Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Ken Loach in new row over Anti-Semitism.

with 10 comments



There are mixed reactions to the controversy over inviting Ken Loach to speak at a Zoom event hosted by St Peter’s College Oxford:

An Oxford college event with Ken Loach went ahead on Monday despite objections from the Board of Deputies and Jewish students over the filmmaker’s alleged antisemitism.

The event, live-streamed on YouTube yesterday, focused on the St Peter’s College alumnus’ filmmaking career.

Jewish Chronicle.

Outrage as Oxford college holds event with controversial filmmaker Ken Loach

Most people could not care less what an Oxford College does. But Jewish students who protested at this guest’s presence have every right to do so. Loach has a past, not just as a graduate of an exclusive Oxford college, but a political background. This includes his joint authorship of the play Perdition, a not too distant membership of George Galloways ‘anti-Zionist’ Respect Party (2004 – 2012)  and present, support for Labour Against the Witch-hunt, whose Vice Chair Tony Greenstein, is described by his local paper as a “notorious anti-Semite'(‘Notorious anti-Semite’ loses libel case).

But cancelling or no platforming Loach would  suggest that his films should be boycotted as well. No platforming was originally about street confrontations with violent far-right groups such as the 1970s National Front. The aim was to prevent them holding street marches to intimidate minorities. It was not about deciding on the virtue of this or that speaker. Loach has a high reputation as a film-maker for some, by no means all, cinema lovers, some of whom call many of his pictures in the last couple of decades ‘miserabilist’ and wooden, It is not a good idea to have the issue of protests against them introduced into criticism of the Loach cinematic oeuvre.

In the New Statesman. Steve Bush makes the point that it is one thing to defend the right to speak, and another to eulogise the speaker. This is a valuable distinction: very few people who defend Roman Polanski’s past behaviour. and against more recent accusations of violation. But the director’s 2019 film on the Dreyfuss Affair, J’Accuse has yet to be shown in many countries, including the US because of this.


Ken Loach’s defenders are making an old and familiar mistake

When someone is accused of bad behaviour, their friendship with you is irrelevant.

The actor and comedian John Bishop and the Labour MP Ian Lavery have both defended the film director Ken Loach, whose invitation to speak at St Peter’s College, Oxford, has been criticised by the university’s Jewish Society due to his history of controversial remarks. Among them were Loach’s declaration that the 30 Labour MPs who joined the 2018 “Enough is Enough” protest against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party were “the ones we need to kick out”, and that claims of Labour anti-Semitism were “exaggerated or false”.

Freedom of speech is vitally important, particularly at a university, but a university campus or a university college are not only institutions of higher education: they are also the home of their students, and it was, therefore, in my view, a mistake for the master of St Peter’s College to invite Loach and treat him as an honoured guest. It is not the same as an invitation from a university film society.


Both men are using what I think of as the “Me Too Formulation”, which is frequently wheeled out by friends and supporters of people accused of sexual harassment: I’ve met so and so, and they are a great bloke, so they cannot have done what they are accused of. Shakespeare in Love is a brilliant film, so no one involved in it can possibly have done anything untoward. And so on.

Bush’s article does cover Perdition.

This gives a good idea of why people remember the play:

Sean Matgamna. 1987.

There are at least two issues involved in the ‘Perdition’ affair: artistic freedom and its limits; and whether or not ‘Perdition’ is anti-Jewish.

Allen and the director, Ken Loach, immediately raised an outcry against ‘censorship’, alleging that they were victims of a coordinated Zionist conspiracy. ‘Perdition’ was being crushed under the ‘Zionist juggernaut’, as Jim Allen put it when he told his side of the story to the Irish Times.

The article continues,

The play alleges that ‘Zionism’, with something like 5 million Jews already dead, needed the corpses of a million more Jews in Hungary to help it strengthen the moral case for setting up Israel after the war. Allen argues that Zionism shared the racist assumptions for Nazism from ‘its own’ side, and that that was the basis of a collaboration even to the extent of sacrificing the Jewish millions in Europe, Zionism was concerned only with sawing the notables and the rich.

Nothing of this seems to matter to the Canary.

The former Labour member Kerry-anne Mendoza writes,

The witch hunt has come for Ken Loach. They’ll have to come through us first.

For the crime of not playing with the witch hunt, Ken Loach has become a target. As a national treasure, his words matter. And so the need to delegitimise him as an effective critic of apartheid is real. Now he is accused of Holocaust denial. Did he deny the Holocaust? No. Did he advocate for denying the Holocaust? No. They’ve reached back to the 1980s to replay

…a battle-hardened left is unwilling to play this game again. A massive and organic campaign of support has sprung up. The trending #IStandWithKenLoach hashtag is full of desperate pleas for truth in argument. By all means, we can have robust political disagreements. But to debase yourself by constructing entirely false narratives on such a serious issue is beyond the pale.

Quick off the block: Chris Williamson’s Resist Movement.

Jeremy Corbyn tweeted this.

None of these responses even begin the talk about why many people on the left, including the radical left, would be very very wary of defending Loach’s strain of ‘anti-Zionist’ politics.



Apparently some still do not have a clue.


Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2021 at 2:28 pm

10 Responses

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  1. On campuses, it is now de rigeur to demand that any speaker who has ever said things that any particular self-identifying-as-oppressed group does not like, must be banned. It does not matter what the speaker is invited to speak about. It no longer even matters whether the speaker and his or her audience are going to be physically present. Even a Zoom meeting must be stopped! Any failure to demand such a ban would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the group concerned. And the stereotypical emotive feelz-babble used is always the same – disappointment, upset, dismay, concern, protection etc. etc. ad nauseam. Were any real, live Oxford Jewish students in any way harmed by Ken Loach sitting in front of his webcam and talking about art to some people at home who wanted to hear him? Of course not. Judith Buchanan did not give in to the standard techniques of cancel-culture blackmail? Good for her. If more people refused to buckle, this particularly crap political tactic would soon disappear.


    February 11, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    • The defenders of Ken Loach seem to reply on the argument, as Steve Bush indicates, that he could not possibly offend anybody because he is such a great bloke.

      I do not think that politically he is anything like a great bloke, and that his closeness to the WRP for some time in the 1970s, and later, Galloway’s band, shows that, as well as the Perdition affair. Now he stands with the likes of Greenstein.

      I totally agree Francis, and if we wished to ban all political idiots, and render all films, television, media and books along the lines of mdoern incarnations of Thomas Bowdler, extending from areas few care about, like this College, to the rest of society, we would end up with rows and supitities for ever,

      “Thomas Bowdler, LRCP, FRS (/ˈbaʊdlər/; 11 July 1754 – 24 February 1825[1]) was an English doctor best known for publishing The Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. The work, edited by his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler, was intended to provide a version of Shakespeare that was more appropriate than the original for 19th-century women and children. Bowdler also published several other works, some reflecting his interest in and knowledge of continental Europe. Bowdler’s last work was an expurgated version of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published posthumously in 1826 under the supervision of his nephew and biographer, Thomas Bowdler the Younger.”


      Andrew Coates

      February 11, 2021 at 7:29 pm

  2. This foreign libertarian translator has no idea who Ken is, but finds fault with the “IHRA definition” of antisemitism. A meaningful definition is not difficult to draft: Antisemitism: disapproval of Jews (and Arabs, Semitic peoples generally) by congregants of altruistic religions, grounded in the eugenic belief that Semites are innately selfish, that is, their rejection of altruism as a valid touchstone or standard of moral value is an inherited racial trait that cannot be altered by indoctrination or assimilation. *** Hitler’s 1920 NSDAP program and the myriad Jewish jokes that disappeared when Poland was invaded all bear this out. Franco–el Caudillo de Dios, Mussolini of Lateran Treaty government school catechism fame and Petain, whose satrap changed Liberté, Fraternité Egalité to Travail, Patrie, Famille follow the general pattern, albeit less strictly. Orwell shied from spelling this out and devout altruists can be counted on to deny it whatever the facts. But three facts remain: that Mein Kampf is a paean to Christian altruism and the 25 points resulted in deliberate genocide, this based on theories of Galton et al.. Does Ken preach that?


    February 11, 2021 at 7:36 pm

  3. I don’t get your position here. You think the protest is justified, because you share their reasoning that Loach is antisemitic. On the other hand you say that the protest should not be successful. Shouldn’t having “every right to do so” include the possibility of making a change?

    Your argument “no platforming is not the way” is also the argument of the college itself, which seems very odd to me. They wrote: “While not believing that no-platforming is the way to pursue goals of a free and open academic community, it is committed to supporting students who find such decisions painful and to finding ways to address these questions within College as part of a broader, ongoing conversation.”

    They think about their own decision to associate their college with him (as a former student), as if they where the state, asked to censor. They are not, and it is impossible to censor by not doing something. They are just a college who wants to make itself attractive with the fame of a filmmaker who happens to be antisemitic. And the protestors are some members of that college which don’t want their organization to act that way. Understandably.

    This depoliticization of ones own actions (or even derealisation) gives way to the authoritarian logic of the anti-semites themself, who always seem to think that free speech gives them the right that their hate speech goes unchallenged. (Which, by the way, I think hints that an important part of antisemitic/antizionist thinking is the projection of the unconscious fantasy of being identical with the state. Which makes it so attractive to stalinists.)

    And as for the argument not inviting him would suggest his films should be boycotted. Why would that happen? And if it does: If that’s the consequence of avoiding the suggestion that an antisemitic filmmaker is an alumnus to be proud of, I would go with it.


    February 14, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    • They can be right to protest, but not right to win the right to censor him.

      When Keith Joseph came to Warwick in the 1970s, after having made statements about the underclass, “reproducing” we, and we were a lot harder left than these liberal woke types, we turned up, barracked him, and argued. We did not call to ‘cancel’ the geezer.

      This is what he had said.

      ” The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened. A recent article in Poverty, published by the Child Poverty Action Group, showed that a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world and bring them up. They are born to mother who were first pregnant in adolescence in social classes 4 and 5.

      Andrew Coates

      February 14, 2021 at 10:05 pm

      • Why would it be censoring if they make their college rethink their decision to invite him? They just want an institution they are part of to take back a decision. Nobody said it should be law that Anti-Semites aren’t allowed to promote their former college (or the other way round, whatever took place there).

        Of course, if it is up to me, no college would do that, which has the same effect as censoring. But why are you, as in your example, arguing, if you don’t think that others should follow your argument? I suppose you wouldn’t have invited Keith Joseph (don’t know who he is, but that seems not to be the point here) yourself, just to argue with him, and you argued because you hoped people would loose interest in his bullshit and subsequently he wouldn’t have been invited again. And please remember the point I made in my post: Many of these Anti-Semites feel censored even by arguing.


        February 14, 2021 at 11:24 pm

        • Andrew Coates

          February 14, 2021 at 11:28 pm

          • Thanks for that (I’m from Hamburg and younger), but as I now find it highly likely that he was part of the government when he came to Warwick, I wonder even more: Why do you worry about censoring him. He was part of the power capable to censor?


            February 15, 2021 at 8:20 pm

            • Because I was, like many, very active in the anti-fascist movement in the 1970s directed against the National Front and later the British Movement, I would be concerned to make a distinction between Tories and street fighting fascists.

              Andrew Coates

              February 15, 2021 at 10:14 pm

              • Of course I see the difference between Tories and fascists. But what has this difference to do with censoring? You may wish or wish not that the states censors the fascists, and sometimes it does, but even if you (not being part of the state) succeed in fighting fascists on the street, so they leave or don’t show up in the first place, you didn’t censor them, because you don’t have the power to punish them if they do something you don’t want them to do. It’s the other way round: It is very likely that you needed to use illegal methods, so you could be punished if you get caught. Mostly not because the state is on the side of the fascists, but because he has to treat everybody’s rights equal, and he is able to do that in very unequal ways.

                Maybe I got the “worrying”-sentence wrong. I didn’t want to say “Don’t worry censoring him, just do it.” I wanted to say “You can’t do it anyway, so don’t worry that you could do it”.

                And all of this to me has nothing to do with what happened in the college. But I think I got you now. You don’t want the protesters to succeed with your support because if they do, from your point of view this would be the same result you seeked for against the fascists: Prevent that they are able to show up in public. So you want to make a distinction between Loach and fascists.

                If this is your point: I don’t think it is the same. The connection here is just your association. You can easily make some very different ones, fitting much better. I guess you were many times in the situation that you were member of a political group, party or whatever, which decided to invite somebody for a speech instead of somebody else. You wanted the latter. And if that happened often, maybe at some point you didn’t keep the differences internal and wrote a paper. Why don’t you think of Loach as being this invited “somebody”? You wouldn’t think you treated him like fascists because you didn’t decide for him if you had the majority. You can’t allow any dangerous nonsense in your realm of work happen just because someone other than a fascist doesn’t get the attention he or she thinks to deserve if you decide against them.

                It is impossible to differentiate two things in such an abstract way. Differentiate by reasoning, comprehending and critical understanding. I for my part come to the conclusion that that fascists, Tories and left anti-semites are all wrong, but different in much other aspect. Which I express by calling them fascists, Tories or left anti-semites.


                February 16, 2021 at 7:23 pm

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