Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question concretely today9
22/08/2015 by socialistfight
“The Jewish bourgeois were exceptionally well-suited for capitalist success because the social role of Jews as commodity-traders, and later money-traders and lenders: a ‘people-class’ in the phrase of Abram Leon, the great Belgian-Jewish Marxist theorist of the Jewish question, in medieval Europe prior to the emergence of capitalism, gave them the cultural advantage of a much older tradition in commodity economy than the ‘native’ ruling classes.”
Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question concretely today
Zionism is the cutting edge of bourgeois reaction today. It is not simply a Middle Eastern matter, but plays a major role in the politics of advanced capitalist countries with much larger populations and formal social and economic weight than Israel. It is not possible for political people not to notice this today; those who do downplay its significance act from social conditioning, not addressing the real world.
The role Zionists have played in the attempted witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign is glaringly obvious. So is their role in British politics in general. In the last parliament, 80% of Tory MP’s supported the Conservative Friends of Israel. Leading figures in Labour like Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are involved with Labour Friends of Israel, whose sponsor list is a roll-call of Blairite neocons and war makers. The Lib Dems were similarly affected. This gives immense power.
Zionism is a Jewish nationalist-communalist project; its supporters are highly conscious ethnocentric activists with a material base in terms of capitalist property, within the ruling classes of several imperialist countries, as well as Israel. This caste has acquired major moral and political influence among much wider layers of the imperialist bourgeoisie. If this were not true, Zionists could not have the influence they do in the current situation.
Things were once very different. At one time if a politician such as Jeremy Corbyn had been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ as is happening now, he would have been lauded by the right, not vilified.
In nearly three quarters of a century, the political axis of the Jewish question has been largely reversed. Before WWII, anti-Jewish hatred was the most potent weapon of reaction. Now, philo-semitic prejudice that excuses the oppression of non-Jews by Israel is hegemonic, and Zionists are the vanguard of injecting anti-Muslim, anti-Arab hatred into the body politic of the Western countries. They have the strength to vilify bourgeois politicians who put a different view, as many, from Jimmy Carter to the former Lib Dem MP David Ward could verify.
Recently, archived film was made public showing the late Queen Mother and the future Edward VIII teaching the present Queen Elizabeth, then a seven-year-old princess, how to do the Hitler salute. No one with any seriousness or integrity on the left at the time would have counselled the working class to ignore the specific racist project within the ruling class that this kind of event signified. But today, when for instance the Royal ‘ambassador’ Andrew Windsor is implicated in a sex and corruption scandal involving prominent Zionists, few dare highlight the similar implications of this to the earlier ‘scandals’ involving the establishment and the Nazis. They fear being accused of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Marxism is as hostile to genuine anti-Jewish racism as to racism against any other people. This means hatred of people of Jewish origin irrespective of their views and behaviour, in the same sense as those who express hatred of those with darker skin, or whatever. But where Jews are concerned, this is rather rare today.
Instead fake-allegations of racism against Jews have become a sure sign of support for, or capitulation to, the established order, including by currents in the workers movement who are ultimately servile to capitalism. One sign of this is the increasing frequency in which even critics who are of Jewish origin, particularly those who point out the social power of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste in Western societies, are accused of ‘anti-Semitism’: in effect, absurdly, of racism against themselves.
Since the dawning of the period of neoliberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.
This contrasted with the earlier period of capital, when the Jewish bourgeoisie, actual and aspiring, were often feared and hated by non-Jewish capital. The Jewish bourgeois were exceptionally well-suited for capitalist success because the social role of Jews as commodity-traders, and later money-traders and lenders: a ‘people-class’ in the phrase of Abram Leon (who was murdered in Auschwitz), the great Belgian-Jewish Marxist theorist of the Jewish question, in medieval Europe prior to the emergence of capitalism, gave them the cultural advantage of a much older tradition in commodity economy than the ‘native’ ruling classes.
At the same time Jewish militants played a prominent and progressive role in the bourgeois-revolutionary and workers movements in the 19th Century. This grew out of the oppression of Jews in the late medieval period, when they were expelled from trade, driven into pariah roles such as usury, and segregated in ghettos.
The confluence of this radical tradition with fear of the prowess as competitors of the Jewish bourgeois, led at the beginning of capitalist decline and the imperialist epoch, to a reactionary demonology about ‘conspiracies’ between Jewish communists and Jewish bourgeois; the worldview of the Protocols and ultimately Hitler.
But the outcome of WWII, and then the rise of Israel, destroyed this worldview among the imperialist bourgeoisie. What took its place was an emerging understanding that the Jewish bourgeoisie was an important reserve for the survival of capitalism itself, particularly in its ability to see beyond narrow national horizons and look out for the interests of the bourgeois class on a broader basis.
As a distinct caste, this depends on the Zionist project for its internal coherence; without it this caste would disappear through assimilation into the separate imperialist bourgeoisies. The end of ethnocracy in Israel would spell the defeat of this extra resource of imperialism, which today’s Western ruling classes value highly indeed.
This is why the Palestine question is not just another question, but something crucial for the bourgeoisie which invites a similar level of opprobrium for those who challenge Zionism to those who defended the Russian revolution. It is doubly necessary for class conscious workers to support the liberation of Palestine, not simply to resolve another national question, but to strike a blow against capitalist domination itself. And a correct materialist understanding of the Jewish Question is likewise crucial for this.
Some questions and Answers
Question: If Socialist Fight is right on Zionism’s special relationship to global finance capital what programmatic implications does this have? Granted that the special relationship between Israel and the USA is based on common citizenship of leading finance capitalists in the USA and Europe how does it alter our approach to the USA? Does it mean that we specifically target Jewish capital?
Answer: Not all Jewish capital. But we do want to expose that a specific part of Jewish capital has an ethnocentric interest in the dispossession of Palestinians, and thereby combating the defenders of Palestinians including the left. Look at the Corbyn witchhunt stuff and what is driving it. This agenda is driving reaction in the imperialist world. Here in Britain also, not just in the US.
Question: Does not change attitude to US or Brit imperialism but does add an additional layer to imperialist politics?
Answer: If we were to ignore this concreteness we would not be able to explain the specificities of the Corbyn witch-hunt, among many other things. Or EDL fascists carrying Israeli flag. Or many other obvious phenomena.
Of course the flag of Zionism is carried by some fascists, who specifically to target Muslims and to support Zionism’s murderous assaults on Gaza, but explicit anti-Semitic fascism has not gone away. Other fascists carry the Palestinian flag, but they really are in a small minority. The demonstration which planed to march against the “Jewification” of Britain in Golders Green on 4 July was diverted to central London. The “White Man March” was organized by the neo-Nazi group National Action, led by the white supremacist Joshua Bonehill-Paine. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) organised the opposition to the march opposite Downing Street in Whitehall on that day.
The counter-demonstration was dominated by the Israeli flags and two huge Zionist flags attached to two huge Union Jacks. Gerry Downing wore a Palestinian top, unaware of the real nature of the CAA. When the fascists showed up they carried a Palestinian flag. Carol Foster, a SF supporter who is Jewish, said to me: “I think we should leave now, I am very uncomfortable here”. Whilst I get many hostile looks for my Palestinians top there was no direct aggression. A woman came up to me and said, “well done, I wish I had brought my Palestinian top too”. This type of pro-Zionist anti-fascism, which has a very specific anti-Palestinian content has to be vigorously opposed.
As we explained in yesterday’s flyer this Lamarkism is pernicious nonsense whose popularity is down to Richard Dawkin’s reactionary book. This is the caption to the image in the Guardian: “The team’s work is the clearest sign yet that life experience can affect the genes of subsequent generations”. Rubbish!
The Selfish Gene, Zionist propaganda and today’s (22/8/2015) Guardian
The cod science that is reflected in the selfish theory can be seen in a story in today’s (22 August 2015) Guardian. Here is the nonsense:
Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.
The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war. They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” – the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.
Abraham Leon (1918–1944) (born Abraham Wejnstok), was a Jewish Trotskyist activist and theorist. He was born in Warsaw but his family moved to Belgium where he grew up. Leon became a member and then leader of the Belgian branch of Hashomer Hatzair, a left wing Zionist youth movement. In 1940, after the beginning of World War II, Leon rejected Zionism and became a Trotskyist; around this time he joined the Belgian section of the Fourth International and became an organiser and leader against Nazi occupation and the “militarism” of Winston Churchill, exhorting Belgian workers to fight both Hitler and Churchill in the classical Leninist fashion of turning World War II into civil war. He wrote The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, a work which remains a widely used Marxist analysis of Jewish socio-economic history.
Leon was arrested by the Nazis in June 1944; he was subsequently deported to Auschwitz where he died of illness in September.
[…] Click here to read the full article on Socialist Fight […]
Congratulations to Socialist Fight for its courage in exposing the international ethnocentric project behind Zionism!
One point I’m not sure I understand: “the special relationship between Israel and the USA is based on common citizenship of leading finance capitalists in the USA and Europe.” Surprisingly few American and European finance capitalists have actual Israeli citizenship, despits its being easy to obtain. [I don’t have a ready explanation.]
Actually I think the sentence Stephen quotes over-simplifies the situation and is a little unfortunate. It was actually a paraphrase of a question asked to one of our comrades by someone who was disagreeing with us, not a considered statement of SF.
Statistics about who exactly has Israeli citizenship in the diaspora are not published as far as I have been able to find out, and even less are they broken down sociologically. But what we do know is the criteria of the law of return, which grants citizenship to anyone born overseas who is considered Jewish by the Israeli state, who goes to Israel and asks for it. Shlomo Sand put it this way:
““It is enough to make a short visit to Israel, readily obtain an identity card, and acquire a second residence there before returning immediately to their national culture and their mother tongue, while remaining in perpetuity a co-proprietor of the Jewish state – and all this for simply having been lucky enough to be born of a Jewish mother.”
Sand was not speaking abstractly, but on the basis of well known facts about what actually happens. In terms of the Marxist understanding of the state though, those bourgeois that exercise this right become ‘co-proprietors’ of the Israeli bourgeois state. Whether they are predominantly ‘finance capitalists’ is not possible to say for sure. But whether they are or not, they are a part of the ruling class that has an overlapping stake in more than one state.
In a sense though, whether or not such people go to the trouble of obtaining citizenship is not the main issue. Arguably, even if they have not done it yet, it is still a special privilege open to them by virtue of birth and able to be exercised pretty much at will. So it makes sense to regard this right even if it is not currently exercised, as still amounting to the same thing in practice. It still gives a material stake in the Zionist state to those entitled to exercise it. Arguably so by default. Only for those who decide on a point of principle to renounce it could this be said to be untrue. But how many bourgeois would have such anti-nationalist convictions? Very few I would judge. And even for that ‘very few’, if they exist, convictions can change. They are still bourgeois, and have that privileged bourgeois relationship with a bourgeois state that bourgeois have in any case. Which is a power relation, whether actual or potential.
Jewish financiers who aren’t Israeli citizens are severely limited in the amount they can contribute to Israeli political campaigns. What I don’t understand (I don’t mean this rhetorically) is why a Sheldon Adelson doesn’t take out an Israeli citizenship.
[If the international Jewry were Israeli citizens and ran Israeli politics, then it would be Israel’s ruling class.]
Isn’t this a minor tactical matter from his point of vjew though? Possibly even with its motivation in the USA, not Israel (e.g. in some spheres, dual citizenship being frowned upon). The Israeli citizenship is his for the taking any time he wants it. Stephen’s point actually backs it up in a way, though it would not be ‘international Jewry’ per se, but its bourgeois element that would be the ruling class, as I am sure he would agree.. The point is that the ruling classes overlap, and where there is overlap mediated through this citizenship means, all kinds of individual quirks are possible.
[…] unbylined article on Downing’s Socialist Fight website, which Downing himself tweeted, is […]
[…] government is even less clear cut in the case of Downing. The references to Downing’s essay misquote its title; and none allude to its content, at all. It was not called “we must […]
[…] off the hook. As was the case with Gerry Downing and the Socialist Fight groupuscule, with their crackpot theory about the vanguard role of the “international Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie”, her genuinely […]
[…] Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question concretely today […]