The following letter was sent to the Weekly Worker in time for last week’s online edition, but was not published, in reply to Gerry Downing’s weak letter (see ‘Scurillous’ here) in the previous issue defending his comrade Gareth Martin against charges of racism. No doubt the editors did not consider concluding this exchange properly a political priority for them, which is comprehensible. However as a matter of political hygiene we consider that GD’s attempt to obsfuscate the truth about this should not go unanswered and so we are publishing it here.
Gerry Downing tries to deny that the abuse by Gareth Martin
of our Middle Eastern comrade, his grotesque allegation that he supported
imaginary murders of Jews in synagogues in London, was really directed at him
at all. He foolishly asks:
“Look at the line of argument here and the ridiculous, demented non-sequiturs; how in the hell is it ‘a direct criticism of one of our Middle Eastern comrades’? Ah, you see, Gareth mentions London and the comrade he is debating with lives in London (he doesn’t), so he must be referring to him!”
Well our comrade considers that he lives in London, even if
on the periphery and not inner London. And more to the point, it is clearly a
direct criticism since it is a Facebook comment in which our comrade is tagged,
and him alone. No one else is tagged. It is very clear that this comment was
directed at him personally. We have screenshots of this Facebook exchange which
we are quite prepared to produce before any reputable third party.
We also have screenshots of another Facebook exchange with
another defender of Downing’s politics racially abusing our comrade, one Rob
Lyons, apparently from North America, who lectured our comrade about a ‘worker’,
from the same Middle Eastern ethnic group that our comrade comes from, in an
even more obvious vein thus:
“If a [Middle Eastern] worker beats his spouse, then to his spouse he is a direct oppressor, but within the matrix of social relations globally, he is just another oppressed worker passing along his alienated state in the form of domestic violence.”
When our comrade protested that Lyons knew that he was from
the same ethnic group that Lyons was stereotyping, and that this was racist
innuendo, Lyons replied, tagging our comrade personally again:
“Get stuffed slimeball. I used an example I thought you could relate to given your experiences. Something real easy for you to understand. Obviously I over rated your intelligence. Truly sorry for that. But there is no colouring book to teach you how to draw inside the lines on this issue.”
The poisonous racial innuendo here is palpable. Yet when
both the target of this abuse, and myself, protested about this and pointed out
the obvious racist intent, we were both removed, and blocked, from the Socialist Fight Facebook group by the
admin, Gerry Downing, and our comments protesting the racial abuse deleted. We
have screenshots of Lyons’ comments which again are clearly tagged with the
same of our Middle Eastern comrade here.
This is where the racism that lurks behind Gerry’s capitulation
to Zionism becomes explicit. It is also borne out by his attempt to theorise
why Gareth Martin should not be challenged for this innuendo-laden attack:
“Previously Ian’s ‘proof’ of his racism was a ridiculous biological-determinist theory: he is white and was born in South Africa, so this made him a racist and a supporter of Zionism, regardless of his proud record of fighting apartheid in South Africa since he was a teenager and his direct participation in the Anti-Nazi League and the Socialist Workers Party for 10 years from the mid-1990s, all the while fighting against Zionism and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.”
Even in the minds of ‘biological’ racists, there is no
perceived difference between white settler types in Africa and the broader
white population around the world. Gerry has invented a strange new concept
here, even though he projects it onto me. My point is that Gareth’s attitudes
reflect backward attitudes that he has not overcome despite being in
essentially left-liberal, in practice reformist organisations like the
social-chauvinist Anti-Nazi League and the SWP that I rejected from the left at
the beginning of the 1980s. Presumably if that is his tradition then for Gerry
he cannot have failed to overcome backward, racist views that come from his
background at all. The fact that Gerry can make such an argument shows a degree
of political degeneration.
As does his whole argument about my ‘biological’ hostility
to Gareth’s racist backwardness. This is about backwardness from a cultural
background, and applies not only to Gareth but to the dictatorial leader of the
SWP, Alex Callinicos, who comes from a white settler aristocratic background in
colonial Zimbabwe. Callinicos denounced Norman Finkelstein as providing comfort
for Nazis in 1999, and now orders his SWP goons to bureaucratically harass
pro-Palestinian militants who object to the presence of open Zionists in the
SWP’s ‘Stand Up to Racism’ events. I would assert that this particular policy,
which was not the policy of the SWP under previous leaderships, is a product of
his personal regime in the SWP and Callinicos’s own politics and prejudices.
But I’m sure that Callinicos, like Martin, will profess opposition to Zionism
as well. It means nothing if his actions contradict that.
Gerry is in effect attacking me for ‘anti-white racism’,
racism against myself, with this polemic. This is itself a racist, far right
trope. ‘Self-hatred’ among groups that currently oppress others is always a far
right trope, and this has particular relevance where Zionists and those who are
soft on Zionism are involved. The campaign against Atzmon has much of the same
character, nothwithstanding his confusion about history, which is shared by an
enormous number of people in the Middle East who are faced with genocidal
oppression at the hands of ‘democratic’ imperialism and Zionist Jews.
There is an element of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ in the politics of the Middle East. This has produced the paradox today where it is perfectly possible for someone to doubt the truth of the Nazi holocaust, and yet for their underlying, real motive, be a confused hostility to the racism that Arabs and Muslims experience today. And conversely, it is perfectly possible for someone to be completely in tune with the long established truth of the Nazi genocide, and yet to be a genocidal racist who defends the mass murder of Arab civilians. I judge people by their real motive and drives, not their confusions. So actually, the ‘anti-white racism’ trope that Gerry implies has much in common with the denunciation of Atzmon the Jewish-Israeli as an ‘ Jewish anti-Semite’ and ‘self-hating Jew’. This is also a far right trope and it is no surprise that Gerry in defending the latter comes to advocate the former. It is indicate of an extreme contradiction in his politics that a left-wing militant of Trotskyist views should come to echo such tropes.
Gerry absurdly claims that to denounce Gareth for racially
abusing our comrade is anti-Semitic, and regrets that we are allowed to criticise
him. That is in tune with his behaviour in trying to silence our criticism on
every forum he controls. But when he tried to do that on an International forum
of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, this was countermanded
by International comrades. The contradiction Gerry has is that our ‘expulsion’
is not recognised internationally by our common International comrades, though
they are compelled to recognise that Gerry’s political retreat into pro-Zionist
chauvinism and bureaucratism have led to the creation of two groups, both of
whom are recognised as LFCI groups by the international comrades. That puts
Gerry in an extreme contradiction with not only workers democracy but also the
democracy of the LCFI when he denounces others for allowing us to argue our
The Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, is tonight in
intensive care in St Thomas’s Hospital, London, apparently receiving oxygen on
a ventilator after spending around two weeks with worsening Covid-19. It is
possible he will not survive the viral pneumonia that has set in. This is
possibly the most shocking and prominent demonstration yet of the very
dangerous nature of the Coronavirus-Sars-2 virus which is responsible for this
pandemic. Johnson’s own ministers have started to emphasise that the virus does
not discriminate among its victims, and can infect or kill anyone. Even a
highly privileged, Eton-educated Tory Prime Minister can be struck down by it!
This just underlines the stupidity of the attitude that part
of the bourgeoisie, including Johnson himself, have adopted towards the
pandemic. This is particularly so of the right-wing populists of whom Johnson
is a prime example; not the worst or the most irrational, but pretty arrogant
and stupid nevertheless. US President Donald Trump is also a prime specimen of
this anti-scientific irrational idiocy, as is Jair Bolsonaro, the fascistic
right-populist Brazilian President.
You could quite literally say that Johnson may have signed
his own death warrant with his anti-scientific, callous stupidity. On the This Morning show of 5th
March, Johnson floated a strategy for dealing with the virus thus:
“Well it’s a very, very important question, and that’s where a lot of the debate has been and one of the theories is, that perhaps you could take it on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease, as it were, to move through the population, without taking as many draconian measures.” (https://fullfact.org/health/boris-johnson-coronavirus-this-morning/)
Johnson delayed for several weeks from crucial measures like
closing schools, or introducing social distancing measures, and equally
importantly, it has completely ignored the obvious need for the introduction of
widespread testing for the virus. The UK government has been forced into action
on some of these things from below, by such things as parents keeping their
children off school in defiance of the government. Such was the backlash when
it became clear that the result of this strategy would be 500,000 deaths, that
Johnson’s government has had to publicly abandon the ‘herd immunity’ concept, at least publicly. However
their failure to test the population for the disease reveals that the strategy
It’s an anti-scientific, genocidal strategy whose real
driving force has occasionally leaked out, such as when Dominic Cummings,
Johnson’s adviser and mentor, was quoted as saying in a meeting in February
that the government’s strategy was “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if
some pensioners die then too bad” (Sunday
Times, 22 March).
This is the logic of neo-liberalism, Social Darwinism, or
the survival of the fittest; the poor, the sick and the old can be allowed to
die off not least because of the potential savings that the wealthy can make
from social benefits and pensions. As one Daily Telegraph writer, Jeremy
Warner, wrote on 3 March:
“Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents. (https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/11/telegraph-journalist-says-coronavirus-cull-elderly-benefit-economy-1238390)
Johnson is the personification of the hubris of the
neoliberal populist right over this. His injunction to ‘take it on the chin’
could well be his epitaph. In tune with this, he boasted of visiting a hospital
and shaking hands “with everybody” including Covid-19 patients. He may well
have spread the disease from the infected to others by this act of sheer
stupidity alone. It appears he has also infected his pregnant partner, Carrie
Symonds, in the process.
He is not the only one of course. When Covid-19 first
emerged, Trump first declared that it was a ‘hoax’ put forward by his political
opponents to discredit him for the election, and has both tried to exploit the
virus’ apparent point of origin in Wuhan, China, calling it the ‘Chinese
Virus’, and then has like Johnson, declared that the priority is ‘the economy’
rather than preserving lives. He was forced into declaring a Federal Emergency
over the virus, at the same time he is continually trying to undermine it with
calls for easing it, for people to go back to work after Easter, etc. His
notorious tweets, such as that saying “”WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE
THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF” and hinting at easing the quarantine for the economy’s
sake, point one way. Yet Trump has also been forced to guarantee payment of
hospitals by the US government for the uninsured millions who are at risk of
huge hospital bills for treatment for the disease. Thus Trump has been forced,
temporarily, to institute a form of socialised medicine. Like in Britain, we
see the same outrageous contempt for life being forced to back down by the
certain knowledge that failing to do these elementary things will lead to a
The genocidal and anti-scientific ideology of the neoliberal
right over the pandemic is shown by the actions and words of Bolsonaro in
Brazil. According to the Brazilian President, the pandemic will end when 70%
are of the population are infected. He puts forward the outrageous view that
that social isolation is of no use and only hinders the economy.
But the retreat of the tide of infection in China is
concrete evidence that social isolation and distancing works. A country with
1.5 billion people had 83,000 cases, and yet the virus has stopped spreading.
The virus is not a living being, it depends on being finding suitable bodies to
multiply. If everyone is in social isolation the infected people create
antibodies or unfortunately end up dying. Thus the virus disappears. As the
contamination and reaction time of the organism is 3 to 4 weeks, if social
isolation lasts 2 to 3 months it is possible to stop the circulation of the
virus and have a small number of infected people, which is what is happening in
That is why they continue to quarantine everyone who comes
from outside, so that there is no new introduction of the virus and so no new
cycle of pandemic. For this cycle to be truly broken, it is essential that
government officials guarantee all support and continued income for the
population to remain in social isolation and apply tests to all. Testing for
everyone is crucial, so that those infected can actually be isolated and not be
the focus of new transmissions. Only after breaking the cycle and carrying out
this testing programme to a conclusion is it possible to relax the insulation.
But for Bolsonaro and
the elite he represents, their concern is not how to break the circulation of
the virus and save lives, but how to save corporate profits. And for that he
uses all possible lying arguments and the denial of scientific evidence, and
more blatantly and consistently than the likes of Johnson and Trump, gives
expression to the barbaric, genocidal Social-Darwinism that is at the core of
neoliberalism and the fascistic populism it has spawned.
In this period of extreme weakness of the revolutionary Marxist left, political programmes and traditions have become represented by individuals and small groups to a greater extent than was true in periods where the left was stronger. This is obvious when you look at the state of left-wing politics today. This is a temporary phase of course, reminiscent in some ways of the days of Marx and Engels, but it is where we are at today.
Look at the large sects: the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
and its splinters such as Counterfire;
or the Socialist Party (SP) and its splinters such as Socialist Alternative and Socialist
Appeal. These are largely ineffectual but still have a sizeable number of
members. As organisations, they have nothing much to offer because they are
variants of left reformism or at best right-centrism, and not really that
different to the Labour Left. Yet their purely organisational sectarianism, and
their size, meant that they were outside the Corbyn movement and unable to act
as a polarising force within it. On some questions, their political impulses
and records were in fact worse than the instincts of the best rank-and-file
For instance the Socialist Party/Militant has had over the
decades a dreadful record over imperialism. From its tacit approval of British
rule in Ireland during the decades of war between the British state and Irish
republicans, its softness to the point of indulgence on the sectarianism of the
Ulster Loyalist working class, to its more or less open support of British
‘democracy’ in the 1982 Malvinas War and its insistence on the supposed
‘rights’ of the British colonial ‘Falkland’ population, it hardly has a record
superior to that of the Labour left. This is of a piece with its softness on
Zionism, its insistence on ‘two states’ and the supposed ‘right to
self-determination’ of the Israeli Jewish population on the land that was taken
by force from the Palestinian Arabs in the first place. This of course has been
a major issue in Labour, and this tradition has been found wanting.
The various splinter groups of Militant/Socialist Party do
not so far appear fundamentally different. Socialist
Alternative broke with the SP and its leader Peter Taaffe out of disgust
with his clique’s bureaucratism, which is almost a caricature of a
bureaucratised organisation, but there does not so far appear to be anything in
the way of a profound political differentiation with Taaffe involved, being
mainly about the details of tactics in the trade unions and different, but hardly
revolutionary, attitudes to elements in the bureaucracy in some unions. Socialist Appeal, based on the core of
the original Militant group around
the late Ted Grant and Alan Woods, is deeply Labourite in its practice though
it does have some interesting theoretical positions on aspects of Stalinism and
a slightly higher political level derived from Grant’s earlier history as one
of the pioneering Trotskyists in Britain.
Then there is the hidebound remaining SWP, after the ruinous
splits of the past decade, whose products have proved ephemeral but which left
the SWP a bankrupt, rightist rump: For instance over its refusal to defend
Julian Assange through the whole period of the years-long smear campaign
against him over the Swedish ‘honey trap’, which laid the basis for the current
extradition show trial. The SWP’s tradition, from their founder Tony Cliff
onwards, was the refusal to defend the Soviet bloc deformed/degenerated workers
states against imperialist attack, branding it instead ‘State Capitalism’ and
just as much ‘imperialist’ as the West, under the slogan “Neither Washington
nor Moscow but International Socialism”.
Now under Alex Callinicos the SWP have overcome their more
left-wing period under the leadership of John Rees and Lindsey German during
the Iraq War period, where they blocked with George Galloway in RESPECT, loudly
proclaimed their anti-Zionism, hosted Gilad Atzmon at Marxism, and their
members occasionally engaged in fisticuffs with the pro-Zionist,
pro-imperialist Alliance for Workers Liberty. Now instead under Callinicos the
SWP insist on the presence of “Friends of Israel” in their ‘Stand up to Racism”
front group events and strong-arm Palestinian supporters who protest. This is a
major move to the right by the SWP.
Then there are some smaller groups: such as Counterfire, led by the aforementioned
Rees and German, basically a more left wing version of the SWP. At least they
are not pro-Zionist. But they are
movement-ists – their main activity is building the Stop the War Coalition (STWC),
the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, or at one point Unite the Resistance,
as single issue fronts, with reformist and/or pacifist politics. STWC led huge
the Iraq anti-war demos but the SWP under Rees and German did not advocate a
revolutionary programme within it – they were content with the politics of
their left-reformist bloc-partners. To their credit they built RESPECT, making
an electoral bloc with George Galloway when he was expelled from Labour for
advocating Arab resistance to the imperialist war, but again they did not
advocate a revolutionary programme within it and try to win support for it.
There is a crying need to recruit people to a revolutionary programme in all
these situations, not just amorphous ‘left organisation’ which tends in
practice to be left reformist by default.
Which brings us to the attitude of the left to a key
strategic question of the revolution in Britain: the Labour Party: This saw a genuine leftward development with
the Corbyn movement in 2015; it was able to seize on the forced error of the
soft-left leadership of Ed Miliband, which tried to revive a decaying Labour
Party after the defeat and discredit Blairism brought upon it. This left
development came from the base of the Labour Party, including many Labour supporters
‘exiled’ by Blairism. It saw a mass influx of left-wing people that pushed
Labour to the left.
Leftward Movement and Coming Together
In this context, of large but left-reformist sects and their
inability to deal with the Labour Party question, individual revolutionary
militants who seek to go further play a critical role. This was the context of
the re-emergence of Socialist Fight
in the mid 20-teens. Two Trotskyists militants played a major role in this
group which did attract attention and play something of a polarising role: Ian
Donovan and Gerry Downing, henceforth referred to by their initials.
ID was a product of Spartacism, who, episodically
disillusioned with orthodox Trotskyism in the late 1990s due to the
Spartacists’ pathology and abuses, became a left-wing third-campist for a
while, but was then re-radicalised by the Iraq war and pushed back far to the
left. He was radicalised by the
experience of being in RESPECT, an organisation subjected to a degree of racist
political persecution, including by Zionists. Their persecution of Galloway and
RESPECT was an anticipation of the later witchhunt against Corbynism.
Notwithstanding this mistaken third-camp position, ID came to the most radical
anti-Zionist/anti-imperialist position of all, in the tradition of Abram Leon,
embodied in his 2014 Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism.
GD, was an oppositionist in the Healyite Workers
Revolutionary Party at the time of its 1985 explosion and collapse, one of many
active participants. He then went through various organisations: the
Revolutionary Internationalist League, International Socialist Group, the
Workers International League, Workers
Fight with 2 other ex-WRP cadre with varied politics, then the Committee
for a Marxist Party in alliance with the CPGB/Weekly Worker. He then founded Socialist
Fight in 2009 with two other ex-ISG cadre, whom he then split from over the
issue of their defence of the film director Roman Polanksi, who admitted to
statutory rape of a 13 year old girl and appears from the evidence to be guilty
of actual rape. After breaking with his initial collaborators he then fused his
rump group with some Brazilian and Argentinian Trotskyists groups in 2013 as
part of an anti-imperialist response to imperialist intervention in Syria and
Libya, to form the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). This
gave an international dimension to his politics that meant it was no longer his
Then GD got together politically with ID in 2015: ID won
Gerry to his position on Zionism and GD conversely played an important role in
ID re-embracing a better orthodoxy over the USSR and deformed workers states,
rejecting the very-leftist third-campism of Walter Daum’s League for the
Revolutionary Party whose views on ‘statified capitalism’ ID had previously
A Genuine Marxist Analysis of Zionism: the Tradition of Abram Leon
GD and ID thus both moved left in slightly different ways
under the impact of the Corbyn movement. GD embraced ID’s most radical position
on Zionism, which treats Israel as an imperialist power in its own right, not
just a puppet of the US, and notes that its power in the world is built not
just on its territorial size and productive capacity but on a powerful
Jewish-Zionist faction in the ruling classes in the Western imperialist
countries, who mobilise on the basis of a common ethnocentric project with the
Israeli ruling class itself. In fact Israel’s racist ‘law of return’ quite
consciously internationalises Israeli citizenship to all those born Jewish
around the world. This has the effect of, even more importantly,
internationalising a bourgeois layer particularly in the United States, to a
lesser extent in Western Europe, where Jewish representation in the wealthiest
layers of the bourgeoisie, is often a couple of dozen or more times greater
than the percentage of Jews in the wider population.
In reality, this creates a situation where Israel’s
capitalist ruling class does not just live in Israel, but overlaps with the
ruling classes of these traditional imperialist countries, and the dominant
bourgeois politics among bourgeois Jews being political Zionism, produces
powerful ethnically-based factions within the ruling classes of the older
imperialist countries that are in fact part of the Israeli ruling class also.
Zionism’s internationalisation of Israeli citizenship is consciously designed
to create and nurture this situation, and a complete understanding of this
issue is essential for the understanding of supporters of the Palestinians everywhere.
This phenomenon has deep historical roots; it is a product
of Jewish history and socio-economic development. Karl Marx, in The Jewish Question (1843) wrote of
this: “Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us
look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew”. And he went on to explain
that “The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant,
of the man of money in general”. This was systematised by Abram Leon, who was
subsequently martyred in Auschwitz, in his seminal Marxist work The Jewish Question: A Marxist
Following on from Marx’s original insight Leon elaborated
the history of the Jews as a commodity- and money-trading people-class in
medieval times, which is the reason why Jews as a distinct human group survived
from antiquity whereas other ancient populations, such as Phoenicians, Romans,
Assyrians, Babylonians, and many more, disappeared through assimilation into
newer composite populations. The Jews survived as a distinct population because
they occupied that niche in feudal society and, though the people-class that
Leon described disappeared with the end of feudalism, it did not do so without
trace. Jews as a people continued, not as a people-class anymore, but as a multi-class
population with however a very different proportionality of the characteristic
classes of capitalist society to that of the general populations within the
societies they inhabited.
Their evolution can only be understood as a dialectical
process; their unique history led them both to persecution, oppression and
genocide; to Jewish intellectuals and artisan-proletarians playing a very
prominent, vanguard role in the workers movement particularly in its early
period up to the mid-20th Century, when the tragedy of the Nazi genocide led to
the decisive defeat and destruction of that invaluable Jewish left, and to a
dialectical inversion whereby the outsized Jewish bourgeoisie gained dominance
over Jews, and in the second half of the 20th century that Jewish bourgeoisie,
with Zionist politics, increasingly played a vanguard role for the bourgeoisie,
in the offensive against the workers movement known as neo-liberalism from the
Indeed the entire strategy of Zionism as a movement was to
take advantage of bourgeois anti-Semitism as a kind of perverse ally in order
to raise Jews up as a people from being oppressed pariahs to one of the world’s
oppressor peoples, even at the cost of collaborating with the destruction of
the most progressive elements of the Jewish population itself. Again in a
dialectical sense, this can be seen as a quite novel, if fearsome and
colossally destructive, manifestation of class struggle within the Jewish
population as a class-differentiated remnant of the people-class that they once
This has become particularly clear since the collapse of
Stalinism and the counterrevolution in the Soviet bloc at the turn of the
1980s/1990s decade, with the eruption of post-Cold War conflicts centrally in
the Middle East, such as over Iraq and then the manipulation of elements of the
2011 ‘Arab Spring’ revolts in the Arab world. All this to try to strengthen
Israel through the destruction of its most radical, pro-Palestinian opponents
among the Arab regimes, starting with Iraq, moving onto the destruction of
Qadaafi and then the crusade against Syria’s Assad, which is still ongoing, and
has been thwarted in large measure through resistance to US and Zionist
imperialism’s proxy war by Putin’s Russia and Iran. The threat of war against Iran, as well as
the crucifixion of the Palestinians by Trump and Netanyahu’s openly genocidal
‘deal of the century’ is another manifestation of the bloc between Zionist
imperialism and its Great Power protectors that has introduced a crucial
modification, and a contradiction and weakness, into the ‘normal’ workings of
Thus the Jewish question, because of the unique social
relationship of Jews to commodity exchange under two social systems, has been
strategically intertwined with the evolution of the capitalist system right
from its very beginning, not for any teleological or still less biological
reason, but simply because of their relationship with the historically evolved
channels through which capital has flowed during its complex, dialectical
process of coming into the world, and also the process by which it is beginning
to prepare its own demise. Because of
this happenstance, Jews have been at the centre of such world-historic events as
the colonisation of Palestine, the Second World War and the genocide, and the
Ziocon wars of the early 21st century. Thus Marx’s essay The Jewish Question has proved seminal to fully understanding the
world in which we live, and this subject is of strategic importance for
Again dialectically it can be argued that what is seen as an
asset for their system by the wider bourgeoisie, to the point that there are no
more ardent fighters against non-existent ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’ than the
bourgeois class itself, is also a contradiction and potentially an explosive
problem for them. Thus we see the extreme bourgeois hostility that confronts
anyone on the left who attempts to analyse the Jewish question and the
strategic aspects of it for the proletariat.
This provides the objective background, in terms of at least
partially understanding this question, for the coming together and limited rise
of Socialist Fight in parallel with the left-moving Corbyn current in the
British Labour Party in the mid 20-teens, and the collapse of GD into Zionist
apologetics as that movement went into meltdown in 2019 and early 2020.
The Beginning of Downing’s Political Collapse
The manifestations of GD’s collapse into pro-Zionism are
very clear in his continuing drip-drip of Zionist propaganda into Socialist Fight in early 2020 for use as
political weapons against the programme he had stood for over approximately the
previous five years.
This appears to have begun after a 10-day family trip to
Ireland that GD undertook in August 2019. We have no idea what actually went on
there, but it does appear that some sort of political alliance was created
between GD and his daughter ED to try to change the politics of Socialist Fight and make it
‘respectable’ on the left-Zionist-influenced, capitulatory ‘far left’. Since GD
had been very prominent over the previous four years and more in arguing for
SF’s hard anti-Zionist views and hostility to the Jewish ethnic bigotry and
racism that is the content of political Zionism and its capitulators, he faces
a serious problem in trying to live this down.
So his tactic for doing so seems to have been to attack
others, and he engaged in some pretty ludicrous baiting of others on the left,
including the Jewish left, as being amenable to fascism and anti-Semitism. His
first target in this regard was Tony Greenstein at Communist University 2019.
Knowing he would not get the endorsement of Socialist Fight comrades for this, he
put out his own personal leaflet attacking Greenstein for his expressed
admiration for the sometimes left-Zionist, sometimes somewhat anti-Zionist,
Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, and particularly for her account of the 1961
Eichmann trial, Eichmann in Jerusalem.
GD attacked Greenstein as soft on Nazism for refusing to condemn Arendt for her
long-time relationship with the existentialist philosopher and dilettante
Martin Heidegger, who joined the Nazi party when Hitler came to power, but dropped out of political activity when he
became uneasily aware that Hitler suspected him of sympathy with the SA leader
Ernst Röhm, whose followers were eliminated in the 1934 ‘Night of the Long
It is clear that Heidegger was not a serious political
figure in the Nazi regime; the claims that GD made that he was some sort of
ideological inspiration for the Nazis are ludicrous. He was a marginal figure
and Arendt’s relationship with him is simply a personal matter of no political
significance. This is just an example of GD echoing a characteristic Zionist
attack on Arendt for her criticism in Eichmann
in Jerusalem of Israel’s laws against mixed marriage, which she condemned
as similar to the Nazis’ Nuremburg laws. Whose entire ethos her on-off
relationship with Heidegger incidentally made a mockery of, though at the
crucial period he betrayed her and she left Germany until after Hitler’s
This irrelevant, guilt-by-association attack on Tony
Greenstein was simply GD’s grossly unprincipled, subjective manner of paying
him back for Greenstein’s wrong-headed condemnation and exclusion of GD, ID and
Socialist Fight from Labour Against the Witchhunt in January 2018, not to
mention his failure to defend GD against the witchhunt and his auto-exclusion
from the Labour Party in March 2016, when Greenstein condemned him as a fool
undeserving of defence for his defence of Islamic State against imperialist
attack and his support for SF’s position on Zionism and the Jewish Question.
Defence of Gilad Atzmon: a Litmus Test of anti-Zionism
This was a bad sign, but much worse was to come. One thing
SF had become known for, as well as our material on the Jewish Question
detailed above, was our refusal to support exclusion and witchhunting against
the Israeli-Jewish Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. We defend him not only against
Zionists, but figures on the Jewish left who denounce him as anti-Semitic for
his renunciation of Jewish identity, his denunciation of the overseas Zionist
lobby as driven by Jewish exclusivism and a desire for domination, his public
expression of doubts about some aspects of the Nazi holocaust of Jews, and his
belief that Jewish chauvinism was behind some of the crimes of Stalinism,
particularly in the Ukraine in the 1930s. He also, as is well known, promotes
his idealist philosophical criticism of Jewish identity widely and engages with
people on the far right as well as the far left of politics.
We in Socialist Fight
prior to GD’s renegacy always regarded Gilad Atzmon as an organic product of
the contradictions of Israeli politics, and refused to join in the witchhunts
against him, despite disagreements with much of his political confusion. We do
not consider his theory of Jewish identity to be anti-Semitic; this divides
Jewish people into three overlapping categories, the first two of which, those
simply born Jewish and those who merely adhere to the Jewish religion, are
considered by Atzmon to be harmless and innocent categories. Atzmon only
regards as problematic his third category, which consists of those who consider
their Jewishness to be a political trait that is more important than any other
trait, those who consider themselves ‘chosen’ and superior to others in other
words. We do not consider his position to be an attack on all Jewish people and
therefore we do not condemn his position as racist and anti-Semitic.
GD knew full well what Atzmon’s views were on the Russian Revolution right from July 2015, when he reblogged one of Atzmon’s videos, titled ‘The Jewish Solidarity Spin’ , on the Socialist Fight website with an introduction by ID that criticised those same views. Though he was aware of Tony Greenstein’s antipathy to, and criticisms of, Atzmon in detail having supported Greenstein’s anti-Atzmon campaign in 2009, GD changed his mind around 2015 and defended Atzmon for years with considerable pride. He even authored an article in December 2017, which attacked Tony Greenstein for having grovelingly noted that the Board of Deputies had earlier praised him for opposing Atzmon when Greenstein himself was suspended from Labour in March 2016. GD’s article denounced Tony Greenstein thus:
“So when he is under attack his immediate response was to plead to the “Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) and other Zionists” to defend him because he has given them Gilad Atzmon’s head on a plate and they should reciprocate the favour…”
Then there is Atzmon’s interview with GD during the dispute
that led to the exclusion of Socialist
Fight from Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) in January 2018. In that
interview Atzmon asked him the following question:
“In the recent LAW meeting Greenstein and Walker reportedly said that ‘making a connection between the number of Jewish billionaires in the US or who is Jewish amongst the richest sections of society and imperialist support for Israel is anti-Semitic.’ I guess that Walker and Greenstein believe that Jewish politics and mammon are beyond criticism. Can you tell us which political school may adhere to such a peculiar approach? Is there any Left ideology or working-class politics that excludes criticism of Jewish mammon and influence?”
To which GD replied:
“Of course, that ideology is Zionism.”
GD partially dissociated himself from some of Atzmon’s views
“I do not agree with Gilad on the question of Jewish identity. it is entirely wrong to equate Jewishness or Jewish cultural identity with Zionism. Zionism is a modern, right wing, racist political construct, that takes some aspects of Jewish history and oppression and uses this to distort and falsify the whole historical materialist basis of that history, as explained so well by Abram Leon in On the Jewish Question.
“I do not agree with ostracising him and his co-thinkers from the struggle against Zionism, despite these disagreements. I do not agree he is either racist or anti-Semitic”.
Yet despite these disclaimers, GD unilaterally took the
decision to include Atzmon’s interview with him, in the following print edition
of Socialist Fight, because it filled
an empty space and also likely because it raised GD’s personal profile. But
this was a tactical error, as the interview was not even our copy, and its
prominence in the printed journal was a godsend to Zionists, who were able to
put pressure on two left bookshops in London, Housemans and the SWP’s Bookmarks,
to ban Socialist Fight from sale at
GD’s dissociations are fair enough, as Marxists are not
hostile per se to the expression of Jewish identity provided it does not trump
the basic tenets of the class struggle, that class, not any kind of other
identity, is the primary driving force of social struggle and human
emancipation. But nevertheless GD was quite well aware, when questioned by
Atzmon, that the hostility of the likes of Greenstein, Jackie Walker and others
to SF’s Marxist analysis of the diaspora Jewish bourgeois component of Zionism
is derived from left-Zionist influence on their politics. He clearly defended
SF’s Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern
Imperialism in this interview, as he did on Andrew Neil’s Daily Politics show in March 2016, and
to Atzmon he denounced the ‘leftist’ opposition to it as in essence Zionist. By
his own then-criteria, therefore, his current politics are now left-Zionist.
Yet in September 2019, when Atzmon’s associate Devon Nola
posted an item on Facebook comparing a law banning BDS (boycotts of Israel) in
the US with the ‘Bolshevik’ decree (in fact instituted by Stalin in 1932) that
instituted the ‘death penalty’ for ‘anti-Semitism’, GD denounced this as ‘Nazi
propaganda’ and characterised Atzmon and his supporters as ‘Strasserites’, i.e.
left-wing fascists, an absurd comparison given the Jewish-Israeli origin of the
Atzmonites and their clear solidarity with the Arab victims of Zionism. It should
be noted that the Strasserites were German fascists who were just as hostile to
the then-oppressed Jewish population of Germany and Europe as Hitler’s own
diehard supporters. They just took as good coin the Nazis’ sometimes use of
anti-capitalist rhetoric and tried to implement is, which is why Hitler had
them suppressed and slaughtered.
The idea that Jewish or Jewish-led equivalents of
‘Strasserites’ could embrace Israel’s victims is utterly ridiculous, and a sign
that GD had begun to capitulate ideologically to Zionism, and to regard the
Palestinian Arab population and its ferocious, genocidal oppression at the
hands of Jewish-Zionist racists, as of little import or significance. What
really mattered to GD even at his point, implicitly, was the attitude of every
current, even Jewish ones, to Jews. Behind this is the Zionist conception that
in every possible situation, even when Jews are the perpetrators of racist
crimes, eternal Jewish victimhood is the overriding political issue that
eclipses all others.
A fairly extensive literary discussion then took place on
the Socialist Fight website in which
some disputed questions about the Atzmonites, but not the fundamental question
of the pan-imperialist component of Zionism, were explored at some length. But
the discussion was inconclusive, and comradely political relations had not
broken down at that point.
General Election and After: Downing’s Political Meltdown
This discussion was a bad sign, of GD bowing to the
reactionary pro-Zionist climate that was developing as the Corbyn movement
began to decline. But the final straw
was the loss of the General Election by Labour on 13th December 2019, when
Boris Johnson’s Tories, by ‘fair’ means or foul (and there may have been an
element of foul) defeated Labour coming out of it with an overall majority of
The differences exploded again with full force in a
discussion about the likelihood of widespread electoral fraud in the General
Election. GD denigrated the very idea as insane, despite considerable unease
among Labour members that their experiences of favourable receptions when
canvassing for Labour, including in quite a few of the Northern seats that went
over to the Tories, did not match up with the exit polls and the subsequent
results. Neither ourselves nor the many Labour supporters with similar
suspicions, who seem to number in the tens of thousands, have any way at this
point of verifying these suspicions.
But such things as a doubling of the postal vote to 38% in
some places, reported by Lord Ashcroft’s highly respected polling company after
the election, and the fact that two prominent Tory or sympathetic
personalities, the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, and the Foreign
Secretary Dominic Raab, appeared to have broken electoral law by talking about,
and for that matter knowing about, the contents of the postal vote before it
was even legal to count it, is grounds for suspicion that there was something
fishy about the election results.
Then there is Theresa May’s remark, seemingly on behalf of
the ruling class, to Corbyn at PM’s Question Time in December 2017: “we will
never allow you to govern”.
And there are the remarks of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, secretly
recorded in June 2018 when meeting with ‘Jewish leaders’ talking about Jeremy Corbyn
becoming British Prime Minister:
“’It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected,’ he said on the recording. ‘It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.’”
In the view of GD, such speculation was lunacy, and
‘conspiracy theory’. For him, the working class has chosen anti-immigrant
racism and voted for the Tories over Brexit, and that was the end of it. The
Labour defeat for him was due to the failure of Corbyn to stand up to the
anti-Semitism smears (which was true, and this did weaken Labour) and also the
failure of Labour to take a firm enough stand against Brexit. Though quite how
a firmer Labour stand against Brexit was likely to win over a racist working
class that was voting for the Tories in order to force Brexit through is not
Some would argue that it is quite feasible that postal vote
fraud could have been used to exaggerate known trends among some demoralised
sections of the working class to vote Tory for Brexit and turn a known danger
of a retrograde political trend into a Tory landslide. The idea that the
British electoral system is untainted by fraud and that it is lunatic
conspiracy mongering to even suspect something like this is an example of blind
faith in the British ruling class to uphold ‘democracy’. Such an attitude is
unworthy of a Marxist.
But what really made GD show his hand was when comrade ID
shared on Facebook a piece from Veterans
Today, a US anti-war, pro-Iran/Russia conspiratorial anti-Zionist website,
which pulled together anecdotal evidence from Labour supporters around the UK
pointing to there being something suspicious about the election results. The
article also contained, right at the beginning, a statement that Boris Johnson
was a ‘Rothschild Stooge’. Then the gloves were off: for GD the post was
‘anti-Semitic’ and sharing it was an unforgivable crime, even though the
evidence on apparent fraud that it contained was quite authentic.
And thus the dispute was revived again. Veterans Today had connections to Atzmon; he sometimes wrote for
it, it has people who write for it who think that Israel was responsible for
9/11, who think that the Nazi holocaust was a hoax. However, GD had a problem
even with this, as he had stood on a public platform at a joint Socialist Fight public meeting in July
2017, a rather large meeting attended by around 150 people, with Vanessa
Beeley, a defender of the Syrian regime and an uncritical Assad supporter, speaking
in defence of Syria against the US/UK/Israel backed jihadist destabilisation
and proxy war. She has written regularly for Veterans Today for several years. So in denouncing ID for sharing
material from Veterans Today calling
into question the legitimacy of the result of the UK General Election, GD was
also implicitly attacking some of his best known work. If it was impermissible
to share articles from Veterans Today,
then surely it was impermissible to share a platform with Vanessa Beeley?
Corruption and Fraud
Undeterred by such logic, he went on and drafted a
‘Socialist Fight statement’ attacking Veterans
Today, Gilad Atzmon, and others around him as Strasserite fascists. He
campaigned long and hard to try to get a majority in the organisation he founded
to get this statement endorsed by a majority of the full, voting membership.
But he failed. In two votes, one of London members in what was supposed to be a
closed meeting, the vote was tied, as it was in a national vote of SF members
with the deadline a week later. A tied motion falls. So GD was reduced to
putting his statement out in the names of individuals who agreed to sign it,
including a couple of overseas supporters and a number non-members, including
his own daughter, who he tried to recruit at the last minute to the
organisation notwithstanding the constitutional requirement for a 6-month
non-voting candidacy subject to the approval of a vote of the existing
So after that he tried fraud to get the majority he wanted.
He insisted that an ex-member, who had neither paid regular subscriptions nor
attended meetings for over a year, was still a full member and entitled to a
vote. ID had disagreed and insisted he was obviously lapsed. He attempted also
to pay for the votes of two candidate members six months in advance by paying
their membership subscriptions up to July 2020 in the expectation that they
would vote for his position when they gained full membership in July. Not
realising that normal Bolshevik practice is for the existing full membership in
good standing to decide on questions of membership standards. And he tried to
recruit his daughter into the organisation as a ‘candidate’, who in the last
five years had shown no particular desire to join the organisation, again
without the existing full members getting a vote on this, as is elementary.
These being desperate acts of petty corruption designed to try to win a vote
that he could not win with the properly politically recruited, active
membership of the organisation.
Ten days after the voting deadline for the second vote had
expired, and thus after the vote had been tied, GD claimed to have contacted
the lapsed ‘member’ and secured his vote, giving him a ‘majority’, and so he
reposted his original statement on the SF website fraudulently as a ‘Socialist Fight statement’, abusing his
personal position as custodian of the collectively paid-for website to do so.
A Principled Trotskyist Faction Faces Racism and Abuse
In the meantime those opposed to him had founded the
Trotskyist Faction, which produced a principled platform that stood on key
programmatic documents that made up the core politics of SF, including GD’s material on the Russian Question and deformed
workers states, ID’s material criticising the sectarian deviations of the
Spartacist tradition in dealing with mass working class-based reformist parties
that are involved in Popular Fronts; and ID’s material on Zionism and the
Jewish Question, as well as a whole set of other points making up a concrete
The Trotskyist Faction has a non-white majority and also
comprises the majority of non-white comrades in SF. GD’s undeclared faction is
all-white. But this has not stopped an
orgy of ‘racist’ baiting and at times thinly-veiled racist abuse from GD and
his faction accusing our non-white, majority Asian/Middle Eastern faction of
being sympathetic to fascism and white supremacism. That peculiarity also
should alert experienced people as to the pro-Zionist nature of GD’s faction,
as race-baiting, including of non-white leftists is a characteristic Zionist
behaviour based on belittling the oppression of non-Jewish oppressed groups.
Gareth Martin, a white South African sympathiser of GD’s
faction that he tried to inveigle into the organisation without a vote, accused
an SF comrade of Turkish/Muslim
background who lives in London of supporting the murder of Jews in synagogues
in London. But there have been no such events in London. The smear was
extremely sinister and Islamophobic, and appears to reflect a pro-Zionist
colonial outlook, as befits someone from a white-dominated racist state that
collaborated with Israel over nuclear weapons on the basis of a shared
antipathy to non-whites.
Equally disturbing was the smear from one Rob Lyons, a North
American sympathiser of GD on this issue at least, who in the course of a
Facebook discussion with our Turkish comrade, referred to Turkish men beating
their wives and became personally abusive when it was pointed out that the
person he was arguing with was Turkish. Islamophobic stereotypes and slurs have
been a key activity of GD’s pro-Zionist supporters in this factional dispute.
And if one is speaking of bigotry, there is GD’s
reproduction of a leaflet by the Spartacist League from 1999 that branded ID a
‘dangerous lunatic’ and suggested that ID was likely to physically attack
people. This on the basis of ID having once suffered from post-traumatic stress
disorder as a result of abusive behaviour experienced at the hands of leading
figures in the Spartacist League over 30 years ago, which provoked a physical
altercation 21 years ago. The leaflet GD dragged out was condemned by a workers
enquiry 21 years ago as an ‘unforgiveable crime’ by the Spartacists, of
persecuting their former members in order to provoke violence and further
victimise them. GD’s dragging out of this leaflet in this context amounts to
attacking ID for once having suffered a disability. Which is an atrocious thing
for a supposed socialist to do.
This was matched by the most pathetic bureaucratic
chicanery. As is our constitutional right in SF, the Trotskyist Faction published two statements on the
political situation in SF. One gave a
detailed analysis and condemnation of GD’s corrupt practices against us and his
organisational abuses. The other was a detailed political reply to the previous
political attacks on us. When we published this material on the website, as is
our right, GD used his ownership of the website to remove our statements. He
then deleted ID’s user login from the website, and proceeded to remove our
comrades’ posting rights on a range of SF forums on Facebook, before he
overreached himself and removed us from an international list that he does not
have control of. The international comrades objected and reinstated us. So
instead, using the stolen SF website,
he announced our ‘expulsion’ from SF,
and then finally even blocked our comrades on Facebook, the final admission
that he could not handle what we had to say politically at all.
All this tawdry behaviour, racial abuse, abuse of comrades for
having once had disabilities, and blatant anti-democratic behaviour, is a sign
of what happens when a trend capitulates to racism and right-wing politics.
Basic socialist consciousness goes out of the window and supposed socialists
behave increasingly like gutter reactionaries. It is a sad tale of degeneration
Downing Baits the Left with ‘Philosophical’ Gibberish and Nazi Smears
The real thrust of GD’s factional activity is a desire to
ingratiate and exculpate himself with capitulators to Zionism on the wider left
who had previously accused him of anti-Semitism. And thus hostility to, and
repudiation of, the previous SF
position on Zionism, and in particularly ID’s 2014 Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism.
GD came out with a fusillade of hostility to ourselves, and
even to the most advanced elements of the Jewish left who share some elements
of our analysis of Zionism and its role in promoting genocidal anti-Palestinian
policies by Western imperialist countries, including the United States, who
were it not for the activities of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois factions and
lobbies, would have no more reason to endorse specifically genocidal policies
against Palestinians than against any other national group on this planet.
Thus he not only accused Tony Greenstein of pro-fascism over
Hannah Arendt, in internal discussions he also accused Phil Weiss, the blogger
who publishes Mondoweiss, probably
the most widely respected Jewish left blog in the United States, of being a
‘Jewish conspiracy’ theorist for articles written by him suggesting that the
Zionist lobby played a major role in ensuring that Jimmy Carter, and the elder
George Bush, each only served one term as US President, because of acts of
disobedience to Zionist demands for hard-line anti-Palestinian policies over
settlements, and also dealings with the PLO. And he widened his fascist-baiting
attack to even others on the left, publishing on Facebook a bilious attack on
Sebastian Budgen, the editor of Historical
Materialism, for suggesting in an academic context the need for a
dispassionate discussion of the influence of the philosopher Nietzsche on 19th
Century history and politics. GD posted an attack on Bugden that suggested he
shared fascist ‘social values’. When comrades protested that this was demented,
and discredited SF, we were accused,
insanely, not of being supporters even of Sebastian Budgen, but rather of being
fans of Nietzsche himself!
The issue of the philosophical views of various allegedly
pro-fascist philosophers was not a major issue in the dispute, but GD tried to
make it so, as a smokescreen to cover up his growing antipathy to consistent
anti-Zionism and ID’s Draft Theses.
He also used this issue of philosophy to drag in various Zionist figures such
as Alan Dershowitz, Ron Rosenbaum, and Dave Rich into the polemic, to accustom
his followers to regarding such genocidal anti-Arab racists as authorities on
who is a racist or fascist, or who is not. Toward the end of the dispute, GD
took to allowing an obvious pseudonymous Zionist troll, one ‘Sven Gölly’, who
we suspect is a veteran of many anti-left smear campaigns including those
against Corbynities, to post attacks on the Trotskyist Faction on the stolen SF website, just to underline what a
good little servant GD now is of the Zionist lobby.
In seeking to defend his original outrageous attack on Tony
Greenstein over Hannah Arendt, GD quoted one Ron Rosenbaum, who attacked Arendt
for her lack of ethnic, communal sentiment thus:
“One can still hear this Arendtian shame about ethnicity these days. So parochial! One can hear the echo of Arendt’s fear of being judged as ‘merely Jewish’ in some, not all, of those Jews so eager to dissociate themselves from the parochial concerns of other Jews for Israel. The desire for universalist approval makes them so disdainful of any ‘ethnic’ fellow feeling. After all, to such unfettered spirits, it’s so banal.”
It was pointed out in the course of the discussion what
Rosenbaum’s politics and “‘ethnic’ feeling” actually were, and that he had
deeply racist ‘ethnic’ feelings about Palestinians, projecting his own
genocidal ‘feelings’ onto Palestinians in a way that is classic. For instance
this quote was rather relevant. According to Wikipedia, his view is:
“’The Palestinians want a Hitlerite Judenrein state, however much violence it takes to accomplish it. Not separation, elimination.’ The Palestinians are, he asserts, engaged in incessant state and religious incitement to murder Jews. The ‘stabbing intifada’ is not an insurgency, but a matter of ‘the ritual murder of Jews’. Whereas Hitler tried to hide his crimes, the Palestinians celebrate killing Jews.”
The response to this
became a repeated refrain from GD, that to attack the racism of these Zionists
was an ad-hominem attack; that you
had to refute their ‘arguments’ which were ‘truthful’. This is a grossly
hypocritical argument from GD, and completely at odds with the argument that he
made against anti-Zionists, that such-and-such a person may have dodgy views
(allegedly) about Jews, and therefore to agree with anything they say about
anything makes the person who cites them complicit in their (alleged) racism
themselves. To agree with Gilad Atzmon, who is Jewish, about anything, makes
you (allegedly) an ‘anti-Semite’. But to agree with Ron Rosenbaum, who says
that every Palestinian is worse than Hitler, is just fine! That is classic
Zionist racism and double standards from GD. To him, now he has made his peace
with Zionism, Jews truly are more important than Arabs!
All this racist hypocrisy was instrumental, the real purpose
of the polemic was to atone for his previous adherence to genuine anti-Zionism
(now dubbed ‘anti-Semitism’) and to hopefully discredit and bury the previous
position on Zionism of Socialist Fight.
Alan Dershowitz was Trump’s lawyer in his impeachment trial and America’s most
prominent Nakba denier, who was torn
apart by Norman Finkelstein in his work Beyond
Chutzpah. According to GD, to agree with someone like Atzmon who appears to
harbour doubts about some aspects of the Nazi holocaust, is to be tainted with
But to cite an outright Nakba
denier, one of the most prominent, to attack Gilad Atzmon as a racist and a
white supremacist (allegedly), is just fine. Just another manifestation of that
double standard that considers today’s oppressors (Jewish-Zionists) as more
important and morally superior to their Arab victims, and their supporters,
even Jewish ones. Or one might suspect, given GD’s indulgence of pro-Zionist
family friends of his, while engaging in bilious attacks on a number of
prominent anti-Zionist Jews, especially Jewish ones are the target.
“My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend”
It is well-known that in the Middle East, where the
genocidal oppressors and ethnic cleansers of the Palestinians over the last
century or more of Zionist settlement and then the imposition of the state of
Israel on the Arab people through dispossession and seemingly endless wars, are
Zionist Jews and the ‘democratic’ imperialists, there is an understandable
softness and nostalgia for those imperialists’ defeated rivals in the Second
This is a normal response of oppressed peoples everywhere to
their oppression, and it worked both ways in imperialist wars and even in the
Cold War, with those oppressed by one imperialist camp seeking help from their
oppressors’ rivals, with those oppressed by Stalinism seeking help from the
imperialists at times, and with those oppressed by imperialism seeking help
from the Soviet bloc. There were pro-Axis nationalists at work in WW2 under
British colonial rule in India, in Ireland, and in the Middle East. This is no
surprise to Marxists, though it may outrage pro-imperialist jingoes.
The oppression of Arabs by the Zionist state has persisted
much longer, three-quarters of a century, than the Third Reich, which lasted
only 12 years. Thus it is hardly a surprise that this kind of “my enemy’s enemy
is my friend” sentiment has deep roots among the Arab masses, and this finds
reflection in the actions of political leaders.
So there have been
speeches denying the truth of the Nazi holocaust by some of the most celebrated
leaders of the Arab masses and their allies, including Gamal Abdul Nasser, who
spoke of “the lie of the 6 million” back in 1964, from Mahmoud Abbas, who is now
the stooge leader of the Palestinian authority, but who once wrote a holocaust
denial thesis, to the Assad regime, which as is well-known has distributed
pro-Nazi material denying the Nazi holocaust for decades, to Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, who organised international
conferences to debate the historicity of the Shoah, to Hamas, whose original,
authoritative charter endorsed the Protocols
of the Elders of Zion.
This also has a
degree of influence on the most alienated elements of the oppressor people,
those such as Atzmon (he is only the best known of a whole milieu of Jewish
‘traitors’) who have abandoned the people of their birth completely and
identify with the oppressed. This should hardly be a great surprise either, to
Marxists and anti-imperialists. It is not something that we endorse at all, as
opponents of imperialism in general, but we do comprehend what drives those
oppressed by ‘our’ imperialism, and to a degree many who sympathise with them,
to look to ‘their’ oppressors’ enemies for help, or at least some vicarious
So you have to be pretty credulous, and infected with
incipient pro-Zionist and Western chauvinism, to cite a racist sociopath like
Derhowitz to give testimony as to how Atzmon and Israel Shamir, to name but
two, are Nazis and how Atzmon supports the programme of white supremacy. But
that is what GD did in the discussion. He managed to drag out the fact that
Atzmon, informed that David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan
from the 1960s and 1970s, liked some of his writings about Jewish identity and
had similar views about Jewish exclusivism himself (while of course being very
much in favour of white exclusivism), paid him a compliment back.
Duke abandoned open fascism and sought ‘respectability’ in both
the major American bourgeois parties at various times since the 1980s. Atzmon compared Duke with Avigdor Liebermann,
an ultra-right minister in Israel’s government who favours the wholesale
expulsion of the Arab population, and said that compared to Liebermann Duke was
a ‘humanist’ as he ‘only’ was in favour of separation and not outright
genocide. A foolish and naïve remark characteristic of that trend in the Middle
East that sees the avowed enemy of one’s enemy as a potential friend, but in no
way indicative of any endorsement of the oppression perpetrated by the likes of
It is worth noting that in citing Dershowitz, the Nakba denier and defender of massacres,
to attack Atzmon, GD praised the Zionist thug as a ‘noted civil libertarian’, a
preposterous accolade that really is just as foolish as calling David Duke a
Downing/Rich’s ‘Fascist’ Smear Against Atzmon and TF
Then there is his reproduction of the article “Is Gilad
Atzmon a fascist?” by Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust,
an organisation that as Tony Greenstein says, “has a hidden agenda which is the
political use of ‘anti-Semitism’ as a means of demonising the opponents of
Zionism, including Jewish opponents.” This appears to be the political agenda
of GD also, now he has capitulated wholesale to Zionism. GD regurgitates Rich’s
incomplete quotes from Atzmon where he says in his work Being and Time that:
“Fascism, I believe, more than any other ideology, deserves our attention, as it was an attempt to integrate left and right[, …]”
Unfortunately it does not even quote the complete paragraph,
as Atzmon continues:
“… the ‘dream’ and the ‘concrete’ into a unified political system. Fascism was an incredible economic success, but it failed to sustain itself. Why?”
Of course, when you omit the end of the paragraph, you miss
out the bit where he says it failed, which makes it rather less than the
‘endorsement’ that Rich says it is. Atzmon answers his own question later in
the same section where he writes:
“The answer is that fascism’s appeal were the causes of its failure. Fascism merged the left egalitarian utopia with Right rootedness, mass production and private ownership. In theory this should form a perfect bond, yet it may be possible that the ‘dream’ and the ‘concrete’ cannot be integrated into a single political system. It is the desire that connects being and becoming, yet the desire is, in itself, within the realm of the void. It is mysterious and it cannot be materialised into a system. Fascism’s attempt to touch the Real – its attempt to merge the fantasy and the factual murdered the desire: it was an attempt to make people into deities, and so promised the impossible.”
This is of course idealistic nonsense, but it is clear that
despite the tortured reasoning derived from over-indulgence in idealistic
philosophy, Atzmon concludes that it is not possible to ‘integrate’ left and
right into a ‘single political system’. He could have deduced that by studying
some basic historical materialist investigations of capitalism, such as Marx’s Wages, Price and Profit instead of
wasting a chunk of his life studying idealistic philosophy in mainstream
academia, but this method of investigation of the world obviously did not make
him a ‘fascist’. His conclusion that fascism fails because it cannot make
people into gods, is a condemnation not only of fascism but also of Neitzsche,
whose concept of the god-like ‘supermen’ some consider may have provided
ideological inspiration for fascism. So it is clear that, contrary to the smear
from Dave Rich, that Atzmon does not think it possible to integrate right and
left into a ‘single political system’ and therefore the implication in the
title of Dave Rich’s article is just another Zionist smear.
Atzmon’s strength is when he analyses Jewish identity, a
subject he is intimately familiar with, in The
Wandering Who, which is an important and somewhat ground-breaking book. His
great weakness is when he tries to extend the idealistic methods he has learned
in academia and which did not particularly disrupt his analysis in The Wandering Who, to other, non-Jewish
spheres of politics. There he really does not understand what he is dealing
with, and his attempt to apply idealistic analysis to non-Jewish movements and
ideologies produces a strange impression of him floating on the surface of
Ironically the schema he comes up with, that of generalising
Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn to
create a world of autonomous nationally-based but non-exclusionary, cooperating
egalitarian socialist states, owes much to utopian socialism. It rejects
Marxism’s materialist understanding that such things are impossible because the
productive forces have long since outgrown national boundaries and hence
rational economic planning can only take place on an international scale.
Atzmon rejects that because he considers that
‘cosmopolitanism’, i.e. internationalism, is a cover for Jewish chauvinism and
a means for Jews to dominate other peoples. This is simply an erroneous
extrapolation from Israeli experience and another indication of the failure of
his idealistic view to understand the world. It is also Judeo-centric; Atzmon
puts Jews at the centre of absolutely everything, but while the Jewish Question
is indeed strategic as pointed out earlier, it is material reality, not ‘Jewish
ideology’ that is the determining factor in the world.
But it is legitimate to ask, in the light of GD’s
regurgitation of Dave Rich’s smear against Atzmon, the question: “Is Dave Rich
a fascist?”. You can search the entire
corpus of Atzmon’s writings and you will not find support for the oppression of
any national or ethnic group. This however is not true of Dave Rich. In his
work The Left’s Jewish Problem, he
baldly states the following:
“Comparing the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust performs several functions. Its political goal is to undermine the idea that the Holocaust provided a moral justification and a practical need for the creation of a Jewish state.”
Cut out the cant and the double standards and this says that
the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing, the massacres such as Deir Yassin, and the 70+
years of oppression and terror against the Palestinian people have “moral
justification”. The argument is clearly racist; it says that the past suffering
of one people, the European Jews, at the hands of Hitler, provides “moral
justification” for massacres and ethnic cleansing of another people, the
Palestinian Arabs. How is this different in principle from someone who
justifies the death camps, the gas chambers, the starvation and wilful malign
neglect in the camps whose purpose was that disease would get the inmates if
the gas chambers did not?
From the point of view of Marxism, of anti-racist
universalism, and the interests of the working class, there is no difference.
There is no moral difference between someone who supports gassing Jews and
someone who supports the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. But for
GD, in his pro-Zionist, i.e. racist degeneration, ethnic cleansers, pogromists
and the like who defend the murder of Arabs, are just fine, and it is perfectly
permissible to promote their lying propaganda to smear anti-Zionists.
Downing’s Real Target
But all this is just a means to an end for GD. The real
target of all this rancid pro-Zionist hate propaganda was the Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern
Imperialism. In conversation with Atzmon in 2018, GD rejected criticisms of
its supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ as ‘Zionism’. But now as the concluding point of
his renegade, pro-Zionist faction he writes:
“We now repudiate the use of the term ‘the world “Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie”’ and the whole notion of a Jewish-Zionist imperialist vanguard as antisemitic tropes. We will in future use the term ‘Zionism’ alone in describing the political tendency within the Jewish ethnicity that commits such dreadful crimes under international law against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and those expelled Palestinians primarily in 1948, ‘67 and ‘73, all of whom have the right of return.”
In his own terms, as expounded to Atzmon in his 2018
interview, GD is now advocating ‘Zionist’ politics in denouncing the notion of
the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie as ‘anti-Semitic’. But this passage is laughably
contradictory and anti-Marxist.
First of all it mendaciously appends ‘the world’ to the term
‘the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’. That is not there in the original Draft Theses, which talks about the Jewish-Zionist
bourgeoisie as being ‘pan-imperialist’ and even ‘pan-national’ but in a context
that makes it clear it is confined to the main Western imperialist countries
(which obviously excludes Japan). There is no suggestion of a ‘world’
Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie in the original theses, so GD is attacking something
completely fictional in the manner of Zionist liars like Dave Rich and Alan
Dershowitz that he now admires. It’s clear that in appending ‘the world’, GD is
using Goebells’ technique of the Big Lie.
The passage notes that “Zionism” is a “political tendency”
that exists “within the Jewish ethnicity” but promises to use only the term
“Zionism” to describe it. Presumably then, pointing out that Zionism is Jewish
will be verboten. But this definition
itself says that “Zionism” exists “within the Jewish ethnicity”, i.e. that
Zionism is Jewish. But to say that Zionism is Jewish, or is a “political
tendency within the Jewish ethnicity” is ‘anti-Semitic’. So by his own logic,
GD’s own new ‘definition’ is itself anti-Semitic.
Or perhaps it is saying that to posit Zionism as an ideology
of the bourgeoisie “within the Jewish ethnicity” is anti-Semitic? Really? So GD
is saying that class analysis of the nature of Zionism is anti-Semitic, and
thereby verboten also? It seems like
it. It thus seems that he agrees therefore with Dave Rich that Marxism itself
is anti-Semitic. For GD, even though Zionism is a bourgeois ideology (it
certainly does not represent the historic interests of the proletariat!) and is
located “within the Jewish ethnicity” it is apparently ‘anti-Semitic’ to say
that that Zionism is the ideology of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie. Even
though it is obviously true.
Then there is the concept of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie
being a ‘vanguard’. Norman Finkelstein had something to say about that. In his
essay ‘Corbyn Mania’ from 2018, he noted that in the United States
the non-Jewish bourgeoisie now see the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie as a step up
in social status from themselves, and thus non-Jewish bourgeois families such
as the Clintons and Trumps see their offspring marrying into Jewish families as
amounting to ‘marrying up’ the social scale. This corroborates the point in the
Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern
Imperialism that the wider bourgeoisie see the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie
as a particularly class-conscious layer of their own class (a ‘vanguard’) and
hence themselves award it a higher social status. This is simply empirical
observation of the behaviour of the different sections of the bourgeoisie
towards each other.
But according to GD, such an observation is an “anti-Semitic
trope”. Therefore, logically, GD must also denounce Norman Finkelstein’s 2018
essay as anti-Semitic. This fits in with the reference to Finkelstein in his
recent bizarre letter to the Weekly
he appears to endorse Toby Abse’s 1999 Nazi-baiting attack on the CPGB for
defending Finkelstein’s The Holocaust
Industry against reactionary, pro-Zionist criticism from the SWP’s Alex
Callinicos. The same Alex Callinicos who today has his goons strong-arm
Palestinian activists who object to the SWP including Zionist racists in its
‘Stand up to Racism’ events.
In the context of this grovelling to Zionism, GD’s claim to
still stand for the Palestinian ‘right to return’ is about as meaningful as
Rebecca Long-Bailey’s claim to stand for Palestinian rights after she has
signed up to the Tory-Zionist Board of Deputies’ ’10 commandments’, one of
which is to give Zionist outfits such as the Jewish Labour Movement control of
excluding pro-Palestinian activists from the Labour Party on the grounds of
supposedly combatting ‘anti-Semitism’. GD’s residual ‘anti-Zionism’ is flagrantly
contradicted by his smearing of his own comrades and other anti-Zionist
militants, including many Jewish ones, using Zionist material as a weapon. He
smears not just Atzmon, but Finkelstein, Greenstein, Weiss and more, as
anti-Semitic and/or soft on Nazism. His ‘anti-Zionism’ is meaningless in the
light of that.
We Go Forward!
Based on his theft of the Socialist Fight website, which was
paid for by the subs of the active members over a period of several years, GD
has now announced the ‘expulsion’ of the Trotskyist Faction from Socialist Fight. But that is
meaningless. He does not have the votes to expel us. He would need a majority
of full members to convene and vote for expulsion to do that. When his
political position itself was put to the full members in London and nationally,
he failed to win a majority.
What has actually happened is that he has stolen our website
and filled it with semi-Zionist, personalist, abusive nonsense. We, the
Trotskyist Faction, consider ourselves to be the real core of Socialist Fight as a revolutionary
Marxist organisation. We continue to be affiliated to the Liaison Committee of
the Fourth International and note that we have never been legitimately expelled
from anything. As the real continuity of Socialist
Fight we have registered a new website with the domain http://socialistfight.org,
or alternatively http://trotskyistfaction.org, to emphasise that we are a
principled faction that is determined to carry on with the politics and
programme that GD and his renegade clique has betrayed. We also intend to
publish a new journal to carry on with the Trotskyist politics of the old Socialist Fight. We will go forward, let our enemies beware!
This document was originally published on the Socialist Fight website (socialistfight.com) on 4 February. It was taken down by the bureaucratic action of Gerry Downing on 10 Feb, in defiance of the constitution of SF which guarantees the right of factions to publish their views in the organisations publications, including of course the website. But many had read it by the time it was taken down,so the act of censorship is also conspicuous, damaging and an admission of their inability to reply to it.
The problem is that Gerry Downing and his undeclared faction cannot refute this critque. Their only response to it has been a bilious dismissal of it as a ‘lying document’. And Gerry has been whining that comrade Ian Donovan supposedly duped him for five years into endorsing political views he now wishes he had not, now that he has capitulated to the Zionist witchhunt in British society in general. An unedifying spectacle.
It is unfortunately the case that there is a major division in Socialist Fight, British Section of the Liaison Committee for The Fourth International. This division is not primarily about Gilad Atzmon, though the sound and fury in the hysterical ‘Statement’ published by Gerry Downing’s undeclared and fraudulent faction (whose claims to be a majority only on the basis of falsely claiming as a member someone who lapsed a long time ago) might make it appear so. It is actually about Zionism, and comrade Gerry Downing’s capitulation to the enormous pressure of from political forces that express pro-Zionist social power, which has now risen to unheard of levels in the UK.
This is obvious if you think of two related social facts. One is the defeat of the Labour Party in the December 2019 General Election. Everyone in Britain knows that supporters of Israel and the leaders of the mainstream organisations of British Jewry played a major role in Labour’s defeat. Amplified by the right-wing media and the Tory-dominated BBC, mendacious accusations of anti-Jewish racism among Labour Party members were trumpeted far and wide. The effect of the lie machine was not so much to make the smears widely believed: the accusations were usually so illogical that only those who wanted to believe them did so. But the effect was to make Labour and Jeremy Corbyn appear weak. Corbyn repeatedly confessed and apologised for non-existent anti-Jewish racism in Labour.
Well known figures on the left, such as Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Gerry Downing himself, and Cyril Chilsom, were expelled, suspended or hounded into resigning from the Labour Party, along with many more lesser known people, amid ferocious media smears about alleged anti-Semitism. It became conventional media wisdom that Labour Party members hated Jews. There were even crappy ‘comedy’ routines on some TV shows about the Labour Party hating Jews. The power of a lying, pro-Zionist media in this country is currently enormous, and the Labour leadership crumbled before it, throwing many of the figures mentioned above under the bus. This certainly played an important role in making Labour appear weak, even pusillanimous, and thus was one of many key factors that contributed to the election defeat.
Then there is the victory of Johnson’s Tories themselves. Johnson is Britain’s Trump, a fierce pro-Zionist and a supporter of Trump’s openly pro-Zionist policies. Johnson now has an ‘anti-Semitism Czar’, former Labour Zionist MP John Mann, best known for his hounding of Ken Livingstone in 2016. His job among other things is to ‘investigate’ far left websites and publications looking for ‘anti-Semitism’ defined according to the IHRA definition, which seeks to criminalise meaningful criticism of Israel and Zionism. Johnson has immediately moved to reinstate previously defeated plans to ban councils from supporting boycotts of Israel and the BDS movement. He has also openly supported Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ which involves the annexation of large parts of the West Bank by Israel and is so blatant a denial of any pretence of Palestinians having national rights that even the stooge Palestinian authority of Mahmood Abbas completely boycotted it.
So that is two interrelated deeply reactionary developments intimately connected with Zionism in the past few months, that have shifted British politics very sharply to the right and created a much more ideologically, and potentially legally, threatening environment for anti-Zionists. That creates enormous social pressure on what previously had been the most uncompromising and consistently anti-Zionist group on the British left, Socialist Fight.
The decline of Corbynism and the ascent of Johnson to power have exposed latent political weakness, and in one crucial sense one issue that in hindsight was a political fudge, in Socialist Fight’s politics regarding Zionism. Revolutionaries are always vulnerable to social pressure, but hidden political weaknesses can provide an entry point for something alien to Marxism to find its way in and damage key components of the group. This was the starting point of the political problems that have led us to this problem. It is not a problem merely of personal weaknesses, or the aging of our cadre, as might be concluded empirically. Those are just symptoms of where we came from.
Leftward moving – before the division
Socialist Fight before this division took place was, or aspired to be, a synthesis of the best elements of the orthodox Trotksyist tradition. We had components with experience in both the Healy and Robertson groups, different strands of orthodoxy. This was quite a slowly emerging synthesis as due to the deformations of both traditions, both of our central leading cadre had had past experiences that led to some demoralisation and some drift away from orthodoxy, whether being in the United Secretariat in the case of comrade Downing, or the third-campist CPGB/Weekly Worker, and then a relationship with the very left-wing but third-campist US League for the Revolutionary Party in the case of comrade Donovan.
What led to our joining together in the middle of this decade was militant anti-Zionism; we converged on a set of theses that comrade Donovan had written while in a bloc with the CPGB within Left Unity in 2014, which led to his expulsion from the bloc on the kind of charges of “political” anti-Semitism that were levelled at Socialist Fight and are now being raised by comrade Downing himself. However as comrade Downing himself acknowledged, the recruitment of another experienced Trotskyist cadre enormously strengthened the group. The context of this was the rise of Corbynism as a genuine left-wing development within the British Labour movement, something which pushed British politics to the left and gave a further leftward impulse to our cadre.
The group has been through some serious political fights over Zionism with other forces externally, most notably through Gerry’s expulsion from the Labour Party in March 2016, the fighting off of the attempt to purge him from the LRC later that year, and then the fight over our exclusion from Labour Against the Witchhunt at the end of 2017 and early 2018. Socialist Fight actually picked up a modest number of serious recruits as a result of this work, which then laid the basis for the fusion with the small group of ex-Moreno supporters in Liverpool. But there was one key difference that was fudged between comrades Donovan and Downing that it was a key mistake to fail to fight out. It is the fatal weakness that, in the context of the decline of Corbynism and defeats inflicted by Zionist forces on the British labour movement, of the current division and comrade Downing’s political retreat.
Israel and Nazi Germany
The issue was quite straightforward; given that Israel is recognised by Socialist Fight as a racist state, in fact the world’s most openly racist state, should SF advocate that support for Israel be proscribed tout court in the Labour Party? Comrade Donovan said yes, comrade Downing insisted no; he cited as examples some Jewish neighbours who supported Israel, albeit in a ‘soft’ way, who were, so he said, good socialists despite their support for Israel.
This is quite an interesting question given the fulminations in the statement of the Downing faction ‘statement’ about people that oppose such right-wing causes as Zionism’s oppression of the Palestinians, or Johnson’s Brexit regime, who have gone to the effort to dig out dirt about the Rothschilds and their past involvement in Zionism and British politics, including from Nazi sources. Given that Israel as an openly racist state is only comparable to similar openly racist states such as Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, or the post-Civil War Jim Crow apartheid Southern United States, then why is it permissible for a ‘good socialist’ to be a defender of Israel, but not for some diffuse, non-Marxist but broadly left-wing individual to go to Nazi sources for information about historical questions like the Rothschilds?
This is particularly apposite given that Israel is the only one of these states that still exists. That is, an openly racist state that is considered part of the ‘Free World’ and thereby one of the ‘family of democracies’ in the lingo of Western imperialism. Jim Crow became a deep embarrassment to the democratic pretentions of the West in the 1950s, which is why the US Civil Rights movement had some real victories (now being rolled back). Apartheid South Africa was even more of an embarrassment and had to be thrown out of the British Commonwealth in 1961. Nazi Germany is obviously an anathema since WWII.
So Gerry agreed that SF should advocate that the Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, as organisations, should be proscribed as these are openly racist organisations. But he refused to agree SF should argue that support for Israel as a racist state should be banned within Labour. That was a step that he was unprepared to take. The reason being quite simple; that he had a fairly good relationship with some local Israel-loyal Jewish Labour people and to advocate that their views be proscribed would upset them, to say the least. That was taking anti-Zionism too far, in his view.
But that is the nub of the problem. Israel does have a considerable degree of support in the right-wing of the Laboour Party, and even among some ostensibly left-wing groups from the AWL to elements in Momentum. To advocate that Israel be treated in the same way as other racist states would be to anathemise a whole swathe of ostensibly left-wing opinion.
In fact, when the Third Reich existed it was never necessary to proscribe support for it in Labour as it was simply unthinkable that any Labour Party members would support such an abomination. Likewise with apartheid and Jim Crow. But support for Israel is socially completely acceptable in Labour, almost obligatory for the right-wing, to the point that the passage of the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism means that to say that Israel is a racist endeavour is not permitted. Let alone to advocate proscribing support to Israel because of it being a racist endeavour. Gerry would never agree to raising this demand and in hindsight, comrade Donovan is self-critical that he did not openly criticise comrade Downing for this. Because it is the real root cause of the current division, as it appears that it is social pressure from this very milieu, which has driven comrade Gerry to the right.
It is worth noting that this anomaly, the social acceptability in the labour movement of support for a genocidal racist Israeli state some of whose policies towards an oppressed people resemble Nazism, can have unexpected consequences internationally that have bearing on this dispute, and can only damage the credibility of working-class politics itself if not fought.
Labour Zionism and Bolshevism: A Confusion
For instance, Gerry has fulminated recently against Gilad Atzmon and Devon Nola as echoing ‘Nazi propaganda’ for arguing that ‘atrocities’ allegedly committed by the Bolsheviks were a function of the supposedly high representation of Jews in its cadre. But no one bothers to ask how it possible that a Israeli-Jewish-led diffuse trend of strongly pro-Palestinian opinion might draw such conclusions so much at odds with history.
One pointer as to how such a thing can come to be believed is the very respectability of Zionist racism in the Labour Party, and the labour movement itself. Familiarity with this regrettable reality helps breed complacency here. But in the Middle East, and among people who have experienced the politics of that region, it brings discredit upon the labour movement itself. When you combine that with the fact that in Israel, Zionism first came to power under a Labour banner, and parties to the left of Zionist Labour, such as the pro-Moscow, apparently pro-Russian Revolution MAPAM, played a major role in the birth of Israel, then you begin to see the problem.
The pro-Russian, semi-‘Communist’ MAPAM, closely associated with the left-talking Kibbutz Artzi movement, had a network of 85 Kibbutzim associated with it, built of course on stolen Arab land even as the MAPAM party itself mulled ideas like binational states, and such like. In other words, these pro-USSR, pro-Russian Revolution (at least in words), leftists played an important role in the founding of Israel at the Palestinians’ expense. In the first Israeli Knesset, after 1948, MAPAM was apparently the second biggest Zionist Party, after MAPAI (ie. Labour) itself, bigger than the revisionist Herut, which is the main forerunner of today’s Likud.
In this context it is not difficult to explain how alienated Jewish-led non-Marxist trends like the Atzmonites could be suspicious of the Russian Revolution, with its obvious Jewish input, and falsely extrapolate from that the view that the many bloody crimes that flowed from the degeneration of the revolution were similar to the abuses that took place in Israel against the native people of Palestine. We live in a world where, outside relatively small old-style left-wing movements, the Russian Revolution has very little authority and is heavily demonised by the media and most education systems. Why should new leftist trends in whatever form they come into existence necessarily see the Russian Revolution as benevolent?
The hysterical response of comrade Downing to the confusion between left and right among the Atzmonites is reflective of capitulation to left-Zionist ideology. In the Middle East generally, where the main oppressors and ethnic cleaners of the Palestinian Arabs are Jewish, inhabiting a Jewish ethnocratic tyranny that engages in slow genocide with the backing of the ‘democratic’ imperialists who embrace Israel as a ‘democracy’ like them, there is a very different popular view of the Second World War to that in the West.
“My enemy’s enemy…”
Thus the Assad regime has for decades published copious quantities of Nazi material as a response to Zionist crimes. It goes back much further. In 1964, Gamal Abdul Nasser said that he opposed “the lie of the six million”. Mahmood Abbas, the current President of the stooge Palestinian authority, once produced an academic thesis that denied the Nazi genocide. The former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, held conferences to debate the truth or otherwise of the same Nazi genocide. Hamas, who won when a free election was last held in the West Bank and Gaza, praised the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their founding charter.
The fact is that the anti-Jewish element of the Western far right get a hearing in the Middle East. This is hardly surprising. To therefore equate the masses who embody such sentiments in their rage against oppression, with the far right and the Nazis, is a pro-Zionist position. This includes the small minority of very alienated Jews who have gone over lock, stock and barrel to the Arab side in this. The fact that Atzmon, in response to being flattered by David Duke, the former Klansman, in America, for his writings on Jewish identity and the like, made a flattering comment back, is no different.
There is an element of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” deeply embedded in spontaneous anti-Zionist dissent originating in the Middle East. To equate such people with the far right, or to try to rule them beyond the pale of debate or of the workers movement, is to go over to a left-Zionist position.
Thus it is no accident that in Gerry’s original draft of his statement on this, he included a statement from America’s most famous Naqba-denier, Alan Dershowitz, denouncing Atzmon for being praised by David Duke, among a tirade of hate and smears against a variety of people. It is fitting that this came from Dershowitz as the whole thrust of his propaganda is that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism equals Hitlerism. Gerry has become like a little Dershowitz not only in his attack on Atzmon, but also in some of the other people he has vilified.
Expiation Through Indiscriminate Vilification
Evidence of Gerry’s rightward movement is to be found in his irrational and bizarre attacks on other figures on the left, and indeed particularly on the mainstream Jewish left, implying that they too are in some way anti-Semitic. For instance his attack on Tony Greenstein at Communist University, when he put out his own leaflet. This was not an SF leaflet, as it would not have been endorsed by SF comrades.
But the attack on Greenstein was clearly motivated by an attempt to ‘get back’ at him for having accused Gerry of anti-Semitism in the past. This is evidence of demoralisation: instead of continuing the fight to win the argument politically against this accusation he sought to turn the tables and imply that Greenstein was the ‘real’ anti-Semite because of his refusal to condemn Hannah Arendt for her relationship with Martin Heidegger, and having publicly stated considerable respect for her writings and philosophy.
In the course of the dispute around Atzmon and Veterans Today, Gerry denounced Phil Weiss, the leftist who runs, and is the main writer for, the highly respected US Jewish left blog Mondoweiss. This was for an article that put forward the historical view, which though its significance is disputed the facts are not, that the Israel lobby mobilised heavily against two incumbent presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and George H.W Bush in 1992, and seems to have played a major role in denying them both a second term. This being because of policies on Israel/Palestine that the Israel lobby disapproved of, in Carter’s case for insisting on the Palestinians right to a state, and with Bush the Elder for withholding loan guarantees to Israel to try to force it to stop settlement activity that the President and James Baker, his Secretary of State, disapproved of.
It is not seriously disputed in US politics that the Israel lobby did indeed mobilise against these Presidents. What is subject to different views is how effective it was, whether they lost because of that, or whether it was other events in the economy and the class struggle that brought them down. The Mondoweiss article on this is hardly definitive in saying that this was the only factor involved but it does paint a detailed picture of what happened to Carter in particular. See https://mondoweiss.net/2019/02/settlements-alienated-eizenstat/
However Gerry remarked on 6 Jan that:
“As for the Mondoweiss that too is conspiracy nonsense.
“It wasn’t Jewish finance or lack of it that causes Republicans or Democrats to win presidential elections.”
Thus extending his attack on Atzmon to wider spheres of the Jewish left, after his attack on Tony Greenstein.
Then there was the more minor, but symptomatic episode of Gerry’s public attack on Sebastian Budgen, the editor of Historical Materialism, as promoting ‘fascist values’ because of a comment he put in an academic discussion encouraging a dispassionate discussion of the views of the reactionary 19th Century Philosopher Nietzsche.
Moreover criticism of the attack on Budgen within SF has since led to a continual tirade of attacks implying that those who disapprove support Nietzsche, and thus by extension, fascism. Bizarre and over the top, Gerry seems to be looking for every possible opportunity to smear anyone he can with the canard of anti-Semitism and fascist sympathies, to expiate his own transgressions, his very prominent past advocacy of views that he now suspects (wrongly) may have been anti-Semitic, as he has unfortunately capitulated ideologically to the witchhunt against Socialist Fight.
A strange symptom of this is his attack on Atzmon, which had he been so minded, he could have written at any time in the past five years, or more, since he actually endorsed Tony Greenstein’s campaign against Atzmon in 2009 and then said he had been mistaken about that when he initiated the ‘new’ Socialist Fight with a new ‘Where we stand’ statement co-written with Ian Donovan after the May 2015 General Election, around the mid-point of the Corbyn leadership election campaign.
Atzmon: A Stalking Horse for our Draft Theses
The real purpose of the attack on Atzmon and others is as a stalking horse to distance himself from our 2014 Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism. In the course of a long and tortuous discussion about whether it is permissible to cite and post material from the ‘conspiratorial’ US pro-Iran, pro-Russia anti-war website Veterans Today, and then about our Socialist Fight statement about the murder of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader Suleimani by Trump and US imperialism, the issues came out.
Regarding the Suleimani murder, Gerry wrote agreeing with another comrade on the day we distributed our statement on the murder, that
“Netanyahu is Trump’s puppet, not the other way around.” (4 Jan)
The problem with this hypothesis is an assertion that, because of the economic and military power of the United States, Israel is subordinate, a puppet, of US administrations generally. But that is contradicted by reality. If Netanyahu is Trump’s ‘puppet’ simply because Trump is the US President, he must also have previously been Obama’s ‘puppet’ at the time of Obama’s Iran deal. But everyone knows that Netanyahu waged a massive campaign in the United States itself against Obama’s deal, and this peaked with a 40 minute speech to an almost unprecedented joint session of Congress, demanded by Netanyahu, on Capitol Hill on 3 March 2015 where he received 26 standing ovations from the assembled legislators for his denunciation of Obama’s deal.
As we now know, Trump’s campaign was massively funded by the Israel lobby, in particularly the Israeli-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of Netanyahu’s Likud, and Obama’s Iran deal was duly thrown aside by Trump. It is thus ridiculous to say that Netanyahu was Obama’s puppet and then Trump’s, and obviously the relation between Netanyahu and Trump is … unusual, to say the least. This has huge relevance for the real relations behind the junking of the Iran deal, and Suleimani’s murder.
So this boiled down to a form of words about whether the interests of Israel were ‘secondary’ to those of the United States bourgeoisie, i.e. US imperialism conceived of as a body completely separate from Israel, or not. Gerry wrote:
“… It is completely wrong to say that Zionism or the U.S. Zionist lobby is not secondary to U.S. imperialism itself and its global class interests. Saying that, going over from acknowledging the power of the U.S. Zionist lobby to asserting or strongly suggesting that it is controlling U.S. politically..” (6 Jan)
In later emails he expanded:
“Here Zionism dictates to US imperialism what to do in the Middle East and their own material interests are secondary. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, one sided and false. It is wrong to say, ‘It’s totally wrong to say that Zionism is secondary in what happened yesterday’ (the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on 3 January). This asserts the primacy of the ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’ and the second place for US imperialist interests in this and implicitly in every other region…” (16 Jan)
And then he accuses comrade Donovan of advocating a new position:
“… Imperialism will only ‘defer’ to Israel when it suits them, and this is not, never has been and never will be, a permanent deference; the tail does not wag the dog. However, this is starkly contradicted by the piece in which he denies that Zionism is secondary to US imperialism in reply to Alonso.”
Later this was expanded to a bald rejection of the entire thrust of the 2014 Theses:
“In whose interests do US imperialism act? The ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste’ or their own? How did we come to ask such a ridiculous question?” (20 Jan)
When the explicit thrust of the 2014 Theses are that these ruling classes are not entirely separate, that they actually overlap; a situation that the bourgeoisie of the older powers is prepared to accept because of their belief that the overlapping Jewish-Zionist layer is a crucial political asset of their class, a particularly class-conscious layer.
This was in response to previous comments by comrade Donovan, who wrote:
“Obama’s deal was an act of defiance against Israel and the lobby which is why Netanyahu came to the US Congress to try to stop it with his speech receiving numerous standing ovations from a bunch of demented Jack-in-the-boxes, as Finkelstein put it.
It’s totally wrong to say that Zionism is secondary in what happened yesterday. Is Zionism ‘secondary’ in the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? In the de-funding of UNRWA by the US to starve Palestinian refugees? In US recognition of Israel’s annexation of Golan? In the Green Light Trump has given to Israel to annex the Jordan Valley etc. by the State Department saying that it does not regard West Bank settlements as contrary to international law? (5 Jan)
He elaborated on this later:
“This is theoretically wrong as the global class interests of US imperialism – and indeed others at different intensities – and their regional, Middle Eastern class interests are relatively different things.
“You could say that the US bourgeoisie as a whole regards it as in its global class interests to allow the J-Z bourgeois caste to play the leading role on a regional level because of its usefulness to the bourgeoisie as a whole as a class asset.
“Obviously the non-JZ bourgeoisie is more numerous and if it wanted to it could very firmly put the J-Z layer in its place and certainly not allow it to ‘discipline’ dissidents in its own ranks.
“But it does so allow it, and the list of people so disciplined is quite illustrious, including Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush, and possibly Hillary Clinton who may have been punished for Obama’s insubordination as they had no means to punish Obama himself.
“In this country a similar mechanism has been used to punish Corbyn and the Labour Party, which is even more intense because of the class hostility of the bourgeoisie as a whole to the LP in any case. It allows this because it considers the JZ caste and the state of Israel that underpins it as important class assets of the bourgeoisie as a whole.” (6 Jan)
Bourgeois Deference and Political Cultism
Comrade Donovan expanded on the mechanics of this in an exchange with Sam Trachtenberg, an American Jewish leftist who is hostile to Socialist Fight, on Facebook. Trachtenberg characterised our position thus:
“That the majority of the capitalist class is being manipulated behind the scenes by a well-organised Jewish minority who will inevitably get unquestioning lockstep loyalty and important support from the rest of the Jewish population to boot. I’ve read such formulation even in SF material couched in the thinly veiled distinctions you make here.”
To which comrade Donovan responded (edited for readability):
“The majority of the capitalist class allows this to happen because they regard the minority ethnic/communal faction as particularly class conscious representatives of their own class. They are not being manipulated. This Philo-Semitic cult has its roots in bourgeois class consciousness now that capitalism is in decline.
“Bourgeois class consciousness is not strictly rational and political cults can occur. The cult of neoliberalism and its Jewish-Zionist ideologues like Milton Friedman is the flip side of the earlier anti-Semitic irrationality that allowed them to support Hitler.
“What is excluded is that they could treat Jews as equals, with equanimity. There is an excluded middle, neither anti-Semitism nor philo-Semitism.
“But the bourgeoisie is not capable of that level of equanimity about their Jewish brethren. Probably because of the history of the Jews regarding commodity exchange. They must either be subversive devils, or God-like angels.”
“… This comes from observation over a long period. Numerous people have written about facets of it. It’s a peculiar social phenomenon that otherwise defies explanation. This has been the core of my theory since 2014. That the bourgeoisie defer to their Jewish brethren from a class instinct as they regard them as particularly class conscious.
“And classes work by a kind of spontaneous instinct. They don’t always meet collectively to work out a coherent ideology. That is true of both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. My writings have never even referenced the standard conspiracy theories about the bourgeoisie, such as the one about the Bilderberg group etc. Because that is not how things work.
“Not conspiracies but the collective action of classes — or sometimes factions within classes. Brexit is also an example of such collective action of parts of a class against another part of the same class. The Jewish-Zionist faction works in similar ways.
“Properly understood, my theory is not anti-Jewish at all. Why should it be? Most of the resources I draw upon are Jewish.”
Consistent Revolutionary Anti-Zionism
This is the analysis that Gerry has now abandoned, having endorsed it fulsomely from 2015 and even defending it on national television in March 2016. Everyone who knows anything about Gerry and Socialist Fight knows this.
The Trotskyist faction has not abandoned this analysis and we have a principled platform that maintains the basic politics of Socialist Fight before Gerry’s tragic political degeneration, which threatens to destroy everything he ever fought for.
Through whatever organisational form, we will continue to struggle to build a revolutionary party on the basis of our consistent opposition to Zionism. In this period, political Zionism has become the cutting edge of reaction and the far right in the major imperialist countries.
The Israel lobby is a key part of the genocide machine of political Zionism. In some ways it is the most important part. Without it, Israel would not find it politically possible to pulverise the Palestinian people in the way it has been doing for decades, now decisively intensifying with the full backing of Trump and Johnson.
Those on the left who politically protect the material base of the Lobby by smearing those who criticise it as ‘anti-Semitic’ are a part of the genocide machine, its gatekeepers on the left flank. As Trotskyists, as tribunes of the oppressed, as the most consistent opponents of Zionism and defenders of the Palestinians, we will continue to fight to politically expose and oppose this phenomenon as a key part of our internationalist responsibilities as Trotskyists and supporters of the Liaison Committee of the Fourth International.
UPDATE: Since this was written, Dawn Butler has capitulated to the Zionists, signing up for a Jewish Labour Movement statement that is just as bad as that of the Board of Deputies. So this is out of date: we are no longer calling for any preference vote to her, only to Richard Burgon.
Reinstate Jo Bird and Mo Azam!
Vote Burgon 1, Butler 2 for Deputy. No Vote To Any of the Blairite/Zionist Stooge Leader Candidates!
(This leaflet was published and distributed by the Trotskyist Faction on 9 February)
The Trotskyist Faction, the revolutionary anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist wing of Socialist Fight, calls for critical support for Richard Burgon as the first choice for Deputy Leader. He at least has defied the demands of the racist Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) to sign their ’10 commandments’, as has the softer left Dawn Butler who deserves a second preference vote. Though he himself has not always stood firm , as when he apologised for saying the simple truth, that Zionism is the “enemy of the Palestinian people”, he at least is defiant now and should be put to the test.
The actions of all the candidates standing for leader in capitulating to the pro-Tory BOD enemies of organised labour, have put the Zionist attack on democratic rights at the top of the political agenda. We say: No vote to Long-Bailey, Starmer, Thornberry and Nandy. All of these candidates, from the overt neoliberalism of Starmer to the Corbyn continuity of Long-Bailey, have sold themselves and Labour to the class enemy by signing up to the BOD’s agenda, that of organised anti-Arab racists who applauded the massacre of Palestinian civil rights marchers in Gaza and seek the wholesale expulsion of Palestine supporters from Labour.
The capitulation of Corbyn and the Labour left in the period before the election laid the basis for these attacks. For all the feverish desperation of the official ‘lefts’, it is not clear than Long-Bailey is even in a position to win, so much has the left been undermined. One very good reason why she most likely will not is that her leftism, her talk of Open Selection and democratic reform of Labour is completely contradicted by her signing the Zionists’ pledges, to destroy the democratic rights of Labour members on behalf of the Israeli state. Thus her candidacy and her left-wing promises are just not believable; she like the others standing against her, have already sold Labour to a very important part of the ruling class. The likely result of her treachery is to let in Starmer.
The labour movement should regard the BOD and other Zionist cheerleaders for racist massacres and ethnic cleansing of Arab civilians as roughly equivalent to Neo-Nazis trying to dictate to the working class. We would not have tolerated Nazis when Jews were persecuted telling the left we had ‘no right’ to stand up for Jews. Well we should no more tolerate viciously racist bourgeois Jewish-Zionist organisations dictating to us about Palestine and banning criticism of their totalitarian racism today. They need to be very publicly declared persona non-grata to the whole labour movement. Support for Israel should be anathema in every labour movement body, just as much as support for Nazi racism.
The suspension of Jo Bird and Mohammad Azam in the NEC election is racist-ballot rigging, pure and simple. Of course we demand their immediate reinstatement, but it has to be said that capitulation of the vast bulk of the Labour and Trade Union bureaucracy, including much of the ‘left’, to the Zionist takeover of the Labour Party has made that very unlikely today. The blatant racism of the suspensions is breathtaking: Jo Bird is Jewish but in this reactionary climate she has already been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ once, a smear akin to accusations of ‘anti-white racism’ from neo-Nazis and the like. And the motive for purging Azam is equally transparent, as they don’t want people of Asian/Muslim background, particularly leftist ones, on leading committees as they cannot be relied on to vote for Israeli racism.
Pam Bromley, a left-wing councillor who has just been expelled herself, reported that 11.400 members have been recently expelled. That is an incredible number purged and there must be a risk to the right-wing and the Zionists that if they became organised, they could become a substantial political force.
We need a political lifeboat for the many Labour members who are in the process of being purged, or leaving in disgust. There needs to be created a principled bloc of socialists on the basis of the principle of freedom of criticism and debate, and unity in action, to build a broadly left-wing movement that can organise both pro-socialist militants within the Labour Party, and outside it. Given the totalitarian climate that currently exists within the Labour Party, there may even have to be a degree of clandestinity about the way it organises. Such a body must have a revolutionary component to act as the yeast to bring into being a genuinely anti-capitalist party, a party that can fight for socialism and which realises that capitalism in decline is making a serious struggle for social reforms impossible within the existing social and political system.
We Trotskyists stand on a transitional programme whose purpose is to act as a bridge between the felt needs of working class people today and the destruction of capitalism. But a felt need of today is for a political movement, a party, of the working class that can enforce class independence against the Zionists and the mendacious neoliberal media machine, which has effectively hollowed out and abolished in practice even much of the limited democracy that exists under capitalism. That party cannot be just declared, it must be fought for and built by a regroupment of forces currently within and without the Labour Party, not on the basis of trying to repeat the errors of the Labour left, but going beyond Labourism itself, so that a truly mass force, not just a sect or an agglomeration of existing sects, can be crystallised.
Of course that sounds like a tall order today. But with the rapid decline of both capitalism and democracy, and the advancing shadow of environmental and economic catastrophe, nothing can be more urgent.
This item was originally published on Socialist Fight website (socialistfight.com) on 30 Jan. It was taken down bureaucratically on 10 Feb, in defiance of the constitution of SF which guarantees the right of factions to publish their views in the organisations publications, including of course the website.
It was up for 11 days and hundreds have read it. So its disappearance is almost as embarrassing as its appearance and obviously an act of incompetent, bureaucratic censorship after the horse has bolted. Gerry Downing cannot refute the corruption spelt out in detail in this document and the signatories of the Trotskyist Platform of Socialist Fight – almost 50% of the committed full members of the organisation excluding a few who have not endorsed either faction – are still members of SF and more importantly its international tendency, the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International. The bureaucratic faction do not have the votes to expel us, but they are trying to deprive us of the means to argue by whatever means available to them, which is not much. Its a tragi-comic impasse, but not of our doing, as this document spells out.
This statement was already written when we discovered that on 30 Jan 2020 Gerry Downing fraudulently put out his statement denouncing Gilad Atzmon and some of his associated and co-thinkers, in the name of Socialist Fight, 13 days after a 17th January vote was taken in which he failed to get a majority. He now claims that one member who had clearly lapsed, JC, whose case is addressed below, was a full member all along, and that gave him a majority after all. This question was raised at the 17th January meeting and various arguments were made to the effect that JC should be treated as a member. This was never agreed and ratified in an endorsed set of minutes in any case.
Objections had been raised by comrade Donovan in the meeting on the grounds that JC had made not paid subs, only made sporadic donations and had not been to any meetings for well over a year. The draft minutes mistakenly recorded that it was agreed that he was a member, after a hue and cry from Gerry and his ‘candidate members’ whose presence was itself contentious, and unwanted as the meeting in which it took place had originally been booked and planned by the decision of full members as a private meeting for those full members only.
These draft minutes had not been agreed, and the objection that JC was lapsed was made again by email during the following week. Comrade Downing claims that the statement in the draft minutes is gospel even though those minutes had not been ratified by a subsequent meeting. In any case, since JC was not at the meeting on 17 Jan, and did not vote before the deadline despite being notified, it is clear that he was not acting as a member. It is now clear that comrade Downing chased him down in the 10 days or so after the vote, persuaded him to pretend to be a member, and then retrospectively changed the vote. But the fact is that at the deadline, the vote was tied and so the statement fell. The original statement this faction put out on 18th January after the vote was tied did not include JC’s name.
There is no agreement that JC is a member and the ‘Socialist Fight statement’ comrade Downing has put out is doubly fraudulent. JC had lapsed long ago, having not attended any meetings for over a year nor paid regular subscriptions. No meeting had the power to rewrite that history in any case. Anyone with such a record would be deemed to have lapsed from membership in a variety of organisations.
Socialist Fight has always aspired to the Bolshevik tradition, including by endorsing Lenin’s position in 1903 that a party member is someone engaged in “participation in one of the Party organizations”. The split of Lenin’s ‘hards’ from Martov’s ‘softs’ (the Mensheviks) was in counterposition to their definition that a member is someone who “renders it regular personal assistance under the direction of one of its organizations”. However even the latter involves paying regular subs; JC’s membership would have lapsed from the Mensheviks, or even from today’s Labour Party.
Thus comrade Downing has not only betrayed the consistent anti-Zionist positions he used to uphold, he has flagrantly betrayed the democracy of his own organisation by fraudulently and retrospectively rewriting the history of a vote he didn’t win; he has fraudulently declared an ex-member to be a full member in order to claim to have ‘won’ a vote he failed to win, and he has in the process totally betrayed the Bolshevik tradition on the party question.
All this indicates, as the statement below shows, a complete decay of communist consciousness and the embrace of opportunism.
We have looked at the letter and cheque that comrade Gerry Downing sent to Ian, the Treasurer, supposedly constituting membership fees for GM and CW.
We are of the opinion that all dealings regarding membership and membership subs within a communist organisation must be strictly above board, and must at the very least meet the standards expected by the labour and socialist movement generally. In fact we must be better.
For instance Clause 4 of Chapter III of the Labour Party rulebook includes the following:
“A. It is an abuse of Party rules for one individual or faction to ‘buy’ Party membership for other individuals or groups of individuals who would otherwise be unwilling to pay their own subscriptions.
“F. Party officers and members should be aware that involvement in such abuses shall be considered as behaviour likely to bring the Party into disrepute and prima facie evidence of such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action leading to expulsion under the constitutional rules of the Party.”
Such considerations must be maintained in a communist organisation more even than a mere reformist party.
It does appear that comrade Downing has paid the membership fees, for these two supposed new candidate members, for six months in advance. Not only is this contrary to the rules of financial probity even of the Labour Party – see clauses above – but it also has a brazen cynicism about it in another way. Because even if it were conceded that these people are legitimately candidate members of the organisation – and we do not concede this – it is completely wrong that candidate members should have their membership fees paid in advance for the whole of their six month period of candidacy – thereby short-circuiting their candidacy and rendering it a corrupt process.
This amounts to a corrupt payment for membership in a double sense – not only are their dues paid by someone else, but the process of candidacy in a communist organisation – which is supposed to be a process where a new member proves their commitment in practice over a period of sustained political activity, including by paying the appropriate sub month-by-month as part of that commitment, is substituted by a single payment by the leader of an unprincipled faction just bribing the organisation to give them full membership in a few months, thus displaying complete contempt for all notions of commitment to a communist organisation.
This can only reflect a complete collapse of the entire concept of commitment to a communist organisation, replacing that with a squalid vote-buying process so comrade Downing can by himself some extra votes for his faction in a few months’ time. This can only signify a complete collapse of communist political consciousness by the person paying this cash for votes.
This is particularly obvious with CW, an amiable enough long-time friend of the organisation, but who had not sought membership over the last five years. He is retired, with little money and health problems. Comrade Downing repeatedly complained he never paid us anything over all that period. At least he is broadly speaking a political supporter. But paying his membership subs six months in advance still amounts to buying his vote.
Then there is GM. He clearly is hostile to the established politics of the group, so hostile in fact, that he has made outrageous and indeed criminally libellous allegations against leading members, lies so serious that he is in our view unfit for membership. More on that later. Comrade Downing claims that he is a candidate member of the organisation, and indeed he has been inveigled into two meetings this year already on the basis of that claim.
Yet no agenda was circulated in advance for the meeting, on 9th January, where he … and ED … were said to have joined SF. ED’s joining was also contentious, and the proposal for her joining should have been circulated and the decision taken by a vote at a properly constituted meeting. The branch members were not informed in advance of any proposal for them to join at that meeting.
This happened at a meeting that should not have taken place, because half of the London branch informed comrade Downing in advance that they either could not attend through illness, or would be most unlikely to be able to attend because of a medical problem involving a child in their family. One other full member attends meetings only occasionally because of disability, but there are five full members of the branch, four of which attend most meetings, and all of these members have the right to a say on membership, particularly of anyone contentious. This is a basic democratic right of members of a communist organisation. The meeting should have been rearranged and a proper discussion and vote taken on their membership with the existing full members informed in advance of the proposal.
The lack of proper warning of this; the known-in-advance and unavoidable non-attendance of the majority of the branch on 9th January, plus the lack of minutes at that meeting means that that was not a valid meeting of the London branch, and it was not in its power to take on new members. The existing full members of the branch have the right to a vote on the accession to even candidate membership of anyone proposed to join, and certainly to know in advance of the proposal. Therefore their membership is null and void, and we in the Trotskyist faction do not regard them as members of SF. Bringing them in without proper democratic procedure is an abuse.
And regarding CW and GM, it is clear that buying their membership six months in advance is a corrupt practice. Even to bank the cheque would make the treasurer complicit in what amounts to a corruption of communist norms, and therefore our faction has advised the treasurer that he should not bank this tainted cheque, but keep it and the letter accompanying it as evidence of malpractice, to be presented to the international movement.
Indeed the letter itself is pretty outrageous and insulting in the assumptions it makes:
“Enclosed membership subscriptions for CW and GM. Both are unemployed (CW is retired) so pay the minimum of £3 a month. The sum of £40, therefore, covers from now to the end of July. ED has set up a standing order from the [bank] for £3 a month as she is also unemployed. So all three will become full members at the end of July, as per the constitution.”
There are examples available of how democratic norms are supposed to operate regarding membership of a communist organisation. Here are some extracts of the organisational rules of the Spartacist League in the United States, which are pretty straightforward in formal democratic terms even though that organisation is not particularly democratic in practice. Its formal rules are still pretty good:
“Individual applicants for membership shall be voted on by the Local Committee [a fully recognised branch] in their locale. In those areas where an Organising Committee (OC) [a new, as yet not fully-recognised branch] exists, applicants shall be voted through by the Political Bureau (PB) with the recommendation of the OC…”
“Action on membership applications should take place in the absence of the applicant”.
What is notable about this is not so much the formal structure, which is obviously more developed than our own, but the basic concept that the organisation has the right to collectively control its recruitment. It is a collective, democratic decision. People should not be able to be sneaked into an organisation without the knowledge of the existing membership. Especially people who, as is the case with GM and ED, are notably hostile to part of the existing full membership and are quite prepared to smear them.
What is also remarkable about the letter from comrade Downing is the assumption that if only he pays in advance for his friends, they will automatically become full members in six months’ time. That is not true; there will have to be a vote on that also. A vote of the full members who have the right to decide whether the candidate members have proven their commitment to the organisation, or not. They have every right to decide, democratically, whether they have passed their candidacy or not. And like the admission to candidate membership, there has to be a free discussion among the existing members, and a vote, on whether they are suitable for full membership or not. Comrade Downing blithely assumes that his recruits will automatically pass their candidacies just because he has stumped up the cash now.
Of course this has never been contentious until now. People have never tried to join with the aim of overruling the existing members before. People who formally joined have either stayed, or left. But in a situation like this, where the integrity of the organisation is under attack from within and without, the formal democratic control of the membership over who is recruited becomes crucial. This is not about imposing political uniformity, it is not about formal political beliefs. But when outrageous smears are made against comrades, proven smears that even those responsible cannot deny, then the existing members have the right to protect themselves and the right to vote on who becomes a new member of the organisation.
Two examples of outrageous smears against full members by two of these “candidate members” are illustrated here. The first comes from GM. He wrote in the public SF Facebook the following accusation against comrade Ian Donovan:
“You are justifying fascist murders by attributing them to some sort of principled retaliation against Israel. You have systematically conflated and defended antisemitism with opposition to Israeli apartheid. You have brushed aside any attempt to draw the distinction.”
When comrade Donovan challenged GM to quote him “justifying fascist murders” anywhere, he failed to do so. Comrade Donovan provided evidence that he had always condemned all terrorist attacks directed against civilians, as a matter of principle, that he written for Socialist Fight articles condemning a particularly bloody terror attach in Paris in 2015, and that he had written articles in SF calling for workers defence guards to militarily crush fascist groups. When challenged to quote comrade Donovan “justifying fascist murders” which is just about as serious a political crime as it is possible for a communist to commit, GM was unable to do so. Yet he has not apologised. In our view this foul lie alone renders GM morally unfit for membership of SF and the LCFI, and his pseudo-‘candidate membership’ should be brought to an end immediately. We do not regard him as a comrade.
Secondly there is the smear, also against comrade Donovan, by ED. After the branch meeting at the Lucas Arms on 17 January, which was booked on the understanding it was supposed to be a private meeting to resolve this issue among full members only, but which Gerry declared Open with a public email on the day, and then GW and ED turned up and Gerry inveigled them in, after that ED made the following accusation against comrade Donovan a week later. She wrote:
“When I interrupted Ian to call out his insane rant about the Rothschilds’ he became outraged, shouted and threw his pen on the table..”
This was a complete pack of lies from start to finish. Another comrade who was there wrote:
“Sorry, E, I do not recall Ian raising his voice and shouting at all”
To which comrade Donovan responded and pointed out that he had challenged Gerry a week earlier about Gerry’s shouting in the meeting:
“Indeed. I note that when I challenged Gerry about shouting, he justified it on political grounds. But he did not say ‘well Ian shouted too’ when criticised for it by [another comrade]. If I had shouted at Ella he would have condemned me and been angry.
“This alone corroborates that this is untrue”.
And it did. And do E was compelled to admit:
“Hiya folks, maybe I misspoke…“
though she still tried dishonestly to imply all those who remembered differently and never noticed this ‘shouting’ were wrong and she was really right. This kind of lying, fake politics, is no different to the squalid bourgeois politics around at the moment. Boris Johnson, for instance, when caught lying, as he has been many times now, tends to say “Folks, maybe I misspoke” in his plummy voice. It’s no better coming from E. This proven lie, laced with phoney accusations of ‘sexism’ against people who dare to challenge her politically in the manner of Jess Phillips or Hillary Clinton, again renders her unfit for membership of SL and the LCFI.
This ‘candidate member’ lied to smear the existing full members of SF with the aim of derailing SF from its principled anti-Zionist politics in cahoots with the other ‘candidate member’ GM, who is so irrational he comes out with outrageous lies that even the likes of John Mann would consider reckless. We do not recognise her as a member; her fake candidacy is null and void as was the meeting that initiated it. Her conduct since has shown that she is unfit for membership.
So CW, GM and ED are not members. You cannot buy a majority, you cannot sneak people, including blood relatives, into the organisation at illegitimately called meetings that deny the basic democratic rights to a say of the existing full membership, and not be called out on it.
Regarding the membership of JC, a lapsed member who Gerry is trying to manipulate back into SF as a full member to gain him an extra vote, it is worth quoting the formal rules of the Spartacist League/US again. At least formally, they point to correct Communist practice whatever structure of dues the organisation decides on:
“Any member more than one month in arrears in sustaining pledge [membership subs] ceases to be in good standing. Only members in good standing may vote and hold office in [the organisation]. Any member more than three months in arrears … shall be dropped from [the organisation] after notification”.
The cynicism involved in the attempted guilt tripping about the comrade’s personal problems, being blacklisted, which certainly merits sympathy and solidarity, is appalling. Indeed one of our comrades twice made suggestions to simplify our membership subs to help avoid such problems in future. But Gerry’s pleas are not based on sympathy for him, but just the desire to gain an extra captive vote from a sympathiser who for personally tragic reasons, was unable to sustain membership. According to these norms, he would not have been able to vote in any case. Allowing him to do so would be right outside the norms of Bolshevism as laid out in the famous criteria of the 1903 split about the membership rules, that membership involved “personal participation in one of the party’s organisations”, or at the very least regular payments of dues, however low. And someone else paying your dues in advance for a captive vote is an abuse that would get the culprit expelled from the Labour Party. Rightly so in such a case!
So this is about the boundaries of the organisation, maintaining basic membership norms, and not allowing fraudulent membership claims to defraud those who have worked hard to develop the organisation. The aim of these tactics is transparently to create a majority of fake members to purge the real activists who keep the group going. We cannot allow this and will not refrain from challenging such bureaucratic trickery and unprincipled behaviour.
Another, even worse way that these boundaries have been breached is through the deliberate publication of our internal platform without the permission of the signatories, containing identifiable names, designated at ‘full members’. This can only be seen as an outrageous attempt to create the conditions for the victimisation of oppositional comrades. The whole thrust of the recent paralysis of SF has been because of the emergence of an unprincipled faction that has finally begun to fray before the ferocious Zionist-led witchhunt in Labour, and has been at pains to dissociate itself from its hard anti-Zionist left wing: “we are not as bad as these people” Gerry and his new friends are eager to proclaim.
To reassert principled politics, we need to draw those boundaries properly, and to re-establish Socialist Fight on proper Communist organisational norms. These are difficult and reactionary times, and some basic discipline and good security is essential to ensure that we are effective going forward.
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