Centrism and fear over Gaza: “Communists” vote down equality of peoples
Reacting in fear of being falsely branded as ‘anti-semitic‘ by the political mainstream that stood aloof in August in silence while more than 2000 Arabs were butchered in four weeks of carnage by the so-called Israeli Defence Force, on September 14, one small fraction of the British far left showed its lack of revolutionary politics. The Communist Platform, a tiny grouping within ‘Left Unity’ run by the publishers of the Weekly Worker, the almost-as-tiny Communist Party of Great Britain, disgraced itself by voting, in fear of the wrath of the overwhelmingly Israel-loyal British ruling class and no doubt some of its small-scale lackeys on the left, against a key aspect of communist politics: equal opposition to all forms of racism.
This point may at first glance seem subtle or even arcane. but it is not at all. It is a crucial ideological means of manufacturing consent, to steal a phrase from Noam Chomsky, for Israel’s brutality in Western societies. This concept says that Jews are a special people, eternally the victims of racism even when their fellows in the Middle East are the ones doing the overwhelming amount of the killing, and that if anyone protests too loud about this or points the finger at Israel’s supporters in the West, they are guilty of ‘anti-semitism’ – an ultimate form of evil associated of course with Hitler. This facile smear against serious critics is a key method of social control in Western countries today.
Racist philo-semitism, not anti-Jewish racism, is dominant in the West today, and acts as massive social pressure on anyone who tries to meaningfully oppose Israeli crimes. It needs to be opposed, by decent and progressive-minded people, by a firm anti-racism. This should not need saying. But this needs to be a different kind of anti-racism, with the same basic message: the equality of all peoples, but a somewhat different emphasis than in the past. In fact today, this kind of anti-racism is the only genuine kind of anti-racism.
In a society where the ruling class and the political ‘classes’ that act as its executive committee are dominated by philo-semites and Zionists, the key thing that must be emphasised is the essential identity of all kinds of racism. There can be no privileging of one kind of (supposed) racism over all others, as does the dominant conception today. This belief is a distortion of something real from a different historical epoch, that ended nearly seventy years ago. For mainstream opinion, that genocide of Jews means, no matter what happened since, any manifestation of hostility to some Jews for their near-genocidal behaviour today is the worst racism imaginable.
This idea needs to be defeated by genuine anti-racism and communist politics. Those Jews and others who support Israeli crimes today, are every bit as responsible for their actions as supporters of Hitler were in the 1930s and 1940s. For many on the left, it is just about acceptable to say this of non-Jewish supporters of Israel, but to say the same of Jewish supporters of the same crimes is ‘beyond the pale’.
The following text addresses that problem head on. It was rejected at the meeting of supposed communists that took place on Sunday. It was actually put forward to the meeting in the form of an amendment to an existing motion, but most of it should speak for itself to socialists, communists and anti-racists:
1. The Oxford Dictionary Online contains the following definitions of racism: “1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races; 2. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”
Communists regard race as merely a social construct. Yet given that, the above is common to all racism. For us, all peoples are equal and all racism equally to be opposed.
The term ‘anti-Semitism’ is unscientific (Arabs are semites too) and was coined by racists to describe themselves, but originally signified hatred of all Jews. It has since undergone ‘definition-creep’ by Zionists and their apologists. Its current meaning condemns prejudice against all Jews, but also meaningful criticism, discussion and analysis, even by other Jews, of oppressive Jewish behaviour against others.
E.g. criticism of the Jewish bourgeoisie for operating across national lines in oppressing Palestinians is equated with the Protocols of Zion, which posited a conspiracy of Jewish capitalists and communists to dominate the world. Bourgeoisies everywhere ‘conspire’ against their enemies, along and frequently across national lines, like “a real Freemasonry vis-a-vis the working class” (Marx). Such equations of analysis of normal capitalist behaviour with racist ‘conspiracy theory’ can only come from centrist agents of the bourgeoisie.
Communists reject a separate category of ‘anti-semitism’, distinct from and wider-cast than actual racism against other peoples. We consider this a racist concept, giving representatives of one people a weapon against criticisms whose legitimacy no one on the left would question if made against other peoples. It is an ideological weapon against the Palestinians, preventing understanding of, and struggle against, their situation.
We equally oppose racism against Jews, Arabs, Blacks, Irish, and all peoples, as defined above. All racisms share this definition – hostility to all in the targeted group.
2. All forms of racism as defined above, including anti-Jewish racism, are incompatible with membership of the Communist Platform. The privileging of so-called anti-semitism, based on an entirely different definition as noted above, is a violation of the principle of the equality of peoples and thereby a form of racism, and is also incompatible with Communism.(1.)
One thing that was very noticeable during the recent one-sided Gaza massacre was that the more exposure was given to the horrendous crimes of Israel’s armed forces, the more the population of the Western countries saw the horrendous suffering of Palestinian people, the destruction of entire families, the many children wantonly killed, the deliberate targeting of places where desperate people had already fled from previous places of terror, the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure like Gaza’s sole power station, etc .etc, the louder grew the caterwaul about so-called “anti-semitism” in the West.
It is an obvious attempt at a diversion from the tremendous exposure of Israel’s crimes, and vicious racism of its supporters. In France, in the early stages of the Protective Edge slaughter, the fascist Jewish Defence League managed, through a violent attack on pro-Palestine demonstrators using a synagogue as their base, to start a battle around the synagogue and thus lay the basis for the French government to ban Palestine Solidarity demonstrations on Paris, at least for the first week or two of the slaughter. The cry of ‘anti-semitism’ went up immediately. Within a week or so, there was a rally of several thousand mainly Jewish demonstrators, dancing around with exuberance and celebrating the bombing of ‘Hamas’ (and of course the Palestinian people too).
In this country, there were three major Palestinian solidarity demonstrations, the third of which was around 150,000 strong. At the base of society, there is a great deal of flux around the Israeli issue/ For decades there has been a growth of popular awareness of just how barbaric are both Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, and their intentions for the future, in a context where the whole idea of any peace deal, as was touted in decades past, looks like a sick joke.
But whatever is going on at the base of society, the political class is very distant from it. This was shown by a flash of lightning that lit up the landscape of politics in this country very sharply. On 29th August the Respect MP, George Galloway, was posing in the street with some well-wishers when he was violently attacked by a “Jewish carer”, one Neil Masterson, who has since admitted to the attack. George was initially suspected of having sustained a broken jaw, it seems it was merely dislocated but he did sustain broken ribs also.
It is not so much the nature of George’s injuries, which were fortunately limited, but which conceivably could have been far worse. It is rather the intent and the brazenness of the attack on the most prominent left-wing MP in Britain, and an outspoken critic of Israeli crimes. It was a brazen statement that those who loudly criticise Israel have no rights which supporters of the established order are bound to respect. The political reaction – or rather lack of one – said this as well.
What really illuminated the nature of mainstream politics was the response: zero statements of solidarity or sympathy from any mainstream politician, be it high or low, party leader or humble backbencher. None at all. Only Caroline Lucas of the Greens, outside of the mainstream as is George, tweeted her public support for the victim of a brutal crime by a fascistic element emerging from Israel’s supporters. The response in the Jewish and pro-Israeli media was hardly one of moral condemnation of the attack, rather it ranged from hypocritical regret that such things may backfire to make life more difficult for Jews, to euphoria and celebration.
The silence of Labour MPs. in particular, was deafening. George Galloway after all is a former long-time Labour MP. One would think that the principles of the workers movement would dictate rallying around in solidarity from people who at least sometimes claim to be socialists and to represent the working class. But fear dictates silence: Galloway has been branded an anti-semite by Israel’s supporters in the ruling class, and every MP of the mainstream parties is painfully aware of the possible cost to their future career of being blacklisted by their respective party’s ‘Friends of Israel’ faction. Above all, they fear being branded as an anti-semite, even by the degree of association in defending a prominent victim of similar smears, by the most powerful gang of organised racists on the planet.
As indeed with the ‘tails’ of such people on the far left. It is actually very hard to find a comment on this anti-democratic attack in the websites and publications of the far left. a minuscule note in the ‘In Brief’ column in Socialist Worker is one of very few items I seem to be able to find. One tendency that did comment and issue a statement of condemnation of the action was the Alliance for Workers Liberty. But its perfectly obvious that this is simply because they worry that that if they were to try to avoid the issue like so many of their compatriots on the left, given their past record of cheerleading for imperialist witchhunts against Galloway, it would be widely assumed that they applauded the action of the assailant. Something that could be very damaging in future for someone claiming to be on the left.
In this context, avoiding the issue out of fear, comes the Weekly Worker/CPGB. In the couple of weeks, as I was being prepared for a purge by the capitulators to Zionism in the leadership of this sadly misled organisation, I did repeatedly bring to their attention by email and verbally the importance of this issue. At the meeting on Sunday one of their younger loyalist cadre claimed that it had somehow slipped off the agenda of the editorial board of the Weekly Worker, which is why a left-wing weekly newspaper had managed to produce two whole issues since the assault without even mentioning it. He assured the meeting that my allegations that they had ducked the issue out of fear were totally false, they had simply forgotten about it. Rest assured, they would finally remember to issue their long-overdue condemnation of the attack in the coming issue.
So how on earth does a supposedly communist organisation ‘forget about’ a violent criminal assault on the most prominent left-wing MP in British politics, with an explicitly political motive linked to his outspoken criticism of such an atrocity committed with the support of the British government? And how on earth do they explain waiting three weeks to issue such a condemnation, so long that by now it has actually become old news?
There is only one explanation for this that makes any sense at all: they did not ‘forget’ but chose not to comment on it, for the same reason that all but one of Galloway’s fellow MP’s failed to condemn it or comment upon it. Such things do not happen by chance. If such a condemnation does appear this week, its lack of impact and political irrelevance will be obvious.
It is being done to try to disarm criticism from this supposed ‘anti-semite’ that their failure to defend Galloway, like their witchhunt against myself for putting forward an analysis of the Jewish question quite consistent with the writing of the most celebrated Marxist writers on the Jewish question, such as Marx himself and the great Abram Leon, was driven by fear and cowardice before the ruling class.
But it looks weird. Why wait three weeks if this is not the accurate explanation for the delay?
One thing is clear: if you can’t stand up to the ruling class over this offensive against so-called anti-semitism, which condones bloody violence against critics of Israeli killings, but instead try in your own feeble manner to enforce prohibitions on robust criticism of such crimes yourselves, then your outfit does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of building a genuine communist party.
Its a shame, because the formal idea is good~: build a Marxist Party where would be Marxists can publicly criticise wrong positions within the framework of a common party project. But however good the idea, at the core of it there must be a genuinely revolutionary nucleus.
All the CPGB has is a somewhat spineless centrist clique.
The strange thing about the argument underlying this is their view that my motive for coming up with this supposedly ‘anti-semitic’ analysis was … too fervent anti-racism and anti-imperialism. This is hard for them to hide as I have been using their own paper to criticise their tepid ‘third campism’ and anti-anti-imperialism right from the early days of the Communist Platform. I did not see the bloc as a non-aggression pact with them, but as a device to sharpen up my critique of their politics and engage in argument at close quarters. But their leading figures did not like this, and soon came to regret the bloc, particularly since my polemics from the outside played a real role in helping opposition to crystallise internally against the indirect, disguised capitulation to Scottish nationalism involved in their ludicrous line of advocating a boycott of Scotland’s independence referendum, rather than taking a principled position opposed to nationalism that would make them unpopular with the wider reformist left.
That is part of the underlying motive for this purge, with more senior comrades engaging in demagogy and exploitation of liberal guilt over the Jewish question – still very common in the UK – to rule out serious debate about the ethnocentic nature of Zionist politics, as opposed to the fraudulent left patter that is is just a variety of old-fashioned colonialism. Apparently Jews are much nobler than any other people, and are incapable of ethnocentric politics, and it is racist and a conspiracy theory to say that wealthy Jews with positions of social power in different imperialist countries are capable of intervening in politics according to an ethnocentric, i.e. racist project.
The argument that someone can be too much motivated by anti-racism and anti-imperialism, and in the absence of the CPGB’s own quirky rendering of ‘class politics’, can be driven by this fervent anti-racism to embrace anti-semitism, is self-contradictory. But it clearly implies that the anti-semitism talked of here is not racist. Logically it could not be, otherwise the person so characterised by too-fervent anti-racism would obviously spot this (it would be pretty damned obvious if it were!), and would therefore apply his fervent anti-racism to that also.
This argument is the CPGB’s tacit admission that the ‘anti-semitism’ that they are objecting to in their motion (see footnote 1) is not racist. Rather, they are objecting to criticism of a people who are essentially beyond meaningful criticism. In other words, this argument is their own tacit admission, inverted but clearly visible in their own self-contradictory theoretical structure, that their own argument is in its own way a racist one. In other words, it is a tacit admission that the characterisation in my amended version of their motion (see above) is a correct interpretation of their views and their subservience to the bourgeoisie.
I invite serious observers and students of socialism, anti-racism, anti-imperialism and other such matters of world historic importance to examine my theses, their argumentation, my argumentation, and decide for yourselves who is right. Think it through, study the relevant works. These are matters of some world-historical importance and profundity, even if they are captured in a microcosm in this dispute.
The original motion which this was meant to amend read as follows:
1. Advocacy of anti-Semitic ideas is not the exclusive preserve of the far right. As can be seen with the writings of Proudhon and Bakunin, there is a left anti-Semitism too. Sadly that is still the case.
2. There are those, who, for example, explain US backing for Israel on the basis of discovering a so-called “pan-imperialist Zionist bloc”. The “traditional” imperialist bourgeoisie nowadays supposedly “defers and follows” the “leadership of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie.”
All variants of this conspiracy theory – antisemitic or otherwise – are reactionary because they implicitly exculpate US imperialism.
The claim that Jews do not constitute a nation within Israel but they form a “semi-national identity” globally is false and it is indeed what Zionist ideology claims.
3. Such regressive politics do nothing to defend besieged Palestinians. Anti-Semitism, especially its leftwing version, plays directly into the hands of the Israeli government, its Zionist supporters and social imperialist apologists.The claim that Israel represents “The Jews” world-wide and acts on their behalf is common to Zionist ideology and to antisemitism.
Zionist ideology draws the conclusion that opposition to Israel (except perhaps that of the mildest form) is anti-semitic.
The antisemitic anti-Zionism of fools draws the conclusion that The Jews worldwide share culpability for Israel’ crimes.
4. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with membership of the Communist Platform.