The SWP, racism and Gilad Atzmon

My old political sparring partner, Bob from Brockley, has wide intellectual tastes, from anarchism to extraordinary musical endeavours and beyond.

But above all he is very charitable. He takes an interest in what ex-Socialist Workers Party members think and say. Notably the writings of Richard Seymour, one-time SWP intellectual and consummate blogger.

Bob gave space over to a fellow intellectual to examine Seymour’s views on the recent Paris attack.

I can’t say I always agree with Bob’s approach, but I admire his persistence in keeping an eye on (ex) SWPers.
SWPfist1
I am not terribly interested in Seymour or (ex) SWPers as people, rather the ideas that they put forward and represent, critically when it comes to antisemitism. I think it is worth commenting because there is a wider importance to this issue, how such attitudes help create a social climate that is hostile towards Jews.

A few thoughts.

SWPers

It is my view that (ex) SWPers often share many characteristics of 1960s Stalinists in their attitude toward Jews, either disdainful or oddly ambiguous.

I am not the first to come to this conclusion as the socialist Steve Cohen argued it years back.

[NB: I should point out for the sake of clarity and before any misunderstanding occurs that. I do not believe that the vast majority of (ex) SWPers are hardened antisemites, instead the evidence shows they are tolerant of those who are, which is the distinction I am making. I could add I have known some quite decent SWPers when I was an active trade unionist, but this is a discussion about their attitudes and where they lead, not them as individuals.]

My basic problem with SWPers and (ex) SWPers is, how it is very apparent they have learnt little or nothing from their encounters with antisemites or antisemitism.

To learn is normally to admit we don’t know something. Or to concede we might have made a mistake and don’t wish to repeat it. As far as I can see that has not happened with most leading (ex) SWPers. There are two obvious examples, the Stop the War Coalition and Gilad Atzmon.

Atzmon talks with another racist, Ken O'Keefe
Atzmon talks with another racist, Ken O’Keefe

Too close to antisemites

The fact that the Stop the War Coalition couldn’t see any problem using the works of the antisemite Alison Weir (not the historian) is simply astounding.

Further, if you investigate their site you will see only disdain for anything related to Jews (whatever guise that takes or whatever nickname is used). The Stop the War Coalition is run by a mix of ex-SWPers (Lindsey German, John Rees, etc), soft Stalinists and assorted types.

Whereas Gilad Atzmon is a prolific antisemite, despite once being an Israeli. For well over a dozen years Atzmon has had exceedingly questionable views concerning Jews. He never misses a chance to employ barely concealed antisemitic conspiracy theories or support those who do.

SWP hosted a racist

Yet you would be hard pushed to find any really significant critique from SWPers or (ex) SWPers of Atzmon.

That is despite the fact that the SWP supported and hosted this racist for years. Bob provides a great chronological guide, showing SWP’s support from 2004 to 2010.

And this is the disparity: how can people call themselves socialists, say they are opposed to antisemitism, yet allow their organisation to promote and aid an antisemite, Gilad Atzmon?

As far as I know, not a single SWPer resigned over their organisation’s support for that particular racist.

And intelligent people are compelled to ask why? Did their ingrained worship of Leninism override their antiracist principles? Was Atzmon’s racism really an issue for them? Did they grasp why they should oppose such an antisemite? Did it even register with them?

There are plenty of questions to ask, and whilst flippant answers may satisfy the intellectually barren (ex) SWPers, serious antiracists should not stop from questioning why it happened and what is to stop it happening again?

Atzmon is a litmus test as I previously wrote. The SWP and its members seriously failed that test, year after year.

SWPers and modern antisemitism

Any cursory examination of the Socialist Workers Party’s views around the topic of Jews reveal that the SWP have never had a sophisticated analysis of antisemitism. They fail to miss the most obvious signs.

But these are not thugs or ne’er-do-wells. The SWP leadership was over time replete with academics, educationalists and supposed antiracist activists. Whilst they may have been able to explain Marxist capital at great length SWPers couldn’t grasp the complexities of modern antisemitism.

It is not for want of intellectual gumption.

Instead it is how the (ex) SWPer’s view the world. It is a mechanical mindset, where Jews (whatever euphemism used), invariably, fall on one side and the (ex) SWPers and their allies are on the other.

That I find profoundly depressing, it is as if not one lesson has been learnt since their earlier collaboration with the racist Atzmon, even fewer questions have been asked.

In short, (ex) SWPers are really no wiser today than they were in 2009 when they continued to host Atzmon or in 2005 when the SWP issued a defence of him.

It is a truly lamentable situation for socialists to find themselves in, having a panoply of answers how to change the whole of the world for the better, yet not when the topic relates to Jews.

If you doubt my argument then at least consider the evidence or lack of it. On a weekly basis Jews are assaulted in Britain, yet with one small exception the main SWP publication, Socialist Worker, has never covered these incidents of physical antisemitism towards British Jews in any meaningful way.
Dark clouds
A plain disregard

I feel that shows a plain and simple disregard for Jews. However, I am sure that (ex) SWPers will find suitable excuses to explain it away, but would they take such a tack if any other ethnic minority was involved? Probably not.

Briefly, I don’t believe that the majority of (ex) SWPers are active antisemites, rather their political indoctrination means that when they deal with any topic relating to Jews they have a certain blind spot. The Atzmon debacle and the Stop the War coalition use of an antisemite’s material demonstrate this. It is apparent that since the SWP’s chumminess with an active racist, Atzmon, its many members and ex-members have learnt next to nothing.

A climate

Why is that an issue?

Because the SWP’s ex-members run some large organisations and have influence beyond their numbers. In turn their unchanged attitudes towards Jews can lead to a climate of hostility and aid racists, even if that is not their intention.

But more importantly, the SWP are part and parcel of the negative mood facing Jews in Britain. They do not throw bricks at synagogues instead they rant on about “Zionists” ad nauseam and help to perpetuate antagonism towards British Jews.

If SWP members and ex-members couldn’t resign on the principle of opposing racism when it came to Atzmon, what use are they? Have they no embarrassment now? Have they learnt anything at all?

The evidence suggests not, and that should worry anyone seriously opposed to antisemitism.

A few reminders about Atzmon and the SWP:

2004: “Gilad Atzmon will speak and perform on Tuesday 13 July at the Marxism 2004 festival and conference in London. You can find out more about his life and work at his website…”

2004: Richard Seymour on Atzmon. His advice was ignored for the next seven years.

2005:The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.”

2005: “Gilad Atzmon is arguably the most outstanding artist to emerge on the British jazz scene in recent years. ”

2006: “Gilad declared, “I will be playing at the Cultures of Resistance concert because I support the Socialist Worker appeal.”

2007: “Readers of Socialist Review may know jazz musician Gilad Atzmon due to his Coltrane tour with Martin Smith and the Cultures of Resistance gig at this year’s Marxism.”

2007: “Gilad Atzmon is not racist” according to leading SWPers, Hannah Dee, Viv Smith and Lindsey German.

2007: Socialist Worker promoting: “A celebration of jazz musician Charlie Parker with Martin Smith and Gilad Atzmon. Includes launch of Gilad’s new album, Refuge ”

2008: “Gilad Atzmon celebrates Charlie Parker” [with Martin Smith]. Martin Smith was the SWP’s National Secretary and leading Central Committee member.

2009: “Disclaimer – I’ve never previously much liked Gilad Atzmon’s CDs. Live, he can be brilliant, with a bite and intensity that make him one of the best jazz artists working in Britain today. ”

2009: Atzmon hosted yet again at the SWP’s premier bookshop, Bookmarks.

2009: Atzmon argues “Throughout the centuries, Jewish bankers bought for themselves some real reputations of backers and financers of wars [2] and even one communist revolution [3]” A common neo-Nazi theme.

2012: Atzmon joins the neo-Nazi site, Veterans Today.

2013: My short piece, The death agony of the SWP

2014: Gilad Atzmon praises ex-KKKer David Duke

2014: Atzmon support for Holocaust Revisionists.

2015: Atzmon thinks the Paris shooting was a false flag. That is antisemite-speak for “Jews did it”.

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Golden Dawn’s True Face

History has shown that we ignore the growth of neofacism at our peril. Golden Dawn is but one example of that.

Konstantinos Georgousis’s film on Channel 4 is a a reminder to never underestimate the boldness, stupidity or vileness of neofacists:

Update 1: The JC has a worrying development:

“Leaders of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have announced plans to open nursery schools.

The decision comes after the organisation ran a pilot class at the party’s offices in Artemida last month.

More than 20 children, aged six to 10, were taught “Greek ideals” and mythology in accordance with the ideological values of the third most popular party in Greece.

A spokesperson described the class as a “national awakening” on the party’s official website. Educators across the globe have drawn comparisons to indoctrination methods used by the Nazis. “

The BNP Congratulates Neo-Nazis in Greece

Anyone pretending that the British National Party were merely a bunch of concerned citizens, rather than hardcore neofascists, will have to do a lot of explaining.

The BNP’s web site can be seen applauding a Golden Dawn rally and droning on about Social Nationalists (which is presumably the new name for neo-Nazis):

“The preparations for the rally and the march begun from early this morning, preparations suiting the greatest Nationalist march of the last decade.

The streets around the monument are filled with Greek flags and the banners of the Party, while our slogans rocked the surroundings. Those attending saluted the newcomers with cheers.

The Parliamentary Team of the Golden Dawn, the General Secretary and representatives of Regional Organizations all over Greece.

At the peak of the gathering, 50.000 Nationalists honoured the memory of those that fell in Imia, in 1996.

Speeches were given by many comrades, including the Greek Popular Front of occupied Cyprus.

Once the memorial ended, the Greek National Anthem and the Hymn of the Golden Dawn were sung.

The post on the BNP web site provides direct links to Golden Dawn’s YouTube page, where bucket loads of neofacist propaganda can be found.

This is a reminder about the awful, neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn:

Golden Dawn_Salute1



[Pictured above are Golden Dawn supporters giving the Nazi salute, with Nikolaos Michaloliakos, their leader walking by.]

Michaloliakos called Hitler “a great personality of history”.

The Guardian provided an in-depth look at them, Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right.

At Searchlight, 30,000 Golden Dawn Supporters March in Athens Under Neo-Nazi Banners.

The Observer’s 2009, Exposed: ugly face of BNP’s leaders.

Haaretz on Greek mythology.

Finally, Golden Dawn’s leader makes excuses for the Nazis’s crime. That is what the BNP admire.

Update 1: Spiegel Online is reporting that Golden Dawn are linking up with German neo-Nazis:

“The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn has established contacts with German neo-Nazis in Bavaria. The group, which is represented in Greek parliament, is also attempting to set up a cell in the southern German state.

The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn is establishing close contacts with Bavarian neo-Nazis and began setting up a cell in Nuremberg last year. The party, known in Greek as Chrysi Avgi, even held a conference in the southern German city recently.

Bavaria’s state intelligence agency is particularly interested in meetings that have been taking place between right-wing extremists from Greece and those in Bavaria.

Greece, Holocaust Denial & Nikolaos Mihaloliakos

The leader of the Greek neo-Nazis has come out as a Holocaust denier.

Yahoo News reports on Nikolaos Mihaloliakos’s malevolent views:

“ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece’s government and Jewish community on Monday condemned the leader of a far-right party for saying there were no gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.

Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, whose Golden Dawn party became potential kingmakers after an inconclusive election on May 6, also challenged the view that six million Jews were killed in World War Two.

“There were no ovens, this is a lie … there were no gas chambers either,” Mihaloliakos said on Sunday in an interview on the private Mega television station.

Golden Dawn, whose members give Nazi-style salutes, took nearly 7 percent of the vote in a surge for fringe parties opposed to austerity policies under Greece’s international bailout deal.

Mihaloliakos said the number of six million Jewish victims was an “exaggeration” and that “many people from different nations” died in German concentration camps, just like many Japanese died in U.S. camps.”

I suppose if we were being cynical we shouldn’t be surprised that a neo-Nazi denies the Holocaust? Or that he uses an interview to air his foul opinions.

That’s what they do.

However, this instance confirms one of the many reasons why Holocaust denial must be fought.

Not only does it defame the memory of those killed by the Nazis, but it also seeks to diminish the Nazi’s crimes and in doing so rehabilitate National Socialism as an ideology.

That is why we must all be vigilant, to stop such views entering the mainstream,

Any concession to Holocaust denial, Holocaust deniers or Holocaust revisionists is toxic.

Any organisation or individual that tolerates, excuses or obfuscates on these issues is really a friend of Nikolaos Mihaloliakos.

Remember that next time you see him or his supporters giving a Nazi salute.