Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour makes it clear that the SWP owes no-one an apology for its previous relationship with Atzmon [or indeed for anything!]
I received a message earlier today regarding Atzmon’s new book The Wandering Who? It informed me and others that ‘a group of authors published by Zero Books have criticized the publisher & distanced themselves from the decision to publish Atzmon’s conspiracy text.’
In response to criticism (see below) Richard Seymour of the Leninology blog and the SWP, made it clear that the ‘revolutionary party’ that the SWP claims to be is not answerable to anyone – and this much is true. The membership has no control, the leadership has no accountability and it can therefore lurch from one appalling mistake and piece of opportunism (John Rees accepting £10,000 cheque from a union busting capitalist in the Middle East for a trade union conference) to Martin Smith, its Secretary, promoting Gilad Atzmon despite his overt and acknowledged anti-Semitism and dabbling in holocaust denial.. At the time Jews Against Zionism and other anti-racists held a picket of the SWP’s meeting (June 17 2005)
In fact the only admission obtained from Seymour was in passing and related to what Seymour termed ‘The SWP's long-since aborted relationship with Atzmon’ and anyway ‘nor do I owe you any explanation for it.’ It is true I’m not personally owed an explanation, but perhaps the Palestine solidarity and anti-racist movements might be owed one?
It’s also untrue to talk about the SWP’s ‘long aborted’ relationship with Atzmon. I defy Richard Seymour to point to one article, one word, one syllable even, in Socialist Worker or their site, which states unequivocally that they have terminated their relationship and why. Instead they hope that people forget and like good Stalinists are intent on pretending it never happened or was a very long time ago (in fact about a year).
The statement they reproduced on their site (now gone!), is a rebuttal of the idea that Atzmon was either an anti-semite or a holocaust denier. The reasons? Firstly he was an Israeli born Jew who served in the IOF and now lives in Britain and secondly he was a good jazz player!
It is interesting that one of the reasons why Seymour and fellow authors have distanced themselves from Atzmon was on account of his essay ‘On anti-Semitism’ which was published in March 2003. It contains all you need to know about someone who believes Jews control the White House and that it doesn’t matter if the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are true or not. ‘American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the elder of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world.’ The bracketed ‘in fact Zionists’ was added at a later stage after the essay came in for much criticism. However the meaning is unchanged.
It was on June 17, 2005, over 2 years later that the SWP hosted Atzmon at Bookmarks to talk about Otto Weininger, about whom Hitler is alleged to have said that there was only one good Jew, and he killed himself. The idea of Atzmon giving a favourable lecture to the SWP faithful on Hitler’s favourite Jew, a misogynist to put it mildly, is beyond parody.
In fact another of Atzmon’s gems (‘The Learned Elders of Zion’) a parody on the infamous anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is aimed at anti-Zionist Jews) is dated 9.11.06. showing that they took it straight from Atzmon’s site. In fact it was printed on the Truth Seeker conspiracy site, which regularly publishes holocaust denial articles, on June 12th 2005. And I have a file with the article dated 5.6.05. In other words the article was published nearly 2 weeks before the said meeting yet it didn’t ring any bells with the SWP.
It’s understandable that Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour doesn’t want to answer for the SWP. Quite frankly, who can blame him? Nonetheless this rank piece of opportunism refuses to go away.
And having conducted a search of the Internet it would seem that Seymour has a habit of acting as the SWP's loyal subversive as when he closed down all discussion on his blog over the SWP's debacle in Respect and more serious charges that he acted as an apologist for the Serbian state and denied the appalling genocide in Srebenika (along with Spiked Magazine). It was a 'mere' massacre.
Disappeared Statement by SWP 21 June 2005
Gilad Atzmon and Marxism 2005
There has been some controversy surrounding our invitation for the musician Gilad Atzmon to perform at Marxism 2005.
One or two small groups are claiming that Gilad is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. We would like to state the following:
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli born Jew who served in the Israeli Defence Force and who now lives in “self-exile” in Britain. He is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician whose album Exile won BBC Best Jazz Album of 2003.
The SWP would also like to make it clear, that we would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations like the National Front and the British National Party. We played a prominent role in setting up the Anti Nazi League in the mid-1970s and Unite Against Fascism two years ago. One of our members, Blair Peach, was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in west London in 1979.
Our founding member, Tony Cliff, was Jewish and, like many of his generation, lost many members of his family in the Holocaust. Nazis in the British National Party and National Front have targeted our members for attack. In the last three weeks we have helped initiate two vigils in response to anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Manchester and east London. Across the country our members are involved in campaigns to defend asylum seekers, oppose police brutality and defend communities from scapegoating. We have a record of opposing fascism, anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, that is second to none.
The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism.
In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with. We do not believe that Gilad should be “banned” from performing or speaking. “No Platform” is a principle that the left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists. Where other disagreements occur, the left, with the same vigour, has defended the right to freedom of speech, debate and the clash of ideas.
Statement from Gilad Atzmon carried by the SWP
Gilad Atzmon has made the following statement refuting the allegations:
This is to confirm that I am not a Holocaust denier, I have never denied the Nazi Judeocide and I do not have any intentions to do so. For me racism and Nazism are categorically wrong and it is that very realisation that made me into a devoted opponent of Israel and Zionism.
For me, Zionism, being a racist expansionist movement, is no different from Nazi ideology. In my writings, I try to suggest some alternative philosophical and ethical realisation of historical narratives and current world affairs. This of course applies to the Holocaust. I would argue that atrocities should be realised in ideological terms rather than in measurable positive terms.
Occasionally I question the impact of the Holocaust as a “means of justification”. I try to scrutinise its role within western politics and discourse. In fact, I am not interested in the debate concerning the scale of Jewish casualties. As we all know, it wasn’t only Jews who died in that bloody war and it isn’t the number that makes the difference.
For me the Holocaust isn’t a question of quantity but rather a moral lesson, it is search into the essence of being amongst others. These ideas make me very unpopular among Zionists and their supporters.
I may mention as well that I am a jazz musician and a novelist. I am not a politician; I have never been a member in any political party. I am acting independently. I am not associated with any political body and I do not intend to be associated with one in the foreseen future. I deeply believe in an open intellectual exchange in which people with many different and opposing views can hear and be heard. I do believe that we must learn to listen to our opponents. Unless we do that we will never win. I would argue that any form of discourse is acceptable as long as it doesn’t bridge the elementary ethical barrier i.e. endorsing violence and discrimination.
Those who try to stop me from appearing in Marxism 2005 next month and Bookmarks later this week are in fact reactionary forces who aim to shatter the most intrinsic notion of intellectual life. They fight against freedom of speech, freedom of interpretation and ideological diversity. They are trying to forcefully implant their obscure views in the very core of British left discourse.
It is devastating to find out that those calls are expressed under the banner of British Jewish left (Anti Zionist Jews, JPUK etc). I would rather prefer to believe that, after such a long history of Jewish suffering, left Jews would position themselves at the forefront of the battle against discrimination and defamation. No doubt many Jews do and I am very thankful for that.
I use this opportunity to call my opponents to attend the coming events and to engage themselves in a fruitful dialogue with me and everybody else.
Peace, Gilad Atzmon
E-mail 1: TG to RS and others
Yes but it's not before time. This has been known for 3 months. [in fact 2 months]
It seems to have taken Andy Newman's Guardian CIF piece to stir them into action.
I was originally informed of this by one David Taube of Harry's Place back at the beginning of August. I knew nothing of zero books but he made
The book itself is just a rehash of the old themes. It is so undialectical that I am surprised that anyone takes it seriously. As it is, those like Prof. Mersheimer who have contributed a blurb stand to discredit themselves as as result. It is really a shame that otherwise intelligent people are taken for fools like this.
This was more than Richard Seymour, who was on a list of about 20 people could take. He responded with a mixture of vitriol and denial, coupled with righteous indignation that anyone should try to hold him or his organisation, the SWP, to account for having promoted an open anti-Semite and holocaust denier. His response to political criticism? Shut your mouth!
E-mail 2: RS to TG and others
Sent: Tuesday, 27 September 2011, 18:00
Subject: Re: Gilad Atzmon, antisemitism and the left | Andy Newman | Comment is free | The Guardian
The completion and timing of this statement has nothing to do with Andy Newman's piece. It has been in the works for some time, pending further information from Zero. Get your facts right, Tony. Or, as I would prefer, keep it shut.
E-mail 3: TG to RS and others
Yes I'm sure you would prefer that I get my mouth shut. That way you can avoid being tempted into providing explanations as to what happened to the statement from Atzmon on the SWP website and why, to this day, you have not explained why the SWP maintained a relationship with Atzmon for some 3-4 years. It is a serious matter when an organisation that calls itself Marxist and revolutionary socialist deliberately promotes someone who is nakedly anti-Semitic. What kind of bloody Marxist organisation is that?
Martin Smith should be expelled. Instead he is or was your National Secretary and is still a Central Committee member.
I remember challenging Sabby Sagall outside the founding meeting of Independent Jewish Voices as to why he was giving out leaflets advertising an Atzmon give, in February 2007. He looked bemused and kept quiet.
Honesty comrade, being able to own up to mistakes and admit you got it wrong, rather than pretend nothing has happened.
Your explanation below is not good enough. If you are saying it is a coincidence that the article from Andy appeared yesterday and the statement today, which I doubt, then that begs some questions. Why did it take you so long to get your act together, when Atzmon's book has been widely publicised for nearly 2 months? What further information did you require from Zero that required you to keep quiet? You may have written the statement and collected the statements before but the timing of its release? Was that a coincidence?
Why also did David Taube, not exactly a political bedfellow, write to me and no doubt others on August 6th, i.e. nearly 2 months ago, to inform me of the fact that a left-wing publisher Zero books, was printing Atzmon. When did you learn of this yourself? Recently or before then? If so why did u keep silent. What is the organisational relationship of the SWP with Zero? Is it similar to what Pluto Books used to be?
It would seem that you have very good reason for wanting me to keep silent, but sorry comrade, socialists believe in free and open discussion. Or had you forgot?
E-mail 4: RS to TG and others
Tony, Listen, you poor, pompous sap. The SWP has nothing to do with Zero Books, which is an imprint of John Hunt Publishing (all of which is very easy to find out with a quick Google search). The impresario behind Zero, Tariq Godard, would be highly amused to be accused of having any association with the SWP. The SWP's long-since aborted relationship with Atzmon has nothing to do with this, and nor do I owe you any explanation for it.
Nor, while I'm at it, do I owe you an explanation for why Zero authors released our statement when we did. We do not answer to you. No one answers to you, unless you happen to own a pet dog. You may wish to reflect on the fact that it is this sort of self-important bluster on your part that has been responsible for such calamities as the humiliation of Jews Against Zionism at the PSC annual conference and its subsequent disintegration. I have nothing else to say to you, buffoon, on this or any related matter. All future missives will be deleted on arrival.
Yours etc., Richard
Gilad Atzmon, antisemitism and the left
Andy Newman Guardian 25th September 2011
The Palestinian cause is hindered, not helped, when the left fails to notice or confront anti-semitism
Gilad Atzmon is a world renowned jazz musician, and a former soldier in the Israeli army, so his advocacy of the Palestinian cause is guaranteed to draw attention. Indeed, a small leftwing publisher, Zero Books, has commissioned Atzmon to write a book on the Jews as part of an otherwise entirely credible series by respected left figures such as Richard Seymour, Nina Power and Laurie Penny.
The trouble is that Atzmon has often argued that the Zionist oppression of the Palestinians is attributable not to the bellicose politics of the Israeli state, but to Jewish lobbies and Jewish power. Atzmon's antisemitic writings include, for example, a 2009 article – Tribal Marxism for Dummies – in which he explains that while "Marxism is a universal paradigm, its Jewish version is very different. It is there to mould Marxist dialectic into a Jewish subservient precept". Atzmon argues that it is merely a "Judeo-centric pseudo intellectual setting which aims at political power" and that "Jewish Marxism is there to … stop scrutiny of Jewish power and Jewish lobbying".
This is a wild conspiracy argument, dripping with contempt for Jews. Sadly, Atzmon's status as a celebrity advocate of the Palestinian cause means that he has been feted by some on the left. The Socialist Workers party, for example, used to invite him to attend their public events, and Indymedia has robustly defended Atzmon, even banning people who object to him.
Sadly, the left does not have an unblemished record on opposing antisemitism. In 2009, for example, the respected American leftist publication Counterpunch published an article by Alison Weir of the organisation If Americans Knew defending the unsubstantiated and implausible claims made by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet about Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinians in Gaza to harvest their organs.
Weir implied, with no evidence, that Israel is at the centre of international organ smuggling. She then explicitly argued that the medieval "blood libel" – that Jews kill Christian children – has a basis in fact. Elsewhere, more than 3 million people have watched on YouTube the antisemitic film Zeitgeist: the Movie, despite its recycling of paranoia about a Jewish plot for world domination.
Sometimes well-meaning people fail to recognise antisemitism when they encounter it, because they are not attuned to the linguistic codes in which it is expressed, or are unaware of the cultural themes of anti-Judaic prejudice being drawn upon. Anti-Judaic bigotry predates modern racism, and is embedded in our culture. In pre-capitalist Europe Christians were prohibited from usury – lending money for interest. Medieval Jewry thus played a social role as financiers. The enduring negative stereotype of Jews as "greedy" therefore derived from medieval opposition to finance capital. As Martin Luther wrote in 1543: "[The Jews] let us work in the sweat of our brow to earn money and property while they sit behind the stove, idle away the time, fart, and roast pears … with their accursed usury they hold us and our property captive. … Thus they are our masters and we are their servants, with our property, our sweat, and our labour."
Luther may have little direct influence on modern antisemitism, but the identification of Jews as trying to control the world through money still has widespread currency, and informs the idea of a "Jewish lobby" that dictates American support for Israel.
The 19th century saw anti-Judaic feeling given a gloss of pseudo-science, with the birth of modern racialised antisemitism. This made an important difference because it created a racial category for the Jews. Whereas medieval anti-Judaism had regarded Jewishness as a question of faith, and therefore believed that Jews stopped being Jews if they accepted Christ, in the 19th century Jews came to be seen as aliens in Europe.
The Jews have always regarded themselves as a nation without a home, and it should come as no surprise that in response to such antisemitism Jewish political nationalism arose across Europe in the 19th century, or that Zionism then gave expression to the aspiration for a Jewish nation state. The actually existing Israel is founded upon displacement of another people, and there will never be peace and security until the Palestinians achieve justice. However, the cause of the Palestinians is hindered, not helped, by association with antisemitism.
It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious effort of far-right antisemites to infiltrate the movement, and to vigorously oppose and exclude antisemites. We would not hesitate to condemn racists, homophobes or sexists, and must be equally robust in opposing anti-Jewish hate-speech.
See also my own article ‘The Seamy Side of Solidarity’ in CIF in February 2007
Zero Authors' Statement on Gilad Atzmon
posted by Lenin
We are writing to express our concern that Zero Books, a vibrant, radical publisher, has made a terrible error of judgment in publishing a manuscript by the Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon. The book, entitled The Wandering Who?, is a discussion of ‘Jewish identity’ in the light of global issues such as Israel-Palestine, and the financial crisis. But the nature of Atzmon’s political engagement on ‘Jewish identity’ makes him at best a dubious authority on such matters. His central concern is to describe and oppose “Jewish power”, as he sees it. Thus, in one piece complaining about the presence of Jews in the Clinton and Bush administrations, he argues:
“Zionists complain that Jews continue to be associated with a conspiracy to rule the world via political lobbies, media and money. Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation? ... we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously … American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the elder of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.”
This ‘control’ is, Atzmon argues, quite extensive. “Jewish power” is such that legitimate research into the Nazi judeocide (by which he means Holocaust denial) is impossible. The established history of the Holocaust is a “religion” that “doesn’t make any historical sense”. But Jewish power has “managed to prevent the West from accessing one of the most devastating chapters of Western history”. Moreover, he blames the global economic crisis on Zionism and Jewish bankers:
“Throughout the centuries, Jewish bankers bought for themselves some real reputations of backers and financers of wars  and even one communist revolution . Though rich Jews had been happily financing wars using their assets, Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, found a far more sophisticated way to finance the wars perpetrated by his ideological brothers Libby and Wolfowitz...”
Elsewhere, he relates that Marxism is merely an expression of Jewish tribal interests, “a form of supremacy that adopts the Judaic binary template”. Thus, Jews are held responsible by Atzmon for war, financial capitalism and communism. Being born to an Israeli Jewish family, he does not identify the problem, as he sees it, in terms of blood or DNA. Rather, he identifies a “Jewish tribal mindset”, a “Jewish ideology”, as the animus behind Jewish attempts “to control the world”. Yet, racist ideology has never been reducible to its ‘biological’ variants. It has often taken a ‘cultural’ form, predicated on an essentialist reading of its object (Islam, ‘Jewishness’) which is held to represent a powerful, threatening Other.
Atzmon’s assertions are underpinned by a further claim, which is that antisemitism doesn't exist, and hasn’t existed since 1948. There is only “political reaction” to “Jewish power”, sometimes legitimate, sometimes not. For example, the smashing up of Jewish graves may be “in no way legitimate”, but nor are they “’irrational’ hate crimes”. They are solely “political responses”. Given this, it would be impossible for anything that Atzmon writes, or for anyone he associates with, to be anti-Semitic. This shows, not only in his writing, but in his political alliances. He sees nothing problematic, for example, in his championing of the white supremacist ‘Israel Shamir’ (“the sharpest critical voice of ‘Jewish power’ and Zionist ideology”), whose writings reproduce the most vicious anti-Semitic myths including the ‘blood libel’, and for whom even the BNP are insufficiently racist.
The thrust of Atzmon’s work is to normalise and legitimise anti-Semitism. We do not believe that Zero’s decision to publish this book is malicious. Atzmon’s ability to solicit endorsements from respectable figures such as Richard Falk and John Mearsheimer shows that he is adept at muddying the waters both on his own views and on the question of anti-Semitism. But at a time when dangerous forces are attempting to racialise political antagonisms, we think the decision is grossly mistaken. We call on Zero to distance itself from Atzmon’s views which, we know, are not representative of the publisher or its critical engagement with contemporary culture.
Robin Carmody, Dominic Fox, Owen Hatherley, Douglas Murphy, Alex Niven, Laurie Penny, Nina Power, Richard Seymour & Kit Withnail. (Others to follow).
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘On Antisemitism’, Gilad.co.uk, 20th March 2003
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘Zionism and other Marginal Thoughts’, Gilad.co.uk, 4th October 2009; Gilad Atzmon, ‘Truth, History and Integrity’, Gilad.co.uk, 13th March 2010
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘Credit Crunch or rather Zio Punch?’, Gilad.co.uk, 16th November 2009
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘Self-Hatred vs. Self-Love- An Interview with Eric Walberg by Gilad Atzmon’, Gilad.co.uk, 5th August 2011
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘On Antisemitism’, Gilad.co.uk, 20th March 2003
 Gilad Atzmon, ‘The Protocols of the Elders Of London’, Gilad.co.uk, 9th November 2006
 See Israel Shamir, ‘Bloodcurdling Libel (a Summer Story)’, IsraelShamir.net; and Israel Shamir, ‘British Far Right and Saddam : responses of Robert Edwards and LJ Barnes of BNP’, IsraelShamir.net, January 2007