By Ian Donovan
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.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1026/no-place-for-anti-semitism/
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?”Corbyn Mania, 25 August 2018, http://normanfinkelstein.com/2018/08/25/finkelstein-on-corbyn-mania/. To see Finkelstein’s full list of references including for this passage, follow the link. Paragraph breaks have been added to this passage for readability, but the actual text is unchanged
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.”ibid
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…”ibid
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.ibid
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.’ibid
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.“ibid
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.”Weekly Worker, 9 Sept https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1362/weapon-forged-in-lies/
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.”https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2021/06/why-anti-semitism-is-no-longer-form-of.html
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?”ibid
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.”ibid
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?”ibid
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.