Skewed from the start

Submitted by AWL on 24 November, 2020 - 3:56 Author: Martin Thomas
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The quarterly journal Historical Materialism has put out a call for articles for a special issue motivated by the “rise of a new wave of antisemitism”.

Good: except that the call is written so as to define this “new wave of antisemitism” as solely a matter of the European and American far right, i.e. as scarcely “new” at all compared to the 1930s. It dismisses in advance all discussion of strands of antisemitism within the left as just “machinations” “to attack Palestinian liberation, Muslim populations in the West… Jeremy Corbyn… the left in the Labour Party... silencing critics of Zionism”.

Machinations by whom? The call doesn’t say, but you can guess…

And this assessment is not presented as one of the views to be debated, but as the framing principle of the symposium.

The call doesn’t say what it means by “Zionism”, but we know that in such “machinations” theories “Zionism” is usually defined as any doctrine which recognises the right of the Israeli Jews to national self-determination, i.e. the right of Israel to exist, however strongly the doctrine also supports a Palestinian right to self-determination (“two states”).

So what happens to critical dissection of that demonisation of the Israeli Jews as uniquely undeserving of self-determination? Or of the dismissal of all criticism of antisemitism other than in the European and American far right as “machinations”? Or of the history of antisemitic strands in left-wing movements (under Stalinist influence, for example) and their influence within the left today?

Historical Materialism was launched in 1997. Most of its initiators were academics in or around the SWP, but since then its (and their) links to the SWP have weakened and it has had a broad range of contributors and some useful articles. Hopefully contributors will speak out against this regression to preconceived SWP agitational stock.

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