Monday, 12 September 2016

Corbynism and The Global Jewish-Communist Conspiracy Theory

According to opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, he holds his position as the result of a mass influx of new members. These new members, so the argument goes, have “flooded” into the party, as part of an “entryist tactic”, organised by Trotskyist revolutionaries. This idea, for anyone with even a fleeting acquaintance with reality, is, of course, completely ridiculous. What this ridiculous idea relies on is the age old global Jewish-Communist conspiracy theory. It suggests that tiny groups of Jewish-Communist conspirators (Trotskyists) are able to take over the levers of power.

The fact that Corbyn is not Jewish, is no more an obstacle to the purveyors of such conspiracy theories, than was the fact that Lenin was not a Jew. Such facts are easily swept aside, on the basis that people like Corbyn, or Lenin, are merely stooges, front-men being manipulated by the real Jewish-Communist conspirators who hold the power. Lenin was not a Jew, so the conspiracy theory goes, but he was just being used by Jewish communists like Trotsky. Today, the opponents of Corbyn make the same argument; he may not be a Trotskyist, but he is being used and manipulated by Trotskyists who are “flooding” into the party.

A look at the arguments being put forward by those who claim that the support for Corbyn comes from such a conspiracy demonstrates the subtle way, in which this old Jewish-Communist conspiracy theory is being used by Corbyn's opponents on the right of the Labour Party, and within the Tory media. It is no coincidence that the organisation that has been singled out for the most prominent attention by the proponents of this “Trotskyist/Entryist conspiracy theory" is the Alliance for Workers Liberty.

Of all the organisations of the Trotskyist left, it is the AWL that is most closely associated with support for Israel and Zionism. In fact, that support for Israel and Zionism, and its opposition to “Left Anti-Semitism”, has led to the AWL being criticised by many other organisations on the left. That of all of the left sects, it has been the AWL that has been singled out, by the opponents of Corbyn, who want to present this theory, of a Trotskyist conspiracy to take over the Labour Party, can then be no coincidence.

After all, the AWL is a sect comprising, according to its own claims, of 120 members. Given that most of the sects always overstate their actual size and importance, its more likely that its actual active membership is closer to 75-90. So, how on Earth could the hundreds of thousands of new Labour members be accounted for by these 100, at best, AWL Trotskyist conspirators “flooding” into the party? Of course, it cannot, but the proponents of such conspiracy theories rarely concern themselves with having to provide a rational basis for their claims.

What the proponents of this conspiracy theory suggest is that, whilst, sects like the AWL might have only a handful of members, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and because of the almost mystical power of these sects to conspire and manipulate, they can influence, like some modern day Svengali, thousands of other people to do their bidding. And, although it is never said openly, the implication is that standing behind these communist conspirators are even more powerful forces. After all, how could an organisation of 100, like the AWL, be able to act to mobilise these larger forces, involving hundreds of thousands, unless it had powerful paymasters standing behind them? Once again, it is never openly stated, as to who those more powerful forces might be, but again it is surely no coincidence that the one organisation picked out, by Corbyn's opponents, as prominent in this entryist conspiracy, is the AWL, one of the smallest of the sects, but the one most closely associated with support for Israel and Zionism.

The implicit line of thought that the opponents of Corbyn utilise by focussing on his support from a group like the AWL is – the AWL is a Trotskyist organisation, Trotsky was a Jewish-Communist, the AWL supports Israel and Zionism, the AWL is engaged in a conspiracy to take over the Labour Party, which requires much greater resources than its 100 members could possibly possess, the AWL/Trotskyist infiltration of the Labour Party, therefore, must be part of some much larger Jewish-Communist conspiracy. It is a thoroughly anti-semitic stance.

And, we have seen all of that before. In the 1920's, it was the Tories and the Daily Mail that used such a Jewish-Communist Conspiracy theory, via the fake Zinoviev Letter, to suggest that Bolshevik money was being used to finance the Labour Party, and that the Labour Party was under the influence of these communist infiltrators. Anti-semitism for centuries had utilised conspiracy theories against Jews, but the most systematic development of the global Jewish conspiracy theory came with the fabrication of the  Protocols of the Elders of Zion, at the start of the 20th century, by agents of the Russian Tsarist secret police.

It was part of the start of a series of anti-Jewish pogroms conducted by the Russian Empire that led to thousands of Jews fleeing Russia. Many of them, as they had done during the 19th century, "flooded" to Britain, and many of them were, indeed, part of a radical socialist tradition. In turn, it was this Jewish immigration into Britain, which led to conservatives and anti-semites in Britain, introducing the 1905 Aliens Act.

Dissemination of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was initially limited, because it was intended for use by Tsarist forces in Russia. However, it fitted the purposes of both anti-semites and anti-communists alike. So, Henry Ford funded the publication of 500,000 copies, for circulation in the US, during the 1920's, and Hitler and the Nazis disseminated the fake documents on a massive scale, which is when the real fabrication of the conspiracy begins.

In Britain, anti-semitism was not just reflected in legislation such as the Aliens Act. It was ingrained into the conservative establishment. That included the activities of conservatives in paramilitary organisations such as The British Brothers League, which were forerunners of future fascist organisations.

Nor is the fact that Corbyn's opponents accuse his supporters themselves of anti-semitism an objection. They also accuse his supporters of abuse and bullying, whilst it is clear that it is the Labour right, and their control of the bureaucracy, that has been responsible for the greatest degree of abuse, bullying and intimidation in the party, with individuals, branches and whole constituencies suspended or expelled over the years, wherever they challenged the party elite. It is quite common for those guilty of such acts to try to divert attention in that way.

For example, although Winston Churchill is remembered as the Prime Minister that led Britain in the war against Nazi Germany, Churchill himself was a well known anti-semite. There has been some recent media discussion that this fact has only just been unearthed, but that is nonsense. I remember at school, in the 1960's, in an English class, writing a precis of a Readers Digest article on Churchill's well known anti-semitism.

It was not the Nazi's anti-semitism that Churchill objected to, and certainly not their anti-communism, it was the fact that the Nazis, as the political representatives of German imperialism, were forging a European super state, that posed a threat to the economic interests of British imperialism. Churchill was acting no differently in trying to prevent the creation of that super state than had Wellington in opposing the unification of Europe by Napoleon, or Haig in opposing the unification of Europe by the Kaiser.  During the 1920's, and early 30's, Churchill like most of the British establishment had nothing but praise for the political activities of fascists like Mussolini and Hitler. That is also why the Jewish-Communist global conspiracy theory is so useful for these right-wing forces, it can be utilised by fascists and representatives of bourgeois democracy alike.

A look at some of those on the right of the Labour Party who have propounded this Trotskyist conspiracy theory, shows them to be people who, in the case of some at least, have admitted that they learned how to spot the Trotskyist conspirators from Stalinists. And, of course, the Stalinists themselves were not averse to using the Jewish-Trotskyist conspiracy theory themselves. They used it to oppose Trotsky's supporters within the Labour Movement, whilst at the same time, linking up with the Nazis in Europe to organise the murder of Trotskyists, and attempts on the life of Trotsky and his family.

Owen Smith is representative of much of the Labour right and soft left. Watching his performance in the Question Time debate last week, and his tirade against the AWL, and this Trotskyist conspiracy to infiltrate the Labour Party, its hard to know whether he, and they and the same could be said of the Tory media, are simply politically ignorant, and unable to understand any political argument whose subtlety extends beyond the repetition of mantras, platitudes and easy sound bites; whether they are just lazy, and so simply repeat those sound bites without bothering to do any investigation of the facts; whether they actually do understand, do know the facts, but choose to ignore that in order to throw mud at their opponents; or whether it is a combination of all those factors.

Smith in a totally confused manner cobbled together the AWL/Trotskyist conspiracy, with anti-semitism, anti-imperialism, and anti-zionism. If you were going to choose a left sect to attack for any of those things, anyone who actually had even a fleeting knowledge of the British left, would not choose the AWL as the vehicle for making such an argument. It called out Ken Livingstone and others in the Labour Movement, for their “Left anti-Semitism”, long before Tony Blair, invited Livingstone back into the party to stand for London Mayor, for example. 

As the Weekly Worker described, some time ago,

“AWL leader Sean Matgamna has explicitly declared that his organisation should not just be “a little bit Zionist” but an out, loud and proud, fully-fledged Zionist grouping. Not surprisingly this open and unapologetic commitment to such a notorious nationalist ideology has led to criticism and condemnation of Matgamna’s position both from the CPGB and from some of his own comrades as well.” 

Its not clear why Owen Smith believes that any decent international socialist should not be “anti-imperialist”. Nor, given that Zionism is a specific form of colonialism, is it clear why Smith believes that any decent international socialist should not be “anti-Zionist”. By lumping together “anti-imperialism”, “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism”, Smith actually commits the same mistake that leads to “Left anti-semitism” that some on the left do fall into. Smith and those who argue like him actually, thereby, facilitates that anti-semitism. 

There is a clear difference, however, between this “Left anti-Semitism”, and the anti-Semitism of the nationalist and racist right. The latter is based upon a hatred of Jews, and willingness to scapegoat them for any ills existing within society. No one seriously suggests that socialists are guilty of such racism. Left anti-semitism flows from bad political understanding, and as Trotsky would have put it, a failure to think for yourself, rather than repeating half understood mantras.

Socialists oppose colonialism, including the colonialism of Zionism, which established the state of Israel, by violently dispossessing the native population of Palestine. Socialists, should, therefore, have opposed such an act at the time. But, all modern states came into existence by some form of violence, and dispossession of property. Many arose upon exactly the same kind of colonialism. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and most of the states of South America, and Africa arose by a colonial settlement of those areas by Europeans, which violently dispossessed the native populations, and in several cases led to them being wiped out, and in all cases subjugated and enslaved.

But no one seriously believes that it would be a progressive act to try to turn the clock back, and to dismantle the US, Canada and so on! The only difference between the creation of Israel as a state, and these other instances is that it has taken place more recently. Yet, 70 years on, it is clearly an established fact, and any attempt to dismantle the state of Israel, which could only be done forcibly, and over the bones of millions of Israeli Jews, would be just as reactionary as any attempt to dismantle the US, Canada, Australia and so on.

What distinguishes “Left anti-Semitism”, therefore, is its holding of the state of Israel, and the Jewish citizens of that state, to a different standard to every other state, and set of citizens, on the planet. It is quite possible to recognise the historical fact of the existence of the state of Israel, and therefore, its equal legitimacy with every other state, without defending the means by which the state of Israel – or any other state – was created. As Marxists, we are concerned with dealing with the reality as it exists, and acting from there to transform it in a progressive direction, not with being moralists passing judgement on historical events, and trying to put right what once went wrong from that moral perspective.

It is quite possible, therefore, to defend the right of Israel, as for any other state, to exist, and to defend itself. But, that does not mean that socialists have to be Zionists, or that they have to defend indefensible acts of the Israeli state taken against the citizens of neighbouring states, and indeed against minorities within its own state. It does not mean that we are thereby forced to deny the democratic rights of the citizens of those other states, or of minorities living within the state of Israel.

Left anti-Semitism involves lumping all those things together, and saying Zionism is colonialism, the Israeli state is a Zionist/Colonial State, it came into existence by illegitimate means, and so has no right to exist, and so Jewish people are thereby denied the same rights that other peoples enjoy. By similarly, lumping all those things together, and equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, those on the right and soft left, like Smith, commit the same error but from the opposite direction.

No comments: