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2. ‘Absurd’: Corbyn ‘hetze’ boomerangs on the ill-prepared

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A Bradford reader thinks that there is definitely a Hetze’  against Jeremy Corbyn, of which the furore about his praise for Hobson’s book is only the most recent example.

He points out that the book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text. Routledge describes its 1902 publication, Imperialism: A Study, by English economist John Hobson (right), as “an epoch-making study of the politics and economics of imperialism that shook imperialist beliefs to their core”.

The review continues: “A committed liberal, Hobson was deeply sceptical about the aims and claims of imperialistic thought at a time when Britain’s empire held sway over a vast portion of the globe”.

Our reader draws attention to Hobson’s reference to the “ignominious passion of Judenhetze” – a total vindication of the man

Martin Ceadel, in Semi-detached idealists: The British peace movement and international relations, 1854-1945 (Oxford University. Press, 2000, p.155), writes: ‘J.A. Hobson, an Oxford-educated economist who had been denied academic preferment on account of his heterodox opinions, reported on South Africa for the Manchester Guardian and published three books on the conflict. The first … was a survey of the local origins of the war. It emphasized the role of “a small confederacy of international financiers working through a kept press”. Although Hobson was embarrassed by the fact that many of these were Jewish, noting the difficulty of stating “the truth about our doings in South Africa without seeming to appeal to the ignominious passion of Judenhetze”,(30) some other opponents of the war, including the budding writers G.K. Chesteron and Hilaire Belloc, welcomed the chance the war offered to indulge in anti-Semitism.’ (31*).

In addition to the response of Bradford peace historian,  Hon. General Coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace  and others, Donald Sassoon, Emeritus professor of comparative European history, Queen Mary University of London, quotes more extreme expressions used at the time by Virginia Woolf and even Theodor Herzl, the “father” of Zionism. He concludes:

“The campaign about antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour party is getting absurd. Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study has been taught for years in universities up and down the country (I taught it myself). No one has ever felt the need to highlight the 10 lines or so, in a book of 400 pages, which are antisemitic, but Corbyn was expected to do so”.

The book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text

In a 1995 pamphlet for the Fabians (page 11), Tony Blair described Hobson as “probably the most famous Liberal convert to what was then literally ‘new Labour’.”

In his 2005 Chatham House speech on liberty and the role of the state, Gordon Brown cited Hobson with approval.

The cover of the 2011 edition published by Spokesman Books (left), to which Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword, carries a Guardian review which said Hobson’s Imperialism belongs to the small group of books in the years from 1900 to the outbreak of war that have definitely changed the contours of social thought.’

In 2015 the Guardian’s former political editor Michael White wrote: “At his Nottingham rally someone thrust into my hand a copy of JA Hobson’s influential classic, Imperialism (1902) whose 2011 edition contains Jeremy’s own perfectly decent introductory essay. Its analysis will impress many”.

Yesterday, Phil Miller, journalist, researcher and film producer quoted Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour: “Daniel Finkelstein, in his scurrilous piece for the Times (April 30th), ingeniously cobbles together quotes from two different books by Hobson . . . (he) does in one passage make a reference to the Jewish element in international finance and to the Rothschilds as did many others at that time. But he also referred to JP Morgan and Cecil Rhodes — neither of them Jewish — as examples of financiers backing imperialism”.

On May 1st and 2nd, Henry Zeffman produced two similar articles for the Times on the subject. In one, he added that Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Hobson was a key figure in intellectual history and that the book was a seminal work on imperialism. “He is a historical figure who was an intellectual who understand the transition from imperialism into a new society. Insofar as that book is an important book, does it contain the antisemitism of its period? Yes it does. Do we expunge a book like that from the historical record and say nobody should read it? No. Of course they should.”

And Jeremy Corbyn’s record vindicates him; MP Chris Williamson has pointed out that the Labour party, and in particular the leader, has done more, recently, to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.

The unconvinced may read forty reasons listed by Anna Boyle illustrating the truth of his statement.

 

*Footnote 30 refers to Hobson’s The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects (1900), 189, 229.

*Footnote 31: C. Hirschfield, ‘The Anglo-Boer War and the Issue of Jewish Culpability’, Journal of Contemporary History, 15 (1980), 19-31.

 

Amended: 6th May 2019

 

 

 

 

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