Answer: Yes, certainly. It is a stupidity as well as an evil. How ridiculous to see a man blathering away about the Jews until he is blue in the face, without any idea in his empty head how to deal with the problem of international finance. He tries to substitute a mean and foolish persecution for a decisive policy. We bring the evil practices of international finance to an end without any persecution of anyone.
It is particularly ridiculous when these professional anti-Semites reject Europe and try to confine us to this island and the remnants of the Commonwealth. That system is completely dependent on international finance, now more than ever. Such a policy condemns us forever to be the slaves of a system which finance controls. The rule of international finance is now exercised more effectively from New York than from London. Moreover there are as many Gentiles in the business as Jews, or more. Are the anti-Semites going to flap across the Atlantic and lift the big operators (Jews only) out of Wall Street, where they are protected by American rockets? On the one hand to give the impression that all Jews are to be persecuted and on the other hand to have no idea what to do about the real problem of international finance is to plumb the depths of sheer silliness. That is why anti-Semitism is the opposite of our policy. We seek great ends by decisive means. We despise and reject those who seek ignoble ends by ineffective means.
Question : Did you not oppose the pre-war boycott of German goods?
Answer: Yes. To organise a boycott of a country’s goods is to impose a blockade, and a blockade is an act of war. It is therefore very likely at some point to produce a shooting war. Nothing is more likely in the end to promote violence and bloodshed. Yet it is the professional pacifists who are often the prime movers in the boycott business.
Apart altogether from the morality of trying to change a country’s political system from outside by force, who are the first to suffer from the results? The first victims are inevitably those whom the boycott is supposed to help, the weakest members of the community thus attacked. If the boycott of South Africa succeeded, the people who would suffer most would be the poorest blacks, who would lose their employment and could not much be assisted by an impoverished economy. The Union government could carry on indefinitely on a siege economy, and those in the weakest position would suffer. So would the interests of peace.
We had the same kind of thing on an even greater scale in the thirties. Then a previous leader of the Labour Party appeared with the Chief Rabbi to demand a boycott of German goods in order to help Jews who were having a bad time in Germany. It cannot be denied that some Jews were so suffering. But equally it cannot be denied that such agitations contributed to the outbreak of war, because to the extent they were effective they were liable to produce a determination in the government so attacked to break out from isolation and blockade at any risk and any cost. And none will claim that the subsequent war did the Jews in Germany any good. On the contrary, they suffered terribly.
The lesson of it all is surely this: if you want to help people in another country, the last way to go about it is to promote boycott, blockade and other methods which lead to violence and even war. The Jews who were killed during the war might have been alive today if that problem had been solved, among others, by a constructive policy of European unity which found the space and means for all to live in peace and plenty. It was this view which at that time led me so strongly to attack the Jews who appeared to me to be driving to war in a profoundly mistaken policy. And this was the only occasion on which I came near to criticising Jews as a community, because they then appeared to be acting as an organised community. Whoever so acts must take the consequence of collective action.
To denounce an act of war is not to approve any oppression in a country which for a variety of reasons some of my opponents have tried to strangle economically. We get nowhere if we ignore the facts in these matters. And it is a demonstrable fact that many enemies of the pre-war German government grossly misrepresented its policies, just as certain powerful interests distort the facts about South Africa today.
Some people who conduct these agitations do so, of course, for evil motives, but many among the agitators have the good intention of helping those in other countries who they believe, rightly or wrongly, are having a bad time. They should realise that the effects of their action are precisely the opposite of what they desire. And they should make the effort of working out constructive policies, instead of indulging in a destructive emotionalism which may make them feel good but can do nothing but harm to those they seek to aid.