From Social Protest to Political Change

Decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel August 13, 2011



  1. A huge wave of social protest is sweeping over Israel. The protest, which began with the erection of a tent encampment on Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, has spread throughout the country, from Kiryat Shmona in the North to Eilat in the south. The protest has been joined by diverse and wide publics – the eroding middle class, employees with medium to low incomes, residents of poor neighborhoods, mothers, students – most of whom work for their living. The leaders of the protest are young, employed, and educated. Beginning as a protest against rising rental costs, within a week it had turned into a protest against the living conditions brought on by the government’s neoliberal policies.

It is important to understand that this is not just ‘another protest’ or ‘another demonstration’ of the type we had already known in Israel, but an important political development that requires in-depth analysis and a rejection of conventional thinking.

  1. In essence, the new social protest movement is anti-capitalist: it represents a resistance to the dominant neo-liberal policies of rampant privatization and dismantling of welfare arrangements; it represents support of socialist values and a belief in the state’s responsibility toward its citizens.

It is our role, in the context of the protest movement, to continue to clarify and bring into relief the ideological nature of the basic struggle – a struggle between two opposed paths: a state that is responsible for every citizen and resident versus a state that abandons them to the forces of the market and the tycoons.

At the same time, we must also elucidate the political nature of the struggle – and convince the public, that PM Netanyahu prefers the interests of the tycoons and the oligarchs over the needs of the public at large; he prefers occupation and settlement over daily life of Israeli society – and therefore any real change requires the overthrow of Netanyahu’s government.

  1. The anti-capitalist protest weakens, but does not eradicate, the nationalist outlooks and the political polarities concerning the question of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and achieving peace.

It is our role, in the context of the protest, to continue to patiently and sensitively explain the inter-connection between these issues. We have and to remind our listeners of the heavy economic and social price of the policies of occupation and settlements. A just peace will enable a change of priorities and more investment in housing, education, health, and welfare.

We must continue to warn against the government’s attempts to eradicate the protests by means of another military conflict or even a war.

We must warn against the government’s attempts to ‘divide and conquer’ and to give preference, for instance, to ‘discharged soldiers’ while deepening the nationalist-driven discrimination against the Arab population of Israel. The true test of the protest will be its ability to maintain solidarity and widespread unity among all of those harmed by present dominant policies.

  1. The struggle for social change in Israel can succeed only if it is a joint Jewish-Arab struggle. Adoption of a Jewish-Arab mode of action is an important test of the protest movement’s maturity. The erection of protest tent encampments in Arab communities and in the mixed cities, led by members of the CP of Israel, is an important development geared to consolidating the protest’s Jewish-Arab character.

Until now, the protest has not assumed the character of a mass protest within the Arab public. The mechanisms of national division that exist in Israel create a sense of distance from the existing protest among segments of the Arab public.

The Arab population should have an important place in this protest. The participation of the Arab population in the protest is important, because this public suffers even more from lack of housing and social services and from double and quadruple poverty as a result of the discriminatory policies of all Israeli governments against the national minority. The right wing attempts to push the Arab citizens out of the field of social and political activity in Israel.

  1. The social protest is spreading alongside the workers’ important struggles. The doctors are leading a prolonged struggle not only in regard to their working conditions, but also for the future of the public medical system.  The faculty teachers at the universities are struggling for fair employment. The workers of Haifa chemicals are conducting a prolonged strike and workers in the food industries in the north are struggling against layoffs. However, until now the workers organized through the large trade unions have not joined the protest with full force. The leadership of the Histadrut Labor Federation, headed by Ofer Eini, is attempting to water down the protest by focusing it on a few ‘shopping items’, i.e. limited and localized achievements.
  2. In essence, the social protest movement is a progressive show of force not only against the current model of neo-liberal capitalism, but also against the dark fascistic currents threatening Israel‘s democratic space. The protest movement is clear proof that Israeli society too sustains a not negligible amount of healthy forces, which can bring about progressive change. This is a formidable and convincing response to the feelings of despair, which in recent years have characterized certain circles in the Left and in the Arab population.

The CPI has never been partner to the sense of despair from the Israeli public and from Israeli society. Our Marxist analysis has always enabled us to expose the dialectical nature of reality, with its inherent contradictions, and the possibilities of change, which these contradictions continually produce. At the 25th convention of the party (2007), we reiterated our analysis of the basic class structure of Israeli society. We argued incisively with all the approaches that underestimate the power and importance of the internal contradictions within Israeli society, and the ability of those contradictions to create a real engine for change.

  1. In the past years, CPI has been systematically conducting a form of ‘mass politics’, within the Jewish public as well. ‘Mass politics’ makes a point of turning to the public with slogans that have the power to mobilize. At the same it, it continuously builds broad partnerships in struggle, such as the Tel Aviv municipal campaign “A City for All”, the May 1st actions, the widespread democratic demonstrations against the fascist dangers, as well as our activity relating to the establishment of a Palestinian state, ending the occupation and achieving a just peace. “Mass politics” does not mean an abandonment of our path or of our principles. Underpinning this politics is the understanding that determining the principles is only the beginning of political action, and not its final note: that principles have no force if they are not consistently translated into slogans that the public can understand. To be a progressive avant-garde, according to Lenin’s view, is indeed to walk before the masses, but at a distance from which the public can follow the leader.
  2. The CPI’s “Mass politics” has contributed and still contributes a great deal to the development of progressive struggle in Israel. However, it will be a huge mistake to think that this struggle will automatically strengthen us politically. History is rife with examples of social protest that have not translated to real change.

Change occurs only when the social protest is translated to political action and is addressed to the political powers that be. For this to happen in Israel, a broad socialist movement must arise out of the social protest and consolidate itself – a movement that will include in it, alongside ourselves, also other groups, organizations, youth movements and social organizations. Such a movement must integrate socialist values, democratic struggle, and must have an Arab-Jewish character. It must also be based on appreciation of the connection between the occupation and society’s problems.

  1. We stand before an urgent challenge, in this context, as the elections for the Histadrut Labor Federation approach. In advance of these elections we will work for broad Jewish-Arab and socialist cooperation, with Hadash at the center, and presen a candidate for the head of the Histradrut – as a left alternative to the policy of collaborating with the political regime and with capital, as the Histadrut’s leadership currently does.
  2. An in-depth analysis of the social struggle and the opportunities it opens to us to change Israeli society will stand at the center of our preparations for the CPI’s 26th convention, which will take place at the end of the year.

In parallel, we will sharpen our messages of class-consciousness in the party’s press, in our political work in the Knesset, in the local councils, the Histadrut, women’s federation Naamat, the teachers’ federation, the workers’ councils and in our activity among women, students and youth.

The CPI’s Central Committee salutes the members of the party who are active in the social protest movement for their important activity.

The Central Committee calls upon all the party organizations and the Young Communist League, and our partners in Hadash to continue to set up protest tent encampments in communities and in other neighborhood, and to consolidate practical work plans, in each respective area of activity, in the spirit of these decisions.