Right now, terror is being rained down on the Palestinian people. This comes after an attack on October 7, by the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which included the murder and capturing of Israeli civilians.
(For a deeper understanding of what's happening and why, read “Israel’s Genocidal War Against Gaza: What’s Happening, Why, Where This May Go…And What YOU Need To Do About It.”)
People of conscience need to unite BROADLY and WIDELY in standing against the crimes of Israel, which has the full backing of the U.S. As one important part of this, people should be broadly debating the causes of the war, the ways to wage the immediate struggle, and what the solution is—and that, in turn, should mean studying, debating and struggling over how to go forward, both in the U.S. and in the Middle East itself. As our articles and letters this time indicate, there is a lot of very important agonizing and debating going on—and there needs to be more!
But in the midst of this, some people in the woke, so-called “left” of the U.S. have argued that people in imperialist countries have no right to criticize or indeed even question the actions of the reactionary, Islamic fundamentalist Hamas because we supposedly have to recognize “the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary.” And these woke so-called “decolonizers” tail, and even uphold, the revenge-filled, theocratic lunacy coming from Hamas, forbidding criticism of their program, ideological outlook, or some of the ugly actions that they took on October 7 in service of that program.
This is wrong, and worse, on two counts. First, there is no such thing as some indivisible colonized people who have one unified view of what must be done. It’s worth quoting the opening of Bob Avakian’s important and directly relevant piece “BIPOC Leadership: There Is No Such Thing, The Fight Against Oppression and the Leadership That Is Needed”:
These days we hear a lot, from certain quarters, about how it is necessary to follow the leadership of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). But, in reality, there is no such thing as “BIPOC Leadership”—and no such thing as BIPOC, as some kind of uniform and unified social force.
Of course, there are Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color, and all of these peoples are subjected to various forms of discrimination and oppression. But there are very real differences within each of these peoples and between them. Each has their own particular history, and present circumstances, in relation to the historical development and present reality of this country and the system that rules in this country (and dominates in the world as a whole): the system of capitalism-imperialism. And within each of these peoples there are different classes, and social groups, and people with different—in some cases radically different—ideological and political viewpoints and goals.
The point is not that there is no basis for uniting the masses of people of these different groups. But a unity that will lead to actually putting an end to their oppression—and all oppression—will not, and cannot, be developed by following the notion that some supposedly uniform “BIPOC” must and will lead.
Second, different ideas and programs lead to very different results. Later in this same piece—which again, is essential for anyone trying to navigate through the thorny and complex situation we find ourselves in—he makes this point:
What is really of decisive importance is not what “identity” people may be part of, but what is the content of their ideas and programs, and if those ideas are followed and those programs are implemented, what would this lead to?
As I have emphasized previously:
The truth of something does not depend on who says it, or how it makes you feel. Because something comes from a source you like does not make it true; and because something comes from a source you do not like does not make it untrue. And truth is not a “popularity contest.” Because a lot of people believe something does not make it true; and because only a few people believe something does not make it untrue.
Truth is objective—which means: Whether something is true or not depends on whether it corresponds to actual reality.
While due weight needs to be given to the whole history and present reality of horrific oppression, and the experience of people directly subjected to such oppression, if the goal is actually to abolish and uproot oppression, the standard against which anyone’s (or any group’s) ideas and proposals need to be evaluated is: objective reality—and specifically what is the nature of the particular problem (or form of oppression) people are up against, what is the source and cause of this, how does this relate to the fundamental problem (the whole system), and how to correctly handle the relation between the more particular and the fundamental, in order to move toward achieving the actual solution. (And, no, objective reality is not a white supremacist or male supremacist “construct”—it is...objective reality.)
This is the standard that should be applied—this is the basis for determining which ideas and programs should be taken up and acted on, and which leadership should be followed.
Learning From History: Iran
One good example of how this breaks down in practice can be seen in Iran. The regime now in power in Iran—the regime which carried out and still carries out brutal repression of the masses of people, including millions of people last year who rose up against the oppression of women and the whole oppressive regime there—actually came to power through a revolution in which a diverse number of forces came together to overthrow the hated ruler of Iran, the Shah. That revolution was contested by a number of forces—as any serious struggle for power will be. In addition to the Islamic theocrats who finally won out, there were communists, conventional bourgeois democrats, and many other trends of thought espousing different programs for Iran. Through a complicated series of struggles between these forces, and the intrigues of different powers, the reactionary theocrats who have never had a vision or program beyond getting a better position within the confines of the capitalist-imperialist system and who now rule Iran in a vicious, repressive way won out. And when they did, they murdered a great many of their opponents—especially the revolutionary communists, thousands of whom were executed.
The point is this: while the Iranian nation is real, it was and is made up of (again quoting BA in “BIPOC Leadership”) “different classes, and social groups, and people with different—in some cases radically different—ideological and political viewpoints and goals.” Within Iran there are not only class divisions, but divisions along the lines of nationality, with the dominant nation—represented in the Islamic theocratic clique in power—oppressing people of the Kurdish, Baluch, and Afghan nations and nationalities, among others—all of which are divided into different classes with different political forces representing different ideas of how to get free. And yes, there are different political trends with radically different solutions as to “what is to be done” to end an oppression that has only grown worse through 44 horrific years of Islamic rule—the same kind of rule that Hamas imposes and wishes to maintain, with Iranian help, over the Palestinian people.
Hamas has no viable strategy for breaking the grip of Israel over the Palestinian people and the regime Hamas would impose, and has imposed since 2006 in the tiny space which up until recently Israel allowed them to rule, would still be dependent on one or another imperialist power and still rely on repression and suppression to stay in power. The revenge they so loudly celebrate and uphold is degrading to those who are led—or forced—to carry it out, and does nothing but inflame the enemy and divide the people.
The war now being waged by Israel has made people question. Why is this happening? Must we live this way? How must we fight? How can things change? And what must be done? Everyone has not just a right but a responsibility to struggle over the answers to those questions while struggling fiercely to stop the U.S.-backed Israeli genocidal war of aggression.
In confronting that responsibility, this concluding point from BA in the “BIPOC Leadership” article must be the guide:
Everyone who cares about the state and the fate of humanity has the responsibility not only to take part in actively fighting against the oppression, plunder and destruction caused by this system, but also the responsibility to take up and apply a scientific method and approach to determining what is the fundamental problem and what is the actual solution, and how the fight can be most effectively waged toward the goal of actually ending that oppression, plunder and destruction.