Issue 220 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 1998 Copyright Socialist Review


A Zionist agenda

I have just sent off the following letter to Channel 4. I hope it is self-explanatory.

'Dear Channel Four, I telephoned this morning to make some criticisms of your two programmes about Israel last night the 'Secret History' about the 'Exodus' incident, and the long debate from Israel hosted by Jon Snow about whether the aims of the Zionist founders had been achieved. I want to try to support my comments by putting them in writing.

My general point is that both these programmes displayed an overwhelming pro-Zionist bias. I am aware that there is a season of programmes to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel. Whilst the general balance of those programmes taken as a whole is pro-Zionist, there has been much material of a high quality, some of which has presented anti-Zionist points of view and arguments. However, this does not justify the uncritical broadcasting of the two programmes in question.

The first programme presented an image of being an objective and factual history but was in reality a glorification of what is commonly regarded as a heroic episode in the foundation of the Jewish state.

The second programme was a genuine debate, but in a context which took for granted the legitimacy of the Zionist project (in other words the expropriation and expulsion of most of the people who already lived there, who were treated in the ideology and propaganda as non-existent, as your two programmes did almost entirely).

The very subject of debate whether the original aims had been achieved would have a certain esoteric interest as a historical question, but as a question of modern politics it can only be of positive concern to Zionists or their sympathisers.

It is significant that the whole programme, except for a relatively small section which I would argue was token, had only Jewish contributors, and only Zionist Jewish contributors. This must have been a deliberate editorial decision. It was by definition a racist decision, though the subject of debate admittedly made it more plausible than it would otherwise have been.

You may get some idea of my point if we imagine Jon Snow presenting from apartheid South Africa (perhaps on the anniversary of the Great Trek) a genuinely representative, and in its own terms 'balanced', debate from which blacks were excluded except for a token presence of a small group in the corner and one black politician who was allowed to speak only during one relatively small section of the programme.

It was noticeable that powerful contributions by two Arab speakers were applauded by less than a handful of the audience. There are many non-Jews in Israel, in the Occupied Territories, in the Arab world and in the rest of the world, who are deeply interested in and affected by Zionism. There are also still many Jews who are opposed to Zionism, although they are now probably a minority worldwide. None of this was reflected in your programme.

The beautiful, warm setting of the debate, even the lighting, makes obvious the sympathy of the programme-creators with Zionist aims. The design was celebratory.

To summarise, these two programmes were not what they in effect claimed to be. It is too kind to describe them as unbalanced they were no better than pro-Zionist propaganda. I am disappointed, for what my opinion is worth, that Channel 4 was manoeuvred or seduced into presenting them.'

Roger Keely


The dynamics of fascism

Henry Maitles writes the following in his review of Hitler's Social Revolution (March SR) 'The crusade against "Bolshevism" was literally dying on the eastern front and the only part of the Nazi ideologies that could be delivered was the elimination of the Jews.' This idea of an ideological compensation is fundamentally wrong.

First of all it doesn't withstand historical fact. The plans for killing East European Jewry were developed parallel to the preparations for the attack on Russia. That was at a time when the Nazis were convinced they would win world rule and their foreign minister Ribbentropp could say to his Italian colleague Ciano, 'If we attack, Stalin's Russia will be wiped from the map within eight weeks.'

If Maitles were right, then the German defeat at Stalingrad should not only have been the turning point of the war, but also the starting point of the systematic killings. This is not at all the case. The Einsatzgruppen and Polizeibatallione followed the Wehrmacht invading Russia and started the systematic execution of Jews immediately, city by city, village by village.

Of course the speed of the Holocaust was determined by a number of different factors, including Jewish resistance and military success. There is, however, a wider problem with the idea that military defeat triggered off the project of constructing an Aryan Volksgemeinschaft and killing the Jews. It implies that the Nazis became more aggressive and violent, the more their external power eroded.

This may be true in terms of how the Nazis dealt with political opposition, but it fails to grasp the dynamics of fascist ideology in power.

Killing the Jews was in the Nazis' eyes just one first step to a much wider project of a complete ethnic reconstruction of the whole of Eastern Europe. Had the Nazis won the war, they wanted as existing documents prove to displace up to 30 million people in the East.

Fascist ideology aims at reconstructing society along the lines of a racist, social Darwinist barbarism. This total claim, which is an important element of the pseudo revolutionary character of the fascist movement, was fiercely and systematically pursued by the leadership of the Nazi state.

But fascist state power is not independent. To achieve its ideological aims, it must rely on the means of a dictatorial and highly effective bourgeois state within a modern industrialised capitalist system with all the contradictions and various pressures this involves.

Hence it was only on the back of a crushed working class that the Nazis could take state power. And it was only on the back of widespread military euphoria that the Nazis felt strong enough to start putting their plans for a new society of high tech barbarism into practice on a huge scale.

Modern fascism includes the concrete will to kill millions, as it is the state terrorist rule of the industrialised animal within the capitalist system. The Nazis weren't radicalised and brutalised by military defeat, but by economic catastrophe a decade earlier. Fascists don't need military desperation to start systematic mass killings. They need the strength and possibility to do it.

Florian Kirner


Lessons of history

Julian Goss (May SR) argues correctly that the new version of Dai Smith's and Hywel Francis's history of the South Wales miners, The Fed, could well have done with a new chapter to cover the 1984-85 miners' strike.

They did not write one largely, I suspect, because despite their role in the strike and respect for what it stood for, they do go some way towards the analysis which Kim Howells MP, then the NUM research officer in the area, holds of it, namely 'degenerate syndicalism'.

Smith and Francis have, however, provided a new introduction to the book and one which poses a real political challenge to revolutionary socialists. For Smith and Francis the way forward now is activity through the Welsh Assembly and support for the inspiring example of the workers' cooperative at Tower Colliery.

The Assembly, of course, might become a forum where a fight for jobs, and more spending on schools and hospitals, could occur. And the success of Tower remains a powerful symbol that there is some kind of alternative, within the system, to free market economics.

In reality, however, neither the Assembly nor Tower offers up anything more than the prospect of mild reforms which make little real difference to the lives of most workers.

For socialists, the independent working class organisation and politics of the 1984-85 strike remain the inspiration for how the future is to be fought for and made.

Keith Flett

North London

Worked to death

On reading about the welfare system in New York City (February SR), how the system made ill people go out to work causing many deaths, I thought about Labour's talk about selling off parts of the welfare state to big companies. This will mean people in Britain will suffer under the rich capitalists who wish to fix figures on unemployment to make things look good.

If we are to be treated like this, as if we lie about illness etc, then what use is a doctor's sick note or a specialist opinion?

It's time Labour's left stands and begins the fightback against these capitalists and rich scum who know nothing and live off the fat of our land. We all must march with our banners to London and tell Blair and Harman that we will not stand to be ruled by a capitalist government.

C B Nolan


No Irish miracle

Congratulations on the last three issues of SR sharp and spicy summarising current situations in an opinionated but class perspective way. For people like myself, out of the mainstream, it has become essential and interesting reading.

The article on Ireland, 'Miracle Workers' (April SR), gives an informative snapshot of the state of things there. The hype about the 'Celtic Tiger' and Ireland's 'miracle' economy is misleading. Certainly the small peripheral economy has gained marginal advantages from EU structural funds etc, which have created a multiplier effect, creating jobs downstream etc, but it seems to me that the atmosphere of doing well is a build up of two things: Britain shifting the cost of security in the North to the Southern government and the withdrawal of EU funding as the new members from eastern Europe make their demands for structural funds.

Workers in Ireland, North and South, will have a harsh future when the spotlight shifts away from the peace process, investment stops and jobs move to eastern Europe.

Jim Blake


Student connections

We thought that Jonathan Neale's (May SR) article was excellent. It reflected the excitement of 1968 but also showed the importance of socialist politics and the role of revolutionary organisation in the heat of the struggle.

It was a very different view from that presented by the media who conceded that the spirit of '68 may be alive in Indonesia as the students have forced Suharto to stand down, but that nothing like this could ever happen in Britain. People are contented now at least this was New Labour's excuse for the poor turnout in the local elections.

But this is definitely not the case at the University of East London where anger over fees and cuts in grants has exploded as a cuts package of 2.5 million has been met by angry resistance from students and lecturers. On Monday night over 70 students went into occupation and by Thursday there were around 300 students on 'strike' with picket lines. The students then chased management out of the finance and administrative block and occupied the building.

This is during a term when, supposedly, all students only have exams on their minds. Action has radicalised hundreds of students who are not just discussing the cuts, but also Indonesia, May '68, or do we need violence to change society? A number have joined the SWP and have signed up for Marxism '98.

But if that were it we could just sit back and wait for the struggle to happen but socialist ideas were key in '68 as they are now in UEL. Our strategy stems from our politics. As Marxists we remember the lessons of the past and have a vision of the future and how people's ideas change. Because of this we can help determine the outcome.

However, it is also essential that we are well rooted in the working class and don't just wait for the struggle to happen, as we could be swept aside by the sheer size of any movement without having the numbers to influence it. It is not automatic that those involved will draw revolutionary rather than reformist conclusions.

A minority within the occupation have criticised the SWP's involvement. They took this objection to a meeting of 200 students. They received only six votes, proving that not only do people want us around but that there is a massive audience for our ideas.

UEL students in occupation

East London

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