The Left

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

There’s an article you should read over at the Socialist Unity blog, which considers Atzmon, his “Jewish Power” theories, his association with the Socialist Workers’ Party, and his vicious attacks on lefty jews he identifies as key players in the Jewish Power nexus.

The central point of Andy’s article is that both Atzmon and the Socialist Workers’ Party are only supportive of the “revolutionary nationalism of the oppressed”, and see all other manifestations of cultural identity, not as something which is potentially neutral and benign, but rather as a form of “imperialist nationalism”.

Andy concludes:

It seems to be no coincidence that the SWP do not grasp how objectionable Atzmon is, because his attitude to Jewish assimilation is a reductio ad absurdum of their own understanding of national identity.

I think Andy misunderstands where Atzmon stands. Atzmon does not regard himself as a socialist. Further, when Atzmon and I met, he explained to me the theoretical basis of his opposition to a jewish cultural identity:

He and I talked about the distinction he draws between those cultures which are grounded in the “soil”, and which are “authentic”, with those which are not. Hence, muslim, arab and Palestinian cultures pass the authenticity test, while “jewishness” is not, and is accordingly pernicious. There is something of “blood and soil” theorising about Atzmon’s worldview: minus the “blood”, that is. Redemption, for Atzmon, is possible for jews who abandon “jewishness”.

There is a superficial similarity between the SWP’s take on cultural identity and that espoused by Atzmon. However, Atzmon’s views come from a very different philosophical tradition indeed.

The point is argued out extensively and intelligently in the comments to the piece, between Atzmon (posting as “Yocheved” and talking about himself in the third person), Mark Elf, Roland Rance, Gilad Atzmon, Paul Eisen, David Rosenberg, Mary Rizzo, Tony Greenstein, Stephen Marks and Michael Rosen.

There are nearly enough jews present for a “minyan“.

But, instead, we get the Itchy and Scratchy Show.