In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of workers and youth across the US have joined the Palestine solidarity movement. We have attended protests and demonstrations in every major city, opposing Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing against the people of Gaza. We have marched, shouted ourselves hoarse, and demanded an end to the one-sided slaughter. In this context the demand for a ceasefire has gained a wider echo as the movement asks itself: how can we stop the killing? How can we escalate our actions and actually end the catastrophe in Gaza?
The majority of Americans want a ceasefire
The past few weeks have been a transformative period in the US and around the world. Millions of Americans have turned in disgust against Biden’s policy of support for Israel—if they were not opposed from the outset. Across the country, people have watched their phones and TV screens in endless horror at Israel’s daily attacks against residential buildings, hospitals, and schools. Notably, the ruling class is clearly failing to generate blind enthusiasm for yet another US-funded foreign adventure. In the context of the crisis of US capitalism, and after the bloody and costly experience of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this should come as no surprise.
A November 15 poll found that 68% think that Israel should call for a ceasefire, while only 32% of Americans agree that “the US should support Israel”—down from 41% in mid-October. Another poll found a substantial decline in sympathy for Israel, alongside a considerable growth in sympathies for the Palestinians, especially among the youth. 52% of 18-34 year olds sympathize more with the Palestinians, up from 26% last month.
In other words, an overwhelming majority of Americans want the massacre to end. And yet, when asked directly about the chances of a Gaza ceasefire, “Genocide Joe” fired back with a simple: “None. No possibility.” This alone speaks volumes about the sham “democracy” that exists under capitalism.
Does the demand for a ceasefire offer a way forward?
The demand for a ceasefire has also mobilized hundreds of thousands of protesters who want to see an end to the bloodshed. We’ve all heard the demand for a ceasefire chanted at rallies. Groups like Jewish Voices for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, and others have called on the movement to pressure our politicians to advocate a ceasefire.
Communists are clearly opposed to the continuation of Israel’s horrific bombardment. We are naturally in favor of ending the wholesale slaughter of innocent Palestinian men, women and children as soon as possible, and would not oppose a ceasefire were one agreed—even if temporarily. But we are obliged to state the truth: that the pacifist demand for a ceasefire in isolation does not offer a way forward for the Palestinians or the solidarity movement.
For one thing, who is this slogan appealing to? Biden? Netanyahu? Both of these reactionaries have expressed their total opposition to a ceasefire, despite the mounting public pressure. The reason goes beyond their individual attributes. The bourgeoisie does not take war lightly. War is a continuation of politics by other means, which means that there are fundamental class interests at stake here for the US-Israeli imperialists. We should remember that there were mass movements calling for an end to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, and yet these dragged on for years.
This is because the capitalists do not wage war for abstract moral reasons, but to extend their profits, influence, and power. For US imperialism, Israel is roughly the equivalent of a giant aircraft carrier in the Middle East. The Zionist presidential candidate RFK, Jr. actually said this at a recent conference. The US needs an outpost in the region, to secure the assets of US multinational corporations, especially big oil. Additionally, nearly every politician is directly or indirectly connected to war-profiteering companies, through lobbying, campaign financing, the “revolving door” of business and government, and more.
So appealing to those with a fundamental class interest in supporting Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is like asking a lion to eat rhubarb. The slogan of a ceasefire raises the illusion that peace can be achieved by appealing to politicians’ good will or “challenging” their moral compass. But class interests will always trump any other considerations.
Secondly, we must remember that all previous attempts at negotiating a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians have utterly failed. It is precisely the failure of the Oslo peace process that has produced this current situation. A ceasefire is by definition a temporary solution. Given the predatory interests of the Zionist ruling class of Israel, we can be confident that any peace would be short-lived. They would only concede to it as a tactical maneuver, in order to regroup, and carry out their same plans in a different manner.
A ceasefire would, at best, rewind things to the situation before October 7. Needless to say, this is utopian in the extreme. Not only that, but do we want to return to a status quo where Palestinians are brutalized every day, where thousands are imprisoned by the Zionist regime, and where settlers are allowed to knock down homes in the West Bank without even a slap on the wrist? This is no solution at all. And even if peace were possible in the short-term, on an imperialist basis it would inevitably pave the way for another war.
Democrats continue their “unwavering” support for Israel’s criminal acts
Despite the serious limitations of this demand, the vast majority of US lawmakers do not call for a ceasefire. While 80% of Democratic voters support a ceasefire, the overwhelming majority of Democratic lawmakers and officials remain solidly in support of Israel’s unhinged crimes against Palestinian civilians. This is no surprise, since the bourgeois Democratic Party has always supported the Zionist regime in Israel.
A small number of Congresspeople on the fringes of the party have voiced disagreement with Biden’s policy, led by the liberal-socialist “Squad.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of other Democrats, have signed onto a resolution calling on Biden to call for a ceasefire.
But we must remember the initial response of most of these individuals, which amounted, at best, to a liberal “both sides are at fault” position which equates the violence of the oppressed with the violence of their oppressors. Scandalously, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez even voiced support for more funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile system. In other words, she supports both a ceasefire and sending the very weapons with which Israel is massacring defenseless civilians. The hypocrisy is nauseating.
To her credit, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, a Palestinian-American and member of the Squad, has put forth a more respectable position throughout this affair. She has been censured by the House of Representatives for allegedly “promoting false narratives regarding the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” Of course, this is completely false, and we oppose the chorus of hypocrites attacking Tlaib. But we must be clear that the pro-Israel Democratic Party offers absolutely no way out of this disaster.
For his part, Bernie Sanders has finally completed his decades-long journey away from socialism and has been fully integrated into the Democratic “establishment” he used to rail against. In a CNN interview, he not only reiterated that Israel “has a right to defend itself,” but that it should “go after Hamas,” for which he received the warm approval of the Zionists.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), as well as an Israel government spokesperson, Eylon Levy, even retweeted a clip from the interview with Bernie, in which the senator said “Well, I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire… with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the State of Israel.”
His position is essentially identical to Biden’s: lukewarm appeals for Israel to carry out a “humanitarian pause” in the bombing. They desire nothing more nor less than an imaginary “clean” war in which the public image of US imperialism will not suffer unduly.
When Bernie speaks of Israel’s “right to defend itself,” one is reminded of Lenin’s comments on social-chauvinists who supported imperialist war: “for actually, they are championing not “defense of the fatherland” in the sense of fighting foreign oppression, but the “right” of one or other of the “great” powers to plunder colonies and to oppress other nations.” Indeed, Israel is plundering and bombing its de facto colony at this very moment.
This is the inevitable consequence of his years of political collaboration with the Democratic Party. Let this disgusting spectacle be the final nail in the coffin of any political illusions anyone may have in Bernie Sanders!
For Intifada, from the US to Gaza!
For our part, we fight not for a return to the status quo, but for an end to imperialism and war altogether. Lenin aptly explained the communist approach to pacifism within the antiwar movement:
“The sentiments of the masses in favor of peace often express incipient protest, anger and consciousness of the reactionary character of the war. It is the duty of all Social-Democrats to utilize these sentiments. They will take a most ardent part in every movement and in every demonstration on this ground; but they will not deceive the people by conceding the idea that peace without annexations, without the oppression of nations, without plunder, without the germs of new wars among the present governments and ruling classes is possible in the absence of a revolutionary movement.”
This is why we must explain that the present crisis in Gaza is the consequence of capitalism and imperialism, which must be overthrown entirely in order to free the Palestinians. The capitalist system is the root cause of war. The drive to conquer markets, resources, and pools of labor inevitably results in military conflict. Pro-Palestinian workers and youth in the US must act on the principle that “the main enemy is at home,” and fight to overthrow US capitalism and imperialism, without which Israel imperialism’s crimes would be impossible.
Marxists are not pacifists. We understand that capitalism means war, and that ending capitalism will require a class war. The ruling class has never gone down without a fight. To quote Lenin again: “A serious struggle against the war, a struggle to abolish war and establish lasting peace, is out of the question unless there is a mass revolutionary struggle led by the proletariat against the government in every country, unless bourgeois rule is overthrown, unless a socialist revolution is brought about.” Peace can only come about as a result of the socialist revolution.
This is why communists raise the slogan of “Intifada until victory!” The masses in Palestine and the Middle East have a revolutionary history, which can and must be revived. The First Intifada mobilized tens of thousands in struggle, from general strikes to tax boycotts to organized self-defense committees. This is the kind mass struggle that is needed, from the Middle East to North America, in order to bring down Zionism and imperialism. Think about what it would look like for a new Intifada to break out, not only in Palestine, but in Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. Threatened with the loss of all their power and ill-gotten gains, the ruling class would be running for the hills, and we can be sure that the bombing would stop.
As for the US imperialists, the primary backers of Israel, the American working class has the potential to totally disarm our own ruling class, and to abolish the very system which drives war in the first place. A glimmer of this potential was shown recently when Detroit charter bus drivers enacted a “sick-out” to prevent pro-Israel protesters from attending the Washington, DC “March for Israel.”
If workers in the United States took strike action to shut down the war machine, hindering the flow of weapons to Israel, the Zionist war effort would come crumbling down. Workers in arms manufacturing, transportation workers, and dock workers especially can make this happen. Not a single bullet and not a single gun should be sent to Israel! Combined with a mass working-class uprising against imperialism in the Middle East, the workers of the world can act collectively to put an end to the war.
But to harness this vast potential power, we need to build a mass communist party. If you understand the need to end capitalism and imperialism outright, then take the next step and join the communists. March with us, and boldly fight for worldwide Intifada. A communist movement is being born. Help us ratchet up the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and all oppressed people. We will not stop until the worldwide Intifada achieves victory.
From the United States to Gaza, globalize the Intifada!
Down with US imperialism! Fight for a workers’ government!
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East as part of a World Socialist Federation!