Labour’s soft left shudders before Zionist witchhunt3
21/03/2016 by socialistfight
By Ian Donovan
The witchhunt against Socialist Fight, orchestrated by the Tories, the Labour Friends of Israel and other Zionists and warmongers or capitulators to such, is quite a compliment to our politics. After all, no one on the left believes that Socialist Fight is in terms of its social weight a major force on the left, let alone in British society as a whole. Evidently it is our political positions and ideas that are seen as a threat to the established bourgeois order currently dominated by the neocons, and the most consistent expression of the left-wing impulse that put Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership of the Labour Party.
We are the most consistent opponents of racism, Zionism and imperialism on the left. The Cameron-orchestrated re-expulsion of Gerry Downing from Labour has therefore put the various softer trends on the left, capitulators to imperialism and Zionism, on the spot. Some individuals who claim to be on the left have sided outright with David Cameron. We expect undying enmity from the open neocons in the Labour Party. But it goes further than that.
We have a very soft, mushy and politically heterogeneous left in this country. Many of them are politically left reformist, others vacillate between revolutionary impulses and reformist politics in practice. The latter should correctly be called centrists, and centrism is of very varied political hue: it is always in motion politically, either from right-to-left, or from left-to-right, or in some particularly unstable cases it goes back and forth in repeated political zig-zags. The Labour Party is particularly populated with left reformists and right-wing centrists; to make it more complex some who claim to be on the left are disguised right-wingers or even neocons in all but name.
The re-expulsion of Gerry Downing from Labour has brought out the latent Islamophobia, pro-imperialism and softness on Zionism and other forms of imperialist racism of some on the left in Labour. It does appear that there are moves afoot to comply with the wishes of Cameron and the Blairite ‘Compliance Unit’ by purging him from the Labour Representation Committee. For instance, two who are apparently in favour of such a purge are Owen Jones and Dave Osler. Owen Jones’ attribution of ‘anti-semitism’ to us stems in fact from his own opportunism towards chauvinist and racist sentiments, not his antipathy to them.
Own Jones ‘love bombing’ UKIP: UKIP voters “concerns over immigration” were being used ”to piggy-back extreme free-market dogma”.
For instance, we have his call for UKIP voters to be ‘love bombed’ as part of a campaign to bring support back to Labour. He wrote an ‘Open Letter’ to UKIP voters that engaged in the minimum possible mention of one of the key issues driving support for that party: migration and migrants. He averred “I’m not going to waste your time or patronise you by preaching the benefits of immigration” and went on to note that UKIP voters “concerns over immigration” were being used ”to piggy-back extreme free-market dogma”.
Which may be a tactical or pedagogical device to draw people back to Labour, perhaps. But it ill-behoves someone who claims to be on the left of Labour, being as the Labour Party has itself a pretty disgusting record of ill-treatment and abuse of migrants over many years. It’s the sort of argumentation you might expect from someone on the Labour right, perhaps, approaching those who support an anti-immigrant party by ‘agreeing to disagree’ about immigration, but it’s hardly worthy of a principled socialist who should be trying, as much as possible, to make Labour a party that represents the most exploited sections of the working class, particularly migrant workers.
Dave Osler celebrates winning his libel case: a pro Zionist left Islamophobe
Then there is Dave Osler. He has a long history of being one of the chief ‘independent’ left Islamophobes who hangs around the far left. He also has form as an Islamophobic witchhunter of people who are too militantly anti-imperialist. When George Galloway was libelled in April 2003 as being a bribed tool of Saddam Hussein, by the Daily Telegraph, prior to being expelled from Labour, Osler wrote an article for the Weekly Worker titled “Trial by Telegraph” which basically said that Galloway was probably guilty and “the left should lead the condemnation” (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/477/trial-by-telegraph/).
Galloway subsequently won £150,000 aggravated damages from the right-wing rag for this smear, which was upheld also on appeal. This was of considerable embarrassment for the CPGB/Weekly Worker, so much so that even years later, its leading member Mike Macnair wrote that the CPGB came close to crossing class lines by its publication of Osler’s scab article on its back page.
It is a matter of public record also that I was the person in the CPGB who opposed this capitulation to imperialism, Islamophobia, and in fact Zionism: all the enemies of the anti-war movement, tooth and nail. I wrote the article that sought to correct this appalling deviation from class principle and to defend Galloway, concluding that Galloway deserved militant defence by the anti-war movement on the grounds that “An injury to one is an injury to all” (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/479/galloway-witch-hunt-and-stop-the-war/)
So Osler has form when it comes to supporting witchhunts against militant anti-imperialists. You don’t even have to be a revolutionary Marxist to end up in his sights. As someone who in practice is a soft left, Osler still reportedly thinks of himself as some kind of revolutionary, occasionally and in a dilettantish sense. But this is a joke, he is a pro-imperialist social democrat.
Andrew Coates and Jim Denham: cynics and delusional Zionist right-wingers. Denham defines anti-Semites as those who do not defend Israel within its 1967 ‘borders’.
He is part of a clique of ex-leftists who hang around the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), along with such burnt out cynics and delusional right-wingers like Jim Denham, a confidant of its founder Sean Matgamna, who for a long time has been a drunken, roaring embarrassment, and Andrew Coates. These people are only active online; Osler seems to still have some political activity in the real world. But they are an index of the rotten politics that still infuse the Labour Left; they are actually well to the right of Jeremy Corbyn on questions regarding Israel, imperialist war, and the like and regularly snap to attention when imperialism sends its troops to bomb or invade yet another, usually Muslim country in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’.
These are only flotsam and jetsam who revolve around more organised currents on the left that also act as transmission belts for liberal-Zionist ideology into the Labour and non-Labour left. Two prime examples of this are the AWL and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), which publishes the Weekly Worker. I will address the CPGB’s responses to this witchhunt in another article. In the case of the AWL, they have some influence in the new Labour left and Momentum, and they are characterised by chronic political weaknesses in rejecting some basic Marxist positions on imperialism, and are hence prone to repeating in the Middle East context – central to the witchhunt against Socialist Fight – Islamophobic and pro-Zionist arguments that rationalise their capitulation to imperialism.
So the AWL say, with regard to the expulsion of comrade Downing:
“Whatever one thinks of Downing’s politics, the manner of his expulsion is an affront to justice. It may in some instances be necessary to expel members, but there should be due process and not summary action by an unelected and unaccountable body.
Workers’ Liberty does not think politics such as those held by Gerry Downing on 9/11 and Da’esh have any place in a healthy socialist left.
Worse is Downing’s recent promotion of the openly anti-semitic Ian Donovan, who has developed what he calls a ‘theory’ of a ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’ which makes up the vanguard of the global ruling class. Downing has promoted Donovan on the Socialist Fight website.
We in Workers’ Liberty have been long-standing critics of ‘left anti-semitism’, and have often been in a minority on the left in acknowledging that such a thing exists and needs confronting. Anti-semitism has no place in the labour movement.
But due process does. The unelected ‘Compliance Unit’ cannot be allowed to be the plaintiff, judge, and jury of Labour Party membership. It should be abolished.” (http://www.workersliberty.org/node/26406)
The Alliance for Workers Liberty straddles the barrier politically between ‘left’ neo-conservatism, as most characteristically expressed by the ‘Euston Manifesto’ group at the time of the Iraq war, and the rightist fringe of what passes for the Far Left. The AWL’s echoing of Cameron’s allegations of support for 9/11 and Islamic State (Da’esh) against Gerry Downing and SF are utterly mendacious; but typical of these ‘socialist’ reactionaries who tend to prefer the US and Israel to anyone in the Arab world.
The statement that I am “openly anti-semitic” is utter rubbish. The AWL’s continual drip-drip of allegations of “anti-semitism” against those who refuse to endorse its Zionist politics, which leaders such as Martin Thomas (“the AWL Is a little bit Zionist”), and Sean Matgamna (“we are openly, unashamedly Zionist”) have actually chosen in the past to boast about, flow straightforwardly from its Zionist politics and should be regarded with contempt.
In fact, the AWL speaks with forked tongue in more ways than one when it comes to ‘anti-semitism’. Take this article from 2007 where one of their people lays out their sophistry:
“… apart from a nut here and there, left-wing anti-semites are not racist. But there was anti-semitism before there was 20th-century anti-Jewish racism. And there is still anti-semitism of different sorts, long after disgust with Hitler-style racism, and overt racism of any sort, became part of the mental and emotional furniture of all half-way decent people, and perhaps especially of left-wing people.”
What this really means is that the AWL has a racist position on ‘racism’. To most people, the allegation of ‘anti-semitism’ means an allegation of racialized hatred of Jews. The AWL makes allegations of ‘anti-semitism’ against others on the left knowing full well that most people hearing such allegations will assume that racism is being alleged. But in the small print, you find that ‘anti-semitism’ for the AWL does not mean racism at all. It is a code word for criticisms of political Zionism, that is, a form of racist Jewish nationalism, which the AWL does not like. The AWL thus consciously and deliberately libels others on the left, in the service of Zionism and Israeli ethnic cleansing, knowing full well that the allegation of anti-Jewish racism made publicly is false. In another article I will show that it is not just the AWL that does it, but people to the left of them have done this as well. In particular Tony Greenstein has done it.
The reason that this characteristic AWL smear should itself be considered racist, is that it gives a privileged position in the political discourse to racist, Zionist Jews. Apparently to oppose the existence of an ethnically based Jewish state based on the ethnic cleansing (forcible driving into exile) of the majority Arab population of Palestine is ‘racist’. Because “Jews”, which Israel claims to represent the entire worldwide population of, have the right to “self-determination” and therefore the right to expel the inconvenient Arab majority to achieve it. And extending from that, I am deemed to be “openly anti-semitic” (but in the small print, not racist presumably) because I have produced a materialist analysis of the reasons why Zionists wield enormous power in the US and other Western capitalist-imperialist countries. The AWL’s material on this is tawdry, reactionary rubbish with a great big whiff of class treason about it.
In fact, my analysis (which they describe as ‘anti-semitic’ but presumably not racist) shares some salient facts with their own analysis. In his 1988 Open Letter to Tony Cliff (the long-deceased founder of the SWP), their original guru Sean Matgamna demanded of “honest socialists whose commitment to the destruction of Israel puts them in an attitude of comprehensive hostility to all but a handful of the Jews alive in the world today” that “they look at their own political features…” (https://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/matgamna-to-cliff-it-is-time-you-stopped-miseducating-young-people/)
So for Matgamna, there was nothing reprehensible about noting the overwhelming support of Jews in the diaspora for Israel. As long as you viewed it as a trump card, put a positive sign on in, and used it as a polemical cudgel to smear critics of Israel as ‘anti-semitic’. Apparently, all those many Jews in the diaspora, who sympathised with Israel and endorsed the ethnic cleaning of the Palestinian people on the basis of their own semi-national consciousness and communal interests could not be wrong, let alone racist or reactionary in their views.
Thus anyone who says that support for Israel and its Naqba by the bulk of Jews at this time is wrong, racist and reactionary, must be an anti-semite, because this majority could not be racist or wrong. Just like other majorities in history who have supported or gone along with crimes against other people, presumably, could not be wrong either. Actually I don’t believe that Matgamna would say that. But his argument about Jews does say that. That is why his argument is racist.
Perhaps it is my position that Jews in the diaspora (or at least those with communal loyalty to Israel) constitute a semi-nation that makes me ‘anti-semitic’ for the AWL? But wait, that also is problematic, since Matgamna, along with Denham, has in the past publicly endorsed Trotsky’s view, which is that Jews were not just a ‘semi-nation’, but a fully-fledged nation. Oh tangled web! Yet I only define Jews as a ‘semi-nation’, and attempt to analyse in Marxist terms how the bourgeoisie of that semi-nation acts in the diaspora in the imperialist countries as a caste with a particular ‘national’ project, a very powerful organised bourgeois ‘lobby’ to protect Israel from all meaningful opposition within the bourgeoisie and society generally. The mere fact of analysing that is deemed ‘anti-semitic’ (but in the small print, not racist).
The AWL’s softness on imperialism and penchant for Zionist witchhunts is legendary. But this time they have a problem. For they are targets too. Several of their people, including Jill Mountford, a member of the steering committee of Momentum, have been expelled also by the Labour Right-Wing’s ‘Compliance Unit’. So slightly earlier, when comrade Downing had been reinstated after his earlier expulsion, they featured him on the front page of their ‘Stop the Labour Purge’ initiative’s website. After Cameron went for the Labour leadership over this, all reference to comrade Downing was rapidly removed, no doubt in deference to those in their periphery such as Coates and Denham who openly support the expulsion.
Of course we defend Galloway, center, when he takes any anti-imperialist stance, we denounce his alliance with Boris Johnson, left, and Nigel Farage, right, as unprincipled populist politics.
Regarding past witchhunts, they too effectively endorsed the Daily Telegraph’s libels of George Galloway in 2003-5 and have howled with the neocons over this for many years. Around the Iraq war itself, they made it clear, notwithstanding a purely formal stance of opposition to the war, that they would prefer a victory to the US-led invaders than a successful defence of Iraq. That is not real opposition to war. Their guru Matgamna even opined at the height of imperialist Iran hysteria in 2008 that the AWL ought not to oppose an Israeli attack on Iran, which could even be nuclear (http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/07/28/what-if-israel-bombs-iran-discussion-article). This is the calibre of ‘leftism’ that many in the Labour left are camp-following in their attack on Socialist Fight.
It’s good that the AWL can just about bring themselves to endorse ‘due process’ in the case of Gerry Downing. Some of its other supporters and fellow travellers, such as Osler, Denham and Coates, not to mention Owen Jones, are too blinded by their softness on Zionism to even endorse that. They simply side with Cameron, the CFI, LFI and the entire racist Zionist establishment. In the case of Coates and Denham, their political future is shown by a welcome guest on their blogs, one Howard Fuller, who claims to be a ‘progressive’ but in fact is a right-wing, pro-war enemy of Labour democracy, who openly advocates the expulsion of all leftists, including the AWL, from the Labour Party! By your friends we shall know you!
“Evidently it is our political positions and ideas that are seen as a threat to the established bourgeois order”
I’m not so sure this is right.
I suspect it is more likely that some of your political positions can be spun as anti-semitic and thus provide an opportune stick to beat those you support.
Good luck with trying to defend a nuanced position whilst the sharks are circling.
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Well we do have a nuanced position, so thanks for your support. But we are the only people who point out the material roots of Zionist power from a historical materialist point of view. That can only be cast as ‘anti-semitic’ through conscious dishonesty, aka ‘spin’ as you correctly note.
I don’t think this is just about embarrassing Jeremy Corbyn, it’s also about keeping the Labour movement free of consistent anti-Zionism. Our position is nuanced, but also has a clarity and consistency which other left critiques of Zionism lack. No one else deals with the Zionist international dimension in a way that is not conspiracy-based.
The fact that we reject 9/11 conspiracy theories and the like while upholding a class analysis of Zionism’s international dimension ought to make it difficult to portray us in that way. It is only people’s ignorance that gives this spin some temporary purchase. But there is reason to believe that over time our coherent materialist analysis can remedy that ignorance. So I do stand on my point: our position is feared by our racist/Zionist opponents precisely because it is ‘nuanced’.
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