Falsification of History and the Warsaw Ghetto

Imperialist conflict has a tendency to revive historical traumas. As the Israeli government and Hamas trade insults over who's the biggest "Nazi", internationalists need to be able to parse the propaganda. Reductio ad Hitlerum rarely, if ever, makes for a convincing argument. Quite often, it's a tool of political deception hiding behind a calculated appeal to emotions. In the piece we have translated here, our Italian comrades criticise how certain Stalinists have abused the historical analogy of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising(1) in the context of the "Arab-Israeli conflict".

We have seen something similar in the English-speaking world. Apart from the usual leftist personalities, who make a career out of provocation and deserve no mention here, a cursory look through the recent output of some Trotskyist and Stalinist groups brings up a number of examples. The Morning Star proclaims that the "closest parallel to the operation the Israelis threaten is the Nazi assault on the Warsaw Ghetto",(2) while for International Viewpoint "Gaza’s latest counter-offensive brings indeed to mind the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising".(3) The CPGB-ML thinks "Jews around the world should recall the daring and contempt for death of those of the Warsaw ghetto uprising against Nazism".(4) The "anti-fascism" of the capitalist left, which cannot conceive of opposing something without first declaring it "Nazi-like", is on full display here.

The very real atrocities being committed by the Israeli state are not exceptional. They are not the result of "settler-colonialism" (lately a fashionable concept in academia), nor because Zionism is the "new Nazism" (a trope promulgated by the far right itself). Israel is a "democracy" (as far as that means anything in modern day class society), a capitalist society (for which Palestinians have been a source of cheap labour-power) and the main outpost of US imperialism in the region (though, let's not forget, its foundation was at the time also supported by Stalin himself). Historically speaking, the process of state formation is a violent one, and many states have been founded on some form of ethnic cleansing. But the current clash owes much to the capitalist crisis, which narrows the field of play for the various actors and makes them ever more desperate. The massacres we are seeing today, whether in the "open-air prison" of Gaza, the "meat grinder" of Bakhmut or the "hidden siege" of Nagorno-Karabakh, are symptoms of the global drive to war, a taste of what's to come if the imperialist appetites of the contending ruling classes are not halted by the only social force capable of it – the global working class, united across all ethnic divides.

Communist Workers’ Organisation
21 October 2023

Notes to the Introduction:

(1) For our comment on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, see: leftcom.org

(2) morningstaronline.co.uk

(3) internationalviewpoint.org

(4) thecommunists.org

How to Falsify History: Stalinism’s Fake Analogies

Stalinism never disappoints, it neither changes its spots nor its taste for mystification. From the very start its systematic lies and distortion of facts were indispensable in first assassinating the characters, and then the lives, of communist opponents, both inside and outside the USSR.

Loyalty to that infamous method has emerged once again in a historical analogy that appeared on the Sinistrainrete website by the editors of Contropiano.(5) In that article it is argued – shamelessly, of course – that the historical precedent that most closely resembles the Hamas attack of 7 October is the uprising of the Warsaw ghetto, which took place between April and May 1943.

What’s the basis for Contropiano making this bold, i.e. totally fake, comparison? According to the Stalinists,

in Gaza as in Warsaw the choice to be made was limited to only two alternatives, both equally deadly. Either to accept being exterminated bit by bit, between bombardment and lack of food, water, or a future, or to throw everything you had into the battle and leave a warning – and an example – for the rest of the world. Between accepting to disappear almost silently or making the besieging party pay a price, the second option was chosen.

Let us leave aside the objectives pursued by Hamas in its military action at the beginning of October and the context in which it came about – for this, we refer readers to the ICT statement(6) – to point out a few things that may just appear historiographical, but which in reality have political value.

The Palestinian population, particularly those massed in the Gaza Strip, has been forced to survive in inhuman conditions(7), for at least seventy-five years, suffering oppression, brutality and violence of all kinds from the Israeli bourgeoisie, i.e. its state. However, if words have any meaning, it is not destined for extermination, if only because it constitutes, in its overwhelming majority, an 'inexhaustible' reserve of labour power to be exploited at very low cost by capital on the other side of the fence. This is not to minimise the suffering of the Palestinian population, starting with its huge proletariat, but to accurately put things in focus. In fact, in Gaza there is no ‘final solution to the Palestinian problem’, except from a political point of view(8), unlike the ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ (Endlösung der Judenfrage) planned and implemented by Nazism, which, as we know, aimed at genocide, the extermination of all the Jews of Europe.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was really a heroic act of desperation, after nine-tenths of the people imprisoned there had been eliminated through hardship, or in the gas chambers of Treblinka: in April 1943, the deportation to this death camp of the last fifty thousand people still alive – the majority of whom worked as slaves in the German-owned factories located within the ghetto – was about to begin via the liquidation of the so-called Jewish quarter. But the Jewish Combat Organisation (ŻOB), an organisation that brought together almost all the anti-Nazi parties – the Jewish Labour Bund, the left-wing Zionists in Poale Zion, and the Stalinists of the Polish Workers' Party – did not have a single state behind it that financed and armed it in order to promote its own imperialist interests in the area (as Iran or Qatar do today with Hamas), even though it had the formal support of the Allies, who did not lift a finger to support the uprising. Even the Polish resistance, apart from handing over a few weapons, did not support the uprising, not even with a ‘demonstrative’ general strike, as the insurgents (men and women) had repeatedly demanded. They were really alone, desperately alone, so much so that the Bund representative to the Polish government-in-exile, Szmul Zygielbojm, took his own life in protest at the total inertia of the national and international forces fighting Nazi imperialism: for the forces of 'anti-Nazi' imperialism, who were aware, of the genocide taking place down to the last detail, solidarity with European Jews was just a propaganda item. The same must be said, of course, for the Vatican, which must have been aware well before the Allies, of the systematic massacres being carried out by the Nazis in Eastern Europe.

Second, but just as importantly, the insurgents of the ghetto did not shoot unarmed people. They did not kill civilians just because they were citizens of the oppressor state: sure, they were forced to shoot at German proletarians in uniform (Wehrmacht units took part in the liquidation, not just SS units), but this is the horrible logic of the wars waged by the ruling classes (today the bourgeoisie) of every age, who force the exploited to kill and be killed by other exploited people to defend the class interests of the rulers. Indeed, it was precisely because of the failed attempt to prevent or at least slow down the extermination, that the armed response to the genocide was relatively late and limited. That is if we exclude the Jewish partisan brigades who were mostly integrated into the Soviet army. A fact that did not prevent Stalin from later unleashing his anti-Semitic campaign after the war.

Hamas, on the other hand, knew full well that the bloody incursion into Israeli territory, mainly against unarmed civilians, would unleash massive destruction and even bloodier massacres than that of 7 October, at the expense, above all, of the Palestinian civilian population. But nothing else can be expected from a reactionary, obscurantist, fiercely anti-communist and anti-working class organisation, like Hamas. The systematic, extremely harsh repression of every proletarian protest demonstration against the cost of living(9) and the scarcity of everything needed for a barely adequate standard of living, confirm, if proof were needed, that Hamas is as much an irreconcilable enemy of the proletariat as the state of Israel, as were the Allies and Nazis in their time. In short, whilst we are debunking far-fetched and false analogies, we are not aware that the ghetto insurgents ever repressed strikes...

We willingly leave it to others, to the Stalinists, to the radical-reformist left, in short, to the heirs of classical social democracy and the degenerate Third International, to raise Hamas as the champion of 'oppressed peoples' or of ‘a multilateralism without emperors'(10), i.e. of an imperialist project antagonistic to that of the current strongest imperialist powers the United States and its allies-vassals.

Battaglia Comunista
20 October 2023


(5) sinistrainrete.info

(6) leftcom.org

(7) To quote just a few figures, almost 82% live below the poverty line, 63.2% suffer 'food shortages' and so on...

(8) Which, however, implies heavy human costs: as we are now seeing.

(9) From just a few months ago: apnews.com

(10) Contropiano, ibid.

Saturday, October 21, 2023


Historically speaking, the process of state formation is a violent one

If we take England itself, in an 1904 article on class struggle Max Nordau wrote:

When, however, with Henry VIII the tumultuous feudal-era came to an end and the landowners obliged to hold peace, the peasant-friendly policy of the medieval gentry suddenly stopped too. The yeomen or tenants, who already for centuries felt as owners of the by them worked land, were brutally chased off their plots, and the descendants of the archers and the invincible infantry of Crécy and Poitiers became homeless vagrants, and the farmland transformed into livestock pastures, as the price of sheep wool stood high then and sheep farming became a good speculation.

Nordau was the key mentor of Zionist leaders (even more central than Herzl). For those interested, I translated a lot of passages of Nordau's works, and I think my research brought up some lesser-known factoids on Zionism: academia.edu