19/12/2017 by Ian
Socialist Fight statement on renewed witchhunting in ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’
The guru of the CPGB, Jack Conrad.
Workers’ democracy is under attack in the infant Labour Party campaign group ‘Labour Against the Witchhunt’. Despite a clear rejection by a properly constituted meeting of LAW on 2 Dec, of the executive’s attempt to exclude by dictat supporters of Socialist Fight, some members of the executive are defying that decision and have launched a campaign to overturn it. A flimsy motivation for this has been penned by Tony Greenstein, with the backing of the guru of the CPGB, Jack Conrad, whose organisation printed Greenstein’s article in their paper on December 14th.
Greenstein claims that he and the CPGB were victims of a political ‘ambush’ on 2 December, when they tried to undemocratically ‘auto-exclude’ us, in the words of Stan Keable at the meeting, whose signature was also on the email demanding we not attend. The ‘ambush’ consisted of us refusing to accept being excluded by dictat, turning up, distributing our supplement and motions, and defeating the proposal to exclude us by a democratic vote of those present. The fact that Greenstein calls this an ‘ambush’ itself shows contempt for those members who disagreed with the proposed exclusion, and in fact contempt for the very concept of due process that LAW was set up to advocate in the Labour Party.
Greenstein is like so many of those who have a self-conception of themselves as victors in a previous conflict: always fighting the last war. Greenstein thinks in attacking workers democracy and seeking to exclude Socialist Fight, he is re-waging the previous campaigns he has waged against the expat-Israeli dissident Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. So he equates Socialist Fight with Atzmon, denouncing one of our leading comrades as “a ‘left’ supporter of the overtly anti-Semitic Gilad Atzmon” despite knowing full well that SF has very different political views to Atzmon. The basis of this allegation is simply that our comrade refused to endorse, as we still refuse today, Greenstein’s campaign between 2005 and 2010 to witchhunt the Socialist Workers Party for hosting Atzmon’s gigs, and maintaining a fraternal dialogue with him, before they finally capitulated.
Greenstein thus tries to hide that he is witchhunting Marxists, not Gilad Atzmon. His piece motivating our exclusion is incoherent and full of holes, demonstrable stupid lies, contradictions and anti-Marxist idiocies. He pretends that he is arguing against Atzmon, who has a confused and paranoid, wrongly extrapolated view of the October Revolution as something Jewish-dominated and with a similar bloodthirsty dynamic to the formation of the current Israeli state, as opposed to ourselves who are partisans of the October Revolution, defenders of the USSR as was as a (later degenerated) workers state, and supporters of Trotsky’s perspective of Permanent Revolution and revolutionary internationalism. The SWP is a highly bureaucratic and centrist organisation with a bad record of violating workers democracy itself, of course. This is why Greenstein and his supporters, in the period between 2005 and 2010, sometimes postured as being victims of the SWP’s bureaucratism as part of the campaign to vilify them. This exposes that as a fraud: Greenstein, with his Bundist politics, which are a form of Jewish communalism, was then as now involved in an attack on workers democracy, in a de facto bloc with Zionist forces in attacking the SWP.
Greenstein claims that he has “no choice” but to advocate this course, because:
“the Labour Party’s witchhunt primarily takes the form of the weaponisation of anti-semitism – the smearing of people as anti-semitic for no other reasons than their support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism”.
But that is what he is attacking us for. The difference between ourselves and his trend is not about whether Jews are or are not some demonic force or any nonsense like that, but on the extent and nature of the influence of Zionism in the advanced countries. There are facets of Zionism that Tony Greenstein and the CPGB are scared to address for reasons of opportunism, not principle. We, along with a number of others on the Jewish dissident spectrum dare to address them – in the interest of the liberation of the Palestinians and the struggle for social revolution and general emancipation.
Failing to address them does not help the Palestinians; on the contrary it obscures important mechanisms of their oppression and thereby hinders the formulation of political strategies and tactics to counteract those mechanisms. So it is complete hypocrisy – a lie – for Greenstein to pretend he is doing this in the interests of the Palestinians and anti-Zionism. He is doing this in the interest of his own political cowardice and opportunism, and that of the CPGB of which he is a sympathiser.
An Anti-Democratic Trend
Today, he and his bed mate Jack Conrad are in a bloc with the same Iain McNichol who is framing him up for anti-Semitism. This is class treachery at its most pathetic. It is grovelling, and a complete violation of solidarity with Gerry Downing who is also a victim of the same machine, and the entire, basic conception of the militant labour movement that “an injury to one is an injury to all” in the face of an attack from the class enemy, which the neoliberal Blairites certainly are. For the aim of this public attack on others on the left as ‘anti-Semitic’ is that anyone on the Labour left who disagrees with his anathema, or is sympathetic to our arguments, should fear being targeted by the Compliance Unit and thrown out. He does not have to openly say this for it to be objectively true in terms of political logic. Just by pointing at individuals and political trends he is clearly inviting this, as are the CPGB/Weekly Worker.
Tony Greenstein, witch hunter
Greenstein and co. represent an anti-democratic trend in the labour movement, seeking to solve what for them are political problems with bans, proscriptions and expulsions. Thus when Greenstein says that:
“If my views do not prevail, then I will resign from the organisation – as I believe will Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth of Grassroots Black Left.”
… he is really showing his anti-democratic colours. This is not some narrow political organisation we are talking about, but something that purports to defend freedom of opinion and thought in the Labour Party in the broad interest of working class democracy. Here we see Greenstein attempting to blackmail the entire Labour left (and even any democratic-minded elements not on the left), who one assumes are the intended audience of LAW, with the ultimatum that “if you don’t support MY witchhunt, I will walk away from LAW”.
Plenty of people failed to support it last time – at least half of the meeting. He is blackmailing them and also treating them with contempt. He claims the support of others for this, but if so, it is clear that he is trying to lead victims of the witchhunt, who ought to be fighting it in unity with others, into the camp of the witchhunt himself. This is farce.
Greenstein shows his hostility to classical Marxism’s long tradition of analysing the Jewish question, along with many other questions involving national oppression and the relations between oppressed and oppressor peoples, when he writes:
“It is extremely unfortunate that a socialist group believes that in the age of modern capitalism the Jewish question survives. It was primarily a question of the social and economic role in the feudal era of Jews as what Abram Leon termed a “people-class”. It only survived politically in the capitalist era as a result of the memory of that role, combined with the delayed and arrested development of capitalism in eastern Europe.”
Well, if Greenstein is upset because we take up the task of addressing the Jewish question, he must also be upset at Karl Marx (“On the Jewish Question”) and Karl Kautsky (“Are the Jews a Race?”), leading lights in the First and Second Internationals respectively who both wrote specialist works addressing the same question, and not in purely in a feudal context either. Lenin, the instigator of the 3rd International, also had some rather significant things to say on a different facet of this which we will come to later. And Trotsky, the founder of the 4th International, though Jewish himself, did not claim any particular expertise on the question, but nevertheless wrote some interesting and fragmentary essays.
And also from the 4th International, the Belgian-Jewish Trotskyist leader Abram Leon’s seminal work ‘The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation’ was about the reasons for the survival of the Jews from being a trading people in antiquity when other comparable trading peoples, such as the Phoenicians, disappeared. They did so by finding a specialised economic niche in feudal society as merchants dealing with exchange value in a society based on its opposite: use value. As feudalism went into decline they were driven out of general trade into mainly financial business, i.e. moneylending or usury, and became a pariah class, by the new, incipient gentile bourgeoisies. This happened over a period of several centuries, with Jews first migrating to the East to escape this, and in later centuries as Eastern feudalism declined, being driven West again. The large, redundant Jewish population, particularly in the Tsarist empire, became an unwanted outcast population, with millions being driven to the West in waves of migration after pogroms; and with its intellectual heritage, many who did not migrate played an important and progressive role in revolutionary movements of the East.
This is the Jewish question as manifested under capitalism, in the 19th and 20th Centuries, from among the foremost Marxists of all four Internationals. From this it ought to be clear that in ruling out discussion of the Jewish Question under ‘modern capitalism’ Greenstein is engaged in an attack on the entire classical Marxist tradition. We aim to continue this tradition in the 21st Century.
If the Jewish Question was simply a product either of pure ‘memory’ (an idealist, not a materialist concept) or of “delayed and arrested development of capitalism in Eastern Europe”, then why did the Nazi Holocaust take place? Just because of ‘memory’? This is idealist twaddle. Germany is the core of imperialist capital in Central, not Eastern Europe, not some backwater like Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. How can the Nazi Holocaust of the Third Reich of German imperialism, undoubtedly the second most powerful imperialist state after the US in its day, and certainly more powerful than Britain which only defeated it with Russian and American help, not be related to the Jewish Question (except through ‘memory’)?
The truth is that the Jewish Question is not something that is just confined to feudalism. It is rather a social and political phenomenon that evolved through several phases and is still evolving. The Nazi Holocaust was the most extreme expression of the phase of imperialist capitalism where the Jews suffered the greatest oppression and a serious attempt by a major imperialist power to wipe them out. Following that, one of the great inversions of history took place. Marx took from Hegel the logical category of the transformation of opposites, or more simply the transformation of a phenomenon into its opposite. As a concrete example of this pattern of historical development (which is what the Hegelian categories are abstractions of), we quote the following telegram that Trotsky, as Commissar for War, sent on May 10, 1919, to the early Soviet government’s military headquarters in Kiev:
“Since the Jewish S.R [Socialist Revolutionary] party, ‘Poale Zion’ and other Jewish workers organisations announced their readiness to organise sections of the Jewish workers to defend the revolution, I propose to organise such formations under the authority of the (military) headquarters.” (quoted in Introduction, ‘Leon Trotsky on the Jewish Question’, Pathfinder pamphlet, 1970, p8)
In 1919 Poale Zion was an organisation of the Jewish artisan-proletariat, which appears to have been prepared to fight alongside the Bolsheviks in defence of the Russian revolution. Today, the British manifestation of Poale Zion is known as the Jewish Labour Movement and is absolutely key to the right-wing witchhunt against socialists in the Labour Party. The Jewish artisan-proletariat in Britain, the US, and some other Western countries has disappeared without trace through upward mobility, not oppression or genocide. Now the JLM/PZ here is based in affluent Tory areas like Finchley. This is obviously a historic shift. Greenstein quotes William Rubenstein, a past president of the Jewish Historical Society, writing as early as 1982 that London Jewry is:
“..arguably more bourgeois now that at any time since the mid-19th Century and it is certainly more conservative… the Jewish proletariat has virtually disappeared in the post war period and since the 1950s western Jewry has, as a whole, risen into the upper middle class. (W Rubenstein, ‘The left, the right and the Jews’, quoted by Greenstein.)
Greenstein says in association with this point that “Jews are, for historical reasons, a privileged section of the white community in both the USA and Britain, but there are reasons for this.” However, he nowhere explains what these “reasons for this” or “historical reasons” actually are. In terms of analysis, this is just waffle and evasion. Yet we are supposed to believe, on pain of being accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’, that the Jewish Question ceased to exist with the end of the feudal era.
Hiding the Jewish Question
Greenstein is hiding something here. After all, if there is no Jewish question as a special question, then this evolution should be universal. All other minority groups should be following or have followed the same path. If there is no special Jewish question, you should be seeing for instance the oppressed Afro-Caribbean and South Asian, particularly Muslim, populations following the same path (albeit at an earlier stage) and also disappearing gradually from the working class, becoming more and more middle class until they too disappear into the upper reaches of the middle class and into the ruling class itself at some future point. That trend should be visible now, at an earlier stage. It is not! It isn’t happening and it won’t happen under capitalism. But it has happened to the Jews under capitalism. That alone proves that the Jewish question is a special question that Marxists are obliged to address.
As to the ‘historical reasons’ Greenstein carefully avoided, as to why Jews have risen up the class structure of capitalist society, our Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism addresses that in the context of Abram Leon’s concept of the ‘people-class’ which Greenstein pays lip-service to but does not understand or accept:
“The redundancy of any class, including a people-class, results in its dissolution and its members’ absorption into other classes. This process began with the emancipation of the Jews after the bourgeois revolutions as laid out by Leon and referred to above. Members of the former people-class were absorbed into the bourgeoisie, the working class (particularly as an artisan-proletariat), and various layers of the urban petty-bourgeoisie. As a people with centuries of experience of trade in commodities – that is, in the operation of merchant’s capital – prior to the capitalist era proper, they had major cultural advantages for operation within the bourgeoisie. They had more accumulated ‘cultural capital’ in the spheres particularly of trade and finance than the mainstream ‘native’ bourgeoisies of the nations they were beginning to integrate into.”
Here we have the ‘historical reasons’ that Greenstein vaguely alludes to, but is too coy to actually name. It is a historical materialist explanation as to why Jews, despite their centuries of severe oppression, have evidenced this ability to climb the social structure of capitalist society. Greenstein knows this but refuses to name these historical reasons or causes because they come from Abram Leon and his analysis of the prior history of the Jews as a trading and financial class in feudal society. This suited them particularly for upward mobility in a capitalist society based on generalised commodity production and exchange, whereas in medieval society the Jews were a specialist class of commodity traders.
Greenstein cannot name these ‘historical reasons” because if he did so he would be invoking Abram Leon’s theory to explain current developments, and thereby bringing the Jewish Question into the present. He would be, in his terms, an anti-Semite. Leon’s theory, which casts the Jews as a specialist class of usurers and traders, evoking themes dealt with in artistic form by Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice, has to be kept firmly in the distant past. Despite understanding the materialist coherence of Leon’s theory, and the moral authority of its author as a heroic figure of the Trotskyist resistance to Hitler and Auschwitz martyr, Greenstein subliminally fears that Leon’s theory, like ours which merely brings it up to date, is in his terms anti-Semitic, but dares not say so. So it has to be worshipped like an icon and kept in the past.
The contrasting roles of Poale Zion, referred to above, symbolise the transformation of the Jewish Question into its opposite, from a question involving a people that suffered considerable, and at times enormous and genocidal, oppression in the early period of imperialist capitalism, to a question involving a people, who, insofar as they act in a collective manner under a quasi-nationalist leadership today, act as oppressors of another people, namely Arabs. It is precisely because Jews do not have a territory which they can collectively call their own that they are not a nation.
Breaking with oppressor Zionism
This view of Jews as having escaped oppression and become, insofar as they link themselves to Israel and give that state their support, an oppressor people, also gains Greenstein’s ire. He writes:
“I find the statement that ‘Jews are the one people in the imperialist epoch that have comprehensively escaped from systematic oppression and joined the ranks of oppressor peoples in the imperialist world order’ amazing. It treats all Jews as one amalgam. All of us – not those in Israel, where it would be appropriate – but all Jews in the diaspora are now amongst the “oppressor peoples”. I suppose that includes all the supporters of Jewish Voices for Peace in the USA – over 100,000 of them – who have signed up to an organisation that is for boycott, divestment and sanctions. At the very time that increasing number of Jews in the USA in particular are breaking from Zionism, … SF are intent on pushing them back towards Zionism. Most Jews are middle class professionals. They are no more an ‘oppressor people’ – even if they did not belong to the British or French nation – than any other religious minority.”
Far from driving them back towards Zionism, this perspective, of recognising the oppressive nature of the existing Jewish organisations that support Israel, is the precondition for really breaking from all manifestations of Zionism. This is no different from every other oppressor people. In conventional, purely territory-based oppressor nations you don’t actually cease to be part of an oppressor people if you support the oppressed unconditionally, but you do break politically with the oppressors by recognising the reality and resolving to do something about it.
Zionism is an unusual oppressor-people movement in that it partly operates on an extra-territorial basis, and thus the members of this formation are self-selected supporters of the hegemonic Zionist movement. It is actually easier to break from objectively, simply by ceasing to regard Israel as your state. You don’t actually have to physically leave it to cease to be part of the oppressor people formation. But you do have to leave it ideologically. And the question mark over organisations like ‘Jewish Voices For Peace’ is whether they have completely done that.
Greenstein pulls incredible logical contortions to deny that Zionism has any ethnic nationalist content outside Palestine. For instance he says that:
“In the diaspora Zionism arose by virtue of anti-Semitism. It was a separatist reaction. In the Pale of Russia it was not an “ethno-nationalist” reaction, but a response – a reactionary response – to anti-Semitism. It was in Palestine that it became an ethno-nationalist movement. Quite obviously Jews outside Israel are not a separate ethno-nationalist group, but members of their own nations.”
So is Greenstein saying that Jewish-Zionists only began being ethnic nationalists when they actually arrived in Palestine? That before they actually got there, they were not ethnic nationalists even though they set out to carry out the colonisation of Palestine, and in programmatic terms therefore had the same intentions and political programme before they got there? That Zionists who never actually got there, but who funded and supported others to go are not themselves ethnic nationalists? That is logically nonsense. He is in effect denying that those Jews who help Zionism with money from afar, have the same ethno-nationalists programme as the people they are funding and supporting. Total denial of reality in order to deny the international character of Zionism. A logical and practical absurdity.
The authority of political Zionism far outstrips that of any other trend among Jews; that is simply a fact. Anti-Zionist Jews are a small, if slowly growing, minority. And Israel’s supporters are assiduous in organising in support of what they regard as their state within the diaspora. This collective organisation is a material force; it does not make Jews a nation, but it does mean that they have some of the collective attributes of a nation without being one. In our view, this makes it appropriate to call the self-selected large subgroup, certainly a majority, of Jews under Zionist bourgeois leadership a semi-nation. This is a reactionary, not a progressive phenomenon. But it is clear that it does exist.
Greenstein denies obvious reality. He cannot dispute the facts about Jewish representation within the ruling classes of the imperialist countries, most notably within that of the United States, being hugely in excess of the tiny proportion of Jews in the general population of those countries. The facts are just too widely available and well known. So instead he says:
“There is no ‘Jewish component’ of the ruling class. Jews do not operate hegemonically or as an identifiable component separate from non-Jews. [An SF comrade] says they do not ‘determine the bare alliance with Israel’ but they play an important role in creating a ‘servile relationship. In other words, the US is servile to Israel. That certainly is anti-Semitic. It is also completely un-Marxist”
Greenstein does not deny that such a large Jewish contingent exists in the ruling class, nor does he deny that they are mainly supporters of Israel. But he denies that they tend to act as an interest group or that they fight in any organised way for the interests of the state that the majority of them support. In other words, he denies that Jewish-Zionists in the ruling class of the USA and other imperialist powers behave as Zionists at all. They behave like any other capitalists, he insists. For all his professed anti-Zionism, this amount to protecting part of the Zionist movement, an integral and important part of it, from the criticism of Marxists. This is in conflict with his professed anti-Zionism.
Greenstein attempts to mock our interlocking points that Jews in the imperialist countries have become an oppressor people by various kinds of demagogy. But it is not really effective; he reveals his lack of understanding of Marxism when he mocks our point that the Israeli Law of Return gives citizenship rights to Jewish bourgeois abroad, and thereby the potential to become part of the ruling class of Israel:
“Perhaps I am also a member of this ruling class then. Every Jewish person has the ‘right of return’ – and not only every Jewish person, but the spouse or the children of a Jewish person. That is the basis of the racist nature of the Israeli settler-colonial state. Israel seeks Jewish settlers, just as South Africa used to seek white settlers. But this right is not a ‘materialist interest’. If you are a member of the bourgeoisie, Jewish or non-Jewish, you will normally be able to access the citizenship of any state by virtue of your wealth and power. Many members of the ruling class – like Lord Ashcroft, who is a Belize citizen – do indeed take up foreign citizenship for purposes of tax avoidance. Israel is not a tax haven.”
This is extremely silly. Tony Greenstein is not the owner of significant amounts of capital. He is not a member of the ruling class in this country, and the state here does not belong to people like him. If he were a member of the ruling class, his Jewishness would indeed give him entry into the Israeli ruling class, but since he is not, it won’t and doesn’t. This is stating the obvious. As is the statement that Israel is not a tax haven like Belize. It’s not a semi-colony like Belize either. Its citizenship is not for sale to the highest bidder, like that of Belize. If someone allowed non-Jews, other than spouses etc, to buy Israeli citizenship, they would become target of a backlash for undermining the Jewish state.
He goes on to say that:
“The United States support for Israel has nothing to do with Jews. It is no accident that the most anti-Semitic administration in the United States in modern times – that of Donald Trump – has also been the most pro-Zionist. It has had in it Breitbart anti-Semites like Steve Bannon who do not like ‘whining Jewish brats’”
This is disingenuous. One salient fact that Greenstein does not mention is that the founder of Breitbart, one Andrew Breitbart, was actually Jewish. There have been embarrassing episodes of anti-Semitism among elements of Trump’s supporters, but no anti-Jewish political programme. Trump‘s is indeed the most pro-Israeli administration in the US so far, as it recognises Jerusalem and begins dismantling the Iran agreement, a key demand of Netanyahu.
It is building its support out of elements of the old right, some of who may have difficulty keeping their Nazi-saluting arms under control, but that is an embarrassment and a blast from the past. The only Jews Trump is hostile to are liberal and leftist ones who still stick up for other minorities such as Hispanics and blacks, but this hostility is to them for being liberals and leftists, not for being Jews. Right-wing Jews, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, are at the centre of things. To Greenstein Jews are always the victims even when the dominant quasi-nationalist Jewish trend – political Zionism – has the most virulent supporters ever at the centre of the US government.
Apparently for Greenstein it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to suggest that there are any ‘Jewish sensibilities’ or any form of Jewish collectivity. The extra-territorial, international component of Zionism, which the Zionists themselves boast about and revel in through such bodies as the ‘World Zionist Organisation’, which the JLM is an active part of, is in its central purpose, a ‘Jewish collectivity’. These organisations are hegemonic within Jewish communities internationally.
It was Stalin who asked “How many divisions does the Pope have?” It is probably worth asking “what forces do the WZO, its affiliates and component parts have?” The answer is, a hell of a lot more than those Jewish and non-Jewish leftists who try to pretend that any concept of Jewish collectivity under Zionist leadership is anti-Semitic. These organisations have considerable power, including currently the power to purge Jewish and gentile leftists alike from the Labour Party virtually on demand.
Lenin versus the Bund
Greenstein shows his antipathy to classical Marxism with his comments on the Jewish Bund of Poland and Lithuania which existed from just before the turn of the 20th Century and played an important, though ambivalent role, in the workers’ movement in the Tsarist Empire. He opines simply that “The Bund is an example of Jewish workers struggle against fascism and anti-semitism” and therefore that anyone who criticises them must be anti-Semitic.
Thereby he hides the attitude of classical Marxism and Bolshevism to the Bund, which was that it was an insidious and divisive organisation that was a hindrance to the revolutionary movement in Russia. Perhaps Greenstein would like to argue that Lenin was an anti-Semite for his very strong criticisms of the Bund, such as this:
“That is precisely what the Jewish problem amounts to: assimilation or isolation?—and the idea of a Jewish “nationality” is definitely reactionary not only when expounded by its consistent advocates (the Zionists), but likewise on the lips of those who try to combine it with the ideas of Social-Democracy (the Bundists). The idea of a Jewish nationality runs counter to the interests of the Jewish proletariat, for it fosters among them, directly or indirectly, a spirit hostile to assimilation, the spirit of the ‘ghetto’.”
“’When the National Assembly of 1791 decreed the emancipation of the Jews,’ writes Renan, ‘it was very little concerned with the question of race…. It is the business of the nineteenth century to abolish all ‘ghettos’, and I cannot compliment those who seek to restore them. The Jewish race has rendered the world the greatest services. Assimilated with the various nations, harmoniously blended with the various national units, it will render no lesser services in the future than in the past.’ And Karl Kautsky, in particular reference to the Russian Jews, expresses him self even more vigorously. Hostility towards non-native sections of the population can only be eliminated ‘when the non-native sections of the population cease to be alien and blend with the general mass of the population. That is the only possible solution of the Jewish problem, and we should support everything that makes for the ending of Jewish isolation.’
And Lenin’s conclusion in this purple passage is startlingly relevant to this dispute:
“Yet the Bund is resisting this only possible solution, for it is helping, not to end but to increase and legitimise Jewish isolation, by propagating the idea of a Jewish “nation” and a plan of federating Jewish and non- Jewish proletarians. That is the basic mistake of “Bundism”, which consistent Jewish Social-Democrats must and will correct. This mistake drives the Bundists to actions unheard-of in the international Social-Democratic movement, such as stirring up distrust among Jewish towards non-Jewish proletarians, fostering suspicion of the latter and disseminating falsehoods about them. “
The uncritical defender of the Bund, Tony Greenstein, who equates criticism of it and the latter-day Bundists’ practice with anti-Semitism, is certainly guilty of “stirring mistrust” and “disseminating falsehoods” against those on the left who criticise his practice of initiating Jews-only political groupings, such as Jews against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, etc. These are examples of latter-day Bundism, of specifically Jewish organisations in a transformed situation where Jews are not an oppressed population as they were when Lenin was writing this, but a privileged population that is no longer significantly represented among the working class, as Greenstein himself says. Such organisations can only be middle-class and paternalistic to a struggle, that of the Palestinians, that involved some of the most brutally oppressed people on the planet.
Lenin considered the entire policy of Jewish separatism embodied by the Bund to be divisive and the Bund’s separatism to be a variant of that of the Zionists. The Bund opposed the October Revolution, though the real, murderous anti-Semitism of the whites forced it to reconsider and back the Bolshevik side in the Civil War to stave off the counterrevolutionary massacres and pogroms. As a result of this the Bund split and the left-wing simply merged with the communists. The anti-Communist, social democratic wing certainly did fight hard against the Nazis particularly in Poland, as did other social democrats including many in the British Labour Party, through serving in the British Army, but this is not a strategy would-be Marxists should be recommending to the Labour left. We are revolutionary anti-fascists, not adjuncts of the imperialist allies in WWII.
An Unprincipled Bloc
Tony Greenstein says:
“I am not a member of the CPGB and cannot answer for its political positions. Yes, it is true that I disagree with Jack Conrad over the question of whether there is an Israeli Jewish nation and whether a right of self-determination can exist for that ‘nation’. However, there is no disagreement between us over anti-Semitism.”
A remarkable basis for an unprincipled bloc, and a demonstration of the anti-Arab racism that is implicit in this witchhunt by association. By that we mean the well-known phenomenon, covered by UK anti-discrimination law, where not only the members of an oppressed minority are targeted for discrimination but also those from the majority population that associate with and defend them. In this case what is implicit is that Jews are more important than Arabs.
Greenstein and Conrad agree to disagree as to whether the mass ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the Naqba in 1947-8 should be rewarded by according ‘national rights’ to a separate state to the Jewish settlers that expelled them (that is not really important) but they agree in seeking to ban criticism of Jewish ethno-nationalists in the Western ruling classes who support and back this racist project with enormous amounts of money and influence (see the section on Norman Finkelstein, later in this article). This is an unprincipled bloc.
Then Greenstein resorts to sophistry yet again over the definition of anti-Semitism to try to justify banning our open criticism of political Zionism as Jewish communalism:
“It is not quite true that ‘at the October 21 meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt, he and others voted down our amendment that would have had LAW define anti-Semitism as ‘racist hostility to Jews as Jews’’. I opposed the idea that anti-Semitism was simply hostility based on race. People can be hostile to Jews as Jews on the basis of their religion, their customs, etc. It is not necessarily racial.”
So he admits that he rejects the proper definition of anti-Semitism that makes it synonymous with racism, in favour of a broader definition that also appears to criminalise hostility to the Jewish religion. This obviously does not have any relevance to us, as we as Marxists have no difference in our attitude to Jewish theology as to Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Hindu, or any other. It would, however, cover other religions. The Qur’an, for instance, could be defined as anti-Semitic literature on this basis and criminalised, even though it attacks both Jews and Christians for theological reasons. Indeed, by this absurd definition, proponents of any religion or sub religion who issue theological criticism of another religion or sub-religion could be defined as in some way akin to racism in the same way.
As to ‘customs’, there are some that are indeed objectionable, such as the circumcision of new-born male children. The German state finds this so objectionable that it is making this a criminal offence. We cannot but agree with this, as it is an abuse of Jewish (and other) children for reasons of religious obscurantism. But since a ban on circumcision of minors for non-medical reasons would also cover Muslims and some (Filipino) Catholics, it can hardly be accused of being specifically anti-Jewish.
If anti-Semitism is not defined as synonymous with racism then that makes Jews a privileged group, with the special privilege not available to other minorities, to criminalise criticism of themselves that is not motivated by racial antagonism, but simply on the basis of ideological disagreement with particular groups of Jews that claim this right on an arbitrary basis. This claim to privilege is in fact a form of racism. Since Greenstein does not venture to accuse Socialist Fight of racial antipathy to people of Jewish origin, has many times admitted the opposite, and would be laughed out of court if he did, he himself is engaged in this kind of sophistry. He is libelling us in a dishonest way. This is very clear. We do reserve the right to take this up as a legal matter, just as he has in the past when smeared by others. But we prefer to use the methods of working-class democracy to expose these libels and anti-democratic practices.
And then, bearing in mind that Greenstein rejects the synonym of ‘anti-Semitism’ with racism against those of Jewish origin, he goes on to try to resolve the contradiction between his statement that “left-wing anti-Semitism” is a myth and his bloc with Jack Conrad who uses precisely this characterisation against Socialist Fight. So after a pedantic explanation of the AWL’s own rationale for smearing leftists as ‘anti-Semitic’ for not defending the Naqba and thereby the ‘right’ of Israel to ‘self-determination’ at the Palestinians’ expense, he goes on to elide his own ‘non-racist’ definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ with ourselves:
“However, individuals and small groups may be on the left, but have anti-Semitic politics. People often have contradictory ideas residing inside their heads. SF is a good example, but there is no general phenomenon of left anti-Semitism, as the Zionists and AWL suggest.”
Again, bear in mind that he explicitly rejects the equation of anti-Semitism with racism, and is not talking about racialised antagonism. Then what does this mean? It means thought-crime, straying beyond the limits of what is politically acceptable for Tony Greenstein and his anti-democratic Bund-like claim to a monopoly of what people on the left are allowed to believe and argue on the Jewish Question. The structure of this argument would only make sense if we were being accused of capitulating to a socially dominant form of racism or chauvinism if anti-Semitism was the dominant racism. Some on the Labour left even have so capitulated; a classic example of this was Owen Jones’ call for those on the left to ‘love bomb’ UKIP supporters, and not lecture them about immigration, etc. But there is no dominant anti-Semitism. Greenstein himself thinks it is marginal.
Left to Right Spectrum
He is arguing incoherent nonsense, in other words. A more objective way of measuring this would be to plot the three tendencies involved in this, the CPGB, the AWL, and ourselves, on a left-right axis. This would reveal the following diagram:
(Greenstein, since he is a regular contributor to the CPGB’s press and defends them over many things, should be politically located just one slight nuance to the left of the CPGB but clearly within their political gravitational field).
This is easy to justify politically. The CPGB itself regards the AWL as politically to its right, as being ‘social imperialist’. Tony Greenstein also regards the AWL as politically to the right of the CPGB, and has frequently denounced them for their right-wing politics in the CPGB’s press. But it is easy to demonstrate that many of the things the CPGB and Tony Greenstein criticise the AWL for, they are themselves guilty of to a lesser extent.
We are the consistent critics of both trends, from a left-wing standpoint. That clearly locates Socialist Fight to the left of the CPGB politically. They are a left-Stalinist trend by origin that has embraced the politics of Max Shachtman and Hal Draper, in a less consistent manner than the AWL, but very clearly nevertheless. The CPGB regards Hal Draper, in particular, who supported Israel in the 1948 war and clearly defended the ethnic cleaning of Palestine as an expression of ‘self-determination’, as its political mentor. Its comrades have spent years studying Draper’s works in weekly Communist Forums, going through them almost line-by-line. Draper is their historical guru and Jack Conrad is the high priest that interprets Draper’s politics today. But Shachtmanism/ Draperism is clearly a right-wing split from the Trotskyist movement.
Socialist Fight, conversely, is clearly in the mainstream of the Trotskyist tradition, which is in turn located firmly in the tradition of classical Marxism. This includes our defence and extension of the works of Abram Leon on the Jewish Question to address modern-day Israel and Zionism. This is straight out of the classical period of the Fourth International in Trotsky’s day; the main reason this has not been attempted before was the centrist degeneration of the Trotskyist movement that has led to it shattering into numerous complementary groupings. Be that as it may, resolving this can only be done by regroupment on the basis of a reassertion and extension of classical Marxist method and programme, something we are seeking to drive forward with the necessary patience.
That is on the abstract level. On concrete questions, Greenstein whines that “the idea that we are Islamophobic is rubbish” and “a straightforward lie”. But if Greenstein had read the article he is replying to properly, he would be aware that it was the CPGB who were being accused of Islamophobia, not himself per se. But if he wishes to dispute the allegation, can he show evidence that the CPGB did not support the removal of Lutfur Rahman as mayor of Tower Hamlets in a coup orchestrated by Conservative Friend of Israel Eric Pickles? We supplied a quote where their email circular criticised Left Unity for not supporting Pickles’ coup.
Or can he show that the CPGB did not denounce those who supported Iraqi resistance after 2003 as supporting ‘reactionary anti-imperialism’? Or can he show that the CPGB did not refuse to defend the elected Hamas government in the occupied territories against the 2007 Israeli/Abbas coup, on grounds that Hamas represented ‘reactionary anti-Zionism’? We actually quoted him in 2008 denouncing them as ‘parodying’ the AWL for that position. We criticised this along with their bloc with Greenstein and other Bundists while refusing to defend the democratic rights of Muslims as representing a philo-semitic, Islamophobic bias.
RESPECT and Third Campism
Then there is the CPGB’s definition of RESPECT as a ‘popular front’, despite it containing no fragment of the British imperialist ruling class, no ‘shadow of the bourgeoisie’ even, only various Muslim immigrant trends along with the left. This purported ‘popular front’ adopted policies that no popular front in history has adopted: support for Iraqi resistance against the British/US invasion, and defence of Iran against imperialist attack in a period when Bush and Blair were threatening such an attack. The equation of immigrant groups with links to the semi-colonial bourgeoisies that were the targets of imperialism, with part of the imperialist ruling class, implicit in the characterisation of RESPECT as a popular front, is a consequence of third campism, the view that the targets of imperialist attack are just as bad as the imperialists themselves.
This is also a clear case where the CPGB is not just to the right of Socialist Fight, but to the right of the left reformist George Galloway and the leadership of what is now Counterfire, then in the SWP, who led RESPECT with comrade Galloway at its peak. RESPECT was no popular front, but a unique political/electoral hybrid that bore a strong resemblance to early Comintern initiatives like the Baku Congress of the Peoples of East. In a sense, it was an Anti-Imperialist United Front in electoral form. It was a unique, conjunctural product of Blairism, the de-labourisation of Labour and the Iraq War and New Labour’s role in it.
These positions put RESPECT to the left of the CPGB. But for Greenstein, as for the CPGB, this is not important. For him anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry from his bloc partners is not as important as protecting Zionist bourgeois in the US and indeed here from being criticised for playing a major role in oppressing Arabs. This just goes to show that for Greenstein, despite all his fine words, when push comes to shove, Jews are more important than Arabs.
Greenstein is lying when he accuses us of lying; we supplied quotes and references that are in the public domain, indelibly so, which prove these are their positions. Greenstein has not concretely refuted any of them. He just makes unsubstantiated accusations of lying in putting forward criticisms that are substantiated by quotes and historical research. This is pathetic, and the kind of dishonesty that results from an unprincipled bloc with people who fail to defend the democratic rights of Muslims while indulging the chauvinism of Jewish bourgeois who not only face no threat to their democratic rights, but systematically violate the rights of others, including those of Tony Greenstein!
Ethnic Divisions in Ruling Classes
Some of Greenstein’s points attempting to refute our attack on the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois really show the reformist ideological assumptions that lurk within. For instance, he baldly asserts that:
“The very concept of a Jewish bourgeoisie is anti-semitic. The Western bourgeoisie is not divided by religion, caste or ethnicity”
This is of a piece with the CPGB’s belief that the Western ruling classes have abandoned racism, and the main problem now is ‘official anti-racism’. It is reformist cretinism. First of all, the Western bourgeoisie has for decades been united, pretty much forcibly, by the hegemony of US imperialism which is qualitatively more powerful that any of the European powers or Japan. As long as that qualitative advantage remains, this forced unity is unlikely to change. But within living memory of some alive today, the US bourgeoisie dropped atomic bombs on two cities of the Japanese bourgeoisie, and threatened more to induce them to surrender. Germany and Britain destroyed each other’s cites with firebombs, Dresden and Coventry come to mind.
If Nazi Germany had acquired the nuclear technology that the USA acquired later in the war, nuclear weapons could have been used against Britain (and the USSR). It was within reach; they had the scientists. Ironically it was the persecution of Jews by the German bourgeoisie under Hitler, including bourgeois Jews – privileged layers were not exempted: that led Jewish scientists to defect to the USA in the nick of time and so Hitler was robbed of the best nuclear expertise. But that was an example of ‘ethnic division’, or persecution, within a capitalist ruling class injuring its prospects of winning a world war.
It’s downright stupid to say that ruling classes cannot be divided along ethnic lines. Such things happen all the time in the semi-colonial world. Communal conflicts exist all over the world, in Africa, in Asia, India-Pakistan, the Congo, Saudi Arabia-vs-Yemen, the Sunni-Shia fault line in the Muslim world: all these are examples of divisions between bourgeois elites along communal or confessional lines. Such things may be rarer in the imperialist countries because of their greater stability, but they can in no mind be ruled out. In any case, there are things that are short of outright hostility and communal conflict, such as pressure politics and ethnic lobbying. This is actually a key part of US bourgeois politics, as Norman Finkelstein pointed out forcefully, much to Greenstein’s disgust, at Communist University 2016.
And Jewish bourgeois are just as capable of organising along ethnic or racist lines as any other group of bourgeois. To rule this out is really to claim some kind of Jewish moral superiority. Why are they different from anyone else? Greenstein cannot even begin to address this, he can only scream ‘anti-Semitism’ at the idea in exactly the same way that the Zionists scream ‘anti-Semitism’ at him and others whenever they speak of any remote resemblance between Israeli actions toward the Palestinians and Nazi treatment of Jews. In both cases, what is being criminalised is saying that Jews are capable of committing crimes or invidious actions at the same level as the worst non-Jewish reactionaries. The crime, it seems, is to say that Jews are no different to anyone else, and not put them in a different category to the rest of humanity. Greenstein, the left-Bundist, is guilty of this, not ourselves.
Moral Superiority and Zionist Racism
This concept of Jewish moral superiority does not however originate with Greenstein or the CPGB. It is a general social phenomenon, the hegemony of political Zionism as the only form of racism that was not discredited by the Nazi Holocaust and the outcome of World War II. At the high point of 1970s radicalism, in the era of the colonial revolution and the Vietnamese victory over US imperialism, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution saying that Zionism was a form of racism. That was rescinded after the USSR was destroyed through counterrevolution in 1991. In this context, political Zionism established itself as the hegemonic form of racism in the West, the only type that had intellectual respectability.
And it is precisely the concept of Jewish moral superiority, not crude concepts of racial superiority, that drives that hegemony. The racial superiority part may be manifest among Israeli settlers on the West Bank, but such themes can only repel liberal-minded Westerners. No, the concept of moral superiority is precisely the means by which political Zionism secures its hegemony in the West. The likes of Greenstein and the CPGB take this for granted, they have never thought this through; they are not even conscious of it.
So when Greenstein says :
“To speak about “Jewish moral superiority” is to ape the language of the National Front and the fascists. ”
.. he is actually defending Zionist ideological hegemony, without even realising it. The National Front is a blast from the past, an irrelevance today. Today’s fascists are the likes of the English Defence League, PEGIDA, and Britain First. The latter recently gained the endorsement of Donald Trump, even as he was preparing to announce his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. All these groups carry Israeli flags.
The right-wing populist Trump, who flirts with fascists and never loses an opportunity to insult oppressed minorities such as blacks, Muslims, Latinos, like Obama before him, made a point of being photographed wearing a kippah (Jewish skullcap) at the Wailing Wall. These people feed off Zionist racist hegemony, but it’s not any concept of Jewish racial superiority they feast on. That would not work at all. Rather, it is the concept of Jewish moral superiority that drives Jewish supremacism among the far right in the West. This is a much more elastic and malleable concept.
When Greenstein tries to mock our insistence that it is the social power of Jewish bourgeois that gives Zionism the power to launch witch-hunts in the British Labour Party, he speaks of the capacity of non-Jews such as Theresa May and Eric Pickles to exploit ‘people’s sensitivities’ about anti-Semitism. But what are these ‘sensitivities’? They are not based on the reality of any social phenomena of racial antagonism to Jewish people.
They are rather based, again, on this concept of Jewish moral superiority, which is promoted by the ruling class, Jewish and non-Jewish, because the non-Jewish bourgeoisie regards the Jewish bourgeoisie, particularly the Zionists, not as rivals or subversives any more, but rather as its very capable and far-sighted partners in protecting the future of capitalism. That is the basis for the widespread social belief and promotion of Jewish moral superiority.
Our central criticism of neo-Bundist groups like Jews against Zionism it that they tacitly accept this Zionist hegemony based on the notion of moral superiority, instead of fighting it. This is our critique of the notion of ‘koshering’ as laid out by Greenstein’s comrade Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi in a documentary about Gilad Atzmon:
“We are in a position to ‘kosher’, to give a stamp of approval, to the whole movement, by saying, look it is fine to support the Palestinians, it is fine to support Israel, it is fine even to challenge the nature of the Jewish state, because here we are, we’re Jews, we’re doing it.” (http://www.gilad.co.uk/gilad-and-all-that-jazz/)
But doing this does not challenge Zionist hegemony; it reinforces it. It is one thing to seek mixed groups to undermine divisions and promote solidarity with the Palestinians. But to create Jews-only groups with the explicit purpose of ‘koshering’ the Palestinian solidarity movement does not challenge this notion of moral superiority at all. It cuts with it. Greenstein’s subjectivity and feigned personal hurt when he writes…:
“The suggestion that I or any other Jewish anti-Zionist comrade accepts that ‘anyone who opposes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is guilty of anti-Semitism until proven innocent’ is also a lie. All of us work with non-Jewish comrades as equals.”
…misses the point completely. The implicit assumption behind the “kosher stamp” Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is talking about is that without the kosher stamp, the Palestinian cause is indeed suspect. It cannot stand up on its own obvious merits without approval by a special Jewish body. This is a form of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ assumption, on a society-wide level, and instead of fighting it, the Bundists are going along with it.
Greenstein’s Falsifications and Zionist Residue
To conclude this statement, we reproduce below some hard factual material that demonstrates the political dishonesty and misrepresentation of not just our views, but some important figures on the Jewish left, both alive and deceased, by Tony Greenstein.
As part of his polemic, Greenstein tries to play off various elements of the Jewish and Israeli dissident milieu against Socialist Fight, as part of an effort to identify us with the thought provoking and eminently studyable, but often flawed views of Gilad Atzmon. There are several easily demonstrated inaccuracies in Greenstein’s rendition of their views, which are as dishonest as his claims to revere the work of Abram Leon (while vilifying anyone who tries to apply and extend his theories today as anti-Semitic).
For instance, regarding the late Israeli dissident Israel Shahak, a very eminent fighter for civil liberties for Arabs within Israel, who died in 2001, he writes:
“Israel Shahak, who was a liberal anti-Zionist in Israel, was never a supporter of the idea that rich Jews had an influence over US foreign policy.”
This is simply a lie. The following quote shows that, within his own liberal framework (which does not draw the kind of sharp distinctions we Marxists do with regard to class), Shahak strongly believed that organised Jewish ethnic politics played a major role in influencing US foreign policy:
“US support for Israel, when considered not in abstract but in concrete detail, cannot be adequately explained only as a result of American imperial interests. The strong influence wielded by the organised Jewish community in the USA in support of all Israeli policies must be taken into account in order to explain the Middle East policies of American administrations. This phenomenon is even more noticeable in the case of Canada, whose Middle Eastern interests cannot be considered as important, but whose loyal dedication to Israel is even greater than that of the USA. In both countries (and also in France, Britain, and many other states) Jewish organisations support Israel with the same loyalty which communist parties accorded to the USSR for so long. Also, many Jews who appear to be active in defending human rights and who adopt non-conformist views on other issues do, in cases affecting Israel, display a remarkable degree of totalitarianism and are in the forefront of defence of all Israeli policies. It is well known in Israel that the chauvinism and fanaticism in supporting Israel displayed by diaspora Jews is much greater (especially since 1967) than the chauvinism shown by an average Israeli Jew…” (Jewish History, Jewish Religion: the Weight of Three Thousand Years, 1994, p102).”
As we said, Shahak did not draw sharp class distinctions. But nevertheless, he was obviously aware that it is the wealthy who call the shots in the kind of organisation he was discussing, just as for any other similar organisation of any other ethnic group. The views of Shahak are the exact opposite of those which Greenstein attributes to him. It is clear that Shahak strongly believed that ethnic lobbying has a significant effect on US policy in the Middle East and Israel.
Then there is Norman Finkelstein. Since Greenstein tries to claim we are lying when we say that Norman Finkelstein sided with us, not him, on this question, we have taken the liberty of transcribing the relevant part of Finkelstein’s summary to a session at Communist University in London in August 2016. When one of our comrades spoke in the session, their contribution was curtailed by some quite severe heckling from some others present. Finkelstein criticised this heckling, and later gave his own views on some of the questions we raised.
At the end of this part the session went into uproar when Greenstein (and some others, but mainly him) lost it and kept heckling Finkelstein because of his remarks about ‘Jewish lobbies’ in American politics. You can clearly hear the distinctive Welsh tones of Mark Fischer, the chair, pleading ‘That’s enough now” trying to restore order. Those who wish to check the transcript can go to (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4JsM4nCb_U&list=PLQ_b1NcwJsXfY4ohWyljNwn8fpF5aXUkj&index=7) and listen for themselves. The portion transcribed begins at 1:38:49 into the session. The transcript is as follows:
“There is a powerful ethnic lobby in the United States. There are many ethnic lobbies. You couldn’t possibly explain the boycott of Cuba after it long became irrational without the Cuban lobby. It’s not possible. It had long become an irrational policy to boycott Cuba. They only finally ended it under Obama. There was a powerful ethnic lobby.
“If you look at the magnitudes, the kinds of aid that are given to Israel, the magnitudes, it’s so out of relation to any rational picture of the world. Israeli has a standard of living now that’s higher than Spain or Italy, but it gets amounts of aid which can only be accounted for by a powerful lobby.
“The lobby however, there are limits to the lobby. For example, the lobby whenever a fundamental US national interest is at stake, a fundamental US national interest is at stake, the lobby collapses like a house of cards. The most obvious example from the recent period is what happened with the deal with Iran.
“The US decided that, well we have a problem here. The other members of what was called the 5 + 1, they all want now to cut a deal with Iran. They have a big market – its Iran. The Chinese want to go in, the Chinese are already in. Russia wants to go in, Germany wants to go in, Britain wants to go in, France wants to go in, the deal looks OK. The US has a problem.
“If it doesn’t sign on, it’s going to be locked out of the Iran market. So it’s now a fundamental US national interest. We have to go along with this deal because you don’t know who’s the 5, its going to be 6 minus 1, instead of 5 + 1, the +1 was Germany, the 5 Security [Council] members plus Germany. If we don’t watch it, it’s going to be 6 minus 1, it’s going to be the 5 + Germany minus the United States. They go along with the deal.
“Netanyahu shouting, it’s going to be a Holocaust, they’re going to destroy Israel, second Holocaust. Israeli lobby in the United States mobilises all its power, what does it get for all of its power? It got zero, it got one. Two. It got Charles Schumer in New York, and it got Robert Menendez, the Senator for New Jersey. Otherwise, all the pro-Israel people, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, all the pro-Israel people, even people like, fellow from New Jersey… African-American, I forget his name, even he, who usually goes with the Israel lobby, no he goes with the deal.
“Because it’s a fundamental US interest and Obama’s bringing these folks into his office, and says ‘Listen folks, if we don’t sign the deal, we’re going to be locked out of Iran, everybody else is going to come in’. The whole lobby it brings huge amounts of money, its estimated something like 30 million dollars, can’t remember now, got nothing. It got nothing.
But… when fundamental US interests are not at stake, for example, does the US care either way what happens to the West Bank? Not really. It has no big stake there. Would they prefer Israel leave? Of course they would prefer Israel leave, because it’s a pain in the ass for them. These settlements, the UN, all this Human Rights stuff, Obama looks bad, he wants to be the prophet, you know, the Black Moses, and he’s constantly defending Israel, it looks horrible, you know. In the middle of Protective Edge, Israel we’ve got your back, you know. Real creep. It looks bad.
“So they would like Israel to leave. But there’s no big US interest at stake. When major US interests are not at stake, and the occupation is not a major US interest, they’ll go along with the lobby. Then the lobby has power. That’s why the US keeps vetoing these resolutions in the Security Council. It is the lobby.
“Not because they are committed to it: I don’t like Obama, I think Obama is an abomination, but I do believe that he had an option. He would like to end the settlement enterprise and he would like Israel to withdraw, if he had that option. But that’s when the lobby comes into effect. When fundamental US interests are not at stake, the US government does things which otherwise it wouldn’t do. And it does it because we have lobbies in the United States.
“We have interest groups in the United States, we have ethnic lobbies in the United States. So I think at that level, I don’t think there is any horror in saying that Jews have a lot of money, a lot of power, and sometimes they use the money and they use the power, sometimes to serve an ethnic agenda. That happens.
“When white people controlled Hollywood all Hollywood was about how wonderful white people were. When the civil rights movement comes along, Hollywood looks a little different, because there are new interest groups. There are new ethnic groups which are forcing new agendas. That’s what politics is like in the US. There is a large ethnic group, interest group, a component of how our system works. Why would be want to deny that? I don’t see …
<semi-inaudible heckling from Tony Greenstein “foreign policy …”>
“They have elements, elements. You can’t understand US policy towards Cuba without as an element the Cuba national lobby. It’s not possible. And you can’t understand why someone like Obama would be constantly vetoing Security Council resolutions say on the question of settlements, without understanding there is a Jewish lobby, an Israel lobby. I don’t see any horror in acknowledging that.
<heckling from Tony Greenstein>
<Response to question on ‘class interest’>
“Well, I think you want to reduce some of the complexity of being a human being to something called ‘class interest’. People have class interests, for sure. But they also have ethnic chauvinist interests. People are that way. When it’s no sweat off your back, and I say Israel is now an American asset. So it doesn’t threaten an American Jew to support Israel. On the other hand, it’s kind of a nice thing in terms of ethnic solidarity to show ‘look how wonderful I am, I’m standing up for Israel’ as an ethnic solidarity. People are like that. They have class interests, they also have an ethnic identity. And Jews at this point have a strong ethnic identity with Israel.
“Otherwise how can you explain people like Sheldon Adelson? How can you explain people like Chaim Saban? And spending tens, or hundreds of millions of dollars, of their own individual wealth, in support of Israel. Is it a class interest? Of course not! Is it ethnic chauvinism? Yeah! I think it is. And you have a lot of money at your disposal to execute your ethnic chauvinism. It’s regrettable, but it’s true.
“And I don’t see why it’s so shocking to say something like that. You know you’re now shocked at the notion of ethnic identities?
<heckling from Tony Greenstein “It doesn’t explain US foreign policy”>
It doesn’t explain ALL of US foreign policy. But I began talking by saying that even somebody who is in the wrong on the big picture, and I agree with you, the big picture of US foreign policy cannot be explained by Jewish capitalists. But a big picture also includes pieces, parts where a dissenter might have something to contribute to the truth.
“And I think to try to understand US foreign policy completely in the absence of these ethnic lobbies doesn’t make any sense either. It’s a component, it’s a part of the truth. And you have to see that part. When you see Netanyahu give a speech in Congress, and he gets sixty standing ovations, in 55 seconds, well you gonna wonder what the hell is going on here. You have to understand what’s going on here. It has nothing to do with a Jewish contribution to political life.
“But why are they standing? Isn’t it partly to do with an ethnic lobby?
<heckling from Greenstein and others>
“I can’t deal with this politically correct denial of reality. It’s not socialist.
<uproar and more heckling> (chair: “that’s enough now”)
“No, let’s not end on a conflictual note …..”
This is a serious business. Greenstein accuses us of lying about the views of Israel Shahak and Norman Finkelstein on the question of Jewish ethnic influence in US politics. Yet an examination of actual materials by them reveals that he is lying: contrary to what he is attributing to them, their actual views, with all due allowance for differences of ideology and so on, are rather close to our own and very far from those of Greenstein. This is political falsification, which Greenstein and the CPGB who published his tract and support his calls for a witchhunt in Labour Against the Witchhunt, should be held accountable.
In fact, though Finkelstein sided with us on much of our disagreement with the CPGB, if anything he was too conservative. His remarks about Obama’s Iran deal have not proved quite so correct, as Trump is now in the process of trying to dismantle it, as part of the same pro-Zionist programme that led him to the recognition of Jerusalem. Though there are serious obstacles to doing so as the deal is already signed and sealed, and up and running. But it cannot be simply said Obama was able to override the ‘lobby’ in the way Finkelstein said. The Israeli lobby were able to bite back through Trump, who at the same time likes at times to posture as an opponent of the neocons.
Norman Finkelstein and Charles Windsor
Then there are his remarks about Charles Windsor. Greenstein says:
“And, yes, Prince Charles’ comments were also anti-Semitic – which is what one expects of the royals.”
Interesting. Let us examine what Windsor actually said (the letter was from 1986):
“I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally and it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause the great problems
“I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?
“Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/prince-charles-blames-jews-middle-east-turmoil-1986-letter-a8050586.html)
He does not seem particularly hostile to Jews at all. He seems worried that the Israelis are provoking Arab ‘terrorism’ because the United States, under the pressure of its ‘Jewish lobby’ (exactly the same phrase used by Norman Finkelstein) are indulging hard-line Israeli policies and actions, which are being instigated by Jewish settlers from Europe.
Quite how this is meant to be anti-Semitic is not clear. Since Greenstein often condemns the colonisation of Palestine by European Jewish settlers, he ought to agree with some of it. And if Windsor is an anti-Semite for talking about the “Jewish lobby”, then obviously Norman Finkelstein must also be an ‘anti-Semite’ for saying the exact same thing. But for Greenstein to denounce Norman Finkelstein for anti-Semitism would discredit him, not Finkelstein. Likewise, for the CPGB to do the same. Indeed one of its earlier more left-wing moves was to defend Finkelstein over “the Holocaust Industry” from a range of pro-Zionist leftists, who treated them at the time before 2000 rather like the way Socialist Fight are being treated today, precisely for their defence of Finkelstein.
Are the royals inevitably going to be anti-Semitic? Since the royals are just a bauble for the ruling class, this is like asking if the ruling class is always going to be anti-Semitic, irrespective of time and place. In the 1930s the then-Princess Elizabeth was filmed giving a Nazi salute, along with her sister, her mother and father. But then the ruling class was in part anti-Semitic, and the royals reflected that. But it is perfectly obvious, from all the campaigns waged to smear the left as anti-Semitic, the hegemony of Friends of Israel groups in political parties, etc, that far from being anti-Semitic, the ruling class regards Jews as worthy of special protection today from left-wing criticism, and there is no way it will permit real anti-Semitism to attack the Zionist-dominated Jewish communities which it regards both as an asset and an ally.
The view that Jews will always be persecuted irrespective of time and place, is a part of the Zionist worldview. In positing Charles Windsor’s views here as akin to his mother’s Nazi salute, in a different era, Greenstein is showing that for all his ‘anti-Zionist’ ferocity, he still shares at least sufficient residual elements of this worldview to render his ‘anti-Zionism’ fundamentally flawed.