Repost from the old site.
The following tribute to George Habash, leader of the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was delivered to a meeting organized by the CPGB-ML in Central London on Saturday 10 February 2008. The Communist Party Great Britain Marxist-Leninist, basically a hardline pro-Stalin group, last time I checked. This document is interesting for various reasons.
For one, it shows that hardline Communist rhetoric in the style of the former USSR is still popular. The PFLP are lauded for being a hardline Marxist-Leninist organization. It’s hard to say whether they still are or not, as they seem to be downplaying this in recent years, and no one really knows what Communism even means anymore.
It is true that there was a Communist state in South Yemen, but I am not sure if they accomplished much down there.
One of the biggest heroes of the Arab Left is Gamel Nasser, leader of Egypt. One great thing that he did do was to initiate a land reform. Most Arab states probably do not have feudal or semi-feudal land relations in the countryside anymore, but Egypt did in the 1950’s. 10% of landowners owned most land, and 25% of landowners owned almost all of the land.
The vast majority of the rural population was reduced to the status of landless laborers or sharecroppers in debt peonage on the land of the landlords.
Nasser was able to break up the large estates by buying them up via the government and giving the land to the sharecroppers. It was one of the great progressive events in modern Arab history. Back in the day in Yemen, you would go into the houses of the poor in South Yemen and see Nasser’s picture on the wall – they knew he was a hero to the Arab poor, and mostly for the land reform.
Unfortunately, land reform was not enough. Population was exploding and Egypt desperately needed to put more farmland into production. Hence the Aswan Dam, a necessary evil.
But even this did not solve the problems, as the rural poor continued to pour into the cities to look for nonexistent work. The landowners were bought off by assuring them a place in industry, which was and is heavily corrupt and tied in with the state. But the Egyptian economy was so shaky that the rich didn’t really feel like investing in it.
Socialism was and is a pretty easy sell across the Arab World, in part due to Islam. Islam is a pretty socialist religion, although fundamentalists will argue the point with you and point out that the Koran says that there are those who have more and those who have less and this is ok. Nevertheless, the Koran is hardly a raging individualist tract.
Nor are the deserts of the Arab World suited for individualism. In such an environment, the every man for himself libertarian is lost and probably dead quite quickly. One must form alliances or one will be destroyed. One must work cooperatively or the elements will take your life. In a world of perennial scarcity, mass hoarding by a few means death for many more.
Hence, in the past century, most independent Arab states have opted for some kind of socialism. Where the states could not do it, the religious or militant groups did. There is no hatred of welfare or government as we have it in the individualist US. Socialism is simply normal and free market libertarianism is seen as a bizarre and cruel aberration.
Nevertheless, in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and probably other places, the clergy did resist land reforms on the grounds that they were un-Islamic. Iraq, newly emerging from semi-feudal relations in the 1960’s, saw the Iraqi Communist Party become one of the largest parties in the country. It was particularly popular with poor Shia who flooded in from the countryside and poured into what later became Sadr City.
At that time, the Shia clergy were widely regarded as corrupt. They were tied in with large landowners, often involved in money-making scams, and were noted for enticing women into sexual relationships with them.
One of the few great things that the Shah of Iran did was to institute a land reform to realign the semi-feudal relations in the Iranian countryside. It went off pretty well, but some ethnic groups opposed it and hence were persecuted.
The tone of the Communist Party Great Britain Marxist-Leninist in the statement below is what might be called Stalinist or anti-revisionist.
Anti-revisionists hold that the problems with Communist states came from them leaving the path of true Communism and diluting their economies with capitalist relations. I do not know how much there is to that, so I can’t comment on revisionism. But even staunch Marxist sites nowadays post long pieces stating flat out that the Soviet model failed.
The North Star Compass is a pretty interesting site. It’s run by former Communists from the East Bloc and the USSR, and it is dedicated to the reestablishing of the Soviet Union as a socialist state. For these folks, Gorbachev was enemy #1. There are quite a few interesting essays there, and for those who think that Putin is a Communist, these guys really hate Putin.
For those who think that Russian Communists are all racists and anti-Semites, note that the North Star Compass despises the newly emerging fascist threat in the USSR.
There are many Trotskyite sites on the Net. The Trotskyites used to be totally nuts on the question of “Stalinists”. Can you believe that they supported the German attack on the USSR and opposed the Soviet army’s war in Afghanistan?
Trotskyites seem to have calmed down a lot lately. Many of them are supporting the Nepalese Maoists and the Colombian FARC. They even support Cuba. Usually this is measured with a tone that these states and movements would be better off if they adopted Trotskyism. Truth is that it is possible that Trotskyism has hardly even be tried anywhere, except possibly in the USSR from 1917-1922.
Trotskyites have a reputation as the ultimate splitters, and in the Philippines they have, incredibly, taken up arms alongside the feudal and fascist state against the Maoist NPA. In Defense of Marxism is a good example of a Trotskyite site.
It seems that many Communists nowadays in the West are Trotskyites of some sort. No one really knows what to make of them, and many Stalinists just laugh about them and regard them as irrelevant. Western Trotskyites seem to have a lot of money for some reason, and often put up nice websites. Non-Trotskyite Communist sites often have mild critiques of Trotskyism as some sort of irrelevant hairsplitting movement.
Western Trotskyites were heavily Jewish in the West until 1967 or possibly earlier. World Trotskyism opposed Israel in the Six Day War and Jewish Trotskyites consequently defected en masse. Many seem to have made their way into the neoconservative movement.
There are a variety of reasons for the heavy Jewish presence in Trotskyism, and that Trotsky himself was Jewish cannot be ignored. Trots have tended to oppose both Stalinism and Maoism as horribly brutal ideologies that committed atrocious human rights violations. Trotskyism has been a serious movement only in the West and it has tended to flounder in the rest of the world.
One of the Trots’ main points is that a rapid buildup of urban industry is essential for the development of a modern socialist state. Trots are almost the opposite of the Maoists and their emphasis on the peasantry.
There are sites that basically uphold the former USSR and even Stalin, but they are often angry at Maoists, whom they accuse of adventurism. In India, Maoists are killing traditional Communists in the state of Bengal, a state that has been run by pro-Soviet Communists for about 30 years now.
Marxism-Leninism Today is an example of a pro-USSR, pro-Cuba, anti-Maoist site. They support the CPI-M (Communist Party India-Marxist) in Bengal and are not too happy with the Indian Maoists for killing their comrades.
Here is a cool site by a Georgian artist who is the grandson of Joseph Stalin, showing the Stalin family tree among other things.
Stalinism.ru is a site run by Russian Stalinists, but if you can’t read Russian, it’s not for you.
The National Bolshevik Party is some sort of a bizarre marriage of Stalinism and racial nationalism (I don’t want to say Nazism, but I fear that is what it is). It’s Russian too, but check out the scary party image, complete with Nordic lettering, and the background on the homepage. Lots of related links at the bottom – looks like they have chapters all over the place.
Another great site, coming from a somewhat different point of view, a Maoist one, is the Single Spark. Although Maoists are often described as ultra-Stalinists, Maoists and Stalinists are not necessarily the same thing.
The Maoists have always been the real bomb-throwers on the Far Left.
Despite Cold War rhetoric, pro-Soviet Communists often did not take up armed struggle until all peaceful avenues for change were blocked, and the Left was up against a death squad state. Otherwise, the idea was to try to gain power through parliamentary means, despite Lenin’s denouncements of “parliamentary cretinism”.
If the state was reasonably democratic and not killing the Left, the pro-Soviets often argued that “an objectively revolutionary situation did not exist”. On the other hand, Maoists tend to reject all bourgeois democracy as invalid, particularly in very backward societies with mass extreme poverty and accompanying disease, hunger and premature death.
Hence, Maoists have launched insurgencies against formally democratic states as Peru, Sri Lanka, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Philippines, Nepal and India in recent years. In most of these cases, the pro-Soviet Left decided to sit out armed struggle, and the Maoists were denounced as adventurists irresponsibly taking up arms in spite of a lack of an objectively revolutionary situation.
In Peru, the war launched by the Shining Path led to a state that was less and less democratic and soon became just another Death Squad State. Thus in 1984, the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took a vote and decided that “an objectively revolutionary situation existed” and opted to take up arms.
Another difference is that despite Cold War rhetoric, Maoists are often a lot more vicious than the Castroites and pro-Soviet rebels. Maoists have no qualms about killing “class enemies” – anyone prominent advocating rightwing politics or abusive landowners – whereas the Castroites often try to take the high ground in guerrilla war.
Examples in Latin America are the Castroite ELN in Colombia, URNG in Guatemala, FSLN in Nicaragua, FMLN in El Salvador, the aforementioned MRTA, and the FARC in Colombia. Despite crap from anti-Communists and the US government, all these groups have tried pretty hard to abide by the rules of war. At any rate, the overwhelming majority of grotesque human rights violations in each of these conflicts were committed by the state.
On the other hand, the Maoist Sendero Luminoso was a profoundly savage and cruel guerrilla group, though they almost seized power.
Communism doesn’t mean that much anymore. Cuba allows religious believers to join the party, and there are millions of liberation theology Leftist Catholics in Latin America and the Philippines. The Chinese and Vietnamese Communists have introduced major elements of capitalism into their economies, while retaining a great deal of socialism at the same time.
Over the course of a few years, from 2003 to 2005 and 2006, the Nepalese Maoists underwent a sea change in politics. They went from hardline Maoists railing against revisionists and opposing anything but the dictatorship of the proletariat, to an embrace of multiparty democracy and a mixed economy and measured critiques of Mao, Lenin and Stalin as outdated for the needs and realities of today.
I think this is fantastic. I care nothing about dogma. I just want results, and I don’t really care how you get there – capitalism, socialism, communism or whatever. If Marxism is indeed an ever-evolving science (which, if it is a science, it must be) then there must be no treating its elementary texts as some sort of religious books.
The works of Marx, Lenin, Mao and others must be regarded as the works of men, not Gods, positing theories. These theories must be tested in praxis to see how well they test out, as in any empirical investigation. The theories of these mortals will either test out or they will not, and if not, we need to adjust them accordingly.
We know what our goals are; all that is at stake is how to get there.
Let us listen to top leader Prachanda and other Nepalese Maoist leaders, from the Single Spark site:
Since MLM is a progressive science, the people’s war calls for ideology and leadership that is capable to complete a new People’s War in the 21st century. Our Party’s CC Extended Meeting last September held that the ideologies of Lenin and Mao have become old and inadequate to lead the present international revolution.
The political and organizational report passed by the meeting says, ‘The proletariat revolutionaries of the 21st century need to pay their serious attention towards that fact that in today’s ground reality, Lenin and Mao’s analysis of imperialism and various notions relation to proletariat strategies based on it have lagged behind.’
As Marxism was born in an age of competitive capitalism, the strategies and working policy formulated during the times of Marx had become old when they arrived at Lenin’s times of imperialism and proletariat revolution.
Similarly, the ideologies developed by Lenin and Mao at the initial phase of international imperialism and proletariat revolution have become inadequate and lagged behind at the present imperialistic phase. Therefore, ‘the main issue is to develop MLM in the 21st century and to determine a new proletariat strategy.1
The second [wrong trend] …is not to concentrate on how
revolutionary struggle can be developed in one’s country by developing correct strategy and tactics, but to talk more of world revolution, enjoy classical debate, eulogize strategy and tactic of the past successful revolutions, teach other fraternal parties as if they know everything about the concrete situation in that country and stick to what Lenin and Mao had said before. This trend represents dogmatism.2
What we think is that situation has undergone a considerable
change, so the communist revolutionaries must not stick to what Lenin had said about insurrection and what Mao had said on Protracted People’s War.3
Q. You have envisioned a people’s republic, no?
Prachanda: Mao Zedong’s People’s Republic cannot fulfill the needs of today’s world. It cannot address today’s political awareness appropriately. Mao said cooperative party theory; we called it competitive party theory. We have said let’s move ahead from the conventional People’s Republic and develop it as per the specialties of the 21st century.
Q. You do not follow the old concept of communism?
Prachanda: Definitely not. What happened without competition? In the USSR, Stalin gave no place to competition and went ahead in a monolithic way. What was the result?4
Does Communism make sense today?
P: It’s a big question, starting with Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong, who wanted to apply the Marxist teachings in semi colonial countries. Now, we still need Marxism, but in accordance to the needs of the 21st century. We have to apply Marxist science in a very new context, understanding social, economic and also technological changes, without dogmatism and without sectarianism.
We are trying to develop a completely new concept, different from what happened in the past century. When we are in the government, our experiment will surprise everybody.
This will happen only if foreign investors trust a communist government…
P: Yes, I know. We cannot ignore the whole process of liberalization in the world. So, we will apply mixed economics to this country. Right now, we are not saying that we plan a total socialist economy, though we will not blindly follow western liberalism. We have some national priorities and we will welcome foreign investors, using capital from abroad for the well being of Nepal.5
Though Mao made some bold experiments to revive and develop socialist democracy, his efforts did not result in any qualitative advance. Why did socialist democracy ultimately fail? Why did it have to bear the stigma of ‘totalitarianism’ from its adversaries? If the revolutionary communists of the 21st century have ‘to win the battle for democracy’, as Marx and Engels had declared in the famous Communist Manifesto, we must dare to question the past practice in socialist democracy and take some bold initiatives.6.
All selections from this document7.
CPGB-ML Tribute to Habash
In his 1944 speech, “Serve the People”, Comrade Mao Zedong said these famous words:
All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said: ‘Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.’ To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.
Today, the heroic Palestinian people are continuing to resist, whether in the breaking of the barrier with Egypt to alleviate the genocidal siege of Gaza, or in the martyrdom operation at Dimona, the nuclear site where imperialism and its stooges do not demand inspections, to express a sense of grief at the loss of Al-Hakim, Dr George Habash, one of the greatest leaders of the Palestinian people, and, more importantly, to celebrate his glorious life and give real political vitality and clarity to the essential work of building solidarity with the Palestinian people in the British working class and in the anti-war and other progressive movements.
Nice memorial poster of PFLP leader George Habash. In all of the obits in the US news, few detailed the reason for the radicalization of Habash. At university in Lebanon, he was apolitical and preferred to play guitar. He raced home during the “Israeli War of Independence” to his home in Lydda. Jewish militias attacked the town and forced 95% of the city to flee.
Most were Palestinian Christians. His sister died of typhoid fever during the siege of the town and Habash buried her in the backyard. He blamed the Jews for blocking access to the hospital that could have saved her. There were some notorious massacres of Palestinians during the attack on Lydda, including the execution of many young men in a mosque.
The Jews forced Habash and others to line up and leave their homes and all of their possessions. One man asked if he could return to get the keys to his house and for making this request, he was shot dead in front of Habash’s eyes. From that point on, the apolitical future doctor was transformed into a revolutionary.
Comrade George Habash, who has passed away at the age of 82, gave more than six decades of his life to the revolution. He was born into a prosperous Greek Orthodox family in the Palestinian city of Lydda.
At that time, the Palestinian people were under the rule of the British colonial mandate, which was systematically preparing the way for the creation of a Zionist settler colonial state, which, in the words of Sir Roland Storrs, the first British governor of Jerusalem in the 1920s, would form “for England a ‘little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”.
In the summer of 1948, whilst studying medicine in Beirut, George went back home to help organise resistance to the Zionist catastrophe that was sweeping over the Palestinian people, driving them from their ancestral homes and lands into exile and dispossession.
At this time, he and his whole family, along with 95 percent of the inhabitants of his native city, were forced out at gunpoint by the Zionist terrorists and ethnic cleansers commanded by Yitzhak Rabin. Years later, Habash was to observe:
It is a sight I shall never forget. Thousands of human beings expelled from their homes, running, crying, shouting in terror. After seeing such a thing, you cannot but become a revolutionary.
During al-Nakba, the catastrophe, more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and lands, made stateless and refugees.
Graduating as the first in his class, Dr Habash eschewed the chance to pursue a lucrative career, opting instead to open a people’s clinic offering free treatment and a school for refugees in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Around this same time, he and his comrades founded the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), the first pan-Arab movement to take up armed struggle against colonialism and to win back the lost lands.
The significance of the ANM should not be underestimated. Not only was it to be the root of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); from its ranks also came revolutionary forces in many parts of the Arab homeland, including the National Liberation Front in Aden and South Yemen, which not only defeated British imperialism in a revolutionary armed struggle to win national liberation, but, later as the Yemen Socialist Party, leading the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, stood in the vanguard of to date the only real attempt to build an Arab socialist state on the basis of the scientific principles of Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In the 1960s, Comrade Habash, like many other anti-imperialist fighters then, before and since, came to accept that the liberation struggle of the oppressed people, if it was to be crowned with success and carried through to the end, needed to be based on Marxism-Leninism. Lamis Andoni, an analyst for al-Jazeera, who knew Comrade Habash well, expressed matters this way in his tribute to his friend:
He belonged to a generation influenced by Franz Fanon, Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap and later by Che Guevara. In their views, colonialism epitomised systematic, institutional violence and subjugation of people under its control …
In the early 1960s, George Habash, already a paediatrician in Amman known for treating the poor for free, endorsed Marxism as he grew convinced that the national struggle should not be separate from the struggle for social justice.
After the founding of the PFLP in December 1967, following the Arabs’ bitter defeat in the June 1967 war, Habash declared that the struggle was “not merely to free Palestine from the Zionists but also to free the Arab world from remnants” of Western colonial rule. All Arab revolutionaries, he said, “must be Marxist, because Marxism is the expression of the aspirations of the working class”.
In a 1969 interview, he declared:
By 1967, we had understood the undeniable truth, that to liberate Palestine we have to follow the Chinese and Vietnamese examples.
Indeed, Comrade Habash paid close attention not only to the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions, but to the experience of all the socialist countries and the revolutionary movement in all parts of the world.
Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were also two countries close to his heart and with which he and the PFLP forged tight bonds of active solidarity. In the memorial hall for Comrade Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, the Korean comrades proudly display the several awards and medals presented to their great leader by the PFLP over the years.
Under Habash’s leadership, the PFLP forged close and active ties of combat solidarity with national liberation movements in all parts of the world – the ANC in South Africa, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the Irish Republican Movement, to name but a few, embracing training, material assistance, joint operations and moral encouragement.
In the September 1970 hijackings that gave the PFLP worldwide fame, Leila Khaled was joined by Patrick Arguello Ryan, a militant of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the only martyr of those operations.
In 1983, after the Nicaraguan revolution, the Sandinistas commemorated Arguello by renaming the Geothermal Plant at Momotombo in his honour. A poster still available on the PFLP website describes Arguello as the “symbol of common Nicaraguan/Palestinian struggle”.
Comrade Habash sought to translate into reality, and himself embodied, these inspiring words of Che Guevara, which go to the very essence of proletarian internationalism:
Let the flag under which we fight be the sacred cause of the liberation of humanity so that to die under the colours of Vietnam, Venezuela, Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil will be equally glorious and desirable for a Latin American, an Asian, an African and even a European.
Comrades, The Palestinian revolution is a complex and difficult one, throwing up many challenges and inevitably differences of view. Equally inevitably, Comrade Habash often found himself embroiled in internal controversy, particularly in terms of the sometimes painful compromises, concessions and retreats that have been forced on the Palestinian people at various times.
But what shines out is the fact that he never lost sight of the importance of unity in the national liberation movement.
In their own tribute to their leader, the PFLP put matters this way:
In 1987, with the outbreak of the great Intifada, Dr. Habash called for upholding Palestinian national unity, and convening the Palestinian National Congress in Algeria in 1988.
Comrade Al-Hakim always understood national unity as a necessary condition for the continuation of the struggle and the national liberation movement, whether in Beirut during internal fighting among Palestinians and after as well, recognising that the internal contradictions among Palestinians could not be solved through military mechanisms, but rather through the democratic processes of the liberation movement.
Lamis Andoni, to whom we have already referred, wrote:
‘His message to the Palestinians was to restore our unity,’ Issam Al Taher, a senior aide, who saw him a day before his death said.‘Unity, unity, unity — that was his only message,’ said Al Taher.
Andoni notes of the relationship between George Habash and Yasser Arafat:
The two men never severed ties and continued a complex relationship of camaraderie and rivalry until the end.
Tall and handsome, Habash exuded a certain charisma that disarmed his distracters who admired his persistence but criticised what they saw as rigidity. A stroke that partially paralysed half of his body changed his appearance later but did not affect his ardour for the cause.It was that Habash that I saw and met for the first time in Tunis in 1983. The PLO was expelled from Beirut too and most its leaders moved to this northern Mediterranean capital of Tunisia. Habash moved to Damascus, Syria instead.
On that day the PLO was holding a meeting. Most of the leaders had arrived and then there was a stir and silence. Habash entered slowly on crutches, hampered and subdued by his physical disability.
The hall, filled with hardened fighters, stood on their feet while Arafat hugged Habash and escorted him to his seat.
Of the final period of Habash’s life, Andoni notes:
He would get so distressed during conversations discussing the events in Palestine and most recently in Iraq, that his wife, and closest friend Hilda, would interfere to stop it.When Israel besieged Arafat in 2002 in his compound in Ramallah, Habash stood by his rival. When Arafat died, amid Palestinian suspicion that Israel may have been involved, Habash deeply mourned him.
The few times I was able to see him over the last three years, he never stopped monitoring and learning every detail about Palestinian life. His physical ailment deepened the sense of soulful pain he internalised.
Those who were with him during his last days recall how disturbed he was by the rift between Fatah and Hamas. He opposed the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas, the current Palestinian president, of accommodating US and Israeli demands but did not endorse Hamas’ military take over of Gaza.
His main concern was the damage brought upon the Palestinians by the most serious internal rift in their history.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the mourning for Comrade Habash has transcended the differences in the Palestinian ranks. President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of national mourning, noting that Habash had dedicated his life to struggling for his people. Hamas leader Ismail Haneya said, “Dr. George Habash spent all his life struggling for the cause of the Palestinian people.”
Islamic Jihad described him as a “real leader” and other Palestinian organisations paying their tributes included the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestine Popular Struggle Front, who said that his path was and is one of liberation for the Palestinian and Arab people.
In its December 1967 Founding Statement, the PFLP declared:
The masses are the authority, the guide, and the resistance leadership from which victory will be achieved in the end. It is necessary to recruit the popular masses and mobilise them as active participants and leaders …
The only language that the enemy understands is the language of revolutionary violence …
The slogan of our masses must be resistance until victory, rooted in the heart with our feet planted on the ground in deep commitment to our land. Today, the Popular Front is hailing our masses with this call. This is the appeal. We must repeat it every day, through every breakthrough bullet and the fall of each martyr, that the land of Palestine today belongs to all the masses.
Every area of our land belongs to our masses who have defended it against the presence of the usurper, every piece of land, every rock and stone, our masses will not abandon one inch of them because they belong to the legions of the poor and hungry and displaced persons …
The struggle of the Palestinian people is linked with the struggle of the forces of revolution and progress in the world, the format of the coalition that we face requires a corresponding … coalition including all the forces of anti-imperialism in every part of the world.
Much more can be said on the life, work and legacy of Comrade Habash, but in summary these are some of the things he advocated and taught:
• That the fundamental way to liberation lies through armed struggle and people’s war based on the masses.
• That for the struggle to be successful and carried through to the end it needs to be based on Marxism-Leninism, the scientific world outlook of the working class.
• That the oppressed peoples must uphold proletarian internationalism in their struggle for liberation, based on militant unity within and between the three major currents of the world revolutionary process, the socialist countries, the national liberation movements, and the working-class movement in the imperialist heartlands.
• That the liberation of the nation necessitated the principled and democratic unity of all the forces of the nation, even though major differences will also exist and must be struggled over.
Clearly, all these are not just lessons for the Palestinian people alone.
In June 2000, age and ill health led Comrade Habash to step back from the day-to-day leadership of the PFLP. Giving an inspiring speech on that occasion, in many respects he wrote his own epitaph. He told his comrades:
What I have lived through over the course of these militant decades, and the rich experience I have acquired, is not a matter to be taken for granted. It is your right, and the right of coming generations to review the content and lessons of this experience with all of its many successes and failures.
As befits a man who gave all of his own life and strength to the revolution, Comrade Habash said of the martyrs, the prisoners and his comrades, and it is with Comrade Habash’s own words, from his farewell address, Palestine Between Dreams and Reality, that we conclude this tribute:
I remember each of the martyrs, one by one, and without exception – those martyrs to whom we are indebted, for whom we must continue the struggle, holding fast to the dream and holding fast to hope, and protecting the rights of the people for whom they shed their blood. Their children and their families have a right to be honoured and cared for. This is the least we can do for those blazing stars in the skies of our homeland.I also remember now the heroic prisoners in the jails of the occupation and the prisons of the Palestinian Authority – those militants who remind us morning and night of our patriotic duty by the fact that they are still there behind bars and by the fact that the occupation still squats on our chests. Each prisoner deserves the noblest signs of respect …
Now permit me to express my gratitude to all the comrades who have worked with me and helped me, whether in the Arab Nationalist Movement or in the Popular Front. They stood beside me during the hardest conditions and the darkest of times, and they were a great help and support for me. Without them I would not have been able to carry out my responsibilities.
They have been true comrades, in all that the word implies. Those comrades helped to create a congenial atmosphere, an environment of political, theoretical, and intellectual interaction that enabled me to do all that was required. Those comrades have a big place in my heart and mind.
I offer all my thanks and appreciation to each one of them by name. In addition, to the comrades who vigilantly guarded me, looking out for my safety, all these long years, I offer my gratitude …
As a last word, I feel it necessary to say that I know well that the goals for which I worked and struggled have not yet been attained. And I cannot say how or when they will be attained. But on the other hand, I know in light of my study of the march of history in general, and of Arab and Palestinian history in particular, that they will be attained.
In spite of this bitter truth, I leave my task as General Secretary of the Front with a contented mind and conscience. My conscience is content because I did my duty and worked with the greatest possible effort and with complete and deep sincerity. My mind is content because throughout my working years, I continually based myself on the practice of self-criticism.
It is important to say also that I will pay close attention to all your observations and assessments of the course taken by the Popular Front while I was its General Secretary. I must emphasise that with the same close attention, if not with greater attention, I will follow and take to heart the observations and assessments of the Palestinian and Arab people on this course and my role in it.
My aim in this closing speech has been to say to you – and not only to you, but to all the detainees, or those who experienced detention, to the families of the martyrs, to the children of the martyrs, to those who were wounded, to all who sacrificed and gave for the cause – that your sacrifice has not been in vain.
The just goals and legitimate rights which they have struggled and given their lives for will be attained, sooner or later. I say again that I don’t know when, but they will be attained.
And my aim, again and again, is to emphasise the need for you to persist in the struggle to serve our people, for the good of all Palestinians and Arabs – the good that lies in a just and legitimate cause, as it does in the realisation of the good for all those who are oppressed and wronged.
You must always be of calm mind, and of contented conscience, with a strong resolve and a steel will, for you have been and still are in the camp of justice and progress, the camp whose just goals will be attained and which will inevitably attain its legitimate rights. For these are the lessons of history and reality, and no right is lost as long as there is someone fighting for it.
1. Ashok. (May 2006). Our Experiences of Ten Tumultuous Years of People’s War, The Worker#10, pp. 68-73. On Lenin and Mao, p. 71.
2. Basanta. (May 2006). International Dimension of Prachanda Path. The Worker #10, pp. 82-90.
3. Ibid. On Models: Page 87.
4. Kishor Nepal. (June 2006). Prachanda Interview. Maoist Revolution Digest.
5. Alessandro Gilioli. (Early November 2006). Prachanda: Our Revolution Won . L’espresso, Italy. Excerpts.
6. Prachanda. (November 18, 2006). Democracy: The Forbidden Fruit or Nectar for Progress? Speech at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
7. MLM Revolutionary Study Group in the U.S. (Dec. 21, 2006). Assessing Recent Developments in Nepal: A Bibliography on the State, a Peaceful Transition to Socialism, Democracy and Dictatorship, Negotiations and Their Relevance to the International Communist Movement in the 21st Century.
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