First Published: Jewish Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 10-11, October-November 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(The following is the concluding portion of an excerpt from the Yiddish pamphlet How Long Can the Truth Be Hidden? The first part appeared in our June-July 1972 issue.)
Let us quote one more passage from P. Novick’s book Palestine, the Arabs and Zionism:
Can there be any doubt that the objective of the movement in Egypt, Palestine, Syria is to destroy British imperialism? This cannot be questioned. Therefore this movement must get the support of the working class, of all anti-imperialist elements, even if it is not led by workers.
The struggle in Egypt, Syria, Transjordania, Iraq. . . is a link in the chain of revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. . . In order to perceive the full scope of this, it is necessary to view the movements for national liberation in light of Marxism-Leninism, in light of the class struggle, (p. 126.)
In his report to the 1971 national MF convention, P. Novick follows a nationalistic approach to the Arab question that he himself so vigorously denounced in his past writings. He says: “Their (the Arab) unity against Israel – if one can call it unity – was of a pan-Arab chauvinist character and not anti-imperialist.” This gross misrepresentation of the situation in the Middle East can only lead the MF readers to believe that the united struggle of the Arab nations to regain the territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war is based upon “pan-Arab chauvinism.” The editor of the Morning Freiheit distorts the truth, concealing that this is a just fight against a state which aims to enlarge its boundaries at the expense of its Arab neighbors. Novick comes out again and again with alarming statements that “Communists are being persecuted by Arab governments.” He hints repeatedly that “serious errors are committed in ’certain circles’” on the Arab question, without being able to substantiate these accusations. Swayed by bourgeois nationalism the MF spokesman overlooks the fact that although the Arab national liberation movements proceed unevenly, have to contend with many difficulties and must, at times, overcome interruptions, they are progressive movements which must be supported by all anti-imperialist forces.
Of course we cannot ignore the extremist elements in the Arab ranks. We denounce the terrorist acts of these elements who are still beset by an illusion of destroying the State of Israel. We must also recognize that this movement was brought into being, to a large degree, out of resentment against the six-day war, the occupation of Arab territories, the oppression of the Palestinian Arabs, and the merciless treatment of Arab refugees. Most of all we must bear in mind that these growing and maturing liberation movements have become an important factor in the Arab world, strengthening the anti-imperialist struggle and leading to cooperation with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, while the “democratic” rulers of Israel are becoming more and more enmeshed in the web of American imperialism.
Lenin pointed out:
To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc. – to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. . . .
Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is. (Collected Works, Vol. 22, pp. 355-356.)
It should be noted that this quotation was included in a pamphlet entitled Palestine, written by Paul Novick in 1936 and issued by the Jewish Bureau, Central Committee, CPUSA. In that pamphlet he denounced the Zionist persecution of the Palestinian people, stating: ”The Zionists. . . are using all means to justify the criminal attitude towards the Palestinian population.” In another passage we read:
Of course this movement still has faults. . . . Must the movement be condemned together with its misleaders? Real revolutionists must, of course, take part in such a movement, weaken the influence of the misleaders, remove them, place themselves in the leadership of the movement in order to keep it within the orbit of struggle against the real enemy – imperialism – and all its servants.
It hardly needs to be said that Paul Novick, who is now so much concerned with “Pan-Arab chauvinism,” could gain a great deal of enlightenment from his writings of 35-40 years ago.
The spokesmen of the MF are attempting to justify their opportunism under the pretense that they must not separate themselves from the Jewish masses. They contend that they have to “sustain and preserve the progressive Jewish base.” In a comment, “An Answer to a Reader” (MF, February 24, 1971) the editors tell us: “Zionists and Zionist sympathizers constitute a majority of the Jewish people in the United States. To shrug them off, in a single gesture, would leave us a small minority that would be doomed to live in isolation. This is how Marxist-Leninists have to work among the American people.”
Under the pretext of “not wanting to isolate themselves from the people,” the spokesmen of the MF have turned from Marxism-Leninism to opportunism. The aggressive six-day war became a “war of self-defense,” the UN Revolution on the Middle East is misrepresented, the Arab National Liberation Movement is maligned as “Pan-Arab chauvinism,” the Soviet Union and other socialist countries are attacked and calumniated (Novick talks about “errors and even crimes in the socialist world.” In an MF editorial, January 1, 1971, the Leningrad trial of hijackers of a Soviet airplane was lumped together with the ignominious trial of Basque freedom fighters in fascist Spain.) The MF leaders are doing all this “in order not to isolate themselves from the masses,” as they say, and this opportunism is being offered to the readers as “Marxism-Leninism.”
On various occasions Lenin conducted a sharp struggle against this kind of opportunism. He correctly pointed out that “our Party leads the masses to socialism, it does not follow every twist in the mood, or degradation of the mood, of the masses. All social democratic parties were faced, at one time or another, with a situation when the masses became apathetic or were swayed by some fallacy or vogue (chauvinism, anti-Semitism, anarchism, Boulangism, etc.). Consistent revolutionary social democrats never give in to a temporary turn in the mood of the masses.” (Quoted by Igor Cohen, “The Leninist Theory on the National Question and Present-Day Capitalism,” Sovetish Heimland, No. 9, 1970.).
This is how steadfast progressive leaders have to deal with this question. They must bear in mind that the way to strengthen the progressive movement is by educating the masses, imbuing them with a principled resolute position, and not to drive them still further in the direction of revisionism and bourgeois nationalism. Those who give in to chauvinist trends, betray the principles and boast about “strengthening the base,” fail to see that they are losing the progressive image. They talk about “respect for the people.” But they themselves are losing their respect for the masses, taking the people for granted.
However it must be made absolutely clear that this criticism is intended to be constructive and helpful. The aim is to lead the MF back to the Marxist-Leninist foundation that it was anchored to in previous years; to place this newspaper again under the ideological compass that it followed under the guidance of the unforgettable Moishe Olgin. It should also be noted that the MF takes a correct position on the war in Vietnam, the struggle against George Meany and other reactionary misleaders of labor, and on a number of other questions. We reiterate: our aim is not to harm or eliminate the Morning Freiheit but to strengthen its base, to prevail upon the MF leaders to correct their ideological error and place the paper again in the forefront of the militant struggle of the progressive Jewish movement, which it has, to our great regret, abandoned in the last few years. We fully concur with the editors of Sovetish Heimland who have expressed their hope “that the spokesmen for the Morning Freiheit will find the necessary strength to overcome their present difficulties and bring back this newspaper to the position of a fighting organ for the progressive community in the United States.”