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

July 23, 2004


James M

All the jazz magazines cited plainly refer to Atzmon's thoughts on politics. It should equally be self-evident from all the links posted by myself and others that the SWP is resolutely opposed to antisemitism; I do not know the position of Jazzdimensions, Jazz CDs and Jazz Reviews et al, and it may be instructive to find out. It is, of course, strange that you post a request for an apology onto your blog, rather than emailing Socialist Worker directly. (My apologies, in turn, if you have already contacted the paper.)

"Presumably the party has been too busy agitating for the banning of the Manchester University Jewish Society to examine the matter so far...": notice the misleading present tense when the alleged event you now refer to took place in 1996. The SWP is not trying to ban Manchester University Jewish Society - and, as far as I am aware, has never tried to do so.

Oliver Kamm

Your evasions have the merit of unintended humour. Jazz magazines are interested in jazz. Socialist Worker, on the other hand, secured Atzmon as a speaker and praised his 'fearless' activity because of his politics. So far from being 'resolutely opposed to antisemitism', it gave antisemitism a puff piece in the newspaper. Now the paper apparently needs to be prodded into a condemnation of the man's sentiments by a hostile third party: some 'resolute opposition to antisemitism' that is. What the paper needs to do is publish an editorial apologising for having promoted an antisemitic bigot's political views, and having had him speak from the party's platform. It hasn't done so yet, funnily enough. How many will lose their jobs over this affair, do you imagine? What disciplinary action will be taken - or is it an understandable mistake not to have realised that antisemitic conspiracy theories might be a tad embarrassing?

I note your further evasions on Jew-banning without surprise. Rather than condemn the SWP for its initial attempt to ban the Jewish Society at Manchester and its subsequent and current joint activity with the Islamic Society to attempt the same end by a more circuitous route (i.e. get Zionism condemned as racism in order to lay the ground for a ban founded on the 'racism' claim), you protest unfamiliarity with your own party's activities. On that point at least, I believe you.

James M

Atzmon made no antisemitic claims in the interview he gave for Socialist Worker; likewise for numerous other interviews he has given for various magazines, many of which also note his website, presumably also in good faith. The SW interview could hardly then be construed as a "puff piece" for antisemitism, the sole grounds for your claim being a reference to Atzmon's website. As has been made perfectly clear now on several occasions, the SWP is explicitly opposed to antisemitism: it is less obvious that numerous jazz publications are, and your incuriousity here is disconcerting. As I suggested, your time may be usefully spent enquiring.

I note that you have failed to correct your misleading use of the present tense when referring to supposed attempts by the SWP to ban the Jewish Society at Manchester University. You made a specific claim about an incident in 1996, which you now reinforce with an insinuation. The specific incident allegedly took place nearly a decade ago, whilst the insinuation can be dismissed as such: you evidently believe there to be a plot or conspiracy of some sort, but present no clear or verifiable claims as to its existence. The use of the present tense is therefore unwarranted.

However, and to repeat: as far as I am aware, the SWP has never tried to ban a Jewish Society at any University. I say this on the basis of a familiarity with the party's activities over the best part of a decade, and a familiarity with its politics more generally; I add "as far as I am aware" since it seems impolite to bluntly suggest you are misinformed.

Oliver Kamm

Not so much impolite as ignorant. It has tried on numerous occasions to do so but has always, barring one occasion, been beaten back - hence its current attempts to effect the identical end by a two-stage process. The one exception to its record of defeat was the banning - proposed by an SWP member of the student union executive - of the Jewish Society at Sunderland Polytechnic in 1985. I cite that instance because whereas unsuccessful motions don't typically generate publicity, this is a case of anti-Jewish activism attributable to the SWP that is not open to differing interpretation, where the facts of the matter are easily verifiable, and where the initiative itself came from the party rather than being a line of another antisemitic campaign that the SWP supported. I suggest you gain the familiarity with SWP politics that you erroneously claim already to possess and perhaps ought to have procured before signing up to the party.

Socialist Worker commended Atzmon for his 'fearless' political activities. His political activities are antisemitic. Where's the apology and retraction in the paper?

James M

"Ignorant" is indeed a word that springs to mind, tough perchance the context is different: once more, the SWP has not tried to ban Jewish Societies. It does not seek and has not sought to do so. It is not policy. There is no plot or conspiracy.

I am glad you have dropped the silly accusations about Manchester, which - having bothered to check - I am now quite certain are somewhat distanced from the truth; I cannot vouch for individual SWP members' activities, but I assume Sunderland will turn out likewise, not least your suggestions as to "party policy" and a concerted party effort.

It would seem you have once more failed to contact both Socialist Worker and, more seriously, assorted jazz periodicals that (unlike Socialist Worker) seem uncritical of Atzmon's political views. He made no antisemitic claims in his SW interview, and presumably did not make any in many others: taken in good faith, there were no grounds on the basis of his interview to leave him condemned. However, whilst we know Socialist Worker opposes antisemitism, we cannot as yet definitely say the same about the rest. (I do not believe they are antisemitic, but this is unconfirmed.) I am increasingly worried by your lopsided concerns: an evidently anti-racist publication is tarried, but you seem prepared to leave many other publications unmolested. Again, I would advise you to contact the magazines involved and detail your concerns to them.


Where's the retraction of the following (random) articles?



The anti-semitic SWP are surely remiss in allowing such stuff to be published under its name, perhaps Mr Kamm should write to them and draw the party's attention to this oversight. This debate is frankly a farce. If you want to know what a party thinks, there are plenty of official statements of policy and you don't need to trawl through stray articles on Jazz in the hope of finding material for defamation. If I want to find out about Labour party policy I don't investigate the activities of their student Union contingent, I don't read between the lines of some article on music or football in the party paper.. but perhaps Mr Kamm is a deconstructionist, reading the margins, the gaps, the letter rather than the spirit. And perhaps not.

Oliver Kamm

No, you haven't checked, and your general haziness regarding your party's activities suggests that perhaps you didn't take due care and pay due attention when signing up. If you want to post on this site you should have the courtesy not to waste everyone's time in this way.

One last time, for your benefit. The SWP has periodically tried to ban Jewish societies from university campuses; it succeeded in doing so at Sunderland Polytechnic in 1985 (the student body at my own college sent a letter of protest). The SWP attempted the same course at Manchester University in 1996 and is now returning to promote antisemitic motions in concert (since 2002) with the university Islamists. These activities are easily verified, despite your unwillingness to go about the task. Your belief that antisemitic conspiracy theories are all a bit of a giggle persuades me that there is little to be gained by pursuing this exchange further.

The comments to this entry are closed.