The first draft of this statement was completed in February 1973. The final draft, however, which is the one printed below was only completed in March 1974. It includes, in addition to the original text, a few secondary alterations, and a new chapter (the third) on the October 1973 war. In publishing this statement, it is the hope of Arab communists, that it will contribute to an enrichment of the discussions now unfolding amongst Arab revolutionaries. Furthermore, it comes as a preparatory step to the establishment of a revolutionary communist party for the whole of the Arab region.
The Arab revolution has played an important role in the last two waves of the colonial revolution. Toward the end of the 1950s, the Algerian revolution stood in the vanguard of the struggles for national independence and culminated several years later in a process of social radicalisation that for a time approached the Cuban model; and at the end of the 1960s, in the new upsurge of the world revolution, the Palestinian resistance established itself as a front-line of anti-imperialist struggles.
But each time, the advance of struggles in one region masked the absence of a global strategy. In the cases of Algeria and Palestine, there was a tendency to forget the whole of which they formed a part. The imperialists and their Arab clients had a substantial interest in encouraging this diversion; the duty of revolutionists was to combat it. The Fourth International has not shirked this task. In every instance, it has put the struggles of sectors in their real context - the Arab revolution as a whole.
In the historic sense, the Arab revolution has an importance far exceeding that of its regional components. It is itself an integral part of the revolutionary movement of the Eastern peoples. Besides its intrinsic importance - resulting from the more than a hundred million human beings involved and from the role of the Arab region as an energy reservoir and source of financial resources for the imperialist West - the Arab revolution has had a considerable carry-over into other areas. For geographical and cultural reasons mainly (such as Islam), an interchange has taken place with large portions of Asia, Africa, and even Europe (through the immigrant workers in particular).
This importance of the Arab revolution is commensurate with the tasks confronting it, of which the major one undoubtedly is abolishing imperialist control over the Arab region, winning real and complete liberation of the Arab nation.
THE ARAB REVOLUTION IS A PERMANENT REVOLUTION
1. Well before the discovery of oil, the Arab region was coveted by the imperialists because of its exceptional strategic position as a bridge linking the West, the Orient and Black Africa; as well as for its own riches. The second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth witnessed the gradual conquest of the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire by the European colonial powers, with France and Great Britain setting the pace. From Algeria, France extended its empire to Morocco and Tunisia, while British imperialism consolidated its influence in the valley of the Nile and established itself in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula, thereby assuring its route to India. The accords following the first world war divided the Mashriq (the Near East) among the two European powers in the form of colonial mandates. In this way, the classical colonialist territorial partition of the region was completed.
The second world war upset all these arrangements. The Arab colonies or semicolonies won their independence one after the other in a process that culminated in the Algerian war of liberation, leaving under a British protectorate a few territories on the Arabian peninsula, which have since won their independence. In the Arab countries, as elsewhere, one form of imperialist domination came to an end, but others persisted. Certain imperialist powers were pushed out here and there. Another moved in in force, sometimes playing an anti-colonialist card - American imperialism, the principal victor of the second world war.
Today, besides the presence of imperialist capital, three forms of imperialist domination appear in the Arab region:
“Indirect” domination through economic dependence. Imperialism has restricted most of the Arab economies to the role of exporters of one, or virtually one, agricultural or mining product (oil, cotton, etc.). These economies find themselves dependent on the world capitalist market, which in turn makes them highly sensitive to the development of international terms of trade, and to the ups and downs of the world monetary system. In addition, these countries find themselves technologically dependent on the imperialist countries, especially since the Soviet Union has proved incapable of replacing imperialism in this respect. In reality, inter-imperialist competition has proved to be the main arena for manoeuvre for the Arab economies. In recent years, as a result of the exacerbation of contradictions between the imperialist countries, this arena has broadened somewhat.
— Quasi- direct military-political domination. This is the case of the puppet monarchies and emirates, whose military apparatus is tightly controlled by imperialists and which can maintain themselves only on the basis of imperialist support. (This goes most of all for the oil-producing regions on the Arab- Persian Gulf.)
Colonial type domination, which is the situation in the Zionist state of Israel. This type brings together three features: first, the Zionist emigration movement, through its settler-colonial character, managed to pull together hundreds of thousands of Jews most of them fleeing from anti-semitic oppression, and placed them in Palestine at the expense of the original Arab inhabitants, most of whom were expelled. Second, the creation of a Zionist state, accompanied by the formation of a Jewish proletariat springing from this emigration. This process was distinct from the traditional forms of colonialism which were based on exploiting the original inhabitants. (The Arab minority remaining in Israel is subjected to extreme economic exploitation, and on top of that national oppression that is perpetuated through the Zionist institutions.) Finally, the very nature of the Zionist state - as expressed in its origins and continued reasons for existence, makes it a state that is of necessity directly linked to imperialism. It plays the role of a military bastion in the service of a counterrevolutionary American imperialist strategy for the Arab East region.
2. Western imperialism is at the root of the fragmentation of the Arab region. Historically, the Ottoman Empire reunited under the same authority all the territories Arabised by the Islamic conquest (except Morocco and the southern part of the Arabian peninsula). This reunification strengthened the objective bases for the development of an Arab nation. Added to a common language and culture was a history fashioned by the same occupier, and thus the consciousness of a common future. What was lacking was a class that could represent this national aspiration - the economic basis for a nation - in the absence of its crucible par excellence, the national market. Certain nationalist manifestations did appear early in the nineteenth century. But, these were more often regional than Arab, reflecting the rejection of Ottoman domination by those elements that found it particularly oppressive — hounded tribal or semi-feudal authorities, intellectuals and Christians. In dividing up the region between them, the British and French imperialists erected frontiers blocking the formation of an Arab national consciousness. Moreover, they encouraged various regional, ethnic or religious particularisms in accordance with the well known watchword of “divide and rule”. But at the same time aiding the penetration of capitalism in the Arab countries by undermining the old precapitalist autarchy of the agricultural regions and developing the cities and means of communication that favoured the growth of the urban strata, the imperialists laid the material foundations of the Arab nation even as they fragmented it.
It has been most of all since the second world war that Arab national consciousness has really become general, helped along by three factors - the rise of the colonial revolution; the ephemeral Arab industrialisation during the world war, due to the isolation and weakening of the British and French colonial systems; and, last but not least, the Palestinian war of 1948, which by establishing an anti-Arab state in the Near East, provided the most effective catalyst for Arab national aspirations.
3.. Today, the consciousness of belonging to the same nationality is strongly rooted in the Arab masses, even in the most socially backward regions (the Arab peninsula) or those where the colonialists have left the deepest cultural imprint (the French colonies of the Maghreb). This consciousness has often penetrated in a directly political form, propagated by the anti-imperialist currents and promoted by the successive aggressions of the Zionist state.
The artificiality of the present state divisions in the Arab region is absolutely flagrant. These states were carved up to suit imperialist interests. Thus, what is Iraq except the sum total of the concessions granted to the Iraq Petroleum Company? (Comprising part of Kurdistan, it is certainly not a national entity.) What has shaped the Lebanese state, or the Sudanese state, except the communalist mixtures determined by imperialism ? What is the Algerian state but a former French department? What is “‘Saudi” Arabia but an immense concession to American Aramco? And so on.
The fragmentation 6f the Arab nation is more than ever anachronistic and contrary to the course of history. It blocks the economic development of the Arab region by preventing the formation of a unified national market and stands in the way of the conscious aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Arabs. Arab national unification is a historic and economic necessity. It is the essential prerequisite for a real industrialisation of the Arab lands. Its revolutionary potential exceeds that of the German and Italian unifications in the nineteenth century. It must confront not only local particularist interests, but above all world imperialism which cannot willingly accept the formation of an Arab national state capable of standing on its own feet. Moreover, none of the present Arab states can hold its own by itself against world imperialism.
It is in this sense that Arab national unity is the central task of the Arab revolution. However, this does not in any way mean that the prevailing ideology of the Arab revolution will be a nationalist one. One must distinguish very clearly between revolutionary national tasks and nationalist ideology with its essentially bourgeois character, which forms the greatest obstacle to revolution because it delays the formation of a class consciousness for the working masses.
4. However, as a direct consequence of the imperialist fragmentation of the Arab region, there has been added to the Arab national question, other national problems: the problems of the non arabised Berber masses and the problems of the nationalities artificially included in the Arab states, as well as that of the Jewish population of the state of Israel.
Revolutionary marxists perceive the unification of the Arab nation from an exclusively internationalist point of view. This means that unification must not be imposed on any people. The arabisation of the Berber minorities in the Marakesh and Algeria must therefore be acceptable to these masses. Revolutionaries denounce all forced attempts at arabisation. They defend the right of the Berber masses to self determination. However, at the same time they encourage these masses to integrate into the Arab region while fully respecting their cultural particularities.
In the case of the oppressed national minorities of the Mauritania, southern Sudan and the Iraqi and Syrian parts of Kurdistan, it is evident that the programme of the Arab revolution cannot fail to assert their inalienable right to self-determination, including their right to a completely separate state. For the Kurdish people, this right is part of their general right to national unification in a united state of Kurdistan. It is the duty of revolutionary marxists to help build a proletarian leadership for the Kurdish revolution in conjunction with their unconditional support for the struggle of the Kurdish people for self determination against its Arab, bourgeois oppressors and others.
The Israeli case is completely different. In the present state of Israel, the oppressor majority is Jewish and its oppression has been primarily based on expelling the original Arab inhabitants. In this sense, the only revolutionary attitude is to recognise the complete and unconditional right of the Palestinian Arabs to self determination, that is, their right to return to all the territories from which they have been expelled and to live free of all national oppression.
The exercise of this right presupposes the destruction of the Zionist state, which rests on racist foundations incompatible with such a perspective. Only after the achievement of this necessary historical task of the Arab revolution, will it be possible to deal concretely and correctly with the question of the rights of the Jewish national minority in Palestine. The liquidation of Zionist relationships - of the colonial type —between Jews and Arabs presents Israeli revolutionaries with the considerable task of breaking the Jewish masses from Zionism. Only the achievement of this task can guarantee the harmonious integration of the Jewish minority into the Arab region. The forms this integration will take, depend in their details on the pace and breadth of the development of class consciousness — that is, anti-Zionist consciousness — of the Jewish workers. On the other hand this solution cannot be envisaged outside the context of a revolutionary overturn in the entire Near East at least, which alone can provide the forces necessary to liberate Palestine from the Zionist and imperialist grip. That is, the destruction of the Israeli state goes hand in hand with the abolition of the other Arab states, on the road to creating a united Arab state. Thus, the national aspect of the revolution in the Near East is not defined solely by the case of the Palestinian people, but by the general problem of Arab national unity.
It is in this framework therefore, that the question arises of the present Jewish population of Israel, which will become a national minority once the Zionist state is abolished. In regard to this question, as for any national community, the programme of workers democracy, which is fundamentally contrary to all chauvinism, was clearly defined by Lenin: “No privileges for any nation or any one language. Not even the slightest degree of oppression or the slightest injustice in respect of a national minority... .” (“The Working Class and The National Question,” Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 92.) This means guaranteeing full civil and cultural rights for the Jewish population, as well as complete equality between Jew and Arab. Likewise, workers democracy requires recognising the right to self-administration of the Jewish workers in their regions, within the context of the political and economical centralism demanded by a workers state. This is the working class programme for the solution of the Israeli question.
In the present conditions of the continued existence of the Zionist state, demanding the “right to self determination for the Israeli nation”, could in the last analysis only be reactionary. However, after the destruction of the Zionist state and after the reestablishment of the rights of the Palestinians, and only after this, it becomes possible to recognise the right to self determination of the Jewish national minority in Palestine. This would include their right to form an independent state on a part of Palestinian land. However, this should take place with strict adherence to the condition that the exercise of this right in no way affects the rights of other peoples. This means that above all the exercise of this right should be in harmony with the right of the Palestinian Arabs to Self determination. Furthermore, the Arab revolution cannot accept the creation of an expansionist state or a state armed by imperialism. In all cases, revolutionary marxists in Israel, must educate the Jewish proletariat in the perspective of a united state, which alone corresponds to their real interests, just as it is the duty of Arab revolutionaries to combat chauvinist tendencies among the Arab workers.
5. The agrarian question in the Arab countries, as in most underdeveloped regions, has a major importance, since a considerable part of the economically active population of these countries is employed in agriculture.
The fundamental aspects of the agrarian question in the Arab countries, which are common moreover to a number of backward countries, are the following: an agrarian population whose overwhelming majority is made up of poor and landless peasants, as against a tiny minority of big landowners and farmers; obvious overpopulation of the land, which is reflected in very grave underemployment, both on a seasonal and permanent basis; a very low level of mechanisation of agriculture, with primitive techniques remaining dominant; a large proportion of the arable land left uncultivated, often owing to the absence of adequate technical facilities (such as irrigation).
The solution to these problems is closely linked to other aspects of the social and economic revolution needed in the Arab region. It lies in a thoroughgoing industrialisation (including mechanisation of agriculture) in the Arab countries and the creation of a unified national market. It demands a nationally planned investment and finance policy. Without national unification and economic sovereignty, as Trotsky pointed out in the similar case of China, an agrarian revolution in the Arab countries can in no way solve the problem of underdevelopment in the region.
Moreover, many agrarian reforms already tried in certain Arab countries - as well as elsewhere - have shown irrefutably that when land division is carried out in the framework of a market economy and by bureaucratic methods, it leads in the long run to accelerating rather than reducing social differentiation on the land by promoting the growth of a Kulak stratum.
Furthermore, attempts at imposing “socialised” agriculture bureaucratically on the peasants have always proved lamentable failures (which are cited hypocritically by pseudo-progressive Arab leaders trying to justify the situation on the land in their countries). In rare cases where agrarian reform experiments have met with successes in the Arab countries (Algeria in the early years of independence, Southern Yemen), they have been based on a mobilisation of the peasant masses that took place in the context of a general revolutionary process going beyond the bourgeois framework.
6. If the theoretical arguments are not sufficient, historical experience has already demonstrated that none of the essential tasks of the Arab revolution can be accomplished within the framework of the bourgeois state. It is for this reason precisely that none of these tasks have yet been accomplished. For the Arab region, as for all the underdeveloped countries, the only alternative remains: either a socialist revolution or a caricature of a revolution There is no other way that the Arab countries can break out of their underdevelopment except through a dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the poor peasantry.
Only a dictatorship of the proletariat can achieve the popular mobilization needed to take on world imperialism, expropriate its Arab holdings, and break the chains binding the economies of the Arab countries to the world capitalist market. Only a dictatorship of the proletariat can break down the regional frontiers erected by imperialism, which have bred local bourgeoisies with competing interests. Only a dictatorship of the proletariat can achieve the unity of the Arab nation. It alone can pool the resources of the Arab nation by nationalizing the big agricultural and mineral holdings, as well as big industry, without compensation. It alone can unify the Arab market by nationalizing all foreign trade and centralizing distribution among the Arab people. It alone can develop a radical agrarian reform— along cooperative lines— by basing it on a mobilization of the masses of poor peasants (a large part of which are proletarian). Only through primitive socialist accumulation, can the dictatorship of the proletariat industrialize the Arab region, which does not lack the material resources. Only a dictatorship of the proletariat, through an internationalist program, can win to its cause the national minorities of the Arab countries as well as the Jewish workers of Israel. Only a dictatorship of the proletariat can carry out the cultural revolution, urgently needed in the Arab countries, a prerequisite for real liberation of Arab women.
The Arab revolution will be socialist or it will not be a revolution. It will triumph through the length and breadth of the Arab region — the Maghreb, the Mashreq and the Nile Valley — in the framework of a federative Arab ssocialist republic.
The Arab socialist revolution will necessarily carry over into the adjacent African and Asian areas and be in close solidarity with the revolutionary internationalist movement of the workers in the imperialist West.
This process illustrates in a striking way the theory of the permanent revolution developed by Leon Trotsky which inspired the programmes of the Communist International in Lenin’s time and the Fourth International.
THE JUNE 1967 ARAB DEFEAT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
7. Against a background of objective social and economic conditions long overripe for revolution, events of a political nature have intervened on several occasions to shake the established regimes in the Arab region. Among the most important of these events have been the Israeli-Arab wars. Planted in Palestine to defend the imperialist interests in the Near East, the state of Israel has contributed objectively and more effectively than years of agitation to developing the anti-imperialist national consciousness of the Arab peoples, thereby magnifying the threat hanging over the very interests this state was intended to guard.
Twenty years before the June 1967 war, the 1948 conflict — which came as a consequence of the official founding of the Zionist-state — was to set off a change in the Arab political map. The economic and social crises of the Arab regimes was compounded by the defeat of their armies by the new state, which helped to discredit the existing governments and to create conditions favourable to their overthrow. A prerevolutionary situation was to take form in the Arab region, and in particular Egypt, the major loser of the 1948 war, where the social crisis was most acute.
The corrupt Farouk monarchy became hopelessly moribund. But there was no social force capable of supplanting it. The Egyptian bourgeoisie, which consisted in the main of comprador elements and which was in no way inconvenienced by the monarchy, had more to fear than to gain from any overthrow of Farouk. On the other hand, the so-called national industrial bourgeoisie was too weak to lead a popular uprising against the monarchy and the fact that the street demonstrations of the time were tending to develop in an anti-bourgeois direction made it even more incapable of doing so. The proletariat, finally, besides its numerical weakness (which was an important but not a decisive factor) lacked a revolutionary leadership. The Stalinists themselves were weak and disorganised and had been discredited by an ultra sectarian attitude towards the Palestinian question.
This typical situation—a prerevolutionary crisis in the absence of a revolutionary leadership- was to produce a no less typical response -—a bonapartist coup d’etat. The likelihood of this response was enhanced, moreover, by the common specific characteristics of the army in many underdeveloped countries. After these countries won their independence, the army was the strongest component of a bloated state apparatus - precisely because of the atrophied statee of the economic structures and the ruling bourgeoisie — and constituted the main lever of power. It contained within it the basic elements of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois nationalist tendencies, who saw it as a particularly favourable organised framework, given its social composition and the ideology presiding over the constitution. A military government of “liberal officers” is the perfect example of bonapartism.
Nasserite bonapartism rested on an equilibrium of forces between the proletariat and petty-bourgeois working masses on the one hand, and certain sections of the bourgeoisie on the other. As a bourgeois bonapartism, it represented the general historic interests of the national bourgeoisie, fighting the enemies of this class - colonialism, imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie, and the big landowners, as well as the labour movement and especially the Communists. It attempted to accomplish the historic tasks of the national bourgeoisie, in particular industrialisation. The struggle of the Nasser regime for Arab unity. corresponded fundamentally to the interests of the national bourgeoisie in enlarging its market. The cultist veneration of the petit-bourgeois masses — the urban petit-bourgeoisie and the small peasants— for the particular leader, Nasser - fits in perfectly with bonapartism and is in fact characteristic of it.
The special features of Nasserite bonapartism — what distinguished it from the classic bonapartism of a rising bourgeoisie—were linked to the consequences of imperialist domination over the country it ruled. The extreme weakness of the national bourgeoisie, smothered in its cradle by the imperialist world market, meant that it itself could only participate directly in a very limited way in the endeavor that represented its historic interests. Nasserite bonapartism had to find another path for its economic development. It found itself compelled, in order to promote the industrialisation of the country, to substitute economically and not only politically, like classical bonapartism, for the class it represented. For these reasons the public sector was the favoured political instrument of the Nasserite regime. But this sector was no less governed by capitalist production relations. It represented a bourgeois state capitalism and not “a non capitalist path of development” as the neo-Stalinists revisionists claimed.
Moreover, this economic autonomy of Nasserite bonapartism meant that it was more sensitive to the relationship of social forces than classical bourgeois bonapartism. Under strong pressure from the masses it could undertake certain radical measures which at times were absolutely contrary to bourgeois interests, as was the case in 1961 and 1963. Such steps have, of course, been only of a limited and above all temporary character.
The Nasserite experiment in the strict sense went a long way in its attempts to build an advanced bourgeois Egypt and to unify the Arab market. It nonetheless failed, confirming irrefutably the postulates of the permanent revolution. The Nasserite phenomenon has been repeated in a number of Arab countries (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and to a certain extent Algeria). For more than a decade it placed a strong imprint on the Arab region and the entire colonial world. The June 1967 war was to highlight its limitations and deal a decisive blow to its original Egyptian expression.
8. The Israeli aggression in June 1967 fitted into the worldwide offensive launched by American imperialism in the 1960s. It was aimed at choking off the developing anti-imperialist dynamic in the Near East represented by two main processes. On the one hand, there was a revival of the Palestinian people’s struggle. Armed nuclei arose within and resumed military activities against the Zionist state. On the other hand, there was a radicalisation of the Syrian regime established in the 1966 coup d’etat, with a left petit-bourgeois wing of the government imposing its radical policy on a state apparatus which was still bourgeois.
The June 1967 war resulted in a crushing military victory for the imperialist-Zionist axis. In this sense the imperialist counteroffensive was crowned with success. But this success was compromised by the reaction aroused by the imperialist victory itself, something that could by no means be predicted by the victors. Galvanised by the defeat suffered and the national affront it represented, the Arab popular masses entered into the politically most intense mobilisation in their recent history. This rise of the anti-imperialist movement of the Arab masses combined with the world-wide revolutionary thrust, powerfully counterbalanced the imperialist victory. It enabled the Syrian and Egyptian regimes, hard hit by their defeat, to maintain themselves in power.
Nasser was saved by the giant demonstration of June 9 and 10, 1967, which revealed the new equilibrium established between the pressure of imperialism and of the working masses. Nasser remained in power, but Nasserism - dealt a mortal blow by the Israeli victory - became moribund in its turn just as its royal predecessor had. The limit of Nasserite anti-imperialism, which had already become evident in the economic arena, were starkly revealed in the political and military realms. Incapable of competing technologically with the Zionist state armed by imperialism and endowed with much more highly skilled manpower, imported directly from the industrialised countries, the Nasserite regime was unable to both arm and mobilise the popular masses to the degree needed to defeat Israel, since this would have undermined the foundations of its bonapartist rule.
In June 1967 Nasserism reached its ultimate limits. The policy conducted by Nasser after June was marked by his capitulation — his regime’s collaborating with its recent enemies, the tools of imperialism in the region, the main one being “Saudi” Arabia. Such collaboration was the condition for getting financial aid from the pro-imperialist regimes.
After June 1967, Nasserism became virtually impossible in the Arab region, since any real anti-imperialist activity necessarily involved a revolutionary dynamic incompatible with a bourgeois bonapartist state power. In relation to the pre 1967 Nasserism, the Sudanese and Libyan coup d’etats were nothing but rightist caricatures. As for the short lived Federation of Arab Republics established in 1971, it has nothing in common with the old United Arab Republic except its reactionary repressive function. It has none of the unifying and anti-imperialist content of the Nasserite attempt at Arab unification.
With the death agony of Nasserism, an era of the Arab revolution was coming to an end; another was beginning to take form.
9. The most important feature of the rise of the Arab mass movement after June 1967 was the extraordinarily rapid extension of the armed organisations of the Palestinian people, designated under the common name of the “Palestinian Resistance”.
After twenty years of lethargy during which they were lulled by the promises of the Arab governments, the Palestinian people - more precisely, the most severely tried section of it, the Palestinian refugees quartered in the “camps”, were rudely awakened, shaken by the Arab defeat and the new Palestinian exodus that resulted from it. The growth of the Palestinian resistance expressed primarily the desire of the Palestinian people to take charge of the struggle for the liberation of Palestine, their native country. But the spontaneity of this reaction also indicated its limitations.
As a group composed largely of non-producers and, above all, containing few owners, bereft even of territory, the Palestinian refugees formed a social milieu particularly receptive to any maximalist tendency, inasmuch as having absolutely nothing to lose they had, on the other hand, a country to win. This fact helps to explain the immense popular support for the Palestinian Resistance despite its distinctly maximalist slogans and its conception of the liberation of Palestine.
The Palestinian Resistance, at least the greater part of it, advanced a perspective- of a “people’s war of liberation”, a strategic goal totally unrealistic without a precise social content and without transitional political, organisational, and military objectives. It is absolutely illusory to think that the Palestinian Resistance, even with its unquestionable popular support, can settle accounts with the Zionist army, which also has close ties with the popular masses, although on a reactionary basis, and is infinitely better equipped. Achieving such a goal requires not only the participation of the Jewish revolutionists, who alone are capable of undermining the ideological foundations of the cohesiveness that characterises the population of the Zionist state and from which it draws its strength, but also and above all, the participation of the Arab peoples in a generalised revolutionary war against imperialism and its Zionist bastion, which is the only realistic road to victory.
The Palestinian Resistance was unable to advance any programme capable of insuring the combined participation of the Arab and Jewish masses in the struggle. Its maximalism was intrinsically linked to its Palestine-centric regionalism. In this there was a reflection of the historical experience of the Palestinian people, among whom particularist tendencies have been favoured by the peculiar fate they have suffered and their disillusionment with the Arab regimes.
But, whatever their importance, these underlying objective factors did not make the maximalist regionalist orientation of the Palestinian Resistance inevitable; they merely produced a tendency in this direction. A revolutionary marxist workers vanguard could have combated the illusions existing amongst the Palestinian masses and explained to them that the liberation of Palestine necessarily involved a revolutionary overturn of the established Arab regimes, which was impossible without a working class leadership for the entire Arab region., including revolutionists fighting in Israel itself. Avoiding these pitfalls and deceptions, such a vanguard would have been able to incorporate its military struggle against the Zionist state in an overall revolutionary strategy. In this way without presenting it falsely as a “people’s war of liberation”, such military activity could have made an extremely important contribution to building a revolutionary party for the entire region. But a vanguard of this type was historically absent.
The leaderships of the Palestinian Resistance could not have come from a workers movement represented by the Stalinists who, following the USSR, recognised the right of the Zionist state to exist. They all come from petit-bourgeois nationalist movements dominant in the Arab region. They are all, with the exception of direct extensions of ruling Arab parties, more or less radicalised petit-bourgeois patriotic teams, whose most advanced elements have come close to the revolutionary Marxist programme without drawing the practical political, military and organisational conclusions. The most influential of the Palestinian leaderships, the leadership of Fateh, is also the most right-wing. By its pronounced right wing regionalism, it justified its dependence on the Arab regimes, including most prominently the worst reactionary governments, the open tools of American imperialism, Israel’s chief supporter. In the name of the “main contradiction” with Israel, the Fateh leadership justified its collaboration with the Palestinian and Jordanian reactionaries, accomplices in the creation of the state of Israel itself. In the name of the special identity of the Palestinian people, it isolated from them the other Arab peoples with whom they were in contact, forbidding them to participate in the social struggles of these peoples. Drowned in the fabulous subsidies it received, the Fateh leadership developed a bureaucratic apparatus almost as large as that of an ordinary bourgeois state. Its military organisation was paid, in flagrant contradiction to the principles of creating a revolutionary army.
But despite all this, Fateh - the major section of the Palestinian Resistance - led a struggle whose objectively anti-imperialist character is undeniable. It personified the just patriotic aspirations of the Palestinian people and provided an umbrella for the revolutionary tendencies that arose in the Near East after the June 1967 war. This paradox is explained by the ambiguous position of the Fateh leadership. Although it was dependent on the equilibrium between its relations with the Arab regimes and the mass movement it led, the radicalising pressure of the mass movement also afforded it a certain measure of autonomy.
10. The crushing of the Palestinian Resistance, the major stage of which was the campaign of extermination waged by the Jordanian Hashemite regime in September 1970, resulted directly from the policy followed by the leadership of the Resistance, and most of all Fateh.
In fact, the Fateh leadership contributed more than anyone else to deceiving the Palestinian masses about the real intentions of the’ Hashemite regime. It propagated the deceptive slogan of “closing ranks against the national enemy” instead of organising the existing mass distrust of Hussein. Rejecting any attempt to resolve in its favour the situation of dual power that existed for nearly two years in Jordan, and constantly on the defensive, it left the initiative to the reactionary regime, and after every campaign of extermination conducted by this regime, it gave free reign to illusions about a definitive reconciliation. Furthermore, it granted concession upon concession to the Jordanian regime - going so far as to disarm the masses - for the sake of accords that were never respected by the regime. But, besides this demagogic attitude, the Fateh leadership ruled out the support of the Jordanian masses and the soldiers of Hussein’s army -the only forces that could have blocked the Hashemite regime. In the name of the “Palestinian identity” and “noninterference in the internal affairs of the Arab countries”, it put forward no programme capable of winning such support, sometimes even going so far as to oppose the struggles of the workers.
Although not taken by the illusion of “patriotic unity” with the Hashemite regime, the Palestinian left did not distinguish itself from Fateh in practice. It, too, proved incapable of gaining a base among the working masses of Jordan or preparing for the inevitable campaign of extermination. It was unable to put forward a transitional programme capable of mobilising the Jordanian masses, sometimes raising regionalist slogans without class content (such as “All Power to the Palestinian Resistance”), and at other time ultraleftist ones relating to nothing concrete (“All Power to the People’s Councils”). It did not organise effective opposition to the Fateh leadership’s capitulation and ended up failing to distinguish itself from Fateh under the pretext of unity. The Palestinian left was characterised by a maximalist-regionalist orientation similar to that of the rest of the Resistance. It failed above all to understand the urgent need for a revolutionary class party leading the military organisation and which alone could root itself in the productive classes on a non-Palestinian-centric basis. Moreover, it linked itself to the pseudo-progressive Arab regimes, providing them with a left cover and thereby betraying the interests of the revolutionary struggle against these regimes.
The same policies by the leaderships of the Palestinian Resistance explains the relatively easy success of the combined efforts of the Israeli army and the Lebanese regime aimed at isolating the Resistance from the Lebanese population and freezing its military activities based in the territories of Lebanon. In Syria, the Resistance never asserted itself as an independent power, repaying support it got from the regime by total obedience. Today, this obedience has meant the immobilisation of the Palestinian troops, which for all practical purposes have been placed under the command of the Syrian army.
The precipitous decline of the Palestinian Resistance matched its rise. The focus of many illusions, its defeat was a terrible shock, and a still more bitter one than June 1967. But the lessons of this defeat will not be lost. The intrinsic link between national and social struggles is clearer today than ever. It has become very obvious that the liberation of Palestine cannot be achieved in isolation but only as a part of the Arab socialist revolution, under the firm leadership of a proletarian revolutionary party for the entire region. The new Palestinian and Arab vanguard will have to assimilate this truth.
11. The crushing of the Palestinian Resistance in September 1970, three years after June 1967, crowned the imperialist victory by liquidating the armed movement of the Palestinian people in its main arena. The Hashemite regime— the pliant instrument of imperialism— destroyed the equilibrium established after 1967 between the Israeli victory and the rise of the Arab mass movement represented most importantly by the Palestinian Resistance. The way was cleared for reorganising the Arab region in accordance with imperialist and bourgeois interests, which meant above all throttling the anti-imperialist Arab regimes. This task was also facilitated by the death of Nasser coming at the same time, since his bonapartist prestige gave him a certain possibility for resisting imperialist pressure.
A month after the massacres in Jordan, the petit-bourgeois radical team ruling in Syria was overthrown by a military coup d’etat organised by the right wing of the regime representing the bourgeois state apparatus. The new regime was to extend its hand at home to the Syrian bourgeoisie and abroad to the Arab governments linked to imperialism.
In 1971, the Sadat regime in Egypt liquidated the Nasserite bureaucracy, the political and military apparatus inherited from the Nasserite past. Likewise, it set about progressively dismantling the nationalisation measures affecting the interests of the Egyptian bourgeoisie as well as abolishing the obstacles to the development of both local and imperialist private capital, which comes down to liquidating the special economic aspects of the Nasserite regime. In fact, the Nasserite experiment, like any bonapartist regime, could only be a passing one. It produced two possible gravediggers. On the one hand, a new bourgeoisie arose, made up of the vestiges of the old (whose property was paid for by the state or left untouched) and a section of the ruling bureaucracy that turned the profit it made out of the state apparatus into capital. On the other hand, Nasserism gave rise to a numerous and concentrated proletariat, which, however, was marked by a lack of independent experience in struggle and was without any representative trade union or political leadership. Once the bonapartist equilibrium was broken and after the death of the Bonaparte, the best organised of these two forces, the new bourgeoisie, was able to rid itself of the Nasserite bureaucracy, a parasitic growth blocking its development. The Sadat regime was the instrument of this bourgeois restoration.
In 1971 also the Sudanese dictatorship, ringing down the curtain on its brief parody of Nasserism, was able to liquidate the Sudanese Communist Party, the main organiser of the workers movement in Sudan, and attempt open collaboration with Western imperialism.
Finally, imperialism strained every effort to strangle the revolutionary experience in progress in South Yemen. Bringing military pressure to bear through the intermediary of “Saudi” Arabia and North Yemen , it succeeded in forcing the government of South Yemen to accept a treaty of union with the North, threatening to liquidate the anti-imperialist and anticapitalist content of the regime that was established in the South after the ouster of the right-wing faction of the National Liberation Front in 1969.
Thus, American imperialism, after a few years delay, garnered the fruits of its 1967 victory. Its objective today is to consummate this victory once and for all by imposing its “peaceful solution” to the Arab- Israeli conflict and liquidating the revolutionary explosiveness of the Palestinian question.
12. In spite of the crushing of the Palestinian Resistance in Jordan, the victory of bourgeois reaction in certain Arab states, and increased imperialist pressure on the entire Arab region, the national and social struggles of the Arab masses have not ceased to develop but on the contrary have taken a considerable qualitative step forward with the appearance in Egypt — for the first time in years— of a persistent movement of active opposition.
The key to this apparent paradox resides in the fact that the success of the imperialist offensive has in no way altered the underlying causes of the political agitation in the Arab region. Not only has the fundamental social and economic crisis of the Arab countries by no means been resolved but it has even been aggravated by the consequences of June 1967 in the belligerent countries ( the weight of the military budget, the closing of the Suez Canal, etc.). This crisis has been compounded by the extreme political tensions resulting from the defeat of the Arab states, which grow more serious every day, since ever broader masses in the Arab countries are becoming disillusioned and convinced of the betrayal of their governments.
The reactionary onslaught unleashed in the Arab region in 1970 was able to defeat only certain leaderships. It overturned the two main regimes linked to the (bourgeois and petit-bourgeois) Arab nationalist current, crushed the Palestinian Resistance whose leaderships originated in this current, and liquidated the Stalinist leaderships of the workers movement in the Sudan, the strongest of the Arab Stalinist leaderships. But just as it is clear that Nasserism will never rise again, that the petit-bourgeois leadership of the Palestinian Resistance has been irremediably compromised, and that the Arab Stalinist movement has more than abundantly demonstrated its bankruptcy, it is equally clear that the radicalisation of the Arab mass movement has entered into a new phase. It is in Egypt once again that the new radicalisation has manifested itself with the greatest vigour, both in the very significant revolt of the workers in the Hilwan steel complex and the impressive movement of the Egyptian students.
The new stage of radicalisation of the .Arab masses promises to dig its roots deeper than the previous one and therefore comprise a far greater danger to the existing regimes. It is as if the wave of radicalisation following June 1967 were simply the prelude to the storm that is taking shape. The exacerbation of the socio-economic crisis in the Arab countries, which has been further sharpened by the crisis of the world capitalist system, has begun to threaten to push the major weight of the proletariat and the poor rural masses into motion. This after a long period of waiting. There is no doubt that the Arab ruling classes, who have began to perceive this danger, will take measures to halt it.
THE OCTOBER 1973 WAR AND THE LATEST STAGE IN THE CAPITULATION OF THE ARAB REGIMES
13. The October 1973 war was waged precisely in order to stop the second wave of rising struggles, which began to appear in the Arab countries. The objective of the Arab regimes was to end the “no war, no peace” situation, whose impact was continuously increasing, and which was thereby accelerating their political fragmentation. In fact, it was becoming clear that an attempt to relieve the political tensions in the area, by direct implementation of the “peaceful solution” ( the commonly accepted formulation for the United Nations Security Council’s resolution number 242, which was passed on November 22, 1967) without going through a transitional stage of preparation, could threaten to have an opposite effect: it might lead to a generalised movement of opposition to a settlement that represents, in the eyes of the broad masses, a decision that had been imposed by Zionism and imperialism in 1967, especially since the Israeli authorities had such vague interpretations of this UN resolution. Since a perspective of a war of liberation has been out of the question, primarily because of the character of the Arab regimes, the “peaceful solution” formula was in a state of crisis.
The October war came to resolve these contradictions. It was a war aimed at peace, a military operation that opened up the road for concentrated diplomatic activities aimed at settling the Arab-Israeli conflict. The main aim of the October war was to push forward the implementation of the “peaceful solution” by creating an excuse for the energetic intervention of the major powers — primarily American imperialism — in the diplomatic maneouvres that aimed at doing away with the effects of the June 1967 war, and more specifically, liquidating the revolutionary content of the Palestinian question.
The military objectives of the October war were very limited. Egypt and Syria had not planned to liberate all of their territories occupied in 1967. In reality, the Egyptian operation constrained itself to a sphere of operation, whose limits remained within Sinai. Naturally, neither regime planned to ‘liberate” Palestine, i.e. to attack the areas under the control of the Zionist state since 1948. The two Arab armies did not even significantly bomb within the 1948 borders of Israel. The sole military objective of the Arab regimes was to shift the balance of forces between their armies and the Zionist armies to their favour. This was primarily useful in the eyes of the regimes because it improved their position in the bargaining over the conditions of a peaceful settlement. These attempts by the Arab regimes ended up in a half defeat; whilst the Israeli army advanced on the Syrian front, on the Egyptian front its advance west of the canal was balanced by the Egyptian army’s eastern crossing of the Canal .Despite this reality, however, the Sadat regime managed to orchestrate a wide and organised propaganda operation on the basis of the successes of the early days of the war, a campaign in which the Egyptian president appeared as the Salah-a-din of modern times, and in which the October war was made to look like a modern version of the ancient battle of Hittin. In this way the Egyptian regime tried to throw together a national front, the very thing that had become so difficult to do after 1967. But what increased its importance to the regime this time was the latter’s intention to sit at the negotiating table with the Zionist government. From all aspects, therefore, the October war was fundamentally a means to place the implementation of the “peaceful settlement” on the agenda. In this sense the October war was far from being a war of liberation. It was in reality a war of capitulation. Although revolutionary Marxists supported the Arab armies in the face of the Zionist occupation army, they denounce the capitulationist political strategy into which the October war was placed and which imposed on this war predetermined limits. The October war —despite impressions of petit-bourgeois nationalists — simply underlines once again the bankruptcy of the Arab regimes and their capitulation to Zionism.
14. The October war, in trying to push forward a peaceful settlement, was clearly no mindless adventure. It was part of a carefully studied, total plan, that included other means of pressure, in particular, the famous “oil war”.
Sadat’s government was aware of the total inability of the Soviet Union, singlehandedly, to remove the political crisis then prevailing in the Near East. Furthermore, it was interested in avoiding the full exposure of its policies in the eyes of the Arab masses that would be the result of sidling too close to the United States. This government therefore, tried, for a period of time, to rest itself on the West European imperialisms, and had for this purpose conducted numerous contacts with the governments of France, Britain and West Germany. However, the Egyptian regime soon had to face to reality; capitalist Europe, no matter what the economic perspectives which it might present, was much weaker than American imperialism, and more specifically, far less capable than the latter of exercising influence on the Zionist state. This is the reason why the pro-Arab European declarations and statements concerning the Middle-East conflict had no real effect. The Sadat government had however, set itself as a primary task the removal of political tensions in the area. This was the indispensable precondition for any capitalist economic development plan. There was, finally, no choice but to look towards American imperialism, in this way fulfilling the aspirations of an important section of the Egyptian bourgeoisie, and especially the aspirations of those big owners of Arab capital — the Saudi regime.
The role of “Saudi” Arabia had begun to impose itself in 1973 as a mediator between the bourgeois Arab regimes and Washington. This mediatory role brings about dual developments that have a tendency to converge: on the one hand, the movement of Egypt toward multi-faceted forms of cooperation with American imperialism, and on the other hand, the tendency of the latter to move away from the virtually unconditional support of the extremist positions of the Zionist regime and toward the adaptation of policies more in line with the needs of the Arab regimes. The opening up of Egypt to American imperialism will take place on numerous fronts. On the economic front, this opening has found an expression for itself in the Egyptian decision to hand over the execution of. the pipeline project between Suez and Alexandria (SUMED) to an American company in competition with European ones. And today, the construction that is expected in the Suez Canal area (which undoubtedly will bring about economic improvements after the opening of the Canal) is being planned in cooperation with American capital and through the World (imperialist) Bank. On the political front, the repression of the progressive, anti-imperialist intellectuals has paved the way for this opening to American imperialism. Furthermore, the return of known and outspoken agents of American imperialism, and their appointments to important positions underlines in an even more unambiguous way the character of this opening. This is also expressed in the renewal of diplomatic relations between Cairo and Washington to say nothing of Sadat’s declarations praising “America” and its foreign affairs negotiator, the famous Kissinger.
This new orientation of the Egyptian regime would have been impossible had it not been for the firm guarantees concerning its results. The political dangers for the Egyptian regime, as a result of extending its hand to American imperialism, were very great, because this same imperialism in the eyes of the Arab masses is the very defender of the Zionist state. It was "Saudi” Arabia, which had played such an active role in the reorientation that had provided the necessary guarantees.
The Saudi monarch, who owns the largest oil resources in the world and from which it collects vast profits, is a helpful ally of American imperialism. In fact the relative decline of Washington’s power in the last years - which is related to the economic crises of the dollar and the exacerbation of the interimperialist rivalry, combined with the world energy crisis and its effects on rising price of oil - have ended the age in which the oil producing countries were no more than completely obedient, semi-colonial countries. These countries have acquired, since then, a position of power and a consciousness of this power, which has pushed them to reconsider the conditions of their economic dependence on imperialism, and to press for adjustments to these conditions in a direction more favourable to their particular interests, which these regimes have learned to differentiate from the interests of imperialist companies. Algeria, and later Libya, first set this new politics into motion, taking advantage of the particular circumstances of Mediterranean oil which was not effected by the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 (which resulted in increased transport costs of Gulf oil). Later on they were followed by the oil producing countries of the Gulf and the world grouping of oil producers which forced the cartel companies to reconsider the division of oil profits and also to accept the gradual participation of the producer countries in the capital of those companies which had the concessions. The “oil war” inaugurated in 1973 — parallel to the military Arab operation — represents an important step forward in this regard. It is, in this sense, a continuation of a policy that goes back to 1970, and not a sharp break with the past.
The Arab-Israeli conflict, for the oil producing countries, was nothing more than a good opportunity to impose a reconsideration of agreements and terms of exchange which tied them to the imperialist countries and to the West. Thus, these countries were realising two goals at once: an excellent financial project and an effective political operation. Politically, the aim was to give American imperialism a little push in the direction of putting pressure on Israel to begin the implementation of the “peaceful solution”. “Saudi” Arabia had, in fact, already, a few months previously, began to demand that American , which were exploiting its oil, should support its efforts in Washington. The “oil war” from this point of view is, therefore, a double edged sword. By increasing the price of Arab oil, it benefits American imperialism by weakening its other imperialist competitors and by sharpening the competitive edge of the USA’s own oil producing capacity. However, this same process set in a motion a movement to increase the oil prices that overstepped all American calculations. For this reason America did not begin its protests until after the first period when it had reaped tremendous benefits from the increase in prices. In a similar manner, the companies whose power and authority was being challenged were simultaneously, making vast excess profits. However, it is clear that once again, imperialism did no more than open up a Pandora’s box. The “oil war” touched off a new round of world inflation which, undoubtedly, will further exacerbate the crisis of the whole imperialist system. Furthermore, the backward raw material producing countries will, from now on, also tend to demand higher prices for their exports to the West. They will, at the same time, tend to want further security of control over the extraction of their resources and, eventually, to manage without the imperialist countries. From the financial point of view, the “oil war” for the Arab countries, up till now, has not only compensated for their losses resulting from the decline in the value of their resources exchanged for steadily declining imperialist money, but also it has achieved a huge surplus of profits as a result of the increase of oil prices far beyond the imperialist calculations.
The general shift in the relations between the imperialist countries and the backward producers of primary products is very clear. However, we should beware of arriving, in religious fashion, to hasty conclusions which could result in dangerous political mistakes.
On the contrary, it should be emphasised that, although it is true that there is an undeniable shift in the relations between the oil producing countries and the imperialist countries, this shift does not change in the slightest the essentially dependent character of these relations.
“Saudi” Arabia and the Gulf Emirates have acquired large money assets which have accumulated over the years, and which these countries have been unable to invest locally either because of territorial constraints (the Gulf Emirates), or as a result of not wishing to change their ancient social structure which has become the basis of these countries’ socio-political stability (“Saudi” Arabia). These assets have, until recently, been placed in imperialist banks for the use of Western capital. However, the crisis of the world monetary system and the fall in the value of the major imperialist currencies has had a significant effect on these Arab deposits. This explains why the countries most concerned have wanted to change their money reserves into gold, and to change them into non-transferrable cash, in addition to using these reserves to find more profitable returns than those gained from mere deposits. As a result of this, there rises a necessity for these countries to directly manage and control the use of their bank capital. The recent developments concerning the use of these deposits and investments are very important: “Saudi” Arabia is trying to invest part of its reserves into the oil industries of the United States — a matter which suits the financial needs of this industry. On the other hand, the loans given by rulers of the Gulf to the backward Arab and non-Arab countries are generally aimed at financing projects which are carried out with the assistance of the imperialist countries to which they are linked. These loans are also tied to political conditions which fit the situation. Thus, it becomes clear that the dependence of the Arab countries on imperialism is far from reaching an end. On the contrary, it is being strengthened. In fact, we are witnessing an increasing integration of the resources of these countries into the economy of imperialism, an integration which almost allows one to consider their ruling classes as increasingly active branches of the Anglo-Saxon imperialist bourgeoisie. This also corresponds to the intentions of these classes, which apart from not having any independent economic perspectives, as they are incapable of setting up an industrial economy proportional to their capital), also know only too well that there can be no political survival without the protection of imperialism. The pressure from these partners of American imperialism on Washington, originally derives, in many of its aspects, from the traditional game of interest groups and lobbying within the United States (our analysis is limited to the Arab monarchies and Gulf Emirates).
The turn of October 1973 represents the crowning point of imperialism’s generalised attack on the Arab East, which had started in the late sixties and which not only succeeded in regaining its control over previously lost areas, but also brought to it new ones (most significantly, Egypt).
The price of this victory will not have to be paid for by American imperialism, but by its Zionist fortress. The latter will have to return the areas occupied in the June 1967 war, after they had served the function of increasing the political and economical influence of the United States. The hour of the “peaceful solution” has struck.
15. It is the influence that the U.S. has over the Zionist state, that pushed Egypt towards the former. It remained up to the United States to use this influence, in accordance with the wishes of the Arab ruling classes, in order to secure and strengthen its own penetration into the area with the cooperation of these classes. The main obstacle to the “peaceful solution” since 1967 has been the Israeli refusal to withdraw from the Arab lands occupied during the 1967 war. The Arab ruling classes, headed by the Egyptian bourgeoisie, were prepared to concede all that had been laid down in the United Nations resolution 242, including the recognition of the Zionist state, and ensuring the security of its borders with the establishment of a demilitarised zone. This also included the freedom of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal. The Zionist government, on the other hand, insisted not only on keeping significant areas of the 1967 occupied territories, but also demanded direct prior negotiations with the Arab countries as an added condition to any withdrawal.
The situation, up until 1973, was well suited to the line of the United States, which had been trying to win control over the largest number of positions in the region through a sharp policy of attack. However, ever since the success of “Saudi” Arabia in convincing Egypt, and to a certain extent Syria as well, to cooperate with American imperialism, it has remained up to the latter to play its stronger cards. Thus, it is not unlikely that the Arab governments waged the October war with American guarantees. In this way, at long last, the Egyptian regime, whose prestige was increased both by its war effort and by the American guarantees, was able to make its final concessions: sitting at a negotiating table face to face with the Zionist regime even before the latter’s withdrawal from Sinai. Thus, the Geneva conference took place.
It is clear that the new line of American policy in the Near East does not fit the direct interests of the Zionist state. Apart from the material losses that would result from the withdrawal to the June 4th, 1967 borders, such action would lead to an important crisis in both the institutions and ideology of Zionism. However, in the final analysis the Zionist regime can only follow the demands laid down by the United States, especially since its margin of independence from the latter narrowed considerably during the sixties. That is why they are trying to get the highest price for their obedience, a matter which is reflected in the large influx of dollars into its treasury. It is important to emphasise in this context, that the usefulness of the Zionist state to American imperialism is far greater than in any other past period, contrary to what some may think. For it was the Zionist victory of 1967 that led to the present success of U.S. imperialism in the Arab region, and the American government is well aware of this fact. On the other hand, the opening up of Egypt to American imperialism, is far from putting Israel into second place. Rather, it is increasing its importance as a watchdog of American interests, it being the only state in the area with a sufficiently stable right-wing socio-political composition that enables it to play the role of a military bastion continually prepared to intervene where imperialist interest demand. The counterrevolutionary role that “Saudi” Arabia plays—and Iran whose military strength has increased significantly in the past few years — are complimentary to the Israeli one, and not in competition with it.
The delays in the negotiations for an Israeli withdrawal are to the benefit of American imperialism, which is trying to strengthen its new positions, especially by pulling Syria finally into the camp. There is, however, another problem that is connected to the Israeli withdrawal, the same problem that led to the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict; namely the Palestinian question. No “peaceful solution” will be satisfactory in the eyes of the Arab ruling classes, and in the eyes of imperialism, if it did not include a semi-“solution” to the Palestinian problem: Arab reaction, Zionism and American imperialism want to secure stability in a region which has been reorganised according to their interests. To achieve this it has no choice, but to remove the revolutionary content of the Palestinian question. This question has formed, since the thirties, one of the main sources of anti-imperialist activities in the Arab region. Hence, many competing projects are being put forward for this purpose. They are all connected to the “peaceful solution”. The two most important projects are, first, the Palestinian state, and second, the project for a Jordanian-Palestinian state. The first one is based on the establishment of a statelet comprising the West bank of the river Jordan as well as the Gaza strip. The second project is based on the unification of the latter with Jordan. Whatever solution is adopted, however, it is clear that it would be meaningless without the consent of representatives from the Palestinian Resistance, and without their actual involvement. It is this condition that makes it difficult to carry out Hussein’s plan — i.e. the united Jordanian-Palestinian kingdom plan — since renewed collaboration with the main butcher of the Palestinian people would be very costly for any wing of the Palestinian Resistance. On the other hand, the probability of a semi-progressive coup in Jordan, which is not impossible, would solve this problem. As for today, and under the present conditions, a significant section of the official leadership of the Palestinian Resistance, including the majority of the historical leadership of Fatah and also the leadership of the Democratic Popular Front (which has moved since 1969 from the “the extreme left to the extreme right” in the Resistance), has declared its adoption of the Palestinian state project. This position represents the last stage in the degeneration of the bureaucratic leadership of the Palestinian Resistance, a degeneration which exposes their willingness to abandon the very struggles which have fed it since its establishment, in order to gain the privileges of a state apparatus which will undoubtedly overflow with aid from the rulers of the Arab oil producing countries. This classical form of degeneration, which was evident in the very nature of the Palestinian leadership, as we have described it above.
Revolutionaries refuse to choose between the various projects attempting a “solution” to the Palestinian problem, which are being laid out these days for discussion. They consider these different projects are all, equally, means of liquidating the Palestinian question, and primarily the struggle of the Palestinian people for the liberation of their country. Apart from the misleading conception which presents a possible future Palestinian statelet as a form of self-determination for the Palestinian people, it must be emphasised that all the proposed forms are within the United Nations framework, i.e. they are all interwoven, not only with general capitulationist concessions to Zionism, but also, and more specifically, by a total ban on the armed character of the Palestinian struggle. Without such a ban any guarantees securing the borders of Israel would be meaningless. At present, the armed struggle of the Palestinian people forms the main expression of its struggle for self determination, and therefore, it is clear that all the liquidationist formulas laid down for resolving the question lead in the final analysis, to an entrenchment of the historical process that plundered the rights of the Palestinian people. Within the framework of their transitional demands for complete and unconditional withdrawal from the occupied territories, revolutionaries also present the question of a “Palestinian” or “Jordanian-Palestinian” government as that of a national revolutionary, workers and peasants government, connected to the revolutionary struggle against Zionism, imperialism and the reactionary Arab ruling classes and directed at the destruction of the Zionist state. They also call for the unconditional defence of the right of the Palestinian people—the same as any other oppressed people ---to armed struggle against its oppressors. They consider that this struggle is not only a right of Palestinian revolutionaries, but also their duty.
16. The rejection of all liquidationist solutions from an anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist standpoint is, today, shared by wide layers within the Palestinian Resistance movement, and between the different groupings of the Palestinian people, primarily the refugee population. However, those holding this revolutionary position are at their weakest amongst the population of the Palestinians living on the West Bank of the river Jordan. This is because of the accumulation of the effects of Zionist repression and the delusions of a nationalist Stalinism, coupled by the special position of those who see in the Palestinian West Bank project, primarily, a means of ridding themselves of the Zionist oppression and its Hashemite complement (which they have experienced before 1967). It is part of this latter segment of the population whose direct interest in liberating the whole of the Palestinian territory is less than the interest of most other groupings of Palestinians. On the other hand, the opponents of opportunist collaborationism represent a large popular current inside the refugee camps, the most important arena of the Palestinian Resistance. This current includes essentially the base and middle layers of the cadres of the Resistance. Despite the fact that some sections of the leadership are working with the tendencies opposed to liquidationism, the majority of the official Palestinian leadership are prepared, in varying degrees, to participate in the ongoing settlement efforts. It is important to dispel any illusions about these leaderships which involve themselves in the refusal currents for purely opportunist reasons, connected to maintaining their control over the bases of their organisations, as well as those who associate themselves with regimes carrying out cheap nationalist demagogical campaigns, like the Iraqi Baathist regime. Such leaderships will not hesitate to reverse their positions when it is in their interests to do so. In this way, these leaderships tend to politically distort the refusal current as a whole.
The main weakness of the refusal currents lies in their organisation and political unclarity. The anti-imperialist revolutionaries in the ranks of the Palestinian Resistance totally lack centralisation, whereas they have to face the official right-wing leaderships which possess a highly centralised apparatus at their disposal. Hence, there is very little collaboration between some of the revolutionary tendencies. On the other hand, their rejection of the liquidationist projects is a continuation, rather than an overgrowing, of their original and spontaneist maximalism which, for a long time, distinguished the Palestinian Resistance. Added to this, the repressive measures being carried out by the official leadership of the movement, with the help of the Arab regimes, are not without effect on those rejectors who attempt to justify their silence and cowardliness in the name of their nationalism, using the excuse of the importance of keeping the “national unity” of the Palestinian Resistance.
All this throws a light on the necessity and urgency of building a revolutionary leadership on an equally Palestinian and Arab scale. And surely enough, the suitable objective conditions for achieving this task do not exist within the Palestinian refugee population only, but also in the whole Arab region. The effects of the campaign of deception organised by the Arab regimes since October 1973 are quickly dwindling. The Arab people are increasingly becoming more aware that the settlement is no more than a capitulation of the Arab governments to Zionism. They also cannot avoid noticing the victorious return of American imperialism — enemy number one of the world’s nationss — to the Arab region. On the other hand, the liberal changes in the Egyptian and Syrian economies, which have been the two main fortresses for Arab anti-imperialist feelings) in addition to the increased integration of the Arab area into the imperialist world market and the influx of capital which was witnessed in relation to the “oil war”, all these factors have led to an exacerbation of monetary inflation in the Arab countries, thereby increasing social tensions.
The social crisis inside the Israeli state is continuing to deepen. Two factors define it: the inflationary Israeli economic crisis, and the ideological-political crisis of Zionism whose further deepening has dealt Zionism a hard blow. This crisis led, at first, to a political polarisation between the extremist far right and the “moderates”. It has also been accompanied, more and more, by an increase in social struggles which strengthens the opposition to the government. To the extent that these struggles increase and gain a political dynamic opposed to the government and objectively directed against capitalism, the Zionist regime will find itself forced to strongly suppress it, thus, revealing its true nature in the eyes of the Jewish masses themselves. Furthermore, the Zionist concessions to the Arab countries imposed by Washington, clearly prove how the Zionist state is, before everything, a military bastion for American imperialism serving the latter’s interests at the expense of thousands of Arab and Jewish victims. In this way, anti-Zionist revolutionaries in Israel get the opportunity, better than any other in the past, to explain to the masses that the security of the Zionist state, rather than overlapping with the security of its population, is in reality, based on the perpetual abrogation of their security and on the sacrifices of the Jewish workers. The real interests of the latter lie in their participation in the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist (hence, anti Zionist) struggles which are being waged by the toiling Arab masses. For it is not possible for the Jewish workers to have any political class consciousness without its being directly anti-Zionist.
The student movement today stands in the forefront of the struggles throughout the Arab area, as has happened in other parts of the world. From the Maghreb to the Arab-Iranian Gulf, passing through Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, the youth in education have been in the midst of a political ferment and they are facing the repression of the existing regimes. As for the working masses, they have not yet waged generalised struggles, except for some partial and sectoral ones. It will not be long before they spring forward, as has been demonstrated recently by the increase of social and national struggles in Lebanon, the Arab country most effected by the world capitalist crisis.
The Arab revolution needs today, more than at any time before, a leadership that is up to the level of its tasks. Only a proletarian leadership can provide these conditions. The building of this leadership is, thus, the main goal of revolutionaries in the Arab region. The construction of such a leadership requires, as a preliminary step, a complete evaluation of all the politically anti-imperialist tendencies in the Arab region.
BUILDING THE ARAB REVOLUTIONARY LEADERSHIP
17. The Arab nationalist current, in its bourgeois and petit-bourgeois manifestations, has not succeeded in producing a firm and historically stable leadership for the Arab revolution. Nasser’s immense personal prestige was not enough by itself to lead the masses of the Arab nation. This prestige, moreover, after reaching its height in 1958, was sharply challenged; rivals appeared on the same nationalist ground. The only organisation loyal to Nasserism on an all-Arab scale was the Movement of Arab Nationalists, whose fate is eloquent enough. The radicalisation of the movement in the 1960s, under the impact of the shift to the left by the Nasserite regime in Egypt, culminated after June 1967 in the majority of this originally anti-Marxist movement repudiating its Nasserite allegiance and evolving toward Marxism. If Nasserism has a prophet, it has left no Koran (coherent ideology) and, as is shown by the evolution of Egypt since Nasser’s death in 1970, can have no caliph. Although the Baathist movement grew out of a party, unlike Nasserism, which was the outgrowth of a regime, it presented still less cohesion. The anti-imperialist nationalist ideology of the Baath party and its vague socialism could attract partisans in various social layers, and all the more so because the Arab Stalinist movement had deserted the field of national struggles. As long as the Baath was an opposition party, it could preserve its unity. But once confronted with the concrete problems of power, the diversity of its social composition was to lead inevitably to splits. The most important was the one that opened up in 1963 between the traditionalist section grouped around the founders and historic leaders of the Baath, and a young radicalised tendency influenced by the Nasserite regime’s turn to the left. The former tendency continued along the trajectory set by the Baath in its first years of participation in the Syrian government. A right-wing tendency in the service of the bourgeoisie, it opposed all anti-bourgeois measures in the name of the priority of nationalism over socialism. But it also made deals with imperialism, as shown by its relations with the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1963. This tendency was distinguished most of all by its Anti-Communism. It took part in the repression of Communists in Syria at the time of the Syrian-Egyptian union in 1958. In 1963, it conducted a campaign of extermination against the Communists in Iraq. In 1968, it organised the reactionary coup aimed once more at liquidating the Communists and above all the left-wing faction of the Iraqi Communist Party, which was attracted to armed struggle. Discredited by its attitude of objective support to Hussein at the time of the 1970 massacres in Jordan, the Iraqi Baath’ists regime tried to restore its nationalist facade in June 1972 by nationalizing with compensation) some of the IPC concessions, a measure that caused the imperialists no annoyance since it was counterbalanced by increased oil production in the concessions that were retained (Basrah Petroleum Company), which, moreover, were more profitable.
Since then the Iraqi government has benefitted from the “oil war” started after October 1973. It has extended oil nationalisations to cover all petroleum production in Iraq except for French imperialism’s shares which were left intact. The directions of these nationalisations uncover the real nature of the Baathist dictatorship, which represents the interests of the Iraqi bourgeoisie: as they endeavour to maximise their profits by taking advantage of the changing balance of power between the oil producers and world imperialism, they also strive to develop their economic relations with European imperialisms (especially France) and Japan, as they are against American imperialism for historic reasons (on the 17th of June, 1968, the pro-American wing of those who had participated in the latest Baathist coup, were deposed).
On the Kurdish front, the Iraqi Baathists had signed in 1970 a truce agreement with the bourgeoisie and semi-feudal leadership of the Kurdish national liberation movement. Thus it was left unhampered to confront the workers movement. Today, the period of truce has come to an end and the government must grant the Kurds the self-government it had promised them. The reality is that the national-bourgeois Baathist dictatorship cannot find a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem. War is thus inevitable, no matter how long it is postponed.
The other tendency of the Baath party, including various petit-bourgeois layers and even a proletarian faction seized full control of the government in Syria following the ouster of the right-wing nationalist tendency of the Baath in 1966. It took a series of radical measures against the Syrian big bourgeoisie and initiated a policy of anti-imperialist offensives. But social divisions appeared within this tendency, and although the workers militias supported the regime, they were dissolved. The left petit-bourgeois team was overthrown in its turn in 1970 by the right wing which, basing itself on the state apparatus, then set about restoring the bourgeois interests. The failure of the left tendency of Baath shows clearly that only a dictatorship of the proletariat, breaking up the bourgeois state, can take up the construction of a society liberated irreversibly from the bourgeoisie and imperialism. The defeat of this tendency in June 1967 had already shown the limitations of an anti-imperialism not based on a mobilisation of the working masses. This is one more illustration of the Trotskyist lessons on the permanent revolution.
18. The leading role played by the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois teams in the anti-imperialist national struggles of the Arab masses, the radicalisation of whole sections of the nationalist movement and their evolution towards adopting a confused “Marxism” while remaining in a nationalist framework would be a perfectly understandable phenomena if no Communist workers parties existed. But the fact is that the Communist parties are amongst the oldest political organisations in the Arab region, coming well before the Baath and Nasserism. This paradox is explained by the total default of these parties in the area of national struggles.
Formed at the height of Stalinism, the Arab Communist arties were always strictly subordinated to the diplomacy of the Kremlin. They paid the price of this servility, which sometimes cost them mass defections, by periods of total political isolation. Thus, in the aftermath of the Comintern shift in 1935 and particularly during the second world war the Soviet bureaucracy’s policy of an alliance with Western “democracies” had the corollary in the Arab ‘region of the communists abandoning struggles for independence directed against the Kremlin’s imperialist allies. In 1948, following in the footsteps of Moscow, the Communist parties made an agonising revision of their former anti-Zionist attitude and all approved the formation of the state of-Israel, denouncing the Arab counterattack that it provoked. This position wiped out all the prestige that the Soviet victory over Nazism lent the Arab Communist movement. In order to defend it, the Arab Stalinist theoreticians developed a series of ultrasectarian theses on the national question that strongly marked the Communist parties. This sectarianism took on clearly reactionary dimensions in the case of the Maghreb sections of the French Communist parties, which on several occasions condemned the national liberation movements in their region, as, for example, the Algerian Communist Party condemned the armed struggle for independence initiated in 1945.
The sectarian failure to understand the national question disarmed the Arab Communist parties, and above all the Syrian Communist Party, in their opposition to the Syrian-Egyptian union of 1958, which was in part directed against them. Instead of waging its democratic struggle in the framework of the union, the Syrian CP opposed the union as such, which isolated it completely from the Syrian masses and facilitated the repression that fell on it. Likewise, in opposing the union for the sake of supporting General Kassem, the Iraqi Communist Party lost a considerable part of its influence to the nationalists. In all these positions, the Arab Stalinist movement placed itself at the opposite pole of the nationalist movement, denigrating the national aspirations of the Arab masses in the name of a so-called class attitude, totally overlooking the revolutionary potential of the question of Arab unity. Furthermore, the Stalinists never demonstrated their class attitude against the Arab bourgeois regimes, defining their positions not on the basis of the class nature of these regimes but on the basis of the relations of each with the USSR.
The example of Iraq is most instructive in this regard. The Iraqi Communist Party mobilised its supporters to support the bourgeois bonapartist Kassem regime that came out of the 1958 coup d’etat. Instead of orientating the mass of the workers toward seizing power during the revolutionary situation that convulsed Iraq in 1959, the Communist Party did everything possible to divert the popular mobilisation into supporting the Bonaparte. The reward for this servility, besides the beginning of anti-Communist repression under Kassem, was the reactionary coup d’etat of 1963, which, two years before the Indonesian tragedy, reaped thousands of victims amongst the Communists. In 1964, ignoring this clear lesson, the Egyptian Stalinists dissolved their organisation to enter the Arab Socialist Union, the political umbrella of Nasser’s bonapartist dictatorship. In 1969, the Sudanese Communists gave their support to Nimeiry’s coup d’etat; two years later he was to murder their principal leaders.
Thus, in the course of the last fifteen years, the Arab communist parties have several times underlined in the blood of their martyrs the teachings of revolutionary Marxism on the need to maintain a class attitude of no confidence in all bourgeois regimes, for maintaining the independence of the working class and arming it. These lessons will be assimilated by the Arab proletarian vanguard; by the Stalinists – never! Even today they are participating in the bourgeois restorationist government in Syria as well as in the Baathist dictatorship in Iraq.
Also in Algeria, the Stalinists are preparing to disband their organisation in a national liberation front, a party for the bureaucratic-bourgeois dictatorship of Boumedienne.
The balance sheet of the Arab Stalinist movement shows complete bankruptcy. Since 1967, the four largest Arab Communist parties have undergone splits — the CP’s of Iraq, Sudan, Jordan and Syria. This crisis of Arab Stalinism is an integral part of the crisis of world Stalinism. The failure of the USSR’s Arab policy — which became evident in the deterioration of its relations with Egypt, its former favoured ally — can only aggravate this crisis.
19. The radicalisation in progress in the Arab region in the 1960s was considerably accelerated by June 1967. Under the impact of the defeat of the Arab armies, large sections of the youth — especially among the petit-bourgeois ranks of the nationalist movement — became disillusioned with the so-calledd “progressive” Arab regimes and evolved toward revolutionary Marxist positions. Bourgeois and petit-bourgeois anti-imperialism had failed lamentably; on the other hand, the Vietnamese revolution was showing that only a proletarian course could effectively combat imperialism. Inspired by these examples, tendencies claiming to be Marxist-Leninist formed in the Palestinian, Lebanese and North and South Yemeni sections of the Movement of Arab Nationalists and soon broke with the right-wing tendencies. But the “Marxism” of these tendencies was strongly marked by its spontaneous character. Rejecting the Stalinist movement, they were unable to develop a coherent revolutionary strategy that could stand as an alternative to Stalinism, and based their general slogans on a superficial theoretical eclecticism. The organisations of the radicalised petit-bourgeoisie that were formed on this basis displayed centrist-type political behaviour, vacillating according to the circumstances between a reformism close to Stalinism and ultraleftist positions. Moreover, under the influence of the Stalinist model, these organisations departed from the conception of a Pan-Arab party practised by the movement from which they came, resting content with mere solidarity among independent regional groups.
As long as the Palestinian Resistance was in its ascendent phase, the groups in the Near East stood on a generally revolutionary line. But with the decline of the Resistance after 1970 they degenerated, coming to stabilise on right-wing opportunist positions. As for the South Yemeni branch of the Movement of Arab Nationalists, the National Liberation Front of South Yemen — whose left faction has been in power since 1969 when it ousted the rightist faction — it has carried out a series of radical anti-imperialist and anti-bourgeois measures unleashing a process of permanent revolution. But, under the pressure of imperialism and the Moscow and Peking bureaucracies, this leadership recently began a right turn, accepting a treaty of union with North Yemen, which has a reactionary semi-feudal regime dominated by imperialism. Since that time, this treaty has remained unimplemented. However, the political lull that prevails in South Yemen allows for the possibility of a stabilisation of its right wing political shift. At any event this right turn has not, up to now, been expressed on the social and economic levels.
For some years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf has been waging a heroic struggle against the puppet sultanate of Oman and British imperialism, but it has still not succeeded in extending the guerilla war to other regions of the Gulf. It is clear, moreover, that any struggle confined to the Arab Gulf can not hope by its own strength alone to liberate the (very small) population of this area, to drive imperialism from the part of the World from which it draws its greatest profits. This is the task that will have to be accomplished by the Arab revolution as a whole.
Among the “new vanguards” that have appeared in the Arab region, we should also note the “Central’ Command” wing of the Iraqi Communist Party and the Israeli Socialist Organisation (Matzpen). Following the split in the Iraqi Communist Party, the left fraction was attracted to a foquista experience in the south of the country. But the fierce repression that struck it following the Baathist coup of July 1968 completely shattered it. Since then, groups outside of Iraq calling themselves the “Central Command” have slipped into ultra-Maoist-type positions as regards the USSR, while maintaining their Stalinist strategy of revolution by stages.
In the 1960s, the Israeli Socialist Organisation (Matzpen) was a quasi-united front grouping of anti-Zionist revolutionary tendencies rejecting the adaptation of the Israeli Communist Party to Zionism, which in differing degrees characterizes both its factions (Maki and Rakah). Under the pressure of some of its members who were affiliated to the Fourth International and carried forward the heritage of the Trotskyist group formed in Palestine in the 1930s and disbanded after 1948, “Matzpen” adopted a series of advanced revolutionary positions. After June 1967, the organisation underwent the same experience as the Arab and international left in general, with its perceptible increase in numbers and political weight. But the relative ebb of the Arab revolutionary movement after 1970 had its impact on the membership. A series of splits culminated in the original group’s breaking up into its different tendencies - various types of spontaneists, Lambertists and Trotskyists. The IS0-Matzpen Marxist (sympathising section of the Fourth International) is the only one today to advance a dialectical conception of the interrelation between the Arab revolution and the class struggles in Israel, as well as the Leninist corollary of this — the need for building a revolutionary proletarian party for the entire Arab region, a task assumed by the Israeli Trotskyists together with all of the Arab Trotskyists.
20. In several Arab countries, Trotskyist nuclei are developing, although in some cases they are still in the embryonic stages. This represents an important advance for the Fourth International in a region where up till now it had almost no foothold. The Trotskyist militants of the Arab region —including those in Israel — are working towards founding an Arab section of the Fourth International.
Their struggle to build a revolutionary communist party for the entire Arab nation arises from their analysis of the Arab national question and the interaction of the revolutionary struggles throughout the Arab region.
The interaction of revolutionary struggles in the world’s large cultural and geographical blocks is a conspicuous phenomenon in our time. The extraordinary development of the means of communication and exchange since the second world war paralleling the increasing integration of all the world’s economies by imperialism has greatly changed the conditions of struggle by comparison with those at the start of the century. This evolution is moving in the direction of stronger international centralisation of revolutionary struggles, reinforcing the Leninist conception of the International, and also of greater coordination of struggles at the level, of the great regions of the globe (Western Europe, Latin America, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, etc.), as has been illustrated by the experience of OLAS and the Indochinese Revolutionary Front. Moreover, the imperialists and the bourgeoisies with world-wide interests are ahead of revolutionists in this field, since they already have their organs of regional military, political, and economic coordination, as the case may be (NATO, the EEC, the OAS, SEATO, etc.).
In the Arab region, the national factor — above all the language — gives rise to a close interdependence of the Arab countries, which since the middle of this century has been demonstrated by the creation of the Arab League, the holding of summit conferences of the heads of Arab states, as well as the work of the various organs of inter-Arab cooperation in different fields, to say nothing of attempts at Arab unification. This interdependence cannot fail to have its repercussions on the revolutionary struggles that are already running up against joint repression by the Arab ruling classes and will do so increasingly in the future.
Besides the real, close interaction of the situations in the Arab countries, the centrality of the task of national unification in the programme of the Arab revolution means that simply coordinating struggles on an all-Arab level is not enough but must be complimented by a unity of political positions on key events, as well as unity in action on the common themes of the struggle. The petit-bourgeois Arab nationalist organisations have already understood the necessity of such unity.
It is essential to centralise the Arab revolutionary struggles. Only a proletarian party can achieve a lasting unification on an all-Arab scale, since it would represent the only one of the social classes in the Arab countries that does not have locally competing interests. Only the Trotskyist movement, the heir of the Bolshevik programme and the sole representative of the historic interests of the world working class as a whole can achieve such a proletarian centralisation of revolutionary struggles on an all-Arab scale. The spontaneists and the centrists are incapable of it, because they have no coherent programme. The Stalinists refuse to do it, since, not wanting to oppose the interests of the bourgeoisies of their countries, they are in bondage to them.
The Trotskyist militants of the Arab region take on the task of building a revolutionary communist party to lead the Arab proletariat. Only such a party can lead this oppressed and divided nation towards achieving the fundamental tasks of the Arab revolution and linking up with the world revolution in the framework provided by the Fourth International.
Organisations belonging to the Fourth International in the Arab region.
Date of completion of final draft: March 1974.