Jean-Luc Mélenchon [a prominent left politician in France] has taken to social media to blame Labour’s defeat on “les divers réseaux d’influence du Likoud” (“the various networks of influence of Likud”) and Corbyn’s decision to apologise for antisemitism, which he called “weakness”.
Netanyahu is doubtless hostile to Corbyn — and we as socialists are hostile to Netanyahu. But to allege that shady networks of nefarious Israeli Zionists are so all-powerful that they can account for a political event of this magnitude? That’s utterly disconnected from reality — an antisemitic conspiracy theory worthy of Ken Livingstone or George Galloway.
But it should not surprise us to see him come out with this. His brand of nationalist populism is deeply susceptible to lapsing into this sort of thing. I’ve written at greater length about his politics elsewhere: see bit.ly/bt-jlm.
He has abandoned the kind of internationalist socialist politics that would highlight the fundamental division within each nation between workers and capitalists. Instead he wraps himself in the tricolour flag, shouts from the rooftops about his love for the French nation, and claims to stand for the national interest.
Socialists should point to the capitalist class within each nation as the primary culprit responsible for workers’ problems. But Mélenchon’s nationalism means that he locates the enemy as something that stands outside the nation. For him, the nation is an otherwise virtuous body that is suffering from either external attack or internal corruption by forces that are in some way alien to the nation they exist within.
Thus his angry, Holocaust-revisionist insistence that the French nation can bear no responsibility for the World War 2 genocide of Jews and other minorities, with which the Vichy government and substantial parts of French society enthusiastically collaborated.
Thus his 2013 comment that a centre-left Jewish politician “thinks in international finances, not in French”. When he has criticised apologists for the Israeli government’s actions (to be sure, we too criticise those apologists) he has done so by employing “dual-loyalty” tropes about Jews serving the flag of a foreign country.
This is a politics that, at best, exists constantly on the brink of descending into conspiracy theory and the demonisation and othering of “alien” or “disloyal” forces within the nation. Familiar themes to anyone concerned about the rise of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The antidote has got to be a rejection of all nationalism and an embrace of class-struggle socialist politics.
• First published on the Socialists Against Antisemitism Facebook page.