The reaction of the Labour party to the Panorama programme reflects the desire of the Corbynista elite to pull up the ideological drawbridge and, in true Leninist fashion, not to cede any concession to their critics.
Following the student protests of the 1960s, a small group on the far left within the Labour party including Jeremy Corbyn perceived a middle ground between the parliamentary socialism of the Labour party and the revolutionary activism of the New Left.
Figures such as Corbyn were therefore happy to work with and appear on platforms with the extra-parliamentary far left. This belief superseded any concern that antisemitic comments might be uttered on these platforms.
The decision in 2013 to allow “supporters” to join Labour facilitated the far left’s entry into the party – to overcome a barrier that they had been trying to traverse for almost a century.
Today the party is being run by past fellow travellers from both the pro-Kremlin wing of the Communist party and the Trotskyist Militant Tendency. As Jon Lansman’s withdrawal from seeking the post of General Secretary of the party last year illustrated, even the Bennites have been sidelined.
The Jewish question is ideologically unimportant for many in Labour’s inner circle today because it has always been regarded historically as a peripheral issue in Marxism-Leninism, an irritating diversion from the long march to achieve a more just society.
In this context, the only Jews that really matter are the unrepresentative few who can act as cover for party prevarications on antisemitism – those who facilitate the notion that the vast majority of British Jews can be ignored, those who enable the party to embrace the notion “for the few and not the many” where Jews are concerned.
The belief that members of the British left can never be racist is historically incorrect. There were early examples of antisemitic innuendo by progressive figures such as the Social Democratic Federation’s HM Hyndman, the Chartist William Cobbett and the economist and anti-imperialist, JA Hobson, who disparaged Jews as ‘Rothschilds’ and embryonic capitalists. However, there were others such as Eleanor Marx and James Connolly who were knowledgeable about the poverty of the Jewish masses and condemnatory of the discriminatory descriptions often evoked to characterise them.
Moreover, the rise of Stalinism in the USSR reclaimed antisemitism from Tsarism. The leading Jewish Bolshevik, Karl Radek, quipped: “What’s the difference between Moses and Stalin? Moses took the Jews out of Egypt. Stalin takes them out of the Communist Party”.
Discrediting the young people on the disputes team who spoke out in the Panorama programme as disgruntled former employees or deflecting the issue towards a Blairite conspiracy is a time-honoured tactic. Invoking the Israeli Embassy and the Netanyahu government adds an anti-Jewish veneer. All of this is reminiscent of Soviet period disinformation.
The Corbynistas do not see antisemitism for what it is, but only as a weapon to be used against them by their opponents within the party. “Zionism” thereby becomes an instrument to retaliate – while remaining profoundly ignorant of socialist Zionism as an ideology. It recalls the time in the late 1960s when Polish Communist leaders turned on their non-Jewish opponents, loyal members of the party, labelling them as unpatriotic “Zionists”.
The messianic mythology promulgated to promote Jeremy Corbyn has not turned the party to the left after the New Labour years, but instead has allowed the extra-parliamentary far left to seize control. While all on the left believe in attaining the moral goal of a just society, it is the far left which is willing to use immoral means to reach it. The question of antisemitism is the litmus test of what it means to be a socialist today.
Jewish Chronicle 12 July 2019