Israel and the Mavi Marmara massacre (2010)


Sean Matgamna

An impersonator who looks like the country's leader murders him, takes his place, and thereafter deliberately leads the state to defeat and catastrophe. That was the plot of a Hollywood film I saw long ago.

Sometimes it is almost tempting to think up some such tale to account for Israel's behaviour - to conclude that a bitter enemy of the Jewish state and of its best immediate and long-term interests has somehow got control in Jerusalem and works relentlessly to undermine Israel.

The self-righteous but too often senseless eternal prattle about "terrorists" with which the Israeli governments respond to criticisms only adds an extra element of repulsiveness to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

The flotilla of relief ships which the Israeli army bloodily attacked in international waters was far more a political demonstration against the Israeli blockade of Gaza than an attempt to bring practical relief to Gaza.

The quantity of relief goods it carried was comparatively insignificant in proportion to the needs of the people of Gaza, and at best would have brought a marginal amelioration. Primarily it was a political demonstration of solidarity with the people of Gaza and condemnation of Israel.

The Israeli army's attack on the ships turned the flotilla into a tremendously effective political demonstration against Israel. If that had been the intention, then the Israeli authorities would have succeeded brilliantly. They could not have done more if that had been their intention.

The Israeli army treated the people on the Mavi Marmara with the grotesquely disproportionate lack of restraint with which they habitually treat the Palestinians. The political message of the organisers of the flotilla was made to reverberate like thunder round the world.

None of the Israeli explanations stand up. So, the Israeli soldiers coming down ropes from helicopters were attacked with sticks - or iron bars, knives, whatever - by Islamist militants on the ship, some of whom at least will have advocated the destruction and abolition of the Jewish state by Arab military action?

So? That was not predictable, even as a contingency? That attempt to defend the ship from airborne attack justified the lethal response of armed professional soldiers, the killing of nine and the wounding of at least 30?

Only in the eyes of people who accept no restraint and no limits, people grown used to the exercise of lethal and disproportionate force, justified with the conventional cant against terrorists.

So soldiers do not, by the nature of their trade, make gentle and restrained policemen? That was not known, not to be expected?

Israeli soldiers captured most of the ships in the flotilla without bloodshed, therefore what happened on the sixth was not the fault of the Israeli army? That is only a variant on the argument that any resistance justifies massively disproportionate response.

The cry of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the occupants of the Mavi Marmara were "terrorists" is as if designed to discredit what Israel says when it is a matter of real terrorists.

What happened on the ships follows from the overall policy of recent Israeli governments: the fact that most Israeli leaders pay only, at best, lip service to the policy of allowing the Palestinians to set up an independent state, alongside Israel, in the Occupied Territories and Gaza. That policy is the only just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Something much better than the Israeli policy that led to the shipboard slaughter, to the Israeli blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, and to all the many disproportionate and bloody incidents in the Occupied Territories is, probably, available at will to an Israel acting from its present strength.

The present Israeli government, despite occasional words to placate Washington, is opposed to any just two-states solution. There is opposition within Israel to the government's policy, but Israel will not, it seems, change until it is forced to do so by Washington and the EU.

Will the massacre on the Mavi Marmara and the outcry against Israel lead to the deployment of enough pressure on Israel, and, in the most important place, to US pressure to end the blockade of Gaza? If it does, then those responsible for what happened on the ship will, inadvertently, have served the cause of progress and humanity.


Socialist Worker's front page

The front page headline of Socialist Worker this week (2 June) is "Rise up against Israel".

The world in general is urged to "rise up against Israel", and against Israel as such, not against Israeli government policy or the Israeli state machine.

Anger and outrage are appropriate after the Mavi Marmara massacre. Here, however, there is at least as strong a note of glee at Israel being "shown up" as of human sympathy for the victims and their friends and families.

What does Socialist Worker mean by "rising up against Israel"? What do the Islamic clerical-fascist forces to whom Socialist Worker looks - as the "anti-imperialist camp" playing an analogous role in global politics now to that of now-defunct Stalinism in a previous era - mean by it?

They mean the military conquest of Israel by the surrounding states, and rule over any Jews who survive by an Arab regime. Sometimes they add that those surviving Jews should have "religious" (but not national) rights.

That "policy" is, fortunately, far from realistic in present conditions. It is still poisonous.

The Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut, responded to the massacre with a weaselly statement, effectively blaming the victims. Now activists in Britain are redoubling their calls for British trade unions to break all links with the Histadrut - as if links between union and union were conditional on political agreement, or as if British unions were justified in adopting a self-righteous boycott of Israeli workers.

The answer: maintain and build working-class links. Rise up, not "against Israel" as such, but against the policies of successive Israeli governments. Recognise Israel's right to exist and defend itself, but also the right of the Palestinians to an independent state, alongside Israel and with the same rights as Israel.

The other popular current demand is for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Britain. It seems bizarrely petty and beside the point. The thinking behind it, though, is that the demand to expel the ambassador can become a plausible, harmless-looking "thin end of the wedge" for a general policy of boycotting Israel and branding it as a state deserving destruction.

Martin Thomas


Martin's comment reminded me of an incident during the first gulf war in 1991. I was a student at the time. Iraq launched scud missiles at Tel Aviv, on hearing the news the local SWP organiser came rushing up to us as our weekly labour club meeting broke up to tell us that it was "******* brilliant..." and the now Israel "...would be forced to respond and the whole of the arab world would be dragged into a conflict with them"

Then as now, an escalating conflict with Israel on one side is a worrying prospect. Only a political fool would look foward to such a thing.

I've seen and heard lots of denunciations of Histadrut over this and operation cast lead, and claims from some that it 'isn't even a real union federation anyway' from the same people who comically believe that trades unionists enjoy freedom to organise in Cuba and China; but I'd like to hear more from Martin about how we respond to Histadrut.


Histadrut is shit, no doubt. The position it took on the flotilla attack and on Operation Cast Lead were disgusting acquiescences to national chauvinism. And certainly, it is not a direct analogue of our own TUC; it is one of the biggest employers in Israel and its historical role in terms of enforcing Jewish-only labour policies means that it has a politically complex and contradictory nature to say the least.

However, the vast majority of organised Israeli workers (who go into active struggle with their bosses rather more frequently than British workers do; there have been several general strikes in Israel in the past few years) are organised in Histadrut-linked unions. That's a fact, like it or not. So if you're saying that it's beyond the pale to talk to the Histadrut then you're basically saying it's beyond the pale to talk to any organised Israeli workers and that those people have no role to play in the struggle for peace and justice in the region (which, as we know, is exactly what the people who politically hegemonise the BDS movement think).
And we all know that unions all over the world have been involved in supporting all sorts of disgusting shit that "their" state has done; the fundamental question is whether the organisation in question organises workers against their bosses at the point of production. Histadrut-linked unions clearly do.

I think we should be extremely critical of Histadrut, not only of its existing politics but of its historical role. I also understand that there's a reversal of the relationship that exists in Britain, so Israeli workers first join the Histadrut and then get allocated into an affiliated union for their sector/workplace. We should criticise that bureaucratism too. The focus of our solidarity in terms of the Israeli workers' movement should be those currently marginal elements like the WAC that seek particularly to organise the precarious and migrant workers historically frozen out of Histadrut-linked unions.

But the idea that British unions should break off all relations with the Histadrut because they have a shit position on this or that policy of the Israeli government makes about as much sense as breaking off relations with the AFL-CIO because most of their member unions supported the imperialist, warmongering Democratic Party in the last elections. Socialists in British unions should be seeking to coordinate with radical elements within Histadrut-affiliated unions to support efforts to change the politics and character of the Histadrut; breaking off links/contact undermines (and indeed precludes) that.


Daniel Randall

from an article on the Challenge webpage

Yacov Ben Efrat: After the Flotilla of Blood: No More Excuses for Israel

"The Middle East is divided today between fundamentalist regimes and dictatorial pro-American regimes. Between these stones its peoples are ground. Utterly missing in the public discourse are the oppression and poverty from which the workers are suffering—whether in Egypt, where they demonstrate for a raise in the minimum wage, lifting loaves of bread before the parliament of Hosni Mubarak; or in Iran, where they struggle against privatization and joblessness under Ahmadinejad. In Turkey also the workers have gone to the streets in recent months against privatization and unemployment. The workers of the Middle East do not have a party to represent them. Their voice is not heard.

Israel too can hardly be said to seek the good of its citizens. Jews and Arabs alike suffer here from a gloves-off capitalist regime, which discriminates against workers and tramples their rights. The occupation sharpens the suffering of both peoples. In recent years the number of those who are both employed and poor has grown. Among households with one breadwinner, 36% were beneath the poverty line in 2008/9.

Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe."

Cartoon in Solidarity 3/175

Excuse me for posting a comment here on a separate article by Sean in Solidarity 3/175 on this subject, which has a cartoon by Latuff with the following caption:

"There is a long tradition of anti-semitic cartoons depicting Jews or Zionism as an octopus reaching out its tentacles
to grasp the world. Such images were, for instance, used by the Nazis. And note the swastika in place of
the Star of David. Comparisons of Israel with Hitler's Germany and Zionism with Nazism are not only ludicrous,
but offensive. No other state, not even much more plausible candidates such as Iran, are regularly described in
this way; only the Jewish-majority state is singled out."

OK, I would certainly not call the Israeli State 'Nazi' but still...

1) The octopus thing is far from clearly anti-Semitic, given the maritime context (octopus attacking boat - old myth) and, even if it was 'tentacles of control', this is far from an exclusively anti-Semitic idea and you seem quick to jump to this conclusion

2) Why is it OK to compare the cartoonist with a Nazi cartoonist, if it is 'offensive' to compare Zionism with Nazism?

3) The Iranian regime is indeed regularly called 'fascist' (if not always, although sometimes, 'Nazi'). In this case, even to the degree this is an inaccurate comparison, it is not in the slightest 'unfair' or 'offensive'

4) Sean's article seems to imply he is in favour of immigration controls insofar as these work to preserve a Jewish majority. The Palestinians are not just 'descendents' of the 1948 population (like 'descendents' of Native Americans), but many of the same people and their children as were dispossessed, and continually mistreated as refugees by Israel and the neighbouring Arab states.


1) While the octopus motif has not been used exclusively to attack Jews, it has been used most prominently to communicate the idea of a group of people (Jews, the Irish, communists, whoever) spreading their "tentacles" and looking to control things from behind the scenes. This is almost certainly its most famous and well-known usage in this history of political cartoons. Does this not suggest, at the very least, that a bit of sensitivity is required when using this imagery to describe the world's only majority-Jewish state?

2) We have not "compared" the cartoonist with a Nazi cartoonist. We have not even suggested he was deliberately trying to evoke the anti-Semitic history of the image he selected. Maybe it's a total coincidence. Again - we're saying sensitivity is required. And the problem with the Zionism = Nazism or Star of David = swastika comparisons aren't merely that they're "offensive"; all sorts of ideas are "offensive" to all sorts of people. The problem with those comparisons is their essentialism; of all the nationalisms in the world, how many do you find routinely compared to Nazism by the left? Very few, other than Jewish nationalism. Of all the states in the world engaged in colonial projects on another people's land, how many do you find routinely referred to as "Nazi" or "fascist" by the left? Very few, other than Israel. Iran is not regularly called fascist by the left; that's the point. (More on this below.)

These double-standards would be bad enough on their own terms, but on top of this there's the fact that comparisons play on the continuing centrality to Jewish identity of the relatively-recent experience of attempted genocide under Nazism. The Star of David isn't just part of the national flag of Israel, it's a centuries-old cultural symbol that many if not most Jews identify with on some level (even the Jewish Socialists' Group, which is broadly Bundist in its political affinity/heritage, uses the image). If nothing else, those who think the Star of David = swastika comparison is legitimate/useful might like to think about the message that sends about whether the Palestine solidarity movement is a hospitable and accessible place for Jewish activists. The problem with the comparisons' "offensiveness" is that they are designed to offend, rather than to make a serious political point or analysis. No-one who actually cares about the proper meaning of words and the proper use of language could seriously suggest that Zionism = Nazism or that Israel is a fascist state.

3) It's simply not true that Iran is "regularly called fascist" on the left. On the contrary, the mere suggestion that the Iranian ruling-class's regime has even some characteristics in common with fascism (which in my view it clearly does) is likely to get you slandered as a pro-imperialist Islamophobic racist amongst most of the "mainstream" revolutionary left. Israel is the only state that is regularly written or spoken about in such terms on the SWP-dominated mainstream far left; Jewish nationalism is the only nationalism straightforwardly referred to as "Nazi" or "fascist". But actually, even if referring to Iran as "fascist" was much more common/accepted on the left, I'd definitely be against cartoons/imagery that replaced the central coat-of-arms on the Iranian flag with a swastika; there aren't the same issues of specificity and collective cultural memory relating to Nazism as there with Israel/Jewish people, but the "comparison" would still be extremely sloppy and could only be calculated to offend rather than to make a serious political point. (I might ask, actually, if you think it's so common/regular/accepted for Iran to be referred to as "fascist", why we didn't see thousands of white leftists marching with "Iranian coat-of-arms = swastika" placards/images on the massive demonstrations the British left organised to protest against the Iranian state's murder of pro-democracy activists last summer? Oh yes... because there weren't any.)

4) If I was a more cynical man than I am I might suggest that you have deliberately placed this comment on this article, rather than the article to which it actually refers, in order to mislead people from its actual content. Because if we were commenting on the article in question (here, by the way), people could see that Sean is not "in favour of immigration controls" to "preserve a Jewish majority". He argues, rightly, that a democratic, two-states settlement would have to involve some kind of negotiated settlement around the question of the Palestinian refugees/their descendants rather than the reactionary-utopian (not to mention completely inconceivable in practise) wet-dream of the Stalinoid left that involves the transplanting of 5,000,000 Palestinians into present-day Israel (a quick-fix, "demographic" way of getting rid of Israel, which sounds nicer in argument than "I want Israel to be crushed militarily by the Arab bourgeoisie and/or world Islamism", which is the actual, real-world implication of SWP-type politics on the question).

Unless you believe the Israeli-Jews have no national rights whatsoever and basically have no right to be where they are (so they should go back to... the shtetl? Auschwitz?), you can't seriously propose as "democratic" any "solution" or "settlement" that involves the right of a second, third or fourth-generation Palestinian refugee to dispossess the Israeli-Jew who was very possibly not born in 1948 and had no responsibility whatsoever for the expulsion of that person's parents or grandparents (or indeed that person themselves.) Why must that Israeli-Jew be made to pay for the crime the nascent Israeli ruling-class committed in 1948 rather than, say, the Arab bourgeoisies who (as you point out yourself) have continually brutalised the Palestinian refugees and their descendants for over 60 years in order to use them as political pawns in their regional-imperialist power-plays with Israel? I am in favour of an independent, secular state of Palestine alongside an independent, secular state of Israel and in favour of both states having open borders. But this is not what is meant by the mainstream left's demand for the "right of return"; they mean that those of the 800,000-or-so Palestinian refugees still alive and their 4,000,000-or-so descendants should have the "right" to return to the precise piece of land (or even the building) from which they (or their parent/grandparent) was expelled in 1948, and if that means expelling the people currently living there (even if those people were not alive in 1948), then tough. All the better, in fact. David - do you think that is democratic? Do you think that is just? Do you think such a demand can play any part in the development of an internationalist working-class unity between Palestinians and Israeli-Jews? Do you think it is even conceivable to imagine that 5,000,000 Palestinians would want to return to their former land, rather than fighting for full civil rights in the countries in which they have ended up (which is the standard left-wing attitude/demand for refugee communities)?

Our position on the "right of return" has nothing to do with "favouring immigration controls" or "preserving a Jewish majority"; it's about trying to articulate a response to a historic injustice which is not based on exacting revenge on people who were not responsible for that injustice. Any other response automatically precludes any possibility for Jewish-Arab working-class unity, and it is that unity - rather than any questions of geographical settlements or demographic majority - that should be our animating concern and point-of-departure here.


Daniel Randall


Hi Dan

1) I don't know if it's necessarily invoking the idea of control (as I say, given sea context, typical myth of attacks on boats by octopus. As you mention, if it is invoking idea of control then that is not necessarily anti-semitic, I'm not sure the Sturmer thing is actually as well known as you make out, this site has tonnes of others . As I say, it is a harsh leap of faith you make.

2) The caption directly suggests Latuff's cartoon is anti-semitic, it does not just call for sensitivity. Read it,

"There is a long tradition of anti-semitic cartoons depicting Jews or Zionism as an octopus reaching out its tentacles to grasp the world. Such images were, for instance, used by the Nazis. And note the swastika in place of the Star of David. Comparisons of Israel with Hitler's Germany and Zionism with Nazism are not only ludicrous, but offensive. No other state, not even much more plausible candidates such as Iran, are regularly described in this way; only the Jewish-majority state is singled out."

Quite a lot of the non-SWP left, and moreover media across the whole of mainstream politics, calls the Iranian regime clerical fascist or fascist.

Moreover, is it really true that the SWP routinely call Israel Nazi/fascist? I don't think so. Is it really a commonplace of the SWP to "straightforwardly refer to Israel as "Nazi" or "fascist"?

Also, whereas it is true the swastika on an Israeli flag thing is a nonsense, this is far from limited to Israel, e.g. I have seen countless daft placards at demos calling America/George Bush 'Nazi', at least to the same extent as Israel. I do not necessarily think that these are motivated by Zionazi conspiracy theory.

3) As I say, lots of the mainstream media as well as much of the left (not including the SWP, of course, yes) call the Iranian state fascist. I do not think the SWP regularly call the Israeli state fascist. Some people do compare Israeli crimes to those of the Nazis, but there is no reason why those critics should be browbeaten into silence on the grounds that this is "offensive". The Israeli state endlessly instrumentalises the 'incomparability' of the Holocaust to justify its behaviour, I presume the reason people like Norman Finkelstein use such terms is to cut against this propaganda.

While there were some small protests in London at the time of the Iranian election, which I'm sure you and I each went to several of, there is of course the distinction that since e.g. the British government routinely deplores the Iranian regime's actions, there is not the same scope for protest against its collaboration/alliance/the hypocrisy of mainstream 'liberal internationalism'.

4) I placed the comment here under the misapprehension that the relevant article was only online in the PDF of the paper, not as a separate article. In any case the link you give doesn't have the cartoon and caption so that hardly matters.

Sean is for open borders in Israel/Palestine? Good to hear.

I would not demand people are turfed out of houses BUT I certainly would favour massive repartition of estates, farms, etc. as to allow (even) a massive reabsorption of the Palestinian population, and even if that meant there ceased to be an Israeli majority in any given area. You seem to ignore the reality which is in fact that immigration controls are a demographic war against the Palestinians which is happening in the here and now, allowing hundreds of thousands of Russian descendents of Jews to top up the Israeli population as Palestinians are carved out. If opposing that forestalls unity with Zionist workers, then tough, because their sectional interests are not a veto against human equality.

The criticism 'maybe the Palestinians wouldn't want to come back' is rather weak, this is a question of right of return, not compulsory population movements.

5) I find your comment about 'back to Auschwitz' an utterly cynical and irrelevant invocation of the Holocaust to try and silence criticism.

You have six million martyrs on your side so clearly I am wrong. Of course.

'forestalls unity'?

David, you write that "If opposing that forestalls unity with Zionist workers, then tough, because their sectional interests are not a veto against human equality."

What does this mean? Does it mean that you make it a pre-condition of conducting agitation among Israeli workers that they accept a leftwing position before you approach them (what about workers in other countries with sectional or racist prejudices?)?

And if it is necessary to sacrifice "unity" with those Zionist workers (on the grounds that they do not already agree with you), then what programme are you suggesting? What agency do you turn to to resolve the conflict if not a joint movement of Palestinian and Israeli workers, built on the basis of slogans that negotiate one set of interests against another in the interests of a just peace?

What agency, if not a movement involving Zionist workers (for most Israeli workers surely are very Zionist in their views)? Invading Arab armies? No? Then perhaps that mysterious beast, "Communism From Below", about whose miraculous powers I have heard so much?

You generously offer that you "would not demand that people be turfed out of their homes". Jolly decent of you. But here you're implicitly just drawing up a wish-list of conditions to place on "Zionist workers" before you will deign to work with them. Who are you to place such demands (or not)? You sound like you're playing great-power chess. The point of the two-states programme is not that it is a list of things we demand that Israeli workers concede - it is a programme which allows for the national rights of the two national groups to be negotiated against each other, as part of a dialogue which will emerge within the framework of a working-class movement for peace and unity.

I agree with you that the only rational way to understand the "right of return" is as a "right" to be exercised or not, rather than as a one-time militarised population transfer - but would you agree that that right would have to be negotiated against the equally valid right of the Israeli Jews?

forestalls unity

"What does this mean? Does it mean that you make it a pre-condition of conducting agitation among Israeli workers that they accept a leftwing position before you approach them (what about workers in other countries with sectional or racist prejudices?)?
"And if it is necessary to sacrifice "unity" with those Zionist workers (on the grounds that they do not already agree with you), then what programme are you suggesting?"

Well, the meaning is that it is not OK to sacrifice Palestinians' well-being in order to ensure the support of the Israeli labour movement, if this is based on anything approximating to its current politics. 'Unity' of existing workers' organisations is in general a fine ideal but *alone*/*in and of itself* lacks any meaningful political/liberatory content, as evidenced by Histadrut's recent appeal for unity with/support for Palestinian unions, which also supported the flotilla massacre.

Obviously people already agreeing with you is not a 'precondition' of 'approaching them' with 'agitation', what would be the purpose of agitation otherwise?

Whereas you try and claim Israelis/Israel is being singled out, this is not at all the case. Accommodation to the sectional and racist prejudices of 'British workers' is also entirely wrong, and such prejudices should be relentlessly challenged. In that sense 'unity' is clearly impossible with those who demand the maintenance of their privileges over others.

It would be generous indeed of Palestinians to allow their de facto expropriation to be enshrined, even in part, in a peace settlement. The 'great power chess' claim is a nonsense:

(i) whereas the AWL appeals for Israel to use its "position of strength" (! - a position of strength constructed and maintained precisely thanks to its domination and dispossession of others) to reach an equitable settlement, I do not think a renewed carve-up holds much hope for the Palestinians. Of course you sneer at the possibility of anything else, of a solution led by the oppressed themselves based on actual equality of peoples rather than merely conceding the Palestinians an underdeveloped statelet.

(ii) since when have the AWL opposed commentary on events the left here cannot meaningfully influence? 'Who am I to criticise Zionist workers?' Err, what?

Screaming/ice-cream/one state?

"Whereas you try and claim Israelis/Israel is being singled out, this is not at all the case. Accommodation to the sectional and racist prejudices of 'British workers' is also entirely wrong, and such prejudices should be relentlessly challenged. In that sense 'unity' is clearly impossible with those who demand the maintenance of their privileges over others."

David - how do communists relate to "British workers" with chauvinist ideas? By:

1. - addressing the issues which feed mobilisations based on racist sentiment (e.g. anti-fascist mobilisations under the slogan "jobs and homes not racism"; or approaching the LOR strikes supporting the genuine, class-struggle grievances underlying the strike and explaining against nationalist slogans)

2. - or by screaming "RACIST SCUM! ABOLISH BRITAIN!"?

In Britain, most sensible leftists (including yourself) have generally opted for the former option. But when it comes to Israel, otherwise capable leftwing activists seem to think that option 2. is the best way of dealing with chauvinism. What is it about the chauvinism of Israeli workers that causes a total breakdown of so many leftists' ability to develop slogans that are effective in breaking workers from nationalist ideas? You're right that the left's uniquely ultra-left response to backward ideas in Israeli-Jewish workers is probably not motivated by antisemitism. But beyond a certain point, that doesn't matter. It still singles out Israeli workers, and implies that what they think doesn't matter.


You say "it is not OK to sacrifice Palestinians' well-being in order to ensure the support of the Israeli labour movement, if this is based on anything approximating to its current politics." This is chess-playing. Unfortunately, the wellbeing of the Palestinians is not in the gift of the left. What we are able to do is to explain that the interests of Israeli workers and Palestinian workers are not counterposed; that they can and must create a single movement against the occupation; that no other force can or will fight the occupation. What we can do is raise slogans that explain these ideas and build that movement. If Israeli workers perceive that more rights for Arabs mean fewer rights for Jews, then they will not fight for rights for Arabs. That is the main block to Israeli workers participating in the fight against the occupation. Yes, we try to fight those wrong ideas, we 'forego unity' with those ideologues who are consciously building those wrong ideas among Israeli workers - but to turn up our noses at Israeli workers because they hold these wrong ideas, that would be to sacrifice Palestinian well-being.

If you agree with this (as you did last time I checked), then your sentence above is content-free posturing. If you disagree, if you think that it is OK to give up on Israeli workers because of their racist ideas, then you have changed your position. OK, that's your right, but account for this change. Why are Israeli workers beyond salvation? What agency do you look to to change the situation? Arab armies? Just saying "I am against border controls" is meaningless, utopian, unless you back it up with a joined-up programme.

If you want to play that game, then I am more left-wing and more anti-racist than you, because I am against borders, as are you - but I also demand free ice-cream and free trips to the beach for everyone, and you have yet to clearly come out in favour of those things. In typical reformist style, you restrict yourself to abstract, legalistic demands about borders and passports, but you don't have the communist backbone to demand free donkey-rides for every human, comrade.


You say: "I do not think a renewed carve-up holds much hope for the Palestinians"; and that you think that the AWL position is bad because it means "merely conceding the Palestinians an underdeveloped statelet." Does that mean that you are against a settlement based on two states? Why is that?


"would you agree that that right would have to be negotiated against the equally valid right of the Israeli Jews"

Equally valid? According to what authority of 'rights' is this?

This is the typical attitude demanding 'equality of rights' for the already-privileged as a smokescreen for the real oppression taking place. It is basically the same logic as would demand "men's rights" or oppose "anti-white racism": much as either could theoretically exist you are ignoring the real hierarchy/division of power.

No, of course people should not be driven out of their homes by 'Arab armies'. I would favour unlimited immigration plus massive reparations and massive redivision of estates and housing provision accordingly.

I am yet to see Sean give a clear statement that part of his solution is such a provision which does not allow the Israeli population to maintain its 'right to self-determination' by artificially maintaining a majority with immigration controls. I do not agree that Israelis' right to self-determination is somehow supra-historic/ideal and thus Israel has the right to maintain the justification for its existence by such controls. Sean has previously written that if Israel has the right to self-determination it also has the right to defend its self-determination (including military force) so can only doubt he, or you, holds this position.

Who are "You"?

What do you mean by "You have six million martyrs on your side so clearly I am wrong". Who are the "You" in question? Daniel ... the AWL?
Whilst we're at it, can you please explain why the Holocaust is "irrelevant" to this discussion?
All the best,


Hi Tom,

I was referring to the casual-ness with which Dan said

"Unless you believe the Israeli-Jews have no national rights whatsoever and basically have no right to be where they are (so they should go back to... the shtetl? Auschwitz?)..."

The 'irrelevancy' is that it is irrelevant to imply that I would imaginably suggest the solution is for Israelis to go 'back to Auschwitz'. I have no idea what that could possibly mean anyway.

So I was referring to the ridiculous invocation of the spectre of Holocaust victims' suffering on his 'side'/implying anti-Zionists are indifferent to it, in order to browbeat.

Logical conclusions

Dan was making the point that, when taken to their logical conclusions, the positions of the majority of the left on this question do not address the 'fate' of the Israeli Jews.

Think of it another way: if they could travel back in time, what do you suppose most of the left would say to the Jews fleeing Europe in the immediate post-war period? To be consistent with their current politics, they'd have to tell Holocaust survivors to stay put. This would have meant continued incarceration in the very same concentration camps where only months before they were being systematically murdered – a fate that actually befell those who either couldn’t leave or didn’t want to. I can imagine a George Galloway transported back in time organising an armed flotilla to assist the British Navy blockade of fleeing Holocaust survivors to Palestine.

So, I don’t think the Holocaust is irrelevant to this argument. I do think the degree to which most of the left – including, it seems, you – regard the Holocaust as a banality is repulsive.

Let’s look at the question of re-settlement, re-partitioning and rights of return: I don’t think you’re being democratically consistent on this question. Again, consistent thinking demands that you incorporate and account for the history of the situation. Do the second, third etc… generations of Jews who were forced from Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust, those who fled the anti-Semitism of the Stalinist regimes and so on have the same rights to property and compensation? Such an offer would be a necessary component of any truly democratic solution, one that recognises the rights of all groups (remember, we’re talking about Israeli Jews as distinct from the Israeli state here). In what new re-ordering of the world could such a solution take place?

Wouldn’t such a level of democratic consistency, if applied to your proposals, be extended to all the nations of Europe – necessitating similar rights for historically displaced and dispossessed Germans? How many millions of Poles would we need to move? Where would they go, what rights would you demand for them? Perhaps they’d be happy to pack up shop of trudge east to facilitate a settlement for the Palestinians. What do you think?

The point is, whilst you’re happy to attempt to smear the AWL you are either unwilling or unable to address the total implications of your criticisms.

stay put

"Think of it another way: if they could travel back in time, what do you suppose most of the left would say to the Jews fleeing Europe in the immediate post-war period? To be consistent with their current politics, they'd have to tell Holocaust survivors to stay put. This would have meant continued incarceration in the very same concentration camps where only months before they were being systematically murdered – a fate that actually befell those who either couldn’t leave or didn’t want to. I can imagine a George Galloway transported back in time organising an armed flotilla to assist the British Navy blockade of fleeing Holocaust survivors to Palestine."

Why would they have to tell Holocaust survivors to stay put?

Many at the time condemned various countries' refusal to take Jewish refugees both before and during the Holocaust. This refusal by e.g. Britain may have been a motor for emigration to Palestine, but a left perspective would obviously oppose immigration controls. For all his many faults your comment about Galloway is nonsense.

What about my comments on the Nazi holocaust imply that I treat it as a 'banality'? If anything your constant invocation of the Holocaust, the readiness with which you jump to smear others as anti-semites, denies these categories their real significance and cheapens them.

You seem to ignore that the left grievance against Israel is the armed dispossession of the existing Arab population, not Jewish immigration. It is Israel who hem in the Palestinians with walls and guns, not the other way round.

Unless what are you saying is that the Holocaust justifies the dispossession and demographic warfare. Which is hardly an internationalist position: indeed, it only begs the question, what would YOU say to the Arab population in the immediate post-war period?

I have not 'smeared' AWL, I said Latuff is not an anti-semite (based on the evidence you give anyway). What is the 'smear' exactly? Tom, you are portraying yourself as persecuted but it is nonsense.

The democratic consistency is simple: opposition to all immigration controls, no compulsory population movements. For equality, not playing off the interests of one chauvinism against another. It is a pity you do not feel the same.

'back in time'

(a) I'm fully aware of what the left in the post-war period said and did. My point was about 'transporting back' the current politics of the majority of the left to that time. You think they'd sing a different tune? I think they'd be party to an anti-Semitic outrage.

(b) You have more confidence in Galloway than I have.

(c) You seem unable to account for the specific implications of the Holocaust and the wider implications of the post-war 'settlement' in you position. I think you share the same regard for these issues as the rest of the left. Therefore, I think you treat the Holocaust as a banality.

(d) I did not call you an anti-Semite. Why claim I did?

(e) As for 'smearing': I think you can't help but continue your hostility to the group through 'taking on' Sean. It's all good sport, I suppose. By the way, what's "portraying yourself as persecuted" supposed to imply? Why would someone like me want to do that?


p.s. I only really entered this disucssion because I didn't like the casual way you posed some of your points ... and it still keeps coming!

the holocaust

(a - e) any substantiation for these points?

I did not say you called me an anti-semite. I said you call others anti-semites casually, as in the case of this cartoon. Many on the left, not including me, are soft on Islamism or have a particular animus towards Israel but I do not consider 'left anti-semitism' a meaningful or 'in good faith' means of referring to this, since anti-semitism is not their motivation.

I already know you think I treat the Holocaust as a "banality" (a meaningless turn of phrase) but expected some evidence/attempt at persuasion other than mere repetition of the assertion.

I imagine you would want to portray yourself as persecuted/under 'attack' because it is a fairly standard polemical device to portray the other 'side' as unreasonable because they are aggressive, and the word 'smear' and reference to my 'hostility' are transparently intended to invoke this idea.


"I already know you think I treat the Holocaust as a "banality" (a meaningless turn of phrase)" ... "meaningless" how?

In point (c) above (see, the a - e has some use) I repeated my assertion because you've done nothing to prove otherwise.



Hi Ed

The difference with e.g. the LOR case is that in the LOR case there was a *degree of* tension between the struggle against the undermining of conditions/the NAECI and then the question of solidarity/parity with migrant workers, whereas in the Israel/Palestine case there is the problem whereby Histadrut or some Israeli workers more broadly are in favour of keeping Palestinians structurally, or even explicitly, worse-off/with fewer rights.

You could not necessarily win Israeli workers to a pro-Palestinian programme mainly on the basis of immediate self-interest around wages/jobs/homes, indeed probably not.

That is the difficulty and nuance of the question. Screaming 'RACIST SCUM' is obviously pointless and counter-productive (but also - only the wilder Maoist fringe do this, not the SWP) but the demands are not determined by what will maintain a captive audience or appeal merely to short term interests. Much as I am for 'no immigration controls' in Britain, even if it is true that tens of millions of migrants coming to the UK all at once (a right wing fantasy) might bring a degree of chaos to the capitalist economy. A world socialist revolution may in the short term and certain ways undermine the living standards of UK workers by equalling out world-wide inequalities, but that does not undermine the general case for such an reorganisation of the world.

If more rights for Arabs means equality with Israelis, and that is a relatively lesser degree of privilege for Israelis, then what right have the latter to complain? I do not accept that that in principle there would never have to be 'give' on the part of the Israeli working class vis-a-vis the Palestinians, even admitting that they should be part of a common fight against all local oppressors.

Israeli workers are not 'beyond salvation', no more than British, but in both cases should support an anti-racist and anti-imperialist programme rather than their own sectional interest. Assuming they could never adopt such ideas and are intransigently sectional/racist is 'giving up' on them: arguing for solidaristic/egalitarian politics as against current prejudices is not.

The donkey joke went over my head.

As for Tom's comment, how exactly would you prefer I "prove" I do not consider the Holocaust "banal"?

interests? soft?

The use of Arab labour to undercut Israeli labour has been one of the major levers (alongside the militarisation of society) by which neoliberalism has made its advance in Israel. One could make the argument that Israeli workers would benefit in the short term by continuing to deny rights to Palestinians - in fact they would benefit more by levelling-up and organising Arab labour.
But more than that - the single biggest political issue in Israel is the constant state of war (youths wearing gun-belts in every public place, constant incursions and attacks by one side or another). The only solution that makes any sense to this is a just peace which grants national rights to both sides. This solution to the war and the question of national rights directly addresses the immediate political interests of Israeli workers. That is the basis from which further advances, such as a fight against border controls, can be made.

Being against a one-state solution and arguing that the left should adopt slogans with which it is possible to approach Israeli workers *as workers* - that is not to do with picking slogans which 'ensure us a short-term audience'. It is not 'soft' on Israeli workers. It might look 'soft' or 'economistic', when it is weighed against the approach of most of the rest of the left to Israeli workers! The SWP and most of the left demand that Israeli workers leave Israel, or accept rule by a hostile power, or willingly fall victim to economic boycott or terrorist bomb, in the hope that their sacrifice will make their leaders 'pay attention'.

To accept murder, dispossession, exile - what heights of anti-imperialist consciousness the SWP demand of Israeli workers! What a 'hard', 'principled' stand, which emphasises the 'political'! None of this buggering about talking about the material interests of Israeli workers - just hard anti-imperialist politics! Next to such a display of impeccable anti-Zionist principle, the approach of the AWL might look like we are pandering to Israeli workers. In a way, we are - we are not calling for them to be slaughtered! As a result, the rest of the left accuses the AWL and those who hold a socialist, two-state position of being 'soft', 'economistic', 'rightwing' or insufficiently 'political'. It sounds like you have half-fallen for this stuff, David. But on closer examination, you agree with us. Calling for the invasion of Israel, you're against that. Approaching Israeli workers as workers and breaking them from nationalist politics on a class-struggle basis - you're for that.

So you're for two states, still? You are against a blanket boycott of Israel?

As for the donkey joke - you give the impression that the difference between us is that you are against borders and we are not. That's not the case. That reduces politics to a silly game of making lists of demands (e.g. free ice cream and seaside trips). No-one here is in favour of borders. The question is the political approach you advocate in the fight to eradicate them. You can't dodge questions by saying, "I am against borders, so I don't have to answer that", because the abolition of borders is sadly not on the cards.

Three points

1) No-one is suggesting that the "right" of Israeli-Jews to hold onto their current section prejudices is of equal weight to the right of the Palestinians to self-determination (obviously we do not believe in any such "right" for the Israeli-Jews). Obviously we oppose exclusivist immigration controls in the here-and-now, including the "right of return" law for Jews practised by Israel, and if we were active within Israel itself we would certainly put more emphasis on such opposition. I would point out, though, that Israel is not the only country to have such a law in place and I don't see that Israel's law of return is any more uniquely reactionary or racist than any other immigration law/control practised by any other bourgeois state. The law is not simply about conducting a "demographic war" against the Palestinians; it is about the Zionist project of creating a national refuge from world anti-Semitism (hence the use of the Nazi's definition of "a Jew" in the stipulations of the law - the logic being that anyone who would be under threat by a Nazi or Nazi-type government would be welcome to seek refuge in Israel). That's a project we oppose - we don't think anti-Semitism can be fought by creating a nation-state island of Jewish control and we don't think Israel should be the collective national property of all Jews everywhere. But to argue that Israel's immigration controls are somehow more racist than those of other states or that they are designed solely to keep Arabs out misses the point about the origins of the state and the contradictory character of Zionist ideology.

The national question in Israel/Palestinian is one of right against right. We positively support/defend/advocate/whatever the right of self-determination for Israeli-Jews. The struggle for independence of the currently-colonised national group (the Palestinians) is of course our point-of-departure but given that any attempt to develop programmes for the region must necessarily deal with the question of the Israeli-Jews, our attitude to them and their rights can't just be an afterthought.

We think they (the Israeli-Jews) are a national group and we believe national groups should have the right to self-determination. Therefore any settlement we might advocate for the region has to take their right to self-determination into account as well as the same right for the Palestinians. We do not, unlike some on the left, believe that the right to self-determination is only for "oppressed nations". Hence we don't use the "right of return" demand as it is conceived of in its commonplace usage on the left - the unconditional right for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to reclaim buildings/land from which they/their parents/their grandparents were driven off in 1948. Instead we favour democratic settlements and compromises between the two peoples. Unless you don't think the Israeli-Jews constitute a national group then no other position makes sense; the only other options are the preservation of the status quo or the reactionary-fantasy "solutions" of the SWP-led left which involve the military subjugation/conquest of Israel by an external force (and in which scenario I would support Israel's right to defend itself; wouldn't you, David? There's an analogy, I think, with police operations against terrorism; this is effectively the bourgeois state defending itself, but I don't think any serious socialist would advocate that the police have no "right" to investigate or arrest terrorists or to attempt to prevent terrorist atrocities from being carried out. That doesn't mean we support the police/the state or believe that the police are the agency capable of ultimately undermining/defeating terrorism.)

2) I found David's comment about "6 million martyrs" extremely facetious. I'm reminded of Orwell's comment about the Daily Telegraph:

"There is not the slightest doubt, for instance, about the behaviour of the Japanese in China. Nor is there much doubt about the long tale of Fascist outrages during the last ten years in Europe. They happened even though Lord Halifax said they happened. The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads - they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late".

Similarly, just because the Israeli ruling-class cynically uses the issue of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to deflect criticism, that doesn't mean they aren't real issues that people who want to develop a serious analysis of and response to the situation (rather than a cowboys-and-Indians perspective) should consider.

It cannot be beyond the grasp of someone as clever as David to understand that the mechanised, industrialised attempt to wipe a particular ethnic group off the face of the earth on a scale never seen before or since will leave a pretty scar on the consciousness of that ethnic group. It is the single-most significant reason for the growth of Zionism into a mass movement and one of the most significant factors behind the actual creation of the modern state of Israel. Like it or not, the collective cultural memory of the Holocaust is an extremely central aspect of many (probably most) Jews' ethno-cultural identity and certainly a central aspect of Israeli-Jewish national consciousness. The fact that this is played upon and fed into and distorted into chauvinism by Israeli bourgeois ideology does not mean we can just ignore it.

3) Unless David thinks there is nothing at all wrong with the standard far-left attitude to Israel and Israeli-Jews, then I can't see that his opposition to our idea of "left anti-Semitism" can be much more than semantics. We have never said that this phenomenon is akin to straightforward anti-Jewish racism or that hostility to Jews is the starting point/motivation (indeed, the opposite is often the case; the motivation/starting point is very often entirely laudable - i.e. a desire to do something, anything, to help the Palestinians - and hostility to Jews is where it ends up when that desire is fed through the Stalinoid politics offered by the forces that politically hegemonise the Palestine solidarity movement). Maybe there's a more precise term for the phenomenon out there somewhere but life's too short. I'd like to know what David concretely disagrees with in the analysis of Moishe Postone, for example (read our interview with him here).


Daniel Randall

Who are you defending

1. "Obviously we oppose exclusivist immigration controls in the here-and-now, including the "right of return" law for Jews practised by Israel, and if we were active within Israel itself we would certainly put more emphasis on such opposition". I am against all barriers to immigration by anyone. But your statement suggests you agree with a right of return for Jews who have never lived in Israel, like hundreds of thousands of ultra-Zionist, albeit not Israeli, Russian émigrés who are encouraged to come, but not a right of return for Palestinians who still have the keys to the homes they were turfed out of?

The Zionist project did not initially emerge as a reaction to anti-Semitism (although clearly wins support by playing on it) nor does that justify it now unless you have an ice-thin definition of anti-Semitism like AWL do (far apart from what most people think those words mean). Most Jews do not live in Israel. Zionism is based on the belief in, and promotion of, the idea Jewish national separateness, such that Jews of any nationalities can become an "Israeli".

"Compromise between the two peoples"? Depends what you mean by "peoples", short of communism. No, I am not for "equality of nations", i.e. equality of rulers. I want full equality of all individuals, not a carve-up between their "representatives". In general it would be Palestinians who could expect a massive levelling-up of livings standards etc. from such a principle being realised.

I am also intrigued by the refrain "Israel is not the only country" which does X, or there are "many others who do the same". If an SWPer said "you say the Iranian elections are unfair, but what about US ally Saudi Arabia?" you would rightly condemn both, rather than saying it is "unfair" to "single out" one national bourgeoisie. You treat Israel as a special case, saying its critics are just hypocrites... yet you would deplore any such defence of any other state. That's the thing. The SWP don't support the Iranian regime, they call its critics hypocrites, and your argument is just the inverse of the same idea.

As Max Shachtman said:

"Typical is the reply. Typical is the reply. “What about Italy?” “What about France?” It’s become a joke, a rotten joke. You know of the timid American visitor who is being shown around in Moscow, its glories, taken into the magnificent subway with its marble panels – by guide, of course. They wait ... hey wait 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. The timid American says: “Your trains don’t run very often.” “Yes, what about the Negroes in the United States? But I’m not defending the persecution and lynching of Negroes in the United States. I’m not defending the Marshall Plan. I’m not defending the landowners in Italy. I’m not defending the landowners in Poland. I’m not defending the bourgeoisie in France. I’m opposing them."

2) I hardly see why the fact we should not "ignore" the reasons why Israelis support Zionism or the cheap invocation of the Holocaust to browbeat critics of Israel legitimises your use of this same 'argument'.

Dan asks: David, do you really think the Jews should be kicked out of Palestine and "go back to Auschwitz"? I reply, nonsense, what does that even mean? His reply... How facetious of you to trivialise the Holocaust!

3) Although anti-Semitism does have specificities apart from other racisms in which sense Postone's (hardly original) analysis is accurate, his over-arching thesis is a defence of the anti-German nonsense which sees people bring Israeli flags to demos, say everyone's anti-Semitic etc.

You are so keen to label people anti-Semitic, then say 'oh, they shouldn't be offended, it's just semantics'. Whereas different from other racisms, that doesn't make the charge any less severe.

But clearly you chuck around accusations of anti-Semitism, or invoke the Holocaust as a polemical tool, cheaply indeed. A smear that comes easily.

the States' rights

And no, I don't think states have any "rights", that the police have "rights", that Israel has the "right" to defend "itself". From where or what source does this right originate?

That is because I do not accept states' rights to rule over 'their' subjects nor do I identify nation-states with people.

Think again

Deal with the politics, David; don't just whine about how terribly oppressed you are by my "browbeating". If you can't understand why the question "where should the Israeli-Jews go?" is relevant when dealing with the left "common sense" on Israel/Palestine then I can only conclude that you are now wilfully ignoring glaring realities in the logic of SWP-type politics (realities which you once acknowledged and criticised openly and now ignore, without making any attempt to take stock of or account for your wild zig-zagging), and for reasons I can only speculate at. And if you think Israel is comparable to Stalinist Russia (which the Shachtman quote would suggest you do) then I can only conclude that you have lost your political bearings entirely.

I would ask you to think carefully before you accuse me again (as you have now done twice) of "cheaply invoking the Holocaust as a polemical tool". I would ask you to consider whether your holy crusade against the politics you once held is worth enough to you to make you shut your eyes and ears to political realities I believe you must still on some level be aware of. You are not arguing here with a member of the Israeli ruling-class. You are arguing with a Jewish revolutionary communist, hostile to Zionism and hostile to the Israeli state. And I am telling you that I believe that anti-Semitism and the historical experience of the Holocaust should be centrally important considerations for anyone attempting to develop a materialist understanding of the state of Israel and the Israeli-Jewish nation, let alone develop a working-class, internationalist response to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Unless you now have no respect whatsoever for the politics you once held and for the people alongside whom you fought for them, I think the least you can do is respond to these arguments on their substance and merits rather than simply endlessly crying "how dare you accuse me of anti-Semitism? Stop browbeating me! Stop using the Holocaust as a polemical tool!"

Saying that you believe in "communism", that you are "against states" and "against borders" might be a handy get-out-of-jail-free card that allows you to avoid ever having to actually answer tough questions about nations, national consciousness, the history of various nationalist movements, self-determination (or any variety of other issues that can be swept under the rug by simply proclaiming that, as an internationalist communist, you don't believe in any of that nonsense anyway). But given that the unifying thread of almost everything you have done in your political life seems to be a yearning to be taken seriously as a significant revolutionary thinker, I would suggest that you may wish to start taking the arguments of others more seriously if you yourself wish to have your ideas taken seriously in return.


Daniel Randall

sorry, what?

"But your statement suggests you agree with a right of return for Jews who have never lived in Israel, like hundreds of thousands of ultra-Zionist, albeit not Israeli, Russian émigrés who are encouraged to come, but not a right of return for Palestinians who still have the keys to the homes they were turfed out of?" - where did you get this from? What part of what we say or what Daniel says suggests that we think this? Supporting the right of self-determination for Israeli Jews does not mean supporting expansionist Zionist politics. You used to understand this - so this fudging-together of the two different concepts suggests you're actually trying to misrepresent our politics; to convince others (or yourself) that we are, in fact, right-wing social democrats or something.

Ed Maltby


"I am against all barriers to immigration by anyone." - As Daniel points out, saying that is the easy part. There's no disagreement here. The disagreement arises when you think that merely parroting this is all that is important (and that anyone who sullies themselves with demands short of this is a social-fascist). We don't approach workers with an ultimatum for 'communism': we have to develop a programme which can bridge the gap between the present moment (whose shitness we can't wish away) and a more advanced workers' movement of the future. That programme has to respect the rights of both national groups in Israel-Palestine: otherwise there is no reason for it to have any grip. "These Israeli workers do not appreciate the necessity of abandoning their national rights and their right to secede from a larger Arab state: they are imperialists, racists!" Won't get you very far, not only with Israeli workers, but with Palestinian and Arab workers in Israel, who are trying to organise alongside Israeli workers.

I'm currently reading a pamphlet that the I-CL (a forerunner of Workers' Liberty) produced in the 1970s - "Women's Liberation and Workers' Revolution". There's an instructive section in it about this sort of ultra-left, ultimatistic approach, which sees r-r-r-revolutionary slogans as the be-all and end-all. It is about certain activists in the women's movement, socialists, who claimed that a labour movement initiative called the Working Women's Charter was 'reformist' and not worth bothering with:

"They claim that a Charter which doesn't include a demand for working-class rule is reformist.

"But such a demand, written into the Charter, would in no way guarantee the movement a revolutionary character. This approach comes down to a completely static view of politics. If a movement doesn't have *your* programme, written out, reject it as a waste of time. You see yourself as part of an enlightened few; the rest of us are still in darkness, and have to be shown the light. Or else the comrades advocating this approach... see one demand, like that for a workers' government, shoved in at the end, as adding enough Marxist spice to make the movement revolutionary. This is just opportunism.

"This sectarianism is an attempt to *impose* a revolutionary consciousness on the working class 'from above', demanding that the class become revolutionary... It reveals a process of fetishisation, believing that a demand from the programme can have a life of its own, apart from the revolutionary party and the working class. It is... a failure to understand that the working class can only develop consciousness in struggle."

In the mouths of Communist Party apparatchiks in the Third Period, this was a horrifying approach, violently wasteful and counter-productive - a tragedy. In the mouths of very, very small anti-Stalinist socialist groups, it is farce.

Ed Maltby

We have millions of

We have millions of Palestinians denied their democratic rights, oppressed, in poverty, blockaded and killed with impunity by the Israeli state, a state that has also shown that it will kill with impunity anyone who attempts to peacefully break the blockade or demonstrate against it in its territory or even in international waters.

Socialists should be for full legal, social and political equality for Arabs and for international workers' condemnation of the Isralei attacks, blockade and war against the Palestinians supporting workers' sanctions and action.

Of course it will require a mass movement primarily in the Middle East, in Israel/Palestine, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria to overthrow the barbaric dictatorships and fight for democracy, freedom and socialism to make real lasting change. In the meantime a mass movement for boycott, for action in solidarity with the Palestinians. Within this movement we need to of course highlight the role of many Jewish workers who have shown solidarity, including refuseniks who have gone to jail rather than oppress Palestinians, be resolutely against anti_Semitism or any link with organisations who are anti-Semitic, and link this movement with the whole fo the antiracist movement, including against the fascists who have attacked Palestinian solidarity events

As for Ed's point that raising demands is not enough, "believing that a demand from the programme can have a life of its own... is... a failure to understand that the working class can only develop consciousness in struggle"

Yes- partly. But we do have to raise demands as well. Not in a preacherly abstract hectoring way but in ways that relate to working class people's everyday experience. However, some kind of consicous discussion and debate is needed- it is clearly not the case that struggle in and of itself spontaneously solves problems. Work in the unions and working class communities around building resistance to the cuts, to attacks on public services and welfare is going to be very important in the next stage in British working class politics but we should also keep to the forefront international struggles whether opposing Israeli government's blockade, the fascists, supporting international struggles such as the South African football strike, demandng troops out now from Afghanistan, a workers' solution to climate catastrophe- all of these issues and more are important to raise within the wider movement and we should not assume that these issues cannot also mobilise working class people. Part of the solution here though is for the left to ask the questions, not just come in to trot (unintentional but perhaps apposite pun) out a series of answers and engage campaigns in real discussions around action.