T. Cliff

The Problem of the Middle East

Part II
Imperialism in the Arab East

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Chapter VII
Imperialism’s Methods of Rule

I. The Police and the Army of Occupation

Imperialism uses different means to defend its stake, among which the bayonet is not the least important. We shall examine firstly the strength of the police force in the Arab East, and secondly that of the army.

The nominally independent governments have only a formal independence, and their police forces likewise. The dependence of the police on imperialism is not only indirect – through the dependence of the government and the ruling classes of the country on imperialism – but also direct. Thus, for instance, in Egypt, the country which in theory has been independent already for 20 years, the chiefs of the police force in Alexandria and Cairo, as well as the deputies and their assistants, are Englishmen, as also the Chief and Deputy-Chief of Police in Port Said, and the Chief in Suez. The number of foreign officers of the city police in Egypt amounts to 75 out of a total of 306. And of course the foreigners hold the chief positions. The other countries of the Arab East present the same picture. If there are any differences, they are only that the local police are even further subjugated to foreign officers: in Syria and Lebanon to French officers (until the riots of the last two years) and in Palestine to the English. The tremendous power of this police force will be made clear by the following facts:

In Great Britain the number of policemen in 1938 was 71,399, i.e. one to every 676 inhabitants. In Egypt the number of policemen and ghaffirs (auxiliary police) in the same year was 74,786 or one to every 214 inhabitants. In Palestine the number of policemen, besides ghaffirs in 1940 was 5,882 or one to every 256 inhabitants, and with the ghaffirs, about 15 thousands or one to every 100 inhabitants.

As far as the budget for this great apparatus is concerned, while in England in 1942-3 only 0.3 per cent was dedicated to the police, in Egypt in the same year 7 per cent was, in Iraq in 1940–1 – 8.2 per cent, in Syria in 1944 – 20 per cent, and in Palestine in 1941–2 – 27 per cent. And this without taking into account the public works undertaken for police purposes such as the building of police stations, internment camps etc.

How large this budget is, and to what extent it pushes aside expenditure on purposes more useful for the masses of people (such as health, education etc.) will be made clear by the following figures: while in England the health budget was 5 times larger than that for police and prisons, in Egypt the budget for health did not amount to the budget for police and prisons, in Iraq it was nearly twice as small, in Syria 3½ times as small, and in Palestine 6½ times as small.

The police, and especially the CID, are given such vast powers that they can arrest a person administratively (i.e. without trial) and keep him locked up for years on end. Thousands of anti-imperialist militants have sat in internment camps in this way year after year without trial. (During the Arab national uprising in Palestine in 1936–38 about 50 thousand people passed through the internment camps).

The courts, too, are important weapons against popular social and national uprising against imperialism.

But of greater weight than these is the imperialist army of occupation. While for the suppression of strikes, hunger demonstrations etc. which do not go beyond certain limits, the police are sufficient, for the suppression of more widespread insurrections, the army is necessary. The main imperialist occupation army in the Arab countries consists not of Arabs under English or French command, as do the police, but of English or French troops. As it is much too dangerous for imperialism to hand over arms, especially heavy arms, such as cannons, tanks or aeroplanes to soldiers conscripted from among the colonials, it therefore does not allow the military rule to escape from its hands.

<p. 51> The Egyptian, Iraqi and Syrian armies are no more than appendages to the police force. A quick glance into the army budgets of the ‘independent’ governments of these countries will show this clearly. In Egypt the army budget in its peak year amounted only to £E 6 millions, in Iraq to £2 millions; the Syrian parliament budgeted for the year 1945 £1½ millions for the army and the Lebanese government £600,000. At no time did all these countries together spend more than £10 millions a year on the army. To raise an army dressed in magnificent uniforms but lacking any real equipment – that is what the ‘independent’ Arab states have succeeded in doing. And imperialism has seen to it that even this loose army should not pass out of its control. One of the ways of doing this was by laying down as one of the clauses in the ‘Treaty of Independence’ that supplies for the local army should be the products of the ‘mother’ country alone.

But with the power of the police and army alone it is impossible to hold empires containing millions of oppressed. The implements of socio-political rule therefore fulfil a very important task. The two methods – terror and propaganda – are not entirely independent, but rather mutually helpful and mutually dependent. A people terrorized can feel so weak as to be under the ideological influence of its enemies. On the other hand only the lulling of the masses prevents terror from inciting revolt. Terror alone is not sufficient, and it can also be two-edged. Lulling alone cannot work. But the two together complement each other successfully.

The main political weapons in the hands of imperialism are 1) The policy of divide and rule, a policy of sowing and inflaming discord among the different communities; 2) The policy of partitioning the large territory inhabited by Arabs into different states; 3) The finding of a fifth column in the ruling classes of the Arab people.

II. Divide et Impera

Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine constitute the Fertile Crescent, i.e. the crescent of agricultural countries north of Arabia in which culture has developed since earliest times. This early development of independent peoples with their own culture in these countries, and also their situation on the outskirts of the Arab world and on the border of non-Arab countries (Turkey and Persia) have caused a large part of them till today to contain a great number of national and religious minorities which have not assimilated into the majority people. The constant contact of these countries and especially those bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, at first with the Crusaders and later the different Christian missionaries, influenced them in the same direction. Because of all this the minorities in these countries are many and varied. Imperialism not only put itself out to preserve the divisions between the different existing communities and inflame hatred among them, but actually even created a further minority – the Jews in Palestine.

The subject of how imperialism exploits the communal minorities, sharpens the antagonisms between them and the majority, and finally, if it sees fit, casts them aside, is too large to be fully discussed here. One typical example will bring out clearly imperialism’s behaviour towards the minorities – the use England made of the Assyrians.

The Assyrians are a Semite tribe who belong to the Christian religion (Nestorian Church), and speak an Aramaic dialect. Before the First World War they numbered about 40 thousands and inhabited the Hakari Mountains in Turkey, north-east of the present Iraqi border. They gained their livelihood from sheep-raising and agriculture. Their cultural level is very low, and there are very few, even among the religious leaders, who have any education whatever. At the outbreak of the First World War the Hakari Mountains acquired great strategic importance being on the border of Turkey, Russia and Persia. Russian officers came to incite the Assyrians to fight against Turkey promising them an independent state of their own. This promise was affirmed by the British officer, Capt. Gracey, of the intelligence service, who came for this special purpose to the Hakari Mountains, and other liberal offers were made to the Assyrians by British and Russian emissaries. The Assyrians were won over into bel- <p. 52> ieving in the possibility of the revival of their ancient empire. Their dreams became more and more aggrandized till they were implanted with the hope of setting up an independent kingdom from their mountains right until Kifri, which is south of Kirkuk – a region mainly inhabited by another people, the Kurds. On May 10, 1915, the Assyrians declared war on Turkey. The League of Nations reports about this:

‘There is no doubt that this people rose in armed revolt against its lawful government at the instigation of foreigners and without any provocation on the part of the Turkish authorities. It is also established that the conditions of life enjoyed by the Assyrian people within the Ottoman Empire were rather better than those of the other Christians, since they were conceded a fairly wide measure of local autonomy under the authority of the Patriarchal House.’ (League Report, p. 83, from Toynbee, The Islamic World Since the Peace Conference, London 1927, p. 483–4)

Malek, an Assyrian who wrote a damning book called The Betrayal of the Assyrians (Chicago 1938) writes:

‘They (the Assyrians) were welcomed also in Turkey for the last two thousand years and were able to preserve their church and people as a national entity, until they were used by the British authorities as a military force.’ (p. 61)

From this point begins the chapter of their wanderings and terrible sufferings. For years the Assyrians fought an unequal fight against the Turkish army, were cast out of their homeland in the course of the fighting, but continued to fight side by side with the British army. With the conquest of Iraq, the British recruited troops from among the Assyrians to keep order in the country. At the close of the war there were tribal uprisings in Iraq which Britain needed much man-power and money to crush. (It cost the British taxpayer about £80 millions to suppress the 1919-20 revolt.) In this undertaking the British made excellent use of the services of the Assyrians.

The Assyrians were playthings in the hands of the English in their struggle against the Turks, Kurds (who inhabit Mosul which is so rich in petroleum) and the Arab inhabitants of Iraq who sought the independence of their country from imperialism. As Dr. W.A. Wigram, who knew the situation of the Assyrians from first hand, said:

‘By the admission of the then High Commissioner it was the Assyrian force that saved the swamping of our rule in the Arab revolt of 1920 (Sir A. Wilson, Mesopotamia, p. 291) and they who (as the CO in the field, Colonel Cameron, declared) rolled back the Turkish invasion of Iraq in 1922/23 … But this very fact caused the Iraqis to hate them.’ (RCAS, Vol. II, Jan. 1934, p. 38–41)

To cease being together with the British troops the Assyrians could not, as with their expulsion from the Hakari Mountains their means of livelihood was taken from them, and now most of the Assyrian families were living on the pay of their members in the army. And their hopes for settlement were soon dashed to the ground, the reason being easy to find: the Assyrians wished to be settled in a compact body, but the Iraqis did not wish to see a compact body of armed and drilled men of semi-hostile views in their midst. (E. Main, Iraq from Mandate to Independence, London 1935)

Thus British imperialism brought it about that the Assyrians were expelled from Turkey, fulfilled an important task in the cruel suppression of the Kurds and Arabs in Iraq, and were therefore surrounded on all sides by bitter animosity; and were in this way caused to be more attached to, and dependent on, British imperialism. R.S.H. Stafford, in The Tragedy of the Assyrians (1935) would rightly state that the question of the Assyrians was not a religious, but a political question pure and simple.

The Arabs and Kurds in Iraq believed that Britain’s intentions were to set up an armed enclave in the north of the country. Articles were published and speeches delivered in the Iraqi parliament saying that it was Britain who had instigated friction in Iraq. Her calling for the defence of the Assyrians had immersed Iraq in complications solely for her own purposes, and she now wished to create an autonomous Assyrian state in the north of Iraq, intending by this to create in Iraq a second ‘Zionist’ problem.

In 1930 the mandate over Iraq ended and Iraq acquired independence (albeit entirely formal independence, as Britain’s control over the oilfields, three aerodromes etc. continued). The conscription of Assyrians for British needs now became superfluous. Instead of mass land forces Britain now based herself mainly on the air force. But Britain still <p. 53> had one use for the Assyrians – to be her scapegoats.

With the declaration of the abolition of the mandate the Assyrians turned to Britain with a strong request to be discharged from the army in order to dispel the doubts and fears of the Iraqis that they, the Assyrians, might be used to damage the integrity and independence of Iraq. But Sir Francis Humphreys, the British High Commissioner, attempted to postpone the matter by all possible means – saying that the League of Nations had to look into the matter, and so on; and he threatened that if the Assyrians were discharged, they would not be employed in any government service in the future. Sir Francis succeeded in doing as he wished.

When anti-British articles began appearing in the Iraqi papers, the British Embassy intervened, and some papers were banned. But when propaganda began to appear that the main task of the Iraqis was to fight against the Assyrians and that Britain was the enemy of Iraq because she defended them, then the British Embassy remained silent, so encouraging all the black elements – the clergy and the feudal reaction – to hasten their preparation for a crusade against the Assyrians, the blind servants and victims of imperialism.

In August 1933, seventeen years of British policy came to fruition: there were terrible riots against the Assyrians under the command of Iraqi authorities and with the participation of the army. British aircraft flew above the region of the massacres and took photographs but brought no help to the victims.

After the riots Britain brought to mind again her promise to establish an independent Assyrian state and decided that the time had come to permit the Assyrians at least to settle on a stretch of land, however small. Plan after plan sprang up for the settlement of the Assyrians (in Brazil, Guyana, etc.) but were all put aside except one, which was to settle them in Syria, in the region of Latakia. A programme was decided on to settle 30 thousand people, which would cost £1,140,000. Of this sum, according to the agreement, Britain was to pay £250,000, Iraq £250,000, France £380,000 and the League of Nations £80,000. A source of the remaining £180,000 was not found, and so the settlement was held up. When the Archbishop of Canterbury on 11 February 1936 asked the government in the House of Lords how it intended finally to settle the question of the Assyrians which, in his opinion, lay like a heavy burden on the conscience of the Allied Powers in general and England in particular, and even pledged himself to get part of the sum lacking for the execution of the plan of settlement by an appeal to the British people, Lord Stanhope replied on behalf of the government:

‘The government hoped for volunteering from other sources after it had contributed £250,000 and had influenced Iraq to make her contribution double her first offer bringing it up to £250,000. The government could not add to its contribution, and it would support the Archbishop’s appeal.’ (Retranslated from Hebrew)

What, after all, do the Assyrians expect of unfortunate British imperialism, which makes millions every year from the oilfields which were defended for Britain by them?

The final result of all the grand settlement plans was that nine thousand Assyrians succeeded in settling in Syria on the Syrian-Iraqi border in the region of Jezira!

The system of the creation and exploitation of communal strife is in the main outlines the same in all the countries of the Arab East; only the details differ, these being conditioned by the total of social relations, the extent of the unity of the economy of the country, the cultural level of the masses and so on. And even though there is a great lesson to be learnt from the divide et impera policy of imperialism in the different countries, from a comparison of the different methods and an analysis of the connection between these methods and the development of the class struggle, etc., we are forced to cut out such detailed elaboration. (The question will be further dealt with in the chapters on the national movement in Palestine and Syria.)

<p. 54> But imperialism does not suffice with inciting communal conflicts. It takes care also that each country be divided from the rest of the Arab countries, and if possible, that each be further re-divided into the maximum number of states.

III. The Division of the Arab Countries into Many Small States

The bloc of Arab countries, even if we exclude Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Libya in North Africa, are broken up into many separate states: Egypt, Sudan (the northern half of which is Arab), Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq, the states of the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Arabia which is divided into four regions with different degrees of dependence on the central government, independent Yemen, the Lilliputian states of the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Taib al-Sharkah, Muscat – all of which are under the direct British Protectorate), the British colony of Aden and Hadramawt under the Aden administration. Thus the number of states inhabited in the main by Arabs is eleven, excluding the states of the Arabian Peninsula.

But this division is not sufficient for imperialism. And so, besides the creation of the states of Lebanon, in which were included regions with an almost purely Moslem population, France, after the last war, hastened to separate the Alawite region and the Sanjak of Alexandretta, turning them into independent states, thus separating the entire coastal region from Syria proper and dividing it into three ‘independent’ states. In 1922 Jebel Druze became an independent region. The towns Damascus and Aleppo together with their surrounding areas were also ‘privileged’ each to become a state on its own. This partitioning raised a storm in Syria, and imperialism was forced to retreat somewhat. On June 28, 1922, the Syrian federation was created, which included Damascus, Aleppo, and the Alawite state. In 1924 the federation was abolished, but Damascus and Aleppo united to form one state. The area of the French mandate was then divided into five states: Syria, Lebanon, the Alawite state, Jebel Druze and the autonomous Sanjak of Alexandretta. Afterwards Jebel Druze and the Alawite region were joined to Syria, and the Sanjak of Alexandretta was completely cut away and joined to Turkey. This agreement by France to the unity of Syria except for Alexandretta was an outcome of the 1936 riots. But all the time France’s undermining activities directed towards the disintegration of Syria did not stop for a moment.

Certain conditions, however, must be present for imperialism’s disruptive policy to succeed. Men make history, indeed, but they make it out of the materials given them by history itself. Imperialism likewise: it tries to break the Arab people up into tiny sections, but to succeed a certain system of socio-economic relations must assist it. First and foremost comes feudalism.

As has been said in the chapter ‘Feudalism in the Arab East,’ Arab feudalism was based from the beginning on commercial relations, this being a cause and result of the existence of the large state units in the first few centuries of Islam. Afterwards, at the same time as the Renaissance came to Europe, and commercial capitalism began to develop there, the economy and culture of the Arab East declined, the third estate did not develop, the cities deteriorated, and so the foundations of large-scale state units based on internal economic connections, disappeared. The large-scale state unit which did exist – that of the Ottoman Empire – based itself in the main on a centralized military regime, and was rather shaky. Any pressure from without, or capitalist development in any of its provinces which brought in its wake an upsurge of the national movement, was liable to shake it to its foundations. Thus for hundreds of years the Arab East has not known large state units based on economic unity (except for the short-lived experiment of Mohamed Ali). The reason for this is feudalism.

Another factor which made very difficult the economic-political unity of the regions inhabited by Arabs was the geographical factor. The Arab countries do not form one compact bloc in which the shortest route from one point to another lies inland. They comprise a group of countries with large deserts lying between them and weak points of contact. From this flows the fact that external transport routes, rather than internal ones, have a decisive importance. Even today transport from Haifa to Baghdad by sea is cheaper than by land. The same thing is true for <p. 55> the Beirut–Alexandria sea journey, Damascus–Cairo sea journey, and so on.

Still today the economic connections between the Arab countries are very weak, even if we consider the countries which are relatively close together – Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Iraq – and this in spite of the tightening of the connections between them during the war due to the lack of supplies from abroad. The following table elucidates this:-

The Percentage of Trade with the Arab East Countries
in the Foreign Trade of Every One of them
















Figure not


Figure not











Again the two main reasons for this phenomenon are feudalism and imperialism.

Feudalism, by holding back the development of the forces of production, by keeping the purchasing by the fellaheen of means of consumption small and forcing down to a minimum their purchasing of means of production, hinders any tightening of economic bonds between the different parts of the Arab world. Imperialism, by controlling the sources of wealth, and by directing the economies of the Arab countries mainly to the production of goods needed by the ‘mother’ country, hindering the manufacture in these countries themselves of the raw materials produced, thus making them economically dependent on the ‘mother’ country, constitutes a major stumbling block in the way of the unity of the Arab countries. It is self-evident that if Palestine could establish a large chemical industry which manufactured the raw materials of the Dead Sea, if the oil produced in Iraq were not taken by British monopolists, if Egyptian agriculture did not grow cotton in such tremendous quantities, and instead grew wheat, sugar, rubber, etc., and if in all these countries industry had been developed, there would have been place for a wide division of labour among the Arab countries and a lively exchange of products among them.

A further hindrance to the economic unity of the Arab countries is the customs policy, the rail and shipping freights and the telegraph costs in these countries. Thus, for instance, the freight for one ton from Alexandria to Beirut was, before the war, much more than from Alexandria to Marseilles. To send a telegram from Cairo to Damascus costs more than from Cairo to London.

Of course the political superstructure on the economic base given by feudalism and the rule of imperialist capital also plays a great part in hampering the unity of the Arab countries. The rule of the royal families and the rivalries between them, the lust for power of the local feudal chiefs and their narrow-mindedness, all become a weapon in the hands of imperialism in its disruptive designs.

As has already been said, the highest degree of disruptiveness has been reached by France in Syria. As the chapter The National Movement in Syria and Lebanon deals at length with the French policy of partitioning the country, it will here suffice to give a short illustration of the role of the feudal relations in strengthening the centrifugal tendencies in Jebel Druze, Latakia and al-Jezira.

In Jebel Druze incessant war goes on between those chief feudal families which stand for ‘independent administration’ (by which they mean breaking with Damascus as they know that ‘independent administration’ assures them authority in the Jebel) and the less important feudal families which have reason to fear the chief families, and so prefer unity with Syria. (Neither a third estate nor a proletariat exist in the Jebel, and the peasants are too downtrodden and disrupted to be an independent force). At times, following some friction among the chief feudal families themselves, some of their members combine with those who demand all-Syrian unity. But the extent of the separatist tendencies in Jebel Druze, and the extent to which the rule of feudalism constitutes a constant danger of the separation of the Jebel from Syria and its becoming a basis for imperialism <p. 56> may be gauged from some facts. Already in 1919 the feudal chiefs signed a petition in favour of the French mandate. Their request was granted at first in the form of autonomous rule being given them, and in 1922 by Jebel Druze becoming an independent political unit. In 1925 Sultan al-Atrash, one of the important Druze chiefs, put himself at the head of the all-Syrian revolt in which Druzes and Moslems took part together. Some years later, after the Franco-Syrian Treaty was drawn up, the same Sultan al-Atrash, on not being appointed governor of Jebel Druze on behalf of the Damascus authorities, turned to the French High Commissioner expressing himself in favour of French rule and declaring that the Druzes were bound to France with firm bonds of friendship, and it was his desire that this friendship be strengthened in the interests of the Jebel. In the riots of May 1945, it was again this same man who called the people to arms in a united all-Syrian struggle against France.

In Latakia French imperialism has for many years successfully exploited the antagonism between the Alawite and the Sunnite Arabs. The Sunnites form both the great majority of the urban population of the coastal towns and also most of the landowners. The Alawites are in general mountain fellaheen, and the very word ‘fellah’ has in their language become a synonym for Alawite. But there is also a stratum of feudal lords and rich clerical leaders among the Alawites. This stratum exploits the fact that to a great extent the religious line of demarcation and the social differentiation coincide – the tenants being Alawites and the landowners in the main Sunnites – in order to give their struggle for power and for the autonomy of the Alawite region the likeness of a social revolt. With the strengthening of the movement for autonomy in Latakia in 1938, the instances of land seizure by force on the part of the Alawite fellahs increased. All the time that the big landowners, allies of the Sunnite landowners in Latakia, rule in Damascus, a real and stable unity cannot exist between this region and the other parts of the country. The liquidation of the landowners’ rule is a precondition for the real unity of Latakia and Damascus.

At the time that the Franco-Syrian Treaty was on the point of being signed, French imperialism succeeded in arousing yet another separatist movement, this time in al-Jezira. Here a sham revolt was staged whose leaders sent a memorandum to the High Commissioner demanding the following: 1) Seeing that al-Jezira bordered on two countries, Turkey and Iraq, and was composed of a mixed population (Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians) a stable government could not be assured in this region except by the appointment of a French Governor; 2) The base of the French army should be set up in al-Jezira. There were other similar demands.

A survey, however short, of the imperialist policy of partitioning the Arab countries would be deficient without touching on the partition plan for Palestine. Britain has considered the partition plan for Palestine (for the first time official in 1937) taking into account the following circumstances: Firstly Zionist economy and society make up a closed body in Arab surroundings (see further the chapter ‘Zionism’). This is basically a factor in favour of partitioning the country even though the Zionist leaders want a greater slice of the country than is offered them. Secondly in the Lilliputian Jewish state the Zionist struggle for the eviction of every Arab worker and peasant will become ever more intense. Thirdly the Arab state, economically weak because cut off from the vital economic centres on the coast, will maintain a strong irredentist movement. Fourthly British imperialism will have a military base in both the Arab state and the Jewish. The partition plan which is a result of the policy of imperialism and Zionism therefore suits the needs of imperialism excellently in the strengthening of its military and political domination. The fact that it has not yet fulfilled its partition plan is a concession to the pressure of the Arab masses which it could not avoid making as long as it was struggling with German imperialism. Now it is the hidden struggle with the USSR, the USA and France which makes British politicians more wary.

IV. The Arab League

The reader may ask: What about the Arab League? Does not its existence contradict what has been said about imperialist policy being directed towards splitting up the Arab countries?

<p. 57> There is unity and unity. The federative idea can be both progressive and reactionary, taking into consideration the economic, social and political circumstances in which it is realized. The objective value of any federative framework is conditioned by the quality of the social forces backing it up and the concrete forms it takes on. A federation which includes three monarchies, almost wholly Bedouin – Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Emirate of Transjordan – a monarchy of a semi-Bedouin country – Iraq – and three more developed feudal-capitalist states – Egypt, Syria and Lebanon – does not at all signify a progressive unity from the economic, cultural and political standpoint. Even from the standpoint of the needs of capitalist development in the relatively more developed countries – Egypt, Syria and Lebanon – the problems whose solution demands the establishment of an Arab Federation or union (such as the abolition of customs between the Arab countries and the necessity of visas, the unification of education, etc.) are much less important than those problems which necessitate a social revolutionary change in each country (the agrarian revolution, the expropriation of imperialist capital etc.). The Arab League, of course, will not deal with the second set of problems and it has hardly touched even on the first. Trade relations between the different Arab countries have not changed at all – customs tariffs have not been lowered in the slightest. Till today the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior puts tremendous difficulties in the way of Arabs from the surrounding countries who apply for visas to Egypt. Till today the trade unions of the different countries cannot confer together. The Arab League does not imply an all-embracing and multilateral unity but only unity within narrow bounds for a particular aim. The aim is dictated by British imperialism and is the raising of a British cordon sanitaire, anti-Russian, anti-French and anti-American.

The Arab League also acts as a means of strengthening the position of the rulers in the Arab countries whenever they happen to be in danger. All its failures in domestic politics (especially during the time of the malaria epidemic) the Wafd cloaked with the simple device of giving enthusiastic speeches about the great victory of the founding of the Arab League. If matters of supply in Lebanon have reached a critical pass, Riad al-Solh, its Prime Minister, can ‘redeem’ the masses with a dream of Arab unity.

The Arab League did not at all overcome the dynastic antagonisms and local interests of the ruling classes in the different Arab countries. This will become entirely clear from a perusal of the following facts:

In a notice to the Lebanese parliament on the results of the preparatory conference to the Arab Unity Conference Riad al-Solh said: ‘We, Moslems and Christians, will guard with our blood the independence of Lebanon not only against the West, but also against the East if that is necessary.’ (Al-Difaa, 16.10.44). This is the declaration of unity with the Arab East!

Ibn Saud opposed the unification of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan in one state of Greater Syria, because a strong Arab state would thus be founded north of his kingdom which would be ruled over by a king of the Hashemite family. Between this family (from which come the King of Iraq and the Emir of Transjordan) and Ibn Saud bad relations exist because the head of the Hashemite family was driven out of his country, Hedjaz, by the armies of Ibn Saud in 1924.

Furthermore because of friction between America and England it is doubtful if the rulers of the Arab countries will participate wholeheartedly in the League. The result of all these factors was clearly revealed in the laws of the Arab League which do not differ to any great extent from those of the late ‘League of Nations’. Thus not only is there no, even theoretically, unified conduct of foreign policy for the different Arab countries, but it was even resolved (Article 9) That ‘the pacts and agreements which have already been made and which will be made in the future between a member state of the League and any other state does not obligate nor bind the other members.’ Another section (Article 6) resolves on an additional reservation to all those existing on the unity of action of the Arab countries. It says: ‘In case of attack or fear of attack on one of the member states, that state attacked or fearing attack may demand the convocation of the committee for an immediate session.

‘The committee will decide on the arrangements necessary for the <p. 58> repulsion of the attack; the resolution must be accepted unanimously; in a case where the attack is made by one of the member states the vote of the aggressor will not be included in the count of the votes.’

Thus one of the seven Arab states participating in the League needs to vote against the resolution for it to be nullified.

A further limitation which is liable, if imperialism or its agent so desires, to be a stumbling block to every positive decision, is given in Article 7 which says that the decisions of the Council will be executed ‘in accordance with the fundamental laws of every state.’

As regards economic policy the constitution does not touch at all on the abolition of or decrease in customs duties or decrease in railway and telegraph charges. It suffices with the appointing of a committee to take charge of the matters.

The Arab League therefore does not express the unity of progressive Powers directed towards economic, cultural and political independence from imperialism, but is instead a plaything if imperialism. It is not a means for achieving independence, but an imperialist substitute for independence, not a means towards the unity of the Arab states but an apology for it. [1]

Last but not least of imperialism’s methods of rule is the support given imperialism by the upper classes of the Arab people. This will be dealt with at length in the coming chapters on the national movement.


1. For a detailed description of the relation between Zionism and the Arab League and the imperialist policy of divide and rule in this connection see the chapter Zionism.

Last updated on 28.5.2011