Corbyn in trouble again – media discovers Edwardian “anti-semite”

The reissue of J.A. Hobson’s classic book Imperialism, with a Foreword by Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is again in trouble with Anglo-Jewry, after prominent Jewish journalist and Tory Lord Finkelstein (formerly Daniel Finkelstein) wrote an article for The Times this morning denouncing the Labour leader for having written a Foreword eight years ago to a book originally published in 1902!

This was the classic tome Imperialism by J.A. Hobson, well known to all serious students of British politics but apparently new to many Fleet Street scribblers.

Hobson was among the most prominent critics of the British Empire’s war in South Africa – the Boer War – in which among other outrages the British Empire pioneered the use of concentration camps to intern Boer civilians.

In the build-up to the war prominent Jewish financiers plotted with the gentile and Rothschild ally Cecil Rhodes to stage a “false flag” incident known to history as the Jameson Raid. This conspiracy failed, but it was not long before some of the same characters had successfully provoked a brutal war. There were almost 50,000 civilian casualties, including more than 26,000 Boer civilian women and children killed in British concentration camps.

Alfred Beit, one of the Jewish tycoons who plotted the Jameson Raid

Before, during and after the conflict, several leading opponents of the war – ranging from Marxists to Labour Party founders to Liberals – explicitly denounced what they saw as the Jewish influence in provoking and sustaining the conflict.

British Marxist (and first-class cricketer) Henry Hyndman attacked Jewish newspaper owners as “poisoners of the wells of public information”; he went on to condemn “this shameful attempt of a sordid capitalism to drag us into a policy of conquest in tropical regions which can benefit no living Englishman in the long run, though it may swell the overgrown fortunes of the meanest creatures on the earth”.

After the failure of the Jameson Raid, Liberal MP and journalist Henry Labouchère wrote of the plotters arrested by Boer leaders: “Many of the prisoners bear English names but are nonetheless mostly of foreign Hebrew origin, the kind of people frequently having a penchant to Anglicise their names”.

British Marxist and anti-war activist H.M. Hyndman

Socialist journalist Harry Quelch (later a friend of Lenin) wrote: “The Jew financier is the personfication of that gold international which today dominates the government and the jingo press of all countries.” Quelch later added: “We have denounced this as a Jew-Capitalist war, and seeing the prominent part Jew-capitalists have taken in the Johannesburg agitation, and seeing their intimate relations with Cabinet ministers here at home and the vituperative fury of their organs in the press, we consider the terms fully justified.”

In September 1899 the radical editor of Reynolds’s Newsapaper, W.M. Thompson, wrote: “The Transvaal policy of the present government is undoubtedly controlled by Jews so that England too is passing under the dominion of the foreigners from the East.”

Labour Party founder Keir Hardie concluded in 1900: “Modern imperialism is really run by half a dozen financial houses, many of them Jewish, to whom politics is a counter in the game of buying and selling securities.”

Even David Lloyd George (who as Prime Minister seventeen years later was to preside over the first official British backing for a Zionist homeland in Palestine) denounced the Tory government’s Boer War policies, sarcastically noting that “all our righteousness, all our hatred of wrongs was reserved for a community of Jews six thousand miles away in Johannesburg who ran away when the fighting came for their own cause.”

Labour Party founder Keir Hardie was among the many pioneer socialists who took an anti-Jewish line

One of the most explicitly “anti-semitic” interventions by an opponent of the war was a speech by trade unionist and MP John Burns in February 1900. Burns told the House of Commons: “Wherever we examine, there is the financial Jew, operating, directing, inspiring the agonies that have led to this war. …The trail of the financial serpent is over this war from beginning to end.”

Partly inspired by Burns, the Trade Union Congress passed a resolution at its conference in September 1900 opposing the Boer War as having been waged “to secure the gold fields of South Africa for cosmopolitan Jews most of whom had no patriotism and no country”.

So the author at the centre of the latest Corbyn controversy – J.A. Hobson – was by no means out of line with the prevailing anti-Jewish sentiments of Boer War opponents. He had first been sent to South Africa to report on the brewing conflict by the liberal Manchester Guardian in 1899, and a year later his Guardian journalism was collected into a book. Writing to Guardian proprietor and editor C.P. Scott, Hobson described how he had begun to perceive the Jewish role in South African events: “Many of these men have taken English names, and the extent of the Jew power is thus concealed. I am not exaggerating one whit. I think I can prove it.”

J.A. Hobson

Hobson continued in his letter to Scott (whose family trust still owns today’s Guardian newspaper): “They fastened on the Rand …as they are prepared to fasten upon any other spot on the globe in order to exploit it for the attainment of huge profits and quick return. This small confederacy of international financiers …chiefly foreign Jews, are the economic rulers of South Africa.”

Unlike those who have so keenly jumped on the bandwagon to atack Corbyn for publishing a Foreword praising the “anti-semite” Hobson, H&D actually knows a bit about British imperial history, including the Boer War. The question should not be whether Corbyn, Hobson and others are anti-Jewish. The question should be: are they telling the truth?

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