by Ian Donovan
(Reblogged from Socialist Fight)
Socialists (and anti-racists more generally) have to confront the role of political Zionists as the chief promoters of open racism today. This means open racism, not racism in general. There are many other types of racists active in the advanced capitalist countries, but with the exception of the political Zionists they largely operate in an obscured, cryptic manner in terms of political discourse.
We have to do this because we do not reduce all questions involving oppression in a vulgar manner to economic relations alone. Working class politics is more complex than that, and class and social antagonisms are refracted through, and often obstructed by, a substantial overlay of questions resulting from other complex types of oppression that cannot be simply reduced to ‘class’. As Lenin put it over a century ago, when dealing with often very different concrete questions, but of the same type:
“the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iii.htm)
The following text is the rewritten statement of political purpose of Socialist Fight, a magazine initiated by a grouping led by comrade Gerry Downing, a long time Trotskyist whose political origins were in the Workers Revolutionary Party. The magazine has now broadened out its political basis and I have agreed to join the editorial board. This re-written statement contains some important departures from some characteristic political weaknesses of the Trotskyist movement.
In particular, attention should be drawn to items 20 and 21 in the statement, which in effect argue for a different type of party model from that of the Trotskyist movement, and indeed different also from that movement’s progenitors in the early Communist International. In explicitly recognising the right of members of a revolutionary party – which we seek to build – to engage in public debate, criticism and disagreement about matters of theoretical analysis, and about strategy and tactics, the statement goes beyond the flawed model of the Third (and by political inheritance, the Fourth) International.
This petition statement, defending Alison Weir against poisonous attacks by Jewish chauvinists on the left, has gained quite broad support. I am reblogging this from Louis Proyect’s Unrepentant Marxist blog.
To his great credit comrade Proyect, a socialist of more than 40 years standing, has publicised this case. Despite numerous differences with comrade Proyect on many questions, his courage in standing up for Alison Weir against the particularly virulent strain of ‘left’ imperialist chauvinism put forward by the gatekeepers of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste within the imperialist bourgeoisies, is to be applauded.
It is a sign that the techniques of these psuedo-left ranting bigots, of purges, threats and abuse resembling Healyism are backfiring. These are directed against those who seek to analyse and discuss the peculiar AIPAC (and similar) phenomenon in the imperialist countries. It is good to see them coming unstuck on a broader level.
Reply to the RCIT – 1
Correcting Errors Trotskyism inherited from the Third International
The following is the first of two replies to comrades from the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, a international grouping of Trotskyists from various traditions, which is a split from the international tendency around the British Workers Power Group, the League for the Fifth International. This tendency has also the adherence of an Israeli grouping, the International Socialist League, whose main leader, Yossi, has a long and complex history of associations, including with the Spartacists, the Grant/Woods tendency, and the US League for the Revolutionary Party.
This first item tries to address, among other things, the flaws in contemporary communism that have led to such a dazzling array of splits, which itself is deeply damaging to the left. The second item takes up some of their positions on Israel and its relationship with US imperialism and its other imperialist allies, and has particular relevance to the views of their Israeli group.
The new phenonemon represented by the SYRIZA/ANEL (Independent Greeks) coalition has not been theorised by the left as yet. The question of the coalition with the Independent Greeks is something of crucial importance, which has to be addressed theoretically and programatically.
My strong suspicion is that even those who are most enthusiastic about the politics of SYRIZA are uneasy about it. Various people have expressed real reservations about it, saying it is a bad sign, that it will not last long, etc, and they may well prove to be right about that. But no one has offered a theorisation of what is going on here.
Lets be very clear. This is a popular front government, and the situation is very dangerous. It could be just as dangerous as the Chilean Popular Unity experience for the working class. Though that is not certain; there are some complexities and differences also.
A shortened version of the letter below was published in the Weekly Worker of 22nd Jan. Given the evasive response of Peter Manson, and the furious but even more evasive (and apolitical) response from Tony Greenstein in this week’s paper, I reproduce the original here. As people will see, it was radically cut, despite being solicited in this form by the editor of the paper himself. Which is of course the editor’s prerogative, in a way. Though one slightly unsavoury aspect of the way the paper is put together is that material is sometimes trimmed in a way as to blunt or distort their political content, and a ‘reply’ is then put together that exploits the problems caused by the editing.
Be that as it may, a reply will be sent to Manson’s evasiveness on the main point: the contradiction between claiming to stand for the Palestinian ‘right of return’, and the demand for the ‘right of self-determination’ of Israeli Jews, i.e. their right to maintain a state created by the exclusion of the Palestinian majority from their own country. It is not possible for even the most evasive centrist confusionists to do both in the real world.
From Al Akhbar
Palestinian activists affiliated with local popular resistance committees in the villages northwest of Jerusalem on Saturday broke open a hole in the illegal apartheid wall to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“No matter how high walls are built, they will fall. Just as the Berlin Wall fell, the wall in Palestine will fall, along with the occupation,” the popular committees said in a statement.
The activists said that their aim in destroying the wall was also to stress that Jerusalem is an Arab and Palestinian city, and that neither the construction of the apartheid wall nor Israeli military reinforcement could prevent Palestinians from reaching Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque.
The activists also called upon Palestinians to unite and take part in the battle for Jerusalem, and to defend the al-Aqsa mosque and all Islamic and Christian holy sites.
Shlomo Sand’s new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew (Verso, 2014), as he says, an extended essay (of just over 100 pages), is something that may come to be seen as very significant in years, maybe even decades to come. This Israeli writer and academic is someone of considerable courage who has braved death threats and opprobrium in Israel, not just for support for the rights of the Palestinian people, but also for his attempts to analyse the history and myths that provide the ideological, and insofar at those ideologies grip people and social classes, material basis for the oppression of the Palestinians.
Sands has written scholarly works that question in historical terms the idea that Jews were seen as in any sense a nation prior to an attempt to create a nation-like mythology for them during the mid-to-late 19th Century. His work The Invention of the Jewish People resurrected from obscurity several facts that are very inconvenient for Zionist ideologues – such as the fact that there was no exile of Jews from Palestine in late Roman times, andthat the so-called Jewish diaspora around the Mediterranean, later spreading throughout Europe and the Middle East/North Africa and even wider, was the product of widespread proselytism and conversion, not exile.
He reiterated the long-known, but historically buried understanding that many, if not most, Jews of East and Central European heritage had their ultimate origin, not from the Levant, but rather from Khazaria, an early medieval kingdom and empire of Turkic origin in the far Eastern fringe of Europe, roughly coinciding with today’s Ukraine and Caucasus region, that was converted from above by its monarchy around the 8th Century. He therefore concluded, in a manner that is really very devastating to the entire Zionist project and the racist myths that justify it, that the Palestinians were much more certain to be descendants of the ancient population of Hebrews, whose state Israel claims to be the resurrection of, than the Jewish population whose armed settler movement created Israel. This resurrection of facts at least some of which were once acknowledged by many, including by many early Zionists, turns the entire rationale for Israel upside down.
He was also the author of a sequel, also highly regarded but perhaps less well-known, titled the Invention of the Land of Israel, as well as a number of shorter essays on similar topics.
The historic importance of his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, is that is a part of the crystallisation of a trend among radical intellectuals of Jewish and often Israeli origin that offers the potential to provide an opening whereby the Israel-Palestine conflict can be resolved in a democratic manner. This means as a matter of democratic principle that it has to be resolved through the restoration of the full rights of the Palestinians. Sand represents a part of this broad trend, with some differences, whose most prominent representative up to now has been the Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, representing people of Jewish origin who have come to recognise that the secular Jewish identity, which was the basis of the Zionist movement that created Israel, and which is still the mainstay of Israel’s ruling class, is empty and self-contradictory, and insofar as it has a political manifestation, harmful.
At first sight, the title of Sand’s book seems impossible – no one can ‘stop being’ a person of Jewish origin, any more than someone can stop being black, European, Chinese, or of any other ethnic background. But for Sand, it is not his ethnic origin that he is renouncing, but something else. One weakness of his book is that it is not entirely clear what, if it is not an ethnic origin, Sand is renouncing and ceasing to be.
During the first half of the 20th century, my father abandoned Talmudic school, permanently stopped going to synagogue, and regularly expressed his aversion to rabbis. At this point in my own life, in the early 21st century, I feel in turn a moral obligation to break definitively with tribal Judeocentrism. I am today fully conscious of having never been a genuinely secular Jew, understanding that such an imaginary characteristic lacks any specific basis or cultural perspective, and that its existence is based on a hollow and ethnocentric view of the world. Earlier I mistakenly believed that the Yiddish culture of the family I grew up in was the embodiment of Jewish culture. A little later, inspired by Bernard Lazare, Mordechai Anielewicz, Marcel Rayman and Marek Edelman – who all fought antisemitism, nazism and Stalinism without adopting an ethnocentric view – I identified as part of an oppressed and rejected minority. In the company, so to speak, of the socialist leader Léon Blum, the poet Julian Tuwim and many others, I stubbornly remained a Jew who had accepted this identity on account of persecutions and murderers, crimes and their victims.
Now, having painfully become aware that I have undergone an adherence to Israel, been assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters, and have appeared in the world as one of the exclusive club of the elect and their acolytes, I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew.
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.