Two days ago, the English edition of Haaretz carried an article by Aluf Ben, which stated that Israeli experts blamed the USA for allowing democratic elections to take place in Arab countries which have brought to power several fundamentalist parties. It is obvious that the Israeli imperialists, far from being the great democrats they consider themselves to be, frown upon any step taken that might allow them to be replaced by the imperialists (or would-be imperialists) of Arab nations – in this case, the installing through elections of pro-American drones. However, the USA does not care whom its drone in the Middle East is going to be, as long as he gets the job done. However, fundamentalist drones are definitely not what the American government had in mind, either.
The latest of fundamentalist victories came last Wednesday, when the Palestinian Hamas won the elections organized (and ‘overseen’) by the USA and Israel. We Marxists have been saying for quite a while now that, given the popular disillusionment with the Fatah party, the social nature of Hamas, and its anti-imperialist demagogy, it was quite clear that Hamas was going to win these elections. We’ve been saying this for over a year, before the last elections, which kept Fatah in power (thanks to its and to the Israeli government’s tricks). The fact that we were the only ones to say so in advance proves that Marxism is the only philosophical outlook, which can analyze reality clearly, and help understand it and therefore change it.
The fundamentalist parties are reactionary bourgeois parties, that seek to continue the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists. The reactionary Iranian regime is a great example of how the Islamic reactionaries come to power on the backs of the masses, promising great reforms, only to crush the working class and the middle class poor once they gain control of the state. However, it would be wrong to view the support given by the Palestinian masses to Hamas as a rightward movement. Most people who voted for Hamas did not vote for its reactionary national or economic programme, but as a protest against Fatah and out of hope that maybe Hamas will be less corrupt than Fatah and more attentive to the people’s needs.
However, it must be stressed that most voters do not wish for the murder of all Jews. A poll out today indicates that 75% of the people who voted for Hamas oppose the destruction of Israel, and 84% of all Palestinians oppose this senseless anti-Semitic idea. This shows that the Hamas vote, despite being a reactionary organisation, stems from progressive motives.
This is contrary to Israeli state propaganda, which seeks to present all Palestinians as anti-Semites. This hysteric notion promoted by the state found its ugliest expression in the words of the chairman of the right-wing Likud party, Binyamin Nethanyahu, who said that “the rise of Hamas is akin to the rise of the Nazis”. One reporter commented that, if anything, the Likud party is much more similar to the Nazi Party than Hamas: it is an extreme-right wing, chauvinist, racist party, and to expose a dark little secret of Israeli politics, the Likud itself has its roots in a fascist organisation, and contains quite a few fascists within its ranks to this day.
But if one is to be really honest, the Likud also has much in common with Hamas as well. The Likud was set up in 1973, following the merger of Herut (post-fascist conservative party) and the Liberal Party into Gahal, by incorporating Gahal and several other right-wing organisations into one organization. From 1948 the year in which it began self-rule – to 1977, the ruling party in Israel was the social-democratic Mapai. In 1977, however, the rule of Mapai exposed the party’s pro-capitalist and utterly corrupt nature. Having no left wing inside it to offer an alternative, and most Israelis feeling sick of Mapai’s stranglehold on the state, many turned to the Likud, at the time a populist party promising to serve the people.
In this the Likud is no different from Hamas. In the same way, Hamas managed to convince most Palestinians to vote for it. If you think it through, nothing about Hamas makes it very different from the Israeli extreme right wing: both support the idea of one state from the coast of the Middle East to the West Bank of the Jordan river, the expulsion of all national minorities, and the setting up of a theocracy.
Up until 1991, the conflict between the two superpowers, the USA and the USSR, slowed down the USA’s dominating the world. However, since the collapse of the USSR, the USA has become the only superpower, and is now trying to keep all nations under its control in order to serve its own interests.
The USA forced many poor countries to open up to foreign trade and to privatise the economy in order to allow the multinationals to take over the economy, all the while making billions of people poorer and poorer. Not only that, but where there was opposition to the takeover, the USA acted like a gangster, taking the country by force. This happened in Iraq, and now the USA is threatening to do the same in Syria. The bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties that co-operated with American imperialism had their conspiracy with imperialism against their own people exposed.
Had there been mass Marxist parties in those countries, this would have been a catalyst for their own development and growth, and maybe even for the socialist revolution. However, the Communist Parties – in fact degenerate Stalinist parties – became pro-imperialist parties as well. For example, in Iraq, the CP has become part of the occupiers’ puppet government, instead of leading the masses.
The result is that the fundamentalist parties appear to be “clean” and free of corruption and thanks to this become stronger. This is exactly what happened in the elections in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Can Hamas improve the lives of the Palestinian masses?
So, the question must be asked: can this party improve the living conditions of the Palestinians? Can it fight the occupation and imperialism?
Absolutely not. As we had already written, Hamas is not a revolutionary party, but a reactionary bourgeois party with radical rhetoric. In reality, it can no more help the Palestinians than Fatah or for that matter, the imperialist bourgeoisie of Israel or the USA.
It is clear that not Kadima nor the Likud nor the Hamas can solve the national question. All these parties express the interests of the rotten bourgeoisie, imperialist or otherwise, and turn Israelis and Palestinians against each other using their nationalism in order to stay in power. This question cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism, where every national bourgeoisie seeks to rule over as wide an area as possible. It is no coincidence that the right wing in Israel is divided and torn apart. The masses are sick of their corruption. Kadima is nothing but the Likud with a different name and with different rhetoric. Hamas too is the Palestinian mirror of these ruling class parties, and it won’t be long before the Palestinian workers and poor realize this too.
The strengthening of Hamas is only a temporary phenomenon, because Hamas cannot solve any of the fundamental problems of the masses. Its victory will make it no less corrupt than Fatah. This will increase instability in the region and will allow a strong left with a socialist programme to appear. In Israel, this left can only come out of the workers in and around the Labour Party.
The hypocrisy of imperialist democrats and the role of the Israeli left
As we have already written, the state is trying to whip up hysteria in Israel to turn people to the right and against the Palestinians. The Israeli middle class has always prided itself on being the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. A democracy for capitalist Jews only – but a democracy! This laughable nonsense has been completely exposed with their insistence that the world mustn’t recognize the Hamas government. Ehud Ulmert, who is replacing Ariel Sharon as Israeli Prime Minister until the elections, said “if a government of Hamas or a government in which it will participate shall be formed, the Palestinian Authority shall become a supporter of terrorism, and the world and Israel shall ignore it and make it irrelevant.”
This is utter cynicism. Hamas won, fair and square, in an election organised by the USA and Israel. To the imperialist democrats, whether something is democratic or not depends on whether or not it serves their interests.
The capitalist system, which takes care of the interests of a tiny minority of capitalists, must be defeated, whether in its ‘fundamentalist’ form or in its ‘democratic’ form. This can only be accomplished by the working class, which, after coming to power, will create a socialist society in which that working class shall control the economy and society democratically. Not the laughable democracy of a meaningless parliament, but a real democracy of the workers.
The Labour party has a great responsibility, a responsibility for the lives of the Israeli masses whom past governments have entrapped and turned into a poor people while the rich line their pockets with the wealth they earned from wars and from the economic policy of the right wing. To face this responsibility, Labour must break completely from the bourgeoisie and its policies and parties and struggle for a solution for the working masses. It must present a socialist, internationalist programme, without giving in to the pressure of the capitalists.
The masses rise again
Until recently, the Israeli ruling class had a relatively smooth existence. The reactionary Arab regimes, loyal to imperialism, managed to oppress their own masses, and thus indirectly uphold bourgeois rule in Israel. From now on, things are going to get much worse for the Israeli ruling class, not only because of the internal pressure of the Israeli workers, but also because of the changes in neighbouring nations in the Middle East, where the masses are beginning to stir once more.
When we Marxists said more than a year ago that this was going to happen, we were told that we’re delusional. When was said that the Hamas was about the win the elections, we were told that we were dreaming. Now this has happened and no one can deny it.
True, at the present moment the leadership of the masses is fundamentalist, but this leadership can change nothing, and it will quickly be exposed as another tool in the hands of the ruling class. This will give the working class leadership a chance to win over the masses everywhere, in Israel too. Those who believed that none of our warnings had any basis in reality, that our perspectives were false, are the ones who are now living an illusion.
January 31, 2006