Matgamna and Hornung on Lenin and the Russian Revolution

October 16, 2017 at 7:59 pm (AWL, class, Russia, revolution, Marxism, history, From the archives, Lenin, posted by JD)

Above: the young Lenin’s police mug shot as he is arrested in 1895.

By Sean Matgamna and Andrew Hornung (adapted from a series of articles first published in Workers’ Fight in 1974).

Read online (below), or download pdf

Who was Lenin? He led the workers of the Tsarist Russian Empire to make the most profound revolution in history in 1917. He was the leader of the Russian Bolshevik Party, without which the workers would have been defeated.

Of Karl Marx’s fate at the hands of his alleged followers in the early socialist movement, Lenin wrote that it was often the fate of revolutionaries that after their deaths their names were made into legends to console the oppressed, while their ideas — their real politics, what they had stood for in life — were thrown out and replaced by something else. Something very like that happened to Lenin himself. It happened to him almost immediately after his death. The bureaucracy which ruled the USSR mummified his poor physical remnants, built a great ‘Lenin Mausoleum’ and created an obscene national shrine around the mummy.

Lenin had stood for maximum working class democracy. The rulers who made him — and Marx — into a holy icon of their pidgin-Marxist state religion, proceeded in the decades after his death to build an anti-socialist totalitarian state on the groaning backs of the people of the USSR. Lenin had liberated the many oppressed nationalities of the Tsarist empire: Stalin put them back under the control of Great Russian chauvinist jailers and oppressors. Lenin had stood for the international socialist revolution. Stalin tried to build ‘socialism’ in backward Russia, substituting “socialism in one country” for Lenin’s programme of international socialism. Lenin had defended the right of independent trade unions to exist in the USSR: everywhere Stalinists ruled and rule, such organisations of the working class are systematically and brutally rooted out.

At every important point the Stalinists, who lyingly call themselves Leninists, radically cut away what Lenin had really stood for and adopted anti-working-class policies — the very opposite of those which Lenin spent his life fighting for. Now that Stalinism has fallen in the USSR and Eastern Europe, we have the inverse process. Lenin, who spent his last crippled years fighting incipient Stalinism, is scapegoated for the discredited despotic system which rose up on the defeat of Lenin’s last struggle, continued after Lenin’s death by Trotsky and others.

This pamphlet is offered to the reader as an introduction to what Lenin — the man who led the greatest working class revolution so far — really did in his life, what he said and what he fought for and against.

The contents were published as a pamphlet in 1987, based on articles in the weekly Socialist Organiser in 1982 (nos. 108-113). They have been slightly edited for this reprinting. The 1982 text was adapted from a series of articles in the paper Workers’ Fight in 1974.

The beginning of Bolshevism

Born in the provincial town of Simbirsk, into the family of a schools administrator, Lenin was no stranger to revolutionary ideas other than Marxism. His brother Alexander had been hanged in 1887 for planning the assassination of the Tsar. Alexander had been a member of the populist, agrarian socialist Narodnik organisation. But if the execution of his brother sharpened Lenin’s sense of injustice, it was not the views or the methods of the Narodniks that influenced him, but those of Marx, Engels and Plekhanov. By the time he was 19 Lenin had already read Marx’s Capital and begun to ground himself seriously in its scientific method. Read the rest of this entry »

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The global banking crisis – ten years on

August 9, 2017 at 8:25 am (banks, capitalism, capitalist crisis, economics, history, Marxism)

Ten years ago, the worst global financial crisis financial crisis since the 1930’s began. Major companies went bankrupt, people lost their homes on both side of the Atlantic, and the banks that were too big to fail, did fail – only to be rescued with taxpayers’ money.

Governments and their financial regulators were completely wrong-footed and found themselves lacking the regulatory framework to mitigate the crisis and to prevent it from spreading.

Martin Thomas surveys the path, the causes and the sequels of the crisis.


The story started in finance. In June 2005 mortgage interest rates in the USA started rising sharply. They levelled off and declined after July 2006, but in the meantime house prices had reversed their giddy rise of previous years. House prices would continue to fall until January 2012, when they would be on average 33% down on their May 2006 peak. From mid-2006 the proportion of deliquent mortgagees (those with payments seriously overdue) rose, and it would keep rising until early 2010.

By late 2015 around six million households would have their homes foreclosed (CoreLogic 2015). Unlike, for example, the UK house-price crash of 1989-92 (in which about 188,000 homes were repossessed), the US mortgage crash fed into a financial, industrial, and international crash. It revealed that “the bond bubble [had been] by no means limited to mortgages. It was ubiquitous”. Building on the mortgage bubble, “risk spreads were irrationally small”, i.e. small extra revenues had been needed to attract buyers to risky securities, and so once financiers realised those securities were risky, their prices were likely to drop sharply. (Blinder 2013, p.45-6, 90-1).

On 9 August 2007, a French bank, BNP, told holders of stakes in three of its investment funds that they could not have their money back. The bank held mortgage-backed securities — bits of paper which entitled holders to a slice of the income from payments on mortgages made in the USA — and now, as one financier put it, those “securities… simply [could]n’t be priced because there [was] no trading in them. There [were] no bids for them. Asset-backed securities, mortgage loans, especially subprime loans, [did]n’t have any buyers” (Bloomberg 2007). The freezing of credit flows between banks escalated.

On 14 September 2007 queues of people fearing collapse and wanting to get their money out formed at the branches of a British bank, Northern Rock; the British government nationalised the bank in February 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

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100 years on: the hell that was Passchendaele

July 31, 2017 at 7:43 am (capitalism, Europe, hell, history, imperialism, posted by JD, war, workers)

More than 271,000 men from the ‘British and Dominion’ forces killed or wounded and German losses of 217,000. Many drowned in the mud or died in agony because stretcher-bearers could not reach them. The third and final battle of Ypres (Passchendael) began 100 years ago and went on for three months. The British and Dominion forces gained five miles in total.

Memorial Tablet
By Siegred Sassoon

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?

*****************

“We’ve had 70 years without major war. I hope we remember that we need to work together in Europe” – Mike Copeland, veteran’s son, yesterday.

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Eric Lee debates the AWL on ‘1917: Freedom or Tyranny?’

July 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm (AWL, democracy, Eric Lee, history, Lenin, Marxism, posted by JD, revolution, Russia, stalinism, USSR)

From Eric’s blog:

Last night I participated in a debate with the Alliance for Workers Liberty in central London on the subject of “1917: Freedom or Tyranny?”. The following is the text of my opening remarks.

I want to begin by congratulating Paul (Hampton) and the AWL on the publication of this book. While we will disagree on some important things – which we will come to this evening – we agree on the enormous historic importance of the 1917 Russian revolution, and I welcome any attempts to grapple with the issues raised.

Paul’s book offers new insights, such as the critical discussion about Lenin’s “revolutionary defeatism”. And of course I welcome all the very positive references to Karl Kautsky and the German Social Democracy, which are often lacking in the writings of those who come from the Leninist tradition.

Let me very briefly comment on four of the questions that were posed for this evening’s debate:

Was the Bolshevik party of Trotsky and Lenin a conspiracy of elitist “professional revolutionaries”, or a mass movement organically rooted in the Russian working class?

Maybe it was both.

The Bolsheviks were elitist and conspiratorial and this was pointed out by such leading revolutionary Marxists of the time as Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky himself.

Rosa Luxemburg wrote a blistering critique of Lenin’s view of the Party way back in 1904. She ended her essay, which had the catchy title of “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy” with this memorable sentence:

“Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”

In that same year, Trotsky wrote this memorable critique of Lenin:

“these methods lead … to the Party organisation ‘substituting’ itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee.”

Yet thirteen years later, Trotsky joined Lenin’s Party, and tragically witnessed his own prophecy come true.

But it was not all about conspiratorial elites.

As the Provisional Government in 1917 failed to deal with the challenges facing the peoples of the Russian empire, in particular ending the war and dealing with the peasant hunger for land, the Bolsheviks picked up considerable support among workers in Petrograd and, most importantly, in the army garrison in the imperial capital.

In other parts of the empire, most notably in Georgia, the Bolsheviks had hardly any support at all.

In other words, there are aspects of the October revolution that resembled a popular uprising and others that look more a military coup.

There were elements of both. Read the rest of this entry »

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Letter to the Telegraph: “The fire would not have occurred under the London Building Acts and bylaws.”

June 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm (engineering, environment, history, law, London, posted by JD)

  Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

The Daily Telegraph Letters to the Editor, 16 June 2017

SIR – The construction of buildings in London was controlled between 1667 and 1985 by the London Building Acts and associated construction bylaws.

These were administered by district surveyors, appointed by the superintending architect to the Greater London Council but independent as statutory officers who not only helped write the acts but also had the final say over any forms of construction. Many sections of the bylaws included the phrase “to the satisfaction of the district surveyor”.

The 28 district surveyors (all highly experienced construction professionals, usually both chartered engineers and chartered surveyors), working with the GLC’s buildings regulation department, ensured that all buildings built in the old London County Council area were safely built.

The old maxim in the service was: first, make sure it does not fall down; secondly, make sure it does not burn down; and thirdly, use your common sense for all other matters.

This excellent service was abolished in 1985 and replaced with the inferior National Building Regulations system. The London district surveyors were not responsible to any council and so could always do what they saw fit, free from political or financial pressure.

The fire at Grenfell Tower would not have happened  under the London Building Acts and bylaws. Proper fire breaks in the cladding would have been insisted on and, more importantly, enforced. Controlling fire-spread was the foundation of the  of the 1667 Act for the Rebuilding of London and its basics were still in place when I stood down as district surveyor for Chelsea in 1983.

No combustible materials would have been allowed on the outside of a building, no cavities in cladding allowed to create vertical fire or air pathways. Vertical and horizontal fire breaks were the foundation of the protection principles.

A building would have been regularly inspected by the respected London Building Regulations Department of the GLC and if found wanting, the owners, whoever they were, would have been prosecuted.

My former district surveyor colleagues will not be surprised that this disaster happened. Whenever politicians and accountants are in ultimate control of complex building matters, in place of experienced construction professionals who do not have to answer to them, we will see more disasters like this one.

Terence Jenkins
Tring, Hertfordshire

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The Front National and fascism

May 4, 2017 at 5:56 am (AWL, elections, Europe, fascism, France, history, identity politics, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism")


Above: Le Pen v Macron TV debate

By Martin Thomas
(This article also appears on the Workers Liberty website and in the present issiee of Solidarity)

France’s Front National, which now has a real though outside chance of gaining the country’s powerful presidency, is not a fascist movement comparable to the Nazis or Mussolini’s Fascist Party when they were on the eve of power in the 1920s and 30s. Neither, however, is it a conventional hard-right party like UKIP or Germany’s AfD. The makeover the FN has given itself since 2011 is a makeover.

When Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the FN in 1972, it took the Italian party claiming to represent Mussolini’s heritage, the MSI, as a model. In the 1990s, the MSI renounced its fascist heritage, and eventually merged into a mainstream right party. The FN has not done that. The FN still has a fascist core cadre and a fascist ideology. It functions as the electoral-political wing of a broader fascist current. It softens and dresses up its message to win votes, but it fits the characterisation of fascism outlined by Leon Trotsky in the 1930s: “a plebeian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat and even to a certain extent, from the proletarian masses… with its leaders employing a great deal of socialist demagogy. This is necessary for the creation of the mass movement”.

Fits it, except that it is still way short of being a mass movement. Its ideology is structured by characteristic themes of fascism:

• Exaltation of “the nation”, against mysterious global elites and against individuals, as the guiding value of politics. Marine Le Pen denounces the legacy of France’s great general strike and near-revolution of May-June 1968 in these terms: “May 68 promoted individualism. An individualism which has upended the foundations of our society”. Her social demagogy, pretending to stand up for the worse-off and for social provision, is tied into that exaltation of “the nation” and an insistence that social provision must first be for real French people.

• A leader cult. Both under Marine Le Pen, and under her father Jean-Marie, the FN has promoted its leader above all else, and given that leader absolute powers within the party.

• A cult of the state. In her closing speech at the FN congress where she was made leader, in 2011, Marine Le Pen declared: “Today, when globalisation rages and everything is collapsing, we still have the State… When things have to be regulated, protected, innovated, one naturally turns to the State”.

Since its foundation the FN has operated in conditions of bourgeois democracy and capitalist economy more stable than in the 1930s, when Trotsky and other Marxists plausibly believed that political and economic collapse was certain, in one country after another, unless a socialist revolution could be made within a few years or so. Its active base remains small compared to that of the 1920s and 30s fascist movements. It has 50,000-odd paid-up members, who function almost exclusively as electoral campaigners. Its “stewarding squad”, the DPS, had a fearsome reputation in the early years, but even then was cautious and weak compared to the street-fighting squads of 1920s and 30s fascism. Today the FN instead contracts out its stewarding to a commercial security firm, Colisée.

The Nazis at the start of 1933 had 1.5 million members in their party, and 425,000 (some not party members) in their paramilitary SA. Mussolini’s Fascist Party was formed from his “fighting squads” at the end of 1921, and then had 300,000 members. The twist, however, is that Colisée is not just any security firm. It was founded by Axel Loustau, a former cadre of the brazenly fascist student group GUD (Groupe Union Défense). Loustau also runs a printing company, Presses de France, which has produced the FN’s publicity materials since another company, Riwal, run by Fréderic Chatillon, a former comrade of Loustau’s in the GUD, was banned from doing so in a court case over political-finance laws.

Although Loustau and Chatillon have no high posts in the FN, they and other GUD-ers are among the closest advisers of Marine Le Pen. They also keep links with the GUD. division of labour The division of labour which FN leaders see between their caffe latte and a varying range of France’s espresso fascist grouplets was candidly summed up by Jean-Marie Le Pen — become, at the age of 87, garrulous and reckless — in November 2015. The Parti Nationaliste Français was being revived to regroup the members of L’Oeuvre Française, a brazenly fascist group active since 1968 but now banned by the government. Jean-Marie Le Pen wrote to the PNF conference: “Jeune Nation and Oeuvre Française, behind their founder Pierre Sidos, have led an independent national struggle for several decades in parallel to the Front National of which I was president. We have the same goal: to save our homeland and its French people from a decadence which we know to be deadly.

“The tsunami of immigration calls for a general mobilisation of patriots and the coordination of all national movements. Each one of these movement should be stronger and stronger in its own sector”.

How much Marine Le Pen can do if she wins the presidency, we still don’t know. A part of the mainstream right, led by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, has rallied to her. Will others? If she wins, how will the FN do in the June legislative elections? Mussolini, even with his 300,000 members and with an Italian ruling class anxious for revenge after the factory occupations in 1920, took four years to impose a full fascist regime. If details of history had turned differently, it might have been overthrown in that time.

Le Pen cannot move as fast as Mussolini. But it is entirely imaginable that she can do harm in France on the lines of what Putin, Erdogan, or Orban have been doing recently in Russia, Turkey, Hungary.

The FN’s official line on the trade unions is that its desired changes in the law will make them bigger and better but needing fewer strikes. But Nazi leaders before 1933 such as Gregor Strasser declared: “We consider the organisation of workers into trade unions an absolute necessity… As a workers’ party, National Socialism recognises the right to strike without restriction”. The FN’s opinion of France’s biggest union confederation, the CGT, is: “The CGT shows its true face: still the transmission belt for a far left which is moribund but still pseudo-revolutionary and often ultra-violent”.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the FN, first came into politics as a teenager in the late 1940s with Action Française. AF had been founded in 1899, as part of the agitation around the Dreyfus affair: monarchist, Catholic-traditionalist, obsessed with hostility to Freemasons, for whom it blamed such events as the French Revolution of 1789-94. In 1956, he became an MP for the quasi-fascist Poujadist movement. He served in the French army in its colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. He did not join the Organisation Armée Secrète, a group of French army officers and Algerian settlers who sought by terrorism to stop France ceding independence to Algeria in 1962, and killed thousands in Algeria and some dozens in France; but in 1965 he was the campaign manager for the presidential campaign of Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, a veteran fascist who denounced the “abandonment” of Algeria.

After May 1968, new fascist groups sprouted, like the GUD and L’Oeuvre Française, focused on fighting the left and “communism” rather than the older enemies. They were mainly student-based. What they did is illustrated by a May 1969 episode recounted in a left-wing pamphlet of the 1970s.

Some 40 fascists set out from their base in the law faculty in the rue d’Assas in Paris to leaflet a high school. They trashed the student union office. The students gathered in the school canteen and pelted the fascists with missiles. The fascists retaliated with a hand-grenade. One school student had to have a hand amputated, but the fascists lost the battle. They lost more battles than they won, and in 1972, some of the fascist groups decided to create an electoral wing. Le Pen, who had been running a small business, had the electoral experience to impose himself as leader.

The FN did poorly in the 1970s, but survived. In 1977 Le Pen inherited a palace and a large fortune from a plutocrat whom he had befriended. He kept the fortune for himself rather than ceding it to the FN, and it helped him raise himself as a political figure above the formal structures of the FN (which were authoritarian enough, explicitly modelled on those of the Stalinised Communist Party). In 1983, the FN made a breakthrough, winning control of a small town in northern France in alliance with a section of the mainstream right. Some of the mainstream right excused their alliance with the FN by saying it was anyway not as bad as the then Socialist Party government including Communist Party ministers. The Socialist Party president, François Mitterrand, helped the FN get media coverage so as to make trouble for the mainstream right.

The FN has had ups and downs since then, and is still relatively weak in most of France’s big cities — only 5% of the vote in Paris. But it has gained in smaller towns, particular in “rust-belts”. Since becoming FN leader in 2011, Marine Le Pen has publicly campaigned to “de-demonise” the FN. Some FN leaders are openly gay. One leader, Louis Aliot, Marine Le Pen’s partner, boasts of his part-Jewish background. That makes her a canny fascist, and one born in 1968 rather than focused on the battles of long-past decades.

Her father made most of the big shifts in the FN’s profile — to try to distance it from lost causes of the past, and to align it to a broader electorate in an era when the threat of USSR “communism” no longer scares, when an increasing majority of France’s Muslim population are French-born and French-speaking. Jean-Marie Le Pen went for the FN: • describing itself as “neither left nor right” rather than “far right” • defining itself as “republican” and “secular”, and as respecting the heritage of the French Revolution • coming out for social provision and welfare (for the French, not immigrants) rather than as hardline free-market, and making a specific pitch to workers • accepting that a large chunk of the North-African-origin population is now French, and in France to stay.

He deliberately installed Marine Le Pen as his successor, pushing aside the old-fascist, Catholic-traditionalist, Bruno Gollnisch, explaining it thus: “I am tied by solidarities which I can’t break, from the [World] war… from my mates in [the colonial army] in Indochina and Algeria, from the pied-noirs… Marine is much more free”. He started a sustained attempt to build bridges to conservative Jews and to Israel. He blew it up with a notorious statement on TV about the gas chambers being only “a detail” of World War Two, but that may have been more off-hand garrulousness and stubborn refusal to apologise than deliberation.

Marine Le Pen’s new focus on France being threatened by twin “totalitarian” dangers, “globalism” and the EU on one side, “islamisation” on the other, sharpens the fascist edge of FN ideology.

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Hillsborough and the end of history

April 16, 2017 at 10:01 am (Civil liberties, class, Daily Mail, history, Murdoch, Robin Carmody, sport, tragedy)

Above: Anfield in the days following April 15, 1989 –  scarves left at the ground and draped on the Kop goal. Photo: Dave Sinclair.

By Robin Carmody

So here we have it, the first anniversary when there has not been an official memorial service at Anfield itself, and the first after some kind of victory, some kind of vindication, some kind of recognition that the years of struggle were not worthless, not fought in vain?

A few things spring to mind:

Douglas Hurd – who, had he been Prime Minister, certainly would have tried not to let Murdoch ride roughshod over the PSB tradition, however hard that would probably have become after a certain point – should be given some credit for his (squashed) insistence as Home Secretary, coming directly from the social conscience of his One Nation Tory tradition, that the government should embrace and endorse the wholeheartedly, unashamedly and unambiguously anti-police conclusions of Taylor’s interim report. Had Thatcher not stood in his way, a generation of lies could never have become institutionalised.

Might gridiron football be more widely played and followed in 2017 England than association football had it not happened? I’m not sure it’s entirely ASB (for “Alien Space Bats”, the term used in alternative history circles to refer to something wholly unbelievable and impossible in any remotely conceivable circumstances); as a child at the time I had just fallen for football in a big way, but I was a romantic looking outside my own time, my previous sporting passion had been horse racing, and I was obsessed with repeats of Look, Stranger and Follyfoot, Plenty of my He-Man and Thundercats-preferring contemporaries on the Thames Estuary did love the NFL on Channel 4, for all that it didn’t exist to me. And if that Polish shot had been slightly lower … no Blair, no Britpop, no Cameron and no Coldplay, and Florence Welch and Laura Marling ballerinas? It is well within the realms of possibility.

Let no-one pretend that the ancien regime of English football was remotely ideal, or in any way representative, or in any way democratic, or in any true sense “the people’s game”. It was no such thing. It was, in essence, a different kind of bad, a different kind of unrepresentative, undemocratic elitism. It represents the same story as many aspects of English life and capitalism, which went straight from small-time feudalism to billionaire plutocracy with scarcely any intervening period of being any good (compare, for example, the first incarnation of radio stations such as 2CR with the current Heart network, or the towns those stations tend to serve when virtually all foreign influence was shut out of them to the same towns monopolised by national or global brands; as bad as each other, just in wholly different ways). The 96 did not die for Murdoch and the Glazers. But they did not die for aldermen either.

Rather, they died for what we never had before and would have had to have wholly different politics in the decade leading up to Hillsborough to have after, that is to say the elusive dream of genuinely democratic control of “the people’s game” – which it never has truly been in any of its incarnations – actually by the people. There was, even in the context of Thatcherism, a decent chance of this happening after Hillsborough, because the plutocrats at that point saw the game as beneath them, “a slum game for slum people” to quote one particular Murdoch rag. Maybe if Gazza’s tears hadn’t happened, and the game hadn’t had a sudden boost in terms of bourgeois and broader social appeal, it could have done, because they still wouldn’t have cared and democratic ownership could have been the way out of what was very clearly the final straw, the last knock which had rendered the old edifices wholly unsustainable, for the old quasi-feudal structure of club ownership. Michael Knighton may have been trying to wake the sleeping giant in the sleeping giant of an industrial city which was being given new pop-cultural life, but there were other, better ideas which, again, were in no sense ASB or out of reach. One of the most melancholy pages in The Times’ digital archive – the first, only in some highly selective senses and from some equally selective perspectives the best (at any point in the paper’s history), but still the most widely available – is from September 1989, with much talk about fan power and fan involvement as the way ahead – the only way ahead – for football in the 1990s. But on the same page, we have the paper’s owner, at that stage talking only about his hopes to buy cricket rights. At that point, football was still for prole scum as far as he was concerned – that Sun front page showed how much he cared about the people who had given him a British foothold and made him rich in the first place – and so there was still hope for the rest of us. But then …

Let us look back rather sadly on the situation described in David Stubbs’ book 1996 and the End of History, where there was vague hope – hope, as we now know, built on grains of sand and seats of clay – that the decay of both English football and British politics, both of which could arguably be traced to the same week in June 1970 (c.f. the “permanent Butskellism” counterfactual in the Nick Hancock & Chris England book published in that era, far removed from the better-known quasi-fascist dystopia with the same starting point), could be reversed through a closely interrelated purpose. Let us reflect with deep melancholy – especially if we’re my age, even if we were always one step out of everything – on the fact that the first huge wave of mainland European influence on English football at that moment was seen as a means of shoring up our position in the EU, and quite possibly the euro itself, for good.

Let no-one pretend that Brexit can be progressive for English football, for the reasons given above. The old isolation was every bit as bad, in a different way, as the present situation. Let no-one attempt to bring it back, while (in common with Brexit as a whole) leaving the true exploiters untouched.

And let us recall again these words of Keith Waterhouse, arguably his single best column after his Faustian pact with the Harmsworths (the results of which have left much of his best work in limbo among young liberal types in the UK who would otherwise respect and admire it, and I’m working on the assumption that most readers of this blog who were adult by 1989 would not have seen it unless they glanced at Tory relatives’ newspapers, relatively mild and restrained in tone compared to now though the Mail still was); let us praise and celebrate the fact that fans are now, as he rightly believed they always should have been, treated as people and not as prole scum and cattle, let us acknowledge the gains he called for which have been won, but let us mourn the fact that they were not deeper and more profound in other, harder to reach under the present economic system, senses. Let us, in particular, acknowledge its progressive status compared to much else which appeared in that part of the press, by no means just The Sun. And let us keep it in our minds, as proof that a great humanitarian – for all his latterday moans about “Brussels bureaucracy” and the like – never quite (see his sheer joy at Obama’s election, in his last year of life, for proof of this) lost the qualities which had once, in less divided times, made him so revered.

Thanks, of course, are due to the Gale Group for digitising the Mail (particularly valuable if you want to see the “middle class fightback” of the 1970s, stealing Labour’s tactics against it, in action, in a paper which had been seen, like that class itself, as in an inexorable decline) and to the British Library for allowing me to print it. The microfilms would still have been there, but for the generation coming through now, who need to know how they got where they are and how they might want to get out of it, they are acquiring the status of papyrus. Those with access to UK Press Online are urged to track down his post-Heysel column from 3rd June 1985, still in the Daily Mirror at that point, which reveals many of the fractures which had emerged on the Left; while he ends with vicious, fervent condemnation of unemployment, the poverty trap and Thatcherism, many of the things he identifies as elements of social decay were now supported and seen as non-negotiable forces to be championed by the post-68 Left in England (although, very importantly, not in Scotland) and they give some idea of how he would, effectively, call their bluff a year later. But coming out on the other side, here it is (and please don’t be offended by the use of “soccer”, the dominant form in most newspapers until comparatively recently and, while always more common among the middle class in the UK, reflecting its origins within private schools and universities, definitely not a US-originated term as many now think):

After Black Saturday

Keith Waterhouse

Daily Mail, Monday 17th April 1989

IF I SUGGEST that some good may come out of the deadly shambles that was Hillsborough, I am not thinking of such safety improvements as may be triggered off, or not, by those oft-repeated shibboleths, “Lessons must be learned”, “It must never happen again” and “these are all issues which have to be very closely examined”.

Similar resolutions were made after Heysel and Bradford but what must never happen again has happened again – with the supposed safety improvements being a factor in the cause of the disaster.

To most observers on the touchline of this tragedy it seems blazingly obvious that football is a spectator sport in the control of fools. In the fullness of time the inquiries and inquests will doubtless couch this verdict in more seemly language. And there will be recommendations effectively suggesting that the fools might, with the benefit of hindsight, acquire a somewhat higher IQ.

But the good that may come out of the disaster will not arise out of the implementation of belated recommendations. Good is not implemented. It implements itself. It did so at that abandoned FA Cup semi-final.

Like many other by now shame-faced listeners, I would guess, my first reaction to the initial newsflash on the radio was a sigh of, “Oh God, here we go, here we go, Liverpool again!” By the end of a long grim day I had regained a good deal of the respect for Liverpool in particular and soccer fans in general that had seeped away over the violence-besplattered years.

Mismanagement, not misbehaviour, was to blame for Hillsborough. That much was quickly apparent. But more than that: we saw the fans in a new light – and it was the light of respect.

We saw Liverpool supporters resourcefully acting as stretcher bearers for their stricken mates, quickly organising themselves into makeshift St John Ambulance teams and using advertisement placards to convey the injured. They didn’t learn that kind of initiative on their YOP schemes.

We saw the taunts die on the lips of Nottingham Forest fans as they realised this was no mere riot. As the dead were carried off they accorded their rivals the decency of silence.

We saw Everton fans returning home jubilant from their semi-final triumph over Norwich, only to be shocked and subdued by the news and to put away their scarves and rosettes as a gesture of respect.

We saw stunned Liverpool survivors who had lost friends or relatives returning to the ground clutching posies of flowers which they hung reverentially on the spiked railings.

THIS was the eye-opener. They looked like soccer louts and they dressed like soccer louts and doubtless in less sombre circumstances there were those among them who would have behaved like soccer louts, yet they returned carrying not bottles and beer cans but flowers.

The proposition that inside every soccer hooligan is a decent young man trying to get out may be too saccharine-sweet a pill for our present administration to swallow, and indeed it may be a wild overstatement. But Parliament, before leaping on Hillsborough as hell-sent support for the Football Spectators Bill, would do well to take pause and consider that these are human beings and not animals they are dealing with.

The sole function of soccer identity cards, it seems to me, is to degrade and humiliate the fans even further than they are degraded and humiliated already by being prodded and herded into cattle pens. Had ID cards been required at Saturday’s semi-final their only use, in the opinion of the Liverpool doctor who took upon himself the duty of declaring the victims dead, would have been to identify the bodies. Otherwise they could have led to a crush outside the ground as terrible and fatal as the one within it.

BUT I am not about to go into the ins and outs of identity cards, inadequate organisation, allocation of tickets, crowd control, cages, crush barriers, or the insensitivity of Football Association chairman Bert Millichip who, when asked whether the Cup Final would be cancelled, replied: “Life does have to go on”. Not for the dead Liverpool fans, it doesn’t.

No: I simply say that when these matters are weighed and considered, it must be in the realisation that all concerned with football safety, from the Government down, have gone badly wrong in regarding soccer fans as a species of sub-humans with a level of intelligence even lower than that of some soccer administrators.

Received opinion, or anyway the received opinion of those who spend most of their waking hours dreaming up new and ever more futile schemes for curbing soccer violence, is that if the fans behave like animals then they must expect to be treated like animals. Yet when they are treated so much like animals that their lives are put in peril and many of their lives are lost, then they behave not like animals but like responsible human beings. There is a valuable lesson there. Will anyone in authority learn from it?

At the risk of waxing sentimental I will stick my neck out and repeat myself. Inside every soccer lout there is a decent young man trying to get out. That is the good that may emerge from Hillsborough’s black Saturday.

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Livingstone: rewriting history and encouraging antisemitism

April 13, 2017 at 6:43 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, genocide, history, israel, labour party, Livingstone, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, Racism, stalinism, zionism)


Above: Livingstone’s dishonesty and ignorance exposed

By Dale Street (this article also appears under a different title, in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Over the past twelve months Ken Livingstone has made a succession of jumbled and frequently contradictory claims about the relationship between Zionism and Nazi Germany. Even allowing for their incoherence, they add up to bad history and even worse politics.

It began in April of last year with his claim in a radio interview:

“When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Livingstone repeated the same argument in subsequent interviews:

“Hitler’s policy was to send all of Germany’s Jews to Israel and there were private meetings between the Zionist movement and Hitler’s government which were kept confidential, they only became apparent after the war, when they were having a dialogue to do this.”

“His policy was to deport all Germany’s Jews to Israel. That’s not because he was a Zionist, it’s because he hated Jews. He then had a dialogue with the leaders of the Zionist movement, private, not him personally but his officials, privately discussing whether to not to proceed with that policy. In the end he didn’t – he chose to kill six million Jews.”

In support of his claims Livingstone cited a book by Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, published in 1983:

“The shocking thing about his book was that it revealed … that the Zionist leadership continued a dialogue privately with Hitler from 1933 until 1940/41. They were working quite closely. Lenni’s book shows a shared common belief between the Nazis and the Zionists in preserving their race from interracial marriage and things like that.”

In an interview with J-TV in May Livingstone claimed:

“In a speech he made on 6th or 7th July 1920 Hitler actually says: ‘The Jews should move to Palestine, that is where they can have their full civil rights.’ So he already had that [i.e. that policy] in mind, long before [his election in 1932].”

During the interview Livingstone cited as the sources for his claims: Lenni Brenner’s book, an article by the American academic and writer Norman Finkelstein, and an academic paper by the American historian Francis Nicosia.

The following month Livingstone gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on Antisemitism. He said:

“When Hitler came to power, he negotiated a deal to move Germany’s Jews to Palestine. I have never criticised the Zionist movement for making that deal, because the only alternative at that time was the worldwide boycott of German goods by Jews all over the world.”

“As we saw with South Africa, that did not work then, and I don’t think it would have done. So they had to deal with whoever was in power, however repellent, however antisemitic, but it saved the lives of 66,000 Jews.”

At the same time, Livingstone continued to argue that Hitler supported Zionism:

“That is exactly the one I was referring to [the Transfer Agreement of 1933, which ‘regulated’ the conditions under which German Jews could migrate to Palestine]. That was Hitler’s support for Zionism.”

In his written submission to the Labour Party disciplinary hearing held in March of this year Livingstone wrote:

“The Transfer Agreement was a major political issue at the time as the Jewish movement to boycott German goods was a huge international campaign to turn public opinion against Nazi Germany.”

“I was just pointing out [in the interview of April 2016] that the Nazi policy in relation to the Transfer Agreement had the effect of supporting Zionism.”

“I did not make any equation of Hitler and Zionism. I neither criticised the Transfer Agreement or the section of Zionism that participated in the Agreement. … Any suggestion that my intention was to draw equivalence between Nazism and Zionism is entirely false.”

Although Finkelstein received a passing mention in Livingstone’s submission – in relation to a media post by Labour MP Naz Shah – neither Finkelstein nor Brenner were cited by Livingstone as his sources. The only sources cited were Nicosia and the Israeli historian Yf’aat Weiss.

But Livingstone’s attempt at what, in other circumstances, might be called a more ‘nuanced’ position was undermined by the claims he made as he arrived at the disciplinary hearing:

“Hitler didn’t just sign the [Transfer] Deal. The SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there [to Palestine] could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there.”

“When the Zionist movement asked, would the Nazi government stop a Jewish rabbi doing their sermons in Yiddish and make them do it in Hebrew, he agreed to that. He passed a law saying the Zionist flag and the swastika were the only flags that could be flown in Germany. An awful lot.”

“Of course, they started selling Mauser pistols to the underground Jewish army. So you had right up until the start of the Second World War real collaboration.”

In a radio interview conducted the day after the disciplinary panel delivered its verdict, Livingstone returned to the theme of Hitler’s supposed support for Zionism:

“There is a difference between saying Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s and saying Hitler was a Zionist. Hitler loathed and detested and feared Jews. He was never going to be a Zionist. But by doing that deal with the German Zionists he undermined the world-wide boycott of German goods that Jews around the world had been setting up.”

The least of Livingstone’s failings in these forays into the relationship between Zionism and Nazi Germany is their incoherence and inconsistency.

April 2016: “The Zionists and the Nazis” were able to “work quite closely” together because of their “shared common belief” in issues of racial preservation. March 2017: Livingstone had never equated Hitler and Zionism and it was false to suggest that he wanted to equate Nazism and Zionism

April to June 2016: Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s. March 2017: “Nazi policy had the effect of supporting Zionism”. April 2017: Hitler was not a Zionist himself but supported Zionism.

April 2016: Hitler had no direct contact with Zionist leaders, it was “not him personally, but his officials”. April 2017: Hitler himself personally “signed” the Transfer Agreement.

June 2016: Zionist leaders are to be praised for the Transfer Agreement: it saved 66,000 Jews from the Holocaust, and the Jewish boycott of German goods was doomed to failure. April 2017: It was “that deal with the German Zionists” which undermined the boycott.

June 2016: German Zionists “had to deal with whoever was in power, however repellent, however antisemitic”. March 2017: German Zionists were guilty of “real collaboration right up until the start of the Second World War”.

Why is there such a record of inconsistency and incoherence?

One reason is that despite his pretensions to be something of an authority on the relationship between Zionism and the Nazi government (or between Zionism and Hitler personally), Livingstone does not know what he is talking about.

Throughout the twelve-month-long controversy which he has generated, Livingstone has sought to ‘rely’ at various times on just four sources of historical writing. And those four sources consist of: one book, one article, and two academic papers.

Livingstone began by citing Lenni Brenner as a historical authority. But in the J-TV interview Livingstone’s interviewer effortlessly exposed Brenner as a charlatan guilty of selective quoting in an attempt to substantiate contrived political arguments.

By the time he appeared before the Home Affairs Committee the following month Livingstone had relegated Brenner to being “an old Trot who is not an academic” and therefore not worth quoting.

In the J-TV interview Livingstone cited an article by the American academic and writer Norman Finkelstein in his defence. But Finkelstein’s article merely repeated Livingstone’s claims without substantiating them, and curtly dismissed all allegations of antisemitism:

“Hitler wasn’t wholly hostile to the Zionist project at the outset. … Livingstone’s also accurate that a degree of ideological affinity existed between the Nazis and the Zionists. … It’s long time past that these antisemitism-mongers crawled back into their sewer.”

Like Brenner before him, Finkelstein quickly disappeared from view as a historical authority.

In his submission to the Labour Party disciplinary hearing Livingstone cited Yf’aat Weiss’s The Transfer Agreement and the Boycott Movement: A Jewish Dilemma on the Eve of the Holocaust and Francis Nicosia’s Zionism in National Socialist Jewish Policy in Germany, 1933-39.

Unsurprisingly, neither of those academic papers corroborate Livingstone’s arguments about Hitler supporting Zionism.

The 1998 paper by Weiss does not even deal with relations between German Zionism and the Nazis. Apart from considering the tension between the Transfer Agreement and the campaign for a boycott of Nazi Germany, it focuses solely on conflicting views of the Transfer Agreement.

Such conflicts existed: within Zionist organisations; between Zionist and non-Zionist organisations; between German-Jewish organisations and Polish-Jewish organisations; between Jewish organisations in the Yishuv and Jewish diaspora organisations; and between Labour Zionists and Revisionist Zionists.

(The left-wing Labour Zionists opposed the boycott campaign and supported the Transfer Agreement. The right-wing Revisionists supported the boycott campaign and opposed the Transfer Agreement.)

Livingstone’s ‘reliance’ on a paper by Francis Nicosia, dating from 1978, is even more fantastic. Nicosia has continued writing for the past four decades, including two books given over entirely to relations between German Zionism and the Nazi regime.

In his second book (Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany – 2008) Nicosia argues the opposite of Livingstone’s version of history. In the introduction to his book he explains that its purpose is not:

“To equate Zionism with National Socialism, Zionists with Nazis, or to portray that relationship as a willing or collaborative one between moral and political equals. … To suppose that any Jewish organisation in Hitler’s Germany prior to the ‘final solution’ had the option of refusing to work on some level with the state is fantasy.”

As one review of the book puts it:

“In certain political and academic circles, there are those who would love to advance the claim, however unfounded, that there exists a remarkable similarity (if not outright equivalence) between Zionism and National Socialism, with all that such a claim implies.”

“Nicosia is aware of this pitfall and attempts throughout the book to neutralise the possibility that his research might be used for dubious political purposes. … Contacts between Zionist activists and senior Nazi officials were not, he insists, representative of any ideological or political common denominator.”

Livingstone appears to be incapable of grasping this point. But, to be fair to him, he has clearly never read the book anyway.

Livingstone’s ignorance of what he has been talking about also explains his gross inaccuracies and misrepresentations in attempting to provide specific examples of “real collaboration” between German Zionists and the Nazis.

According to Livingstone, for example, “the SS set up training camps” so that German Jews could be trained for life in Palestine.

Such training camps did exist. But they existed even before Hitler came to power. Most of the camps were set up and run by Zionist organisations in preparation for emigration to Palestine.

But as the Nazi persecution of Jews intensified, non-Zionist organisations also established training camps to help German Jews prepare for emigration, irrespective of destination. Zionist-run training camps also ceased to focus solely on preparing for emigration to Palestine.

The SS tolerated such camps. But they were also ambivalent towards them. They feared that the skills learnt by Jews in the camps would allow their ‘reinsertion’ into the German economy. And they feared that the result of “rural romances” would, to use the Nazis’ language, be “the defiling of German blood”.

Livingstone’s claim that “he (Hitler) passed a law saying the Zionist flag and the swastika were the only flags that could be flown in Germany, an awful lot,” was in fact a reference to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

The purpose of those laws was to segregate Germans Jews from non-Jewish Germans. Hence, they banned Jews from displaying the Reich flag or Reich colours but allowed them to display “Jewish colours”. The laws made no mention of “the Zionist flag”, and no such flag was officially recognised in Nazi Germany.

As for Livingstone’s reference to “an awful lot” (presumably: an awful lot of Zionist flags), no Jew would have been foolish enough to fly “Jewish colours” in post-1935 Nazi Germany. Not even the headquarters of German Zionist organisations dared to display “Jewish colours”.

And a year later Jews were also banned from displaying their own “Jewish colours” on German national holidays.

Livingstone’s claim that “when the Zionist movement asked, would the Nazi government stop a Jewish rabbi doing their sermons in Yiddish and make them do it in Hebrew, he agreed to that” is either a complete fantasy or, more likely, a reference to something completely different.

In December 1936, without having been approached by “the Zionist movement”, the Gestapo banned the use of German in Chanukah sermons. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:

“The Gestapo (state secret police) today (7th December) notified synagogues that sermons in connection with the Jewish festival of Chanukah, beginning December 9th, must not be in the German language, as had been the custom of Liberal synagogues.”

(Far worse than Livingstone’s inaccuracy is the assumption implicit in his claim: The Nazi regime was at the beck and call of Zionists and only too happy to respond to their whims.)

Just as Livingstone’s specific examples of supposed “real collaboration” between German Zionism and the Nazis are a mixture of invention and misrepresentation, so too is Livingstone’s overarching and repeated claim that Hitler supported Zionism (until he went mad).

In a speech of August 1920, entitled “Why We Are Antisemites”, only a month after he supposedly backed full civil rights for Jews in Palestine, Hitler ruled out any possibility of the Zionist movement achieving its goal of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Jews were “a people which does not want to work. … Such a people will never establish a state.” That was why “the whole Zionist state and its creation is nothing but a comedy.” A Zionist state would be “nothing other than the perfect university for their international crimes, and from where they would all be directed.”

Hitler returned to the same theme in “Mein Kampf”, published in 1925:

“While the Zionists try to make the rest of the world believe that the national consciousness of the Jew finds its satisfaction in the creation of a Palestinian state, the Jews again slyly dupe the dumb Goyim.”

“It doesn’t even enter their heads to build up a Jewish state in Palestine to live there. All they want is a central organisation for their international swindler, endowed with its own sovereign rights and removed from the intervention of other states: a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.”

Alfred Rosenberg, the leading Nazi ‘theoretician’ of antisemitism, argued along the same lines. He regarded “all Jews as Zionists, and Zionists as the representative of all Jewry.” They were allies of British imperialism, prepared to stab Germany in the back. A Jewish state in Palestine would be “a Jewish Vatican”, but it could never be achieved:

“Zionism is the powerless effort of an incapable people to engage in productive activity. It is mostly a means for ambitious speculators to establish a new area for receiving usurious interest on a global scale.”

For Nicosia, whom Livingstone cites to corroborate his claims about Zionist-Nazi relations:

“The Nazis maintained a contempt for Zionism as for all things Jewish, as representative of what they considered to be some of the most dangerous and abhorrent characteristics of the Jews as a people.”

And according to Timothy Snyder, another historian of Nazi Germany:

“Hitler believed that Zionism was one of many deliberately deceptive labels that Jews placed upon what he believed to be their endless striving for global power and the extermination of the human species.”

Hitler and his regime never supported Zionism at any time. Hitler was never a supporter of Jewish emigration from Germany for the purpose of creating a Jewish state in Palestine.

What Hitler and his regime supported and sought to create was a Germany without Jews. The Transfer Agreement of 1933 flowed out of that antisemitic drive to rid Germany of Jews, not out of Hitler’s supposed personal support for Zionism.

The policy of making Germany ‘judenrein’ was defined in an internal Security Service memorandum written in May of 1934. The defined goal was “the total emigration of the Jews”. And that goal was to be achieved by:

Making it impossible for Jews to earn a living; ending violent street antisemitism (due to its adverse impact on foreign policy); intensifying the social isolation of Jews; exploiting friction between German Jewish organisations; refusal of official minority status for Jews; and full support for occupational retraining as the best way to facilitate emigration.

Such a policy was implemented with increasing ruthlessness. Even after the outbreak of war in 1939 the focus of Nazi Jewish policy initially continued to be emigration, irrespective of destination. As Nicosia writes:

“There was full agreement that while efforts would continue to be made to push Jews to overseas destinations, the ultimate destination of those who managed to leave German soil did not matter very much in the end.”

Only in 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, was this replaced by a new policy: the Final Solution.

But there is arguably a second reason, apart from an ignorance of history, for the inconsistency and incoherence of Livingstone’s claims about the relation between German Zionism and Hitler. That second reason is where bad history gives way to even worse politics.

Over the past twelve months Livingstone appears to have been pulled in two politically conflicting directions at the same time.

As a disciple of Brenner – Livingstone wrote in his memoirs that his book “helped form my view of Zionism and its history” – he must have felt the urge to promote the ‘full-blooded’ version of the argument that Hitler supported Zionism.

The ‘full-blooded’ version involves allegations of Nazi-Zionist collaboration, Zionist collaboration in the Holocaust, Zionism as a form of racism and fascism, Zionist genocide of Palestinians, and Israel as a latter-day Nazi Germany.

Livingstone is no stranger to such arguments.

In the early 1980s Livingstone was one of the editors of Labour Herald, a front paper for the now defunct Workers Revolutionary Party which specialised in theories of international Zionist conspiracies.

Livingstone was an ‘honorary’ editor rather than a hands-on editor. But he saw nothing wrong in occupying the post even though the paper carried antisemitic cartoons equating Israel with Nazi Germany and positive reviews of books alleging Zionist-Nazi collaboration:

“Israel is a state built entirely on the blood of Europe’s Jews, whom the Zionists deserted in their hour of greatest need. These books will shock and horrify, for they expose the hypocrisy of Zionist leaders who used the sympathy for Jews stirred up after the Holocaust for their own devious ends.”

In the same period Livingstone was a supporter of the Labour Committee on Palestine (LCP) and also subsequently signed up as a sponsor of the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine (LMCP).

The platform of the LCP included “opposition to the Zionist state as racist, exclusivist, expansionist and a direct agency of imperialism” and “opposition to manifestations of Zionism in the Labour movement and the Labour Party in particular.”

The platform of the LMCP likewise included a commitment to “fight within the Labour Movement – and the Labour Party in particular – to eradicate Zionism.” Included in the LMCP’s “recommended reading” list was Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators.

Livingstone never abandoned such politics. This is evident from former Jewish Chronicle, editor Martin Bright’s description of a conversation he had with Livingstone in 2012:

“I was open-mouthed when he linked the Jewish Chronicle in a circuitous and incoherent argument to ‘CIA money’. Thinking back, I guess he meant that the paper’s commitment to Zionism made it, by its very nature, part of the propaganda arm of American imperialism.”

“He then launched into a discussion of Zionism itself. He mentioned Lenni Brenner, an obscure American Trotskyist I confessed I hadn’t read, and his work on the historical links between Zionism and Hitler. ‘What you have to realise is that there were close links between the founders of the state of Israel and the Third Reich,’ he said.”

Faced with allegations that there was an antisemitic component to his politics, such as when he denounced a Jewish journalist as a concentration camp guard, Livingstone coined a defence which became known as the Livingstone Formulation.

Allegations of antisemitism, according to Livingstone, were raised in bad faith in order to stifle criticism of Israel: “For too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government.”

That Formulation has been repeatedly employed by Livingstone over the past twelve months.

Naz Shah had been the victim of “a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as antisemitic.” Livingstone himself was under attack because “I support Palestinian human rights and strongly back our Leader Jeremy Corbyn.”

And in his submission to the Labour Party disciplinary hearing Livingstone wrote:

“There has been a significant vilification campaign against supporters of Palestinian rights within Labour. These attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour supporters of Palestinian rights are largely not about antisemitism. Their aim is to curtail the freedom to criticise the policies of Israel.”

Livingstone’s comments over the past twelve months about Hitler “supporting” Zionism and about “real collaboration” between Zionists and Nazis, coupled with invocations of the Livingstone Formulation, are the expression of a politics which Livingstone has adhered to and expressed for well over three decades.

But Livingstone was also subject to a countervailing pressure over those twelve months.

He is an experienced politician. He knew that his statements had become a focus of public attention. He must have known equally well that peddling the full Lenni Brenner version of Zionist-Nazi collaboration would be easily exposed and politically disastrous.

Livingstone must therefore have felt the need to ‘rein in’ the ‘full-blooded’ version of his politics and masquerade instead as an innocent seeker of historical truth – one, indeed, who had suddenly discovered a previously unexpressed admiration for Zionists in Nazi Germany.

Hence his very un-Livingstone-like comments before the Home Affairs Committee and at the Labour Party disciplinary hearing:

German Zionists were not to be criticised for their involvement in the Transfer Agreement. On the contrary, they had saved 66,000 Jewish lives. Zionism and Nazism were not equivalent political philosophies. And it would never cross Livingstone’s mind to suggest otherwise.

But Livingstone could not pull it off.

However much he might try to argue the equivalent of ‘some of my best friends are Zionists’, he could not help but repeatedly relapse into Brennerite allegations of Zionist-Nazi collaboration – even as he walked into a Labour Party disciplinary hearing.

His submission to that hearing made no mention of what he had actually said in April 2016: “Hitler was supporting Zionism”. It was replaced by the syntactically incoherent and scarcely less inaccurate formulation “Nazi policy in relation to the Transfer Agreement had the effect of supporting Zionism.”

This was a rewriting of history. But one that scarcely registers as such when compared with the much larger rewriting of history in which Livingstone has engaged for the past three and a half decades.

And to use Livingstone’s own expression against him: That rewriting of history has had the effect of supporting – and encouraging – antisemitism.

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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

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Darcus Howe and the Mangrove Nine

April 3, 2017 at 8:36 pm (Anti-Racism, AWL, black culture, civil rights, From the archives, history, liberation, police, posted by JD, Racism, RIP, solidarity)

Above: Young Radford/Darcus (left) and in later years (right)

The death, yesterday, of Darcus Howe, reminds us of just what an important figure he was. He was a follower of the Caribbean intellectual and Marxist CLR James (to whom he was in fact related), and also a British advocate of the Black Panther movement. Later, of course, he gained fame as an affable but still sharp and highly political TV presenter (‘The Devil’s Advocate’, etc), who memorably and with great humour once took on Bernard Manning (!) … and ended up befriending him.

But now seems like the right time to remember one of Darcus’s early battles, the campaign and eventual Old Bailey trial of the Mangrove Nine.

The trial of the nine arguably represents a high point of the Black Panther movement in the UK, showing the power of black activism and the institutionalised police prejudice. But what prompted the backlash of black British people against the police, leading to a virtual show trial at the Old Bailey?

Background

The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill opened in March 1968, and quickly become a centre for the black community, attracting intellectuals, creatives and campaigners.

The restaurant was repeatedly raided by police. Although the raids were carried out on the basis of drug possession, drugs were never found and Mangrove owner Crichlow’s anti-drugs stance was well known.

In response the black community and allies took to the streets to protest on 9 August 1970. The demonstration was organised by a small group from The Action Committee for the Defence of the Mangrove and the (British) Black Panthers. This included Frank Crichlow, Darcus (aka Radford) Howe and barrister Anthony Mohipp, secretary of the Black Improvement Organisation.

The protesters were met with a disproportionate police response: There were 150 demonstrators at the beginning of the march accompanied by 200 police.

The police claimed in court that the Black Power movement was implicated in planning and inciting a riot.

Later a Home Office commissioned report from the Community Relations Commission concluded that contrary to the police reports, the violence was not initiated by the marchers but by the police themselves.

Flyer calling for justice for the Mangrove Nine,1970. In the tenth week of the trial these were distributed to black people around the court and Notting Hill to raise awareness of the case (catalogue reference: HO 325/143)

Flyer distributed outside the court and in Notting Hill, 1971. Darcus was then known as Radford

The Trial of the Mangrove Nine by Constance Lever, Workers Fight (forunner of Workers Liberty), January 1972

The Old Bailey trial of the Mangrove Nine in 1971 took the fight of Notting Hill’s black community against police harassment right into the nerve-centre of the British legal system.

With the unexpected help of a mainly white, working class jury, the Nine won a partial victory: they were cleared of 25 out of 31 charges — including the serious ones of riot and causing grievous bodily harm. 5 were acquitted and 4 got suspended sentences.

In June and July 1970 the Mangrove Restaurant was raided nine times by the police, supposedly looking for drugs, which they never found. Its licence to stay open after 11pm was revoked when the police lodged an objection. Thereafter, those who ran it were repeatedly dragged into court and accused of serving food after hours.

On 9 August 1970 local black people marched in protest at this police harassment.. Without “provocation” police baton-charged the march. Naturally the marchers fought back. The charges — which were later insisted upon by higher police authorities — arose from this battle.

The harassment by the police bully boys is not accidental. The police must protect the private property system of the wealthy against its victims. To forestall trouble they tend to pick most on those who stand out, who have the rawest deal, and try to terrorise them into submission.

The Mangrove was a community restaurant, one of a network of community organisations. The restaurant and its clientele were harassed so as to stamp out a centre of black consciousness.

The trial itself was not quite what the police had bargained for. The accused turned the trial into an indictment of the police and the system. Three of them, Darcus Howe, Rhodan Gordon and Althea Lecointe, conducted their own defence. They all refused to shut up when told to and rejected the judge’s rulings that statements about police brutality in Notting Hill were irrelevant.

The Mangrove Nine refused to behave as individuals charged with crimes, unsure and apologetic, but acted instead as representatives of a militant black community challenging police and court intimidation. And their community backed them up: every day of the 49-day trial they packed the public gallery to give solidarity.

With these tactics they broke through the hidebound ritual of court procedure and managed to actually talk about their lives and experiences and about their conflict with the police, to the ordinary men and women of the jury.

A majority of the Mangrove jury were workers, and only two of the 11 were black. It is known that the jury divided along class lines, with the middle class members inclined to believe the police and favouring conviction. It seems that some of the workers knew better and simply decided the police were liars. Eventually they compromised on the basis of agreement on acquittal on the most serious charges.

And when the trial ended, 7 jurors joined the Nine to spend 3 hours chatting and drinking like old friends long kept apart.

But only partial victories can be won in the courts. The police and the state retaliate. Within 24 hours of hism acquittal, Rhodan Gordon was rearrested on charges of obstructing and assaulting the police.

What is needed is a drive to mobilise the active support of the labour movement for the struggles of black people. It would be pointless and stupid to deny the widespread racialist attitudes in the labour movement. It is the job of socialists to fight to break this down — not to pretend working class racism doesn’t exist.

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