First Published: In Struggle! No. 177, October 23, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The Palestinian resistance is at a decisive point in its history. After 15 years of armed struggle (January 1, 1980 will be the fifteenth anniversary of the Fatah’s first military mission), the Palestinian resistance has become a force to reckon with, not only in the Arab countries but also in the Western imperialist countries and those dominated by social imperialism.
The countries of Western Europe, Canada and even the United States are on the verge of recognizing the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and, along with it, the legitimacy of “certain” Palestinian demands. This is a victory for the Palestinian resistance. For although the attitude of the imperialists is intimately related to their oil needs, it is nevertheless true that the resistance of the Palestinian people has forced the imperialists to respect their demands.
But since imperialism and the forces of reaction have not succeeded in crushing the Palestinian resistance, they are now trying to corrupt it. At the present time, they are doing their level best to convince the resistance to accept a compromise involving serious risks for the liberation of the Palestinian people as a whole.
Basically, the compromise boils down to this: Western imperialists are ready and willing to recognize the legitimacy of “certain” Palestinian demands and even to negotiate with the PLO on condition that the PLO first recognize the State of Israel.
This clearly illustrates just how much is at stake today. The recognition of Israel and the reduction of the future Palestinian State to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would do nothing to solve the problem of the Palestinians living as an oppressed minority in Israel or as refugees and exiles outside Palestine. In any case, Israel refuses to even consider the possibility of establishing this “mini-State”, and talks instead about converting these territories into “autonomous regions” that would remain subjected to Israeli control.
It so happens, however, that there is a strong tendency within the PLO itself in favour of the recognition of Israel. The existence of this tendency is nothing new, of course; what is new is that the leadership of the PLO is openly defending this point of view. Is this simply a tactical position designed to acquire territorial bases that could be used to launch a new, more offensive phase of the resistance? It remains to be seen.
The current situation of the Palestinian people, the choices that lie before the resistance and the path adopted by the PLO should be more widely known to say the least. Otherwise our support for this struggle is a nothing more than formality, a simple repetition of slogans about how the Palestinians’ cause is just and how Zionism is fundamentally reactionary. This kind of support may be a source of satisfaction for those who launch the slogans, but it has little effect on the course of events. It sometimes even serves to endorse concrete actions or positions that are in contradiction with the cause it claims to serve.
Unfortunately, our Organization cannot claim to have done much in recent months to help pursue this debate in a rigorous and thorough way. Since our newspaper started publishing we have given the Palestinian resistance and the PLO unconditional support specifically, our December 22, 1977 supplement (IN STRUGGLE, no. 104) on the Palestinian struggle was entitled “The only way to achieve peace is through armed struggle”.
Last May, our newspaper published an article which, while reiterating our past policy of support, nevertheless identified the “military actions” of the PLO as “terrorist actions” and severely condemned them.
With a bit of hindsight, it is not surprising that the stand we took in May caused some uneasiness among our readers. Reactions in our own ranks were generally much more favourable, due to the fact that internal debates around our Third Congress (March 1979) made it easier to understand certain things left unsaid in the article.
Nonetheless, some comrades within the Organization criticized the weakness of the explanations given, and a few of them indicated that they were, in fundamental disagreement with the position expressed. In any case, we should keep in mind that the majority of those who read IN STRUGGLE! did not take part in our Congress!
All things considered, it is understandable that the CAFA, the Canadian-Arab Friendship Association active in Vancouver, reacted strongly and accused IN STRUGGLE! of, among other things, playing into the hands of the Zionists, (perhaps the newspaper should publish the entire open letter written by the CAFA last June). It is understandable that the opportunists in the WCP (formerly the League), the CPL and so on took advantage of this to serve their own political ends. It is also understandable that there is a certain impatience – notably in Western Canada – with IN STRUGGLE!’s slowness in recognizing its errors, and that some even go so far as to claim that the present situation illustrates our Organization’s historical refusal to criticize its own mistakes.
All this is understandable: there is a problem here, no doubt about it. Either the position published in the newspaper in May was mistaken, at least on certain points and in particular on terrorism; or else that position was correct, and is still IN STRUGGLE!’s position. If the latter is the case, then it is the duty of the newspaper to present the reasons and analyses that explain the conclusions put forward by the Organization. In short, IN STRUGGLE! must stop beating around the bush – “manoeuvring” as one comrade put it.
A certain number of points should be clarified: First, the articles in no. 156 and subsequent issues of IN STRUGGLE! cannot be ascribed to the editors of the newspaper alone. They were based on a resolution adopted by this Political Bureau of the Organization and ratified by the Central Committee (CC) last March. Those who are acquainted with our Constitution and the way organizations like ours function know that our newspaper is not empowered to criticize the decisions of the Central Committee, which is the highest level of leadership of the Organization as a whole between congresses. So it would be out of the question to ask the newspaper to make a self-criticism on the heart of the problem the position adopted by the CC unless and until the CC itself makes a self-criticism. In other words, if IN STRUGGLE!’s position on the PLO has proven to be erroneous on one or more aspects, and in particular on the question of the armed struggle and terrorism, it is up to the CC itself to correct matters.
It should also be pointed out that it was not the newspaper that decided to remain silent on criticisms raised by the CAFA; it was the leadership that made this decision, because it considered that it was important to meet with the CAFA before reacting publicly to avoid a sterile debate that would amount to little more than name-calling and mutual recrimination. We misjudged the possibility of succeeding in doing this, and today we must realize that the debate goes far beyond the question of our divergencies with the CAFA, although these must be taken into account, for the question of “terrorism” may not be the principal question after all.
Although responsibility for the current confusion lies primarily with the leadership, the newspaper could nevertheless have been much more explicit concerning our position on the Palestinian resistance and the PLO. Certain criticisms seemed to reduce the resolution adopted by the central leadership last March to little more than a condemnation of the PLO’s “terrorism”; the resolution, however dealt with much more than that, and the newspaper could have clarified this earlier.
In any case, anyone who reads the article in no. 156 of IN STRUGGLE! at all carefully can easily see that we still support the goals of the Palestinian resistance as wholeheartedly as we have done in the past. We still support the establishment of a secular Palestinian State that would control the entire territory of Palestine, and where all Palestinians – Moslem, Jews, Christians, and others – could live. If there have been changes of position on this fundamental question that need to be criticized, they were not from IN STRUGGLE!. We are still as firmly opposed to Zionism as ever. The very idea of a superior people, nation or race is a fundamentally reactionary idea, the kind of idea that was dear to the Nazis and that fascists continue to propagate.
There is, however, a new element in our current position, and we could have presented it more explicitly. It concerns our evaluation of the PLO. The PLO is the leadership of the Palestinian resistance. This means that it is the only political organization that can speak in the name of the Palestinian people, even though it does not have a single unified point of view on all matters and even though many Palestinians have important disagreements with the PLO’s line. But we also have certain criticisms to make of the PLO. We criticize the fact that the socialist revolution is not part of its programme (although this is an aspect that must be taken into consideration), but this is not our principal criticism. What we criticize first and foremost is the fact that its line is increasingly tinged with conciliation – conciliation with the reactionary Arab regimes, and conciliation with social imperialism and, more and more with Western imperialism. The PLO’s conciliatory line is endangering the very objectives of the Palestinian resistance. Events in recent months would seem to indicate that our position deserves to carefully considered to the least.
Our statements concerning the PLO’s terrorism should be considered. and if necessary criticized, in this framework.
This clarification is not a detailed presentation of IN STRUGGLE!’s position on this question. This is not our intention here. Our intention is rather to dispel certain ambiguities and rectify certain facts so that the debate on the Palestinian question be approached and pursued in a better atmosphere. We intend to take an active part in this debate, and we hope that all interested individuals and organizations – and in particular the Arab and Palestinian organizations will make their points of view known to us. We believe that this is best way we can best serve the interests of the Palestinian people.
If this debate were to enable us to have a clearer understanding of the situation and to correct errors we may have committed, a bad thing would result in something good: we would be better prepared to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the armed struggle of the Palestinian people next January as a manifestation of our solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, and to celebrate it all the more enthusiastically on the basis of a clear understanding of what is at stake in the short and the long run in the Palestinian people’s struggle’. We are confident that the perspective of the MLOC IN STRUGGLE!will be shared by all those in Canada who have at heart the victory of the Palestlnians.