27 January 2019

Hoist By Their Own Petard - The Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty

The sad, sorry story of a ‘Trotskyist’ group that believes in a ‘socialist’ imperialism and supports Apartheid Israel  

Having spent much of my life on the far-left it is clear to me that the biggest enemy of the left isn’t the capitalist class or agents of the state, it is the left itself. I refer in particular to the scattered debris of left sects that see themselves as the embodiment of the future revolution.
Sean Matgamna - the AWL's guru
Possibly the worst example was the Workers Revolutionary Party led by Gerry Healey, whose Labour Party acolytes included former Lambeth leader, Ted Knight. It still manages to produce a daily newspaper, Newsline, that no one reads. For most of its existence it was led by Gerry Healey whose serial rape of young female members was revealed 30 years ago. When he was eventually brought to book Corin Redgrave defended him in the name of a higher morality. Citing his many ‘achievements’ Redgrave told fellow comrades that ‘If this is the work of a rapist, let’s recruit more rapists.”  [The break-up of the WRP – from the horse’s mouth,, Simon Pirani].
Alone on the Left the AWL support the reactionary IHRA that Theresa May and Eric Pickles and Viktor Orban support
The WRP itself was funded by a variety of reactionary and corrupt Arab regimes such as the Iraqi Baathists. Healey earned his money by for example spying on Iraqi communist exiles in London. No doubt his entrance ticket to these Arab potentates was provided by the film stars Corin and Vanessa Redgraves, who stood by him through thick and thin when the WRP expelled him. [For a background to the split see Bob Pitt the Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy, and  Biographical sketch].
The AWL campaign against 'left anti-semitism was taken up by the Right when attacking Corbyn and the Left
The Socialist Workers Party also came a cropper over the question of rape when a female member complained she’d been raped by former National Secretary, Martin Smith. Rather than suspending Smith and conducting a thorough and impartial investigation, or alternatively deciding it was a Police matter, the Disputes Committee consisting of Smith’s mates decided that it was the woman who at fault, questioning her about previous partners and her drinking habits.  Interestingly the defence of the SWP’s behaviour by Alex Callinicos included accusing his opponents of ‘bourgeois morality’ – which was also Corin Redgrave’s defence of Gerry Healey. [For a background to the split see Bob Pitt the Rise and Fall of Gerry Healy, and  Biographical sketch].
The AWL prefer a fantasy version of Israel to the reality
As far as is known rape wasn’t a feature of the Revolutionary Communist Party’s lurch to the right. In many ways it was far worse. They became genocide deniers or what Ed Vulliamy called tinpot Holocaust deniers’. [Poison in the Well of History, Guardian, 15.3.2000, 
Its magazine, Living Marxism or LM alleged, in 1992, that an ITN report on the Serbian concentration camps of Trnopolje and Omarska in Bosnia was faked.
Mike Cushman of Free Speech on Israel's report of an AWL/Progress love-in
In ‘The Picture that Fooled the World’ it was alleged that the photograph of emaciated concentration camp inmate Fikret Alic was bogus and the barbed wire surrounding the camp was trick photography which actually was surrounding the reporters. One libel action later and LM was out of business. ITN in £375,000 libel victory, Guardian, 15.3.2000.
The AWL's solidarity is with the colonialists not the colonised
The RCP, which had been steadily jettisoning socialist politics for a long time, disappeared and Spiked was reborn as an Internet journal of the corporate, anti-environmental, racist Right. Their belief in free speech is limited to those who agree with them! [Spiked by Spiked, Socialist Unity, 13.3.09]
And of course the list of socialist renegades would not be complete without mention of Socialist Action whose John Ross masquerades these days as PR man for the Chinese regime in all its horrors. [No secrets to China's success, Guardian, 18.8.09.] 
The AWL is vehemently opposed to any solidarity with the Palestinians such as BDS
But pride of place is reserved for a small group inside the Labour Party, the Alliance for Workers Liberty. I’m sure no one has been raped or otherwise abused, but the organisation’s claim to be on the left would be the subject of a trading standards investigation if they were trying to sell you anything other than their shop worn paper.
This is an organisation which believes that socialism in Britain will be achieved by supporting imperialism policy abroad. In Afghanistan they supported the Mujahideen against the Soviet backed regime. 
Today they are decidedly opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. In Ireland they supported a variant of Partition and were hostile to Irish Republicanism.
When Tony Blair and George Bush launched the invasion of Iraq the AWL distinguished themselves by refusing to call for the withdrawal of western troops. The ostensible grounds were that they were protecting the incipient labour movement in Iraq!
But it is over Israel that the AWL have distinguished themselves. They are open supporters of the Israeli state in the guise of supporting a two state solution. They can claim to have virtually invented the concept of ‘left anti-Semitism’ as a means of undermining support for the Palestinians.
My attention was drawn to an article ‘No way to fight the witchhunt in the current edition of Workers Liberty.
It is an attack on Labour Against the Witchhunt.  According to the AWL’s Dale Street the main motion from the Steering Committee ‘sums up the core elements of left anti-Semitism.’
What you might ask does Dale mean? Is someone arguing that Jews are racially inferior to non-Jews? Perhaps we are peddling the stereotype that Jews are mean, cosmopolitans who owe no loyalty to anyone or anything (apart from our purse).  But no, that is what Israel’s best friend Viktor Orban said when he made George Soros the demonic figure of hate in the Hungarian general election last year.
In a speech commemorating the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution Orban gave a speech littered with anti-Semitic  tropes:
“They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honourable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green [the colours of the Hungarian flag].” Viktor Orban’s war on George Soros and Hungary’sJews, The Globe and Mail, 1.6.18.
Yet last July Orban was guest of honour in Israel visiting his old friend Benjamin Netanyahu.  As part of his visit to Israel Orban paid homage to the dead of the Holocaust at Israel’s Holocaust propaganda museum, Yad Vashem. Quite uniquely his visit was the subject of a picket by, amongst others Holocaust survivors. [Livid protesters block Hungarian PM Orban as heleaves Yad Vashem, The Times of Israel, 19.7.18.
This is the same Orban who described Admiral Horthy as an ‘exceptional statesman’ 
Horthy, who instituted Hungary’s White Terror in 1920 formed an alliance with Nazi Germany in the war and presided over the deportation of nearly half a million Jews to Auschwitz. Yet when Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary, Yossi Amrani, issued a mild rebuke to Orban last July for a blatantly anti-Semitic poster campaign against Soros, Netanyahu quickly overruled him. Israel Overrules its Ambassador to Hungary on Anti-Soros Ads.
Soros is also a hate figure in Israel for funding human rights groups. A week later Netanyahu paid a state visit to Hungary.
I mention this because the Israeli state has embraced virtually every anti-Semitic regime in Europe and not just Europe. Bolsonaro of Brazil is another friend of Israel yet the AWL insist on seeing Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state, the embodiment of world Jewry. Brazil applauds Netanyahu-Bolsonaro bromance, new ties with Jewish state, Times of Israel, 3.1.19.
LAW’s crime is that it is
not focused on the many hundreds of socialists expelled from the Labour Party, without notification of charges, hearing, or appeal, since 2015, on grounds of association (however loose) with left-wing groups such as Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Appeal, or Left Unity. Its prime concern is with Labour Party members charged with antisemitism.
What the AWL really mean is they would rather LAW ignores disciplinary action where the allegations involve accusations of anti-Semitism. Of course these allegations aren’t true. LAW’s Honorary President Moshe Machover was expelled and then reinstated because of his alleged membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Our proposed Constitution, under Aims, states that:
·         The first part of rule 2.1.4.B (‘Exclusions’) should be abolished: it bars from Labour Party membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” and has exclusively been used against left-wingers.
We have fought against all exclusions, whether they are on the grounds of support for another political organisation, anti-Semitism or indeed any other political grounds such as transphobia. Our proposed Constitution is quite clear:
·         All those summarily expelled or suspended without due process should be immediately reinstated.
The main motion to the conference is entitled ‘The slow coup against Jeremy Corbyn.’  Dale Street takes exception to an analysis which says that Corbyn has been attacked because he is seen as a threat to the strategic alliance with the US” because of his “critical attitude towards Israel”. Is the AWL seriously denying that Israel, which receives over $4 billion in aid each year from the USA, the largest of any country, is not in alliance with the USA? Why then would the USA give such large amounts of aid to Israel?
Equally objectionable to the AWL is our statement that the Israeli state and the Zionist lobby is conducting ‘a “war of attrition” against Corbyn. Apparently all these headlines in the Zionist press saying that Corbyn is an ‘existentialist threat’ to the Jewish community are just friendly banter. [Three Jewish papers take the unprecedented stepof publishing the same page on Labour antisemitism], Jewish Chronicle 25.7.18. 
The Al Jazeera programme The Lobby showing Israeli agent Shai Masot at work helping fan the flames of false ‘anti-Semitism’ are another example of ‘left’ anti-Semitism. 
Naturally our description of Corbyn’s ‘“policy of appeasement” (which has) culminated in the Labour Party’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism’ is anti-Semitic as is the suggestion that ‘This has “massively expanded” the scope for “false allegations of antisemitism”.
Of course the AWL see nothing wrong in a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ which conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Most people in the Labour Party (and outside) have no problem distinguishing between criticism of Israel or Zionism and hostility to Jews as Jews. The AWL however has swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the Zionist fable that to oppose Zionism is to be anti-Semitic.
Our suggestion that the anti-Semitism witch-hunt is fabricated and that the Jewish Labour Movement, the British wing of the racist Israeli Labour Party is orchestrating the attacks on Corbyn via its MP patrons such as Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger and Ian Austin is seen as yet more evidence of ‘left anti-Semitism’.  
Ironically, Owen Smith MP, when challenging Corbyn, accused the AWL of 'antisemitism' because in the eyes of the Right,  anti-semitism= the left!
However this has not always been the case. Cast your minds back to the summer of 2016. At that time Owen Smith challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party. In the course of the campaign Owen Smith made the allegation, on BBC Question Time, that the AWL was themselves anti-Semitic. As a result of this Peter Radcliffe and Daniel Randall were expelled by Iain McNicol for ‘anti-Semitism’. 
Around this time I happened to do a debate with Daniel Randall on the subject Is there such a thing as ‘left anti-Semitism’? I couldn’t therefore help but put it to Daniel that he and Peter had been bitten by the very dog that had attacked so many of us. There was a rich irony in the AWL being attacked by Labour’s Right as ‘anti-Semites’. Of course they failed to see the irony in the situation but it should have been crystal clear. To the Right all socialists are automatically ‘anti-Semites’. Indeed ‘anti-Semitism’ is a catch-all charge for the Right. Daniel was therefore forced to concede the truth of what I was saying:
I do want to say from the outset that it is undeniably the case that the issue of anti-Semitism has been instrumentalised and manipulated by some on the Labour Right and their supporters in the press in order to undermine Corbyn and the Left.  As Tony mentioned, last week Owen Smith accused us of anti-Semitism on national television, so it is very clear that there is a certain process going on there, a certain instrumentalisation and manipulation of an issue for cynical factional ends.  It has to be understood and opposed on its own terms. [Debate Between Tony Greenstein & Daniel Randall of the Alliance for Workers Liberty
But as Dale said ‘All the main themes of left antisemitism are there’. And what are these themes?
Our statement that Zionism is a form of racism. (‘so the very existence of Israel, above and beyond any particular policy, is “racist”). An ethno-nationalist state which calls itself Jewish, which declares that it is a state of only part of its inhabitants, is inherently racist. Just like a White ethno-nationalist state in South Africa or a Protestant Supremacist statelet in Northern Ireland was racist.
Does this mean we deny the right of Israeli Jews to live in Israel? No of course not.  What we do deny is the right of a racist state to exist, whether it is South Africa Israel or Nazi Germany.
Dale objects in particular to our description of ‘Palestinian Arabs who are born outside the territory now Israel’ as natives ‘whereas Jews born there are “settler-colonialists”. But this is a political description of the function of Israeli Jews, who to this very day see themselves as a privileged community. It is Israeli Jews who are dispossessing and removing Palestinian Arabs from their lands.  Settler colonialism is an ongoing process and Israeli Jews are without doubt a settler population politically.
Dale concludes by saying that ‘No viable campaign against the expulsion of socialists from the Labour Party can be built by tying it to these conspiracy theories.’ Which is somewhat rich coming from the AWL. It was the AWL’s Jill Mountjoy and AWL sympathiser Michael Chessum who voted to remove Jackie Walker as Vice-Chair of Momentum at the instigation of Jon Lansman. Of course Lansman almost immediately turned round and attacked the AWL.
To describe the expulsion of myself as part of the false anti-Semitism campaign is apparently anti-Semitic. That perhaps is why the AWL and Progress have conducted almost a love-in on the question of ‘anti-Semitism’. The AWL’s ‘Stop the Purge’ campaign has disappeared and the reason why is you cannot support, as the AWL have done, the expulsion of Ken Livingstone for daring to mention Zionist-Nazi collaboration (a fact), you cannot support or justify the expulsion of other ‘left anti-Semites’ and then complain about your own expulsions. You have to be consistent but unfortunately AWL been consistent racists, supporting the ‘right’ of the world’s only apartheid state, Israel, to discriminate against its Palestinian citizens in the name of a ‘Jewish’ state.
Israel is not racist because of particular policies but because racism is in the DNA of the Israeli state. To take but one example 93% of Israel is state land or belongs to the Jewish National Fund. It is off limits to Israeli Arabs. Over the summer there were demonstrations by Jewish residents of the northern city of Afula because an Israeli Arab had managed to buy a house in a hitherto all-Jewish city. Is this simply a racist policy of Netanyahu? The situation of hundreds of Jewish only communities has been a feature of Israel since 1948.  The 1950 Law of Return, which allowed any Jew to emigrate to Israel whilst denying the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees, cemented Israel’s racist and colonial nature.
In what other country would you get a situation where the Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu, issues an edict that Jews must not rent property to Arabs.  Eliyahu is a paid state official yet the state is silent and when he is criticised dozens of Israeli rabbis back him up and issue similar rulings. [Dozens of Top Israeli Rabbis Sign Ruling toForbid Rental of Homes to Arabs], Ha’aretz 7.12.10.,  
Yet the AWL deny that this and dozens more examples of the most vicious and murderous racism suggest anything is amiss or strange in the State of Israel. For example when an Israeli soldier Elor Azaria murdered in cold blood a Palestinian lying on the floor he received a 9 month prison sentence. Elor Azaria released from prison after 9 months, YNet  5.8.18.
Contrast this with 16 year old Ahed Tamimi who received a sentence of 8 months for slapping an Israeli soldier who entered the grounds of her house. Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian Teen, Gets 8 Months in Prison for Slapping Israeli Soldier, New York Times, 21.3.18., 
The politics of the AWL are not new. There is nothing that they do which hasn’t been done in the past. They are the inheritors of the tradition laid down by Henry Hyndman of the Social Democratic Federation.  
Militancy at home and support for the Empire overseas. The SDF metamorphosed into the British Socialist Party and then the unfortunately named National Socialist Party. Unlike the SDF the AWL is but a fragment politically.
I copy below an excellent response to the AWL’s guru, Sean Matgamna by Jim Higgins, who was formerly National Secretary of the International Socialists (now the SWP) and an eclectic revolutionary. It is well worth reading.
Tony Greenstein

Jim Higgins

The arrogance of the long distance Zionist [1*]

(March 1998)

From Workers’ Liberty, No.38, March 1998.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This will be the third time I have ventured to disagree with Sean Matgamna on the vexed question of Zionism. I do so with some trepidation because, or so it seems, even when I am right I am in reality exposing myself as fundamentally wrong and mischievously so. In my first article I attempted to lighten the subject with a few mildly humourous quips. I was sternly rebuked for this failure of seriousness. Chastened, in part two I adopted a serious tone. Sean responded by regretting my humour had been replaced by “choler, rodomontade, unleavened abuse, some of it purely personal ...” Did I really do all of that? I feel particularly cheered to hear that I was guilty of choler and rodomontade, rather like the man who discovered at an advanced age that he had been speaking prose all his life. Normally, of course, I only use unleavened abuse during Passover. Sorry about that.
Having reviewed Sean’s articles I can see that they fit quite nicely into the Matgamna mode of polemic. First and foremost, his views are lumped together in such a way that they will sharply divide him from other socialists. This is what Al Richardson calls “consumer socialism” and Marx calls “sectarianism.” In practice this means that since Bernard Dix died, there have been no adherents of the Shachtmanite school of bureaucratic collectivism on these shores and if Sean were to occupy this vacant franchise he would acquire a whole slew of politics to differentiate himself from everybody else. All you need is a file of New International (published monthly between 1936 and 1958) and you can start to kid yourself you are writing with all the style and eloquence of Max Shachtman. Along with all the clever nonsense about Russia you will also inherit the Workers’ Party-International Socialist League line on Israel.
A comparison of Sean’s article with a sampling of the WP-ISL texts shows that whatever Sean lacks in originality he has made up for in the diligence of his researches into the New International. In the September issue of Workers’ Liberty we have Sean as follows: “Cliff’s 1946 pamphlet does not deal at all with the political questions in the Middle East, having more to say about the price of oil than about the rights of national minorities. Where politics should have been there is a vacuum ...” Now here is Al Gates in the New International in September 1947: “T. Cliff’s competent analytical work on Palestine, and here too we observed a fine study of the economic growth and problems of the Middle East and the place of Palestine in that situation. Yet the whole work was outstanding for its studious evasion of the political questions of the class and national struggles taking place there.” Gates is more polite than Sean, but that will probably surprise no one.
Another standard feature of Sean’s method is the one where he complains bitterly that he is being abused unfairly as a prelude to unleashing a little of his own venom into the argument. For example, I raised the case of Deir Yassin because it took place in April 1948 and set in motion the Arab refugees, countering Sean said they only fled in May 1948 when the Arab armies started their offensive. In so doing I neglected to mention the killing of 60 Jews by Arabs in the bloody attacks of 1929. For this I was accused of hypocrisy. Perhaps now I should go on to apologise for failing to condemn the similar outrages of 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936 and 1938. In the interests of balance perhaps I should also throw in the massacres of Sabra and Chatila, because I condemn them as well. In the same vein, Sean insists that he does not believe that I, or the SWP, are racist, but in virtually breath he repeats his accusation that we are anti-semitic. This does not come from the WP-ISL. I have nowhere in the pro-Israel polemics of Al Gates and the rest seen them accuse their socialist opponents of anti-semitism. For that we must look to official Zionist spokesmen and Sean Matgamna. It is, I suppose, always nice to have two sources of inspiration.
Let us now turn to Sean’s predilection for discovering sinister and malign purposes in the motives of others and constructing a sort of retrospective amalgam. About a quarter of his piece is devoted to a partial and not very informative trawl through Cliff’s works on the Middle East. On the strength of his 1948 pamphlet Middle East at the Crossroads, this apparently made Cliff, along with Abram Leon, one of the Fourth International’s two experts on the Jewish question. Unfortunately, Leon was killed by the Nazis, so after 1946 Cliff must have stood pre-eminent, although Sean assigns a subordinate role to Ernest Mandel. Thus we have the sinister Cliff leading the FI along the road of “anti-semitic anti-Zionism.” Unfortunately, by the time Sean got round to this particular fantasy he had forgotten what he had written on the previous page: “In 1967, after the Six Day War, Cliff wrote a pamphlet which is closer in its political conclusions and implied conclusions to what Workers’ Liberty says than to what the SWP or Jim Higgins say now. The decisive shift came after 1967 and was brought to the present level of nonsense after the Yom Kippur war of 1973. The ‘honour’ of having established the post 1973 IS/SWP line belongs, I think, to none other than Jim Higgins (in an article in IS Journal).” There you have it comrade readers, Cliff set the style for the FI and especially the American SWP, except that until 1973 his views were not much different from those of Workers’ Liberty, which I assume are the same as Sean’s. Far from Cliff being the deus ex machina of anti-Zionist anti-semitism, I am. In International Socialism No. 64 in 1973, I wrote this seminal offending piece, Background to the Middle East Crisis. At the same time, the ground-breaking significance of the article passed without a murmur. Nobody, including the author, was aware that it was any more than a short explanation of the IS Group’s attitude to the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, which I had reported for Socialist Worker. In the 23 years since it was written probably only Sean Matgamna has read it, now that Sean, with Holmes-like skill, has unmasked me as the eminence grise of “non-racist anti-semitic anti-Zionism” I too have read it, and regret that it has no claims, subliminal or otherwise, to trend-setting originality.
Delving further into the Matgamna polemical method we find encounter that special form of arrogance that insists on setting all the terms of any debate and finding significance in a failure to follow him up any logical blind alley he may choose. Let us then consider his “serious and not entirely rhetorical question, why the Jewish minority, a third of the population in the 1940s, did not have national rights there.” Let us leave aside the fact that rhetorical questions are precisely the ones that are not looking for answers, and think about this one. First, in those terms of realpolitik to which Sean is so addicted, who was to afford them national determination in the 1930s and 1940s. Was it the Arab majority? Not a bit of it, the very notion of any kind of accommodation with the Arab majority was totally anathema to the Zionist leadership. Should they have addressed themselves to the British? Actually they did and were turned down. The fact is that there were no rights for self-determination for anyone in Palestine. British policy had been to utilize Zionism as a force to divide and discipline the Arab masses. That is how the Jewish population rose from fewer than 100,000 in 1917 to over 400,000 in 1939 (a third of the total population). The plan was for eventually a Jewish homeland under strictly British tutelage. The turning off of Jewish immigration in 1939 was because the British were concerned to pacify the Arab majority to safeguard Palestine as a British controlled Middle East hub, especially the oil pipeline, in the war.
The question of self-determination for the Zionists had nothing to do with democracy, because any solution, while the Jewish population remained a minority, would under democratic norms have to be cast in such a way that came to terms with the Arab majority. It is for this reason that the Zionist leadership fought so hard for unrestricted immigration and why the Arabs were against it. It is for the same reasons that the Zionists while demanding Jewish immigration were opposed to Arab immigration. It is the same reason why Zionist policy was bitterly opposed to the idea of a constituent assembly. This vexed question of population arithmetic is what distorted the political agenda of Palestine.
With two thirds of the population the Arabs would seem to have a fairly safe majority. In fact, they had a plurality of only 400,000. For the Zionist leadership this was the magic number and to overhaul it took precedence over all other considerations. Such a number might just, with massive difficulty and at the expense mainly of the Arabs, be accommodated. This was the emphasis of Zionist propaganda, despite that Palestine, assuming a complete disregard for the Arabs, could take only a small proportion of the Jews threatened and eventually murdered by Hitler. The massive propaganda effort was expended on altering Palestine’s population statistics, instead of demanding asylum from the US and Britain (who were infinitely better able to provide for it) for these and many, many more Jews who were to be lost in Himmler’s ovens. This was not a matter of emphasis, shouting louder about Jerusalem than New York, it was a positive opposition to Jews going anywhere other than Palestine. If the intention had been to save Jewish lives at all costs, the argument should have been: “If you will not let Jews into British-mandated Palestine, then you have an urgent and absolute moral responsibility to give them asylum elsewhere.” no such campaign was mounted.
Nevertheless, comrades might ask, is not the hallmark of socialist internationalism the free, unfettered flow of all people throughout the world? Why should Palestine be different? The short answer is that immigration as part of a concerted plan that will take over the country, expropriating, expelling and exploiting the native masses, is less immigration and more a long drawn out and aggressive invasion. For socialists, the reactionary character of Zionism is defined by its racist ideology, imbued with the spirit of separation and exclusion, the very reverse of socialist solidarity. It was prepared totally itself with every reactionary force that might help its purposes. It lobbied such figures as the Kaiser, the Sultan of Turkey, for twenty years it cosied up to British imperialism, finally snuggling into the embrace of the biggest imperial power of them all, the United States. In the process, it has treated the Arab population as a species of untermensch and has effectively driven a large portion of the Arab masses into the hands of Islamic obscurantists and bigots. It stands in the way of any socialist advance in the Arab world, operating as imperialism’s gendarme in the region, a far more effective force for imperialism than, for example, the feeble Saudi royal family or the Hashemites. If Zionism has had one redeeming feature over the years, it is that it never bothered to conceal its intentions, but it is difficult to commend a man for his honesty in telling you that he is going to beat your brains out, especially if he then delivers the mortal blow.
As Sean indicates, the development of ideas on Zionism in the Trotskyist movement is quite interesting. So Sean says, Cliff in his New International article of June 1939, was for Jewish immigration into Palestine and for the sale of land to the Jewish population, both points vigorously opposed by the Palestinian CP. His argument for this, and it is a thin one, is: “Yet from the negation of Zionism does not follow the negation of the right to existence and extension of the Jewish population in Palestine. This would only be justified if an objectively necessary identity existed between the population and nothing more.” Like a lot of Cliff, this takes a bit of time to get your head around. With perseverance one is, however, struck by how abstract it is as a serious formulation. Whether this is a reaction against the Arab chauvinism of the PCP I cannot say, but it clearly suggests that unless Zionism is 100% in the pocket of British imperialism it is OK to augment its forces. But as we well know, nationalist movements are not wedded to any particular sponsor, and their interests are never seen as identical and often antithetical. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem could make overtures to Hitler, Jabotinsky, the founder of revisionist Zionism, was a great admirer of Mussolini, and, during the war, Chandra Bose, the leftist Indian nationalist, worked with the Japanese, building an Indian national army. In the same way, the Jewish population were not 100% identified with Zionism, Cliff and the handful of Jewish Trotskyists were not and neither was the PCP, but in the absence of anything of consequence, Zionism certainly had at least the tacit support of an overwhelming majority of the Jews. After the war and the holocaust, that support became far more active.
I have a suspicion that it is from this 1939 article that Sean acquired his idea that the Comintern were not opposed to Jewish immigration to Palestine in the 1920s. In truth Cliff, as is his wont, is being a bit economical with the actualité here. He says: “The members of the Comintern in Palestine ... while absolutely opposed to Zionism (against the national boycott [of Arab goods and Arab labour - JH], against slogans like the Jewish majority and the Jewish state and the alliance with England, etc.), declared at the same time that the Jewish population is not to be identified with Zionism and hence demanded the maximum freedom of movement for Jewish immigration into Palestine ...” You will notice the odd usage of the “members of the Comintern in Palestine”. He is trying not to refer to the PCP, which he excoriated earlier in his piece, and also neglects to say that the PCP was formed of resignées from the Zionist Poale Zion in 1922. Whatever the PCP’s policy may have been, up to 1926-27, it was not the Comintern’s.
Cliff’s article concludes by proclaiming that the only solution is socialism, but in the meanwhile calls for a secular, unitary state in a parliamentary democracy. The suggested programme included: compulsory education for all, pensions, minimum wage and all the other appurtenances of the welfare state. All of this seemed to have a familiar ring about it, especially when taken with the call for Jewish immigration. Then it struck me, Cliff’s 1939 policy was the same as that of the WP-ISL, as set out in various resolutions of that party. Shachtman never acknowledged this fact, but then he always denied that the theory of bureaucratic collectivism came from Bruno Rizzi. We are now left with a terrible problem. We have it on no less authority than Sean Matgamna that Cliff, in 1946, had set the political line for the Fourth International, especially of the Cannonite SWP. Now I find that such is the dastardly cunning of T. Cliff, he had previously masterminded the opposing Shachtmanite WP-ISL policy. With the brain reeling, one realises the full horror of it all. The Cliff-inspired Shachtman variant has now been taken up by Sean Matgamna. When one recalls that for some years there was no greater fan of the US-SWP and James P. Cannon than Sean Matgamna (he endorsed their defencism, violent anti-Shachtmanism as well as their anti-Zionism), we might describe this phenomenon as “deviated apostolic succession.”
In all this chopping and exchanging of opinions, we can confidently affirm that Sean’s “two states for two peoples” formulation did not come from Lenin, Trotsky, Cliff (pre- or post-1946), Shachtman, Cannon or any other international socialist source. In Sean’s thesis it seems that if most Jews support a Zionist state, although the overwhelming majority of them do not and would not live there, then socialists must support them regardless of the democracy of numbers or the rights of others. By the same token, presumably, the rural Afrikaaners who want their own state must have it because they represent a significant minority.
It is possible to argue that after the war the people who suffered the ultimate barbarism of the holocaust deserved special treatment from the world that bore no little responsibility for that horror. It is a persuasive argument and one that struck the heartstrings of many in the aftermath of 1945. It was that public sympathy at the condition of the Jews, who had endured so much, languishing in displaced persons camps, that put pressure on the Allied governments to solve this humanitarian problem. What none of them were going to do was open their own doors to a flood of immigrants. Not least of their calculations concerned the fact that there were also hundreds of thousands of displaced people and prisoners of war who might have claimed similar privileges. Their attitude was rather like that of Kaiser Wilhelm II who thought of a Jewish homeland as “at least somewhere to get rid of our Yids.” The people’s conscience about the Jews was salved at little cost to the world but at the expense of the Palestinians. Many of the other refugees were herded callously to their deaths behind the Iron Curtain. In both instances, a cheap and easy solution for the Allies, but not one that readily commends itself to international socialists. It is ironic that the displaced persons camps in Europe emptied as the displaced persons in the Middle East were filling with Arabs. Why should the world’s debts be paid by the poorest people?
Of a piece with this affectation for the accomplished fact and his perverse inability to fight for it, is his sneering response to the suggestion that the answer is revolutionary socialism. For Sean, the fight must be for the maintenance of Israel. The socialist Matgamna is the eager partisan of this robustly capitalist state, this proud possessor of an arsenal of atomic bombs, this outpost of imperialism that enshrines the expropriation and exploitation of its Arab citizens and finds its justification in the notion of the exclusive and superior character of its Jewish people. Sean might condemn (but not too loud) the denial of human and democratic rights, the legal theft of property and land, the arbitrary arrests, the rigorous application of collective guilt, the deportations and curfews, but he draws no political conclusions other than to excuse this on the grounds of the right of Israel to be secure. For my part, I believe that so long as Israel exists as a Zionist state, then Jews and Arabs will continue to die needlessly and to no good purpose, as they are dying while we conduct this argument. There will be no peace. I further believe that only under socialism can the national question be solved for both peoples, because only then can there be any chance of fairness and equity. The history of the last 50 years is the negative affirmation of that fact.
Scattered throughout Sean’s text are four footnotes. Footnote 3 is quite charming, because it bangs on at length abusing the leadership of IS, during Sean’s recruiting raid within its ranks from 1968 to 1971. As part of the leadership during that time I was overjoyed to discover that, along with Cliff, Duncan Hallas, Chris Harman and Nigel Harris, I had displayed “Malvolio-like snobbery, self-satisfaction, and brain-pickling conceit, built on small achievement ...” As Malvolio said: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust on them.” I have to say that, since he transferred his loyalty from Cannon to Shachtman, Sean has acquired an entirely better class of vituperation, although he still has some way to go before he is in the same street as Max Shachtman for his high-grade abuse. Probably better to get the politics right, Sean, especially the WP-ISL’s opposition to Zionism and two nations theory.
The disconnected footnote 4 concerns an anecdote told to Sean by James D. Young, concerning a discussion about Israel, in the late 1950s between Cliff and Hal Draper, witnessed by James. According to Sean: “Suddenly Draper turns on Cliff in irritation and repudiation, and accuses him: “You want to destroy Israeli Jews! I don’t!” leaving aside the “irritation” and “repudiation” - this is Sean spicing up the story - this little anecdote is actually more revealing of Sean’s method than of Cliff’s. We hear what Hal Draper said, as recalled by James, forty years after the event. But what did Cliff respond to this accusation of his wanting a pogrom of holocaust proportions? Did Sean ask James for this information and he could not remember? Or is it that Sean, having acquired the evidence for the prosecution, did not want to confuse matters with any defence? Or did Cliff have no explanation and confess that he, along with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, wanted to drive all the Israeli Jews into the sea? If the answer to this last question is “yes”, then he should have been scandalised out of the movement. Or is this just something that Sean has failed to check properly with James D. Young? What we do know, however, is that Draper was against the Zionist state and wanted to replace it with an Arab-Jewish socialist state. And so say all of us, including Cliff, I think.
Throughout Sean’s reply there runs an accusatory thread that I am conducting this argument as some way of making my apologies to Cliff. If I defend his line on Palestine in Workers’ Liberty it is to cover my “social embarrassment before [my] SWP friends and former comrades.” Which ones are those, pray? Paul Foot, Chris Harman, Jim Nichol? I think not. I do not defend Cliff’s line on the permanent arms economy, because I no longer agree with it. I no longer defend his line on Russia, because I no longer agree with it. I defend his line on Zionism, because I agree with it. I defend the IS line on the Minority Movement that both of us held and he abandoned. It may come as a surprise to Sean but there are those of us who can disagree on fundamentals with Cliff without consigning everything he has said or done to the dustbin of history. At the same time, I do feel a degree of bitterness that what I saw as the best hope for the revolutionary movement in Britain since the 1920s, that I spent some time in helping to build, should have been diverted down various blind alleys at the behest of Cliff’s impressionism and caprice. Most of all, my real complain is not that Cliff has maintained his position on various matters, it is that he is capable of jettisoning almost any of those positions for at worst imaginary and at best transitory benefit. All of this and a great deal more, I have set out in a recently completed book on the IS group. [2] At the end of it I do not think anybody, including Cliff, will think that I am apologizing, or wonder why I, and many others, are a touch bitter.
Finally, I would like to apologize to those Workers’ Liberty readers who have got this far, for taking up so much of their time, but they really should blame Sean. He started it.

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