‘Circolo internazionalista’ on the proletarian perspective in the Middle East
Among the statements that have come to our attention on the latest escalation in the barbaric ‘Israeli-Palestinian’ conflict issued by a diversity of groups who lay claim to proletarian internationalism, we want to highlight one for its focus on an aspect of the situation that crucially differs from the previous rounds or ‘cycles’ in this seemingly perpetual imperialist stand-off: the mobilization of Arab Israelis, including strikes and demonstrations, not only in solidarity against the brutal maneuvers of the Israeli state in East Jerusalem, on the West Bank and against the Gaza strip, but also in defense to state sponsored repression and terrorism directed against themselves in the heart of the country.
The following article by the Internationalist Circle – “workers’ coalition” from Rome (Italy) on what may be regarded as a key factor to ending the bloody impasse: the refusal to follow any of the nationalist flags and the search for proletarian solidarity across religious, ethnic and national divides, has been written on the eve of the US-sponsored “truce” of Friday 21st.
For an internationalist strike in Palestine and throughout the Middle East
On May 18, a general strike of Palestinian workers was proclaimed in the whole territory of pre-1948 Palestine, “from the Jordan to the sea”, therefore from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including the territory of the State of Israel. The strike therefore also involved Arab workers with Israeli citizenship.
Several newspapers have noted that such a thing has not happened for 85 years, that is, since the Palestinian uprising of 1936-1938 against Zionist colonization and against the British mandate, under the substantial protection of which colonization was advancing powerfully, with economic and military violence.
The general strike of two days ago, proclaimed in response to the attacks and lynchings by the Israeli “black hundreds” squads and to the violence of the Israeli police against the protests triggered by the evictions of Sheikh Jarrah, seems to have had a good response in Israel, where construction sites, transports (50% of transporters are Arab-Israeli), mines, medical staff (23% of nurses and 21% of doctors are Arab-Israeli) have stopped. The protest has spread to other social strata, several public employees did not show up to work and Arab stores either declared a lockout or were forced to do so by striking workers.
This strike, occasioned by the conflict arising from the events in East Jerusalem, is part of a situation in which the combination of pandemic and economic crisis has suddenly increased the unemployment rate in Israel, as well as the deficit of the State, which has burned the last ten years of efforts to repair it. Arab-Israelis, who make up about 20% of Israel’s population, are those who have paid the price of the crisis the most: many proletarians, but also intermediate layers and petty bourgeoisie. An estimated 500,000 small businesses have gone bankrupt throughout Israel.
Unfortunately, it seems that the parallel with the general strike of 1936 is apt, especially because of its possible dangerous consequences. In fact, it is news of a few hours ago that hundreds of Arab-Israeli workers are receiving via WhatsApp messages notification of their dismissal by Israeli companies: “You’re fired” read most of the messages laconically. In others, the reason is also explained: “You are not loyal to Israel”.
In 1936, in the presence of a strong immigration of capital and Jewish labor from Europe, especially from Nazi Germany and strongly anti-Semitic Poland, the Zionist organizations in Palestine – unofficial but parallel administration of the British mandate – took advantage of the general strike of the Palestinians, not only to nip in the bud any bourgeois-democratic direction of the national movement, but also and above all to increase the marginalization and segregation of the Arab proletariat, in line with the policy of “Jewish labor” also carried out by the Jewish ethnic-based corporate union Histadrut. At the time, the strike started from the workers of the port of Jaffa, and it was precisely then that the development of the modern port of Tel Aviv began, which completely supplanted the former.
From the point of view of the “ethnic purification” of Israel, a loss of socio-economic importance of Israeli citizens of Arab origin, in addition to the already present elements of discrimination at a political-legal level, might not come entirely to harm the capitalist needs in Israel, which today can count both on a certain availability of immigrant labor from Asian countries (India and Thailand among the first) with very low wage levels, and on the poorest and most discriminated against strata of Jewish society itself: the mizrahì and falasciah, the Jews whose ancestry comes from Arab countries and Ethiopia.
That’s why the connection of the Palestinian and Arab-Israeli proletarians with the Jewish and immigrant proletariat acquires fundamental importance. The union of the Palestinian workers of the West Bank and Gaza with the Arab-Israelis can be a first significant step towards union with the entire proletariat of the region, including the Jewish proletariat. Only by working in this direction will it be possible to build a force comparable to that expressed, for example, by the Canton-Hong Kong general strike of 1925 against British rule in China, the longest strike in the history of the labor movement (it ended in the spring of the following year). The difference is that then the British proletariat was far behind. Not so in Israel.
On the other hand, it is important that the Palestinian strike does not take on the characteristics of the 1974 Belfast general strike – albeit in reverse – that is, those of a working class mobilization on ethnic and denominational lines for the use and consumption of the bourgeoisie.
Strikes, in certain situations, can become as much a weapon of the bourgeoisie as missiles and rockets. However, they represent and will always represent a double-edged weapon for the bourgeoisie that, especially when it is weak, wields it with caution and only if it is forced to. Indeed, this is what has happened in Palestine in recent days, where, faced with an initiative that seems to have come directly from workers’ committees, the Arab-Israeli party Ra’am hesitated before joining, as did the other bourgeois parties: Fatah, Hamas and the Islamic Movement.
The strike is still a specific instrument of struggle of the working class and a bourgeoisie that encourages it risks the fate of the sorcerer’s apprentice. This is exactly what we would like to see in Palestine – in the material impossibility of directly influencing events – hoping that the general strike of last May 18 can represent a first breeding ground for workers’ vanguards that question the bourgeois nationalist control of the struggle, so that the next strikes will be authentically “general”, i.e. involving all workers in the region. This is the only terrain on which the encounter and class unity with the Israeli proletariat for the revolutionary resolution of the Palestinian national question is possible.
The solutions proposed by liberals, pacifists, internationalists with confused ideas, would like the unity and struggle of the Middle Eastern proletariat to aim at a secular, bi-national state with equal rights in Palestine. All this is very nice, but it is also decidedly Utopian on the one hand and too little on the other.
Utopian, if one believes it is possible that the Israeli bourgeoisie is willing to even contemplate giving up without defending tooth and nail a “Jewish state” that preserves the ethnic dominance of a minority over the demographics of the Arabs.
Too little, if one believes that when the Middle Eastern proletariat manages to coalesce on class lines against the national bourgeoisies it will have content itself with half solutions. The mountain of revolutionary mobilization of the working class should give birth to the mouse (1) of the national bourgeois arrangement.
All those who recognize themselves in authentic proletarian internationalism cannot but welcome the mobilization of the Palestinian and Arab-Israeli working class, but this does not mean subordinating careful and lucid observation to enthusiasm for the event or making desire the father of thought. We can’t afford it, out of respect for a working class that needs clarity and seriousness in order to recover. We – and those who, like us, recognize themselves in an internationalism that is neither watered down, nor abstract, nor over-principled – strive to propose a class orientation, in recognition of the concrete historical determinations of the Palestinian proletarian condition and its relationship with other classes, with states and with imperialist powers – working within the limits of our feeble forces so that this orientation can reach as many workers as possible in Italy and in the rest of the world. This presupposes a basic respect for our potential interlocutors, to whom we are submitting a reasoning, not the pandering tickling of emotions, good for gathering easy and immediate but not very solid consensus.
We do not allow the fruits of the struggle of the proletariat in Palestine to be reaped by the Palestinian and Israeli bourgeoisie. We reason in terms of classes, of proletariat and bourgeoisie, not of generic oppressed, a definition not devoid of ambiguity that in the past has also been used by the bourgeoisie to cover more than one vileness.
The flag of the so-called oppressed is that of the exploited, and it has only one color all over the world: red. Like the blood that the working class periodically sheds in war and daily spits in the galley of wage labor, of all nations, ethnicities, religions and skin colors.
Rostrum, Circolo internazionalista “coalizione operaia” (Internationalist Circle “Coalition of Workers”), May 20, 2021.
Source: LA MONTAGNA PROLETARIA E IL SORCIO BORGHESE – Per uno sciopero internazionalista in Palestina e in tutto il Medio Oriente
Translation: H.C., May 21, 2021
1 Original text: “sorcetto”.