Friday 29 November 2019
How the Right racialises banking
A pattern is emerging of powerful right wing people making persistent antisemitic jibes and slurs.
Let's put some of these together: Rees-Mogg talking about Oliver Letwin (Jewish Tory MP) as one of the 'illuminati' - an obscure reference (wink wink) to an elite 'cabal'; accusing the anti-Brexit movement of being financed by Soros, a Jewish financier who has become a focus of hate for some antisemitic forces in Eastern Europe; Suella Braverman MP talking about the need to fight against 'cultural marxists' (again a nudge-nudge term implying 'Jews' on account of the fact that the real cultural marxists of the Frankfurt School were mostly Jews); Toby Young (right wing 'thinker') projecting his own antisemitic assumptions on to Philip Hammond. Young did this by accusing Hammond of antisemitism as Hammond had mentioned that bankers and speculators might benefit from a hard Brexit. But Hammond hadn't mentioned Jews! The notion that bankers and speculators benefiting from Brexit were 'Jews' was in Young's mind alone. Now we have Dominic Cummings, one time senior adviser to the Tories talking about the Remain campaign as being financed by '...the likes of Goldman Sachs writing cheques for Remain'. (What could he mean by 'the likes of...' What or who are the 'likes of' Goldman Sachs?!). There's also a video doing the rounds on twitter of Cummings talking to a House of Commons Select Committee about Goldman Sachs in Europe with 'their fingers in every pie', conjuring up an image of a svengali banker pulling all the strings, preventing good honest national capitalism from doing its own thing. It's a classic fascist image of the idea that Goldman Sachs are creepy and corrupt getting in the way of a Cummings alternative of what? A clean, national, uncorrupt finance. It's racialised, bogus and Hitlerian.
Now put this little sequence together and we have well-known and powerful right wing figures floating classic Hitlerian ideas about how their ambitions to run the system their way, being thwarted by Jews.
It's a way of racialising the problems and crises of capitalism and racialises criticisms of capitalism.
This is what the classic antisemitism of France in the 1890s, 1930s fascism, US Henry Fordism, Nazism, neo-Nazism and all their spin-offs do. They all have their own vision of 'national' capitalism and use the image of the Jewish banker as the obstacle that prevents them from achieving their vision. In fact, Steve Bannon talks openly of 'economic nationalism'. (see his long interview with Emily Maitlis). What is this if it isn't a cry for an end to trading blocs and 'global finance' because it gets in the way of his vision of a US-dominated national capitalism (the nationalism ('America first') is bogus because the genie is out the bottle - capitalism can't go back to being city-state small scale production)?
What is significant is the way these voices that I've identified are trying out sticking Jewish names on to the 'global' and international obstacles that these right wing figures have identified.
All this poses a particular problem for the left. The left usually doesn't want to be in a position of defending bankers, speculators, and international traders. But let's run a scenario in which the next crash that happens is because a) the big debts from the last crash haven't gone away and b) a huge amount of private debt is being piled up to make up for the shortfall in demand caused by low wages.
If I've smelled this correctly, the Right will not pull back from blaming Jewish international finance (as they see it) for the credit crisis and possible slump, and the vulnerability caused by our private debts, in order to win power for their 'national' model of capitalism.
We will have to say over and over again that to racialise the economic crisis is to beckon in discrimination, persecution, pogroms and worse. If there is a problem with international finance - that is the problem - in those terms. It's not that there are some Jews involved in banking. It's not the supposed, alleged Jewishness of banking that causes a crisis. Of course not! It's the system that has in-built problems to do with the drive for profit and the cut-throat competition between chunks of business and capital.
We may well find ourselves arguing with people who are not well-off who have bought into national and racialised views of what's wrong with rich people screwing up the system and giving them debts.
I believe that these attempts by Rees-Mogg, Cummings, Young, are them flying a kite, just looking to see if people nibble on their racialised view of what stands in their way. They watch what Bannon is on about. They watch what's going on in Eastern Europe and the whole blame-Soros game which has had traction in Poland and Hungary (where the most savage aspects of the Holocaust took place!).
In the short term, we need to be vigilant and vocal about the drip-drip feed of these racialised attacks on bankers and 'intellectuals' because sure as hell, they're mostly being given a free pass by the very people who've been most vocal in their accusations of Labour Party antisemitism.
I'm very curious and slightly alarmed that very few people have picked up on Cummings' Goldman Sachs jibe.
The usual alarm-ringers - Jonathan Freedland, Robert Peston, John Mann - haven't said anything.