Leila Khaled
Original publication: archive.org

Anarchism vs. Nationalism in Palestine (1973)

5 minutes | English

Two excerpts from My People Shall Live: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary (1973) by Leila Khaled.

The training schedule was exacting, but occasionally left us time for a little fun. We were “entertaining” a group of foreign students and trying to lead a Bedouin kind of life in order to politicise our Bedouin population. The students had been attending an international solidarity meeting in Amman held under the auspices of the General Union of Palestinian Students. Most were graduates of the 1968 university upheavals in the West. We found it very amusing that they honestly believed they were making a “revolution” if they undressed in public, seized a university building, or shouted an obscenity at bureaucrats.

I was initially opposed and refused to talk to them, even though some believed in violent revolution, because I didn’t want to be another experimental “guinea-pig” to Westerners. I finally relented and I am glad I did. I hadn’t met Western “revolutionaries” before. It turned out they represented an unfamiliar cultural rather than a political phenomenon. Some seemed to have read the historic political literature of the left, but most regarded the Marxist-Leninist leaders disdainfully, with the exception of the “Young Marx,” who held some sort of fascination for a few of them. Though we were impressed by their moral integrity and personal dedication, we felt their ideology and strategy had little to do with the making of revolution. Some Americans were quite serious and believed in the historic mission of the working class and were making plans to integrate themselves with the masses. What astonished us most about this group was that they were opposed to nationalism, a doctrine we hold dearly as a colonised and dissipated people. Some believed in violence for “the hell of it” and in students as revolutionary agents of history. But the majority were inclined towards guerrilla theatre as a means of “making revolution.” They performed a little for us.

As they were departing I was rather struck by a French anarchist student who proclaimed “Let chaos reign” and by a German who echoed the same sentiment. I exclaimed that the Palestinian people were an example of a society in chaos without authority and leadership, which as a result, was left at the mercy of the Zionist oppressor. I asked them what could they prescribe for us in order to overcome our kind of “alienation” — beards, long hair, and toy guns? They merely paused, they smiled, they reflected, they inhaled and passed their joints on in universal wonder.

We consider Palestinian national unity as essential in the mobilisation of all the forces of the revolution to resist the enemy camp. On this basis we should adopt a definite stand in this direction.

The form of national unity is the creation of a front in which all the classes of the revolution — workers, peasants and petit bourgeoisie — should be represented.

We should attend actively to the mobilisation of workers and peasants in one revolutionary political organisation armed with the ideology of scientific socialism. On this basis we should actively attempt to unify all the left-wing Palestinian organisations which, through dialogue between them and through their experience, can commit themselves to such an analysis.

The petit bourgeoisie will not join an organisation committed to scientific socialism and strong political organisation. Thus it will join those Palestinian organisations which raise general liberal slogans, avoid clarity in thinking and analysis of class structure, and exist in an organisational form that does not require of the petit bourgeoisie more than its capacity. In other words, the petit bourgeoisie will fill, in the first place, the ranks of El-Fateh [Fatah] and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). [1]

On this basis, and on the basis of our understanding of the basic conflict, the nature of the present phase and the necessity of national unity to assemble all the forces of the revolution to resist Israel, we should work for the establishment of a national front with El-Fateh and the PLO which can offer the war of liberation the necessary class alliance on the one hand, and protect the right of each class to view the war and plan for it in accordance with its class vision on the other.

[1] Khaled was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a more radical organization both in words (complete rejection of any peace settlement with Zionism) and actions (airplane hijackings).