What Ian Donovan lacks in substance, he more than makes up for in length and tedious rhetoric (Letters, September 11).

My ‘quibble’ about anti-Semitism not being about ethnic origin is designed in order to understand the specificity of anti-Semitism. Historically, anti-Semitism was concerned with the social role of Jews. Likewise with the Chinese of south-east Asia. Given the disappearance of that social role, it is little wonder that anti-Semitism has all but vanished. Donovan’s definition tells us nothing about anti-Semitism in medieval times or why it morphed into racial anti-Semitism.

Racism is not just about hatred of a whole group, but the singling for discrimination of particular sub-sections. The ‘good blacks’ and ‘the troublemakers’. Or, as Himmler put it in his speech of October 4 1943 at Poznan, “And then they turn up, the upstanding 80 million Germans, and each one has his decent Jew.”

There is nothing special about having different terms for different types of racism - for example, Islamophobia. Of course there is anti-Arab racism. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised a specific conference on the topic many years ago.

The statement that “racism generates more racism” is a bland and meaningless phrase that owes more to the Daily Mail than a communist paper. The term ‘anti-Semitism’ has nothing to do with who is a Semite. To say the word ought to refer to Arabs is a form of pedantry in which Donovan seems to excel. The term was coined by Wilhelm Marr, a 19th century anti-Semite, and has become synonymous with anti-Jewish racism.

I am well aware of how Zionism and Israel uses the holocaust as a propaganda weapon, having done nothing to save the Jews of Europe when it was being perpetrated. Donovan appears to be blind to the difference between questioning how the holocaust narrative is used and questioning the basic facts of the holocaust.

To compare immigration, which is “generally regarded” as bad when it is no such thing, with ‘holocaust denial’ being “generally regarded” as anti-Semitic is unbelievable. Holocaust denial in western society is always anti-Semitic. In the Middle East and Asia, where anti-Semitism doesn’t have the social roots of European anti-Semitism, it is often a reaction to the use of the holocaust as a justification for the oppression of the Palestinians.

Donovan criticises my “softness on Israel” for dismissing any comparison with Nazi Germany, yet says my blog “often rightly compares Israeli behaviour with Nazi Germany”!

On more than one occasion Donovan accuses me of being a Zionist. The Jewish Chronicle describes me as the “veteran anti-Zionist”. Only the National Front (and a couple of Atzmon’s Arab supporters) have accused me of being a Zionist. I helped form the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jewish anti-Zionist groups, whereas Donovan is unknown by anyone.

Apparently, I ‘cherry-pick’ quotes from Atzmon to make it appear he questions the fact that the Nazis deliberately exterminated European Jewry. My behaviour is nothing less than “demented sectarian hackery”. Donovan should reread Atzmon’s comments. In particular, his comments that, “If, for instance, the Nazis wanted the Jews out of their Reich …, or even dead, as the Zionist narrative insists, how come they marched hundreds of thousands of them back into the Reich at the end of the war?” and, “If the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war?”

The statements have but one interpretation. Atzmon uses the dilemmas of some prisoners, as to whether to join a death march or remain behind at Auschwitz to be massacred (as most prisoners were), to question the extermination itself. Is this just a healthy questioning of the holocaust narrative or is Donovan a racist cuckoo in the communist nest?

Atzmon attacks comrade Moshé Machover for being a ‘Jewish’ Marxist, mixes it with the far right (the neo-Nazi Red Watch reprints an article of his attacking me) and in his article, ‘Swindler’s List’, attacks “Bundists [who] believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob who is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution.” Donovan, however, is content to defend this reactionary.

The late Hajo Meyer, a Dutch Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz and a notable anti-Zionist and supporter of the Palestinians, pulled out of a conference Atzmon arranged at Freiburg because Atzmon ‘‘implies that I, who saw the smoke from the crematoria, saw the gas chambers and smelled the burnt human flesh and was forced to march with the SS to the east, am implied by his text to be a liar who put the number on his arm in order to make himself interesting”.

In desperation, Donovan states that my quotes from Atzmon come from Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate. Nothing I quote comes from them. If anything, the opposite is true. Donovan’s conspiracy theory is therefore a lie.

Israel Shahak’s use of the term ‘Jewish ideology’ is time-specific. Not so Atzmon. ‘Hatred’ of Jews led to the final solution and they are doing the same in Israel. I remind Donovan that Shahak wrote that “there has been a great deal of nonsense written in the attempt to provide a social or mystical interpretation of Jewry or Judaism as a whole. This cannot be done, for the social structure of the Jewish people and the ideological structure of Judaism have changed profoundly through the ages.” For Atzmon, the history of the Jews is timeless and the product of a Mosaic god.

To describe the Socialist Workers Party’s abandonment of Atzmon as a “betrayal, capitulation to imperialism” marks Donovan out as an incorrigible social chauvinist.

I note that in his diatribe Donovan ‘omits’ to mention the denunciation of Atzmon’s Zionist agenda by radical Palestinians. I can’t imagine why!

Tony Greenstein

Lesser evil

Under the headline ‘Ukraine: No siding with nationalists’ (September 11), Eddie Ford says: “Under these dangerous circumstances of rival nationalisms, with direct imperialist support for one of the players (ie, Kiev), it is absolutely vital that socialists and communists unambiguously stand up for internationalism and elementary working class solidarity.” Then he goes on to state the sorry fact that, “Alas, this has not been the case. Disgracefully, most left groups have lined up with either one camp or the other - portraying the opposing side as the greater evil or somehow beyond the pale.”

On a rather abstract level, there’s nothing here to add. However, I have some questions. Eddie Ford also correctly states that the right of national self-determination is not limited to the existing state borders, but holds for all peoples, including the Russophone inhabitants of the Donbass - or, as at least a certain number of them call it, ‘Novorossiya’. But if we are agreed that their right of national self-determination against the onslaught of the Ukrainian chauvinist forces, backed by US/EU imperialism, is to be supported, how can we equate these forces with the ones fighting against them in the south-east of Ukraine?

The social-reactionary character of at least considerable parts of the ‘separatists’ is of little doubt. And it is obvious that working class militants have to ideologically fight against Greater Russian chauvinists, let alone the heirs of the ‘Black Hundreds’. However, their military contribution is unfortunately needed to implement the right of national self-determination of the people of Novorossiya, just like the army of the bourgeois Russian Federation was needed to enable the people of the Krim to practise this right.

After all, did the communists of various strands object to the Algerian anti-colonial liberation movement on the basis that many of its militants, fighters and leaders were religiously-minded nationalists and not progressive? National liberation is a bourgeois right and must not be confounded with social liberation, even if it would be desirable for both to go hand in hand. And, while it was true in the 1960s and 70s, when there still was the Soviet Union to get arms from, that then national liberation movements tended to produce propaganda claiming their credentials as socialist, working class organisations or even as Marxists (quickly forgotten after taking power), it is even clearer today, in a period when no camp pretends to be ‘socialist’ or even ‘anti-imperialist’, that national liberation requiring military force will have to lean on those forces willing and able to fight militarily and that it is highly improbable that these forces will be dominated by ‘progressives’, let alone proletarian revolutionaries.

Marxists have to tell the working class that these fighters for national liberation are not at all fighters for its social liberation. However, they ought not to put the social-reactionary forces of the national oppressors on the same footing as the social-reactionary forces of the oppressed nation or ethnic group. So our position towards the forces fighting in the Donbass must be different from our position towards the forces fighting against Al-Assad in Syria, for instance. The latter are engaged in a social struggle and we have to keep clear of them since we know that they are as bad or even worse than the bloody bourgeois regime of Al-Assad.

That said, yes - we can say that the reactionaries fighting in the Donbass are the lesser evil!

A Holberg


I was saddened to read Jack Conrad’s article about “false colours” (September 11) - not so much because of its content, which was misleading, but because of its timing.

We are on the eve of an historic decision by the Scottish people in the tremendous battle between the British ruling class and the national democratic movement in Scotland over whether Queen Anne’s Act of Union should continue (‘no’) or end (‘yes’).

Then Jack comes out with an ‘exposé’ of the left wing of the democratic movement. It would be like ‘discovering’ that in the middle of the miners’ strike Scargill had some dodgy Stalinist views on socialism. Most miners would be unimpressed and see in it an act of scabbing. Criticism of Scargill’s conduct of the strike is one thing, and absolutely necessary for victory, but exposing Scargill’s “false colours” during the high point of the strike would be seriously ‘wrong time and wrong place’.

Jack is not proposing to the national democratic movement some better tactics for victory. On the contrary, he is lining up the CPGB in the unionist camp as its extreme left. Perhaps it is to remind unionist-socialists like Sandy McBurney and George Galloway that, although the CPGB is ‘neutral’, it is really with them. And not just them.

The queen herself did a major swerve on leaving church last Sunday to tell the crowd how important it was to vote the right way. We will leave readers to guess which way she was pointing. Fortunately a policeman who just happened to be standing there invited the press pack over who listened in and printed the whole story on the front pages! Today a load of top generals and admirals have added their voices to defend the union’s military machine in an open letter to add to the gallant efforts of Sandy, George and Jack.

So what is the substance of Jack’s exposé of McCombes, Sheridan, Fox and Armstrong? They are Scottish Pilsudskis on the road to the national socialism of “Benito Mussolini, Joseph Goebbels and Gregor Strasser (who) embraced these red brown politics with a passion”. On the eve of poll, this is desperate stuff - is the CPGB defending the 1707 bloody act merely to avoid having to change its name?

Jack says that revolution in Scotland would not be able to establish socialism in one country. Therefore he implies a revolution is impossible or futile. Nonsense. It is absolutely true that socialism will be unable to abolish capitalism in one country, whether that is Scotland, Britain or Ireland (I would go even further and include Europe in this family of ‘nations’), Capital is a many-headed hydra and has many ways of regenerating itself in any country.

This is not the message of despair which flows from Jack’s pen. It is a message of internationalism and revolutionary optimism. The hope for Scotland’s revolution is in England, Europe and the world. It is not about inevitable failure, but rather that the revolution is doomed if it is isolated.

The lesson of the Russian Revolution is not that they should not have taken political power but that they could not win without spreading the revolution. This is the message of permanent revolution - starts in one place and spreads across borders.

Even if Salmond rebuilds Hadrian’s Wall, issues new passports and includes the theory of socialism in one country in the new Scottish constitution, it will not stop the Scottish revolution from spreading to England, Europe and the world. If you are part of the ‘frightened class’, then vote ‘no’. But if you are in a class that is ready for change, then break out of this prison of nations, vote ‘yes’ and fight for a Scottish republic.

Steve Freeman
LU Scottish Republic Yes tendency


I’m afraid it appears that Jack Conrad has completely lost the plot, going by the rambling lead (and only) article on the Scottish referendum (‘In false colours’, September 11). But showing just how out of touch he and the CPGB seem to be, is the total ignorance of the recently published Restless lands - A radical journey through Scotland’s history by Alan McCombes and Roz Paterson. One would have expected a critique of that to be the starting point for Conrad, but, no, rather a rehashing of very old stuff.

Restless lands is published by Calton Books, by the way, in case you do care to contribute to the debate in the Weekly Worker on referendum day.

Tam Dean Burn

Slogans' run

As referendum day in Scotland gets closer, it appears that nationalism is triumphant. Marxists on both sides of the border will now be thinking about how to organise, educate and agitate within two separate states regardless of the electoral outcome. These states will be an increasingly hostile environment for anyone who calls for proletarian power and a united movement for socialism.

Marxists know that a mature capitalism favours imperialism rather than nationalism. Capital requires the unrestricted movement of labour-power and other commodities across national boundaries in order to maximise opportunities for accumulation. However, workers now live in a declining capitalism prone to deepening and unpredictable crises. Contemporary nationalism can therefore appear attractive as a means of controlling labour through political and economic divisions. Certainly, it is a lesser evil than socialism. There is a section of the ruling class today - conscious of the power of division - which is prepared to ally with small business people, members of the intelligentsia and the unemployed around the nationalist project.

Chris Giles’ recent article in the Financial Times is a good example of this consciousness (‘How a yes vote would make enemies and alienate people’, September 11). Giles proposes five political principles that form a “reasonable platform” for politicians in a future rump UK (rUK). These are, firstly, the conservation of existing UK institutions, such as the Bank of England; secondly, the withdrawal of financial help to Scotland; thirdly, a fight to appropriate profitable assets such as North Sea oil; fourthly, demands that Scotland pay a “fair price” for any shared institutions such as the monarchy; and fifthly, border controls to stop illegal immigrants entering the rUK from Scotland.

Giles states that this platform is needed to pacify “the simmering resentment of the English”. On the contrary, it would stir up bad feeling between English and Scottish workers. Giles’ principles mean that Scottish workers will get no help from the rUK state, however dire their circumstances. They entail rUK politicians leading English workers into a fight with Scottish workers over who will control and benefit from former British assets. They prescribe that Scottish workers will have to fight the rUK state to retain any public services they once shared with English workers. They dictate that poor Scottish workers applying for jobs in England will be subject to the same immigration controls that exclude other workers of the former British empire. They suggest that Scottish workers employed in the financial sector will either be forced to move to a foreign country or lose their jobs to foreign workers.

This turn to English nationalism is a move intended to control labour through division and antagonism. The hope is that workers will blame each other, not capital and the state, for their economic oppression. If austerity is resisted successfully, workers could easily turn to ideas of overthrowing capitalism and realising the socialist alternative. Fanning the flames of nationalism in both countries has the potential of inoculating workers against such an outcome. It could well lead to the inclusion of Ukip in a rUK government and a rise of blood and soil nationalism within the SNP.

Are Marxists capable of responding intelligently to this move to the right? I believe they are. Are Marxists so demoralised by a sense of mutual betrayal that they cannot unite? I believe they are not. In the continued struggle to halt the descent into barbarism, I believe that Marxists in both countries and worldwide can unite around slogans I have been told originated in Sarajevo earlier this year. These are ‘Death to nationalism! Socialism now!’

Paul B Smith

Vampire lawyers

Behind the froth, outrage and hysteria, behind the press and TV beanfeast, what actually happened in Rotherham?

Firstly, the British state is obsessed with child and teenage sex. It’s a great distraction from the economy or politics, it creates moral panics, it keeps the masses on board and it preserves the right of the state to determine morality and sexual behaviour. The current countrywide witch-hunt for sexual deviants, probing back to the dawn of time, is in reality a kind of retrospective show trial, with the 1960s and 70s in the dock. Lifestyles, behaviour patterns, attitudes to sex and the age of consent, sexual liberalism - all are on trial for their lives.

Characters from entertainment and politics who can be shown to have ‘got on down with the kids’, no matter how willing, sexually active or predatory they were, are being dragged from their wheelchairs or old people’s homes. Not to answer to the law and sexual mores that existed then, but the ones that exist now. There is no doubt that the high degree of bandwagon jumping is being engaged in by victim-hunting solicitors offering bags of gold.

Here and there, of course, there will be some women who were badly used by rich and powerful men who rode on the back of their celebrity to exploit and in some cases rape or abuse them. The bulk are not that though and freely admit they were willing partners, often seeking out the celebrity and regarding the relationship, often very brief, as a bit of a coup. With their past sexual behaviour granted invisibility, they are offered a fortune to claim victimhood.

Recently it has become obvious that there has been a culture among Pakistani men of exploiting the sexual attitudes of young, white, working class girls - homing in on them, pimping them, using them and in some cases treating them harshly. The case of six men found guilty of such behaviour in Rotherham triggered a home office report into the town. Trawling through social services and police records for 20 years, they discovered 87 cases per year over a 16-year period of underage girls having sex who had come to the notice of the authorities.

In the vast majority of these cases, they were girls having sex consensually. Sometimes their partners were young adults and, on very rare occasions, much older men. The young people also drank and took drugs - a normal part of adolescent behaviour. But in the eyes of the press the presence of older boys or men, plus the alcohol and drugs, gets construed into the girls being ‘drugged’ or ‘made to drink alcohol’.

The Pakistani connection does point to a certain deep-seated hypocrisy among these Muslim men - banned from sex of any kind with girls from their own community, they find it morally acceptable to use - and that’s what happened in many cases - young, white, non-Muslim girls. But the girls overwhelmingly voluntarily went along literally for the ride, the thrill and sometimes the money and gifts. They were not ‘groomed’ - an utterly nonsensical notion, where people apparently lose their ability to say no.

One of the ‘victims’, who was 13 at the time and is part of a multi-million-pound lawsuit against the council, has explained how she hung out with some young men who at length took her to one of their houses and had sex with her. She went back to the same house week after week for four years. She was asked behind a screen on TV, “Why didn’t someone stop them?” - which begs the obvious alternative question: ‘Why the Christ did you go?’

Some will scream, ‘But she was only 13!’ I think most of us can remember being 13 and that we were quite capable of ignoring advice and doing our own thing. She might well have been taken advantage of, but raped? I don’t go along with the notion that voluntary, consensual sex is rape - she and others clearly knew what choices they had. In a few cases the girls were beaten and one was threatened with murder - those cases are shocking, criminal and disgusting. But they are a handful among the huge bulk of normal, albeit underage, relationships.

Police and social services in South Yorkshire had pursued a policy of regarding consensual underage sex as not particularly their business. Where they were certain no violence, force or threats were involved, they took no action. But what added fever to the brow of the press was the revelation that some were being used in prostitution rings organised by Pakistani men, and this had been ignored and filed by PC social workers, scared to confront an anti-social aspect of the Muslim community in Rotherham. Scared of charges of ‘racism’.

That is certainly disgusting, but again represents a tiny part of these 1,400 cases on file. Now there is the predictable beating of breasts and braying about poor girls being robbed of their childhood - most were upwards of 13 and only one was 11. But every time the item appears on TV screens there are pictures of toddlers on swings and children walking to primary school. Every single commentator pointedly refers to ‘children’ rather than ‘teenagers’.

There is certain to be another round of police raids and mass arrests of men who had previously been regarded as not particularly guilty of anything very much. Police forces will never again use discretion in deciding whether a person having a relationship, no matter how mutually consensual and harmless, with an underage girl should not be arrested. Social workers will kidnap armies of otherwise happy girls and lock them up in care when they are discovered to have had sex even with kids near their own age. Parents who don’t report their teenagers’ relationships will be arrested and their children confiscated. Teenagers hanging out on streets and just being young will be subject to curfews. Schools will screen conversations, emails and texts and the whole repression ratio will go up several degrees.

The kids who were exploited deserve protection. The bastards who threatened them or hurt them should be locked up, but it must be recognised in any sane society that young people have a torrent of sexual energy coursing through them. To deny them the right to exercise their own free will and enjoy their own bodies is brutally inhuman too. The blood-sucking vampire lawyers who are stoking up this whole compensation mania ought to be strung up.

Willie Hunter
Berwick upon Tweed


September 28 will commemorate 150 years of the First International, which was founded at a meeting in St Martin’s Hall in London. It was the first political meeting of its kind to address the class struggle. There were a variety of delegates present, including Karl Marx. I think it would be a good idea to celebrate such an occasion on this date, seeing as internationalism is needed as much now as it was then.

Jim Nugent