Towards a revolutionary perspective on Hamas
Article by Mostafa Omar
This article is not a response to the “Egyptian Zionists”, whether they are right-wing racists like Lamis Gaber, who is demanding that Egypt supports Israel in its barbaric war against the Palestinian people and seizes the funds of Palestinians resident in Egypt before deporting them – for her racism is so blatant that it deserves nothing more than condemnation – or whether they are like Mohamed Zaki al-Shimi, a member of the right-wing Free Egyptians who writes that Israel is not Egypt’s enemy. He is right about that in the sense that the ruling capitalist class in Egypt, as it depends on the interests of American imperialism which controls the Middle East, does not consider Israel – the greatest watchdog for American interests in the region – to be its enemy.
Likewise, this article is not just an attempt to engage in debate with sections of the left which backs the Egyptian state. They continue to plumb new depths in an attempt to defend the illusion that “secular” military rule is better for Egypt than the rule of the Islamists. They claim that Hamas, which is the principal movement in the Palestinian resistance, is a “religious fascist” movement, like other reactionary religious movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood or extreme reactionary groups such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.
This article seeks to clarify how we as revolutionaries who believe in building a democratic society through the struggle and organization of the exploited and oppressed masses, should analyse and deal with Islamist movements (and likewise with “secular” movements) which are struggling, or claim to be struggling, against reactionary or imperialist regimes.
Here we will focus specifically on Hamas, which has led the resistance in Palestine since the 1990s, because the position of genuine revolutionary forces in Egypt and internationally towards them is ambiguous, and this weakens our struggle against the reactionary regimes and imperialism.
First of all, we must clarify that we are completely convinced that the movement of revolutionary change against the global capitalist system is not only an international class struggle against the exploiting classes, but also struggles and uprisings of the oppressed can destabilize and weaken the capitalist system, whether these are the struggles of oppressed minorities within states, such as the Christians in Egypt or Iraq, or Black people in the USA, or of peoples colonized by the imperialist powers, such as Palestine in the case of the Arab world.
From this perspective, we can see that the Palestinian struggle (with all its factions, and despite all the reservations that any revolutionary will have about the politics of those factions), against Zionism and Imperialism, which has sponsored Zionism since the beginning (and continues to do so today), plays a pivotal role in destabilizing the global imperialist system. Time and again, it opens up prospects for the rise of class struggle in the Arab world, as the Palestinian Intifada of 2000 opened a new era of struggle in Egypt which culminated in the eruption of the 25 January revolution.
A revolutionary perspective on Hamas
Our perspective does not ever claim that varied “Islamist” movements in different countries at different time periods are all alike. Rather we always attempt to understand Islamist movements in the historical context where they arose, and in terms of their social and class content, and their political goals. We always attempt to analyze whether these movements are resisting reactionary and imperialist regimes, even if in a vacillating or distorted fashion, and even if reactionary movements are hostile to the struggle and unity of the exploited and oppressed masses, and thus serve the interests of imperialism and the reactionary regimes.
Our materialist understanding of these Islamist movements, their relationship with the masses on the one hand, and with the reactionary regimes and imperialism on the other, bases our analysis on their diversity. We also adjust our strategic and tactical positions towards them, following their development through all their twists and turns, from resistance to imperialism at one moment, to betrayal of the masses at another.
For example, we consider Islamist movements such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core, whose racism and crimes against Shia Muslims and Christians wipe out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism. We consider that such movements necessarily serve the interests of the dictatorial regimes and imperialism and we oppose them on principle.
We differentiate between utterly reactionary Islamist movements such as ISIS, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism and entered into many confrontations and struggles with Zionism and imperialism in defence of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the Lebanese people.
We consider Hamas, which originated in the midst of the first Palestinian Intifada at the end of the 1980s, and won wide popularity among Palestinians because of its rejection of the concessions and surrender which Fatah offered to the Zionist enemy and the United States, and through its military resistance to the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza, to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.
From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel, because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the United States, and therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.
Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical, however, because we believe that the movement’s strategies in the struggle to liberate Palestine – like the strategies adopted by Fatah and the Palestinian left before it – have failed and will fail in the future.
Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with some of the Arab regimes (even including Egypt until recently), as well as non-Arab regimes, which are reactionary and repress their people and conspire constantly to suppress the Palestinian struggle. These regimes realise that Palestinian heroism and steadfastness is and always will be a catalyst for their peoples, who are natural supporters for the Palestinian cause and revolution against them. Hamas’ strategy, which reproduces the strategy of Fatah and the Palestinian left since the 1960s, will not liberate Palestine. Instead of standing in solidarity with the struggles of the Arab masses who have an interest in getting rid of imperialism and Zionism, Hamas is pushing a strategy of alliance with regimes which cooperate willingly with imperialism and Zionism.
Secondly, despite the extraordinary heroism of Hamas’ fighters, who stand courageously against every Israeli assault in impossible circumstances, igniting hope in the hearts of millions around the world at the very moment of the Arab Spring’s defeat, Hamas’ adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This is the method which Fatah and the Palestinian left relied on previously in dealing with the Palestinian people, using them as tools whose role is limited to supporting the armed struggle and obedience to the revolutionary leadership rather than popular participation in the development of a strategy of resistance and participation in decision-making. This approach weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term in the face of an enemy whose weapons are becoming more lethal day by day.
For this reason, support of the revolutionary forces for Hamas and the Palestinian Resistance is critical as well as unconditional.
By the same logic, despite our support for Hezbollah in any confrontation with Israel, we condemn its hostile position towards the Arab Revolutions by standing with the butcher Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Our support for the resistance in Palestine is unconditional because the Palestinian struggle against Zionism is a thorn in the side of imperialism, and because, like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny. That includes the right to choose their own leadership and adopt means of resistance which they sees as appropriate to their circumstances. But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.
Long live the struggle of the Palestinian people – the light of the Arab Revolutions!