The final solution on Sark

This article appears today in the Jewish Chronicle.


One of the most shocking documents on display at Yad Vashem is a typed list prepared by Adolf Eichmann for the Wannsee conference held in January 1942. That meeting sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews, and Eichmann’s research gave a breakdown, country-by-country of the estimated eleven million Jews on the continent. A meticulous bureaucrat, Eichmann didn’t pass over even the smallest Jewish communities, noting the estimated 200 Jews in Albania or the 1,300 in Norway. Every single Jew was noted, each one considered a suitable target for extermination.

Eighteen months earlier, the German army occupied the Channel Islands, the only part of Britain to come under Nazi rule. In Jersey and Guernsey, the German arrested a handful of Jews (whose names and addresses were turned over to them by local authorities) and several of these died in Auschwitz. But the tiny island of Sark, with a population of less than 600, presented a problem. There may have been a single Jew there – or maybe not. The issue preoccupied the German army for several years. Continue reading

Proud to be a Zionist

Mapam campaign poster 1944
Mapam campaign poster 1944

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother recently made headlines by tweeting that “#Zionists cant cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”. That the tweet took place in the context of a heated discussion about how the Labour Party is coping with increasing allegations of anti-Semitism is not the point. The point is that the word “Zionist” has become toxic on the British Left, and I have a problem with this.

On one of the Sunday morning radio shows, Jonathan Freedland was asked about this. He quoted the Israeli author Amos Oz who said that “Zionist” was like a family name. There always needs to be a first name, such as “Religious Zionist” or “Socialist Zionist”. But Freedland himself, when asked, said he’d rather not use the label “Zionist” to describe his own views as it would just cause confusion.

There are really two approaches to dealing with political labels that become toxic. One is to accept reality and abandon them. The other is to be defiant and embrace them. Continue reading

After Wisconsin, can Sanders still win?

This article appears in today’s edition of the Morning Star.


Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Wisconsin Democratic Primary this week is being spun by the mainstream media as “too little, too late”. The consensus among pundits is that Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead is so huge that there is simply no way for the democratic socialist senator from Vermont to catch up.

That has been the case for every single one of Sanders’ recent victories, starting with his wins in Idaho and Utah on 22 March. Those two victories, in two small states, went barely noticed even if they were shocking in their scale. In Idaho, Sanders took 78% of the vote and in Utah he won over 79%. His supporters reacted by donating a staggering amount of money online, making it the third month in a row that Sanders has out-raised Clinton. But the consensus among experts was that he didn’t have a chance. Continue reading

Haufenweise schwarze Schafe

This article appears in this week’s edition of Jungle World.


Die britische Labour Party und ihr neuer Vorsitzender Jeremy Corbyn haben ein Problem mit dem Antisemitismus in den eigenen Reihen. Das wird zwar öffentlich kritisiert, aber ihre politischen Prioritäten liegen anderswo. Continue reading

Trumbo: Stalinists as Victims

Browder.
Earl Browder, American Communist Party leader.

“Trumbo” is a the latest in a series of Hollywood films that looks back nostalgically at the McCarthy era, a time when the good guys were blacklisted writers accused of membership in the Communist Party, and the bad guys were the US government, studio bosses, and right-wing media.

The first of those films was probably “The Way We Were” (1973) starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. Made only a few years after blacklisting had ended, when the Cold War was still raging, it became a template for future films on the subject. The film takes place over several decades, as Streisand and Redford fall in and out of love. In the opening scenes, Streisand plays the very young Katie, a committed activist, and is initially shown as campus leader of the Young Communist League (YCL). Continue reading

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The patriotic traitor

petainThe title of Jonathan Lynn’s new play “The Patriotic Traitor” could refer to either of the play’s two protagonists. One, Marshall Philippe Pétain, betrayed France to the Germans in 1940, while believing all the time that was doing so in order to save the country. The other, his disciple and close friend Charles de Gaulle, was branded a traitor by the Vichy regime and sentenced to death when he fled the country for exile, to take on leadership of the Free French forces.

The play, which just opened at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, is a tour de force. The venerable Tom Conti is so good as Pétain that he completely dominates the stage whenever he appears. One wonders if Pétain himself had that same charisma and intelligence. As for de Gaulle, played by Laurence Fox, he comes off as a thoroughly unlikeable character, even if history were to prove him right. Continue reading

After just one primary, Bernie Sanders is the most successful socialist politician in the US in 80 years

genenormandarlingtonbernie128

As someone who enjoys political history and playing around with numbers, here are the vote totals for democratic socialist candidates for US president since 1900, when Eugene Debs first ran. In 1924, the Socialists did not run an independent campaign, and stopped running all together after 1956. Splinter parties, including the Communists, Socialist Labor, Socialist Workers, and the revived Socialist Party after 1980, are not counted and the numbers were always exceptionally low.

In just one primary (New Hampshire) Bernie Sanders has done better than any Socialist candidate since Norman Thomas in 1936.

Counting votes cast in Iowa and Nevada caucuses (not currently available), he’s almost certainly beaten that record.

1900 Debs 87,945
1904 Debs 402,810
1908 Debs 420,852
1912 Debs 901,551 (the best socialist vote ever as a percentage – 6%)
1916 Benson 590,524
1920 Debs 913,693 (the highest ever – running as a federal prisoner)
1928 Thomas 267,478
1932 Thomas 884,885 (a brief Depression-era revival)
1936 Thomas 187,910
1940 Thomas 116,599
1944 Thomas 79,017
1948 Thomas 139,569
1952 Hoopes 20,203
1956 Hoopes 2,044 (after this, the party by 1968 gives up on electoral politics)
2016 Sanders 151,584 (New Hampshire primary only)

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