Seventh Congress of the Comintern Report of Arab Delegates

The Speech by Ridwan al Hilw (Yusuf),
the Palestinian Delegate

Source: Free Arab Voice;
Translated: by Kevin Walsh from the French original;
Delivered: 31 July 1935;
Transcribed: for Marxists Internet Archive by Andy Blunden.

Stenogramme with authors’ corrections of the 12th session of the VIIth Congress of the Comintern: continuation of the discussion of the report of Pieck “On the activity of the Executive Committee of the Communist International” and of Angaretis “On the activity of the International Control Commission”. Original.

Chairman Henderson: Comrade Yusuf (Palestine) has the floor.

Com. Yusuf: Before speaking about the Communist Party of Palestine, I must make a statement in the name of the comrades delegates of the Arab countries: Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt, that we are not in agreement with many of the points made in the speech of comrade Ferdi. In particular and especially with the following two most important points:

1. The basis for categorising colonial and dependent countries, including the Arab countries, into groups must not be the changing forms of imperialist oppression, as is done in comrade Ferdi’s analysis, but the level of development of their proletariat, as indicated by comrade Stalin in his historic speech at the University of Toilers of the East in 1925.

2. The one-sided orientation of comrade Ferdi to the effect that Communists, by means of unmasking the national-reformists, can call the masses to struggle against imperialism contradicts the line adopted recently by the Communist Parties of the Arab countries, in favour of broadly taking up the tactics of the united front in the national liberation movement. This one-sidedness to a significant extent, in the previous several years led to sectarianism in the Communist Parties of the Arab countries.

In the speech of comrade Ferdi there are also other mistakes about which the Arab comrades will speak in their addresses on the first or second points on the agenda.

Comrades, as is known, Palestine has for British imperialism great political military-strategic and economic significance. Palestine is needed by British imperialism in order for it to block the routes to the Red Sea, intercept the roads leading to the Arabian Peninsula and chiefly to Mesopotamia, and, finally, for using the advantageous geographic position of Palestine, and particularly the port of Haifa, to constitute an outstanding military base in the Mediterranean Sea, securing for British imperialism control over the Suez Canal. The significance of Palestine for British imperialism has grown after the laying of the Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline. This pipeline permits them to obtain their colonial oil in the shortest possible time. In this way, Palestine has become the most important advance post of British imperialism. The particularity of the political situation in Palestine consists in the fact that English imperialism in the country, besides its colonial apparatus and the social support it receives from the feudal class, chiefly relies on the Zionist bourgeoisie using the Jewish national minority in the interests of its imperialist policy.

The Jewish national minority in Palestine is essentially a colonial and ruling nationality with the support of English imperialism. Since 1921, when Anglo-Zionist finance capital began strengthening its offensive in Palestine, it has been able to send into Palestine 250,000 Jewish immigrants with the aim of establishing for themselves a mass base of struggle against the national liberation struggle of the Arab labourers and in support of their colonial policy. During these years, the Zionists have taken hold of more than 2,000,000 dunums of the most fertile and fecund Arab land. With the help of English bayonets Zionist bands in just the last three years have driven 22,000 Arab fellahs off their land. These fellah masses have lost their native hearths and the land that belonged to them for ages; they have been doomed to bankruptcy and extinction. The economic life of the country has rapidly been taken over by the Zionist colonisers. Zionist capital is increasingly ousting Arab capital, in an unequal competition, and destroying the petty bourgeoisie. Deposits of Zionist money capital in the banks is rapidly increasing with every passing day. Today, according to official accounts of the government, 80% of bank deposits in Palestine are placed there by Zionists. They have taken over 70% of land plots in the central cities, 70% of plantation land in the country, 80% of external trade and a huge proportion of domestic trade, 30% of all arable land, and 80% of all industry of the country. At the same time, the Jewish national minority constitutes only 25% of the population of the whole country. In this way, Zionist capital not only directly oppresses the Arab working masses, but ruthlessly annihilates the petite bourgeoisie and in a huge way pushes out the middle and even the highest strata of the Arab commercial and industrial bourgeoisie.

In the cities a situation has arisen whereby Arab workers are paid 2-3 times less than Jewish workers, while the workday for Arab workers is considerably longer. They work 10-13 hours, while Jewish workers’ hours are basically incomparably less. Zionists forcibly expel Arab workers from Jewish enterprises and plantations and replace them with Jewish immigrants. The violence of the Zionists is not limited only to these measures. They resort to the most lowly and base methods of derision of Arab workers. Beatings of Arab workers are constantly taking place; derision of their national feelings is a normal occurrence in the country.

While the majority of the Arab population lacks elementary civil freedoms, especially the worker-peasant masses, who do not have the right to professional organisations, the press, assembly; the Jewish masses, including the workers, enjoy wide privileges, have their professional organisations and press, the right to elections, etc. This circumstance, in addition to the economic factors, also makes for a sharp distinction between the Arab and Jewish masses.

The party of Jewish capital – the Zionists and Poalei-Zionists – are a weapon of the colonial policy of imperialism. They realise this policy of theirs by way of deceiving Jewish workers. We would like the proletarians of the entire world to know these facts, in particular honest Jewish workers, so that they can put a stop to the adventurist and criminal policy of the Zionist immigrants in Palestine.

It cannot be said that everything in the Zionist camp is going well. Already there are the symptoms of the growth of dissatisfaction among the Jewish workers connected with the increase of unemployment in their midst. Already today more than 5,000 workers are unemployed. This unemployment happens due to the increased flow of immigration, the limited volume of new construction, and particularly as a result of the growth of the resistance coming from the Arab masses to the seizure of their land and labour by Jews. Undoubtedly English imperialism is already increasing its pressure, exploitation and mockery of the Arab masses in order to push the Jewish workers into the prison of Zionism.

As a result of all this policy of British imperialism, and because of the economic crisis, the situation of the Arab working masses is sharply worsening. The number of unemployed Arabs grows with every passing day. The unemployed, who receive no assistance, are reduced to poverty and are doomed to die of hunger. Exhausted under the weight of taxes that are impossible to pay, the lowest prices for agricultural products and, as a result of plunder by the banks and usurers – the agricultural economy is experiencing a steady decline. The Arab fellah cannot by his own intensive labour provide the minimum to sustain the life of his family. I could refer to figures from the commission of John Crosby (one of the agents of English imperialism). Investigating the situation of the agricultural economy of Palestine, he determined the income of a peasant farm with 100 dunums of land to be 51 Palestinian pounds. From this sum, 22 Palestinian pounds must be deducted for production costs. Rent payment accounts for 30% of the cash income. There remains in the hands of the fellah 24 Palestinian pounds, out of which he must pay various amounts for debts to the clergy, etc. Thus, after the deduction of all remaining expenses, the peasant retains a maximum of 16 Palestinian pounds. But Mr. Crosby ascertains that “the average expenditure of a family of a colonist who is self employed consists of 162 Palestinian pounds annually”. As you see, the difference between 16 and 162 Palestinian pounds is a little more than 10 times. Indeed, Crosby takes a peasant with 100 dunums of land, but such peasants are few among us: only 20-18%. While the remaining masses of the peasantry have smaller plots, or else they are totally landless. About this category the colonialist agent “forgot” to speak. Yet even from the materials of Mr. Crosby it is not hard to see how the Arab fellah lives. In addition to which it must be noted that Crosby’s figures are for 1931, while, as is known, after that year the situation of the Arab fellahs considerably worsened.

The strengthening pressure and the harsh exploitation of the labouring masses of Palestine on the part of imperialism and its Zionist agents can only result in the increasing resistance of the Arab masses. From the very first moment of the colonisation of Palestine, the anti-imperialist movement in the country has grown. As in the years 1920, 1921, 1922, so in the years 1929, 1931, 1933, powerful demonstrations of the Arab masses took place. The anti-imperialist struggle of 1929 stands out for its particular strength, when an uprising of all the people dealt palpable blows to the colonisers. It is true that at the start English imperialism through its agents wanted to give the character of an Arab-Jewish slaughter to this powerful national liberation movement, but this attempt was not crowned with success. The popular uprising of 1929 poured out into a powerful anti-imperialist movement. It was not limited to Palestine but drew the attention also of other Arab countries. Brought from other colonies, large forces of English imperialism ruthlessly punished the revolutionary Arab masses. The terrible reprisals of English imperialism and the Zionist armed units, the treacherous role of the reactionary parts of the national reformists – if these were able to crush the revolutionary movement in blood, they were not able to strangle it after the uprising of 1929. The appearance of a desire on the part of Arab workers to organise trade unions is particularly noteworthy, and a strike struggle began to grow. Street battles with Zionist bands and the police became frequent occurrences. In the Arab villages, for their part, the unrest does not stop. The refusal to pay taxes, the resistance to the police, the growth of guerrilla units, the demonstration in Nablus in 1931, the unceasing struggle of the peasants for their land against Zionist usurpers (Wadi Hawares, Shatta, Zubaydat, etc.,) as well as the big events of 1933, all clearly testify how great is the effectiveness and the growth of the revolutionary liberation movement of the Arab masses. Especially important significance is attached to the strike of 1935 in Haifa against the enterprises of an oil company. This strike of 650 workers in a year of intense crisis and unemployment continued 16 days and the class battle was concluded with the victory of the workers. Besides economic demands, the workers obtained the recognition of their union from the company. This strike is the more remarkable since it is the first powerful strike of Arab workers, in the history of the Palestine-Arab workers movement and in the history of the CP of Palestine, whose organisation was carried out with the strong reinforcement of the Party and under the hegemony of the Party. Such a success is a sign of the fact that the Party has come out on the path of mass work, thanks to the policy of Arabisation. The strike exerted an immediate influence on other sectors of the Arab workers of Palestine. A strike of 130 workers broke out in the port. A strike of drivers in Haifa, unrest among workers on the railroad and in the municipal sector. These simultaneous strikes inspired tremendous enthusiasm and an impulse to class battle among the Arab workers of Palestine, and aroused the sympathy of broad strata of the urban working masses. A new stage of the revolutionary movement in Palestine can be noted also from the fact that during the period of the last strike in Haifa the movement spread into the neighbouring villages. In Harsile a clash between the peasants and gendarmerie over six straight hours ended with many peasants wounded and one dead. In this way is formed the unity of the worker-peasant movement of Palestine and the possibility of the hegemony of the working class. As regards the urban poverty of craftsmen and the petite bourgeoisie, these strata of the population are not remaining outside the revolutionary movement. All of this shows the inexhaustible field for revolutionary activity of the party of the proletariat that we have in Palestine. And you have the legitimate right to turn to the Communist Party of Palestine with the question, what was it able to do in these conditions in past years? Our Communist Party of Palestine is one of the oldest sections of the Communist International in the Arab world. But it must be recognised that the work of our party until recent years was obviously unsatisfactory.

The influence of our party on the developing mass movement in the country was insignificant. Why? It is because the leadership of the party fundamentally did not understand the national question of Palestine, the national-liberation and agrarian character of the revolutionary movement. It did not believe in the revolutionary potential of the Arab masses, who, according to the instructions of the Comintern, are the basic driving forces in the national-liberation struggle and in the peasant revolution of Palestine. The party was isolated in the narrow circle of Jewish workers, rejecting work among the Arab workers, rejecting the liberation movement of the Arab masses. The party suffered from Jewish nationalism over the course of many years. At the head of the party leadership stood comrades who basically were coming out of Zionist parties, ideologically never having been disarmed and continuing since the day of the foundation of the party until the most recent days, until their removal from party work in Palestine, now openly now in a concealed way fighting against the line of the Comintern and hindering the political and organisational growth of the party, and consequently, hampering the revolutionary-liberation movement of the Arab masses. Such supreme events as the uprising of 1929 were looked upon by the then leadership of the party as a Jewish pogrom and they came out against it.

The leadership extended an appeal to the Arabs calling on them not to take part in the demonstrations and manifestations, because the movement was taking place under the leadership of the national reformists, because the movement was provoked by the English and was a pogrom movement. Or, when the masses came out against Zionist immigration, the party leadership issued leaflets for immigration that saw this Zionist immigration as a factor allegedly strengthening the red danger for English imperialism. The grossly opportunistic Zionist tendency of these mistakes is obvious. And these mistakes were not accidental. In days of revolutionary crisis mistakes of this type drove the revolutionary masses away from the party for many years, inculcated into the masses mistrust of the party, as a Jewish party, at a time when with a correct policy our party would have been able to gain a colossal increase in its influence, riding the wave of the revolutionary situation and with the correct leadership of the masses as comrades Lenin and Stalin have taught us.

The leadership of the party sabotaged with all available means the bringing into life of the Arabisation of the CP of Palestine, taking cover under the slogan “Arabisation plus bolshevisation”. Regardless of the resolution of the seventh congress of the Party in 1930, to turn in the direction of Arabisation, the party did not implement the resolution but continued to carry out the former, condemned political and organisational line. Regardless of a certain increase in the percent of Arab comrades in the party, it was not transformed into a mass party of Palestinian workers and did not even strive to win a mass basis among the Palestinian proletariat. Already in 1933, a circular was published in Hebrew in which it was proposed to Jewish comrades to observe caution in the matter of attracting Arab comrades to the party.

However, as a result of the activity of the party it was possible to establish several cadres of Arab comrades, who, in subsequent years would find themselves tempered in the most difficult situations, who could become leaders in the party, the trade unions, and in the national movement. Side by side with the many already noted defects, our party was nevertheless able to achieve certain successes. The party regularly issued its party newspaper, for example, in the Arabic and Hebrew languages, printed and distributed leaflets, and also lead several strikes. After the rout of the opportunists in the leadership of the CP Palestine, that is, with the beginning of 1935, the party was able to attain significantly more successes. Resolutely implementing Arabisation, the party took serious steps in the direction of establishing ties with the broad Arab masses, heading their struggle with imperialism. The party established cells at places of production in basic enterprises, in place of the street cells that had earlier been set up. The party penetrated a number of great trade unions and revived union work among the Arab workers who earlier had been absolutely abandoned.

Only in the course of developing work among the broad masses of the Arab labourers can the Communist Party of Palestine firmly stand on its feet and transform itself into a really mass party of the Palestinian proletariat. And just because our work was insignificant, because it lagged in its tempo, behind the growth of the revolutionary movement in the country, we cannot view our work as satisfactory. Before us, as our chief task, remains the task of Arabisation of the party. What does this mean?

Some think, as in reality the opportunists in Palestine pretend, that Arabisation means forming a Communist party exclusively of Arabs. This is not true. The very nature of our international revolutionary party of the proletariat rejects posing the question in this way. Arabisation presupposes a political and organisational line of the party that would promote its establishing ties with the broad masses, to organise, mobilise them and to win for the proletariat the role of hegemon in the national liberation struggle. This is really what is the basic and main thing in Arabisation. But it is known that in Palestine the basic masses of the labouring people consist of Arabs. Theirs is the decisive importance in the national liberation movement. Attracting to the ranks of the party the leading Arabs – workers and labourers – easily promoting Arab party members to leading party work, we thereby facilitate and accelerate the winning over to our side of the broad masses of the Arab labourers.

In this struggle for the Arab masses the most important point for us is the issue of forming a united front with the national revolutionary and national reformist groups and organisations for struggle against imperialism and Zionism. In the party there is a tendency to scorn relations in general with all national reformist organisations, without investigating just who they are and for what they are fighting. The party strove to form its red trade unions but our comrades would enter reformist trade unions solely in order to destroy them. In relation to the revolutionarily minded intellectuals, until now we have been limited by criticism of their activity and political line. There have even been no attempts to agree with them about any common declarations against British imperialism and its Zionist agents.

Our party must basically reconstruct all its work. We must resolutely implement, not in words but in deeds the Arabisation of the Communist Party of Palestine. We must reconstruct the political and organisational leadership of the party in such a way that it would provide completely for the closest ties with the broad Arab masses, for their mobilisation and organisation for the struggle with English imperialism. Thus the task is not to ignore but to enter the reformist unions, to carry out painstaking, persistent work to win the masses to the side of the party. Our task is not to ignore the national-revolutionary and national-reformist elements but to go to them, to organise with them a united front on the basis of a resolute struggle with English imperialism for the independence of Palestine. We must not only use the national-revolutionary elements, but attract to this struggle all possible forces, capable of fighting with English imperialism.

The party must at the same time turn to face the broad masses of fellahs and bedouins. Organising peasant unions, committees of day labourers, standing closer and closer to the needs of the fellahs, bedouins, broadly using every dissatisfaction directed against English imperialism, the Zionists and the feudals, in every way rousing dissatisfaction to show and demonstrate to them that the only way to liberation is the way of revolutionary struggle against English imperialism and its chief support, Zionism, in coming stages transforming the peasant struggle into an anti-feudal one. Stressing that English imperialism is our chief enemy and Zionism its basic support, we must not forget for a minute about the national reformists. The leaders of national reformism in Palestine are the big landowners. They repeatedly betrayed the revolutionary manifestations of the masses. They contributed to the strengthening of imperialism and Zionism in the country. They are somewhat interested in Zionist immigration, selling land at high prices and raising rent payments, using the desperate situation of our peasant masses. The national reformists contribute to the rule of imperialism. They do not want to fight with Zionism, and are not in a position in practice to do so, inasmuch as that struggle will turn into an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggle. Rather, they strive to switch the class struggle of the Arab labouring masses onto the rails of animosity between nationalities. The influence of national reformism in Palestine is very great and our party in the struggle with national reformism must educate its own cadres and the masses in the spirit of irreconcilability with imperialism and in the spirit of internationalism. We have a great country – the homeland of the world proletariat and oppressed peoples – the USSR. With the example of the victory of the labourers of the Soviet Union, with the example of the heroic struggle of the Chinese soviets we must inspire the masses to resolute struggle with their oppressors.

Our task is to educate the youth in Palestine in a revolutionary spirit, to awaken in them implacable hatred of English imperialism, of Zionism, simultaneously educating them in the spirit of internationalism and love for the USSR.

The Arabisation of the Communist Party of Palestine by no means signifies a relaxation even for a minute of work among the worker and peasant Jews. No. Reconstructing our organisational-political leadership, we must with particular force and energy note that the struggle against Zionism and for winning over the Jewish masses from its influence was and remains one of the chief tasks of our party.

Our party recently came to occupy correct Bolshevik positions. Before it are tasks of gigantic importance. Would it be possible successfully to smash the power of English imperialism and its chief agent – Zionism, while not fighting simultaneously against tendencies within the party that reflect the interests of our enemies? It would not! Thus our tasks are a relentless struggle against the great power Zionist tendency and against local Arab chauvinism. In implacable struggle against these tendencies both in theory and in practice our party will grow stronger and become battle ready.