This article is in reply to the article by Albert Glotzer on the Alliance for Workers Libery website here.
Glotzer and the Jews as Special
“This article can be summarised briefly: The Jews of Europe have undergone almost inhuman suffering; this is due to the nature of capitalism. But the Jews are not alone in this suffering. Other peoples, other national minorities are faced with the same or similar prospects of extermination or near-extermination. This is a symbol of the decay of capitalism. There is no hope for these people except in the victory of socialism. It is true, the Jews may be entirely exterminated between now and the future, but... oops, sorry... that can’t be helped, you know. That’s capitalism for you. The Jews, despite this grim prospect, must not allow themselves to be emotionally worked up by the fact that six, seven or eight millions of them have been wiped out in Europe!”
Glotzer is right to criticise Mandel for equating the extermination of six million Jews with the deaths of millions of others during WWII. The Holocaust is clearly an appaling event in Man’s history. But despite that in large part Mandel is right. The Jews are not the only peoples to have suffered terribly in Man’s history. Many peoples have been wiped out entirely, many nationalities even within Europe simply swallowed up into larger nation states. The North American Indians fared pretty badly at the hands of European settlers, as did the natives of South and Central America, the Aborigines in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand. In North America the Indians and descendants of the slaves taken there have continued to suffer pretty appalling oppression ever since. In Europe the Gypsies have suffered a similar oppression as the Jews, and as a proportion of their population almost as badly in terms of the Holocaust.
So what then should socialists now abandon our concept that the answer to the problems lies in the unity of the working class, and a united struggle for the replacement of national boundaries and with them nationalism and national antagonisms? Should we now be arguing instead for a homeland for the North American Indians, for Gypsies etc.?
Glotzer argues Mandel’s solution is not practical because the force that could bring about his solution – the working class and Labour Movement – was as he says Mandel rightly analyses going through a phase of passivity and defeat. Basing himself not on a Marxist perspective, but what is essentially a moral argument to the effect that “this is awful SOMETHING has to be done” Glotzer adopts the “practical politics” approach of Burnham and Shachtman criticised by Trotsky, an approach which by its very nature must be based on opportunism. It is the politics not of Marxism but of moral outrage. Having recognised that Mandel’s analysis of the situation is correct, Glotzer is forced by this “something must be done” attitude of taking the approach if the working class can’t provide the answer then someone else must, which also means that the approach means if we can’t implement a working class solution then we must adopt some other – necessarily bourgeois or reactionary solution. In this case the solution proposed by Zionism.
The lineage of this type of approach down to today is clear. It is what leads, for example, the British SWP to conclude that in the absence of a combative working class the solution to similar problems lies with supporting the reactionary political islamists who are combative, who are prepared to “do something”.