Saturday, December 7, 2019

Michael Bloomberg in the pages of The Militant

September 17, 2001 

Socialists launch New York mayoral campaign

....Koppel noted that "the big-business candidates--from Democrats Mark Green and Fernando Ferrer to Republican Michael Bloomberg--are working overtime to convince working people that they are going to be 'a mayor for all New Yorkers.' They say 'We must fix our broken schools' or 'We must never go back on crime.'

"But all the talk about 'our city' and 'our country' is a giant lie," the socialist candidate said. "Working people have no interests in common with the tiny class of ruling billionaire families, or with the Democrats and Republicans who serve them. We as workers and farmers produce the wealth. And they maintain their power and their profits by driving down our wages and social gains, restricting our rights, and sending us to fight in wars to protect their class interests.

"But we have everything in common with fellow workers and farmers both in this country and around the globe," he said....

November 18, 2002  

Bloomberg cries 'budget crisis,' targets workers


September 15, 2003  

Great Society

Class-angle inebriation—The media has it that New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg got good marks for his "leadership" during the blackout (the cops didn't kill anyone?). Anyway, back on July 4, the cops issued tickets to people drinking beer at a city beach 9/11 fund-raiser. A few days later a photographer got a shot of the good mayor sipping wine with numerous others at a park symphony. No busts.

July 31, 2006  

Supporters of socialist campaign join actions protesting imperialist wars in Mideast, make progress in ballot drives

...."I have relatives who are transit workers, and I didn't like the way the union was treated when they were on strike," said Anthony Johnson, a hospital worker in Harlem. He remembered how, during the December transit strike here, Republican mayor Michael Bloomberg smeared the union members as "thugs" and how Democratic attorney general Eliot Spitzer, now running for governor, supported the jailing of the union president.

June 16, 2008

No construction worker has to die!

....Mayor Michael Bloomberg shamelessly asserted, "Construction is a dangerous business and you will always have fatalities. We have no reason to believe there was anything we could do to prevent this." That is a lie.

March 9, 2009

SWP mayoral candidate: 'Oppose New York cuts'

....Bloomberg recently announced plans to solve a $4 billion "budget crisis" with another round of layoffs and demands for substantial concessions from city workers in pension and health-care benefits. The city is also planning to increase the sales tax to 8.75 percent, eliminate the sales tax exemption on clothes, and impose a five-cent tax on plastic grocery bags.

September 12, 2011

The true face of capitalism

'You're on your own,' NY mayor tells workers during storm

August 20, 2012

NY mayor: just say no to soda and baby formula

November 19, 2012

Event celebrates SWP presidential election campaign, projects LA ticket

...."I have met and heard the stories of many workers hard hit by the storm and by the way capitalism creates conditions that turn a 'natural disaster' into a social catastrophe," DeLuca said. I've seen the disdain for working people from bourgeois politicians like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called the victims of the storm 'stupid' and 'selfish.'

Excerpt: The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party

The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party

Advancing a working-class program requires a party working class in composition

Excerpts from Introduction:

….There is a concerted attack today on the recognition that class divisions underlie all forms of exploitation and oppression, and that class struggle and class consciousness — working-class consciousness — are central to any effective fight for liberation. The assault comes not directly from the capitalist ruling families themselves, who have always tried to hide that dangerous truth — dangerous to them.

Instead, the offensive comes from what many refer to as "the left," liberals and radicals among the middle class and professionals — from privileged college and university campuses such as Harvard, Oberlin, and others; to prominent newspapers, magazines, and TV networks from the New York Times  and Atlantic Monthly  to CNN, BBC, and The New Yorker. It is promoted on websites and "social media" proliferating too rapidly to keep track of. These voices — which include individuals and political groups claiming to speak on behalf of working people and the oppressed — insist that conflicts based on race, skin color, or what they call "gender" — not class — are the driving force of history.

But the observation that the record "of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" remains as true today as it was nearly 175 years ago when Karl Marx and Frederick Engels pointed it out at the opening of the Communist Manifesto, the founding program of the modern revolutionary workers movement.

Denial of the class struggle is nothing new. There are more than enough grandparents to current "theories" about "identity politics," "intersectionality," and so on noisily propagated by young professionals and other upper middle class layers today. In 1940 James P. Cannon polemicized against petty bourgeois currents on the eve of World War II who "rail at our stick-in-the-mud attitude toward the fundamental concepts of Marxism — the class theory of the state, the class criterion in the appraisal of all political questions, the conception of politics, including war, as the expression of class interests, and so forth and so on.

"From all this," said Cannon, "they conclude that we are 'conservative' by nature, and extend that epithet to cover everything we have done in the past."

The epithet today is not simply "conservative," but some variant of "homophobe" or "racist," leveled against the working class by self-anointed "social justice warriors." Many of them resort to slander and thuggery to intimidate those they come into conflict with, whether over political differences, relations between the sexes, or small shopkeepers merely protecting themselves from shoplifting or other depredations. Showing disdain for due process and constitutional protections conquered in class battles by workers, African Americans, women, and others, these sanctimonious inquisitors organize to smear, shout down, and silence their chosen antagonists.

The real targets, however, are tens of millions of working people across the US, whom these scornful (and sometimes newly minted) bearers of class privilege seek to drum out of the human race as ignorant, backward, racist, and reactionary. But these "deplorables" are simply the current generations of workers whom the bosses — as well as many union officials — wrote off as "trash" during the great labor battles that exploded to their shock in the 1930s.

What I wrote in Are They Rich Because They're Smart?  about today's self-designated "enlightened meritocracy" has been confirmed many times over. This "handsomely remunerated" layer — university presidents, deans, and professors; high-and-mighty officials of "nonprofits" and NGOs; media and hi-tech professionals; entertainment and sports personalities; and many others — "is determined to con the world into accepting the myth that the economic and social advancement of its members is just reward for their individual intelligence, education, and 'service.'" They truly believe they have "the right to make decisions, to administer and 'regulate' society for the bourgeoisie — on behalf of what they claim to be the interests of 'the people.'"

But above everything else, "they are mortified to be identified with working people in the United States — Caucasian, Black, or Latino; native- or foreign-born. Their attitudes toward those who produce society's wealth, the foundation of all culture, extend from saccharine condescension to occasional and unscripted open contempt, as they lecture us on our manners and mores."

A few years on, the only update needed is the allusion to their open contempt being "occasional" and "unscripted." Today it's both frequent and intentional.

Working people have nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on the propertied families, their capitalist two-party system, their "socialist" water carriers among professionals and the upper middle class, and their government and state. We must organize ourselves independently, both politically and organizationally, of the propertied classes who derive their enormous wealth and power from exploiting the social labor of workers, farmers, and other toiling producers — and who above all work to conceal that reality from us in order to retard the development of class consciousness.

Today, the program and course of action presented in The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party are needed by working people whether fighting for unpaid wages in a mine in Kentucky; organizing to resist unsafe working conditions in a massive retail conglomerate or on a two-hundred-car freight train; defending a woman's right to choose abortion; demanding amnesty for undocumented immigrants; mobilizing against cop brutality; or organizing solidarity with struggles by working people anywhere in the world.

Class-conscious workers openly and boldly join in every fight, every "combination" we can to resist the bosses' assaults, whether or not we've yet forged a union in our workplace.

We join in the pressing task of rebuilding and strengthening the labor movement, taking part in and championing efforts to organize the unorganized wherever workers are fighting, whatever the official status of their "papers."

And we explain the need for and help advance class consciousness, which unites not divides us, as we begin to transform ourselves and the trade unions into instruments of struggle against capitalist rule and exploitation itself.

There are no guarantees about what percentage of our class will become organized into unions, or how many unions will be transformed. "We're not prophets but revolutionaries who work to steer developments in the direction of strengthening the unity of the working class in struggle," notes the report in these pages that draws lessons the SWP learned from the first year of our turn to industry.

In the two great socialist revolutions of the twentieth century — in Russia in 1917, and then some four decades later in Cuba — the centrality of trade unions and the fight to transform them came largely after, not before, the struggle for workers power. But revolutionary-minded workers can't bank on that pattern being repeated in today's world, in which both the level of industrialization and the size and weight of the working class are much larger, not only in imperialist countries but also many others.

One thing we know for sure, however, is that a socialist revolution in the United States is inconceivable without organizing our class to fight to build unions  and to use union power to advance the interests of working people here and around the world. And the forging of a proletarian party — a revolutionary political instrument of the working class, aimed above all at changing which class is exercising state power — is impossible without participating in that struggle.

The biggest obstacle to class consciousness is what all the institutions of capitalist society teach working people to think of ourselves. What we're taught about our worth as human beings. What we're told we're not capable of doing and never will be. What we're lectured about day in and day out by the bosses and their middle class "experts" and "regulators," much of it echoed by union bureaucrats.

But the class struggle has a different story to tell. Malcolm X, Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, Maurice Bishop, Thomas Sankara, and other outstanding revolutionary leaders never tired of reminding working people why discovering our worth  is more important than harping on our oppression and exploitation. Of explaining what we are capable of becoming. And of showing us in action how we are capable of transforming ourselves — and the foundations of society itself — as we organize together and fight.

It is through such class battles, which include all social and political struggles in the interests of working people, that we gain experience and confidence, in ourselves and in each other. It's how ties of class solidarity and loyalty are forged. The SWP's program adopted in 1938, and still guiding our course today, tells the truth as well as it is possible to do:

"All methods are good that raise the class-consciousness of the workers, their trust in their own forces, their readiness for self-sacrifice in the struggle. The impermissible methods are those that implant fear and submissiveness in the oppressed in the face of their oppressors, that crush the spirit of protest and indignation or substitute for the will of the masses — the will of the leaders; for conviction — compulsion; for an analysis of reality — demagogy and frame-up."

There's nothing to add today to the closing sentences of that program. The Socialist Workers Party "uncompromisingly gives battle to all political groupings tied to the apron strings of the bourgeoisie. Its task — the abolition of capitalism's domination. Its aim — socialism. Its method — the proletarian revolution."

Full article:

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FDR and Pearl Harbor

On August 29, 1945, President Truman released for publication lengthy reports by the Army and Navy giving the facts and circumstances of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which precipitated the extension of the Second World War to the Pacific area. The lengthier of the two reports, that of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, is dated October 20, 1944, and is accompanied by a statement of Secretary of War Stimson. The other is a fact-finding report of a Navy Court of Inquiry with a statement by the Secretary of the Navy and is dated October 19, 1944.

Why were these reports withheld from the public for almost a year? An attempt has been made to represent the suppression as having been necessitated by considerations of military security, since the war was still in progress. It is true that the reports deal largely with matters of a purely military character.

Yet the principal event to which they relate, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had occurred almost three years prior to the completion of the reports. What they contain in the way of military information was already stale and musty and had no bearing whatever on the further course of the Pacific war. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the reports were suppressed for political and not for military reasons....

The Army Board and the Navy Court were charged with the task of ascertaining the facts of the Pearl Harbor disaster and establishing the responsibility therefor. The Army investigation centered on the acts and policies of General Short, who was in charge of the Hawaii Command of the Army. The Navy investigation centered on the acts and policies of Admiral Kimmel, who was commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet.

These high-ranking officers were removed from their posts after Pearl Harbor and were called upon to defend themselves against charges of incompetence and dereliction of duty. In order to exculpate themselves from blame for the disaster, they were obliged to make reference to the general policies of the Administration by which they were bound, for much more was involved than simply matters of military precaution and preparation. The investigators, too, had to delve into Administration policies, for without doing so there clearly existed no possibility of establishing the full truth or apportioning the blame for what had occurred.

It is precisely here that the reports are highly revealing, for they establish incontestably the following conclusions, even though these conclusions are not drawn in the reports:

1. That President Roosevelt, while proclaiming his love of peace and hatred of war, was embarked on a deliberate course of war with Japan (and Germany) long before Pearl Harbor and that this was the conscious policy of his Administration.

2. That Roosevelt's policy toward Japan was one of systematic pressure to force the Japanese imperialists to commit the overt act which would touch off a war explosion. Roosevelt was obliged to pursue this strategy in order to be able to brand Japan as the "aggressor" and stampede the people of the United States into a war to which a majority of the nation had been steadfastly opposed. The "peace- loving" President had assured the American people that their sons would not be sent to fight in "foreign wars." This made it necessary that the United States should be "attacked" so that the drive of American imperialism for mastery of the Pacific could be presented in the guise of a war of national defense and survival.

When Roosevelt read the reports, he must have realized their explosive political quality. Here, out of the mouths of his own generals and admirals, he was convicted as a war conspirator who under cover of unctuous protestations of his love of peace plotted to plunge the American people into the most terrible of all wars so that the "manifest destiny" of American imperialism might be achieved.... The Roosevelt strategy
The Roosevelt strategy of forcing Japan to become the "aggressor" is revealed unmistakably in that section of the report which relates to messages between the War Department and the Hawaiian Command in the last days before Japan struck. On November 27, 1941, 10 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chief of Staff radioed General Short as follows:

Negotiations with Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided, the U.S. desires that Japan commit the first overt act.

That Roosevelt himself was the author of this policy was stated by General Gerow of the War Department who testified that "the President had definitely stated that he wanted Japan to commit the first overt act." From desiring the commission of an overt act by Japan it was but a short step to provoking one. This is just what Roosevelt sought to do. The vast economic power of the United States, and the economic frailty of Japan guaranteed the success of Roosevelt's strategy of provoking war by tightening an economic noose around Japan. The sanctions imposed on Japan in 1940-41 are referred to in the Army Board's report. The Army's investigators understood their drastic character and had no doubt that the Roosevelt policy "led only to war." The pertinent section of the report reads, in part, as follows:

It was in the fall of 1940 that we cast the die and adopted economic sanctions. And we find it significant that about June 1940 General Herron as Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department upon Washington orders went into an all-out alert into battle positions with live ammunition for six weeks.

In September the export of iron and steel scrap was prohibited. The effect of the United States policy was to cut off from Japan by the winter of 1940-41 the shipment of many strategic commodities, including arms, ammunition, and implements of war, aviation gasoline and many other petroleum products, machine tools, scrap iron, pig iron and steel manufactures, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, and a variety of other commodities. . . .

Nor was this all. These disastrous embargoes were supplemented by Washington's abrogation of the U.S.- Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation which deprived Japan of "most favored nation" treatment in her remaining trade with the United States, and by the freezing of Japanese credits in this country. Among the most important consequences of these moves was the destruction of Japan's lucrative and vital silk trade with this country, upon the proceeds of which Japan largely depended for the financing of her imports.

`Zero hour' approaching

Finally, in August 1941, after Japan had moved troops into southern French Indo-China, thereby flanking the Philippines on the West, Washington and London joined in delivering a warning to Tokyo against "new moves of aggression." Roosevelt dispatched a military mission to China. Zero hour was approaching. The imperialist conspirators sat back to await the development of the inevitable, and they were under no misapprehension as to what that development would be.

The effect of their pressure against Japan was reported to Washington by the American ambassador in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew, who on October 9, 1941, two months before the Pearl Harbor attack, said that "the frozen-credit policy of the United States was driving Japan into national bankruptcy and she would be forced to act." Earlier, Grew had stated that:

Considering the temper of the people of Japan (read Japanese imperialists, for that was the circle Grew moved in) it was dangerously uncertain to base United States policy on a view that the imposition of progressive and rigorous economic measures would probably avert war; that it was the view of the Embassy that war would not be averted by such a course. . . . Finally he warned of the possibility of Japan's adopting measures with dramatic and dangerous suddenness which might make inevitable a war with the United States.

Grew may or may not have harbored the illusion that Washington's policy was intended to "avert war." What he thought is of little importance, since he was an executor and not a maker of policy. The important thing is that the high policy makers in Washington, Roosevelt and Hull, working in the closest consultation with the Wall Street barons, had already determined on war and were concerned only to force Japan to commit the first overt act of hostility, while gaining whatever time they could to prepare for war.

They knew Japan was choking in the noose of their sanctions. They knew the Japanese imperialists would try to fight their way out of the noose. They had Grew's warning that Japan would attack with "dramatic and dangerous suddenness." In the light of this last fact, especially, it can be said that Roosevelt transcended all bounds of nauseating hypocrisy when he pretended surprise and shock at the Japanese "sneak" attack on Pearl Harbor. 

The 10-point ultimatum

The final negotiations "for peace" before Pearl Harbor put the finishing touch to the plans of the imperialist conspirators in Washington. On Nov. 26, 1941, Secretary of State Hull presented to Japanese representatives in Washington a 10-point proposal as the basis for an agreement.

This proposal required Japan to withdraw her armed forces from China and from French Indo-China. In return, the United States would unfreeze Japanese credits, end all other economic sanctions, and conclude a new commercial treaty with Japan. The Japanese imperialists were asked, in effect, to abandon entirely their plan of empire and surrender their position as a Pacific power.

Although the 10-point proposal was not couched in the form or language of an ultimatum, but took the form of a proposed draft agreement, it was understood by Tokyo as an ultimatum and was intended as such by the Washington conspirators. Hull and Roosevelt certainly regarded the proposal as an ultimatum.

They knew it meant war. For on the morning of November 27, as the Army Board report states, Secretary of War Stimson called Hull on the phone and Hull "told me now he had broken the whole matter off. As he put it, `I have washed my hands of it, and it is now in the hands of you and Knox (Navy Secretary), the Army and Navy.' " The Army Board also reports that on the same day (November 26) that the 10-point proposal was delivered to the Japanese representatives, the Chief of Staff (Gen. Marshall) and the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Stark) wrote a joint memorandum to Roosevelt, "requesting that no ultimatum be delivered to the Japanese as the Army and Navy were not ready to precipitate an issue with Japan." They were apprehensive as they saw the quickening drift toward war. They wanted more time to prepare. But their attempt to check the drift came too late in any event.... 

Irreconcilable imperialist antagonism

Roosevelt had decided to cut the Gordian knot which tied the country to a peaceful status. While, naturally, he was aware of the military deficiencies of the United States, he knew, too, that the American productive capacity, once fully geared to war, would quickly make good any losses sustained in the initial encounters with Japan. That is why, in asking Congress for a declaration of war on Dec. 8, 1941, he could confidently predict "inevitable victory" for the United States.

The 10-point ultimatum to Japan reflected the irreconcilable antagonism between American and Japanese imperialism, an antagonism with deep economic roots, an antagonism that could be resolved only by recourse to war. The question of who fired the first shot in the Pacific war has only an episodic interest.

The rivalry of the two imperialist Powers was lodged in the contest for trade, for raw materials, for colonies, for spheres of influence, for investment opportunities, for the right to dominate and exploit the teeming millions of the Orient.

War between them did not develop suddenly, but over long years. From the beginning, the interests, and therefore the policies, of the two Powers developed in diametrical opposition. The logic of this development made ultimate war between them inevitable.

A consideration of the nature of America's first contact with Japan illumines the whole future course of U.S.- Japanese relations.

In the year 1853, under orders from President Fillmore, Commodore Perry sailed an American naval squadron into Tokyo Bay to demand of Japan the opening of her ports to American shipping and commerce. The use of naval power to conduct a seemingly peaceful diplomatic mission is in itself significant. The frightened feudal rulers of Japan acceded to the American demands.

Japan's two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world (the Tokugawa seclusion, 1641-1853)(1) was at an end. Perry's mission inaugurated the period of Japan's modernization which was marked by the Meiji Restoration (1868)(2) and set its ruling class on the road of capitalist growth and imperialist expansion. 

Historical background

The circumstances dictating the forcible opening of Japan were a signpost pointing to the future imperialist policies of both the United States and Japan and the clashing of their interests in the broad basin of the Pacific. As a result of China's defeat by Great Britain in the Opium Wars of 1839-42(3) and the forcing open of China's ports, a profitable Oriental trade began in which American merchants quickly seized their share....

In order to maintain and develop the Pacific trade route to China an intermediate port of call was required, so that ships could replenish their food and water supplies. Japan lay directly on the sailing route, but Japan was closed and forbidden territory. Seamen unfortunate enough to be shipwrecked off the Japanese coast were frequently put to death by Japan's feudal rulers who had decreed the total isolation of the country.

It was Perry's mission to break this isolation and obtain, by force if necessary, the right of American ships to call at such ports as Yokohama and Nagasaki. In subsequent treaties the United States secured extraterritorial rights for its nationals in Japan, as it had already done in China.

To Japan's rulers, gazing out for the first time on the outside world, it seemed as if their country was to suffer the fate of nearby China, which had been humiliated and subjugated by the Western Powers and reduced in all but name to a colony. They escaped this fate by feverish modernization and the creation of armed forces to withstand external pressure. The stage was thus set for the progressive development of a rivalry with the Western Powers which reached its denouement at Pearl Harbor. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the last vestiges of what has become known as the "American frontier" were rapidly vanishing. The growth of American capitalism was coming to depend more and more upon foreign trade.

The great lands of the Orient, above all China, were the logical scene of American expansion, together with South America. Seizure of the Philippines in the Spanish-American war of 1898 and the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands started American imperialism on its career in the Pacific. Revivified Japan, meanwhile, had fought a war with and inflicted total defeat upon China (1894-95). Japan annexed the rich island of Formosa off the coast of China and established a protectorate over Korea, formally annexing the latter in 1910. Manchuria had become a sphere of interest of Czarist Russia. Britain and France had established similar spheres in China proper.

 U.S. doctrine of `Open Door'

Washington, highly conscious of America's own destiny as an imperialist power, was alarmed by the piratical freebooting of its rivals. In 1899 John Hay, Secretary of State in the McKinley administration, enunciated the famous doctrine of the "Open Door" with regard to China. By this doctrine the American imperialists served notice on their rivals that they would not countenance any treaties or agreements which would have the effect of creating closed preserves and denying equal trade opportunities to American capitalists doing business in China.

The "Open Door" policy was vigorously reiterated during the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900-01)(4) which the rivals of the United States, including Japan, tried to use as a pretext for dismembering China. Again and again in the years that followed, the State Department delivered to Czarist Russia, to Britain and Japan and other powers, reminders that it demanded respect for the "Open Door" in China.

In 1904-05 Japan warred on Czarist Russia and seized the latter's "rights and interests" in Manchuria.... In 1915, while the Western Powers were preoccupied with the war in Europe, Japan presented her "21 demands" to China, threatening to take charge of the whole country. She took over the German "sphere of influence" in Shantung province. At the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the American imperialists compelled Japan to withdraw from Shantung and from the Soviet maritime provinces. They negotiated the Nine-Power Treaty under which the policy of the "Open Door" was reaffirmed. All the imperialist powers having "interests" in China undertook to "respect the sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative integrity of China."

This agreement between the imperialist bandits broke down before the subsequent reality of sharpening antagonism between the Powers. Britain sought merely to maintain the status quo in the Orient, being satisfied with the loot she had already obtained. But Japan, the new and hungry guest at the imperialist table, cast a greedy eye on the trade and possessions of both her British and American rivals and revived her plans for subjugating China.

In 1931, Japan's armies moved into Manchuria. Secretary of State Stimson reminded Japan of the "Open Door" once again and proclaimed the new implementing doctrine of "Non- recognition" under which the United States refused to recognize any "situation, treaty or agreement" which Japan might bring about by force of arms.

Six years later, Japanese imperialism moved into China proper. On October 6, 1938, Ambassador Grew in Tokyo delivered a note to the Japanese Government charging Japan with violation of her promises to maintain the "Open Door" and demanding that these promises be implemented. Japan's answer was to proclaim her "immutable purpose" to establish a "New Order in East Asia." There were other diplomatic exchanges. It is noteworthy that in all of them the expression of American concern for American "rights and interests" is the motif.

The hypocritical pretense that the American imperialists were concerned solely or even mainly with "liberating" the Orient from "Japanese banditry" so that the Chinese and other Asiatic peoples might be free, was to come later, after Pearl Harbor, in order to furnish a cover of disinterested idealism for the predatory aims of the Wall Street brigands.

As we have seen, war between Japan and the United States was prepared step by step over a period of half a century. It was not the result of sudden, unexpected aggression by Japan.

Pearl Harbor was merely the conflagration point of a long-smoldering antagonism lodged in the development of the two imperialist powers and caused by their greedy appetite for profits. For the right to dominate the Orient and exploit China with its millions of inhabitants, the imperialists on both sides of the Pacific sent their nations' youth to the shambles. They have caused unimaginable destruction, killed millions of people, and brought untold grief and privation to the survivors. War guilt? Yes! But it rests as heavily on the Wall Street brigands and their government in Washington as it does on the defeated imperialists of Japan.

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Friday, December 6, 2019

Reading notes on Chapter 2 of The Jewish Question: History of a Marxist Debate

The Jewish Question: History of a Marxist Debate 

By Enzo Traverso 

Translated by Bernard Gibbons

Brill, [2018]

The below are my underlinings/highlightings of Traverso. My own thoughts appear, if at all, as [N.B.].


Historicising the Marxist 'Jewish Question': Preface to the Second Edition notes here

Introduction notes here

1 Marx, Radical Enlightenment and the Jews notes here

2 The Jewish Marxist Intelligentsia

....relationship between the Jews and Marxism can be interpreted through Yuri Slezkine's metaphor of the Jews as a minority of Mercurians (foreign and mobile, producers of concepts) in a world of Apollonians (indigenous, sedent-ary, producers of gods).1 The more radical the opposition between them was, the more the Jews transcended ethnic identities towards cosmopolitanism: this was the path followed by the Jewish intellectuals of Central Europe and the assimilated Jews of the Russian Empire, bearers of a post-national, universalist Marxism. In the Pale of Settlement, where the latter appeared as a current of thought carried on by a Mercurian elite organically connected to an Apollonian society – the shtetl – Marxism took a national form, becoming a sort of Judeo-Marxism. 

....Many Jewish activists of the Central European left were intellectuals, who were for the most part journalists or writers and often university educated. It could be said without exaggeration that they represented the breeding ground for the social democratic intelligentsia, and among them were – as the list above clearly shows – some of the most important figures of the Marxism of the Second International. In general, they belonged to the high or upper middle classes: they were the sons of merchants or industrialists, the Jewish elite who had become prosperous after Emancipation. 

..... Political emancipation had two immediate social effects: a general improvement of economic conditions and widespread urbanisation, which was reflected rapidly by a concentration in the big German and Habsburg cities. layer emerging out of the new Jewish bourgeoisie, the revolt against capitalist society and its system of values took the form of a conflict of generations, of a rupture with the world of their fathers, who had behaved as perfect German or Austrian bourgeois citizens but who, as Joseph Roth put it, 'did not have the courage to convert, preferring to water down the entire Jewish religion'

....At the turn of the twentieth century, Marxism was, in its dominant currents, a variant of positivistic evolutionism. It saw history as a linear process of development of the productive forces and as a society's unending march toward 'progress', which inevitably implied Jewish assimilation.

....For most Jewish revolutionaries, Marxism transcended, in an internationalist perspective, the Jewishness/anti-Semitism antinomy: Jewishness conceived as the heritage of a past made of oppression and obscurantism (according to the traditional aufklärerisch  vision), anti-Semitism as the ideology of nationalism and the ruling classes. 

....Excluded from university chairs, the state bureaucracy, and the army, the Jewish intellectuals were, to employ a Gramscian typology, neither 'traditional' nor 'organic' intellectuals; they were neither the expression of old, conservative elites, nor the organisers of the ideological hegemony of the new ruling classes. They lived in a neutral space, in a sort of no-man's-land where they perfectly embodied a 'freely floating' or 'socially unattached intelligentsia' (in Karl Mannheim's definition); hence, their predisposition toward avant-garde movements....

....Since a young Jewish intellectual could not join one of the bourgeois nationalist parties – for the most part confessional or anti-Semitic – there remained only two alternatives: Zionism ('our own version of the nationalism of blood and soil') or communism. And until the end of the Second World War, the second option appeared to the majority of such intellectuals to be incomparably more attractive. 

....Between 1880 and the 1920s, about three million Jews fled Eastern Europe toward the West, mostly to the United States, Germany and France, without any corresponding diminution in the size of the Jewish population in the Pale of Settlement, which rather experienced a constant demographic expansion (from about five million in 1897 to more than seven million on the eve of the Second World War). Urbanisation – aided by a series of laws for-bidding Jews from living in certain regions and in small villages – displaced the axis of community life from small- and medium-sized centres – shtetl  originally meant village – to towns and cities. Overall, the Jews took on a clearly urban character.

....the pogroms of the 1880s had on the first Jewish socialist circles: The pogroms obliged the socialist intelligentsia to understand that the Jews as a people found themselves in a unique situation in Russia, when they were targets for the hatred of the different sectors of the Christian population; and that they, the socialist Jews, were wrong in neglecting the actual condition of the Jews as a people different from the others. It was then that the revolutionaries understood that they must not abandon the masses in the name of cosmopolitanism. 

....birth of a specifically Jewish working class toward the end of the nineteenth century allowed this Jewish intelligentsia to find a social anchorage, a class point of reference, through adopting a Marxist orientation. This was the context in which, in Lithuania and Poland, the Bundists and the socialist Zionists became the 'organic intellectuals' 

....The Bund, the principal political force inside the Jewish community of the Pale, was born from the fusion of the first organised workers' circles with this radicalised intellectual elite. In order to speak with the Jewish workers, socialists were compelled to adopt their language, which led gradually them to conceive a political project based on both class and nationality, in which the liberation of the proletariat as an exploited class was intermingled with the liberation of the Jews as an oppressed nation. The tool for this symbiosis was Yiddish, which found in the Bund one of its stronger defenders.

....Parvus moved tirelessly from one German city to another until the outbreak of the First World War. In a series of articles published in 1900 in the Neue Zeit, he analysed imperialism as a system dominated by the historic crisis of the nation-states, henceforth in conflict with the supranational development of the productive forces.59 From this vision of capitalism as a global system stemmed his idea of a transcending of national realities. 

...."Today, nationalism no longer makes sense. Even the making of my jacket shows the overcoming of national divisions in the world; the wool comes from the sheep of Angora, spun in England and woven in Lodz, the buttons come from Germany, the yarn is Austrian …" Nachman Syrkin: "And the rip in your sleeve comes from the Kiev pogrom"'.

....necessary to stress the general indifference shown by the Jewish Marxists of Eastern Europe toward religion, which deeply permeated the whole life of the Eastern Jews. Most of the leaders of the Bund – for example Kossovsky, Abramovich, Kremer, Mill, and Gojansky – were educated in the Jewish higher schools, the Yeshivas, where they learned Hebrew and received a religious training. The discovery of socialism and the pursuit of their studies (often unfinished) in Russian or Western universities signified for them a break with traditional religion and culture and an adhesion to a Marxist, atheist, and aufklärerisch  worldview. There remained, however, a fundamental link to their community of origin: Yiddish. Unlike the anarchists, who were partisans of an iconoclastic atheism and organised banquets during Yom Kippur, the Bund saw religion as one of the components of Jewish national identity. Messianic references to the struggle for the 'redemption of humanity' were not unusual at its meetings, and its militia defended the entire Jewish community, including synagogues, against the pogroms.

..... In Central Europe, on the other hand, in the aftermath of the October Revolution, Marxism became attractive to a nucleus of Jewish intellectuals of romantic background, permeated with a revolutionary messianic spirit. Both Ernst Bloch, the author of Geist der Utopie (1918) and Thomas Münzer (1921), and Walter Benjamin, whose thought was basically a fusion of Judaism – conceived as a religious and not an ethnic category – and historical materialism, were emblematic of this tendency. Benjamin's syncretic Jewish Marxism rehabilitated Jewish theology, which he evoked in his theses

     'On the Concept of History' (1940) with the allegory of the 'little hunchback'

     who comes to the aid of Marxism in the chess game of history.

....political radicalisation of the Jewish intellectuals was nourished by a common factor in Central and Eastern Europe: anti-Semitism. Obviously enough, Vienna and Berlin did not experience the pogroms of Poland and the Ukraine, but, throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Jewish intellectuals experienced discrimination and marginalisation that favoured their revolutionary engagement. At the turn of the twentieth century, alongside the stereotypes of the Jewish banker and usurer appeared that of the Jewish communist, anarchist, and revolutionary. Often these contradictory figures merged in the arsenal of counterrevolutionary and anti-Semitic propaganda. 

....Anti-Semitic agitation started with the financial scandals that broke out in Germany after the crash of the Vienna stock market in 1873, in which some Jewish bankers were involved.2

     Anti-Semitism codified in ideological terms the transition from traditional, religious Judeophobia to a new, racist form of hostility against the Jews.

....In 1891, an editorial in Die Neue Zeit  significantly entitled Anti und Philosemitismus  defended a point of view very similar to his own. 

     Like most editorials in this journal, it was unsigned, but historians generally attribute it to Franz Mehring (although it was not included in his Werkaus-gabe). According to the article, anti-Semitism expressed a romantic, feudal, and hence reactionary form of anti-capitalism. On the other hand, 'philo-Semitism', of which it gave no concrete example, was only a variant of capitalist ideology, the specular image of anti-Semitism. In other words, the Jews represented a superficial, obvious target for the anti-Semites in their struggle against capitalism, waged in the name of the feudal past; the philo-Semites, on the contrary, defended capitalism by disguising themselves as saviors of the oppressed and persecuted Jews. In such a conflict, nevertheless, anti-Semitism was fundamentally less dangerous than philo-Semitism, because the first was opposed to the Jews 'more in words than in deeds', whereas the second was a defence

     'in deeds and not in words' of capitalism.9 Its conclusion joined that of Adler:

     'For the conscious worker, the opposition between anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism has never had any meaning'.10 What is remarkable in this analysis, not devoid of erudite references to young Marx's theory identification of the Jews with money, is simply its date. Barely one year earlier, the aged Engels had written his letter to the Arbeiterzeitung, widely reprinted by the social democratic press, in which he vigorously condemned anti-Semitism. Die Neue Zeit (Mehring) clearly wished to distinguish itself from Marx's friend, the spiritual leader of the Second International. 

....The report made by August Bebel at the Cologne congress of German social democracy in 1893 was undoubtedly the most significant statement against anti-Semitism before the First World War. The anti-Semites had just scored an electoral success assuring them representation in the Reichstag, an event that nobody could ignore. In his report, nevertheless, Bebel went well beyond contingencies and approached the problem in broader terms, establishing

     'scientific' criteria for the understanding of Jewish history: 'When a race is persecuted and forced to live in segregation for several generations, when it is separated from its environment, then it is more than natural, on the basis of the hypotheses of Darwin on heredity and the different forms of adaptation, that the original characteristics of this same race will accentuate and develop with time. The persecutions have left an indelible mark on the Jews contributing to the forging of this people that we know today'.16 Bebel compared the Jews to the Gypsies (causing some hilarity among the congress delegates) and showed an authentic respect for these two persecuted peoples (the persecutions they had suffered, he pointed out, being much worse than anything that had happened as a result of Bismarck's anti-socialist laws). Borrowing his arguments from positivistic evolutionism, Bebel defined the Jews as a race, even if this characterisation was not charged with a negative connotation, and their survival was explained in the light of a socioeconomic determinism conceived as a natural – almost biological – law of heredity. Bebel was a talented propagandist, not a theorist, but his analysis reflected perfectly the culture of German social democracy at the end of the nineteenth century.17

     Anti-Semitism, Bebel argued, was particularly widespread among the small peasants, the shopkeepers, and civil servants, especially after the financial crash of 1873–4. But in Germany it was also widespread among students who, because of 'intellectual overproduction', came into conflict with the Jewish youth that had 'invaded' the Prussian universities. Bebel defined anti-Semitism as a reactionary anti-capitalist movement, 'seeking to hinder the natural evolution of society', which it was necessary to fight in the name of 'progress'. It was a movement without a future but – that was his astonishing conclusion –

     it could favour the rise of social democracy. Once a certain degree of development was reached, anti-Semitism would 'necessarily, and against its own will, transform itself into a revolutionary movement, working thus for our interests, the interests of the Social Democratic party'.18 History was advancing toward progress, and anti-Semitism could not obstruct the rise of social democracy. 

....In an article written in 1903, after the Kishinev pogrom, Kautsky distinguished between Russian and Western anti-Semitism: the aim of the former was to preserve Absolutism from modernisation, whereas the latter was a reaction against accomplished modernity. Thus hatred of the Jews took on a much sharper and more violent character in Russia, because it was directly carried out by the regime, which used the Jews 'as a lightning conductor during the storms that gather over the autocracy'.24 Only the workers' movement, by bringing together Jews and non-Jews in a common struggle, could fight this obscurantist reaction. 

     The argument put forward by Otto Bauer was similar: in the West, where the Jews were often part of the bourgeois class, anti-Semitism was the 'first naïve form of anti-capitalism' ( der erste naïve Ausdruck des Antikapitalismus); in the East, where a Jewish proletariat existed, anti-Semitism was harmful because it took on a nationalist connotation and divided the workers by engender-ing a form of nationalism, including among the Jewish workers. Thus, Russian socialism had to fight against this reactionary ideology while rejecting 'Jewish nationalism', which led to the separation of the Jewish workers from 'their Slavic brothers'.25 The concept of 'Jewish nationalism' is vague here, but, as we will see later, it referred, far beyond Zionism, to any idea of a Jewish cultural autonomy....

....Rosa Luxemburg did not interpret Anti-Semitism as an expression of social backwardness, but rather as one of the aspects of the ripeness of capitalism in a country where 'bourgeois society is declining not too slowly but too rapidly'

....All of them interpreted anti-Semitism as a form of social backwardness that was doomed to disappear with economic development. It extolled a romantic and reactionary ideology, but its roots were economic, brought about by the fear of Jewish competition. 

     In fact, the positivistic clichés of the Marxism of the Second International excluded the possibility of a modern anti-Semitism. 'The current anti-Semitism', Kautsky wrote in 1890, 'is an ephemeral and narrow [ ephemere und bor-nierte] movement, locally and temporally limited'.31 In his eyes, anti-Semitic ideology was medieval, retrograde, and reactionary, and he neglected or misunderstood the consequences of the transition from religious anti-Judaism to racial anti-Semitism: the first sought the conversion of the Jews; the second was directly opposed to Emancipation. He persisted in considering as an archaic prejudice a movement and an ideology that were the product of modernity. 


....orthodox Marxists criticised Zionism for three main reasons. First of all, it was a chimerical project, insofar as Palestine did not possess the objective conditions for the construction of a modern state and was inhospitable to the point of rendering vain any project of Jewish mass immigration. Second, it represented a historically anachronistic idea because it obstructed the dominant tendency to assimilation and wished to revive a Jewish nation that had disappeared at the end of the Middle Age. 

     Finally, it was a reactionary form of Jewish nationalism, the reflected image of anti-Semitism. At least up until the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the German and Austrian Marxists considered Zionism as a nationalist current animated by a narrow intellectual elite, supported by some philanthropists from the big Jewish bourgeoisie, but deprived of a mass base and, above all, without a future. 


....To Russian Marxists, the debate between the Bund and socialist Zionism always appeared either useless or incomprehensible. For them, the Jewish Question was not a National Question. Obsessed by the idea that Russia, semi-feudal and semi-Asiatic, had to make up the gap that it had accumulated with the West, they saw both anti-Semitism and Jewish culture as nothing but a legacy of tsarist backwardness. Strangers to both Yiddish language and culture, they identified progress and modernity with assimilation.

....Lenin never paid attention to the existence of a modern and secular Jewish national culture. He identified Jewish culture with either Zionism or religion, and perceived it exclusively as the heritage of a medieval superstition conserved by the rabbis. Isolated and persecuted, the Eastern Jews formed a caste, whereas in Western Europe they had joined the 'civilised world' through Emancipation. Thus, the assimilation of nations was an objective historical tendency brought about by capitalism: could the Jews remain attached to their cultural-ethnic particularism when capitalism, the universal melting pot, ceaselessly broke down national frontiers? Lenin argued in the name of progress, invariably identified with the West, and claimed that only the 'petty bourgeois reactionary Jews' could be opposed to assimilation. 'No one liberated from nationalist prejudices', he continued, 'can fail to perceive that this process of assimilation of nations by capitalism means the greatest historical progress, the breakdown of hidebound national conservatism in the various backwoods, especially in backward countries like Russia'.

....leader always condemned anti-Semitism as one of the most odious aspects of the backwardness and barbarism of Tsarist Russia. It certainly had very deep roots in Russian society, but its nature and its manifestations stemmed above all from Absolutism. In 1906, Lenin stigmatised those responsible for the Bialystok pogrom:

     The old familiar picture! The police organize the pogrom beforehand. The police instigate it: leaflets are printed in government printing offices calling for a massacre of the Jews. When the pogrom begins, the police are inactive. The troops quietly look on at the exploits of the Black Hundreds. 

     But later this very police go through the farce of prosecution and trial of the pogromists. 

[Trotsky] did not even accept the thesis of the spontaneous and popular character of Russian anti-Semitism because, in his opinion, unless incited and supported by the regime, the pogroms would never have taken place. Moreover, one could mention that during the 1930s, the exiled Russian revolutionary evoked the Dreyfus and Beilis affairs as historical precedents for the Moscow trials.

....Differently than Kautsky and Stalin, Trotsky defended a fundamentally cultural-historical conception of the nation. He distinguished between nations, made of multiple and variable elements like territory, language, culture, and history of a people, and nation-states, the specific form, historically determined and transitional, that the bourgeoisie and capitalism gave to the national phenomenon. 

[Rosa Luxemburg] ....wrote that 'Jewish national autonomy, not in the sense of freedom of school, religion, place of residence, and equal civic rights, but in the sense of the political self-government of the Jewish population with its own legislation and administration, as it was parallel to the autonomy of the Congress Kingdom, is an entirely utopian idea'.55 The Jews were not a territorially homogeneous population, and autonomy could not be realised 'in the air … without any definite territory'.56 At the economic level, the Jews were inserted in the productive structure of the Tsarist Empire and had no particular 'capitalist interests': the development of capitalism would not lead to the

     'separation of Jewish bourgeois culture, but acts in an exactly opposed direction, leading to the assimilation of the Jewish bourgeois, urban intelligentsia, to their absorption by the Polish and Russian people'.

...., she rejected the demand for Polish independence because of the integration of the Polish bourgeoisie into the Russian economy, but this did not prevent her from opposing attempts at Russification and defending the development of Polish culture. In the Jewish case, on the other hand, she thought that the assimilation of a bourgeois economic elite was an insuperable obstacle to the flourishing of a national Jewish culture. Her definition of the Yiddishkeit  as 'plebeian lack of culture' was an a priori rather than the result of careful argumentation. 

"Nations and semi-nations announce themselves everywhere and affirm their right to establish states. Putrefied corpses come out of hundred year old tombs, animated by a new springlike vigor, and peoples 'without history', who have never constituted autonomous state identities feel the violent need to set themselves up as states. Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Lithuanians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, the new nations in the Caucasus … The Zionists are already building their Palestinian ghetto, for the moment in Philadelphia … it is currently Walpurgisnacht  on the nationalist Brocken."

....Unlike the Austrian, German, or Russian Marxists, who generally interpreted Polish anti-Semitism as a medieval legacy, Rosa Luxemburg saw it also as a bourgeois political manifestation, the product of class antagonisms within a modern capitalist society. She considered anti-Semitism as a phenomenon  both modern and archaic, the product of the particular combination of anti-worker bourgeois reaction and an 'age-old' oppression of nationalities by Russian Absolutism. In the Junius Pamphlet, her internationalist manifesto written during the First World War, she saw anti-Semitism as a symbol of the barbarism which capitalism, in the absence of a socialist revolution, was bringing to humanity. She described the wave of nationalism that had swept Europe at the beginning of the conflict through the allegory of a pogrom: The atmosphere of ritual murder, the Kishinev air where the crossing guard is the only remaining representative of human dignity … Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it [in reality]. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law – but the ravening beast, the witches' sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form....