U.S. forces based in Iraq have bombed pro-Iran militia units in Syria. This is a clear sign of continuity with Trump’s US foreign policy under Joe Biden’s new presidency. Imperialism is not only a particular phase of capitalism, but also expressed by a policy of war (conventional or not) of the state at the service of financial capital and multinational monopolies.
The ‘respectable’, ‘civilised’ image cultivated by Biden’s supposedly progressive administration is designed to distinguish it from its crudely racist, fascist-sympathising predecessor. But it is not able to hide from the masses of the world that no matter the nuances of the political regime in Washington, its relations with the rest of humanity as the world’s imperialist hegemon, do not change just because the party that rules the White House changes. As Karl Marx noted nearly 150 years ago of an earlier imperialist hegemon, Britain:
“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilisation lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked’ .
The Future Results of British Rule in India, Jan 22, 1853, in New York Daily Tribune
A key feature of the world situation in the 21st Century, particularly since the financial crisis and near collapse of 2007-9, is the shaking of the equilibrium of the pillars of world capitalism, the dramatic deterioration of the power of the West and the United States. Another peculiarity of this moment, which combines with the crisis of imperialist domination is the growth of the influence of a bloc composed of dependent capitalist countries, semi-colonies and workers states, as rivals of the USA.
The aforementioned dependent capitalist powers are two former workers states, centrally Russia and China. These two great nations are supported by smaller semi-colonial countries that are also in conflict with imperialism, such as Iran and Venezuela. On this multinational front are also the two remaining deformed worker states, North Korea and Cuba. They are all the target of imperialist economic sanctions. Some, like Cuba, have been under sanctions for more than 70 years. Others, like Iran, have been under sanctions for 40 years.
” In the sphere of inter-state relations the disruption of equilibrium means war or – in a weaker form – tariff war, economic war, or blockade. Capitalism thus possesses a dynamic equilibrium, one which is always in the process of either disruption or restoration. But at the same time this equilibrium has a great power of resistance, the best proof of which is the fact that the capitalist world has not toppled to this day. ”
Leon Trotsky, Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International, June 1921
Key to our programme today is the defence of these opponent powers of Western imperialism against imperialist attack, and of course regarding the deformed workers states, defence of them against capitalist restoration whether from within or without. These considerations overlay our entire analysis and response to such imperialist actions.
The crisis sparked the shake-up of imperialist domination and simultaneously concentrated capital in the hands of an even smaller handful of banks, monopolies and billionaires. This concentration of power in the hands of financial capital promoted a right-wing turn in globally dominant bourgeois thinking, encouraged fascist tendencies, promoted bourgeois leaders such as Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán. Fascism is a watchdog of financial capital set to terrorize the proletariat in times of crisis, to force it to submit to austerity and slavery regimes. To this end, it regiments, recruits for the state forces of the enraged petit-bourgeoisie and demoralized gangs of the lumpemproletariat, human beings that financial capital itself led to despair and fury. These trends that rely on strong material bases of capital concentration have not cooled with the replacement of one or the other of these leaders.
Iraq is in effect a US colony today. Its Prime Minister, in the latest phase of the US overlordship that has been maintained since the invasion and subjugation of 2003, is Mustafa Al-Khadami, who claims a history as a campaigner for human rights against the former regime of Saddam Hussein. But then one discovers that he is a close associate and friend of Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, US client and close collaborator of Zionist Israel, murderer of Jamal Khashoggi, and deadly enemy of Iran. Bin Salman is waging a genocidal war against the Yemeni population and particularly the Iran-allied Shia Houthi movement, who now are leading a genuine national independence struggle against their Saudi oppressors, who act on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism.
Iraq has been rent by protest movements against corruption and occupation, the latest being the biggest since October 2019, before the Covid pandemic, which has caused huge suffering and exacerbated the plight of the populations in the entire region, including Iraq, Syria, and worst of all Yemen. This entire circumstance has led to resistance to US rule: with the Sadr movement in Iraq playing a key role, and pro-Iran Shi’a groups in Syria, such as Kataeb Hizbullah, who have been a key part of this resistance to occupation and corruption. But it goes further than a mere religious objection: these movements have class roots, though their relationship with this is complex.
In any case, the US is fearful of populations taking things into their own hands and demanding democracy and an end to US domination, demands that could fuel a challenge to capitalism itself, notwithstanding the current state of mass consciousness. For that is what is objectively posed by US imperialist domination. Breaking from it needs a more fundamental struggle then the current forces can offer, though there is always the possibility that the struggle could provide an opening for more advanced political developments.
The whole situation mixes with the consequences of the failure of the US to subjugate the region’s oppressed semi-colonies. They have not defeated Iran, pressured by sanctions, sabotage, assassinations like Soleimani’s, Israeli bombings, and hybrid warfare operations since the 1979 revolution. They do not fully control Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation. They have not destabilized or overthrown the Assad government, even if they have been trying to do this for more than a decade. During the Arab spring imperialism tried to recycle and expand its dominance in the region by relying on the popular rebellion against the economic crisis that financial capital itself provoked between 2007-9. In allied countries imperialism manoeuvred to crush the “spring”, brutally oppressed the movements of opposition to the governments of Egypt and Bahrain, allies of Washington / Israel / Saudi Arabia. In countries ruled by unreliable regimes such as Libya and Syria, imperialism armed the opposition. In Libya, the imperialist coalition managed to subdue the oppressed nation and assassinate Qaddafi. It was a colonial bloodbath, driven directly by British, French, and American forces. At that time, in 2011, imperialism had the complicit abstention of the diplomatic delegations of Russia and China in the UN Security Council. Brazil, India, and Germany also abstained. South Africa, ruled by the ANC, voted in favour of the colonialist intervention in the sister African nation. No one opposed Resolution 1973 authorizing international support for the movement for the overthrow of Qaddafi. After this tragedy, when the U.S. and Israel tried to repeat this offensive in Syria , relying on armed opposition agents, including Daesh, a military coalition of anti-imperialist forces, mainly Iranian and Russian, was constituted and managed to deliver a major blow against the U.S. and Israel, with the most important battle to conquer Aleppo in 2016.
As we wrote then in a declaration signed by the LCFI’s sections and a number of other revolutionary groups and individuals around the world:
“The final liberation of Aleppo in mid-December 2016 is a defeat of the jihadist militias sponsored by the USA and its allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Libya, to name the most prominent. A victory for imperialism on Aleppo here would have dealt an enormous blow to the Syrian and Middle East working class.
The defeat of US-dominated world imperialism based in Wall Street’s great finance houses and their allied transnational corporations and the subordinate imperialisms in Europe and Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. is a victory for the world working class and all oppressed peoples of the planet. Of course, it is not a socialist revolutionary victory but it does strengthen the struggle of the working class of Syria against imperialism and therefore ultimately against its own capitalist ruling class.”
The whole situation is intermixed with the consequences of the failure of the US to fully subjugate Iraq, despite 18 years of occupation, and more recently to destabilise and overthrow the Assad government in Syria. This grew out of the imperialist response to the initially naive Arab spring upheaval. They manoeuvred to brutally crush the movement in Washington/Israel’s allies, such as Egypt and Bahrain, while buying control of it in Libya and Syria, ruled by regimes that had sometimes shown defiance against the US and Israel. Though they succeeded in subjugating Libya and destroying Qadhafi in a reactionary bloodbath directly aided by British, French and US forces, in Syria they were foiled by a military bloc of semi-colonial nations, centrally Russia and Iran, that came to the aid of Syria to resist this imperialist conquest and succeeded in striking a major blow against imperialism by defeating the attempt, centrally at Aleppo in 2016.
Trump and Biden: Continuity and Discontinuity
Trump’s regime was particularly brutal domestically in its white supremacism and cavalier Social Darwinism over Covid-19, costing hundreds of thousands of lives at home. It brought about a hugely polarising clash between two mass camps – a proto-fascist, white supremacist movement behind Trump, vs the de facto popular-front around the Democratic Party of Biden and Sanders, that found armed expression at the Capitol on 6 Jan. Biden’s role is to neutralise that struggle and ‘reconcile and reunite’ the American population.
In foreign policy, the Trump administration was also dysfunctional, veering between national isolation and extreme militarism, between some limited troop withdrawals from the Middle East, and overt threats of nuclear war against Iran and North Korea, followed in the latter cases by pacific overtures and cranky attempts at ‘friendship’. His promotion of the fake ‘President’ of Venezuela, Guaido, going so far as to threaten invasion (and made a failed attempt to initiate one with mercenaries) if Maduro failed to comply with this aggression, was hardly pacific isolationism. Trump personally ordered the murder of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Suleimani (mimicking Obama’s assassination of Osama bin Laden) and tore up Obama’s 2015 JCPOA deal with Iran that sought to limit its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the gradual lifting of imperialist sanctions. Biden formally declares he is trying to resurrect and save the JCPOA, but concretely carried out this military attack against Iran. Under this policy, the resumption of negotiations with the Persian nation would be based on a shameful capitulation, which does not seem to be in Tehran’s plans. Resuming these agreements is far less likely and more difficult than the Paris Accord on Climate Change and the World Health Organisation, which Trump walked away from right in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The JCPOA was openly undermined and condemned by Israel even when Obama was still in power, and Trump was funded by Likudniks – Sheldon Adelson was his biggest campaign donor, this being a key factor in his rise to power in 2016, demanding the abandonment of the JCPOA. This seems to be the nexus of the contradictory relationship between the bulk of the US ruling class, and the overlapping, numerous and powerful Jewish-Zionist part of it that regards Israel as just as much its state as the US itself.
It is not clear that Biden will be able or willing to simply go back to the configuration that existed at the time of Obama’s Iran deal, as Zionism has grown more powerful as an organic component of imperialism, in terms of its influence and centrality through the Trump period: Biden will not simply be a negation of everything about Trump just as Obama earlier was not simply a negation of the Bush period. Obama’s tactics and strategy incorporated strong element of Bush’s, and in turn Trump himself incorporated some Obama era policies and deepened them, e.g. Obama’s mass, million strong deportation programme. Biden in turn appears quite Trumpian in his administration’s actions after only a few weeks. These continuities occur above all because of the common class underpinning of the two US bourgeois parties, no matter the conflicts between them (which can bring other forces into conflict with each other, as recent events illustrate).
Israel sees the very existence of any strong and independent Arab or Muslim state in the Middle East as a threat to its very legitimacy and demands the destruction of Iran and similar states even if the consequences are catastrophic. This was also the role Zionists played in agitating for the destruction of Iraq in the early 2000s, when the 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave them the opportunity to win support for that policy among the wider American bourgeoisie.
The policy of the mainstream of the US bourgeoisie is not that per se. It has no objection to rampant militarism, destruction of nations through invasion and throwing its weight around the globe, but it also understands that such things are often counterproductive and tend to unite enemies against it. It prefers to divide and rule, though ‘soft power’, ‘colour revolutions’ and the destabilisation of opposing forces through hybrid warfare. But there is no absolute distinction between them either. So, when Biden distances himself from Trump’s policy and actions in abandoning Obama’s JCPOA, at the same time he copies Trump in a ‘measured’ way in bombing Iran’s Syrian allies. No doubt he regrets the setbacks that the US hybrid war strategy suffered in Syria. It is possible, indeed likely that the Biden regime will try to revive the kind of hybrid warfare that the US carried out in the Arab Spring along with such military attacks.
Racist Lies and Conspiracy Theories
This overlap is also visible in the fact that Biden has not denounced, but carried on with, the smear and innuendo that the Covid-19 virus, which appears to have crossed the species barrier to humans in or around Wuhan, China, is some kind of manufactured Chinese weapon. This outrageous lie was stock in trade of Trump’s racism in dubbing Covid-19 the ‘China virus’, but Biden has carried on with it as part of seeking to mobilise popular hostility against China over something that in fact is a product of capitalist restoration, the commercialisation of food production, and commodification of wildlife in this regard. The US bourgeoisie instead promotes its own racist conspiracy theory, while decrying supposed ‘conspiracy theories’ elsewhere, particularly accurate descriptions of the behaviour of the Israel-loyal brethren among its own class, any realistic analysis of which it denounces as ‘conspiracy theory’ and hence ‘anti-Semitic’ (of course!).
The ‘liberal’ Biden administration’s continuation of Trump’s racist lie about China has even manifested itself in censorship on social media, as Facebook has banned the sharing of an article by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) denouncing the smear against China as a warmongering conspiracy theory. (See Facebook censors WSWS article exposing Wuhan lab conspiracy theory, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/02/26/pers-f26.html). This in apparent concert with the liberal Biden supporters of the Washington Post. So, the bourgeoisie waxes indignant at accurate descriptions of the behaviour of its racist, Zionist allies and class brethren, but attacks the left when it criticises their own jingoistic, racist lying blood-libels against China, the outgrowth of the white supremacist proto-fascist Trump.
Such are indexes of the oppressive and dangerous role of US imperialism in the world today. We defend the Shia militiamen in Syria against the attacks they have suffered, and condemn the warmongering smears against China, and the entire world project of the ‘business as usual’ US imperialism of Joseph R Biden and call for its defeat in all conflicts with the oppressed peoples and semi-colonial countries including Iran, Syria, Russia and China. This action by the Biden government exposes all those who created expectations in this new management of imperialism as being “progressive.” The counterrevolutionary, predatory role of imperialism can only be overcome by the strategy of the permanent revolution, by the working class taking the leadership of the struggle against imperialism through principled tactics like the Anti-Imperialist United Front, with the aim of the world revolution at the core of our strategy.
“Any serious factional fight in a party is always in the final analysis a reflection of the class struggle. The Majority faction established from the beginning the ideological dependence of the opposition upon petty-bourgeois democracy. The opposition, on the contrary, precisely because of its petty-bourgeois character, does not even attempt to look for the social roots of the hostile camp.”
Leon Trotsky, A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party, December 1939
Almost exactly a year ago when it became clear that a major division had emerged in Socialist Fight, then the British Section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International, our comrades from the US, Brazilian and Argentinian sections produced a Resolution on the crisis of the British section of the LCFI (5th March 2020). To document this for posterity, we now reproduce some extracts from the resolution dealing specifically with the British factional conflict:
“We believe that the crisis and split in the Socialist Fight is a step back from all angles for both, the LCFI and for SF itself.
“1. The crisis content: The SF has been under attacks for at least three years as part of a campaign carried on by the right and far right conservative political wings against Labour organizations. Within this right wing, the fraction that carried on the attack was the Great Britain Zionist Bourgeoisie. Against Labourism, using the SF as a target, this fraction even used Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who attacked Comrade Gerry Downing in 2016 directly. Objectively, this Zionist offensive drained virtually all the forces of the small group (as they are all our LCFI groups). The elaboration of the SF made it almost monothematic, international contact has been almost extinct in recent years;
“2. For the result: The Zionist offensive divided one of the sections of the LCFI. This situation created an internal crisis and divided our British section. Any advantage presented by either wing is just verbal triumphalism, without correspondence with reality. Here Lenin’s slogan that the ‘party grows by purifying’ was not worth it. The SF is smaller and now with Gerry’s wing chasing former allies of the Labour left, the SF may be less influential in the workers’ political struggle;
“As materialists, we understand that this Socialist Fight defeat is part of the Labour Party’s humiliating and shameful political defeat in 2019. It was Labour’s biggest electoral defeat since 1935 for the conservative right, which adds to Brexit. One of the fundamental weapons of the imperialist right against the left was this Zionist campaign against the supposed ‘anti-Semitism in the Labour party’.
“Those who sign this resolution understand that the fractionation of the SF is a by-product of the political defeat suffered by the British working class, regardless of how the SF crisis presents itself. But we are not fatalists, it was possible to avoid this defeat, if the SF had not unconsciously participated in this process, had not lost its sense of proportions, had not been involved in the enemy’s game.
“Isolated and weakened politically, British imperialism is increasingly influenced by the Zionist fraction of world imperialism.
“In light of the above, it is clear that the two wings that claim Socialist Fight and the LCFI are at an irreconcilable stage. We propose for the ESTABLISHMENT OF TWO SECTIONS OF LCFI IN GREAT BRITAIN, following the example of the experience of French Trotskyism in the 1930s, when Trotsky was still alive. Other experiences of the kind occurred at the IV International, which were equally brief. It is not an ideal formula, but it is the best status that we can propose today, to stop bleeding, to stop the course of defeat.
“This organizational proposition should not be identified as a centrist position in the face of the crisis in the British section of the LCFI. We understand that the wing led by comrade Gerry Downing, from suffering so much directly, after being the target of the biggest witch hunt (media and within Labour) that a small Trotskyist organization has ever suffered from British imperialism, ended up unconsciously adding to that the Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left and, finally, in the face of the resistance it encountered within the SF, it also finally ended a hunt within the SF itself, in favour of Zionism.”
The objective of this was to create conditions where the comrades who had been driven into political retreat by the defeats of the labour movement and the British left, could reconsider their course and return to revolutionary politics. Comrade Downing failed to do this, his positions matured for the worse, it turned out that his capitulation to Zionism and imperialism (including the accession of a member who accuses China of being imperialist) was not a point outside the curve, but a consolidated trend of breaking with Marxism and the anti-imperialist struggle of the oppressed peoples.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the Downing faction, or what remains of it, has followed through the logic of its retreat before the Zionist-fuelled pro-imperialist witchhunt in and around the British Labour Party, and broken with the LCFI.
Sound and Fury hides Contradictions
There is a great deal of sound and fury in the article announcing its final political break, filled with strident denunciations that have the character of excommunication reminiscent of the worst calumnies in the history of the workers movement. The immediate target is the faction in Britain which refused to break with the LCFI, which has maintained collaboration with international comrades, and whose politics are the same as those of Socialist Fight before the split. Such is the tone and content of the Downing faction statement, that it comes across as irrational and utterly self-contradictory. It appears to try to prove, at one and the same time, that the British comrades are both sympathetic to fascism (!) and at the same time opportunist leftists seeking a popular front with the liberal bourgeoisie against fascism. Our British comrades are condemned as ‘popular front’ supporters for condemning the US bourgeois state for not shooting dead armed white supremacist fascist insurrectionists. This is strange behaviour indeed for supposed sympathisers of white supremacist fascism, most normal people would think.
Logically these two propositions cannot both be true; they are utterly at odds with each other. As Trotsky once said of other self-contradictory accusations, “Even slander should make some sense!” Therefore, we must look deeper into the political statement of the splitting faction to discover what is driving them.
Their long document cannot explain the rupture, it tries to justify how the SF ended up where it is, that is, tries to defend the indefenisble by manufacturing for example the category of “fascist antifascist”.
The real essence of what is driving the Downing trend is not difficult to discern. It clearly bears out the diagnosis in the resolution quoted above, that the Downing faction “ended up unconsciously adding to this Zionist witch hunt against the anti-Zionist faction of the British left” and held “finally also a hunt inside the SF itself, in favour of Zionism”. The contradiction was that even while it was doing that, this faction affirmed publicly that it still supported the LCFI and our aspirations to a consistently anti-imperialist, revolutionary internationalist programme and position. Even today, as it splits away to the right, it tries to restate this with the following appeal:
“… we appear to still have close agreement on other issues like the anti-imperialist united front and identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power which is the central enemy of the world working class and oppressed. We are prepared to form united fronts with any forces we see as moving to the left without forming any form of long-term propaganda blocs with them. With others where we have a closer agreement, we will seek to unify our forces.”
Throughout this year, March 2020 to almost March 2021, in which the LCFI published several international anti-imperialist statements “identifying US imperialism as the hegemonic world power that is the central enemy of the oppressed and working world class “, Gerry’s SF did not publish any, demonstrating that in practice he had already carried out the resolution that now formally communicates to us.
This orthodox-sounding verbiage is however mixed with a complete break from elementary anti-imperialism concerning Zionism. The slander of support for ‘fascism’ against our British comrades is in fact a defence of Zionism against the charge that it is politically similar to Nazism. But that is the position of the LCFI. The British LCFI comrades and the rest of the LCFI are united around the proposition that Zionism has great similarity to Nazism. The rump SF statement breaks from the politics of the LCFI when it says the following:
“There are Zionists who are fascists, and we will no-platform them like we will attempt to do to all fascists. But we will never equate racists in general with fascist racists. We distinguish between the racism of the oppressor and the racism of the oppressed, we distinguish between the fascist Zionism of the oppressor and the racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed, many of whom genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel.” (emphasis added)
The defence of Zionism is clear in the emphasised passage. It clearly states that, apart from actual fascists, who in Zionism are represented mainly by the Kahanist trend and other kindred spirits particularly among the armed settler garrison populations (which in total correspond to just over 600,000 settlers, less than 7 % of a population of 9.3 million people), that “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism” is the “racism of the oppressed”. In other words, among political Zionists, only the actual outright fascists who are prepared to openly break even with the ethnocratic Jewish ‘democracy’ that disenfranchises the Palestinian majority (more than half of whom are involuntary exiles) and install a far-right dictatorship over Jews as well as Arabs, can be said to embody the ‘racism of the oppressor’. For all the rest of political Zionism, the overwhelming majority, though it may be ‘racist’, is the ‘racism of the oppressed’. In effect, this defines Zionism as a form of the nationalism of the oppressed, and excuses its racism as driven by oppression and ‘fear of the return of the Holocaust’. This is an appalling apologia for Zionism and completely at odds with the anti-imperialist politics of the LCFI.
It is also completely incoherent. If Zionist Jews were not an oppressor people, how could the fascist trend among them act as oppressors? Ideologically fascist though they might be, if the population upon which they rested and among which they swam were not in a position to oppress another people, then how could they constitute ‘the racism of the oppressor’? To be an oppressor, you have to be in a position to actually…. oppress! The reference to ‘racist, apartheid or liberal’ Zionism “of the oppressed” can only be a reference to Israeli Jews themselves, as such apartheid-type features (it is worse than that!) enforced by Zionism are internal to Israel. Justifying again the unjustifiable Gerry created the category of the “poor and oppressed Zionist-racist-liberal-defender-of-apartheid”.
A clear break of today’s pro-Zionist SF with the anti-Zionist SF of 2018
This is also completely at odds with the position of Socialist Fight prior to the split. In September 2018, when Labour adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism whose mendacious ‘examples’ include an anathema on comparisons between the Zionists and Nazis, Gerry Downing himself denounced this:
“The Socialist Fight Group condemns the adoption of the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and all its examples on 4-9-18 as a shameful capitulation not only to the Zionist lobby led by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the other right-wing Zionist organisations, also led by the Blairite right wing of the Labour party and the mass media but to capitalism/imperialism itself. The capitulation of Jeremy Corbyn, the even more grotesque capitulation of John McDonnell and the majority of the Labour NEC is an ominous portent of how they would withstand the far greater pressure a leftist Labour government would come under.
Labour now once again puts the rights of an oppressor people clearly above the rights of the oppressed.” (emphasis added).
This was a revolutionary condemnation of Zionism as the nationalism of an “oppressor people”, in comrade Downing’s words. Now, erasing with his elbow what he himself wrote with his hand, Gerry says that Zionist ‘apartheid’ is ‘the racism of the oppressed’.
This is clearly a break with the militant anti-Zionism that drove Socialist Fight when it was a unified revolutionary group. Indeed, Gerry Downing’s new formulation that distinguishes between the ‘fascist Zionism of the oppressor” and the “racist, apartheid or liberal Zionism of the oppressed”, clearly puts Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud in the camp of the ‘Zionism of the oppressed’ since they have not fought to establish a fascist regime over Israeli Jews.
Apparently for Gerry the “apartheid” imposed by Israel is ‘the racism of the oppressed’; Israeli Jews who perpetrate crimes against Palestinians are to be in some way excused, as their crimes are the crimes ‘of the oppressed’ – like when enraged Palestinians commit some indefensible act, presumably. This means that ideologically, comrade Downing has gone over to the Zionist camp and his entire polemic against the LCFI and its British section should be basically regarded as a Zionist tirade against anti-Zionists. Given this, it is necessary to take with a pinch of salt his assertion that:
“Of course, we defend all third world semi-colonial governments and peoples against imperialism, despite fundamental differences with them on their reactionary positions and actions against the working class and oppressed in their own lands, as we have continually made clear. We certainly do not endorse their anti-Semitism.”
op-cit “breaks with the LCFI”
This is thrown into severe doubt by the above. If the Zionist State of Israel has its “victim side” and embodies some sort of ideology of the oppressed, held by people who “genuinely fear the return of the Holocaust and so support the state of Israel”, and if this should be dignified as a response to oppression, then there is every reason to fear that in future conflicts in the Middle East, this faction will go further in its capitulation to Zionism and imperialism. If Zionist Jews are ‘oppressed’, then who are their oppressors? Obviously, they must be non-Jews. But the only non-Jews they live in proximity to are the Arabs. So how could comrade Downing with this position defend the Arab peoples of the region, including the Palestinians, against the ‘oppressed’ Zionist Jews?
Since they have no actual oppressors, the ‘fears’ of the ‘return of the Holocaust’ by Zionist Jews which comrade Downing uses to justify their support for Israel, is a paranoid racist fantasy similar to the fantasies about ‘white genocide’ that white nationalists use to justify racist repression against non-whites. It is this confluence that explains why Zionists and white nationalists are so frequently close allies and co-thinkers these days. As was embodied in the Trump administration that included both.
“Anti-Imperialism”, or the IHRA?
What also casts doubt on comrade Downing’s commitment to consistent anti-imperialism is the fact that the only experienced cadre has still has in his camp, from the United States, considers China to be an imperialist rival to the United States, and rejects the position of the LCFI that regards China as former workers state whose capitalism still is in a subordinate position to imperialism and should therefore be defended against imperialism. While this comrade was in the earlier period a sympathiser of Socialist Fight from overseas the ambiguity of his relationship with comrade Downing in particularly in hindsight had an element of ‘rotten bloc’ about it. Today, when he is comrade Downing’s vocal public supporter the rotten bloc is starkly visible.
The allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ bandied around by comrade Downing obviously concern not merely the positions of the British LCFI comrades, the current Trotskyist Faction, but also the identical programmatic positions argued in the LCFI Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank, (https://www.socialistfight.org/uncategorized/lcfi-statement-on-the-israel-trump-annexation-plans-in-the-west-bank/) from last summer. The definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ comrade Downing uses here is not the one in standard dictionaries, such as the Oxford English one (“Hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”) or in Spanish (“Ideología o actitud contraria al pueblo judío o a su cultura” or in Portuguese “Ideologia ou atitude contrária ao povo judeu ou à sua cultura.”, which both translate as “Ideology or attitude contrary to the Jewish people or its culture.”) It is rather one which equates criticism and analysis of Zionist racism, and of those trends in Jewish history and politics that gave rise to it, with anti-Jewish racism.
It is clear from this that Gerry is edging closer and closer to the definition, or rather the accompanying examples, put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This is a Zionist initiative that has signed up 34, mainly imperialist and allied countries, and attempts to so re-define anti-Semitism through a series of amalgams equating the struggle of Palestinians and their supporters against their oppressors, and the Zionists’ international bourgeois supporters, with Nazi Jew-hatred.
Comrade Downing’s tirade draws spends a great deal of its space in a diversionary sleight of hand attack against Gilad Atzmon, when in fact the real target is our comrades’ own views. Atzmon is just a decoy or imaginary enemy to justify his new positions. The purpose is transparently to make it appear that Atzmon’s erratic views are our own. Atzmon is a confused but interesting Israeli exiled writer and musician who has long been a hate figure of Zionists and the left-wing elements most reconciled with Zionism.
The tirade draws heavily on mendacious, falsified and/or disingenuous denunciations by two notorious Zionists, Dave Rich and Alan Dershowitz, the latter a close associate of Donald Trump, which our British comrades refuted at length a year ago. The repetition of this material, parrot fashion by comrade Downing is an application of the techniques of hasbara, methodical Zionist and Zionist-inspired smear campaigns in which comrade Downing seems to have taken up an apprenticeship.
Like many of the most alienated anti-Zionist elements in and from the Middle East, Atzmon has confused views on WWII and is soft on the ‘enemy’ fascist-led imperialism to the US-led Allies, , which is obviously very wrong and capitulates to an imperialist faction. The only thing unusual about him is that he is of Israeli-Jewish, not Arab origin. That is the form that the common sentiment that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ takes in the Middle East, going back at least to the early 1960s when Gamal Abdul Nasser gave speeches denouncing the Nazi holocaust as “the lie of the six million”; one of numerous similar statements from political figures in the Arab/Muslim Middle East ever since the Nakba. This, not Zionist racism, is an ideology of the oppressed in the Middle East context. Although we understand its causes, we do not share this holocaust denialism, nor do we deny the Armenian holocaust practiced by the Ottoman government (for such things we condemn Zionism which systematically ignores or minimises genocides suffered by other peoples, from Congo to Rwanda, to justify its contention that the ‘unique’ Nazi Judeocide justifies Zionism).
The irony is, given the smears of anti-Jewish prejudice in this polemic, that Atzmon is being targeted by some who claim opposition to Zionism, because they are offended by such views from a Jewish person particularly. If he were Arab, and a Hamas supporter for instance, the leftist elements would be reluctant to attack him because of his oppression, and the Zionists would not pay him so much attention either – he would be just one of many. The motive for the anathema against him, and anyone who refuses to join in with it, is not anti-racism – he is after all being accused of ‘racism’ against his own origins – but communalism, punishing a ‘traitor’ who has gone over to the Arab ‘enemy’ and shares some of the alienated consciousness of those he has embraced.
To those on the left who are soft on such communalism, merely refusing to join in these denunciations and recognising that some of Atzmon’s material on Jewish identity is worthy of study by Marxists, is grounds for excommunication. Comrade Downing’s embrace of Zionist communalism is crystal clear given his new position that most Zionism is an ideology “of the oppressed.” For him, his emerging support for Zionism takes precedence over the duty of Marxists to examine and analyse all available factual material, and sources of interpretation of that material that could provide insights for materialist understanding of the subject matter. This is an attack on the Marxist method in the service of Zionism.
It is also an implicitly an attack on Abram Leon, from whose materialist analysis of Jewish history our analysis of Zionism and the Jewish question is derived and extends. We regard him as an exemplar of the progressive, vanguard role that Jewish militants have played historically in the labour, socialist and communist movement, and particularly of a militant who broke from Zionism to genuine Marxism. Far from being hostile to Jewish militants, we seek to win over such Jewish anti-Zionists to follow in his footsteps and embrace our genuine revolutionary internationalism.
A left turn followed by a step back.
It is important to document how this political break came about. The LFCI comrades’ resolution on the split in Britain put forward an important part of the history:
“Our international was founded in April 2011, following the international declaration: ‘In Libya’s unconditional defense against imperialism! Military United Front with Gaddafi to defeat NATO and the «rebels» armed by the CIA! No confidence in the Tripoli government! Only through the armament of the whole people and the permanent revolution can we win this fight! ‘. At that time, during the widespread and uncritical accession to the ‘Arab Spring’, we were the only international group to defend Libya from the barbarism that it was condemned, with a declaration signed by organizations from three continents. The shape of the logo we use today, was born that year, at the suggestion of companions from South Africa. In January 2017, we greatly expanded our range of relations and international allies, in Great Britain, USA, Argentina, Greece, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India. In addition to expanding our contacts internationally, we have broadened our sympathy nationally for our positions with various activists, activists and groupings in Great Britain and Brazil approaching our positions. This occurred in a period of general setback for international Trotskyists through the declaration ‘The liberation of Aleppo and the tasks of the anti-imperialist and socialist revolutionaries.”
The LCFI aspires to re-create a genuinely revolutionary, Trotskyist international movement. We do not have a ready-made claim to ‘continuity’ with previous revolutionary organisations as do many fundamentally flawed currents on the existing pseudo-Trotskyist left. What we do have is a determination to consistently oppose imperialism, and to critically re-examine and transcend the errors and capitulations that have weakened our movement and led to its fragmentation and decline. We are composed of comrades who have rejected the flaws of the pseudo-Trotskyists, and under the impact of recent world events have moved leftward from existing traditions and backgrounds on the left.
In Britain, the emergence and evolution of our section involved comrades moving to the left who had tried out a variety of organisation and traditions and rejected them as fundamentally inadequate. Comrade Downing, who founded the group, had emerged from the Healy tendency and been through the British United Secretariat, before rejecting their galloping capitulation to imperialism and seeking to create a new tendency. He had more than one false start in this regard, on more than one occasion breaking with people who in his eyes did not measure up.
It is no accident that our section in its most prominent and successful period became known as the most radical opponents of the imperialist exploitation of the Arab Spring against the Arab peoples, particularly over Libya and Syria, and the most consistent and sharp opponents and critics of Zionism and the numerous trends on the pseudo-revolutionary left who express their softness on imperialism in part through their softness on Zionism.
We were a synthesis of militant anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist revolutionaries from varying backgrounds, and it is no accident that we adopted an understanding of Zionism that actually addressed concretely how a component of the main imperialist hegemon, the USA (and to a lesser extent its European allies), has an overrepresented component of its ruling class which overlaps with that of Israel, meaning that there is a degree of complexity and contradiction in the relationship of US imperialism with what has become its most important imperialist ally in the Middle East region.
This analysis was developed by a comrade whose formative background was in the Spartacist tradition, who like many militants had experienced confusion, had engaged with a variety of trends looking for solutions and was in the process of seeking a better orthodoxy in joining SF in 2015. This consistently Marxist position on Zionism was eagerly embraced by comrade Downing as soon as he encountered it and became not only the position of the group itself, but the position we became best known for.
Including within the left and Labour Party milieu, as demonstrated by the fight we put up against being witchhunted out of Labour Against the Witchhunt by fearful left-reformists and centrists at the beginning of 2018, which attracted national attention. Comrade Downing’s appearance two years earlier on the BBC Daily Politics to defend our position had also given us prominence, and this raised it further as we evidently had not been cowed by the Zionist and soft-left denunciation. Although we were put under pressure by these things, it was a healthy pressure which attracted serious militants to our group, including some dedicated Palestinian supporters of Middle Eastern/Asian background, and a group of militants formerly from the Moreno tendency in Liverpool who evidently saw the group as attractive in part because of its prominent, strident anti-Zionism and the polarising effect that gave rise to, with whom we fused in the Summer of 2018.
The leftist position of Gerry Downing, his Marxist anti-imperialist anti-Zionism, was sustained by the leftward movement in British society epitomised by the rise of the Corbyn movement which really rose to its peak over the whole period of 2015 to late 2018, encompassing the General Election of June 2017 when the Labour Party, under the most left-wing leader in its history, with a public record of outspoken opposition to predatory imperialist wars and defence of the rights of the Palestinians and other victims of imperialism and Zionist crimes, achieved the biggest political swing toward Labour since 1945 and robbed the Tory Prime Minister Theresa May of her parliamentary majority. This took place in a period of deeply contradictory, volatile politics in Britain involving left-wing resistance to a prolonged period of reaction and xenophobic politics brought about by previous betrayals of the Labour bureaucracy and its embrace of neoliberalism and predatory imperialist wars on behalf of US imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.
However, Corbyn was not capable of leading this left-wing movement, as was shown most extensively when the ruling class struck back and sought to derail it with its most potent weapon: the Zionist-inspired and implemented ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. It was Corbyn’s numerous capitulations to this Goebbelsian smear campaign, the throwing under the bus of numerous left-wing and anti-racist activists and militants by a leader whose strategy was to appease the racist-Zionist right, not purge them as traitors as should have been done, which gave the neoliberal right, increasingly led by their emerging standard-bearer Starmer (whose professions of loyalty were obviously mendacious), to dominate a weakened leader who had capitulated on everything from adopting the IHRA definition to throwing prominent leftists like Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson to the wolves. The internal undermining and documented sabotage of the Party by the right, which went hand-in-hand with disturbing indications that the ruling class was instigating fraudulent and anti-democratic means to make sure a Corbyn government could not happen, created the conditions for the severe defeat of Labour in the December 2019 General Election.
Retreats, and the Basis for Future Advance
Comrade Downing’s abandonment of his revolutionary positions emerged over the Summer and Autumn of 2019 as it became clear that the Corbyn movement was in retreat because of the default of Corbyn himself. That was when comrade Downing began to retreat from SF’s positions on Zionism. But the floodgates really opened after Labour’s defeat and it then appeared that the comrade was a man in a hurry to renounce his past and regain ‘respectability’ among the reformist and centrist left. His outrage at the suggestion during the faction fight that supporters of the Zionist state really should not be in the Labour Party was a key indication of a latent political weakness that had not been properly addressed in the previous period. It was an indication of something of the social nature of the Labour Party itself, a party whose strident support for Zionism goes back to the 1948 Nakba and even earlier. It should be recalled that in 1944, four years before the Nakba had even happened, the British Labour Party conference passed a resolution that advocated:
“in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine.”
In fact, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn was something of an aberration. While he showed terrible weakness in the face of the inevitable counterattack, he nevertheless condemned the entire basis of Labour Party policy over this question for most of its history. Despite the courage comrade Downing showed in the period of Corbyn’s rise and leftward movement, when the counterattack came and politics in the Labour Party shifted rapidly to the right, he came under enormous social pressure from long-time associates and family members, and capitulated to it, attempting to take ‘his’ group with him in dictatorial fashion irrespective of the fact that many of the members had joined to fight against this kind of reactionary politics. This contradiction is what blew the group apart.
The complete collapse of disciplined functioning of Gerry Downing, as the group’s founder, and the transparently bureaucratic and dishonest manoeuvring to try to get rid of the co-thinkers he no longer wanted, who comprised half the membership and the most active members of the organisation, were a sad end to comrade Downing’s trajectory as a revolutionary, and his collapse into an apparent rightward-moving centrism.
It is tragic that comrade Downing should end up doing this after half a century of struggle for a revolutionary Marxist position. We can only appeal to him to reconsider, objectively assess the situation, and realise that his current trajectory is the product of defeats in the class struggle over the last two years because of the political dereliction of Corbyn, the defeats of Labour, and the rise of the far right. Maybe the consequences of this break, which is his doing and which we did everything to try to avoid, will compel him to reconsider his rightward course and return to a revolutionary path. We hope so, though obviously that is his choice.
It is most unfortunate that this is how the previous, often politically rich and fruitful period of Socialist Fight during the 2010s and the Corbyn period has ended up, but it was the result of an opportunist impulse of leading comrades. We in the LCFI cannot live in the past; both our British comrades, and the tendency as a whole, regard this unfortunate event as at least the opportunity to draw some public lessons about this, not in terms of calumnies and abuse, but as a means to explain what has happened politically, to assist new forces to approach our Trotskyist politics and programmatic approach.
Democracy and freedom for workers and the leftist opposition, not for agents of imperialism, neo-liberals, neo-Nazis, xenophobes, like Navalny
Alexey Navalny is for Russia, what Juan Guaidó is for Venezuela or Yoani Sanchez for Cuba. The image of the three was constructed as political “dissidents” from governments of enemy nations of the USA. These nations have been subject to economic and diplomatic sanctions for decades and their siege by the military bases of the most powerful army on the planet, which also commands NATO troops, is increasing.
Despite some differences, the political function of the three is basically the same. They operate for the internal destabilization of the adversary and for its international demonization to justify external intervention, sanctions and aggression against the sovereignty of their own countries. They also advocate a political-ideological, neoliberal platform.
In the 21st century, imperialism has been trying to promote and sell these new types of dissidents as leaders of “colour revolutions”, movements whose results only benefit imperialism. These leaders appear to be concerned with the interests of their countrymen, but they defend policies and measures, such as sanctions, that severely punish the population of their countries. Some present themselves as bloggers, like Navalny and Sanchez, others as “politicians”.
In the case of Guaidó, demoralisation is evident and emblematic. His term as a national deputy ended in 2020, he was not re-elected to anything by the Venezuelan people but is recognized as Venezuela’s “interim president” only by the USA and its entourage of bootlicking governments around the world. After all the attacks, invasions, condemnations, lawfares, attempts at a coup d’état were defeated, imperialism only had the possibility of formally proclaiming its own victory and selling it as real.
The impotence of the USA against Venezuela gives the measure of the demoralization of the Empire and the decay of its hegemony precisely in its “backyard”, Latin America, and in Venezuela particularly, where the policy of permanent counter-revolution, of coups to defeat chavismo, has been defeated over the past 20 years. It seems that the imperialist lion has been made toothless and can no longer bite and chew its victims.
In these three nations the ineffectiveness of hybrid war accompanies the decline of the hegemonic power of the USA. In the last 80 years this tactic has proved, in most cases, much more effective than all the expensive investments in conventional wars. During this period, the change in orientation and investment from conventional war to hybrid war was not greater only due to the reluctance of the Military Industrial Complex to lose its budget. It also became clear that an immediate victory in a conventional war can bring about a strategic defeat for imperialism in terms of the political, social control of the defeated country. A classic case of this is Iraq (see Decadence of US imperialism catapulting Iran’s regional leadership), and perhaps the same is true regarding Afghanistan and Libya.
In December 2020 Hillary Clinton issued a long warning demanding a reduction in obsolete conventional military investments from Cold War II, and greater investment in the State Department, that is, in the Ministry that conducts the empire’s foreign policy of the coup d’état:
“China – along with Russia – poses a totally different threat than the one posed by the Soviet Union. Today’s competition is not a traditional global military competition for strength and firepower. Dusting the Cold War manual will do little to prepare the United States for opponents who use new tools to fight in the grey zone between war and peace, exploit its open Internet and economy to undermine American democracy and expose the vulnerability of many of its legacy weapon systems … Budget changes should aim to prepare the United States for an asymmetric conflict with technologically advanced adversaries … A renewed commitment to diplomacy would strengthen the United States’ military position. US alliances are an asset that neither China nor Russia can match, allowing Washington to project strength around the world.”
Without renouncing the policy of continental siege with dozens of NATO military bases, but betting much more on intelligence and infiltration operations, hybrid warfare is a type of conflict that focuses on asymmetric forces, parastatal instruments, civil mobilizations, online propaganda, social media networks, international media campaigns, aggressive diplomacy, “adaptive approaches” (an expression used by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Command of the Armed Forces of Russia), for the fragmentation of opposing defenses, including public opinion, projecting new dissidents as popular leaders .
Due to the great size of its investments in this paraphernalia of combined instruments, exploiting the contradictions of the opponents, it is possible to convert any bribed rogue into a great and charismatic leader supposedly of the masses. The greatest evidence of the success of this tactic was the coup process that made Bolsonaro the president of a country the size of Brazil.
The new “political dissidents”, mere agents of imperialism, are sold as “leaders of the opposition”, and become epicenters of the imperialist policy of an indirect war modality, aiming at the fall of governments and regime change, which has been refined by the CIA since the successful 1953 coup in Iran.
However, despite the favourable results in Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia (until 2020), Libya, the hybrid war has not been successful with regard to the objective of regime change with Cuba since 1959, with Venezuela since 2002 and with Putin’s Russia. In relation to Cuba, the hybrid war is for capitalist restoration in the workers’ state and in Russia, Navalny is against the trends that point to Putin’s state capitalism.
On February 3, the strategic weapons reduction treaty, the new START, was renewed until February 5, 2026, between Biden and Putin. The bilateral agreement limits the arsenals of both to 1,550 nuclear warheads for each country (30% less than the one set in 2002) and 800 launchers and heavy bombers. In addition to the fact that both obey the logic of fear of nuclear war, the ease with which the treaty was renewed reveals that today the possibilities of nuclear war generate less tension between the USA and Russia than hybrid war:
“The Biden government said it is analyzing a series of Russian bad deeds and weighing how the US will respond, including a response to Russia by carrying out a massive cyberattack by government agencies and private companies, reported Russian rewards on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan and interference in the US internal elections.
The United States is also evaluating actions against Moscow for the attempted chemical murder of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and has declared that his arrest and subsequent sentence in a Moscow court is ‘politically motivated’. The United States has also condemned the arrest of thousands of Navalny supporters who are protesting against his detention and government corruption.”
Great Britain and the European Union follow the USA in the campaign of demonization of Russia and promotion of Navalny. These European nations do so not only because of the soft power of US diplomacy, but also because they want to participate in the booty that would come from the victory of a colour revolution in Russia, turning the country back into a brothel for the country’s international plunder as it was during the Yeltsin years (1991-1999).
For its part, Germany is increasingly faced with a paradox. The most important imperialist power in the EU has been militarily occupied by US bases since 1945. Even today Germany is a colony of the USA from the military point of view. The United States military has 40 military installations in Germany. On the other hand, Germany is dependent on Russian gas. That is why, while defending Navalny, Merkel strengthens her relations with China and defends Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will take Russian gas directly to Germany without passing through Ukraine.
Who is Navalny and what is his programme for Russia?
Putin’s main opponent in almost all Russian elections has been the Stalinist Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). It is understandable that this is so because the CPRF is the main successor to the Soviet bureaucracy that governed the country until 1991.
However, Alexey Navalny is presented by the Western media, inside and outside Russia, as the main opponent of Putin. (See Alexéi Navalny: what you care for, what you do (and why you don’t care), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5bmbYHDBmg ).
In the last presidential elections, in 2018, the CPRF supported the candidacy of the businessman Pavel Grudinin, obtaining, although the second place in the election, a lesser vote than in previous years, 11%. Also the lack of mass support from pro-Western neoliberal parties, even if we unify the votes of the two parties with this profile, the “Civic Initiative” and Yabloko do not reach 3% of the votes.
In 2010 Navalny received a grant from Yale University (Connecticut, United States), becoming part of the “Greenberg World Fellows Program”, a program that annually selects a group of people from around the world to become “global leaders”. The program is a kind of “School of the Americas” for the formation of civilian coup leaders.
In 2011, Navalny founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation NGO (in Russian, донд борьбы с коррупцией). In 2014, the Lava Jato judicial operation was created in Brazil. Both are institutions created during the Obama administration and serve as instruments of the USA to harass the political forces that in 2006 created the BRICS. The lawfare operation was fundamental in Brazil to persecute the PT, arrest Lula and get him out of the presidential race in 2018, ensuring the stability of the coup process and the election of Bolsonaro.
But, unlike Brazil, Russia, ruled by a former KGB agent, did not grant to the pro-Western opposition the country’s vice presidency, financial policy, the media, and the prosecutor. These errors were made by Dilma, even after Eduard Snowden, who went into exile in Russia, announced in 2013 that the PT government and Petrobras were the target of a profound spy operation from the US National Security Agency (NSA), the private arm of the CIA in which Snowden worked.
Corruption is in the DNA of the capitalist state, the management committee, legal or illegal, of the affairs of the bourgeois class. In Russia it is no different. The most corrupt, most mafia-dominated period of Russian politics was when its government was the most deeply under the control of the USA and the European Union, during the dismantling of Russia in the 1990s, when many of Navalny’s current sponsors looted the country in an unprecedented way until it hit rock bottom in the August 1998 speculative attack. Before that, only during the invasion of the USSR by the Nazi army had the country been so looted.
During the 1990s, “shock therapy” was applied to the former Soviet economy, inspired by Pinochet’s neoliberal model. An emblematic article, almost a directive for the new economic policy of restoration, was published in the Washington Post during the rise of Yeltsin, which considered the political regime that could be installed:
“It may upset Western economists, but history shows that economically successful nations can have free markets without free people. Democratic reforms are not essential for explosive economic growth. ‘There is no doubt that there can be rapid economic growth under a dictatorship,’ acknowledges Mancur Olson, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland who specializes in economic development issues. ‘There were dictatorships that understood and respected market forces.’
Pinochet’s Chile, a Pragmatic Model for the Soviet Economy, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/business/1991/08/23/pinochets-chile-a-pragmatic-model-for-soviet-economy/fc079246-2a18-40db-ad76-5e492e400bb5/
And that was what Yeltsin did in 1993 in the war against the legislature. This still went by the name of Supreme Soviet, had great popular support and had approved the impeachment of Yeltsin. On September 28, public protesters against the Yeltsin government took to the streets of Moscow. In the repression of the demonstrations, there were several deaths. On Sunday, October 3, protesters removed police cordons throughout parliament, took over the city hall and tried to invade the Ostankino television centre. On Yéltsin’s orders, the army broke into the building of the Supreme Soviet in the early hours of October 4. The ten-day conflict was the worst street fighting in Moscow since the October 1917 Revolution. According to government estimates, 187 people were killed and 437 wounded.
Like Navalny today, at the time, Yeltsin argued that
“Democratic reforms are essential for economic prosperity” (idem).
The architects of the Navalny campaign appear to be the same ones who wrote Yeltsin’s script:
“The most recent change in the Russian regime, from the Soviet Union to the modern Russian state, again demanded a conspiracy of factors that worked in favour of the opposition. The main leader of the Russian opposition, Boris Yeltsin, like Navalny, played the populist card well, complaining loudly and always within reach of a microphone about scarcity, corruption and inefficiency.”
But Navalny defends a neoliberal program much more radical than Yeltsin himself:
“Entrepreneurs, move on!
Our program includes a wide range of measures to free entrepreneurs from the pressure of bureaucracy, security officials and monopolies. We are implementing a program to demonopolize the economy and reduce monopoly prices. We will reduce the number of regulatory bodies and liquidate some of them. We will prohibit commercial inspections – control of operations will be transferred to an electronic form … The judicial system created by us, totally independent from the executive branch, will reliably protect private property from invasions and arbitrariness by government agencies … In Russia now there is a kind of incomprehensible capitalism, in which the state controls more than half of the economy and commands businessmen. Such a system hinders the country’s development … We will make peace with the civilized world,
An economy without corruption, monopolies and bureaucratic ties
Putin’s system is structured in a simple way: the extortion of honest businessmen and ordinary citizens is constantly increasing in the interest of a limited circle of officials, their relatives and friends, as well as the monopolies associated with them. We see the completely different economic system: a compact state that provides society with important social and infrastructure services (medicine, education, transportation, the social security system) with total non-interference in the country’s economic life and the absence of large state monopolies.”
Navalny is a proven NATO agent. There exists footage from the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, in which the Executive Director of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Vladimir Ashurkov, meets with the United Kingdom’s Secretary of Political Affairs, James William Thomas Ford, in the UK embassy in Russia, and asks for greater investments in its movement.
“During the meeting, Ashurkov indicated that ‘if we had more money, we would expand our team, of course’, adding that his goal of getting ‘a little money’ like $ 10, $ 20 million a year ‘would make a huge difference’. He suggested, as can be seen in the video, that the organization’s activities would benefit London companies (British capital). ‘And that’s not a lot of money for people who have billions at stake,’ said Ashkurov. ‘This is not a huge amount of money for people who have billions at stake. And that is the message I’m trying to get across in my fundraising efforts and talking to people in the business community’”.
For liberals Navalny became a symbol of the struggle for rights and democracy in Russia and in the world today, a Slavic version of Nelson Mandela. Not infrequently pseudo-Trotskyist parties and internationals, such as the Russian POI, the LIT section of the Brazilian PSTU, the Austrian RCIT, the Argentine PTS, the TMI, linked to the “Left Marxists” of the Brazilian PSOL, defend Navalny, with greater or lesser reservations, supporting him and his demonstrations even more.
In fact, Navalny was expelled from the Russian Liberal Party in 2007 for his xenophobic nationalism, which was damaging the party’s image. He founded his own party and attracted the sympathy of skinhead and neo-Nazi organizations (banned by the Russian government after the Ukrainian Euromaidan), carried out political campaigns against immigrants, spread messages of support for the violence of the Russian anti-immigration movement, some of the most ferocious of which were responsible for hundreds of racially motivated murders. This can be seen in the video: Alexei Navalny and the Russian Nazis.
Despite the stereotype of Russians as whites with blue eyes and Orthodox Christians, the Russian Federation is a multi-national state with 193 ethnic groups. A great many of the people of the Russian Federation have dark skin and many are Muslim.
However, in a video on his channel, Navalny urges Russian “good citizens” to arm themselves and support the legalization of short-range weapons in order to exterminate dark-skinned Muslim militants in the Caucasus, whom Navalny likens to cockroaches. He says in the video that although cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, in the case of dark-skinned Muslims, I recommend a pistol” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVNJiO10SWw).
Navalny supported the Euromaidan neo-Nazi coup in which Biden, then US vice president, was a direct beneficiary, through the appointment of Hunter Biden, his son as advisory director of Burisma Holdings, a major producer of natural gas in Ukraine, after the coup was successful. (Ukraine reveals payment of Burisma to Biden by lobby, http://hilodirecto.com.mx/ucrania-revela-pago-de-burisma-a-biden-por-cabildeo/)
But, in the civil war, the country was divided in half, with the population of the most industrialized part of the territory armed and autonomous from the capital Kiev. And on the Crimean Peninsula, pro-Russian Ukrainians stormed large government buildings, military bases and telecommunications facilities on the peninsula and forced local authorities to hold a referendum on reunification with Russia, becoming an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation.
Crimea has historically been a geopolitical region where the borders between the classical world and the Pontic steppe are found, stretching from the north of the Black Sea to the east of the Caspian Sea. Since 1783 Crimea belonged to the Russian empire. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 it was converted into an autonomous province of the USSR. In 1954, in a gesture for the brotherhood of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, Khrushchev handed over Crimea to Ukraine.
From the height of the authority conferred on him by the imperialist media, as “Putin’s main opponent” (as well as Guaidó in relation to Maduro), the blogger demanded punishments more severe than those that the western powers of the USA and the EU had imposed, for the Crimean defection.
However, Navalny behaves like a chameleon and is always denying what he said, to adapt to different situations in a puerile pragmatism, just as Trump and Bolsonaro do.
Between 2011 and 2013 there were important protests against Putin. As one of the leaders of this movement, Alexey Sakhnin, a member of the Left Front at that time, reports:
“Navalny received support mainly from the capital’s middle class and from the largest cities. But the working class and the poor majority in general did not trust him. They remained indifferent to his anti-corruption agenda, seeing corruption as just one of the techniques to enrich the elite and not the foundation of class inequality.”
Thus, in the same 2018 program in which he advocates privatizations and the minimal state, to please Western businessmen and speculators, he also tries to seduce unwary working class people by saying nice words like that people should live with dignity: decent wages, decent pensions.
“Alexei Navalny’s budget policy priority will be the financing of health and education. Government spending in these spheres will double and, in terms of its share of GDP, Russia will be equal to developed countries”.
The same disguise exists at the level of international politics, as recorded in Wikipedia:
“In March 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Navalny called for more sanctions against officials and businessmen linked to Putin and proposed a list of sanctions for Western countries, saying that previous US and EU sanctions were ‘ridiculed’. In October 2014, Navalny said in an interview that, despite the fact that Crimea was ‘seized’ illegally, ‘the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia’. When asked whether he would return Crimea to Ukraine if he became a Russian president, he said: ‘Is Crimea some kind of sausage sandwich to be passed around? I don’t think so.’ In 2015, Navalny deplored Russia’s actions ‘welcoming Muslims’ and the opening of the largest mosque in Moscow.”
Putin: from the international plundering of the Yeltsin era to the ruler of the Petro-State that is the main US military opponent today
Putin projected himself as a great leader of Russia after the scorched earth policy, the colonization of the Yeltsin era, between 1991 and 1998. According to geopolitical writer William Engdahl, in his work Manifest Destiny – Democracy as Cognitive Dissonance (2018):
“Boris Yeltsin and his ‘free market reformers’ were part of one of the most criminally covert loot operations in CIA history. It was the rape of Russia by a corrupt circle of treacherous Soviet generals, together with their protected young KGB selection, who were transformed by the operation into billionaire oligarchs. This economic rape was only possible through Western banks and Washington’s so-called ‘democracy machines’ under three successive presidents – Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. Few people in the West could understand the sadness and anger of Russian President Vladimir Putin when he said to a select audience of Russian Duma politicians in the Kremlin in September 2016, ‘You know how I feel about the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was unnecessary.’
Putin did not need to describe ‘that. Everyone present knew that he meant the wild destruction of life, of the feeling of worth and pride for most Russians until 1990.”
Later, Engdahl reveals in detail that senior CIA officials participated in this rape, including Bill Casey, the founder of NED, the private agency for dirty and hybrid operations, Rothschild bankers, George Soros, banker Bruce Rappaport, founder of Inter Maritime Bank of New York from the tax haven of Antigua and Barbuda, and even the Brazilian Edmundo Safra:
“Edmond Safra’s Banco Safra of New York branch took over 20% of Rappaport’s Inter Maritime Bank of New York. Beginning in 1992 with the plunder of Russia by the CIA through handpicked oligarchs such as Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky, the Safra Bank was immersed in the laundering of billions for Yeltsin’s select circle of oligarchs.”
Throughout this plunder, Putin held high government posts as deputy director of the Yeltsin administration’s Asset Management department. In July 1998, he was appointed director of the Federal Security Service (FSB, successor to the KGB), a position which, from March of the following year, he held simultaneously with that of secretary of the National Security Council. Beginning in 1999, Putin took control of the country, reestablishing strategic sectors such as oil, gas and defense, reestablishing the status that the country had under the USSR. Putin, then leader of the oligarchy that operationalized capitalist restoration, defeated opponents of the left and right, respectively, led by the CPRF, and the opposition wing of the capitalist oligarchy.
In his Bonapartism, Putin projects himself alongside China in world political geopolitics, setting limits to US domination, in Ukraine, mainly in Syria, and currently in Venezuela. Putin and Lavrov conquered a new space for Russia in the world, after the debacle of the 90s to the point that the country became a world leader for the manufacture and export of tactical and strategic weapons, missile systems, such as Avangard, hypersonic weapons, and Sputinik V vaccines against the pandemic.
But in 2019-2020, Russia’s economic and social situation worsened. The global recession has affected the Russian economy. Economic difficulties intensified with the COVID-19 epidemic. Putin tries to serve the appetites of the employer’s oligarchy in a country deeply plagued by imperialist sanctions. In this context, the growing poverty and concentration of capital deepens.
In an article the Communist Party of the Russian Federation denounces this:
“Today, in Russia, there is colossal social inequality, tens of thousands of companies have gone bankrupt, citizens’ real income has fallen for the seventh consecutive year. The health care system is chronically underfunded and therefore cannot provide high quality medical care, the country is dying: the death rate last year exceeded the birth rate by 700,000.”
The wage losses have been huge, 15% already during the year 2021. On February 1, these losses totalled 1.87 billion roubles, as recorded by Tass. The biggest costs for workers’ families are housing. According to Rosstat, in 2020, the average salary in Russia was 30,500 rubles. But to buy a one-room apartment in any Russian settlement, with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg, you need a salary of 100,000 rubles a month. (Experts said how much you need to earn to buy an “odnushka” https://1prime.ru/finance/20210215/833038955.html ). One in five Russian families is a mortgage slave.
The regime uses justifications of controlling the pandemic and the need to defend against imperialist agents to restrict democratic rights also for the leftist opposition.
“However, under the guise of the coronavirus epidemic, we were denied permission to hold this public event. At the same time, contrary to the rules of the law, employees did not even bother to offer alternative sites or other formats for carrying out the action. We were simply told: no.
In all official, “pro-government” media, appeals are constantly heard: not to go to uncoordinated protest actions, to respect the law. At the same time, the ruling party has not only tightened legislation on public events in recent months, but has also deliberately blocked any possibility of rallies, demonstrations and pickets being held legally. Thus, the ruling party itself provokes and pushes people into illegal and uncoordinated forms of protest actions. People simply have no other choice.
We emphasize that the Communist Party has always defended the observance of the law. But none of our notifications about holding public events in central Krasnodar, including the days of the Red Army, Red May Day, Great Victory, Great October, sacred to millions of citizens, have been agreed upon in recent years. The authorities, at best, mockingly suggested that we go to the outskirts of the city.”
Krasnodar region. Statement by the Communist Party Regional Committee On the holding of public events by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on February 23, 2021, ibid
This strangulation of political rights both for the right and for the left organizations leading the working class, helps the right-wing and imperialism, just as in the time of the USSR the policy of bureaucratic repression of Stalinism favoured imperialist anti-communist and Russophobic propaganda in the name of freedom and democracy.
However, even taking into account the largest pro-Navalny demonstrations, uniting neo-Nazis, xenophobes, liberals, pro-Westerners and some pseudo-leftists, they were no more than 50,000 demonstrators in Moscow, a city with more than 12 million inhabitants.
What sense would it make to defend a movement that, in the name of democracy and historical freedom, that once victorious, expands the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie against oppressed workers, immigrants, religions and ethnicities?
For Marxists, democracy is a political system, not a universal value or principle. Bourgeois democracy is the democracy of the rich. Even if we are against the coups d’état orchestrated by imperialism and dictatorial bourgeois regimes, the defense of democratic rights under capitalism must be subordinated to the expansion of the struggle for the strategic interests of the exploited class, in order to reach a political system based on the democracy of and for the workers, the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.
So, the defense of democracy depends on the interests of social classes and the struggle between nations. In this case, it is a matter of defending the oppressed nation, Russia, from a hybrid, camouflaged war, making use of democratic struggles to drag the country back to the kind of destruction of living conditions experienced during the Yeltsin era. If successful, a colour revolution in Russia could have disastrous consequences for the struggle to end imperialist hegemony over the globe. So Navalny is not one of us and we shouldn’t move a finger to get him out of prison. If he depends on our efforts, he will rot.
In exceptional situations of hybrid war, where the country, in this case Russia is under an asymmetric imperialist offensive, as Belarus was a few months ago in acute form, we defend the right to organize and demonstrate only for parties and organizations that defend workers’ democracy, full union organization, those which are enemies of Western sanctions, privatizations, neoliberalism, imperialism, xenophobia and fascism. This dividing line marks the difference between the false defenders of democracy and imperialist freedom and the true defenders of the civil and democratic rights of the majority of the population. So, we do not defend Navalny and his pro-imperialist demonstrations, we defend the full rights of unions to demonstrate.
A decade ago after the imperialist “Arab Spring”, Iran, Russia and Syria were strengthened. USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia despair. To reverse the crisis of hegemony, Biden starts a new offensive.
Extracted from the Blog of the Grupo Emancipação do Trabalho
On the first day of the Biden government, a new operation was launched to invade Syria, with 200 soldiers and a convoy of 40 trucks loaded with weapons and logistics materials from the so-called US-led international coalition entered the interior of Hasaka via al-Walid crossing the northern border from Iraq into Syria. Trump had initiated a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Biden is trying to replace them. The Democrat named old foreign policy hawks, many of those responsible for Obama’s open and secretive interventions in Libya and Syria at the beginning of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
Since 2011, the Syrian government, with the support of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, has bravely resisted imperialist military offensives. That is why imperialism has been trying to overthrow the Lebanese government, by all possible means. Despite being hegemonized by neoliberals, the government is also composed of Hezbollah, Israel’s arch-enemy who heroically was at the forefront of the wars that defeated the Nazi-Zionist state, in 2006, in Lebanon itself, and in 2016, in Syria.
In Libya, more recently the hybrid war it counted on the explosion of the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, a sabotage, played in the lap of the Lebanese government and the journeys against corruption, led by agents of imperialism in the country. The purpose of the operation is to change the Lebanese regime. Now, during the Biden government, these demonstrations were augmented by protests against inflation, the economic crisis, which despite being just, are manipulated externally, following the same script of the so-called Arab Spring, triggered by popular dissatisfaction with the effects of the global economic crisis of 2008.
The new planetary emperor tries to reissue in an accelerated way, seeming to want to make up for lost time, the coup politics that he, as vice president, Obama and Hillary started almost a decade ago and that led to bloody massacres in Egypt, Libya and the endless war in Syria.
Pyrotechnics of Israel and real growing power of the heirs of the first superpower in history
Synchronized and at the forefront of the new offensive is the State of Israel. On January 13, 2021, the Zionist state propagated with great fanfare that it had carried out the biggest and deadliest air strike against Syria since the beginning of the war in 2011, murdering 57 people, explicitly claiming that its target was the militants of Iranian revolutionary guard in Syria.
It is worth remembering that the assassination of Soleimani, the main Iranian military leader, was the biggest military operation of the Trump administration.
But there is more to aerial pyrotechnics and marketing than concrete advances in the new coalition offensive that has been defeated inch by inch within Syria in the last decade, while the unity of the oppressed peoples of the region is consolidating. The US crisis strengthens its biggest enemy in the region. The decline of current imperialism supported by Nazi-Zionist policies, sponsorship of mercenary and bloodthirsty groups such as ISIS, and the cruel and growing siege against Iran since the 1979 revolution, contradictorily, has been catapulting Iranian regional leadership. It is worth remembering that Persia, now Iran, defeated the all-powerful Mesopotamia, liberated the Hebrews from the Babylonian Captivity and revolutionized politics, building the first superpower in world history.
As Magnier portrays:
“In Syria, a military source with decision-making power tells us that ‘Israel was able to target many military equipment and destroyed many hangars’. However, there are about half a million hangars in Syria that do not necessarily contain Iranian weapons and missiles. Is Israel planning to destroy them all? Is Israel able to eradicate Iranian forces and their allies? Is it a propaganda bombardment, serving (Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin) Netanyahu? Is Israel trying to attract sympathy from Western countries to collect financial assistance? Is the goal to have unconditional Western support for all Israel’s actions? Israel is undoubtedly trying to demonize Iran, although Iran’s presence in Syria is at the official request of the government. Israel has failed to expel Iran from Syria despite all its shouts and bombings. Today Iran has established a massive presence in Syria that before the Syrian war had been denied to both Iran and its allies, in Al-Mayadeen, Albu Kamal, Deir Ezzor, T3, Al-Sukhnah, Kajab and Palmyra, reaching Homs. Likewise, centers were established in Handarat, north of Aleppo.”
“Israel began to carry out defensive manoeuvres for fear that its enemy could move forward and take a position in the territories it is occupying, mainly in northern Israel that borders southern Lebanon. Israeli strategic efforts have failed to stop Hezbollah from stockpiling its Iranian precision missiles. It also failed to push Iran out of Syria even when it enjoyed four years of unlimited support from the Trump administration and a friendly Russian presence. Netanyahu hid under Putin’s cloak to bomb Syria. Even so, Iran is in Syria to stay. Israel lost both the battle and the war. ‘You can continue performing your air show as long as Russia does not stop you’, concluded the source.
Elijah J. Magnier, Does Russia turn a blind eye to Israeli bombings in Syria?
In fact, considering that the geopolitical result of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was not the strengthening of the USA or Israel but of Iran over the whole of Iraq; whereas the result of the “Arab Spring” in the Arabian peninsula was not the stabilization of the dominance of the Saudi Arabian dictatorship over the region, but its defeat by an infinitely weaker military force, the Yemeni guerrillas, supported by Iran; whereas Lebanese Hezbollah, driven by Iran’s revolutionary guard were, alongside Russia and Assad’s own forces, this imposed the most humiliating defeat of the Zionist-American front in Syria,
At the base of this expansion of its geopolitical power is the expansion of its economic and cultural power, despite all the sanctions and sabotages imposed by the USA and Israel on the Persian nation. The integration of the peoples of the region against imperialism takes place concretely through the Iran-Iraq-Syria Plan to advance the historic Transnational Railroad ‘Land-Bridge’ (in literal translation, Earth Bridge), as the arm of the Chinese mega project of the new silk road (Belt and Road Initiative) in the region, bridging the gap between China and the Mediterranean via a land route through the Middle East.
At the same time, Russia is increasing its forces in Syria. The Moscow Armed Forces have sent more reinforcements and heavy military equipment to Al-Qamishli airport as they reinforce their presence east of the Euphrates River. The Russian Armed Forces have sent more troops to the front line with the Turkish military near the key city of Tal Tamr. Between Russia and Turkey there is a permanent relationship of tension and association. Russia has also recently sent more ships to patrol Syria’s Mediterranean coast from the naval base at Tartus.
Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia
Turkey seeks to crush any Kurdish organization within Syrian territory. Kurds are an oppressed nationality with no state or territory of their own, inhabiting Turkey (15 million), Syria and Iraq and 23 other countries. During the Syrian civil war that started in 2011, President Bashar al-Ássad issued a decree granting citizenship to inhabitants of Kurdish origin, which they have been deprived of since 1962. However, a fraction of the Kurds who present themselves as “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) was created, sponsored and armed by the United States, which also supported Islamic State, Al Qaeda and every mercenary band imaginable to overthrow the Assad government. In order not to allow Syria to become a strong military base for the Kurdish opposition, Turkey made several military incursions into Syrian territory. Imperialism then sponsors a war of chaos whose main victim is the Syrian population. The SDF is fighting the government of Syria and Turkey, which is also fighting the government of Syria to control the region occupied by the SDF.
“A siege was imposed by the SDF in the cities of Al-Hasakah and Qamishli, closing the entrances and exits of neighbourhoods controlled by the Syrian army and preventing food supplies from reaching them.”
US-sponsored Kurdish separatists besiege Syrian cities in Hasakah https://www.syrianews.cc/us-sponsored-kurdish-sdf-separatists-besiege-syrian-cities-in-hasakah
A few months ago, the Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out between Turkey-backed Azerbaijan and Armenia, which wanted but did not obtain military support from Russia. Faced with the crisis of imperialism’s hegemony, Turkey tries to expand its influence in the transcontinental region where it is located, participating in disputes in Syria, Iraq, the Mediterranean and the Caucasus. It seeks to expand its domains in regions where NATO control has been weakened. Without Putin’s support for Armenia, Azerbaijan won the war. The Armenian government, of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, a liberal very close to European capital who came to power through a “velvet revolution”. The Armenian defeat sparked strong street protests in the country calling for Pashinyan’s resignation to the cry of “Nikol traitor” “Armenia without Nikol”.
Rome does not pay traitors. This is the fate of Putin’s faltering allies, of the rulers of countries that were former workers’ states when they flirt with the Atlanticist West. They are hit or almost by the West itself. So it was with the governments of Ukraine (Yanukóvytch), Bieolorussia (Lukashenko) and now with Armenia (Pashinyan). In the latter case of the Azerbaijan-Armenian war, a Turkish victory may not be a Russian defeat, but a defeat for imperialism.
Everything indicates that the next period will be one of more desperate actions by imperialism and Zionism in the region. The more they lose ground, the greater their savagery. As the Bolshevik revolutionary taught us “In the period of the crisis, the hegemony of the United States will be more complete, more open and unforgiving than in the period of prosperity.” Leon Trotsky, Critique of the Programme of the Communist International, 1928.
However, while we unconditionally defend Iran against the US and Israel, we warn that the current Iranian president is sowing confusion. Sheikh Hassan Rohani, both for being a friendly interlocutor of imperialism within the Iranian state bureaucracy and for representing the interests of the Persian bourgeoisie, does not deserve any confidence from the workers in the anti-imperialist struggle.
In this dispute, workers around the world have a side. They are on the opposite side from imperialism, Israel, Saudi Arabia and all their political and military agents, responsible for the coups, hunger, misery and for making the pandemic more deadly against the majority of the world’s population. Therefore, what benefits the oppressed and exploited in the world is the defeat of this imperialist offensive and its hybrid war. Marxists fight with their working-class brothers and oppressed peoples anywhere on the planet against big world capital, pointing out that no victory is enough for us in the capitalist frameworks and defend a program and strategy independent of the governments facing imperialism.
The public difference of opinion among comrades of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI) about the Trump insurrection on Jan 6th has given rise to a rather odd and self-contradictory polemic from Gerry Downing, the possessor of the stolen website of the now defunct Socialist Fight group, which very rarely publishes a serious article about current developments these days, being more a vehicle for Gerry to reblog whatever takes his fancy from elsewhere.
The polemic is so incredibly badly written that it can only be considered a product both of political degeneration and loss of logical focus. One unmistakeable example of this is that he repeatedly gets the names of the organisations that he claims, disingenuously, to be loyal to, wrong, and repeats these errors throughout the text. He at least gets the name of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International right when he spells it out in full at the beginning of the article, but then throughout the text he renders its initials as “LRCI”.
These are the old initials of another organisation, one that is defunct, the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) that was once led by the British Workers Power group, also now defunct. Some of its surviving people set up a faction in the Corbynite Labour Party, called Red Flag, which appears to have sunk without trace. [Author’s Correction: this is partly erroneous. Red Flag is not defunct, its website can be found at www.redflagonline.org. It does have considerable continuity with the old Workers Power, though its original leading figure Richard B. broke with them quite early on and seems unfortunately to be influenced by the arguments of trans-exclusionists.]
This might seem like trivia. Except, someone who complains bitterly about being spurned and treated badly by an organisation when he can not even be bothered to get their name correct, repeatedly, is not serious either about his adherence or his complaints. It suggests unseriousness and playing games. He complains that:
“When the Socialist Fight split from the supporters of Ian Donavan almost a year ago, we were extremely disappointed that the LRCI and a few others in Britain effectively supported Ian’s position, despite differences.”
It is interesting that Gerry Downing now admits that he ‘split’ from half his own organisation ‘almost a year ago’. At the time, he claimed that I and my ‘supporters’ had been ‘expelled’ from Socialist Fight. His use of the word ‘supporters’ is illustrative of his mentality. In fact, the other members of SF who refused to accede to Gerry’s antics were not my ‘supporters’. They were comrades who still agreed with the political positions of Socialist Fight on Zionism that Gerry himself agreed with over the preceding five years and had even defended on the Daily Politics national television programme in 2016, against Andrew Neil, and Phil Collins of the Jewish Labour Movement.
An organisation with defined, coherent politics, does not have ‘supporters’ of individuals in the cult-like manner that Gerry implies. It has self-motivated people who can defend those politics independently, and just because one individual in the group changes his mind on a whim, do not change in sympathy like weathervanes. In fact, the Trotskyist Faction has the same basic politics as the old, pre-split SF. It is quite clearly Gerry’s politics that have changed.
The article headlined about our ‘expulsion’ is still on the website, even though Gerry now openly admits that he split the group. The petty despotism and casual confession to a lie is characteristic of the sloppiness that pervades the whole piece. And it underlines a very basic point about honesty in politics, as in life.
The point being – do not tell lies! Not only for moral reasons, but simply because if you publish lies, you must always remember what lies you told. If you later inadvertently admit to the truth, you stand exposed for the original lie. Publishing a lie on a stolen website does not make it the truth. Gerry now accepts that the international tendency rejected his attempt to exclude our faction. He tried to exclude our comrades from the LCFI’s internal forums, but the tendency rejected that. His exclusionist position was a small minority of the tendency, and in terms of full members, only he wholeheartedly supported it.
Regarding the latter, not only did the LCFI not exclude comrade Downing and his operation, but he was also invited to draft the statement. This was met by a non-committal answer from him and no draft statement. After a period of waiting in vain for a draft, comrades internationally realised we were being strung along and alternative drafting arrangements were made. This statement was then signed by both sections in Britain, though Gerry’s SF played no role in its production.
We do not demand full political agreement within the international tendency on all disputed questions. Part of our modus operandi as a tendency is the right to publicly disagree when significant differences of opinion arise and must be debated. We reject secretive debates about disputed questions and consider that the error that brought about that norm in the Trotskyist movement, inherited from the early Comintern but not the Bolshevik Party, has played an important role in the crisis and degeneration of the Trotskyist movement in the post war period. The struggle for programmatic clarity in the pre-1917 Russian revolutionary movement was never subordinated to false public unanimity.
Notwithstanding this, it became clear that Gerry was just not interested in the joint activities that the LCFI was undertaking, and his SF signature did not mean much. We do however ask for collaboration and openness where differences exist. The next major event we produced a statement on was on the Trump administration’s open endorsement of the Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and whole swathes of the West Bank, in July. Our Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank was firm in its Marxist anti-Zionism and included some sharp characterisations that we knew full well that Gerry would not endorse, though he would have had no trouble endorsing them before his capitulation before the Labour Party witch-hunt against supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ at the end of 2019. He had made his views on the former SF view of Zionism clear months earlier and it would have been perverse and unprincipled to ask him to sign this.
For instance, the statement contained the following passage, which Gerry would have had severe difficulties with:
“Political Zionism always was a genocidal project, which modelled itself on the colonial-settler projects spawned by British expansionism in the early capitalist era, where the settlers took the country off the indigenous population of the territories they colonised, and subjected them to enslavement and extermination. The Zionist apologists who claim that the persecution and discrimination against Jews in the late Medieval period and the beginnings of anti-Semitism in the modern era somehow excuse that, overlook this affinity with the other colonial movements that drove that. This was always a movement, right from the start, that aspired to oppress and eliminate the Arab inhabitants of the territory it coveted.
“They overlook the specifically Jewish chauvinism that drove the Zionist movement from its beginnings in the later 19th Century, when it went about seeking sponsors among archaic great powers and modern imperialists alike, finally managing to get the support of the British Empire. The 1917 Balfour Declaration; the handing over of Palestine to a third-party colonial movement ultimately to expel its native population was among British imperialism’s most insidious crimes. Thus when we talk about the genocidal character of Zionism, we are talking about it in the same breath not only as National Socialism and the Hitler movement in Germany, of which it is like a mirror image, but also as the genocidal creation of the United States through the destruction of native Americans, of Australia through the destruction of black native Australians, and other such acts of barbarism.
Gerry rejects the comparison of political Zionism with Nazism, the view that its real logic points to genocide of the Palestinian Arab population. This is shown by some of the ridiculous smears against TF comrades in his article, where he absurdly writes:
“Ian believes that Zionism is a far greater danger to humanity’s future than fascism and no one in the ranks of the LRCI in the Americas publicly demurred.” .
Downing, ibid above
This is an outright lie, and a particularly foolish one. He does not quote any statement where either myself, the TF or the LCFI say that political Zionism is ‘worse’ than fascism. The statement above explicitly ‘talk(s) about it in the same breath’ as ‘National Socialism and the Hitler movement in Germany’ and ‘the genocidal creation of the United States through the destruction of native Americans’. We consider these things fundamentally similar.
His allegation is evasive and dishonest, as shown in the following smear. He writes that in a detailed discussion of the precise nature and limits of different forms of colonialism I wrote to him on Facebook:
“If you understood why political Zionism is worse than apartheid and Jim Crow, you might gain some insight. Clue: read Moshé Machover on different types of settler colonialism. If you understand that, you might understand why [Alan] Dershowitz [arch-Zionist] is worse than David Duke. Some forms of colonialism are genocidal. Some are not.”
Apparently, this important nuance is supposed to show that I am an admirer of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. What they really show is that Gerry is defending Zionists against charges of being a genocidal project. This is apologetics for anti-Arab racism from Gerry, disguised with the kind of smears the Zionist witchhunters in the Labour Party trade in.
Settler Colonialism: Genocidal vs Exploitative
The point about there being different types of settler colonialism, some genocidal, some not, is a basic distinction that was even known to Karl Marx. It was elaborated by the Israeli Marxist organisation Matzpen, as Moshe Machover relates, thus:
“Shortly before the 1967 June war, we in the Israeli socialist organisation Matzpen … making what we regarded as an elementary Marxist observation, drew the following distinction between two types of colonisation:
‘The Zionist colonisation of Palestine differs in one basic respect from the colonisation of other countries: whereas in other countries the settlers established their economy upon the exploitation of the labour of the indigenous inhabitants, the colonisation of Palestine was carried out through the replacement and expulsion of the indigenous population.’ (‘The Palestine problem and the Israeli-Arab dispute’, statement by the Israeli Socialist Organization (Matzpen), May 18 1967)
“By ‘other countries’ we meant the main contemporary arenas of liberation struggle by colonised peoples: Algeria, which a few years earlier had won its independence from France (then Israel’s main imperialist sponsor); and South Africa (whose apartheid regime was a close ally of Israel).
Naturally, we were aware that Palestine was by no means one of a kind: historically there had been other places – such as North America and Australia – where the indigenous people were displaced and for the most part excluded from the settlers’ political economy, rather than being exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects.”
This distinction is straightforward, between a colonised people being potentially subjected to genocide, or not. Machover and Matzpen highlight the similarity of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine with the colonisation of North America and Australia. What happened to the Native Americans and Native Australians was such exclusion; these populations were expendable to the conquerors and in peril of genocide, which subsequently happened in some places. Machover himself distinguishes that from other situations, such as Algeria and apartheid South Africa where the indigenous population were “exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects.”
Gerry pretends not to understand the basic distinction here, to smear his critics. He pretends that it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to make this point and amounts to “admiration for Ku Klux Klan man David Duke” because I said that political Zionists such as Alan Dershowitz and Dave Rich are worse than the Klan and the system of ‘Jim Crow’ segregation of black former slaves that the terrorist KKK instituted after the US Civil war
In contrast to the genocide that was carried out against native Americans, Jim Crow was a system of apartheid, like South Africa. The US black population was not indigenous to the Americas but had been kidnapped by slave traders and shipped from Africa, not just to the United States, but to many other parts of the American super-continent, in the preceding few centuries. These were terrible crimes, committed by European slavers, that killed many millions, one of the greatest crimes in human history, entirely comparable to the Nazi holocaust.
But Jim Crow was a specifically post-slavery form of racist oppression. It emerged after the abolition of slavery and the US Civil War, and its relationship with the subjugated black population fits Moshe Machover’s definition, where the oppressed population were “exploited and thereby integrated as subjugated, but indispensable subjects”. The Ku Klux Klan were not and could not be a genocidal movement, not because of any moral objection, but because the wholesale slaughter or even ethnic cleansing of the black population would mean that whites would have to do their work as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” which they were simply not prepared to tolerate. So, for all the subjugation and terror, the social base of the Ku Klux Klan needed the black population and could not exterminate them.
But Zionism can quite conceivably exterminate the Palestinians because the Zionist colonisation is that of the exclusion type, not the exploitation type, as Machover put it. Ronnie Kasrils, of the SACP and ANC in South Africa, was making the same point when he said that Zionism is worse than South African apartheid. It is also worse than Jim Crow. It is closer to Hitlerism for the genocidal threat it poses to the Palestinian people.
Gerry tries to make out that to make this point is some sort of endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. Utter nonsense and a pathetic lie whose obvious purpose is to excuse his citation of other smears and half-truths by the Zionists Dershowitz and Dave Rich in his smear-fest to justify wrecking Socialist Fight. Dershowitz, Trump’s lawyer, is possibly the most prominent Zionist Nakba-denying pseudo-academic in the United States, a genocidal racist whose apologias for the persecution of the Palestinians rivals David Irving’s apologias for Hitler’s persecution and slaughter of the Jews. His tract The Case for Israel was comprehensively torn apart by Norman Finkelstein in his work Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Dave Rich is also a clear defender of the Nakba whose response to those who make comparisons between the Nazi persecution of Jews and the Zionist treatment of Palestinians is very clear:
“Comparing the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust performs several functions. Its political goal is to undermine the idea that the Holocaust provided a moral justification and a practical need for the creation of a Jewish state.”
The Left’s Jewish Problem, Kindle edition, loc 2875
Which is as clear a case of ‘moral justification’ (hardly ‘denial’!) of the Nakba in the name of the Nazi holocaust as you are likely to find anywhere.
Marxism and the Jewish Question
The real target of Gerry’s fulminations against the fact that we refused, and still refuse, to join in the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ against the Israeli-Jewish renegade jazz player and confused thinker Gilad Atzmon, was not actually Gilad Atzmon. It was SF’s positions on the Jewish Question and Zionism. We have already dealt with Dave Rich’s mangling of Atzmon’s texts, which are typical of Zionist smears against anti-Zionists of Middle Eastern origin, whether Arab or Jewish, to portray them as Nazis, etc. Since Gerry endorses this, we wonder if he would endorse similar Zionist fulminations against other organic Middle Eastern figures like Nasser, the Assads, Arafat, Ahmedinejad, who also exhibit softness on fascist, as opposed to ‘democratic’ imperialism. The Western far right does get a hearing among the angriest anti-Zionists in and from the Middle East and all the Zionist-influenced fulminations in the world will not undermine that.
These views exist because democratic ‘imperialism’ was sponsoring the genocidal Zionist project before anyone had even heard of Hitler. And Rich provenly engages in quotation-chopping falsification of Atzmon’s writings to make the phoney allegation of ‘fascism’ that Gerry now endorses, after having defended Atzmon for years despite knowing full well the nature of his confused views for all that time. Rich’s own attitude to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is genuinely fascistic and genocidal. Nothing in Atzmon’s writings endorses any such crimes. The most you will find is some scepticism about the crimes of the Nazis, a widespread view in the Middle East among Zionism’s victims and their partisans, including a few Jewish ones.
Not that Atzmon is correct on many things or a model of clarity, but there is enough useful, indeed pioneering material in his writings on Jewish identity to make them worthy of study in seeking to understand the Jewish question and aspects of the Middle East, despite his many errors on other matters. Just as Hegel’s writings are worthy of study for Marxists even though Hegel admired the Prussian monarchy and Napoleon.
We have already replied to these falsifications, at length, almost a year ago in our first public statement as a faction (Trotskyist Faction takes on the mantle of Socialist Fight). Imitating Zionist propagandists writing in the gutter press, Gerry repeats Rich’s nonsense as if it had never been replied to or deconstructed, hoping no one will ever read the refutation. But now we come to the SF views that Gerry was really attacking – Atzmon was just a decoy. They are laid out clearly in the agreed July 2020 LCFI Statement on the Israel/Trump Annexation Plans in the West Bank. It spoke of the …
“need for active solidarity from the workers movement in the West, in countries like the United States and Britain that arm Israel to the teeth against the Palestinians and against other forces in the region seeking liberation from Zionist aggression. This is an extremely difficult task right now because of the very powerful position of the Israel lobby in most of these countries. This was shown graphically by the massive Zionist-led campaign to destabilise and destroy the very moderately pro-Palestinian leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Labour Party over the last several years.
LCFI Annexation, op-cit above
…and then elaborated the Marxist explanation for the ‘very powerful position’ of the Israel lobby that was the public position of Socialist Fight (even defended by Gerry himself on the TV Programme Daily Politics in March 2016), highlighted in our propaganda between 2015 and the beginning of 2020, when Gerry Downing renounced it:
“There is an additional level of complexity and difficulty for socialists and revolutionaries in many advanced countries, particularly in Europe and North America, in delivering solidarity with the Palestinians. Not only do they have to deal with the ‘normal’ attitude of ‘their’ bourgeoisies to a liberation struggle against one of its allies, but they also have to deal with a specific faction within the ruling class, which based on its Jewish origin and an ethnocentric Zionist variant of bourgeois politics, regards Israel as ‘its’ state and fights just as hard for the interest of Israel as it does for the interests of the imperialists country in which it resides.
“This unique overlap of the ruling class of Israel with that of other imperialist countries creates a situation where it is doubly difficult, in current conditions, to deliver real, meaningful solidarity with the Palestinians in those countries as distinct from those engaged in ‘simpler’, more conventional struggles against one’s own ruling class, such as in Ireland or Vietnam in the past. Nevertheless, there is no evading this question, and the international movement has the right to insist that its sections in Israel’s imperialist allied countries address this difficult problem in their political material and agitational work.”
The whole of Gerry Downing’s series of smears against his own collaborators in early 2020 were aimed at repudiating this position, while covering this with a great big smokescreen about the alleged fascist sympathies of those who adhered to it. Thus, after weeks of fulminating about alleged creeping ‘fascism’ in Socialist Fight, he finally bit the bullet and renounced the position he had defended for nearly five years after he was won to it in 2015:
“We now repudiate the use of the term ‘the world ‘Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’ and the whole notion of a Jewish-Zionist imperialist vanguard as antisemitic tropes. We will in future use the term ‘Zionism’ alone in describing the political tendency within the Jewish ethnicity that commits such dreadful crimes under international law against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and those expelled Palestinians primarily in 1948, ‘67 and ‘73, all of whom have the right of return.
This in order to distinguish the right wing Israeli government under Netanyahu and its international supporters from all anti-Zionist Jews and Jews who strongly defend the right of the Palestinians under international law. Nor do we now agree that it is appropriate to continually refer to Jews such as Henry Kissinger and Milton Friedman as ‘overrepresented among the most strident spokespeople for capitalist reaction’ without openly recognising that they are doing so primarily as representative of the interests of imperialist capitalism as in the Pinochet coup in Chile against Allende in 1973 and not as any separate Jewish influence or conspiracy.”
So, Gerry attacked the political perspective he had been won to five years earlier as ‘anti-Semitic’. And to do so, he again had to tell lies. There is no instance in which Socialist Fight, or our Faction ever used the term “the world Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie” in any of its documents. Its inclusion in double quotes, which indicates a literal quote, is a literal lie. It is a crude piece of innuendo implying that we are sympathetic to Nazism, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But the genesis of our understanding of the importance of ‘overrepresentation’ of Jews among the bourgeoisie in the current world situation is to be found in Abram Leon’s seminal work The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation, where he talks about the overrepresentation of Jews among the NEPmen, the capitalist traders who were legalised under the Bolshevik regime in the period of the New Economic Policy in the early 1920s:
“… The example of the USSR shows that even after the proletarian revolution, the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history—will give rise to a number of difficulties, particularly during the transition periods. During the time of the NEP, for instance, the Jews of Russia, utilising their traditional business experience, furnished numerous cadres for the new bourgeois class.”
“Numerous cadres” says Leon. Obviously, the reason these cadres were seen as ‘numerous’ is that they were out of proportion to the numbers of Jews in the general population. Otherwise, they would not have been seen as ‘numerous’, and their presence would not have been noteworthy. In other words, Leon noted that the overrepresentation of Jews among this particular bourgeois layer, a product of “the special structure of Judaism – a heritage of history” – “will give rise to a number of difficulties…”. It is indeed a ‘heritage of history” … and analysing the special complexities, or ‘difficulties’ such overrepresentation presents today is simply an application of the method Leon used in his seminal work.
This phenomenon produced ‘difficulties’ – arguably it produced in embryo a ‘Jewish’ social base for a potential threat of capitalist restoration in Russia (which may go some way to explaining the elements of anti-Semitism that surfaced when after 1928 the Stalinists bureaucratically abolished NEP in a blind panic). But it would be absurd to accuse those who report the facts about this phenomenon, of ‘anti-Semitism’. The overrepresentation of Jewish bourgeois, who are mainly Zionists, among the imperialist bourgeoisie likewise provides the social base for the strength of the Zionist faction/lobby in the imperialist countries. According to Downing, reporting the truth of this is an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and a conspiracy theory. Reporting the facts is ‘anti-Semitic’. Nonsense! This is an attack on Marxism, not anti-Semitism, an attack on historical materialism itself driven by capitulation to Zionism.
The special class structure and history of Judaism is obviously key to understanding why Jewish intellectuals played a major, progressive role in the working-class movement in the early period of capitalism and imperialism. Though Jews were certainly an oppressed population in late medieval times and the earlier period of capitalism, and that certainly drove their radicalisation to the left, it was always the case that Jews, because of their ‘special structure and history’ (to paraphrase Leon) were considerably different to other oppressed peoples. They had a different culture and history, something driven not by considerations of ‘race’, but rather a different historical relationship to production: class.
The difference is shown by the different history and results of superficially similar movements to Zionism, movements like the ‘Back to Africa’ movement among former slaves from North America, and to an extent Britain, that created the states of Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa.
The ‘Back to Africa’ movements among the descendants of black slaves were not capable of overcoming the oppression and degradation that had been inflicted upon these populations for centuries. These states became impoverished semi-colonies after independence from colonialism with a history that has been worse in many ways than nearby African states that were not the product of such slave-descended movements. Israel, on the other hand, which had a superficially similar ethos of exile and homecoming, produced radically different results, as Israel is now an important imperialist power, such that the Jerusalem Post in 2015 boasted:
“Israel has the sixth most powerful army in the world, more than capable of destroying the countries around it, and most of its “power” does not stem from its massive manpower, but from its weapons. It could scale back 80% of its manpower and still have one of the most powerful fighting forces in the world.”
Obviously, there was a fundamental difference between these movements, and the reason is not hard to find. Leon puts his finger on the reason when he talks about “the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history”. Through Leon never foresaw nor lived to see this, that special structure and history meant that unlike Garveyism and the like, Zionism was a viable strategy for the liberation of the Jewish people from their historic oppression. Whether or not the Zionist ideologues and pioneers were aware of it – something that needs more study – this is obviously true, as Jews in the advanced countries are now a population that has special protection from the bourgeoisie, not a pariah population (though residual anti-Semitism still exists among backward sections of the masses).
Unfortunately, Zionism’s strategy for liberation of the Jews also meant Jews joining the world’s oppressor peoples, something that was only possible because of what Leon called “the special structure of Judaism—a heritage of history”. Though Leon himself did not think this was possible – he believed that:
“capitalist decay—basis for the growth of Zionism—is also the cause of the impossibility of its realisation. The Jewish bourgeoisie is compelled to create a national state, to assure itself of the objective framework for the development of its productive forces, precisely in the period when the conditions for such a development of the productive forces have long since disappeared.
Leon was too much influenced by Trotsky’s one-sided and wrong view of the possibilities for the development of the productive forces under imperialism. The view of the 1938 Transitional Programme, that no real development of the productive forces would be possible after the coming imperialist war, was incorrect, contradicted by some of Trotsky’s earlier writings when he was perhaps under less extreme political pressure, and falsified by events. In fact, the growth of the productive forces in the new, albeit temporary, situation of imperialist boom after WWII did indeed allow (part of) the Jewish bourgeoisie to create and consolidate a kind of state, carved out of the living body of the Palestinian people. Not a genuine nation-state, but an oppressor, imperialist state that developed crucial links to a Jewish layer among the bourgeoisie in the older imperialist countries, which made it into an unusual, oppressor, imperialist state with an internationalised, ethnocentric social base and a longevity that has so far not been reversed in three quarters of a century.
In repudiating criticism of the specific elements of Zionist communalism that were a key part of the political makeup of major pioneers of neoliberalism like Kissinger and Friedman, he is saying that their role in the creation of neoliberalism and the rearmament of imperialism is completely accidental.
This implicitly condemns not only ourselves, but the whole historiography of those who have sought to explain the vanguard role of Jewish militants in the workers movement in the earlier period, the role of such as Marx, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Jogiches, Joffe, and for that matter Abram Leon. The vanguard role of Jewish militants was no accident, it was a product of the profound intellectual ferment generated by destruction of the Jews’ unique social position in medieval European society. It was as much a product of “the special structure of Judaism – a heritage of history” as its dialectical negation in the late 20th Century through the vanguard role of Jewish bourgeois intellectuals in developing neoliberalism. Which is linked to the ability of Zionism to transform Jews in radically changed and changing circumstances from an oppressed, pariah layer into one of the dominant, oppressor peoples, again a product of this special structure and history of the Jews.
But for Gerry, to address these questions as Marxists and to try to critically extend Leon’s method and follow in his footsteps, is to deal in “anti-Semitic tropes”. This implicitly condemns Abram Leon himself, and others like Deutscher who have touched on these matters. What utter degradation of the things Socialist Fight fought for before Gerry capitulated before the Zionist onslaught!
Downing’s Rump SF and the Pandemic
It is complete nonsense that our consistent anti-Zionist positions mean any softness by us on fascism or the conspiracy theories those adapting to it often espouse. Gerry has been trying to spread confusion about this for the past year, but in fact it is among the small group of his sympathisers that such nonsense took root, as personified by the Dutch sympathiser Wilhelm Specklin, who solidarized with all the worst smears against the Trotskyist faction about our alleged sympathy for ‘fascism’ and still repeats this rubbish to this day.
Specklin is now a virulent anti-vaxxer and anti-masker who dismisses the Covid-19 pandemic as a ‘plandemic’, denounces ‘backward’ trade unionists for demanding quarantine measures, PPE and temporary closures of schools to safeguard workers from Covid infection, considers that Covid-19 is a conspiracy waged by Bill Gates and the 5G mobile companies to control the world through vaccinations (others include Soros in the conspiracy), and in discussion has said that he regards Donald Trump as an ally of his form of ‘socialism’.
Specklin expressed support for the QAnon nonsense about how Trump is somehow fighting against a paedophile faction within the American establishment, which is particularly bizarre given the documented involvement of Trump and Dershowitz with the child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was in the power of Trump’s Justice Department when he supposedly killed himself. Many reasonably suspect that he was killed because he knew too much. We excluded Specklin from our public Facebook discussion group on 21 September for inviting someone he knew regarded themself as a fascist to our group.
The irony is that Specklin has similar views to Gilad Atzmon on the pandemic, which he also sees as a ‘plandemic’. But Atzmon does not spend his time trolling the left about this. Specklin does. We not only expelled Specklin from our forum for his associations with (real) self-described fascists (not for his views on the pandemic per se). We also drew attention of Gerry to his positions and behaviour and fully participated with some of Gerry’s loose associates in combatting him in other forums. Eventually, on 2nd December, Gerry announced his ‘expulsion’ from his rump operation, undoubtedly on the same flagrantly arbitrary basis as his earlier announcement of our ‘expulsion’. But it took him a very long time.
So, Gerry’s antipathy for our consistent, anti-racist anti-Zionism did not stop conspiracy-mongering rubbish from seeping into his own rump, heterogenous milieu. Indeed, Trump’s virulent pro-Zionism may have had something to do with the reason why it was tolerated so long for Specklin to argue that he was an ally. After all, if Trump’s arch-Zionist lawyer Dershowitz could be a source of political ammunition against others on the left, why not Trump himself?
Political blocs versus Military Resistance
And now we have Gerry’s absurd polemic accusing the Trotskyist Faction of making a ‘Popular Front’ against Trump’s fascist forces simply by calling on those forces that were the target of Trump’s attempt to remain in power despite losing the Presidential Election, to use deadly force to crush the insurrectionists. Gerry seems to no longer understand what a popular front is. His whole polemic, from start to finish, confuses the question of military support to both openly bourgeois forces, and those of treacherous formations within the workers movement which are fundamentally loyal to capitalism, against fascist forces in both imperialist and non-imperialist countries, and against imperialist forces in semi-colonial countries, with political support to such forces.
Such is the confused melange that he comes up with that he manages to confuse the question both ways: in some cases, he advocates political support, i.e. voting, for outright bourgeois forces in semi-colonial countries. In other cases, by a feeble sleight of hand, he equates taking a side in an armed conflict with voting for a party in an election, as if they were the same thing. In both cases he is wrong:
Thus this passage is utter confusionism:
“The class independence of the proletariat must be maintained and defended all countries, in imperialist Britain no popular fronts with the Greens, the Scottish or Welsh Nationalists. But in semi-colonial Ireland and in South Africa, for instance, it was possible to critically support the IRA/Sinn Fein and the ANC/SACP as long as they directly fought imperialism. As soon as Sinn Fein crossed class lines with the Good Friday Agreement it was no longer possible to support them in any way. It was correct to call for a vote for the ANC in the first 1994 election where the black masses first got their elementary democratic right to vote but when Nelson Mandela supported the IMF’s neoliberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) programme of March 1996, then we were obliged to withdraw all support, critical or not.”
Downing, Donovan Errors etc, op cit
The problem is that the only trend advocating votes for, or political bloc with any bourgeois forces here, is Gerry. We don’t advocate any electoral support for the Greens, or the Scottish or Welsh nationalists, or the US Democrats, or even the social democrat Bernie Sanders, who tried to win the Presidential nomination of the bourgeois Democratic Party in the US. We only argue for votes, that is a political endorsement, however critical, for forces that stand in some defined manner for working class independence from all wings of capitalism. Bernie Sanders standing on a Democratic Party ticket does not add up to a vote for class independence: nor do candidates of the South African Communist Party standing on the ticket of the African National Congress.
There are sensitivities to questions involving oppression in situations like Ireland and South Africa, which have to be taken into account when determining electoral tactics. These might involve measures like declining to stand candidates against particular militant figures within such movements that symbolise the potential leading role of the working class in an element of the struggle against oppression, or even electoral support in exceptional circumstances where it is possible to make clear that we are supporting a struggle, not the programme of a party. Calling for a vote for Bobby Sands, for instance, in 1981, was support for a particular direct struggle against oppression, not support for Sinn Fein per se. Nevertheless, to call on the working class to cast their votes for parties that aim to represent a national bourgeoisie is a violation of class independence.
The logic of calling for a vote for the ANC, or Sinn Fein, is for would-be communists to enter the ANC or Sinn Fein … or the Kuomintang, as the misleadership of the Comintern under Stalin and Bukharin instructed the Chinese Communists to do in the late 1920s. It is a centrist position, that liquidates independent class politics, similar to the politics of Stalin and Bukharin in their centrist phase in the 1920s before the Comintern definitively became counterrevolutionary. This finally happened after Hitler’s victory and the consolidation of the Popular Front as a strategy of the Communist Parties forming coalitions with the bourgeoisie, whose purpose was to neutralise the possibility of revolution and hopefully convince the bourgeois that fascism was not ‘necessary’ to preserve its class rule.
So no, we will not call for votes for the Greens, or the Scottish or Welsh nationalists, in an election. But if a Green is elected, or a Scottish or Welsh nationalist, and fascists threaten the elected Green etc. representative, we will defend their democratic right to take office against the fascists. If fascists try to overturn by force the election of a Green, or a SNP or Plaid Cymru representative, we will defend the elected Green, SNP or PC representative against the fascists arms-in-hand if we have the means.
We will call on the working class to do so independently. And if state forces are in place, and formally they are supposed to defend the rights of the elected Green, SNP or PC representative to take office, we will demand they do so too. If they do not, we will condemn them. If the fascists launch terrorist attacks against the elected bodies concerned involving such people, we will demand that such forces use deadly force against the terrorists. If they fail to do so, perhaps because some of them are complicit with the fascists, we will condemn that.
Presumably, Gerry’s forces would sit there with arms folded and let the fascists get on with it, taking no side on the grounds that to defend the right of the elected Green, or Celtic nation nationalist, would be to join a ‘popular front’. Or they would insist that only independent workers militias should do this, even if there were none and they were in no position to create any right now. This would be a capitulation to fascism and a refusal to defend the democratic rights of the masses to elect a Green, or a SNPer, or a Plaid Cymru person, NOT any ‘principled’ opposition to popular fronts.
The same principle applies, writ large, in election in the United States, in an election under the leadership of a bourgeois party, with a somewhat undeserved liberal reputation, that nevertheless succeeded in mobilising the masses of black voters, of voters of various immigrant backgrounds, and those working-class voters with any modicum of partial class-consciousness who tend to support its minority, but significant, social democratic wing – the Sanders wing. A party that acts in many ways, as a popular front in the form of a party. Revolutionaries would not call for votes for them, not even for the social democratic, Sanders wing unless they take the minimal step of standing on an at least nominally independent working-class party ticket.
But if they win, in spite of our political opposition to them, and then fascists try to overthrow their victory, then the same scenario applies as in the hypothetical example of the election of Green, SNP, or Plaid MP’s elaborated above. If you refuse to defend the election victory of such a party against an attempt by fascist forces to overthrow it, you are not involved in any ‘principled’ opposition to popular fronts. What you are actually doing is refusing to defend the democratic rights of the masses who support the Democratic Party and hiding that capitulation with a great big load of abstract, pseudo-leftist verbiage.
This scenario at least has the benefit of being in tune with what actually happened. Most of the quotations that Gerry uses to justify his polemic are completely irrelevant to the issues in dispute, and light-years socially and politically from the situation that led to the Trump Beer-Hall coup. So, for the benefit of the reader who is trying to make sense of the issues at stake here, let us elaborate the real situation first in the 1930s, and today.
Fascism Before WWII and Under Neoliberalism
Fascism in the 1930s was the product of a counterattack by the bourgeoisie against strong working-class movements that threatened capitalism in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Germany prior to Hitler’s ascent to power had the strongest labour and socialist movement in Europe, possibly in the world. It had a mass Social Democratic party that was originally Marxist in its inspiration and which had the loyalty of the bulk of the working class and a strong trade union movement, a Communist Party that was also a mass party and organised many of the most radical workers and had a strong base among the unemployed. The bourgeoisie’s support for fascism was quite straightforwardly based on fear of the revolutionary potential of this strong, class-conscious labour movement. We are talking about a situation where historically high levels of class consciousness existed, and fascism was seen by the bourgeoisie as the antidote to that.
All the quotes Gerry drags in on various revolutionary events in the 1930s are based on that reality. The Spanish Civil War was a direct fight between an incipient proletarian revolution and the fascist leadership of the Spanish military. The Popular Front was a class collaborationist agreement between the small bourgeois factions and the leaders of the pro-capitalist worker parties, the Spanish Socialists (i.e Social-Democrats, the PSOE), the Stalinised Communist Party, and integral part of the Comintern, dominated by the Stalinist regime which was hostile to working class revolution and sought to secure its own survival through deals with imperialism. The whole tenor of the world situation was dominated by the fact in any major political disturbance, the class consciousness of the masses put proletarian revolution pretty immediately on the agenda, while fascism was the chosen method of the bourgeoisie to inflict historic defeats on the working class and destroy that class consciousness by totalitarian repression.
That repression was a key danger to the working class as fascism aimed to mobilise a mass reactionary movement based on the petit bourgeoisie, the lumpen-proletariat and the most backward sections of the working class, primarily to crush the relatively powerful organs of working-class democracy that had grown up as a result of the rise of mass trade unions, and the Second and Third Internationals. It aimed to crush those independent workers organisations and atomise the masses by a repression that also had a counterposed, reactionary mass base. At the same time, as a matter of course, such a reactionary overturn would inescapably mean the crushing of virtually every democratic right or gain that the masses had achieved under capitalism, even those not directly embodied in workers organisations in a formal sense.
That is not the situation today. We live in a world where Stalinism has collapsed and taken with it not only the high level of subjectively revolutionary class-consciousness that activated many of its militants, but also as a knock-on effect of its collapse, it has undermined and de-radicalised much of the left-wing of Social Democracy that had previously been influenced both by the Stalinists, and to a degree by the broader current of revolutionary working-class sentiment that came from the inspiration of the Russian revolution. Elements of class consciousness still exist in the masses, but it is a partial, reformist class consciousness and even where it erupts, such as in the Corbyn movement in Britain, or in the various socialist-inclined ‘left-populist’ movements in South America, it tends to be oriented towards social reform not social revolution. Though revolutionary sentiments can and do find echoes in those movements, they are currently at a qualitatively lower level that in the period Trotsky, Felix Morrow and co were writing.
Not only that, but in the context of Stalinism’s decline and fall, in the advanced countries neoliberalism inflicted substantial defeats and weakening of the working-class movement to a considerable degree, without the need for fascism. This was epitomised by the wars against socialism, communism and trade unions waged in the 1970s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and by the Pinochet regime in Chile. The latter had a fascist-like military regime but in fact used the Chilean masses as guinea pigs for an extreme free-market economic programme, very different from the fascist ‘corporate state’, supervised by neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman. Strategic defeats were inflicted on the British and US proletariat in this period, and though the continental core European Union countries have not seen this happen in the same dramatic way, similar processes have been happening there in a more molecular, gradual manner.
These were models of the neoliberal paradigm of capitalism that has spread throughout the world, both in the imperialist countries, where the result has been a major decline in manufacturing and the traditional industrial proletariat, and in key parts of the semi-colonial world where there has been a growth in the proletariat precisely through job migration from the imperialist countries, but this layer of the proletariat is subject to very heavy repression and has not, as yet, taken the position at the head of the world proletariat that its social weight objectively must lead to. Accompanying this migration of jobs out of the imperialist countries has been a growth in the importance and volume of labour migration into the imperialist countries, both in terms of a drain of highly skilled migrant labour from semi-colonial countries being creamed-off by high-technology Western capital, and more significantly, badly paid migrant labour brought in to do menial jobs that the native working class sees as too low-paid and refuses to do, and also to compete with and undermine the conditions of lower-status sections of the working class who retain some clout for the moment.
The fact that capital has inflicted major, strategic defeats on the proletariat without the need for fascism, does not mean that fascism has ceased to be a danger. Rather it is the case that in the qualitatively more right-wing political environment bequeathed by neoliberal imperialism, fascist-type movements can develop their own momentum and dynamic, without unanimous bourgeois support, feeding in large measure from discontent at the decline of the old proletariat and mobilising chauvinist and racist sentiments against migrant workers. They present a potent threat particularly to the rights of oppressed layers of the population who achieved gains in the past, under the previous political situation where there was a higher level of class consciousness, as well as a threat to the democratic rights of the mass of the working class itself.
The recent period, with Trump, Brexit, the rise of Orban in Hungary, Salvini in Italy, Kaczyński in Poland, etc, shows that fascist type movements can come to power and engage in potent attacks on democratic rights even without the project of crushing a powerful worker movement or an incipient socialist revolution. They often disguise themselves under more diffuse forms of right-wing populism, that remain within the framework of bourgeois democracy, but when such movements generate militant groups that use physical force against opponents and attempt to escape from the constraints of bourgeois constitutionalism, they become indistinguishable from fascism and just as dangerous. Such movements can best be described as proto-fascist, evolving from right-populism as a reactionary response to neoliberalism.
There is no subjectively revolutionary mass working-class movement today; revolutionary class consciousness resides in relatively small vanguard grouplets, many of them sects, and the task of bringing that class consciousness to the masses is a strategic task that must be carried out anew for the most part by these relatively small, vanguard groups. Part of this re-arming of the working-class movement must be the re-arming of the vanguard layers themselves, many of which have been polluted by opportunism themselves or engage in sometimes quite deranged sectarian and bureaucratic practices which do not help, but hinder, the rearming of the working class and its historic revolutionary class consciousness.
In summary, the proletariat is qualitatively weaker politically in Europe and North America than it was in the pre-WWII period and facilely quoting Trotsky calling for revolutionary mass action in the Spanish Civil War, for instance, is of little use in solving the concrete political problems we face today. Fascist attempts to take power must be resisted just as militantly today as when they try to take power to crush an incipient revolution. Defeating them is still a self-defence of the democratic rights of the masses, albeit in a different situation. Neutrality on such things when they are posed militarily is suicidal. Playing games and flirting with the idea of remaining neutral in the face of an attempt at gaining power by extra-constitutional means is a capitulation to populist ideology that has suckered part of the left, and indirectly therefore to fascism.
Centrist Confusionism and the Popular Front
Such neutrality is implicit in this piece of workerist nonsense from Gerry:
“A united front is between workers’ organisations only which allows the revolutionary socialists freedom to propagate for the revolution. Even when our forces are too small for a formal agreement, we use the transitional method to place demands on the existing leadership of the class to take action in defence of class interests. A popular front contains bourgeois forces, this is in breach of a ‘fundamental tenet of Marxism’ as Felix Morrow explains. This applies in all imperialist counties.”
This implies that the only difference between a united front and a popular front is the presence of bourgeois forces. Not true. In the United Front, we are not seeking a joint government with the forces we are temporarily allied with. It is a bloc for a specific, limited purpose only, e.g., to stop a fascist military action aimed at conquering power. Such a united front action can be with any force that is prepared, either actually or potentially, to join in the action that we want to do, in this case to defeat the fascists attempt to seize power. Once the action is concluded, either successfully or unsuccessfully the united front comes to an end.
If the bulk of the workers are led by a mass social-democratic party like the German SPD, then we make our demands on that organisation. But what if the workers are not led by such a party? What if they are led by people loyal to a liberal-talking bourgeois party, like the US Democrats, which has much in common with popular fronts in other places, but in a party form. What if the only groups that have a distinct, working class political programme even in a deformed sense, are tiny groups that are marginal to the bulk of the working class?
In that case, Gerry would presumably say that it is unprincipled to place demands on the force that the bulk of the working class is currently loyal to, that actually do lead and have the ear of the working class and the oppressed. Instead, presumably, the only ‘principled’ united front that would be possible is between the various marginal groups that do not lead the masses. There is one big problem with this though: a ‘united front’ between the Judean Peoples Front and the People’s Front of Judea does not have the military capacity to defeat the fascists and with the current political situation is not likely to gain such capacity any time soon. So, refusing to place demands on those who do have the ear of the workers means playing foolish sect-games and folding your arms while the fascists attack the forces that do have the military power to defeat them. And to expose to the masses that they need to take action of their own, as a class-conscious force, you must expose the forces that actually do lead them, by putting them to some sort of decisive test. It is not possible to test the ability to satisfy the objective needs of the masses of those who do not lead the masses, who are marginal, as they are not in a position to be so tested.
So, when Gerry sternly lectures our Latin American comrades that:
“The Franco regime and the Republican governments in Madrid and Barcelona were threatened by something far more terrible than ‘proletarian democracy’; they were confronted immediately by an actual socialist revolution which had triumphed on the ground and lacked only a leadership and a state to finish its task, as the Bolsheviks did in 1917. They had seized the factories, they had seized the land, they were clearly in the saddle in that first year of the revolution. True they lacked the developed soviets, workers committees (but these were there in embryo), that emerged in Russia in 1905 and 1917 but there were far more subjectively conscious revolutionary socialists there, originating from the ranks of the POUM and the Anarchists, who understood and heroically fought for that revolution in Spain than in Russia in 1917. And its victory would have had a far greater effect internationally had it won. The popular front was the ideological camouflage behind which the Stalinist counter-revolutionaries marshalled their assassination squads and their torture prisons for revolutionaries to grovel to the ‘democratic imperialists’ as Morrow explains above.”
.. he is engaged in fantasising and wishful thinking. Where was the revolution in the US in January 2021? Where were the factory seizures, where was the working class ‘in the saddle’ in Washington DC or anywhere in the US? Nowhere, because this was not a revolutionary situation. Instead of dealing with the struggle against fascism that actually existed then, Gerry is off fantasising about a non-existent revolution, in order to avoid dealing with what actually exists.
Yet in fact, he comes close to addressing this, only to dismiss the point with an absurdity:
“But there was a very obviously more than just a revolutionary situation in Spain in 1936, clearly there is nothing like that in the US in 2021. Surely the situation is more like that in Germany in the early 1930s, the forces of fascism is in the ascendent and we must learn how to defend before we can go over to the attack.”
And then he goes over to a monologue rubbishing our quoting of Trotsky’s An Aesop’s Fable when he ridicules the Stalinists refusal to call for a united front with the SPD to defeat Hitler’s Nazis:
“A cattle dealer once drove some bulls to the slaughterhouse. And the butcher came nigh with his sharp knife.
‘Let us close ranks and jack up this executioner on our horns,’ suggested one of the bulls.
‘If you please, in what way is the butcher any worse than the dealer who drove us hither with his cudgel?’ replied the bulls, who had received their political education in Manuilsky’s institute. [The Comintern.]
‘But we shall be able to attend to the dealer as well afterwards!’
“Nothing doing,” replied the bulls firm in their principles, to the counselor. ‘You are trying, from the left, to shield our enemies – you are a social-butcher yourself.’
And they refused to close ranks.”
re-cited in ibid
Gerry rubbishes the comparison, with the absurd point that:
“Trotsky did not propose a popular front with the Weimar Republic, still less the Centre Party, the German National People’s Party (DNVP) or the Bavarian People’s Party but with the ’social-imperialist German Social Democracy’ as Ian terms them, hoping we will miss the fact that this was the major party of the German working class for 70 years (founded in May 1863 in Leipzig) and contained the older, skilled but cautious and demoralized industrial workers.”
Here is Gerry’s confusion between the popular front and the united front in crystallised form. Trotsky did not call for a “popular front” with anyone, neither the Weimar Republic nor the smaller bourgeois parties like the Zentrum, nor even with the SPD. He called for a practical bloc with the SPD to stop Hitler from coming to power, a military bloc for struggle, not a political bloc or alliance, still less a coalition government!
It is laughable that Gerry can accuse the Trotskyist Faction of calling for a popular front, when he makes such an elementary error, showing a complete misunderstanding of what a popular front is. He may object that an unprincipled, liquidationist-reformist alliance and joint government of Communists with the SPD leaders would not have been technically a Popular Front, which is true, as it would not have contained an outright bourgeois component.
But the sense of Gerry’s absurdity remains: he says, to paraphrase … ‘Trotsky did not call for an unprincipled, anti-working-class governmental coalition with the Zentrum, the NDVP, or the Bavarian Peoples Party, but only with the SPD’. This is truly comical: no, he did not – he called for a practical bloc for mass-based resistance to the Nazis, to stop them gaining power with a particular regard for defeating their militias, primarily the SA, on the streets, and demanded the SPD mobilise their base to do this. He did not propose any kind of unprincipled non-revolutionary bourgeois governmental coalition with anyone, not even the SPD!
And of course, speaking hypothetically, if the mass of German workers had been loyal to one of the smaller bourgeois parties, instead of the SPD, and the Nazis had threatened to overthrow the Weimar Republic to crush those workers, it would have been just as principled to call on those forces to resist the Nazis, and to seek a bloc with them, as it was the SPD. Of course, that hypothetical scenario would imply a less conscious working class, a different balance of class forces, and thereby a rather different political situation from the one that happened in 1933, but nevertheless the events of Jan 2021 show that there is no absolute barrier to such a situation arising.
Sectarianism, Centrism and Opportunism
Gerry’s polemic is at the same time sectarian, centrist and opportunist. It is sectarian because its driving force is not an attempt to engage with the subject matter, the strategy of how to mobilise the working class to defeat fascism and to develop its class consciousness to the point of being capable of acting independently as a class and taking power. His purpose is rather putting the interests of his own rump grouping above all that and scoring points against political rivals who have not abandoned the Trotskyist politics of the old Socialist Fight as he has. The foolish lie that the Trotskyist Faction support popular fronts is inseparable from the absurd faux-pas when Gerry accuses Trotsky of advocating a ‘popular front’, but only with the SPD, not the smaller bourgeois parties. The lie is feeble and self-exposing, but there is a certain logic to it as he has previously tried to slander us as being sympathetic to fascism.
This lie has been exposed as absurd: if we had been remotely sympathetic to fascism, we would not be debating how best to defeat the forces of Donald Trump; we would have regarded Donald Trump as an ‘ally’, like Gerry’s erstwhile co-thinker and ally against us, Wilhelm Specklin, and would be inclined to join in with Trump. So, Gerry’s grotesque, Healy-like lie that we are sympathetic to fascism, a criminal lie whose purpose is consciously designed to set up people who support our politics, the politics Gerry himself defended for five years, to be attacked by leftists Gerry manages to fool, has been exposed as a complete absurdity. People with a ‘fascist’ political outlook, in the face of a putsch by actual fascists, would join in supporting the fascists, not publicly call for the fascist insurgents to be shot down and executed en masse without mercy. Perhaps some reactionary Trump supporter might call us ‘red fascists’ or ‘left wing fascists’ but any genuine socialist militant knows how to treat such crap. Gerry’s lie is exposed as the very opposite of the truth, and his desperate nonsense about our supposed support for ‘popular fronts’ is just another feeble lie to replace the previous, deceased lie.
His position is centrist, because it fits Trotsky’s description of centrism as ‘crystallised confusion’, as benefits a politics which still pretends to be revolutionary, and even to adhere to the international revolutionary trend which we support but acts in an erratic manner that can only confuse those who encounter Gerry’s politics and positions. And indeed, on some forums those questioning Gerry about where he stands have ended up scratching their heads. Crystallised confusion indeed.
And this is opportunist, both in theory and practice. His statement that Trotsky advocated a ‘popular front’ with the SPD, apart from being untrue, contradictory and at odds with the very definition of a popular front, betrays his own political appetites. Because in the end, his whole bending of the knee to Zionism comes from bending the knee to Labourism in a period when the Labour Party is moving rapidly to the right. Supporting a rotten, rightward moving Blairised, Zionised Labour Party is not exactly the same thing as supporting a popular front, but it is pretty close. Labour at present, unlike when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, does not in any sense claim to represent working class people as a class.
Gerry firmly denounces the idea that socialists should call on workers not to vote Labour, citing Lenin and Trotsky’s practice of critical support to put Labour to the test before the workers. But Starmer has already been put to the test in the eyes of many tens or even hundreds of thousands of militants who support the Labour Party. There is such disgust among former Corbynites that there is massive resonance for not supporting Starmer’s Labour in elections. The stabbing of Corbyn, the first Labour leader for several decades not to be a neoliberal enemy of the workers, has had a huge impact on the whole layer of hundreds of thousands who hated Blairism and joined Labour to support Corbyn.
Nor does it need to be ‘exposed’ to the ‘Red Wall’ layer of the working class who are like the demoralised layer that supported Trump in the US, who Starmer is now trying to appeal to by wrapping himself in the Union Jack. This is not a class-conscious appeal even at a very low level but an attempt to out-Tory the Tories. It is likely to fail only because people tend to prefer the real thing to a cheap copy.
All Gerry’s smears against us since he split with our comrades have been motivated by craven opportunism, the desire to ingratiate himself with sections of the left who capitulate to facets of Zionism, or at least elements of Jewish identity politics that overlap with Zionism to a degree. But the opportunist gyration that drives his latest smear has an erratic quality as it reveals a degradation in the understanding of Trotskyism and the popular front, and for all his fulminations about Trump fascism, a flinch from saying that Trump’s insurrection represented a fascist step beyond the constitutionalist status quo in the US and therefore the military defeat of Trump was the lesser evil.
This theoretical advocacy of a weird kind of ‘popular front that is not a popular front’ with social democracy, mixed with capitulation to populism might have some relationship with one of Gerry’s latest blocs. To give the rump SF somewhere to deposit any funds it manages to raise, Gerry is using the bank account of Socialist Labour, a bloc within the Labour Party that is run by left-wing supporters of Brexit. Though it was not unprincipled in the Corbyn project to work with such people as part of a broader intervention where views on Brexit were up for debate, we never previously got the functioning of our organisation mixed up with such a bloc. Since Lexiteering in Britain in recent years was in the real world an adaptation to right-populism, as the actually existing Brexit was a right populist movement, it appears that this bloc has put further pressure on Gerry to adapt in this direction also.
Anyway, whatever is behind this politically erratic behaviour, Gerry’s latest polemic just draws attention to his further sad political decline since he wrecked Socialist Fight, and much of the political reputation he had previously built up through at least trying to re-create a genuine Trotskyism, is going down the drain. That is quite sad really.
Zuckerburg’s racist crew funded Trump GOP right up to the Washington, DC attack
According to Facebook the comment below constitutes ‘hate speech’. ‘Hate speech’ apparently against fascist terrorists and Trump’s thugs who attacked the Capitol Building in Washington DC on January 6th. The author of the comment (myself) was given a ban from Facebook for 30 Days on 31 Jan 2021, supposedly for ‘hate speech’:
“The problem is that Trump is not separable from Johnson, Farage, Le Pen, Salvini, Tony Abbott, the far right wing regimes in Poland and Hungary, Bolsonoro, Modi, and all the rest in Europe and around the world.
American exceptionalism doesn’t make him supportable, defensible, or worthy of any sympathy in any way. It WAS an attempted coup. He attempted to stay in power despite clearly losing an election. They should have been shot down like rabbits. In fact only about two of them got what they deserved. For that, the cops should be condemned for complicity.
Trump never won the popular vote in 2016 either and that democratic issue as far as I am concerned was a concentrated expression of the undemocratic nature of the USA. His assassination would have been justified in democratic terms if anyone had managed it. His presidency was not.
I’m not in favour of ‘challenges’ to the ‘status quo’ that are worse than the status quo itself. If rednecks get angry about their loss of perceived superiority over others and demand their old status back (“make America great again”) that is not a class conscious revolt against capitalism.
That is a big “FUCK YOU” to the rest of the world’s population. These people deserve to have their faces ground in the shit, including by their ‘own’ bosses, to teach them that they are actually slaves, coolies, and not a superior race. As long as they believe they are a superior race they can fuck off and die.
I have the same attitude to Trump supporters swaggering around the US abusing the Black and Immigrant population as I do to Zionist settlers in Palestine. They only have the right to exist insofar as they treat others equally and with some basic humanity. If they don’t (and they don’t – that’s the understatement of the millennium!) then fuck them. Let them die.
The same goes for idiot ex-miners who support Boris Johnson. Thatcher destroyed the pits and steelworks and those who forget that and blame foreigners and migrants, and wave the Union Jack? They are fucking cretins who deserve to get pissed on. They don’t deserve any sympathy or solidarity. Not until they show some to others. Failing that, they can fucking starve for all I care.
I don’t see anything positive about the support for him. Just as I don’t see anything positive about Brexit. The gilets jaunes in France did actually tell the far right to fuck off and show some sign of real class consciousness in that regard.
But Trumpism and Brexit was about ‘we want our imperial status back’ and there was nothing good about it. In that it does bear similarity to Hitlerism which was about vengeance for Germany’s loss of imperial power. From part of the population that was intoxicated with that power.”
They are absolutely naked about this. This is censorship of political views that are held by many millions about the criminal nature of the Trump insurrection. The fascist and white supremacist nature of the mob that stormed though the US parliamentary centre is clear. They threatened the lives of politicians they disapproved of, everyone from Vice-President Pence leftward. “Hang Mike Pence” they chanted, calling for the death of the VP, who is politically similar to Ronald Reagan – on the right-wing end of the spectrum of bourgeois-democratic politics in the US. The threat was because he carried out his mandated duties and presided over the counting of electoral votes for the Electoral College, and refused to join Trump’s attempt to overthrow the election result against both the popular vote and Electoral College, and thus help create a while supremacist dictatorship in the US.
Violent Racism: A ‘Protected Characteristic’ for Facebook
It does not take a genius to figure out that if they wanted to “Hang Mike Pence” for not doing their bidding, what they would like to do to every liberal Congressman or Senator, every black, Latinx, gay, or any other representative of groups these fascists hate. The lives of all these people were in peril. Not to mention that they refused to wear masks or observe social distancing, as did their sympathisers and complicit politicians among the far-right Republicans some of whom are known to have infected with Covid-19 others who were forced into proximity with them in fear of being attacked while being evacuated away from the fascist mob.
Facebook, in saying this is ‘hate speech’, is saying that to say that these far-right terrorists deserved to be shot is in some way attacking a ‘protected characteristic’. Facebook have a long, convoluted definition of what constitutes ‘hate speech’ regarding ‘protected characteristics’, but the basic idea is correct – that no one should be attacked for their national origin or their race or ethnicity, religious affiliation or background, sex or gender, sexuality, religion, disability, or disease.
Unless being a violent racist is also included in this list of protected characteristics, it is very clear that not only is there no attack on anyone for their origin in the comment above, but the only people who are condemned in the comment are people who target others for their protected characteristics.
So, Facebook are clearly breaking their own Community Standards here, and supporting and protecting those who break them to attack others for their protected characteristics.
In fact, Facebook’s Community Standards contain a deliberate loophole that apparently allows bigoted attacks on people for their protected characteristics in certain circumstances. In its definition of ‘hate speech’, specifically under the heading of ‘Tier One’, it forbids:
“Content targeting a person or group of people (including all subsets except those described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offences) on the basis of their aforementioned protected characteristic(s) or immigration status with … Violent speech or support in written or visual form ….”
So according to this, it is permissible to target with ‘violent speech’ specifically that ‘subset’ of members of an ethnic or other ‘protected’ group who are ‘described’ as ‘having carried out violent crimes or sexual offences” “on the basis of their aforementioned protected characteristic(s) or immigration status…”
This appears to have been explicitly formulated to allow the far right to incite hatred. For instance, Trump’s notorious 2016 speech where he said that Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists”. His solution to this supposed problem was to “build that wall” and (among other things) the vile abuse of abducting children from their parents and deporting their parents without them.
So, Facebook formulated a loophole in its ‘Community Standards’ whose obvious purpose is to allow violent racists like Trump to incite hatred against those with ‘protected characteristics’ by focussing on ‘subsets’ of such groups that are “described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offences”. Everyone knows that such dog-whistles target entire oppressed groups and serve to incite hatred and violence against them.
But in allowing this, FB have a problem. If it is permitted to target ‘subsets’ of people “described” as violent or sex criminals on the basis of their … “protected characteristic(s) or immigration status” with “violent speech … in written or visual form”, then logically it ought to permitted to so target people who are so “described” not on the basis of any protected characteristic, but simply on the basis of their violent or sexual crimes.
This is where Facebook clearly shows itself to be a white supremacist outfit.
The attack on the Capitol was a violent crime. Everyone who set foot in the Capitol building as part of that insurrection on Jan 6th is a felon and a violent criminal, by definition.
But Facebook in practice, by this action (which was appealed, but they ignored the appeal), regards statements to the effect that such violent racists deserve to be shot, or die, or starve, not because of any protected characteristic, but simply because of their racist, often violent and hate-filled bigoted behaviour, as ‘hate speech’, and bans people for that.
So effectively, Facebook are saying that being a racist, indeed arguably ESPECIALLY being a violent racist, is a protected characteristic.
Of course, they won’t put that in their ‘Community Standards’. But that is what their practice means.
Because Facebook management, despite the bullshit in their ‘Community Standards’, are actually white supremacists. This must obviously include its head, Zuckerburg, as he is the man in charge.
As was revealed shortly after the attack on the Capitol, Facebook had been funding the Trumpist GOP for years. They, along with many other corporate bodies, ostentatiously announced the withdrawal of that funding after Jan 6.
What does this funding, and then its withdrawal, signify? Obviously, it does not signify any distaste for the racism, the voter suppression, all the despicable things the GOP have been doing to the oppressed in the US, long before Trump. It does not even signify any dissent from the criminality of Trump prior to 6 Jan.
The only thing it signifies is rats leaving the sinking ship. If it had not sunk, they would still be on board. If Trump had succeeded in overthrowing the election and establishing a white supremacist dictatorship, which was the purpose of the insurrection, then Facebook would still be on board.
Its clear that Facebook for all their hypocritical ‘Community Standards’ in fact supported Trump and white supremacy. They have also recently gone on the warpath against the Left. A number of Socialist and left-wing groups have been supressed, or such suppression has been attempted, by Facebook, including bans against the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and the World Socialist Web Site/Socialist Equality Party in the United States. This is in the aftermath of the failure of Trump’s insurrection.
It is possible that the impetus for this might be the result of pressure from the new Biden administration to crackdown on so-called ‘extremism’ – including too militant anti-racism apparently – except that there is no visible indication of this. And this action clearly involved defending the Trump insurrectionists. Frameup bans of the left on social media occurred regularly under Trump.
For Workers Action to Enforce Workers Democracy on Social Media
We are not free speech absolutists; we are in favour of supressing violent racists and fascists. But our strategy is not to rely on the bourgeois state or corporate bodies to do it for us. We are for independent working-class action, including the setting up of workers militias to defend the masses independently. Though if fascists engage in outright armed conflict with an existing, non-fascist government attempting to seize power outside of bourgeois constitutionalism, we consider their defeat by the existing bourgeois-democratic government and state forces to be the lesser evil and are in favour of a military bloc with them, through the use of deadly force to suppress the threat decisively.
The workers movement should not take censorship by Facebook and its corporate racist thugs lying down. Facebook, Twitter, and other such social media have social power over political discourse and should not be allowed to use it to suppress the working-class movement and the left. Not only do we advocate workers militias to suppress threats to the working class from fascists, it would be excellent if the workers movement were to create its own cyber-military organs.
There are many ethical hackers/hacktivists out there, with the relevant skills and sympathetic to the left, who could retaliate against Facebook and other such racist, anti-democratic outfits in an organised way, and even bring their operations to a halt if they insist on supressing labour movement discussions online. Labour movement organisations themselves need to bring this about using their collective strength. Industrial action and labour boycotts targeted at these social media outfits could also be used in tandem with more novel means of struggle. We also need our own organs, run on the ethos of workers democracy, but the left must take the initiative in forcing workers democracy and workers control onto the bodies that currently control the means of social communication, as a prelude to their expropriation.
The demise of Donald Trump in the US has put the spotlight on Johnson’s equally squalid and mendacious government in Britain. The contradictions of the situation in Britain, like that in the US, have been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there is the developing disaster of Johnson’s hard Brexit deal, which is already giving rise to protests, including by some that supported Johnson and Brexit. The economic consequences of Brexit are combining with those of the pandemic to create a perfect storm. Johnson’s original plan, to engineer a no-deal at the end of the transition period, was abandoned shortly before Christmas because it was too big a risk to the stability of his regime.
The Johnson regime is as dubious in its legitimacy as Trump’s was. Trump achieved the Presidency in the US by means of his party’s prolonged programme of voter suppression, barring layers of particularly black US Americans from voting through punitive red tape supposedly designed to stop fraud, but in fact to stop voting by the poor – victims of racism being disproportionately poor. This combined with the undemocratic electoral college system brought to power a far-right President in 2016 despite him losing the popular vote by 3 million. Trump struggled to repeat the trick in 2020 and his refusal to accept defeat led to the attempt by his hard-core followers to keep power by an insurrection against the voting population itself. But they overreached themselves and exposed their fascistic nature for all the world to see.
The Tories are up to similar games here. Trump’s insurrection against Congress had its prototype here in 2019 with Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament, which itself had something of the character of a coup. The referendum on Brexit in 2016 was completely unregulated and massively corrupted by huge funding of propaganda lies by far-right billionaires like Arron Banks. Brazen lies about funding the NHS from EU contributions (“£350 million a week”), and anti-migrant hate material from the likes of Farage, such as the ‘Breaking point’ poster depicting Syrian refugees, consciously modelled on a Nazi propaganda movie attacking Jewish refugees, epitomised the Brexit referendum. Johnson’s real plan is still to sell off the NHS as part of a trade deal.
Referenda can be useful to allow constitutional questions to be resolved in a democratic manner, but this was nothing of the sort. Britain in the EU already had ‘sovereignty’. Brexit was simply a xenophobic campaign aimed, successfully, at dividing the working class and setting workers at each other’s throats. It was called by an overtly racist government whose leaders were up to their necks in racism and abuse of minorities, epitomised by the Windrush scandal, and the killing of over 100,000 through austerity benefit cuts on the sick and disabled.
Yet Cameron was dismayed when the reaction they had promoted went further than they wanted and resulted in the Brexit vote. Their referendum was ‘advisory’; if it were legally binding then it would be subject to strict regulation as with a parliamentary election. But after the corrupt, unregulated hate-fest, which included the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a Brexit fascist terrorist, resulted in a narrow victory for the xenophobes, the far right insisted it was binding and their fascistic lowlife-thugs went rampaging. Anyone in public life who failed to bow down before their Brexit god was subjected to death threats and potentially the violence to match. Violent, fascist thugs like James Goddard harassed politicians who demurred from Brexit, hand-in-hand with the Tory media and Johnson purging the Conservatives of former mainstream types who refused to go along with his course towards no-deal. There is no difference between the violent Brexit elements like Goddard and the fascist terrorists who attacked the Capitol in Washington.
The General Election in 2019 also had considerable grounds for suspicion about it. After Corbyn came close to victory in 2017, destroying Theresa May’s majority, neoliberals both within and without the Labour Party were visibly shocked and mortified, and a cavalcade of dirty tricks set in motion to sabotage Corbyn’s Labour. The shock on the faces of right-wing Labour ideologues like Stephen Kinnock and Jess Phillips was obvious on election night 2017. In 2019, after Labour lost, the same Phillips was visibly delighted. Just as sinister were remarks from key ruling class figures about the possibility of a Corbyn government. At PM’s Question Time in December 2017, Theresa May simply said “we will never allow you to govern”. And Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State, meeting in June 2018 with ‘Jewish leaders’ was recorded as saying of the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming UK Prime Minister:
“’It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected,’ he said on the recording. ‘It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.’”
Pompeo has since proven that he is eminently capable of personal involvement in election fraud including within advanced capitalist countries, where the convention is that such things are off-limits (fraud and coups are practiced by imperialist governments of all stripes in semi-colonial countries as a matter of normal practice). Pompeo’s involvement in Trump’s attempt to hold onto power after overwhelmingly losing the 2020 Presidential Election is a matter of public record, when on 10 November he said to reporters at the State Department:
“there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
Pompeo only distanced himself from Trump’s attempts to stay in power after the failed insurrection on Capitol Hill on 6 Jan. His stated intention to “push back” against a possible Corbyn government, taken together with the political closeness of both Johnson and May to the Trump administration is obvious (on her first meeting with Trump she was even filmed holding hands with him while entering a press conference). The likely mechanism of fraud – modifying a result which many expected would result in a hung parliament as in 2017 – and canvassing responses on the ground in key areas including in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ indicated would be close – was tweaking the postal vote.
A detailed breakdown of postal voting in 2019 still appears unavailable – the House of Commons report on the election contains nothing about it (see https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8749/CBP-8749.pdf) – but immediately after the election Lord Ashcroft’s polling organisation reported a doubling of postal voting to 38%. Highly suspicious behaviour was reported at the time: two prominent Tory or sympathetic personalities, the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, and the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, appeared to have broken electoral law by talking about, and for that matter knowing about, the contents of the postal vote before it was even legal to count it.
The involvement of leading figures in the Trump administration, so close to Johnson and May’s administration, in the attempt to overthrow the popular vote and electoral college result in January 2021, casts further doubt on the democratic legitimacy of Johnson’s regime ‘elected’ in Britain in 2019.
Social Darwinism and Mass Killing
The result of far-right populists gaining power has been the astronomical death toll in the Covid-19 Pandemic. This the product of Social Darwinism, the ‘survival of the fittest’, applied to society. The policy of the British government has been ‘herd immunity’, allowing the disease to infect as much as the population as possible to generate a widespread immune response. But such immunity developing naturally can only happen through an enormous number of deaths, and the breeding out of the vulnerable parts of the population through their dying and being replaced by the descendants of the survivors. The whole point of developing vaccines is to avoid such carnage by artificially developing immunity in those vulnerable to diseases, so they cease to be at risk of death or disability from diseases like Covid.
That is the conception that drives the Johnson government, while having to repeatedly bow down to popular pressure and take lockdown and quarantine measures, to repeatedly sabotage lockdowns, ending them early, forcing children into unsafe schools as in September, and refusing a ‘firebreak’ lockdown also in September when government scientists themselves were demanding one to nip the second wave in the bud. The four-week lockdown in November kept schools open and so could not possibly be effective. It produced a limited dip in the infection rate but as soon as it was lifted the disease started spreading like wildfire again. Johnson was thus forced to ‘cancel Christmas’ by a massive rise in the Covid infection rate, that was entirely his own government’s doing, given its wanton sabotage of the quarantine measures forced on it from below over the whole period of the pandemic.
The emergence of a new, more infectious strain of Covid-19, which forced the government into its panicked third lockdown in early January is entirely the fault of the Johnson regime. It is down to it that Britain has the worst death rate per million inhabitants in the entire world.
An enormous factor in this has also been the long-term underfunding of the National Health Service, the creeping privatisation of healthcare provision and massive understaffing, the underpayment of junior medical, nursing and cleaning staff, which has meant that even though the government created extra ‘Nightingale’ hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic to handle extra demand, they have proven white elephants, since there are not the trained staff to run the extra intensive care facilities needed.
And the other recurring problem has been the lack of proper payment and welfare for those at risk, both of becoming sick, and of infecting others. The furlough scheme has some merits but is far too limited in its breadth and many fall through the gaps in it. And the very low, starvation level benefits (and the sanctions) for the low paid and semi-employed/jobless made it very difficult for those at risk to self-isolate to protect themselves and others, not to mention the continual pressure from many lower-paying employers for staff to risk coming to work. The measly £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit on an emergency basis since last April is due to end this coming April, and the government is resisting extending that, as it has resisted providing free school meals to the children of low-income families in the lockdowns.
The current lockdown is far laxer than last March; traffic on the roads and public transport is several times higher, as many employers are ignoring it and coercing their staff to work. The restrictions are not being enforced or are being avoided by falsely branding work as essential. This is also happening in schools, as the definition of ‘key workers’ whose children still attend has been made much more nebulous, and schools are much less empty than in March. And nurseries are still open, despite half of nursery staff saying that they do not feel safe. This is government policy, putting capitalist profit above the safety of working-class people.
The policy of ‘herd immunity’ was put forward by Johnson on breakfast TV, as well as by other government spokespeople including top government scientists such as Patrick Vallance, and the government’s ‘Nudge Unit’, right at the beginning of the pandemic. It was then modified somewhat, and the policy since has been called ‘punctuated herd immunity’, interrupted by half-hearted lockdowns or ‘mockdowns’, a point that bears repeating as this regime needs to be held to account. The ideological core of it was put forward by Johnson in his bizarre speech in Greenwich on Feb 2, 2020:
“…in that context, we were starting to hear some bizarre, autarchic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases like Coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation, that go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment, humanity needs some government somewhere, that is willing at least to make the case, powerfully, for freedom of exchange.
“Some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles, and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion of the right of populations, of the Earth, to buy and sell freely among each other. Here in Greenwich in the first week of February 2020, I can tell you with all humility, that the UK is ready for that role.”
The combination of Brexiteering national-imperial conceit and callous disregard for science and rationality in pursuit of profit is grotesque. But this is not just a problem of this government’s malice, It is also the product of the inability of capitalism itself to cope with the crises, including disasters like Covid created by capitalist abuse of nature, that the profit system gives rise to. Faced with a disaster on this scale, a rationally planned economy would simply change the plan to accommodate the problem, with the welfare of the whole population the central aim of the plan. But capital cannot do this, so on top of the public health disaster is piled on massive economic dislocation and the threat of a major economic depression even when the pandemic ends.
This has its latest manifestation in the cavalier disregard for science in the administration of vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first to be licensed, is a pioneering and necessarily fragile pharmaceutical product whose manufacturers are highly specific about the timing necessary to administer its two doses. They are supposed to be administered three weeks apart, with the first dose offering partial immunity, and the second acting to supercharge the immunity gained from the first dose. The plan by Johnson and Hancock to extend that to twelve weeks was condemned by the manufacturers, as there is no data to say that such a change in the administration of the vaccine would work. There is, however, reason to fear that the diluted vaccine being in people’s systems for a longer period may give a vaccine-resistant strain chance to evolve.
The government got this not-so-bright idea after the second, Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which has a more flexible dosing schedule that is backed up by data, of up to twelve weeks, was licenced. Extending this to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is, like the ‘mockdowns’, simply a shortcut to try to reduce the infection rate quickly and then hurry people back to work, to resume the process of money-making for capital. This is the baleful state of government on ‘Plague Island’ at the beginning of 2021.
Starmer: Johnson’s Lackey
What of the opposition from the working-class movement, or what purports to represent it? Under Keir Starmer, there has been virtually NO opposition to Johnson. Starmer has not opposed anything significant that the government has done. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, there was sharp criticism of the government’s callousness from Jeremy Corbyn and a degree of support from the Labour front bench for trade union resistance. Which may have played a role in the fact that the first lockdown, at least in its initial stages, was actually effective, though Corbyn stepping down took the pressure off Johnson.
After Starmer gained the leadership in April, such criticism stopped. The line completely changed to one of support for virtually everything the government did, with only minor demurral on questions of fine detail. In an interview in September, Starmer laid out his ‘oppositional’ strategy thus: “Whatever measure the government takes, we will support it” and to avoid misunderstanding he reiterated: “They make a decision, we will follow that and we will reinforce their communications because in the end this is not about party politics.” (https://labourlist.org/2020/09/sunday-shows-labour-will-back-whatever-measures-the-government-takes-on-covid-says-starmer/)
Starmer’s political priority is not fighting the government’s attacks on working class people in this pandemic and disastrous economic situation. It is attacking the left and moving Labour further to the right and into the bourgeois camp, as symbolised by his embrace of Zionism. This links him with the right-wing populists, with Johnson and Trump, and determines his character as their lackey. The fact that all the Labour leadership candidates swore loyalty to Zionism in the 2020 contest is significant in this sense. The body they made their pledges to, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD), made clear their support for Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, and their condemnation of the Corbyn-led Labour Party in the December 2019 General Election.
The candidates swore to combat so-called anti-Semitism, according to the fake IHRA definition, which the Corbyn leadership had capitulated to already in the previous couple of years. This means not racism against Jewish people, but hostility towards Zionism and its oppression of the Palestinian people, and purging opponents of Zionist racism, including Jewish ones, as part of a generalised attack on left-wing activists and anti-racism, part of making Labour back into what it was under Blair – the alternative Tory Party. As part of the purge we have seen the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, its reversal and Starmer’s separate removal of the whip, which is now the subject of legal action (see article on page 6). Now Starmer has employed an Israeli spy, one Assaf Kaplan, previously known for waging cyber-warfare against Palestinians, to monitor his own members’ social media for signs of support for Palestinian rights and other forbidden ideas.
Under Starmer, Labour has not only embraced Zionism, but also Brexit: after Johnson achieved his last-minute deal at Christmas, Starmer whipped his MPs to vote for it, and then pledged to accept Brexit and not to try to reverse it, in pursuit of anti-immigrant votes. Thus exposing the cynicism of Starmer’s own campaign against Brexit before the 2019 General Election. It was not driven by principle, but just a factional manoeuvre to undermine Corbyn.
A seminal moment in Labours capitulation to Johnson over the pandemic was his sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow Education Secretary in June, amid charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ so risible that they are not worthy even of analysing. Everyone knew that the real reason was that RLB supported the main Teachers Union, the NEU, resisting Johnson’s reckless drive to re-open schools, first in June on a voluntary basis, then on a compulsory basis in September, with parents being fined if they withheld their children from school. This was a key cause of the second wave and likely the mutation of the virus to a more infectious strain when the first lockdown was being prematurely relaxed. Thus the blood of those who have died in the second wave, most of which were completely avoidable, is not only on Johnson’s hands but Starmer’s too.
Starmer’s conduct in the various ups and downs of the pandemic and lockdowns has been pathetic. Even when he has contradicted Johnson, such as when he called for the extension of the shambolic system of ‘tiers’ and effectively for a tier 5 lockdown over Christmas, he only dared because it was common knowledge that Johnson was considering exactly that. He was just Johnson’s echo for the whole period since he became leader.
We need a genuine workers party
It is evident that we need a party to fight for working class interests independently from the thoroughly bourgeois Labour Party, whose working-class component, as in the Blair years, is in the process of being driven to the margins. Out of the purges of the left new formations are being born, most hopefully that around Chris Williamson, who is spending a lot of time and energy putting together what looks like a party in the making, trying to draw together as many strands of the left as possible into something inclusive and democratic.
We support this perspective, of seeking to build a new party of the working class, one which is capable of developing both the mass base and the political programme to really fight capital and has the dynamism and flexibility to allow that kind of political development to happen. Unfortunately, one obstacle to this that has recently emerged is Jeremy Corbyn’s new ‘Project for Peace and Justice’ which aims to keep together his followers and campaign around a variety of anti-war, environmental and working-class issues without having the perspective of building a new party. It appears to have been set up as an alternative to a party, a fatal flaw in the whole project, which apart from the political problem of the reformism of Corbyn, is an additional problem that renders the project pointless for militants to join, something that can only act to give the Starmer-led Labour Party a left cover and act to corral votes for that party from militants who would otherwise oppose Starmer’s candidates and all that they stand for in elections in front of the whole working class.
The economic catastrophe resulting from the pandemic, the huge number of deaths particularly in countries run by far-right neoliberals like Trump and Johnson, and all the related issues of climate and ecological degradation, which as the pandemic has shown, is a potent threat to the lives of the working class and oppressed people everywhere, has accumulated a huge amount of social discontent and rage. This will inevitably burst out into the open when the pandemic does finally recede. There will be convulsive movements tending towards the left that grow out of this, as in some way is visible in the US with the huge popular surge to unseat Trump. There will be movements of the working class and poor, perhaps similar to the French gilets jaunes which started in a confused way, with attempts by the extreme right to control the movement, but which spontaneously pushed those interlopers out and moved towards the left in the struggle against Macron. After the pandemic, the accumulated contradictions are certain to find expression in similar, if not more explosive ways. Warmed-over left reformism is totally inadequate to deal with the objective problems that capitalist decay has brought to these masses today.
Ultimately, the working class will not come to power through bourgeois elections: the state and the ruling class will not allow that to happen. We need a programme that starts from the felt needs of today’s working class and points the way for our class to take power from the capitalists by our own mass revolutionary mass activity and action. The demise of the Corbynist movement, but the continued political activity of likely hundreds of thousands of its militants, provides an historic opportunity to build a genuine working-class party in Britain, that can develop such a programme and practice and lead our class to victory.
Communist Fight issue no 4 is now available as a PDF. It is not currently available as a hard copy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we do plan to print and distribute our journal as hard copy as and when circumstances allow.
This journal is a product of our commitment to maintaining a high-quality Marxist journal based on the politics of Trotskyism and the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI).
This issue addresses in some depth the fallout from the Trumpist attempted putsch at the Capitol on Jan 6th, and not only contains our statement on this, but also the positions of our international co-thinkers in the Americas, where some differences have emerged on how to respond to this event, and a response from ourselves that continues the debate.
As an international tendency the LCFI, of which we are a disciplined part, is committed to open debate on the most crucial questions of the workers movement, and following in the tradition of the Bolsheviks, that included when differences arise on matters of theoretical understanding with programmatic implications in our own ranks.
The issue also contains a comprehensive article on the issues posed by Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from Labour, the report of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into so-called ‘anti-Semitism’ in Labour, which we consider to be part of a Zionist and ruling class smear and disinformation campaign. This article deconstructs the central claims and smears made in the report, and is particularly relevant in the light of the legal action of Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley in seeking to challenge the smears in the report.
And to cap it off, the lead article goes on the attack against the Johnson regime in the light of the fall of Trump, points out the similarities of Johnson’s politics and following to Trump, and analyses the despicable social-Darwinist brutality and mendacity that has led to the UK having the worst death rate in the world from Covid-19. It also is unsparing of the treachery of Starmer and the neoliberal Labour right, which is now dominant, and offers some pointers as to how a new working class party can be built. Such a party is desperately necessary.
The statement by the Latin American comrades dissociating them from our position of defence of the outcome of the November US elections from Trump’s Beer Hall putsch misunderstands the relationship between bourgeois democracy and workers democracy, misunderstands key elements of US social reality, and confuses the struggle against imperialist wars abroad with the defence of the workers movement and democratic rights at home.
“The British comrades are in favour of a military bloc with the Democrats and invoke the institutions of the imperialist state machinery against Trumpism, making a false analogy between Spain in 1936 and the United States in 2021, since in both situations it would be present a fascist attack on a bourgeois parliamentary regime in an imperialist country. However, this is a false analogy because it minimizes the fact that in Spain, in opposition to Franco’s fascist imperialist side, there was a popular front, the main component of which is a mass party of the working class, its trade unions and its trade union centres. Therefore, what threatened the Franco regime was proletarian democracy and not just a bourgeois parliament. Defending proletarian democracy against a fascist coup has nothing to do with defending imperialist “democracy” against a fascist coup.”
The problem with this distinction is that trade unions, organs of workers democracy, also exist in the United States, and generally give political support to the Democratic Party, the party that won the election and which Trump’s movement was aimed at overthrowing and barring from taking power. Also, such working-class political trends that have even a modicum of social weight, at this point support the Democratic Party, either by being inside it, or by supporting it in various ways from the outside.
This extends from the supporters of the social-democratic would-be presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, to the AFL-CIO in its more left-wing manifestations, to organised social-democratic groups like the Democratic Socialists of America. It also extends from groups representing oppressed layers, particularly US blacks, to newer movements such as Black Lives Matter and older groups such as the NAACP and the numerous other trends that grew out of the Civil Rights movement. All these movements of the oppressed gravitate around the Democratic Party which has de-facto become, not merely a bourgeois party in the ‘pure’ sense, but in effect the party of the popular front in the American context.
Except that this popular front manifests itself in the form of a party, a phenomenon that is not unknown in some semi-colonial countries – both the Indian Congress Party and the African National Congress are examples of parties that function(ed) as popular fronts in practice. Working class trends function within these parties, and stand in elections for them, as with the South African Communist Party and the former Congress Socialist Party in India. This is rarer in imperialist countries; in most of them there is some nominally independent working-class party component of popular fronts. The United States, which is uniquely backward among even imperialist countries in terms of the political development of its working-class movement, is an exception in this regard. The role of social democrats like Sanders and the DSA is similar, mutatis mutandis, to the class collaborationist role of the SACP within the ANC.
The comrades’ counterposition of the imperialist Spanish Popular Front to the imperialist Democratic Party, the latter being supposedly fundamentally worse because of the absence of independent working-class mass parties in the latter, appears at odds with the Trotskyist movement’s attitude to popular fronts. We do not consider popular fronts to be embodiments of workers democracy.
Elements of workers democracy (trade unions, working class political parties, organisations of oppressed groups, etc) exist in societies characterised by bourgeois democracy despite such political blocs with the bourgeoisie, not by virtue of such blocs. The programme of fascism, however, is to do away with those elements of working-class democracy in bourgeois society, irrespective of whether working-class organisations are involved, or not involved, in a class collaborationist government such as a popular front. The main distinguishing feature of popular fronts is not that they embody working-class democracy, but that they involve a limitation of the class independence of the working-class organisations involved in them, a class compromise and a partial negation of their freedom of independent action and hence independence before the bourgeoisie.
We defend bourgeois-democratic, parliamentary regimes against overthrow by fascists not because those regimes in the governmental sense embody elements of workers democracy (they don’t!) but because in the wider society, the existence of a parliamentary regime is incompatible with the complete suppression of organs of working class democracy, and because even in the most repressive bourgeois parliamentary regime, the existence of elections means that the masses possess some elements of democratic rights, without which a parliamentary regime which has some popular legitimacy could not exist.
The question of democratic rights is crucially important for the masses, particularly in countries like the United States where whole oppressed layers, particularly the black population, have often been disenfranchised. When the comrades write that “Defending proletarian democracy against a fascist coup has nothing to do with defending imperialist ‘democracy’ against a fascist coup” they are dismissing crucially important democratic questions. For instance, the right of black people to vote in elections in the United States comes under the heading of “imperialist ‘democracy’” not workers democracy. The right to vote in a state, federal, or presidential election involves no activity in workers organisations at all. But it is a crucial democratic right nevertheless.
The comrades have not thought this through. The idea that Marxists should not defend imperialist ‘democracy’ against a fascist coup, that imperialist democracy in general is not worthy of such defence, implies that the democratic right to vote under imperialist bourgeois democracy of the black population is not worth defending against such fascist coups.
The circumstances of Trump’s election in 2016, the way he tried to justify his administration governing despite the loss of the popular vote then, and his attempt to stay in power despite the loss of the popular vote and the electoral college in 2020, bears out that Trump and his white supremacist, fascist movement is a threat to the democratic rights of the black population above all.
Trump lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes. Only the distribution of votes via the electoral college, particularly in ‘swing-states’ where the rustbelt figured heavily, allowed him to claim the presidency. Confronted with his loss of the popular vote after 2016, Trump outrageously claimed that this was due to millions of illegal immigrants illegally voting, and others who should allegedly not be allowed to vote. It was never explicitly stated, for obvious reasons, but it was always obvious he was talking about black voters. Both by implication and by the involvement of the Republican Party in voter suppression that was always aimed at depriving black and minority voters of the ability to vote.
It was always going to be difficult for him to repeat the semi-fluke of 2016; and his claim that Biden’s victory was the result of ‘illegal votes’ is both completely fraudulent, and blatantly racist. The victory of the Democrats in the January Senate seat runoffs in Georgia emphasises that overwhelmingly; it was black voters and some white anti-racist supporters who came out to defeat Trump. Trump was caught red-handed, on tape, in an hour-long telephone conversation with an election official in Georgia, himself a Republican, trying to threaten and induce him to invent another 17,800 votes to allow Trump to take Georgia’s Electoral College votes fraudulently. The official refused.
That tape is proof of attempted election fraud and played an important role in the loss of the Senate seats. Trump’s attempted fraud is the only significant electoral fraud in the 2020 election. And its purpose was massive. His attempt, through his rag-bag white supremacist army, to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory constituted nothing less than a violent attempt to disenfranchise many millions of mainly black people, to install a white supremacist dictatorship in the US.
Such is the blatant nature of the Republican attempt to disenfranchise black people, fuelled by the fear that soon there will not be a white majority in the US, that it has provoked the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) into initiating an unprecedented lawsuit against the Republicans under the Ku Klux Klan Act, alleging that the GOP Is involved in a nationwide campaign to deprive black people of the franchise. Which is obviously true, and a supportable legal initiative, notwithstanding the liberal-bourgeois nature of the NAACP.
Trump’s attempt to stay in power, with his false allegations of electoral fraud and overruling the popular vote, implies the large scale, if not wholesale, disenfranchisement of black people, and the rolling back of the gains of the 1950s-60s civil rights movement at the very least. This would require a dictatorship that would crush these democratic rights. Such a regime from the very start, to survive in power, must crush all independent working class and black organisations, and hence crush those elements of working-class democracy that exist under imperialist bourgeois democracy. It is not possible to crush bourgeois democracy without crushing all elements of working-class democracy, and Trump understands this very well. This is what motivates his otherwise absurd, red-baiting of the Biden-led Democratic Party, his allegations that it is ‘far left’ and ‘Marxist’ etc, which is so bizarre given Biden’s record as a right-winger in the Democratic Party under Clinton and Obama. This Trump verbiage is redolent of Nazi denunciation of social democracy in the 1930s.
The comrades have misunderstood the article by Trotsky, The Lesson of Spain, from 1936, that they cite in support of their position. This was not a polemic against taking sides with a parliamentary regime against a fascist coup, but rather a polemic against social chauvinism in an approaching inter-imperialist war, that is, a war between imperialist powers. Trotsky was talking about a potential war between imperialist France and Nazi Germany, both imperialist powers, and polemicising against those who advocated support for French imperialism in such a war, and the illusion that French imperialism could wage an ‘anti-fascist’ war against Germany.
This is shown clearly by passage quoted:
“But here we are interrupted by the exclamation. ‘How can one dissolve the officers’ corps? Doesn’t this mean destroying the army and leaving the country disarmed in the face of Fascism? Hitler and Mussolini are only waiting for that!’ All these arguments are old and familiar. That’s how the Cadets, the S-Rs and the Russian Mensheviks reasoned in 1917, and that’s how the leaders of the Spanish People’s Front reasoned. The Spanish workers half-believed these ratiocinations until they were convinced by experience that the nearest Fascist enemy was to be found in the Spanish Fascist army. Not for nothing did our old friend Karl Liebknecht teach: ‘The main enemy is in our own country!’”
Yes, the main enemy at home for the Spanish working class in 1936 was the Spanish Fascist Army. The one that under the leadership of Franco was trying to overthrow the Republic. Which Trump’s forces were trying to do in the United States in 2021. Other than that, the main enemy of the French working class was the French ruling class and its army, and it was not possible to defend its democratic rights by defending French imperialism in an inter-imperialist war against Nazi Germany.
The slogan ‘the Main Enemy is at home’ is not much of a guide as to which side to take in an attempted fascist coup, and bourgeois elements out to resist such a coup, within an imperialist power such as the United States. Because both sides are “at home”, by definition. Thus, the comrades’ view that “we defend the defeatism of both wings of imperialism, like Lenin in the First World War, to transform the intra-imperialist war into class warfare” is at odds with the correct position on a variety of attempted and indeed successful right-wing/fascist coups taken by communist organisations in the past in both imperialist and semi-colonial countries throughout our movement’s history. There has never been a situation where a conflict between a parliamentary regime and an indigenous, putative fascist force in the same country trying to overthrow it, has been treated as the same as an inter-imperialist war. Such conflicts operate on a completely different plane, in theory and practice.
The question as to which side is the main enemy can only be decided by the working class according to the need to defend its class organisations, be they strong or weak, and the democratic rights of the oppressed. Of course, it is true that in the 19th Century the Democratic Party was the party of the post-Civil War Slavocracy and the Republican Party was the party of the Northern bourgeoisie, the party of Abraham Lincoln. We have to deal with politics today however, not a century ago, and today this has been reversed: the Republicans are an overtly racist party, the vanguard of neoliberalism under Reagan and Bush that has been seeking for decades to disenfranchise as much of the non-white population of the US as possible, and which now has a sizeable fascist wing. The Democratic Party, also an outright bourgeois party, played second-fiddle in that regard, and now has a sizeable black and working class, partially class-conscious constituency, personified by Sanders, and therefore itself is currently playing the role of the popular front in US conditions.
This is not something we support; we do not advocate votes for the Democrats or even for Sanders or his followers if they stand as Democrats. But in an armed clash between this US popular front, and the fascist element of the Republicans, we stand with the former militarily in the same manner as with the popular front in Spain. The distinction between military and political support we are advocating was summed up by Trotsky in his rendition of An Aesop’s Fable as to why it was necessary to stand militarily with the social-imperialist German Social Democracy against Hitler’s hordes in the early 1930s.
“A cattle dealer once drove some bulls to the slaughterhouse. And the butcher came nigh with his sharp knife.
‘Let us close ranks and jack up this executioner on our horns,’ suggested one of the bulls.
‘If you please, in what way is the butcher any worse than the dealer who drove us hither with his cudgel?’ replied the bulls, who had received their political education in Manuilsky’s institute. [The Comintern.]
‘But we shall be able to attend to the dealer as well afterwards!’
“Nothing doing,” replied the bulls firm in their principles, to the counselor. ‘You are trying, from the left, to shield our enemies – you are a social-butcher yourself.’
And they refused to close ranks.”
Advocating defeatism on both sides, in the circumstances of a fascist coup in an imperialist country like the US, can only mean repeating the error Trotsky was attacking here: failing to see the immediate danger to the working class and the oppressed. It is the nature of imperialism to organise coups and worse in colonial and semi-colonial countries; it is the nature of bourgeois imperialist parties to attack workers, to undermine social gains, to undermine the democratic rights of the oppressed. But the victory, even if it were incomplete, of fascism in an imperialist country is a qualitative intensification and extension of that. Fascism in an imperialist country is the concentrated, purified essence of imperialism. A policy of defeatism on both sides in the conflict over the Capitol, of indifference as to whether Trump managed to seize power against the popularly elected President and Congress, would be similarly suicidal as the policy of the KPD in Germany that Trotsky was polemicising against above.
About our differences over the Trumpist invasion of the Capitol
Bolshevik Militant Tendency (Argentina) – Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil) – Socialist Workers League (USA) – Sections of the Secretariat of the Americas of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International
1. There are differences within our international current about the current process of civil war trends taking place in the US.
2. FCT, TMB and SWL understand that only the organized proletariat can be trusted to crush Trumpism and they have no illusions in any bloc or support for the imperialist military measures of the Democratic Party. They do not believe that the coup plotters of the Democratic Party, who carried out coups against oppressed peoples, are the best allies of the US workers to combat Trump’s coups. They do not defend the “democracy of the rich imperialists” nor its decadent institutions that deliberate all the evils of big capital on the oppressed peoples of the world and the workers of the United States. This nation was built on the pillars of slave oppression and patriarchy. The Democratic Party is a structural and historical component of that state. Until the 1930s, the Democratic Party was the wing of the bipartisanship that best represented southern historical slavery (1). Therefore, the Democrats have neither strength nor interest in destroying the supremacist wing, nor in eradicating its tradition that is part of the Democratic tradition itself, but only in attenuating them and using them as justification to expand their political power. We advocate a political uprising (far beyond the social or racial) of the indigenous, Latino, Afro-descendant and exploited masses, Muslims, oppressed whites against the carnage promoted by the corporations of all their governmental agents.
3. Thus, we have public differences with the British TF-SF comrades who also make up the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (CVCI). To our knowledge, comrades make a series of successive and combined mistakes on Trump’s failed coup that prevented us from signing a common statement.
4. The British comrades are in favour of a military bloc with the Democrats and invoke the institutions of the imperialist state machinery against Trumpism, making a false analogy between Spain in 1936 and the United States in 2021, since in both situations it would be present a fascist attack on a bourgeois parliamentary regime in an imperialist country. However, this is a false analogy because it minimizes the fact that in Spain, in opposition to Franco’s fascist imperialist side, there was a popular front, the main component of which is a mass party of the working class, its trade unions and its trade union centres. Therefore, what threatened the Franco regime was proletarian democracy and not just a bourgeois parliament. Defending proletarian democracy against a fascist coup has nothing to do with defending imperialist “democracy” against a fascist coup.
“Defense of Republic is Defense of Capitalism
The political alliance of the working class leaders with the bourgeoisie is disguised as the defense of the “republic.” The experience of Spain shows what this defense is in actuality. The word “republican,” like the word “democrat,” is a deliberate charlatanism which serves to cover up class contradictions. The bourgeois is a republican so long as the Republic protects private property. And the workers utilize the Republic to overthrow private property. In other words: the Republic loses all its value to the bourgeois the moment it assumes value for the workers. The radical cannot enter into a bloc with workers’ parties without the assurance of support in the officers’ corps. It is no accident that Daladier is at the head of the Ministry of War in France. The French bourgeoisie has entrusted this post to him more than once and he has never betrayed them. Only people of the type of Maurice Paz or Marceau Pivert can believe that Daladier is capable of purging the army of reactionaries and Fascists, in other words, of dissolving the officers’ corps. But no one takes such people seriously.
But here we are interrupted by the exclamation. “How can one dissolve the officers’ corps? Doesn’t this mean destroying the army and leaving the country disarmed in the face of Fascism? Hitler and Mussolini are only waiting for that!” All these arguments are old and familiar. That’s how the Cadets, the S-Rs and the Russian Mensheviks reasoned in 1917, and that’s how the leaders of the Spanish People’s Front reasoned. The Spanish workers half-believed these ratiocinations until they were convinced by experience that the nearest Fascist enemy was to be found in the Spanish Fascist army. Not for nothing did our old friend Karl Liebknecht teach: “The main enemy is in our own country!”
Purging Army of Fascists An Illusion
L’Humanite cries pleading for the army to be purged of fascists. But what good is this appeal? When you vote for maintenance credits, when you enter into an alliance with Daladier and, through him, with financial capital, you entrust the army to Daladier – and at the same time demand that this entirely capitalist army serve “the people” and not the capital, then you either became a complete idiot or are you consciously deceiving the working masses. “
León Trotsky, The Lesson of Spain, July 30, 1936
5. Due to this error, the TF-SF induces another: in this analogy, despite denying it, the position of the TF then induces the false belief, embellishment that the United States Democratic Party of 2021 would be something similar to a mass party. From the working class, which is completely false and creates illusions in the hard core of world imperialism. The CVCI Secretariat for the Americas does not agree with the unity of action or military bloc with the Democratic Party, even if it is “critical” or without any formal political support. No front with Biden who as Obama’s deputy promoted and was a direct beneficiary of the neo-Nazi coup in Ukraine! We defend the defeatism of both wings of imperialism, like Lenin in the First World War, to transform the intra-imperialist war into class warfare.
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