Posts Tagged ‘‘Antiques Roadshow’’

Lenin’s Speech Denouncing Anti-Semitism

November 22, 2017

I found this fascinating little clip of a speech by Lenin, the founder of Soviet Communism, on Maoist Rebel News, presented by Jason Unruhe. I am very definitely not a Maoist, as I think it’s undeniable that he was one of the most murderous tyrants of the 20th century. About 60 million Chinese died in the purges and mass starvation created by the ‘Cultural Revolution’, and countless precious art treasures and other monuments from the country’s rich, ancient past, were destroyed.

Nevertheless, this piece is interesting and important as it shows how the Bolsheviks took seriously the threat of anti-Semitism, and were keen to stamp it out. Unruhe made the video in response to an appearance by Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars on Mark Levin’s radio show. Harrison owns the pawn shop featured in the show. It’s an American programme, but it’s also shown over here on one of the satellite/cable channels. I tried watching it once, when it was on the History Channel, in the vague hope that it might actually be interesting. It wasn’t. The programme largely consisted of the crew musing over various artifacts – in this case, a couple of pistols left over from the Old West – and speculating about how much they were worth. It reminded me a little of the Beeb’s antiques’ programmes, with the exception that the people looking at the antiques didn’t actually seem to know very much about them, apart from the very basics.

On Levin’s show, Harrison went off and laid into Barack Obama. Obama was ‘anti-business’ and blamed the Jews and intelligentsia for everything, just like Lenin. Well, no. Barack Obama is not at all like Lenin. Barack Obama is very definitely not ‘anti-business’, even remotely. As the Jimmy Dore Show and other alternative news shows have pointed out, ad nauseam, Obama is a bog-standard corporatist politician. He tried to privatise the public schools by turning them into Charter Schools, the American equivalent of British academy schools. Even Obamacare is private enterprise. It was originally dreamed up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and promoted by Newt Gingrich, an arch-Republican. The last time I looked, America was still very much a private enterprise economy. Obama has even said that he considers himself to be a ‘moderate Republican’.

But such accusations are almost par for the course for the bonkers end of the Republican party. There have even been right-wing Christian radio hosts declaring that he was a mass-murderer, who was secretly planning to kill even more people than Mao and Stalin. And this is apart from all the hysterical screaming that he was a Communist-Nazi-crypto-Islamist terrorist intent on bringing about the fall of America and western civilisation.

He also spent eight years in power, and has now departed. Nobody was assassinated, or rounded up in cattle trucks to be deported to death camps. Or incarcerated in FEMA, which would be the modern equivalent, if you believe Alex Jones. But the rhetoric shows the sheer, blind hysteria that gripped some of these maniacs whenever Obama was mentioned.

Unruhe points out that it is factually incorrect that Lenin blamed the Jews for the problems of the nascent Soviet Union. He states that the Soviet leader spent a year touring the former Russian Empire, denouncing anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. How is this known? Because there are recordings of him. He then plays one. It’s clearly from a gramophone recording, complete with crackles and scratches, but it is subtitled in English. My Russian really isn’t very good at all, but from what little I can catch, the translation is accurate, and it states what Lenin is actually saying.

Lenin states that it is the capitalists, the landowners and the tsars, who were trying to stir up hatred against the Jews, as a way of dividing the working people of all nations and getting them to hate each other. He states that it is a medieval, feudal superstition, that exists only when workers and peasants are kept in slavery by the landlords. He says that most Jews are workers, and therefore our brothers. He acknowledges that amongst the Jews there are capitalists, the bourgeois and kulaks, just as there are all of these amongst Russians. He states that this hatred against the Jews is being stirred up by the capitalists to divert attention away from who really is exploiting working people: capital!

He cries out several times ‘Shame upon the tsars’ for stoking hatred against the Jews, for stirring up pogroms, massacres and persecution.

Unruhe points out in his introduction to the speech that it was actually Lenin’s opponents, the tsars, who were anti-Semitic. This is solid, established fact. Nicholas II was viciously anti-Semitic himself, and believed firmly in the ‘Blood Libel’ – the poisonous myth that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood to make the matzo bread for Passover. One of the issues that discredited Nicholas II’s rule was his repeated attempt to prosecute a Jew, Beilis, on this charge, despite the most anti-Semitic of his ministers telling him that it was stupid and ridiculous.

And in opposition to the workers’ and revolutionary movements, there were the Black Hundreds. These were groups of extreme right-wing supporters of the traditional order, who were viciously anti-Semitic.

It’s obviously glaringly true that Lenin was ‘anti-business’. But saying that makes it appear as though it was just a matter of prejudice. It wasn’t. Russia’s working people and peasants at the time laboured in appalling conditions, with many on literal ‘starvation wages’. And although the serfs had been freed in the 1860s by Alexander I, their lords and masters still treated their workers as unfree slaves. There were cases where factory masters told their workers ‘We own you!’ Hence before the Bolshevik coup there were hundreds of strikes and peasant revolts up and down the Russian Empire. You can easily see why before Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, there was a revolution that overthrew the Tsar, and the workers began electing left-wing parties like the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trudoviks and Socialist Revolutionaries on to the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets they set up to represent their own interests against the power of the capitalists.

As for the capitalists and business using anti-Semitism to divide working people of all nations, anti-Semitism in the West has been rightly discredited and regarded with loathing by the majority of people since the defeat of Nazism. But the right has used racism to try and attack the left and organised Labour. You can see it in the way the Tories have tried to stir up nationalist sentiment against Muslims and other ‘unassimilable’ immigrants, quite apart from the fearmongering about workers coming from elsewhere in the EU and eastern Europe.

I’m not a fan of Lenin. He created a very authoritarian system, which eventually led to the murderous tyranny of Stalin. But he was no anti-Semite, and his speech still remains a very relevant commentary on the political uses of racial hatred.

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David Cesarani’s Book on the Holocaust on Sale in Bristol

January 28, 2017

Last week was Holocaust Memorial Day, in which the world commemorates the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Last Sunday, Antiques Roadshow devoted an edition to the Holocaust, and on Wednesday the One Show had a piece reporting how a British Jewish lady was able to gain compensation for her family’s department store in Germany, which had been taken from them by the Nazis during the persecution that resulted in her leaving her homeland to come to Britain. It was a fascinating tale showing one woman’s quest to regain some part of what had been stolen from her family. Unfortunately, millions weren’t so lucky, as the majority of European Jews weren’t millionaires, but extremely poor. And there have been a number of vile cases, where people have launched legal cases to regain their property, only to gain absolutely nothing as any financial assets coming their way were eaten up by their lawyers’ fees.

Looking through the history shelves in the Bristol branch of Waterstone’s the week before last, I came across a copy of David Cesarani’s book on the subject, along with the various other books. Ceserani’s an Israeli historian, who holds very strong Zionist views. He very firmly defends Israel’s right to exist, and in the 1980s, according to Lobster’s John Newsinger, was one of the first to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. A little while ago I posted a piece up about a very fascinating article Newsinger had written about Caeserani’s book in Lobster. Despite his very strong ideological and patriotic bias, Ceserani’s book also discusses the Zionists’ initial collusion with the Nazis in sending German Jewish immigrants clandestinely to Palestine, then under the British Mandate. The book also reveals the hostility the Zionist founders felt towards the Jews, who wanted to remain in the European homelands. Those who did so included the patriotic Jewish servicemen’s league in Germany. As you can expect, these courageous people were extremely difficult for the Nazis to smear as evil subversives. After all, they’d put their lives on the line and proudly fought for their country. One of the Zionist leaders even remarked that he’d rather see half the Jews in Europe die under the Nazis, and the other half go to Israel, than the whole of European Jewry being saved through emigration to England. It’s a disgusting, chilling quote that reveals the leaders’ cynical disregard of the suffering of millions, if it didn’t result in new colonists for the fledgling state.

Newsinger was deeply impressed with the depth of scholarship amply displayed in Ceserani’s book, and recommended it to everyone with a genuine interest in this most horrific aspect of 20th century European history.

But Newsinger in discussing the book wanted to show how it actually confirmed the historical truth of the comments made by Ken Livingstone, which saw him accused and suspended for supposed anti-Semitism. Red Ken had committed the terrible crime of pointing out that the Zionists and the Nazis initially collaborated. Despite the loud assertions from the Blairites and the Israel lobby in the Labour party that he was a vile anti-Semite for saying so, Livingstone was entirely correct and is, from what I’ve read and her from him, certainly not a Jew-hater.

I mention the fact that I’ve seen the book on sale in Bristol to show that it is around and in print if anyone is keen to check the facts behind these allegations.

And regardless of this issue, I’m sure that by keeping the memory of the Holocaust present, it has done much to stop post-war Nazi movements gaining power, at least up to this point, through the simply fact that too many people know too much about the horrors they perpetrated ever to want to give them that power again.