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Workers Socialist Review

Magazine of the Workers Socialist League
Affiliated to the Trotskyist International Liaison Committee

Written: 1982.
First Published: September 1982.
Source: Published by the Workers Socialist League.
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Workers Socialist Review
No. 2, September 1982

Lebanon: with the PLO against Israel

1. The invasion of Lebanon by Israel is aimed at delivering a crushing blow to the Palestinians and creating, through the defeat of the Lebanese National Movement, the conditions for the re-stabilisation of Lebanon on the basis of the rule of bourgeois reaction.

The Zionist state here acts as the mailed fist of US imperialism. The EEC states, while condemning Israel’s invasion, continue to supply arms to the Zionists. There has also been dissent within the US ruling class (possibly reflected in the replacement of Haig by Schultz). Indeed there are even differences between the Begin-Sharon leadership and the more reliable interpreters of US foreign policy on the leadership of the so-called Israeli Labour Party as to precisely how to affect a final solution. But whatever differences there may be, all these forces are united on the need to crush the Palestinians and defeat the Lebanese National Movement.

The Arab regimes have no wish to see the victory of the Palestinians and the Lebanese National Movement. At present a victory of this alliance would be incomparably more threatening to them than a strengthening of imperialism through the victory of Zionism and the Lebanese Right. Their play at ‘forcing concessions’ from imperialism and Zionism is a show in response to the pressure from the masses.

The Stalinist bureaucracy fears a further strengthening of imperialism in the region; but its counter-revolutionary desire for co-existence with imperialism prevents it from countenancing any line of action that would threaten vital imperialist interests, and its innate conservatism leads it to cling to its existing alliances . . . even where these allies are preparing a capitulation to imperialism.

2. The timing of the present onslaught is to be understood as deriving from the pressure on the Zionist state coming from the mounting Palestinian action on the West Bank on the one hand, and the freedom of action granted to Israel by Egypt’s signing of the Camp David Agreements and Iraq’s embroilment in the Gulf War.

More fundamentally, however, the invasion connects back to the Lebanese civil war. This war was the outcome of two intersecting developments. On the one hand the distribution of state power enshrined in the National Pact of 1943 no longer represented the communal balance within Lebanon as the Muslim population increased. On the other hand a radicalisation had taken place among the Lebanese working class and petty bourgeois (mainly in the Muslim communities), catalysed by the presence of the Palestinians. Both developments threatened the relatively privileged position of the Maronite community and the position of the Maronite bourgeoisie in particular. And while the class struggle had not advanced to the point of challenging bourgeois power, it both created the conditions which permitted the Palestinians a considerable freedom of action.

The mid-70s saw the beginning of a systematic offensive by the Lebanese fascists, playing on the existing communal divisions, directed at the forces challenging the traditional allocation of power. Within this offensive there were also clashes between rival communal militias, the Keta’eb (Phalangists led by Gemayel) emerging as the chief battering ram of the offensive of the Lebanese bourgeoisie as a whole.

In the course of the counter-offensive against the fascists and their allies, there evolved an alliance between the PLO and the LNM – an alliance which not only constituted an immense step forward in the fight against Lebanese reaction and Zionist attacks, but was a pragmatic pre-figuration of the strategic alliance necessary between the Palestinians and the oppressed masses if Zionism is to be defeated. The refusal at first by the PLO leadership – effectively the leadership of Fateh – to involve their forces in domestic struggle constituted a criminal repetition of their line that in 1970 enabled Hussein to slaughter the Palestinians in Jordan. This time it permitted the advance of the fascists against both the Palestinians and the LNM. The course of events and pressure from the base forced the PLO leaders belatedly to create an alliance with the LNM.

The recent desertion from this alliance of sections of the LNM, above all of Walid Joumblatt, represents, whatever statements may be made about the continued commitment to fight Zionism and Lebanese fascism, an historic betrayal. It weakens not only the Palestinians’ struggle, but also the fight against the extreme Right and opens up the possibility for imperialism to impose its solution and include some of those elements until recently fighting on the side of the Palestinians and forces opposing fascism.

Given the breakdown in the central state apparatus and the offensive of reaction, the Lebanese masses fighting the right-wing offensive were forced to create organs of self -defence and self-administration. These organs are not the expression of a proletarian challenge to the bourgeois state power, but of the petty-bourgeois and proletarian masses pitted against a fascist onslaught.

3. The Syrian intervention of 1976 was directed at halting the counter-offensive of the Palestinians and the LNM and using control over Lebanon as a card to be used in striking a bargain with imperialism. The Syrian government – including a complaining but co-operating Communist Party of Syria – kept its troops in Lebanon, butchering now the Palestinians and their allies, now the Phalangists and their supporters.

This bloody balancing act was given diplomatic cover by the agreement negotiated on behalf of the Arab regimes by the Libyan leader, Jaloud. Again the Arab regimes – from the verbal Left to the verbal Right, from monarchist to pseudo-socialist – supported a solution designed to break the radical impetus of the Palestinian struggle.

Today Israel uses the situation in Lebanon to weaken the Syrian regime militarily. We condemn this aggression and support Syria against Israel but at the same time place not the slightest confidence in the Assad regime to offer any resistance to Zionism or otherwise act as a wall of defence for the Palestinians and the Lebanese Left.

The Zionist state

4. The Zionist state was established by dispossessing the Palestinian Arabs. Its establishment and continued existence have only been possible with imperialist support – a support given because Israel is the watch-dog of imperialism in the Middle East the servant of its interests, in particular the interests of the dominant imperialist, the United States.

Although this support gives rise on occasion to complications for imperialism in its attempts to relate to the Arab bourgeois and feudal-bourgeois regimes, Israel remains the primary military instrument for maintaining imperialist order and imperialist interests in the Middle East. Imperialism’s reliance on Israel is qualitatively different from its reliance on other agencies.

Having expelled the Palestinians and being a weapon against any Arab initiatives opposed to the interests of imperialism the Zionist state is compelled to try to impose its will over, and sometimes to occupy, ever wider surrounding territories either for its own security or to do the bidding of imperialism.

5. The Palestinian people are the direct and central victims of the imperialist-sponsored Zionist settlement. We are for the destruction of the Zionist state and unconditionally in support of the struggle of the oppressed nation, the Palestinians, against the oppressor, Israel.

We are in favour of the destruction of the Zionist state and the creation in its place of a democratic and secular state in all of Palestine – that is, a unified state respecting the right of all those who presently live there to live side by side with the returning Palestinians as citizens, but while the PLO leadership – because of its own class interests and because of pressure from the Soviet Union – struggles in reality for a bourgeois state and develops consequent strategic and tactical positions, we affirm that the destruction of the Zionist state will necessarily be the task of the oppressed masses under the leadership of the working class and is practically inconceivable without the Arab working class having established its class rule in at least a substantial part of the Arab East.

We advocate and would fight for the maximum cultural and communal rights for Jews within such a state that are compatible with its existence, but oppose any ‘bi-national’ or confessional arrangement opposed to the wishes of the Palestinian people.

6. The establishment of a Palestinian sovereign state on the West Bank or West Bank plus Gaza Strip would not constitute a just solution of the Palestinian question. There can be no just settlement without the right of the Palestinian people to return to all of pre-partition Palestine as citizens.

The fact that a section of the PLO leadership has for some time been pressing for such a state and the fact that this leadership would in return for the establishment of such a state guarantee the borders of Israel – if necessary by militarily suppressing those wanting to continue to struggle against the Zionist settlement – does not change the fact that the Palestinian nation has a right to return to all of Palestine, nor does it legitimate the existence of a Jewish state based on the expropriation of Arab lands.

No such agreement resulting from the murderous attack of Zionism of any other forces can be considered as having the slightest legitimacy.

7. The outcome of the present conflict centred on Lebanon will have profound importance for some time to come, both for the course of class struggles in the region and for the course of imperialist development regionally and globally.

In Australia, Greece and Scotland, the trade union movement has called for a boycott of the Zionist state. There is an urgent need to mobilise working class support for the Palestinian people and those others fighting reaction.

8. In Israel the anti-war feeling has been growing. Despite the political amorphousness of the huge demonstration called by the ‘Peace Now’ leaders under pressure, the importance of a protest of such size during a military campaign should not be under-estimated. Nor should the petty-bourgeois composition of the anti-war movement as a whole cause us to downplay the importance it could have: the movement could develop into a qualitative step towards internal political differentiation in that state. We recognise particularly the important role played within the anti-war movement of the Anti-War Committee that has developed out of the Bir Zeit Committee.

Adopted by TILC, August 2, 1982.


The vote on point 5 was taken as consultative only, pending further discussion.

Workers Socialist Review Index (1981-84)

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