Judith Ornstein
Passionately moderate

You can’t whitewash Jeremy Corbyn’s foreword to Hobsons’s ‘Imperialism’

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In a letter to the Guardian about Corbyn’s 2011 foreword to Hobson’s 1902 book ‘Imperialism’ (2nd May) Professor Donald Sassoon states

“No one has ever felt the need to highlight the 10 lines or so, in a book of 400 pages, which are antisemitic, but Corbyn was expected to do so.”

Geoffrey Alderman has now also weighed in with a Spectator blog ( 8th May) which says much the same, ie

“In a text running to almost 400 pages there are merely a dozen or so lines which we would call anti-Semitic. There was absolutely no need for Corbyn to have drawn attention to them in his foreward” (sic).

Both Sassoon and Alderman give throw away and differing analyses of just how many pages of Hobson’s  ‘Imperialism’ can be considered antisemitic.  Both men use ‘or so’ to measure Hobson’s antisemitism, as though because there’s only a little then not only was it ok for Corbyn to endorse the book but it it lets him off the accusation that in doing so he was also endorsing antisemitism.

I’m sorry to appear to lump both Sassoon and Alderman together, but what they also do in the letter and the article is to ignore the specificity of left wing antisemitlsm which in recent times has tended  to be more about Israel than about swastikas on walls.

Right now antisemitism has become a poisonous brew and to give evidence,  as Geoffrey Alderman does,  that Corbyn does some things to help Jews, doesn’t excuse the things that Corbyn does to hurt Jews, for instance  calling Hamas and Hezbollah his friends,  and entertaining some of their members in the House of Commons.

As David Collier’s work reveals, members of the Labour Party are sharing from neo-Nazi sources. (See  March 2019 An industry of antisemitism denial. A look at the anti-Zionist Jews who ally themselves with people who share neo-Nazi & white supremacist material david-Collier.com)

Why was it inexcusable for Corbyn to write  that foreword  to Hobson without condemning the antisemitism?

Paul Johnson’s 1987 classic ‘A History of the Jews’ devotes a chapter to the roots of left wing antisemitism and points the finger at Hobson, who has form as an out and out antisemite.

Here’s Johnson:

“The rapid fortunes made (and sometimes lost) on the Rand by Jews aroused great jealousy and resentment. Among their critics was the left-wing polemicist J.A. Hobson, who went out to South Africa to cover the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 for the Manchester Guardian. Hobson regarded the Jew as ‘almost devoid of social morality’, possessing a ‘superior calculating intellect, which is a national heritage’ allowing him ‘to take advantage of every weakness, folly and vice of the society in which he lives’”

Johnson explains that in his 1900 book, ‘ The War in South Africa’ Hobson incorrectly blamed Jewish financiers such as the Rothschilds, for the Boer war because “Hobson, like other conspiracy theorists, was not interested in facts but in the beauty of his concept.”

Further on Johnson points out that, as Professor Sassoon touches on, Hobson’s ‘Imperialism’  formed the basis of  Lenin’s ‘ Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” (1916). ‘ But Johnson’s conclusion is rather different from Sasson’s and Alderman’s.

Here it is and I think it’s damning.

“ When Lenin came to write his own thesis on the subject, at Zurich in the spring of 1916, he complained of a shortage of books. ‘However,’ he wrote, ‘I made use of the principal English work on imperialism, J.A. Hobson’s book, with all the care that, in my opinion, this work deserves.’ Hobsons’s theory, in fact, became the essence of Lenin’s own. The result, ‘Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism’ (1916) laid down the standard doctrine on the subject for all states under Communism, from 1917 to the present day. Leninist theory, in one form or another, likewise formed the attitudes of many Third World states towards imperialism and colonialism, as they acquired independence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Granted the theory’s anti-Semitic roots, it was not difficult to fit into it the concept of Zionism as a form of colonialism and the Zionist state as an outpost of imperialism.”

In 2016 Paul Johnson’s chapter was submitted as evidence to the Chakrabarti Inquiry by barrister Jonathan Turner,  Chief Executive of UK Lawyers for Israel. That  chapter forms part of 2017’s Whitewashed Project, a short  book and half hour documentary film exposing the inadequacies of the Inquiry, itself the  first recorded and ominous milestone marking Labour’s failure to seriously address its antisemitism.

When Whitewashed was published in 2017 we sent a copy to each Labour MP. The book, together with a link to the  film, was sent to Jeremy Corbyn by two of his constituents.  If he’d bothered either to acknowledge or look at the book,  which is an easy read, or watch the film, which explains all about left wing antisemitism, perhaps we’d have seen some action to address our fears.

But no.

Here we are now in 2019, whilst possibly awaiting an EHRC enquiry into the Labour Party, wasting time over what is plainly  a Victorian antisemite, and all  because of Labour’s now entrenched refusal or inability to apologise for and deal with its antisemitism.

Judith Ornstein

Link to Whitewashed http://gty.im/82182062 http://gty.im/1134500220

book: https://tinyurl.com/yyxh522m

Link to documentary film

About the Author
Judith Ornstein is UK based and a passionate supporter of the arts, who combats the cultural boycott of Israel. She is the instigator of the Whitewashed Project, fighting Labour's problems with Jews. The book, the film, and valuable links can be found at www.whitewashed.co.uk
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