Why Marxists cannot support Islamic fundamentalism – the case of Hamas

A critical comment by Moroccan Marxists on the line of thought developed in the article, The victory of Hamas in Gaza and the questions facing Israeli and Palestinian workers by Yehuda Stern in Jerusalem, that we published on Wednesday, 11 July 2007. It is the opinion of the Editorial Board that the Moroccan Marxists are absolutely correct in their criticisms.

Editor's Note:

In July we published an article on the conflict between the forces of Hamas and those of Fatah in the Gaza Strip. The article was written by Yehuda Stern in Israel, but it had been heavily edited by the Editorial Board of www.marxist.com. The original article that we received came under the title "The Liberation of Gaza and the Questions Facing Israeli and Palestinian Workers".

Upon receiving the article the Editorial Board informed the author that many changes had to be made for it to be published on our website, starting with the title itself. We do not consider the victory of Hamas in the conflict with Fatah in Gaza in any way a "Liberation of Gaza", nor is it in any way a progressive step for the Palestinian masses. It is in fact a tragedy that the vacuum created by the corruption and collaboration with imperialism on the part of the PLO leadership in running the Palestinian Authority has been filled by the reactionary Hamas.

We sent our comments to the author (and to Yossi Schwartz), who then made some corrections, but we considered these were still not enough. We had a long phone conversation and we followed this with emails detailing the changes we considered needed making. The article was changed but we still considered that it was not satisfactory. We went ahead and edited it further. Eventually the author and Yossi Schwartz accepted the form in which it was published. On this basis we believed we had an agreement on the fundamental issues.

Unfortunately, we must admit that some unfortunate formulations were still present in the article. It must be said that what seemed to be a movement in the right direction by the author was no such thing. He (in agreement with Yossi Schwartz) very quickly reverted to the opinions he had expressed in the original text. He maintains that Hamas led an anti-imperialist struggle, mobilizing the masses, and that therefore Marxists should support the "military victory" of Hamas, claiming that the situation in Gaza was a blow to imperialism and that it would push forward the class struggle throughout the Middle East.

How "progressive" the situation was became apparent very soon, with Hamas clamping down on all left groups and trade union activity in the Gaza Strip. It is an unfortunate fact but the author of the article has made one of the most serious mistakes that anyone claiming to be a Marxist can make, i.e. to confuse revolution with counter-revolution, and has capitulated to Islamic fundamentalism. This goes against all the previous positions expressed in articles on Israel and Palestine published on this website.

We believe the approach developed by the Moroccan Marxists is what is needed. We are implacably opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. To make any kind of concession to these reactionary forces would be disastrous for a genuine Marxist tendency in the labour movement. We will return to this question again, but for now we believe the comments of the Moroccan Marxists suffice.

The quotes in this article are either from the article The victory of Hamas in Gaza and the questions facing Israeli and Palestinian workers or from other articles written by Yossi Schwartz in the past where he was putting a balanced and correct Marxist position on the question of Hamas and Islamic fundamentalism.


In order to understand the causes behind the confrontations between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, we need to study the politics that led to these confrontations. By posing things in this way things become clearer.

We believe that the political reasons for these confrontations are the struggle for "a fair repartition of the cake" between the "old" and the "new" - the interests of the masses count for nothing... We believe, like "most people on the left", that it is "a mere power struggle between two equally reactionary forces".

The victory of Hamas brings nothing to the Palestinian masses in terms of their living conditions or their liberation struggle. Comrade Yehuda Stern is right when he says: "the victory of Hamas in Gaza does not solve any of the fundamental problems of the Palestinian masses" and that "one would have to be a fool to consider Hamas as a revolutionary or even a consistently anti-imperialist organization."

Hamas has not led this war for the masses nor for national liberation. They have led it because "They, too, wish to become part of the capitalist system. They climb on the shoulders of the oppressed masses and try to take the lead in order to use their strength to achieve a ‘better compromise' with the imperialist oppressor. [Their aim...] is to be accepted as part of a viable ruling elite by the imperialist powers that dominate the world scene."

There is not one progressive atom to these policies of Hamas. The war between the reactionary forces to determine which amongst them will be the representative of the imperialists in the country is not a war in which we must take part. Revolutionaries do not need to support one camp against another. On the contrary, the policy of the Marxists is to denounce this war and call for class policies on the part of the mass organisations.

When reading a part of comrade Stern's article, we can only come to the conclusion that he demands support for Hamas since the masses "support" this organisation, and that we must be with them in their war against Fatah - because this war is "a decisive battle between imperialism and the Palestinian people" and because "the victory of Hamas has galvanized the Palestinian and Arab masses against imperialism and shaken the confidence of the Israeli workers in their oppressors."

However, after only a few lines we see in the same article by the same author that "Hamas does not have any real alternative to offer to capitalist exploitation". We also see that "Hamas is a populist movement" and above all "we should always keep firmly in mind that Hamas does not want to overthrow capitalism. They merely wish for banks and monopolies with Islamic names. If they follow the same path of making deals with the imperialist powers, which at a certain stage will be inevitable, its leadership will be exposed as just another group of bourgeois politicians, no better than Fatah, especially should they attempt to set up a regime in their image to assert their domination. This, in the long run, is the only possibility in Palestine, where the ruling class is extremely weak and lacks any popular base."

Furthermore that "we do not give the fundamentalists any political support" [our emphasis].

We even see that in the article it is stated that that Hamas' war is "a decisive battle between imperialism and the Palestinian people" and their victory is "a severe blow against imperialism" etc. If this were the case the comrade would have the right to demand political support for Hamas (= fundamentalists) and it would be a serious error not to... However, all this talk of "the decisive battle" and "severe blow" is wrong and the truth is that Hamas "merely wish for banks and monopolies with Islamic names." We must remember that "Hamas is a populist, reactionary movement, whose leadership not long ago had announced its willingness to negotiate with the USA and Britain," etc. In this case, we must not give "any political support".

From our point of view, we believe that:

Firstly, this war is not "between imperialism and the Palestinian people". It is between two camps of the same class for domination, as we have already explained.

Secondly, the victory of Hamas will not weaken the confidence of the Israeli masses in their oppressors. On the contrary, Hamas is a semi-fascist, anti-Semitic religious party. Its propaganda about exterminating the "infidel" Jews and its methods are the best arguments in the hands of the Israeli ruling class for maintaining the "sacred unity"...

Hamas does not have a lot of room for manoeuvre even if they come to an agreement with imperialism and "climb on the shoulders of the oppressed masses and try to take the lead in order to use their strength to achieve a ‘better compromise' with the imperialist oppressor".

Hamas in reality, as our comrade says, "has already signalled that it is willing to reach a compromise with the imperialists and their representatives in Palestine, i.e. the Fatah movement and President Mahmoud Abbas".

This could lead to desperation, where at least a small fraction of their rank and file could begin to launch suicide attacks against the Israeli masses. In this case, "This act [will create] more hatred between the Israeli masses and the Palestinian masses. By pushing the Israeli working class into the hands of the [ruling class] these terrorists are in reality the best friends of the [ruling class]. If they did not exist [the Israeli ruling class] would have to invent them. The logic behind this criminal act is to strengthen the right-wing, giving more legitimacy to the terror of the state." (see: Israel: Ashdod bombings: How reaction and individual terrorism feed off each other. Obviously, this will not "shake the confidence of the Israeli workers in their oppressors." 

Thirdly, the "galvanisation" of the Arab masses against imperialism around forces such as Hamas is comparable to the "galvanisation" called for by Bin Laden and other fanatics...

Do the Palestinian masses support Hamas?

The last election gave Hamas a large victory (in parliamentary terms, although not in terms of votes) whereas Fatah and the other groups suffered an important defeat. The comrade is right when he explains this victory by saying: "This victory of Hamas would not have been possible without a massive turn of the Palestinian masses both in Gaza and the West Bank against Fatah and the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) after more than a decade of extreme corruption and collaboration with imperialism and the Israeli government against their own people."

Hamas has cynically exploited this situation by using demagogic, populist language which concentrates on the struggle against corruption and the continuation of the resistance. Its promises are not limited to this world, but extend even to the "next world"!!

This means that the vote for Hamas was not a vote for its reactionary, anti-Semitic project, nor for its attitude towards women, etc., but revenge against Fatah and a vote for a change in living conditions. This makes us more conscious of the relevance of the revolutionary Marxist alternative to save the masses from alienation.

The masses can sometimes support very reactionary movements ‑ when they find themselves at an impasse, in unbearable living conditions, in the absence of a revolutionary alternative, and when the leaders of the mass organisations behave like traitors. In such cases, and since nature abhors a vacuum, it is possible that a fascist party, or something similar, takes advantage of the situation and takes power.

In such cases we must endure temporary isolation. However, the situation in Palestine is different, and more favourable, as we have already explained - the masses in Palestine voted for a reactionary party, but for progressive reasons.

Conclusion:

Hamas is a reactionary bourgeois party. We must unmask it and struggle against it. To do this, we must struggle for class independence. We must struggle for a united front of the mass organisations - the trade unions and left currents - on the basis of a militant programme against the barbarism caused by this confrontation, against the Israeli aggression, and for the improvement in the living conditions of the masses. These are only general ideas and we must develop such a programme concretely.

We raise all this despite the fact that we believe that it is premature to speak of an intervention in the mass movement in Palestine at this stage. We believe that we must concentrate our forces on making contact with the most advanced elements there and educate them in the spirit of Marxism, etc. But they must be educated as Marxist cadres who struggle for the independence of the working class.

Comradely Greetings,

Communist League of Action (Morocco)