Extended version of the speech at the discussion in Paris

Full Support of the Palestinian Liberation Struggle – but how?

Monika Gärtner-Engel, Internationalism Secretary of the MLPD, 

Dear comrades, dear friends,

The oppression of the Palestinian people has been going on for decades – since the moment the internationally recognized state of Israel under Zionist leadership began the oppression and annihilation of the Palestinian people with the Nakba in 1948. The blockade since 2007 has turned the Gaza Strip into a densely populated open-air prison under brutal Israeli occupation. Today, around 6,000 political prisoners are imprisoned in Israel, around 820 in administrative detention without indictment, without trial and without any evidence. With the further facistization of imperialist Israel, murderous attacks by racist settlers and the ongoing land grab in the West Bank, Zionist-imperialist Israel is exercising permanent state terror. The current war against Gaza is nothing but a war crime against humans and nature and cannot be justified by anything from 7 October. Over 20,000 dead, mostly civilians, and at least 50,000 injured, thousands of destroyed apartments and houses, scorched earth, destruction of elementary infrastructure for the supply of water, food, fuel and medical aid. There is virtually no functioning hospital left in the Gaza Strip, with new casualties every day as a result of the bombardments and the ground offensive. This war even violates civil international humanitarian law and fulfills its criteria for war crimes.

This war must be ended immediately and all Israeli troops must be withdrawn! The imperialist perpetrators must pay compensation to the Palestinian people and fully accept their rights!

The claim that Hamas is hiding in and under mosques, schools and hospitals does not give Israel the right to bomb and raze them to the ground. The claim that the war is primarily directed against Hamas leaders is a lie. It is a war of annihilation against the Palestinian people. The Israeli military is engaged in a veritable manhunt: first the masses were ordered to move from the north to the south. Now they are massing in the south – and the south is being bombed and occupied with tanks.

The masses are supposed to move towards the sea and the Rafah border crossing as alleged humanitarian zones. The secret plans are becoming more and more apparent: to stage a “Gaza Nakba” that will drive the Palestinian masses either into the sea or into the Egyptian Sinai desert. This state terror is being supported by the imperialist powers of NATO and the EU – limited only by tactical differences – with US and German imperialism leading the way. German imperialism hypocritically argues that the obligation to do so results from the Holocaust. On the contrary! The Holocaust results in the obligation to resolutely oppose a new genocide, this time against the Palestinian people. International solidarity, proletarian internationalism, together with the Palestinian masses, must put a decisive end to all this.

The Palestinian liberation struggle is justified, has our full solidarity and the strategic goal of a Palestinian state in which Palestinian and Jewish masses live peacefully together. Since its founding, the MLPD has defended the Palestinian liberation struggle against all hostility.

At the same time we support “the position on the establishment of the State of Israel taken by the then socialist Soviet Union under Stalin after the Holocaust by German Hitlerite fascism. … After a joint Jewish-Arab state failed, the decision was taken in 1947 to divide the until then British Mandate territory into Israel and Palestine. In this situation, the then socialist Soviet Union supported this and was the first to recognize the State of Israel, which was the right thing to do.1

Recognizing Israel’s right to exist in no way means recognizing Zionism as a reason of state, the proto-fascist policies of the imperialist Israeli state, not to mention the Israeli occupation and its state terror.2 Nor does it mean recognizing the Oslo Accords, which were signed by the PLO leadership. These are rightly characterized as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. This position also corresponds to our resolute practice of solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, especially in recent months.

Dear comrades, this solidarity also includes the discussion and debate about the correct strategy and tactics of the Palestinian liberation struggle on the basis of revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist principles. Yes, every movement decides how it is led! But no, this in no way excludes a critical, factual and public discussion of this, starting from a class standpoint.

In this context, we fundamentally criticize Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the idea of cooperating with them. We strongly criticize the demand not to publicly criticize these forces because they are thought to be an essential part of the Palestinian resistance.

Because of this position the MLPD sometimes meets with severe hostility and downright absurd accusations. In some cases, Lenin or Mao Zedong is falsely invoked. As we are dealing with a whole range of “arguments” against our position, we must go into them in more detail. This in no way means that we subordinate this issue to the fundamental rejection of Zionist policy. We also refer in particular to Mao Zedong, as our critics in this debate often come from organizations in the “Maoist camp”.

First of all, it is to be noted that Hamas and Jihad are not – as treated by Lenin or Mao – representatives of the national bourgeoisie, the liberal bourgeoisie, the reformist bourgeoisie or conservative forces in the national liberation struggle. Since their founding, Hamas and Jihad have been part of a cross-border reactionary movement based on Sharia law, and today are above all an extended arm of the new-imperialist countries Iran and Qatar.3 But even if they did not have this character, Lenin and Mao Zedong could by no means be cited as key witnesses for dispensing with a publicly critical alliance policy. Anyone who really reads them will find that they both advocated very clear principles for the national liberation struggle and the open representation of communist positions – including critical ones – as an integral part of any united front policy.

Lenin developed clear criteria for the working class for a temporary alliance with the national bourgeoisie to support its national liberation struggle. He set three fundamental conditions for this:

  1. It must be ensured that the bourgeois liberation movements “are genuinely revolutionary, and when their exponents do not hinder our work of educating and organising in a revolutionary spirit the peasantry and the masses of the exploited. If these conditions do not exist, the Communists in these countries must combat the reformist bourgeoisie….4

  2. Only the struggle of the bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation against the oppressing nation is progressive and benefits the proletariat. But every struggle of the bourgeoisie (including one’s own) for national prerogatives and privileges over other nations is reactionary and must be opposed by the proletariat on principle.

  3. The communists must not merge with the bourgeois-national forces, but have to “under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form….5

These guidelines of Lenin are universally valid. Not the critical discussion about Hamas or Jihad, but the abandonment of revolutionary principles is a stab in the back for the interests of the struggle for national and social liberation of the Palestinian people, and violates proletarian internationalism.

First: Organizations cannot be judged positively solely on the basis of their thrust against an imperialist, for example the USA or Israel. The Iranian communists paid for this misjudgment with the blood of thousands of revolutionaries. For a time, they supported Khomeini in his thrust against the Shah and the USA and even cooperated with him as “anti-imperialist”. After the “victory” over Shah and the US, a bloody massacre began. Today, this “united front” is unanimously judged by revolutionaries as a fatal mistake. Simply applying the criterion of “taking a stand for Palestine” without any class standpoint would today lead straight to a social-chauvinist fraternization with Erdogan or the mullah regime in Iran.

Second: The alliance with Hamas is compared to the Chinese Communist Party’s alliance with the Kuomintang. However, the Kuomintang at that time represented the national bourgeoisie based on the national-democratic thoughts of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, while Hamas from the beginning has been the extended arm or tool of reactionary foreign powers.6 Today it serves the interests of Qatar, Iran and Turkey. We describe them all as new-imperialist countries that are fighting to expand their position of power in the Middle East and are using organizations such as Hamas to do so. Regardless whether you call these countries new-imperialist, or “just” reactionary big powers, accepting their extended arm as a leader in the struggle destroys the liberation struggle and makes it a pawn between imperialist competitors.

Third: As stated above, Lenin was not the only one to emphasize the necessary independence of communists in alliances of the national liberation struggle. Mao Zedong also advocated the dialectics of independence and initiative in the united front (5 November 1938)7 and wrote:

  • Our policy is one of independence and initiative within the united front, a policy both of unity and of independence.”8He strongly criticized “Rightist views”:those who held such views … blurred the difference in principle between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, rejected the policy of independence and initiative within the united front, appeased … the Kuomintang, and tied their own hands instead of boldly expanding the anti-Japanese revolutionary forces and conducting resolute struggle against the Kuomintang’s policy of opposing and restricting the Communist Party.9

Mao Zedong thus warned against the subordination of communists or revolutionaries to bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces, which would lead to defeat:

  • The revolution failed in 1927 chiefly because, with the opportunist line then prevailing in the Communist Party, no effort was made to expand our own ranks (the workers’ and peasants’ movement and the armed forces led by the Communist Party), and exclusive reliance was placed on a temporary ally, the Kuomintang.10

The PFLP and DFLP are progressive, secular democratic forces with a clearly revolutionary claim. But where do they appear in today’s struggle? Where are the revolutionary or Marxist-Leninist strategy and tactics? Why is there a demand to refrain from public criticism of Hamas? Where is the ideological and political debate with fundamentalist-Islamist forces such as Hamas or Jihad? Of course, the PFLP and DFLP themselves decide on their own path, their strategy and tactics – that is their right. But it is also our duty to use the classics of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete analysis of the concrete conditions today to form an opinion on this and discuss it on an equal footing.

Fourth: Ideologically, Hamas represents fascist basic positions. It has two programmatic foundations: the Charter of 1987/88 and the strategy document of 2017. It declares in the Charter, which was explicitly not repealed by the strategy document: “The Islamic Resistance Movement is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood chapter in Palestine.It demands unreserved homage and threatens: “Whoever cheats it of its right, turns away from aiding it, or is blinded to hide its role, is a person who argues with fate.”The strategic goal is clearly anti-Semitic and racist, directed against “the Jews”, and the Charter writes with reference to the Prophet: “The Last Hour would not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them, and until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree….And it continues: “There is no solution to the Palestinian Problem except by Jihad.Palestine is an Islamic land….” The “important” role assigned to women is particularly outrageous: “taking care of the home … and training her children … to prepare them for the Jihadic role that awaits them.” To create their mass base, they also propagate “social solidarity”, which again is racist and directed against “the Jews”: “The Nazism of Jews has included women and children. Terror is for everyone…. In confronting this type of conduct, social cooperation must predominate among the people….” Solidarity and support is promised to the Palestinian national movement, as long as it is anti-communist and does not jointhe Communist East”.And another dividing line is clearly drawn: “Secularist ideology is in total contradiction to religious ideologies.11The 2017 strategy paper12 provides more detailed explanations on tolerance, human rights and cooperation with other religions. However, it expressly does not serve as a replacement for the Charter, but rather adapts to the changing spirit of the times and, there too, mainly propagates military resistance. We recently witnessed how the Taliban, after regaining power in Afghanistan, explicitly committed themselves in their language and promises to human rights, even women’s rights, etc. Even the Western media praised – similar to the 2017 strategy paper – that the Taliban were more conciliatory, more educated, and apparently ready for partnership. We have all seen what happened.

We fundamentally reject cooperation (publicly uncritical on top of that) with ideologically and politically reactionary forces as part of “cross-front politics”. In recent years, it has been propagated in particular by Russian President Putin, fascists and large sections of the revisionists.

Mao Zedong, especially in his cooperation with the Kuomintang, never renounced the ideological debate or ever accepted putting communist ideas aside or, as was demanded at the time, “folding up” communism. He wrote:

  • There is the difference in world outlook. The world outlook of communism is dialectical and historical materialism, while the [Kuomintang’s view of history] in essence is a dualist or idealist outlook; the two world outlooks are opposed to each other. … It is undoubtedly very wrong to ignore this distinction and see only the aspect of unity and not of contradiction.
  • Once all this is understood, it is easy to see what the bourgeois die-hards have in mind when they demand that communism be ‘folded up’. If it does not mean bourgeois despotism, then there is no sense to it at all.13

Fifth: The fact that the Palestinian people are also taking the right to fight with arms against the occupation if necessary is even covered by civil international law. But even without this, historical experience teaches us that the imperialist powers are never willing to give up their power voluntarily.

Even though there were attacks on military targets on 7 October, including battles with armed “civilians”, and civilians were brutally murdered en masse during the recapture by the Israeli army, it cannot be denied that there were fascist massacres in the attack on 7 October. If these are now denied and claimed to have been staged by Israel, this is neither proven nor plausible. How does it fit together that Israel was completely surprised and humiliated by the attack, but is said to have carried out disguised massacres within a very short time? How does it fit with the fact that Hamas or Jihad themselves proudly posted footage of it online? How does it fit that the Hamas spokesperson emphasizes that “actually” only military targets were intended, thus indirectly distancing himself from massacres of the civilian population? How can the convincing image of a democratic, even socialist Palestine be depicted, especially from a strategic point of view, if such methods are used?

Mao Zedong unequivocally stated that there could be no consent to massacres, no cooperation with ultra-reactionary anticommunists. He wrote about such people in the Kuomintang:

  • Those ... who had the audacity ... to perpetrate the massacres ..., to disrupt the Border Region and to attack progressive armies and organizations and progressive individuals ... must be dealt counterblows; any concession to them is out of the question.”14

Sixth: It must have been clear to the entire leadership of the attack that no lasting victory or sustainable positions against Zionist Israel would be achieved in this situation. While all successful popular liberation and guerrilla struggles in China, Vietnam, or Cuba, too, were aimed at protecting the people and avoiding defeat and casualties, the Hamas Charter explicitly glorifies attacks and death in the fight against Zionism: “I love to be killed in the way of Allah then to be revived to life again, then to be killed and then to be revived to life and then to be killed.15 Just like the attack at a bus stop in Jerusalem on 30 November 2023, for which Hamas claimed responsibility, these are fascist strategy and tactics that strike the masses and certainly also senselessly sacrifice courageous and selfless young fighters. In a secular world view, attacks without a sober assessment of sustainable success and without regard for the victims are anarchistic and adventurous.

Seventh: The worst brutalities of Zionist Israel do not justify responding with attacks on the civilian population and, for example, taking civilians, including small children and old people, hostage. One cannot declare all people in Israel to be Zionists who, in equal measure, must be fought or, if possible, even killed. On the contrary, the working class and the broad masses in Israel must be united with the Palestinian liberation struggle and also convinced that, as Lenin said with reference to Karl Marx, “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.16

Here, too, Mao Zedong was unequivocal when the People’s Liberation Army was accused of “lenient” treatment of Japanese prisoners of war. He replied:

  • For instance, we shall not change it even if the Japanese army carries out its declared intention of using poison-gas against the Eighth Route Army. We shall go on giving lenient treatment to captured Japanese soldiers…; we shall not insult or abuse them, but shall set them free after explaining to them the identity of the interests of the people of the two countries. Those who do not want to go back may serve in the Eighth Route Army.17

Eighth: Proletarian internationalism requires that the working class of the whole world, and especially the Palestinian and Arab working class, unites with the working class in Israel. In contrast, it is argued that there is no working class in Israel, that there is a colonial consensus with the proletarian settlers,18 and that it is only an “artificial fabricate made up economy”.19 This is contrary to reality. According to the OECD, out of around 3.5 million employees in Israel, over 500,000 work in industry, 2.9 million in the service sector, and only 20,000 in agriculture.20 However, a large proportion of the “service sector” also belongs to the working class, as this includes the transportation sector, waste collection and public services, restaurants, hotels and domestic workers. The working class includes Jewish, secular and Arab-Muslim Israelis as well as Palestinians. On this question of the necessary transnational, international working-class unity between the oppressed and oppressor nations, Lenin emphasized:

  • The socialists of the oppressed nations must, in particular, defend and implement the full and unconditional unity, including organisational unity, of the workers of the oppressed nation and those of the oppressor nation. Without this it is impossible to defend the independent policy of the proletariat and their class solidarity with the proletariat of other countries in face of all manner of intrigues, treachery and trickery on the part of the bourgeoisie.”21

Dear friends and comrades,

What is needed today is a new revolutionary intifada, a popular uprising based on the broad masses under the leadership of the working class, which above all seeks the international unification of the working class and all the oppressed, builds a revolutionary party, and draws a clear dividing line to fascist forces. To quote Mao Zedong once again:

  • Today international support is necessary for the revolutionary struggle of any nation or country. … In the past, the Chinese revolutionary forces were temporarily cut off from the world revolutionary forces by Chiang Kai-shek, and in this sense we were isolated. Now the situation has changed…. We can no longer be isolated. This provides a necessary condition for China’s victory….22

If I have now discussed the strategy and tactics of the Palestinian liberation struggle in quite some detail under Marxist-Leninist criteria in confrontation with accusations against us, this critical discussion is not for one minute in opposition to the practical solidarity at all times with the Palestinian liberation struggle. On the contrary, this debate serves it. Since 7 October alone, we have initiated as MLPD 42 rallies and demonstrations in Germany, registered them and always organized them together with Palestinian friends, as well as taking part in 28 large demonstrations. Representatives of Hamas and Jihad marched in some demonstrations, in which case we did not participate. In Essen, there was even a demonstration of alleged solidarity with Palestine, with the strategic goal of an Islamic caliphate. The men marched in front, the women humbly behind. We condemned this demonstration. In connection with these demonstrations, however, we are of course also active on the streets and address the masses of the population and especially the workers in the factories.

During the demonstrations, a statement of the Central Committee of the MLPD was confiscated several times with the accusation of incitement of the people because of the slogan “Solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle”; arrests and criminal charges were brought against our comrades, rallies and demonstrations were banned, which we nevertheless carried out. In Germany, we were instrumental in proposing and promoting the “Gaza shall live” donation campaign, which has already raised and handed over more than €20,000 for hospitals, ambulances, and support for a democratic press service. One of the statements of the Central Committee of the MLPD just mentioned, which have been subjected to the severest attacks, states:

  • The prospect for the Palestinian people, but also for the working population and the working class of Israel, lies in genuine socialism. In genuine socialism based on the proletarian mode of thinking, national reservations and disagreements will also be overcome. The spirit of friendship among peoples and international solidarity will overcome nationalist influences. A socialist Palestine in which Israelis and Palestinians live together as equals is the strategic goal of the liberation struggle there. A democratic two-state solution based on the UN partition plan of 1947, with the evacuation of the occupied territories by Israel and the withdrawal of the settler-occupiers, can be an intermediate stage if it is fought for with a socialist perspective. The forging of working-class unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers has a key role to play here. It is necessary to make this struggle a part of the preparation of the international socialist revolution against imperialism.23

1 MLPD, Basic Position on the Palestinian Liberation Struggle, online journal of ICOR, March 2023

2 https://www.mlpd.de/theoretisches-organ-revolutionaerer-weg/briefwechsel-und-dokumente/die-sackgasse-des-kleinbuergerlichen-nationalismus

3 Compare also letter of PPDS, 15 October 2023

4 Lenin, “The Second Congress of the Communist International”, CW, Vol. 31, p. 242

5 Lenin, “Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Questions”, CW, Vol. 31, p. 150

6 Starting as a Palestinian branch of the ultra-reactionary Muslim Brotherhood, which also has many progressive people and revolutionaries on its conscience in Egypt and Tunisia, it was initially financed by Israel and the USA as a reactionary counterweight to the PLO.

7 The Question of Independence and Initiative Within the United Front (5 November 1938)

8 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol II, p. 216

9 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol II, pp. 444 f

10 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol I, p. 166

11 Charter of Hamas, www.palestine-studies.org/sites/default/files/attachments/jps-articles/2538093.pdf

12 1 May 2017, web.archive.org/web/20170510123932/http://hamas.ps/en/post/678/

13 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol II, p. 363

14 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol II, p. 390

15 Hamas Charter of 1988

16 Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, CW, Vol. 22, p. 149

17 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol II, p. 55

18 Summary of the positions of the Unité communiste on the Palestinian resistance, 12 November 2023

19 Letter of the PPDS, 15 October 2023

20 OECD Labour Force Statistics 2022

21 Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, CW, Vol. 22, p. 148

22 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol I, pp. 170 and 171, “On Tactics against Japanese Imperialism”

23 Updated CC statement of the MLPD of 5 November 2023