The public difference of opinion among comrades of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI) about the Trump insurrection on Jan 6th has given rise to a rather odd and self-contradictory polemic from Gerry Downing, the possessor of the stolen website of the now defunct Socialist Fight group, which very rarely publishes a serious article about current developments these days, being more a vehicle for Gerry to reblog whatever takes his fancy from elsewhere.
The polemic is so incredibly badly written that it can only be considered a product both of political degeneration and loss of logical focus. One unmistakeable example of this is that he repeatedly gets the names of the organisations that he claims, disingenuously, to be loyal to, wrong, and repeats these errors throughout the text. He at least gets the name of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International right when he spells it out in full at the beginning of the article, but then throughout the text he renders its initials as “LRCI”.
These are the old initials of another organisation, one that is defunct, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) that was once led by the British Workers Power group, also now defunct. Some of its surviving people set up a faction in the Corbynite Labour Party, called Red Flag, which appears to have sunk without trace. [Author’s Correction: this is partly erroneous. Red Flag is not defunct, its website can be found at www.redflagonline.org. It does have considerable continuity with the old Workers Power, though its original leading figure Richard B. broke with them quite early on and seems unfortunately to be influenced by the arguments of trans-exclusionists.]
This might seem like trivia. Except, someone who complains bitterly about being spurned and treated badly by an organisation when he can not even be bothered to get their name correct, repeatedly, is not serious either about his adherence or his complaints. It suggests unseriousness and playing games. He complains that:
“When the Socialist Fight split from the supporters of Ian Donavan almost a year ago, we were extremely disappointed that the LRCI and a few others in Britain effectively supported Ian’s position, despite differences.”https://socialistfight.com/2021/01/21/popular-front-vs-united-front-the-errors-of-the-lcfi-and-the-grosser-errors-of-ian-donovan/
It is interesting that Gerry Downing now admits that he ‘split’ from half his own organisation ‘almost a year ago’. At the time, he claimed that I and my ‘supporters’ had been ‘expelled’ from Socialist Fight. His use of the word ‘supporters’ is illustrative of his mentality. In fact, the other members of SF who refused to accede to Gerry’s antics were not my ‘supporters’. They were comrades who still agreed with the political positions of Socialist Fight on Zionism that Gerry himself agreed with over the preceding five years and had even defended on the Daily Politics national television programme in 2016, against Andrew Neil, and Phil Collins of the Jewish Labour Movement.
An organisation with defined, coherent politics, does not have ‘supporters’ of individuals in the cult-like manner that Gerry implies. It has self-motivated people who can defend those politics independently, and just because one individual in the group changes his mind on a whim, do not change in sympathy like weathervanes. In fact, the Trotskyist Faction has the same basic politics as the old, pre-split SF. It is quite clearly Gerry’s politics that have changed.
The article headlined about our ‘expulsion’ is still on the website, even though Gerry now openly admits that he split the group. The petty despotism and casual confession to a lie is characteristic of the sloppiness that pervades the whole piece. And it underlines a very basic point about honesty in politics, as in life.
The point being – do not tell lies! Not only for moral reasons, but simply because if you publish lies, you must always remember what lies you told. If you later inadvertently admit to the truth, you stand exposed for the original lie. Publishing a lie on a stolen website does not make it the truth. Gerry now accepts that the international tendency rejected his attempt to exclude our faction. He tried to exclude our comrades from the LCFI’s internal forums, but the tendency rejected that. His exclusionist position was a small minority of the tendency, and in terms of full members, only he wholeheartedly supported it.
International Collaboration and its Discontents
Over the past year, the Trotskyist Faction has played an important role in collaborating with overseas LCFI comrades in drafting and jointly producing international statements on key issues of the class struggle. Some of them were signed by Socialist Fight; we never sought to exclude Gerry’s operation. The statement on The Covid-19 Pandemic and the World Capitalist Crisis from April 4 was jointly signed by us and Gerry’s rump SF, as was the LCFI’s May Day statement, and the June Statement by revolutionary working-class organisations on the anti-racist mass upsurge in the United States, regarding the George Floyd murder and the growth of Black Lives Matter protests against the white supremacism of the Trump administration.
Regarding the latter, not only did the LCFI not exclude comrade Downing and his operation, but he was also invited to draft the statement. This was met by a non-committal answer from him and no draft statement. After a period of waiting in vain for a draft, comrades internationally realised we were being strung along and alternative drafting arrangements were made. This statement was then signed by both sections in Britain, though Gerry’s SF played no role in its production.
We do not demand full political agreement within the international tendency on all disputed questions. Part of our modus operandi as a tendency is the right to publicly disagree when significant differences of opinion arise and must be debated. We reject secretive debates about disputed questions and consider that the error that brought about that norm in the Trotskyist movement, inherited from the early Comintern but not the Bolshevik Party, has played an important role in the crisis and degeneration of the Trotskyist movement in the post war period. The struggle for programmatic clarity in the pre-1917 Russian revolutionary movement was never subordinated to false public unanimity.
Notwithstanding this, it became clear that Gerry was just not interested in the joint activities that the LCFI was undertaking, and his SF signature did not mean much. We do however ask for collaboration and openness where differences exist. The next major event we produced a statement on was on the Trump administration’s open endorsement of the Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and whole swathes of the West Bank, in July. Our Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank was firm in its Marxist anti-Zionism and included some sharp characterisations that we knew full well that Gerry would not endorse, though he would have had no trouble endorsing them before his capitulation before the Labour Party witch-hunt against supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ at the end of 2019. He had made his views on the former SF view of Zionism clear months earlier and it would have been perverse and unprincipled to ask him to sign this.
For instance, the statement contained the following passage, which Gerry would have had severe difficulties with:
“Political Zionism always was a genocidal project, which modelled itself on the colonial-settler projects spawned by British expansionism in the early capitalist era, where the settlers took the country off the indigenous population of the territories they colonised, and subjected them to enslavement and extermination. The Zionist apologists who claim that the persecution and discrimination against Jews in the late Medieval period and the beginnings of anti-Semitism in the modern era somehow excuse that, overlook this affinity with the other colonial movements that drove that. This was always a movement, right from the start, that aspired to oppress and eliminate the Arab inhabitants of the territory it coveted.
“They overlook the specifically Jewish chauvinism that drove the Zionist movement from its beginnings in the later 19th Century, when it went about seeking sponsors among archaic great powers and modern imperialists alike, finally managing to get the support of the British Empire. The 1917 Balfour Declaration; the handing over of Palestine to a third-party colonial movement ultimately to expel its native population was among British imperialism’s most insidious crimes. Thus when we talk about the genocidal character of Zionism, we are talking about it in the same breath not only as National Socialism and the Hitler movement in Germany, of which it is like a mirror image, but also as the genocidal creation of the United States through the destruction of native Americans, of Australia through the destruction of black native Australians, and other such acts of barbarism.https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-on-the-israel-trump-annexation-plans-in-the-west-bank/
Gerry rejects the comparison of political Zionism with Nazism, the view that its real logic points to genocide of the Palestinian Arab population. This is shown by some of the ridiculous smears against TF comrades in his article, where he absurdly writes:
“Ian believes that Zionism is a far greater danger to humanity’s future than fascism and no one in the ranks of the LRCI in the Americas publicly demurred.” .Downing, ibid above
This is an outright lie, and a particularly foolish one. He does not quote any statement where either myself, the TF or the LCFI say that political Zionism is ‘worse’ than fascism. The statement above explicitly ‘talk(s) about it in the same breath’ as ‘National Socialism and the Hitler movement in Germany’ and ‘the genocidal creation of the United States through the destruction of native Americans’. We consider these things fundamentally similar.
His allegation is evasive and dishonest, as shown in the following smear. He writes that in a detailed discussion of the precise nature and limits of different forms of colonialism I wrote to him on Facebook:
“If you understood why political Zionism is worse than apartheid and Jim Crow, you might gain some insight. Clue: read Moshé Machover on different types of settler colonialism. If you understand that, you might understand why [Alan] Dershowitz [arch-Zionist] is worse than David Duke. Some forms of colonialism are genocidal. Some are not.”Downing, ibid
Apparently, this important nuance is supposed to show that I am an admirer of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. What they really show is that Gerry is defending Zionists against charges of being a genocidal project. This is apologetics for anti-Arab racism from Gerry, disguised with the kind of smears the Zionist witchhunters in the Labour Party trade in.
Settler Colonialism: Genocidal vs Exploitative
The point about there being different types of settler colonialism, some genocidal, some not, is a basic distinction that was even known to Karl Marx. It was elaborated by the Israeli Marxist organisation Matzpen, as Moshe Machover relates, thus:
“Shortly before the 1967 June war, we in the Israeli socialist organisation Matzpen … making what we regarded as an elementary Marxist observation, drew the following distinction between two types of colonisation:
‘The Zionist colonisation of Palestine differs in one basic respect from the colonisation of other countries: whereas in other countries the settlers established their economy upon the exploitation of the labour of the indigenous inhabitants, the colonisation of Palestine was carried out through the replacement and expulsion of the indigenous population.’ (‘The Palestine problem and the Israeli-Arab dispute’, statement by the Israeli Socialist Organization (Matzpen), May 18 1967)
“By ‘other countries’ we meant the main contemporary arenas of liberation struggle by colonised peoples: Algeria, which a few years earlier had won its independence from France (then Israel’s main imperialist sponsor); and South Africa (whose apartheid regime was a close ally of Israel).
Naturally, we were aware that Palestine was by no means one of a kind: historically there had been other places – such as North America and Australia – where the indigenous people were displaced and for the most part excluded from the settlers’ political economy, rather than being exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1087/colonialism-and-the-natives/
This distinction is straightforward, between a colonised people being potentially subjected to genocide, or not. Machover and Matzpen highlight the similarity of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine with the colonisation of North America and Australia. What happened to the Native Americans and Native Australians was such exclusion; these populations were expendable to the conquerors and in peril of genocide, which subsequently happened in some places. Machover himself distinguishes that from other situations, such as Algeria and apartheid South Africa where the indigenous population were “exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects.”
Gerry pretends not to understand the basic distinction here, to smear his critics. He pretends that it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to make this point and amounts to “admiration for Ku Klux Klan man David Duke” because I said that political Zionists such as Alan Dershowitz and Dave Rich are worse than the Klan and the system of ‘Jim Crow’ segregation of black former slaves that the terrorist KKK instituted after the US Civil war
In contrast to the genocide that was carried out against native Americans, Jim Crow was a system of apartheid, like South Africa. The US black population was not indigenous to the Americas but had been kidnapped by slave traders and shipped from Africa, not just to the United States, but to many other parts of the American super-continent, in the preceding few centuries. These were terrible crimes, committed by European slavers, that killed many millions, one of the greatest crimes in human history, entirely comparable to the Nazi holocaust.
But Jim Crow was a specifically post-slavery form of racist oppression. It emerged after the abolition of slavery and the US Civil War, and its relationship with the subjugated black population fits Moshe Machover’s definition, where the oppressed population were “exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects”. The Ku Klux Klan were not and could not be a genocidal movement, not because of any moral objection, but because the wholesale slaughter or even ethnic cleansing of the black population would mean that whites would have to do their work as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” which they were simply not prepared to tolerate. So, for all the subjugation and terror, the social base of the Ku Klux Klan needed the black population and could not exterminate them.
But Zionism can quite conceivably exterminate the Palestinians because the Zionist colonisation is that of the exclusion type, not the exploitation type, as Machover put it. Ronnie Kasrils, of the SACP and ANC in South Africa, was making the same point when he said that Zionism is worse than South African apartheid. It is also worse than Jim Crow. It is closer to Hitlerism for the genocidal threat it poses to the Palestinian people.
Gerry tries to make out that to make this point is some sort of endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. Utter nonsense and a pathetic lie whose obvious purpose is to excuse his citation of other smears and half-truths by the Zionists Dershowitz and Dave Rich in his smear-fest to justify wrecking Socialist Fight. Dershowitz, Trump’s lawyer, is possibly the most prominent Zionist Nakba-denying pseudo-academic in the United States, a genocidal racist whose apologias for the persecution of the Palestinians rivals David Irving’s apologias for Hitler’s persecution and slaughter of the Jews. His tract The Case for Israel was comprehensively torn apart by Norman Finkelstein in his work Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Dave Rich is also a clear defender of the Nakba whose response to those who make comparisons between the Nazi persecution of Jews and the Zionist treatment of Palestinians is very clear:
“Comparing the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust performs several functions. Its political goal is to undermine the idea that the Holocaust provided a moral justification and a practical need for the creation of a Jewish state.”The Left’s Jewish Problem, Kindle edition, loc 2875
Which is as clear a case of ‘moral justification’ (hardly ‘denial’!) of the Nakba in the name of the Nazi holocaust as you are likely to find anywhere.
Marxism and the Jewish Question
The real target of Gerry’s fulminations against the fact that we refused, and still refuse, to join in the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ against the Israeli-Jewish renegade jazz player and confused thinker Gilad Atzmon, was not actually Gilad Atzmon. It was SF’s positions on the Jewish Question and Zionism. We have already dealt with Dave Rich’s mangling of Atzmon’s texts, which are typical of Zionist smears against anti-Zionists of Middle Eastern origin, whether Arab or Jewish, to portray them as Nazis, etc. Since Gerry endorses this, we wonder if he would endorse similar Zionist fulminations against other organic Middle Eastern figures like Nasser, the Assads, Arafat, Ahmedinejad, who also exhibit softness on fascist, as opposed to ‘democratic’ imperialism. The Western far right does get a hearing among the angriest anti-Zionists in and from the Middle East and all the Zionist-influenced fulminations in the world will not undermine that.
These views exist because democratic ‘imperialism’ was sponsoring the genocidal Zionist project before anyone had even heard of Hitler. And Rich provenly engages in quotation-chopping falsification of Atzmon’s writings to make the phoney allegation of ‘fascism’ that Gerry now endorses, after having defended Atzmon for years despite knowing full well the nature of his confused views for all that time. Rich’s own attitude to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is genuinely fascistic and genocidal. Nothing in Atzmon’s writings endorses any such crimes. The most you will find is some scepticism about the crimes of the Nazis, a widespread view in the Middle East among Zionism’s victims and their partisans, including a few Jewish ones.
Not that Atzmon is correct on many things or a model of clarity, but there is enough useful, indeed pioneering material in his writings on Jewish identity to make them worthy of study in seeking to understand the Jewish question and aspects of the Middle East, despite his many errors on other matters. Just as Hegel’s writings are worthy of study for Marxists even though Hegel admired the Prussian monarchy and Napoleon.
We have already replied to these falsifications, at length, almost a year ago in our first public statement as a faction (Trotskyist Faction takes on the mantle of Socialist Fight). Imitating Zionist propagandists writing in the gutter press, Gerry repeats Rich’s nonsense as if it had never been replied to or deconstructed, hoping no one will ever read the refutation. But now we come to the SF views that Gerry was really attacking – Atzmon was just a decoy. They are laid out clearly in the agreed July 2020 LCFI Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank. It spoke of the …
“need for active solidarity from the workers movement in the West, in countries like the United States and Britain that arm Israel to the teeth against the Palestinians and against other forces in the region seeking liberation from Zionist aggression. This is an extremely difficult task right now because of the very powerful position of the Israel lobby in most of these countries. This was shown graphically by the massive Zionist-led campaign to destabilise and destroy the very moderately pro-Palestinian leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Labour Party over the last several years.LCFI Annexation, op-cit above
…and then elaborated the Marxist explanation for the ‘very powerful position’ of the Israel lobby that was the public position of Socialist Fight (even defended by Gerry himself on the TV Programme Daily Politics in March 2016), highlighted in our propaganda between 2015 and the beginning of 2020, when Gerry Downing renounced it:
“There is an additional level of complexity and difficulty for socialists and revolutionaries in many advanced countries, particularly in Europe and North America, in delivering solidarity with the Palestinians. Not only do they have to deal with the ‘normal’ attitude of ‘their’ bourgeoisies to a liberation struggle against one of its allies, but they also have to deal with a specific faction within the ruling class, which based on its Jewish origin and an ethnocentric Zionist variant of bourgeois politics, regards Israel as ‘its’ state and fights just as hard for the interest of Israel as it does for the interests of the imperialists country in which it resides.
“This unique overlap of the ruling class of Israel with that of other imperialist countries creates a situation where it is doubly difficult, in current conditions, to deliver real, meaningful solidarity with the Palestinians in those countries as distinct from those engaged in ‘simpler’, more conventional struggles against one’s own ruling class, such as in Ireland or Vietnam in the past. Nevertheless, there is no evading this question, and the international movement has the right to insist that its sections in Israel’s imperialist allied countries address this difficult problem in their political material and agitational work.”ibid
The whole of Gerry Downing’s series of smears against his own collaborators in early 2020 were aimed at repudiating this position, while covering this with a great big smokescreen about the alleged fascist sympathies of those who adhered to it. Thus, after weeks of fulminating about alleged creeping ‘fascism’ in Socialist Fight, he finally bit the bullet and renounced the position he had defended for nearly five years after he was won to it in 2015:
“We now repudiate the use of the term ‘the world ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’ and the whole notion of a Jewish-Zionist imperialist vanguard as antisemitic tropes. We will in future use the term ‘Zionism’ alone in describing the political tendency within the Jewish ethnicity that commits such dreadful crimes under international law against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and those expelled Palestinians primarily in 1948, ‘67 and ‘73, all of whom have the right of return.
This in order to distinguish the right wing Israeli government under Netanyahu and its international supporters from all anti-Zionist Jews and Jews who strongly defend the right of the Palestinians under international law. Nor do we now agree that it is appropriate to continually refer to Jews such as Henry Kissinger and Milton Friedman as ‘overrepresented among the most strident spokespeople for capitalist reaction’ without openly recognising that they are doing so primarily as representative of the interests of imperialist capitalism as in the Pinochet coup in Chile against Allende in 1973 and not as any separate Jewish influence or conspiracy.”https://socialistfight.com/2020/02/20/socialist-fight-has-expelled-ian-donovan/
So, Gerry attacked the political perspective he had been won to five years earlier as ‘anti-Semitic’. And to do so, he again had to tell lies. There is no instance in which Socialist Fight, or our Faction ever used the term “the world Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie” in any of its documents. Its inclusion in double quotes, which indicates a literal quote, is a literal lie. It is a crude piece of innuendo implying that we are sympathetic to Nazism, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But the genesis of our understanding of the importance of ‘overrepresentation’ of Jews among the bourgeoisie in the current world situation is to be found in Abram Leon’s seminal work The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, where he talks about the overrepresentation of Jews among the NEPmen, the capitalist traders who were legalised under the Bolshevik regime in the period of the New Economic Policy in the early 1920s:
“… The example of the USSR shows that even after the proletarian revolution, the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history—will give rise to a number of difficulties, particularly during the transition periods. During the time of the NEP, for instance, the Jews of Russia, utilising their traditional business experience, furnished numerous cadres for the new bourgeois class.”p254
“Numerous cadres” says Leon. Obviously, the reason these cadres were seen as ‘numerous’ is that they were out of proportion to the numbers of Jews in the general population. Otherwise, they would not have been seen as ‘numerous’, and their presence would not have been noteworthy. In other words, Leon noted that the overrepresentation of Jews among this particular bourgeois layer, a product of “the special structure of Judaism – a heritage of history” – “will give rise to a number of difficulties…”. It is indeed a ‘heritage of history” … and analysing the special complexities, or ‘difficulties’ such overrepresentation presents today is simply an application of the method Leon used in his seminal work.
This phenomenon produced ‘difficulties’ – arguably it produced in embryo a ‘Jewish’ social base for a potential threat of capitalist restoration in Russia (which may go some way to explaining the elements of anti-Semitism that surfaced when after 1928 the Stalinists bureaucratically abolished NEP in a blind panic). But it would be absurd to accuse those who report the facts about this phenomenon, of ‘anti-Semitism’. The overrepresentation of Jewish bourgeois, who are mainly Zionists, among the imperialist bourgeoisie likewise provides the social base for the strength of the Zionist faction/lobby in the imperialist countries. According to Downing, reporting the truth of this is an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and a conspiracy theory. Reporting the facts is ‘anti-Semitic’. Nonsense! This is an attack on Marxism, not anti-Semitism, an attack on historical materialism itself driven by capitulation to Zionism.
The special class structure and history of Judaism is obviously key to understanding why Jewish intellectuals played a major, progressive role in the working-class movement in the early period of capitalism and imperialism. Though Jews were certainly an oppressed population in late medieval times and the earlier period of capitalism, and that certainly drove their radicalisation to the left, it was always the case that Jews, because of their ‘special structure and history’ (to paraphrase Leon) were considerably different to other oppressed peoples. They had a different culture and history, something driven not by considerations of ‘race’, but rather a different historical relationship to production: class.
The difference is shown by the different history and results of superficially similar movements to Zionism, movements like the ‘Back to Africa’ movement among former slaves from North America, and to an extent Britain, that created the states of Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa.
The ‘Back to Africa’ movements among the descendants of black slaves were not capable of overcoming the oppression and degradation that had been inflicted upon these populations for centuries. These states became impoverished semi-colonies after independence from colonialism with a history that has been worse in many ways than nearby African states that were not the product of such slave-descended movements. Israel, on the other hand, which had a superficially similar ethos of exile and homecoming, produced radically different results, as Israel is now an important imperialist power, such that the Jerusalem Post in 2015 boasted:
“Israel has the sixth most powerful army in the world, more than capable of destroying the countries around it, and most of its “power” does not stem from its massive manpower, but from its weapons. It could scale back 80% of its manpower and still have one of the most powerful fighting forces in the world.”https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Terra-Incognita-Nabi-Saleh-and-Israels-professional-army-problem-413740
Obviously, there was a fundamental difference between these movements, and the reason is not hard to find. Leon puts his finger on the reason when he talks about “the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history”. Through Leon never foresaw nor lived to see this, that special structure and history meant that unlike Garveyism and the like, Zionism was a viable strategy for the liberation of the Jewish people from their historic oppression. Whether or not the Zionist ideologues and pioneers were aware of it – something that needs more study – this is obviously true, as Jews in the advanced countries are now a population that has special protection from the bourgeoisie, not a pariah population (though residual anti-Semitism still exists among backward sections of the masses).
Unfortunately, Zionism’s strategy for liberation of the Jews also meant Jews joining the world’s oppressor peoples, something that was only possible because of what Leon called “the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history”. Though Leon himself did not think this was possible – he believed that:
“capitalist decay—basis for the growth of Zionism—is also the cause of the impossibility of its realisation. The Jewish bourgeoisie is compelled to create a national state, to assure itself of the objective framework for the development of its productive forces, precisely in the period when the conditions for such a development of the productive forces have long since disappeared.p241-2
Leon was too much influenced by Trotsky’s one-sided and wrong view of the possibilities for the development of the productive forces under imperialism. The view of the 1938 Transitional Programme, that no real development of the productive forces would be possible after the coming imperialist war, was incorrect, contradicted by some of Trotsky’s earlier writings when he was perhaps under less extreme political pressure, and falsified by events. In fact, the growth of the productive forces in the new, albeit temporary, situation of imperialist boom after WWII did indeed allow (part of) the Jewish bourgeoisie to create and consolidate a kind of state, carved out of the living body of the Palestinian people. Not a genuine nation-state, but an oppressor, imperialist state that developed crucial links to a Jewish layer among the bourgeoisie in the older imperialist countries, which made it into an unusual, oppressor, imperialist state with an internationalised, ethnocentric social base and a longevity that has so far not been reversed in three quarters of a century.
In repudiating criticism of the specific elements of Zionist communalism that were a key part of the political makeup of major pioneers of neoliberalism like Kissinger and Friedman, he is saying that their role in the creation of neoliberalism and the rearmament of imperialism is completely accidental.
This implicitly condemns not only ourselves, but the whole historiography of those who have sought to explain the vanguard role of Jewish militants in the workers movement in the earlier period, the role of such as Marx, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Jogiches, Joffe, and for that matter Abram Leon. The vanguard role of Jewish militants was no accident, it was a product of the profound intellectual ferment generated by destruction of the Jews’ unique social position in medieval European society. It was as much a product of “the special structure of Judaism – a heritage of history” as its dialectical negation in the late 20th Century through the vanguard role of Jewish bourgeois intellectuals in developing neoliberalism. Which is linked to the ability of Zionism to transform Jews in radically changed and changing circumstances from an oppressed, pariah layer into one of the dominant, oppressor peoples, again a product of this special structure and history of the Jews.
But for Gerry, to address these questions as Marxists and to try to critically extend Leon’s method and follow in his footsteps, is to deal in “anti-Semitic tropes”. This implicitly condemns Abram Leon himself, and others like Deutscher who have touched on these matters. What utter degradation of the things Socialist Fight fought for before Gerry capitulated before the Zionist onslaught!
Downing’s Rump SF and the Pandemic
It is complete nonsense that our consistent anti-Zionist positions mean any softness by us on fascism or the conspiracy theories those adapting to it often espouse. Gerry has been trying to spread confusion about this for the past year, but in fact it is among the small group of his sympathisers that such nonsense took root, as personified by the Dutch sympathiser Wilhelm Specklin, who solidarized with all the worst smears against the Trotskyist faction about our alleged sympathy for ‘fascism’ and still repeats this rubbish to this day.
Specklin is now a virulent anti-vaxxer and anti-masker who dismisses the Covid-19 pandemic as a ‘plandemic’, denounces ‘backward’ trade unionists for demanding quarantine measures, PPE and temporary closures of schools to safeguard workers from Covid infection, considers that Covid-19 is a conspiracy waged by Bill Gates and the 5G mobile companies to control the world through vaccinations (others include Soros in the conspiracy), and in discussion has said that he regards Donald Trump as an ally of his form of ‘socialism’.
Specklin expressed support for the QAnon nonsense about how Trump is somehow fighting against a paedophile faction within the American establishment, which is particularly bizarre given the documented involvement of Trump and Dershowitz with the child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was in the power of Trump’s Justice Department when he supposedly killed himself. Many reasonably suspect that he was killed because he knew too much. We excluded Specklin from our public Facebook discussion group on 21 September for inviting someone he knew regarded themself as a fascist to our group.
The irony is that Specklin has similar views to Gilad Atzmon on the pandemic, which he also sees as a ‘plandemic’. But Atzmon does not spend his time trolling the left about this. Specklin does. We not only expelled Specklin from our forum for his associations with (real) self-described fascists (not for his views on the pandemic per se). We also drew attention of Gerry to his positions and behaviour and fully participated with some of Gerry’s loose associates in combatting him in other forums. Eventually, on 2nd December, Gerry announced his ‘expulsion’ from his rump operation, undoubtedly on the same flagrantly arbitrary basis as his earlier announcement of our ‘expulsion’. But it took him a very long time.
So, Gerry’s antipathy for our consistent, anti-racist anti-Zionism did not stop conspiracy-mongering rubbish from seeping into his own rump, heterogenous milieu. Indeed, Trump’s virulent pro-Zionism may have had something to do with the reason why it was tolerated so long for Specklin to argue that he was an ally. After all, if Trump’s arch-Zionist lawyer Dershowitz could be a source of political ammunition against others on the left, why not Trump himself?
Political blocs versus Military Resistance
And now we have Gerry’s absurd polemic accusing the Trotskyist Faction of making a ‘Popular Front’ against Trump’s fascist forces simply by calling on those forces that were the target of Trump’s attempt to remain in power despite losing the Presidential Election, to use deadly force to crush the insurrectionists. Gerry seems to no longer understand what a popular front is. His whole polemic, from start to finish, confuses the question of military support to both openly bourgeois forces, and those of treacherous formations within the workers movement which are fundamentally loyal to capitalism, against fascist forces in both imperialist and non-imperialist countries, and against imperialist forces in semi-colonial countries, with political support to such forces.
Such is the confused melange that he comes up with that he manages to confuse the question both ways: in some cases, he advocates political support, i.e. voting, for outright bourgeois forces in semi-colonial countries. In other cases, by a feeble sleight of hand, he equates taking a side in an armed conflict with voting for a party in an election, as if they were the same thing. In both cases he is wrong:
Thus this passage is utter confusionism:
“The class independence of the proletariat must be maintained and defended all countries, in imperialist Britain no popular fronts with the Greens, the Scottish or Welsh Nationalists. But in semi-colonial Ireland and in South Africa, for instance, it was possible to critically support the IRA/Sinn Fein and the ANC/SACP as long as they directly fought imperialism. As soon as Sinn Fein crossed class lines with the Good Friday Agreement it was no longer possible to support them in any way. It was correct to call for a vote for the ANC in the first 1994 election where the black masses first got their elementary democratic right to vote but when Nelson Mandela supported the IMF’s neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) programme of March 1996, then we were obliged to withdraw all support, critical or not.”Downing, Donovan Errors etc, op cit
The problem is that the only trend advocating votes for, or political bloc with any bourgeois forces here, is Gerry. We don’t advocate any electoral support for the Greens, or the Scottish or Welsh nationalists, or the US Democrats, or even the social democrat Bernie Sanders, who tried to win the Presidential nomination of the bourgeois Democratic Party in the US. We only argue for votes, that is a political endorsement, however critical, for forces that stand in some defined manner for working class independence from all wings of capitalism. Bernie Sanders standing on a Democratic Party ticket does not add up to a vote for class independence: nor do candidates of the South African Communist Party standing on the ticket of the African National Congress.
There are sensitivities to questions involving oppression in situations like Ireland and South Africa, which have to be taken into account when determining electoral tactics. These might involve measures like declining to stand candidates against particular militant figures within such movements that symbolise the potential leading role of the working class in an element of the struggle against oppression, or even electoral support in exceptional circumstances where it is possible to make clear that we are supporting a struggle, not the programme of a party. Calling for a vote for Bobby Sands, for instance, in 1981, was support for a particular direct struggle against oppression, not support for Sinn Fein per se. Nevertheless, to call on the working class to cast their votes for parties that aim to represent a national bourgeoisie is a violation of class independence.
The logic of calling for a vote for the ANC, or Sinn Fein, is for would-be communists to enter the ANC or Sinn Fein … or the Kuomintang, as the misleadership of the Comintern under Stalin and Bukharin instructed the Chinese Communists to do in the late 1920s. It is a centrist position, that liquidates independent class politics, similar to the politics of Stalin and Bukharin in their centrist phase in the 1920s before the Comintern definitively became counterrevolutionary. This finally happened after Hitler’s victory and the consolidation of the Popular Front as a strategy of the Communist Parties forming coalitions with the bourgeoisie, whose purpose was to neutralise the possibility of revolution and hopefully convince the bourgeois that fascism was not ‘necessary’ to preserve its class rule.
So no, we will not call for votes for the Greens, or the Scottish or Welsh nationalists, in an election. But if a Green is elected, or a Scottish or Welsh nationalist, and fascists threaten the elected Green etc. representative, we will defend their democratic right to take office against the fascists. If fascists try to overturn by force the election of a Green, or a SNP or Plaid Cymru representative, we will defend the elected Green, SNP or PC representative against the fascists arms-in-hand if we have the means.
We will call on the working class to do so independently. And if state forces are in place, and formally they are supposed to defend the rights of the elected Green, SNP or PC representative to take office, we will demand they do so too. If they do not, we will condemn them. If the fascists launch terrorist attacks against the elected bodies concerned involving such people, we will demand that such forces use deadly force against the terrorists. If they fail to do so, perhaps because some of them are complicit with the fascists, we will condemn that.
Presumably, Gerry’s forces would sit there with arms folded and let the fascists get on with it, taking no side on the grounds that to defend the right of the elected Green, or Celtic nation nationalist, would be to join a ‘popular front’. Or they would insist that only independent workers militias should do this, even if there were none and they were in no position to create any right now. This would be a capitulation to fascism and a refusal to defend the democratic rights of the masses to elect a Green, or a SNPer, or a Plaid Cymru person, NOT any ‘principled’ opposition to popular fronts.
The same principle applies, writ large, in election in the United States, in an election under the leadership of a bourgeois party, with a somewhat undeserved liberal reputation, that nevertheless succeeded in mobilising the masses of black voters, of voters of various immigrant backgrounds, and those working-class voters with any modicum of partial class-consciousness who tend to support its minority, but significant, social democratic wing – the Sanders wing. A party that acts in many ways, as a popular front in the form of a party. Revolutionaries would not call for votes for them, not even for the social democratic, Sanders wing unless they take the minimal step of standing on an at least nominally independent working-class party ticket.
But if they win, in spite of our political opposition to them, and then fascists try to overthrow their victory, then the same scenario applies as in the hypothetical example of the election of Green, SNP, or Plaid MP’s elaborated above. If you refuse to defend the election victory of such a party against an attempt by fascist forces to overthrow it, you are not involved in any ‘principled’ opposition to popular fronts. What you are actually doing is refusing to defend the democratic rights of the masses who support the Democratic Party and hiding that capitulation with a great big load of abstract, pseudo-leftist verbiage.
This scenario at least has the benefit of being in tune with what actually happened. Most of the quotations that Gerry uses to justify his polemic are completely irrelevant to the issues in dispute, and light-years socially and politically from the situation that led to the Trump Beer-Hall coup. So, for the benefit of the reader who is trying to make sense of the issues at stake here, let us elaborate the real situation first in the 1930s, and today.
Fascism Before WWII and Under Neoliberalism
Fascism in the 1930s was the product of a counterattack by the bourgeoisie against strong working-class movements that threatened capitalism in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Germany prior to Hitler’s ascent to power had the strongest labour and socialist movement in Europe, possibly in the world. It had a mass Social Democratic party that was originally Marxist in its inspiration and which had the loyalty of the bulk of the working class and a strong trade union movement, a Communist Party that was also a mass party and organised many of the most radical workers and had a strong base among the unemployed. The bourgeoisie’s support for fascism was quite straightforwardly based on fear of the revolutionary potential of this strong, class-conscious labour movement. We are talking about a situation where historically high levels of class consciousness existed, and fascism was seen by the bourgeoisie as the antidote to that.
All the quotes Gerry drags in on various revolutionary events in the 1930s are based on that reality. The Spanish Civil War was a direct fight between an incipient proletarian revolution and the fascist leadership of the Spanish military. The Popular Front was a class collaborationist agreement between the small bourgeois factions and the leaders of the pro-capitalist worker parties, the Spanish Socialists (i.e Social-Democrats, the PSOE), the Stalinised Communist Party, and integral part of the Comintern, dominated by the Stalinist regime which was hostile to working class revolution and sought to secure its own survival through deals with imperialism. The whole tenor of the world situation was dominated by the fact in any major political disturbance, the class consciousness of the masses put proletarian revolution pretty immediately on the agenda, while fascism was the chosen method of the bourgeoisie to inflict historic defeats on the working class and destroy that class consciousness by totalitarian repression.
That repression was a key danger to the working class as fascism aimed to mobilise a mass reactionary movement based on the petit bourgeoisie, the lumpen-proletariat and the most backward sections of the working class, primarily to crush the relatively powerful organs of working-class democracy that had grown up as a result of the rise of mass trade unions, and the Second and Third Internationals. It aimed to crush those independent workers organisations and atomise the masses by a repression that also had a counterposed, reactionary mass base. At the same time, as a matter of course, such a reactionary overturn would inescapably mean the crushing of virtually every democratic right or gain that the masses had achieved under capitalism, even those not directly embodied in workers organisations in a formal sense.
That is not the situation today. We live in a world where Stalinism has collapsed and taken with it not only the high level of subjectively revolutionary class-consciousness that activated many of its militants, but also as a knock-on effect of its collapse, it has undermined and de-radicalised much of the left-wing of Social Democracy that had previously been influenced both by the Stalinists, and to a degree by the broader current of revolutionary working-class sentiment that came from the inspiration of the Russian revolution. Elements of class consciousness still exist in the masses, but it is a partial, reformist class consciousness and even where it erupts, such as in the Corbyn movement in Britain, or in the various socialist-inclined ‘left-populist’ movements in South America, it tends to be oriented towards social reform not social revolution. Though revolutionary sentiments can and do find echoes in those movements, they are currently at a qualitatively lower level that in the period Trotsky, Felix Morrow and co were writing.
Not only that, but in the context of Stalinism’s decline and fall, in the advanced countries neoliberalism inflicted substantial defeats and weakening of the working-class movement to a considerable degree, without the need for fascism. This was epitomised by the wars against socialism, communism and trade unions waged in the 1970s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and by the Pinochet regime in Chile. The latter had a fascist-like military regime but in fact used the Chilean masses as guinea pigs for an extreme free-market economic programme, very different from the fascist ‘corporate state’, supervised by neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman. Strategic defeats were inflicted on the British and US proletariat in this period, and though the continental core European Union countries have not seen this happen in the same dramatic way, similar processes have been happening there in a more molecular, gradual manner.
These were models of the neoliberal paradigm of capitalism that has spread throughout the world, both in the imperialist countries, where the result has been a major decline in manufacturing and the traditional industrial proletariat, and in key parts of the semi-colonial world where there has been a growth in the proletariat precisely through job migration from the imperialist countries, but this layer of the proletariat is subject to very heavy repression and has not, as yet, taken the position at the head of the world proletariat that its social weight objectively must lead to. Accompanying this migration of jobs out of the imperialist countries has been a growth in the importance and volume of labour migration into the imperialist countries, both in terms of a drain of highly skilled migrant labour from semi-colonial countries being creamed-off by high-technology Western capital, and more significantly, badly paid migrant labour brought in to do menial jobs that the native working class sees as too low-paid and refuses to do, and also to compete with and undermine the conditions of lower-status sections of the working class who retain some clout for the moment.
The fact that capital has inflicted major, strategic defeats on the proletariat without the need for fascism, does not mean that fascism has ceased to be a danger. Rather it is the case that in the qualitatively more right-wing political environment bequeathed by neoliberal imperialism, fascist-type movements can develop their own momentum and dynamic, without unanimous bourgeois support, feeding in large measure from discontent at the decline of the old proletariat and mobilising chauvinist and racist sentiments against migrant workers. They present a potent threat particularly to the rights of oppressed layers of the population who achieved gains in the past, under the previous political situation where there was a higher level of class consciousness, as well as a threat to the democratic rights of the mass of the working class itself.
The recent period, with Trump, Brexit, the rise of Orban in Hungary, Salvini in Italy, Kaczyński in Poland, etc, shows that fascist type movements can come to power and engage in potent attacks on democratic rights even without the project of crushing a powerful worker movement or an incipient socialist revolution. They often disguise themselves under more diffuse forms of right-wing populism, that remain within the framework of bourgeois democracy, but when such movements generate militant groups that use physical force against opponents and attempt to escape from the constraints of bourgeois constitutionalism, they become indistinguishable from fascism and just as dangerous. Such movements can best be described as proto-fascist, evolving from right-populism as a reactionary response to neoliberalism.
There is no subjectively revolutionary mass working-class movement today; revolutionary class consciousness resides in relatively small vanguard grouplets, many of them sects, and the task of bringing that class consciousness to the masses is a strategic task that must be carried out anew for the most part by these relatively small, vanguard groups. Part of this re-arming of the working-class movement must be the re-arming of the vanguard layers themselves, many of which have been polluted by opportunism themselves or engage in sometimes quite deranged sectarian and bureaucratic practices which do not help, but hinder, the rearming of the working class and its historic revolutionary class consciousness.
In summary, the proletariat is qualitatively weaker politically in Europe and North America than it was in the pre-WWII period and facilely quoting Trotsky calling for revolutionary mass action in the Spanish Civil War, for instance, is of little use in solving the concrete political problems we face today. Fascist attempts to take power must be resisted just as militantly today as when they try to take power to crush an incipient revolution. Defeating them is still a self-defence of the democratic rights of the masses, albeit in a different situation. Neutrality on such things when they are posed militarily is suicidal. Playing games and flirting with the idea of remaining neutral in the face of an attempt at gaining power by extra-constitutional means is a capitulation to populist ideology that has suckered part of the left, and indirectly therefore to fascism.
Centrist Confusionism and the Popular Front
Such neutrality is implicit in this piece of workerist nonsense from Gerry:
“A united front is between workers’ organisations only which allows the revolutionary socialists freedom to propagate for the revolution. Even when our forces are too small for a formal agreement, we use the transitional method to place demands on the existing leadership of the class to take action in defence of class interests. A popular front contains bourgeois forces, this is in breach of a ‘fundamental tenet of Marxism’ as Felix Morrow explains. This applies in all imperialist counties.”ibid
This implies that the only difference between a united front and a popular front is the presence of bourgeois forces. Not true. In the United Front, we are not seeking a joint government with the forces we are temporarily allied with. It is a bloc for a specific, limited purpose only, e.g., to stop a fascist military action aimed at conquering power. Such a united front action can be with any force that is prepared, either actually or potentially, to join in the action that we want to do, in this case to defeat the fascists attempt to seize power. Once the action is concluded, either successfully or unsuccessfully the united front comes to an end.
If the bulk of the workers are led by a mass social-democratic party like the German SPD, then we make our demands on that organisation. But what if the workers are not led by such a party? What if they are led by people loyal to a liberal-talking bourgeois party, like the US Democrats, which has much in common with popular fronts in other places, but in a party form. What if the only groups that have a distinct, working class political programme even in a deformed sense, are tiny groups that are marginal to the bulk of the working class?
In that case, Gerry would presumably say that it is unprincipled to place demands on the force that the bulk of the working class is currently loyal to, that actually do lead and have the ear of the working class and the oppressed. Instead, presumably, the only ‘principled’ united front that would be possible is between the various marginal groups that do not lead the masses. There is one big problem with this though: a ‘united front’ between the Judean Peoples Front and the People’s Front of Judea does not have the military capacity to defeat the fascists and with the current political situation is not likely to gain such capacity any time soon. So, refusing to place demands on those who do have the ear of the workers means playing foolish sect-games and folding your arms while the fascists attack the forces that do have the military power to defeat them. And to expose to the masses that they need to take action of their own, as a class-conscious force, you must expose the forces that actually do lead them, by putting them to some sort of decisive test. It is not possible to test the ability to satisfy the objective needs of the masses of those who do not lead the masses, who are marginal, as they are not in a position to be so tested.
So, when Gerry sternly lectures our Latin American comrades that:
“The Franco regime and the Republican governments in Madrid and Barcelona were threatened by something far more terrible than ‘proletarian democracy’; they were confronted immediately by an actual socialist revolution which had triumphed on the ground and lacked only a leadership and a state to finish its task, as the Bolsheviks did in 1917. They had seized the factories, they had seized the land, they were clearly in the saddle in that first year of the revolution. True they lacked the developed soviets, workers committees (but these were there in embryo), that emerged in Russia in 1905 and 1917 but there were far more subjectively conscious revolutionary socialists there, originating from the ranks of the POUM and the Anarchists, who understood and heroically fought for that revolution in Spain than in Russia in 1917. And its victory would have had a far greater effect internationally had it won. The popular front was the ideological camouflage behind which the Stalinist counter-revolutionaries marshalled their assassination squads and their torture prisons for revolutionaries to grovel to the ‘democratic imperialists’ as Morrow explains above.”ibid
.. he is engaged in fantasising and wishful thinking. Where was the revolution in the US in January 2021? Where were the factory seizures, where was the working class ‘in the saddle’ in Washington DC or anywhere in the US? Nowhere, because this was not a revolutionary situation. Instead of dealing with the struggle against fascism that actually existed then, Gerry is off fantasising about a non-existent revolution, in order to avoid dealing with what actually exists.
Yet in fact, he comes close to addressing this, only to dismiss the point with an absurdity:
“But there was a very obviously more than just a revolutionary situation in Spain in 1936, clearly there is nothing like that in the US in 2021. Surely the situation is more like that in Germany in the early 1930s, the forces of fascism is in the ascendent and we must learn how to defend before we can go over to the attack.”ibid
And then he goes over to a monologue rubbishing our quoting of Trotsky’s An Aesop’s Fable when he ridicules the Stalinists refusal to call for a united front with the SPD to defeat Hitler’s Nazis:
“A cattle dealer once drove some bulls to the slaughterhouse. And the butcher came nigh with his sharp knife.
‘Let us close ranks and jack up this executioner on our horns,’ suggested one of the bulls.
‘If you please, in what way is the butcher any worse than the dealer who drove us hither with his cudgel?’ replied the bulls, who had received their political education in Manuilsky’s institute. [The Comintern.]
‘But we shall be able to attend to the dealer as well afterwards!’
“Nothing doing,” replied the bulls firm in their principles, to the counselor. ‘You are trying, from the left, to shield our enemies – you are a social-butcher yourself.’
And they refused to close ranks.”re-cited in ibid
Gerry rubbishes the comparison, with the absurd point that:
“Trotsky did not propose a popular front with the Weimar Republic, still less the Centre Party, the German National People’s Party (DNVP) or the Bavarian People’s Party but with the ’social-imperialist German Social Democracy’ as Ian terms them, hoping we will miss the fact that this was the major party of the German working class for 70 years (founded in May 1863 in Leipzig) and contained the older, skilled but cautious and demoralized industrial workers.”ibid
Here is Gerry’s confusion between the popular front and the united front in crystallised form. Trotsky did not call for a “popular front” with anyone, neither the Weimar Republic nor the smaller bourgeois parties like the Zentrum, nor even with the SPD. He called for a practical bloc with the SPD to stop Hitler from coming to power, a military bloc for struggle, not a political bloc or alliance, still less a coalition government!
It is laughable that Gerry can accuse the Trotskyist Faction of calling for a popular front, when he makes such an elementary error, showing a complete misunderstanding of what a popular front is. He may object that an unprincipled, liquidationist-reformist alliance and joint government of Communists with the SPD leaders would not have been technically a Popular Front, which is true, as it would not have contained an outright bourgeois component.
But the sense of Gerry’s absurdity remains: he says, to paraphrase … ‘Trotsky did not call for an unprincipled, anti-working-class governmental coalition with the Zentrum, the NDVP, or the Bavarian Peoples Party, but only with the SPD’. This is truly comical: no, he did not – he called for a practical bloc for mass-based resistance to the Nazis, to stop them gaining power with a particular regard for defeating their militias, primarily the SA, on the streets, and demanded the SPD mobilise their base to do this. He did not propose any kind of unprincipled non-revolutionary bourgeois governmental coalition with anyone, not even the SPD!
And of course, speaking hypothetically, if the mass of German workers had been loyal to one of the smaller bourgeois parties, instead of the SPD, and the Nazis had threatened to overthrow the Weimar Republic to crush those workers, it would have been just as principled to call on those forces to resist the Nazis, and to seek a bloc with them, as it was the SPD. Of course, that hypothetical scenario would imply a less conscious working class, a different balance of class forces, and thereby a rather different political situation from the one that happened in 1933, but nevertheless the events of Jan 2021 show that there is no absolute barrier to such a situation arising.
Sectarianism, Centrism and Opportunism
Gerry’s polemic is at the same time sectarian, centrist and opportunist. It is sectarian because its driving force is not an attempt to engage with the subject matter, the strategy of how to mobilise the working class to defeat fascism and to develop its class consciousness to the point of being capable of acting independently as a class and taking power. His purpose is rather putting the interests of his own rump grouping above all that and scoring points against political rivals who have not abandoned the Trotskyist politics of the old Socialist Fight as he has. The foolish lie that the Trotskyist Faction support popular fronts is inseparable from the absurd faux-pas when Gerry accuses Trotsky of advocating a ‘popular front’, but only with the SPD, not the smaller bourgeois parties. The lie is feeble and self-exposing, but there is a certain logic to it as he has previously tried to slander us as being sympathetic to fascism.
This lie has been exposed as absurd: if we had been remotely sympathetic to fascism, we would not be debating how best to defeat the forces of Donald Trump; we would have regarded Donald Trump as an ‘ally’, like Gerry’s erstwhile co-thinker and ally against us, Wilhelm Specklin, and would be inclined to join in with Trump. So, Gerry’s grotesque, Healy-like lie that we are sympathetic to fascism, a criminal lie whose purpose is consciously designed to set up people who support our politics, the politics Gerry himself defended for five years, to be attacked by leftists Gerry manages to fool, has been exposed as a complete absurdity. People with a ‘fascist’ political outlook, in the face of a putsch by actual fascists, would join in supporting the fascists, not publicly call for the fascist insurgents to be shot down and executed en masse without mercy. Perhaps some reactionary Trump supporter might call us ‘red fascists’ or ‘left wing fascists’ but any genuine socialist militant knows how to treat such crap. Gerry’s lie is exposed as the very opposite of the truth, and his desperate nonsense about our supposed support for ‘popular fronts’ is just another feeble lie to replace the previous, deceased lie.
His position is centrist, because it fits Trotsky’s description of centrism as ‘crystallised confusion’, as benefits a politics which still pretends to be revolutionary, and even to adhere to the international revolutionary trend which we support but acts in an erratic manner that can only confuse those who encounter Gerry’s politics and positions. And indeed, on some forums those questioning Gerry about where he stands have ended up scratching their heads. Crystallised confusion indeed.
And this is opportunist, both in theory and practice. His statement that Trotsky advocated a ‘popular front’ with the SPD, apart from being untrue, contradictory and at odds with the very definition of a popular front, betrays his own political appetites. Because in the end, his whole bending of the knee to Zionism comes from bending the knee to Labourism in a period when the Labour Party is moving rapidly to the right. Supporting a rotten, rightward moving Blairised, Zionised Labour Party is not exactly the same thing as supporting a popular front, but it is pretty close. Labour at present, unlike when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, does not in any sense claim to represent working class people as a class.
Gerry firmly denounces the idea that socialists should call on workers not to vote Labour, citing Lenin and Trotsky’s practice of critical support to put Labour to the test before the workers. But Starmer has already been put to the test in the eyes of many tens or even hundreds of thousands of militants who support the Labour Party. There is such disgust among former Corbynites that there is massive resonance for not supporting Starmer’s Labour in elections. The stabbing of Corbyn, the first Labour leader for several decades not to be a neoliberal enemy of the workers, has had a huge impact on the whole layer of hundreds of thousands who hated Blairism and joined Labour to support Corbyn.
Nor does it need to be ‘exposed’ to the ‘Red Wall’ layer of the working class who are like the demoralised layer that supported Trump in the US, who Starmer is now trying to appeal to by wrapping himself in the Union Jack. This is not a class-conscious appeal even at a very low level but an attempt to out-Tory the Tories. It is likely to fail only because people tend to prefer the real thing to a cheap copy.
All Gerry’s smears against us since he split with our comrades have been motivated by craven opportunism, the desire to ingratiate himself with sections of the left who capitulate to facets of Zionism, or at least elements of Jewish identity politics that overlap with Zionism to a degree. But the opportunist gyration that drives his latest smear has an erratic quality as it reveals a degradation in the understanding of Trotskyism and the popular front, and for all his fulminations about Trump fascism, a flinch from saying that Trump’s insurrection represented a fascist step beyond the constitutionalist status quo in the US and therefore the military defeat of Trump was the lesser evil.
This theoretical advocacy of a weird kind of ‘popular front that is not a popular front’ with social democracy, mixed with capitulation to populism might have some relationship with one of Gerry’s latest blocs. To give the rump SF somewhere to deposit any funds it manages to raise, Gerry is using the bank account of Socialist Labour, a bloc within the Labour Party that is run by left-wing supporters of Brexit. Though it was not unprincipled in the Corbyn project to work with such people as part of a broader intervention where views on Brexit were up for debate, we never previously got the functioning of our organisation mixed up with such a bloc. Since Lexiteering in Britain in recent years was in the real world an adaptation to right-populism, as the actually existing Brexit was a right populist movement, it appears that this bloc has put further pressure on Gerry to adapt in this direction also.
Anyway, whatever is behind this politically erratic behaviour, Gerry’s latest polemic just draws attention to his further sad political decline since he wrecked Socialist Fight, and much of the political reputation he had previously built up through at least trying to re-create a genuine Trotskyism, is going down the drain. That is quite sad really.