At the Labour Representation Committee conference last Saturday, 19 November, Dave Osler approached me and said: "Do you know that the Morning Star stall is selling the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"
Startled, I went across to the stall, with Dave. There it was, the famous Tsarist police forgery, a basic text for anti-semites in many countries in the 20th century and still in wide circulation.
"Why do you have this on the stall?", Dave asked. "Oh", said the stallholder, and, I think, candidly, "we just found it in our storeroom and thought someone might be interested".
Seeing both Dave and me aghast, the stallholder added: "Of course we don't take a position on stuff like that". We looked even more aghast, so he added further: "We wouldn't have any fascist literature on our stall".
Dave pointed out that the edition on the stall bore the imprint of a proto-fascist publishing company. By now thoroughly embarrassed, the stallholder removed the pamphlet.
I don't think there had been any decision by the Morning Star that it would be good to promote the Protocols. I think the stallholder didn't know what the Protocols are. Given that he was no youth, and given the importance of the Protocols in history, that is a problem.
Dave has written further about this on his blog. I concur with what he's written, bar one point.
Dave states: "I do not for one moment suspect the Morning Star of anti-semitism. The Communist Party, from which the newspaper is technically independent but closely tied in political terms, has always had numerous Jewish members, and an honourable track record of fighting fascism, including on the street where necessary".
I'm sure it was carelessness and ignorance, and not ill-will against Jews, which led the Morning Star stall to carry the Protocols. But Dave's historical generalisation is way off the mark.
Stalinism's "record of fighting fascism" is the opposite of honourable. Consider the Stalin-Hitler pact, or the Stalinists' accusations over a whole period that Trotskyists were "fascists". Or their "after Hitler, our turn next" line in Germany before 1933, and their attempts in that period to outdo the Nazis in nationalist demagogy against the Versailles Pact.
Or the French CP's appeal, at one point, to "patriotic French fascists" to join it in a united front against the German Nazis.
Having numerous Jewish members does not save an organisation from anti-semitic prejudice, any more than the fact of the Tory party having numerous female and poor members means that the Tories are free of all suspicion of sexism or class prejudice.
And obviously having fought fascists on the streets does not certify you as free of all prejudice. What we have here is a commonly-used defence mechanism for leftists who dabble with anti-semitism under cover of "anti-Zionism" (like the student leftists who were willing not to ban student Jewish societies in universities - so long as the Jewish students would formally damn and repudiate all links to Israel or "Zionism"). They evade any discussion of anti-semitism by claiming that anyone who criticises any particular stance or statement as anti-semitic is accusing them of being root-and-branch anti-Jewish racists, pretty much the same as Nazis, which obviously they can't be since they have attended anti-BNP and anti-NF demonstrations.
As if there is no subtler anti-semitism than outright racist or fascistic Jew-hatred. As if all anti-fascists are free of, for example, anti-German or anti-American prejudice. But anti-fascist campaigns would be in desperate straits if the only people they could mobilise were those free of all prejudices.
CPers are not racist Jew-haters. Of course not. But historically, since the 1950s, the CPs have been a major conduit into the labour movement of subtler anti-semitism, as Stan Crooke's detailed study shows.