EDITOR'S NOTE: Some time ago we had to answer the distortions of our ideas by the Argentine group known as the Partido Obrero. We dealt with this in an article by Alan Woods which appeared in five parts: An appeal for a rational discussion: Reply to Luis Oviedo - Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.
In spite of having been given clear answers and all their distortions having been exposed, they resumed their attack earlier this year. Our Argentine comrades of El Militante (Argentina) replied at length in March, in Spanish, and their reply is available on their website at: Marxismo frente a vandalismo político - Respuesta a Jorge Altamira (1ª Parte) and Marxismo frente a vandalismo político (2ª Parte) - Israel y la cuestión palestina.
The attack appeared in issue 935 (March 2, 2006) of the Prensa Obrera, under the title Alan Woods y el modelo de Sharon. It was a short note signed by a certain Daniel, in which he claimed that our international tendency supports Amir Peretz, the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, adding that these things "must be known." This was later taken up in a longer piece by Altamira, Marxo-Chavists support Zionism (no offense to Chávez)
Of course, our friend Daniel simply stated that this was a fact, without any quotes form any of our numerous articles on this question. The readers of Prensa Obrera were simply expected to believe what Daniel was stating, without any proof. Our Argentine comrades wrote to the Prensa Obrera requesting the right of reply. All they asked was that the Prensa Obrera publish an article explaining our real position. The Prensa Obrera refused to do this. They first pretended to grant the right, but then found an excuse for not doing so:
"The request is strange, since the current under consideration has its own publications and can explain at length to its readers its attitude towards positions like Daniel's, but the answer was nevertheless accepted, even if just because Prensa Obrera is the only left periodical which publishes criticisms of the positions of the party that issues it, the Partido Obrero. The only condition we requested was for the answer to state clearly whether they call to vote for the Zionist 'Labor Party,' because they argued that Daniel's letter "misrepresents" the positions of "Militancia". But as they strangely refused to make clear whether they call to vote for the Israeli 'Labor Party,' the editors of Prensa Obrera decided that they could not be accomplices of a maneuver by publishing the so-called 'answer.' "
As we have replied to the fundamental criticisms and distortions of our ideas by the Partido Obrero in full, we did not feel the need to reply once more. Furthermore El Militante also provided a thorough reply in Spanish to their later attacks on the question of Israel. Since then however, their attacks have appeared in English and some of our English language readers have written to us requesting some clarification, concerned that such distortions should not go unanswered. We do not want anyone to have any doubts of where we stand and therefore we are publishing the following text, written by comrades Yossi Schwartz and Alon Lessel in Israel.
We do not fear public debate with other tendencies. If these are carried out in a friendly and comradely manner, and furthermore are based on quoting the actual positions being expressed, then they can serve a purpose in clarifying ideas, making them sharper and raising the level of all concerned.
We actually took up the Partido Obrero publicly, starting with the question of the slogan of the Constituent Assembly. The Partido Obrero defends this position in many Latin American countries. We believed it was a mistaken position that could actually cause damage to the revolutionary movement in Latin America and that is why we took it up.
If you read our polemic with the Partido Obrero you will see that we maintained a friendly approach, treating this organisation as a fraternal force in the struggle for socialism, albeit a force that has made many mistakes, some of them serious. We have no interest in distorting the position of the Partido Obrero. We discuss it as it is. How else can anyone learn? That unfortunately is not the method of the comrades of the Partido Obrero, who are more interested in distorting and misrepresenting the views of other tendencies. On this basis they will never build a viable force within the labour movement.
We are used to the fact that sectarians in Israel, especially left Zionists or Arab radical nationalists, misrepresent our positions (see below). However, they at least usually do not claim to be Marxists. But from time to time, we are amused by self proclaimed Marxists, who manage to prove time and again that they have never really understood the method of Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky.
A few months ago, an old slander, written originally in Spanish, was republished in English in Prensa Obrera, the mouthpiece of the Partido Obrero (PO) in Argentina. The slander is that we unconditionally support Amir Peretz, the new leader of the Labour Party in Israel, and have ignored the national oppression of the Palestinians. This presumably shows that we have abandoned the road of Lenin and Trotsky and have become - no more, no less - Zionists.
Comrade Altamira, the leader of the PO wrote this slander without ever taking the time to read our actual positions, nor does he need to know our position, as he prefers to attribute to us positions we do not hold, and then criticize those positions, using the old trick of knocking down the straw man. We will begin our reply by quoting from his article:
"In Prensa Obrera No. 935 a letter was published by Daniel, who pointed out that the new leader of the Israeli Labor Party has taken as his model the fascist Sharon. Though the periodical doesn't point this out, the letter was sent from Jerusalem. Daniel quotes Amir Peretz as saying: "We are no less capable than him (Peretz means Sharon) of preserving Israel's security... we will never rest in our struggle against terror." By ‘terror,' the chief of ‘Labor' understands, like all Zionists, the Palestinian resistance. Daniel correctly adds: ‘That is why it is important for the readers of Prensa Obrera to know that the current led by Ted Grant and Alan Woods supports in Israel this Sharon in miniature which is Amir Peretz.' Daniel, however, didn't know how opportune his observation was, because the past week this same 'Labor' party supported the assault carried out by the Zionist army on the prison of the Palestinian Authority in order to kidnap the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, who was jailed in the compound (El Pais, Madrid, 17/3)".
Thus, we are informed by Altamira that Sharon and his party is fascist, the Labour Party under Peretz is its twin and we the Marxists are kind of "Trotsky-fascists."
Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister, is a general and a butcher with a lot of blood on his hands. He is also a right-wing nationalist. However, does nationalism plus the use of brutal force add up to fascism? Is this really the Marxist method?
This is a popular misconception exploited by the imperialists. Using this concept they point out to the nationalism and the brutal oppression of the working class, national minorities and women in Iran and call the President of Iran a fascist! This kind of definition is common to the imperialists and the self-declared Marxists, but is very remote from the definition one receives by using the Marxist method. Similarly the characterization of the social reformists as fascists and the Marxists as Fascist supporters is nothing new. It was used before, as we will show, by Stalin in the early 1930s, during the so-called "Third Period".
Ask liberals to define fascism, and they will characterize it as radical nationalism, use of violence, racist and xenophobic propaganda, etc. The fact that those calling themselves Marxists cannot define fascism any better than the liberals, and repeat the same definitions used by the right wing leaders of the social-democratic and Stalinist parties in the 1930s, whose political concepts helped fascism to win in Italy, Germany and Spain, is not a mere accident. The leaders of the social-democratic and Stalinist movements not only permitted Nazism to come to power in Germany without a struggle, but have learned nothing from these defeats. The only final way to defeat the fascists is the socialist revolution based on the massive mobilization of the working class, led by a revolutionary leadership at the head of the masses, and this is the last thing the reformists of all kinds want to see.
Trotsky analysed the failures of the right-wing social democrats, who relied on the capitalist state to save them from the fascists, and the ultra-left mistakes of the Communist movement under Stalin's leadership during the so-called "third period". For the Stalinists all the parties except the Communist Party were different kinds of fascist parties. Defining the SPD as a twin of the Nazi party made the united front of the working class against the Nazis impossible. How can you convince a working class member of the SPD to fight the Nazis when you call him a fascist? Moreover, how can you propose to make a united front with one fascist party against another? It would be no less than class desertion!
Trotsky made it clear that fascism does not come from a capitalist party controlling the state apparatus. As Trotsky explains in Fascism - What It Is and How to Fight It (published in The Militant, January 16, 1932): "Fascism is a plebian movement financed by big capitalists It arises from the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat, not from above, as a policy of a capitalist party." Kadima is not a party of the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat; it is the main party of the capitalist class. And as to the argument that the Israeli Labor Party is a twin of fascism, it was Stalin who characterized the SPD in the same way comrade Altamira defines the Israeli Labor Party.
Prior to the victory of the Nazis in Germany, from 1929-1935, the Communist Party of Germany was taking its line from Stalin, who used the argument that capitalism had entered its final stage of collapse, the "Third Period", and thus any party other than the Communist Party was a fascist party. Thus the Social Democrats were called "Social-Fascists", the Bolshevik opposition to the Stalinists was called "Trotsky-Fascist" and so on.
How did the Stalinists justify their criminal line that only deepened the split within the working class movement in the face of Hitler's onslaught? Very simple - using the same logic that comrade Altamira is using today. They pointed out the crimes against the working class committed by the right-wing social democrat leadership: "They supported the imperialist war! They betrayed the 1918-1919 revolution! They pushed for the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht!" Of course this was all true, however it did not turn the SPD into a fascist party, and calling the members and supporters of the social-democracy fascists only destroyed the possibility for a working class united front against the real fascists. The entire work of Trotsky on Fascism and how to fight it simply has remained a closed book for our sectarian, third-periodist, home made Marxist.
The Israeli Labour Party is fundamentally a social reformist party like the British Labour party or the SPD in Germany. Because of the history of Israel and the way it was built the Labour Party played an important role in building the state, but this does not make it a "twin of fascism". For many workers in Israel, the Labour Party is their point of reference. Trotsky already dealt with this question in the 1930s. He wrote in The German Catastrophe and the Responsibility of the Leadership (Written in exile in Turkey, May 28 1933, published in the Bulletin of the Opposition, no. 35, July 1933):
"It was not Lenin who invented the policy of the united front; like the split within the proletariat, it is imposed by the dialectics of the class struggle. No successes would be possible without temporary agreements, for the sake of fulfilling immediate tasks, among various sections, organizations, and groups of the proletariat. Strikes, trade unions, journals, parliamentary elections, street demonstrations, demand that the split be bridged in practice from time to time as the need arises; that is, they demand an ad hoc united front...
"The strategic conception of the Communist International was false from beginning to end. The point of departure of the German Communist Party was that there is nothing but a mere division of labor between the Social Democracy and fascism; that their interests are similar, if not identical. Instead of helping to aggravate the discord between Communism's principal political adversary and its mortal foe -- for which it would have been sufficient to proclaim the truth aloud instead of violating it -- the Communist International convinced the reformists and the fascists that they were twins; it predicted their conciliation, embittered and repulsed the Social Democratic workers, and consolidated their reformist leaders...
"No policy of the Communist Party could, of course, have transformed the Social Democracy into a party of the revolution. But neither was that the aim. It was necessary to exploit to the limit the contradiction between reformism and fascism -- in order to weaken fascism, at the same time weakening reformism by exposing to the workers the incapacity of the Social Democratic leadership. These two tasks fused naturally into one. The policy of the Comintern bureaucracy led to the opposite result: the capitulation of the reformists served the interests of fascism and not of Communism; the Social Democratic workers remained with their leaders; the Communist workers lost faith in themselves and in the leadership.
"The masses wanted to fight, but they were obstinately prevented from doing so by the leaders. Tension, uneasiness, and finally disorientation disrupted the proletariat from within. The false strategic conception of the Communist International collided with reality at every stage, thereby leading to a course of incomprehensible and inexplicable zigzags. The fundamental principle of the Communist International was: a united front with the reformist leaders cannot be permitted....
"Instead of taking reformism as a historic reality, with its interests and its contradictions, with all its oscillations to the right and left the bureaucracy operates with mechanical models.
"Essentially, the theory of "social fascism" could have been refuted even if the fascists had not done such a thorough job of forcing themselves into the trade unions. Even if Hitler had found it necessary, as a result of the relationship of forces, to leave Leipart temporarily and nominally at the head of the trade unions, the agreement would not have eliminated the incompatibility of the fundamental interests. Even though tolerated by fascism, the reformists would remember the fleshpots of the Weimar democracy and that alone would make them concealed enemies. How can one fail to see that the interests of the Social Democracy and of fascism are incompatible when even the independent existence of the Stahlhelm is impossible in the Third Reich? Mussolini tolerated the Social Democracy and even the Communist Party for some time, only to destroy them all the more mercilessly later on. The vote of the Social Democratic deputies in the Reichstag for the foreign policy of Hitler, covering this party with fresh dishonor, will not ameliorate its fate by one iota".
We plead guilty to the accusation that we are Leninists using the policy of the united front and reject Altamira's contorted logic. Yes, we called to vote for the Labour Party and gave Peretz himself critical support in the first few weeks after he became leader for reasons we will explain shortly.
During the war on Lebanon we published many articles opposing the Israeli imperialist war against Lebanon in Mahsom, the site of an Arab left wing nationalist party, Balad, in Hebrew. These articles attracted many readers, most of them supporters of Balad. In an attempt to discredit us, they sued similar accusations to those of Altamira: You are supporters of Peretz and are simply Zionists.
In response we quoted the articles we wrote about the Labour Party in the months before the war to prove that this was not so. We had a short debate on the question of Marxists working in the reformist workers' parties. They had to retreat and by now the number of readers of our articles has reached close to 10,000 while those who tried to slander us have been silenced. These articles appear under the title "War against the palaces, peace to the workers' homes" on http://www.mahsom.com.
However, when it comes to the question who actually helps the Zionist capitalist class the most to maintain their control over the Israeli working class, we think that we can make a strong case against Altamira and his friends in Israel. Unlike ourselves, the PO and Daniel did not call to vote for the Labour party in the March 2006 Israeli elections, because, according to their way of thinking, since it is a Zionist party, and all Zionist parties, regardless of their social base and history, are not only identical but they are all fascist, it is a fascist party. Lenin already wrote on the question of work in the reformist parties in his book, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder. On the question of the need for Communists to work in the British Labour Party, he wrote:
"There is no Communist Party in Great Britain as yet, but there is a fresh, broad, powerful and rapidly growing communist movement among the workers, which justifies the best hopes. [...] It appears that one of the greatest obstacles to the immediate formation of a united Communist Party is presented by the disagreement on the questions of participation in Parliament and on whether the new Communist Party should affiliate to the old, trade-unionist, opportunist and social-chauvinist Labour Party, which is mostly made up of trade unions."
"It is true that the Hendersons, the Clyneses, the MacDonalds and the Snowdens are hopelessly reactionary. It is equally true that they want to assume power (though they would prefer a coalition with the bourgeoisie), that they want to "rule" along the old bourgeois lines, and that when they are in power they will certainly behave like the Scheidemanns and Noskes. All that is true. But it does not at all follow that to support them means treachery to the revolution; what does follow is that, in the interests of the revolution, working-class revolutionaries should give these gentlemen a certain amount of parliamentary support."
"The Left Communists believe that the transfer of power to the Labour Party is inevitable and admit that it now has the backing of most workers. From this they draw the strange conclusion which Comrade Sylvia Pankhurst formulates as follows:
"The Communist Party must not compromise.... The Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure, and its independence of reformism inviolate, its mission is to lead the way, without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution."
"On the contrary, the fact that most British workers still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys or Scheidemanns and have not yet had experience of a government composed of these people-an experience which was necessary in Russia and Germany so as to secure the mass transition of the workers to communism-undoubtedly indicates that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice, and that they should help the Hendersons and Snowdens defeat the united forces of Lloyd George and Churchill. To act otherwise would mean hampering the cause of the revolution, since revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, a change brought about by the political experience of the masses, never by propaganda alone. "To lead the way without compromises, without turning"-this slogan is obviously wrong if it comes from a patently impotent minority of the workers who know (or at all events should know) that given a Henderson and Snowden victory over Lloyd George and Churchill, the majority will soon become disappointed in their leaders and will begin to support communism (or at all events will adopt an attitude of neutrality, and, in the main, of sympathetic neutrality, towards the Communists). It is as though 10,000 soldiers were to hurl themselves into battle against an enemy force of 50,000, when it would be proper to "halt", "take evasive action", or even effect a "compromise" so as to gain time until the arrival of the 100,000 reinforcements that are on their way but cannot go into action immediately. That is intellectualist childishness, not the serious tactics of a revolutionary class."
As we can see, Lenin fully defended the same position as the British Marxists of today of critical support for the reformist organizations, i.e. the Labour party and the trade unions.
Now, we must ask ourselves: what, exactly, is the difference between that Labour party of the 1920s and the Israeli Labour party today? What is the fundamental difference between this party and "New" Labour (we are also criticised for our support of that "reactionary bourgeois" party)? The answer is: nothing, nothing at all.
"Unlike any other reformist party, the Israeli LP is a Zionist party", the sectarian will say, "and Zionism is the ideology and practice of the class enemy".
This way of putting the case, of presenting the right-wing leaders of reformist parties around the world, including Latin America, makes these appear as somehow more "progressive", revolutionary even. From a general historical point of view it was in August 1914 that the right wing reformist leadership of the social democracy abandoned the basic principles of international socialism, and since then have maintained that position. The right wing social democrats have been characterized by Marxists time and time again as the lieutenants of the bourgeois within the working class. As for the fact that the right-wing leadership of the Israeli Labour party is Zionist, can anyone say that the British Labour Party leadership under Blair is essentially a different party than Peretz's Labour Party? Can it be argued that the British Labour Party leadership is not nationalist, and that it has not adopting the ideology of the bourgeois class? Of course a reformist Labour Party in Israel will be a Zionist party - reformism is nationalist in its very essence! How could it be otherwise?
For Jorge Altamira, the fact that the Israeli Labour Party leaders are Jewish nationalists, and their programme is Zionist, is not only sufficient to reject the Leninist policy of the working class united front with reformist working class parties, but it allows him to call the Zionist Labour Party a Fascist party. It would seem that Lenin's work, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, on Altamira's bookshelves has been gathering dust for some time. It also seems that the entire work of Trotsky on the question of what fascism is and how to fight is in the same condition.
Comrade Altamira demonstrates that unfortunately he is incapable of applying the method of Marxism. If you reject the policy of the Leninist united front with the Labour Party because of its leadership you are forced to abandon the Leninist policy of the united front in the Israeli Trade Unions controlled by... the Zionists. This method would make it absolutely impossible to work within the Israeli labour movement in general.
Today the head of the Histadrut is saying that the Trade Union Federation will fight the new government budget that attacks the workers and the poor in Israel, both Arabs and Jews. The method we Marxists in Israel adopt is to say "very good, very good, but do not only say you will fight. Begin to act on this promise." We also offer a programme of action including the demand for a 24-hour general strike, democratically elected workers action committees, stiff taxes on the rich who want the workers and the poor Jews and Arabs to pay for the ruling class's war, nationalisation under workers' control of the banks and the big businesses that refuse to pay and flee the country.
What would sectarians who think like the PO do in Israel in this situation? According to Altamira's logic they should tell the workers: "Do not agree to fight unless these bureaucrats will be replaced by anti-Zionists or at least until they will swear they are not Zionists anymore." And if supporters of the PO's line in Israel try to hide the fact that they oppose any kind of support for the Labour Party on the grounds that the leaders are Zionists, how long would it take before the union bureaucrats use this to smash them - with the support of the rank and file? What would an ordinary rank and file, working class member of the Labour Party say? More or less the following: "you do not see any difference between us, the members and supporters of the Labour Party and the Histadrut, and Kadima, the bosses' Party? You cannot therefore see any difference between the workers of Israel and the bosses. Sorry friends, but we cannot see any difference between your arguments and the bosses' arguments." This sectarian way of thinking actually plays into the hands of the Zionist propaganda, which is based precisely on the idea that the Jews are all united and there are no class differences.
The task of Marxists is to win the advanced workers first, the vanguard, and later the masses. In Israel this in part means winning them away from the influence of Zionism. This can only be done by having a friendly and patient approach to these workers. We must "patiently explain" as Lenin would have put it. The workers will learn mainly from their own experience. If the Marxists do not have a sectarian approach and "travel with the workers" as they accumulate this experience, then they will eventually have an effect. Shrill denunciations will get you nowhere.
For example, what about the elections? For whom should the workers vote as long as they still have parliamentary illusions? For Altamira the answer is clear. He would tell the workers to vote for anti-Zionist parties, and since we are aware that for him even the Communist Party in Israel is a Zionist party, because it supports two bourgeois states as a solution and so is Balad, he would be left with the option of either telling the workers to vote for the Islamic Party or to boycott the elections. This is the practical result of this kind of thinking.
Behind comrade Altamira's position on fascism, that is so different from Trotsky's analysis, hides something else. For him there is no such a thing as an Israeli nation made of opposing class interests but only one Zionist reactionary bloc. It is enough to read the following from his article to understand this:
"In the webpage whose reading ‘Militancia' recommends, there isn't a single denunciation of the character of Israeli 'Labour' as a national oppressor, ever since its foundation. Instead of this, they argue that "Peretz reflects the moods of the Jewish [sic, they avoid the word 'Zionist'] and Arab working class, as well as that of the lowest strata of the petty bourgeoisie." (From Marxo-Chavists support Zionism (no offense to Chávez)
The accusation that we have not denounced the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state is simply a lie. It is sufficient to read all the articles we have published in In Defence of Marxism to know the truth. We advise our readers to read the section of our website dedicated to the Middle East to get a general idea. But a few titles should suffice to give an idea:
Following defeat in the war, scandal and crisis engulf the bourgeois government,
The barbarism of the Israeli ruling class
Editorial Statement: Pull troops out of Gaza now!
New Israeli Labour leader under pressure from Left and Right
Sharon brings Labour into the government: An attempt to shore up the glaring crisis in the system and so on and so on...
To equate the Jewish workers in Israel to Zionism, and Zionism to fascism, means one thing: comrade Altamira is denying the existence of an Israeli nation with a right to its own territorial autonomy within a socialist federated state as part of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. It is not by chance that in his formulation on this complicated national problem - where two nations live in the same country and one of them, the Israeli nation is the oppressor nation - he simply denies the existence of the Israeli nation.
That explains why he comes up with the idea of "a single, secular, democratic and socialist republic in Palestine". It is not difficult to understand the rationale behind such a position. Did not the Jewish colonialist settlers oppress and even expel most of the Palestinians in 1947-48, and once again occupied their territory in 1967 and have oppressed them there ever since? The answer to this can only be in the affirmative. What was done to the Palestinian people both in 1948 and in 1967 was a terrible crime, and can now only be resolved through a socialist federation. But the fact that Israel is an oppressor nation, does not deny the fact that within its borders an Israeli nation has now come into being.
To deny this means blocking any road to a solution of the national question in Israel/Palestine. Several generations of Jews have now been living in Israel for close to sixty years. The Israeli ruling class uses the "Arab threat" to terrorise ordinary Israelis, to create a siege mentality among them, in order to get them to back the policies of the Israeli capitalist state. Marxists are duty bound to develop a policy that can achieve working class unity across the national divide. The starting point for this must be recognition of the fact that two nations now exist within the same territory and both have a right to a homeland. The only way this can be achieved peacefully is through abolition of the capitalist system. On a socialist basis, the resources of the region would make it possible for Jews and Palestinians to live well next to each other. On a capitalist basis, the Israeli ruling class will never allow a genuine homeland to the Palestinians. It will always be under their domination as recent history amply demonstrates.
Therefore, a genuine Marxist position must start from recognising the fact that unless the national bloc in Israel is not broken down along class lines, the Israeli ruling class will continue to dominate. We must tell the workers on both sides the truth. Class struggle in Israel does exist. We have given many examples in the pages of this website. While the Israeli ruling class wages war on the Palestinians, the Lebanese and anyone else who gets in their way, it also wages class war on its own people, through attacks on pensions, wages, jobs, social spending etc. It is from here that we approach the question.
In 1914 a pamphlet entitled The National Question and Marxism was published. This work, that appeared under Stalin's name, was the result of his visit to Lenin while he was in exile. Stalin wrote it based on Lenin dictating the fundamental ideas to him. Even though it is a little bit formalistic it is not a bad work. In this work, written against 'Austro-Marxist' Bruno Bauer's subjective definition of a nation, a nation is defined in the scientific Marxist sense:
"A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture."
Thus, a nation must have a common language and territory, a shared history and culture, and also be united by powerful economic ties. According to this definition, the "Israelis" - unlike the Zionists and Altamira who both deny their existence - are a nation. For the Zionist there is a "world Jewish nation" but no Israeli nation; for Altamira all Israelis are reactionary Zionists. Were Altamira to use his own criterion in Argentina where the Spaniards conquered and oppressed the native population as a reason to deny the existence of an Argentinean nation, he would not remain a PO leader for a long time.
However, there's more to this than a mere theoretical mistake. One of the sins attributed to us by Altamira is, as shown above, that we do not call Jewish workers "Zionists". And Zionism is - to Altamira - fascism. By extending this logic further the sectarian inevitably draws the conclusion that all Jewish workers in Israel are fascists. They don't always openly state this, but the logic of their thinking leads only to this. One doesn't have to go too far to understand what Altamira is saying, and it reeks of truly disgusting nationalism and an underlying anti-Semitism (which, to remind Altamira, is also an ideology of the class enemy!).
As already mentioned, the PO claims that we support Peretz uncritically. They also say that we supported him when he praised the bombing of Jericho and that following a wave of suicide bombings, we proposed that the Histadrut set up self-defence squads. Let us examine each of these so-called "criticisms", insofar as they can be considered as such, seeing that criticisms must relate to something that is real as opposed to something that has been invented.
First of all, we did not support Peretz unconditionally but we did give him critical support. This was, of course, the correct position, as advanced by Lenin himself regarding reformism. The idea that we supported him unconditionally is a baseless lie. From articles that we have written and posted on our international website, one can see this clearly. In the following article we wrote:
"Although it is not certain which way he will go, it is already clear that Peretz is not acting as a leader of a genuine socialist party who wants to lead a fight, but as a compromiser who is giving his enemies the time to recover from the shock his election as the new leader of the Labour party has caused them and give Sharon and Peres the time they need to reorganize themselves.
"Therefore Marxists should not give Peretz a blank cheque, nor present him as a great socialist. But we should give him critical support whenever he takes a step to the left. We should support any real move he may make in support of the workers and the poor. We should demand within the Israeli labour movement that he sticks to his word and organises the struggle against cuts, privatisation and so on. And we should criticise him whenever he fails to advance the cause of the working class. It is in fact possible that many new activists could join the Labour Party under this new leadership. We should be in touch with this layer and have a friendly attitude to the workers who join the party. As there is no real alternative, even this party can reflect the pressures of class struggle in the future.
"We say to these new activists who now trust Peretz but not Peres: demand a clear lead from Peretz, remove Peres and the old guard once and for all, leave the government now and fight for a Labour government that would unravel all the anti-working class policies pushed through by successive governments over the recent years. Unless this happens, then in spite of the new leadership's words, the Labour Party will be sucked back into collaboration with the Sharons of this world and those who will suffer are the workers and poor." (General secretary of the Israeli unions becomes leader of the Israeli Labour Party, by Yossi Schwartz, 15 November 2005).
Is this unconditional support, comrades? It clearly specifies conditions for our support, those conditions being that Peretz remain consistently on the left. We condemned each and every move of the Labour Party which aimed to appease the right wing, including his position on the Netanya suicide bombing on which he said that "terrorism is the number one enemy of peace". We quote again:
"Peretz has shown how he easily comes under the pressure of bourgeois criticism. After the bombing he said that Israel must "fight terrorism", and again said that terrorism is the number one "enemy of peace", when it is clear that the real enemy of peace is in fact the Israeli occupation. So long as Israel continues the occupation there will never be and there cannot be peace." (From Zbeidi With Love - To Sharon, by Alon Lessel, 7 December 2005).
We oppose all acts of individual terror, and condemn them. However, Peretz condemned terrorism not from the viewpoint of proletarian internationalism but from that of Zionist nationalism. For this we condemned him. Is this unconditional support?
The PO leaders also mention Peretz's support of the Jericho aggression. Here's what we wrote on it:
"It was applauded by most Israeli politicians including even Amir Peretz, the new leader of the Labour Party. Peretz has in fact been caving in to the nationalist pressure [...] With the existing leadership of the Labour Party even Mickey Mouse could win. After having raised the hopes of many workers on the left Peretz has swung back to the "centre", disappointing many of his supporters."
"We, the Marxists in Israel who work in the Labour Party struggling for the socialist transformation of the rotten capitalist order, demand the immediate release of Ahmad Saadat. The Israeli ruling class is the last one to have any moral authority to bring to trial the PFLP for killing an Israeli war criminal, an enemy of the working class." (Jericho and beyond, by Yossi Schwartz, 20 March 2006).
Is this unconditional support? If it is, it is a very strange kind of unconditional support. It is all the more interesting given the PO's support of Bolivian President Evo Morales, a man who as a leader of the MAS, has held back the Bolivian Revolution on more than one occasion! Our Bolivian comrades give critical support to Morales, which was correct. The PO did the same as you can see in Llamamos a votar a Evo Morales y al MAS, December 2005, which is a clear call to vote for Evo Morales. Evo Morales is clearly not a Marxist revolutionary, but at this stage he mirrors the revolutionary aspirations of the Bolivian masses. The leaders of the PO supported a reformist in Bolivia but not in Venezuela.
They do not have a consistent line. In Bolivia they have given support to the leader of the MAS, while in Venezuela they call Chavez a "bourgeois nationalist" and say Marxists should build outside of the Bolivarian movement. Where is the logic in this? The masses in Venezuela support Chavez; in Bolivia after several attempts at revolution the masses have tried to change society through the MAS and therefore they have come out massively in support of Morales.
It is an unfortunate fact that the leaders of the PO in Argentina have adopted, in general, a hopelessly sectarian position, but this is nothing new. They are capable of combining this sectarianism with sudden opportunist turns, such as their position on the Constituent Assembly, which we have dealt with in other articles.
With such a position these groups can have some success in gathering an initial force around them, but when it comes to building a serious tendency rooted within the working class and winning over the masses who presently follow the reformist leaders of the movement, they find that their ideas do not connect with the working class.
Their sectarianism prevents them from taking this important step. This explains why, when the mass movement does develop, they are left high and dry on the fringes of the labour movement.
We Israeli Marxists have no intention of going down this road. The election of Peretz as leader of the Israeli Labour Party represented a shift to the left within the party. Let us not forget that he came to lead the party basing himself on his former position as leader of the unions organised in the Histadrut. He was raising left slogans and together with these he was raising the hopes of a significant layer within Israeli society. As Marxists we must enter into a dialogue with these layers. Or should we merely lecture them from the sidelines, like prophets in the desert?
Peretz's election to the leadership of the Labour Party sent alarm signals ringing among the higher echelons of the Israeli ruling class. They immediately brought huge pressure to bear on him and pushed him to the right. This provoked serious disappointment among honest workers and youth in Israel. When he did this, we severely criticised him and posed a concrete socialist alternative
We are confident that on the basis of a non-sectarian approach to the Israeli workers and their organisations, by patiently explaining our ideas, and skilfully raising the basic principles of Marxism, we will be able to build a viable force.
Our aim is to build a tendency that can bring together the Israeli working class, Jews and Arabs as one, and move forward towards a world without nationalism of any kind. We are sure that this is what the bulk of the PO membership also wants. So we make this appeal to all PO members, all honest members of all such groupings: break with this hopeless sectarianism that isolates you from your working class brothers and sisters! Together, we can achieve that socialist society that we are all struggling for.
November 3, 2006