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(en) NEFAC debate: Anarchists and Palestine: Class Struggle or Popular Front? - By Ryan Chiang McCarthy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 9 Jan 2003 06:57:30 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Here's Ryan's original article that folks are commenting on. It
should be noted that signed articles are not offical NEFAC
positions - that's what position papers are for. Debate is good.

Anarchists and Palestine: Class Struggle or Popular Front?
By Ryan Chiang McCarthy
Email: CrimsonOctopus (at) hotmail.com  
02 Dec 2002

As the imperialist "war on terror" gains momentum, the conflict
in Palestine is plunged continually into the center of world
attention, conveyed so as to force us all to take positions
along pre-defined lines- are you pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian?
All states have joined the drive to polarize the world behind
these fronts. For anarchists, it is vital not to compromise a
class perspective, rejecting the programs of both Palestinian
nationalism and Israeli genocide. In the US, where Israel must
look for its lifeblood of weaponry and international clout,
anarchists have a great responsibility to the proletariat of
Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately, many US anarchists have
chosen the way of the popular front.

Some of the statements emerging from the US anarchist movement
on the Palestine conflict are imbued with the most naive
relativism. Anarchist principles are jettisoned in favor of the
right of the "Palestinian people" to "self-determination" and

A joint call by the Chicago sections of the Federation of
Revolutionary Anarchist Collectives and Anti-Racist Action
exhorts anarchists to join a march organized by Al-Awda, a
liberal NGO, and to put their faith in its program, which
demands a "pluralistic, democratic society where people of
all religions, ideologies, and ethnic groups can live together
free of racism and discrimination"- in other words, the mythical
humane capitalism. The Chicago comrades explain- "This is a far
more radical demand than the two state solution... and is a step
towards positioning Palestinian and Jewish self-organization as
the basis for a future society" (1). This notion repeats the old
lie that liberals and Stalinists have been pushing throughout
modern history, that the working class has common aims, albeit
"transitional" ones, with the bosses.

This popular front mentality is echoed by Wayne Price in his
article, "Anarchism and the Palestinian-Israeli War," in which
he proclaims that "anarchists, and all decent people, should be
on the side of the Palestinians. Criticisms of their leaderships
or their methods of fighting are all secondary." Of course,
Price laments the "hardened versions of nationalism" adopted by
the Palestinian leadership, while he advocates a presumably
non-hardened version of nationalism "in the broad sense of a
love for your land and your people" and a hatred for your
people's oppression." However, anarchism spits on all
nationalism, "hardened" or otherwise, recognizing that the
revolutionary struggle is that of the proletariat against the
bourgeoisie, necessarily international and internationalist, and
not of peoples against one another. Above all an anarchist,
Price still advocates "an international revolution throughout
the region against all the states and all forms of domination,"
but does not elaborate a revolutionary praxis, instead
concluding that "we must support the resistance of the
Palestinian people. They have the right to self-determination,
that is, to choose their leaders, their programs, and their
methods of struggle, whatever we think" (2). This position takes
no issue with the way in which both Palestinian and Israeli
workers are being manipulated by their rulers to massacre one
another. It also ignores those sparkling acts of class
solidarity carried out across national lines, such
as the refusal of some Israeli reservists to serve in the
occupied territories. Are we to accept, on the grounds of
"self-determination," the nationalist poison that drives
Palestinian proletarian youth to destroy themselves and Israeli
fellow workers in suicide bombings? Clearly, to anarchists this
is unacceptable. If we have a friend who is dealing with
personal problems through alcohol abuse, we do not encourage
alcoholism but instead strive to guide our friend into a more
positive direction. Similarly, as anarchists who sympathize with
the plight of the Palestinian (and Israeli!) workers, we have
not the privilege, but the responsibility to condemn tactics and
programs they adopt which are reactionary, precisely because we
wish to see them succeed in overthrowing their bosses and
bettering their lives and ours. We are working for an
international revolution, not a postmodern bubble bath of
separate spheres.

If we are to offer up a suggestion of immediate aims that is not
colored by the relativist slogan of "self-determination," we
must first recognize the sorry state of the Palestinian and
Israeli labor movements. The monolithic Palestinian General
Federation of Trade Unions has been from its inception dominated
and manipulated by the various left and democratic
political parties, primarily Fatah, having been formed in 1993
out of smaller union federations that were themselves each
attached to a particular party. A congress of the PGFTU in 1996
was closed down by Arafat's Palestinian Authority when workers
attempted to wrest independent control of the federation.
Palestinian unions today are merely playgrounds for the
political parties who downplay class struggle in favor of
drawing the workers into the popular anti-colonial front (3).
Among the Israeli workers, the Histadrut dominates as a trade
union in line with the government's policy of apartheid, and has
always placed national interests above class interests. One of
the latest offenses of the Histadrut against the working class
is its collaboration with the Israeli police in hounding
undocumented immigrant workers, reporting their workplaces to
the state, encouraging its members to snitch on them, and
actively pushing for their deportation instead of organizing
against the slavish labor conditions they face (4).

What is clearly needed, then, are autonomous labor movements of
Palestinian and Israeli workers. In July 2002, 5,000 unemployed
Palestinian workers protested against the Palestinian Authority
in Gaza, condemning the PA's failure to live up to promises of
unemployment support and accusing it of stealing donations made
to Palestinian workers by sympathizers throughout the Arab
world. As reported in Ha'aretz, "this was a spontaneous move by
workers, which was not initiated by any of the political forces
in Gaza... PA officials have claimed...that their grievances
should be aired via their "elected" representatives, the
unions. But the union heads...more usually represent the PA to
the workers, and not the other way around... There were some
reports of efforts to "buy" the leaders of the protest by
offering them jobs, but the attempt failed." A workers' movement
that bypasses the narrow lines of struggle dictated by the PA,
Israel, and all the bosses, and fights for the unmediated
demands of workers, is rooted in actions such as these, which
must be closely followed and supported to the greatest degree
possible. Shouldn't all this be obvious? Apparently it isn't.

A grasp of revolutionary history is essential for all
anarchists. The present reaction by anarchists to the escalation
in Palestine is generally in line with that of the Left, and
therefore utterly predictable, following a long tradition of
popular fronts that aim to divert the mighty
river of class struggle so as to irrigate the fields of the
bourgeoisie. In this respect, the Palestine conflict is
comparable to the collaboration of so-called proletarian
parties, including the FAI, with the Spanish republic in the
name of anti-fascism, or the entry of so-called anarchists
into the Guomindang in the name of ending Manchu and warlord
rule in China. In the end, the story was the same: the genuine
workers' struggles were crushed by the same popular fronts they
were called to support, on the eve of great imperialist wars
where masses of workers were rushed into an international
bloodbath. Today, the United States "war on terror" is
escalating worldwide. The war in Afghanistan and the looming
invasion of Iraq may only be the beginning of a new world war.
In the face of all this, we are called upon by the Left to
promote "multilateralism" to demand "inspections, not war," to
honor the UN and its bourgeois Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. "We feel that the real 'Axis of Evil' is right here in
our own country," declares Anti-Racist Action of Columbus,
Ohio, targeting the Big Oppressor of the day rather than the
worldwide ruling class (6). It is easy to follow the Left in
focusing on those figureheads of capital who are overtly greedy,
reactionary, and, above all, "evil," a favorite label of liberal
moralists. But anarchism is concerned "with the fruit and not
the flower". The failure of anarchists to hold to a
revolutionary perspective on Palestine will translate into
our increasing irrelevance. Anarchists today are nowhere near as
influential as on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War and World War
II, and we only serve to further marginalize ourselves by
becoming indistinguishable from liberals.

1. Quotations from "Call for an Anarchist, Anti-authoritarian
and Anti-Fascist Bloc" issued by the Chicago Collective of FRAC
and Chicago ARA on 17 September 2002
2. Quotations from "Anarchism and the Palestinian-Israeli War",
by Wayne Price, printed in Barricada #17, May 2002
3. Source: "Anything but Workers in the Palestinian Trade
Unions", by Sos Nissen, from News From Within, April 1996
4. Source: "The Histadrut is collaborating with the police
against migrant workers," by Kav La'Oved, 13 September 2002.
5. Quotations from "5,000 Unemployed Stage Protest in Gaza," by
Amira Hass and Aluf Benn, printed in Ha'aretz 2 July 2002
6. Quotation from "Call for a Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist
Bloc," issued by Columbus ARA in October, 2002

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