Even more directly and immediately than in the case of Zimbabwe, the Resolution of the Fourth Congress provided the theoretical justification for the WRP’s betrayals of the workers and peasants in the Middle East.
Banda’s document described the struggle of the Palestinian people against Zionism as the “highest point of the world revolution”—a Pabloite definition which distorted the objective relations which exist between the component parts of the international class struggle. Moreover, the definition of one particular sphere as the “highest point” carried the political implication that all are other struggles were subordinate to it. This formulation arose as the justification for the reorientation of the international work of the WRP around a whole series of opportunist alliances with the Arab bourgeoisie.
This theoretical construction was then supplemented by the assertion that “The strategy of Anglo-US imperialism in this area is dictated solely by its desire to protect the oil fields from expropriation by a radical regime.” (Fourth Congress Resolution, p. 15, emphasis added)
The political conclusions that followed implicitly from this absurd evaluation were 1) that the practical work of the WRP must be concentrated on the defense of these radical bourgeois regimes, coordinating its work with the foreign ministries of various Arab states; and 2) that the working class, playing only a secondary role in the anti-imperialist struggle, must necessarily subordinate its independent interests to the defense of the existing regimes, previously defined as the main enemy of Anglo-US imperialism.
This subordination of the working class was then justified through a political appraisal of Middle Eastern history that acknowledged the existence of only the external enemy of the Arab masses—Zionism—while ignoring the internal social contradictions through which the interests of imperialism are mediated. Thus, Banda wrote: “No better instrument existed for imperialism than Zionist immigration.” (Ibid.) This declaration evaded all the questions which are central for a Marxist analysis of the tasks of the proletariat in the Middle East. Aside from the fact that Zionist immigration was a direct product of the betrayals of Stalinism and Social Democracy that produced the victory of fascism in the 1930’s and the outbreak of the second imperialist world war, the incapacity of Arab rulers to defend the national rights of the Palestinian people and devise a strategy to defeat Zionism raises the question of the crisis of revolutionary leadership—internationally and within the Middle East itself. Having rejected this fundamental class axis—the starting point for the elaboration of a revolutionary program and plan of action—the Fourth Congress document degenerated into a petty-bourgeois journalistic glorification of the foreign policy of the Arab bourgeoisie.
Rather than cultivating within the minds of the advanced Arab workers a critical attitude toward the policies of the bourgeois states in the Middle East—explaining the organic inability of even the most radical regimes to pursue a consistent anti-imperialist line, warning against their naive illusions in such imperialist instruments as the United Nations, and exposing every act of bourgeois perfidy toward the working class and oppressed masses in every Arab country—the document placed the main emphasis on their supposed diplomatic achievements, raising these carefully-orchestrated political burlesques to the level of genuine victories of the workers and peasants. The outcome of this petty-bourgeois method was the actual betrayal of the anti-imperialist struggle, especially that of the Palestinian masses.
Thus, “Thanks to the intervention of the Iraqi Ba’ath regime which had consistently opposed the recognition of Israel in any form and supported the Palestinian Revolution in the dark days of the Lebanese civil war, the Camp David plot was foiled.” What pathetic short-sightedness!
That was not all. Inspired by Middle Eastern statecraft, Banda proclaimed “At the Baghdad Summit in November 1978, the radical regimes of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Algeria and South Yeman and the PLO secured the support of the conservative states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Emirates to reject the Camp David agreement and reaffirm the right of the PLO to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The pledge of financial and political support to the Palestine Revolution from the oil-producing states was a severe blow to the reactionary dreams of Sadat.” (Ibid. p. 16)
One has only to look back over the sanguinary history of the last eight years—in which the PLO and the Palestinian people have experienced countless acts of betrayal and treachery at the hands of their “Arab brothers”—to recognize the worthlessness of this evaluation. During this period, Healy and Banda were in constant contact with the PLO, and their analysis was an objective link in the chain of events which led to the disarming and isolation of the Palestinian movement. Since 1978 each and every one of the states referred to in Banda’s panegyric has stabbed the PLO in the back and worked for the physical annihilation of its leaders and cadres.
In fact, the WRP functioned as part of the vicious conspiracy against the PLO. Healy’s main political objective in the Middle East was not to secure the national rights of the Palestinian people but to cultivate materially rewarding relationships for the WRP with the “oil-rich” Arab states. When forced between the two, Healy invariably protected his ties with the Arab regimes. A political cover for this duplicitous maneuvering was provided by Banda, who wrote in the Fourth Congress resolution: “The Baghdad summit also ended the bloody factional struggles in the PLO and laid the basis for a co-ordination of Iraqi-Syrian foreign and defense policy as well as possible reunification of the Ba’ath parties.” (Ibid.)
The WRP leadership’s real contempt for the PLO was exposed in this passage. Their acceptance of Iraqi hegemony in the internal affairs of the PLO was a violation of the very concept of self-determination. Banda’s winged reference to the ending of “bloody factional struggles in the PLO” meant that the WRP supported the suppression of democratic rights of political tendencies existing among the Palestinian masses. It was politically obvious that the Ba’athists suppressed precisely those tendencies that conflicted with the Iraqi leaders’ relations with imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy.
As for the speculation about the relations between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Ba’ath monstrosity, why did the prospect of unity among these bourgeois politicians arouse the enthusiasm of the WRP leaders? Since when are Trotskyists cheer-leaders for such political maneuvers? This speculation exposed the petty-bourgeois credulity of Healy and Banda in the historical viability of bourgeois nationalism. Within a matter of months, all talk of unity was drowned by a new wave of bloody internecine warfare among the competing national branches of Ba’athism.
As for its relations with the PLO, the political deceit of the WRP leadership was compounded by theoretical dishonesty. Behind the cover of unconditional support of the PLO against imperialism—a principle repeatedly betrayed by Healy—the WRP belittled the decisive role of the proletariat of the Middle East. Healy, Banda and Slaughter dishonestly assigned to the PLO a role which it will not and cannot play: “The strength of the working class and peasantry is directly reflected in the growth of the PLO and its emergence as the leader of the struggle for the emancipation of the whole Arab nation.“(Ibid., emphasis added)
This statement was the most complete repudiation of the Theory of Permanent Revolution, which holds that in the epoch of imperialism only the proletariat, armed with a Marxist program and on the basis of the class struggle, can carry out the democratic task of national unification and liberation from imperialism. Moreover, the genuine unification of the Arab peoples is historically bound up with the liquidation of the existing state frontiers which block economic progress and perpetuate both the ancient feudal and tribal divisions as well as those fomented by imperialism.
Far from projecting itself programmatically as the unifier of the entire Arab nation, from the Maghreb to the Gulf, the PLO has traditionally described itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and has explicitly recognized the existence of diverse social tendencies within its own ranks.
In all these anti-Marxist formulations, there was not to be found within this document any suggestion of the historic role of the working class in the Middle East. Needless to say, the problem of the unity of Arab and Jewish workers—a matter of strategic importance which the Fourth International emphasized in the 1940’s while opposing the creation of Israel—was not even mentioned.
In another display of journalistic effluvia, Banda claimed that “the PLO has overcome all the obstacles in its path, united the Palestinian people, and won recognition as their sole legitimate representative.” (Ibid.)
This was the worst form of treachery, in which craven flattery, posturing as scientific analysis, told lies to the Palestinian people. It is hardly necessary to refute the claim that the PLO “has overcome all the obstacles in its path...” Only fools would take such a statement seriously. From a theoretical standpoint, the assertions which follow deserve more careful consideration. It is not only impossible, for the reasons given above, for the PLO to unite the Arab nation. It cannot, in a Marxist sense, truly unite the Palestinian people, any more than the Awami League could unite the masses of Bangla Desh or, for that matter, the Patriotic Front could unite the Zimbabwean masses. Unless the specific class forces present within the national movement are defined, the reference to the Palestinian nation is a political abstraction which once again serves to bury the decisive role of the working class. As for the definition of the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, this formulation is acceptable in a public defense of the PLO against the intrigues of imperialism, Zionism and the Arab bourgeoisie. But it can only sow illusions and create confusion when it is presented as a political definition in a programmatic document of the Trotskyist movement. The only conclusion that can flow from such a definition is that the WRP opposed the building of the ICFI among the rapidly growing Palestinian working class. In other words, Trotskyism has no role to play in the emancipation of the Palestinian masses.
Once again it was Banda who provided the theoretical justification for this liquidationist capitulation to the Palestinian bourgeoisie. The Fourth Congress Resolution reads:
“The hallmark of the PLO has been the armed struggle in the form of a protracted guerilla war, the stress on the mobilization of the masses as opposed to individual terror and the determination to carry the fight on to all fronts.
“This struggle is epitomized in their rallying cry ‘Revolution until victory’.” (Ibid., pp. 16-17)
The same “armed struggle” theory that was employed to cover up the class nature of the Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe was used in providing a political characterization of the PLO. This false theory was to have even more tragic consequences in the Middle East than it had in Zimbabwe. The “armed struggle” and an abstract “mobilization of the masses” was counterposed to the organization of a proletarian party to establish the independence of the working class from the bourgeois Arab regimes. The subsequent development of the class struggle in the Middle East, especially in the aftermath of the Zionist invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, demonstrated the fallacy of the PLO’s “armed struggle” conceptions.
Within Lebanon itself the PLO was unable at any time to put forward a program for the unification of the Palestinian and Lebanese masses. The organization of military parades in Beirut served only to antagonize Lebanese nationalism and proved counter-productive. For all their heroism, the military units of the PLO could not stop the Zionist advance. Ultimately, the Zionist forces met their match in the movement of aroused workers and peasants in Lebanon—which demonstrated that the principal weakness of the PLO, inherent in its very structure, was its inability to formulate a program that could have, in advance of 1982, mobilized this great power in defense of the Palestinian right to self-determination. For a Marxist, the perspectives of the class struggle is epitomized in a program, not a “rallying-cry.”
The Resolution then sought to provide a theoretical explanation for the adulation of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. In a crucial passage which referred to the growing pressure of imperialism in the Middle East and its efforts to enlist the support of Egypt and the Sudan, the Resolution asserted that “these imperialist-prompted overtures can only serve to exacerbate tensions within the national movement and push the most radical elements in the Arab national movement to recognize that the ‘historical weapon of national liberation can only be the class struggle.’ ( Trotsky)” (Ibid., p. 17)
In this passage reality was turned inside out, converting the class struggle, which is an objective product of the development of capitalism in the Middle East, into a policy subjectively adopted by the national bourgeoisie under the pressure of imperialism. With this theoretical formulation, Banda provided an apology for the Bonapartist role characteristic of bourgeois regimes in under-developed countries, which balance precariously between imperialism and the native working class. Such regimes, whose rulers harangue the masses from their balconies, habitually seek to adapt the class struggle to the practical needs of their deals with imperialism.
For the immediate purposes of the WRP, this subtle formula provided a cover for political double bookkeeping in the Middle East; that is, it allowed the WRP to claim that Col. Gaddafi combined within his person both the radical national movement and the proletarian class struggle, and that the Libyan Jamahiriya was evolving into a socialist state.
The Resolution claimed that the “political bloc between the Workers Revolutionary Party and the General Peoples Congress of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” was proven correct by Sadat’s betrayal of the PLO, and that the bloc ‘was formed within the framework of strictly-defined practical tasks and with the retention of complete independence of our own organization...” (Ibid.)
But this claim was belied by the nature of the bloc, which was based on tasks of an essentially propaganda character—“warning the Arab peoples and the European working class about the altered tactics of imperialism and the counterrevolutionary content of Sadat’s and King Khaled’s foreign policy.” (Ibid.) However, as Trotsky insisted, “It is precisely in the sphere of propaganda that a bloc is out of the question. Propaganda must rest upon clear-cut principles and on a definite program. March separately, strike together. A bloc is solely for practical mass actions. Deals arranged from above which lack a basis in principle will bring nothing but confusion.” (Germany 1931-1932, New Park, p. 136)
Confusion...and money! Healy and A. Mitchell might protest that their bloc with Libya entailed such practical tasks as organizing pickets outside the Egyptian and US Embassies in London. But, for Trotskyists, was it necessary to form a united front in order to carry out an elementary act of anti-imperialist solidarity? Would a rank-and-file worker first demand a united front with the union bureaucracy before agreeing to carry out his duties on a picket line? The fact of the matter is that the WRP’s bloc with Libya was established in the area of political analysis—that is, it committed the WRP to saying only those things which the Libyan Jamahiriya wanted to hear or wanted to have said.