As a longstanding member of the Jewish Socialists' Group (JSG), who only a few months ago was invited in that capacity to contribute a feature article for your paper, which you published, I am astonished by Sean Matgamna's ignorant and sectarian attack on the JSG (SO 406).
He describes the JSG as a "strange and loose political group organised around an ill- defined Jewishness rather than precise political ideas." This is nonsense.
1. The group, which has existed for considerably more years than Socialist Organiser, is organised around a manifesto (available on request) and precise political positions adopted by majority vote at an annual members' policy conference.
2. What Matgamna calls "loose", we call non-sectarian. We make no apologies for being "all too tolerant”. We are proud that we attract members across a wide range of Left groups who manage because we openly reject rigid, hierarchical, organisational politics in favour of internal democracy
3. There is nothing remotely "strange" about the JSG. The specifically Jewish socialists of the Bund were the first Marxists to organise in Tsarist Russia. Today, autonomous Jewish socialist groups exist in many countries organising around the needs of Jewish and other minorities in relation to the general struggle for socialism, emphasising in particular, secular and anti-fascist traditions.
4. While orthodox Leninists, religious fundamentalists and Zionists have effectively colluded in reducing Jewish identity merely to religion and/or state nationalism, the JSG has developed a sophisticated, pluralistic understanding of contemporary Jewish identity, As someone with a fondness for pseudonyms, Matgamna is ill-advised to brand our Jewishness as "ill-defined". Though Matgamna often labels his opponents as "anti-semites", his refusal to countenance Jewish self-organisation and his dismissal of Jewish socialists' own conception of Jewish identity is deeply suspicious, if not something worse.
He hangs his attack on the JSG on a sectarian dispute with the one JSG member affiliated to the "Workers' Press" (Charlie Pottins) and makes the incredible claim that through this member, the JSG were led into an association with "mercenary antisemites" and "potential pogromists".
Even the most bitter enemies of our group on the far right of the Jewish community have not made such an outrageous accusation, although given the cosy relationship that seems to exist between Socialist Organiser and the Union of Jewish Students, no doubt this charge will reappear in public and private Jewish community organs.
For the record, Charlie Pottins is a much-respected and highly valued member of the JSG who has been in the forefront of our group's work against anti-semitism, right and left, and other forms of racism in the last 10 years.
Just as our group is a thorn in the side of the Jewish establishment, so our insistence that the Left takes a deeper look at national and cultural questions relating to minorities has irritated certain vanguardist Leninist groups.
Not surprisingly individuals from both these areas have sought to enter the JSG and impose their hidden agenda on the group.
Thankfully our group has resisted these attempts, including one by a person who was a member of Socialist Organiser. In contrast, Charlie Pottins has operated within the JSG with 100% openness, accountability, commitment and integrity. Matgamna owes the JSG an apology.
David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialists Group
Socialist Organiser 507 14 November 1991