01/09/2018 by socialistfight
Communist University 2018
By Comrade T
Communist University 2018 held a series of talks followed by discussions between the audience and speakers held at Goldsmiths University of London during 18th August to 25th August. Of particular interest were the talks on Israel, antisemitism and populism and the rise of the far right. Tony Greenstein and Moshé Machover presented individual talks titled ‘The slow coup against Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘The new Israeli basic law, ‘Nation-state of the Jewish people’, and its unintended effects on the US Jewish community’ respectively. One consistent theme running through both of these talks was an attack aimed at Socialist Fight, in particular aimed at Ian Donovan and Gerry Downing for the stance taken on their position of Israeli influence and the expulsion of Socialist Fight from LAW in January. The fact that this is still being discussed with some insults thrown in from Jack Conrad for good measure shows that this is still a sore wound and a discussion that no matter how hard one tries will not go away.
Tony Greenstein to his credit was much more composed and amicable during Communist University than in January and seemed to want to debate civilly. However, inconsistencies remain which need addressing. The talk by Tony Greenstein centred on the false antisemitism claims that are being directed towards the Labour Party, its supporters and in particular Jeremy Corbyn, showing how this was an orchestrated attack. During the talk Tony included a reference to a book ‘The Jewish Community in British Politics’ by Geoffrey Alderman, whereby he stated that the Jewish community have disproportionately become affluent when compared to the remainder of the British working class and therefore more likely to vote Conservative.
There are obviously many historical reasons for this which go beyond this article but facts remain that many from the Jewish community do vote for the Conservatives, with the issue of Palestine being a huge factor. This is also corroborated by Andrew Gimson on the Conservative Home website, writing:
‘’But a later Labour leader, Ed Miliband, ran into severe difficulties by seeming too inclined to support the Palestinians against Israel, and by simply not understanding what note to strike when addressing Jewish audiences.”
“And yet it is arguable that not only Cameron’s narrow victory in 2015, but her (Theresa May) ability to carry on in 2017, were attributable to Jewish votes. For Britain’s Jews are geographically concentrated, with about two-thirds of them either in London or in the parts of Essex and Hertfordshire next to London, while there are other sizeable communities in Manchester, Leeds, Gateshead, Glasgow and Liverpool.”
“Some Conservatives believe that in 2017 the party only held (with the majority given in brackets) Finchley and Golders Green (1,657), Hendon (1,072), Chipping Barnet (353), Harrow East (1,757) and East Renfrewshire (4,712) – the latter containing about 4,000 of the 5,000 Jews in Scotland – with the help of Jewish voters. And without those five seats, a deal with the DUP would not have been feasible.”
The talk by Moshé Machover on the following day was of more interest, particularly as a large part of the talk was aimed at Socialist Fight and the thesis put forward by Ian Donovan on the subject of overrepresentation of people from the Jewish community within the capitalist and political classes and influence on the Palestinian question. This is where it starts to get interesting and where inconsistencies start to raise to the surface in the arguments put forward against Socialist Fight. The points raised by Moshé Machover rested on four key issues, which he described as:
Jews are overrepresented in the capitalist classes.
Jews have enormous power in capitalist countries.
Jews have the same aims as the other capitalist classes.
Jewish capitalist class have an interest in Israel.
On the first two points it was agreed by the speaker that it appears to be true. It is factual that Jews are overrepresented in the capitalist class, who are disproportionately amongst the wealthiest, some 20% of the wealthiest people in the UK are from the Jewish community, which represents 0.5% of the UK population. In the US this figure is higher. Money buys influence, I defy anyone to argue this and was something that the speaker agreed with by stating that it appears to be true that there is influence on not only the media but with elected representatives in the US having had their campaigns funded. Here in the UK it was very clear how the BBC shied away from impartial reporting during the ‘Protective Edge’ assault on Gaza in 2014, which resulted in various protest including outside of Broadcasting House and a petition signed by over 45,000 people including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Ken Loach, Brian Eno and Jeremy Hardy who accused the corporation of pro-Israeli bias.
The remaining two points were contested. The argument provided was that the Jewish capitalist class does not share the same aims with the remainder of the capitalist class but only with themselves and not necessarily having an interest in Israel. I have to say, if this was presented the other way around it would have been seen as being antisemitic, implying disloyalty and failing to integrate amongst the wider community in the country that they live in. I find this an incredible statement in respect that it had already been suggested that there was evidence of the Jewish capitalist class having enormous influence and sharing common goals.
This is also implied by Tony Greenstein’s comments on the book ‘The Jewish Community in British Politics’ that affluence then changes the political thinking to protect one’s own class interest, for example in the UK to vote Tory. Israel claims to represent all Jews irrespective of nationality and where they live in the world, it is also claimed that 60% of the Jewish community identify themselves with the Israeli state. Therefore it is not an enormous stretch of the imagination to see where this influence may gravitate towards.
With a high number supporting the state of Israel, it is therefore likely that (greater) support for Israel within the capitalist class exists, particularly when this is coupled with British and American imperialist foreign policy which aims to protect the same capitalist class. If there is any distraction from sharing the same policy goals, for example here in the UK, dirty tricks are applied. This is evident in the Al Jazeera sting with £1 million being offered to bring down politicians and the ongoing smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, which is being supported by the UK Government.
The AIPAC lobby in the US, which does influence US policy, is one such example of that power. Since 2014, at least 102 anti-BDS measures have been introduced in state/local legislatures across the US. Anti-BDS laws enacted in 25 states and pending in another 12. Netanyahu was invited by the US House of Representatives speaker, John Boehner, to address Congress on Iran without even consulting the US President. A foreign head of state completely circumnavigating around a government to address and sway opinion amongst politicians in a legislative chamber.
The arguments against this given by Moshé Machover was that US support was not unconditional and an example provided was that Israel was prohibited from producing its own military hardware and not allowed to compete with Lockheed Martin. This is irrelevant, the US provides over 50% of its foreign aid budget to Israel in the form of military assistance, it doesn’t need to produce its own hardware.
Both nations share a common goal, one which has been discussed so many times by others that it is repetitive, namely; constant conflict within the Middle East region causing instability; ensuring that Israel remains the regional superpower (we already see this with the rhetoric and sanctions aimed against Iran); Israel promoting itself as the westernised democracy in a region of uncivilised nations – a buffer against radical Islam; and of course oil, which is the major concern to the West with the US having numerous bases in the region.
If this is not singing from the same song sheet I don’t know what is. Moshé Machover is suggesting that the majority of Israelis, particularly in the US, are now distancing themselves from Israel and its policies directed towards the Palestinians and providing reasons for this, intermarriage, self-identification as American citizens and not necessarily Israeli. While this trend may be true amongst the middle and lower classes, it doesn’t necessarily hold true amongst the capitalist class.
An increase in voting Democrat was seen as an indicator to support this argument, it could be argued that the Democrats have been no different in exercising US foreign policy interests than the Republicans, on many occasions even much worse. It was the Democrats that took the US into Korea and Vietnam, threatened Cuba, still carried on with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, still kept open Guantanamo, still provided weapons and support during assaults on Gaza, brought down Gaddafi in Libya and carried out record numbers of drone strikes to the tune of 10 times more than G W Bush. While the language and methods may be different, the results of US policy have the same desired results. The current evidence of pro-Israeli influence also seems to be contradictory to the argument put forward:
So here we are. According to Moshé Machover Socialist Fight are at least half correct, and not entirely wrong as he still claims despite the evidence that does support Ian’s thesis. We now get onto Norman Finkelstein, who has recently come out with the same arguments as those provided by Socialist Fight. Both Tony Greenstein and Moshé Machover were challenged by members from Socialist Fight on this, requesting either an apology or a denunciation of Norman Finkelstein as an antisemite, which was levelled at members of Socialist Fight for adopting the same political position.
Both Tony Greenstein and Moshé Machover stated that he was not anti-Semitic but was wrong, with the latter then claiming that while Norman Finkelstein made ‘’a lot of good points but needs to change his language instead of generalisation’’ that ‘’he was in fact undermining the Palestinian cause with antisemtic tropes’’…… hang on a minute Moshé but we thought it was said that he was not antisemitic?
This is at the heart of the matter and where cowardice comes into play, the individuals concerned are not antisemitic (a description also given of our comrade Gerry Downing in January when being expelled) but that the individual’s politics are. A person’s politics may be right or wrong but either way they are an extension of their belief system and at that point in time are a projection of themselves. They are not separate.
Tony Greenstein during the discussion after his talk the previous day had to say that having members of Socialist Fight within the group (LAW) would have been a distraction, finding itself in a difficult position in fighting various charges against the Labour Party and the Zionist lobby, having members of Socialist Fight on board would have only added to that difficulty. In other words it was a tactical decision to expel members.
This is disingenuous, cowardly and shows that individuals are not prepared to defend themselves on a matter of political principle. This policy of appeasement is exactly why individuals in LAW find themselves expelled and Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party find themselves in a corner with attacks by Zionists arriving on their lap on a daily basis. For Jack Conrad to then elaborate that overrepresentation does not imply anything, while providing an analogy of ‘’an overrepresentation of men, too many men means what?’’….. Well too many men usually suggests sexism which can be seen with inequality within the workplace, in the boardroom and in politics. Cowards cannot even get their analogies right.
‘’Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank.’’
The talk ‘Populism, nationalism and the new/old politics in Europe’ by James Harvey explored the differences between populist politics and fascism and whether fascism has arrived. While it was understood what fascism actually is, a movement designed to attack and smash organised labour and the working class, comments were made that was rather dismissive and complacent. It was argued from one contributor that there is no existing organised working class movement and therefore no fascism, this completely overlooks the fact that unions and workers’ rights have consistently been attacked over the last 40 years.
While the arrival of Trump in the US, the Tories in the UK, or the Italian coalition government of the Five Star Movement with the Northern League are not fascists they certainly have fascist elements running through their politics. Bannon meeting various individuals and groups in Europe to create a pan-European coalition of ‘conservative’ groups all with a common identity running on an anti-EU, anti-Muslim, anti-immigration/refugee platform has all the hallmarks of right-wing extremism. Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg and Gove all met with Steve Bannon and with Johnson’s recent remark of ‘’Fuck Business’’ was a pitch to the far right with his signalling continuing with the recent attack on women wearing the burqa. Populist politicians such as Farage and Johnson have created a climate of fear for many in the UK, with Muslims and immigrants experiencing racism directed towards them on a daily basis. Anyone reading of one of the daily headlines splashed across leading newspapers in Britain can see why.
Fascism has false notions of nationhood, cultural and racial superiority, which many of these smaller movements such as Generation Identity and the AFD in Germany promote in the form of ‘ethnopluralism’. These populist movements are polluting the politics of government and influencing policy by attempting to steal the thunder from these groups in desperation to stave them off. In essence this creates a creep towards the right and fascism and to dismiss this by assuming that fascists arrive in shiny boots and uniforms is a falsehood.
The left not only needs to mobilise when 15,000 people consisting of neo-Nazis and racists courted supported by questionable groups arrive on British streets, but become more vocal in offering real changes for change. This battle is not only confined to the streets, the traditional ground for fascists, it is actually taking place online. To conclude that fascism has not arrived and therefore ‘nothing to worry about’ is scant consolation to those that are experiencing racism directed at them and therefore needs to be taken more seriously.