The Palestinian Left and the Multi-layered Challenges Ahead
This article was originally published for the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation in Palestine on 19 April 2010
This is a translation from Arabic of the concluding (seventh) chapter of a book published by the Ramallah office of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation at the end of 2009, under the title of “The Palestinian Left: Where to?”. The book written by Jamil Hilal is based on research that relied largely, but not solely, on interviews and discussions that he and two research assistants carried out over the spring and early summer of 2009 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. One hundred and eight figures from the Left were interviewed distributed as follows: 61 were members of left-wing parties (the four parties that declare commitment to the socialist option) and 47 non party members (all, except one were previous members in the four left-wing parties); 21 were women, 37 were young (between 20 and 34). Sixteen were Politburo’s members; 20 were members of central committee and 25 were from the rank and file of the leftwing political parties. The book utilized party literatures, articles by the left in journals and newspapers and internal memos.
The other chapters of the book cover the following: An introduction that outlines the circumstances that gave rise to the contemporary Palestinian Left in the 1960s and the conditions that impacted its organization and practice. The second chapter discusses how Palestinian (and Arab) leftwing parties define the Left ideologically and programmatically while the third chapter details the “subjective” factors that the Left see as the causes of its decline. The fourth chapter details the “objective” factors that the Left views to have contributed to the weakening of its influence and contracted significantly its social base. Chapter five discusses how the left evaluates its role in relation to the ongoing conflict between Fatah and Hamas, and the chapter six is devoted to ideas and comments on how the left can regain its influence and activate its mission in the current Palestinian situation which is characterized by political deadlock, societal fragmentation, political polarization, and a paralysis of national institutions.
"The Palestinian Left should first arrange its priorities and define its national and social agendas. Second, it should launch a campaign to mobilize its organizational bases to serve the unity of the leftwing movement. It cannot hold onto its name to the detriment of its future role, the history of each faction belongs to the Left as a whole. Third, the Left should unite in a new body while preserving the history of its past struggle. Without unity the Left is doomed to vanish." (a young party member).
Not one leftwing individual (party members or non-party members) among more than one hundred such persons who were interviewed denied that the Palestinian Left is facing a crisis or suffering decline.
The positive side is that there is an open environment for discussing the reasons for this crisis and the decline of the Left. Of greater significance is the concern and willingness of interviewees to reverse this decline, and initiate a renewal of the Left’s role and influence, its presence amongst the masses, and its political, social, and cultural weight.
The three issues that were raised in the interviews with leftwing partisans and supporters touched upon the Left's definition of itself, upon the factors and causes of its weakening, and upon its conception of how to recover and resume its role.
A. Reflections on Defining the Intellectual Identity and Organizational Structure of the Left
It was natural, during these interviews, to raise the question of the parameters that define a "leftwing" party. The question retains its relevance if instead of "leftwing" the words "Marxist," "progressive," "democratic" or even "liberal" are used. All the political parties and movements that relate to these designations have overtly or covertly an ideological dimension, political goals, and societal and cultural visions.
الآراء الواردة في هذا المقال هي آراء الكاتب ولا تعكس بالضرورة وجهات نظر مؤسسة الدراسات الفلسطينية.