In a recent discussion on the left blog Socialist Unity, about the events surrounding George Galloway’s February appearance on BBC Question Time, its initiator Andy Newman made an important political point. Galloway’s appearance was the occasion for a blatant attempt by Zionists to attack the right of an elected Member of Parliament to propagate his views and those of the Respect Party in a national, televised forum.
During the Socialist Unity discussion, the question of Galloway’s interview and political engagement with Gilad Atzmon, the ex-Israeli Jazz Musician and outspoken critic of Israeli racism and ‘Jewish ideology’ was also discussed. It should be noted that, unlike many others on the left, Socialist Unity do not go along with the Zionist demonisation of Galloway and its mainstream trend are virtually uncritical supporters for some of his weaker sides politically, i.e. his left reformist politics. However, the positive side of this is that the poisonous Zionist-influenced hysteria against Galloway and Respect is absent.
The following exchange illustrates the pointless and self-defeating effect of political dishonesty in communist politics. In bourgeois, i.e. capitalist politics, the point of political activity is to bolster and defend the position of a small, exploiting minority, the owners of capitalist property, against the great mass of the population who have no such wealth. It is obvious that this kind of politics would necessarily be replete with corruption and mendacity, since the maintenance of injustice and social and economic inequality requires fooling the mass of the population to acquiesce in their own victimisation and exploitation. The only way to do this is by systematic lying, in order to create and promote myths, and also to create and maintain divisions among the working-class majority.
Communist politics, on the other hand, has truth as its only weapon. In order to understand the real situation, the mass of the population need to have a accurate picture of political, social and economic relations, which can only be developed over a long period by a political leadership that uses truth as its main weapon. Such a politics is fundamentally different from bourgeois politics. Whereas bourgeois politics promotes mystification and lies in the interest of a minority, communist politics must ruthlessly tear away mystification and expose all social lies. If a would-be communist organisation begins to engage in lying itself, it digs its own political grave, since the only basis on which it can garner and keep support on a healthy basis is through this process of exposing difficult truths.
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.
This is a significant political event, that will no doubt lead to further demonisation of George Galloway by the ruling class, the Zionists, and the various capitulators to Zionism, philo-semites and Islamophobes on the left. It is a fascinating interview, between two important and prominent left-wing but non-Marxist figures, notably Britain’s most radical left-reformist MP and the famous artist/musician whose insights into the Jewish/Israeli question need to be critically but positively engaged with as part of developing a Marxist programme that takes account of the concretes of world politics today.
George Galloway and Gayatri Pertiwi interview ex-Israeli political writer/thinker and jazz musician, Gilad Atzmon, Sputnik (Russia Today) #59, Jan 3 2015. Followed by Miss H, soul singer and DJ.
The comment below was recently received in response to the Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism that was published on this site in September. The issues raised are on a qualitatively higher political level than most previous responses received to these theses, and therefore require as full a political reply as possible. So I am turning the response to them into a separate item, in order to address the issues posed properly. Comrade Eric’s comment reads in full as follows:
The problem with this materialist analysis is that there isn’t a material connection between the American-Jewish bourgeoisie and the state of Israel. Or rather there is a connection but it is of no particular significance compared with the connections between the American bourgeoisie and other states in general. Israel is not the state of the Jewish bourgeoisie. It does not defend Jewish property throughout the world.
That many of today’s top capitalists in America are Jewish is surely of some significance in determining American orientation towards Israel and foreign policy in the Middle East in general. But if, for example, we look at Sheldon Adelson, the most notorious Zionist fundraiser and lobbyist, we find that he was not a Zionist until 1988. (See http://theweek.com/article/index/229275/sheldon-adelson-7-surprising-facts-about-2012s-biggest-donor). Such individuals play the role of philanthropists, party funders and lobbyists but their attachment to Israel is ideological rather than material and is thus plastic. Indeed until 1967 Jewish elites in America had very little interest in Israel at all. It was the ten day war that transformed Israel into a strategic asset and allowed Jews to express support for Israel without fear of being accused of dual loyalty. Norman Finkelstein locates 1967 as the year when the Holocaust Industry kicked off. Continue reading
The torture report on the CIA is an exercise in damage limitation. Realising how much the supposed ‘excesses’ of the Bush administration and the stratagems for US/Israeli world domination of the neocon Project for the New American Century have damaged the self-proclaimed moral authority of US imperialism, the Democratic Party are using this report, of the CIA’s Inspector-General, to try to distance themselves from some of the crimes of their predecessors.
It is cynical hogwash on the part of the Obama administration. This report was commissioned apparently in 2004, under Bush. Its findings were suppressed earlier but ultimately, in the aftermath of US imperialism’s obvious failures and defeats in Iraq and the wider Middle East, it became untenable for an American bourgeois establishment that is not (as yet) prepared to openly break with the formal pretence of democracy, to suppress these facts indefinitely. Not if it wanted to continue the hubris and chutzpah that makes US Presidents believe they have the authority to lecture the world on ‘human rights’.
Below is an edited version of a political response I posted on the Google/Usenet group alt.politics.socialism.trotsky, which appears to be heavily influenced by a current around Stephen Diamond (former member of the US Workers League from many years ago), VN Gelis (a long time Greek Trotskyist who, when I encountered him in the 1980s, was a supporter of the Archeo-Marxist Greek Workers Vanguard group), and their co-thinkers. This current combine a left-wing, anti-capitalist rhetoric with a virulent anti-immigrant nationalism that leads them to be politically soft on all kinds of deeply reactionary imperialist forces who are hostile to immigration.
I have no interest in a shouting match with them over this, as one could have a shouting match with all kinds of reactionary- and racist-minded people in numerous parts of the internet if one sought them out – it would be a waste of precious time, effort and energy. But I strongly suspect that these views are, at least in part, the result of a flawed understanding of Marxism and misunderstanding of current social and economic reality. Those kinds of things are worth debating. Such errors and misunderstandings give meaning to the commonplace that ‘the road to Hell is frequently paved with good intentions’. In that spirit, it may be fruitful to debate with this current, who though badly flawed in their nationalist responses, are at least in a flawed way, partially addressing real issues.
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.
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.