Racism and Socialist Fight: a Matter of Political Hygiene

The following letter was sent to the Weekly Worker in time for last week’s online edition, but was not published, in reply to Gerry Downing’s weak letter (see ‘Scurillous’ here) in the previous issue defending his comrade Gareth Martin against charges of racism. No doubt the editors did not consider concluding this exchange properly a political priority for them, which is comprehensible. However as a matter of political hygiene we consider that GD’s attempt to obsfuscate the truth about this should not go unanswered and so we are publishing it here.


Gerry Downing tries to deny that the abuse by Gareth Martin of our Middle Eastern comrade, his grotesque allegation that he supported imaginary murders of Jews in synagogues in London, was really directed at him at all. He foolishly asks:

“Look at the line of argument here and the ridiculous, demented non-sequiturs; how in the hell is it ‘a direct criticism of one of our Middle Eastern comrades’? Ah, you see, Gareth mentions London and the comrade he is debating with lives in London (he doesn’t), so he must be referring to him!”

Well our comrade considers that he lives in London, even if on the periphery and not inner London. And more to the point, it is clearly a direct criticism since it is a Facebook comment in which our comrade is tagged, and him alone. No one else is tagged. It is very clear that this comment was directed at him personally. We have screenshots of this Facebook exchange which we are quite prepared to produce before any reputable third party.

We also have screenshots of another Facebook exchange with another defender of Downing’s politics racially abusing our comrade, one Rob Lyons, apparently from North America, who lectured our comrade about a ‘worker’, from the same Middle Eastern ethnic group that our comrade comes from, in an even more obvious vein thus:

“If a [Middle Eastern] worker beats his spouse, then to his spouse he is a direct oppressor, but within the matrix of social relations globally, he is just another oppressed worker passing along his alienated state in the form of domestic violence.”

When our comrade protested that Lyons knew that he was from the same ethnic group that Lyons was stereotyping, and that this was racist innuendo, Lyons replied, tagging our comrade personally again:

“Get stuffed slimeball. I used an example I thought you could relate to given your experiences. Something real easy for you to understand. Obviously I over rated your intelligence. Truly sorry for that. But there is no colouring book to teach you how to draw inside the lines on this issue.”

The poisonous racial innuendo here is palpable. Yet when both the target of this abuse, and myself, protested about this and pointed out the obvious racist intent, we were both removed, and blocked, from the Socialist Fight Facebook group by the admin, Gerry Downing, and our comments protesting the racial abuse deleted. We have screenshots of Lyons’ comments which again are clearly tagged with the same of our Middle Eastern comrade here.

This is where the racism that lurks behind Gerry’s capitulation to Zionism becomes explicit. It is also borne out by his attempt to theorise why Gareth Martin should not be challenged for this innuendo-laden attack:

“Previously Ian’s ‘proof’ of his racism was a ridiculous biological-determinist theory: he is white and was born in South Africa, so this made him a racist and a supporter of Zionism, regardless of his proud record of fighting apartheid in South Africa since he was a teenager and his direct participation in the Anti-Nazi League and the Socialist Workers Party for 10 years from the mid-1990s, all the while fighting against Zionism and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.”

Even in the minds of ‘biological’ racists, there is no perceived difference between white settler types in Africa and the broader white population around the world. Gerry has invented a strange new concept here, even though he projects it onto me. My point is that Gareth’s attitudes reflect backward attitudes that he has not overcome despite being in essentially left-liberal, in practice reformist organisations like the social-chauvinist Anti-Nazi League and the SWP that I rejected from the left at the beginning of the 1980s. Presumably if that is his tradition then for Gerry he cannot have failed to overcome backward, racist views that come from his background at all. The fact that Gerry can make such an argument shows a degree of political degeneration.

As does his whole argument about my ‘biological’ hostility to Gareth’s racist backwardness. This is about backwardness from a cultural background, and applies not only to Gareth but to the dictatorial leader of the SWP, Alex Callinicos, who comes from a white settler aristocratic background in colonial Zimbabwe. Callinicos denounced Norman Finkelstein as providing comfort for Nazis in 1999, and now orders his SWP goons to bureaucratically harass pro-Palestinian militants who object to the presence of open Zionists in the SWP’s ‘Stand Up to Racism’ events. I would assert that this particular policy, which was not the policy of the SWP under previous leaderships, is a product of his personal regime in the SWP and Callinicos’s own politics and prejudices. But I’m sure that Callinicos, like Martin, will profess opposition to Zionism as well. It means nothing if his actions contradict that.

Gerry is in effect attacking me for ‘anti-white racism’, racism against myself, with this polemic. This is itself a racist, far right trope. ‘Self-hatred’ among groups that currently oppress others is always a far right trope, and this has particular relevance where Zionists and those who are soft on Zionism are involved. The campaign against Atzmon has much of the same character, nothwithstanding his confusion about history, which is shared by an enormous number of people in the Middle East who are faced with genocidal oppression at the hands of ‘democratic’ imperialism and Zionist Jews.

There is an element of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ in the politics of the Middle East. This has produced the paradox today where it is perfectly possible for someone to doubt the truth of the Nazi holocaust, and yet for their underlying, real motive, be a confused hostility to the racism that Arabs and Muslims experience today. And conversely, it is perfectly possible for someone to be completely in tune with the long established truth of the Nazi genocide, and yet to be a genocidal racist who defends the mass murder of Arab civilians. I judge people by their real motive and drives, not their confusions. So actually, the ‘anti-white racism’ trope that Gerry implies has much in common with the denunciation of Atzmon the Jewish-Israeli as an ‘ Jewish anti-Semite’ and ‘self-hating Jew’. This is also a far right trope and it is no surprise that Gerry in defending the latter comes to advocate the former. It is indicate of an extreme contradiction in his politics that a left-wing militant of Trotskyist views should come to echo such tropes.

Gerry absurdly claims that to denounce Gareth for racially abusing our comrade is anti-Semitic, and regrets that we are allowed to criticise him. That is in tune with his behaviour in trying to silence our criticism on every forum he controls. But when he tried to do that on an International forum of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, this was countermanded by International comrades. The contradiction Gerry has is that our ‘expulsion’ is not recognised internationally by our common International comrades, though they are compelled to recognise that Gerry’s political retreat into pro-Zionist chauvinism and bureaucratism have led to the creation of two groups, both of whom are recognised as LFCI groups by the international comrades. That puts Gerry in an extreme contradiction with not only workers democracy but also the democracy of the LCFI when he denounces others for allowing us to argue our views.

Communist Greetings

Ian Donovan

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, and LCFI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.