This demonstration has been called by the Stop the War Coalition this Saturday. The political basis for this is fundamentally inadequate and somewhat evasive, as it is not simply ‘Iraq’ or ‘Syria’ that is under attack here, but rather the new radical Islamist polity that calls itself the ‘Islamic State’. Hardly surprising given the influence of social-pacifism on the left today. Still, it is a start and all anti-war activists and socialists should be encouraged to participate, not to accept these politics, but to find ways to go beyond them toward the genuine communist politics that we need.
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.
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.
This set of theses will be presented for discussion at the meeting on 14th September of the Communist Platform of Left Unity
1. Of all the advanced capitalist/imperialist countries today, Israel is second only to the United States in the threat it poses to the future of humanity. It is an artificial imperialist entity introduced into the Middle East from without, and consolidated though the expulsion of the bulk of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population. As a result it is in a state of permanent conflict with the Palestinians, who have a dual national consciousness both as Palestinians and as part of the national aspirations of the Arab peoples of the entire Middle East.
Israel is built entirely on territory stolen by force from a native population that is on a much higher cultural level than the indigenous victims of earlier settler states associated with European colonialism, such as the United States and Australia. Its conflict is with Arabs who have a modern national consciousness and greater cohesion than virtually any dispossessed indigenous people. Israel has therefore armed itself to the teeth and become a garrison state, stockpiling likely hundreds of nuclear weapons, and threatens the population of the semi-colonial Arab states that surround it with destruction should it fear loss of supremacy.
I recently received a missive from Tony Greenstein, who is trying to fill in for the failure of Moshe Machover to refute the Marxist character of the views I have been arguing on the Jewish Question. Greenstein spends comparatively little time criticising my own views, though this is an improvement on Moshe, who spent none at all. Then he launches into another tirade against me for daring to engage politically with Gilad Atzmon. However, despite the mind-bending nonsense he comes out with on this, that will surely give anyone who attempts to read it a headache, he does make a couple of political criticisms of myself that are worth responding to, and hence gives me an opportunity to elaborate my views in more depth.
Actually, a meeting is in preparation at which these questions will be discussed in the Communist Platform. At that meeting, I intend to move a set of preliminary theses on the Jewish Question today, based on an extension of the insights of Karl Marx and Abram Leon into that very important question. It will be something of a challenge for those who are currently reacting to social pressures of the same kind that led to the criminal, violent assault on George Galloway, to argue that my views are not Marxist and in some way incompatible with Communism. I would contend that, to the contrary, the views of my opponents are incompatible with Communism and a capitulation to the pressures of modern imperialism, of which the Jewish/Zionist bourgeois layers in the advanced capitalist countries are a vanguard layer.