July 16, 2010

A tale of two Socialist Workers

Ah dear. This denunciation of Gilad Atzmon's undoubted racism on the Socialist Worker website raised a bit of a cheer at the Just Peace UK list:
On July 13, SocialistWorker.org published an interview with jazz musician and anti-Zionist writer Gilad Atzmon. After the interview's publication, we learned of many allegations that Atzmon has made not just highly inflammatory, but anti-Semitic statements about Jews, be they supporters or opponents of the state of Israel--and that he has associations with deniers of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. The evidence for these serious charges is damning.
We knew that Atzmon was a controversial figure among opponents of Israel when we ran our article, but not the full extent of these allegations. Needless to say, there was no trace of such ideas in his interview with SocialistWorker.org, or it never would have been published.
Nevertheless, we believe that our Web site, which is committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people and to the struggle against anti-Semitism, should not have published the interview without any reference to the controversy over someone who could make the comments and advance the ideas that he has--whatever his motives or reasoning. We therefore withdrew the article from our site.
Richard Kuper sent the link to the Just Peace list and Mike Cushman responded favourably, as well he might. I texted a woman friend of mine who is one of the few SWPrs who tackled the SWP leadership about what the eff it's doing with Atzmon to tell her the good news and I emailed Tony Greenstein for the same reason.  But our good cheer was not to last.  Richard Kuper issued a mea culpa to say that he had boobed and that the self-recrimination was from the American SWP, not the UK one and they are not sister parties.

So where does the SWPUK stand on or with Atzmon now?

It's almost five years to the day since the SWP hosted Atzmon at Bookmarx, their bookshop and many of us protested because of Atzmon's antisemitism and his association with and promotion of fascists and holocaust deniers. The SWP issued a breathtakingly disingenuous statement about Atzmon at the time and I wanted to post it here. According to Sue Blackwell's site the SWP statement should be here. Well whadya know? It's gone.

Undaunted, I remembered how Michael Rosen had written to the SWP questioning the appropriateness of someone like Atzmon attending the Cultures of Resistance events back in 2007. The responses he got were ludicrous and you can see them here. Now it wouldn't be cricket if the SWP published letters criticising Michael Rosen without publishing his own letter and sure enough there is a link with the critical letters. See here:
As the organisers of the Cultures of Resistance event we were disappointed to see Michael Rosen claiming that Gilad Atzmon is an antisemite and should therefore not have been invited to perform (Letters, 6 January).
So what did you see? Again, nothing.

Trotskyists getting handy with the airbrush. Sadder and sadder unless I've missed something. in which case perhaps someone can find the SWP's Statement on Gilad Atzmon for me.


UPDATE: Someone called g in the comments has sent me this link to a cache facility that could embarrass the SWP, yay even unto the third generation, or the 3G even. It has a replica of the original page from the SWP website:
There has been some controversy surrounding our invitation for the musician Gilad Atzmon to perform at Marxism 2005. One or two small groups are claiming that Gilad is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. We would like to state the following:

Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli born Jew who served in the Israeli Defence Force and who now lives in “self-exile” in Britain.
He is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician whose album Exile won BBC Best Jazz Album of 2003.
The SWP would also like to make it clear, that we would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations like the National Front and the British National Party. We played a prominent role in setting up the Anti Nazi League in the mid-1970s and Unite Against Fascism two years ago.

One of our members, Blair Peach, was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in west London in 1979. Our founding member, Tony Cliff, was Jewish and, like many of his generation, lost many members of his family in the Holocaust. Nazis in the British National Party and National Front have targeted our members for attack. In the last three weeks we have helped initiate two vigils in response to anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Manchester and east London. Across the country our members are involved in campaigns to defend asylum seekers, oppose police brutality and defend communities from scapegoating.

We have a record of opposing fascism, anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, that is second to none.

The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.

We do not believe that Gilad should be “banned” from performing or speaking. “No Platform” is a principle that the left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists. Where other disagreements occur, the left, with the same vigour, has defended the right to freedom of speech, debate and the clash of ideas.
Oh yuk, I'd forgotten quite how low the SWP had stooped over this. I mean invoking the memory of Blair Peach to justify hosting an antisemitic cohort of fascists and holocaust deniers is truly beneath contempt. And that's without getting into the sheer dishonesty of the statement which I can't be bothered to get into now.

UPDATE II: I now have a copy of Michael Rosen's letter:
Inviting Gilad Atzmon to play is a bad move

Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.

He is someone who has frequently expressed racist ideas and surely we have always said that you can’t fight racism with racism? I fear that the racism he expresses is seen by some in the liberation movements as a racism that doesn’t matter as much.

That’s to say, it’s said by some that racism towards peoples from countries oppressed and exploited by the West is the main racism we’re fighting, but a racism directed towards peoples seen as heavily implicated in the West’s oppression matters less.

Thus, antisemitism in the 21st century is seen perhaps as “mistaken” within the liberation movement, much as we might say that going on about Rupert Murdoch being Australian is “mistaken”.

This is a disastrous route to go down. Antisemitism imagines the removal or elimination of a group of people from the world system.

All we have to ask ourselves is: 1) would eliminating that group change the system for the better? 2) what ghastly processes would a state create in order to do the removing and eliminating?

I think Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do.

Michael Rosen, East London”
Actually I already had a copy here on JSF. See there was a link to the Cultures of Resistance programme:
Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.

Now check out the link. Yup, broken. Another stroke of the airbrush. Another stroke pulled by the SWP. So where are the great defenders of the SWP's decision to host Atzmon now? Lindsey German has ceased to be a member but what of these two Cultures of Resistance peeps? They were Hannah Dee and Viv Smith who insisted that Gilad Atzmon is not racist. So where are they now?


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