On 10 July, seven AWL members took part in a protest against the jazz musician Gilad Atzmon performing at the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) summer school, Marxism. In articles Atzmon has said things such as “... we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously... American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.” The SWP has refused to condemn his politics.
Sure enough, after only a few minutes of leafleting at the event at which Atzmon was playing, we were ordered to leave the building by SWP national secretary Martin Smith, even though I had bought a ticket. He wasn’t going to allow any criticism of the event.
When we asked him to discuss the content of our leaflet or the anti-semitic arguments on Gilad Atzmon’s website (www.gilad.co.uk), he retorted that AWL comrades were “fucking animals”. He also denied that we had a right to hand out leaflets on the grounds that we were “fucking Zionist wankers”.
This healthy level of political debate with SWP comrades was replicated in our arguments with Marxism stewards, who claimed that we were not even allowed to hand out leaflets on the pavement outside the building because they’d “paid for the venue.” When we asked if they were concerned that a racist was playing at Marxism, they avoided political discussion entirely; apparently it “wasn’t the time” to have that debate.
On the following day, I asked leading SWP member and prominent Respect candidate Lindsey German to talk to me about the controversy over Atzmon’s appearance at Marxism. She simply said “no”, and then ignored my questions about whether it was appropriate for
Martin Smith to refer to young people as “wankers”.
Before the final rally of Marxism, Martin Smith was sat talking to fellow SWP leaders John Rees, German and Alex Callinicos at some length about the AWL intervention at Atzmon’s performance, I saw an opportunity to finally get to talk to one of the SWP leadership clique about Atzmon.
As I approached the group, Smith said “here’s one of the wankers now”, and John Rees ordered me to sit down. How they laughed. It was good to see that, even if these middle-aged party bureaucrats have no politics, they can still get off on ordering a 16-year-old comrade about like one of their own lackeys.
Luckily for me, not being an SWPer, I didn’t have to do what he said. The decision to invite Atzmon could not have been made if it were not for the fact that there is no democracy in the SWP — no debate about the issue took place, no criticism of the leadership was made. Rees, Smith, German and Callinicos just do whatever they like — it’s clear that since they don’t even have to explain their position on Atzmon to their members (let alone members of other revolutionary organisations), they haven’t bothered to think up any justification for it.
By David Broder