The Inane Politics of Tony Cliff

March 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm (anti-semitism, Cross-post, history, israel, Marxism, Middle East, socialism, SWP, trotskyism, unions, zionism)

The Inane Politics of Tony Cliff


No one is obliged to become a Marxist; no one is obliged to swear by

Lenin’s name. But the whole of the politics of these two titans of revolutionary

thought was directed towards this, that the fetishism of two

camps would give way to a third, independent, sovereign camp of the

proletariat, that camp upon which, in point of fact, the future of humanity


—Leon Trotsky (1938-1939, 996)

On the question of our labor movement’s position on international

conflicts, the British University and College Union (UCU) has seemingly

been fixated with an academic boycott of Israel. Yet in actual fact it is a

small bureaucratic layer within this union, the UCU left, that has driven this

obsession over and above the heads of the mass rank and file. This is not to

say that there is not a progressive proportion of the rank and file, who with

good instinct want their union to “do something” in response to the Palestinian


The UCU left is a group set up by members of the British-based

Socialist Workers Party (SWP) along with a number of independent-left

union activists. Rather than a grassroots democratic collective, the UCU left

reflects a bureaucratic stratum that organizes as a block against those to its

political right and, more generally, unites in its opposition to the neoliberalization

of education and Israel’s oppression of Palestine—often a code for

the end of occupation dated from 1948 rather than 1967, thus for the dissolution

of the nation-state of Israel proper. In the years that I have attended

the UCU Annual Congress, UCU left motions and speeches deliver, at best,

a passionate identification with the Palestinian-Arab oppressed, and, at

worst, a conflation of the wrongdoings of the Israeli-Jewish state with

Israeli-Jewish workers. Israeli-Jewish workers are singled out like no other

group of the working class worldwide now or in recent history, as either in

need of proving themselves politically worthy or in need of penalization for

being politically depraved.

It is an antisemitic anti-Zionism that ought, more than it does, to

shame the union. As a revolutionary socialist intervening into this perennially

hostile exchange, my modest efforts fall short in steering this debate

away from a boycott and toward what kind of political solidarity we can

forge with our Arab and Jewish labor movement comrades in the Occupied

Territories of Gaza and the West Bank and in Israel—in particular, political

solidarity based on a collective struggle against the Israeli and Palestinian

reactionary ruling classes, against Jewish fundamentalism and Islamism,

and for a “two nations, two states” settlement on pre-1967 borders.


The founder and key theoretician of the SWP, whose politics infuse

the UCU left, is Tony Cliff.

Cliff was born in 1917 in what was then commonly regarded as a

southern region of Syria—Palestine. The son of a Jewish family who supported

Zionism, his birth name was Ygael Gluckstein. In 1947, he moved to

Britain, where he remained until his death in 2000. During the 1930s and

1940s, Cliff wrote a series of articles under the pseudonym L. Rock and

later (1945) as Tony Cliff, calling for an anti-imperialist, independent Arab

and Jewish labor movement. These early writings of Cliff are notably different

from his later writings from 1967 onward: on the one hand, this discontinuity

is glossed over by an amnesia or a distortion of Cliff’s own

historical analyses and conclusions to fit into a neat picture of the contemporary;

on the other hand, this deterioration is made possible by some early

kernels that later grew into a more recognizable inane politics.


Not without their shortcomings, Cliff’s writings in the period before

the formation of the nation-state of Israel are nevertheless an effort toward

an independent class-based assessment of concrete conditions. He observed

that the imperialist government of the British Mandate of Palestine “systematically

prevented all attempts at effecting reconciliation of the two peoples”

while a “labour movement as an independent factor exercising

influence in political affairs does not yet exist” (Rock 1938a). As “an old

policy in new clothing,” he pointed out that, first, British imperialist oppression

was directed against the Arab masses, and later (“even if less brutally”)

against the Jews, evident in the British fostering of the clerical-fascists,

the Muslim Brotherhood, and the services-in-hand of the German

fascist collaborator, the mufti of Jerusalem (Cliff 1946b).

On the relationship between imperialism and Zionism, Cliff (1945,

1946b) was keen to spell out its common and antagonistic tendencies and to

draw a class differentiation. Although British imperialism supported a Jewish

capitalist state, “enveloped by the hatred of colonial masses,” he argued

that they did not want this state to become too strong (Cliff 1945). British

imperialist policy on Jewish immigration and colonization was thus duplicitous.

By opening the door on immigration, the British stoked Arab chauvinism

and gained Jewish sympathy, and by closing the door they stoked

Jewish chauvinism through the perception of Arab domination over the

British (Rock 1938a). The Balfour Declaration strengthened “anti-Jewish

tendencies among the Arabs” and the position of both Zionism and imperialism

(Rock 1938a). The leaders of Zionism, who align with British imperialism,

are not, Cliff (1945) saw, one and the same as the rank and file of

Zionism, who are “misled by their leaders into believing that they are not

simply puppets motivated by imperialism for its benefit and their harm:

British imperialism tries its best to keep the Jewish and Arab toilers in different

compartments of the same train speeding toward destruction. The

Zionists act in this as the tools of imperialism (Cliff 1946c).

Zionism was defined as a “nationalist reactionary conception,” because

it diverted from the international class struggle and consolidated itself on

world reaction (Rock 1938b, 1939). Its solution was short lived, with the

only genuine answer lying in the Jewish rank and file’s renouncing the

Zionist ambition for domination (Cliff 1945).

On anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism, one of the major tasks Cliff

identified for an international socialist leadership was to resolve the contradiction

within the Arab nationalist movement: “While the opposition of the

Arab upper classes to the Jews is reactionary, the struggle of the Arab

masses against Zionism is absolutely progressive” (Rock 1938b).

Cliff expounded that the Arab feudal and semi-capitalist leaders

desired a partnership with British imperialism in an effort to block the

objective capitalist development of a working class which threatened their

own destruction (Rock 1938b, 1945, 1947). Put plainly: “The majority of

the Arab exploiters—the feudal lords, the compradore bourgeoisie, the

merchants and usurers—identify themselves in this matter completely with

imperialism” (Cliff 1945); thus, “The Arab feudal lords are no more interested

in the real independence of Palestine by the action of the masses, than

are the Zionists” (Cliff 1946c).

By fueling anti-Jewish chauvinism, fascism, and terror, the Arab leaders

prevented the growth of Arab anti-imperialism while reinforcing their

own position (Rock 1938a). Cliff referred to a period of prosperity between

1932 and 1935, during which time the anti-Jewish economic arguments of

the Arab leaders weakened their appeal among the Arab masses as income

and living standards rose “in consequence of Jewish immigration” (Rock

1938b). In this same period, however, “the Zionist chauvinist tendencies”

among the Jewish masses grew as the international working class movement

declined (Rock 1938b). Instead of the original slogan, “Palestine, a binational

state,” the Zionists rallied for “The Jewish state.” Concurrently, the

Arab leaders were “afraid that the nationalist movement would develop

along independent and consistently anti-imperialist lines” (Rock 1938b); as

such, “The present Arab nationalist movement, permeated with an

exclusivist spirit in the struggle against the Jews, is fertile soil for chauvinist

fascist and particularly anti-Jewish ideas” (Rock 1938b).

Connecting British (and later American) imperialism with a classbased

understanding of Zionism and the Arab nationalist movement, Cliff


Palestine cannot emancipate itself from the imperialist yoke unless a unification

of the Arab arid Jewish masses takes place [ . . . ]. The Jewish

toiling masses will not, however, support the anti-imperialist movement

if no class differentiation takes place in the Arabian national movement.

(Rock 1939)

In light of a weakening international labor movement and a strengthening

anti-Jewish chauvinism, Cliff was highly critical of the Comintern’s

turn to the Stalinist right; in particular, he was scathing of their analogy of

the situation in the British Mandate of Palestine with South Africa (Rock

1938b): it is “especially dangerous that such a perverted analogy should

take root” (Rock 1939). The Jews, he explicated, do not depend on their

existence by exploiting the Arab masses (Rock 1938b) and, as part of the

working class, are not offered preference by the British imperialists (Rock

1939). Moreover, although exclusivist and pro-imperialist propensities exist

among the Jews, he makes clear that it is false to see Jewish immigration as

conquest and the Jews as an integral part of the imperialist camp, and consequently

the Arab nationalist struggle as simply a defensive one (Rock

1939). The ultimate bankruptcy of the Stalinists was, in Cliff’s mind,

expressed during the 1936-1939 protests. Here, the real, progressive antiimperialist

and anti-Zionist aims of the Arab masses were diverted by the

Arab feudal leaders—“who were agents either of British imperialism or of

Germany and Italy, and sometimes the two together”—into anti-Jewish

communal terror, which the Palestine Communist Party, in their opposition

to Zionism, blindly supported (Cliff 1945).

For Cliff, the correct Marxist perspective on the conflict derived from

a correct assessment of Arab nationalism on the one hand, and Jewish

immigration and settlement on the other hand (Rock 1938a, 1939). On the

latter, Jewish immigration accelerated capitalist development and objectively

developed a Jewish and Arab working class and anti-imperialist

forces (Rock 1938a, 1939). Together, Cliff framed the conflict as a twofold

struggle between Arab and Jewish exclusive nationalist movements and

between the Arab masses and Zionism (Rock 1938b), and saw its solution

in the formation of a republic of workers and peasants of the Arab East,

with minority autonomous rights for the Jews and others (Cliff 1946b). The

Jews were effectively a cushion between the Arab masses and imperialism,

and powerless against the world leaders (Cliff 1947). Cliff reasoned that no

significant anti-Zionist movement developed for two reasons:

First of all, the Jewish masses in Palestine do not yet see in the Arab

proletariat a strong ally, which will protect them from all the intrigues

and provocations of imperialism, feudalism and Zionism, as till now the

Arab working class of the whole east has not come to maturity. Secondly,

the international working class has not yet appeared as a power struggling

for the right of asylum in their countries. (Cliff 1947)

That said, Cliff took hope from the largest strike in Palestine’s history,

in April 1946, which “proved that while there are not a dozen Arabs who

support Zionism, there are tens of thousands of Arab workers who are ready

to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Jewish class fellows for the defence

of their common class interests” (Cliff 1946a).

The quandary nevertheless was that since only “an internationalist

labour movement can be the leading force in the consistent anti-imperialist

struggle,” and that “such a force does not yet play an important role,” “the

Jewish masses and the Arab national movement will remain in a difficult

and distressed position” (Rock 1939).


“Looking back on my own experience in Palestine I can see how today’s

horror grew from small beginnings. [ . . . ] I grew up a Zionist, but Zionism

didn’t have the ugly face we see today. However, there was always a

fundamental crack between the Zionists and the Arabs.” (Cliff 1982)

Absent in Cliff’s writings after 1967 is any endeavor toward an independent,

class-based evaluation of actual conditions of existence. What he

presents is a remarkably one-sided picture of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

a dual camp struggle between the persecuted underdog and the fascist and

imperialist Chosen One.

The conflict has its origins in Zionist terror, Cliff (1982) asserts, with

the barbarous wars of 1947, 1967, and 1982 increasingly exposing the true

ugliness of this terror, including Zionism’s long-term complicity with fascism

(“Zionist leaders repeatedly told German rulers it would be in their

interests if Zionism flourished in Palestine” [Cliff 1982]) and imperialism

(“Israel is not a colony suppressed by imperialism, but a colony, a settler’s

citadel, a launching pad of imperialism” [Cliff 1967/1990]). The 1967 war

marked above all a victory for Western imperialism (Cliff 1967/1990). Cliff

stresses an irony that those persecuted by Nazi barbarism now subject this

barbarism on the Palestinians (Cliff 1982, 1967/1990, 1998). In brief, he

constructs a simple truth that these “monstrosities are the logic of Zionism”

(1982) that will continue to escalate.

Cliff (1998) regards the conflict as analogous to apartheid South

Africa, except that the black workers were numerically stronger and central

to the economy so could win reforms for themselves. He reasons that, given

the “Palestinians have not the strength to liberate themselves,” Trotsky’s

theory of permanent revolution is applicable (Cliff 1998). Therefore, it is

for the wider Arab working classes to rise up and liberate the Palestinians

and to “stop Zionism and smash imperialism” (Cliff 1982). The only solution

is once again “a socialist republic, with full rights for Jews, Kurds and

all national minorities” (Cliff 1967/1990), in which, he qualifies, it is “simple

hypocrisy to claim that this will menace the Jews of the area” (Cliff



Consideration of the basic role of global and regional imperialist

forces in dividing and ruling over the working classes evaporates from

Cliff’s later work on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So too does the class

distinction of all nationalism between the bourgeoisie (whose political

economies dominate) and the proletariat masses. Cliff dramatically

ups the wrongdoings of the Zionist leadership as pure and innate to its history and

conflates this leadership with the Jewish people, and downplays or

erases the historical wrongdoings of the Arab nationalist leadership in stoking

anti-Jewish chauvinism, fascism, and terror, and in courting imperialism.

Also expunged are Cliff’s early criticisms of the Stalinists: in fueling anti-

Jewish tendencies, in naively analogizing the conflict with South Africa,

and in wrongly seeing the Jews in general as integral to the imperialist

camp. What’s more, these Stalinist shortcomings are ones that a later Cliff

develops without musing or qualm. In sum, a third camp, Marxism—“to

develop the independent political agency of workers internationally, as a

class capable of self-government in their struggles against capitalism and its

reactionary products” (Bassi 2010, 114)—is thoroughly lost from an “early”

to a “late” Cliff. This said, Cliff only ever clumsily attempted third-camp

Marxism, with some early flaws offering a clue to where his analysis would

end up.

While recognizing the conflict as one between two exclusivist and

chauvinist nationalisms, the leadership of both tailing imperialism, Cliff

always placed ultimate emphasis on the struggle of the Arab masses against

Zionism and on the Jewish masses denouncing Zionism. The question of

liberation was always one of the Arab masses winning Arab liberation and

independence, for which the Jews as a minority would, at best, be accommodated.

From early on there were hints within Cliff’s assessment that, en

masse, Jewish workers might be conflated with their ruling class and, as a

consequence, would be singled out as undeserving of their existence in this


From the negation of Zionism does not yet follow the negation of the

right to existence and extension of the Jewish population in Palestine.

This would only be justified if an objectively necessary identity existed

between this population and Zionism, and if the Jewish population were

necessarily an outpost of British imperialism and nothing more (Rock,


And so emerged Cliff’s later position—which, not incidentally, was

immediately after the 1967 war:

The Jewish population in Israel is divided into classes and a class struggle

rends the country. But this in itself does not mean that any significant

number of Israeli workers are ready to join forces, or will be ready to join

forces, with the Arab anti-imperialist struggle. [ . . . ] While the Jews

were the underdogs of Europe, in the Middle East the Arabs are the

underdogs, and the Israelis the privileged and oppressors, the allies of

imperialism (Cliff 1967/1990).

Here lies the decline of Cliff’s politics into the SWP’s antisemitic anti-

Zionist push of an academic boycott of Israel through the UCU left, specifically,

an internationally and historically unprecedented writing-off of an

entire body of the working class. To understand the final slippage into an

unparalleled demand to undo a nation-state already formed and several

decades old (and accordingly to repudiate a “two nations, two states” settlement

on pre-1967 borders), one must identify the absence of democracy in

Cliff’s politics. Though Cliff references “democratisation” (Rock 1938b,

1939, 1946c) more in his early than later writings, throughout these references

he does not grasp the meaning of consistent democracy on the

national question. For Lenin (1913c, 87), not Cliff, the conclusion of Marx

is clear:

“The working class should be the last to make a fetish of the national

question, since the development of capitalism does not necessarily

awaken all nations to independent life. But to brush aside the mass

national movements once they have started, and to refuse to support what

is progressive in them means, in effect, pandering to

nationalistic prejudices, that is, recognising “one’s own nation” as a model nation (or,

we would add, one possessing the exclusive privilege of forming a state).”

Lenin (1913b) recognizes nations as a historically inevitable product

and feature of capitalist society, and thus for him mass national movements

are historically legitimate. Furthermore, he applies a principle of consistent

democracy to the national question: “There is one case in which the Marxists

are duty bound, if they do not want to betray democracy and the proletariat,

to defend one special demand in the national question; that is, the

right of nations to self-determination (clause 9 of the R.S.D.L.P. Programme),

i.e., the right to political secession” (Lenin 1913a, 7-8).

Lenin continues that the consistent democratic defense of the right of

all nations to self-determination is a negative task: beyond this “border-line

[ . . . ] which is often very slight” lies positive work that effectively

strengthens bourgeois nationalism (1913b, 28). In other words, the recognition

and defense of workers’ right to national self-determination does not

impede the task of exposing bourgeois nationalism or agitating against

secession in favor of the international unity of workers in their class struggle

against the bourgeoisie (Lenin 1913-1922). Against critics who (in line

with Rosa Luxembourg’s “The National Question and Autonomy” [1908-

1909]) argue that such an approach is contradictory and concedes a maximum

to nationalism, Lenin (1913c, 84) points out, “In reality, the recognition

of the right of all nations to self-determination implies the maximum of

democracy and the minimum of nationalism.” On 1948, then, as the U.S.-

based revolutionary socialist Hal Draper (1948) clarifies, regardless of what

socialists might have wished possible in the early years:

A new state has been set up. A people have declared that they want to

live under their own government and determine their own national

destiny. They have taken a blank cheque made out to the Right of Self-

Determination and have signed their name to it:

Israel. And they have sought to cash it in.

To deny the legitimacy of the nation-state of Israel proper, under the

guise of justice for the Palestinians—which effectively means taking away

the right of one group of the working class and handing it over to another

group of the working class by way of redress—is to betray the most fundamental

quality of socialism: consistent democracy.


*Camila Bassi (DPhil, University of Sheffield, 2003) teaches at Sheffield Hallam

University with research interests in the relationship of minority culture to urban

political economy, the competing historical narratives of the Palestinian-Israeli

conflict, and, more generally, the return to and reinvigoration of Marx and Marxism.

She is the author of several papers and book chapters, including the 2010

paper “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools: A Cautionary Story of the Revolutionary

Left Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War Movement” and the forthcoming

book chapter “Shanghai Goes West: Reflections on the City’s Gay Political

Economy.” Bassi has been an active socialist for over sixteen years.


Bassi, Camila. 2010. “ ‘The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’: A Cautionary Story on the

Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War

Movement,” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 9(2):


Cliff, Tony. 1945. “The Middle East at the Crossroads,” Marxists Internet Archive,

———. 1946a. “Palestine Strike: Arabs and Jews Unite,” Marxists Internet


———. 1946b. “A New British Provocation in Palestine,” Marxists Internet



———. 1946c. “Terrorism in Palestine: Are the Terrorists Anti-Imperialist?,”

Marxists Internet Archive,


———. 1947. “On the Irresponsible Handling of the Palestine Question,” Marxists

Internet Archive,


———. 1982. “Roots of Israel’s Violence,” Marxists Internet Archive, http://

———. 1967/1990. “The Struggle in the Middle East.” Marxists Internet Archive,

———. 1998. “The Jews, Israel and the Holocaust,” Marxists Internet Archive,

Draper, Hal. 1948. “How to Defend Israel: A Political Program for Israeli

Socialists,” Marxists Internet Archive,



  1. skidmarx said,

    What a wonder Cliff was. He’ll be remembered when you’re long forgotten.In fact, beside the giant intellectual Cliff, you have to conclude that Shactman was a bit of a charlatan and a music hall act.

    • sweary Martin Ohr said,

      I met that Tony Cliff once ( and his wife Chanie). On the balcony of the winter gardens NUT conference (about 1998). I thought they were tramps till I clocked that their carrier bags were stuffed with unsold copies of socialist worker rather than white lighting.

      I’d like to report that Cliff was a genialcharming person in real life rather than the opportunist cameleon shitbag he was on paper, unfortunately he was a c.nt the day I met him.

      Next time my story about how I saved Paul Foot from being killed by anarchists who thought he was a ‘public school c.nt’ who should be pelted with bottles. Speaking ill of the dead- have I ever told the story about how Redmond O’Neill interrupted my report back as youth organiser to campaign group conference to ‘correct some inaccuracies’…

  2. Jim Denham said,

    You know what, Skikdiot: I’m quite content to let history be the judge of that.

    Now try answering the points in the article (oh yes, I forgot: you’re not up to that sort of thing are you? Just like you can’t debate binationalism). Oh well, the thickoes of this world have to be allowed to comment somewhere I suppose. But why does it have to be here?

  3. modernity's ghost said,

    This is a terribly poor paper, even forgetting that the formatting makes it almost unreadable on the blog.

    It contains so many cliches, questionable points and lack of definitions.

    It has a limited historical perspective, as it doesn’t even address why various Trotskyist and quasi-Trotskyist groupings ended up with their default position of anti-Zionism. Or ask the elementary questions, what were the currents of discourse at those times, and what events shaped such thinking, etc

    The paper unnecessarily personalises the issue of anti-Zionism around a fringe individual, without elucidating much.

    It does not reference any scholarly material and is lacking in its reasoning.

    Overall, not a good read nor particularly informative.

  4. Faster Pussycat Miaow Miaow Miaow! said,

  5. Boleyn Ali said,

    Look who’s first in again, doesnt like the post and is clearly mental.

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Don’t agree with Mod about the quality of the article but s/he’s entitled to his/her opinion. I do agree that the formatting makes it difficult to read and I tried without success to correct this, having cut’n’pasted. My IT skills are very limited. I apologise to all readers for this, but imho the article is good enough to warrant putting it up, even with bad formatting.

    NB: You may well find it easier to read the piece in its orginal published form, as a PDF, which can be accessed by clicking on the link at the top of the article.

  7. modernity's ghost said,

    “Don’t agree with Mod about the quality of the article but s/he’s entitled to his/her opinion. ”


    Of course you disagree with my view, it goes without saying.

    But then you have to engage intellectually with the material to understand why this paper is deficient.

    Once more, its personalises politics, but doesn’t look at the broader political currents, historical events or discourse.

    • Pinkie said,

      You’re not a horny-handed son of toil are you, Modernity? Not that it matters, of course, but you do rather have a ‘thing’ about people with a university education.

      Apparently your background allows you to deal honestly with matters in hand. What’s the trick? I’m sure we could all learn something.

  8. dave said,

    “the giant intellectual Cliff”

    Excellent unintended comedy, but very true as an image.

  9. Pinkie said,

    Cor blimey. I can’t be arsed to read the article, a bit too long for me. Perhaps I am ‘not serious’, on the other hand perhaps leftists should make their case in simple straightforward language.

    I’m no fan of Tony Cliff, but when I see an apparently ‘devastating’ critique of his politics reproduced I think ‘what’s in it for you?’ . Probably, here, something to do with Sean Matgamna’s fans trying to assert some kind of superior political/moral authority.

    It’s a recruit students kind of thing, isn’t it?

  10. Jim Denham said,

    “I can’t be arsed to read the article, a bit too long for me”: are you some kind of parody of a pig-ignorant “leftist”, Pinkie? Or are you really as stupid and philistine as your comments suggest?

    • modernity's ghost said,

      I find myself agreeing with Jim’s point, “Pinkie? Or are you really as stupid and philistine as your comments suggest?”

      • skidmarx said,

        I would probably disagree with what Jimbo and mo’dishonesty said, but I can’t be arsed to read their comments and so haven’t reached a judgement.

  11. skidmarx said,

    Oh, and Jimbo, since you seem to be obsessed with binationalism, you’ll be fascinated to know that Einstein* was for it.

    * Note for Jimbo: Albert Einstein was a twentieth century physicist most famous for his Special and General Theories of Relativity**, though he won his Nobel prize for his work on the photoelectric effect, and Isaac Asimov wrote in one of his pop science books that it was his work on black body radiation that helps make the shift from classical to modern physics.

    ** And Here is Marilyn Monroe with an explanation even you might understand.

  12. Jim Denham said,

    Skidiot: at least Einstein took the trouble to understand binationalism, and think about the issues. Unlike you.

    At the time Einstein was writing, it wasn’t such a ridiculous idea (though, as Benny Morris’s piece on Magnes shows), utopian.

    *Note to Skidiot: Karl Marx was a rational thinker. That’s:

    1/ rational

    2/ thinker

    Two things you may be one day. When you grow up

  13. skidmarx said,

    And you’re a brational* drinker.

    *You might have to get someone who has studied the problem of induction to explain this to you, if indeed anything can be explained to you.

    Is that the racist Benny Morris you’re trying to push again? Was hasn’t mo’bullshit come along to denounce you for pushing racism on the world? Is it because his speciality is lying about people who aren’t racist, and then pretending not to hear when his lies about what I’ve said about Alison Weir or Seven Jewish Children are comprehensively demolished?

  14. modernity's ghost said,

    Yeah, what is Skidmarx’s view of Seven Jewish Children, as an ‘antiracist’?

    He won’t say.

  15. skidmarx said,

    I don’t have one, I haven’t read the play. Moronicity’s Bollocks just doesn’t listen, like the elderly racist bore in the pub. If he’s going to stay, it would be hypocritical of him not to condemn Jimbo’s constant encouragement to read the literature of a racist, but he did also promise to instantly leave any thread I commented on for fear of contamination, and that strategy fell apart when it became obvious nobody was ever going to believe his “whiff of racism” bullshit again. He really should apologise for peddling those lies for so long if he’s going to hang around. I suppose I should see his use of “as an ‘antiracist’ ” as some sort of climbdown, even if it is in scare quotes.

  16. Sarah AB said,

    I am still baffled as to why you read my lecture on 7JC – but didn’t read the original play. I did not, as far as I remember, *demand* that all readers condemn the play as antisemitic – only that people at least understand the concerns of those who do, and don’t dismiss them as dishonest, as is so often the case.

    And I read with interest how you and John Wight consider me to be, if not a Nazi, #1 with Nazis, or however you wish to frame it.

    • skidmarx said,

      How did I frame it:
      I’m not saying that she should be banned from here as a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser, I think it’s fairly clear that she’s not,
      I believe you’d describe that as “defending you from accusations that you’re a Nazi sympathiser”.

      I found this comment somewhat faux naif:

      Sarah AB
      15 March 2012, 11:10 am
      I didn’t mean defend human rights abuses – I meant speak out against them of course.
      It was indeed annoying of IW to imply that HP had had access to info which was clearly only released after I wrote my post. I looked quite carefully for more info at the time.

      Why did you not say, “someone told me at the time what a vile man this was, and despite how obvious it was, I still thought that defending the rights of this Nazi was the right way to go and I’m sorry I did that”?

      I am still baffled as to why you read my lecture on 7JC – but didn’t read the original play.
      I explained why on that thread and again on the Assad thread where your friend modernitybully’s lies about me fell apart.[When he repeated them you used to “defend” me by saying that I had trouble spotting antisemitism]

      I did not, as far as I remember, *demand* that all readers condemn the play as antisemitic
      Your friend modernitybully does, that’s why he insists that people read it, so that he can make them out to be racists if they, according to Flying Rodent, reach the same conclusion as everyone but a tiny minority of internet nutjobs. Which you see him doing below, even when I haven’t read the thing. Are you going to tell him he’s a dishonest smear merchant? No , of course not. Just as you don’t mind abuse on your blog, as long as it’s vulgar and directed against the right people.

      And I comment I left on the Blasphemers and Apostates thread failed to appear (irony meter overload).Was that you being “fairly libertarian” or one of your colleagues. It went something like this:
      [Follows in next comment in case hyperlinks irritate spam filter]

      • modernity's ghost said,

        Skidmarx rambles on, but does not address the question of racism in the play, Seven Jewish Children.

        Nor will he.

        Skidmarx ain’t an antiracist so he can’t see the fuss. Racism towards Jews simply doesn’t register with him.

      • Sarah AB said,

        skidmarx – it is you who are being disingenuous by omitting the rest of your comment on SU in which you invoke a ‘No Platform’ policy WRT me, clearly implying that I am some kind of fascist. You also effectively requested I be banned from SU.

        About Conway and his posters – because although the further information made what he did seemed more unequivocally offensive I still didn’t think a one year prison sentence seemed right, for a first offence, no warning. I’d think the same about equivalent antisemitism. I don’t know quite *what* should have happened and I’m sorry no one with any experience of the law/precedents in the area hasn’t commented on my threads about this. I read about the issue on Hope not Hate and started to write my piece before realizing this was being taken up by all the wingnuts, but I still think it is a valid concern, and I also think the reporting of the case has been very poor, very imprecise.

        I certainly didn’t delete any of your comments, nor was I aware of any being defended.

        No, I wouldn’t go as far as Modernity. But because I teach the play I feel I have to be tolerant of a range of responses, particularly from people who haven’t thought about these issues before. I had one student (I infer that she was rather anti-Israel) who said it made her *more* sympathetic to Israel. Literature is funny that way. We discussed similar opposed interpretations on the recent thread about Klinghoffer. I would however, given that you certainly don’t have the excuse of not knowing about antisemitic tropes, expect you to see why the play dismays people.

      • skidmarx said,

        it is you who are being disingenuous by omitting the rest of your comment on SU in which you invoke a ‘No Platform’ policy WRT me
        Here’s what I said:
        but others might take a different view on how far No Platform should apply.
        So I don’t clearly imply that I am some kind of fascist., I say quite explicitly that I don’t think that you are, but that others may take a more jaundiced view of your links thereto. I don’t effectively requested I be banned from SU, I would have preferred that you be allowed to make a fool of yourself even further in your attempt to justify the disgraceful behaviour of defending a fascist for his attacks on Muslims (funny that modernitybully isn’t advising that you need to be educated about anti-racism, but then that is just another bullshit line of his).

        although the further information made what he did seemed more unequivocally offensive
        That’s bad English. Either it’s unequivocal or it isn’t.
        I still didn’t think a one year prison sentence seemed right, for a first offence, no warning.
        So you are still defending this Nazi.
        I’d think the same about equivalent antisemitism.
        Do you want to bet that anyone protesting the severity of the sentence in such a case would never stop being denounced at Harry’s Place?
        But because I teach the play
        Suffer the little children to come unto you.

      • modernity's ghost said,


        I’m afraid you on playing Skidmarx’s game.

        He wants to ramble on about anything, but racism against Jews.

        Why not step back, for the moment, and forget all of the meaningless and stupid goings-on at SU blog and concentrate on the issue of racism towards Jews?

        And in doing so would you provide me with one logical reason why someone would read your commentary on Seven Jewish Children and yet not the play (as Skidmarx did)?

  17. modernity's ghost said,

    “I am still baffled as to why you read my lecture on 7JC – but didn’t read the original play. “


    It’s obvious, Skidmarx is 1) isn’t interested in politics 2) isn’t an antiracist.

    What other logical conclusion could be drawn?

  18. Kritique and theory « Anti-National Translation said,

    […] Camila Bassi on Tony Cliff’s inane politics (pdf/html) […]

  19. Bloggerati « Poumista said,

    […] Camila Bassi on Tony Cliff’s inane politics (pdf/html) […]

  20. vildechaye said,

    Still blathering on about imaginary “nazis”, skidfart… the loony bin beckons.

  21. Sarah AB said,

    @skidmarx. Actually – going back to the thread – I perhaps put it too strongly when I said you effectively asked for me to be banned, but you did say:

    “Sarah AB is the Harry’s Place poster who recently posted a defence of a Nazi in Lincolnshire […] I’m not saying that she should be banned from here as a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser, I think it’s fairly clear that she’s not, but others might take a different view on how far No Platform should apply.”

    I suppose, if you think Mark Antony defended Brutus effectively, that you might be described as defending me.

    My comment then got deleted even though it was a perfectly relevant and, even from an SU perspective, inoffensive observation that Jenny Tonge was problematic because of her past form and her platform sharing with O’Keefe at Middlesex – I then posted a link to a long statement signed by several university PALESTINIAN societies deploring his antisemitism.

  22. Sarah AB said,

    “Do you want to bet that anyone protesting the severity of the sentence in [an equivalent case involving antisemitism] would never stop being denounced at Harry’s Place?”

    @skidmarx – I did, in the first piece which mentioned Conway, express an opposition to criminalising Holocaust denial, and no one seemed bothered, but, yes, it might be hard to take from someone who had never shown the slightest concern about antisemitism, rather the opposite. However, although I have posted about antisemitism, I have also posted against anti-Muslim bigotry in relation to eg the EDL in Cambridge, arson attacks on mosques, the far right in Europe, Pamela Geller being bonkers etc.

  23. skidmarx said,

    I did, in the first piece which mentioned Conway, express an opposition to criminalising Holocaust denial, and no one seemed bothered
    Because you’re a poster at HP, so you’re on the right side, so you can getaway with anything (including ,obviously defending a Nazi) with the commentariat there, while they will excoriate any of HP’s opponents for much lesser offences.

    it might be hard to take from someone who had never shown the slightest concern about antisemitism, rather the opposite.
    The last clause suggests that you are definitely talking about me. Care to back up this outrageous lie?

    “And of course Tony Greenstein has had to endure awful anti-semitic abuse from commenters still allowed to reside in the Harry’s Place comment boxes.”
    “My initial comment was rejected as spam, so I’ll be briefer. Carole Swords comment at Ahava may have been unpleasant, but where is the mention of the Ahava employee who called the demonstrators “Christ-killers”? ”
    “I’m not suggesting the Whites as a benchmark, I’m saying the Reds did what they could to fight anti-semitism, and that post skated over that obvious truth in order to try and enlist support for a historical narrative in which the left has always hated Jews.
    I had a quick search for an anarchist/SWP argument about Makhno, but couldn’t see anything in it about anti-semitism.
    Fine to look at her actual concerns about anti-semitism, but to try and make out that the Leninism was responsible for such at its birth is just a lie.”
    Just the most easily found references. Only yesterday I was drawing someone’s attention to this story:
    though it isn’t surprising to see such an obvious example of anti-Semitism not covered on HP or on other zionist sites, as Rush Limbaugh is generally on the right side (this is perhaps a little unfair to Gene, but maybe I’m not feeling like being over-generous when you come out with lies like this one).

    I have also posted against anti-Muslim bigotry in relation to eg the EDL in Cambridge,
    Ah yes, here’s a quote from one of your pieces:
    “If the EDL is beyond the pale, how about the SWP?”
    Drawing an equivalence between the far-right and those who fight tooth-and-nail against them is,is… I just run out of words to describe what you do.

  24. SteveH said,

    This so called stratum that obsesses over Israel is clearly no match for the all powerful Israeli lobby. I can look on in wonderment at their influence!

  25. modernity's ghost said,


    Why do you play Skidmarx’s game?

    None of these topics mean a jot to him.

    Skidmarx didn’t read the play because he’s not interested in opposing racism towards Jews, that’s the logical conclusion to draw.

    If you talk to the topic of anti-Jewish racism, you will see Skidmarx squirm, obfuscate and duck the issue. That’s what racists do.

  26. Jim Denham said,

    “…obsesses over Israel is clearly no match for the all powerful Israeli lobby”: that’s as may be, Mr H; but you’d like to be, wouldn’t you? You’d like to drive ’em into the sea wouldn’t you?

  27. modernity's ghost said,

    SteveH’s real views:

    “The Zionist lobby are skilled in ruining careers and defaming people and making anyone who stands up for the Palestinians persona non grata. Which is why we on the other side need to create our own lobby that is as powerful and ruthless.

    We should ramp up the boycott campaign.

    Posted by SteveH 14 March, 2012 at 6:15 pm [ Quote selected text ] [Reply]”

  28. skidmarx said,

    The last two commenters might want to note that just because it says “Inane” in the post title doesn’t mean your comments have to be. Or maybe you don’t know any better.

  29. modernity's ghost said,

    SteveH believes in the all powerful “Zionist” lobby.

    Skidmarx does not have a view on the racism in the play, Seven Jewish Children.

    That’s what you’d expect from people with serious hangups about Jews.

  30. skidmarx said,

    I don’t have a view on a play I haven’t read or seen. How awful of me not to be prejudiced.

    Crawl back under your stone, you disgusting little bully.

  31. SteveH said,

    I dont want to drive them into the sea, that would be to simply mirror the Zionism you support. I guess i want to pull the Palestinians out of the abyss, somewhere you believe they belong.

    As for the comment by Modernity, i stand by every word. We should learn by the staggering success of the Zionist lobby. Support the boycott.

    To deny the existence of an Israeli lobby is to deny reality and that makes you no better than the believers in god you routinely ridicule.

  32. modernity's ghost said,

    Suppose you’re working somewhere, and someone that you vaguely know made pro-BNP comments, you would argue with them, but getting nowhere instead you decide to show them a piece of evidence.

    So you give them a sheet of paper (or a link to an anti-fascist web site) which details the true nature of the BNP as a racist and neofascist party.

    But this individual, who says he’s not racist, keeps on going on about them, and when you ask if he read the contrary evidence he says “I haven’t read or seen it”.

    Ask yourself, how would you react?

  33. SteveH said,

    Thats a very interesting thought experiment Modernity, do you learn this stuff at some lobby training camp? You take us all to such incredible places, you could be a guru, lead your very own cult. Genius, pure genius.

  34. skidmarx said,

    Well here’s an example of where a friend of mo’dishonesty’s heard about someone who made much more than just pro-BNP comments:

    Hope not Hate reports that a man from Gainsborough has been given a one year prison sentence for displaying posters critical of Islam. It is claimed that he ‘plastered his front window with vile anti-Islamic hate literature’:

    Many were offensive – attacking both the prophet Mohammed and the Muslim religion. …

    Judge Michael Heath told Conway: “To describe the material you put in your window as grossly offensive is an understatement.

    “There is no place in a civilised society for conduct of that sort and the only sentence I can justify for it is an immediate custodial sentence.” …

    “The majority of the displayed posters and images were undoubtedly offensive to the Islamic faith.”

    Now – I’m sure they were very unpleasant, and that Conway is not a nice man. But – and I haven’t tracked down further information about the precise nature of the posters – it seems alarming that someone can receive such a substantial sentence for criticising an idea.

    But does mo’doublestandards say this person needs education in anti-racism? No, of course not, his pose of being anti-racist is just a pose so that he can pretend to be able to judge those who don’t share his politics.

    • modernity's ghost said,

      Rather typically, Skidmarx only gives part of the story and doesn’t provide any links to better understand the background of this issue.

      He really can’t be bothered.

      Skidmarx’s Oxbridge education means that he’s contemptuous of others and looks down on them, which is why he wouldn’t engage on the topic of anti-Jewish racism. He thinks it is beneath him.

      Unlike Skidmarx I have no ambiguity on this issue. I am glad that Darren Conway was prosecuted.

      I think that people like Conway, who consciously spread racist material should be prosecuted, that applies whether it is plastered on windows or given out as leaflets in the street.

      It is incitement.

      His actions are not innocent, he was a paid-up member of the neofascist BNP and an EDL supporter, as can be seen from

      I think people like Conway should be opposed vigorously, in the same way that I think the racism within the play, Seven Jewish children must be acknowledged.

      The problem is, Skidmarx isn’t serious about antiracism when it comes to Jews, that’s why he won’t talk about it seriously and employs distractions.

    • skidmarx said,

      He really can’t be bothered.
      With you no. You’ve spent a long while trying to get me banned on fraudulent accusations of antisemitism from every website you could. You stated repeatedly that you couldn’t bear to comment on the same thread I had. So do one.

      And that last comment was a quote from your friend Sarah AB. She doesn’t seem to see this man’s fascism as a reason to restrict his ‘free speech’. Do you have anything to say about that? Of course not, because she’s on your side. You have nothing of any value to say, so why don’t you stop bothering people who don’t share your crankiness?

    • modernity's ghost said,

      Me me me, you, you, you.

      “I’m not doing it because you said so”, how many times have adults heard that juvenile response.

      But more broadly that’s a problem with the post 68 mentality, with the influx of the petty bourgeoisie and their increasing dominance of the political scene, things changed.

      Politics became about personalities, about subjectivity, me, you, me, you.

      The issue was often taken as secondary, instead amongst petty bourgeois politics it became a contest of egos, this can be seen from the late Sixties until the decline of the British Left in the 1990s and is documented so well in John Sullivan’s As Soon As This Pub Closes.

      This phenomena, in part explains, why politics has become so divorced from the working classes. It comes across as alien, another form of control from the middle classes, not relevant to real people’s lives. etc etc

      So it is with Skidmarx and his erstwhile organisation, the SWP.

      Both are highly educated, stuffed with would-be middle-class intellectuals yet time and again they have failed to confront anti-Jewish racism.

      Unlike the shallow arguments of the AWL, I don’t believe that this is because the SWP are antisemitic, although they were happily ignore antisemitism or in the case of Gilad Atzmon, push it.

      That is too trite an answer and really doesn’t ask:

      how did this come about? what factors contributed to it? what influences made it so?

      And, that’s just part of the problem with Camila Bassi’s paper, it asks too few questions and provides little, if any, historical context.

      But returning to Skidmarx’s intellectual failures.

      Despite an obvious skill in discussing the minutiae of Trotskyism (presumably why Jim allows him to comment here), some familiarity with Marxism, Skidmarx is incapable of 1) spotting anti-Jewish racism 2) understanding it 3) combating it

      No doubt, he will argue along the lines of “If it wasn’t for modernity’s constant harassment I would take a principled position against anti-Jewish racism, but because of him, I am not going to” etc

      However, for antiracists that’s not a satisfactory answer, and in a similar fashion, antiracists and the thoughtful should see the defects of Camila Bassi’s paper.

  35. Jim Denham said,

    “…some lobby training camp?” And what “lobby”, exactly, would that be, Mr H?

  36. SteveH said,

    The Zionist lobby obviously.

    Incidentally a brilliant article at Socialist unity, covering a subject that Shiraz wont cover, for obvious reasons:

  37. Jim Denham said,

    “The Zionist lobby obviously”: yes, all too obvious that you mean “powerful Jews who control the media”.

    PS I note your link to your fellow antisemite and conspiracy-theorist John Wight over at Socialist Unity.

    We have covered Afghanistan over the years quite extensively. I think it’s pretty obvious to readers where I, for one, stand ( see this for instance: I thought about commenting upon the recent massacre but decided on balance to leave it until more facts come to light. I’m certainly not about to follow Mr Wight into the realms of endorsing conspiracy theories about more than one person being involved at this stage.

  38. Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow! said,

    What is this? The final of the men’s ‘will you condemn’ clay court tennis?

    Pok: Zionist

    Pok: Racist

    Pok: Zionist

    Pok: Racist

    One one side a weird obsessive creep who believes the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are real and on the other a weird obsessive creep who hangs out with EDL fanboys at the far right hate site HP Sauce, each arguing that the other is ‘racist’ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • blerehgc ocmaomnetareyr said,

      Yes, Morality BlerrGFGHG up against Hatech is like the hamilton v al fayed case – you hope both interlocutors are destroyed. Still, Jim Denham is just another liberal fuckwit and deserves them both.

      tHis wIl b delerted probalblerly.

  39. Jim Denham said,

    tHis wIl b delerted probalblerly.

    kNow itt wernt (says liberal fuckwit).

  40. paul maleski said,

    Yigael Gluckstein aka Tony Cliff need I say more. Check out any degenerate movement which ruthlessly attacks traditional white Christian family values and you will always find the Frankfurt School jew. Don’t believe me? You do your own homework! As Jim Denham will tell you, it is called independent freedom of thought! Use it.

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