Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Socialism and the Redistribution of Wealth is ‘Robbery’ according to Gilad Atzmon – Why Does the SWP Support this Reactionary?
One of the sites that is happy to carry Gilad Atzmon’s turgid and racist nonsense is Redress. His latest article is entitled ‘Swindler’s List’. No guesses as to who the ‘swindlers’ are. [all quotations from this article unless otherwise specified]
In an article which tries to prove that Zionism and what it has done to the Palestinians is an inherent part of the Old Testament, our old friend cannot forsake attacking the Bund. The Bund, for those who don’t know, was the General Jewish Labour Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Formed in Vilna in 1897 it sought to create a united Jewish socialist party in what was then the Russian Empire. It was staunchly anti-Zionist and held that the place where Jews belonged was where they lived, not Palestine.
For Atzmon, the Zionists were right and the Bund were wrong. As he writes in ‘The Politics of Anti-Semitism: Zionism, the Bund and Jewish Identity Politics’: ‘As sad as it may be and as much pain as it may take to admit it, the Zionist project was there to make a change and it indeed succeeded in doing so.’
For Atzmon, the Zionist movement was ‘there to make a change’. Of course the change was what all colonial movements undertook, viz. the dispossession of the indigenous population and in the case of Zionism, their expulsion from the land itself. It was the change that Cecil Rhodes instituted in Rhodesia, that Jan Smuts brought forward in the Union of South Africa and which Lord Brookborough established in Northern Ireland. It was the change that all settler colonial groups believed in. It was founded on the principle of the Australian colonists, terra nullis, an empty land.
Atzmon calls himself an anti-Zionist. At first sight an attack on the Bund is somewhat strange. Why praise the Zionists and attack the most significant anti-Zionist Jewish party in the past century? The answer is however significant. Atzmon is not an anti-Zionist. True he deplores the predicament and situation of the Palestinians, but he does it from a Zionist paradigm. He accepts the Zionist belief that the Jews living outside Palestine were abnormal. As he writes in his essay on The Politics of the Bund:
‘While both movements were secular, early Zionists were honest enough to admit that on the eve of the 20th century, there was not much in Jewish secular life to be proud of (either culturally or spiritually).’
In fact Atzmon’s attacks on diaspora and non-Zionist Jewry echo that of Zionist ideologues. Zionism was founded on a hatred of the Galut, the Jewish ‘exile’. As Max Nordau, Theodore Herzl’s deputy explained:
‘I have no doubt that I am a Zionist because the Jewish people is a very nasty people and its neighbours hate it and they are right.’ [Shlomo Avineiri, ‘The Making of Modern Zionism - The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State’ p.162,Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1981.]
And equally significant, Atzmon’s main target today is not Zionism, about which he has next to no analysis that isn’t crudely racist. It is the growing body of Jewish anti-Zionists. These are his main enemy. Although his articles are widely disseminated on the web (though the content is rarely discussed because it is deliberately opaque and obscurantist) they are nonetheless based on an abysmal lack of knowledge of that which he writes about.
Atzmon talks about ‘the very few Bundists who didn’t immigrate to Israel after the war, half a dozen do not agree with Israel, Zionism and the robbery of Palestine.’ In fact of course the Bund, together with the Jews of Eastern Europe, were the victims of the Nazi holocaust, which Atzmon has also cast doubt upon (to put it mildly).
But Atzmon takes his critique further and this should be of note to those in the SWP and socialists who defend him. Atzmon argues that being Jewish the Bund are also believers in robbing non-Jews (Gentiles) however in their case,
'Bundists believe that instead of robbing Palestinians we should all get together and rob whoever is considered to be the rich, the wealthy and the strong in the name of working class revolution.’
And here Atzmon demonstrates that not only is he anti-Semitic, but he is a thorough going and incorrigible reactionary. ‘On the face of it’ he writes, ‘robbing the rich, confiscating their homes and grabbing their wealth is seen as an ethical act within the progressive discourse.’
The redistribution of wealth, the control of the means of production by those who produce the wealth, an end to the naked robbery of the people of the third world by war mongering multi-nationals is, well, ‘robbery.’ The Enrons and Conrad Blacks of this world have earned all they possess and the inhabitants of the shanty towns of Brazil should face up to this fact rather than seeking an equal share (robbery!).
Atzmon tells us that ‘As a young revolutionary I myself took part in some righteous parades.’ However ‘the inevitable happened: I grew up.’ One somehow doubts whether or not Atzmon grew up so much as the fact that he became a political conservative and reactionary. It is also open to doubt whether Atzmon was ever a revolutionary either! A good example of how Atzmon’s philosophy and that of Nazi anti-Semitism has merged is the following:
‘I realized that such vengeance towards an entire class of wealthy goyim is no more than an extension of Moses’s oratory of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6.’
People should savour this. The Bund’s ‘vengeance’ as he terms it, was not towards the entire class of the bourgeoisie and ruling class, the parasites who preside over the exploitation of the working masses. Good gracious no. It was directed at ‘wealthy goyim’. And here we see encapsulated the key idea of the Nazi theoreticians, including Hitler. The Jewish socialists and the Jewish bourgeoisie were in league. Whilst Isaac Cohen instigated rebellion at the factory gates, Moshe Cohen was clamouring for wage cuts and attacks on the non-Jewish worker. And this Jewish conspiracy had as its aim that of reducing the non-Jewish nations to ruin so the Jews could rule over the lot. Absurd of course, but we have to remember that in his essay ‘On anti-Semitism’ Atzmon wrote that:
‘we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously.’ (Atzmon subsequently altered ‘Jewish people’ to ‘Zionists’, but the meaning remains the same.
We are told that ‘Robbing involves a categorical dismissal of the other.’ So when oil companies rob the people of the Arab East of their natural resources, bribing corrupt regimes such as the House of Saud and enabling them to suppress their own people, that is acceptable. But when for example the people of Iraq nationalised the Iraq Petroleum Company or the Iranians nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, because the oil companies ‘owned’ the oil, that was ‘robbery’. In Atzmon’s turgid gobbledegook such nationalisation ‘must be premised on some inherent self-righteousness.’
To Atzmon, the right of the peoples of the world to an equal share in the world’s wealth rather than the present obscenity whereby the fortune of Bill Gates is larger than the entire gross domestic products of some countries is nothing less than ‘robbery’.
Likewise the revolution in Cuba, which emancipated the wealth of Cuba from the hands of American multinationals like Bacardi and the mafioso, or the election of Allende in Chile and the nationalisation of the assets of ITT and Pepsi again was an example of ‘robbery’.
‘Sadly, we have to admit that hate-ridden plunder of other people’s possessions made it into the Jewish political discourse both on the left and right. The Jewish nationalist would rob Palestine in the name of the right of self-determination, the Jewish progressive is there to rob the ruling class and even international capital in the name of world working class revolution.’
What is amazing is that some socialists, including the SWP, still think that there is anything progressive or ‘left’ about Atzmon and his band of anti-Semites. It is little wonder then that in his final parting shot Atzmon rails against Jewish socialists:
‘Were Jewish Marxists and cosmopolitans open to the notion of brotherhood, they would have given up on their unique, exclusive banners and become ordinary human beings like the rest of us.’
Whether Atzmon & his fellow anti-Semites and holocaust deniers are ‘ordinary human beings’ I shall leave to others to judge.