28/07/2021 by socialistfight
Shortened Version: 31-5-21. Full text here: https://socialistfight.com/2021/05/31/condems-popular-fronts-straw-men-and-fascism/
The group expelled from Socialist Fight for anti-Semitism has adopted a new name, the Consistent Democrats (ConDems) which they assure us is in the tradition of Lenin and not Joe Biden. Or indeed Joe Stalin. As we pointed out in Popular Front vs United Front; the errors of the LCFI and the grosser errors of Ian Donovan:
“And defending the ‘democratic republic’ is what Ian Donovan does, as the LCFI correctly point out:
“The British comrades are in favour of a military bloc with the Democrats and invoke the institutions of the imperialist state machinery against Trumpism, making a false analogy between Spain in 1936 and the United States in 2021, since in both situations there is a fascist attack on a bourgeois parliamentary regime in an imperialist country.”
But if Donovan takes the Stalinist line here in Spain 1936 the LCFI adopts the Anarchist/POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification) line of a popular front to defend, not a bourgeois parliament but, “proletarian democracy”.
“However, this is a false analogy because it minimizes the fact that in Spain, in opposition to Franco’s fascist imperialist side, there was a popular front, the main component of which is a mass party of the working class, its trade unions and its trade union centres. Therefore, what threatened the Franco regime was proletarian democracy and not just a bourgeois parliament. Defending proletarian democracy against a fascist coup has nothing to do with defending imperialist “democracy” against a fascist coup.”
Ian’s demand that the true US Democrats should have shot down the January 6, Capitol Hill mob was not an example of a popular front with the Democrats but a transitional demand which was reasonable in the circumstances, we are urged to concede. Strangely this demand never occurred to Trotsky in the early 1930s in Germany. He demanded a united front between the working class parties, the Communist party and the Social Democracy. And the Social Democrats appointed the heads of police in Berlin, for example. No, he was absolutely convinced that only the organised working class could defeat fascism, not the forces of the liberal, consistent or inconsistent democrats of the capitalist state itself. Some in the US have correctly been demanding a general strike to counter the growing threat of fascism. Pity Ian Donovan wasn’t there to set Trotsky straight on these matters.
Ian starts as he means to go on. Right at the start we get, “within this right wing, the fraction that carried on the attack was the Great Britain Zionist Bourgeoisie Against Labourism, using the SF as a target, this fraction even used Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who attacked Comrade Gerry Downing in 2016 directly.” (our emphasis). So now you see the Zionists were using Cameron as their puppet and it was not Cameron using the Zionists – the tail was wagging the dog. This is Ian’s general theme – Israel controls the imperialists in Britain and Europe in particular via their “overrepresentation” in finance capital and forces them to do its bidding, often against their own imperialist interests. When Biden vetoed the three resolutions to the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza bombing in May 2021, which the other 14 members of that body supported, Israel was manipulating its unfortunate victim Biden who was not acting in his own best imperialist interests at all, we must believe.
Ian: Expel all who support the state of Israel from Labour
Now we come to the Socialist Fight rejection of Ian’s position of expelling all Zionists, defined as those who support the existence of the state of Israel, from the Labour party. We would emphasise that we are for the expulsion of the pro-Zionists organisations from Labour, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Labour Friends of Israel etc. But we are not for the expulsion of individuals who support the state of Israel from the Labour party. And we are addressing international Jewry here (obviously the US and other Jews should be also expelled from all Labor movement bodies on Ian’s proposition), not just Israeli Jews.
This is the formulation that Ian attacks:
“There are Zionists who are fascists, and we will no-platform them like we will attempt to do to all fascists. But we will never equate racists in general with fascist racists. We distinguish between the racism of the oppressor and the racism of the oppressed, we distinguish between the fascist Zionism of the oppressor and the racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed, many of whom genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel.” ([Ian’s] emphasis added) ibid
And here again the sleight of hand is wielded. Because Ian deliberately postulated the false conclusion that we are referring to the Israeli Jews only, and, having ‘proved’ this by assertion, he then goes on to claim we are defending the Zionist state of Israel. Then comes the “in other words” we are only opposed to outright fascists Zionists, which we never claimed, and the “in effect” we are defining Zionism as a form of nationalism.
And the straw men keep coming now. “If Zionists Jews are not an oppressor people” – note, not the majority of Israeli Jews but all Jews are the “people”. And note the “Zionism of the oppressed” which “can only be a reference to Israeli Jews” he claims. No, it is not. And then the outrageous “Justifying again the unjustifiable Gerry created the category of the “poor and oppressed Zionist-racist-liberal-defender-of-apartheid”. He has gone off into the upper atmosphere here with false claims and ridiculous assertions.
In the Full Fact website on September 26, 2018, on Jews in Britain we get:
“In Britain, the majority of Jews support the state of Israel. A 2015 survey found about 3 in 5 British Jews identify as Zionists, though the term isn’t clearly defined. 9 in 10 British Jews support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. There’s debate over what the terms “Zionist” and “Zionism” mean, but broadly speaking Zionism is associated with the support for the existence of Israel as a state for the Jewish people.”
So, 30% of British Jews support the state of Israel but do not regard themselves as Zionists. I know some of these and I certainly are not for expelling them from the Labour party or any other workers’ organisation internationally unless they are members of an explicitly Zionist group working for the state of Israel. And of the remaining 60% many of these are appalled at the actions of Israel against the Palestinians and are not hard right Zionists. But they really do fear another Holocaust and see the state of Israel as their safe refuge. I have a neighbour of over 30 years who lost her family in the Holocaust and who supports the state of Israel for this reason.
And what of the Jews in the US, the younger ones in particular? This from the Rolling Stone website by Marisa Kabas:
“Samantha Cyrulnik-Dercher, a 32-year-old civil rights advocate in Washington, D.C., recently had one of these difficult conversations with her Jewish family, which she called “really scary and also really liberating.” The granddaughter of three Holocaust survivors said, “Two weeks ago if you’d asked me if you could interview me for this piece I would have said no, I don’t really know enough to talk about something so complicated. So just the fact that I feel empowered to speak about this at all is a very big change in a very short time.”
“While many of us have felt isolated in our views, by speaking out, we’re finding solidarity. Over the past 15 years, the anti-occupation Jewish left in America has been growing, with organizations like IfNotNow and JStreet leading the charge. But because the conflict has so often been boiled down to a binary — you either support Israel or you support its destruction — for many of us it felt like a betrayal to even consider the other side. Even now with strength in numbers, there is still a genuine fear of using words and phrases like apartheid and ethnic cleansing, even if they’re applicable. There is an instinct to retreat.
“Libby Lenkinski, a Brooklyn-based veteran in the progressive American-Israeli activism space and vice president for public engagement at the New Israel Fund, sees the emergence of a new perspective on Israel as young American Jews reinterpreting what it means to live a Jewish life, and cautions older Jews not to mischaracterize changing opinions on Israel as a rejection of our values: “This may not be the engagement you dreamed of, but they haven’t turned away, they just turned in a different direction”.”
And Pew Research Centre on May 11 2021 say the following about US Jews’ attitude to Israel:
“Eight-in-ten U.S. Jews say caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Nearly six-in-ten say they personally feel an emotional attachment to Israel, and a similar share say they follow news about the Jewish state at least somewhat closely.
At the same time, the survey – conducted during the final 14 months of the Trump administration – shows a wide range of views among U.S. Jews about the Israeli government, including some pockets of strong criticism. Fewer than half of U.S. Jews give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “excellent” or “good” ratings for his leadership. And just one-in-three say they think the Israeli government is making a sincere effort toward achieving peace with the Palestinians. (Fewer still, just 12%, say they think Palestinian leaders are sincere in these efforts.)”
But no, Ian wants my friend expelled from the Labour party because, “since they have no actual oppressors, the ‘fears’ of the ‘return of the Holocaust’ by Zionist Jews which comrade Downing uses to justify their support for Israel, is a paranoid racist fantasy similar to the fantasies about ‘white genocide’ that white nationalists use to justify racist repression against non-whites (our emphasis).”
This is the most outrageous blatant antisemitic attack on these Jews which we denounce with the contempt it deserves. And who would do the expelling, on whom is this demand placed? Certainly not Keir Starmer and not even previously Jeremy Corbyn. Your only possible ally in this endeavour is the far right
Ian’s Communalist Outlook; all white South Africans are reactionary
The only thing that Marxists can learn from Atzmon is how wrong and reactionary he is and why we must oppose his “Jewish Identity” nonsense, a real communalist outlook which Ian learned from him.
Ian actually proposed that a Socialist Fight comrade was a reactionary because he was “a white South African”, thus accepting Atzmon’s biological determination theories and calling them Marxist and implicitly damming whole swaths of the founders of modern Trotskyism, Charlie van Gelderen, with whom I discussed, Ralph and Millie Lee, and Ted Grant are examples who were white and hailed from South Africa.
Ian claims Gilead Atzmon cannot be a fascist, despite his open support for Hitler, because he is a biological Jew, and this means he cannot become a fascist if you are anti-Zionist. Ah yes, you can only have Zionist fascists, who outrageously denounce Hitler, albeit hypocritically. What need we of political, theoretical, or philosophical Marxist analysis when we possess such biological insights into the human condition? Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene, anyone?
So, Ian does not agree with Atzmon’s “holocaust denialism” we are pleased to learn but he is still pleased to call him a personal friend and attends his gigs and chat away with him. Does he point out in his conversations that Hitler was a really reactionary man and how opposed he is to Nazism, we wonder? Perhaps not, that might terminate this platonic relationship.
If we take Terry Eagleton’s Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America, June 24, 2013 we can a far better approach to national stereotypes and culture than found in Atzmon’s backward, and racist outlook. Take the following from that book:
“Stereotypes are often thought to be negative and demeaning. But this is not always true … The Irish do not take kindly to being told that they are dirty, idle, feckless, lying, drunken, priest-ridden brawlers, apart from the odd masochist among them who might find this censure a touch too mild. For some mysterious reason this kind of language tends to make them rather cross.
Yet many Irish people are rather gratified to be told that they are genial, charming, witty, eloquent, poetic and hospitable, even though that is just as much of a stereotype. This may not make stereotypes any more acceptable in some people’s eyes, but it complicates the issue. In any case, stereotypes need not deny that we are all distinctive individuals. It is just that, like medical textbooks or prayers for the dying, they focus on what we have in common. To attend only to differences would be as misleading as to see nothing but similarities.”
The point he makes in numerous ways is that nations cohere because they identify with a common history, often mythological and false, presented by the national bourgeoisie in the modern epoch. But that does not mean that every individual accepts that stereotype or that it has any validity apart from the material basis on how you make your living and how you understand your own or your nation’s history. Ian’s supposed “A pan-national Zionist bourgeoisie” does not determine how ever Jew, or indeed the majority of Jews internationally, live and think.
And, having established Gerry Downing’s “Zionist Communalism” to his own satisfaction, as opposed to his own biological communalism, he goes on to his last straw man: “It is also implicitly an attack on Abram Leon, from whose materialist analysis of Jewish history our analysis of Zionism and the Jewish question is derived and extends” (our emphasis). Just another straw man twisted lie.
This jabbering nonsense now passes for Marxism in what is the LCFI and the ConDems. ▲