The following letter, in a severely cut form, was published in the current issue of the Weekly Worker.
I am not necessarily complaining about it being cut, as hard-copy publications have limits on space that hardly exist in online publications. However, there are substantial arguments missing from the cut version that obviously have an impact on the debate, such that it is, that is supposed to be taking place on racism, Jews, and Palestinians.
I will say no more at this point, as the arguments speak for themselves.
Tony Greenstein is still peddling the racist pseudo-definition of ‘racism’ against Jews that is used by the bourgeois mainstream to suppress criticisms of Jewish behaviour which would be unquestionable if they were directed at any other people. He states that ‘anti-semitism’ always was concerned with the ‘social role’ of Jews, but fails to explain how criticism of the ‘social role’ of any section of society can in itself be racist. It cannot: except when combined with an ideology that racialises that role, so that the racist element supersedes social criticism. This happened in the late 19th Century when the term ‘anti-Semitism’ was coined by … biological racists as an obviously ‘racial’ term. This was then extended back in time by these racists. In fact, the entire concept of ‘race’ was absent from earlier conflicts.
The narrow defeat of the Scottish independence referendum was seen as a relief by the core of the British ruling class. But in a sense, it is a relief for partisans of the working class also. To the superficially minded, this may seem illogical or incongruous. How can what seems like a victory for the core of the ruling class not be a defeat for the working class? A pointer to this is contained in a salient point once made by the Russian Revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky:
“In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat.” (Learn To Think: A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists, May 1938)
The British ruling class, in its dotage in terms of capitalist de-development and decline, is no longer able to guarantee the coherence of its own national state in the face of centrifugal nationalist forces, including some within its own class, and faces a real possibility of state fragmentation. This might be true, but that does not make it a progressive development.
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.
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.