The Intifada of Class Unity or that of the Sacred Union?

A further Statement by Circolo Internazionalista (May 24, 2021)

«It is still too early to draw up an exhaustive balance sheet of recent events in Palestine, however, it is already possible to sketch an outline.

Since the U.S. of the Trump administration recognized the Israeli claim to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state three years ago, the maneuvers and prodigious actions of the Israeli bourgeoisie to annex East Jerusalem have had a marked increase: new and massive settlements of Israeli settlers around areas inhabited by Palestinians; daily provocations, insults, assaults by far-right groups claiming to want to “purify” East Jerusalem of “Arabs” and their mosques, including Al-Aqsa; deliberations by Israeli courts rediscovering Jewish “property rights” on land on which 27 Palestinian families have been settled for more than 60 years and ruling on their eviction; and, most recently, the provocative closure by Israeli police of access to Muslim prayer sites during Ramadan. It is very probable that with the intensification of these bullying actions, which could not fail to trigger a reaction from the Palestinians, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to divert public opinion and the “opposition” parties in Israel from their difficulties, recomposing them under the sacred union for the defense against the historic “external enemy”. In this, Netanyahu’s game was completely successful. All he had to do was wait.»

The violence of the Israeli settlers and police in Sheik Jarrah and on the esplanade of the mosques against the Palestinian protests were under everyone’s eyes, and it would not have been easy for the Israeli bourgeoisie to present itself to world public opinion as a victim rather than an aggressor. Among other things, an unprecedented fact, Israel’s arrogance has awakened an Arab-Israeli proletariat that for more than 70 years has been living as second-class citizens, with second-class salaries, and whose language since a few years is no longer recognized as official by the Israeli state – now de jure, as well as de facto, a state “of the Jewish people” – an Arab-Israeli proletariat that in Israel, first among other social strata, is paying the heaviest burden of the costs of the economic crisis that accompanied the global pandemic.

We do not know if the Israeli government had foreseen the protests at home. But it had certainly counted on an effect – due as much to the internal struggles among the fractions of the Palestinian bourgeoisie as to the inter-imperialist maneuvers in the region: the intervention of Hamas.

After wresting control of the Gaza Strip from rival Fatah 15 years ago in a bloody civil war, Hamas, a party that in its 1988 charter read:

“The enemy has planned for a long time what he has then actually succeeded in accomplishing, taking into account all the elements that have historically determined the course of events. He has accumulated enormous material wealth, a source of influence that he has devoted to realizing his dream. With this money, he took control of the world’s media, for example, news agencies, large newspapers, publishing houses and radio and television chains. With this money, he started revolutions in different parts of the world with the purpose of satisfying his interests and making other forms of profit. These enemies of ours were behind the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution, and many of the revolutions we have heard about, here and there in the world. It is with money that they formed secret organizations in the world, to destroy society and promote Zionist interests.”

Hamas seems more and more willing to extend its control also on the West Bank, ousting the “old trombones” of the Palestinian Authority, whose detachment from the Palestinian masses is more and more evident every day.

By launching its homemade rockets against Tel Aviv, Hamas has obtained two political results: to accredit itself to the Palestinians of all the territories as the only political force capable of preparing a military defense against Israeli oppression, as opposed to the inertia or worse to the “collaborationism” of Fatah; to strengthen, under the ferocious bombardments of Israel that have produced about 250 deaths of which 61 children, the internal consensus in Gaza and cement it in hatred.

It is evident that although ballistically they were aimed at Israel, where they killed 12 people, including two Thai and two Arab-Israeli workers, the 4300 rockets that left Gaza (90% of which were intercepted in flight) were politically directed against the former PLO in East Jerusalem where, significantly, Hamas flags were seen waving.

From these quarrels between Palestinian bourgeois fractions, so putrid as to use the massacred civilians as political card, Israeli imperialism and its current head of government undoubtedly benefit, who can once again count as much on international diplomatic support for its “defensive” military measures against the prodigious attack on its citizens, as on a “brilliant” victory against the “enemies of the homeland” to be exhibited for the use of internal political opposition.

As usual, other regional powers try to put their dirty hands into this mill, which have always used the misery and the anger of the Palestinian masses for their influence games, as well as the imperialist centers that contend for the Middle East chessboard. While bombs are flying in Palestine, negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on the nuclear issue are actually underway in Vienna. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to sell military supplies to Israel – the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East, determined to maintain the atomic primacy in the region – and does not seem willing, despite the change of administration, to recede from the open pro-Israel imbalance inaugurated by Trump. Iran, which, in addition to U.S. sanctions, is undergoing a series of attacks and sabotage by Israeli intelligence against engineers and nuclear installations, has collected Hamas’ thanks for supplying it with the technical components of its rockets: a public fawning over Tehran in the face of a mediocre investment. Taking advantage of its ties with Iran, with which it has stipulated a global cooperation agreement that provides for investments in exchange for oil at a favorable price, China proposes itself as an intermediary for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, historically putting an imperialistic foot in the Middle East. Turkey and Russia are obviously not strangers to these games, with results yet to be verified.

To sum up: in the Middle East the imperialist powers make use of regional powers that in turn use the fractions of the Palestinian bourgeoisie, which, for their part, exploit the suffering and the massacres of the Palestinian masses, the only ones who are still unable to make their voice heard independently.

Faced with this tragic and complex picture, we are deafened by the noisy superficiality of those who, at our latitudes, see on the one hand Israel as a monolithic bloc in which every distinction between exploited and exploiters, between working class and ruling bourgeoisie is erased, and on the other hand an equally monolithic Palestinian “people”, in which under the definition of “oppressed” any contrast of class interests, any objective assessment of the Palestinian social composition, any analysis of the power relations between classes at the regional level and any widening of the view on the international scene is lost.

An extreme superficiality may even lead one not to realize that the historic general strike of May 18th (which involved for the first time in 85 years also the Arab-Israeli workers) saw the parties, the cliques and the political consortia of the Palestinian bourgeoisie hesitate before joining it, not without immediately trying to put their “hat” on it. This is also evident from the leaflets distributed during and after the strike, one of which, signed “Palestinians of 1948”, states:

“This Intifada will be long, it will be an intifada of the deepest consciousness. We will sweep away the dross of submission and defeatism and forge generations to the courage and principle that Palestine is one. Anyone who exacerbates and remains devoted to divisions between social and political elites will be our enemy.”

It is hard not to notice that leaflets of this kind are not addressed to an audience unconnected with the internal conflicts of the Palestinian bourgeoisie. Just as it is difficult not to read in them a call for sacred union under the leadership of a unifying force – it is highly unlikely that we are referring to the Palestinian proletariat – which, if the identification of the former PLO, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah with the old “social and political elites” is valid, for the leaflet’s drafters could be represented by rival bourgeois “parties”.

Those who play around simplifying Marx’s or Lenin’s stances on the question of national self-determination, applying them sic et simpliciter to situations often only apparently similar to those they faced, only show that they know (approximately) the words of the song without knowing the music, that they mechanically reproduce the letter due to a lack of understanding of the method.

It is not on the basis of abstract considerations that we have reiterated our firm internationalist stance towards the conflict in Palestine. We did it on the basis of a materialistic evaluation of the strength of the Palestinian proletariat and of the Middle Eastern proletariat, of the strength of the Palestinian bourgeoisie and of the Israeli bourgeoisie, of the interests of the regional and imperialist powers in the area. We have therefore subordinated our evaluations to the only principle that guides us, which is not lowered from the hyper-uranium of theoretical purity but which is itself the distillation of the understanding of the fundamental laws of the capitalist mode of production: the immediate and historical interest of the working class.

It would be a pious wish to think that the Palestinian proletariat could lead an independent struggle confining itself to the level of national self-determination. A pious wish that in Palestine is denied by several decades of concrete facts. In Palestine the struggle against Israeli oppression passes through class independence and unity, not the other way around.

Our call for the necessity of the class unity of the Palestinian proletariat with the Israeli one – Arab and Jewish – and with that of the whole Middle East, does not deflect in the least when, in order to brand internationalism as “Utopian reverie”, we are confronted with news about the current subjection of the Israeli proletariat to the ideologies of its ruling class. We are well aware of the strength of nationalist ideology on both sides of the conflict, nourished and irrigated by almost centuries-old hatreds, difficult to eradicate and periodically revived. But while not having too many illusions about the ease of the task of the future class vanguards in the Middle East, we know that the opposition of class interests is destined to erupt blowing up any ideological envelope and we even consider impossible any other solution to the conflict that does not pass through the internationalist and revolutionary action of the proletariat of the whole region.

More than a hundred years ago, Antonio Labriola – in a context that was in many ways different – faced with a massacre of Italian proletarian immigrants by other French proletarians in Aigues-Mortes, (1) wrote:

“In such an outburst of offended patriotic feelings, in such an agitation of popular passions for the victims of Aigues-Mortes, the socialists cannot remain silent. To remain silent is like giving oneself the name of Utopians, who do not resist the impact of things, and at every unexpected case they are astonished.

We are reproached for the fact that while we announce and preach the universal brotherhood of the proletariat, and base the ideas and hopes of the International of Workers on it, we are then contradicted by the proletarians themselves, who for the sake of economic competition, and for the sake of deep-seated hatreds of nationhood, turn to barbaric acts of reprisal and violence, of which we had such a sad and recent example in France. We are blamed for being dreamers, because we consider ourselves the representatives and defenders of the proletariat, of the exploited, that is, of the wage-earners, and our representatives and defenders rebel against us, and reject our ideas and methods, not only with words, but rather with acts that seem to our adversaries a bitter and ferocious irony for us.

[…] The answer is ready, it is precise.

Above and around the barbarically slaughtered and the barbaric murderers of Aigues-Mortes, there is not only Italy on this side, France on the other, as two political systems, according to the poor and obvious sense of the word. Above the slaughtered and the slaughterers, as above France and Italy together, is the entire capitalist system, against which the acts and thoughts, the feelings and words of us socialists are directed.

[…] Aigues-Mortes does not deny, but rather confirms our ideas, gives us new impetus, justifies before the universal conscience the principle of our work. Now more than ever we can exclaim: “Wage-earning is a form of slavery; – wage-earning must end; – wage-earning will end”.

Nor have we ever claimed, that the Workers’ International is a beautiful and accomplished fact. If that were the case, the bourgeoisie with its economic and political systems would have long since passed into the world of the dead. The Workers’ International is a tendency which develops fatally from the contrasts and contradictions of the present economic system, and it draws nourishment and finds reinforcement from that system and in that system which seems to weaken its development or divert its path.

We socialists are its precursors.

[…] On the arduous road which we travel, we not only encounter the open opposition of the unarmed or armed supporters of the present economic order, but also the unawareness, ignorance, inconsistency, mutual antipathies, and mutual jealousies of the victims themselves, that is, of the exploited, that is, of the wage-earners. Such unawareness, ignorance, and inconsistency, such antipathies and jealousies, are the responsibility of the present holders of public power on behalf of the present economic system; and we know that without such weaknesses and passions of a part of the proletariat, the capitalist-bourgeois system would not stand a single day. […]

The classic exhortation: “Proletarians of the whole world, unite”, is not a precept of abstract morality, nor the announcement of a sudden, sudden, unconscious revolt. That motto is the enunciation of something that takes place and matures, of a fact that is done all the time, of a fact that continuously becomes.

With this consciousness in mind, we socialists are neither preachers of utopias, nor disseminators of discords; but from the present discords, which are neither our merit nor our fault, we draw advice and strength to fight the causes of every discord, so that every discord may end, with the cessation of the rule of one class over another, and with the cessation of the wage-earner.

And with such feelings and with such a spirit we also send our regrets to the victims of Aigues-Mortes; for those are for us, for us alone truly, the victims of the tragedy of labor.” (2)

If we really wanted to force ourselves to re-propose the “letter” of scientific socialism to the present situation, we would prefer to choose these words of Labriola, and we ask the reader, taking into account all the differences of context, to close his eyes for a moment and try to substitute for the word slaughtered: Palestinian proletarians; for the word slaughterers: fanatical Israeli proletarians; for the word Aigues-Mortes: Gaza and East Jerusalem.

We have nothing more to add.

Rostrum, Circolo internazionalista “coalizione operaia” (Internationalist Circle “workers’ coalition”), May 24, 2021.

Source: L’INTIFADA DELL’UNITÀ DI CLASSE O QUELLA DELL’UNION SACRÈE? 

Translated by H.C., May 30, 2021.

Notes:

1 For a reference, see: Massacre of Italians at Aigues-Mortes (Wikipedia). [Editor’s note]

2 A. Labriola, Aigues-Mortes e l’Internazionale, in Scritti filosofici e politici, Einaudi, 1973, Vol. II, pp. 189-191.

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