Editorial for issue 44 of Socialist Revolution magazine. Subscribe now to get your copy!
Israel’s pulverization of Gaza has led to yet another dramatic transformation in mass consciousness. In a world already torn apart by crisis and polarization, the aftershocks of Israel’s apocalyptic attack will be felt far and wide, with enormous implications for world relations, the economy, politics, and the work of the communists.
Whether we like it or not, this is the new normality—a world of sharp and sudden changes, wars, revolutions, and counterrevolution. Communists must understand this and organize to connect with the growing layer of angry and militant workers and youth.
For three-quarters of a century, the Palestinians have been blocked on every front from achieving their most basic rights and freedoms. They have been treated like animals in a cage, with arbitrary shootings, arrests, and harassment, illegal settlements, the bulldozing and bombing of homes, hospitals, schools, and agricultural lands, the erection of massive walls, checkpoints, drone and missile attacks, pogroms, and assassinations.
In an effort to “divide and rule,” the Israeli state actively nurtured and funded Hamas to cut across rising secular and even socialist tendencies among the Palestinian youth. Can there be any doubt as to why, after decades of humiliation and oppression, this situation blew back in Israel’s face? Any basic human sympathy many people may have felt for the Israeli civilians killed in Hamas’s initial attack has turned into its opposite as Israel attempts to take not just an eye for an eye, but the head of an entire population.
The transformation of the open prison of Gaza into an open grave, with the blood of thousands of murdered children flowing through the rubble-filled streets, has rightfully raised the indignation of millions, many of whom live in similarly precarious situations. The rage is amplified further when the Zionist monsters refer to these dead kids as “terrorists,” “human shields,” “collateral damage,” “human animals,” and even “inhuman animals.”
And they dare call this one-sided campaign of savage punishment and revenge “self-defense.” Is it not clear who is being oppressed and who is doing the oppressing? This is what communists mean when we say that capitalism is horror without end. This is why we say the choice facing humanity is socialism or barbarism.
The collective punishment of hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians is a war crime by any definition, and yet, the US supports Israel to the hilt, and there are no consequences for its barbarism. Israel’s campaign of obliteration and ethnic cleansing is fully endorsed by Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, and US imperialism as a whole.
Biden has called the billions sent to Israel each year “a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends,” and the slaughter is taking place under the watchful eye of American aircraft carriers, submarines, fighter-bombers, and tens of thousands of troops stationed in the region. The responsibility for every Palestinian killed by an American-made weapon is on the president’s blood-stained hands.
Millions of Americans are fed up with the lies, hypocrisy, and the blatant double standard, especially when compared to the war in Ukraine. Why are the Ukrainians applauded and encouraged to resist a foreign invasion and occupation, but the Palestinians aren’t? It comes down to the specific interests of the US imperialists. They oppose Russian imperialism, and they support Israeli imperialism. It’s as simple as that. Violence is justified when it serves the interests of the rich and powerful, and is reprehensible when the slaves fight back. It’s not about consistency or morality. It’s about money and land and political power and spheres of influence.
The IMT stands resolutely with the Palestinian masses in this conflict. As we fully expected, we have come under attack for our position and use of the slogan “intifada until victory.” Our class enemies want to confuse people about the real meaning of the word. So what do communists mean by this?
An intifada is an organic mass upsurge that seeks to upend the status quo, to “shake off” all oppressors and exploiters. It has nothing to do with “violent attacks against Israeli civilian targets,” terrorism, “driving the Jews into the sea,” or depriving anyone of the right to safety, religious freedom, a quality job, housing, healthcare, or education.
The First Intifada was an elemental uprising of tens of thousands of Palestinian youth and workers resisting Israeli occupation, which lasted from 1987 until 1992. This was a genuinely mass struggle involving various forms of resistance, including civil disobedience, roadblocks, tax strikes, general strikes, and more. Israeli patrols were ambushed by kids with slingshots, throwing stones and burning tires, a David-versus-Goliath inspiration for those fighting against oppression everywhere. Many ordinary Israelis were also affected by this mass movement of the Palestinian people, as evidenced by the many refuseniks who refused to serve in the Israeli military, many of whom were imprisoned for taking this stance.
Popular Committees emerged spontaneously, morphed into organs of popular control, and implemented measures similar to those of the Paris Commune of 1871, with women playing a prominent role. The committees provided essential health services, distributed supplies during strikes and lockdowns, and set up self-defense groups to protect neighborhoods. Rents, prices, and professional rates were capped, and they organized the population to fight against hoarding and price gouging. They set up schools, boycotted Israeli products, and even developed small-scale subsistence farming and livestock breeding to feed themselves. Popular tribunals were set up to deal with criminal activity, informants, and other disputes. This pointed the way forward, and the Palestinians gained enormous sympathy worldwide before their struggle was diverted into the dead end of the Oslo Accords.
The mass awakening and mobilization seen during the Arab Spring and the George Floyd movement are precisely the generalized uprising we have in mind when we call for intifada. And that is precisely what those in power are afraid of, because any time the masses move into action, the power and privileges of the ruling class come under threat.
This is why, along with crocodile tears for the mass murder in Gaza, we have seen an onslaught against basic democratic rights, especially on the campuses. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been banned, student clubs have been dissolved, and meeting room bookings have been canceled. Supporters of Palestine have been branded “terrorist sympathizers,” antisemites, and so on.
We unequivocally reject the slanderous accusation of antisemitism, while standing in total opposition to Zionism. As any rational person knows, being anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli state, and anti-occupation is not the same as being antisemitic. We’re unambiguously against Netanyahu and his cabal, not because they are Jewish, but because they are imperialist oppressors and exploiters.
These attacks are yet another crass attempt to use the poison of identity politics to undermine class unity and shut down discussion. Instead of falling into this divisive trap, we point the finger directly at those who are really responsible for this new Nakba: the imperialists and their regional lackeys.
Nor will the IMT budge in the face of the paternalistic tokenism and petty-bourgeois cowardice advanced by those who claim that communists have no business discussing Marxist ideas in the Palestinian solidarity movement. We refuse to divide or weaken the movement by atomizing it. Our struggle and the struggle of all oppressed and exploited people are one and the same. We will not be turned against each other and will focus all our energy on defeating our collective enemy: world capitalism and imperialism. Although many of those who claim exclusive right to speak for the Palestinians are too craven to defend the legacy of the First Intifada, we do so boldly, with political clarity and pride. We stand on the right side of history and will raise our banner high.
We are often told that the issue of Israel-Palestine is “complicated.” But it is only complicated if you lack a class understanding, if you have a wishy-washy, petty-bourgeois approach, if you’re incapable of standing with the oppressed, if you’re an apologist for capitalism, and if you limit yourself to solutions within the borders of historic Palestine and the limits of crisis-ridden capitalism.
Although some fundamentalist reactionaries on both sides would argue it’s a religious question, it’s not about that at all. This is not a debate over theology or God’s true prophet. It’s ultimately about land and the exploitation of labor, natural resources, wealth, and power. In the final analysis, like all other social questions, it’s a class question, a question of bread, jobs, housing, healthcare, education, infrastructure, security, and basic human dignity. While there is enough wealth and technology to provide these things for everyone, capitalism can never make this a reality. Instead, it divides and rules us, makes us hate each other, fighting over crumbs from an unimaginably huge pie of social wealth.
For millions of Palestinians, the Nakba never ended. And for hundreds of thousands of extremist settlers, backed by the Israeli state, the Nakba wasn’t enough. The bitter truth is that there is no solution to the tragedy of the Palestinian people on a capitalist basis. The struggle for Palestinian liberation can only be the struggle for the victorious Middle Eastern socialist revolution.
Without a doubt, the Jews have historically been a terribly oppressed people. Many of them understood that the struggle against antisemitism could only be won through socialist revolution, and many played prominent roles in the parties of the early Communist International. But a layer of petty-bourgeois European Jews had another solution: create the Jewish-nationalist ideology of Zionism and steal other people’s land. They justified this on the basis of biblical claims going back thousands of years, and they received the backing of various imperialist powers.
However, the only way to end your own oppression within the limits of capitalism is to become an oppressor yourself. Not all Jews are responsible for the oppression of the Palestinians, of course, but the Zionist ruling class has the people of Israel locked into supporting them. But as Engels explained: “A people which oppresses another cannot emancipate itself. The power which it uses to suppress the other finally always turns against itself.”
This is why, nearly a decade before Israel was founded, Trotsky called the perspective of a Jewish state in Palestine a “bloody trap” and explained that “the Jewish question … is indissolubly bound up with the complete emancipation of humanity.”
As Marx put it, “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” The same can be said for the state of Israel. Since its inception, it has been based on the brutal suppression of the local population. It is an irony of history that one of the most persecuted peoples in the world, a people with inspiring traditions of resistance and uprisings of their own, have joined the ranks of the worst oppressors and persecutors.
Only by overthrowing imperialism and capitalism throughout the region and in the major imperialist countries can we uproot the material basis of Zionism. From Israel to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, to the key countries of Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, with their powerful proletariat and industrial base, the socialist revolution would lay the basis for a socialist Federation of the Middle East. Only then can we guarantee full autonomy, security, and prosperity for all peoples of all religions. Only then can we collectively harness the region’s vast wealth and build a world of superabundance, with quality jobs, housing, education, and healthcare for all. This is the only way to begin seriously addressing this problem.
The Arab Spring may have failed in the end, but its specter haunts every one of the rotten, corrupt, imperialist, or pro-imperialist regimes in the Middle East, including Israel. To be sure, the vast majority of Israeli society is united against the Palestinians for the moment, but the ruling class is divided and there is deep class polarization, with exploiters and exploited, poverty, unemployment, and levels of inequality comparable to those found in the US. The class struggle may be dampened for now, but it will come storming back at a certain stage.
It is highly significant that the largest pro-Palestine movement in US history has erupted in the past month, with coast-to-coast demonstrations encompassing hundreds of thousands of Americans who see through the lies of the ruling class. This is a sign of the times, the product of a generation that opposes and distrusts the capitalist establishment, and places its sympathies with the oppressed and exploited everywhere.
But while millions are angry at this tragic situation, and hundreds of thousands are protesting, many feel helpless and unable to do anything meaningful to support the cause of Palestinian liberation. So what can communists in the US do to defend Palestine and fight for worldwide intifada?
First and foremost, we must explain that we are not helpless if we act as a class—in unity, there is strength! This is why mass strikes and movements can win concessions, topple governments, and overthrow social systems, while individual actions get you fired, thrown in jail, or even serve to undermine the movement.
We must also raise the real history of Israel-Palestine in our schools and classrooms, organize public meetings, and organize solidarity rallies and demonstrations.
We must persistently explain that the orgy of imperialist killing can only be stopped through united working-class action on a world scale. Not only can we stop the production of weapons and military supplies—we can bring the entire economy to a halt. Truckers, railroad workers, and longshore workers can shut down the ports and prevent the shipment of arms. Social media engineers and communications and media workers can shut down the propaganda factories that seek to confuse and manipulate public opinion. To stop the air strikes, we need general strikes!
We must also fight to break the workers and the unions from the Democrats and Republicans, who are entirely complicit in this disaster. We fight instead for a mass communist party that truly represents the working-class majority and can end the rotten two-party system once and for all.
The main enemy is right here at home! Without the support of US imperialism, the Zionist state of Israel could not exist. Ultimately, if we want to keep US hands off Palestine, Cuba, and everywhere else US imperialism has its poisoned tentacles, we must ensure that the hands in political and economic power are working-class hands. This is why we fight for a workers’ government, which alone can carry out the socialist transformation of society.
This is the connection between events in Israel-Palestine and the fight for communism. The present nightmare in Gaza is the disastrous legacy of capitalism and imperialism—but the system won’t abolish itself. Only the working class, rising up in revolution, can end this cancer once and for all.
Every day capitalism remains in power is another day of living hell for hundreds of millions of people from Palestine to Congo to Sudan to El Salvador and right here in the United States. This is why we must build the forces of communism with a sense of urgency.
Only the socialist revolution can rid the world of artificial borders, the nation-state, and the market economy, which are the main objective factors holding humanity back from advancing to a much higher level of development. Only then can humanity set out on the road to classless, stateless, moneyless communism.
We take inspiration from the decades-long heroism of the Palestinian people, including their communist and socialist traditions and the example of the First Intifada. We are proud to stand firm and to fight the most reactionary force on the planet with our ideas, revolutionary discipline, and above all our confidence in the unstoppable power of the world working class. The IMT is looking not only for those who consider themselves communists in the abstract. We’re looking for class fighters who want to combine forces in a real fighting organization. Only by committing to the cause of the socialist revolution for a lifetime can we win the socialist revolution in our lifetime.
The struggle of the Palestinian masses is our struggle and vice versa—an injury to one is an injury to all!
No war but the class war!
Down with US imperialism!
Intifada until victory!
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East!