Jeremy Corbyn described century-old antisemitic book as 'brilliant' and 'a great tome'

'Imperialism: A Study' says 'international capitalism' is 'controlled…by men of a single and peculiar race', with 'many centuries of financial experience'


Jeremy Corbyn praised an antisemitic book which says “international capitalism” is “controlled…by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”, describing it as a “great tome” that is "brilliant, and very controversial at the time.”

Imperialism: A Study, written by John Atkinson Hobson in 1902, asks rhetorically, “Does anyone seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a great state loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?”

As uncovered by Daniel Finkelstein in his column for the Times on Tuesday, in 2011 Mr Corbyn was asked to write a foreword for the reprint of Mr Hobson's book.

The book describes the financial system as controlled by people “united by the strongest bonds of organisation, always in closest and quickest touch with one as other, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every state, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy of nations.”

The book also says: “There is not a war, a revolution, an anarchist assassination, or any other public shock, which is not gainful to these men; they are harpies who suck their gains from every new forced expenditure and every sudden disturbance of public credit”.

Furthermore, it describes how the direct influence exercised by these financial houses “is supported by the control which they exercise over the body of public opinion through the press”.

Mr Corbyn, in his foreword, directly references Mr Hobson’s discussion of what the now-Labour leader calls “the commercial interests that fuel the role of the popular press with tales of imperial might”.

Mr Corbyn called the book “correct and prescient”.  

A Labour party spokesperson said: “Jeremy praised the Liberal Hobson’s century old classic study of imperialism in Africa and Asia.

“Similarly to other books of its era, Hobson’s work contains outdated and offensive references and observations, and Jeremy completely rejects the antisemitic elements of his analysis.”

But journalist and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland responded: “If that’s true, why didn’t he reject them in the foreword where he so warmly praised the book?

"He could have said ‘the author was a man of his time, expressing prejudices that we now know are wrong.’ But he didn’t say anything like that.”

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, wrote to Mr Corbyn, expressing "great concern" over his foreword for a book containing "pure and unequivocal racism" and demanding "a full explanation". 

The Jewish Labour Movement called on the Labour leader to "consider his position", accusing him of having "endorsed antisemitic propaganda.

"Any other member would have been suspended after this", the organisation's statement went on to say.

"This is why JLM members overwhelmingly passed a motion of no confidence in him and his leadership at our AGM two weeks ago. A fish rots from the head."

Ian Austin, the ex-Labour MP who quit the party over its antisemitism, said: "This is absolutely appalling.

"Decent people will be sickened to see him describing as 'brilliant' a  book by someone who pushed deeply and clearly racist theories about Jewish people controlling banks, newspapers, governments and wars to further their financial interests.

"Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has poisoned the Labour Party and this can’t be solved by tinkering with the complaints system or other bureaucratic or procedural measures.

"He is unfit to lead the party and decent MPs and members need to decide how much longer they are going to put up with it."

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