Livingstone, Labour and ‘left’ anti-semitism

April 5, 2017 at 6:40 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, conspiracy theories, fascism, history, israel, labour party, left, Livingstone, palestine, posted by JD, stalinism, zionism)


Above: the liar and Jew-baiter Livingstone crows over his victory – hopefully, it will be short-lived

By Sean Matgamna (in 2016, after Livingstone’s suspension)

On one level the sudden media outcry about Ken Livingstone’s anti-semitism is being used and fed by the Labour right, especially the stupid part of the right — and, of course, the Tories — to sabotage the Labour Party in the London mayoral and other local government elections and to discredit Jeremy Corbyn.

Livingstone has been what he is now for decades. He was the same Livingstone when the Blairite right took him back into the Labour Party, in 2004, after his 2000-4 term as London mayor. The bigger truth, however, is that, whatever their motives, those who cry out against Livingstone’s vicious nonsense about Hitler supporting Zionism and wanting to send Jews to Israel in 1932 (he said Israel, not Palestine) are right to do so. If the enemies of the Labour Party and of the left have found a soft target, it is a legitimate target. A big part of the pseudo-left believe or assert that “Zionists” (that is, for practical purposes, most Jews) are historically tainted by Nazism. That “the Zionists” “collaborated” with the Nazis in making the Holocaust and share responsibility for it; that “the Zionists” manipulated even the Nazis during World War 2 and especially share responsibility for the Nazi murder of one million Hungarian Jews in 1944-5. That in their “racism” — that is, in first their wanting a Jewish state and then in their Israeli nationalism — they run parallel to Nazism. That Israel, in that sense, is a continuation of Nazism.

This bizarre “story” originates in the Stalinist anti-semitic campaign against “Zionism” of the late 1940s and the first half of the 1950s. The fact that it is a tissue of contrived and vicious nonsense does not discredit it: one reason why it survives is that it is rarely expressed as a coherent story, as it is here. It is the thesis of the play ‘Perdition’, written by Jim Allen and produced by Ken Loach, and based on Lenni Brenner’s grossly biased and distorting book which Livingstone says he will submit to the Labour Party inquiry into his statements.

Politically inexperienced young people, justly indignant at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Gaza and moved to side with the Palestinians, are easily led into accepting some or all of these ideas. A petrol bomb, or Molotov cocktail, consists of soapy water and petrol in a bottle, and “works”, after the glass container is shattered, by way of the soapy water spreading the burning petrol. Righteous indignation at the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is the soapy water here, spreading a lethal anti-semitism disguised as “anti-Zionism” — what someone called “absolute anti-Zionism”. It has been spread on anti-war demonstrations, for example, by way of placards and chants equating Israeli prime ministers with Hitler, identifying Zionism and Nazism, coupling the Star of David and the swastika, and proclamations of the need to destroy (in real-world terms, conquer) Israel. Young people indignant at Israeli government policies and actions against the Palestinians are miseducated to believe that support for the Palestinians against Israel demands not an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel, but the destruction of Israel.

Least of all does this vicious claptrap help the Palestinians. Even leaving aside the question of the national rights of the Hebrew nation in Palestine, this attitude implies indefinite postponement of a settlement, until Israel can be conquered. It rules out emancipation for the Palestinians in any foreseeable future. Its devotees actively campaign against the only real solution: an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel.

They “use” the plight of the Palestinians to float Arab-chauvinist, Islamic-chauvinist, “anti-imperialist” hostility to Israel. They are functionally indifferent to the living Palestinian people. The terrible truth is that the pseudo-left, and most so the “revolutionary” pseudo-left”, is a cesspool of an “absolute anti-Zionism” which is anti-semitism because it condemns — as “Zionists”, as criminals, as racists — Jews who refuse to agree that Israel should be abolished.

In the not-so-distant past, student Jewish societies have been banned for refusing to support this. Livingstone’s comments were only a small and half-sanitised version of that politics, that attitude, and that mindset. It is a historical fact that some anti-semites — for instance, Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein — did say they found Zionism acceptable. It would if successful remove the Jews they hated to a distant land. For decades such facts as the talks between Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, and the minister of the anti-semitic Tsarist government, von Plehve, or the “Transfer Agreement” made by the Jewish Agency in Palestine with Hitler’s government in August 1933, allowing Jews who fled Germany to Palestine to keep some of their property, were setpieces in Stalinist anti-Zionist agitation. But Livingstone wasn’t just referring to such things in the past and “construing” them. It is plain from the way he spoke that he was jeering, baiting, just as he did in 2005 when he called a Jewish journalist “like a concentration camp guard”.

“Hitler supported Zionism”. He wanted Jews to go “to Israel”. The Holocaust was not a logical development in war conditions of Nazi policies, but a matter of Hitler, previously a Zionist, “going mad and killing millions of Jews”. Slight pauses in his speech indicated that Livingstone was being careful with his words. He reaffirmed his statements in three separate interviews on 28 April, and has refused to retract them since. With Livingstone, the cesspool of pseudo-left “absolute anti-Zionism”, that is anti-semitism, overflowed into mainstream politics. It gave the right and the Tories an easy target and an opportunity to bring the scandal out into the open. It needs to be out in the open. It needs to be discussed. It needs to be purged politically — and the labour movement needs to purge itself of the unteachables like Livingstone.

The immediate suspension of Livingstone from the Labour Party and the setting-up of an investigation into his statements overlaps with the distinct and separate question of the rights of Labour Party members and the continuing waves of expulsions of leftists. “Progress” and other Labour right-wingers are campaigning to make expulsions even easier, and for anyone adjudged by a Labour Party official as guilty of “anti-semitism, racism, or Islamophobia” to be summarily banned from membership for life. Livingstone and his supporters try to present Livingstone’s suspension as one more unjustified reprisal against the left. They try to amalgamate the issues. Serious socialists should not let them do that.

Livingstone is not a typical victim of Labour’s expulsion-freaks. There is a mystery here. What does Livingstone think he is doing? He is a calculating man. He is a Livingstone-serving opportunist, not a principled politician who will stand by his version of the truth, irrespective of consequences. His saying what he said and refusing to retreat from it is uncharacteristic behaviour. He knows perfectly well that he is helping the Labour right and the Tories, sabotaging Labour’s election campaign. He wants to do that? Why?

The explanation may lie in Livingstone’s dual character. Inside this supremely self-centred, manipulative politician Dr Jekyll-Livingstone there is imprisoned a contrary, irrational, egotist, Mr Hyde-Livingstone, who sometimes takes over.

The Labour right offensive targets not only Livingstone but Corbyn. Prominent has been John Mann MP. Mann is something of a rent-a-gob, an MP in a symbiotic partnership with busy journalists who need an immediate response, a comment, a quote. That gives the MP a spurious prominence and the journalists usable copy. In his rent-a-gob role, when it became plain in the middle of the 2015 Labour leadership contest that Corbyn would win, Mann made the preposterous proposal that the election be called off, thus branding himself as not only a right-winger but also as a notable dimwit. But Mann has for long been an open opponent of “left-wing” anti-semitism. He is entitled to have a go at Livingstone, even though, characteristically, he did it with wild hyperbole. Whatever the motives of those attacking Livingstone, the issue of pseudo-left anti-semitism must be tackled on its merits.

For the serious left to ally with Livingstone, and to let opposition to the expulsions regime in the Labour Party prejudice us in favour of Livingstone, pushing aside the political question in this case, would be a suicidal mistake. “Left” anti-semitism is no small thing. The future of the labour movement depends on it being opposed, combated, and uprooted. The Labour leadership had a right to suspend Livingstone and open an investigation, and they were right to exercise it. The alternative would have been to show themselves numb, indifferent, or collusive to anti-semitism and the anti-semites. Livingstone will have the chance to argue at the investigation all his claims to have been unfairly or unjustly treated.

There is a plain danger that the politics of the issue will be buried in the churning mud of denunciations and counter-denunciations. Typical left “absolute anti-Zionists” are not racists. They most likely share all the horror of decent people at racism. Their mental furniture includes denunciations of Hitler’s and Stalin’s anti-semitism, loathing of the Tsarist Black Hundred anti-Jewish pogromists, and so on. The central problem with the “absolute anti-Zionists” is that they don’t see the connection between the anti-semitism and the racism they loathe, and their own politics now on Israel. They see themselves only as champions of the Palestinians oppressed by Israel, and their hostility to Israel only as a just and necessary part of that. Such people are typically not racists against Jews. The dividing line is not on racism, but in the politics of the Middle East. It is not between critics of Israel and its uncritical defenders, but on the political answers subscribed to. The dividing line is between those who want to change and reform Israel, and have an independent Palestinian state side by side with Israel — and those who deny Israel’s right to exist at all, who see Israel as an illegitimate political formation, a mistake, a crime of history that must be undone by the elimination of the whole Israeli polity.

Everything anti-semitic specific to the left is rooted in that divide. It is impossible to draw a line saying which degrees and kinds of criticism of Israel are to be licensed. Who should decide what is untrue or true, too severe or merely just, preconceived or a legitimate response to reality? It is a hopeless task. Such a Labour Party regime could not but be arbitrary and capricious, and, in current conditions, driven by a hysteria invoked for the occasion by the Labour right.

On the one side there will be people inclined to see any serious criticism of Israel as anti-semitism; on the other, those inclined to see any defence or justification of Israel as “Zionist apologetics”. The political dividing line, both true to the reality and serviceable in practice, is between critics of Israeli policy and action who want to improve things, and those whose often just criticism carries the demand that Israel be destroyed, that the Hebrew nation be deprived of self-determination — who back armed action by such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and by Arab or Islamic states, to put Israel out of existence.

It is important in all this not to lose sight of the Palestinians held in the stifling grasp of Israeli occupation, outmatched militarily and more or less helpless in the face of Israeli military might. The Palestinian demand for their own independent state, alongside Israel, deserves the support of every socialist and honest democrat.

NB: an excellent, detailed critique of Livingstone’s supposedly ‘authoritative’ source, Lenni Brenner, here

Excellent analysis By Bob From Brockley, here

24 Comments

  1. rotzeichen said,

    The above diatribe doesn’t deserve a proper response, suffice it to say you clearly don’t like Ken Livingstone.

    Any reasonable person would ask how did Ken Livingstone respond to an idiot such as John Mann that stage managed a deliberate attack on him in front of television cameras, the answer is obvious when you see it as it happened, then something he said gets deliberately misconstrued and misinterpreted, he goes through a charade of an inquiry rigged by Blairite supporters on the NEC that openly oppose everything he stands for. That is what he is up against, noting that they judge him and yet have to admit he did not say what they accuse him of.

    It takes some imagination to invent the truth and when caught out still claim it’s valid.

    Ken Livingstone is being kept out of circulation for political reasons that have nothing to do with anti Semitism and everything to do with the politics of smears and lies, this Blog does itself no favours by jumping on the same bandwagon.

    • Jim Denham said,

      rotzeichen: present us with a reasoned argument as to why what Livingstone said is true, and/or needed to be said, and we’ll respond. As it is, your comment is simply irrational garbage that fails to answer any of the points raised in Matgamna’s article – and, indeed, confirms many of his points.

    • Mick said,

      Lefties living in denial is a splendid watch for some of us. They just blame Blair but their own flaws keep Labour unelectable.

      And considering how manic virtue signalling passes for common sense in the loony left, I’m surprised any of them have the nerve to howl about stuff being misconstrued and misinterpreted.

      • rotzeichen said,

        Have you ever bothered to look at the mast head of this forum, noting it says Shiraz Socialist.

        Where do you think you fit in that description??????

  2. Stephen Bellamy said,

    I Know. Hard to know whether to laugh or cry isn’t it ?http://wp.me/p5W2a1-Z1

    • Jim Denham said,

      In the case of Christian anti-semites like you, Stephen, it is indeed. BTW: I read the article you linked to: it’s pathetic, irrelevant shite.

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        Well that wasn’t very nice was it. Jim Denham, Jonathan Hoffman, Jeremy ” preposterous liar ” Newmark…….the three muppeteers

  3. Mick said,

    I’m impressed at how solid this article is. Yes, it leaves out other notable examples like Naz Shah but it does reference Islamic bigotry, though it also doesn’t explore. That’s a pity. That’s a huge part of the mystery because Islam is directly antisemitic. But this is still a powerful article and one which much surely be a bitter swallow for the noisy Left, as we see here.

    …Though with one Achilles. It presents the Palestinians as naked, helpless victims in the face of the horrific Israeli military monster. Like Megatron attacking a girl guide troop. But the fact of the matter is that Palestine and the whole Arab world has a history of constant and direct agitation against Israel, putting human shields in the way who have also caused much ‘guerrilla’ trouble. Israel needs its buffer zones and will never give them up in the face of roaming unknown quantities. So the girl guides actually have mortars and machine guns under those skirts for when ‘Megatron’ blinks!

  4. Jim Denham said,

    MPs from all sides of the Party, and Sadiq Khan and Shami Chakrabarti are appalled:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/05/mortified-32-labour-mps-rebel-ken-livingstone-anti-semitism/

    • Stephen Bellamy said,

      Oh yes Sadiq Khan the man for all seasons

      http://wp.me/p5W2a1-DT

      • Mick said,

        Yup. He also called the public ‘bastards’ for not voting Labour, called moderate Muslims a bunch of Uncle Toms and also regularly shared platforms with Islamic extremists at extremist events where the women were also segregated.

        And old Shammers? She earned her peerage for her quick whitewash report ‘clearing’ Labour of antisemitism. ‘There’s no crime in the Soviet Union!’

        VOTE LABOUR! It’s just the club if behaving yourself is such hard work!

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        The Jewish body count was probably not enough for the Palestinian Grand Mufti. Do you agree Mr Bellamy?

  5. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    You really don’t have option of correcting someone else’s article but ‘murder of one million Hungarian Jews in 1944-5’ is of course incorrect.

    A few minutes research will tell you that 440,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to extermination camps in 1944-5 and while a number of other Jews were murdered in situ by Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators in this period, it is unlikely the total number of 1944-5 deaths is very much over that.

    This does ignores considerable numbers of Jews in Hungarian territory that were killed before the 1944-5 deportations – very largely by the Hungarian state itself and particularly in the territories acquired by Hungary during its alliance with Germany as well as in random pogroms in areas of Russia through which Hungarian army units passed – but these were totalled in tens rather than hundreds of thousands.

    Historians also estimate that the total number of Jews resident in Greater Hungary in 1941 was around 825,000 and Eichmann’s own calculation that was included the Wannsee Protokol is 742,800.

    I used to find such arguments rather distasteful (and they are of course the stock in trade of holocaust deniers) but now seems to me disrespectful to the victims to just throw around numbers like ‘a million’ without properly checking them.

  6. prianikoff said,

    Paul Bogdanor, the “excellent, detailed” source that Matgamna references, managed to leave out this little detail from his critique of Brenner.

    http://www.thejewisheye.com/theflat.html

    • Mick said,

      People in the Left have ulterior motives. When they go on about Hitler in league with the Zionists, it’s perfectly consistent with the roundabout demonisation of Israel and Zionism by pro-Islamist Reds. ‘Nazi Kikes Out Of Lebanon’, I ask you!! (Google that!)

      Hitler just wanted rid of the Jews. As we found out, he didn’t give a crap how, if it didn’t hit his PR. I wonder how long it will be before lefties begin denying the holocaust and putting Mein Kampf back on the bestseller list, as Arab Muslims in particular are on record as doing.

    • Jim Denham said,

      And your point is, prianikoff?

      If you don’t like Paul Bogdanor’s piece (recommended by me, incidentally, not Matgamna), how about this very interesting article from a member of the Jewish Socialist Group and former supporter of Livingstone: https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/hero-or-villain-the-livingstone-question/

      Note the comments about Brenner:
      “When Lenni Brenner came to London in 1983/84 to promote his book the Jewish Socialists’ Group was unimpressed with the publicity but nevertheless invited him to speak to one of our meetings about it. He was terrible. He gave an extremely crude analysis which tried to make facts fit very thin pre-ordained theories. When he was challenged on his “analysis” he reacted with aggression. When audience members argued that his comments were antisemitic he flew into a further rage and told us that he could not be racist or antisemitic because his wife was Black. That, I’m afraid, is the calibre of Livingstone’s prime source.”

      • prianikoff said,

        Bogdanor is a complete reactionary who doesn’t even support the French Revolution!
        Is he actually in favour of the emancipation of the Jews?

        I’m relieved to hear the Sean Matgamna, who was the leader of the “Trotskyist tendency” in I.S in the early 1970’s (before he became a devotee of Max Schachtman) doesn’t quote Bogdanor as his source.

        Perhaps there’s stil hope for him.
        But his follower Denham does, approvingly.

        Do a search of Bogdanor’s piece for the term “Leopold von Mildenstein”
        You will find nothing

        How can any “detailed” account of this issue not mention his role in it?

        I didn’t quote Brenner’s arguments.
        The link I posted, was to the Israeli film “the Flat”.
        The point is obvious.

  7. A. Field said,

    In the course of the Livingstone controversy someone tweeted somewhere that it was as if Livingstone had been to watch the film “Denial” but had failed to understand who the bad guy was. It was meant as a joke. (Well, relatively speaking).

    But now we have the ‘Weekly Worker’ equating Ian McNicol and the Labour Party with David Irving:

    “It would, of course, be possible for the Labour Party to respond by setting up McNicol’s protestation in the footnote that the truth of Livingstone’s claims is denied. But this would be a worse choice, because it would risk setting the Labour Party up for a case like Irving v Penguin Books & Lipstadt (2000), in which, after massive expense, Irving was found to be a holocaust denier14 – with the symmetrical result that Livingstone’s claims were contested, but found to be substantially (even if not precisely) true.”

    (Confused grammar as in the original: The WW argument is that if McNicol’s statement that what Livingstone said was not true, were to be tested in a court of law, then the Labour Party would lose.)

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Why does Livingstone discuss Jews and anti semitism? What is his point? Jews in Britain are a very small minority and a threat to no one unlike the islamists who are intent on murder. Yet you never hear any comment on this from the man.

      • rotzeichen said,

        Why would you enter in a debate not knowing the basis of the argument, in other words go back to the beginning and find out who started this debate in the first place, secondly it wasn’t Ken.

      • Jim Denham said,

        errr..?

  8. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Ken being a clever bloke knows his agenda and so do his mates! Keep within the mark on what you say. And do not say what you really want to say but get your message across to the faithfull.

  9. rebelvoiceblog said,

    Your article is a load of shit.

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