1940s >> 1947 >> no-518-october-1947

Editorial: The Labour Party and Palestine

As long as capitalism endures the problems of human relationships take on a capitalist form; all “solutions” must be capitalist solutions — which often means that no real solution is possible. Labour Party conferences thought to solve the Jewish problem by setting up a Jewish National Home in Palestine and Mr. Bevin, with more optimism than foresight, staked his reputation on achieving a solution before he left office—but capitalism has the last word.

If Socialism had already been instituted there would not be rival capitalist Powers fighting each other for control of the strategically important Middle East and its oil and other natural resources; no Arab ruling class anxious to keep out the alien capitalism they see in the Zionist movement; no Arab peasants and workers fearful lest their livelihood be endangered by the Jewish invasion; no army of persecuted and homeless Jews desperately seeking what looks to them like the only safe refuge.

But when the Socialist says that the task coming before all others is to hasten the achievement of Socialism by winning over a majority to the Socialist cause our opponents have their glib answer ready. Socialism, they say, cannot he won quickly, therefore it is necessary to be practical and find a solution to these dire problems now. So they draw up their solutions, not one solution but many, and engage in bitter conflicts with each other over them.

Some are idealistic, humanitarian schemes that capitalism simply laughs out of court. Then come the cynical compromises arrived at after making concessions to the demands of the rival capitalist groups, and the human beings on whose behalf the schemes are supposed to have been drafted are lucky if their last state is not worse than their first.

The good intentions of those who moved and supported resolutions at Labour Party conferences come to miserable fruition in the deplorable transport of thousands of homeless Jews back to Germany. Mr. Bevin wanted to solve the Jewish problem but he has to subordinate his desires to the need of British Imperialism. He declares that he has no intention of abandoning Imperial interests in the Middle East and he therefore hesitates to open up Palestine to all the Jews who want lo go there because this would antagonise the Arab States. His opponents urge equally hopeless and dangerous courses.

Blandly ignoring the wishes of the Arabs who form the majority of the Palestine population they demand unlimited Jewish immigration. At the end of that road may be a monumental mutual slaughter of Jews and Arabs, with U.S.A., Russia, Britain and the Arab States furthering their own imperialist interests by arming and encouraging the contestants.

How little humanitarian sentiments effectively enter into it is shown by the reluctance of all the Governments to throw open their own frontiers so that the Jewish and other refugees may find refuge. Here working class ignorance and prejudice play a part. Not understanding that capitalism itself is the cause of poverty and unemployment many workers support the exclusion of foreign immigrants because they imagine that by so doing they can shut out unemployment and lowered standards of living.

So we come back to the point from which we began. The spread of Socialist understanding will do more, even as an immediate, practical contribution, than the attempts to solve such problems within the framework of the capitalist system.