Why did leaders of some communist parties take positions hostile to their country's revolutions against imperialism?
Throughout history, some communist party leaders miscalculated political situations and clashed with national revolutionary movements hostile to colonialism and imperialism.
In 2019, a few weeks after President Nicolas Maduro won a new presidential term in Venezuela, Juan Guaido declared himself president of the country with the support of the US-backed opposition and with a strategy to overthrow Maduro and the Bolivarian regime he represents. Guaido failed to reach his goal despite the support he received from Western capitals, especially Washington. As a result of this failure, the liberal opposition fragmented into a large number of groups, which raised questions about its ability to confront Maduro and his Bolivarian government in the upcoming presidential elections in 2024 and the legislative elections in 2025.
Maduro has benefited from the decline in American and Western pressure on his government - especially after the outbreak of the Ukrainian war and Western capitals rushing to court Caracas to obtain its oil - to launch a campaign to combat corruption within his party and the state apparatus, which led to the resignation of more than 60 major mayors in the country, in addition to a large number of senior officials, spearheaded by Oil Minister Tariq El-Aissami.
In light of these developments, there was a remarkable shift in the position of the Venezuelan Communist Party, which announced that it would not support President Maduro in the upcoming elections, under the pretext of supporting trade unions that demand an increase in their wages and under the pretext of Maduro's reluctance to fight corruption, noting that the Communist Party had condemned the imprisonment of Leoner Asawahi, the former head of the State-owned Cardboard factory, who was accused of corruption, and demanded an independent investigation into his suicide a few days after he was imprisoned.
This came at a time when clashes were repeated between representatives of the Communist Party in the National Assembly, headed by Jorge Rodriguez, and representatives of the ruling Unified Socialist Party, prompting the leadership of the Venezuelan Communist Party to contact the representatives of the US-backed opposition and NGOs funded by the US to coordinate efforts against Maduro in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections. As a result, a large number of Communist Party members revolted against the decision, considering that whatever criticism they had of President Maduro's government, they should never contact US agents in Venezuela and the oligarchy that controlled the country before late President Hugo Chavez rose to power in 1999. This prompted these members to file a complaint against the Party's leadership before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which resulted in the dismissal of this leadership and the appointment of a new one.
Role of the leadership of the Bolivian Communist Party in failing Guevara
This is not the first time that the leadership of a Communist Party has rushed into conflict with anti-imperialist leaders and figures. One major example is that of the role of the leadership of the Bolivian Communist Party in failing international freedom fighter Ernesto Che Guevara in the 1960s.
When Che Guevara arrived in Bolivia in 1966 to launch the revolution, he contacted Mario Monje, the general secretary of the Bolivian Communist Party. Monje played a role in facilitating Guevara's contacts with several left-wing organizations in Bolivia. Both leaders held several meetings during Guevara's time in the country, where they discussed strategies, exchanged information, and coordinated their activities.
However, Guevara and Monje disagreed over how to bring about change in Bolivia. Guevara's revolutionary vision was more radical than the approach of Monje, who was seeking to gain power through elections. Monje tried to present himself as an absolute leader of the revolution - a position that Guevara rejected. This made Monje threaten the members of the Bolivian Communist Party to dismiss them from the party if they cooperated with Che Guevara. Monje even informed the US-backed Bolivian authorities about Guevara's location, which enabled these authorities to besiege, capture, and assassinate Guevara in 1967. Later, Monje distanced himself from Guevara's revolutionary legacy, publicly criticized his tactics, and condemned the armed struggle, considering that the path to change would not take place except through elections. This rhetoric was adopted by many leaders of communist parties worldwide, who described Guevara's approach as "adventurous".
Leaders of the Algerian Communist Party before the revolution
Moving to the Arab world, we can recall that during the 1930s and 1940s, the Algerian Communist Party was committed to the political struggle and the defense of democratic freedoms within the framework of unity with France. Despite the party's efforts to communicate with Algerian nationalists, its position to adhere to unity with France and undergo struggle in cooperation with the French Communist Party, in addition to its condemnation of the Algerian demonstrations on May 8, 1945, at the end of World War II to demand independence, made it lose much of its credibility, leaving the number of its members reach roughly 15,000 in the early 1950s. There were also attempts to establish a united Algerian front consisting of the Algerian Communist Party as well as scholars and nationalist groups, spearheaded by the Messali Hadj group, but these efforts failed due to disagreement over the strategy that should be implemented against French colonialism. The Communist Party refused to adopt armed struggle and preferred to maintain good relations with France, which was governed by a socialist government.
When the Algerian revolution erupted, the leadership of the Algerian Communist Party opposed it, claiming that it could not be victorious, "especially since it is supported by a reactionary regime" (i.e. Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, who had faced a coup attempt led by the Communists in 1954).
The attacks carried out by the National Liberation Front (NLF) in November 1954 surprised everyone, including the Algerian Communist Party. Under pressure from its European members, who preferred peaceful struggle, the leadership of the party issued a statement on November 2, 1954, condemning violence. This created a rift between the party's leadership and its members who began cooperating with the NLF. As a result, the Communist Party's leadership lost the trust of the NLF. After Algeria gained independence in 1962, the leadership of the Algerian Communist Party launched a campaign of incitement against the revolution, which led to the banning of the party in 1965.
Leaders of the Palestinian Communist Party during the Nakba
As for the Palestinian Communist Party and its stance towards the Zionist movement, this party was founded in the 1920s and included Arab and Jewish members in its ranks, at a time when many Jewish communists in the world were still clinging to their Zionist ideology and did not view that it contradicts with their communist affiliation. The leadership of the Palestinian Communist Party, represented by Emile Habibi and Tawfiq Tobi, considered that the establishment of the Zionist entity would lead to the progress of the Arab region governed by reactionary regimes. It was thus influenced by the position of the Soviet Communist Party, which was supportive of the establishment of the Zionist entity. An article published in the Zionist newspaper Haaretz a few years ago praised the "struggle of Arab leaders" for the establishment of "Israel". The report noted that in the 1940s and 1950s, there was a time when leftist leaders could be called "Israeli freedom fighters". In those days, the Arab left was fighting for the independence of "Israel" and was not opposed to the establishment of a "Jewish state".
In August 1948, before the reunification of the Israeli Communist Party, Arab communists held a meeting in Haifa. Emile Habibi, one of the founders of the National League for Liberation of Palestine and later a member of the United Israeli Communist Party, gave a speech. Kul Al-Shaab, the magazine of the Israeli Communist Party, published excerpts from Habibi's speech, in which he said: "The League will fight for the Arab masses of Israel to become a democratic element that, together with the Jewish democratic forces, will fight for the full implementation of the resolution of the United Nations, and for the independence of the Jewish and Arab state based on Jewish-Arab understanding."
Davar newspaper quoted Habibi as calling, during a mass celebration that took place in October 1948 at Cinema May in Haifa, for "the expulsion of the occupying Iraqi army from the Land of Israel" and declaring that the Communist Party would fight "to protect the independence of the State of Israel."
In his speech at the gathering, Meir Willner, one of the signers of "Israel's" so-called Declaration of Independence, affirmed the contribution of "the vast majority of our Jewish and Arab comrades in fighting in the ranks of the IDF. Many of our comrades were killed and wounded in battles, hence setting an example of brave and honest freedom fighters."
He also cited the Communist Party's contribution to attracting international aid for the "war of independence of the State of Israel," stating that "just as the Arab masses wish to see the State of Israel triumph over the invaders, the Jewish masses wish to thwart the imperialist plot to annex the Arab part of the Land of Israel to Jordan."
The party's members' contribution to "Israel's independence" was revealed during a question posed by Wellner to Prime Minister and Minister of Security David Ben-Gurion in 1949 after the arrest of two party members; Ramzi Khoury, the party's secretary in Western Al-Jaleel and Nadim Musa. Al HaMishmar newspaper reported that Wellner said that these two "were active at the head of the Arab resistance in Western Al-Jaleel against the gangs of Fawzi Al-Qawuqji, so why are they arrested?"
The leadership of the Communist Party's position was remarkable during the Knesset's January 1950 debate session on the security service law. According to the Israeli Maariv newspaper, Tawfiq Tobi starred due to his tough stance, "as he attacked Nimr Hawari and condemned his return to Israel because he was at the head of an organization working against Israel." Tobi recalled a previous speech delivered by Hawari in Gaza, where he addressed the Mufti, saying: "Under your banner, Mufti, we will enter Tel Aviv and shove the Jews into the sea." Tobi also called for Hawari's prosecution as a "war criminal".
The following is a speech delivered by Tobi in Paris, in May 1949, during a celebration of the first anniversary of the declaration of the establishment of the Zionist Entity, which was published in the Communist Party's magazine Kol HaAm:
"Our celebration of Israel's independence
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to celebrate here this evening, in this great folk festival, as my compatriots did back home, the first anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel...
Our celebration of the establishment of the State of Israel is a celebration of the victory of the principle of self-determination for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. We celebrate the anniversary of the defeat suffered by colonialism following the failure of the aggressive campaign of the armies of the reactionary Arab rulers, and no less than that, we celebrate the opening of the door to new opportunities for the Jewish people to be a factor for progress in the Middle East, by building their country as a true popular democratic state.
As we celebrate, we will remember with fondness the memory of the heroic war of the Jewish people for the independence of Israel, and the memory of all those who gave their lives in the fight against imperialism and imperialist interventions. Nor can we be honest if we do not mention in these moments those friends who stood by the people of Israel in the difficult hours of their struggle for independence. With great gratitude and pride, we look these days to the Soviet Union and the people's democratic countries, who did not hesitate to lend a hand in Israel's War of Independence, politically and materially. We will never forget that the Soviet Union was the most persistent and faithful supporter in our war for independence.
The struggle of Arab democrats, in Palestine and the Arab countries, their resistance to the war of reactionary Arab governments against the young state of Israel, and the fact that they participated with all their strength in the war of independence despite terror and threat - will be fondly seen as part of the help and contribution of democrats around the world in the war Israel's independence.
We, the democratic forces in Israel, as we celebrate Israel's Independence Day, will preserve the independence and will never forget to point out the great dangers that lie in front of the independence of our state."
Source: Kol HaAm, May 19, 1949
In the foregoing, we reviewed the experiences of communist party leaders who miscalculated the political situation and clashed with national revolutionary movements hostile to colonialism and imperialism. This was caused by the fact that these leaders were affected by their bureaucratic party experiences and dogmatic and Eurocentric background that made them project preconceived ideas that were inconsistent with the reality of their societies. This led to the aforementioned mistakes, which contributed in some instances to the failure of the revolutionary movements in their fight against imperialism, especially in the case of Che Guevara in Bolivia and in occupied Palestine against Zionism. Will the leadership of the Venezuelan Communist Party learn from these experiences and work to contain the conflict with the Bolivarian Regime in order not to allow US imperialism to benefit from the situation to restore its hegemony over Venezuela?