Muddled denier

Ruth Tenne’s letter is a good example of the political muddle and confusion of Gilad Atzmon’s supporters in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (February 2).

Of course, the Zionist movement has exploited the Nazi holocaust for its own political purposes, thus demonstrating its contempt for those who were murdered. What makes this even worse is that, throughout the period 1941-45, the Zionist movement and its leadership ignored or minimised the holocaust, in some cases citing Nazi sources to rebut the reports that were coming out of Europe. Their one priority was building a Jewish state. They opposed the emigration of Jews from Europe to any destination other than Palestine. Between August and November 1942, at the behest of the US administration, the Jewish Agency sat on the Riegner cable from Switzerland that provided definite confirmation of the holocaust.

As Saul Friedlander observed, “The rescue of the Jews in Europe was not at the top of the yishuv leaders’ list of priorities. For them, the most important thing was the effort to establish the state” (Tom Segev The seventh million London 1994, p467). Likewise, Noah Lucas, another Zionist historian, described how Ben Gurion saw the holocaust “as a decisive opportunity for Zionism ... Ben Gurion above all others sensed the tremendous possibilities inherent in the dynamic of the chaos and carnage in Europe ... the forces unleashed by Hitler in all their horror must be harnessed to the advantage of Zionism” (ppl87-88).

Even Ben Gurion’s own official biographer, Shabtai Teveth, remarked that: “If there was a line in Ben Gurion’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one” (Ben Gurion: the burning ground 1886-1948 p851).

It is therefore another example of their hypocrisy that the Zionists use the holocaust to justify their racist treatment of the Palestinians when theirs was a movement of collaboration and worse. And this is compounded by the fact that the Zionist movement used the reparations from West Germany after the war for their own pet projects, leaving the holocaust survivors, for whom the monies were meant, in dire poverty. Yet the more stupid and reactionary of the Palestinians’ supporters have instead taken to denying the holocaust, falling right into the trap that the Zionists have set for them.

Thus Ruth Tenne speaks of “alleged, or imaginary, holocaust deniers”. Yet the position in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was quite clear. As I wrote in my article, the supporters of Gilad Atzmon and Paul Eisen, who believe that denying the holocaust is the key to unlocking support for Zionism, have caused significant disruption in a number of branches (‘No room for anti-Semites’, January 19).

Francis Clarke-Lowes, whose appeal against expulsion was rejected at the conference, wrote in an email on the Brighton and Hove PSC list: “You are, of course, right that Paul, like me, is proud to call himself a ‘holocaust denier’” (April 4 2011). On April 8 he developed his theme: “the evidence for and against the six million figure, the gas chambers and the plan for Jewish extermination by the Nazis ... are quite technical issues ...” And two days later he wrote: “I do not believe that millions of Jews and others were gassed in an industrial process of extermination ... The traces of Zyklon B gas (hydrogen cyanide) are, I believe, far too low in the places at Auschwitz-Birkenau where the gas chambers are supposed to have been, and are much higher in the places where the decontamination areas were.”

Holocaust deniers are nothing if not stupid. They commissioned an execution ‘expert’, Fred Leuchter, to write a report based on traces he took from the walls of the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Compared to the residues where clothing, etc, was disinfected, they were of very low concentration. Here was their proof that the holocaust was a myth. Unfortunately, they forgot that human beings require very low concentrations of hydrogen cyanide to kill them, whereas bugs and such like require very high concentrations.

What Tenne fails to understand is that the holocaust occurred and there are countless witnesses to the selections, the disappearance of whole trainloads of Jews who only ever made a one-way journey. Where are the half a million Jews of Warsaw? What was the purpose of Treblinka and Belzec, since they were never labour camps, if not extermination? The evidence is overwhelming.

There is nothing that the Zionist ideologues want more than to see Palestinian supporters embracing holocaust denial. It is proof that support for the Palestinians is not because they are an oppressed people, but because we are anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, some people are stupid enough to fall into the trap that the Zionists set for them. Indeed, in his own speech to PSC conference, appealing his expulsion, Clarke-Lowes referred to the “holocaust myth”.

Tenne says that I will, by the definition of one Tanya Gold, “be regarded as ‘one of the leftwing anti-Semites [who] despise Israel, but are [not?] vocal on the crime of other oppressive countries’. Yet, Tony, like Ms Gold and the pro-Zionist camp, is bent on cleaning out PSC of any alleged holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.”

This is a non-sequitur. The second sentence bears no logical relationship to the first. Yes, I will be considered an anti-Semite by the Zionists’ definition. The point is that I don’t accept their definition! Ruth, like most Atzmonites, falls into the trap of believing the enemy’s propaganda.

The decision of Camden PSC to remove Gill Kaffash as secretary, in the light of her consistent support for Paul Eisen, an open holocaust denier, is to be welcomed. However, that was the decision of the local group. It had nothing to do with national PSC.

Ruth speaks of the definition of racism that she and Kaffash proposed. But what a definition. If it had been debated, it would have gone the same way as Kaffash’s other amendment and been overwhelmingly defeated. It was too clever by half. So clever that not only did it exclude holocaust denial, but also anti-Muslim racism and anti-Arab racism, from its remit, since they are primarily cultural, not biological.

The rest of Ruth’s letter is equally incoherent. It starts off by describing the death of her grandparents and relatives in the holocaust, then talks of the “holocaust narrative” of the Zionists. It is irrelevant whether five or seven million died. What makes one a holocaust denier is if you deny that there was systematic extermination and intentionality, coupled with the use of poisonous gas to aid this task. There can be no doubt about the use of poisonous gas. Even David Irving conceded this in his libel action against Penguin. It was, after all, mentally and physically handicapped Germans who were first gassed, between 1939 and 1941, so this is hardly something conjured out of thin air.

We simply don’t know how many Jews (or gypsies) were murdered. The records of many Jewish communities vanished with those communities. An unknown number of Jews fled into the USSR, possibly as many as 1.5 million. There are plenty of unknowns about the holocaust, just as there is in physics and astronomy, but who when debating the virtues of the big bang would start arguing that the sun goes round the earth?

The Palestine solidarity movement, by its very nature, is anti-racist. To allow anti-Semitism or any other form of racism to gain a foothold would be to undermine the very cause that we support.

Tenne speaks with authority, as a Jewish person whose relatives perished in the holocaust. I have to tell her that, according to Atzmon’s Not in my name, “Jews cannot criticise Zionism in the name of their ethnic belonging because such an act is in itself an approval of Zionism.” She too is, by her mentor’s definition, a Zionist!

Muddled denier
Muddled denier


Ruth Tenne’s letter draws a parallel between unravelling the Zionist mythology about the foundation of the state of Israel - which needs to be challenged to reveal the truth of events surrounding it - and ‘revisiting’ the facts and events of the holocaust, of which there is universally recognised and meticulous documentation.

She fails to see the distinction between the use of the holocaust as emotional blackmail (which every anti-racist is against) and denying or questioning the holocaust, which is a diversionary tactic employed by true anti-Semites. She conflates challenging the Zionist narrative of 1948 with the need to challenge the facts of the holocaust, a dangerously misguided and misleading approach. The PSC had every right to establish its anti-racist credentials against those mischief-makers who are detracting from the Palestinian struggle by introducing the deliberately fractious element of holocaust questioning, which has nothing to do with the Palestinian struggle and campaigning. This has the effect of diverting attention from action and campaigning, and playing into Zionists’ hands by trying to defend the holocaust deniers, and giving them meat to accuse the PSC of tolerating anti-Semitism.

Tenne erroneously quotes eminent historians like Pappe, Finkelstein and Mark Ellis in their challenging of Zionist history or the use of the holocaust. But they have never questioned the clear historical evidence of the holocaust itself - a tactic used by anti-Semites. Omar Barghouti, the leading Palestinian supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, very specifically stated at the PSC annual general meeting that there was absolutely no room for anti-Semitism, racism or for holocaust minimising or denial.

Anyone using the ‘witch-hunt’ description for the PSC places that person firmly in the court of defending the deniers, which does not enhance a reputation of the same person being a discerning critic of the Zionist state, and being able to sift out what needs to be challenged and what damages one’s case. Unfortunately, Ruth Tenne’s statement backing her and Gill Kaffash’s motion to the PSC executive will make them even more likely to confirm that the action taken by the AGM in removing avowed holocaust deniers was the right one and more likely to refuse their muddled and illogical motion and statement.


Who is right?

I think a case can be made out for saying that, up until World War I, Lenin was a leftwing social democrat who argued that, under the autocratic political conditions of tsarism, social democrats there had to organise as a hierarchical, centralised party in order to overthrow the tsarist regime, and that for western Europe he accepted the German party’s model of an open, democratic party pursuing a maximum programme (of socialism) and a minimum programme of reforms of capitalism, contesting elections, etc.

However, he changed his position after 1917. He now said that the organisational form and tactics that he had advocated for the overthrow of tsarism (which was not in fact how tsarism ended, as it collapsed more or less of its own accord; his tactics only worked to overthrow the weak government that emerged following this) should also be applied in western Europe for the overthrow of capitalism.

This is when he would have ceased to be a social democrat and become a Bolshevik, in which case The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky and Leftwing communism: an infantile disorder are the significant texts of Leninism. People like Pham Binh can mount some sort of a case for their view that Lenin wasn’t really an advocate of a vanguard party aiming to lead and manipulate the workers, as long as they ignore Lenin’s post-1917 writings and, of course, practice (‘Mangling the party of Lenin’, February 2). But it makes them leftwing social democrats - to the disgust of hardcore Leninists, who remain true to his post-1917 vanguardist position.

Who is right?
Who is right?


David Walters says he has a very orthodox Leninist view of imperialism (Letters, February 2). If he did, that would be part of the problem, given that Lenin’s theory has been shown comprehensively to be inadequate. But actually there is nothing particularly Leninist in his argument.

David confuses several things. Of course, Marxists oppose imperialism, but the question is how they oppose it. As Lenin put it in another context, “The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ‘demand’ such development, we do not ‘support’ it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc, and beyond them to socialism!” (www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/miliprog/ii.htm).

In other words, the fact that capitalism/imperialism moves in a certain direction does not require us to oppose it with a defence of the status quo. Nor a return to some previous state. We oppose it by arguing for the logical extension of that development. We do not demand that capital establish a United States of Europe, but, if it does move in that direction, we do not demand that it desist! On the contrary, we demand that in the process it should implement consistent democracy and we attempt to organise the workers to push forward their interests as far as possible.

It is not correct to say that the only purpose of trade pacts and currency and political unions has been to “destroy the gains of the working class that factually were won within those parameters”. Firstly, the things outlined as gains won by the working class were by and large no such thing. The welfare state was established not because it was won by workers, but because it met the needs of capital. It was Bismarck who established the first national insurance scheme; it was the Tory, Neville Chamberlain, who drew up the original proposals upon which the welfare state was created; it was Winston Churchill who established the first minimum wage; and so on. The only things that workers have won have been improvements around the margin of what capital itself sought to provide for its own ends.

Secondly, there are many more important reasons for capital to seek closer integration and the establishment of larger markets than the rather trivial issue of undermining workers’ wages and conditions. The whole experience of the 19th century, as Engels set out, showed that capital had long gone beyond the penny-pinching methods of extracting absolute surplus value, in favour of relative surplus value. The gains for capital in terms of economies of scale and so on obtained from a larger, integrated market dwarf any short-term gains that capital might obtain through attacks on wages and conditions.

That can be seen by a cursory look at the facts. It is not imperialism in the form of the European Union that has attacked workers’ pay and conditions; it has been the British state, which sought to exclude itself from regulations such as the working time directive and which has been at the forefront of those attacks. Far from imperialism, through the establishment of the EU, attacking “social welfare, social security, labour codes and healthcare laws”, as David claims, there have been improvements for workers in most of those areas as a result of EU laws and regulations, and, in a period when workers have been generally too weak to win any concessions from capital, those improvements have been driven from the top, from the EU commission itself. Indeed it is that which causes many of the reactionary elements within capital and its political representatives within the rightwing populist parties to squeal with anguish over the intervention against their attempts to squeeze more profits out of their workers.

Perhaps it is because it has seen such improvements to its conditions over the last 20 years, including the right to move in search of work anywhere within the EU, we can agree with David when he says, “The Greek working class is quite clear about where it stands on Europe”: Greek workers in every poll indicate 70% support for staying in the EU and in the euro. The latest elections in Finland, where a pro-euro candidate won hands down and the anti-EU candidates got trounced, is another indication that European workers are far more internationalist in this respect than David.

As far as the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade is concerned, I’d suggest that he read the views of Marx and Engels on the subject (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/free-trade/index.htm). As for the imperialist dismantling of the nation-state, this is fanciful. No one forced any of the states in Europe to apply for membership. Most of them are falling over themselves to be able to join. Scotland has said that, if it were to separate from the UK, it would still want to be a member of the EU. Nor is it clear how opposing the EU would prevent capitalists from moving their capital to wherever in the globe they wanted, any more than the existence of nation-states prevented that in the past.

But at least David appears to argue honestly, which is more than can be said for Dave Douglass. Despite the fact that I have several times refuted his statement that I merely tell the workers at Bombardier, “it’s capitalism and there’s nowt we can do till the glorious day of the worldwide revolution”, he simply repeats the lie rather than deal with the argument. It is odd, because later he writes: “A work-in where production was maintained and vehicles demanded and used by ancillary workers, with workers taking control of the distribution of sales profits, for example, has nothing to do with ‘nationalism’.” I agree, and that is precisely the course of action I did propose the workers should adopt.

The difference is that, unlike him, Gerry Downing and others, I recognise the lessons that workers should have learned from the experience of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. There, when workers pursued that course of action, and similarly in France in 1968, the Stalinist leadership of the movement persuaded the workers to follow the course of action Dave Douglass and Gerry and others propose. They argued that, having seized ownership of the means of production, the workers should hand them back to the capitalists and their state. The state then proceeded to do what any property-owner would do. It exercised control against the workers, began a programme of rationalisation that saw tens of thousands of jobs in shipbuilding lost, before making it safe to be handed back to private capitalists. Marxists are supposed to learn the lessons of history, not endlessly repeat them.

The example we need to follow is that put forward by Marx when he praised the textile cooperatives set up by the workers by their own endeavours, or today of the workers in Argentina, such as those at Zanon, who have seized their factories, demanded their ownership be legalised, and then proceeded to exercise control in the only way workers can - through the establishment of cooperatives, which form an integral part of the class struggle.


Bogged down

Roscoe Turi finds the US army council denial of Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds a “whopper”. He then goes on to say it might be plausible. Not much of a whopper then. He sees it as propaganda against Iran. If so, it must be the most unused piece of propaganda that the imperialists have ever conjured up. Just about all of the pro-war forces used this single atrocity as enough reason to launch a genocidal war on Iraq. As to Iran, an ‘accident’ of war is hardly the language of blame, although the neo-cons are trying to shift blame for the 9/11 attack to Iran, which is a much more worrying signal of US intentions.

Turi’s sophisticated anti-imperialism consists of aping the imperialist agenda by focusing on the internal crimes, supposed or otherwise, of the target nations, whereas the focus should be our ‘own’ imperialist crimes against these nations - ie, the undeclared war through sabotage, sanctions and assassinations. These crimes are continually ignored by the left, as though their narrative is controlled by imperialism itself. The “systematic duping of the working class” is not merely the prerogative of the Labour Party in Lenin’s vernacular.

It was not the fault of the Berbers or the Kurds that they temporarily became imperialism’s favourite oppressed peoples, but highlighting them here must be put in this context. In contrast, we hear very little about the struggles in countries of nations whose rulers are friendly to the US, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. What do we hear of the severe discrimination against non-Muslims or non-Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia?

Also, the present focus on the euro crisis must be seen through the prism of currency wars and not the default of debt by the periphery European countries. Here the left echo the champions of the pound and the dollar. Fortunately, the dollar and the pound are on their last legs and only need to be defeated by the resilient euro to go into a death spiral.

Finally, I tend to avoid the terms ‘Stalinist’ and ‘Trotskyist’. It’s as if the Russian Revolution informs every debate on the left, and that, I think, alienates the young, as it looks as though we are bogged down in the politics or perhaps dogmas of the 1930s.

Bogged down
Bogged down

For and against

In the days of the ‘iron curtain’ and Berlin wall, citizens of the bureaucratic socialist countries who illegally emigrated to the west were described as ‘traitors’.

It seems to me that leaving your country of birth, which has educated you and looked after your health, to seek employment in another country is not necessarily treacherous, but if it leaves your own country impoverished because of the numbers leaving, then it could easily be seen in this light. It is certainly highly irresponsible.

I’d like to know why so many east and central Europeans came to the UK, working below the minimum rates of pay and, of course, well below trade union rates, consequently denying our own workers jobs, when they knew they were impoverishing their fellow-countrymen back home. At one stage so many Polish men had emigrated, there were not enough to man the fire stations in Poland, and many women had to be recruited to do so. Presumably at the low wages the men had left the country to escape.

If the Poles could organise a ‘trade union’ to eventually bring down the bureaucratic socialist government, why couldn’t they organise trade unions to fight for decent wages and conditions under capitalism? Why couldn’t they form cooperatives to avoid capitalist exploitation? Why indeed can’t exploited workers in all the former bureaucratic socialist countries and in the developing world show some solidarity and form trade unions, cooperatives, etc, to fight for better wages and working conditions, along with the fight for a genuine transfer to socialism?

I’ve been told that in the case of the developing world of sweatshops and child labour it is because any worker who tried to form or joined a trade union would be ‘victimised’. The phrase ‘Tolpuddle martyrs’ comes to mind. Were we in Britain and other western countries handed better wages and working conditions by the capitalists on a plate? Were trade unions welcomed with open arms? Were we not victimised? We had to fight for what we got, every inch of the way. It is a battle which continues and will never be won till we have real socialism.

I’m all for free movement of labour and overcoming petty bourgeois nationalism. However, there has to be, in the case of the EU, a level playing field. Wages and working conditions have to be the same throughout the EU or else some states/countries will be drained of labour-power and others overwhelmed. Surely, this is obvious?

There really is no alternative to fighting for workers’ rights and socialism in all countries and, in order to do this, we need international solidarity. This could include sending comrades to countries where wages and conditions are much lower and helping them to form trade unions, cooperatives and political organisations to fight for their rights and for socialism.

All the gains of the distorted form of socialism we saw in the 20th century have been lost, capitalist exploiters have moved in to take the place of the former Stalinist bureaucratic ruling cliques, and the influx of so many economic migrants into the advanced capitalist countries has just caused unemployment, weakening the trade union movement and lowering wages.

Every state has the right to control migration, and indeed has to do so for practical purposes. The fight for workers’ rights, freedom from exploitation and socialism must take place in every country, in every state. Mass emigration is just a cop-out and is not a solution. Free movement of labour is a luxury we can’t afford till there is at least more uniformity of wages and working conditions and, ideally, worldwide socialism.

For and against
For and against