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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 5, 3 March 2004

In this Issue:


Red Alert

The struggle against anti-Semitism cannot be waged separately from achieving a resolution of the Palestinian question and fighting all forms of racism and xenophobia

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Two weeks ago we attended the 35th Congress of the Swedish Left Party. It was, on all accounts, a very successful Congress. It had a large number of fraternal left and communist parties from many parts of the world, it adopted a new programme, and elected Cde Lars Ohly as its national chairperson. We congratulate Cde Ohly and his new Party Board. The SACP remains firmly committed to the promotion of solidarity among communist, worker and other left parties, for a socialist alternative to the dominance of imperialism and its neo-liberal market ideology.

At the same time there was an important summit being held in Europe. This was a conference on fighting anti-Semitism in Europe, convened by the European Commission. As a South African one cannot but be supportive of measures aimed at combating anti-Semitism. Our own struggles against apartheid taught us the importance of fighting all forms of discrimination.

Integral to our liberation struggle was the rejection of any attempt to ascribe particular forms of behaviour to groups of people simply on the basis of skin colour, culture or creed. As it happens, the South African revolution has benefited immensely from the sacrifices, dedication and vision of many ANC, SACP and trade union cadres of Jewish origin. The shining example of these South African comrades of Jewish origin makes the claims of the current Israeli government all the more repugnant. It seeks to justify its policies of occupation, land dispossession and genocide towards the Palestinian people as the defence of the aspirations and interests of Jewish people. This is a terrible blow to the legitimate struggle to combat anti-Semitism, racism and all other forms of xenophobia.

It was against this background that the European Summit to combat anti-Semitism had a number of disturbing features. Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission convening the summit, skirted over some of the critical issues. In a Financial Times article he writes: “The conflict in the Middle East can also feed a form of anti-Semitism. In Europe, this conflict may fuel the social frustrations of new minorities established through immigration in many EU member countries. Such frustrations imported into Europe do sometimes translate into anti-Semitic acts, and they need to be dealt with severely” (February 19). I find this statement disturbing. It is as if the Middle East question is separate from the broader struggles to combat anti-Semitism and all other forms of xenophobia. It reduces the Middle East question in Europe to “social frustrations of new minorities”, “imported into” (an otherwise racism-free Europe?) from the outside.

Indeed, no one should seek to evoke the Middle East crisis to justify anti-Semitism. But it is crass not to understand that the resolution of the Palestinian question in particular is an integral component of any action to combat anti-Semitism. Furthermore, current Middle East problems and the Palestinian question in particular, are not imported into Europe, but originate in Europe and are a direct offshoot of European colonialism. The remarks of the president of the European Commission underline the one-sidedness with which the Middle East reality is approached by many. His remarks also explain the insensitive boycott by the European Union of The Hague Court hearings on the Israeli apartheid wall.

Even more disturbing was the approach to this summit of Edgar Bronfman and Cobi Benatoff, presidents of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress. They write (in the same issue of the Financial Times): “Political expediency cannot be a substitute for moral rectitude. European leaders cannot allow criticism of Israel to serve as a figleaf that covers anti-Semitic rhetoric as a prelude to violence”.

But precisely the opposite is the case! It is views like these (very evident amongst apologists for the Sharon government in our own country) that use the accusation of “anti-Semitism” as a fig-leaf to justify their support for state violence against the Palestinians. This is familiar to many of us, evoking the refrain of South Africa’s apartheid regime that supporting the anti-apartheid struggle was furthering the global aims of the Soviet Union and communism.

It is absolutely important, particularly in the Europe, given its history of the holocaust, to intensify the struggle against anti-Semitism. However, this cannot and should not be done in isolation from intensifying measures to resolve the Palestinian question and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. In addition anti-Semitism must be combated as part of an overall struggle against racism and all other forms of xenophobia. Racism is very rife in Europe, and most of it is not anti-Semitic. Prejudice against immigrant minorities - whom the President of the European Commission simply talks about in passing, presenting them as the outsiders who are importing the problem into Europe – is very widespread.

As we write, the right wing government in the Netherlands is embarking on a huge offensive against the immigrant population of that country. A number of right-wing political parties in Europe are making political gains in elections on racist platforms directed against immigrant populations. The European Commission would have done better to have addressed anti-Semitism in this broader context of racism in various guises.

The Swedish Left Party 35th Congress committed itself to fighting all forms of discrimination, both in Sweden and Europe. In the SACP we are certainly strongly committed to working with left, communist and progressive parties and formations around the world to address the new challenges posed by old and new forms of racial and ethnic chauvinism. We believe that resurgence of old and new forms of racism is very much connected to rampant, profit-seeking imperialist accumulation. Global neo-liberal development continues to be characterized by breath-taking changes and systemic underdevelopment. Large sectors of the working class, in the North and South, are suddenly retrenched, or casualised. With ageing populations and declining birth-rates in the North, there are huge flows of immigrants from the impoverished South. But, while right-wing, neo-liberal governments have removed capital market “barriers”, much less has been done to “liberalise” the labour market. But still millions of poor workers (and skilled professionals) from the South are migrating North. Some 1,3 million immigrants settle in the US annually, an estimated one-third of them illegally. In this topsy-turvy world, remittances from immigrant workers in the North to their home countries now dwarf the official development assistance that poor countries receive. In some countries of the South, remittances account for up to 15 percent of GDP.

These are some of the objective realities that underpin social tensions and emergent forms of racism and xenophobia (taking root, of course, in old colonial prejudices) in many parts of the developed world.

The left and progressive forces need to intensify struggles against racism, anti-semitism and other forms of xenophobia as critical components of the struggle against the depredations of capitalism and imperialism. To this end the following perspectives and tasks needs to be take up:

  • Explicitly highlighting and linking capitalism, imperialism and neo-liberalism to the reproduction of class, racial, gender oppression and discrimination, anti-semitism and other forms of xenophobia.
  • Consciously inserting the above struggles into the current anti-capitalist national and global struggles
  • The European progressive and left forces need to counter fragmented approaches that isolate and elevate certain forms of discrimination over others
  • Consider convening platforms, seminars on the struggle against racism, anti-semitism and all other forms of xenophobia as a manifestation of the same underlying problems and contradictions

Most critically we call upon all left forces globally to intensify solidarity activities with the Palestinian people and their just struggle, and to pressures particularly Europoean governments and the US to facilitate a just solution to the Palestinian and other Middle East problems. It is only through all these that anti-semitism, racism and all other forms of xenophobia will be defeated!

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