antisemitism,  Labour Party

Corbyn and Hobson

The problems with Corbyn’s 2011 preface to J. A. Hobson’s 1902 Imperialism: A Study have been well and thoroughly analysed, for example here by Jonathan Freedland. I’ll just note one point which perhaps builds on, or further evidences, Freedland’s observation here:

But Corbyn was not merely referring to Hobson and his thought in general: he was writing an extended assessment of a specific text – engaging directly with it. And yet across the eight pages Corbyn wrote, there is not so much as an acknowledgment of the racism within that text.

This is absolutely true. However that does not mean that Corbyn doesn’t engage with the problem of racism at all in his preface.

‘Hobson’s railing against the commercial interests that fuel the role of
the popular press with tales of imperial might, that then lead on to racist
caricatures of African and Asian peoples, was both correct and prescient. The way in which the British press portrayed Ghandi in the 1930s, or Kenyatta in the 1950s or, indeed, Argentina’s soldiers and sailors in the 1980s shows the tricks have not changed dramatically.’ (p. 36)

‘Indeed, as with previous wars, there were deliberate media and political attempts to denigrate whole peoples in the run up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.’ (pp. 36-7)

‘The racist stereotyping of peoples by the Europeans allowed the slave trade to
develop and prosper. It enabled the most appalling degradation of
subjected peoples to take place[.]’ (p. 41)

‘All countries encourage a very nationalist form
of history teaching, and from that stems racism and perverted feelings of
superiority.’ (p. 41)

The preface is only eight pages long, and is full of broader points about the oppression of subject peoples in addition to these explicit condemnations of racism. It is – I was going to type ‘it is extraordinary’, but I shall begin the sentence again. It is not, in the light of Corbyn’s track record, extraordinary that he should have explicitly denounced racist caricatures while either failing to identify or failing to care about the antisemitism at the heart of Hobson’s argument.

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