We condemn the anti-Semitic defacing of National Party billboards reported over the last days. Racism serves to divide the working class, and to distract us from the real divisions in society. As socialists we are opposed to all forms of racism, regardless of who happens to be the target of racist slurs. All left-wing people should condemn these racist acts unequivocally.
Anti-Semitism, the racist fantasy that capitalism, inequality and exploitation can be blamed on Jews is one of the oldest and most destructive of the myths of race hatred that are pushed to divide the working class. Europe is the home of anti-Semitism, and Europe’s rulers encouraged and stoked anti-Jewish prejudices in order to turn workers against an oppressed minority instead of focusing their anger on their actual oppressors, the capitalist ruling class. This tradition led, through fascism and capitalism’s crisis in the 1930s, to the barbarities of Nazism and the Shoah, the attempted extermination of the entire Jewish people.
It may seem a big deal to make out of a few defaced billboards, but this awful history serves as a warning. As socialists we have a duty to remember the past and to fight racism today. Anti-Semitic ideas, in the context of the decline of strong socialist currents and organisations, have had a chance to revive in recent years through the spread of conspiracy theories and fake ‘left’ ideas like the Zeitgeist movement online. We need to be vigilant.
Right-wing commentators like Matthew Hooton and David Farrar are utterly hypocritical when they pretend outrage at these incidents. They are happy to work with and promote Act, Jamie Whyte’s zombie party of anti-Maori racism. When Hone Harawira’s electorate offices were shot at we heard no indignant protests from the respectable voices of the Right. Anti-Maori racism, including its violent expressions, is another matter, it seems.
But we expect no less from the Right. And we have no quarrel with the young and the disaffected defacing National Party signs. Contempt for the party of the rich and the bosses – and expressions of this contempt in class terms – are to be welcomed. Anti-Semitism seeks to deflect that class anger into the dangerous dead-end of racism.
The climate for these attacks has been created by the nationalism and xenophobia toyed with and encouraged by all the parliamentary opposition parties. The Greens and Labour used anti-foreigner rhetoric in the campaign against asset sales, and promote a little New Zealand nationalism in their campaign material. A Labour candidate recently called Key ‘Shylock’ (the name of a character in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, and an anti-Semitic insult). Even more disappointing, John Minto from Mana played on this nationalism by contrasting ‘decent New Zealanders’ with foreign housebuyers and said the country ‘needs to get real about immigration’ on a TV debate. The union-funded Daily Blog last year ran an anti-Semitic caricature on its Christmas post, with Martyn Bradbury defending the image for days. This nationalism gives space and confidence to more open forms of racism.
Our tradition has always stood uncompromisingly against anti-Semitism and oppression. We are working to build an independent working-class political movement capable of opposing the bosses as bosses. Hostility towards anti-Semitism is essential for this project.