Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

In Defence of Richard Seymour – “Labour’s Antisemitism affair” largely gets it right.

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“Media-Manufactured Anti-Semitism Crisis” Says Weekly Worker: Richard Seymour Disagrees.

There is no joy like that of Tendance Coatesy’s at the welcoming back of a sinner into the fold.

In celebration this Blog’s editorial committee – a powerful and influential body on the international left – has sent to the rubbish bin one of our posts criticising the esteemed comrade.

Not everybody is of the same view.

The Monster Raving Greenstein Party expresses his opprobrium, at great length, in the latest issue of one of his many House Journals, for whatever faction he is now leading, the Weekly Worker.

No doubt piqued by the fact that Seymour does not mention him once he states, in words that could have been written by that master of revolutionary polemic Gerry Downing,

“Seymour’s article, entitled ‘Labour’s anti-Semitism affair’, on Labour’s media-manufactured anti-Semitism crisis, proves the maxim that those who leave the SWP invariably drift to the right.2 In Seymour’s case this involves a wholesale abandonment of class politics in favour of subjectivism and a crude empiricism.”

Here is the master polemic:

Both sides of the fence. Leftist intellectuals have taken fright when faced with the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. Tony Greenstein responds to Richard Seymour

No doubt piqued by the fact that Seymour does not mention him once this is one of his other opening comments,

Seymour’s latest article in Jacobin suggests he is wandering aimlessly across the left, dragged in the undertow of conflicting political currents without either ballast or firm conviction.

Followed by, blah blah…..

..mired in the swamp of identity politics and this is causing him to lose his political bearings.

To sum it up ,in words that could have been written by that master of revolutionary polemic Gerry Downing  Greenstein asserts,

Seymour’s article, entitled ‘Labour’s anti-Semitism affair’, on Labour’s media-manufactured anti-Semitism crisis, proves the maxim that those who leave the SWP invariably drift to the right.2 In Seymour’s case this involves a wholesale abandonment of class politics in favour of subjectivism and a crude empiricism.

Few will be arsed to read further, so let’s look at comrade Seymour’s contribution in its own right.

Labour’s Antisemitism Affair.    RICHARD SEYMOUR

Lenny begins by describing the absurdities of the Corbyn ‘Beetroot’ scandal and Judass (although as a seasoned far-left internet-surfer, they have largely only been at the corner of the Tendance’s interest).

Warning signs about anti-semitism begin to flash when he sees that,

“Some Corbyn supporters signing a petition defending him against a “very powerful interest group,” toxic language to use in this context.”

Delving into the nitty gritty of recent events, tackles  the Christine Shawcroft affair.

Seymour  suggests that her most recent behaviour at Labour’s NEC, which led to her ignoble resignation after it was discovered she’d defended a Holocaust denier,  may be explained, “Given her long-standing commitment to defending members against a hostile bureaucracy, it is plausible that Shawcroft acted on autopilot.”.

The Tendance is less generously inclined on learning, after this article will have been written, the following, (Leaked minutes show Labour at odds over antisemitism claims).

The minutes also reveal Shawcroft refused to recuse herself as chair when the panel heard the case of a Labour councillor who has been accused of using a racist term to describe a black council candidate and co-ordinating with the party of the disgraced Tower Hamlets former mayor Lutfur Rahman against Labour.

Shawcroft, an active member in Tower Hamlets who was once herself suspended for defending Rahman, was asked to recuse herself after other NEC members said she had acted as a “silent friend” of the councillor during his investigatory interview, but refused, the minutes said.

But from this point the article really gets into its stride.

The context is well set out,

Corbyn was not supposed to win. The fact that he did, with a landslide, was treated by many Labour MPs as a matter for counter-subversion. Rather than reflecting their weakness, they insisted, it was proof of the infiltration of Labour by a “hard left plot”: new virulent strain of Militant. For both the right-wing and the hard-center of the British press, it was evidence that an unthinking mob had taken over — akin, said the Financial Times, to the supporters of the Third Reich.

Then we have, amongst other cases, including, (an old star on this Blog) “Gerry Downing, a seasoned sectarian hack, was the next to appear in the headlines, for urging on ISIS victory against the US, and describing Israel as a form of “the Jewish question.”

And, he looks at Ken Livingstone going on about them there Zionists and Nazis.

Livingstone was making a gratuitous hash of a history which wasn’t particularly relevant to the issue, and dropping his party in a huge and unnecessary mess. He was suspended, amid a huge furor.

And …Jackie Walker at the Jewish Labour Movement training……

The nature of her intervention left no doubt that Walker was there to wage factional war, attacking the JLM’s approach to antisemitism and the political valences of Holocaust Day by suggesting (wrongly) that it was not “open to all people who experienced a holocaust.” On the most generous reading possible, Walker chose the worst terrain and format for making points that would have required nuance and careful unpacking. The audience was on edge as soon as she spoke, and her roundly heckled comments were secretly recorded and leaked. To anyone not steeped in Walker’s politics, this looked at best tendentious. In the coverage, it looked as though she was splitting hairs, belittling antisemitism. Walker’s tactical misadventure inadvertently damaged her own cause, and she was drummed out of the Momentum leadership.

One imagines this raised some hackles.

It’s a complex and well-researched  article – though some reference to very real anti-semitism not just in Hungary or the US but in the rather closer France where allegations of left-wing complicity have arisen would not have been amiss –  which merits being read in full.

Seymour rightly focuses on ” the traditions of anti-Zionism emerging in the post-1967 era tend to be socialist and internationalist. For example, Moshé Machover” and,

Mike Marqusee (who) was a celebrated figure on the Labour left whose moving memoir challenged Zionism’s claim on Jewish identity. The Jewish Socialist Group and the radical group Jewdas, (who) take their inspiration from the tradition of secular, anti-nationalist Bundism.

He concludes,

 As I have argued, while the issue of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is vitally important, Israel is not a major source of polarization in British politics. It has, however, become a displacement, a pseudo-explanation for much larger and longer-term social processes.

For some on the Left, meanwhile, the fight to defend Corbyn’s leadership has come to mean defending it against Labour Friends of Israel, the Board of Deputies, and the Jewish Labour Movement: in a word, the “Lobby.” But such groups are neither as cohesive nor as powerful as the “Lobby” thesis implies. If they were even a tithe as powerful as Unite, for example, Corbyn’s leadership might be in danger. Such groups merit criticism, but a singular focus on them cannot found a sensible politics.

It is, alternatively, possible to walk and chew gum. To refute bad-faith accusations of antisemitism, assert the simple justice of Palestinian rights, and recognize that the Left is not exempted from racism. The rise in antisemitism is not separate from the general increase in racism, and nor is it eternally marginal and out-of-power. At a time when nascent far-right movements are surfacing, with antisemitic tendencies linked to state power in Hungary and the United States, the Left has a particular responsibility to lead on this issue. It can’t do that if it’s so focused on the “Lobby” that it can’t see the problem clearly.

In other words some people on the left are obsessed about ‘Zionism’ to the point of losing any sense of judgement and that this ‘displacement’ has  mighty pissed a lot of others off, including a large section of the left.

That we had better direct attention to wider issues about racism, which includes an anti-semitic element – see above comment in the present article about France.

So what of poor old Monster Raving’s objections?

After dismissing the whole piece on the grounds that “It is not for Richard Seymour to now lecture us on the evils of anti-Semitism.”  Greenstein does say one thing worth of note:

I was surprised that Jacobin published Seymour’s article, but reassured that the current editor, Bhaskar Sunkara, has told me that he completely disagreed with the thrust of the article. The previous editor, Max Ajl, has told me that he would never have published “such a shoddy piece”! So I still find it puzzling why Jacobin thought it worthy of publication, when so many rightwing sites would have welcomed such a ‘repentant sinner’!

Which confirms everything progressive opinion thinks of the oddly named Jacobin.

And provided the opening sentence of the present post.

That Sunkara even talks to this creature….

 

 

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5 Responses

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  1. Off topic but do check out the “New MP” letter at WW letters page

    https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1199/letters/

    Boleyn Ali

    April 20, 2018 at 2:37 pm

  2. The Weekly Worker has added another nutter to its stunning cast,

    This is its Star letter, as Boleyn points out,

    New MP
    A Chambers and Partners band-one legal practice is now on standby to pursue an action to bring about a coroner’s inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly; an action before the International Criminal Court against those who had brought slavery back to Libya; and an action before the High Court of Justiciary of Scotland, inviting it to exercise its declaratory power against Tony Blair and his accomplices in the aggression against Iraq. We are, of course, also keeping a very close eye on the situation in Syria. All of these actions are to begin immediately upon my election to the House of Commons.

    And my case as a legally persecuted political dissident has been referred to Amnesty International. I do not even have a trial date now, even though it is rightly a criminal offence in itself not to turn up to one’s trial. The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. As of today, Amnesty International is on the case.

    David Lindsay

    Prospective candidate, North West Durham.

    https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1199/letters/

    Man accused of sending malicious letter wants to become MP – and has spoken with George Galloway.

    A man accused of a malicious communication by offering cash for the heads of Labour councillors is hoping to become an MP, it has emerged.

    David Lindsay, of Foxhills Crescent in Lanchester, County Durham, is standing as an independent candidate in Lanchester as part of the local council elections – and even has his sights set on the Durham North West seat in the upcoming General Election.

    A spokesperson for the Respect Party campaigner said the former Labour figure, who was kicked out of the party, has backed Mr Lindsay’s campaign bid focusing on proposed cuts to teaching assistants’ salaries by Durham County Council.

    Mr Galloway’s spokesman said: “George has met him once and he supports the teaching assistants campaign which he understands Mr Lindsay is leading on.

    “George had been told Mr Lindsay was arrested but had been told he had been released. He didn’t realise he had now been charged.

    “He supports the campaign and has spoken with him on Twitter, that is about the extent of it.”

    https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/man-accused-sending-malicious-letter-12965741

    Man appears in court accused of sending malicious letter threatening Durham councillors
    David Lindsay, who stood in the local council elections, is accused of sending a letter which offered cash for the heads of Labour councillors

    The 39-year-old allegedly sent a letter targeting Durham councillors to the chief constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton.

    The letter allegedly contained the names of 57 Labour councillors on Durham County Council and prospective candidates, and claimed “contracts” had been taken out on each of them.

    A sum of money was said to have been listed alongside each of the names, while the letter allegedly offered a bounty of up to £50,000 for anyone who could produce the “head” of a Labour councillor.

    https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/man-appears-court-accused-sending-13048219

    Andrew Coates

    April 20, 2018 at 3:47 pm

  3. “A Chambers and Partners band-one legal practice is now on standby to pursue an action to bring about a coroner’s inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly”

    This just just sounds like complete nonsense. Chambers and Partners created and maintains a global ranking system for law firms, what ‘band-one’ means is anyone’s guess.

    David Kellys body was exhumed and cremated.

    So yes indeed, he does seem like an ideal bedfellow for Tony (‘MR’) Greenstein

    Dave T

    April 20, 2018 at 6:23 pm

  4. I thought you lawyer types knew how to spot a loony-bins or vexacious litigant in the way Coatesy does, merely by skimming their first sentences.

    “slavery back to Libya; and an action before the High Court of Justiciary of Scotland, inviting it to exercise its declaratory power against Tony Blair and his accomplices in the aggression against Iraq. We are, of course, also keeping a very close eye on the situation in Syria.

    Worked with Monster Raving years ago….

    Andrew Coates

    April 20, 2018 at 6:31 pm

  5. Mr Andrew Coates Esq., hereby take this comment as formal Notice of our Intention to issue a Lien against the said Mr Andrew Coates Esq on a Charge of Breaching the 1865 Bill of Exchanges Act.

    Freepeople of the Land

    April 20, 2018 at 10:35 pm


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