Hugo Rifkind Declares Anti-Semites Attracted to Left because of Anti-Capitalism

Hugo Rifkind is the son of Maggie’s cabinet minister, Malcolm Rifkind, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he espouses the same noxious politics as his father. He is like Boris Johnson in that he also has higher view of his own intelligence than he deserves. He once turned up on Mike’s blog trying to argue against him, only to run away when he started losing.

He turned up in the pages of the Spectator last week holding forth on the latest anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and Momentum, a snippet of which was duly quoted in the I’s ‘Opinion Matrix’ column of selected short pieces from the rest of the press. Rifkind junior opined that, rather than trying to rebut the allegations of anti-Semitism, the Labour leader should reflect on why so many anti-Semites were attracted to anti-capitalism. It was all out of jealousy of more successful ethnic groups, he breezily declared.

Now it’s true that there, and always have been, anti-Semites amongst the Left. I found a book by one very Conservative writer in one secondhand bookshop about how many of the founders and leaders of early socialism were anti-Semites. It was clearly polemical. The argument running implicitly through such books is that because many of its leaders were anti-Semitic, socialism is intrinsically anti-Semitic. Which isn’t the case. Anti-Semitism is there, but it’s actually far less than on the right. And the Tories and their puppet media definitely don’t want you knowing that.

British Fascism grew out of right-wing, Die-Hard Conservatism at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It was fiercely anti-immigration, especially against Jews, who were held to be unassimilable orientals, like Muslims today. It spawned a range of racist organisations like the British Brothers’ League, and became particularly acute during the First World War, when Jewish industrialists of German origin, like Alfred Mond, were suspected of favouring Germany over Britain. While the Tories have subsequently tried to purge their party of racists and anti-Semites, they are still very much present.

It’s also a matter of considerable debate how anti-capitalist Fascism is. When Mussolini became president of Italy, he was backed by the industrial and financial elite, and declared that his party stood for Manchester economics – in other words, free trade. The corporate state he created, which boasted of having trade unionists and employers together in a Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, never did anything more than rubber stamp his own decisions as Duce. It was also designed to smash the power of the unions by leaving them under the control of the managers and proprietors.

In Nazi Germany, the Socialists, Communists and Anarchists were rounded up and sent to the concentration camps along with other dissidents and racial groups, including the mentally ill, male homosexuals, prostitutes and the disabled. So were trade unionists after the Nazis smashed them. And far from nationalising industry, as claimed by Conservatives in America and Britain, Hitler actually privatised a greater number of state-owned enterprises than other European governments at the time. He also made speeches hailing the biological superiority of the owners and leaders of industry, and declared his full support for free trade and competition, although later on he subjected industry to a weak form of corporatist organisation and imposed a rigid system of central planning.

The problem can therefore be reframed by asking why so many people on the right, believing in free trade and private property, are attracted to anti-Semitism? Part of the answer, it seems to me, is that they believe that free trade and private industry are the perfect system. The argument is that, if left alone by the government, industry will be run efficiently, workers receive their proper wages, people of talent will rise to the top, and society will become increasingly prosperous and well-organised.

When the opposite is true, when wages are falling and businesses closing, right-wingers look around for a scapegoat. They go a little way to realising that the fault is the capitalist system itself, but violently reject socialism itself. Hitler set on calling his party ‘Socialist’ because it appealed to those, who only had a hazy idea what the word meant, and as a deliberate provocation to real Socialists. They may reject laissez-faire free trade and impose some restrictions on private industry, such as subjection to central planning. But their critique of capitalism, in the case of the Nazis and the Fascist groups influenced by them, was based firmly on the notion that it was fundamentally good. It was just being undermined by the Jews. Thus Hitler in a speech started out by ranting about how the Nazis would overturn the exploiters, and throw their money boxes out into the streets. But he then turned this around to say it was only Jewish businessmen, who were the exploiters they would attack. Aryan Germans were entirely good, and respected their racial fellows in the workforce. They would not suffer any attack by Hitler’s thugs.

But Rifkind and the rest of the Tory party, and the Thatcherite entryists of the Blairites, really don’t want you knowing about all this. It would confirm too many ideas about racism in the Tory party, and their hypocrisy in the latest anti-Semitism smears.

They are using these smears to deflect attention away from the increasingly obvious failure of laissez-faire, neo-liberal capitalism. Don’t believe them, and their hypocritical smears and lies.

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6 Responses to “Hugo Rifkind Declares Anti-Semites Attracted to Left because of Anti-Capitalism”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    the me-me-me brigade

  2. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. Christopher Hutchison Says:

    I happened by chance upon your blog this morning, have now read a couple of posts, and find myself impressed by depth and breadth of historical knowledge, the quality of the writing, and the rigour of analysis.

    I would want to question some of your claims. E.g. while you are of course absolutely correct in asserting that “British Fascism grew out of right-wing, Die-Hard Conservatism [as well as, I’d add, of groups such as the British Brothers League and the Britons] at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century”, nonetheless a reading of, inter alia, at least two volumes of the ILP’s “The Socialist Library” prior to 1910 show very dramatically that the nascent Labour Party (or at least its Fabian intelligentsia) was, as much as the Tories and the Liberals, ideologically and quite explicitly racist and anti-Semitic, mapping the way for several early socialists to gravitate towards fascism. Notably, of course, Oswald Mosley. But then, sadly, even one of my own political heroes Mikhail Bakunin uttered fairly crude anti-Semitic remarks.

    On that issue, you mention “a book by one very Conservative writer in one secondhand bookshop about how many of the founders and leaders of early socialism were anti-Semites”. I wonder whether you might tell me it’s author and title?

    And thanks for some great writing!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks, Christoper, for those kind words and appreciation. You’re right about the early Labour party and particularly the Fabians being as anti-Semitic and racist as the Tories and Liberals. I do remember reading how the Fabians in particular supported the Boer War and British imperialism in Africa. There’s a biography of H.G. Wells, The Culminating Ape, which also discusses the vile opinions he held. He himself said that at times he had been a racist and an anti-Semite. He also, like many of the other Fabians, including George Bernard Shaw, along with the Western chattering classes generally, supported eugenics.

      Martin Pugh in his book on British Fascism between the wars discusses how some socialists and left-wingers were won over to Mosley and his BUF. Mosley’s boast was that they came to criticize and heckle, but came away supporters by his rhetoric. He gives the example of one woman, who joined the BUF because she believed it was the Jews that had tried to block further welfare legislation in parliament. He also notes that William Joyce, the infamous Lord Haw-Haw, could have been a socialist because of some of his views.

      I’m afraid I can’t tell you the name of the book about how many of the founders and leaders of early socialism were anti-Semites. I found it in the politics section of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham a few years ago, and really can’t remember the title. Only that I had a look at it, and didn’t buy it. If I do remember the title and author, I’ll let you know.

      • Christopher Hutchison Says:

        Thanks so much for your well-informed response, beastrabban; yes, it covers much of what I’d have written (eugenics, Wells, Joyce, etc) in a longer comment. Sydney Olivier (uncle of Lawrence) was one of the most heinous racists among the Fabians. A reading of, for example, his “White Capital and Coloured Labour” (1906) or his later “The League of Nations and Primitive Peoples” (1918) dramatically highlights how acceptable, indeed ideologically mainstream, racist views were in the early days of Labour. Thankfully we have come a long way since then.

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