Why fighting against antisemitism should be at the core of any left wing/anti fascist movement

Because it’s the right thing to do.

This, alone, should be enough.  If, as is often claimed, anti fascism and anti racism are at the very core of the emancipatory project (and it certainly should be), we can not pick and choose which minorities are ‘worthy’ of our support.

Because it’s a mandatory component of the class struggle.

A class politics that excludes any section of the class is no class politics at all.  We would rightly criticise any claim to class politics that excludes working class LGBT people or treats the working class as a solely white bloc.  And exactly the same principle applies to class politics that excludes working class Jews.

Because “less racist than the Tories” is not a defense

I would hope I am less racist than the “Hostile Enviroment” implementers.  This is not a baseline that any serious leftist should be working from.  It’s like saying you’re less homophobic than the DUP.  One would hope that’s the case, but it’s missing the point entirely.

Because Anti-Racism needs to be unconditional (mostly)

I am indebted to Keith Kahn-Harris who has done so much work to develop this argument:

The only way out of this impasse is to recast anti-racist solidarity so that it is completely decoupled from political solidarity. Anti-racism must become unconditional, absolute, and not requiring reciprocity. Anti-racism must be explicitly understood as fighting for the right of minorities to pursue their own political agendas, even if they are abhorrent to you.

I will say that Kahn-Harris goes further on this then I do. There are some individuals and group where I think that all you can say is that you shouldn’t use antisemitism against them, but where they’re still beyond the pale. (This is similar to the argument that you shouldn’t be sexist against female Tories, while still recognising them as a categorical enemy).

I do not in fact in any way recognise the right of Roberta Moore and the EDL Jewish Divison (now largely defunct) to pursue their own political agenda, nor do I have any interest in showing solidarity with them. The same would apply to Kahanists in general.

Equally, the same would apply to any Jew who attended the Katie Hopkins meeting. I think it’s fair to say that if you are explicitly allying yourself with the far right that outweighs any other considerations.  In the same way that anti fascists saw no need to get involved (apart from some sniggering) when Combat 18 were attacking the BNP, anti fascists do not need to get involved in any internal tensions of the far right.

(To be fair, I’m not actually sure Kahn-Harris would disagree with those exceptions; I don’t think he’s talking about these kind of fringe outliers).

The last exception is potentially more contentious.  I disagree on reciprocity. If people attack militant anti fascism, they should not expect militant antifascists to lift a finger to help defend them.  Bluntly, resources are limited.  And if you call antifa “thugs” and “terrorists” you can do your own fucking security.

However, the general principle remains. Specifically, it is in no way acceptable to expect any Jew on the left to repudidate the very concept of Israel or to interrogate them about their views before anti fascist solidarity is extended. This isn’t done with any other minority group.  No other group is expected to disown the very concept of a specific nationstate.  In the same way we don’t require Muslims to give us their views on homosexuality before we defend them against racist attacks, this is utterly unacceptable.

Apart from anything else, if you require Jews to repudiate the existence of Israel before they can be involved in anything left wing or antifascist what you’re de facto doing is excluding the vast majority of Jews from our movements.  That is, for reasons that should be obvious, not a good thing.  Personally, I think the idea of an antifascist group that would have excluded at least half the members of the 43 Group is a farce.

Antisemitism is called “the socialism of fools” for a reason

This quote is often misused, both by the right (who use it to falsely claim that Marxists and even all socialists are antisemites) and the left (who use it to mean people utterly separate from the left).

Neither is true.

The reason it’s the “socialism of fools” is that conspiracism and more specifically antisemitism have some structural similiarities to socialist theory.  What they do is they replace the structural critique with conspiracy theories and the ruling class with “rich Jews”.

This is not to say that the two are synonymous or that one naturally leads to another.

But what nominally left versions of antisemitism do is misappropriate socialist theory parasitically and strip them of their socialist content, to replace it with racism.

The best parallel is the National “Anarchists”, who misuse and steal traditional anarchist theory (and, unfortunately, also some virulent antisemitism from historical anarchist theorists) and misuse them to fascist ends.

So for socialism to prosper its necessary to destroy antisemitism entirely.

“Left” antisemites aren’t misguided socialists. They’re scabs.

Further Reading

That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Antisemitic by Steve Cohen

The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere: Making Resistance to Antisemitism part of all our Movements by April Rosenblum

The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party by Mary Davis and Phil Katz

 

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  1. Kahn-Harris is attempting to shield the worst elements of the Jewish community; a person who is only loyal the abstraction of The Jew (ie, a religiously observant, anti-Left Zionist). A dangerous character, with his veneer of reasonableness and “both sides”-ism.

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