Monday, 21 May 2018

There's the Decency, Kenneth

I'm glad Ken Livingstone has decided to quit the Labour Party because I agree with his resignation statement. He writes "The ongoing issues around my suspension from the Labour Party have become a distraction from the key political issue of our time – which is to replace a Tory government overseeing falling living standards and spiralling poverty ... However any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy’s policies." Yes, his repeated remarks were a distraction from what the Labour Party is trying to achieve. And you know who's to blame for that? The former Labour Mayor of London, one Ken Livingstone.

Is Ken anti-semitic? I don't believe he is, but it's easy to see why others might have drawn this conclusion. When you have, on the record, compared Jews to Nazis, made out Hitler was some sort of Zionist "before he went mad", and stubbornly, repeatedly talked up collaboration between the Third Reich and the Zionist movement, and carried on once it became a major political scandal, you do start to wonder. Normal behaviour is to try and get out of the hole you're in, not calling in the earth movers.

The problem with Ken and, unfortunately, many politicians and activists is he thought he was bigger than the party. And in Ken's case, when you've been a prominent figure on the left for almost four decades, and won an election as against the full weight of the New Labour machine at the peak of Blair's imperial majesty, you can understand why. But, unfortunately, there is a culture on the left of a certain radical narcissism. This is characterised chiefly by the adoption of provocative position-taking, behaviour that is shrill, shouty-shouty, self-aggrandising and downright annoying, and a studied refusal to ever put the collective interest of the politics, party or movement one is ostensibly committed to before their ever-so-important selves. Ken fits this like a glove, but there are others. Our "friends" Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, for whom bringing Labour into disrepute is a price worth paying as long as they can carry on acting like overgrown children. Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight thought it was fine and dandy to rhetorically support Islamic State, and write about a transnational "Jewish bourgeoisie" exerting a malign influence on world politics, slap bang in the middle of an anti-semitism row. That "Dr ACActivism" fool who dashed onto the stage this year's Eurovision to shout a muffled "For the Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom" is another example. And there are our old favourites: George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan, though the less said about them the better.

There isn't anything particularly radical about radical narcissism, and it's no different from what we can find on the right. There's nothing necessarily political about it either. In a world in which we are exhorted to be responsible for our actions, to pull up our bootstraps and be masters of our own fates without assistance or support from others, it is we - individuals, ourselves - who are the supreme authority and arbiters of efficacy. Discipline, optics, persuasion, none of these thing matter. The individual is everything. The movement, the politics, nothing.

By removing himself from politics and putting the party first Ken has done the decent thing. Ironically, by resigning his Labour membership he became a better Labour and Jeremy Corbyn supporter and left behind him his hitherto primary loyalty: the Ken Livingstone Party. But now life after politics beckons he should spend his time repairing his reputation, and avoid the temptation of the broadcast studio and the inevitable questions about Hitler and Jews.

NB Image courtesy of Jewdas.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm also glad he's gone, for reasons of political expediency, and because I think he's a loudmouth with a warped interpretation of history.

Then again, I'm not sure if I could have much respect for someone who backed down on what they believed to be factually true, because it was politically expedient to do so, which is what this article seems to suggest would have been the "honorable" course of action.

Chuka Umunna said...

That's Livingstone out of the way. Now let's get his Twitter supporters in the PLP and all those trendy bloggers who didn't condemn McCluskey last week. My synthetic outrage cannot be sated.

Anonymous said...

Bloody well said! Was beginning to think the left had totally lost leave of their senses

Linda Vaux said...

Oh dear, more drivel.

Linda Vaux said...

Oh dear, what total drivel.

Ian Gibson said...

I'm disappointed to see that you characterisation of him relies on misrepresentation to make the point more emphatic than I believe it actually is. He didn't compare Jews with Nazis: he compared a man who, having had it made abundantly clear that KL had no wish to talk to him, continued harassing him and justifying it by saying repeatedly 'I'm just doing my job.' That is, as any fule know, a trope of long standing, probably one of the most archetypal tropes out there. The fact that the guy happened to be Jewish had no bearing on his choice of that metaphor. He also didn't say that Hitler was some sort of Zionist: he was quite explicit in saying that Hitler 'supported' Zionism specifically in the context of supporting the emigration of Jews to Israel, which at that time was one of their foremost answers to the 'Jewish question.' Not because they cared for them, or supported the idea of a homeland as a refuge against anti-Semitism, but because of self-interest on a number of fronts: the Havaara agreement with the Zionists pretty much kept the German economy afloat during that first year when it was in dire shape and under considerable pressure from an international boycott, and above all, because the 'Jewish threat' would be easier to manage if they were all in one place.

This latter point is very eloquently set out here by the always excellent Jonathan Cook: https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2016-05-07/what-ken-livingstone-didnt-say/

Whilst it was still a clumsy, verging on stupid, thing to say, the weight of historical evidence is overwhelming in KL's favour on this one, and my hunch is that this is one of the main causes behind the intolerable delay in dealing with him: they simply could not have made a convincing case that he couldn't have refuted with evidence which would easily bear the required standards for a criminal trial, let alone a civil one. But even having that fight would be disastrously damaging, so they prevaricated, not knowing what to do. And it was lose lose, whichever way the affair went. KL has indeed opened a face-saving exit from what looked like a pretty intractable trap, and for that at least, we should be grateful.

davidjc said...

I don’t remember a collective decision being taken on speaking out against Zionism, which yes includes telling people of its historic crimes against Jews.

Chris said...

I shall miss the Livingstone Hitler countdown.
10,9,8...
Still I shall now enjoy his fans’ 10000000 word posts about why he was RIGHT.
Not that they share the same obsessions, not at all!

Boffy said...

I think, in the end its a pity that Livingstone resigned, because it's just the latest in a long line of instances of where the Corbyn leadership continually back down when faced by opposition from the right of the PLP, or the Tory media. Its happened over Ireland, over republicanism and the Monarchy, over deselection, over immigration, and so on. If the Labour leadership can't have the backbone to resist pressure from the right now, then they would crumple at the first serious opposition from the ruling class when in government!

It should have been perfectly possible, and the right thing to do for the Labour leadership to have been more actively seen to be opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism - that's what building a social or political movement is supposed to be about, rather than parliamentary manoeuvres - whilst pointing out that the Right have never engaged in any such real opposition to the racists, in fact their own policies on immigration etc. have contributed to it - as seen in relation to the "hostile environment" - and that what is a real issue was, however, being used cynically by the Right as means of attacking Corbyn.

I don't have much time for Livingstone, but in terms of the historical facts, the Nazis did draw up the Ha'avara agreement with Zionists; leading Zionists did try on several occasions to make an alliance with Nazi Germany and with Fascist Italy to oppose Britain during WWII, because they saw the former as a "lesser-evil"; leading Zionists did adopt the ideology of National Bolshevism developed by the Strasserites, and committed themselves to developing the Israeli state on the basis of it, as a totalitarian state.

Pointing out those historical facts about the role of leading Zionists, and the development of the Israeli State, is not in any way "anti-Semitic", unless you believe that you can only be anti, anti-Semitic if you are prepared to lie about the real history, and if you equate all Jews with Zionism, which then makes that a requirement, so as to not tar all Jews with the reactionary nature and actions of Zionists.

Its no more anti-Semitic to tell the truth and to condemn the actions of Zionism than it is anti-German to tell the truth about the Nazis, or anti-British to tell the truth about the role of British imperialism. Why would any rational socialist want to tie their hands in opposing any form of nationalism in that way?

Anonymous said...

An intractable trap they created for themselves by suspending KL.

Ben Philliskirk said...

Everyone knows that there are a lot of eccentric and sometimes distasteful opinions on what is regarded as 'the Left', and a lot of personalities that like the sound of their own voices and don't know when to shut up. Same goes for any political shade. Yet this has always been the case, and is almost inevitable in this era of social media and of confected outrage.

Along with your previous e-mail on the TUSC, if the boot was on the other foot you would be classing this attitude as sectarian. The Labour Party has not suddenly become the 'One True Church', and you are wrong to demand 'discipline' on the part of those on the Left that do not belong to Labour or who have strong opinions on certain issues but do not have any responsibility within the party.

Relying on 'discipline' rather than discourse or debate has always been a sign of weak arguments, and polishing 'optics' will not reconcile the media to Corbyn's Labour.

Jim Denham said...

Livingston 's lies, evasions, dodgy "sources" and self-contradictions re Hitler, Zionism, the Jews and the Transfer Agreement:
https://shirazsocialism.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/dont-let-livingstone-off-the-hook/

Speedy said...

Watching Ken try to justify his crazy statement reminded me most of all of the drunken uncle at the wedding who has just made some kind of lazy racist slur and keeps digging.

What was astounding was that he was able, cognitively, to detach the fact that Hitler may have, glancingly, regarded Zionism as a convenient way to get rid of the Jews with "support" for Zionism. How is that even possible? And, what's worse, one could imply by his statement that all Hitler's vicious anti-semitism leading up to the Final Solution was not "mad".

What a twat.