Consistent Democrats’ statement (8 Jan 2023)
Tony Greenstein, the long-time Jewish leftist with left-Bundist1 politics and author of the encyclopaedic work Zionism During the Holocaust, has issued a denunciation of Peter Gregson, the initiator of Labour Against Zionist Islamophobic Racism (LAZIR), the Campaign Against Bogus Anti-Semitism (CABA), and now One Democratic Palestine. His denunciation is a sectarian tirade based on logic-chopping and a flinch from drawing the hard conclusions of his own thinking, something that Tony does repeatedly, not just over Zionism and bogus anti-Semitism accusations, but also Ukraine.
It appears that one important reason for this is Peter’s initiation of One Democratic Palestine, which aims to fight for solidarity with Palestinians based on the demand for a single democratic, multi-ethnic Palestinian state to replace Israel. An objective which Tony correctly supports, but evidently also considers it outrageous that an ‘interloper’ like Peter Gregson should try to create such a campaign.
The tirade claims to represent “A Political Health Warning – Why Palestine Solidarity Activists Should Have Nothing to do with Peter Gregson” and goes on to assert that “Whilst there are very few anti-Semites who support the Palestinians – Gregson is the exception that proves the rule”. Yet when he attempts to prove any of this, he entangles himself in an awful mess of self-contradiction.
For a start, he accurately enough notes that Peter Gregson was expelled, at his instigation, from Labour Against the Witchhunt (in May 2019). However, this statement contains a blatant falsehood:
“…he put up a petition on his website linking to an article by Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom who had written a ‘literature review’ on ‘The Auschwitz “Gas Chamber” Illusion’.https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2023/01/whilst-there-are-very-few-anti.html
There was no link to Kollerstrom’s article in Peter Gregson’s 22 March 2019 Petition update. As the screenshots below show, there was a link to another article, by Ian Fantom, titled UK’s Labour Antisemitism Split, which contained a long section of quotes from Theodore Herzl’s diaries and a brief mention of Kollerstrom’s article (with link). Peter also mentions the link in Fantom’s article and clearly condemned the Kollerstrom article as ‘toxic’ in the same paragraph. There was neither a link to, nor an endorsement of, Kollerstrom’s article in Peter’s update. On the basis of that fabrication and falsehood, Tony initiated the expulsion of Peter from Labour Against the Witchhunt. And a bunch of foolish, gullible people pretended it was true and voted for his expulsion on that basis!
Tony’s falsehood about Peter’s fictitious link to Kollerstrom’s article becomes completely ridiculous since in his current article there is a REAL, DIRECT link to the same Kollerstrom article. So, if LAW still existed, and both Tony and Peter were members of it, on the same basis as before, Peter would have every right to move Tony’s expulsion on a charge of linking to Kollerstrom’s toxic ‘holocaust-sceptic’ article. And unlike in 2019, the accusation would be true! Tony’s motto is clearly “Do as I say, not do as I do!” Well, what’s sauce for the goose …. (of course, we are not for Tony’s expulsion from anything, just for an end to this hypocritical, sectarian smearing rubbish!)
The whole allegation of ‘anti-Semitism’ against Peter is a load of nonsense. Previously, Tony has said that several people, including Ian Donovan of the Consistent Democrats, Peter Gregson, and the Israeli Jazz musician/political writer Gilad Atzmon are “politically, but not personally anti-Semitic”. Yet all three of these have no antipathy for Jews whatsoever, as Tony himself has noted, and frequently work with Jewish people, positively cite Jewish people on politics, etc. An anti-Semite is someone who exhibits “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” (Mirriam-Webster dictionary). Just by saying these people are “politically, but not personally anti-Semitic” Tony contradicts this, as to be anti-Semitic such hostility and discrimination must be demonstrated. He evidently does not believe what he says.
What is more, Tony actually denies that Anti-Semitism today is even a form of racism. Indeed he has written articles headlined: “Why Anti-Semitism is no longer a form of racism –it’s a Marginal Prejudice confined to the fascist fringe” in which he writes:
“It’s true that Jews are a minority but they are not an oppressed minority. Millionaires are also a minority but they are not oppressed. Racists are also a minority which is why the far-Right identitarian movement uses the language of identity politics.”
“There is no offence of driving whilst Jewish but driving whilst Black is a crime. Jews are not victims of police violence, imprisoned or found dead in police custody because they are Jewish. There is no discernible discrimination against Jews.
“Of course there is individual prejudice, a legacy of the past.“https://tonygreenstein.com/2021/06/why-anti-semitism-is-no-longer-a-form-of-racism-its-a-marginal-prejudice-confined-to-the-fascist-fringe/
In recent work on Zionism and the Holocaust, he repeats this point, while the bit about it being confined to the ‘fascist fringe’ appears absent. In his tirade, he denounces Peter for a passage where Peter says:
“To say Jews in the UK have great leverage is not anti-Semitic, it is just a statement of fact. Like saying an Eton education gets you into Parliament. Or Muslims don’t like alcohol and fear speaking out about Islamophobia. Or Scots are ‘good with money’, i.e. not profligate. Or Germany has an enormous collective guilt over the holocaust, while Austria, its partner in crime, has not. Or London has many rich Russian oligarchs…”
Apparently, this is terrible racism, and the person who believes it should be shunned. Bizarre, since Tony himself said that “Jews are a minority … but … not an oppressed minority”. He may just as well denounce Peter for his facetious remarks about Scots (Peter is Scottish). Its trivia, Tony himself does not believe there is anything wrong with it, just as he does not believe there is anything wrong with linking to Kollerstrom’s article on the CODOH website. The evidence of that is that Tony did it himself, in this very article!
The Nazi genocide in Hungary
He also denounces Peter for making the following allegation about Zionist involvement in shepherding Jews to the gas chambers in Hungary:
“These were the people that Hitler gassed. With Zionist support. Proof? Over the period 1942-44, Rabbi Weissmandl of Hungary made a deal with Adolf Eichmann…”
But Peter was not accusing this (non-Zionist) Rabbi of being involved in the extermination. Very much the opposite … he is saying that this Rabbi tried to put together a scheme to buy the freedom of Hungarian and Slovakian Jews from the Nazis. There were over 720,000 Jews in Hungary at that time, including tens of thousands who had fled from Slovakia, and another 100,000 or more Christian ex-Jewish converts. He became an impassioned anti-Zionist because Zionists refused to help with the scheme. This Slovakian Rabbi apparently tried to do this and was rebuffed by Zionist leaders in Hungary. This is undoubtedly a source of pride for Naturei Karta, itself a dissident strand of Judaism. Quite how it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to mention it defies belief. It seems that Tony is upset at Peter’s association with NK and seeking to smear him in a crude manner.
Tony makes the same accusation as the one Peter cites, against the leading Zionist in Hungary, Rudolph Kasztner, who knowing full well that Jews who were deported to Auschwitz were being gassed, systematically hid this from the bulk of Hungarian Jews, and indeed made deals with the Nazis, with Adolf Eichmann as his chief interlocutor, to allow a small minority of wealthy Zionist Jews to emigrate to Palestine in exchange for offering no resistance to the deportation (to gas chambers) of the majority. He clearly worked with the Zionist leadership in Palestine and its agents in doing this.
Tony himself, in his major work, relates that Kasztner “received a copy of the [Auschwitz] Protocols [a detailed account of the Auschwitz extermination process by two escapees] at the end of April . The Protocols were also sent to the Zionist liaison office in Istanbul, as well as to Nathan Shwalb [a leading Zionist in Switzerland]”. Tony then notes that “Schwalb was ‘reluctant to publicise the news about Auschwitz’” and concludes “This reluctance probably stemmed from his desire not to upset Kasztner’s negotiations with the SS.” (Greenstein, Zionism During the Holocaust, pp199-200).
Then Tony writes about the involvement of the Zionist top layers both in this, and in covering it up, in connection with the Kasztner libel trial in Israel in 1954, where some truth about this criminality was aired for the first time:
“Why did the Israeli state insist on a libel action on behalf of Kasztner? Clearly it believed that it could bury the rumours of collaboration between the JA [Jewish Agency] and the Nazis….
“Instead of exonerating Kasztner the trial achieved the exact opposite. Kastner effectively became the defendant. Kastner’s boasting of a special relationship with the SS and his stay as a guest of the Gestapo in Vienna was seen as particularly ‘repulsive’.
“Hungarian holocaust survivors testified that if they had known the truth about the Holocaust then they would have tried to escape… It was estimated that 4000-5000 Jews escaped across the Romanian border in any event.”
“Kasztner and his associates actively dissuaded the Jews of Kolozsvar from escaping. Joseph Katz, a lawyer from Nodvarod, four miles from the Romanian border, testified that its Jews knew nothing of Auschwitz.”(p206-7)
Tony then speaks of the verdict against Kasztner in the trial and quotes the judge that Kasztner had “sold his soul to the devil”. “It was a damning verdict, not just on Kasztner but the Jewish Agency” said Tony, noting that the decision of the Israeli state to appeal caused the fall of Moshe Shertok’s government in 1955. Kasztner was then murdered, in circumstances that do suggest a state attempt to erase the question, given that Shin Bet withdrew his personal protection even though a government-funded appeal was in train. When the appeal came to court, in 1957, Tony noted that:
“If Kasztner were convicted, then the Zionist leadership itself stood condemned.”p213
And when the court overturned the charge of collaboration, he noted that the “judgement was overturned on legal and political grounds”, and then cited the wife of one of the Auschwitz escapers and author of the Auschwitz Protocols, Rudolf Vrba:
“What Kasztner did was unbelievable because people had the right to have this information… Rudolph was very bitter about the fact than Kasztner was regarded as a hero in Israel while he and Wetzler [the other escaper and co-author of the Protocols] went unrecognised”.p214
All this is sufficient to more than substantiate Peter Gregson’s statement that Jews from Hungary were gassed “with Zionist support”. That’s what the collaboration of Kasztner, and the Zionist Agency, implicating the leadership of the Yishuv [the proto-Zionist state in colonised Palestine before 1948], amounted to. That’s what Tony’s evidence in his book points to. It seems that Tony is flinching from the logic of his own argumentation and throwing abuse at Peter, who is more consistent. This is yet another example of his centrist tendency to contradict himself and backtrack from drawing the obvious conclusions from correct analysis.
“Outsize Jewish Political Power”
His other point against Peter is also ridiculous:
“Gregson goes on to say, on the basis that Jews are eight times over-represented in the UK Parliament that
‘they are powerful, in proportion to their share of the population (300,000 out of 66 million), comprising 0.4 per cent of us.’
“The fact that the Zionists encourage such conspiracy theories by claiming to speak on behalf of all Jews, doesn’t make what Gregson says any the less anti-Semitic. Gregson’s assertion that
‘It is because of these wealthy Zionist Jews, steered from the British Board of Deputies of British Jews and the like, that nobody in this country, including our media, dare point out the blindingly obvious: that we have utterly lost our freedom of speech on Israel because everybody is frightened of what Zionist Jews will do to them.
“One wonders why, if Jews are only 0.4% where they get all this power.”
The key phrase is of course “in proportion to”. As atomised individuals, the 0.4% of the population who are Jewish ought to hold no more than 0.4% of the power in British, or Western society in general. But Tony himself knows full well that this is not true. The basic facts as to why were most comprehensively laid out in Norman Finkelstein’s celebrated 2018 essay Corbyn Mania:
“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. (Full text, with references, available at https://www.normanfinkelstein.com/finkelstein-on-corbyn-mania/)
Hypocrisy of Bundist Politics
If Peter is ‘anti-Semitic’ for alluding to these “critical socio-economic facts”, why is not Norman Finkelstein not denounced by Tony and others for laying them out in full? The reason is related to Tony’s semi-Bundist politics. Norman Finkelstein is probably the world’s best known Jewish critic of Israeli crimes. Tony himself paraphrases Finkelstein’s earlier insights from The Holocaust Industry in his Zionism During the Holocaust. And Tony himself has no trouble sharing platforms with Norman Finkelstein.
Whereas Peter is not Jewish. The only Jewish ideologues who have the brass-neck to accuse Finkelstein of ‘anti-Semitism’ are Zionists, including fellow-travelling gentile pseudo-left sleaze merchants like Jim Denham and Andrew Coates, and Tony is not keen on being associated with them. But for a non-Jew to cite, or even allude to, the very same “crucial socio-economic facts” is for Tony “anti-Semitic”. Apparently, you must be ethnically qualified to have an opinion on such things. This also manifested itself earlier when Ian Donovan produced a set of theses on the Jewish Question in 2014 that cited the same facts. Because he is not Jewish, this is anathema. Norman Finkelstein, who is not a Bundist, evidently did not think so. He clearly defended the right of these views to be heard at a public event in London in 2016 and was influenced sufficiently to produce an essay two years later that evidently accepted the same concept.
At an even cruder level, it means that a non-Jewish leftist such as Peter Gregson can be expelled for linking an internet discussion piece to another article that in turn links to an article that contains a link to the Holocaust Denial CODOH site, to illustrate a point unrelated to the Nazi holocaust (i.e., no actual link!) while Tony thinks he can link his website directly to the CODOH site with impunity. This is because he is ‘pure’, i.e., because he is Jewish. And to cap this, Tony with his Bundist politics feels entitled to smear someone as sympathetic to Nazi holocaust denial in one paragraph of an article, and then to accuse the same person of ‘anti-Semitism’ for pointing to Zionist support for the very same genocide he is supposedly ‘denying’, in another paragraph of the same article. Even though the two smears are completely at odds with each other!
This nonsense is symptomatic of Greenstein’s politics. In his book he rightly praises the resistance to Nazism of the Jewish Bund particularly in Poland during the Second World War. The problem is that he also shares some of the prejudices of the Bund, the conceptions that Lenin, among others, attacked them for, the conception that only Jewish Socialists have the right to lead the Jewish working class. Today, it seems to mean (for Tony) that only Jewish socialists have the right to even notice the disproportionate representation of Jews in the bourgeois establishment, a legacy of the Jews’ pre-bourgeois role as a commodity-trading class, which evidently later gave rise (under capitalism) to a different class composition from many other national-ethnic groups that they lived alongside. That different composition and its origin is something that Abram Leon wrote about at length in his work The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, even if he did not live to see the creation of the Zionist state (he was murdered in Auschwitz). As indeed was prefigured by Karl Marx in his 19th Century essay The Jewish Question, which capitulators to Zionism to this day shudder at for its uncompromising materialist insights.
Tony’s Bundist anathemas are an attack on Marxism itself, and an attack on working class democracy. In his Zionism During the Holocaust, he claims that “Today there is no specific socio-economic function that is specific to Jews. That is why there is no ‘Jewish Question’” (p47). But that was also true when Abram Leon wrote his seminal work. However, the pre-capitalist class role of the Jews was supremely relevant in explaining the specific class composition that made them vulnerable to genocide in the early period of imperialist capitalism, and it is relevant today, in changed circumstances today, after the radicalised, leftist Jewish lower classes were largely destroyed by genocide and the remnants absorbed though ‘upward mobility’ by neoliberal capitalism, to the point that Tony can point out that the Jewish proletariat no longer exists. If that is true, then obviously Jews must be overrepresented in qualitatively wealthier classes – by simple arithmetic, and so we come down to the same point again – “outsized Jewish political power” as Finkelstein puts it. This question is the property of the entire working-class movement, irrespective of origin, to discuss according to the norms of workers democracy. Attempts to stop them being debated are simply reactionary and should be condemned.
Centrism and Crystallised Confusion over Ukraine
Tony’s evasions and self-contradictions on this are an expression of his centrist politics: “crystallised confusion”, as Trotsky put it, or in a slightly different sense “revolutionary in words, opportunist in deeds”. Tony’s continual contradictions are a classic symptom of this. If he were not tied to Bundism, he might be in a more mainstream centrist left-wing group. Instead, he plays an important role as an influential individual on a fragmented left where the larger sects – the SWP, Socialist Party, etc have little authority. So, he is more much more important than any isolated individual. He not only is the seemingly most radical critic of Zionism on the British left, but he also addresses other questions (badly), such as Ukraine, where he played a key role in stopping the Socialist Labour Network (SLN) taking a principled, anti-imperialist position of defence of Russia and the people of the Donbass.
When he has bothered to put some semblance of a Marxist analysis together, he has come up with material that ought logically, for a Marxist, lead to a position of defence of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine to defend the Donbass. In two articles in the Weekly Worker last spring, he polemicised against the notion, widespread on the phoney ‘far left’, that this is an inter-imperialist war. He wrote:
“Economically Russia ranks 11th in the world, with a gross domestic product of $1.65 trillion (less than South Korea). Meanwhile the United States has a GDP of $23 trillion. Put bluntly, because of the disastrous privatisation of its nationalised industries and Putin’s support for the oligarchs, Russia does not have the economic capacity to maintain a war machine like the United States.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1388/key-issue-is-not-russia/, 24 March
Aside from the facile point about Putin’s support for ‘oligarchs’ (in fact he sent several of the worst of them, including Khodorovsky and Guzinsky, the West’s darling privatisers, into exile in fear of their lives), the logical conclusion of this must be that Russia is not an imperialist country. He strongly implies this, without quite saying so, when he wrote, in the following issue of WW:
“In my last Weekly Worker article I explained the background to the present conflict. I argued that this is not an inter-imperialist war, but a defensive war by Russia against the threat posed to it – not only by Ukraine’s potential accession to Nato, but its de facto status as a Nato member today.”
“…one does not characterise the political nature of a war by who struck the first blow.”
“Lenin had quite a bit to say about this. In ‘The difference between aggressive and defensive war’ he posed the question as to what would happen ‘if tomorrow Morocco were to declare war on France, India on England, Persia or China on Russia’. According to the formulations of the United Secretariat and Achcar, socialists would be bound to support England, France and Russia! Lenin disagreed, arguing:
those would be ‘just’, ‘defensive’ wars, irrespective of who attacked first; and every socialist would sympathise with the victory of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slave-owning, predatory ‘great’ powers.
In other words, the fact that technically Russia landed the first blow in the present conflict is irrelevant. That tells us nothing about the political or class nature of the conflict.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1392/pro-war-socialists/, 1st April
“In other words”, for Tony, you might logically think, “any socialist” would sympathise with the victory of Russia against NATO imperialism and its Ukrainian proxies. You would think this was doubly obligatory when Tony wrote of the situation in Donbass since the Maidan coup in 2014:
“The advent of a new regime in Ukraine under the corrupt Petro Poroshenko saw the abolition of Russian language rights affecting nearly half Ukraine’s population. It also saw attacks by fascist militias on Russians in the Donbas. It was therefore no surprise that parts of eastern Ukraine broke away to form the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, with the aid of the Russian military. For the last eight years there has been an undeclared war against these republics by the fascist Azov battalion, during which 14,000 people have been killed”ibid
This is the reason why Putin had no choice but to intervene militarily, as every genuine anti-imperialist knows, and underlines why, as Lenin wrote of earlier such conflicts, “every socialist” must sympathise with the “victory” of the forces fighting imperialism.
But Tony does not. Instead, he writes:
“It goes without saying that socialists unreservedly condemn Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, with the terrible devastation and suffering that they have inflicted. We should have no hesitation in calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops. The regimes in both Moscow and Kyiv are rotten and anti-working class, so we are in favour of unity between the working classes of both countries, not a war which lines up workers behind these leaders.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1388/key-issue-is-not-russia/
So, in one and the same polemic, spread over 2 weeks in WW, he quotes Lenin saying that ‘every socialist’ should be in favour of the victory of the non-imperialist side in such conflicts, (which in this one means Russia and the Donbass population), against NATO and its proxies. Yet at the same time he “unreservedly condemns” Russia in what he agrees is exactly the kind of conflict Lenin was talking about (otherwise why quote Lenin at all?). A more priceless example of centrist politics, of “crystallised confusion”, of being “revolutionary in words, opportunist in deeds”, or simply trying to ‘have your cake and eat it’, would be difficult to find.
Likewise, when supporters of the Consistent Democrats put a motion to a meeting of the Socialist Labour Network on 29th July, seeking to change the policy of that movement to a principled one of defending Russia’s forces, and the people of the Donbass, against what Tony Greenstein himself says is a NATO proxy war, Tony Greenstein actively opposed it, and was instrumental in ensuring that it failed to pass (though the number of abstentions on the vote made it very clear that nearly half of those present did not support the craven, third-campist existing policy of the SLN).
His opportunism on this was even more manifest, as he openly expressed the fear that if the SLN adopted a Russia-defencist position on this, more right-wing members of the SLN would walk away. To hell with the Donbass people then, who need solidarity from socialists in the West more than anything else. A terrible position – if someone had made a similar point about Palestinians, Tony would likely have gone apoplectic (or would he? – this even logically casts some doubt on that!)
There is a common method here, between Ukraine and the Jewish Question/Zionism. Liberal politics trumps Marxism. What this means is crystal clear over Ukraine, but it is also true in terms of his violations of working-class democracy, attacking those who oppose his Bundist conceptions (which are also a form of liberalism) from the left. Tony is just one, currently prominent, expression of centrism as a political phenomenon which needs to be overcome if principled anti-imperialist, communist politics are to make progress in the current situation.
- The politics of the Jewish Bund, which demanded a separate Jewish socialist party in the Russian empire. The Bund continued for a considerable time after the Russian revolution, in Poland particularly. Its concept was that the Bund would have a kind of exclusive mandate to organise Jewish workers. The whole idea of this was strongly opposed by Lenin.