Anti-imperialism and the PSC executive
I went to a meeting on Tuesday night of my local Palestine Solidarity Campaign group. We were there to talk about various motions for the upcoming PSC AGM on the subject of ‘anti-semitism’, and ‘holocaust denial’, alongside a proposed constitutional change that would take away the right of an expelled individual to appeal to the members at an AGM in the future.
I was also hoping for some information that might make sense of various rumours and allegations that have been doing the rounds — some fairly recently, and others for quite a while now.
The old rumours centre around the allegation that the PSC leadership has been taken over by a clique from Socialist Action, who make sure that as many of their cronies as possible are elected to the PSC exec and given paid jobs in the PSC office.
The new rumours are variations on a theme whereby independently-minded activists who aren’t ‘on message’ with the leadership’s agenda are alleged to have been removed from positions of influence in PSC branches following zionist-inspired accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ and ‘holocaust denial’.
The issue of a Socialist Action takeover of the PSC leadership has never been dealt with openly at a PSC AGM, although it’s a rumour that refuses to die. Personally, I don’t care what organisation people affiliate to as long as they’re doing the job, but if, as Tony Greenstein asserts, this group are more interested in creating a cosy niche for themselves than in building the most effective solidarity movement possible, then this has serious implications for the organisation’s work.
The issue of expelling people on grounds of anti-semitism, however, is clearly at the root of several motions to the AGM and is likely to be the main topic of debate when members meet on 21 January.
First comes the Executive’s proposed constitutional amendment, which not only removes the right of expelled members to appeal to an AGM, but also proposes introducing new ‘codes of conduct’ for PSC meetings and activities that would give grounds for expulsion if breached. (Currently, the only ground for expulsion is a breach of the PSC constitution.)
If there’s no ulterior motive behind this, it’s hard to see that there’s any need for changing the perfectly adequate procedures PSC has in place already, or why we should be in the business of creating reams of regulations to control adults who are perfectly capable of letting each other or the centre know if they find the language or behaviour of others unacceptable.
If the rumours are true, however, the proposed changes would certainly make it easier for the PSC exec to get rid of activists in such a way that most members would never know anything about it.
Then there’s the Executive’s motion on ‘Combating racism, islamophobia and anti-semitism’, which endorses a statement that recently appeared in the centre of the PSC homepage, stating: “Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust have no place in our movement. Such sentiments are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.” (Emphasis added)
It is a strangely defensive assertion to be putting at the centre of the organisation’s mission statement. Moreover, the wording makes clear that the issue is not actually racism/anti-semitism, but ‘holocaust denial’.
This becomes particularly problematic when we recall that it is the zionist hype machine that has conflated the two as interchangeable terms and created an atmosphere in which anyone is branded an ‘anti-semite’ who questions anything about Israel, including the founding myths concerning the supposedly unique suffering of jews and the alleged impossibility of jewish people living free from persecution anywhere outside Israel.
I’m no racist and have no interest in defending those who are, but the motivations for placing such a statement at the front and centre of PSC’s work are troubling. Is racism so difficult to deal with in an avowedly progressive organisation that it needs to be expressly formulated against? And why are we bowing to the zionist formulation that equates ‘holocaust denial’ with ‘anti-semitism’ and racism?
To those with a basic grasp of history, it is clear that the jewish holocaust did actually take place. To those with a basic grasp of the workings of imperialism, it is equally clear that the same racist scapegoating that led to the German extermination of European jews has been reborn in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in particular and Arab and muslim peoples in general.
Israel launched itself as a state with a war of extermination against the Palestinians, while its nuclear arsenal is pointed like a dagger at the heart of all independently-minded peoples in the Arab world, from Lebanon and Syria to Iran and Iraq.
Since the Nakba of 1948, Israel has perpetrated massacre after massacre, using collective punishment, internment without trial, the strangulating siege on Gaza, apartheid separation policies and house demolitions, crop destruction and fisheries pollution to control, suppress and expel the local population.
Transforming its imported jewish population into merciless hi-tech stormtroopers, the zionist state has set up innumerable checkpoints, criss-crossed the occupied territories with jewish-only roads and settlements, created no-go zones to protect them and built huge walls that are carving even the officially recognised part of ‘Palestine’ into innumerable inaccessible bantustans, hurling snipers, gunboats, F16 bombers, attack drones and more against a largely unarmed civilian population in its ongoing project to cleanse Palestine of Palestinians.
That the Israelis have been ultimately unsuccessful in their mission to dehumanise and disperse the people of Palestine is beside the point. The atrocities that they daily commit, along with the reams of anti-muslim and anti-Arab propaganda they put out, the racist laws that govern Israeli society and the culture of hate that they have promoted have seen to it that the zionists, under the tutelage of their uber-Nazi warlord patrons in freedom and democracy-loving states like the USA and Britain, have become true successors to the Nazis.
And yet western politicians and mainstream western media have almost nothing to say about Israel’s crimes, despite the growing inability of the capitalist press to keep the “plucky little David” narrative wholly intact. Quite the reverse – they consistently lie, as do the Israelis, about what Israel is doing and why, repeating Israeli government press releases as if they were proven fact and giving no context that might enable ordinary viewers, readers and voters to understand what’s really happening.
It is because of this patronage — because Israel was only created to serve the interests of imperialism in the Middle East — that the zionist state is backed up by the military, economic and diplomatic might of the US and Britain, which enables it to commit atrocities and war crimes on a daily basis with total impunity, despite the condemnation of the vast majority of peoples and governments in the world.
That being the case, and in a world where zionism has arrogated to itself both the right to speak for all jews and the right to speak on behalf of all jewish holocaust victims, even while perpetrating its own holocaust against the Palestinians, the rise in anti-jewish sentiment is hardly surprising, and nor is the rise in numbers of those who are questioning the truth about the holocaust. When so much of what Israel projects (the only democracy in the Middle East, a bastion of civilised values, etc etc) is revealed to be a lie, why wouldn’t people also start to wonder whether the whole Holocaust story, so central to the image that Israel projects to the world, might also be untrue?
And so ‘Holocaust denial’ has become an unfortunate by-product of what Norman Finkelstein aptly termed ‘The Holocaust Industry‘ – the zionist promotion of the myth that the jewish holocaust was somehow different from all other episodes of extermination in human history, and that this unique suffering justifies both the creation of Israel and any crimes the zionist state may commit in alleged ‘defence’ of its existence.
Moreover, it’s increasingly well understood that the early zionists were quite happy for the holocaust to go ahead if it was going to create jewish refugees who would make their way to Palestine. Hardly surprising then, that many who don’t understand imperialism’s role in the Middle East and in the foundation of Israel question the validity of the Holocaust industry’s myths about jewish suffering and are prey to conspiracy theories about an alternative narrative to the holocaust, as well as to myths about a ‘jewish power’ that controls world finance and politics and protects the Israelis from world public opinion.
The degenerate state of Israel is by far and away the world’s biggest creator of anti-semitism, and since only the defeat of Israel will change that, support for the Palestinian people’s struggle against zionism and imperialism is probably the most useful contribution to ending anti-semitism.
So racism and ‘holocaust denial’ are clearly NOT the same thing, while Holocaust ‘minimising’ is even more troublesome to pin down. Are we to take the zionist definition that anyone who asks a question about the Nazi extermination of jews is automatically an anti-semite and therefore a racist? If someone suggests (as several eminent scholars have done) that they think perhaps five (rather than six) million jews were killed by German imperialism (alongside 25 million Soviets and 200,000 Roma), is that person guilty of the abhorrent crime of ‘minimising the holocaust’ and worthy only of being hounded out of the PSC, unable to contribute anything useful to its work?
If it’s so important, how did we operate so long without such a clause? And why don’t all organisations have them? Why doesn’t Stop the War have a statement on its homepage asserting that anyone who denies or minimises the holocaust in Iraq is a racist who can’t be allowed to work in the anti-war movement?
Actually, all sorts of perfectly well-intentioned people and good anti-war activists echo the mainstream media in doing just that – putting the death toll in Iraq at a ridiculous 100,000, despite research that shows that war-related deaths in Iraq since 1990 now amount to a horrendous 4.6 million people dead from war and sanctions-related causes since 1990, while another 5 million Iraqis have been made into refugees.
Only two solutions present themselves to the question of why PSC’s leadership should have suddenly become so sensitive to zionist accusations. The first is that they are coming under a huge amount of pressure from the zionist lobby and have simply buckled. The second is that the accusations provide a handy cover for getting rid of activists who want the campaign to do more than lobby parliament, cosy up to the ‘left’ wing of the warmongering, zionist-backing Labour party and give out boycott leaflets.
During the course of the discussion around these issues on Tuesday evening, I was suddenly accused by one of the activists present of being “party political”. She insinuated that my lack of attendance at meetings over the last few years was proof of entryism (rather than proof of having babies), that my organisation has a secret “agenda” and would “love to have influence in the PSC” and offered as proof of an “extremism” that no sensible person could wish to be associated with the fact that the CPGB-ML was “sad about the death of Kim Jong Il“.**
I have never tried to hide my party affiliations, so I can’t imagine that information regarding my membership of the CPGB-ML was news to many people in the room. But the accusation and the way it was put reminded me strongly of some of the attacks I came under at the PSC’s 2011 AGM, when a perfectly sane and sensible resolution about active non-cooperation work was hysterically opposed by the Executive and its supporters on some very spurious grounds, one of which was along the lines of “you can’t trust these commies – they’re extremists and they want to take us over”.
Interestingly, this attack illustrates the very point I had been trying to make in the meeting, which is that the PSC is supposed to be a broad church. Its stated aim is to build a MASS MOVEMENT in Britain in support of Palestine, which necessarily means working with all sorts of people whose programme and ideology you don’t agree with. It’s the very essence of single-issue campaigning – you maximise your support base by bringing together all those who agree on the fundamental point: in this case, the need to build support for Palestine in Britain.
And while communists often come under attack for their party affiliations and ‘extreme’ views, no-one ever seems to make the same link with those from, say, the Labour party. But ask yourself this: why is it ok to work alongside MPs and trade unionists whose career keeps them tied to a party drenched in the blood of millions of Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis … and Palestinians, but suddenly a matter of principle not to cooperate with those who consistently seek to support the victims of imperialist war? Why is it possible to listen respectfully to pedlars of mediaeval superstition (insert your religion of choice here), but quite impossible to hear the voice of those who prefer to bring enlightenment and science into the movement?
We communists have no lucrative careers to protect. We have no desire to cling to a stake in the system that has created war, poverty, starvation, waste and destruction on an industrial scale. We are interested in one thing only: the fight against imperialism. And while that naturally makes us the vilified target and pet hate of every bourgeois liberal and imperialist warmonger, it is hardly a justification for such hysterical levels of suspicion from fellow campaigners for Palestine.
Communists are involved in Palestine solidarity because Palestine is one, vitally important, part of the struggle against imperialism. We do not view Palestinians as a charity case deserving of our sympathy, and nor do we seek to control the way in which they carry out their struggle. They are our brothers and sisters in arms who currently find themselves on the front line of the battle, and it is our duty to do whatever is within our power to help them to victory.
The fact that we are serious about wanting to WIN this battle is demonstrated by the fact that at next week’s AGM I will be bringing a resolution that is essentially the same as the one I proposed last year. This is not because I love being harangued or voted down, but because no amount of intimidation is going to change the fact that what Palestine needs from us is EFFECTIVE SOLIDARITY. Not sympathetic murmurs and pointless Early Day Motions, but a real effort to mobilise the power of working people to put a spanner in the works of the imperialist-zionist war machine.
As the CPGB-ML blog puts it:
“It is our belief that the contents of the following resolution are entirely uncontroversial to 95 percent of Palestine solidarity activists. However, since the resolution calls for the PSC to actively encourage British workers to use their collective power to prevent British companies and media outlets from participating in Israeli war crimes, the resolution is decidedly harmful to the interests of British imperialism.
“Thus it is clearly NOT acceptable to the imperialist, zionist Labour party, or to the Labour-affiliated leaders of the trade-union movement.
“PSC members need to decide whether they want to build a broad movement that really does aim to give meaningful solidarity to Palestine, or whether they prefer to let the PSC executive maintain its cosy relationship with various left-Labour and TUC bigwigs … and to allow these interests to dictate that their ‘solidarity’ work should be kept at the level of a charitable occupation that won’t threaten imperialist interests.”
** By the way, those who have accepted the anti-Korea prejudices that fill western media might be interested to note that Cuba observed three days of national mourning following the death of Kim Jong Il, while governments, parties and heads of state from all over the oppressed world, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, sent condolences to the Korean people.
From Palestine, condolences were sent by the PFLP, the DFLP and Mahmoud Abbas. Yasser Arafat had a close relationship with the DPRK, which has long been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian struggle, and he visited the country six times. Indeed, when he died, the north Korean state observed three days of official mourning for him.
We are not ashamed to be in such company, and nor can we consider it to make us some kind of ‘loony fringe’ to be on the side of the majority of humanity.