Once Again on ‘Anti-Semitism” and all that Jazz

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30/09/2019 by Ian

By Ian Donovan

Gerry claims that there is no confusion between Stalinism and Bolshevism in the following passage that appeared in an item about a proposed Zionist law in the United States that would criminalise anti-Zionist criticism of Israel and render critics of Israel liable to criminal prosecution. The passage reads:

“One of the first new laws created by the Jewish Bolsheviks when they took over Russia was to make “antisemitism” punishable by jail or death. Despite its freedoms, the United States is now following in Russia’s footsteps, with Jews/Chuck Schumer leading the charge.”[1]

Except that the source of this idea is an actual passage from Stalin, which I quoted previously. To repeat the citation in full:

“National and racial chauvinism is a vestige of the misanthropic customs characteristic of the period of cannibalism. Anti-semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism.

“Anti-semitism is of advantage to the exploiters as a lightning conductor that deflects the blows aimed by the working people at capitalism. Anti-semitism is dangerous for the working people as being a false path that leads them off the right road and lands them in the jungle. Hence Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism.

“In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.”[2]

The date of this quotation is 1931. Despite the hostility to Bolshevism and the belief in its ‘Jewish’ nature in the quote, this is from a period in time rather distant in time from when the Bolsheviks took power and a period when the persecution of the old Bolsheviks by Stalin was well underway.

The policy of the Bolsheviks when they took power was not to make ‘anti-Semitism’ punishable by death. If they had done so they would have had to execute millions of Russian peasants, which they obviously did not. The organisation that was set up after the revolution, which grew out of the Military Revolutionary Committee that organised the insurrection, was not originally an exclusively Bolshevik organisation. The Cheka was initiated by both Bolsheviks and Left SR’s. It was called the Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage, not the Extraordinary Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism. It jailed, and in some cases shot, people who were involved in, or supported armed resistance to Soviet power, whether they were anti-Semitic or not. It did not do that to people with anti-Semitic views who supported the revolution.

Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka

The Stalin passage quoted above is actually absurd, particularly the first paragraph which says that ‘national and racial chauvinism’ is some way related to ‘cannibalism’. No, national and racial chauvinism is a product of capitalism and its nation-state. Cannibalism is a product of primitive tribalism, or occurs in modern times only in famine or similar disasters, and has nothing to do with modern bourgeois nationalism, which is also where racism comes from. The comparison is demented, meaningless anti-Marxist bombast, and certainly nothing to do with Marxism or Bolshevism.

‘Race’ is a social construct

The fact that some people today, some of whom are Jewish and those who are not are following the lead of people who are, consider the old canard about ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ remotely relevant today is down to Zionism. Obviously this has to do with Zionism as the article shared is actually about a Zionist attack on the right to criticise Israel’s racist crimes.

There is nothing new about this as I analysed it years ago. I restated it and Gerry quotes it. So I will quote it again:

“He is part of a phenomenon that is quite new in Jewish history and a result of the terrorism and barbarism of the Israeli state in which he grew up: Jews who as a result of what Israel is doing to Palestinian Arabs, which is a form of slow genocide, feel an acute sense of guilt about their Jewish origin, see Jews as simply an oppressor people, and have an emotional response against any and all manifestations of Jewish identity. In that sense because driven by guilt and emotion, he and his followers are sometimes difficult to debate with. But it is the duty of the left to engage with this strand of confused anti-racist thought politically, and not engage in chauvinistic anathemas.”

There’s nothing new in this. I wrote the same thing numerous times in the last decade and I see no reason to change it now. Everyone who follows our material knows this. If Gerry wants to argue that this is untrue, then he should produce an argument that it is based on defective facts. But he does not; he just now argues that it is ‘biological’ which is absurd.

The reason that it is absurd is that is a truism is that ‘race’ has no biological reality whatsoever. It is a social construct.  But that does not stop it being a powerful social factor that it has proved impossible for whole peoples, let alone individuals to overcome. Race has no biological reality but if Gerry is right and there is no reality to it at all then there could be no racial oppression or racial hierarchies anywhere. In fact racial oppression persists; there are no biological differences between whites and non-whites but in every Western imperialist country without exception non-white minorities are subject to systematic discrimination and oppression. Every single individual within these minorities are subjected to disadvantages that they may be able to individually mitigate, to a degree, but they can never fully escape. Why not? Because ‘race’ is a social construct. It is not an individual construct. You cannot change your origins like you can change which football team you support.

The only people who have managed to completely change their objective position like this in the imperialist world are the Jews. And they have done this collectively, socially, not individually, by rising up the racial hierarchy as a group. Both myself, and Norman Finkelstein have noted this phenomenon. Finkelstein even noted that for parts of the US bourgeoisie, marrying into a Jewish family, as has happened to the Trumps and Clintons, now is seen by the wider bourgeoisie as ‘marrying up’. This corroborates my own earlier theoretical work on how the Jewish bourgeoisie are now seen as an asset, not a threat, to the system and how Jews have risen up the racial hierarchy in capitalist society. If Gerry wants to argue that this is untrue, let him produce the data to show that it is untrue and theorise it differently.

Then we see the statement “the self-hating Jew is a biological impossibility, apparently”, and he notes that I previously said that a Jew, or a black person, who is oppressed as a Jew or a black person, can internalise the racism directed against them. But the result of that would be self-harm, such as skin scrubbing, or even self-destruction as in Otto Weininger’s tragic suicide as a young man.

And likewise Gerry’s quoting as “anti-Semitic” this remark of Atzmon’s that

“I am not a Jew anymore. I indeed despise the Jew in me (whatever is left). I absolutely detest the Jew in you”.

This shows that Gerry is not using the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism. No genuine anti-Semite could ever accept that is at all possible for a Jewish person, born Jewish, to be “not a Jew anymore”. That is the whole point of racism – it attacks unchangeable characteristics. Being “not a Jew anymore” is as utopian as a black person saying “I am not a black person anymore”. In a racist society that is simply impossible. Society will still treat you as black, or Jewish, or whatever.

What again makes this more complicated is that Jews have risen up the racial hierarchy as just indicated. So there is for Jews no real oppression to internalise today. So for Jews brought up in Israel, which is a consolidated oppressor state, the most racist in the world, or even to a degree elsewhere, looking back at events when Jews were oppressed, this is even more problematic. As the Jewish question means something completely different today from when anti-Semitic formulations like ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ etc. were formulated. Also the meanings of such terms as ‘self-hating Jew’ have correspondingly changed. When Jews were oppressed, it meant someone who had internalised their oppression, like Weininger. Today ‘self-hating Jew’ is a far right slur, used by Zionists, like ‘race traitor’ or ‘self-hating white’, and we should not use it.

Then Jews were actually oppressed. Today they are not. That is a fundamental change which it appears that neither Gerry nor Gilad Atzmon fully understand. So an argument between them generates plenty of heat but not a great deal of light, as neither fully understand the subject they are arguing about.

This insistence by Gerry that Zionism is anti-Semitic is just completely at odds with the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism and is completely incoherent. The strategic purpose of Zionism is not to promote “hostility and discrimination against Jewish people as a religious, racial or ethnic group”, which is the case with every genuinely anti-Semitic movement, and even Gerry does not argue that this is its purpose. Its purpose is to create a Jewish state and therefore in its terms to seek the emancipation of Jews from anti-Semitism.  Unfortunately the land on which it created its state was taken by force from the Arab people of Palestine, and thus far from being an anti-Semitic movement, it is an anti-Arab racist movement. This is blindingly obvious.

Gerry quotes various tactical compromises and agreements, many unprincipled, that Zionists made with anti-Semitic (and genocidally so), forces in pursuit of its strategic aim of a Jewish state. It betrayed some Jews in the circumstances of the Nazi genocide to promote its wider objective of a Jewish state. But it is nonsense to say that its strategic objectives thus became anti-Semitism, i.e. hostility and discrimination against Jews. What does this do? It makes Jews into the victims, again, of a movement whose actual purpose was to destroy Palestinian Arab society and replace it with a Jewish state. It cements the notion of Jewish victimhood and pushes out the Arabs, who are the real victims of Zionism.

And indeed his article talks about the Arabs and Palestine not at all. The only mention of Palestine is in the quote from me above, which he vainly tries to refute with the ‘biological’ blank-shot polemic. Apart from that, there is no mention of Palestine or Palestinians at all which is remarkable in an article that spends quite a bit of time discussing Zionism. He does however mention William Joyce, the Anglo-Irish fascist who became a Nazi propagandist and was executed by the British after WWII. This is supposed to prove that an Irish person can be an anti-Irish racist, and therefore by extension that a Jewish person can be an anti-Semitic ideologue.

But this does not work, Joyce was half-Irish, half Anglo-Protestant, and thereby a descendant of the English settler project in Ireland. Irish fascists, apparently are pro-British and thereby anti-Irish. But actually they are compradors, lackeys of imperialism, collaborators. Semi-colonial collaborators exist among all peoples who are subjugated by imperialism. But they are in a different category to those who advocate hostility and discrimination against their people generally. To equate these is a huge leap of logic. With such logic, you would end up arguing that every pro-imperialist nationalist in the world who allies with imperialism is ‘racist’ against his own people. So Chiang Kai-shek was an anti-Chinese ‘racist’, Mobuto was an anti-African ‘racist’, etc. etc. This is a theoretical hodgepodge, and merely confuses the question by scrambling definitions, not clarifying them.

Pro-Zionist far right

Likewise Gerry’s point here:

“And we do not agree the ‘material conditions that gave rise to it (antisemitism) have now disappeared’. What material conditions exist on the crescent of virulent anti-semitic fascism from Golden Dawn in Greece, through the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania who not only do not deny the Holocaust but celebrate it and want to do it again?”

So what do these countries have in common? Several things. They are an ‘arc’: they are geographically contiguous. They are all semi-colonial, not imperialist countries. Apart from one, Greece, they are all countries that were dominated by Stalinism for decades, and where the old anti-Semitism was preserved precisely by the circumstances of repression. Greece, the exception, seems to be influenced by the politics of the others in a way that is at variance with the rest of non-ex-Stalinist Europe, with which it has no borders. It also has had the most incredible economic disaster in the last decade, and this obsolete tendency temporarily gained some traction. But even there it is obsolete.

Anti-Semitism of the old type is obviously obsolete even on the far right, and the far right in the imperialist countries is now pro-Zionist, as symbolised by the expulsion of the old man Le Pen from the French neo-fascist movement by his own daughter for anti-Semitism. When the old anti-Semitism comes to the surface as in Charlottesville, it causes a degree of embarrassment, but that is all. Zionism has always made unprincipled deals with anti-Semites and there is an element of this with far right elements whom Trumpism has revived but also seeks to re-shape and incorporate into an anti-Muslim, anti-Arab crusade. This is also happening, albeit unevenly, in the Eastern European ‘arc’ Gerry mentions … with Israeli mentoring.

The truth is that Zionism is today one of the mainsprings of the new far right or alt-right, but Jews are not its target. Quite a few of its ideologues are Zionist Jews.

This equation of political developments in backward, semi-colonial countries with those in the major imperialist countries – the former being ultimately subordinate to the latter – is also a political problem with Gerry’s latest article as is the complete omission of Palestine and Palestinians from an article much of which is about Zionism.

The point about Strasserism is at odds with reality, involves a blurring of distinctions that are crucial, and does not clarify but obscures. Is Gerry implying that George Orwell was a Strasserite? There is no evidence of this that I have ever seen and it would be fairly sensational news if there were. There is none, Orwell at the end of his life was anti-Communist and worked with MI5. He had more in common with Denis Healey and Robert Conquest, both ex-Stalinists who joined Attlee’s Labour Party and whose anti-Communist views as renegade Stalinists were expressed through that, nothing remotely connected with fascism.

Blurring these distinctions is again, not clarifying but obscurantist and indicates that Gerry’s case is weak. Far from being ‘Strasserite’, Orwell’s evidently left-social democratic programme explicitly endorsed and called for an extension of the wartime popular front against ‘fascism’:

“… 6. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers.”[3]

If support for this is ‘Strasserism’ then anything can be declared to be anything else, everything blurs into everything else, all distinctions and nuances vanish, and political theory becomes impossible.

Actually I laid out what Atzmon’s ostensibly socialist persepectives are in a Facebook comment recently and he did not disagree with my rendering. This is what we should be arguing about, not fictions:

“Atzmon thinks that universalism is valid but it cannot transcend the nation-state. Universalism will therefore be a series of autonomous, egalitarian socialist nation-states in a kind of loose, confederal relationship with each other. I would call this a form of utopian socialism. It also owes something to anarchism though it does not completely reject the state.

The problem is that the nation-state is economically obsolete and the economy is global. But Atzmon suspects that there is an ulterior motive to such observations and that they belie a Jewish chauvinism that seeks to dominate other nations through dividing and fragmenting them.

The problem is that because he rejects a materialist method he is unable to properly examine reality to test these propositions out concretely in the real world.”

That is what he stands for and why he is a kind of left-wing figure. You can actually get that from reading his books. The allegation of ‘Strasserism’ implying that this utopian socialist perspective is some kind of fascism is just looking for something from the past, anything that might be distorted to fit even if it doesn’t properly, and furiously trying to bang a square peg into a round hole. It’s distorting reality, not addressing it.

As Gerry does with the characterisation of Sever Plocker, the author of the Stalin’s Jews[4] article, which I characterised as “a load of anti-Communist rubbish.” But that’s not good enough, apparently, According to Gerry “Sever Plocker is obviously a far right anti-communist and nothing liberal about him at all” and he must be not merely wrong, but anti-Semitic. But I quoted an article he wrote only two years ago where he condemned the Israeli government for allying with anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic populists in Poland:

“I fail to understand the active participation of a minister and a Knesset member from Israel in a conference aimed at distorting the memory of the Holocaust and legitimizing Poland’s racist-nationalist (and anti-Semitic, despite all its denials) right. As an Israeli who came from Poland, I feel outraged and embarrassed by this.”[5]

This article was cited[6] by Ali Abuminah in the Electronic Intifada as part of an expose of Netanyahu’s disgusting activities in Poland. Gerry does not even begin to explain this, as it contradicts his thesis in a big way. So he ignores it. But this does not refute my point, it just makes it very noticeable for anyone who reads both articles that Gerry tries to reiterate the point without addressing it.

Tribune of the oppressed

Finally Gerry said in an earlier article that we should no longer engage in fraternal debate with Atzmon because it makes us unpopular with potential allies. I don’t know which allies he means but I would like to reproduce a Facebook post by Asghar Bukhari, an Islamic radical who both engages with and sometimes works with some on the left, about Jews and Palestine solidarity. Some will no doubt say that the ideas contained within this are anti-Semitic. They obviously are not; they do acknowledge the existence of anti-Semitism and that it is something reprehensible. However this view says something of the vantage point and quite mainstream views of Arab/Muslim people from the Middle East, victims of Zionism, and also something about the political environment Atzmon comes from:

Asghar Bukhari

“DON’T LET THEM MAKE PALESTINE ABOUT ANTI SEMITISM. IT’S A TRICK

“Jews trying to insert their victimhood into the Palestinians struggle is not just disgraceful but a political strategy to share the narrative. Claim they too are victims when talking about Palestine. They are not.

“Just like black slaves talking against slavery, and having to mention why they are against racism against whites. Madness right? Well that’s what talking about anti semitism is in the context of Palestine. It may be true, but by inserting it into the slavery struggle, it was no longer about blacks not wanting to be slaves. White feelings had an equal part in the narrative.

“The same way, the simple narrative of Palestinian oppression, was now about two people’s oppression – not one. Two victims. Two peoples problems. See how it’s diluted. Clever trick. Political propaganda. Genius. And we all fell for it.

“Everytime you talk of Palestine, you have to make sure the other narrative is inserted. Aren’t you against anti semitism? Then why not mention it you may ask. Well im against cruelty to animals, why not add that in too, very soon..Palestinians would just be another tick on a long list of grievances.

“You ever hear mainstream Jews let the Palestinians into their Holocaust narrative? Ask yourself why not? They get the game, we don’t!

“In this subtle way, any attempt at freeing Palestinians, Jewish sensitivity was often placed first. If they felt uncomfortable, they could claim anti semitism. The tough action for Palestinians would be dropped in order to accommodate the weaker action that was more acceptable to this new victim in the struggle.

“But it gets smarter. More connected. More planned. To raise Jewish victimhood above the Palestinians is not that hard once you heave inserted yourself an unofficial equal partner. All you had to do was simply make noise. Charge someone or a group of anti semitism. To increase the temperature just Include media, police, lawyers etc

“Instantly watch everyone start running around shouting they were against anti semitism. In their attempt to defend themselves (a human reaction at self preservation), Palestinians are forgotten and the anti semitism narrative becomes dominant. Job done.

“In order to preserve yourself, we had to make it the foremost call. At every opportunity that we could, just to save ourselves from trouble, we raised opposition to anti semitism. A preservation strategy that actually aided Zionists. And it was meant to. It was planned that way. Palestine was dangerous. The activists were told, you can’t help Palestine if you are discredited. Which made sense if you didn’t get the secret plan.

“By this trick you can see how Corbyn was defeated. No one warned him, because very few people even understand it.

“Tell me that is not genius. Zionists had us seconding our own struggle.

“They see it as war. We don’t see it at all.

“In this way, it encourages Jewish groups to claim anti semitism. Because our reaction was exactly what they wanted. Like a wolf growling, knowing the rabbit will always react by running in the same direction straight into its mouth.

“Go to any meeting organized by Left wing pro Palestinian groups, watch this happen with your own eyes. Jewish sensitivity is the most important factor that decides all action. Hence no action that can make a difference.

“By trying to defend against powerful slurs of the Zionists and appease brittle sensitivity of pro Palestinian Jews we had raised anti semitism so high that Palestine was just a slogan, and even that slogan was dulled, diluted.

“Time after time, so called friendly pro Palestinian Jews Hijack a debate and turn it about their brittle feelings. About anti semitism. And we don’t understand how that neutralised the whole movement.

“With friends like these, who needs enemies.”

This is not an anti-Semitic tract. This is the viewpoint of the oppressed. Today. And Atzmonism is a Jewish response to this sentiment. If we are looking for ‘allies’ that that find it in some way reprehensible, not to endorse those who argue from this standpoint, but to debate with them in a fraternal manner and treat them with some modicum of respect even when we disagree with them, then we are looking for the wrong allies.

That is my perspective. It has always been my perspective. It has been the perspective of SF since I got involved with it, and I think it should stay that way. That is what trying to be a tribune of the oppressed means today, as I see it.

REFERENCES

[1] https://ronabbass.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/jewish-senator-introduces-law-to-imprison-americans-for-criticizing-israel/?fbclid=IwAR1hje0vSXFbEoMFpouT6975CxJIJ1iqLCbJnXQBBcuIgQTrrouqnxblEEQ

[2] https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1931/01/12.htm

[3] http://orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/

[4] https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3342999,00.html

[5] https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5051659,00.html

[6] Read down the Electronic Intifada article to find Ali Abuminah’s citation of Sever Plocker’s article. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-embarrassed-its-holocaust-denying-allies-poland

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