Solidarity with Donbass Anti-Fascists: Letter and Reply

We reprint below the response by Ukrainian Anti-Fascists and Communists to a 3 April letter of solidarity from Communists and and Anti-Fascists from the UK and elsewhere.

Below that we reproduce the joint letter itself. It was addressed to the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Borotba as a jointly signed letter by all those who have supported the Solidarity with the Fascist Resistance in the Ukraine campaign in London in recent years

It was initiated by the New Communist Party through the umbrella campaign , and endorsed by our international tendency, the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). Our British LCFI Section, the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, signed this, together with our sister British LCFI section, also currently known as Socialist Fight, as well as three overseas sections of the LCFI, from Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Also signing were the UK Posadist group.

It is a source of pride that our small currents stand out as those who have kept the flame of solidarity alive on this important political struggle against reaction in this period.


From: Редакция сайта “Вперед”
Sent: 13 April 2020 06:02
To: New Worker
Subject: Re: Solidarity with Ukrainian anti-fascists 

Thank you comrades for your solidarity!  

http://wpered.su/2020/04/13/kommunisty-velikobritanii-latinskoj-ameriki-i-ssha-podderzhali-obrashhenie-kpdnr-v-svyazi-s-neprekrashhayushhimisya-boevymi-dejstviyami-na-donbasse/ — 

С уважением, редакция сайта “Вперед” 


Dear Comrades

We send solidarity greetings from the UK to all those living under a fascist-infested illegitimate government in Ukraine, defending and building the anti-fascist people’s republics in the Donbas, and to the hundreds of thousands forced into exile by political repression, attacks by fascist gangs and economic austerity.

Although we have had no recent Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity actions, we have by no means forgotten your struggle and the sacrifices you are making.

We were intending to begin organising another Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity protest in London in the near future, but unfortunately events in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic have overtaken us.

All of us have been working hard on other political issues, including helping to organise a very successful meeting attended by 400 people in central London on March 3rd which exposed the lies, tampered and falsified evidence being presented at the current MH17 trial in The Hague.

Ever since the February 22 2014 Ukraine coup we have been aware of the illiegal nature of that regime change, the open involvement of actual fascists in the government, police and armed forces, the complete suppression of democratic rights and freedoms in Ukraine, and the physical attacks on political parties, trade unions and even the courts.

We have not forgotten the heinous crime at the Odessa Trade Union House on 2nd May 2014 and the many other outrages perpetrated by the fascist bands, and we have not forgotten the criminal, barbaric ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ launched in April 2014, unleashing all-out war against civilian anti-fascist protestors in Donetsk and Lugansk.

We know that the fighters of the people’s Donbas and Lugansk People’s Militias are making daily sacrifices in the front-line trenches, and that civilians – women and men, children and the elderly – are being killed and injured every day in attacks by the Ukraine armed forces and the fascist brigades.

In our solidarity work for the anti-fascists in Ukraine we are also faced with confronting the lies and whipped up hysteria against the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin, which have continued for almost a decade.

We have no illusions about the capitalist, oligargic nature of the Russian Federation, but we reject the attempts to portray it as totally undemocratic, and we call for an end to the trade sanctions the constant western interference designed to economic instability and provoke protests. And this coming from governments which kiss the feet of the reactionary fuedal monarchs of the Middle East, and instigate coups and regime change from Brazil and Bolivia to Hong Kong.

Above all we are aware of the vital support given by the Russian Federation to the Donbas people’s republics, the generous hospitality extended to large numbers of Ukrainian exiles, and its open condemnation of the fascists in Ukraine.

We also applaud the the sacrifices made by the Russian volunteer fighters in the Donbas, by the Russian Federation’s armed forces to defend the popular front government in Syria, and the strong support the Russian Federation has extended to Cuba and Venezuela.

This anti-Russian hysteria has created a poisonous atmosphere in which anyone challenging the lies and false flag operations of of US-EU-NATO imperialism risks being labelled as a Russian asset, in a repeat of the anti-communiist witch-hunts of the 1950s.

Unfortunately many progressives, social democrats, trade unionists, and even the anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations on Britain, have fallen for this demonisation, even though it is clearly a repeat of the lies and fake news used against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi and Hafez al Assad. This has prevented them from even discussing the most dangerous revival of fascism in the whole of Europe.

Once again we renew our support and solidarity with your organisations, which will continue as long as it takes until democracy has been restored throughout Ukraine, and communists, socialists and anti-fascists are allowed to operate freely again.

Andy Brooks
New Communist Party of Britain

Ian Donovan
Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Bridget Dunne
Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU)

George Shaw
Posadists in Britain

As well as:

Frente Comunista Dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)

Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)

Socialist Workers League (USA)

“A pro-imperialist twist of the ultra left”

A CONVERSATION WITH FRANK FITZMAURICE

We reproduce excerpts from the first conversation between comrade Humberto Rodrigues (FCT-Brasil) and Frank Fitzmaurice (SF-Great Britain) on 02/09/2017. Frank passed away on April 7, 2020. In the expression above, which headlines this piece, Frank summarizes the turn that affected the International Workers League, an international current of which the PSTU is the Brazilian section. The conversation also addresses the WRP, ISL, Nahuel Moreno, “democratic revolutions” in Libya and Syria, …

This is also published in Portuguese by our Brazilian comrades here

“That’s how I want to be 106 years old. I may not be so comely, but I wish I had the same attitude. This was an Armenian woman who guarded her home in 1990, at the age of 106 [the image is part of Frank’s mural on Facebook and was published by the same a few days before the conversation below]”

Humberto Rodrigues: Hi Comrade.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Hello Humberto.

Humberto Rodrigues: For a long time, I want to talk to you, we need to strengthen our bonds of friendship. Forgive me for my confused use of the English language.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Your English is fine. How are you? A lot better than my Portuguese, which is non-existent.

Humberto Rodrigues: No problem. What is your political origin?

Frank Fitzmaurice: I was in the WRP with Gerry [Downing, head of Socialist Fight]. After we expelled Healy, our group started talks with the LIT [International Workers League] and joined that organization in 1988 and became the English section, the ISL [International Socialist League, in Portuguese]. [After 2011] Some of us left after disagreements over the policy on Libya.

Humberto Rodrigues: Very progressive the rupture of you. It is truly a dialectical rupture. While the LIT followed a path, you went the opposite way.

Frank Fitzmaurice: It was more the way the debate was handled in our branch. Would have stayed in but could not debate properly

Humberto Rodrigues: Why?

Frank Fitzmaurice: Think the LIT has regressed really badly. Don’t think they got over the death of Moreno

Our branch was suffering because our leader, Bill Hunter was getting very old, in his nineties, and his faculties were declining, so differences came out.

Humberto Rodrigues: Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Brazil, … in all these countries, the LIT supported the policy of imperialism. In all the LIT supported the coup against the bourgeois ruler who was pro-BRICS.

Frank Fitzmaurice: they have fallen off a cliff.

Humberto Rodrigues: In my view, I believe that support for the “democratic counterrevolution” against the “Stalinist dictatorships” in the USSR and Eastern Europe had already pointed out the morenismo in favor of a pro-imperialist policy, but what happened after the crisis of 2008 was amazing. Stalinophobia of the 1980s and 1990s became “dictatorophobia” that followed the democratic public opinion of imperialism.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes, Bill [Hunter] wrote some good stuff against this view of “democratic revolutions”. We joined because we thought that their split with Unified Secretariat was based on principles and we liked Moreno’s anti- guerillaist platform. Above all, we agreed that we should join organizations in struggle and not be afraid to be in a minority.

Humberto Rodrigues: Undoubtedly, in the 1980s, Morenism was more progressive than Mandelism (and the USFI’s capitulations to foquismo, social democracy and, finally, Perestroika). But, from 1989 to 1991, Morenism evolved to increasingly pro-imperialist positions. Like supporting UN blue helmets in the Balkans.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes “an ultra-left pro-imperialist twist” sums them up. We gradually came to realise that the discussion had become one way. They sent some very good comrades over in the early days.

Humberto Rodrigues: Good. But, in any case, I consider it a non-materialistic stupidity to believe that the blame for any degeneration after Nahuel Moreno is to be attributed to NM and to his legacy. There was, without doubt, a leap in quality in the LIT program, particularly from Libya.

Frank Fitzmaurice: If Moreno had lived things may have turned out differently. We put into practice going into movements and we learned a lot and it certainly developed us.

Humberto Rodrigues: To assert that LIT’s current policy is NM’s fault is a spirited conception, of Allan Kardec and not of Karl Marx.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes there was a further degeneration, could not be blamed on Moreno

Will try to send some of Bill Hunters stuff to you, think you will like it.

Humberto Rodrigues: Okay … In Brazil, the PSTU lost more than half of its militants for supporting the coup against the PT.

Frank Fitzmaurice: That is a qualitative degeneration. The developement of the capitalist crisis, especially since the crash of 2008 has thrown all the left into turmoil. The LIT are by no means alone in giving in to the humanitarian interventionalism, in fact the majority have.

Humberto Rodrigues: Yes. I agree.

Frank Fitzmaurice: Off to bed now. Will write something for you tomorrow on that. Goodnight

Humberto Rodrigues: Good night, comrade.

Frank Fitzmaurice

We are sorry to announce the passing of Frank Fitzmaurice, a member of Socialist Fight and the LCFI, and formerly part of the originally pro-Moreno International Socialist League in Liverpool, a component of which fused with the old Socialist Fight in 2018. This grouping, of which Frank was a part, had its roots in the old Workers Revolutionary Party, and the grouping which Frank led was one of those that struggled out of that appallingly deformed organisation and attempted to re-found an authentic Trotskyist and Bolshevik tradition. We hope to publish more on Frank in due course but right now we express our condolences to all his family, friends and also all fellow comrades.

The King is dead….. long live the King!

Keir Starmer

On 4th April the result of the Labour Party leadership election was announced and true to form and the prediction of the bourgeois press, Sir Keir Starmer was announced as the new leader of the opposition.  Starmer, the establishment stooge, has hammered the final nail into the coffin of the Corbyn project.

Corbyn’s leadership success in 2015 paved the way for the Labour Party to be dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, from the Blairites and over to the left of the political spectrum. The Party attracted a membership of over 560,000, making it the largest political party in Western Europe. These members brought in both class consciousness and hope of reform of the bourgeois political system in the interests of ‘the many, not the few’, which at one point seemed to promise real change. The political landscape in Britain had and still has changed, despite those hopes within the Labour Party being snuffed out by the bureaucratic layer at the top and within the trade unions, protecting ruling class interests. This hope suffered terminal damage with the devastation of the general election defeat in December 2019.

Corbyn’s capitulation to the Zionist smears by constantly apologising and throwing principled anti-racist comrades under the bus on spurious accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, the adoption of the IHRA, and the treachery of Lansman, Hodge et al, doomed the Corbyn project.  It exposed him as unprincipled and weak and was a major factor (amongst others) in Labour’s disastrous general election result.

A Neoliberal Stooge

The general election defeat was a major blow to the left, and it has left many members and voters completely disillusioned and looking for a new political home. Many of these people are left in the wilderness and considering their Labour Party allegiance, as the natural establishment heir to the throne emerges to be crowned. Starmer, a Knight of the Realm, was involved in the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ attempt to oust Corbyn. His establishment credentials include being in the role of Director of Public Prosecutions during the period (2003-2009) when infiltration of environmental and leftist groups was being carried out by the state, and in 2011 when a trial of environmental activists collapsed due to the CPS (of which he was the Head of and was present in court) covering up vital evidence.

He has been responsible for overseeing the criminal activity of his imperialist paymasters, including in 2012, when he announced that MI5 and MI6 agents would not face charges of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq war, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. As an MP, he voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. He also fast tracked the extradition of Julian Assange, who as part of Wikileaks exposed imperialist crimes against the people of Iraq. He disregarded legal precedents by advising Swedish lawyers not to question Assange in the UK, and in so doing prolonged Assange’s legal purgatory, denied closure to his accusers in Sweden, and essentially ensured Assange would face the threat of extradition to a show trial in the US.

Starmer’s crowning is just a continuation of protecting the establishment under the pretext of being the leader of the ‘opposition’ in a ‘socialist’ party. His immediate olive branch to Johnson to work together in a ‘time of national crisis’ obfuscates his real purpose. Starmer immediately signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ 10 demands and declared his sympathy for Zionism. In February of this year he told the Jewish News that “I support Zionism without qualification.”  He declared in his victory speech, “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party” vowing to “tear out this poison by its roots.”

This is code for a purge of the left, of anti-racist campaigners and pro-Palestinian activists and supporters, on the basis of the far-right, Goebellsian blood libel that to condemn the racism of Zionism and the Israeli state is in some way a racialised attack on Jews. In fact Labour is now dominated by anti-Arab, Zionist racism and under Starmer’s leadership and the dictatorship of the IHRA fake-definition, should be considered an anti-Arab, racist party.

Starmer grovels to racist Jewish-Zionist groups, promises to purge Palestine supporters. Labour is now an anti-Arab racist party

At all points of his career Starmer has put his ‘left credentials’ to use to ensure that the bourgeois state is protected at all costs, such as: altering legal guidelines so that those improperly claiming benefits could be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; removing the financial threshold for such cases, allowing the government to waste endless resources arresting and incarcerating people who had claimed minimal amounts of money; drawing up rules that gave police officers more power to arrest demonstrators, including vague guidelines allowing scarfs to be classed as ‘masks’ and placards classed as ‘weapons’; being found by a Parliamentary Select Committee to have restricted the scope of the tabloid phone hacking investigation; and having abstained on the Tory Welfare Bill in 2015, which introduced a series of drastic cuts to social spending that disproportionately affected women, children and the disabled.

He replaced ‘leftists’ Barry Gardiner and Ian Lavery and brought the likes of Rachel Reeves into the Shadow Cabinet. The same Reeves, who in 2013 as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, claimed that “Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits” and earlier as a Blairite minister called for the eviction of the unemployed from council housing. Expecting these careerists to have any sympathy with the working class in the current economic crash would be like inviting a fox into a hen house and hoping it will behave itself.

Tactics and Strategy Toward the Labour left

For all the crowing of the right wing, the fact is that Keir Starmer has a much flimsier mandate as Labour leader than Corbyn had in 2015 and 2016. His supporters claim he has 56% of the vote, whereas in both earlier leadership contests, Corbyn received just shy of two thirds. Equally importantly, more Labour members did not vote at all in the 2020 leadership election than voted for Starmer. This has created a situation where a Scottish socialist, Sandy McBurney, who is often quite close to our comrades in terms of tactical understanding of the nuances of the Labour Party and its politics, projected:

“I think a future split of the Labour left is very much on the horizon. Sir Keir will be expelling many on the left and anyone who tries to organise against the expulsions. So we will have de facto an organisation that is mainly outside the Labour Party. Will our perspective just be to try to get back in? Or will it be trying to build a socialist current that stands for a mass socialist party and that calls a spade a spade i.e. that the Labour Party is led by an anti-socialist and the PLP is dominated by anti-working-class servants of capital. Look what has happened to social democracy in Europe? Should socialists be fighting to be in the French Italian, German or Spanish social democratic parties?

“Obviously not. Take the blinkers off. It is highly unlikely that the left will ever win over the Labour Party to socialism. Things are a lot later and have moved on from that. The Labour right and the capitalist class has shown it won’t accept even a mild left leadership of the LP. Are we not going to learn from that? A socialist takeover of the Labour Party is now ruled out. The right won’t make the same mistake again. But you can be sure that the Labour right is going to expel those socialists who won’t kowtow to their anti-working-class politics. They will try to integrate some as long as they keep their mouths shut but the right is out to purge the hard left with slanders about antisemitism etc.”

This has to be the tactical approach of Marxists to the radicalised and alienated, and quite massive Labour left, of maybe 200-250,000 militants or so. We need a lifeboat, an organising centre for the creation of a genuinely anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist mass workers party, and revolutionaries need to be sharpening up their programmatic approach to create a bridge between the alienated, but still to a very large degree left-reformist consciousness of this advanced layer, and the objective need for a revolutionary anti-capitalism, i.e. the programme of socialist revolution. This may involve blocs with principled left socialists of reformist or centrist consciousness, such as Chris Williamson and others, but our overall aim as revolutionaries must be to fight for a revolutionary programme among these vitally important vanguard layers of working class and allied militants.

The British road to socialism through the bourgeois parliamentary system is an illusion. The capitalist class will use all bureaucratic means necessary to frustrate, divert energy, and where necessary corrupt means with the support with their lackeys in the capitalist press to prevent any real change in the interests of workers. Crumbs will be given piecemeal here and there, some minor reforms, some concessions, but nothing substantial, to ensure that the working class are kept subdued and the protection of capital in the hands of the ruling class is kept in place.

The Labour Party has a track record of leading workers down a dead end and some of the most terrible of British imperialist crimes have happened during times of having a Labour government in power. However, the Tories response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the ruling class fear the class consciousness again developing within the masses. The majority now understand the importance of cleaners, nurses, delivery drivers, supermarket and factory workers and not the CEOs of large corporations that are now squealing to be bailed out.

The likes of Branson, the multi billionaire who evades taxes living on his own island, requesting government assistance while he lays off his workers is causing resentment amongst the masses, who now see the stinking hypocrisy very clearly. To placate the majority, financial promises and concessions have been made by Johnson and his Chancellor. The ruling class fear people on the streets as they have seen in France, the emergency powers rushed through Parliament, which were supported by Labour, show this.

If they believe that another round of austerity will solve the financial hole that they have now dug themselves into they are sorely mistaken. The genie will not go back into the bottle. The crisis has shown neoliberal economics has to be pulled out by its roots and the trunk and branches of capitalist system completely destroyed for humanity to have any chance of survival, and to realise its true potential to live in a more just and equal world; a world where capitalist class dictatorship is overcome and replaced with the class dictatorship of the working class and the oppressed, the great majority of humanity, as a bridge to a rational, sustainable and egalitarian world order, or world socialism to put it straightforwardly.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and the World Capitalist Crisis – Statement

The undersigned revolutionary working-class groups demand the protection of all workers and oppressed people from the dangers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a very dangerous threat to the health and lives of the oppressed. Particularly older workers, the retired, the disabled, those with underlying health conditions, to prisoners, the impoverished, those in nations such as Iran, occupied Palestine and Gaza, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea who are targeted for starvation sanctions and barbaric deprivation of basic medical supplies and services by imperialism and its allies, and particularly also many oppressed people who live in impoverished semi-colonial nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.

This pandemic crisis has produced the most serious economic and political crisis for capitalism since the Second World War, or earlier crises that led to that war such as the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. The fundamental contradiction facing world capitalism is that the prolonged strategy of saving capitalist profitability over the last several decades has involved savage attacks on social benefits, including healthcare benefits, for workers and the poor around the world, both in the imperialist countries, going hand in hand with globalisation and the export of jobs to poor, low-wage countries, this putting pressure on the working class in the imperialist countries to accept a serious decline in living standards and benefits.

The imperialist drive to capitalist restoration in the former USSR and much of its sphere of influence was initially the driving force of these such attacks, but they have become a generalised phenomenon throughout the capitalist world, part of neo-liberalism, the dominant creed of capital today, which is seen by the ruling classes of the world as their saviour from the spectre of Communism and the Russian Revolution.

A similar, parallel thing has been done also in poorer, semi-colonial countries, where the rise of exported capital and the increase in jobs has led to the rise of free market economics and attacks on already meagre healthcare and social welfare systems there also, through such things as IMF ‘structural adjustment’ programmes to attract imperialist investment.

Now that neo-liberal capitalism is itself in terminal decay, we see the grotesque spectacle of the rise of right-wing populism with a stern, fascist tendency, put in power in part as a result of the disillusionment of backward sections of the working class in many countries, which has given rise to leaders such as Trump, Johnson , Bolsonaro and Modi, who make light of and mock a deadly pandemic that threatens to decimate the victims of capitalism, those who are considered surplus population by much of the ruling class.

At the same time we see that under mass pressure and fear of an eruption of the rage of the masses at the huge death toll that is threatened, and the obvious fact that healthcare has been deliberately undermined for decades as part of neo-liberal asset stripping and privatisation, many bourgeois regimes are attempting to stave off disaster by imposing a necessary measure of quarantine on the population.

We support the quarantine and demand effective measures of public health. We will also support agitation to force recalcitrant neoliberal regimes to carry out such measures where they a playing with obscenities like Johnson’s injunction to the British population to ‘take it on the chin’. While there is no vaccine or cure for this new disease the working class is in a defensive, backs-to-the-wall situation and needs to be extremely cautious about protecting its most vulnerable and frail components. We must seize on the weapon of quarantine to protect ourselves, and fight for the nationalisation of health provision and its supply chain, housing for the homeless, and protections for workers sacked because of the pandemic. We defend the international solidarity efforts of the workers’ states and peoples oppressed by imperialism against the pandemic, as Cuba has been doing.

But this situation is causing the capitalist system to totter economically, and we must demand of the bourgeois states every possible measure to negate the ruinous impact of capitalism and neo-liberalism on the masses. We demand the expropriation of private healthcare and the privileges of the rich to save as many working class people as possible from the pandemic. We demand the expropriation of failing industries in the economic crisis, and that all workers, in regular and ‘casual’ employment of all kinds, be paid in full for the duration of the pandemic. We demand economic planning to handle the economic needs of the masses under quarantine; the idea that market economics and neoliberalism can be any kind of solution to any of this is poisonous rubbish, too preposterous for words. Such is the international nature of this human crisis that this must be on a world scale if a terrible death toll is to be avoided in the poorest parts of the world.

At the same time we must be vigilant against attempts by far right and fascist forces to exploit the need for a quarantine to attack the democratic rights of the masses, to attack our freedom to criticise, to institute a dictatorship. An ominous example is the demand of Orban in Hungary for the right to rule by decree for the duration of the pandemic. There are similar dangers from Trump in the US, from Johnson in Britain, and in many other places. We must be on our guard.

Above all we demand and seek the world revolution, as the only way to save the working class, and the planet on which we live, which is being degraded and polluted, particularly through capitalist mode of production induced climate change, to the point where human extinction is on the horizon. Capitalism has caused a devastating Climate Change that in combination with systematic destruction of nature have caused unprecedented degradation of nature throughout the world. This allows deadly viruses such as the coronavirus to evolve, adapt, and jump from animals to humans. While we are facing such a deadly threat it may appear unrealistic to talk of world revolution, but the root causes of this calamity, and others to come, dictate political and economic tasks that only the world proletariat in power can solve. This particular disaster will end at some point and there must be a reckoning with its causes. We need worldwide economic planning, we need an end to the destruction of the ecosphere, we need the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism worldwide.

Signed:

Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)

Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)

Socialist Workers League (United States)

Socialist Fight (Britain)

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight (Britain)

The above groups who endorse it are part of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International.

Mohammad Basir Ul Haq Sinha, President, Inter Press Network, Dhaka – Bangladesh

Fernando Gustavo Armas, physician, militant of Socialismo Revolucionario – Argentina

Akhar Bandyopadhyay, non-partisan Political Activist — India

Ady Mutero, Revolutionary Internationalist League – Zimbabwe

Akash Mirza, chair, Bangladesh Revolutionary Socialist Union – BRSU

Nigel Singh, independent left militant, Oxford, UK

Curtis T, youth and socialist activist, Monrovia, Liberia

The above groups and militants also endorse the statement.

New Marxist Journal Communist Fight. Issue #1 out now

Issue #1 of Communist Fight, journal of the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, out now:

Articles on Coronavirus crisis

Turkey’s incursion in Syria

Our Platform

Zionism and the capitulation of former revolutionaries: why we take on the mantle of the old Socialist Fight

Due to the Covid-19 crisis this is not currently available in hard copy, though it will be ASAP. This issue is downloadable as a PDF from here however.

Covid-19 and the Plague of Neo-liberalism

Demands for the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis

We have an imbecilic Prime Minister and a Government behaving like a rabbit in the headlights. Now Johnson claims he can resolve this crisis in twelve weeks. As one wag in the media noted, this slogan could be painted on the side of a bus.

They are lurching from one U-turn to another, reacting to events clearly overtaking them. Much of their policy-making has been in response to what others have already decided. Advising self-isolation and staying away from pubs, clubs and theatres were measures that the public and even some businesses had already decided for Johnson and the Government.

The same could be said about the closure of schools, which already had large numbers of pupils and teachers missing. The Government then found itself having to respond likewise after devolved Scotland and Wales announced schools would close from Friday. The largest teachers’ union, the National Education Union, had already called for this.

The government has been dragged reluctantly toward implementing some of the advice of the World Health Organisation, ‘a day late and a dollar short’, and is still dragging its feet.  A Tory government that has almost wrecked the NHS since 2010 with austerity; deliberate underfunding that has overseen the cutting of 17,000 beds; savage cuts to social care services; operations delayed and cancelled; and a decline in staffing resulting in a shortage of 100,000 NHS staff; the Tories tried to destroy the NHS and cannot care less about healthcare for the poor and the working class.

Already two London hospitals are at crisis point with a chronic lack of beds. Northwick Park Hospital has declared this critical requesting help from other hospitals. One senior doctor described the situation as “f***ing petrifying.” The same can be said of the Tories’ complete disdain of workers who have been treated with utter contempt, seeing their real wages decline year on year since 2010.

The Chancellor’s ‘rescue package’ was just a public relations exercise, a headline grabber, which soon unravelled. The £330 billion package is simply a money printing exercise by the BoE, a bail out with a loan package that would be underwritten by the taxpayer. Small businesses and workers, already finding themselves in difficulties are being ‘supported’ by saddling them with even more debt and interest added to boot, albeit after a 12 months interest-free period.

The government have since announced further measures, such as its job retention scheme: employees unable to work are paid 80% of their wages, stopping employers making them unemployed; tax breaks such as  VAT deferral for three months; and raising benefits. While welcome to a degree, these people cannot be trusted. This must be implemented without delay and be accessed easily. There is ambiguity around protecting those in the ‘gig economy’ on zero hours contracts and workers need vigilance and organisation through unions etc. to stop employers taking advantage.

This pandemic has exposed the Tories catastrophic economic programme and the crisis within the capitalist system, which has not recovered from the economic crisis in 2008. The system is convulsing, and workers are in danger of yet again paying the price for the failures of the capitalist class. We need a workers’ government to put the needs of the working class before the needs of people like the billionaire Richard Branson, who are yet again demanding bailouts. We are witnessing a major shock and upheaval to the system, small businesses going to the wall and workers being laid off.

We, the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, recognise the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and as Marxists we understand that it needs to be overcome, i.e. overthrown and abolished root and branch. While we demand reforms in the here and now, under the present bourgeois ‘democratic’ system such changes can only be forced upon capitalism through fear of working-class people below.  With the public health crisis unfolding we must hold the Government to account, we must put forward a simple set of demands to defend the interests of workers who now find themselves in difficult circumstances.

HEALTHCARE

We demand immediate requisition and nationalisation of all private hospitals, facilities and staff, as the Spanish government has done. Sickness should not be profited from. We see no reason why the government (i.e. the taxpayer) should pay £2.4 million a day for additional beds during a national crisis.

NHS staff are having to share masks, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) out of date, and in some cases none. We demand that all front-line NHS staff are fully protected.

Testing for COVID-19 must be increased without delay following WHO guidelines; the government’s increase from 4,000 per day to a target of 25,000, while welcome, is nowhere near enough. Testing must be available to all who need it. Despite claims of improvement and upgrading the numbers, at present ionly 6,000 per day are being carried out. We have seen elsewhere how testing is crucial and the ability it provides the authorities to have adequate information to contain the virus.

Private testing is cos ting £300, while NHS staff are unable to get tested. Tests must be free, and top priority for NHS staff.

The government must immediately commence large scale production of ventilators and other essentials required for the NHS, and must commandeer industry to do this.

WORKERS

Workers are already losing jobs, facing reduced hours, or unpaid leave. They must not be made unemployed; there must be no redundancies, no loss of pay during this public health crisis. No attacks on workers’ rights, or jobs, should be permitted or tolerated.

While we welcome the workers retention scheme, no worker should lose 20% of their wages. We demand full pay for those affected. This should include workers from the gig economy, on zero-hour contracts and the self-employed.. We must demand the abolition of zero-hours contracts and fake self-employment. Workers must have legally-binding hours with sick pay, holiday pay, paid maternity and paternity leave etc. as of right. If the employer cannot provide hours workers should be paid anyway. This is a basic minimum.

While the government has offered a ‘mortgage holiday’ of three months (which has not been guaranteed by the lenders), we demand mortgage, rents and utility bills be paid by the government in full during the pandemic which threatens workers and their families. Banks and corporations are bailed out and supported;  government must do the same for workers, whose exploitation is the basis of capitalist economy.

Coronavirus disease COVID-19 infection medical. China pathogen respiratory influenza covid virus cells. New official name for Coronavirus disease named COVID-19, pandemic risk background, illustration

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

We welcome the closure of schools, and the plan to temporarily convert them to child care facilities for the children of essential workers, such as nurses, doctors,, other healthcare staff, emergency services personnel, delivery drivers, essential manufacturing sector staff, essential public service staff, etc.  

Testing must be available to staff and children for safety. Parents who look after children must get paid leave for the duration and compulsory job security, enforced by the state.

Children unable to take examinations must not be disadvantaged. Marking on previous mock exams and work throughout the school year is subjective and ignores students who may ‘perform’ during a real examination. We demand provision for students of all ages whose education is disrupted to re-sit course years at the state’s expense as an exceptional measure.

Schools now have online learning platforms for homework, which can be utilised for lessons. However, disadvantaged children from poorer families may not have access to the internet or a computer. Facilities for these must be provided free.

Food must be provided to vulnerable children who no longer find themselves at school and having access to a nutritious meal. Over 4 million children live in poverty and being fed at school is their only chance of a decent meal. This needs to be co-ordinated with local authorities.

THE HOMELESS

The government must ensure that the homeless are given immediate protection with a roof over their head. Statistics published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) put empty homes in England in October 2018 at 634,453. Shelter showed that there were 320,000 homeless for the same period. With one person dying on the streets every 19 hours, individuals vulnerable to exposure to the virus, we demand that these people are housed.

PRISONS

This week (18 March) a prisoner was diagnosed as being positive with COVID-19. The prison system is extremely overcrowded and as such would be an ideal environment for a rapid outbreak of infection. Under the Ministry of Justice’s own definition of safety and decency, the prison estate should not hold more than 74,954 people. There are currently 8,759 men and women held above this level.

Overcrowding is not evenly distributed, which results in some prisons holding many more than they are designed for. We demand those held for low level crimes, or due to be released within 12 months are released to ease pressure on the system.

DETENTION CENTRES

There are 12 in the UK. Many of them overcrowded with refugees detained in appalling conditions. There are no restrictions on how long people can be detained in these centres. We demand refugees, many escaping conflict zones, and all detainees are not treated like criminals and caged but released. These detention centres, just like prisons, are ideal hubs for the virus. They should be closed down, and removals stopped, as the possibility of migrants and refugees dying of disease just underlines that they are in fact concentration camps.

PANIC BUYING AND RATIONING

The government really need to get a grip with panic buying, and ensuring that the supply chain is able to keep up with demand to enable stores to have adequate stock so the elderly and healthcare workers (many who are working long shifts) are able to put food on their table. Many supermarkets are seeing large queues, which presents a huge health risk, and empty shelves after just a few hours trading.  

If this crisis deepens there will be a serious risk of anti-social manifestations, such as the riotous pushing in that took place at a London Aldi branch with hundreds defying attempts at rationing. According to the government, there is a shortage of delivery drivers. If so, coach drivers should be redeployed to drive delivery vehicles.

A proper rationing system must be put in place by the government for foodstuffs and sanitary-related goods, just as a basic necessity for health and hygiene. This should be overseen and supervised by rank-and-file trade unionists at local level who must seek to draw in the poor and those most at risk from this crisis. We need collective organisation not ‘dog-eat-dog’ and lumpen violence among those at risk. We cannot depend on the ‘goodwill’ of chains like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to bring about a fair rationing system. There needs to be workers inspection of profiteering and businesses that abuse the shortages to raise prices must be expropriated.

GOVERNMENT POWERS AND THE CORONAVIRUS BILL

The government are set to give police sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspected coronavirus sufferers, and stop all public assemblies, which would remove the right to protest. The police will have powers to take blood and swab tests, demand personal information (which at present people arrested have the right to withhold). Refusal will be a criminal offence.

The bill extends the validity of warrants under the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 and relaxes protections for those cared for under mental health acts. It cancels local elections in England this spring; and empowers government to potentially cancel other elections, should the crisis continue into 2021.

The pandemic must not be allowed to be used as an excuse to trample over civil liberties. While we acknowledge the need for the quarantine to protect public health, there are serious dangers with the new law. Labour are correctly opposing it being on the statute books for two years, without any control by parliament, who ought to have the duty to expire it if the threat from the pandemic is overcome.

This crisis signals the total discredit of Thatcher’s neoliberal economics. Working class people of this country, seeing a second bailout in 12 years are now starting to see through the lies being told, they will not easily buy the austerity agenda a second time around. The public health crisis and the impoverishment of the working class is a permanent issue. Now a pandemic has forced even this Tory government to back-peddle and make a show of saying they will put this right, to avoid huge unrest and struggles that would follow inevitably from their allowing hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID. This is the result of a fundamental push from the bottom up.

Once the pandemic and quarantine recedes, this crisis has the capacity to develop on the streets like the Gilets Jaunes movement in France. This is the last thing that the capitalist class want. The virus is not man-made but the public health crisis it has exposed was made by neoliberalism. This may well turn to anger and a working class that has again become conscious of its power. We on the left need to promote a correct programmatic perspective to point the working-class masses towards the need to take power and abolish the root cause of the neo-liberal attacks: capitalism itself.

Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight

Centrist Tony Greenstein in the Middle of the Road

We should be thankful for small mercies, or perhaps for lesser kinds of opportunism. In the aftermath of Gerry Downing’s capitulation to the heavily Zionist-influenced defeat of the Corbyn-movement and his betrayal of the uncompromising anti-Zionism that he publicly fought for in the last five years, Tony Greenstein has actually emerged somewhat to Downing’s left.[1]

Gerry Downing defends Marxism against Zionism, Daily Politics March 2016

In this article we use the term ‘centrist’ to describe the like of Greenstein and Downing. We should clarify that we are not using the term in the way it is commonly used in British left-wing politics these days, to mean right-wing, neo-liberal Blairite-type politics. Rather we are using it in the way Lenin and Trotsky used it, to describe those trends within the workers movement that vacillate between social reform and social revolution as a political programme. As Trotsky noted:

“A centrist occupies a position between an opportunist and a Marxist somewhat analogous to that which a petty bourgeois occupies between a capitalist and a proletarian: he kowtows before the first and has contempt for the second.”[2]

He went on to explain about the amorphousness and political diversity of centrist trends:

“One must understand first of all the most characteristic traits of modern centrism. That is not easy first, because centrism due to its organic amorphousness yields with difficulty to a positive definition: it is characterized to a much greater extent by what it lacks than by what it embraces, secondly, never has centrism yet played to such an extent as now with all the colours of the rainbow, because never yet have the ranks of the working class been in such ferment as at the present time. Political ferment, by the very essence of the term, means a realignment, a shift between two poles, Marxism and reformism; that is, the passing through the various stages of centrism.”[3]

It is not difficult for Greenstein, as a slightly different kind of centrist, to come out to the left of Gerry Downing, as Downing, in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s election victory, embarked on his right-wing, pro-Zionist trajectory in opposition to politics that he had previously defended on national television in March 2016. Downing lacks Marxian arguments to defeat the orthodox Marxist politics SF had stood for since 2015, and so has been forced to embrace such Zionist thinkers as Alan Dershowitz, Dave Rich, Ron Rosenbaum, and more, to try to attain political substance.

Downing even embraced an anonymous Zionist troll who dubs himself ‘Sven Gøllӱ’ (Svengali), who had the honour of having a guest article on the stolen ‘Socialist Fight’ website itself. We note that this individual is very concerned to hide his real political pedigree, while praising Gerry Downing as someone who is prepared to re-think his ideas. He is very coy about who he really is. If he were any sort of a left-winger he would not hesitate to give us a run-down of his leftist associations, even pseudonymously. But he cannot. His style is familiar, as he confirms to an archetype of Zionist trolls.

He is most likely one of a stable of UK Zionist trolls whose most prolific is Ben Gidley, who has trolled the left for years under various flags of convenience such as ‘Bob From Brockley’, ‘The Soapy One’, and ‘Anti-Nazis United’ (which despite its name has targeted left-wingers, even black ones such as Jackie Walker). Some circumstantial details that he let slip point to Gidley likely being ‘Sven Gøllӱ’. But even if he is not, it is one of his cohorts from the UK Zionist stable.

As befitting someone who is rapidly retreating to the right, Downing’s factional campaign has involved not only the enlistment of Zionist ideologues to combat the left-wing of his own organisation, but also racist/Islamophobic abuse from some of Downing’s new cohorts against comrades in the Trotskyist Faction of SF, the majority of whom are from the Middle East/South Asia region.

Tony Greenstein, of course has more sense than to overtly associate himself with Nakba deniers, anonymous Zionist trolls, or the likes of the Community Security Trust (who he once dubbed the ‘Community Security Thugs’). In fact, in a way quite honourably, at the conclusion of his piece he comes to our defence against Downing’s more psychotic fascist-baiting rants, writing about Ian Donovan that:

“Despite his many sins Ian looks to the left not the right. It would be wrong to categorise him as a fascist, if only through guilt by association.”[4]

The ‘guilt-by-association’ he is talking about is Downing’s parroting of the propaganda of the Community Security Trust who published propaganda, reproduced wholesale on Facebook by Downing, which sought to brand the expatriate Israeli Jazz  musician Gilad Atzmon as a ‘fascist’. Greenstein distances himself from this polemic, as well he might, with the following statement about Atzmon:

“I disagree. Fascism is a specific political movement aimed at not only destroying working class organisations and the left but all democratic rights. It is the last resort of capitalism against the workers’ movement. GA certainly flirts with fascists and anti-Semites, neo-Nazis included but he has also flirted with the Left, including the SWP. He is, if anything, politically promiscuous. He reminds me of Christopher Hitchens, a contrarian who would argue positions for the outrage they would cause.

“I’m sure that GA, an accomplished jazz player, is well aware that jazz was considered Jewish inspired ‘nigger music’ in Nazi Germany. Listening to jazz was considered an act of rebellion by rebellious youth chafing at the boring monotone culture of the Nazis. GA also works happily with Jews, converses with them and has no personal antagonism to Jews as Jews. In other words whilst his ideas are without doubt anti-Semitic, on a personal level he is not an anti-Semite. Nor is there any reason to believe that he has given his support to, still less become a member of, a fascist organisation.”[5]

Tony Greenstein and Gilad Atzmon

Personal vs ‘Political’ Racism: Centrist Sophistry

This formulation, that someone can be ‘politically’ anti-Semitic without being personally so, is an index of Tony Greenstein’s left centrism. Someone who promotes racist ideas cannot be non-racist. Greenstein is, more honestly than Gerry Downing, talking about political positions that he finds uncomfortable. Unlike Downing, he has the integrity to admit that the people he is denouncing as ‘anti-Semitic’ are not personally racist.

His comparison of Atzmon with Christopher Hitchens is wide of the mark, as Hitchens was a neocon supporter of imperialist wars, whereas Atzmon is an outspoken opponent of such neocon wars. Whatever Atzmon’s problems and illusions, they are polar opposites.

Greenstein’s distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘political’ ‘racism’ ties him up in a knot: he both accuses people of racism and exonerates them of that in the same sentence! Trotsky once said that centrism is ‘crystallised confusion’. Well you cannot get more confused than that. Tony Greenstein has invented something quite unique here: the non-racist racist. But this is nonsense: in the real world, racism is as racism does.

Gerry Downing when he was a Marxist and an anti-Zionist, did not believe in this bizarre, dualistic and self-contradictory concept. Now he has become a renegade from the consistent anti-Zionist politics he previously upheld, he still does not buy it. From the other side. But he has now decided that consistent anti-Zionism is ‘anti-Semitic’. In his mind, less nimble than Tony’s left-centrism, since to him we are ‘anti-Semitic’ therefore we must be personally racist.

But he has a problem. Our faction is majority non-white. It also includes the majority of the non-white comrades of SF, an organisation that was close to half non-white in its membership composition. Whereas his faction contains no non-whites; none have signed his factional statements. So Gerry has to put it about that our members are personally racist in some way, but that is rather difficult in a racist society where non-whites are subject to the most vicious racism. So the result has been a cacophony of abuse directed at our sole white comrade, comrade Donovan, seeking to mendaciously say he is a ‘white nationalist’. Somewhat contradictorily, he is also accused of being a pro-Muslim ‘communalist’ because of his membership of RESPECT in the 2000s. This complete nonsense cannot explain how comrade Donovan, as a ‘white nationalist’, can be in a majority non-white faction, or could have been an enthusiastic RESPECT member for several years.

No ‘white nationalist’ could possibly do such things, of course. So the bottom line of this nonsense is the other side of the self-contradictory nonsense accusations from Downing, the part about pro-Muslim ‘communalism’.  This has, not surprisingly, led to Islamophobic and racist abuse from some of Downing’s followers against supporters of our faction, and particularly against one of our non-white comrades of Middle Eastern origin.

Renegades and Islamophobia

This comrade was baldly accused of being in favour of murdering Jews in London synagogues by Gareth Martin, a racist bigot and Downing supporter. No such attack has happened and this sickening racist fantasy was pulled right out of the abuser’s posterior. Another of Downing’s defenders on Facebook, someone called Rob Lyons (apparently from North America) baited our comrade about people from his Middle Eastern ethnic background “beating their wives”: a classic reactionary slur and stereotype.

 This is no great surprise, as political Zionism is a racist ideology:  so is Islamophobia, and they are closely related. It is no surprise that some of those in and around a faction that makes copious use of Zionist ideologues like Dershowitz, Rich and ‘Sven Gøllӱ’ to argue its case, should have outright Islamophobes among them. There is no ‘separation’ between ‘political’ and ‘personal’ racism in the Downing faction: that faction has pulled in outright racists from outside the original SF, and none of its people are prepared to condemn the racism of Gareth Martin and Rob Lyons.

Racism is as racism does, and for attacking these bigots, our comrades, and comrade Donovan in particular, has implicitly, but unmistakably, been accused of ‘anti-white racism’ by Downing himself. This is itself a far-right slur usually found among white supremacists. So it seems that these people’s ranting about our alleged ‘white nationalism’ is an example of projection: a classic feature of political Zionism, where genocidal anti-Arab racists and ethnic cleansers project their attitudes onto their victims and intended victims.

Tony Greenstein might well be wary of this evolution to the right of Gerry Downing, which had its first manifestation at Communist University in 2019, when Downing acted independently of his Socialist Fight comrades in launching a rather odd attack on Tony for his expressed admiration for the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, because of her long time relationship with the dilettante/academic philosopher Martin Heidegger, an opportunist who was a largely inactive member of Hitler’s party during the period of Hitler’s regime.  

Tony knows of what he speaks when he talks of ‘guilt by association’, as Downing denounced him as soft on Nazism on this occasion. This actually became an issue in the division in SF; maybe embarrassingly for Tony, the ‘anti-Semitic’ Trotskyist Faction condemned Downing’s unprincipled and personally motivated attempt at ‘revenge’ against him for Tony’s wrong-headed criticism of SF and Downing in particular, which in his degeneration he treated as a personal slight (to be avenged therefore) and not a political difference to be argued about.

What all this clarifies quite well is that what is being argued about is not racism. Tony Greenstein considers, apparently quite sincerely, that it is possible to be ‘anti-Semitic’ without being ‘personally’ racist. And Downing considers that ‘anti-Semitism’ is the ultimate evil, but has no problem with outright racist abuse of comrades from ethnic groups that his supporters do not like. Greenstein, no doubt, would find that abhorrent, though he does not actually like to say so. Maybe he considers it impolite to challenge Downing about such things?

A Discomfiting Theory

What he is most concerned, however, is captured in the headline of his piece: “Socialist Fight Drops Its Support for Ian Donovan’s Anti-Semitic Theories about a pan-national Jewish-Zionist Bourgeoisie – or does it?” Given that we have clarified above that Tony considers that ‘anti-Semitism’ has nothing to do with racism, that for him it is perfectly possible to be ‘anti-Semitic’ without holding any animus towards Jews as all, then it is clear that what is at stake here, is his own animus towards a theory. A theory that he finds objectionable even though he cannot argue – because he has too much integrity, or perhaps that he has too much concern for his own credibility – that the theory is racist. Through his effective de-fanging of the concept of anti-Semitism , he has therefore revealed that he has some other motive for anti-racism for objecting to that theory.

So let us examine some of the contradictions and non-sequiturs in his article that further expose his crystallised confusion on these matters. For instance, on the question of the ‘right’ of Labour Party members to support Israel, he writes:

“ID’s defence, if that is the right word, is that GD has become a Zionist because he doesn’t support expelling all Zionists from the Labour Party. Neither do I. I am in favour of disaffiliating or proscribing Zionist organisations such as Labour Friends of Israel and Jewish Labour Movement not individuals per se, although clearly Zionist apparatchiks and propagandists should be shown the door.”[6]

It is reasonable to wonder if Tony would be so indulgent of members of the Labour Party, on an individual level, supporting other openly racist states. Such as Nazi Germany, perhaps? It is very difficult to find cases of genuine anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, certainly on the left, but there have been a few cases of right-wingers who have made pro-Hitler comments. Such views, along with those approving apartheid and colonialism, are rightly anathema in Labour. Why should support for Israel be any different to support for Hitler? Downing’s indulgence of supporters of Israel does not actually make him a Zionist, but the double standard involved from both Tony and Downing is a capitulation to Zionism to a lesser degree.

The contradiction in Tony’s article is shown when he writes that our views, as expressed in a recent letter in the Weekly Worker, are

“… an appalling apologia for GA’s anti-Semitism, including his comments questioning the Holocaust.”[7]

But Tony himself in his own terms could be said to have ‘apologised’ for Atzmon’s supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ when he wrote that Atzmon “works happily with Jews, converses with them and has no personal antagonism to Jews as Jews.” But ‘hostility to Jews as Jews’ is the definition of anti-Semitism that Greenstein endorses, the Klug definition. So surely his remarks are also an ‘apologia’ for Atzmon!

Arab and Jewish ‘anti-Semitism’

This is where Greenstein’s contradictions get him really bogged down. He considers our inclusion of Atzmon’s sometimes-expressed sceptical views about aspects of the Nazi holocaust in the same category as Arab and other third-world ‘holocaust denial’ to constitute this supposed ‘apologia’. But this is simply illogical. He writes that Atzmon’s scepticism:

“has nothing in common with Arab or third world Holocaust denial. Yes because Zionism uses the Holocaust as a weapon many Arabs therefore query the weapon itself rather than the use made of it. But Atzmon comes from the oppressor people. His ideas are from European neo-Nazis.”[8]

So Atzmon’s questioning – he questions aspects of it but does not actually deny – the Holocaust has nothing in common with Gamal Abdul Nasser’s 1964 speech when he condemned “the lie of the Six Million”? Or has nothing in common with Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s organisation of conferences in Iran to debate the truth or otherwise of the Nazi holocaust, which coincided pretty much with the period – around 2005, when Atzmon first became a political factor at SWP events associated with the Iraq anti-war movement? Or they have nothing in common with the decades-long publication by the Ba’athist Syrian regime, of copious quantities of Nazi literature as part of an imagined counter-thrust against Israel? Or Hamas’ original charter, now amended for ‘respectability’ which endorses the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

In formal ideological terms, there is no way to separate ‘Arab or third world holocaust denial’ from neo-Nazi holocaust denial, as Greenstein attempts to do. The only way to separate it is to take account of the material circumstances that drive it: it is not an ideology of German imperialism but that of oppressed peoples trying to hit back at their oppressors, the Jewish state/Zionist imperialism, and their ‘democratic’ imperialist allies. In the absence of an authoritative revolutionary, communist movement able to fight their oppressors along a class axis, oppressed peoples under bourgeois leadership look for any weapon they can find to fight these oppressors.

In this context Atzmon’s views are as much an organic outgrowth of the politics of the Middle East as all the above. However they are qualitatively milder, and are underpinned by a theory of Jewish identity that does not condemn all Jews.

Atzmon’s theory of three categories of Jews: the born-Jewish: the religious, and those who regard their Jewishness as their most important political attribute, only regards the third as problematic and does not condemn all Jews.[9] That theoretical perspective drives everything he says: he does not condemn all Jews and therefore cannot be said to be anti-Semitic. This is why as Greenstein points out, Atzmon “works happily with Jews, converses with them and has no personal antagonism to Jews as Jews”. That behaviour flows from his theory.

His ‘third category’ also appears to more or less coincide with the concept of Jewish chauvinism, which genuine Marxists oppose just as much as any other kind of racism or ethnic chauvinism, and so whatever reservations we have about Atzmon’s idealism, this aspect of his critique of what he calls ‘Jewishness’ is progressive. This is also why some on the Jewish left, including to a degree Tony, do not like his views as they think that some kinds of Jewish chauvinism are excusable, or deniable.

Greenstein’s statement that Atzmon comes “from the oppressor people” is moralism. He has done as much as is humanly possible to reject his origin in the oppressor people, renouncing his Israeli citizenship, getting his whole family out of Israel including his surviving parent, publicly stating that he will not return to that country until Palestine is liberated from the Israeli regime. He publicly identifies as a “Hebrew-speaking Palestinian”.  Short of joining a Palestinian armed–struggle group, which may be unwise, there is little else that anyone from this oppressor people can possibly to do reject their origins.

In this context, to say that his scepticism about the Nazi genocide does not flow from his sympathy and empathy with similar sentiments among the Arab masses with whom he obviously identifies is simply a denial of reality.  Atzmon is not unique, he is just the most prominent of an entire ‘fringe’ layer of Jewish defectors and ‘renegades’ who identify in similar ways with the Arab masses – and some of their illusions.

While Israel was founded mainly by Ashkenazi Jews who are thus the primary oppressors of the Palestinians, the Ashkenazi Jews were also the main victims of the Shoah – so in a way as well being born of the oppressor in Israel, Atzmon is also a descendant of those oppressed by Hitler. This makes his mistaken scepticism about aspects of the Nazi holocaust quite noble in its underlying motive, given that in Israel the exploitation of that past oppression is a primary tool for brainwashing the Jewish population to support and commit atrocities against the Palestinians.

Unfortunately Tony’s misrepresentation of Atzmon’s obvious motives on this question is somewhat less than noble. It is driven by an element of ethnic politics in his political makeup that, despite his numerous progressive and often very insightful criticisms of Zionist racism and even of softer elements of the Jewish left, he has never fully broken from.

Tony’s crystallised confusion is shown when he criticises the note accompanying Downing’s interview with Atzmon where GD said of Atzmon that ‘I do not agree he is either racist or anti-Semitic.’. But putting aside the ludicrous notion that a non-racist person can be a racist political ideologue, Greenstein said exactly the same thing of Atzmon when he wrote that Atzmon: “works happily with Jews, converses with them and has no personal antagonism to Jews as Jews… on a personal level he is not an anti-Semite”.

In other words, out of Tony Greenstein’s own mouth, this dispute is not about racism.  It is about political ideas that he finds objectionable not because he believes that those who advocate them are racist, but that raise issues that he finds discomforting. He cannot deal with our orthodox Marxist position on the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie without mangling and distorting it.

Greenstein and Communalism

This is shown by the obvious distortion of our position on the Jews as a putative oppressor people, oppressing the Palestinian Arabs. Tony seems incapable of understanding plain English on this. He quotes our words on this pretty much in full but does not understand them:

“Jews are a ‘people, who, insofar as they act in a collective manner under a quasi-nationalist leadership today, act as oppressors of another people, namely Arabs’.” (emphasis added).[10]

He simply does not understand the significance of the words emphasised when he then turns around and accuses us of this:

 “Yet during the debate on whether or not LAW should exclude SF ID denied that they had described the Jews as an ‘oppressor people’ which suggests that his ‘materialist’ analysis of what he calls ‘the Jewish Question’ is indefensible.”[11]

But there is no contradiction here. For what was alleged (by Moshe Machover) in that discussion is that this characterisation of Jews under Zionist communal leadership encompassed every single Jew on the planet. That was what was denied, not that Jews insofar as they act under Zionist leadership oppress the Arab people of Palestine. In other words, membership of this oppressor group for Jews in the diaspora is a conscious ideological choice.

Those Jews who choose to act under Zionist leadership and fight to mobilise other imperialist forces to support oppressive, and indeed genocidal, policies and actions, are part of a population that participates in the oppression of the Arabs: an oppressor population in other words.  Those who refuse to do so out of anti-racist principle effectively opt out of that oppressor population and are not part of it. This is actually why communal politics is such a powerful presence in the Jewish population today and those who dissent are treated by mainstream Jewish organisations not as simply a dissenting minority with the ‘Jewish community’, but as traitors and enemies. And this is what Tony fears most of all. He fears to finally burn his bridges with this communalist ‘community’.

It is an expression of Jewish communalism, not anti-racism, when Tony writes:

“It is to be welcomed that Gerry now repudiates use of the term, ‘the world ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’’ and the whole notion of a Jewish-Zionist imperialist vanguard as anti-Semitic tropes.’ The idea that there is a Jewish sub-set of the ruling class, still less a pan national Jewish bourgeoisie is deeply anti-Semitic and reminiscent of Nazi  world Jewish conspiracy theories. They have no place in a socialist let alone Marxist group.”[12]

This is an attack on Marxism, not racism. First of all the term “the world ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’” is a falsification invented by Downing to justify his renegacy. It does not appear in any SF or related documents. This phenomenon is largely confined to Western Europe and North America; it is not a world-wide phenomenon. We defined it as ‘pan-imperialist’ (and ‘pan-national’ in a context that made clear that this means pan-imperialist), but there is one imperialist power that obviously does not have a contingent from this caste and is largely irrelevant to it: Japan.

Tony’s criticism above is communalist, anti-communist and an apologia for political Zionism in its international dimension insofar as it aims to protect a specific layer of the imperialist bourgeoisie against materialist, Marxist criticism.

He makes explicit his defence of wealthy, Zionist-communalist Jews against left-wing criticism when he says:

“ID explains support for Israel by the West as being on account of ‘Jewish overrepresentation in the US and other ruling classes.’ In other words Jews form an ethnic lobby”[13]

The non-sequitur in this is where Tony says that this means that “Jews” (i.e. in general) represent an ethnic lobby. But this is just feeble as any literate person reading the above sentence can see that it was referring to a Jewish section of the ruling class, ie. a class-based subset of Jews. Furthermore, our formulation about the ‘Jewish–Zionist bourgeoisie’ makes it very clear that we are only talking about that subset of the Jewish bourgeoisie that are actually Zionist.

Non-Zionist Jewish bourgeois are not part of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste. For instance there is no reason to include George Soros in the J-Z caste as he does not seem to support Israeli crimes and has been virulently denounced by Netanyahu for his liberal political projects. We do not endorse Soros’ projects for class reasons due to our hostility to the liberal bourgeoisie in general, but our criticism of this is separate to our criticism of the J-Z caste.

So far from referring to all Jews, our allegation of ethnic lobbying is directed against a large politically-defined subset of a class-based subset of Jews, not against all Jews. Tony is not illiterate: he hopes the reader will not notice this evasion, or perhaps choose to ignore it perhaps out of a feeling of guilt for the Nazi holocaust, etc.

Tony’s defence of Jewish-Zionist chauvinist ethnic politics goes further when he quotes and denounces a Socialist Fight article that answered the following key question:

“‘Does it mean that we specifically target Jewish capital?’ Answer: Not all Jewish capital. But we do want to expose that a specific part of Jewish capital has an ethnocentric interest in the dispossession of Palestinians.”[14]

Greenstein says of our answer:

“Targeting Jewish capitalists was the anti-capitalism of the Brownshirts. It was what the Nazis and anti-Semitic movements in Europe did.”[15]

This equation with Nazism of criticism of bourgeois like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, to give two concrete examples, who directly fund politicians on the basis of their support for the genocidal oppression of the Palestinians, is a disgusting apologia for this layer of racist bourgeois. Nazi propaganda in Weimar Germany made out that Jewish capitalists were somehow worse than non-Jewish in their exploitation of the German working class, an assertion that was based on nationalist myth and was flatly untrue. There was no difference in material interest between Jewish and non-Jewish bourgeois vis-à-vis the German working class.

But there is a difference of material interest between Jewish and non-Jewish bourgeois in the US and other imperialist countries in terms of the oppression of the Palestinians. This is due to Israel’s racist Law of Return, which gives all Jews born overseas the right to Israeli citizenship. Since Israel is a bourgeois state, which like all bourgeois states in reality belongs to its bourgeoisie, and an imperialist bourgeois state at that, this gives Jewish bourgeois in the diaspora a material interest in the Israeli bourgeois state.

This fits together perfectly with the ideology of political Zionism, that Jews born abroad are exiles whose real home is the Jewish state.  This racist law was consciously designed for this purpose: to create a layer of the overseas imperialist bourgeoisie that sees Israel, as well as their state of origin, as ‘their’ bourgeois-imperialist state. It has done this very effectively, as more advanced layers of the Jewish left than represented by Greenstein have begun to acknowledge.

Greenstein’s equation of criticism of the pro-Israel Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste with Nazi agitation against Jewish bourgeois in the Weimar Republic is an attack on Marxism, not anti-Semitism, and similar to the propaganda of the Stalin regime in the 1930s that critics of the anti-Soviet bureaucracy were agents of Hitler. In the 1930s this was done in defence of the Stalinist bureaucratic caste that arose during the degeneration of the first workers state against Marxist criticism.

When gatekeepers like Greenstein, or Gerry Downing’s associate Dov Winter, make such amalgams they are defending the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste against criticism from Marxist internationalists. They are thus acting as gatekeepers; political agents of that bourgeois caste, within the workers movement, and their behaviour is a Jewish variant of class collaboration and mutatis mutandis, what Daniel DeLeon said about labour misleaders in general, that they are “labour lieutenants of the capitalist caste”. Such gatekeepers today act as labour lieutenants of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste.

Finkelstein acknowledges reality

Norman Finkelstein

Regarding the social reality of this, we are far from the only left-wing people who have noticed the existence of a distinct, powerful layer of super-rich Jewish bourgeois who promote the interests of Israel and play a crucial role in the oppression of the Palestinians. More advanced sections of the Jewish left than Tony Greenstein have analysed and categorised this to the extent that it could be said that in denying this crucial element of social reality, Greenstein is engaged in a real process of denial of one of the most crucial mechanisms of the oppression of the Palestinians, and thus acting in favour of their oppressors.

For instance Norman Finkelstein, in his August 2018 essay Corbyn Mania, repeated and enhanced the observations that comrade Donovan made about the overrepresentation of Jewish bourgeois in the ruling classes of Western countries as the material basis that allows Zionist campaigns to destroy politicians, such as Jeremy Corbyn, who attempt in some way to stand up for Palestinian rights:

“The three richest Brits are Jewish. Jews comprise only .5 percent of the population but fully 20 percent of the 100 richest Brits.  Relative both to the general population and to other ethno-religious groups, British Jews are in the aggregate disproportionately wealthy, educated, and professionally successful. These data track closely with the picture elsewhere. Jews comprise only 2 percent of the US population but fully 30 percent of the 100 richest Americans, while Jews enjoy the highest household income among religious groups. Jews comprise less than .2 percent of the world’s population but, of the world’s 200 richest people, fully 20 percent are Jewish.”[16]

It is also a fact that Norman when he wrote this article was familiar with our position and appears to have been influenced by us, having been the speaker at the CPGB’s Communist University event in 2016, when a heated exchange took place involving comrade Donovan, Tony Greenstein and others. Finkelstein defended our right to speak when we were shouted down for making similar points and then responded at length on the role of ethnic lobbying and Jewish ethnic chauvinism in American politics, and was himself heckled considerably, including by Tony Greenstein.

Finkelstein goes on to elaborate on the relevance of this for questions related to the Middle East in American and British politics. He links it explicitly to the Israeli campaign against Obama’s Iran deal, and the 30 or so standing ovations Netanyahu received from US lawmakers at a joint session of the US Congress in 2015, and to the witchhunt against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party:

“The Israel-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute rhapsodizes that ‘The Jewish People today is at a historical zenith of wealth creation’ and ‘has never been as powerful as now.’ It is certainly legitimate to query the amplitude of this political power and whether it has been exaggerated, but it cannot be right to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts. When virtually every member of the US Congress acts like a broken Jack-in-the-Box, as they give an Israeli head of state, who has barged into the Capitol in brazen and obnoxious defiance of the sitting US president, one standing ovation after another, surely it is fair to ask: What the hell is going on here? Were it not for the outsized power of British Jews, it’s hard to conceive that British society would be interminably chasing after a hobgoblin.”[17]

The ‘hobgoblin’ being the campaign of phoney allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party, by Zionists motivated by hatred of the Corbynite left because of their sympathy for the Palestinians.

Finkelstein also echoes the point from our theses about the ‘vanguard’ role of Jewish-Zionist bourgeois under capitalism today. He does so by making this astute observation about the changing social mores of the US bourgeoisie toward their Jewish bourgeois brethren:

“Not only is it no longer a social liability to be Jewish, it even carries social cachet. Whereas it once was a step up for a Jew to marry into a ruling elite family, it now appears to be a step up for the ruling elite to marry into a Jewish family. Isn’t it a straw in the wind that both President Bill Clinton’s pride and joy Chelsea and President Donald Trump’s pride and joy Ivanka married Jews?”[18]

This begs the question: why is it that the social hierarchy among the bourgeoisie appears to have been reversed, so whereas once Jews ‘married up’ into the non-Jewish bourgeoisie, now it is increasingly seen as being the other way round, that non-Jews are ‘marrying up’ into the Jewish bourgeoisie?

This is obviously a result of the enormous shift in the social position of Jews since WWII and the days of the dominance of anti-Semitism. In the days of widespread bourgeois anti-Semitism, even Jewish bourgeois were regarded with suspicion among the wider bourgeoisie as potential subversives due to the vanguard role that many Jewish workers and intellectuals played in the socialist and communist movement. ‘Country club discrimination’ against Jewish bourgeois was rife among wealthy gentiles.

Today we have a different situation. We have seen the rise of political Zionism to dominance among Jews as a right-wing, bourgeois movement, and the important role that prominent Jewish-Zionist bourgeois such as Friedman, Kissinger, Sherman, Joseph, Ayn Rand etc. played in neo-liberalism, which many of the bourgeoisie in general see as the creed that saved capitalism itself. As a result, there has arisen among the bourgeoisie in the Western countries in particular a deference to the Jewish bourgeoisie as a kind of vanguard, a particularly class conscious layer of their own class. A kind of mirror image of the role that Jews such as Marx, Trotsky, Luxemburg once played in the revolutionary working class movement.

This is a huge change in bourgeois class consciousness and explains the huge shift from the situation before WWII where anti-Semitism was used to inflict defeats on the working class movement. Today, bourgeois philo-Semitism and pro-Zionist racism has, as with the case of Labour and Corbyn, been used likewise to inflict defeats on the workers movement, a shift that the most advanced elements of the left have not yet caught up with and theorised properly.

Tony complains that our position amounts to saying that “the ‘Jewish bourgeoisie’ were the guardians of the rest of the capitalist class”. Yet he provides no explanation for this phenomenon, or why opposing ‘left anti-Semitism’ has become the fake ‘anti-racism’ of the bourgeoisie. He says this with horror even though he has been compelled to acknowledge the power of Finkelstein’s points on the gentile bourgeoisie ‘marrying up’. But he flinches from a materialist explanation of the bourgeoisie’s current philo-Semitic cult. 

In this regard Tony Greenstein’s fulminations against our Theses represent not advanced, vanguard working class politics, but political backwardness, communalism, and capitulation to a part of the bourgeoisie whom he and others with similar views identify with politically to a degree. Others on the Jewish left, not only Finkelstein, are both more honest and more in touch with social reality.

Mondoweiss, Jews and the Israel Lobby

Phil Weiss, the Jewish socialist who runs Mondoweiss, which is the most prominent Jewish left-wing socialist blog in the United States, does not mince words when it comes to the role of Jewish bourgeois in promoting the most despicable hard-line racist US policies towards the Palestinians. For instance, he writes scathingly of the role of Sheldon Adelson in promoting Trump:

“For 20 years Sheldon Adelson has been pouring money into Republican politics to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he has succeeded. Trump has proved to be Adelson’s ‘perfect little puppet’ (to quote the president on Adelson’s former favorite in 2015), giving the casino mogul everything on his wish list, from moving the embassy to Jerusalem to recognizing the Golan annexation to tearing up the Iran deal. ‘A huge check from Sheldon Adelson’ and winning Jewish votes in Florida, is how Thomas Friedman explained Trump’s actions a few weeks ago. Adelson has more power than the Secretary of State, writes Tim Egan of the Times.”[19]

It is worth noting that Gerry Downing, now he has capitulated to Zionism, has denounced Phil Weiss in our internal discussions as a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ theorist for some of his views on these questions. However Tony Greenstein regularly writes articles that are published by Mondoweiss.

Weiss also makes mincemeat of the standard argument made by ‘left’ apologists for Jewish ethnic politics and lobbying that the real strength of the Israel lobby comes from Christian Zionists and Evangelicals, not Jewish bourgeois. This has been a standard argument from Tony Greenstein in the past against our attacks on the Israel lobby as centrally driven by specifically Jewish chauvinism:

“Some say Trump does all this for the evangelical vote. ‘A cynical play for evangelicals,’ and not Jews, David Rothkopf said of the settlements reversal. This may be comforting but it’s not true. If the settlements were such a winner for evangelicals, Trump would have announced the change two weeks earlier, before the Kentucky and Louisiana governor’s elections– when he pulled out all stops to win. Read Trump’s desperate speeches to rallies in those states to try and get Republican candidates to victory. In each speech he mentions Israel/Jerusalem once, in a boilerplate line. Compare it to adoption, abortion, health care, the military — where Trump goes on and on. The fact is that Christian evangelicals don’t really care that much about Israel, as a former Israeli consul in California, pointed out a year ago:

 “’Yes on paper there are 70 million evangelical Christians in America. How many truly are interested in the settlements and this and that? The numbers are not very high. The number of evangelical Christians who are interested in our political conversation is very very small.’”[20]

And Weiss points out the bipartisan nature of this ethnic lobbying, it is not confined to the Republicans and Adelson, but it is a social phenomenon.

 “Let’s be clear, selling out US policy on Israel to donors did not start with Trump and Republicans. Hillary Clinton pandered to pro-Israel contributors in her 2016 campaign. She attacked the boycott movement so as to please Haim Saban and other donors, and promised to take the U.S.-Israel relationship to ‘the next level,’ so as to change the script from the Obama years– when we only gave Israel 3.8 billion a year plus.”

[…]

“Sheldon Adelson has plenty of counterparts in the Democratic Party. I was in the audience in Cairo in 2009 when Obama, who had not yet visited Israel, thrillingly declared to the Muslim world that the settlements must end. The president had J Street at his back. Then he and J Street folded under political pressure, including a Netanyahu speech to Congress, defying Obama on settlements, when the multiple standing ovations were ‘bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,’ as Tom Friedman said.

 “So the settlements went on, and Obama broke his word and vetoed an anti-settlements resolution at the U.N. ‘just as the 2012 presidential campaign cycle was cranking up,’ to quote Ben Rhodes.”[21]

And he generalises this from a historical perspective:

“The Israel lobby, pro-Israel influencers, mostly Jewish, have been a factor in our political life since Harry Truman folded on his own opposition to a Jewish state in part because he needed $100,000 from political backers Abe Feinberg and Ed Kaufmann – a huge sum in 1948–for a whistlestop campaign trip through the midwest when his campaign was broke. ‘Democrats had to worry not just about the Jewish vote, but also about fundraising from wealthy Jewish contributors,’ John Judis wrote in his book Genesis.”

 “I bore myself repeating these items. (And God help the reader!) But I have to because most observers accept the antisemitism redlines echoed lately by Bernie Sanders: you are not to speak of an outsize Jewish role in politics. So few write about the Israel lobby, though they know it to be a significant force.”

[…]

“Israel lobbyists themselves extol Jewish political power in the U.S. as Israel’s lifeline for money and arms and diplomatic protection. ‘I have no qualms about pointing out that the American Jewish community is almost certainly the most influential minority community in the history of the U.S., and possibly in the history of the world,’ says Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum. ‘American Jews have worked hard to make it so, and have built a network of outward-facing institutions that protect this privileged position.’ While Times opinion editor Bari Weiss warns in her new book that the left wing of the Democratic Party is ‘actively hostile to Jewish power.’ Among progressives, she writes, ‘the very idea of Jewish power must be abjured.’[22]

The ‘outsize’ Jewish role in politics, say both Norman Finkelstein and Phil Weiss, who are among the most advanced and far-sighted elements on the US Jewish left, centred on the ‘outsize’ influence of the wealth of bourgeois Zionist Jews, due to their ‘outsize’ numerical representation relative to the size of the Jewish population itself in the Western countries and particularly the United States. This is fundamentally the same explanation as our own for the power of the Israel lobby: the overrepresentation of Jewish bourgeois with Zionist politics among the Western ruling classes relative to the size of the Jewish populations within those countries. If this is an anti-Semitic thesis then both Norman Finkelstein and Phil Weiss are anti-Semitic. They are certainly in advance of anyone we have so far encountered on the Jewish left in Britain.

Phil Weiss advances a hypothesis on what would have happened if there had not been a powerful Jewish-Zionist bourgeois lobby in Western countries able to powerfully distort the ‘normal’ functioning of these imperialist states:

“This is not just a domestic political question, it’s a foreign policy problem. The Israel lobby is the root cause of the Israel Palestine conflict.

“Consider the two other main causes of the conflict. 1, Israeli settlement/colonialism (or in Zionist terms, the effort to liberate European Jewry from persecution by establishing a Jewish homeland in historical Palestine). 2, Palestinian resistance to 1. Neither of these historical forces would still be a source of serious conflict 71 years after Israel’s establishment were it not for the lobby. Without the blind support of the United States, Israel would have made a deal a long time ago. The country would have followed through on the historic Palestinian concession of 1988 followed by the Arab Peace Initiative of 2001, and accepted partition of the land on highly favorable terms (Israel gets 78 percent). Without U.S. support, Israel would have been internationally isolated and would have grabbed the deal.”[23]

This has certain liberal-reformist implications and perhaps it is a sign that maybe Phil Weiss is not such a radical opponent of Zionism as he appears to be. Such a deal, if it had been consummated, would have resembled the Irish ‘peace process’, or the South African peace deal between the apartheid regime and the African National Congress, that brought to power Nelson Mandela. Both of these represented demobilisations of struggles against oppression and the buying off of those struggles for something that preserved capitalism and has since proved fundamentally rotten.

Such deals are generally in the interest of imperialism and a rational expression of how it seek to demobilise national liberation struggles that pose the question of permanent revolution where such struggles threaten capitalist-imperialist stability. Phil Weiss is correct that the reason why, instead of such a ‘solution’ being brokered, a genocidal policy towards the Palestinians has been adopted by US imperialism, not without its hesitations and vacillations, but clear nevertheless, is because of the Israel lobby, or as revolutionary Marxists call it, the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste. Phil Weiss believes that its days are numbered because of the growing disillusionment of younger Jews in the US with Israel and its crimes. This may well be an illusion, because it does not really address the power of capitalist property among a powerful minority of Zionist Jews. It may well be that the Jewish-Zionist lobby proves more durable than Weiss believes.  But that remains to be proven in practical struggle.

Centrism: Anti-Zionist in words, pro-Zionist in Deeds

Greenstein also comes to the defence of Zionism in other ways. He refutes the idea that Zionism is an independent force in world politics by a crude distortion of history, which is easy to expose. He writes that our Theses:

“..argued that what is distinctive about Israel is that unlike other settler colonial states ‘Israel has no ‘mother country’ because it was populated by part of the Jewish population from several countries.’ This is one of GA’s key argument as to why Israel’s character owes nothing to its being a settler colonial state but to the fact that it is a Jewish state. And it is the Jewishness that most interests GA.

It is of course a bogus argument. South Africa’s Boers had no mother country either. Nor did the American colonists once they had rebelled. Palestine had British imperialism as its sponsor.  What distinguishes settler colonialism is not who sponsors it but what the settlers do.  It is the political economy of settler colonialism which matters.  Do the settlers depend on exploitation of the indigenous labour or do they want to exclude it?”[24]

Once again, we see crude denial of reality and history. It is very clear that the original Boer (Dutch) settlers in South Africa had their origin in the Dutch Cape Colony. A simple search on Wikipedia reveals the truth about the origins of the Boers:

“The Cape Colony (Dutch: Kaapkolonie) was a Dutch East India Company colony in Southern Africa, centered on the Cape of Good Hope, whence it derived its name. The original colony and its successive states that the colony was incorporated into occupied much of modern South Africa. Between 1652 and 1691 a Commandment, and between 1691 and 1795 a Governorate of the Dutch East India Company. Jan van Riebeeck established the colony as a re-supply and layover port for vessels of the Dutch East India Company trading with Asia.[2] The Cape came under Dutch rule from 1652 to 1795 and again from 1803 to 1806.[3] Much to the dismay of the shareholders of the Dutch East India Company, who focused primarily on making profits from the Asian trade, the colony rapidly expanded into a settler colony in the years after its founding.”[25]

So far from the Boers not having a ‘mother country’, the Cape was ruled by Holland for approximately 150 years. That is classic colonialism.  Part of the Dutch population, along with some others, such as French Protestant refugees, migrated to take over an African territory. The Anglo-Saxon population of the North American colonies also clearly have their origin as a population mainly from the British ‘mother country’, likewise over a similar period of colonisation of over 150 years prior to the rebellion of the colonists consummated in 1776 and the War of Independence. It is clear however that Israel was different in some considerable ways as the Zionist movement did not originate in the British colonial power that took over Palestine in 1917. The Balfour Declaration, also in 1917, was a unique event in that the British colonial power promised Palestine as a ‘national home’ to a third party movement and population most of whom did not come from the ‘mother country’ at all.

 Even though the Balfour Declaration was addressed to the leading British Rothschild, this was in his capacity as a representative of Zionism as an international movement. This was not a migration of part of the British population to Palestine: the number of British Jews who went there was negligible. And it is well known that the leaders of the Zionist movement sought sponsorship from others, including the German Kaiser, the Russian Tsarist anti-Semite minister Von Phleve, and the Ottoman Sultan, among others, before the British. All these facts are so well known that Tony Greenstein insults the intelligence of his readers in pretending that Zionism was not an independent colonising movement that only sought sponsorship for its own aims, a quid-pro-quo, with other colonial powers.

This is so well-known that even others on the Jewish left who are really no more radical than Tony have been compelled to acknowledge the facts. For instance, Moshe Machover wrote that:

“In the ‘classical’ pattern of exclusionary colonisation, a European power, having invaded and taken possession of a territory, would encourage its own nationals to settle there under its military and political protection. These first settlers would be joined by many others from the mother country as well as from other European countries, and within a relatively short time the indigenous people would not only be dispossessed, but the survivors (if any) numerically overwhelmed and reduced to small, fragmented minorities.

In Palestine things proceeded quite differently. The settlers were not nationals of a mother country in possession of the coveted land; so from the very start the Zionist movement was seeking a surrogate mother – an imperial power that would dominate the region and promote the Zionist project in exchange for services rendered: forming “part of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation against barbarism”, as the movement’s founder put it.”[26]

So if Greenstein dictates that anyone who acknowledges historical facts on this question is in some way ‘politically’ anti-Semitic, then rightly he should also be denouncing Machover in the same way.  This petty falsification of history may well be because Greenstein himself, having internalised the absurd idea that a Jewish person can become an ‘anti-Semitic’ ideologue, fears being branded in that way himself, and thus resorts to this kind of petty attempt to obfuscate history to avoid being branded as an outright enemy by the powers that be in the Jewish establishment.

That is also involved in another complaint of his, viz. that:

“Socialist Fight accused the CPGB of having engaged in the ‘indulgence of Jewish sensibilities” as if all Jews have the same sensibilities. It is a statement which could have been taken from an overtly anti-Semitic publication.”[27]

This is incredibly precious. Of course, by ‘Jewish sensibilities’ is meant the sensibilities of the mainstream of Jewish political life. That is exactly what Greenstein is doing in the pandering to the idea that Jews are collectively innocent in his distortion of history just described.

He is denying that Zionism is an independent, predatory colonising force in its own right, which seeks to manoeuvre between the Great Powers for its own ends, and basically absolving the Jewish-Zionists of any crimes of their own. Apparently all their crimes were committed on behalf of some other force, Britain or the US, and they are thus absolved of real historical responsibility.

This is pandering to mainstream Jewish sensibilities, i.e. to Jewish chauvinism, as under capitalism the consciousness of the mainstream of this population, as with many others, is chauvinist and indeed racist, the racism being mainly against Arabs.

And there are more elements of apologia when Greenstein says:

“In Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question concretely today ID wrote that ‘Zionism is a Jewish nationalist-communalist project’ which is not true. It became an ethno-nationalist movement in Palestine/Israel but originally it was a separatist reaction to anti-Semitism. After all Poalei Zion in Russia joined the Bolsheviks.”[28]

The evasiveness and two-faced nature of centrism is clear here. Read it carefully : Greenstein admits that Zionism is, as we say, a ‘Jewish nationalist-communalist movement’. Yet he contradicts that on the basis that ‘originally’ it was merely a ‘separatist’ response to anti-Semitism. Presumably then, ‘originally’ it did not seek to take territory off another people, the aim that more than any other marks out its communalism. But of course it did: the clue is in the name: “Zionism” after Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The fact that a leftist part of Labour Zionism broke with communalism under the impact of the Russian Revolution and joined the Bolsheviks does not for one moment negate the communalist character of the Zionist movement. Once again, we have an apologia.

Greenstein’s anti-Left Witchhunts

Greenstein excuses his support for exclusionism against Socialist Fight on the basis of this anti-communist ‘criticism’ of our ‘left anti-Semitism’ and purports to laugh at the idea that “Marx and Trotsky would have approved” of our politics today. He also complains bitterly against our allegation that the campaign that part of the Jewish left, led by him, waged against the Socialist Workers Party for engaging with and hosting Atzmon from 2005-2010 was a communalist, anti-communist, and anti-left witchhunt. But the facts bear this out: the period in the 2000s was an unusually left-wing period in the SWP’s history. As we pointed out recently:

“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.”[29]

It is perfectly clear that the capitulation of the SWP to the campaign waged by Greenstein and his fellow left communalists against their engagement with Atzmon was a key episode in their move to the right from their left-wing bulge in the Iraq war period. In a way the exclusion of Socialist Fight was a smaller-scale version of the witchhunt against the SWP, which was waged by Greenstein in a bloc with Hope Not Hate, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, and all kinds of forces who are distinguished by the fact that in the more recent period they have been part of the witchhunt against the Corbynite left in Labour.

George Galloway, John Rees and Lindsey German in the days of RESPECT

Just as in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Greenstein supported the witchhunt against Palestinian activists who were sympathetic to Atzmon waged by Socialist Action, fake-left opportunist reformists par excellence. The result of this was that Socialist Action consolidated their hold over PSC. Now Greenstein complains bitterly about the pro-Zionist capitulation of the PSC leadership to the likes of Emily Thornberry, of Labour Friends of Israel, and similar enemies of the Palestinian people.

Now as part of their bringing the Labour Party’s Zionist witchhunt into PSC, the Zionist camp-followers of Socialist Action have engineered the expulsion of Ian Donovan and Gerry Downing from PSC. Will Greenstein do anything about this? That is very unlikely. As confronted with a point-blank choice between consistently anti-Zionist revolutionary Trotskyists, and flagrant collaborators with Zionism, he will most likely support the collaborators with Zionism every time.

There are so many examples of Greenstein’s anti-Marxist capitulations, he really does fit in with the definition of centrism put forward by Trotsky referred to earlier. The closest to a formal definition of this is the formula for centrism as ‘revolutionary in words, reformist in deeds’ as used by the early communist movement against such figures as Kautsky. Or as a Trotsky explained in a way that clarifies matters some more:

“Speaking formally and descriptively, centrism is composed of all those trends within the proletariat and on its periphery which are distributed between reformism and Marxism and which most often represent various stages of evolution from reformism to Marxism–and vice versa.”[30]

In Greenstein’s case the earlier formula could perhaps be rendered as ‘militantly anti-Zionist in words, pro-Zionist in deeds’, particularly as consistent opposition to political Zionism and its poisonous influence in the workers movement is become a key touchstone of revolutionary politics today.

Leon Trotsky

Yet Greenstein is one of the most militant elements of the anti-Zionist Jewish left today: he oozes subjective commitment to the struggle against Zionism and racism, and for Palestinian rights. It is his political weakness, his centrist politics, which leads him to actions that completely contradict that when confronted with a consistently anti-Zionist, Marxist position. Faced with that, he sides with the ‘Jewish community’ of all classes every time, and defines it as a ‘progressive’, anti-racist obligation to, as Finkelstein puts it, “to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts”[31]

To this we counterpose the programme and outlook of the revolutionary Fourth International as expressed in the conclusion of the Transitional Programme of 1938:

To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s program on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives – these are the rules of the Fourth International.”[32]

Notes


[1] See https://tonygreenstein.com/2020/03/socialist-fight-drops-its-support-for-ian-donovans-anti-semitic-theories-about-a-pan-national-jewish-zionist-bourgeoisie-or-does-it/ for the article this is a reply to.

[2] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1934/02/centrism-tm.htm

[3] ibid

[4] Greenstein op-cit

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] See The Wandering Who by Gilad Atzmon, Zero Books 2011.

[10] See quote in ibid

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] Cited in ibid

[15] ibid

[16] http://normanfinkelstein.com/2018/08/25/finkelstein-on-corbyn-mania/. Note that there are many footnotes even in this passage, which have been removed here to make the quote readable. Following the link back to the original and then examining the footnotes is rewarding, as Finkelstein is a professional academic and footnotes meticulously.

[17] ibid

[18] ibid

[19] https://mondoweiss.net/2019/11/the-root-cause-of-the-conflict-is-the-israel-lobby/

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

[23] ibid

[24] Greenstein op-cit

[25] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Cape_Colony

[26] https://www.israeli-occupation.org/2016-08-16/moshe-machover-the-decolonisation-of-palestine/

[27] Greenstein op-cit

[28] ibid

[29] https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/trotskyist-faction-takes-on-the-mantle-of-socialist-fight/

[30] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/01/whatnext9.htm

[31] Finkelstein op-cit

[32] https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/tp-text2.htm

No to Turkish aggression, no to Imperialism!

Trotskyist Faction Statement

Just a little over a week ago (5th March 2020) saw a meeting in Moscow take place between Presidents Putin of Russia and Erdoğan of Turkey, which came on the back of a disastrous week for Turkey that saw 33 Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib with many more injured. Circumstances around the air strike are hazy but there are suggestions that the Russian air force was involved despite the claims from both the Turkish and Russian military that it was the result of a Syrian airstrike. Syrian forces were involved in heavy fighting against Turkish backed militia when a one-and-a-half-ton demolition bomb was dropped from the air on a building.

Claims by Turkey that it had shared the co-ordinates of its forces with the Russians were met with counterclaims by Russia. This debacle proves that events on the ground (and in the air) are not always under control and under these circumstances’ mistakes can be made, some potentially ending with disastrous unintended circumstances. This led to outrage in Turkey from both the critics of Erdoğan speaking out against his disastrous foreign policy, and from hawks angry that Turkish blood was being spilled in Syria.

Protestations to the Russians from the Turks and an insistence that Russian forces ‘step aside’ saw the NATO member pound Syrian government targets with a threat of all-out war developing. This was short lived and if anything, merely confirms what many already understand, Turkey cannot do anything in Syria against President Assad and the Syrian government forces without Russian approval and collaboration.

Both the US and the Europeans have taken up lukewarm positions with Turkey and its foray into Syrian sovereign territory, despite western Imperialist aggression being threatened against Assad and the Syrian government early in the conflict. Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds to Turkish aggression, the confusion of the US’s foreign policy being announced by Trump on the hoof with US troops being withdrawn, quickly followed by an announcement that the US was blatantly confiscating Syria’s oil fields in Deir al-Zor has put the Europeans very much in disarray.

Russian objectives have been achieved; namely to prevent Assad being removed from power, stop Syria from further destabilisation, and secure the Russian naval base at Tartus, a naval base that it has used since 1971 as a response and counterbalance to the US Sixth Fleet based in Italy.

Syria is now fully reliant on Russian support from Putin, and to a lesser extent Iran, with the only other player (and western ‘backed’ proxy) now in the country to contend with being Turkey. Turkey is caught in between a rock and a hard place, much being of its own design. From 2011 onwards it called for the removal of Assad and encouraged and allowed fighters to flood into the region providing logistical support with arms, etc. It now finds itself isolated with its militias hemmed in and surrounded in the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib. Turkish advances into Syria to clear what it saw as a threat from Kurdish autonomy merely drove the Kurds into the arms of Assad and have bogged the Turks down in a stalemate with another refugee crisis developing.

Defend the Refugees!

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees with another 1 million threatening to cross over from Syria due to the desperate situation now unfolding. The EU acting collectively for its Imperialist components has decided that it wants nothing to do with refugees. It came to an agreement with the Turkish government in March 2016 to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey with a bribe of €6 billion to be paid by 2018.

Syrian refugees in Turkey live in a precarious situation with no or little prospects: the number of work permits granted to Syrian temporary protection beneficiaries from 1st January 2016 to 30th September 2018 was 27,930, which encourages many to enter into the exploitative labour black market, languish in poverty, or make the perilous journey by boat through the Mediterranean with profit to people smugglers. As with all conflicts it is often the working class, women, children, the elderly that suffer.

Erdoğan is now attempting to use the refugees in a cynical political attempt to gain leverage with his Western ‘allies’ either through military support, or else to gain additional funding, by opening the Turkish/Syrian border and allow refugees to pass through to Europe. Appalling treatment has been met out by Greek border guards, who shot dead one refugee caught crossing into Greece on 2nd March 2020. Two children were also found in the water after their boat capsized off the island of Lesvos the same morning upon which one died.

Greek border guards have been firing tear gas at refugees with film footage being published online of the coastguard threatening to ram boats filled with refugees, with one film showing attempts to puncture an inflatable dinghy with a boat hook. This week there have been reports of a warehouse housing supplies for refugees being been burnt to the ground on the Greek island of Chios and a school for refugees on the island of Lesvos being torched. Many of these camps on the Greek islands are overcrowded with people living in inhumane conditions with a complete lack of medical care.

According to UNHCR, more than 4,000 people eligible for transfer were stuck on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Samos in November 2019. Syrian refugees fleeing a conflict that has raged for 9 years are not pawns or collateral damage in a game of brinkmanship. The demonisation of refugees has led to nationalists being emboldened to take things into their own hands, often with impunity with fascists even travelling to the islands from as far afield as Germany and Austria to stir up hate.

Turkey, Russia and Iran in Syria

Atmeh, Syria – January 14, 2013: Syrian children live at the camp for displaced persons outside the town of Atmeh in Idlib Province. They and their families have been driven from their homes by the ongoing civil war in Syria.

To de-escalate the situation an agreement has been struck between the Presidents of Russia and Turkey (in line with the Sochi Agreement that was signed in 2018). Part of this new deal includes the setting up of a ‘corridor’ along the M4 motorway with joint military patrols. However, anyone witnessing the press conference in Moscow could plainly see the differences that still exist between the two sides. Turkey still sees the creation of a safe haven in Syria to return refugees as a priority; how this materialises with Turkey acting as guarantor is difficult to see and reconcile with the Russian and Syrian government positions of retaking Idlib Province. Russia views the ‘rebels’ in Idlib as terrorists and that the area be retaken back as an integral sovereign part of Syria.

A Turkish retreat will be a difficult pill to swallow for Erdoğan both domestically and regionally and it is obvious that Russia intends to allow Turkey to disengage without losing face, in what is a valuable relationship with a country that it has developed closer economic with ties recently. Turkey has become reliant on Russia, which has built the new TurkStream natural gas pipeline across the Black Sea (from Anapa to Kıyıköy) and is building a nuclear power plant in Mersin; the building of the Akkuyu power plant, at a cost of $20 billion USD, is a joint project between the Turkish government with Rosatom and puts Turkey with a heavy dependency upon Russia for its increasing energy needs.

Turkish attempts to flex its muscles and vie for geopolitical dominance in a region where US dominance is being questioned have been met with resistance and are symptomatic of capitalism in complete crisis. The power struggle involving Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt can be seen being played out in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and the dispute over the Cyprus gas fields with the maritime disputes in the Mediterranean. While much of this has taken on a religious dimension, it is ultimately a battle over resources and territory.

Turkish involvement in Syria has been costly with the dog biting the hand that has often fed it with bombings in Istanbul, Ankara, Reyhanlı, Diyarbıkır and Suruç from the hands of Da’esh. Turkish soldiers coming home in body bags is not what the Turkish people will stomach and Erdoğan’s foreign policy in Syria is being severely questioned domestically; over half of the population oppose Turkish involvement and the war in Syria. The Turkish economy is not in good shape and is more of a concern to the ordinary citizen than terrorism, which has often been the rallying cry as justification for Turkish involvement.

Destroyed Homs center, Syria during Syrian Civil War

However, what must not be forgotten in all of this is how the Syrian crisis unfolded and led to civil war in the first place. This is a tragedy for the Syrian people, and it is they who are at the heart of the suffering. After 400 years of Ottoman rule, an empire that was multicultural allowing a certain amount of religious autonomy under the ‘millet’ system, Syria then found itself ‘free’ of the Ottoman yoke after the British encouraged and assisted an Arab revolt.

However, with the aftermath of WWI and the carving up of territories by the Imperialist powers with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Syria then soon found itself under French colonial rule. The western carving up of territories failed to consider religious and ethnic lines and has been much of the reason for tensions throughout the region ever since, often exacerbated and exploited by outside interference.

Bashar al-Assad’s ascension to the Presidency on 17th April 2000 followed the death of his father, Hafez. The Assad dynastic rule has not been one free of authoritarianism with uprisings that have been brutally suppressed; in 1973, 1980, 1982, and then of course 2011 that led up to the civil war.

For Permanent Revolution in the Middle East!

Against the backdrop of the ‘Arab Spring’ on 28th January 2011, a 36-year-old man, Hassan Ali Akleh, set himself alight in protest in the town of Hasakeh in north east Syria. This act of self-immolation came 6 weeks after a similar protest in Tunisia (when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight outside the local governor’s office) sparked protests throughout the Arab world. Both were acts of desperation against the economic hardship and conditions that these two individuals found themselves in.

This was then followed by a protest in the central neighbourhood in Damascus, Hareeqa, on 17th February followed by a second ‘Day of Rage’ on 15th March when thousands came out onto the streets across Syria, in towns like Hama, Hasakeh, Deraa and again in Damascus. The Syrian government’s response involved arrests, beatings and live fire with triggers that enraged people further; 15 schoolboys were arrested in Deraa on 6th March for graffitiing anti-government slogans and tortured. Protests against the detention of the children on 18th March resulted in the first deaths of protesters on the streets. The Omari Mosque saw thousands gather, who by now had demands on the government. These demands were again met with live fire and 15 people killed. Protesters set fire to the Baath Party HQ and the SyriaTel building.

This was the lighting of the touch paper that resulted in protests throughout Syria on 25th March in solidarity; Homs, Hama, Raqqa, Baniyas, Aleppo, and Lattakia all saw protests. After further protests the Syrian government responded with tanks being put on the streets of Deraa on 25th April, the city was in lockdown and government soldiers were given orders to shoot to kill on sight. The social unrest, the government’s brutal response and the unfolding political collapse and vacuum provided the conditions that were exploited by outside powers.

It didn’t take too long before arms and fighters were flooding into the country and on top of members of the Syrian Army deserting and joining the FSA led to further chaos on the ground. The instability and inability of the Syrian government to keep control allowed the rise of radical Islamist groups like Jabhat al Nusra and several smaller groups later taking control of areas, the most notorious being Da’esh. The Syrian government from early on relied on support from Hezbollah and fighters from different Iranian militias fighting under Iranian command to prevent the government completely collapsing.

Russia provided political support and military aid from an early stage in 2011, eventually with direct military involvement from 30th September 2015 onwards. Russian involvement has brought stability to the government and has allowed it to hold on to power and recapture lost territory with only the last rebel held area of Idlib remaining.

We consider that despite the initial genuine democratic and anti-neoliberal thrust of the Arab Spring uprising in Syria, that was fairly quickly buried beneath a major US and pro-Zionist proxy war funnelled mainly through Saudi-backed jihadists. To the bulk of the Syrian people, and to ourselves, a situation evolved where Assad, the initial target of the protests, became the obvious lesser evil even to the Kurds, and the intervention of Russia and Iran, progressive interventions by non-Imperialist, semi-colonial bourgeois nations defending Syria against an imperialist regime-change attempt by proxy.

As socialists we oppose Imperialism and the foreign intervention and destabilisation of a sovereign country in a region that has already seen constant conflicts. We say no to Turkish involvement, the removal of foreign fighters from Syrian soil and no to EU racism and discrimination towards refugees fleeing from Imperialist wars.

 Until the working class of the oppressed nations throughout the region, can rise up and form governments that expropriate the means of production from private to collective ownership; a permanent revolution that mobilises all the oppressed layers of the population behind the working class in a struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, then nothing will change. This must go hand in hand with a world-wide revolution. Imperialism feeds off the constant cycle of decay that capitalism brings, the two are evil conjoined twins. Either socialism or barbarism……down with Imperialism and the capitalist class!

Coronavirus, COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Laboratory Research & Quality Control on a high technology equipment.

By Naciye Suman

Coronaviruses, are viruses and named for their crown like spikes that protrude from its surface  with the name COVID-19 given to this particular virus by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which derived from the first letters of the words ‘coronavirus’, ‘virus’ and ‘disease’  with the number 19 representing the year (2019). This virus (COVID-19) has symptoms (which take approximately 14 days to appear) that ranges from mild, and similar to a common cold, to being extreme with a cough, fever, fatigue, respiratory difficulties with laboured breathing, and diarrhoea, potentially leading to pneumonia and possibly causing organ failure in extreme cases.

Those with underlying health conditions and the elderly are at high risk with a mortality rate varying between 1% to 3% with unidentified cases factored in. The 6% of fatalities recorded in Italy was taken in relation to confirmed cases and with a high elderly population, despite having the second-best healthcare system ranking in the world, provided an explanation why the mortality rate is so high when comparing to elsewhere.

How did it start?

It is suspected that COVID-19 originated in the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, the provincial capital of the Hubei region of China, a market that had both live and freshly slaughtered animals for sale. The virus was first seen to have infected people who were either working or who had shopped at the market, suggesting that the pathogen had crossed over from an animal host to humans. However, the Lancet does report that the first person and 13 others out of the initial 41 cases identified as having the virus had no connection at all to the market in Wuhan.

The virus, which was first officially reported on 31st December 2019, and by 7th January 2020 had been identified. It is confusing experts who are trying to determine its exact source and as the virus is considered novel (a type of virus that has never been encountered before), there is an opinion that the virus may have originated in bats which then spread to humans via a snake or pangolin. There is a study that supports this theory published in the Lancet which can be accessed here:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30251-8/fulltext

Other pathogenic coronaviruses have crossed over from an animal host; Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East Acute Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are recent examples, both of which have very high mortality rates; 50% and 36% respectively. However, the speed at which this virus has spread and the unpreparedness of governments in how to respond has caught everyone by surprise. This resulted in the announcement by the WHO on 11th March 2020 that it had become a global pandemic after it had spread beyond China and having seen an increase in cases of coronavirus illness, 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories around the world with the sustained risk of further global spread.

It seems to spread very easily from person to person, particularly in closed environments such as homes and hospitals. In less than two months it has spread on a global scale over several continents. The pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes.  Testing has been available since 13th January 2020 but availability to testing in the UK has only been reserved to those admitted into hospital. Today it has been announced that self-testing kits developed by a British company will be available to the public from next week.

Chinese intervention

China has shown the world what happens if it is slow or doesn’t react and what can also be achieved with co-ordinated state intervention. In late December the Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang, who worked in Wuhan Central City Hospital, posted a warning on social media about a cluster of cases of a flu-like disease that had been treated at his hospital. Seven patients were in quarantine with disease symptoms that reminded him of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and on 30th December 2019, he sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them about the outbreak and advising they wear protective clothing to avoid infection. He was reportedly reprimanded for spreading false information and instructed not to put out any further posts. Li Wenliang, 34, died on 7th February 2020 after operating on a patient who unknowingly had been infected with the coronavirus.

The Chinese state, despite what seems to be the suppression of initial reports by local authorities, then took decisive action building two new hospitals in as many weeks as the outbreak unfolded. The first 60,000 sqm hospital built in Wuhan has space for 1,000 beds and 30 intensive care wards, all modular construction was built in just under 10 days, the second hospital was built 25 miles away and opened days afterwards. The government also mass mobilised medical teams to the affected areas in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

This is a testament to state intervention and would never have been built so quickly by relying on the private sector with its need for profit. At the time of writing (14th March 2020) the spread of infection has slowed down considerably in China and it now shows that aggressive intervention has worked, with only 11 new cases reported today, in a country that is home to a population of 1.42 billion people. However, the total number of identified cases 80,824, has resulted in 3,189 deaths: a mortality rate of 3.95% of reported cases. The real time figures globally can be seen here:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

The spread of the virus

Globally 154,279 cases have been reported with 5,798 deaths, resulting in a 3.79% mortality rate. According to the WHO, the new epicentre for the disease has now been transferred to Europe, with the crisis now being concentrated in Italy which has reported 3,497 new cases, bringing a total of 21,157 nationally. Italy, the worst hit country after China, initially locked down 16 million of its citizens in the northern region of Lombardy and its 14 neighbouring provinces to try to combat the spread of the coronavirus. However, this was short-lived and had to be rolled out nationwide after people panicked with thousands attempted to move south.

Today Spain announced that it is introducing similar measures to contain the outbreak. The Spanish government is poised to declare a 15-day national lockdown from Monday 16th March 2020 to battle the disease. This would allow people to be allowed out only for emergencies, to buy food, or for work. With 191 deaths and 6,043 infections, Spain is the worst-hit country in Europe after Italy. China, which has already sent medical assistance to Iran and Iraq and only last week confirmed that it is sending medical specialists and equipment to help the beleaguered Italians.

The official Sichuan Daily reported that a seven-member team including an expert from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and two respiratory disease specialists from Sichuan University’s West China Hospital will be travelling to Italy. For all the accusations against the Chinese government, the Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials for their commitment to transparency after their meeting in Beijing.  

Johnson’s ineptitude

Meanwhile Boris Johnson’s and the British government’s response has been woeful. Johnson has completely shown himself lacking, his disappearance during the flooding in parts of the country in recent weeks has shown the absolute contempt that he harbours for the general public of this country. During his interview on ‘This Morning’ on 5th March, he spoke about efforts to delay the spread of the virus, which he said that one of the theories is that the disease should be allowed to spread without taking “as many draconian measures” such as cancelling public events or closing schools. He previously in the interview referred to stopping public gatherings as “quite draconian” before suggesting that one theory was to allow the disease to spread through the population and “take it on the chin”.

This strategy of working towards ‘herd immunity’ conflicts with the advice being provided by the World Health Organisation and its policy against the virus, with the WHO questioning the British government’s approach. Anthony Costello, a paediatrician and former World Health Organisation Director, wrote that ‘it’s not even clear yet that catching the coronavirus will result in immunity’. Costello urged the UK to change course, asking: “Is it ethical to adopt a policy that threatens immediate casualties on the basis of an uncertain future benefit?” For this strategy to work, 60%-70% of the population would have needed to be exposed and to have built up immunity to the virus, which works in conjunction with vaccination.

At present there are no known vaccinations for COVID-19. Dozens of teams of scientists around the world are frantically attempting to develop a vaccine, with British scientists ready to test on humans after successful trials on mice. With the prediction that 80% of the UK population will potentially become infected, a conservative 1% mortality rate will result min just over 500,000 deaths. The UK government are playing with fire, late today at the time of producing this article, 322 UK scientists and 33 international signatories have written an open letter challenging the British government’s approach, which can be read here:

http://maths.qmul.ac.uk/~vnicosia/UK_scientists_statement_on_coronavirus_measures.pdf

Worryingly the government seems to be surrounded by lunatics, and not only those that are kept in the public spotlight such as Dominic Cummings. Dr David Halpern, a psychologist and Director of the Behavioural Insights Team in what are part of the government’s ‘nudge’ unit, said during an interview the on BBC News: “There’s going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows, as we think it probably will do, where you’ll want to cocoon, you’ll want to protect those at-risk groups so that they basically don’t catch the disease and by the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity’s been achieved in the rest of the population.”

The Behavioural Insights Team’s own web site has a blog that claims there is a strong contender for word of the year; ‘Misinfodemic’ (noun): the spread of a particular health outcome or disease facilitated by viral misinformation. This is how it claims to tackle to Coronavirus outbreak: “The emerging epidemic of the novel coronavirus, now christened ‘Covid-19’, has brought into sharp focus how the spread of misinformation can propagate confusion, potentially undermining containment efforts. As this New York Times article explains, the dramatic way that the outbreak is being reported, focusing on fatalities and city-wide lockdowns in China, means that the most severe outcomes of coronavirus are being overrepresented in our minds. The resulting anxiety is potentially harmful if it leads to an increase in racist incidents and ‘super-worriers’ filling hospital waiting rooms.” 

Dr David Halpern has been closely associated with the Tory government, having been chief analyst in David Cameron’s Strategy Unit (2001–2007). According to his organisation’s web site, he…. “led numerous reviews, including the UK government’s strategic audits and recent policy reviews; set up the Social Exclusion Task Force and drafted its action plan; and authored many of the Strategy Unit’s most influential papers, such as those on life satisfaction, personal responsibility and behaviour change.” His work has already been questioned in 2013, when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) came under investigation by a health watchdog for administering “sham” psychometric tests to the unemployed and threatening to withdraw their benefits if they did not complete them.

Global epidemics and economic impact

We have a Prime Minster, who just like Trump in America, are both clearly out of their depth and have become bystanders while events unfold around them. It seems that psychology and the manipulation of the population and not medical health and the intervention of the state became priority, until the science caught up with them. It has been left to companies and organisations themselves, such as the premier league, to cancel football matches, other large gatherings like the London Marathon, and for businesses to implement their own social distances policies and instruct their workforce to work from home.

The British media today report that the Johnson’s government will bring in sweeping emergency powers to be given to the Police, which would allow them to detain people with the virus, reduce elderly care and force schools and nurseries to stay open if they are ‘deemed to have closed unnecessarily’. The Daily Mirror newspaper claims to have seen the proposed legislation, which will remain in effect for two years. The government are blatantly only interested in protecting capital with discussions on insulating the damage to the economy and not protecting UK citizens. 

Responding to COVID-19

At the time of writing this article, the death rate in the UK from the virus almost doubled in one day to 21 deaths. Implementations need to be put into place quickly to prevent large gatherings and as such schools need to be closed. While children are at an age group that are likely to show the most resilience to the virus, schools are also likely to be ideal hubs for transmission. The argument provided by the government is that many healthcare workers and workers of other essential services would be prevented from working, having to remain at home to look after their children.

This is where the state needs to intervene and prioritise, schools could remain open as a crèche for the children of essential service workers only, which would reduce the risks associated with large gatherings. Instead the government are more interested in the economy, which is already under stress, and seemingly not concerned with the health and well being of its citizens.  Boris Johnson announced on national TV that many people will “lose loved ones”, which came on the back of a government warning that the Police will not be able to deal with low level crime and that hospitals will not have enough beds; situations that already exist prior to this outbreak.

The government are softening people up for the inevitable hurricane that is about to arrive. The British bourgeois state neither has the capability, resources, or the inclination to deal with the emergency which can be perfectly summarised in its response when posed with a question of how it would cope with the shortage of 100,000 NHS staff…. simple was the response, it would consider bringing out people that had retired from the NHS, until the government had to be reminded that it was these very people from the age group that are at highest risk. Ten years of savage cuts by the Tories with its ideologically driven austerity programme has left this country and its population in bad shape to combat this virus.

The NHS has 17,000 fewer beds than at 2010. With an overcrowded and understaffed prison system, and healthcare homes with their elderly residents, these environments are at high risk from the viral infection. Many of these homes are being kept afloat with stressed out and poorly paid staff, most of which would find it economically difficult to take time from work to self-isolate. These care workers, NHS and other public sector staff will find themselves on the front line battling this disease. According to Shelter, over 320,00 people are declared as homeless in the UK, with someone dying on the streets every 19 hours. An estimated 14.2 million UK citizens are living in poverty, in what is considered to be the fifth richest country in the world, these people are at severe risk from this disease.

What this outbreak has shown is that how interconnected globally we all are, whether economically, politically or socially. The protectionist policies and the closure of borders have been compromised; disease cannot be shut out. However, this will not prevent the reactionary ruling class from attempting to mitigate the financial collapse and defend themselves. We already see travel bans, and we already see the attempts in blaming the economic situation, which has still not recovered from the financial crash of 2008, on the spread of the virus. This is a public health crisis that has been used as a smokescreen to cover over the economic crisis.

The capitalist system is built on foundations made of nothing more than sand, sand which is shifting rapidly. The stock market has already dived with £trillions wiped off the values of stocks and shares, and we now see Russia and Saudi Arabia disagreeing over oil production and pricing, which has resulted in 30% drop in oil prices. Governments are now scrambling around to ensure economic survival by propping up the system, to protect the capitalist system from an event that was not the cause of the financial instability, but one that has rather exposed its weakness.

As often is the case, the working classes, the poor, the homeless, the sick and the elderly will be the ones to bear the brunt of this epidemic. Hospital care will be limited, healthcare professionals will have difficult choices to make, which beds and ventilators are available, and which patients will be prioritised or denied medical care to be treated like a dispensable commodity.  The rich will be insulated to an extent, today the Queen announced that she would flee London and retreat to her home in Windsor Castle. The majority do not have the luxury to retreat to a country home, or even to self-isolate. Panic buying has resulted in those with poorer incomes being left behind, many people live hand to mouth and cannot afford to purchase in bulk in advance, and with empty shelves in supermarkets will find themselves at a stressful disadvantage.

This situation has the potential to cause severe economic hardship and cause social unrest. While many on the left could not see street protests developing due to atomisation of the working class, low trade union membership, low number of strikes and organised workers struggles taking place in the workplace; this could crystalize into working class action. During this crisis we must ensure that the workers are protected from losing their homes, whether through suspension of mortgage and private rent payments; unlimited sick pay for any workers who may find themselves having contracted the virus; empty buildings commandeered and made into field hospitals; ensure that the elderly and those that are homeless, or those that are living in poverty are protected; industries finding themselves facing bankruptcy need to be nationalised and small businesses protected from going under.

The state needs to come up with a contingency plan for the wellbeing of all and not one that will protect just the capitalist class. Realistically these things could only take place under a socialist government and having a workers’ state with a worker controlled planned economy producing for need and not for profit. To achieve this, we need a truly revolutionary workers’ party, a party that acts as a tribune of the masses. The coming months may well define the future of this country.