No Vote to treacherous SP, CP or petit-bourgeois Greens
By Ian Donovan
In the upcoming two rounds of Legislative Elections, class-conscious workers should critically vote for Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) Party on 12th and 17th June.
But we should NOT advocate votes for his various bloc partners in this election, not for the Greens, who have nothing to do with the working-class movement, who are a petit-bourgeois excrescence on politics who actively support anti-Russian sanctions.
NOT for the treacherous Socialist Party whose President Hollande was deeply involved in imperialist attempts at pro-imperialist ‘regime change’ in Syria, and massive austerity against French workers.
NOT for the Communist Party who support anti-Russian sanctions today. They call for confiscating the wealth of Russian ‘oligarchs’ and giving it to Ukrainian ‘refugees’, a racist, Russophobic position, attacking Macron from the right. They would never demand the confiscation of the wealth of the French bourgeoisie, on the contrary they have repeatedly betrayed the working class with popular front alliances with capitalist parties.
These forces have rotten policies, and their working-class support is marginal. Only Mélenchon inspires class-based illusions among the mass of workers today. It is Mélenchon, and Insoumise alone, who need to be put to the test!
Sanctions, as was frequently pointed out in the case of Iraq, are themselves an act of war. In this period, this is a crucial dividing line. A party that supports sanctions against Russia, an act of war, in the absence of any other good reason for giving it electoral support, cannot be the recipient of even critical support from genuinely class-conscious workers, socialists and communists.
In the first round of the Presidential Elections, the Greens, as a minor petit bourgeois party, hardly set the world on fire achieving 4.63% of the vote. More to the point, they did not give expression to any class sentiment on behalf of working-class people, as their entire political profile is middle class. To call for votes for them would be a betrayal of class independence. That Mélenchon has brought these feeble petty-bourgeois radicals on board his own campaign is a sign of his own reformist weakness and the danger that he could repeat the betrayals of the Socialist Party if given the chance. But he has a new party which needs to be tested to prove that before the working class.
The treachery of the Socialist Party, under former president Francois Hollande, and the discredit that has given rise to, derived from its steep austerity program from 2012 to 2017, whose attacks rivalled those of the Tories in Britain at more or less the same time, albeit at an earlier stage.
For a party like the French SP, whose voters generally support it because it claims to stand up for the interests of workers and the poor, this record was disastrous. Its aftereffects were that the SP fell from winning close to 29% on the first round of the Presidential Election in 2012, and then 51.6% in the run-off with Sarkozy, to being eliminated with only 1.75% on the first round of the 2022 Presidential Election. That is a just reward for a party dominated by a pro-capitalist labour bureaucracy that decisively betrays its own working-class base. Mélenchon’s bringing this pathetic rump of a party on board his campaign is a bad sign of his own left social-democratic politics, which can lead to similar results if not transcended.
The French Communist Party has undergone a long-term decline precisely because of its perennial Popular Frontism, its compulsion to enter blocs with bourgeois forces, and its accelerating reformism and repeated betrayals of the French working class, particularly in the great strikes of 1936, 1968 and also 1995. After each such event its response was always to seek to form another Popular Front, not to fight independently as a party to lead the working class itself. This was inextricably linked to the fact that it always saw itself as seeking power through parliamentary means in any case.
Given its earlier connection with the USSR (often unpopular with backward sections of the working class), it was inevitably outflanked by other reformists who never had such connections. And it was discredited and demoralised by the collapse of the USSR. So now Mélenchon, not the PCF, has become the repository of leftist workers’ hopes in France, mainly because of his working alongside the Gilet Jaunes militants from 2018 and thus making his France Insoumise effectively the political expression of this spontaneous working-class revolt.
It is this that we are giving critical support to by urging a vote for Mélenchon and La France Insoumise, but not his bloc partners. No support to NUPES. Mélenchon’s wobbling away from the more critical attitude he had to imperialism in Ukraine, and his support for sanctions now, is a sign of opportunist retreat. But what we are supporting is the leftist impulse from below that pushed Mélenchon to within a whisker of knocking out Marine Le Pen in the first round in April and opening up a new perspective for class struggle in France.
Beware of NUPES candidates if you don’t know who they are! Check before you vote. Vote only for Insoumise candidates. Put Mélenchon to a real test before the working class – force him to act alone!
This is a very simple, open and shut case of Facebook criminality and pro-Hitlerite censorship of exposure of the vilest criminality. I posted the video above, which was downloaded from a celebrated Telegram Channel, https://t.me/UkraineHumanRightsAbuses. To prove that the assailant in this vile racist assault is a member of the Azov Regiment, the openly Nazi regiment in the Ukraine Army, I then posted the two pictures below, which clearly show the same individual. Immediatly I posted the one on the left, I recieved a 24-hour ban for “supporting dangerous organisations”, presumably the Azov Regiment.
This is strange, as Facebook recently changed its ‘Community Standards’ to allow support for Azov, including calls for the murder of Russian soldiers and the Russian President. It appears, from my ban, that you are allowed to support Azov, but you are not allowed to post proof that their sub-human Nazi thugs are involved in criminal racist, misgynistic violence. It is reasonable to conclude from this ban, and their failure to overturn it when I tried to challenge it, that Facebook approves of Azov, and approves of this racist assault on Roma women, and is protecting this person from being identified. If anyone knows his name, that would be very useful as it could be published, hopefully making it easier for the criminal to be apprehended by Russian troops or FSB, who no doubt would know what to do with/to him.
The Telegram channel from which this came, that of Juan Sinmeido, also known as “Fearless John” is the succerssor to a popular Twitter account, @myBlackSoul, run by the same individual. Twitter banned the account because it published solid evidemce of Ukrainian and Western criminality on an industrial scale. So Fearless John now uses Telegram, which is harder to nobble.
The channel publishes a great deal of photographic and video evidence of grotesque abuses by Ukrainian forces against Russians/Russophones, and Roma, including: women being tied up and their faces daubed with a blue dye which supposedly signifies that they are ‘orcs’ , used as a racist, dehumanising term. The antiseptic dye used, called zelkonya, is difficult to remove and can cause burns to the eyes. There is also extensive photo and video evidence of people being stripped and/or bound to trees, road signs and lamposts with strong adhesive tape, often in sub-zeros conditions, and viciously beaten, both by militiamen and hostile passers-by in the street. There are images of people who have obvioiusly been murdered by being suffocated with plastic bags bound over their heads, and/or beaten to death, and flung in the backs of cars, of Russian prisoners of war who have been stripped, and thrown in the backs of trucks after being bloodily beaten. Of people being forced to kneel in front of ditches, in the classic Nazi-execution style, when the idea was that the person kneeling should fall into the ditch when shot in the head. Some of those forced to kneel are naked.
Those media who are seeking to supress evidence of this criminality are criminals themselves, and need to be severely punished. it is not even denied that these thugs are being funded by the West; it is brazenly justified. The BBC for instance, which lied on an industrial scale to try to portray the Corbyn movement as ‘anti-Semitic’ now justifies funding Azov on the grounds that (supposedly) “only” 10% of them are Hitlerites. Absolultely outrageous – all these collaborators with fascism should be crushed as soon as possible.
The article in the 9 September Weekly Worker by Derek James, “Weapon forged in lies” contains a rather hysterical AWL-like attack on Socialist Fight, an organisation that defied the third-campist pro-Zionism of the CPGB little-league witchhunters and was purged from Labour Against the Witchhunt, Starmer style in 2018. The capitulatory politics of the CPGB was starkly revealed recently in their refusal, apparently collectively decided, to vote for a simple motion of No Confidence in Starmer at the August 28th National Members meeting of LAW, which despite their efforts was overwhelmingly passed. This alone now marks them out as the right-wing of LAW in terms of their stance towards the Labour Party.
The attack on Socialist Fight attempts to make an amalgam of SF with a suspect in a case of alleged anti-Semitic violent assault on several Orthodox Jews in North London. But fearing that the Islamophobia implicit in their argument will be too obvious, they fail to spell out that the alleged attacker is a Muslim, though he has been identified as such in the right-wing media. A strange omission which will have readers scratching their heads. Later in this article we will address some of the sensitive issues that such cases give rise to, though without commenting on the case itself for legal reasons.
It does appear, from a careful reading of the Derek James article, that the CPGB authors are somewhat fearful that our revolutionary Marxist, consistently anti-Zionist politics are gaining influence and finding echoes in wider layers of those Labour and ex-Labour leftists who have been targeted by the Zionist-driven witchhunts, a development the CPGB do not like one bit. Hence this attack on the politics of Socialist Fight, which our politics continue today.
Zionist Racism’s Class and Ethnocentric Specificity Addressed by Marxists…
We in the Consistent Democrats, the British Section of the Liaison Committee of the Fourth International, proudly endorse the politics of Socialist Fight as it was then, which the CPGB Islamophobes and Zionist lackeys denounce as “left anti-Semitism” simply for exposing the specific form of anti-Palestinian racism that the Israel lobby, which is mainly driven by a specifically Jewish form of racism, political Zionism, has injected into Western bourgeois politics.
Not that Western bourgeois politics is not deeply racist in many ways in any case, but this specific form of racism is somewhat esoteric in Western terms, and even at odds with rationally understood Western imperialist interests in other parts of the world. For instance, US support for the annexation of East Jerusalem, which contains Islam’s third most-holy site, as evidenced by the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, is ruinous to US influence with Muslim nations and peoples around the world, not just in the Middle East. Which is why three US Presidents: Clinton, Bush and Obama, kicked this policy into the long grass for five presidential terms.
But the Zionist lobby managed to force it through anyway through its arch-stooge Trump, while the evasive and cowardly American liberal bourgeoisie, fearing being accused of ‘anti-Semitism’, bizarrely complained that Vladimir Putin ‘broke’ the US Presidency by supporting Trump. When any objective examination shows clearly that Trump is an anti-Russian militarist, who tore up the 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev INF Treaty to threaten Russia with mini-nukes in its own backyard, which is why his first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, called Trump a ‘fucking moron’ when he first proposed this policy. Trump came to power as a tool of the Zionist lobby whose biggest source of campaign funding in 2016 was Likud supporter Sheldon Adelson. According to the CPGB, to note the obvious facts about this amounts to “peddling the idea that US foreign policy was run by Israel due to the ‘disproportionate’ number of US billionaires in America”.
In fact, the view of that the Israel lobby in the US at least is a predominantly Jewish bourgeois faction based on ethnic politics is not confined to ourselves and the now defunct Socialist Fight group. It is also becoming a more popular and widespread view on the Jewish left. Two very prominent Jewish left-wing figures have put forward essentially the same position: Norman Finkelstein, who has publicly supported, and been supported by, Labour Against the Witchhunt, and Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss, which is the most prominent left-wing, anti-Zionist Jewish blog in the United States.
… and the Jewish Left: 1. Norman Finkelstein
To return to the CPGB’s slander that it represents ‘anti-Semitism’ to mention the ‘overrepresentation’ of Jewish bourgeois relative to the percentage of Jews in the general population when explaining the social weight of the Israel lobby, this point goes back to the origin of this smear, when I was thrown out of the CPGB-initiated Communist Platform within Left Unity in September 2014. At that time, the Weekly Worker editor Peter Manson commented on my citing of publicly available evidence of this in my 2014 Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism thus:
“In my opinion, such ‘statistics’ say far more about the person quoting them than the people they claim to study. Even if we accept that those figures are accurate (a big ‘if’), then why would anyone consider them to be pertinent? The implication is that ruling class Jews are overwhelmingly driven by Zionism, whereas, of course, in reality there are many non-Zionists and even anti-Zionists among them.”
Here we have the CPGB’s politics in a nutshell. Cretinous faith in the ability of the ruling class to generate ‘many’ principled anti-racists (genuine anti-Zionism among Jews is a principled anti-racist creed and principled anti-racists among the imperialist bourgeoisie are akin to unicorns) and a position that crosses class lines by defending the ruling class against Marxist analysis and criticism. ‘What kind of a person wants to know the facts about Jewish overrepresentation in the imperialist bourgeoisie?’ says our apologist for the Jewish-Zionist lobby, implying that only a Nazi or similar-minded person would be so interested. But a prime example of such a person is Norman Finkelstein, who wrote about this at length thus:
“The three richest Brits are Jewish. Jews comprise only .5 percent of the population but fully 20 percent of the 100 richest Brits. Relative both to the general population and to other ethno-religious groups, British Jews are in the aggregate disproportionately wealthy, educated, and professionally successful. These data track closely with the picture elsewhere. Jews comprise only 2 percent of the US population but fully 30 percent of the 100 richest Americans, while Jews enjoy the highest household income among religious groups. Jews comprise less than .2 percent of the world’s population but, of the world’s 200 richest people, fully 20 percent are Jewish. Jews are incomparably organized as they have created a plethora of interlocking, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing communal and defense organizations that operate in both the domestic and international arenas. In many countries, not least the US and the UK, Jews occupy strategic positions in the entertainment industry, the arts, publishing, journals of opinion, the academy, the legal profession, and government. ‘Jews are represented in Britain in numbers that are many times their proportion of the population,’ British-Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notes, ‘in both Houses of Parliament, on the Sunday Times Rich List, in media, academia, professions, and just about every walk of public life.’ The wonder would be if these raw data didn’t translate into outsized Jewish political power. The Israel-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute rhapsodizes that ‘The Jewish People today is at a historical zenith of wealth creation’ and ‘has never been as powerful as now.’ It is certainly legitimate to query the amplitude of this political power and whether it has been exaggerated, but it cannot be right to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts. When virtually every member of the US Congress acts like a broken Jack-in-the-Box, as they give an Israeli head of state, who has barged into the Capitol in brazen and obnoxious defiance of the sitting US president, one standing ovation after another, surely it is fair to ask: What the hell is going on here?
Were it not for the outsized power of British Jews, it’s hard to conceive that British society would be interminably chasing after a hobgoblin. True, although fighting anti-Semitism is the rallying cry, a broad array of powerful entrenched social forces, acting on not-so-hidden agendas of their own, have coalesced around this putative cause. It cannot be gainsaid, however, that Jewish organizations form the poisoned tip of this spear. It might still be asked, But is this ‘too much’ power? Consider these facts. Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected head of the Labour Party. His ascendancy vastly expanded and galvanized the party’s ranks. Corbyn has devoted a lifetime to fighting racism; like eponymous labour organizer Joe Hill, where workers strike and organize, it’s there you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn. By British and even global leadership standards, he cuts a saintly figure. On the opposite side, mostly unelected Jewish bodies have dragged Corbyn’s name through the mud, slandering and defaming him. They have refused to meet with Corbyn, even as he has repeatedly extended olive branches and offered substantive compromises. Instead they issue take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums. As it happens, Jews overwhelmingly do not support Labour, even when the head of the party list is Jewish (Ed Miliband in 2015).
Nonetheless, these pious-cum-pompous communal leaders do not find it unseemly or even amiss to dictate from afar and from above internal Labour policy. This writer’s late mother used to muse, ‘It’s no accident that Jews invented the word chutzpah.’ The transparent motive behind this cynical campaign is to demonize Corbyn, not because he’s a ‘fucking anti-Semite,’ but because he’s a principled champion of Palestinian rights. However, Corbyn’s candidacy is not just about Palestine or even the British labouring classes. It’s a beacon for the homeless, the hungry, and the hopeless, the despised, the downtrodden, and the destitute everywhere. If Corbyn’s traducers succeed, the glimmer of possibility he has held out will be snuffed out by a gang of moral blackmailers and extortionists. Is it anti-Semitism to believe that ‘Jews have too much power in Britain’—or is it just plain common sense? (It is, to be sure, a question apart and not one amenable to simple solution how to rectify this power inequity while not impinging on anyone’s democratic rights.) Still, isn’t it anti-Semitic to generalize that ‘Jews’ have abused their power? But even granting that a portion have been manipulated or duped, it certainly appears as if British Jews in general support the anti-Corbyn juggernaut. If this indeed is a misapprehension, whose fault is it? The tacit message of the unprecedented joint editorial on the front page of the major Jewish periodicals was: British Jews are united—Corbyn must go! Is it anti-Semitic to take these Jewish organizations at their word?”
Here Finkelstein elaborates at great length the overrepresentation of Jews in positions of power in the ruling establishments of Britain, the United States, and indeed the whole world, and concludes that this is the underling reason why Zionist organisations exercise “outsize political power” in Britain, in the US, and in world politics generally.
Yet Norman Finkelstein is actively promoted by Labour Against the Witchhunt. This placard was produced for a LAW protest outside Labour Party headquarters, Southside, on 9th July 2019 against the hounding of Chris Williamson from the Labour Party. It’s an excellent, supportable placard that we fully endorse.
Norman Finkelstein makes identical points to Socialist Fight (and today the Consistent Democrats) about how the ‘overrepresentation’ of Zionist Jews in positions of power (i.e., in the ruling class) gives Zionism “outsize political power” in Western countries. In fact, on this question Norman was influenced by us to a degree. He was certainly familiar with our views on this as early as August 2016, when I got to speak from the floor at a session featuring Norman at Communist University and tried to explain our position. I was howled down by some of the soft left elements in the room, something that was criticised by Norman at the time, who not only defended our right to speak but made it clear that in his view Jewish ethnic politics played a major role in the Israel lobby, which he somewhat crudely referred to as the ‘Jewish lobby’, to more howls of outrage from the soft left present. Two years later his essay Corbyn Mania appeared, which echoed the points in my 2014 Theses almost exactly, and in fact added his own enhanced research and references to strengthen the point.
The CPGB boast about expelling Socialist Fight from LAW, but puts Norman, who expresses similar views, on LAW placards and publicity material for major public events. How is this contradiction to be explained? There are two elements that explain it: one is the CPGB’s philo-Semitic racism. Norman Finkelstein is Jewish, and because of that he is allowed to mention “critical socioeconomic facts” which are apparently forbidden to non-Jews. The other reason for the inconsistency is simply opportunism: Norman is (quite rightly) regarded as a hero and is in fact the world’s most celebrated Jewish anti-Zionist. For the CPGB to smear him as an anti-Semite would bring opprobrium on the CPGB, not Norman Finkelstein. And in any case, Norman is not a revolutionary Marxist and is not trying to organise politically around his ideas in contradistinction to the CPGB’s pseudo-Marxist, centrist politics. The flipside of opportunism is sectarianism, so in place of honest political debate goes smears and slanders, a reflection of the CPGB’s own tradition where the murder of Trotsky is still regarded as a source of merriment and banter by some leading figures, not as a counterrevolutionary crime. To sum up, the reason for the contradiction between the CPGB’s treatment of Norman Finkelstein and Socialist Fight as was, is a squalid mixture of racism, opportunism and poisonous sectarian bile. Not a pretty picture!
… and the Jewish Left: 2. Mondoweiss
Not only Norman Finkelstein, but also Phil Weiss, the main contributor to Mondoweiss, the most respected left-wing Jewish blog in the US, echoes the themes of Socialist Fight (as was). Weiss wrote of Donald Trump and his relationship with the late Sheldon Adelson:
“For 20 years Sheldon Adelson has been pouring money into Republican politics to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he has succeeded. Trump has proved to be Adelson’s ‘perfect little puppet’ (to quote the president on Adelson’s former favourite in 2015), giving the casino mogul everything on his wish list, from moving the embassy to Jerusalem to recognizing the Golan annexation to tearing up the Iran deal.
Phil Weiss, The root cause of the conflict is the Israel lobby, November 26, 2019 https://mondoweiss.net/2019/11/the-root-cause-of-the-conflict-is-the-israel-lobby/
He extends this point to talk of earlier US Presidents and their relationship with the Israel lobby:
“For 40 years or so this has meant that the lobby has kept Republicans and Democrats from any criticism of the settlement project. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter both learned that they would be foiled if they tried to make the settlements an issue, and there is evidence that both Carter and Bush ascribed their truncated leases on Pennsylvania Avenue to that political error. Bill Clinton ran to Bush’s right on settlements in ’92, and won, and all Democratic candidates for Congress learned in recent cycles that the way to raise money from the Jewish community was by getting a position paper from AIPAC, the rightwing Israel lobby.”
Phil Weiss rejects the classic device of left capitulationists, to blame the strength of Zionism on the numerical strength of Evangelical Christian Zionists:
“Some say Trump does all this for the evangelical vote. ‘A cynical play for evangelicals,’ and not Jews, David Rothkopf said of the settlements reversal. This may be comforting but it’s not true. If the settlements were such a winner for evangelicals, Trump would have announced the change two weeks earlier, before the Kentucky and Louisiana governor’s elections– when he pulled out all stops to win. Read Trump’s desperate speeches to rallies in those states to try and get Republican candidates to victory. In each speech he mentions Israel/Jerusalem once, in a boilerplate line. Compare it to adoption, abortion, health care, the military — where Trump goes on and on. The fact is that Christian evangelicals don’t really care that much about Israel, as a former Israeli consul in California, pointed out a year ago…”
He also points to parallel processes in the Democratic Party, where the influence of Evangelicals is non-existent:
“Sheldon Adelson has plenty of counterparts in the Democratic Party. I was in the audience in Cairo in 2009 when Obama, who had not yet visited Israel, thrillingly declared to the Muslim world that the settlements must end. The president had J Street at his back. Then he and J Street folded under political pressure, including a Netanyahu speech to Congress, defying Obama on settlements, when the multiple standing ovations were ‘bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,’ as Tom Friedman said.
“So the settlements went on, and Obama broke his word and vetoed an anti-settlements resolution at the U.N. ‘just as the 2012 presidential campaign cycle was cranking up,’ to quote Ben Rhodes.
Weiss sums up:
“I bore myself repeating these items. (And God help the reader!) But I have to because most observers accept the antisemitism redlines echoed lately by Bernie Sanders: you are not to speak of an outsize Jewish role in politics. So few write about the Israel lobby, though they know it to be a significant force.
“Israel lobbyists themselves extol Jewish political power in the U.S. as Israel’s lifeline for money and arms and diplomatic protection. ‘I have no qualms about pointing out that the American Jewish community is almost certainly the most influential minority community in the history of the U.S., and possibly in the history of the world,’ says Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum. ‘American Jews have worked hard to make it so, and have built a network of outward-facing institutions that protect this privileged position.’ While Times opinion editor Bari Weiss warns in her new book that the left wing of the Democratic Party is ‘actively hostile to Jewish power.’ Among progressives, she writes, ‘the very idea of Jewish power must be abjured.’
Weiss’ own conclusions, as a left-liberal himself, are reformist:
“The lobby is in its twilight. It depends on older Jews like Sheldon Adelson and Tom Friedman, who really, really love Israel. Young Jews are lukewarm/skeptical/appalled by a religious state that persecutes a minority in their name, and the Democratic base is becoming openly critical as women and people of colour play a larger role in the life of the party. J Street is taking over from AIPAC in the centrist leadership of the Democratic Party, and an earnest debate over Israel is beginning at last. A democratic process will replace a corrupt/rigged one. And only then, after the lobby is broken, can the conflict end.“
He understands full well that this is a debate/conflict within the bourgeoisie, but despite his strong and principled support for Palestinian liberation and his condemnation of Jewish chauvinism, he sees himself as a moral advocate for the self-reform of the Jewish bourgeoisie, for it to cease to be dominated by Zionism. In that sense his argumentation is mainly within the framework of the Democratic Party, even though he does criticise Bernie Sanders from the left, quite correctly, over this question. But despite his reformism, he is on this question way to the left of the CPGB, in acknowledging basic social reality, that the Israel lobby is driven by Jewish communalism.
Mondoweiss is highly respected and often quoted as a very outspoken and courageous pro-Palestinian source, including by mainstream Palestinian activist organs like The Electronic Intifada whom it often partners with. But logically, because of its acknowledgement that the Israel lobby is predominantly driven by bourgeois Jewish communalism, the CPGB ought to denounce Mondoweiss as an anti-Semitic entity also. Though this is not likely because of their opportunism, and because the CPGB do not really care much about the Palestinian question anyway. What they actually care about is keeping the milieux of hundreds of thousands of angry ex-Corbynites, many of them outraged by Zionist lying, mendacity and witch-hunting, from being radicalised further to the left than the CPGB dares go politically and embracing a consistently revolutionary anti-Zionist position.
Arab and Muslim Rage, and ‘Anti-Semitism’
We note the amalgam of our views with the alleged actions of one Abdullah Qureshi, apparently of Dewsbury, in allegedly violently attacking several visible, Orthodox Jewish people in Stamford Hill, North London, recently. If the individual in question did carry out the attacks alleged, we condemn him and would obviously consider him to be criminally responsible for his actions, and worthy of a sentence that fits the crime. We cannot comment on the details of this case for obvious reasons of sub judice. However, we also note that at the time of publication, the name, ethnic origin and evident Muslim religion of the suspect was known and the object of public comment by Islamophobes like Douglas Murray for instance, and the CPGB’s slippery article fails to mention this. In weasel terms, the CPGB article says:
“Without prejudging the case, these incidents would seem to be a clear example of anti-Semitism. No, this is not the anti-Semitism of the 1930s. Nor is it the anti-Semitism of medieval Europe or the anti-Semitism of the late Roman empire. But it is anti-Semitism: ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’: that is, hostility to Jews as Jews.”
This series of evasions, without identifying the suspect, does amount to equating such actions with the genuine anti-Semitism of the 1930s, that is primarily of Hitler and German imperialism, which clearly sought to eliminate Jews as a people, and at that point was in a position to seriously attempt such a crime. Jews were at that point a people oppressed by imperialism taken as whole. If this alleged assailant is guilty, as well as condemning his alleged actions as directed against random Jewish people, it would be necessary to take note that he himself comes from a population that is viciously oppressed today, not three-quarters of a century ago.
Zionism, as an imperialist oppressor force not only in Israel, but with a strong supporting faction in the ruling class of imperialist Britain, oppresses and systematically murders and brutalises Arabs and Muslims in Palestine. But it also plays a major, vanguard role in inciting hatred and oppression of the Muslim population in older imperialist countries such as Britain. Furthermore, the last several months have seen an ongoing series of atrocities by Israel, and a major war with the Palestinians, which Israel suffered an important defeat despite its brutal crimes. If this assailant is guilty, this provides some context as to what likely motivated his actions. Indeed, the statement that the alleged assailant attacked “Jews as Jews” would not necessarily be proven even if he were duly convicted of the assaults. After all the pro-Zionist media itself propagates the idea that most Jews support Zionism and that those that don’t are not really Jewish. An angry hypothetical attacker might well mistakenly believe that Jews who openly proclaim their Jewishness in terms of attire are proud of Israel’s activities and be ignorant of the fact that a significant number of Orthodox Jews oppose Zionism. A racist motive could only be proven if he had knowingly assaulted Jewish people who were opponents of Zionism and did not care whether they were Zionist or anti-Zionist.
We do not defend or support attacks by the oppressed even against civilians who are, or are believed to be, members of oppressor groups. We do not defend the actions of Irish republicans, for instance, who put bombs in English working-class pubs during the Irish war. We condemn those indefensible actions. But we also do not equate their actions with the crimes of the oppressors, with the crimes of imperialism. We recognise that from the point of view of the working class and the oppressed, there is a different motivation to these indefensible actions to those of imperialist oppressors, and while we condemn the actions, we do not necessarily condemn their motivation. We address a polemic to the perpetrators: “Seek another road!”, that we would not address to those who commit crimes and atrocities on behalf of imperialist oppressors.
We note that in the past the CPGB has refused to condemn actions by Irish republicans that clearly targeted working-class civilians in Britain, driven by antipathy to British crimes in Ireland. It is obvious that attacks by Muslims against Jews driven by antipathy to Zionist crimes in the Middle East have a similar motivation, and the CPGB’s failure to acknowledge this are simply a reflection of its own Islamophobic politics. We also note that when George Galloway, then an elected Member of Parliament for RESPECT, a party critical of Labour from a left-wing, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist position, was brutally attacked in August 2014 by a Zionist racist thug, the CPGB refused to condemn the attack despite being repeatedly challenged to do so.
So, this denunciation of Muslim ‘anti-Semitism’ and evasive attempt to pretend to avoid equating this with Nazi ideology, while in practice doing so, is typical of the CPGB’s Islamophobia. Nowhere do they state that the alleged assailant is Muslim. Nowhere do they note that the Muslim ‘anti-Semitism’ they are denouncing is an ideology of the oppressed. This is because they are left-talking centrists, who regularly vacillate towards social imperialism. If they acknowledged this distinction between the racism of imperialist oppressors and the ‘racism’ of oppressed people expressing violent antipathy to perceived oppressors, they would be obliged to denounce the Nazi equation forthrightly and defend, if not the alleged actions of the alleged perpetrator, at least elements of the likely motivation if proven. This they will not do, as unlike Irish nationalists, who are generally white Christians, to them non-white Muslims are just ‘reactionary’ and unworthy of such indulgence.
CPGB’s left-Zionist Prejudices Deny Facts and Lived Experience
But what is really driving their polemic is fear that our view, that Jews are no longer an oppressed group, and that therefore racism by Jews should generate no more sympathy than white supremacism, is gaining support and increasing adherence of those who have experienced the phoney ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt against the Corbyn movement. Hundreds of thousands have been exposed to Zionist racism, lies and duplicity and are no longer inclined to listen to Zionist sob-stories about so-called “anti-Semitism” and Jewish eternal victimhood. Far from welcoming this anti-Zionist radicalisation, the CPGB finds it disturbing and a key point of this article is to chastise this layer, which is much wider than the narrow circle of supporters of the third-campist CPGB, for their alleged political sins that supposedly ‘help’ the witchunters (but in reality frighten the Zionist capitulators and Islamophobes at the top of the CPGB with the spectre of a principled anti-Zionist socialist movement coming into being). In this regard, Derek James writes:
“Thus, whilst correctly identifying the politically motivated exaggeration of the nature and extent of anti-Semitism, some comrades enter into a sterile game of competitive oppression, in which racism directed towards black people or Muslims is contrasted unfavourably with the rather different contemporary experience of the Jewish population. Such denialism is ultimately rooted in the ‘beggar my neighbour’ politics of identity: it is not only politically wrong on all counts, but is also totally counterproductive, as it only gives further ammunition to the witch-hunters in the Labour bureaucracy and the media. It also adds further grist to the mill of those who provide the ‘intellectual’ cover for the big lie identifying the left with anti-Semitism, such as the ex-leftist turned conservative commentator, Brendan O’Neill, or the social-imperialists of the misnamed Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.”
Weekly Worker 9 Sept op-cit
So, combatting racist oppression based on the concrete forms of victimisation faced by minorities who actually face oppression in this society, is equated with ‘identity politics’. To the CPGB, accurate observation of the experience of blacks and Muslims, compared to the very different experience of today’s Jewish population, is simply ‘beggar my neighbour’ competitive identity politics. According to this logic, the actual lived “contemporary experience” of the oppressed layers of the population means little, and irrespective of facts and lived experience, Jews are deemed to be oppressed anyway. Failure to ignore social and economic reality is thus deemed as “giving further ammunition” to the witchhunters and providing “grist to the mill” of Starmer and racist, pro-Zionist trends. This view of Jews as eternally oppressed irrespective of circumstances is part of the Zionist worldview.
This is another variation of the policy of ignoring “critical socioeconomic facts” that the CPGB used against Socialist Fight. If the facts about Jewish overrepresentation in the ruling class, as spelled out by myself (and later Norman Finkelstein) provide material evidence of the social base of the Zionist lobby, then the facts must be ignored. Anyone who does not ignore these regrettable and embarrassing facts is by definition ‘anti-Semitic’. In fact, uneasy about the blatant nature of the lying involved in this smear, and the discredit it brings on its propagators, the CPGB and its various episodic bloc partners, who are now in the process of falling out in a big way, came up with the weasel formulation that those (such as Socialist Fight) who refuse to ignore these facts but incorporate them into a Marxist analysis, are “politically but not personally anti-Semitic”. But there is a logic to this evasion. If those who refuse to ignore these facts are not ‘personally’ anti-Semitic, what or who is anti-Semitic? Logically, this must mean that it is the facts themselves that are anti-Semitic, and therefore that anti-Semitism rubs off and contaminated anyone who refuses to ignore the facts. But as Karl Marx once observed, “facts are stubborn things”. The whole basis of Marxism is based on an objective examination of all relevant material facts, of all “critical socioeconomic facts” as Finkelstein put it. Anyone who ignores such facts is expressing prejudice, and letting that prejudice overrule the most basic elements of Marxism. Anyone who ignores critical socioeconomic facts is no Marxist.
A Left-Right Polarisation in the making
This CPGB polemic is from a left-Zionist standpoint. The denigration of those who address the different experiences of blacks and Jews regarding oppression today seems like a swipe at Jackie Walker, a woman comrade of mixed black and Jewish origin who has been a CPGB ally for the whole of the last period and who has been witchhunted for attempting to address just these kinds of questions. She was expelled from Labour in part for criticising Holocaust Memorial Day for not commemorating genocidal crimes against black people but confining itself to Jews. But in terms of attacking someone who theorises this question it is directed against Tony Greenstein, as is clear from reading a very interesting, though flawed, article of his that is quoted from below. Many others on the ex-Labour left who have drawn similar conclusions from living experience. Tony’s understanding is evidently in flux, moving closer to some hard and uncomfortable truths about Zionism and its relationship to the diaspora Jewish sections in the bourgeoisie, and he is becoming somewhat isolated among former political allies for even raising these questions. Three years ago, Tony was apocalyptic with rage with us because we, who were then in Socialist Fight, said that Zionist-led Jews (the majority of Jews by far!) have joined the world’s oppressor peoples, and could no longer be considered to be oppressed.
But now he seems to have shifted in our direction quite considerably, albeit in a manner that is hardly a model of clarity. In his recent article he made the following quite scathing remarks about his ‘own’ people, as he has previously defined them:
“Anti-Semitism had a great deal to do with what Jews did. Jews were the agents of money in pre-capitalist society. They performed an intermediary role as tax collectors, money lenders etc. to the nobility, arousing the hostility of the peasantry.
“Today the majority of Jews are performing a similar role, politically not economically. Barnaby Raine wrote that
‘Once they saw us as dangerous Semites infesting European society. Now instead we are their favourite pets: heroic colonists in the Middle East and successful citizens in the West…. Jews are conscripted as the alibi of white society. We are the useful props for a moral panic’
“Jews, not the ‘wrong sort’ of course, were used as a battering ram against the Left in the Labour Party with the complicity of the BOD and the majority of British Jews.”
He also defines the Jews as “politically white” in the same article:
“Just over a year ago, three academics – Ben Gidley, Brendan McGeever and David Feldman – wrote Labour and Antisemitism: A Crisis Misunderstood. They talked of a
‘historical parting of the ways between anti‐racism and opposition to antisemitism. An anti‐racism defined solely by conceptions of whiteness and power… has proven unable to fully acknowledge and account for anti‐Jewish racism.’
“What Gidley et al were saying was that though Jews were politically White and economically privileged in the West they were nonetheless oppressed. It begs the question – how are Jews are oppressed?”
We would not use formulations like ‘politically white’, or conversely ‘politically black’ etc as a description of the position of various ethnic groups in capitalist society. Because this somewhat oversimplifies the relations between different groups – including a variety of groups under the category ‘black’ and does bear the imprint of sections of the left – such as the pseudo-Trotskyist United Secretariat of the Fourth International — who tend to see identity, and not class as the determining division in society.
However, given that caveat, the meaning of the term “politically white” in those leftist circles is identical to “oppressor people” as white Europeans, including those in former Dominions (settler states) such as the US, Canada, Australia etc, are correctly regarded as the main component of the world’s dominant, oppressor peoples. Tony Greenstein’s statement that Jews today under Zionist leadership are ‘politically white’ amounts to saying they are now among the world’s dominant, oppressor peoples. We were roundly denounced by Tony in 2018 for saying that before being purged from LAW.
Tony then elaborates on this under the subheading: “Are Jews oppressed as a minority?” First of all, he talks of the political manifestation of this:
“Geoffrey Alderman’s The Jewish Community in British Politics (1983) was subject to a concerted effort by the BOD to persuade him to censor the parts concerning racism in the Jewish community. What Alderman showed was that nearly 400 Hackney Jews had voted for the neo-Nazi National Front compared to zero for the Communist Party candidate.
“Compare this to 1945 when an estimated half the votes for Phil Piratin in the Mile End constituency were Jewish resulting in the election of England’s first communist MP.”
A remarkable change of politics is manifested here, a veritable transformation from left-wing and communist politics of an oppressed minority with a high degree of proletarian class consciousness, to the backward and bigoted mores of the least class-conscious sections of the majority, dominant white working-class population. This is symptomatic of some important material facts which Tony himself spells out:
“Alderman noted (p.137) that in 1961 40% of British Jews were to be found in social classes A & B compared to less than 20% nationally. It is this, not Israel, that explains both Jewish voting habits and also the fact that British Jews are not the targets of state racism. There is no reason to believe that British Jews are poorer today than 60 years ago. If anything the trend has probably been reinforced.
“According to the Pew Report for 2016 44% of American Jews earn more than $100,000 a year compared to 19% of the general population. By 2020 this had increased to 54% with 23% of Jews earning $200,000 a year compared to just 4% of non-Jews. At the other end of the scale 10% of Jews have incomes of less than $30,000 a year compared to 23% of non-Jews. Does anyone serious suggest that American Jews are oppressed, deprived or go hungry?”
So, Jews are disproportionately represented among the most affluent income groups in the population according to this bourgeois sociology. Such statistics tend to obscure class relations as it is not a simple matter to map these categories to the basic class divisions between the proletariat, the petit-bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie in precise numerical terms. Indeed, that would be contrary to the very purpose of bourgeois sociology, which is to obscure basic class divisions and make them appear mysterious and imponderable.
Except the outline of the issue is roughly visible despite the mystification. If Jews have proportionately double the rate of representation of the general population in the most affluent income groups of bourgeois sociology, it is rather obvious that these high-income groups both contain, and attempt to obscure, the presence of the bourgeoisie, a.k.a. ‘senior management’ and the like, within these income groups. So, to Tony, Jews are disproportionately represented in the most ‘affluent’ layers of the population. Just by saying this he is saying that they are disproportionately represented in the ruling class, as the ruling class necessarily is part of the highest income groups.
Thus, Tony’s elaboration here, citing Geoffrey Alderman, corroborates the point that Norman Finkelstein, and before him myself, made about the disproportionate representation of Jews among the imperialist bourgeoisie and obviously the upper levels of the petit bourgeoisie as well. But when Tony makes the claim that this explains why “British Jews are not the targets of state racism”, he is not quite right.
Because in the period where Jews were systematically the targets of bourgeois and state racism, this issue, of a degree of Jewish overrepresentation among bourgeois layers, already existed, side-by-side with Jewish ghettoization, poverty and oppression. This signified that in the earlier period of imperialism, Jews occupied a more contradictory class position in capitalist society than they do now, and Jewish cultural capital in commodity trading, derived from their pre-capitalist history as a trading people-class, produced a degree of that overrepresentation among capitalists side-by-side with the radicalisation of the ghettoised and oppressed Jews and the many first-class left-wing Jewish intellectuals and militants struggles against that oppression generated. This contradictory class position was the cause of the hostility that Jews in general experienced from the ruling class, as a powerful role in business appeared to be combined with struggles against the capitalist status quo in such a way that Jewish bourgeois came under suspicion of being themselves subversives, which produced the paranoid racist ideology of the Protocols, the starting point for Hitlerism and the Nazi holocaust.
It was Zionism as itself a bourgeois project that resolved this contradictory class position of the Jews, by creating a transplanted imperialist oppressor Jewish state in the Middle East. The creation and then consolidation of this imperialist state, which more or less coincided with the destruction of huge numbers of the most radical Jewish militants and intellectuals by the Nazis, undermined and dissipated anti-Semitic sentiments and paranoia about Jews among the imperialist bourgeoisie in its centres in North America and Europe. And the vanguard role Jewish bourgeois intellectuals played in the 1970s in the advent of the neoliberal offensive against the working class, transformed the anti-Semitic sentiment among the wider bourgeoisie into its opposite, a virulent philo-Semitic sentiment that is manifested in the situation today, when to paraphrase Tony himself, hostility to so-called anti-Semitism “of the left” has become “the fake anti-racism of the bourgeoisie”. It is that combination of factors that explains not only why Jews are no longer “the targets of state racism”, and thus Jewish upward mobility has been able to bring about a qualitative change, but also the power and authority of that Jewish-Zionist part of the bourgeoisie, with its ‘birthright’ in Israel as a bourgeois-imperialist state, mediated through the Israeli Law of Return, a distinct Israel-loyal caste.
This is the logic of Tony’s leftward political evolution today. It also is part of a much larger diffuse anti-Zionist sentiment that has developed though experience by many thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of Labour Party militants who have experienced the Zionist-led witchhunt and have been radicalised by it. Tony himself is being pushed to the left by this as a prominent Jewish leftist targeted by Starmer, as are many other Jewish leftists, and others. This is what the CPGB is pushing back against with its somewhat hysterical polemic against our supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ with its stilted and illogical reasoning, its amalgams, and its feeble smears that echo those of the Starmerites themselves. The CPGB have fallen out with their ally, Tony Greenstein, not only over this but over the question of whether to build an alternative to Starmer’s Labour at all, or whether to absurdly confine themselves to the Labour Party framework and support Starmer’s Labour in elections.
Derek James’ awful polemic gives aid and comfort to the Starmerite/Zionist witchhunt. It implicitly brands the entire radicalised milieu of angry, radical anti-Zionist left Corbynites as incipiently anti-Semitic. It is a sign of the element of liberalism in the CPGB’s politics, its Third Campism and Draperite softness on Zionism, that the CPGB can credulously propagate the idea that the bourgeoisie is ‘anti-racist’ while implicitly accusing those who attack it from the left, and who consistently defend the oppressed, of being the real racists. Thus, the CPGB’s political weaknesses leads it to a polemic that amounts to kissing Starmer’s arse in the middle of the biggest attack on Labour’s working-class activist base by its bourgeois, neoliberal, pro-Zionist bourgeois political elite, in the entire history of the British Labour Party.
The article below was written for Socialist Fight and published on 21st September 2019. It was intended as part of a political-ideological offensive against the widespread capitulation to Zionist concepts on the left. Unfortunately it was somewhat overshadowed by the furore generated when part of our own organisation capitulated to Zionism and ultimately split from the LCFI because of this capitulation.
However the article is important and theoretically coherent, and the same political-ideological offensive is necessary today. This article was extensively praised by Jeff Blankfort, a left-wing US American anti-Zionist of Jewish origin, whose brief biography on Wikipedia states the following:
Jeffrey Blankfort is an American radio producer of Jewish origin who through a number of articles has made a name for himself through his harsh criticism of Israel and Zionism . He has been and is central in several organizations and campaigns for the Palestinians , and in 2002 he won a lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League after he was found guilty of spying against him and several other political activists.
In his texts, Blankfort makes himself a spokesman for a one-state solution where the whole of historic Palestine is made into a state with equal civil rights regardless of religion, culture and nationality. He has also made a name for himself by criticizing Noam Chomsky , who is considered by many to be a strong critic of Israel, for actually defending Israel’s right to exist as a racist state and for ignoring the power of the Israeli lobby in the United States.
https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Blankfort, (auto-translated from Norwegian)
Jeff Blankfort commented on the original publication of this article as follows:
A very eloquent and thoughtful commentary on a subject that refuses to go away. No, that would give the subject agency in itself when, in fact, it requires propagators who use it as a hammer to silence those of Israel’s critics who refuse to make the obligatory genuflection to the history of Jewish suffering which, we are told, exceeds the suffering of all other peoples, hence the need to separate it from the others, linguistically, and in political practice. Which your essay clearly exposes as fraudulent.
What that leads to, in a nutshell, is a Jewish sense of entitlement which pervades too great a percentage of Jewish political activity across the political spectrum that it cannot be ignored. That sense of entitlement is a product of traditional Jewish family life in which children are brought up to believe in Jewish superiority, that the goyim (a pejorative for non-Jews) can not be trusted and that antisemitism is a natural phenomenon that exists among them because of their jealousy of the Jewish genius.
In the UK, we see an ugly example of this in that, with a Jewish population of less than 290 thousand out of a population of 65 million, the Jewish political and religious establishment believes it has the right to determine who can or can not be the head of the Labour Party and the country’s prime minister.
Under the circumstances, it would be surprising if the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn did not lead to a rise of antisemitic sentiments among Corbyn supporters but even that would not be a problem for the Jewish establishment because it is the existence of antisemitism, real or imagined, that is the glue that hold the affiliated Jewish community together.
In that very thing, which Jewish leaders have acknowledged over the years, we see a difference between hostility to Jews and hostility to all other peoples. Who, after all, could imagine that leaders of the Black and Southeast Asian communities, would see any benefit in acts of racism against their respective communities?
I will leave readers to judge whether this praise is justified in the coherence of the political content of the article.
At the Communist University 2019 session in August about the witchhunt in the Labour Party, Tina Werkmann, a leading spokesperson for Labour Party Marxists, talked about how, when dealing with various pronouncements by Labour Party comrades who had been targeted by the apparatus, in a number of cases she had advised people that the things they had said were indeed anti-Semitic, for instance with remarks that had been made about the Rothschilds, and that they should confess, apologise, etc.
In response to this highly problematic admission, I pointedly asked her what definition of anti-Semitism she, and the CPGB are using. I asked if they are using the dictionary definition, for instance the definition adopted by LAZIR (Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism) which is from the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary:
“hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group”
or whether they are using the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with its long list of ‘examples’ that are designed to prevent criticism and discussion of Zionism. Or whether they are using something in between. I did not get a response from anyone in the CPGB, but I did from Moshe Machover, who basically said that the dictionary definition was not enough, that Jewish people also had to contend with ‘conspiracy theories’ and those too had to be regarded as anti-Semitic. The CPGB comrades concurred with this and as I see this as confirming they are indeed using something in between the two as the basis for their definition.
When I was driven out of their Communist Platform bloc inside Left Unity in 2014, I made what is in fact the same point to them, even though the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism had not then seen the light of day (its precursor from the 2000s, the European Union Monitoring Centre ‘working definition’, was however around somewhere): I wrote then in a motion (which they voted down):
“Communists reject a separate category of ‘anti-Semitism’, distinct from and wider-cast than actual racism against other peoples. We consider this a racist concept, giving representatives of one people a weapon against criticisms whose legitimacy no one on the left would question if made against other peoples. It is an ideological weapon against the Palestinians, preventing understanding of, and struggle against, their situation.
“We equally oppose racism against Jews, Arabs, Blacks, Irish, and all peoples, as defined above. All racisms share this definition – hostility to all in the targeted group.”
There are several interlocking questions that flow from this which have arisen out of the witch-hunts on the left that have happened, not just in the Labour Party since Corbyn won the leadership, but over a longer period, at least since the Iraq War and earlier. What has happened in the Labour Party is just a concentrated expression of these issues.
Moshe Machover’s answer on ‘conspiracy theories’ differentiates Jews from all other minorities who suffer from racism. And yet, as many have observed, Jews do not today suffer from discrimination in Western societies, from disproportionate unemployment and poverty; they do not suffer from police harassment; they do not suffer from disproportionately being put in prison; nor regularly suffer deaths in custody. They are in a much stronger position than those communities designated as immigrant-derived by all the Western states, or the descendants of slaves in the United States, or the oppressed original indigenous populations of the USA, Australia and other Western-derived states populated by the descendants of European settlers.
Jews are thus in a relatively privileged position over all genuinely oppressed groups in capitalist society, and today, unlike a century ago, do not suffer significant oppression in the Western countries. Given that, the insistence that Jews suffer from ‘conspiracy theories’ and therefore anti-racists have to be particularly careful when discussing questions relating to racism and Jews not to fall into these ‘conspiracy theories’ constitutes a double-whammy for those who suffer from real oppression today. When Jewish racists blatantly assert their privilege, and routinely assert that any even implicit criticism of such privilege amounts to a ‘conspiracy’ theory and ‘anti-Semitism’, this doubly cements that privilege and oppression. The Mark Wadsworth case in the Labour Party is an atrocious example of this.
Despite their earlier history of persecution, Jews are not regarded as a threatening, subversive population by the ruling classes of the Western imperialist states. Indeed if you look at Jewish history, the period prior to the Nazi holocaust, the defeat of Hitler in WWII, the foundation of Israel shortly after the war and its consolidation in 1967, when Jews were oppressed and constituted a semi-pariah group in the West, one of the key mechanisms of that oppression was the propagation of theories that regarded all members of that particular group as subversive to Western Christian society.
Even wealthy Jews were regarded by Tsarist and Nazi anti-Semites as being in league with Jewish socialists and communists to undermine ‘Christian’ societies. This often took strange, contorted and convoluted theoretical forms, as anyone who has taken the trouble to read this literature can attest, but it was at bottom a class phenomenon. Objectively, the Jews occupied a contradictory class position in capitalist society in the epoch of progressive capitalism and also the earlier period of imperialist capitalism, up to approximately the mid-20th Century.
The Jews under European feudalism had been a privileged, trading-merchant middleman people-class of ‘foreign’ religion, as Abram Leon analysed at length in The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation. As capitalism began to grow within the womb of feudal society this feudal merchant class had been driven out of the mercantile sphere by an emerging home-grown/’indigenous’ capitalist merchant layer, driven into ghettos and confined to money-related trading and lending. Much of the Jewish population had therefore become a kind of underclass, impoverished pariahs many of whom constituted an important intellectual layer, which became radicalised and inclined towards democracy and socialism. Remnants of this phenomenon also survive to this day, albeit in a rather debased form.
In the late feudal period the Jews were thus an oppressed population who had been driven into that situation by the constraints imposed by rising capital on a declining feudal society, which reciprocally imposed constraints on the rising bourgeoisie. But the shattering of feudalism resulted in political emancipation of the Jews. Emerging from feudalism, they rapidly became represented among the emerging bourgeois class in greater numbers than among the population generally. And Jewish intellectuals played an important and progressive role in the bourgeois revolutions themselves.
But at the same time the impoverishment and oppression of Jews in late feudal society mean that there was a large layer of poor Jewish petty-traders and artisans in industries associated with the former people-class. This layer, and the intellectuals associated with it, played an important role in the working class movement as it began to emerge in the 19th century, and continued in the 20th. The number of Jewish socialists and communists was quite considerable and again out of the proportion to the size of the Jewish population itself.
A contradictory class position …
It was the contradictory class position of the Jews in the real world, and their involvement in revolutionary movements, both bourgeois and proletarian, that gave rise to the theory that Jewish capitalists and Jewish communists were part of a common conspiracy to overthrow ‘Christian civilisation’ and replace it with a new regime where Jews were the rulers.
This theory, that was codified in the Tsarist fiction The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and adopted by Hitler, was actually a counterrevolutionary demonology. It implicated all Jewish people; it therefore constituted a ‘warrant for genocide’ as those who believed and acted on it, particularly the Nazis, believed they were destroying a subversive threat to capitalism itself. It gained a real following among the bourgeoisie and a much larger layer of the petty-bourgeoisie that followed ‘their’ bourgeoisies politically, and saw a ‘Jewish-led’ working class movement as a potent revolutionary threat.
This is the racist conspiracy theory, which implicated all Jewish people, that was formulated by racist anti-Semites in the late 19th Century. Of course it incorporated earlier hostile views about Jews that were derived both from Christian religious hostility to the Jewish religion, and also the role of the Jews as a middleman and moneylending class under feudalism whose activities sometimes resulted in violent social conflicts with destitute peasant masses who were frequently ruinously indebted to them.
Obviously it was a distortion of social and political characteristics which were visible to all who observed Jewish communities. It was a malicious stereotype, a blood libel and a caricature, but in order for such a view to gain mass influence, it had to bear at least a passing resemblance to some real features of the Jews as a group. Otherwise it would not have ever gained a mass following.
… and its resolution
However, the material conditions that gave rise to it have now disappeared. This is for three reasons. One is that the Nazis basically exterminated several millions of Jews in Europe, including much of the communist-inclined Jewish artisan-proletariat and radical intelligentsia that was what generated support for this counterrevolutionary demonology among the bourgeoisie.
The second being the formation of the state of Israel: the strategy of Zionism always was that the advent of a Jewish state would allow the Jews to rise into the ranks of the oppressor peoples in the imperialist-dominated world. This depended on the existence of the sizeable layer of Jews within business in the advanced capitalist countries, who had been previously regarded with suspicion by part of the wider bourgeoisie. But after Israel was consolidated, this was no longer tenable and died out over time.
The third reason is that even for Jews who were not initially wealthy, upward mobility was much easier than for other groups simply because of the Jews’ historically generated culture as a former commodity trading class, who proved able particularly in the post-WWII period in the advanced countries to rise out of the proletariat. So there is very little left these days by way of a Jewish working class, except of course in Israel.
So Jews no longer occupy a contradictory class position in capitalist society and the objective, material base for the ideology of the Protocols has thus disappeared. Therefore this ideology has no real purchase today, insofar as it is ever encountered is a relic of the past, preserved in some places (such as Eastern Europe) only because for decades it had been driven underground and was able therefore to survive in the dark under Stalinism.
Even the far right in most places has abandoned it, and far from citing the Protocols of Zion (i.e. Zionism) as depicting their enemy, regard Zionism and Israel as the very model of a racist ethnic state to be aspired to. This is also true in Eastern Europe, where elements of this ideology do survive, but nevertheless those who accept it maintain close relations with Israel, as in Ukraine and Hungary.
The on-off dispute between Israel and Poland is not about Polish anti-Semitism per se. It is not a matter of historical dispute that the pre-war regime of the Colonels would have liked to expel its own Jewish population and might have done so had Hitler not evicted it from power in 1939. Rather it is about the Zionist “Holocaust Industry”’s sometime attempt to portray Poland as a co-perpetrator of the Nazi genocide.
In fact Poland, its indigenous anti-Semitism notwithstanding, was violently and forcibly occupied by Nazi Germany at the outset of the war, and over two million of its Slavic people, also considered untermenschen according to Nazi racial theories, were murdered by the Nazis alongside a similar number of Polish Jews.
To summarise then, the ‘conspiracy theory’ of the Protocols projected that all Jews were a demonic and revolutionary force, aiming to overthrow existing society and dominate humanity. The material conditions which gave rise to this ideology have disappeared; the ideology has become marginal and utterly divorced from reality where it does exist. Even where it survives its proponents are in the habit of working with Zionist Israel and therefore Zionist Jews against contemporary targets of racism, such as people from Muslim countries.
This puts Machover’s remark about ‘conspiracy theories’ in its historical context. It is clear that the ‘conspiracy theory’ that he is referring to, that of the Protocolsdoes fit the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism. It is a manifestation of “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” and projects that all Jewish-born people, of all classes, even those who have renounced being Jewish or converted to other religions, are an enemy, demonic population. For instance the Nazis also murdered numerous baptised ex-Jewish Christians and regarded them as Jews.
Furthermore, while the above is certainly a racist conspiracy theory, it is actually a melange of different elements, put together to produce a racist totality. Those elements taken individually are not racist in themselves, nor are they even ‘conspiracy theories’. This is a typical dishonest Zionist theme, often echoed unthinkingly by parts of the left as Machover’s remarks show. There is nothing racist or conspiratorial, for instance, about criticism of the exploitative role of Jewish moneylenders in medieval or even more modern times towards the peasantry where such phenomena existed.
There is nothing racist about citing verifiable facts about Jewish representation in the ruling classes of the West providing a social base for Zionism. Nor is there anything racist about citing the role of the very influential Rothschild banking family in promoting Zionism. It is a fact and no accident that the Balfour Declaration was addressed to a very prominent member of the Rothschild family in the UK.
It does appear that there were divisions in that family about the usefulness of Zionism as a project for them, but exactly what role their enormous wealth played in the triumph of Zionism and creation of Israel is a completely legitimate topic of comment, research and debate, even if some of the things said may be mistaken. This is true just as much as, for example, the role of the Koch family business in the USA in the rise to power of Bolsonaro in Brazil.
Nor is there even anything necessarily anti-Semitic about even right-wing criticisms of the historical role of Jews in the Communist movement, whether those criticisms are correct or not, and whether they come from Jewish or non-Jewish critics. If they say or imply that such nefarious actions are an inherent quality of Jewish people of all classes irrespective of belief or ideology, as do the Protocols, then it is accurate to say such criticisms are anti-Semitic. Otherwise such criticisms may well be anti-communist, counterrevolutionary or simply misguided. It is well-known and hardly surprising that many right-wing Jews, particularly Zionists, are not too fond of Jewish communists and prone to the same demonology about them as about non-Jewish communists. However such demonology is not about Jews in general, and it is obvious why it could not be if you think about it.
Jews accused of ‘anti-Semitism’
This has considerable importance when we address the characteristic blood libel against the left today manifested in the witchhunt in the British Labour Party ultimately targeting Jeremy Corbyn. The culmination of this, in formal statute underlain by a kind of Zionist ‘theory’ about anti-Semitism, is the adoption by the Labour Party of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which attempts to criminalise anti-racist criticism of the Zionist project by defining as ‘anti-Semitic’ the view that creating the Israeli state on land taken from Palestinian Arabs is a ‘racist endeavour’.
This is obviously a racist Catch-22 that defines the Palestinian Arabs as an inferior population with no rights. The IHRA was formulated by Zionists who are unapologetic about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers in Israel proper. Some of them make considerable play on their support for a two-state solution as camouflage for their racism and call for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. But the objective problem is that the actions of settlers in the West Bank and their racist terrorism against the Arab population are no different to the means by which Israel was created.
In adopting the IHRA definition, Labour have adopted a racist NEC-imposed policy that is completely at odds with the policy voted for by conference delegates in 2018 that condemned the Naqba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 which created the state of Israel.
However, that does not exhaust the question. Several Jewish members of the Labour Party have been expelled for supposedly breaking rule 2.1.8: engaging in “conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the party” (the ‘disrepute clause’). These were for pronouncements that have been deemed to be anti-Semitic. But in classic weasel fashion, the Labour apparatus have not dared to formally expel them or indeed many people at all for actual anti-Semitism, fearing a legal challenge that could leave them defenceless.
If they did that, they would likely be required to prove in court that Jewish Labour Party members such as Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Cyril Chilson actually do fit the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism. So instead the ‘disrepute’ clause is used, which can mean anything to anyone. However it is generally understood, despite the weasel words, that these people were purged for ‘anti-Semitism’; that is what the Zionist racists put about in their smear campaigns and the Labour Party is complicit in this at the highest level.
Tony Greenstein was expelled for ‘abusive behaviour’ which was deemed anti-Semitic in this way. Jackie Walker likewise, for questioning the definition of anti-Semitism used by the Jewish Labour Movement (i.e. the IHRA definition), and for questioning the Jewish exclusivity of Holocaust Memorial Day, why it does not commemorate the many millions of Africans who died under slavery and colonialism. She was earlier suspended for talking in a private Facebook discussion about the role of some of her own Jewish ancestors in the slave trade in the Caribbean (she is of mixed Jewish/Afro-Caribbean heritage). The latter was deemed by Zionists as some kind of Jewish conspiracy theory akin to the Protocols of Zion.
Cyril Chilson, who was once an Israeli Peace Activist and is the son of survivors of the Nazi holocaust, was also expelled from Labour under the ‘disrepute’ clause, but again motivated with innuendos that he was in some way ‘anti-Semitic’. Here is his own commentary on the allegations against him:
“My accusers were very keen to recast comments I made on Israel’s success in recruiting certain leaders of western Jewish communities and turning them into zealous supporters who ostracise opposing Jewish voices, as ‘making mendacious allegations about Jews as a collective’ and ‘accusing Jews, supporters of Israel and critics of antisemitism as being more loyal to Israel than to the UK…’. And most ludicrous – accusing me of ‘denying Jewish people the language to describe their own oppression’.“
Apart from the clear influence of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism involved here, there is a whiff of the allegation of ‘conspiracy theory’ as per the Protocols of Zion against comrade Chilson. He was also denounced by Zionists for engaging in fraternal discussion with the Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, also of Israeli-Jewish origin, who defines himself as an ‘ex-Jew’ and a ‘Hebrew-speaking Palestinian’.
“Self-hatred” and supposed Jewish anti-Semitism
Atzmon makes sometimes penetrating criticisms of the Jewish left and Jewish identity politics, but is also a source of considerable confusion; he ascribes an almost supernatural power to the secular Jewish identity as a dangerous force in the world, but at the same time advocates that Jewish people disturbed by this should renounce their Jewish identity lock, stock and barrel and assimilate wholesale into the nations in which they live, leaving no trace. His critique of Zionism and Jewish identity politics is idealist, not materialist. But he has managed to upset both Zionist Jews and the anti-Zionist Jewish left who again, accuse him of conspiracy theory and anti-Semitism.
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.
The Atzmon case, however, set a contemporary precedent for accusing Jewish people of anti-Semitism. For the past 14 years or so, Atzmon has been hounded as an anti-Semite by Jewish leftists like Greenstein and others. Not only that but those who treated Atzmon in a political manner, engaging in debate with him without joining in the outcry, and who denounced the Jewish left’s campaign against the Socialist Workers Party in the period when it invited him to speak at its events and play for them, were themselves accused of condoning anti-Semitism and often subjected to violations of workers democracy, being expelled from left-wing forums, etc.
Greenstein and others on the left of Jewish origin who were accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ ought to have been able to ridicule the allegations against them. How absurd that the Labour Party was expelling left-wing Jews accusing them of hating Jews! How Orwellian! It ought to be perfectly obvious that racist Jewish right-wing people had gained positions of power in the Labour Party and were using that to expel left-wing, pro-Palestinian anti-racist Jews. Labour, and the Labour Zionists, would have been totally naked before such a counter-attack and it would have inevitably crumbled. But they cannot, because of the Atzmon case and the role of quite a few of these left-wing Jews in previously witchhunting Jewish people such as Atzmon for ‘anti-Semitism’.
It is theoretically possible for a Jewish person to be personally anti-Semitic of course, to believe that they have been born into an inherently inferior or demonic human group. It is also possible for someone who is born black, for instance, to believe similar things. The consequence of such beliefs, which tend to flow from an internalisation of oppression, is self-destructive behaviour. Such things as scrubbing skin trying to make it ‘clean’, or using skin lightening treatments which are a more sophisticated version of the same thing, are expressions of that, but it is harmful and self-destructive as does not really need to be explained.
In the case of Jews, there is one figure in history who Gilad Atzmon himself says was a Jewish anti-Semite. Otto Weininger, a brilliant but seemingly disturbed Jewish young aspiring philosopher who wrote the work ‘Sex and Consciousness’ at the turn of the 20th Century. He committed suicide at the age of 23, which is a logical consequence of being both anti-Semitic and Jewish. But apart from that, the belief that it is possible to renounce Jewish identity completely and cease to be Jewish is not racist in any way.
A huge concession to Zionism
It is the opposite of the beliefs of anti-Semites, including the Nazis who sent numerous Christian converts from Judaism to the death camps. It also is somewhat utopian for a different reason, as ‘race’ exists as a social, not an individual, category, and real anti-Semites such as the Nazis would not accept the protestations of someone who says they are “no longer a Jew”. Atzmon would have been rounded up by the Nazis along with all the other Jews had he been around at the time.
Obviously then those who accuse Atzmon of ‘anti-Semitism’ are not using the dictionary definition. Nor are they using the IHRA definition, which most of these people are campaigning against or actively hostile to. They are using something in between, though they do not define exactly what that ‘something’ is, except that alleged ‘conspiracy theories’ come into it somewhere, as I have addressed above. However by widening the definition beyond what is in the dictionary, what they are in effect doing is widening the definition beyond racism. For the dictionary definition is a definition of anti-Semitism as anti-Jewish racism.
This again gives comfort and political ground to the Zionists. In their joint editorial the at the peak of the Zionist hysteria over Corbyn in July 2018, the Jewish Chronicle ,Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph accused Labour of making a:
“distinction between racial antisemitism targeting Jews (unacceptable) and political antisemitism targeting Israel (acceptable).”
This was a lie, as Labour never said any such thing in its discussion on the IHRA. The concept comes from these Zionists themselves and reflects the fact that even they find it impossible to consistently maintain that what they call ‘political anti-Semitism’ (hostility to Israeli racism) is the same thing as racist hostility to Jewish people. Instead they engage in a rhetorical trick that says that these are distinct things but each is just as bad as the other.
Another example that illustrates this paradigm of ‘non-racist’ anti-Semitism and its Zionist ideological pedigree comes from the left-Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty, with their concept of ‘racist’ and ‘non-racist’ anti-Semitism. This has been a long-time canard that they have thrown at the anti-Zionist left, for instance Sean Matgamna here:
“… left-wing anti-semites are not racist. But there was anti-semitism before there was 20th-century anti-Jewish racism. And there is still anti-semitism of different sorts, long after disgust with Hitler-style racism, and overt racism of any sort, became part of the mental and emotional furniture of all half-way decent people, and perhaps especially of left-wing people.
There was indeed religious and social hostility to Jews before racialised anti-Semitism was born in the late 19th century, which was then incorporated into that racist ideology. But Matgamna is not accusing leftists of medieval Christian bigotry or resurrecting the anti-Jewish rage of serfs such as that in the 17th Century Polish-ruled Ukraine; he is making an amalgam of leftist anti-Zionist thought with these things. This is just another variant of the Jewish Chronicle’s nonsensical statement that hostility to Israeli racism and ethnic cleansing amounts to ‘political anti-Semitism’. Again, the politics of the AWL shows the Zionist pedigree of this concept, that there can be an ‘anti-Semitism’ that neither expresses hostility to, nor practices nor advocates discrimination against Jewish people.
Zionist concept permeates ‘anti-Zionist’ left
But this Zionist concept has seeped into the anti-Zionist left also. For instance in the various witchhunts initiated by the likes of the CPGB/Weekly Worker, and by Bundist-influenced Jewish leftists such as Tony Greenstein and Moshe Machover, whose views resonate widely around the left, we hear the same refrain:
“Keeping things in perspective, a number of speakers for the SC motion emphasised that, 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’. Pete Firmin, supporting the SC motion, nevertheless insisted that, while that was certainly the case for Gerry, ‘his politics are’ anti-Semitic.”
Similar things were said not only about Socialist Fight, but also about Peter Gregson, the founder of Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (LAZIR) on the basis of fabricated allegations of support for Nazi holocaust denial (but in reality because of their hostility to his LAZIR initiative, which advocates that the Labour Party should throw out its Zionist racists on principle). Comrade Gregson is supposedly likewise not personally, but politically anti-Semitic.
This is actually the same as what both the mainstream Zionists and the AWL are saying, the distinction between racial or racist, and allegedly non-racial anti-Semitism. By denying that someone is “personally” anti-Semitic, what they are saying is that while you are not individually a racist, by criticising something that must not be criticised, whether it be the Israel state itself, or its disproportionately numerous ethnic-nationalist base of support in the Western ruling classes, your politics are in some way ‘objectively’ anti-Semitic. It’s a Zionist-derived argument and indicative of a left that is politically soft on Zionism even when it claims to be opposing it.
And though they have not yet had the courage to put this in writing, this is what the CPGB, Greenstein et al, are also saying about Norman Finkelstein, that he uses anti-Semitic ‘tropes’ about ‘outsized Jewish power’, that his essay ‘Corbyn Mania’ amounts to a conspiracy theory, and that the facts he documented more comprehensively than we did when our position was formulated four years earlier, should not be mentioned.
The logical root of all these contradictions and irrationalities would seem to be an incorrect definition of anti-Semitism, of failing to define anti-Semitism rigidly as hostility to Jewish and discrimination per se against Jewish people, instead expanding that definition to criticism of aspects of Jewish politics and action that have nothing at all to with any communal or racial antagonism to Jews. But in fact what is behind that is a failure on the part of much of the Jewish left to break from a Jewish form of particularism and really embrace a consistently internationalist, Marxist programme and outlook, and the inclination of the non-Jewish left to defer to them, either through liberal guilt or lack of political courage. This is a product of centrist and left-reformist politics, and a capitulation to various forms of bourgeois social pressure, among which Zionist pressure today is a major component and which has a frighteningly anti-democratic manifestation at times.
Is Zionism anti-Semitic?
Sometimes we even get an absurd ‘leftist’ form of this deviation, where leftists attempt by ferocity of language to make up for, and hide (including from themselves) the theoretical and programmatic capitulation to Zionism that is part of their politics. An example of this is the insistence by Tony Greenstein that “Zionism is a form of Jewish anti-Semitism”.
In justifying this he cites various statements from early Zionists that provide very unflattering images of diaspora Jewry, including remarks about money-fetishism and the like, and the allegedly parasitic nature of the diaspora Jewish lifestyle. He also is able to quote abuse against himself and others from Zionist thugs, including people who have made remarks to the effect that it’s a pity that Hitler did not get people like him. Obviously these are foul remarks and should be condemned.
But to extrapolate from that to say that “Zionism is a form of Jewish anti-Semitism” makes no sense at all if you consider that anti-Semitism is about advocating hostility and discrimination against Jewish people. For Zionists advocate the opposite; discrimination against non-Jews and a Jewish ethnocracy in Israel where non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs have no real rights. It is quite normal for nationalists to be harshly critical of what are perceived to be faults of their ‘own’ people, not for the purpose of promoting hostility or discrimination against them, but as part of an exhortation upon them to change and make themselves fit to be the founders of a new (or ‘reborn’) nation.
It may be true that there is a coincidence of interest between Zionism and anti-Semitism, as both would like Jews to leave the diaspora. But obviously their reasons for doing so are different in intention.
This is not confined to Zionism. Black nationalists, for instance the Garvey movement or the Black Muslims, are or were also sharply critical of those in their communities who they consider inimical to the future of the black “nation”, whether described as pan-African or Islamic in form. Some of these criticisms may even echo some of the derogatory things that racists say, as well as dovetailing with racists’ desire for black people to leave. But their purpose is completely different, it is to overcome what are seen as morbid symptoms of oppression, exploited by the racist enemy, and raise the people to the level aspired to by the nationalists.
This may well be reactionary; it cannot however be said to be motivated by hostility to and discrimination against the people concerned; in the case of Jews it is certainly not therefore motivated by anti-Semitism.
Not only that, but it is discernible that, unlike black nationalists whose aims were no higher than to secure greater equality and to mitigate their people’s oppression within the existing order, the early Zionists appear to have had an inkling that the unique history of the Jews gave them at least a chance of escaping their oppressed condition altogether and joining the world’s oppressor peoples – if they could secure a state. Zionism has proved a remarkably successful strategy in this regard so far.
Even the despicable abuse Tony and others have received from Zionists is not motivated by hatred of him for being Jewish. It is motivated by hatred of him for being an ‘Arab-lover’ and therefore a ‘race-traitor’ in their terms. This is true even if the Zionists make despicable remarks about how Hitler should have got him. The real motive is associative anti-Arab racism, not anti-Jewish racism.
So what is behind the nonsensical polemic that “Zionism is a form of Jewish anti-Semitism”? Programmatic and ideological incoherence, and an inability to completely break with elements of the Zionist world view despite the most intense, feverish hostility to Zionism’s crimes. This polemic accepts a key tenet of Zionism – that Jews are the ultimate and eternal victims and attempts to throw that back at the Zionists –“even you Zionists are among the Jews’ tormentors” it says. But this is incoherent, and doesn’t wash because everyone who knows anything knows that political Zionism is built on hostility and discrimination against Arabs, not Jews.
Like with the Zionists’ own wolf-crying activities, if anti-Semitism is not strictly defined and its definition is expanded, then the currency is devalued. If everything becomes designated as anti-Semitic, then reality is obscured and the effect is that nothing can ever be convincingly said to be anti-Semitic.
This article is an important clarification of some key issues regarding the Jewish Question and what is, and what is not, anti-Semitism. The ideological onslaught of Zionism and the witchhunt in Labour, as well as similar attacks on democratic rights and parts of the left and even left-liberals, not just here but in France, Germany and the United States, mean that clarity on these things is a sine qua non of a coherent political response, and this is essential not just for the Trotskyist movement, but for all leftist anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist forces.
So I’ve been suspended from using Mark Zuckerburg’s racist and anti-democratic Facebook platform yet again.
This time for supposedly ‘bullying’ an Israeli Zionist extremist named Aron White, who comes from London and indeed studied here at the University of London, but then evidently made ‘aliyah’ to Israel in order to participate in the occupation of Palestinians in Jerusalem. He also studied at, and is now employed by, an establishment called Yeshivat NaKotel, an orthodox Jewish school in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was established after the conquest of East Jerusalem by Israel in 1967.
Similar institutions and movements are involved directly in the ethnic cleansing and persecution of the Palestinian inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrar, which was the immediate issue over which the 11-day Saif Al Quds (Sword of Jerusalem) war broke out. It has not been possible to establish a direct participation of this particular yeshiva in these events, but they are evidently part of a common milieu of racism and violent religious extremism with these particular criminals.
In any case, this Aron White made remarks in the face of clear evidence of the large scale, deliberate killing of Arab children by the Israeli Murder Forces, that blames the Palestinian people as represented by Hamas who THEY ELECTED AS LEADERS IN THE LAST FREE ELECTION ISRAEL PERMITTED, in 2006, for defending their people against genocidal terror and firing home-made rockets at the occupiers, land theives and terrorists and thereby supposedly ‘forcing’ these terrorists to murder their children.
This is a genocidal position based on the absurd excuse that Israel had concocted, of ‘roof knocking’ where they fire a rock to knock the roof of a civilian home to supposedly warn the inhabitants that their home is about to be flattened within a minute or two and to run for their lives.
This is itself clearly an act of terrorism and is guaranteed to cause panic, trauma, homelessness…. and death to the many who for any number of reasons are unable to escape. A monstrous act in itself.
Particularly as their victims are completely unarmed on an individual basis and collectively only have glorified firework rockets without guidance systems, which rather rarely hit anything and usually do minimal damage when they do.
In any case, White’s boast about ‘precision bombing’ proves more than he intends. Because if they are so ‘precise’ then the deaths they inflict are clearly intended to happen. The killings of these kids are clearly premeditated as the authors of these crimes know very well from repeated experience what happens when they fire their ‘precision’ weapons. They kill many kids. That is the desired effect.
In my honest opinion his excuses for the mass murder of children of the ‘enemy’ ethnic group makes him a genocidal killer by ideology and thereby my view that he would make a fine SS recruit is fair comment.
Its amazing that FB could consider that someone openly supporting terrorist murder of civilians could be ‘bullied’. The obvious political explanation for this is that FB itself considers such murders to be just fine. FB itself should therefore be targeted for punishment by anti-racists for this.
Re-arm the left and the Unions to take on this Criminal Government!
The upcoming election for General Secretary of Unite the Union, the biggest trade union in Britain, offers an opportunity for working class people to strike back against the political defeats of our class represented by the sabotage of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn by the Blairite and Zionist right wing. The candidacy of Howard Beckett, who has strongly criticised the Labour leadership of Keir Starmer with its witchhunts against the left, its antipathy to trade unionists and organised workers, and its re-Blairisation of the Labour Party under the guidance of Peter Mandelson, who also advises Boris Johnson, has been like a breath of fresh air after the previous capitulations of the Labour left.
Beckett has taken on the Labour right wing in a manner that no prominent figure in the Labour Party or labour movement did in the entire Corbyn era from 2015-2020, including of course Corbyn himself. He has taken on Labour’s Blairite/Zionist stooge leader head on and that is the centrepiece of his campaign. In some ways the things that he has said are exceptional for a candidate in an internal union election. On 14th June he Tweeted simply: “Starmer must go” following earlier Tweets where he said: “If Labour HQ continues down its path and no longer speaks for working people, it will not be getting Unite money if I am general secretary.” These are not exceptional; he has said many similar things over the past several weeks. But his onslaught against the treacherous Starmer leadership of Labour is escalating and is becoming utterly counterposed to the other two ostensibly ‘left-wing’ candidates, Steve Turner and Sharon Graham.
Beckett went into more depth in his forthright attack on Labour’s right-wing leadership in an interview on 8th May with Revolutionary Socialism in the 21 Century, where he elaborated:
“He’s not a success as a leader. What’s going on now is a dereliction of duty with his failure to offer a narrative on zero Covid, or a narrative on nationalisation when it’s most needed, or resistance to fire and rehire. If he continues on the course he’s on he’ll become irrelevant, and Labour is quickly becoming a party of the establishment.
“It is for the Labour Party to prove its relationship with unions, and if it doesn’t speak on a daily, weekly, monthly basis on behalf of working people then it will become irrelevant to working people. But if that does happen, the union movement will not be found wanting. If I am general secretary, the union movement will step into that vacuum and talk with and for our communities, educate our communities and talk about socialism.
“Unite has already reduced our affiliation and we’re on record as saying we will have to take great care that any further money is given to those who share our values. If they continue on this path there will be debates not just about regular funding and funding around elections but also about affiliation, and I will happily facilitate those debates. The only language the leadership understand at the moment is the language you would be giving to a bad employer.”
However, he is not confining himself to politicking within the Labour Party milieu. He is, as least verbally, putting forward an agenda of class struggle which is somewhat unusual to hear from an aspiring leader of a trade union in this period, and appears to be pitching to lead a left-wing political movement, not just a campaign for a leading trade union position:
“Steve Turner is running on the idea of partnership with employers. I reject that. When you talk in that language it diminishes the fact that we are in a class struggle.”
“I am banging the drum for Unite to have its own TV channel, with regular interviews with high-profile politicians and activists, constant news and evaluation of industrial and political landscape. It could be used for advice, distilling information for our reps, and even cookery shows. If we start talking to wider society the next generation will see exactly what a union does, understand the importance of collectivism and want to be part of this.”
“If the laws are trying to restrict liberties then they should be defied. As soon as we start accepting them as valid then our liberties are lost, and it becomes only a matter of time before our entire movement is lost. Unite’s rule book has been changed to make a statement about Unite stepping outside of the law. It is becoming a reality for us now.”
“Strikes. Strikes! Targeted strike action. Simple as that. The idea that protecting the NHS is done by making speeches? Nonsense. People should be in Unite because they need to be in a union that will take the fight to the government. If we can’t make the argument for reversing privatisation now after Covid then frankly we all deserve what we get. If we can’t make an argument about care homes coming into public ownership under the NHS then we deserve what we get, and if we can’t defend the argument for a 15% pay rise then we deserve what we get. Here and now the reality for all of us there needs to be strategic, targeted industrial action.”
He is also a champion of Unite’s Community Section, which organises retired, unemployed and other unwaged working-class people both to fight for their own interests and as a wider support and auxiliary of the social and industrial power of the union.
One negative point about Beckett, where he displayed weakness, albeit in November 2020 before the Unite leadership issue became central, was when under pressure from the right and the Zionists, he pulled out of an event calling for Jeremy Corbyn’s reinstatement because expelled Labour member and Jewish anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein was also a speaker. Greenstein is a hate figure of the Zionists and those who share platform with expelled anti-Zionists are immediately added to the list of targets. However, a few weeks later in December, at a NEC meeting discussing the Tory-stooge Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report smearing sections of the Labour left as anti-Semitic, he challenged aspects of the process, tweeting “My NEC report for Unite will record being denied access to submissions to the EHRC, denied a debate on suspensions; denied debate on the importance of protecting lawful speech.” (https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/unite-union-official-beckett-criticised-over-his-response-to-labour-antisemitism-meeting-1.509469). Beckett is a union official, not a Palestine solidarity activist, but his statements on the recent Zionist atrocities make clear that he is an outspoken opponent of these crimes which have had such a major impact on the labour movement in Britain these last few years.
Smears and Witchhunting of Beckett
He has more recently himself had a taste of the cynicism of the fake ‘racism’ allegations of the right and the fake-left, when he was himself suspended from Labour for a tweet in solidarity with a large, militant crowd of anti-racists in Glasgow who physically prevented immigration officials from seizing two Indian Muslims who were under threat of deportation. Beckett, clearly enraged by the racism of the Home Office led by Priti Patel, the far-right Tory capo, Modi-supporting anti-Muslim fascistic Hindutva bigot and Israeli stooge, who clearly ordered the action, tweeted on 13 May: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism.”.
He quickly apologised and said his tweet was not meant to be taken literally. Various liberals who claim to be on the left, and the Labour leadership, howled with outrage at Beckett’s supposed ‘racism’ for forgetting that the Home Secretary who ordered a racist atrocity, one of many, is also not white. But this is drivel, as usual his accusers for the most part have no problems with deporting ethnic minority people, or even if they have in theory, would not dream of refusing to support Labour’s own racist and sociopathic levy of deporters seeking government office. Anyone with half-a-brain and an ounce of honesty can see that Beckett was expressing outrage at state racism, not supporting it. He really has nothing to apologise for, and his suspension is just another piece of scandalous Starmerite dishonesty.
Apparently as part of the bilious campaign against him the Starmerites are now moving toward his expulsion from the Labour Party, supposedly for ‘racism’ against Johnson’s deporter-in-chief. Which just underlines the nature of the Zionist-led Labour Party where people are expelled with smears of ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ for opposing the organised racist and Zionist trends that dominate Labour. Including several former Blairite Home Secretaries who could give Theresa May or Priti Patel a run for their money in the migrant-bashing stakes – Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson, all anti-migrant xenophobic lowlife in the same mould as Patel. Labour has never expelled such vile people, but they now propose to expel a leading union left-winger for supporting direct action against racist deportations. That is a sign of ‘racism’ in their racist fantasy world.
Another related hysterical attack on Beckett came from the Daily Mail (3rd June) quoting him as saying “The government has 143 military bases in 42 countries – money that could be spent on reinforcing flood defences, making sites available for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, support for youth within communities, support for women suffering from domestic and gender-based violence”. This is some very basic social reform, and a classic left-reformist scheme, but the anti-gypsy angle is clear in the headline “Howard Beckett calls for UK’s multi-billion defence budget to pay for gypsy and traveller sites”. This accompanies their horror-filled relating that Beckett has the support of Labour Black Socialists (precisely because of his outspokenness in defence of migrants and refugees), and the Blairite Kevan Jones complaining that “Thousands of Unite members play a vital role supporting our country’s defence. I think they will take a dim view of this suggestion by someone whose position is funded by their union subscriptions.”
All this has the effect of exposing more and more the mendacity, racist and chauvinist politics behind the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaigns and the like that simply lie about the left in the service of the foulest bigotry.
Unite Election: Political Struggle not Stitch-Ups
Since then, he has been the target of similar hysteria from the soft left. In the hustings/vote for the support of the political machine known as the United Left (UL) within Unite, which is dominated by trade unionist cadre of the Communist Party of Britain, Beckett only narrowly failed to get nominated as the UL candidate, by three votes. However there seems to be evidence that dozens of paid-up UL supporters who wanted to vote for Beckett were not allowed to vote, due to ‘technical’ problems involving an email address/server, and the legitimacy of this vote is hotly disputed by not only Beckett, but many on the wider left. This brought the machinery of the CP/B into play to get numerous nominations from branches for Turner; by the time the deadline was up he had 525, with Graham beating Beckett by 349 to 328. The openly right-wing candidate, Gerard Coyne, came last with 196 candidates.
However, nominations through formal union bodies do not necessarily equate to votes in a union election, as these bodies tend to be dominated by the bureaucracy, activists, and those closest to the formal structures of the union. The strategy of Coyne will be to rely on the influence of the right-wing gutter press to appeal over the heads of the union structure to the atomised members. However, the strategy of Beckett also seems to be based on an attempt at an aggressive political appeal to class sentiment, also over the heads of the officialdom, based on a left-wing hostility to Starmer and his supporters, something that Turner and his CPB supporters are actively hostile to from a Labour-loyal perspective, and which Graham flinches from in the name of ‘non-political’ trade unionism.
Given the recent history of Unite, this is not a forlorn strategy. Beckett could succeed, and in the process push the politics of the union much further to the left. Capitulators to Blairism and softer elements on the left, personified by Owen Jones, contend that three putative left-wing candidates standing are likely to divide the ‘left’ vote and hand the union over to the right winger Coyne. But that is not necessarily true, looking at the history of recent General Secretary elections in Unite. Apart from the fact that given his conciliation of Starmer, Turner’s designation as a left candidate is something of an exaggeration. Much depends on the quality of the campaigns waged by the candidates.
In 2010, there were four candidates: Len McCluskey (ex-Militant left-wing bureaucrat and the current retiring GS), Jerry Hicks (widely renowned victimised rank-and-file militant from Bristol Rolls Royce), Gail Cartmail (soft left ‘socialist-feminist’ and current assistant GS of Unite) and Les Bayliss, a right-winger similar to Coyne today. Bayliss came third; this was a highly political contest between McCluskey with bureaucratic ‘left’ politics and the revolutionary-minded militant Hicks, who put up a hell of a fight. Both of the top two left candidates beat Bayliss. In a repeat election in 2013 where the only two candidates were Hicks, the polarisation was stronger, and a similar result obtained where McCluskey beat Hicks by 2 to 1. Hicks improved vote of 79,819 showed there was a substantial base for political militancy in Unite. Only in 2017 was the result close, where McCluskey, in what was widely seen as an unnecessary and cynical election aimed at prolonging his own term in office, only narrowly beat Coyne. Another rank-and-file trade union militant, Ian Allinson, who appeared much less well-known than Jerry Hicks, failed to make major inroads and only gained 13% of the vote.
But that election appears very different to this one. McCluskey by then was a busted flush, and barely clung on by his fingernails, and the election itself a demoralising exercise. This is shaping up to be a highly political election fight, a real battle for the ‘soul’ of Unite, the biggest union in Britain, by forces around Beckett who hope to drive a campaign to re-arm the kind of leftist sentiment that drove support for Corbyn, and to drive the labour movement itself back to the left. That is the danger that the right-wing see from Beckett’s campaign, and why there has been a hysterical response from Starmer’s supporters.
Such as Beckett being ‘reported’ to the police by Margaret Hodge for supposedly ‘secretly’ planning, during the period of Corbyn’s leadership, for the union to support the ousting of anti-Corbyn right-wing MPs. As Beckett pointed out sharply on BBC Newsnight (3rd June), there was nothing secret about this campaign, as he had made public speeches about it at the time. He also told Siobhan McDonagh – the idiot Blairite who had previously said that merely opposing capitalism was ‘anti-Semitic’ (presumably because for her capitalists and Jews are synonymous!) – that she was in the wrong party. He mocked the hypocrisy of the right wing denouncing those who attack Starmer’s leadership given the planned and organised sabotage of Labour election campaigns by them when Corbyn was leader. Beckett’s tough and uncompromising response in this Newsnight interview gave a big boost to his campaign and humiliated the right.
Bureaucratic splintering and militant trade unionism
As his detractors have been keen to point out, he is not a rank-and-file worker. He is of Irish Catholic working-class background, born in Belfast, and someone who went to university and became a solicitor. He worked for the Union for a long period and is undoubtedly simply by virtue of his occupation wealthier than many union members. There have been various ‘scandals’ alleged by the right wing against him, including that when he was appointed Head of Legal Services at Unite, his previous legal partnership was sold to another union-connected firm for over £2.6 million, which he gained a share of. It is also apparently true that he owns three properties, is a property millionaire, and there was a fine against his firm levied by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority several years ago in a dispute related to solicitors’ fees in a case about miners’ compensation. The latter case has been particularly made use of for a smear campaign against him by the right wing – he addressed the events in some depth in his interview with RS21:
“I never took a penny of compensation from injured miners. I was fined because a cashier had stolen money from a probate file which had the Girl Guides and Guide Dogs for the Blind as beneficiaries. This cashier was in her sixties, and I felt it was an aberration. I was worried that she would be sent to jail so instead of reporting it to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) or to the police I gave her the opportunity of paying back the money in instalments, and the practice replaced the money. That was the reason for the fines. The media have tried to drag it into the miners because it suits them but I never took one penny of miner’s compensation, the practice never benefited from miners’ compensation and there was never one single complaint from a miner to that effect. I spoke at the Durham Miner’s Gala a couple of years ago and I think most people would understand that I wouldn’t have been invited to speak if there was any suggestion at all the practice had ever taken compensation off miners. You won’t find a single miner who raises these allegations, I can tell you that. It’s a lie, and if people want to verify that it’s a lie they can go on to the SRA website.”
His background is hardly the stuff of trade union militancy at a rank-and-file level as in the heyday of union militancy that existing in Britain prior to the victories of Thatcher over the trade unions, most crucially in the miners’ strike of 1984-5. It is the stuff of a trade union movement that has been beaten and betrayed for decades. Betrayed particularly by the political class that has developed centrally in the political bureaucracy of the Labour Party, which has over several decades become something more than what it was at the time of the party’s emergence: an extension of the pro-capitalist bureaucracy of the trade unions. This bureaucratic layer in Britain historically had their own organic relationship to British industrial capital from the massive industrialisation that began in the late 18th Century, that continued at breakneck speed in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, that marked time in much of the 20th before undergoing major decline as a result of a conscious ruling class strategy of exporting jobs and deindustrialisation, aimed at crippling the labour movement, in the last quarter of the 20th Century.
However, this has itself led to new polarisations, part of which were responsible for the rise of Corbynism as a reaction to Blairism. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a pioneer of dialectical logic, once remarked that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. This is a key insight, regarding the inevitability of continuous change and flux in all phenomena, which found its way into Hegel’s much more elaborated, but idealistic dialectic, which was inverted and given a consistently materialist foundation by Marx. In analysing the course of the class struggle such understanding is crucial.
This finds concrete expression when you look at Blairism, and the changes in the right-wing of political labour bureaucracies, which have not occurred only in Britain, but Britain has become an archetype. The deindustrialisation of Britain, and the rise of financial capital which has replaced its former industrial power to a considerable degree as the index of Britain’s remaining power in the world as an imperialist nation, has modified the relationship between the labour bureaucracy and British capitalism and produced new polarisations.
As was noted in an article published just over a year ago:
“… there has been a further development of imperialist capital …. catalysed by the further decay of capitalism as classically expressed in Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The fall in the rate of profit meant that the classical unity of industrial and banking capital exploiting a large scale industrial proletariat in the advanced countries became less and less profitable, and so industrial capital increasingly sought to do away with the proletariat, or as much of it as possible, in the classical imperialist countries, and migrated to underdeveloped countries in search of cheap labour to manufacture goods, the bulk of which at least initially were still for realisation in the advanced countries, thus raising the rate of profit. At the same time, the further decline in profit rates gave rise to drives in the imperialist centres to privatise everything that moved. Everything from prisons to public housing, from air traffic control to schools to hospital cleaning to probation officers, everything that could possibly if privatised be squeezed to obtain a morsel of profit and hence raise the overall rate of profit, was so privatised.
“This also modified the phenomenon of finance capital as a fusion of banking and industrial capital. The migration of important sections of industrial capital from the main imperialist countries, even though the funding, as before, came from the imperialist banking arm, produced a geographical separation between industrial and banking capital even though they remained a unity under the system of finance capital. This produced an emanation of finance capital which some Marxists, entirely reasonably, call financial capital, to distinguish it from finance capital in its classical form. Its function is not the methodical exploitation of the proletariat to generate surplus value, but tricks and novel methods of seemingly extracting value from nothing, by such means as the creation of asset price inflation (closely linked to the concept of ‘fictitious capital’), ‘futures’, or other innovative ‘financial products’ which also have the effect of seemingly conjuring up new value from nothing. Such as credit-default-swaps, which played a major role in the late-2000s financial crisis. Of course, speculation is not new under imperialism, but there are also questions of degree.”
“In any case, this is what has undermined the Labour Party, and produced a new breed of ‘labour’ politician who is not a mere servant of finance capital in a political sense, like the old labour bureaucrats who fought for national welfare states and supported their ‘own’ imperialist countries’ struggles to maintain imperial influence, while trying to ‘humanise’ this imperialism. The old Labour bureaucracy was personified by Attlee, who while conceding independence to India (he really had no choice) nevertheless fought brutal colonial wars in Malaysia (including Singapore) and Indonesia, also helping the French back into Indo-China, and crushed the nascent Kenyan independence movement and workers movement. This kind of social chauvinism linked ‘welfare’ to support for colonial oppression.
“But it is somewhat different to the ‘labourism’ of Blair and Peter Mandelson, with his infamous statement as to how Labour is ‘intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich’. The former was subordination to finance capital, the latter is subordination to financial capital. This is not, by the way, a moral difference. Both of these things are deeply reactionary and the social-imperialism of old-Labour was itself mortally antagonistic to socialism. It is however a sociological difference – the old social imperialist bureaucracy still had a material connection to organised labour, if only as a parasite upon it. Whereas New Labour has no such necessary connection at all.”
But this can, indeed must, lead to heightened contradictions between the Labour Party and the labour movement which was its seedbed. Today a key part of what was once the Labour Party bureaucracy is not connected by a class collaborationist relationship with industrial capital, and thereby finance capital, interested in preserving class peace by managing large, often militant, organised workforces with a great deal of social rhetoric and some reforms.
The traditional well organised industrial workforces have been considerably weakened, and the workforce that unions represent is much more fragmented and multi-sectored. Unions themselves have been weakened, by the strategic defeats inflicted on them in battle decades ago, by the passage of anti-union laws that the bosses have made stick for decades, by the export of heavy industrial jobs and hence the loss of industrial muscle, and by the fragmentation mentioned. But that never meant that class anger had died down. Just that the bosses had found ways to frustrate it and stop it being expressed. Or so they thought….
The ascent of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership in 2015 was a big shock to the ruling class. It became possible because under first Kinnock, and then with a vengeance under Blair and Brown, key parts of Labour’s traditional right-wing bureaucracy had become agents of financial capital instead of the older relationship described above.
The difference is crucial as these new leaders resembled the Tories they were supposed to be opposed to much more closely. They became privatisers; during the Blair-Brown period in office they introduced private sector neoliberal practice into public services with a fervour; they fomented a capitalist boom in tandem with other neoliberal forces abroad that ended in 2007 with a major financial crisis.
Corbynism in Relation to the Class Struggle
Corbyn rose to the Labour leadership paradoxically because under Blairism many of Labour’s most class-conscious followers had ceased to recognise it as Labour and ceased to vote for it. This loss of support so worried the Labour bureaucracy that they designed a novel scheme to try to entice support back: they allowed Labour supporters (not members) to vote for the leader for a nominal one-off sub payment of £3. In 2015 they lost the second General Election in a row, in large measure because of working class abstention. Even the soft-left Ed Miliband, who talked about a ‘crisis of working-class representation’ to get elected leader but did nothing to actually represent workers – could not entice support back that the Blairites had lost.
So, in the first leadership election under the new system, they also felt compelled to allow Corbyn on the ballot, for fear that the election for leader would appear fake if they did not. The rest is history. The presence of a genuine left social democrat on the ballot, with the newly opened-up election system, and a threatening, very right-wing purely Tory government under Cameron in the saddle, led to a massive influx of hundreds of thousands of new members and supporters, and an historic victory for Corbyn.
The right-wing counterattacks began at once, with the ‘Chicken Coup’ in 2016, the brazen sabotage of Labour’s highly successful election campaign in 2017, where Corbyn stripped Theresa May, the new Tory leader who had succeeded Cameron when he lost the Brexit referendum, of her majority, and then the developing ‘anti-Semitism’ Zionist propaganda lie and the cynical posturing of the right around supposedly being diehard opponents of Brexit, only to become rampant flag-shaggers and nationalists as soon as Corbyn had been forced out of the leadership. Everyone knows that the right-wing used every method they could think of to lose both the 2017 and 2019 General Elections and were utterly mortified when Corbyn came close to victory in 2017.
But the hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters who voted for Corbyn in 2017 have not gone away, nor the millions of additional Labour voters who voted for Labour in 2017 when Labour’s share of the national vote rose from 30.4%, just over 9 and a quarter million votes in 2015, to 40.0%, over 12 and three-quarter million votes in 2017. In 2019 Labour lost only around half a million of those increased votes, but a surge of UKIP voters to the Tories put the Tories in pole position and Labour, weakened by witchhunts and right-wing sabotage, was unable to counter that.
But that still leaves several hundreds of thousands of left-wing activists pulled towards Labour in the Corbyn period, and over three million voters who would not vote for Blairites, or even soft lefts like Ed Miliband who never fully renounced Blairism, who were radicalised and mobilised by the Corbynite surge. Those people have not gone away. And a considerable number of them are in Unite.
The Beckett campaign seems to have inspired something of a reprise of the enthusiasm among left-wing Labour supporters, viscerally hostile to Blairism, that was originally given to Corbyn. Beckett was closely associated with Corbyn right through his leadership, though in the background. He led the legal team that successfully defended Jeremy Corbyn’s right to be on the ballot in 2016, during the ‘chicken coup’ leadership contest that was forced on the party by a PLP vote of no-confidence, where the plan was to exclude Corbyn from the ballot by a legal/constitutional manoeuvre, carried out by the Blairite/Zionist Lord Foster. However, since Corbyn allowed his leadership to be sabotaged and ousted, Beckett has gone well beyond that.
As well as the possibility of rank-and-file militants becoming prominent in class struggle responses, there can also be splits and fragmentation of the bureaucracy, itself resulting from rank-and-file pressure. So, while Beckett may not conform to the ideal of a left-wing trade union campaign, demanding that the officialdom be paid no more than the workforce they represent, his campaign still reflects a class struggle impulse from below. Beckett thus should be put to the test of office.
Unlike Corbyn, who has temporised and thrown his own supporters under the bus when he came under attack from the right, Beckett has, particularly as the right-wing have counterattacked, fought back tooth and nail. In this he stands head and shoulders above Turner and Graham. Steve Turner has the backing of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB)-dominated ‘United Left’ block in Unite, where Beckett claims his attempt at their endorsement was squeezed out by bureaucratic tricks and key supporters being excluded from the vote. Turner is openly supportive of soft-left Labour politicians such as Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham against left-wing criticism, and the support from the machinery of the Morning Star shows continuity with the CPB’s hostility to challenging Labour in elections during the whole Blair/Brown era.
Beckett, Graham and Turner
Turner’s collaboration with Starmer is pretty clear from an interview with the Huffington Post (27 April) that set the tone for his campaign:
“I’ve always felt we could get a solution to this [Corbyn getting the whip back]. But the longer it goes on, the more entrenched it becomes on both sides. It’s like a war of attrition going on, and it’s going on in public. That’s not helpful to the party, it’s not helpful to Keir, it’s not helpful to Jeremy and it’s not helpful to me as a trade union leader or our members.
“People don’t vote for a divided party. Or a party that’s contemplating his own navel. Sometimes it’s right to shout. But on some occasions diplomacy is best done privately. Look, Keir wasn’t my preferred candidate …. But I’m a socialist, I’m a democrat, and the reality of it is he was elected by the vast majority of our members that voted.
“We didn’t even convince our own members to come on a journey with us, in terms of the political program that was being laid out by Jeremy, Becky and that entire team. We didn’t win the argument inside our own union. We won it amongst the politicos and that group that loves to talk to themselves.”
“Trying to get this purist Left, I find incredibly dangerous. We’re fighting the rise of the far right and that narrative of hate and division in society more generally. We are trying to pull the Left together to create a vision of a better Britain and we’ve got this purist debate that’s taken place, pitting good Left comrades against good Left comrades, because they don’t sign up to a particular way of thinking on a particular issue.
“That purist argument, you’re a class traitor if you don’t sign up to something is just beyond belief, that’s not my Left. I’m an inclusive, tolerant, Left.”
But what is bizarre about this plea for ‘tolerance’ is that it is done in defence of ‘tolerance’ of the Labour leadership of Keir Starmer, which has engaged in the one of the biggest purges of the Labour Party membership, targeting leftist supporters and former supporters of Corbyn, anyone who opposes the oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, and has created a situation where anyone in the party who speaks out in defence of those purged risks being purged themselves. For Turner to speak out against the ‘purist’ and supposedly intolerant left in this context is simply grotesque. It marks him out as an apologist for Starmer’s witchhunt and as someone who could potentially be a threat to the left within UNITE if elected, alongside the openly pro-Starmer, right-wing candidate Gerard Coyne. Such positions and attitudes have their own logic.
Then there is Sharon Graham, who is standing on a very leftist programme of rebuilding the strength of the union, rebuilding industrial militancy, and fighting for workers gains in this way. This positive element of her campaign is spelled out:
“We must rebuild our industrial base and bring workers from outside our traditional industries into our union. We can’t afford years of drift facing a Tory government and sustained only by short-term tactical manoeuvres. We can’t fiddle while Rome burns. We have to start doing it ourselves: this is not ‘workerism’ – this is the reality of our moment.
“We need an industrial programme that moves decisively beyond the empty rhetoric of ‘partnership’ and which is also supported by our industrial activists; the vast majority of whom agree on the need for power in the workplace and strong organisation, with the ability to take strike action if and when required.
“Of course, we still need to seek influence in parliament – laws matter. They can dictate our lives. But we must now reform the way we influence legislation. If anything, I will push hard for policy, but I will base this on a workers’ manifesto that is decided by our reps and activists.
“I will pursue its priorities by actively campaigning, as well taking our priorities into the structures of Labour. I will also refuse to support future candidates for parliament that have not represented working people. We need more working-class voices in Westminster and I will turn this soundbite into reality.”
That is positive, the trade unions should not be giving any support to election candidates who support or refuse to oppose attacks on working class people, who refuse to oppose austerity, or who refuse to oppose the government. However, there is also this:
“Already, only a small minority of members are engaged in this debate. Make no mistake, we are moving in ever decreasing circles and we need fundamental change.
“For many years, conversations within the left have often been reduced to considering the merits – or otherwise – of the existing leadership of the Labour Party. But decades on from Thatcher, this discussion is increasingly detached from the concerns of working people. Instead of putting forward concrete plans to build working-class power, general secretary elections are being fought as proxy wars, far removed from workers.”
This is not so good. Because the supposed ‘small minority’ of members who are ‘engaged’ in the debate about the merits of the existing leadership of the Labour Party … are the highly political layer who provided the mass base for Corbynism, and their right-wing opponents of course, who are as noted earlier, engaged in the most massive purge in the history of the Labour Party and the labour movement in Britain, precisely in order to try to render impossible any future challenge to neo-liberal domination of the political wing of the labour movement. To dismiss this whole conflict as ‘ever decreasing circles’ and ‘detached from the concerns of working people’ is a false, narrowly trade unionist view that abstains from the struggles that are most crucial for the interests of working people, and actually a retreat from the best aspects of the Corbyn movement.
From Beckett’s own statements, and from the statements of the other contenders standing against him, a critical vote for Beckett is the only principled position that a revolutionary socialist grouping can take on this election. The questions that are posed are crucial, both for the Unite union itself, and for the wider interests of the labour movement in Britain, which needs its class political expression to be able to advance its own class interests against neo-liberal capitalism in this particular phase. That political expression desperately needs a revolutionary programme, but Beckett’s own opposition to ‘partnership’ with employers and his apparent determination to take on the direct spokespersons for neoliberal financial capital in the Labour Party in a highly political campaign, means that his victory would be a significant step in that direction.