The PTS voted for Zionism, but readers of Left Voice's July 5th article wouldn't know it. The FT's 'online project' in the US has deliberately covered up their own role voting for a reactionary definition of anti-semitism. To protect the prestige of their Argentinian party they have shown themselves willing to disguise a fundamental betrayal of revolutionary internationalism.
The Argentinian left erupted in outrage and debate in the last few weeks as it discovered that legislators for the PTS (Trotskyist Fraction, Left Voice) and the PO (Workers Party - Official) voted in favor of a reactionary definition of anti-semitism promoted by the Israeli government's most expansionist wing.
The resolution characterized any criticism of Israeli government policy as anti-semitic. While the autonomist party of Luis Zamora (AyL) recognized the resolution for what it was and voted against it, the deputies of the PTS and PO in Buenos Aires voted for the resolution.
This vote comes in the context of a major drive by the Israeli government to complete the annexation of the West Bank and ramp up its campaign of murderous repression against the Palestinian people. Last Friday Israeli occupation forces yet again gunned down Palestinian protesters with live ammunition. It is incumbent on the international working class to speak out against these atrocities, and the legislation voted on by the PTS is designed to prevent exactly that.
After considerable controversy and criticism from wide sections of the Argentine left, including the other parties which compose their electoral coalition (IS, Left Socialists & MST, Socialist Workers Movement), the PTS and PO deputies issued a joint statement repudiating their vote in favor of the bill and declaring their intent to express their opposition after the vote.
Their explanation for the vote in favor was the following:
“It was voted on as part of a group of bills without debate, together with almost 100 bills across diverse subjects ranging from the request to authorize dog-walkers to work under the quarantine and the change of a school’s name. It was a general vote as part of a block, where the subjects were not analyzed one by one. The list of these subjects was delivered late at night Wednesday to be voted on Thursday morning, preventing serious study of each subject. This was an absolutely undemocratic method which prevented any kind of deliberation or debate.”
The explanation does not attempt a serious balance of what went wrong. If the bills were all presented with “an absolutely undemocratic method” it would have been the right and duty of any revolutionary parliamentarian to vote them down for being presented in such a way.
The record of the legislative session itself is publicly available here and makes clear that while the bills were taken on without debate or discussion, they were all voted on separately. There was ample chance for a no vote.
The biggest proof of this is that the autonomist party AyL (Self-Determination and Liberty) did vote against the bill and also came out with a statement the day of the vote (June 18th) in which, as well as condemning the undemocratic measures, they highlighted that the FIT had voted in favor:
“Today we voted alone against a law in the legislature which adopted the definition of Antisemitism approved by the IHRA. A project put forward by the Frente de Todos and the UCR Evolucion and voted by ALL blocks, including that of the FIT, except for Autodetermination and Liberty (AyL)
This project is part of a political effort by the State of Israel to try to silence the millions who denounce them in the world for their crimes against the Palestinian people by slandering them as anti-semites. It has nothing to do with repudiating the holocaust and discrimination for religious beliefs.
As if this wasn’t enough, by bureaucratic mechanisms, we were prevented from declaring our verbal opposition to the bill through the course of the legislative session, a completely undemocratic action by the state.”
The deputies of the PTS and PO not only voted in favor of the bill, but apparently did not investigate why AyL had voted against it or to review the bills they had voted for after the fact. It was only nine days after the vote, on the 27th, when their partners in the IS (Izqueirda Socialista, part of the electoral coalition) raised the issue in a public article that it became a problem which they felt they had to respond to. On the 28th the PTS and PO deputies issued their joint statement quoted above which retracted the previous vote in favor of the resolution.
This retraction was not enough to quiet critics across the left, and the PTS in particular came out with another article on the 29th taking on their opponents who accused them of capitulating to Zionism. Accusing these opponents of being “vultures”, they pointed to their extensive record of opposing Israel and Zionism as shielding them from any accusation of having pandered to zionism.
“Whoever insists on a campaign to discredit our deputies and the FIT, faces a “small” problem: the PTS as well as all the parties that compose the FIT have always been with the Palestinian cause and against the crimes of the state of Israel.”
A poor excuse, as the large previous history of formally opposing war certainly did nothing to guarantee that the various Social Democratic Parties of the First International did not collapse before the crucial test of their principles in the first World War. However it is fair to say that the capitulation of the PTS and PO deputies in this case did not have so much to do with a major line change in favor of zionism; it is rather a result of their adaptation to the parliamentary regime.
They also restated in this new article their formal explanation for the vote:
“We explained that this happened in the context of a session where it was treated alongside a number of laws without debate which were received the night before. In this case the comrades committed the error of not spotting the maneuver hidden in the declaration.”
They than go on to quote Lenin:
“A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.” (Original: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch07.htm)
A fantastic quote by Lenin, the meaning and requirements of which they managed to completely ignore. The extent of their “ ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it” is limited to saying they received the bills late at night and had to vote for them rapidly in a block. However why did the PTS and PO deputies vote for bills they did not understand in an institution like parliament which is controlled by the bosses representatives? Voting in favor of a project presented by two bourgeois parties? The equivalent would be for a union leadership to vote in favor of a contract that it has neither studied nor understands; a serious class betrayal by any standards. They have produced no critical analysis of how their deputies, both some of the most prominent figures of the party, came to vote in favor of a reactionary project.
Acknowledging the mistake is only part of it, and the superficial character of the PTS/PO "explanation" is, following the logic of Lenin here, a demonstration of the superficiality of their party and their approach towards “its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.” Their balance leaves completely untouched the question of why they are voting for bills they don’t understand, which are presented undemocratically, and done so by our class enemy. They carefully evade the key question around the adaptation of their politics and of their parliamentary representatives to the institutions of the capitalist state. Late notice and a stack of bills is easily countered by a firm vote of no.
Argentinian Corrections, International Obfuscations
Their correction has provoked attacks from pro-zionist organizations which, whatever criticisms we hold of how the PTS and PO came to vote for the resolution, represent undemocratic attacks against which the deputies ability to retract their vote should be defended. The Argentinian Zionist Organization has announced plans to initiate legal actions against the deputies; something which constitutes an anti-democratic campaign against which they should be defended by all the left.
The attack has led them to bring the case to international attention through their global media network, which includes La Izquierda Diario and in English is represented by Left Voice. Left Voice ceaselessly promotes the PTS in the FIT as a revolutionary example of political intervention which should be modeled by the left around the world.
Here however, anyone who has been following the debate in Argentina will be surprised to find that political betrayal which provoked the whole crisis is being actively and purposely written out of the coverage of the defense campaign.
Nathaniel Flakin, a member of Left Voice's editorial board, has written an article which was published on June 30th in Spanish for La Izqueirda Diario, and July 5th in English for Left Voice. The author also almost certainly oversaw the article's translation; or rather its tranformation.
The article in Spanish, obviously intended to be read by an audience which will be at least somewhat familiar with the controversy around the PTS and PO votes in favor of the legislation, includes a reference to the "correction and rejection of this definition in the Buenos Aires legislature."
In the article's English version however, all reference to the correction or vote vanishes into thin air. Instead the article mentions that the Workers Left Front – Unity (FIT-U) "rejected this definition" and "were immediately accused of antisemitism". Hardly. The PTS and PO were only accused of antisemitism when more than a week later they retroactively withdrew their support from the legislation.
Were these seperate articles written by two different authors, it might even be possible to concede that what was at stake was merely artistic license and a different interpretation of where the focus should be. Yet this is the same article, under the same title, in two different languages with the English one coming out some time after the Spanish original. There can be absolutely no doubt that all reference to the mistake of the PTS and PO, the original vote and later correction, was purposefully stripped from the article with the intention of misleading the international audience.
An English speaking audience would have no way of knowing the truth behind both what is provoking the persecution (the correction, not the vote against the bill) and of the reality of the PTS and PO (Distinct in this case from the FIT, since neither the IS or MST made a similar mistake) positions.
It is worth returning once more to the Lenin quote brought out by the PTS in defense of their later correction:
"A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses."
What exactly would this Lenin say of a political party and a political organization which deliberately obfuscates it's own mistakes and errors to an international audience? The PTS and Left Voice acknowledge their mistake only in a national context where it is impossible to hide it. The rest of the world, far from being educated and trained, is to be lied to.
The political motivations behind this are clear. The FT's (Trotskyist Fraction) international prestige rests on the perceived success of the PTS in Argentina. The Workers Left Front (FIT) in this account is an untarnished example of revolutionary intervention in the elections. For those used to the marginalization and weakness of the left in their countries, a proportionally large Trotskyist party which apparently defends a revolutionary program appears very attractive.
Unfortunately the reality of the political and especially parliamentary practice of the PTS and FIT do not meet the soaring revolutionary expectations that are set abroad. Whether that be their own Presidential candidate shying away from defending a blank vote in a potential runoff between bourgeois candidates, their electoral propaganda being basically indistinguishable from that of left democrats from the United States, or this latest political mistake and "correction". The reality of their national, Argentinian practice simply does not align with the international posturing as a principled, Trotskyist left.
It is however a major step from simply dressing up the practice of the PTS as Left Voice has done towards an act of consciouss obfuscation; a lie set before the international audience of the "Trotskyist Fraction". Left Voice has attracted the readership, support and participation of many who genuinely strive for an authentic, trotskyist alternative to the rotten opportunism on offer from most of the supposed left. Unfortunately by the standards their own comrades invoked from Lenin, genuine revolutionaries will be unable to consider them "a serious party".