Letter to Weekly Worker on Gerry Downing’s Expulsion7
19/03/2016 by socialistfight
Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph, in the Sudan in March 1993.”No human being in the planet needs to die from starvation, dirty water, lack of health care or lack proper education to develop their potential to the full.”
Socialist Fight is grateful to Weekly Worker for its solidarity against the witch hunt against me and for publishing my full appeal against expulsion. And to Paul Bloom for correctly rallying against the witch hunt, whose target is the leftist surge that saw Jeremy Corbyn elected as leader. And to Jim Grant who rallies against the expulsion in a principled way but is opposed to “Gerry’s anti-imperialism” which is he thinks, “needless to say, confused in the extreme”. He sets out his own views of anti-imperialism which are, like Tony Greenstein’s, not anti-imperialist at all but based on various moral and political judgements which totally ignores the anti-imperialism of the masses as if no serious Marxist should address them self to that.
No human being in the planet needs to die from starvation, dirty water, lack of health care or lack proper education to develop their potential to the full. All the technology and all the means to deliver it to everybody on the planet exist right now. But it cannot happen because global imperialism centrally located in Wall Street and its European and Japanese allies must have its profits and so this cannot be organised and planned. That’s why it’s not the third world “terrorist” that cause the central problem for humanity but US world imperialism. So I will not lie and make the small terrorist the central enemy when it is the great USA terrorist and its global allies who are that problem.
It is futile to give us the long lists of how reactionary are those that imperialism now want to bomb and defeat are. History is full of these ‘Frankenstein monsters’ that imperialism sponsored at one point only later to turn against; Haile Selassie, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and Al Assad to mention just a few. We did know all about the CIA and the Saudis sponsoring Al Qaeda, and ISIS etc. All bourgeois nationalists and all past and present Stalinists are reactionary forces who only fight imperialism when they absolutely have to in order to stay in power or alive. The goal of their struggle is to forge a better deal with imperialism. Putin is doing that right now over Syria and he would sell out the Donbass in the morning if he could get a deal that secured his borders. Such forces have no principled opposition to imperialism so spare us the details of how bad ISIS etc. are Jim and Tony – we know.
The aftermath of the Rwandan 1994 genocide was that now they speak English, or rather American, and not French. Humanitarian leftism manipulated ideologically by the USA to allow its client Uganda to expand its base of operations in Africa.
But those who are fighting imperialism right now are by definition anti-imperialist and their struggle gains some legitimacy in the eyes of the masses they control because they see that struggle as genuine to some extent at least. Supporting your own imperialist power against ANY other force is pro-imperialist, Jim and Tony. No exceptions for truly nasty ISIS, Serbs, Hutus, etc. When those wars are over that some leftist supported on a ‘humanitarian’ basis, the USA is always the clear winner and the third world country the clear loser. And it is to the anti-imperialism of the masses we must orientate, to them the tactic of the anti-imperialist united front is pitched, from above AND below. Neither Jim nor Tony make a single mention of the masses, they do not assess the difference between the anti-imperialism of bourgeois nationalist ruling class or cast and the anti-imperialism of the masses or ever consider how to drive a wedge into that relationship to forge a new revolutionary leadership.
On the phrase the 9/11 hijackers “must never be condemned” the argument was that the cause of 9/11 was violence by the US in the Middle East and justified anger against it. I wrote “Only it is the justified outrage of the oppressed as opposed to the outrage of the oppressor, one violence is that of the slave and the other is that of the slave-owner. One is progressive, no matter how distorted its actions are, and must never be ‘condemned’, imperialism is the violence that holds the whole planet, or almost the whole planet, in thrall, and that violence can never be supported by serious Marxists in any circumstances.” I never condoned the killing of innocent civilians and never would. It is the causes to which I referred. I would not expect a ruling class ideologue to concur with that sentiment but it does deserve to get a proper hearing.
The assertion that Jewish millionaires and billionaires have extraordinary influence in the ruling classes of the US and Europe in general is obviously true. Why is not so clear but possible explanations we have advanced if divided loyalties as a result of dual citizenship of the own land of birth and Israel. Marxist hold that such national questions will be resolved when the exploitation of one class of human beings over another is ended. It is not antisemitic to believe this but it is definitively anti-Zionist.
Greenstein’s article is far worse than Grant’s on the question of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, making the direct equation between Nazism and Socialist Fight in his use of the phrase “the socialism of idiots”. I am not an anti-Semite and neither is Ian Donovan. I have never said an anti-Semitic thing since I became politically active and conscious in my mid 20s some 40 years ago. The understanding of the Jewish Question in the Marxist tradition is a long one since 1843 and I defend it and affirm I stand in that tradition. Most of the stuff about us is right Labour, Tory and Zionist distortions.
Socialist Fight has Black and Jewish supporters who will attest to my personal stances on this. We got better treatment than this from the outright Zionists of Community Security Trust, (CST) “a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats” than some on the left give us:
“One of the curiosities of the Labour Party under its current leadership is that pundits need to familiarise themselves with Marxist theory that many assumed had become obsolete a long time ago. In that spirit, this blog post will provide a (very) brief guide to what Trotskyists mean by the ‘Jewish Question’.
This isn’t the same as the Nazi’s Jewish Question which led to the Final Solution. Trotskyists do want Jews to disappear, but not via genocide. Instead, they have theorised Jews out of history, and get upset that Jews refuse to go along with this theory and perform their historical function by disappearing.”
He is not accurate in his final remark, Trotsky did consider a homeland for persecuted Jews under socialism as a global system but always opposed the Zionist project. Here are his remarks on it in 1937:
During my youth I rather leaned toward the prognosis that the Jews of different countries would be assimilated and that the Jewish question would thus disappear in a quasi-automatic fashion. The historical development of the last quarter of a century has not confirmed this perspective. Decaying capitalism has everywhere swung over to an exacerbated nationalism, one part of which is anti-semitism. The Jewish question has loomed largest in the most highly developed capitalist country of Europe, in Germany.
On the other hand the Jews of different countries have created their press and developed the Yiddish language as an instrument adapted to 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 to us that Zionism is incapable of resolving the Jewish question. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine acquires a more and more tragic and more and more menacing character. I do not at all believe that the Jewish question can be resolved within the framework of rotting capitalism and under the control of British imperialism.
And how, you ask me, can socialism solve this question? On this point I can but offer hypotheses. Once socialism has become master of our planet or at least of its most important sections, it will have unimaginable resources in all domains. Human history has witnessed the epoch of great migrations on the basis of barbarism. Socialism will open the possibility of great migrations on the basis of the most developed technique and culture. It goes without saying that what is here involved is not compulsory displacements, that is, the creation of new ghettos for certain nationalities, but displacements freely consented to, or rather demanded by certain nationalities or parts of nationalities. The dispersed Jews who would want to be reassembled in the same community will find a sufficiently extensive and rich spot under the sun. The same possibility will be opened for the Arabs, as for all other scattered nations. National topography will become a part of the planned economy . This is the grand historical perspective that I envisage. To work for international socialism means also to work for the solution of the Jewish question.
You ask me if the Jewish question still exists in the USSR. Yes, it exists, just as the Ukrainian, the Georgian, even the Russian questions exist there. The omnipotent bureaucracy stifles the development of national culture just as it does the whole of culture. Worse still, the country of the great proletarian revolution is now passing through a period of profound reaction. If the revolutionary wave revived the finest sentiments of human solidarity, the Thermidorian reaction has stirred up all that is low, dark and backward in this agglomeration of 170 million people. To reinforce its domination the bureaucracy does not even hesitate to resort in a scarcely camouflaged manner to chauvinistic tendencies, above all to anti-semitic ones. The latest Moscow trial, for example, was staged with the hardly concealed design of presenting internationalists as faithless and lawless Jews who are capable of selling themselves to the German Gestapo.
Since 1925 and above all since 1926, anti-semitic demagogy, well camouflaged, unattackable, goes hand in hand with symbolic trials against avowed pogromists. You ask me if the old Jewish petty bourgeoisie in the USSR has been socially assimilated by the new soviet environment. I am indeed at a loss to give you a clear reply. The social and national statistics in the USSR are extremely tendencious. They do not serve to set forth the truth, but above all to glorify the leaders, the chiefs, the creators of happiness. An important part of the Jewish petty bourgeoisie has been absorbed by the formidable apparatuses of the state, industry, commerce, the cooperatives, etc., above all in their lower and middle layers. This fact engenders an anti-semitic state of feeling and the leaders manipulate it with a cunning skill in order to canalize and to direct especially against the Jews the existing discontent against the bureaucracy.
On Biro-bidjan I can give you no more than my personal evaluations. I am not acquainted with this region and still less with the conditions in which the Jews have settled there. In any case it can be no more than a very limited experience. The USSR alone would still be too poor to resolve its own Jewish question, even under a regime much more socialist than the present one. The Jewish question, I repeat, is indissolubly bound up with the complete emancipation of humanity. Everything else that is done in this domain can only be a palliative and often even a two-edged blade, as the example of Palestine shows. January 18, 1937
Comradely Gerry Downing
Bracketing all of his Jewish-chauvinist hysteria, what mainly exercised Greenstein in his lead WW piece is the observation that the ethnicity of portions of the ruling class can bias imperialist policy. (One wonders whether he would apply this to, say, the Saudi Arabian ruling class.) Socialist Fight offers a theory of interlocking ruling classes to explain ethnic influence. Without making a final judgment on the theory, I would say – insofar as its role is to refute the argument that a role for the ethnicity of capitalists is antimaterialist – the theory may be unnecessary.
Cde. Downing, before being persuaded by Ian, laid out the alternative answer. Capitalist policy often shows strong biases depending on the individual histories of the political actors circumstantially pressed to the fore. The reliance on Israel in anti-Soviet foreign policy helped secure key positions for Zionists.
Moreover, rotting capitalism has nasty consequences for the use of power. Any billionaire can, should he choose, make a major impact on imperialist policy. This has to be reckoned a source of late-imperialist adventurism.
Materialism does not require that there be a current “materialist explanation” for the role of Jewish ethnocentrism. Marxism doesn’t tell us that, when Jews constitute a third of the ruling class, that ethnic allegiances, cemented by the still not distant experience of Nazism, cannot play a major (if historically temporary) role in the alliances imperialism forges.
This does make relevant the critique of Jewish culture. The likes of Greenstein above all insist that Jewish culture remain a sacred cow on the left. One is tempted to speculate that someone like Greenstein declares himself anti-Zionist mainly because he resents Israel’s hutzpah in claiming to speak for him as for all Jews.
This comment also appears on the AJ Byrne thread. For clarity’s sake, and for the benefit of those reading this thread, have copied the salient part of it here:
One further development on this is that Tony Greenstein has given some important ground to defending Socialist Fight against the witchhunt, which is welcome, and lays the basis hopefully for a more rational and fraternal debate in the future: I am currently writing a substantial reply to comrade Greenstein’s recent material and other similar material, which hopefully will l finish soon. But here is comrade Greenstein’s welcome statement, part of a reply to a Zionist tirade by the Guardian’s inquisitor Jonathan Freedland, giving at least qualified support to our democratic rights within Labour:
“There was another Labour expulsion this week, of Gerry Downing. The obvious point to make is that the expulsion is a disgrace. Downing was expelled by post, with no notice, not told what the charges were, not invited to present a defence and told he had no right of appeal against the decision. A Kafkaesque affair. Freedland omits to mention all of that.”
“I don’t personally agree with Downing on the position he takes but I have no doubt, having met Downing, that he is not personally anti-Semitic. The problem is he is politically confused, a confusion caused by the Zionist insistent that support for Israel is bound up with being Jewish.
Indeed just this week I penned an article for the Weekly Worker criticising Downing’s political position, Confusing the question – Zionism, Jewish identity and the ‘socialism of fools’ http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1098/confusing-the-question/ and blogged on him too Gerry Downing, Anti-Semitism and the Socialism of Fools – Confusing the Jewish Question and Zionism http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/gerry-downing-anti-semitism-and.html
“Downing is wrong to think that there is a ‘Jewish Question’ or that it has any bearing on the issue of Israel. His belief that there is a separate Jewish component of western ruling classes is absurd and can lead in an anti-Semitic direction, but who is it who raises the question of Jews every time Israel is mentioned but Jonathan Freedland’s good friends in the Zionist movement? Does not Israel call itself the Jewish state? Does Israel not appropriate historic Jewish religious symbols like the Star of David as its own nationalist emblems?”
These remarks, which seem to presage at least the possibility of a rational debate on these questions, are a welcome development coming from Tony. Its a debate we are keen to pursue.
Stephen’s point about whether Zionist influence in the ruling class of the US is incidental is interesting, but also vitiated by the fact that the material interest and dual citizenship does make such relationships systemic and hereditary. They are a fact, which cannot be wished away when analysing this.
I suppose you can look at Trump’s campaign and draw the conclusion that sheer wealth and braggardy can buy individuals a lot of influence, but Trump, arch-reactionary swine that he is, has a lot of very sophisticated bourgeois enemies who are highly likely to pull him down.
I do think that when this is repeated in country after country then you are talking about something that is more solid than incidental. As Greenstein points out in one of his recent attacks on us, the main people administering the suppression of much Palestinian solidarity activity in France, Hollande and Vallis, are not Jewish.
But the thing is that my theory does not necessarily require the people directly involved in this to be Jewish. It is not a racialised theory in terms of its actors: it is rather a theory that also deals with the moral authority of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie among the wider bourgeoisie. The likes of Hollande and Vallis do not act as direct ethnocentric agents, though their actions in practice serve the ethocentric project of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie. They act from conviction as labour lieutenants of capital, conviction that the interests of capital are best served by defending the ethnocentric interests of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie. This is because, as I said previously, that section of the bourgeoisie are seen by the bourgeoisie in a broader sense as a key asset of the system itself.
One can get the impression that Sheldon Adelson and his family are the lynchpin of the Zionist lobby. Do we know that Israel would enjoy the same status but for Adelson?
[On billionaires in general: Did the Koch Brothers create the Tea Party Movement? To what extent is ISIS the product of a few Sunni billionaires?]
A billionaire who seriously wants the presidency cannot be outspent, since there’s saturation point for campaign spending. We have yet to discover how serious is Trump.
[I’m intentionally ignoring some of your points for the moment.]
Also, Soros and the colored revolutions comes to mind.
Let me reply briefly to your broader point on overlapping ruling classes. The problem is this doesn’t actually explain what it is intended to explain. Why do we see the spectacle of U.S. presidential candidates swearing allegiance to AIPAC? The answer Ian’ theory gives is that the Jewish section of the U.S. ruling class is also the ruling class of Israel. But let’s concede that’s the case. This would make Israel a colony of the imperialist countries, not the idol of their ruling classes. Where do we see imperialist rulers having a governing stake in another country? Where there is deep imperialist penetration of that country!
Let’s try a thought experiment to explore the obvious explanation instead. Imagine that 40% of U.S. billionaires were Armenian-Americans. Do you think this wouldn’t strongly bias U.S. foreign policy toward Armenia in its disputes with, say, Turkey? The Sunni character of the Saudi ruling class certainly influences its conduct.
Why should it be different with the Jews? Why wouldn’t “Jewish money” be telling for Israel?
“The answer Ian’s theory gives is that the Jewish section of the U.S. ruling class is also the ruling class of Israel. But let’s concede that’s the case. This would make Israel a colony of the imperialist countries, not the idol of their ruling classes. Where do we see imperialist rulers having a governing stake in another country? Where there is deep imperialist penetration of that country!”
No, it does not make Israel a US colony. Because the Israeli bourgeoisie is also imperialist and includes part of the US ruling class that is also imperialist. Similar relationships also occur in other imperialist countries. This is a fundamentally different type of relationship to that between semicolony and imperialist state. Also, the two ruling classes overlap. That does not make them identical. This is interlocking imperialisms.
The other factor is the moral authority of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie among the wider imperialist bourgeoisie. This is a decaying and outlived class that is conscious of this and looking for a saviour. Cult-like political developments are possible among the bourgeoisie. They are not confined to small, highly class-conscious but politically isolated Marxist groups.
The thought experiment with Armenia is chimerical. As the old saying goes: “If my Auntie had bollocks, she’d be my Uncle”.
Let’s look at this more closely. The entire Jewish capitalist class is the ruling class of Israel – together with the native Israeli ruling class. Now, what is their relative weight in the Israeli ruling class, the foreign Jews versus the Israeli Jews? [You would, it seems to me, want it both ways. The Israeli Jews dominate, so that the interests of the other Jews are subordinated to Israel’s interests, and the foreign Jews dominate, so that they can be moved to transfer their loyalties partly to Israel.]
Also, I don’t understand your refusal to entertain the thought experiment. The purpose is whether there’s any need for a theory that explains the Zionist thrust of imperialist policy. Your tendency is to deny that capitalists can have strong incidental loyalties.