There Is No State Solution: Only Class War

On 7 October, southern Israel was invaded by Hamas forces in an astounding, and largely unexpected, coordinated attack with militants breaking through the Gaza border, whilst air strikes reached as far as Tel Aviv in central Israel. For many Gazans, this was their first time outside their open-air prison, tearing down border fences, and the Israeli military’s first time on the back foot in 50 years to the day since the Yom Kippur War. From a Palestinian liberationist perspective, this looked like triumph. But over a thousand civilians were indiscriminately massacred throughout the day. One Kibbutz lost 10% of its population. Reportedly, nearly 200 Israelis were found at the site of a now-famous desert rave. Pictures were shared of a family of four all dead, and others found out their loved ones were dead from news footage. Around 150 estimated Israelis, soldiers and civilians, are being held hostage in Gaza as Hamas demand Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for the hostages. Many pro-Palestinians have leaped to defend the massacre and consider ordinary Israelis to be settler-colonialists, including children, descendants of refugees, and even anti-occupation activists. Even if this were somehow true, the deaths of Bedouin, Nepalese students and Thai migrant workers make it hard to believe in justified murders. Before the end of the day, Iran and Hezbollah had made clear their support for Hamas and rival Palestinian Islamist faction Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli state wasted no time in calling a war a war. The security failure had left Israel’s leading politicians and military officials embarrassed. The success of Netanyahu, the Likud party, and the right-wing generally relied on a confidence in national security. The fault popularly attributed to the ever-depleting capitalist left in Israel was not economic mismanagement, but a willingness to secede land at the risk of security at borders. In one morning alone, Hamas had debunked the myth for the Israeli public that they were safe with Netanyahu in charge. Netanyahu and his ministers predictably ramped up the nationalism, and made clear that Palestinians should expect vengeance, and that Hamas were to be completely eliminated. Tens of thousands of reservists were drafted into the army as the language of politicians stopped just about short on calls for genocide.

As landed fighting continued around the border towns, Israel unleashed its harshest violence through air strikes on the Gaza Strip, striking hospitals and refugee camps, wiping out a family of 19, and all generations of 45 families, and almost razing an entire town. A blockade was put in place denying water, electricity, food and fuel, an act since condemned by the UN. The densely populated Gaza Strip allows for little movement or evacuation for ordinary citizens and after an Israeli air strike had destroyed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, Gaza is now under total siege. The thorough displacement of the Palestinian people continues as Israeli authorities ordered 1.1 million in the north of Gaza to move south in what is already a tightly-controlled ghetto. Even the UN have called for this demand to be rescinded. Casualties in Gaza are now approximately double those in Israel and the death toll of Palestinians grows larger and larger as Israel’s military infrastructure dwarfs that of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, despite Qatari and Iranian financing. Though ethnic cleansing has long been an accurate description of Israeli attacks on the Palestinians, the scale of this war, and the reports of white phosphorus being used, are unapologetically genocidal. Rocket fire escalates on the Lebanese border between Hezbollah and Israel. The now-normal bouts of violence from far-right and religious fundamentalist Israelis in the West Bank have become intensified by increasing access to guns as the war spreads.

As the bloodshed accumulates, the stories that carry the highest tragedy are those of working-class people, Israelis and Palestinians. Political and military leaders make snap decisions that cost thousands of lives just to cling onto electoral popularity. Until the outbreak of war, the biggest movement in Israel has been the persistent mass demonstrations against Netanyahu’s government, in particular his self-serving and totalitarian attempt to weaken the judicial process. His campaign and support has relied centrally on national security issues so the initial Hamas massacre and subsequent hostage situation has severely undermined this claim. A disproportionate amount of military bases are focused on the West Bank, allowing the religious far-right to provoke and attack Palestinians, and protect them from any violent response. In the South, Hamas military prowess was underestimated, with urban working-classes, immigrant communities, and kibbutzniks left in the line of fire. Comparisons have been drawn with the 1973 Yom Kippur War which ended Golda Meir’s career in office. Netanyahu however has already spent years becoming more and more accommodating towards the far-right. Annexation of the West Bank, Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to the contested East Jerusalem, the passing of the Basic Law, softness on settler violence all have solidified Israel’s shift even further to the right. There are now high-ranking ex-Kahanist cabinet ministers, a movement so extreme that it’s still officially deemed terrorist by both Israel and the US. So far, nationalism is prevailing in full force and calls for the annihilation of Gaza are getting louder, at least under the guise of eradicating Hamas. In Tel Aviv however, families of hostages and casualties have been protesting and holding vigils outside the Defence Ministry. These are patriotic protests and neither anti-war, anti-occupation, nor economic in their demands, but they hold Netanyahu accountable for military failure, not doing enough to rescue hostages, and his totalitarianism more generally.

Most criminal is Netanyahu’s own recent (cynical) assistance to Hamas. The semi-state represented by the Palestinian Authority functions primarily in the West Bank and is not recognised by Hamas who control the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority is represented by Fatah and the PLO. Officially a peace treaty exists between Israel and the PLO, and the PLO in turn favours a two-state solution and opposes terrorism whereas Hamas reject a two-state solution and the existence of Israel and favour armed struggle. The Palestinian Authority is largely secular and carries a political face while Hamas are extremist Islamists. In amongst the bizarre developments of imperialism, Netanyahu realised that Hamas could be useful; the moderate Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, were more likely to enter into political negotiations with the West and campaign for the slightly more realistic two-state solution, promised in the 1993 Oslo Accords. For as long as Hamas condone violence, Islamism and a one-state solution, they have little chance of getting Western support, and their largely ineffective rocket attacks in the South were manageable for the IDF. Netanyahu’s government has granted an increasingly growing number of work permits to Gazan labourers to appease Gazans and indirectly facilitate more money into Gaza. Blind eyes have been turned to Qatari cash entering Gaza in the millions. Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s extremist far-right Finance Minister, put it in so many words: “The Palestinian Authority is a burden, Hamas is an asset [...] No-one will let it put forth a resolution at the UN Security Council.” Only three decades ago, the two-state solution was a moderate plan advocated by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (before his assassination by a far-right extremist). Now, the Israeli state would rather ally with those who want Israel’s total destruction than risk political negotiations for a two-state solution.

For Hamas, this attack is an attempt to assert itself as the representative of the Palestinian people. Fatah maintain their peaceful face against increasing destruction in the West Bank, and resistance goes little further than demonstrations, skirmishes and individual attacks. Through this major attack, Hamas has presented itself as a force of resistance, in military strategy and funding as well as initiative. In July of this year, thousands took to the streets across Gaza in economic protests against Hamas. With Hamas taxing Qatari donations to impoverished Gazans, it’s no surprise that Palestinian workers were burning Hamas flags. On other occasions, Hamas have been more tactical in successfully laying the blame for economic unrest at Israel’s door and turning the protests towards Israeli soldiers at the border. The other major contender for power in Gaza is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is more extreme and violent even than Hamas. The initial invasion may have garnered Hamas its renewed and reasserted popularity but it’s not hard to imagine that some Palestinians now facing Israel’s horrendous onslaught will be wondering whether the 1,400+ Israeli casualties are worth the new situation.

The Wider Imperialist Web

Under capitalism, no war is isolated and it doesn’t take long before ancient ethnic, national and religious conflicts are hijacked by major powers in an imperialist scramble. The USA and, for the most part, the EU wasted no time in announcing support for Israel, while Iran and Hezbollah did the same for Hamas. Though Israel’s vengeance in Gaza is drawing humanitarian condemnations comparable to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, a war between Israel and Palestine threatens a proxy war between Iran and the USA. It’s likely that imperialist economic treaties played a part in the attack in the first place. In the Abraham Accords of 2020 Israel signed Normalisation Treaties with UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, mostly to benefit economic trade links. This was a step closer towards the West for those Arab states but has intensified rivalries elsewhere. Morocco and Algeria, for example, severed ties shortly after, committing to their respective imperialist blocs. Over the course of the year, a Normalisation Treaty between Israel and Saudi Arabia has looked more and more likely, again cementing Saudi Arabia’s alliance with the West but affronting Islamists as their main place of pilgrimage is in Saudi Arabia. As war continues between Russia and Ukraine, and conflicts escalate between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey and Kurdistan, China and Taiwan, and Serbia and Kosovo/Albania, the major Imperialist powers adopt smaller states to exert their influence across the world for military strategy and economic resources. The lines are not always clear-cut. It remains to be seen how Russia and China will respond to this new war given their strong economic ties with Israel and their growing closeness with Iran. Turkey have condemned the forced displacement of Palestinians with a moderate line seeking peace and mourning casualties on both sides, attempting to appease for the time being its uneasy alliance with both Israel and Hamas. States may politely call for peace but the logic of imperialism dictates generalised war is on the horizon. Religion and ideology may be the language of conflict but in reality, they play little part in the imperialist divisions of the world; the current violent competition is more to do with the economic crisis of the global capitalist system.

For Zionists, the security of Israeli Jews is threatened by Palestinian nationalism and the state and military must continue to defend its people. For us, it is axiomatic that security is not provided by the capitalist state. That state exists to protect the wealth of its ruling class. The military sends workers to die and be tortured for a pittance in the name of the homeland while the rulers sit around working out economic foreign treaties and, motivated by power-greed, duplicitously assisting the homeland’s very enemy. Nor is a healthy and safe life afforded by protecting one nationality and bullying another; such a policy only exacerbates a cycle of war. Rami Levi, a major Israeli supermarket chain, has been recruiting ‘volunteers’ as retail assistants to assist in the war effort as reservists leave for military duty and Israelis stock up for emergency. Working for a profitable supermarket chain is unpaid labour yet amid the nationalism, it somehow becomes commendable. The Israeli proletariat will continue to be exploited even as they cheer on soldiers. As already evident with Rami Levi, the work will become harder as staff are lost to reserve duty, evacuation, or death, and wages will decrease as the government puts all its money towards war. Any strikes or economic protests will be immediately crushed under the weight of betraying the national cause. The enemy of the Israeli worker is not the Palestinian worker but the Israeli ruling-class.

Workers Have No Country

For Palestinian nationalists, quoting Franz Fanon, decolonization is necessarily violent. If Palestinians are to achieve an end to occupation and an independent state, it must come at the cost of Israeli lives. Unlike the Zionists, this is the most popular stance within the UK’s capitalist Left. Decolonization is not a communist demand. In the first place, colonialism is a specific economic organisational form that does not apply to Israel. Israel is expansionist and uses military occupation and violence to destroy Palestinian homes and replace them with Israeli homes — this does not constitute an attempt at growing an empire. Moreover, of anti-colonial struggles in Algeria, South Africa, China, or indeed Israel, to name a few, not one has resulted in a proletarian revolution but merely new reactionary forces exploiting workers and being drawn into imperialist camps. Ben Bella, the first President of Algeria after fighting for its national liberation, later reflected that national liberation movements “have all failed. As long as we have not broken the world capitalist order, we remain exploited by the mercantile relations of production.”(1) Even if a Palestinian state somehow came into being, whether it were to become an Islamist state, a secular social-democracy, or a Stalinist regime, it would bring Palestinian workers no closer to communist revolution. Only a stronger Palestinian bourgeoisie would emerge, exploiting its own and oppressing others. Nationalist movements dictate that workers put aside class struggle and join with their bosses to fight for the nation. That has never been a prerequisite of communism. That so-called socialists gather to wave a national flag and gush over Islamist massacres that have detracted from recent anti-Hamas economic protests is shameful.

As for the few remaining liberals that call for a two-state solution, their committed optimism towards peace under capitalism is naive. Two states are no better than one as two sets of capitalist exploiters are no better than one. The fall of Apartheid did not end the white South African capitalists but only added a black South African bourgeoisie that could continue the exploitation of workers while presenting as equal representation. A two-state solution multiples the standing armies, the imperialist contestation, and ultimately bloodshed.

Our position is, and has always been, internationalism with no exceptions. No exceptions, not out of abstract idealism but out of a consistent materialist opposition to capitalism and its imperialist survival strategies. Proletarian revolution can only be internationalist and this requires all workers in solidarity against all ruling-classes as the enemy. In capitalism’s imperialist epoch no true internationalist could suspend their class struggle to fight alongside their ruling-classes, their inherent enemy in the division of labour, to establish their ‘own’ new nation in which they can once again be robbed, but now by their own ruling-class and not another. Even Lenin’s advocacy for self-determination, with which we part from Lenin, was a tactical policy, based on the belief that national independence was a necessary step towards an independent working class movement in the colonies. As we always have, we call on Israeli and Palestinian workers to turn their guns away from each other and towards their real enemies: the ruling-class. Many accuse this of being a pipe-dream and it’s true that in the current situation, nationalism prevails on both sides. Our politics are consistent rather than opportunistic and we affirm the right choice for revolutionary workers rather than uselessly hijack popular movements until we are absorbed by them. We translate and spread our literature rather than re-appropriate national liberation for our own cause and give up on the class struggle. Besides, it is not such a pipe-dream. Mass demonstrations against Netanyahu have lasted throughout the year and not dwindled in number. These were patriotic liberals flying their own flag, the same flag waved by ultranationalists and the same flag that now adorns coffins. Nonetheless, there is internal discontent within Israeli society. Mass demonstrations against Hamas made clear their opposition to Hamas’ control and economic exploitation. These too included nationalists and nonetheless, these too prove discontent within Palestinian society. Workers oppose their political leaders. That is not a pipe-dream but reality.

We are somehow rare voices in our genuine internationalism but we follow in a revolutionary tradition. Let us hear from Pyatakov, Bosch and Bukharin, writing as early as 1915.(2)

It is therefore impossible to struggle against the enslavement of nations other than through a struggle against imperialism. Ergo a struggle against imperialism; ergo a struggle against finance capital; ergo a struggle against capitalism in general. To turn aside from this path in any way and advance “partial” tasks of the “liberation of nations” within the limits of capitalist society diverts proletarian forces from the true solution of the problem and unites them with the forces of the bourgeoisie of the corresponding national groups. ...
Therefore it follows that in no case and under no circumstances do we support the government of a great power that represses the insurrection or rebellion of an oppressed nation. At the same time, we do not mobilize proletarian forces under the slogan of “the right of nations to self-determination.” Our task in this case is to mobilize the forces of the proletariat of both nations (jointly with others) under the slogan of civil, class war for socialism and to propagandize against mobilization of forces under the slogan of “the right of nations to self-determination.

Communist Workers’ Organisation
17 October 2023


Image: Al Araby (CC BY-SA 3.0),


(2) From the theses written in November 1915 and submitted to the editors of Sotsial-Demokrat, the central organ of the RSDLP. To our knowledge, the theses were never actually published in the 1915 Kommunist.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023