Arab workers in the region is ways below those of Israel. The average wage of male Arab Israeli worker is about half of the male Israeli Jews. [48] While about 57% of the Arab Israeli citizens are living in poverty, it is only about 12% of the Israeli Jews (except the Haredi Jews of whom about 62% are living in poverty). [49]

This gap is much worse compared with the Palestinians living in the 1967-occupied territories. For example per capita income in the West Bank is less than 2,000 Dollars a year, while Israel’s is just above 30,000! [50]

Furthermore one must recognize that all these relative material privileges of the Israeli Jewish workers are closely related to the Israeli oppressor state and the national expulsion of the Palestinians on which it rests. Without their expulsion no Israeli state, no appropriation of the Palestine land and no Israeli wealth would have been possible.

For all these reasons it is obvious that the Israeli Jewish working class can never play a vanguard role in the revolution. The vanguard will be those who have to rise up not only to overthrow their capitalist class enemy but even to achieve their democratic demands. It will be the Palestinian working class and their class brothers and sisters in the neighboring Arab and Muslim countries. The heroic Intifadas as well as the Arab Revolution since 2011 are the living proof for this perspective.

Does this mean that the Israeli Jewish workers will play no role in the revolution? Of course, this will not be the case. But they will not be its vanguard. They will be rather in the tow-rope of the Palestinian and Arab working class. This of course does not mean that smaller groups of revolutionary Jewish workers and supportive intellectuals can not play an important role. In fact this has already been the case several times as one can see in the history of the Palestinian Communist Party in the 1920s as well as today where individual Jewish revolutionaries play an important role not only in the Trotskyist movement but also in the revolutionary democratic, Palestinian nationalist movement (like in Abnaa al-Balad). But such cases will be more the exception than the rule.

Furthermore it is unlikely that the Israeli Jewish working class will support the revolution in its totality. It is much more likely that a large section of its aristocracy will oppose the revolution and the Marxists will fight hard to win over a significant section to join the revolution or at least to remain neutral. This is clear not only from a theoretical point of view but also from the actual experience both in South Africa as well as in Israel. In South Africa only few white workers supported the struggle against Apartheid. Similarly, only few Jewish workers in Israel supported the Intifada or the national resistance of the Palestinians and Hezbollah.

However one has also to recognize the differentiation within the Israeli-Jewish society. The lower strata of the Israeli working class as well as specially discriminated layers like the 130.000 Ethiopian Jews or sectors of the poor Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews are certainly more likely to break with the Zionist state than the majority of the population. It is an important task for revolutionaries in Israel/Occupied Palestine to advance such a class differentiation and to win as many Jewish supporters for the socialist perspective as possible.

 

The Palestinian Revolution must begin as a national, democratic revolution leading to the socialist revolution

 

The extreme character of the national oppression, i.e. the expulsion of the whole Palestinian people, and its constitutive character for the Zionist state and hence the Israeli-Jews, has important consequences for the revolutionary strategy. The Palestinian national liberation must be the starting point for any revolutionary development in Israel/Occupied Palestine. This democratic question totally overshadows all other questions. The RCIT and the ISL are therefore convinced that the permanent revolution in Palestine can only begin as a democratic revolution which means the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people.

Naturally there can and indeed have been several economic class struggles of the Israeli Jewish working class against the government. However the Israeli Jewish working class is not able to raise the struggles to a political level because this would immediately put into question its loyalty to the Zionist state and therefore its own privileged position. Exactly for this reason the Israeli ruling class has been able to integrate the lower strata of the Israeli Jewish population (first the Sephardic Jews and Mizrahi Jews, later the Russian Jews) into the Zionist project. To break out of this trap, Israeli Jewish workers must break with Zionism and join the struggle for national liberation of the Palestinians. This is what revolutionaries in Israel/Occupied Palestine are fighting for.

Does this mean that revolutionaries in Israel/Occupied Palestine should ignore economic class struggles of the Israeli Jewish working class? Certainly not! They support every minimal struggle against the Zionist ruling class. But they will connect such a support with the perspective of solidarity with the Palestinians liberation struggle and the permanent revolution.

For all these reasons, the primary orientation of Arab and Jewish revolutionaries in Israel/Occupied Palestine must be towards the Palestinian liberation struggle and hence towards the vanguard of the Palestinian workers and oppressed. The revolutionary party and its pre-party organization must be primarily composed of Palestinian fighters. Naturally Israeli-Jewish revolutionaries who join the struggle have an equal place in such an organization.

 

Oppression of Women

 

As in all parts of the world, women face specific oppression, earn less than men and bear the brunt of domestic work. According to the latest available official statistics, the average daily wages of Palestinian female employees were 13.2% lower in 2012 than of their male counterpart. The gap is particularly high in the mining and manufacturing as well as the commerce and hotel sector while it is below the average in the transportation, storage and communication as well as the service sector. In the agricultural sector, women earn a higher daily wage than men. [51]

As a side note we remark that this gap between male and female wages is lower than in most – so-called enlightened – Western imperialist democracies where arrogant sneering about the “backward Muslims” is wide-spread both amongst the liberal intelligentsia as well as the right-wing reactionaries.

However the extremely oppressed and poor living conditions of the Palestinian people reinforce a patriarchal division of labor which intensifies the discrimination of women. Since there are hardly any facilities for public childc