No direction home: the tragedy of the Jewish left

Maurice Glasman in New Statesman:

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Paul Embery, found himself hit by a Twitter storm. Paul is a trade unionist, a socialist and is emerging as a polemical journalist of some distinction. Like many, but not all who identify as Blue Labour, he argues strongly for the democratic and radical possibilities of Brexit, which he views as a class issue. He found himself engaged in a Twitter spat with Mike Harding, who describes himself on his website as a “singer, songwriter, comedian, author, poet, broadcaster and multi-instrumentalist”, and there is no reason to doubt that he is all those things and more. He views Brexit as a horrible prelude to a new world war. Mike is from Crumpsall in Manchester, Paul is from Dagenham in the borderlands of Essex and east London. It was never going to go well.

Harding posted a tweet, roughly consistent with the vision of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which stated that a “nation is not a home” but a collection of individuals who share a status of citizenship and not anything like a “homeland”. Paul replied that “this encapsulates the divide within society between a rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian middle class… and a rooted, communitarian, patriotic working-class”. Mike Harding suggested that Paul Embery should read Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Muhammad Ali once said that “you never get knocked out by a punch you see coming”. It is a good rule in politics, too. Paul Embery did not go to university and he did not spend his youth reading histories of the Soviet Union. His first paid work almost ended when he called the shelf stackers in his local Asda out on a wildcat strike. He joined the fire brigade when he was 22. He had never heard the word “trope” until, in this Twitter spat, he was accused of using one. I, however, am precisely a “rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian” and I knew that the phrase “rootless cosmopolitan” was minted by Stalin and his executioners in the show trials to exterminate Jews, particularly Trotskyists, for whom this became the standard expression. I cannot hear it without the dread fear of the knock on the door by the Cheka in the early hours. Paul, because of what he’d written – and then, by association, Blue Labour – was accused of anti-Semitism.

More here.