Jack Conrad’s Anti-Communist Witchhunt over Gaza
Some of the arguments used to justify the recent witchhunt in the Communist Platform of Left Unity by the Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain/Weekly Worker are a dead give-away about the anti-communist nature of the purge. They also show pathetic ignorance of the tradition of classical Marxism on the Jewish question. For instance, the assertion in the PCC’s anathema that “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” can only be interpreted as a brazen attack on both Leon Trotsky, who was writing prior to the formation of the state of Israel, and also Isaac Deutscher, who wrote post-1947. Both of these classical Marxist figures, whose boots the leaders of the Weekly Worker trend are not fit to lick, went rather further than considering the Jews as a ‘semi-nation’. Both of them considered the Jews to be a fully-fledged nation.
Trotsky wrote in 1937:
“… the Jews of different countries have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument of modern culture. One must therefore reckon with the fact that the Jewish nation will maintain itself for an entire epoch to come. Now the nation cannot normally exist without a common territory. Zionism springs from this very idea. But the facts of every passing day demonstrate that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question…” (Interview with Jewish correspondents in Mexico, January 18 1937, in Leon Trotsky on the Jewish Question, Pathfinder 1970)
According to Jack Conrad/Moshe Machover ‘logic’, Trotsky must have either been a Zionist, an anti-Semite, or both.
Then there is Isaac Deutscher. He had a slightly different position, which appears to have been developed after the foundation of Israel. Writing sometime around 1966, he wrote:
“It is a tragic and macabre truth that the greatest ‘re-definer’ of the Jewish identity has been Hitler; and this is one of his minor posthumous triumphs. Auschwitz was the terrible cradle of the new Jewish consciousness and the new Jewish nation…. For those who have always stressed Jewishness and its continuity, it is strange and bitter to think that the extermination of six million Jews should have given such a new lease of life to Jewry. I would have preferred the six million men, women and children to survive and Jewry to perish. It was from the ashes of six million Jews that the phoenix of Jewry has risen. What a resurrection!” (Who is a Jew?, from The Non-Jewish Jew and other Essays, Oxford 1968, p50).
Deutscher not only considered Jews to be a nation, he credits the Jewish ‘national resurrection’ to Hitler! And to boot, he makes it quite clear that he would rather that Jewish identity cease to exist. Evidently he must be a vile anti-Semite, and were he to have had the misfortune to be in the CPGB, he would have been excommunicated by its junior-Matgamna understudies as an inveterate Jew-hater.
Then there is the assertion in the Conrad/Machover motion that:
“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.”
My position on this admittedly contains a new element, historically specific to the current time. However, it has its antecedents in classical Marxism. There is Marx’s pungent view of Judaism akin to ‘hucktering’, as worshipping money, and as a “general anti-social element ”, as expressed in On the Jewish Question which Jack Conrad, despite some hypocritical disclaimers, considers to be anti-semitic, making his own strange ‘excuses’ for Marx that he was merely using the prejudiced language of his time, in effect saying that Marx did not know any better. Classical Marxists tend to disagree: Abram Leon in The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation praised “Karl Marx’s brilliant thought” in this essay. Deutscher also had a similar view:
“Marx … surmounted the problem which tormented Heine… in his youthful and famous Zur Judenfrage. This was his unreserved rejection of Jewry. Apologists of Jewish orthodoxy and Jewish nationalism have because of it violently attacked Marx as an ‘anti-Semite’. Yet I think Marx went to the very heart of the matter when he said that Jewry had survived ‘not in spite of history but in history and through history’, that it owed its survival to the distinctive role that Jews had played as agents of a money economy in environments which lived in a natural economy; that Judaism was essentially a theoretical epitome of market relationships and the faith of the merchant, and that Christian Europe, as it developed from feudalism to capitalism became Jewish in a sense.” (The Non-Jewish Jew, ibid, p32)
So Deutscher thought Marx’s ‘prejudiced’ association of Jews with capitalism, money, usury etc.“got to the very heart of the matter”. Such terrible anti-semitism, worthy of expulsion from any self-respecting Matgamnaite/Conradite sect.
The concept of the Jewish bourgeois as a vanguard of the bourgeoisie also is prefigured in Deutscher:
“… Remember what was the occasion on which Malculay pleaded … for political equality of Jew and Gentile and for the Jew’s right to sit in the House of Commons. The occasion was the admission to the House of a Rothschild, the first Jew to sit in the House, the Jew elected as member for the City of London. And Malculay’s argument was this: if we allow the Jew to manage our financial affairs for us, why should we not allow him to sit among us here in parliament, and have a say in the management of all our public affairs? This was the voice of the bourgeois Christian who took a fresh look at Shylock and hailed him as brother.” (ibid, p 39)
“Managing our financial affairs for us” means evidently that Rothschild was considered more competent than the ‘bourgeois Christians’ in exercising this leadership function. Is this not the concept of the Jewish bourgeois, in microcosm, as the most class-conscious section of the bourgeoisie? Such terrible anti-semitism from Isaac Deutscher!
I might add that I do not agree with Trotsky and Deutscher that the Jews are a nation. As someone influenced more by Abram Leon, I consider that what was really involved in the Zionist project was a reactionary-utopian attempt – led by actual and aspiring Jewish bourgeois — to create a new nation out of the remnants of the medieval Jewish people-class. This was a reactionary form of social engineering because the Jews never had the territorial-related attributes to make a genuine nation in the modern sense. However, the successful creation of Israel in this regard constituted a material change – while it did not make Jews a nation – it did create a new state-power to which large numbers of Jews, certainly a majority, had a real quasi-national loyalty. Thus, while it fell short of the criteria necessary to create a nation, this material change created some sort of quasi-national entity, to which the term ‘semi-nation’ seems to me to be the best available approximation.
The concept that like-minded sections of the bourgeoisie, with a common (semi)- ‘national’ project can act across formal national lines to achieve their ‘national’ or class interests is a ‘conspiracy theory’ according to neo-Matgamnaite witchhunters in the CPGB. One wonders how they explain the creation of the Vichy regime during the Second World War, when one section of the French bourgeoisie decided to capitulate in the war and collaborate with the Nazi-German bourgeois state in order to suppress the French workers movement and persecute Jews (such ‘treachery’ was actually pretty common throughout Europe during WWII), while another wing of the French bourgeoisie, personified by De Gaulle, followed the opposite policy and fought the Nazi occupiers along with Germany’s opponents.
Is this analysis of what happened – which is a historical commonplace and obviously true – also a ‘conspiracy theory’ comparable to that outlined in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? If not, why not, since this narrative signifies a more drastic break with formal ‘national’ loyalty than anything any Jewish-Zionist bourgeois have done regarding supporting Israel?
Peter Manson, who never misses an opportunity to defend the British ruling class against accusations of racism whenever such accusations rear their heads, considers that the accusation that Jewish bourgeois components of what Trotsky and Deutscher considered to be a ‘nation’ should behave in the same way in supporting Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians, to be a racist conspiracy theory. But he produces no convincing explanation as to why it is impossible or even improbable that bourgeois supporters of this project could act this way.
Evidently Manson, along with his gurus Conrad and Machover, thinks that, unlike French bourgeois who were prepared to unite with their imperialist rivals in Germany in acts of ‘treason’ to crush French workers and Jews, Jewish bourgeois will refrain from uniting with other Jewish bourgeois across national lines to crush Palestinians and defenders of Palestinian rights in support of a (semi) ‘national’ project that has widespread Jewish support. He also thinks that to investigate the relative weight of such Jewish bourgeois in the US bourgeoisie ‘says more about the person quoting’ these figures than it does about such ruling class figures themselves, and makes the incredible assertion that there are, one assumed in his eyes, principled Jewish ‘anti-Zionists’ in the US ruling class!!!. Palestinian victims of such things may think such assertions say much about the chauvinism, illusions and blindness to oppression of Manson et al.
Manson is again consistent here: just as he defends the British ruling class against allegations of racism at home, he defends the Zionist-Jewish bourgeoisie against allegations of co-ordinated support for oppression and mass-murder of Palestinians abroad. His consistency in both cases is clear – he defends elements of the ruling class against the oppressed and takes ruling class claims of ‘anti-racism’ as good coin and gospel truth. His ‘anti-racist’ posture of contempt here is utterly contemptible, for what he is doing in all cases is defending ruling-class racists from criticism from below, from the oppressed and their partisans.
The meaning of this of course is that Manson, and more importantly his gurus, can only be characterised as centrist agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers movement. I trust they will not consider this Marxist characterisation as also evidence of some kind of ‘conspiracy theory’, but given the low quality of the anti-Marxist arguments used as supplementary means in this blatant effort to suppress and avoid debate, it would be no great surprise if they did say that.
There really is not much more to say about this tawdry anti-communist witchhunt, which would have meant, if such cretinous so-called ‘anti-racists’ as Jack Conrad, Moshe Machover, Mike McNair and Yassamine Mather had been around, the likes of Karl Marx, Abram Leon, Isaac Deutscher, and no doubt others, would have been disposed of also. Conrad says that my positions on the Jewish question mean that my views could only be featured on the letters page of the Weekly Worker, they will not publish any article by me for fear of being tainted by my supposedly ‘anti-semitic’ views.
In fact, this was their position even before this dispute on the Jewish question blew up. Mike McNair wrote a two-part series of articles attacking my views on imperialism in WW as long ago as April. I was denied the opportunity to reply except in the letters page. A substantial critique of aspects of the politics of the early Communist International and Fourth International regarding imperialism was submitted by me shortly afterwards: it was not published because the dominant trend in the CPGB leadership did not like it (it is now on this blog here). I actually applied for membership of the CPGB in June, but was fobbed off on the excuse that aspects of my current personal/family responsibilities supposedly made it unlikely I could satisfy the financial requirements of membership. Some may even see this as a form of sexist discrimination, though I suspect a more straightforwardly political motivation. So actually, their claim to have decided not to take articles from me because of my recent outspoken views on Gaza is a lie. The slanderous allegation of ‘anti-semitism’ is just an excuse for a wider-ranging purge for my anti-imperialist views in general.
It is perfectly obvious also that Jack Conrad was unhappy, to say the least, that my firm and often-expressed opposition to his stupid and anti-Marxist line of advocating a boycott of the Scottish Independence referendum, in favour of supporting a principled ‘No’ vote, helped crystallise opposition in the CPGB to this anti-Marxist absurdity. There is an extensive written record of this in the letters page of WW over the past few months. All this contributed to the real motive for this purge, which was anti-revolutionary and anti-communist, pure and simple.
Another example of this was when, against the opposition of Conrad, McNair and others, on my proposal a positive reference to the Russian Revolution and Paris Commune was included in the founding statement of the Communist Platform in February. Jack Conrad stated that at some point this could be ‘revisited’ and hopefully corrected (in his terms). Actually, you cannot really get more straightforwardly anti-communist than that.
Manson’s point in his article, implying that my analysis of the overrepresentation of Jewish bourgeois in the US bourgeoisie supposedly implies hostility to the important role played by revolutionary Jewish militants such as Trotsky in the Russian Communist movement, is a bizarre slander, given the hostility of the CPGB leadership to positive evocation of the Russian Revolution itself.
In fact, my draft theses on the Jewish question clearly states that the vanguard role of the internationalist-minded Jewish comrades in the workers movement in Russia and elsewhere was a profoundly good and progressive thing. It really takes chutzpah for these anti-communist centrists to try to twist a point made about the racist role of Jewish bourgeois within imperialist ruling classes against the Palestinians, into a supposed attack on the Russian Revolution and its Jewish militants, given the hostility of the CPGB’s leading hacks to the Russian Revolution itself. I suppose Manson, Conrad and others learned such smear tactics in the Stalinist movement.
Though there is little point in Conrad and co changing their Platform: the Communist Platform is dead in any case – it has not recruited a single new supporter in Left Unity since its foundation in February. The membership of the CPGB was evidently under great pressure to vote the same way, irrespective of any doubts (even if not whipped SWP-style, which is not clear), at the meeting of September 14th. The would-be purge motion was obvious framed by Conrad and Machover in such a manner that anyone voting against it automatically put themselves outside both the Communist Platform and the CPGB. Which is evidently why the attendance was pretty low at the September 14th meeting: such bureaucratic purges are not inspiring occasions but only produce demoralisation and decline.
Pity their purge motion was rendered inoperative by a principled amendment, causing the CPGB ranks to merely vote against their own democratic rights, and against the equality of all peoples and forms of racism, after I had left the platform. My amendment pointed out the racist nature of the dominant privileging of ‘anti-semitism’ above racism to encompass meaningful criticism of oppression of other peoples by Jews. Manson incredibly contends that this is not the dominant discourse in British politics concerning Israel. In that sense, as indeed in so many others, he is an apologist for the racism of the imperialist bourgeoisie and part of that discourse himself, with his comrades.
A couple of other examples of the appalling politics behind the CPGB’s purge is in the document Yassamine Mather – a key architect of the purge – put forward for ‘discussion’ at the Communist Platform meeting on the 14 – after my theses on the Jewish Question had been ruled out of order by means of their thought crime motion, with its implicit threat against anyone voting against it. Mather’s document effectively rejects the collective ‘right of return’ for the Palestinian victims of ethnic cleansing, but it does by means of typical centrist double-talk:
“… for a democratic settlement to be possible, Palestinians must have the right of return. This is a right of habituation decided upon individually, or by family group. It is not a demand for a folk movement of the entire diaspora – which now inhabits not just Jordan, Kuwait, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, etc, but the US and many countries in Western Europe too. Communists demand substantial compensation for the Palestinian people as a whole from the state of Israel for the historic injustice that was perpetrated upon them.”
So atomised individuals and families are generously given the right to return, but not the Palestinian people as a whole who were expelled as a people, not individually. This essentially subordinates Palestinian rights to the ‘rights’ of those who took away their land, a position that does not even defend consistent democracy. Despite some florid, rhetorical condemnation of the recent Gaza massacre as ‘an outrage’ against ‘democratic opinion’, it expressed its ‘understanding’ for the Israeli-organised bloodbath in the most disgusting terms.
“Israel lives alongside those it dispossessed in perpetual conflict and war. Understandably, the Israeli population feels under siege and therefore willingly – desperate and maddened – supports, urges on, even the most misjudged acts of Israeli state terrorism in the vain hope of crushing the Palestinians and ending the perpetual state of conflict, war and oppression.”
This is a disgusting apologia, and not simply for the word ‘understandably’ which is applied here to grossly inhuman behaviour like Israeli Jews sitting in deck chairs on high ground overlooking the Gaza Strip and cheering on the IDF as it bombed the hell out of Palestinian civilians. Applying the word “understandably” to this activity is very indicative of which side Mather’s sympathies lie, and it isn’t with the Palestinians, that’s for sure. But what is even more disgusting is the implication that the Israeli population is supporting “crushing” Palestinians in order to end “conflict, war and oppression” If she had been around in the 1930s, with this method, she would have no doubt have been charmed by Hitler’s sometime claim that all he wanted to do was bring ‘peace’ to Europe.
At least when Germany was engaged in the mass murder of Jews, its population was living under a draconian dictatorship, and reasonably feared torture and death at any sign of opposition. These people are cheering on bloody murder in conditions of political freedom (for Jews only) and Mather says that they are doing it ‘understandably’ and with the aim of ending conflict, war and oppression(!!!)
With these views, it is no wonder she was so keen to see me removed from the Communist Platform. I would have been a dangerous opponent of the adoption of these disgusting views.
The other indication of the real driving force of this purge is the CPGB’s attitude to the criminal attack by a fascistic Jewish extremist on George Galloway on 29th August. I first raised this event at a CPGB seminar the following day. I was shocked to find that there was no mention of it in the Weekly Worker issued the following Thursday, four days later. I raised this repeatedly on email, circulating two different articles: one from a principled Tory (!) journalist, condemning the attack, and one from a fairly middle-of-the-road blogger satirising the lack of condemnation from any mainstream MP’s for this violent and anti-democratic assault. At the September 14 meeting I raised the absence of condemnation again, the retort was that this had been an oversight, the WW Ed board had somehow ‘forgotten’ the issue, and it would be in the following issue.
It was no real surprise that, among the Matgamnaite crap about supposed ‘anti-semitism’, there was still no mention, let alone condemnation, of the Galloway assault the following week. That means three weeks and no mention of this blatant attack on free speech.
What is abundantly clear that, far from defending the rights of free speech of radical opponents of Israel’s terror against the Palestinians, which have come under attack on the basis of utterly false and mendacious allegation of ‘anti-semitism’ against those targeted, the CPGB/WW has decided to join in the attack. Failing to condemn a blatant, criminal assault on the most radical left-wing MP in Britain, along with every other Tory, Labour, Liberal, Nationalist MP with the honourable exception of the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, shows that the CPGB/WW have utterly betrayed their supposed commitment to free speech and defending democratic rights, in fear of being branded ‘anti-semitic’ by the bourgeoisie and its more influential agents in the workers movement.
Thus the CPGB itself, in terms of its real world activity, as opposed to its vapid and hypocritical rhetoric, joined in the pro-Israel imperialist backlash against the exposure of Israeli crimes, and conducted its own mini anti-communist witchhunt as part of what in France is called the ‘Sacred Union’ in support of Israel and its own ruling class.