I have not yet commented on the death of the journalist Paul Foot, but shall be posting in due course a review of his writings. As my conclusion is hostile, I'll leave more time to elapse before doing so - and will at this point acknowledge that I consider at least one of his political books to be prescient and valuable. In The Rise of Enoch Powell, published in 1969, Foot did a fine and original job in dissecting the record of a vastly overrated politician, and his overall judgement of the man could scarcely be bettered. Alluding to Powell's speeches on immigration and race over the previous year, Foot stated:
The truth was that this 'austere' politician, who over more than twenty years of public life had established for himself a reputation for altruism and integrity, had embarked on one of the most dangerous and opportunist escapades in the history of British politics.
Beyond that, having little favourable to say, I shall say little more for the moment. But it is always sad to find a stylish writer reduced to enervating and unintentionally comic prose of the type required by a totalitarian ideology. (Try this, from Foot's brochure for the newly-established Socialist Workers' Party in 1977, Why You Should be a Socialist: "Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, is usually painted as a tyrant. In fact he was the opposite.") And for someone with a much-vaunted enthusiasm for English literature, it was striking how little of the canon he had read that challenged his political views.
In the many encomia that Foot has received, there is not quite an embarrassed silence about his activism for the SWP and its predecessors over 40 years but at least the sense that this was an idiosyncrasy founded on admirable qualities. He was a "passionately committed socialist of the old school", according to The Times; "part of the conscience of the Left", according to The Standard. It's probably therefore worth pointing out that the "socialism of the old school" that the SWP represents is not the democratic socialism of, say, Michael Foot or Fenner Brockway, still less the astringent anti-totalitarianism of Ernest Bevin or George Orwell, but Leninism. The Leninism of the SWP, moreover, is of a type that I consider deserves a more specific ideological description, and that is the subject of this post.
The obituaries also described Paul Foot as an anti-war campaigner, but this was not true. As I have pointed out before, the SWP - the moving force behind the Stop the War Coalition and the Respect Coalition - didn't so much object to the Iraq war as believe the wrong side won it. It explicitly favoured military victory for Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who modelled his regime on that of Nazi Germany. Party ideologue Paul McGarr wrote in Socialist Worker, 23 March 2003:
The best response to war would be protests across the globe which make it impossible for Bush and Blair to continue. But while war lasts by far the lesser evil would be reverses, or defeat, for the US and British forces. That may be unlikely, given the overwhelming military superiority they enjoy. But it would be the best outcome in military terms.
Allying with tyranny in preference to supporting the western democracies is, of course and unfortunately, hardly novel for the far Left. But I want to argue something more. The SWP stands in a more specific and identifiable position of far-Left support for fascism. There are innumerable historical instances of where the term 'fascist Left' has become a literal and not merely metaphorical description. 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.
Regular readers of this blog may recall a long series of posts last year in which I discussed the neo-Nazi ideology of the terrorist Left associated with the Red Army Fraction in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Again, I mean 'neo-Nazi' literally: there are few other terms adequate to describe those who bombed a Berlin synagogue on the anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1969 in order to protest against Israeli policies, or who supported the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games three years later. The principal leftist spokesman who extolled the Munich massacre, Horst Mahler, is these days a spokesman for the far-Right party National Democratic Party, which the German government recently (and unsuccessfully) tried to ban on suspicion of its being implicated in the firebombing of the homes of Turkish immigrants.
I thought I knew Mahler's political history well, but a new book, Bringing the War Home - a study of the revolutionary violence in the US and Germany in this period - by the American historian Jeremy Varon, has taught me something I didn't know. Mahler had another political incarnation before becoming an overt Nazi:
Horst Mahler broke with the [Red Army Fraction] in 1974 and affiliated with traditional Marxism-Leninism.... Mahler ultimately lumped terrorism with unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction, and criminality as expressions of a society in crisis. Far from being the "cure" for capitalism's pathologies, the RAF was itself one of capitalism's pathologies.
It is my considered view that the SWP is best described as a fascist party of the Left, even without taking into account the Islamist connections that have brought the party such scorn on the liberal Left. It has, moreover, a striking characteristic in common with the far Right: an increasingly overt antisemitism. I am indebted to a correspondent who has brought to my attention a recent instance of this campaigning. The SWP'S recent jamboree, Marxism 2004, was graced by the presence of someone billed as "acclaimed jazz musician Gilad Atzmon". Atzmon was interviewed in Socialist Worker last month under the heading "Zionism is My Enemy", and very predictable he was too:
GILAD ATZMON wanders on stage in Brighton tugging on a customary cigarette. "Smoking kills," he announces. "But Blair kills more." On clarinet or saxophone, Gilad is now among the top UK-resident jazz musicians, winning awards and plaudits from all corners. Last year his Exile album won both the Radio 3 and Time Out awards for jazz album of the year. But Gilad's fearless tirades against Zionism-the ideology behind the Israeli state-have cost him in terms of lost gigs and constant vigilance about personal security. He describes his composition "Jenin" as a warning to what he calls "the BBS axis of evil"-Bush, Blair and Sharon. "I want to see the world as a BBS-free zone. I am working towards that aim," he says.
The interview concludes with a common euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state, ardently wished for by this former Israeli reservist:
As to the future of Palestine, Gilad has no doubts over the way forward. "Only one way round this problematic issue. One-state solution," he says. "In other words, full equality and a conclusive right of return for the Palestinian people."
Socialist Worker helpfully appends the information:
Gilad Atzmon will speak and perform on Tuesday 13 July at the Marxism 2004 festival and conference in London. You can find out more about his life and work at his website.
Well, here is Atzmon's web site. If you go to the selection of articles under the heading 'Politics', it will take your breath away. Here is Atzmon "review[ing] some current typical Zionist arguments" (emphasis added):
Zionists complain that Jews continue to be associated with a conspiracy to rule the world via political lobbies, media and money. Is the suggestion of conspiracy really an empty accusation? The following list is presented with pride in several Jewish American websites. [There follows a list of Jewish members of the Bush administration.]
Let me assure you, in Clinton's administration the situation was even worse. Even though the Jews only make up 2.9 per cent of the country's population, an astounding 56 per cent of Clinton's appointees were Jews. A coincidence? I don't think so.
We have to ask ourselves what motivates American Jews to gain such political power. Is it a genuine care for American interests? Soon, following the growing number of American casualties in Iraq, American people will start to ask themselves this very question.
Since America currently enjoys the status of the world's only super power and since all the Jews listed above declare themselves as devoted Zionists, we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously. It is beyond doubt that Zionists, the most radical, racist and nationalistic Jews around, have already managed to turn America into an Israeli mission force. The world's number one super power is there to support the Jewish state's wealth and security matters. The one-sided pro-Zionist take on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the American veto against every 'anti-Israeli' UN resolution, the war against Iraq and now the militant intentions against Syria, all prove beyond doubt that it is Zionist interests that America is serving. American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the elder of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy. So far they are doing pretty well for themselves at least. Whether the Americans enjoy the deterioration of their state's affairs will no doubt be revealed soon.
I am thick of skin and firm of constitution, but I find myself almost physically sickened by sentiments like these. According to this man, there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world that accords with the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. And to him, the authenticity of the Protocols is a matter of "debate"!
In discussing Jewish concerns about the Mel Gibson film on the passion of Christ, Atzmon makes it clear who the trangressor is: it's the Jews, who are once again crucifying Jesus:
Perhaps the Zionist tendency to associate themselves with their ancestors can help us to understand the oppression and the atrocities against the Palestinian people in terms of a repetition of Christ's via dolorosa, the way of suffering. Apparently the Palestinian people are today's Jesus....
Mr. [Abram] Foxman [of the Anti-Defamation League] realises very well that such an interpretation of Gibson's film will lead western people towards some rethinking. A pang of conscience towards the Palestinians['] misery is inevitable. I would guess that Mr. Foxman and his Zionists allies realise that the artificial myth of Judo-Christian [sic] companionship is about to collapse. Again, it isn't that surprising. A brief reading of the history of those rival beliefs reveals a story rich in bitter conflicts. We are talking here about two distinct worldviews. The differentiation is clearly reflected in the quotes above [from Foxman and Gibson]. While Foxman's reaction is pretty precise, addressing the favourite Jewish topic of economy of hatred, Christianity as it is reflected in Gibson's response is all about "love for each other".
There's more. Much, much more. But you get the idea. My correspondent who drew this stuff to my attention makes the following apt point:
Would an organisation, or a publication, that wasn't anti-Semitic interview someone like this without ever once drawing attention to these views, other than to describe them as "fearless"? No, is my guess.
Mine too, but you can draw your own conclusions.