Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Glotzer, Anti-Semitism and the Degenerated Workers State

This article is in response to the article by Albert Glotzer on the Alliance for Workers Libery website here.

Glotzer, Anti-Semitism and the Degenerated Workers State

“In attacking British and American policy as equally responsible for the plight of the Jews in Germany, Mandel very gingerly by-passes critical comment about Stalinist Russia and its role in the slaughter of Europe’s Jews. The only reference made to Russia is the quoted charge of the Polish resistance movement that it was betrayed by the British, Polish and Russian governments. But again Mandel even twists this with his own comments directing attention only toward the capitalist imperialists, because, as everyone knows by now, he not only does not believe that there is such a thing as Russian imperialism, but continues to find something magically progressive in that slave society. Beyond that reference there is not another word about Stalinist policy!”

Mandel, Glotzer goes on to argue is congentially incapable of attacking Stalinist Russia over the Jews because of his workers state position. Glotzer is right to criticse Mandel for his lack of criticism of Stalinist Russia, and the role during WWII, but his argument here is nonsensical.

1. His concept of “progressive” here is not the Marxist use of that term. Instead it is the subjective use typical of moralists, meaning to ascribe some kind of sense of “goodness”. It is a hark back to the methodology of the petty-bourgeois socialists criticised by Marx in the Communist Manifesto, who criticised capitalism on the basis of all its “evils”, and in so doing failed to recognise its really historical progressiveness arising from the potential its new productive relations opened up.

2. The implication from Glotzer’s argument is that had the USSR REALLY been a Workers State, then the anti-semitism could not have occurred. But that is to make the same kind of petty-bourgeois analysis as referred to above. It is to treat the working-class not as something real, but as some idealised social phenomena, placed high on a pedestal that could only ever be realised in some text book. It is to view the working-class in the same way that petty-bourgeois went into reveries over the “noble savage”.

The fact is of course that had the USSR been actually under the democratic control of its real working class, and not some idealised version of what it might have been, then the anti-semitism ingrained in the working-class and peasantry over generations would more likely have run rampant. Indeed, in the first days and months of the revolution even members of the supposed vanguard party of the Russian working-class was engaging in acts of Great Russian chauvinism against Ukrainians and other nationalities, and Trotsky records the presence of Black Hundredism in its ranks.

Yes the Stalinists did use anti-semitism for their own ends, but the fact that they were able to do so reflected the fact that the poison seed found fertile ground.

What we have here is a repetition of the idea repeated by Trotskyists for decades that it is all just a problem of leadership.

Glotzer is right to criticise Mandel, but to suggest that his lack of criticism of Stalinism in this respect flows inevitably from his workers state position is nonsense. There is no such necessary connection. After all, who more than Trotsky condemned the Stalinist political regime as being even more barbarous than Nazism, yet who more than Trotsky insisted on the Marxist class analysis that despite that political regime the social basis of the state on which it rested remained proletarian?

Glotzer and the Jews as Special

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”.

Glotzer and Immigration

This article is in reply to the article by Albert Glotzer on the Alliance for Workers Liberty website here

Glotzer Israel and Immigration

“Some of our readers may be aware that one of the main differences between us and the official Fourth International and the SWP is on the question of the right of the Jews to free immigration to Palestine. In advocating the right of free immigration to all countries, and in the first place to the United States, we advocate, at the same time, that democratic right for Palestine. The Fourth International and its adherents, however, are in favour of free immigration of Jews to all countries, the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, etc., but ... not to Palestine — the one country to which they want to go! Mandel’s article seeks to give the theoretical and historical justification for this obviously contradictory position.”

Socialists are opposed to immigration controls by bourgeois states. We are opposed to them for specific reasons. They seek to place responsibility for the problems of those states at the door of foreigners – immigrants – and thereby not only divert attention from the real source of the problems – capitalism – but do so by engendering nationalistic and racist sentiments. Yet in opposing Immigration controls we do not simply take this handed down principal as some talisman to use unthinkingly. Nor can we deny that the right to defend its borders by whatever means is an integral aspect of a state’s right of self-determination. In determining our attitude to Immigation Controls in any specific instance we have to follow Trotsky’s advice and “Learn to think” rather than simply repeat formulae.

Consequently, if we look at the question of the implementation of Immigration Controls by say the US or Britain we can unequivocably oppose them, there is no real threat to the state’s integrity, however, much people like Thatcher might have talked about the native culture being “swamped”. But was that true of say the Falkland Islanders, whose tiny population could have been physicallyswamped by an organised immigration by Argentina? Is it true today of Israel were it to agree to an unrestricted right of return for Palestinians? Clearly, these are different situations where anyone that thinks about the reality must adopt their arguments accordingly. But similarly, this argument applied to a tiny Palestinian population that could just as easily be overwhelmed by an organised Jewish immigration in to Palestine.

Was mandel right then to consider this possibility, just as today we consider the right of Israel against an unrestricted right of return? I think undoubtedly. Indeed, the past 60 years have proved the point haven’t they? The Palestinian population were overwhelmed and forced out. The establishment of a separate state did not lead to integration or cordial relations, and form the basis of closer co-operation between the workers of the two communities, precisely the opposite.

Glotzer’s position is just a Left cover for Zionism here. It is completely different to the position we are in now, of defending the right of Israel to exist as a state which is an established fact.

Liberty Bah Humbug

The Alliance for Workers Liberty recently posted a series of articles on the Trotskyist position at the establishment of the state of Israel. I actually found the documents very interesting, and generally support the AWL's position in respect of Israel as opposed to the bash Israel Brigades position, though personally for reasons I have outlined on their website I do not agree with the Two-States solution.

I posted a number of short pieces to several of the articles in the series they produced all of which seem to have been accepted except for several posts replying to the argument given by Albert Glotzer in reply to Eernest Mandel. At first I thought that it may have been a technical problem that caused the posts to be deleted, but having reposted them I found they were deleted again without any explanation. There did not seem anything contentious in the posts. This seems strange for there to be such censorship from an organisation that prides itself rightly on the openness of its website compared to those of other Left-wing organisations, and which has gone out of its way to defend free speech over the cartoons issue for isntance, and even in defence of the capitalist media in Venezuela that called for support for a coup against the Chavez government.

As yet no reason for the censorship has been given, and now the thread to which the posts were made has been closed for comment!

In the interests of free speech against this censorship, I am forced then to resort to publishing the pieces here rather than the more appropriate place in reply to the Golotzer article itself.