On the demonstrations on the West Bank of the Jordan

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We are publishing here an article, written by a close sympathiser of the ICC in Spain, which recounts and draws lessons from the movement of workers and the oppressed in Palestine. We welcome this initiative. In a region where there is a brutal imperialist conflict which brings enormous suffering to the population, words like class, proletariat, social struggle, proletarian autonomy ...have been buried by the words war, nationalism, ethnic rivalries, religious conflicts etc. This is why these recent mobilisations are so important and need to be made known to workers in all countries. We are offered solidarity with nations, peoples, governments, ‘liberation’ organisations...we have to reject this kind of solidarity! Our solidarity can only go out to the workers and the oppressed in Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia and the rest of the world. CLASS SOLIDARITY AGAINST NATIONAL SOLIDARITY!

ICC

Massive demonstrations on the West Bank against the cost of living, unemployment, and the Palestinian Authority

In the Middle East, so often on the front pages as a result of military massacres and barbarism, rivalries between different imperialist gangsters who have taken the civil population hostage, and of all sorts of hatreds and nationalist, ethnic, or religious movements (which the ‘democratic’ western powers foment and encourage as it suits their interests); when the bourgeois press has been preoccupied in recent days with the disturbances in the Muslim world  caused by films and cartoons caricaturing Mohammed – virtually nothing is being written about the big demonstrations and strikes during the month of September against the effects of the capitalist crisis on the lives of the proletariat and the oppressed strata in the Palestinian territories on the West Bank. And yet these have been the biggest demonstrations for years[1].     

In an often desperate situation, the proletariat and the exploited population in the Palestinian territories, subject to military occupation, to blockades and total contempt for their lives and their suffering by the Israeli state, finds it very difficult to escape the influences of nationalism and Islamism, to avoid being dragooned by the various organisations that wage ‘armed resistance’ against Israel – in other words, heading for the sacrificial altar faced with a vastly superior military force. But it is the precisely the struggle against the effects of the profound economic crisis of world capitalism which opens up the possibility of massive proletarian struggles on an international scale, of going beyond sectional, national, ethnic or other divisions within the working class, of breaking out of all kinds of illusions and mystifications (illusions in ‘democracy’ under capitalism, in ‘national liberation’, etc).

Strikes and demonstrations

What unleashed the wave of strikes and demonstrations was the announcement by the government led by Prime Minister Fayyad[2] of an increase in the price of basic products like food and petrol. This was the spark which lit the fires of defiance towards the Palestinian Authority. The latter is more and more regarded as a nest of corrupt careerists, protecting a whole caste of Palestinian capitalists of whom Fayyad is the personification. It doesn’t even have a semblance of legitimacy: there has been no electoral circus since 2006 and it’s in conflict with Hamas. It is incapable of solving the least problem of the Palestinian economy which is totally dependent on foreign gifts, which is strangled by the military occupation and Israel’s exhaustive controls over imports and exports, prices, taxes and natural resources (thanks to the Paris accords, the economic annex to the Oslo agreement).

Already during the summer, the malaise gave rise to various protests. For example, at the end of June, a demonstration in Ramallah following the announcement of a meeting between president Abbas and the Israeli Deputy PM, Shauz Mofaz, ended with brutal repression by the Palestinian police.

With massive unemployment (57% according to the UN, and particularly heavy among young people), and a cost of living which means that the majority of population are struggling to eat, and with growing discontent throughout the population (for example, 150,000 government employees are owed back wages), the announcement of the price increases on 1st September was the detonator.

From 4 September massive demonstrations for the improvement of living conditions took place day after day on the West Bank (Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, etc). The demonstrations were also directed against israeli control of the economy of the territories (the Paris accords), but it was clear that the discontent was not limited to an anti-Israeli or nationalist sentiment. The focus of the demonstrations were living and working conditions. In Ramallah the young people cried “Before we were fighting for Palestine, now we are fighting for a bag of flour”[3].

At the beginning of the protests, Abbas, involved in a power struggle with his rival Fayyad, showed sympathy for the “Palestinian spring”. But as the demonstrations developed and the expression of discontent was aimed not only at the Fayyad government or the Paris accords, but against the Palestinian Authority itself, Fatah, which at the beginning had played a certain role in channelling and even organising demonstrations, did everything it could to prevent their radicalisation and extension.

We can say the same about Hamas, which no doubt profited from the mobilisations to try to destabilise the current PA government, but which drew back in the face of the breadth of the movement and the danger of contagion in Gaza. 

In Nablus, a demonstrator declared: “We are here to say to the government that enough is enough...we want a government which lives like the people live and eats what the people eat”[4]. A placard in the village of Beit Jala put it like this: “We are tired of all the talk of reforms...one government after another...one minister after another...and corruption is still there”[5].

In Jenin, the demonstrators demanded a minimum wage, the creation of jobs for all the unemployed and the reduction of the cost of signing on at university. Prime minister Fayyad announced that he was ready to resign.

The massive demonstrations continued, with road blockades and clashes with the police of the Palestinian authority. On 10 September a general transport strike began on the appeal of the unions. Taxi drivers, truckers, bus drivers participated massively. Many sectors, like the employees of the day nurseries, joined the strike. The movement widened. On the 11th the students and high school pupils struck for 24 hours in solidarity with the general strike.

Workers from all the Palestinian universities, together with the students, called a general strike for September 13.

Faced with this situation, and following a meeting with the trade unions, the government announced that it was postponing the price rises, that it would pay half of the wages owed to public employees since August, and that it would make cuts in the salaries and privileges of the politicians and high officials of the PA. 

On the 14th, the transport union cancelled the call for a strike because “constructive negotiations” had begun with the PA.

Thus, the massive protests seemed to have calmed down, at least temporarily, but the social malaise had not gone away. The unions of the public employees and the primary school teachers announced mobilisations and work stoppages for the 17th. The unions in the health sector announced on September 18 that they would also begin movements if their demands (increased staffing, improved mobility and chances of promotion for the workers) were still ignored by the government.

The movements seem to have been limited to the West Bank area controlled by the PA.

The importance of the movement

Apart from the particular, concrete elements of the movement, its whole importance lies in the region in which it is taking place. This is a region of interminable bloody imperialist conflicts, whether directly between states or via various pawns[6]. It is the civil population which suffers the consequences of all this[7] and has become fertile soil for the development of reactionary nationalist and religious movements. But above all we should stress that the movement is taking place at the same time as similar movements in the region and internationally. Let’s not forget the big mobilisations last summer in Israel against the high cost of living; despite its weaknesses and its democratic illusions, this movement is an important first step towards breaking the ‘national union’ in a highly militarised state like Israel. Let’s not forget the great workers’ strikes in Egypt which were a decisive moment in the fall of the USA’s protégé Mubarak.   

The proletariat and the oppressed strata in Palestine, and everywhere else, need to understand that the only hope for living in peace and dignity, which is the real wish of the immense majority of the Palestinian population, lies in the development of massive struggles alongside all the exploited in the region, beyond all national or religious divisions. Breaking the Palestinian ‘national union’, uniting its struggles, firstly with the exploited and the oppressed in Israel and the entire region – that is the only weapon that can weaken and stay the murderous hand of the Israeli state and of other imperialist gangsters. ‘Armed struggle’ means submitting to the interests of the different nationalist or religious groups and can only lead to endless slaughter and suffering and the strengthening of Palestine’s corrupt exploiting class.

The exploited of Palestine and the rest of the world must have no doubt: if they don’t fight for their own class interests against capitalism, if they allow themselves to be dragged into struggles for national or racial ‘liberation’, if they submit to the ‘general interests of the country’, i.e. the general interests of the bourgeoisie and its state, the present and the future which awaits them under the capitalist system is the same that Mandela’s ANC has reserved for its ‘brothers’ and ‘fellow countrymen’ who work in the mines: poverty, exploitation, and death.

Draba 23 September 2012



[1] A good deal of the little information that can be found is obviously centred on the Israeli occupation and on ‘anti-imperialism’ (i.e. ‘anti-Americanism’ and anti the allies of America), like the Cuban agency Prensa Latina or the Iranian state TV agency Press TV, media which are always so comfortable with nationalist movements. The forums, in Spain at any rate, of the left and extreme left of capital (such as lahaine.org, kaosenlared.net or rebelion.org) have also not shown much interest in these events. If we understand it right, ‘solidarity with the Palestinian people’ is limited to moments when the latter are used in support of different interests on the world imperialist chess-board or to provide publicity for some patriotic cause. When they struggle against ‘their’ government and break ‘national unity’ to defend their living conditions, that struggle isn’t worth talking about. 

[2] The IMF’s man nominated by Abbas in 2007 in the context of the war with Hamas and under pressure from the USA.

[6] The links between Iran and Syria and Hamas are well known, as well as between Assad’s Syria and Russia, its main ally among the great powers, and Iran, its main regional ally.

[7] Let’s not forget that the war between Hamas and Fatah for the control of the Gaza strip in 2007 led to many deaths and much suffering among the civil population – the ‘collateral damage’ of ‘national liberation’. http://www.haaretz.com/news/human-rights-watch-condemns-hamas-fatah-for-war-crimes-1.223006, and http://libcom.org/news/palestinian-union-hit-all-sides-25072007