Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote approvingly about a book which describes Jews in language echoing that of Haman in Megillas Esther, it was revealed on Tuesday.
John Atkinson Hobson wrote “Imperialism: A Study” in 1902, when anti-Semitic attitudes were common. Nevertheless, even for those times, the language in which Hobson describes Jewish people is unusually strong and unpleasant. In a previous work, on the causes of the Boer War in South Africa a few years previously, Hobson blames the war on “international financiers…chiefly Jewish in race.”
He did not change his ideas much before writing Imperialism, if anything, he enlarged on them.
On Tuesday evening, Daniel Finkelstein, associate editor of The Times, pre-released his column for the following day’s paper, in which he divulged that in 2011, Corbyn was asked to write a foreword for Hobson’s book, which, as Finkelstein said, “became very influential in left-wing circles” and was a favorite of Lenin’s.
In his foreword, Corbyn praises the book, calling it “brilliant”. He compares Hobson’s analysis of the political situation at the time with the situation in the second half of the 20th century, extrapolating his theories into contemporary politics. Finkelstein quotes Corbyn as saying that the United States was the “big imperial force” acting “on behalf of global capitalism”, which aimed to bring about “the military re-occupation [of Europe] under the guise of NATO.” In contrast to this, he speaks approvingly of the Soviet Union, saying “The Soviet influence was always different, and its allies often acted quite independently.”
However, despite having apparently read the book closely enough to be able to make these comparisons, Corbyn did not comment on the open anti-Semitism it contains. Instead he does not criticize this at all, but instead speaks approvingly of it. He said, “Hobson’s railing against the commercial interests that fuel the role of the popular press with tales of imperial might… was both correct and prescient.” Here he is repeating two classic anti-Semitic tropes – “commercial interests” is code for “Rothschilds” aka “Jewish bankers”, while in the same sentence he suggests that the Jews control the media. And this is what he calls “correct and prescient.”
A spokesman for the Labour party said “Jeremy praised the Liberal Hobson’s century old classic study of imperialism in Africa and Asia.
“Similarly to other books of its era, Hobson’s work contains outdated and offensive references and observations, and Jeremy completely rejects the anti-Semitic elements of his analysis.”
He might well reject those elements, but he did not choose to do so in writing, before this was brought to public attention…