Fascists Reclaim History

At its best, the Left ignores the history of anti-semitism and therefore of imperialism within the labour movement. At its worst, it is even prepared to rewrite history. An example of this is the quaintly titled pamphlet "Zionism ... anti-semitism's twin in Jewish Garb". by Tony Greenstein and produced by Brighton Labour Briefing (a grouping within Brighton Labour Party). In its opening paragraph it makes the incredible assertion that zionism exploited "the natural hatred of the labour movement for anti-semitism". It is as though the political agitation by the trade union movement, which was anti-semitic to the core and supported by many socialists, to keep Jews out just did not happen. The labour movement is now claimed to be 'naturally' (whatever that means) opposed to anti-semitism.

This ignorance and dishonesty does itself have political consequences. Groupings within the fascist movement today have an acute awareness of the history of early socialism—and embrace this history as their own! For instance there was an article in the National Front magazine, Spearhead, in March 1980 called 'Nationalism and the Old British Socialists'. This was produced at a time when a faction of the N.F., led by Martin Webster, was arguing that the organisation had to have a working class base with the politics of 'national socialism'. With justification, this article could claim that such a tradition already existed. Spearhead began by stating:

"Modern socialists who support the so-called 'Anti Nazi League' and other anti-racialist organisations would be highly embarrassed to learn of the nationalist and racialist attitudes displayed by many early British socialists".

The article then praised particular groups and individuals—Robert Blatchford's Clarion Clubs, the Fabians, the S.D.F., the LL.P. and various trade unionists. Blatchford's book Merrie England, which combined the demand for import controls with virulent anti-semitism, was said to be

"echoed by the Nationalist Movement which blossomed all over Europe in the 1920's and 30's".

The Fabians, Beatrice Potter and Sydney Webb, were praised for describing Jews in the book Industrial Democracy as a "constant influence for degradation" and George Bernard Shaw for characterising the Jews as

"the real enemy, the invader from the East, the Druze, the ruffian, the oriental parasite" (Morning Post, 13.12.25).

Pete Curran, a leading member of the Gasworkers' Union and the I.L.P. was approved for advocating controls against Jews. Hyndman of the S.D.F. was claimed as the first National Socialist. The article ends by stating:

"The obvious patriotism and candid racialism of these early socialists is in marked contrast to the attitudes and views held by socialists today. The triumph of internationalism and the changes from an open-minded and well-meaning approach to a mindless religious fanaticism is a reflection of the changing genetic complexion of Socialism's own advocates".

Presumably the 'changing genetic complexion' means that Jews are now supposedly controlling the Left, as well as everything else. The reality is that anti-semitism still exists today on the Left. One aspect is the refusal even to acknowledge the anti-semitism of much of our own tradition. Unless, as socialists, we undertake this re-evaluation, then we are ideologically powerless to prevent fascists embracing the anti-semitism of our history.

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