June 14, 2024

Source: WIkimedia Commons

Politics has not fundamentally changed since October 7, 2023. The same forces that created the situation between Israel and Palestine remain in place. Until we can dismantle the international capitalist class that destabilizes regions and profits from war, these forces will persist. While there has been a significant awakening of young people who have taken to the streets and their college campuses, it is our job as communists to provide the entire picture and avoid the sloganeering that other left political organizations are known for.

Many factors came together to form the modern political state of Israel. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire preceded the rise of various Arab national movements. Most important to us, though, are the economic reasons, such as Western capital beginning to infiltrate the region after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the construction of the Suez Canal, which stood to make the Capitalists unfathomably rich. However, the Zionist current was still highly contested, and the belief in a Jewish homeland in Palestine was not entirely agreed upon even by the Zionists themselves.

There were a few main lines of thought in the Zionist debate, one being a Jewish supremacist state in Palestine (sometimes referred to as Greater Israel), the other a general settlement of Jews from Europe into Palestine without a Jewish-dominated government. Theodor Herzl, arguably the father of modern Zionism, was a major proponent of the first line, which eventually won out over the second. The son of a wealthy businessman and a member of the capitalist class, Herzl first articulated his vision in 1896 in “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State), where he proposed a mass exodus of Jews from Europe to Palestine to create a sovereign Jewish state. “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies” [1]. This quote from Herzl’s diary underscores that the Zionist project is a class-based project, not a working-class one.

A notable opponent of Zionism was the Jewish Labor Bund, a large social-democratic organization operating in Russia, Lithuania, and Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) and a founding collective member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. They correctly understood the dangers an independent Jewish state would present for the international Jewish community, leading some on the left to cite them to this day. However, the Bund believed in Jewish cultural-national autonomism and claimed to be the sole representatives of the Jewish members of the RSDLP. Though they opposed Zionism, their views on the Jewish nation ironically aligned with those of the Zionists. Their call for autonomy within the RSDLP would also lead to their departure from the party at the Second Congress in 1903, with both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks rejecting the Bundist position.

The RSDLP, led by Lenin, had the correct analysis. In Critical Remarks on the National Question, written by Lenin, 

“Whoever, directly or indirectly, puts forward the slogan of Jewish “national culture” is (whatever his good intentions may be) an enemy of the proletariat, a supporter of all that is outmoded and connected with caste among the Jewish people; he is an accomplice of the rabbis and the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, those Jewish Marxists who mingle with the Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and other workers in international Marxist organisations, and make their contribution (both in Russian and in Yiddish) towards creating the international culture of the working-class movement—those Jews, despite the separatism of the Bund, uphold the best traditions of Jewry by fighting the slogan of “national culture”.

Bourgeois nationalism and proletarian internationalism—these are the two irreconcilably hostile slogans that correspond to the two great class camps throughout the capitalist world, and express the two policies (nay, the two world outlooks) in the national question. In advocating the slogan of national culture and building up on it an entire plan and practical programme of what they call “cultural-national autonomy”, the Bundists are in effect instruments of bourgeois nationalism among the workers” [2].

During the 1920s and 30s, in British Palestine, the main political force fighting for the class-internationalist unity of the workers in their common struggle for independence and social liberation was the Communist Party of Palestine. A recent series of insightful articles published by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) details the history of the Communist Party of Palestine. “The CPP was founded in July 1923 and became a member of the CI in 1924… The CPP opposed Zionism, as a current that embodied the aspirations of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which stood for a wall of national hatred between Jews and Arab workers and functioned as the most advanced outpost of British imperialism in the Arab countries… The CCP condemned the abduction of the land of Arab smallholders by the Jewish settlers, and often stood in active defense against the “invaders”” [3].

The Zionists in Palestine, at the same time, were spreading rhetoric such as what Ze’ev Yabotinski (founder of “revisionist Zionism,” the ideology that birthed the current ruling Likud party of Netanyahu) wrote in his 1923 essay “The Iron Wall,” “There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future… The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage… To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realisation of Zionism. In return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system” [4]

The ideological influence of the bourgeois nationalist current of Zionism was evident in the politics of the social-democratic Mapai party led by Ben Gurion (which throughout the interwar period was the leading political force among the Jews of Palestine). Supporting the expansion of Zionist settlements and ethno-religious divisions, social democrats and the trade unions they controlled became the most direct and effective channel for Zionism to reach the Jewish workers in Palestine.

After 1945, Zionists capitalized on the Holocaust to gain mass support for their project. Despite having sabotaged the international boycott against the Nazi regime (German Zionists signed the Haavara Agreement with the Nazi government in 1933, which led to the deportation of roughly 60,000 German Jews to Palestine), Zionists cynically used one of the worst atrocities in human history to benefit their bourgeois class interests. The real reason for Israel’s existence became clear: to establish a Jewish supremacist state (to appease religious zealots), exploit it for corporate interests, and secure substantial profits for themselves and other capitalists, all while enjoying the protection of the United States. Thus, they can dismiss any criticism of Israel as antisemitism. Despite the West being the strongest supporter of Israel, it also harbors neo-Nazi movements and far-right racist parties with significant political power. The Israeli government, however, has not condemned Western governments for allowing neo-Nazis to march on campuses or city streets, as recently happened in Nashville. Only the anti-war protests on US college campuses have received any condemnation from Israeli officials.

Today, massive pro-Palestinian movements have emerged across the US and the world. Thousands of students, faculty, and staff are risking everything to voice their outrage over their universities’ dealings with the apartheid state, funding their war machine, and more. Many peaceful protesters have been beaten and arrested by police, suspended from their schools, and smeared in the media. Millions of Americans are now questioning why a powerful state like the US is providing unprecedented support for the genocidal acts of Israel. Comments have poured in across the internet, satirically renaming our country “The United States of Israel” to depict our government’s rabid support for this small country thousands of miles away. As communists, we understand that our government is protecting the tyranny of capitalism.

Zionism is a tool for capitalists. It divides the working class by religion and ethnicity, just as racism divides us by race, skin color, nationality, and ethnicity. To defend the international military-industrial complex, sustained by the capitalist class internationally, the US must support Israel at any cost. For decades, a constant pro-Israeli media campaign has manufactured American consent for Israel and its military actions. The media only had to claim that Israel has “the right to defend itself,” smearing those who questioned it as anti-Semites or pro-Islamic “terrorists.” However, the situation is different today. The internet allows for an uncensored flow of information from Gaza, and younger generations are less tied to Israel and see no reason for such protection of an objectively racist and violent state. Millions can now see the war crimes committed by the Israeli Occupation Forces, the 40,000+ dead Gazans, the lack of functioning hospitals, universities, clean water, and more. The media has lost control of the narrative. The international capitalist class has banned TikTok in the US in an attempt to censor information and opinions counter to the official narrative. US Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas—a senator who has decried attacks on “freedom of speech”—has suggested bringing in the National Guard and arresting everyone on campus [5]. At every turn, the state uses every force to crush the uprising of Americans against the war machine, against the genocide of Palestinians, and against the State of Israel, which has been funded almost entirely by working-class American taxpayer dollars for decades. The Zionist project has devastated millions of innocent Palestinian lives, destroying their homeland, historical sites, universities, hospitals, and livelihoods, all under the guise of Israel defending itself. But does Palestine not also have that right?

For decades, it has been an open secret that the Israeli government funds Hamas because they are the most militant of the liberation organizations in Gaza. The Palestinian Liberation Organization does not take the same violent actions as Hamas, nor are they an Islamic fundamentalist group. Hamas is the perfect boogeyman for Israel: a violent, fundamentalist group justifying billions more of our tax dollars for Israeli “defense.” Netanyahu claims Israel is seeking to destroy Hamas,” yet they target hospitals, and we uncover mass graves of Palestinians with their hands tied behind their backs [6]. “Going after Hamas” apparently requires destroying every mosque, church, school, university, and hospital in Gaza.

The student uprisings on campuses and city streets across the US show that working-class Americans are not unaware of the corrupt nature of international capitalism and imperialism. The right-wing narrative characterizes these demonstrations as “anti-Semitic,” but when pictures show hundreds of Jewish students taking part in Passover Seders and Shabbat services during these encampments, led by anti-Zionist rabbis, that false narrative swiftly crumbles. The working class of this country is seeking liberation from capitalism, even if many may not know it yet. The movement against the war is a movement against capitalism! The movement against Zionism is an inescapably anti-capitalist movement leading towards the struggle for socialism-communism. Our duty as Marxist-Leninists is to agitate, educate, radicalize, and organize our fellow workers into the broader revolutionary communist movement to reconstitute the Communist Party, connecting the dots between this war, Zionism, and capitalism-imperialism. The statement at the beginning of this essay may not be entirely false; politics today are not the same as before October 7; class consciousness is bursting forth, ready to be directed towards the conscious, revolutionary triumph of the proletariat.

  1. Theodor Herzl, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Volume I
  2. Vladimir Lenin, Critical Remarks on the National Question
  3. History Department of the Central Committee of the KKE, “Historical Review of the Roots and Development of the Palestinian Issue (Part 2)”
  4. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, “The Iron Wall”
  5. Nikki McCann Ramirez, “Republican Senators Demand Biden Use National Guard to Suppress Columbia Protests”
  6. Seraj Assi, “Mass Graves in Khan Yunis Reveal Unspeakable Horror of US-Backed Gaza Invasion”