17/03/2018 by Ian
The exchange in the Weekly Worker over the aftermath of Jan 6th, when the CPGB and others proscribed our views from Labour Against the Witchhunt, simply for our materialist analysis of the influence of Zionism in the imperialist countries, is now generating apolitical fatigue among the CPGB’s leading figures and supporters. Why? Because they have failed to demonstrate that our views on this are at variance with classical Marxism. Our position simply applies the Marxist theory of the state to the current situation involving Israel; that the state is the organ of the ruling capitalist class for maintaining its exploitation of the working class, the only truly international class, and that the bourgeoisies, as national ruling classes that compete and sometimes go to war with each other, are defined by citizenship of ‘their’ state.
These arguments are elementary. But Jim Cook finds them ‘boring’, and a ‘diversion’ (from Communist politics?!) and states that ‘no amount of quotes from Marx’ can change that. But if he finds this ‘boring’, one wonders: why he does not attack the other side in the dispute as equally ‘boring’? Clearly what he finds tiresome is that those he supports have not succeeded in winning the argument.
He objects, as do the other two letter-writers in last week’s paper, to the Marxist theory of the state being applied to explain the persistent witch-hunting of anyone who condemns Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Even politicians within the Western ruling classes who speak out of turn risk their careers in doing so. These facts strongly suggest that the understanding put forward by the Weekly Worker, that uncritical support for Israeli crimes is simply a reflection of the interests of the North American and West European ruling classes, is false. Our theory is a serious attempt to explain, in historical materialist terms, why this happens.
Examination of the facts shows up an anomaly. Jews, and in particular Jews who support political Zionism, are represented within the ruling classes of the imperialist countries in some cases at 20 times or so of Jews’ representation in the general population. This layer of the ruling class, due to the Israeli Law of Return, is gifted with the right to Israeli citizenship because of their Jewish birth. Exercising it is dead easy, as Shlomo Sand pointed out. For those ideologically inclined to support Israel, as no one seriously disputes is the attitude of most Jewish bourgeois, this anomaly means that they acquire a material interest in the Israeli state and ruling class.
The only way that our interlocutors have been able to dispute this is by the most feeble sophistry, as with Moshe Machover’s latest attempt to demonstrate that our theory should say (but in fact doesn’t) that a working class Jewish schoolteacher with no capital becomes part of the Israeli capitalist class simply by being Jewish. Fatuous, as Moshe’s hypothetical teacher is not part of any ruling class. If she were a bourgeois, however, she would have a share allocated, like a stock option if you like, in the Israeli bourgeois state. Moshe evidently does not understand the concept of stock options, which are a notable means by which some bourgeois reward others within the ruling class.
Jim Cook thinks it is no big deal if Zionist Jews are disproportionately represented in the ruling class of imperialist countries, since Hindu Indians and overseas Chinese are overrepresented in some ruling classes also. But this is a cultural quirk of little significance, as neither India nor China are built entirely on land stolen from another people, and overseas/expat bourgeois from these countries do not have any equivalent ideology of exile, homecoming and refuge that justifies active support from overseas for such expropriation of another people. If they did, or if most overseas Jewish bourgeois did not, the two questions would be equivalent. But obviously they aren’t. By equating them, and by his ‘so what’ reaction to attempts to witchhunt even ruling class critics of Israel like Alan Duncan (that is what Shai Masot was planning), comrade Cook, even though he evidently does support the Palestinian struggle, is unthinkingly dismissing an important factor in maintaining their oppression.
However there is none so blasé as Peter Manson in dismissing significant facts. He challenged me to give a list of imperialist bourgeois politicians who had had their careers damaged or destroyed, or attempted to be so, by the activities of the Israel lobby. I gave him eight examples, four from the UK (Alan Duncan, David Mellor, Jenny Tonge and David Ward), and four from the US including a president (Charles Percy, George H W Bush, Andrew Young and Cynthia McKinney) and arguably even another former president who has been targeted, Jimmy Carter. I even referred to secretly taped proof of this in the case of Alan Duncan, supplied by Al Jazeera when they filmed the Israeli diplomat/spy Masot in the act. But that his not enough for Manson: he wants on-the-record quotes from prominent ‘Jewish individuals’ for all of them.
But all these cases involve an activity that is considered reprehensible even in bourgeois politics: ‘dirty tricks’, and even more contentious, a minority trying to coerce part of the majority using such methods. Unless there is secret filming or recording as in the Duncan/Masot case, you are very unlikely to get such quotes. Manson is very well aware of that; his demand is just cynical because he knows the nature of bourgeois politics very well and how slippery it is.
An example that has nothing to do with the Israel question illustrates why. One notorious story about former US president Lyndon B. Johnson is that in an election in the 1950s, he faced a feared opponent who was a farmer. Years later, it came out that that he had procured people to spread rumours that his opponent had sex with the pigs in his farmyard. This apparently was an effective smear and the guy lost.
Was there an on-the-record quote from Johnson accusing this man of bestiality? Of course not! “A little scandal” as Masot said of Duncan. That is how things work: off-the-record briefings, smears, flows of money to opponents, all manner of tricks. This is bourgeois politics; the difference where the Israel lobby is concerned is only the regularity and the motive.
Manson’s cynicism and political sloppiness is shown when he dismisses my evidence as “merely recalling examples of opposition by the Jewish lobby to politicians who were seen as anti-Israel (or insufficiently pro-Israel)”. And so in effect he concedes our case. Norman Finkelstein was heckled and for a time shouted down at Communist University 2016 for saying that the Israel lobby is a ‘Jewish lobby’, ie. an ethnic lobby. We concur with him on that, but we have never used this term since it seems to implicate Jews in general. We qualify it in class and ideological terms and call its material agency a Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste that overlaps the US (etc.) and Israeli ruling classes.
His point on the PLO ignores that the first Intifada forced a shift of Israeli policy regarding the PLO, in order to elicit a betrayal of this mass struggle. AIPAC in effect continued the same policy throughout the Oslo period, of witch-hunting anyone in US politics who wanted more than the barest minimal engagement with Palestinians necessary to procure a sellout.
The CPGB and its fellow travellers have not come close to refuting the contention that our understanding is an application of the Marxist theory of the state. Instead of coming up with an alternative interpretation of the evidence, that they do not deny exists, consistent with the Marxist theory of the state, they either attack Marx’s theory itself implicitly (Machover) or play silly games with evidence (Manson). They still cannot refute the point that in proscribing our view, they proscribed orthodox Marxist views from ‘Labour against the Witchhunt’ (sic!).