Neviim Tovim/TheHaftarah Circle Gillian Gould Lazarus

Don’t Drink the Tizer

Posted on: July 27, 2018

I wrote a piece about my mum which I was going to blog but in the last few days, I get the impression that some of the people kind enough to read my words are not necessarily well-disposed. Bearing this in mind, I’ll refrain from saying much about my mum’s quiet personality or her characteristic phraseology, but I’ll just say this.

She died last year, aged 98. A few months before she died, she was interviewed by Owen who was working on a  Memory-Sharing App for later life and I was present at the interview. I had expected that my mother would want to talk about family, her childhood in London’s east end, her seventy years marriage to my Dad and probably a bit about the blitz in London, because she was under the table with my sister as the bombs were falling.

Unexpectedly, she talked a lot about Oswald Mosley.

‘It was very hard when Mosley came,’ she said.’They were fascists, you know. It was frightening.’

Owen encouraged her to speak of her childhood, and she mentioned her father’s workshop where she and her siblings worked as a sewing machinists.  Her memory was stimulated, which was no doubt one of the goals of the memory sharing project. I noticed with some surprise how she kept coming back to the topic of Mosley, who must, I supposed, have been small beer compared with living through the blitz while my father was away at war, having his own very close shaves.

When I was a child in the 1950s, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles wouldn’t let us children buy Tizer, a very popular fizzy drink because, they explained, Oswald Mosley  was a shareholder.

After the war, Mosley targeted principally the recent immigrants of the Windrush generation, through his League of Empire Loyalists, which eventually morphed into the National Front. He stood for Parliament in 1966, in Shoreditch and Finsbury.  Aged sixteen, I heckled with left wing friends at his meeting and was frogmarched out by two policemen, undoubtedly for my own good. My grandfather made me recount the event more than once to his friends who came round to play cards. He was so proud.

There was also Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement in the 1960s which became the British Movement under John Tyndall.

These neonazi extremists, they have their moment for causing fear and fury and then they return to obscurity, sometimes reaching out from the shadows to make a kill, the tragic death of Jo Cox MP being a case in point.

In the mid-twentieth century, the parents taught us diligently not to drink Tizer and we grew up knowing about the crazy ideas the ‘Fascists’ harboured about us Jews (the word fascists was used then more commonly than neonazis), their belief in our uncanny power and immeasurable wealth.

Every decade, people are more enlightened than the decade before. When I was a child, capital punishment and flogging existed in English law; male homosexuality was illegal; racist and homophobic discourse were run of the mill. I must add that my parents, born before 1920, despised racism and homophobia. They were not judgmental about sexuality. They boycotted South African fruit. And they wouldn’t let us drink Tizer.

Now I tire my adult children with my worries about the return of antisemitism. They think this trouble in the Labour Party will pass. They tend to agree that there is a problem, but they don’t believe it will have the power to harm us. Fair enough.

Perhaps it was living through the war that made my parents fearful, or being born soon after the war which has made me jittery.

In the 1970s, I saw a leaflet which some obscure far right group had posted through letter boxes in Bloomsbury. I read it and saw that it was mad. They asserted that Churchill was Jewish, Harold Wilson was Jewish and that Jews, naturally, are the evil masters of all they survey.

It’s only the third of those assertions that I see, when trawling Labour forums, in this year of 2018.

One other thing I see on Labour forums – and this is a gambit that Mosley never came up with – is the assertion that antisemitism doesn’t exist, not on the left. It is believed to be a trick that Jews play, for unlawful gain. They post memes to this effect, which I can see in my mind’s eye as I type this.

Perhaps those inappropriate posts from individuals who have, to greater or lesser extent associated themselves with the Labour Party (some are members, some are not and some hold office in the  Labour Party), perhaps they too will pass. Perhaps the Key Stage 4 history resources will describe how Labour encountered a problem with antisemitism in the twenty tens and nipped it in the bud.

In my previous blog, I quoted Camus, ‘the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for  good’.

Let us be alert to the symptoms, wherever we find them.

 

27 July 2018

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