The Zionist Wars

A History of the Zionist Movement and Imperialist Wars


Book by Yossi Schwartz, Revolutionary-Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 1 February 2021,



Chapter 2: The First Wave of Zionist Settlers


Chapter 3: The Second Wave of Zionist Immigration to Palestine


Chapter 4: The Uprising in 1920-21


Chapter 5: The Events of 1929


Chapter 6.1: The Uprising of 1936-39


Chapter 6.2.: On the Eve of the Nakba


Chapter 7: Zionist Terror prior to the War of 1948


Chapter 8: The War of 1947-49


Chapter 9: The Right of Return


Chapter 10: The Use of Biological Weapons


Chapter 11: The War of 1956


Chapter 12: The War of 1967


Chapter 13.1: The Yom Kippur War 1973


Chapter 13.2: The Decline


Chapter 14: The First Lebanon War 1982


Chapter 15: The Second Lebanon War 2006


Chapter 16.1: Israel’s Wars on Gaza


Chapter 16.2: On the Anti-Zionists left in Palestine


Chapter 17: The Position of the Fourth International in the War of 1948


Chapter 18: The Birth of Palestinian Trotskyism






The Jewish Zionist movement that appeared at the last part of the 19th century was shaped by two processes. The first one was the growing of the new form of anti-Semitism among the European bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie. The other one was the Scramble for Africa by the European imperialists.


The new form of anti-Semitism was based on the pseudo-science of social Darwinism that saw the Jews as an inferior parasitic and dangerous race. It was a different form than the Christian Anti-Semitism that saw the Jews as the killers of the son of god. The Jews could redeem themselves by converting to Christianity according to Christian theology. In contrary, racist, pseudo-scientific, social Darwinism does not offer similar solutions of (forced) assimilation but concludes that Jews must be excluded and in consequence killed.


The Scramble for Africa offered the Jews a seemingly better solution, acting as settler colonialists in one of the colonies, both in a military and political role. This was clear already in 1903 when British imperialism offered the Zionist movement an autonomous territory in Kenya to guard the railways (The Uganda plan).


The Zionist ideology emphasized the new role of the Jews as Muscular Judaism, a term coined by Max Nordau at the turn of the twentieth century. The concept of the ‘muscle Jew’ represented a dominant current of Jewish Zionists identity reformulation.


At the Second Zionist Congress in 1898, Herzl’s chief lieutenant, the Parisian physician, Max Nordau, made a speech in which he called for the need to develop what he called “muscle Judaism”. It was a subject to which he returned in subsequent years, and in so doing he contributed greatly to the idea of the development of the New Jew as a total transformation of the frightened Jew of the ghetto” (1).


The Zionist movement founded by Herzl was a petit-bourgeois, Jewish-nationalist movement that adopted the anti-Semitic tenet that the Jews are a foreign body in the European countries they lived in. During WWI, the Zionists offered their military role to the British imperialists by organizing the Jewish Legion established by Zabotinsky and Trumpeldor: “Maxwell, commander of the British force in Egypt, told a delegation of the volunteers that an offensive on the Palestine front was doubtful and that regulations prohibited the admission of foreign nationals into the British army. He suggested that the volunteers serve as a detachment for mule transport on some other sector of the Turkish front. His proposal was rejected by most members of the Legion Committee, including Jabotinsky, but Trumpeldor's position was that any anti-Turkish front would "lead to Zion."…”Together with Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson, delegated by the British military authorities, Trumpeldor succeeded in forming the 650-strong Zion Mule Corps. 562 of its members were sent to the Gallipoli front under Patterson, with Trumpeldor as second in command." (2)


Thus, the Zionists were able to demonstrate to the British imperialists that the Zionists can function as a military force for the empire.


The Zionists love to speak of Balfour Declaration letter to Lord Rothschild, dated November 2nd 1917, which states: “His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."


For the Zionists, this letter is a proof that Palestine belongs to them. There are many things to say about the value of this letter, one of it being: what kind of right did British imperialism had over Palestine anyway? As the Palestinian-American academic Edward Wadie Saïd, wrote “it was an obvious example of the blueprint of imperialism, (a) by a European power, (b) about a non-European territory, (c) in flat disregard of both the presence and the wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, and (d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people.”(3)


British imperialism promised a national home for the Zionists to guard the Suez Canal which led to India, the most important British colony.


The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the final confirmation of Britain's Palestine Mandate in 1923 within the context of national imperial concerns: in particular, anxieties over the security of the Suez Canal and the country's sea-route to its economic and military power-base in India. In 1917 strategic issues were paramount in the progressive annexation of Palestine by the Lloyd George coalition, this the essential territorial precondition for the pursuit of the Zionist project. In 1923 these global considerations were again to the fore when the new Conservative administration, less Zionist than its predecessor, decided finally to accept and implement the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the obligation therein to advance the cause of a Jewish national home. And throughout this period there was a widespread sense in official circles that Zionist settlers might perform as direct agents of Empire, acting as grateful, loyal, and developmental servants of the British imperial interest.”(4)


In addition, the British imperialists did not want to open the gates of Britain to Russian Jews and preferred to settle them down in a colony. They also hoped to use the influence of the Jews in the USA to keep it in the war and intervene against the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.


Thus, the Zionists backed by British imperialism set the stage for the Zionist military role against the native Palestinians and the Arab-national, anti-imperialist movement.


A major theme of the Zionist propaganda is that Israel has been forced to fight because its Arab enemies want to destroy Israel and kill the Jews of Israel. Today, in the Zionist propaganda, Iran and its allies have nearly replaced the Arab states.


Yet, in most wars of the Zionists, Israeli leaders bragg that Israel is rolling back or will roll back its enemies to the Stone Age. For example, Benny Gantz, who was the chief of the army, bragged in 2019 that he bombed Gaza to the Stone Age (5). Yisrael Katz announced that Lebanon will be blown back to the ‘Stone Age’ (6). These statements are not empty words. In each war the Zionist army destroyed the infrastructure of the other side. To maintain its position as the major power in the service of other imperialists, Israel will do whatever it can to prevent the development of the Arab countries and Iran socially, economically, and militarily.


This is the connection between the Balfour Declaration letter and the fact that Israel has been able to build the fourth strongest army in the world with the aid first of Russian Stalinism, and later British, French, American and German imperialism.


That does not mean that Israel is an enclave of imperialism. Israel has become a junior imperialist due to the aid it received, and it relies on stronger imperialism for its own expansionist interests. It goes to wars not only for the interests of the other imperialist states but for its own reactionary dreams of greater Israel.


No other than Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in “The Iron Wall”:


There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind, they realized long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting "Palestine" from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.” (7)


But an agreement with Arabs outside the Land of Israel is also a delusion. For nationalists in Baghdad, Mecca and Damascus to agree to such an expensive contribution (agreeing to forego preservation of the Arab character of a country located in the center of their future “federation”) we would have to offer them something just as valuable. We can offer only two things: either money or political assistance or both. But we can offer neither. Concerning money, it is ludicrous to think we could finance the development of Iraq or Saudi Arabia, when we do not have enough for the Land of Israel. Ten times more illusionary is political assistance for Arab political aspirations. Arab nationalism sets itself the same aims as those set by Italian nationalism before 1870 and Polish nationalism before 1918: unity and independence. These aspirations mean the eradication of every trace of British influence in Egypt and Iraq, the expulsion of the Italians from Libya, the removal of French domination from Syria, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco. For us to support such a movement would be suicide and treachery. If we disregard the fact that the Balfour Declaration was signed by Britain, we cannot forget that France and Italy also signed it. We cannot intrigue about removing Britain from the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf and the elimination of French and Italian colonial rule over Arab territory. Such a double game cannot be considered on any account. Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Hence those who hold that an agreement with the natives is an essential condition for Zionism can now say “no” and depart from Zionism. Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy.” (8)


In this book we trace the different stages of the development of the Zionist military force and its reactionary role. The first stage was the formation of the Hashomer (watchman) under the Ottoman Empire. In this stage the Zionists formed a force to guards the lands (colonies or Moshavots in Hebrew) they established by removing Arab peasants and turning Arab villages to Zionist settlements. This was followed by forming the Hagana (defense) in 1920. The next stage was acting as a military junior partner of the British to crash the Arab rebellion of 1936-39. This was followed by the removing of 900,000 Palestinians in the war of 1947-49.


In 1956, the Zionists acted as a partner to the French and British imperialism in the Suez war. In 1967, the Zionist army reached its peak in the war aimed at the defeat of the Arab revolution and at the same time occupied the Sinai, the West Bank and Gaza. In 1973, the Zionist military power began its decline. In the wars against Lebanon and Gaza, the Zionists were unable to win the wars. Even though it is still an imperialist state with the fourth strongest army in the world, acting as the spearhead of the imperialist control of the region, those last wars were the beginning of the decline of Israel as a military force.


Hanit is the Hebrew word meaning spearhead. That word explains why Israel is a vital strategic asset not just to Great Britain, but to the West as a whole.” (9)


Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion (current, or noninflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although from 1971 to 2007 Israel also received significant economic assistance. In 2016, the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaced a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which ran through FY2018. Israel is the first international operator of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defense’s fifth-generation stealth aircraft, considered to be the most technologically advanced fighter jet ever made. To date, Israel has purchased 50 F-35s in three separate contracts.” (10)


However, the USA that stands behind Israel is also in decline and so is the European Union. It is unlikely that Israel will be able to offer the new Eastern imperialists, Russia and China, the same service. Ironically, the sale of the F35 to the UAE (already the new ally of Israel), is an indicator of the awareness of US imperialists that Israel alone can’t provide the military service it used to perform.


The reactionary local rulers in the Arab countries are weak, and the Arab revolutions are not only challenging them but will end them sooner or later. Furthermore, the future Arab revolution will also end the Zionist settler state, this racist, colonialist project that is rotting from within. The protest movement in Israel sees Netanyahu as the malice, while he only reflects the crisis and decline of the Israeli state as such.





(2) Jewish virtual Library the Jewish legion


(3) Edward Said The Question of Palestine Chapter 3


(4) William M. Mathew (2013) The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, 1917–1923: British Imperialist Imperatives, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 40:3, 231-250






(7) Vladimir Jabotinsky The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs) (1923)


(8) Ibid


(9) Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Israel as a Strategic Asset of the West


(10) Congressional Research Service RL33222




Chapter One: Marxism and Wars


The 20th century marked the beginning of capitalism's epoch of decay. Capitalism, just like any other socio-economic system which preceded it, has reached a stage in which it is no longer a system that develops the forces of production further, but the very system that stands in the way of their development. The wars of this epoch reflect this characteristic in a terrifying manner.


Marxists do not believe that the capitalist system marks "the end of history" nor do we believe that capitalism has not yet outstretched its full potential. We support its overthrow and its replacement by the revolutionary workers’ states, leading the transition to a higher socio-economic system which would enable humanity to elevate its forces of production and standard of living into levels which as yet, are unimaginable: Communism – the highest stage of socialist society.


Like other socio-economic systems before it, capitalism had to fight itself into existence and must be fought out of existence. The revolutionary violence of its birth will be the major tool for its overthrow, unfortunate as it may be.


Marxists strongly oppose all pacifist, idealist notions, which fundamentally reject all forms of violence and make no distinction between oppressors and oppressed – a distinction, which is key in Marxist thought. We hold those pacifist, reformist ideas as historical non-possibilities that serve as a mask for those who serve imperialism. Or to those who are merely spreading illusions about the capability of capitalism to conduct itself rationally and without contradictions or antagonisms resulting in acts of violence.


It must be said, however, that capitalism did not invent wars. Armed bodies of people fought each other and within themselves for control over resources ever since humanity can remember itself. The difference between ancient wars and capitalist wars is the essential motive behind them – scarcity. Prior to this period, there simply were not enough resources to allow humanity to prosper and develop its means of production farther.


Capitalism, however, has allowed the development of the means to abolish scarcity and has thus given humanity the potential to live in "world peace". However, the capitalist relations of production themselves stand in its way.


The highest and final stage of capitalism is characterized by imperialism – an epoch in which the boundaries of the old-fashioned, nation-states are too small to contain the forces of production. As in the period of the primitive accumulation of capital, today the capitalists force themselves on underdeveloped nations for the purpose of extracting more surplus value by super-exploitation of "Third World" workers.


With the creation of a world economy, each imperialist state and bloc struggles to become the only power which super-exploits, and thus they turn against one another with brute force resulting in what history calls a World War, but which is, in reality, an inter-imperialist war, with the "world" as its victim.


The 20th century witnessed two such major inter-imperialist wars that resulted in a holocaust unimaginable even by the most ruthless and bloodthirsty of medieval barbarians, causing the death of close to 90 million human beings!


It is possible that the imperialists did not want a World War to happen; they all spoke of diplomacy, reasoning, and most of all, of peace. But in such an epoch of decay, the enchanted broom does not act any more upon the sorcerer's commands. Instead of peace, diplomacy, and reason, we got weapons of mass destruction, capable of ending human existence as we know it.


Instead of progress and development, we got devastation, hunger, and epidemics with entire major cities and industrial complexes reduced to rubble and dust, artifacts of technology and knowledge lost to be dug out, as if they were archeological relics.


In 1914, it was clear that capitalism had outgrown itself and changed from a mechanism of building into a mechanism of destruction, eating away at itself in a vicious cycle of destroying and rebuilding without any regard to the costs, humanity must pay as a result of this senseless psychopathic behavior.


In this epoch, humanity stands at the crossroads, having to choose between the overthrow of the social-economic system which no longer serves its needs, and facing its own extinction. A well-known phrase was coined by Rosa Luxemburg: “Socialism or Barbarism”, or as Lenin said: “In order for humanity to survive, imperialism must die.” So, for anyone who wants humanity to survive, the question at hand is: Who, how and what will kill imperialism?


Theorists like Karl Kautsky have envisioned that, in a world in which the tendency of value is to centralize into the hands of fewer and fewer capitalists, eventually a global society will be created and ruled by a tiny elite of capitalists. He envisioned “a holy alliance of imperialists”, joined together by their fear of global war. Those who observe reality through the glasses of idealism and formal logic will find it hard not to agree with this, and why not? On a primitive basis, it seems perfectly logical.


But dialectical materialists know that reason and human consciousness can change reality only if material conditions allow it. The first and second world wars have taught us, at a terrible cost, another lesson in the seemingly irrational workings of history. As Lenin had predicted, the very conditions laid out by the capitalist system did not allow the imperialists themselves to put an end to war; the opposite – the enhancement of wars – would prove to be true.


However, capitalism itself contains the means for its abolition. Along with the bourgeoisie as a ruling class, it has created the working class, whose interests are inherently antagonistic to it. All other classes – like peasants, professionals, or artisans – are constant factors of any class society since the start of agriculture. They are not a unique phenomenon of the capitalist system. Therefore, if bourgeois ruling classes of some nations have managed to climb up and become imperialists, the only class which has the interest and the ability to stop them from tearing this world apart is the working class. Imperialists with their destruction of the environment and epidemics, with their inter-imperialist wars can only be overthrown by the working class, by their revolution against the bourgeoisie, by the smashing of the capitalist state apparatus, and by replacing it with a working-class state. All this are necessary steps in leading humanity on its way to a classless, stateless society with no basis for wars.


The Correct Working-Class Policy Regarding an Inter-Imperialist War


So, what should the working class do in the event of an impending world war, knowing that the power to stop it lies exclusively in its own hands? The leaders of the international working-class party, the Second International, on the eve of the First World War, advised their supporters to defend their own bourgeoisie, claiming that the bourgeoisie on the other side of the border were much worse. This is the classic “lesser evil” argument which continues to be the flagship of reformist arguments to this very day. It occurs often in history that following ‘lesser evil’ logic leads to much greater evil.


From a Marxist point of view, knowing that the interests of the bourgeoisie (as a whole) are antagonistic to those of the working class, supporting either side in an inter-imperialist war seems senseless and is indeed senseless. In case of an inter-imperialist war, the working class must act internationally, not only by not supporting either side, but rather by actively opposing all sides. Marxists call this policy “Revolutionary Defeatism”, named after the phrase, coined by Lenin regarding imperialist Russia's involvement in World War I: “Defeat is the lesser evil”. While this phrase has been open to much interpretation and misinterpretation, we agree with Trotsky's understanding of the defeatist policy: "In those cases where it is a question of conflict between capitalist countries, the proletariat of any one of them refuses categorically to sacrifice its historic interests, which in the final analysis coincide with the interests of the nation and humanity, for the sake of the military victory of the bourgeoisie. Lenin’s formula, “defeat is the lesser evil,” means not defeat of one’s country is the lesser evil as compared with the defeat of the enemy country but that a military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement is infinitely more beneficial to the proletariat and to the whole people than military victory assured by “civil peace.”


Karl Liebknecht gave an unsurpassed formula of proletarian policy in time of war: “The chief enemy of the people is in its own country.” The victorious proletarian revolution not only will rectify the evils caused by defeat but also will create the final guarantee against future wars and defeats. This dialectical attitude toward war is the most important element of revolutionary training and therefore also of the struggle against war." (1)


The ultimate goal of the proletariat, should it fail in preventing the war to begin with, is to turn the world war into a worldwide civil war aimed to overthrow the bourgeoisie and capitalism. This policy is called by Marxists “the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war”. As in any war under capitalism, the bourgeoisie rely heavily on the cooperation and support of the working class – it must work much more and much harder in order to feed the wasteful bourgeois war machine, and more importantly, it must outperform the workers of the “enemy nation”. A working class internationally conscious of its historical role in bringing down capitalism would then have the perfect opportunity to do so, since without the cooperation of the workers, not even a single bullet would fly, let alone an H-Bomb. The workers' revolutionary opposition can result in a civil war that would bring about the end of bourgeois rule, and thus the capitalist phase of human history.


Revolutionary War


Revolutionary wars are wars waged between a progressive side, whose interest is in the overthrowing of an oppressive rule respectively an outdated mode of production, and a reactionary side, whose interests are in preserving it. Socialist revolutionaries would give their support to victory of the progressive side.


This position could be easily learned from Marx’s own position on the civil war in the United States between the free labor North and the slaveholding South:


The present struggle between the South and North is, therefore, nothing but a struggle between two social systems, the system of slavery and the system of free labour. The struggle has broken out because the two systems can no longer live peacefully side by side on the North American continent. It can only be ended by the victory of one system or the other." (2)


And further, Marx stated: “He [Lincoln] errs only if he imagines that the “loyal” slaveholders are to be moved by benevolent speeches and rational arguments. They will yield only to force. So far, we have only witnessed the first act of the Civil War — the constitutional waging of war. The second act, the revolutionary waging of war, is at hand." (3)


Once all outdated modes of production have been smashed out of existence by capitalism, it has concluded its revolutionary role. Today, when free competition has long ago given way to monopoly, and the struggle to create a global market of commodities has long ago given way to imperialist super-exploitation; Marxist revolutionaries' support should lie with those elements which would hasten the fall of capitalist imperialism.


As we have established before, the working class should rise to become the leader and spearhead of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist resistance. Should the working class of any nation succeed in overthrowing its own bourgeoisie and form a workers’ state, Marxists will defend it from any attack from the outside or inside of the given country and support its victory in any war against any class enemy – imperialist or not. The workers’ interests lie in battling the laws laid down by the current reactionary social production system, capitalism, and creating a new social mode of production which would operate without the need for states or classes - socialism. Therefore, the working class, in any armed conflict, is the progressive side, and therefore should be receiving our unconditional support.


The only country in history that, through revolution, managed to become a workers’ state was the Soviet Union in 1917. It managed to stay a workers’ state up until 1939 when the Stalinist counterrevolution finally completed the process of turning it into a completely degenerated form that cannot be reformed but needs another revolution. The young workers’ state of 1917 was instantly attacked by several bourgeois imperialist armies, namely the Russian bourgeoisie (the White Army), Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, the far-reaching armed tentacles of imperialist countries like the U.S., the UK, France and Italy, and non-imperialist reactionary bourgeois army and petty-bourgeois forces. Marxist revolutionaries have supported the workers’ state despite any bureaucratic deformations which plagued it at that time, and which were eventually the cause of its internal demise.


World War II and the Rise of Fascism


World War II was marked by the rise of a new enemy to the working class, a political enemy whose main target is the working class. By use of brute force, it would try to deny it its most basic democratic rights, attempting to seal off any possibility of a working-class revolution. This enemy, so fierce it would strike fear even in the hearts of the bourgeois ruling class, would receive the notorious name ‘fascism’, after the Italian Fascist movement – the first of its kind to rise to power.


Naturally, fascism has terrified the workers throughout the world; millions of them were willing to take arms in hands and smash the fascist serpent. The bourgeoisie of the other imperialist countries, in turn, would naturally pounce on this opportunity, when the eyes of the workers are focused elsewhere, and cynically demand “civil peace” from the working class – which means far-reaching capitulations. The worst results were those misled workers who followed the Hitler-Stalin agreement of collaborating with the fascist enemy respectively those who willingly subordinated themselves under the war mobilization of the Western powers.


Marxist revolutionaries know that fascism is nothing but the uglier side of the same capitalist face, and that its rise to power is just a symptom of a bourgeois ruling class so intimidated by the strong working class and its impending revolution that it is willing to give the keys to the country to right-wing militants rather than give its place away to a more advanced mode of production of which it will no longer be the master.


Once again, as in any other imperialist war, regardless of the political character of the rulers of the different imperialist countries, our position would be both defeatism and the transformation of imperialist war into civil war. If anyone should make capitulations to save its skin from the fascists, it should be the bourgeoisie and not the working class. After all, it was they who gave it control. Overall, the imperialist characteristic of a country is overwhelmingly more significant to us than the character of its state form. It is obvious that Marxists have to defend any attack against (bourgeois-) democratic rights, but class independence is crucial.


Trotsky writes aptly about the possibility of an inter-imperialist war and the correct proletarian attitude towards it: "If the proletariat should find it beyond its power to prevent war by means of revolution – and this is the only means of preventing war – the workers, together with the whole people, will be forced to participate in the army and in war. Individualistic and anarchistic slogans of refusal to undergo military service, passive resistance, desertion, sabotage are in basic contradiction to the methods of the proletarian revolution. But just as in the factory the advanced worker feels himself a slave of capital, preparing for his liberation, so in the capitalist army too he feels himself a slave of imperialism. Compelled today to give his muscles and even his life, he does not surrender his revolutionary consciousness. He remains a fighter, learns how to use arms, explains even in the trenches the class meaning of war, groups around himself the discontented, connects them into cells, transmits the ideas and slogans of the party, watches closely the changes in the mood of the masses, the subsiding of the patriotic wave, the growth of indignation, and summons the soldiers to the aid of the workers at the critical moment.” (4)


For a working class which would live in a country plagued by fascism, here is a summary of the correct tactics to counter fascism without forfeiting the class struggle:


1. The working class can trust no one to defend it from its political or class enemies. Therefore, in case of an armed onslaught upon it, revolutionaries would call the workers to arm themselves for the purpose of self-defense against the fascists. Furthermore, while Marxists defend democratic rights by any means, to fulfill this task is only possible if the working-class independence is preserved.


2. A workers' revolutionary party must send an infiltration force of propagandists into the army in order to win the support of as many soldiers as possible (many of them come from the ranks of the poor peasantry and the crisis-battered petty-bourgeoisie) to the proletarian revolution.


3. A united front of military action, temporary and tactical only, should be formed with all anti-fascist elements without political subordination. The working class should strive to rise to the leadership of any united front, win as many anti-fascists as possible to its side in the class war, and steer this movement towards the socialist revolution. Under no circumstances should the working class make any capitulations of its class interests to alien class elements, nor fall under their control. Keeping the working class an independent, self-emancipating fighting force is key to eliminating both the fascist threat and the capitalist ruling class responsible for its very emergence.


The Lessons of the Spanish Revolution


An example of a civil war involving fascism is the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939. In this war a fascist army backed by Nazi Germany attempted to take over Spain. Unlike in Germany, the working class in Spain was not yet weakened by its traitorous leadership to the point where it had lost all will to fight fascism. A “popular front” consisting of many different and contradictory political and class elements was formed to fight fascism.


Trotsky wrote on this “popular front”: “A bloc of divergent political groups of the working class is sometimes completely indispensable for the solution of common practical problems. In certain historical circumstances, such a bloc is capable of attracting the oppressed petty-bourgeois masses whose interests are close to the interests of the proletariat. The joint force of such a bloc can prove far stronger than the sum of the forces of each of its component parts. On the contrary, the political alliance between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, whose interests on basic questions in the present epoch diverge at an angle of 180 degrees, as a general rule is capable only of paralyzing the revolutionary force of the proletariat.


Civil war, in which the force of naked coercion is hardly effective, demands of its participants the spirit of supreme self-abnegation. The workers and peasants can assure victory only if they wage a struggle for their own emancipation. Under these conditions, to subordinate the proletariat to the leadership of the bourgeoisie means beforehand to assure defeat in the civil war.” (5)


Trotsky was right, and the popular front tactic proved to be disastrous to the working class and its revolution. Understanding that bourgeois “democracy” and totalitarian fascism stem from the same class interest in prolonging the death agony of capitalism helps Marxist revolutionaries to see right through all sorts of class enemy propaganda, be it bourgeois-liberal, reformist or centrist, and exposes its role in blocking the revolutionary power of the working class. The only way to win an anti-fascist campaign is to free the proletariat from the leadership of the bourgeoisie.


Wars and the "Third World"


Not all bourgeois countries have succeeded in becoming imperialist. There can be some rare cases, a country had achieved imperialism but lost it in war. These countries would most likely become the source of super-exploited labor and/or cheap natural resources for the imperialist countries.


The bourgeois classes of these exploited nations possess the same class interests as their imperialist counterparts and wish they could increase their own value beyond all bounds. Not having the military power and resources to exploit weaker countries, these bourgeois ruling classes would face very unfavorable options for achieving their interests of expansion.


One of those options would be to try and increase the exploitation rate of their own already super-exploited workers – a hard task, since super-exploited workers already receive just enough wages for mere survival, and to push them harder might result in a working-class united fight for survival, or even a revolution. The correct position to take by Marxist revolutionaries is obviously to support the workers against the bourgeoisie.


A second option, which will be discussed in this pamphlet, is made possible by the fact that many of those exploited nations live within territories whose borders were hand-drawn by the imperialists themselves, creating significant national minorities. These minorities are either castes who act as a ruling elite or are, as in most cases, an oppressed respectively discriminated national minority, perhaps refugees from neighboring war-torn “Third World" countries, and generally politically weaker than the ruling majority. The ruling bourgeoisie would have to exploit every opportunity to eat away at the remaining rights of these minorities, who happen in many cases to sit upon some valuable natural resources.


In such cases Marxists would take the side of the oppressed minority against the oppressors even if the class nature of its leadership is not proletarian. This position means joint tactical actions against a common enemy. However, and most importantly, Marxists would give no political support to any leadership whose interests are antagonistic to the working class, and under no circumstances should the working class surrender its own interests or capitulates any achievements to the bourgeoisie, nor give up on its military or organizational independence from it once achieved.


Marxists would also call for the working class of the oppressor nation to turn its arms against its own bourgeoisie and protect the rights of the oppressed nation, turning the national civil war into a revolutionary civil war.


A third option which the ruling class of an exploited nation has is to try to get a bigger piece of their own nation's exploitation pie from their imperialist overlords. A refusal by the imperialists sometimes results in an armed conflict, or an 'anti-imperialist war'. This turn of the bourgeoisie against imperialism may also be a result of inner pressures created by the dissatisfied super-exploited working class and peasantry. The ruling classes would then hope to succeed in diverting the anger of the masses from themselves to the imperialist nations. Any resulting capitulations by the imperialists would then be used to pacify the angry masses.


A non-imperialist nation engaged in a war against imperialism would be regarded by Marxists in the same manner mentioned above concerning an oppressed national minority, i.e., support for the victory of the oppressed, regardless of the class nature of their leadership, and without supporting any bourgeois, petty-bourgeois respectively reactionary policies. Once again, the workers who live in the imperialist nation would be called to support the revolutionary defeat of their own bourgeoisie and the victory of the "Third World" nation against it.


Such support would be given even to the most hated ruling characters and regimes. For example, Trotsky had supported the Kuomintang, led by the butcher Chiang Kai-Shek, against the attacks of imperialist Japan: "In order to arrive at a real national liberation it is necessary to overthrow the Kuomintang. But this does not mean that we postpone the struggle until the time when the Kuomintang is overthrown. The more the struggle against foreign oppression spreads the more difficulties the Kuomintang will have. The more we line up the masses against the Kuomintang the more the struggle against imperialism will develop.


At the acute moment of Japanese intervention the workers and the students called for arms. From whom? Again from the Kuomintang. It would be a sectarian absurdity to abandon this demand under the pretext that we wish to overthrow the Kuomintang. We wish to overthrow it but we have not yet reached that point. The more energetically we demand the arming of the workers the sooner we shall reach it.”(6)


While our anti-fascist strategies and tactics would apply regardless of the imperialist or non-imperialist character of any given country, we would support a non-imperialist country against an imperialist country, even if the former is ruled by fascists – as long as the semi-colonial country is not operating as a puppet for another imperialist power.


Trotsky has explicitly expressed this position in an interview with Mateo Fossa in 1938: "In Brazil there now reigns a semifascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!" (7)


Imperialist Involvement in Third World Warfare


All of the above may seem like a well-worked scheme. However, in many cases the situation at hand is far from clean cut. The imperialists are well aware of the antagonism felt towards them in exploited countries. They would use a wide range of tactics to keep these nations fighting within and amongst themselves for scraps falling off their table.


In many situations where "Third World" countries are engaged in warfare with each other, there is one imperialist country or more involved in a direct or indirect manner, attempting to capitalize on the war and turn it to their own interests in the given region.


When no imperialist is involved, a war between two “Third World” countries will be regarded by us in the same manner mentioned above regarding an inter-imperialist war. We would call the working classes of both countries to unite against their own bourgeoisie and fight for the establishment of a workers' state federation in the region, which would grant every oppressed nation the right to self-determination. However, we would take side for one semi-colonial country against another if it is nationally oppressed respectively discriminated. This includes to defend the right of becoming completely independent as it was the case with several countries during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. We supported the right of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and all other countries to become independent after the fall of Yugoslavia. All countries who opposed staying in a forced nation with Serbia have been attacked by the latter and we took the side of defending the right for independence and for the defeat of Serbia. This did not stop us from defending Serbia against the imperialist NATO bombings on Beograd. As Marxists we have to take a very close look on the situation at hand and always follow the rule: Side with the oppressed.


However, a non-imperialist nation that turns against an imperialist one often gives neighboring non-imperialist ruling classes an excellent opportunity to show their loyalty to imperialism and offer to do imperialism’s 'dirty work' for it by engaging in direct warfare against the rebellious country, hoping to expand its influence in the region and get a more favorable treatment from the imperialist bourgeoisie. The imperialists may get involved either directly by sending their own forces to aid their “Third World” allies, or indirectly by supplying arms and/or military consultation. A rival imperialist may like to get involved and aid the other side to further its own interests and/or weaken the former.


A war in which rival countries use other countries as an indirect way to fight each other is referred to as a 'proxy war'. In such cases the magnitude and depth of imperialist involvement would determine which side, if any, would gain our support. A proxy war is meant to benefit one imperialist or the other, and so under no circumstances would Marxists prefer the interests of one imperialist to the other – we support none and oppose all. Therefore, any ruling class which ties its interests directly to the interests of imperialists would obviously get no support from Marxists who would rather see it defeated.


The key question regarding imperialist involvement is to what extent the imperialist country directly controls the “Third World” army, and to what extent does the latter act on its own will. Furthermore, it is the nature of imperialists to try to interfere in the political developments of any semi-colony. This doesn’t mean that their interference automatically gains enough influence and impact to change the progressive character of a cause. Trotsky gave a rather extreme hypothetical example to demonstrate his position, with which we completely agree: “If Hitler tomorrow were forced to send arms to the insurrectionary Indians, must the revolutionary German workers oppose this concrete action by strikes or sabotage? On the contrary they must make sure that the insurrectionists receive the arms as soon as possible.” (8)


In this hypothetical scenario, Hitler does not directly control the armed force to which he sends his military aid.


The 2008 South Ossetia Conflict


An excellent case study which would help demonstrate the ISL's position on this matter is the 2008 South Ossetia conflict. Georgia, which is a non-imperialist country politically supported by the imperialist U.S., has invaded the territories of the Ossetian and Abkhazian national minorities, which are politically backed by imperialist Russia. As retaliation, the Russians invaded Georgian territory.


Our position, in short, was to support the Ossetians and Abkhazians against the Georgian attack, but once the Russians invaded Georgia, we supported the defeat of imperialist Russia, without withdrawing our support from the right of the Ossetians and Abkhazians to self-determination and separation from either Georgia or Russia. We called for the working class of the region to unite and fight for a socialist federation of the entire Caucasus.


Most leftist groups around the world regarded this war as a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, and opposed both, taking a pacifist position condemning all sides. These wrong positions resulted from the confusion over standing with the oppressed and giving political support to its leadership, and the confusion over direct and indirect military involvement; they also resulted from an inability or unwillingness to even tell the oppressor from the oppressed.


In our opinion, the political and indirect military support Georgia got from NATO and also from Israel, in the form of selling arms and military consultation, was not enough to label Georgia as a country acting in the interests of its imperialist supporters. Rather, our impression was that this war was an act of defiance by the Georgian ruling class against its imperialist neighbor, Russia. Of course, we did not think this act should be conducted on the expense of the rights of national minorities, hence the consistent support we gave the oppressed nations.


Our Position on Guerilla Warfare, Guerilla-ism, and Terrorism


As Marxist revolutionaries, we do not oppose guerilla warfare as a tactic in the service of proletarian revolutionary warfare, and as a section of the 'regular' workers' army consisting of armed workers' militias. We do, however, strongly oppose guerrilla-ism, which is the idealist belief that guerilla warfare could or should replace the proletarian army and achieve victory on its own.


The working class, especially under monopoly capitalism, is organized, in masses, more than ever before, with single factories employing hundreds and even thousands of workers. Breaking them all down into small semi-independent units makes no sense. Calls of guerrillas’ warfare nature usually arise in countries where the working class constitutes a minority of the general population (i.e., less developed “Third World” countries), and are usually propagated by elements outside the working class, such as peasants and the urban petit bourgeoisie.


Should elements from these classes express an interest in overthrowing the bourgeoisie, they must be led by the only revolutionary class under capitalism – the working class, no matter how small. The very core of Marxist thought stresses the centrality of the self-emancipating working class (with its own strategies and tactics) in overthrowing capitalism. Revolutions led by any other class just lead back to capitalism from the back door.


Regarding terrorism, the general definition of which is politically and emotionally charged and therefore disputed, Marxists define it as an aspect of psychological warfare whose aim is to instill fear and intimidation among both civilians and the military/police through the use of limited but concentrated violence. (9)


Terrorism is roughly divided into two kinds – state terrorism and individual terrorism. State terrorism is practiced by the ruling class against political and military rivals. State terrorism, like any other kind, does not distinguish between armed combatants and unarmed civilians, its goal being to create a smokescreen of illusions in the invincibility of the given state, its ‘all knowing, all seeing’ abilities through secret police and army intelligence, and its zero tolerance of any verbal or physical attack against it.


The use of state terrorism by a given state signifies its relative weakness and its own fears for its survival, since both guerilla warfare and terrorism are the tactics of those who feel that their backs are against the wall. Our opposition to capitalist and imperialist states is regardless of the tactics they use against their enemies. In the same manner, when a workers’ state is forced to use state-terrorist tactics, we will not withdraw our support from it.


However, we categorically oppose the tactic of individual terrorism. Trotsky aptly explains this position: “In our eyes, individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission. The anarchist prophets of the 'propaganda of the deed' can argue all they want about the elevating and stimulating influence of terrorist acts on the masses. Theoretical considerations and political experience prove otherwise. The more 'effective' the terrorist acts, the greater their impact, the more they reduce the interest of the masses in self-organisation and self-education. But the smoke from the confusion clears away, the panic disappears, the successor of the murdered minister makes his appearance, life again settles into the old rut, the wheel of capitalist exploitation turns as before; only the police repression grows more savage and brazen. And as a result, in place of the kindled hopes and artificially aroused excitement comes disillusionment and apathy.” (10)


Having said that, we must also clarify that the support we give to oppressed nations includes desperate or delusional individuals who decide to take part in such an activity, and regardless of the damage they cause for their own nation’s struggle. Let us take for example the episode of Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew who assassinated the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath as an act of revenge against the German government, which at that time deported German Jews of Polish origin from Germany, among them Grynszpan's family.


This attack, which could be labeled as individual terrorism, was later used as a pretext for the German government to issue the famous pogrom called “Kristallnacht” against the German Jews in 1938. Grynszpan was then attacked by both the bourgeois and Stalinist press as a collaborator with Hitler, having served to him on a silver platter the pretext for the pogrom.


Trotsky however, though condemning individual terrorism, chose to defend Grynszpan: “We Marxists consider the tactic of individual terror inexpedient in the tasks of the liberating struggle of the proletariat as well as oppressed nationalities. A single isolated hero cannot replace the masses. But we understand only too clearly the inevitability of such convulsive acts of despair and vengeance. All our emotions, all our sympathies are with the self-sacrificing avengers even though they have been unable to discover the correct road. Our sympathy becomes intensified because Grynszpan is not a political militant but an inexperienced youth, almost a boy, whose only counselor was a feeling of indignation. To tear Grynszpan out of the hands of capitalist justice, which is capable of chopping off his head to further serve capitalist diplomacy, is the elementary, immediate task of the international working class!” (11)


Trotsky ends his article with the following paragraph, which would be the best expression of our message to guerrillas and individual terrorists who act upon the burning desire to fight oppression, capitalism and imperialism: “In the moral sense, although not for his mode of action, Grynszpan may serve as an example for every young revolutionist. Our open moral solidarity with Grynszpan gives us an added right to say to all the other would-be Grynszpans, to all those capable of self-sacrifice in the struggle against despotism and bestiality: Seek another road! Not the lone avenger but only a great revolutionary mass movement can free the oppressed, a movement that will leave no remnant of the entire structure of class exploitation, national oppression, and racial persecution. The unprecedented crimes of fascism create a yearning for vengeance that is wholly justifiable. But so monstrous is the scope of their crimes, that this yearning cannot be satisfied by the assassination of isolated fascist bureaucrats. For that it is necessary to set in motion millions, tens and hundreds of millions of the oppressed throughout the whole world and lead them in the assault upon the strongholds of the old society. Only the overthrow of all forms of slavery, only the complete destruction of fascism, only the people sitting in merciless judgment over the contemporary bandits and gangsters can provide real satisfaction to the indignation of the people. This is precisely the task that the Fourth International has set itself. It will cleanse the labor movement of the plague of Stalinism. It will rally in its ranks the heroic generation of the youth. It will cut a path to a worthier and a more humane future.” (12)





(1) Leon Trotsky, “War and the Fourth International,”. June 10, 1934.


(2) Karl Marx,. The Civil War in the United States, 1861.


(3)  Karl Marx. A Criticism of American Affairs, 1862


(4)  Leon Trotsky, ibid


(5) Leon Trotsky. “The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning,” 1937.


(6) Leon Trotsky. “The Lessons of Spain: The Last Warning,” 1937.


(7) Leon Trotsky Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation. An Interview with Mateo Fossa (September 1938)


(8) Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism: A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party. December 1939.


(9) From the Marxist Encyclopedia in: The Marxist Internet Archive -


(10) From the Marxist Encyclopedia in: The Marxist Internet Archive -


(11) Leon Trotsky. “For Grynszpan: Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels,” 1939.


(12) Leon Trotsky. “For Grynszpan: Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels,” 1939.