Zionism, anti-Semitism and the Left

How can political progressives who have dedicated their careers to principled opposition to racism possibly be guilty of anti-Semitism, one of history’s darkest and most ancient forms of discrimination?

The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism by Dave Rich is a lucid and sensitive exploration of how well-intentioned anti-racism can nonetheless generate specifically left-wing expressions of this most protean of prejudices.

The book could not be more timely. Dozens of Labour members have been suspended in the course of the party’s ongoing anti-Semitism row, including prominent figures such as Ken Livingstone, MP Naz Shah and Momentum Vice-Chair Jackie Walker. The long-standing association of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell with anti-Zionist movements continues to be subject to forensic scrutiny, and Jewish support for the party has plummeted.

Read More


What’s so bad about being a Trotskyist?

So what exactly is so bad about being a Trotskyist?

The extent of the far left’s infiltration into Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party depends on who you ask.

For Corbyn’s opponents the presence of a virulent new revolutionary strain within the ranks seems very real. Wherever one looks, it seems, the Militant undead are rising under the cover of the membership surge to resume their abortive 1980s takeover project, lobbying aggressively to consolidate power in the hands of the party membership to enforce a form of Bolshevik ‘democratic centralism’, and employing the pro-Corbyn Momentum group – a cuckoo in the Labour nest – as their vehicle.

For Corbyn’s supporters such fears have more to do with the desire of the party’s old guard to hold on to power than the genuine threat of a leftist insurgency. They see the membership surge as the British expression of an international anti-austerity movement exemplified by new European parties such as Podemos and Syriza, Scotland’s Radical Independence Movement, and, across the Atlantic, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.

Read More


Roch Winds and the illusions of Civic Nationalism

Of the many new voices that emerged during the independence referendum one of the most compelling was the Mair Noch A Roch Wind blog run by three young Labour and trade union activists.

The blog takes its name from the gale blowing through Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye signifying the radical possibilities that open only at times of political crisis.

For the blog’s authors, Cailean Gallagher, Rory Scothorne and Amy Westwell, the storm that shook Scotland during 2014 carried the distant seeds of a transformation more radical even than independence: that of socialist revolution. The trio supported and even worked for the Yes campaign, but only in so far as it might serve to destabilise the current political and social order, to illuminate and widen cracks and fissures that might be exploited at some future revolutionary moment.

Read More


Defining Labour: socialist or social democratic?

Abstract arguments about political philosophy don’t usually have much bearing on the pragmatic day-to-day business of British politics.

Britain’s reputation for political stability, current difficulties notwithstanding, is often attributed to the suspicion with which its decision-makers, commentariat and electorate habitually regard dangerous things like ideas.

But sometimes, as with the Labour Party’s present agonies, repressed differences over fundamental matters of political ideology surge to the surface. For all the personal venom that has attended it this is one of those rare British political crises that, in the end, is about ideology. What does Labour want to do and why? What is Labour actually for?

Among the many words the party’s warring factions use to describe each other – some of them printable – the most interesting are ‘socialist’ and ‘social democrat’. Though often used without much precision, and sometimes interchangeably, these terms refer to distinct political traditions with different visions of the good society. Understanding how they have usually been defined by historians and philosophers since they first entered the political lexicon helps illuminate the deep-seated political differences that make Labour’s ongoing crisis so peculiarly bitter.

Read More


A day at the seaside: Great Yarmouth, July 2016

I will always have happy memories of Great Yarmouth. I went there as a child for the beach, the funfair, the Saturday market, the rollercoaster.

That was many years ago now, the late 1970s, the early 1980s. I remember a rather scrappy but lively place, full of comfortable working class families like ours, with money to spend to enjoy the summer amusements. Yarmouth could hardly be mistaken for one of the well-to-do East Anglian seaside towns close by, like Southwold, Aldeburgh or Walberswick. But it had a robust character of its own, the streets leading down to the sea packed, the beaches lined with colourful windbreakers, the fairground rides full, the shops stuffed with glittering rubbish, the end-of-pier music hall host to many of the UK’s most popular old school comedians: Cannon and Ball, Rod Hull and Emu, even Morecambe and Wise from time-to-time.

Read More