Seventh Congress of the Comintern Report of Arab Delegates

Speech of Ramzi (Khaled Bakdash), for the Arab Countries

Source: Free Arab Voice;
Translated: by Kevin Walsh from the French original;
Delivered: in French 11:15 a.m. 9 August 1935 (15th day of Congress);
Transcribed: for Marxists Internet Archive by Andy Blunden.

Stenogramme with authors’ corrections of the 27th session of the VIIth Congress of the Comintern: discussion of the report of Dimitrov “The Fascist Offensive and the tasks of the Comintern in the struggle for the unity of the working class against fascism.”

Chairman Pieck: Comrade Ramzi, (The Arab Countries) has the floor. (Applause.).

Comrade Thorez, presiding, gives the floor to comrade Ramzi.

Ramzi (for the Arab countries): Comrades, Comrade Wang Ming has completed and developed the report of Comrade Dimitrov concerning the united front in the colonies and semi-colonies. Comrade Wang Ming has not only, with an exemplary modesty and simplicity, described the lessons and glorious experience of our great Chinese Party; he has also crystallised the experience of all revolutionary movements in the colonies. He has also, in basing himself solidly on the teachings of Lenin and Stalin, established the next tasks of these movements and presented a program of action for a long period for all Communists in the colonies.

We, the delegates of Arab countries, agree completely with this program and promise to struggle with Stalinist will to accomplish it and to show to our people, to tens of millions of Arab workers, the only path to salvation, the path of the Chinese Revolution. (Applause)

Also we agree entirely with Comrade Wang Ming concerning the aid that our comrades in mainland France must give to us the young Communists of the colonies.

In this context, I must emphasise the support that we Arab Communists have received from our great fraternal party of France. We salute and thank our comrades, and all the revolutionary French proletariat, for the revolutionary solidarity they have shown toward the Arab national liberation movement in general, and to the Communist movement in particular.

We hope that our French comrades will improve the work of their colonial section and that our comrades in other imperialist countries will follow the example of our French comrades. We hope you will fulfil Dimitrov’s promise and respond to the appeal of Wang Ming, the appeal of the Chinese revolution.

Now I shall try to present the problems of the popular front in the Arab countries. Comrade Stalin, in speaking of the experience of the Chinese Revolution, has established the general law of development of colonial revolution. He has established that this revolution will pass through two preliminary stages; the first is the stage of the struggle to organise against the external enemy, world imperialism, and the second: the stage based on the agrarian revolution. This analysis of the glorious struggle of the Chinese people must be the faithful guide of all colonial Communists in working out their tactics.

Our final goal is the victory of Communism. But to arrive at the higher stage of the direct struggle for socialism, we must successfully pass through other stages. Presently, in the Arab countries, we must develop the first stage of which Comrade Stalin spoke, the stage of the struggle against international imperialism, the principal enemy, the most hideous, the most detestable enemy of the Arab peoples.

This enemy, strong and armed to the teeth, always goes far in its offensive and daily increases its oppression. To fight it we must use the Leninist-Stalinist tactic of mobilising all possible forces, even the most insignificant, and using all our allies, however temporary and uncertain they may be. Without this we can do nothing to fight the enemy.

But to get there, to ensure victory in this struggle, we the Communists of the Arab countries must have a clear understanding of the problems of binding together and mobilising a large popular front composed of all possible allies in Arab countries against imperialism. To successfully lead this work we have some difficult tasks to perform.

First we have to be the most active fighters for the mobilisation of the Arab masses in the struggle against imperialism.

In Syria, French imperialism intensifies its oppression of working people. It has transformed the country into a strategic base and an armed camp. It has divided the country into five governments to destroy the unity of the national struggle of the Arab masses. It tries to use the minority nationalities, especially the Armenians, against the national liberation movement. It opens the doors of the country to Zionist bandits, expropriators of the Arab peasants’ lands. It crushes the peasants with taxes and by fraudulent customs regulations paralyses national commerce and ruins the artisans. By pure violence it extends and enlarges the monopoly and privileges of foreign businesses.

The wave of revolution grows against this offensive and banditry. The anger of the people rumbles and often comes to a head in violent explosions. Syrian Communists must be at the head of this wave, must be the living personification of this anger. They must defend all anti-imperialist grievances; it matters little whom they help. They must react against each imperialist atrocity; it matters little against whom it is done, against each manifestation of oppression, however slight. They must support all movements that weaken the imperialist positions, no matter how slightly.

The masses must see from their own experience that we are the defenders of their national and economic interests, even the slightest; each oppressed class must see, sense, feel that we Communists are the best sons of the people.

That is the first condition of success.

Secondly, we must help the Arab proletariat show to practically all the oppressed masses that it is possible to struggle successfully against imperialist oppression in particular and against exploitation in general. In other words, we must help the working class assure its leadership in the Arab national liberation movement.

It should be noted that the Arab proletariat, in several countries (Syria, Palestine, Egypt, etc.) has already taken concrete steps in this area. The militant strikes of millions of workers in Syria, the struggles at the barricades of Egyptian railroad workers, the strikes of the oil workers in Palestine, etc., have shown to the greater masses of oppressed Arabs not only how we must struggle but especially that it is possible to struggle with success against imperialism, despite its powerful repressive apparatus. They prove that the Arab proletariat is capable of leading the agrarian and national revolutions. And if the proletariat does not march rapidly, step by step, in this way, or if it doesn’t go to the end of this road, despite very favourable objective conditions, it is we, the Communists of the Arab countries, who are responsible, because this would prove that we have not helped our class in this task, that we have not fulfilled our role as the vanguard.

We must therefore work daily, actively and practically, to organise the Arab proletariat, to strengthen its union organisation, and in so doing enlarge the base of our Communist parties among the great mass of workers.

In Syria, our party, despite some serious deficiencies, has the real possibility of enlarging the trade-union movement and creating a strong mass movement. To accomplish this task we must battle mercilessly with those in our ranks who hold sectarian ideologies or who will not adapt the trade-union struggle to the conditions of a country undergoing savage imperialist terror and those who want only workers organisations completely subordinated to revolutionary influence and free of all national reformist influence. In Syria, the workers of different trades do not have the right to be in a single trade union. Likewise, the workers in a single trade can not have any single trade union. In working for the building of new trade-unions there, where they don’t exist, we must adapt ourselves to these conditions, and at the same time take a line that allows the trade- unions to embrace even the most backward workers. As for the existing trade unions, national reformist and others, we must bring methodical work to these trade unions to enlarge them and bring in the majority of the workers.

It is only in the process of the development of the struggle of workers for their daily and immediate demands that we can fight the national reformist influences and transform the trade unions into class unions.

The federation of different trade unions is forbidden in Syria. In struggling to tear down this workers law, we must actively work for unity of the trade unions and the creation of alliances and solidarity among them, even in the framework of legality.

The situation is different in other Arab countries, but the major political lines of the trade unions must be the same. For example, in Iraq, all the trade unions were dissolved, because the existing federation of trade unions took the initiative to launch a popular local movement against the electric company.

Our young Iraqi Party must undertake the strenuous work for the legal re-establishment of trade-unions in trying to choose to follow forms of action that do not threaten the existence of these trade-unions.

In Palestine and Egypt the creation of a large trade-union movement is legally possible.

The currently existing schism springs from the struggle among different strata of the national bourgeoisie, always trying to have a workers_ movement subject to their particular interests and politics. Our comrades, in these countries, must struggle for unity of these different movements, always avoiding the sectarian path that calls upon the workers to leave these trade unions to make a new trade-union movement. On the contrary, they must lead this work even in the heart of the existing trade unions.

Briefly, our trade-union movement must not only be a movement of the most advanced workers but a movement of the larger masses, embracing even the most backward strata of workers. When the working class represents a well-organised force it is only then that it will constitute a strong, solid proletarian nucleus for the popular anti-imperialist front.

That is the second condition for success.

Thirdly, we must find concrete forms of organisation and struggle capable of raising the large masses of peasants into the arena of the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle.

The peasantry in the Arab countries is an important motive force and the decisive ally of the proletariat in the revolutionary struggle.

That is why a fair position on the agrarian question is a vital question for the revolutionary proletariat. It is certain that the agrarian revolution and the confiscation of feudal lands are the main tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in the Arab countries. But it is indisputable, and the actions of the peasants show it clearly, that the national hatred of the yoke of the foreign oppressor and its agents currently pushes the Arab peasant to concentrate his anger especially against imperialist domination. In Syria, the imperialist oppression, the ruinous taxes and debts to imperialist banks, the inhumane tyranny of French officers and their repressive Armenian and Circassian detachments, the theft of land in the interests of Assyrian and Armenian colonies, the menacing Zionist immigration, all this weighs heavily upon the Syrian peasant and makes him presently very approachable to the anti-imperialist struggle. This does not exclude the possibility that in certain regions where feudal exploitation is most ferocious the anti-imperialist struggle will run parallel to the revolt against despotic feudalism. Several comrades, especially among those who formerly struggled against the line of Arabisation, forget this essential fact, falling into a Trotskyite-defeatist ideology. They judge the revolutionary potential of the peasants only according to their attitude toward the slogan of confiscation of feudal lands, so they give themselves up to despair and judge village work to be premature or they fall into a very dangerous, sectarian deviation in wanting to force the matter, skip the stage of the anti-imperialist struggle and make it necessarily coincide with the agrarian revolution.

These comrades forget that despite the love of the peasant for the land, he does not yet have sufficient confidence in his powers, is not yet convinced of the possibility of conquering the land, is not yet at the level of ridding himself of religious and patriarchal traditions which subject him to these local oppressors and cause him to refrain from offending against their propriety. They forget that in the process of the struggle against the most hideous, most detestable enemy, imperialism, that it is possible to educate the peasant, to raise the level of his revolutionary consciousness and to lead him to the agrarian revolution.

Apart from these considerations, one perceives the dangerous sectarianism of those who demand as the first condition for common action or alliance with these revolutionary nationalist elements that from the first moment they recognise the agrarian revolution.

Also the great mass of Bedouins and nomads is a force of very great importance in the anti-imperialist struggle. The particular struggle of the Bedouin tribes, the strong patriarchal relations which dominate them and link the masses with their shaykhs, give to the blows they suffer from the economic crisis and food shortages, and to the burden of the tyranny of imperialist officers and to ruinous taxes an absolutely special effect. The high chiefs, largely corrupted by imperialism, link themselves more and more to it, but a number of lesser chiefs are paid directly by the members of their tribe. They more or less feel the effect of the ruin of the people as well as the despotism of the high chief. That is why they often rise against imperialism and express the spirit of rebellion of the masses of Bedouins. From this comes the task of the Communist parties of the Arab countries to find forms of alliance between the proletariat and these people, against imperialism and its offensive and its agents, in trying to use the lesser chiefs for this purpose.

That is the third condition for success.

Fourthly, a fair attitude towards those strata and elements usually called nationalist revolutionaries and who comprise the intellectual workers and the city petite-bourgeoisie, has a very large importance. Not only because these strata themselves represent an anti-imperialist force of great size, but also because they form in the Arab countries a widespread channel in the largest masses and an extremely powerful intermediary in the diffusion of the influence to which one can subject them.

These elements can be the most dangerous disorganisers of mass activity or a very effective means to mobilise the masses, depending upon whether they are subject to the influence of the bourgeoisie or the revolutionary proletariat. It is the task of the Communist parties to subject them to revolutionary influence. To do this it is necessary to take into account the demands and morale of the petite-bourgeoisie, the small merchants, the artisans, ruined by imperialism, and especially by its customs regulations, those ruined by foreign competition. These strata, ordinarily dispersed, currently show great activity and a strong tendency towards organisation in Syria. They are pushed to this, less by their confidence in their own strength than by hope of outside assistance. This generally manifests itself in the creation of secret societies and terrorist or putschist organisations. The growth of the proletarian strike movement, the activity of the Communist Party, and especially the extraordinary growth of the Soviet Union, attracts them to the Communists. At the same time, the big noise made by the bourgeois newspapers about Hitlerism pushes these elements to let themselves fall into the traps of Hitler’s agents who promise them weapons and financial assistance. These very scattered groups in the country represent a mosaic of very strange tendencies. They call themselves “fascists” and imitate Nazi ways, but at the same time they declare themselves to be against Hitler, against imperialist France and for the USSR. Others link themselves with the Nazis, but at the same time they have such great confidence in the Communist Party of Syria they reveal to them all their plans and liaisons.

We must help these elements to organise themselves while combating their terrorist and putschist tendencies. There are some comrades who reject this task, fearing to create in this way a rival to the party in winning over the masses. These comrades forget that it is truly because the revolutionary proletariat has not known to subject them to its influence that these elements embark on these terrorist or putschist adventures that can be used by the Nazis. They do not notice that their dispersion increases their subjection to the influence of the bourgeoisie, which they serve. To attract these groups and these nationalist revolutionary elements to the anti-imperialist popular front.

That is the fourth condition of success.

Fifthly, after the insurrection of 1925 to 1927, the national reformist bourgeoisie in Syria has concentrated its efforts on demands for a “constitutional-democratic” regime, which would assure them a more or less large participatory power and a certain freedom of action for national capital. In this goal it has tried to divert the anti-imperialist movement towards parliamentarianism and the conclusion of a treaty between France and Syria.

But this does not indicate, as some comrades think, that national reformism has already become a simple imperialist manoeuvre or that the development of the bourgeoisie is a process of capitulation on every line. These social and economic contradictions between the national reformist bourgeoisie and imperialism, although they are not antagonistic, are far from disappearing, or from getting so weak as to reach the point of disappearing. A similar erroneous point of view causes some to contend that one of the necessary conditions for the development of the revolutionary movement and its advancement to decisive struggle is the complete disappearance of national reformist influence over the masses. These comrades don’t notice that it is only the development of the revolution that can eliminate this influence.

The development of the Syrian national bourgeoisie, for example, is characterised by several particular traits which present a great possibility to manoeuvre and push them to make demands which are of minimal significance to the cause of true national independence but which represent some of the people’s interests: such as the demand of Syrian unification, changing the imperialist customs regulations, protest against imperialist companies (of the Martel type of companies), against imperialist monopolies, against taxes, etc.

The task of Syrian Communists is to support these demands and to create popular movements to attain and enlarge them.

As Lenin said, it is necessary “to use the antagonisms of interests which can manifest themselves without for a moment being in the camp of the enemy” to attract the larger masses and the dormant strata to political life to the arena of revolutionary struggle. Lenin said in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, “Since 1905 [the Bolsheviks] have systematically advocated an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, against the liberal bourgeoisie and tsarism, never, however, refusing to support the bourgeoisie against tsarism (for instance, during the second rounds of elections, or during second ballots) and never ceasing their relentless ideological and political struggle against the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the bourgeois-revolutionary peasant party, exposing them as petty-bourgeois democrats who have falsely described themselves as socialists.” [Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 31, p. 72]

And we Arab Communists must never refuse to support the anti-imperialist demands advanced by the bourgeoisie, however small they are.

On that basis, in Syria, for example, the Communist Party must envisage the possibility of agreement or alliance between the various national reformist petite-bourgeois parties and the Koutla-Watania [i.e., “the National Bloc"], the party of the grand-bourgeoisie and of the liberal landowners and especially with its leftist ally, the Hanano Group, and similarly with with the National Action League, the party of the major intellectuals, and of the small landowners and small industrialists. These parties, besides the influence they have over the masses, have a following of intellectual elements and active workers in the popular struggle, and exert a strong pressure on their leaders.

But we must also be ready for the eventuality of more or less stable accommodation of the national reformist bourgeoisie with imperialism. That is a possible and even frequent event in Arab countries. This has happened in the past in places, in Egypt and Syria, for a more or less short period.

In a similar case, we committed some major errors, which should serve as a lesson for the future. We thought one time that the bourgeoisie had passed definitively into the imperialist camp and that it had unmasked itself before the masses. This was a profound error, because it often happened that the bourgeoisie was once again thrust from power into the camp of opposition to imperialism. That proved that the contradictions between this bourgeoisie and imperialism continued even if the latter has passed power to the former. Thus, in similar cases, it is not our task to condemn all measures that the bourgeoisie will take in power. It happens that it undertakes some progressive measures, very weak, perhaps, but which may nevertheless be in the interests of the masses and opposed to imperialism. These kinds of measures must be supported by us. Without this, we can not show the large masses that we are the defenders of their interests, however small. Also we must mobilise the largest masses to demand that the bourgeoisie in power keep the promises they have made. This helps us practically to combat the illusions of the masses about the methods of conciliation with imperialism advocated by the national reformist bourgeoisie.

That is the fifth condition of success.

Sixthly, we must unite the anti-imperialist struggle in all Arab countries, the task of which Comrade Wang Ming has spoken. That is an essential condition, without which it is impossible to capture a decisive victory over imperialism. The more than sixty million inhabitants of Arab countries are artificially divided into more than twelve territories, dominated by British, French, or Italian imperialists. These are: Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Transjordania [Jordan], Egypt, Tripolitania [Libya], Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, etc. Several of these territories are themselves divided into smaller pieces. They have, for example, in Syria, five governments, each having its own special administrative apparatus and its own borders, etc., but despite this the national links, the common traditions, the common language, the common history, and last the geographic position of these countries, closely unites them.

It is true that this division will always help different imperialist oppressors to fight the insurrections and uprisings of the Arab masses in these different countries. For example, the insurrections in Syria (1925), Palestine (1929), Iraq (1935), Morocco (1924), etc.

But it is no less true that the Arab peoples have often shown an active reciprocal national solidarity and have always expressed their hatred of the division of their countries.

We must thus oppose this existing division, and unite in struggle and solidarity the entire Arab people, against the oppressor imperialism, for complete liberation of all Arab countries, for the union of independent Arab popular democratic republics.

>From that comes the necessity to coordinate the activities of Communist parties in the Arab countries, especially in the domain of the anti-imperialist struggle. The Arab Communists, all working for the creation of a popular front in each of these countries must at the same time unite their efforts in order to extend them to the pan-Arab scale. This will help in extending the influence of the revolutionary proletariat of the advanced Arab countries to other, backward countries or those having a weak Communist movement.

This is the sixth condition for success.

This is how we conceive the problems involved in the creation of the anti-imperialist popular front in light of the speech of our Comrade Dimitrov.

How to present in practice the creation of this front in Syria? We believe that the platform of this front should have these main points:

1) Complete independence and unity of Syria in the heart of the union of popular independent Arab governments.

2) Against the military dictatorship and the tyranny of French and foreign agents and functionaries. For the dissolution of the repressive Circassian and Armenian detachments.

3) Against imperialist war, for the defence of Abyssinia [Ethiopia].

4) Amnesty for all prisoners and exiles of the 1925-1927 insurrection and all political prisoners.

5) Against reduction in wages and lengthening of the workday.

6) Against the taxes ruining the population and especially the peasants. Against the confiscation of crops and furniture for the payment of taxes and debts to imperialist banks and usurers. Giving free of charge to the peasants government “Amiriyah” lands and lands expropriated by imperialist banks and usurers.

7) Against Zionist immigration and the establishment of Armenian and Assyrian colonies in Syria.

8) For freedom of trade unions, of the press, of speech, and of association; against the administrative suspension of newspapers. For the repeal of the law of prevention of crimes and all the imperialist terror decrees.

9) Against the imperialist customs regulations destroying the economy of the country and its commerce and ruining the artisans.

One sees in this platform that several demands are common for all Arab countries. It is this commonality which must serve as a basis for the further creation of an anti-imperialist popular front on the pan-Arab scale. Such a bloc in Syria must be very large and very popular and accessible to workers, peasants, intellectuals and the petite-bourgeois elements and also to nationalist revolutionary and national reformist groups. It can take the form of a “National Union” in which the initiative can belong to some prominent personalities in the national movement and who will be supported by a large popular movement by groups of workers, peasants, intellectuals, small merchants and even national reformist elements.

It is clear that in the situation of the Arab countries, the principal form of the application of the tactic of the united front is the building of legal popular organisations without parties (committees, delegations, different groups, etc.) which naturally will be principally restricted to the immediate and economic demands of the people. The success of the work for the popular anti-imperialist bloc is involved with the success in the creation of similar organisations everywhere in the factories, towns, and villages, in accordance with the spirit and pressing and particular demands that could be sustained by different social strata.

Naturally at the same time the task to make alliances with semi-legal or illegal revolutionary nationalist organisations comes up, so as to organise directly, or by an intermediary of the popular bloc, or by local organisations of the bloc, common actions with the national reformist parties, with the KOUTLA and the National Action League and with the Bedouin shaykhs.

This work, led with success in Syria, must have an orientation to act with the movement in other Arab countries. The popular front in Syria must support and sustain the anti-imperialist actions of other countries, including those launched by national reformists.

Comrades, the essential and principal condition to lead up to the end of this great work is the Party.

Comrade Dimitrov said that the united front of the proletariat must be the base of the popular front. He also said that the motive force of the united front and its spirit is the Communist Party.

This is true, not only for our fraternal parties in the imperialist countries, but also, and perhaps most particularly, for us colonial Communists. Syria and all the Arab countries are facing a revolution of a bourgeois-democratic character in which millions of more or less heterogeneous people will participate. These people will enter the turbulence as they are, with the grandest illusions. The representatives of different social classes, the various political parties, will wage a bitter struggle for the use of these illusions in their interests. It would be incredible na´vetÚ to think that once the revolutionary storm begins the working class and its vanguard party will only have to offer their hands to seize the leadership and take direction.

If the working class is not well prepared and organised in a combative army under the direction of its united and disciplined Communist Party, then in this case, and especially in the colonial revolution, the workers can be in the first ranks of combat, can show the greatest self-sacrifice, but nevertheless they will not secure the hegemony of their class which will be pushed back politically to the rear guard.

To consolidate and to strengthen our party organically, politically, and ideologically, that’s the central task, especially for us Arab Communists. Because, sadly, it is only in Syria that we have definitively succeeded in smashing the chauvinist deviations of racism – Zionist and other – that hindered the development of our Syrian Party for years, sabotaging its Arabisation and which still more or less hinder the development of our fraternal parties in other Arab countries and sabotage their Arabisation.

It is true that a step was also taken in Palestine, but resistance is not yet definitively quashed. In Syria we already have a party which, despite its major faults, can already undertake major tasks, but in order to do this our Syrian Party must consequently take up the politics of the masses. To march in front of the struggle that is beginning, we must make major changes, not only in our tactics but also in our manner of thinking, in light of the speech of the great Dimitrov.

We must struggle mercilessly in our ranks against any point of view that can be the slightest obstacle to our conquest of the masses, especially the petite-bourgeois peasant masses and others whom we must take as they are, as Dimitrov said.

The masses under the domination of imperialism and its tyranny at the present stage tend towards unity of the national movement. Until now it has been the national reformist bourgeoisie that has used this tendency for the interests of conciliatory politics and to struggle against the revolutionary proletariat and the Communist Party, accusing them of wanting to divide the forces of the nation. As for us, we did not even think it necessary to respond to that and we have limited ourselves to proving by theoretical dissertations that the unity of the nation is impossible, that it does not exist. Now we must use these tendencies of the masses against the bourgeoisie itself and prove in practice that we are the only ones consequently working for the unity of all enemies of imperialism in the struggle for the independence of all Arab countries.

We must also fight the sectarianism of the “cowards” who, faced with the first difficulty opposing the growth of our influence in the process of the development of the popular front wanting to provoke a split and break the front. We must understand that the tactic of the united front will not be a direct means by which the influence of the revolutionary proletariat will go rising all up the line and that of the adversary classes and especially of the national reformism will go on falling all down the line. Zigzags, detours, advances and retreats are inevitable. It depends on our strength and our politics and on our ability to pass through all these fluctuations in a way that the changes in power relations may in the final analysis be to our benefit.

In fighting sectarianism in all its forms, we must fight opportunist deviations which try to limit all the action of the party to work in the popular bloc, to condemn all activity independent of the party or to hide its true face from the masses, to hide its complete program of national and agrarian revolution, to hide its final goal, the struggle for socialism.

We Communists have great confidence in the revolutionary strength of tens of millions of Arab workers and in the strength of the Arab proletariat as the vanguard of these masses and their hegemony in the national liberation struggle.

We will be able to organise these forces for the overthrow of the imperialist yoke with the help of the proletariat of the advanced countries.

By following the path of the united popular front we will organise our own class, spark the class struggle in the villages, raise the peasantry to the agrarian revolution, strengthen the influence of the working class over the peasantry in these successive struggles, and lead the masses victoriously to the revolution under the banner of the Communist International.