Richard Seymour is a writer, broadcaster and socialist, raised in Northern Ireland and currently based in London. He is the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder (2008), Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens (2012), and Against Austerity (2014). A contributing editor of Salvage, he also writes for The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and many other publications. He currently presents a programme, ‘Media Review’, for TeleSur, and has previously appeared on BBC, Al Jazeera and C-Span. He is finishing a PhD at the London School of Economics, where he also teaches.
by Richard Seymour
The Talmud tells a story of how Eleazar (2 Macc. 6) was tortured to death for refusing to swallow pork that was forced into his mouth by the Greek authorities. The forces of King Antiochus, determined to force the Jews to abandon their barbaric ancestral customs, were instructed to put to death every Jew who refused to assimilate to Greek culture.
In the perverse logic of antisemitism, however, this came to mean that Jews were porcine, an idea which became the basis for folklore, stereotypes and proverbs. It was held simultaneously that Jews, by refusing pork, were setting themselves apart from and above their neighbours, and that they secretly craved the meat which they forbade themselves — even to the point of carnal desire. In England, a Christian man would eat bacon “to shew himself to be no Jew” (John Aubrey), but a Jew supposedly might make a crazed lunge for pig meat if given the chance. To force Jews to eat pork, as happened for example by state decree under the reign of Nicolas I of Russia, was considered both a condign humiliation and a fitting means to cultural assimilation.
by Richard Seymour
Corbyn’s first nationwide electoral test was always going to be an anticlimax. Judging from the spate of news articles, psephological analyses and briefings from Labour sources in the run up to the local elections, the party was supposed to be on course to lose around 200 council seats, and score the worst result for a Labour opposition in thirty-four years. As in Oldham West, the media and punditry worked themselves up into a wholly unjustified lather. It was unlikely, given Labour’s incremental improvement in the polls nationally, that it would go into meltdown (outside of Scotland). This is not for want of strenuous effort from certain quarters.