Draft theses submitted to the May 11 2002 CPGB membership aggregate by Darrell Goodliffe and Jack Conrad
1 Jews - a people-religion under slave, Asiatic and feudal societies - were with the emergence of capitalist relations of production thrust into the forefront of the revolutionary socialist and communist movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Bund (the General Jewish Workers Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia) was the first socialist workers' organisation in the tsarist empire. Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Jules Martov, Gregory Zinoviev, Lev Kameniev and Rosa Luxemburg - all non-jewish jews - represented the pinnacle of human - cosmopolitan - culture and the mass radicalisation of the jewish population in Europe. 2 The Zionist idea of a separate jewish homeland (Herzl), not least the colonial entity in Palestine, was a direct reaction to the anti-semitism that sullied and shamed Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Crucially mass Zionism resulted from the vicious persecution of jews unleashed by tsarism and then, and most decisively, in the attempt, and near success, at exterminating the entire jewish population in Europe perpetrated by Nazism. As an ideology Zionism gained a mass base as a result of the abject failure of the workers' movement to prevent that world historic crime. 3 Zionism was given another boost by the anti-semitism preached and practised by bureaucratic socialism. Stalin used anti-semitism to fuel Great Russian xenophobia after 1947. His Cold War successors did the same. It goes without saying that the anti-Zionism peddled by 'official communism' was a reactionary anti-Zionism. 4 The dramatic influx of jews into Palestine after World War I was possible only because of the British protectorate. The Balfour Declaration (November 2 1917) enshrined that sponsor-client relationship. Imperialist pro-Zionism stems from either the classic colonialist ethos, post-1945 European guilt or the undoubted influence of pro-Zionist jewish capitalists and intellectuals in imperialist countries, not least in the United States. 5 The jews coming to Palestine in the 20th century were a settler-colonial people of a special type. There was no specific homeland - apart from the European continent as a whole. Moreover, inspired by thinkers such as Ber Borochov (1881-1917), many entertained notions of building a socialism. However, their socialist-civilising mission was in essence no different to British colonists in Australia or New Zealand, or the Dutch colonists in South Africa. The kibbutzim were communist-imperialist. Land might have been purchased according to the laws of the day. But the same can be said of the European colonists in America before and after 1776. There existed a completely unequal relationship between colonists and colonised. 6 The colonists rebelled against the colonial power after World War II and launched a violent struggle for independence. But that does not detract from the original colonial-settler nature of Israel. The first war against the British (United Nations mandate) colonial power was a combined war - against Britain, against the colonised. 7 The creation of the state of Israel in 1947 and the subsequent expansion of Israel in 1948 and 1949 witnessed numerous crimes against the indigenous Arab population. Resistance there was - not only from the Palestinian masses themselves, but from the reactionary monarchies in Egypt and Jordan too. Despite the ulterior motives of these rulers the desperate rearguard actions carried out by the Palestinian masses was undoubtedly just. 8 Israel won its combined war. British troops departed. So did hundreds of thousands of Palestinians - they fled or were forcibly driven from their homeland. Nor were they allowed to return. The whole of Palestine was then dismembered by Israel on the one hand and Jordan and Egypt on the other. 9 The state of Israel contains a substantial Arab minority. This nationality does not identify with the Israeli jewish nation. They are not equal citizens. Israeli law allows any jewish person to emigrate to Israel, but bars Palestinians from returning. More than that, the Israeli Arab population is treated as an enemy within by the state and establishment alike. Not surprisingly under such circumstances, they sympathise with the Palestinians of Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora. Together - through common history and struggle - they form a national identity. 10 1967 saw another defensive-expansionist war by Israel. Since then both the Gaza strip and the West Bank have been seeded with numerous military-settler colonial towns. Those on the West Bank form part of a system of permanent occupation. 11 After 1967 the enemy within for Israel expanded dramatically. Israel never officially incorporated either Gaza or the West Bank. However, the ultra-right in Israel does propagate a vision of a greater Israel, a greater Israel that by definition must be cleansed of Palestinians in order to make it viable. 12 Israel is the biggest recipient of US overseas aid. The US supplies Israel with advanced warplanes and electronic warfare equipment. However, Israel has never been a mere client state. Israel certainly possesses nuclear weapons in defiance of UN conventions. More to the point, it has its own independent internal class politics and state interests - interests which it pursues even if they risk conflict with the sponsoring power: eg, the United Kingdom or the United States. 13 Communists favour a democratic solution in Israel/Palestine. We strive for the ending of all antagonisms between nations and their eventual merger. Communism and nationalism are antithetical. Nevertheless we champion the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination. In the conditions of Israel/Palestine that means that communists support the right of the Palestinians, where they form a clear majority, to establish their own state. 14 The Palestinian struggle for self-determination is just and communists condemn without hesitation the terrorist war launched by Ariel Sharon to crush Palestinian resistance. The only logic of Sharon's demand for complete surrender is some 'final solution' whereby not only the Palestinian Authority is destroyed, but Israel yet again drives out Palestinians from Palestine - this time not in their hundreds of thousands, but in their millions. 15 While communists have no truck with Zionism and condemn the colonial-settler origins of Israel, we recognise that over the last 50 or 60 years a definite Israeli jewish nation has come into existence. Time matters. To call for Israel's abolition is unMarxist. Such a programme is either naive utopianism or genocidal. Either way, it is reactionary. The Israeli jewish nation is historically constituted. The Israeli jews speak the same language, inhabit they same territory, have the same culture and sense of identity. 16 Communists support the class and anti-militarist struggle in Israel. Communists express their admiration and backing for the Israeli Defence Force 'refuseniks'. They have bravely put themselves on the line by their refusal to serve in the occupied territories. Nor do we dismiss the broad mass of the population in Israel as 'labour aristocrats'. The position of Rhodesian or South African whites is not analogous. These did not, nor could they, form a nation. Nowhere in territorial terms did they form a historically constituted majority. The same cannot be said of the Israeli jews. 17 Marxists do not deny the right of the Israeli jewish nation to self-determination on the basis of some half-baked or perverted reading of classic texts. The right to self-determination is not a communist blessing exclusively bestowed upon the oppressed. It is fundamentally a demand for equality. All nations must have the equal right to determine their own fate - as long as that does not involve the oppression of another people. Hence communists recognise that the US, German and French nations have self-determination. Today that is generally unproblematic. However, we desire to see that same elementary right extended to all oppressed peoples. 18 In the old British mandate territory of Palestine there are now two nations: the Israeli jewish nation and the Palestinian Arab nation. These two nations have been at loggerheads for many decades. They both dispute the same territory. The only democratic solution, given present circumstances, is an immediate programme based on two states. 19 Progressive Israeli jews must champion the democratic rights of the Palestinians to a separate state. Progressive Palestinians must likewise champion the rights of Israeli jews to a separate state. Only on such a reciprocal basis is it possible to overcome national antagonisms and envisage the eventual unity of these two peoples (perhaps first of all in some kind of federation). 20 Palestinians must have the right of return - this is a right of habitation decided upon individually or by family group. It is not a demand for a Volk movement of the entire diaspora - which now inhabits not just Jordan, Kuwait, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, etc, but the US and many countries in western Europe too. Communists demand substantial compensation for the Palestinian people as a whole from the state of Israel for the historic injustice that was perpetrated upon them. 21 The immediate call for a single Palestinian state within which the jewish Israeli nationality is given citizenship but not national rights is in present circumstances to perpetuate division. The Israeli jews will not accept such a solution - the whole of the 20th century since 1933 mitigates against that. There is moreover the distinct danger that the poles of oppression would be reversed if such a programme were ever to be put into practice. In all likelihood it would have to involve military conquest. The call for a single-state solution is therefore impractical - Israel is the strong nation - and more than that reactionary, anti-working class and profoundly anti-socialist. Liberation and socialism must come from below. It cannot be imposed from the outside. 22 Communists support the violence of the oppressed as against the violence of the oppressors. We support the democratic content in the programme of the PLO, Palestinian Authority, etc. 23 However, there can be no support whatsoever for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other such outfits - sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc - which seek to combine the liberation and anti-imperialist movements with anti-semitism and strengthening the position of the mullahs and would-be theocrats. 24 Their programme is reactionary and from that flow reactionary methods. Their programme engenders the suicide bombers, who play into the hand of Sharon and co. Hamas strengthens reaction in Israel. In fact Hamas and Sharon are twins. Together they form a reactionary system that undermines a democratic solution. Communists therefore need to resolutely "combat" Hamas and other such examples of "pan-islamism" ('Preliminary draft thesis on the national and colonial question' - written by VI Lenin, July 28 1920). 25 Communists do not airily dream of a peace among peoples under capitalism. On the contrary ours is a fighting programme under the conditions of capitalism whereby we fight and win the battle for democracy (ie, our fight for democracy under capitalism is integral to the struggle for socialism). Capitalism and democracy are antithetical. The impulse for democracy only comes from below. But democratic gains and the principles of democracy under capitalism are constantly undermined and perverted by the power and influence of capital. The only class that is consistently democratic is the working class. The victory of democracy is the victory of socialism. 26 Communists therefore envisage a democratic solution in Israel-Palestine - to be fought for and won from below. Ours is not a solution to be presided over by Sharon and Hamas. Communists look towards a democratic and secular Israel existing alongside a democratic and secular Palestine. Within each state national and religious minorities must be given full democratic rights. The suggestion that communists call for 'pure' national-religious states - jewish or islamic - is either the result of sheer ignorance or is malign misrepresentation.