Summer 2001   
“Against the Stream”
The Fight for Trotskyism in Palestine

In Palestine a small Trotskyist nucleus came together in the late 1930s. According to a German-language manuscript written by Jakob Taut, a German Jewish former member of Heinrich Brandler’s KPO (Communist Party Opposition–the Right Opposition to Stalinism), several KPOers were won over to Trotskyist political positions after emigrating to Palestine. However, they were relatively isolated from the general population. A second component came from a group of youth organized in the Chugim Marxistiim (Marxist Circles), the youth section of a wing of Left Poale Zion, which at the time was linked to the centrist London Bureau. These youth had evolved toward Trotskyist positions on their own and did not completely overcome their Zionism until the outbreak of World War II. A third component consisted of elements coming from the left Zionist kibbutz movement, Hashomer Hatzair. Later, in the 1940s, they were joined by Jabra Nicola, an Arab Communist who broke with Stalinism over the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Together they formed the Brit Kommunistim Mahapchanin (Revolutionary Communist League, RCL), which periodically put out a hectographed newspaper, Kol Hama’amad (Voice of the Class). For a time this was interrupted due to arrests of key comrades by the British police. According to Taut: “The ‘Brit’ rejected the creation of a Jewish state because it could only be part of this decaying [capitalist] system and would only sharpen the Jewish question. Moreover, such a state could only come about through the expulsion of the original Arab population.” The RCL emphasized:

“By its very nature, Zionist colonization was from the outset necessarily bound up with the interests of imperialism which are directed against the indigenous masses. Zionist colonization could only be carried out in the closest agreement with the interests and help of one or several great powers.”

The Palestinian Trotskyists paid particular attention to the working class, especially the way in which the Zionists segregated the workforce: “The Zionists pushed Arab workers out of their economic sector and drove Arab products off the market in order to create a Jewish-capitalist sector as a forerunner of the Zionist state. The Jewish working class was thereby totally isolated from the Arab population…. The so-called trade union (the Histadrut), which greatly  contributed to both, was no real labor movement but rather a giant economic trust serving Zionism, which among other things included a ‘union’ department.” The RCL sought to build a united revolutionary socialist party that would integrate Jewish workers in the anti-imperialist and socialist struggle of the Arab East. “During and after the world war, the League…frequently intervened with leaflets in the struggles in the British military camps, in the railway and oil companies – i.e., it concentrated on those enterprises where Jews and Arabs together were exploited by British capital.”

An example was during the April 1946 general strike of Arab and Jewish employees of the Palestinian Mandate government which included railway, postal, port and administrative workers. The RCL distributed a leaflet in Arabic and Hebrew among the strikers, pointing out that British imperialism feared that the strikes and demonstrations could have a resounding effect in neighboring countries, such as Egypt, where large-scale anti-British strikes were underway.

The tiny Palestinian Trotskyist group did not have the weight to extend the common struggles of Hebrew and Arab workers. Nevertheless, the RCL courageously opposed the UN-ordered partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab sections. While the Stalinists treacherously helped found the Zionist state, providing the Czech weapons (paid for with American dollars) that were used to terrorize the Arab population, the Trotskyists defended the rights of the Arab refugees and continued to fight for a “United Socialist Arab East.” A resolution of the Palestinian Trotskyists from May 1948, printed below, took a fundamentally correct line of revolutionary defeatism on both sides in the Arab-Israel war, pointing out that the Arab bourgeois states as well as the Zionist state were carving up the living body of the Palestinian Arab people.

The May 1948 RCL resolution has a significant weakness that should be commented on: while rightly calling for “Workers of the two peoples, unite in a common front against imperialism and its agents!” it also demands: “Make this war between Jews and Arabs, which serves the end of imperialism, the common war of both nations against imperialism.” This poses an “anti-imperialist struggle” on a national rather than a class basis, as if the Hebrew nation as a whole together with the Arab nation including the effendis and kings could join in opposition to the imperialists.

The RCL’s principal slogan for a “United Socialist Arab East” posed a proletarian fight to overthrow capitalism, rather than an “anti-imperialist” struggle on a purely “democratic” – i.e., bourgeois – basis, reflecting the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution.This program is doubly necessary in a situation such as Palestine, where two nations inhabit the same territory, and thus find their democratic rights to self-determination sharply counterposed. There was and is no basis for the Hebrew and Palestinian Arab nations to join in common anti-imperialist struggle on the basis of capitalist rule. Nor can the Zionist “Jewish state” of Israel be transformed into a democratic state with equal rights for Palestinian Arabs. An equitable realization of the right to national self-determination in this situation of interpenetrated peoples is only conceivable through common revolutionary class struggle by the Hebrew and Arab workers for international socialist revolution. Today the League for the Fourth International calls for an Arab-Hebrew workers republic in Israel/Palestine as part of a socialist federation of the Near East. In this region, a historic crossroads of humanity where virtually every existing state has deeply mixed populations, such revolutions must be led by multiethnic revolutionary workers parties built in the fight to reforge a Trotskyist Fourth International.

Fourth International, May 1948 
The Trotskyist Position in Palestine

Against the Stream

The following editorial is translated from the Kol Ham'amad (Voice of the Class), Hebrew organ of the Revolutionary Communist League of Palestine, Section of the Fourth International. It exposes the reactionary role of the United Nations' partition plan, which stifles the rising tide of class struggle in Palestine, blurs class lines and creates an atmosphere of antagonistic "national unity" in both of the national communities in Palestine. As we can see from the editorial, the CP of Palestine has not escaped the nationalist hysteria in both camps, and has split into two national parties.

Only the Palestinian Trotskyists have maintained the Socialist position by calling upon Jewish and Arab workers to break away from the class enemies within their ranks and conduct their independent struggle against imperialism. Despite the present high tide of chauvinism accompanying the new "Hebrew" state set up by Hagana arms on one side, and the invasion of the Arab "Liberation" army on the other, the internationalist working class program put forward by the Trotskyists will alone provide the means of solving the Palestine problem. - Ed. [of Fourth International

Politicians and diplomats are still trying to find a formula for the disastrous situation into which Palestine has been plunged by the UNO deciding upon partition. Is this a "breach of international peace" or are we dealing with merely "hostile acts"? As far as we are concerned there is no point in this distinction. We are daily witnessing the killing or maiming of men and women, old and young, Jew or Arab. As always, the working masses and the poor suffer most. 

Not so very long ago the Arab and Jewish workers were united in strikes against a foreign oppressor. This common struggle has been put to an end. Today the workers are being incited to kill each other. The inciters have succeeded. 

"The British want to frustrate partition by means of Arab terrorism," explain the Zionists. As if this communal strife were not the very instrument by which partition is brought about! It was easy for the imperialists to foresee that and well may they be satisfied with the course of events.


 Britain was a loser in the last world war. She has lost the bulk of her foreign assets. Her industry is lagging behind. Building up her productive apparatus requires dollars and manpower.

"Keeping order" in Palestine costs England over 35 million Pounds a year, an amount which exceeds the profit she can extort from this country. Partition will release her from her financial obligations, enable her to employ her soldiers in the productive process while her source of income will remain intact. - But this is not all. By partition a wedge is driven between the Arab and Jewish worker. The Zionist state with its provocative lines of demarcation will bring about the blossoming forth of irredentist (revenge) movements on either side, there will be fighting for an "Arab Palestine" and for a Jewish state within the historic frontiers of Eretz Israel (Israel's Land)." As a result the chauvinistic atmosphere created thus will poison the Arab world in the Middle East and throttle the anti-imperialist fight of the masses, while Zionists and Arab feudalists will vie for imperialist favors. 

The price Britain has to pay for the advantages gained by partition is to renounce her ruling monopoly in this country. On the other hand, Wall Street has to come out into the open and contribute its share toward the foul business of safeguarding imperialist positions. This, of course, blackens the "democratic" reputation of the dollar state while at the same time it addes to the prestige of Great Britain. Partition, therefore, is a compromise between the imperialist robbers arising from a changed power constellation.


If the Anglo-American imperialists had forced this "solution" on Palestine of their own, the rotten game would have been patent in the whole Arab East. However, they dodged - the problem was passed on to the UNO. The function of the UNO was to sweeten the bitter dish cooked in the imperialist cuisine, dressing it, in Bevin's words, with the twaddle of the "conscience of the world that has passed judgement." Exactly. And the diplomats of the lesser countries danced to the tune of the dollar flute, reiterating the "public opinion of the world." And the peculiar casts in this performance enables Great Britain to appear as the Guardian Angel overflowing with sympathy for either side. 

And the Soviet Union? Why did not her representative call the UNO game the swindle it really is? - Apparently the present foreign policy of the SU is not concerned with the fighting of the colonial masses. And as the Palestine question is a second-rate affair for the "Big," the Soviet diplomats saw fit to dwell upon what Stalin had said about the "the Soviet Union being ready to meet America and Britain halfway, economic and social differences notwithstanding. 

This is how the UNO has "solved" the Palestinian problem. Yet it is the same unsavory dish that has been set for India, Greece and Indo-China.


     The Zionists were overcome with a sense of triumph when offered the bone by the UNO cooks. "Our work, our righteous cause have won... before the forum of the nations."

The Zionists have been in the habit of asking "justice" from the enemies of the Jewish people ever since Herzl: from the Tsar, the German Kaiser, the British Imperialists, Wall Street. Now they saw their chance. Wall Street is distributing loans and "political independence". Of course, not for nothing. The price has to be paid in blood. 

The Jewish state, this gift of Truman's and Bevin's, give the capitalist economy of the Zionists a respite. This economy rests on very flimsy foundations. Its products cannot compete on the world market. Its only hope is the inner market from which the Arab goods are debarred. Thus the problem of Jewish immigration has come to be a problem of live or die. The continuous flow of immigrants who would come with the remnants of their possessions is apt to increase the circulation of goods, will allow the bourgeois producers to dispose of their expensive wares. Mass immigration would also be very useful as a means to force down wages which "weigh so heavily" on the Jewish industry. A state engaged in inevitable military conflicts would mean orders from the "Hebrew Army," a source of "Hebrew" profits not to be underrated at all. A state would mean thousands of snug berths for Zionist veteran functionaries.  


 The workers and the poor. They will have to pay the stiff prices following the ban on Arab goods. They will break down under the yoke of numberless taxes, direct and indirect. They will have to cover the deficit of the Jewish state. They are living in the open, having no roof over their heads, while their institutions have "more important business" to attend to. 

The Jewish worker having been separated from his Arab colleague and prevented from fighting a common class struggle will be at the mercy of his class enemies, imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie. It will be easy to arouse him against his proletarian ally, the Arab worker, "who is depriving him of jobs and depressing the level of wages" (a method that has not failed in the past!). Not in vain has Weitzmann said that "the Jewish state will stem Communist influence." As a compensation the Jewish worker is bestowed with the privilege of dying a hero's death on the altar of the Hebrew state. 

And what promises does the Jewish state hold out? Does it really mean a step forward toward the solution of the Jewish problem? 

The partition was not meant to solve Jewish misery nor is it likely to do so. This dwarf of a state which is too small to absorb the Jewish masses cannot even solve the problems of its citizens. The Hebrew state can only infest the Arab East with anti-Semitism and may well turn out - as Trotsky said - a bloody trap for hundreds of thousands of Jews.

The leaders of the Arab League reacted to the decision on partition with speeches full of threats and enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, a Zionist state is to them a godsend from Allah. Calling up the worker and fellah for the "holy war to save Palestine" is supposed to stifle their cries for bread, land and freedom. Another time-honored method of diverting an embittered people against the Jewish and communist danger.

In Palestine the feudal rule has of late begun to lose ground. During the war the Arab working class has grown in numbers and political consciousness. Jewish and Arab workers stood up against the foreign oppressor, against whom they together went on strikes. A strong leftist trade union had come into existence; and the "Workers Asssociation of the Arabs of Palestine" had been well on the way of freeing itself from the influence of the Husseinis. The murder of its leader, Sami Taha, committed by hirelings of the Arab High Committee could not restrain this development. But where the Husseinis failed, the decision of the imperialist agency, the UNO succeeded. The partition decision stifled the class struggle of the Palestine workers. The prospect of being at the hands of the Zionist "conquerors of soil and labor" is arousing fear and anxiety among the Arab workers and fellahs. nationalist war slogans fall on fertile soil. And feudal murderers see their chance. Thus the policy of partition enables the feudalists to turn back the wheels of history.


 The early crop of partition policy: Jews and Arabs are drowned in a sea of chauvinist enthusiasm. Triumph on the one hand, rage and exasperation on the other. Communists are being murdered. Pogroms among Jews instigated. A tit for tat of murder and provocation. The "strafing expeditions" of the Haganah are oil for the propaganda machine of the Arab patriots in their campaign to enlist the masses for more bloodshed. The military conflict and the smashing to pieces of the workers' movements are a boon to the chauvinist extremists in either camp.

 The patriotic wave makes sitting on the fence very uncomfortable. The Zionist "Socialist" parties soon "corrected" their anti-imperialist phrases and stubborn "resistance" against "cutting up the country to pieces" and gave way to full and enthusiastic support of the imperialist partition policy. That was a trifling matter, a question of merely changing Zionist tactics. 

Yet the Communist Party of Palestine might have been expected to take up a different position. Have they no repeatedly warned against the fatal results bound to come with the establishment of a Jewish state? "Partition must needs be disastrous for Jew and Arab alike ... partition is an imperialist scheme intended to give British rule a new lease on life..." (evidence given by the PCP before the Anglo-American Commission of Enquiry on Mar. 25, 1946). The secretary of the party loyally stuck to this attitude as late as July 1947 when he said before the UNO commission: "We refuse the partition scheme pointblank, as this scheme is detrimental to the interests of the two peoples." However, after this scheme had been pulled off with the support of the Soviet representatives, Kol Ha'Am (the Stalinist central organ) hastened to declare that "democracy and justice have won the day (!)." And overnight there appeaed a newly baptized party: the name of Communist Party of Palestine was changed to Communist Party of Eretz Israel (Communist Party of the Hebrew Land). Thus even the last vestige of contact with the Arab population was broken off. The gap that still separated them from Zionism was finally bridged. Instead of being the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle of the Arab and Jewish masses, the Palestine Communist Party became the "Communist" tail of the "left" Zionists. Precisely in an hour when Zionism shows to everyone its counter-revolutionary face, its blatant servility to imperialism. Thus the Communist Party itself held up all its former exposure of imperialist and Zionist deceoptions to ridicule. 

Why have they gone bankrupt? 

The policy of the Palestine Communist Party lacks a continuous line. The policy of the P.C.P. reflects both the needs deriving from the class war of the Jewish worker in Palestine and the needs of Soviet foreign policy. The needs of class war, however, require a consistent international policy, the negation of Zionism, of its discrimination beween Arab and Jew. On the other hand, the need to adjust the party line to the diplomatic maneuvers of the S.U. calls for an "elastic" policy, one that lacks backbone. As a result we find the notorious shilly-shallying and zigzagging, which has harnessed the PCP now to the Zionist wagon. The fifth wheel!


The Arab Stalinists, the "National Liberation League," did not fare better than their Jewish counterparts. They were in a pretty fix having to justify the Russian support of the Jewish state. The Arab workers could not be expected to accept this line. Not by a long shot. They knew the meddling of Soviet diplomacy for what it was: breaking up the Palestine workers' unity and a treacherous blow. After the pro-partition declaration of Zarapkin, the National Liberation League people found themselves surrounded by scorn and hostility.

The policy of the Soviet Union has undermined the position of the League among the Arab toilers. Thus it opened a door to the reactionary, chauvinist campaign against the "red danger". At present, the National Liberation League stands for peace and it is busy exposing the provocative role played by the British government. But since it had cried out for "national unity" (with the feudal Husseinis, the present war instigators during the past years), its present atitude fails to convince. But the National Liberation League did convince the Arab workers that the driving force behind its policy is not the interest of the Palestine proletariat, but that of the Kremlin.


The two camps today mobilize the masses under the mask of "self-defense." "We have been attacked, let us defend ourselves!"- say the the Zionists. "Let us ward off the danger of a Jewish conquest!" - declares the Arab Higher Committee. Where does the truth lie?

War is the continuation of politics by other means. The war led by the Arab feudalists is but the continuation of their reactionary war on the worker and the fellah who are striving to shake off oppression and exploitation. For the feudal effendis "Salvation of Palestine" means safeguarding their revenues at the expense of the fellahin, maintaining their autocratic rule in town and country, smashing the proletarian organizations and international class solidarity.

The war waged by the Zionists is the continuation of their expansionist policy based on discrimination between the two peoples: they defend kibbush avoda (ousting of Arab labor), kibbush adama (ousting of the fellah), boycott of Arab goods, "Hebrew rule." The military conflict is a direct result of the Zionist conquerors.

This war on neither side be said to bear a progressive character. The war does not release progressive forces or do away with social and economic obstacles in the path of the development of the two nations. Quite the opposite is true. It is apt to obscure the class antagonism and to open the gate for nationalist excesses. It weakens the proletariat and strengthens imperialism in both camps.


 Each side is "anti-imperialist" to the bone, busy detecting the reactionary - in the opposite camp. And imperialism is always seen - helping the other side. But this kind of exposure is oil on the imperialist fire. For the inveigling policy of imperialism is based upon agents and agencies within both camps. Therefore, we say to the Palestinian people, in reply to the patriotic warmongers: Make this war between Jews and Arabs, which serves the end of imperialism, the common war of both nations against imperialism!

This is the only solution guaranteeing a real peace. This must be our goal which must be achieved without concessions to the chauvinist mood prevailing at present among the masses. 

How can that be done?

"The main enemy is in our own country!" - this was what Karl Liebknecht had to say to the workers when imperialists and social democrats were inciting them to the slaughter of their fellow workers in other countries. In this spirit we say to the Jewish and Arab workers: the enemy is in your own camp!

Jewish workers! Get rid of the Zionist provocateurs who tell you to sacrifice yourself on the altar of the state! 

Arab worker and fellah! Get rid of the chauvinist provocateurs who are getting you into a mess of blood for their own sake and pocket.

Workers of the two peoples, unite in a common front against imperialism and its agents!

The problem worrying all in these days is the problem of security. Jewish workers ask: "How to protect our lives? Should we not support the ‘Haganah'? And the Arab workers and fellahin ask: "Ought we not to join the ‘Najada', ‘Futuwa' to defend ourselves against the Zionists' attacks?

A distinction must be made between the practical and political sides of this question. We cannot thwart mobilizations and do not therefore tell workers to refuse to mobilize. But it is our duty to denounce the reactionary character of the chauvinist organizations, even in their own house. The only way to peace between the two peoples of this country is turning the guns against the instigators of murder in both camps.

 Instead of the abstract "anti-imperialist" phrases of the social-patriots which cover up their servility to imperialism, we are showing a practical way to fight against the foreign oppressor: unmasking its local agents, undermining their influence; so that the Arab worker and fellah will understand that the military campaign against the Jews helps to bring about partition and helps only the feudalists and imperialists, while it is fought on his back and paid for with his blood; so that the Jewish worker recognizes at last the illusion of Zionism and understands that he will not be free and safe as long as he has not done away with national discrimination, isolationism and imperialist loyalty. 

We have to keep up contact between the workers of both peoples at whatever place of work that this can still be done in order to prevent provactive acts and to safeguard the lives of the workers at work and on the roads. Let us forge revolutionary cadres. In this burning hell of chauvinism we have to hold up the banner of international brotherhood.


     World capitalism being on the downgrade tries to endure by inflating imaginary national conflicts, trampling down the masses and brutalizing them. In the long run that remedy will fail. The masses will have learned their lesson through suffering. They will get to know their enemy: monopolistic capitalism that is hiding behind its local ruling agency. With the class struggle getting more intensive all over the world and in particular in the Arab countries, the end of the fratricidal war in this country is bound to come.

 The patriotic wave today sweeps everyone lacking the principles of international communism off his feet. Revolutionary activity at this juncture requires patience, persistence and far-sightedness. It is a way full of danger and difficulties. But it is the only way out of this patriotic mire. Well may we remember the words of Lenin which, spoken in a similar  situation, apply also to ours: 

"We are not charlatans ... We must base ourselves on the consciousness of the masses. Even if it is necessary to remain in a minority, be it so. We must not be afraid to be in a minority. We will carry on the work of criticism in order to free the masses from deceit ... Our line will prove right ... All the oppressed will come to us. They have no other way out." 

E-mail: internationalistgroup@msn.com