socialism

The Real News on Labour’s Plan For Nationalisation and Workplace Democracy

In this 15 minute video from the Baltimore-based The Real News network, host Aaron Mate talks to Leon Panitch, professor of political science at York University about the proposals announced at the Labour party’s conference last month that Labour intended to renationalize some of the privatized utilities, introduce profit-sharing schemes and workplace democracy in firms with over 250 members, in which 1/3 of the board would be elected by the workers.

The video includes a clip of John McDonnell announcing these policies, declaring that they are the greatest extension of economic democratic rights that this country has ever seen. He states that it starts in the workplace, and that it is undeniable that the balance of power is tipped against the worker. The result is long hours, low productivity, low pay and the insecurity of zero hours contracts. He goes on to say that Labour will redress this balance. They will honour the promise of the late Labour leader, John Smith, that workers will have full union rights from day one whether in full time, part time or temporary work. They will lift people out of poverty by setting a real living wage of ten pounds an hour.

McDonnell also says that they believe that workers, who create the wealth of a company, should share in its ownership and the returns that it makes. Employee ownership increases productivity and improves long-term decision making. Legislation will be passed, therefore, for large firms to transfer shares into an inclusive ownership fund. The shares will be held and managed collectively by the workers. The shareholders will give the workers the same rights as other shareholders to have a say over the direction of their company. And dividend payments will be made directly to the workers from the fund.

Commenting on these proposals, Panitch says that in some ways they’re not surprising. McDonnell stated that Labour would inherit a mess. But his remarks were different in that usually governments use the fact that they will inherit a mess not to go through with radical policies. Panitch then talks about Labour’s commitment to bring the public utilities – rail, water, electricity, the post office – public ownership, pointing out that these used to be publicly owned before Thatcher privatized them. McDonnell particularly focused on water, before going beyond it, citing the 1918 Labour party constitution’s Clause IV, which Blair had removed. This is the clause committing the Labour party to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, under the best form of popular administration. And unlike previous nationalized industries, these will be as democratically-run as possible. Councils would be set up in the water sector made up of representatives of the local community and workers’ representatives to be a supervisory council over the managers in the nationalized water industry.

They then go to a clip of McDonnell talking about the nationalization of the utilities. McDonnell states that the renationalization of the utilities will be another extension of economic democracy. He states that this has proved its popularity in opinion poll after opinion poll. And it’s not surprising. Water privatization is a scandal. Water bills have risen by 40 per cent in real terms since privatization. 18 billion pounds has been paid out in dividends. Water companies receive more in tax credits than they pay in tax. And each day enough water to meet the needs of 20 million people is lost due to leaks. ‘With figures like that’, he concludes, ‘we cannot afford not to take it back into popular ownership’.

Mate and Panitch then move on to discussing the obstacles Labour could face in putting these policies into practice, most particularly from the City of London, which Panitch describes as ‘the Wall Street of Britain’, but goes on to say that in some ways its even more central to financialized global capitalism. However, Panitch says that ‘one gets the sense’ that the British and foreign bourgeoisie have resigned themselves to these industries being brought back into public ownership. And in so far as bonds will be issued to compensate for their nationalization, McDonnell has got the commitment from them to float and sell them. He therefore believes that there won’t be much opposition on this front, even from capital. He believes that there will be more resistance to Labour trying to get finance to move from investing in property to productive industry.

He then moves on to talk about Labour’s plans for ten per cent of the stock of firms employing 250 or more people to go into a common fund, the dividends from which would passed on to the workers up to 500 pounds a year. Anything above that would be paid to the treasury as a social fund for meeting the needs of British people and communities more generally. Panitch states that this has already produced a lot of squawking from the Confederation of British Industry. Going to giving workers a third of the seats on the boards, Panitch states that it has already been said that it will lead to a flight of capital out of Britain. He discusses how this proposal can be radical but also may not be. It could lead to the workers’ representatives on these boards making alliances with the managers which are narrow and particular to that firm. The workers get caught up in the competitiveness of that firm, it stock prices and so on. He makes the point that it’s hardly the same thing as the common ownership of the means of production to have workers’ sitting on the boards of private companies, or even from workers’ funds to be owning shares and getting dividends from them. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction of socializing the economy more generally, and giving workers the capacity and encouraging them to decide what can be produced, where it’s produced, and what can be invested. And if it really scares British and foreign capital, this raises the question of whether they will have to introduce capital controls. Ultimately, would they have to bring the capital sector into the public sphere as a public utility, as finance is literally the water that forms the basis of the economy?

Mate then asks him about Labour’s refusal to hold a second referendum on Brexit, which angered some activists at the conference. Labour said that any second referendum could only be about the terms of the exit. Panitch states that people wanting Britain to remain in a capitalist Europe try to spin this as the main priority of the party’s members, even Momentum. He states that this is not the case at all, and that if you asked most delegates at the conference, most Labour members and members of Momentum, which they would prefer, a socialist Britain or a capitalist Europe, they would prefer a socialist Britain. The people leading the Remain campaign on the other hand aren’t remotely interested in a socialist Britain, and think it’s romantic nonsense at best. He states that the Corbyn leadership has said that they want a general election as they could secure an arrangement with Europe that would be progressive without necessarily being in Europe. They would accept the single market and a progressive stand on immigration rather than a reactionary one. They did not wish to endorse a referendum, which the Tories would have the power to frame the question. And this is particularly because of the xenophobic and racist atmosphere one which the initial Brexit vote was based. Panitch states that he is a great critic of the European Union, but he would have voted to remain because the debate was being led by the xenophobic right. He ends by saying that capital is afraid of the Trumps of this world, and it is because of the mess the right has made of things here in Britain with the Brexit campaign that capital might give a little bit more space for a period at least to a Corbyn government.

This latter section on Brexit is now largely obsolete because Labour has said it will support a second referendum. However, it does a good job of explaining why many Labour supporters did vote for Brexit. The editor of Lobster, Robin Ramsay, is also extremely critical of the European Union because of the way neoliberalism and a concern for capital and privatization is so much a part of its constitution.

Otherwise, these are very, very strong policies, and if they are implemented, will be a very positive step to raising people out of poverty and improving the economy. Regarding the possibility that the representatives of the workers on the company boards would ally themselves with capital against the workers, who put them there, has long been recognized by scholars discussing the issue of workers’ control of industry. It was to stop this happening that the government of the former Yugoslavia insisted that regular elections should be held with limited periods of service so that the worker-directors would rotate. Ha-Joon Chan in his books criticizing neoliberal economics also makes the points that in countries like France and Germany, where the state owns a larger proportion of firms and workers are involved in their companies through workers’ control, there is far more long-term planning and concern for the companies success. The state and the workers have a continuing, abiding interest in these firms success, which is not the case with ordinary investors, who will remove their money if they think they can get a better return elsewhere.

My concern is that these policies will be undermined by a concentrated, protracted economic warfare carried out against the Labour party and the success of these policies by capital, the CBI and the Tories, just as the Tories tried to encourage their friends in industry to do in speeches from Tweezer’s chancellors. These policies are desperately needed, but the Tory party and the CBI are eager to keep British workers, the unemployed and disabled in poverty and misery, in order to maintain their control over them and maximise profits.

Economics: Class War by Another Name

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:15pm in

Frank Lee The terrible case which … socialists are able to make out against the present economic order of society demands a full consideration of all means by which the ownership of property may be … made to work in a manner beneficial to that large portion of society which at present enjoys the least share of its direct benefits.(John Stuart Mill – Essays on Economics – 1824 I recall an old anarchist cartoon which was in the form of a pyramid. The top stratum consisted of Kings and Queens, millionaires, billionaires, high-ranking politicians, the military, ministers and statesmen and various other high-falutin’ members of the ruling elite: the adjacent caption read – “We rule you.” The next tier down, consisted of the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, priests and other members of the clergy: the caption read – “We fool you.” Beneath that there were soldiers and militia and police: the caption read – “We shoot you.” And the lowest, broader and most populous layer was – us, the ordinary folk, the caption read: – “we …

Few Admiring Words for “Crypto-Socialist” Singapore

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/10/2018 - 9:45pm in

Text and photos by Andre Vltchek Imagine a country with 5.6 million inhabitants (of which around 4 million are citizens), surrounded by a collapsing giant – Indonesia – in the south and south-west, by the historically hostile Malaysia in the north, and that proverbial deep blue sea (Strait of Malacca, full of nasty pirates) over the horizon. Officially Indonesia has 250 million mainly desperately poor inhabitants, but my friends, top UN statisticians working in Montreal, Canada (at the UNESCO Institute for the Statistics), believe that it has, already since one decade ago, well over 300 million ‘souls’ (remember the “Dead Souls” of Gogol, a pre-revolutionary Russian writer and his iconic novel about corruption?), some of them actually ‘so dead’ to the Indonesian government that it doesn’t even want to acknowledge their miserable existence, let alone to feed them. Malaysia has 32 million people, and an incredibly complex and turbulent past. It is not a friendly country towards Singapore, which actually used to be a part of Malaya Federation for 2 years but got unceremoniously kicked …

Marx Turns 200: A Mixed Gift

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/10/2018 - 8:09am in

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A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx
By Sven-Eric Liedman
Translated by Jeffrey N. Skinner
Part of the Marx 200 series
Verso Books, 2018, 768 pages, $40 hardcover.

AMID AN OUTPOURING of discussion and new works marking the bicentennial of Karl Marx, Sven-Eric Liedman’s imposing A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx is a mixed offering. The “life” part is a success; the “works” portion is not.

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The Socialist, Labour Party Origins of the NHS and Welfare State

It seems that the Tory party is once again trying to lay some kind of claim to the NHS, even as they destroy it. At the Tory party conference last week I seem to recall one of the speakers claiming that the Tories could be relied on to keep it in budget and governed according to sound financial management.

Which must be why so many NHS Trusts are saying they’re seriously underfunded and in debt.

We’ve heard this nonsense before. A few years ago, former Health Secretary and maliciously incompetent clown, Jeremy Hunt, claimed that the NHS was a Tory invention. It wasn’t. The modern welfare state was created by the Atlee government under the direction of the great Nye Bevan. One right-wing commenter came on this blog to try to argue that the NHS wasn’t the creation of the Labour party, as it was based on the Beveridge Report. Beveridge was a Liberal, who based his report on consultation with a number of sources inside the civil service. But the ultimate origin of the NHS actuall predates the Report. In the 1930s the Socialist Medical Society had also issued demands for the creation of a National Health Service, and the Labour Party had included it in their manifestos. And the ultimate origin of the NHS goes back to the Webbs and their Minority Report on the Poor Law of 1909.

I found a couple of quotes making the socialist origins of the NHS and welfare state very clear in the booklet 100 Years of Fabian Socialism 1884-1984, edited by Deirdre Terrins and Phillip Whitehead (London: Fabian Society 1984).

With Lloyd George and Beverdge, Beatrice and Sidney Webb can just be said to be the founders ofthe modern Welfare State. In particular, Beatrice’s 1909 Minority Report to the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, and the Webbs’ subsequent Prevention of Destitution campaign, laid down a blueprint for the development of welfare programmes to cater for the disadvantaged. (p.7)

Discussing the activities of the Fabian Society during the War, the book states

At home the essays Social Security, edited by William Robson, paved the way for the Beveridge Report. This book, and five others, with a further nineteen research pamphlets, comprised the Fabian war effort. It was condensed in the 1945 Manifesto Let Us Face the Future, written by the Fabian Michael Young, and successful as no manifesto has ever been before or since. (p.17).

As for the Tories, they’ve been repeating the lie that only they, not Labour, offer the sound financial management required to keep the NHS afloat since the 1980s, if not before. I can remember the Torygraph declaring c. 1987 that while Labour had founded the NHS, only the Tories’ good financial management could be relied upon to maintain it. To support this assertion, they stated that when the Italians had set up their version of the NHS in the 1970s it had gone bust within a week.

I really don’t know anything about the Italians’ attempts to set up a system of state medicine, and so can’t comment on that part of the Torygraph’s claim. But the rest of it – that it’s the Tories prudent financial management that has kept the NHS solvent, is nonsense. Dangerous, pernicious nonsense.

And the Torygraph was aware of it at the time, which is why it said it. Thanks to Maggie Thatcher’s management, the NHS was in crisis, with lengthening waiting lists, the postponement of operations and the closure of hospital wards. Maggie, despite her loud denials and denunciations of the Labour party for claiming otherwise, had planned to privatise the NHS. She was stopped because of a full scale Cabinet revolt and the fact that her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had been to America and seen for himself just how dreadful the American healthcare system was, funded by private health insurance. Thatcher thus rowed back, and resorted instead to trying to get a certain percentage of the British population to take out private health insurance instead.

The party then went ahead with a programme of piecemeal NHS privatisation through the Private Finance Initiative, which was picked up and expanded by Blair and New Labour when they came to power in 1997. And after Labour lost the 2010 election, the programme has been resumed and expanded in turn by the Tories under Cameron and Tweezer, and their Health Secretaries Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and their successors.

However, under New Labour the NHS was kept in the black, so any claims that Labour was responsible for overspending or bankruptcy there is a lie. And even in the 1970s the compilers of a report into the NHS stated that further NHS expenditure would easily be met through natural increases in government funding.

Ultimately, the Welfare State and the NHS have been largely the creation of Socialists and the Labour party. The Conservative commitment to state medical care has, by contrast, always been tenuous. In the 1950s the Tory Right revolted and wanted to privatise the new NHS, claiming that it was financially unsupportable. Just as the Tories now claim that it would not be properly financially supported by the Labour party. Even though the Tories themselves have partially privatised it and driven it into debt.

The only solution is for the NHS to be returned to its Socialist origins and be renationalised. Which is what Corbyn promises, and one of the reasons the Tories, New Labour and the media are so scared of him. And why we need Corbyn, and a proper, traditional, Socialist Labour party in government.

Private Eye on Sunday Times’ Smear of Michael Foot as KGB Agent

The media this week has been full of the news about a book about the KGB defector, Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a high-ranking KGB officer, whose father was also a KGB officer, and who had been slated to be the next chief of the Soviet spy agency and secret police. When he defected, Gordievsky brought with him whole dossiers of KGB records, which were invaluable for ending the Cold War. However, Gordievsky himself was a self-admitted liar. And one of those lies was that the former leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

This falsehood was published in 1995 by the Times, and was promptly answered by a libel action by Foot and a cover by Private Eye sending the whole thing up. Foot won the case, and the Eye also published an article taking apart the whole story and exposing the Times’ article for the libel it was.

Now with the publication of the new biography, the Sunday Times has decided to repeat the libel again. And Private Eye has responded again with another article effectively demolishing this sorry piece of gutter journalism. The piece was published in last fortnight’s Eye for the 21 September to 4 October 2018, and entitled ‘Shooting Yourself in the Foot’, and runs

<strong>”MI6 believed Michael Foot was paid Soviet informant,” a Times front-page headline announced last Saturday. “Truth about former Labour leader emerges 23 years after he sued Sunday Times for libel.” The editor of the Times, John Witherow, also published the Sunday Times story about the former Labour leader in 1995 – and is clearly still sore about the embarrassment and ridicule it earned him.

It’s not only the editor, it’s the same story-based entirely on a claim by former double agent Oleg Gordievsky that he once saw a KGB file marked “Agent Boot”, which apparently referred to Michael Foot. The only difference is that the previous version was taken from Gordievsky’s memoirs while the latest one comes from a new biography of the spy.

According to the Times, The book “presents the first corroboration by MI6 officers of the allegations made by the Soviet defector”. No it doesn’t, at least not in the normal meaning of corroboration, ie additional proof or confirmation. In 1995 the Sunday Times reported Gordievsky’s allegation that the KGB regarded Foot as an agent of influence; now the Times says some people in MI6 thought the Russians regarded him as an agent of influence. And why did they think that? Because, er, Gordievsky had told them so. In short, not a smidgin of supporting evidence has “emerged” since Witherow last ran the story.

At the time of the earlier farrago, the Sunday Times claimed that it was “based on interviews with Gordievsky and six other former KGB officers”. But it omitted to add that only Gordievsky believed in “Agent Boot”. Although the paper claimed that the London-based KGB colonel Mikhail Lyubimov had recruited Foot, Lyubimov himself promptly denied it.

So the allegations were not made by “the KGB”, as Witherow told his readers 23 years ago and again last Saturday. They came solely from a single ex-KGB man, Gordievsky – whose unreliability was officially confirmed in May 1995, just three months after the Sunday Times splash, by the then solicitor-general Sir Derek Spencer. Speaking on behalf of the government during an appeal by Michael Smith, who had been convicted of spying for the Russians, Spencer told the Lord Chief Justice that some boasts made by Gordievsky in his memoirs were “not correct”. He described one of Gordievsky’s claims, about identifying undercover KGB agents to his British controllers, as “another exaggeration”. As the judge observed: “He must have lied to everybody at one time or another.”

With just one witness to rely one, it’s no surprise that Witherow and the Sunday Times couldn’t defend a libel action against Foot. More surprising is that the editor is now repeating even the most egregious howlers from his previous debacle. According to the 1995 story, for instance, Foot regarded Moscow as “a beacon of world peace” until 1968, when the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia brought him “down to earth with a bump” and he ceased to be a fellow-traveler. Exactly the same narrative appeared in last Saturday’s Times. From the 1940s to the 1960s, it claimed, Foot was an “agent of influence” who could be “fed pro-Soviet ideas and reproduce them in articles and speeches” – but in 1968 he became “intensely critical of Moscow in the wake of the Prague Spring”. After that, his “enthusiasm for the Soviet Union appears to have waned”.

The claim that Foot was a pro-Soviet mouthpiece until 1968 is easily disproved. As long ago as 1946, a Labour MP wrote to Tribune complaining of the “jaundiced prejudice against Russia” in Foot’s articles. In 1948, soon after becoming Tribune’s editor, he published a leader attacking left-wingers who “are still gulled by the monstrous delusion that the Russians are the friends, not the enemies, of democratic socialism”. During the Soviet blockade of Berlin, he urged the West to “drive a land passage through the Russian zone against Russian resistance and if necessary by force of arms”.

When Ian Mikardo MP resigned from Tribune’s board of directors in protest at the editor’s anti-Soviet stance, Foot was unapologetic. “The Soviet leaders … believe as a matter of theory that the end of establishing Soviet Communism wherever they can justifies any means for its attainment,” he wrote. “They believe also as a matter of theory in secrecy, censorship, dictatorship and the ruthless annihilation of the rights of individuals.” And so it went on. When the Russian tanks crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Foot was quick to condemn this “hideous outrage”.

Odd behavior for a man who, the Times alleges, wa sbeing paid to publicise “pro-Soviet ideas”. Why didn’t they ask for their money back. (p. 10).

Foot was right: the Soviet Union and the Communists were always hostile to democratic socialism, though Stalin used the existence of democratic socialist parties and other left-wing organisations to provide a spurious democratic justification for his transformation of their countries into Soviet satellites after the end of the Second World War. Stalin would amalgamate the Communist parties of the various countries the USSR had liberated with the largest left-wing party. This was usually the mainstream, democratic socialist under the pretext of reuniting the two forms of Socialism. Before the First World War in Germany and Italy, for example, there was only one socialist party, which included not only democratic socialists – reformists – but also radical Marxist revolutionaries. After the First World War, the radical Marxists split away from the reformist majority parties to form their countries’ Communist parties. In countries where the socialism was weak, Stalin amalgamated the Communists with the largest and most popular left-wing party, such as the various Peasants’ Parties. The new, umbrella Socialist party would then make a statement adopting Marxism-Leninism – the Communism of the Soviet Union – their official ideology, and the democratic socialists would find themselves purged and either executed or sent to the Gulags.

In the West there were some mainstream socialists, who really did believe that Stalin represented Socialism, such as the Fabians. But Foot, to his immense credit, clearly wasn’t one of them.

However, Maggie Thatcher hated socialism, because it came from the same ideological roots as Communism, and the Tory press in the 1980s was very quick to smear any Labour politician or activist as a potential traitor or agent of Moscow. Foot came in for particular abuse because of his support for CND and unilateral nuclear disarmament. It was therefore inevitable that one of the Tory papers would eventually smear him as a KGB agent.

As it stands, the Sunday Times has form on libeling people. As well as smearing Foot, it also libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Since that article came out, the Sunset Times has repeated the smear and tried to back it up, and the Eye has published yet another tearing it to shreds.

The satirical rag has done an excellent job attacking the lies and falsehoods against Foot. Too bad that it also seems to have swallowed the lies and falsehoods about Jeremy Corbyn.

Private Eye: Have We Left-Wing Bloggers Touched a Nerve?

I’ve posted a number of articles over the past couple of years criticizing Private Eye for its anti-Corbyn bias amongst other issues. I’ve pointed out that, while I’ve now gone back to reading it, I stopped for a period a little while ago because I was just so sick of its constant attacks on Corbyn as a Trotskyite, member of the Hard Left, anti-Semite and so on. And it seems I wasn’t alone. In this fortnight’s issue for 5 – 18 October 2018, the satirical magazine has taken aim at left-wing bloggers boycotting Private Eye and the Guardian through their ‘Dave Spart’ character.

Spart is a caricature of the militant, barely articulate and ideologically confused far-left activist, and has been a staple of the magazine since at least the 1980s, if not long before. His rants appear as an ‘Alternative Voice’ column. And this issue’s column, on page 30, runs as follows

Long-term Private Eye contributor Dave Spart calls for a boycott of Private Eye

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country … and … er … we call for this boycott of Private Eye … due to its manifestly alt-right anti-Corbynist policies … er … in fact even the word “boycott” with the implicit phallocentricity inherent in the world “boy” and its troubling narrative of penetrative male action is deeply problematic and should be replaced instead by the neutral term “personcott”; hence we will be peroncotting Private Eye and the Guardian and er … er … we have the total support of many hugely popular modern leftist websites and media outlets allied with us, including leftsquelch.org, skwawkybudgie.geocities, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum.blogspont, and we will not rest until all of us are united in a positive and friendly campaign to destroy the neo-Blairist agendum of the disgraced Soho junta and its so-called (That’s enough Spart. Ed.)

The websites mentioned in Spart’s rant sound like spoof versions of real sites. Leftsquelch could be a version of Left Foot Forward, skwawkiebudgie is a spoof amalgam of the Skwawkox and the Canary, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum could be just about every leftwing blog that sees Blair and his followers for what they actually are, Thatcherite entryists rather than true supporters of the Labour party and its traditional values.

The piece about boycotting the Guardian clearly comes from the hashtag campaign on Twitter calling for a boycott of the Groan between 7 and 9 pm on the 28th September 2018, a few days ago. This went to no.1 on Twitter after the hacks at the paper went berserk at the thought that the Canary’s editor in chief, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, was going to give the speech at a memorial lecture for a pioneering Black woman journo. Obviously that campaign and its success has also touched a deep nerve with the Eye and its contributors, if not also with the hacks of that ailing rag.

But there’s also much that the Eye’s caricature left out. Private Eye hasn’t just attacked Corbyn and his followers as Trotskyites. It also appears to support the anti-Semite smears against them, as I also blogged about. Last issue, the Eye published a piece attempting to rebut Dorothy Macedo’s claim in her letter to the Eye the previous week, that the anti-Semitism smears were baseless libels. The Eye instead claimed that Momentum believed that there was more anti-Semitism in the party than they had believed. This is the view of Jon Lansman, Momentum’s chief, but it’s not the view of many of its members, of which Macedo herself is one, nor of Jewish Labour party and socialist organizations like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas, and the Jewish Socialist Group. But they’re the wrong kind of Jews, so the establishment and the press, including Private Eye, ignore them or, like the Jewish Chronicle, simply smears them in turn as anti-Semites.

It’s interesting to note that Spart talks about the Eye and the Groan smearing working and non-working people, but doesn’t mention the smears themselves. Which are that Corbyn and his supporters are all Trots and anti-Semites. Clearly the Eye finds it difficult to back up the smear that they’re all Trotskyites with any supporting evidence. The Spart character frequently contradicts himself, and if the Eye felt it was able to provide any evidence to rebut the assertion that it was all a smear, it would have done so, putting it in Spart’s mouth as part of the denial. They might have made him say something along the lines of

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear as Trotskyites the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country through the principles of Leon Trotsky … er … er…. Or something like that. (My additions highlighted in black.)

Nor did they mention the other, rather more pernicious libel directed at Corbyn and his supporters: that they’re all anti-Semites. That libel is clearly so deeply engrained in the British press, that it can’t even be publicly claimed to be so, even in jest.

Now I doubt that Hislop and co. at the Eye are even aware that this blog even exists, much less care about what it says. But from reading the article, it’s clear that other, much larger and popular blogs are saying the same things I am, that they have got the Eye worried. Hence the spoof. And however much it’s disguised as satire, the Eye and the Groaniad are clearly worried by the power of the Net and new media, and particularly by the backlash against the Groan’s sour attitude towards Kerry-Anne Mendoza. Mendoza’s an outsider, coming from on-line, not print journalism. The Canary is popular and widely read. She and it are a challenge to established, and establishment print journalism and its groupthink. And she and the rest of the New Media and their readers, followers and commenters showed how powerful they were through the wave of immense support for the hashtag campaign against the Guardian.

Private Eye is partly based on the magazine revealing news and information that it is not revealed elsewhere in the press, and by providing the ‘news behind the news’ about stories in the press, and politics, business, the unions and so on. But thanks to the internet, there are other, online news sites and organisations doing the same thing, and reading them also reveals the Eye’s own bias.

And so despite the satirical jollity, the Eye and the Guardian are worried. And the Spart piece today shows it.

Book Review: Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles by Imaobong D. Umoren

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/10/2018 - 8:48pm in

In Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom StrugglesImaobong D. Umoren traces the lives of three black women activist-intellectuals—Una Marson, Paulette Nardal and Eslanda Robeson—whose work relating to race and gender reached across borders in the twentieth century. The book’s account of the lives of these ‘race women internationalists’ succeeds in showing their centrality to historical narratives about anti-colonialism, feminism, socialism and Pan-Africanism, writes Bethan Johnson

Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles. Imaobong D. Umoren. University of California Press. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

‘Wakanda forever!’ If cultural commentators are correct, these words are prophetic: Black Panther heralds a seismic shift in the global cultural landscape. The film has brought new energy to long-sustained conversations about Pan-Africanism and left viewers wondering about the relationship of the African diaspora to the proverbial continental homeland. The phrase and hand gesture from the film have, in the intervening months, been used by black activists as a show of black pride and black power, thereby forging a connection between battles over domestic race-related issues and conceptions of black excellence and solidarity.

While Imaobong D. Umoren could not have predicted the popularity of Black Panther and its immediate incorporation into the zeitgeist, the release of her debut book, Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles, certainly feels fitting at a time when discussions about the boundary-less nature of African diasporic power appear to be back under the spotlight. In Race Women Internationalists, Umoren traces the lives of three largely forgotten black female activists/intellectuals—Una Marson (1905-65), Paulette Nardal (1896-1985) and Eslanda Robeson (1895-1965)—who, motivated by an abiding belief in racial justice and desire to connect the African diaspora with the land of their ancestors, attempted to influence international politics and improve the lives of those in the African diaspora in the mid-twentieth century. Their work on issues relating to race and gender, reaching across state borders, garners them the moniker found in the title: ‘race women internationalists’. Through a comparative study of these three women, Umoren works not only to recover their stories, which have been largely lost to history, but also towards ‘growing black women’s internationalism, black women’s intellectual history, and more broadly, African diaspora studies’ (xvi).

Umoren opts for a chronological approach to recounting the lives and significance of Marson, Nardal and Robeson. Following a brief introduction, Umoren utilises significant moments in both international and personal affairs to make the women’s decades-long careers in activism more digestible, with chapters on interwar feminism and black internationalism (1920-35), the Spanish Civil War and the invasion of Ethiopia (1935-39), World War II and its aftermath (1939-49) and decolonisation (1950-66).

Umoren further divides chapters so that each woman’s activities are discussed within their own subsection. She admits that certain evidentiary limitations at times prevent a given subject’s story within a chapter to be of equal size, but nevertheless succeeds in presenting a fairly-balanced analysis of each woman. Her willingness to avoid the urge to tell a single, generalised story about all three and her command of the format allow readers to easily compare the subjects’ lives, and to understand the political realities and social trends of various moments in the twentieth century.

Image Credit: (themostinept CC BY SA 2.0)

The preponderance of the book focuses on recounting the lives of Marson, Nardal and Robeson. In this, Umoren shines. The book is overflowing with details; there seems to be no rock left unturned in Umoren’s research. Due to her mastery of the facts and a clear approach to their display, moreover, comparisons of the women unfold naturally and her analysis of their activities remains fairly objective (she is willing to point out when a subject makes demonstrably false statements, but does not weigh in on the merits of an argument or ideology), without the overstated interjection of the authorial voice.

In the sections devoted to Marson, Umoren eloquently shows the difficulties associated with Marson’s activist journey as a poet and playwright who discussed issues of race and gender. Born in Jamaica just after the turn of the century, Marson began a career in poetry that eventually brought her to London and to a wider audience (including a period with the BBC, where she was the first black female broadcaster). Umoren shows how the struggles Marson faced in England’s capital, stemming from the racism and sexism she experienced and heard from her compatriots, strengthened Marson’s poetic voice, pushing her to engage critically and honestly with the struggles of life for people from the Caribbean, particularly Caribbean women.

Umoren is, however, cautious about overstating Marson’s internationalist project, frankly describing how Marson struggled over the course of her lifetime—in part as a result of her mental and physical illnesses—to articulate her support of racial unity. Using the chronological framework, Umoren guides readers through Marson’s life in such a way that allows us to see the thread of anti-colonialism that connects Marson’s support of Pan-Africanism in the 1930s through to her concerns about approaches to Jamaican independence all the way to her work on feminist internationalism in Israel.

When discussing Paulette Nardal, Umoren is particularly strong in her analysis of how interconnected Nardal viewed Christianity, liberalism and anti-colonialism. Over the course of her life, Nardal observed and reported on a range of issues for publications in both France and Martinique as an esteemed journalist. Umoren captures the breadth of topics that impassioned Nardal. The book displays how this Martiniquais who was to be the first black student at the Sorbonne devoted her life to numerous causes that earned her the title of race woman internationalist. Nardal wrote on themes of gender and race, while also supporting Harlem Renaissance writers. Moreover, she sought to influence politics by writing about anti-colonialism during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and working as a specialist for a short time with the United Nations. Nardal also contributed to international feminism by founding l’Association le Rassemblement féminin to discuss politics and social issues with the women of Martinique, as well as publishing a magazine for women entitled La Femme dans la cité based on the activism of her group.

The activism of American-born Eslanda Robeson has the potential to be overshadowed as the result of her marriage to a prominent actor and activist, Paul Robeson, but Umoren instead showcases her consistent support of black, feminist and postcolonial causes, as well as her interest in other radical-left ideas. Umoren highlights Robeson’s relationships with influential Asian and African leaders (such as Hastings Banda and Patrice Lumumba). Umoren also acknowledges her connections to major institutions such as the United Nations and the Sojourners for Truth and Justice, to show that Robeson was not simply a casual observer of left-wing politics, but in the middle of it. Moreover, Robeson’s numerous trips to various nations in Africa throughout her adult life are used most effectively by Umoren to highlight the particular nature in which her subject engaged with the real conditions in the continent, but also, in a more theoretical sense, of how travel impacts activism.

The lives of the first black female BBC broadcaster, a well-travelled journalist and an advocate for the United Nations make for entertaining subjects, to be sure. However, Umoren’s work would have benefited from a clearer justification of her choice of subjects, as well as greater discussion of how these women fit within the larger tapestry of a class of women she refers to as ‘race women internationalists’. In her introduction, Umoren explains that each of her subjects represents a different strand of popular intellectual internationalism, each defining their activism based on their own concerns about various forms of identity politics. However, for those without a strong grounding in this area of history, it is difficult to gauge whether they are representative or exceptional of the larger cohort. While it does not alter Umoren’s primary object of chronicling the activities of these three women and contrasting their experiences of being race women internationalists, it is significant for the broader impact of her own work. Umoren is also less forthcoming about how impactful any of these women were, particularly with regards to the overall Western societies in which they lived. With only a few references to how many people might have consumed any of the works they released—magazines, radio broadcasts, etc—readers who wish to assess the impact of these women will need to do additional research.

Furthermore, while Umoren artfully lays out the various activities of her subjects, this richness comes at the expense of any detailed engagement with theoretical frameworks that might have strengthened her analysis. For example, she aptly notes the silencing of her subjects in historical memory and attributes this to gender bias, but her avoidance of theoretical analysis of the interplay of gender, race and activism that would have influenced the lives and activities of these three women will leave some readers feeling unfulfilled.

Given Umoren’s attempts to highlight her subjects’ centrality in the political and social milieu of the era, Race Women Internationalists features such a plethora of organisational and individual names that a non-specialist may feel unmoored or may not understand their significance without follow-up research. However, for those willing to use the book as a starting point to enrich their knowledge of race women internationalists, Umoren’s diligent research and exposition of various meetings, organisations and influencers provide ample points from which to begin. For those who already boast a strong familiarity with the topics and movements with which Umoren’s subjects were engaged, the work achieves its stated aim to redress the academic eclipsing of black female internationalists. In both cases, however, readers will leave Race Women Internationalists with a great deal more knowledge about Marson, Nardal and Robeson, as well as agreeing with Umoren’s foundational claim that race women internationalists warrant greater inclusion in the narratives historians will tell about anti-colonialism, feminism, socialism and Pan-Africanism in the years to come.

Bethan Johnson is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research explores the rise of militant separatist groups in Western Europe and North America in the mid-Cold War-era. The work explores the life-cycle of violent ethno-nationalism, driving forces behind radicalisation along separatist lines and authoritative methods for ending and avoiding deadly conflicts. Her master’s dissertation, also undertaken at the University of Cambridge, studied the manipulation of cultural nationalism for political unionist purposes by Lady Llanover in nineteenth-century Wales.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


"They Count on You Not Knowing"

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 30/09/2018 - 4:34am in

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Wealthy Bay Area investor David Crane is a leading promoter of the neoliberal agenda within the California Democratic Party. A former advisor to Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Crane is a widely-published critic of state and local tax initiatives, publicly-funded health care, public education, public employees and their pensions. He raises lots of money for “courageous” candidates willing to put “citizen interests” ahead of such “special interest” causes.

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‘The Lobby’: Labour Friends of Israel’s Lies and Smears at Labour Conference

This is the third part of the Al-Jazeera documentary, ‘The Lobby’, on the Israel lobby in the UK. In this section, the Arab news agency’s undercover reporter went with Shai Masot and Mark Regev of the Israeli embassy to the Labour conference in Liverpool. There they met and advised Joan Ryan, the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and her parliamentary assistant, Alex Richardson, and Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Assistant for Labour Friends of Israel, on how to deal with supporters of the Palestinians. They also recorded Ryan smearing Jean Fitzpatrick as an anti-Semite, accusing her of saying something which she definitely did not. Ryan did so because Fitzpatrick had the temerity to ask her a question she could not answer about what the LFI was doing to advance a two-state solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel’s Attack on the BDS Movement

The segment includes a clip of one of the Labour party’s Israel lobby saying that she could ‘take’ Jackie Walker. It then moves on to the challenge to Israel posed by the BDS movement, and Israel’s response to it. Netanyahu is shown saying to the camera that Israelis have to fight the BDS movement because it is morally wrong. Israel’s attack on the BDS movement is run by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which recruits mainly former Israeli secret agents. London is a major battleground in the conflict over the BDS movement. There’s a shot of Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian and critic of Israel, stating that in many ways the BDS movement started in Britain. There’s another clip of someone from the Labour Friends of Israeli ominously declaring that they work closely with the Israeli embassy, ‘doing a lot behind the scenes’. The documentary’s director, Clayton Swisher, states that one of the main targets is the Labour party, as for the first time they have a leader, who is a champion of Palestinian rights. There is also a shot of Peter Oborne, the Telegraph journo, who himself made a Channel 4 documentary investigating and criticizing the Israel lobby, saying that Israel interference is an outrage, an affront to democracy and shouldn’t be allowed.

Mark Regev on What to Tell Supporters of the Palestinians

The video shows the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, telling a group of sympathetic Labour activists that people on the left today are likely to be pro-Palestinian and hostile to Israel, if not anti-Semitic. He tells them that to combat Progressives, they are to ask them why they are supporting reactionaries like Hamas and Hezbollah, and to say in the language of Social Democracy that they are misogynist, homophobic, racist anti-Semitic and reactionary. The chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, Jeremy Newmark, then talks to the crowd about how he used the argument to win over Clive Lewis, one of Corbyn’s close allies.

Jackie Walker: The Anti-Semitism Crisis Is Constructed to Unseat Corbyn

There is another clip of Jackie Walker stating that the anti-Semitism crisis is constructed and manipulated by parts of the Labour party, other parties and the media to discredit Corbyn and a number of his supporters. She makes it clear that she wants an argument between Zionism and anti-Zionism, instead of the fake conflict there is now. She also states that at a debate she had with Newmark, he turned his back on the audience and whispered to her that she was a ‘court Jew’, the Jewish equivalent of calling a Black person a ‘house n*gger’. A note at the end of the programme states that when they contacted Newmark, he denied he said any such thing and feels that it is not a fair description of Walker. When asked if she had told anyone, she replies that it’s hard to use the compliance system, because it’s so discredited.

Masot is also filmed boasting that the Israeli embassy had attended 50 events that year at universities, and that more than 100 events were organized by the Israel societies on campuses, eight receptions for young people at the embassy, and three receptions for more than 300 people from Parliament.

Jean Fitpatrick and Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel

The video also interviews Jean Fitzpatrick about her encounter with Ryan and the Labour Friends of Israel. Fitzpatrick says that is was her first Labour conference, and that she wanted to use the opportunity to have a genuine dialogue with a group she felt had a lot of influence. She is shown asking Ryan and the others what they were doing about the Israeli settlements in Palestine. Ryan replies that they aren’t friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, and that they believe in a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick asks how this will come about. Ryan simply comes out with more flannel about coexistence and self-determination for both peoples. Fitzpatrick states that she had no idea, who was on the stall, and what she wanted was straight answers not slogans. Fitzpatrick asked Ryan what they were doing about Israeli occupation. In reply Ryan restates that they’re in favour of a two-state solution, and Israeli security.

Swisher then follows, explaining that a two-state solution is impossible due to the way Israeli colonization has atomized the existing Palestinian villages and towns, separating them from each other. Fitzpatrick also states that she wanted reassurance that a two-state solution was still possible. Back to the video of Fitzpatrick and Ryan talking, where Ryan states that they have to be careful not to let their feelings morph into anti-Semitism. Fitzpatrick in reply says she’s not anti-Zionist.

Ben White, a journalist with the Middle East Monitor, appears on camera to state that it is clear that, whatever party is in power in Israel, the country has no desire to relinquish the territories seized after 1967. This throws up questions no-one wants to ask. Or don’t want to answer.

Ilan Pappe states that there are only two solutions to the problem. Either you support Israel, which is an ethnic apartheid state, or you support a change of regime in Israel, which means that the country would go through a process of genuine democratization like apartheid South Africa. There is no third option.

Back to the conversation between Fitzpatrick and Ryan, Ryan tries to end the conversation. Pappe observes that Fitzpatrick didn’t ask anything about Judaism or the existence of Israel. She just asked about the settlements, and how anyone who supported Israel justified them.

Ryan Calls Fitzpatrick Anti-Semitic

Fitzpatrick states she was interested to know how they would use whatever funds and influence they had to bring about a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick is shown saying to Ryan that they have a lot of money and prestige in the world. Ryan asks her where she got that from. Fitzpatrick replies that that is what she has heard. the Labour Friends of Israel is a stepping-stone to good jobs, and that the son of a friend of hers got a good job at Oxford university on the basis of working for the Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan then responds that this is anti-Semitic, which Fitzpatrick denies, stating that it’s a fact. Ryan then goes on about how it’s an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and talks about ‘conspiracy theories’. Ryan then declares she’s ending the conversation, because she doesn’t want to talk further about getting jobs in university or the City through this, which is anti-Semitic.

Swisher then explains that Ryan falsely claimed that Fitzpatrick had spoken about getting jobs in the City, London’s financial centre. Pappe comments that Fitzpatrick wasn’t anti-Semitic, and Ryan and her friends knew it. She was simply an ordinary pro-Palestinian person concerned about Israel’s violation of their civil rights. Ryan continued talking about how Fitzpatrick had spoken about banking as she left the conference hall, even though Fitzpatrick had never mentioned it.

That evening, at a rally for the Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan described her day, claiming that there were three anti-Semitic incidents that day at the stand to the people staffing it. Which she believed showed the reality of anti-Semitism in the party.

Ryan, Angela Eagle, Jennifer Gerber and Chuka Umunna

Swisher states that by the following day the news had got out about the exchange on the stall. The video shows internet messages from LBC and the Labour Friends of Israel. Various MPs came by to express their views on the subject, including Angela Eagle, who is told by Ryan’s assistant, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for Labour Friends of Israel, that they had someone talk to them, who said the anti-Semitism accusations were made up to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka Umunna also turns up to hug Jennifer Gerber, the director of the LFI, and asks for an update on the anti-Semitic incidents. They tell him that a ‘nutter’ turned up to tell him that the coup was run by Jews, Jewish MPs and Jewish millionaires. They also say that Angela Eagle’s husband was Jewish to show how unpleasant this comment was. Ryan also tells Umunna that she reported ‘that woman’ and that Fitzpatrick had videoed her not answering the question. This has clearly upset Ryan. Ryan then goes on to say that she didn’t film her telling Fitzpatrick that she’s anti-Semitic, and that she’s made a formal complaint.

Fitzpatrick states that she’s angry about how Ryan misquoted her, and anxious about how she totally misinterpreted her words. Fitzpatrick says she has no idea how Ryan got from what she really said to getting good jobs in banking. ‘Maybe she believes her own trope’.

The video goes back to Gerber stating that she met someone who said that the anti-Semitism isn’t real, they haven’t seen it, their Jewish friends haven’t seen it and it’s really being used to crush Corbyn.

Pappe then says that it’s pathetic and worrying that such evidence is used every day to attack Corbyn, and get him to deny that he is anti-Semitic.

Alex Richardson: I Don’t Know If It’s Anti-Semitic Or Not, But It Made Me Uncomfortable, So It Is

And then were back Gerber telling the LFI that it’s upsetting to her as a Jew to hear about how anti-Semitism is being used to undermine Corbyn. But Gerber then goes on about how this person worries her more than the blatant anti-Semites, who talk about how Jews have big noses and control the world, because she doesn’t know whether she’s an anti-Semite. The conversation then moves on to a debate over which of these incidents was worse, with Rubin claiming it was Fitzpatrick’s conversation with Ryan. And Rubin himself is shown saying that he doesn’t know where the line is about anti-Semitism anymore. Alex Richardson, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant, then gives his opinion, that it’s anything that makes you uncomfortable. And so he reported Fitzpatrick’s comments as anti-Semitic, even though nothing anti-Semitic was said – but he’s sure there were undertones – simply because it made him feel uncomfortable.

Fitzpatrick observes that she tried to talk to them because she thought they were willing to talk about Palestine. Now it appears they are not, and if you try to talk about it, they will bring a charge of anti-Semitism against you.

Pappe observes that the LFI is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find 2 1/2 cases of anti-Semitism, and that even they aren’t sure if 2 of their 3 cases are actually anti-Semitic.

Fitzpatrick Investigated

Fitzpatrick was unaware that a complaint of anti-Semitism had been lodged, and that the story had made the news. This part of the video shows the headline in Jewish News. Shortly afterwards, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant emailed Rubin asking him to be a witness to the supposed anti-Semitic incident. But Richardson says that Fitzpatrick’s comment was ‘on the line’, but he felt it was anti-Semitic, even though she didn’t mention Jews, but Israel instead, and was all about Jews controlling money and power. Richardson then speculates about how ‘that woman’ might be banned because she said something anti-Semitic.

Shortly after she left the conference, Fitzpatrick was contacted by someone from the Labour party, who only told her it was about ‘a serious incident’. She was left racking her brains wondering if she had seen a fire or an assault of some kind. She was then told that it was her conduct, that was being investigated, ‘which was a real bombshell’.

At the end of the programme, it is states that they contacted everyone involved for their opinion. Ryan stated that she believes that it is duty of all party members to report language that is racist or anti-Semitic, and that she believes that her actions were entirely appropriate.

She added that comments like those about certain groups having lots of money and prestige and helped to advance people’s careers appeared to evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes.

The documentary also states that neither Shai Masot nor the Israeli embassy responded to their findings.

Conclusion

This shows just how nasty and desperate the Israel lobby is, and I admit, it has changed my opinion about the Israel lobby. I’d previously assumed that the accusations were a cynical ruse to smear Corbyn and his supporters. But it seems from this that the people who make them, Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement and others are so fanatical and blinkered, that they really do think that any who questions their views and Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is an anti-Semite.

Of course, they can’t clearly tell you what is anti-Semitic about particular comments. As Ryan showed with her own faulty recollection of what she was asked by Fitzpatrick, if it’s not explicitly anti-Semitic, they won’t remember it properly and make it fit their existing prejudices. Anti-Semites think Jews are behind the banking system, so when Fitzpatrick talked about the prestige surrounding the LFI that got her friend’s son a job, Ryan altered it in her recollection of the event to be about banks. Even though banks weren’t mentioned.

Nor did Fitzpatrick say anything about Jews. And it may very well be that the board interviewing the young man for the job at Oxford University were impressed that he had worked for Labour Friends of Israel. But just because Fitzpatrick believed, or her friend’s son believed, that he had got the job because of this doesn’t make it anti-Semitic. Fitzpatrick did not say that Jews controlled education, only that working for the LFI got him a job. People are impressed by different things, and it is not remotely impossible that someone at the university, who was personally impressed by the LFI, would offer a job to someone, who had worked for them.

As for Regev telling the Labour Friends of Israel to ask supporters of the Palestinians why they are supporting reactionaries, it’s true that Hamas and Hizbollah are unpleasant organisations. But there are deeply reactionary, racist and misogynist organisations in Israel. Not every Palestinian supports Hamas, and the nature of that political organization does not justify Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians, which started long before it arose.

It’s clear from this segment that the Israel lobby can’t justify it’s treatment of the Palestinians. Ryan couldn’t in her conversation with Fitzpatrick, and this embarrassed and angered her. Hence the smear. And with no arguments, Rubin and Richardson act like precious snowflakes demanding ‘safe spaces’ from being made uncomfortable.

And the use of anti-Semitic tropes to accuse decent people of anti-Semitism is contrived and deliberately constructed so that those making the accusation do not need to take any account of the reality of what they are being told. It’s a particularly nasty way of sticking their fingers in their ears, and saying ‘la-la-la, I’m not listening to you, and you’re an anti-Semite anyway for telling me things I don’t want to hear, can’t answer, and don’t want you to know.’

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