UNION CITY, N.J. — “The Socialist Workers Party and its candidates join working-class struggles against attacks by bosses and their parties, and present a course to lead workers to take power into our own hands,” Joanne Kuniansky, the SWP’s candidate for U.S. Congress, told a Militant Labor Forum here Feb. 5.
“That is the only way to stop the brutalities of capital, and the catastrophes for humanity that will unfold. As part of that we must combat Jew-hatred wherever it raises its head.”
“The increasing attacks against Jews today are not one-off events,” she said. “They reflect the crisis of capitalism. Jew-hatred is an integral part of the imperialist epoch. This includes antisemitic demagogy of a growing number of bourgeois liberals in the Democratic Party and the middle-class left.”
Kuniansky pointed to Whoopi Goldberg’s comments on the TV show “The View” Jan. 31. Goldberg said the Holocaust was “not about race,” adding it just involved “two white groups of people.”
On the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” she stood by her remarks. But when ABC suspended her for two weeks, Goldberg issued an apology.
“But Goldberg’s ‘facts’ fly in the face of reality,” Kuniansky said. “In 1935 the Nuremberg race laws declared Jews, Romas and blacks enemies of the race-based state and stripped them of German citizenship. These laws prohibited mixing with these ‘subhuman races.’ Under Nazi rule 6 million Jews of all ages were exterminated.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti Defamation League’s chief executive, also blasted Goldberg for this reason, Kuniansky said.
But the ADL had changed its own definition of racism in 2020. It branded all Caucasians regardless of class or conviction as “privileged.” It says racism is “based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.” But after Goldberg’s remarks the ADL is backtracking. It has replaced this “woke” definition with a statement that says racism is a “more favorable evaluation or treatment of an individual or group based on race or ethnicity.” Greenblatt went on “The View” to help Goldberg with damage control.
“Greenblatt and Goldberg share the same liberal bourgeois politics,” Kuniansky said. “Neither believes fascism will raise its head in the U.S., let alone do they have a course for fighting it.”
She urged participants to read the recently published new edition of The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation by Abram Leon. “It explains that at times of sharp capitalist dislocation, insecure layers of the middle classes — facing loss of income, jobs, homes, farms, small businesses — look for someone to blame. They fear the abyss and being thrown down among the deplorables. Big business makes use of antisemitism of the petty-bourgeois masses to deflect blame for their crisis onto Jews.”
“You have to be transparent about what’s at stake,” Kuniansky said. “At a New York protest in 2020, after the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the Kosher deli in Jersey City, the official banner called for a march against hate and fear. SWP campaigners carried placards that read, ‘It’s not hate, it’s Jew-hatred.’
Kuniansky described several antisemitic attacks this year, including the hostage taking at Temple Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. “The FBI in Dallas initially refused to call the Texas attack antisemitic. State officials did the same thing after the deadly attack on the New Jersey Kosher deli. Bourgeois Jewish organizations today turn to the FBI or other police agencies for protection against Jew-hating violence.”
“But the only real help can come from the working class and our unions,” Kuniansky said. She pointed to the example set by the leadership of the Teamsters union in the 1930s, after a wave of strikes and organizing drives made Minneapolis a union town. “Bosses invited the Silver Shirts, a fascist outfit, to start an organizing drive. The Silver Shirts immediately called for a vigilante attack on the union headquarters of Teamsters Local 544.”
“A local rabbi alerted the Teamsters to this threat,” she said. “He saw in the union a force that had the power to deal with the fascists. Teamsters Local 544 then initiated a union defense guard to protect union picket lines, its headquarters and members against anti-labor violence.” When the guard mobilized to make clear the fascists weren’t going to operate without a serious fight, the Silver Shirts left town.
Kuniansky also took up a recent report by Amnesty International called “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.” The report says Israel has always been, “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis.”
The report erases what apartheid was, as well as the revolutionary democratic struggle carried out to end it and form a South African nation for all who live there, black and white.
“Establishment of the state of Israel was made inevitable with the Holocaust,” Kuniansky said, “and by the refusal by the rulers in Washington and elsewhere to open their borders to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution before and during the second imperialist world war.” If the possibility of successful socialist revolutions in France, Spain and elsewhere in the 1930s hadn’t been betrayed by Stalinism, the march to war and the Nazi’s “final solution” could have been prevented.
“The necessity of the state of Israel as a refuge was settled by the gruesome history of capitalism and Jew-hatred in the 20th century. The SWP calls for the unconditional recognition of the state of Israel as a refuge for Jews.”
The Palestinian people are nationally oppressed, Kuniansky said, not only by Israel’s capitalist government but also by the rulers of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza, as well as by rival imperialist powers. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority hinder the work of educating and organizing the Palestinian masses in a revolutionary spirit.
“We are not friends of the state of Israel,” Kuniansky said. “And the SWP unequivocally condemns rightist thugs who attack Palestinians. But any serious effort to win Jewish workers in Israel to back Palestinian rights will remain a pipe dream without revolutionary organizations that stand for the unconditional recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Most Jews in Israel would rather live in peace with their Arab neighbors. But the rain of rockets from Hamas throws them into the arms of the Israeli government.”
A lively discussion followed Kuniansky’s presentation.
“The real discussion the working-class needs is hurt by accepting prerogatives of the state and institutions to censor people and demands for public self-censorship,” SWP leader Dave Prince said in remarks during the discussion. “But Goldberg’s comments are what she thinks. She’s part of a petty-bourgeois layer that advances reactionary and backward views. She’s not misguided. Take people for what they say, and answer them on that.”
“The biggest illusion is not that antisemitism will disappear. It won’t. It is that bourgeois democracy, the major capitalist parties, or any party seeking to reform capitalism can or will prevent coming assaults by rightist forces, or defend you,” Prince said.
The SWP and the SWP 2022 campaigns nationwide will continue to speak out and join protests against Jew-hatred.