Category Archives: Anti-Semitism

From Peterborough to Pompeo

With every new victim of the witch-hunt, the requirements to qualify as an ‘anti-Semite’ are substantially lowered, says Carla Roberts

It is fair to say that Lisa Forbes has saved Jeremy Corbyn’s bacon. Until the very last moment, it looked like we might have to witness the election of the first ever Brexit Party MP, which, considering the massively unfavourable conditions of the June 6 by-election in Peterborough, would have been entirely feasible. And, considering how negatively Labour’s victory has been presented, we can only guess how bad the media coverage would have been if Labour had lost the seat.

Firstly, there was the fact that the constituency saw the first ever application of the Recall of MPs Act of 2015, which stipulates that any MP who receives a prison sentence of a year or less is subject to a recall petition (MPs who are sentenced to more than a year are automatically forced to step down). Fiona Onasanya lost her appeal on March 5 and on March 19 the petition was opened, quickly garnering the support of a whopping 27.6% of the local eligible electorate, thereby vastly exceeding the 10% required. True, Jeremy Corbyn had called on Onasanya to step down voluntarily, but her desperate clinging on to her very lucrative job will have no doubt seriously impacted on the Labour Party’s electoral appeal.

Secondly, following on so quickly from the EU elections, Brexit Party candidate Mike Green was riding quite a wave – especially when one considers that 60.9% in Peterborough voted ‘leave’ in the 2016 referendum. Forbes’ victory is an answer to all those who are convinced that Jeremy Corbyn “must” come out strongly in favour of Brexit and even “campaign” for it, as the Communist Party of Britain’s Morning Star recently demanded. But, of course, it will not stop them.

Just like it will not shut up those up who are certain that only coming out for a second referendum will improve Labour’s electoral chances: witness the elevation of the Labour MP Marie Rimmer, who used this week’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to slap down Corbyn over the “lack of leadership over Europe”, stating “it was not easy for me to vote Labour” in the EU elections (needless to say, she wants a second referendum). Apparently, this made it Corbyn’s “worst meeting as leader”, because this “ally of Jeremy Corbyn” 1)The Times June 12 2019 had apparently “never spoken out” against him before.2)The Guardian June11 2019 Er, not quite. In 2016, she participated in the coup against Corbyn and publicly backed Owen Smith. True, since then she kept her mouth shut when it comes to Corbyn (and much else), confirming perhaps that her chief loyalty is to her job.

Despite renewed reports that Jeremy Corbyn was about to come out publicly for a second referendum (no doubt written in order to push him in that direction), it seems he is still sticking to his position of ‘studied ambiguity’. How else should we interpret his public put down of Emily Thornberry, who has been, we are told, “demoted” after calling for a second referendum and was not allowed to deputise for him at prime minister’s question time last week. There are rumours she will be demoted to the back benches soon – indicating that perhaps behind the scenes there has been quite a falling out (after all, Keir Starmer is not being demoted). In any case, we certainly will not be shedding any tears for this member of the Labour Friends of Israel.

From a limited electoral perspective, Corbyn’s position still makes a lot of sense. Coming out firmly on either side of the binary debate will do nothing to increase Labour’s chances at the ballot box. The ‘remain’ side is well covered by the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Scottish National Party, while the Brexit Party is successfully scooping up the hard-core Brexit vote. From a Marxist point of view, however, Labour’s outlook is seriously limited. Where is the plan for a radically democratised Europe and its institutions? Where is the vision of the working class across Europe (and globally) taking matters into their own hands? Where is the plan to take on international capitalism? Unfortunately, while Corbyn quite rightly refuses to pick a side, he has also not attempted to break out of this false ‘in or out’ dichotomy.

Jewish Labour Movement

Back to Peterborough, where Lisa Forbes won despite having been declared an anti-Semite by large sections of the bourgeois press, as well as plenty of voices within the Labour Party. It seems that, with every new victim of the witch-hunt, the requirements to qualify as an anti-Semite are substantially lowered.

We learned that Forbes had ‘liked’ a video on Facebook that expressed solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch terror attack. The problem was that Forbes seemed not to have read the slightly rambling intro of the person sharing the video, in which he wrote about Theresa May having a “Zionist slavemaster agenda”.

She also commented: “I have enjoyed reading this thread so much. So much that tries to divide us, but there is far much more that unites us all” – underneath a rather long post by the same person. His first language clearly is not English and her comment was no doubt aimed at his worry about the perception of “Islam being a threat to the UK”, when it really is a “peace-loving religion”. He also wrote – and this is the bone of contention – that “now with evidence in hand of the funding and the creation of such extremists [Islamic State, etc] by the CIA and Mossad supported by British imperialism we don’t get these same people making condemnations to your leaders”. It is certainly a historic, if inconvenient, fact that organisations like al Qa’eda were armed and financially supported by the US and Saudi Arabia when they were fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

For Labour MP Wes Streeting, these two very limited Facebook engagements by Lisa Forbes constitute “anti-Semitic media activity”. The equally revolting Jess Phillips MP complained that “Lisa ignored and endorsed anti-Semitic things”, which means that, sadly, Jess could not be “as gleeful or proud as I’d want to be [at the Peterborough result], because of how it shows that anti-Semitism is becoming normal in the party.” Not to be outdone, Margaret Hodge MP has “formally raised concerns with the party’s leadership.”

It is a sad testament to the current state of play in the party that these rightwingers can make such utterly baseless accusations without any repercussions. Forbes did not say or write anything anti-Semitic – even the posts she briefly engaged with can hardly be described as such.

For the Jewish Labour Movement (which disgracefully is allowed to remain affiliated to the Labour Party), the worst of Lisa’s offences, however, was her support for one of the many open letters and petitions that called on the Labour Party’s NEC “to resist calls to adopt all 11 examples accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism into the party’s code of conduct on anti-Semitism”.

According to the JLM, it is this that warrants Forbes’ suspension: “The [Parliamentary Labour Party] called for the party to adopt the IHRA definition. Given her previous rejection of IHRA, Ms Forbes should have the whip suspended immediately.” The open letter quite rightly stated that some of the examples might “be used to silence discussion” – this ridiculous reaction by the JLM underlines exactly how right Forbes and the other 2,000 people were to sign it. While Forbes has apologised for not reading the two Facebook posts properly, we understand that she has not backtracked on her support for the IHRA letter. Good.

We also welcome the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has rejected the claim that she is an anti-Semite. It is difficult though not to think of the fate of all the other Corbyn supporters who have been left high and dry by the leader’s office, despite the charges against them being as ridiculous as those against Forbes. Where is Corbyn’s public support for Chris Williamson, Pete Willsman, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein and all the others who have been smeared as anti-Semites?

Of course, Corbyn himself is now firmly in that category. Witness the current health secretary and Tory leadership contender, Matt Hancock, who outrageously warned at a Westminster hustings event that “we could end up with the first anti-Semitic leader of a western nation since the Second World War”.

Conciliation

The latest intervention on the issue of anti-Semitism has come from Peter Hain. In a 3,000-word document he is calling for “a debate on the issue” of Israel and Palestine (including “the abhorrent treatment of Palestinians by successive Israeli governments”), rather than focussing “upon process – are those charged with anti-Semitic behaviour being properly disciplined by the party’s leadership or not?”

That sounds reasonable enough. But dig a little deeper and this intervention can, predictably enough, be safely filed under ‘anti-Corbyn propaganda’. Hain’s collaborator in the 3,000-word document is Daniel Levy, a former advisor to the Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, and a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

As a former minister with responsibility for the Middle East, Peter Hain faithfully voted for Tony Blair’s war on Iraq. He is about as qualified to make this intervention as Blair was when he was appointed ‘Middle Eastern peace envoy’ after having been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. While Hain is a tad more critical about Israel’s actions, they are actually singing from the same anti-Corbyn hymn sheet.

“The curse of anti-Semitism is paralysing the Labour Party,” Hain and Levy write and now the “serious problem has become a crisis”, in which “somehow the party has managed to alienate the vast majority of Jewish members and the Jewish community, while doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians”. And, while they’re at it, those two brave campaigners are doing their best to also label anti-capitalism as anti-Semitic: “Classic leftwing anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic tropes of global conspiratorial capitalist cabals and class enemies has further poisoned the debate.”

Describing the phrase “class enemies” as an “anti-Semitic trope” does sum up rather neatly the whole ‘anti-Semitism’ debate in the Labour Party. It is an entirely manufactured and fabricated scandal to keep Corbyn out of 10 Downing Street. After all, the man and his supporters believe that there are diametrically opposed classes in society! Burn the witch!

Sadly, the incredible success of the campaign to falsely equate anti-Zionism (and anti-capitalism) with anti-Semitism has much to do with Jeremy Corbyn himself. Needless to say, there are some members of a party with over half a million members who hold racist views (as there will probably be some who hold the view that the earth is flat). But the claim that that there is an “institutional”, “widespread” or “massive” problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is an outright lie. Had Corbyn called this out from the start, it would not have become such a huge crisis. Had he shrugged or laughed it off like all the other accusations (terrorist-lover, IRA sympathiser, Czech spy), the Labour left would today be in a much stronger position.

Instead, he and his advisors accepted the charge, thereby fuelling the fire and encouraging all those set on getting rid of him. In the foolish belief that he could appease his critics and the PLP right, he allowed them to pick off his most ardent supporters one by one – be it over anti-Semitism, bringing the party into disrepute or for having supported this or that small leftwing group.

In the process, he has allowed the right to become hugely emboldened and strengthened, while Labour members – still overwhelmingly supportive of Corbyn – have been denied the opportunity to remake the party. Overdue plans to democratise the Labour Party during the so-called Corbyn Review were first watered down and then reduced to nothing at last year’s conference. The popular proposal to reintroduce the mandatory reselection of all MPs was scrapped in favour of a reform of the trigger ballot – and even this is now deemed too radical and too much of a declaration of war on the majority of rightwing MPs, who quite rightly fear that the local membership might give them their marching orders.

We are, of course, still waiting for the overdue implementation of the trigger ballot reform, which was first announced in January this year. It seems to us that exaggerated reports of this week’s PLP rebellion have a lot to do with this issue – ie, Corbyn and Labour HQ are once again being warned not to implement the reform, which is currently the only method by which Constituency Labour Parties can get rid of a sitting MP. Unfortunately, however, it is only groups such as Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour Party Marxists which are campaigning on trigger ballots.

That this civil war is not just confined to the Labour Party and is indeed an international issue was once again underlined this week: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has kindly reminded us what a blow to the international ruling class the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was – and, most importantly, how far it will go to stop him becoming prime minister.

In a secretly recorded meeting Pompeo said:

It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard, once it’s already happened.

As Jonathan Cook tweeted, “Hard … not to suspect that the US is already helping to ensure Corbyn doesn’t become PM.”

References

References
1 The Times June 12 2019
2 The Guardian June11 2019

Moshé Machover: Zionist colonisation and Armageddon

As Israel moves further and further to the right, Moshé Machover says religious fanatics are becoming increasingly influential

Binyamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu’s motive for calling an early election to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), on April 9, one year before the end of its term, was purely personal: it was his ‘stay out of jail’ card. His former friend and appointee, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, could not endlessly procrastinate, and would eventually feel bound to indict him for multiple, firmly attested charges of bribery and corruption. 1)Haaretz February 28 2019 Netanyahu calculated that, if he managed to win an election before being indicted, he would be able to breathe freely for the next five years at the very least.

Winning, in Israel’s system of party-list proportional representation, does not mean getting a majority, or even the largest number, of Knesset seats, but being the only party leader able to form a ruling coalition. Netanyahu reckons that if he puts together a coalition with the two main religious parties and two or three small extreme-right parties, then he can get through the Knesset a bespoke law giving him immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu knew that his chances of winning the election were pretty good. In this he could count on more than his mastery of rightwing, populist rabble-rousing, fabrication of ‘facts’ and whines of persecution by a hostile elite and ‘leftist’ media. Propaganda apart, Israel’s economy is buoyant and, although inequality remains very high, even the poorest sections of the population – those on minimum wages or social benefits – have experienced some improvement. Unionisation of workers has been increasing, and consequently the number of workers benefiting from improved pay and conditions thanks to collective bargaining has been rising.

Also, since the last elections (March 2015), Netanyahu has avoided large-scale military adventures that exact a toll in Israeli military and civilian casualties; so Jewish Israelis have not felt they were paying a high cost – in human losses or insecurity any more than in economic terms – for ruling over the Palestinian occupied territories. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Netanyahu could count on more than a little help from his friends, including Trump 2)Haaretz March 25 2019 and Putin. 3)Haaretz April 4 2019 Not many national leaders can boast of warm personal relations with both Donald and Vladimir Vladimirovich.

But, leaving little to chance, Netanyahu took several steps to secure his electoral victory and the subsequent prize of immunity from criminal prosecution. In order to make sure that his preferred prospective coalition partners – those of the extreme annexationist and ultra-racist right – would reach the threshold of 3.25% of the valid votes required to win any seats, he acted as match-maker between two such parties, each of which may not have reached this threshold individually, and persuaded them to form a bloc. This ran as the Union of Rightwing Parties, duly passed the threshold and won five seats. In exchange for their complicity in passing a law keeping him out of prison, Netanyahu had promised to accede to their hearts’ desire: annexation of parts of the West Bank.

The most serious rival of Netanyahu’s Likud party in the elections was the newly formed centre-right bloc, Kahol-Lavan (Blue and White – colours of the flag of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel), led by retired general Benny Gantz, two other retired generals and a civilian windbag, Yair Lapid (the only one of the four with some political experience, having served as minister of finance in a previous Netanyahu-led government).

Lacking any coherent programme, it attracted many voters disgusted with Netanyahu’s corruption and rightwing populism. Netanyahu’s way of fighting off the potential threat represented by this nine-day wonder was to point out that it would not be able to block a Likud-led government (let alone form a ruling coalition) except in collaboration with Arab parties. The three generals and the windbag, bowing to popular Israeli-Jewish racism, duly vowed that they would never collaborate with Arabs, thereby confirming that they pose no real danger to Netanyahu.

Many Arab citizens, feeling alienated and excluded, were clearly going to boycott or ignore the elections. But to ensure low Arab participation, Likud resorted to intimidatio. 4)Haaretz April 10 2019

In the event, Netanyahu’s Likud won 35 out of 120 Knesset seats, the same as the Blue-and-White contender. But the latter’s 35 elected MKs have little to hold them together. The hastily assembled, disparate quasi-party may well fall apart before long. Its main contribution to Israel’s political history is to have sucked voters away from the bloc formerly led by the Israeli Labor Party, and reduce Labor, with its pitiful six seats, to a mortally wounded relic, crawling towards a well-deserved demise.

Messianic fanatics

Evidently, the outcome of Israel’s elections is part of a worldwide shift to rightwing authoritarian regimes led by elected illiberal demagogues. Netanyahu has much in common with Trump, Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán, Bolsonaro and their ilk. But equally obviously, Israel’s rightwing populism comes with a special Israeli twist: that of a Zionist colonising regime, increasingly inspired by a creepy messianism. This growing importance of eschatology in Israeli politics has not received sufficient attention.

Religions tend to have their lunatic fringes – crazed zealots lurking in the obscurity of the relatively harmless margins – who under certain political and social circumstances may emerge as if out of nowhere and shock the world with horrific and dangerous acts. Judaism is no exception to this rule. In my article ‘Israel and the Messiah’s ass’ (Weekly Worker June 1 2017), I called attention to the emergence in 1967 of messianic religious Zionism. Extremist forms of this political theology or theological politics have steadily grown in importance. Following the recent elections, its most fanatic true believers are openly represented in the Knesset, as members of the Union of Rightwing Parties, and will no doubt be part of the ruling coalition.

The size of this bloc – a mere five seats in the Knesset – understates the real influence of messianic fanaticism. A significant number of supporters of this ideology must have voted tactically for one of the larger and well-established religious parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), or for Likud.

Messianic activists differ in one crucial respect from other followers of orthodox Judaism: they are determined to take actual steps to bring about the establishment of a renewed biblical Jewish kingdom. A key part of this plan is the building of a third Jewish temple on the old hallowed hill (the first two were destroyed respectively by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE). An obvious obstacle in the way of the third temple is that the Jews’ Temple Mount happens to be the Muslims’ Haram al-Sharif – Islam’s third holiest place, site of al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. These will have to be demolished to make way for the third temple.

Plans to bring this about are by no means new. From 1979 to 1984 a secret cabal of settlers, known as the Jewish Underground, engaged in terrorist actions against Palestinian civic leaders. It also hatched a plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock; but just in time members of the group were arrested and brought to trial on charges of terrorism. Most served short terms, and the ringleaders were pardoned in 1990. 5)Haaretz April 10 2019 Unrepentant, the zealot leader, Yehuda Etzion, and his mates continued to make plans for the third temple. But now they have moved from the margins into the centres of political power. And their numbers have multiplied. A recent TV documentary series has drawn attention to an extensive network of activists making practical preparations for building the third temple and performing the rituals in it. 6)The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NzLD-0laQ&feature=youtu.be These include detailed architectural drawings and models for the temple itself, sewing and embroidering vestments for the priests that will officiate in it, and practising animal sacrifices in the vicinity of the holy site. In order for the priests to be allowed to enter the temple and perform their rituals, they must first be purified with the ashes of a burnt, unblemished red heifer. Red means totally red – even two black hairs disqualify it. A cattle rancher in the Israeli-occupied Golan, by the name of Menahem Urbach, has been commissioned to produce a red heifer by selective breeding. Interviewed on TV, he claimed that the desired animal is expected to be delivered quite soon.

It will be televised

Explosives are easily accessible to the activists, who reside in armed settlements; and some are no doubt stashed away for use, as and when required. Of course, the Muslim world is likely to react violently to the destruction of the holy mosques. This can easily escalate to a major conflagration in the entire region, and possibly beyond.

The messianic zealots are not particularly bothered by this prospect: they regard it with the same kind of hopeful anticipation that extreme Christian evangelicals have for Armageddon.

In fact, both bunches of dangerous nutters, whether Jewish or Christian, share many beliefs (except that the former are expecting the first coming of the messiah, while for the latter it is going to be the second – following which the Jews will have to convert or die). As the Daily Express reported recently:

Biblical conspiracy theorists believe the construction of a third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will precede the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Jewish eschatology concerning the end times claims the Holy Temple will rise up from the ground for the third time when the apocalypse nears. Talk of a third temple being built emerged this week in response to a letter penned by the powerful Jewish assembly of rabbis known as the Sanhedrin.

Jerusalem is heading into a mayoral election next week and the Sanhedrin urged both running candidates, Ofer Berkovich and Moshe Lion, to rebuild the temple. …

The Holy Temple plays a crucial role in Jewish tradition and is a central player in prophecies and tales concerning the apocalypse.

Christian pastor and doomsday preacher Paul Begley has now claimed the signs of the end times are coming to fruition. The Indiana-based preacher said: “The rabbis of the Sanhedrin court are calling both mayor candidates to include in their plans for this city the rebuilding of the third temple …”

According to Irvin Baxter of the End Time Ministries, the third Holy Temple will be rebuilt in the last seven years of the world’s existence. The doomsday preacher said this will happen in the first three years of the end times and will be the “most visible sign” of the end times finally arriving.

Mr Baxter said: “As that cornerstone is laid on the Temple Mount, every network on Earth will be televising this incredible event.”7)Daily Express March 18 2019

Will Israel’s security services act in time to prevent an explosion on the sacred site, as they did back in 1984? I do not wish to sound too alarmist, but, when watching Israel careering to extremes of racist populism and annexationism, we should also keep an eye on the movement of messianic fanaticism.

I would like to thank comrade Ehud Ein-Gil for his help in researching this article.

References

References
1 Haaretz February 28 2019
2 Haaretz March 25 2019
3 Haaretz April 4 2019
4 Haaretz April 10 2019
5 Haaretz April 10 2019
6 The very revealing first part of this series can be seen – unfortunately without English subtitles – on www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NzLD-0laQ&feature=youtu.be
7 Daily Express March 18 2019

Rothschild and irrationality

Carla Roberts looks forward to the May 4 members meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt

Any event that Labour Against the Witchhunt is putting on these days is likely to be – correctly – described as timely. The witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and his leftwing supporters has now become daily and normalised. In the run-up to the local and European Union elections rightwingers in and outside the Labour Party have been busy scrolling through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Labour candidates in particular. Naturally, they have been hugely successful in discovering ‘problematic’, often historic, posts (that were not considered problematic at all a few short years back).Liverpool council candidate Sam Gorst, for example, is now under investigation for alleged “anti-Semitism”, because it appears he tweeted something “in defence of former London mayor Ken Livingstone”. His accounts have been deleted, so we cannot tell you more about it – but if that is all, then clearly the compliance unit is going berserk. Remember, Livingstone resigned from Labour after the national executive committee decided to readmit him after a one-year-suspension. The right wing cried ‘foul’ and the Corbyn leadership was in agony over what to do with Ken. He resigned to spare Corbyn any more blushes – to no avail, of course. Because Corbyn and his allies have continuously given in to the witch-hunters rather than standing up to them, Livingstone is now ‘known’ to be an anti-Semite (as is Corbyn himself, of course).

Corbyn has also – again – been put on the defensive after somebody found that in 2011 he wrote a forward to a new edition of John A Hobson’s hugely influential 1902 book Imperialism – a study. Corbyn praised it as “a great tome”, which is “brilliant, and very controversial at the time”. Hobson was a liberal anti-war journalist who later joined the Independent Labour Party and developed a theory of underconsumption to explain capitalism’s vicious repeating cycles of bust and boom. He was also (probably) the first person to explain that the development of imperialism was the direct result of capital’s need for constant expansion. His book had an influence on Lenin, Trotsky and many socialists to this day. In 2014, The Guardian described it as the “definitive book on imperialism”.

For the Daily Mail, however, this 400-page seminal work is nothing but a “century-old book, which argued that banks and newspapers were controlled by Jews”; and Daniel Finkelstein in The Times describes it as a “deeply anti-Semitic book”.

In fact, it is a single paragraph that riled up Finkelstein (who kicked off the whole business) and it does not come “a few pages in”, as he claims – but at the end of chapter 4, where he states that, “while the new imperialism has been bad business for the nation, it has been good business for certain classes and certain trades within the nation” and goes on to describe those who “benefit from aggressive imperialism and militarism”.

He starts by listing the most obvious companies – those who produce weapons. Then there is “the shipping trade” and those from the ruling class who take up “the numerous official and semi-official posts in our colonies and protectorates”. Not to mention “the investor, who cannot find at home the profitable use he seeks for his capital, and insists that his government should help him to profitable and secure investments abroad”.

This is the context in which Hobson writes: “… still more dangerous is the special interest of the financier, the general dealer in investments”, who “use stocks and shares not so much as investments to yield them interest, but as material for speculation”. These “great businesses” were “controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”. He asks: “Does anyone seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great state loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?” (my emphasis)

Of course, 120 years ago, Hobson would have used the word “peculiar” in its original meaning of “distinctive” or “characteristic of a particular group” – not in its modern sense of “odd” or “eccentric”. But no doubt he did mean the ‘Jewish race’. The point is, however, he was writing at a time when anti-Semitism was prevalent and acceptable within the ruling class. As a Labour press officer is quoted as saying, “Similarly to other books of its era, Hobson’s work contains outdated and offensive references and observations.”

But do these phrases mean that the book as a whole has no value? It is quite likely that Corbyn did not even read the whole book, but, like many others, knew of its historical importance – and, of course, as Labour’s press officer said, “Jeremy completely rejects the anti-Semitic elements of his analysis.” But there is a real danger that the current hysteria sparked by the witch-hunt is robbing people of any sense of proportion, history and rationality. Will the likes of the Daily Mail and Finkelstein start demanding the suppression of the writings of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and John Buchan – all redolent with anti-Semitism?

Clearly, there is tons of work to do for a campaign like Labour Against the Witchhunt.

Controversies

The members’ report produced by LAW’s steering committee for the May 4 meeting in central London makes for impressive reading. Since January 1, the campaign has produced dozens of model motions, petitions and campaigns in defence of Labour members who have been investigated, suspended, expelled and/or falsely accused of anti-Semitism – among them Chris Williamson MP, Jackie Walker, Asa Winstanley, Liverpool councillor Jo Bird and Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, who the NEC refused to endorse as parliamentary candidate in South Thanet.

No doubt, most prominent and effective has been LAW’s campaign for the reinstatement of Chris Williamson, who is unfortunately the only MP who has dared to stand up to the witch-hunters (and the only one who has campaigned for the democratisation of the party). LAW has managed to debunk as “fake news” the so-called ‘ban’ on Labour Party branches and CLPs discussing and passing motions in solidarity with Chris and has produced detailed advice on the issue on its website. At least 27 CLPs, eight Momentum branches and “dozens of left Labour and trade union organisations” have since come out in public support with Chris and are listed on LAW’s website, alongside supportive statements that the group has collected from Ken Loach, Alexei Sayle, Lowkey, Mike Leigh and many others.

The campaign, which has “close to 400 members”, has also managed to extract a rare apology from the Mail on Sunday over its malicious reporting of the March 25 ‘Defend the left’ meeting, where it reported Livingstone as saying: “It is not anti-Semitic to hate the Jews of Israel” – even though he was merely quoting one of the ridiculously false charges made against him! After hundreds of people complained, the paper had to print an apology. Ken Livingstone has since become honorary president of LAW, alongside founding member Moshé Machover.

LAW has also campaigned against the Labour Party’s adoption of the ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, publishing a detailed position paper outlining its opposition and a number of model motions on the issue, while also highlighting a number of cases where the IHRA definition has been misused to discipline and expel union members and even sack people from work. So far, it has not been used in disciplinary cases in the Labour Party, but that is probably only a matter of time.

Slightly more controversial has been LAW’s petition fighting for the overdue implementation of the reformed trigger ballots, about which we previously reported. Not all LAW supporters seem happy with what they see as the campaign going beyond its original remit of fighting the witch-hunt.

We disagree. The Parliamentary Labour Party is stuffed with careerists, Blairites and witch-hunters, who are openly hostile to Jeremy Corbyn and have been busy sabotaging his leadership from day one. Given the chance, members in most localities would have chucked out rightwing MPs years ago. But now the NEC – in an attempt to stop more rightwingers from defecting to Change UK – is dragging its heels when it comes to implementing a timetable for trigger ballots (which is the only way a sitting MP can be deselected). Should there be another snap election without re-selections, the PLP’s political composition will probably remain unchanged. Almost 1,500 people have signed the petition, so there is clearly some appetite for this important issue.

Similarly, some LAW supporters have criticised the fact that the May 4 meeting will discuss a motion on ‘George Galloway and EU elections’. The motion objects to Galloway’s call for a vote for “Nigel Farage’s Brexit party”, because it is “a vote for rightwing chauvinism and an anti-migrant stance”. It also emphasises that LAW – of course, given the name and its campaigning priorities – calls for a vote for the Labour Party.

Judging by the number of those, including some LAW supporters, who have expressed sympathy for Galloway’s call, I think it will be useful to discuss the issue. There are plenty of illusions on the left that Corbyn can introduce ‘socialism’, once Britain has finally been able to free itself from the ‘shackles of the EU’. This is not just mistaken about the way global capitalism works, but also a serious misunderstanding of Corbyn’s rather reformist and tame politics.

The meeting will also discuss if Peter Gregson should be expelled from LAW. In the past, the campaign has published a number of statements in Gregson’s defence – for example, protesting against his expulsion from the GMB union – while also criticising his often slapdash use of language. In March, Gregson posted an update to one of his petitions, which he also sent to a number of LAW members and supporters, in which he urged people to read the article, ‘UK’s Labour anti-Semitism split’, by Ian Fantom (founder of the Keep Talking campaign).

As LAW’s Tony Greenstein then pointed out in a long email exchange with Gregson, in this article Fantom makes reference to “my colleague, Nick Kollerstrom”, who “had been targeted in a witch-hunt” for a positive review he wrote of a book about Auschwitz and the “gas chamber illusion”. Tony advised Gregson to take down the reference to Fantom’s article, arguing:

The title of Kollerstrom’s article – ‘The Auschwitz “gas chamber” illusion’ – speaks for itself. But anyone with any doubts needs simply read the first sentence: “This essay will argue that well-designed cyanide gas chambers were indeed present at Auschwitz, and did work efficiently, but that they were operated for purposes of hygiene and disinfection, in order to save lives and not take them.”

Tony goes on to explain why this is not a question merely of ‘freedom of speech’: “It is incredibly damaging for LAW or anyone else to have the slightest contact with you if you maintain these links and I would ask for an immediate assurance that you will cut these links.”

To cut a long email exchange short, Gregson refused Tony’s request and as a result Tony deleted him from the ‘Unofficial LAW Facebook group’, where he is the main administrator. Gregson then stupidly published the whole exchange on his website (including bad-tempered comments by LAW members who wanted to be deleted from the exchange), where it was picked up by the Jewish Chronicle, which gleefully reported the whole disagreement.

As the steering committee’s motion proposing Gregson’s expulsion points out, “We do not believe that Peter Gregson should be expelled from either the GMB union or the Labour Party. These are broad organisations of the working class that contain many different viewpoints.” But LAW, however, is a campaign with a rather narrower political focus and therefore needs to “confront any hint or trace of genuine anti-Semitism in our ranks. We do not wish to be associated and tainted with holocaust denial”.

Left

In its lead motion, LAW quite rightly calls out the Corbyn leadership’s “short-sighted and futile attempt to appease the right”, which “can only undermine the Corbyn leadership and often plays into the false ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ narrative”. Momentum is described as “unfit for purpose”.

Therefore, LAW will support efforts to

build an alternative Labour left that organises democratically and transparently; both supports Corbyn against attacks by the right, and is independent and able to criticise the leadership when necessary; and is consistently anti-racist and internationalist – a stance which by definition includes anti-Zionism and supporting the Palestinians.

The steering committee proposes a campaign for the “disaffiliation of the Jewish Labour Movement from the Labour Party and for Labour CLPs and trade union branches to affiliate to LAW and Jewish Voice for Labour”. I understand that there will be at least one amendment opposing the first part of the sentence.

We welcome the fact that LAW proposes to campaign for “the scrapping of all bans and proscriptions” within Labour, because “if the mass of socialists in Britain joined the party, it would put us in a much stronger position in the ongoing civil war within the party”.

We are looking forward to what is shaping up to be an interesting meeting, though it could well get rather heated at various times. But that is not a problem. Meetings within the labour movement should feature open discussion around controversial issues. Instead of burying our disagreements thanks to compromise formulations, we need to debate them out honestly.

Marx and Jewish emancipation

this article first appeared in the Weekly Worker

By citing a few thoroughly decontextualised phrases, the establishment finds Marx – and therefore contemporary Marxism – guilty of anti-Semitism. Jack Conrad puts the record straight

As a young man Karl Marx studied and thoroughly absorbed the materialist and atheist ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72). However, he soon became convinced that, while atheism was a vital intellectual premise, historic processes, developments in the means of production, social relations and crucially revolutionary practice had to be made the real starting point of “our criticism”.1)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p144.

Inevitably, that necessitated further, deeper, endless investigations – not least into the “inverted reality” of the bourgeois world. Hence the first of two articles which Marx wrote in what was a seminal period spent in the snug little Rhineland town of Kreuznach between March and October 1843 – just prior to his enforced move to Paris.

On the Jewish question was published in the first and only edition of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher journal (February 1844). A very early work: concepts such as capital, exploitation and surplus value are not there yet. Concrete history hardly gets a look in. Nor does the proletariat.

Nonetheless, On the Jewish question constitutes a devastating rebuttal of Bruno Bauer – the Young Hegelian radical, atheist firebrand and a former collaborator and friend. More importantly – not least because of Bauer’s present-day status as a mere footnote – On the Jewish question established a profound critique of the limited way liberals typically treat demands for equality, freedom, rights, etc.

Emancipation

Protestant Christianity was the only officially recognised religion in Frederick William IV’s Prussia. Jews in particular faced a whole raft of laws which humiliatingly discriminated against them. Bauer – barred from teaching in 1842 for daring to show that biblical stories were full of human invention – argued, in his book, The Jewish question (1843), that Jews can achieve political and civic emancipation only if they renounce their religious allegiances, religious modes of thinking and religious practices. 2)Unfortunately, Bauer’s Die Judenfrage is still unavailable in English. For the German original, see here

He barbedly asks, if no-one in Germany is politically emancipated, how are we going to free you Jews? Demands for Jewish emancipation were, therefore, dismissed as a demand for special treatment. Those who continued to make such selfish claims on the Prussian state were branded “egoists”.

Moreover, Jews who appealed to what was an explicitly Christian state for equality were inexcusably legitimising the regime of general oppression. The Christian state can only grant privileges. Without showing the least blush of shame, Bauer then proceeded to argue that in Prussia, Jews have the privilege of being a Jew. Therefore Jews have rights not enjoyed by Christians. Why should Jews be granted rights which only Christians enjoy? Therefore, in the name of bringing about general freedom, he felt fully justified in rejecting demands for Jewish equality in a Christian state.

Bauer went further. He maintained that granting Jewish rights would be incompatible with either the political rights of citizens (eg, the 1787 US constitution) or general civic rights (eg, France’s 1789 ‘Declaration of the rights of man’). According to Bauer, an atheist state was alone the only conceivable solution … and for him that meant Jews, Lutherans, Catholics – everyone – divesting themselves of their religion. He wanted to free the state from Judaism, Lutherism, Catholicism and religion in general. But, of course, that still left the state.

Note, Bauer drew a sharp theological line of distinction between Judaism and Christianity: in the process he depicts Judaism as narrow and tribal; Christianity as universal and superior. Sadly, after the failure of the 1848 German revolution, Bauer swung violently to the right and began to promote an ever more vile anti-Semitism: these Jewish “white Negroes” should be “shipped to the land of Canaan”. 3)J Carlebach Karl Marx and the radical critique of Judaism London 1978, p147.

As a militant champion of genuine human liberation, Marx rejected Bauer’s ‘solution’ as theoretically flawed and totally inadequate. Bauer was trying to solve a social question as if it were purely theological. He failed to see that religious inequalities were not the cause of social inequalities – merely their symptom. Bauer’s critique was also misdirected because it was aimed at the Christian state, not the state as such.

Bauer’s problem – and that of bourgeois radicals in general – was that he mistook political emancipation, embodied in declarations, constitutions, etc, for human emancipation. Simply decreeing the separation of church and state, while needed, could not ensure the disappearance of religion (and its associated prejudices). The original 13 American states, for example, had written separation of the state from organised religion into their constitutions, and yet the US remained “pre-eminently the country of religiosity”. 4)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.

Bauer was still using the criticism of religion as his basis for the criticism of politics, but, as Marx insisted:

[T]he existence of religion is the existence of a defect … We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation, of secular narrowness … History has long enough been merged in superstition; we now merge superstition in history. The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. 5)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.

So it is not that Marx rejects demands for political and civic equality. Quite the reverse. He considers the political emancipation of Jews perfectly feasible … even without them renouncing their religion completely and irrevocably. However, the achievement of political emancipation is not human emancipation. Political emancipation in and of itself can only go so far.

Taking issue with his own earlier reliance on universal suffrage, for example, Marx points out that some American states had abolished property qualifications for (male) participation in elections. From the liberal standpoint, it could be said that “the masses have thus gained a victory over the property-owners and moneyed classes”, that the “non-owner had become the law-giver for the owner”.6)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151. This victory, however, was only partial, because there is a world of difference between everyone getting the vote – desirable and necessary as that is – and getting everyone real and effective power over their lives.

Religion

Unsurprisingly, On the Jewish question reiterates the ethical postulate Marx presented in ‘Debates on freedom of the press’ – a six-part supplement carried by the Rheinische Zeitung back in May 1842. Here Marx lambasted Prussian press censorship – “a perfumed abortion”, he called it. Prometheus-like, he defiantly proclaims: “only that which is a realisation of freedom can be called humanly good”.7)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, pp158-59.

Since organised religion, by its very nature, makes human beings into slaves of an imaginary deity, conceding them merely a specious sovereignty in alienated form, it cannot, in Marxist terms, be a force for human good in any meaningful sense. Religion and ‘morality’ (ie, bourgeois morality) exist in the abstract sphere of ‘public life’, the realm of illusory collectivity and illusory sovereignty represented by the state, whereas the concrete sphere of ‘everyday life’ – civil society – remains dominated by individual antagonisms and by all the kinds of inhuman domination, bondage and debasement implicit in the category of alienation.

Bruno Bauer’s mistake was to imagine that religious emancipation in and of itself could free humanity, whereas, for Marx, even the most far-going version of (bourgeois) political emancipation cannot succeed in achieving freedom. Religious emancipation gives freedom of religion, but it does not give freedom from the rule of religion, property or trade: it just gives us the right to profess the religion of our choice, hold property and practise trade as individuals in a civil society dominated by the bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all).

Just as religion, though constituting an illusory collectivity of humanity in relation to god, actually renders us into alienated, atomised individuals in relation to an imaginary creator, so political emancipation, while endowing us with an illusory sovereignty as citizens of the state, renders us into alienated, atomised individuals in a civil society dominated by property and the power that flows from it. Marx writes:

“Only when the real, individual man reabsorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation; only when man has recognised and organised his own ‘forces propres’ [own powers] as social forces, and consequently no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power; only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”8)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p168.

The central idea is that humanity can achieve real emancipation by rediscovering its identity in and through community, but not through the imaginary community represented by either religion or the state.

In the second part of On the Jewish question, the category of religious alienation appears in another guise – strikingly adapted in order to illustrate the significance of money and commodities in capitalist society – in a way that foreshadows some of Marx’s fundamental ideas about commodity fetishism and the alienation inherent in the capitalist mode of production. Hence the following passage:

“Selling is the practice of externalisation. Selling is the practical aspect of alienation. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically and produce objects in practice only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity – money – on them.”9)Ibid p174.

Feuerbach’s ‘inverted reality’ – a world in which the essence of everything is externalised (entäussert), or objectified (vergegenständigt) into an alien, imaginary entity, a process whereby all values are turned upside-down – could not be more clear. Both notions, of course, appear – in a richer, more profound and dialectical form – in Marx’s later critique of political economy.

But – some may ask – how can the social role of money and commodities be equated with religion? Is this not stretching a point? No, it is not, for by ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ in this context Marx refers not to the cultic beliefs or observances of this or that religion, but to the subordination of human beings to a thing of their own making. Hence, in Capital Marx says: “in religion man is governed by the products of his own brain”. He elaborates:

“A commodity is, therefore, a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour … [the commodity is] a definite social relation between men … [and] assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world, the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands.”10)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p72.

It is precisely the analogical, paradigmatic role of religious alienation in unravelling the “mysterious” nature of commodities, money and much else in the world of political economy that is of central importance to an understanding of the development of Marx’s thought. Commodities are the products of our hands and brains, which exert an alien power over us, at least exist in actuality, whereas god or gods are entirely a figment of the human imagination, with no existence in objective reality. It is precisely the ‘purity’ of religious alienation in this respect that endows it with a prototypical value when considering alienation in general.

The point is, of course, that the relationship between religious alienation and its ‘secular’ counterpart in the world of humanity’s productive activity rests on the same basis of a fundamental inversion of subject and object, a radical confusion between appearance and reality at every level:

The religious world is but the reflex of the real world … The religious reflex of the real world can … only then finally vanish when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellow men and to nature. 11)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p79.

Feigned horror

While Bauer argued in terms of the emancipation of “the Sabbath Jew” – Jews seen purely in terms of their religion 12)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169. – Marx extends the notion of emancipation by focusing on the oppression of Jews in an actual socio-economic context:

“Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money – consequently from practical, real Judaism – would be the self-emancipation of our time.” 13)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169-70.

Why, for Marx, is “Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism” rated as the “self-emancipation of our time”? Because it is money that dominates all social relations, money and the power that flows from it is that constitutes the material base of capitalist society:

“Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal, self-established value of all things. It has therefore robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.” 14)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, p172.

Biased, purchased or merely worthless opinion reacts with feigned horror to such passages, denouncing them as irrefutable proof of Marx’s deep-seated anti-Semitism. Here are three professional Marx bashers:

  •  Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s resident Zionist, writes that, given the “2,000-year-old” practice of equating “Jews and the wickedness of money, it absurd to imagine any one of us would be immune to [anti-Semitism]. Inevitably, plenty of Jews have themselves internalised it – including no less than Karl Marx, whose writings are peppered with anti-Jewish sentiment.” 15)J Freeland, ‘For 2,000 years we’ve linked Jews to money. It’s why anti-Semitism is so ingrained’ The Guardian March 9 – online here
  • Nothing compared to Jonah Goldberg, the rightwing US commentator and author of Liberal fascism (2007). He insists, that for Marx, “capital and the Jew are different faces of the same monster …. Marx’s writing, particularly on surplus value, is drenched with references to capital as parasitic and vampiric …. The constant allusions to the eternal wickedness of the Jew, combined with his constant references to blood, make it hard to avoid concluding that Marx had simply updated [medieval anti-Semitic imagery] and applied it to his own atheistic doctrine. His writing is replete with references to the ‘bloodsucking’ nature of capitalism. He likens both Jews and capitalists (the same thing in his mind) to life-draining exploiters of the proletariat.”16)J Goldburg, ‘Karl Marx’s Jew-hating conspiracy theory’ Commentary March 2018 – online here.
  • Despite his status as a celebrity professor, Simon Schama displays exactly the same rigour and intellectual honesty: “Demonstrating that you do not have to be a gentile to be an anti-Semite, Karl Marx characterised Judaism as nothing more than the cult of Mammon, and declared that the world needed emancipating from the Jews.” 17)S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.

In other words, Marx was a ‘self-hating’ Jew. However, such a claim could not be more wrong. Few of Marx’s detractors go to the bother of explaining that he was combating the malign anti-Semitism of Bruno Bauer and advocating Jewish emancipation.

Put aside Marx’s own Jewishness, a religiously pious mother and rabbinical lineage: a good case can be made for his communism being connected, consciously or otherwise, with messianic Old Testament prophets, such as Amos, Micah and Habakkuk.18)E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52. Possibly this came through his personal acquaintance with the proto-Zionist Moses Hess (1812-72), who likewise condemned the “Judeo-Christian huckster world”; a line of thought that surely came via Spinoza, Goethe and Hegel. In turn their passionate commitment to human freedom recognisably descends from the Christian utopias of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Not that I would go along with Erich Fromm (1900-80), when he describes Marx’s communism as “the most advanced form of rational mysticism”.19)E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52. Such a paradoxical formulation, while having the virtue of counteracting the dismal technological determinism of the Stalinites, runs the risk of appearing to reconcile Marxism with religion.

Either way, Marx’s actual argument in On the Jewish question, can neatly be summarised:

  • Since the rights of man and citizen include freedom of religion, what grounds can there be for excluding Jews because of their religion?
  • Since the rights of man include rights of egoism, what grounds can there be for denying civil rights to Jews because of their alleged egoism?
  • Since the rights of citizens abstract ‘political man’ from their social role, what grounds can there be for excluding Jews because of their allegedly harmful social role?
  • Since money in modern society is the supreme world power, what grounds can there be for denouncing Jews for allegedly turning money into their god? 20)See R Fine and P Spenser Anti-Semitism and the left: return of the Jewish question Manchester 2017, p37.

While Bauer represents the Jew as a “financial power”, Marx responds that society now revolves around huckstering, trading and making money. While Bauer imagines that money is “the practical spirit of the Jews”, Marx responds that money has also become “the practical spirit of the Christian nations”.21)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p170. While Bauer says that money is the “jealous god of Israel”, Marx responds that the god of the Jews has “become the god of the world”.22)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p172.

Nor did Marx and Engels hold back from combating German or ‘true’ socialism that was capable, as they put it in the Communist manifesto, of little more than “hurling the traditional anathemas” against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois freedom of the press.23)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 6, New York 1976, p511.

Amongst those traditional anathemas was, of course, that Jews constituted “a secret world power which makes and unmakes governments”, a “secret force behind the throne”, a “secret force which holds Europe in its thrall”.24)H Arendt The origins of totalitarianism London 1976, p24. ‘True’ socialism’s most noted representative was Karl Grün and, naturally, he expressed his profound dislike of the class struggle and the “men of destructive tendencies, the levellers”: ie, Marx’s party.25)Quoted in J Strassmaier, ‘Karl Grün: the confrontation with Marx, 1844-1848’ Dissertations paper 1059, Chicago 1969, p61 – online here Objectively, ‘true’ socialism served to defend the interests of the reactionary petty bourgeoisie: parsons, university professors, country squires and government officials.

Sense and sensibilities

Fewer still of Marx’s detractors show any appreciation of the fact that it is thoroughly misleading to read present-day sensibilities back onto 19th century language. A telling example is Marx’s race banter contained in private correspondence with Frederick Engels (amongst others).

In 1862, infuriated by what he saw as a visiting Ferdinand Lassalle’s meanness, ostentation and political shallowness, an impoverished Marx wrote to Engels cursing him as a “Jewish nigger”.26)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p389. Needless to say, such rages cooled. Given news of Lassalle’s untimely death, just two years later, Marx expressed his “great sorrow” to Lassalle’s lover, Sophie von Hatzfeldt: Lassalle “was one of the people by whom I set great store”. He went on to compare him to a triumphant “Achilles”.27)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p563.

Paul Lafargue, his future son-in-law, got called his “medical Creole”.28)K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 42, Moscow 1987, p303. Marx was a possessive father. He urged Lafargue to curb his “Creole temperament” till after his marriage with Laura. Within the Marx household Lafargue was also called the “African”. Such references were not a sign of prejudice, but were “couched in affectionate and joking terms and were seen as a source of amusement, not concern”.29)L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p46. Not that any of this seems to have offended Lafargue. He went on to be one of the leaders of the French Workers Party (an implicitly Marxist organisation). Again in terms of race language, when fellow socialist Daniel De Leon asked him about his origins, Lafargue promptly replied: “I am proudest of my negro extraction.”30)L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p15.

Because of his dark complexion and wild hair, Marx’s closest friends and family nicknamed him “Moor” – a racial tag he happily embraced. True, Marx, to his discredit, suffered a brief infatuation with Pierre Trémaux and his now totally obscure book, The origins and transformation of man and other beings (1865). He momentarily credited this work of biological racism as a “very significant advance over Darwin”.31)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p304. Engels, it should be added, did not share his enthusiasm: Trémaux’s “evidence” for his “hypothesis” is nine-tenths based on “erroneous or distorted facts and the remaining 1/10 proves nothing”.32)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p323.

As might well be expected, other contemporary Jewish progressives wrote in exactly the same terms as Marx: eg, Ferdinand Lassalle and Henrich Heine. And the fact of that matter is that Marx was criticising not Judaism alone, but what he saw as a “Judeo-Christian complex”. A complex which elevates money-making above every human value, relationship and instinct.33)H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, p593. Eg, Marx writes: “Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection.”34)K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p173.

Needless to say, it is political programme, political statements and political actions which really matter. Leave aside his advocacy of Jewish emancipation. Marx savaged American slavery with a passion, fought to ensure that the British government did not intervene in support of the southern slavocracy in the US civil war and, crucially, through his leadership of the First International, championed the northern cause. Again and again he urged Abraham Lincoln to take up the call for abolition. August Nimtz argues that, in practical terms, Marx and Engels, in conjunction with their co-thinkers in America, had an “enormous influence” on what amounted to the second American revolution.35) AH Nimtz Marx, Tocqueville and race in America Lanham MY 2003, p129. And, famously, in Capital volume 1, Marx coined this memorable aphorism: “Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin, where in the black skin it is branded.”36)K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970 p301.

When it comes to race-language, Hal Draper convincingly shows that Marx was merely following the near-universal practice of his day. One could make the same point about his male-dominated language too: ie, the word ‘man’ is used more or less unremittingly as synonymous with ‘humanity’. Hence, ‘Jew’ is sometimes treated as being synonymous with ‘usury’.37)See H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, pp591-608.

This is a relational join with well documented material roots in the Christian economics of European feudal society. Jews were barred from either working the land or holding the land. Hence, they had no other socio-economic niche open to them apart from trade, brokering and lending money for interest. Jews were, as a result, widely reviled. Peasants, artisans and nobles alike despised them with a passion.

Not that hatred of the Jews began with Christianity, as Jonathan Freedland implies. Seneca considered Jews to be a criminal race. Juvenal thought that Jews existed only to cause trouble for other peoples. Quintilian regarded Jews as a curse to all other peoples. The aristocratic classes in classical antiquity upheld an elitist disdain for any form of economic activity other than that based on agriculture.38)The best known 20th-century Marxist studyof anti-Semitism being Abram Leon’s The Jewish question (1946). After suffering torture at the hands of his Nazi captors, he died in Auschwitz in September 1944. He was just 26.

However, despite the widespread hatred of Jews, feudal monarchs both protected the Jewish population and exploited them. They were needed for loans and subject to high levels of taxation. Hence the widely acknowledged antagonism between the Jews and feudalism – but likewise the widely acknowledged bond between the Jews and feudalism.

So historically Judaism survived not because of the loyalty of Jews to their religion. No, Judaism survived because Jews constituted a distinct economic caste within the feudal nexus. And, though Jews were subjected to occasional bouts of persecution and ongoing oppressive provisions, they were vital to the working of the system.

And as transcontinental intermediaries between the Muslim east and the Christian west Jewish merchants could amass very considerable fortunes. The Catholic church preached against Jewish usury, but did not demand extermination. That privilege was reserved for pagans and the ever more luxuriant outgrowth of Christian heresies.

Proudhon and Bakunin

When it comes to the left, for a hatred of Jews of a kind that really does resemble the Nazis, one must look not to the writings of Marx or Engels, but Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65). Though never one to let facts get in the way of a good libel, Simon Schama has him echoing Marx’s “message”: “blood-sucking, whether the physical or the economic kind, was what Jews did.”39)S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews hasa long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016. So Marx is held morally responsible for this notorious passage written by Proudhon in his private notebook:

December 26, 1847: Jews. Write an article against this race that poisons everything by sticking its nose into everything without ever mixing with any other people. Demand its expulsion from France with the exception of those individuals married to French women. Abolish synagogues and not admit them to any employment. Demand its expulsion. Finally, pursue the abolition of this religion.

It’s not without cause that the Christians called them deicides. The Jew is the enemy of humankind. They must be sent back to Asia or be exterminated. H Heine, A Weill, and others are nothing but secret spies; Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould, wicked, bilious, envious, bitter, etc, etc, beings who hate us. The Jew must disappear by steel or by fusion or by expulsion. Tolerate the elderly who no longer have children. Work to be done – What the peoples of the Middle Ages hated instinctively I hate upon reflection and irrevocably. The hatred of the Jew like the hatred of the English should be our first article of political faith.

Moreover, the abolition of Judaism will come with the abolition of other religions. Begin by not allocating funds to the clergy and leaving this to religious offerings. And then, a short while later, abolish the religion.40)www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ economics/proudhon/1847/jews.htm.

Sad to say, Mikhail Bakunin (1814-76) held closely related views. And note, one again, that Marx is counted amongst the Jews to be hated:

“This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood-sucking people, a kind of organic, destructive, collective parasite, going beyond not only the frontiers of states, but of political opinion – this world is now, at least for the most part, at the disposal of Marx, on the one hand, and of Rothschild, on the other … This may seem strange. What can there be in common between socialism and a leading bank? The point is that authoritarian socialism, Marxist communism, demands a strong centralisation of the state. And, where there is centralisation of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank, and, where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, speculating with the labour of the people, will be found.”41)en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_ Bakunin#Antisemitism.

Not that the followers of either Proudhon or Bakunin, at least to my knowledge, have a record of chanting ‘Death to Jews’, ‘Death to reds’, as they burn, beat and massacre. That ‘honour’ goes to the Orthodox Christian Black Hundreds in Russia; to Polish nationalists, egged on by a bigoted Catholic church, in 1918-38; and to the Nazi Third Reich (blessed by the German Christian Movement and leading Protestant and Catholic bishops alike).

Today, once again, anti-Semitism is on the rise: in Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany. Once again “traditional anathemas” are being hurled. George Soros serves as the living embodiment of the Protocols of the elders of Zion. He is the “secret force” that explains miserable living standards, mass migration and the spread of corrosive liberal values. But it is Muslim migrants, freedom of expression, women’s rights, leftwing activists and workplace conditions which bear the brunt of current attacks.

Meanwhile, Israel, with the full support of Donald Trump, plunges ever further to the right. The conditions are in place for yet another bout of ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population. Zionist demonstrators in Jerusalem chant ‘Death to Arabs’. And here in Britain the likes of Freedland and Schama play their chosen role in a witch-hunt designed to silence pro-Palestinian voices, demonise the left and prevent a radical Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The danger is obvious. A British version of Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice Party, Viktor Orbán’s illiberal democracy, Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party, Germany’s AfD … and the return of real anti-Semitism.

References

References
1 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p144.
2 Unfortunately, Bauer’s Die Judenfrage is still unavailable in English. For the German original, see here
3 J Carlebach Karl Marx and the radical critique of Judaism London 1978, p147.
4 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
5 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
6 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p151.
7 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, pp158-59.
8 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p168.
9 Ibid p174.
10 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p72.
11 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p79.
12 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169.
13 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970, p169-70.
14 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 1, London 1975, p172.
15 J Freeland, ‘For 2,000 years we’ve linked Jews to money. It’s why anti-Semitism is so ingrained’ The Guardian March 9 – online here
16 J Goldburg, ‘Karl Marx’s Jew-hating conspiracy theory’ Commentary March 2018 – online here.
17 S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews has a long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.
18 E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52.
19 E Fromm Marx’s concept of man London 2004, p52.
20 See R Fine and P Spenser Anti-Semitism and the left: return of the Jewish question Manchester 2017, p37.
21 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 3, London 1975, p170.
22 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p172.
23 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 6, New York 1976, p511.
24 H Arendt The origins of totalitarianism London 1976, p24.
25 Quoted in J Strassmaier, ‘Karl Grün: the confrontation with Marx, 1844-1848’ Dissertations paper 1059, Chicago 1969, p61 – online here
26 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p389.
27 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 41, London 1985, p563.
28 K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 42, Moscow 1987, p303.
29 L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p46.
30 L Derfler Paul Lafargue and the founding of French Marxism, 1842-1882 Cambridge MA 1991, p15.
31 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p304.
32 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 42, Moscow 1987, p323.
33 H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, p593.
34 K Marx and F Engels CWVol 3, London 1975, p173.
35  AH Nimtz Marx, Tocqueville and race in America Lanham MY 2003, p129.
36 K Marx Capital Vol 1, London 1970 p301.
37 See H Draper Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 1, New York 1977, pp591-608.
38 The best known 20th-century Marxist studyof anti-Semitism being Abram Leon’s The Jewish question (1946). After suffering torture at the hands of his Nazi captors, he died in Auschwitz in September 1944. He was just 26.
39 S Schama, ‘The left’s problem with Jews hasa long and miserable history’ Financial Times February 21-22 2016.
40 www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ economics/proudhon/1847/jews.htm.
41 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_ Bakunin#Antisemitism.

Reinstate Peter Gregson

The use of the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism to expel a union activist marks a new low, writes David Shearer 

On March 6, a shameful precedent was set when it was confirmed that Peter Gregson, a GMB shop steward in Edinburgh, has been expelled from his union for his political opinions.

In September 2018 Gregson launched a petition for Labour members, which has been signed by almost 1,600 people, declaring Israel to be “a racist endeavour”. This was, of course, intended as a direct challenge to Labour’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance so-called ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, which lists precisely this expression among its ‘examples’, along with six other forms of criticisms of the Israeli state. According to the IHRA, all seven such examples are ‘anti-Semitic’.

His appeal against expulsion was heard on March 5, and the following day he was informed by the GMB’s central executive council that it had been rejected. The CEC letter states: “whilst you have every right to your freedom of speech, … you continued to post online and send emails against the decisions and policies set out by the governing authorities of the union …” In other words, “your freedom of speech” doesn’t apply when we tell you to shut up.

Gregson comments: “I have been expelled for breaching the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, for I failed to ‘cease and desist’ in promoting ‘anti-Semitic views and material’, when I was told to by the GMB Scotland secretary … and am therefore in breach of the rulebook.”

I will return to the details of the case below, but first it is necessary to outline the reasons why this decision is particularly outrageous. The aim of a union is to organise all workers in a particular sphere of employment, irrespective of their political views. Whereas a party is obviously defined by its politics, and clearly must have the right to decide which particular political opinions are compatible with its overall trajectory, that most certainly does not apply to unions.

The reason for this is obvious. While we must aim to win over the vast majority of union members to principled working class politics, the necessity for such political organisation will become clearer as a result of workers initially accepting their common class interests, as opposed to those of employers and the bourgeoisie in general. So unions must not vet members for their political opinions: it is to be accepted that these will vary enormously and – especially in the current climate, where forms of populist nationalism are on the rise – a minority of workers will have racist and even fascistic views.

However, these should only result in disciplinary action if it is clear that they have impacted directly on union organisation. If, for example, a member of a far-right grouping was elected as a local union official and began discriminating against black or other members, that person would have to be removed from their post (preferably through the actions of the local membership). But expulsion must only be implemented as a last resort – if, say, a member, whether as a result of their political views or not, attempts to sabotage agreed union actions and is clearly working against the interests of the overall membership.

It goes without saying that this is not such a case – to put it mildly – with Peter Gregson. The rightwing leadership of the GMB is in reality importing the Labour witch-hunt into the union – it adopted the IHRA ‘definition’ itself immediately following its adoption by Labour’s national executive on September 4, so that now, in the union as well as the party, anything but the mildest criticism of Israel is declared to be “anti-Semitic”.

In addition to spreading the message that Israel is a “racist endeavour”, Gregson was also found guilty of breaching another IHRA ‘example’: “Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the holocaust”. He admits that he has accused Israel (as opposed to Jews) of “exaggerating the holocaust” and quotes the former Israeli minister of education, Shulamit Aloni, who said in an interview: “Well, it’s a trick – we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticising Israel, then we bring up the holocaust …” But Gregson adds: “I most definitely do not accuse [Israel] of exaggerating the numbers – six million Jews died in the crime of the century.”

Just for good measure, Gregson – who is also “under investigation” by the Labour Party – was found “guilty of a direct attack on one of the GMB’s employees”. No, not a physical attack – he had “singled out” for criticism Rhea Wolfson as the person most likely to have initiated the disciplinary action against him. He stated (correctly) that Wolfson, a leading member of the Jewish Labour Movement, is “an avowed Zionist”. As a result he was accused of “targeting” her “because she is Jewish”.

It goes without saying that, while Gregson is not anti-Semitic, he can certainly be criticised for his eccentric politics – in the words of Jewish Voice for Labour, he is a “loose cannon”. For example, he admits that his initiative can be described as a “death-wish” petition, in that it is “sticking two fingers up to the NEC” by “brazenly breaking the IHRA rule”. He adds: “It is important now for more of us to come out and openly breach the IHRA, whilst never being anti-Semitic in the true sense of the word.”

Such brazen defiance is a matter of tactics, of course, but it must be said that in current circumstances it is not exactly a wise move. Firstly, the forces opposing the witch-hunt are extremely weak and are hardly in a good position to mount a successful challenge of this sort. Secondly, the “death-wish” petition does the right’s work for it by identifying hundreds of Labour members as easy targets.

Gregson also makes himself a target through his inappropriate choice of words. For instance, he has claimed that “Jews” in Britain have “leverage” because of what he describes as a general feeling of guilt over the holocaust. When this clumsy phrasing was criticised by JVL – surely it is the Zionists, not undifferentiated “Jews”, who would try to turn any such sentiment to their advantage? – he was not prepared to admit his error or change his wording. His response is: “… we suffer in the UK from holocaust guilt. Thus, all Jews have leverage, whether they want it or not, because all Jews were victims.”

However, we must not let this hold us back from defending him.He is a victim of a rightwing witch-hunt, aimed at defeating the left and regaining control of the party for the Blairites.

Jo Bird and Chris Williamson: Fake outrage, fake accusations

The civil war in the Labour Party is at a critical stage, writes Carla Roberts

What do these four jokes have in common?

1. Here are the rules of being Jewish, as I understand them. Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Don’t eat pork. What was that last one? Don’t question it, God has spoken. Really, has he? Or is it just pigs trying to outsmart everybody?

2. I’ve often wondered that if I grew up in Poland when Hitler came to power and I was sent to a concentration camp, would I still be checking out women? I think I would – “Hey, Shlomo, did you see that one by Barracks Eight? I’ve had my eye on her for weeks. I’d like to go up and say something to her. ‘How’s it going? They treating you OK?’ Of course, the problem is there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp.

3. People think that Ebenezer Scrooge is Jewish … well, he’s not. But all three Stooges are.

4. Jewish Voice For Labour is calling for disciplinary hearings to be paused until a due process has been established, based on principles of natural justice. What I call Jew process … Seriously, one of the things that does worry me is the privileging of racism against Jews, over and above – as more worthy of resources than other forms of racism. That’s bad for the many – as well as bad for the Jews.

No doubt you know the answer. They have all been told – or sung – by Jewish people: Jon Stewart, Larry David, Adam Sandler in his ever-evolving Chanukah song, and, last but not least, Wirral councillor Jo Bird, who has just been suspended for her remarks after the Jewish Chronicle ‘exposed’ her joke, made at a meeting in support of Marc Wadsworth 10 months ago.

We could quote plenty more Jews poking fun at Jews, of course, starting with Woody Allen’s films Hannah and her sisters (which is all about his Jewish character having a spiritual crisis, exploring other religions) and Annie Hall (in which he imagines being a Hasidic Jew and in a split screen takes the mick both out of dinner time at a secular and an Orthodox Jewish household). Or how about Sacha Baron Cohen dressing up as Borat from Kazakhstan, singing in front of a bar of clapping and cheering Americans: “Throw the Jew down the well, so my country can be free. You must grab him by his horns, then we can have a big party.”

In his book Jokes and their relation to the unconscious, Sigmund Freund famously considered Jewish humour unique, in that it is primarily derived from self-critical mocking of the in-group (Jews) rather than the ‘other’. Or, in other words, they are self-deprecating jokes. There are dozens of modern books analysing the best Jewish jokes. A couple of years back, the Jewish Chronicle printed “the greatest Jew joke” of all time, told by Jerry Seinfeld:

Two gentile businessmen meet on the street. One of them says, ‘How’s business?’
The other one says, ‘Great!’

Apparently, this joke “confounded his hosts and audience members alike”. But: “Here at the JC we think we know why it’s funny.”

Is it because Jerry Seinfeld is not a member of the Labour Party? Otherwise he would be a raving anti-Semite, taking the piss, as he does, out of Jews being good at business and arguing at length about it (and everything else).

Would the Chronicle still dare to print this today? Or an article with the headline, ‘Jew know why we love Annie Hall?’ Who knows? But they certainly felt the need to claim outrage over Jo Bird’s remarks – with, of course, the now obligatory comment by Rachel Riley of Countdown fame. The TV presenter is particularly enraged by Jo Bird’s efforts to humorously ‘update’ the famous poem by pastor Niemöller: “Absolutely aghast listening to JVL’s Jo Bird. Take a poem about the holocaust, remove the Jews, to replace them with persecution of anti-racists and anti-Zionists.”

The Jewish Chronicle echoes her ahistorical outrage by complaining:

In her version, the poem no longer features the famous “First they came for the Jews” line, which instead is replaced by Ms Bird with “Then they came for the anti-Zionists. They came for the socialists, but they couldn’t get us because we were having a party, the Labour Party,” she says, to loud applause and laughter.

This is actually quite ironic, because Niemöller’s original poem does not start with Jews. In fact, the version “authorised” by Niemöller (according to the Martin Niemöller Foundation) does not feature Jews at all. This is the verified version of the part of the speech that he first gave around 1946:

“Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.”

Communists, social democrats and trade unionists – nobody else. The Martin Niemöller Foundation, which has gone to great lengths to historically examine the quote, laments how “the quote is still frequently being used and modified rather carelessly, which explains its ongoing popularity”.

If Jo Bird’s modification of the poem proves that she is anti-Semitic, then surely the same applies not just to the Jewish Chronicle, but pretty much everybody on the planet who has ever used the quote.

As an aside, Niemöller is a funny one for Zionists to laud. When he was asked in the 1960s why his original poem had not listed Jews, the foundation explains how he described how “he couldn’t have listed the Jews: he was already interned in a concentration camp when the biggest persecution waves took place”. Niemöller was first interned in the Sachsenhausen camp in 1937. He was later moved to Dachau and only released at the end of the war in 1945. True, the Reichskristallnacht of November 9 1938 is often seen as the key moment in the persecution of Jews in Germany, when 30,000 Jews were interned, hundreds murdered and thousands of shops and houses smashed up, while the police watched on. But, of course, Jews were already suffering extreme oppression before 1938. But Niemöller openly stated that – compared to the prosecution of communists, social democrats and trade unionists – the prosecution of Jews simply did not feature on his radar.

This does reflect in part how history has been rewritten after World War II (along with the poem) to wrongly portray Jews as the main and often only target of the Nazis. But it also reflects Niemöller’s own rightwing politics. He was in fact an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi takeover in 1933 and remained one for years. He shared much of the common and widespread anti-Semitism at the time. In 1935 – the year Jews had their citizenship rights taken away by the Nürnberger Gesetzehe gave a rather shocking sermon on the occasion of Israelsonntag:

“We speak of the eternal Jew and see the picture of a restless wanderer, who has no homeland and cannot find peace; and we see the picture of a highly talented people that produces idea after idea designed to delight the world; but whatever it starts turns into poison and what it reaps is always contempt and hate, as the deceived world recognises the fraud and takes its revenge ‘in its own way’. ‘In its own way’, because we know very well that there is no licence that empowers us to help along God’s curse with our own hatred … ‘Love thy enemy’ does not allow for any exceptions.”

He was certainly no friend of Jews – and you can just imagine what kind of criticism the Niemöller of 1935 would face today. But the fact that he is still held in such esteem by Zionists underlines the fantastic success of their efforts to rewrite history.

Chris Williamson

Jo Bird’s suspension follows hot on the heels of Chris Williamson’s. Both suspensions are so utterly ridiculous and without any rational foundation that you do wonder if Iain McNicol has not sneaked back into the general secretary’s office. Certainly it seems that the ‘honeymoon period’, when it comes to the long overdue reform of the disciplinary process, is at an end. For example, as demanded by the Chakrabarti report, automatic suspensions had stopped. Instead, members retained their membership rights while the investigation into their case was ongoing. Do Williamson and Bird really pose such a threat to other members that they have to be prevented from attending Labour meetings? Of course not.

Their suspensions are unfortunately yet more evidence of how incredibly successful the right has been in its campaign against the left in the party. We hear from a number of sources that Jeremy Corbyn did indeed try to stop Chris Williamson’s suspension, but that he and general secretary Jennie Formby came under immense pressure – and sadly, not just from the right, but also his (former?) allies, John McDonnell and Momentum owner Jon Lansman, both of whom have been publicly leading the campaign to continuously appease the right over the anti-Semitism smear campaign. A day after Williamson was suspended, Momentum circulated a scabby ‘Anti-Semitism open letter’, which was clearly drafted in response to Williamson’s remarks – made, ironically, at a meeting of Momentum’s Sheffield branch. He was suspended for having said:

The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that, because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic … We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.

How could anyone interpret this as downplaying the necessity to oppose anti-Semitism? However, the phrasing of the Momentum letter, although Williamson was not named, seemed to echo some of his vocabulary, with the meaning reversed:

We recognise that as a movement we have been too slow to acknowledge this problem, too tolerant of the existence of anti-Semitic views within our ranks, too defensive and too eager to downplay it. We sincerely apologise to the Jewish community, and our Jewish comrades in the party, for our collective failure on this issue to date.

This has Jon Lansman’s fingerprints all over it. It has been signed by about 1,000 people (though we have heard of complaints that people were signed up without their consent, while others featured numerous times). In any case, that figure has been dwarfed by the numbers who have signed open letters and petitions in support of Chris (for example here and here)- and those demanding the removal of Tom Watson as deputy leader of the Labour Party (which has close to 20,000 signatories). Even the petition demanding that “Momentum must ditch Jon Lansman” has almost 800 signatories.

Another Corbyn supporter to have come under fire in the last few days is Darren Williams, one of the few actual leftwingers on Labour’s national executive committee. As secretary of Welsh Labour Grassroots, he distributed the organisation’s statement defending Chris Williamson. Stephen Kinnock MP has demanded that Williams should be suspended, “because political interference in political disputes [!] is not allowed”. We presume Kinnock, who clearly is not the sharpest tool in the box, meant to say ‘disciplinary disputes’, but he would still be wrong.

He is apparently referring to the much-quoted “instruction” said to have been recently circulated by Labour HQ, in which “Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, has warned constituency parties, the NEC and other Labour Party bodies that disciplinary cases against individuals are confidential and should not be discussed”. Or so the BBC reports.

It appears, however, that an overly keen London regional organiser took it upon herself to copy a paragraph from an old email of Formby’s and send it out as “recent advice”. This was then picked up by Labour List and has since been distributed, uncritically and without any comment, by some other regional officers – and, sadly, by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (which is run by Pete Willsman, who was himself falsely accused of playing down anti-Semitism).

Labour Against the Witchhunt reports that it has been in touch with “at least a dozen” branch and CLP secretaries who did not receive any advice from Jennie Formby or their regional officers. Of course, should anybody phone Labour HQ, they would probably be told that this is indeed the current advice. But this is rather different from Jennie Formby sending out an email in response to the widespread anger over Chris Williamson’s suspension. And in any case, it it is still only ‘advice’.

Comrade Williamson is enormously popular in the party – his ‘Democracy Roadshow’ in favour of mandatory reselection and other democratic reforms has brought him into close contact with thousands of members up and down the country. Having undergone quite a dramatic political transformation from Blairite to Corbynista, he is now the only MP who still dares to speak out in defence of the many members who have been suspended and expelled on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism or ‘bringing the party into disrepute’.

As I have pointed out, thousands signed petitions and open letters within days of his suspension. We know of six CLPs that have issued public resolutions condemning the decision (and we know of a couple of others who decided not to publish their resolutions after the media shitstorm hit Hackney North CLP). In many more branches and CLPs, members have tried to put motions forward, but were prevented by their chair, who said they could not be “allowed”.

This is the actual quote from Jennie Formby, which was, we believe, sent out in relation to Marc Wadsworth’s suspension and subsequent expulsion from the Labour Party in April last year:

Please note that individual disciplinary cases that are being dealt with through the NEC disputes processes are confidential. Motions on individual cases are therefore not competent business for discussion at CLPs and will not be discussed by the NEC or any associated bodies.

Even if this had been new advice given out by Formby, we would still make the following points about it. Firstly, the suspensions of both comrades Williamson and Bird have been publicised by every British news outlet, with rightwing MPs falling over themselves to make their outrage heard. The cases have not been treated as “confidential” by those who have leaked the news and have thereby quite clearly become “competent business” for branches and CLPs to discuss.

Sure, the NEC might not discuss such resolutions. But it is pretty doubtful if that body, meeting every two months for a few compressed hours, spends much time discussing any branch and CLP resolution. On the other hand, every resolution and statement published that speaks out against the witch-hunt in the party adds an enormous amount to the political pressure on Labour HQ.

In any case, it is always up to the members of any Labour Party meeting to decide what should be discussed and which motions should be voted on. LAW has published useful information on how to move a motion or emergency motion and what to do if your chair refuses to table it. Comrades should not be intimidated by this attempt to silence them.

Lord Falconer

The formation of the Independent Group and Tom Watson’s efforts to put together a merry band of Blairite MPs have played a huge role in the suspensions of Chris Williamson and Jo Bird (as they did in the apparent decision to delay the publication of guidelines on trigger ballots – which is the only way local members can get rid of their rightwing, anti-Corbyn MPs).

The civil war in the Labour Party has reached a critical point and the case of Williamson in particular is of extreme importance. Whichever way the decision on his disciplinary case goes, it will have huge implications: should he be cleared, we can expect more rightwing MPs to walk, amid yet more accusations of “institutional anti-Semitism”. But, should he be expelled, that would do huge damage to the ‘Corbyn project’ and would no doubt lead to massive demoralisation among Labour members (the majority of whom joined to support the leftwing politics of Jeremy Corbyn). Expelling Williamson would be a dramatic symbol of the victory of the right over the left. It would also represent a massive defeat for Corbyn himself. The next attempted coup against Corbyn will happen before long – but how many people will still be left in the party to fight his corner or vote for him?

Unfortunately, the Labour leadership still does not seem to grasp this pretty basic reality, despite the fact that the civil war is currently being played out in branches up and down the country. What else shall we make of the attempt to appoint Lord Falconer to lead yet another inquiry on anti-Semitism? As an attempt to put a lid on the anti-Semitism ‘scandal’, it has backfired rather spectacularly – and deservedly so.

The mere fact that there will be another inquiry plays straight into the hands of the right, who have been saying all along that Corbyn and Formby are incapable of understanding even what anti-Semitism is and that their disciplinary process therefore cannot be relied upon.

It seems the main qualification for the job of leading the inquiry is that the candidate must be a rightwinger. Lord Falconer certainly seems to tick a few boxes there: he is an arch-Blairite, was a member of his former flatmate’s war cabinet and even provided the legal advice that was used to take Britain into war against Iraq. His legal advice was also used in moves to destroy the National Union of Mineworkers. In an interview with The Sunday Times (March 3 2019), Falconer went out of his way to show that he was the right man to see off the left:

The most frightening thing is the profound and almost universal sense within the Jewish community that the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn are anti-Semitic. They feel they are not safe … because the potential prime minister and the main opposition party are anti-Semitic.

Well, that certainly does not sound like he has much of an open mind on the matter. And what exactly is “the Jewish community” that apparently feels unsafe in the Labour Party? There is no such thing, of course. There are pro-Zionist Jews and anti-Zionist Jews – and that is just for starters.

Falconer also promised to reopen investigations into “stone-cold cases” of anti-Semitism, including allegations made by pro-Zionist MP Louise Ellman against leftwing members in Liverpool Riverside.

But nothing Corbyn and Formby can do now is considered good enough in the ever-growing campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. So we hear from the usual suspects like Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth that Falconer is unacceptable, because he is a member of the party. Only a really “independent person” could lead such an inquiry … We presume they mean somebody as ‘independent’ as those running the Jewish Board of Deputies, the organisation that organised the anti-Corbyn ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration outside parliament.

The current civil war can be resolved in only one of two ways: either the left or the right will win. Muddling on for the sake of some sort of ‘unity’ will not remain an option for much longer – even for Jeremy Corbyn.

 

Hundreds of hard-core anti-Semites?

Suspending Chris Williamson MP is an outrage, writes Carla Roberts

You might have thought that the retreats and concessions to the right from the Labour leadership could not get any worse, but what happened on February 27 surely takes the biscuit.

Chris Williamson MP was suspended by general secretary Jennie Formby over “remarks about the party’s handling of anti-Semitism”, as the BBC put it. So what exactly did he say? Speaking at a meeting of Sheffield Momentum, he had ventured the opinion that “we have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic”. Labour has been “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, when, in reality, “we’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party”.

If anything, Williamson himself was “too apologetic”. Labour has not been hit by any “scourge of anti-Semitism”: what we have seen is a concerted witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters and the left, in which ‘anti-Semitism’ has been weaponised and equated with anti-Zionism. Several high-profile figures have been accused of anti-Semitism, but in none of their cases has the accusation been upheld. It is true that some clearly anti-Jewish comments from people claiming to be Labour members have featured on social media, but only 12 have been expelled (including a Jewish comrade who simply refused to cooperate with the kangaroo court). Even if we assume that all 12 were actually guilty, why should we describe this as a “scourge”?

If you divide the total Labour membership figure – 540,000 in September 2018 – by 12, you will find that Labour’s so-called anti-Semitism problem is small to the point of being irrelevant. No wonder that actual Labour activists on the ground will tell you that they have never witnessed anti-Semitism or any such thing at Labour meetings or from individual members in conversation.

Yet, despite this, Williamson issued an apology for his comments at Sheffield, saying he had not meant to downplay the “pernicious and cancerous” nature of anti-Semitism. From now on he would be more “considered” in his language, as he wanted to be “an ally” in the fight against it. However, if something is said to be “cancerous”, that means it is liable to spread uncontrollably and may even result in the death of those affected. It is laughable to suggest that Labour has been struck by such a disease.

It is clear that the Labour right has been awaiting its opportunity to attack Chris Williamson, who has been virtually the only Labour MP to condemn the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt for what it is. Just the day before all this happened, he had been condemned for booking a room in parliament for the screening of The Witchhunt, the film defending Jackie Walker – a black Jewish activist who has been suspended from Labour for almost three years for totally spurious allegations of anti-Semitism.

He was forced to cancel the booking under pressure from, among others, Jennie Formby. This is regrettable, to say the least. Jeremy Corbyn might recently have defended Chris as “a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not anti-Semitic.”1)The Times February 27 But in general, he has remained criminally silent over the witch-hunt – even though he is, of course, its prime target.

It seems that Williamson was at first told he would not be suspended, but placed under “formal notice of investigation” over some undisclosed “pattern of behaviour”. But within hours that was reversed – following expressions of outrage by the usual suspects, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who said Williamson’s apology was “not good enough”!

Zero tolerance

Meanwhile, Momentum owner Jon Lansman had earlier proudly boasted in a tweet about one of his achievements since his election to the national executive committee in 2018:

Just last Friday we referred 19 out of 35 case reviews to the national constitutional committee, almost all with strong recommendation for expulsion. Of Labour’s 500,000 members perhaps a few hundred are hard-core anti-Semites. If we improve our processes, we can make sure they are kicked out of the party (our emphasis).

Remember, this came just a couple of weeks after we learned from the information provided by Formby that the vast majority of allegations made against members had been false (if not deliberately trumped up). Most of those accused by the right have been cleared by the Labour Party’s disciplinary process3 – which can hardly be described as biased towards the left or even particularly fair.

But, rather than defending all those wrongly accused, Lansman – together with John McDonnell, it seems – is campaigning for more investigations, more punishments and a policy of ‘zero tolerance’. The tens of thousands of vexatious complaints, hundreds of suspensions and investigations and 12 actual expulsions provide evidence of a poisonous anti-democratic culture.

We note that Lansman celebrates the life-long ban of Tommy Robinson from Facebook and Twitter (as if he really needs these to spread his message):

We know Tommy Robinson’s fans will scream that he’s been censored, but our message is clear – hate speech isn’t free speech and inciting people to racist violence should never be tolerated. Not on our streets, and not on our social media. 2)Momentum email February 26

It does not take much to imagine Lansman calling for a ban from social media of those on the left spurting what for him constitutes ‘anti-Semitic’ “hate speech”.

Both McDonnell and Lansman are clearly following the lead of the right on the issue. We note that Tom Watson is not just spearheading a new group of ‘social democratic’ Labour MPs, but has “vowed to take personal charge of anti-Semitism and bullying complaints made by MPs” and will be “monitoring and logging abuse and threats made by members” – effectively creating a parallel disciplinary process. Maybe this one will be less to the liking of McDonnell and Lansman?

John McDonnell said in a recent interview that he wants to “get the message out that if people behave in a way that is construed as anti-Semitic by common standards, they will be dealt with. Full stop. They are not welcome.”

But that is the crux of the matter: what exactly is “anti-Semitic by common standards”? What is anti-Semitic “hate speech” and what is justified criticism of the actions of the state of Israel? This is, as McDonnell and Lansman know all too well, a hotly disputed issue. And one that is constantly evolving under the current scurrilous campaign pursued by the right.

Just take the evolution of the term ‘Zionism’. This is a label chosen by the Zionists themselves to describe their political ideology. Yet we have seen dozens of examples of Labour Party members being investigated simply for their use of the word – often merely in a descriptive fashion. Lansman wants to ban the diminutive form, ‘Zio’, because for him it is an insult.

Even at the recent conference of Labour Against the Witchhunt, the well-informed attendees could not agree on a definition of anti-Semitism: some preferred the definition in the Oxford Dictionary (“Hostility or prejudice to Jews”), while others lobbied for the definition in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, (“Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group”), while others thought Brian Klug’s definition the best (“hostility to Jews as Jews”). Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel have produced a ‘Declaration on what is – and what is not – anti-Semitic misconduct’.

Of course, McDonnell and Lansman do not mean any of those perfectly decent and workable definitions. If they did, they would have to stand up and finally put an end to the campaign by the right in the party. Thousands of party members have been suspended and investigated – and not because they show actual “hostility or prejudice” towards Jews. Most complaints are based on (sometimes sloppy) comments made in the heat of an online debate, when somebody, for example, writes ‘Zionists’ when they should say ‘the Israeli government’ – or ‘Jews’ when they should say ‘Zionists’. Or somebody sharing a meme that, on much closer inspection, turns out to be the work of an anti-Semite – does that make the sharer anti-Semitic? How about having your words taken out of context, twisted and rearranged?

These types of accusations make up the vast majority of the complaints against Labour Party members. Hastily written, sometimes based on misconceptions and misinformation and, yes, sometimes based on low-level prejudice. But these instances – which, as can be expected, are increasing proportionally with the growth of the witch-hunt – would best be countered by education through open and transparent debate (and, no, we are not talking about the ‘rehabilitation programmes’ offered by the Zionists of the Jewish Labour Movement or the witch-hunters in Hope not Hate, who have joined in the calls to sack Chris Williamson3)Huffington Post, February 26).

False ‘definition’

How about the reason for Derek Hatton’s suspension from the party, two days after the former Militant member and deputy leader of the Liverpool council was allowed to rejoin? In 2012, during Israel’s ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’, in which Israeli airstrikes killed hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza strip, he tweeted, clearly outraged: “Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel!”

We wonder if he is one of the “hard-core anti-Semites” that McDonnell and Lansman want to kick out of the party? Hatton’s comment could have been a bit clumsy, but surely what he meant was that, while everyone should speak out against Israel’s atrocities, such criticism is particularly effective when it is made by those the state of Israel claims to represent. Either way, his tweet clearly does not merit suspension – it seems we are back in the bad old days where members are suspended first before any investigation takes place. Clearly, the party leadership is still trying to appease the right – even though every time they take one step back, the right takes two steps forward.

That is, of course, exactly the point of the so-called ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which was finally adopted by the Labour Party’s NEC last year with all 11 examples (seven of which deal with Israel, not Jews) after much lobbying by Lansman and McDonnell. Some NEC members were all too aware that the examples that come with the ‘definition’ are designed to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Among them, of course, Jeremy Corbyn who – unsuccessfully – tried to add a disclaimer clarifying that criticising Israel was not anti-Semitic.

To make matters worse, the IHRA is anything but a definition. As well as being driven by a pro-Zionist agenda, it is poorly phrased and inaccurate. Labour Against the Witchhunt and other organisations have produced useful analyses of the document, which is – contrary to what we are constantly told – not widely accepted internationally (only 15 countries have – cynically – adopted it). It is designed to legitimise the horrendous actions of the state of Israel against the Palestinians, to silence critics who are pointing to the increasing official racism of the regime and, crucially, to prepare for further military action.

To our knowledge, the IHRA definition has not yet been used to discipline anybody in the Labour Party (it is also not legally binding and could not be used before a court) – but judging by the way Lansman, McDonnell and Formby are going, we would not be surprised if that starts to happen soon.

We call on all democrats, socialists and Marxists in the Labour Party to campaign to reverse the NEC’s decision on the IHRA  and to show solidarity with Chris Williamson MP (there are useful model motions on LAW’s website for both).

References

References
1 The Times February 27
2 Momentum email February 26
3 Huffington Post, February 26