Gilad Atzmon and the SWP: a brief chronology

Image result for atzmon Image result for swp 

I was looking for these dates which I found in a comment thread and am posting them here for future reference. If I ever have time, I will evidence all this with links.

Summer 2004: Gilad Atzmon speaks and performs at the Socialist Workers Party's Marxism 2004 event. Atzmon criticised by SWP blogger Richard Seymour as "disgraceful, incoherent and completely at odds with what the SWP stands for" and a "crank".

April 2005: Atzmon rave review in Socialist Review by Brian Richardson, announcing forthcoming gig at Marxism event.

Summer 2005: The SWP's Socialist Review has a rave review of Atzmon's Orient House ensemble tour (only note of criticism is that he likes Ken Livingstone too much), and Atzmon plays Marxism 2005 as well as speaking at Bookmarks. Jews Against Zionism picket the Bookmarks event. JAZ are not by any means an oversensitive pro-Israel group, but made up of left-wing people like Tony Greenstein, Moshe Machover and Hilary Rose. Leading left-wing anti-Zionist website Labournet plays major role in this. SWP responds with a statement that refuses to accept any truth in the allegations.

2006: SWP organises “Five for Trane” concerts featuring Atzmon and the SWP's Martin Smith. At least six gigs (March, June, October, etc, etc).

Autumn 2006: Atzmon speaks and plays alongside George Galloway (then in alliance with the SWP in Respect) and Martin Smith at an SWP-organised Stop the War event in Tower Hamlets. (The SWP boasted it was a successful fund-raiser for them, and Smith interviewed Atzmon for Socialist Worker. Atzmon told Smith "I will be playing at the Cultures of Resistance concert because I support the Socialist Worker appeal... “For me to play jazz is to fight the BOB (Bush, Olmert and Blair) world order.")

January 2007: Michael Rosen, a high profile Jewish anti-Zionist very close to the SWP, criticises SWP for hosting Atzmon. Organisers of the SWP's Cultures of Resistance (Hannah Dee, a current SWP CC member, and Viv Smith, a former CC member) deny he is an antisemite (archived). Evidence? “We would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations and antisemitism.” Therefore impossible that Atzmon could be a racist, because he was invited to our event.

Summer 2007: Atzmon plays Cultures of Resistance gig at Marxism 2007, and reprises the Martin Smith collaboration in Liverpool, and later Pete Segal in Socialist Review gives another rave review of his CD Refuge, with no note of criticism or mention of Rosen's letter.

Autumn/Winter 2007: Atzmon plays an SWP fund-raiser, Now’s the Timer, with Martin Smith. Four gigs. Positive reviews ("Politics continues to drive Atzmon’s music forward") of his records in Socialist Worker. Martin Smith also mentions him in another Socialist Review article.

January 2008: Atzmon now an explicit Holocaust denier, as revealed by Tony Greenstein and others, eliciting no comment from the SWP, despite their close association with him.

May 2008: Socialist Review again promotes Atzmon, listing him in their “Five things to get or see this month”

April 2009: Another Socialist Review rave review of an Atzmon CD, In Loving Memory Of America, again no note of criticism.

October 2010: SWP promotes the Jazza Festival, featuring Atzmon and several Atzmon-linked groups.

November 2010: No trace left on any SWP website of their earlier statements and clarifications about Atzmon.

Summer-Autumn 2011: Richard Seymour's publisher, Zero, publishes an antisemitic book by Atzmon. Seymour and other authors issue statement against the publication, published on Seymour's blog.


Flesh said…
This is great - anything similar for the *mainstreaming* of Atzmon? Where were his breaks, and who helped him along? Clearly Zero books is the most recent. There's also the Guardian and the Scotsman.

I tend to think that anti-Zionists (Jewish or otherwise) helped Atzmon types along by repetitively talking of Zionists in the same ways as Nazis used to refer to Jews e.g. mystical powers, malevolence, leeches, murderers etc. I'd say they softened things up for him, eroded our collective defences against antisemitism. But is there something more to his rise?
Rosie said…
I would guess his rise is due to his being a former Israeli soldier, so giving him the same credibility as a Vietnam vet. That's only a guess though.
Flesh said…
The way to confirm or, er, defirm that is to read through the stuff written about him by the establishment eg Guardian. I might not find the time...

I always thought his most winning quality was his GSOH - I'm a sucker for that. I watched the screen animation he did of certain anti-Zionists with some guilty pleasure. But Rosie, your piece made me see it with different eyes. His sense of humour is actually a bit lame.
Rosie said…
Atzmon seems to have got more mainstream coverage in the USA than here.

Atzmon's humour seems to me to be juvenile jeering. "Swindler's List" is one of his chapter titles - I'm cracking up.
daggi said…
It's disingenous - or wrong - to give the impression that the SWP have removed all mentions of Atzmon from their website.


and find a load of links to raving articles about him in Socialist Worker, Socialist Review, etc.
Unknown said…
All power to the likes of Gilad Atzmon and Norman Finkelstein who, their ethnicities notwithstanding, tell the world exactly how it is in this 'century of the Jew'
bob said…
I'll leave Unknown's racist comment, so people can see what kind of antisemitic scum defend Atzmon.

Daggi, you're right. What I meant is the specific statements on Atzmon's antisemitism were removed from the website, while the puffery remained. I keep meaning to tidy up and hyperlink this post. I probably ought to before Socialist Worker's archives get pulled by some disgruntled expellee!
WhiteDwarfStar said…
Very glad that Seymour's politics dramatically improved once he left the SWP.
Lisa Brewer said…
Gilad Atzmon is a great humanist.
Lisa Brewer said…
Unknown's comment was not anti-Semitic in the least. Norman Finkelstein and Gilad Atzmon are indeed highly critical of Jews and their methods despite being Jewish themselves. An earlier "self-hating Jew" Jesus Christ did the same. And Jews themselves congratulate themselves on their prominence this century