August 2008

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            

« Yes, Stephen, you were wrong | Main | It takes an intellectual to find excuses for Stalinism »

July 23, 2004

Comments

Rich

In his book Third World Ideology and Western Reality Carlos Rangel discusses in some detail the affinities between fascism and Bolshevism. One of the most striking examples is cited on p. 15 of that work:

"As for Lenin, he addressed a delegation of Italian socialists visiting Moscow after the fascist march on Rome (1922), saying, 'What a waste that we lost Mussolini. He is a first-rate man who would have led our party to power in Italy.'"

It is entirely appropiate for Oliver to label Lenin's modern day followers in SWP the fascist Left, for that is exactly what they are.

Satmarvellous

Now let's have a learned disqusition on the links between Zionism and fascism, with special reference to Vladimir Jabotinsky and the German Zionists' enthusiastic co-operation with Hitler. After WW1 Jews were disproportionately represented in the leadership of Mussolini's movement as well as in the Bolshevik apparat. Once they lose faith in G-d, they stray down all sorts of strange power-worshipping byways. Thank G-d Israel has been saved from all this by that lifelong exemplar of liberal democracy, Gen. Ariel Sharon.

www.nkusa.org

K

All Jews are Israelis, and all Israelis are Jews. A fallacy, yet it seems to drive people all over the world. People attack Jewish graves as if they are attacking Israel. People are accused of anti-Semitism if they criticise Sharon. Why can't people get secular and sort out clearly what their beef is. Then we can see who they really are.

eoin

Isn't GILAD ATZMON Jewish, and an Israeli to boot? I think that may have been a relevant addition to the piece. It seems that you are accusing somebody Jewish of being a self-hating Jew, rather than a gentile of being a neo-Nazi, a difference of degree. I disagree with his ideology, but you clearly withheld information in that piece.

Oliver Kamm

Had you read the post more carefully before making your indignant accusation, you would have found that Atzmon is referred to as a "former Israeli reservist". What information, let alone relevant information, are you accusing me of "clearly withholding", exactly?

I can't imagine many readers would be impressed with your casuistry, but any that are might care to reflect, as you have not, on the career of one Frank Collins. Collins was leader of an outfit called the National Socialist Party of America, which notoriously attempted to stage a Nazi rally in the Jewish suburb of Skokie in the late 1970s. It turned out that Collins' family name was in fact Cohen, and that his father was a Holocaust survivor. (Collins subsequently disappeared from view after receiving a lengthy prison sentence for sexually abusing children.) I presume, by the impressive logic you present here, that you're now going to complain at my designating as a neo-Nazi the leader of an overtly neo-Nazi party.

Still, it's nice to know that you "disagree" with the ideology of someone who believes in a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is an accurate geo-political analysis.

(Incidentally, I have never - here or anywhere else - used the term 'self-hating Jew' about anyone, as delving into psychological states to explain political views is speculative and irrelevant. I prefer the straightforward term 'antisemite' to designate someone who propounds antisemitic views. Atzmon is an antisemite.)

eoin


No seriously, Oliver, I disagree with Mr Atzmon's ideology, I don't "disagree" with them. No need for ironic quotes around the word.

Gabriel

Thank you for another excellent article. However, two of the posts in response demand comment. I don't understand what relevance Atzmon's nationality or religion have to his views. Is the correspondent suggesting that these somehow give Atzmon's crackpot ramblings any authority? In any case, Oliver's actual point that the SWP's describes these views as being "Fearless", a euphemism which he exposes.

The posting from Satmarvellous is equally irrelevant. It is fairly standard fare from the Neturei Karta, whose sole contribution to Jewish communal life is to attack violently any Jews who don't agree with themselves. THe NK is the most phenomenally self-righteous of all the Chassidic sects, a radical offshoot from the Agudath Yisrael movement of the 1930s, whose distinguishing belief is their violent opposition to the existence of a Jewish state in Israel. There is a fairly marked Zionist/anti-Zionist divide in the religious Jewish world, based on different understanding of what will hasten the arrival of the Messiah, but only the NK marched at the Durban Conference with Zionism=Racism placards, and only the NK accompanied Al-Qardawi to Heathrow. The Neturei Karta are not the guardians of Jewish Orthodoxy, and their political associations betray a policy of opportunism which is simply breathtaking.

eoin


Oh, for Chrissakes. This correspondent did not suggest that "Atzmon's nationality or religion" suggested " that these somehow give Atzmon's crackpot ramblings any authority?". You may have inferred that, or chosen to.

I suggested that the piece did not mention his Jewishness , which I thought was misleading. It did, and I was wrong. Olivers point that the far-left is close in it's anti-Semitism to the far right is , by and large, correct. This has been particularly true of the far left in Germnay, and the RAF in particular ( many of whom were just a generation away from their Nazi parents).

We didn't need Horst Mahler to move to the right to know this. It's clear from the RAF's targets.

JakobDeHaan

Gabriel: "There is a fairly marked Zionist/anti-Zionist divide in the religious Jewish world, based on different understanding of what will hasten the arrival of the Messiah"

If you know how to "hasten the arrival" better than G-d, better tell the rabbi! Neturei Karta is content to wait as the Torah instructs, unlike the motley crew of atheists and agnostics who founded the "State of Israel" and conned pious Jews into imprisoning themselves there. To call NK "violent" and opportunistic up against Zionism raises chutzpah to a new level.

David Osler

An insult to a tremendous crusader against injustice. And unworthy of a man of your obvious intellect, Oliver.
We can all play guilt by association, can't we? I mean, the British Union of Fascists was founded by Sir Oswald Mosley, a former Labour MP. Therefore it stands to reason that New Labour is the direct inheritor of the forces that generated British fascism. Stupid? Yes, but in the same league as some of your assertions above.
It is one of the oldest tricks in the book to attempt to brand the revolutionary socialist as 'fascists'. But most scholarly accounts of the rise of Nazism point to the fact that the funding came from the German capitalist class.
There is much to criticise the SWP for. But latent fascist tendencies are not among them.

David Osler

An insult to a tremendous crusader against injustice. And unworthy of a man of your obvious intellect, Oliver.
We can all play guilt by association, can't we? I mean, the British Union of Fascists was founded by Sir Oswald Mosley, a former Labour MP. Therefore it stands to reason that New Labour is the direct inheritor of the forces that generated British fascism. Stupid? Yes, but in the same league as some of your assertions above.
It is one of the oldest tricks in the book to attempt to brand the revolutionary socialist as 'fascists'. But most scholarly accounts of the rise of Nazism point to the fact that the funding came from the German capitalist class.
There is much to criticise the SWP for. But latent fascist tendencies are not among them.

David Osler

An afterthought. Didn't Churchill in the twenties say that if he was Italian, he would have supported Mussolini?
The exact quote is contained in the book 'Fellow travellers of the Right : British enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933-9'
• By: Richard Griffiths
• Publisher: London : Constable, 1980.
• ISBN: 0094634602

I could give the quote exactly if I had my copy to hand. And the book contains other numerous examples of leading UK politicians of all parties - including Lloyd George, if memory serves - making markedly pro-fascist utterances.
By your logic, today's Tory and Lib-Dem Parties are therefore 'centre right fascists' too, on the grounds of what their ideological predecessors said seventy years ago.

Martin

"There is a fairly marked Zionist/anti-Zionist divide in the religious Jewish world, based on different understanding of what will hasten the arrival of the Messiah".

And there are plenty of religious Jews who do not pin their hopes on any ideas about the Messiah or restoring animal sacrifices on the ruins of the Haram al-Sharif, but put their faith to work in healing this world.

Michael

And the book contains other numerous examples of leading UK politicians of all parties - including Lloyd George, if memory serves - making markedly pro-fascist utterances.

Not to mention newspapers - the Daily Mail front page headline 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts' of 8 January 1934 being a particularly notorious example. I've always visualised this as being in large block caps dominating most of a tabloid-sized front page, possibly next to a fetching picture of Sir Oswald dressed to match the headline, but of course the Mail was a broadsheet back then, and I suspect the reality was far less demonstrative. Still, as low points go, it's a memorable one.

wardytron

Seeing as I was that correspondent who brought Gilad Atzmon to your attention, perhaps I should shut my face, but I can't help agreeing, if a bit less disgruntledly than David Osler, that it's not really fair to suggest that Paul Foot, who stood for the SWP in 1977 if memory serves, was a supporter of totalitarianism because someone else from the SWP in 2003 called for a victory for Saddam Hussein.

Possibly your review of his writings will reveal more in this respect, but otherwise I would have thought that the SWP's undeniable - let's be kind - willingness to accommodate Atzmon's views was quite damning enough.

Benjamin

I have read your attack on Paul Foot, and it's pretty appalling. Like the obssessive you are, you concentrate on the SWP aspect, your usual hang up. Foot was a passionate socialist, but also a talented journalist focused on injustice. Are we to accept your verdict over that of, say, the Bridgwater Four?

Your verdict too will surely chime with that of Jeffrey Archer - a man Foot exposed for fiddling expenses at the UN Association, soon after Archer had been selected as Tory candidate for Louth. I am sure it will chime too with the views of Jonathan Aitken or John Poulson, other crooks he exposed.

Are we to ignore the numerous prizes Foot received for his investigative journalism, the numerous investigative articles he wrote for Private Eye - including a recent one about PFI that earned such high praise from Nick Cohen?

Yes, we will, according to you. And we shall ignore them with a hypocrisy that is breathtaking and quite your own.

You say "having little favourable to say, I shall say little more for the moment" before spending the following four paragraphs trying to rip Foot to shreds. That's hyposcrisy for you - it doesn't get much more blatant.

For decent people left or right (and Paul had friends among all political persuasions) Paul's funeral is open for everyone, as is his family's wishes. If you want to attend, contact details are in Private Eye.

Oliver Kamm

My word, what exquisite sensibilities we have here. Sorry to disappoint you, but so far from "ripping him to shreds for four paragraphs" I neither mention nor even allude to Paul Foot beyond the point where I describe him as a Leninist (obviously true) and not an anti-war campaigner (also obviously true, because his party favoured military victory for Saddam Hussein). My only other references are to praise one of his books, regret the degeneration of his prose style when deployed for party purposes, and - with substantiation - take issue with his treatment of the Romantic poets. What on earth is wrong with, let alone "appalling" about, that? My post is about Paul Foot's party, not Paul Foot. I don't discuss the man's campaigns on miscarriages of justice because they're not the subject of the post: the Socialist Workers' Party is the subject of the post. I defy you to identify "an insult to a tremendous crusader against injustice" in any part of the post, unless you suppose (as at least one of you apparently does) that describing a professed Leninist as serving a totalitarian ideology is a calumny - in which case, you reveal more than you might wish.

Ross

Paul Foot wrote in June:

"Almost exactly 10 years ago, I wrote this column in some dismay at the eulogies for the dead former US president (and crook), Richard Nixon. Instead of the day of mourning called for by President Clinton, I suggested a day of rejoicing. I feel very much the same about the oceans of drivel pouring out in honour of the dead former president, Ronald Reagan."

Given that he didn't have the decency to wait until pouring vitriol over the recently deceased I cannot see any reason not to give Paul Foot's inflated reputation a good kicking, perhaps we could bring up his ludicrous campaign to clear the rapist and murderer James Hanratty, which involved at one point insinuating that Janet Gregsten, the widow of Hanratty's victim, was responsible for the murder of her husband.

Benjamin

Yes, Oliver, my "exquisite sensibilities", and I am sure quite a few others too. If your post was not about Paul Foot, why mention him at all?

Do you know what my "sensibilities" tell me, Oliver? I shall tell you:

That when a man dies a fair and true record of his work be presented. You have utterly failed on that score, omitting much of his work as a journalist.

You are quite clear that you will not present this record - of Foot as a journalist, not just another SWPer for you to attack. A record of prolific work as an award winning investigative journalist.

Why do I know you will not present this record?

Because you say:

Beyond that, having little favourable to say, I shall say little more for the moment

There you have it. In your own words.

Your next post about Foot will be another hatchet job, after a little time has passed, the funeral is over.... Right, Oliver?

But I ask again, who shall we ask for an opinion about Foot?

Shall we ask the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Cardiff Three, the Swansea Two or instead the Kamm One?

Shall we ask the Bridgewater Four, or the Kamm One?

Shall we ask Nick Cohen or Oliver Kamm?

Oliver Kamm

Incidentally, David Osler is exactly wrong when he claims "most scholarly accounts of the rise of Nazism point to the fact that the funding came from the German capitalist class". Indeed the most celebrated work expounding that thesis - The Collapse of the Weimar Republic by David Abrahams, published in 1981 - was so shoddy that it was cited in the case of David Irving's disastrous libel suit against Penguin Books as a possible counterpart to Irving's falsifications. Abraham, a Marxist, had advanced the thesis that big business was responsible for the rise of Nazism. Though his book was a much less serious infringement of scholarly ethics than Irving's, Abraham had argued his case with a heedlessness for facts and a carelessness with documents that ensured that, as Richard Evans writes in his account of the Irving case, "In the end ... Abraham was driven out of the historical profession, unable to find a job because of the flaws detected in his work."

Oliver Kamm

Why mention Paul Foot? Because, as I should have thought fairly obvious, he was the reason for the far more extensive mention of the Socialist Workers' Party in the press this week than it normally receives, and I consider those mentions of the SWP were not especially informative. Having thus introduced the post with some favourable comment and some (very mild, i.e. concerning prose style and appreciation of Romantic poetry) critical comment about him, I then go on to comment exclusively about his party. Again, I defy you to identify any insult whatsoever about the man contained therein. I repeat, because you seem to have trouble with this concept: I do not discuss his investigative reporting and campaigns on miscarriages of justice, because this is not a post about the work of Paul Foot, and I state explicitly in my post that a detailed consideration of his writings will be posted in due course.

Seeing, however, as you ask the question, I'm happy to state that his technique served the cause of justice well in some cases but not in all, and I think where he made mistakes they were directly attributable to his polemical methods. For example, it is clear from the evidence of DNA that his long campaign to exonerate Hanratty was misconceived. When presented with that evidence in a BBC documentary on 16 May 2002, Foot stated: "I'm a complete illiterate in relation to the science of DNA, physics and so on. I know nothing about it at all. My doubts stem solely from my, a very, very clear belief that this man did not commit this murder, so if the science is saying he did commit the murder I say well that clashes with my belief that he didn't commit the murder and there must be something wrong with the science." No biblical creationist could have come up with a more fluent credo, which is far from harmless, as the surviving (and paralysed) victim of Hanratty can attest.

I really didn't mean to get into this discussion at this point, but if you persist in posting silly self-righteous tirades on my blog then I will be forced to correct your misconceptions.

Benjamin

Ah good, Oliver - progress at last.

So you will be posting a full review of his work. I wonder if a full and fair assessment of his career as a journalist will clash with your other statement: that you have "little favourable to say?"

Mmmmm. We shall see. It seems to me, if someone was interested in writing a full and fair assessment of someone's work, he wouldn't come out with such a statement prior to the event, before the funeral. A basic error, I would say. Gives the game away.

Oliver Kamm

Progress does indeed appear to have been made, in that, through my continual (and, if I may engage in self-congratulation for a moment, uncharacteristically patient) repetition of the point, you have at last understood the first sentence of the post. Perhaps you will now be good enough to turn your attention to the second sentence, which I will also repeat in a slightly different form of words in the hope that this too will be inwardly assimilated: it is precisely because my judgement of Paul Foot is unfavourable that I am not posting that review now, before his funeral and memorial service. If I were an admirer of his I should already have posted my full comment (c.f. my treatment of the Marxist theorist Paul Hirst, whom I admired greatly and about whom I thus posted my views immediately after his premature death last year). Why you suppose me nefarious for stating my conclusion in advance of my argument is not something I will pretend to comprehend, but I trust I have at least explained my own procedures sufficiently for anyone who might be labouring under similar misconceptions to your own.

Rich

David Osler said:

"An afterthought. Didn't Churchill in the twenties say that if he was Italian, he would have supported Mussolini?"

You are quite right to point this out. That episode occurred in Rome in 1927, when he was still Chancellor of the Exchequer. It remains a serious blotch on his reputation.

"It is one of the oldest tricks in the book to attempt to brand the revolutionary socialist as 'fascists'. But most scholarly accounts of the rise of Nazism point to the fact that the funding came from the German capitalist class."

In his study German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, Henry Ashby Turner Jr. demonstrates that most Nazi party funding came from membership dues, a conclusion which German historian Walter Laqueur agrees with. Where do you find them to be mistaken?

Benjamin

Oliver

You're a highly biased reviewer of Foot's work, that's plain to see. Anybody who does not even mention his high profile work on miscarrages of justice, when you mention his death, makes that quite clear. And you have already posted your conclusions, before the funeral, even though, misleadingly, you say you don't want to say much.

Paul Ancel

'Not only Mussolini, but the French statesman and arch-collaborator Pierre Laval was a pro-Lenin and anti-war socialist in 1914-18. Laval's compatriot the Communist leader Jacques Doriot founded a pro-Nazi and antisemitic party in the 1930s, and was the political mentor of John Amery, the British traitor (and son of the Cabinet Minister Leo Amery) hanged after the war. German Communists actively supported the Nazis in the Prussian referendum of 1931 and the transport strike of 1932. Between 1929 and 1933 the Japanese Communist Party (including members of the Central Committee of the Comintern) adopted en masse the doctrines of race and nation.'

Linking people and movements to the Nazis is a familiar game; it can be played with such diverse figures as Yeats, Pinochet and leading early Zionists. It is polemically titilating, perhaps, but of little interest from the point of view of political science.

Michael

Do you know what my "sensibilities" tell me, Oliver? I shall tell you: That when a man dies a fair and true record of his work be presented. You have utterly failed on that score.

This is more than a bit rich coming from someone whose first online response to the death of Ronald Reagan was "I'm off to Oddbins" (link supplied so that people can check to see whether this is "a fair and true record" of Benjamin's sensibilities in action).

Effra

Lord Rothermere dropped his support for the British Union of Fascists when Jewish department store owners threatened to withdraw their ads from the "Daily Mail".

Mussolini secretly subsidised Mosley, but did not urge him to attack Jews. Neither were they targets of Italian fascism until the late 1930s. Many Blackshirts thought Mosley's "anti-semitism" was purely opportunistic, since his main base of support was among East Enders who felt they were being swamped by Jews and feared refugee influxes from Nazi Germany. The BUF split just before WW2 when William Joyce and a few other satraps thought Mosley wasn't hardline enough on the Jewish question.

Churchill, like his political mentor Lloyd George, remained an admirer of Mussolini and secretly corresponded with him during WW2, hoping to detach Italy from the Axis. (It had changed sides to the winners in WW1.)

Benjamin

I suppose people who have a cold, rather all embracing obsession with the SWP, and the internecine politics of the hard left, post stuff like Kamm does.

But its no excuse for basic incompetance. Kamm clearly brought up Foot's death, but omits to mention some of the most important and well known work of his career - exposing crooks and scoundrels, miscarriages of justice. I await his further writings on Foot, I shall be watching closely, but I don't expect them to be more competant than this effort, or represent a fair representation of the historical record. How ironic, then, that a man who rails against Stalinism and totalitarianism, commits the classic sin of those he berates - the sin of omission.

If the Daily Telegraph can write fairly and interestingly about Foot why can't Kamm?

Oliver Kamm

While it will be obvious that I'm unimpressed with the complaints of a contributor who knows he's offended but can't quite adduce a coherent reason for his mental anguish, I suspect I have done an injustice to my correspondent Mr Ward, who wrote: "It's not really fair to suggest that Paul Foot, who stood for the SWP in 1977 if memory serves [correct], was a supporter of totalitarianism because someone else from the SWP in 2003 called for a victory for Saddam Hussein."

I had interpreted this to mean that Mr Ward disputed my characterisation of the Leninist character of the SWP, but on reflection I'm sure that's not correct. He was merely asking why I associated Foot with another SWP member's call for victory for Saddam, and intimating that he thought this unfair. Fair question: here's my answer.

The SWP is a Leninist party, and as such operates on the principle of 'democratic centralism'. This entails a conception of party discipline in which party decisions are binding once made and to which opposition is not tolerated. Those who agitate against a decision once it has been arrived at are guilty of 'factionalism', and either recant their objection or are removed from the party (often thereby founding even smaller groups). This model of party organisation is, of course, fundamentally different from that of a conventional left-of-centre party, where internal debate is not stifled: Tony Benn, for example, has never suffered from disciplinary action by the Labour Party on account of his views on, say, pensions, nor ought he to be.

It is for this reason strictly correct to associate every SWP member with the line publicly espoused by the organisation. My reference to totalitarianism, incidentally, was not specifically about the SWP's support for the Baathist side in the Iraq war, but about its adherence to Leninism.

This is a big subject, which merits a separate post, but is perhaps best exemplified in the words of Lenin himself, from 'What is to be Done?': "The modern use of the term 'freedom of criticism' contains ... inherent falsehood. Those who are really convinced that they have made progress in science would not demand freedom for the new views to contnue side by side with the old, but the substitution of the new views for the old." Those who hold, in the literal sense, 'politically incorrect' views as determined by the vanguard party must have those views suppressed rather than encouraged. Such is the position of a Leninist, and to elide the distinction between that position and democratic socialism is seriously to mislead.

Jackie D

I think Ryan in Manchester is facing some competition for his title...

David Osler

Are people that join Leninist organisations 'supporters of totalitarianism'? Not at all. In my experience as a former Trotskyist, nobody signs up with a Marxist outfit of any stripe with a burning desire to build a neo-Stalinist dictatorship in Britain.
The moral basis of the decision is entirely honourable. People who take the step do so because they wish to fight exploitation, oppression, poverty, racism and hunger.
Sooner or later most of them discover that sect membership is no way to realise those aims. But morally surely they cannot be branded as fascists.

Paul Ancel

#This entails a conception of party discipline in which party decisions are binding once made and to which opposition is not tolerated. Those who agitate against a decision once it has been arrived at are guilty of 'factionalism', and either recant their objection or are removed from the party (often thereby founding even smaller groups)'

This description does not conform to my experience of the SWP, although this was some 10 years ago. At that point I disagreed with several of their stated positions, esp. their support for the IRA. I argued my case on many occasions, without being asked to 'recant' or suffering the accusation of 'factionalism'. Opposition was certainly tolerated. Admittedly, SWP public meetings were often pieces of theatre - the planting of questions etc, the projected illusion of an enirely open debate. However, your summary of how the SWP works does not correspond to actual practice, unless it has radically changed since I was a member. The concept of 'binding party discipline' is hardly peculiar to the SWP and obviously not 'totalitarian'; nor does it prefigure a totalitarian politics. As for 'totalitarian', it might be worthwhile clarifying which variant of this concept you are employing, a concept inevitably tainted by its use within cold war polemics. 'Totalitarian' is typically used to describe poltical systems rather than political parties, so perhaps you could explain what you mean by a 'totalitarian party' - are you referring to its internal organisation or to the consequences (presumably unintended) of its political programme?

e.a

That you hardly mentioned Paul Foot is precisely the point. The poor man’s untimely death was for you little more than a pretext for bashing your mighty adversary the SWP and so loosening the iron grip in which it holds the political imagination of the nation (or at least a risibly minute fraction thereof). Who knows what obscure jouissance you derive from attacking this rather sorry and ineffectual organisation, but it seems pretty addictive if you (below) have to trawl the letters page of Socialist Worker to get it.

wardytron

Please, none of this Mr Ward nonsense - call me wardytron. Yes, my point was to what extent could one associate any current or former member or supporter of the SWP with the views of any other current or former member. Opinion appears to be divided.

E.A. suggests you get "jouissance", a word to which I freely admit never having encountered before, from attacking the SWP. If this is the case, then, as Barham Salih said about claims that the Iraq war was about oil, "so be it". So long are they are attacked, that's the main thing.

Michael

You'll find the word 'jouissance' in the title of a great many French porno films, which I suspect is all most people need to know!

James M

Aside from the snidery about Paul Foot, Kamm rather ignores the fact that Atzmon was explicitly and repeatedly challenged and sharply criticised by SWP members at the meeting he spoke at; which would rather suggest, would it not, that the SWP does not agree with him, as should be perfectly obvious to anyone with any experience of the organisation.

wardytron

As much as individual members of the SWP might have criticised Atzmon, the assessment of his views by the Socialist Worker was limited to the single adjective "fearless", along with a link to his website. Had they deemed his vile and fanatical hatred worthy of investigation and/or criticism then I wouldn't have deemed them so worthy of investigation and/or criticism.

e.a.

I suggest that the views of individual members, as expressed at the meeting in question, may be more representative than those of the random individual 'Nick Grant' who conducted the interview.

One of the key ideologists of the current SWP is the Cambridge-educated Sebastian Budgen, whom I have met and found robotic and humourless; all his thoughts are secretly referred to Lenin’s ghost prior to utterance. Should you -i.e., anyone reading this -like to email him, his cyber-address is sebastian@amadeobordiga.u-net.com.

e.a.

I'm afraid I can't resist, given the original title of this particular post, quoting Lenin as follows:

"The intellectuals, the lackeys of capital, who think they're the brains of the nation. In fact they're not its brains, they're its shit."

(Letter to Gorky, Sptember 15th, 1919.)

StephenWise

Benjamin: "I suppose people who have a cold, rather all embracing obsession with the SWP, and the internecine politics of the hard left, post stuff like Kamm does."

Not quite. The obsession is with defending political Zionism, particularly the Likud variety, while presenting yourself as a liberal-minded British Labour Party supporter.

This entails (1) attacking, on not-too-obvious grounds, any socialist or anti-racist who effectively criticises the "State of Israel"; (2) acknowledging the theoretical possibility that it could do wrong (the "liberal" bit of the schtick) but never decrying any specific instances of Zionist wrongdoing; (3) suggesting that those who do are invariably moved by "anti-semitism". Game over!

The King of Smug is also the patron saint of bad- faith blogging. Hence his retreat into parlour-game politics where all that matters is showing up other merchants of marginalia. ("Tee hee, you were wrong about Mannerheim in '39!") Discussing today's real issues is too tough.

Oliver Kamm

I fear this comments section is becoming a forum for people who wish to adopt pseudonyms from recent Jewish history as cover for remarks that speak for themselves without my having to annotate them. So far we've had a 'Jabotinsky' making an antisemitic charge of 'dual loyalty', who bizarrely then changed his pseudonym to 'Gobineau' (a notorious 19th-century 'theorist' of antisemitic and racist views) when challenged on the point by another reader. We now have a pseudonymous 'Stephen Wise' propounding the view that the Nazi-Soviet pact and the invasion of Finland are marginal political issues. Like other bloggers, I'm at a loss to know quite how deal with this, other than treat cranks as an occupational hazard of an open forum. But readers should be assured that I am aware of the problem.

Incidentally, I note with complacency that my contributors from the Socialist Workers' Party have judged that on this occasion it's prudent to admit the antisemitic character of its invited speaker's views (if only he'd employed that code word beginning with 'z') and then say, 'nothing to do with us, guv'nor'. I'd be willing to attenuate my uncharitably suspicious attitude on this point if Socialist Worker were to publish a simple, straightforward and unexceptionable editorial condemning Atzmon's anti-Jew bigotry, apologising unreservedly for the puff piece on him published a few weeks ago, and explaining what remedial action had been taken to ensure that there could be no repetition. Presumably the party has been too busy agitating for the banning of the Manchester University Jewish Society to examine the matter so far, but I shall report on the matter if there are developments.

Barry Meislin

Finally, the crux of the matter!

It is quite true that criticism of Israel confers instant legitimacy, justification, and sympathy to any organization that might otherwise be (possibly) tainted with totalitarian tendencies.

Such criticism has indeed become one of the more widespread definitions of virtue (along with anti-Americanism). Certainly, it's not hard to do, and in fact, most anyone can do it and quite well, to boot.

Might it be ironical, or is it simply coincidence, that the Jews---capitalist, communist, rich, poor or what have you---capably served the venerable and versatile role in the 30s and somewhat beyond?

As we seem to be currently living in 1930s redux, one might want to think about preparing to live with the consequences.

e.a.

Just to clear up any potential confusion, I am not an SWP member and I find Atzmon's remarks about the Jews depressing and intolerable. It is indeed deressing that certain anti-semitic canards (Jews as eternal killers of Jesus) are so perversely durable. I do not of course think that anti-Zionism is always a codeword for anti-semitism, but nor am I comfortable with the term 'anti-Zionism' to condemn current Israeli policies, given the commendable secular and socialist ideals of Zionism as a historical movement.

James M

First up, there is a specific criticism of views akin to Atzmon's in Socialist Worker, 13 Dec 2003, in articles by Kevin Ovenden (towards the end) and Mike Rosen: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/1881/sw188113.htm. This is the SWP's position. That's why SWP members did criticise Atzmon and that they did so should not be surprising.

Second, may I suggest you request apologies for similar interviews conducted by Jazzdimensions (http://www.jazzdimensions.de/interviews/the_world/2000/gilad_atzmon.html), Jazz CDs (http://www.jazzcds.co.uk/giladatzmon/giladpage.htm), Jazz Views (http://www.123webpages.co.uk/user/index.php?user=jazzview&pn=10108#feature) and doubtless many others who also note Atzmon's website.

Third, the SWP is not trying to ban Manchester University's Jewish Society. The idea is absurd.

Ant

Kamm: "Like other bloggers, I'm at a loss to know quite how deal with this"

You could try disproving his allegations. You do tend to give Israel a pass, you know. All this "I'm too grand to respond" act is a bit too la-di-da for my liking!

e.a.

I think most readers of Socialist Worker would have a pretty clear idea of the party's attitude to anti-semitism. A cursory survey yields results like this:

http://www.swp.ie/socialistworker/1999/sw107/socialistworker-107.htm#6

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php4?article_id=540


Those same readers would doubtless not 'read too much' into an article by NIck Grant, or rather what is missing therefrom, and then draw conclusions from said ommisions as to official party policy.

If, however, you came to the paper with a kind of hostile prehensility mixed with the anticipation of polemical excitation, well, who knows..

Oliver Kamm

1. Kindly show me the editorial in Socialist Worker that condemns Atzmon for his antisemitism, retracts the kind words applied to him last month, and explains what remedial action will be taken to prevent such favourable coverage of a bigot in future.

2. No, I won't be expecting or requiring an apology from jazz magazines, because - while it's not a subject I follow - I infer that their interest was in Atzmon's jazz rather than his political opinions.

3. The open attempt to ban Manchester University Jewish Society took place in 1996, with the support of Socialist Worker students. The model for this was the actual banning of the Sunderland Polytechnic Jewish Society in 1985, as proposed by the Socialist Worker students on that campus. The Manchester attempt having failed, the SWP in conjunction with the Islamic Society have since tried more roundabout techniques to the same end. I suggest that you acquaint yourself with your own party before denouncing as absurd the notion that they're doing what they're doing.

Scott Adler

Anyone know anything about the attempts by Vanessa Redgrave to render the British acting profession judenrein?

please email williamscottadler@hotmail.com

john b

Scott: they're made up by paranoid conspiracy theorist nutcases. HTH, HAND.

The comments to this entry are closed.