Now that an official investigation into Labour anti-Semitism has been launched, only one thing surprises me: that so many people are surprised.
Their astonishment has two components. First, anti-Semitism is nasty, whereas socialists are widely believed to be nice, both personally and in their political aspirations.
They stand for equality, fairness, help for the poor, comprehensive education, free medical care, clean air, not too much warm weather and in general every good cause mankind has ever conceived.
This is the message, and it has been sold so successfully for so long that people tend to overlook the obvious facts that, since socialism came into its own, the most satanic atrocities – including genocide of the Jews – have been committed by socialists of either national or international variety.
As to the good causes supposedly championed by socialists, upon close examination they turn out either not to be so good or else championed insincerely and for nefarious reasons.
Democratic egalitarianism, that deformed child of the Enlightenment, begat the worst features of modernity, those that collectively add up to the sabotage of cultural, intellectual and spiritual tradition.
At its base is a quest for uniformity in every sphere of life, not just in politics. This quest became frantic with the Enlightenment, but it started when the democratic idea first appeared. Thus ostracism, as a form of social opprobrium in ancient Greece, was mainly applied to outstanding individuals, and Socrates was one of the earliest victims of democratic egalitarianism.
“Equality is a slogan based on envy,” wrote Tocqueville, adding that nowhere is a citizen as insignificant as in a democratic state.
I can’t think offhand of a single serious political thinker, from Plato onwards, who didn’t express a similar idea, including those who aren’t generally believed to be hostile to democracy. For example, the principal architects of the American republic, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and Adams, detested democracy with unbridled passion – specifically because of what they presciently identified as its egalitarian, which is to say dehumanising, potential.
Democracy is bound to produce egalitarianism, egalitarianism is bound to produce socialism, and socialism is bound to produce a giant central state enforcing uniformity at all levels – such is the simplified chain that binds the individual, especially the outstanding one, hand and foot.
Jews are generally believed to be different, thereby distorting the desirable uniform picture. Thanks to their traditional and doctrinal emphasis on book learning, Jews also tend to resist the democratic tendency towards mass imbecility, or at least not to succumb to it as thoroughly as most other groups.
Also largely because of their commitment to serious education, Jews are widely successful in different walks of life, from corporate boardrooms to scientific laboratories to symphony orchestras. That encourages the egalitarian envy so presciently spotted by Tocqueville.
The more extreme the socialism, and the more logically does it develop the notions of the Enlightenment, the more pronounced this trend – especially since Marx, that charming combination of Jew and anti-Semite, explicitly equated the bourgeois and the Jew.
The syllogism he put forth was attractively simple, and simplicity appeals to small minds. Thesis: capitalists are despicable; antithesis: Jews are capitalists; synthesis: Jews are despicable.
Thus, in addition to the time-honoured garden variety anti-Semitism, socialists intuitively dislike Jews for resisting uniformity; and Marxist socialists also hate them for ideological, scriptural reasons.
Corbyn’s Labour party is virulently Marxist, which is why it absolutely has to be virulently anti-Semitic. But even non-Marxist socialists gravitate to that form of hatred. For example, people who know David Steele, the Liberal politician, tell me he hates Jews so viscerally he can’t even stand being next to one at an official dinner.
The second component of the surprise people feel about Labour anti-Semitism is that that form of bigotry is generally seen as the prerogative of right-wing conservatives.
Now even discounting the lunatic fringe of BNP types, which is more left than right anyway, anti-Semitism is certainly not alien to some conservatives, but it’s usually a different type of anti-Semitism.
(‘Usually’ is the operative word: the instinctive, irrational anti-Semitism of some conservatives, such as Chesterton in Britain or, in our own time, Pat Buchanan in the US, is typologically close to that of non-Marxist socialists.)
By and large, conservative anti-Semitism is more akin to snobbery than to hatred. Since true conservatism includes Christianity as a key constituent, it’s hard for a true conservative to be a fully paid-up anti-Semite.
After all, doctrinally the Old Testament is an essential part of the Christian canon; and historically, Christianity was originated and spread by Jews (the first 15 bishops of Jerusalem, for example, were circumcised Jews) – not to mention that Jesus himself was born to a Jewish woman and raised as a Jew.
If socialists look up to the Jews and hate them for being intellectually and professionally superior, conservatives look down on them for being socially inferior. The difference is vital: socialists kill Jews; conservatives don’t admit them to some clubs.
It stands to reason that the British Union of Fascists was founded by a socialist, Oswald Mosley, while the most conservative British (or for that matter any other) cabinet in living memory, that of Margaret Thatcher, was dominated by Jews, such as Keith Joseph, Leon Brittan, Nigel Lawson, Malcolm Rifkind, Michael Howard and David Young – to say nothing of her principal speechwriter, my late friend Sir Alfred Sherman.
Anti-Semitism has always been with us and always will be – people are fallible and susceptible to the full gamut of biases, both good and bad. But, if one is to generalise, its most virulent forms are more likely to be found in the ranks of socialists.
So what’s the big surprise? Corbyn’s Labour, by far the most extreme socialist incarnation of that party, aren’t bucking a trend. They are proving it.