The Wages of Opportunism – Zionism, Centrism and Capitulation

By Ian Donovan

So Gerry Downing’s ‘change of heart’ on Zionism, leads to Tony Greenstein writing an ‘unsolicited’ letter of support for Gerry (see below) to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign executive, a melange of Abbas/Fatah supporters and treacherous Socialist Action bureaucrats who organise events featuring Zionist witchhunters such as Emily Thornberry (of Labour Friends of Israel), begging for Gerry’s PSC membership back.
Any revolutionary militant worth their salt, any real anti-Zionist, would find this a source of shame, not of pride.

Gerry Downing defends Marxism against Zionism on Daily Politics, March 2016

It signifies that Gerry is now housebroken, and to be considered on the road to becoming an integral part of traitorous social democracy.

Its good that Tony clarifies the nonsense Gerry has been spouting about my supposed ‘move to the right’ in the recent factional conflict in SF. Tony entirely accurately writes:

“However there is no doubt in my mind that Gerry has had a sincere change of heart as a result of a heated debate inside his own organisation.  I have written an article here for Weekly Worker and on my blog.  Whilst I certainly have criticisms of Gerry, I have no doubt that he is sincere in making a political break from Ian Donovan who has not had a change of heart.”

And his ‘change of heart’, i.e. his capitulation to Zionism, now makes him fit for the company of those who parley with the regime of Abbas, who tortures and murders Palestinian militants on Israel’s behalf, and of those who work with Emily Thornberry, the Zionist who tried very hard to bully the movers of the successful resolution on Palestine at the 2018 LP Conference which condemned the Nakba, into withdrawing it. But failed!

It is not difficult to imagine what Lenin or Trotsky would have said about such grovelling to class enemies!

What is also revealing is what is unspoken but clearly visible in Tony’s letter. Tony considers himself to be part of a common movement with Ben Soffa and all the other traitors and Zionist capitulators in PSC, and is fully aware that they are organically linked to supporters of ethnic cleansing like Thornberry and Vichy-like collaborators like Abbas’ Palestinian authority (to cite the late Edward W. Said). 

Tony sees himself as part of a common movement with those who collaborate with Israel against the Palestinian masses, and who work alongside those who defend the Nakba. His criticisms of them for these very things are really only platonic, as when push comes to shove he sides with them nevertheless. His ‘opposition’ to them is essentially fake, and an obstacle to a real, consistently anti-Zionist opposition to them emerging in the Palestine Solidarity Movement.

For him, to say that the many Jewish-Zionist bourgeois who concretely fight as a bourgeois faction/caste for Western support and endorsement of genocidal Israeli policies, are an independent factor and a social and economic formation that oppresses the Palestinians on ethnocentric lines, is a terrible crime, far worse than the Nakba, and fully entitles the pro-Zionist traitors at the top of PSC to exclude consistent anti-Zionists from their common movement.

He insists that:

“Until recently Gerry was of the view that there existed a trans-national Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie and that what is termed the ‘over representation’ of Jews among America’s billionaires and ruling circles accounts for the US’s support for Israel. His group, Socialist Fight, did not accept that the USA supports Israel because it is in its interests to do so”

Thus he asserts that such things as the US support for the blockade and slow genocide in Gaza, the annexation of Jerusalem and Golan, are in the rational interests of the USA, and to project that they may not be is ‘anti-Semitic’. It is undoubtedly true that that the United States imperialist bourgeoisie regarded it as in US interests to have an alliance with imperialist France during its period of colonial war in Algeria, but that did not extend to US endorsement of the French claim that Algeria was itself merely a province of France! To deny that Jewish-Zionist ethnic politics plays any role in the US endorsement of Israeli annexations and openly genocidal actions is simply to deny reality, and is untenable. It is itself an apologia for Zionism. 

Here we have proof that Greenstein’s ‘anti-Zionism’ is only skin deep, that for him, forbidding meaningful criticism of Jewish-Zionist bourgeois racism is far more important than any putative support for the Palestinians. Or to put it bluntly, for him also, despite his self-delusion otherwise, Jews are more important than Arabs.

The real social-imperialist nature of centrist gatekeepers like Greenstein is here revealed once again. They identify on communal lines with their ‘own’ bourgeoisie and ultimately regard themselves as part of a common movement with them. They police and ‘discipline’ the workers movement on behalf of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste, and define which ‘crucial socioeconomic facts’ (to quote Norman Finkelstein) would be Marxists are allowed to incorporate into their analyses.

This makes them a political agency of part of the class enemy. The classic role of centrism, and now Gerry has obtained absolution from Greenstein, his centrist confessor, along with the Sven Golly’s of this world who again, when push comes to shove, show their real affinity. His obcurantist, incomprehensible writing about philosophy, Neitzsche, Arendt, and all the rest of the irrelevant gibberish he has gone around trying to pick fights with people about, is a smokescreen aimed at fooling others, and perhaps even deluding himself, that he is not capitulating to the bourgeoisie and becoming just another one of its tame servants.

That is is all just incoherent posturing and pretentious psuedo-intellectualism is shown by the following passage in his latest obscurantist article, “Tony Greenstein’s revenge”, when he notes, accurately enough, that the pre-war surrealist artist Salvador Dali was sympathetic to fascism. He writes:

“Salvador Dali’s art is repugnant to all class conscious socialists; his enthusiastic support for the fascist Francisco Franco in Spain and Adolf Hitler in Germany makes it an instrument of human oppression and the impressionist school justly expelled him in 1934 because theirs was a revolutionary movement under Andre Breton.”


Quite why the whole of Dali’s art, as distinct from the parts of it that glorify Hitler and fascism, should be ‘repugnant’ to class conscious socialists is not clear, as an examination of the art of Breton and Dali would reveal a great deal of similarity, which you would expect as they were from the same surrealist, Dadaist school. But as with his philosophical obscurantism, art is of no real interest to Gerry here, as the elementary error in the above passage shows. For Breton and Dali were not ‘impressionists’ at all; they were surrealists.

Impressionists are a completely different school from the late 19th Century, typified by Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin, that specialised in depictions of reality as it appeared, as different from the disturbed imaginings of surrealist art as black is from white. How anyone can pontificate about art and make such an elementary error is just staggering!

This is not a polemic about art, just as Gerry’s material about philosophy is not really about philosophy, whatever interest he may once have had in the latter. It is about erecting a smokescreen to cover his rightward retreat into the camp of ‘respectable’ psuedo-Marxism that is acceptable to those who formerly witchhunted him when he adhered to our politics.

In the same article Gerry claims that failing to agree with his refusal to condemn the 9/11 attacks, which attracted the attention of Cameron, means that I agree with the third campist CPGB, which took no side when imperialism bombed IS beginning in 2014.

Completely untrue, as he well knows. The very first leaflet I produced after I was forced out of the the Communist Platform of Left Unity, in September 2014, was distributed on the anti-war demo on 3 October 2014, with the headline “Imperialist Hands off Syria, Iran, Iraq and Islamic State”. It stated:

“…the basic contours of a genuinely communist, anti-imperialist policy need to be spelt out now. This means that, in the face of an imperialist drive to destroy the Islamic State movement and re-establish the status quo, communists stand for the defence of the Islamic State, notwithstanding their brutal nature, insofar as they are able to mobilise any serious section of the Sunni Arab masses in struggle against an imperialist re-subjugation of these areas. If they refrain from such mass mobilisation, nothing can ultimately help them.

Obviously this means no support for Al Qaeda-style actions like bombings and massacres such as those that all sides frequently perpetrate in Baghdad, or even similar acts in imperialist countries. It would involve communist solidarity with a serious war of resistance against re-occupation. Indeed, only such solidarity would have any hope of breaking down the impotent rage at oppression that makes such Islamic radicalism  attractive to the youth. As opposed to more imperialist barbarism that can only feed more such desperately flawed ‘radicalism’.”

This is not remotely like the CPGB. But it does draw a clear distinction between support for an indigenous armed force among oppressed people resisting imperialism, and politically approving of atrocities carried out by such forces. It is simply wrong to support, or refuse to condemn, intentional atrocities against civilians even if the force that perpetrates them is also involved in a fight with imperialism. That was my position before I joined SF, and it is my position now, on all such actions no matter who carries them out. 9/11 was a deliberate attack on civilians as was the attack on the Stade De France by ISIS supporters in November 2015. I wrote the SF statement that condemned that attack specifically as a corrective to Gerry’s wrong position on 9/11 and he did not raise any objection.

Despite the headline “Imperialism’s Chicken’s come home to roost” which is an analytical point, the condemnation is clear:

“Socialist Fight condemns utterly the barbaric terrorist action carried out on Friday 13 November in Paris, which has left around 130 dead, and another 300 injured, 80 critically. These came only hours after other bloody actions targeting Shia Muslims in bombings in Beirut, where 41 died, and Baghdad, where 26 were killed.

“We condemn these actions as bloody crimes against the French, Middle Eastern and international working class, and indeed the civilian populations more generally. We extend our profound condolence, sympathy and solidarity to the families and friends to the murdered victims and the wounded.

“As Marxists we are totally opposed to methods of individual terrorism however ‘anti-imperialist’ the motivation of the perpetrators may be. The inevitable consequences of this is civilian casualties, intended or not. And the attack never weakens imperialism, it ALWAYS strengthens the repressive forces of the capitalist state against the working class and its aspiring revolutionary leadership. This attack in Paris is qualitatively worse than the Charlie Hebdo massacre because however misguided that was a least it was against targeted victims who they held to be in some manner, however distorted, responsible for the wars in the Middle East and North Africa. This attack was for openly reactionary motives specifically targeting defenceless civilians which can only result in increased Islamophobia and repression of the entire working class and further moves towards a police state.”

And a few month later in response to related events in Brussels, we wrote:

“Socialist Fight condemns the apparent suicide bombings at Brussels Zavateen Airport and the Maelbeeck metro station. These incidents are highly likely to be linked to the capture by the Belgian police of one of the chief suspects in the Paris massacre/shootings last November, where around 130 civilians were killed. It does appear from early reports that the death toll in both attacks is around 34, however it is quite likely that this could rise as more details emerge.

“Our attitude to these attacks is the same as for the Paris massacre…”

That again was my doing. And the Paris Massacre statement was before Gerry’s earlier refusal to condemn 9/11 became an issue in the Labour Party witchhunt. It is a principled Marxist position that has been held by me since around 1980 and never deviated from. 

But it has nothing to do with third campism. You can support military struggles against imperialism and condemn atrocities against civilians: the two go hand-in-hand especially when the forces involved in such conflicts with imperialism, are bourgeois, whether Assad’s forces or those of IS. One presumes that support for Assad against imperialism does not mean support for the many crimes of his regime against civilians (I mean real ones, not fabrications like Ghouta). Obviously support is extended despite such crimes, not to the crimes themselves.

Gerry’s nonsense about how I supposedly agree with the CPGB about IS is just another petty falsification to obscure the fact that it is he who has had a ‘change of heart’ and it now being taken in hand by gatekeepers like Tony Greenstein and Zionists like ‘Sven Golly’. The fact is that I have had no change of heart at all, as Tony rightly points out. I am still as militantly anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist as I was when I put out that leaflet, and when I joined SF.

Gerry Downing’s Introduction to Tony Greenstein’s letter to PSC on his behalf

Tony Greenstein

Thanks to Tony Greenstein for this unsolicited  letter in my support to Ben Sofa of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign against my suspension. Despite political differences on other important issues it was vert big if him to do so.

I had missed the original letters from the PSC on my expulsion but I can appeal to the PSC AGM next January, which I will do.

Tony Greenstein letter to Ben Soffa on behalf of Gerry Downing

Dear Ben

I have been sent a copy of a letter from you to Gerry Downing regarding his suspension from PSC. Perhaps I can comment?

In your letter to him you express doubt that he is in a position to accept the stipulation in 4.1 of the Constitution viz. ‘The aims of the campaign include the requirement to be ‘in opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice’.

Until recently Gerry was of the view that there existed a trans-national Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie and that what is termed the ‘over representation’ of Jews among America’s billionaires and ruling circles accounts for the US’s support for Israel. His group, Socialist Fight, did not accept that the USA supports Israel because it is in its interests to do so.

However there is no doubt in my mind that Gerry has had a sincere change of heart as a result of a heated debate inside his own organisation.  I have written an article here for Weekly Worker and on my blog.  Whilst I certainly have criticisms of Gerry, I have no doubt that he is sincere in making a political break from Ian Donovan who has not had a change of heart.

Gerry makes his own position clear here in a letter to WW of 29th February.

Gerry sent me a copy of your letter and although he did not make any request that I approach you I have nonetheless decided to do so.  I do not believe that Gerry Downing holds anti-Semitic opinions any longer (I have never believed he was, on a personal level, antisemitic) and I am happy to recommend that the Executive reconsider the matter and lift his suspension.

Best wishes


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