The MacDonagh Formulation
(now with an added prologue by the actual MacDonagh — how’s that for value/impact?)
The Prologue — by Eamonn MacDonagh
Saul’s piece derives from a twitter chat with me in which I was trying to make the point that sympathizing with Hamas, Hezbollah, waving Palestinian flags etc. while it’s real, is not central to what Sinn Féin is and does. If you could perform a bit of magic and solve the IP problem to everyone’s complete satisfaction it would have no effect on SF. They’d still have the glamour of gunsmoke about them and would still have power in all of Ireland as their aim.
How, by contrast, do we explain the excitement Corbynism has produced among large sectors of otherwise sensible people in the UK? It can’t be because he’s offering a radical socialist, or even a plain socialist response to the state of the UK. At the policy level it does not significantly or in principle differ from what Ed Miliband offered. Yet a lot of people are beside themselves. Why?
I think it’s because they believe that Corbyn is “speaking out” about the secretive, war mongering media controlling global elite that’s is pulling the strings in the background to everything that is happening. “Jeremy isn’t fooled!!”. Obviously, this is an idea that fits nicely with many aspects of traditional antisemitism, depending on how often the word “Zionist” is used when people talk about it.
This explains why the leadership finds it so hard to deal with Livingstone and Walker; its views are basically very similar to theirs, even if JC and “Seumas” would be more circumspect in their use of the Z or J words
All of this is what adds the zip, the excitement to Corbynism. What would be left if you took it away? Some fairly modest suggestions for economic reform, some of which sensible Tories would agree. There’s no horizon of possibilities, no ideas about overcoming capitalism at some point, however distant, not much political analysis, not much of anything recognizable as socialism. To misquote Bob from Brockley there seems to be very little Trotskyism involved in something that supposedly attracts loads of Trotskyists
The above is obviously a mish mash of my own ideas and those of Moishe Postone about how the collapse of socialism has left open a space for conspiratorial antisemitism to flourish. Capitalism is an abstract form of domination and thinking about it is hard work. Thinking Zionists/Jews are the problem his easier, is already culturally imprinted on us and comes complete with the satisfaction and thrills of transgression.
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The MacDonagh Formulation
A Twitter chat with my friend Eamonn MacDonagh lead to some thinking around trying to explain the events of the last week (with Jackie Walker) and the last 18 months (with the entirety of the Corbyn era).
And so in honour of Eamonn, I’ve named this thinking “the MacDonagh Formulation”. I must point out that any and all responsibility for inaccuracy, omission, error, paranoia, stating the bleedin’ obvious, mundanity and simply being completely wrong rests with me and me alone.
The MacDonagh Formulation asks ‘What if Jackie Walker is not an aberration? What if she is in fact a crucial and central part of the Corbyn project?’
Jackie Walker has a long track record of making statements that both accuse Jews of crimes and inflame mistrust and hatred against them. And all this shielded by some ill-defined claim to “Jewishness” herself. And yet Walker has — on 2 occasions now — been able to continue making her statements whilst the Labour Party appears to stand on the sidelines helplessly. When action finally occurs it is slow and insubstantial. So — we naturally all wonder how to explain this.
But maybe the explanations we all tend to come up with haven’t nailed the reality? That’s what we need the MacDonagh Formulation for.
So far, we generally think one or more of the following:
1. Walker gets away with it because she’s been a close personal friend of Corbyn, McDonnell etc. for years, so they are shielding her.
2. Corbyn’s Labour party is so chaotic and confused that they cannot get it together to organize and implement an agile and prompt disciplinary procedure as gently suggested by the Shami sham.
3. Corbyn and the others basically agree with Walker so can’t understand why others would take offence at her comments, views and behavior.
4. Corbyn et al essentially agree with Walker but wish she would moderate her tone and language as it endangers them all.
But what if the reality was much simpler and more disturbing than any of those explanations: What if Jackie is out on patrol?
We need to remind ourselves that the anti-Semitism of those at the inner sanctum of Corbyn’s Left is not a marginal bolt -on. It is central to the whole world-view: the narrative of American, Western colonialism and neo-imperialism with Israel as the nexus of the historic conflict between the forces of repression and the oppressed. When you see Zionism as the embodiment of all things corrupt and evil it rapidly follows that you start doing some thinking about the motivations, the power and even -in some cases — the claims to “ethnicity” and history of those behind Zionism — the Jews.
But for Corbyn’s Left, the “mainstream media” has been in the hands of Zionist control for decades so the real story of the Jews and Israel has never been told on a large stage. The masses have been shielded and duped. Corbyn’s Left may have got their people in at the Guardian and the Independent etc. but even the Corbynistas are self aware enough to realize that those outlets only reach a small proportion of the population, though they note that some of the key messages about Israel have embedded nicely in the “liberal” middle classes. But there is still much work to be done.
And so maybe they need a Jackie Walker — someone who will go out on patrol and take the truth out there to the world. Given that she’s out on patrol there is an unspoken understanding that she may not come back alive — patrols probe at the perimeter and that’s a dangerous and heroic job. But it means that Jackie can use a directness of language and candour that those back at HQ cannot.
So Jackie appears all over the Momentum Left — at meetings and rallies and on social media — and then she appears all over the mainstream media: Channel 4 even give her prime time interview coverage and she’s on the BBC. Which means Jackie can get the key messages out there. She can bring the truth to the masses on a scale never before dreamt about. Better still, Jackie can announce that she is herself Jewish. She’s out on patrol in camouflage — it’s perfect. “Those thoughts about Zionist Jews I think I might be having — well, they can’t be anti-Semitic because there’s this Jewish woman on the TV telling me I’m right after all.”
Prior to 2015/16 how many people — outside the darker corners of the hard Left, hard Right and the conspiracy theory margins of the internet that serve them both — had heard open discussion of the real history of the Jews and Zionism, collusion with the Nazis, Jewish power and money behind the slave trade etc? Almost none. And how many have now? Millions. Jackie and Ken. It’s been an opportunity and a success of historic proportions.
So what if Jackie and Ken are not “tolerated”, “renegades” or an “embarrassment” — what if they are key weapons of mass Western paradigm destruction. Corbyn, McDonnell, Tariq Ali, Seumas, John Rees, Lindsey German and the rest of the Stop the War leadership and fellow travellers may have more invested in Jackie and Ken than we might want to believe. The present political moment represents an opportunity of genuinely historic proportions for them. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and they are not going to blow it. If they do, they’ll be derided by generations of young Leftists to come. If you can’t get the truth out to the masses when you suddenly find yourself with full control of a mainstream and respectable political party then when can you?
So — the MacDonagh Formulation spells the question out. Want to know why Jews have found themselves all over the national and political media in the last 18 months? Want to know why the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, Community Security Trust, Campaign Against Antisemitism & other Jewish groups have been forced to make more statements about UK politics in the last 18 months than they have ever made before in their entire history? It’s because Corbyn’s Left is at work and it’s working well. Jackie and Ken are out on point for the team.
It’s less a case of organised conspiracy (though of course the far Left is well versed in careful, patient and organisationally aware manipulation) and more a case of the ideological logic working it’s way out.
And so they’re coming at us (Zionists/Jews — whichever works for you) because their ideology and the opportunity dictate that they simply have to.
The MacDonagh Formulation -you’ll not sleep comfortably again.