Counterpunch columnist Diana Johnstone defends Le Pen

April 22, 2017 at 4:45 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, elections, Europe, fascism, France, identity politics, immigration, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Andrew Coates draws attention to the supposedly “left wing” commentator Diana Johnstone’s defence of Le Pen – a warning to all those on the idiot-left (eg the UK SWP, Socialist Party and CPB/Morning Star), who think there’s something potentially progressive about an anti-EU, pro-sovereignty stance.

Johnstone has form, and has previously been backed by the likes of Chomsky and Pilger, as her Wikipedia entry describes:

“After the 2003 publication of her Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions, Johnstone became the centre of controversy over her claim in the book that there is “no evidence whatsoever” that the Srebrenica massacre of the Bosniaks was genocidal.[2] The historian Marko Attila Hoare called it “an extremely poor book, one that is little more than a polemic in defence of the Serb-nationalist record during the wars of the 1990s—and an ill-informed one at that”.[3]

“The book was rejected by publishers in Sweden,[3] prompting an open letter in 2003 defending Johnstone’s book—and her right to publish—that was signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali and John Pilger. The signatories stated, “We regard Diana Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade as an outstanding work, dissenting from the mainstream view but doing so by an appeal to fact and reason, in a great tradition.”[4][5] Ed Vulliamy, who reported for The Guardian during the Bosnian War, called Johnstone’s book “poison” in response to the letter from Chomsky and the others.[6] In her own defence, Johnstone has said her critics “reduce [her] book, as they reduce the Balkan conflict itself, to a certain number of notorious atrocities, and stigmatise whatever deviates from their own dualistic interpretation”.[7]

“Richard Caplan of Reading and Oxford University reviewed the work in International Affairs, where he described the work as “a revisionist and highly contentious account of western policy and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. [… It] is insightful but overzealous […] well worth reading—but for the discriminating eye.”[8]

“In April 2012, she wrote about the first round of the French Presidential elections a few days earlier and identified Front National leader Marine Le Pen as “notably” “basically on the left” while also labelling Le Pen as “demagogic”.[9] She also rejected claims Le Pen is antisemitic: “There is absolutely nothing attesting to anti-Semitism on the part of Marine Le Pen. She has actually tried to woo the powerful Jewish organisations, and her anti-Islam stance is also a way to woo such groups”.[10]

Johnstone: Cannot “reduce” Marine Le Pen’s anti-Immigrant stand to “racism”. 

Diana Johnstone is a columnist for the American left site, Counterpunch.

She has, to put it mildly, ‘form’ on French Politics saying that the Front National is “basically on the left”. And indeed on British Politics, where she warmed to UKIP’s views on European immigration (Diana Johnstone’s poisonous nativism) (1)

In her most recent contribution (21st of April)  to the favourite journal of ‘wise-guys’ who want the ‘low down’ on politics, this is her view on tomorrow’s French Presidential election.

The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty 

Johnstone is torn in the French elections,

A most remarkable feature of this campaign is great similarity between the two candidates said to represent “the far left”, Mélenchon, and “the far right”, Marine Le Pen.  Both speak of leaving the euro.  Both vow to negotiate with the EU to get better treaty terms for France. Both advocate social policies to benefit workers and low income people. Both want to normalize relations with Russia. Both want to leave NATO, or at least its military command.  Both defend national sovereignty, and can thus be described as “sovereignists”.

Left-wing internationalists may protest at this side of Mélenchon’s politics (La chevènementisation de Jean-Luc Mélenchon Philippe Marlière).

She ignores such critics

The main divide appears to be racism.

But…

In a country suffering from unemployment, without jobs or housing to accommodate mass immigration, and under the ongoing threat of Islamist terror attacks, the issue cannot be reasonably reduced to “racism” – unless Islamic terrorists constitute a “race”, for which there is no evidence. Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion. She is certain to get considerable support from recently nationalized immigrants, just as she now gets a majority of working class votes. If this is “fascism”, it has changed a lot in the past seventy years.

So that’s all right then.

Human rights bleeding hearts and internationalist globalisers  might remarks that giving national preference to the French in jobs and housing, chanting “on est chez nous”, claiming that the French have fewer rights than foreign residents(,les Français ont parfois moins de droits en France que des étrangers, même clandestins) restricting free schooling to French citizens, and systematically linking terrorism to immigration is about as racist as you get.(Immigration et terrorisme : Marine Le Pen multiplie les intox.)

Then there is this,

The globalist media are already preparing to blame the eventual election of a “sovereignist” candidate on Vladimir Putin. Public opinion in the West is being prepared for massive protests to break out against an undesired winner, and the “antifa” militants are ready to wreak havoc in the streets. Some people who like Marine Le Pen are afraid of voting for her, fearing the “color revolution” sure to be mounted against her.  Mélenchon and even Fillon might face similar problems.

Against the views of the “globalist media” Johnstone concludes,

By far the most fundamental emerging issue in this campaign is the conflict between the European Union and national sovereignty.

That  Counterpunch claiming to be on the left, publishes Johnstone’s  defence of the ‘nation’ against the EU is, well, not unexpected.

A section of the former French ‘republican’ and anti-EU  left has moved from  ‘sovereigntism’ to active involvement in the Front National. From the “regulation” heterodox economist Jacques Sapir (a former supporter of the Front de gauche) to Thibaut Garnier (former youth secretary of the  Mouvement républicain et citoyen (MRC) and many others, they have found in Marine Le Pen a defender of National Sovereignty (Ces chevènementistes séduits par le FN).

This little gang obviously has its admirers in the US.

*******

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Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1932 – 2017)

April 15, 2017 at 6:41 pm (Guest post, humanism, literature, poetry, Russia, stalinism, USSR)

 Yevgeny Yevtushenko seen in January 1972, as he arrives at JFK in New York during a four-week tour of the US.

Yevtushenko, January 1972. Photo: Dave Pickoff/Associated Press

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1932 – 2017)

By John Cunningham

I can’t exactly remember when I bought my first copy of the Selected Poems of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Soviet/Russian poet who died two weeks ago. It must have been in the late Sixties. I think it was the first poetry book I ever bought and the main poem in that collection, Zima Junction, has stayed with me over the years and I have regularly returned to it. Somewhere between moving to the USA and living in Hungary, I lost my copy. A few years ago I bought a new one. Zima Junction was first published in the Soviet Union in 1956, three years after the death of Stalin and reading the poem today it is difficult to see why it caused as much controversy as it did; maybe it was because the small town, homey, messy reality of the world it portrayed did not conform to the neat, tick-the-box unities of Stalinist (and post-Stalinist) social formulae. Zima Junction (which translates as ‘Station Winter’ –Stantsiya Zima) is in Siberia, a few hundred miles from Lake Baikal, where the poet was born and in the poem he returns there from Moscow where he is a student. He revisits his old haunts, meets old friends and is feted by his family but he is torn between this old, comfortable world where everything has its place and time and the new world he has embraced in Moscow. Eventually he settles for the latter.

Some commentators have described Yevtushenko as a loyal oppositionist, not a dissident. He believed that the Soviet Union could be changed for the better and in this was he joined by people like the Soviet filmmaker Elim Klimov and the composer Dimitri Shostakovich. He can be considered naive; a loyal opposition to the Soviet bureaucracy was never going to be able to achieve much but Yevtuschenko ‘came of age’ – he was 20 – in the wake of the death of Stalin. The desire for and expectation of change was understandable. Things appeared to be shifting as Stalin’s eventual successor, Nikita Krushchev, introduced reforms and prisoners were released from the Gulag. It would be only a few years before Sputnik was launched putting the Soviet in front in the space race.

Yevtushenko’s most notable work was with Shoshtakovich on his 13th Symphony Babi Yar. Using Yevtushenko’s poems as its basis, the symphony recounts the horrors of the Nazi massacre of thousands of Jews near Kiev. He continued to write poetry and his A Precocious Autobiography appeared in 1963 much to the outrage of the Soviet authorities. An excellent novel, Wild Berries, was published in 1993. In all likelihood Yevtushenko’s international fame prevented the Soviet authorities from stifling his voice and he was a consistent critic of many aspects of Soviet and later Russian policy, not least the war in Chechyna.

Looking back I’m not really sure why Zima Junction made such an impact on me, one that has stayed with me all my life. Maybe it is the final section of the poem and the last seven words:

And the voice of Zima Junction spoke to me

And this is what it said.

‘I live quietly and crack nuts.

I gently steam with engines.

But not without reflection on these times,

These modern times, my loving meditation.

Don’t worry, yours is no unique condition,

Your type of search and conflict and construction,

Don’t worry if you have no answer ready

To the lasting question.

Hold out, meditate, listen.

Explore, explore. Travel the world over.

Count happiness connatural to the mind

More than truth is, and yet

No happiness to exist without it.

Walk with a cold pride

utterly ahead

wild attentive eyes

heads flicked by the rain-wet

green needles of the pine,

eyelashes that shine

with tears and with thunders.

Love people.

Love entertains its own discrimination.

Have me in mind, I shall be watching.

You can return to me.

Now go.’

I went, and I am still going.

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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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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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Art: Russian avant-gardists against capitalism and Stalinism

March 31, 2017 at 9:35 pm (Art and design, culture, history, modernism, revolution, socialism, stalinism, USSR)

Liubov Popova Space Force Construction 1920–1
Above: Spatial Force Construction, by Liubov Popova, 1920-21

Hugh Daniels reviews Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy until 17 April.


The first room in this exhibition is dedicated to images of leaders. While one side is dominated by pictures of Lenin, the other largely has images of Stalin. This opening seems designed to confirm a pre-assumption which many visitors are likely to hold ― that the art of the Soviet Union was designed to glorify its leaders and normalise their rule. Yet, in the wake of Lenin’s death in 1924, there was actually considerable debate among artists over how he should be commemorated and how his image should be used.

In 1928, the avant-garde, “left” artist Aleksandr Rodchenko vociferously argued that Lenin ought not to be deified or fetishised and that images should not be used to secure state-authorised truths, but to encourage new forms of critical vision. Rodchenko’s own memorial to Lenin, exhibited at the Paris Expo in 1925, was a design for a workers’ club, largely centred on spaces and resources for collective self-education. Rather than securing an icon of state power, Rodchenko remembered Lenin by giving workers tools with which they could ask questions and formulate their own ideas.

This curatorial “oversight” exemplifies an exhibition which continually glosses over the complexity of the artistic debates which raged after the revolution. In a later room dedicated to modernism, a painting by Wassily Kandinsky is placed near another by Liubov Popova. Both are abstract and viewers are led to assume that these artists were working along similar lines.

However, Popova was vehemently opposed to Kandinsky and the principles of his practice. Like most of her constructivist peers, Popova conceived of her paintings not as autonomous art objects, but effectively as props to help both her and her audience to think through design principles. She believed that, by encouraging reflection on the formal and material qualities of different compositional methods, artists could contribute towards a renewal of engineering, architecture and design in the fledgling socialist nation. Like other constructivists, she saw this as a challenge to the power of bourgeois specialism. Popova thought Kandinsky was a bourgeois artist, producing rarefied commodity objects and thus failing to acknowledge the questions posed to art by the revolution.

What form should art practice take in a socialist society? How would it contribute towards the construction of a new world? However we feel about the different approaches taken by these artists, it is vital to see that their work represents not a shared commitment to modernism, but a debate over the meaning and the fate of the revolution at a time when these questions had no definitive answer.

The RA exhibition makes the relatively unusual decision to combine modernism and socialist realism in one exhibition and to dedicate more space to the latter, whereas western art history has traditionally viewed the former as far more valuable. It is certainly worth studying the cultural products of Stalinism, just as we study other aspects of its history. Here, however, it feels as if the originality of this gesture is taken as its own justification, especially since the exhibition ultimately does little to challenge received understandings of its content beyond implying that socialist realist paintings are worth viewing. The exhibition reproduces a thoroughly standard account of Russian art after 1917.

This narrative is extremely convenient for western institutions, because it presents post-revolutionary Russian modernism as a continuation of liberal, bourgeois, post-enlightenment culture, which was snuffed out in the dark days of barbarous state communism. Exponents of this perspective commonly suggest that the avant-garde was purged because its complex abstract designs could not easily be used for propaganda purposes. Communism is thus presented as a thoroughly instrumental worldview, which sees no value in culture except as a political tool. It is no coincidence that this story was largely fashioned in the USA at a time when American institutions were presenting themselves as both inheritors and saviours of all that was good in European culture.

All this exhibition really adds to the standard account is an acknowledgment that Stalinist artists could be skilled in their manipulations, producing a cult of the healthy proletarian body, which has a clear sensual and ideological appeal, rather than being an utterly transparent sham. This view fails to acknowledge that the most radical avant-gardists made work in ways that were absolutely inimical not only to authoritarianism, but also to capitalism.

The Russian avant-garde established artistic and political principles which presented a significant challenge to all forms of hierarchical rule. In inviting both her fellow artists and her audience to critically examine the formal principles of design, Popova was not just offering new kinds of imagery, but radically questioning what Marx called the “relations of production”, challenging the control that technocrats and specialists held over the production of social wealth.

A good art historian should aim to place us back in the moment of an artwork’s construction, when the possibilities it conjured were still open. By closing down the debates of this period and failing to properly acknowledge those strands of Russian art which ran against the grain of both the bourgeois tradition and Stalinist oppression, this show instead presents us with a totally binary situation in which the only options are bourgeoisification or barbarism.

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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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Unite: vote McCluskey – then fight to transform the union

March 28, 2017 at 3:58 pm (elections, labour party, reformism, stalinism, Unite the union)

 Unite members stage a protest against Len McCluskey outside the union building in Holborn.   Coyne  supporters ‘expose’ McCluskey’s ‘skeletons in the cupboard’

By Anne Field

Ballot papers for Unite the Union’s General Secretary and national Executive Council elections have now been sent out to the union’s 1.4 million members.

West Midlands Unite full-timer Gerard Coyne is the right-wing challenger to Len McCluskey, the incumbent General Secretary seeking re-election for a third time. Ian Allinson is also standing as the candidate of rank-and-file democracy.

The basis of Coyne’s campaign is to make right-wing appeals to disengaged members of Unite. Apart from a promise to freeze union dues for two years, Coyne is standing for election on a largely policies-free platform. The vacuum is filled by mud-slinging.

Coyne has homed in on Unite putting over £400,000 into a share equity deal which enabled McCluskey to buy a £700,000 London flat. Coyne’s conclusion: “The man who talks about greedy bosses is a greedy boss himself.”

Another of Coyne’s targets is the £75,000 which Unite lent to Jeremy Corbyn’s 2016 Labour Party leadership campaign, and subsequently wrote off as a donation. Coyne’s response: “I’ll focus on saving the jobs of our members, not the job of the leader of the Labour Party.”

More recently, Coyne teamed up with Tom Watson to portray McCluskey as being in cahoots with Momentum in a plot to take over the Labour Party. Coyne’s criticism: “Unite members’ money should not be used to prop up the ultra-left. This is not what trade unions are for.”

Coyne’s strategy is to portray McCluskey as being engrossed in Labour Party politics and out of touch with ordinary Unite members: “Luxury flat loans and propping up the hard left: McCluskey is losing touch with Unite members.”

According to Coyne, “Len McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn are yesterday’s men.” A victory for Coyne would be a chance for Unite members to “take back control” of their union.

Coyne’s campaigning methods have corresponded to the substance, or lack of substance, of his campaign. He is not interested in arguing with McCluskey and winning over his supporters. His target is the most passive and inactive layers of Unite’s membership.

In early March Coyne’s supporters staged a publicity stunt by lobbying a meeting of Unite’s Executive Council at the union’s head office, wearing skeleton masks and carrying model skeletons. (Theme: McCluskey’s skeletons in the cupboard.)

In mid-March his campaign mailed copies of a freebie broadsheet entitled Unite Herald to all Unite branches. The broadsheet covered the usual ground and appealed to members to “give McCluskey the two-fingered salute” by voting for Coyne.

In late March Coyne was given space in the Sun, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Express to attack McCluskey and promote his own campaign:

“McCluskey is obsessed with Westminster power games rather than looking after the real needs of Unite’s members. A low turnout (in the election) would suit Len and his supporters. But if the majority of Unite members vote, his time at the top is over. Unite is not the private property of Len McCluskey and friends.”

The response of McCluskey’s campaign to Coyne’s attacks underlines its limitations: McCluskey is relying first and foremost on the Unite apparatus and the United Left election machine, rather than on political argument and membership engagement, to turn out the vote for him.

Coyne’s alliance with the right wing of the Labour Party has not been used by McCluskey as an opportunity to open up a political debate among the Unite membership about implementation of the union’s own political strategy.

Instead, McCluskey’s response has been to argue that a political strategy plays no role in his campaign and that his only concern is members’ bread-and-butter issues. His supporters boast that just 3% of his tweets have mentioned politics.

When Coyne’s Unite Herald was sent to branches, Unite Acting General Secretary Gail Cartmail wrote to branch secretaries warning them that they could be “exposed to legal proceedings for defamation” and also disciplined under the union’s Rulebook if they distributed the broadsheet to their members.

Coyne was (rightly) denounced for having written for the Sun – above all in a widely circulated article published in the Morning Star: “Collaborating with Murdoch is a taint that never fades”.

So, writing for the Sun is an irremovable stain. But writing for a paper which acts as an apologist for Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, left anti-semitism, Brexit, attacks on freedom of movement of labour, and anti-Trotskyist witch-hunts in the Labour Party is an honour and  a privilege.

(Coyne doesn’t care about the opprobrium heaped on him for having written for the Sun. Metaphorially and literally, it is the readership of the Sun which is his target audience.)

In many ways such examples sum up McCluskey’s campaign: based on a bureaucratic machine, averse to a real debate among the membership, and ‘left wing’ only insofar as the politics of the Morning Star can be deemed to represent what counts as ‘left politics’.

Despite lacking the vast resources which Coyne and McCluskey have at their disposal, Ian Allinson secured enough nominations to be included on the ballot papers which have just been sent out. This is no small achievement in itself.

But while his campaign has challenged McCluskey from the left and raised basic ideas about what a lay-member-led union – in which full-timers are properly accountable to the membership – would look like, his campaign has not really ‘taken off’.

It also suffers from three basic problems:

He has not suceeded in defeating the argument that his campaign will achieve no more than taking votes way from McCluskey, thereby increasing Coyne’s chances of winning. But Allinson himslef accepts that a victory for Coyne would be a disaster.

Nor has he suceeded in defeating the argument that his boast of being more pro-Corbyn than McCluskey himself is incoherent – given that he is not a Labour Party member himself and refuses to even attempt to join the Labour Party.

In fact, Allinson’s support for Corbyn amounts to a particularly crude version of Corbyn-cultism. It is not part of any strategy for transforming the Labour Party. And it defines what the Labour Party is in terms of who its leader is at any particular moment in time.

Allinson also makes support for freedom of movement a major feature of his election campaign. But he is also reported to have tweeted in January: “I wasn’t in Lexit campaign. Did vote out. Most arguments on both sides rotten. Key issues now workers rights & movement.”

Allinson’s current position therefore amounts to defending migrant rights which are under attack as a result of the course of action which he supported last June.

(The tweet is no longer visible in his account. If reports of the tweet are inaccurate, Allinson can correct them and clarify the position which he took in last June’s referendum.)

Unite members should vote for McCluskey. But that is no more than the first stage of the campaign needed to transform Unite into an organisation capable of promoting its members interests both industrially and politically.

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Morning Star promotes claims of Israeli “apartheid” – from slave-state Qatar!

March 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, hell, Human rights, israel, Jim D, Middle East, stalinism, UN)

Foreign construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha.
Foreign construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha, Qatar

I’m sometimes asked why I bother commenting on the reportage of the Morning Star, a small-circulation daily controlled by the Communist Party of Britain.

The reason is because the M Star exerts an influence on the mainstream British left – and especially the trade union movement – that is out of all proportion to its circulation, or to the membership of the CPB.

The M Star’s domestic ‘line’ is fairly mainstream pro-Corbyn banality; its foreign policy is characterised by uncritical support for Assad in Syria and absolute hostility to Israel, inherited from Stalinist anti-semitism. So, Fridays’s M Star front-page was not that much of a surprise:

Israel is guilty of apartheid, says UN report


Mar
2017
Friday 17th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

Campaigners hail findings as ‘breakthrough’ in the struggle for Palestinians


ISRAEL is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime of racial discrimination on the Palestinian population, according to a “historic” United Nations (UN) report.

The report, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on Wednesday, urged member states to work together to bring such apartheid regimes to an end.

It concluded that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) hailed the publication of the report, which condemned the “systematic regime of racial domination” over the Palestinian people and their exclusion from all levels of society.

PSC director Ben Jamal said: “This is a hugely significant moment … The case for the international community to hold Israel to account via the imposition of meaningful sanctions is overwhelming.”

And the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement said it was a “historic breakthrough.”

Its co-founder Omar Barghouti said: “Our South Africa moment is nearing. This new UN report is a stark indicator that Israel’s apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa’s did.

“BDS is not only growing impressively on campuses, in churches, trade unions, cultural organisations and social movements, it is today adopted by a UN Commission.

“This may well be the very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

Although considered a breakthrough by pro-Palestinian organisations, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that the report did not reflect the views of the secretary-general.

He added that the ESCWA — a UN agency made up of Arab states — did not consult with the UN secretariat before publishing their findings.

The report — titled “Israeli Practices towards Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” — called on UN member states to remember their collective duty not to recognise an apartheid regime, not to assist a state in maintaining such a regime and to work to bring apartheid states to an end.

It accused Israel of “demographic engineering” to maintain a Jewish state, and it detailed how control over matters including immigration, land use and public development planning by the World Zionist Organisation and Jewish Agency reinforces discrimination against Palestinians.

The system of martial law operated over 6.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip sees Israel “systematically and routinely” practice every inhuman act other than genocide as defined under the 1973 Apartheid Convention, it added.

Around 1.7 million Palestinians who are living as citizens of Israel suffer oppression on the basis of not being Jewish, according to the report, and they suffer discrimination through inferior services, restrictions on jobs and are legally prohibited from challenging legislation that maintains the “racial regime.”

While Palestinians are entitled to Israeli citizenship only Jews are entitled to Israeli nationality.

In East Jerusalem, the report found widespread discrimination in access to jobs and services with Palestinians suffering expulsions and home demolitions.

Their classification as “permanent residents” in the city means they have no legal standing to challenge Israeli law and, if they openly identify with Palestinians in the occupied territories, they risk automatic expulsion to the West Bank and a ban from visiting Jerusalem.

… except that, for anyone who bothered to read the M Star‘s front page article all the way through, it soon became apparent that

“Although considered a breakthrough by pro-Palestinian organisations, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that the report did not reflect the views of the secretary-general.

“He added that the ESCWA — a UN agency made up of Arab states — did not consult with the UN secretariat before publishing their findings.”

In other words, the M Star‘s lead story and headline was thoroughly misleading.

And who are the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) ? Well, it is made up exclusively of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya. There are no democracies – by any definition of the word – in its ranks.

And, most outrageously, the ESCWA includes the state of Qatar, presently enslaving 1.8 migrant workers from India, Nepal and other South Asian countries. And the Morning Star repeats Qatar’s claim that Israel operates “apartheid”!

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On Brexit, the Labour right are less wrong than Corbyn

March 12, 2017 at 4:33 pm (capitulation, Europe, Jim D, labour party, stalinism)

Image result for picture Jeremy Corbyn EU referendum Brexit

The following open letter was drawn up by Labour right-winger Chucka Umunna, and many (but not all) of the signatories are from the right of the party. It criticises the leadership for failing to fight to stay in the EU single market.

On that point, if nothing else, Umanna and the signatories are correct. Corbyn’s (and Keir Starmer’s) capitulation to May’s hard-Brexit approach has been craven and has led to serious demoralisation amongst Corbyn’s supporters in and around Momentum, especially younger party members unencumbered by the Bennite/Stalinist anti-EU baggage that seems to be the default position of Corbyn, encouraged by his Stalinist advisers.

Open Letter to the Labour Leadership

In his budget statement on Wednesday, the chancellor mentioned Britain’s exit from the European Union – the biggest issue in the government’s in-box – just once. But in reality the budget – with its tax hikes, broken promises and increasing public debt – was dominated by the impact of the government’s decision to withdraw Britain from the European Union.

The government has announced its intention to pull Britain out of the single market, discarding our membership of the largest and most sophisticated trading zone in the world before negotiations have begun. Other nations are not in the EU yet opted to be part of the single market because of the huge benefits it brings. So instead of starting the negotiation by aiming for the best deal we can possibly get by staying in the single market, Theresa May has waved the white flag and thrown in the towel.

Having taken account of the Tory government’s negotiating position on Brexit, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) this week spelt out the consequences. While ministers pretend we will get a trade deal that delivers “the exact same benefits” as we have now, the OBR predicts that after Brexit our “trading regime will be less open than before”. While ministers say we will enjoy a resurgence of trade with the rest of the world, the OBR forecasts “a lower trade intensity of UK economic activity” even if new deals are negotiated. This is the reality.

Membership of the single market is the best possible economic option for our country and would allow us to leave the EU without wrecking people’s jobs and livelihoods. It would give us totally free trade with the biggest market on the planet, with neither tariff barriers to trade in goods nor regulatory barriers to trade in services between the UK and the EU – all whilst not being a member of the EU. Any trading arrangement which does not deliver such a level of market access will reduce the flow of trade between Britain and our biggest partner. This will mean higher costs for businesses, fewer jobs, and higher prices in the shops.

Confronted with this threat, the British people – leave voters and remain voters alike – are looking to the Labour party to provide leadership and direction as we go forward. It is crucial that we reject the argument that Brexit must mean a trading arrangement that makes the British people poorer. Instead, Labour must stand unambiguously for a deal that protects peoples’ jobs and livelihoods and enhances their life chances; not a hard Brexit that could take our economy off a cliff whilst making working people worse off. This requires our party to be full-throated in its defence of Britain’s membership of the single market.

The arguments against single market membership illustrate a level of defeatism and a lack of ambition, not worthy of a great country like ours.

Leaving the EU while remaining in the single market respects the will of people. The UK would regain control over agriculture and fisheries policy, justice and home affairs measures, defence and foreign policy.

Yes, there is a desire to reform the way our immigration system works but we do not need to sacrifice our prosperity to achieve greater immigration control. Britain is Europe’s second largest economy, its most significant military power, and one of its two permanent members of the UN security council. It should not be beyond us to conclude a deal that retains our single market membership while reforming the immigration system. Free movement has been shown to be reformable in the past, and so it can be in the future.

It should also not be beyond the ability of a government, with the right negotiation strategy, to secure an agreement that allows us continued influence over European regulations that will continue to affect our country if we stay in the single market. No government should willingly give up the best economic option for our country at this stage without even trying to retain it – but that is the course on which the government has now embarked.

It is the basic responsibility of the Labour party to mount the strongest possible opposition to Theresa May’s government and fight for a Brexit deal that respects the will of the British people but ensures that they will not be made substantially worse off. As the party that has always stood up for working people, we must fight tooth and nail for a future that does not destroy their jobs and livelihoods. Single market membership outside the EU is the way to achieve this and is what Labour should be arguing for.

Signed,

Chuka Umunna, Alison McGovern, Heidi Alexander, Chris Leslie, Kate Green, Ian Murray, Chris Bryant, Tulip Saddiq, Mike Gapes, Stella Creasy, Wes Streeting, Graham Allen, Liz Kendall, Anne Coffey, Mary Creagh, Angela Smith, Rushanara Ali, Ben Bradshaw, Karen Buck, Peter Kyle, Julie Elliot, Luciana Berger, Madeleine Moon, Gareth Thomas, Daniel Zeichner, Thangam Debbonaire, Owen Smith, Margaret Hodge, Seema Malhotra

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