No support for Fatah
THE recent article by Sean Matgamna on the AWL website, “The only way to be for the Palestinians, or the Israelis, is to be for two states”, and the editorial in Solidarity 3/114, “Hamas victory is a tragedy for Palestine”, were right to reject the left’s predictable rallying behind the clerical fascist Hamas band in the aftermath of its war against Fatah. However, in both cases the comrades were too ready to give credit to bourgeois political forces which might defeat Hamas, rather than positing an independent working-class perspective uniting workers against the conflict being waged by the chauvinists on all sides.
I do not for one moment play down the reactionary nature of Hamas or pretend that its “anti-imperialist” credentials render its attacks on women, gay people and trade unionists acceptable, as the SWP et al might. But the fact that Hamas are bigoted should not mean we sow illusions in Fatah. Fatah is a simply bourgeois political party, drenched in anti-semitism and religious chauvinism. They are supported by the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Fatah is not “secular”; and, even if it were, as the editorial put it, “a secular, or more secular, or semi-secular force”, that should not mean that we support it against Hamas — we are not in the business of popular fronts and support for bourgeois forces, secular or not, to solve geopolitical goals, but instead fight for an independent socialist alternative. Even if Fatah is “better” than Hamas, we cannot place any confidence in it to liberate Palestinian workers.
The article does not explicitly call for support for Fatah, using weasel words to avoid doing so; but the meaning of the phrases “Between [the clerical fascist] upsurge and the more secular Fatah, socialists cannot be neutral” or “we take no positive political responsibility for Fatah — but for sure we are not on the side of the clerical fascists” is clear. Yes, we are not “neutral” when democratic rights are under attack, and yes, there is a “right to resist tyranny: the right to fight it, subvert it, crush it” — but the whole question is, whose right is this, and against whom should their fight take place! I do not place any trust or faith in “semi-secular” bourgeois to fight for human liberation, and cannot see how Palestinian workers could support Fatah without taking political responsibility for them.
Equally, in the case of “For the Palestinians”, Sean posits that “To argue that Israel does not have the right to respond to the election of a Hamas government would be ridiculous”. But to which Israelis does this right belong, and what powers are they allowed to use? I am a two-statist in that I believe that Israelis and Palestinians each have the right to self-determination under a democratic peace settlement, but this does not mean that I think that the current Israeli government and military set-up have “rights” to interfere with Palestinian political structures. Of course we are not indifferent to Hamas’s victory, but what do Israeli-EU-USA economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority achieve other than add to the misery of the Palestinian people?
Surely our means of fighting clerical fascism is not to invoke the so-called international community or line up with the “least worst” bourgeois forces at hand, but instead to rebuild a working-class alternative, in recognising that the growth of Islamism relied on the collapse of the secular left in the Middle East. That left was Stalinist and lacked a perspective whereby the working class fights as an independent force for political and economic power. However, the 27-28 July Ramallah conference of trade unions independent of Fatah and Hamas may help the construction of a different labour movement — and even if such forces are currently weak, we must not make the mistake of looking to geopolitical manoeuvres to save Palestine.
David Broder, north London