Livingstone’s “thing” about Jews

April 30, 2016 at 6:42 am (anti-semitism, AWL, conspiracy theories, fascism, history, Jim D, labour party, Livingstone, Racism, stalinism, zionism)

According to the Evening Standard Ken Livingstone is planning to rely on Lenni Brenner’s controversial writings on Zionism in his defence within the Labour Party. It says Livingstone met and was convinced by Brenner (described as ‘an obscure Marxist writer’ and ‘bearded American historian’) in 1985 – that is, at the height of Livingstone’s association with the Workers Revolutionary Party.

His defence that his remarks are (supposedly) historically accurate is an attempt to obscure what’s really going on and a red herring . More to the point is why he chose to make those remarks when he did. They hardly constitute a defence of Naz Shah, which is what he was supposed to be talking about. This and the 2005 incident with a Jewish reporter, indicates that he has a reflex of saying something offensive to Jews when he sees an opportunity or is challenged. That is, he has a “thing” about Jews.

The article below, published in the AWL’s Solidarity newspaper in 2005 (shortly after the incident with the reporter) gives a good analysis of Livingstone’s character in general, and his “thing” about Jews in particular. In the light of subsequent events, however, I’d say the author (Sean Matgamna) is being too charitable when he opines  that “It is very unlikely that he is prejudiced against individual Jews, simply for being Jewish”:

Row: Ken Livingstone was recorded comparing Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold (right) to a 'German war criminal' , which ended up in the High Court

13 Comments

  1. seditionsquare said,

    Well done for giving Israel a cart blanche because of their “right to survive and defend itself”, even though in practice this means making second class citizens of Palestinians, destroying the 2-party state idea through settlement schemes, launching completely disproportionate wars targeting civilians, etc. Criticising any of that is now “psuedo-left”, because of course the real left is anyone you say it is.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      I fucking don’t! No capitalist country has, in the eyes of socialists, the right to survive or to be supported. We don’t take sides as the working class has no country.

  2. ianmichael43 said,

    Excellent piece!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Sam Kincaide said,

    Good demolition here of Brenner by Paul Bogdanor:

    Ken Livingstone thinks that Lenni Brenner, an American Trotskyist, is the definitive source on everything to do with Zionism. He has believed this for decades. And in all that time, it never occurred to Livingstone to check Brenner’s “facts” and sources.

    Below is an example of Brenner’s methods as a “historian.” Reproduced is a passage from Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, the Bible of Livingstone’s anti-Zionism.

    Almost every factual statement in the quoted passage is false.

    The heading under which this passage appears is “The Zionist Alliance With Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe” [1]. As an example of this “alliance,” Brenner refers to Simon Petliura’s Ukrainian secessionist government, the Rada, which was set up during the Russian Civil War.

    Here is the passage:

    The local Zionist leadership was therefore forced to turn to the nationalists as possible allies. In the Ukraine that meant Simon Petliura’s Rada (Council), which, like the Zionists, recruited on strictly ethnic lines: no Russians, no Poles and no Jews…

    The Rada was based on village schoolteachers and other language enthusiasts, steeped in the “glorious” history of the Ukraine… Nationalist ideology reinforced the “Christ-killer” venom which was poured into the illiterate rural masses by the old regime. Anti-Semitic outbreaks were inevitable in such an ideological climate, but the Zionists were taken in by promises of national autonomy, and rushed into the Rada. In January 1919 Abraham Revusky of the Poale Zion took office as Petliura’s Minister for Jewish Affairs. Meir Grossmann of the Ukrainian Zionist Executive went abroad to rally Jewish support for the anti-Bolshevik regime.

    The inevitable pogroms started with the first Ukrainian defeat at the hands of the Red Army in January 1919, and Revusky was compelled to resign within a month when Petliura did nothing to stop the atrocities. In many respects the Petliura episode destroyed the mass base of Zionism amongst Soviet Jews. Churchill lost his gamble: Trotsky, not Weizmann and not Revusky, was to win the soul of the Jewish masses. [2]

    Brenner’s message is clear: the Zionists collaborated with a virulently reactionary Ukrainian regime, the Petliura government, responsible for atrocities against Jews, therefore the Trotskyists, not the Zionists, were and are the real allies of the Jewish masses.

    Let’s unpack this astonishing passage, one factual assertion at a time.

    In the Ukraine that meant Simon Petliura’s Rada (Council), which, like the Zionists, recruited on strictly ethnic lines: no Russians, no Poles and no Jews.

    The Rada “began negotiations with the non-Ukrainian minorities. A constitution, drafted for presentation to the Provisional Government, included the appointment of three vice-secretaries for nationality affairs (Jewish, Polish, and Russian); publication of all laws in Yiddish, Russian, and Polish, as well as Ukrainian; and representation of the minorities in the Central Rada and its derivative organs.” [3]

    The Rada was based on village schoolteachers and other language enthusiasts, steeped in the “glorious” history of the Ukraine… Nationalist ideology reinforced the “Christ-killer” venom which was poured into the illiterate rural masses by the old regime. Anti-Semitic outbreaks were inevitable in such an ideological climate…

    The Ukrainian Rada was dominated by socialist parties. It came to power on a platform of full Jewish emancipation. [4]

    … but the Zionists were taken in by promises of national autonomy, and rushed into the Rada. In January 1919 Abraham Revusky of the Poale Zion took office as Petliura’s Minister for Jewish Affairs.

    As early as November-December 1917, the Zionists sought permission to form defensive units to prevent pogroms, but were thwarted by the socialists. When the Rada broke with the Bolsheviks and declared independence from Russia in January 1918, all Zionist parties abstained. Institutions formed by the Rada’s Jewish Provisional Parliament were boycotted by the Zionist parties. Revusky of Poale Zion was appointed to the Rada’s Ministry for Jewish Affairs because all other Zionist parties refused to supply a candidate. [5]

    Meir Grossmann of the Ukrainian Zionist Executive went abroad to rally Jewish support for the anti-Bolshevik regime.

    Grossman went abroad to inform world opinion about the Bolshevik invasion of the Ukraine and appeal for help. While abroad, he created aid organisations for Ukrainian Jews. [6]

    The inevitable pogroms started with the first Ukrainian defeat at the hands of the Red Army in January 1919, and Revusky was compelled to resign within a month when Petliura did nothing to stop the atrocities.

    Revusky wanted to stay in office pending a successor but on January 25-6, 1919, his Zionist faction, Poale Zion, formally announced its opposition to the Rada, forcing him to resign under threat of expulsion from the party. [7] The most serious pogroms took place months later, in May and August-September 1919. [8]

    In many respects the Petliura episode destroyed the mass base of Zionism amongst Soviet Jews.

    The Zionists routed all other Jewish parties in Ukrainian elections during the years of the Rada. [9]

    … Trotsky, not Weizmann and not Revusky, was to win the soul of the Jewish masses.

    Despite receiving hundreds of reports of anti-Jewish violence by his own Bolshevik troops, Trotsky did nothing at all to defend Jews and made no mention of the pogroms either in public or in private. [10] Instead he protested to the Politburo that there were too many Latvians and Jews in the Bolshevik secret police. The secret police were then banned from appointing Jews to leading posts and ordered to execute some Jews for propaganda reasons. [11]

    The picture painted by Brenner is one of reactionary Ukrainian pogromists gaining the full collaboration of the Zionists. But the facts are as follows: the Ukrainian nationalists came to power on a socialist and inclusive platform; but the Zionists anticipated pogroms and tried to prevent them, while boycotting the government blamed for the subsequent atrocities. Brenner’s brief treatment of these events is a tissue of distortions and falsehoods.

    Brenner is a propagandist, not a historian, and only a fool or a knave would rely on his books.

    Endnotes

    [1] Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (Lawrence Hill Books, 1983), p. 13.

    [2] Ibid., pp. 13-14.

    [3] Henry Abramson, “Jewish Representation in the Independent Ukrainian Governments of 1917-1920,” Slavic Review, Vol. 50, No. 3, Fall 1991, p. 543.

    [4] Ibid., p. 543.

    [5] Ibid., pp. 543-7.

    [6] “Meir Grossman,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., Vol. 8, pp. 100-1.

    [7] Zosa Szajkowski, Communication, Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3, July 1970, p. 257.

    [8] Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (Fontana Press, 1995), p. 106.

    [9] Abramson, “Jewish Representation in the Independent Ukrainian Governments of 1917-1920,” pp. 545-6.

    [10] Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, p. 104.

    [11] George Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police (Clarendon Press, 1981), pp. 262, 413n79.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      In a nutshell, Ken got it wrong. Deaths that resulted in this error – 0.

    • Keri said,

      Thank you Sam for this contribution, and again thank you to this website for publishing well reasoned pieces.

      • Makhno said,

        Indeed, excellent work here.

        Which is more than can be said to the Observer, which has just published a Nick Cohen piece gleefully blaming the entire left for the fact that Ken Livingstone is an arsehole.

  4. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Ken Livingstone is self made and no one else is responsible for his arse.
    Unlike Hitler he is diplomatic to a certain extent because he has to be.

  5. Robert said,

    Doubts were cast on Ken Livingstone’s self-madeness (Made-ness, I wrote, not madness) when the late Philip Hobsbaum (pronounced Hobsbomb) was identified as a shaping influence on young Livingstone when a teacher/master at the school boy Kenneth attended in London. The article, in the Edinburgh Review (whose editor at the time was also Jewish, like Hobsbaum) gave a list suggesting Hobsbaum as a major cultural influence on late twentieth century Britain, beginning with schoolboy Livingstone, and continuing at Queens University, Belfast, with reference to his influence on the subsequent Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, before going to Glasgow (getting away from Ulster Protestants with the invariable accusation of pro-Papist bias, though some years prior to the later decades-long explosion in which Death revealed a lack of bias on either side). In Glasgow the names of Alasdair Gray and James Kelman and and and were cited as beneficiaries.

    The first of the Hobsbaum-school is now accused of anti-semitism where the problem is that he’s fallen back on a device of base rhetoric whcih sometimes prevails among the uninformed, merely
    (1) stretching a point till the stitches or rivets are on the point of popping, so that the Eduard Gans c.1830 project of a Jewish homeland chosen by Jews becomes or is confused with (by a disciple of Karl Lueger) a place to which Jews are exiled by a central administration of a state in which they have been resident for centuries. This is very dubiously termed Zionism. Why did the burglar leave London and go west? Because he was sentenced to years in Dartmoor, or went to South America?

    (2) stretching not just any point but one which might be confused with a half-truth or falsehood in some complex relation to the truth, with the incidental advantage that the press will insist its readers are impatient of the complications involved in correcting such crap. (operating on the presupposition that its readers are thickos, since why else would they be paying for this wasteful rag?).
    This sort of rubbish has the additional advantage, considering it as a fraudulent utterance, of taking the opposition by surprise. Say something nobody expects, and some people will be so startled by awareness that they know nothing of the question, you will have shut them up beforehand.

    Actually Philip Hobsbaum might have taken issue with Livingstone’s deployment of that technique, just as he did with an article by a graduate of Glasgow University for composing in a Gilmorehill Baroque idiom he said his department existed not least in order to suppress as an attempted instrument of critical discourse. I suppose Hobsbaum might laugh if the individual in that case was described as one of his failures.
    What he would make of Zitler the Hionist, as Spooner might have said, is anybody’s guess. On a par with bad jokes about Butlitz, Stalag Luft Pontin, and pre-1939 non-holiday camps from which involuntary and thus non- guests emerged from where there had been no charge for accommodation on payment of a backhander from family in UK; and whom family in UK sometimes took back on trust, for when the father arrived in Glasgow none of them recognised him at sight.

    Maybe not a Hobsbaum failure, just a Livingstone failure to grow up?

  6. Rilke said,

    Jean Cocteau once said of Hugo’s overly grandiose sense of himself that ‘Victor Hugo was a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo.’ Livingstone has gone the same way. In Ken’s world there is a person who has been slighted by the political realm and ignored by the working class he purports to be ‘fighting for’.This person’s name is Ken Livingstone and Ken knows him personally. Ken knows that Ken is not to blame for this sorry state of affairs. There are forces or ‘groups’ that have it ‘in’ for him or are just too blind to see his importance. As his political thought gets more Inward and fantastical, these groups take on cartoon proportions: Freemasons, the Vatican, Blairites, Tories, the media, Israel, the CIA, trade unions that will not give him money when he demands it (he calls them ‘bureaucrats’) and all the usual suspects, they all around him. Only he and his elect (there are about six individuals who dress like him and sleep in the same sleeping bag and have sex with each other, that call themselves a ‘party’), only these and Ken are fully aware of the ‘real’. He has not had a proper job for decades and thinks he has the right to tell others how to live. Asked what his job is, he answers ‘the ex leader of London council’. At least Hugo gave us some wonderful literature, Ken is just a shabby spectacle now, not even entertaining. It is a fact, he is mildly muddled in the head, has been for a few years, but he is so engrossed in himself that he will not listen to others even when they tell him simple and obvious truths. It will be the Illuminati next, wait and see…

  7. kb72 said,

    The spectacle of Ken turning into a figure that Nick Griffin is supporting and who will end up thinking David Irving was wrongfully persecuted by the Ziomedia is not pretty. Even less pretty are those who don’t have the excuse of age and drunkenness thinking he may have a point and waving wikipedia links to the Haavarah agreement.

    If in a discussion about antisemitism you go on the radio and telly and start talking gratuitously about Hitler you have a problem. If those broadly sympathetic to your politics don’t blench at this but nod and think maybe Ken has a point and is just telling the TRUTH the Labour party has a problem.

    This has been an utterly depressing, sickening couple of days.

  8. kb72 said,

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