Labour has to rediscover its liberal, progressive values
2nd May 2016
As the antisemitism row rages in Labour, a major party donor explains why he has withdrawn his support for the party.
[This article was originally published in The Guardian on Saturday 30th April, 2016]
By David Abrahams
Political parties are the democratic vehicles through which the will of the people is expressed. They have to take particular care to protect the principles and values for which they stand. My party, the Labour party, has always stood for social justice and for liberal, progressive politics. Last week, we saw the hard left’s perversion of those principles.
Labour has had racists in its ranks before. Oswald Mosley held office as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1929 and 1931. But not all extremists, like him, walk out of the party. Some, such as Ken Livingstone, have to be kicked out.
Antisemitism is a cancer that has lain dormant and silent in the Labour party for decades until its recent sudden re-emergence. Its roots can be traced to the hard left’s sympathy for postwar eastern bloc totalitarian regimes such as the USSR, Poland and Hungary, where Jews were routinely oppressed.
Like most antisemitism, the oppression of Jews in the USSR and Eastern bloc was never explicit. But the Soviet regime would euphemistically referred to Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans”, forcing many to flee to the safe haven of Israel.
For the British hard left, hatred of Israel goes hand in hand with hatred of its ally the United States. The country of the kibbutz cannot be forgiven for siding with the capitalist oppressor, the US. Having a Marxist world view means recognising that the oppressed will always have to fight the oppressors. Jews versus Palestinians. Exploiters versus Exploited. This is why Jeremy Corbyn and his friend Ken Livingstone cannot bring themselves to recognise that two states working together – one Palestinian, one Jewish – may be the solution. There is no room in their ideology for peaceful co-operation, voluntary exchange or market competition.
Hating Israel brings with it a political dividend for the hard left. Courting an Islamic electorate that now outnumbers Jews by 10 to one in the UK is done by subtly painting the Jews as bogeymen. If it helps them win votes, they reason, it is a price worth paying.
You do not have to be Jewish like me to realise the dangers posed to our liberal democratic politics by turning Britain into a society riven by sectarianism. But the Jewish donors to the Labour party have certainly seen which way the wind is blowing. It is a chilling wind. Some of us are pushing back by cancelling our standing orders.
Many more of us need to speak up and demand a disciplinary code be adopted and tough action taken on any antisemitic statements or behaviour in the Labour party. The party needs to command the confidence of British people of all races and creeds. We will only do so when we are seen to be acting according to our true values.
Note: The articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’