CAMERA highlights an interesting comment on an article by the liberal Haaretz commentator, Bradley Burston, by the progressive journalist MJ Rosenberg.
The context is this. MJ Rosenberg wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times in which he argued that “Israel can’t be de-legitimized, and no one is trying to do so”. Separately, Bradley Burston has written a post in which he contemplates what “progressives” mean when, like Kent State professor Julio Pino, they shout “Death to Israel”. This is what has prompted Burston’s special concern:
My daughter went to school this morning worried about her civics exam. She came home worried about explosive warheads.
As of this week, she’s in range.
So, that’s the background. What is interesting is that MJ Rosenberg comments:
No progressives call for “Death to Israel.” None. The people you cite, and others in the genocide caucus, are Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists or just crazy. To ascribe their behavior to progressives is like blaming liberals for Soviet Communism or conservatives for fascism. It is, frankly, ridiculous.
MJ Rosenberg makes a very clear distinction between the “Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists”and crazy folk in the “genocide caucus” on the one hand, and mainstream liberals on the other. The thing is, in the US context, that distinction can be sustained. There’s a small crossover between the far Left and mainstream Democrat politics in America, but it is not significant.
By contrast: in the United Kingdom, and in other European countries, there is no barrier at all between the extreme Left and mainstream liberal democratic politics. “Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists” are fully accepted within progressive politics here. In important areas, they’re in leadership positions.
It is easy to demonstrate the truth of this contention. Here are just a few examples.
The Guardian’s Wykhamist associate editor, Seumas Milne, cut his political teeth in the Straight Left faction of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Straight Left were “Tankies”: that is, hardline Stalinist opponents of the liberalising “Eurocommunist” faction within the CPGB. They were called “Tankies” because they (notionally) supported the “liberation” (by tanks) of Hungary and Czechoslovakia from “counterrevolutionaries” in 1956 and 1968. Here’s Milne, demonstrating his lack of repentance:
For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment… Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is run by Kate Hudson, who is a leading member of the Communist Party of Britain. The CPB is the Stalinist rump of the CPGB, which reconstituted itself after the Eurocommunist wing dissolved the party. CND itself previously contained a Stasi spy, Vic Allen, at its highest level.
Hudson was previously married to the late Redmond O’Neil, Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff, who was an activist in Socialist Action: which is what the Trotskyite International Marxist Group became after it infiltrated the Labour Party. Socialist Action controls the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty International UK, was one of Ken Livingstone’s many “babymothers”*. Under her leadership, Amnesty has hosted a series of meetings promoting the delegitimisation and indeed the destruction of Israel, at which prominent anti-Jewish racists have spoken. Moreover, her team at Amnesty includes Elena Dallas the daughter of Tony Cliff: the founder of the Socialist Workers Party,
“Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with Peoples Korea clear”
I could say more, but you get the general idea.
Complaints about the disproportionate influence of the extreme Left within “Progressive” politics is typically met with two responses: denial and outrage. When Nick Cohen made this observation in his excellent book, What’s Left, he was accused (by Timothy Garton Ash and Andrew Rawnsley) of giving the far Left too much credit and exaggerating its importance. But, in the United Kingdom at least, it is difficult to find a progressive organisation which will not happily welcome “Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists” onto its platforms.
When this is pointed out, the second response is usually to accuse the observer of “McCarthyism”. But McCarthyism involved the sacking and blacklisting of Hollywood scriptwriters who had unknowingly attended the odd one or two meetings of Communist Party front organisations. There’s a very big difference between that and, for example, objecting to supporters of the nightmare state of North Korea running supposedly “Progressive” organisations.
MJ Rosenberg makes another important point:
To ascribe their behavior to progressives is like blaming liberals for Soviet Communism or conservatives for fascism.
To be frank, there are times that conservatives can properly be blamed for fascism. The Daily Mail is rightly condemned for its support for Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. The Tory Party was also properly criticised when it allowed near-fascist ginger groups, including the Monday Club, to operate within its ranks. But the fact is: those days are now over. The Tories have recognised the danger of far Right entryism, and have taken on their extremist fringe.
Not so “Progressive” politics.
In fact, the following senior Labour Party figures recently spoke on a Socialist Workers Party platform, in the company of various SWP and Jamaat-e-Islami linked co-speakers:
- Jack Dromey MP: Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government
- Helen Goodman MP: Shadow Minister for Justice
- Peter Hain MP: Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
The bottom line is this. In the United Kingdom, there is absolutely no cordon sanitare between the mainstream progressive Left and the extreme “Genocide Caucus” Left. Right up to the top of the Labour Party and the Guardian and many other institutional stalwarts of the Left, there is both tolerance and acceptance of Stalinists and Trotskyites in leadership positions. They, in turn, have enthusiastically supported and vouched for, not simply “Israel delegitimisers”, but genocidal Jew haters. None of this is effectively opposed by the mainstream Left.
The lack of opposition to the infiltration of the “Genocide Caucus” into mainstream “Progressive” politics is worrying. It drives sensible people away from mainstream Left organs, and attracts lunatics. I know many people – people with whom I campaigned for Labour, for year after year – who now won’t vote for the party. We need an organisation like Amnesty, but many former supporters now regard it as a hateful and malicious organisation. The Guardian is, at times, still a strong liberal voice: but it has a reputation for being the soapbox of racists and maniacs which I suspect it will now never lose.
I mean, here’s a perfect example of what I mean. In July, Tony Lloyd MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, met Hamas leaders in Gaza. He was greeted by Ahmad Bahar of Hamas who has this to say about Jews:
Make us victorious over the community of infidels… Allah, take the Jews and their allies, Allah, take the Americans and their allies… Allah, annihilate them completely and do not leave any one of them.
MJ Rosenberg is right as far as mainstream US liberal politics is concerned. When it comes to British liberal politics, however, the situation is desperate. The Genocide Caucus has control of the reins, and is meeting no real challenge.
* Er. According to Janet Street Porter’s column. Which may well be wrong!