Why Palestine Solidarity in Anti Capitalist Resistance?

Anti Capitalist Resistance (ACR) is an internationalist organisation currently being set up by revolutionary Marxists. Its internationalism is expressed in the attention it gives to struggles for self-determination and liberation around the world, with key international links already in place through participation in ACR of members of the Fourth International. That attention to self-determination, and the right of subject nations to organise themselves independently, is also expressed in the decision by ACR to organise itself in England and Wales, not in Scotland. We work with comrades north of the border to support their autonomous organisation of revolutionary Marxists in Scotland, and so to hasten the break-up of the so-called United Kingdom. We are working with revolutionaries in Wales to hasten the point where they organise themselves independently of direction from England. The break-up of the British state apparatus is part of our struggle for an alternative socialist society that respects local and regional and national self-organisation.

So, why flag up Palestine solidarity as a particularly important issue here? Well, first, of course, the British state is historically implicated in the foundation of the state of Israel, the gifting of land belonging to another people to the future Israeli state. That gives us particular responsibilities as revolutionaries. It should be noted that the Balfour declaration in 1917 which promised ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ on Palestinian land was not actually welcomed by many Jews in Britain. They suspected that this declaration was designed to increase pressure on them to leave Britain, their home, and settle somewhere else. They had been victims of racism here, among the first so-called ‘aliens’ to be targeted with immigration legislation, that is anti-immigrant legislation, and there was significant support for the foundation of Israel by antisemites. Up to the present-day many antisemites support Israel because they want Jews out of their own countries. This antisemitic support for Israel is consolidated by Christian Zionism, which is prevalent in the United States. Those Christian Zionists who expect the end days of the world to be marked by the ‘rapture’ after the Jews have been gathered in Israel, and do not give a damn about the Jews, or the Palestinians.

Palestine is one of the touchstones of solidarity with a people that suffers from institutional racism today and the traumatic collective memory of when Israel was actually founded in 1948. The ‘Nakba’ or ‘Catastrophe’ of 1948 saw many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled from the land, forced to flee their homes, with many families and descendents ending up in refugee camps. The Gaza strip at the border with Egypt has effectively operated as a massive open-air camp, and when the people in Gaza kick back they are subject to air attack, with many thousands murdered over the years. Land use, building regulations, the road system, education, health care, and now the vaccination programme in Israel intensify the exclusion of Palestinians from state power by Israel. They are increasingly confined to Gaza and the West Bank, and when their representatives and allies speak out in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, they are suppressed. Often the bizarre accusation is given out by the Israeli state for local Jewish and international diplomatic state and corporate mass media audiences that their complaint is antisemitic. Their very existence is a threat, sometimes alluded to, even voiced by the right, described as an ‘existential threat’. Sometimes we are also hypocritically told that boycotting Jewish settlements in the West Bank harms local people, harms Palestinians, as if they care.

The Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment, BDS, campaign actively called for by many Palestinian organisations and actively pursued in Britain by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is indeed a threat to the Israeli state, a state that we should be clear about is an apartheid state. The largest Jewish human rights organisation inside Israel working in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, has said this explicitly. Israel is an apartheid state. To say this is such a threat that legislation has been passed in Israel prohibiting individual citizens and organisations inside the country, organisations like The Boycott Within, from voicing support for BDS. It is difficult for internationalist Jews working politically in the best traditions of solidarity with subject peoples to voice support for BDS inside the country, but they have done so, and they have been on demonstrations and they have been subject themselves to physical attack. Our solidarity as Palestine Solidarity is also with our comrades inside Israel, Palestinians and Jews working together who are under attack from this apartheid state. In fact, we face many of the same responses by the right, by supporters of Israel, when we argue for BDS as we faced when we argued for the boycott of apartheid South Africa. This is why it is also worth noting that support from inside South Africa from partisans in that historic struggle now for the rights of the Palestinian people, including from Jewish partisans who call out Israel’s false accusations of antisemitism directed at the solidarity movement, is so important.

This struggle is an international struggle, has an international dimension. We do not single out Israel because it is especially evil, but demand that it is brought to account according to international standards claimed of any other supposedly democratic state – and brought to account in that way precisely because Israel promotes itself as a civilised oasis in the midst of authoritarian and dictatorial Arab states. We hold no brief for those Arab states, but for the peoples struggling also for human rights, struggling alongside the Palestinians, and those inside Israel. It is international also because it is a touchstone for the right, with strong supporters of Israel inside the United States, and now, with the departure of Trump, a new president and vice-president who have declared that they are strong supporters of Israel. Israel is a touchstone for Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, and Orbán in Hungary, Orbán himself who is feted by Netanyahu despite engaging in antisemitic conspiracy campaigns against George Soros. And it is a weapons base, selling deadly armaments to a number of brutal regimes around the world. Again, we need to repeat, we are in solidarity with the Palestinians because we are for the right to self-determination of subject peoples, and because we are against racism of all kinds, including antisemitism. Antisemitism has no place in the Palestine Solidarity movement, and is called out by us whenever it appears.

And now, as Anti Capitalist Resistance gathers together revolutionary Marxists who have been forced out of the Labour Party, while also working with our comrades who are still inside the Labour Party, we argue for Palestine Solidarity in a context where not only the right lines up with Israel, but also the right-wing of social democracy. Keir Starmer declares that he is a Zionist, as do even some members of Momentum inside the Labour Party. The space for Palestine Solidarity there is being shut down there. We need to keep it open. We are keeping that space open for Palestine Solidarity, and joining Anti Capitalist Resistance is one expression of a political choice. This is a political choice that is, in the words of Marek Edelman, activist in Poland during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis, words that give the tagline of the Jewish Voice for Labour group, that we are ‘with the oppressed and never with the oppressor’.

One way of being involved in these questions is by joining Anti Capitalist Resistance.

Socialist Fight

Taxi Driver, the 1976 classic film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, was apparently as seedy in its making as it was in its depiction of its anti-hero. The film became a source of oft-repeated motifs – ‘you talkin’ to me?’ – and became a classic because it eventually spun itself out in cine-history as a string of clichés. It was a lesson in how to dredge around in alienated inner-city life and serve up the mess on-screen as entertainment, an indictment and replication of a sick world which produces sick characters who thrash around trying to make sense of it, taking it out on the wrong guys.

Travis Bickle is the discharged US-Marine after the end of the Vietnam war who sinks into a spiral of depression and paranoia and ends up as a vigilante who takes on the self-appointed role of city cleaner, cleaning the urban landscape of the scum who feed and feed on the rotting society which surrounds him. This context is also the perfect feeding ground for a weird mixture of narcissism – you lookin’ at me – and conspiracy theories which systematically misrecognise and mis-locate the cause of evil in the world.

The film traces Bickle’s journey from dalliance with big politics to his eventual isolation in the tiniest imaginable sect politics – his own ruminations on power and sleaze and what needs to be done to put it right – and, disconnected from reality, he goes in for the kill. After a failed attempt to assassinate the Senator whose campaign team he was briefly part of, he heads for a brothel where there is a shoot-out, and finally, through lucky chance, he hits out at other characters that public opinion also views as vermin, and turns up lucky. The film successfully mixes the mistaken and dangerous emerging worldview of an outsider – Travis Bickle doesn’t really have a plan or know where he is going – with a series of stereotypes, of sex and race and corruption and crime, systemic misrepresentations of the nature of capitalist society, society that provokes and welcomes his erratic and destructive acting out.

SF

His is a lonesome fight which wallows in ideology, enacting and confirming it, just as it is in the case of Socialist Fight, one of the tiniest of splinters from the nine-way fragmentation of the old Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) in the 1980s. In this case, the replay of Taxi Driver Travis Bickle’s journey round the edge of politics will entail a contest for the Robert De Niro role between Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan. Downing, not to be confused with Gerry Healy (though that little Gerry was once the big man for our future star), has written reams about the break-up of the WRP, and he will surely beat Donovan for the role, but this time in a rather more downbeat version of the film, ‘Bus Driver’ perhaps. Socialist Fight, which proclaims itself to be the British Section of the ‘Liaison Committee for the Fourth International’ (with three other appendages), is the latest incarnation of Downing after his Workers International League and its paper ‘Workers Action’ hit the buffers. Donovan, meanwhile, has form in many different roles, having been through more far-left groups than you have had hot dinners, and he’ll get a bit part. Just as he does now in Downing’s Socialist Fight, which has given Donovan a home following his well-deserved expulsion from the CPGB-PCC. The film-score, by the way, will be by jazz saxophonist and antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

Well, one thing we learn from the spectacle of Downing and Donovan splitting with the rest of the left is that unfortunately there sure is antisemitism on the left too. This is not surprising given that antisemitism still swills around contemporary culture, but revolutionary socialists who take this seriously have been to the forefront of struggles against it. The Socialist Fight version of what August Bebel called the ‘socialism of fools’ is no less dangerous for being all the more ridiculous. Socialist Fight has already marked itself out on the far-left and alienated many comrades willing to ally with Downing by declaring, for example, that Islamic State is not all bad, and so Downing and Donovan’s protestations that they do not at all see themselves to be antisemitic now already ring pretty hollow. It is to the credit of other left groups involved in the campaign Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW) that they are having none of this nonsense. LAW, which was set up to defend, among others, Moshé Machover from accusations of antisemitism, quite rightly draws a sharp line between criticism of Israel – a principled anti-Zionist position in solidarity with the Palestinian people – and the half-baked racist ramblings that Donovan came up with in the CPGB-PCC before he was given the push (by Machover) and that Downing has been pushing in Socialist Fight.

In the tiny narcissistic and paranoiac world of Socialist Fight, there is a ‘Jewish Bourgeoisie’ that has intimate direct ties to the State of Israel, and it is this conspiratorial vision of the world that supposedly explains why the Jews who are, we are told, ‘over-represented’ in the ruling class must be called out. Full-blown ‘anti-Zionism’ must, according to Downing and Donovan, name this Jewish bourgeoisie as an influence to be rooted out, and so (as many hard-line Zionists would predict and wish) anti-Zionism shades into antisemitism. Downing will have difficulty rowing his way back from this position after Donovan declared that the Jewish bourgeoisie is the main enemy, and the two of them now can’t decide whether they hate those Jews more than they hate each other, a matter that was not resolved by Downing expelling Donovan (or vice versa, depending on whose account you read). This is no longer socialism as such, and merely led to two rival ‘Socialist Fight’ groups, tiny mirror images of each other. No wonder these two were admired by Gilad Atzmon who has made a disgusting speciality of celebrating self-hatred – a Jew who hates, he says, every bit of him that reminds him that he is Jewish – and no wonder that they return the favour.

This is a time of strange but necessary alliances, among which the most important are those alliances of anti-Zionists in the Labour Party that refuse to pander to antisemitism. Many Jews on the left have a proud history of standing out against the Israeli State, protesting against the attempts of Zionists to invoke some weird kind of collective responsibility in which all Jews are expected to fall in line and keep silent for fear of being labelled antisemitic. Moshé Machover is one, an old Trotskyist with a lifetime of resistance to Zionism inside Israel and then outside it, and Tony Greenstein is another (the latter having also written scorching attacks in the CPGB-PCC press on Downing and Donovan), both active members of Labour Against the Witch-hunt.

It is imperative that the new doppelgangers for Travis Bickle are not given the opportunity to fight their way into this campaign again, nor to be given comfort by those who deliberately or unwittingly misunderstand what the stakes are and make them seem as if they are in any way victims of a witch-hunt or heroes as they thrash around looking for someone to blame for their isolation on the left. They reflect the worst of the society they think they pit themselves against. Their fight, let’s be clear, is not at all a socialist fight.

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.