Defend all comrades from anti-left witch-hunts in Momentum and the Labour Party!
On September 30, Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged “anti-Semitism”. Again. Having once been cleared of the same charge by the Labour Party, national Momentum vice-chair Jackie has come under renewed attack – but this time, the attackers include, shamefully, her own comrades in Momentum.
The (unelected) Momentum steering group is trying to remove her from her post at its meeting on Monday (please send messages of protest to Emma Rees). Barbara Ntumy, billed as a “Momentum activist”, has gone further on the ‘Daily Politics’ show (September 30), coming very close to calling for Jackie to be expelled from Momentum and the Labour Party: “Her comments are not acceptable in that room, they’re not acceptable anywhere. … Momentum and the Labour Party should deal with her appropriately and that may include her not being part of either organisation anymore.”
It sounds as if the right-wing bureaucrats in the compliance unit of the Labour Party have followed her advice.
It takes a huge amount of bad faith to describe her secretly filmed comments, made at an anti-Semitic training day at Labour Party conference and chaired by Mike Katz of the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, as anti-Semitic.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all people who experienced Holocaust?”, she asked. She was informed that this was what the event officially stands for – the supposed ethos of the 46 governments who came together to create the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 2000 was to “remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides” (our emphasis), the press release ran. Comrade Walker made the uncontroversial observation that “In practice, [HMD] is not actually circulated and advertised as such.”
It is ludicrous to suggest that anything in this (accurate) comment constitutes “downplaying” the holocaust of Jewish people. Given the original ‘inclusive’ project of the initiators of the Holocaust Memorial Day, were they also guilty of making light of the suffering of the Jewish people? This is just absurd.
At worst, comrade Walker might have shown herself to be a little ignorant on the supposed scope of HMD – but many other people will be pretty much in the dark about this given the way the Nazi holocaust has been utilised to bolster the Israeli state-sponsored “Holocaust Industry”, as Jewish academic Norman Finkelstein has dubbed it.
Also, in what was obviously a critical comment on the organisers of the training day, she noted that “I was looking for information and I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with”. Laughable attempts torture this simple statement into the implication that the comrade refutes the concept of ant-Semitism – again, absurd. (Jackie in fact states that she subscribes to David Schneider’s definition of anti-Semitism, in case anyone is in doubt.)
Neither comment is anti-Semitic. Neither warrants suspension or expulsion from the Labour Party or Momentum. But disturbing news reaches us that a majority on the (unelected) Momentum leadership committee have apparently turned against the comrade and are intent on throwing our comrade to the wolves. Implicitly this would help to legitimise the foul slanders of the Labour right and the yellow press. It would mean:
- Bolstering the campaign against us by the right, the capitalist press and the Israeli government.
- Wetting the hunger of the witch hunters. Their reactionary appetites will grow if they taste blood in the water, whether we have been the ones to spill it or not. No more appeasement of our enemies!
More generally, we need to ask – Is Labour Party stuffed with anti-Semites?
‘No’ is the short answer and even the figures produced by media outlets such as the Daily Telegraph -an establishment rag that has been energetically megaphoning the idea that is badly infected with this chauvinist filth – was only able to report (May 2 2016) that a total of just 50 Labour Party members had been suspended “for anti-Semitic” and undefined “racist comments”. No more recent figures have been published – presumably, because that number has not actually grown by very much, despite the best efforts of the right.
Given the hysteria of the yellow press and its echo chamber on the Labour right – some may find this a surprisingly small figure. After all, the likes of MP Ruth Smeeth assured us that the problem was of such a magnitude that the Labour Party as an organisation was “not safe for Jews” and that shambolic muddle headed dope, Nick Cohen, writes in The Observer (September 11) that the Labour Party is now “the natural home for creeps, cranks and conspiracists”.
Utter mendacious nonsense, of course; a crude Goebbels-style ‘big-lies-work’ campaign. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the Labour Party and the wider workers’ movement will be well aware that the numbers of people who peddle any latter day versions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are infinitesimally small. They are oddities who exist on the fringes of the fringe.
In Labour Party Marxists’ submission to the inquiry headed by Shami Chakrabarti we made what should be a simple, incontrovertible point that “Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism.” Yet it is precisely this false amalgam that lies at the heart of the spurious category of the “new anti-Semitism” – ie, that opposition to the barbaric state policies of Israel, and in particular its colonial oppression of the Palestinian people equates to anti-Semitism.
LPM comrades report that they have encountered many, too many Labour Party comrades who express the idea that if we ignore it – or even make concessions to the accusers – this “anti-Semitism” problem will eventually fade away. Jackie Walker may be the highest profile victim of this craven attitude, but unchecked it will see us decimate our own ranks – the right won’t have to break sweat.
Most worryingly in this context, we have had the co-founder of Momentum, Jon Lansman, advising us “to start talking in a new language”, a vocabulary “that expresses our views about Israel, about the policies and actions of its government and about the rights of Palestinians without alienating any of those who might agree with us.”
The point being, of course, that if people “agree with us” about the oppressive colonial actions of the state of Israel then, ipso facto, they ain’t Zionists. In practice then, comrade Lansman is advocating we avoid “alienating” Zionists of various stripes, that we attempt to placate them.
Of course, we want to win all manner of people who currently hold reactionary views to socialism. But not by blurring what should be clear lines of political delineation with fuzzy, unfocussed and opaque language. Because where vocabulary leads, politics follow.
Here is a selection of articles that address some of the key accusations deployed by the right wing of the Party in this ‘anti-Semitism’ witch hunt:
‘Anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’?
Weapon of choice. Author Tony Greenstein is himself a high profile victim of the right’s smear campaign. In this useful article, the comrade explains that the “new anti-Semitism” assumes that Israel is the “Jew amongst the nations”. It is targeted, not because it is engaged in ongoing colonial oppression of the Palestinian people, but simply because it is a Jewish state. Opposition to the Israeli state and Zionism therefore qualifies as anti-Semitism, in this warped logic.
Everything in socio-economic context. Having equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, the capitalist press attempts to extend the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ back into history, that the left’s ‘racist’ problem is lodged in very origins of modern socialism. Thus, Simon Schama writes: “Demonstrating that you do not have to be a gentile to be an anti-Semite, Karl Marx characterised Judaism as nothing more than the cult of Mammon, and declared that the world needed emancipating from the Jews” (Financial Times February 21-22 2016). Jack Conrad puts the record straight. (This contribution is adapted from the opening chapter of Fantastic reality (2013). A chapter which is itself part based on a reworking of Michael Malkin’s February 1 2001 Weekly Worker article, ‘Karl Marx and religion’.)
A shameful retreat. Paul Demarty explains why a clear understanding of the Labour right’s motivation in prosecuting this disgraceful campaign is necessary so that we can be clear on how to fight it. After all, lies – unlike the truth – must necessarily have an instrumental purpose. Otherwise there’s justification for the risk and expense of making things up. Tweaking our vocabulary, a la Jon Lansman, just won’t cut it …
Anti-Semitic smears employed by right. Gary Toms of Labour Party Marxists takes the right wing’s shameless shenanigans at the February 2016 Young Labour conference as an object lesson in how the left must up its game to win.
In the cause of imperialism. The right claims that one concrete expression of the left’s supposed anti-Jewish racism is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Tony Greenstein explains what is behind the timing of move to outlaw boycotts by western governments and its links to the scurrilous activities of right wing in Labour.