[Marxism] RE: thanks; assertion; query (and probably a much longer answer than you expected or need)
mstainsby at resist.ca
Mon Oct 3 00:36:51 MDT 2005
Apologies for the first post, it was (I thought) stopped in trasmission...
the 2nd one is properly formatted...
First, before going into any of this, I'm going to uncharacteristically
leave all of your reply on the question of why you say "borders on
anti-Semitic, so that I can include the Marxmail list where this exact
same one-liner had just as strong of a reaction against it. Thanks for
persevering in your attempt to reply, this is a very important
discussion and I know others will be interested in your Marcy-ism
history. That said, I quote you below saying:
"I think the US movement should realize we cannot dictate the terms of
peace in the Middle East."
Well, when you speak of ending all military aid (etc) to Israel, you are
actually doing just that; without American backing, Israel would be
destroyed in a matter of months. However, though you speak of how we
should not dictate, you then immediate follow with:
"(I think it is unlikely, for example, that all the Palestinian refugees
will ever be able to return to their original homes)."
and immediately again, you follow with the notion:
"We need to accept the reality that Israel exists, that it is a military
power that dominates the Middle East, and that many of the issues which
legitimately agitate the Palestinian community (and the Arab world) will
have to be solved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."
...and by making these assertions, you completely ignore your own advice
without ven pausing to take a breath. The notion of accepting the
bulldozing of thousands of villages, the artificial creation of hundreds
of thousands, now evolved thorugh regular birth practices to millions,
and to state we ought to accept the existence of a refugee population
that will live in refugee status in perpetuity is to "dictate" to
Palestinians as well, by the crime of our silence on those massive
violations of human rights. It's certainly admirable to want "socialism
with a human face" whether one agrees or disagrees with you about your
takes on various events of history. However, you state, in reference to
your own trajectory as a general rule:
"...one cannot demand rule of law and then find exemptions,..."
But to allow the Israeli state, with our silence on the continent that
wields more power than any other in the current conflict, the right to
deny the international human rights law, as laid down in the Geneva
covenants of 1948, of all human beings incluing every single one of
their descendants, the right to return to their homes. Both Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International, groups rightly criticised by many
Palestinian solidarity activists like myself for their muted, back page
version of "criticism" when it comes to Israel, uphold the right of return.
Is not the risk associated with making alliance with such a basic human
rights law far, far easier to deal with and understand than any alliance
you might have chosen to make with anti-Soviet dissidents during the
You speak of the need for negotiations, but we all know (despite how we
hear the rhetoric spun on every channel, paper, etc) that negotiations
can not take place while someone has their foot on your neck, that the
powerful cannot be relied upon as a "neutral arbiter" in any such
negotiations, and we also should be very clear about another facet of this:
The extrememly pro-Israel wing of the White House has articulated that
this war also exists as a means to "securing Israel". To silence
ourselves on the question of Palestine is not something that we can do,
merely because it then becomes a simple lie we tell, for the sake of
efficiency. Certainly if people in the United States are smart enough,
as they have shown themselves to be, to notice that the aftermath of
Katrina and the war on Iraq are linked, it is not going to be more but
in fact, less difficult to speak of Iraq and Palestine sharing the same
Those various responses I made are linked in my mind, but are not
necessarily together. What is together, however, is when we speak of a
state that is built on the ashes of houses for people *still alive*,
that state doesn't have the same right to exist as others, and
international law actually bears this out quite clearly.
So if we as a movement are suppose to be speaking of the rule of law,
how this whole war is illegal, etc... we cannot, for fear of offending
people who are rightly fearful of anti-Semitism, silence the basic human
rights of any-- on the simple notion that the violators did so in the
shadow of the Holocaust.
You also mention, correctly, that
"The immediacy [of the holocaust] escapes younger people. And if people
are not Jews, then it is possible to ignore the centrality of the
Holocaust to all Jews, secular, Orthodox, etc."
But the point that we are trying to make in a lot of our organizing
these days is that Muslims and Arabs (etc) are equal standing human
beings, no more no less, than other Americans or Canadians, and the
gross treatment of them as dogs must stop. Yet, by accepting Israel's
right to deny the human rights of Palestinians (including the right of
return), we perpetuate it-- simply because no other nation, that I am
aware of, has made these kinds of crimes on such a vast scale (though
both Canada and the US continue to with indigenous populations) since
WWII ended and would be given a pass of silence, a silence which doesn't
betray a "staying out" of the equation, but siding with the powerful, in
this case, Israel.
For the record, my hope and desire is not a reverse ethnic cleaning
process, a new diaspora of Jews who consider themselves Israeli being
scattered to the winds, or worse. I would only ask you to think in terms
of Apartheid South Africa, the internal displacements, tortures,
murders, and all of that-- and note that when one people finally
recognise the full humanity and equal rights even within a bourgeois
democratic framework, we were able to end it with little to no
bloodshed. Even if I think Mbeki has turned from hero to villain, the
state that exists now exists for all peoples in South Africa-- and there
will need to come a day where one person (Christian or Muslim
Palestinian, Atheists, and Israeli Jews) will have equal property
rights, equal access to water, voting, and to wander down the same
streets, near the river or the sea, where their grandparents did before
Let us not forget the simultaneous nature of how the Arab and Muslim
world sees the Nakba as a total centrality to their world view, and how,
unlike the Holocaust, it is not just the ghosts and the fears of the
population, but a daily reality in toxic sludge ridden refugee camps.
For if we do not, the very anti-Semitism you and others wish heroically
to resist, will fester and grow in contradiction and hypocrisy-- the
rights of all must be indeed for all.
ps: by all means, forward the peace movement from Israel updates. They
are important, but must be called on their hypocrisy as would anyone else.
David Mcreynolds wrote:
I'd tried to send this to Rad-Green in response to a question about my
comments on ANSWER. I hope this does get through, also to Carrol.
Peace, David McReynolds
Sent: 9/27/2005 4:22:27 PM Subject: RE: thanks; assertion; query (and
probably a much longer answer than you expected or need)
I'm sending blind copies of this to some others, including the "rad-green"
list, where the moderator had asked me the same question and it seems
that, for some reason, (looking at my "not yet sent" list) it never made
it out of my computer. This response will be longer than you expected
because the issues are both complex and serious.
I do not think ANSWER is anti-Semitic. I do not think Brian Becker, his
brother, and others in ANSWER are anti-Semitic. I have great respect for
the intense work that Workers World Party (which set up ANSWER and, up
until last year's split in WWP, ran it - Brian Becker, and others in the
WWP who split and set up a new organization - Party for Socialism and
Liberation - still do run it). Despite my disagreements with Workers
World, I've spoken at rallies organized by it (which for a long time
worked through another front - the International Action Center, with which
Ramsey Clark is associated). That includes a demonstration in Times Square
way back when Reagan authorized the bombing of Libya and the only group
willing and able to get out on the street here in New York was Workers
WWP was set up in 1959 by the late Sam Marcy, as a split from the orthodox
Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. One can find a good history of WWP on
Wikipedia by googling Workers World Party. For those like myself, who came
into the socialist movement in 1951, into the Socialist Party USA (and
considered myself in the SP's left wing), it was very hard to understand
how a one-time Trotskyist group could support the Soviet intervention in
Hungary in 1956, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the coup against
Gorbachev, the repression in Tiainmin Square, the North Korean regime,
etc. To some of us these are "impossible positions" for a socialist group
to take, but I do understand that, from the perspective of WWP (and I
assume the split which controls ANSWER) the horrors of capitalism are so
great that a defense of "presently existing socialism", for all its
faults, was imperative.
Sometimes those of us on the democratic socialist side forget to calculate
the horrors of capitalism, and I don't mean just the problems of
assembly-line production, dehumanization, alienation, etc., of industrial
and technological society (problems that actually also face the Communist
world). And we can over-estimate the degree of democracy in Western
democracies. When one adds up the Korean War, the over three million dead
in Vietnam, the estimated one million killed in Indochina some years ago
in a remarkable and now largely forgotten purge of Maoist rebels, the toll
in Central America, in Chile, the support of corrupt regimes such as
Franco Spain, the old South African regime, or the repressive government
in Israel, then it becomes possible to feel that ANY opposition to the
West must be supported.
In 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, WWP refused to make any condemnation of
Iraq because in their view any force resisting the US was on the "front
line" of the anti-imperialist struggle.
While I do understand this position, and it accounted for the support
Stalin had from many decent intellectuals in the West (a position
articulated well by Bertolt Brecht, particularly in his famous poem "To
Posterity"), for me personally, and those of us who have sought
(with little success!) to build an independent left - particularly figures
such as the late A. J. Muste here in the US, but also by others I've known
and worked with - the late Claude Bourdet in France, the late Peggy Duff
in Great Britain, the late Gil Green in the US, as well as friends in
Japan - there are limits. With Albert Camus we say "Neither victims nor
executioners". And for those of us who are pacifists, we say with Muste
"There is no way to peace - peace is the way". This effort to build
"socialism with a human face" led us to support and where possible work
with the dissidents in the Soviet Bloc, as well as to categorically
repudiate the efforts of US imperialism to "export democracy with
bayonets", whether in Indochina or Iraq.
In some ways we have sought to build a position which had some moral
grounding. (I do not, by this, mean that those in Workers World or its
split, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, are not moral people,
because I think, at a personal level, they are). Such a politics does mean
that the end does not justify the means - a sharp break with some of the
elements of Lenin's and Trotsky's positions.
Now, how does this apply to the charge of anti-Semitism? For those of us
who are, through no fault of our own except good luck, old, the memory of
the Holocaust remains, as much as Hiroshima and Nagasaki
(and Dresden), a reminder of the level to which human beings could sink.
The Zionist movement built Israel on the foundations of the Holocaust -
and if one looks back to the murder of six million people because they
were Jews (plus another six million who were Slavs, leftists, homosexuals,
etc.) one can understand why the world Jewish community supported the
creation of Israel. And why the West, out of a guilty conscience, was more
than willing to impose a Jewish State in Palestine. It seemed, at the
time, a "cost free" way of dealing with a terrible sense of guilt.
If one is Brian Becker's age - or younger - then the Holocaust is only one
of many horrors littering history's landscape. The immediacy of it escapes
younger people. And if people are not Jews, then it is possible to ignore
the centrality of the Holocaust to all Jews, secular, Orthodox, etc.
And if one is in an organization which has put "ends before means", and is
determined to reach third world people, to build links with the newly
emerging Muslim community, with the Palestinians, then it is only too easy
to accept formulations and slogans which do, in fact, border on
anti-Semitic. I would be very cautious in throwing around the term
"Zionist" in referring to Israel, since the majority of Israelis were
either born after 1948, or came to Israel after its founding. Those born
after 1948 think of themselves as Israelis, not Zionists. Those who came
to Israel usually ended up there because they couldn't get to the US -
Israel was the "choice of last resort". Israel has been, for some years, a
"post-Zionist" state. All the wonderful dreams of the early Zionists are
dead. Instead you have a pervasive racism within Israel, and a
militarized society intolerant not only of Arabs but also of Israeli Jews
who struggle, against great odds, for peace.
ANSWER reaches out to the Palestinians but rarely embraces or mentions the
peace movement within Israel. The supporters of ANSWER within the
Palestinian community, and on their speakers' platforms, refer to the
"Zionist entity" rather than to Israel. For Jews, whether in Israel or
here in the US, the fact that many of those drawn to ANSWER simplify the
issues makes them appear as anti-Semitic.
I think the US movement should realize we cannot dictate the terms of
peace in the Middle East. (I think it is unlikely, for example, that all
the Palestinian refugees will ever be able to return to their original
homes). We need to accept the reality that Israel exists, that it is a
military power that dominates the Middle East, and that many of the issues
which legitimately agitate the Palestinian community (and the Arab world)
will have to be solved by negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians. I find the Israelis cynical, manipulative, with little
awareness that eventually some Palestinian, in an act of frustration, will
explode a dirty bomb in Tel Aviv.
But I can't make peace - nor can ANSWER. The only thing the US movement is
able to do - and should be doing - is to demand the immediate,
unconditional cut off of all US military and economic aid to Israel. We
should hound every member of Congress on this question. We should
challenge the influence of AIPAC on the US political process and see it
for what it is - not the expression of American Jewish concern, but the
deliberate intervention in our political process of a foreign power. And
we should, of course, establish and maintain friendly relations with
democratic forces both in Palestine and Israel. Further, we need to stop
"equating" the terrorism of the two side. All terrorism is deplorable -
but the violence of those who are occupied, who are driven to suicide
bombings, is an expression of their inability to achieve change through
any political process. Even now, as I write this, Israel is working to
prevent Hamas from taking part in Palestinian elections!!
What I will not do, however, is to deny that Israel has the same right to
exist as any other state. It doesn't have the right to do anything it
wants in order to exist. But it is there, it isn't going to go away, and
the beginning of a peaceful process would be a recognition by Israel that
it truly does understand that a sovereign, independent Palestinian State
has the right to exist. (I must say I am not optimistic about any state -
Israeli or Palestinian - but that is another discussion).
To a great extent Workers World and its recent split seek for issues which
will make it possible to maintain divisions within the peace movement. The
central issue right now is not Israel - it is the US involvement in Iraq.
When ANSWER forced the Israeli question center stage it drove a wedge in
the movement by frightening off some liberal Jews. (I say "shame on them",
but I report a fact). ANSWER also raised the issue of Haiti to an equal
level with that of Iraq, and did so in a very cynical effort to broaden
its own involvement in the communities of color. Haiti is a tragic
country, the US is clearly responsible for the kidnapping of Aristide and
the current mess. But Haiti is not anywhere near the level of Iraq as an
(Nor does Haiti have any assets the US ruling class wants - no natural
resources, no strategic base, etc.).
During the nearly forty years I've known Workers World, from the Vietnam
period to the present, it has put itself outside the broad coalitions,
even, when necessary, seeking issues that would divide the movement. In
1991 during the run up to the first Gulf War, the main, broad coalition
against the war knew that we had to be able to say "Of course Iraq should
not have invaded Kuwait and should withdraw - but the central issue is
that the US should not launch a war over this issue, but leave this for
the Arab states to sort out". It was Workers World which insisted that no
statement be made on the invasion of Kuwait - which would have left us in
the impossible position with the general public of having no answer at all
when they asked if we did or didn't support Iraq's invasion. (I'm aware
that the Iraqi case against Kuwait was considerable, that the invasion had
some basis - but one cannot demand rule of law and then find exemptions,
one cannot demand that Israel accept UN Resolutions but then excuse Iraq
for ignoring them).
For anyone interested in reports on the Middle East from the peace
movement in Israel, I'll be happy to direct you to sources.
Fraternally, David McReynolds
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