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‘The British Communist Party’s National Jewish Committee and the fight against Anti-Semitism during the Second World War’ by Henry Srebrnik

This blog post is concentrated around an article by Henry Srebrnik titled ‘The British Communist Party’s National Jewish Committee and the fight against Anti-Semitism during the Second World War’.

The structure of the article is simple. Following an introduction, the author divides the article into three sections: political campaign against domestic fascists, the National Jewish Committee and the Communist approach to Anti-Semitism and finally, the 1945 General Election. The article details the fight against anti-Semitism very well and is greatly informative.

Within the introduction, the author states that one should not be fooled by thinking that being at war with Germany meant that British society was free from anti-Semitism, as that is contrary to the truth as anti-Semitic groups experienced a rise during the war years.


The first section of the main body of the article speaks of a several things. The author makes clear the frustration of the Jewish community following the internment of ‘enemy aliens’ which meant that in some cases Jewish refugees were confined alongside Nazi followers. The anti-Semitic feeling was evident especially through the accusation of Jewish people being at heart of the black market, not only as individuals but also as a community due to the apparent involvement of synagogues. Srebrnik points out that there was attempts made to counter-argue that, for example by Willie Gallacher who was the Communist MP for West Fife (1943). The National Council for Civil Liberties was actively fighting against anti-Semitism in 1943 as they firstly, proposed legislation which would make anti-Semitism and fascist a criminal offence, and later held a conference in London to plan a nationwide campaign against anti-Semitism. The article also points out that the Board of Deputies opposed the possible new legislation on the grounds that it would not be successful. Srebrnik highlights the effectiveness of the Communist campaign through stating that it results in more than 300 organisations calling the Home Secretary to ban the British National Party.


In the second section of the article, Srebrnik provides an overview of the general anti-Semitic and anti-Fascist stance of the Communist Party and states that especially in the year up to 1935 approach was a reductionist one. However, post-1935 their approach changed as they began to seek the support of the Jewish community. Srebrnik also goes to define anti-semitism as a tactic of fascist politics, not a conflict between cultures or religions and was to be combatted by appealing to the self-interest of workers. Overall, the article states that the Communist Party – especially after 1941 was rather sympathetic towards the Jewish Community and dedicated their politics to fight for their freedom from discrimination.


In the final section of the article, the author highlights the National Jewish Committee’s (NJC) stance in favouring a Labour or progressive government as they were the only ones who could combat anti-Semitism. The NJC also argued that the Tories ‘co-existed with Mosley and the Nazism in Europe’ which makes them unsuitable for eliminating anti-Semitism in Britain. Srebrnik finishes the article by presenting an analysis of the Communist Party’s manifesto, which overall mirrored that of the Labour Party with the exception of a couple of policies.

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