LCFI Statement on the departure of the Downing faction of Socialist Fight (Britain)

“Any serious factional fight in a party is always in the final analysis a reflection of the class struggle. The Majority faction established from the beginning the ideological dependence of the opposition upon petty-bourgeois democracy. The opposition, on the contrary, precisely because of its petty-bourgeois character, does not even attempt to look for the social roots of the hostile camp.”

Leon Trotsky, A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party, December 1939

Almost exactly a year ago when it became clear that a major division had emerged in Socialist Fight, then the British Section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, our comrades from the US, Brazilian and Argentinian sections produced a Resolution on the crisis of the British section of the LCFI (5th March 2020). To document this for posterity, we now reproduce some extracts from the resolution dealing specifically with the British factional conflict:

“We believe that the crisis and split in the Socialist Fight is a step back from all angles for both, the LCFI and for SF itself.

“1. The crisis content: The SF has been under attacks for at least three years as part of a campaign carried on by the right and far right conservative political wings against Labour organizations. Within this right wing, the fraction that carried on the attack was the Great Britain Zionist Bourgeoisie. Against Labourism, using the SF as a target, this fraction even used Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who attacked Comrade Gerry Downing in 2016 directly. Objectively, this Zionist offensive drained virtually all the forces of the small group (as they are all our LCFI groups). The elaboration of the SF made it almost monothematic, international contact has been almost extinct in recent years;

“2. For the result: The Zionist offensive divided one of the sections of the LCFI. This situation created an internal crisis and divided our British section. Any advantage presented by either wing is just verbal triumphalism, without correspondence with reality. Here Lenin’s slogan that the ‘party grows by purifying’ was not worth it. The SF is smaller and now with Gerry’s wing chasing former allies of the Labour left, the SF may be less influential in the workers’ political struggle;

[…]

“As materialists, we understand that this Socialist Fight defeat is part of the Labour Party’s humiliating and shameful political defeat in 2019. It was Labour’s biggest electoral defeat since 1935 for the conservative right, which adds to Brexit. One of the fundamental weapons of the imperialist right against the left was this Zionist campaign against the supposed ‘anti-Semitism in the Labour party’.

“Those who sign this resolution understand that the fractionation of the SF is a by-product of the political defeat suffered by the British working class, regardless of how the SF crisis presents itself. But we are not fatalists, it was possible to avoid this defeat, if the SF had not unconsciously participated in this process, had not lost its sense of proportions, had not been involved in the enemy’s game.

“Isolated and weakened politically, British imperialism is increasingly influenced by the Zionist fraction of world imperialism.

[…]

“In light of the above, it is clear that the two wings that claim Socialist Fight and the LCFI are at an irreconcilable stage. We propose for the ESTABLISHMENT OF TWO SECTIONS OF LCFI IN GREAT BRITAIN, following the example of the experience of French Trotskyism in the 1930s, when Trotsky was still alive. Other experiences of the kind occurred at the IV International, which were equally brief. It is not an ideal formula, but it is the best status that we can propose today, to stop bleeding, to stop the course of defeat.

“This organizational proposition should not be identified as a centrist position in the face of the crisis in the British section of the LCFI. We understand that the wing led by comrade Gerry Downing, from suffering so much directly, after being the target of the biggest witch hunt (media and within Labour) that a small Trotskyist organization has ever suffered from British imperialism, ended up unconsciously adding to that the Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left and, finally, in the face of the resistance it encountered within the SF, it also finally ended a hunt within the SF itself, in favour of Zionism.”

The objective of this was to create conditions where the comrades who had been driven into political retreat by the defeats of the labour movement and the British left, could reconsider their course and return to revolutionary politics. Comrade Downing failed to do this, his positions matured for the worse, it turned out that his capitulation to Zionism and imperialism (including the accession of a member who accuses China of being imperialist) was not a point outside the curve, but a consolidated trend of breaking with Marxism and the anti-imperialist struggle of the oppressed peoples.

 Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Downing faction, or what remains of it, has followed through the logic of its retreat before the Zionist-fuelled pro-imperialist witchhunt in and around the British Labour Party, and broken with the LCFI.

Sound and Fury hides Contradictions

There is a great deal of sound and fury in the article announcing its final political break, filled with strident denunciations that have the character of excommunication reminiscent of the worst calumnies in the history of the workers movement. The immediate target is the faction in Britain which refused to break with the LCFI, which has maintained collaboration with international comrades, and whose politics are the same as those of Socialist Fight before the split. Such is the tone and content of the Downing faction statement, that it comes across as irrational and utterly self-contradictory. It appears to try to prove, at one and the same time, that the British comrades are both sympathetic to fascism (!) and at the same time opportunist leftists seeking a popular front with the liberal bourgeoisie against fascism. Our British comrades are condemned as ‘popular front’ supporters for condemning the US bourgeois state for not shooting dead armed white supremacist fascist insurrectionists. This is strange behaviour indeed for supposed sympathisers of white supremacist fascism, most normal people would think.

The positions of TF comrades are public (and can be seen here: “LCFI sections’ statements on Trump’s Washington Beer-Hall Coup” https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-trumps-washington-beer-hall-coup/ and here: “Bourgeois Democracy and Workers Democracy”  https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/bourgeois-democracy-and-workers-democracy/) and have been the subject of public controversy between sections of the LCFI, (which can be seen here “Differences in the LCFI”  https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/differences-in-the-lcfi/).  Unless Gerry is driven by blind hatred, it is impossible to understand how he came to the conclusion that an organization that demands the violent crushing of fascism is sympathetic to fascism. It doesn’t make any sense.

 Logically these two propositions cannot both be true; they are utterly at odds with each other. As Trotsky once said of other self-contradictory accusations, “Even slander should make some sense!” Therefore, we must look deeper into the political statement of the splitting faction to discover what is driving them.

Their long document cannot explain the rupture, it tries to justify how the SF ended up where it is, that is, tries to defend the indefenisble by manufacturing for example the category of “fascist antifascist”.

The real essence of what is driving the Downing trend is not difficult to discern. It clearly bears out the diagnosis in the resolution quoted above, that the Downing faction “ended up unconsciously adding to this Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left” and held “finally also a hunt inside the SF itself, in favour of Zionism”. The contradiction was that even while it was doing that, this faction affirmed publicly that it still supported the LCFI and our aspirations to a consistently anti-imperialist, revolutionary internationalist programme and position. Even today, as it splits away to the right, it tries to restate this with the following appeal:

“… we appear to still have close agreement on other issues like the anti-imperialist united front and identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power which is the central enemy of the world working class and oppressed. We are prepared to form united fronts with any forces we see as moving to the left without forming any form of long-term propaganda blocs with them. With others where we have a closer agreement, we will seek to unify our forces.”

https://socialistfight.com/2021/02/15/socialist-fight-breaks-with-the-lcfi/

Throughout this year, March 2020 to almost March 2021, in which the LCFI published several international anti-imperialist statements “identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power that is the central enemy of the oppressed and working world class “, Gerry’s SF did not publish any, demonstrating that in practice he had already carried out the resolution that now formally communicates to us.

This orthodox-sounding verbiage is however mixed with a complete break from elementary anti-imperialism concerning Zionism. The slander of support for ‘fascism’ against our British comrades is in fact a defence of Zionism against the charge that it is politically similar to Nazism. But that is the position of the LCFI. The British LCFI comrades and the rest of the LCFI are united around the proposition that Zionism has great similarity to Nazism. The rump SF statement breaks from the politics of the LCFI when it says the following:

“There are Zionists who are fascists, and we will no-platform them like we will attempt to do to all fascists. But we will never equate racists in general with fascist racists. We distinguish between the racism of the oppressor and the racism of the oppressed, we distinguish between the fascist Zionism of the oppressor and the racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed, many of whom genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel.” (emphasis added)

ibid

The defence of Zionism is clear in the emphasised passage. It clearly states that, apart from actual fascists, who in Zionism are represented mainly by the Kahanist trend and other kindred spirits particularly among the armed settler garrison populations (which in total correspond to just over 600,000 settlers, less than 7 % of a population of 9.3  million people), that “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism” is the “racism of the oppressed”. In other words, among political Zionists, only the actual outright fascists who are prepared to openly break even with the ethnocratic Jewish ‘democracy’ that disenfranchises the Palestinian majority (more than half of whom are involuntary exiles) and install a far-right dictatorship over Jews as well as Arabs, can be said to embody the ‘racism of the oppressor’. For all the rest of political Zionism, the overwhelming majority, though it may be ‘racist’, is the ‘racism of the oppressed’. In effect, this defines Zionism as a form of the nationalism of the oppressed, and excuses its racism as driven by oppression and ‘fear of the return of the Holocaust’. This is an appalling apologia for Zionism and completely at odds with the anti-imperialist politics of the LCFI.

It is also completely incoherent. If Zionist Jews were not an oppressor people, how could the fascist trend among them act as oppressors? Ideologically fascist though they might be, if the population upon which they rested and among which they swam were not in a position to oppress another people, then how could they constitute ‘the racism of the oppressor’? To be an oppressor, you have to be in a position to actually…. oppress! The reference to ‘racist, apartheid or liberal’ Zionism “of the oppressed” can only be a reference to Israeli Jews themselves, as such apartheid-type features (it is worse than that!) enforced by Zionism are internal to Israel. Justifying again the unjustifiable Gerry created the category of the “poor and oppressed Zionist-racist-liberal-defender-of-apartheid”.

A clear break of today’s pro-Zionist SF with the anti-Zionist SF of 2018

This is also completely at odds with the position of Socialist Fight prior to the split. In September 2018, when Labour adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism whose mendacious ‘examples’ include an anathema on comparisons between the Zionists and Nazis, Gerry Downing himself denounced this:

“The Socialist Fight Group condemns the adoption of the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and all its examples on 4-9-18 as a shameful capitulation not only to the Zionist lobby led by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the other right-wing Zionist organisations, also led by the Blairite right wing of the Labour party and the mass media but to capitalism/imperialism itself. The capitulation of Jeremy Corbyn, the even more grotesque capitulation of John McDonnell and the majority of the Labour NEC is an ominous portent of how they would withstand the far greater pressure a leftist Labour government would come under.

Labour now once again puts the rights of an oppressor people clearly above the rights of the oppressed.” (emphasis added).

https://socialistfight.com/2018/09/11/ihra-one-complete-picture-of-counterrevolution/

This was a revolutionary condemnation of Zionism as the nationalism of an “oppressor people”, in comrade Downing’s words. Now, erasing with his elbow what he himself wrote with his hand, Gerry says that Zionist ‘apartheid’ is ‘the racism of the oppressed’.

This is clearly a break with the militant anti-Zionism that drove Socialist Fight when it was a unified revolutionary group. Indeed, Gerry Downing’s new formulation that distinguishes between the ‘fascist Zionism of the oppressor” and the “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed”, clearly puts Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud in the camp of the ‘Zionism of the oppressed’ since they have not fought to establish a fascist regime over Israeli Jews.

SF banner after protest against pro-NATO fascism in Ukraine

Apparently for Gerry the “apartheid” imposed by Israel is ‘the racism of the oppressed’; Israeli Jews who perpetrate crimes against Palestinians are to be in some way excused, as their crimes are the crimes ‘of the oppressed’ – like when enraged Palestinians commit some indefensible act, presumably. This means that ideologically, comrade Downing has gone over to the Zionist camp and his entire polemic against the LCFI and its British section should be basically regarded as a Zionist tirade against anti-Zionists. Given this, it is necessary to take with a pinch of salt his assertion that:

“Of course, we defend all third world semi-colonial governments and peoples against imperialism, despite fundamental differences with them on their reactionary positions and actions against the working class and oppressed in their own lands, as we have continually made clear. We certainly do not endorse their anti-Semitism.”

op-cit “breaks with the LCFI”

This is thrown into severe doubt by the above. If the Zionist State of Israel has its “victim side” and embodies some sort of ideology of the oppressed, held by people who “genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel”, and if this should be dignified as a response to oppression, then there is every reason to fear that in future conflicts in the Middle East, this faction will go further in its capitulation to Zionism and imperialism. If Zionist Jews are ‘oppressed’, then who are their oppressors? Obviously, they must be non-Jews. But the only non-Jews they live in proximity to are the Arabs. So how could comrade Downing with this position defend the Arab peoples of the region, including the Palestinians, against the ‘oppressed’ Zionist Jews?

Since they have no actual oppressors, the ‘fears’ of the ‘return of the Holocaust’ by Zionist Jews which comrade Downing uses to justify their support for Israel, is a paranoid racist fantasy similar to the fantasies about ‘white genocide’ that white nationalists use to justify racist repression against non-whites. It is this confluence that explains why Zionists and white nationalists are so frequently close allies and co-thinkers these days. As was embodied in the Trump administration that included both.

“Anti-Imperialism”, or the IHRA?

What also casts doubt on comrade Downing’s commitment to consistent anti-imperialism is the fact that the only experienced cadre has still has in his camp, from the United States, considers China to be an imperialist rival to the United States, and rejects the position of the LCFI that regards China as former workers state whose capitalism still is in a subordinate position to imperialism and should therefore be defended against imperialism. While this comrade was in the earlier period a sympathiser of Socialist Fight from overseas the ambiguity of his relationship with comrade Downing in particularly in hindsight had an element of ‘rotten bloc’ about it. Today, when he is comrade Downing’s vocal public supporter the rotten bloc is starkly visible. 

The allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ bandied around by comrade Downing obviously concern not merely the positions of the British LCFI comrades, the current Trotskyist Faction, but also the identical programmatic positions argued in the LCFI Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank, (https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-on-the-israel-trump-annexation-plans-in-the-west-bank/) from last summer. The definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ comrade Downing uses here is not the one in standard dictionaries, such as the Oxford English one (“Hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”) or in Spanish (“Ideología o actitud contraria al pueblo judío o a su cultura” or in Portuguese “Ideologia ou atitude contrária ao povo judeu ou à sua cultura.”, which both translate as “Ideology or attitude contrary to the Jewish people or its culture.”) It is rather one which equates criticism and analysis of Zionist racism, and of those trends in Jewish history and politics that gave rise to it, with anti-Jewish racism.

It is clear from this that Gerry is edging closer and closer to the definition, or rather the accompanying examples, put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This is a Zionist initiative that has signed up 34, mainly imperialist and allied countries, and attempts to so re-define anti-Semitism through a series of amalgams equating the struggle of Palestinians and their supporters against their oppressors, and the Zionists’ international bourgeois supporters, with Nazi Jew-hatred.

Comrade Downing’s tirade draws spends a great deal of its space in a diversionary sleight of hand attack against Gilad Atzmon, when in fact the real target is our comrades’ own views. Atzmon is just a decoy or imaginary enemy to justify his new positions. The purpose is transparently to make it appear that Atzmon’s erratic views are our own. Atzmon is a confused but interesting Israeli exiled writer and musician who has long been a hate figure of Zionists and the left-wing elements most reconciled with Zionism.

The tirade draws heavily on mendacious, falsified and/or disingenuous denunciations by two notorious Zionists, Dave Rich and Alan Dershowitz, the latter a close associate of Donald Trump, which our British comrades refuted at length a year ago. The repetition of this material, parrot fashion by comrade Downing is an application of the techniques of hasbara, methodical Zionist and Zionist-inspired smear campaigns in which comrade Downing seems to have taken up an apprenticeship.

Like many of the most alienated anti-Zionist elements in and from the Middle East, Atzmon has confused views on WWII and is soft on the ‘enemy’ fascist-led imperialism to the US-led Allies, ,  which is obviously very wrong and capitulates to an imperialist faction. The only thing unusual about him is that he is of Israeli-Jewish, not Arab origin. That is the form that the common sentiment that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ takes in the Middle East, going back at least to the early 1960s when Gamal Abdul Nasser gave speeches denouncing the Nazi holocaust as “the lie of the six million”; one of numerous similar statements from political figures in the Arab/Muslim Middle East ever since the Nakba. This, not Zionist racism, is an ideology of the oppressed in the Middle East context. Although we understand its causes, we do not share this holocaust denialism, nor do we deny the Armenian holocaust practiced by the Ottoman government (for such things we condemn Zionism which systematically ignores or minimises genocides suffered by other peoples, from Congo to Rwanda, to justify its contention that the ‘unique’ Nazi Judeocide justifies Zionism).

The irony is, given the smears of anti-Jewish prejudice in this polemic, that Atzmon is being targeted by some who claim opposition to Zionism, because they are offended by such views from a Jewish person particularly. If he were Arab, and a Hamas supporter for instance, the leftist elements would be reluctant to attack him because of his oppression, and the Zionists would not pay him so much attention either – he would be just one of many. The motive for the anathema against him, and anyone who refuses to join in with it, is not anti-racism – he is after all being accused of ‘racism’ against his own origins – but communalism, punishing a ‘traitor’ who has gone over to the Arab ‘enemy’ and shares some of the alienated consciousness of those he has embraced.

To those on the left who are soft on such communalism, merely refusing to join in these denunciations and recognising that some of Atzmon’s material on Jewish identity is worthy of study by Marxists, is grounds for excommunication. Comrade Downing’s embrace of Zionist communalism is crystal clear given his new position that most Zionism is an ideology “of the oppressed.” For him, his emerging support for Zionism takes precedence over the duty of Marxists to examine and analyse all available factual material, and sources of interpretation of that material that could provide insights for materialist understanding of the subject matter. This is an attack on the Marxist method in the service of Zionism.

It is also an implicitly an attack on Abram Leon, from whose materialist analysis of Jewish history our analysis of Zionism and the Jewish question is derived and extends. We regard him as an exemplar of the progressive, vanguard role that Jewish militants have played historically in the labour, socialist and communist movement, and particularly of a militant who broke from Zionism to genuine Marxism. Far from being hostile to Jewish militants, we seek to win over such Jewish anti-Zionists to follow in his footsteps and embrace our genuine revolutionary internationalism.

A left turn followed by a step back.

It is important to document how this political break came about. The LFCI comrades’ resolution on the split in Britain put forward an important part of the history:

“Our international was founded in April 2011, following the international declaration: ‘In Libya’s unconditional defense against imperialism! Military United Front with Gaddafi to defeat NATO and the «rebels» armed by the CIA! No confidence in the Tripoli government! Only through the armament of the whole people and the permanent revolution can we win this fight! ‘. At that time, during the widespread and uncritical accession to the ‘Arab Spring’, we were the only international group to defend Libya from the barbarism that it was condemned, with a declaration signed by organizations from three continents. The shape of the logo we use today, was born that year, at the suggestion of companions from South Africa. In January 2017, we greatly expanded our range of relations and international allies, in Great Britain, USA, Argentina, Greece, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India. In addition to expanding our contacts internationally, we have broadened our sympathy nationally for our positions with various activists, activists and groupings in Great Britain and Brazil approaching our positions. This occurred in a period of general setback for international Trotskyists through the declaration ‘The liberation of Aleppo and the tasks of the anti-imperialist and socialist revolutionaries.”

Imperialist terror murders Qadaafi in Libya: LCFI came together to oppose this

The LCFI aspires to re-create a genuinely revolutionary, Trotskyist international movement. We do not have a ready-made claim to ‘continuity’ with previous revolutionary organisations as do many fundamentally flawed currents on the existing pseudo-Trotskyist left. What we do have is a determination to consistently oppose imperialism, and to critically re-examine and transcend the errors and capitulations that have weakened our movement and led to its fragmentation and decline. We are composed of comrades who have rejected the flaws of the pseudo-Trotskyists, and under the impact of recent world events have moved leftward from existing traditions and backgrounds on the left.

In Britain, the emergence and evolution of our section involved comrades moving to the left who had tried out a variety of organisation and traditions and rejected them as fundamentally inadequate. Comrade Downing, who founded the group, had emerged from the Healy tendency and been through the British United Secretariat, before rejecting their galloping capitulation to imperialism and seeking to create a new tendency. He had more than one false start in this regard, on more than one occasion breaking with people who in his eyes did not measure up.

It is no accident that our section in its most prominent and successful period became known as the most radical opponents of the imperialist exploitation of the Arab Spring against the Arab peoples, particularly over Libya and Syria, and the most consistent and sharp opponents and critics of Zionism and the numerous trends on the pseudo-revolutionary left who express their softness on imperialism in part through their softness on Zionism.

We were a synthesis of militant anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist revolutionaries from varying backgrounds, and it is no accident that we adopted an understanding of Zionism that actually addressed concretely how a component of the main imperialist hegemon, the USA (and to a lesser extent its European allies), has an overrepresented component of its ruling class which overlaps with that of Israel, meaning that there is a degree of complexity and contradiction in the relationship of US imperialism with what has become its most important imperialist ally in the Middle East region.

This analysis was developed by a comrade whose formative background was in the Spartacist tradition, who like many militants had experienced confusion, had engaged with a variety of trends looking for solutions and was in the process of seeking a better orthodoxy in joining SF in 2015. This consistently Marxist position on Zionism was eagerly embraced by comrade Downing as soon as he encountered it and became not only the position of the group itself, but the position we became best known for.

Including within the left and Labour Party milieu, as demonstrated by the fight we put up against being witchhunted out of Labour Against the Witchhunt by fearful left-reformists and centrists at the beginning of 2018, which attracted national attention. Comrade Downing’s appearance two years earlier on the BBC Daily Politics to defend our position had also given us prominence, and this raised it further as we evidently had not been cowed by the Zionist and soft-left denunciation.  Although we were put under pressure by these things, it was a healthy pressure which attracted serious militants to our group, including some dedicated Palestinian supporters of Middle Eastern/Asian background, and a group of militants formerly from the Moreno tendency in Liverpool who evidently saw the group as attractive in part because of its prominent, strident anti-Zionism and the polarising effect that gave rise to, with whom we fused in the Summer of 2018.

The leftist position of Gerry Downing, his Marxist anti-imperialist anti-Zionism, was sustained by the leftward movement in British society epitomised by the rise of the Corbyn movement which really rose to its peak over the whole period of 2015 to late 2018, encompassing the General Election of June 2017 when the Labour Party, under the most left-wing leader in its history, with a public record of outspoken opposition to predatory imperialist wars and defence of the rights of the Palestinians and other victims of imperialism and Zionist crimes, achieved the biggest political swing toward Labour since 1945 and robbed the Tory Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary majority. This took place in a period of deeply contradictory, volatile politics in Britain involving left-wing resistance to a prolonged period of reaction and xenophobic politics brought about by previous betrayals of the Labour bureaucracy and its embrace of neoliberalism and predatory imperialist wars on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.

However, Corbyn was not capable of leading this left-wing movement, as was shown most extensively when the ruling class struck back and sought to derail it with its most potent weapon: the Zionist-inspired and implemented ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. It was Corbyn’s numerous capitulations to this Goebbelsian smear campaign, the throwing under the bus of numerous left-wing and anti-racist activists and militants by a leader whose strategy was to appease the racist-Zionist right, not purge them as traitors as should have been done, which gave the neoliberal right, increasingly led by their emerging standard-bearer Starmer (whose professions of loyalty were obviously mendacious), to dominate a weakened leader who had capitulated on everything from adopting the IHRA definition to throwing prominent leftists like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson to the wolves. The internal undermining and documented sabotage of the Party by the right, which went hand-in-hand with disturbing indications that the ruling class was instigating fraudulent and anti-democratic means to make sure a Corbyn government could not happen, created the conditions for the severe defeat of Labour in the December 2019 General Election.

Retreats, and the Basis for Future Advance

Comrade Downing’s abandonment of his revolutionary positions emerged over the Summer and Autumn of 2019 as it became clear that the Corbyn movement was in retreat because of the default of Corbyn himself. That was when comrade Downing began to retreat from SF’s positions on Zionism. But the floodgates really opened after Labour’s defeat and it then appeared that the comrade was a man in a hurry to renounce his past and regain ‘respectability’ among the reformist and centrist left. His outrage at the suggestion during the faction fight that supporters of the Zionist state really should not be in the Labour Party was a key indication of a latent political weakness that had not been properly addressed in the previous period. It was an indication of something of the social nature of the Labour Party itself, a party whose strident support for Zionism goes back to the 1948 Nakba and even earlier. It should be recalled that in 1944, four years before the Nakba had even happened, the British Labour Party conference passed a resolution that advocated:

“in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine.”

https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945Berlinv02/d1345

In fact, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn was something of an aberration. While he showed terrible weakness in the face of the inevitable counterattack, he nevertheless condemned the entire basis of Labour Party policy over this question for most of its history. Despite the courage comrade Downing showed in the period of Corbyn’s rise and leftward movement, when the counterattack came and politics in the Labour Party shifted rapidly to the right, he came under enormous social pressure from long-time associates and family members, and capitulated to it, attempting to take ‘his’ group with him in dictatorial fashion irrespective of the fact that many of the members had joined to fight against this kind of reactionary politics. This contradiction is what blew the group apart.

 The complete collapse of disciplined functioning of Gerry Downing, as the group’s founder, and the transparently bureaucratic and dishonest manoeuvring to try to get rid of the co-thinkers he no longer wanted, who comprised half the membership and the most active members of the organisation, were a sad end to comrade Downing’s trajectory as a revolutionary, and his collapse into an apparent rightward-moving centrism.

In the process of breaking with the LCFI

It is tragic that comrade Downing should end up doing this after half a century of struggle for a revolutionary Marxist position. We can only appeal to him to reconsider, objectively assess the situation, and realise that his current trajectory is the product of defeats in the class struggle over the last two years because of the political dereliction of Corbyn, the defeats of Labour, and the rise of the far right. Maybe the consequences of this break, which is his doing and which we did everything to try to avoid, will compel him to reconsider his rightward course and return to a revolutionary path. We hope so, though obviously that is his choice.  

 It is most unfortunate that this is how the previous, often politically rich and fruitful period of Socialist Fight during the 2010s and the Corbyn period has ended up, but it was the result of an opportunist impulse of leading comrades. We in the LCFI cannot live in the past; both our British comrades, and the tendency as a whole, regard this unfortunate event as at least the opportunity to draw some public lessons about this, not in terms of calumnies and abuse, but as a means to explain what has happened politically, to assist new forces to approach our Trotskyist politics and programmatic approach.

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