Centrist CPGB Swings Left Under Whip of Zionist Witchhunt2
12/05/2016 by Ian
The following letter was sent to the Weekly Worker on 8 May, in response to the attack on Socialist Fight in last week’s issue within the article by Eddie Ford. It was however, not published. This is hardly that surprising, as despite their bravado in the face of the full-scale racist-tinged witchhunt now underway in the Labour Party against anyone expressing sympathy for the Palestinian struggle, the contradictions of the CPGB are becoming more and more obvious.
Since the entire thrust of the CPGB’s polemic against Socialist Fight on matters connected to the Jewish Question has been to accuse us of ‘left anti-semitism’, it is notable that its guest columnist from the Jewish left, Tony Greenstein, stated in his article as an aside within a polemic against the Alliance for Workers Liberty that he rejects “the concept of left anti-semitism”. Tony should have a serious word with Jack Conrad, the CPGB’s guru, and also his comrade Moshe Machover, who authored a resolution aimed at driving myself as a left-wing, anti-imperialist dissident out of their ‘Communist Platform’ bloc within Left Unity a couple of years ago, which stated that:
“Advocacy of anti-Semitic ideas is not the exclusive preserve of the far right. As can be seen with the writings of Proudhon and Bakunin, there is a left anti-Semitism too. Sadly that is still the case….”.
Greenstein is correct, and closer to Marxism than the CPGB, in rejecting the entire concept of “left anti-semitism”. His comrades share this notion with the AWL; their joint political mentor on this is Hal Draper, the left-Shatchmanite ideologue who from a political standpoint that involved among other things support for Israel in the 1948 war and a pretty explicit endorsement of the Naqba, at the same time branded Karl Marx’s classic essay “on the Jewish Question” as an example of the “economic Jew stereotype” – a pretty explicit statement branding this important element of the classical Marxist corpus as being anti-Semitic in effect.
It is becoming harder and harder in the context of this witchhunt for these centrists to hide the fact that our tendency is qualitatively to the left of their vacillating, unstable political trend. If there is no such thing as “left anti-semitism” as Greenstein correctly says, then if Socialist Fight is to the left of the CPGB, how can it be anti-semitic?
Occam’s Razor says that the solution to this conundrum is that this allegation always was an absurd smear from a tendency that under social pressure, capitulates to imperialism and Zionism, albeit in a less consistent manner than the likes of the AWL.
So it is hardly surprising that the CPGB do not relish trying to refute our views in Marxist terms. As Trotsky once noted, “centrists do not like to be called by their right name”.
The politically erratic, centrist nature of the CPGB, and its inability to steer a consistent course in the face of complex events, is shown perfectly by its response to the recent witchhhunt against so-called ‘anti-semitism’ in the Labour Party. Its decision to call for a vote for George Galloway in the recent Mayoral election as a way to support someone prominent within the Labour tradition who has taken a principled stance against the false allegations of racial hatred of Jewish people, seems rational and laudable.
I argued to support Galloway at a Left Unity aggregate in April 2015, against CPGB comrades, precisely because his hard-edged opposition to Zionism and imperialism in the Middle East has a strong tendency to draw class lines whenever questions involving imperialist and Zionist influence in the labour movement are posed. It is notable that Galloway offered to withdraw his candidacy if Diane Abbot were to win the Labour nomination.
However, though she failed, Jeremy Corbyn did win the leadership of Labour, which made the wisdom of Galloway’s continuing with his candidacy questionable. The meagre vote that he obtained bears this out. A better tactic would be to have withdrawn and appealed publicly to Jeremy Corbyn for readmittance to Labour on the basis of the reactionary and fraudulent nature of his original expulsion. Standing against Labour obviously erected an unnecessary barrier to this.
However what is astonishing about this support for GG, just before polling day, is the inconsistency. During the Protective Edge Gaza massacre in August 2014, Galloway was brutally attacked by a violent Jewish racist for his outspoken support for the Palestinians. WW failed to even mention this outrageous attack on Galloway, and the workers movement itself, let alone condemn it publicly.
At the time, Galloway was demonised as being anti-Semitic for his expressions of outrage at Israeli crimes. No MP from the Labour Left, not even Jeremy Corbyn, dared publicly condemn the attack on him, though apparently Corbyn did send a private message of sympathy. And the CPGB went with the trend. Despite repeated challenges by me, and even a solemn promise by Paul Demarty at a Communist Platform meeting in early September 2014 that a statement of solidarity with Galloway would be published, it never appeared.
Now that everyone to the left of Sean Matgamna on the Labour Left, including CPGB sympathisers such as Tony Greenstein, is being accused of anti-semitism, and GG is the most outspoken voice against that, the CPGB chooses to lean on Galloway. But this is a sign, not of rational Marxist tactics, but of wild political gyrations characteristic of centrism.
The polemic against Socialist Fight by Eddie Ford also evidences this. In it he pushes the absurd CPGB dogma that the bourgeoisie is ‘anti-racist’ and takes wide swipes at the left for criticising ruling class racism, but then accuses Socialist Fight of ‘anti-semitism’, i.e. racism against Jews. Yet he says that racism is not such a serious matter anyway “We in the CPGB, unlike some, are not minded to fling around accusations of racism – or treat racism as the greatest crime one can ever commit.”
What this actually means is that they excuse ruling class racism by accepting as good coin their protestations of anti-racist intent, and don’t take racial oppression at all seriously. That is why after 35 years of political activity, they have no black or Asian membership in this very multi-racial country.
This gives the real context to his allegations of ‘anti-semitism’ against Socialist Fight. These are made because we do take racism and racial oppression seriously, and regard the bourgeoisie’s protestations of non-racism with contempt given that non-whites disproportionately die in custody, fill the prisons, and are massively overrepresented among the low paid, superexploited and unemployed.
As part of exactly the same approach, we expose and analyse the oppressive and privileged role of bourgeois Jews in the imperialist countries in garnering support for Israeli repression against the Palestinians, and their material interest, through the Israeli bourgeois state’s racist Law of Return, in that state and its oppression of the Palestinians.
These bourgeois have become revered by the broader ruling class; this is obvious in the current witchhunt from the reverence in the bourgeois media for the pronouncements of Jewish-Zionist magnates with an interest in Labour like Alan Sugar, Michael Levy and David Sainsbury.
The CPGB’s approach of not taking racism seriously at all is here expressed in a paradoxical form; in this case, the critique of racism and racial inequality itself is deemed racist. This has a virtually identical logic to what the main Zionist witch-hunters are saying about all the anti-Zionist left – that to accuse Zionists of being racist is itself racist. Pointing to us as the ‘real’ witches in the witch-hunt won’t save you.
Ford’s litany of groupings that he advocates being excluded from his idea of a broadly socialist and communist bloc is revealing. He positions the CPGB between the AWL, for its Zionism and social imperialism, and Socialist Fight, for our criticism and analysis of the organisation of Jewish-Zionist bourgeois forces across international lines to support the dispossession of the Palestinians.
It is obvious that this narrative puts the CPGB politically somewhere between the AWL and Socialist Fight, since Socialist Fight is evidently more politically distant from the AWL than the CPGB is, a fact that is well known from the CPGB’s history of seeking unity with the AWL, the obvious similarity around opposing ‘anti-imperialism’, supporting two-states, our defence of third world peoples in all shooting wars against imperialism vs the CPGB’s habitual neutrality, etc.
In other words, the CPGB is situated by Eddie Ford implicitly on a left-right spectrum between the AWL and Socialist Fight, with ourselves on the far left. This is correct; the AWL more consistently expresses the prejudices of elements of the labour aristocracy and its chauvinism, which these days are manifested most virulently through pro-imperialist anti-Muslim and pro-Zionist chauvinism. Whereas the CPGB expresses these same in an inconsistent manner; it also vacillates under pressure from other forces who do seek to oppose imperialism and Zionism.
Thus we see classic centrist behaviour from the CPGB, failing to condemn a criminal Zionist assault on Galloway one year, then suddenly giving him last-minute support in an important election less than two years later. From being the vanguard of a phoney witchhunt against ‘left-wing anti-semitism’ one year, to pretending to be the most consistent opponents of the same witch-hunt again less than two years later.
It won’t wash, comrades. This is not Marxism, this is classic centrism, “revolutionary in words, reformist in deeds”.
The CPGB supports two states in Palestine?
Historically that was their position in the early 2000s when I first joined them. I don’t think they formally abandoned it, though Greenstein writes most of their stuff on Palestine these days. I actually think they don’t care much about it; if they did they would more to say and not leave it to non-members. Greenstein seems to think they are still two-statist. I guess he symathises with their supposedly open regime. Though actually, as I see it, for all that they are not fond of situations where their ideas are seriously challenged. In such cases they invent imaginary crimes to accuse people of to avoid real debates where they might lose an important argument.
This is political laziness as well as a symptom of centrism as I see it.