T. Cliff

The Problem of the Middle East

Part VI
The Working Class Movement in the Arab East

<p. 187>

Chapter XXII
The Stalinist Groups in the Arab East

Let us now examine the character of the political organisations of the working class in the Arab East. There are organisations of three kinds: firstly the Stalinist parties and groups (existing in all the countries of the Arab East), secondly the Zionist Socialist parties (existing only among the Jews of Palestine and having no influence whatsoever over the Arabs or the Jews in other Arab countries) and thirdly, two Trotskyist organisations (in Egypt and Palestine). Seeing, on the other hand, that we have dwelt as length on the character of the Zionist Socialist parties in the chapter Zionism and on the other that this book as a whole and its last chapter in particular is an expression of the Trotskyist standpoint in the Arab East, it remains for us only to describe the political stand of the Stalinist organisations.

The biggest Stalinist parties in the Arab East are in Lebanon and Syria. They claim to have together 7,000 members, but this is an exaggerated figure. It is, however, true that they have a considerable influence in Syrian trade unions and an overwhelming influence in Lebanese trade unions. A Stalinist daily (Sawt al-Sha’ab) and a monthly (at-Tariq) are published in Beirut and serve as organs for both parties.

The Arab Stalinist party in Palestine, after much internal strife and many splits eventually, within the last year or two, united into one party called ‘National Freedom League’. The League has a great influence in the trade unions even thought its membership does not go beyond a few scores. It publishes a weekly called Al-Ittihad. It also controls a small organisation of intellectuals which publishes a bi-monthly called Al-Ghad.

The Jewish Stalinists have a very fluctuating membership and hardly a single leader of a few hears ago remains today. The reason is the zigzags in the Stalinist policy which receive an ugly character in the complex national-social conditions of the country. Their influence is practical political life is very small. They publish a weekly called Kol Ha’am. Besides the Palestine Communist Party there is another organisation founded under the inspiration of Browder and called ‘The Communist Educational Union of Palestine’; its leaders are veteran Palestinian Stalinists and its stand is openly Zionist (it has announced its affiliation to the World Zionist Federation).

In Egypt and Iraq the Stalinists have only very small groups without any real influence among the workers and in the trade unions. One Egyptian Stalinist group publishes a weekly Al-Fajr al-Jadid. Another has a publishing house for pamphlets and some individuals publish pamphlets on their own.

In Iraq there are three Arab Stalinist parties. The Iraqi Stalinists have perhaps the least influence among all the Stalinist groups in the Arab East but the most prolific press activity, having five daily papers, a few weeklies and monthlies and two publishing houses. Their press appears to be read mainly by the intelligentsia. Beside the Arab Stalinist groups in Iraq there is also a Kurdish Communist Party.

There is not sufficient space to review the ideological-political development of the Stalinist groups during the whole period of their existence. For all the countries except Palestine, therefore, only their positions during the war will be reviewed. The position of the Communist Party of Palestine during the national uprising of 1936–39 needs, however, special analysis, as it shows up the colours of the Stalinists very clearly.

I. The Stalinists and the War

While throughout the world the Stalinists’ attitude to the war and their definition of the role of the class struggle changed from pole to pole several times, being in crying contradiction to the real needs of the working class, in <p. 188> the colonial countries this contradiction was many times more glaring.

Before the war the Stalinists kept on repeating that the coming war for which the Powers were preparing would be a war between democracy and fascism. At the beginning of the war, before it was clearly known what the Kremlin demanded of them, they constantly repeated this thought. After a few months of war, however, they changed their tune, declaring the war an imperialist war. Thus the Hebrew paper of the Stalinist party of Palestine, Kol Ha’am wrote (January 1940):

‘… From a regime of “national unity”, of “unity” of the hungry and the satisfied, a regime of dangerous illusions, a “regime of conscription” … to a regime of class struggle and the victory of the class!

And again after some time:

‘It is not a crime to say that this war is our war … This propaganda about a “Jewish” war and hunger and poverty in the country are not accidents – it is the imperialist system which needs victims and cannon fodder. Only hunger will compel the masses to volunteer … those same bandits who handed the Jews over to Hitler, conduct, through their Zionist agents … the propaganda that this war is theirs’ (Kol Ha’am, July 1940).

But the Stalinists were far from drawing real revolutionary conclusions from this. Only the pacifist inferences, suiting Russian foreign policy, were arrived at. Thus the number of Kol Ha’am cited above (January 1940) said,

‘the bourgeoisie today sees in the war the only possibility for the continuation of its existence … the bourgeoisie has not the ability to hold the working class and the colonial peoples under its whip and its yoke an more, except by laws of war … but only the struggle of the masses has the power to compel Churchill and Hitler to make pact against the interests of the quarrelling imperialist groups. This peace is therefore in the interests of the workers, and it means victory of the masses in their struggles.’

A new peak was reached by the Stalinists during the time of Rashid Ali’s coup d’état. Even if one did not know the exact connections between Rashid Ali and Germany it was obvious that he was a plaything in the hands of this imperialist Power. At this time the Middle East in general was not ready for any mass uprising against British imperialism. The German army was threatening to enter the Middle East. In Syria hundreds of German agents were working hand in glove with the Vichy administration. The question of who takes advantage of whom, whether the national movement the antagonism between the imperialist Powers, or one imperialist Power the antagonism between another imperialist Power and the oppressed nation is decided by the relative weight of the three. Under the conditions that existed at that time obviously no Iraqi movement could exploit the antagonism between the rival imperialist Powers for the liberation of their country, and all that could evolve from the situation was that the small Iraqi movement be exploited by one imperialist Power for its advantage over another. Any analogy, therefore, Between Rashid Ali’s movement and the movement of liberation of the Indian millions backed up by the Chinese colossus, is incongruous. Decisive proof of Rashid Ali’s being simply a German tool was given when, after the overthrow of his government by the British, he fled to Germany. But the Stalinists of the time could not see all this as the Russo-German pact was still in force. And so, Ra’if Khoury, one of the Stalinist theoreticians in Syria, wrote about Rashid Ali’s coup:

‘I think I shall not be exaggerating if I say that this movement is the first strong serious Arab movement aiming at the liberty and independence of the Arabs and the strengthening of their common existence.’ (Principles of National Conscience, Beirut 1941, p. 91)

‘We have read with pride and satisfaction, the Declaration of his Excellency the Prime Minister, Rashid Ali, that his government is not in the service of anyone, as the money grabbers make out’ (ibid., p. 92)

‘We have for the first time seen an Arab government carrying arms shoulder to shoulder with its people’ (ibid., p. 93)

And as to Germany:

‘We are astonished why the grand Axis Power did not officially recognise independent Iraq and its government – notwithstanding the Power’s help which demands our thanks – as official recognition is particular value.’ (ibid., p. 93–4)

And with such sentiments, he ended his thoughts on Rashid Ali.

Even after the outbreak of the Russo-German war, the Stalinists in the Arab East continued the same refrain till they understood what the Kremlin wanted of them. Thus on 8/8/41, i.e. about one and a half months after the German attack on Russia, a leaflet of the Central Committee of the Palestine Communist Party said:

‘British imperialism and its Zionist agents try exploit for their own interests the sympathy of Jewish masses in the country for the USSR with the help of <p. 189> the demagogic declarations of Churchill and Eden about England being the ally of the USSR they try to strengthen the imperialist-zionist recruiting, the regime of forced labour and of the starvation wages in the army camps and industry. This recruiting is not in the interests of the USSR! This imperialist-zionist recruiting is directed towards the extension of the conquests of British imperialism on the one hand and the realisation of the Zionist of the Zionist plans of conquest against the national liberatory movement of the Arabs on the other.’

Hardly a month passed, however, before the tune changed completely. A leaflet of the Central Committee of October 1941 stated:

‘Comrade workers! In this historic hour when the fate of humanity and our fate as workers and Jews is being decided it is our sacred duty to take our place in the great anti-fascist front of the United Soviet-English bloc … We must answer the inspiring appeal of our brethren in Moscow by taking arms in hand, and by entering the ranks of the British army, the brother-in-arms of the heroic Red Army.’

If till now the whole East was the foe of imperialism and the ‘masses of Indian and Arabs were on the eve of open revolts against imperialist rule’ (Kol Ha’am, June 1940), now a decisive change suddenly occurred in the situation: ‘The government must understand that it has an important region of friends in the Middle East’ (Kol Ha’am, December 1942). If until now it was necessary to struggle against any increase in the exploitation of the workers in the army camps and industry, now ‘we must in this emergency find such ways of raising wages as at other times we should not agree to: taking on piece work, overtime, forgoing a weekly day of rest.’ And if this is not received enthusiastically by a worker, it is a sign that he ‘lacks any primitive national feeling’ (Kol Ha’am, September 1941). Till now, the ‘British government in Palestine represented the regime of subjugation, exploitation, oppression and black reaction. This regime is the same as that of Hitler and Mussolini with whom British and French imperialism struggles for the monopoly over the exploitation of the proletariat of the capitalist countries and the oppressed nations of the colonies’ (Kol Ha’am, July 1940). From now on the British High Commissioner is the representative of democracy, and we ‘bear in our hearts his good personal features … the manifestation of his true social characteristics’ (Al-Ittihad, 31/12/44).

And from their rosy dreams they could not be woken up even by the harshest blows of imperialism. If French imperialism suppressed the Arab inhabitants of Syria, it was only a result of ‘Vichy-imperialist actions’ and no more – as At-Tariq (15/6/45) wrote. And if the British army was sent to suppress the Greek proletariat, then

‘we consider … that the British government will understand that its behaviour (in Greece) is not free from short sightedness, and it will change it … as Mr Churchill is a man who has done a lot for democracy and it does not stand to reason that he will insist on the suppression of the Greeks. That is the meaning of Mr Churchill’s and Mr Eden’s voyage to Greece … The visit of Mr Churchill and Mr Eden to Greece had a good influence on all circles, and efforts were directed to the solution of the Greek question.’ (Al-Attihad, 31/12/44)

II. The Stalinists and National Unity

Starting from a Menshevik, mechanistic and superficial conception which saw imperialism as an external body which oppresses all classes of the colonial peoples without distinction, and not as a factor which operates towards the increased exploitation of the toilers by foreign and local capital, and which at the same time tightens the connections between local capital and foreign capital and imperialism; a conception which was oblivious to the connection between the anti-imperialist struggle in the colonies and to the world socialist revolution – starting from such a conception, the Stalinists found justification for the policy of the unity of all classes in the colonial countries. And even though the validity of the Menshevist conception was disproved by the victory of the Russian Bolshevik revolution, and by the defeat of the Chinese revolution brought about by the Menshevist Stalinist leadership, the Stalinists in the East continued to repeat the slogans of national unity and all the theoretical arguments they were based on.

Thus the secretary of the Syrian Communist Party, Khaled Bakdash, wrote in 1944:

‘It is evident that the problem of national liberation is a problem of the nation as a whole, and it is therefore possible without discussion to get the compliance of the whole nation around this great slogan <p. 190> for the realisation of full national unity. National liberation is in the interests of the national landowners; it is in the interest of small and big merchants alike.’ (The Communist Party in the Struggle for Independence and National Sovereignty, Beirut 1944, p. 74, Arabic)


‘our appreciation and honour of the national capitalist who struggles faithfully for national liberation is not less than our appreciation and honour of the national worker who struggles faithfully for national liberation.’ (Ibid., p. 75)

And without any shame he says,

‘He who reads our National Programme (the programme which was adopted by the Congress of the Syrian and Lebanese Communist Parties, 31/12/43–1/1/44 – T.C.) will find that it does not mention socialism. There is not one expression or demand which has a socialist colouring. It is a national-democratic programme, no more and no less … (ibid., p. 71)

‘This is no retreat in principle, as the question of building a socialist order in an country in not a question which depends on the will or desire; it will not be decided by the will of a man or a group of men or a political party. It is a question which depends on the position of this or that country and on the level of its general development.’ (ibid., p. 71)


‘It is clear that you cannot pose before a country which suffers from the yoke of imperialism and from economic, agricultural and industrial backwardness the question of building a socialist order, but only that of national liberation, and liberation from the remnants of the Middle Ages, in its economic and cultural life’ (ibid., p. 73)

This quotation has as many mistakes as sentences. Are the Arab capitalists and feudal lords interested that imperialism, their main support against the masses, be driven out? Are they interested in the smashing of imperialism which will inevitably bring with it the downfall of capitalism in the ‘mother’ countries? In the Arab bourgeoisie sufficiently independent economically to be interested in putting an end to foreign capital? Does not ‘liberation from the remnants of the Middle Ages’ mean the abolition of feudal property relations which hinder any economic and cultural progress – and does this not clash with the interests of the ‘national landowners’? Furthermore, is it not clear that capitalism on a world scale has used to the full all the possibilities of development within its framework and is now decaying, and that the general ripeness of the world for socialism determines the possibility for a socialist revolution in any country which contains a proletariat, no matter how small and weak? Have not sufficient proofs been given of the correctness of Marx’s statement that ‘violent upheavals happen sooner at the extremities of the bourgeois organism than at its heart where the regulation of its functions is easier than elsewhere’? And do the Russian and Chinese revolutions not teach anything?

It is interesting to note that while Stalin claimed that backward agrarian Russia could with her own forces build fully-fledged socialism, his agents in the colonies claim that they are too backward for the proletarian socialist revolution. These two approaches are both based on a narrow nationalist conception, on oblivion to the fact that every country is a section of the globe, and so, despite apparent antagonisms, can conform with each other.

In accordance with this line long time ago the Communist Party in Syria and Lebanon decided to do away with the Red Flag as the flag of the parties and the international as their anthem. The flag of the Syrian party is now the Syrian flag and it anthem the Syrian national anthem, and the flag and anthem of the Lebanese party those of Lebanon. And in order to be worthy of sitting together with the ‘national capitalists and landowners’, their form of address changed from ‘comrade’ to ‘Mr’.

Bakdash is a pocket edition of Stalin. His speeches are guides to the Arab Stalinists in all the Arab countries, and they do all they can to prove that their nationalist fervour is not less than that of their teacher. Thus when the ‘Arab Party’ was revived, whose leaders are the Mufti of Jerusalem (who lived the last four years of the war in Berlin), Amin al-Tamimi, and Jamal al-Husayni (both of whom took part in the Rashid Ali revolution and were arrested by British authorities), the Arab Stalinists in Palestine hastened to send the following telegram to the leadership of the party:

‘The National Freedom League in Palestine congratulates you on your decision to bring your national party back into activity, and we believe that this decision will help us all in unifying our efforts in the service of our dear homeland.’

<p. 191> The Stalinists in Iraq and Egypt do not lag behind in their nationalist zeal, but it would be redundant to give further illustrations. [1]

From this general approach flows the attitude of the Stalinists to the class interests of the workers and peasants.

III. The Stalinists and the Agrarian Question

Although the Stalinists speak about the need of the Arab countries to get rid of the remnants of the Middle Ages in economic and cultural life, they do not consider any anti-feudal agrarian revolution.

The clause in the National Programme of the Communist Party in Syria and Lebanon which deals with the fellaheen is formulated thus: ‘Attention must be paid to the position of the Syrian (Lebanese) fellah and his liberation from poverty illiteracy and backwardness.’

What do ‘attention’ and ‘liberation’ mean? Khaled Bakdash gave a clear answer to this in his speech of May, 1944:

‘We assure the landowners that we do not demand and will not demand in Parliament the confiscation of their estates and lands, but on the contrary we want to help them by demanding the construction of large-scale irrigation enterprises, the facilitation of the import of fertilizer and modern machinery … All we demand in exchange for this is pity on the fellah, that he be taken out of his poverty and illiteracy and that knowledge and health be spread in the village … These are our economic, or, if you can say so, social demands. They are democratic and very modest.’ (The Communist Party in Syria and Lebanon: Its National Policy and its National Programme, Beirut 1944, pp. 24–25)

In one point Bakdash is right: the plea for pity is really a very ‘modest’ demand.

The Stalinists in the other Arab countries likewise do not think about <p. 192> division of the feudal estates. Thus, for instance, after a torrent of words about the wretched position of fellah in Palestine, the National Freedom League stated:

‘His (the fellah’s) demands are justified. They are national demands which together with him all the classes of the nations demand. He demands improvement of his means of agriculture, to be supplied with tractors and chemical fertilizer, the improvement of the means of irrigation and transport, the lightening of the taxes, the giving of loans for long terms with low interest, his defence from the greedy usurers, the extension of the network of schools by opening new ones, the building of centres for medical attention for him and his family.’ (Pamphlet of the National Freedom League, 22/3/44, Arabic)

But perhaps the demands of the fellah are also the division of the feudal latifundia? Can a landless tenant or a fellah with a Lilliputian plot pass over from production with a plough which cost 40 piasters to production with the help of a tractor which costs scores of pounds unless his plot of land is greatly increased at the expense of the feudal estates, unless he receives substantial help from the state (and only a workers rate can give this), and unless scores of peasants are combined on one large collective farm? And are all these cultural reforms – opening schools, building medical centres etc. – possible without the overthrow of the imperialist government which squeezes out millions and dedicates the major portion of the budget to the police, throwing in only crumbs for health and education? Is a serious development of the productive powers of the country possible without overthrowing the control of foreign capital over the key positions of the country? Does the Arab fellah need the Mountain or the Gironde?

The Iraqi Stalinists follow the same path as their fellows in Syria and Palestine. Details would be superfluous.

How wretched are these Utopian potions in face of the malignant disease!

IV. The Stalinists and the Class Interests of the Workers

The only section in the National Programme of the Communist Party in Syria and Lebanon which deals with the workers, is formulated as follows:

‘Clause 15) Taking action in connection with unemployment, struggle against poverty and assurance of the livelihood of the people. Clause 16) Protection of the workers by enactment of labour laws to protect their rights and to fix the relation between them and the employers on the basis of justice and the national interest.’

In his speech of May 1, Khaled Bakdash said:

‘All we demand … is the introduction of some democratic reforms that all speak about and all agree are necessary. Our demand is not nor will be, and it is not on our programme, to confiscate national capital and the national factories. We promise national capital and the national factory owner that we will not look with envy or hate at his national factory, but on the contrary we desire its progress and flourishing. All that we demand is the amelioration of the lot of the national workers and the realisation of a democratic labour legislation which will regulate the relations between the employers and the workers on the basis of justice and national solidarity.’

So as regards the class struggle of the workers, too, we are very modest, very conciliatory, ready with all our hearts to defend your capital, Arab bourgeoisie! You too be modest and conciliatory! Such is the way of arguing which repeats itself time and again in the Stalinist propaganda. Instead of an appeal to the workers to struggle and organise independently for their demands, comes the appeal to the conscience of the bourgeoisie and to the bourgeois state. Thus, for example, when the workers in the soap factories of Tripoli went on strike, Sawt al-Sha’ab (15/7/44) wrote:

‘We hope that the employers will agree to the demands of the workers, as they do not demand a lot, and that the government will intervene between the employers and the workers and will solve the question in a just way.’

In August, 1944, the municipal workers of Beirut went on strike. They were savagely beaten by the police, and many were dismissed by the municipality. Sawt al-Sha’ab here too appealed to the government asking it to intervene in the interests of the workers (2–3/8/44). Apparently the police is not an arm of the government!

<p. 193> The workers in a steadily increasing number of cases are coming to ask for support in a strike or other economic struggle, and the party mollifies them in order not to violate ‘national unity.’ At a meeting of the Communist Party of Lebanon, Faraj Allah al-Hilu, Secretary of the Party, severely attacked those who were trying to lead part of the Lebanese party astray and to create a spirit of doubt about the government. And if Sawt al-Sha’ab said that at this meeting ‘the workers and the employers, the fellaheen and the landowners, sat side by side’ (Jan. 1944) one wonders if the words of al-Hilu weakened the doubts of the workers and peasants about the government or whether they increased their doubts about the Stalinist leadership which tails behind the employers and landowners and their government.

The Stalinists in the neighbouring countries have the same opportunistic attitude to the class struggle of the workers. One example will be brought of the actions of the Stalinists in Palestine. In a strike in the flour mill ‘Ana’ama’ in Nablus, which was accomplished by a sharp public struggle and which brought in to the open the facts about the conditions of the workers – the starvation wages of 12 to 22 piasters for the conditions for a working day of 12 hours, no day of rest or leave whatsoever, the workers sleeping in the open – after many of the workers who demanded a wage increase were dismissed, Al-Ittihad wrote:

‘The Labour Department (of Government – T.C.) intervened in the matter and there is a great hope for its solution taking into account the conscientiousness of the workers and the nationalism of the mill owners.’ (10/9/44)

After publication of the facts about the unbearable conditions of the workers, Al-Ittihad could quite unashamedly write: ‘one’s duty is now to forget what has passed and to act for a mutual and friendly understanding between the mill owners and the representatives of the Palestine Arab Workers Society.’ (17/9/44) The paper wrote further on the same subject:

‘Some people try to take advantage of the dispute in Nablus and of similar disputes in order to create an atmosphere of misunderstanding between the owners and the workers’ organisations. They desire by their activity to show the antagonism between the Arab workers and the Arab economic enterprises and to make impossible an understanding between them … We do not wish to disturb our national economy, and it therefore pains us workers and organisations that we are compelled to wage such a struggle in a period which it is our duty, in our opinion, to support national economy … The question of the national economy and the question of the Arab workers at this stage of the national struggle for liberty and independence, is one of sacrifice on both sides, and one of co-operation on both sides.’ (24/9/44)

And so apparently the hungry workers must make new sacrifices so that the ‘national economy’ or, in other words, the profits of the ‘national’ bourgeoisie should flourish even more.

V. Patriotism in Countries Inhabited by More Than One People

That the Stalinist leadership is pointing the way for the masses into a blind alley is revealed most glaringly in Palestine and Iraq which are inhabited by other peoples besides Arabs (Jews and Kurds respectively.)

The Stalinists in Palestine showed their utter bankruptcy when they rolled drunkenly from mistake to mistake during the 1936-39 disturbances. The upheaval was diverted from its real aims by the feudal leaders who were agents either of British imperialism or of Germany and Italy, and sometimes of the two together (as for instance, Haj-Amin al-Husayni, Mufti of Jerusalem who from 1917 to the Second World War was a British agent, and from 1941, as we have already remarked, lived in Berlin). At that time the Palestine Communist Party not only opposed Zionism – which is correct – but also wrongly and blindly supported the anti-Jewish terror without understanding that there is a great difference between communal terror and an anti-Zionist struggle. Thus a PCP leaflet of July 10, 1936, said:

‘By destroying the economy of the Zionist conquerors by acts of sabotage and partisan attacks, the Arab liberation movement wants to make the continuation of Zionist colonisation impossible.’

In a circular to its branches of July 7, 1936, the Stalinist Central Committee writes:

‘The bomb thrown on the Worker’s House in Haifa (Histtral House – T.C.) was thrown by members of the PCP by order of the Central Committee of the Party.’

In the same days the Arab paper of the PCP published without commentary the declarations of the Mufti and supported his propaganda for anti-Jewish terror openly.

With the 180 degree swing in the policy of the Stalinists, when they became enthusiastic supporters of the ‘war for democracy’, the Jewish Stalinists began, with a few reservations, to support Zionism, servant of imperial- <p. 194> ism. Obviously the Arab Stalinists could not stomach this, and so the party split into two. The Jewish one (which does not have a single Arab member) continues to bear the name Palestine Communist Party. The Arab one (which according to its statutes may include only Arabs) is called National Freedom League. A race of patriotism between the two began. On V-Day the PCP went under the blue-and-white Zionist flag with the slogans of ‘Free Immigration’, ‘Extension of Colonisation’, ‘Development of the Jewish National Home’, ‘Down with the White Paper’. [2] The National Freedom League participates in the Arab National Front, which includes feudal and bourgeois parties and fights ‘Against Zionist Immigration’, ‘Against Transfer of Land to the Zionists’, ‘For the White Paper’.

A similar phenomenon of clashes between the Stalinists of two peoples inhabiting the same country is that in Iraq. The Kurdish Stalinists are not united in one party with the Iraqi Arab Stalinists, but are organised in the Kurdish Salvation Front with the other Kurdish parties. The central slogan of the Kurdish Stalinist party is ‘the unification and liberation of Great Kurdistan’. At the same time the Arab Stalinists groups in Iraq fiercely attack the slogan of independence of the Kurds and their separation from Iraq. Thus, for instance, the paper Al-Watan of April 4, 1946, wrote:

‘The feudal class – the large landowners – and the merchants and some intellectuals who serve these two Kurdish ruling classes put forward the slogan of the separation of the Iraqi Kurds from the Iraqi state; and they are supported sometimes by British imperialism and some times by American imperialism … And so, does this separation serve the interests of the broad masses of the Iraqi people? Obviously not!’

The workers and peasants of the Arab East need an internationalist party. The Stalinists are not such a party, but on the contrary only a serious stumbling block in the way of its creation.


1. Recently a new zigzag has taken place in the position of the Egyptian Stalinists. Under pressure of the masses they have been driven to make a ‘left’ turn, which conforms on the international plane to the sharpening of the antagonisms at the end of the war between Russia and her erstwhile allies, Britain and USA. This turn is best illustrated by showing the relation of the Stalinists in Egypt to the Arab League and the Wafd before and after the turn. On 16th May 1945 their paper Al-Fajr al-Jadid wrote:

‘The Arab League is a pillar of the world tendency dominating our epoch of struggle against fascist imperialism. It is a basis for strengthening and supporting the world body to whom the most exalted mission has been given … to preserve the liberty of the peoples and their security and happiness … it helps the nations who participate in it to complete the achievement of their national rights and realise their hopes for liberty and independence.’

On 16th September 1945 the paper wrote:

‘The Arab League… shuts its eyes to the economic demands of the Arab peoples and to the infiltration of the foreign capital into their economic life, not paying attention to the fact that imperialism strangles the popular classes among the Arabs. Why? Because this is League is a league of states and not peoples and it represents solely the ruling classes.’

As far as the Wafd is concerned the paper wrote on the 16th July 1945:

‘The activity of the Wafd in the national democratic struggle has two aspects. The first aspect comprises the preservation of the construction and the parliamentary regime, and the effort to fortify its foundations; and also the chain of democratic reform undertakings which the Wafd accomplished during its periods of rule in Egypt … (Here the writer lists these reforms: labour laws, the struggle against illiteracy etc. – T.C.) In these activities the democratic character of the Wafd played the leading part. The other aspect of the activity of the Wafd in the national democratic struggle is its fight against the enemies of democracy and its position towards foreign imperialism …’

It is true, the article continues, that there are limits to the progressiveness of the Wafd, and there are elements in it whose democratic leanings are very restricted, ‘but whatever happens the democratic character of the Wafd is sure to grow and deepen in the future.’ On 16th September the paper wrote: ‘The Wafd … made many manoeuvres and compromises unworthy of our national struggle …’ Deserving of particular deprecation is the ‘alliance existing between the Wafd and Misrel-Fatat, an alliance which has existed since the time of the elections when the Wafd supported the candidates of Egyptian fascism.’ (By the way, these elections had taken place just about half a year before the words of praise of the earlier quotation were written.)

2. In January 1940, Kol Ha’am wrote:

‘To stop Zionist immigration which breaks through into the country, which lowers the standard of living of the masses, and which complicates the political and economic affairs of the country and their regulation according to the White Paper – that in general must be the path along which a devoted and honest people must go.’

Last updated on 28.5.2011