Do Jeremy Corbyn and his jolly Labour friends really hate Jews? An interesting question, that. And probably an irrelevant one.
This in spite of the seemingly never-ending anti-Semitic scandals livening up the Labour Party at every level, from the grassroots to the shadow cabinet.
I’d guess that the proportion of principled anti-Semites among socialists has to be higher than among conservatives, which isn’t to say that the latter are free of blame in that respect.
Socialism is a religion of envy and it can only ever emerge victorious by appealing to that unenviable emotion. And envy needs targets – it’s impossible to envy in the abstract.
Jews are natural candidates for that role, canonised as such by the founding texts of modern socialism produced by its apostles, Marx and Engels, both rank anti-Semites. The two chaps used the words ‘Jew’ and ‘bourgeois’ almost interchangeably – a Jew was to them a bourgeois even if poor; a bourgeois implicitly a Jew even if gentile.
Because Jews place a stronger emphasis on learning than just about any other ethnic group, and a weaker emphasis on drinking and debauchery, they tend to be more economically successful on average. Thus hating them comes naturally to socialists, who can build a tower of class envy on the traditional foundations of religious enmity.
It’s amusing to hear gentile atheists refer to Jewish atheists as ‘Christ killers’. The former don’t care about Christ any more than the latter care about the religion in whose name Christ was condemned. But the aforementioned tower wouldn’t stand without its historical foundations.
This isn’t the most attractive example of modernity developing and modifying traditional values, but a telling example nonetheless.
I realise that I’m oversimplifying a complex phenomenon, but my aim here isn’t to analyse the historical and psychological roots of anti-Semitism in any great depth – not that I’m certain I’d be able to do so even if this were my aim.
I’ve read a few books on the subject, and none of them quite succeeds. For there’s more to anti-Semitism than just class envy or “poor man’s snobbery”, as Sartre described it.
Otherwise it would be hard to explain upper-class anti-Semites, such as the Duke of Windsor, Oswald Mosley and practically the whole Cliveden set. Or, crossing the Atlantic, neither Henry Ford nor J.P. Morgan, both anti-Semites, had a compelling reason to envy Jewish wealth.
Be that as it may, my aim is more modest: trying to understand not the nature of anti-Semitism within Labour, but why such sentiments have come to the surface. Homo politicus, after all, is a peculiar animal, brought into this world for one purpose only: winning elections.
Corbyn may be an anti-Semite of Nazi proportions, but he wouldn’t let it show, and neither would he fail to impose a gagging party discipline on other anti-Semites within Labour ranks, if he felt that expressing overt anti-Semitism hurt his electoral chances.
Even the zoological anti-Semites among the Labour high command would have been told to put a sock in it and desist from comparing Netanyahu to Hitler – even if they felt strongly in their hearts, as Corbyn manifestly does, that the comparison was justified. Let’s win the general election first, lads, would be the message. Then and only then can you have a go at those Jewish Nazis.
The reason the scandals were allowed to develop and enter the public domain has to do with one discipline only, and it’s not history, philosophy, religion or psychology. It’s arithmetic.
There are about 3,000,000 Muslims in the UK, and the number is growing. There are about 250,000 Jews, and the number is dwindling. Subtract the second number from the first, and you’ll get 2,750,000 reasons for overt Labour anti-Semitism.
Labour in its present form has to harvest votes at the margins of the electorate. I never overestimate the intelligence of the average voter, but I still doubt that, for example, Corbyn’s economic ideas will get him many mainstream votes.
Nationalise everything possible, soak the rich with high taxes, give more power to the unions, print and borrow even more billions – such time-honoured ideas have too rotten a track record to have enough mass appeal for Labour to get into government.
You and I aren’t going to vote for them no matter how disappointed or even disgusted we are with the Tories. Such feelings made me vote UKIP at the latest election, but the thought of voting Labour never even crossed my mind.
So which large blocs will vote Labour? Certainly the déclassé welfare recipients, those who favour printing or borrowing billions to beef up the social budget. Probably most ethnic minorities, with the possible and partial exception of the British Indians. Readers of The Guardian (circulation 148,169). The leftie lunatic fringe. Union activists. State employees who have a vested interest in the big state.
And definitely the Muslims, who lap up the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic noises being made by Labour. The Muslim vote may well prove as decisive nationally as it did in the London 2016 mayoral election.
For this vote isn’t spread evenly throughout the country. In many constituencies, especially in the northern half of Britain, it’s dominant, and these may well be regarded by Labour pollsters as swing groups.
Tory pollsters realise this as well, which may be one reason Home Secretary Sajid Javid is widely mooted as Mrs May’s likely successor. This son of Pakistani immigrants just may syphon off some of the Muslim vote, even though Mr Javid is no anti-Semite or Israel-hater.
Alas, most Muslims in the UK are, and it’s for their votes that Corbyn has uncapped the well of Labour anti-Semitism. This stratagem may or may not come from the heart, but it definitely comes from dispassionate calculations.
It’s the arithmetic, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist. He actually said ‘the economy’, but Corbyn doesn’t have that option.