Zionism and its International Dimension: Revolutionary Strategy

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04/04/2016 by socialistfight

By Ian Donovan

This article, together with the correspondence reproduced at the end of it between Tony Greenstein and myself, is a follow up to the polemic Tony Greenstein and the Jewish question, published earlier by Socialist Fight. This exchange of views has been refreshingly political and quite fraternal, considering the heat and accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ that the subject matter, Zionism’s international dimension and base of support in other advanced capitalist countries, usually gives rise to. The peculiar thing is that in the process of beginning to debate this vital question in depth, Tony has had to begin, even despite himself, to row backwards from the extreme abhorrence he had earlier expressed for our position on the Jewish question in an international context.

Thus if you read through the letters, there is an implicit acknowledgement that we might just have something substantial to say, and Tony himself raised the possibility of a debate between himself and Socialist Fight. This is progress indeed given his involvement in forcing a break between myself and the Communist Platform of Left Unity in 2014 over supposed ‘anti-semitism’, prior to Socialist Fight embracing my position in 2015. Such a debate would no doubt be very useful.

The purpose of this introduction is to take up some of the points made in comrade Greenstein’s letters. In looking at the tone and arguments within them, I felt that simply writing a quick reply and continuing the exchange in that form would most likely not be productive. Something longer and more considered was needed to bring out the issues more clearly.

‘Personal’ and ‘political’ racism

First of all I will address Tony’s point about Enoch Powell’s racism – or if you take his argument in the only way it can really be coherent, his lack of it. How can anyone seriously say that Powell was not racist ‘personally’? How can anyone possibly justify this to black people who were targeted by his demagogy? Is this because he made statements earlier in his career that contradicted his later views? Or because he was cultured and ‘civilised’?

That is rather like absolving Donald Trump of racism because he earlier said things that contradict his current virulent bigotry. But you are what you do in the present reality! Trump is seeking to incite hatred of Muslims, Mexicans, women, the disabled, you name it!  Powell and Trump are similar characters in some ways, despite some differences of background type. They are not principled politicians at all, but racist demagogues seeking to profit from stirring up hatred. By the same logic that Paul Foot could argue that Powell was not racist ‘personally’, someone could probably argue that Trump was not ‘personally’ racist. It would be sophistry. What Powell did for many years was incite hatred of Black and Asian people in Britain and agitate for ‘repatriation’.

Comrade Greenstein’s narrative on Powell, one of the most sinister figures in British political history, contains a similar flawed logic on racism. This is a variant of AWL’s sophistry around ‘non-racist’ left-wing anti-semitism, referred to in my article Labour’s Soft Left shudders before Zionist witchhunt’.  As A Sivanandan put it in a notable essay on attempts to rehabilitate Powell, “Racism is as Racism does”.[1] It is quite clear that Powell’s operative programme was one of inciting hatred of non-whites to coerce as many as possible to leave the UK, and he wanted the government to organise this ‘repatriation’. All these prodigies of exegesis in asserting that Powell was not ‘personally’ racist are to try to resolve a contradiction that really is in Tony’s own political ideology.

Consistency, anti-imperialism and anti-racism

The contradiction is that it is self-evident that Socialist Fight is not only not racist, it is militantly anti-racist and anti-imperialist – and much more consistent in this than the CPGB and Tony Greenstein. Before tackling the meat of the Jewish question issue, it is worth noting a sure indication of this over a rather different issue, that of imperialism’s war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In the current Weekly Worker (31 March), Tony attacks our position of defending all semi-colonial countries and regimes, including that of Islamic State, against imperialism, thus:

“Gerry Downing also goes wrong in his statement that “those who are fighting imperialism right now are by definition anti-imperialist”. It seems that Gerry has progressed from the socialism of fools to the anti-imperialism of idiots.

“It was Trotsky who said that you don’t simply put a minus where the bourgeoisie puts a plus. Islamic State and al Qa’eda are indeed the consequence of imperialist interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but they are not anti-imperialist. An organisation that seeks the genocide of Shi’ite Muslims and Kurds, which uses torture, rape and sexual enslavement as a weapon of war is in no sense fighting imperialism. If anything it is emulating imperialist butchery and adding to it. There is nothing whatsoever progressive in their politics and they are a dire threat to secular national liberation and social movements. That they are relatively weak movements compared to the United States is irrelevant.”

Tony tries to use the phrase about the ‘socialism of fools’ to wrap himself in the aura of August Bebel. The phrase ‘the anti-imperialism of idiots’ however is more likely to have originated from Sean Matgamna.  Tony’s use of Trotsky’s name to argue for a position of neutrality in the battle on IS’ home turf between imperialism and a force, however grotesque and reactionary, that is an organic product of semi-colonial countries and regions, is a capitulation to imperialism. The important point is not that the indigenous forces of Iraq and Syria, of which IS are part, are relatively (i.e. quantitatively) weaker than the United States. This is about quality, not just quantity.

It is rather that all semi-colonial peoples attacked by imperialism are victims of the world predators, and for socialists in imperialist counties to profess indifference to the outcome of a conflict involving direct imperialist attack on a semi-colonial country or even proto-state is a chauvinist position. In such a conflict, we are always for the defeat of the imperialists and the successful defence of the victim states/peoples. Whether or not they are politically ‘anti-imperialist’ is irrelevant.  Just by being involved in a shooting war with the imperialists involved in an attack on their own country, they are objectively involved in a fight against imperialism even if they have fascist politics, as Trotsky himself once pointed out using the example of a possible war between ‘fascist Brazil’ and ‘democratic Britain’.  Claiming Trotsky as an authority for this position is strange indeed.

Racism and ‘Sensitivities’

To progress to the main issue:  addressing sensitive political issues about the way today’s oppressions are concretely structured calls for some updating of Marxism’s understanding of the Jewish question as most recently elaborated by Leon during WWII. This updating, because of the complex and paradoxical nature of the phenomena, requires a Marxism that is free from deviations associated with Zionism and identity politics more generally. And it is not difficult to spot the influence of Jewish identity politics on today’s left. Comrade Greenstein is a practitioner, which sits uneasily with his often ferocious anti-Zionism, and makes him a very contradictory figure. He represents, in a concentrated form, contradictions that are widespread on the far left today.

The problem being that the suffering of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, when combined with the depoliticisation of the Jewish left resulting from that, and a strong guilt reaction among non-Jewish leftists, has led to a degeneration in terms of the left’s ability to really apply an undiluted class-based materialist approach to the Jewish question, or even to acknowledge that it exists and needs to be addressed at all. So we get banalities like the version of the colonial-settler state theory the CPGB and Tony support, which absolves the Jewish bourgeois leadership that drives Zionism from real responsibility for its crimes against the Palestinians, and seeks to blame the British and the Americans for virtually the whole of this. Of course they are enormously complicit. But that does not make them the prime movers with regard to Israel’s specific crimes.

This interacts in a paradoxical way with the CPGB’s view of ‘bourgeois anti-racism’.  They are willing to accept claims that the bourgeoisie is no longer racist, but quick to make the assumption that those on the left who try to analyse the Jewish question in a materialist way must be racist. Thus when I produced my Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism, I was denounced as ‘anti-semitic’ by CPGB, which ran a strange ‘holocaust’ cartoon in WW implying that my work was in some way comparable to the Nazis. Which is particularly bizarre given that my analysis is based on the work of Abram Leon, a thinker that the CPGB (though not Tony Greenstein) denigrates, and who died in Auschwitz!

The CPGB’s concept that the British bourgeoisie is no longer racist is simply crude empiricism, taking as good coin the fact that they don’t talk openly about white supremacy anymore. Underlying this change, the old ideology has been replaced by a new synthesis, in which old fashioned white racism has acquired a new layer of camouflage. Where has this camouflage come from? From Zionism, which has achieved hegemony as Jews have ascended the racial hierarchy in capitalist society. Zionism provides the traditional white racist hierarchy with the camouflage to hide behind, not least because in the post-Holocaust world it appears morally untainted and the only form of racism unscathed by the Nazi association. And it is able to utilise these assets and redirect mainstream Western, in reality racialised, hatred at Arabs and Muslims, particularly in terms of what claims to be an aversion to ‘fundamentalism’. Thus the West, while claiming to be fighting religious bigotry, in fact crushes and brutalises the inhabitants of former colonial countries just as before, in turn reinforcing bigotry against the ‘other’ at home.

Just as before, the jails of the imperialist countries are filled with minorities, the cops kill with impunity, and semi-colonies are bombed and invaded. But imperialism 2.0, with its Zionist lick-of-paint, claims to be no longer racist. “Look, we even don’t kill Jews anymore”. The fact so many of their wars against the semi-colonies are dressed up as being against a new “Hitler” underlines the point. And so much of the left is blind to, or confused by, these phenomena.  The CPGB takes it pretty much as good coin. This is obviously related to Tony’s echoing of Paul Foot’s view that Powell was not personally racist. Other forms of confusion exist elsewhere on the left, which also need to be explored in due course.

Supremacism

Regarding Israel and “Jewish supremacism”, comrade Greenstein writes:

“On one level Zionism is Jewish in that it maintains a Jewish state, or rather a state that calls itself Jewish as a means of maintaining privilege for Jews in that state.  It is a state of Jewish supremacy and its goal is creating a separate Israeli Jewish/Hebrew nation.  To do this it must remove the Palestinians from the state or life itself.”

So “at one level” Israel is Jewish-supremacist. This implies that at another level it is not. How this works is mysterious and not elaborated, but it implies that on a more important ‘level’ Israel is not really Jewish in an independent sense but a creation of British and/or US colonialism. And therefore, by simple extension, Zionism in the diaspora can therefore not be Jewish-supremacist – it must be something else:

“However support for Zionism is strong amongst non-Jewish imperialist sectors.  I don’t have to enumerate them as you are aware of the Eric Pickles, Hagees etc. “ [2]

Or from a later letter:

“The base of the Zionist movement in the USA is, if anything the Christian fundamentalist wing of the bourgeoisie, represented by CUFI, Hagee and politicians like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who to the best of my knowledge are not Jewish.”

The logic of this pulls in different directions. Simple question: if Israel is Jewish-supremacist, how can the Zionist movement elsewhere that supports it not be Jewish-supremacist also? Obviously the core of the diverse trends that make up the Israel lobby have to be Jewish, as the Jewish form of Zionism is the most straightforward and practical. Christian Zionists do not colonise Palestine themselves, they need Jews to do it for them, and so are dependent on Jews.  Tony says that the base of Zionism in US is Hagee and the Christian evangelical fanatics in the Republican Party. But this misses out the Clintons and the rabid pro-Israel elements in the Democrats, for one.

How about the UK? The Conservative Friends of Israel have around 80% of their MPs signed up. Are they all Evangelicals? Not so. Certainly not so the Labour Friends of Israel who are running a fair witchhunt in cahoots with their friends on the opposite benches.  Quite a varied bunch – apart from their Zionism. How about CRIF in France, and the French Social Democrats and proto-Blairites like Vallis, as well as neocons in the Gaullists like Sarkozy? Then there are the Canadian Tories and Liberals, who are even more pro-Zionist than the US main parties. Are these all like Hagee? Obviously not.  We are dealing with varied bourgeois and petty bourgeois trends, native to their own countries. What unites these disparate trends with similar policies is that they all defer to the Jewish core of Zionism. Some are Jewish, many are not. But it is the moral authority of the Jewish-Zionist project that holds them together. Thus in reality AIPAC is Jewish-supremacist. So are CFI/LFI. So is CRIF, etc.

Comrade Greenstein says our position is “an artificial theory which is empirical not explanatory.” Yet he also says:

“ I consider it utterly irrelevant what is the makeup of the Zionist forces and the pro-Zionist bourgeoisie.  Whether it is x% or y% of the bourgeoisie which is Jewish is simply irrelevant.  Neo-conservatism has many Jewish adherents, it also has many non-Jewish adherents.”

And he lays bare his motivation for saying this:

“There is absolutely no mileage in what you propose.  […]  It has no usefulness, quite the contrary. ..”

The point is that it is based on the empirical facts, and constructs a theorisation based on those facts. That is surely the correct, materialist approach. Tony in effect says above that the facts are irrelevant. But of course what the actual material facts are is crucial for analyzing what is objectively true, and what is not. But if you don’t care what is true or false, because there is no ‘mileage’ in it, or it could cause problems because it ‘lays us open to charges of anti-Semitism’ then it makes a sort of sense to dismiss an inconvenient theory as ‘empirical’ (i.e. based on the facts) and its factual basis one way or the other.

Opportunism and understanding

There are evident mixed elements in Tony’s replies. One is a clear opportunist fear of the consequences of a theory that, because of its unfamiliarity and addressing of sensitive questions, can be ‘spun’ by the unscrupulous as being akin to the old anti-Semitism of the Protocols. For a while at least. This is the same opportunism evidenced by Jack Conrad in 2014 during the fight within the Communist Platform. When confronted personally, he admitted that the theory being argued was not anti-semitic at all, but also stated that he could not allow it to be put forward in the CPGB because it would lead to the CPGB being falsely accused of anti-semitism. So the whole concept of party democracy, workers democracy and free debate among comrades had to be thrown out of the window because if this debate were allowed, the party would be targeted by powerful Zionists.

The good thing is that confronted with the rationality of our understanding, Tony in fending it off has put some of this stuff in writing, and it is clearly visible in his letters. Whereas Jack Conrad and Moshe Machover in 2014 did not dare to put this in quotable form. In any case, this is opportunism, even if not necessarily fully thought through, not Marxism.

There is a legitimate question in Tony’s point, which is however based on his own misunderstanding, or maybe prejudices:

“It lays open the anti-Zionist left to charges of anti-Semitism because the logical corollary of singling out the Jewish bourgeoisie as a particularly heinous or culpable element is that a separate campaign against them is required.  What is the point otherwise?  I just don’t get it.”

The reasoning in this question is an inversion of reality. This theory does not single out the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie as a “particularly heinous or culpable element” or require a “separate” campaign against them. It does not ascribe disproportionate blame to them as opposed to their non-Jewish supporters. It actually does several things. One is it resolves a massive contradiction in the understanding of the Marxist left of Zionism, where even Tony Greenstein notes that Israel is based on Jewish supremacy over the Palestinians and neighboring Arabs, but somehow we are supposed to pretend that the powerful bourgeois political formations that support and defend Israel in the other imperialist countries are not dedicated to the same objective as the state they support: Jewish supremacy over the Arabs.

The particular colonial-settler state theory Tony is arguing implies that the West is not specifically supporting Jewish supremacy, but is engaging in some kind of more general realpolitik and supporting Israel for ‘pragmatic’ reasons to do with ‘Western interests’. Oil is usually chosen as the main one, though Israel has virtually none and nor has it proved useful in protecting oil elsewhere in the Middle East.  One variant of this is to stress the particular form of esoteric Christian theology that has some toehold in the USA that says that it is supporting the Jewish state as a result of religious prophesy that the ‘return’ of Jews to the Middle East would herald the second coming of Christ.

Jewish ethnocentrism as a motive of the pro-Israel political formations that support Israel is by these means once again written out of the picture. The picture being painted here is that Jews are essentially collectively innocent of Israel’s crimes. Collective innocence is as poisonous a concept as its converse, collective guilt. It would be poisonous to hold all Jews irrespective of their views responsible for Israel’s crimes. But conversely, those many Jews in the diaspora who do hold pro-Israel views are part of an ethnocentric movement that in a very direct sense is aimed at destroying the Palestinian people.

In particular, the bourgeois, large-scale property-owing element among them, who by means of the Law Of Return, have citizenship rights in the Israeli state, the Zionist/nationalist ideology to justify that, and the means to exercise that power as bourgeois co-proprietors of that bourgeois state, are not innocent of those crimes at all. But the dominant bourgeois ideology in the West, that support for Israel is pragmatic and dictated by simply ‘Western interests’, or the left ‘colonial settler state’ understanding which essentially echoes this, does indeed imply that these specifically organized racist bourgeois trends do not amount to much. Which is why the violent racism of Israel supporters is blithely tolerated in the West, and why much of the left takes a dive when confronted with it.

Violent racism, and taking a dive

So a violent demonstration by the Zionist fascist JDL in Paris is used as a pretext to ban Palestine Solidarity demonstrations during the Protective Edge massacre in Gaza in July-August 2014. So a Jewish racist, Neil Masterson, violently assaulted the outspoken pro-Palestinian Respect MP George Galloway in a London street during the same massacre, and only one MP, the Green Caroline Lucas, publicly condemned it.

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn sent a private message of sympathy to Galloway, but did not dare publicise it. And the CPGB, despite being repeatedly challenged by me at the time I was being driven out of the Communist Platform for my consistently anti-Zionist views, failed to print a word of condemnation of this assault by a violent Jewish racist, motivated by hatred of his outspoken defence of the Palestinians, on a figure they had often abused and lampooned in the past.

Subsequently the BBC through its selected Question Time audience, with the collaboration of the Tory MP Mike Freer, engineered a setup of Galloway where he was shouted down and taunted about the violent criminal assault by a mob of viciously racist Jewish-Zionist thugs on BBCTV. The outrage from much of the pro-Zionist media was that Galloway had been invited to Question Time at all, not that he had been taunted by racist thugs who in social terms are not that different from the kind who used to murder black people in South East London. To his credit Tony Greenstein did publish a strong condemnation of this on his blog, but the CPGB characteristically did not publish it.

These are all examples of tolerance of Jewish racism in Western society and by the left, and throw a certain light on the antagonism to anyone on the left who raises the Jewish Question today. The same David Cameron who failed to condemn the violent assault on George Galloway in 2014 when he was an elected member of the same house, in cahoots with Tory blogger ‘Guido Fawkes’, used parliamentary privilege to bully the weak-kneed Labour leadership into expelling Gerry Downing for challenging Zionism and imperialism.

That is what this understanding challenges; the tolerance for Jewish racism in the West. It rightly points the finger at it, says what it is, and puts in in a materialist social context. Jews are not an oppressed minority today, and we are light-years politically from the situation of Germany in the 1930s, or even France or Britain at the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries. In pointing to the ethnocentric Jewish bourgeois current today, we are challenging a privileged, violent and near-totalitarian racist bourgeois trend, not picking on an oppressed minority.

Empirical Evidence

So, empirically, evidence for this thesis is (1) the overrepresentation of Jews in the bourgeoisie in the Western imperialist nations, details of which are widely available from Jewish sources as well as some no doubt anti-semitic ones. (2) The existence of the Law of Return, which gives these overrepresented Jewish bourgeois, at least those who approve of the Zionist project, citizenship rights in the Israeli bourgeois state and therefore de-facto proprietary rights of it as bourgeois citizens, the state being “the executive committee of the whole bourgeoisie” (Marx) of the given state. So those in this position as a result of the Law of Return, self-selected in a sense as the Law of Return is not compulsory, constitute an element of the imperialist bourgeoisie that overlaps between Israel and other more powerful imperialist states.

This when combined with the political factor, centrally involving the moral authority that this layer has achieved among the imperialist bourgeoisie today, is fully explanatory of the reason why Zionism is so powerful in Western societies.  The imperialist bourgeoisie sees its system as being in decline and possibly outlived, it is uneasy about the future of the system and it is looking for something akin to a saviour. This has been true since profitability began to seriously seize up in the 1970s. At one time the mainstream bourgeoisie in the West regarded their Jewish brethren with fear as some kind subversive threat . That was bourgeois anti-semitism. Today, in contrast, they are regarded as a priceless asset of the system itself. This is what the moral authority of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste consists of. The bourgeoisie even fools itself. In its consciousness, to an extent, deification of the Jews constitutes atonement as a class for previous crimes committed. It is a cheap atonement in a sense, with an element of self-delusion about just how much it has atoned for, because Jews have been coopted into imperialism. The Jewish question was not a colonial-type question, so allowing the Jews to be rehabilitated (or conversely, being morally rehabilitated in its own eyes by embracing the Jews), has not cost it too much in terms of its plunder of colonial and semi-colonial peoples. But near worship of Jewish bourgeois is important to the bourgeoisie’s morale and self-conception in moral terms. These are all important elements that go to make up today’s bourgeois class consciousness.

The bourgeoisie and cultism

Indeed, we are not the only ones who have noticed the strange nature of the bourgeoisie’s flip from fear and sometimes hatred of its Jewish brethren in much of the last century, and it’s near worship of them today. A perceptive description of AIPAC by the US leftist news site Alternet contained these observations about AIPAC:

“The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a cult, and like most cults, its followers would probably object to the characterization. […] AIPAC is far more of a political organization than a religious one, but its politics are based on a deliberate misreading of history that erases the Palestinian people and whitewashes Israeli crimes. What makes AIPAC a cult is that it demands unquestioning allegiance from its members—not to a charismatic leader, but to the state of Israel. Just as nothing could convince the Moonies that their beloved Reverend wasn’t the messiah, it is impossible for AIPAC’s acolytes to acknowledge even the most obvious truths about Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid policies. And even as lobbyists subvert the democratic process by paying off politicians, AIPAC’s members insist that they are the front lines of the noble fight to preserve the Middle East’s lone democracy.” [3]

The point being that cult-like formations are not confined to small, politically isolated but highly class conscious Marxist organisations that aspire to lead the working class. They can occur in bourgeois politics too, particularly when you are dealing with a bourgeois class that is looking for a savior. It thinks it might have found one in terms of the very capable, class conscious and far-seeing bourgeois of the Jewish-Zionist caste.

This is why all forms of popular front strategies to combat Zionist influence will fail. Whether the ‘Red-Brown’ strategy of seeking a bloc with a bourgeois right-wing that is not beholden to the Zionists, or the BDS variant that looks to pressure bourgeois institutions and companies to ‘disinvest’ from Israel according to the model of the ‘sanctions’ movement about South African apartheid. The core of the non-Jewish bourgeoisie in the imperialist countries now regards the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie as a crucial asset in class terms. Any bourgeois politician who aspires to high office will be expected to grovel.

Donald Trump cancelled a live Fox TV debate to speak at the AIPAC

Neocons and their discontents

In terms of the current US Presidential primaries, illusions in Donald Trump as a supposedly non-neocon right winger who would take on the Zionists, the sort of thing you might expect from the Russian-Israeli Jewish renegade Israel Shamir, have popped up in some surprising places. For instance, an article on the left-wing Jewish discussion site Mondoweiss a few weeks ago foolishly projected:

“The stinging defeat of Senator Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida yesterday, and his withdrawal from the Republican race, have very powerful significance: pro-Israel neo-conservatism has been flushed from the Republican Party, twenty years after it captured that party and produced the Iraq War.

“Rubio ran as the candidate of the neoconservative faction in the Republican Party. He raised a ton of money on that basis. Donald Trump ran against the Iraq war and for a more even-handed policy vis-à-vis the Israel/Palestine issue; and Trump smashed Rubio on his own ground.” [4]

Then Trump went to AIPAC and grovelled, promising once again to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and also pledged to scrap Obama’s Iran deal, in a Dutch auction with Clinton as to who could be the most strident military advocate for Israel’s political shopping list. Thus exposing the bankruptcy of this strategy. But it is not as surprising to see Mondoweiss engage in this Shamir-like illusion in the right as you might think. Since Mondoweiss are keen supporters of BDS. Which in the end, also involves appealing to the bourgeoisie, or part of it, to break with the Israelis and divest its investments from the Zionist state. The only difference is a moralistic one about which section of the bourgeoisie to try to win over, the ‘progressives’ or the right. But both are part of the same class.

Because the bourgeoisie concretely regards its Jewish-Zionist brethren as essential assets of their system, they are not going to jettison Zionism the way they did with apartheid in specific historical circumstances coinciding with the collapse of Stalinism. It will take revolutionary strategy and tactics, not an appeal to part of the bourgeoisie, to defeat Zionism. That is the conclusion that is implied by my analysis, not a bloc with the ‘non-Jewish’ bourgeoisie against the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie. Tony’s projection of this logic means he has not understood the point being made, or perhaps fears understanding it.

Internationalisation

The equation some on the left have made between my theory of the internationalisation of Zionism and the Jewish question with the Protocols of Zion is facile and stupid. Why should they even begin to seem similar? This is blind prejudice. Since the former concerns the behaviour of elements of the same class with a common national project. The latter is a crazy idea that deadly enemies – the Jewish bourgeois and the workers movement with its strong contingent of revolutionary militants of Jewish origin, are secretly in league with each other for ‘Jewish’ world domination. The former is normal bourgeois behaviour, done largely openly and not that different in essence to the way more conventional ‘national’ ruling classes behave. The latter is a conspiracy of incompatible forces. Compatible forces ‘conspire’ together all the time. Both the workers movement and employers organisations are ‘conspiracies’ of people with common and compatible, i.e. class interests. But a joint employer/workers movement conspiracy for ‘racial’ domination is a fantasy.

It is rather like an old Buddhist tale about a blindfolded man that was confronted by an elephant. Feeling the trunk, he said to himself, “this is a snake”. On feeling the tail, he mused, “this is a rope”. What is involved here is very superficial thought, or lack of it. It means blindness to the whole out of the most superficial prejudice. Any idea of internationalisation of Jewish politics is by this conception forbidden. If it appears to exist, you have to look away and pretend not to see it, like it was obligatory for the people in the famous tale not to notice that the king was naked.

If some person blurts out the truth, they have to be ostracised, like the small boy. But the international outlook produced by the unusual history of the Jews was a key asset of the workers movement at one point in our history, and was celebrated as such by Deutscher, Trotsky, Leon and others. Now that has been lost and ceded to the ruling classes because of an historical tragedy, it is profoundly undialectical and un-Marxist to suppose it would mechanically disappear. It has been preserved, but in a different form and class context. The idea that making such observations should be forbidden when they are visible in front of our eyes is a form of strange self-denial, akin to the people who professed not to see the King’s nudity.

Inequalities of racisms

Related to the question of Jewish supremacy and racism is the definition of anti-Semitism itself. The amendment I put to the Communist Platform of Left Unity meeting on 14 September 2014 captures the issue:

1. The Oxford Dictionary Online contains the following definitions of racism: “1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races; 2. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”

Communists regard race as merely a social construct. Yet given that, the above is common to all racism. For us, all peoples are equal and all racism equally to be opposed.

 The term ‘anti-Semitism’ is unscientific (Arabs are semites too) and was coined by racists to describe themselves, but originally signified hatred of all Jews.  It has since undergone ‘definition-creep’ by Zionists and their apologists.  Its current meaning condemns prejudice against all Jews, but also meaningful criticism, discussion and analysis, even by other Jews, of oppressive Jewish behaviour against others.

 E.g. criticism of the Jewish bourgeoisie for operating across national lines in oppressing Palestinians is equated with the Protocols of Zion, which posited a conspiracy of Jewish capitalists and communists to dominate the world. Bourgeoisies everywhere ‘conspire’ against their enemies, along and frequently across national lines, like “a real Freemasonry vis-a-vis the working class” (Marx). Such equations of analysis of normal capitalist behaviour with racist ‘conspiracy theory’ can only come from centrist agents of the bourgeoisie.

Communists reject a separate category of ‘anti-semitism’, distinct from and wider-cast than actual racism against other peoples. We consider this a racist concept, giving representatives of one people a weapon against criticisms whose legitimacy no one on the left would question if made against other peoples. It is an ideological weapon against the Palestinians, preventing understanding of, and struggle against, their situation.

 We equally oppose racism against Jews, Arabs, Blacks, Irish, and all peoples, as defined above. All racisms share this definition – hostility to all in the targeted group.

2. All forms of racism as defined above, including anti-Jewish racism, are incompatible with membership of the Communist Platform. The privileging of so-called anti-semitism, based on an entirely different definition as noted above, is a violation of the principle of the equality of peoples and thereby a form of racism, and is also incompatible with Communism.

How is this issue linked to Jewish supremacy?  Very simply. It puts Jews into a position whereby significant numbers of them can engage in systematically racist behavior against other people, particularly Palestinian Arabs, with impunity. Because of the definition creep referred to in the motion, criticism of much of this racist behavior, and the way it is organised, can be deemed racist.  Even if it is factually accurate.  Even if AIPAC, or the Conservative/Labour Friends of Israel, or CRIF in France, or whatever, act as Jewish supremacists and ethnocentrics, and work together internationally to mobilise ‘their’ different imperialist states to violate or help violate the democratic rights of Palestinians and their defenders, the ideology represented by the term ‘anti-Semitism’ still tries to smear those who criticise this form of organised anti-Arab racism as itself racist. It does so by means of the device called ‘tropes’.

Truth vs ‘Tropes’

This if Jewish-Zionist organisations co-operate internationally to attack their enemies, it is deemed to be ‘anti-Semitic’ to say so. Even if it is true. Why? Because one of the ‘tropes’ (traditional allegations against Jews) is that they operate across national lines and thereby have no loyalty to the ‘nation’. Even Marxists, who really are in favour of abolishing the nation-state, are smeared in this way merely for pointing out this is how Zionism, a bourgeois Jewish trend, organises.

Likewise, even if it is a fact that Jews are overrepresented in the ruling class relative to their overall percentage in society, apparently it is racist to point that out. The fact that those so overrepresented may have disproportionate power to implement an agenda that supports crimes like the massacres in Gaza, is immaterial. To point this out is ‘anti-Semitic’. Even when it is true, it is a ‘trope’ about the Jewish renowned propensity for money and privilege that was exploited by the Nazis in the past, and therefore cannot be mentioned even if it can be proven. Hence the very idea that there could be a Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste in the advanced countries is out, because it apparently echoes, or superficially resembles, a ‘trope’.

By this logic, Abram Leon’s theory of the ‘people class’ must also be anti-Semitic, since the people-class existed across national lines – indeed it was its international connections that made it useful to the feudal regimes of Europe as a specialist layer engaged in international trade and finance. And of course it associated Jews – not a minority of Jews as with my theory of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste – but most if not all of them, with trade and money lending or usury. So by the logic of tropes, which is also the logic of Tony Greenstein and the CPGB, Abram Leon’s work must truly be anti-Semitic,

All this obviously is racist in the real sense since it puts the victims of Israel at a double disadvantage – that of being occupied and ethnically cleansed, bombed and massacred, and also through those who criticise these crimes being falsely traduced as being racist. This is a concrete manifestation of racial inequality in Western societies and a manifestation of the hegemony of Zionist racism. It means a large group of violent racists of one ethnic group have special privileges over their victims, and can with the force of the wider bourgeois state power criminalise the defenders of their victims by falsely branding them as racists, with the backing of the ruling class.

And by supporting a definition of anti-Semitism that goes way beyond the definition of racism against other peoples, Tony Greenstein and the CPGB, and all others on the left who accept their argument, support that kind of racial inequality. But he, and those like him, who also aspire to militant anti-Zionism, cannot leave it at that. It cuts too close to the bone. Hence the ridiculous sophistry about how critics of this paradigm are not ‘personally’ racist but merely arguing ‘anti-Semitic’ politics. As if anyone can be subjectively a fervent anti-racist while at the same time having racist politics. Utter nonsense. Thus his refusal to engage in a proper united front campaign to defend Gerry Downing as well as himself. He states that ‘Gerry has no case’ within his framework and understanding. But this is only because Tony Greenstein shares some of the same framework and understanding, which privileges Jewish racists over Jewish and non-Jewish anti-racists, as the Zionist racists who are trying to victimise him also.

Whatever term is used to describe anti-Jewish racism, it needs to be in its breadth of meaning the same as that of racism against any other group.  Hatred of that ethnic group, not merely criticising part of an ethnic group (e.g. a class) that engages in oppressive conduct against others. This kind of pseudo-definition, the product of Zionist definition-creep as Jews have risen up the racial hierarchy in capitalist society, is a racist weapon in itself. Any anti-racist militant worth their salt will spare no effort to expose it in the spirit of real militant anti-racism.

Tony Greenstein to Ian Donovan (23 March)

 

Ian,

I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to respond to you in depth.

I maintain a distinction between personal, gutter racism and using racism as a political device as Powell etc. do/did.  Read Paul Foot’s book on Powell.  He accepted Powell wasn’t personally racist but he certainly used racism and was therefore a racist politically.

On one level Zionism is Jewish in that it maintains a Jewish state, or rather a state that calls itself Jewish as a means of maintaining privilege for Jews in that state.  It is a state of Jewish supremacy and its goal is creating a separate Israeli Jewish/Hebrew nation.  To do this it must remove the Palestinians from the state or life itself.

However support for Zionism is strong amongst non-Jewish imperialist sectors.  I don’t have to enumerate them as you r aware of the Eric Pickle, hagees etc.  There is no seperate Jewish bourgeoisie and your attempt to show there is a ‘Jewish Question’ not only leaves u open to charges of anti-Semitism but the logical extrapolation of it would be a campaign against that bourgeoisie.  That could not be other than anti-Semitic.

I defend Gerry against expulsion because he is not an anti-Semite but his position is not tenable and he should row back from this nonsense.  He is making it difficult if not impossible to defend in the long term

fraternally

Tony

Ian Donovan to Tony Greenstein (24 March)

 

Tony,

The problem with the whole concept of a separation between ‘personal’ and ‘political’ racism is it only works as an idea if someone is doing on behalf of a greater collective. i.e. Maybe Powell did not personally believe in what he was doing, but was doing it on behalf of the ruling class. But I find that hard to believe in his particular case because he was condemned by even most of his bourgeois colleagues. Heath sacked him on the spot for his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

One problem with Paul Foot was, though he was in many ways a good comrade, he did have a privileged background and did not break the social connections that came with that. He did tend to schmooze around such circles in a way that rightly raised some eyebrows in my view, and perhaps saw the ‘civilised’ veneer of people like Powell with slightly rose-tinted spectacles as a result. That is my hypothesis.

Whatever you think of my ideas on the Jewish question, I am very interested in convincing Jewish people of the truth of them and indeed winning them to my positions. That includes both yourself and Gilad Atzmon. This alone makes any allegation of anti-Jewish racism against me absurd. Anti-semitism means hating Jewish people or it is simply meaningless. I note that Atzmon also, though he has many views that are very different from mine, also devotes a lot of his time to trying to convince Jewish people of the correctness of his own views. Therefore in my case, and his, your observation that we both do not hate Jews is well-founded. Therefore the allegation that we are anti-semitic in any way is complete nonsense, and always has been.

Of course support for Zionism is rife among non-Jewish sectors of the bourgeoisie. My theory fully explains that, both if you read my Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism (September 2014) and the extended argumentation and elaboration of these matters in the major article “Political Zionism: the Hegemonic Racism of Today” in In Defence of Trotskyism no 17. The question is which is primary, the Jewish or the non-Jewish? I would argue that the Jewish element in Zionism is primary, the non-Jewish (Christian Zionist, or whatever) element is secondary. It is true that in an earlier era many of Zionism’s non-Jewish fellow travellers would have been anti-semitic. Now the same layer are Zionist fellow-travellers. But Zionism was always Jewish at its core as a viable movement. it obviously won these people over through a historical, political process, since WWII and particularly since the six-day war.

I don’t hold that there is a separate Jewish bourgeoisie per se, but rather a Jewish-Zionist caste within the bourgeoisie of advanced countries that has a material interest in Israel through citizenship rights that make them part of the bourgeoisie that dominates the Israeli bourgeois state. Thus the ruling classes have an element that overlap, and this Jewish-Zionist element has gained great moral authority among the wider bourgeoisie. This explains its power, it is in tune with the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie as a class which regards it as a highly class conscious, far seeing sub-group of that class with a broad international vision. In other words, a transference or perhaps in some ways even a parody of the role that Jews once played in the workers movement, which Stalin particularly hated. My theses on the other hand always made it quite clear that I, and SF today, celebrate that vanguard role of the old Jewish left.

This caste is self-selected. It does not a priori include every single bourgeois of Jewish origin, it is feasible that there could be such who reject the Zionist project en toto. I don’t know of any, but there could be such people in the bourgeoisie. Though the caste has considerable capacity to co-opt.

Nor does my analysis imply a campaign against the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie in alliance with the non-Jewish bourgeoisie. That would have a chauvinistic thrust, and we are opposed to social chauvinism. I have always rejected the peculiar popular front variant advocated by Israel Shamir, who is a Stalinist, by the way, not a fascist as you always said. I have always opposed a bloc with the old bourgeois right against the new Zionist right as a form of class collaboration. I also oppose a bloc with Zionists against the old far right in current conditions, since Jews are not an oppressed population today, and the Zionist right in my view is hegemonic and more powerful than the old right.

In any case, ‘anti-semitism’ would only have relevance if Jews were once again reduced to an oppressed population as in the earlier period of imperialism. That is unlikely: there is a Buddhist saying that it is not possible to step in the same river twice. While rejecting Shamir’s ‘red-brown’ popular front, we also have to tell the working class and the Palestinians the truth about what are the material roots of Zionist hegemony in the advanced countries. The greatest weapon of the working class is conscious understanding, and on the basis of that, tactics and strategy can be decided.

If objectively speaking, bourgeois Zionism is an international phenomenon with a Jewish-Zionist ethnocentric core, then the international working class had better know about it. It will not be broken through class collaboration with a non-Zionist bourgeoisie, but through an independent class movement of solidarity with the Palestinians, But this understanding makes Palestine into a vital issue for the world working class in terms of class interest, in defeating and dissolving through assimilation the bourgeoisie’s Jewish-Zionist asset through a defeat of the Zionist project that holds it together.

The view that the idea of a distinct (it is not entirely ‘separate’) Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie would be ‘anti-semitic’ is not based on any concrete evidence of racism, but on this idea of ‘tropes’ of anti-semitism. I suppose that the idea that the Jews for a significant period of history were a class closely associated with usury could be described as another ‘trope’ of anti-semitism. The latter comes from Abram Leon. By the logic of ‘tropes’ it can easily be deemed ‘anti-semitic’. It is also historically true. So the truth is anti-semitic?

My argument about the existence of a Jewish-Zionist caste among the imperialist bourgeoisie is likewise either true or false. If it is true, and I believe it is, how can it be anti-semitic? Is the truth anti-semitic? That is a dangerous assertion, as I’m sure you can see. If it is mistaken, on the other hand, it is mistaken. But I have not yet heard anyone seriously challenge it without resorting to the guilt tripping argument about ‘tropes’, even if the term is not explicitly used.

Fraternally

Ian

Tony Greenstein to Ian Donovan (24 March)

Ian,

As I said in my last post I really don’t have time for a comprehensive reply nor is one necessary.  I am more concerned with repelling the current offensive of the Labour right and the Zionist ideologues, using anti-Semitism as their watchword, against the Left.  That to me means we have to keep our own weapons pure if you will.

The truth certainly isn’t anti-Semitic.   The question though is what the truth is.  I consider it utterly irrelevant what is the makeup of the Zionist forces and the pro-Zionist bourgeoisie.  Whether it is x% or y% of the bourgeoisie which is Jewish is simply irrelevant.  Neo-conservatism has many Jewish adherents, it also has many non-Jewish adherents.

The base of the Zionist movement in the USA is, if anything the Christian fundamentalist wing of the bourgeoisie, represented by CUFI, Hagee and politicians like Marco Rubion and Ted Cruz, who to the best of my knowledge are not Jewish.

Indeed the non-Jewish bourgeoisie consciously uses the history of anti-Semitism and the holocaust to justify their rapacious Zionists, despite the fact that a large proportion of Jews today are becoming more distant from Israel.  I recommend a recent article by Peter Beinat in Ha’aretz to you http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/bds-jewish-civil-war-on-american.html

There is absolutely no mileage in what you propose.  It is an artificial theory which is empirical not explanatory.  It has no usefulness, quite the contrary.  It lays open the anti-Zionist left to charges of anti-Semitism because the logical corollary of singling out the Jewish bourgeoisie as a particularly heinous or culpable element is that a separate campaign against them is required.  What is the point otherwise?  I just don’t get it.

In my view you are making a critical and crucial mistake in approaching the question of Zionism and support for the Palestinians in this fashion.  Fair-weather supporters of the Palestinians such as Owen Jones need to be harshly criticised.  I have done so but your theses, which no one adheres to are a distraction.  More to the point they allow our opponents to level the charge of anti-Semitism with some validity.

Of course you and Gerry are not anti-Semitic on the personal level.  I have no doubt if I was to sit down for a drink with either of you and I would not be averse to that (!) that I would [not] be subject to a tirade of anti-Semitic comments.  Unlike the Zionists from whom I have regularly received anti-Semitic comments.

Despite Atzmon’s many and various anti-Semitic comments ‘socialist Jewnity’ etc.  All his writings are laden with anti-Semitism.  The attack on Machover as a ‘Jewish Marxist’ is replete with Nazi connotations.  The attack on the Bund as Jewish robbers.  Yet despite his outrageously anti-Semitic comments, even BDS is a Jewish movement according to him, I don’t believe him personally to be anti-Semitic.  Probably not even Eisen for whom I have a particular distaste.  But their politics are without a doubt anti-Semitic.

But having said that, on a political level you and are advocating anti-Semitic politics and in that sense are anti-Semitic.  Hence why I tried to show how even such a figure as Enoch Powell, whose utterances were, as you pointed out, deeply racist was, on a personal level not a racist.

We who are in the Labour Party at this time have enough problems fighting the Zionists and the Labour Right.  That means political discipline.  I am as you know suspended.  It might be about Zionism, it might be about Ireland.  I simply don’t know.  But the positions Gerry and you articulate, besides being indefensible weaken the left’s position as a whole.  If the expulsion of Gerry is on grounds of anti-Semitism it is impossible to criticise it, other than on the grounds of democracy, i.e. a lack of a hearing, charges etc etc.  Substantively Gerry doesn’t have a case.

Having set out on your path I’m sure I won’t convince you but it is a completely wrong trajectory that you have taken.  It is analytically wrong.  Perhaps and I would have to consult others, I will debate this with you at some time.  But that would require agreement from comrades in the CPGB.  Although I’m not a member I am a supporter of much of their politics in a general sense although we have disagreements, not least on 2 states.

Fraternally,

Tony

 

Notes

[1]   Racism is as Racism does, http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-beatification-of-enoch-powell/

[2] John Hagee, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

John Charles Hagee (born April 12, 1940) is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, a charismatic megachurch in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of his non-profit corporation, Global Evangelism Television (GETV). Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in the United States on ten television networks, including 62 high-power stations aired to more than 150 million households. He is shown on networks around the globe, including The Inspiration Network (INSP), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Inspiration Now TV. John Hagee Ministries is in Canada on the Miracle Channel and CTS and can be seen in places including Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Hagee is the founder and National Chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel, incorporated on February 7, 2006. Hagee has been both praised and criticized for his support for Israel. He has also incurred controversy for his comments based on religious beliefs regarding Islam, Catholicism, and homosexuality.

[3]  (http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/aipac-incognito-three-days-undercover-israel-lobbys-biggest-policy-conference)

[4] Rubio’s defeat means the downfall of neoconservatives,   http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/rubios-defeat-means-the-downfall-of-neoconservatives/

 

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