Greenstein and Conrad circle the wagonsLeave a comment
04/01/2018 by Ian
To justify his blatant defiance of a democratic vote at the Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) meeting on 2 December, which refused to back the decision of majority of the original LAW executive to exclude Socialist Fight from LAW, Tony Greenstein, with the backing of Jackie Walker, has produced a tract that attempts to justify defying the democracy of the previous meeting and forcing LAW supporters to vote again on the same issue that was already voted on. It is notable that this time, the statement is signed by only two members of the five-person executive.
No doubt Stan Keable of the CPGB-allied Labour Party Marxists, who conspicuously has not signed the statement, will be put under some sort of sect discipline by CPGB guru Jack Conrad to support the exclusion again. Though he already unmistakably indicated his disapproval of the previous attempted purge (which was done in his name), by correctly noting in the discussion that it involved the same ‘auto-exclusion’ methods that Iain McNichol uses habitually against the left, and then shaking a Socialist Fight comrade warmly by the hand and congratulating us on our victory after the meeting in front of a pub filled with leftists.
Lies and Cowardice
The justification by Greenstein and co for accusing us of ‘anti-Semitism’ just does not make sense. Their cowardice is clear, however. Here it is on full display:
“The Right is waging a witchhunt which is primarily based around the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. We are falsely being accused of anti-Semitism because we are anti-Zionists. It makes no sense whatsoever for us to therefore include a political group in LAW which is anti-Semitic. This is playing into the hands of the Zionists and undermines the position of those who are facing expulsion.”
This is juxtaposed with the following self-contradictory nonsense about ourselves:
“The only question to be decided is whether SF is anti-Semitic. By that we don’t mean that Gerry Downing [GD] or Ian Donovan [ID] are personally anti-Semitic but whether their politics are anti-Semitic.”
The complete lack of moral courage on display here is breathtaking. On the one hand they do not have the guts to accuse our leading comrades of racism. This is because it is well known on the left that they both have at least four decades behind them of political activity as Trotskyists and militant anti-racists. So, they make this distinction between ‘personal’ and political anti-Semitism. It is self-evidently ridiculous, at least if ‘anti-Semitism’ means anti-Jewish racism, which is what most lay people would consider it means. But they do not mean that; the comrades concerned voted down the equation of ‘anti-Semitism’ with racism at the founding LAW meeting in October.
So they accept that we are not racists. That should be the end of the matter then. But no; it is their cowardice that is on display here. They are afraid that our views are simply too radical a break with Zionism; we criticise not merely the state of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, but also the mechanism that makes it qualitatively more difficult to oppose Zionism than previous racist projects such as the former apartheid regime in South Africa. It is Zionism’s base in the ruling classes of the United States and Europe through the high proportion of bourgeois who are both Jewish and support Zionism, compared to the number of Jews in the population of those countries, that gives Israel unprecedented political leverage to procure the criminalisation of dissent against Zionism in other countries.
A Radical Break
Unlike in the early 20th Century, when the ruling classes of the imperialist countries viewed Jews, including Jewish bourgeois, as potentially dangerous subversives, today they regard the Jewish bourgeoisie, especially the many Zionists among them, as a far sighted, highly class-conscious asset of the capitalist system itself. So instead of anti-Jewish racism being ‘mainstream’, today, the opposite, philo-Semitic racism is just about the only ‘respectable’ kind of racism. That depends on abuse of the undeniably criminal genocide and oppression perpetrated against Jews in the first half of the 20th Century to promote the idea the Jews, by virtue of their past suffering, have a moral superiority that gives them the right to oppress and dispossess the Palestinians. This is used to fend off criticism particularly from non-Jews of this oppression; such criticisms as a social norm are habitually dismissed as racist by ruling class ideologues.
What is distinctive about Socialist Fight is that we dare to challenge these notions, and the international dimension of Zionist social power that underlies them, to bring into view these issues, that overlay the ‘normal’ system of imperialist alliances under US hegemony, and give this an additional layer of complexity. We challenge theoretically and politically the potent defence mechanism that Zionism has developed that gives it additional weapons against the struggle of the Palestinians, and makes solidarity with them much more difficult than virtually every comparable struggle. But challenging these brings additional calumnies and hatred from the bourgeoisie. A large section of the current left, that is characterised by political softness on Jewish communalism, flinches from addressing these issues, and lashes out at those to its left that dare to so, joining in the bourgeois calumny that such criticisms are driven by anti-Jewish racism even as they are witchhunted using similar smears.
They really do want to confine the discussion to our alleged ‘anti-Semitism’. They do not want to discuss whether we are targeted because we are to the left of these capitulators, because our positions attack parts of the Zionist movement that these political cowards dare not criticise.
The capitulators try all kinds of feeble debating tricks to personalise the discussion, to use guilt by association, and other kinds of bombast to justify themselves. Thus they write of our comrade Ian Donovan (ID), engaged supposedly in a conflict with Tony Greenstein (TG), Jackie Walker (JW) and Mark Wadsworth (MW) (the latter has not yet said anything against us):
“ID writes that ‘Today, he [Greenstein] 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.’ If ID really believes that TG and presumably JW and MW, all of whom agree about SF, are in a bloc with Iain McNicol, what the hell is he doing in LAW in the first place?”
What are we doing in LAW? Trying to build a Labour Against the Witchhunt campaign that defends all victims of the witchhunt on a non-exclusionist basis, and welcomes all who are prepared to defend all victims of the witchhunt. The fact that TG and perhaps others may flinch and betray aspects of that objective does not mean we will walk away from the fight to make LAW into such a body, which its very name says it should be anyway. It is not unheard of for people on the receiving end of a witchhunt to simultaneously behave treacherously and witchhunt others to their left. A classic example is the US Communist Party in the period of the witchhunting ‘Smith Act’ during and after WWII. They supported the prosecution of Trotskyists under this witchhunting law; this did not stop the state from using it against them also. The Trotskyists did not, rightly, walk away from seeking a principled defence of all on the left against the witchhunters. Nor do we today.
Greenstein says (Jackie Walker was not personally involved in this, so we will take him as the real author):
“Yes we have moderated their lengthy contributions on the FB page, not because we wished to censor them but because the group is there to fight the witchhunt.”
Incredible hypocrisy, since this fight was kicked off again by Greenstein posting his own call for a renewed witchhunt against SF, “Anti-Semites Not Welcome” in the group (and the Weekly Worker), which certainly was not about defending Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Mark Wadsworth, Gerry Downing or anyone else against the witchhunt. It was about capitulators to Zionism conducting a witchhunt within LAW, against consistent anti-Zionists who happen, not coincidentally, to be classical Marxists and orthodox Trotskyists.
“Making a connection between the number of Jewish billionaires in the United States or who is Jewish amongst the richest sections of society and imperialist support for Israel is anti-Semitic.”
This is just an incantation to deny reality. There is a huge disproportion between the number of Jewish bourgeois in the US and other Western ruling classes, and the number of Jewish people in society. These people cannot deny this, the facts are just too well known and widely available including from Jewish sources that boast about them.
Dominant Ideology and denial of reality
Zionism, as Greenstein admits, is the dominant ideology among Jews. It is particularly dominant among bourgeois Jews; it is a quintessentially bourgeois ideology and project. This point amounts therefore to denying that Jewish-Zionist bourgeois, who support an ideology that Tony Greenstein characterises as ‘ethno-nationalism’, organise collectively for their ethno-nationalism, exert social pressure for their distinctive views in the societies they live in, and bias US and other policy to a stronger pro-Zionist position than ruling class interests would otherwise dictate. To say that they do is apparently anti-Semitic. But of course, to say that they don’t is like arguing that the Pope is really not a Catholic or that bears really do not shit in the woods.
“Anti-Zionists have taken great care to make the distinction between Zionism and being Jewish crystal clear. SF make no such distinction.”
Translated, this means that capitulators to Zionism try to impose a denial of reality that says that Zionism and Jewishness are completely separate things. But Zionism is a movement to create and maintain a separate Jewish state. How then can Zionism be completely separated from being Jewish? The people making this point are fearful that if they don’t deny this obvious truth then they will become anti-Semitic, that they will become either gentile Jew-haters or conform to the reactionary Zionist myth/stereotype of the self-hating Jew. But this is an irrational fear. As Norman Finkelstein exclaimed when confronted with this nonsense at Communist University 2016: “I can’t deal with this politically correct denial of reality. It’s not socialist!”
Finkelstein also dealt with Greenstein’s next point:
“US support for Israel and Zionism has nothing to do with the ethnic composition of the US ruling class and everything to do with their own perceived interests. There is no evidence of a clash between Jewish and non-Jewish members of the ruling class over this.”
Insofar as the disproportionate Jewish component of the ruling class is Zionist, they constitute what Norman Finkelstein slightly carelessly called a “Jewish lobby”. We don’t use that term as it is open to misrepresentation. We talk of a Jewish-Zionist caste within the wider bourgeoisie, which sees Israel as its state alongside the state where it lives (USA, UK, etc.) Thus we have overlapping ruling classes. The term ‘Jewish lobby’ is at best a layman’s term for this. But it is based on fact as Finkelstein, among others, elaborated.
“ID states that ‘It is factually demonstrable that there exists a Jewish component within the ruling classes of Western countries… and that this part of the ruling class is overwhelmingly loyal to Israel. This does not determine the bare existence of a Western alliance with Israel.
“…What it does, however, is play an important role in transforming what would otherwise be a ‘normal’ relationship… into a servile relationship
“…The idea that the United States is ‘servile’ to Israel is anti-Semitic. What lies behind this is the notion of an all-powerful Jewish conspiracy.
““Yes, Jews have climbed the socio-economic ladder. But there is no “Jewish component” of the ruling class. Jews do not operate hegemonically or as an identifiable component separate from non-Jews. ID says that 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 unMarxist.”
The idea that this is akin to a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ is rubbish, and shows the use of the same scummy methods as those who use the Shoah to justify the Naqba. Ruling classes are not monolithic; many times they have been divided along factional lines over issues of policy. There was a major, factional division in the US ruling class over the Vietnam war in its later stages, between those who wanted to fight on to the bitter end, and those who wanted to pull out immediately and cut their losses.
Of course, there is a very powerful Christian evangelical base of support for Zionism in the US: “Supporting Israel is not a political issue … it is a bible issue,” pastor John Hagee, the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, said in a speech in 2015. But such right-wing bigots would not have any influence if Israel and Zionism did not exist. They are the very elements that make the influence of the “Jewish lobby” so powerful. They are jointly a contradictory component of the US ruling class that pushes its centre to the right. Of course, the “tail does not wag the dog”, this component does not contradict the fundamental interests of the US ruling class, but it does push it significantly to the right in regard to Israel and the whole Middle East as we have just seen on the Jerusalem question. It helps enormously to blunt the rise of the left in the Labour Party in Britain. What are the “fundamental interests of the US ruling class” are determined in this struggle and history may record that WWIII was in their interests, if clearly opposed to the interests of the whole of the global working class and oppressed. Who is “servile” to who is determined in this political struggle.
Why should there not be a communal differentiation over policy, if the basis for this exists? Why is it in the interest of the US to endorse the conquest of the West Bank by recognising Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital? Why is the sabotage of Obama’s Iran deal in the rational interests of US imperialism? It should be recalled that both the CPGB and even Norman Finkelstein affirmed that the Iran deal was firmly in the fundamental interests of US imperialism. But the Trump administration, whose election campaign was heavily funded by Sheldon Adelson among others, has taken steps to undermine it. Thus the so-called ‘lobby’ has more influence than even Finkelstein was prepared to testify to (see our article “Defend Labour Movement Democracy against Capitulators to Zionism” for the transcript of Finkelstein’s remarks on this at Communist University 2016).
Greenstein’s obsessions vs Marxism
In typical Greenstein, obsessive fashion, we then get:
“ID is the main theoretician of SF and he is a critical supporter of Gilad Atzmon…”
followed by a prolonged hysterical tirade against Atzmon that those who have followed Greenstein’s nonsense over the years will be familiar with.
This is all irrelevant and the statement that ID is our ‘main theoretician’ is rubbish. We have more than one person who is capable of coherently analysing complex subjects using the method of orthodox Marxism. We could suggest that those interested in Marxist theory and analysis dealing with a difficult and complex problem go and read Gerry Downing’s major piece on “The Marxist Theory of the State” dealing with the most problematic aspects of the evolution of post war Stalinism, from the creation of deformed workers states to their destruction. Ian Donovan recently commented on this that:
“I wish I had come across this when I had my crisis of disillusionment with orthodox Trotskyism in the late 1990s, believing on the ‘Russian question’ that Spartacism and orthodox Trotskyism were synonymous. This says differently.
It might have saved me years of confusion in deeply flawed organisations like the Weekly Worker/CPGB which I had to fight out of on the basis of an incomplete critique. This understanding turns the page on both Spartacism and the very left-wing Shachtmanoid mutation known as the League for the Revolutionary Party (USA).”
Such considerations are irrelevant for Greenstein who really is obsessed with only the Israel Question (but not the broader Jewish Question – for him it would be ‘anti-Semitic’ to update that important component of classical Marxism for the present day) and particularly obsessed with pursuing anyone who dissents from his Atzmon anathema. What is ‘critical support’ anyway? It simply amounts to refusing to join in with Greenstein’s pet obsession: anyone, no matter their actual agreements or disagreements with Atzmon, who refuses to endorse Greenstein’s anathema is labelled a ‘supporter’ of Atzmon. The qualification about ‘critical support’ only means that Greenstein is becoming dimly aware that his usual tirades are insulting to the intelligence of normal left-wing people.
“ID in Defend Marxism and Labour Movement democracy against capitulators to Zionism describes the campaign of Jews Against Zionism and J-Big to get the SWP to cut their links with Atzmon, as an attempt ‘to witchhunt the Socialist Workers Party’. ID subscribes to many of Atzmon’s pet themes, especially his hatred of Jewish anti-Zionist groups whom he says subscribe to notions of ‘Jewish moral superiority’.”
What Greenstein does not say, or does not highlight, is that these “Jewish anti-Zionist groups” define themselves as being for Jews only. By what he omits, more than by what he includes, he shows his real antipathy to Marxism.
Lenin vs “Jews Only”
Ranting on about Atzmon’s criticism of Jews-only groups, he fails to address Lenin’s Marxist opposition to Jewish separatism and the Jewish Bund. As we quoted at length in “Defend Labour Movement Democracy…”, Lenin, who led a revolution that actually did liberate numerous Jewish people from real, not imagined, anti-Semitism and oppression, was utterly opposed to Bundism and regarded it as a variant of Zionist separatism. Greenstein focuses his defence of Jews-only groups on a rant against Atzmon.
But while Atzmon may make useful observations, our politics come from Lenin, not Atzmon. And Greenstein uses Atzmon as a smokescreen to hide his own opposition to the tradition of classical Marxism. The SWP by the way, under John Rees’ and Lindsey German’s leadership in the period after 2005 were following a rational and creditable policy in engaging with Atzmon among others; the attack on them by Greenstein depended on Zionist support just as implicitly his attack on Socialist Fight today implicitly fingers our supporters to the JLM etc.
We see no reason to repeat at length our critique of these Jews-only groups and their policy of ‘koshering’, to use the words of Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the Palestine solidarity movement. Except to say that the Palestinian struggle stands on its own considerable merits; it does not need ‘koshering’.
What is a “Political Jew”?
The idea is paternalistic, obviously so, and all Greenstein’s sound and fury cannot hide that. But then we get this incredible statement, which confirms that Greenstein defines anti-Semitism, not as racial antipathy to Jewish people, but ideological disagreement with his form of identity politics:
ID accepts Atzmon’s racist lie that it is impossible to be a Jewish anti-Zionist because to be a Jew politically is to be a Zionist!”
Well, we would assert that contrary to this nonsense, Atzmon and Greenstein are both ‘Jewish anti-Zionists”. They are both of Jewish origin; they are both hostile to Zionism. Q.E.D. But the question then arises from the above sentence: what does it mean to be a “Jew politically”? In grammatical terms, this is more correctly rendered as “politically a Jew” or even more concisely as a “political Jew”. This is key to understanding Greenstein’s whole massive polemical convulsion. Being a “political Jew” means upholding an ideological position. Somewhat akin to being a political Islamist, except that unlike that it has a kind of secular content, even if it’s starting point comes from religion.
This is why Greenstein et al rejected our amendment to Tony Klug’s definition of anti-Semitism at the October LAW meeting, which clarified that it was “racist hostility to Jews as Jews” (our emphasis) that constituted anti-Semitism. Greenstein and co rejected the addition of the word “racist”, meaning that that anti-Semitism is for them defined as “hostility to Jews as Jews”. The vagueness suits Greenstein. For him, hostility to the ideology that gives rise to the concept of a “political Jew” is what constitutes anti-Semitism. In other words, he, like the worst totalitarian neocons, wants to ban criticism of his Bundist ideology as “anti-Semitic”. This is a clearly anti-Communist position.
Not just Atzmon but also Shlomo Sand renounced any secular political Jewish identity because they considered that particular identity to be exclusivist. In that they actually concur with Lenin, who was the most determined foe of all forms of racial oppression of the Jewish people, while being unremittingly hostile not only to Zionism, but to the ‘left’ separatism of the Bund. Greenstein’s advocacy of being a “political Jew” really does show up his hostility to Lenin’s perspective, in other words his enmity to classical Marxism. That is what this witchhunt is about.
Then absurdly, we get this:
“Jewish groups play the same role in respect to Palestine that White Anti-Apartheid groups played in South Africa.”
This is mind-bogglingly stupid. So, there were whites-only groups that called themselves ‘Whites against Apartheid’ and the like, were there? Nonsense! Such groups would be anathema; they would by definition not be a break from apartheid at all, which was based on racial segregation, pure and simple. How can apartheid be fought by racially segregated groups? How bizarre. Has anyone ever heard of such absurd nonsense?!
In fact, there were no such groups. But there are Jews-only groups in the Palestinian solidarity movement. Why is that? Because Zionism is more subtle than the South African apartheid regime! It pushes, not so much crude racial segregation (though that certainly exists) but the concept of Jewish moral superiority as the rationale for Zionism’s legitimacy, including in the main imperialist countries.
The Jews-only groups accept this; instead of confronting it head on they try to appropriate the social prejudice of Jewish moral superiority for the Palestinians’ benefit. That is what ‘koshering’ means. It cannot work. It can only strengthen the overall hold of the notion of Jewish moral superiority, which the Zionists are the most consistent exponents of, and thus strengthen Zionism’s hold strategically even if it causes them some short-term tactical problems. This is short-sighted, weak policy at best, and injurious to the strategic interests of the Palestinian struggle, which require that this widespread social norm/prejudice be vanquished.
A prime example of the Zionist apologia and Jewish exceptionalism that Greenstein promotes is the following gem:
“The whole concept of Jews having become an ‘oppressor people’ is also anti-Semitic as well as anti-Marxist.”
The concept of oppressor vs oppressed peoples is very much a Marxist concept. It comes from the heroic period of the Third International, and in particular motivates the perspective of the Anti-Imperialist United Front. Why should Jews be exempt? The Jews who oppress the Palestinians outside Israel self-select according to ideology, and through fund raising, pressure politics and the like play an important role in strengthening Israel and therefore oppressing the Palestinians. This is just obvious.
And then as a final absurdity, Greenstein accuses us of an appeal to liberalism. Shameless, as our entire thrust over this is the concept that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, basic class politics and solidarity of the left against the class enemy. It may seem bizarre that Greenstein equates class politics with liberalism, but that is the mental soup you get into when you enter into a de-facto bloc with the witchhunters even when the same witchhunters are targeting you at the very same time. Such contortions cannot but produce disorientation. However, we are confident that thinking leftists will see through Greenstein’s often bizarre, confusionist nonsense, and re-assert basic class politics, class solidarity, and the need for an end to crossing class lines by refusing to defend leftists against witchhunts of this type.
This is an extract from a reply by Dolong B Blavats to the statement of Tony and Jackie on the LAW Facebook page. He signs it in his own name, the famous author and anti-Zionist activist Daniel Waterman. His mother, Ruth Kupferschmidt, survived the Holocaust:
I am sorry, extremely sorry for you guys, but any statement that includes any form of the verb “to be” requires very careful scrutiny as saying something “is” a particular way suggests the speaker has privileged knowledge of the ultimate nature or truth of something.
The following statement therefore makes for uncomfortable reading:
“Making a connection between the number of Jewish billionaires in the United States or who is Jewish amongst the richest sections of society and imperialist support for Israel is anti-Semitic.”
NO NO NO! We all know that there are many Jewish millionaires and billionaires in the US. We also know that many of them are involved with determining policy with respect to Israel. We even know that many of them are outspoken supporters of Israel. Why on earth is it then taboo to speak about this openly?
Yes, mentioning the power of the Jewish lobby was and remains a tactic of antisemites. But that does not make the statement, or the reality, inherently antisemitic. The reason why ought to be clear to anyone with half a brain but let’s just spell it out: because not all Jews are billionaires and not all Jews are Zionists or supporters of Israel.
So, why has this issue become such a point in this group? First of all we can consider quite legitimate concerns about the possibility of any discussion of “Jewish billionaires supporting Israel” being interpreted as antisemitic, but then that is also exactly why this group was created, to defend others who are legitimately criticising Israel “and making comparisons to Nazi Germany” from being accused of antisemitism.
—Daniel Waterman, Dec. 2017.
Wikipedia extract: Daniel Waterman (born 1962) is a British philosopher, artist, writer, freelance researcher and Ayahuasca provider, living in the Netherlands. He is the author of “Entheogens, Society & Law: Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility”, edited by Casey William Hardison, and published in 2013.
Waterman is a staunch critic of Israel. Following the Israeli army’s incursion into Gaza in 2009 he burned his passport and posted a video on YouTube.  This earned him scathing condemnation from pro-Israeli activists. Together with his mother, Ruth Kupferschmidt, he co-signed an ad in the New York Times, (August 23, 2014) in which over 300 Holocaust survivors and their descendants unequivocally condemn the Israeli policies re Palestinians as “Genocidal.”
 “Burning my Israeli Passport”. YouTube. 2009.
 “More than 350 Survivors and Descendants of Survivors and Victims of the Nazi Genocide Condemn Israel’s Assault on Gaza”. YouTube. 2009. Archived from the original on 2014-08-24.