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From the antisemitism controversy to a new language?

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Opportunism, loud-mouths, and more than distasteful allegations have marked the anti-semitism controversy embroiling the British left, and the Labour Party in particular,  in recent days.

Some say, with justification, that the issue is being used as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn.

In our view Corbyn has responded with measured dignity, and John McDonnell has expressed the wishes of many.

For those – and there are great numbers of us – who follow what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, there’s a lot happening which is causing us burning concern.

It’s hard not to feel that with millions of refugees in the Middle East, many of whom are desperately trying to enter Europe, with Islamists from ISIS committing real genocide, with mass killings by the Assad regime, with murders by the Shariah enforcing A-Nusra Front, religious sectarian hatred involving the wholesale religious cleansing of the region, that this British row is irrelevant in the face of events  that really matter.

There are, nevertheless some deeply thought-out reflections on the controversy.

Ross Wolfe’s Reflections on Left antisemitism, towers over many analyses.

Bob makes the point about the famous ‘Brenner’ book: Lenni Brenner says Ken’s wrong. He links to an interview (IB Times) with David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group  who states, “”badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture”.

This is worth – critically – thinking about: The Livingstone Formulation – David Hirsh

Significantly for left as a whole Jon Lansman has just published an important piece on Left Futures which is headed, Why the Left must stop talking about ‘Zionism’

I would argue that it is time for the Left to start talking in a new language – one that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us. It is not necessary to abandon any non-racist criticisms of Israel, however robust they may be, in order to do so.

Clearly if need there were this is a case in point: “Normal service to be resumed as the UKs Zionist political class push the country towards the 19th century.

But it is not just language but politics which are at stake.

A serious argument is that, as John Rees argues, there is a case for a “secular, democratic state across historic Palestine (which)  has nothing in common with anti-semitism.” (Counterfire)

What the revolutionaries wanted was a democratic, free, non-oppressive and non-exploitative society. The Palestinian revolution is no different. It does not want to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’. In the founding statutes of the Palestine Liberation Organisation demanded a democratic, secular state in which Jews and Arabs could live in peace in the historic land of Palestine, as they did before the forcible exclusion of the Arab population that was the necessary precondition of the establishment of a religiously exclusivist state in 1948. The exclusivity of that state is nowhere more obvious than in the fundamental ‘law of return’ in which a Jew from any part of the globe, no matter if they have never had the remotest contact with the Middle East in their lives, can migrate to Israel and become a citizen, but no Palestinian refugee forced from their home can exercise a legal right to return.

That state, its extensions and colonial conquests, its racist laws, checkpoints, walls and settlements will have to be completely overthrown before that vision of a homeland for both Palestinians and Jews can be realised.

The often toted alternative, a two state solution now sadly and disastrously accepted by the PLO leaders, is actually a retreat in the face of the argument that Arabs and Jews must have racially exclusive states because they cannot live together. That is wrong, and so unworkable. It would, indeed it has, perpetuated war in the region, and will not abolish it.

It would be important, for this to be more widely accepted, for those who accept Ress’ view to clarify how they see the role of Hamas and Hizbollah in this overthrow. and the creation of a democratic secular state.

Socialist Worker published this, August the 5th 2014 which puts forward one position.

(This is an edited version of an article by Egyptian Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Omar. Read the full version at global.revsoc.me/2014/07/towards-a-revolutionary-perspective-on-hamas)

We consider Islamist movements such as Isis in Syria and Iraq as reactionary to the core. Its racism wipes out the idea that the unity of the oppressed is fundamental to resisting dictatorship and colonialism.

We differentiate between such utterly reactionary Islamist movements, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism.

We consider Hamas to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.

From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel. This is because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the US.

It therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.

Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical. Hamas’ strategy is to associate itself with regimes which are reactionary and conspire constantly to repress their people and suppress the Palestinian struggle.

Secondly Hamas adopts an elitist approach to dealing with the Palestinian masses. This weakens the capacities of mass resistance in the long term.

Like all colonised peoples, the Palestinians alone have the right to decide their destiny.

But our support is critical because the fate of revolutionary change in the Arab world and the fate of the Palestinian Resistance are organically connected to each other.

This is the rub: very very few people have the slightest confidence, let alone belief, that Hamas (a key actor on the ground in any future settlement, rather than the Lebanese Hezbollah), are committed to a “secular, democratic state”.

To say the least.

Yet those who use the language of a “resistance”  have locked Hamas into a fight with “Zionism” and “Imperialism” with their “unconditional” but not “uncritical” support.

Perhaps one of the many reasons why people look to the Two State position is that they cannot possibly see any democratic way out of the conflict which involves Hamas playing the determining role that Mostafa Omar supports. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 11:21 am

Ken Livingstone “really sorry” for “upsetting people” – but defends remarks about Hitler and Zionism. as a “statement of fact”.

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Always Pleased with Himself.

 

Asked if he was sorry, Mr Livingstone said: “I’m sorry to Jeremy and to the Labour Party,” but followed it up with saying, “It wasn’t me that started this.”

Asked if he regretted his comments, he said: “How can I regret stating the truth.”

Offering a rather qualified apology for his remarks, he said: “I’m sorry that I’ve said that because I’ve wasted all this time.” He says he wants the focus to be on the upcoming elections.

Yesterday.

Ken Livingstone uses a RAPE comparison when asked about Labour suspension

Ken Livingstone remained defiant over the Labour anti-Semitism row he fuelled – and used a rape comparison when asked about his suspension from the party.

He said: “If a woman turns up at a police station and says, ‘I’ve been raped’, the police have to investigate that.

“And as I’m on the national executive that oversees those investigations, you understand that person should be suspended.

“Given a lot of Labour MPs are accusing me of being anti-Semitic, that’s really something the party has to investigate.”

Livingstone’s narcissistic ‘politics’ have now reached their terminus.

Anybody wishing to go further into this topic – there is also a rebuttal of Livingstone’s source Brenner on Facebook by Jewish Socialist leaders – should read begin with these contributions:

Timothy Snyder, Yale University history professor and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (2015)  BBC.

It is inconceivable that Hitler could have wanted to move Jews to Israel, because there was no such place in 1932.

Using the word “Israel” when what is meant was “the British mandate of Palestine” has the unfortunate consequence of stripping away the actual historical context and putting the words “Hitler” and “Israel” in the same sentence.

Hitler was not a supporter of Zionism.

He believed, on the contrary, that Zionism was one of many deliberately deceptive labels that Jews placed upon what he believed to be their endless striving for global power and the extermination of the human species.

‘Categorically false’

From Hitler’s point of view, Jews were precisely not normal human beings because they did not care about territory, but cared only about global domination.

“He was supporting Zionism” is categorically false and reveals a total and fundamental misunderstanding of what Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all about.

Tens of thousands of German Jews did emigrate to Palestine before British policy made this all but impossible. And some German officials did take an interest in Zionism. But there was never a German policy to support Zionism or a future Israel.

On the contrary, the German orientation in the Middle East was to support Arab nationalism. The official German policy, enunciated clearly in 1937, was to oppose the creation of a State of Israel.

‘Logically inconceivable’

Before, during and after 1932, Hitler referred to the Jews as a problem for the entire world, not simply for Germany.

When the Holocaust took place, the vast majority of Jews killed were people who lived beyond Germany.

Both in theory and in practice, Hitler’s extermination of Jews was international, applied to millions of people. For this reason as well, it is logically inconceivable that his ideas could ever have been limited to sending German Jews to Palestine.

Well before 1932, in his book Mein Kampf, Hitler had made clear that the Jews were, in his view, a “spiritual pestilence” that had to be removed from the face of the earth in order to rescue the human species, the natural order of the planet, and God’s creation.

It was not clear just how this could be carried out; but there is no sense in which the idea of deporting Jews to Palestine is sufficient to this vision.

And,

Ken Livingstone, Lenni Brenner, and Historical Distortions: A Case Study Paul Bogdanor.

Just to cite one passage:

The picture painted by Brenner is one of reactionary Ukrainian pogromists gaining the full collaboration of the Zionists. But the facts are as follows: the Ukrainian nationalists came to power on a socialist and inclusive platform; but the Zionists anticipated pogroms and tried to prevent them, while boycotting the government blamed for the subsequent atrocities. Brenner’s brief treatment of these events is a tissue of distortions and falsehoods.

Brenner is a propagandist, not a historian, and only a fool or a knave would rely on his books.

Labour antisemitism row: there was nothing Zionist about Hitler’s plans for the Jews  Professor of Modern European History; General Editor “The Holocaust in History and Memory”, University of Essex.

Again to quote some passages,

The Nazis’ plans for “concentrating” Jews in specific territories, be they Palestine or Madagascar, had nothing whatsoever to do with self-determination. These were expressions of the complete opposite: the use of force to strip Jews of all their rights, property and dignity.

As was proved by the establishment of the General Government in central Poland in October 1939, the Nazis were not in the least concerned that the territories where they intended to “concentrate” Jews were in a position to help their populations sustain themselves. They were looking for dumping grounds for Jews and other “undesirables”. These people were at best treated as ‘assets’ to exploit or, later, a stock of slave labour, and at worst simply expected to die of disease and starvation.

Any claim that Nazis and Zionists ever shared a common goal is not only cynical and disingenuous, but a distortion of clearly established historical fact.

We wonder how Livingstone – not to mention others, such as George Galloway,  square up to this (Wikipedia):

From late 1944, Joseph Stalin adopted a pro-Zionist foreign policy, apparently believing that the new country would be socialist and would speed the decline of British influence in the Middle East. Accordingly, in November 1947, the Soviet Union, together with the other Soviet bloc countries voted in favour of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine,[which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. On May 17, 1948, three days after Israel declared its independence, the Soviet Union officially granted de jure recognition of Israel, becoming only the second country to recognise the Jewish state (preceded only by the United States’ de facto recognition) and the first country to grant Israel de jure recognition.

Golda Meir was appointed Israel’s minister plenipotentiary to the Soviet Union, with her term beginning on 2 September 1948 and ending in March, 1949. During her brief stint in the USSR, Meir attended Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at the Moscow Choral Synagogue.

In addition to the diplomatic support, arms from Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet bloc, were crucial to Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. During the war, the Soviet Union supported Israel when it was attacked by Arab countries that opposed the 1947 United Nations General Assembly resolution for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.

Detailed articlesThe forgotten alliance. The establishment of Israel owes much to the Soviet Union and the wide range of support — diplomatic, demographic and military — it offered the young state. Michel Réal.  (Quand l’Union soviétique parrainait Israël. Michel Réal . Le Monde Diplomatique September 2014.)  Aux origines du soutien soviétique à Israël. Gabriel Gorodetsky. le Monde Diplomatique February 2016.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2016 at 11:39 am

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Houria Bouteldja. Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

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Revolutionary Love.

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous. Vers une politique de l’amour révolutionnaire . Houria Bouteldja. La Fabrique. 2016.

(The book will be presented at Berkeley: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love – Houria Bouteldja. 04/19/2016 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm. 691 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley.

http://crg.berkeley.edu/node/990oWe invite you to hear her presentation of her book, just published a few weeks ago in France, and already the object of a very highly mediatized controversy. Live translation of Houria Bouteldja’s presentation into English will be provided.)

Review: Post-Colonial Race-Baiting.

“Et que penser de la discussion sur les mérites culinaires comparés de la viande de nègres, d’Allemands et de Marseillais, ou sur la meilleure manière de civiliser les sous-hommes d’Afrique ou des Indes en les réduisant en poussière avec la « fée Dum-Dum », alias « balle Nib-Nib »?

And what to consider about the discussion on the relative culinary merits of the flesh of Negroes, Germans, and the inhabitants of Marseilles, or on the best way of civilising the African and Indian sub-humans by reducing them to dust by ‘Fairy Dumdum’ alias, the ‘Nib Nib bullet’?

Le Jardin de Supplices. Octave Mirbeau. 1899. (The Torture Garden).

Segré and Pérez have systematically shredded this historical picture to pieces. We can bin the idea that empires are a European invention, and, most fundamentally, that European colonisation began outside Europe, and not in the conquests of the East, and of Ireland. On the darker side of the history of the Arab rule in Iberia and of the Caliphate’s incursion and domination of large parts of Europe she is, perhaps understandably, more or less silent. Flowing amongst her would-be lyrical invective Bouteldja offers a few valid ideas. One stands out, that the Atlantic slave trade and violent colonialisation provided models for the Nazis. This insight is nevertheless amply considered elsewhere (by Hannah Arendt, to only give the best known). One might extend the idea and examine Timothy Snyder’s argument that Hitler was a ‘zoological’ ideologue who thought that ‘race’ was real and that struggle between races was the ultimate reality of history. Unfortunately this comes rather too close to Bouteldja’s allusions to the idea that ‘whites’ are engaged in the fight to the death with ‘blacks’…. (1)

Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous

ess with Jean Paul Sartre. Shoot Sartre (Fusillez Sartre) is her refrain, which sounds perhaps better in her armchair than on the paper. The Intellectual, novelist and philosopher, is an analogy for the French left. Why? This turns out to be well known, and may be summarised quickly. In the Maspero edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1968) his famous preface was withdrawn, on the insistence of Joie Fanon, who called Sartre a Zionist because he defended Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.

Bouteldja is keen on the equally famous – and morally cretinous – Sartre lines expressed in that text: that killing a colonialist serves two purposes: the death of an oppressor and the making of a freedom fighter’s independent manhood. She admires Fanon, one of her titular figures along with James Baldwin and Malcolm X. But, like his widow, she detests Zionists. Exit – as she might say in one her numerous attempts at pithiness – Sartre. Welcome the unconditional supporter of the Palestinians, Jean Genet, “What I like about Genet is that he doesn’t give a Fuck about Hitler.” (“Ce que j’aime chez Genet, c’est qu’il s’en fout d’Hitler” Page 20)

The Shoah.

The European Civil Religion of the Shoah needs, Bouteldja is not shy to assert, needs blasphemers. Not to deny the Holocaust, or (?) not to give a toss about it, but to remove the moral legitimacy that atoning for the genocide gives the West and Israel. The Jews have turned from ‘dhimis’ (that, is second class citizens) in Europe, to become their colonial soldiers in the service of ‘imperialism’ (Page 51). The Jews, post 1945, have accepted the “racial pact of the Republic”, become part of the ‘Jewish-Christian civilisation”, “part of the race of the Lords”, trading their history and memories for a “colonial ideology” (Page 53) And in that context, for the ‘South’ the Shoah is less than a ‘detail’ of history, it is nearly invisible. Anti-semitism is European (Page 55). Arabs are not philosemites, but they are not anti-Semites either (Ibid). The European religion of commemorating the Holocaust is just that…European, a distant sound for those suffering from colonialism. Only by abandoning Zionism can the Jews drop their white masks and become comrades, sharing the skin of the noirs In other words, do what Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous tells them to do.

Bouteldja is a master of racial baiting, shouting down her opponents. These passages effectively deny self-determination to one group of people, the ‘Jews’, along with some unpleasant claims that insult people’s right to give genocide the importance it has. Her panders in academic post-colonial studies will no doubt be able to explain away these passages. They will surely be at Berkley in the near future. Some such people, and her domestic allies, will no doubt dismiss the sexism, homophobia and racism attacked by Segré and Pérez. No doubt there is an audience for an assertion and exploration of the identities and oppressions of the multiple communities of immigrant origin in Europe, ill-served by all the states, including the formally egalitarian France. Many writings exist. There is a need to talk about the new forms of anti-racism. There are occasional gleams of interest in the present work of personal experience, overshadowed all too often by slabs of pre-digested ideology. Les Blancs, les Juifs et nous, indeed has also the most ambitious possible intention: to speak for “nous”, the ‘noirs’ the ‘indigènes’ and to hail, with a shout the Vous, the Whites. Without doubt we should include the text on the reading lists. But, but, but…….

But behind the rodomontader there is a lack of substance. There is absolutely no discussion of the horrors taking place across the whole Middle East, from Yemen to Turkey, passing by Iraq and Syria, not to mention Israel and Palestine themselves. There are genocides happening there right now. But Bouteldja ignores them. Expect for a brief sentence about young people in the banlieue falling for violent extremism she ignores the international phenomenon of Islamism and, most significantly, the popular fight against it. The pamphlet avoids these, and other, profound issues in a puppet theatre, the crudest of seaside shows, with the Jews dangling on the strings of Imperialism, as if their cords only need to be cut for peace and justice to reign.

Faced with a culture ruled by White “égoists et individualistes”, a West “in decline” what does Bouteldja offer? Is there a way out of oppression? She proposes a “radical questioning of Modernity and a consideration of an alternative civilisation.”(Page 92) What is this superior option to the White Republic and is false promise of liberty equality and fraternity? Fanon’s Third Worldism, American Black Power ideology steps aside. She summons god, Allah, for a world without hierarchy, a “une seule entité et authorité à dominer: Dieu” – a single entity authorised to rule: god. “ a côtés de tout leurs frères et soeurs en humanité” – alongside all their brothers and sisters in humanity. (Page 133).

Bless!

(1) Black Earth. The Holocaust as History and warning. Timothy Snyder. Bodley Head. 2015.

Some notes from Frantz Fanon. A life, David Macey. Granta Books. 2000.

Of interest in this context.

“Even when Fanon is remembered in Algeria, the memory can be clouded by partial amnesia and ignorance, Fanny Colonna, who taught as the University of Tizi-Ouzo until she was forced by the rising tide of violence and xenophobia to leave for France in the early 1990s, recalls meeting school students who had read Fanon in their French class but did not know that he was black.”(Page 8)

““The Third Worldist Fanon was an apocalyptic creature; the post-colonial Fanon worries about identity politics, and often abut his own sexual identity, but he is no longer angry. And yet, if there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to the experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory. They came out in the streets of Algiers in 1988, and the Algerian army shot them dead. They have been subsequently killed in there tens of thousands by authoritarian Algerian governments and so-called Islamic fundamentalists. Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too.”(Page 28)

“Anti-Semitism was by no means unusual in North Africa, and no, despite all the talk of African and Afro-Arab unity, was anti-black racism. In both Algeria and Tunisia black people were commonly referred to as Al-âbid (the singular is ‘Ab’d’), meaning slave’ –a reminder that the corsairs of the Barbary Coast had enslaved black as well as white.”(Page 316)

“the function of the violence of the colonised is to negate and transcend the seriality created by the violence of colonisation. In doing so, to create a group-in-fusion with a common project and praxis.”(Page 485)

“The themes of Third World solidarity and unity, of a version of pan-Africanism and of the liberating power of violence have not worn well. Fro a generation, Fanon was a prophet. He has become a witness to the process of decolonisation but, whilst his discussion of racism remains valid, he has little to say about the outcome of that process.”(Page 503)

On Reacting to Owen Jones: Antisemitism is a poison – the left must take leadership against it.

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https://i2.wp.com/www.lemondejuif.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/n-JOUR-DE-COLERE-large570.jpg

Paris: January 2014. Anti-Semites at  far right Jour de colère (Day of Rage).

Owen Jones writes in the Guardian.

“A Labour activist has been suspended, reinstated and suspended again after claims she made antisemitic remarks. The left must speak out ever more loudly in solidarity with Britain’s Jews.”

Owen writes about the case of Vicki Kirby, although we could extend this to the groupuscule of recently suspended Labour members Gerry Downing’s Socialist Fight. They have extended their group to Ian Donovan who broadcasts a “theory” of a “pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie” which makes up the vanguard of the global ruling class.

In this context Owen’s intervention is to be broadly welcomed.

How can we deal with anti-Semitism?

He writes:

…there are a number of things Labour as a party should do. Firstly, change the rules so that anyone found guilty of antisemitism – or any other form of racism – is expelled from the party. Their readmission should only happen when they have demonstrably been shown to have been re-educated.

 The first difficulty with the initial proposal is that racism is an extremely wide term. At what point does the widespread hostility towards migrants shade into dislike, then into hatred, then into xenophobia, and then into racism? Given that roughly half the country entertains at least some feelings of antagonism towards members of different ethnic/national groups disentangling this from racism is going to be a mighty task. Apart from anti-foreigner views, there are thorny issues of inter-religious hatred, which are again hard to separate from racism, and intra-religious hatred.

The second difficulty is how to think of any form of “re-eduction” that would work – even if one accepted the  rebarbative word.  The wars in Syria and Iraq and the activities of the genocidal Islamist racists have led the government to offer a controversial Prevent programme as a solution to home-grown ‘radicalisation’. It is not demonstratively effective. It has shaky premises in the promotion of ‘British values’. ’ Even without this kind of approach the idea that people have to show that they have “acceptable” ideas leads to all kinds of problems about defining what is and what is not right. Making Labour an island safe from these views is not simple.

Who would be in charge of this ‘re-education’ and what would definition of anti-racism would it consist of?

The third difficulty is that, as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty point out, at present Labour suspends and expels people (as in the two cases cited above) through the decisions of the Compliance Unit. They state, “The unelected “Compliance Unit” cannot be allowed to be the plaintiff, judge, and jury of Labour Party membership. It should be abolished.” (Against anti-semitism, for due process).

‘Due process’ for excluding individuals and  organised groups who promote anti-semitism and other forms of racism has to take these issues on board.

Can Owen answer this criticism?

Owen also writes,

Secondly, set up two commissions: one on antisemitism, the other on anti-Muslim prejudice, respectively headed by a leading Jewish and a Muslim figure. Both forms of bigotry are on the rise in Britain, and both exist within progressive circles and the Labour party. The commissions could issue a series of recommendations, both for dealing with it when it arises within Labour, and also in wider society too.

It is a step forward form an anti-racist standpoint that Owen uses the term “anti-Muslim prejudice” – that is hatred against people who have a Muslim background or belief – rather than the highly ambiguous ‘Islamophobia’ – which refers to the fear or dislike of a religious belief.

It is not nevertheless clear why these bodies should be headed by ‘leading Jewish and Muslim’ figures – the status of anybody as a “leading” Jewish figure (for whom?) is not clear, let alone whether, in the current climate of inter-Islamic conflict, the credentials of anybody to represent ‘Muslims’ is going to be uncontested.

Owen’s conclusion is a valuable one.

It is incumbent on the progressively minded to take antisemitism seriously. We wouldn’t belittle the seriousness of other forms of bigotry, or seek to deflect from it. It is possible to passionately oppose antisemitism on the one hand, and on the other oppose the policies of Israel’s government and support Palestinian national self-determination. Both these issues have to be completely disentangled: a discussion about serious antisemitism should not be a launchpad into a debate about Israel. It cannot be acceptable that Jewish people feel uncomfortable in Labour, or indeed in Britain. The left should speak out ever more loudly about antisemitism as an act of solidarity with Britain’s Jews. After all, socialism is about the emancipation of humanity from all forms of oppression, or it is nothing.

Unraveling these issues, given the example already cited of Socialist Fight, and, more widely, the kind of ‘anti-Zionism’ illustrated in the photo above of the French far-right, up to many other forms of ‘anti-Zionism’ such as the Indigènes de la République, fashionable on parts of the left, including the oddly named US publication Jacobin, accused of anti-semitism, is not going to be easy. (1) But few would deny that the UK has a miniscule problem compared to that posed by the French far-right – traditional or Islamist – and the “political confusionism” that reins there in some – still limited –  quarters.

(1) L’antisémitisme des Indigènes de la République

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm

A State Jew? Léon Blum – David A. Bell on Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum.

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/Discours_de_L%C3%A9on_Blum_au_Congr%C3%A8s_socialiste,_1932,_2.jpg

Blum: a Generous Humanist Socialist, not a “State Jew”.

A State Jew. David A. Bell. Review of Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist by Pierre Birnbaum, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

London Review of Books.

Thanks Jim D.

Bell begins  his review with this, which should give some pause for reflection,

The newspaper Action française habitually referred to Léon Blum, France’s Socialist leader, as the ‘warlike Hebrew’ and the ‘circumcised Narbonnais’ (he represented a constituency in Narbonne). On 13 February 1936, Blum was being driven away from the National Assembly when he encountered a group of ultra-right-wing militants who had gathered at the intersection of the rue de l’Université and the boulevard Saint-Germain for the funeral procession of Jacques Bainville, one of the founders of Action française, a reactionary political movement as well as a newspaper. Glimpsing Blum through the car windows, the militants began shouting: ‘Kill Blum!’, ‘Shoot Blum!’ They forced his car to stop and began rocking it back and forth. Blum’s friend Germaine Monnet, sitting with him in the back, tried to shield him with her body. Her husband, Georges, who had been driving, ran to look for police. But one of the militants managed to tear a fender off the car, used it to smash the rear window, and then beat Blum repeatedly over the head. Only the arrival of two policemen saved his life. They dragged him to a nearby building, where the concierge gave him first aid. The next day pictures of Blum, his head heavily bandaged, appeared in newspapers around the world.

We halt there.

To internationalist socialists Blum is above all known not for his Jewish identity – despite the book – but for his socialist humanist republicanism.

Blum defended French democratic republicanism, from the Dreyfus affair onwards. He was profoundly affected by the “synthesis” of socialism, including the Marxist view of class struggle, with democratic republicanism, that marked the life and work of one of our greatest martyrs, Jean Jaurès, assassinated in 1914 by a sympathiser of the far-right,  for his opposition to the outbreak of the Great War. Blum did not, however, play a part in the anti-War left.

That is the context in which we would take the shouts of “kill Blum”.  Political, not ethnic.

Blum was a leading figure amongst the minority of the French Socialists, the SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière), who opposed what became in the 1920s the French Communist Party, the PCF. He was one of those who opposed affiliating the party to the Third International at the Congrès de Tours (SFIO).

Speech at the Socialist Party Congress at Tours, 27 December 1920 (best known under its French title, background Pour La Veille Maison, Text).

This is the crucial objection from the ‘reformist’ (but at this point, still Marxist) democratic socialists to the Third International – the Leninist one.

You are right to declare that the whole party press, central or local, should be in the hands of pure communists and pure communist doctrine. You are certainly right to submit the works published by the Party to a kind of censorship. All that is logical. You want an entirely homogeneous party, a party in which there is no longer free thought, no longer different tendencies: you are therefore right to act as you have done. This results – I am going to prove it to you – from your revolutionary conception itself. But you will understand that envisioning that situation, considering it, making the comparison of what will be tomorrow with what was yesterday, we all had the same reaction of fright, of recoil, and that we said: is that the Party that we have known? No! The party that we knew was the appeal to all workers, while the one they want to found is the creation of little disciplined vanguards, homogeneous, subjected to a strict structure of command – their numbers scarcely matter, you will find that in the theses – but all kept under control, and ready for prompt and decisive action. Well, in that respect as in the others, we remain of the Party as it was yesterday, and we do not accept the new party that they want to make.

To show how radical Blum was at this point, this is how he defended the dictatorship of the proletariat,

Dictatorship exercised by the Party, yes, but by a Party organized like ours, and not like yours. Dictatorship exercised by a Party based on the popular will and popular liberty, on the will of the masses, in sum, an impersonal dictatorship of the proletariat. But not a dictatorship exercised by a centralized party, where all authority rises from one level to the next and ends up by being concentrated in the hands of a secret Committee. … Just as the dictatorship should be impersonal, it should be, we hold, temporary, provisional. … But if, on the contrary, one sees the conquest of power as a goal, if one imagines (in opposition to the whole Marxist conception of history) that it is the only method for preparing that transformation, that neither capitalist evolution nor our own work of propaganda could have any effect, if as a result too wide a gap and an almost infinite period of time must be inserted between taking power as the precondition, and revolutionary transformation as the goal, then we cease to be in agreement.

Bear this in mind: these words are memorised almost by heart by many on the left.

The minority, for which Blum spoke, opposed to the Third International, retained the name, French Section of the Workers’ International. This was significant: it referred to a claim to continue the traditions of the Second International, of Marxist, if moderate and reformist,  inspiration.

Blum offered social reform on this foundation. He led, during the Front Populaire (1936 -38)  a government (as President du conseil) of socialists and radical-socialists, backed by communists from the ‘outside’ and a vast movement of factory occupations and protests,  to implement some of them, on paid holidays, bargaining rights limiting the working week. He had great limitations – one that cannot be ignored is that his government did not give women the right to vote – and his role in not effectively helping the Spanish Republic remains a matter of controversy to this day. Indeed the absence of feminism – as well as a rigorous anti-colonialism (the FP “dissolved” the North African, l’Étoile nord-africaine of Messali Hadj –  in the Front Populaire, is something which should cause a great deal of critical investigation.

The review in the LLB is about a book, and this is what he has to say specifically about it:

Birnbaum, a well-known historian and sociologist of French Jewry, has written a short biography that focuses on Blum’s identity as a Jew, as the series requires. It cannot substitute for the more substantial studies by Joel Colton, Ilan Greilsammer and Serge Berstein, but it’s lively, witty and draws effectively on Blum’s massive and eloquent correspondence. Arthur Goldhammer has, as usual, produced a lucid, engaging English text. Birnbaum seems to have written the book in some haste: he repeats facts and quotations, and makes a few historical slips – France was not a ‘largely peasant nation’ in 1936; Hitler did not annex the Sudetenland in the summer of 1938, before the Munich Agreement. The chapters proceed thematically, highlighting Blum the writer, Blum the socialist, Blum the lawyer, Blum the Zionist and so forth, which produces occasional confusion as Birnbaum leaps backwards and forwards in time. But overall, the book offers a knowledgeable and attractive portrait. If there is a serious criticism to be levelled at it, it doesn’t concern the portrait itself, so much as the way Birnbaum draws on it to make a broader argument about French Jewish identity.

But there are issues of much wider importance in that broader argument which do not depend on discussing that text and its content.

Bell makes two points about his legacy as described in Birnbaum’s book,

As Birnbaum himself repeatedly notes, despite his ‘quintessential’ Frenchness, Blum always expressed pride in his Jewish heritage, often in the highly racialised language of the day. ‘My Semite blood,’ he wrote as a young man, ‘has been preserved in its pure state. Honour me by acknowledging that it flows unmixed in my veins and that I am the untainted descendant of an unpolluted race.’ While he could speak disparagingly of Jewish ritual, he recognised and respected a Jewish ethical tradition. In 1899, in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair, he insisted that ‘the Jew’s religion is justice. His Messiah is nothing other than a symbol of Eternal Justice.’ He went on to identify ‘the spirit of socialism’ with ‘the ancient spirit of the race’ and to comment: ‘It was not a lapse on the part of Providence that Marx and Lassalle were Jews.’ Blum, in short, thought the Jews could change the French Republic for the better by drawing on their own traditions to push it towards socialism.

This attempt to bring up Blum’s references to his Jewish background, even in terms more democratic than Disraeli’s novels, voiced above all by the character Sidonia, owes more to pre-1930s racial romanticism to racialism.

Does this prove Bell’s point that, “The republican model allows strikingly little space for what immigrant communities can contribute to a nation. Visitors to France can see at a glance just how much immigrants have brought to its music, literature, sport and even cuisine. But the republican model treats difference primarily as a threat to be exorcised in the name of an unbending, anachronistic ideal of civic equality. Even in the heyday of the Third Republic, many committed republicans recognised that different ethnic and religious groups could strengthen the republic.”

Yes it does: secularism is freedom for difference, not the imposition of homogeneity.

Blum could be rightly proud of his cultural heritage,as indeed in a ‘globalised’ world of migration many other people from different backgrounds should be, and are, within the democratic framework of secular equality.

There is little doubt that the spirit of nit-picking secularism can be as unable to deal with these backgrounds, as say, state multiculturalism, which treats ‘diversity’ as if this were a value in itself. If the first tends to be hyper-sensitive to, say, reactionary  Islamic dress codes, the second abandons the issue entirely.

But there are far deeper problems than superficial insistence on  Laïcité

The first is ‘Sovereigntist’ efforts to claim secularist universalism for French particularism. This is the rule amongst the supporters of the far-right Front National, historians and writers like Éric Zemmour bemoaning France’s ‘decline’ , though we should underline, not the novelist Houellebecq, who expresses disdain for things, not hate). There are those who call for all Muslims to be expelled from Europe, those  to those milder nationalists of right and left who commemorate “le pays et les morts” (and not anybody else – a return to the culturalist (not to say, racial)  themes of Action française to Maurice Barrès and to Charles Maurras. This is indeed “communalism”.

It is the major threat to French republicanism.

There is also the issue of anti-Semitism in France, woven into another kind of ‘communitarianism’. Alain Soral, his close friend the comedian Dieudonné, popular amongst young people from the banlieue and the more refined inheritors of the Marrausian tradition, the partisans of the  Indigènes de la République, (including those associated in the English speaking world) rant at thephilosémitisme d’Etat” in France.

It takes all the effort of refined ‘discursive analysis’ from academics to ignore that at its heart this is a current  which indulges in Jew baiting. The mind-set of these people was classically described by Sartre, “« Si le juif n’existait pas, l’antisémite l’inventerait.» (Réflexions sur la question juive 1946). They indeed spent an enormous amount of time ‘inventing’ the presence of Jews in politics, and giving them influence ‘behind the scenes’.

In words which might have been designed to pander to the world-view of the  Indigènes, Bell cites Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist,

Blum ‘the first of a new type of state Jew interested in giving greater weight to democratic sentiment within the framework of a socialist project.’ One wonders, though, what Birnbaum might say about a French Muslim politician today justifying an ideological position by reference to Muslim tradition and ethics (or sharia law). Would he have quite so favourable an  opinion? Or might he see the move as a ‘communitarian’ threat to ‘the unifying logic of the nation’ and to ‘French exceptionalism’? It is well past time to recognise that a nation can have many different unifying logics, and that a political model forged under the Third Republic fits the France of the Fifth Republic very badly.

Blum celebrated his Jewish heritage. It is hardly a secret. Nor is his post-war Zionism, or support for Israel, a stand shared in the immediate aftermath of the conflict by the USSR.

But did he become a  man of the  ‘state’ because he was a ‘Jew’, and does this aspect of his person matter politically – that is in terms of the state?

For us Léon Blum is only one of the sources of a generous humanist secularism, but a significant one. That he did not tackle issues like feminism, anti-colonialism, and a host of other issues, goes without saying. But it would be a great shame if his legacy was reduced to being a “State Jew”.

And it could equally be said that republican secularism has many strands, that it is being transformed by the views of secularists from North Africa, the threat of the Islamist genociders of Deash, the mounting oppression in Erdogan’s Turkey, backed by his Islamist AKP, and – no doubt – Israel’s evident failings. Every one of these cases shows that religious law is not any part of a “tradition” that socialists – believers in equality – would recognise.

The logic at work here binds us to our French sisters and brothers, binds internationalists across the globe, in the way that the Je Suis Charlie moment briefly melded our hearts and minds together.

That is perhaps the real ‘end’ of all exceptionalisms.

Dieudonné: Belgian Prosecutor Demands 6 Months Prison Sentence for Anti-Semitism.

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France’s Answer to Bernard Manning.

#Dieudonné Six mois de prison requis pour antisémitisme contre Dieudonné, jugé en Belgique pour des propos tenus dans un spectacle.

Nouvel Observateur.

Le procureur du tribunal correctionnel de Liège (Belgique), a requis mercredi une peine de six mois de prison ferme à l’encontre du polémiste controversé Dieudonné, accusé d’avoir tenu des propos discriminatoires et antisémites lors d’un spectacle donné en mars 2012 en région liégeoise.

“Le spectacle qu’il donne est rempli de propos diffamants et insultants qui donnent envie de vomir”, a déclaré dans son réquisitoire le procureur Damien Leboutte, cité par l’agence de presse belge. Selon le quotidien “Le Soir, le Français avait entre autres qualifié Adolf Hitler de “joyeux fanfaron”.

Dieudonné devait également comparaître mercredi à Paris en correctionnelle pour “provocation à la haine raciale” et “injure raciale” pour des passages de son avant-dernier spectacle “La Bête immonde”, mais le procès a été renvoyé au 24 février 2016 à la demande de son avocat.

The prosecutor of the Liège Tribunal (Belgium) demanded on Wednesday six months in gaol against the controversial polemicist Dieudonné, accused of having made discriminatory and anti-semitic remarks during a show in the region in March 2012. 

“The show was so  full of defamatory and insulting remarks that it made one want to vomit.” said the prosecutor Damien Leboutte summing up his case – as cited by the Belgian press agency. The daily, le Soir, noted that amongst other comments he had described Adolf Hitler as a good-hearted braggart.

Dieudonné was also due to appear in Paris today to face charges of inciting race hatred, and racial insults. for parts of his last but one show, “La Bête immonde”, but. at the request of his lawyer,  the trial has been postponed until the 24th of February 2016. 

The ‘humourist’ did not attend the Liège hearing.

More: Belgique: Dieudonné risque six mois de prison ferme. Le Figaro.

Dieudonné is distinguished by his friendship with Jean-Marie Le Pen, and more durably, by his close link to Alain Soral, a far-right conspiracy theorist who claims – don’t they all? –  to be “beyond left and right”. Needless to say, his warnings of a ‘global empire’ involves free-masons, and, you-know-who. He has, unsurprisingly  for a self-proclaimed, ” judéophobe” a particular interest in the Shoah.

After the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper-Casher massacres, Dieudonné and Soral, were keen to announce that “Je ne suis pas Charlie”.

Alain Soral et Dieudonné à la journée “Je ne suis pas Charlie”

Note this well anglophones who also said, Je ne suis pas Charlie.

Here (on his own site) is a list of legal cases against Soral.

Liste des procès en cours impliquant Alain Soral et Égalité & Réconciliation

These are Dieudonné’s past tussles with the law.

  • On 14 June 2006, Dieudonné was sentenced to a penalty of €4,500 for defamation after having called a prominent Jewish television presenter a “secret donor of the child-murdering Israeli army”.[101]
  • On 15 November 2007, an appellate court sentenced him to a €5,000 fine because he had characterized “the Jews” as “slave traders” after being attacked in le Théâtre de la Main d’Or.[102]
  • On 26 June 2008, he was sentenced in the highest judicial instance to a €7,000 fine for his characterization of Holocaust commemorations as “memorial pornography”.[44]
  • On 27 February 2009, he was ordered to pay 75,000 Canadian dollars in Montreal to singer and actor Patrick Bruel for defamatory statements. He had called Bruel a “liar” and an “Israeli soldier”.[103]
  • On 26 March 2009, Dieudonné was fined €1,000 and ordered to pay €2,000 in damages for having defamed Elisabeth Schemla, a Jewish journalist who ran the now-defunct Proche-Orient.info website. He declared on 31 May 2005 that the website wanted to “eradicate Dieudonné from the audiovisual landscape” and had said of him that “he’s an anti-Semite, he’s the son of Hitler, he will exterminate everyone”.[104]
  • On 27 October 2009, he was sentenced to a fine of €10,000 for “public insult of people of Jewish faith or origin” related to his show with Robert Faurisson.[105]
  • On 8 June 2010, he was sentenced to a fine of €10,000 for defamation towards the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, which he had called “a mafia-like association that organizes censorship”.[106]
  • On 10 October 2012, he was fined €887,135 for tax evasion. According to the French revenue service, Dieudonné failed to pay part of his taxes from 1997 to 2009.[citation needed].
  • On 12 February 2014, he was ordered by a court to withdraw two clips from a video posted on YouTube on 31 December 2013 on the grounds of incitement to ethnic or racial hatred, and crimes against humanity denial.

This Blog is not in favour of prosecuting the racist anti-Semitic Dieudonné, for his “shows”, which you can watch on YouTube as often as you want.

He is about as funny as Bernard Manning.

That is not itself a criminal offence.

But we cannot say that we are greatly motivated to do much about protesting for his freedom from a Belgian gaol.

We will leave that to Dieudonné’s apologists, like Richard Seymour:

Dieudonné through the prism of the white Left, or conceptualizing a domestic internationalism posted byRichard Seymour

I have been given permission to publish this excellent paper from the Penser l’émancipation, closing plenary, Nanterre, on February 22, 2014.  It was written and delivered by the excellent Houria Bouteldja, a member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Richard Seymour Mocks Burns Victim and War Veteran Simon Weston in latest Attack on Liberal Defence of Murder.

with 27 comments

On 2 September 2015, (Richard) Seymour left a Facebook comment about a Telegraph column detailing Falklands War veteran and serious burns victim Simon Weston’s comments regarding Labour Party Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn’s plan, Weston believes, to “surrender” the Falkland Islands to Argentina. Seymour stated in his comment: “Seriously. Who gives a shit what Simon Weston thinks about anything? If he knew anything, he’d still have his face.” Seymour was unapologetic on twitter for his comment.

Wikipedia.

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Guardian confirms Richard Seymour does not work for them after hate post

The Guardian newspaper has confirmed that Richard Seymour does not work them after he posted a hate comment on Falkland’s veteran Simon Weston. The Guardian has though confirmed that Seymour was a regular author on its web-site with a profile at: Richard Seymour.

Simon Weston suffered serious injuries whilst on active duty on HMS Sir Galahad when the Argentines attacks it. His injuries included severe burns to his face.

Richard Seymour wrote in a comment:

“If he knew anything he’d still have his face”.

Seymour refused to apologise on his comment which appeared on an article written by Simon Weston in the Daily Telegraph.

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Simon Weston.

Criticism of these comments should not the preserve of right-wingers like Guido Fawkes.

This is a matter for the left.

Whether Seymour apologies or not this indicates two possibilities:

  • Seymour is an incontinent troll who sinks as low as the mood takes him to amuse himself by hurting people.
  • Seymour feels he has the moral right to lecture disfigured supporters of the Falklands War by pointing to their injuries.

Either is not a pleasant option.

Most people would crawl and away and die rather than stoop to this kind of language.

Still, here everybody can see the “limitation of humanitarianism in this situation” (Lenin’s Tomb) .

Very clearly.

We should note that regardless of his Guardian status, Seymour is a prominent author at Verso books and helped frame some policies in Left Unity (we hope not those on people with disabilities).

Richard Seymour

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Verso adds that  Richard Seymour lives, works and writes in London. He runs the Lenin’s Tomb website, which comments on the War on Terror, Islamophobia and neoliberalism.

His moral status is further undermined when we observe that earlier this year he spoke at this event: What now for Europe? The instrumentalisation of the Paris attacks.

It was organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) which is closely linked the Iranian theocratic dictatorship.

In 2015 IHRC gave the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo their “International Islamophobe of the Year” award less than 2 months after 12 members of staff at the magazine had been murdered by Islamic extremists.

He shared a platform with the “anti-race mixing” group the Indigènes de la République – whose writings he has published on his Blog – who specialise in attacking gay feminist and secularist Caroline Fourest. (see this on the “excellent Houria Bouteldja, a member of Le Parti des indigènes de la République. Lenin’s Tomb) (1).

(more Islamic Human Rights Commission, Charlie Hebdo, Richard Seymour and the Indigènes de la République)

This is a translated French response to this, the militant wing of Post-Colonial Studies: Toward a materialist approach to the question of race: A response to theIndigènes de la République.

Amongst the authors’ criticisms of the “excellent” ideologues, are these, “for Houria Bouteldja, feminism is a luxury which indigène women may not profess to claim.” “Riding the gathering wave of identitarianism, it proposes a systematic cultural, almost ethnocentric, reading of social phenomena. This leads to the adoption of dangerous positions on antisemitism, gender, and homosexuality.”

Seymour’s latest venture is this:

(1) This is what she said about the racist anti-Semite comedian Dieudonné in this post, “I thoroughly disagree with his political choices: the fact that he has been seduced by Soral’s nationalistic views, that he knows nothing about Palestine and Zionism, and his alliance with the far-right. At the same time, I feel ambivalent. I would start by saying that I love Dieudonné; that I love him as the indigènes love him; that I understand why the indigènes love him. I love him because he has done an important action in terms of dignity, of indigène pride, of Black pride: he refused to be a domestic negro. Even if he doesn’t have the right political program in his head, his attitude is one of resistance.” I now add that in the eyes of the indigènes, this is what they see in him first and foremost, rather than seeing the nature of his allies. A man standing upright. Too often were we forced to say “yes bouana, yes bouana.” When Diedonné stands up, he heals an identitarian wound. The wound that racism left, and which harms the indigènes’ personnality. Those who understand “Black is beautiful” cannot miss this dimension, and I emphasize, this particular dimension in Dieudonné.”

Update:

I notice another madman, Mike Pearn, who claims to be on the ‘left’, and is known to this Blog, made vile comments as well: