by Jason Lever
Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 17:39:45 GMT
Testing Solomon Lever’s party loyalty
The Liberal Party’s eclipse as a national political force by the mid-1920s aided ‘new Jewish voters, gravitat[ing] towards Labour’ (ref: Alderman 1983).
Zionist support for Labour reached its apogee when a 1939 Conservative Government White Paper abandoned the Balfour Declaration and supported Palestine becoming an independent state within ten years, but with Jews in a minority. Its terms restricted Jewish purchase of Arab land and property and put a restriction on Jewish immigration to ensure that Jews would make up no more than one-third of the total population.
Opposition to this White Paper became Labour policy, and as late as the 1940 Labour Party conference motions were carried backing unlimited Jewish immigration to Palestine.
However, this changed after the Second World War. Once in power and forming a majority government, the Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, announced in November 1945 that the Government stood by the White Paper. This followed the wartime Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, stating at the end of the War that Jewish refugees should now be returned to Europe, ‘lest they become an explosive element in the country’ (ref: Srebnik).
Only six out of those 34 Jewish Labour MPs expressed opposition to Bevin’s policy. This was followed by the 1946 party conference’s rejection of a proposal to outlaw anti-Semitism, giving more cause for a rift between Anglo-Jewry and Labour (ref: Alderman 1983).
Some Jewish Labour Party supporters felt that that ‘Zionism was exploited by the Labour Party in the mid-twentieth century in order to win the allegiance of Jewish voters’, and had now served its purpose (ref: Alderman 1983).
This policy reversal on Zionism may have reinforced Solomon Lever’s resolve to resist regular overtures to him to stand as a Labour parliamentary candidate. As a Labour councillor and local community leader, he could progress the municipal socialist path while retaining the independence to criticise those government policies on issues of profound belief and conscience.
This thesis will be argued by examining his four main speeches made at Trades Union Congress (TUC) conferences between 1938 and 1958.
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