Moshé Machover’s article on the very essence of the state of Israel, its underpinning ideologies and claims to legitimacy was extremely powerful for me (‘Quest for legitimacy’, September 18). It firmly dispels any illusions that the Israeli state is reformable or capable of allowing the existence of any form of Palestinian self-determination and governance, let alone an independent state.
It seems absolutely clear that any two-state solution is utterly and completely incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel. Israel will never, ever tolerate any form of genuine expression of Palestinian nationhood and self-determination. This is because Israel sees its claim as covering the whole of the original Palestine mandate area, including Judea and Samaria. Moshé’s article demonstrates this is absolutely the view of both Labour and Likud, and always will be. Also, any recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination in the West Bank must apply with equal force and logic for Palestinians living in pre-1967-borders Israel.
The population of Israel is now stuck: Jewish immigration is now largely exhausted, and there is rough numerical parity between the settlers and the indigenous populations. Israel cannot allow democratic rights to the Arabs living within its borders, as that ultimately would result in that state ceasing to be Israeli. The fate of the Palestinians therefore is to be denied all democratic and national rights and to be increasingly ‘ethnically cleansed’ from greater Israel (Eretz Israel).
However, after an extraordinarily powerful and devastating critique of the essence and inherent nature of the state of Israel, I felt Moshé lost his way around three quarters through the article, constructing an interesting but ultimately pointless discussion around whether Israel is a Jewish state or a nation-state on behalf of Jews worldwide, and coming to absolutely no conclusion or proposed way forward whatsoever!
I do not know or care if Jews around the world feel a national loyalty to Israel over and above their state of residence, or whether leading sections of imperialist ruling elites in, say, the United States or Europe support the state of Israel out of ethnic, religious, national or class loyalty. It hardly really matters what motivates individuals or groups of individuals within the ruling classes as a whole. It is a matter of complete indifference to me if a certain US billionaire feels more personal loyalty to Israel or the United States, whether his/her motivation is conspicuous personal consumption or promotion of the Jewish biblical ideal. The important and salient facts are that they all grease the wheels of world imperialism and capitalism and they all live off the proceeds of wealth generated by the oppressed and exploited working masses of the world.
If we accept that the current state of Israel is absolutely incapable of conceding basic national and democratic rights to the Palestinian people, then surely we are left with no option but to abandon any notion of a two-state solution? If Moshé is right in his analysis, then there was never any basis for a two-state solution, certainly not now.
There can only be three real options:
1. The state of Israel will continue to dominate and control the whole of the original Palestinian mandate region as Eretz Israel, with the continuing slow mass murder and destruction of the Palestinian people.
2. Israel is ultimately overthrown and destroyed as a consequence of the mass, democratic and national liberation action of the Palestinian and allied Arab masses.
3. Israel is forced, perhaps under threat of destruction, to thoroughly democratise, deracialise and deZionise its state, economy and society, to provide equal and full rights for all the people living within its borders. A single, united, democratic, secular state covering the whole of the original mandate area, respecting and valuing the ethnic, religious, social, national, collective and individual rights of everyone who lives and works there, and allowing full freedom of movement for peoples to and from the new state.
I am mystified why Moshé as a self-defined “Israeli communist” is not able to come to any conclusion as to the progressive and practical way forward. Could it be the “Israeli” part of the label is stronger than the “communist”?
In modern history, the mass and armed actions of the working and exploited peoples of the world have, in very different ways, got rid of the states of Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, both anti-human, fascistic, racist and anti-democratic, and both in their time viewed as permanent, impervious and all-powerful.
Tony Greenstein is still peddling the racist pseudo-definition of ‘racism’ against Jews that is used by the bourgeois mainstream to suppress criticisms of Jewish behaviour, which would be unquestionable if they were directed at any other people (Letters, September 18).
He states that ‘anti-Semitism’ always was concerned with the ‘social role’ of Jews, but fails to explain how criticism of the ‘social role’ of any section of society can in itself be racist. It cannot: except when combined with an ideology that racialises that role, so that the racist element supersedes social criticism. This happened in the late 19th century, when the term ‘anti-Semitism’ was coined by biological racists as an obviously ‘racial’ term. This was then extended back in time by these racists. In fact, the entire concept of ‘race’ was absent from earlier conflicts.
Two groups of people had an initial political interest in so extending ‘anti-Semitism’ back in time: the anti-Semites for one, to legitimise their racism and wrap it up in a centuries-long history of conflict involving the ‘social role’ of Jews as a ‘people-class’ of traders in an earlier, feudal social system (see Abram Leon’s Marxist classic, The Jewish question: A Marxist interpretation, for details). The other being Zionists, who had an obvious interest in promoting the myth that Jews had always been an oppressed ‘race’ who needed to separate from gentile society. The narrower understanding - that anti-Semitism was simply racism against Jews - was dominant among anti-racists before World War II. But, since then, particularly with the hegemony of Zionism, a definition based on a ‘social role’ has become dominant, meaning that criticism of oppressive conduct is caught by this definition-creep.
Tony Greenstein is obviously worried enough about his role in this dispute to tell the obvious falsehood that I have called him a Zionist. He cannot quote me, however. Noting that his very militant words attacking Zionism often contradict his deeds in promoting this Zionist-derived creeping definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ is not the same as calling him a Zionist. It means he is a centrist, who is “revolutionary in words, reformist in deeds”, according to the classic definition.
Greenstein does not draw the conclusions of his own analysis. He says that holocaust denial in western societies is invariably anti-Jewish and racist. Pretty much true, historically. But then he says this is not true in the Middle East. But all of those other (mainly) Jews he denounces for this derive their doubts from the activities of Israel in the Middle East. Some were born there. Obviously, this is the Middle Eastern root of this phenomenon of Jews who express doubts about the Nazi genocide. To pretend otherwise is simply to deny reality in order to deny the logical conclusions of your own analysis. This is classic centrist behaviour.
In this regard, it is somewhat of a victory for truth that Greenstein finally admits that it was the celebrated Israeli civil rights fighter and Nazi genocide survivor, Israel Shahak, who first used the term ‘Jewish ideology’ to describe the racism that drives the Zionist project. Previously, he has always credited this to Gilad Atzmon and fulminated against its supposed ‘anti-Semitism’. But Greenstein claims to revere Israel Shahak. This is his contradiction.
Another centrist who does not draw the conclusion of his own words is Jack Conrad, who wrote in his work Fantastic reality that the holocaust, as portrayed by Israeli propaganda and indoctrination in the Middle East, has the character of a ‘cult’. ‘Cult’ has a meaning remarkably similar to the term ‘religion’, as in “holocaust religion”, put forward by dissidents of Israeli origin, such as Gilad Atzmon. But if the holocaust narrative, as put forward by Israel supporters, has the character of a cult, then the act of breaking with this cult is likely to be messy and confused, as with other cults. The conclusion that should be drawn from this analysis is: a fraternal discourse with people breaking from a racist state cult, not a heresy-hunt in alliance with Zionists, which Greenstein has repeatedly engaged in.
This lack of courage has led to a pretty stupid, and in the long run no doubt counterproductive, anti-communist witch-hunt in the CPGB and Communist Platform, based on phoney and nonsensical allegations of anti-Semitism. A full reply to all the nonsense in the Weekly Worker last week is no doubt going to be denied to me, despite the CPGB’s sometime protestations of ‘openness’. A reply has been published, however, and is available online at http://bit.ly/1tXUBZP.
Greenstein seems not to have noticed that my previous letter (September 11) was replying not merely to him, but also to another letter from John Cable (September 4). He has not read it properly and muddles up the material he is replying to. Careful reading will disclose his mistake. Sloppy practices in replying seem in this case to equate to sloppy politics. Greenstein seems to think that because he is someone who (some) people have “heard of”, and also because a few Palestinians have backed him up in the past, that means he does not have to argue coherently. What matters is getting things right, not short-term popularity.
Can I first welcome the decision by the CPGB and the motion of comrades Machover and Conrad to remove Ian Donovan from the Communist Platform (‘No place for anti-Semitism’, September 18)?
It may seem churlish to raise it, but I have serious doubts about the use of the term ‘left anti-Semitism’. Not only does it play into the hands of Zionist propaganda, which would have us believe that it is leftwing ‘anti-Semitism’ which is the problem, but I question what is ‘left’ or socialist about Ian Donovan’s anti-Semitism. As far as I am aware, Donovan’s anti-Semitism is of the traditional rightwing kind, dressed up in ‘left’ rhetoric.
In respect of Moshé’s article, I agree with 90% of it, but I disagree with some of the conclusions.
Firstly my understanding is that the law of return doesn’t merely extend to immediate non-Jewish relatives of Jewish people, but applies to anyone with even one Jewish grandparent - at least according to the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs (http://bit.ly/1q5aOZd). Ironically, therefore, the definition of a Jew under the law of return mirrors that in the Nazi definition of a Jew for the purposes of the Nuremberg laws, whereby having even one Jewish grandparent meant you were Jewish! Except that in the case of the Nazis, having just one or two Jewish grandparents meant you were classified as a Mischling (mixed race) of the first or second class!
Regardless of political economy, Israel is a settler colonial state - ie, it has a settler working class and not, as with the British in India, a ruling/military caste only. Settler colonialism, be it in Ulster, Israel or South Africa, consisted of an inter-class alliance. It is also a feature of such states that the colonists develop siege fears, precisely because they live cheek by jowl with those they have dispossessed.
I also believe it is wrong to classify the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians primarily as a national one. This is indeed how Zionism seeks to portray the situation. The primary division is between Israelis and Palestinians as individuals and the inability of Zionism to accept Palestinian Arabs as equals, with all the implications that derive from it.
The Socialist Alliance has released dramatic news, which will boost a nationally coordinated socialist challenge in the 2015 general election. The SA inherited around £100,000 from former supporter Archie Dilloway over the summer, and made a number of decisions at its annual general meeting on Sunday September 21 as to how a considerable amount of that money will be spent.
The legacy stipulated that the money must be “utilised solely for the purposes of the alliance”. The SA agreed that its purpose has consistently been about building ‘unity on the left’ as part of the process of creating a new left party based solidly within the working class. In the present context it decided that the legacy be used to implement SA policy to support the largest ever coordinated left challenge in the 2015 general election, as agreed at the SA’s 2013 AGM. This is a view publicly shared by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which believes that there should be the broadest possible united left challenge in 2015. As a result, it will be Tusc candidates who will be the main beneficiaries.
Unlike the establishment parties and Ukip, the left has no wealthy backers. The SA is delighted its legacy can now help build a large, coordinated socialist challenge to cuts and austerity.
In specific terms, the Socialist Alliance agreed at its AGM to donate:
- £500 each to the first 100 candidates who are selected and endorsed by a left coalition, such as Tusc, which will help create the largest possible left challenge and thus contribute towards there being national media coverage. The SA national executive, meeting subsequently on Sunday, decided that it would be Tusc that was identified as that left coalition to receive such donations.
- £500 each, if funds allow, for additional candidates on that same basis.
- £500 to any candidate not part of Tusc, but who has demonstrated that her/his organisation is willing to work cooperatively at a local level. This could be by simply engaging in discussions to avoid electoral clashes, although we would hope it would be more.
- An additional £500 to any such candidate who can demonstrate to the SA national executive, in writing, before the end of February 2015, that they are, or have been, a member of the SA and are committed to its principles.
- £500 towards any other socialist party/organisation/campaign group standing which clearly demonstrates a commitment to unity on the left.
- If the necessary number of candidates are fielded by Tusc, the cost of a fully-professional party election broadcast, up to a maximum of £5,000.
Former Labour MP Dave Nellist, national chair of Tusc, said: “The enormous generosity of Archie Dilloway, and subsequently the Socialist Alliance itself, is a major boost to Tusc’s 2015 election campaigns. In May 2014 Tusc fielded 560 local election candidates in nearly 90 towns and cities, in the widest socialist challenge to Labour for 60 years. But the media managed to largely ignore us.
“This legacy now means we will be able to seriously discuss doubling that number of local election candidates in 2015 to at least 1,000, and also standing widely enough in the general election to qualify for party political broadcasts in England, Scotland and Wales. Archie’s legacy will give a brilliant start to the major national fundraising drive we are about to launch, to make sure our election campaigns next year reach as many people as possible. We will then be better able to challenge the overlapping austerity agenda of the main establishment parties, and support those opposing cuts in local services, jobs and living standards.”
Secretary, Socialist Alliance
Beware men who defend the right of children to have sex with them. Willie Hunter makes a number of assumptions which need challenging (Letters, September 18).
First off, the British state is not “obsessed with ... child sex”, except in the sense that various branches of the state are taken to task for failing to protect children from men’s sexual interest in them. In the investigation into paedophilia from several decades ago, contrary to Hunter’s assertion, the accused are in fact answering to the law of the period in which these crimes took place and not current law. It is one reason why, upon conviction, judges are obliged to give lesser sentences than if the offence had occurred today.
Children and adolescents have a difficult enough time negotiating the pressures of growing up, of navigating their own and other people’s emotions, but most manage this reasonably well within the confines of their family and their peer-group friends. Contextualised within this framework, children explore and discuss their personal development, safe in the knowledge that even if the information they receive is not to their liking, or advice or criticism from peers is hurtful, through dialogue and interaction with others boundaries are set and children can navigate within them. There is shared cultural space. What a child does not need is lessons in freedom to practise sex with adult males, whose interest in the child’s development is anything but benign.
That Hunter can use the term ‘predatory’ as a pejorative accusation for a child’s behaviour towards an adult is quite disturbing. He refers, more than once, to the willingness of children to engage in sexual activities with men, thus attempting to remove adult responsibility towards the child and to make the victim responsible for her own manipulation. As far as Hunter is concerned, the offer of gifts, gratefully received, appears sufficient incentive for a man to claim sexual acts in return. Children want a lot of things. Responsible adults grant or withhold such things, using their judgement about what is in the best interest of the child. For instance, a responsible adult might withhold the giving of sweets, on the grounds of diet, tooth decay or as punishment for the transgression of a family rule. The irresponsible adult - let’s call him a paedophile - would offer the child sweets or other gifts, not because he thinks it’s good for the child, but because he thinks it’s good in furtherance of his own intentions.
Hunter refers to one situation where, as he puts it, sexual exploitation was acceptable because “most [girls] were upwards of 13 and only one was 11” and he affirms that the girls were not “robbed of their childhood”. This and many other examples given by Hunter indicate a serious need to rethink his view of childhood.
On September 18 the Weekly Worker front page did not call for abstention. The slogan, ‘Boycott this referendum’, did not confront the readers. It did not say, ‘A plague on both houses’. What stood out was an artistic design of ‘yes’ badges. One could be forgiven for thinking the CPGB had changed sides and began to support the democratic aspirations of the Scottish working class! Readers are bound to wonder what was going on.
Hopefully the answer is that the Weekly Worker changed its mind under the weight of accumulating evidence. This is far better than the alternative explanation that, at the 11th hour, the CPGB did not have the bottle to issue the instruction to the vanguard of the working class to boycott the poll.
On the same day Scotland stood on the brink of a breakthrough. It seemed there was a fleeting possibility that its democratic future and constitution would begin to pass into the hands of the Scottish people. Unfortunately and predictably a majority voted by 55% to 45% to maintain the British union. The victory of the unionists handed the power to decide Scotland’s constitutional future back to Cameron, the coalition government, the Whitehall machine and the Westminster parliament.
It was Salmond, not Cameron, who resigned. It was Cameron, not Salmond, who now seized the initiative. The prime minister emerged from Downing Street on Friday morning to tell Scotland what would happen next. In the corridors of Whitehall, the mandarins were busily drafting out a new constitutional settlement to be handed down from on high. There will be no referendum on this. Take it or leave it.
On Friday evening loyalist and fascist gangs turned up in George Square, Glasgow, singing ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘God save the queen’, giving Nazi salutes, shouting abuse and threatening peaceful ‘yes’ supporters with violence. Fighting ensued. The Britain First party, set up by ex-British National Party members with links to Northern Ireland, was identified with these attacks.
One factor in the defeat of the democratic movement in Scotland was the passivity of the working class in England. The English working class movement took no part in the struggle. There were no mass protest actions or petitions. There were no political strikes or solidarity demonstrations. In England, Labour’s unionism, combined with the neutrality of sections of the radical left, meant the democratic movement in Scotland was isolated from its natural allies south of the border.
Labour must get the lion’s share of the blame for the defeat. Nothing new here. It simply adds to the long list of crimes, sell-outs and betrayals of the working class. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Workers Power and George Galloway were on the same bandwagon. Left Unity, Tusc and the CPGB all played their role in the defeat by spreading passivity, indifference and demoralisation.
On Saturday the Left Unity national council discussed the outcome of the referendum and a resolution from supporters of the Scottish Republic Yes tendency. This said: “This meeting recognises the historic significance of the Scottish referendum for the democratic political future of the UK. We congratulate the Radical Independence Campaign for the massive efforts it made to win a ‘yes’ vote. We note and welcome the majority support for ‘yes’ provided by the working class of Glasgow. We recognise the failure of the left in England to mobilise the working class movement to support a ‘yes’ vote. We resolve to encourage and promote a party-wide discussion on the future of democracy throughout the UK.”
The words in italics were ruled out of order and the rest was agreed. LU is not ready to admit it made a serious political error. We’ll see if the CPGB can do any better.
Scottish Republic Yes tendency
I have read with interest and partial understanding the extensive discussion in the Weekly Worker of the Scottish referendum. I have always tended towards advocating a ‘no’ vote on the grounds that fragmentation of the British state undermines effective working class solidarity in the island of Britain (to use a translation of a phrase of the Welsh-language tradition). I have at no time found the arguments of Steve Freeman in much of the debate in the Weekly Worker remotely convincing.
In the last few weeks I have canvassed by email some distant acquaintances in Scotland in an attempt to ensure that they at the very least do not vote ‘yes’, on the basis of the sort of international proletarian arguments the CPGB advocates (possibly advocated by me in a cack-handed manner). The result has been mixed - at this stage I am not aware of how any one of them actually voted. One put to me the case that an independent Scotland with a more leftwing (for which read ‘reformist’) polity would somehow draw the whole of the island of Britain leftwards. She cited Colin Fox as a leftwing advocate of independence. All this from an academic historian, admittedly of the middle ages in Scotland (not the modern period internationally), though one would think she might know better.
My civil partner’s mother had the surname, Bruce, and he claims descent from Robert the Bruce. His politics might be fairly described as the extreme left of the Bloomsbury Group, as in informed by the novels of EM Forster. One can imagine his position on the referendum: a mixture of giving the English posh bastards a kicking and Celtic-fringe romanticism. He makes occasional wistful remarks about how the parliament of the United Kingdom was once meant to have met in Edinburgh every other year.
Waking up at just the moment when BBC Radio Four’s coverage made it fairly clear that ‘no’ had won (about 5am on the morning of September 18), he felt disappointed, and I, while initially semi-hard-headedly relieved, found myself welling up a little, as the heart of a Welsh nationalist sympathiser of yesteryear reacted in a less politically sound way emotionally.
I think all of this summarises the range of opinion and sentiment, internally and externally, as it were, that a methodologically sound analysis of the national question from a Marxist perspective is up against, especially among those who, like me, are approaching ‘political’ Marxism, for want of a better term, from the ‘soft’ area of ‘cultural’ Marxism - eg, the writings of the literary critic, Raymond Williams, on Wales.