Socialist Worker

Challenging the bosses’ system is not antisemitism

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2598

Occupy protests targeted capitalism

Occupy protests targeted capitalism (Pic: Guy Smallman)

One piece of collateral daftness to come out of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the left as antisemitic is the idea that to oppose the elite in society is by definition antisemitic.

This is odd since it isn’t that long ago that the press were using dog whistle antisemitic term “cosmopolitan elite” as part of their attacks on Labour.

Commentator Nick Cohen makes his living denouncing the left. Repeatedly, and to a deadline, he finds he “can no longer be silent” about its failings.

Last week’s version of his one article saw him write in the right wing Spectator magazine, “Every denunciation of high finance on the modern left sooner or late invokes the Rothschilds rather than the Goodwins.”

The sometimes wrongly seen as left wing New Statesman joined in.

Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts wrote, “The anti-semitic tropes which pervade the Corbyn-supporting alt-media and activist base, as well as Corbyn’s own dubious brand of anti-Zionism and anti-imperialism, are not mere contingencies, but the logical outcome of the movement’s morally-charged, personalised critique of capitalism as conspiracy.”

They draw a direct line from the anti-capitalist Occupy movement of a few years ago via Trump and Brexit directly to the evil left.

They do admit that Corbyn’s ideas “do not necessarily have to lead to antisemitism”. But they also claim that it “does not take much for the search for those ‘rigging the system’ to alight on the ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ Jew.”

It is guilt by association through Google search terms.

The majority of people rightly blamed bankers for their role in the last global financial collapse. But it was also a crisis of the economic system as a whole. So overestimating the strength of “finance capital” can lead to errors.

The most common one the left makes is to believe that bosses that make their profits directly from workers who make stuff are somehow morally better than bosses that gamble with those profits.


It is the right wing who try to divert anger aimed at the top into racism and antisemitism by claiming that financiers are Jewish. The first is a mistake that weakens workers’ fight and the second is a poison intended to crush it.

The very existence of a ruling class is an embarrassment to those who defend the system.

The system justifies itself as a market meritocracy—with rewards going to the best and most entrepreneurial. But the reality is as Ray Charles put it, “Them that got are them that gets”.

The ruling class is spread out over a variety of sectors— political leaders, business managers, bankers and financiers as well as factory owners and old fashioned landowners.

The uniform class of wealthy people go to the same schools, marry each other, inherit their power and live their whole lives cut off from the vast majority.

What they do not share is religion. And within that elite are often the foulest of reactionary ideas about Jewish people as well as women and black people.


The ruling class does want to control society and acts in secretive, undemocratic ways to do it. And the failure of the media and politicians to hold governments and business to account leads some to look to conspiracies for answers.

But conspiracy theories—the belief that secret networks of powerful individuals rule the world—are dodgy things that can let the antisemitic right into the debate.

To be clear, the problems in society don’t lie in a non-existent secret network of Jewish people. Nor for that matter freemasons or Catholics or alien lizards.

They are rooted in the way our society is structured to defend the interests of the actual elite that controls the capitalist system.

Far from being an all-powerful clique, our rulers can be brought down. That is what they are most scared of and they will use any slur to stop that challenge gaining hold.

It is a sign of that fear that the argument about antisemitism has been expanded to criticism of bankers. The right sense an opportunity—we should oppose them.

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