Ed Miliband: Finkler

In Ed Miliband, the Labour Party has its first leader from a Jewish background. “Background” is the word to remember because, as with Benjamin Disraeli, Ed Miliband’s father renounced his faith. Isaac Disraeli joined the Church of England and allowed his children to flourish in the sectarian English establishment of the day. Ralph Miliband joined a creed more mystical than Anglicanism, the now-lost religion of socialism.

Like Ed and David Miliband, I am a “red diaper baby” from an atheist home that was closer to Marx than Moses. I had no contact with Jewish religion and precious little with Jewish culture. But I was a “Cohen” and so came to know about hostility to Jews.

It has taken me a while to realise that you can learn much about the characters of non-Jewish Jews by watching how we deal with soft and not-so-soft antisemitism. Writers and politicians from privileged backgrounds should be grateful. We have the opportunity to discover racism – to feel what being the target of racism means – denied to most of our contemporaries. A consistent opposition to prejudice in all its forms ought to follow.

The alternative is to emulate Sam Finkler, Howard Jacobson’s protagonist in The Finkler Question..
Carry on reading


11 thoughts on “Ed Miliband: Finkler

  1. Nick Cohen refers to “the now-lost religion of socialism”.

    But at the same time Cohen refers approvingly to the Arab revolutions.

    But those revolutions +are+ socialism: the protestors want democracy and a redistribution of wealth.

  2. Rippon: “Ralph Miliband joined a creed more mystical than Anglicanism, the now-lost religion of socialism”.
    I think a rereading of the full sentence should change your mind and enable you to see he was delicately using humour.

  3. I find this approach to Jacobson’s novel strange – Finkler shouldn’t be a term of abuse, and his beliefs clearly change as the novel progresses; it’s clear that he’s not as interested in the politics of the Middle East as he is about being famous. Near the end he even envisages murdering several of the ‘ASHamed Jews’. There’s no clear political agenda of ‘ASHamed’ spelt out – that’s part of the point, isn’t it? – and there’s absolutely nothing in the novel about multiculturalism either. That means that Finklerism isn’t really something you can use in this way, no matter what the author of the novel might think – Finkler’s beliefs are actually prety covnentional, part of the point of it is his throwing his lot in with people whose beliefs are fairly extreme.

    finally, it’s surely the case that the protagonist of TFQ, despite the title, is Treslove?

  4. I don’t get the ‘humour’. Is it that, while Cohen apparently suggests that socialism is now-lost, he doesn’t really think it is lost?

  5. Rippon.
    He’s a socialist. He’s putting it across that the movement he belongs to is on the wane, with a playful tongue in his cheek.

  6. @ Ross Burns

    Yep, I understand Cohen’s disdain for some socialists in the West. But in that case, then, he has muddled his own ‘socialist’ (as he sees it) outlook with his sweeping, non-discriminatory phrase “the now-lost religion of socialism”.

    Just as true socialists do , Cohen indicates his own respect for the Arab uprisings: “They [the Arab revolutions] had nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with tyranny and corruption.”

    Now, opposing tyranny and corruption is exactly the goal of socialism (regardless of whether or not you might think some people have corrupted it). Thus, by his +own+ words, he is indicating a +revival+ of socialism (which happens to be in the Arab world).

    Thus, there is a fundamental contradiction in his thinking (but then Cohen is generally very muddle-headed anyway): he says socialism is “now-lost” while at the same time pointing to a current major manifestation of it (the Arab uprisings, demanding democracy and freedom, exactly the goals of socialism).

    If he wants to pretend that others (not he) have corrupted socialism, then the thrust of his article should be that western socialists need to learn from the Arab revolutionaries. But, instead, because he can’t think straight, he clumsily says that socialism is “now-lost”.

    You suggest that he is humorous (tongue-in-cheek). You’re wrong. Cohen is a humourless self-centred washed-up pseudo-intellectual, who, unlike others, e.g. Johann Hari, is not man enough to admit that he was wrong to support major war crimes (e.g. Iraq), and, moreover, like a petulant infant, continues to insist that he did nothing wrong.

  7. How can you type from inside a straight jacket?
    I suppose you shout it to one of the nurses.

  8. Thank, Ross Burns. That put a smile on my face: an amusing nugget of humour from you.

    I take your resort to humour, then, as an indication that you have no appetite/ability to rebut the actual argument.

    – seems I can manage far more from inside my straitjacket than you can manage at all

  9. Thanks, Ross: ‘straitjacket’, ‘shouting’, ‘vomiting’ – you’re giving me a good chuckle.

    Let me help you, though – because, like the Cohen himself, you too clearly cannot think straight.

    I asserted that Cohen was being self-contradictory: he suggests that socialism is a “now-lost religion” but, at the same time, he highlights an instance of socialism in action right now – Arabs rising up to demand democracy and wealth redistribution.

    Contrary to what you say, that assertion of mine is clearly an argument. I think what you mean, if you bother to stop and think rather than vomiting yourself the first thing that comes into your head, is: mine is a +crap+ argument. And then, if you wanted to engage in debate rather than lazy one-liners, you would explain +why+ mine is a crap argument.

    I have similarly tried to help your fellow muddle-head, Cohen: if he bothers to stop and think, then he doesn’t really mean that socialism is now-lost; his argument, according to his perspective, should be that western socialists have lost their way, and could learn something from Arab revolutionaries, who *haven’t* lost the meaning of socialism.

  10. Okay, okay, okay – I agree.
    Nick Cohen is a humourless self-centered washed-up pseudo- intellectual.

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