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Claude Lanzman director of the ‘Shoah’ dies aged 92: A Great Voice for the Just Passes.

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Claude Lanzmann has died in Paris at the age of 92.

Esteemed French journalist, ‘Shoah’ director Claude Lanzmann dies aged 92.

Agence France Press.

laude Lanzmann, the esteemed French journalist and director of the acclaimed Holocaust documentary ‘Shoah’, died at his Paris home on Thursday at the age of 92.

“Claude Lanzmann died at his home. He had been very, very weak for several days,” a spokeswoman for publishing house Gallimard told AFP.

Lanzmann was the chief editor of “Les Temps Modernes”, the ground-breaking literary review founded by philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir after World War II.

Lanzmann was a friend of the philosophers, and famously became involved with De Beauvoir while working as Sartre’s secretary. He was 26 and De Beauvoir was 44.

The golden couple of French intellectual life had a famously open relationship, and enjoyed – and endured – a number of similar love triangles.

Lanzmann went on to make the acclaimed Holocaust documentary ‘Shoah’, the nine-and-a-half hour epic which is, for many, the most haunting film made about the murder of six million Jews during World War II.

The chronicle took Lanzmann 11 years to make and is his best-known work.

Lanzmann was born November 27, 1925 in the Bois-Colombes suburb north of Paris. His Jewish parents immigrated to France from Eastern Europe where they raised Claude, his sister Evelyne, and younger brother Jacques.

His first act of resistance as a Jewish schoolboy in wartime France was to refuse to write an essay in praise of its collaborationist leader Marshal Petain. He later took to the hills to join fighters in central France ambushing German patrols as part of the Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF), a political youth organization close to the French communist party.

Review, 2011.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie. Claude Lanzmann. A Review, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Israel.

Andrew Coates.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie. Claude Lanzmann. Gallimard 2009 (Paperback 2010)

Claude Lanzmann (born 1925) is the director of Shoah (1985), the landmark film on the Holocaust. Against the documentary’s theme of methodically organised death, his title, Le Lièvre de Patagonie, evokes the Hare, a symbol of fertility and renewed life (the original ‘Easter Bunny’). Lanzmann’s book, he states, was written with this animal constantly in mind.

In Shoah while Rudolf Vrba talks off-camera of his escape from the Birkenau extermination camp there is a shot of a hare sliding under the barbed wire. Lanzmann likes the creatures, he respects them as noble, and if there were transmigration of souls he would wish to be reincarnated as one. Glimpsing one of a legendary South American species in his car’s headlights in Patagonia signalled the moment that he felt fully in the land, vrais ensemble (truly together). The hare is a sign of a vital leap to freedom that infuses his own “joie sauvage” (wild happiness). It is this incarnation that constantly springs to Lanzmann’s mind as he unravels this account of his life.

Le Lièvre de Patagonie is a record of Lanzmann’s out-of-the-ordinary intellectual, political and creative career, infused with joy, and sadness. It passes from the youthful résistant, to the culture and commitments that led him to Jean-Paul Sartre, and a “quasi-maritale’ companionship with Simone de Beauvoir (from 1952 to 1959). A contributor from 1952 onwards to Les Temps Modernes (publisher’s site here) he provides an important first-hand account of this review’s active support for anti-colonialism during the Algerian war for independence.

The memories are much more than a record of events; they are an affirmation of his beliefs, and loyalties. Lanzmann’s commitment to Israel, expressed in the partisan documentary Pourquoi Israel (1970) remains at the heart of his being. In Le Monde last year Lanzmann was cited saying that, “Je suis d’autant propalestinien que je suis pro-israélian, et récroproquement” (I am as pro-Palestinian as I am pro-Israeli and the other way around). But there is little doubt that his empathy for the Jewish state marks his recollections the more, making the author a rare living defender of the left’s post-War support for Israel.

Lanzmann does not just feel an affinity, as somebody with a secular-Jewish cultural background, with Israeli people. He considers that he is, despite the intensity of his French culture (to the depths of his prose). He remains “Français de hazard, pas du tout ‘de souche’” – French by chance, not of French stock. (Page 330) The Jews are “mon peuple”.

Visiting the new state in 1948 Lanzmann found that compared to real Israelis, who had their country in their “os et le sang” (bone and blood) he was “un elfe” who weighed nothing. He has always, without Biblical faith, been astonished and full of “admiration” for the Jewish religion (Page 730). Such opinions (and his eulogy  of  Israel’s army in the film Tsahal, 1994), are in Lanzmann’s marrow. To this extent his praise of the Hebrew state’s military is  impossible to forgive or forget.  

La Guillotine.

Lanzmann begins with the words, “La guillotine – plus généralement la peine capitale et les différents modes d’administration de la mort – aura été la grande affaire de ma vie” – the Guillotine – and more widely capital punishment and the different forms of meeting out death – will be the main concern of my life. An adolescent trip to the cinema in the late ‘thirties to see L’affaire du courier de Lyon (under the post-Revolutionary ‘Directory’) was his introduction to the horror of watching an innocent executed. The view of the scaffolding around the  blade, and the fact that the sentence was carried out in public, preoccupied him for months.

Lanzmann is haunted by tortures, by Hitler and Stalin’s mass murders, Goya’s Fusilamentos del 3 de Mayo, and the hostages that Islamists put to death and record like “films pronographiques”. His life was dedicated to standing for right against repression. The national liberation struggle in Algeria was met by French repression, which included the death penalty. Lanzmann and de Beauvoir worked with the lawyer Jacques Vergès to defend the condemned under this threat. He campaigned for the Catalan anarchist, Salvador Puig Antich, condemned by the Caudillo to die by the garrotte in 1974.

This was not just the indignation of the righteous. It was bound to Lanzmann’s own past. Under the Occupation in 1943 while studying at the lycée Blaise-Pascal, at Clermont-Ferrand (in the Auverne) he decided to join the Resistance. He became involved with the Communist Party (PCF). The former school student was soon amongst maquisards in the Haute-Loire, and a member of the FTP (Communist, Francs-tireurs et partisans). For refusing to carry out a suicidal mission – transporting weapons through German controlled areas – the local PCF put him under sentence of death.

Escaping this fate Lanzmann resumed his education in post-war Paris, in the prestigious “hypokhâgne” at Louis-le-Grand (preparatory course for the elite French ‘Grandes écoles’). The PCF were active in the college. Undaunted he approached the secretary of the school’s Communist cell to ask that the “sentence de mort prononcée contre moi par le Parti” be carried out (Page 207) The official, later a well known left Socialist politician, Jean Poperen, did not, on this occasion, as the representative of the Party of the “75,000 shot”, add another number to the total.

There is so much rich detail, often supplied at a tangent with the unities of space, time and action, in Le Lièvre de Patagonie that the linear narrative of Lanzmann’s life is sometimes hard to keep steadily in mind.  There is his troubled family background. There is his period as a proto-academic, enraptured by Sartre’s trilogy, Les Chemins de la liberté (1945), studying Hegel, and so poor he stole books from the shop of the Presses Universitaires de France, to resell – until memorably caught and disgraced.

There is Lanzmannteaching in post-War Berlin at the Freie Universität, where he exposed much of the teaching staff’s unrepentant National Socialism. There is the moving story of his actress sister, Évelyne, who was Gilles Deleuze’s lover, and then, after acting in Sartre’s plays, became his lover, only to later commit suicide in 1966. And there is the meeting with De Beauvoir, le Castor, holidays across Europe, and their political activism.

Little emerges  in Le Lièvre on Les Temps Modernes’ relations with International Communism, or on Sartre’s judgement that a friendly stand towards the PCF was a “means of access” to the French working class. By contrast there are interesting accounts of Lanzmann’s role in the activities of the group around Sartre and de Beauvoir during the Algerian war, which came to dominate the country’s political life during the 1950s. By the end of that decade their alliance with the Algerian fighters for independence, led to what became known as ‘third worldism’. They stood up for anti-colonialism in the hardest conditions, risking their lives to defend Algerian prisoners, and the rights of North Africans. All who has signed the celebrated Manifeste de 121(1960) which called for those conscripted in the French army to refuse to serve in Algeria were under threat. Jobs were lost, and Sartre’s flat was attacked with plastic explosives.

In 1958, with 4 more years of the Algerian war to go, Lanzmann was a journalist (writing for France Dimanche as well as Les Temps Modernes). As a man of the left he, like Sartre and de Beauvoir, made his own pilgrimage to ‘socialist’ lands. He visited North Korea and China as part of an organised delegation (with Western Communist participation). In the land of Juche and “pression stalinienne…effrayante” (fearful Stalinist pressure) Lanzmann had a fleeting contact with a Korean woman, more a Brief Encounter (which he evokes to describe the fleeting tryst) than an affair. China, though more relaxed, offered the less compelling charms of an interview with French-speaking Chen Yi, Foreign Affairs Minister, on the country’s geopolitical strategy.

Third-Worldism.

The Sartre-Beauvoir circle embraced Third-Worldism (though the author of the Second Sex appears never to have been wholly convinced. This was most marked in their relations with the Algerian resistance. While Sartre and de Beauvoir replaced interest in the old Soviet bloc, for Cuba, and in 1960 they did some safe revolutionary tourism there, it was Lanzmann who got closest to its dangerous side.

A small number of people on the French left had worked closely enough with the Algerian revolutionaries, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) to become “porteurs de valises” (carrying arms for them). While far from engaged in the armed struggle Lanzmann met the FLN in person, in its Tunisian bases. It was there that he encountered Franz Fanon, the renowned theorist of anti-colonialism (and today largely, if remembered, largely appropriated by Anglophone ‘post-colonial’ studies).

Sartre would write the Preface, as Fanon requested, for The Wretched of the Earth (1964). He asserted that “The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms” “For in the first days of the revolt you must kill; to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses with one stone”. That is, the, highly contestable, claim that the physical fight for freedom is the route to cathartic self-assertion.

Despite his unwavering anti-colonialism Fanon seemed equally aware of the FLN’s internal disputes, the occasion for a different kind of catharsis, a purging of emotions onto any human object to hand. These were, he alluded to Lanzmann, were ferocious, though “secret”. His interlocutor sensed that the Martinique himself “connaissait la peur” (knew fear) (Page 492). With good reason, Lanzmann observes. The FLN and its supporters, not to mention ordinary Algerians, were the victims of a terrifying level of repression, with 500,000 troops at under French command, and special units prepared to use torture, while the French Algerian ultras, in the Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS) rained down terror against all Maghrebin rebels (including those on the French left deemed supportive of them).

The Algerian National Liberation Front, (FLN) and its army’s (ALN) cadres were responsible for extreme acts of violence against their nationalist opponents (the Mouvement pour le triomph des libertés démocratiques, MTLD) and civilian critics. They suffered from vicious quarrels inside the apparatus, and readily resorted to force to settle disputes. On top of this were rivalries between clans, and ethnic groups, Arabs and Kabyles. The reality showed that violence was not a vehicle for liberation and therapy.

For Lanzmann, however, the need to back the struggle meant a self-imposed silence (with an eye to possible FLN reaction). He therefore kept information about the use of terror inside the liberation movement to himself. He wrote nothing, and said nothing (Page 501). One must say however that Simone de Beauvoir in 1963 did not hesitate to cite Fanon’s allusions to “les dissensions, les intrigues, les liquidations, les oppositions…” without seeming bound by a revolutionary omerta, even if she gave no details. (La force des choses. Vol ll.) An element of religious conservatism, including support for polygamy, was already manifesting itself.

After Independence in 1962 there were retributions against real and alleged collaborators with the French that exceeded France’s 1945 épurations. The socialist aspects of the Algerian revolution did not last long. The FLN’s military wing, under Boumediene, soon took charge of an independent nation and laid the foundations for an authoritarian state run for the benefit of its rulers and their clients.

Lanzmann barely touches on this: he is more concerned that early promises of friendship (by a certain Captain Bouteflika) with Israel were not kept. An Independent Algeria announced that it would send 100,000 men to liberate Palestine. As a sign of the times, Fanon’s widow had re-married, to a militant anti-Israeli, whose views she adopted to the extent of wanting Sartre’s famous Preface to The Wretched of the Earth suppressed, – after the philosopher had signed a 1967 petition, following the 6 Day War backing Israel. The balance-sheet was not positive, “Je croyais qu’on pouvait vouloir en même temps l’indepéndence de l’Algérie et l’existence de l’État d’Israël. Je m’étais trompé.”(Page 505) – I believed one could wish for an independent Algeria and the existence of the Israeli state at the same time. I was wrong.

Israel and 68.

For years Lanzmann was convinced, despite his own experience of the French Communist Party’s cynicism and treachery during the 2nd World War, and what he knew at the time (still less at present) about the dark-side of Stalinism, that the USSR was “le ciel sur ma tête” – the sky over my head (Page 546) That this gradually evaporated seems less significant, as we have just indicated, than what he saw massing against Israel. That was a real menace: to destroy the Jewish state.

It is forgotten today that many on the left shared Lanzmann’s views in the late sixties. In 1967 he edited a special issue of Les Temps Modernes where Arabs and Jews debated with relative good-will. Sartre, during the Six Day war, and the Yom Kipper war, backed Israel. Sartre naturally is better remembered for another standpoint. During his period of close association with the Mao-Spontex Gauche Prolétarienne (GP), he became pro-Palestinian. As Lanzmann notes, with regret, the ageing thinker wrote in La Cause du Peuple a strident defence of the Munich massacre, saying that “Dans cette guerre, la seule arme dont disposent les Palestiniens est le terrorisme.” – the only arm which the Palestinians have at their disposal is terrorism. (Page 573)

Lanzmann attempts to explain, and even to explain away, Sartre’s violent streak. He notes that Sartre’s Preface to The Wretched of the Earth, which outdid Fanon’s psychological justification of aggression, appears to have been an exercise in “philosophie concrète” (concrete philosophy) and conceptual clarity Which seems a roundabout way of saying he didn’t really mean to endorse mass killings and cruelty in any form. As evidence, Lanzmann claims that there were some concrete limits Sartre posed to European terrorism.

Lanzmann believes that it was largely Sartre’s influence that prevented the French far-left from passing to full-scale terrorism on the German or Italian model (Page 575), though in fact, a small group did travel in this direction, and became the 1980s band, Action Directe. It’s true, he indicates, that Algeria has seen a state and society long bathed in “le sang des innocents” (the blood of innocents). It’s also the case that post-Munich, nationalist Palestinian terrorism has been supplanted by Islamist mass murder. This, and the US-led armed interventions the world over, illustrate that violence is a spiral not a release.

One wonders how far one push responsibility for this acceleration of ferocity, or its dampening it down, onto any philosopher, however cretinous or emollient his rhetoric may be. Like Fanon’s assertion that FLN fighters were busy absorbing Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique (Page 493), to make such claims is to use arguments of an astonishing légèrté.

One will not find much in Le Lièvre on the controversy surrounding Sartre’s secretary, and one-time GP supporter, Benny Lévy. De Beauvoir had her say in La Cérémonie des Adieux (1981). Whether the future Talmudic student determined the utterances of the Universal Intellectual or not, without his influence it hard to see how Sartre moved from this ultra-revolutionary stance to his support for the 1979 ‘Boat for Vietnam’ campaign – to save people from Vietnamese Communism. It is hard perhaps to see Lanzmann seizing the spirit that drove the Gauche Prolétarienne, from strident ultra-leftism to the anti-communist (with a small ‘c’) apostasy of many of its leading figures, in the first place.

May 68, the French gauchistes’ genitor, Lanzmann witnessed from the “extérieur”. He was an outsider from another generation (Page 570). More than that he appears never to have seized the fact that Sartre’s philosophy, even in its Marxisante form in the Critique de la raison dialectique (written 1956 – 8) had been become not just unfashionable, but unintelligible to much of the post-68 left. While the novels, literary criticism and some of the plays (Les jeux sont faits, 1947 and Les mains sales, 1948)are as bright as new pennies, Sartre’s philosophy has not worn well. The focus of the memoirs shifts completely away from talking about disgreeable topics.

Lanzmann as the ‘sixties ended had begun to be more and more concerned with one thing: defending Israel. He recounts how he came to produce the film Pourquoi Israel (with no question mark). This work continues to cause controversy. Having never seen the picture it is impossible to judge the description in Le Lièvre. Yet, according to the author, it was the spring-board for one of the last century’s greatest documented oral history, Shoah.

Researching, filming and producing Shoah was exceptionally arduous. The film consists of interviews, people left to speak for themselves as participants and witnesses of the greatest genocide of the 20th century. It aims to indicate those who were slaughtered, to show their traces, to hear the echo of their voices. It would be no exaggeration to say that the screening of the nine and a half  hour long documentary mediation on the Holocaust, which took place on British television some years back, was a major political and ethical event. As a measure of its impact the Biblical and Rabbanic word Shoah, catastrophe, disaster, extermination, used to describe the Holocast, has passed into current usage in many languages. Given the enormity of what it refers to it would be better for the pages of Le Lièvre de Patagonie to speak for themselves than to be described here.

The shattering experience of producing Shoah gives an edge to what is already for many a defining moment in their understanding of the Endlösung. After De Beauvoir’s death Lanzmann finally became the Editor of Sartre’s old journal (1986) marking another significant moment in an exceptional biography.

A Major Biographical Memoir.

Claude Lanzmann’s classical prose provides a luminous structure to a complex biography. Le Lièvre de Patagonie is beautifully wrought, and offers a description of that part of the French left which gravitated around Les Temps Modernes. It sheds light on some of the key moments of modern French political and intellectual history, the ideas, relationships, culture and feelings of the circle around Sartre and de Beauvoir, above all their participation in the campaign in support of Algerian independence. For these reasons alone it is of outstanding importance.

Less compellingly the book tries to present a case for Israel. It is unlikely to convince those (like myself) who are, while reluctant to be ‘anti’ Israelis, see little admirable in a state with a confessional, ultimately ethnic, basis. Not everyone has a strong urge to feel a part of a national “souche” (stock). Lanzmann’s passionate beliefs and emotional tissue cannot cloud critical judgement. States are to be judged on political not affective grounds. On democratic, military and human rights criteria Israel is severely wanting. One is equally unmoved by its description of the politics of Les Temps Modernes. As with the declaration of love for Israel, it does not convert those unable to fall under an emotional spell.

For all the beauty of Le Lièvre de Patagonie, on this matter at least, one could say that the Lanzmann’s retrospective gaze casts little light on such heat.

A tribute, a bibliography and a filmography appears on the site of Lanzmann’s publisher, Éditions Gallimard.

Disparition de Claude Lanzmann.

Disparition de Claude Lanzmann

Guardian:  Claude Lanzmann obituary

Director of Shoah, the epic film about the Holocaust presented through individual testimony

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Fall out from Anti-Semitism and Barnet, from Morning Star to Conspiracy Site Skwawkbox .

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Owen Jones Talks Sense.

Hat-tip Jim D.

Letter in today’s Morning Star:

Before the idea takes root among Star readers that the Barnet Labour group of councillors is a nest of “hard-core of the Labour right” determined to “attack the left and their own party” (M Star May 5-6), I can assure anyone that is willing to listen that that is far from being the case.

On the electoral impact of perceptions of anti-Semitism, as on other issues, denouncing the messenger does not change the truth of the message. Group leader Cllr Barry Rawlings and ex-councillor Adam Langleben just told it as it is – the great majority of of Labour-inclined Jewish voters in Barnet are horrified at the national party’s response to incidents of anti-Semitism in the party and far too many have withdrawn their support, while Jewish Tories are far more certain to turn out against us.

And not voting for Jeremy Corbyn as leader does not put any of us in the “hardcore of the Labour right” or make us some sort of traitors to the party. Apparently the Star’s contributor Kevin Ovendon has belonged to more than one party opposed to Labour, unlike Jeremy Corbyn who, like me, has fought the party’s cause under a variety of national leaders.

Belatedly, Jeremy has acknowledged that we have to do better on anti-Semitism and, yes, it has been weaponised against him.

Weaponising issues is mainstream activity in politics. It is time that all the left recognised, as Momentum has done on this issue, that your opponents raising an issue does not imply in itself that the issue is fabricated or exaggerated.
GEOF COOKE
Chief Whip, Barnet Labour group and Morning Star reader.

Cooke is restrained.

Kevin Ovendon is the former bag-man for Gorge Galloway’s Respect party. He stood by when there were calls to make the organisation, “Zionist free” – to cite one of the many anti-Semitic incidents that marked the organisation’s career (Respect Party:Wikipedia)

This is what Ovendon wrote in the Morning Star.

The furore about “Labour anti-semitism” doubtless had an impact. How could it not? It is not only that it has been weaponised by the Tories. It has been adopted for two years by a hardcore of the Labour right to attack the left and their own party.

And that includes by Labour councillors in Barnet — all but two of whom backed rivals to Corbyn in the leadership elections. Far from helping to deal with the issue, they’ve taken up the claims emanating from the Tories.

So the leader of the Labour group Barry Rawlings says it all should have been dealt with two years ago, but it was the Labour general secretary supported by the right over those two years who failed to do so or to implement the comprehensive recommendations of the Chakrabarti report dealing with the matter.

Unsurprisingly, that has not stopped anti-Corbyn elements of the Labour Party, in collaboration with the Tories, trying to use the result not to seek the implementation of that report but to reheat the political assault.

Ovendon appears to think that concern on the issue of anti-Semitism is “weaponised” – he later talks of  “sabotage”.

What words does he have for the Morning Star’s opposition to Labour policy on Europe, its backing for Brexit, and its support for the Arron Banks funded Trade Unionists Against the EU?

More fall out has appeared in the shape of Skwawkbox.

Labour Has Betrayed Jewish Voters – Corbyn Must Take Action Now

Tonight I will ask that Corbyn comes to Barnet and apologises to the Jewish community.

Adam Langleben

Former Labour councillor for West Hendon

Chalutzim’ means ‘pioneers’ in Hebrew. Many of the early founders of the Labour Movement were Chalutzim from the mainstream Jewish community. That is why what happened last Thursday in the local elections is so distressing. It was the first complete electoral collapse of Jewish voters for Labour.

……

But some wish to paint a different picture. The alt-left blog Skwawkbox, which has a record of spreading fake news, claims that because Labour increased its share of the vote in Barnet and in Gateshead, there is no problem.

In response, and to his credit, John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, messaged me and asked for a meeting to discuss this issue and the wider issue of Labour antisemitism and its impact on Barnet. I am seeing him tonight and what I will be telling him is that fake news, conspiracy theory websites such as Skwawkbox provide a dark place for antisemitism to fester and be nurtured. Antisemitism’s dark past started with conspiracy, ending in gas chambers. History has taught us this. He and others should come out and say clearly that such websites are not part of our Labour movement’s discourse and that they are detrimental to our success and to our anti-racist, evidence-based Enlightenment values.

I look forward to talking to John. I am going to tell him hard truths: that there was rarely a canvass session over the past month in Barnet where we did not lose votes over antisemitism. And I am going to ask that he, Jeremy and the Shadow Cabinet come to Barnet as soon as possible to apologise to our activists and the Jewish community. The issues raised by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council remain outstanding. The Party can no longer hide behind process.

Huff Post.

Previously  Langleben had said in the Huff Post.

As I am filming this, an alternative left-wing news website called Skwawkbox is going through all of the tweets attacking me, as a Jewish Labour Party member, now former councillor, that accuses me of being a Mossad agent, that accuses me of trying to undermine the leadership, accuses me of all sort of things and it is propagating this bollocks, propagating anti-Semitism.”

He added: “The Labour leadership can do something very simple and easy and say that these alternative fake news websites do not speak for them.

This pouting does not seem to have impressed the Labour Party.

I was a Jewish Labour councillor in Barnet – and I warned Jeremy Corbyn what was coming.

 ADAM LANGLEBEN.

On the doorstep I heard lifelong Labour voters say anti-Semitism was driving them from the party. When I told Labour HQ, I was ignored.

We were asked about Jackie Walker’s views on Jews and the slave trade. We were asked about Ken Loach’s Jew-splaining. We were asked about Ken Livingstone’s Holocaust revisionism.

….

Ken Livingstone’s repeated outrageous ramblings on Zionism, Hitler, the Holocaust and Jews – and the party’s lack of action – compounds the situation. The more I think of his words, the more I hear implication of what he says – which is that Jews were complicit in their own genocide. Nothing is more offensive than that. Surely that cannot be compatible with membership of the Labour Party?

Since we lost in Barnet, our Labour candidates have had lots of support from MPs, Momentum supporters, members and others who are desperate to fight anti-Semitism. However, there is a small but very vocal hard-left group within the party – certainly not the majority even within Momentum – within which this sickness festers, and it is to these people that Jeremy Corbyn needs to clearly state: this is not in my name.

 

Here.

Fred Leplat (Socialist Resistance) Expelled from Labour Party.

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Fred Leplat: stalwart of the left.

The Jewish Chronicle says,

Hard-left ‘revolutionary’ who met Jeremy Corbyn in Barnet ahead of local elections is expelled by Labour Party.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

Can I say, as somebody who has known Fred for some (very long) time, and has respect for Socialist Resistance(SR), that this report is more than incomplete.

Why was this expulsion so rapid? 

Fred and SR have never made the slightest secret about their politics.

LePlat is well known, and liked, by many people on the left and the labour movement as his position as Barnet Momentum secretary indicates.

The views of SR on broader issues in the Middle East – one of the few groups on the left to defend consistently Syrian Democrats against Assad  – should be taken into account.

As in, “Fred Leplat writes about the barbarism unleashed by Assad on the people of eastern Aleppo.” (2016)

They are what they say they are, and the letter Fred mounted is in defence of Corbyn’s support for the Palestinians and opposition to anti-Semitism, not the wild ‘anti-Zionism’ that people are rightly concerned about.

It states, opposition to  “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”.

We, Labour Party members in Barnet, are firm opponents of all forms of racism, fascism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and all other kinds of oppression.

Many of us have been actively campaigning against them for many years, often alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

We know antisemitism exists in society and needs to be combated, including in political parties. But we are seriously worried about the current climate in the Labour Party, where criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is too often conflated with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism.

What we are now seeing is an attempt to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, thereby weakening genuine anti-racism and opposition to antisemitism.

The real target of these critics is Jeremy Corbyn, because they oppose both his record of internationalism, in particular his lifelong support for the rights of the Palestinians, and his commitment to socialism.

In the last two years, more than 300,000 people have joined the Labour Party to support its progressive politics.

Not all of them will have much experience of, for example, recognising anti-Semitic tropes. We believe the best way to combat any such naivety, lack of knowledge or problematic choices of words among Labour’s membership is through open debate and discussion.

We therefore welcome the direction by Jeremy Corbyn to the new Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, to at last implement the recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report about the party’s disciplinary procedures, based on natural justice and due process.

We pledge to mobilise with members of all faiths and none to end the attacks against the Labour Party, which damages the party’s effectiveness in helping those people most harmed by the austerity and cuts-obsessed Conservative government and Barnet Council.

Ham and High.

I and many of my comrades do not support their take on these issues, notably the blanket use of the term “Zionism”, but there is room in a democratic socialist party for disagreement within these boundaries. I note that the letter states, support for implementing the “recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report”.

It is not the place for this Blog to comment further on the way the letter was presented or if membership of SR is an offence leading to automatic expulsion.

Here is the full Jewish Chronicle article.

EXCLUSIVE Fred Leplat – who sent a letter which falsely claimed to have been signed by 33 Barnet Labour members to the JC supporting Mr Corbyn’s record on antisemitism – has been expelled by Labour.

Lee Harpin.

A left-wing activist who sent a letter allegedly signed by 33 members of Barnet Labour Party to news organisations, including the JC, attempting to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism has been expelled from the party following an investigation into his conduct during the local election campaign.

The JC can reveal Fred Leplat was kicked out of Labour – for membership of the far-left Socialist Resistance group – only hours after he had joined other hard-left activists at a breakfast meeting with Mr Corbyn at a café in Finchley last week.

The meeting between Mr Corbyn and local activists at Café Buzz on Finchley High Road last Tuesday infuriated many mainstream campaigners involved with the Barnet Labour group.

Mr Corbyn had failed to notify them he was visiting in advance and then failed to meet any of the local election candidates to boost morale ahead of last Thursday’s polls – and it is unclear if Mr Leplat was technically suspended by Labour when he met the leader.

The disciplinary investigation into Mr Leplat started after an official complaint was made last month about the letter he had sent out attacking the “conflation of antisemitism and criticism of the actions of the state of Israel”, in a defence of the Labour’s record on antisemitism.

It claimed Party’s antisemitism crisis was in part an attempt to “deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism” which was purportedly signed by 33 members of the Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon and Chipping Barnet Labour parties.

The JC later learned several of the signatories had not wanted their names on the letter  – and that a majority at the Barnet Momentum group opposed the letter being sent out ahead of the elections, believing it disrupt their campaigning activity in the crucial final weeks.

A source confirmed: “The letter that Fred Leplat was involved with had circulated in various draft forms for some time.

“But he clearly took it upon himself to circulate the letter to six different news organisations in a decision that would only serve to stoke the antisemitism row that had dogged the Barnet election campaign even further.

“There were some people who had not even signed the letter, and others who had no idea it was going to be sent out to newspapers.”

Sources have also confirmed to the JC that during the investigation into Mr Leplat’s conduct, his membership “of an organisation incompatible with Labour Party membership” became apparent.

Mr Leplat had previously been involved with the hard-left Left Unity party(1), but joined the Finchley and Golders Green Labour CLP after Mr Corbyn became leader.

Labour’s disciplinary committee was said to have reached its decision after finding articles and speeches Mr Leplat had made for Socialist Resistance – a group describing itself as a “revolutionary, ecosocialist feminist organisation” which publishes a “Marxist periodical of the same name”.

The source added: “In the aftermath of the disappointing local election result for Labour in Barnet, the fact that Mr Corbyn ended up in a breakfast meeting with people like Fred Leplat only days before the electorate went to the polls speaks volumes.

“We kept telling Mr Corbyn to come down to Barnet and meet the ordinary voters on the street, especially those within the Jewish community, but he just wouldn’t listen.”

(1) SR make no secret of their political trajectory.

Supporters of Fred say, “There is an email trail showing people agreed to add their names to the letter.”

Some might conclude that this is an easy target but as the above indicate there are serious questions about the move.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 11:54 am

On Barnet, Labour, Anti-Semitism and Labour Party ‘Marxists’.

with 5 comments

 

The failure of the Labour Party to take Barnet council is already overshadowing, for at least some people, the solid local election results won by the work of activists and councillors. Labour did well. There remain problems about attracting those who supported Brexit. The Shadow Cabinet’s line on the EU remains chalks and cheeses, defence of EU legislative gains, pro-Customs Union, with a curtsy towards Sovereignty. There are difficulties about Labour’s policy, or lack of it, in key areas such as welfare and Universal Credit.

These are hard, real issues. It is easier to talk about Barnet. Haringey, where the party lost a few seats to the perennially opportunist and locally persistent Liberal Democrats, does get a mention. But above all it’s Barnet, High, New, Friern (Colney Hatch?), Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green. Names, as the last indicates, with which to give vent to opinions about Anti-Semitism, Labour and the ‘Jewish vote’.

As a principle this Blog has sympathy with sceptics and scoffers. Even so, to read the bile poured over party supporters who spent time and energy trying to convince people to vote for them is to ingest a great dollop of dislike. It appears that Owen Jones is a laughing-stock for his efforts – not a virtue of many national newspaper columnists – to help on the ground. Momentum is, it seemed, doubly at fault, in one aspect a Jeremy Corbyn glee club, in another, a vehicle for unpalatable ‘anti-Semitic’ ideas. The idea that the pressure group may be largely made up of well-meaning and valuable people will have set some noses wrinkling already.

We can add that Jewish Labour members got elected in Barnet and that overall the party’s performance was not dented.

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Yet, there is, as with the population at large, some belief in “conspi” ideas, often involving a “‘international Jewish banking conspiracy’. There is religiously based anti-Semitism which takes a political turn amongst those influenced by forms of Islamism. There is, above all, amongst a vocal minority, a hysterical identification with the Palestinian cause and extreme ‘anti Zionism’. Some hold views, not far off the recent declarations of President Abbas, about Jewish responsibility for prejudice against them. Some ‘anti-imperialists’ defend Abbas, and the more evidently anti-Semitic Hamas. Amongst them there are those who call for the ‘destruction of Israel’.

Together this is a noxious brew. But it is so far from a majority one that it’s hard to begin to take it apart.

One way is to out the Labour Party Marxists (the main force in Labour Against the Witch-hunt)  article issued yesterday.

Zionism is the real problem

‘Carla Roberts’

This whole campaign is, of course, only about Corbyn insofar as he cannot be trusted to run Britain in line with US foreign policy, not least in the Middle East. Despite his shameful complicity in the witch-hunting of his own supporters, for the establishment he remains a loose cannon. And, crucially, at least historically, he has been firmly on the side of the Palestinians. No amount of bending over backwards to the pro-Zionist lobby will make them forget that. Corbyn remains unreliable, despite everything.

She cites Moshé Machover.

Anti-Semitism hysteria … has much to do with the hyenas positioning themselves for the next major Middle East war … The likely pretext for western military action this time will not be simply ‘humanitarian intervention’, but coming to the aid of Israel in order to ‘prevent another holocaust’. Those who demur will be branded as ‘anti-Semites’.

She adds,

No wonder that Zionists are so keen to try and outlaw comparisons between Nazis and the Israeli government. They are too close to the truth.

The article continues,

The anti-Semitism campaign in the Labour Party only makes sense if seen in this international context. When it turned out that Jeremy Corbyn could not simply be humiliated into giving up his post as party leader, the next stage of the campaign was launched: Operation Tame Corbyn. And this is going rather better than the chicken coup, unfortunately.

Britain is expected to take part in this latest campaign for war in the Middle East. If not by dropping bombs, then at least by providing political cover for this necessary war to “prevent another holocaust”. A Labour leader and potential prime minister who has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians is, in this context, untenable. Labour cannot be allowed to become an anti-war party

Foreign policy is an area of  powers competing for influence, it is a banality to recognise. There is little doubt that a state such as Israel will do what it can to get international support.

But this is equally to bury the issues brought about by conspi politics by insisting that the importance given to anti-Semitism issue is …a conspiracy.

Comparing the state of Israel to Nazis is hardly likely to bring clarity to the row.

What words have they left for  the tortured, the dead in Syria and those inflicted their fate on millions of refugees?

But that is to misunderstand.

The Weekly Worker’s front-organisation uses the comparison of Israel to Nazis as a political tactic. 

Radical nationalist and the violent leftist fringe in the 1970s often operated with a three-pronged strategy: ferocious demonstration-repression-recruitment.

The CPGB (Provisional CC/ Weekly Worker) trilogy is: provocation- Labour disciplinary action- recruitment.

It is nothing more: a way to get attention, to polarise and to gain influence.

On television last night the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle stated that concern about the issue of anti-Semitism was not limited to the Jewish community. We can dispute that there is anything like “a” Jewish community. But he went on to say, accurately, that there are many people have close ties, friendship, with Jewish people – indeed he could have added that in Europe inter-marriage is widespread. It would be preferable if our moral imagination was firmly universal, but the sense in which a political and ethical “we” exists does operate through these bonds.

I need hardly add that I spent part of my adolescence hanging round Golders Green and going to the parties of – predominantly secular – Jewish friends. There are many of us. Many of us are also part of the left, and…the Labour Party. Perhaps it’s because of this that the LAW statement stating that ‘Zionism’, not anti-Semitism, is the “real problem” and comparing Israel and the Nazis repels me as much as it does.

We might speculate that with the crumbling of traditional class identifications that the “masses” – open to fluid opinion forming on-line – are open to anti-semitism. It would be equally accurate to say that with these deep moral ties we have been, are, and will be, resolutely opposed to anti-Semitism and prepared to fight those who further their sectarian recruitment aims by fishing in these waters.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2018 at 11:37 am

Livingstone and that them there Hitler: Galloway accuses former London May of “political senility”.

with 5 comments

Image result for ken livingstone and hitler

 

“The more I learn about Hitler, the more I dislike him. He was mad.”Alan Partridge.

“Horrendous” Ken Livingstone on the Nazi Party.

 George Galloway attacks Livingstone:

 

Ken Livingstone has sparked outrage yet again after repeatedly bringing up Adolf Hitler within the first seconds of an interview about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

The former London mayor is currently suspended from the Labour party following a series of remarks he made in 2016 about Hitler supporting Zionism.

He was being interviewed about the failure of Labour to win the north London borough of Barnet – an area with a large Jewish population – which many have blamed on the recent anti-Semitism row. 

Several Barnet candidates have attribute the inability of their party to oust the Conservatives on Mr Livingston’s comments and the lack of action taken against them.

When asked about this in a Sky News interview, he began speaking again about Hitler and Zionism and said that that accusations of anti-Semitism were acting as a “distraction” from Labour policy.

He also said the allegations were part of a “smear” campaign against him.

His comments prompted a flurry of criticism, with Labour politicians ad campaigners questioning angrily why the “irrelevant man” was acting as a spokesman on the issue.

In the Friday morning interview, Mr Livingston said: “There’s a lot of Jewish people – not just in Barnet but all over the place – that believe I said Hitler was a Zionist – that was the big smear on the day I was suspended.

“You only have to go on Jerusalem’s Holocaust website…one of the document’s you can download is about Hitler’s deal with the Zionists in the 30s.

“Hitler wanted to get all the Jews out of Germany and the Zionists wanted to create a Jewish state in Palestine and so they collaborated to do that.”

He then referred to the Nazi party as “horrendous”.

Speaking about the anti-Semitism row in Labour he added: “We have had a general secretary until very recently who just allowed this to bubble on … so many people suspended.

He was then asked if he agreed that his repeated comments were “alienating the Jewish community in places like Barnet.”

Vice Chair of Labour Against the Witch-Hunt Falls out with “good boys and girls” of Jewish Voice for Labour.

with 7 comments

Image result for tony Greenstein

“It is unfortunate and unacceptable that some people react to support for the self-styled ‘Jewish’ state by resorting to anti-Semitism but the blame rests firmly with those who imply that Israel is acting on behalf of all Jews.”

Tony Greenstein. Labour Against the Witch-hunt, Vice Chair, 20th of April 2018.

Yesterday it was CIA and Mossad plotting behind the anti-Semitism controversy.

Today it’s….

 

Jewish Voice for Labour Surrenders to Wes Streeting’s White Parliamentary Lynch Mob

When Jewish Voice for Labour was formed last summer I welcomed it whilst warning of the dangers of not having clear politics, strategy or direction. I opposed not only its two tiers of membership – Jewish and non-Jewish – but its refusal to squarely support the Palestinians’ fight for justice and the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees.

Although most JVL members are opposed to Zionism there is a belief that some things are best left unsaid.  The group is also unclear as to whether its main purpose is as some kind of Jewish cultural formation or whether it is primarily a political organisation.

We are tenterhooks to get the nitty-gritty so here goes.

Monster Raving on the MPs who went with “creatures” like Ruth Smeeth,

When Streeting and his 20 white racists reached Church House, the venue where the Kangaroo Court was sitting, it was they who felt intimidated and Streeting could be seen bleating about how terrible it was that people had exercised their right to free speech.

The Greenstein Party denounces every Jewish left group,

Whilst the Zionists are on the rampage JVL decided to do nothing.

Originally Free Speech on Israel, which consists of many of the same people as JVL, was set up because of the weaponisation of anti-Semitism.  It would appear that they have given up on free speech.  Likewise the Jewish Socialists Group, which worked alongside Black anti-racist activists like Marc, have kept quiet over the witchhunt and appear to have given up on socialism and Jewish Voice for Labour seem to have lost their voice altogether.

Strategic advice:

Far from abstaining from protests we should be redoubling our efforts to reselect creatures like Streeting, Smeeth, Berger and Ryan.

 While Greenstein checks his shoes to make sure Mossad does not get them Corbyn says,

Jeremy Corbyn has rejected claims by close ally Len McCluskey that “Corbyn-hater” Labour MPs were using an anti-Semitism row to “smear” him.

Mr McCluskey said he backed action to stamp out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

But the Unite union leader warned MPs trying to “re-toxify” Labour by attacking Mr Corbyn they “can expect to be held to account”.

Mr Corbyn has repeatedly vowed to stamp out anti-Semitism in Labour.

Asked if he agreed with Mr McCluskey that there was a smear campaign against him, Mr Corbyn said: “No, because we have to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is a poison in our society, I am determined to drive it out of our society, including wherever is raises its head in my own party and that’s exactly what we are doing.”

BBC

More sense from Jim: Labour antisemitism: Shut up Len!

This does not mean being in favour of this:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Vice Chair of Labour Against the Witch Hunt, T. Greenstein, Says Israel and the United States Behind Anti-Semitism in Labour Claims.

with 4 comments

“It is unfortunate and unacceptable that some people react to support for the self-styled ‘Jewish’ state by resorting to anti-Semitism but the blame rests firmly with those who imply that Israel is acting on behalf of all Jews. “ Tony Greenstein. Labour Against the Witch-hunt, Vice Chair, 20th of April 2018.

 

There was a lobby of the Labour Party in defence of Mark Wadsworth yesterday.

Or as Greenstein puts it,

Whatever happened it was all overshadowed by this bombshell giving the inside story of what’s behind the Labour and the problem of anti-Semitism  and correcting Jeremy Corbyn’s carefully thought out and welcome statement on the issues raised.

The Mirror reports,

Expelled Labour activist says anti-Semitism claims were ‘manufactured’ by CIA spies and Israel

The Mirror spoke to Tony Greenstein, who was expelled from Labour in February this year over anti-Semitism claims he brands “false and malicious”.

He backed Peterborough candidate Alan Bull, who was accused of promoting Holocaust denial. Mr Bull’s case triggered the resignation of Labour’s disputes chief Christine Shawcroft when she also lent her support.

Mr Greenstein revealed he had “exchanged e-mails” with Ms Shawcroft after she quit – and said she supported him in person at his own expulsion hearing as a “silent witness”.

When asked what was behind the anti-Semitism row, Mr Greenstein said: “The State of Israel, the State of Israel. And also the Americans I imagine.”

He added: “There isn’t a problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What there is is a problem of false accusations.

“When Corbyn became elected he’s anti-Nato, he’s anti-American intervention, if that didn’t set off alarms in the American Embassy amongst the spooks and the CIA, what else have they got to do? That’s what their job is.”

Asked if the row was about getting rid of Jeremy Corbyn he said: “Yes, yes that’s the aim, yes. Most of it. 99% of it, yes, of course.”

He added: “In 30 years’ time, when some enterprising young researcher at universities does a Freedom of Information Act on the US files, they’ll find out how it was organised

“We know the Israeli government was involved because of the lobby, the programme by Al Jazeera.

Asked to clarify he meant claims of anti-Semitism in Labour he said: “Yes, undoubtedly. It’s been stimulated, it’s been manufactured, it’s artificial. It didn’t come from nowhere.”

He continued: “I’m not privy to the secrets of the Israeli Embassy. All I can say is it isn’t about anti-Semitism. Who is behind it? I suspect Israel and the United States. Why? Because the United States doesn’t like Corbyn, any more than Benjamin Netanyahu does.

Other recent posts by Greenstein,

Emina Ibrahim, Vice Chair of Momentum,  A Collaborator in this Racist Outrage.

This comment, 

Unlike the fools who agreed to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, Daniel Blatman know something about the atrocities of the Nazis as well as the atrocities and similarities of the mentality of Israel’s rulers with the Nazi state.”

Well-established rumour has it that at the rate Monster Raving Greenstein is going he will soon be accusing Mossad of stealing his shoes.

Where he’s going seems to be a place followed by this lot – the other half of Labour Against the Witch-hunt, Labour Party marxists (aka, the Weekly Worker, CPGB, Provisional CC).

We leave it to specialists to read more than the headline and the last sentence.

Call time on Corbyn fanboyism Jim Grant.

The Zionists and also opportunistically pro-Zionist rightwingers are loud, and they are nasty, and they have the media on their side, but they are numerically tiny. Yet they have a habit of outmanoeuvring our much more numerous troops, who – surely – have the potential to be far more militant than appears currently to be the case.

Yet there is always a grain of truth to these things. In this case, it can hardly be denied that the political level of Corbynite Labour activists is very low, and does not seem to have risen at all in the last couple of years. No chinks have appeared in the armour of identity politics. No slogans have emerged as a stiffer alternative to ‘For the many, not the few’. Strikingly, there seems to have been no noticeable growth in the organised far left at all – not those parts of it energetically tailing Corbyn, not those taking a sectarian stand against it, nor any of the other approaches that have been tried. We starve amid plenty.

The strategy of the movement’s leadership is to avoid as strenuously as possible conflict over issues which it does not plan to fight an election on, which in practice means issues that divide the Labour left from the centre. In practice, this means the single issue of austerity. So much the worse for the Palestinians; for the policy on Israel and fake anti-Semitism accusations is simply to give ground, again and again, to no noticeable effect. Why bother denouncing such allegations if even Ken Livingstone gets thrown to the wolves?

The abiding lesson of this fiasco, then, is a simple one: the time for Corbynite fanboyism is very much over.

Meanwhile some cretins prove that left-wing anti-semitism exists belle et bien,

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2018 at 4:15 pm