The central theme of this issue of Khamsin is the communist parties in the Middle East. The history of revolutionary socialism is our area begins with the foundation of the communist parties. However, over the years these parties have degenerated. Subordinating themselves to soviet state interests in the area, the parties became subservient to various bourgeois nationalist regimes. Where, how and why did the communists go wrong? Those who aspire to rebuild the revolutionary socialist movement in our area cannot afford to ignore the lessons of communist history.
The foundation of the first communist party in Asia and the first socialist revolution in the Middle East occurred with the establishment of the soviet republic of Gilan in northern Iran in 1920. It lasted for sixteen months and was destroyed after the withdrawal of soviet support in the wake of an agreement between the USSR and the Persian government. The Gilani experience raises some very pertinent questions which have not lost their relevance today: the responsibility that can be expected from an already established revolutionary state for the struggle in other countries; the proper class alliances in the struggle for revolution in semi-colonial countries; the place of the agrarian question in the revolutionary programme; the transformation of a regional revolt into a nation-wide movement; the relation of the revolution to Islam and to the clergy. These questions are discussed in a review of recent literature and related to problems facing socialists in Iran today.
A critique of the historiography of the Lebanese communist party is the subject of another review article. It stresses the inter-country influence in the early period of Eastern-Arab communism - in particular the triangle Lebanon-Syria, Egypt and Palestine - and the role of non-Muslims and non-Arabs in the formative years of the party. The article defends the communists against unjustified accusations by Arab nationalists of national betrayal.
In the balance between national independence and social revolution communists actually underplayed their special task as social revolutionaries. The article concludes with a series of revolutionary criticisms of party line, its conduct and the detrimental effects on the party of its subordination to the Soviet Union.
All the major problems of the revolutionary movement in the Mashreq find their concentrated expression in the Palestine question. Internationalism versus nationalism; national liberation versus social transformation; a regional perspective versus a separate country approach; loyalty to soviet policy versus revolutionary socialism; the nature of zionism and its relation to imperialism. One article in this issue analyses the attitudes of the Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian communist parties to the Palestine problem and the evolution of these attitudes since 1967. Another article surveys recent research on the history of the Palestine CP.
The list of publications on the history of the communist movement in the Arab East is quite substantial but a good critical overall view which is not anti-socialist is still lacking. Much of the Arabic literature is tainted by a nationalist bias while communist writers tend to be uncritical. For the benefit of our readers, we have compiled an extensive, but in no way exhaustive, annotated bibliography of books in five languages.
The topic of the communist parties in the Middle East will be persued in future issues of Khamsin and we invite members of the communist parties as well as other revolutionary socialists to take part in the discussion. Khamsin is part of the effort to rekindle revolutionary socialism in the Mashreq. We continue in the footsteps of the early period of communism in the area. We share some basic beliefs, with the communists of that early period: that in the struggle for socialism the whole of the Arab East must be regarded as one unit: that the struggle against imperialism and its local agents, the struggle for national independence and the struggle of the exploited classes are inseparable and must be fought simultaneously, and not be divided into separate historical stages. Socialism is neither 'Arab' nor 'Islamic' and the struggle for socialism must unite Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs by respecting the individual and national rights of these minorities.
In addition to the central theme, this issue also includes two articles which deal with the reserve army o flab our in the Israeli economy. The first is an important statistical research which describes the development and the present characteristics of the Arab labour force in the Israeli economy. It emphasises the rapid growth of this labour force and its disproportional concentration in the productive sector. Mobility and lack of security expose the Arab Worker, more than his Jewish counterparts, to the fluctuations of the market. Their wages and conditions of work are also shown to be generally inferior. The second article deals with Jewish women. It demonstrates how the requirements of zionist colonisation affected the inequality of women. Women have been used as a strategic reserve force whenever the shortage of manpower threatened to hamper zionist goals. However, the shortfall in immigration to Israel creates insoluble contradictions between the role that women are expected to play in the labour force and their role as mothers.
Current developments in the nature of the Arab ruling classes and their integration in the capitalist world market affects the whole perspective for revolutionary chaÍ1ge in the area. The significance, magnitude and implications of these developments were explored in a discussion held in a Khamsin conference in London last year. We published in this issue the introductory lecture to that discussion. We also continue in this issue the discussion on the Palestinian resistance movement; we shall welcome further contributions by our readers.
The publication of this issue was delayed by the change of publisher an we wish to apologise to our readers. By way of compensation, this issue is somewhat larger than usual.