Posts Tagged ‘Siobhain Mcdonagh’

The Rights’ Conflation of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Capitalism and the Erasure of Left-Wing Jewish History

March 19, 2019

Just as the Jewish Chronicle may have itself been guilty of anti-Semitism by denying that one of the signatories to the letter of support for Corbyn and the Labour party sent to the Sunday Times, so other members of the right may also be aiding anti-Semitism by their repeated use of the conspiracy theory that the Jews are the real force behind capitalism.

Three days ago, on 16th March 2019, David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, an ardent campaigner himself against racism, anti-Semitism and thus Zionism, put up on his blog an article discussing this very point, which had been published that day in the Morning Star. He began by commenting on the statement by Blairite Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh to John Humphrys on Radio 4 that ‘anti-capitalist politics are at the root of anti-Semitism’. Rosenberg states that it’s an appalling slur against everyone fighting against the poverty and inequality of Tory Britain, but it also revealed that the Right, even those, who think they are pro-Jewish, still believe anti-Semitic stereotypes, as McDonagh obviously thinks that Jews are rich capitalists.

He goes on to discuss how this is at the heart of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that sees the Jews as using their wealth to control the banks and governments. A theory that was pushed by Henry Ford, an Episcopalian Christian and founder of the car manufacturer that bears his name, in his paper the Dearborn Independent. Ford believed that the Jews caused World War I, and published the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And someone else who believed this poisonous nonsense, and was Ford’s biggest fan in Europe, was one A. Hitler.

Rosenberg goes on to discuss how there are Jews, who identify the Jewish community with capitalism, banking and property and so accuse the anti-capitalist left as anti-Semites. He then cites Richard Mather, who claimed in an article in the Jerusalem Post that ‘the Labour party’s call for the seizure of property’ was part of ‘anti-Semitic class warfare’, and pieces written by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, and one of his journos, Alex Brummer, who both claimed that Corbyn was an anti-Semitic threat to Jewish capitalists, with Pollard harking back to Corbyn’s attack on the bankers that caused the financial crash ten years ago. Rosenberg tweeted in response to this nonsense that of Pollard and Corbyn, one of them thought all bankers were Jews. And it wasn’t Corbyn.

Rosenberg goes on to say that

In my 61 years I’ve never met a Jewish banker. I’ve met unemployed Jews, Jewish decorators, post-office workers, van drivers, taxi drivers, shopworkers, social workers, secretaries, teachers, pharmacists, and several comedians.

He reinforces this point by describing how Arnold Brown, a Jewish comedian, who came from a poor background in Glasgow, tore up the floorboards at his home one day after the other schoolkids told him that all Jews were rich. He also makes the point that the racist Right use the stereotype of the rich Jewish capitalist to divert popular anger away from capitalism to particular Jewish figures, who are supposed to be responsible for its ills, such as Rothschild and Goldman Sachs to George Soros today, demonised by Trump and a slew of extreme right-wing regimes because he funds agencies for migrants and refugees and anti-government demonstrations.

But he also makes the point that this stereotype also erases the strong history of Jewish left-wing anti-capitalist activism, writing

When McDonagh, Mather and Pollard repeat stereotypes of Jews as capitalists, they not only feed these conspiracy theories, but also erase an outstanding tradition of Jewish anti-capitalism. People know the famous Jewish revolutionaries, like Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemberg, Emma Goldman, but it was in mass Jewish workers’ movements such as the Bund, and among the Jews so numerous in socialist and communist parties over the last 120 years, that anti-capitalism was ingrained. In 1902, a Russian Jewish bookbinder, Semyon Ansky, wrote a Yiddish song to honour the Bund’s struggles for social justice. The movement adopted it as its anthem. One powerful verse translates as:

“We swear to the heavens a bloody hatred against those who murder and rob the working class. The Tsar, the rulers, the capitalists – we swear that they will all be devastated and destroyed. An oath, an oath, of life and death.”

He goes on to say that he is going that day to march and speak with the Jewish Socialist Group on a national demonstration in London against racism and Fascism, including the anti-Semitism that is rising in central and eastern Europe and Trump’s America with the Pittsburgh shooting.  He concludes

At street level, far right organisations concentrate physical attacks more frequently on Muslims, Roma, migrants and refugees, but when they want to explain to their supporters who they believe holds power in the world they fall back on Jewish conspiracy theories as surely today as they did in the 1930s. The fight against antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-migrant propaganda are absolutely linked and we must combat them together.

See: https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/the-anti-antisemitism-that-actually-promotes-jew-hating/

Absolutely. Rosenberg’s blog is particularly fascinating for the pieces he publishes about the Bund, the socialist party of the eastern European masses in the Russian Empire. It’s a history that I doubt many non-Jews know about, as the Yiddish-speaking communities the Bund represented were murdered by the Nazis. If people outside the Jewish community know about it at all, it’s probably because of the movement’s connection to the Russian Socialist movement. The Bund were, with the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, part of the Russian Social Democratic Party, the parent organisation of the Russian Communists. It was their withdrawal from the party conference in 1909, when Lenin demanded that there should be no separate organisation for Jewish socialists, that made the Bolsheviks the majority faction and gave them their name, from ‘Bolshe’, the Russian word for bigger.

But the articles by David Rosenberg and other left-wing Jewish bloggers and vloggers reveal a rich, lost history of Jewish anti-capitalist struggle. One of the remarkable consequences of the anti-Semitism smears is that this history is being rediscovered and brought to public attention as Jewish Marxists and socialists refute these smears. Jon Pullman’s film, The Witchhunt, attacking these smears and particularly the libelous hounding of Jackie Walker, includes a brief mention of the Bund, including black and white footage of their demonstrations and banners. If Channel 4 had kept to its original charter as an alternative BBC 2, the Bund and its legacy would be a very suitable subject for a documentary. It could also easily be screened on BBC 4. But I doubt that this will ever happen because the stereotype of the rich Jew is too important a weapon against the anti-capitalist left for it to be refuted by such a thing as actual history.

And if left-wing Jewish history, like that of the Bund, is being forgotten, some contemporary works on the Jewish community may inadvertently reinforce the stereotype of the rich Jew. Back in the 1990s an aunt gave me a book about the Jewish community in Britain, The Club. It was a mainstream book by a very respectable mainstream publisher, but from what I can remember about it, it was about the elite section of British Jewish society, the top 100. I think it was written from an entirely praiseworthy standpoint – to celebrate Jewish achievement, and to how how integrated and indeed integral Jews were to British society and culture. But books like it can give an unbalanced picture of Jewish society in Britain by concentrating on the immensely wealthy and successful, and ignoring the ordinary Jewish folk, who live, work and whose kids go to school and uni with the rest of us, and whose working people marched in solidarity with us.

It’s fascinating and necessary that the history of Jewish socialism is being rediscovered, and that activists in the Bund’s tradition, like Rosenberg, continue to write, demonstrate and blog against racism and anti-Semitism as part of the real struggle by working people.

 

 

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Blairite MP Siobhain Mcdonagh Claims Anti-Capitalists Anti-Semitic

March 5, 2019

The Nye Bevan News blog reported yesterday that Blairite Labour MP Siobhain Mcdonagh had appeared on Radio 4 that morning, 4th March 2019, and told presenter John Humphreys that the anti-capitalists in the Labour party were anti-Semitic. Humphrey had asked her if the party was taking anti-Semitism seriously. She replied

I’m not sure that some people in the Labour party can, because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital.

Humphreys then asked her if you had to be anti-Semitic to be anti-capitalist. She replied

Yes. Not everybody, but absolutely, there’s a certain strand of it and these people are not Labour, have never been Labour but we now find them in our party.

Humphreys then asked her if they didn’t become Labour when they joined the party. To which she gave the following answer

Not as far as I see it. I believe that the Labour party has a very strong set of values related to how we see society should be run and about being anti-racist, which they cannot be part of. 

The MP went on talk about Jenny Formby not releasing the figures for anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour party, although the Nye Bevan News blog notes that Formby had actually done so some time ago. She also criticised Formby for saying she reported to the NEC, not Labour MPs, and praised Tom Watson for wanting to interfere with the process, despite them being against data protection rules.

The article concluded:

It is clearly very problematic and actually borders upon anti-semitism in itself to immediately make the association between Jewish people and banking/financing – repeating an anti-semitic trope on national radio is appalling.

See: https://nyebevannews.co.uk/labour-mp-siobhain-mcdonagh-to-be-anti-capitalism-is-to-be-anti-semitic/

Martin Odoni, a Jewish Labour party member and dedicated anti-racist, is in absolutely no doubt that Mcdonagh’s comments were anti-Semitic. He posted a template email on his website requesting Jenny Formby suspend Mcdonagh pending a full investigation. He points out that not only would many Jews find the implication of her claim that anti-capitalism is anti-Semitic, that Jews are therefore bourgois and capitalistic, not just offensive but also anti-Semitic under the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism that the party has adopted. She is also to be suspended because her endorsement of Watson’s demands to see personal information in order to interfere in anti-Semitism cases, which contravenes data protection laws, is therefore solicitation to commit a criminal act.

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/suspend-siobhan-mcdonagh-from-the-labour-party-with-immediate-effect-template/

Now it’s true that you can find examples of disgusting anti-Semitism in the views of leading socialists, communists and anarchists from Marx onwards. But the view that Jews equal capitalism, and particularly financial capitalism isn’t the view of socialists and anti-capitalists, but that of fascists and Nazis. The ideology George Orwell described as ‘the socialism of fools’. But the smear that socialism and anti-capitalism is innately anti-Semitic is that of the transatlantic extreme right in books such as Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. It is also being pushed by the Republicans in America and the Tories over here as a means of defending the super-rich one per cent from criticism. This is the section of predominantly western society that own capital and industry, and who demand the policies of privatisation, welfare cuts, job insecurity and the reduction of the tax burden on them that are causing so much misery and poverty across the world. But for the right, criticism of the one per cent is absolutely forbidden. It’s anti-Semitic, you see, because of the way the Nazis equated the Jews with the rich and finance capitalism. But when socialists, communists, anarchists and other anti-capitalists, as well as genuine liberals, talk about the 1 per cent and their destructive policies, they mean the global elite regardless of colour, race or religious affiliation. They do not mean ‘Jews’.

It’s the same tactics the right used to try to defend bankers from criticism a few years ago, when they were all giving themselves massive bonuses after the crash at the expense of the rest of us, who had to bail them out. They used the same tactic, saying that if you were criticising the bankers and demanding their punishment, you were a Nazi. Because Jews equal bankers to anti-Semites. But again, only Nazis and Fascists equate Jews with banking, and the left-wingers demanding punishment for bankers were demanding it for those, who had caused the crash, regardless of their race or religion.

Mcdonagh is clearly, at heart, a Red Tory, who has taken over these views, and is desperately keen to preserve the present, corrupt system and its enrichment of the few at the cost of the impoverishment of the many.

She’s also at the same time pushing the lie that Blair and his followers represent the real Labour party and those further to the left are communist or Trotskyite entryists. But it was Blair, who was the real entryist. He was a Thatcherite, who removed Labour’s commitment to socialism and was determined to follow Thatcher’s agenda of privatisation, destruction of the welfare state and creating a fluid Labour market. Which meant creating job insecurity. Traditional Labour party members, who wanted a genuinely mixed economy, we forced out of positions of leadership in the party. Many ordinary members left. Corbyn, with his policies of nationalising the utilities, renationalising the NHS, restoring trade union power and extending workers’ rights, represents solid traditional Labour party values. They values and policies that gave us thirty years of growth and prosperity after the War.

And then there’s her views of Labour party anti-racism. Well, Tony Benn was genuinely one of the most anti-racist MPs, giving his wholehearted support to the boycott of Bristol Bus Company by Black Bristolians because of its refusal to employ non-Whites. And he was a staunch advocate of a mixed economy, industrial democracy, trade unions and everything that Mcdonagh, as a Blairite, fears and despises. As is Ken Livingstone, whose leadership of the GLC was reviled and hated by the Tories as a centre of ‘political correctness’. The campaign against racism by Labour party members began long before Blair took over.

And as for the Blairites’ own attitudes towards racism, Tony Greenstein has pointed out their hypocrisy in a post on his blog this morning. He contrasted Watson’s and the others’ screams about supposed anti-Semitism with their total indifference over May’s victimisation of immigrants and the deportation of the Windrush migrants and their children.

As a Blairite, Mcdonagh is just another disloyal intriguer smearing those who really stand for traditional Labour values and real anti-racism – not just against the hatred and persecution of Jews, but also against that of Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. Her claim that anti-capitalism is identical with anti-Semitism is nothing but an attempt to defend the exploitative rich against those who want real change. She should apologise immediately, or reconsider her position in the party.