Stop the Gaza Genocide!

Marxism & the Struggle for Palestinian Liberation

27 November 2023

The Israeli government insists that Tel Aviv’s current, relentless and brutal bombing campaign against the inhabitants of the Gaza strip is a “war against Hamas” that was initiated by the attack on Israeli territory on 7 October. This ignores at least 75 years of history. Between the start of 2023 and 7 October, Israel had already killed 237 Palestinians—business-as-usual for the apartheid state during periods of “ceasefire.” This trickle of near daily killings—“mowing the lawn” as Israeli state strategists sickeningly call it—passes by with little to no coverage in the media.

The attack by the Hamas-led coalition of Palestinian fighters, which destroyed border posts, flew paragliders across razor wire and seized territory within Israel, was clearly a response to the mounting number of Palestinian casualties and likely aimed to hinder the process of diplomatic normalization between Israel and the Gulf States that is threatening Gaza’s financial lifelines. It unexpectedly pushed Israel’s southern command all the way back to the city of Ofakim in the east, perhaps the most significant Palestinian tactical victory since the second intifada forced Ariel Sharon into a withdrawal from the Gaza strip in 2005. The military coalition consisted of Hamas, the more fundamentalist Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Iranian-aligned Popular Resistance Committees, the Stalinist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Maoist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other minor nationalist and Islamist groups. Following 7 October, the Palestinian fighters were pushed back into Gaza itself, their likely objective being to coax Israel into a ground assault against pre-prepared positions, which is now under way.

Marxists unequivocally defend the Palestinians against Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and seek to promote joint Arab-Jewish working-class struggle as the only way to destroy the Zionist state from within. We therefore reject the taking of civilian hostages and indeed any deliberate targeting of civilians, as such an approach harms the struggle for Palestinian liberation by undermining prospects of solidarity between the Arab and Jewish working-class. Israel, which has no qualms itself about deliberately killing Palestinian civilians en masse, has sought to milk the civilian casualties from 7 October for all they are worth, embellishing the events with doctored images of children’s blood, lurid tales of beheaded babies and accusations of mass rape. It is undeniable that many unarmed civilians were deliberately killed in Kibbutzim across southern Israel. These were not the semi-militarized and New York-accented settlers of the West Bank, whose deaths no revolutionary would mourn, but inhabitants of generations-old Jewish villages, some of which predate the Nakba. However, many of the allegedly innocent victims of Hamas’ incursion were soldiers on Israeli bases and thus legitimate military targets, or were actually killed by Israel’s response units attempting to solve hostage situations with tank rounds.

Israel’s propaganda machine, together with the compliant press of its imperialist patrons, has manufactured widespread, albeit shaky, support for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in Gaza. The ground had already been prepared by decades spent dehumanizing the Palestinians and reporting on their deaths as the unfortunate results of Palestinian aggression against Israel. Each Israeli death is to be avenged a hundredfold in a policy of collective retribution for all perceived crimes, including that of living on (valuable) land that has been “promised by God.” Western allies and their media repeat absurd Israeli lies, such as that the explosion at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was caused by a Palestinian rocket, and have offered only the most token and empty criticism of the push for genocide. Israel’s plan seems to be either the mass resettlement of Gazans in the Sinai, if possible, or cramming them into southern Gaza, letting as many die in the process as possible—the kind of ethnic cleansing which was once the program of only the most fascistic Zionist parties like Kach. Already footage has emerged of massive forced marches of bomb-shocked Palestinians southward through rubble-strewn streets. The United States has given its regional enforcer intelligence, drone support and four times its usual yearly contribution in just one month, and has readied its military for confrontation with Iran should it intervene.

Around the world, millions of protesters have gathered to oppose the Israeli occupation and bombing campaign, including marches in the hundreds of thousands in several major cities. Perhaps more significantly, there have been militant actions against Western imperialist aid to Israel, including blockades of factories owned by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems and the partial blocking of a US military supply ship bound for Israel in Tacoma, Washington, which was loaded by navy personnel after longshoremen refused. Trade unionists in Belgium, Australia and Spain have called for transport workers to refuse to handle military shipments bound for Israel. Most union leaders have, however, restricted themselves to issuing statements begging imperialist states to broker a ceasefire or promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which advocates personal consumer choice, corporate goodwill and imperialist sanctions instead of militant strikes at harbors, airports and other strategic points.

Western imperialist governments have not taken the prospect of mass working-class action against their Middle East gendarme lying down, as the ruling class has responded by drastically curtailing civil liberties with a sharp turn towards authoritarianism. France’s Interior Ministry instructed local forces to ban all anti-Zionist protests, although the country’s highest administrative court later softened this directive into the authority to enact bans on a case-by-case basis. In Britain, Rishi Sunak’s government unsuccessfully urged police to ban the waving of Palestinian flags as well as the pro-Palestine rally on Remembrance Day lest it jeopardize the usual bourgeois military pageantry. The Metropolitan Police knew they would be unable to enforce a banned demonstration, but have become increasingly heavy handed at each protest, with a smattering of arrests for placards and books deemed unsuitable. Germany has issued bans, with riot police deployed to arrest anti-Zionist protesters—including many Jews—on the basis of laws against antisemitism, and has outlawed the Samidoun network that supports Palestinian prisoners in Israel. While it is certainly true that antisemitic groups should be rooted out of such marches by the workers’ movement, bogus charges of “hatred of Jews” are becoming the tip of the spear for bourgeois states eager to suppress the basic rights to assemble and express political views. Accusations of antisemitism are being leveled to torpedo the careers of any mildly critical politician in a manner eerily similar to the circus show that helped bring down British social democrat Jeremy Corbyn in 2020.

The brutality of Israel, the clear complicity of Western imperialist states, the amplitude of the global protests against genocide in Gaza and the unsuccessful suppression of those protests have created the potential for a mass radicalization of workers in the West, particularly in immigrant communities. The fate of the Palestinian people hangs in the balance, but the implications are broader, as the world has now been drawn into the conflict. Understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict and being able to pose a way forward is vitally important for the international workers’ movement.

Left Zionism & Liberal Pacifism

While many liberals, union bureaucrats and social democrats were swept up in the propaganda blitz that followed the 7 October raid, thankfully few socialist organizations have swallowed the absurd Zionist lie that all opposition to Israel’s actions is antisemitic. One dishonorable exception is the US-based Socialist Workers Party, which equates even support for a so-called “humanitarian pause” with antisemitism and cheers on the Israeli military by asserting that “Israel’s irrefutable response is that an end must be put to Hamas as a threat to annihilate the Jews. Hamas is responsible for what is unfolding” (“themilitant.com, 6 November 2023!”). This is little more than repetition of Israel’s own state propaganda with a sprinkling of words like “working class” to help it down the gullet.

The British-based Alliance for Workers’ Liberty also takes the side of Israel:

“The Israel of today, not just a future internationalist Israel, has a right to defend itself against attacks like 7 October, and to seek to disable and deter the attackers, as well as against being totally wiped out.…
“There is no equivalent “right to defend itself” for the revanchist theocratic-fascist movement Hamas.”
workersliberty.org, 22 November 2023

A little more common on the left is a softness on (or resignation in the face of) Zionism, reflected in the call for a two-state “solution.” If two bourgeois states with equal rights were possible, then one might have expected even some degree of real progress towards a Palestinian state since the Oslo accords or the “Roadmap to Peace.” No progress has been made because Israel, which currently and by orders of magnitude has the military upper hand, has no intention of recognizing the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, and the competing bourgeois leaderships of the Palestinians are incapable of rallying the social forces necessary to establish an independent state. The vast imbalance of power between Palestinian and Israeli capitalism means that for the foreseeable future Israel will be able to subvert any remaining Palestinian territorial rights through settlerism and controlling Palestinian politics through compliant pawns like the Palestinian Authority. All Israeli military withdrawals from Palestinian territory, such as from parts of the West Bank over the 1990s and from Gaza in 2005, have been followed either by redeployments or a state of siege. The pipe dream of a two-state solution only provides cover for the Israeli government to kill or displace the very people who would constitute the populace of an independent Palestine.

The demand for a ceasefire, which has been promoted by the majority of liberal and reformist groups concerned by Israel’s assault on Gaza, has grown in popularity among layers of the working class rightly horrified at the slaughter. Yet it is a pacifist demand that abstracts from the military balance of power, the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians and the geopolitical context. Marxists, too, want Israel’s killing of Palestinians to stop immediately, but a ceasefire requires that both sides lay down their weapons—a demand that, given Israel’s strategic advantage and imperialist military cover, means a reprieve allowing the IDF to rearm at the expense of the Palestinian resistance. We favor the military defeat of the Zionist state in its present campaign, i.e., a one-sided “ceasefire” imposed on Tel Aviv by a series of battlefield disasters, internal unrest (including an Israeli working class that is beginning to open its eyes) and/or international labor actions that materially degrade the Israeli ruling class’s economic and military capacities.

Hamas & the Palestinian Resistance

Whether one likes it or not, Hamas leads the military operation resisting the IDF incursion and is the government of Gaza, controlling social provision, healthcare and education (as far as this is possible under bombardment). Hamas had its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned charity al-Mujama al-Islamiya (the Islamic Center), which was increasingly radicalized over the course of the 1980s. As we observed in “Israeli Apartheid & Palestinian Oppression” (1917 No.33):

“The forerunner of Hamas, the Islamic Center, was established as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood when Gaza was still under Cairo’s control. After Gaza’s seizure by Israel in 1967, the Islamic Center promoted reactionary religious revivalism with a ‘quietist’ political focus on rooting out ‘un-Islamic’ behavior, while largely abstaining from resistance to the occupation. Organizations linked to the Center provided the only social welfare and healthcare services available to Gaza’s residents. Israeli authorities supplied funding and assistance to the Center as a counterweight to the dominance of secular, left-nationalist trends in Palestinian politics.”

The aftermath of the first intifada saw the Palestinian left collapse amid a brutal regime of torture in Israeli prisons, leaving a leadership vacuum in the Palestinian resistance. Hamas’ rise was also aided by the abject failure of the Oslo peace accords, which delegitimized the remaining secular nationalist factions. With the secular left and right of the Palestinian resistance defeated or nullified, and with Hamas as the only faction of considerable size willing to oppose Israel militarily, leading the second intifada, Palestinians in Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas in 2006, leading to interference from Fatah and a short-lived war. Since then, Hamas has found a stronger base in the thousands of war orphans left behind after Israel’s bombing campaigns and two ground invasions, and these orphans—now in their late teens and early 20s—constitute the vast majority of Hamas fighters, loosely under the discipline of Hamas’ leadership in Qatar.

There is another aspect to Hamas' significance, which is intimately bound up with divisions in Israeli politics between different Zionist programs. On the one hand, many liberal and labor Zionists have historically supported a segregationist approach to the "Palestinian problem,” seeking common cause with Palestinian and Arab reformists in supporting the construction of a strictly separated Palestinian capitalism. On the other hand, a section of Israeli capital more invested in claiming the land and resources of Palestine (such as vital aquifers, and now potential billions in recently discovered oil reserves) has supported a genocidal approach of settlerism, displacement and bombings, and seeks to torpedo attempts at Palestinian statehood at any cost. Netanyahu, Likud and its far-right coalition partners represent this latter tendency, and have sought to undermine any moves towards even semi-statehood through a policy of encouraging divisions between the Palestinian factions in Gaza and the West Bank. The existence of Hamas has a certain convenience for them and they have approved Qatari funds channeled to Hamas since 2012 (Haaretz, 11 October 2023).

Yet Hamas is not an Israeli puppet. It has, instead, come to represent the misleadership of the Palestinians’ legitimate resistance to oppression. For Marxists, our military defense of the Palestinians extends even to that misleadership, whose political bankruptcy we seek to expose as part of the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Palestinian workers require class-independent formations and not the popular-frontist alliances with bourgeois forces that have doomed the working class to subservience for decades. But to merely assert class independence under Zionist assault offers no real solution to the question of how Palestinian workers should be won away from Hamas, let alone a plausible strategy to end Palestinian oppression. The crucial question at the moment is which side (if any) Marxists take in the current conflict. In situations like that presently facing the Palestinians, a revolutionary workers’ party would be in a purely tactical military bloc with the existing Palestinian leadership (i.e., Hamas and its allies) for the defense of Palestinian homes, lives and territory. It would, of course, have nothing to do with attacks on Israeli civilians and would take action to prevent such attacks, but it would not use them as a pretext to abandon the fight to defend Palestinians against the IDF. Any other approach amounts to shameful capitulation to oppression.

Petty-Bourgeois Moralism

Many groups on the left understand that the two-state “solution” is no solution at all and recognize the necessity of a single state that acknowledges the rights of Arabs and Israeli Jews. But the propaganda of these organizations is often vague (at best) about whether such a state is possible under capitalism, replacing a fight for revolutionary leadership of the working class with moralistic exhortations about “solidarity.”

The left-reformists of the former United Secretariat of the Fourth International argue in their journal International Viewpoint that “The main task for the Left and progressive actors in the region must be to build a strategy based on a regional solidarity from below” (24 October 2023). This is lamely spelled out elsewhere as “intensification of support for the campaign of BDS, for statements and demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinian people,” while adding: “Our goal is an end to Israeli colonialism and a state with equal rights for all its people” (Fourth International, 10 October 2023). The entire framing here is not of class struggle but of liberal “movement building” centered on a reformist-utopian desire for “a state” to be created (by whom? possessing what class nature?) in the context of an intensified BDS pressure campaign on individual consumers, Western corporations and imperialist governments.

The British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) combines radical, but ultimately empty, phraseology with calls for reform. In Socialist Worker (7 October 2023), they argue that the “Palestinian people have every right to respond in any way they choose to the violence that the Israeli state metes out to them every day.” This is simply feel-good moralism. Certainly Marxists argue that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination, and under bourgeois “international law” they are theoretically entitled to defend themselves, though the exercise of this right is not recognized by the imperialist hypocrites. The real question is how the Palestinian people should respond to the violence of the Israeli state. The bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leadership of the Palestinians have already demonstrated the bankruptcy of their approaches, whether it be the stalemate of “two-state” diplomacy or the dead-end of Islamic Jihad suicide vests.

For Marxists, the only effective response to Israeli apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is joint working-class struggle to smash the Zionist state and create a bi-national workers’ state within the framework of a socialist federation in the region. For the SWP, however, the solution lies in amorphous solidarity “from below” culminating in a repeat of the Arab Spring (see Socialist Worker, 10 October 2023). They leave their readers wondering how a new series of revolts in the Arab world—which failed to help the Palestinians in 2011—would make any difference this time around.

Settler Colonialism & the Israeli Working Class

Accompanying the SWP’s reformist moralism is a pessimistic, indeed dismissive, attitude towards the Israeli working class, which is objectively better positioned to undermine the Zionist state than the working classes of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. The SWP suggests that the Israeli working class is uniquely incapable of revolutionary action, arguing that the “dismantling [of the Israeli state] cannot come from within.” They decline to prove this claim and point instead to the fact that none of the existing organizations within Israel that campaign against the occupation “have the social weight or base to challenge state settler-colonial structures or provide the social force necessary to build a movement among Israeli Jews,” referring to these groups as “an exception that prove the rule” (Socialist Worker, 22 June 2021).

To be sure, the hold of Zionist ideology over the Jewish-Israeli working class is strong, owing to a combination of privileges and benefits afforded by Israeli apartheid, as well as to the incessant propaganda that the only thing preventing another Jewish Holocaust is the state of Israel. But is Zionism in Israel qualitatively different from the nationalism that binds workers to their bosses in other capitalist countries? The SWP has failed to make the case.

The description of Israel as “settler-colonial” often draws comparisons with other instances of oppression and occupation around the world. As we noted in “Israeli Apartheid & Palestinian Oppression” (1917 No.33):

“There are, however, important differences between the forms of apartheid in South Africa and Israel, which represent two variants on a spectrum of settler-colonialist practices over the past several centuries. At one end (in the U.S., Australia and Canada), European settlers eradicated most of the native population and forcibly isolated the remainder in impoverished ‘reservations.’ At the other end of the spectrum, in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), a tiny stratum of white settlers super-exploited the indigenous population. Israel and South Africa, which both fall somewhere between these two extremes on the scale of ‘settler colonialism,’ are only roughly analogous to one another.”

The Israeli state is closer to the former model, aiming from its inception to displace the Palestinians in favor of Jewish labor, thus creating a Jewish working class with a structural interest in opposition to the state, despite relative advantages over a super-exploited layer of Palestinian workers. Were Israel a colony made up of a thin strata of Jews sitting atop a large Palestinian working class, utterly united in benefiting from their exploitation, in the manner of the white labor aristocracy in Rhodesia, Marxists might reasonably conclude that there was no revolutionary potential in the Jewish-Israeli proletariat. Or if every Israeli were like the settlers of the West Bank, making a living off government subsidies in return for policing and harassing the local Palestinians, one might conclude they were merely auxiliaries to the Israeli state. But this is not the case.

Most of the Israeli working class has lived and worked for generations on land that was stolen from the indigenous inhabitants, just as in the United States, Australia or Argentina. The SWP does not seem to write off the working classes in these countries or deny that they are components of peoples with national rights. The existing consciousness of the Israeli working class and the substantial ideological obstacles thrown in the way of class unity undoubtedly make the task more difficult in Israel/Palestine, but it is possible, and above all necessary, to fight the existing misleadership and build a working-class movement that identifies the Israeli state as the enemy and understands the common ground this represents with the oppressed Palestinians.

In their statement “Down with hypocrisy! Defend Gaza!” (marxist.com, 11 October 2023), the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) gets closer to the mark when they write:

“In the last analysis, only the establishment of a united front between the people of Palestine and the working class and progressive layers of Israeli society will create the possibility of dividing the Israeli state on class lines, opening the way for a lasting and democratic settlement of the Palestinian question.”

But they then go on to argue that “This will be a byproduct of the Arab revolution, which can only succeed if it is carried out to the end.” Elsewhere the IMT puts forward the formulation “Intifada until victory!,” making the connection with Palestinian struggles of the past:

“The Intifada severely shook the foundations on which the Zionists rule—and its methods still remain the only way forward for the oppressed and poor. It was, and remains, the most effective way of fighting for lasting liberation for the impoverished Palestinian masses.”
marxist.com, 19 October 2023

The same article acknowledges that “the lack of a genuinely revolutionary leadership stymied the opportunity [for the intifada] to end the occupation by making class appeals to all the poor and oppressed in the region to rise up.”

Piecing this all together, the IMT apparently believe that the liberation of Palestine requires the rise of a leadership in Palestine capable of directing a new intifada and expanding the scope of that intifada to encompass the whole Arab region, which will in turn force a united front between the Palestinians and the Israeli working class and progressives—the only hope for a revolution in Israeli society and a settlement of the Palestinian question.

There is not much to say about a program that is so conjectural, with so many moving parts, except to note that little reason is given for why each step can only follow on from the previous. Such baroque formulations seem designed to sidestep an imagined impasse: here too, the Israeli working class is conceived of as having no independent interest in the fight against the Israeli state, as only amid a regional uprising could it be forced into internationalist consciousness. “Intifada until victory!” may fit well in the sea of red and green flags on any demonstration in defense of Palestine, but it is hardly a serious strategy for a group that bills itself as “the communists.”

Interpenetrated Peoples & Israel/Palestine

In Israel/Palestine, the essential facts of the historic conflict—the practical impossibility of a purely Palestinian-led victory, the inadmissibility of displacing most Israeli Jews, the irreconcilability of the national democratic rights and bourgeois property forms of two separate peoples—must be the starting point for a realistic (and just) solution to Palestinian oppression. Some left groups come close to offering a coherent perspective but fall short in important respects.

The International Committee of the Fourth International (which publishes the World Socialist Web Site) puts forward a position that emphasizes Arab-Jewish solidarity within Israel/Palestine for the defense of Palestinians and the necessity of a global mass movement of workers and youth supported by mass strikes of workers in industries involved in the Israeli war machine. Importantly, they note:

“The great historical and political paradox of the present situation is this: The Israeli working class cannot defend its own democratic rights without fighting for the democratic rights of the Palestinian people against Zionist oppression. And the Palestinians cannot achieve their aspirations for democratic rights and social equality without forging a fighting alliance with the Israeli working class. The only viable perspective is not a mythical ‘two-state solution,’ but a unified socialist state of Jewish and Arab workers.”
wsws.org, 9 October 2023

This is a nice sentiment, but it is not quite right. Israeli Jews are quite capable of defending some of their democratic rights (such as their right to national self-determination) under a genocidal Zionist state without even thinking of standing up for the democratic rights of Palestinians. Because the Palestinian and Israeli nations are interspersed on the same territory, any attempt by one nation to control that land for their nation-state (i.e., exercise the right of self-determination) contradicts the national rights of the other nation. Under capitalism, a system defined by private ownership of the means of production (including land), such attempts will either be inadequate or genocidal. It is only with this understanding of counterposed national rights in situations of interpenetrated peoples that one can explain why a socialist solution in Israel/Palestine is not merely “nice to have” but a necessity for the survival and liberation of both working classes.

A program for situations of interpenetrated peoples was elaborated by the Spartacist League in the 1970s, in part inspired by the approach of the Bolsheviks to the patchwork of nations that comprised the USSR. Then a revolutionary organization, the Spartacists (now the International Communist League [ICL]) degenerated over the subsequent decades—a process that has recently culminated in the publication of Spartacist No.68, in which a new set of ICL leaders argue that, worldwide, “the struggle for national liberation is not an obstacle to be moved to the side but a motor force for revolution” as long as communists “take leadership of the national-liberation struggle.” The Spartacists now embrace the strategy of the “anti-imperialist united front” with the national bourgeoisie while they describe the struggle for national liberation (under proletarian leadership) as the “lever” for revolution. This essentially Pabloite approach, while ostensibly framed as a communist strategy, brings in class struggle merely as a means to achieve national liberation (which in turn will ostensibly lead to socialism) rather than viewing class struggle itself as the “motor force” for proletarian revolution—the only framework in which the national rights of interpenetrated peoples can be fully and equitably realized.

True, the Spartacists continue to put forward formulations that recall their historic position:

“There can be no victory without breaking the link between the Jewish working people and their rulers, and this cannot be done without recognizing the democratic right of the Israeli Jewish people to live as a nation in Israel/Palestine.”
—“A Revolutionary Road for Palestinian Liberation,” Spartacist supplement, 10 October 2023

At the same time, however, they misrepresent their own history by denouncing the “entire program behind the ‘theory’ of interpenetrated peoples” as “proclaiming the need for socialist revolution while rejecting the need to put the national liberation struggle of Palestinians and Irish Catholics at the center of our revolutionary strategy”:

“The only way a revolution will happen in Israel/Palestine or in Northern Ireland is through an uprising for the national liberation of Palestinians and Irish Catholics, which would not impinge on the national rights of the Protestants and Israelis but emancipate the workers from their ruling class and its imperialist backers. It is precisely because Irish and Palestinian nationalists are incapable of and opposed to such a perspective that only a communist leadership can bring about a just and democratic resolution to the national problem there.”

The context of interpenetrated peoples merely throws into greater relief what is wrong in general with the Spartacists’ neo-Pabloite approach to national liberation. Instead of arguing that a class-struggle leadership should promote the view that proletarian revolution alone can achieve “the national liberation of Palestinians and Irish Catholics [in a manner] which would not impinge on the national rights of the Protestants and Israelis,” the ICL flips things around and argues that the “only way a revolution will happen in Israel/Palestine or in Northern Ireland” is “an uprising for the national liberation of Palestinians and Irish Catholics” that will—presumably led by a nominally “communist leadership”—kindly decide to respect the rights of the currently dominant nations.

In a 1974 letter to the Sri Lankan Marxist Edmund Samarakkody, Spartacist League leader James Robertson encapsulated the general insight behind the revolutionary program in situations of interpenetrated peoples:

“First, that where democratic demands are in collision (for example, the national rights of geographically interpenetrated peoples; the mass right to immigrate vs. the right to retain the national identity of an indigenous people) there can be in general no democratic resolution within the framework of capitalism because that ‘framework’ necessarily means policy carried out under the aegis of one or the other ruling class, i.e. to the detriment of the other people. Seen this way, Lenin's self-determination is that happy special case in which there is not such an essential collision. Second, that it is not the responsibility of the Marxist proletarian vanguard to project a program over such matters within the framework of capitalism which is ‘rational’ and therefore utopian. Therefore ours is instead the task of irreconcilable opposition to every antidemocratic ‘excess’ (immigration quotas, round-ups of foreigners, etc.). Third, all this is but a way of arriving empirically and a century after the Manifesto, again, at the conclusion that the nation-state is no longer the vessel for human progress and that internationalism is not just a nice word but a desperate necessity for the working people in flat opposition to the bestial chauvinisms of nationalism.”
—“Exchange of Views II: Between the SL/US·and the RWP of Ceylon,” International Discussion Bulletin, March 1977

Concretizing this theory at this critical juncture means elaborating a program for workers’ power in Palestine, Israel and indeed the rest of the world.

A Revolutionary Perspective for Palestine

As the Palestinians presently face a genocide by a technologically superior foe backed by several powerful imperialist countries, the most pressing concerns are military in nature. Palestinian workers must fight the Israeli onslaught and block militarily even with Hamas. At the same time, however, the grip of the Hamas-led coalition on Palestinians in Gaza must be broken, and that means resolute political struggle against class collaboration, religious obscurantism and chauvinism against Jews. Contrary to the new line of the Spartacists, the main lever of social revolution is not the struggle for national liberation in an “anti-imperialist united front” with bourgeois reactionaries but the class struggle culminating in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus Palestinian communists would not simply bloc militarily with Hamas but also advance transitional “economic” demands (for example, during the protests against Hamas’s social austerity in July 2023). Links with the Israeli working class are vital, and for this communists must criticize the decision of the Hamas-led coalition to target civilians and expose the Stalinist factions that support such criminality—the PFLP and the DFLP.

In Israel, communists should intervene in the ineffective and misled antiwar movement, advocating a multi-ethnic struggle that views the Israeli ruling class as “the main enemy” and promoting military defense of the Palestinians, as the revolutionary Spartacists did when they had a small Israeli grouping in the mid-1970s. Thousands of Israeli Jews already risk jail in uncoordinated efforts to avoid being conscripted into the IDF, or have marched in defiance of increasingly draconian anti-protest measures. Marxists do not invest their hopes in these facts alone—draft dodging and ceasefire marches highlight real cracks in the Zionist consensus, but what is required is effective proletarian leadership to exploit those openings by fighting for an anti-Zionist Arab-Jewish workers’ defense force. Such an organization would defend Arab Israelis and protesters from violence, and agitate within the demoralized and conscription-based IDF against the war aims of its generals. As the crisis deepens, communists would struggle against the reformist elements of such a front to give its work a revolutionary perspective: “Jewish workers: fight to end the oppression of Palestinians! The main enemy is at home! Turn your guns around! Not Jew against Arab, but class against class! Only workers’ power can lead to security, peace and justice!”

In the Israeli labor movement, the main task is to break the power of the Arab-exclusionist and corporatist bureaucrats aligned with the labor Zionist Histadrut federation so that Arab and Jewish workers can build closer ties through shared struggle against the bosses, as often occurs in smaller independent unions. Chauvinism in the organized workers’ movement created the basis for the current Likudnik and Kahanist dominance of Israeli politics by driving Mihrazim (and other Jewish minorities) into the arms of reaction, and as such a special emphasis must be placed on winning over Israel’s discriminated minorities. Breaking down these divisions in the Jewish-Israeli nation are central to building support for socialist revolution in the region.

In the Western imperialist countries, where support for Israel’s terror campaign against Gaza is still high, Marxists intervene in the mass demonstrations and support the occupation and disruption of Israeli arms companies like Elbit or Rafael. However, the key is to unleash the power of the working class by politically defeating the reformist, pro-Zionist labor bureaucracy that constrains the trade unions. Workers in the West must organize in their unions for strike actions against government support to Israel and for the blocking of any and all shipments to the IDF’s war machine. Union statements of willingness to block shipments aren’t enough; this must actually be carried out in a coordinated way, supported by hard pickets. The blocking of foreign shipments could have a profound effect on the Israeli military, which is suffering from severe logistical shortages as it rearms thousands of reservists. A mass movement with deep roots in the unions can bring to bear a serious international force against the genocidal policies being carried out by Israel and would also build resistance within the imperialist countries due to the necessity of fighting state censorship and anti-protest laws.

Marxists advance a class-struggle, revolutionary socialist solution to the crisis. As we noted over a decade ago in “Defend the Palestinians!” (1917 No.26):

“The struggle to build a vanguard party rooted in both communities that is committed to the creation of a bi-national workers’ state within a Socialist Federation of the Middle East will be an extremely difficult one. But there is no other historically progressive solution to the poisonous morass that imperialism and Zionism have created. Only a perspective of joint class struggle by Jewish and Palestinian workers against Zionist tyranny can lay the basis for the equitable resolution of the deep-seated national antagonisms and open the road to social emancipation for all the exploited and oppressed peoples of the region.”

Related articles
Israel-Palestine: Apartheid, Imperialism & Class (1917 No.44)
Israeli Apartheid & Palestinian Oppression (1917 No.33)
On the ‘Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions’ Campaign (1917 No.33)
The Birth of the Zionist State: A Marxist Analysis (Workers Vanguard, 1973–74)