Has the SWP Discovered a "Jew-Free" Holocaust?

Gerry Bates

At the demonstration against the fascist BNP's "Red, White, and Blue" festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, on 16 August, the SWP was circulating a contact sheet.

The document (attached) described itself as a "petition", though it had spaces only for names, not signatures, and the text directly above the name/ address/ details blanks was "Join UAF". Then at the bottom it said "return to Love Music Hate Racism", but identified itself as "initiated by Socialist Worker".

Whatever. It was a political statement to identify and attract people to the SWP. The statement was about denouncing the BNP, and the real strangeness of the document was in the statement's politics, not its odd labelling.

"The BNP", it exclaimed, "deny the holocaust". The author evidently thought that some readers might not know what "the Holocaust" was. So she or he defined it: "the holocaust, where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists, and disabled people were slaughtered".
End of definition. Jews too? No mention of that.

It cannot actually be that the SWP wants to appeal to people who may consider it all right that Hitler killed six million Jews, but think it too much that he also killed LGBT people, etc.

Or that the SWP itself considers that the killing of Jews was not an important, or not an objectionable, part of the Holocaust.

On some level, surely, that clause in the statement must be a slip, a mishap. But for such a slip to pass unnoticed through writer, typesetter, printer, organisers, and distributors, without anyone at any stage picking it up, must say something.

We wonder what the SWP's partners in UAF think of the document.

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perhaps it just says that it

perhaps it just says that it was rushed. I can't see much point making political points out of this- it was obviously a mishap, omission.

The only real point would be to take more care and not rush things- quite possibly the checks you hypothesise didn't take place.

If any wider point can be convincingly made then it's that the left- and this isn't just the SWP but to a greater or lesser extent all of us- need to make sure that when we wirte leaflets, petitons, contact sheets or the rest of it that it goes through some kind of democratic process. But this was one was obvioulsy hastily scrappily put together contact sheet- a silly slip but it really seems incredulous to allege this is or even may be anything more than that.

A slip? Yes, but...

We wrote: "On some level, surely, that clause in the statement must be a slip, a mishap. But for such a slip to pass unnoticed... must say something".

We don't allege that the Central Committee of the SWP debated the issue and decided, after due deliberation, that in future they would not mention Jews when discussing the Holocaust!

But there are slips and slips. It doesn't require "democratic process" in the sense of formal committee meetings to pick up a slip like this one (I wouldn't reproach the SWP for not requiring a formal committee meeting for every leaflet they turn out, though you might think that slightly more formality should be necessary for a document which would be produced as endorsed by allegedly broad campaigns like UAF and LMHR).

It needed only that someone, somewhere along the line - at the printer or photocopier, at the level of the responsible organiser dishing out the document for distribution, or at the level of individual distributors looking at what they've been given - should say "oops" and get the leaflet withdrawn. But, at an event for which the SWP had mobilised their national secretary and their leading UAF operator, no SWPer did say "oops". When the omission was pointed out to SWPers, they didn't think it serious enough to warrant withdrawing the leaflet.

It would be remiss of us not to say "oops", wouldn't it?

Hi Jason, The big majority

Hi Jason,

The big majority of people killed in the Holocaust were Jews (six-seven million out of eleven million on a broad definition). Defining it as a slip therefore seems somewhat bizarre.

I've often heard liberals and conservatives talk about the Holocaust and leave out the fact that many, many thousands of socialists, communists and working-class activists were murdered. And I don't let that ride - so why should we ignore this much bigger and weirder "slip"?



holocaust denial

Presumably the SWP will soon apologise for their political error - it was a stupid mistake. Not least from their point of view because it invites the type of scrutiny the SWP would rather do without. The SWP defend themselves against charges of anti-semitism by pointing to their record in fighting fascism. They dont want this sort of slip to become a habit - it undermines their cover story.
That such a slip was possible does indeed say a lot about the SWP. It makes sense, in that the conditions are right, for some SWPers to be unable to bring themselves to mention Jewish deaths. For them the holocaust is irrelevant to the middle east today - except for providing the Nazi-Zionist amalgam that they use so effctively to bait Jews. It isnt possible to adequately understand Zionism and Israel without appreciating the impact of the holocaust. But the SWP line is premised on a sharp separation.(And indeed on a line that Jewiish immigration to Palestine should not have been allowed)
The SWP's position on Israel is a form of holocaust minimisation - its not totally surprising that some comrades, possibly young, zealous comrades keen to display their anti-zionism jumped over the leadership's head into holocaust denial.

But it is bizarre to try to

But it is bizarre to try to make such big policial points such as holocaust denial out of one leaflet.

By all means point it out which youhave done. It was a crass error and should be admitted to - though I agree with toriginal report that in all likelihood it was slip albeit a major one. Of course Jewish people were the majority of holocuast victims. Actually the SWP lealfet doesn't mention the Roma another often forgotten victim of Nazi genocide- the numbers wrre not as great as Jews but in the hundreds of thousands certainly- perhaps half a million.

There were serious political problems whereby leading members of the SWP tried to subveert and take over thye antifascist protest and some evn co-operated with the police in their undenmocratic prevention of our demonstration. The crassly inaccurate leaflet should be criticised but probably not the main focus I'd suggest.

There are two slips not one

Actually there are too slips in the petition and it is the two together that suggest this maybe more than a mistake. The petition says "thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled etc". If they had intended to include the Jews, the main victims of the Holocaust, surely they would have used MILLIONS NOT THOUSANDS. Excluding the Jews (unintentionally?) meant they had to use thousands (intentionally) or it wouldn't make sense.


The SWP and the Stalinist Tradition

By specifically omitting Jews from the memory of the Holocaust in such a manner, the SWP are following the Stalinist tradition. A clear example of this was the situation surrounding the memory of the massacres at Babi Yar in the Soviet Union.

From a historical point of view, in a time period of some 36 hours in September 29-30 1941, 33,771 Jews were shot by the Nazis at Babi Yar, Kiev. This was likely to have to been the fastest massacre of Jews at anytime during the Holocaust. Over the next two years there were tens of thousands more Jews, Ukrainians and Russians all killed at that site. It can be noted that whilst not everyone massacred at Babi Yar were Jewish, there is no question that the Nazis were specifically targeting Jews with a special emphasis for these massacres.

From the Soviet point of view, from 1948 onwards, the memory of Babi Yar was expunged from Soviet literature. Despite the fact that the massacres had been on Soviet soil, Soviet citizens were not even informed in their news media when one of the leading Nazis responsible for these massacres was executed at Nuremberg in 1951 for the crimes. After Stalin's death and under Khrushchev, an idea for a monument to those massacred sprang up and a letter was published in the Soviet press supporting the idea in 1959. The letter referred to "Kiev inhabitants" but did not mention that it was Jews who were massacred at Babi Yar. In March 1960 the same newspaper published a news article saying that there would be "an obelisk with a memorial plaque to Soviet citizens exterminated by Nazis." (Emphasis added)

In 1961, Literaturnaia Gazeta dared to publish a moving poem entitled Babi Yar which did discuss the antisemitism and the killing and beating of Jews. The publishing of this poem led to a storm of protest. A well known Soviet critic, Dmitri Starikov, argued that it was irresponsible for Literaturnaia Gazeta to publish the poem which he argued was provocative and an "insult [to] the triumph of Leninst national policy." The controversy reached the Party Central committee and in December 1962, Khrushchev told the poet at a meeting of several hundred intellectuals that "this poem has no place here."

In 1976 a monument "to the Soviet citizens - the victims of fascism" was finally erected at Babi Yar. The inscription
did not bother to mention that most of those massacred were Jews. The Soviet regime refused to see the Nazi murders for what they were - attacks on Jews. Khrushchev had earlier explained it with his strange Marxist analysis that antisemitism must be seen more appropriately from a class analysis - There are bourgeois Jews and then there are proletarian Jews - but Jews should not be seen as an undifferentiated category.

The fact that the SWP continues in this tradition is not surprising even it if it is sickening. What is more surprising is that the SWP leaflet mentions "the holocaust where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled people were slaughtered." If antisemitism should properly be seen as part of a class analysis and does not need to be specifically mentioned then why have they bothered mentioning categories such as "LGBT people" and the "disabled"? If the SWP were consistent with their warped Marxist analysis then they would not bother mentioning these categories either. The fact that they have leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the SWP have a problem with antisemitism.


William Korey, "Babi Yar Remembered," Midstream Vol XV, No. 3 March, 1969 pp. 25-39
Victoria Khiterer, "Babi Yar, the Tragedy of Kiev's Jews," Brandeis Graduate Journal Vol 2, 2004