The Socialist Party’s “wretched concession” to nationalism

April 27, 2017 at 9:16 pm (AWL, Europe, identity politics, immigration, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reformism, Socialist Party, trotskyism)

Image result for picture Lindsey oil refinery strike
Above: the 2009 Lindsey oil refinery strike

NB: this article is from the AWL: anyone from the Socialist Party is welcome to send us a reply, which will be published on this site.

By Ira Berkovic

At best, Hannah Sell’s article “Brexit and the left” (Socialism Today, the magazine of the Socialist Party, Issue 207, April 2017) is a series of platitudinous banalities. At worst, it is a wretched concession to nationalism.

In a rare direct polemic against other group on the left (the Socialist Party prefer to plough their own sectarian furrow, acknowledging the existence of other tendencies only occasionally), Sell makes a number of claims about Workers’ Liberty which range from the distorted to the straightforwardly untrue. She accuses us of “having consistently argued that the EU is progressive”. This is not our position.

The institutional infrastructure of the European Union, like all capitalist institutions, is a class instrument, constructed to enforce the rule of capital. But the continental integration it brings with it provides a higher platform for working-class solidarity and united struggle than the hard right’s alternative — a Europe of competing national-capitalist blocs, walled off behind high trade barriers and intensive immigration controls. That was the choice on offer in the 23 June referendum; that is why Workers’ Liberty was for “remain”.

She next accuses us of having “no concept of the limits to capitalism’s ability to overcome the barrier of the nation state”. In fact, we have repeatedly cautioned against the view that capitalism has bypassed the nation state entirely, echoing the arguments of Ellen Meiksins Wood and others. Rather, nation states themselves “globalise” by making themselves attractive sites for international investment, and plugging into interconnected world markets. This globalising logic creates objective, material basis for a greater degree of working-class unity than “national” working classes struggling solely against “their own” ruling class, behind barriers and borders.

Sell scoffs at the idea that capitalism might “carry through the task of the unification of Europe and that this would be ‘progressive”, apparently impervious to the reality of the degree of European integration and unification capitalism has already achieved. To repeat: the existence of a single market, and the erosion of borders throughout substantial parts of Europe, provide an objectively higher, better, basis for working-class unity than the vision preferred by the right, and apparently by the Socialist Party, of rigidly delineated national-capitalist blocs. For that process to be reversed under pressure from economic nationalism and xenophobic “sovereignism” — currently the only meaningfully hegemonic forces behind the drive to break up the EU —would certainly not be “progressive”. The article finishes by repeating the Socialist Party’s wretched position on immigration – that is, an unquestioning acceptance of the idea, which does not survive contact with evidence, that migrant labour straightforwardly depresses pay and conditions for domestic labour, and that the solution to this is to apply controls at the border.

Migrant workers are as much part of our class as British workers. Our politics must be as much for them as for British workers. We must defend their rights – their rights to migrate freely and safely, free from the violence of border controls, and their right to legally seek work – as vociferously as we defend the wages, terms, and conditions of domestic labour. To adopt any other position necessarily implied that the rights of British workers come first, simply by dint of the fact that they are British. There is no other word for this but “nationalism”.

Sell’s article says that “the only way to push back is for a united struggle of all workers”. Quite so. But in the context of what is essentially a polemic against a policy of free movement, and for restrictions on immigration, it is plain that, for the Socialist Party, “united struggle” is not the “only way to push back”; they also favour legislative mechanisms to restrict immigration. Sell cites the 2009 Lindsey oil refinery strike, where workers protested at bosses’ use of Italian migrant labour on terms that undermined collectively-negotiated agreements, as an example of the kind of struggle necessary.

That strike began as a strike demanding “British jobs for British workers”. Undoubtedly the Socialist Party comrade involved did play an important role in shifting the dispute away from such racist slogans and onto politically healthier terrain. But those who, while supporting the Lindsey workers’ fight for national agreements to be respected, sounded a note of caution about the risk of viewing migrant workers as the enemy, were right to do so.

Sell quotes Giorgio Cremaschi, leader of the Italian union Fiom, supporting the strike, but none of the Italian migrant workers themselves. Migrant workers’ agency is missing from the Socialist Party’s picture; the implication is that “united struggle” in fact means struggles by British workers against the way migrant labour is “used”. The fact remains that the Lindsey scenario is rare. There, a unionised domestic workforce, with collectively-negotiated national agreements, saw their employer physically bus in migrant workers and employ them on terms outside the existing agreements. This is not the basis on which any significant proportion of migrant labour comes to Britain – or, to use the Socialist Party’s schema in which migrants are passive instruments of neo-liberalism with no agency of their own, “is brought”.

Ending free movement, which is the Socialist Party’s policy, would not do anything to meaningfully protect trade union agreements. It would, however, significantly disadvantage working-class people from EU countries attempting to move to make a better life for themselves and their families. The Socialist Party give their pro-immigration controls position a labour-movement gloss by claiming that the “control” they favour is a kind of (presumably state-enforced) closed shop, whereby employers wishing to “recruit abroad” must be “covered by a proper trade union agreement or by sectoral collective bargaining”.

But the vast majority of migrant labour does not consist of workers directly “recruited abroad”, but of workers who come to Britain, sometimes as a result of acute poverty and lack of opportunity in their countries of origin, looking for work. Does the Socialist Party propose to have border police checking union cards at Dover? Should we expect to see Socialist Party delegates at Britain’s airports and docks, telling migrant workers – the very people who, in previous generations, helped lay the foundations for our modern labour movement – that employers will use them to undercut British workers, and that the class conscious thing to do would be to get back on the plane or boat and go home?

All workers – local and migrant – should be “covered by a proper trade union agreement or by sectoral collective bargaining”, but this will be imposed on employers through class struggle. To propose it as policy we want the existing state, with its Tory administration, to adopt as a fix for a perceived immigration “problem” is a political contortion undertaken by a tendency visibly uncomfortable with the implications of its own perspective.

The Socialist Party should take some responsibility for the logic of its position. Be honest! Just say it, comrades: you think immigration depresses pay and conditions for domestic workers, and to solve this problem, you think there should be less immigration. That is the substance of your view. No amount of gloss, nor any amount of reassurances that you do not consider migrant workers to be at “fault”, as Sell puts it in the article, change that fundamental fact.

Workers’ Liberty takes a different view. Our view is that no human being should be “illegal”. Our view is that the right to move freely, including to move between states, is a fundamental human right, and that restrictions on that right cannot be imposed except by state violence. Have employers sometimes attempted to “use” migrant labour to lower their costs? Of course — just as some employers historically exploited the entry of women into the workforce to drive down wages by paying them less than men. In proposing restrictions on immigration, however packaged and presented, the Socialist Party echo the Lassallean socialists of the 19th century who opposed women’s entry into the workforce on the basis that they would be “used” to undercut existing, male, workers’ wages.

The free movement that exists between EU member states should be extended, not restricted. Bosses’ use of migrant labour to undercut local labour should be met with common struggle and demands for levelling up, not calls to end free movement. By arguing that the rights of British workers can be protected by restricting the rights of migrant workers, the Socialist Party give ground to nationalism.

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‘Free Speech on Israel’: a bunch of incompetents unwilling to challenge antisemitism

April 14, 2017 at 5:49 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, fascism, Guardian, Human rights, israel, labour party, Livingstone, Middle East, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, zionism)

Greenstein: claims “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism

By Dale Street

Yesterday’s Guardian (13th April) published a statement from the so-called ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign. The text of the letter and the full list of signatories is at:

http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/letter-guardian-reject-call-expulsion-ken-livingstone/#more-3000

According to the letter:

“There is nothing whatsoever antisemitic about this [i.e. Livingstone’s statement that Hitler was supporting Zionism before he went mad].  Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University wrote in his book “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany” (p. 79):

Throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews’   

Is telling the truth also antisemitic?”

But Nicosia’s book does not corroborate Livingstone’s claim that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s (nor his other recent claims, such as that there was “real collaboration” between German Zionism and the Nazis “right up until the start of the Second World War”).

Nicosia writes that by the beginning of the twentieth century most German antisemites “had come to view Zionism as representative of much of what they considered the more dangerous and abhorrent characteristics of the Jews as a people.”

He further writes: “For most antisemites in Germany, including the Nazis prior to 1941, their willingness to use Zionism and the Zionist movement was never based on an acceptance of the Zionist view of itself, namely that it represented a force for the common good and for the renewal of the Jews as a people in the modern world.”

He is explicit that the purpose of his book 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.”

He dismisses as “ahistorical assertions” arguments which “simplistically dismiss Zionism as yet another example of racism, the substance of which has not been very different from German National Socialism.”

He rejects claims that “Zionists collaborated with the Nazi regime in Germany in an effort to secure their own narrow self-interest at the expense of non-Zionist Jews before and during the Holocaust.”

The ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement quotes a single sentence from page 79 of Nicosia’s book. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the author of the statement has also read pages 1-78.

But all of the above quotes are taken from pages 1-78 of Nicosia’s book. The author of the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement has therefore ignored everything in Nicosia’s book which does not suit his own political standpoint and instead picks on a single sentence.

People who engage in selective quoting are not telling the truth. They are lying. In this case, they are lying for a political purpose.

The first signatory to the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement is Tony Greenstein, who is also probably the author of the statement itself.

Ever since the early 1980s – when he was a member of the ‘British Anti-Zionist Organisation’, which claimed that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis and encouraged antisemitism to benefit Israel – Greenstein has claimed that there was an “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism, and that Zionism was “a movement of collaboration” with Nazism.

Like Livingstone himself, Greenstein is a great admirer of the writings of Lenni Brenner, another charlatan who specialises in the art of selective quoting. According to Greenstein, Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators is “the most complete account, from an anti-Zionist perspective, of Zionist collusion with the Nazis.”

Greenstein has written a review of Nicosia’s book, tellingly entitled “Review – Francis Nicosia and Zionist Collaboration with Nazi Germany”. Greenstein’s review denounces the book:

“[The book is] an appalling apologia for the collaboration of the Zionist movement in Germany with the Nazi government. …

Nicosia is an author at war with his own evidence. He is determined to reach conclusions at variance with the evidence. …

His thesis that the Zionist movement had to do deals with the Nazis in order to rescue German Jews fails to explain the ideological symmetry between them. …

Nicosia’s problem is that he has little understanding of Zionism, past or present, still less how its racial theories translated into practice in Palestine. …”

So, on the one hand, says Greenstein, Nicosia has little or no understanding of Zionism. He is at war with his own evidence. And he fails to explain the “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism.

But now, in April of 2017, the same Tony Greenstein puts his name to a statement (which he probably wrote as well) which cites the same Francis Nicosia as a credible historian (“the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University”) and invokes the same book  (albeit by way of total misrepresentation) in support of Livingstone’s statements.

The ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement argues that Livingstone is not under attack for having made antisemitic statements – Livingstone has merely been telling the truth.

The statement concludes with the unsubstantiated claim: “What the campaign against Livingstone is really about is his long-standing support for the Palestinians and his opposition to Zionism and the policies of the Israeli state.”

It is therefore reasonable to assume that the statement’s signatories can distinguish between antisemitic statements and statements of legitimate criticism of Zionism and Israeli policies. (Leaving aside the fact that a number of the statement’s signatories do not just criticise Israeli policies but the very existence of Israel).

But signatories to the statement include Paisley Labour councillor Terry Kelly. Kelly is clearly incapable of making that distinction. He is the author of statements such as:

“Israel decided that the children and old and sick would continue to suffer and die, this is being done by the survivors of the Holocaust, it beggars belief that the Jewish people who suffered so much could treat innocent children this way but that’s what they are doing.”

“What I would like to see (but won’t) is justice done by restoring pre-1948 Palestine, the return of all refugees and an end to the crime that is Israel. Jews along with anyone else who applies successfully to live there would be welcomed, as Palestinians.”

“Have you stopped to ask why [the Obama White House is silent]? It’s because the American Jewish Lobby is extremely powerful and it has its boot on Obama’s neck that is why America still bankrolls Israel despite its crimes against humanity.”

“There is a powerful Jewish lobby campaigning against the film [The King’s Speech] because of its historical inaccuracy about Hitler and the antisemitism which it studiously ignores.”

“[The American academic] Finkelstein was also fired from a university in that apparent home of democracy America following a vicious campaign by the all-powerful American Jewish Lobby.”

Kelly now has a piece on his blog entitled “Ken Livingstone is Innocent and So Was I”.

But in Terry Kelly’s political universe, accusing the Jewish people of collective guilt, advocating the elimination of Israel, and repeated references to ‘the American Jewish lobby’, ‘the powerful Jewish lobby’ and ‘the all-powerful American Jewish lobby’ are all examples of ‘innocence’.

In another sense, though, Kelly is correct: Livingstone is as innocent (or as guilty) as Kelly himself.

And the fact that the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign includes Kelly as a signatory to its statement is itself a measure of that campaign’s own competence and willingness (or incompetence and unwillingness) in matters of recognising and challenging antisemitism.

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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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I Am Not Your Negro

April 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm (Anti-Racism, black culture, cinema, civil rights, literature, posted by JD, Racism, United States)

Essential viewing:

In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished – a radical narration about race in America, using the writer’s original words. He draws upon James Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.

“One of the best movies you are likely to see this year.”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

  • Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review 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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George Szirtes: The Immigrant at Port Selda

April 2, 2017 at 4:55 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, democracy, Europe, Human rights, identity politics, immigration, internationalism, literature, Migrants, poetry, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism")

Picture by Clarissa Upchurch

George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents—survivors of concentration and labor camps after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

George’s address to the recent symposium at Southampton University, ‘The legacy of Brexit and citizenship in times of uncertainty’  is posted here with his permission:

I must confess I have no qualification for speaking on this subject and am keenly aware of speaking to those who do. I can only speak in my character as an unwitting child refugee to these shores, a poet and translator, and as an occasional writer of articles in the press, on, among other things, the issue of Brexit: about the campaign itself, the impact of the campaign and its likely future impact.

On that last, of course, I can only speculate. We are not out yet, we don’t know anything about the terms of disengagement, and we have no clear idea of how this or that set of terms may impact our lives.

I did in fact campaign for Remain but my role and experience was very minor. In asking Leavers why they intended to vote as they did the two answers I repeatedly got were: ‘So they won’t tell us what to do any more,’ and, ‘Things were better before’. These words will be familiar to most people here and seemed to me to be perfectly rational responses to the two major arguments of the Leave campaign regarding sovereignty and free movement of people. The way those arguments were presented elicited precisely these responses.

As I have already said I am not qualified to address those questions because I am not an expert in any of the relevant areas and because I am, by birth, parti pris on one side of the question, in that I am a foreigner and therefore one of those factors in things somehow being better before my arrival.

I don’t want to caricature the Leave campaign. I don’t want to call those who voted differently from me stupid, or simple, or racist. Life is far more complicated and I did have some intelligent conversations with people who wanted to leave the EU, particularly those on the Chomskyite left of the political spectrum, whose arguments centred on globalisation, capitalism and high finance as expressed, occasionally, in terms of sovereignty.

I don’t want to caricature the Leave campaign but the day after the referendum there was an incident in Norwich, a city that had voted to remain in a region that had voted to leave, in which a small Romanian supermarket was firebombed. Students at the university from which I had retired immediately set up an appeal to raise £500. By the next morning it had raised over £20, 000, so the field was not altogether lost. Despite what we are continually told about the clear will of ‘the people’ there were enough people willing to raise money for a minor indirectly demonised enterprise.

I don’t think demonisation is too harsh a word, in that Leave rhetoric called forth certain demons, or rather that it quite consciously opened the trapdoors where such demons were hiding. It legitimised them. It called forth the firebombers. It called forth those who immediately set upon elderly widows of French and German birth who had lived in the country for decades and taunted them by asking when they were going home. It called forth the teenagers on the Manchester tram who demanded a black American get off it. It called forth the murderer of Jo Cox.

By the time that happened a certain madness had set in. All the Leavers rushed to distance themselves from the murder, of course. This was nothing to do with them. None of those xenophobic incidents, and there have been and continue to be plenty of others, had anything to do with them. It was nothing to do with their presentation of sinister foreigners in Brussels, and sinister gangs of Albanians hanging round Dover and Boston, or with the sinister cheap labour of mushroom pickers and chicken packers who were taking much-coveted jobs from true Brits. No! they protested. That was not what they meant. They had nothing to do with encouraging the taxi driver we met who had moved from Kings Lynn because there were too many Lithuanians and Poles there, foreigners whose rather marvellous supermarket down a side street was, as he put it, ‘taking the place over’.

Perhaps I could go back in time and take a more personal line in order to think about what it is that might make one properly British or, more problematically, a foreigner.

2
My family of four, along with some 200,000 others, that is one-fiftieth of the population, left Hungary in the months following the defeat of the 1956 Revolution. I am not entirely sure why we left. My parents had taken no part in the fighting and were unlikely to be arrested in its repercussions. My father, as the leader of a department within the Ministry of Building, would have been exposed in the revolution itself, as much as a Jew as a member of the apparatus, but I think he would have stayed. It was my mother who insisted we leave.

Why did she do so? I don’t think it was for ideological reasons. Neither my mother nor my father hoped to feel more comfortable among free-market liberal capitalists than in a restored post-Stalinist state. They were both of the left, my middle-class mother further to the left than my working-class father who actually worked in a ministry. Ideology would, if anything, have kept them at home. They lived quite well in the given context and weren’t economic migrants.

The truth is that my mother was afraid, not so much for herself as for us, her children. She had survived two concentration camps, my father had survived forced labour. They had history gnawing at their nerves. Neither of them could have demonstrated that their lives were in immediate danger. Instead they took the dangerous impromptu risk of walking out of the country at night in wholly arbitrary party of a dozen or so, across the Austrian border, arriving there with one suitcase of clothes and nothing more. At that stage I had just three words of English — A A Milne’s AND, BUT, SO as read in my bilingual copy of Now We Are Six. We also had a bilingual edition of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. In this poem based on the memory of crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border by night, Milne’s characters — the owl and the ass in the hundred-acre wood — serve as forms of familiarity.

My father carries me across a field

My father carries me across a field.

It’s night and there are trenches filled with snow.

Thick mud. We’re careful to remain concealed

From something frightening I don’t yet know.

And then I walk and there is space between

The four of us. We go where we have to go.

Did I dream it all, this ghostly scene,

The hundred-acre wood where the owl blinked

And the ass spoke? Where I am cosy and clean

In bed, but we are floating, our arms linked

Over the landscape? My father moves ahead

Of me, like some strange, almost extinct

Species, and I follow him in dread

Across the field towards my own extinction.

Spirits everywhere are drifting over blasted

Terrain. The winter cold makes no distinction

Between them and us. My father looks round

And smiles then turns away. We have no function

In this place but keep moving, without sound,

Lost figures who leave only a blank page

Behind them, and the dark and frozen ground

They pass across as they might cross a stage.

We might well have been moving into extinction. My parents would never again be what they had been and what they might have become. Once in Austria the process of unbecoming became relatively easy. Refugee services were waiting for us, both in Austria and, a few days later in Britain, after we had been offered a flight there. Reception was efficient and kindly. We were regarded as victim-heroes of a failed but heroic Uprising against the Cold War enemy. Sentiment was with us.

So was our historical baggage. In Metro, the longest poem of my career, there are a couple of verses in which I try to sum up what we had left behind in Budapest. The physical city described in it stands in for history: the empire of the living becomes the empire of the dead.

[Metro 2 2/3]

The empire underground: the tunnelling

Begins. The earth gives up her worms and shards,

Old coins, components, ordnance, bone and glass,

Nails, muscle, hair, flesh, shrivelled bits of string,

Shoe leather, buttons, jewels, instruments.

And out of these come voices, words,

Stenches and scents,

And finally desire, pulled like a tooth.

It’s that or constancy that leads us down

To find a history which feels like truth.

That baggage of old coins, components, bits of lace and so forth is the kind of thing any refugee brings with them. It is an emblem of the real baggage of those who leave without much deliberation or calculation simply because of what appears as a pressing necessity. The children and teenagers in the jungle at Calais carry something similar. They bring their foreignness with them to squat in the mud of an alien port.

England was not our intended destination. That was Australia where my father had a cousin: we had no one in England. But Australia rejected us because of my mother’s health so we had to remain. Altogether some 28,000 Hungarians chose to remain in the UK.

What did we offer our kindly hosts?

My father had some English before we came. The rest of us — my mother, brother and I — had none. The English my father possessed made him useful in helping to process other refugees, which is what he did while we spent four months along with those others in various off-season boarding houses in or near Margate, attending English classes. My father interpreted for fellow refugees who were sent off to jobs in Wolverhampton or Luton or wherever their skill and experience would come in handy. My father’s particular skill lay in plumbing, heating and ventilation at managerial level so they found him a first job in London and, remarkably enough, enabled us to put down a deposit on a first house there. Starting from zero that was nothing short of a miracle, a remarkable act of generosity that was enough to make life-long anglophiles of us all. Meanwhile my mother, a press photographer, found work in a photographer’s studio and shop in Oxford Street.

Having settled in we set about assimilating. First of all we were to speak English, not Hungarian at home. We would never go back, very few people in the world spoke Hungarian so the language would be redundant and only slow down the rate at which we, the children, learned English and made a go of school. Budapest was no longer home. My father anglicised the pronunciation of his name to Surtees, as in the racing driver, even altering the spelling for strictly work purposes when visiting building sites to make life easier for foremen and site managers. His face and accent did not accord with the adopted name of course, and the accent was thick.

But it was a reasonable, relaxed ambience. By the time we began our English school careers there were other immigrant issues to think about. The Notting Hill Riots of 1958 for example and, ten years later, Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. Then, just four years after that, in the wake of Idi Amin, came the Ugandan Asians. We might have been foreign but at least we were white.

And because we were white and less conspicuous we did not experience the resentment that met West Indians or Asians. We took the mild if diffident benevolence of England for granted. We had melted in hadn’t we? And the country into which we had melted was a stable, powerful force in the world, a safe place, ever less powerful now perhaps, ever less imperial, but still safe.

In 1984 I returned to Hungary for the first time as an adult. And kept returning. In 1989 my family and I spent almost the whole year there watching the state fall apart. Ten years later, after several books I changed publishers for the second time and my work to that date was sorted into two distinct volumes: The Budapest File (2000) dealing with work that had a Hungarian interest (by which time I had written a good deal on that) and one titled An English Apocalypse (2001), that dealt with settling in England and simply being here. In this way my work — and self — was neatly divided for public consumption.

An English Apocalypse was chiefly written in Ireland while I was a fellow at TCD, Dublin, and contained many memories of the seventies but also registered what I sensed was a mounting crisis in English identity and self-confidence. There were five apocalypses at the end of the sequence. This is one of them.

Death by Deluge

I have seen roads come to a full stop in mid-

sentence as if their meaning had fallen off

the world. And this is what happened, what meaning did

that day in August. The North Sea had been rough

and rising and the bells of Dunwich rang

through all of Suffolk. One wipe of its cuff

down cliffs and in they went, leaving birds to hang

puzzled in the air, their nests gone. Enormous

tides ran from Southend to Cromer. They swung

north and south at once, as if with a clear purpose,

thrusting through Lincolnshire, and at a rush

drowning Sleaford, Newark, leaving no house

uncovered. Nothing remained of The Wash

but water. Peterborough, Ely, March, and Cambridge

were followed by Royston, Stevenage, the lush

grass of Shaw’s Corner. Not a single ridge

remained. The Thames Valley filled to the brim

and London Clay swallowed Wapping and Greenwich.

Then west, roaring and boiling. A rapid skim

of Hampshire and Dorset, then the peninsula:

Paignton, Plymouth, Lyme, Land’s End. A slim

line of high hills held out but all was water-colour,

the pure English medium, intended for sky, cloud, and sea.

Less earth than you could shift with a spatula.

Something important began in the seventies that more-or-less coincided with the time of Britain’s EU entry: a process that involved the fuel crisis, the three-day week, the winter of discontent, and the rise of Margaret Thatcher which was followed by the destruction of old mass industries that had sustained stable communities and provided social cohesion. Britain had become the sick man of Europe. And despite an economic recovery through the later eighties and nineties, the cohesion had vanished. The economic body was no longer sick, but the social soul was.

Somebody had to be blamed for all this and the EU was the easiest scapegoat. If Britain was falling apart by 2001 in the way An English Apocalypse suggested that can’t have been Britain’s fault, can it? Who took away our pounds and ounces, our twelve pence to the shilling and our pride? Our image of sinister, faceless foreign bureaucrats — so beloved by the right wing press — conjured our own long resentful demons. The foreigners kept coming. They were after our jobs, after our benefits, after our houses, changing our ways of life, the ground of our very being. These foreigners were not all the result of the EU’s free movement policy, more to do with globalisation beyond Europe, with the disasters of wars or famine, with Britain’s own colonial history.

The concerns associated with large numbers of immigrants were masked by what people — and increasingly the popular press — called ‘political correctness’ (Political Correctness Gone Mad) by which they meant the control of language and manners, and in some cases of law, of the means of even beginning to address the concerns. That was seen as repression and, in some ways, for the best of reasons, so it was.

What I am suggesting is that that which was successfully suppressed after Notting Hill in 1958 was inarticulate and still struggling for manoeuvre in 2016 when it finally found an outlet in the referendum campaign. The end of empire had found its cry. Hence the fury. Hence the demons.

Two or three years ago I was chairing a small literary festival in the small Norfolk town where we live. In order to publicise the event we decided to read poems in the marketplace on market day. That was fun. Somebody there decided to read John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song, that begins: ‘Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn / furnished and burnished by Aldershot sun…’, a poem that wonderfully conjures an England of the 1930s. After the event the sweetest and nicest person on the committee said to me, ‘I don’t suppose you will ever fully understand that poem, George’.

Maybe he is right. Maybe, even to the nicest of men, a foreigner can never be truly of the atavistic tribe. That wouldn’t be peculiar to the English, of course: that is, I suspect, a general truth about specific historical moments when tribes come under pressure. Maybe the English tribe is ay such a point and has decided to wash its hand of foreigners. I started out by saying that I am not, for now, directly affected by Brexit and the tide of emotion it has loosed. But the conversation with the genuinely nice man who pointed out that I could never truly understand the heart of Englishness in the Betjeman poem — and he may be right, of course — is a salutary reminder that, in subtle ways, I remain a foreigner. Maybe the door to Brexit is the door out for some of us.

I will finish with a short poem titled Port Selda. There is a much loved popular poem by the Anglo-Welsh poet, Edward Thomas, titled ‘Adlestrop’ In Thomas’s poem of 1917, it is a sunny day during the war when his train makes a brief unscheduled stop at a tiny station, Adlestrop, by an empty platform where no one gets in or out. It seems quiet there until suddenly the poet hears “all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire”. What we know, as readers, is that the poet himself was very soon to die in the war. For many people this poem this represents a sense of England at war, England as the elegiac quiet place sensed as if by accident.

My title, Port Selda is in fact the word Adlestrop spelled backwards. It is about the beauty of the country and the inevitability of rejection. Many of us are at Port Selda now.

The Immigrant at Port Selda

I got off at Port Selda and looked out for the harbour

but it was quiet, nothing smelled of the sea,

all I saw was a station by a well-kept arbour

with a notice pinned to a tree.

It said: Welcome to Port Selda, you who will never be

our collective unconscious nor of our race.

This is the one true genealogical tree

and this the notice you will not deface.

It was beautiful there. It was Friday in late

autumn and all the birds of the county sang

their hearts out. I noted down the date.

The sun was shining and the church-bells rang.

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Deluded Stalinist fools still don’t get it as Article 50 is triggered

March 29, 2017 at 8:43 pm (CPB, Europe, fantasy, grovelling, Jim D, Marxism, nationalism, populism, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Brexit opens the way to progressive politics? Even the Stalinists now have doubts

On the day that Britain takes a great step backwards towards nationalism, isolationism and nativism, Tory backwoodsmen, Ukip and other and racists throughout England are celebrating.

Those on the left (and, indeed, liberal-left and Greens) who campaigned for internationalism and anti-racism against Brexit are divided between advocates of giving up in despair and those who vow to fight on to reverse this historic defeat.

But by far the most pathetic, incoherent and demoralised observers of the Article 50/Brexit debacle are the shower of supposed “leftists” who advocated Brexit on the grounds that it could magically turn into something progressive – a “people’s Brexit” or “Lexit” some fantasists called this mirage. Chief amongst these self-deluded idiots were the Stalinists of the CPB and Morning Star, though a few degenerate ex-Trots followed in their slipstream, bleating about how the vote was nothing to do with immigration, but all about opposition to neo-liberalism, austerity, etc, etc.

Most of these fools remain (in public, at least) in complete and utter denial – even in the face of sustained increases in racist incidents directly attributable to the Leave campaign and referendum result. The wretches of the Morning Star show some very slight signs of recognising the disastrous results of their pro-Brexit idiocy. Today’s editorial (which can be read in full here), includes the following admission:

“Since the result of the June 23 vote, almost everything has gone wrong, with the significant exception of the left’s success in mobilising even more Labour Party members to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn in 2016 than in the previous year.

“To those who see Brexit as a victory for narrow nationalism, this is hardly surprising.”

To which those of us who do, indeed, see Brexit as a victory for narrow nationalism, can only agree that we’re not surprised in the least. In fact, we predicted it.

The M. Star continues:

“The vote to leave the EU is interpreted as a triumph for the right which has predictably knocked the stuffing out of the left.

“But the risk is that assuming people voted to leave the EU for right-wing reasons, and that Britain will therefore lurch to the right in consequence, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Right! so the fault lies with those of us who warned about the inevitable consequences of a Leave vote, and “interpreted” it as “a triumph for the right” instead of deluding ourselves with the ridiculous reactionary socialist fantasies of the CPB and the Morning Star.

On this day of defeat and shame, serious socialists need to recall the words of a Marxist revolutionist who doesn’t meet with the approval of the Morning Star:

“To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s programme on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives — these are the rules of the Fourth International” – Leon Trotsky, The death agony of capitalism and the tasks of the fourth international, 1938.

NB: see also Comrade Coatesy, here

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David Aaronovitch: Defending ‘white interests’ can never be right

March 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm (Anti-Racism, Europe, Human rights, identity politics, immigration, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reaction)

This article by David Aaronovitch first appeared in The Times on 15 March 2017. It’s so good that I thought – at risk of incurring the wrath of his lawyers – it aught to be released from behind Murdoch’s paywall; it’s a superb reposte to the”intellectual” relativist apologists for racism, David Goodhart and Eric Kaufmann. The Socialist Party and CPGB/ Morning Star “left” Brexiteers should also read , learn and weep:

Trying to draw a distinction between ethnic self-interest and racism is a highly topical but fatally flawed argument

Let’s talk about whites. Readers of other colours are welcome to listen in, but this is really about us and our legitimate white self-interests, which are not at all the same thing as racism.

We owe this formulation to David Goodhart, head of the demography, immigration and integration unit at Policy Exchange, a think tank. An article by Mr Goodhart entitled “White self-interest is not the same thing as racism” was published on its website a fortnight ago as a curtain-raiser for a report by Eric Kaufmann of Birbeck College London called “Racial self-interest is not racism.”

Goodhart says the main aim of the report was “to distinguish between white racism and white identity politics”. Or as Professor Kaufmann put it, to create “space for ideas around ethnic interests to be more openly aired without accusations of racism”.

The contention here is an important one: that what might be called The Great Upheaval (Trump, Brexit, Wilders, Le Pen — add or subtract as you please) is partly explained by the resentment of majority white populations at the way their legitimate interests have been overlooked. The implied remedy is that their interests should now be factored into public policy, in areas such as immigration. As you might imagine, it has provoked something of an argument.

Broadly speaking, Kaufmann takes the view that liberals have got it all wrong. Wanting your neighbourhood to reflect your ethnic character, he says, is not racist. Feeling “discomfort” when your group “no longer sets the tone in a neighbourhood” may be inward-looking, Goodhard adds, but “labelling that feeling racist risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy, driving white resentment”. Both men cite the work of an American Muslim academic, Shadi Hamid, who has also written about supposedly non-racist “racial self-interest.”

Kaufmann cites some revealing responses when American voters were asked whether it was racist or just “racial self-interest, which is not racist” to want an immigration policy that “maintain his or her group’s share of the population”. Nearly 73 per cent of Clinton supporters and 11 per cent of Trump supporters opted for “racist”. You may have already have spotted the flaws in this argument. The first is, how do we define “white”? To an extent, Kaufmann and Goodhard are guided by people’s own description. But if “white” is the classification, does that mean that “setting the tone” is literally the skin tone? Which, for many whites, could be expressed more honestly as “too many blacks”. Or by “white” do we mean “English-speaking”? Or “Christian”? Or “non-Muslim”?

A clue comes when, in Goodhart’s new book he talks of “white British people, especially those from lower income and educational backgrounds, [who] do still wish to retain a non-supremacist ethnic identity”. He assumes that this conveniently benign identity is threatened by the presence of others who are not regarded as sharing it. And since the top signifier is colour of skin it follows that the main threat to this group comes from non-white people.

As it happens I agree with Goodhart and Kaufmann and plenty of others that the soubriquet “racist” has been horribly overused. When a mild-mannered don is accused of racism for feeling that, on the whole, a statue of Cecil Rhodes is no great threat to humanity, then that’s an abuse of language. And it is also true that fear of being labelled racist has inhibited weak-minded public officials from doing their jobs, from the Victoria Climbié case to the British-Asian grooming gangs. Furthermore, as over the Satanic Verses, I support a robust defence of democratic values and rights — rights that have been hard won.

But when they talk about legitimate white “racial self-interest” in a society where 86 per cent of the population is white, I struggle with their argument. Kaufmann, for example, is indignant in claiming that “whites” must have their own interests if other racial groups have theirs. He cites a Zoroastrian (an ancient Persian religious group) as arguing against “marrying out” to preserve the existence of the ancient religion.

But this is an absurdity, There are nearly no Zoroastrians left. There are quite a few white people. And a similar read-across doesn’t work for minorities. Take my black nephew and my white nephew. My black nephew inhabits a society where he can witness us having an argument about whether there are too many of him. My white nephew has never encountered such a thing. My black nephew has an interest in dealing with prejudice. My white nephew doesn’t. Of course, if he were poor he would be disadvantaged and still white, but it would be the poorness that marked him out.

It is a feature of the times, of course, that a multi-millionaire aristocratic think-tanker, daughter of a 15th earl, can write to the Financial Times (as one did last week) complaining about a “liberal animus against whites” and not be thought eccentric.

White males were declared an “endangered species” in the same week that University Challenge managed a programme on which every person appearing was white and male. We are living through a moment of cultural reaction that has little to do with reality.

So let me spell it out. I find it very hard to imagine any “racial self-interest” that whites might have (in a country where they are, after all, in the majority) which wouldn’t have a negative impact on minorities. If, for example, we fashion an immigration policy that embodies the desire to “maintain” a white share of the population, then that policy will have to be racially discriminatory. Since we are never worried about white people moving into “ethnic” areas, a housing policy reflecting white self-interest could be aimed at keeping others off the list. More of my white nephew, less of my black nephew, just so that some people don’t feel “uncomfortable”.

And when Kaufmann writes, sympathetically, that “cultural conservatives hold elites responsible for enforcing antiracist norms — in the workplace, government and mainstream media — beyond the bounds of what they consider appropriate”, I reply “Didn’t they always?” Didn’t they first tell us that tribalism was natural, as was preferring your own, and that it was better to be educated separately but equally, to want your daughter to marry someone just like daddy, a human right to be able to let that spare room to someone you could identify with rather than a black or an Irish? I’m not racist. I have nothing against them. I’m just acknowledging my racial self-interest. Which is that I’m white. So give me the job.

  • Eric Kaufmann responds in a letter published on 19 March by The Times, here

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Putin’s TV takes the piss out of Farage: that’s the thanks you get for grovelling

March 4, 2017 at 6:47 pm (apologists and collaborators, corruption, Europe, Jim D, populism, Putin, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, UKIP)

Farage’s grovelling to Putin merely gets him having the piss taken on Putin’s TV channel; Trump beware:

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The Labour Brexiteers who would deny basic rights to EU citizens

March 3, 2017 at 9:11 pm (apologists and collaborators, Europe, Human rights, Jim D, labour party, populism, Racism)

Kate Hoey and John Mills at Labour Leave launch

Above: Hoey and fellow Labour reactionaries and racists at the launch of Labour Leave

Today’s Times, commenting on the Lords’ amendment to the Brexit Bill, calling on the government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, speaks for a lot of us:

“The spectacle of the unelected House of Lords hindering the business of the elected House of Commons is never a comfortable one. In the case of Wednesday’s amendment to the Brexit Bill, there is the added discomfort of the peers rather having a point.”

But of course, a similar amendment was put in the Commons last month, moved by Labour. Five Labour MPs voted against. We must never forget the names of these xenophobic scumbags: Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart, Labour MPs who voted against basic rights for EU citizens. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-bill-full-list-mps-voted-against-guaranteeing-eu-citizens-rights-article-50-a7570421.html

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