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William Gorman

Palestine ...

Political Divisions; The Coming Elections

(August 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 32, 7 August 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

During this present month of August there will be an election in Palestine for representation in the Asepeth Hanivcharim. The Asepth Hanivcharim merely carried out Britain’s orders, sometimes protestingly, among the Jews of Palestine. Its most successful activity, for instance, has been recruitment of Jewish youth for the British army and the war.

Yet the elections have importance because they will allow a show of strength for the various classes of the Jewish population. Particularly important will be the relationship of forces within the organized Jewish working class, which now, numbers 136,000, or more than one-fifth of all the Jews of Palestine.

The Mapai is the largest political tendency among the Jewish workers. It is a reformist party and controls most of the bureaucratic jobs within the General Confederation of Labor, or the Histadrut.

The revolt against the Mapai leadership is coming from Group B, a more leftist group which claims one-third of the party membership. Group B accuses the leadership, of betraying the cause of socialism. Yet Group B is not a revolutionary tendency. It is more like the left wing of the British Labor Party.

The largest opposition force is the Kibbutz Artzi. It suffers from Stalinist illusions and supports the war. Yet it is closer to a revolutionary program than any other party in Palestine. Close to the Kibbutz Artzi is the Left Poalei Zion. This group once applied for admission into the Stalinist Comintern but was rejected.

The Mapai is threatening to expel Group B for running its own ticket in the election. Group B, however, refuses to join the amalgamated Left Poalei Zion-Kibbutz Artzi ticket in opposition to Mapai.

This is the political lineup in Palestine at the present time.

Swing to the Left

The first real break in the working class political scene occurred in 1940. The Jewish population of Palestine was startled and pained by Britain’s brutal actions toward the Jewish refugees. At the same time the uncontrolled cost of living and burdensome taxes weighed most heavily on the Jewish working class. The Mapai, whose leaders were actively supporting the capitalist-imperialist status quo, was attacked and deserted by thousands of Jewish workers.

At the elections for the general council of the Histadrut in 1940 the combined left opposition collected one-third of all the workers’ votes. Within Mapai, a left wing franction, reflecting the more radical tendencies of the masses, began a political civil war which is as yet unfinished.

In the last five years the Jewish position in Palestine has deteriorated. Jewish refugees have been manhandled, drowned and exported from Palestine. Hitler’s war against the Jews of Europe has been complemented by Britain’s war against the Jews of Palestine.

In 1941, Dr. Chaim Weitzman, meek and mild leader of the World Zionist Organization, was shuffled from one British office to another. At the end of the year he let out an exasperated howl at the way he was treated. David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, shuttled to England, America and back without result. Moshe Shertok, social-reformist and would-be diplomat, then took up the Jewish pleas. Dr. Israel Goldstein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, flew to England, came back and promised great news, but has kept quiet since.

Six months ago, Ben-Gurion resigned as head of the Jewish Agency, the first resignation in the history of that institution. Even he couldn’t swallow the complete servility of the Jewish leadership to British imperialism. Ben-Gurion is now back but the real crisis is just beginning. These lessons of the impotency of official Zionism will not be lost upon the Jewish masses of Palestine.

The Jewish masses fight in their own way. In the face of a British anti-strike law there were 132 strikes during 1943. For years the British colonial bureaucrats have used every legal and illegal trick to keep the Jewish and Arab workers apart. Yet today almost 11,000 Arab workers are organized into unions, where five years ago there were less than 1,000 Arab unionists. Two thousand five hundred of the 11,000 belong to the Jewish Histadrut. In the five Jewish-Arab strikes last year as many man-hours were lost as in EIGHTY-SEVEN strikes led by the Histadrut. This is an excellent gauge of class solidarity.

Also, there have been countless demonstrations, a general strike, at least one street battle and the burning of the British press. Caching of arms has been persistently reported. The imperialist terror has recently been confronted with a Jewish terror. Although carried out by a small illegal organization, it is a symptom and expression of Jewish chafing in the imperialist chains.

After the Elections

The British are attempting to make the Jewish existence in Palestine impossible. In self-defense, the Jewish masses must put an end to British rule. The success of imperialist repression or anti-imperialist struggle depends upon the role of the Arabs. If the British impress the Arab masses that their anti-Jewish actions are really pro-Arab favors, if the Jews are isolated from their natural allies, then the Jewish struggle, no matter how desperately fought, is doomed to failure. The liberation of Palestine demands the unity of the Jewish and Arab peoples, of the advanced Jewish working class and the backward, enslaved Arab peasantry.

If the Jewish workers vote for the left Poalei-Zion-Kibbutz Artzi coalition, it will be because Mapai is so obviously bankrupt while the opposition at least uses revolutionary phraseology. It will be because Mapai has a patronizing attitude toward the Arab question while Kibbutz Artzi has always made verbal declarations for Jewish-Arab unity and for a bi-national state. The British overlords, the Jewish bourgeoisie and Arab feudal taskmasters have each in their own way contributed to the partition, provocation and antagonism between the two peoples. That is all the more reason why unity represents the most natural and instructive answer to the problem of both the Jewish and Arab toiling masses.

Against the background of inevitable struggles, the elections grow in importance. Their results will indicate the mind of the Jewish masses and hint of events to come.

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