The SWP justifies Hamas slaughter

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Faced with the horrors of imperialist war, a genuine “socialist” and “workers’” organisation has one duty: to denounce both camps in every conflict, to stand with the exploited class against their exploiters and recruiting sergeants. The “Socialist Workers Party” in the UK has denounced the bloody assault on Gaza by Israel, but let's look at their position on the murderous rampage of Hamas in the south of Israel:

“Palestinians have struck a huge blow against Israeli settler colonialism.

In the face of escalating violence from the Israeli state, Palestinian fighters launched an unprecedented attack from the Gaza Strip on Saturday 7 October.

Read about why the Palestinian people have every right to respond in any way they choose to the violence that the Israeli state metes out to them every day”[1]

“To respond in any way they choose”? In other words, the SWP supports the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of unarmed Israeli men, women and children, the seizure of civilian hostages to be used as human shields or bargaining chips, all backed up by indiscriminate rocket fire at residential centres in Israel. In a whole series of articles that openly celebrate the Hamas incursion, there is no mention in the SWP press about these crimes.

In other words, the SWP shares the logic of imperialist war, which justifies the branding of whole populations as enemies. Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza, despite claims by its politicians and generals that they are going after Hamas and not civilians, is already indistinguishable from the Russian bombardment of cities in Ukraine, with whole residential areas being reduced to rubble, backed up by a total siege which is cutting off supplies of food, water, electricity and medicines to a population which had already suffered years of blockade. The impending ground invasion by Israeli forces will greatly increase the death toll. The inevitable consequence of all this is the piling up of civilian corpses in their thousands. This is collective punishment of an entire population. But the merciless, indiscriminate slaughter of Israeli Jews (and a number of Muslims and Christians) by Hamas obeys precisely the same sinister logic, even if the methods of killing differ.

SWP support for imperialism: a long history

This is not the first time the SWP has voiced its support for one camp against the other in the imperialist wars in the Middle East. In the “Yom Kippur War” of 1973, Socialist Worker (October 12 1973) wrote that “The Arab states have every right to resume the war against Israel”. Their International Socialism journal number 63 claimed that “the fight of the Arab armies is a fight against imperialism”.  

For the anarchists who held a meeting at the recent anarchist bookfair in London under the heading “Fighting Russian imperialism in Ukraine” and urged participants to help send military and other equipment to the Ukrainian army (via its anarchist fighting units…), there is only one imperialist side in Ukraine. Ukraine’s pivotal role in the decades-long offensive of US imperialism against its Russia rival counted for nothing - and internationalists at the meeting, both left communist and anarchist, who denounced both imperialisms were shouted down for “Westplaining” and “speechifying”.

For the SWP, countries like Egypt, Syria, Iran or Iraq (which they supported in 1991 and 2003 against the US) are or can be “anti-imperialist” when they oppose US imperialism’s aims. But like all other lesser powers, these states have their own imperialist needs and interests, which they invariably pursue by obtaining the backing of other, more powerful imperialisms. In 1973, Egypt was backed by Russian imperialism, just as Syria is today. The SWP’s support for Egypt in 1973 aligned them with the imperialist interests of the USSR, as did their backing for North Vietnam and the NLF in the Vietnam war[2]. These policies expose the emptiness of the “Neither Moscow nor Washington” slogan of the SWP’s predecessors, the International Socialism group. Despite “discovering” that the Stalinist USSR was state capitalist rather than a “degenerated workers’ state”, as other Trotskyists argued, this never prevented IS and later the SWP from supporting Russian imperialism against the imperialism of the USA.

In 1915, Rosa Luxemburg wrote in The Junius Pamphlet that “in the contemporary imperialist milieu there can be no wars of national defence”. This applies just as much to so-called “national liberation” or “resistance” movements as to fully formed states. Just as Zionism could only establish and maintain a state in Palestine through the backing of US and other imperialist powers, Palestinian nationalism, whether posing as “marxist”, “secular” or “Islamist”, has also placed itself at the service of contending imperialist forces: Germany and Italy in the 1930s, the USSR, China, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq in the post-war period. Today Hamas and Hezbollah are mainly agents of Iranian imperialism: one of the aims of the Hamas attack was no doubt to disrupt the impending alliance between Israel and Saudi against their common enemy Iran[3].

And we should not forget that Hamas is already a state formation – a faction of the Palestinian bourgeoisie – which exploits and oppresses the masses of the population in Gaza. They deal with “their” workers just like any other capitalist regime. In 2006 teachers in Gaza and the West Bank came out on strike in protest against unpaid wages and were met by threats and repression by the Hamas regime (and they have been out again in the West Bank in February/March 2023). And one of the greatest ironies in this whole nightmare is that Hamas to a large extent owes its existence to Israel, who initially encouraged its development as a counter-weight to the PLO[4].

The SWP’s portrayal of Hamas as identical to the “Palestinian people” once again puts them on the side of a faction of the bourgeoisie against the working class. And “rejoicing” at the Hamas murders hides the fact that they have wilfully exposed the entire Palestinian population to a gigantic military reaction by Israel which has already claimed hundreds of lives. We can even say that they have benefited the Netanyahu regime, which was tottering in the face of major divisions in Israeli society but can now present itself as the core of a new “national unity” government.

In 1973, we wrote in the first edition of World Revolution, in an article headed “The Arab-Israeli war and the social-barbarians of the ‘left’”: “It is quite clear that for all the rhetoric of the ‘Palestinian people’s war’, the Palestinian national movement’ could only ‘liberate Palestine’ by tail-ending the state armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and others, no doubt heavily backed up by Russian imperialism. Any regime set up by these forces would be a ghastly caricature of ‘liberation’. Of necessity it would be a puppet state of different, anti-Western imperialisms, exerting a ruthless dictatorship over the defeated Israeli population and exploiting the labour of both Jewish and Palestinian workers”. The Hamas attack shows that the “victory to the resistance” that the SWP and sundry other leftists shout about would, in the increasingly irrational wars of capitalism’s decomposition, most likely bring mass extermination and a further dive into chaos.

There is no solution to the endless bloodbaths in the Middle East and across the globe outside of the international class struggle and the world wide proletarian revolution. All forms of nationalism, and their “socialist worker” apologists, are deadly enemies of the working class and its revolutionary future.

Amos, 12.10.23



[2] In an article, “Rejoice as Palestinian resistance humiliates racist Israel(Socialist Worker 2876, October 9) the SWP says of the Hamas incursion:Like the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, the Palestinians’ surprise attack has humbled imperialism”.

[3] And thus the SWP, which claims to support workers and oppressed women in their resistance against the regime of the Mullahs in Tehran, are entirely happy supporting the imperialist foreign policy of the Iranian state.

[4] See for example this article by the Anarchist Communist Group, who have taken an internationalist position against the current war.


War in the Middle East