Antisemitism in the Labour movement: never was, never will be

In 1969, Arnold Weinstock, managing director of General Electric Company, announced that he was closing the Royal Arsenal as it was no longer a viable concern. In response, the local Labour MP called for government support for new industries in the area.

Local unions organised a series of protests against the closure. One of these was the Association of Scientific Workers (AScW).

Membership of AScW was confined to those holding a degree or technical qualification — so it might be assumed that its members were more enlightened than most. Nevertheless, some in the branch wanted to carry a banner with the slogan, “The problem with Hitler was he didn’t kill enough of you bastards”. They were, of course, referring to Arnold Weinstock, who was Jewish.

At the time, I was a full-time official of the union. I remember that I had considerable difficulty in persuading branch members not to use that vile slogan. Thankfully, I was successful.

What is certain is this: the union leadership was not antisemitic. In fact, the Woolwich branch had recently met the union’s General Secretary, John Dutton, who himself was Jewish. Indeed, it was Dutton who helped to reconstruct the branch.

Arnold Weinstock proved to be a very progressive employer making redundancy payments to all those who lost employment, making him the first major employer to agree to do so. Trade union leader Clive Jenkins commented,  “I don’t mind members losing jobs, providing they disappear through a money shaped aperture.”

I am now ninety years old. Although I have repeated this story many times, its message has not been heeded. So now I am recording this incident for posterity.

My message is simple: I do not believe that Labour is intrinsically antisemitic  — even though sometimes people act instinctively, ignoring the dreadful outcome of antisemitism.

Russell Miller 

3 Comments

  • Eric Jew says:

    From what I can gather there is a concerted effort by the far right to subvert the principles of the labour party by attacking the leader. They appear to be against the principle of people first. The mps who have left the party are concentrating their attacks on a personal level by attacking JC and accusing him of antisemitism. The Tory party are terrified of a labour government an are using a dirty tricks campaign against him. This includes the using the labour turncoats who will effectively negate the DUP.

    • Raymond Miller says:

      This is all true but only serves to deflect from the point. Among the grassroots I believe there is an element of antisemitism and in some cases very nasty antisemitism. However among the leadership and vast majority it is abhorrent and must be eradicated. Therefore the charge that the Labour Party in by nature an anti Semitic party just doesn’t stand up. And the tiny minority that hold views contrary to the rest of us need to be expelled or go through extensive education. Racism of any kind has no place in the Labour Party and must be eradicated

  • PatriciaPendlebury says:

    Propagander I do not believe the Labour Party is anti semitic I do believe that our media and tax evaders are terrified of a fair play Labour govt. There is racism and prejudice in all walks of life.

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