Spartacus Blog

Anti-Semitism in Political Parties in Britain

Wednesday, 12th April, 2018

John Simkin

Over the last few weeks the media, including those "liberal" news organisations such as The Guardian and the BBC, have been accusing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party of being guilty of anti-Semitism. The story began with a letter on 26th March, 2018 from Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, that included the following passage: "Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it." (1)

This has clearly been written by someone who knows nothing about anti-Semitism in Britain. This is revealed when the letter includes the statement: "We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he (Corbyn) is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities." Jews embraced the "far-left" in the late 19th century and for the first-half of the 20th century because the ideology of socialism rejected the ideology of racism. Ian Kershaw, the author of Hitler: 1889-1936 (1998) has pointed out that Adolf Hitler accused socialism of being a Jewish conspiracy and used the evidence of the long history of the role of Jews in the leadership of the German Social Democrat Party (SDP), German Communist Party (KPD) and the trade movement in Germany. (2)

In Mein Kampf (1925) Hitler claimed that the German people had been seduced by the "Jewish doctrine of Marxism". (3) In an article published in Völkischer Beobachter, Hitler argued: "The Jew is and remains the world enemy and his weapon, Marxism, a plague of mankind." (4) One of the first speeches he made once he gained power he claimed that the head of the list of internal enemies stood "Jewish Marxism". In fact, the first people he sent to the concentration camps were the leaders of the SDP, the KPD and the trade union leaders (both Jews and non-Jews). (5)

Jonathan Arkush should carry out a study Britain in the 1930s. It was conservative newspapers such as The Daily Mail, owned by Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, who gave their support to Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. " (6)

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough." (7)

Lord Rothermere also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W." (8)

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
The Daily Mail (22nd January 1934)

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists in their attempts to deal with their left-wing opponents. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting." (9)

Oswald Mosley sought and gained permission from the Conservative government for members of the British Union of Fascists to march, dressed in military uniforms through the East End. An estimated 100,000 residents of the area petitioned then Home Secretary John Simon to ban the march because of the strong likelihood of violence. He refused, and sent a police escort in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protesters from disrupting the march.

It was Labour Party members (including Jeremy Corbyn's mother) along with other left-wing groups who fought the fascists at the Battle of Cable Street on 4th October, 1936. You did not see any members of the Conservative Party on the side of the demonstrators in the East End. It was the right-wing political parties that were attempting to gain the benefits of the considerable anti-Semitism that existed in Britain in the 1930s. Max Levitas, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Stepney later pointed out: "It was the solidarity between the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the trade union movement that stopped Mosley's fascists, supported by the police, from marching through Cable Street." (10)

The Battle of Cable Street
The Battle of Cable Street

On the surface, it would seem that the media campaign, especially by the so-called "liberal" organisations such as the BBC and The Guardian, that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic is working. According to a poll carried out by Deltapoll, 51% of the electorate believes that there are "pockets of antisemitism in the Labour party". The report goes on to say "that a third (34%) of voters also believe that Jeremy Corbyn is among those in the party who hold antisemitic views". (11)

How do these people know that the Labour Party has problems with anti-Semitism? What evidence are people using to make their decisions on the subject? Could it be that people are developing views based on the publicity that this issue is being given in the media? If they are really interested in the problems of anti-Semitism in Britain why don't they consult the latest published research on the subject. For example, the recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research entitled, Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain (September 2017). It argued that the main repository of anti-Semitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP. (12)

Every two years YouGov carries out a study on the subject of anti-Semitism. In August 2017 YouGov asked 1614 adults from across the political spectrum whether 5 different stereotypical anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish people were either "Definitely true" "Probably true", "Definitely not true" or "Probably not true". And, when comparing the responses to those given by 3411 respondents to almost identical questions in 2015, the results were profound. For example, in 2015, 22% of Labour voters agreed with the statement that "Jews chase money more than other people", whereas 31% of Conservative voters agreed with this view. In 2017 the number of Labour voters agreeing with the statement had declined to 14%. Amongst Tories it had declined to 27%.

Contrary to the narrative portrayed by the media furore surrounding Labour’s reported "problem" with anti-Semitism, this data shows that since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in 2015, anti-Semitic views amongst Labour party voters have actually reduced substantially. "Not only are anti-Semitic views amongst Conservative voters significantly higher than Labour voters in general, the rate of decline for anti-Semitic views amongst Labour voters is more than double the rate of Conservative voters – falling 8% in two years for Labour voters compared to a 3% decline in anti-Semitic views among Tory voters." (13)

Is Jonathan Arkush and the Board of Deputies of British Jews unaware of this research? Or do they have another agenda? The Jewish Socialists’ Group think they have the answer to these questions. "These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed Jewish Leadership Council, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.... Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies, was one of the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President of the United States on behalf of the Board. This action was harshly criticised by many Jews he claims that the Board represents. He also gives unqualified support to Israel’s pro-settler Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys good relations with the very far right political forces in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who are fanning bigotry against minorities, including Jews." The group then go on to explain that "until very recently the Jewish Leadership Council was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory Party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party."

The group then go on to examine the recent record of the two political parties: "Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria." (14)

In an interview that he gave to the Daily Telegraph in 2001, Andrew Lansley, who went on to become Secretary of State for Health and Leader of the House of Commons, claimed that "There is endemic racism in the Tory party. It is in the system." The reason he made these comments was he was supporting Kenneth Clarke in a leadership battle with Iain Duncan Smith, and feared his candidate would lose because of his liberal views on race. (15)

In the past this smear campaign in the media would have caused serious problems for the Labour Party. However, because of the web, people are capable of dealing with false or distorted information. A recent survey asked people to identify their main source of news. Online comes out number one in every age group under 45 . As Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has pointed out: "People who get news via search engines and/or social media sites report using significantly more different sources of news than those who do not. Search engines and social media thus seem to lead people to a wider sources of news that they would have used otherwise." (16)

These attacks are turned to the advantage of the Labour Party as it reinforces the idea that the media barons are doing what they can to destabilize Jeremy Corbyn. Since the latest campaign against the Labour Party leadership began, the grassroots Corbyn group, Momentum, has seen an increase in its membership. Latest figures show the organisation, which powered Corbyn to two landslide leadership victories, now has 36,000 members and is gaining new entrants at a rate of between a thousand and 1,500 a month. (17) One report suggests that this pressure group within the Labour Party is on the verge of overtaking the membership of the Conservative Party. (18)


(1) Board of Deputies of British Jews, letter to Jeremy Corbyn (26th March 2018)

(2) Ian Kershaw, the author of Hitler: 1889-1936 (1998) page 61

(3) Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925) page 69

(4) Adolf Hitler, Völkischer Beobachter (February, 1927)

(5) David Bankier, Germans and the Final Solution (1996) page 45

(6) Adolf Hitler, letter to Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere (December, 1933)

(7) Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) page 164

(8) Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail (22nd January, 1934)

(9) George Ward Price, The Daily Mail (8th June, 1934)

(10) Kurt Barling, BBC report: Cable Street: Solidarity stopped Mosley's fascists (4th October, 2011)

(11) Michael Savage, The Observer (8th April, 2018)

(12) Daniel Staetsky, Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain (September 2017)

(13) Tom D. Rogers, Evolve Politics (29th March, 2018)

(14) Jewish Socialists Group (26th March, 2018)

(15) Andrew Lansley, The Daily Telegraph (1st September, 2001)

(16) Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Oxford University Media Report (30th May, 2017)

(17) Ashley Cowburn, The Independent (4th April, 2018)

(18) Paul Waugh, Huffington Post (6th March, 2018)


Previous Posts

Why the decline in newspaper readership is good for democracy (18th April, 2018)

Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (12th April, 2018)

George Osborne and the British Passport (24th March, 2018)

Boris Johnson and the 1936 Berlin Olympics (22nd March, 2018)

Donald Trump and the History of Tariffs in the United States (12th March, 2018)

Karen Horney: The Founder of Modern Feminism? (1st March, 2018)

The long record of The Daily Mail printing hate stories (19th February, 2018)

John Maynard Keynes, the Daily Mail and the Treaty of Versailles (25th January, 2018)

20 year anniversary of the Spartacus Educational website (2nd September, 2017)

The Hidden History of Ruskin College (17th August, 2017)

Underground child labour in the coal mining industry did not come to an end in 1842 (2nd August, 2017)

Raymond Asquith, killed in a war declared by his father (28th June, 2017)

History shows since it was established in 1896 the Daily Mail has been wrong about virtually every political issue. (4th June, 2017)

The House of Lords needs to be replaced with a House of the People (7th May, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Caroline Norton (28th March, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Mary Wollstonecraft (20th March, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Anne Knight (23rd February, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons Candidate: Elizabeth Heyrick (12th January, 2017)

100 Greatest Britons: Where are the Women? (28th December, 2016)

The Death of Liberalism: Charles and George Trevelyan (19th December, 2016)

Donald Trump and the Crisis in Capitalism (18th November, 2016)

Victor Grayson and the most surprising by-election result in British history (8th October, 2016)

Left-wing pressure groups in the Labour Party (25th September, 2016)

The Peasant's Revolt and the end of Feudalism (3rd September, 2016)

Leon Trotsky and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party (15th August, 2016)

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England (7th August, 2016)

The Media and Jeremy Corbyn (25th July, 2016)

Rupert Murdoch appoints a new prime minister (12th July, 2016)

George Orwell would have voted to leave the European Union (22nd June, 2016)

Is the European Union like the Roman Empire? (11th June, 2016)

Is it possible to be an objective history teacher? (18th May, 2016)

Women Levellers: The Campaign for Equality in the 1640s (12th May, 2016)

The Reichstag Fire was not a Nazi Conspiracy: Historians Interpreting the Past (12th April, 2016)

Why did Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst join the Conservative Party? (23rd March, 2016)

Mikhail Koltsov and Boris Efimov - Political Idealism and Survival (3rd March, 2016)

Why the name Spartacus Educational? (23rd February, 2016)

Right-wing infiltration of the BBC (1st February, 2016)

Bert Trautmann, a committed Nazi who became a British hero (13th January, 2016)

Frank Foley, a Christian worth remembering at Christmas (24th December, 2015)

How did governments react to the Jewish Migration Crisis in December, 1938? (17th December, 2015)

Does going to war help the careers of politicians? (2nd December, 2015)

Art and Politics: The Work of John Heartfield (18th November, 2015)

The People we should be remembering on Remembrance Sunday (7th November, 2015)

Why Suffragette is a reactionary movie (21st October, 2015)

Volkswagen and Nazi Germany (1st October, 2015)

David Cameron's Trade Union Act and fascism in Europe (23rd September, 2015)

The problems of appearing in a BBC documentary (17th September, 2015)

Mary Tudor, the first Queen of England (12th September, 2015)

Jeremy Corbyn, the new Harold Wilson? (5th September, 2015)

Anne Boleyn in the history classroom (29th August, 2015)

Why the BBC and the Daily Mail ran a false story on anti-fascist campaigner, Cedric Belfrage (22nd August, 2015)

Women and Politics during the Reign of Henry VIII (14th July, 2015)

The Politics of Austerity (16th June, 2015)

Was Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, murdered? (31st May, 2015)

The long history of the Daily Mail campaigning against the interests of working people (7th May, 2015)

Nigel Farage would have been hung, drawn and quartered if he lived during the reign of Henry VIII (5th May, 2015)

Was social mobility greater under Henry VIII than it is under David Cameron? (29th April, 2015)

Why it is important to study the life and death of Margaret Cheyney in the history classroom (15th April, 2015)

Is Sir Thomas More one of the 10 worst Britons in History? (6th March, 2015)

Was Henry VIII as bad as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin? (12th February, 2015)

The History of Freedom of Speech (13th January, 2015)

The Christmas Truce Football Game in 1914 (24th December, 2014)

The Anglocentric and Sexist misrepresentation of historical facts in The Imitation Game (2nd December, 2014)

The Secret Files of James Jesus Angleton (12th November, 2014)

Ben Bradlee and the Death of Mary Pinchot Meyer (29th October, 2014)

Yuri Nosenko and the Warren Report (15th October, 2014)

The KGB and Martin Luther King (2nd October, 2014)

The Death of Tomás Harris (24th September, 2014)

Simulations in the Classroom (1st September, 2014)

The KGB and the JFK Assassination (21st August, 2014)

West Ham United and the First World War (4th August, 2014)

The First World War and the War Propaganda Bureau (28th July, 2014)

Interpretations in History (8th July, 2014)

Alger Hiss was not framed by the FBI (17th June, 2014)

Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: Part 2 (14th June, 2014)

Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: The CIA and Search-Engine Results (10th June, 2014)

The Student as Teacher (7th June, 2014)

Is Wikipedia under the control of political extremists? (23rd May, 2014)

Why MI5 did not want you to know about Ernest Holloway Oldham (6th May, 2014)

The Strange Death of Lev Sedov (16th April, 2014)

Why we will never discover who killed John F. Kennedy (27th March, 2014)

The KGB planned to groom Michael Straight to become President of the United States (20th March, 2014)

The Allied Plot to Kill Lenin (7th March, 2014)

Was Rasputin murdered by MI6? (24th February 2014)

Winston Churchill and Chemical Weapons (11th February, 2014)

Pete Seeger and the Media (1st February 2014)

Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom? (15th January 2014)

Why did the intelligence services murder Dr. Stephen Ward? (8th January 2014)

Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave (4th January 2014)

The Angel of Auschwitz (6th December 2013)

The Death of John F. Kennedy (23rd November 2013)

Adolf Hitler and Women (22nd November 2013)

New Evidence in the Geli Raubal Case (10th November 2013)

Murder Cases in the Classroom (6th November 2013)

Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler (4th November 2013)

Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler (30th October 2013)

Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement (26th October 2013)

The Strange Case of William Wiseman (21st October 2013)

Robert Vansittart's Spy Network (17th October 2013)

British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany (14th October 2013)

Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism (12th October 2013)

Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany (11th October 2013)

The Activities of MI5 (9th October 2013)

The Right Club and the Second World War (6th October 2013)

What did Paul Dacre's father do in the war? (4th October 2013)

Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere (2nd October 2013)