The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th May 2016
THE RELATIONSHIP between the labour and socialist movement and Judaism goes back a long way, and is based on a common struggle against extreme right-wing fascists, Nazis and exploiters. It was strong in pre-revolutionary Russia where the Jewish Bund was part of the Russian Social and Democratic Labour Party for a while, until there was a falling out over the Bund wanting to remain a separate ethnicity-based group within the party whereas Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted stronger unity based on class.
In London’s East End in the first half of the last century there was a strong Jewish and socialist solidarity based on the same fight against capitalist exploitation, poverty and attacks by racists and fascists such as Oswald Mosley. Both the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) included many Jewish people in their membership at all levels, including leadership. It was class solidarity — an injury to one is an injury to all.
But in recent decades — as the Labour Party leadership broke with its original socialist ideals, and the concept of class awareness and solidarity — it attracted into its membership young opportunist careerists who quickly rose to the top. But these young people came imbued with the outlook and ethics of the imperialist ruling class. It was natural that those amongst them who were Jewish — and others who were Christian — identified with the aspirations of the Zionist State in Israel.
To them, Israel was born out of struggle against Nazism and British imperialism; it was heroic and was going forward with social experiments such as the Kibbutz system. The rights and wrong of the Palestinian people never entered their consciousness except as an inconvenient hindrance to the achievement of their dreams.
The dreams soon turned sour. The Kibbutz system proved to be a way of maximum exploitation of agricultural workers, who were given their beds and food and little else whilst agri-business made vast profits from their work. Workers were trapped, having no means to leave and get a home or to work anywhere else; they were virtually slaves.
Meanwhile the right-wing ruling class Jews were engaged in a perpetual on-and-off war with their Arab neighbours who had been forced to accommodate thousands of Palestinian refugees. It is hard to operate even a bourgeois democracy and freedom of thought in a country that is perpetually at war. There was little room for doubters or debate in the drive to expand Israel by seizing more and more Palestinian land. And little chance to fight the open racism in Israel amongst Jews from different origins, let alone the Islamophobia.
Back in Britain the New Labour careerists were enthusiastic supporters of the Israeli regime and quite happy to go along with Mossad strategies to attack and undermine those who campaign for Palestinian human rights.
Imagine their horror when Jeremy Corbyn, a left-winger and supporter of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, became leader of the Labour Party. It is not surprising that some of these young New Labour careerists became willing collaborators in a drive to portray Corbyn’s supporters as a hot-bed of anti-Semites — a smear that brings instant revulsion amongst socialists who are inherently anti-racist.
This came to a crescendo in the run-up to the local and mayoral elections earlier this month. The idea was that voters would be so shocked that Labour would fare terribly in the elections and Corbyn could be ousted. It didn’t work. Corbyn did well in spite of the whole media machine trying to pretend he did not; no one was fooled.
Now the dirty tricks behind the anti-Semitism smears are being exposed. Students on a couple of campuses have been caught red-handed faking evidence of anti-Semitism in student union affairs. Attempts to equate opposition to Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism are being blasted out of the water — including a powerful tribunal ruling that sets an important precedent.
Some of the strongest guns against this witch hunt are left-wing and socialist Jews — like those in the Jewish Socialist Group, which identifies itself with the Bund. They are the true heirs of the working class Jews who fought alongside and inside the Labour Party and the Communist Party a century ago and saw off the fascists at Cable Street. Class solidarity is a powerful force.
It is time now for Corbyn to step back from his immediate response to smears of anti-Semitism against his supporters and give each one a proper, considered hearing. Most, if not all, are likely to be exonerated.