[Marxism] Reply to Steve Gabosch on the Militant's "Jew hatred" smear of Hersh and other neocon critics and theorists

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Jun 13 09:32:15 MDT 2004


Steve Gabosch seems to have chosen the role of omsbudman on list where
criticisms of  SWP positions, criticizing the excesses or errors that he
sees in the criticisms on others, usually without clearly expressing his
own position (as befits a "neutral" judge in such a dispute).  He rarely
if ever notes any errors or excesses in the Militant or SWP positions,
perhaps because he doesn't find any.

I have a different idea about why Steve and others may not feel it
appropriate to make their criticisms on the list.  When I made my
unexpected, ungainly, but blessed exit from the SWP, I still considered
myself loyal to the organization despite having by then accumulated a
wide range of differences on many matters.  I felt duty bound (from the
standpoint of revolutionary morality as I saw it) to defend "the party"
against its critics, even on issues where I knew (even at my stage of
development at that time) that the party was probably off the rails to
one degree or another.  That was how I responded to the Elian Gonzalez
matter, taking up secondary issues on the character and purposes of the
INS, while carefully avoiding such things as the basic condemnation of
the removal of Elian from his kidnappers (ASSIGNED TO THIS ROLE BY THE
GOVERNMENT,  OF COURSE) and the wild exaggeration of the "massive"
attack on democratic rights and violence of the removal -- presenting it
as a massive threat to the rights of all working people.  

The obvious fact was that the government had deliberately turned the boy
over to fanatical anti-Castroists (who, by the way, cruelly manipulated
his anger toward his parents for abandoning him in this situation -- and
that is the way just about ANY five year old would see this situation);
encouraged them to whip themselves and their neighbors up around barring
the boy's return to his living parent, and made it very clear that they
would not willingly give him up to a legal process.  The only
alternative to some version of this attack was to leave the boy with the
kidnappers.  The Militant regarded that as the "lesser evil" in this
situation on spurious grounds of democratic rights.

That is how I also responded to the bizarre campaign against Al Gore,
claiming that he was "stealing the election" from the rightful winner
George W. Bush by challenging a few of the votes the Republicans had
crookedly left uncounted. ( Gore actually ignored, I believe, the
biggest scandal in the elections -- the purging of the lists of Black
voters, which may be taking place in more than one state today). In a
letter to the Militant, I criticized the Militant for focusing their
fire only on Gore for this matter. But in a polemical letter I wrote to
a friend who had been impressed by some of Jose Perez's arguments, I
focussed almost entirely on criticizing HIS excesses (he portrayed the
stealing of the Florida vote as a "rightist coup" which I still think
was an exaggeration of its importance) and ignoring entirely his
detailed proofs of the fact that the Republicans had systematically used
their control of the state government to drive down the Gore vote.  I
was being a loyal party "supporter" (no formal tie, of course) by
defending "the party" against critics without giving any emphasis to my
own disagreements with what they were saying.  The Militant, in defiance
of the scandalous facts about the Florida vote (scandalous even if they
are far from unique), chose the Bush camp as the "lesser evil", again
claiming to put defence of democratic rights in the forefront.

The dissection of criticisms of the party, rather than clearlhy stating
my own political views (which were also in flux) was also the spirit of
the first contribution or contributions (as a nonsubscriber) to the
list.  I had never heard of the list as a party member -- I had never
had a computer or used the internet.  For the first couple years out of
the party, the computer became my main contact, aside from The Militant,
work and one or two friends, with the outside world.  The list, with all
the differences I might have with this or that contributor, was a way of
keeping in touch with developments in politics and their interpretations
on the left.  At the same time, I was making much sharper criticisms
(sometimes TOO sharp, I think in retrospect -- I made a systematic
effort to calm down my polemical style after 9/11) in letters as part of
my continuing effort to "reform" the party while defending it to the
world.

It was only  when it really began to dawn on me that the party was, for
some reason (I have a much clearer idea today why), staying away from
the antiwar movement that I really began to speak and act for myself on
politics, rather than view myself as an informal adjunct of "the party".


Well, that may not be what is motivating Steve's method of approach.  He
may have no differences with the SWP, as is his right under the first
amendment.  But for me his competent lawyerly defenses (and I have no
moral objection to competent lawyering in a good cause, having pursued
that career goal before turning toward revolutionary politics) bring
back memories of my own attempts to lawyer for what now appears to me to
be the ultrasectarian in general and quite rightist-in-direction
politics of the Militant and the SWP.

With that, I want to take up one or two of the passages from the
Militant concerning which Steve criticizes the criticisms of Louis
Proyect.

"This campaign finds a resonance among Jew haters and sectors of the
wealthy ruling classes in the United States and Europe and of their
officer
corps whose positions and chances for advancement are threatened by the
policies being led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to transform the
U.S. armed forces into a lighter, more mobile force to wage Washington’s
wars around the world."

This is what is known as an amalgam.  All the forces pushing this think
are linked by editorial legerdemain to "Jew haters," even though many
and perhaps most of them have no connection at all or interest in Jew
hatred.  The whole thing leaves the impression that the Bush
administration is under attack from the right by a vast array of
reactionary forces that include the antiwar movement and the (especially
hated by the Militant) liberal media.  And then the whole idea provides
the pretext for the headline which proclaims that the whole campaign
against the "neocons"  is based fundamentally on Jew hatred.  I was on
the Militant staff for a grand total of nine years (two separate rounds)
and I know how to recognize this kind of journaluistic trickery.  I
think I was a force against it, but back in those days (even into the
late 1980s -- my last week on the staff was in December 1989 as a
volunteer) the editors were much more open to criticism of this kind. 
But as discipline, centralization, and homogeneity have intensified,
there has been a growing breakdown on discipline about reporting facts
accurately and presenting arguments logically.

The article does not even begin to prove or even competently argue, as
the headline claims, that Jew-hatred underlies the whole antagoinism to
the neocons.  It says the campaign "resonates" with Jew-haters and then
links the Jew-haters to a broad array of political forces in the United
States and Europe.

And notice the pro-Rumsfeld twitch on the military.  In the last months,
the Militant has become a virtual advocate of the Rumsfeld dream of a
New Model Army (an expansion of the liberal McNamara's efforts to base
the military  on overwhelming air power and elite, mobile special forces
(the emphasis, if carried to its logical conclusion, would probably
turn the soaring number of US troops being killed in helicopter
"accidents" into a virtual holocaust).  The Militant at times has
treated the Rumsfeld Army as an accomplished fact, presenting the
occupation of Iraq as a resulting conquest and crediting it with
abolishing all traces of the Vietnam Syndrome in the "volunteer army."
They have presented the New Model Army as the key to the coming era of
qualitatively greater US world hegemony, and have even compared
characteristics of this army favorably to the Cuban Army system.

In this passage, the Militant (now recognizing that Rumsfeld's concept
is embattled and not yet a fact) seeks to label all the critics as
driven by Jew hatred, using a crooked formulations suggesting that their
criticisms "resonate" with Jew haters.  They may or may not -- the
theories about the neocons certainly do so resonate, but as a basis for
denouncing those who hold these theories, this is a slick, editorially
tricky slander. 

The second passage I want to take up is the following:

"The Militant:
10.  Hersh’s “exposé” relied in part on information from a retired Air
Force
intelligence officer."


"Steve:
"'The term “exposé” is put in quotes because the Militant denies the
claim
that a neo-conservative Jewish (or pro-Likud party) conspiracy in the
Defense Department manipulated the US into going to war in Iraq.  In
contrast, the information in the Pentagon Papers and about the My Lai
massacre was true, so there is no analogy.  If, as the Militant claims,
the
neo-conservative Jewish conspiracy theory is false, then it does not
follow
that it can have the "same kind" of impact that Hersh's true and
history-making investigation of the My Lai massacre did or the Pentagon
Papers did.  All these comparisons, of course, hinge on whether the
neo-conservative conspiracy theory is true or false.  The Militant
claims it
is false.

"'So far, no evidence has been advanced in this thread on Marxmail that
demonstrates that this neo-conservative conspiracy theory is true.  The
Marxist theory of the state in general denies such conspiracy theories
in
the case of modern imperialist states, including fascist states.
Consistent
with classical Marxism, the Militant claims that the capitalist US
ruling
class, and not a conspiracy, made this war in Iraq happen.  No one,
including Louis, has attempted to seriously contest this traditional
Marxist
claim.  Perhaps, in theory (so to speak), it is possible that the war in
Iraq is an exception to the rule - that, in this particular instance,
the
recent imperialist war in Iraq did not reflect the objectives and
interests
of the imperialist US ruling class - and was instead fomented by a small
conspiracy with different objectives.  But real evidence, and an
adequate
explanation of how this is possible in Marxist theory, is required to
back
up such a claim.'"

Steve frames the debate as being over whether the theories of a neocon
conspiracy are true or false.  If true, he assumes that the line of the
article -- that criticism of the neoconservative current, including in
the antiwar movement, is driven by reactionary Jew hatred and
anticommunism is true.  If the theories are false, the line of the
article must be true.  He then closes his case by pointing out that
noone on the list has presented evidence for the theories being true.
The Militant article is therefore correct. Q.E.D.

It would be surprising if anyone on the MARXISM list argued that the
neoconservative intellectual cliques caused the war in Iraq by acting in
the interests of the Israeli government.  The issue is whether the
charge that Jew-hatred is a central driving force behind the Hersch
expose and the associated "theories" not only in the case of Buchanan
but in the case of liberals and antiwar forces in general.  This is the
claim made in the Militant headline, which it attempts to justify with
innuendos and amalgams.

Actually, Gabosch is incorrect that the Hersch expose is false while the
Pentagon papers were true.  The facts Hersch presented are substantially
true.  A neoconservative current does exist and agitated and lobbied and
argued for war against Iraq.  This was part of the process by which the
war came about.  And the Pentagon Papers'   facts do not present the
whole truth.  There is nothing in them that indicates direct ruling
class intervention in making government policy.  The information in the
Pentagon Papers can and has been used to justify theories that the
Vietnam war was caused by the hubris of liberal cold war intellectuals
like Bundy, Rostow, and McNamara or that it was a Pentagon plot.  It
would have been possible to write the same kind of article the Militant
wrote today at that time, 
"exposing" the conclusions that the Pentagon papers inspired.  And even
in those days, there were beginning to be arguments (by Podhoretz and
other first-wavers of the neoconservatives) that opposition to the
Vietnam war was motivated by anti-Semitism.

"The Militant claims that the capitalist US ruling class, and not a
conspiracy, made this war in Iraq happen."  But how did the ruling class
do this.  The representatives of the billionaires did not issue a public
order to the government to go to war in Iraq, and then fire those of
their employees who had doubts.  The capitalist class itself had some
important divisions in the matter, not to mention the ruling classes of
Europe and Japan.
The fact that decisions are being made behind the backs of the people
and not in entirely open or legal ways by publicly known and organized
groups is part of the reason that people -- for many other reasons than
Jew-hatred or anti-communism -- can be prone to conspiracy theories.

In fact the capitalist class operates not only  through direct
intervention in ways we aren't in a position to know about, but through
powerful public lobbies that they support and encourage, campaign
contributions, and the activities of contending intellectual groups like
the neocons or the liberal think tanks.  The neoconservative scum do
share in responsibility for the war and the ruling class decision to
make it.  And by the way, it is not impossible that the ruling class
decision to invade Iraq will turn out to be a miscalculation.  Lobbies
and propaganda outfits like AIPAC and the Cuban-American National
Foundation are powerful weapons in the ruling-class decision making
process, not simply innocent bystanders who happen to be pleased with
the outcome.  Another example was the advocacy of military buildup and
tougher anti-Moscow policies by the Committee on the Present Danger,
which helped prepare the Reagan era.  And another was the Committee for
a New American Century, in which neoconservative think-tankers joined
with high political figures like Rumsfeld and Cheney to project policies
that began to be implemented under Clinton and more fully under Bush.

The neoconservatives have been part of the process since they emerged in
the late 1960s in opposition to the Black struggle and the anti-Vietnam
war movement.
They are intellectuals and writers and academics who called themselves
"neoconservatives" because they variously broke with liberalism or
social democracy (the Socialist Party-Social Democrats USA) They
actually are majority Jewish and their most prominent leader was Norman
Podhoretz, publisher of the American Jewish Committee's once-liberal
Commentary magazine. Some of them had close associations with Max
Shachtman in the SP or in the AFL-CIO political bureaucracy.  But only
one of the neocons who participated with Shachtman in the 1940 split
from the SWP is still alive as far as I know: Irving Kristol, publisher
of the quarterlyThe Public Interest. They did push for ruling-class and
politician support to the Iraq war, and some of them helped prepare it
and implement it.  Jewish or not, these intellectual thugs deserve to be
loathed by working people, the oppressed, and defenders of democratic
rights everywhere.

The Militant article is a slick, crooked attack on the antiwar movement,
labelling people as "Jew haters" who have gotten one piece of the
process of how the war came about and turn it into the ANSWER.  Buchanan
is a slick Jew-hater, but the great majority of the people the Militant
is talking about are not, period. This is a common approach for people
who are new to mass struggles, or have a lot of intellectual
mistraining.
To equate the theories about the neocons with Jew hatred the way the
Militant did is a slander, and a slander aimed not only at the antiwar
movement, but at the struggles of the Iraqi and Palestinian people.  I
guess its a "lesser evil" than the Militant actually advocating
anti-Semitism, but not by much.

By the way, as Walter may have gathered, I like the term "Jew hatred" to
describe "Jew hatred" much more than the vaguer anti-Semitism.    Gab

Fred Feldman







 





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