Gerry Healy and the World Jewish Conspiracy
Sean Matgamna, SO 127, 14.4.83
Newsline has continued in its ridiculous campaign of bluff and bluster against the BBC Money Programme. But still, litigious though it is, it has not got round to suing the BBC.
Many - solicited - letters from members and supporters have been printed. The campaign continues against Socialist Organiser, linked with the BBC according to the well-tried Stalinist technique of the "amalgam". Example from a piece by long-standing member Alex McLarty: "Trade unionists! Members of the labour movement! Be warned! Depending on its substance a small dose of poison can do a lot of harm. What is the substance of Matgamna and 'Socialist Organiser'? We know enough now. Time may tell even more".
Much of the denunciation of SO is extremely shrill and hysterical, lynch mob stuff.
It is also extremely sad. People write expressing their faith in the charlatans who put out Newsline. Letter after letter testifies to real sacrifices and devotion. People who couldn't possibly know the secrets of the autocratic and conspiratorial leaders of the organisation write to testify from their own experience of struggling to raise money for the paper that it could have no financial link with Libya. Playwright Tom Kempinski writes in ringing tones, "We are not bought" - rhetoric that rings pathetic and false in the circumstances.
As false has have always been the hopes and wishes of the many fine revolutionaries who have devoted themselves to Healy's "machine for maiming militants". We reproduce the editorial in which they responded to our comment last week.
Newsline's editorial uses the code word "Zionist", but in fact it is talking about a conspiracy of Jews which runs, they say, from the centre of Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet, to the commanding heights of the BBC, all the way through to Socialist Organiser. If a Jew becomes "the youngest ever chairman" of the BBC, what else can it be but a "Zionist" conspiracy?
Pre World War Two antisemites explained communism and finance capital alike as different aspects of a single World Jewish Conspiracy. So now do these petrodollar anti-Zionists of Newsline depict "the centre" of Thatcher's government and Socialist Organiser as secretly linked and bonded - despite ocean-wide class and political differences - by a hidden network of "Zionists".
"Zionism" here is not a political reference meaning those who support the right of Israel, or a modified Israel, to exist. That would include the overwhelming majority of the people of Britain.
There are Zionists and Zionists. There are Zionists and Jews. It is the latter who are the conspirators. Even an anti-Zionist Jew, this racist logic says, will have ineradicable loyalties and allegiances more basic than politics: some people are congenital "Zionists".
SO is opposed to Zionism? It supports the national rights of the Palestinians? SO advocates a secular democratic state in Palestine within which Jewish and Arab Palestinians could live as equals? Though rejecting with contempt the "socialism" of the "Green Book", it would support Libya against an imperialist invasion?
That's just a front. Don't the communists pretend to denounce the "finance capitalists" and the "finance capitalists" make war on communism so as to fool those on both sides who don't know there is an International Jewish Conspiracy? Thus Gerry Healy in his dotage seems to have rediscovered the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" - that forgery of the Okhrana, the Tsarist political police, which became a warrant for genocide against the Jews of Europe.
Newsline in effect defines Jews as "agents of Zionist imperialism" - which must be the very heart of imperialism if, as they say, its controlling tentacles reach secretly right into "the centre" of Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet. The Jews, it would seem, are now the international janissaries of imperialism.
How can the mutant remnants of what was once the most serious revolutionary organisation in Britain have come to this? For the last nine or ten years, the WRP has seen the world, and especially the international Trotskyist movement, mainly in terms of police "conspiracies" and the operations of "agents" and counteragents.
Vast amounts of newsprint, time and money have been given over to the search for the "conspirators" and "agents" who are the root of all evil in the world, and whose subterranean combats and manoeuvres seem in the WRP's eyes to have replaced the struggle of classes as the locomotive of history.
Add to this paranoid obsession Mr Healy's present "cupboard love" politics which puts Zionism and anti-Zionism at the centre of world politics - because to judge by all the circumstantial evidence, Libyan gold is at the centre of the WRP's survival - and the scenario more or less writes itself. The inbuilt logic of such "politics" takes over and takes off.
It easily becomes a matter of Jews - "Zionists" - against all the rest.
The racist logic breaks through in their account of the Money Programme's "witch hunt". Why is this the work of "Zionists"? Because a Jew is appointed chairman of the BBC? Because only "Zionists" are concerned with the Middle East? Because the Jewish Chronicle showed interest in an expose of people it must regard as at least potential pogromists? Of course, if the Jewish Chronicle was tipped off in advance, that is proof positive that "Zionists" were in control!
Or it is that all "witch-hunters" are Zionists? No: it is a view of the world in which the Palestinian question is the central pivot of the struggle of two basic camps, the imperialist and the "anti-imperialist"; which decrees that within the imperialist countries, "Zionists", linked by ineradicable ties to the arch-imperialism - Zionist imperialism - are the main enemy, everywhere.
Faced with an earlier left wing flirtation with antisemitism dressed up as anti-capitalism [the German socialist] August Bebel said that: "antisemitism is the socialism of idiots". WRP-style anti-Zionism is the anti-imperialism of idiots. And it is indistinguishable from antisemitism.
All Jews other than certain religious anti-Zionists and some revolutionary socialists do support Israel - that is, they are Zionists.
They are a people scattered through all segments of society. Seek evidence that there may be a conspiratorial network of Jews and you will find it - red Jews and Rothschilds, members of Mrs Thatcher's (or Ronald Regan's) cabinet and writers for SO. These links are the raw material from which theories about "Zionist conspiracy" can easily be spun.
But the only possible "rational" common denominator on which to base such a theory is "race" (whatever that may be).
The leaders of the WRP are people whose history must make them ashamed in some part of their minds about what they have become. So, cheaply, they warn that Mrs Thatcher, who now (they say) has Zionist conspirators at "the centre" of her government, may engage in antisemitic agitation. But they can't even disavow antisemitism without linking the Zionists to Hitler, saying that Hitler consciously and deliberately made forcible conversions to Zionism.
Morally outraged by Israel - and rightly outraged - the more emotional or "third worldist" left in Britain has sometimes tried to brand all Zionists, that is, the vast majority of Jews, as racists, and (especially during the ultra-left heyday of the early 70s) proposed to treat them accordingly. The slogan "drive the Zionists out of the labour movement" has been raised - it can only mean: drive the Jews out of the labour movement.
There is simply no way that this sort of anti-Zionism can avoid shading over - despite the best "anti-racist" intentions - into antisemitism.
Even if it were true that Jews who support Israel are racists, the evil consequences of left wing antisemitism would far outweigh any help it would give the oppressed Palestinians. But in fact it is hysterical and stupid to think that all Jews who support Israel are racists.
Most of them have the haziest notion of the history of Jewish-Arab relations in Palestine. They do have an understandably vivid awareness that six million Jews were murdered in mid 20th century Europe. Naturally they are inclined to,believe its official spokesmen.
Yet the recent outcry against the Begin government by millions of non-Israeli (Zionist) Jews and the vast demonstrations within Israel itself when the facts about Israel's treatment of Lebanon were made known, and it became impossible to shut out knowledge of Israeli complicity in the massacres, prove how far millions of Zionists are from being conscious racists. Most of them can be got to understand that the treatment of the Palestinian Arabs by the Palestinian Jews is a betrayal of the best traditions of the Jewish people.
But idiotic attempts to treat them all as part of a "Zionist conspiracy" can only convince Jews that in parallel to what they see as the Arab threat to wipe out the Jews of Palestine, those in Britain who talk of justice for the Palestinian Arabs are a crowd of loony future pogromists. And that won't help the Palestinian Arabs either.
The state of the left on this question is indicated by the fact that Ken Livingstone in the same issue of Newsline chattily adds his support to the idea that the Money Programme expose on the WRP was a Zionist plot. He hadn't then read the antisemitic editorial printed on the opposite page? What does he think of the editorial? Does he think we should just shrug and accept antisemitism as a feature of the far left?
Perhaps what the Ayatollah Healy has discovered in his political dotage is not the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" but the last will and testament of Joseph Stalin, who during his last years infected much of the Stalinist and quasi Stalinist left with his own ingrained antisemitism. At the time of his death in 1953 Stalin had set the stage for a purge trial of five "Jewish doctors" from the Kremlin's own hospital accused of plots, poisonings etc.
It was to have been the signal for a final act in the vast anti-Jewish campaign, legitimised as "anti-Zionism" which had raged in most of Eastern Europe and the USSR since 1948 - which for example, was a prominent feature of purge trial like that of Rudolf Slansky in Czechoslovakia in 1952. The trial of the doctors would have been the signal for the mass deportation of the USSR's Jews - and possibly for their annihilation.
Stalin's successors cancelled the trial, but antisemitism remains rampant in the Stalinist states.
When the WRP (then SLL) went Maoist for a year back in 1967 Mr Banda, now the WRP General Secretary, wrote that they would "march" even under the portrait of Stalin. Once again he is "marching" under the portrait of Stalin.
He won't write about it, but he is also uncomfortably close to marching under the portrait of Adolf Hitler.
Free speech for Zionists!
Unsigned [Sean Matgamna], Workers’ Action 77, 29.10.77
The National Union of Students Executive is to consider taking action against certain Student Unions in response to bans on college Israel Societies and/ or Jewish Societies.
Those who want to proscribe the Zionists from exercising free speech within student unions argue as follows: The Zionist state of Israel is based on racial criteria. It is a racist state in its constitution and its definitions of citizenship. Zionism established itself in Palestine in a racist manner (e.g. boycotts of Arab produce and labour by the Zionists) and with racist goals. The practice of the state of Israel since its inception has been racist.
Therefore pro-Israel propaganda is racist through and through. Any and every apologist for the existence of the state of Israel must take as a starting point the denial of any rights to the Palestinian Arabs
By logic Zionists, like other racists, should be denied the right to organise, recruit, and justify the crimes of the state of Israel.
But to establish the fact that Zionism is racist, a form of racism, does not completely describe the problem. For who are the Zionists in Britain?
The hard core Zionists with a firm commitment to Israel are the Jewish community.
In Britain in general, there is widespread sympathy with Israel and acceptance of the Zionist state. But in the Jewish community this amounts to complete identification. Apart from revolutionary socialists whose origins are in the Jewish community, there are very few Jewish non-Zionists.
This identification with Israel has its roots and motive force not in anti-Arab racism, nor in a thought-out programme of displacing the Palestinians, but in the fact that the Jewish masses in Europe have themselves been the victims of racist persecution. It was only during and after the Third Reich's "Final Solution" the terrible paroxysm of antisemitism that slaughtered six million Jews, that Zionism gained general acceptance among the European and US Jewish communities. Before that, the Zionist project to colonise Palestine had been a minority creed among Jews.
The identification with the Zionist colony and later the state established with US imperialist support was largely identification by those who escaped the Nazi holocaust with a Jewish state that claimed to be a guarantee that the ages-old persecution of Jews would cease as a Jewish "homeland" was acquired.
That this state was European and not Middle Eastern, that it was exclusively Jewish, no doubt made it easier for western Jews to identify with it; but these were not the essential starting points for them. Far from being conscious racists, most Jews in Britain are not even conscious of the racist basis of the state of Israel.
Zionism is inescapably racist. But to say that Zionists are racists who should be treated like the National Front is to miss the point that the hard core Zionists are Jews not motivated by fascist-type race hatred but by a wrong and misguided response to anti-Jewish racism.
The Jewish community which is the bedrock of Zionist support is not organised and kept together by this Zionism even. Still less is it a racist selection of people. Its collusion with Zionism is not the essential characteristic of the Jewish community
Of course Zionist Jews are responsible for themselves. Those who support the state of Israel are supporters of a racist state even if they have evaded the less acceptable facts about Israel's origins and its mode of operation in the Middle East in the past thirty years. As Zionists, they are still our political and ideological enemies.
That is quite a long way, however, from being the same as the National Front or other groups formed around fascist programmes and fuelled by race hatred.
Most members of the Jewish community can be reasoned with. The self-same consciousness of their own history that is manipulated by Zionism and imperialism leads many Jews to oppose those who are the organised racists in this country, such as the National Front. Even the conservative Jewish Chronicle said after Lewisham: "Not even the Mirror made the (to me) obvious point that, what ever their defects, the Trotskyists have the right attitude to the National Front and should not be left alone to stop its provocations". (Article by Philip Kleinman, cited in the anti-fascist paper CARF).
These Jews should be welcomed as allies in the anti fascist struggle, even while they give support to racist Israel.
The abstract logical chain - Zionism is racism and since racism must be denied free speech so must Zionism - leads to the suppression of the rights of a community which is itself still potentially threatened with racism. As the NF has grown it has felt more confident to express its antisemitism more and more openly. It cannot at all be excluded that the constant outpourings against "finance" capital (by which they mean Jews) will lead before long to violent attacks on the Jewish community
With extreme Zionist organisations such as Herut, which are overtly and aggressively racist against Arabs, direct action rather than de bate may be needed. But ordinary college Jewish Societies can not be treated the same way. A general proscription of Zionist meetings is an unnecessarily blunt instrument.
Their pro-Israel propaganda should not pass unchallenged, but there are many other ways to intervene and oppose it. Such interventions may well lead to violent incidents, as there are certainly thuggish Zionists who try to silence anti-Israel views. We should be prepared for that; but it is preferable to a blanket ban on any student society or group that is explicitly (Israel Societies) or implicitly (Jewish societies) Zionist.
Banned for being Jewish
Jane Ashworth, SO 216, 13.2.85
The Union of Jewish Students is still outlawed at Sunderland Polytechnic. Over 500 students at the almost 1000-strong general meeting voted last Friday to continue the ban.
Student Union President Andy Burke, who opposed the ban, now faces a no-confidence motion at the Executive and intends to take the whole matter to the union council later this week.
During the week leading up to the general meeting, the Union of Jewish Students organised a national rally in Sunderland which was leafleted by Socialist Students in NOLS (SSIN) supporters from the North East and Manchester.
Unfortunately, there is now the danger of the Polytechnic's management stepping in. The leader of Sunderland Council - Jim Slater - is a Zionist and a right winger who sits on the governing body. It is feared that the ban will be used to further erode the union's autonomy.
The ban has more serious implications than at first seems.
The confrontation at Sunderland started when the general meeting passed a motion saying that Zionism is racism. So it followed that the UJS, which is a Zionist organisation, should be banned.
But that simple equation is a nonsense in principle. Certainly Israel is a racist state, but to say that Zionism - the belief that Jews have a right to a state - is racism is ridiculous. The subsequent ban at Sunderland Poly is bordering on antisemitism.
Large numbers of Labour Party members are Zionists. And not just right-wingers. Tony Benn, Eric Heffer, Jo Richardson all support the continued existence of the state of Israel. In that, they are Zionists. Even though support for Israel is only one part of their politics, they are still Zionists.
Many of the comrades at Sunderland who voted to ban the UJS are also in the left of the Labour Party. Some will be supporting the campaign to pressurise Tony Benn to run against Kinnock for Labour Party leader. That Benn is a Zionist doesn't stop them supporting him.
So the only objection they can have is to organised Zionists. But that doesn't hold true either. Benn and Heffer are members of Labour Friends of Israel, so in that sense they are organised Zionists.
When it comes to wider politics, then the misguided comrades at Sunderland do not think that being a Zionist puts you beyond the pale. Zionism is not such an issue for them that everything else is always secondary. So to say that Zionism is racism, and to mean it, must lead the comrades to want to ban large chunks of the Labour left.
It would also mean that the comrades would want to ban a Labour Club which supported the continued existence of the state of Israel.
But Sunderland wouldn't carry that out. Certainly they may choose to leaflet or picket a Tony Benn meeting, but to talk about banning him is clearly ridiculous.
The only people Sunderland want to ban are the Jewish Zionists!
Don’t ban Zionists!
John O’Mahony [Sean Matgamna], SO 221, 28.3.85
Israel is a racist state, and Israeli atrocities such as its savage reprisals against Arab men, women and children in Lebanon are crimes against humanity.
Should anti-racists therefore treat Zionists - or all those who support the right of the Israeli state to exist - as racists? Sunderland Polytechnic's ban on the Union of Jewish Students has placed this issue at the centre of student politics. The issue goes way beyond student politics.
For almost all Jews - apart from revolutionary socialists and some religious zealots - are Zionists (at least in a broad sense), and therefore what is at issue here is whether or not socialists, and anti-racists, should politically persecute Jews.
The Sunderland student union ban was not the work of an unrepresentative minority. Over 1000 students attended its General Meeting last month which endorsed the ban on the Union of Jewish Students on the grounds that the UJS is racist because it is avowedly Zionist.
Nor is the majority attitude at Sunderland untypical of the Left.
Lenin and Trotsky never dreamed of 'banning Zionists' - though such a ban would have been a much less drastic matter in their day, when only an ideological minority of Jews were Zionists. They opposed Zionism politically: but, for example, the Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) movement continued to publish its paper in the USSR until 1927, the year the Left Opposition was outlawed.
Yet many today who consider themselves Leninists or Trotskyists support a ban on Zionists.
The intention of the Sunderland Poly students is to show the sharpest possible intolerance and hostility towards what they consider to be racism - and that is good.
What they have done. however, looks more like racism than the anti-racism they intend. They have targeted a community which for something like 1500 years has been the victim of Europe's ingrained, traditional Christian anti-Jewish racism. The greatest racist crime in recorded history was done foot by Jews but against Jews.
Israel exploits that fact, and uses the Nazi holocaust of six million Jews for self-
3justification and moral blackmail. But the holocaust does not thereby become some thing we can forget about or regard as an event of ancient history.
One of the tragedies of Israel, conceived as a refuge against antisemitism, is that its activities now combine with the effect in the West of the increased power and wealth of the Arab states to generate antisemitism dressed up in the garb of anti-Zionism.
Today the rump National Front has turned "left" and denounces "finance capitalism", which it says is 'Jewish capitalism'. They are poking around in the old vomit of the Nazis, who tried to appeal to workers by scapegoating the Jews for the crimes of capitalism. The new NF even denounces Israel and Zionism for their ill-treatment of the Palestinians.
The drive, motives and intentions of even the most confused left-wing anti-Zionist are of course radically different. Yet today justified hostility to Israel has pushed much of the revolutionary left to the edge of a new antisemitism, and some so-called leftists ("Newsline") over the edge.
It is not that they are supporters of Hitlerite racial mumbo-jumbo, or anything like that. But whatever the good intentions, there is no way that a ban like that at Sunderland Poly can avoid being antisemitic.
Zionism is part of the identity that modern history - centrally, Hitler's massacres, and the callous attitude of the big powers to those massacres and their survivors - has stamped on Jews. To differentiate between banning Zionists and banning Jews is no more than a thin fiction when the vast majority of Jews today identify with Israel and are supporters - active or passive, callous or guilty, blinkered and happy, or deeply troubled supporters - of the existing Jewish state. This is part of their identity as Jews, and not easily detachable.
The ban on Zionists is akin to the old proselytising Christian antisemitism which wanted to convert the Jews, rather than, like Hitler and the racists, to kill them, but was bitterly hostile to those who refused to change and be converted.
Jewish identification with Israel has its roots and motives not in anti-Arab racism, nor even in a thought-out commitment to displace the Palestinian Arabs, but in the Jews' experience of racist persecution, culminating in the Nazi slaughter.
It was only during and after the Third Reich's "Final Solution", the terrible paroxysm of antisemitism that slaughtered six million Jews, that Zionism gained general acceptance in the European and US Jewish communities. Before then the Zionist project to colonise Palestine had been a minority creed among Jews.
The identification with the Zionist colony, and later with the Israeli state, was identification with a Jewish state that seemed to offer a guarantee that the age-old persecution of the Jews would now cease.
Far from being conscious racists, most Jewish Zionists in Britain are not even conscious of the racist basis of the state of Israel.
They are not motivated by race-hatred, but by a wrong and misguided response to anti-Jewish racism.
Of course Zionist Jews are responsible for themselves. Those who support the state of Israel are supporters of a racist state even if they refuse to acknowledge the less acceptable facts about Israel's origins and its mode of operation over the past 40 years.
As Zionists they are our political and ideological opponents.
That is quite a long way, however, from being the same as the National Front or other groups formed around fascist programmes and fuelled by race hatred.
The attempt to treat Zionist Jews as if they were racists is both unjust and itself inevitably productive of racist attitudes, albeit wrapped up in good intentions.
Listen to the usefully crass "Newsline" editorialising in support of the Sunderland decision. Benevolently they conclude:
"We reject the spurious premise that all Jews are and must be Zionists, or that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. Sunderland Poly students are right to take a stand. We would support the formation of a Jewish Society which anti-Zionist Jews would be eligible to join. But a Zionist society is not acceptable."
Repeat: "We would support the formation of a Jewish Society which anti-Zionist Jews would be eligible to join".
Newsline of course goes in for childish pretences and denies that most Jews are Zionists. But its 'benevolence' shows how closely the attitudes of sections of the Left now parallel traditional antisemitism - in this case, the Christian antisemitism that wanted to convert the Jews.
One of the blocks to rational discussion of this question on the left today is that things are rarely spelled out. Even many who would not - for tactical or better reasons - ban Jewish student societies, share the notion that Zionists should - more or less - be treated as racists. Translated, that means that most Jews - those who cannot be persuaded to stop believing that Israel, or some version of Israel, has a right to exist - should be persecuted.
Some people define away the problem by pretending that antisemitism must be defined as Hitlerism or bigoted Christianity (and therefore cannot include them).
As if there haven't been many antisemitisms in history! Hitler's antisemitism was very different from the Catholic antisemitism to be found in old Austro Hungary or Poland: different again was the antisemitism in Poland in the 50s and 60s in which hatred of a Jewish Stalinist terrorist like party boss Beirut blended with the older Catholic strain. It was a section of a Stalinist bureaucracy, not an old ruling class, which offered its Jewish Beiruts (like Rothschilds in pre-war Europe) as scapegoats to deflect popular hatred.
Jews - rich and poor alike - have been the universal scapegoat. The basic culture of Christian society for two millennia has been saturated with the Bible's myth about who killed Christ.
If hypocrisy is a tribute paid by vice to virtue, mental dishonesty here is a device to keep the left from facing up to the implications of its attitudes. But the implications are there under the surface. And sometimes they show through - as in the ravings of Newsline about the "Zionist world conspiracy" or the crude drawings of "Zionists" in the style of traditional antisemitic caricatures of Jews published in the early Labour Herald. That these people are tolerated on the Left as part of the anti-Zionist common front tells its own story.
We should try to be logical - because that is the only way to be honest.
In face of the crimes of the Israeli state. perhaps we should say that the old antisemites had something after all? That is an abhorrent idea for almost everybody on the Left. Yet it is the right way to pose the question, because it honestly sums up what is implicit in the attitude that 'all Zionists are racists'.
After all, if the ban on the Jewish student society at Sunderland Poly is right, then we should not stop there. Other Jewish societies should be banned. Jewish community organisations like the Board of Deputies should be outlawed. Mainstream Jewish newspapers should be proscribed. And then what about the synagogues? Centres in each area of organised Zionist support for Israel? Why should they be allowed freely to meet like that?
If it is right to ban a Jewish student society, then it makes no sense to tolerate synagogues (unless they adhere to those small Jewish religious sects who reject the state of Israel).
It is, of course, this horrible logic that keeps sections of the Left from recognising the implications of their position. They also do not recognise the antecedents.
The truth - and many on the Left naturally find it unpalatable - is that antisemitism of various sorts has more than once found a home in the organisations of the working class and of the Left.
In the late 19th century many anti-semites identified Jews with money-grubbing capitalism, though most Jews were terribly poor. Areas of the labour movement became tainted with the sort of "well-intentioned″ antisemitism which Marxists denounced as the 'socialism of idiots'. Even the Austrian Marxists, faced with a powerful Catholic antisemitism, ostentatiously declared themselves "neither antisemitic nor philosemitic".
For many decades - and still to this day - antisemitism has been rampant in the USSR and in most of the East European Stalinist states. For example, in 1968-9 there was a thoroughgoing antisemitic purge in Poland.
In the later 40s and early 50s, a virulent antisemitism, thinly disguised as anti-Zionism, was poured out by the propaganda machine of the Stalinist governments and by the western Communist Parties.
On the eve of his death in 1953, Stalin was about to stage an antisemitic show trial of the 'Jewish doctors in the Kremlin'. Most likely this would have been the start of Stalin's version of Hitler's "final solution", mass deportation and slaughter for the surviving Jews of the USSR and Eastern Europe.
Today, overwhelming revulsion at the crimes of the Israeli state and sympathy with the Palestinian Arabs provide the emotional drive for the sort of ″anti-Zionism" which has antisemitic implications:
Some of the most fervent and confused left-wing 'anti-Zionists' are 'Third Worldists' or 'socialist bloc'-ists, seeing the world not in terms of class struggle but of "progressive" and reactionary national bloc, and of a division of the world into 'imperialism' and 'anti-imperialism'. In one way or another, they think in terms of national conflicts, national confrontations, national causes and national - not class - solutions. They see progressive and reactionary peoples, 'good' and 'bad' nations. It is a small step from all this to the idea of good and bad peoples.
Memories of fascist antisemitism stop such ideas from developing dearly. So the logic of such 'Third-Worldism' remains just under the surface.
Another root of "left-wing" antisemitism is the fact that many of the vociferous 'anti-Zionists' do not accept that the Palestinian Jews have any rights in Palestine. To put it at its weakest, it is usually not at all clear what positive alternative much of the Left is advocating when it denounces Israel and the crimes of its governments. All too often the implication certainly the logical and emotional implication - is 'Zionists out of the Middle East' (with the escape clause that this is nothing against Jews, because anti-Zionist Jews can remain). Many left-wing anti-Zionists operate not on class politics but on Palestinian or pan-Arab nationalism.
So believes that the solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict is the creation of a secular democratic state for Palestinian Jews and Arabs, with guaranteed rights for the Jewish nation in Palestine. (A small minority of SO supporters think that the only practicable solution is some rearrangement in two states. Jewish and Arab). The idea of the democratic secular state is widely accepted. But that part of it which says that the Jewish nation, too, has rights, is often downplayed. SO accepts it and means it.
We should denounce the crimes of the Israeli state. We should defend the Palestinian victims of that state and champion their rights But we must do so as working class socialists, not as Third Worldists or vicarious Arab chauvinists. We must not mumbling about our fine anti racist intentions, fall ourselves into a variant of the oldest racism in history.
Are nations guilty?
Jakob Taut, SO 229, 22.5.85
The recent banning of a Jewish student society at Sunderland Polytechnic - on the grounds that it is Zionist, and Zionism is racist - has stirred debate on the British left about Zionism, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism.
The West German left has also been pushed into controversy on these issues following a visit to the Middle East by a delegation from the Greens, the West German ecological party.
The leader of the delegation, Jurgen Reents, came out in favour of the Palestinians. But he put it like this: "German anti-fascists must stand for compensation to the Palestinians because they are 'victims of the victims of the Nazis'."
Responding to the official Israeli argument about the guilt of the whole German people in relation to the Jews, and the obligation therefore for Germans to aid Israel, he declared: "The Nazi atrocities and neo-Nazi daubings pale in comparison with the Zionist atrocities, and not only I ask myself, when will the Jews be given something to think about, that will stop them murdering their fellow-beings".
Pro-Israeli critics of Reents within the Greens responded in the same terms of collective national guilt: precisely as a German, one should not complain too loudly about what Jews do.
In the socialist paper Was Tun, Jakob Taut, a Marxist of German-Jewish origin now living in Israel, responded:
The Zionist idea of the solution of the Jewish question through the "gathering-together of the exiles" and their settlement in Palestine arose over 100 years ago in Eastern Europe as a consequence of a wave of anti-Jewish pogroms. The founders built Zionist organisations to realise this dream.
Eventually the trauma of the Nazis' annihilation of the Jews gave the idea and practice of Zionism a previously unknown force among the remaining Jewish communities and individuals. This, among many other factors, was a powerful impetus behind the setting-up of the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine in 1948.
Originally Zionism neither planned the driving out of the Palestinian Arabs nor intended to create a bastion for imperialism. Zionism was a product of the extremely tragic and complicated Jewish problem. If revolutionary Marxists nonetheless declare war on Zionism, this is primarily on the basis of two points.
Firstly... the concentration of some millions of Jews in Palestine/ Israel, where the original Arab population was mostly driven out in 1948-9 and 1967 and the same fate threatens the Arabs remaining there, cannot be a basis for overcoming the ghetto existence of Jews. A nationally or ethnically oppressed people has never been liberated by oppressing or discriminating against another people.
The situation of the isolation of Israel in the Arab region created in fact the biggest ghetto... We are thus anti-Zionists because Zionism inevitably, because of its principles, oppresses another people and can be no solution to the Jewish problem.
Secondly [the alliance between Israel and US imperialism against liberation struggles all over the world, including Central America.]
These two starting points of anti-Zionism do not mean, however, that every anti-Zionism is automatically "progressive" or "revolutionary". We seek neither to deny nor to gloss over the deeds of Zionism. But to compare those deeds with the Nazi atrocities is outrageous... The Nazis systematically, as an industry, murdered all the Jews they could get hold of because they were Jews, and wanted to exterminate the whole of world Jewry. In all the shameful record of Zionist "atrocities" there is - up to now, anyway - no trace of such behaviour by Israel against the Palestinians.
The demand to "give the Jews something to think about" would have gone well in the bloodthirsty Nazi paper Der Stürmer... To call the Palestinians "victims of the victims of the Nazis" and on those grounds to give them "humanitarian" aid from the descendants of the Nazis, is tasteless. Intentionally or not, "compensation" here substitutes for support for a people fighting for its rights.
Besides it is incomprehensible why the anti-fascist forces of today, who have nothing to do with the plight of the victims of the Nazis 40 or 45 years ago, should relieve their consciences by "compensation" to the "victims of the victims of the Nazis"... Are the Greens, or their spokesperson Reents, somehow of the view that they carry the guilt of their "elders" in their blood?...
If Reents wants to help the Palestinians as "victims of the victims of the Nazis" and not from internationalist solidarity with an oppressed people, like every other oppressed people whether it is a “victim of the victims of the Nazis" or not, then this betrays a nationalist narrowness. And nationalist narrowness is fertile soil for the example, above, of a reactionary anti-Zionism...
In conclusion, a personal note: the writer of these lines ... had to flee Hitler Germany, lived as a retired worker in Palestine (later Israel), and has been politically active there for 50 years. He was also seriously injured by Arabs in the Jewish-Arab "conflict"...
The intention "as a German not to complain too loudly" not only does not compensate for the crimes of the Nazis against the Jews, but shows cowardice and lack of principle. As a victim of the whole complex I am of the view that both the Nazi crimes and international and regional Israeli policy - without in the least equating the two - can and should be sharply condemned and fought by Jews and Germans and all other people.
Distorted ideas of national "honour or dishonour" unfortunately hinder the vitally necessary international action to prevent the destruction of human civilisation, which the Israeli regime, at least objectively, is helping to pave the way for.
The left and antisemitism
Sean Matgamna, SO 265-6, 3 and 10.4.86
The WRP split wide open last October, and now there are two organisations calling themselves the WRP.
One, led - perhaps nominally - by Gerry Healy, the dictator of the old organisation for 3/4 decades, resumed publishing a daily paper, “The Newsline", at the beginning of February. The second WRP, which seems to contain all the other prominent leaders of the old organisation - the Banda brothers, Cliff Slaughter, Tom Kemp, Bill Hunter, etc. - now publishes a weekly, the Workers Press.
The Newsline group is indistinguishable from the WRP of the previous decade except that one more conspirator and enemy is now added to the long list of its devils - the "Banda-Slaughter clique". For the Newsline group all the old lunatic certainties - like the dogma that the miners did not suffer defeat in 1985 - remain fixed and the dialectical prophet Healy is still in his place in the firmament.
The Workers Press group is the interesting WRP. For many weeks now they have given over a large proportion of the paper to a free discussion of some of the issues thrown up by their break with Healy. They have a long way to go yet before they will have worked themselves clear of Healyism, and it is not at all obvious that they will arrive at coherent or stable revolutionary socialist politics as a result of their political reappraisals.
The pressure on them, and the temptation, must be to sink into a lowest common-denominator of "kitsch-Trotskyism" - that is, "Trotskyist" forms filled with the current, often populist, fashions and enthusiasms of the broader left.
Those who were prominent leading members of Gerry Healy's WRP still maintain the transparent fiction that "they didn't know" about Healy's misdeeds. On the other hand, it must take a great deal of courage for those of them who spent decades inside Gerry Healy's "machine for maiming militants" even partially to confront their own past and set about radically reassessing it.
That they are trying to do that testifies to a continuing devotion to the socialist goals they must have thought they were serving during all their years of moral, intellectual, political and physical thraldom under the unfettered rule of the brutal and sadistic bully Gerry Healy. Old-timers like Bill Hunter, politically eclipsed and silenced for a quarter of a century, now seem to be playing a prominent role.
In a curious way what is happening to them resembles what happened to thinking members of the British Communist Party in 1956-7 after Khrushchev denounced Stalin at the so-called 20th Congress of the CPSU in February 1956 and thereby blew the lid off the Stalinist parties, putting everything up for reassessment. And as a matter of fact some of them went through that experience as CPers in 1956-7 before making their way to a sort of Trotskyism.
The discussion pieces published by Workers Press have included a letter by SO's editor John O'Mahony which asked for clarification on the Workers Press group's attitude to such things as the libel case the Healyites brought against SO. The Workers Press group itself is now facing a barrage of legal actions by the Healyites - actions designed to drive them out of business.
One very important issue raised in response to John O'Mahony's letter is the question of the antisemitism of Healy's WRP. In 1983 SO published an article by John O'Mahony accusing the WRP of blatant antisemitism, and now Charlie Pottins, a Workers Press supporter and also a prominent member of the Jewish Socialist Group, has re-raised this question in Workers Press.
He accuses O'Mahony of "smearing the Party as 'antisemites' and even 'pogromists'" (Workers Press, 8.3.86). Such "vicious slanders and incitements" are not "honest polemics", he insists.
In fact in 1983 it was Charlie Pottins who wrote the three-page Newsline reply to O'Mahony's SO article, lending his name as a prominent Jewish Socialist Group member to cover for the Healyites' antisemitism.
Now this is a very important question. It can be easily demonstrated that the Healyite WRP was and is indeed blatantly antisemitic. But if that were all there was to it, then it might not be worth returning to the subject now.
The fact is, however, that the explicit antisemitic ravings of Healy's WRP are no more than an extreme and open expression, in (as we shall see) language and forms close to those of traditional antisemitism, of ideas which are implicit in the fervent "anti-Zionism", the strident insistence that Israel must be destroyed, common to much of the left.
To go over the edge into more or less explicit antisemitism the Healyites needed only to add to the common left anti-Zionist demonology their own characteristic paranoia and a mercenary desire to get into step with the most extreme anti-Israeli Arab chauvinism.
While it would be libellous to identify the "anti-Zionist" left with the antisemitism of the Healyites, it nevertheless seems to us that what the Healyites made of the anti-Zionist demonology which they share with much of the left (and until not so long ago with SO too) holds an accurate mirror up to that ideology,
The Newsline editorial [reproduced elsewhere in this pamphlet] was not just something that can he shrugged off as a peculiarity of Healy's crackpot WRP. On the same day that the editorial appeared, and side by side with it on the same page, Newsline carried an interview with "Red Ken" Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council. In that interview Livingstone - who now considers himself a candidate to become leader of the Labour Party - chattily agreed with the interviewer that, of course, the item in a recent BBC Money Programme exposing the distribution of Libyan money to political groups in Britain, and in the first place the WRP, had been inspired by "the "Zionists" to discredit the WRP.
Livingstone was then a joint editor of Labour Herald - a publication set up by Healy's WRP for Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight and technically edited by Steven Miller, a member according to Workers Press) of the Central Committee of Healy's WRP.
Livingstone did not demur at the antisemitism of the Newsline editorial. SO publicly asked him to say where he stood on it: "What does he think of the editorial? Does he think we should just shrug and accept antisemitism as a feature of the far left?" (SO 14.4.83).
Livingstone never answered explicitly - but he continued to collaborate with the WRP and appear on its platforms at public meetings for two years longer. In its own way that was a pretty clear answer.
Such tolerance of Healy's antisemitic ravings tells its own story.
It would be wrong and unfair to hold the Workers Press group responsible for the Healyite editorial (though one still finds some echoes of its ideas in WP - see below). Reflex self-defence, such as Charlie Pottins', is humanly understandable and may prove to have no political significance - even for Pottins himself. The Workers Press group may well choose to cleanse itself of this most filthy part of Healy's legacy too.
I take it up here not to try to brand the Workers Press group with the Healyite editorial but because of the general importance of the issue re-raised by Charlie Pottins.
Though Healy has now gone yet deeper into the isolation of his own political sewer, the question of our attitude to the Jewish state and our political programme for the Middle East - which Healy solved by merging pseudo anti-imperialism with vicarious Arab chauvinism into something close to Hitlerite antisemitism - remains a major one for the left.
The first part of this article deals with Healy's WRP. The second, next week, will deal with the serious left and Israel.
Charlie Pottins says it is just a smear to accuse Healy's WRP of antisemitism.
What are the facts? Healy's WRP did publish undisguised and unmistakable antisemitic material, as I'll now prove. As well as the particular record of the WRP, I think much that an entire broad spectrum of the revolutionary, "Trotskyist", left says about Israel and "Zionism" is implicitly antisemitic. I'll separate the two issues out.
On Saturday 9 April 1983 Newsline's editorial ("This Morning") appeared with a small strapline in the top left hand corner "From Socialist Organiser to Reagan and Thatcher" followed by the main headline, across the column: "The Zionist Connection".
The strapline summed up the editorial's thesis: there is an international Zionist conspiracy stretching from Ronald Reagan's cabinet, through Mrs Thatcher's Downing St, all the way to Socialist Organiser!
The editorial began:
"A powerful Zionist connection runs from the so-called left of the Labour Party right into the centre of this government in Downing St. There is no difficulty whatever in proving this".
Evidence? "Mr Stuart Young, a director of the Jewish Chronicle" has been appointed "the youngest ever Chairman of the BBC". "He is the brother of Mr David Young, another Thatcher appointee, who is chairman of the Manpower Services Commission... This is the key organisation the Tories are transforming into a corporatist 'front' [Newsline's quotes] to mobilise jobless youth from 14 years upwards into a slave labour body to break trade union wages, safety procedures and working conditions". "The TUC and Labour chiefs have accepted these appointments" of the Zionist Young brothers ″without a murmur of protest".
Yes, but what is special about the Young brothers as distinct from any other Tory pigs? Why is it essential to give the job of organising slave labourers to David Young as opposed, say, to Norman Tebbit?
Following immediately after the last quote comes Newsline's answer
"The Tories know they can rely totally upon Zionist imperialism [sic] to produce the most hated reactionaries" for use in such filthy work. But the Tories have other goals too. They can turn to their own use the reasonable hatred people will feel against these "Zionist imperialists", "in order to transform the situation at a later date into a pro-fascist antisemitic pogrom against all the Jews in general".
There follows a paragraph in bold type intended to illustrate the last point but which is sheer gobbledegook. Zionism and Hitler agreed to let rich Jews leave Germany on condition that they become Zionists. Today the Tories "know they have a powerful antisemitic trump card up their sleeves, to replay..." Dastardly Zionist imperialists like the Youngs - i.e. politically prominent Jews - are helping them prepare it.
In what way do the Young brothers especially represent "Zionist imperialism"?
That's not clear, but in the context the answer can only be that they are Jews and that any Jew in any similar position is necessarily a link in the chain through which Zionist imperialism interlaces itself with the other imperialisms - which the editorial will later strongly suggest, it guides and may even control.
"From the support and advance publicity which the Jewish Chronicle gave the BBC's Money Programme the reactionary Zionist link was clear for all to see [sic]. But it also stretches through Downing St channels right into the White House and President Reagan".
Naturally any Jewish Chronicle interest in an organisation it knows to be funded by Libya is proof positive that the WRP, Libya etc. are victims of an international Zionist conspiracy.
Now the editorial goes off on another tack.
US provocation against Libya "raises in its sharpest form the central political question". Do "Trotskyists" support Gaddafi's "régime" [sic] against US imperialism on principle, or seek neutrality between US imperialism and Gaddafi? Newsline lies that Socialist Organiser is neutral
And Socialist Organiser supported the "Zionist-sponsored Money Programme". Now we come to the knot-tying exercise - "Here from SO is unqualified support for the work of Thatcher's appointee as chairman of the BBC" who is also a director of British Caledonian Airways (eh?) and the British Overseas Trade Group for Israel.
So it is all clear. They needed to put in a Jew as chair of the BBC to get the Libyan gold item into a little early Sunday evening programme! And of course only Jews backed by the Cabinet could organise this attack on the WRP.
Newsline continues: "SO has landed itself right bang in the middle of Thatcher's hand-picked Zionists as an outright supporter of their policies of witch hunting the WRP and the News Line for our principled stand against imperialism and in support of the Libyan masses [sic] under their leader Muammar Gaddafi". Gerry Healy obviously thinks that Thatcher has set the Jews on him!
"The question of the hour, we repeat, is the pro-Zionist policies of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations".
So who is in charge here? Zionism? Or Washington and London? Which is dog and which tail?
We shall see. But the author has more to reveal. He knows or senses something special about SO that explains how SO fits into the "Zionist connection".
"In the background of the Socialist Organiser one can detect a powerful current of anti-Arab racism - also shared by Reagan and Thatcher. That is the substance of their support for the Money Programme..." By contrast. Newsline "unhesitatingly supports the Libyan and Palestinian people and its leadership". Yes. And against what exactly do they need support? "Against the nuclear war plans of Reagan, Thatcher and the Zionists in their campaign to destroy all national liberation movements in the Middle East. Socialist Organiser has joined the class enemy". We are probably making our own small nuclear device in a cellar somewhere in London as our contribution.
Finally comes the editorial's punch line and finale. "The Zionist connection between these so-called 'lefts' in the Labour Party right through to Thatcher and Reagan's White House is there for all to see in its unprincipled nakedness".
Now the writer of that editorial could be briefly dismissed as a nutcase - albeit an antisemitic nutcase. Petty personal paranoia oozes out of it, interwoven with the grand historical paranoia of the various world Jewish conspiracy theories with which the editorial aligned itself. If a Jew becomes chair of the BBC, then what else can it be but a "Zionist conspiracy" calling on the aid of the prime minister to fix up for a rather mild item on the WRP to be broadcast on a low-audience early Sunday evening television programme. If the WRP is feeling persecuted, why it must be "the Zionists".
Why was the Money Programme's alleged "witch-hunt" the work of "Zionists"? Because a Jew is chair of the BBC? Or did the WRP notice what might be a Jewish name credited for part of it? Or is it because only "Zionists" are concerned with the Middle East? Because only "Zionists" exhibit the sort of powerful current of "anti-Arab racism" that the sensitive and omniscient "one" who wrote the editorial could detect in the background of SO? (There are people with a flair for detecting these things, you know...)
Is it because the Jewish Chronicle showed interest? Interest in an exposé of people it must regard as at least "potential pogromists" (to quote what I said in the 1983 SO article).
The Newsline editorial is the work of a writer who feels himself to be surrounded by Jews - Tory "Zionists", Reagan "Zionists", SO "Zionists". Perhaps his buried conscience is troubling him.
But the small-beer paranoia of one who needs to believe that Thatcher had to appoint a Jew chair of the BBC to secure the very tame revelations of the Money Programme should be separated out from the picture of the world which is painted. It is a very familiar picture.
The Newsline editorialist theorises along the well-worn paths of classic antisemitism, such as that embodied in the Tsarist secret police forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (1905) - the book that has rightly been called a warrant for genocide against the Jews of Europe under Hitler.
What the editorial asserts is that there is a world-wide "Zionist" conspiracy linking and bonding people who are politically millions of miles apart, from members of Reagan's government to the centre of Mrs Thatcher's cabinet, the commanding heights of the BBC and all the way through to... the publishers of Socialist Organiser.
And what links these seeming polar opposites? "Zionism" and "Zionist imperialism". But Zionism here is a transparent code word, and plainly the writer is talking about a conspiracy of Jews - a conspiracy of political opposites who can nevertheless conspire together in the interests of "Zionist imperialism" because they are Jews.
Who are the "Zionists"? For Newsline the Zionists are all Jews who do not accept the proposal to smash and dismantle the Israeli state and to replace it by a Palestinian Arab state in which Jews are promised individual though not national rights - in other words all Jews except a few revolutionary socialists and a few of the ultra-religious.
"The Tories know that they can rely totally upon Zionist imperialism to produce the most hated reactionaries..." Newsline in effect defines all Jews as "agents of Zionist imperialism" (or, to put it at the mildest, it assumes the right to so define any hostile Jew it can identify in any place of prominence within the capitalist system).
In this picture Zionist imperialism is no small or secondary power. Israel is not merely what it really is, a mere regional sub-imperialism with special features. "The question of the hour" is not US imperialism, or the domination of a large part of the world by Stalinist totalitarianism: it is the subservience of the US to "Zionism", "the pro-Zionist policies of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations".
"Zionist imperialism″ must be the very heart of imperialism, whose controlling tentacles reach secretly right into the centre of Mrs Thatcher's cabinet and into Reagan's too.
The Jews, it seems, are now the international janissaries of imperialism and - the logic is inescapable - possibly imperialism itself is only a projection of the Jewish drive for world domination.
Now there are Jews - or if you like "Zionists" - in bourgeois cabinets, perhaps in some politburos still, in the BBC and in SO. The Jews are a people scattered through all segments of society and throughout the world.
Seek evidence that there may be a conspiratorial network of Jews, and you will find it - red Jews and Rothschilds, members of Reagan's and Thatcher's cabinets and writers for SO. These "links" are the raw material from which theories about "Jewish" or "Zionist" conspiracies can easily be spun.
But - given the vast political gulf separating those linked together in the Newsline editorial - the only possible rational common denominator on which to base such a theory is race (whatever that may be).
Of course not all the "Zionists" are imperialists. Some of them are socialists and call themselves Trotskyists, like SO. They too are part of the conspiracy - and to judge by all the attention we were being given, a very important part of it. This is the proof of the vile racist basic structures and logic embedded in that editorial.
There is a parallel if not identity with Jewish world conspiracy theories popular before World War 2 (and still virulently alive in Eastern Europe). The Hitlerites and other antisemites used to explain that both communism and finance capital - those seemingly implacable enemies - were really different aspects of a single world conspiracy. coordinated by the "Elders of Zion" and directed against the German nation, against "Christian civilisation", or whatever.
Likewise the Newsline editorial portrayed the centre of Thatcher's government and SO as secretly linked and bonded - against the WRP and the Libyan and Palestinian peoples - by a hidden network of "Zionists".
But SO is opposed to Zionism (if that means Israeli chauvinism or Jewish exclusivism)? It supports national rights for the Palestinians? Though contemptuous of Gaddafi's claims to socialism, and of much of his hollow anti-imperialism, SO would defend Libya against an imperialist invasion? Why, all that is just a front, a mere sham division of labour among the conspirators.
Didn't the pre-war communists pretend to denounce finance capital and the finance-capital police shoot the communists in pre-war Germany? It's just a show to fool those who have not heard about the international Jewish conspiracy.
You could object: isn't the asserted common thread political Zionism? Isn't it a case of making Israel and hostility or friendliness to Israel the measure of all things? Isn't it a matter of starting with the Arab-chauvinist picture of Israel and reading everything off negatively from that?
No: Zionism here is not a political reference. Today "Zionism" commonly means pro-Israeli sentiment of one sort or another. It includes the overwhelming majority of the people of Britain. If political Zionism is the point, then adding a Zionist Jew to the cabinet is to add nothing, as all the cabinet members are Zionists anyway!
There are Zionists and Zionists: there are Zionists and there are Jews. Plainly it is the Jews who are the core conspirators and who make up the special "Zionist connections".
The implication is inescapably this: that even anti-Zionist Jews like the SO writers the Newsline writer had in mind will have ineradicable loyalties and allegiances more basic than politics. These are the conspirators: some people are congenital "Zionists" whatever their politics.
(And such ideas have not all gone with Gerry Healy. In his recent long article on the history of the Fourth International Michael Banda ascribed alleged errors by the movement over Palestine in 1947-8 to the "Zionist" proclivities of Ernest Mandel. What is he talking about? There was no serious dispute in the FI on this question in 1948. Ernest Mandel played no notable part in discussing the position on Palestine in 1947 or 48. There is no political reason to link Ernest Mandel with Zionism in 1948 or 1986 except by way of the underlying thought that he has a "Jewish" name, therefore is - or may be, I don't know - a Jew.)
l submit that whatever Charlie Pottins may say, the charge of overt, blatant antisemitism is one that the Healyite WRP has to answer to, and that one of the clearest examples of it is this editorial. The writer sub-consciously (I assume) found himself pencilling in the outlines of the world view enshrined in the Protocols of Zion theories. He fills those outlines, to be sure, with fervent though incoherent and false “anti-imperialism"; but then the Nazis and other antisemites used to get very angry at the crimes of capitalism - what they called, in scapegoating fashion, Jewish Capitalism.
How did the WRP arrive at such a position? There are reasons peculiar to the WRP and reasons which the WRP has in common with many "Trotskyists".
Though Healy's WRP has gone further into explicit antisemitism than anyone else on the left, because of its leaders' paranoia and the malignant influence of the petrodollar brand of anti-Zionism, I think that the fundamental cause of this degeneracy is the mistaken position on the Middle East which the Healy WRP and the present one share with much of the left (and until recently with SO). As I'll prove below, much of the left has Arab-chauvinist and not working-class politics on the question, though for good anti-imperialist reasons and from the fine impulse to champion the defeated and oppressed Palestinians.
But first let us get out of the way what was specific to Healy's WRP in generating that editorial.
From the mid-'70s or earlier the WRP saw the world and especially the international Trotskyist movement, mainly in terms of police "conspiracies" and the operation of "agents" and counter-agents.
Vast amounts of money and time were given over to the search for the "conspirators" and "agents" who were seen as being at the root of all evil in the world, and whose subterranean combats and manoeuvres sometimes seemed in the WRP's eyes to have replaced the struggle of classes as the locomotive of history.
You can find large numbers of individuals in the labour movement who will never be politically rational again after an intensive course by Mr Healy on world history and politics for the last 50 years as a spy-hunt.
Add to this paranoid view of the world Healy's financial links with Gaddafi and Iraq, etc., which put Zionism and anti-Zionism at the centre of world politics because Libyan and Iraqi gold was at the centre of Healy's survival, and the scenario virtually writes itself.
There is more to it than that, though. There is the effect of an inbuilt "Pabloite" tendency in the WRP to see the world in terms of the struggle of two basic camps.
This view arose first as the basic pattern of a world divided between the Stalinist states and the capitalist. But over the years it has shifted - and not only for the WRP - to mean imperialism and "anti-imperialism".
During the Falklands/Malvinas war most of those calling themselves Trotskyists accepted even the butcher Galtieri who ruled bourgeois (and indeed sub-imperialist) Argentina into our "class camp".
In the view of the world developed by the WRP under the influence of paranoia and petrodollars, the Palestine question came to be seen as the central pivot of this struggle of the two basic camps, the imperialist and the anti-imperialist. The Arab bourgeoisies, what ever their "faults" and "limitations", were in the "anti-imperialist" camp - ours.
Now if the Palestine question and "Zionism" is the pivot of this world struggle between two basic camps, then I suppose it does make a sort of twisted sense to think that within the imperialist countries the "Zionists", linked by ineradicable ties to the arch-enemy, the very core of imperialism - Zionist imperialism - are the main enemy, everywhere. As we saw above, the Newsline editorial even defined London and Washington politics by their relation to Israel, not the other way round. This was no slip: it fits perfectly into the picture.
In one sense therefore the world view held by the WRP - and not only by the WRP - implies and demands antisemitism. What is remarkable is not the editorial but that the basic Trotskyist and socialist conditioning of Healy has kept open antisemitism partly at bay, relying on such little mental tricks as the transparent pretence that "the Zionists" are only a few super-villains and not most Jews.
Writing soon after World War 2 in one of the essays collected in "The Non-Jewish Jew", Isaac Deutscher reported that he had found rampant antisemitism and open hostility and contempt for the Jews among British army officers guarding Jews in the displaced persons' camps of Europe.
The DPs had survived Hitler and now - Britain having forbidden Jewish migration to Palestine, and the doors being closed elsewhere too - they were told that they had to stay in or return to their countries of origin. For most of them that meant return to virulently antisemitic Poland. Their wish was to get to Palestine.
Deutscher commented that it was the tragic fate of the Jews, even after the holocaust that engulfed almost six million of them, to exist still in popular consciousness as the embodiment and personification of lucre and dirty money.
Not only in popular speech, where a mean or tight person may be called (and not necessarily with conscious malice) a "Jew", will you find the Jew used as a symbol of money and capital in their dirtiest functions. You will find that even in the writings of Karl Marx, who spoke often in the brutal language of 19th century national and racial stereotypes but was surely free of anything we would call racism.
Before Hitler sections of the socialist movement too identified the Jews with money and capital, and accepted Jews - rich, poor and destitute alike - as a representative and symbol of the things they were fighting against in capitalism.
A "socialist", anti-capitalist, antisemitism was a living current in or on the fringes of most European socialist and labour movements. "Rothschild baiting" merged with popular Christian antisemitism, which was often, as in Central Europe, quite fierce. For example, faced with a Christian antisemitic crusade, the Austrian Social Democrats - whose leader Victor Adler was a Jewish atheist - ostentatiously declared that they were neither anti- nor philosemitic.
Prominent British Labour leaders supported the 1905 Aliens Act passed in Britain to keep out Russian and Polish Jews. In the published correspondence of Frederick Engels with Karl Marx's son in law Paul Lafargue you will find Lafargue expressing enthusiasm for the socialist "potential" of the quasi-fascist and antisemitic Boulangist movement of the late 1880s and Engels reprimanding him, affectionately but sharply.
Against this once quite important current in socialism, Engels (or was it the German socialist leader August Bebel) launched the slogan: "antisemitism is the socialism of idiots".
Today this sort of antisemitism exists widely in the far left, slightly transformed - now the Jew in his guise of the "Zionist" has come to symbolise racism and imperialism.
"Zionism" - which though the precise meaning of the word is no longer clear must include most Jews - has entered the consciousness of large parts of the left as another word for the worst form of imperialism and racism. Our attitude to it should be little different from our attitude to fascism. The prevalent programme on the left for dealing with it is to ″destroy Zionism", that is, destroy Israel.
Is this accurate? Is this reasonable?
The Israeli state has committed and commits great wrongs against the Palestinian people. Israel could only come into existence at all by displacing the Palestinian Arabs and then by defeating the various Arab armies which tried to conquer and overrun the Jews of Palestine in 1948. In the course of the 1948 war vast numbers of Palestinian Arabs fled the Jewish-occupied territory or were driven out.
Israel wound up with more of Palestine than the UN had allotted as the Jewish portion, and the UN was already generous, giving the Jewish one-third of Palestine's people much more than half its resources. And in 1949 Israel joined together with the Arab state of Transjordan (now Jordan) to divide up what was left of the territory allotted by the UN to the Palestinian Arabs.
After 1948 the Israeli state systematically robbed Palestinian Arabs within Israel of their land. Israel is a regional sub-imperialism allied to US imperialism. Since the 1967 War Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza, acting as a brutal colonial power there. Israel recently invaded Lebanon.
There is much for socialists to criticise and condemn in Israel, and indeed most far left socialists are outspoken in their criticism and condemnation.
There is also much to condemn in all the other states of the Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, etc. Both Iran and Iraq continue to wage barbaric war on the Kurdish nation. Jordan in 1970 and Syria in 1976 subjected the Palestinian Arabs under their rule to mass slaughter. The Christian Arabs in Lebanon have done likewise. In addition much of the Arab world which surrounds Israel is in the grip of a resurgent Islamic fundamentalism which threatens to throw its society and culture back to the Middle Ages. The religious barbarians who rule Iran leave socialist observers little room for pretence about the consequences of resurgent Islam when it has the whip hand.
Yet socialists - or at any rate most "orthodox" Trotskyists - are surprisingly reluctant even to fundamentally criticise the Islamic states and brand them as reactionary. Some of them - and not only Healy's WRP - sometimes accept some of their bourgeoisies into our "class camp". Much of Ernest Mandel's "United Secretariat of the Fourth International" continues to see something "progressive" in Khomeini's Islamic revolution. Where the Iranian oppression of the Kurds is objected to, for example, the press of the section of the USFI led by the US SWP talks about "errors" and "mistakes″ of the revolutionary regime.
The contrast with the left's attitude to Israel could not be sharper.
It is, as we shall see, often wrapped up in seemingly reasonable proposals like creating a secular democratic state in Palestine, but, put starkly, the far left's programme for Palestine is that "Israel must be destroyed".
Now this is a unique programme: the destruction of a state and the radical alteration of the population of that state's core area (the pre-1967 Israeli borders). From this everything else follows.
The programme is made to appear not unique by identifying Israel with South Africa. But that is an utterly false comparison of an organic society, made up of all classes and not essentially dependent on exploiting a submerged population, on one side, and on the other a society in which the white population are an exploiting caste dependent for what they have on the submergence and helotry of a numerically much bigger black population.
Whatever similarity in political military techniques there may be between South Africa and Israel, they are radically different societies. Israel was given its character by the Zionists' resolute refusal to exploit Arab labour and their drive instead to replace it. Whatever one thinks of the left Zionist colonists' "Jewish labour only" policy it was the opposite of that mass exploitation on which modern South Africa was built. The exploitation of Arab labour from the occupied territories since 1967 has not fundamentally altered the character of Israel in this respect.
But, whatever about the comparison with South Africa, don't the crimes of Israel brand it as something specially abhorrent and therefore justify the programme of destroying the Zionist state? Doesn't the fate of the dispossessed Palestinian Arabs make any other programme than the destruction of the Jewish state inadequate if justice is to be done?
The proper socialist answer is no. To answer yes is to take up the goals of Arab nationalism and chauvinism, but most of the left does answer yes.
This is the dominant, all-shaping fact on the far left: that the left supports the destruction of the state of Israel - not merely its defeat in this or that battle where such defeat might be desirable on the issues, but the destruction of the core pre-1967 Jewish area as a territory where the Palestinian Jews can congregate as a compact national mass
From that everything else follows. It only takes a twist of Gerry Healy paranoia or the touch of the petro-dollar to bring up the antisemitic logic.
Uniquely in the whole world, the left thinks that in the Israeli Jews, it confronts a "bad" nation which can not be reformed or modified, not even by its own proletariat - unless they abandon their national identity and the national territory where most of them were born - and which must be destroyed. In this unique case, unlike all the others created by the complicated and immensely tragic events of the last 40, 60, or even 80 years (and for what people were those years more tragic than for the Jews?) the left takes - its stand on a historical-reversionist, roll-history-backwards position. The position is inseparable from Arab revanchism and Arab chauvinism.
In part one of this article I proved that Gerry Healy's WRP was rabidly antisemitic. I asserted that the basic reason for this - to which Healy added paranoia and the mercenary desire to earn Arab petrodollars - was the WRP's support for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel by its Arab neighbour states, a position which the Healyite WRP and the present one share with much of the left.
It follows, therefore, that much of the left is - though repudiating the paranoid ravings of a Gerry Healy - implicitly antisemitic. I will now substantiate and justify what I said about the broader "Marxist" and "Trotskyist" left...
Israeli chauvinism once rejected, the Middle East reality allows of only two possible or imaginable solutions to the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine.
Either drive the Jews out; or accept that a Jewish nation has, despite the understandable Arab resistance, come into existence, and must be accepted as having rights, in the first place the right to exist as a nation in Palestine.
The programme of driving out the Jews means continuing to try to do what much of the Arab feudalists, bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and working class have been united in trying to do for at least five decades. The latter option must mean compromise over the disputed territory, recompense for the Palestinian Arabs, and a comprehensive peace in which Israel's right to exist with agreed borders (not necessarily the present ones) is not challenged militarily.
At a later stage in the peaceful development of the region the integration of the Jewish state into a Middle East federation would be posed. Exclusivism would break down as the barriers between the formerly warring nations have partly broken down in Europe over the last four decades.
It seems to me to be no part of a socialist solution to national conflicts like that of the Jews and Arabs in Palestine to advocate the destruction of one of the warring nations. The socialist programme in such a situation is for compromise, compensation, reconciliation.
But isn't there a third alternative - the secular democratic state! No, there isn't, because - as we shall see - it is unrealisable in reality and the slogan functions in politics as a propaganda auxiliary for the drive out the Jews position.
Of course the idea of solving the terrible national conflict by simply enfolding, intermeshing and merging, as equal citizens, the hostile nations who compete for the disputed Palestinian territory is an attractive one, and all the more seductive because there is no other solution that even appears to do justice to both sides.
But it is nonsense. The idea that you could integrate any other two nations - say France and Germany - in the territory occupied by one of them would be dismissed as ludicrous, even given the fading in the last decades of much of their old animosity. In Palestine the proposal for a secular democratic state amounts to a proposal to so enfold two nations, peoples who have related to each other with the most bitter and merciless war for half a century and more. As a practical proposal it is a utopian absurdity. National identities and conflicts will not be overcome or superseded historically in anything like that way.
More than that. It is inconceivable that the Jews would agree to dismantle their state in return for a promise of equal citizenship. So the road to the secular democratic state lies inescapably through war and full-scale conquest of the Jews - after which the victorious armies (of Iraq, Syria, Iran?) will gallantly establish and protect the democratic rights of the Jews as individuals (rights their own citizens do not have now) in a Palestinian Arab state.
In reality such a conquest would be resisted to the death by the Jews, and the idea of such a conquest is in practice inseparable from a proposal to drive out the Jews or massacre them.
The secular democratic state is far more attractive and internationally "saleable" than the programme of driving the Jews into the sea that Yasser Arafat's predecessor Ahmed Shukhairy used to advocate in the 1960s. For many people the "secular democratic state" slogan also represents a different intention and aspiration. But in practice it comes down to the same thing. It cannot but come down to the same thing, because it cannot be done by agreement. It differs essentially in being a more useful propaganda tool.
So the secular democratic state is in fact a proposal to destroy the existing Jewish nation and at best to grant equal citizenship rights to those Jews who survived being conquered and wanted to remain in an Arab state.
But - so many say - if the Jews reject this proposal of equal citizenship in a secular democratic state, then they are demanding to retain intolerable privileges and therefore they deserve what they will get. The choice will be theirs, and the responsibility for what happens theirs.
But this is a-historical moralism; moreover it takes as its premise, as something to be taken for granted and beyond discussion, a stark denial of any national rights for the Jews in Palestine. It demands of them that they do what no other nation has ever done, and what no people extant will ever do - submit to the forced dissolution of their own national community and surrender the protection of their own state.
For the Jews this would involve additionally putting themselves into the hands of those they have been fighting for 40 years and more - people in whose own states minorities like the Kurds (or Palestinian Arabs) are habitually repressed and routinely butchered. Yet if one questions the sense of proposing to the Jews that they agree to secular-democratic-state individual citizenship status when in fact none of the Arab states are fully secular or at all democratic, then no doubt that is anti-Arab racism.
That, I think, is a fair account of the reasoning one finds on much of the "Marxist" left. It is a series of moralistic demands cut loose from any consideration of how the world works, and addressed as an unique ultimatum to the Palestinian Jews - a series of demands that it would be impossible for serious people to make without the prior unquestionable assumption that the Jewish nation does not have the right to exist - still less the right to defend itself.
In short, in its superficially attractive up-front version the idea of a secular democratic state is simply a delusion. The slogan could not ever help deliver the solution it seems to promise - conciliation and equality of Jews and Arabs in a common state.
It could not unless the way politics and the relationships between peoples work everywhere else in the world could somehow be replaced in Palestine - 40 years after the Israeli war of independence - by a different set of ways of functioning.
A common democratic state could only be realised by agreement. So to believe that the "secular democratic state" could be realised, you have to believe that the Jews can be persuaded that the way things are between conflicting peoples and interests through out the rest of the world can be superseded and dispensed within Palestine. You have to believe it possible to persuade people who know themselves surrounded and who are motivated in part in their notorious ruthlessness by the living memory of what happened to them when they were disarmed and helpless minorities in other states to surrender all their defences, first, as an act of faith in this new way of doing things. And this new way would at best make them one more minority in the Arab world, and a minority that had agreed to surrender national rights of the sort that the Kurds have spent decades fighting to establish.
The "secular democratic state" is either disingenuous or it is absurd. And it is worse.
If you take it at its face value the "secular democratic state" idea is an attractive utopian proposal. But we have seen that it cannot be taken at its face value. It is a political ultimatum behind which is posed a fearsome "or else". Immediately it is refused by Israel and the "Zionists" it translates into a moralistic-political denunciation of those who refuse. They are "exposed". That "exposure" and denunciation then become a warrant for the military destruction of the Israeli state, the subjugation and if necessary killing of the citizens of Israel, and the forcible removal from them of national rights.
What happens if the Israeli Jews don't accept the "secular democratic state" formula and fight? Conquer them and remove from them all powers of resistance, or of self-defence. What if they don't trust a promise that the conqueror will give them equal personal citizenship and absolve and protect them from the charge of being or having been agents or spies for the "Great Satan" US imperialism, or of "Zionist imperialism" - why, that's proof beyond dispute that they are unreasonable in rejecting "secular democratic state" citizenship and deserve what they get.
What they would get would be expulsion or the right to emigrate. It is to be 1948 again, and worse - only this time the "right" people do the uprooting and expelling.
The raising of the "utopian" secular democratic state demand as the opening political/ideological gambit produces a political and moral opiate for the left about what must inevitably follow from and is implied in the proposal to destroy the Jewish state and deprive the Palestinian Jews of national rights. Under the influence of this opiate, the most horrendous things are then proposed to be done to the Jews of Palestine - things no socialist would advocate or tolerate for any comparable situation.
It is surrender and dissolve, or resist and deserve to be forcibly dissolved.
So the secular democratic state is not an alternative to driving the Jews out; it is a treacherously barbed facet of that programme to drive the Jews out or reduce them to a vastly depleted territorial minority.
What might possibly be an attractive idea, and is certainly in the minds of many of its advocates a respect-worthy ideal, has to be judged by how it fits into the whole picture, and by what function it performs in the mechanics and ideological swordplay of Middle East politics.
We have seen what role it does play. In the circumstances it could play no other role. Those who seek to avoid the real choice and try to settle for the unrealisable ideal wind up nevertheless tied to the war chariot of Arab chauvinism.
They flee from the real choices into a fantasy, and wind up nevertheless having a choice imposed on them by the logic of circumstances.
All the "secular democratic state" evasion does it act as camouflage for the chauvinist position and, for the left, introduce a deep measure of mystification, confusion and some times hysteria.
Yes, smash Israel!
Andrew Hornung and Tony Greenstein for the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine, SO 271, 29.5.86
Not long ago Socialist Organiser initiated discussion about the attitude to be taken by socialists towards the Palestinian and Hebrew national questions. The seriousness with which that discussion was undertaken contrasts sharply with the curious methods of John O'Mahony's polemic of recent weeks.
O'Mahony's central thesis is made clear in "Anti-semitism and the left, part 2" (SO no. 266). He writes: "Zionism - which though the precise meaning of the word is no longer clear must include most Jews - has entered the consciousness of large parts of the left as another word for the worst form of imperialism and racism. Our attitude to it should be little different from our attitude to fascism. The prevalent programme on the left for dealing with it is to 'destroy Zionism', that is, destroy Israel,"
It is curious that O'Mahony thinks that Zionism no longer has any clear meaning, though he seems to think that the term "anti-semitism" has so clear a meaning that it doesn't merit the slightest attention.
Let us say straight away that we do not think that there is any truth in what O'Mahony asserts. That does not mean that there are no mistaken attitudes towards Zionism, towards racism, imperialism, Arab nationalism and the ways of dealing with these currents in and out of the labour movement. But to reduce all this to "anti-semitism" is a ridiculous perversion of the truth.
First of all the problem: it is true that on the left there is a widespread tendency to mask the shortcomings, failures, even crimes of those forces engaged in a struggle with an imperialist power or the agent of an imperialist power.
Obviously this leads some leftists to oversimplify such struggles and see them in moral terms: as if the forces of unalloyed good were combatting the forces of unmitigated evil. No doubt this is as true of the Palestine-Israel conflict as of scores of others.
But while O'Mahony - who has often written on this general problem - claims that the attitude taken by the left towards this conflict is unique, the truth of it is that the attitude taken by the left on the Palestine-Israel conflict in general and on the question of the destruction of the state of Israel in particular is completely in line with its attitude on other cases of conflicts between settler states or the states deriving from colonial settlement and the national movements of the indigenous population directed against these states. We need only mention in this connection South Africa and Ireland to prove our point. Of course the left may be wrong on these questions, it may have been wrong on Algeria - though we don't think so - but it is not making a special or "unique" case of Israel!
Thus we see no reason to attribute the left's errors - if errors they are - on the question of Israel to some "unique″ cause - like antisemitism. O'Mahony's claim that the left tries to make its programme on the Hebrew national question seem not unique by identifying Israel with South Africa is absurd: it is the identification of Israel as a society based on recent settler colonialism that is the essential feature it shares with South Africa.
O'Mahony's point, however, illustrates that he is just as guilty of dealing with moral rather than scientific judgements as those he inveighs against. He says "Whatever similarity in political military-techniques (!) there may be between South Africa and Israel they are radically different societies. Israel was given its character by the Zionists' resolute refusal to exploit Arab labour and their drive instead to replace it (!). Whatever one thinks of the left Zionist colonialists' "Jewish labour only″ policy, it was the opposite (!) of the mass exploitation on which the modern South Africa was built." Really, this is amazing!
Is the colonisation and the denial by a relative minority of settlers of the national rights of the indigenous majority simply a matter of "political-military techniques"? Isn't Israel's character based not so much on the replacement of Arab labour by Jewish labour, but the driving out of their homes of hundreds of thousands of people, the denial of their right to return and the imposition on the area to which they had undisputed rights of an alien rule? Is the effect - rather than the technique - of Zionist colonisation really the ″opposite" of that in South Africa?
It isn't simply the same, that's true: indeed right now South Africa seems to be attempting something like an Israeli solution while Israel seems to be developing certain traits reminiscent of South Africa. But let's be clear: the point isn't that Israel is just like South Africa, but that despite their differences they share essential colonial-settler traits. O'Mahony might take issue with this: he might believe that Israel can't be classed as a colonial-settler state. But then this is the nub of the issue and not this obsessive silliness about anti-semitism.
It is possible - indeed likely - that identification of Israel with South Africa (with whom of course it has a special relationship) and identification of Zionism as a racist ideology leads some leftists to thinking that they can do away with concrete analysis and rest any strategy on these generalities. But does this invalidate the generalities? Not at all! Zionism is racist even if many of those diplomats insisting on this in the UN daily defend racism: Zionism is racist even if the way socialists should deal with Zionism is markedly different from the way they should deal with traditional British racism.
Is it true that for large parts of the left Zionism is another word for the worst form of imperialism and racism? Firstly, it is obvious that for the avowedly reformist left, Zionism is a form of socialism. For which avowedly revolutionary organisations then is it "the worst form of imperialism and racism"? For the Healyites? But O'Mahony has written in the past that the Healyites aren't even part of the labour movement, let alone the left. For Militant? Hardly. For the USFI? [Mandelite Fourth International] We don't think so and a single quote revealing its shortcomings on Iran can hardly be said to prove the case.
In any case, doesn't the USFI support the right of Israeli Jews to self-determination? That hardly makes it a candidate for the charge of anti-semitism.
The SWP, perhaps? Despite some very irresponsible positions taken by SWP students, an organisation that founded the Anti-Nazi League, launching it with a call signed by scores of celebrities who no doubt support Zionism, can hardly be accused of adopting an attitude towards Zionism little different from our attitude to fascism. Which "large sections" does that leave bloodied by O'Mahony's sharp-edged polemic?
Surely the point is simply that those who think that the world is divided into two moral camps and whose most sophisticated analytical tool is the allegation of guilt by association - as O'Mahony does himself time and again - end up with wrong political positions.
The trouble is that O'Mahony adds to the confusion - which is not in fact as great as he points out, which is why the only texts he can analyse in detail are Gerry Healy's nonsense - by his disgraceful claim that to oppose Zionism is to be anti-semitic.
It is true that sections of the early socialist movement (especially the anarchists) saw something progressive in anti-semitism and others, including Marx, were too inclined to identify Jews with the rise of capitalism. True too that Stalinism made use of anti-semitism, particularly in its attacks on Trotsky, and that the German Communist Party made concessions to antisemitism in order to try to relate to the nationalist "volkische" right both in the 20s and in the 30s. Ruth Fischer, shortly before she became Party leader, called on her audience to "crush the Jew-capitalists, string them up from the lamp-posts, trample them underfoot". This is not unimportant, but we must be wary of the conclusions we can draw from it.
Whatever its ideological shortcomings from time to time the left - which is today infinitely more sensitive to issues of racism than in the past - has an unparalleled record of fighting fascism and racism, including anti-semitism. We ask: whose heroism in the Battle of Cable Street helped to stop the Mosleyites? Who supported the Anti Nazi League? Who are the activists in scores of anti-fascist and anti-racist committees up and down the country that, among other things, monitor and combat anti-semitism? What is O'Mahony's answer? The right, the middle of the road liberals and social-democrats?
Let's be serious: even if O'Mahony's description of the traditions of the left were accurate - and it most certainly isn't! - does it make any sense to call these fighters against antisemitism ″antisemites"? When one considers the very large number of Jews among these fighters - most of them anti-Zionist Jews - O'Mahony's insulting designation becomes even more lurid.
But O'Mahony's mud-slinging is not only insulting. It implies a rewriting of history. For if the left can be called anti-semitic for some times in its pre-World War 2 past endorsing or echoing anti-semitic ideas, in however small measure, cannot Zionism itself be called antisemitic with even greater justice? Here we have a movement which has no real history of fighting antisemitism, though it has a long history of doing deals with antisemites. Here we have an outlook held by community leaders who spend their time pouring abuse on anti-fascists (retailing claims similar to those now being rehearsed by O'Mahony) when they organise to combat anti-semitism. Here we have an ideology which has at its core the idea that fighting anti-semitism is useless because anti-semitism is essentially justified.
Indeed, while it is true that prominent British Labour leaders - to their shame - supported the 1905 Aliens Act (something with had more to do with their reformism and nationalism than with antisemitism), what O'Mahony fails to mention is that Balfour and the anti-semites of the British Brothers League who lobbied for the Act were given unequivocal support by the Zionists organised in the English Zionist Federation in the 1900 and 1906 general elections. David Hope-Kydd, who described the Jewish immigrants as the scum of the European nations" was supported by the Zionists in the Whitechapel constituency. Similarly the French anti-semites and later Mussolini and even certain Nazis before 1941 actually praised Zionism and saw it as an ideological movement similar to their own.
We don't cite this to prove that Zionism is simply the same as antisemitism - though both drink in part from the same poisoned pools - rather to show that O'Mahony's account is not only absurd in its conclusions but partisan to the point of mendacity.
Anti-Zionist socialists are in the habit of explaining both in the face of slurs from Zionists and as part of their struggle against anti-semitism, that anti-Zionism and anti-semitism are not the same. We patiently explain, for instance, that Zionism was for half its history a minority trend among Jews, indeed one seen by millions of Jews as a treasonous current, always willing to do the bidding of antisemites. We point out - and O'Mahony makes the point too - that certain ultra Orthodox Jews are vigorous opponents of Zionism and that orthodox Jews of all trends were opposed to Zionism up to 1948.
But O'Mahony knows better. To want to see the destruction of the state of Israel - not the only but certainly a widely-held aim of anti-Zionists - is, he says, "implicitly anti-semitic". Sometimes he seems to be resting his argument on the fact that today the vast majority of Jews support the existence of the state of Israel - which is like claiming that support for Algerian independence was a product of a racist view of the French and sometimes on the spurious claim (dealt with above) that the left's programme for Israel is "unique" when all along it is of a piece with other attitudes towards colonial settler states.
It is not surprising that O'Mahony's slurs, illogic and fact-twisting influence his analysis of the slogan of the "secular, democratic state". For someone supposedly interested in the living political struggle, one would have thought that he might mention that this slogan was adopted by the PLO as the result of a struggle against those elements who wanted simply to throw the Jews into the sea.
The fact that some elements who would be happy to return to the old position currently claim to support the ″secular, democratic state" slogan has nothing to do with the matter. The fact that one of the world's most conservative powers calls itself the "Soviet" Union doesn't invalidate the significance of the soviet idea for revolutionaries.
Central to O'Mahony's argument is his estimate of the Arab or pro Arab forces: ″The road to the secular democratic state lies inescapably through war and full-scale conquest of the Jews - after which the victorious armies (of Iraq, Syria, Iran?) will gallantly establish and protect the democratic rights of the Jews as individuals (rights their own citizens do not have now) in a Palestinian Arab state." Truly a remarkable statement. Has it not occurred to O'Mahony that one of the most important aspects of the 'secular, democratic state' slogan is the criticism it implies of the lack of democratic rights prevailing in the Arab states, in Iran, etc? And since when do revolutionary socialists give up their strategic conceptions simply because the balance of forces for their fulfilment is not present?
One might as well ask what on earth the propagation of the idea of a socialist Britain could possibly mean when the vast majority of those calling themselves socialists are led by one Neil Kinnock. Even if you don't agree with the slogan of the "secular, democratic state", comrade, you should see that it is an attempt to create a democratic, non-confessional society in contradistinction to all others in the region (including Israel).
As far as the supposed "utopianism" of the secular, democratic state slogan" is concerned, we insist that it is no more utopian than the slogan of a socialist united Ireland. Nor, more to the point, is it more "utopian" than O'Mahony's own solution: two states in the area currently held by Israel with the right of secession for Arab areas inside the pre-1967 boundaries. What "ism" should one ascribe to O'Mahony's inability to see any possible progressive developments within the Arab camp (that would realise the slogan of the "secular, democratic state"), while holding firmly to a solution which implies a fundamental transformation of Israeli Jewish consciousness? If O'Mahony stood in the Zionist tradition, we would just say it was typical left Zionist arrogance.
Israel is not South Africa
Sean Matgamna, SO 271, 29.5.86
Oh what a monstrous deal of splutter and bumpf to so small a part of solid matter! So many angry words, and so few of the key points I made on anti-semitism taken up!
No, I did not reduce what the writers describe as 'mistaken attitudes towards Zionism...' to 'anti-semitism' - i.e. say these things arose as an expression of the traditional anti-semitisms. I said that the attitude to Israel dominant in most of the far left is unique in that it proposes to destroy not only a state but the Israeli Jewish nation, and that on that level 'anti-Zionism' is inevitably anti-semitic - firstly and primarily towards the Israeli Jews, and secondly, by derivation, towards the big majority of Jews throughout the world who solidarise with Israel. This may include attempts to treat Zionist Jews (as distinct from other, non-Jewish, Zionists) as if they are fascists - for example banning their student associations, as was done recently at Sunderland Poly.
The writers insist that the attitude taken by the left on the Palestine-Israel conflict "... is completely in line with its attitude on other cases of conflicts between settler states or states deriving from colonial settlement and the national movements of the indigenous population directed against those states". As other examples they mention South Africa, Northern Ireland, and pre-independence Algeria, which had a large white population.
The comrades scientifically satisfy themselves that all these, especially Israel and South Africa, are similar 'settler states', and then read off mechanically a common political programme: Smash the settler state.
But - isn't it obvious? - even if the 'settler state' tag fits Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Israel, these societies are so vastly different that the tag alone is inadequately concrete to base any political conclusions on. What differentiates them is more important than the common name-tag.
It is preposterous to equate Northern Ireland's Protestant community with the South African whites. One is a replication of British society - though with some peculiarities - the other is a vastly privileged white caste ruling over a much large black population who are super-exploited, disenfranchised, repressed helots.
And in Israel there is not a ruling Jewish caste exploiting Arab helots. There is a comprehensive Jewish society organised in a Jewish nation state. This is not the same sort of society as South Africa's or colonial Algeria's! 'Smash the settler state' in South Africa or colonial Algeria means: abolish the monopoly of power and the caste privileges of the white minority: let the majority rule.
But what does 'smash the settler state" meant for Israel? It is a state which is extremely democratic for its Jewish majority. Its army is pretty close to being a citizen army. For an external force to 'smash the state' is not a matter of destroying a repressive apparatus, or defeating it in war, but of overrunning Israel and forcibly destroying the Jewish nation. It could only be done by slaughter, expropriation and terror - and, pretty much for certain, the driving out of large parts of the population.
Do the crimes of the Israeli occupying forces in the West Bank and else where make this poetic justice? If so, say so! The comparison with South Africa and with Algeria - where the settlers were mostly driven out - implies that programme, but I'm not sure that the writers understand that that is what they are saying.
People who play around the edge of a question, juggling with abstract labels, often do so because they need to avoid the real issues. In politics, comrades, the truth is always concrete.
The comrades' attempt to prove that it is not true that large parts of the left think of Zionism as another word for the worst form of imperialism and racism is junior debating society stuff.
Sure, I've written that the Healyites are not part of the labour movement - but the Healyite text which I analysed appeared on the same page as an endorsement from Ken Livingstone of the Healyites against their "Zionist" persecution, and Livingstone did not repudiate the editorial when specifically invited to do so. Labour Herald, the Healyite Labour Party paper, was for a long time highly respectable on sections of the left.
Of course the SWP is anti-racist and opposed to anti-semitism. I never said otherwise.
Most telling of all is the case of the USFI [the Mandelite Fourth International]. Yes, the USFI believes in self-determination for the Jews of Palestine. [Note (2019): that was true in 1985; it is not now, in 2019]. But what do their people in Britain say and do about it? They are silent about it. It is common to find members of theirs utterly unaware that their organisation has held this position for many years.
Do the comrades seriously want to deny that the most common attitude of the hard (and much even of the soft) left now is intense hostility to Israel, support for the Palestinians, and support for the 'secular democratic state'? That, even though it often lacks coherence and consistency, the left attitude often goes far beyond the criticisms of Israel which SO shares, and in fact supports the replacement of any Jewish state with something else?
It is true that Israeli apologists attempt to morally blackjack critics of Israel into silence with cries of 'anti-semitism'. Criticism of Israel on of Zionism is equated with antisemitism. This of course is contemptible.
There is, however, a level at which 'anti-Zionism' is indeed anti-semitic - the level at which 'anti-Zionism' be comes support for the destruction of the existing Jewish nation in Palestine.
Quite the most revealing thing in the comrades' article is their account of anti-semitism and the labour movement. They know something about the subject. Therefore I don't believe they really think it all came to an end with the Second World War. They know, for example, about the tide of thinly disguised anti-semitism in the USSR and Eastern Europe - and the Western CPs - after 1948. The reason the learned comrades prefer much more remote examples, of course, is that this, the most sustained and murderous anti-semitic campaign in any body claiming to be part of the labour movement, was conducted under the banner of 'anti-Zionism'.
Most of the stuff on why and how the left could not be anti-semitic is bumpf, answering charges I never made, and missing the point that I did make: that the widespread left-wing commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state is inescapably anti-semitic, however sincere the same left is in its condemnation of Nazism, Christian anti-semitism, etc. etc.
The writers trip themselves up, too. How could left-wing movements have been anti-semitic when they contained Jewish militants, they ask. They themselves give us at least part of the answer. Earlier they mention the German communist leader Ruth Fischer denouncing 'Jew-capitalists'. Yes. But, comrades, unless my memory is playing tricks, Ruth Fischer - who was an honest communist who lived to learn from her mistakes - was a Jew!
The argument about Zionism and Nazism is irrelevant. I am not concerned to defend Zionism's record, and no thing I say about Israel now depends on doing that.
It is also obscene. For what is the point of going on about the many episodes of Zionist would-be realpolitikers who made the best deals they could with various anti-semites, from Turkish dignitaries at the beginning to Nazis 50 years later?
The point for some 'anti-Zionists', like Tony Greenstein, a prominent member of the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine, is to try to smear the Zionists with some of the responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis - for the holocaust of six million Jews.
Wrongheaded, shortsighted, stupid, criminal as were many of the activities of the Zionist leaders who thought they could find some common ground with anti-semites because both agreed on the separating out of the Jews, it is obscene to attribute to them a part of the responsibility for the holocaust.
It is a childish attempt to escape from the powerful retrospective logic the holocaust imparts to the Zionist case by saying to the Zionist: you caused or helped cause Hitler - you collaborated!
And it is double-edged and very dangerous for pro-Palestinians to attempt to condemn the people of Israel now because of the deals which some of their grandfathers and fathers made or attempted to take with the all powerful monster which destroyed so many helpless millions of them. For the leaders of the Palestinians collaborated with the Nazis too. Their chief political leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, actively worked for the Nazi cause from Berlin. There is no good reason to doubt that had the Nazis got to Palestine - and they almost decided to try in 1940-1 - then Palestine would have become a slaughter house for the Jews and the Mufti's Palestinian Arab followers would have been actively on the side of the Nazis, just as the Zionist Haganah collaborated with the British to brutally put down the Syrian-Palestine Arab revolt in 1936 - but with the difference that the Nazis would have killed every last Jew in Palestine.
Of course this ancient Palestinian collaboration with the Nazis can have no effect on our attitude to the oppressed Palestinians today. But neither can all the historical footnotes about the Zionists in the 1930s have any effect on our attitude to the rights of the Palestinian Jews. Our attitudes must come from the rights and wrongs of the conflict, and from the possible solutions.
Time and again the comrades' argument comes down to moral exasperation. And the lesson is that if you stop at moral protest, then you only distance yourself from 'Zionism' but remain on the same nationalist plane. You do not rise to the level of working-class, internationalist politics.
Ignoring the real Israel
Tony Greenstein, SO 272, 12.6.86
Having accepted that "Israel's apologists attempt to morally blackjack critics of Israel into silence with cries of 'anti-Semitism'" and having, quite correctly, described such behaviour as "contemptible" John O'Mahony is guilty of exactly the same behaviour himself.
There can be to other interpretation of the phrase "some 'anti-Zionists' like Tony Greenstein, a prominent member of the LMCP". Given the context of the article, the inverted commas can only mean that I am an anti-Semite masquerading as an anti-Zionist. I suggest that O'Mahony either substantiates this allegation or retracts it.
For the record I have been active in the anti-fascist movement all my political life.
Nor is it true that I "smear the Zionists with some of the responsibility for the crimes of the Nazis for the holocaust of six million Jews". On the moral and political level, the responsibility is solely that of the Nazis.
There is no serious historian - Zionist or otherwise - who has not raised the question as to whether the Zionist goal of statehood did not act at cross purposes to the need to rescue as many Jews as possible.
It is equally untrue to suggest that the Zionists tried to get the best deals from various anti-Semites from the Ottoman dignitaries to the Nazis. Unless you mean the best deal for the Zionist movement. In Czarist Russia they did their best to undermine Jewish participation in the revolutionary movement. In Weimar Germany they abstained from all anti-fascist activity, even the most minimal bourgeois kind.
The tragedy is that with his talk of the Israeli army being a "citizen army" (i.e. a conscript army like South Africa) and being "extremely democratic" for its Jewish majority, O'Mahony has now adopted identical positions to those of traditional left Zionist apologists for Israel. Even for the Jews of Israel, the options are narrowing as Israel follows a path not unlike that of Nazi Germany and South Africa today. It is overtly racist and the fascist right is growing, not the left Zionists that O'Mahony identified with. Unfortunately O'Mahony ignores the reality of Israel today in favour of ideological abstractions.
The Jewish nation
Liam Conway, SO 273, 19.6.86
It is a pity that Tony Greenstein has not bothered to read John O'Mahony's position on Palestine. Maybe then he wouldn't take isolated comments and give them ludicrous importance, inventing a political position that doesn't exist.
In fact O'Mahony's writings like those in Socialist Organiser generally, have persistently sought to condemn the nature of the current Israeli state. Indeed SO condemns racist policies in states all over the world, including Britain.
But condemning the racist nature of Israel does not mean that the Palestinian Jews are not a nation or that there cannot be a smaller non-racist Israel where Arabs have full rights, including regional rights to secede to a Palestine Arab state.
Greenstein may be right to say that Israel "is overtly racist and the fascist right is growing". It may even be true that "Israel follows a path not unlike that of Nazi Germany".
But then is he suggesting that Germany has no right to exist because of its Nazi past? That any state which is "overtly racist" forfeits its right to be a nation?
Considering the widespread occurrence of racism in the world it appears to me there would be few people left with national rights in Tony Greenstein's world.
Thus any solution in Palestine which fails to recognise the existence of two nations there is not a solution at all because it seeks to build class consciousness by trampling on the national rights of the Jewish workers.
Tony Greenstein sees no political difference between Jewish national rights and the present Israeli state. Greenstein is not an anti-semite but he fails to recognise the proposed secular democratic state has massive antisemitic implications for the Jews in Palestine, Indeed, it is only achievable over the dead body of the Jewish nation, which is both impossible and undesirable.
A moral blackjack
John O'Mahony [Sean Matgamna], SO 275, 3.7.86
Tony Greenstein (SO 272, 5 June) gets very excited because I put the description of him as an 'anti-Zionist' in quotation marks; that, he writes indignantly, is to say that he is an antisemite masquerading as an anti-Zionist.
But this is just bluff and bluster by Greenstein, who doesn't even try to answer the serious points I made.
Greenstein - like much of the hard and soft left - is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and its replacement by a "secular democratic state" (SDS). In reality, this means commitment to the defeat and destruction of the Jewish nation in Palestine.
Some advocates of the SDS think it is a benign compromise in which Jewish and Arab Palestinians could co-exist as equal citizens (that is what most supporters of SO used to think). But as I've argued at some length in SO, the SDS is no more than a seemingly benign mask used in the West by those who pursue the military conquest and destruction of the Jewish nation.
That Israel's apologists sometimes equate any criticism of Israel with antisemitism should not blind critics of Israel to the fact that an 'anti-Zionism' that proposes to treat the Palestinian Jewish nation as a bad and illegitimate nation which does not have the right to exist; an anti-Zionism which sets itself the goal of destroying the Palestinian Jewish nation and will be satisfied with nothing less - such an 'anti-Zionism' is certainly a form of anti-semitism.
It is distinct from earlier Christian or racist strains of anti-semitism, but nonetheless it too is comprehensively hostile to Jews. Since the big majority of Jews, critically or otherwise, support Israel's right to exist, the hostility to Israel inevitably spills over from Israel to engulf Jews everywhere.
Extreme and active hostility to Jewish Zionists (who are treated quite differently from other Zionists) is now, for example, an established feature of college political life.
And we should keep in mind that 'anti-Zionism' has long served in Russia and Eastern Europe as a thin disguise for the old anti-semitism that has never ceased to be a force there.
Tony Greenstein does belong to the 'smash Israel' current, and thus I put 'anti-Zionist' in quotes. But I'm concerned with drawing out the logic of what Greenstein and other socialists say about Israel, not with casting aspersions on their motives.
It's a shame that Greenstein takes refuge in the pretence that I'm branding him as some sort of old-style antisemite instead of answering the charges I do level against him.
And isn't it strange that he so neatly parallels and inverts those Zionists who avoid thinking about our specific criticisms of Israel by branding the critics as anti-semites? Greenstein too is concerned not with thinking about the issues, but with getting hold of a moral blackjack and wielding it.
Tony Greenstein, SO 278, 7.8.86
In reply to Liam Conway: Israel is one of the few remaining settler colonial states in the world, established by driving out another people, institutionalising racism, into every aspect of its functioning. Israel is an apartheid state, supporting reaction both in neighbouring states and worldwide.
The fact that it is Jews who are the perpetrators of racism is irrelevant as is the question of anti-Semitism. As long as Israel remains a Jewish state, it cannot help but be a racist state constantly at war with the Palestinians.
And because Israel is a state founded in alliance with imperialism, which only survives today by virtue of the support of US imperialism, to imagine a "smaller non-racist Israel" is to substitute fantasy for reality. Israel is an expansionist state with a strategic role in the Middle East, and a Zionist ideology that imbues both "left" and right Zionists with the idea of a biblical greater Israel.
In so far as Israeli Jews constitute a nation, and that is debatable, it is as an oppressor nation. The question of self determination does not arise as they are not oppressed as a nation.
Zionism is an intra-class alliance based on the oppression of the Palestinians. As long as the latter are oppressed, either inside Israel or in the bantustan on the West Bank, or both, then the Israeli workers will never achieve even the most minimal class consciousness.
It is precisely because Israeli Jews are held together by their relationship to the Palestinians and the Arab masses, that a democratic, secular state solution is the most basic democratic demand that socialists should support. It is a demand opposed both by the Zionists and the Islamic chauvinists in the region. In no way is it inconsistent with e.g. language rights for those Liam Conway rightly terms Palestinian Jews. Far from being implicitly anti-Semitic it stands in opposition to all chauvinisms in the region. It may be incompatible with Israeli Jewish nationhood, but then so is the latter with Palestinian self-determination.
Utopia in Palestine
Clive Bradley, SO 279, 14.8.86
Tony Greenstein (SO 278) has, once again, missed the point in his defence of the 'secular, democratic state in Palestine' argument.
Of course, Marxists seek to use even limited democratic demands as tools for mobilisation; and any mobilisation necessarily poses new social questions, so that a struggle for purely democratic demands may develop into an assault on the entire social system. But it is not the Marxist approach to say: this is our democratic programme, but it is utterly meaningless unless all social relations are overhauled and society begins afresh.
This is precisely what the 'secular democratic state' slogan boils down to. To be at all possible it would require a complete change in consciousness of the vast majority of the Hebrew-speaking nation. Currently they are opposed even to autonomy for the Palestinians, let alone an independent Palestinian state: but they would have to accept, on Tony's own account, the extinction of Israeli Jewish nationhood. They would not only have to reject nationalism, but discard national identity - something Marxists generally reckon to be possible only after generations living under socialism.
The 'secular democratic state' can not rationally be a proposal for an immediate solution to the Israeli/Palestine conflict. It can only be a proposal that could, possibly, take effect some time in the future, after the conflict is solved. Yet Greenstein et al talk about it as if it could be implemented immediately.
How? By what means are the Israeli Jews to miraculously change their consciousness overnight?
This question is not answered, because it cannot be. In reality, the 'secular, democratic' state could only come into being in the foreseeable future on the basis of the military defeat of Israel if a way that could not be 'democratic' at all. The result would not be the happy intermingling of the two communities, but the opposite. This is all that can be meant by 'smashing the Zionist state', whatever the subjective intentions.