The Popular Front after 50 Years: Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine

Khaled Barakat

It was not possible for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to determine its political and organizational vision and its overall strategic objectives alongside its official launch on December 11, 1967, or to address this difficult intellectual task in its first year of birth. This was simply because the PFLP was formed as a coalition of more than one faction and revolutionary guerrilla group that began to emerge and did not consider itself a unified political party governed by a comprehensive central vision and internal laws and regulations.

The nature and circumstances of the launch and its complexities and conditions remained a firm and stubborn brake on the realization of the necessary conditions to launch the intellectual, political and organizational vision of the party, a strategic vision that reflects the essence of its revolutionary project and, above all, justifies its existence and necessity.

It can be said that the first serious and successful attempt at this level was achieved with amazing success after the February 1969 conference and following splits in the Popular Front. This period was accompanied by a state of splits, confusion and an intellectual, political and organizational storm, as well as personal and internal conflicts and contradictions that in some cases almost overwhelmed this new revolutionary party. Especially in the period after the defeat in the aggression of 1967, when almost all Arab regimes, both “nationalist” and reactionary found in support for the Palestinian right a solution and a way to confront the threat of the revolutionary Arab left expressed in this new party. Thus, the PFLP’s vision of life and struggle developed initially on a stumbling, difficult and bloody birth.

The conclusion and outcome of the main and principal ideas that formed the launch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were clearly manifested in the second national conference of the Front in February 1969. In this conference and the following intellectual and political effort, the objectives and identity of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were developed under the name of the Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine.

This Strategy document formed the starting point and the guiding compass of the revolutionary party in its later development. This document has been the legitimate reference for the Front until the present day, and it has been reviewed, critiqued and corrected. This happened at the Fourth National Conference in 1981 and then again at the 1983 session of the Central Committee. Today it has to be re-read, reviewed, updated and widely disseminated again.

Despite the fact that many years have elapsed since its promulgation and despite the fact that the objective realities reflected in some of the texts of the Strategy have changed, the main statements and ideas contained therein remain true and coherent. This historical document constitutes the cornerstone and foundation without which it is difficult to read the history of this party and to understand its relationship, thought and movement, the areas in which the Front was launched as a democratic revolutionary party, and how it expressed the essence of its general intellectual project.

It is not our aim to invoke “history” as a formulaic and rigid text, but we do want to emphasize the need to read this document once again, more than once, if we want to understand the spirit, personality and features of the PFLP without abandoning the tasks and situation of renewal. A courageous, honest and scientific reading depends on theory and practice and the tool of revolutionary knowledge that looks on with a strict eye, stemming from the material reality and its results, lessons and facts.

Thus, the party must measure its ability to invent the new without compromising its essence, because any real innovation must be a product of its environment and expresses an objective need instead of a personal one, that looks toward and anticipates the future.

The strategic objectives of the PFLP are clear and have not changed. All of the documents issued by the conferences of the Front have emphasized this – the change is not in the roots and trunk but in the branches, leaves and twigs. The roots must remain solid and firmly held in the soil. Because “renewal” is sometimes a false cloak carrying false promises, and can come in a reactionary guise, even when presented as “new.” Moreover, sometimes the “new” is in reality an abandonment of the strategy up to the level of defeat.

The PFLP’s strategy emphasizes that we are not starting from scratch. There is no zero point in thought, history and struggle, and the Front is a democratic revolutionary party with a rich historical experience of half a century. It has lived a permanent, continuous experience amid battle and confrontation. The march of half a century of right and wrong, achievements and setbacks, and we want this situation to remain consistent with the general goals of the revolutionary party, a necessary condition for progress and growth.

All of this drives us to stand, think and read our Strategy once more. Because strategy means, in essence, the road, the compass and the goal. Today, we are a half century into the experience of the PFLP. We must reflect, evaluate, draw lessons and answer collectively the question after 50 years: How did we get here? Where are we going?

 Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine