Below is my reply to two letters in last week’s Weekly Worker, from Moshe Machover and Stephen Diamond. Machover’s contribution was pathetic stonewalling, responding to points made by myself and also (being quoted by me) the noted Israeli historian and defender of Palestinian rights, Shlomo Sand, criticising exclusively Jewish ‘anti-Zionist’ groups for politically strengthening Zionism. Machover just engages in the most pathetic ‘liar’ baiting worthy of the most inept and crazed Trotskyoid sects. Diamond, on the other hand, praised my ‘courage’ in criticising many leftist Jews for transmitting Zionist memes into the workers movement, but also raised some political perspectives I fundamentally disagree with. I will not elaborate here, as the contents are self-explanatory, but what is notable is the inability of the Weekly Worker editor to say anything political to defend his organisation.
Not impressive. After I was driven to withdraw from the Communist Platform in September, the CPGB hopefully intoned that they would be seeking ‘new allies’ in Left Unity. The concrete manifestation of this seems to be their defence of Bianca Todd, who was forced to resign as LU’s principal spokeswoman after a scandal in which a ‘social enterprise’ of which she was a leading light had a judgement delivered against it at an industrial tribunal for failing to give its workers a contract, and failing to pay wages and sick pay, etc.
The CPGB complain that attempts by LU members to get an explanation for this was a ‘witch-hunt’ against Bianca Todd. This leaves a very bad taste in the mouth, as it seems that people who appear complicit in abuses against workers are defended against legitimate accountability, while people who try to put forward militant and revolutionary perspectives to defend oppressed peoples such as the Palestinians from mass murder funded by their own government are witch-hunted by the political charlatans and fake communists who currently mislead the CPGB comrades. In this regard, the top three letters in this week’s Weekly Worker letters page, from Stuart King of Lambeth Left Unity, from Moshe Machover, and from Stephen Diamond, are all relevant to the subject matter in this posting, and should be referred to to provide context.
Reply to Moshe Machover and Stephen Diamond, sent to WW on 17 November
Moshe Machover contradicts himself exquisitely in his latest reply. On the one hand, he says that the notion that the various Jews-only anti-Zionist groups are in some way appealing to Jewish moral superiority is a ‘lie’. On the other hand, he says they are “uniquely qualified” to refute the” Zionist lie” that “Israel represents all Jews” and adds: “Who is better qualified to do so?”.
But whether or not Israel represents “all Jews” would have no relevance were it not for the widespread bourgeois ideology that Jews are morally superior to non-Jews, based on past suffering. Rather than challenge this meme, these groups challenge only Zionism’s monopoly of it. Indeed, who could be better qualified to do so? But the ideology remains unchallenged, and strengthened from the ‘left’.
When challenged, Machover has produced no evidence of prejudice against people of Jewish origin in my arguments. He now instead accuses me of prejudice against ‘Jewishness’. But it seems that a number of prominent people of Jewish origin are expressing similar ‘prejudices’. Not only the usual suspects – Gilad Atzmon and co, but also newer ones like Will Self and Shlomo Sand.
This alone proves that the Spartacist-style heresy hunt that Machover initiated in the Communist Platform, with the help of cowardly pseudo-Communists like Jack Conrad, was not any kind of anti-racist opposition. It was an act of Jewish communalism and chauvinism, against apostate secular Jews and their sympathisers.
Why has Machover not the courage to denounce Shlomo Sand, or Will Self, for renouncing Jewish identity? That is the logic of his anti-Marxist view that Jewish identity, or some forms of it, is progressive? Maybe he could address some of the arguments in my review of Shlomo Sand’s new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew (https://commexplor.com/2014/11/09/shlomo-sand-crystallisation-of-hope/), or review the book himself, and elaborate further?
It is pleasing to be praised by Stephen Diamond for the struggle I have been waging over this question. He parallels my own points in noting that Jews, who were once the target of the foulest bigotry, have now ascended to the top of the racial hierarchy in the US and other imperialist countries.
But there are a number of flaws in his arguments. Firstly, he accepts the description of Israel as an “aircraft carrier” for imperialism, whereas Israel is actually an imperialist power in its own right, and has a distinct layer of its own bourgeois-imperialist supporters in several advanced countries. Thus the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie are not simply “used by imperialism” but are an independent, albeit fragile, imperialist force in their own right. Their unity depends on Israel’s ‘security’ as an ethnocratic state, and therefore the exclusion of the Palestinians from their own homeland.
Diamond is right that the Israelis are “all settlers” – not just the ones in the West Bank and Gaza, and therefore all Israel is occupied territory. Israelis have to accept the primacy of the oppressed Palestinians, since ethnic cleansing and land theft have no democratic content. The trajectory of Sand, Atzmon etc. is a sign that a small but significant layer of Israeli Jews are beginning to do so.
But he is mistaken to refer to ‘open borderist reaction’. My biggest complaint about those, such as the CPGB, who ostensibly stand for open borders, is that they do not accept this for Israel. Thus the demand to free Palestine “from the River to the Sea” is rejected on the basis that the rights of the settlers are more important than those of the oppressed.
The ‘right to return’ of Palestinians, implemented collectively, would mean the implementation of “From the River to the Sea” and an Arab majority, and the “Modern Hebrews”, as Machover calls them (despite their lack of a genuine national consciousness), must either become ‘Hebrew-speaking Palestinians’, or engage in a variant of what in the West is called ‘White Flight’.
It is profoundly mistaken in Marxist terms to conclude from the current state of globalised imperialism, in which the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie do play an important role, that social gains of the working class in the imperialist countries can be defended at the expense of immigrants and other workers in the underdeveloped world.
This strategy of defending social gains within the national state is epitomised by the ‘model’ of workers slaughtering each other in the trenches in WWI. Labour protectionism, which seems to be what comrade Diamond is advocating, leads to further economic protectionism, and in turn to the workers killing each other for their own bosses, and sacrifice of gains this time in the ‘national’ interest.
The current ‘globalised’ imperialism is not superior to the WWI paradigm. But nor is the old model preferable either. It is in the interests of the proletariat to defend migrants against chauvinist reaction under both models, as chauvinism in whatever form paralyses the working class and its ability to fight independently of all wings of the bosses. Since we oppose all chauvinist measures by the imperialists, we must stand for ‘open borders’ in all such countries – including Israel.
I agree with Karl Marx’s view that “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. ” Imperialist capitalism is a reactionary system that has long outlived its utility to humanity. The attempt of the bourgeoisies to roll back history by attacking all social gains of the working class made in the past, is leading to the objective growth of a global proletariat that will in time bring Marx’s vision to life.
Because their system is obsolete, whatever the bourgeoisies do to counter the working class on national levels eventually rebounds against them on the international level, as in different forms the socialist society of the future invades the present. Privatisation and deregulation has led to a considerable globalisation of capital – the only credible Marxist strategy to counter this is through the globalisation of labour.
Weekly Worker editor to Ian Donovan
Sorry, Ian, this exchange is getting rather repetitive. I think we’ll call a halt to it now.
Ian Donovan to WW Editor
I thought you would do that sooner or later. I doubt if you would be stopping the exchange if Moshe were winning the argument.
The repetition comes entirely from him, greeting political points not just by me but also made in a similar context by celebrated authors like Shlomo Sand with the crude retort of ‘lie, lie’, forcing a political explanation from a slightly different angle.
Moshe has not acquitted himself well in this exchange. And only Greenstein has even tried to back him up, without any success. Its telling that none of your members had the bottle to defend him politically, and that the only way you can defend him from being exposed in debate is by ending the exchange.
Incidentally, WW still have not addressed the question of the physical attack on George Galloway by a Jewish extremist in August. Here is how it should be addressed by principled communists. But you are too tame and servile for that.
The next time you engage in some unprincipled or hypocritical attack on GG, I will remind the socialist public of your refusal to condemn the Zionist physical attack on him and defend his right to free speech, despite being urged to do so from within your own sponsored Platform in Left Unity.
You will find it hard to argue that my material responding to Stephen Diamond is ‘repetitious’. It is new stuff. But I guess it would be embarrassing to be criticised for betraying your own key demand for ‘open borders’ over Israel, by someone you recently slandered as in some way similar to people like Dave Vincent (and Stephen Diamond) who oppose ‘open borders’.
‘Open borders’ in Israel would mean that the entire Palestinian diaspora would have the right to return – now. Which means a clear Arab majority “From the River to the Sea”. Enough to give Moshe and Yassamine nightmares, given their joint sponsorship of that Communist Platform motion at the Left Unity conference denouncing the demand to free Palestine ‘From the River to the Sea’.
Incidentally, you should know that if I had been still in the Communist Platform at the time this motion was adopted, I would have withdrawn anyway over this question, of your failing to support open borders and the right of the Palestinian people to reclaim their country from the Zionist ethnic cleansers. On this question, you are on the right wing of Left Unity.
For all your pretence of open discussion, what you really don’t like and will not tolerate is when someone uses the political channels you trumpet as illustrative of your ‘openness’, to oppose your particular prize positions, and refuses to back down and defer politically after some windy denunciation from one of your hacks. In the end, you demand agreement, not principled collaboration where differences exist and are openly expressed.
Thus after Mike McNair published a two part, four page attack on my views on imperialism in April, it was made clear that if I produced a comprehensive reply, it would not be published. Only short exchanges in the letters page would be permitted. This is your right of course, it is your paper. But don’t try and pretend that this practice is any different from the sects you criticise for forbidding real debates in their press.
You have modified this practice: you allow some debates, but rig them by cutting them off if the ‘wrong’ side keeps fighting beyond your point of tolerance (as with the McNair exchange), or worse, seems to be winning the argument (as with Machover). And this is not about my being a non-member, since I applied for membership in June and the grounds for which this being declined were hardly principled politics.
Anyway, no matter. This letter will be circulated via website, email and usenet and though it is doubtful that this particular item will be published hard-copy, there will be a printed journal Communist Explorations launched soon.
In fact, it has been printed and is ready for distribution; I was only prevented from selling it at the Communist Forum last week and the Left Unity conference by an important family matter.
Weekly Worker Editor to Ian Donovan
We have never claimed to publish everything that is sent to us, irrespective of its usefulness or quality (in our opinion, of course).
Ian Donovan to Weekly Worker Editor
I know Peter.
But that is a complete straw man, as I never suggested you should.
I suggest you read what I wrote in a political manner, instead of that of bureaucratic convenience.