Ted Grant

Lebanon clash bares De Gaulle-Churchill aims

British stake claim to Dominate Post-war Arab Federation

Written: November 1943
Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 23, Mid-November 1943
Transcription: Harry 2007
Markup/Proofread:: Emil 2007

Fighting between French Senegalese and the Arab masses in the Lebanon has been taking place. Troops were out and unarmed Arab masses have been killed. A general strike was declared in Beirut, Tripoli and other cities of the Lebanon.

The incident which precipitated this was the arrest of the Lebanese Prime Minister and his ministers and deputies of the Lebanese Parliament. Taking advantage of a promise of independence made by the “Free French” the Lebanese parliament introduced a bill which would render the Lebanon practically independent of France. The French “democratic” authorities replied by forcefully dissolving the Parliament, despite the fact that 52 out of 54 deputies support the government.

This movement reflects the longing of the starved and oppressed Arab masses to be rid of their imperialist exploiters. Ever since the last war, when the Arabs were promised independence and freedom by both Britain and France in return for aid against their Turkish overlords, there has been a movement towards independence among all the Arab countries.

Despite the solemn promises, British and French imperialism cynically maintained themselves on the backs of the Arab people throughout the last decades, by means of armies of occupation, forcibly holding the people of Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Iraq in subjection. Many times, the Arab masses in all these countries have risen in revolt to obtain their liberation, and these movements have been brutally suppressed by the imperialists. In 1938 the Arabs in Palestine fought for their independence from British imperialism.

At a time when French imperialism was in a helpless state, and the adventurer De Gaulle completely dependent upon Britain, he made a declaration of independence for Syria and the Lebanon, partly under the pressure of the Arab masses in those countries and partly under the pressure of British imperialism, whose interests this suited.

But this uprising of the Lebanese has been the means of showing the whole hypocrisy of the imperialists and their real aims in the war.

General De Gaulle who has been pictured by the Stalinists and Labour leaders as a fighter for democracy and freedom for France, reveals himself as a representative of the French capitalists and of French imperialism. This “democrat” is prepared to wade in the blood of the Arab peoples and brutally repress any attempt to free themselves from French domination. Tomorrow, faced with demands by the French workers he would be prepared to act in exactly the same way against them. Meanwhile the French Government in Algiers has proclaimed its intention to ensure independence for Lebanon and Syria…after the war! So the repressions are being maintained because the Lebanese are too impatient! Actually De Gaulle and the French imperialists hope to delay any action until France would be strong enough to crush completely any movement towards asserting any rights on the part of the Lebanese or any other colonial people for that matter. Suitable pretexts can always be found, and declarations and promises always repudiated by perjured imperialism under the excuse of “changed conditions” and “necessity”. In reality, the French imperialists have not had the slightest intention of relinquishing their hold, if they could avoid it.

But what has precipitated the conflict has been the obvious encouragement given to the Lebanese nationalists by British Imperialism. It is clear that the capitalist leaders of the Lebanese nationalists would not have taken the bold steps they did, especially when it is considered that the population of the Lebanon is only a million, if they had not been promised support in advance. The French Committee in Cairo openly stated:

“Under the influence of elements who are not so much interested in the independence of Lebanon as they are anxious to push France from these regions, the [Lebanese] Government put a fait accompli before the French National Committee…” (Daily Express, 13th November 1943)

This support was obviously promised by British imperialism. The immediate protests lodged by the British Government with De Gaulle, indicate that this is so. British imperialism comes forth as an altruist interested in the rights of small nations. In Parliament, the Astors and other reactionary former supporters of Hitler came forward in protest against the actions of General De Gaulle. The British authorities in Lebanon, in the army of occupation, have already proclaimed that the French have lost control of the situation, thus preparing the excuse for any action they may take. If the British imperialists were interested in the independence of the Arabs, they have had plenty of possibility of showing this by granting independence to Palestine and other countries. But in India, while paying lip-service to the idea of independence “after the war” the British capitalists have, as brutally as De Gaulle, suppressed the Indian masses for demanding freedom. They have as much belief in De Gaulle's promise “after the war” as they have in their own—that is precisely nil.

The aims of British imperialism in this area are transparently clear. Through their Egyptian quisling King Farouk, they have protested to the French as well as directly themselves. They wish to pose as friends of the Arabs. British imperialism hopes to set up a Pan-Arab Federation under British domination. Lebanon occupies a key strategic position in the Mediterranean. It is in the centre of the rich, oil-bearing regions of the Middle East. It is rather curious that the Regent of Iraq (a British puppet who together with the Egyptian government is pushing the plan for Arab Federation—under British dominance), should be in London at the present time. Reynolds News points out that “the countries considered desirable adherents to the plan, contain most of the oil fields and oil routes of the middle East outside Iran. They are Egypt, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, the Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

It is control of this strategic group of countries that the British capitalist gangsters are after. And it is for the French capitalists to have a finger in this lucrative pie, that De Gaulle is desperately defending. The whole character of the war is shown in this dramatic episode. It is not democracy that Anglo-American and French imperialism are fighting for, but loot, colonies, markets, raw materials and spheres of influence. Yesterday, British imperialism applauded De Gaulle as a great French statesman. Today they are attacking him in the British capitalist press. The reason is clear. De Gaulle has refused to accept the position [as] a puppet of Anglo-American imperialism. He still does not realise the reality of the weak position of the French capitalists and has fantastic illusions [in] restoring French imperialism to as powerful a position as it possessed before the war. But French imperialism has been defeated by Germany. Her dear “ally” Britain, though weeping many tears over this fact, is only too eager to take advantage of it. It is the inexorable law of capitalist power politics. But now the war in Europe is drawing to a close and the defeat of Germany is inevitable. The ruling class is preoccupied by the struggle for positions in the post-war world. From continuing the political and economic war by military means, they wish to transform the military war into the war for their interests by political means.

In peace and war, it is the interests of the capitalists of all the imperialist countries which dictates their policy. The workers of Britain and of the world have been given a dress rehearsal of the world the imperialists are preparing for after the “peace”. Today British imperialists double-cross their French “allies”. Tomorrow, American imperialism will mete out the same treatment to their dear cousin. Both Anglo-American imperialists will treat the Soviet Union in the same way, if they get the chance. Dog eat dog is the law of imperialism. Not “right”, “honour”, “freedom” or “friendship” or the “rights of small nations”, etc. dictates the policies of the imperialist states but the naked calculations of profit.

The friction between the French imperialists and their British allies and rivals was revealed already by the Moscow Conference, when the Allies were meeting to decide the fate of Europe, and the French National Committee were not included in the discussions or given a seat on the “European Advisory Commission”, which is supposed to decide all questions of policy for Europe. It is thus that the fate of all the nations of Europe, little and big, is to be decided. The French National Committee in Algiers protested vigorously against their exclusion.

The antics of the Labour “Lefts” on this question are quite grotesque and out of place. While the Labour leaders are naturally openly and unashamedly supporting British imperialism, the Labour Lefts have placed themselves in the ridiculous position of defending the actions of the French National Committee. And they are forced into this position in order to maintain the fiction of an anti-fascist war. The Stalinists have run true to form in maintaining an even viler and more treacherous stand. The Daily Worker has played down the incidents in the Lebanon and attempted to cover up the real cause of the uprising and of the conflict between the French and British imperialists. To tell the truth, that this is an indication of Allied Imperialism's war aims, would serve to discredit their shameful policy of lies and deception. Hence their support of General De Gaulle, and their frantic hope that this conflict between Britain and France will be settled quickly—inevitably, of course, at the expense of the Lebanese masses. They are afraid that if the conflict develops, it would open the eyes of their own followers as to the perfidy of their policy.

The irony of the situation rests in the fact that French Stalinism, in obedience to the orders of the Kremlin, is just at this moment exerting pressure on De Gaulle, in an effort to force him to accept the role of satellite to the Anglo-American-Soviet bloc. In dealing with the negotiations of the French Communists, with the National Committee in Algiers, for representation in the Committee, the News Chronicle correspondent in Algiers reports on November 13th:

“Following their refusal of a seat on the National Committee, the French Communists have taken the Committee sharply to task for demanding a place for France on the European Control Commission.”

The spokesman for the Communists in this matter is Florimond Bonte, one of the six Communist delegates in the Consultative Assembly and editor of the party paper Liberté. In the latest issue of this paper, Bonte writes:

“We do not know why the National Committee has judged fit, without saying at whom it was aiming, to temper its satisfaction at the Moscow decisions with observations on the future settlement of the fate of Germany.

“The duty of the National Committee, if it wishes to give France the means of playing a prominent part in the concert of free nations, is to augment every day the war effort of the French Empire, to reinforce the morale and the material of the National Army, and to increase the armament of patriots in France…”

Thus the Stalinists, in Britain, France and other countries play the most shameless role. The Turkish press has now taken up the pressure on the French National Committee and has openly warned the French that they will be thrust out of Syria.

“If France thinks she is going to remain in Syria after the war she is mistaken,” writes M. Neomeddin Sadak, editor of Aksham. Turkey here is obviously also playing the game of British imperialism, in return for promised favours, which may have something to do with the discussions Eden had in Egypt with the Turkish Foreign Minister.

Meanwhile, the incident has been a welcome diversion for Goebbels, who is faced with growing mass revolt against the Nazis in Germany. He is using the incident to demonstrate what the real aims of Anglo-American imperialists are and what the German people could expect from them if they were victorious. Thus the imperialists assist one another with their crimes.

British workers must demand that unconditional freedom should be granted to all the Arab peoples, without the right of Britain or France to garrison the “independent” countries of Egypt, Syria, etc. They must aid the Arab masses to fight for an Arab Federation completely independent of all the great imperialist powers. For this is a step in the direction of a Socialist World.