Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, May 1948


The Trotskyist Position in Palestine

Against the Stream


From Fourth International, Vol.9 No.3, May 1948, pp.86-89.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following editorial is translated from the Kol Ham’amad [Voice of the Class], Hebrew organ of the Revolutionary Communist League of Palestine, Section of the Fourth International. It exposes the reactionary role of the United Nations’ partition plan, which stifles the rising tide of class struggle in Palestine, blurs class lines and creates an atmosphere of antagonistic “national unity” in both of the national communities in Palestine. As we can see from the editorial, the CP of Palestine has not escaped the nationalist hysteria in both camps, and has split into two national parties.

Only the Palestinian Trotskyists have maintained the Socialist position by calling upon Jewish and Arab workers to break away from the class enemies within their ranks and conduct their independent struggle against imperialism. Despite the present high tide of chauvinism accompanying the new “Hebrew” state set up by Hagana arms on one side, and the invasion of the Arab “Liberation” army on the other, the internationalist working-class program put forward by the Trotskyists will alone provide the means of solving the Palestine problem. – Ed.

* * *

Politicians and diplomats are still trying to find a formula for the disastrous situation into which Palestine has been plunged by the UNO deciding upon partition. Is this a “breach of international peace” or are we dealing with merely “hostile acts”? As far as we are concerned there is no point in this distinction. We are daily witnessing the killing or maiming of men and women, old and young, Jew or Arab. As always, the working masses and the poor suffer most.

Not so very long ago the Arab and Jewish workers were united in strikes against a foreign oppressor. This common struggle has been put to an end. Today the workers are being incited to kill each other. The inciters have succeeded.

“The British want to frustrate partition by means of Arab terrorism,” explain the Zionists. As if this communal strife were not the very instrument by which partition is brought about!. It was easy for the imperialists to foresee that and well may they be satisfied with the course of events.

What Axe Have Bevin-Churchill to Grind?

Britain was a loser in the last world war. She has lost the bulk of her foreign assets. Her industry is lagging behind. Building up her productive apparatus requires dollars and manpower.

“Keeping order” in Palestine costs England over 35 million pounds a year, an amount which exceeds the profit she can extort from this country. Partition will release her from her financial obligations, enable her to employ her soldiers in the productive process while her source of income will remain intact. – But this is not all. By partition a wedge is driven between the Arab and Jewish worker. The Zionist state with its provocative lines of demarcation will bring about the blossoming forth of irredentist (revenge) movements on either side, there will be fighting for an “Arab Palestine” and for a “Jewish state within the historic frontiers of Eretz Israel (Israel’s Land).” As a result, the chauvinistic atmosphere created thus will poison the Arab world in the Middle East and throttle the anti-imperialist fight of the masses, while Zionists and Arab feudalists will vie for imperialist favors.

The price Britain has to pay for the advantages gained by partition is to renounce her ruling monopoly in this country. On the other hand, Wall Street has to come out into the open and contribute its share toward the foul business of safeguarding imperialist positions. This, of course, blackens the “democratic” reputation of the dollar state while at the same time it adds to the prestige of Great Britain. Partition, therefore, is a compromise between the imperialist robbers arising from a changed power constellation.

The Function of the UNO

If the Anglo-American imperialists had forced this “solution” on Palestine of their own, the rotten game would have been patent in the whole Arab East. However, they dodged: the “problem” was passed on to the UNO. The function of the UNO was to sweeten the bitter dish cooked in the imperialist cuisine, dressing it, in Bevin’s words, with the twaddle of the “conscience of the world that has passed judgment.” Exactly! And the diplomats of the lesser countries danced to the tune of the dollar flute, reiterating the “public opinion of the world.” And the peculiar casts in this performance enabled Great Britain to appear as the Guardian Angel overflowing with sympathy for either side.

And the Soviet Union? Why did not her representatives call the UNO game the swindle it really is? – Apparently, the present foreign policy of the SU is not concerned with the fighting of the colonial masses. And as the Palestine question is a second-rate affair for the “Big,” the Soviet diplomats saw fit to dwell upon what Stalin had said about “the Soviet Union being ready to meet America and Britain halfway, economic and social differences notwithstanding.”

This is how the UNO has “solved” the Palestine problem. Yet it is the same unsavory dish that has been set for India, Greece and Indo-China.

What Do Jews Stand to Gain by Partition?

The Zionists were overcome with a sense of triumph when offered the bone by the UNO cooks. “Our work, our righteous cause have won ... before the forum of the nations.”

The Zionists have been in the habit of asking “justice” from the enemies of the Jewish people ever since Herzl: from the Tsar, the German Kaiser, the British imperialists, Wall Street. Now they saw their chance. Wall Street is distributing loans and “political independence.” Of course, not for nothing. The price has to be paid in blood.

The Jewish state, this gift of Truman’s and Bevin’s, gives the capitalist economy of the Zionists a respite. This economy rests on very flimsy foundations. Its products cannot compete on the world market. Its only hope is the inner market from which the Arab goods are debarred. Thus the problem of a Jewish immigration has come to be a problem of live or die.

The continuous flow of immigrants who would come with the remnants of their possessions is apt to increase the circulation of goods, will allow the bourgeois producers to dispose of their expensive wares. Mass immigration would also be very useful as a means to force down wages which “weigh so heavily” on the Jewish industry. A state engaged in inevitable military conflicts would mean orders from the “Hebrew Army,” a source of “Hebrew” profits not to be underrated at all. A state would mean thousands of snug berths for Zionist veteran functionaries.

Who is Going to Foot the Bill?

The workers and the poor. They will have to pay the stiff prices following the ban on Arab goods. They will break down under the yoke of numberless taxes, direct and indirect. They will have to cover the deficit of the Jewish state. They are living in the open, having no roof over their heads, while their institutions have “more important business” to attend to.

The Jewish worker having been separated from his Arab colleague and prevented from fighting a common class struggle will be at the mercy of his class enemies, imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie. It will be easy to arouse him against his proletarian ally, the Arab worker, “who is depriving him of jobs and depressing the level of wages” (a method that has not failed in the past!). Not in vain has Weitzmann said that “the Jewish state will stem Communist influence.” As a compensation, the Jewish worker is bestowed with the privilege of dying a hero’s death on the altar of the Hebrew state.

And what promises does the Jewish state hold out? Does it really mean a step toward the solution of the Jewish problem ?

The partition was not meant to solve Jewish misery nor is it likely ever to do so. This dwarf of a state which is too small to absorb the Jewish masses cannot even solve the problems of its citizens. The Hebrew state can only infest the Arab East with anti-Semitism and may well turn out – as Trotsky said – a bloody trap for hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Partition is Grist in the Mill of the Arab Reactionaries

The leaders of the Arab League reacted to the decision on partition with speeches full of threats and enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, a Zionist state is to them a godsend from Allah. Calling up the worker and fellah for the “holy war to save Palestine” is supposed to stifle their cries for bread, land and freedom. Another time-honored method of diverting an embittered people against the Jewish and communist danger.

In Palestine the feudal rule has of late begun to lose ground. During the war the Arab working class has grown in numbers and political consciousness. Jewish and Arab workers stood up against the foreign oppressor, against whom they together went on strikes. A strong leftist trade union had come into existence; and the “Workers’ Association of the Arabs of Palestine” had been well on the way of freeing itself from the influence of the Husseinis. The murder of its leader, Sami Taha, committed by hirelings of the Arab High Committee could not restrain this development. But where the Husseinis failed, the decision of the imperialist agency, the UNO succeeded. The partition decision stifled, the class struggle of the Palestine workers. The prospect of being at the hands of the Zionist “conquerors of soil and labor” is arousing fear and anxiety among the Arab workers and fellahs. Nationalist war slogans fall on fertile soil. And feudal murderers see their chance. Thus the policy of partition enables the feudalists to turn back the wheels of history.

A First Summary

The early crop of partition policy: Jews and Arabs are drowned in a sea of chauvinist enthusiasm. Triumph on the one hand, rage and exasperation on the other. Communists are being murdered. Pogroms among Jews instigated. A tit for tat of murder and provocation. The “strafing expeditions” of the Haganah are oil for the propaganda machine of the Arab patriots in their campaign to enlist the masses for more bloodshed. The military conflict and the smashing to pieces of the workers’ movements are a boon to the chauvinist extremists in either camp.

What About the Jewish “Communists”?

The patriotic wave makes sitting on the fence very uncomfortable. The Zionist “Socialist” parties soon “corrected” their anti-imperialist phrases and stubborn “resistance” against “cutting up the country to pieces” and gave way to full and enthusiastic support of the imperialist partition policy. That was a trifling matter, a question of merely changing Zionist tactics.

Yet the Communist Party of Palestine might have been expected to take up a different position. Have they not repeatedly warned against the fatal results bound to come with the establishment of a Jewish state ? “Partition must needs be disastrous for Jew and Arab alike ... partition is an imperialist scheme intended to give the British rule a new lease on life ...” (evidence given by the PCP before the Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry on Mar. 25, 1946). The secretary of the party loyally stuck to this attitude as late as July 1947 when he said before the UNO commission: “We refuse the partition scheme pointblank, as this scheme is detrimental to the interests of the two peoples.” However, after this scheme had been pulled off with the support of the Soviet representatives. Kol Ha’am (the Stalinist central organ) hastened to declare that “democracy and justice have won the day (!).” And overnight there appeared a newly baptized party: the name Communist Party of Palestine was changed to Communist Party of Eretz Israel (Communist Party of the Hebrew Land). Thus even the last vestige of contact with the Arab population was broken off. The gap that still separated them from Zionism was finally bridged. Instead of being the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle of the Arab and Jewish masses, the Palestine Communist Party became the “Communist” tail of the “left” Zionists. Precisely in an hour when Zionism shows to everyone its counter-revolutionary face, its blatant servility to imperialism. Thus the Communist Party itself held up all its former exposure of imperialist and Zionist deceptions to ridicule.

Why have they gone bankrupt?

The policy of the Palestine Communist Party lacks any continuous line. The policy of the PCP reflects both the needs deriving from the class war of the Jewish worker in Palestine and the needs of Soviet foreign policy. The needs of class war, however, require a consistent international policy, the negation of Zionism, of its discrimination between Arab and Jew. On the other hand, the need to adjust the party line to the diplomatic maneuvers of the SU calls for an “elastic” policy, one that lacks backbone. As a result we find the notorious shilly-shallying and zigzagging which has harnessed the PCP now to the Zionist wagon. The fifth wheel!

And the Arab “Communists”?

The Arab Stalinists, the “National Liberation League,” did not fare better than their Jewish counterparts. They were in a pretty fix having to justify the Russian support of the Jewish state. The Arab workers could not be expected to accept this line. Not by a long shot. They knew the meddling of Soviet diplomacy for what it was: breaking up the Palestine “workers’ unity and a treacherous blow. After the pro-partition declaration of Zarapkin, the National Liberation League people found themselves surrounded by scorn and hostility.

The policy of the Soviet Union has undermined the position of the League among the Arab toilers. Thus it opened a door to the reactionary, chauvinist campaign against the “red danger.” At present, the National Liberation League stands for peace and it is busy exposing the provocative role played by the British government. But since it had cried out for “national unity” (with the feudal Husseinis, the present war instigators during the past years), its present attitude fails to convince. But the National Liberation League did convince the Arab workers that the driving force behind its policy is not the interest of the Palestinian proletariat, but that of the Kremlin.

A War of Defense?

The two camps today mobilize the masses under the mask of “self-defense.” “We have been attacked, let us defend ourselves!” – say the Zionists. “Let us ward off the danger of a Jewish conquest!” – declares the Arab Higher Committee. Where does the truth lie?

War is the continuation of politics by other means. The war led by the Arab feudalists is but the continuation of their reactionary war on the worker and the fellah who are striving to shake off oppression and exploitation. For the feudal effendis “Salvation of Palestine” means safeguarding their revenues at the expense of the fellahin, maintaining their autocratic rule in town and country, smashing the proletarian organizations and international class solidarity.

The war waged by the Zionists is the continuation of their expansionist policy based on discrimination between the two peoples: they defend kibbush avoda (ousting of Arab labor), kibbush adama (ousting of the fellah), boycott of Arab goods, “Hebrew rule.” The military conflict is a direct result of the policy of the Zionist conquerors.

This war can on neither side be said to bear a progressive character. The war does not release progressive forces or do away with social and economic obstacles in the path of development of the two nations. Quite the opposite is true. It is apt to obscure the class antagonism and to open the gate for nationalist excesses. It weakens the proletariat and strengthens imperialism in both camps.

What Is To Be Done?

Each side is “anti-imperialist” to the bone, busy detecting the reactionary – in the opposite camp. And imperialism is always seen – helping the other side. But this kind of exposure is oil on the imperialist fire. For the inveigling policy of imperialism is based upon agents and agencies within both camps. Therefore, we say to the Palestine people in reply to the patriotic warmongers: Make this war between Jews and Arabs, which serves the end of imperialism, the common war of both nations against imperialism!

This is the only solution guaranteeing a real peace. This must be our goal which must be achieved without concessions to the chauvinist mood prevailing at present among the masses.

How can that be done?

“The main enemy is in our own country!” – this was what Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg had to say to the workers when imperialists and social democrats were inciting them to the slaughter of their fellow workers in other countries. In this spirit we say to the Jewish and Arab workers: The enemy is in your own camp!

The problem worrying all in these days is the problem of security. Jewish workers ask: “How to protect our lives? Should we not support the ‘Haganah’?” And the Arab workers and fellahin ask: “Ought we not to join the ‘Najada’ or ‘Futuwah’ to defend ourselves against the Zionists’ attacks?”

A distinction must be made between the practical and the political sides of this question. We cannot thwart mobilization and do not therefore tell workers to refuse to mobilize. But it is our duty to denounce the reactionary character of these chauvinist organizations, even in their own house. The only way to peace between the two peoples of this country is turning the guns against the instigators of murder in both camps!

Instead of the abstract “anti-imperialist” phrases of the social-patriots which cover up their servility to imperialism, we are showing a practical way to fight against the foreign oppressor: unmasking its local agents, undermining their influence; so that the Arab worker and fellah will understand that the military campaign against the Jews helps to bring about partition and helps only the feudalists and imperialists, while it is fought on his back and paid for by his blood; so that the Jewish worker recognizes at last the illusion of Zionism and understands that he will not be free and safe as long as he has not done away with national discrimination, isolationism and imperialist loyalty.

We have to keep up contact between the workers of both peoples at whatever place of work that this can still be done, in order to prevent provocative acts and to safeguard the lives of the workers at work and on the roads. Let us form revolutionary cadres. In this burning hell of chauvinism we have to hold up the banner of international brotherhood.

Against the Stream!

World capitalism being on the downgrade tries to endure by inflating imaginary national conflicts, trampling down the masses and brutalizing them. In the long run that remedy will fail. The masses will have learned their lesson through suffering. They will get to know their enemy: monopolistic capitalism that is; hiding behind its local ruling agency. With the class struggle getting more intensive all over the world, arid in particular in the Arab countries, the end of the fratricidal war in this country is bound to come.

The patriotic wave today sweeps everyone lacking the principles of international communism off his feet. Revolutionary activity at this juncture requires patience, persistence and far-sightedness. It is a way full of danger and difficulties. But it is the only way out of this patriotic mire. Well may we remember the words of Lenin which, spoken in a similar situation, apply also to ours:

“We are not charlatans ... We must base ourselves on the consciousness of the masses. Even if it is necessary to remain in a minority, be it so. We must -not be afraid to be in a minority. We will carry on the work of criticism in order to free the masses from deceit ... Our line will prove right ... All the oppressed will come to us. They have no other way out.”

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 25.2.2009