During the nineteen-seventies, Britain’s Socialist Workers Party took the place of the Communist Party. That is, it occupied the role of neutralising opposition to the ruling order.
Drawing solely from my own experience, I could describe the party supporting union bureaucrats’ manoeuvres to defeat strikes; stirring up nostalgia for world war II in order to oppose fascists; attempting to corral the poll tax resistance, which was successful precisely because it was not under the control of the Labour movement, back into that movement; backing the CND, which supported the infanticidal sanctions against Iraq, in 1990; and its late appearance en masse at an occupation in defence of a hospital in 1993 – to ensure it got called off.
But the SWP’s current crisis is no cause for celebration. It started when the party’s leadership found allegations of rape against a leading member, Martin Smith, “not proven”. This provoked grumbling from the rank-and-file.
In the past, the leadership’s manoeuvres were used to undermine debate. On this occasion, they’ve been used to defend the right of a person accused of a serious crime to be presumed innocent until he or she is proved guilty.
Many members of the party disagree. They reject what a a feminist writer calls “the patriarchal institutional bias of disbelieving the woman who dares to come forward”. That is, they reject the presumption of innocence.
This rejection is part of what’s called “political correctness”. It operates by taking advantage of a disorder common among white European men: guilt. It has a long history of undermining movements by promoting divisive identity politics, and making unanswerable allegations of various thought-crimes, and even rape.
Political correctness originates in the defence of oppressed people, but, because it manipulates white guilt, it has been fairly easy for Jewish ethnic activists to appropriate it for the opposite purpose. Even some Palestinians have fallen into this trap: “I won’t take this from a white person – lecturing us about non-violence” said Omar Barghouti. Black politicians sometimes “play the race card” to discourage valid criticism from a white person. You might expect a Palestinian playing this game to mention Jews rather than white people in general – but that wouldn’t be politically correct.
Richard Seymour is a leading member of the SWP opposition. His p.c. credentials were established when he signed Zero Authors’ Statement on Gilad Atzmon, which claims that Atzmon tries to legitimize “anti-Semitism”. His latest book is “Unhitched”, a biography of recently-deceased intellectual Christopher Hitchens, who followed the well-trodden path from militant leftist to friend of the neoconservative movement.
The “neoconservatives” are a group of mostly Jewish (1), mostly ex-socialist, writers and lobbyists. They present themselves as patriotic American conservatives, calling for an aggressive US foreign policy in the Middle East. One of their think-tanks was called “The Project for a New American Century”, but its main aim was to advocate using U.S. power to secure Israel’s future by overthrowing Arab governments.
Unhitched mentions the leftist origin of many neoconservatives, but not the overrepresentation (1) of Jews among them:
“I have previously characterised this ideology as a descendant of European Kriegsideologie, a martial discourse that emerged on the right in World War I, was sustained by fascism in the interwar period, and had its consummation in World War II” (page xvi)
Drawing the connection Germans-fascism-neoconservatism is much more tenuous than Jews-Zionism-neoconservatism, but it’s also much safer.
Prior to becoming a neocon, Seymour informs us Hitchens discovered he is Jewish. Was he another example of a Jewish leftist choosing ethnicity over humanity? On page 13, he criticises Hitchens for criticising Jewish people for identifying with Israel: he says this “reminds us” that anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism are related.
In the late 1990’s, notes Seymour, Hitchens listened to historian David Irving, who, he says, argued that the Holocaust was exaggerated.
Hitchens’ critical attitude to Zionists and the Holocaust story shows his move from left to right was not an example of Jewish ethnic identity leading to support for Israeli-inspired US terrorism.
My conclusion about Hitchens above shows that the fear that believing that Jewishness is sometimes relevant, leads inevitably to the conclusion that it is always so, is unjustified. But even when it is relevant, this fear makes it hard to see.
Under political correctness, the claims that the majority of the leading neoconservative warmongers identify themselves as Jewish (1), and that a major part of the explanation for the current Middle East policies of America and its allies, is Jewish ethnic power, cannot be considered, giving the impression that even to discuss it makes one an ally of fascists.
Seymour is critical of Zionism, but mostly in the ineffective way the left has criticised it for decades: they think it’s a tool of Western imperialism, which makes the Jewish Lobby irrelevant, which persuades critics of Zionism to ignore it. Since, as I have shown, the Lobby is in fact a very important cause of the West’s unconditional support for Israel, this weakens Palestine solidarity.
To his credit, Richard Seymour gives a fair hearing to Hitchens’ dismissal of the term “Islamophobia” on pages 70-71. But I lost count of how many times Unhitched employs the unanswerable allegation of “racism”.
Rather than discuss the issues, “anti-racists” prefer to “call out”, “disavow”, and “hold people accountable” for their opinions. They cannot listen to criticisms of their theory, for they consider this critique itself racist. They are stuck in a closed system, which explains away criticism of itself, like a cult, or a certain type of conspiracy theory. Seymour writes “If Hitchens knew, as he frequently said, that race itself was a construct…” and the rest of his writing suggests that Seymour also knows that race is “constructed”. But he doesn’t say how he knows.
The p.c. left assumed the truth of Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin et. al.‘s arguments that racial identity has no biological basis. At least these activist/scientists put forward falsifiable hypotheses. We know this, because they have been overturned. So the p.c. brigade turned to post-modernism, which cannot be refuted.
Seymour once comes close to defining “racism”, on page 71: “essentialist thinking, ascriptive denigration, supremacism, and demonology”. “Anti-racists” have every one of those vices.
A good example of why this “anti-racism” is an obstacle to clear thinking is on page 31 of Unhitched. Seymour criticises Hitchens using the phrase “Londonistan” to object to the Islamification of certain areas of the capital:
“There is a tradition of racist English witticism, by which, not to put too fine a point on it, a place is raced… To the same family of satirical levity belongs the old anti-Semitic trope that dubs New York ‘Jew York’; likewise, the New York Times the ‘Jew York Times’.”
There are two things wrong with this. Surely objecting to the power of rich Jews in America in not in the same family as complaining about the number of poor Muslims in Britain.
Secondly, Hitchens’ neologism is not about race; rather, it is contempt for religion, and one in particular. As one of the four horsemen of the new atheism, a great writer, and a great drinker, he was entitled to his opinion.
1. The neoconservatives are not all Jewish, but most of them are: Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhoretz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, David Frum, Elliot Abrams, Irving Kristol… Approximately 2½ percent of the US population is Jewish. If only 50% of the neocons were Jewish, this would be an overrepresentation of twenty times what random sampling would predict. The left notices when white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs), men, or heterosexuals, are overrepresented in a powerful sector, but not Jews. Its inhibitions prevent it discussing the issue of Jewish power in politics, academia, Hollywood, the media, and finance.