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.
I can’t say I always agree with Bob’s approach, but I admire his persistence in keeping an eye on (ex) SWPers.
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.
It is my view that (ex) SWPers often share many characteristics of 1960s Stalinists in their attitude toward Jews, either disdainful or oddly ambiguous.
[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.
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.
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. 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.
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…”
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  and even one communist revolution ” A common neo-Nazi theme.
Astute readers will notice that it approvingly quotes from a neo-Nazi, Gordon Duff.
“JOAN RIVERS died in an endoscopy clinic
Where she was having her vocal chords examined.
Her voice had been getting raspier and raspier,
And recently she’d berated an interviewer
On leaving LAX, Los Angeles airport,
Who’d had the impudence to solicit her opinion
On the then current massacres in Gaza.
She turned on him angrily screaming
That she had “zero sympathy
For the civilians killed in Gaza”
Because “they had fair warning to get out, and they didn’t …
“So they deserve to die. They were told to get out.
“They didn’t get out. You don’t get out? you are an idiot.
“Hamas,” she continued, “was re-elected
By a lot of stupid people who don’t even own a pencil.
“At least the ones that were killed,” she added with a savage relish,
“Were the ones with very low I.Q.s.”
She then praised World War Two being ended by Hiroshima and Nagasaki
And she continued hoarsely shouting
At the interviewer who’d had the gall to ask her,
In view of her uncritical support for the Israeli State,
What were her feelings about the deaths of 1400 people:
“They started it. We now don’t count who’s dead.
“You’re dead, you deserve to be dead.”
In her snarling triumphalism
She was suggesting
That three hundred and seventy three children,
Killed by Israel’s ‘Protective Edge’,
Had brought their own deaths
“You’re dead, you deserve to be dead.”
However karma is also a bitch,
And shortly afterwards Rivers
Would lose her voice
And, worse still, upon her entering the endoscopy clinic
And being given an anaesthetic
She fell into a coma and died.
The friend of Nancy Reagan, the friend of Netanyahu,
And the friend and favoured wedding guest of Prince Charles,
She would dance attendance upon the rich and powerful
And make it clear that she held political opinions
That matched theirs. She’d play court jester
And then growl, “We must bomb the shit out of Iran”.
Her friend, the Prince, said that he was ‘deeply saddened’
By the comedian’s death
And, keen to identify himself with outpourings of showbiz grief,
He added that, “Joan Rivers was an extraordinary woman
“With an original and indefatigable spirit,
“An unstoppable sense of humour and an enormous zest for life.
“She will be hugely missed and utterly irreplaceable.”
In his dull insouciance the hapless Prince
Had overlooked the fact that his heroine,
Fawned upon in Hollywood as the ‘Duchess of Dirt’,
‘Queen Wise-Arse’, and the ‘Goddess of Snark’,
Had advised his future daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton,
‘If you ever want to go to Paris, fly, don’t take the tunnel.’
But perhaps he hadn’t really forgotten it –
Perhaps he’d perversely savoured Rivers’ sick reference
To his ex-wife’s untimely death…
And nor did Charles seem aware that,
Far from her being “irreplaceable”,
Much of Joan Rivers had been replaced by plastic.
Thanks to nearly three hundred operations
She’d become a smooth skinned gargoyle
Coated by a lustrous chemical sheen;
A reflective veneer on her tautened pink skin.
In 2010 she tweeted, “With all the plastic surgery I’ve had,
I’m worried when I die God won’t recognize me.”
The historian Alan Hart responded,
“If she was still alive today, I would say to her something like,
‘If he does recognize you, perhaps you should worry
About whether he will forgive you for saying
That, because they voted for Hamas,
The Palestinians of the Gaza Strip prison camp
Deserved what they were getting
When Israel was delivering them
More death and destruction.”
The commentator Gordon Duff had a less measured response:
“May a gaggle of flying blood monkeys escort her to the side of her creator”.
Others disobligingly wondered whether
Those disposing of her body would cremate her
Or would recycle her plastic corpse.
“I’ve had so much plastic surgery,” she’d declare,
“When I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”
Although sadly, Tupperware might not think it served their brand –
Devoted to keeping food fresh in a hygienic fashion.
Most tragically of all, despite her surgery she was wistfully to confess,
“No man has ever, ever told me I’m beautiful.”
Maybe that was because there was an inner ugliness
That couldn’t be concealed by cosmetics:
The inner ugliness of a woman who’d often complain
How much she was inconvenienced by children on ‘planes
By saying “where is Casey Anthony when you need her?”
Casey Anthony being an infamous mother
Accused of killing her two-year-old daughter
By suffocating her with parcel tape;
Ugliest of all perhaps, Rivers took a hideous pride
In doing anything for money:
“For $500, I’ll write for Hitler,” she said.
There is now a new face in hell,
With its mouth made of collagen
And a voice that may mercifully be silent. “
“In Mali’s post-dictatorship history, Bamako’s response to these periodic outbreaks of rebellion has, depressingly, remained the same – a “militiatary” policy that meant that different groups armed to neutralise each other. That policy was pursued over a long period even as former peace agreements were largely allowed to slip on their commitments and old grievances allowed to fester.
Indeed, close analysts of developments in Mali have been concerned for almost a decade by the increasing dysfunctional nature of the country’s government, as well as by the re-emergence of Tuareg and Islamist armed factions in the north. “
“The situation in Mali dates back to March of last year, when, in a surprise coup, low-ranking government soldiers overthrew the former Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure. Since then, the country has been broken in two, with the lawless north slipping into a hell of medieval-era punishments like flogging, stoning, and even, reportedly, amputations, all dictated by a severe form of Sharia law practiced by the Islamist radicals who now dominate the area. France, the United States, and other Western powers have been nervously watching this unfold, concerned that Mali would become the next major organizational hub and training ground for Al Qaeda. They hoped that the nations of West Africa would intervene on the Malian government’s behalf, but as those countries dragged their feet about doing so, and as the Islamist rebels continued moving steadily into the southern part of Mali, it began to seem that if someone did not take action to halt their advance, it would be too late to stop them. “
I had always appreciated that Ronald Reagan was intellectually decrepit and only capable of repartee when it had been written for him, but I had not realised he could not process information in a written form, as most presidents do.
Apparently, the CIA provided him with simplistic reports and analysis in the form of films:
“That Stepehn is not an anti-semite and has not knowingly endorsed anti-semitism, I have no doubt. But what worries me is the growing bravura with which all critics of Israel or supporters of the Palestinians are charged with the – rightfully – damning slur of anti-semitism.”
Leaving aside the poor spelling and even weaker reasoning within Murray’s post, I imagine he would have had a stronger case if the comments box had not been littered with obvious antisemitism.
I will bet that neither Rev. Sizer nor Craig Murray would be able to adequately explain why that occurred, but this is a very small sample:
[Apologies to readers, as I have left in the links to neo-Nazi and racist web sites, as a public record. It indicates the type of material that is considered fit and proper reading amongst some of Rev. Sizer’s supporters.]
“Cryptonym 13 Jan, 2013 – 12:36 am
I later sampled Behind Communism by Frank L. Britton**, available on hundreds of other websites too, it tries to tell the story of pre, during and post-revolutionary Russian history, not found hardly anywhere else, and can hardly do so without mention of its Jewish population and their huge role, it has a tellingly critical tinge that intrudes on the story…”
… It isn’t an impossibility to be anti-jewish with perfect ethical and moral justification, nothing is above criticism, it like all religions simply being a set of madcap ideas, constituting a bogus identity, rammed into impressionable minds and causing permanent damage. It seems any subject matter which mentions the chosen ones, not closed off only for their exclusive consumption, and which isn’t quite the prescribed Hollywood gloss revisionist whitewash version of events -is proscribed reading nowadays. “
[** See below for details on Frank L. Britton.]
Many of Murray’s readers seem to relish the opportunity to digest more antisemitic and neo-Nazi material.
“A Node 13 Jan, 2013 – 1:37 am
I’m with Cryptonym on this one. Thanks BoD and Kempe for the tip-off about this useful resource.
Sure there’s some stuff there that’s a bit rabid for my taste, but there is much that seems reasonable comment.
… It’s absolutely fascinating and resonates with a lot of my findings elsewhere.
Really, thank you Bod, and particularly you, Kempe, for providing the link.”
An anti-semite is someone who hates someone of semitic origin simply because that person is semitic.
I argue, therefore, that it is not anti-semitic:
To deny the Jewish holocaust.
To deny the uniqueness of the Jewish holocaust.
To compare Jewish suffering with that of other peoples. To point out that Jews figured prominently in the Bolshevik Revolution.
To claim that AIPAC calls the shots in the US’ Middle East foreign policy.
To opposed the existence of the State of Israel.
Such statements or claims may be controversial or dead wrong and could be motivated by anti-semitism but of themselves are not anti-semitic. Refusing a Jew (or Arab) a job because of their race is anti-semitism. Jailing or attacking a Jew or Arab because of their race is anti-semitism. Prejudicial behaviour is the key to anti-semitism. “
“Mary 15 Jan, 2013 – 12:07 pm
Not (fully) reported in the Zionist-controlled corporate media.
[Explanatory note on reference above. Lorne Bair Rare Books notes on Frank L. Britton’s publication, American Nationalist “was the racist and anti-Semitic house organ of Frank L. Britton, a California anti-Communist crusader who was one of the first to detect the presence anti-American influences in Hollywood. Content of the current issues is about equally divided between Jew-baiting and exposure of the plot to “mongrelize” the United States through interracial marriage (also, not surprisingly, a Jewish plot).” ]
I suspect had Frank L. Britton been alive today he’d be commenting on Craig Murray’s site to widespread approval and raising cash for Rev. Sizer’s defence.
“I have known and worked with Stephen for nearly 15 years and have the utmost respect for his writing, pastoral ministry, and his speaking around the globe on behalf of the victims of persecution and human rights violations. “
I suppose, in part, that might be true, however, Rev. Sizer silent criticism of the Assad regime is noticeable.
You might, not unreasonably, think that in 21 months of slaughter in Syria that Rev. Sizer could have made a critical comment of the Syrian government. After all, he’s immensely capable of criticising Israelis, but suddenly acquires writers’ block when it comes to Assad and Syria.
It is a symptom which seems to inflict many Western “pro-Palestinian” supporters, capable of criticising Israelis at the drop of a hat, yet barely able to muster any criticism whilst Assad is slaughtering civilians.
Just to be clear, I am not accusing Rev. Sizer of hypocrisy, racism or anything else. Merely observing that in 21 months he might have at least commented once on the hundreds of Palestinians killed in Syria.
Rev. Sizer has written on Syria, but I can’t find any criticism of Assad. In fact, the opposite when he uses a proxy to say in June 2012:
“Revd Awad insists Qatar and Saudi Arabia along with the US are funding mercenaries from Libya and Iraq to attack civilians in Syria and that the army are not responsible. He is convinced the President enjoys the support of at least 75% of Syrians. He insists none of Syria’s diplomats around the world has defected to the opposition. He is confident that the Kofi Annan report will exonerate the Syrian government and that the external forces seeking to destabilise Syria will not succeed. “
It drips of paranoia and defensiveness, but later on of that month, June 2012 invokes Robert Fisk to argue Syria: Its all about oil.
For want of his own opinions Rev. Sizer employs Elizabeth Kendal’s Syria: The Lies Being Told.
Unfortunately, it appears that Ms. Kendal is a conspiracy theorist and believes that the Houla massacre committed by the Assad regime’s forces was a contrivance:
“For more on the Houla massacre, now exposed as a false flag operation wherein Free Syrian Army forces disguised as pro-Assad ‘thugs’ massacred unsympathetic mostly non-Sunni families and blamed the regime…”
So as far as I can see Rev. Sizer has written nothing to criticise Assad or his dictatorship which brought about the events in Syria after massacring peaceful protesters in March 2011.
In August 2012, Rev. Sizer utilises the words of others and latterly employing a questionable photograph to hint at something else:
“The first reaction of President Bashar al-Assad was to initially respond with hints of reform. But soon he launched violent crackdowns that could have dispensed with the opposition if not for outside support. “
So what we see is conscious effort to blame everyone else, but the repressive Syrian government. The idea that people could rise up against a dictatorship, of their own free will, after being shot at, murdered and tortured seems to have escaped Rev. Sizer and these various proxies.
Despite 21 months of conflict Rev. Sizer can’t say a single word against Assad.
In short, Rev. Sizer is proclaimed as “speaking around the globe on behalf of the victims of persecution and human rights violations” yet I have not read one word from Rev. Sizer critical of Assad on the hundreds of Palestinians killed, the 40,000+ Syrians dead, hundreds of thousands injured and millions displaced within the country.
A curious omission?
Update 1: Whenever I post on Rev. Sizer’s antics the blog gets a lot of spam, incoherent or abusive comments. I would remind potential commentors to read, disgest and understand the Comments Policy.
Update 2: You might almost say “the world goes to hell in a handbasket whilst Rev. Sizer has other preoccupations”. Despite the mounting death toll in Syria, Rev. Sizer’s main concern is, somewhat predictably, Rev. Sizer.
The excuse “some of his best friends are…” is threadbare by use, but I am sure these theologians will be able to explain why Rev. Sizer continually, regularly and mistakenly posted links to vile, hardcore, antisemitic filth.
Astute readers will know that Dean is intimately connected to the terrible Veterans Today, not only that but any cursory reading of the article would ring alarm bells amongst any antiracist, where he argues:
“Real historians like David Irving were attacked for printing the forbidden truth and made examples of to cower the rest of the sheep. And yes, Jewish lobbies had their fingerprints all over the dirty deed. “
If London BDS and other Western pro-Palestinian activists wish to be more convincing than they should stop digesting the racist filth that Press TV puts out.
“Palestine Solidarity Campaign is shocked and disgusted that a twitter account @londonbds tweeted an article with clearly anti-Semitic content. We oppose all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Anti-racism is a core value of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. Palestinians face systematic discrimination and building opposition to all forms of racism is a key part of our campaigning.
Supporting Palestine is supporting an anti-racist struggle and we shall continue to make clear that there is no place for any form of racism in our movement.
PSC has been informed that this is not the twitter account of London BDS group, whose account is @londonbdsgroup, but an apparently lone individual. We have reported this to twitter as hate speech. “
All very laudable, however, the PSC is not adverse to the racist Press TV, as a matter of principle, any simple search shows that.
The rest of their statement is decidedly implausible, as anyone with access to Google can see.
Readers will remember how long it took the PSC to kick out a self-proclaimed Holocaust denier, Francis Clark-Lowes, from their ranks. Even then about 1/5 of the conference delegates did not think Holocaust denial was antisemitic and wanted to keep him as a member.
Now I can understand the desire to support the Palestinians, it is a most worthy cause, but it is not helped when its Western supporters link to anti-Jewish racism, for the fourth time.
It gives the impression that such Western supporters are more motivated by their animus towards Jews instead of a genuine concern for the welfare of Palestinians.
I am sure this is not the case with Rev. Sizer, however, his inability to distinguish between nonracist material and vile antisemitic garbage suggests that his judgement is faulty in these matters.
And, before he and his supporters drag out the most predictable, I should make it clear that I do not think that he is an antisemite, rather he strikes me as someone of poor judgement who swims in the effluent of modern “anti-Zionism” but can’t see an antisemitic turd when it steams towards him.
So please, Rev. Sizer, for the sake of your own conscience, make a habit of apologising when you are wrong, as in this case and please do not play the victim, it is unbecoming.
So much happening across the world and so little (infinite) blogging space to put it into.
The Sudanese government seems to be itching for a war in the region and it is the people that really suffer, the Indy reports from Yida:
“On the outskirts of Yida where this month’s 5,000 new arrivals are camping there are hundreds of severely malnourished children. Medical staff at the camp reported twice the normal monthly total of malnutrition cases in the first three weeks of April suggesting a sharply increasing hunger crisis across the border in Khartoum-controlled Southern Kordofan. Refugee leaders at Yida have refused to be relocated further south to the capital of Unity State, Bentiu, complaining the land allocated to them is a “malarial swamp” with no trees. The UN said talks are “ongoing” with the hope of persuading some refugees to relocate to camps further inside South Sudan.
The divorce of the two Sudans last year, which followed a long civil war, left several divisions of what was the southern guerrilla army, the SPLA, inside the interim borders of the new Sudan. The government in Khartoum has accused the south of conspiring with these civil war allies in areas like the Nuba Mountains and launched a brutal offensive against them, which has been marked by the bombing of civilian areas.”