The Left Organisations

It would be surprising if the anti-semitism which flourished within the English socialist tradition at its formation had simply disappeared. False consciousness has to be challenged—and there was little opposition to the socialism of fools. Today, however, it has assumed a very different form. Rather than the caricature of the Jew as all-powerful capitalist, there is now the frequent equation of zionism with world domination and of all Jews being zionists, or at least responsible for zionism. This equation can be found in an explicit form within the Stalinist tradition. A classic case was the intended show trial, cancelled in the wake of Stalin's death, of the five 'Jewish doctors' from the Kremlin's own hospital, who were accused in 1953 of attempting, under 'zionist influence', to poison Stalin and most of the communist hierarchy. Similarly, in Poland today, the regime has attacked both Solidarity and K.O.R. (the intellectual group influential with Solidarity) as being controlled by a 'zionist clique'. Two articles by Zbigniew Kot in the paper of the Polish communist party—described K.O.R. as having the:

"Pseudo-left programme of the Trotskyite International which is inspired by zionist circles"


"K.O.R. openly confesses to having sympathies for free-masonry and for the cosmopolitan fatherland-negating concepts promoted in the West by zionist and free-thinking circles". (Trybuna Ludu, 22/23.12.81 quoted in Research Report of the Institute of Jewish Affairs May 1982)

Anti-semitism posing as anti-zionism is particularly frightening within Stalinism, as Stalinism has state power in many countries. It occurs sometimes in a confused and sometimes in an unambiguous way, in the new Left groups consolidated since the 1960's in this country. Attitudes within the Labour Party are far more complex for various reasons. Firstly, given the coalition of interests within the Labour Party, there is no guarantee that the leadership ever reflects the will of the Party. Secondly, the commonly-held belief that historically the Labour leadership has been pro-zionist, does itself need serious revision.

It is undoubtedly the case that the Labour Party has made many outspoken statements of sympathy for zionism. As early as December 1917, at a special conference of the Labour Party and the T.U.C. to draw up a 'war aims memorandum', it was acknowledged that Palestine was a land "to which such of the Jewish people as desired to do so may return and work out their salvation".

In the following years numerous similar resolutions were passed. (See documents collected in British Labour Policy on Palestine, edited by Levenberg). Indeed Poale Zion, the pro-zionist Jewish workers party, has long been affiliated to the Labour Party, but it is simply a myth to regard the Labour leadership as having a genuine commitment to zionism. Ultimately, its position on the Middle East was, and is, guided by purely diplomatic considerations—that is by considerations of imperialism.

The Labour government of 1945 emulated the Tories in relation to Palestine as in India, by playing off the conflicting communal groups through false promises to both. Again, it was the same Labour government which mobilised the British army to prevent Jewish refugees fleeing to Palestine. Indeed in 1947, Labour ordered two destroyers to intercept the refugee boat Exodus on its way to Palestine with over 4000 Jews on board and forced it to divert to Germany. The rationale was that Germany was the

"only territory under British jurisdiction outside of Cyprus where such large numbers of people can be housed and fed at such short notice". (Palestine Post, 21.8.47)

The Hamburg docks saw the survivors of Nazism being dragged by British soldiers back onto German soil.

Since the creation of Israel, Labour's politics have been determined solely by the need for imperialism to secure a base within the Middle East, and rationalised by a typically social democratic confusion that Israel is in some way a socialist state. At no time has the politics of the Labour Party ever been motivated by genuine commitment to the freedom of either the Jewish or the Arab masses. In a very real sense this is anti-semitism by default: there is no consideration of either the relationship, or lack of it, between zionism and Jewish liberation in Labour's attitude towards zionism.

The emphasis of the rest of this chapter is on the Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist groups which constitute the New Left. Some of these, or at least their individual members, have in fact virtually dissolved themselves into the Labour Party. Of course such organisations are extremely small, but they represent a significant continuation of socialist politics following the degeneration of Stalinism. The New Left groups of today claim to be preserving the traditions of revolutionary socialism. This claim is in many positive ways justified. However, much of their purported anti-zionism rests on a tradition which, whatever the revolutionary rhetoric, has always been anti-semitic.

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© 1984 Steve Cohen, edited and produced by Libby Lawson and Erica Bunnan.
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