07/03/2018 by Ian
Moshe Machover; reinstated, Tony Greenstein; expelled. Cowardly NEC “lefts”.
Tony Greenstein was expelled from the Labour Party, as expected, on 18th February. As Socialist Fight have made clear in various forums in the events surrounding our own exclusion from Labour Against the Witchhunt by Greenstein, the CPGB , and others on the Labour left influenced by their misleadership, we defend Greenstein, Jackie Walker, the black activist Marc Wadsworth, and others falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the Zionist influenced right-wing of the Labour Party.
This also includes the former MP and London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who has now been indefinitely suspended from the party as the last act of outgoing Blairite witchhunter and General Secretary Iain McNichol. Indeed the right and the Zionists are trying to interfere with the appointment of McNichol’s successor.
A Zionist-inspired smear campaign has been launched against Corbyn and McDonnell’s nominee for the post, UNITE official Jenny Formby, involving nonsensical allegations of ‘anti-semitism’. Arch- reactionaries such as Wes Streeting have not coincidentally been touting support for Jon Lansman, the dictatorial founder-director of Momentum, who has indicated his sympathies for Zionism and the witchhunt by purging Jackie Walker from Momentum’s leadership, as well as supporting the attack on Livingstone and disgracefully smearing George Galloway as anti-Semitic.
We totally condemn the expulsion of Greenstein and call for the dropping of charges against Walker, Wadsworth, Livingstone and all others on the Labour left who have been victimised either for phoney charges of ‘anti-Semitism’, or who have been auto-excluded for support to various left-wing currents.
Our comrade Gerry Downing was one of the latter, and was also smeared as ‘anti-Semitic’ both by the racist Tory blogger Guido Fawkes, as well as the bourgeois media and many capitulators to Zionism on the left, simply for putting forward a Marxist analysis of the Jewish question and the distinctive role and influence of Zionism within today’s imperialist capitalism.
Now that Tony Greenstein has been expelled, the capitulation to Zionism involved in our own purge from LAW is coming to light in a different way. The problem that Tony has is that for all his dislike for our politics, he is too outspoken, too virulent in his anti-Zionism, and too left-wing for many of the people he blocked with to purge Socialist Fight from LAW. Apparently Roland Rance and Jonathan Rosenhead, who are both involved in Free Speech for Israel, authored a statement which dissociated that body from Tony Greenstein. It was on their site for several days, until it was removed under protest from Greenstein and others. However, it is still available on the Google cache here: (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:wqvTIodnHG0J:freespeechonisrael.org.uk/tony-greenstein-abusive-yes-acerbic-yes-not-antisemitic/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk)
What can we say about this denunciation? When Rance/Rosenhead say:
“Tony has not been expelled for antisemitism (despite what you might think if you read what the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Labour movement say, reported faithfully in the Jewish Chronicle, Huff Post, etc). He was expelled for being abusive and offensive. No one can doubt that he was, and intended to be. This is not a style of politics that FSOI supports or practices. That his abuse was delivered with swingeing wit made it no less offensive.”
…the motive is clear: opportunism. It is spelled out here:
“Tony is not a team player. The Labour Party is a rather large and important team, with its own articulated rules and its own often dysfunctional procedures. The disciplinary processes that have been invoked to expel him have demonstrated over the past 2 years that they have consistently been deployed factionally – against the left in the party, and against critics of Israel. […] Tony has added another organisation to the long list of those he no longer works within.”
The subtext is that Rance, Rosenhead, and co are concerned that they will be seen as not ‘team players’ in Labour, but rather people who will rock the boat. As Greenstein noted in the material he has circulated in response, not all of which has been published yet, this is “the political equivalent of crossing a picket line”. They are clearly, and consciously, breaking with the basic principle that socialists defend all genuine fighters for the working class and socialism, irrespective of their individual views, against the pro-capitalist labour bureaucracy.
Lenni Brenner (left), a Marxist and civil rights activist from New York, is an expert on the suppressed history of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis and other Jew-haters. He is the author of “Zionism in the Age of the Dictators”, “The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir”, “Jews in America Today”, and most recently “51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis”. Roland Rance (right) has been a socialist activist in Israeli, Palestinian and British politics for many years. He was the editor of Return, a quarterly magazine “Against the Israeli Law of Return – For the Palestinian Right to Return”.
This is 2003. By 2018 Rance was voting to expel Socialist Fight from Labour Against the Witchhunt for saying the same things as Lenni Brenner and justifying the expulsion of Tony Greenstein from the Labour party.
Déja vu opportunism
The problem Tony has is that this has happened before, and pretty recently. On 6 January 2018 the same people broke with exactly the same principle when they voted to exclude Socialist Fight supporters, including victimised Labour Party member Gerry Downing, from Labour against the Witchhunt. This was for two things; one being one our own views on the Jewish Question and Zionism which we can and do defend in depth and substance – no one has yet demonstrated at all how our views are at odds with classical Marxism; and two, our defence of the right of the left to debate and engage with the Israeli-born and ethnically (but not ideologically) Jewish radical idealist thinker and Jazz musician, Gilad Atzmon.
You see the same opportunism in the statements of Greenstein’s and his closest allies in that purge in the juxtaposition of contradictory statements:
“although SF’s views irrevocably lead to the conclusion that Jews are “a problem”, SF leading lights Ian Donovan and Gerry Downing are not ‘personally anti-Semitic’.” (https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1185/building-up-steam/)
The trite gibberish in this, which contradicts logic and human agency in postulating that racist views can be formulated by militant anti-racists, reveals its real motive when earlier Tony himself said:
“It is now incumbent upon LAW to demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that it wants to have nothing to do with Socialist Fight. Not only because its positions are anti-Semitic, but because a campaign whose purpose is to reject the false anti-Semitism campaign of Iain McNicol, the compliance unit and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement cannot retain any credibility if it includes a group whose positions are anti-Semitic.” (https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1183/anti-semites-not-welcome/)
So we cannot associate with this anti-Semitic group led by people who are not anti-Semitic because the bureaucracy will accuse us of anti-Semitism. The strange separation between ‘personal’ and ‘political’ anti-Semitism is made because the authors know that given our decades of continuous anti-racist activity, such an allegation would discredit those making it, not the accused.
This concern about ‘credibility’ by Tony above is similar to the concern about being part of the Labour ‘team’ earlier. That is, it is about appearance, not substance, and adapting to backward consciousness in both cases. Or in some ways reflecting such backward consciousness in a contradictory manner themselves. It is clear that to some extent, understanding that our politics are at odds with his own melange of Marxist views with a self-identification as Jewish which he sees in political, not just biographical, terms, Tony and others like him have a similar contradictory consciousness to those who attack him for not being a ‘team player’ in Labour. Indeed Roland Rance for one has both.
We note that Tony Greenstein, together with some of those who have just stabbed him in the back, led the campaign to scandalise the SWP in the mid-to-late 2000s for giving a platform to Atzmon. This involved enlisting the de-facto ideological help of Zionists, such as Hope not Hate and others further right, and hence crossing a similar kind of class line to the one Tony is correctly accusing Roland Rance of crossing here. Indeed it is this kind of habitual crossing of class lines that the people who sought to persecute Atzmon, with their continual attempts to get meetings closed down, etc, engaged in, that provided good practice for such people when they decided to turn on Tony Greenstein.
This is not the first time this has happened. It is worth recalling that one of Tony’s most virulent supporters in his late 2000s anti-Atzmon, anti-SWP campaign was the ex-SWP and later Stalinoid Labour Party opportunist and blogger, Andy Newman of Socialist Unity. He eventually turned against Greenstein for his ferocious subjective anti-Zionism. More recently, he supported the purge of Jackie Walker from the Momentum leadership in the events surrounding the 2016 Labour Party conference.
Centrism of the left
What is really behind this is that Greenstein is the most left-wing and therefore the most contradictory of the left-wing purveyors of Jewish identity politics, and he often comes close to breaking with it or says things that logically mean that he should break with it completely. He acknowledges that Jews today are not oppressed, but in many ways a privileged minority, in the advanced countries. He acknowledges today that anti-Semitism hardly exists in the West; he has said that it is a merely ‘marginal prejudice’ held mainly by those subjected to racial oppression.
Yet in contradiction to that, he waged a major campaign aimed at rooting out this ‘marginal prejudice’ from the Palestine Solidarity movement and the left, and to boot, it turns out that on closer examination, that most of the people accused of this ‘marginal prejudice’ are of Jewish origin themselves. He rejects the entire concept that there is such a thing as ‘left anti-Semitism’, yet acts as a front-man for the CPGB and others on the left in a campaign against Socialist Fight as the supposed embodiment of just that concept; again, this is his acute contradiction. This kind of politics is what Trotsky called a left-wing form of centrism, the spectrum of political trends that vacillate between reformism and revolutionary politics (this has nothing to do with the current usage of the term in mainstream politics).
He is frequently so outspoken that he says things that are pretty close to what Trotskyists should be saying; his acknowledgement that our comrades are not ‘personally’ anti-Semitic is a contradiction for him, not ourselves. Others have noticed similar things about him; despite his loathing and the furious, and often very personal exchanges between him and Gilad Atzmon (on both sides), people around Atzmon have noticed that at times he actually sounds quite similar to Atzmon in some ways.
Zionists have noticed this and taunted him about it. And some of his own less radical Bundist comrades have begun to back away in embarrassment. That reflects the pro-imperialist politics of the pseudo-Trotskyist United Secretariat of the Fourth International that Roland Rance is a member of, that publishes material by Gilbert Achar virtually calling for a Western invasion of Syria to deal with Assad, and which supports the Maidan movement in Ukraine and the regime that came out of it, with the heavy involvement of outright Nazis, because of their Russophobia.
Much earlier, around 1988, this trend’s Stalinophobia led them to publish material glorifying the so-called ‘Forest Brothers’ in Estonia. Supposedly fighters against Stalinism, this movement actually fought the Stalinised Red Army in WWII along with Hitler’s forces, as did the Bandera movement in the Ukraine which the Maidan regime glorifies today. Their treatment of the large Jewish populations of these countries were what you would expect from Nazi collaborators – blood crimes and killings. But they are feted by ‘democratic’ imperialism today and so de rigeur for the fake left.
This pro-imperialist capitulatory politics has a lot to do with why individuals like Rance are predisposed to join in attacks on more leftist elements who are harder, more consistent opponents of Zionism. Though questions involving Bundism and their particular politics around the Jewish question are distinct from this and have some autonomy, these things cannot be said to be completely unrelated elements of their politics either.
It should be noted that the CPGB have moved far from their principled anti-Zionist defence of Norman Finkelstein in the late 1990s over his work The Holocaust Industry. They have moved to the right since then, in part shown through their failed attempt to fuse with the AWL in early 2000s, and now Greenstein, as a sympathiser, is on their left flank. On Zionism and some related issues, he is their phantom left-wing. He recognises, for instance, the need to support Iraqi resistance to imperialism in that conflict, unlike his comrades. But he shies away from defending the most difficult targets from imperialism, such as IS when it was being bombed, even though IS was really a product of the worst atrocities of imperialism in the Iraq war, the slaughter in Fallujah in 2004-5.
There are important programmatic lessons for socialists in this messy situation. Many will find it ironic that Tony has been banned from posting on the ‘Free Speech for Israel’ blog. That happened to us at the end of 2016! There really ought to be a better way for the left to operate than these idiocies. Observe workers democracy. Observe the principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ in the face of the pro-capitalist labour bureaucracy. Sharpen up our opposition to racist political Zionism to include all its dimensions. Consistent anti-imperialism. And revolutionary regroupment around a principled programme and organisation that embodies these things.