New interview with Israeli Jewish socialist Moshé Machover whose rescinded expulsion is a major blow the right in the Labour Party.
The charges against you seemed to be particularly crude and hastily thrown together. Why do you think the right responded in such an amateur, sloppy fashion? Over-confidence, or the need to score a swift high-profile scalp in the aftermath of a disastrous conference for them?
I think that the second explanation is correct; but I don’t think the sloppiness is unique to my case. The right has developed an overabundance of confidence. The slapdash manner – to say the least – that they employed to exclude, suspend or expel other members of the Labour Party convinced them that thy they were invulnerable; they thought they could get away with anything! So, they didn’t feel they even had to try to make a better job of this stitch-up.
It was a particularly bad piece of fiction, not doubt. But it would require a meticulous textual analysis to compare this letter with other letters sent to party members to establish whether they were especially careless in my case. I suspect you would find that they were just as slapdash and shoddy with most people as they were with me.
How important was the surge of support you received from individual party members and organisations like CLPs, etc? There have also been many rumours of disquiet at top levels of the party and anger against McNicol and his compliance unit. Was it a combination of pressure from above and below that explains your victory?
The support that people offered me was amazing. It truly astonished me … and I’m sure it astonished the witch-hunters as well! It was a major factor in their efforts to quickly wriggle out of the hole which they had dug for themselves. The solidarity offered from comrades in the movement here was wonderful; but of particular significance was the international campaign. This started in the United States and continues to grow.
The scale of this solidarity is truly astonishing. The number of signatures – and the political and academic standing of individuals who have signed up – is truly humbling, from my point of view. However, I am not so vain to think this is all about me! It’s clear that masses of people have realised that you must make a stand against this crazy witch-hunting culture. Even after my expulsion was rescinded and the news announced, very large numbers were still signing up to the international online petition in support of reinstatement and investigation of the procedure used to expel me.
I think the international support – once the witch-hunters got wind of it – was instrumental in making the leadership realise that the actions of these people were sinking the Labour Party into serious disrepute – not only nationally, but internationally.
We are talking now about a surge of support from below here. There were also quite a few rumours that leading members of the party expressed genuine disquiet about this whole fiasco. I have not been contacted by anyone from this level of the party, I have no strong evidence – however, there have been enough unconfirmed reports to assume that the idea is not totally fanciful.
The charge against you of “anti-Semitism” is still on the books, of course. How important do you regard it that they withdraw this accusation?
Well, if you quote a libellous accusation and you don’t distance yourself from it or express reservations, then you are complicit in the libel. I am saying “libellous” because the expulsion letter sent to me in which they cite this vile accusation was not only delivered to me; it was also sent to the local Labour Party. It was broadcast, in that sense. Disseminated.
Now this is a very serious thing! It is serious morally; it is serious legally. Of course, they have prevaricated with the ploy that this charge of anti-Semitism is based on some junk definition that they appear to set a lot of store by. Frankly, the so-called definition is a load of rubbish. It is specifically designed for abuse, not to identify genuine anti-Semitism.
Throughout the exchanges with the witch hunters, I have been clear that I reserve my right to take things further legally. However, first I require an immediate apology and retraction.
Where next? There was a general feeling that the witch hunters had torn off more than they could chew this time – and so it proved! But there are many comrades out there that have been suspended, expelled. Moreover, the right is in lockstep with the mainstream media in a campaign to smear the left with “anti-Semitism”. What are the next steps in the fightback? We still have some powerful resourced enemies out there!
Well, la luta continua! There is an urgent need to discipline the rascals who are bringing the Labour Party into disrepute with these scurrilous and unfounded accusations. It is a question of disciplining these individuals. This is important, but there are three additional political points.
First, the campaign to counter the ‘weaponisation’ of the charge of ant-Semitism must continue and be stepped up. This cannot be allowed to continue. The ‘achievement’ of the right has been to make it appear to the outside world that Labour is riddled with anti-Semitism. This is calumny on the Labour Party! An outrageous lie!
This must be fought and stopped dead in its tracks. As I wrote in the article back in May last year, “don’t apologise – attack!” (Weekly Worker, May 18, 2016). This vile campaign must be defeated and expunged from the party.
The second issue is this vague notion of “support” for other organisations that are deemed verboten by the party apparatus. What needs to be done here is a fundamental overhaul of the clause in the Labour Party rule book that allows these bans and proscriptions. The rule is formulated in such a way that it virtually cries out for abuse. Let me quote it to you: 2.I.4B
“A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Labour Party, or supports any candidate that stands against an official Labour candidate … shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member …” (Rule 2.1.4b, Labour Party rulebook)
There are three things obviously wrong with this rule. First, it does not specify what “political organisation” means. For instance, it is certainly arguable that CND is a political organisation. By the same token, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is a political organisation. Does membership of these organisations make you ineligible for membership of the party? A “political organisation” is a catch-all phrase, that is crying out for abuse.
Secondly, what does its means to “support”? For instance, when they accused me of supporting the Communist Party of Great Britain and Labour Party Marxists, I was genuinely not able to say yes or no to the charges. They have not defined what ‘support’ means, let alone shown that ‘support’ for these organisations is runs counter to the existing rules.
Certainly, I support some positions that the CPGB stands on. For example, I support the call for all unions to be affiliated to Labour: so does the CPGB. The CPGB has argued this quite forcibly against other groups on the left – and I think they are right!
On other issues, I don’t agree with them. So how can someone be expelled – let alone automatically expelled! – based on something so indefinable and nebulous?
So, we have the twin, totally undefined categories of “political organisation” and “support” as a basis for peoples’ membership of the party.
A third issue is this word “automatically”! A member is expelled without any chance to defend themselves, to answer their accusers or even know who has said what about them. This runs counter to natural justice. The word “automatically” should be deleted, in addition to the phrase “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Labour Party”.
Of course, if someone supports a candidate against the official Labour candidate, that’s another matter. I do seem to recall that not long ago a certain Anthony Blair falling the wrong side of this rule in the general election – no action was taken, I believe! Why? Well, we all know don’t we …
Some of Labour’s rules as they exist today are scandalous. They are badly formulated: and badly formulated for a purpose, I believe – as my experience and that of many other in the Labour Party has amply illustrated.