February 19, 2003
Michael Lerner and the Workers World Party
by LENNI BRENNER
In 1959, I was a printer's helper in Greenwich Village with Bembo
Typographers, which produced Labor
Marcy was a platitudinous Maximum Leader, and their literature was dull compared to Labor Action, edited by Hal Draper, a world-class historian. Subsequently, WWP often pursued senseless strategies and said foolish things. However, by chance, on 2/14, I heard Brian Becker, New York organizer, on "The relationship between US foreign policy and Iraq's history and political development." He was well informed re deeds and dates as to how Washington has seen Iraq, Saddam's totalitarian character, oil's role, etc.
There is a new maturity thruout the anti-war movement. The serious
players want united demonstrations. In that context, I eagerly defend the
WWP against Michael Lerner's accusation that they are "Antiwar Anti-Semites,"
using Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), one of the groups sponsoring
Some years ago Lerner relocated in NY, got no audience among the apple's secular and largely atheist intelligentsia, and slunk back to the Bay Area. Indeed, if he had levied the accusation in Manhattan, everyone would have spit in his face.
WWP is intimately involved in Al-Awda, The Return, The Palestine
Right to Return Coalition, open to anyone who supports its principle. WWP's
specialty is street demo logistics, and a NY Al-Awda march
Those Orthodox are the Neturei Karta, the Guardians of the City.
Jews make up ca. 11% of New Yorkers. Seventeen percent of the Jews are
Orthodox, and ca. 25% of these identify with the NK. WWP's anti-Zionism
pales to nothing compared to theirs. In 1981 they sent me to Beirut to
report on whether the PLO would recognize Israel: "The Palestinians might
compromise with Zionism. We can't. The Talmud forbid Jews to try to reconquer
the land of Israel. G-d will restore us when he sees fit. If the PLO recognizes
Israel, we must break with them." Ask NK if the WWP is anti-Semitic and
they'll laugh in
The anti-Iraq war movement correctly includes Zionists who understand
that war would generate unending suicide attacks against Israel. And at
present, most activists, want to see Israel and a viable
Criticism of the WWP and everyone else? Of course!! Indeed publically debating what Americans should do re US military and/or financial "aid' to Israel, the Palestine Authority, Saudi Arabia, etc., is one of the best ways of educating the concerned public about the Middle East.
Happily, the ranting rabbi doesn't speak for the Jews. According
to the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001, done at City University of
New York, only 51% of US Jews believed in any form of Judaism. By
In 1995 the American Jewish Committee reported that only 22% of
all Jews declared themselves Zionists. The number is far lower now, mostly
"the learned elderly of Zion.' Worldly Jews scorn Israel
When movements collapse, the fanatics stay to the end, and its
difficult to determine which is crazier, Lerner's politics or his theology:
"We call for... the creation of a Palestinian state.... But we also call
for... Israel's admission into NATO--or some other equally powerful military
alliance--to give the Jewish state
Yes, NATO is about to take in Israel. Any minute now.
His theology is wonderfully fanciful. In "A Jewish Renewal (Kabbalistic-Mystical-NeoHasidic)
"Cain seeks God's acknowledgement that his contribution, his sacrifice,
is as valuable as that of his brother Abel, yet he does not get that sense
of being recognized as valuable and contributing.
Lerner is out of a Freudian text on narcissism. The kabbala was early medieval magic, conjuring with words. Hasidism started in the 18th century as a revivalist cult, combining kabbalaism with "storefront church' singing and dancing. "Poof' say their Rabbis, performing miracles, tho none so grandiose as NATO inviting Israel to join it. From wishful thinking to forgery is just a bounce and, indeed, Lerner has confessed to publishing bogus letters to the editor of Tikkun, that God's critic wrote himself.
Such a simpleton inevitably attracted equally profound defenders.
A list of his partisans have denounced "ANSWER's unfitness to lead mass
mobilizations against war in Iraq." Internal evidence strongly suggests
that the initiative for the slander campaign comes from elements in Democratic
Socialsts of America. Among the signers is Bogdan Denitch, a Socialist
Party leader in the early 60s. His specialty was proclaiming that the only
way to build the anti-Vietnam War movement was to proclaim ourselves as
"Against Washington and Moscow." We told him to go to hell, openly worked
with Communists, and recruited hundreds of thousands to the cause, while
the SP broke up. We called them "State Department Socialists' and ultimately
Norman Thomas, their most famous figure, was exposed as a CIA collaborator
Today Denitch is DSA's guru as it gives out awards in Thomas' name. At best, DSA is divided between those who think he was a great man, who unfortunately secumbed to the CIA's blandishments in his old age, and those who think his taking secret CIA money was the highpoint of his brilliant career.
Jack Newfield, another signer, was a star attraction at DSA conferences in the early 80s. In the end, Newfield went to work for the NY Post, which makes Mussolini's lL Popolo di Italia look timid.
Nation writers and editors Marc Cooper, Katha Pollitt, Judith Long and
Roane Carey also rushed to Lerner's side. Nation scribes write endless
pages on how to build the peace movement. But, in 51
Anti-war work, like charity, begins at home.
Lenni Brenner, editor of 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with
the Nazis, can