Category Archives: Zionism

Stalin and Lenin’s Views on the Jewish Question and the Bund; Early History of the Bund

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”

Background – The Position of Russian Jewry

In 1791, Tsarina or Empress Catherine II created what was to become known as the Pale Of Settlement. This restricted Jewish residence to either territories annexed from Poland along the Russian Western border, or to territories seized from Turkey along the shores of the Black Sea. Later other annexed territories were added. (See Map below from web site Beyond the Pale). The same type of restrictions noted briefly above, on Jews in Germany, prevailed both here and Poland itself.

MapPaleSettlement
Perhaps the worst anti-Semitism in Europe was in these parts.

Tsar Alexander II‘s reign saw at least the legal and theoretical emancipation of the serfs in 1861. It marked some hopes on the part of Russian Jews for major change in their living circumstances. In fact there were some improvements with Jews being able to live outside the Pale of Settlement:

“On the first anniversary of Alexander’s coronation the hated Cantonist system is repealed. Bit by bit, small groups of Jews considered useful are allowed to settle outside the Pale: merchants, medical doctors and artisans. The Jewish communities of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Odessa grow rapidly, and Jews start to participate in the intellectual and cultural life. The industrial development of the 1860s, following the disastrous Crimean War creates opportunities for a small group of Jewish entrepreneurs, particularly in banking and the export trade, in mining and in the construction of railroads.”

(Web: Beyond The Pale:
http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

But this was short lived, and the Polish Uprising of 1863, led to an anti-Semitic wave again. After Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by Narodniks, in 1881 the following repression was associated with pogroms aimed at blaming the Jews for the social unrest, and to divert social criticism. The Tsarist authorities used the Jewish question as a means of “dividing and ruling”:

“Beginning in Elizabetgrad, a wave of pogroms spread throughout the southwestern regions, more than 200 in 1881 alone. The authorities… (often) showed sympathy for the pogromists. An official investigation confirmed: the plunderers were convinced that the attacks were sanctioned by the Czar himself. The same investigation blamed ‘Jewish exploitation’ as the cause for the pogroms.”

Web Site : (Web: Beyond The Pale:
http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

Severe restrictions and persecution under the so called “Temporary Laws” of May 1882 lasted until 1917:

“The area of the Pale of Settlement was reduced by 10 percent. Jews were once more prohibited from living in villages, to buy or rent property outside their prescribed residences, denied jobs in the civil service and forbidden to trade on Sundays and Christian holidays….. In 1887, the number of Jewish students entering secondary schools in the Pale was restricted to 10 percent. As in some towns Jews constituted 50 to 70 percent of the population, many high school classes remained half empty. In 1891 a degree was passed that the Jews of Moscow, who had settled in the city since 1865, were to be expelled. Within a few months about 20,000 people were forced to give up their homes and livelihood and deported from the already overcrowded Pale.”

Web Site : (Web: Beyond The Pale:
http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

Nicholas II, succeeded Alexander III in 1894, and was as autocratic. But the reform movement gained strength. Both workers and students rebelled. Again the tactic of divide and rule was used in pogroms against Jews. At the same time the anti-Japanese war was launched. The pogroms were directly financed and supported by the vicious reactionary Minister of the Interior Viacheslav Plehve. For example, a pogrom in Kishinev in 1903, led to forty-five people’s murders, and 1,300 homes and shops were plundered. The rioters were protected:

“For his anti-Semitic agitation, the editor of the local newspaper, Bessarabets, had received funds from…Viacheslav Plehve. When the perpetrators of the Kishinev pogroms received only very light sentences, it became clear that pogroms had become an instrument of government policy, and Jews began to form self-defence units.”

(Web: Beyond The Pale: http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

After the defeat of Russia by the Japanese, the pogroms intensified, led by the rabid ultra-reactionary Black Hundreds:

“The Black Hundreds now openly declared the extermination of the Jews as their program. But the worst orgy of violence broke out after the Czar was forced to grant a constitution in October 1905. Mainly organized by the monarchist Union of Russian People, and with the cooperation of local government officials, pogroms were staged in more than 300 towns and cities, leaving almost a thousand people dead and many thousands wounded.”

(Web: Beyond The Pale http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

But by end 19th Century, the Jewish population was over 5 million. Assimilation did occur and Jews took part in the political movements, including the Narodniki:

“The early Jewish revolutionaries among the Narodniki saw themselves as Russians fighting for the right of the Russian people, and believed that the Jewish problem would be solved through assimilation after the liberation of the masses.”

(Web: Beyond The Pale: http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

But more Jews were convinced of the need for a separate Jewish workers movement. In 1897, the Jewish labor movement Algemeyner Yiddisher Arbeter Bund was founded in Vilna, and argued for “national and cultural autonomy” but not for a territorial separation:

“The Bund advocated national and cultural autonomy for the Jews, but not in the territorial sense; it argued for a middle course between assimilation and a territorial solution. The Bund also developed trade union activities and formed self-defence organizations against pogrom violence. In 1905, it had about 33,000 members. “

(Web: Beyond The Pale: http://www.friends-partners.org/partners/beyond-the-pale/english/32.html)

It is this central question of a seperate territory that distinguished the Bundists from the Zionists. Of course the Bund was more orientated to the workers movement and socialism also. So much so, that even the avowedly Zionist organisation formed in Russia adopted a socialist tone:

“Many Jews no longer saw any point in the struggle for emancipation within Russian society and turn after the publication of Herzl’s Der Judenstaat in 1836 to Zionism instead. The largest Zionist party, Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion), founded in 1906, was Marxist in orientation and defined the establishment of a socialist-Jewish autonomous state in Palestine as its ultimate goal.”

Web Site : Beyond The Pale; Ibid; p.39

Even more Jews left Russia, rather than enter the political movement, going mainly to America and Western Europe:

“Between 1881 and 1914, more than 2 million Jews left Russia.”

Web Site : Beyond The Pale; Ibid; p.39

In March 1917, the revolution moves on and the Czarist regime is toppled. This was greeted:

“With joy among the Jewish community. The Provisional Government, as one of its first acts, abolished all limitations based on religion or nationality. For the first time in their history, the Jews of Russia were free to organize and express themselves. Synagogues and schools are opened, publications appeared in Hebrew and Yiddish, and political and cultural life flourishes…. The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia recognized the right to both religious and national autonomy.”

Web Site: Beyond The Pale; Ibid; p.40

The separation of Church and State, was decreed by both the Zionists and the religious minded Jews. This edict, introduced in January 1918, was coupled with the active organisation of Jewish Bolshevik sections in the party termed Yevsektsii. All this:

“Resulted in the confiscation of religious properties and the prohibition of religious instruction in schools….the Yevsektsii conducted a systematic campaign against all aspects of Judaism and Jewish life. Its first decision was the dissolution of the kehilla, the Jewish community administration, which served as the main instrument of Jewish religious and cultural life.”

Web Site: Beyond The Pale; Ibid; p.40

After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War against White counter-revolutionaries had a major focus in the Ukraine, where 60 percent of Russian Jews lived. The pogroms of the White led armies were only fought off by the Bolsheviks. That left the Jewish population at the end of the Civil War depleted, but with gratitude to the Bolsheviks:

“In spring 1918, the Red Army had to defend itself against the Germans, the Ukrainian Army under Petlyura struggling for Ukrainian independence, and the ‘White’ Armies under Denikin and Wrangel that tried to topple the Bolshevik government. Apart from these more organized armies, armed gangs of bandits under their own leaders (atamans) joined the fighting. All groups took part in anti-Jewish attacks, looting and murder. Only the Red Army Command prohibited anti-Semitic violence and even punished some of the attackers. No such policy was introduced in the Ukrainian Army. During 1919, when the Ukrainians had to retreat, anti-Jewish violence on an unprecedented scale claiming tens of thousands of lives. None of the perpetrators were prosecuted. The majority of Jews in the Ukraine, fearful of Ukrainian independence, came to regard the Red Army more and more as the only force capable to stop the violence. The other major participant in the Civil War, the ‘White’ Army, also engaged in looting, rape and murder, using the old slogan ‘Strike at the Jews and Save Russia.’ When they had to retreat southward at the end of 1919, they vented their rage on Jewish communities along the way. Jewish self-defence units were occasionally able to stop them, partly with material support from the Soviet government. By the time the Civil War was over, about 2,000 pogroms left an estimated 100,000 Jews dead and more than half a million homeless.”

Web Site: Beyond The Pale; Ibid; p.42

Stalin & Lenin’s View On the Jewish Question & The Bund

Stalin was asked by Lenin, in 1923, to write a work to define the Bolshevik response to the national question. This became the famous classic Marxism And The National Question. What did Stalin consider as the definition of a “nation?” Stalin held that nationality was not dependent upon religion, nor upon a racial mixture. The famous succinct definition given by Stalin is that:

“A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 307.

Stalin pointed out, that under conditions of a national oppression, the workers suffer more than the bourgeoisie. One of the examples he uses to demonstrate this are the Jewish workers. This might in fact, imply that Stalin views Jews as a ‘nation’. He states :

“Restriction of freedom of movement, disfranchisement, repression of language, closing of schools, and other forms of persecution affect the workers no less, if not more, than the bourgeoisie. Such a state of affairs can only serve to retard the free development of the intellectual forces of the proletariat of subject nations. One cannot speak seriously of a full development of the intellectual faculties of the Tartar or Jewish worker if he is not allowed to use his native language at meetings and lectures, and if his schools are closed down.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p.304. OR: via: http://gate.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Stalin/MNQ12.html

Stalin therefore argued that the national liberation struggle was a key issue for the workers movement. But the national liberation struggle must also be supported for another reason. Because the national struggle is diversionary for the real interests of the working class. It obscures and diverts from the real workers struggle – for socialism:

“The policy of nationalist persecution is dangerous to the cause of the proletariat … It diverts the attention of large strata from social questions, questions of the class struggle, to national questions, questions ‘common’ to the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. And this creates a favourable soil for lying propaganda about ‘harmony of interests’, for glossing over the class interests of the proletariat and for the intellectual enslavement of the workers. This creates a serious obstacle to the cause of using the workers of all nationalities.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 320-21

And linked to this, moreover, nationalism encourages a policy of “divide and rule,” allowing a ruling class to split workers apart, again diverting from the main struggle – the class struggle:

“The ‘system’ of oppression leads to a ‘system’ of inciting nations against each other to a ‘system’ of massacres and pogroms. Of course the latter system is not everywhere and always possible, but where it is possible – in the absence of elementary civil rights – it frequently assumes horrifying proportions and threatens to drown the cause of unity of the workers in blood and tears. The Caucasus and the South Russia furnish numerous examples. ‘Divide and rule’ – such is the purpose of the policy of incitement. And where such policy succeeds, it is a tremendous evil for the proletariat and a serious obstacle to the cause of uniting the workers of all the nationalities in the state.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 321

In part, the work “Marxism and the National Question”, was written in order to refute the shallow reasoning of the Austrian revisionist Marxist, Otto Bauer. Otto Bauer had proposed a programme of so-called “Cultural-national autonomy” for groups of workers of one national background within a single state. Stalin explained what the programme actually meant:

“Let us now examine the essence of the programme itself. What is the national programme of the Austrian social-democrats? It is expressed into words: Cultural-national autonomy. This means firstly that autonomy would be granted let us say, not to Bohemia or Poland, which are inhabited mainly by Czechs and Poles, but to Czechs and Poles generally, irrespective of territory, no matter what part of Austria they inhabit. That is why this autonomy is called national and not territorial. It means secondly that the Czechs, Poles, Germans and so on, scattered over various parts of Austria, taken personally as individuals are to be organized into integral nations, and are as such to form part of the Austrian state. In this way Austria would represent not a union of autonomous nationalities, but a union of autonomous nationalities, constituted irrespective of territory.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 331-332

The fact that Otto Bauer was a socialist leader, made such theories especially dangerous for the working class, as they dressed up bourgeois ideology in a more palatable dress, to mask it. This made it more likely for the workers movements to be fooled into adopting the theories:

“There is no need to mention the kind of ‘socialist principle of nationality’ glorified by Bauer…. True such nationalism is not so transparent, for it is skillfully masked by socialist phrases, but it is all the more harmful to the proletariat for that reason… But this does not exhaust the harm caused by national autonomy; it prepares the ground not only for the segregation of nations, but also for breaking up the united labour movements. The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the united workers’ party into separate parties built on national lines. The break-up of the party is followed by the break-up of the trade unions and complete segregation is the result. In this way, the united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 342-343.

In specific reference to the Jews, Stalin explains that Otto Bauer, despite his praise for “cultural autonomy” in general, is against autonomy for the Jews. Why? In part on the basis of the historical background of assimilation:

“In brief the Jewish Nation is coming to an end, and hence there is nobody to demand national autonomy for. The Jews are being assimilated. This view of the fate of the Jews as a nation is not a new one. It was expressed by Marx as early as the forties, in reference chiefly to the German Jews.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p.344

Stalin does not disagree with Otto Bauer’s view that the Jews cannot be preserved as a nation. But Stalin does question Bauer’s grounds for rejecting, Bauer’s own “cultural autonomy,” to the Jews. After all points out Stalin, while Bauer allows Pole, Germans etc this mythical “cultural autonomy,” he denies it to the Jews! But Stalin says, he does so on partial grounds. The reason Bauer offers is “That the Jews have no closed territory or settlement.” Stalin says: “This explanation in the main a correct one, does not however express the whole truth.” We may ask what is this “whole truth?” Stalin goes on to raise the issue of the absence of a national market:

“The fact of the matter is that there is no large and stable stratum connected with the land, which would naturally rivet the nation together, serving not only as its framework But also as a ‘national market.’ Of the five or six million Russian Jews only 3-4% are employed in trade industry, in urban institutions and in general are town dwellers; moreover they are spread all over Russia and do not constitute a majority in a single gubernia.”

J.V.Stalin Works, Moscow; 1956; Vol 2; Marxism and the National Question; p. 345

In conclusion, Stalin in Marxism And The National Question thought there was no stable geographical territory within which a Jewish nation could feasibly be “riveted” together. These views certainly influenced Stalin, or at least were indistinguishable on the whole from those of Stalin.

Lenin’s Remarks On The National Question: On Jews And The Bund

How did Lenin regard the Jewish minority, some of who saw themselves as a nation? Jews certainly wanted liberation from oppressions, and this wish frequently took the form of national aspirations. This was the explicit view of the socialists of the Jewish Bund. The Bund is discussed in more detail below. Lenin first discusses the Jews in a more general vein, in “Critical Remarks on the National Question,” written in 1913.

Here he states that the Jews were not a separate nation. He acknowledges that racist reactionary behaviour forms them into an “unhappy, downtrodden and disfranchised caste.” But rather than separation, Lenin argued that assimilation was the best progressive step:

“It is the Jewish nationalists in Russia in general and the Bundists in particular who vociferate most about Russian orthodox Marxists being ‘assimilators.’ And yet…out of the ten and a half million Jews all over the word, about half that number live in the civilised world, where conditions favouring ‘assimilation’ are strongest, whereas the unhappy downtrodden disfranchised Jews in Russia and Galicia who are crushed under the heel of the Purishkeviches [NB: Lenin uses ‘Purishkevich’, derived from the landowner monarchist, Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich; who founded the reactionary Black Hundreds in 1905 period to ward off revolution] (Both Russian and Polish), live where conditions for ‘assimilation’ least prevail, where there is most segregation and even a ‘Pale of Settlement’, a numerous clausus and other charming features of the Purishkevich regime. The Jews in the civilised world are not a nation, they have in the main become assimilated, say Karl Kautsky and Otto Bauer. The Jews in Galicia and in Russia are not a nation; unfortunately (through no fault of their own but through that of the Purishkeviches) they are still a caste here…”

Lenin “Critical Remarks on the National Question” In “Lenin On USA”; p. 87; or Collected Works; Vols 20; pp 28-30, and 37; OR:
http://gate.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Lenin/CRNQ13.html

The Bund argued for “cultural autonomy” and a separate educational system. But Lenin replied that assimilation can work, even under capitalism he argued, pointing to the process at work in the USA:

“A rough idea of the scale which the general process of assimilation is assuming under the present conditions of advanced capitalism may be obtained from the immigration statistics of the United States of America.. The 1900 census in the USA recorded over 10,000,000 foreigners. New York state…grinds down national distinctions.”

Lenin “Critical Remarks National Question” In “Lenin On USA”; p. 87; or: Collected Works; Vols 20; p.28-37;

Lenin concludes that the plans for a non-assimilation is reactionary, and negatively compares it to the introduction of “separate” school systems in the South of the USA:

“In practice the plan for ‘extra-territoriality’ or ‘cultural national’ autonomy could mean only one thing: the division of educational affairs according to nationality i.e., the introduction of national curia in school affairs…How utterly reactionary it is even from the standpoint of democracy let alone from that of the proletarian class struggle for socialism.. A single instance and a single scheme for the ‘nationalisation’ of the school system will make this point abundantly clear. In the USA the division of the States into Northern and Southern, holds to this day in all departments of life: the former possess the greatest traditions of freedom and of struggle against the slaveowners; the latter possess the greatest traditions of slave ownership, survivals of persecution of the Negroes, who are economically oppressed and culturally backward (44% of Negroes are illiterate and 6% of whites), and so forth. In the Northern states Negro children attend the same schools as white children do. In the South there are separate ‘national’, or racial, whichever you please, schools for Negro children. I think this is the sole instance of actual ‘nationalisation’ of schools. In Eastern Europe there exists a country where things like the Beilis case are still possible, and Jews are condemned by the Purishkeviches to a condition worse than that of the Negroes. In that country a scheme for nationalisation Jewish schools was recently mooted in the Ministry. Happily this reactionary utopia is no more likely to realised than the utopia of the Austrian petty bourgeois.”

Lenin “Critical Remarks on the National Question”; Ibid; p. 88-89.

[Note: Beilis Case: An infamous case where a Jew was framed and brutally put to death for crimes he had not committed.]

Related to the issue of whether the Jews formed a nation, was the concept of a multi-national state. In his later polemics of 1914, with Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin wrote “The Right Of Nations To Self-Determination.” Here Lenin firmly upholds the rights of nations to self determination, against Luxemburg’s hesitations. But in this work, Lenin holds that the “typical normal” capitalist state is one inhabited by a single nation:

“The tendency of every national movement is towards the formation of national states, under which…requirements of modern capitalism are best satisfied. The most profound economic factors drive towards this goals and, therefore for the whole of Western Europe, nay, for the entire civilised world, the national state is typical and normal for the capitalist period.”

Lenin; “Right Of Nations Self Determination”; Selected Works; Vol 1; Moscow; 1977; p.569; C W 20; p 393;
OR http://gate.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Lenin/RNSD14.html

Departures from this are unusual. Lenin goes on to cite the then Marxist, Karl Kautsky, who agreed that multi-national states are formed in territories where the state structure remains “abnormal or underdeveloped” in relation to the needs of capitalist society:

“States of mixed national composition (known as multi-national states, as distinct from national states) are ‘always those whose internal constitution has for some reason remained abnormal or underdeveloped (backward)’. Needless to say, Kautsky speaks of abnormality exclusively in the sense of lack of conformity with what is best adapted to the requirements of a developing capitalism.”

Lenin; “Right Of Nations to Self Determination”; Ibid; p. 569.

Elsewhere Lenin continues to be hostile to any chauvinism, on the part of the Jewish representatives. This naturally came to a head with the Bund.

Source

Marx, Lenin & Stalin on Zionism: Introduction & Preface

This poster was from a campaign waged against anti-Semitism at the end of the 1920's.

This poster was from a campaign waged against anti-Semitism at the end of the 1920’s.

Preface

Bourgeois nationalists, whether of Zionist and Pan-Islamic persuasions, both accuse the USSR of the socialist era (from 1917-1953) of racism, aimed against either Jews or Arabs respectively. But, in reality Lenin and Stalin gave an even-handed and single reply, to both the Pan-Islamists and to the Zionists. This reply was to eschew a narrow bourgeois nationalism, in order to create socialism.

In Alliance 30 we attempt to put the recent history of Jewry into a Marxist-Leninist context. This means we will first examine the views of Marx, Lenin and Stalin upon the ideologies of Zionism and its precursors. Next we discuss the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan established by the Soviets. Of necessity we examine the so called “Jewish Plot” and the “Doctor’s Plot” in the USSR. This is necessary to sensibly to discuss how it was that the USSR would come to agree at the United Nations, to a recognition of the imperialist-led partition of Palestine, and the planting of the colony of Israel.

In the companion Alliance Number 31, we will examine the views of Lenin and Stalin on Pan-Islamism. The form Pan-Islamism took in the USSR, was known as Sultan-Galiyev-ism. We then briefly examine the versions of Pan-Islamism represented by the Ba’ath Party ideology of Syria and Iraq; and finally we will assess the views of Samir Amin.

A Methodological Foreword Upon Recent Sources For Marxist-Leninists

Alliance has always tried to punctiliously show its source material with as precise references as is possible. This is not an academic peccadillo- to be disdained as “armchair Marxism.” Rather it is essential to root a Marxist-Leninist view of the world in an objective and clear manner. Only this permits any possible rebuttals that are based on facts rather than those of opinion. It has not been necessary to comment on this matter till now. However three new issues have arisen, regarding source materials that directly affect the Marxist-Leninist movement.

Firstly: Certain documents have been released in the Gorbachev era and more recently, from the Soviet archives. This is generally of benefit to Marxist-Leninists, who try to explain the real events inside the former USSR in its Marxist-Leninist days of Stalin’s life time. Previous readers of Alliance, will know that we generally try to highlight the most significant of such documents; and we draw readers’ attention to the confusion that this raises in the bourgeois academic circles. For instance, we previously discussed how the school of so called “revisionist” historians – such as Arch Getty Junior – have tried to struggle with such evidence that contradicts the standard Trotsky influenced bourgeois academic histories. But a caveat must be introduced. It is very unlikely that ALL relevant documents will surface in our lifetime. Moreover, we do not know what documents of Stalin’s and other relevant leading personalities may have been destroyed. All the written archival materials are unlikely to be made available to us anyway, since some of these will be deemed “too sensitive.” Why should the Russian state behave any differently to the British Kew Gardens Archives for instance? We therefore simply raise a caution regarding the appropriate interpretation of documents that may become available. These are likely to be only “spotty” and unlikely to give us all the facts.

Secondly: As a corollary, this leaves some to a continuing abundance of the hear-say, “he said-they said,” type of scurrilous evidence. This leads to a dilemma for the Marxist-Leninists, as to whether to even use this type of evidence at all. But to ignore it is to ignore the charges that the authors lay at Stalin. This does not help Marxists-Leninists currently since one of our current tasks – is to counter the bourgeois historiography and lies. On the other hand, in using these sources it is necessary to be highly selective. Instances are provided in Alliance 30 of two especially problematic sources.

Very little written is available on Stalin’s attitude to the Jewish Question. A new low in scurrilous writing on Stalin is provided by the virulent Arkady Vaksberg in “Stalin Against The Jews,” New York; 1994. Much of the tone and a large measure of the content of this book is scurrilous. For instance – Vaksberg alleges that Stalin did not really research and write the famous article on “The National Question.” Nonetheless we will use the Vaksberg source – albeit with caution – since little else is available on the subject.

Another such problem source is the memoirs of Pavel Sudoplatov, published in 1994. After 1939, he was the officer in charge of the NKVD (later MGB) special operations. Several attacks upon Sudoplatov’s honesty and reliability have been made. Sudoplatov claimed that he organized the assassination of Trotsky under direct orders from Stalin, and that the Soviet atomic bomb was only made possible by secrets divulged by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr.

Both claims are untrue. David Holloway has exposed the latter lie in an article in “Science,” (Holloway D; Science May 27th, 1994), and the former lie is contrary to key facts as discussed by the CL. (CL article reprinted Alliance Issue Number 7.) It is interesting that these memoirs were recorded from Sudoplatov by Jerrold L. & Leona P. Schecter. This same couple first fully published Khrushchev’s memoirs in 1970, in an association between Life magazine & Little Brown Publishers. (See Pavel & A Sudoplatov; with JL & LP Schecter: “Special Tasks”; Boston; 1995 p.xxiii) . It is also not a coincidence that one of the most anti-Communist writers, Robert Conquest, exonerates Sudoplatov of falsification in a glowing foreword.

Of course, Conquest is careful to cover himself by saying that:

“Sudoplatov is by no means immune from error”

(Ibid; p.xv).

Nonetheless Conquest ends by lauding the memoirs:

“But it will be seen that (criticisms-ed) are of little consequence compared with the solid substance we Sudoplatov offers is.. A unique document.. The most valuable of all possible sources for important matters over the whole period of High Stalinism”

(Ibid; p.xiv.)

We reply that the most solid evidence about the period is in Stalin’s own writings. The fragmentary additional evidence must be sensibly pieced together using in addition, Marxist-Leninist theory.

Thirdly: We have increasingly over the last few months/years used sources derived from the world wide web. We caution however that it is sometimes difficult to know who is posting these various documents on the web. We thus attempt to use these documents sparingly. Above all, if web sources are used, we attempt to fully reference the web site.

Introduction

When Zionists attack Lenin and Stalin for their alleged racism against the Jewish peoples, the accusation devolves onto one issue. That issue is that Lenin and Stalin denied at the turn of the century, that the Jewish people had a national status.

After German fascists, aided by Western imperialism launched the genocide against Jews, before and during World War II, a national identity was then formed in the state of Israel. In fact the German fascists helped to weld a later national possibility for Jews in the imperialist stooge state of Israel. This later event was not one that could have been dealt with by Lenin or Stalin in their early writings. In “The National Question,” Stalin had pointed out, that nations come into being and pass away. Obviously a different situation arose after World War II, engineered by imperialism, which before turned a blind eye to the genocide of the Jews. This was part of the overall strategy of turning Germany against the USSR. But some imperialisms, especially the USA promoted the migration of Jews into former Palestine, to consolidate their position against other imperialisms. This created a further tension between the British imperialists and the USA imperialists.

It was not racism that informed the views of Lenin and Stalin. The attitude of Lenin and Stalin was to destroy separatist tendencies that would ghetto-ise and narrow the proletariat. Lenin quoted with approval the words of Ernest Renan, which quickly summarize the views that Lenin had on ghettos and racism of all sorts:

“‘When the National Assembly of 1791 decreed the emancipation of the Jews,'” writes Renan, “It was very little concerned with the question of race.. It is the business of the Nineteenth Century to abolish all ‘ghettos,’ and I cannot compliment those who seek to restore them. The Jewish race has rendered the world the greatest services. Assimilated with the various nations, harmoniously blended with the various national units, it will render no less services in the future than in the past.”

(Lenin, Quoting Ernst Renan of Paris, 1887, in : “The Position of Bund In The Party” 1903)

Source

Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain on the 1973 Yom Kippur War

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Originally published in Class Against Class, organ of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain, No. 2 Special Edition, October 1973.

Web edition by Alliance Marxist-Leninist July 2003

THE WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST

War Has Come Once Again To The Middle East

On October 6th, 1973, the armed forces of Egypt and Syria, crossed the cease-fire line established after the war of June 1967 into Israeli –occupied territory seized from these states in that war.

But the new war differs from that of 1967 in one very important respect – for reasons that will be analysed later, Israel no longer enjoys the full support of world imperialism, even in the eyes of United States imperialism. Already in the first few days of the war the powerful Israeli war machine has suffered great losses in men and machines, already the first arrogant communiques of the Israeli High Command have given way to gloomy admissions that the war is likely to be long and bitter, already the myth of the “invincibility” of the Israeli armed forces has melted away.

The Foundation of Israel

Zionism, the political philosophy of the Israeli ruling class, has been since its inception at the end of the 19th. century an ideology serving objectively the interests of developed capitalism, of imperialism. It presents workers and petty bourgeois of Jewish descent as members of “a Jewish nation,” as “aliens” in the countries in which they live; it tells them that, to be “free,” they must emigrate to their ancient “national homeland” in Palestine. Thus, the participation of a Zionist worker in the struggles of the working class for a better life, for socialism, can at best be only half-hearted, for he regards himself as an “outsider” whose eyes are directed towards “his own” country, which has now taken concrete shape in the state of Israel. Thus, Zionism is complementary to anti-semitism in its reactionary divisive effect.

The desire of the British imperialists to win the support of the Zionist movement for the Allied war effort in the First World War brought the Balfour Declaration of November 1917; this promised that the British Government would facilitate the setting up of “a National Home for the Jewish People” in Palestine. The British imperialists were unworried by the fact that two years earlier, in July 1915, they had won Husein ibn Ali, the Grand Sherif of Mecca, to the side of the Allies by promising to support the establishment of “an independent Arab state” in Palestine and that in 1916 they had signed a secret treaty with the French imperialists dividing a Palestine between them. Palestine became simply “the much promised land.'”

When the First World War was over, the British and French imperialists took over the Arab Near East disguising their colonial rule under the cloak of “League of Nations mandates.” As Jewish immigration continued, both legally and illegally into Palestine, the rise of Arab national liberation movements led the imperialists to adopt neo-colonial manoeuvres: Iraq was granted “independence” in 1932, Syria and Lebanon in 1941, Jordan in 1946. And in 1947 the British government announced that it was ending its rule over Palestine in May of the following year and was transferring its “responsibilities” there to the United Nations.

The United Nations envisaged the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Jerusalem as an independent city. But it’s scheme was never put into effect. On May 14th, 1948, the Zionists proclaimed most of Palestine “the state of Israel.

The Palestinian Refugees

At the time of its formation, the state of Israel contained 1.3 million Arabs and 0.7 million Jews. The Zionists took steps to establish a Jewish majority. As Michael Bar-Zhchar says in his sympathetic biography of the founder of Israel:

“Ben Gurion never believed in the possibility of coexistence with the Arabs. The fewer Arabs within the frontiers of the future state the better … A major offensive against the Arabs would … reduce to a minimum the proportion of the Arab population within the state …. He may be accused of racism, but in that case the whole Zionist movement would have to be put on trial.”

Thus, even before the declaration of “independence” Zionist armed gangs had begun a campaign of massacre and terror against the Arab population, driving great numbers of them to seek refuge in the neighbouring Arab states. By 1950 a million Arab refugees from Palestine were officially receiving United Nations aid, and by 1971 2.6 million of the 3.0 million population of Israel were Jews.

Dependence upon Imperialism

The establishment of a Jewish racist state in the heart of, and hostile to, the Arab world gave world imperialism a valuable bridgehead against the Arab national liberation movement – a bridgehead dependent upon the active support of world imperialism for its very existence.

At first Israel continued to depend upon British imperialism. It was Britain, together with France, which collaborated with Israel in the war of aggression against Egypt which began in October 1956. But the more powerful US imperialists were unwilling to allow their British and French rivals to extend their influence in the Middle East, and compelled the British, French and Israeli forces to withdraw ignominiously from Egyptian territory.

From this time on, the Israeli ruling class transferred their dependence to US imperialism which supplied huge quantities of military “aid” to Israel. It was as a result of this military “aid” that in June 1967 Israel was able to launch its war of aggression against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, compelling these states to accept a cease-fire which left Israel in control of large areas of their territory.

Later, in the UN General Assernbly, the United States representative defended the Israeli aggression as an action of “self-defence,” but in November 1967 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution, drafted by, Britain, which demanded that Israel withdraw all troops to her former boundaries and bring about a just settlement of the refugee problem. The Council appointed Gunnar Jarring, of Sweden, as UN Special Representative charged with securing the fulfillment of the resolution, but the Israeli government has always refused to carry cut its terms.

The Palestine Liberation Movement

The 1967 defeat of the Arab states, and the new numbers of Arab refugees which the war added to those of earlier years, stimulated the rise of a Palestine national liberation movement, formed largely from among these, refugees. Although, this resistance movement soon fragmented into a considerable number of rival organisations, and their declared aim of the liberation of Palestine was greatly retarded when the leaders of some of these organisations turned from organised guerrilla warfare to acts of individual terrorism in various countries, it remained a significant force.

Washington’s New Plan

By the summer of 1970 it had become clear to the most influential section of the United States imperialists that it would be essential for the USA to import large quantities of oil in the next few years from the Arab states in the Middle East. This meant that full support of Israel against these Arab states was no longer in the best interests of the US imperialists.

From this time on the US imperialists made their position clear to the Arab Middle East governments. They would endeavour to persuade the Israeli government to withdraw “voluntarily” to the boundaries existing before the war of 1967. And if those attempts failed, they would hold back (without discontinuing entirely) their military “aid” to Israel and would tacitly approve of an all-out war on the part of the Arab state provided:

1) the Palestine national liberation movements were effectively liquidated; and
2) the representatives of Soviet imperialism were expelled from the Arab states.

Whatever the military outcome of such a war might be, it would gravely weaken the military and economic power of Israel and facilitate the imposition upon its government of a new cease-fire compelling it to accept the terms of the Security Council resolution of November 1967. The European imperialist powers – even more dependent upon Middle East oil than the USA – could be depended on to take the initiative in this imposition.

The Execution of the Plan

In 1970 and 1971 the US government pressed its “peace plan” through visits to, the Middle East by Secretary of State William Rogers, Assistant Secretary of State: Joseph Sisco, and diplomats Donald Bergus and Michael Sterner. The Israeli government, over-confident of its position, refused to consider withdrawal to its old frontiers.

Meanwhile, using as a pretext the hi-jacking of several airliners to Jordan by Palestine commandos, in September 1970 King Hussein of Jordan launched a large scale offensive against the national liberation forces within Jordan; this offensive was resumed in July 1971, after which Hussein announced that the resistance forces within Jordan had been completely liquidated.

In April 1973 the government of Lebanon, using as pretext the Israeli commando raid against Palestinian guerillas near Beirut in February, launched an offensive against the Palestinian national liberation forces within Lebanon. The attack ended in May after the guerilla’s had suffered heavy casualties.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government took action against the representatives of Soviet neo-imperialism, as described at the time in the MLOB’s journal RED FRONT:

“Since the death of Nasser, two conflicting trends have emerged within the Egyptian capitalist class – each standing for a different method of trying to solve the problem of the continuing occupation of Egyptian territory by the troops of their U,S. dominated neighbour, Israel.

One section, headed by former Vice-President Ali Sabry, favoured the adoption of a phoney programme of “socialism” as a pretext for completely subordinating Egypt to Soviet neo-imperialism in an alliance which would force Israel to retreat from her present positions.

The other section, headed by President Anwar Sadat himself, favoured confederating Egypt with Syria and Lybia, in order to offer to subordinate this confederation, to US imperialism in return for US pressure, on her Israeli puppets to withdraw their forces.

The US imperialists having indicated their interest in this second line of approach, the President dismissed Ali Sabry on the eve of the visit to Egypt by US Secretary of State William Rogers, at the beginning of May 1971.

Soon afterwards several hundred prominent persons associated with the pro-Soviet faction within the capitalist class – including Ali Sabry; the Secretary-General of the ruling “Arab Socialist Union”, Abdul Nur; six Cabinet Ministers, including the Minister of Defence, General Mohammed Fawzy, and the Minister of the Interior, Sharawy Gornaa – were arrested in the name of ‘preserving the independence of Egypt from a coup engineered by a foreign power.’

Apprehensive for the safety of their massive economic and military investments (more than half of Soviet “aid” has gone to Egypt), the Soviet neo-imperialists immediately despatched a high-level though “unofficial” delegation to Cairo headed by President Podgorny. The Egyptian government was pleased to sign a 15-year ‘Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation’ with the Soviet Union, and to use it as blackmail to further persuade the US imperialists to pressure their Israeli puppets into a peace settlement acceptable to the Egyptian capitalist class.”

(RED FRONT, July-August 1971; p.20).

In September 1973 the Syrian government imposed “strict restrictions” on the movements of Soviet personnel in the country. Meanwhile, in August, US Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco had made the position of the US imperialists only too clear when he said bluntly on Israeli TV:

“While our interests in many respects are parallel to the interests of Israel, they are not synonymous with those of the state of Israel. The interests of the United States go beyond any one nation in this area. … There is increasing concern in our country over the energy question and I think that it is foolhardy to think that this is not a factor in the situation.”

In September King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, whose country is a long-standing semi-colony of the USA to which it exports almost all its oil, declared (in support of the US plan) that continuing US support for Israel might be purchased “at the cost of Saudi oil.” President Nixon commented on this statement in a manner strikingly different from his earlier statements of full support for Israel, saying, “Both sides are at fault. Both sides need to start negotiating. That is our position.”

The Israeli leaders, becoming aware that they might be as expendable to the changing needs of US imperialism as the Chiang Kai-shek regime, made frantic approaches to the British and German imperialists. But Chancellor Willy Brandt invited to Israel for a state visit in June 1973, said only what British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Hume had declared move bluntly in Cairo in September 1971, that Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories was “a vital requirement.”

When at the beginning of October 1973, the Austrian government closed down the transit camp for Jews from the Soviet Union (a capitalist government does not change its policy to save the lives of a few Jewish hostages), the relative isolation of the Israeli rulers from imperialism was finally clear.

A Just War of Liberation

The war of the Arab states for the liberation of the territories seized from them by Israel on behalf of United States imperialism is a just war, which will have the support of progressive people in every country. This just character is not altered by the fact that the US imperialists have, in a new world situation, given the green light to the Arab states.

But a war fought by Arab states with the tacit support of the US imperialists cannot solve the plight of the Palestine refugees. This requires the forcible destruction of the present Israeli racist state machine and the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state in which Arabs and Jews can have equal civil rights. This can be brought about not by the present war, but only by the armed struggle of a united Palestinian national liberation movement purged of illusions of the usefulness of acts of individual terrorism.

BUT THIS IS A QUESTION FOR THE FUTURE.

 

Source

1929 Comintern Resolution on Palestine and Arabistan

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

From Editor Jane Degras: Documents of the Communist International 1919-1943″; Volume 3; London 1971

EXTRACTS FROM A RESOLUTION OF THE ECCI POLITICAL SECRETARIAT ON THE INSURRECTION MOVEMENT IN ARABISTAN

16 October 1929 Inprekorr, x, 11, P. 258, 3 1 January 1930

[The fighting between Arabs and Jews which broke out at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem on 23 August 1929 provoked a good deal of discussion in the communist press on the nature of the forces involved. The Zionist movement had from the outset been condemned by the Comintern as an agency and tool of British imperialism; it was a counter-revolutionary movement of the Jewish big bourgeoisie run by the financial magnates of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An article in the Communist International shortly after the outbreak asserted that: ‘The Zionist immigrants . . . turned the country into a suitable strategic base for British imperialism, and … were to serve as lightning-conductors towards which, in case of need, British agents could direct the revolt of the Arab masses against the occupation regime.’ At any sign of revolutionary nationalism British agents provoked massacres and pogroms, thus temporarily paralysing the revolutionary movement. The fighting that broke out in August ‘was undoubtedly organized by British agents, provoked by the Zionist-fascist bourgeoisie, and arranged by the Arab-Mohammedan reaction’; but the movement got out of hand and became a genuine Arab nationalist revolt. The British purpose was to strengthen their position against the penetration of American capital and to frustrate Arab-Jewish mass solidarity. The Arab masses no longer trusted their bourgeois leaders who, corrupted by the money channelled through Zionism, were conciliatory towards imperialism, but their own movement had been captured by Pan-Islamic reaction.

The official Comintern attitude was disputed by some Jewish members of the Palestinian CP, who denied the existence of an Arab revolutionary movement; the workers’ movement was almost entirely Jewish. In an article in Novy Vostok Arbuziam [Averbakh] asserted that the fellaheen and the Beduin masses were waging an active political struggle against British imperialism; they did not, however, submit easily to class political discipline and might therefore become the tools of imperialist agents. ‘The basic question of the revolutionary movement in the Arab East is to use the immense revolutionary energy of the Beduin tribes for the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism, against the native bourgeoisie and feudalists, and to link it with the movement of the impoverished fellaheen and proletariat.’ The Jewish Socialist Party (Poale Zion), including its left wing, had become a national-chauvinist organization defending the plantation owners and colonizers, and the trade unions sacrificed the workers’ interests on the altar of Zionism.

An article by a certain Nadab published four years later in Revoliutsionny Vostok, which argued that, since Zionism was counter-revolutionary, anti-imperialism in Palestine must be directed against the Jewish national minority as being overwhelmingly Zionist, stated that those members of the Palestine CP who insisted that the 1929 events were a pogrom, and not a rebellion, had been expelled.

The League Against Imperialism interpreted the fighting as an anti-imperialist struggle to which the imperialists had given a religious character; the Zionists and social-democrats had prevented a united front of Arab and Jewish workers. The imperialists welcomed the event as a pretext for annexing Palestine to the British Empire. An article in Inprekorr said the Arab Executive now regarded the Zionist leaders not as enemies but as rivals for British favour. An accompanying article (signed J.B.) said the ‘street fight’ which began on 23 August was ‘the signal for a general Arab rising’. The British Government ‘dropped a little oil whenever the fire threatened to go out’ in an attempt to destroy the Arab-Jewish rapprochement of recent years. The communist party was too weak to ‘gain influence on the mass movement which grew from hour to hour and was influenced by blind religious fanaticism’. The Haifa committee of the communist party, claiming that what had happened was a pogrom pure and simple, suppressed the central committee statement which interpreted the events as the work of imperialist stooges, deflecting the anti-imperialist revolt into pogroms. In a letter to the Palestine central committee, the Eastern secretariat of the ECCI spoke of the dangers of opportunism in the party, and of the conciliatory attitude to Poale Zion.

In October 1930 the ECCI again suggested that preparations should be made for the formation of an Arab Communist Federation, to include the parties of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. At the seventh congress of the Palestine Communist Party in December 1930 the Arab and Jewish delegates were equal in number-previously the Arabs had been in a minority; the two chief dangers facing the party were said to be Jewish Zionist chauvinism and Arab bourgeois nationalism; the central committee elected by the congress had an Arab majority. An article in Inprekorr on the congress said prospects were improving because the Jewish workers were turning against their own bourgeoisie while the Arab bourgeoisie were turning away from the nationalist movement. The Pan-Islamic congress held in Jerusalem in the summer of 1931 was described as an attempt to consolidate reaction and mislead the masses; its reactionary character was shown by the resolution it adopted protesting against the oppression of Moslems in the USSR. Early in 1932 a draft programme for the Egyptian CP was published. This described Egypt as a British cotton plantation worked by slave labour, with the monarchy and landowners acting as slavedrivers. All Egyptian parties were subservient to Britain, the Wafd representing bourgeois-landlord-counter-revolutionary-national-reformism’. An article in Inprekorr in May 1932 noted that ‘as a result of the temporary weakness of the labour movement in Egypt, police provocateurs and petty-bourgeois adventurers succeeded in disorganizing the activity of the Egyptian CP, detaching it from the workers, and alienating it from the revolutionary mass struggle’. The seventh congress Materials said that for a time ‘an unprincipled group’ in the Egyptian CP, behind whom the police was hidden, had condemned communist organizations to complete inactivity. At the congress itself a delegate said that because of internal feuds and intrigues, the party had at one time been expelled from the Comintern; in 1931 the ECCI had appointed a new leadership.

Referring to the events of 1929, the Materials noted that there had been strong opposition to the ECCI’s instructions to Arabize the Palestinian CP; these opportunists had been removed and the position was corrected at the seventh congress of the Palestinian Communist Party, but the party was only now (1935) beginning to bolshevize itself, a process inseparable from Arabization.
A footnote to the present resolution states: ‘The resolution is necessarily published in abridged form. In particular, it omits those passages concerning the attitude of the Palestine Communist Party to national-revolutionary trends.’
At the meeting of the LAI Executive in Cologne in January 1929 Heckert (representing the RILU) and Melnichansky (representing the Soviet trade unions) attacked A. J. Cook, a member of the Executive, who protested against outside interference in the League, and against the label of ‘traitor’ attached to union leaders, and said he was not inclined to support a League that was to become a new red international. Cook shortly afterwards resigned from the League. At the JAI congress in Frankfurt in July 1929 there were 260 delegates, 84 of them representing the colonies, although many did not come directly from the colonies themselves. Munzenberg reported that the bourgeois nationalists who had been present at the Brussels congress, such as the KMT, had sold out to imperialism, and were not represented at Frankfurt; there were fewer intellectuals, but more representatives of workers’ and peasants’ organizations. An article on the congress in the Communist International in November said that in all the colonial countries the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie had moved to the right. The ILP and the Indian National Congress had played a treacherous part; Poale Zion was an agent of British imperialism. The left-wing social reformists (such as Maxton and Fimmen) had joined forces with the national reformists (such as Hatta and Gupta) and should have been more thoroughly exposed at the congress. (Maxton was later expelled from the British section of the LAI.) Neither the Indian nor the Indonesian revolutionary movement was represented, and hence there had been serious opportunist errors at the congress, which had failed to expose the left social-democrats, who were ‘the worst enemies of the colonial peoples, the most dangerous enemies of the colonial revolution’. The congress resolution had not said a word about the ‘treachery and perfidy’ of the Indian National Congress. ‘The time has come to raise the question of purging the League of elements which are obviously treacherous.’]

The uprising of the Arab masses in Palestine and the events in Arabistan as a whole have by and large fully confirmed the correctness of the analysis made by the sixth CI congress and the tenth plenum of the sharpening of the struggle between imperialism and the working masses of the colonial countries, of the new surge of the national liberation movement in colonial and semi-colonial countries, of the appraisal of the English ‘Labour’ Government and the transformation of the Second International into a social-fascist, openly social-imperialist International.

The national disunity of the Arabs, the fragmented character of Arabistan, broken up into a number of small countries, the division of Arabistan among the various important countries, the complete absence of political rights for the indigenous population, forcible Zionist colonization, and the use of greater pressure by English and French imperialism on the Arab countries-these are one group of causes of the insurrectionary movement.

A second group of causes of the events in Palestine are the robbery of the Arab fellaheens’ land for the benefit of Zionist colonization (often with the help of Arab large landowners), and of the Arab large landowners and foreign capitalists . . . the greater exploitation of the peasants by higher rents and taxes and by the moneylenders, the relatively rapid growth of a commodity and money economy . . . and the comparatively rapid development of class differentiation among the Beduin tribes.

The maturing of the revolutionary crisis was accelerated by the growth of unemployment … the harvest failure of 1928, the ferment in the Arab countries, the dissolution of the Syrian parliament, the Iraq government crisis … the demonstrations and strikes of workers in Palestine and Syria, the new Anglo-Egyptian treaty … the approaching offensive by spiritually bankrupt Zionism, which has discarded its socialist mask and appears openly as an agency of capitalism (as shown in the decision of the Zurich Zionist congress in July 1929).

THE CHARACTER OF THE MOVEMENT

These are the characteristic features of the movement:

1. The Palestine uprising is occurring at a time of revolutionary ferment in the most important industrial centres of India, of crisis in the Chinese counter-revolution, and of a rising wave in the revolutionary labour movement of the West; it represents the beginning of a rising wave in the revolutionary liberation movement of the Arab countries.

2. The movement extends over the whole of Arabia and has a profoundly national character. It spread extremely quickly to the other Arab countries.

3. The movement is changing rapidly and moving on to a higher level. If, in the first days, the clergy and the feudalists, united in the Mejlis Islam, managed to direct it into the channel of an Arab-Jewish national feud, after that the masses turned spontaneously against the Mufti, against the Mejlis Islam, and against the representatives of the Arab Executive, condemning their treachery and their surrender to imperialism … the movement is changing rapidly from a Zionist-Arab conflict into a national peasant movement, in which the nationalist urban pettybourgeoisie are also taking part. The fellaheen and particularly the Beduin are the most active participants in the insurrection movement.

4. The working class has remained in part passive; in any case it has not acted independently, much less tried to assume hegemony of the movement. A section of the Jewish and Arab workers fell under the influence of ‘their’ bourgeoisie and took part in the national-religious conflict under the hegemony and leadership of ‘their’ bourgeoisie. Nevertheless there were individual cases of heroic manifestations of proletarian class solidarity by Arab and Jewish workers. Thus, notwithstanding the fact that the insurrectionary movement was a response to an Anglo-Zionist provocation, to which Arab reactionaries (feudalists and priesthood) tried to answer with a pogrom, notwithstanding the fact that in its initial stage it came under reactionary leadership, it was still a national liberation movement, an anti-imperialist all-Arab movement, and in the main, by its social composition, a peasant movement.

5. The movement took place at a time when MacDonald’s ‘Labour’ Government was in power in England. The ‘Labour’ Government, with the full support of the Independent Labour Party, came out openly in the role of executioner of the colonial revolution.

6. The movement revealed the growing depth of the contradictions between English and French imperialism in the struggle for influence in the Middle East.

THE CHARACTER AND DRIVING FORCES OF THE REVOLUTION IN ARABISTAN

The general Comintern position in regard to the character and driving forces of the revolution in Palestine and in Arabistan as a whole has stood the test of the revolutionary mass movement and has been confirmed by experience. The main socio-economic content of the revolution is the overthrow of imperialism, the national unification of all Arab countries, the agrarian revolution, and the solution of the national question. It is this which determines the character of the revolution as a bourgeois-democratic revolution in the Leninist sense of the word. The main driving forces of the revolution are the working class and the peasantry. The bourgeois-democratic revolution can be conducted to its conclusion only in revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie. Without doubt this bourgeois-democratic revolution will turn into a socialist revolution. But the thesis advanced by some, about the proletarian character of the revolution in the conditions prevailing in Palestine, is [not] only completely out of accordance with the historical reality, and not only reflects the Trotskyist ideology of permanent revolution, but would signify, in the concrete conditions in Palestine, primarily the dictatorship of a small company of Jewish workers over the large masses of the Arab population.

THE ROLE OF THE DIFFERENT CLASSES IN THE MOVEMENT

The Zionist colonizing bourgeoisie and their lackeys played the part of outright agents of English imperialism . .’. . The ‘left’ wing of Zionism, Poale Zion, merged with the Jewish fascists and sided with English imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie.

The Arab large landowners, the feudal lords, and the higher ranks of the priesthood, united in the Mejlis Islam, capitulated long ago to English imperialism, and played a treacherous, provocative, counterrevolutionary role.
The All-Arab National Congress, which in the last few years has revealed with a clarity that leaves nothing to be desired its national-reformist character … did not play an independent part in the movement; rather its right wing joined the reactionary camp of the feudals and priests.

The fellaheen and particularly the Beduin were the basic driving forces of the movement. But the peasant movement did not coincide in time with an organized and independent class action by the proletariat in the towns. The peasant movement was unorganized and fragmentary.

The Arab insurrectionary Movement clearly revealed both some positive features and the weaknesses of the Palestine CP.

1. The uprising took the party by surprise; this was because it is composed in the main of Jewish elements; it has no contact with the Arab masses as a whole, and in particular lacks any kind of contact with the peasantry.

The uprising has shown in practice how right the ECCI was in its repeated instructions about the need to Arabize the party. The deficiencies and errors of the Palestine CP, revealed in the course of the uprising, are a result of the party’s failure to steer a bold and determined course towards the Arabization of the party from top to bottom. In the past the party has applied its forces and means incorrectly, and concentrated its work primarily on the Jewish workers, instead of concentrating its maximum forces and means on work among the Arab worker and peasant masses.

The Arabization of the leadership was interpreted as the mechanical inclusion of a few Arab comrades on the central committee. The party did not succeed in creating solid party organizations among Arab workers and in the local Arab trade union organizations. There was a spirit of pessimism and scepticism as to the possibility of successful work among the fellaheen and Beduin, which in some cases led to passive sectarianism, to an underestimation of the revolutionary possibilities in Arabistan, to an exaggeration of the influence of the reactionary bourgeoisie on the Arab masses….

2. Particularly in the first days of the movement, when it was almost exclusively influenced by events in Jerusalem and some other cities, the party failed to notice that the religious national conflict was turning into a general national anti-imperialist peasant action. Consequently the party failed to include in its slogans the questions of the seizure of the land, the formation of revolutionary fellaheen and Beduin committees, the agrarian revolution, and the national unification of all Arab countries, and to conduct agitation around the slogan of an all-Arab workers’ and peasants’ government, failures which can be explained by the right-opportunist vacillations in the party about this question in the past. The party failed to advance the slogan of forming Arab-Jewish workers’ detachments, of arming the workers, of joint demonstrations of Arab and Jewish workers, of a joint general strike…. The exposure of the English ‘Labour’ Government’s assumption of the role of executioner, revolutionary criticism of the Arab and Jewish political parties and organizations, particularly the adherents of Poale Zion and of their attitude during the uprising, was not concrete enough.
At the same time it must be emphasized that the Palestine CP showed itself to be a firmly welded organization of devoted revolutionaries, anxious to fulfil their revolutionary duty in an honourable fashion. In respect to its theoretical level, its devotion to communism, the CP of Palestine certainly stands high. .

THE TASKS OF THE PARTY

The CPP, as well as the CI sections in other Arab countries, must learn the lessons to be drawn from the uprising.

1. The most urgent task of the party is to steer an energetic and bold course towards Arabization of the party from top to bottom. At the same time it must make every effort to establish Arab or joint Arab-Jewish trade unions, and to capture and extend those already in existence….

2. The party must at all costs eradicate the scepticism and passivity on the peasant question which prevail in its ranks…. It must draw up an agrarian programme which pays heed to the partial demands of the fellaheen and Beduin.

3. The party must continue its work among the Jewish workers organized in the Zionist-reformist trade unions, as well as among the unorganized workers. The exposure of Zionism, and particularly of its left wing, as an agency of imperialism, remains as before one of the chief tasks, the concrete lessons of the movement being used to demonstrate this.

4. The party must expose the Mejlis Islam … as a direct agent of English imperialism. No less ruthlessly must it expose the national reformism embodied in the All-Arab Congress…

5. The campaign for an active boycott of the commission appointed to investigate the events, and the organization of the boycott . . . must with the help of other CI sections be placed in the centre of the party’s attention….

8. The lessons of the rising clearly show the need for the closest contact between the communist parties of the various countries of Arabistan and of Egypt. The most appropriate form will be the formation of a federation of communist parties of the Arab countries. The condition for such a federation is the Arabization of the CPS of Palestine and Syria, the consolidation of the CPS of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, etc. Steps to accelerate the Arabization of the Syrian CP must be taken at once, to ensure that the communists in Syria, after overcoming liquidationism and opportunism, finally become independent communist parties.

9. These tasks can be accomplished only on condition that a bold and energetic struggle is waged against the right deviation in the party, which is bound to become stronger under the pressure of white terror and the impact of the temporary defeat of the uprising. The right deviation in the CP of Palestine is expressed in an underestimation of revolutionary possibilities, open or concealed resistance to Arabization of the party, pessimism and passivity in regard to work among the Arab masses, fatalism and passivity on the peasant question, failure to understand the role of Jewish comrades as subsidiary forces, but not as leaders of the Arab movement, exaggeration of the influence of the reactionary bourgeoisie, large landlords, and priesthood on the Arab masses, a conciliatory attitude to opportunist errors, failure to understand the need for courageous and vigorous self-criticism of the mistakes committed by the party, a tendency to emigrate without the permission of the CC, that is, to desert, resistance to the slogan of a workers’ and peasants’ government. The appraisal of the rising as a ‘pogrom’ and concealed resistance to Arabization are manifestations of Zionist and imperialist influence on the communists. The eradication of these attitudes is essential for the further development of the party….

The insurrection movement in Arabistan found a strong international echo. The parties of the Second International and a number of petty-bourgeois pacifists sided with English imperialism and counter-revolutionary Zionism. The ‘left’ social-democrats, above all Maxton, exposed themselves as agents of imperialism. Communists and national revolutionary organizations sided with the Arab uprising.

At the same time it must be noted that in the early stages of the uprising there was vacillation and confusion in some countries (the Jewish section of the CP of the USA) as well as in some communist newspapers (even in the Soviet Union) about the character of the movement. These were rapidly overcome in the C1 sections.

Source

Bill Bland: Notes on Lebanon

Lebanon

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

Previously unpublished notes by W.B. Bland, circa 1987

Geography

The small state of Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean, on the north and east by Syria, and on the south by Israel.

It has an area of 3,600 square miles about half the size of Wales or Albania, and a population of some 3 million about the same as that of Wales and of Albania.

Its principal towns are Beirut (the capital, with a population of 700,000), Tripoli and Sidon.

The People

Ethnically, the people of Lebanon are almost exclusively Arab, and 93% of the population speak Arabic, which is the official language. There are four main religious communities: Maronite Christian (adherents of an Eastern rite church attached to Rome), Sunni Moslem, Shia Moslem and Druze Moslem. 300,000 Palestinian refugees form 10% of the population.

The Economy

40% of the population are engaged in agriculture, producing fruit, tobacco, and cotton. However, agriculture furnishes only 9% of gross national product. Lebanon’s economy is primarily financial and commercial, popular with the capital of other Middle Eastern countries because of its completely laissez-faire economy and the secrecy of its banking system. There is a small-scale textile industry, and a transit trade in crude oil, Lebanon being the terminal for a pipeline of the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (a subsidiary of Shell) which has a refinery at Tripoli, and another of the US-owned Trans-Arabian Pipeline Company (a subsidiary of Aramco), which has a refinery at Sidon.

Class Divisions

The main social classes in Lebanon are:

1) a comprador capitalist class, drawn mainly from the Christian community, closely linked with and dependent upon foreign – principally United States — imperialism; 

2) a landlord class, drawn mainly from the Sunni Moslem community; 

3) a national bourgeoisie, drawn mainly from the various Moslem communities; 

4) a peasantry, drawn mainly from the Moslem communities; and 

5) a small working class numbering 100,000, drawn mainly from the Moslem communities and involved mainly in the oil-processing and textile industries.

History to 1944

From the 16th century, Lebanon formed part of the Ottoman Empire until the First World War. In 1918 Allied forces seized Lebanon and in 1923 it was made, like the adjoining state of Syria, a French mandate.

During the Second World War, when the French authorities in Lebanon declared in favour of Vichy, British troops occupied the country.

In November 1941 the French Committee of National Liberation declared Lebanon to be an independent state, and the Republic of Lebanon was proclaimed in January 1944. After the war, however, the French government delayed removing its troops, which finally departed only in December 1946.

The State

The Constitution is one of “parliamentary democracy.” The Head of State is a President who is elected by a single-chamber elected National Assembly. However, this body is elected under laws which give the economically dominant Christian community a majority of seats – based on the ratio of Christians to Moslems in the population (6:5) as shown in the (last) Census of 1932.

The domination of the state by the Christian community – in practice by the predominantly Christian comprador capitalist class – is reinforced by an unwritten convention agreed between representatives of the four religious communities in 1943. By this convention it was agreed that the President should always be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Moslem and the Speaker of the National Assembly a Shia Moslem.

The interests of the comprador capitalists and landlords are represented politically by the National Liberal Party (a vehicle of the financial groups around the Chamoun family) -and the Phalangist Party (named after Franco’s fascist party and a vehicle of the financial groups around the Gemayel family).

The most progressive of the political parties are – the Progressive Socialist Party, founded in 1947 and now led by Walid Jumblatt (a Druze), and the revisionist Lebanese Communist Party, which represent the interests of the national bourgeoisie.

The officers of the army are drawn predominantly from the politically and economically dominant Christian community, while the rank and file are divided into separate units on a religious basis. This brought about a break-up of the army in the civil war of 1975-6, when masses of soldiers deserted to different private militias. From that time the army, and the central state apparatus, has been almost impotent. The elections due in April 1976 were postponed because of the civil war, and no elections have been able to be held since. Unable to collect taxes over most of the country, the state has become increasingly dependent upon foreign aid – principally from Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States: in the first half of 1984 alone Lebanon’s balance of payments deficit stood at $700 million. Effective political power is exercised locally by:

1) the foreign occupying forces of Syria in the north and west;
2) rival para-military forces armed and financed by the neighbouring states of Iraq, Israel and Syria;
3) rival para-military forces armed and financed by the political parties of the Lebanese ruling classes – the Tigers of the National Liberal Party and the Lebanese Forces of the Phalangists; and
4) a para-military force of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (the Palestine Liberation Army), armed and financed by certain Arab states (principally Syria,. Libya and Saudi Arabia) and (since July 1972) by the Soviet Union. The PLO contains factions financed and armed by, and subservient to, different states, a number of which are mere small terrorist organisations.

The Formation of Israel

The state of Israel came into being in May 1948 as a result of the desire of the Western imperialist powers to establish a “fifth column” in the heart of the Arab world in the form of a small Jewish racist state which would be dependent for its continued existence on these Powers.

It was proclaimed following a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of November 1947, which recommended that the British mandated territory of Palestine should be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Zionist terrorist gangs drove many Arabs from the territory of the Jewish state, and since then Israel has extended its territory in a number of phoney wars to embrace the whole of Palestine, an area four times that allotted to the Jewish state in the original Partition Plan.

A large proportion of the Arab population of Palestine became homeless, stateless refugees in neighbouring Arab states, mainly Jordan and Lebanon.

The US Military Intervention in Lebanon

In January 1957 US President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed a new American policy, known as the “Eisenhower Doctrine“. This provided for US military aid and the use of US troops to “protect” Middle Eastern states threatened with “aggression.”

By the late 1950s popular dissatisfaction in Lebanon with the corrupt regime of President Camille Chamoun and its policy of subservience to United States imperialism had been reinforced by dissatisfaction with the whole state system, particularly since (although no new census was taken) the Moslem communities now formed a majority of the population.

In May 1958 this dissatisfaction broke out into a mass insurrection against the regime. When, in July, the armed forces of the state proved unable to suppress this and a national-democratic revolution in neighbouring Iraq had toppled the feudal pro-imperialist regime of King Feisal, Chamoun appealed to the United States for military intervention, and 14,000 US troops were landed in Lebanon (British troops being simultaneously landed in Jordan).

Under American pressure, the domination of the state by the Christian comprador capitalist groups was saved by securing the replacement of Chamoun as President in September 1958 by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Fuad Chehab, who appointed a new government giving Ministerial posts to leaders of the opposition. The American forces withdrew from the country in October.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation

Fatah (Conquest) was formed among these refugees under the leadership of Yassir Arafat with the declared aim of establishing a Palestinian state in traditional Palestinian territory by means of armed struggle.

In May 1964, on the initiative of the United States, a rival Palestinian organisation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was set up under the leadership of the demagogic mercenary Ahmad Shuqairi. This served, objectively the interests of the Western imperialists and Israel by putting out statements that its aims were “to drive the Jews into the sea.”

Growing opposition among Palestinians to the policies of the PLO enabled Fatah to join that organisation in February 1969. Becoming by far the largest body in it, Fatah’s policies became the policies of the PLO and its leader, Arafat, became the leader of the PLO.

Arab public opinion forced the rulers of neighbouring Arab states -particularly Jordan and Lebanon – to permit the guerilla units of the PLO to train in and operate from their territory against the Israeli state which occupies Palestine contrary to many UN resolutions. However, their lack of real interest in the formation of an independent Palestinian state, their general subservience to Anglo-American imperialism and their fear of reprisals from the powerful military machine built up by United States imperialism in Israel resulted in efforts by their armed forces to seek to destroy the Palestine Liberation Army within their territories, as was done by Jordan in 1970-71.

The Civil War in Lebanon

By the beginning of the ’70s, the Palestinians in Lebanon were cooperating with the Progressive Socialist Party to mobilise the masses of the Lebanese people for radical political change. Seeing the developing threat to their political and economic power, in April of 1975 the comprador capitalists set their the Phalangist militia to open civil war against the Palestine Liberation Organisation. However, in spite of large-scale aid from Israel, by June of the following year (1976) the position of the Phalangists had become desperate. In these circumstances, 20,000 Syrian troops invaded Lebanon and fought the Palestinian militia alongside the Phalangists.

Despite heroic resistance by the Palestinians, the Phalangists succeeded in smashing their way into the last strongpoint, Beirut, and the civil war, which had lasted a year and seven months and cost 44,000 lives, came to an end in November 1976.

“Operation Litani”

In March 1978, with the aim of destroying the Palestinian bases in south Lebanon, Israeli forces invaded the country and occupied its southern part up to the river Litani.

The Security Council of the United Nations called upon Israel to withdraw its forces, and set up a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to confirm the withdrawal and restore the authority of the Lebanese government in the south. The Israeli forces withdrew back to the frontier in June, but left a Lebanese puppet force, later known as the South Lebanon Army, in occupation of the border area. In April 1979 the leader of this force, Major Sa’ad Haddad, proclaimed the zone an “independent Lebanese state.”

The Effect of Camp David

In September 1978 came the American-sponsored Camp David summit agreement for an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. This agreement was opposed not only by the Palestinians but, as a result of public pressure, by Syria, (now dependent economically and militarily upon the Soviet Union) and this common opposition brought about a reconciliation between the Palestinians and the Syrian occupation forces in Lebanon.
 
In this new situation and with financial help from Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union, the Palestinian para-military units in Lebanon were able to rebuild themselves into a new well-armed force of 15,000 and in January 1980 Syrian forces withdrew from part of Lebanon, handing over control to the PLO, which established its effective control over most of the country except for those areas, such as East Beirut, controlled by the Phalangists.

“Operation Peace for Galilee”

In June 1982 an attempt was made on the life of the Israeli Ambassador in London. On this pretext Israel invaded Lebanon again in an operation called “Operation Peace in Galilee.” This had the aim of destroying completely the Palestine liberation forces in Lebanon (they had, as has been said, been driven from Jordan in 1970-71).

Although Syria had been informed prior to invasion that the operation was not directed at its forces, some conflict with Syrian forces did occur. On the sixth day of the invasion, by which time its armed forces had lost 650 killed and 500 armoured vehicles, Syria signed a cease-fire with Israel.

By this time the invasion forces were 60 miles into Lebanon, laying siege to the Moslem area of West Beirut (where the remains of the PLO forces were bottled up). In August the Palestine Liberation Organisation agreed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon under the supervision of a Multi-national Peace-keeping Force from Britain, France, Italy and the United States. The evacuation was completed by the end of the month, and 11,000 of the PLO’s fighters were dispersed to other Arab states.

In September the new President-elect of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated at unknown hands. The Israeli forces then permitted Phalangists to enter two Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut and massacre more than 800 women, old people and children.

The Reagan Plan

In September 1982 US President Ronald Reagan put forward a new “peace plan” for the Middle East which envisaged the establishment of a “Palestinian homeland” on the West Bank of the Jordan, not as an independent state but as a part, with limited powers of self-government, of the state of Jordan, which had been since its inception a monarchist tool of Anglo-American imperialism.

The Reagan Plan was opposed by the right-wing government of Israel, headed by Menahem Begin, on the grounds that it would involve the surrender of Israeli-occupied territory, and by the PLO on the grounds that it did not provide for an independent Palestine state. It was nominally opposed by most Arab states, except for Egypt and Jordan

The Israeli-Lebanese Agreement

The heavy losses sustained by Israel in its invasion of Lebanon (583 killed) – losses which continued to mount daily as a result of Lebanese and Palestinian guerilla warfare against the occupation forces – combined with the obviously aggressive character of the war, had stimulated the growth of a peace movement in Israel itself.

The atrocity against the Palestinian camps brought to a head public opposition to the Israeli invasion, not only in other countries but in Israel itself .

In these circumstances, in May 1983 the United States, Israeli and Lebanese governments signed an agreement providing for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanese soil, combined with the recognition of a “security zone” in the south to prevent the infiltration into the area of Palestinian fighters.

This agreement, supported by Egypt and Jordan, was opposed by the PLO, Libya and Syria, the last-named declaring that its troops would remain in Lebanon. It was also opposed as a treacherous surrender of Lebanese sovereignty to a foreign power by progressive Lebanese political forces, which formed a National Opposition Front (later called the National Democratic Front) headed by Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party and George Hawi of the Communist Party.

In February 1984 President Amin Gemayel (who had taken the place of his assassinated brother) was forced by this pressure to revoke the agreement.

Opposition at home to Israel’s aggressive war in Lebanon was one of the factors responsible for a change of government in the election of July 1984. The ultra-right Likud Front, headed by Menahem Begin, lost its position as the largest parliamentary group to the Alignment, dominated by the Labour Party, which campaigned on withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and acceptance of the Reagan Plan. Following the withdrawal of the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force, the new government, with a Prime Minister (Shimon Peres) drawn from the Labour Party, unilaterally announced in January 1985 that it would withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and this -was completed-by June – except for the southern zone, where control was handed once again to the puppet South Lebanon Army, headed, since the death of Haddad in January 1984, by Major -General Antoine Lahad.

The Rebellion within the PLO

Although Fatah rejected the Reagan Plan in June 1983, Arafat went to Jordan to discuss its implications with King Hussein and this was used by the Syrian government as a pretext for sponsoring in Lebanon a rebellion of pseudo-left forces within the PLO against its leadership. By December 1983 the rebels had gained control of all PLO bases in Lebanon and the forces loyal to Arafat had been forced to withdraw to other Arab states.

The Syrian Occupation of Beirut

Meanwhile in the capital, Beirut, bloody battles between rival militias, and the siege of the Palestinian refugee camps there, continued and in February 1987 Syria used the pretext of  “the need for law and order” to occupy the capital.

[end MS]

Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

Originally written 1992

Since the end of World War II (WW II), the contradiction between the working classes and the developing capitalist class of the Middle Eastern nations was linked to a second contradiction – that between the different imperialists and the indigenous developing capitalists.  On top of these, there were contradictions between the imperialists themselves, reflecting the decline of British imperialism, and the rise of USA imperialism. After World War II explicit deals took place between the British and US, regarding future developments in the Middle East:

“In response to Winston Churchill’s questions about America’s interests in Iranian oil, Franklin Roosevelt wrote in March 1943 that:

‘I am having the oil studied by the Department of State and my oil experts, but please do accept my assurances that I am not making sheeps’ eyes at your oil fields in Iraq or Iran.’

Churchill responded:

‘Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheeps’ eyes at our oil fields in Iran and Iraq. Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurances that we have not thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia.'”

James A. Bill “The Eagle and the Lion-The Tragedy of Iranian-American Relations”; New York , 1988. p.29

Unfortunately, with a small working class, the national bourgeoisies largely had no opposition to its leadership over a struggling peasantry. But the national bourgeoisie was also weak, because as the power of imperialism grew, the objective role for the national bourgeoisie was steadily getting smaller. Furthermore the previous history of Oriental Despotism of the Ottomans, had ensured a very weak development of the industrial forces necessary for nation development. Finally the many divisions between factions in the area were skilfully exploited by the imperialists to effectively divide and rule.

ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES IN COLONIAL COUNTRIES

Imperialism used local indigenous rulers and leading individuals as their surrogates. These indigenous agents were usually buyers and traders whose livelihood depended upon the Imperialists. Often landed feudal gentry were also allied to imperialism. They were termed COMPRADOR BOURGEOISIE.

Inevitably some indigenous capitalists wished to displace imperialism, so that they can then retain all the colony’s profits for itself. They were termed NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE. Because they were usually very weak, they tried to enlist the masses ie. working classes and peasantry. The weak and nascent national bourgeoisie of the Middle East struggled at first, in the main against British and French; then in the main against USA imperialism.

The line of Communists in the National Liberation movement dervies from the positions of Lenin at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1921. Lenin thought that in the first stage of the revolution, the bourgeois democrats had a useful role to play:

“All the Communist parties must assist the bourgeois democratic liberation movement in these (ie colonial type countries-ed).. The Communist International (CI) must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in colonial and backward countries.”

V.I.Lenin: Preliminary Draft of Theses on National and Colonial Questions, 2nd Congress CI  in “Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946; p. 236-7.

But Lenin and Stalin pointed out, that these national bourgeoisie, flinch from the final steps, as the unleashing of mass movements arouses socialist movements. Therefore, class coalitions of national bourgeoisie with working class organizations can only be temporary. They are also prone to sabotage by the national bourgeoisie. The working class organisations must remain independent, even in a United Front. It is imperative to find and ally only with and for long as, the sections of the bourgeoisie are genuinely in struggle with imperialism:

“I would like to particularly emphasise the question of the bourgeois democratic movements in backward countries. It was this question that gave rise to some disagreement. We argued about whether it would be correct, in principle and in theory, to declare that the CI and the CP’s should support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of this discussion we unanimously decided to speak of the nationalist-revolutionary movements instead of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. There is not the slightest doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.. But it was agreed that if we speak about the bourgeois-democratic movement all distinction between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in recent times this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in the backward and colonial countries, of the imperialist bourgeois is trying with all its might to implant the reformist movement also among the oppressed nations.. In the Commission this was proved irrefutably, and we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we communists should, and will, support bourgeois liberation movements only when these movement do not hinder us in training and organising the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit.. The above mentioned distinction has now been drawn in all the theses, and I think that, thanks to this, our point of view has been formulated much more precisely.”

Lenin. Report Of Commission on the National and Colonial Questions, Ibid, p 241.

This Leninist line was further developed by Stalin, who in 1925, distinguished “at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries”:

Firstly countries like Morocco who have little or no proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly countries like China and Egypt which are under-developed industries and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly countries like India.. capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat. Clearly all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another.”

J.V.Stalin; “Works” Volume 7: “Political Tasks of the University of the People’s of the East.  Speech Delivered at a meeting of Students of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East”, May 18th, 1925. pp. 148.

In each country the conditions were different and had to be concretely studied before deciding the exact tactic:

“In countries like Egypt and China, where the national bourgeoisie has already split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoises is not yet able to join up with imperialism, the Communists can no longer set themselves the aim of forming a united national front against imperialism. In such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie. In such countries that bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers and peasants’ party, provided, however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces – the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeois. The tasks of this bloc are to expose the half-heartedness and inconsistency of the national bourgeoisie and to wage a determined struggle against imperialism. Such a dual party is necessary and expedient provided it does not bind the Communist Party hand and foot, provided it does not restrict the freedom of the Communist Party to conduct agitation and propaganda work, provided it does not hinder the rallying of the proletarians around and provided it facilitates the actual leadership of the revolutionary movement by the Communist party. Such a dual party is unnecessary and inexpedient if to does not conform to all these conditions for it can only lead to the Communist elements becoming dissolved in the ranks of the bourgeoisie to the Communist Party losing the proletarian army.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 149-150

If a large working class presence was felt, this strengthened the revolutionary prospects. When this happened, the most uncertain and vacillating elements of the bourgeoisie tended to desert the revolution, and form a bloc with imperialism:

“The situation is somewhat different in countries like India. The fundamental and new feature of the conditions of life in countries like India is not only that the national bourgeoisie has split up into a revolutionary part and a compromising part, but primarily that the compromising section of the bourgeoisie has already managed, in the main, to strike a deal with imperialism, Fearing revolution more than it fears imperialism, and concerned with more about its money bags than about the interests of its own country, this section of the bourgeoisie is going over entirely to the camp of the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution, it is forming a bloc with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150.

Such blocs between vacillating “national bourgeoise” and imperialisms, should be smashed:

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable post. The task is to create an anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single Workers and Peasants Party, formally bound by a single platform. In such centuries the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150-151.

But despite these warnings, organisations took part in un-principled coalitions, and led the working classes into massacres. The failure of the working class to organise along correct lines ensured that the many anti-imperialist struggles in the Middle East, never achieved the socialist – or even to the national democratic revolution.

After World War II imperialism was even stronger, and even more rapacious. This was as its markets were threatened by the Socialist USSR leading some European countries towards socialist development. Responding to imperialisms’ demands, the weak national bourgeoisie of the Middle East attempted to overcome their weaknesses by several tactics that would avoid harnessing the revolutionary masses. All these tactics would prove unsuccessful. These are detailed below; and culminated in a movement of cartelisation for oil selling – Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

THE WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO SEEK TACTICS TO FIGHT IMPERIALISM

Tactic Number One: Wahda and Nasserism, Pan-Arabism; A Political Combination of Weak National Bourgeoisie

Given the bourgeois fear of rousing the working class movement too far, only a vacillating movement against imperialism was possible. Ultimately the national bourgeoisie always capitulated in the face of social revolution. This allowed the imperialist powers to retard the development of the states concerned. Coupled with this was the power of monopoly interests, of the imperialist companies. So that even in favourable situations, where these states led by national bourgeoisie could nationalise the major resource in the area (oil) the imperialist consortiums were able to dictate their demands.

Despite these failures, the nascent bourgeoisie of the area continued to harbour resentment against imperialism. To compensate for their unwillingness to fully enrol the working classes, they attempted to unite across “national” borders. This entailed a mystical PAN-ARABISM which preceded NASSERISM. For example the formation of the BA’TH PARTY in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and also Wahib al-Ghanim.

BA’TH means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement. But it was Gamel Abdul Nasser who most effectively utilised this idea of pan-Arabism. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same.

The Nasserite movement aimed at WAHDA (Arabic for union). It was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, it aimed to contain the mass movement, it emphasised notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the area had effectively deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisie against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped apparently, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie, together, would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

But ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

Tactic Number Two: Playing on Contradictions Between Imperialists

The imperialists had long squabbled amongst themselves as to how to divide up the Middle East. French and British supremacy in the Middle East was surreptiously attacked by USA imperialism. After the death of Stalin the hegemony of revisionism in the USSR was rapidly completed. With the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the relations between the Soviet Union and dependent nations became imperialist. This was exemplified by the relations within the Warsaw Pact nations. In the semi-colonial and colonial nations, the USSR attempted to act as a brake on Western imperialism. This resulted in a struggle between US and Soviet social imperialism for control of these areas, including the Middle East.

In this context, the various timorous struggling national bourgeoisie would frequently switch “temporary masters.” Being interested in control of “their own” profit, the national bourgeoisie were  viewed as unreliable by the imperial super-powers. But they were used as pawns by the super powers to control the area. This allowed the national bourgeoisie some limited bargaining power. Ultimately, his strategy also failed to effect the national revolution.

American policy recognised the strength of the anti-colonial movements. Their plan was to disrupt the movement by using the compradors. To further blunt the movement they used the veneer of neutrality offered by the UNITED NATIONS. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, said just prior to the Suez War :

“The USA cannot be expected to identify itself 100% either with the Colonial powers or the powers uniquely concerned with the problem of getting independence as rapidly and as fully as possible.. any areas encroaching in some form or another on the problem of so called colonialism find the US playing a somewhat independent role (Ed – of UK and France). The shift from colonialism to independence will be going on for another 50 years, and I believe that the task of the United Nations is to try to see that this process moves forward in a constructive, evolutionary way, and does not come to a halt or go forward through violent revolutionary processes which would be destructive of much good.”

Cited Carlton. “Antony Eden”. London 1981. p.426

After the SUEZ WAR, the USA and the USSR all contended in the area. Each super power developed its’ primary sphere of influence. But since neither power was able to totally control the area, they were for long periods content for an armed stalemate.

The major states in the area that were spheres of influence for the Soviet Union were Iraq, Syria, Egypt (until Nasser’s death), Yemen and Libya.

These countries often adopted a mask of “socialism”.

The main countries that supported the USA were Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and under Sadat – Egypt.

Examples of a national bourgeoisie that attempted the game of playing one imperialist off against another include Egypt under Nasser, Iraq under Hussein and Syria under Assad.

Due to the serious demise of the fortunes of the Soviet imperialists in the late 1980’s, the USA was able to exert a far more dominant role than previously, and for the first time saw an opportunity to be unopposed. It tested the waters for an exertion of its’ direct military presence in the Arab world by bombing Libya.

EGYPT, AND THE “FREE OFFICERS MOVEMENT”

The case of Egypt illustrates how a balancing act, was able to win a short term gain, for the nationalist bourgeoisie. But ultimately the short term gains could not be maintained. In Egypt the nationalist faction was represented by the Free Officer Movement, to which Nasser belonged. This movement, was supported initially by the USA, as a weapon to be used against the British superpower.

“The Free Officer movement originated within the regular army; its leaders were then preparing to oust the appointed military chiefs, seize all the command posts and present their program for national renovation to the entire army. They also tried to make sure that should they be successful, the US ambassador would not be hostile and would exert pressure on the British ambassador.”

Mahmoud Hussein . “Class Conflict in Egypt 1945-1970”. London , 1977. p.85-6 .

“The US hoped to capitalize on the situation to become the new protector of Egypt and force it to accept a military alliance which would officially recognize the need for national sovereignty.”

M.Hussein , Ibid. p.96.

“According to Miles Copeland, an American CIA official posted in the Middle East in the 1950’s – the CIA knew as early as March 1952 that a ‘secret military society’ was plotting a coup. ‘ Before the coup the CIA’s Cairo station, headed by Kermit Roosevelt, had three meetings with some of the officers of the group. ” the large area of agreement reached by Roosevelt and this (Egyptian ) officer, speaking for Nasser himself, is noteworthy,” writes Copeland.”

Dilip Hiro “Inside the Middle East” London. 1982. p. 297.

The aims of the Free Officer movement were to modernise and develop, and to get rid of the British military occupation of Egypt. Of course, even the first goal was unacceptable to either the British, or to those who immediately took their place, the USA imperialists. But for their own short term goals – to get rid of the British – the USA did help the Free Officers, by forcing the British to evacuate their 70,000 strong troops. However, in partial appeasement of the British, Eisenhower ensured a clause in the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement that entitled Britain to reoccupy the Suez zone with “Egypt’s agreement” in the case of an attack on Egypt by any outside power.”   (Hiro Ibid p.298.)

Nasser tried to exploit the tensions between the British and the Americans, and at the same time get maximal financial aid. Nasser from then on used both the US and UK imperialists for financing. But to retain his independence and to get the “best deal”, Nasser then also asked for financing from the revisionist USSR. Even the provision of USSR made arms via Czechoslovakia, did not however deter the West:

“Not wishing to alienate the charismatic leader of Egypt, a most strategic country in the region, Washington and London continued discussions with Cairo on financing the Aswan Dam- with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank) offering credits for $ 200 million and America and Britain together another $70 million in hard currencies- matching $900 million to be provided by Egypt in local services and goods. An agreement was signed in February.”

Hiro Ibid p.298.

However, the Western imperialists certainly feared that Egypt was becoming drawn into the USSR sphere of influence. This was a more urgent fear for the weaker British, than it was for the USA. So the British exerted a considerable pressure on the USA, to tangibly support an anti-Russian policy. This pressure came from Antony Eden, then the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain. Winston Aldrich, the US ambassador to London said:

“Eden.. asked me to see him on a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. Eden told me that the emergency has arisen in connection with the Egyptian proposal, namely that the Russians had offered to finance the dam. Eden feared that this would give the Egyptians a dangerous foothold in an area vital to the interests of Great Britain. He asked me to take up at once with Washington the question of whether the US would underwrite the obligations which Great Britain would assume in making such a guarantee (of financing the dam).”

Cited David Carlton “Antony Eden” London 1981 p.391.

Eisenhower was more shrewd, and being the more dominant of the imperialists, was in less need of hasty action. His diary showed that he had already recognised that this was a doomed policy. He had concluded that Egypt was moving away from the likely control of the USA, and that the Saudis should be firmly lassoed into the USA sphere:

“We have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser is going to make no move.. the Arabs (ie Egypt – Ed) absorbing major consignments of arms from the Soviets are daily growing more arrogant and disregarding the interests of Western Europe and the US.. It would appear that our efforts should be directed towards separating the Saudi Arabians from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment..in making the former see that their best interests lie with us, and not with the Egyptians and with the Russians..”

D. Eisenhower , Diary , Cited by David Carlton Ibid p. 404.

Of course each of the imperialists were fully aware that they were being “two-timed.”

Nasser was forced to keep trying to find yet another “imperialist” or social-imperialist dancer, to help him fend off the last ardent suitor.

Nasser finally overstepped the lines, by recognising the People’s Republic of China in May. By the 20 th July, both the USA and the British rescinded their offers of financial aid. This prompted Nasser to attempt a retaliation, by nationalising the Suez Canal (Hiro Ibid. p.64). Naturally this provoked a loud uproar from the French owners (Universal Suez Maritime Canal Company), and at the same time, the British and Israelis.

These powers had already been planning an attack upon Gaza aiming at taking the Suez Canal. But for their own interests, these moves were not supported by the USA, who according to Eden himself were verbally offering him merely:

“Moral support and sympathy”, and “did not want to know the details of the Anglo-French plans.”

Cited Carlton , Ibid . p. 412.

However, attempting to assert Britain’s “rights” or self-interest, Eden  deliberately misled the USA about Britain’s aggressive intentions. Eisenhower had expressly warned Eden against war, writing to Eden that:

“The use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries.. the most significant public opinion is that..the United Nations was formed to prevent this very thing.. I assure you that we are not blind to the fact that eventually there may be no escape for the use of force.”

Carlton Ibid. p.419-20.

But in spite of this warning from the USA, the war was launched. But the revisionist USSR, correctly strongly condemned the war of aggression launched by Britain, France and Israel. In order to finally seize the Middle East away from British imperialism, the USA at the United Nations, also strongly condemned the invasion and called for a cease fire. Behind closed doors, the USA prompted a currency speculation against sterling, by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank selling, and also refused to give either IMF or direct USA financial aid, to the United Kingdom. Further, and finally, the USSR threatened to enter the war:

“We are fully determined to use force to crush the aggressors and to restore peace in the Middle East.”

V.Trukhanovsky. ” Antony Eden ”  Moscow, 1974; p.332.

These moves combined to ensure the withdrawal of the 3 nation intervention. This fiasco for British and French imperialism, signalled their final retreat from the Middle East, as imperialist forces independent of the USA. America then was able to fill what Eisenhower described as a “vacuum” in the Middle East.

Eisenhower’s Doctrine promised to aid any Middle Eastern state seeking protection against:

“Overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.”

Cited Hiro p.299

This blocked any moves to a regional Wahda, or Unity attempts. Yet, it was sufficiently elastic to interpretation to be acceptable, whilst still detering Egypt in particular. The Eisenhower Doctrine:

“Was applied 3 times: to solve the internal crisis of Jordan in April 1957, to pressure the nationalists – leftist regime of Syria.. and to provide troops to Lebanon in July 1958..In the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the American move was made to check the rise of the Nasserite forces there.”

Hiro, Ibid  p. 299.

Therefore, despite the early hopes of the Nasser forces in Egypt, they were checked. Egypt now became compradors for the USSR. The USA imperialists, who having just expelled the USA and France, did not have the necessary energy at that moment to expel Russia also. The economic relations between Egypt and Russia, were thereafter classic imperialist relations, raw goods given by Egypt, cotton – in return for finished goods, for military and economic aid. This dictated a colonial type relationship with the USSR (Hussein. Ibid. p.286).

But to counter the threat of “excess” USSR influence, the USA unleashed war. The USA moved vigorously, through their client states in the area, wishing also to check those various national bourgeoisie. As part of this policy, the USA heavily endorsed the Israelis, as their lynch pin in the area. The revisionist USSR, sought to maximise its own “area of influence”, and acted as a countervail in the cases of Syria and Egypt. But Israel was heavily armed by the USA and Britain.

In response, Egypt and Syria, signed a joint defence treaty fearing Israeli attack.

They were quite right to fear this.

When King Hussein of Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian Defence Pact on 30 May, Dean Rusk then American Secretary of State clearly signalled war:

“I don’t think it’s our business to restrain anybody.”

(Cited Hiro p.301).

The USA knew what was to be the likely outcome of such a war.

As President Johnson put it to an aide:

“Israel is going to hit them (the Arabs)..” Whilst (he was ) publicly responding positively to a Soviet appeal the next day for restraint.”

Cited by Hiro p.300.

The Israelis following the USA plan, launched a pre-emptive strike on the eve of a peace mission by the Egyptian Vice-President Zakaria Mohieddin. Nasser’s forces were effectively crushed.

This sealed the future role as to who would be the key agent of the USA in the area – Israel.

TACTIC NUMBER THREE: ECONOMIC COMBINATION. OPEC- A WEAK BOURGEOISIE ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT BACK

The creation of OPEC in 1960 was another attempt by the weak indecisive national bourgeois to find a “Third Way”. One that did not rely on the active involvement of the masses, nor one of total capitulation to the imperialists. OPEC attempted to bargain, or to horse trade; by forming a combination, or a cartel.

This was designed to deal with the cartel of the major Oil companies- the Seven Sisters. These had simply to refuse to buy oil from any producer country that challenged the price offered. The price “posted” was agreed to by the Seven Sisters. Even nationalisation could not help if the producer country could not market the oil. This tactic was used viciously against Iran.

The oil producing nations varied in the intensity with which they fought the Seven Sisters and the imperialist nations. In 1960 one of the weakest was Iran, ruled by the Shah Pahvlavi whose compliance to the USA was assured following CIA intervention in 1951. This had been necessary to prevent the nationalist Muhammed Mussadiq effecting nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AICO) later the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Musaddiq believed that:

“The Iranian must administer his own house.”

Cited J.A.Bill ” The Eagle and the Lion”; Ibid; New York 1988 p.56.

But in fact, Mussadiq clearly was not a fully committed nationalist. The mass movement was compelling him to go further than he perhaps would have otherwise. As John Foster Dulles said in February 1953:

“Musaddiq could not afford to reach any agreement with the British lest it cost him his political life.”

J.A.Bill, Ibid p. 78

When he became Prime Minister of the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) in April 1951, he inherited a Bill that nationalised AICO. Refusing to rescind it, he was held to ransom by AICO which refused to allow Iran to sell its oil on the international market:

“This boycott was effective. Iran’s oil export income dropped from more than $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in the 2 year period from July 1951 to August 1953..Musaddiq faced a deteriorating economic and political situation in 1953..and was forced to rely on the radical left and the communist ( revisionist -ed) Tudeh party.. On May 28th Musaddiq wrote to President Eisenhower requesting economic aid..the answer was negative.”

J.A.Bill Ibid; p.66-7.

The British then persuaded the USA to participate in a putsch, termed Operation Boot by the British and Ajax by the US. The Chief British operative, Major C.M.Woodhouse was conscious of difficulties in getting the US to take part:

“Not wishing to be accused of trying to use the Americans to pull British chestnuts out of the fire, I decided to emphasis the Communist threat to Iran rather than to need to recover control of the oil industry. I argued that even if a settlement of the oil dispute could be negotiated with Musaddiq, which was doubtful, he was still incapable of resisting a coup by the Tudeh party, if it were backed by Soviet support. Therefore he must be removed.”

J.A.Bill, Cited, Ibid. p.86

Fully involved in the putsch was General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US adviser to the Iranian Gendarmerie (J.A.Bill. Ibid, p.90). He was the father of the US General – “Storming Norman” – in the 1991 USA Gulf War of aggression (See Alliance 2).

The coup resulted in the Shah of Iran being bought back to Iran. He understood who had placed him on the Peacock Throne, and remained indebted to US imperialism. Musaddiq was treated with relative leniency – he was not killed, but after 3 years in jail, was allowed to return to his home village Ahmadabad under house arrest (J.A.Bill Ibid p.101).

This episode influenced tactics in the Middle East for some years. The national bourgeoisie had been warned that nationalisation was not adequate to ensure marketing of the oil from the producer nations without the cooperation of the Seven Sisters. An alternative strategy was needed.

The CARTEL STRATEGY was first proposed by the national bourgeoisie of VENEZUELA, after the successful military led coup of 1948. This coup was precipitated 12 days following an act which imposed 50-50 split of the profits from oil, between Venezuela and the oil companies. After the coup, the new dictatorship, naturally, favoured the interests of the US imperialists, and it now dispensed new major oil concessions to the Oil companies.

Despite this failure, the 50-50 rule became a standard, in any dealings with oil-exporting nations. For instance Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company ) used this formula in Saudi Arabia in 1950  (J.A.Bill, op cit, p. 61). However even this partial retreat, still left considerable super-profits for the Seven Sisters.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela recognised, that a key factor in their defeat during prolonged negotiations with the companies, had been the erosion of Venezuela’s selling power by Middle East countries that could produce oil. Oil companies, when they were faced with demands for a fairer distribution of profit, simply expanded production from the Middle East. The leader of the “horse trading” strategy, Perez Alfonzo had:

“Only envisaged an ‘extent ‘ an ‘arrangement’ between a few producing countries to establish, links of solidarity between them, reduce the oil companies capacity for manoeuvring and prevent them from playing one country off against another.”

Statement in Petroleum Weekly, New York May 1 1959 p.19. Cited by Pierre Terzian; “OPEC : the inside story.” London 1985.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela returned to power in 1959 and again took up the cause of combination. Now they had significant support in the Middle East, from the Director of the Permanent Oil Bureau, Mohammed Salman of Iraq. The Permanent Oil Bureau had been set up by the Arab League in 1953. A secret agreement known as the Maadi Pact was concluded at the first Oil Arab Congress in Cairo on 16th April 1959. The reaction to the open Congress session, was frankly sceptical by the oil business:

“Venezuelan delegates arrived with high hopes of lining up Middle East producing states in a front to limit production and prevent further decline in prices, but were finally resigned to the fact that Arabs were more interested in other problems now and that all Venezuelans were supposed to do was to observe.”

Platts Oilgram News, New York; Cited by P.Terzian, Ibid, p.25.

However the secret Maadi Agreement between the UAR, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia included the following:

“Agreement was reached … on:

1. Improvement of the oil producing countries participation on a reasonable and equitable basis. The consensus of opinion was that said government should tend to at least a 60-40 formula to be on a par with the recent Venezuelan attitude..and with other countries ..the price structure should be..maintained..any change in prices should be discussed with precedent in time and be approved by all parties concerned.

2. Convenience of arriving at an integration of the oil industry..to ensure stable markets to the producer countries avoiding transfers of gains from one phase of the operations to another, affecting the oil revenue of the governments.

4. Establishment of National Oil Companies that would operate side by side with the existing private companies.”

P.Teerzian. Ibid , p.27-8.

The most energetic of the group, Perez Alfonso, also arranged that the USSR would support the OPEC move. This was important because the Oil companies were constantly citing:

“The USSR’s tariff policy as a pretext to justify their own decision to cut prices.”

P.Terzian, Ibid, p.34.

After initial disbelief, the major oil companies, led by Shell, tested the OPEC resistance, by announcing cuts in the posted prices of oil that they were prepared to pay. The vigorous resistance they met, along with announcements of a meeting of producer nations at Baghdad in September, 1960, induced them to withdraw their price cuts. The Financial Times concluded:

“In effect Shell is.. paying a premium to the Governments of the producing states. What the countries particularly objected to was the fact that they were not consulted.”

Cited, Terzian. Ibid. p.53.

However efforts to involve the Middle East nations in effective combative combination were doomed to failure. This was evident, since combination had to involve both:

Countries that were ruled by comprador bourgeoisie ( eg Saudi Arabia and Iran );

as well as the countries that were ruled by national bourgeoisie (eg Iraq).

The Baghdad Meeting in September 10th 1960 started off very tensely. The Venezuelan nationalists were in the midst of fending off a coup at home. Even more dramatic was the fact that the Iraqi nationalists President Kassem was also besieged by a coup. He arrived for an honourary dinner wearing two revolvers in his belt! But tension rose even further, as it was clear that Iran was going to block any agreements, that would go further than the agreement already reached at Maadi. The Iranian representative Fuad Ruhani said he had been given:

“Very precise instructions from my Government.”

Terzani , Ibid. p.41.

Suddenly on 14th September the Shah sent new instructions to the Iranian team. This agreed to the creation of a permanent organisation. Moreover, the Shah even had a name for it – The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ).

But this about face indicated a new tack on the part of the Oil Companies.

They now accepted the inevitability of the cartel, but they emasculated it from within.

OPEC was therefore hijacked.

As Perez Alfonso found when he met the directors of the Seven Sisters :

“My impression is that the main companies recognise that the Baghdad Agreement was necessary, or at least inevitable.”

Ibid p.44.

Theoretically the OPEC countries were in a very strong position controlling 82 % of world crude exports. But The Times could accurately see the situation :

“The strength of these producing countries is not as great as might appear.. (There are) two reasons.. the surplus of supply over demand in the world oil market and the divergent interests of the 5 countries concerned, some of who wanted to increase production whilst other sought a reduction.”

The Times 15 September, 1960. Cited by Terzian p.44.

  • Of course, in addition the oil imperialist companies and their nations had the marketing and distribution monopoly.
  • Also they began to exploit other sources of oil.
  • The comprador states were key to the strategy of the oil companies.
  • Saudi Arabia was and is a reactionary state with strong elements of Muslim feudalism.
  • It is a key state representing USA interests in the Middle East.
  • As the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources commented:

“The US, by virtue of its commercial oil interests ‘ long standing monopoly over the disposition of Saudi crude, now reinforced by the 1974 conclusion of a “special relationship” embracing economic and military agreements, is very widely regarded amongst its allies and by Arab and Iranians as having secured preferential and near- exclusive access to Saudi oil. Given the extraordinary importance of Saudi oil production to the world generally, the US relationship is considered key to supply security.”

US Senate : ” Access to oil – the USA relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Washington DC US Government Printing office , Publication No. 95-70. 1977 (p.xi). Cited by Petter Nore and Terisa Turner in : Oil and the class struggle “. London 1980

At critical times the Saudis have refused to allow the OPEC to raise prices in accordance with the demands of the more nationalistic of the OPEC countries such as Iraq and Libya. Saudi Crown Prince Fadh has pretentiously revealed his unwillingness to be an effective member of the cartel:

“My country which possesses the largest oil reserves in the world will not be the cause of a weakening in the capacity of humanity to live in stability and prosperity. In view of this lofty aim, commercial considerations cease to exist and consequently the methods which are used to increase or lower prices will likewise disappear.”

Frankfurter Rundschau. 1 April 1975. Cited by Mohssen Massarrat. The Energy Crisis p.67. in ” Oil and the class struggle” Ed. P.Nore and T.Turner. London, 1981

It is not surprising that:

“Saudi foreign policy consists largely of support for Washington in the Middle East.”

Sunday Times, 5th August 1990. p.12.

Nor is it surprising that given the membership of nations like Saudi Arabia in OPEC, that OPEC would not reflect the interests of the oil producing national bourgeoisie.

As Henry Kissinger commented:

“OPEC was not perceived as a serious cartel.”

Jack Anderson and James Boyd. ” Fiasco. The real story behind the disastrous worldwide energy crisis- Richard Nixon’s “Oilgate”;1983; Toronto;  p.163.

In fact as, the manufactured oil crisis of the 1970’s shows, OPEC was transformed into an agency that performed objectively in the interests of the USA imperialists.

THE PSEUDO OIL “CRISIS” OF THE 1970’s

It is widely believed that it was the pressure of the OPEC countries that led to a dramatic price rise and so called ” oil crisis ‘in the 1970’s. Certainly determined nationalist countries like Libya and Algeria increased the pressure inside OPEC for a price rise.

Though the oil exporting countries had their interest in a price rise, their effectiveness as a cartel has already been shown to be limited, due to the inclusion of “weak” member state such a Saudi Arabia. In reality, the manipulation of oil prices has followed the various requirements of the Seven Sisters, the minor oil companies and the USA monopoly capitalists.

“For the oil companies an increase in the general price of oil was also of great importance, not least because they had seen their distributional share steadily diminish over time..as a result of higher level of taxation by the oil-exporting countries..which was difficult to pass on to the consumer in a situation characterised by a global excess supply.”

Petter Nore and Terisa Turner, Editors;.”Oil and the class struggle”; London 1980, p.72.

The problems of the Major Seven Sisters, were compounded by the competition they now faced:

“Due to a three fold challenge.. the rise of the independents following the US import quota system in 1958; the emergence of important state oil companies in Europe like Italy’s E.N.I. which tried to outbid the concessions offered by the majors; and the increase in Soviet oil exports to the West.. resulting in a drop in the profit per barrel for the Majors. The reduction was only partly overcome by a sharp increase in total production. Profit rates for US direct foreign investment in the petroleum industry dropped from a 30 % return in 1955 to 14.7 % in 1963 and an all time low of 11.1 % in 1969.”

Nore; p.72 Ibid.

Added to this was the high cost of extraction from areas such as Alaska and the North Sea. This posed a problem for the major Oil companies. The oil crisis was “manufactured”, to raise the available oil profits, up to a point where it would become economically viable to begin extraction from the oil shales of the USA. This entailed the profit interests of both the major oil companies and their smaller rivals who were not in the cartel known as the Seven Sisters.

At this time despite the apparent oil shortage, the oil companies had stocked up supplies, in many tankers that lay outside New Jersey in the midst of the so called shortage as prices were driven up by the companies.

This tactic was portrayed as the work of the OPEC cartel.

But the general line was clearly supported by the oil companies :

“Though the oil companies created the appearances of fighting OPEC tooth and nail..they recognised that their best hopes of future profitability..depended upon successful cooperation..thus OPEC/oil companies cooperation became a fact of life..with the positive encouragement of the USA.”

P.R.Odell. “Oil and World power” London , 1980. p. 215.

But the USA Government representing the combined monopoly capital had its’ own reasons for seeing a price rise:

“From 1970 onwards the US clearly pressed for an increase in the general price of crude oil.”

Nore, Ibid, p.73.

THE USA INTERESTS IN THE RAISING THE PRICE OF OIL REVOLVED AROUND THREE MAIN ISSUES

Firstly, both the leading sections of American capital had major profit interests tied up in raising the price of oil. The big Northern Yankee financiers were involved with the oil Major Seven Sisters companies. The Cowboys who represented newer capital reliant on oil and arms, formed the smaller independent oil companies.

Secondly, the USA wanted to ensure a renewed attempt at peace – on their terms of an acceptable status quo to them – in the Middle East:

“The USA.. sought to provide stability..as basis for a renewed effort to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict, and argued that higher revenues and a greater degree of economic certainty for the Arab oil-producing nations would, make it easier for them, to accept a compromise in the their dispute with Israel.”

Odell , Ibid , p. 215.

But Thirdly this manoeuvre was also aimed at the competitors of American imperialism as recognised by the Economist:

“The Economist 7th July, 1973; under the title ” The Phoney oil crisis “voiced the suspicion that the US had capitulated only to readily to the OPEC demands for an increase in oil prices because such an increase would slow down the Japanese economy. Japanese exports were out-competing American demands at the time and its economy was more vulnerable to rises in the price of oil than any other nation.”

Cited by Petter Nore p.86; ” Oil and the Class struggle .” London, 1980.

As Odell points out:

“The USA was fed up with a situation in which the rest of the industrialised world had access to cheap energy. It deliberately initiated a foreign policy which aimed at getting oil – producing nations’ revenues moving strongly up by talking incessantly to the producers about their low oil prices and by showing them the favourable impact of much higher prices. It was of course assured..that these cost increases, plus further increases designed to ensure higher profit levels for the companies, were passed on to the European and Japanese energy consumers, so eliminating their energy cost advantage over their competitors in the USA..the actual timing..coincided with unusual circumstances..namely a strong demand for most oil products in most markets in a period of general economic advance, a shortage of oil refinery capacity in Europe and Japan and a temporary scarcity of tankers.”

Odell p. 215-216.

GERMAN INDUSTRY HAD ALREADY CAUSED PROBLEMS FOR THE MAJOR COMPANIES BY FLIRTING WITH THE RUSSIANS. USA GOVERNMENT PRESSURE HAD BEEN REQUIRED TO PREVENT FURTHER EROSION OF THE EUROPEAN MARKETS:

“In 1969 only the intervention of the Federal West German Government under severe pressure from the USA, thwarted an agreement between the Soviet Union and the Bavarian state government. Had this agreement gone through, the Soviet Union would have been in a very strong position to put in branch pipelines to the other countries..of Western Europe.. Soviet oil exports to Western Europe.. steadily increased form only 3 million ton in 1955 to over 40 million ton in 1969.. Under 1978 conditions the amount of oil in Western Europe is supply rather than demand constrained.”

Odell, Ibid; p.58-60.

In this context, in 1991, it was of significant aid to the USA imperialists that the USSR was then, unable to exploit its’ oil reserves, owing to the enormous dislocation in the state:

“Production from Siberian oil fields is dropping so rapidly that the Soviet Union, the world’s largest petroleum producer may begin to import expensive world price crude within 2 years Kremlin officials say..”We are talking catastrophic failure here ” one Western diplomatic observer said.. oil exports have been the Soviet Unions’ primary source of hard currency income, and the only bright spot..in trade,..the troubles appear to be related to a decaying infrastructure, including an inefficient distribution system vulnerable to sabotage. Production from the giant Tyumen oil filed of Western Siberia, which supplies about half of the country’s oil for export has dropped 10% since 1988, Pravda said ..former allies in Central and Eastern Europe are being hit the hardest with cuts of 30-50 %. The cuts, coupled with the significantly higher prices Moscow began charging Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia on January 1st are hobbling economic reforms in these countries.”

Jeff Sallot; In “Globe and Mail”; Toronto; Business Report; Feb 12th 1991.

The USA Senate recognised the oil demand in Europe and Japan as a vital issue for the general policy to be followed by the USA in the Middle East:

“One can argue that while the oil benefit is nowhere near so great to the US as it is to the European and Japanese importers, for which it is vital, the US relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia serves the collective security interests of its allies in helping assure a continuous and adequate flow of oil.. But.. will the US government come to affect the destination of these 7 million barrels per day, exercising its influence through the Americans oil companies? Or will the companies be able to continue to supply, unhampered by considerations other than the meeting of their contractual commitments?”

US Senate Cited by P.Noore and T. Turner, Ibid p. 9.

THIS OIL SAGA WILL BE BROUGHT UP TO DATE SHORTLY

The Syrian National Revolution – The Role of Khaled Bakdash or “Bagdash”

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This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

December 2002; based on an article of 1996

Contents:
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
(ii) Early History of Syria to the Ottoman Empire
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and the French Colonial Yoke
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
(vi) The Ba’th Party and the Ba’th Arab Socialist Party
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
(ix) The Syrian CP, the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East

As Comrade Bland pointed out in his analysis of Sultan-Galiyev, the dubious attractions of “Muslim Nationalism,” were a pit-fall for communists in Muslim dominated countries. Bakdash – from his initial revolutionary phase to his later revisionist phases, was closely involved with the question of the relationship between bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East, and communism.

The English historian Patrick Seale writes:

“The prophet of Syrian (In fact “greater Syrian” ) nationalism was Antun Sa’ada… His bitterest opponent was the Communist leader Khalid Bakdash, an eloquent Kurd who had steered the chequered fortunes of the Syrian party since 1930.”

Seale, Patrick, “Asad. The Struggle For the Middle East”; London; 1988; p.26.

However, Marxist-Leninists examining Bakdash’s views, would have to concede that he was the engineer of the revisionist disembowelment of the most advanced Arab communist party.

Sa’da was the founder of the Syrian National Party, and represented the regional Syrian based bourgeoisie who wanted an undivided Greater Syria, rather than the more ambitious Pan-Arabists.

“Pan-Arabism” swept the Middle East, partly in response to the rising Zionist tide. As early as June 1913, the First Arab Congress was held in Paris (Walter Laquer “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1972; p.224). Later at the Pan Arab Congress of Jerusalem December, 1931, held simultaneously with the General Islamic Congress, an ‘Arab Covenant‘ was proclaimed. Hourani uses this as a “standard definition of the aims of the nationalists”:

“(i) The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions of whatever nature to which they have been subjected are not approved or recognized by the Arab nation.
(ii) All efforts in every Arab country are to be directed towards the single goal of their complete independence, in their entirety and unified ; and every idea which aims at limitation to work for local and regional politics must be fought against.
(iii) Since colonization is, in all its forms and manifestations, wholly incompatible with the dignity and highest aims of the Arab nation, the Arab nation rejects it and will combat it with all its forces.”

Hourani A.K. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; London 1968; p. 114.

The main tenets of this proclamation were to live on, in the form of the Ba’th Party, and in Nasserism and the Wahd movement. An increasingly urgent problem played a role in side-tracking the main goal of Arab liberation. This was the Zionist presence in Palestine. In September, 1937, the Pan-Arab Congress of Bludan in Syria, organized by the Syrian Committee for the Defence of Palestine, which passed:

“a number of resolutions in regard to the solution of the Palestinian problem and stated that the adoption of the policy embodied in these resolutions would be regarded as a condition of friendly relations between the Arab peoples and the British Empire”

Hourani Ibid; p.114-5.

However the establishment of the state of Israel continued a destruction of bourgeois nationalist dreams. It became increasingly likely that only lesser goals would be achieved. This article examines the narrowing focus of Arab nationalism, as it played out in Syria.

Following the enforced departure of France as an overt occupying imperialist presence in 1946, the French adopted a pattern of disguised neo-colonial relations. France took over Syria at a time when the British dominance over the Middle East was adequate to push France into a subordinate imperialist position, while Britain waited to see how it would fight off the USA interests in the area.

(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion

The ancient idea of a ‘bilad al-Sham’ – The “Lands of Damascus”, was built on the premise  that there was a distinct Syrian entity. The so-called “Natural Syria” was vast – extending from Taurus mountains in the North, to the Western Mediterranean shores, the Eastern Euphrates, and the Arabian Southern deserts. As such, it was frequently divided up during the centuries.

Later, Syria was known under the French Mandate rule, as both Syria and Lebanon being part of one administrative area (with Latakia and Jebel Druze) from 1925 to 1936. Syria as a term, refers to the Syrian Republic formed in 1936, from Syria, Jebel Druze and Laakia (also known as the State of the Alawis).

Syria ranks fourth in population in the 15 countries usually considered to be a part of the “Middle East” extending between Libya and Afghanistan (excluding these two countries); eighth in gross domestic product, fourth in size of military force, and sixth in rate of growth of GDP. (Ramet, Pedro “The Soviet-Syrian Relationship Since 1955- A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder USA; 1990; p. 6).

The population is largely of the Muslim religious faith, and Arab speakers formed 85% of the population in 1946.  Although a Christian Maronite minority (taking its name from a 5th Century Syrian hermit) was always significant in number, as were other minorities. The population by the time of the French Mandate 1920-1946 was made up of:

Sunnis (60% of the total population); ‘Alawis 11.5%; Druze 3.0 %; Ismaílis 1.5%; Christians 9.9%; Non-Arabs (Kurds 8.5%; Armenians 4.2%; plus small numbers of Circassians and Jews etc; (See Malik Mufti: “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p.45).

When Mohammed died (632 BC), as the head – supposedly appointed by God – of both temporal and religious parts of the Muslim world, a crisis of leadership was precipitated. This engulfed all the expansionist desert Arabs who had embraced Islam. They solved it be appointing a temporal and religious head of the Muslim world, as a “deputy” – the Caliph, or Khalif:

“Islam as an expansionist ideology began during the lifetime of Mohamed, who made several unimportant expeditions outside the desert of the Arabian peninsula, The real expansion and invasions were to come after the death of Mohammed from the caliphs, or his “representatives”, the heads of or leaders of Moslem communities.”

“Hoxha Enver, “The Glorious past of Peoples Cannot be Ignored”; Written 1983; In “Reflections On the Middle East”; Tirana 1984; Toronto N.D.; p. 469.

“The death of Mohammed … (led to).. a constitutional crisis… The crisis was met by the resolute action of three men: Abu Bakr, Úmar, and Abu Ubaida who by a kind of coup d’état imposed Abu Bakr on the community as the sole successor of the prophet… with the title of Khalifa or “Deputy,” and his election marks the inauguration of the great historic institution of the Caliphate”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 50-1.

Sunni are adherents of the sunnah (practice) of Mohammed alone whose sayings (hadith) form the Holy Words. They are the largest grouping of Muslims, and are themselves divided into sects. The most important of these is the Wahhabi sect largely based in Central Arabia, and headed by the Ibn-Saud dynasty of what is now Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis are named after a jurist of the area of Najd, called Ábd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). During the period of Ottoman expansion, he founded a sect that:

“Was based on a rigid anti-mystical Puritanism. In the name of a pure primitive Islam of the first entry he denounced all subsequent accretions of belief and ritual as superstitious innovation,” alien to pure Islam. … The conversion to the Wahhabi doctrine of the Najdi emir Muhammed ibn Su-ud gave the sect a military and political focus.. spreading by conquest over most of central Arabia wresting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from the Sharifs who ruled them in the Ottoman name… (till-Ed) 1918, when an invading Turco-Egyptian army sent by Muhammad Ali the pasha of Egypt broke the power of the Wahhabi Empire and confined them to its native Najd”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 161.

The ‘Alawis [meaning followers of ‘Ali] are members of the Shi’i  (Or Shi’ia) Muslim sect; as indeed are the Druzes (originating from Egypt) and the Isma’ilis. The Shi’ia trace their roots to the 8th century, when ‘Ali the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law – was – as the claim goes –  robbed of his inheritance by the first three Caliphs. The Shi’ites also claim that ‘Ali was granted a divine essence, making them ‘infidels’ to the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. The materialist reality underlying the Shiía sect was a factional grouping based on the claims of Ali to the Caliphate.

In present day Syria, the Alawi are concentrated in the mountainous areas. Previously, they tended to be dominated by the Sunni or the Christian-Maronites.

The various divisions of sects played a role in preventing a united ‘national’ identity. Colonising powers used the minorities in a divide and rule strategy. The Sunnis were closely linked to the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and oppressed the ‘Alawis and the other minorities. The French reversed the preferences:

“In Turkish times the Sunni Muslim had been the privileged community, growing rich on ‘Alawi labour….(who) could be expected to be ground down by the Sunni or Christian merchant, money-lender or landowner….But….in the early 1920’s the French gave the ‘Alawi privileges….”

Seale P: “Asad – The Struggle for the Middle East”; Ibid; p.17.

“France tried to pit all of Syria’s minority communities against the Sunni Arabs, who constituted the core of its traditional political elites;”

Malik Mufti; “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p. 45.

(ii) Early History of Syria – To the Ottoman Empire

Being at the intersection of the Mediterranean and India and the Far East – Syria was always subject to international influences and trade. Its peoples were initially Arabs from the South, who brought with them Semitic influence – but they then intermingled with invaders from central Asia and Anatolia (Hourani A.H.: “Syria & Lebanon- A Political Essay”; London 1968; pp.11-13).

Historic Syria was dominated first by the Semitic tribes such as the Phoenicians. Later waves of invaders included the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Hittites, Persians, under Alexander the Great – the Greeks and later by the First Century BC – the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire introduced Christianity. But Christianity gave way to Islam in Syria, during the course of the Persian-Roman wars in the 3rd Century AD.

Although the Byzantine Empire tried to hold onto Syrian territories, by 633 the Arabs from the Egyptian peninsula took it by war. A Moslem Government was established. It became a central part of the Moslem empire, under the Umayyad Caliphate of Mu’awiya in 661. Till the 8th century, the Caliphate territories extended from Spain to Morocco to Central Asia. As the Abbassi Dynasty took control of Syria, its fortunes waned under the pressure of repeated wars with the Byzantine Empire.

Ultimately this allowed the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt – led initially by Baibars to dominate Syria. By 1516, Syria was ruled as a single unit by Egypt, from the seat of Damascus. This was the first modern time that this had occurred since the rule of the Umayyad caliphs 1200 years earlier. However the Ottoman Turks easily displaced the waning Egyptian Mamelukes in 1516, and the Osmani Sultans became the Caliphs.

Upon the end of Egyptian rule, bilad al-Sham (Syria) reverted to the Ottoman Empire, and became sub-divided into provinces. These were not ‘national divisions’; or even ‘natural division’ but administrative divisions facilitating rule over the provinces. As the Ottoman Empire was challenged by Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammed Ali a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan) of Egypt, a modernisation began in Syria. A central government was formed with a measure of modern progress such as education. But Ibrahim Pasha then attempted to invade Constantinople in 1839, and the Great Powers intervened. They ‘propped up the Sick Man of Europe’ – the Sultanate of Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire was an Oriental Despotic form of state; broadly speaking it was the equivalent of feudalism in the West. Its characteristic was the almost complete absence of private property in land. As Marx characterised it:

“Bernier rightly considered the basis of all phenomena in the East – he refers to Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan – to be the absence of private property in land. This is the real key to the Oriental heaven”

Letter Marx to Engels; 2 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.334 (See Appendix 1 to this article).

“The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that oriental never reached the stage of landed property not even the feudal kind? This is I think largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the lands more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only; Finance (pillage at home); War (pillage at home and abroad); and travaux (i.e. works –Ed) publics, provisions for reproduction”;

Letter Engels to Marx; 6 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.339.

(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and French Colonial Yoke

By the end of the 19th Century, the break-up of the Ottoman Empire was eagerly expected by the imperialists. After several secret organizations had struggled for years, in 1908, some young reformers led by a small bourgeoisie forced a parliamentary system. In 1913 the Committee of Union and Progress, led by the army officer Enver Pasha, took power in the seat of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, finally un-seating the Sultanate.

The Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, a dictatorship based on Oriental Despotism was forced into a democratic reform. At the opening phases of the First World War, Enver Pasha led Turkey into an alliance with Germany. This was sealed in the secret Treaty of Berlin July 28. By its provisions, the Ottoman Empire would observe strict neutrality and Germany would defend Ottoman territory in case of external threats.

Within a few months, Turkey’s secret dealings with Germany had been revealed. Following incidents where German cruisers evaded British ships to obtain safe berths in Turkish waters, Britain declared war on Turkey. As the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill initiated war actions against Turkey on November 1 1914 War was formally declared by Britain only on November 5th. Churchill noted that with the Ottoman Empire as an enemy, its territories were free to being divided up much easier.

As the war progressed, the Allied forces blundered into the defeat at Gallipoli. This invasion between 25 April 1915, to 17 November 1915, left half a million dead. British command had led an Allied force with a large Australian contingent, was defeated by the Turkish forces commanded by Mustapha Kemal – later to be known as Attaturk.

Naturally at the end of the First World War, the victorious super powers led then by the Allied powers, in particular Britain and France – took the opportunity to divide up the Ottoman territories. In 1914:

“At the end of a fevered expansionist movement that was rooted in the 1880’s, France had built the second largest colonial empire in the world, an empire of more than 10 million square kilometers, with nearly 50 million inhabitants.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.7.

France had up to then, no significant colony in the Middle East. This did not deter its pretensions in the area, based on the rather tenuous, and distant history of the Crusades:

“During the Crusades, French knights won kingdoms and built castles in Syria….In 1914…there were still Frenchmen who regarded Syria as properly part of France. France maintained close contacts with one of the Christian communities along the Mount Lebanon coast of Syria, and French shipping, silk, and other interests eyed commercial possibilities….The moment that the Ottoman Empire entered the war, French officials in the Middle East therefore formulated plans to annex Turkey’s Syrian provinces. Frances’ Minster in Cairo and Consul General in Beirut immediately joined in urging their government to invade the Lebanese coast”

Fromkin, David: “A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”; New York; 1989; p. 94.

Meanwhile, in Britain manoeuvring had also begun. The De Bunsen Committee was appointed by Prime Minister Asquith to advise on polices post-war in the Middle East; the proceedings were dominated by Sir Mark Sykes a Tory MP. It reported five autonomous provinces should be created in the decentralised Ottoman Empire: Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Anatolia and Jazirah-Iraq.

During the war, Lord Kitchener Minister of War in the British Cabinet, proposed a pact to the Sherif of Mecca – Hussein. Kitchener’s plan was to make the Sherif Caliph, thereby displacing both religious and temporal power away from Constantinople to Mecca – Arabia proper. This would appeal to the majority of the Ottoman Empire who were Arabs, yet ruled by the 40% of Turkish speakers – by the Ottoman Empire. In return Hussein was to assist with the overthrow of Turkish rule:

“Kitchener’s telegram … sent by Grey at the Foreign Office, told the British Agency (in Cairo-Ed) that Storr should reply to Abdullah Hussein that (son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca-Ed):

” If the Arab nation should assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give the Arabs every assistance again foreign aggression”…. In other words if the Arabian leaders freed their peninsula from the Sultan and declared their independence, Britain would help to protect them against any invasion from abroad.”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 102-3.

This promisory note was to lead to serious future conflicts. Apart from anything else, British calculations that the Mecca Sharif Hussein dynasty (the Hashemites) would be given the allegiance of all Arabs was mistaken. It ignored the ambition of the Wahabi sect led by the Sunni Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, based in Central Arabia.

Nonetheless, the illusions of Britain’s backing took hold of Sharif Hussein somewhat. An illustration of this was in the demands he made, in what came to be known as the Damascus Protocol. This demanded an independent Arab kingdom under his rule. This was presented by Hussein to the British command at Cairo in summer 1915. The British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon – was pressurised by Kitchener to write accepting the demands of Hussein (See Fromkin Ibid; p. 178). This led to the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. In these McMahon used duplicitous wording, to the effect that Hussein should understand a British commitment towards Palestine. The British imperialist had understood that they would have to:

“pay a price… to obtain France’s consent to the making of promises to Hussein”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 182.

Accordingly McMahon forced Hussein to relinquish claim to Syria, Lebanon, Basra and Baghdad, leaving only Arabia. This would mean negotiation with other contenders such as Ibn Suad (See Fromkin; Ibid; p.183).  Hussein explicitly rejected this “offer” – stating that:

“Any concession designed to give France or any other Power possession of a single square foot of territory in those parts is quite out of the question”

Fromkin, Ibid; p. 185.

In reality he had little other choice, as the Ottoman Empire Young Turks were about to depose him. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave the signal:

“Not to worry about the offers being made by Cairo as “the whole thing was a castle in the air which would never materialise”

Cited Fromkin Ibid; p. 185.

Hussein then insisted that there could be no Arab uprising against the Ottomans without an Allied landing on the Syrian coast. This spurred an imperialist presence in the Middle East.

This frames the  talks between imperialist France and Britain. France, represented by the son of an African French colonist – Francois Georges Picot and Britain – represented by Tory M.P. Sir Mark Sykes. These two simply secretly divided Syria up, under the secret provisions of theSykes-Picot Agreement of February 1916. Partition kept the Allies united. Palestine was to be “placed under an international regime”- to be determined after “consultation” with all parties involved – including (sic) other interested allies such as Russia and Italy!

Such negotiations between “Allies” were un-trustworthy. In the meantime a secret French-Russian pact between the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, and the Russian foreign ministry, it was “decided” that the post-war administration of Palestine was to be French controlled.

Hussein tried for as long as possible to temporise, but when the Ottoman Young Turks discovered his plots, they mobilised. To circumvent this, Hussein “declared” war, leading to the pathetic Arab Uprising in June 1916. It did not ignite any reaction, and the Arab tribes largely ignored the call. Simmering continued. However, in 1920, the Battle

Thus ensued the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The United Nations “awarded” the French the Mandate over Syrian and Lebanon. France ‘took’ the North , which became the republics of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in the South, Britain seized Palestine and Transjordan. This,  occurred despite the fact that the population itself, had made clear its own desire for independence:

“The inhabitants of the whole region made it clear that they wanted natural Syria to be independent and undivided: In July 1919 an elected body calling itself the Syrian National Congress repudiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and demanded sovereignty status for a united Syria-Palestine.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 15.

In the interim, an Arab administration led by Amir Faysal established itself in Damascus. The contradictions between the European waning imperialisms of France and Britain were set against the rising imperialism of the USA. Even the USA led King-Crane Commission visited the area and confirmed the popular view. But the USA was as yet unable to effectively challenge the hegemony of the USA in the area. Thus in 1920, the European powers were given Mandates over the new states carved out of the former Ottoman provinces. Although Faysal fought against this both politically and then in armed struggle, the troops of French General Geraud entered Damascus in 1920. At the Battle of Maisaloun, they decisively defeated Faisal.

The French dismissed Faysal and set up a classic colonial state. Their Mandate, made the French Government the ‘intermediate’ between its High Commissioner and the League of Nations. On the principle of divide and rule, they quickly proceeded to create new states, and to foster the remaining divisions between people of the former bilad al-Sham.

They created out of Syria a newly detached State of Greater Lebanon; by detaching Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, the Baqa’ Valley and the Sh’i region of North Palestine. These were attached to Mount Lebanon – the fief of Maronite compradors of France.

Then in 1921, France yielded to Turkey, large parts of Aleppo, and Alexandretta-Antioch.

A further administrative manoeuvre divided Syria into four parts: These were the mini-states of Damascus, Aleppo, and the “independent” Alawi mountains and the Druze mountains.

Finally the Northern part of Syria was colonized and further division fostered by encouraging settling by Christians and Kurds. Of course the purpose of all this sub-division of Syria was to ‘ensure’ French hegemony:

“The French fully understood that Syrian nationalist sentiment would be opposed to their rule. This in effect meant the that the Sunnis were their principal antagonists and they thus proceeded to capitalise on the .. Christians, their oldest friends, by creating a new state that stripped Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli, the Baaka valley & Beirut itself from Syria and added them to the Ottoman sanjak (administrative district) of Mount Lebanon the very backbone of Maronite Christianity. Syria was cut off from its finest ports and Damascus … was weakened at the expense of Beirut and the new Christian dominated regime”:

Fisk R; “Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon”; London 1990; p. 62.

Political parties were only allowed a legal existence in January 1925. At that time, the Peoples Party launched armed struggle. This party had been the first that the French had legalised  ( Ismael T & Ismael J: The Communist Movement in Syria & Lebanon, Gainsville; 1998 p. 12). Within 2 years it was crushed. But, the French remained aware of the depth of feeling, and allowed a national assembly to convene in 1928. But it was soon dissolved, in 1930, by the French. Large popular protests erupted by 1936. This compelled the French Government, under the leadership of the Popular Front Government to enter negotiations with the Syrian nationalists. The Franco-Syrian Treaty of September 1936, called for a Syrian [neo-colonial] ‘independence’ in return for French privilege in trading and military status. The National Bloc was elected to power, but the Second World War supervened. The French suspended the 1930 Constitution by the imposition of martial law (Dilip Hiro: “Inside The Middle East”, London; 1982; p. 42).

“was not a unitary party so much as a working alliance of individuals and groups. It including leading members of important land-owning families… like Hashim al-Atasi, the President… individuals…”

Hourani A.H. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; 1968; Beirut; p.191.

In 1943, the British pushed Vichy France, to hold elections in Syria. The National bloc was again elected. Syria declared war on Germany in February 1945, thereby winning a seat at the Founding Conference of the United Nations. France was clearly a faltering imperialist nation. Britain, at that time was still struggling hard to keep the upper hand, against a new insurgent USA imperialism. However, it still had could browbeat the French out of Syria. Britain had foreseen that unless the Syrians were allowed a nominal ‘independence’, the whole Middle East was threatened from the perspective of imperialism.

It was only in April 1946, that the French left Syria as an occupying colonial military power. As the History of Colonial France puts it:

“The Syrian Affair had ushered in decolonisation at the worst possible time for France. It was under the very powerful menace of the British, and suffering from the injuries inflicted by the Arab League, these forced it to abandon its mandate without contradiction.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.360 (Tr Kumar H).

The Syrian Parliament of the 1943 elections, was deposed by a military coup led by Husni al-Za’im  in March 1949. This was assisted by the debacle of the first Arab-Israali war of 1948 and the defeat of the Syrian army. It was only in 1954, that his successor (Colonel Adib al-Shisakli) was overthrown by a further military coup.

This was precipitated by the United Front meeting at Homs in July 1953, where the National Party, the People’s Party, the Arab-Socialist party, the Ba’th party and the Communist party signed a National Pact to overthrow the Shishakli dictatorship.

At this time, parliamentary democracy was restored. The ensuing poll in September 1954 was the first in the Middle East with full women’s suffrage, and was generally free.

Syria by the time of the French withdrawal in 1946 had been whittled down to 185,190 square kilometers from 300,000 square kilometers in Ottoman times. (See Seale; Ibid; pp14-16). Open colonialism was to be replaced by a neo-colonialism.

(iv) The Post-Independence Economy

The class character of Syria after the war, was that of a neo-colony dominated by French and British interests, with  major feudal remnants. The economy was largely based on peasant based, raw material production, with oppression from the landowners.

The French had developed a comprador base. Since industry was weak in the area, both from previous Oriental Despotism, and the depredations of  Ottoman oppression followed by European imperialism, the representatives of the national bourgeoisie were initially weak.

The French had created a large comprador class by fostering various sections of the ‘Alawis (eg. The Kinj Brothers; the Abbas family); and in Mount Lebanon from 1860 onwards the Maronite Christians; and other landowners throughout the former bilad al-Sham.

Previously, a collective type of farming , known as musha’ had enabled the peasantry to each gain a subsistence living. The plots were periodically re-distributed in order that each family would have turns on the better plots. But following the previous example by the Ottomans from the 1858 Ottoman Land Code, the French drew up a land register. This meant that local notables and tribal shayks were enabled to seize property by legal title.

Under this pillage, comprador owned latifundia were built up. Monied merchants and moneylenders in the cities also became Latifundists. In the process the peasantry was of course expropriated and impoverished to the status of being share-croppers. This meant that they obtained between 25-75% of the crop they worked, depending upon how much they provided in money for seed, and water.

Since as Seale puts it, Syria was a “predominantly agricultural country”, the solution of the misery of the peasant was a major goal for the country’s development. This required a national democratic revolution. The extent of the poor development of industry, and the misery of the people can be seen from the following statistics:

“Syria was a predominantly agricultural country, its backbone being two million peasants out of a then population of about 3.5 million, inhabiting some 5,500 villages built mostly of mud and mostly lacking piped water sewerage electricity tarred roads or any other amenity of modern life… The population was ravaged by disease… In 1951-3, 36% of registered deaths occurred among children under five. National income per head was a mere 440 Syrian lire (US$157), although socials disparities were such that most Syrians earned even less. Outside the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo electricity was rare, serving fewer than three-quarters of a million people in the whole country. There were only some 13,000 motor vehicles a single port Latakia, and three small railways all Ottoman built and of different gauge.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 44.

By the Second World War and immediately after, a small industrialist class, and its corollary a working class had arisen in cotton and rayon cloth, soap, cement, glass, and matches; and some industrial penetration into the countryside latifundia had also occurred. (Seale Ibid; p. 46).

The French had created several divisions in the area, or had deliberately stoked up older, historic division – these were at the minimum the following:

Divisions of land into arbitrary areas with peasant expropriations; and

Divisions of territory between potentially hostile ‘religious’ divisions (Sunni versus Shi’i Muslim  sects – of the latter being Druzes, ‘Alawis, and Isma’ilis).

But, the class divisions overlay – but sometimes depended upon the above divisions.

(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?

These can be characterized with respect to their relations to the ownership of the means of production; and to their relations to the democratic revolution and a subsequent second socialist stage:

1. Those Forces Interested in the Social Revolution
i) The predominant class was the peasant class, the majority of whom were actually share- croppers;
Initially they were led by the Arab Socialist Party (ASP) of Akram al-Hawrani, formed in 1950.
ii) A small working class based mainly in Damascus and Aleppo;
These were initially led and represented by the Communist Party Syria and Lebanon (founded October 1924, admitted Comintern 1928), who ultimately, also gained the leadership of the peasantry. After Syrian territory was divided into Syria and Lebanon, the two parties formed separate organisations in 1930, leaving in Syria the Syrian Communist Party (SCP).

2. The Class Forces Implacably opposed to any phase of National or Social Revolution:
i) The feudal-type latifundia land owners; who were comprador bourgeoisie;
these were led and represented by the French imperialists;
and then later by the so-called pro-“Pan-Syrian” nationalists; Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP – or Parti Populaire Syrien) established by Antun Sa’ada. The Pan-Syrians only wished that the territory of Syria and Lebanon not be divided, and allowed a diversion to offer against the Pan-Arabists. They had established a management hold over the tobacco growers of the mountains, and had a monopoly with the French ‘regie de tabacs’. They were known to be pro-West and anti-communist (See Seale Ibid; p. 49-50).

3. Forces interested in  “national democratic” revolution – but wished to abort the second stage, the socialist revolution.
The petit bourgeoisie, and the peasantry, and at a later stage the small but potentially important national industrialist capitalist class, was represented by the Ba’th Party at first and then by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ASBP).

The industrialists were as always frightened of the arousal of the workers and peasantry. They were at best then ‘vacillating’ allies of the national democratic revolution.

(vi) The Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party

Welding Arab nationalism into a  movement that could make strides against imperialism in reality needs Marxism-Leninism. But nationalists who shied away from revolution, tried to find a different solution. They tried to ignite Arab pride. This involved a mystical Pan-Arabism.

The formation of the Ba’th Party (or Baath) in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and Wahib al-Ghanim. The concept originated in Syrian intellectuals who upon return to Syria from the Sorbonne in Paris, were dismayed to find themselves treated as ‘colonials’:

“The party was…founded…by two rival schoolmasters, the ‘Alawi from Antioch, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and the Damascene Christian, Michel ‘Aflaq…Zaki al-Arsuzi was a Syrian intellectual from a modest background who in the late 1920s, won a place at the Sorbonne from which he emerged four years later with a philosophy degree and a boundless enthusiasm for French poetry, painting and civilization … Arsuzi … gathered a circle of young followers to whom he explained that the ‘renaissance’ of the Arabs – that is what the word ‘ba’th’ means – was in their grasp.. (but-ed) he came to suffer from delusions” …. In Hama Akram al-Hawrani led a youth movement and …. a lawyer, jalal at-Sayyid, started a boys’ club with a strong nationalist flavour which was to be the first Ba’th party branch in eastern Syria. But of all these youth groups, the most significant for the future was that of Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who, like Arsuzi graduates of the Sorbonne, on their return home to Damascus in 1934 became teachers ….By 1940 ‘Aflaq and Bitar had set up their own study circle … At the start they called their group the Movement of Arab Revival (barakat al-ibya’al-arabi)”

Seale P; Ibid; p. 27 -28

These intellectuals repudiated Marxism, and were explicitly anti-communist. Although the Ba’th movement built on prior sentiments of Syrian nationalism, these had been close to a religious interpretation dominated by the Sunni sect. This alienated other parts of the Muslim Arabs, who consequently did not join in with the national movement:

“In the past, the Arab nationalist movement had always been interwoven with a kind of Sunni Islamism. And the Sunni Arabs, who usually played first fiddle in this movement, assigned in  their Arabism such an important and central role to (Sunni) Islam that heterodox Muslims, let alone Christians, were allotted a secondary place: ‘timid subordinates’ tolerate by (Sunni Arab) ‘superiors.’ In fact, many Sunni Arab nationalists tended to regard members of the Arabic speaking religious minorities as ‘imperfect Arabs’ because they were heterodox Muslims or not Muslims at all. Equally, the religious minorities tended to suspect Arab nationalism as a disguise for unrestrained Sunni ascendancy, similar to the situation that pertained during the Ottoman Empire, the only difference being that Arab rather than Turkish Sunnis now held power.”

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

The Ba’th ideology was supposed to be secular and it based itself on all Arabs irrespective of sect of Islam, or even of Islam itself. Ba’th means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement, also holding out a promise of “socialism” to “all Arabs“:

“Ba’th ideology had a quite different basis. The Ba’th wanted a united secular Arab society with a socialist system, i.e. a society in which all Arabs would be equal, irrespective of their religion. This did not imply that Islam was of secondary importance to Ba’thist Arabism. In the Ba’thist view Islam constituted an essential and inseparable part of Arab national culture. Other than the Sunni variants of Arabism, however, the Ba’th considered Islam to be not so much an Arab national religion as an important Arab national cultural heritage, to which all Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, were equal heirs apparent. In the opinion of Michel ‘Aflaq, the Ba’th Party’s ideologist, Christian Arabs therefore need feel in no way hindered from being Arab nationalists:

“When their nationalism awakens in them completely and they regain their original nature, the Christian Arabs will realise that Islam is their national culture with which they should satiate themselves, in order that they may understand and love it and covet it as the most precious thing in their Arabism.’

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

However, they slipped frequently into defense of the religious aspects – of Islam, stressing the social and progressive aspects, as preached by its religious leaders. To get the full flavour of mystic philosophy of Ba’th philosophy, a portion of their words are in Appendix Two , which contains a short extract from a 1955 speech by a leader Elyas Farah.

An appeal to the entire Arab peoples should have instantly appealed to the nascent bourgeoisie. But its more immediate appeal was to the petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and only to a limited extent to the peasant masses. Intellectuals who were already breaking away from tribal and narrowing holds, saw its potential:

“It was thus only natural that the Ba’th ideology appealed strongly to Arabic-speaking religious minority members, who may have hoped that the Ba’th would help them to free themselves of their minority status and the narrow social frame of their sectarian, regional and tribal ties.’

Finally, the minority members must have been attracted by the idea that the traditional Sunni-urban domination of Syrian political life might be broken by the establishment of a secular socialist political system as envisaged by the Ba’th, in which there would be no political and socio-economic discrimination against non-Sunnis or, more particularly, against members of heterodox Islamic communities.

After the take-over of Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, membership of the struggle for party apparatus was opened to all Syrians, including non-Arabs such as (Arabised) Kurds, Circassians and Armenians.” The number of non-Arabs in an Arab nationalist party like the Ba’th was bound to remain small, however. “

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17-8.

The Pan-Arabic vision, was illustrated by the Constitution of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, which officially states:

“The Arab nation constitutes a cultural unity. Any differences existing among its sons are accidental and unimportant. They will disappear with the awakening of the Arab consciousness … The national bond will be the only bond existing in the Arab state. It ensures harmony among the citizens by melting them in the crucible of a single nation, and combats all other forms of factional solidarity such as religious, sectarian, tribal, racial and regional factionalism.”

Bashir al-Da’uq ed; Nidal al-Ba’th; Volume 1; Beirut 1970; pp172-6; Cited by:
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; ; p. 15.

Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, at first formed the Arab Ba’th Party, in secret out of two small groups. But the legal establishment of the party: had to wait till the French military left in 1946 (Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130).

From its formal beginning in 1947, the Ba’th Party intended to cover all countries where Arabs were predominant. It was not restricted to Syria. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy:

“At its first pan-Arab congress in Damascus in April 1947, delegates from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Morocco adopted a constitution and a programme. The party’s basic principles were described as: the unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland; and a belief in the ‘special mission of the Arab nation’, the mission being to end colonialism and promote humanitarianism. To accomplish it the party had to be ‘nationalist, populist, socialist and revolutionary’. While the party rejected the concept of class conflict, it favoured land reform; public ownership of natural resources, transport, and large-scale industry and financial institutions; trade unions of workers and peasants; the cooption of workers into management, and acceptance of ‘non-exploitative private ownership and inheritance’.” It stood for a representative and constitutional form of government, and for freedom of speech and association, within the bounds of Arab nationalism.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

The main social base for the Ba’th was not initially the larger sections of the bourgeoisie. They were not yet convinced that the Ba’th would serve their interests. Later, these were to follow the lead of  President Nasser of Egypt:

“In Syria the party drew its initial support either from the urban Sunni (Muslim) and Orthodox (Christian) petty bourgeoisie, or the rural notables, particularly those in the Alawi and Druze areas of Latakia.

‘The party’s social base remained the petit bourgeoisie of the cities, and in the countryside middle landlords with local social prestige,’ notes Tabitha Petran. ‘However, the Baath did not develop much in the cities. Most of the Sunni petit bourgeoisie, even in Damascus, was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also by President Nasser. But the Ba’th won a following among students and military cadets: future intellectuals and army officers.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

A related party was the Arab Socialist Party. This party had a mass peasant base, which was to become vital to the Ba’th:

“The other party to draw support from the military cadets was the Arab Socialist Party, founded in January 1950 by Akram Hourani, a lawyer from Hama. .. At his suggestion the Syrian government had instituted the egalitarian policy of disregarding the social background of the applicants to the only military academy at Horns. Since a military career was the only way a son of a poor or middle peasant could raise his social status, the Horns academy attracted many applicants from this section of society. Given the ASP’s commitment to ending feudalism and distributing government land to the landless, and its leadership of peasant agitations, it was not surprising that it enjoyed considerable following among young cadets and officers.”

Hiro; Ibid; p. 131.

Soon the ASP and the Ba’th Party came together, forming the Arab Socialist Ba’th party (ASBP) in 1953. Its’ leaders, who later forced into exile, were Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar, and Akram al-Hawrani.

As discussed they represented the “middle ground” elements consisted of representatives of the petit bourgeoisie who having become educated, were cognizant of the need for progressive modern change. But most of these elements (white-collar urban workers school-teachers, government employees, large sections of the army and the air force etc;) were not of communist mentality. The Ba’th Socialist Party now restated the Ba’th’s founding aims:

“Drawn together by their opposition to the dictatorial regime of Colonel Adib Shishkali, the leaders of the Baath and the ASP decided in September 1953 to form the Arab Baath Socialist Party: this was formally done six months later. The new party re-stressed the Baath’s central slogan: ‘Freedom, unity, socialism’.” 

Hiro, Ibid p.131.

What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology:

“Socialism, which comes last in the Baath trinity, is less a set of socio-economic principles than a rather vague means of national moral improvement. . . . All they [Ba’thist leaders] said was that socialism was a means of abolishing poverty, ignorance, and disease, and achieving progress towards an advanced industrial society capable of dealing on equal terms with other nations.”

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

The ASP’s peasant base gave the new party a mass following:

“The infusion of the ASP’s predominantly peasant following into the new party gave it the militant mass base that the old urban-based party had lacked. Winning sixteen parliamentary seats in Hama, the ASP’s stronghold, in the general election of September, strengthened the hands of the leftists in the party, and softened its anti-Communist stance, associated with the founders of the pre-merger Arab Ba’th Party.” 

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism

Nasserism was  a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same. Wahda (Arabic for union) was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both these ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the entire Middle East had deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisies against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie together would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

(viii) The Syrian Communist Party

The party was founded by Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, who used the paper al-Sahafi al-T’eh (The Wandering Journalist) to form a base; and Fouad al-Shamli, who after expulsion from Egypt, formed a base for the Lebanese Communist party. The two groups united to form the first Arab communist party:

“After two meetings were held in October 1924 at al-Hadath (a suburb of Beirut), a communist party in Syria and Lebanon was formed on 24 October 1924 by five Arabs (four workers and one intellectual): Yazbak, al-Shamali, Farid Toma, Ilyas Qashami, and Butros Hishimah. They selected Yazbak as secretary general and called the party the Lebanese People’s Party (LPP) as a public front for the communist party. The Supreme Committee of Syndi-cates constituted the main membership of the communist party and its front organization, the Lebanese People’s Party. This was the first organized and constituted communist party in the Arab world.”

Tareq Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael: “The Communist Movement in Syria And Lebanon”; Gainsville Florida, 1998; p. 8.

They contacted the Comintern in 1924, who sent them Joseph Berger of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). This was only established in 1923, but it was a member of the Communist International (Degras J: Volume 2; p. 95). Berger was assigned the responsibility of “setting up the Lebanese CP”.  But problems rapidly surfaced as he insisted on a PCP hegemony:

“Almost since the very beginning there were signs of major disagreement between the representative of the Palestinian Communist Party, Joseph Berger, and the Lebanese communists in connection with the rejection by those present of the Palestinian guardianship of the Lebanese party. It was obvious that the Palestinian Communist Party wanted the Lebanese party to be a branch, whereas the Lebanese insisted on maintaining their independence. This occurred in spite of the coordination that was going on between members of the party and their counterparts in Palestine during the party’s first decade. The Communist Party of Palestine, which was then almost exclusively Jewish, was at that time the most ideologically mature, organizationally coherent, and genuine communist outpost in the Middle East. Its leaders believed the party to be “the only communist front in the Arab Orient” and considered it their duty “to pay attention to every question … in relation to the revolution … to look into matters relating to Syria, Egypt, and Islamic Congresses in Cairo, Mecca, and elsewhere.”” However, their aspirations were soon curtailed by the Secretariat for Oriental Affairs of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which in December 1926 “censured” the Palestinian communists for their “ambitious demand to monopolize work in contiguous countries” and considered it to be a malady, harmful for the further expansion of communist influence in the region.”

Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p. 8.

This attitude of the Palestine CP persisted, as seen in the 1929 Comintern discussion on the revolution in Arabistan. This forms Appendix 3 (See: Comintern on Arabistan).

The party put forward a short term programme including labour demands, and

“promotion of Lebanese industry agriculture and trade” and nationalisation; and control of religious endowments by public agencies”

(Ismaels Ibid; p. 10-11).

In 1925, an Armenian organisation (Spartacus League) initiated contacts, and they fused on May Day to form the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL). The first Central Committee also included a representative of the Palestine CP – Jacob Tepper (Heikal M; “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 41).

In 1926 however, the Oriental Secretariat Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed the party under the supervision of the Palestine CP, countermanding the prior Lebanese decision (Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p.14). At the 6th Congress of the Communist International in September 1928, the CPSL took part.

During the French mandate, the Syrian CP (SCP) legally functioned, though suffered harassment such as the banning of its paper – al-Insaniya (Mankind – or Humanity).

At the time of partition of Greater Syria, the CPSL strongly objected. In 1930, it emerged from secrecy to become public (Ismaels Ibid; p.17). Its first full programme was published in 1931. 

The programme called for the national liberation of Syria and Lebanon and a democratic revolution to include land reform and abolition of feudalism.

Khalid Bakdash joined the party in 1930, recruited by al-Shamali. Promoted to the Central Committee in mid-1931, he was sponsored by Artin Madoyan. Within six months he had ensured al_Shamali’s expulsion – on:

“unsubstantiated and specious allegations that he had connections with the Security”

Ismaels Ibid; p.20.

Six months later, Bakdash became the party Secretary-general in early 1932, and went on to translate the Communist Manifesto in 1933 into Arabic. He was given further training in Moscow, and there, was made the permanent representative of Arab communist parties in 1934. Although the Comintern rejected the formation of a federation of Arab communist parties, on the grounds of security, the CPCL was accorded in effect the guardianship of the region.

The CPSL supported the French Popular Front government and hoped this would led to the independence of Syria.  During this time, the first legal organ of the Syrian CP was allowed – Sawt-al-Sha’b (People’s voice). However the SCP remained small, in the range of 200 members, rising to 2000 by 1939. In the mid-1930’s an internal purge was undertaken of those calling for collaboration with Arab Nationalists (Ramet, Pedro: “The Soviet Syrian Relationship Since 1955 – A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder; 1990; p.65.).

On the declaration of war on the USSR, the CPSL came to the aid of the Allied efforts against fascism. But during the war, significant steps towards downplaying the revolution were taken. In the elections of August 1943, the CPSL declared:

“We assure the national capitalist , the national factory owner, that we do no look with envy or malice on his national enterprise. On the contrary, we desire his progress and vigorous growth. All that we ask is the improvement of the conditions of the national worker. We assure the owner of land that we do not and shall not demand the confiscation of his property.. All that we ask is kindness towards the peasant and the alleviation of his misery”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 32.

While it is correct to fight for a national democratic revolution – such promises violate the meaning of a principled united front. Similarly, Bakdash was prepared to accept the leadership of the National Bloc. Bakdash went so far as to state that the CPSL was ‘a party of national liberation’:

“above all, and before ever consideration, a party of national liberation, a party of freedom and independence.”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

And he traced the attraction to the USSR to a nationalist perspective:

“We approach this [issue of relation with the USSR] as patriots and as Arabs… not because the Soviet Union has a particular social system”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

It can be concluded that already as early as 1945, Bakdash was a revisionist.

In 1943, Bakdash reversed the whole prior policy of the CPSL and assisted the goals of the French colonists and future neo-colonists by splitting the party into separate organisations for Syria and for Lebanon. This decision took place at the national Congress of 1943 held in Beirut. Its grounds were contradictory – arguing that firstly the “national movement in Lebanon was less developed than in Syria,” and that “democracy is more deeply rooted in Lebanon than in Syrian. where the feudal landlords still continue to rule” (Ismaels Ibid; p.35).

The relations with the French CP were one of close liaison – if not instruction. Since, in the post Independence year of 1947 – the new Syrian government again banned the CP – the two sections of Lebanon and Syria amalgamated again, until 1958.

Since its inception the Syrian CP had been anti-Zionist. However with the revisionist inspired support of the diplomatic corps of the USSR, the USSR vote at the United Nations for the creation of Israel, led the Syrian CP to reverse itself. (The revisionist manoeuvres underlying this are described in Alliance 30).

As a result of this the party rapidly lost public support (Ismaels Ibid; p.39). Bakdash refused to tolerate criticism of this within the party, which was purged. At the Central Committee meeting of 1951, he reasserted control. At this juncture, Bakdash re-discovered the injunction of Stalin to maintain a “complete freedom to carry out its political and organisational activity” within a United Front” (Ismaels Ibid; p.43). He also correctly reasserted that the strategic aim at that time, was the democratic national liberation. As a result of these steps, party support ws re-built.

In the 1954 general election, in Damascus Khalid Bakdash became the first Communist deputy to be elected, his margin was 11,000 votes. This indicated a popular respect for the Communist Party. (Mohamed Heikal “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 48).

This suggests that the Syrian CP was following correct strategy and tactics at this stage. Indeed Bakdash declared in 1955, in parliament, an unequivocally Marxist-Leninist viewpoint:

“We, the communists, always announced, and repeat today, that the center of our policy is to find meeting points, not disagreements, with all true nationalists…. Our program in this national democratic lib-eration stage that our country is now experiencing is crystal clear: to strengthen the foundations of independence and sovereignty … ; to participate in strengthening world peace; and to challenge imperialist conspiracies;… to spread democracy and strengthen it; to liberate our economy and work to improve it; to reform our agriculture; to raise the standard of living of workers, peasants and all toilers. After the achievement of national democratic liberation, we open the door to a higher stage of socialism … scientific socialism admits that the road of each nation toward socialism must be consistent with the character-istics of each nation and with its historic evolution, economic conditions and the other national specificities of the society … this is our program, and these are our grand aims. Show me where these conflict with the interests of Syria.”

(Ismaels Ibid; p.47).

At the same elections, the Arab Ba’th Party also won several seats. They were cooperating with the Syrian CP in the control of the streets (Hiro Ibid; p. 131).

The correct policy, was indeed to move from the first stage towards the second stage of the National democratic liberation struggle – for socialism. Yet one year after, after the USSR 1956 20th Party Congress, Bakdash again steered the party towards a more total emphasis on purely national goals rather than a conscious movement to the second stage.

(ix) The Syrian CP (SCP), the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic

By 1957, the Syrian party was one of the strongest in the Middle East. At the same time, the  alliance with the Ba’ath party, was stronger than it had ever been. The coalition between the SCP and the Ba’ath, proceeded to expel American diplomats, sign arms agreements with Moscow, and appoint a member of the Syrian CP (General Afif el-Bizri) as Chief of staff – all in August 1957 (Mohammed Heikal; “The Sphinx and the Commissar – The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East”; New York; 1978; p.76-78).

This precipitated anti-Syrian moves by the USA imperialists – who arranged that an Iraqi and Turkish troop amassment took place on the borders with Syria. In September 1957, Kermit Roosevelt  of the CIA was sent to Egypt to warn Nasser not to proceed with an arms agreement with the USSR. Nasser pre-empted the USA by a public announcement of the impending arms. This transformed the Middle East from a pure “Western” preserve into a free-for-all.

When the Suez incident led to the subsequent humiliation of the British and French, the USA was using the episode as a further breach through which their imperialism would dominate. (This is discussed in more detail at: Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East).

This led to further USA attempts to destabilise Syria. A coup they sponsored had already failed in August (Hiro Ibid p.132).  Under pressure a polarisation took place, and it appeared that the Syrian CP was likely to gain further control of the leading positions in the coalition government with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thist leaders called for Nasser’s aid in fighting off the communists.

A situation analogous to the Shanghai massacre of the peasants and workers during the 1928 Chinese Revolution – was in the making. (See Notes on “Stalin & the 1928 Chinese Revolution” at Stalin & China). Stalin had repeatedly urged the CCP, through 1926 and early 1927 to break the bloc with the right KMT and move to a militant revolutionary struggle. The CCP did not heed this.

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary of the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. … the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, of the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin “Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T.Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995; p.318-9.” at: Stalin & China

The situation of the Syrian Ba’th and the Syrian CP was very much the same. The Ba’th were preparing to renege. The Syrian CP was refusing to take the struggle forward, using the guise of preserving the united front. The Ba’th flew emissaries to Egypt offering Nasser an immediate military and political union of Syrian and Egypt. It was well understood that Nasser had brutally suppressed Egyptian communists. The Syrian army was strongly in support of this offer of the Ba’th leadership.

As the Syrian CP refused to go beyond their “national front,” they were dragged further backwards. Rather than oppose Nasser – the “hero” of Suez – they abandoned their prior insistence on a loose federal formula with Egypt. They now outdid the Ba’th, and insisted on a “total union” with Egypt (Ismaels; Ibid; p. 50). Belatedly they again changed tack, but it was now too late.

Nasser had seized the opportunity to accept the disastrous (For Syrian workers and peasants, and national bourgeoisie) formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958. This was the formal amalgamation of Syria and Egypt, and represented an expansionist phase of Egyptian national capital under Nasser. After the UAR was formed, the Arab Socialist Ba’th party was completely dissolved by its leaders on Nasser’s insistence. (Seale Ibid; p. 60). The Syrian CP refused to dissolve. Nasser was never a whole-hearted supporter of the USSR, as evidenced by his treatment of Egyptian communists.

The Egyptian suppression of both Ba’thists and communists proceeded apace. Syria’s rule was transferred to Nassers’ aide, Marshall ‘Amer (Seale Ibid; p. 59).

But when the Iraqi monarchist regime was toppled by the USSR supported military coup of General Abdul Karim Qasssem, the UAR relations became tense with Iraq. Iraq was now a client state of the USSR. Matters became worse for Syrian communists, whose Syrian CP supported Qassem. Qassem refused Nasser’s offer to join in the UAR.

But by 1961, the suppression of native Syrian capital had been so blatant, that the Syrian nationalists allied to the army,  launched a coup that separated the states of Egypt and Syria once mere. Strongly supported by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and  Syrian businessmen. Another wing  of discontents were led by Hafiz al-Asad in a “Military Committee”. Because the Ba’th leading politicians had first asked for the Union with Egypt, and then reneged on it – they were discredited. The Military Committee members were jailed. This situation allowed the former comprador notables to take control of the state, led by Dr Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi, then Dr Bashir al-‘Azmah, and finally, Khalid al-‘Azm (Seale Ibid p. 72).

The Military Committee now united with the Ba’thists under Michel ‘Aflaq. In the coup of March 1963, the Military Committee took power in a complex coalition with both the Ba’thists and elements of ex-Nasserites. Asad was very much in the background at this stage. When the Nasserites were prompted by Egypt, they tried to seize power. In a pitched battle on 18 July 1963, the Ba’thist loyalists of the army won. In the ensuing years, Asad took control of the Ba’th Party. By 1966 the leading lights of the Ba’th were dealt with – Amin al-Fafiz was arrested; and Michel Aflaq & Salah al-Bitar were expelled (Seale Ibid p.102).

Bakdash had been previously expelled from Syria. When he was now allowed back to Syria in 1966, it was only under severe conditions:

“Khalid Bakdash the veteran leader of the Syrian Communist Party was allowed home after eight years of exile, while for the first time in Syrian History a Communist – Samih ‘Atiyya entered the government as Minister of Communications… Bakdash came home on stringent terms forbidden to hold meetings or make speeches.. “

Seale; Ibid; p. 108-109.

In fact, Bakdash had only been allowed back as a quid pro quo – the Khruschevites had demanded his return in lieu of payment for the construction of the Euphrates dam – only able to be constructed with the Khruschevite “aid.” The other two conditions included the Cabinet post named above to Atiyya – and the permission to publish a CP paper in Damascus. (Ramet Pedro: Ibid; p. 38).

The Syrian state was now fast becoming a client state of neo-USSR imperialism.

There were two primary vehicles for the USSR-  the Syrian CP – but now increasingly important – and over-taking the SCP was the Ba’th.

(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Over the very same period, counter-revolutionary events were taking place inside the USSR. Khrushchev was eliminating the Marxist-Leninists from any state positions. Shepilov, Molotov, Kaganovich, were all removed from any control in the party of the USSR by July 1957.

The positions of the Syrian Communist Party (SCP), were unlikely to recieve revolutionary clarification from the Khruschevites. In particular, a correct approach to the question of United Front in alliance with bourgeois democracy was jeopardised. We have detailed the switches and turns engineered by the revisionists following Stalin’s death, on this question (See Alliance 25: Khruschev Revisionism On The Colonial Question). Bakdash was to launch open polemics with the Khruschevite forces.

As Egypt was an important new semi-colony of the revisionist USSR, the Middle East merited special attention. R.A.Ulianovsky who specialised in national liberation struggles, was an aide to the revisionist Boris Ponomarev, himself an aide to Mikhail Suslov chief party ideologist. Ulianovsky was assigned a special role in the Middle East. Nasser and Ulianovsky came to an understanding over what would supposedly constitute the Arab Socialist Union.

The debate first opened in its new form at the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, in Moscow between 29 March and April 8 1966. Already Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress (February 1956). The issue erupted as to how Communists interacted with bourgeois nationalists in the Middle East.

Bakdash took yet another turn, and now took a correct Marxist-Leninist line, against the Russian revisionists led by Ulianovsky.  We believe that it is likely that Bakdash was now becoming concerned that the USSR revisionists were favouring the Ba’th Party as their “vehicle of choice”. He therefore tacked back towards a more correct Marxist-Leninist viewpoint on the question.

Bakdash opened the subsequent printed debate in the Cominform monthly “Problems of Peace and Socialism”, called the “National Liberation Movement and the Communists” (December 1965). Here:

1) Bakdash asserted the independence in united fronts of the Communist parties: In his article he denied that:

“Even though the Soviet Union and other socialist countries pursued a policy of alliance with some of the newly free countries in Asia and Africa, this does not mean that the communist parties and the democratic forces generally must under all circumstances support their governments and renounce the fight for democratic freedoms.”

(Heikal Ibid; pp 157-161).

2) Bakdash asserted that the communists should hold the hegemony in the united front on behalf of the working class:

In fact Bakdash insisted that:

“No other social group, no class and no individual leader could take over the historic mission of the working class. Though he admitted that situations might arise in which another social group of individual leader was ‘carried to the fore on the tide of struggle against fascism, imperialism, feudalism and in some cases, also against the big bourgeoisie.'”

3) Bakdash asserted that bourgeois nationalists should be critically supported:

Bakdash stated that:

“They should be supported, ‘But we must be on our guard against attempts to justify such alliances by spurious theories repudiating the role of the working class.’ Bakdash insisted the proletariat must be the leaders of socialist transformation and the ‘future depends on the struggle between the classes and the outcome of this struggle.'”

4) Bakdash rejected any “populist” variants on Scientific socialism, such asArabic socialism”:

“He cast doubts on the argument that those who have come to Marxism partially, can be induced to accept it completely at some future stage- ‘there are those who say that the supporters of the so-called ‘Arab’; ‘African’; or ‘Islamic’ socialism will ultimately discover that the only real socialism is scientific socialism… Experience shows that this is not the case.”

5) Bakdash asserted that socialism required a centralized mass Communist party; that took power; and was not the same as the enactment of simple reforms:

He argued that reforms undertaken in state were NOT the same as establishing socialism, and that the latter is dependent upon the working class being the leaders of the revolution and of the government:

“He rejected the idea that the superstructure in a country always reflected the base: ‘On the contrary internal and domestic factors can cause sudden changes in the superstructure capable of influencing the base’; Referring to land reforms in countries like Algeria and The U.A.R., and Syria, he said that the machinery of state alone, with army and police, was not sufficient to deal with the problems involved:

‘What is needed is an influential authoritative revolutionary mass party enjoying the confidence of the people’… ‘At the same time there are no grounds for saying that the given country has taken the socialist way. To take this view would be tantamount to saying that the leading role in establishing socialism no longer belongs to the working class but has passed over to the nationalist groupings and the small bourgeoisie.'”

6) Finally he rejected the Egyptian variant of Liquidationism.

He openly criticized the Egyptian communist party for dissolving itself, in April 1965. This had been on the advice of the Khruschevites.

“Its members were advised to join the Arab Socialist Union – as individuals.”

(see Heikal Ibid; p. 140-1)

In return the USSR Revisionists, in their turn now chastised Bakdash.

As Heikal says, the official answer to Bakdash came in an article by R.A.Ulianovsky entitled: “Some problems of the Non-Capitalist Development of liberated Countries” – which appeared in the Soviet monthly magazine “Kommunist” for January 1966. Here Ulianovsky repudiated on behalf of Khruschevite revisionism – all these points. (Heikal Ibid; pp.158-161). There, Ulianovsky wrote:

“Life demands the creation of a left-wing bloc in wihhc the more conscious and better equipped Marxist-Leninist elements would play the role of friend and helper of the national democrats….If the Marxist-Leninists undertake this mission in a left-wing bloc they will help the progressives to avoid making mistakes and will thus exert a beneficial influence at critical moments of development”;

Cited heikal; Ibid; pp. 158-159.

Unfortunately, even now, to the best of our knowledge, Bakdash did not yet openly and fully repudiate Khruschevite revisionism.

Later on during the post 1967 Egyptian/Arab war with Israel, after the collusion of the Russians revisionists, with the USA and the state of Israel, in the  estruction of the Arab forces, (See Heikal, Ibid; pp 178-183) various attempts were made to enforce a so called “negotiated settlement.”

During this period, Bakdash was asked to comment upon the two rival plans being floated for this “negotiated settlement”. One emanated from Gromyko and the Russian revisionists; one came from the USA imperialists. His comment was revealing:

“After reading the Russian version…He was shown the American proposals. He could not help noticing the similarities, and admitted that there was no Arab Communist who could defend the Gromyko Plan – and no Arab nationalists who could defend it either. Bakdash’s explanation of what had happened was… That the Russians wanted to demonstrate to the Americans that it was the Arabs who were being negative… Bakdash confessed that he was disappointed at the other communist parties over Palestine. ‘We have to admit it,’ he said, ‘That there is a lot of Jewish influence in European Communist parties, and that if it had not been for Soviet influence the resolution on the Middle East at the Moscow Conference would have been weaker. Over Zionism the Rumanians showed themselves more royalist than the king- the Israeli communists were prepared to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, but the Rumanians refused.'”

Heikal Ibid; p. 195-196.

By 1971 when the Russians formally left Egypt, Khaled Bakdash was again in Moscow, now able to argue that the policy of an un-principled support – to the point of jettisoning the independence of the Communist party – had been proven again to be wrong. But the revisionists had by now created huge damage already in the Middle East (Heikal; Ibid; p. 253).

The later career of Bakdash was however a renewed slide into revisionism.

In Conclusion

We believe that Bakdash tried to fight the Soviet revisionist distortions of the revolutionary line in colonial and semi-colonial countries, but ultimately, due to the disintegration of the world communist movement led by revisionism, Bakdash was unable to overcome the world propagation of the new revisionist line, pushed by Moscow. As Heikal puts it:

“There was a considerable contrast between the views of Khaled Bakdash and Ulianovsky – Khaled Bakdash wanted each local party to be an individual entity….whereas Ulianovsky was trying to keep them inside the national organizations.”

(Heikal; Ibid; p.160).

Overall Conclusion:

There can be no solution to the problems of Syria’s people until the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist party there.

The “solutions” of Pan-Arabism have been shown to be false.

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Final Declaration of the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America: The Current International Situation and the Tasks of the Revolutionaries

In the midst of joy and enthusiasm, the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, was closed. The event was held with the participation of 28 organizations from 15 countries; it is estimated that about 1500 people attended the seminar during its 5 days. The fruit of the hard work of the last week is attested to below:

With an air of apparent tranquillity and optimism, the economic analysts of the international bourgeoisie announced to the world that the economic crisis that broke out in 2008 had come to an end and a period of capitalist recovery loomed. Indeed, demonstrations of a small economic recovery can be seen in some countries, such as the United States and Germany, but at the same time, other economies are suffering new setbacks. During these years, the centre of the crisis has been moving from one region to another; its economic effects are still present around the world accompanied by the intensification of political and social conflicts.

The world is the scene of acute social-political confrontation between the peoples and the ruling classes, between dependent countries and imperialist states, and among imperialist powers themselves which are fiercely contesting control of areas of influence, markets, natural resources of the dependent countries, etc. This explains the political-military conflicts that are taking place in various parts of the world, such as Ukraine, Syria or the Middle East.

In this agitated world, the workers, youth and peoples in general are making their way with their struggles, seeking to affirm the historic leading role that they deserve.

The onslaught of capital to place the burden of the crisis on the backs of the workers has clashed with the combative response of the peoples in Europe. From the other side of the ocean, the Latin American peoples have watched with joy and optimism the general strikes, street demonstrations, the combative days of struggle that have spread throughout Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Germany, etc. that is, in almost the whole old continent. In this practice of mass struggle the revolutionary organizations are redoubling their efforts to provide the right direction to these fights, contending with right-wing and opportunist forces that see in such circumstances the opportunity to provide political solutions to the crisis without affecting the framework of the bourgeois institutions.

Faced with the savage mechanisms and levels of capitalist exploitation in Asia and Africa, the response of workers is to strike. Thousands, tens of thousands of workers, miners and agricultural workers are stopping work in companies that are mostly subsidiaries of imperialist transnationals.

The American continent, which at one point in history committed itself to taking up arms to defeat colonial domination, is also the scene of popular protests, of acute political confrontations and inter-imperialist disputes.

The course of the so-called progressive governments is showing serious problems. The public and social work that they were able to develop in previous years due to the unusual income from the sale of raw materials on the international market, now has difficulties in continuing: the economic problems are causing havoc. In their search for resources they have opted for doing what the bourgeoisie in power has traditionally done, prostrating themselves before international financial capital and putting their hands in the pockets of the workers.

Chinese, Russian, Canadians and U.S. capital are flowing into this region to engage in mining, oil, energy projects, etc., or through loans that, in one case or another, maintain an existing state of economic dependence. Several of these “progressive” governments, in the name of a supposed anti-U.S. attitude, are actually carrying forward a renegotiation of dependency on China in particular.

In many aspects of economic and political practice there is no major difference between the “progressive” governments and the openly right- wing ones. Both apply policies and laws to restrict or even eliminate the rights of the workers and peoples – with different labels but identical purposes; “anti-terrorists” laws are passed that seek to prevent popular protest through its criminalization; they coincide in promoting extractive and agro-energy projects that plunder our wealth and cause disastrous and irreversible consequences to nature.

Of course, there are more examples of the application of anti-people and anti-national policies; therefore the discontent and struggle of the workers, youth and peoples are growing… and repression as well. In the Americas, as in other parts of the world, the increasingly reactionary nature of the state is a fact that, however, strikes the struggle of the people in the most varied forms.

Faced with this reality, and bearing in mind that the reason for existence of the revolutionary forces is to organize the leading role of the masses in the revolution, we the participants in this International Seminar commit our struggle to defend the immediate and strategic interests of the workers and peoples, and to defend national sovereignty under the sign of class independence.

We reaffirm the principle of the unity of the workers and people as the fundamental basis to defeat their common enemy, anti-imperialist unity to carry through our struggle successfully.

We work for the revolutionary ideas to open the way and take root in the consciousness of the peoples; therefore it is essential to confront and defeat the ruling classes and imperialism in the ideological field. It is not enough to fight the openly reactionary and right-wing positions; it is fundamental to unmask the pseudo-leftist and opportunist theses and positions that operate in the popular movement to make it work for pro-capitalist projects in the name of supposed revolutions of the 21st century.

We take as our own the struggles of the workers and peoples that are developing in whatever part of the world, therefore we are in solidarity with them all. In particular, we raise our voices and our fists with indignation against the genocide being carried out by the Zionist state of Israel with Yankee support against the Palestinian people: our solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their territory and their right to self-determination. Our voices of support go out to the Venezuelan people fighting to defend the democratic gains made in recent years, and our condemnation of the interventionist and destabilizing action of U.S. imperialism and the bourgeoisie of that country. We stand with the people of Ukraine who are victims of the ambitions of domestic corrupt and reactionary groups and of conflicts between foreign powers.

We demand freedom for the people’s fighters, for the political prisoners and political prisoners of war and for all victims of repression prosecuted for their beliefs in different parts of the world.

These views, the result of an open and respectful debate in the context of the 18th International Seminar, Problems of the Revolution in Latin America, held in Quito, we present to the peoples of Latin America and of the world.

Our objective is the social and national revolution, the liberation of all mankind from the yoke of capital: that purpose we direct our best efforts.

Quito, August 1, 2014

Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina
Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party of Argentina
Coordinator of Neighbourhood Unity – Teresa Rodriguez Movement, Argentina
Revolutionary Communist Party of Brazil
Olga Benario Women’s Movement – Brazil
Class Struggle Movement – Brazil
Democratic Constituent Movement – Colombia
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Maoist Communist Party of Colombia
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Dominican Association of Teachers
Revolutionary Popular Front – Mexico
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Peruvian Communist Party Marxist-Leninist
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Caribbean and Latin American Coordinator of Puerto Rico
Bolshevik Communist Party (Russia)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Turkey
Bolshevik Communist Party (Ukraine)
Party of Communists of the United States
February 28th Revolutionary Organization – Uruguay
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Popular Front – Ecuador
Democratic Popular Movement – Ecuador
Revolutionary Youth of Ecuador
Ecuadorian Confederation of Women for Change
Revolutionary Front of the University Left – Ecuador

Source

ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): Statement of the 15th Meeting of the Marxist-Leninist Parties of Latin America

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Together with the workers and peoples of the world, we are outraged and condemn the genocide of the Israeli government and army against the Palestinian People!

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Quito, which proclaimed the birth of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, we the Marxist-Leninist communist parties of Latin America, together with the fraternal participation of the Marxist- Leninist comrades of Turkey and Spain, met to review the individual and collective work that we carried out in the last year; it is an occasion in which we also analyzed the situation in our respective countries and that of Latin America and the world in general.

During the presentations and discussions, we established that our parties have been active to different degrees and with weaknesses in development in different aspects; they have been making strenuous efforts to link up with the working class and the popular sectors, in order to promote their political positions, advance their struggles and win their consciousness; and, with a view to increasing their ranks and advancing towards becoming political forces that affect the national political life, always with the perspective of the seizure of political power.

We live in the midst of a complex situation that requires a deeper and continuous attention on our part. Although Latin America still remains an area that is the fundamental domain of United States imperialism, other imperialist powers, the European Union among them, and now China and Russia in an unusual way, through the BRICS, are embarking on the search for an important share of the natural resources and market in the area. This makes Latin America into an important area of inter-imperialist contention, which has and in the future will have some political implications that we will have to know how to deal with very intelligently.

Another element that adds complexity to the situation in Latin America is the fact that, besides the puppet governments that continue to be tied to the worn-out neo-liberal prescriptions, in several countries the politics of the system are expressed through proposals of governments that define themselves as progressive and even leftist, while still keeping a good part of our peoples under their influence.

We note that in most countries there is a growing tendency to curtail democratic rights and civil liberties; to criminalize protests and carry out judicial prosecution of revolutionary militants and trade union and popular activists in general with charges up to terrorism and rebellion against the state. This is only because they might be organizing activities for demands in favour of the popular masses or of opposition to government policies. Facts that show this trend in our continent can be seen clearly in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador and in most countries of Central America.

This negative trend places before us the urgent necessity to raise the struggle in defence of democratic rights and the achievement of human rights, at the same time as we strengthen international solidarity among our parties and peoples.

The overall situation demands of our parties a theoretical and propaganda work that is much broader than we have so far developed, which has been limited.

Among the many other phenomena that are presented to us is the BRICS project and its policies, stated recently with special emphasis by the governments of the countries that make it up. This could create a lot of confusion among our peoples, leading them to believe that China and Russia, and the government of Brazil, are led by leftist positions, when in fact the first two are imperialists, and the third is a bourgeois government allied to imperialism.

We are confronted with the challenge of denouncing the imperialist character, the specific interests and policies of this project, which finds an important ally in the government that call themselves left-wing, by which they deceive the popular masses and therefore discredit the real leftist positions.

Our propaganda has to promote our revolutionary and socialist ideal as the real solution to the problems of our countries, the working class and peoples and to highlight the anti-national and anti-popular character of U.S. imperialism, the European Union and BRICS.

In the presentations and discussions the elements of the policies were emphasized that in one way or another, but with the same content and purpose, are being applied in Latin America, all of which seek to contribute to a phase of expansion of capital. They are:

1. The concessions to the multinationals for the exploration and exploitation of resources, mining, oil and gas, among other things, as part of the effort of finance capital and the multinationals to find new investments, seeking to recover the average rate of profit, as well as to ensure control of sources of raw materials.

This policy of conceding territory for mining exploration and operation hides the terrible affects that they would cause and, in fact, are causing to the environment, the fresh water and the communities and populations that are located there.

2. The promotion of genetically modified crops that in agri-businesses seek a source to expand the profitability of capital and that use the false discourse of fighting hunger. This affects the productive culture of our people that is a fundamental part of their sovereignty, while it harms human health.

3. The promotion of so-called policies for economic growth for the governments in office; this is not for development, but is based on low wages, reduction in the achievements and rights of the workers and popular sectors in general and the destruction of natural resources. The so-called competitiveness on the international level of these growth policies is based on these components; therefore, they stimulate the growth of GDP but, at the same time, they maintain and increase the levels of poverty of the popular majority.

4. Adoption of laws, decrees, regulations and contracts, which under the euphemism of the “rule of law” and “governability,” ensures the possibility of making those concessions; they cover up the investments of the multinationals and capital in general.

5. Neo-developmental policies, which give the State the power to make investments in areas that are not in conflict with private capital and instead pave the way for its circulation; while, in general, they are expenses that have a high component of “public charity” to mitigate the effects of privatization of public works and to disguise the poverty, but essentially they do nothing more than maintain an electoral following.

6. Policies of internal and external debt, almost always by issuing government bonds, which finance capital and businesses buy up, aware of the fact that the countries have natural reserves that serve as guarantors, thereby affecting national sovereignty. Besides this they place more taxes on the peoples and cut social investments in the public budgets that should benefit the people through education, health care and social security, among other things. In general it can be stated that all our countries face big fiscal deficits that cause multiple repercussions.

The implementation of these policies has led to the response of our peoples. In the majority of the countries important popular struggles have developed demanding the cessation of the policies of handing over natural resources to the multinationals, as well as for the achievement of better wages and democratic rights for the majority.

Although those struggles still do not mean that there is an upsurge of the popular movement, they do show a trend that is growing. Something that is very important and that our parties should bear in mind is the fact that various social sectors take part in these, being affected in one way or another by these policies. By their diverse composition, these movements express forms, even though in the beginning stages, of popular fronts that our parties should encourage and propose to lead.

It is a reality that these policies make up expand the social bases for the opposition to the governments and political regimes and institutions that protect and support them. This is the importance of political line and tactics.

In our discussions we have kept in mind that our parties and organizations, grouped in the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations, have been taking up and promoting the need to develop popular front policies that in each country will have a name and composition that the specific realities call for. We concluded that this approach is correct and calls for more work on our part.

This is a challenge to the revolutionaries: to build a powerful broad front of the masses, that strikes the official policy and interests of finance capital and the multinationals, and in this struggle it is proposed as an alternative of power.

This challenge leads us to other challenges without whose solution it is difficult, almost impossible, for us Marxist-Leninist communists to fulfill our role of fighting revolutionary vanguard of the working class and of our peoples; that is, the need to increase our ranks, to become communist parties with deep roots among the masses, capable of leading the political processes taking place up to the seizure of power. If we are not big, strong and influential and, above all, if we do not place our sights on the conquest of power, the social democratic or overtly right-wing currents will take advantage of the circumstances and gain the leadership of the peoples and of power.

Therefore we must always keep in mind the popular masses; know what their aspirations and level of consciousness are; be one with them in thought and action; sum up their aspirations and demands in a platform of struggle; bring them to the struggle, be concerned with raising their level of consciousness; and in the process help them become political leaders. This is a matter of the line of our parties, but once the policy is defined, they must become concrete, they must be converted into actions through the men and women, through the membership; this determines everything. The theoretical and political training and the political readiness of the membership to explain and promote our politics among the masses is a vital issue in order for us to fulfill this orientation by our parties.

Aware of our challenges and commitments, mainly to the working class and working people, we will continue to work with greater determination in fulfilling the orientation of the ICMLPO to contribute to the building of Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations in other countries.

We take up these commitments and challenges conscious of the fact that our realities are complex and difficult for revolutionary political work, but there are also favourable conditions for it.

In that sense, we are striving to gain more clarity on the situation and, above all, to make our membership increasingly aware that we must work more, and that we can grow.

The world today, despite some initial indicators of economic recovery that signal the end of the cyclical crisis that began in 2008, also shows the reality that in many countries the external debt is high and in order to pay it the governments must use much of the public revenue; there are fiscal deficits and high levels of unemployment and underemployment persist, all of which could lead to reversing the trend towards growth.

Beyond this, and as an important element for revolutionary propaganda and agitation, the capitalist system is starkly showing its cruelty and its harmful impact on the lives and conditions of the peoples. There are millions of households without any of its members having a decent job; there are millions of young people without access to education and employment, among other problems.

The stage of getting out of this economic crisis has intensified the dispute among the monopolies and the imperialists in the world. It has unleashed the greed of financial capital in seeking to take advantage of the destruction of productive forces caused by the crisis and to gain possession of the principal strategic centres of energy, raw materials, cheap labour and consumer markets,. This is exacerbating the conflicts and confrontations, the wars of aggression and intervention against the peoples, even creating the dangers of an escalation towards a confrontation between the imperialist powers.

To this logic there correspond, among other things, the war in Ukraine and Syria, the increasing confrontations in the Africa continent, the restructuring of forces in contention in Iraq and the contradictions between China and Vietnam.

The onslaught of the Israeli government and army against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip deserves special mention; it is a genocide carried out with the approval of U.S. imperialism and the complicit silence of the European Union and the UN.

We restate our revolutionary solidarity with the heroic Palestinian people and with all the workers and peoples fighting against the aggression of the imperialist powers and against the oppression of capital.

Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Communist Party of Colombia (M-L)
Communist Party of Labour – Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of Mexico (M-L)
Peruvian Communist Party (M-L)
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela
Communist Party of Spain (M-L)
Party of Labour – EMEP – Turkey

Ecuador, July 2014.

Source

Communist Party of the Workers of Tunisia (PCOT): Popular Front (Political Draft)

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Tunisia

For decades our people have suffered under a anti-popular and anti-patriotic despotic police regime.

Politically, by the individual power and domination of the Destour Party, through its different forms (the Neo-Destour, Destourian Socialist Party, the Constitutional and Democratic Concentration), over all forms of political life, by the violation of freedoms and human rights.

Economically by mortgaging the economy and the country’s wealth for the benefit of the colonial powers and their allies, the local capitalists.

Socially by the marginalization of the popular strata, by poverty, unemployment and corruption. These evils reached their maximum under Ben Ali, particularly with the intervention of his family, his collaborators and the political and economic mafia in all structures of the State and society.

The Tunisian people, with their patriotic, revolutionary, democratic and social forces, have never ceased to struggle against the dictatorship and oppression since the establishment of the Desturian regime. The Tunisian people have had hundreds of martyrs, thousands of prisoners in heroic combat, of which the main ones are the poor peasants’ movement in the late 1960s; the movement of students and youths in February of 1972; the fight of trade unionists and workers, crowned by the general strike of January 26, 1978; the revolt in the mining region of 2008, and throughout this period other national struggles of solidarity with the Palestinian people, with Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries in their struggle against Zionist aggression and the imperialist powers.

These struggles led to the revolution of December 17, 2010 in Sisi Bouzid, which allowed the popular masses to overthrow Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. He was a symbol of despotism, of collaboration with imperialism and of corruption, at the cost of hundreds of martyrs and thousands of wounded in the various regions of the country. During this uprising, the people demanded the end of the despotic, exploiting regime and had sold out to foreign interests, and for its replacement by a regime of freedom, equality and dignity, which would ensure employment and social justice, objectives that they desired during all those years of struggle.

The people managed to topple Ben Ali, as well as his heirs, the two governments of Ghannouchi; they managed through popular struggles and in particular the “sit-ins” in the Kasbah I and II, to obtain results, specifically those concerning civil liberties, the dissolution of the RCD [Constitutional Democratic Union) and of the two chambers of deputies and advisors, the abolition of draconian laws (the law of parties, of associations, of the press, etc.) and the suspension of the constitution of 1959. They contributed to the demand for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. However, most of the objectives of the revolution, particularly those relating to the economy, social and patriotic objectives, have not been achieved under the successive governments, including the current government resulting from the elections of October 23, 2011. This has led the people to continue the struggle for social and political change worthy of their ambitions.

From the elections of October 23, there has emerged a constituent assembly dominated by the troika under the direction of the Ennahdha movement. Approximately eight months after the coming to power of this alliance, it is clear that it is leading to a quick burial of the objectives of the revolution of our people and laying the groundwork for a return to a dependent, despotic and corrupt regime, under a religious mantle.

The unity of the Tunisian people is being threatened by contrived doctrinaire struggles, instigated by foreign forces through their local agents who hide behind religion. The freedoms won by the people – at the cost of their blood – are also threatened by the government and the criminal gangs, attributed to certain Salafist currents that act with impunity. The democratic reforms demanded by the revolution in the spheres of information, justice, administration and secondary institutions are being pushed into the background. These are spheres on which the dictatorship rested to repress the people and control society. The government is eluding its obligations to take care of the wounded of the revolution and to bring to justice the murderers as well as those guilty of oppression and corruption; it is trying to attract them as collaborators.

The Ennahdha movement, which dominates and controls the alliance in power, is working with the complicity of its partners in taking over the State institutions and imposing its dictates and establishing a new dictatorship that would liquidate the achievements of the revolution, as well as the historical achievements and the civilization of the Tunisian people in all areas: social, cultural and educational, and particularly those of women.

In the economic sphere, the government is following the politics of Ben Ali that has impoverished the people. The wealth of the country continues to be monopolized by local and foreign minorities. The government continues under the orders of the international financial institutions and continues with the unjust treaties and agreements. The privatization of wealth (mines, oil, etc.) continues, like that of the public institutions, to benefit foreign capital. Nor are they even protecting Tunisian lands ceded to western companies and those of the Persian Gulf, which heralds a new agrarian colonialism at the expense of the poor peasants and the agricultural workers. To all this must be added the government’s incompetence in managing daily affairs, the administrative chaos and bureaucratic hegemony, which threaten to plunge the country into a real cataclysm.

This disastrous politics has serious effects on the lives of the working and popular classes and strata, effects that grow day by day, with unemployment, regional inequality, deterioration of services (water and electricity shortages, accumulation of garbage throughout the country, deterioration of municipal and hygienic services, etc.). These phenomena are inherited from the old regime and were one of the causes of the people’s revolution, but the fact is that in reality they have increased with the present government, which has changed nothing in economic policy and is unable to take urgent measures to limit the adverse effects on the lives of citizens.

The government’s foreign policy continues to be subjected to international capitalist powers. It is clear that they are trying to integrate Tunisia into the Turkey-Persian Gulf Axis under the leadership of the U.S. The objective of this Axis is to liquidate the struggle of the Arab masses, liquidate their hopes for liberation, promote divisions in their ranks and sabotage their unity, in order to ensure U.S., Western and Zionist colonial rule over the region… Our country is going through a real crisis, which it can only get out of with the continuation of the struggle of the Tunisian people, a national, democratic, social, cultural and environmental struggle, to achieve the full realization of the objectives of the revolution and the establishment of the power of the people. This will be possible if an end is put to the disunity of the revolutionary, national, democratic and progressive forces, that of the parties as well as of the associations and organizations of the youth and independent personalities. A common alliance within the popular front represents an alternative for a genuine government that overcomes the false duality that tries to oppose “two poles.” These are actually united to maintain the same economic orientations achieved by the liberal media subjected to the foreign spheres, although one is covered with a “religious” mantle and the other with a “modernist” one. In this way they try to hide the contradiction between the forces that want to achieve the goals of the revolution, and those that are trying to auction it off.

This alternative is based on a political Charter that represents the common denominator in the political and national fields, based on the following principles and values of all the national and popular forces that are firm in the struggle for the realization of the objectives of the revolution for which they work. This Charter is based on the following principles and values:

1. The national and democratic question

Building a republican, civilian and democratic system to serve the people and that:

• Carries out a real independence for the country.

• Is based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people, with election to all institutions of power at the national, regional and local level, with the ability to control them, hold them accountable and even remove them.

• Separation of powers with the necessary balance.

• Ensure the independence of the judiciary according to internationally recognized criteria.

• Ensure the neutrality of the State toward the political parties and forces and their democratic management.

• Ensure civil and individual liberties, particularly freedom of thought, creation and expression, as well as of the press, information and its dissemination; freedom of organization, movement, protest, demonstration and strike, and ensure the material conditions for these.

• Full and effective equality between men and women in all areas, protection of women’s achievements; promotion and consolidation of the Personal Status Code and fight all forms of discrimination and physical and moral violence against women.

• Separation of religion and politics, guarantee freedom of conscience and worship and its practice, combat all forms of political manipulation of religion, of places of worship, of religious, educational and cultural institutions as well as labor and social institutions, and prohibit exploitation for sectarian or partisan ends.

• An independent and national foreign policy, on the basis of support for the national resistance in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as support for all movements of national liberation and social emancipation in the Arab homeland and the world; support for the Arab revolutions and the struggle against foreign intervention, criminalization of all forms of normalization of relations with the Zionist entity and racist movements; work for Arab unity based on the principles of freedom, equality, dignity, social democracy and justice .

2. The economic and social problem

To build a national, independent, balanced and consistent economy, which ensures the people’s sovereignty over the wealth of the country, ensures an efficient growth for all regions and rests on a just distribution to meet the people’s basic needs in the material and moral spheres, means the following:

• Revision of agreements detrimental to the interests of the country and its independence.

• Nationalization of strategic sectors and guarantee of their democratic and efficient management.

• Nationalization of confiscated businesses and provision of handing over businesses to foreign capital.

• Promotion of a domestic industry according to the country’s needs, its abilities and capacities.

• Cancellation of the debt based on a thorough study of the loans contracted by the overthrown dictatorship.

• Establishment of a fair and transparent tax system.

• Land reform for the benefit of the poor peasants and small farmers.

• Guarantee of the fundamental rights to dignified work, decent housing, of free, quality public education, and free health care.

• Guarantee of trade union freedom and the right to strike

• Guarantee of the right of all citizens and future generations to a healthy and balanced environment, favorable to health and without waste, struggle against pollution and concentrating efforts on renewable energy.

3. The problem of culture and education

The guarantee of the freedom of creation in all its forms, artistic, cultural, intellectual and scientific, as well as ensuring the adequate frameworks.

• Ensure academic freedom and the promotion of independent scientific research.

• Establishment of a democratic, popular and unified education system.

• Ensure the supremacy of the Arab language, its protection and promotion and ensure its teaching both in official and administrative areas, without opposing the learning of other languages.

• Work to maintain the roots of our people in their national identity formed through a historic process, continuously enriched and developed in a fruitful interrelationship of Arab-Islamic elements of civilization and of the progress of humanity; fight against attempts to erase their national and patriotic identity and against forms of cultural domination, fanaticism and intolerance.

• Disseminate the value of reason, progress, citizenship and human rights.

• Overcome individualism and promote social values and relations and those of solidarity among the people.

The signatories of this document believe that the main objective of the Front is to complete the revolutionary process and establish the power of the people through all possible forms of struggle, including elections. Thus they affirm their willingness to respond positively to the national and popular initiatives in line with the orientations and tasks of the Front.

Tunisia, September 2012

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Labour Party (EMEP): Current Developments and the Kurdish Question

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April 2006

Introduction

Different Paths in the Kurdish Movement

The US invasion of Iraq has had, among other things, a profound effect on the Kurdish question itself. New alignments, new developments and dissociations are evident and three years after the invasion, there is a need to summarise new factors in this century-old ‘big game’.

Of course, one has to remember that the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination is, under all conditions, valid.

The US invasion created such conditions that, the Kurdish people who were under enormous state terrorism in all ‘parts’ of historical Kurdistan (historical Kurdistan is divided amongst  four states today; Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and this makes the Kurdish question unique) started to think that the USA, after all, could be a force of ‘liberation’ for them. This thinking was fomented by the feudal Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan (Barzani and Talabani), while it created an upheaval in Turkish Kurdistan.

This upheaval is important in many ways. First, Turkish Kurdistan is advanced in comparison to other sections; capitalism has penetrated deeply into this area. Also, about 15 million Kurds live in this section; while the total number of Kurds in all sections is around 22 million.

Under these conditions, it is only natural that the first modern nationalist Kurdish movement, PKK (Kongra-Gel), has taken root in the Turkish section. This modern, socialism-inspired movement radically differs from feudal leaderships in other sections; in essence it does not rely on feudal relations, but dismantles them.

Ocalan’s Capture

The PKK, which is a force supported by millions of Kurds, is extremely cautious towards US imperialism; though its stance softens when it comes to Europe. This caution, together with the influence they command, resulted in a de facto situation in which the PKK is perceived by Washington as a ‘primary threat’ to US’ Kurdish policy. Thus, the leader of the movement, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured by the CIA and MOSSAD, and promptly given to the Turkish state. Ocalan is still a captive in Imrali, an island-jail in which he is the only prisoner.

The capture of Ocalan did not result in a weakening of the national liberation movement; rather, the movement changed policies and tactics. We can say that today, despite serious problems, the PKK movement still is the authority in Turkish Kurdistan; and also is actively struggling for influence in other parts; especially in Iranian Kurdistan.

The historical motive of all feudal Kurdish leaderships was ‘trying to find allies outside the region’ to gain the upper hand against Turks, Arabs and Persians in the region. This outside ally has been imperialist powers like Britain, France and the USA. Though the Kurds have always been deceived by the imperialists and left in the middle of hostile governments, they opted for cooperation with the US again in the Iraq war. Because of historical distrust, we can safely say that the Iraqi Kurds are extremely cautious while dealing with the Americans, and the feudal leadership has had to convince the people of ‘good American interests’. This distrust continues today. The PKK has refused this historical ‘tactic’. This movement, in essence, tried to help form a united Turkish-Kurdish front against the Turkish bourgeoisie. One of the founders of the PKK, Kemal Pir, is Turkish, by the way.

Feeding from this positive legacy, the captured leader of the PKK, Ocalan, has taken a very important stance vis-a-vis the American invasion. Ocalan has repeatedly said from prison that, an ‘independent Kurdistan’ under the wings of Americans will not be independent at all; rather, this would be a second Israel in the region, fomenting hatred amongst the peoples and in the end, bring great harm to Kurds. Though Ocalan has great authority, the ‘new player’ in the region, USA, is trying to use the Kurdish question in its own interests. Thus, while the Kurdistan government in Iraq strengthens, we see riots and revolts of Kurds against the reactionary Syrian and Iranian authorities. There have been major uprisings in both Syrian and Iranian Kurdistan over the last two years.

An Anti-PKK PKK ?

In Turkish Kurdistan, the ‘key’ to all Kurdistan, we see different developments. The US and its ally, the Turkish government, is actively trying to divide the PKK and create a ‘harmless’ PKK out of its ashes. The most important development in this sense was, Ocalan’s brother, Osman Ocalan. Osman Ocalan quit the PKK two years ago, declared that USA was a ‘democratic imperialist’ force and formed his own organisation under the wings of Barzani and the US army. This attempt to divide the PKK was thwarted, but new attempts may happen. Also, the forces of Barzani are undertaking serious political activity in Turkish Kurdistan, mainly through their own, young legal party, HAK-PAR.

Today, the dissociation in the Kurdish movement is also shaping in relation to the natural and definite dissociation of the Kurdish ‘upper classes’ and ‘lower classes’ from each other. It is evident that the pro-imperialist stances are related to the ‘upper classes, the Kurdish bourgeoisie and feudal forces, while criticism of these stances and attempts to create an alternative position are related to the ‘lower classes’, the Kurdish labourers.

US imperialism tries to use the Kurdish problem as a ‘wild card’ to tie Turkey further to its regional policies. But also, it tries to form a political dissociation among Kurds and create ‘its own’ Kurdish movement.

The European Union policies, in essence, are not different. These two main forces are exploiting the Kurdish problem in their rivalry over the Middle East. One side, with its ‘Greater Middle East Project’, is exploiting the issue actively. The other side uses ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ rhetoric to expand its influence among Kurds.

US policies are found to be ‘encouraging’ by the Kurdish reactionary circles and they are trying to create new opportunities for their class interests. After 1980 and during the rise of the PKK, the bourgeois-land owner-feudal lords have been ‘erased’ from the political processes; but now they are again on the rise, on the basis of an anti-PKK stance. This tendency , for the first time in many years, again puts itself openly in the political arena.

The dissociation in the Kurdish movement can be transformed to opportunity by the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. As practice shows, the identities of dissociaters (revolutionary, anti-imperialist or reactionary, pro-imperialist) are much more evident today. The exposition of this lackey politics will be a positive development for Kurds and also other peoples in the region.

Taylan Bilgiç

There is nowhere left to escape from the Kurdish problem! The policies of the last 80 years have collapsed. Nobody believes the nonsensical thesis and claims such as: ‘There are no Kurds; they are in fact mountain Turks. Kurdish is not a language; it is only a dialect of Turkish’. The glaze of the supposedly scientific works like the ‘Sun Language Theory’ (claiming all present languages are derived from Turkish) and the ‘Turkish History Thesis’ (claiming that Turks are the origin of all human races) developed after 1925 in order to rivet these assertions have worn off, they have broken down. The policies of creating one nation, Turkification, melting all the other peoples and cultures into one pot have been condemned and defeated by the realities of life. Now it has had to be accepted that there is such a language as Kurdish! Even if it is for show only and even if it is limited to a few minutes a week, there are state radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish, along with other forbidden languages such as Arabic, Circassian and the Zaza language. Kurds are loudly demanding the expansion of the Kurdish broadcast to private radios and television channels as well as the right to education in their mother tongue. In spite of the various pressures and prohibitions, Kurdish language courses have been opened in Batman, Urfa, Van, Diyarbakır (Kurdish provinces in the East and Southeast regions of the country) and lately in Istanbul. Kurds as a people are demanding that urgent steps be taken in terms of their rights to language, culture, identity and politics.

It is obvious that the reactionary denial policies of assimilation carried out through the use of violence cannot continue. Struggling and not cowering in fear despite all the pain, massacres and the great price paid both physically and morally, caused by the inhumane policies executed throughout the decades; the Kurdish people, resisting for their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights, are insistent on their demands. The resistance waged by the Kurdish people in spite of all their suffering from cruelty, historical injustice and all the destructions, has united with the common struggle of the workers, labourers and intellectuals of all nationalities and peoples of Turkey to compel the forces in denial and pro-assimilation to retreat.

However, the ruling classes do not want to accept the Kurds as a people or recognise their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights. The national demands of Kurds do not have the guarantee of laws as yet. The Kurdish question and the demand for the rights of the Kurdish people are still considered as ‘separatist’ and within the framework of ‘terror’ and are responded to with violence. The ruling classes try to say that the Kurdish question can solved by a few small improvements. They try to make it seem as though the Kurdish question has been solved by the campaign by ‘democratisation’ and by the legal regulations within the framework of the Copenhagen Criteria through the process of membership in the European Union, which have been put on paper but still not put into practise. The government wants to make a show by the release of the four Democratic Party (DEP) MPs who were arrested ten years ago and put into prison as a result of a raid on Parliament. It has tried to make it seem as if this was an important phase in the democratisation process, but it did not take long for the falsity of this show to become apparent and for the government to exhibit its genuine character. The former MPs became the targets of the government and the military because of the speeches they made in the demonstrations. Lawsuits were filed against them once again. The meeting planned for Diyarbakir for September 1, International Peace Day, was banned on completely pathetic grounds.

Furthermore, operations are continuing in the region. The people there are being targeted for attacks on the grounds that they are ‘assisting and abetting’ terrorists. The demands of the KONGRA-GEL (the successor to the PKK) for a cease-fire, the taking of democratic steps, providing the opportunity for the armed guerrillas to socialise in everyday life but with the necessary guarantees, are rejected on the pretext that; ‘No negotiations will be held with the terrorists’. Attacks are continuing and the people of the region are being mistreated. There is no end to the claims of torture, and arrests and imprisonments are not decreasing. New Kurdish political detainees and prisoners are daily added to those already in prison. Provocative operations are carried out in the Kurdish provinces such as Diyarbakir, Van and Tunceli and the mayors elected by the people, as in Diyarbakir, are being targeted for attack and being made victims of political lynching.

The thousands of villages that have been forcefully evacuated, the nature that has been destroyed and the tens of thousands of Kurdish peasants who have been mistreated as a result of the policies of violence carried out for years continue to struggle with great difficulties. No steps are being taken to compensate them for all the massacres experienced, the thousands of murders by ‘perpetrators unknown’ and all the violations in the fields of human rights and freedoms. Believing that steps taken in this direction will result in a ‘rise’ in the consciousness of the Kurdish people and that hence new demands will be immediately brought to the agenda, policies of violence are insisted on. The policy of denial is being continued by military precautions and the systematic use of violence. The demands of the sections wanting to return to their villages are not being met. The wronged villagers hesitate to return as they do not believe that they will be able to lead safe and secure lives in their villages.

It is still forbidden for political parties to broadcast in Kurdish, to publish and distribute leaflets and brochures in Kurdish and for the political party administrators to deliver speeches in Kurdish. Lawsuits are filed against political party administrators for having greeted the people in Kurdish in demonstrations and various activities and they are often penalised. Besides the other antidemocratic practices, obstructions and pressures, the representation of the Kurdish people in parliament is prevented by the 10% election quota. The system of ‘rural guardianship’ continues to be enforced along with the military operations and the piling of military forces in the region. Instead of recognizing the Kurds as a people in their own right, meeting their national, economic and political demands and carrying out the necessities for an equal and free environment; the ruling forces and the government think that by hoodwinking the people with a few Kurdish language courses, a few minutes of Kurdish broadcasting every week and a few other crumbs thrown here and there, it will be possible to convince the people that Turkey has become democratised and that the Kurdish question has disappeared. On the other hand, those who are not convinced will be made the targets of violence as ‘terrorists’ by these forces.

The ruling classes do not want to understand that unless the Kurdish labouring people do not freely determine their own destiny and take their place in the course of history as a free nation, the Kurdish question will continue to be a fundamental one and neither acts of violence nor an approach of ‘we crushed them and that is the end to them’ will solve the problem.

Imperialism, the Collaborator Government and the Kurdish Question

The Justice and Development (AKP) government currently in power cannot overlook the Kurdish issue. The AKP has talked about democratisation and entering the European Union (EU) as a fundamental policy and claims that it will be able to solve all Turkey’s deeply rooted problems since the day it came to power. This places it under a great burden in terms of the Kurdish question and the Kurdish people. Stating that: ‘If you act as if there is no Kurdish problem, then there won’t be such a problem’, the Prime Minister has had to swallow his words and come face to face with solving the problem ‘in some way or another’. However the government thinks that it will solve the problem with the attitude we have pointed out above. At this stage, claiming that ‘There is no Kurdish problem’ has ceased to have any worth or plausibility. Certainly nobody believes this any longer. In place of this approach, in the region where the Kurds predominate the AKP is trying to dish out a new kind of relation similar to the one the USA has entered into with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (YNK) [in Iraq]. This plan, in which the members of parliament who are Kurdish, religious sectarian and owners of capital of the AKP will also take part, has been established in order to divide the KONGRA-GEL.

Now the government is being dragged behind the US. The pro-denial and pro-assimilation forces which are being dragged behind the plan of using of the Kurdish question as a ‘trump-card’, as a continuation of the Iraqi occupation, are becoming partners with the ‘reformed’ and reactionary forces and are establishing a Kurdish political party under the protection of the US. The plan, which aims at the division, neutralisation and liquidation of the KONGRA-GEL or at least its reduction to a marginal level; is to create a Kurdish movement following the same political line as Talabani-Barzani in Iraq. The AKP government is at quits with the plan of the USA.

Though it may seem as if the rulers of the EU, the USA and Turkey are proposing different solutions to the Kurdish question, their moves actually fit into one another. As in the attempt to divide and liquidate the KONGRA-GEL, it seems that there is, at least at present, an agreement on the orientation of the party to be established by Osman Ocalan (Abdullah Ocalan’s brother).

Dividing the democratic Kurdish movement over the KONGRA-GEL, a division shaped by US pressure, aims to strengthen the reactionary, nationalist, feudal Kurdish alternative. The imperialist centres are acting very rapidly in trying to have the feudal-bourgeois collaborator circles form a power which will then be gradually presented as the representatives of the Kurdish people,. It is evident that the reactionary forces of Turkey are totally mobilizing for this initiative to be effective. The weakening of KONGRA-GEL is being seen as the hegemony of the political line of Talabani-Barzani and Osman Ocalan in the region.

This division in KONGRA-GEL is different from the problems, separations or divisions experienced previously. Using the present conjuncture of forces in the region, the imperialists and the reactionary forces of Turkey have made a crucial move in seizing a collaborator section within the Kurdish movement, which has not acceded to cooperating with imperialism. With this move, the US has succeeded in maintaining, through Osman Ocalan’s PWD, a similar position in Turkey to what it had previously obtained in Iraqi Kurdistan through the PDK and YNK administrators. The US has now found a Kurdish representative in Turkey which it will be operating through. The US has taken advantage of the ideological weaknesses of KONGRA-GEL, its delay in taking a definite and clear stand towards the US intervention to the Middle East and its occupation of Iraq and its hesitant attitude toward imperialism. The US is using this as an opportunity to open a breach and is now widening it. 

The AKP has fastened itself to the helm of the US and is now aiming at reaching a solution to the Kurdish question within the framework of this plan. The inclination is to form a ‘Kurdish Platform’, a sort of Kurdish AKP in which Osman Ocalan and his supporters, the big landowners, the tribal chiefs, the representatives of Kurdish nationalist currents and even some of the AKP MPs will participate in some way or other. The EU is also playing this game. The EU is trying to manipulate the democratic longings of the people and the ‘interest’ demonstrated towards the EU and its policies by the Kurdish liberal bourgeois. In the future the EU hopes to increase its influence among the legal Kurdish politicians. 

The Imperialists and the reactionaries in Turkey want to solve the problem of ‘representation’ in relation to the Kurdish question by using the Kurdish Platform as the ‘representative’ of the Kurdish people. KONGRA-GEL is being eliminated from this process. The same tactic is being used against the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DEHAP), which is regarded as a supporter of the same political line. For these reasons, to evaluate this latest division within KONGRA-GEL over Osman Ocalan as being in the same category as previous divisions within the organization would be incomplete and even more importantly would be a major mistake.

In this sense, the DEHAP line is also at a crossroads. The interviews held with Osman Ocalan and his statements in the newspapers and on television recently also indicate this fact. The names of the former Democracy Party (DEP) deputies and certain Kurdish politicians are being mentioned and as well as their readiness to be included in this plan. Under these circumstances, DEHAP will either go forward as an anti-imperialist, anti-US Kurdish democratic movement, or if it hesitates it will fall into the trap of this operation. Its progress along its current political orientation will mean taking its place among the front ranks of not only the struggle for the democratisation of Turkey but also the struggle against US hegemony in the Middle East and against the Greater Middle East Project as a tool of this hegemony. Otherwise it will become just another ordinary Kurdish nationalist movement.

DEHAP advancing along the same platform as the Kurdish and Turkish labourers, with the labour and democratic forces, is significant in terms of the democratic movement and its future in Turkey. A DEHAP acting in this direction will also bring the collaborator “Kurdish Platform” being hatched up to nought.

The Party of Labour (EMEP) and the Kurdish Question

All the labour and democratic forces in Turkey are faced with an important duty of rendering the alliance between imperialism, the reactionary forces of Turkey and Talabani-Barzani-Osman Ocalan unsuccessful. EMEP, as the party of the working class and labourers of all nations in Turkey, will continue with all its efforts for the Kurdish workers and labourers to overcome this danger. Attaching great importance to acting together with DEHAP against this reactionary plot and to struggle, our Party will carry on its struggle with all its organisations, both in the Kurdish region and all over Turkey. It is necessary in this period to be strengthened and united around an anti-imperialist political line. Our party, which established an election front with DEHAP in both the general elections of November 3, 2002 and the latest local elections, will carry on its fight for the advancement of the struggle of all the people of Turkey, whether Kurdish, Turkish or any other nationality, against imperialism and the collaborator reactionary forces of Turkey.

On the other hand, the dark contra-guerrillas, the drug related forces, and the military and paramilitary forces have started to become active again. These developments are also being manipulated to cause panic among the people, to provoke divisions and to incite an oppositional attitude towards the Kurdish democratic movement which is refusing to collaborate. These kinds of provocative initiatives have been brought to the agenda in Van, Diyarbakir, Tunceli and other Kurdish provinces. Our Party will be even more careful to warn the people in the face of the explosions and assassination plots by unidentified forces and in condemning initiatives of this kind.

Again this period in the region is clarifying the demands of the workers and the labourers. It is to be expected that the big landowners, the tribal forces and the despots, who have been left motionless due to the hegemony of the Kurdish movement, will become reactivated and make new moves to regain their previous prestige and privileges. The AKP handing out ‘small bribes’ to the labourers of the region, who are in the claws of unemployment and poverty, are among such moves. The demands of the agricultural sections will become even more fervent. It is to be expected that developments similar to those in Maras and Diyarbakir (two Kurdish provinces in which the poor sections of the Kurdish people partially united to demand land from the big landowners) will take place in other provinces. Taking into consideration that the landowners and the tribal forces will go into action, it will be necessary to take more advanced steps for the organisation of the class struggle in the Kurdish villages. Considering that unemployment and poverty are prevalent in the Kurdish regions, putting forward demands particular to these regions will play an important role in unifying the people and repulsing the attacks.

What is at the head of the agenda in this particular period is to carry forward the anti-imperialist attitude of the Kurdish people and to spoil the games of the feudal nationalist forces. In addition, one of the most important duties of our Party is to develop the struggle in order for the Kurdish workers and labourers to intervene in this process and to stand up to the attacks and resist with their own demands the attacks of the bourgeoisie as well as all other kinds of attacks.

The Current and Urgent Demands of the Kurdish People

A general political amnesty and a cease-fire must be declared and the Kurdish question must be solved as a democratic and political problem. All the mistreatment of the people of the region stemming from the Kurdish question must cease and they must be compensated for their damages. Industry, agriculture and stockbreeding must be supported. The Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP) must be rearranged to the benefit of the people and it must be put to their service. All the enterprises within the scope of privatisation must be removed from such a plan, all the workplaces that have been privatised and closed down must be reopened and work must be provided for the unemployed. The right to education in the mother tongue must be recognized and chairs for the Kurdish language must be opened at the universities. Publishing and broadcasting in Kurdish must be backed up and all relevant bans must be abolished. The system of the rural guard (which completely serve to inform on the Kurdish people) must be eradicated and all special organisations in the region, including the special teams, must be dissolved. A commission to investigate the murders by ‘unknown perpetrators’ must be established and those responsible must be judged and punished. The September 12 Constitution, acting as an cover for the Political Parties Act, the 10% election quota and all other antidemocratic laws must be annulled and the Kurdish people must achieve an equal and free status.

Source

Platform of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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 l. Conventional War Is the War of the Bourgeoisie. Revolutionary War Is People’s War

The Arab bourgeoisie has developed armies which are not prepared to sacrifice their own interests or to risk their privileges. Arab militarism has become an apparatus for oppressing revolutionary socialist movements within the Arab states, while at the same time it claims to be staunchly anti-imperialist. Under the guise of the national question, the bourgeoisie has used its armies to strengthen its bureaucratic power over the masses. and to prevent the workers and peasants from acquiring political power. So far it has demanded the help of the workers and peasants without organising them or without developing a proletarian ideology. The national bourgeoisie usually comes to power through military coups and without any activity on the part of the masses, as soon as it has captured power it reinforces its bureaucratic position. Through widespread application of terror it is able to talk about revolution while at the same time it suppresses all the revolutionary movements and arrests everyone who tries to advocate revolutionary action. The Arab bourgeoisie has used the question of Palestine to divert the Arab masses from realising their own interests and their own domestic problems. The bourgeoisie always concentrated hopes on a victory outside the state”s boundaries, in Palestine, and in this way they were able to preserve their class interests and their bureaucratic positions.

The war of June 1967 disproved the bourgeois theory of conventional war. The best strategy for Israel is to strike rapidly. The enemy is not able to mobilise its armies for a long period of time because this would intensify its economic crisis. It gets complete support from U.S. imperialism and for these reasons it needs quick wars. Therefore for our poor people the best strategy in the long run is a people”s war. Our people must overcome their weaknesses and exploit the weaknesses of the enemy by mobilising the Palestinian and Arab peoples. The weakening of imperialism and Zionism in the Arab world demands revolutionary war as the means to confront them.

2. Guerrilla Struggle as a Form of Pressure for the “Peaceful Solution”

The Palestinian struggle is a part of the whole Arab liberation movement and of the world liberation movement. The Arab bourgeoisie and world imperialism are trying to impose a peaceful solution on this Palestinian problem but this suggestion merely promotes the interests of imperialism and of Zionism, doubt in the efficacy of people”s war as a means of liberation and the preservation of the relations of the Arab bourgeoisie with the imperialist world market. The Arab bourgeoisie is afraid of being isolated from this market and of losing its role as a mediator of world capitalism. That is why the Arab oil producing countries broke off the boycott against the West (instituted during the June war) and for this reason McNamara, as head of the World Bank, was ready to offer credits to them.

When the Arab bourgeoisie strive far a peaceful solution, they are in fact striving for the profit which they can get from their role as mediator between the imperialist market and the internal market. The Arab bourgeoisie are not yet opposed to the activity of the guerrillas, and sometimes they even help them; but this is because the presence of the guerrillas is a means of pressure for a peaceful solution. As long as the guerrillas don”t have a clear class affiliation and a clear political stand they are unable to resist the implication of such a peaceful solution; but the conflict between the guerrillas and those whose strive for a peaceful solution is unavoidable. Therefore the guerrillas must take steps to transform their actions into a people”s war with clear goals.

3. No Revolutionary War Without a Revolutionary Theory

The basic weakness of the guerrilla movement is the absence of a revolutionary ideology, which could illuminate the horizons of the Palestinian fighters and would incarnate the stages of a militant political programme. Without a revolutionary ideology the national struggle will remain imprisoned within its immediate practical and material needs. The Arab bourgeoisie is quite prepared for a limited satisfaction of the needs of the national struggle, as long as it respects the limits that the bourgeoisie sets. A clear illustration of this is the material help that Saudi Arabia offers Fatah while Fatah declares that she will not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab countries. Since most of the guerrilla movements have no ideological weapons, the Arab bourgeoisie can decide their fate. Therefore, the struggle of the Palestinian people must be supported by the workers and peasants, who will fight against any form of domination by imperialism, Zionism or the Arab bourgeoisie.

4. The War of Liberation Is a Class War Guided by a Revolutionary Ideology

We must not be satisfied with ignoring the problems of our struggle. saying that our struggle is a national one and not a class struggle. The national struggle reflects the class struggle. The national struggle is a struggle for land and those who struggle for it are the peasants who were driven away from their land. The bourgeoisie is always ready to lead such a movement, hoping to gain control of the internal market. If the bourgeoisie succeeds in bringing the national movement under its control, which strengthens its position, it can lead the movement under the guise of a peaceful solution into compromises with imperialism and Zionism. Therefore, the fact that the liberation struggle is mainly a class struggle emphasises the necessity for the workers and peasants to play a leading role in the national liberation movement. if the small bourgeoisie take the leading role, the national revolution will fall as a victim of the class interests of this leadership. It is a great mistake to start by saying that the Zionist challenge demands national unity for this shows that one does not understand the real class structure of Zionism. The struggle against Israel is first of all a class struggle. Therefore the oppressed class is the only class which is able to face a confrontation with Zionism.

5. The Main Field of Our Revolution Struggle is Palestine

The decisive battle must he in Palestine. The armed people”s struggle to Palestine can help itself with the simplest weapons in order to ruin the economies and the war machinery of their Zionist enemy. The moving of the peoples struggles into Palestine depends upon agitating and oranising the masses, more than depending upon border actions in the Jordan valley, although these actions are of importance for the struggle in Palestine.

When guerrilla organisations began their actions in the occupied areas, they were faced with a brutal military repression by the armed forces of Zionism. Because these organisations had no revolutionary ideology and so no programme, they gave in to demands of self-preservation and retreated into eastern Jordan. All their activity turned into border actions. This presence of the guerrilla organisations in Jordan enables the Jordanian bourgeoisie and their secret agents to crush these organisations when they are no longer useful as pressure for a peaceful solution.

6. Revolution in Both Regions of Jordan

We must not neglect the struggle in east Jordan for this land is connected with Palestine more than with the other Arab countries. The problem of the revolution in Palestine is dialectically connected with the problem of the revolution in Jordan. A chain of plots between the Jordanian monarchy, imperialism and Zionism have proved this connection.

The struggle in east Jordan must take the correct path, that of class struggle. The Palestinian struggle must not be used as a means of propping up the Jordanian monarchy. Under the mask of national unity, and the main problem in Jordan is the creation of a Marxist-Leninist party with a clear action programme according to which it can organise the masses and enable them to carry out the national and class struggle. The harmony of the struggle in the two region, must be realised through co-ordinating organs whose tasks will be to guarantee reserves inside Palestine and to mobilise the peasants and soldiers in the border-territories.

This is the only way in which Amman can become an Arab Hanoi:-a base for the revolutionaries fighting inside Palestine.

Source

Grover Furr: Israeli Rule over Palestinians is Fascist

Apartheid South Africa - Apartheid Israel (1)

Originally published in The Montclarion, student newspaper at Montclair State College (now University), Thursday, May 5, 1988, p. 13.

To the editor:

Professor Edward Aronow’s letter of April 21 on Israeli treatment of Palestinians is so filled with error and distortion that one short response can only begin to correct it.

Israeli rule over Palestinians is essentially fascist. The Israeli army assault on the West Bank town of Beita in the wake of the death of an Israeli teenager can only be described as a pogrom — brutal, murderous assault such as the Tsarist police and the Nazis committed against Jews.

Killing persons armed only with stones or “trying to flee” – – including numerous Palestinian teenagers — collective punishment, beatings, imprisonment without trail for indefinite periods, deportations — this is fascist repression, akin to Nazi terrorism.

The lesson of World War II — especially of the Nazi holocaust — is that fascism cannot be fought with “moderation.” Mass Palestinian protests, including violent protests, must be welcomed, and supported by all those who oppose injustice. Pacifist and “non-violent” protest would be morally irresponsible, since they can never succeed against fascist oppression, but only lead to the unnecessary deaths of many protesters.

Terrorist assassinations, whether by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), or the far more numerous acts of terrorist murder by the Israeli army and settlers, must be condemned. However, Israel is far more guilty in this regard, quantitatively, than the PLO.

About 10 times the number of Palestinians have been murdered by Israel than the number of Israelis murdered by PLO terrorists. Yet Israeli terrorist repression against Palestinians is termed `retaliation” or “assassination” in the US media!

Israeli fascist brutalities follow a long history of working with some of the worst fascists on earth, including South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Argentina. Israel is a major supplier of arms and military advisors to South Africa. Israeli advisors helped train the Iranian Secret Police under the fascist Shah in torture techniques. Today Israel is the major arms supplier to Khomeini’s Iran!

One need not look far to find the roots of Israeli terrorism and fascism. Take Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir. Before World War II he belonged to a Zionist grouplet that, in 1940, offered to enter the war on the side of Nazi Germany if the Nazis would permit a Zionist state, run along fascist lines, in Palestine. Shamir personally planned the 1948 terrorist murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Special Mediator for Palestine.

During the war, the major Zionist leaders collaborated with Adolf Eichmann to send half a million Hungarian Jews to their deaths in Nazi extermination camps, in return for the Nazis letter 1500 or so Zionists emigrate to Palestine — a fact long since documented by Zionist writers. Such is the “love” of the Zionist leaders for “their own people”!

The root problem is racism and its twin, nationalism. Israeli law claims that any Jew, anywhere in the world, has a right to full Israeli citizenship, while Arabic-speaking Palestinians have no such right even if they were born and have lived all their lives on the territory now comprising Israel. This is an inherently racist policy. Fascist racism is built into the very existence of the Israeli state.

It is in the interest of Israeli rulers to foment as much hatred between Jews and Palestinians as they can. Israel’s economy depends heavily upon the exploitation of very cheap Palestinian labor, just as South Africa’s does on Black labor.

Israeli Jewish workers are very militant; relative to population;there are more work-days lost to strikes in Israel than in any country in the world. Racism and nationalism are the main things keeping Jewish and non- Jewish workers from allying with one another.

At all costs, Israeli bosses must prevent this, while keeping the super-exploited Palestinian workers nearby and without rights. The parallel with South Africa — or with American treatment of “illegal aliens” and minorities — is unmistakable.

Incidentally, there are not “dozens of Arab states,” as Professor Aranow, following the Israeli government propaganda line, says. There is one major Arab state, Saudi Arabia, and several minor ones on that peninsula. There are many Arabic-speaking states, just as there are many countries besides England where English is spoken. There is no “Palestinian state” in Jordan. Here Professor Aranow simply parrots Israeli disinformation.

Like Israel, the Moslem, Arabic-speaking states are also undemocratic, elite-run dungeons. In light of Israeli terror, however, Professor Aranow’s prattle about the need to “await greater Arab political maturity” is racist nonsense.

Source

Labour Party of Iran (Toufan): Long Live International Solidarity with the Struggle of the People of Turkey!

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In the recent week, the world has witnessed the formation of a wide-spread and massive movement against the policies of the ruling party “Justice and Development Party – AKP” in Turkey. Though the media of the “democratic” countries tried to stop the world-spread of the news about the development of events in Turkey but the power of the movement and the mass reporting of the events by the people on the scenes broke the silence of the imperialist media. The reports showed the brutality of the repressive forces who rule in Turkey. They also showed the world the fast growth, the spread, and the demands of the movement.

The recent and unprecedented movement in Turkey has roots in the economical and political situations in the country. Despite the deceitful propaganda about the “sharp economic growth” in Turkey, poverty and unemployment and hunger and inflation are threatening the lives of the public. It is a public knowledge that 30 percent of the society lives under the government-set poverty line and that inflation runs more than 11 percent a year. The neo-liberal policies of the “Justice and Development” Party represented by the Prime Minister Erdogan in the past 10 years, the privatization of many branches of economy, the increasing export of financial capital to turkey by the imperialist powers in order to plunder and to gain new and hi-profitable markets, … all have put tremendous pressure on the livelihood of the people. On the other hand, the political dependency of Turkish power on the imperialists, the NATO membership, the political alliance with the racist and criminal Israeli regimes, the delivery of supplies and financial aids and mobilization of the medieval forces against Syria, the suppression of political freedoms, the imposition of reactionary laws in the direction of Islamization of the society, attacks on the secular laws, blowing the horn of revival of Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, …. have turned Turkey into a barrel of gasoline. Demolition of Gizi Park in Istanbul and cutting its trees to build a shopping mall was the spark to the barrel that caused the explosion of the anger and hatred of the Turkish people against the political power that defends the existing conditions.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan) supports the brave struggle of the workers, Women, youth, nurses, medical doctors, writers, and intellectuals in Turkey against the government of Erdogan and calls on fraternal Parties and Organizations, the revolutionary and progressive forces , and the freedom loving individuals to express solidarity with the people if Turkey.

Long Live the Solidarity between the People of Iran and Turkey!

Down with the Imperialist-dependent Ruling Power in Turkey!

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

June 5, 2013

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Labour Party (EMEP): Three dilemmas of Turkey in Syria problem

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It is being alleged that CIA and MOSSAD agents swarmed in tent camps that house Syrian refugees, There are also news that the camps where Syrian soldiers and police -who reportedly go to Syria for protests and come back- are staying a “beaten track” for the CIA and MOSSAD. On the other hand, it is known that these various groups referred as the “Syrian opposition” negotiate publicly with Turkish officials “out of the blue”, especially with Davutoğlu. It is also said that these refugees in tent camps don’t stop fighting with each other about ethnic and sectarian issues. It is obviously visible that they are bothered by Turkish management style in the camps.

Even though the Syrian regime is weakening; Turkey faced with an adverse situation rather than getting closer to its targets.

In short, “Turkey’s Syrian problem” is getting bigger. Though, this is not a result of Assad regime’s gaining strength but Turkey’s contribution to drag Syria into terror, weakening Assad’s authority. This is because the weakened regime has withdrawn its soldiers from some regions. For instance, the Assad regime seems to have abandoned 3-4 km cordon surrounding the Syrian-Turkey border to the “opponents” temporarily. Yet, this abandonment also unveiled the characteristics of the so-called opposition groups. Consequently it is now understood that these unclarified opposition groups are another pro-sharia groups in the same line with Al Qaeda or the Taleban. This means, Turkey is sharing borders with Al Qaeda. Their first accomplishment was plundering and burning Turkish tracks!

This is not the only problem. A balkanised Syria is a scenario being discussed. Besides, there are numerous comments indicating that, Western imperialists and Israel would not suffer but be pleased to see a divided Syria. Of course, these comments are not very objective. As a matter of fact, handing administration of six cities in north Syria to the Kurds, and Assad’s withdrawal to the West Syria, Damascus-Latakia cordon indicates this scenario could become a reality in the long term if not in short term.

However, it is pretty obvious that this is a nightmare scenario for Turkey. A divided Syria would drag important border towns of Turkey into a chaotic position, cities such as Hatay, Adana and Mersin, with nearly 2 million Nusayri Arab minorities. Thus, the most crucial condition for AKP government would be the emergence of Kurdistan in northern Syria.

Of course, the right of the Syrian Kurds to self-determination shouldn’t be a business of the Turkish government. However, AKP government have come to a pretty pass with Syria because of its known habit of “importing regime” to the neighbouring countries. It won’t be a surprise if AKP would have serious conflicts with Syrian Kurds because of its interference to the Kurdish government and we already see the signs of this. Shortly, today Turkey is confronting with three impasses: pro-sharia Al Qeada and Taleban in its borders, Arab-Nusayri reactions on Hatay-Mersin line, and finally, possible self-determination orientation of Syrian Kurds. This is the final situation of Turkish foreign policy that was conducted by Erdoğan –Davutoğlu, and finding a way out of this labyrinth won’t be so easy. Above all, given that Russian insistence on the region’s politics will maintain even after a possible overthrow of the Syrian regime, Turkish foreign policy has become completely open to any kind of crisis and provocation.

As emerging three grand issues have been indicating themselves even before a Syrian disintegration, Turkey’s unrealistic foreign policy will be more obvious along with the potential foreign interference in the region.

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