More notes on ultra-leftism and softcore negationism

13Jan10

At Contested Terrain: The French ultra-left and Holocaust negationism, noting my post on French Bordigist negationists:

AGT also notes some problematic texts written by [Gilles] Dauvé (including under the pseudonym Jean Barrot), such as “Fascism/Anti-Fascism” and “The perplexities of the Middle Eastern conflict” (the latter just added to the Libcom archive), as well as Amadeo Bordiga’s “Auschwitz ou le grand alibi” (“Auschwitz or the great alibi”, 1960), published by French ultra-leftists. These texts cannot be described, in Deborah Lipstadt’s terms, as “hardcore” Holocaust revisionism. However, they arguably do constitute a form of “softcore” denialism. Crucially, the “critique” of anti-fascism developed by Dauvé and Bordiga has been taken up by a number of small far right groups who fish in the murky waters of anti-authoritarian “anti-Zionism”, such as those around Pacifica Forum and Palestine Think Tank.

Some resources on Pacifica Forum: Wikipedia article. Recent news: Pacifica Forum Speaker Celebrates National Socialism, The Pacifica Forum is Full of Terrible People, Pacifica Forum draws campus protest. Polemics: More on Israel and Anti-Semitism. (Older material: Slack bastard, Adam Holland, Respectful Insolence.)

Pacifica Forum’s Jay Knott is regularly published by Mary Rizzo’s UK-based pro-Gilad Atzmon site, Palestine Thinktank, which is seen as antisemitic by many anti-Zionists, including  Tony Greenstein.

Jay Knott is also published by the website of the London-based former ultra-leftist group Wildcat, one of the groups to publish Jean Barrot‘s “Fascism/Anti-Fascism” in English, who seem to have gone the way of La Vielle Taupe. Against Sleep and Nightmare note:

For the last few years, as they, themselves admit, Wildcat has pursued a political trajectory which no longer relates to a communist position. For this reason, I have removed their texts from this server. I do not know if they have relocated to other parts of the web. If they send me a link, I may include it here.

However, they still link to their old page and its bizarre pro-militia, genocide denialist and anti-anti-fascist rants…

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Continuing to delve into this territory, I came across Palestine Mon Amour [pdf] by Alfredo M. Bonanno. I was already ill-disposed towards him for his insurrectionary brand of anarchism, which I see as voluntarist and nihilist. However, this text, published by Elephant Editions and distributed by AK, is especially dodgy.

Although it has some commendable, insightful and intelligent stuff in it, it is marked by antisemitic stereotype, e.g. “the Jewish lobby” (p.67), “The mental rigidity of the Jews, their vision of life based on religious righteousness that sees the rest of the world as impure or sinful, has often put such sympathies to the test” (p.6, “Even Jews themselves don’t consider themselves a race, but they do indeed believe that they are something separate. Try to say that Jews are the same as everybody else and you will see.” (p.54), “Hebraism, by comparison, has become a more and more spiritual and interiorised religion with a strong symbolic element that allows political groupings to flourish alongside it, stamping them with its surly fundamentalist totalitarianism.” (p.55.-6).

Well, that’s enough of that.

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Note: additional debate and materials here.



16 Responses to “More notes on ultra-leftism and softcore negationism”

  1. Thanks, anti-German, for putting me in the company of such brave individuals as Gilad Atzmon and Jean Barrot

    Thanks also for exposing the utterly craven attitude of most ultra-leftists – Against Sleep and Nightmare deleted the whole of Wildcat, though it contained nothing about Israel, just because I wrote some of the articles in it, long before I took any interest in the Lobby

    I wonder if you are one of those anti-Germans who celebrate the bombing of Dresden waving the Israeli flag – see the picture here – *http://pacificaforum.org/mass/psychology

    I hope not – guilt isn’t what the world needs more of

    Wildcat is now at *http://f.acetio.us/ where hopefully it will remain

    • Nothing brave about Gilad Atzmon or Jean Barrot. Barrot wasn’t brave enough to use his real name until years after he was politically active. Barrot has some good points, and Atzmon is a fine musician, but bravery is not among their qualities. It takes no bravery to promote bigotry and hatred, as Atzmon does.

      Good for Against Sleep and Nightmare for recognising you as the crypto-fascist you appear to have become, Jay, although they still do link to facetious.

      I am not actually an anti-German and don’t celebrate Dresden. But nor do I think, as you appear to, that Dresden was a worse crime than, or even morally equivalent to, the crimes of the Nazis.

    • And guilt? I do not want to promote German guilt for the sins of some of the fathers. But I do want an honest reckoning with the past, something that the negationism and minimalisation that you and your lot promote makes impossible.

  2. Thanks for keeping my comment taking the time to reply. Most left-wing critics don’t. However, you follow them in making unsubstantiated assertions. Here are the assertions followed by my answers:
    1. Gilad Atzmon promotes bigotry and hatred –
    A. Define these terms, and quote Atzmon promoting them
    2. I ‘appear to have become’ a crypto-fascist
    A. Again – define your term, and say what I have written or done that makes me one
    3. I ‘appear’ to think Dresden was a worse crime, or even morally equivalent to, the crimes of the Nazis
    A. Where do I ‘appear’ to think it was a worse crime? I certainly say it was morally equivalent to the crimes of the Nazis – it consisted of the mass murder of innocent civilians.
    I too want ‘an honest reckoning with the past’. That is what we have been denied, because obviously the victors write history. By ‘negationism and milimalisation’ I can only think you mean I underestimate the scale of the Holocaust. First, I have never estimated the scale of the Holocaust at all, except to say ‘millions’ of Jews and others died in the concentration camps. Second, I do defend the right to re-examine historical events to see if they may have been exaggerated. This is routinely done with all historical events bar one. And it does take some courage, I assure you. If you live in Germany or Austria, it is even harder.

  3. Sorry Jay but I am not going to indulge you in a debate about Atzmon or Dresden.

    Anyone who takes a look at Atzmon’s work and knows what antisemitism is doesn’t need to take any time to think about that. Just as one example, see here: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=1559

    Anyone who has any moral compas knows how to respond when placing the bombing of Dresden next to the gas chambers.

    The notion that the six million Jews and one million Roma and the other people slaughtered by the Nazis – ethnic Poles, Soviet POWs, Bosniaks, Serbs, disabled people, homosexuals, trade unionists, and on and on – were the “victors” is manifestly absurd. These people, as Primo Levi said the true witnesses, did not survive to write the history. But the eye witness accounts, the survivors’ accounts, the careful archival research, the painstaking statistical analysis, is there. The weight of evidence is enormous. Of course there are debates and disagreements, for instance over the “functionalist” and “intentionalist” interpretation, the question of how much the German population were “willing executioners”, the question of the uniqueness of the Shoah vis a vis other genocides, the question of exact numbers of victims. These debates are discussed openly and healthily within and far beyond academia, in Germany and Austria and elsewhere. There is no attempt to stifle these debates.

    I can think of no motivation for saying that these debates are stifled or for doubting this extraordinary weight of evidence – no motivation other than hatred of Jews.

  4. Socialist Unity’s statement about Gilad Atzmon is an outrageous lie. I suggest looking at his writings, not Zionist distortions of them. What do you mean, you can’t place Dresden next to the gas chambers? I guess you mean the numbers involved. But if you add Hiroshima, Hamburg, the Red Army’s crimes… yes, I believe you can compare them. Of course, I don’t mean the millions who died in concentration camps were the victors – I mean the Allies. But the two sides are not treated the same today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_bombing_during_World_War_II – the ‘strategic’ firebombing of civilians is called ‘controversial’!

    People been imprisoned debate the uniqueness of the Shoah and the number of victims in Germany and Austria! That’s my motive for saying debates have been stifled – the overwhelming evidence that they have, and support for freedom of speech, not ‘hatred of Jews’! Noam Chomsky has also objected to imprisoning revisionsts – is he an anti-Semite?! I wonder what makes you so anti-Nazi and not so anti- the Allies and I hope to continue this discussion…

  5. I don’t support the prosecution of Holocaust deniers. But, again, to dignify these deniers with the idea that they are “debating the uniqueness of the Shoah” is morally perverse, and again I can only think of one explanation. Chomsky is another issue; feel free to read what I have written about him elsewhere on this blog.

    I completely reject the notion that because the form (bombing) is the same the moral content is the same. While I see the Allies have having committed war crimes, the moral content of these war crimes is utterly different from the crime against humanity that is genocide.

    I have no plans to continue this discussion.

  6. 8 Multnomah Marxist

    The fact that JK now publishes the London Wildcat stuff on his site alongside his dubious more recent ramblings should not be used to tar that whole group which I think ran for. It is true there is some continuity between some of the later Wildcat stuff and the Pacifica Forum materials (e.g. stuff about the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh), but by that point JK/Rod was apparently one of only two people left in the group. People who knew him over in England say that he was (and obviously still is!) a pretty contrary guy who loathed most of the ex-Wildcat members – some of whom formed another group called Subversion based in Manchester. There’s some stuff about them here: http://www.cbg.110mb.com/obitwildcat.pdf_13.pdf – it seems as far as they were concerned Wildcat wound up in 1988, but then a couple of people in London must have decided to keep the name going for their magazine for a few years after. I should imagine that most former Wildcat members would be horrified to be associated in anyway with JK’s current views, just as what’s left of the ‘ultra left’ scene on the west coast have nothing to do with him now.

    As for Barrot/Dauve, I don’t think JK can really claim him either. Whatever happened in the 70s – and I believe the John Gray account you published to be accurate – he has been absolutely explicit in rejecting negationsim/revisionism ever since (see http://libcom.org/library/21-negationists) and he has also, unlike much of the left/ultraleft, explicitly acknowledged the role of antisemitism and critiqued the exceptionalist notion of Israel as some kind of unique monster (see http://libcom.org/library/8-jewish-question).

    Ironically, the kind of anti-zionism that JK is now pushing performs the very function that the ultra-left attributes to anti-fascism – getting proletarians in the Middle East and elsewhere to unite with their bosses against ‘the Zionist enemy’.

    Barrot’s oft quoted “The concentration camp is the hell of a world whose heaven is the supermarket” can certainly be construed as glib, but there is something in the view that fascism is not some ahistorical metaphysical evil but has some relation to capitalism. As everyone knows, Mercedes, BMW and many other German companies were heavily implicated with the Nazis, in this sense it is a material fact that the ‘heaven’ of capitalism (its luxury goods such as Mercedes cars) is directly related to the ‘hell’ of concentration camps.

    I am not a Barrot apologist, in fact I disagree with quite a lot of what he has written, but we do need to be able to distinguish the real enemy from phantoms.

  7. Thank you very much for this, which I find wholly persuasive with one minor exception (see below). I certainly would not want this one fringe figure to be used to tar the whole of Wildcat, whose texts (along with those of Subversion) had a profoud effect on my own youthful political development, nor the whole of the ultra-left. However, I feel it is incumbent upon us to understand what it is in our movement and our analysis that opens up a space for the likes of Rod/JK.

    Where I am not wholly convinced is in the “absolutely explicit” rejection of negationism from Dauve/Barrot. The “21. Negationists?” text from 2007, to my mind, remains too glib. This is not a crime; he is not the real enemy. But it exposes where I part company with the ultra-left: I cannot accept that the supermarket is a place of “horror” in his sense, and certainly not a form of “horror” that can be placed next to the camps in any way.

  8. 10 Multnomah Negationist

    I doubt if anyone really is “getting proletarians in the Middle East and elsewhere to unite with their bosses against ‘the Zionist enemy’”. Isn’t it ultra-leftism which tries to impose its narrative – telling Palestinians that their real enemy is capitalism, and that the Israel Lobby is functional for US imperialism, without attempting to test its views?

    Multnomah Marxist: “I feel it is incumbent upon us to understand what it is in our movement and our analysis that opens up a space for the likes of Rod/JK”. On the contrary, what is incumbent upon you is to understand how political correctness undermined your ‘movement’ and made you unable to answer complex arguments which you don’t agree with, and deal with problems which appear to contradict Marxism, like the power of Zionism in the USA. And stop being bitchy and use jargon words ending in ‘IST’. You should quote significant sections of the texts you want to criticise and explain why you think they are wrong, rather than rejecting them because they make you feel bad. Amadeo Bordiga must be turning in his grave.

  9. Yes Bordiga would be turning in his grave to see former Wildcat people thinking that the Palestinians’ real enemy is “Zionism” (whatever that is) and not capitalism.

    Anti-Zionism, it seems to me, is the worst political correctness of today.

  10. 12 modernityblog

    AntiG,

    Thanks for keeping this page, I hadn’t realised the switch from Class warrior stuff of Wildcat to the Far Right, David Irving loving of Jay Knott.

    You can still find their stuff via the Way Back machine.

    http://replay.web.archive.org/20030820004104/http://www.webcom.com/wildcat/SUBSPAGE.html

    What a change…eh?


  1. 1 Indymedia UK « Anti-National Translation
  2. 2 The Palestine Solidarity Campaign « Anti-National Translation
  3. 3 Ultra-Sinister | Anti-National Translation
  4. 4 Trop Loin on the Jewish Question | Anti-National Translation

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