Tony Greenstein states that he has never explicitly equated the Israeli state with Nazism (Letters, April 13). What he has done though - very, very frequently in very many articles - is constantly point out the links and relationships between Zionism in the 1930s and Nazi Germany, and the deal they struck to enable selective Jews to emigrate from Germany to what was then Palestine. He has constantly asserted the Zionist nature of the Israeli state and Zionist dealings with Nazi Germany - yes, we can all join up the dots.
The basic problem that Greenstein and Moshé Machover have in constantly defining the present-day Israeli state as “settler-colonial” is that it denies legitimacy to that state and thereby the people who today identify with it - whether we term them Israeli, Hebrew or Jewish. It also fails to deal with the present-day reality of an established and reproducing Israeli nation and people. This is one basic failing of both Greenstein and Machover. The use of ‘settler-colonial’ denies the simple and basic fact that the great majority of the Israeli population (of which the great majority have to work for a living) have been born and bred in Israel. They have therefore acquired some basic legitimacy and rights as an established and settled population in the region.
Greenstein never states what is the agency for change in Israel/Palestine. Shockingly, he says the Israeli working class “has lost its potential for revolutionary change” (Letters, March 30) - a view which is fundamentally anti-Marxist, anti-socialist and indeed anti-human. Joining the dots and putting the pieces together from Greenstein’s writings over the years, he seems to expect or indeed want a region-wide Arab uprising to not only sweep away their own reactionary regimes, but Israel itself. If the Israeli working class has “no revolutionary potential”, is irredeemably “racist and bigoted”, it stands to reason it too will be “swept away”.
Machover calls for a region-wide socialist revolution to, inter alia, sweep away the Israeli state, as well as reactionary Arab regimes, but, given he describes the Israeli working class as “settler-colonial”, it appears to follow they will be swept away as well. Presumably this “socialist revolution” will also carry out all the tasks of the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and national democratic revolutions as well? What would be the economic basis of this ‘socialism’? Oil?
But just imagine such a “region-wide socialist revolution” approaching the borders of the state of Israel, with the vast majority of its population strongly identifying with it? Is “socialism” going to spontaneously ignite within the Israel working class? Or is the Israeli state and people more likely to regard this as an existential threat to their existence and respond accordingly?
I believe it is Machover himself who has said that one of the basic differences between apartheid South Africa and Israel is that the former was heavily dependent on an exploited black working class. I think this understates the degree to which many Palestinians are exploited, either directly or indirectly by Israeli and/or multinational capital. But the logical implication of Machover’s point must be that the Israeli economy is dependent for its economic and social reproduction on the exploitation of a working class - in this case, largely Israeli, but some Palestinian as well.
In other words, the Israeli working class has a fundamental class interest in direct opposition to that of Israeli/multinational capital. Yes, I am sure the ideologies of Zionism, racism, religion, historical (including fake, invented) memory, the general siege mentality and militarisation of all aspects of Israeli society together act to completely obscure this underlying basic class contradiction, but it is there nonetheless. You cannot wish away concrete class reality by any manner of means through ideologies, prejudices, fears, religion, etc.
These two basic reasons - the facts of an established, settled and reproducing population and a working class central to the economic and social reproduction of Israeli society - mean that, like it or not, the Israeli working class and working population has got to be part of any region-wide peace, democratic, security and ultimately socialist settlement. Such a settlement has to be based on the principles of democracy, equality, respect for cultural and national diversities, and social justice, underpinned by class.
I do believe and expect that, on the basis of the very many contradictions which exist across Israel/Palestine and the wider region - of which the most significant are the basic class contradictions between working people and capital and the oppression of many national cultures, where these are minorities in various states, including Palestinians, Kurds, Armenians, etc - and between the interests of the region as a whole versus imperialism, there will be major comprehensive and progressive revolutionary developments and changes (ie, led by and carried out by the working masses, not petty bourgeois or bourgeois elites) in the years to come.
No-one can predict whether such progressive mass revolutionary changes will cause the break-up of existing states, new ones to be created or existing one merged with new democratic social content. Whether, for example, they will produce two states or one for Israelis and Palestinians, or be part of wider arrangements, is impossible to predict and will be determined by concrete facts and concrete forces on the ground.
Clearly, the Palestinian (and other oppressed) people must be provided with vast amounts of compensation to account for their displacement and suffering at the hands of Zionism and also equitable access to all types of resources going forward. This will entail considerable redistribution of land, housing, jobs, income, education opportunities, access to health, culture, etc.
But the Israeli working class and working people must be a part of this overall solution and will themselves gain concretely, materially, socially and culturally from a much more progressive, socialistic order of society, across Israel/Palestine and the wider region. The principal ‘losers’, in every sense, have to be the current ruling classes, ruling elites, national and international capital and capitalists, and their supporters and beneficiaries in all the state bureaucracies.
Implicitly or otherwise advocating the destruction or removal of entire existing states and peoples should be anathema to anyone who regards themselves as pro-human, let alone a socialist. We should be using the bases of class and liberation from all forms of oppression in order to create the widest and maximum possible unity across all working classes, working peoples, and bring peoples and nations together.
Tony Greenstein states: “It is not at all clear that Ben-Gvir’s proposed militia will have an operational independence from Israel’s armed forces and police” (Letters, April 13). But surely the more important question is whether the Israeli armed forces and police will have any sort of independence from Ben-Gvir’s ‘SA’ ...
There is a legend about Saint George, but he himself is not a purely legendary figure. His tomb at his birthplace in Israel, which is now known as Lod, was once a major focus of unity between Christians and Muslims in devotion to the patron saint of Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt before, and as much as, the patron saint of England. But three quarters of those who practised that devotion were violently expelled at the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.
In similar vein, it is proposed to expand Jerusalem Walls National Park to include the Mount of Olives, under the control of Elad, a militant Israeli settler organisation. Binyamin Netanyahu depends for his parliamentary majority on people who actively believe that there is a religious obligation to burn down churches, since they hold the divinity of Christ to be an idolatrous assertion. They recently desecrated the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, where it is maintained by the local Anglican diocese on behalf of a British owner.
While there are now fourth-generation Israelis who could not possibly be told to ‘go home’ (the state of Israel having been founded in the same year that the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury), it is clear from the Bible that the pre-Israelite population, the founders of Jerusalem, never went away. They never have yet. They became Christian when or before the Roman empire did, and they adopted the use of Arabic at the time of a Muslim conquest (contemporaneous with the Saxon conquest of what is now England).
Those ancient indigenous Christians are still there. The founders of modern Palestinian identity, they are the people of Shireen Abu Akleh. But parties that burn down their churches are now in government in Israel, and are about to take control of the Mount of Olives.
GG correctly states: “… by not offering political balance and a socialist perspective in the way of talking about the oppressive, traditional role of motherhood in the patriarchal system - [too much focus on its circumstances] effectively reinforces that oppression and takes a reactionary stance” (Letters, March 2). She reinforces this stance in her latest letter (April 13) against class-reductionist attacks on feminism also.
Women’s oppression, the patriarchy, is a product of the economic, political and social structures of capitalism and all previous class societies. But it will not be overcome simply by the socialist revolution; we must analyse these structures, which exist in the mind also, and we must consciously fight against them to raise class-consciousness to the level necessary for the socialist revolution.
I’m not convinced, as GG is, that Heather Brown is correct in her position that “we have to look to Marx, not Engels, for an understanding about women’s oppression ... Engels was too economically deterministic.” As I understand it, Engels’ argument is that in the primitive communism, hunter-gatherer societies there was matriarchy because women collectively looked after the home turf, collectively reared the children and did the gathering of wild fruit and other natural foods - and so were in the dominant position, because of their collective strength. As there was no private property to bequeath in a will in this pre-class society, it did not matter who your biological father was.
So the difficulties of the family in capitalist society - the series of horrific murders of small children by parents and stepparents - did not apply in primitive communism in the same way. However, scarcity made it necessary to keep the number in the group to around 30, and so we had the killing of new-born babies to keep that number low. That brutal reality will not apply in the advanced communism of the superabundance of the future. Some individuals are better suited to childcare than others, but this will be overcome through collective, socialised childcare, without the ongoing, appalling economic pressure of today’s cost-of-living crises. A woman’s right to choose will see full access to abortion and contraception, free crèche facilities, equal maternity and paternity leave, etc, thus ending the patriarchy.
I’m not well read on Heather Brown, as referenced by GG, but I have read Brown’s ‘Marx on gender and the family: a summary’ (Monthly Review June 1 2014) and found some anomalies. The biggest problem was that she cites Marx and Engels, refers to Georg Lukács, but makes no reference to the fate of women in the Russian Revolution, to the rise and fall of the Zhenotdel, in this article. Perhaps she has done it elsewhere, but I do not think you can come to a serious conclusion on the ‘woman question’ and the dichotomy between Marx and Engels on it, without examining what happened subsequently to women in the only real socialist revolution in human history; that of October 1917 in Russia.
The Weekly Worker has supplied us with this missing element in the article, ‘Zhenotdel and its travails’ - the discussion between Anne McShane and Yassamine Mather on March 30. I have some differences with this very informative article. Firstly, I do not agree that problems stemmed from the introduction of the 1921 New Economic Policy alone. Anne correctly points to limitations being placed on the availability of abortion and Red Army men returning from war replacing women in the workplace - Rosie the Riveter and every other female workforce experienced this post-war; all the nationalists in the north of Ireland met that fate in the ‘carnival of reaction’ (the Belfast riots, which began in July 1920).
It was the emergence and victory of the theory of socialism in a single country from October 1924 that signalled the abandonment of the perspective of world revolution and the loss of hope in the material economic and political assistance of successful revolutions, particularly in Germany, that led to the defeat of the Zhenotdel in 1928. Lenin intended the NEP to be only a temporary measure and the Left Opposition very quickly proposed a centrally planned economy to replace it in the ‘Declaration of 46’ in October 1923.
There is a Marxist revolutionary approach to religion and women’s oppression. The early Soviet government of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks attempted this in a serious way. This stands in contrast to the Menshevik methods, when they were in power in southern republics like Georgia during the Civil War and in stark contrast to the brutally ignorant policies of Stalin and the bureaucracy after they began to dominate after 1924. This is the method of Lenin, as recounted by Dale Ross (DL Reissner), the first editor of the Spartacist League’s Women and Revolution:
“The Bolsheviks viewed the extreme oppression of women as an indicator of the primitive level of the whole society, but their approach was based on materialism, not moralism. They understood that the fact that women were veiled and caged, bought and sold, was but the surface of the problem … Lenin warned against prematurely confronting respected native institutions, even when these clearly violated communist principles and Soviet law. Instead he proposed to use the Soviet state power to systematically undermine them, while simultaneously demonstrating the superiority of Soviet institutions - a policy which had worked well against the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.”
In my last response to Lawrence Parker, I stated that in my experience, arguments on leftwing Discord channels often become fractious (Letters, March 23). As those involved furiously type out their replies, it feels like being in a meeting where everyone is shouting at each other. My observation is that these flame wars are generally male-dominated and women rarely contribute - partly because they feel it is difficult for them to get heard. This view is based both on my own experience and what other female comrades have told me. Besides this, I argued that we should try to have a higher level of political debate on these forums and be conscious about this.
In his response, Lawrence claimed I was personally upset about being ignored and should get over it. He accused me of using him in a ‘proxy war’ with the CPGB leadership and of being an advocate of safe spaces. None of this is borne out by anything I have actually done. Contrary to what he alleged, myself and the majority of CPGB comrades on Discord have argued strongly against bans and censorship, including pushing for the Unofficial Weekly Worker server to be relaunched. Because Lawrence has blocked me on Discord, he would not see my interventions in the discussion, and so I wanted to put the record straight. Still it fell on deaf ears.
I really don’t care that Lawrence considers me soft. I haven’t tried to shut anyone up, in fact the reverse is true. We need to fight for truth and must have openness to do that. But I genuinely do not think it is a problem to suggest that comrades should consider their audience when trying to win others over, particularly on social media. That is my view, not a rule that you have to abide by. You can argue that I am a total liberal if you want. No problem.
The CPGB would have us believe we live in a society where precious liberal values are under attack from a rabid right. Actually, in reality the rabid right are busy - aided and abetted by the liberal left - in erecting a police state built on degrowth and demented woke liberalism.
This demented woke liberalism, transported from the USA by the liberal left, is being fully endorsed by the Tory Party. The fact that some rightwing voices in the press sow confusion by writing anti-woke articles simply illuminates a classic Tory tactic: namely do one thing, but say another! We currently have the highest tax burden in history, given to us by a Conservative government, but in the rags we still get Tory voices railing against high taxes! The Tories are happy to implement high taxes, but they like to peddle the idea that only the left is for high taxes. It is the same with woke: the Tory government has done nothing to check woke legislation and ideology penetrating the UK, but have their sock puppets writing in the press to pin it all on the left.
Clearly the leading idea of the ruling class today is woke liberalism and any communist party worth its salt would be asking the question, ‘Why woke? Why now?’ But instead the CPGB give us their moral-panic claptrap, tailing this woke narrative.
I would say the erection of this woke ideology as the principal ruling ideology of the imperialist centre is almost unprecedented, both in its scope, its sheer ubiquitousness, and in its relentless, constant repetition. The ruling classes have never invested so much into an ideology - an ideology which demands conformity on pain of cancellation. It allows no criticism and sees any form of criticism as proof of heresy.
It always stands on a high moral ground, and therefore anyone questioning the narrative (and a narrative it surely is) stands on a low moral ground and must be denounced accordingly. Therefore, facts that disprove or throw serious doubt on this demented ideology are actually used against those wielding the facts. The logic goes something like this: I have an idea and my idea is good; you have facts that throw doubt on my idea, which means you are not taking my idea seriously; and, because my idea is good, that must mean you are bad.
This is very much how the inquisition worked. A thinker had facts to show that the narratives of the church were to be seriously doubted. The church used these facts to show that the thinker did not take the church’s narrative seriously enough, proving the thinker was an heretic and must repent or be burned at the stake! The only difference between the church during the inquisition and the demented woke liberals of today is that the thinker is not allowed to repent and must proceed directly to the burning.
A lot, lot more could be said, but I will leave it there - other than to say all serious leftists must take up the fight against this severe regression.
Gaby Rubin does well surely to correspond with a long-term convict (Letters, April 13). But a more general point about the use, if any, of prison arises from the squabble about the ‘nonces’.
Rishi Sunak’s personal beliefs about particular set of offenders are of little importance, compared with the more general issue of how to rehabilitate such offenders. Of course, Starmer’s Daily Mail-driven advisors are terrified of such a question.
In Poland we live in a world of appearances. Seemingly, we have full, constitutionally guaranteed democracy and freedom of speech. And yet, for one year now, theatres have been afraid to show the works of playwrights from a certain country, concert halls have been afraid to perform the music of composers of a certain nationality, and publishing houses have been afraid to publish writers whose works were written in a certain language. I am, of course, referring to Russia.
Of course, freedom of speech is and has been a myth. The ‘Solidarity establishment’ (meaning what derived from the non-communist trade union movement in the 1980s) fought for freedom of speech mainly for itself. In addition to Solidarity, the Catholic church and John Paul II have also remained sacred cows in the mainstream narrative. In addition an entire catalogue of topics forbidden in historical research has been developed by the Institute of National Remembrance.
For a long time, we have been living in Poland at the crossroads of demo-liberal cancel culture and the nationalist-clerical politics of the ruling Law and Justice Party. Although seemingly contradictory, both directions can find common ground on various issues: this is especially true of the authentic left and Russia. In these matters, the state and popular media can make hell for every dissident on social media forums and in professional life.
However, without a doubt, the war in Ukraine questioned freedom of speech in Poland in the most radical way. When the guns are thundering in strongly clerical Poland, you can even blame the pope himself after his words that “perhaps Nato’s barking at Russia’s door” prompted the Kremlin “to react badly and unleash a conflict”. A real novelty in all Polish history! This situation shows that the current institutionalized hatred is not about condemning the war (after all, pope Francis condemns it), but about forcing an uncritical attitude of acceptance of all the theses of Nato propaganda.
What’s the sense of banning writers? Is it not possible to leave the reader free to choose today in the name of the constitutional principles of freedom of speech and publication? Additionally, we do not have to agree with the book we are reading to consider it a valuable source of information about others (even if they are not liked) - their reasons or mistakes, their way of thinking, sensitivity, etc.
The dispute over the limits of freedom of speech will last forever. Let us agree, however, that - to quote the last Polish Nobel laureate, Olga Tokarczuk - “literature is not for idiots” and let us leave it to the readers, not the censors and Taliban of all sorts, to decide.