Category Archives: Anti-Semitism

Palestine, payments and purges

Starmer is out to prove that Labour can be relied upon as a safe alternative party of government, argues David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists

Last month Keir Starmer gave his clearest signal yet that under his leadership the Labour Party can be relied upon to act as a loyal ally of US imperialism, particularly when it comes to the Middle East.

I am, of course, referring to the huge sum that Starmer agreed to pay out of Labour coffers to seven former staff members and John Ware, a prize-winning freelance reporter (his awards include the Commitment to Media Award from the Women’s International Zionist Organization). The payment was to cover legal fees and reputational damages which resulted from the statement issued by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in response to the Panorama documentary, ‘Is Labour anti-Semitic?’.

Broadcast on July 10 2019, it had just about everyone being interviewed answering the question contained in the title in the affirmative – although virtually no supporting evidence was produced to back up the extraordinarily vague and unsubstantiated claims that were made by so many, including the presenter.

Immediately following the broadcast, Labour issued a statement. It claimed that many of the staff members interviewed had “personal and political axes to grind” and Ware’s overall presentation amounted to “deliberate and malicious misrepresentation”. This resulted in the legal action taken by Ware and the seven former staff members and the July 22 high court agreement to hand over an estimated £370,000 to the eight litigants (Labour’s own costs could take the total up to £500,000).

Afterwards Starmer effectively agreed with the programme’s title when he said that anti-Semitism had become a “stain” on the party and that those staff members who backed up the allegation had in fact given many years of “dedicated and committed service” to the party. Which makes you wonder, if they are so “dedicated and committed” to Labour, why they are now prepared to deprive the party of such huge amounts – raised to a great extent via the dues of ordinary members.

Continuing his implied condemnation of Corbyn, Starmer went on to say that Labour was now “under new management”. After all, “If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership”. In other words, under the former leader Labour was indeed ‘anti-Semitic’ – yet Starmer has given us no indication of what precisely needs to change in order to get rid of this “stain”.

Following the settlement, Corbyn himself issued a statement saying he was “disappointed” by the decision to pay out such huge sums. This, he said, was “a political decision, not a legal one”, which “risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in recent years”. Corbyn said the party had been advised that it had a “strong defence” against any legal action – not least the evidence contained in the internal report that was leaked in April this year.

In a sense it is good that Corbyn can be seen to have taken some kind of stand – although it is not exactly a principled one, is it? If it is true that his leadership had been obliged to take such strong action to “tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in recent years”, that seems to go along with this whole idea that prejudice against Jews had indeed become a major problem in the party.

JLM

What about the Panorama programme itself? It did, of course, feature lots of interviews with former members of staff and current Labour rightwingers, including Jewish ones (although not a single anti-Zionist Jew was interviewed – more on this below). And near the beginning there was coverage of Corbyn’s support for the Palestinian struggle and opposition to Zionism. Ware’s views on this question are well established and go back a long way: eg, he wrote in The Jewish Chronicle: “So deeply into Labour’s left has anti-Zionism morphed into anti-Semitism – itself a Corbyn legacy – that Jewish Labour members are avoiding meetings.”

It is clear that this ‘morphing’ of anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism includes those on the left who either cling to a hopeless two-state solution or call for a single Palestinian state with equal religious rights for all its inhabitants.

What about the views of the former staff members? What was notable was the fact that, while they talked of their distress, no details regarding actual cases of anti-Semitism within the party were provided. Well, unless you take the case of Ken Livingstone, featured by Ware as the first example of ‘anti-Semitism’ to come to light under Corbyn. Livingstone’s comments about the collaboration in the 1930s of German Zionists with the Nazis were “offensive” to Jews, it was claimed – although strangely the charge of anti-Semitism was quickly dropped in his case in favour of “bringing the party into disrepute”. One of the ex-staffers said that Livingstone’s suspension for three years was totally insufficient – surely such an ‘anti-Semite’ should be permanently expelled.

That brings me to those former staff members themselves. I stated earlier that no anti-Zionist Jews were amongst those who featured, but several were Jews with rather different political opinions. In fact it was soon revealed that no fewer than nine of the people interviewed were, or had been, leading members of the Jewish Labour Movement, including office-holders such as Ella Rose, JLM equalities officer, and Izzy Lenga, the international officer.

The significance of the JLM is that it is totally committed to Zionism, with strong links with the Israeli Labor Party – until 1977 every Israeli government had been led by the ILP, but it is not a left formation in any sense: it has been responsible for the systematic oppression of the Palestinians.

What about the Jewish Labour Movement itself? Originally founded in 1903 as Poale Zion, it was wound up in 2004. But immediately after the election of Corbyn as leader in 2015 it was refounded. According to Jeremy Newmark, who became the first chair of the newly recreated grouping until his resignation in 2018, in around September 2015 there was “talk about reforming the JLM” – specifically to make the Corbyn leadership as short-lived as possible.

At its April 2019 conference JLM voted no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, who was just “unfit to be prime minister”. In fact, it scurrilously alleged:

The leadership of the Labour Party have demonstrated that they are anti-Semitic and have presided over a culture of anti-Semitism, in which they have failed to use their personal and positional power to tackle anti-Semitism, and have instead used their influence to protect and defend anti-Semites.

So is it seriously being suggested that those JLM members employed at Labour HQ wanted to see a flourishing party, to which they were so “dedicated and committed”?

It was so obvious what they were up to – especially after that notorious Panorama programme – that for once Corbyn came out openly and actually condemned those employed by the party who had joined in the smears against Labour as “institutionally anti-Semitic”. But the question we have to ask is, why did Corbyn not call out the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt from the beginning? It was clear from the start that it was the Labour left and his own supporters who were being targeted by deliberately conflating, as John Ware did, anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Instead so determined was team Corbyn to appease the right that it actually became complicit in the campaign – to such an extent that anyone who denied that the party was awash with anti-Semites was labelled a “denier” (and thus guilty themselves of anti-Semitism, of course).

Members

In reality, the whole campaign was totally false and those like the JLM knew it. In reality, they have the interests of Israel and Zionism at heart first and foremost. However, the UK establishment, in line with US imperialism, supports Israel for a different reason. It is not because it favours the strengthening of Israel in and of itself, but because it knows that its interests, as a colonial-settler state, are reliant on US imperialism.

But the problem is that Israel’s standing as an upholder of ‘democracy’ has lost much of its traction with millions, including large numbers of Jews. The expulsion of hundreds of thousands, the military occupation regime in the West Bank, the planting of settlements, the nationality law, the annexation of east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and now possibly the Jordan Valley have caused deep disquiet. Indeed many liberal Zionists find themselves deeply troubled by the actions of the Israeli government.

And that is what the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign is all about. It is about restoring traction by making criticism of the Israeli government impossible or at the very least problematic. In the new topsy-turvey world the racist ideology thereby becomes anti-racism, anti-racism becomes racism.

For Starmer, what matters is securing Labour’s place once again as the UK’s safe alternative party of government – and that means complying with the wishes of the US state department. So for him half a million is a small price to pay to achieve that end – no doubt he will be prepared to fork out further huge sums to the likes of former general secretary Iain McNicol, who is also considering legal action against the party.

And now Corbyn himself is facing legal action simply for suggesting that Ware and the JLMers should have been fought all the way in the courts. The threat against Corbyn sparked a fundraising drive that started with an initial target of £20,000, but within less than a week £300,000 had already been raised.

So who are all these people prepared to help Corbyn defend himself against legal action? No, these are not ‘anti-Semites’ defending their right to discriminate against Jews. They are conscientious Labour members who are both against the campaign to delegitimise Palestinian solidarity and for the simple need to state the truth.

Oppose calls for reinstatement

We must defend Rebecca Long-Bailey against false charges that she helped spread an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’, writes David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists. But why was a so-called ‘socialist’ willing to sit in Starmer’s shadow cabinet?

Sacking shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, allows Keir Starmer to send out a two-barrelled message:

  • firstly, his ‘decisive’ leadership represents a complete break with the Corbyn years.
  • secondly, Labour can now be relied upon, if elected, to implement sensible policies that promote the interests of British capital at home and abroad.

Long-Bailey’s ‘crime’, of course, was retweeting an article in The Independent based on an interview with actor Maxine Peake, in which she said: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

This claim was immediately condemned as not only untrue, but – by Zionists in particular, and totally absurdly – as “anti-Semitic”. Starmer was pressed by Zionist groups to deliver on his commitment, made immediately following his election as Labour leader, to “tear out this poison by its roots”. As everyone knows, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn was portrayed as “institutionally anti-Semitic” and there was a huge campaign to discredit opposition to Israeli settler-colonialism by defining it as anti-Semitic.

Disciplinary action was taken against scores of Labour members. Large numbers were expelled. Amongst them were a handful of actual anti-Semites, but in most cases – certainly when it comes to the most well-known, such as Ken Livingstone (who actually resigned rather than waiting to be expelled), Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth – the charge of anti-Semitism was eventually dropped. Instead there was the vague catch-all of ‘bringing the party into disrepute’.

Shamefully, Corbyn failed to act to prevent this purge of his own supporters, which was instigated and controlled by the rightwing party bureaucracy. The likes of John McDonnell and Diane Abbott also preferred to keep quiet rather than express any opposition to this witch-hunt or solidarity with its victims. But silence was not enough: it was regarded as essential for the defence of Israel and its key role in the Middle East to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and effectively outlaw anything but the mildest criticism of Israeli oppression.

Step in Keir Starmer and the official Labour statement he endorsed just a few hours after Long-Bailey retweeted the interview. This reads:

The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. As leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number-one priority. Anti-Semitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it.

It goes without saying that the allegation of “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” is absurd. First, the claim that the ‘neck-kneeling’ method of ‘restraint’ was “learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services” was obviously meant to be directed against Israeli (and US) authorities, not against ‘Jews’ in general! It is irrelevant that the claim is, of course, untrue. While both US and Israeli police forces do employ this murderous technique, and they have indeed organised joint seminars, etc, the method has been written into the operational manuals of numerous police forces in the US for the best part of two decades.

Second, where is the “conspiracy theory”? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, this is defined as “a belief that an event or situation is the result of a secret plan made by powerful people”. It is pretty obvious that a ‘technique’ that has been employed for so long in both countries cannot be described as – or was intended to be – “secret”. The claim that it was the Israeli “secret services” that taught US forces all about it – however ridiculous – does not change that.

In any case, the question of who taught who what is completely irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that both the US and Israeli police have employed a brutal, inhuman, oppressive method and anyone who states that the allegation is “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” is either an idiot or a liar. Not that you would have thought so from the media coverage, of course. Where is there any serious questioning in the mainstream media of either element in this pathetic phrase?

But, of course, Zionist groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement all praised Starmer to the skies. What he said was exactly what they wanted to hear.

Socialist?

In The Independent article Maxine Peake pointedly attacked capitalism. In relation to the coronavirus pandemic, she was quoted as saying: “We’ve got to the point where protecting capital is much more important than anybody’s life.” Later she talked about a “cycle that’s indoctrinated into us all” and added: “Well, we get rid of it when we get rid of capitalism, as far as I’m concerned.”

However, her main concern was seeing the back of the Tory government: “You know what: at the end of the day, all I want is the Tories out.” That is why “I didn’t like Tony Blair, but I still voted Labour, because anything’s better than the Tories.” And that applies to the current leadership too: “I think people will get behind Starmer, won’t they? He’s a more acceptable face of the Labour Party for a lot of people who are not really leftwing. But that’s fine. Whatever. As long as the Tories get out, I don’t care any more.”

Her forthright opposition to the Tories – that and urging Labour members not to leave the party – explains why Long-Bailey called Peake an “absolute diamond” and retweeted the article.

It is worth quoting in full the former shadow education secretary’s subsequent statement:

Today I retweeted an interview that my constituent and stalwart Labour Party supporter Maxine Peake gave to The Independent. Its main thrust was anger with the Conservative government’s handling of the current emergency and a call for Labour Party unity. These are sentiments shared by everyone in our movement and millions of people in our country.

I learned that many people were concerned by references to international sharing of training and restraint techniques between police and security forces. In no way was my retweet an intention to endorse every part of that article. I wished to acknowledge these concerns and duly issued a clarification of my retweet, with the wording agreed in advance by the Labour Party leader’s office, but after posting I was subsequently instructed to take both this agreed clarification and my original retweet down.

I could not do this in good conscience without the issuing of a press statement of clarification. I had asked to discuss these matters with Keir before agreeing what further action to take, but sadly he had already made his decision.

I am proud of the policies we have developed within the party from our Green Industrial Revolution to a National Education Service and I will never stop working for the change our communities need to see. I am clear that I shall continue to support the Labour Party in parliament under Keir Starmer’s leadership, to represent the people of Salford and Eccles and work towards a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world.

All this illustrates the profound weakness of Labour lefts like RLB. Surely, instead of ‘supporting’ Starmer, she should be organising an opposition within the opposition. However, even worse were Long-Bailey’s cringing comments in a subsequent article in The Guardian, entitled ‘I know how painful anti-Semitism is and never intended my tweet to cause hurt’ (June 29). She says:

I explained to the leader’s office that I would never have intended to retweet or endorse anything that could cause hurt to anyone. I know how painful the issue of anti-Semitism has been for the Jewish community and I have been part of the efforts to eradicate it from our party.

…. Would I have retweeted the article, knowing some of its contents would cause hurt? No of course not.

In saying this she only just stops short of conceding that Peake’s throwaway remark was actually ‘anti-Semitic’. And anyway who cares about ‘causing hurt’ to Zionists? Would you apologise for causing hurt to white racists because they found opposition to apartheid South Africa offensive? Hopefully not.

But at least the Corbynite left actually spoke up in her defence. Both McDonnell and Abbott publicly opposed Starmer’s actions – and so did Momentum owner Jon Lansman. This, in contrast to their attitude in response to the witch-hunting of anti-Zionists during the Corbyn years. Why the change? The possibility of ‘prime minister Corbyn’ excused the sacrifice of one friend and ally after another. There is no such possibility now. Moreover, it is clear that if Long-Bailey can be accused of promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, what about John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn himself?

However, the pass has been sold. Under Corbyn, Labour adopted the IHRA’s so-called definition of anti-Semitism, along with all of its so-called examples. Labour leadership candidates also agreed to the BoD’s Ten Commandments. All of this means that anyone who dares criticise Israel can easily be branded an anti-Semite.

Indeed, so concerned was RLB to appease Zionism that she called herself a Zionist. Her reasoning? She supports Israel’s “right to exist”. Would she support apartheid South Africa’s right to exist? She supports the “right to self-determine”. Would she support the “right” of white people throughout the globe to take over the land of native populations and drive them out?

Note that Jon Lansman’s rush to call for the reinstatement of RLB – his candidate against Starmer – did not help his Momentum Renewal slate in elections to Momentum’s national coordinating group. All 20 successful candidates in the members section were supporters of Forward Momentum. A final humiliation for Lansman: general election – lost; Labour leadership election – lost; NEC election – lost; NCG election – lost.

Either way, we should not join calls for Long-Bailey to be reinstated. While it is correct to defend her – and Maxine Peake – from Starmer’s scurrilous attacks, we must ask what a so-called ‘socialist’ was doing in an alternative government headed by the unashamedly pro-capitalist Keir Starmer. Of course, RLB is just a typical career politician who finds it advantageous to call herself a ‘socialist’. So, instead of calling for her to be reinstated, we ought to be exposing her as a fake ‘socialist’. The fact that she took a well-paid seat in Starmer’s shadow cabinet marks her out as an opponent, an enemy of socialism.

Stand up to witch-hunters

Those who fail to show solidarity should not be given solidarity, writes David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists

While Jeremy Corbyn was still Labour leader, there was much speculation on the left that, once the right had managed to remove him and recapture the party, we would see an abrupt end to the weaponisation of anti-Semitism. That was, of course, a campaign that saw the Labour left, and Corbyn supporters in particular, absurdly targeted as ‘anti-Semites’ and the party itself accused of having become ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’.

Well, I think the events of last week might have knocked that one on the head. For those who have missed this story – relegated, of course, to the inside pages, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – the latest ‘scandal’ occurred as a result of the April 29 online meeting of a new Labour left grouping called ‘Don’t Leave, Organise’, which was set up following the election of Keir Starmer as the party’s new (rightwing) leader.

Attended by over 500 people, the meeting was addressed by, amongst others, two Labour left MPs, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy. As you might expect, their contributions focused on the recent leaked report, which revealed how the rightwing Labour bureaucracy under former general secretary Iain McNicol had not only deliberately worked to reduce the possibility of a Labour general election victory, but had sat on allegations of anti-Semitism in order to undermine Corbyn.

The big problem with this line involves the second allegation, which actually takes it as a given that there is indeed a serious problem with anti-Jewish prejudice within the party. In this way the soft Labour left, including our two MPs, has attempted to turn the tables. There is not only anti-Semitic racism: there is ‘institutional racism’ in general (both MPs are black, of course). Much discussion ensued about black self-organisation.

But they obviously had not reckoned on the presence of spies. A well orchestrated scandal followed. Its focus was not on what they (or anyone else) said at the meeting, but on the fact that among the dozen or so people called to speak from the audience there were two expelled Labour members: namely Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein. In case you have forgotten, both these comrades were originally suspended over allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ (despite the fact that both are Jewish!), but were eventually booted out over totally different charges – I will return to that below.

The next day, following well crafted denunciations from several Zionist groups, the story went live. The BBC version (April 30) was headlined: ‘Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls from Jewish groups to take further action over two MPs who addressed a meeting that included two expelled activists’. Of course, terms like ‘Jewish groups’ are used to imply that they speak on behalf of the ‘Jewish community’. In reality there is a strong anti-Zionist current among Jewish people. For example, one of the founding organisations of Don’t Leave, Organise is the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour (the others being the Labour Representation Committee and Red Labour, Red Britain).

So what did the Zionists allege? Well, the Board of Deputies of British Jews claimed that the MPs had ‘shared a platform’ with the two expellees. According to BoD president Marie van der Zyl, “It is completely unacceptable that Labour MPs, and even ordinary members, should be sharing platforms with those that have been expelled from the party for anti-Semitism.”

Of course, the term, ‘share a platform’, usually refers only to an event’s official speakers, not to people in the audience. But that does not bother van der Zyl, of course (nor the fact that comrades Walker and Greenstein were not “expelled from the party for anti-Semitism”). She demanded that Keir Starmer take “swift and decisive action” against Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy in order to demonstrate that “this is a new era, rather than a false dawn” following his pledge after the leadership election to “tear out this poison by its roots”, as Labour had “failed the Jewish community on anti-Semitism”.

Then there was Euan Philipps of Labour Against Anti-Semitism, who said that Starmer should have given a “strong and unequivocal response” following this ‘outrage’ of the MPs addressing a meeting where a couple of expelled members were present. Starmer, he said, had instead “demonstrated a disappointing level of moral and political cowardice” in not removing the whip from them. For his part, Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said the Labour leader had shown that “his apologies are meaningless” because of his failure to take stronger action: “After half a decade of the Labour anti-Semitism crisis,” said Falter, “no MP should need ‘reminding’ not to engage with those expelled from the party over anti-Semitism.”

A Labour spokeswoman said Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy had been “reminded of their responsibilities” and had been spoken to “in the strongest possible terms”. After all, “The previous comments made by some of the individuals” attending the meeting had been “completely unacceptable”.

Response

So how did the two respond? Disgracefully, they issued a grovelling statement which said: “The MPs were not aware that any suspended or expelled former members of the Labour Party might contribute as audience members. They did not and would not share a platform with them.”

This is appalling on so many levels. First, would you not expect that out of the 500-plus there would be all sorts of different people, some of whom might express views you totally disagreed with? Secondly, what is wrong with debating with such people – even if they had been expelled from Labour for legitimate reasons? Which brings me to my third, and most important, point: by taking this disgraceful stance Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy were placing themselves firmly in the camp of the witch-hunters and thus aiding the right, not to mention the anti-Labour establishment.

In fact neither Tony Greenstein nor Jackie Walker had done or said anything remotely anti-Semitic and the disciplinary action taken against them was completely unjustified. The initial moves against comrade Greenstein had seemed to centre – at least in terms of what was alleged publicly – on the fact that he had used the term ‘Zio’ as an abbreviation for ‘Zionist’ on social media. So shortening the word in this way completely changes its meaning, does it? Perhaps any such usage (like ‘bio’ or ‘eco’) is unacceptable.

Secondly, comrade Greenstein was also accused of describing the rightwing Labour MP, Louise Ellman, as an “apologist for Israel’s occupation forces” and a “supporter of Israeli child abuse” (the latter because she had praised the actions of Israeli soldiers, even though amongst those they had violently arrested were children). Ellman, of course, later resigned when faced with a no confidence motion in her Constituency Labour Party.

But comrade Greenstein was expelled in February 2018 – basically for ‘being rude’.

What were comrade Walker’s ‘crimes’? In 2016 she was suspended after a private email she had sent was “uncovered” by the Israel Advocacy Movement (the name says it all). In this she pointed out that Holocaust Remembrance Day focussed almost exclusively on Jewish victims of genocide. But what about the thousands of Africans who had been enslaved and died on the other side of the Atlantic? She had (rather clumsily) pointed to the fact that in the slave trade some Jews, far from being the victims, were in fact among the slave-owners. She wrote in the email: “… many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. She later said that what she had meant was: “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade.”

Eventually comrade Walker was reinstated, but was suspended again a few months later for comments she made at an “anti-Semitism training event” organised by the Jewish Labour Movement at the 2016 Labour conference. Not only did she say, “I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.” But she also queried the need for special security at Jewish schools. Presumably such remarks constitute “prejudicial and grossly detrimental behaviour against the party” – the ‘offence’ for which she was finally expelled in March 2019.

What was the stance of Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy in relation to such cases? Like Corbyn himself, they said and did nothing. After all, if you say that such disciplinary action is misplaced then you yourself might be targeted next. Better to go along with the action taken and pretend it was all justified. That was what they effectively did once again last week.

That is why we totally disagree with the headline above the statement issued by Labour Against the Witchhunt, which reads: “Solidarity with Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy” (although at least it adds: “and all those unjustly expelled!”). LAW failed to criticise ‘comrades’ Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy,’ despite their disgraceful statement issued two days earlier.

Solidarity means – if it means anything – unity, agreement, common action and mutual support. Calling for solidarity with scabs, turncoats and traitors is, to say the least, to foster illusions, to throw dust into the eyes of Labour members. We should defend Abbott and Ribeiro-Addy from any attempt to discipline, suspend or expel them. But their surrender, their cowardice, is inexcusable. And that needs saying.

While we are on the subject of solidarity, it is worth a brief comment on the May 2 ‘Statement on Salma Yaqoob’ issued by the Stop the War Coalition. Yaqoob is another Labour member facing an investigation following a complaint by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. That despite her long record of fighting racism and other forms of prejudice. The STWC states: “The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism demanded the exclusion from Labour of two black women MPs, Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, on the flimsy pretext that they addressed an online meeting which included expelled Labour Party members in the audience, not on the platform” (original emphasis).

But then it added: “Local STWC groups act autonomously in deciding their platforms, but we note that Tony Greenstein has never been asked to address a national STWC meeting. STWC rejects both anti-Semitism and abusive language in political debate.”

So, unlike Salma Yaqoob, comrade Greenstein was justifiably expelled, was he? That seems to be the implication.

Communist Forum goes online

Along with just about every other public meeting, our weekly London Communist Forum at the Calthorpe Arms on Sunday evenings, organised by the CPGB and Labour Party Marxists, has had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the good news is that we will continue meeting on Skype for as long as the pandemic crisis lasts.

Every Sunday, 5pm, from March 22, until further notice: Political report from CPGB Provisional Central Committee, followed by open discussion.

If you wish to take part, please email your Skype name to Stan Keable at secretary@labourpartymarxists.org.uk. On receiving confirmation from him, please add his Skype name, ‘stan.keable’, to your list of contacts.

Our study of Abram Leon’s ‘The Jewish question – a Marxist interpretation’ will be postponed until face-to-face meetings are resumed.)

Organised by CPGB: www.cpgb.org.uk and Labour Party Marxists: www.labourpartymarxists.org.uk.

Israel: A racist endeavour

Since its foundation the Israeli state has stolen more and more Palestinian land. Like any colonial-settler project this robbery must involve systematic discrimination against the indigenous population. Moshé Machover calls for the de-Zionisation of Israel

That Israel is a racist state is a well-established fact. On July 19 2018, it enacted a quasi-constitutional nationality bill – Basic law: Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – which has been widely condemned as institutionalising discrimination against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens. As many have observed, this law merely codifies and formalises a reality that long predates it. 1)Thus, for example, Bernie Sanders remarked in passing that “the recent ‘nation state law’ … essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens”. (‘A new authoritarian axis demands an international progressive front’ The Guardian September 13 2018). Within its pre-1967 borders, Israel is an illiberal semi-democracy. It defines itself as “Jewish and democratic”, but as its critics point out, it is “democratic for Jews, Jewish for others”. In the territories ruled by it since 1967, Israel is a military tyranny, applying one system of laws and regulations to Jewish settlers and an entirely separate one to the indigenous Palestinian Arabs.

The ways in which Israel exercises racist discrimination are too numerous to list here. Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, lists over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In addition to these laws there are countless unofficial bureaucratic practices and regulations by which Israeli racist discrimination operates in everyday life.

The conclusion cannot be denied: the state of Israel is structurally racist, an apartheid state according to the official UN definition of this term.

Shocking comparison

In Israeli public discourse, racist speech is extremely common even at the highest level of politics. Some of this high-level racist discourse is almost casual, such as Benjamin Netanyahu’s infamous “Arabs voting in droves” video on election day, 17 March 2015;2)“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/17/binyamin-netanyahu-israel-arab-election. or the “we are not Arab lovers” declaration of Isaac Herzog, leader of Israel’s Labor Party. 3)‘We are not Arab lovers – Israeli Labor’s bankrupt efforts to stave off decline’, Middle East Eye, 25 April 2016, https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/when-israels-main-opposition-party-has-problem-countrys-palestinian-citizens-1878921672 At the most obscene end of the range there are statements by senior politicians containing barely concealed calls for ethnic cleansing.

Some of the harshest condemnation of Israel’s racism is voiced by two Israeli academics who, as recognised experts on the history of fascism and Nazism, speak with considerable authority.

Professor Zeev Sternhell is emeritus head of the department of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and one of the world’s leading experts on fascism. In an article published last year, he referred to statements made by two senior Israeli politicians, members of the ruling coalition, Bezalel Smotrich (deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament) and Miki Zohar (chair of one of the Knesset’s most important committees). These statements, Sternhell writes, “should be widely disseminated on all media outlets in Israel and throughout the Jewish world. In both of them we see not just a growing Israeli fascism but racism akin to Nazism in its early stages.”4)‘In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism’ Ha’aretz January 19 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-in-israel-growing-fascism-and-a-racism-akin-to-early-nazism-1.5746488?=&ts=_1537002401268

This shocking comparison with Nazism is endorsed by Daniel Blatman, professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose book The death marches: the final phase of Nazi genocide won him in 2011 the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research. In a 2017 article he commented that “deputy speaker Bezalel Smotrich’s admiration for the biblical genocidaire Joshua bin Nun leads him to adopt values that resemble those of the German SS.” 5)‘The Israeli Lawmaker Heralding Genocide Against Palestinians’ Ha’aretz May 23 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-israeli-mk-heralding-genocide-against-palestinians-1.5475561. The biblical reference is to the book of Joshua, which contains a mythical account of the conquest and ethnic cleansing of the land of Canaan (Palestine) by the Israelites. The account is of course purely fictitious, but is taken as inspiration and virtual blueprint by the likes of Smotrich.

Blatman returned to this topic more recently:

Deputy Knesset speaker MK Bezalel Smotrich … presented his phased plan, according to which the Palestinians in the occupied territories (and possibly Israeli citizens, too) would become, in the best case, subjects without rights with a status that reminds us of German Jews after the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. To the extent that they do not agree to the plan, they will simply be cleansed from here. If they refuse to leave, they will be uprooted violently, which would lead to genocide.

Another elected official from the ruling coalition, Likud’s Miki Zohar, did not hesitate to state that the Arabs have a problem that has no solution – they are not Jews and therefore their fate in this land cannot be the same as that of the Jews .… Prof Zeev Sternhell wrote … that this racism is “akin to Nazism in its early stages.” I think it is Nazism in every way and fashion, even if comes from the school of the victims of historical Nazism. He concludes that “if a racism survey were held in western countries like the one on anti-Semitism, Israel would be near the top of the list.” 6)‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day: an Israeli hypocrisy’ Ha’aretz January 28 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-international-holocaust-remembrance-day-an-israeli-hypocrisy-1.5768945

Role of racism

Exposing Israel’s racism is all too easy. Mere denunciation, without explanation of its underlying context, may actually be misleading if not counter-productive; it may appear as singling Israel out for some peculiar and exceptional moral defect of its leaders or, worse, of its Jewish majority. In fact, racist structures and attitudes, wherever they occur, are part of the legal and ideological superstructure and cannot properly be understood in isolation from their material base.

In the case of Israel, that material base is the Zionist colonisation of Palestine – a process of which Israel is both product and instrument. That the Zionist project is all about the colonisation of Palestine by Jews is, once again, an indisputable fact. It is how political Zionism described itself right from the start. Thus, the second Zionist Congress (1898) adopted the following resolution (supplementing the Basel programme adopted at the first Congress a year earlier):

This Congress, in approval of the colonisation already inaugurated in Palestine, and being desirous of fostering further efforts in that direction, hereby declares, that:

For the proper settlement of Palestine, this Congress considers it is necessary to obtain the requisite permission from the Turkish government, and to carry out such settlement according to the plan, and under the direction of a committee, selected by this Congress ….

This committee to be appointed to superintend and direct all matters of colonisation; it shall consist of ten members, and have its seat in London.

The Congress also resolved to establish a bank to finance the activities of the Zionist movement. The bank was duly incorporated in London in 1899; its name was the Jewish Colonial Trust. Well into the 20th century, Zionists continued to describe their project unabashedly, in a perfectly matter-of-fact way, as one of colonisation. Later in the 20th century this usage became a public relations liability, and the term was replaced by various euphemisms. But the practice of colonisation of Palestinian land has continued unabated and is going ahead at full steam to this day.

This context makes Israel’s racism quite ‘natural’, in the sense of conforming to a general law. Every colonisation of an already inhabited territory is accompanied by racism. This is the case whether or not the colonisers arrive with preconceived racist ideas. Colonisation invariably meets resistance by the indigenous people. This was clearly understood, for example, by Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880–1940), the founder of the Zionist current that has been politically dominant in Israel for the last 41 years. In his seminal article ‘The iron wall’ (1923) he wrote:

Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel’ .…

Colonisation can have only one aim, and Palestine Arabs cannot accept this aim. It lies in the very nature of things, and in this particular regard nature cannot be changed.

Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power [i.e. Britain – MM] that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.7)‘The iron wall’ (O Zheleznoi stene), published November 4 1923 in the Russian-language journal Rassvyet (Dawn); English translation https://tinyurl.com/m8dp3le

In their conflict with the ‘natives’, the settlers tend to develop racist ideology as self-justification.

We can say more. Racism in general comes in many different variants, and colonisers’ racism takes different forms, depending on the type of colonisation. In colonisation based primarily on exploiting the labour power of the indigenous people, the latter are usually depicted by the colonisers as inferior creatures deserving no better fate than working for their conquerors.

But in colonisation based on excluding and displacing the ‘natives’ rather than incorporating them into the colonial economy as workers, they are usually depicted as dangerous wild and murderous people who ought to be ethnically cleansed. Zionist colonisation belongs to this category. In this respect, it is not unlike the colonisation of what became the United States, except that the Zionist organisation insisted explicitly and deliberately on denying employment to non-Jews.8)See the 1929 constitution of the Jewish Agency, https://tinyurl.com/ycq3nqpo

In the US Declaration of Independence, the freedom-loving founding fathers – only some of whom were slave owners – complain that the king of Great Britain “has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In today’s terminology they would no doubt be described as ‘terrorists’. The Palestinian Arabs are Israel’s “merciless Indian savages”.

When viewed against the background of the history of this type of colonisation, Israeli racist ideology and practices are par for the course. The annals of colonisation certainly have grimmer chapters, such as the total extermination of the people of Tasmania, to mention an extreme example. Zionist colonisation is, however, exceptional in being anachronistic: it continues in the 21st century the kind of thing – settler colonialism – that elsewhere ended in the 19th.

To conclude: apart from its anachronism, there is little that is exceptional about Israel’s racism. It is rooted in its nature as a settler state. Uprooting colonialist racism requires a change of regime, decolonisation – which in the case of Israel means de-Zionisation. 9)See my article ‘The decolonisation of Palestine’ Weekly Worker June 23 2016, https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1112/the-decolonisation-of-palestine/

References

References
1 Thus, for example, Bernie Sanders remarked in passing that “the recent ‘nation state law’ … essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens”. (‘A new authoritarian axis demands an international progressive front’ The Guardian September 13 2018).
2 “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them in buses.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/17/binyamin-netanyahu-israel-arab-election.
3 ‘We are not Arab lovers – Israeli Labor’s bankrupt efforts to stave off decline’, Middle East Eye, 25 April 2016, https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/when-israels-main-opposition-party-has-problem-countrys-palestinian-citizens-1878921672
4 ‘In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism’ Ha’aretz January 19 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-in-israel-growing-fascism-and-a-racism-akin-to-early-nazism-1.5746488?=&ts=_1537002401268
5 ‘The Israeli Lawmaker Heralding Genocide Against Palestinians’ Ha’aretz May 23 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-israeli-mk-heralding-genocide-against-palestinians-1.5475561. The biblical reference is to the book of Joshua, which contains a mythical account of the conquest and ethnic cleansing of the land of Canaan (Palestine) by the Israelites. The account is of course purely fictitious, but is taken as inspiration and virtual blueprint by the likes of Smotrich.
6 ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day: an Israeli hypocrisy’ Ha’aretz January 28 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-international-holocaust-remembrance-day-an-israeli-hypocrisy-1.5768945
7 ‘The iron wall’ (O Zheleznoi stene), published November 4 1923 in the Russian-language journal Rassvyet (Dawn); English translation https://tinyurl.com/m8dp3le
8 See the 1929 constitution of the Jewish Agency, https://tinyurl.com/ycq3nqpo
9 See my article ‘The decolonisation of Palestine’ Weekly Worker June 23 2016, https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1112/the-decolonisation-of-palestine/

Fast-track expulsions will make the Anti-Semitism crisis worse

Saturday’s so-called debate on rule changes to Labour’s constitution was shambolic. It highlighted the huge democratic deficit at conference. The chair raced through the 27 rule changes and delegates only got to see the seven NEC proposals that very morning, as part of the 225 page report of the Conference Arrangements Committee.

About a dozen CLPs withdrew their motions on conference floor, most by not moving them. There is a logic here. Given the NEC opposed pretty much all rule changes that were not their own, chances of a majority for a CLP proposal were slim. There are dire consequences for a rule change if voted down at conference: It not only falls, but the subject cannot be revisited by conference for three years. Ironically, one of the rule changes not moved was an attempt by East Devon CLP (card vote 10) to reform this undemocratic rule by adding that motions supported by at least five CLPs should be discussed in subsequent conferences.

Withdrawing motions – when it is clear they will not get a majority – can therefore be a good tactic to allow the subject to come back next year. However, we cannot understand why comrades – apart from a few – did not use their three-minute time slot to withdraw in an orderly fashion by explaining the motivation behind their motion.
It was particularly sad that delegates from Ceredigion CLP and Enfield Southgate CLP (card votes 15 and 16) did not make use of their time slots. Both put forward rule changes which sought to make the disciplinary process more transparent, enshrine the right to appeal and ensure that cases are dealt with promptly. Speakers could have bolstered the powerful speeches in opposition to card vote 6, the NEC’s proposals on the disciplinary process.

A (slim) majority of CLP delegates (52% against) voted against the NEC proposals – a rare occurence at Labour Party conference.  Sadly, as the overwhelming majority of affiliates (unions, socialist societies etc) voted in favour of the proposals (98%), the rule change has now passed. This underlines once again that the democratisation of the unions and their participation in the Labour Party is a hugely important task for the Labour left.

Card vote 6 makes sweeping reforms to the disciplinary process. Momentum – on the wrong side of the debate once again – urged supporters in its delegate briefings to vote for the proposals, because “these changes are central to improving the Party’s disciplinary system.”

The new rules certainly tighten the system. For example, until now suspended members were able to participate in their branch meetings (“unless the reason for the suspension in part or in full is their conduct in party meetings”) and were allowed to attend any CLP meetings “to participate in ballots.” This has now been abolished, leading to the political isolation of the member.

The most important change is howeve on “fast track expulsions”. The NEC has given itself the right to arbitrarily expel members judged irredeemable. The key paragraph reads:

“The NEC and NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions except in any instance inconsistent with the Party’s aims and values, agreed codes of conduct, or involving prejudice towards any protected characteristic.”

Supposedly, this formulation is the magic bullet that will finally end the anti-Semitism smear campaign in Labour. The rule change that will finally appease the right wing in and outside the party and end their relentless campaign against Corbyn.

Of course, this will not work. The Jewish Labour Movement complained immediately that they had not been consulted (enough). Sure enough, Mike Katz – opposing card vote 6 – commented during the debate that “our relationship is at an all time low”. The “Jewish community” (defined by who?) and the JLM have asked for “independence and this does not deliver it. We don’t trust the NEC to deliver fast track justice.”

The next speaker, Duncan Shipley Dalton, found himself in the  “strange position that I agree with the previous speaker, [we should] strongly oppose card vote 6. We believe in natural justice. It is a travesty of justice. Adopting the IHRA didn’t solve this crisis and this will not solve it either.” Quite right. The comrade offered to represent any victims of this new rule on  pro bono basis.

Maggie Cosin, former chair of the National Constitutional Committee (which richly deserves its nickname, the ‘National Kangaroo Court) spoke against sidelining the NCC and assured the audience that the current manifestation of this body ticked all the required boxes. However, the power to expel members in the hands of the NEC – in current conditions – is no good either. Contrary to the media’s febrile imagination, the NEC is not dominated by the ‘left’ (even if you include Jon Lansman in that category).

Labour HQ seems set on a path of self-destruction. The leadership’s fast track expulsions is a green light for a tsunami of allegations against Labour members, with the prospect – given the low standards of ‘evidence’ generally required – of 1,000s more vexatious allegations.

We need to reiterate the truth about this McCarthyite witch-hunt. Comrades like Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Stan Keable et al are simply collateral damage. The specific target is Corbyn and the general aim is to put the left “back in its box”, as one despicable rightwing Labour MP put it in a rare moment of candour.
The current tactics of Corbyn and his allies will more or less guarantee our defeat. Appeasement never works. Your opponent simply grows stronger.

Bitter fruit of appeasement

The renewed suspension of Chris Williamson and the degeneration of Momentum shows that the left in the party needs to get organised, says Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

For a few very brief, bright days last week it looked as if Jeremy Corbyn and his allies had finally decided to come out fighting in the ongoing civil war. First, there was the announcement on June 25 that Labour’s national executive committee had taken the first steps to launch the reformed trigger ballots – which, if implemented in full, will give local party members, for the first time in 30 years, a real say over who should be their parliamentary candidate. Then, on June 26, we celebrated the news that Chris Williamson MP had been reinstated by an ‘anti-Semitism panel’ of the NEC.

Both decisions were surprising, to put it mildly. As we have previously explained, the NEC had been dragging its feet over trigger ballots since January, when Jennie Formby was first commissioned to “urgently” produce guidelines. However, soon after, Chuka Umunna and co walked out. Rather than celebrate the exit of some of the most vile anti-Corbyn MPs, Labour HQ immediately back-peddled and kicked the implementation of the rule change from last year’s conference into the long grass.

Equally surprising was the decision of the three NEC members – Keith Vaz, Huda Elmi and George Howarth – to reinstate Chris Williamson to full party membership. Apparently, the panel was advised by an independent barrister that Williamson had breached an unspecified rule, but that this was not serious enough to warrant his ongoing suspension. So the panel decided to link his reinstatement to a dubious ‘warning’.

Interestingly, the panel’s composition had changed at the last minute. Originally, it was to consist of Momentum owner Jon Lansman and Claudia Webbe of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, in addition to Howarth, who is a rightwing former MP. But first Webbe decided to attend a “local government conference” in Brussels and then Jon Lansman had to pull out, because “he was celebrating a new arrival to his family”. Hmm.

We have a nagging suspicion this might have had more to do with neither of them wanting to be seen to be – directly – responsible for sending the hugely popular Williamson to the gallows. Both of them were elected on the soft-left slate put forward by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (a lash-up between, chiefly, the CLPD and Momentum) and a decision like that could well have been the final and overdue nail in the coffin of the CLGA.

The new panel was not as ostensibly ‘leftwing’ as the old one, with Huda Elmi (a former member of Momentum’s national coordinating group) being the only CLGA candidate on the panel. As opposed to her (former?) mentor, Lansman, Elmi has turned out to be a rather good addition to the NEC. She opposed the party’s adoption of the ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance with all 11 examples as “incredibly disappointing” and called for the abolition of the Equality and Human Rights Commission after it announced its investigation into ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ – or so rants the Jewish Chronicle.

She voted for Williamson’s reinstatement – just like, somewhat mysteriously, Keith Vaz. He is not exactly known as a leftwinger. There are a number of possible reasons why he might have voted the way he did:

  • He really was so out of it from taking his mysterious medication that he could not make any rational decisions that day. (Or does he take the medication every day? In which case he probably should not be an MP.)
  • He just did what “Corbyn wanted”, as some newspapers speculated.
  • Having been attacked in the national media – for hiring of rent boys – he might have felt sympathy for Williamson. The media has been demanding his head for many long months.
  • Or maybe, just maybe, he actually looked at the so-called ‘evidence’ and found that it did not warrant Williamson’s ongoing suspension?

As we know, Labour’s deputy leader and super-saboteur, Tom Watson, got right onto it and gathered the party’s most rightwing MPs and members of the House of Lords. His foam-flecked open letter called on Jeremy Corbyn to single-handedly overturn the panel’s decision – after previously coordinating a campaign that charged Corbyn and Labour HQ with interfering in disciplinary cases! You could not make it up.

Under the party’s rulebook, neither the general secretary nor the leader of the party can overturn decisions made by NEC panels – only the NEC has the power to do so. Tom Watson knows that, of course. The letter was designed with one aim only: to get huge publicity and further tighten the screws on Corbyn. Naturally, every newspaper picked it up and the Jewish Chronicle even fumed that Labour MPs “who cannot bring themselves to sign it can no longer claim to support the Jewish community in Britain”.

Lo and behold, in the context of the national media frenzy, Vaz suddenly discovered his medical condition. Which means that – in ‘newspeak’ – Jennie Formby just had to rule that the whip had, in fact, never been restored in the first place.

The NEC disputes panel (made up of all NEC members who show up), meeting next on July 9, will now look at Williamson’s “pattern of behaviour”. This formulation is a funny one. Every newspaper is quoting the phrase – The Sun thinks that it was a “pattern of behaviours goading the Jewish community”. And yet the only evidence such papers ever publish is Williamson’s comment at a Sheffield Momentum meeting that the party was “too apologetic” in terms of the anti-Semitism smear campaign. The full quote in context clearly shows that his comment was neither anti-Semitic nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the party or wider society – and he was most certainly not “goading the Jewish community”:

The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that, because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic … We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.

Enter the truly vile so-called ‘Socialists Against Anti-Semitism’. It has published an outrageously dumb and one-sided ‘dossier’ on Williamson, in which it is doing the work of the witch-hunters: This lists as ‘evidence’ his public support for Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Pete Willsman (none of whom have been expelled or even charged by the party over anti-Semitism); the fact that he “spoke at an event where a LP audience member is claimed to have used an openly anti-Semitic trope” (my emphasis), as well as tweets by rightwingers and various journalists who rant against Williamson. Convincing stuff it is not.

Still, despite the lack of evidence, such is the state of the civil war in the party that a clear majority of the NEC will no doubt decide to overturn the panel’s decision and refer Williamson’s case to the national constitutional committee (NCC). This is where the NEC sends all the disciplinary cases that it cannot/does not want to deal with. Despite this body’s recent expansion from 11 to 25 members, it is still dominated by the right and a referral to the NCC usually results in expulsion – which is how it got its well-deserved epithet: ‘national kangaroo court’.

This might not be what Jeremy Corbyn wants, but his ongoing campaign of appeasing the right inside and outside the party has led to the situation where so-called leftwingers have swallowed the lie that the party has a huge problem with anti-Semitism. Witness Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey – both feted as loyal Corbyn supporters – coming out against Williamson. This is unfortunately a self-made crisis. Had Corbyn put two fingers up to the witch-hunters early on, their campaign would have never become so successful – and so devastating for good comrades like Williamson and many others. But they are mere collateral damage. The chief target, of course, is Corbyn himself, who remains totally unacceptable from the ruling class’s point of view.

Jon Lansman might have chickened out of making the decision to refer Williamson to the NCC himself, but he has quickly jumped on to the saboteurs’ bandwagon. In an already infamous tweet, he has demanded Williamson’s expulsion: “He has to go.”

As NEC member Darren Williams quite rightly fumes,

Does anyone seriously imagine that Chris Williamson will get a fair hearing from the NEC disputes panel, when several of those who will sit in judgement upon him have already torn his reputation to shreds on social media, without even having seen all the evidence?

He is another person on the CLGA’s NEC slate who turns out to be rather more independently minded than Lansman would have liked.

But this is a new low for the Momentum owner, who has been moving rapidly to the right. Clearly, in the view of many of those who retained their Momentum membership, this has been a qualitative turning point. Social media is awash with reports of people cancelling their membership. And it is true that Momentum nationally can hardly be regarded as part of the left. It cannot be turned around, because Jon Lansman rules it with an iron fist. There is no internal democracy, no mechanisms that could force Lansman to hand over the huge database of Corbyn supporters. In this context we note a rather bizarre article on the website Red Flag, where Jeremy Dewar “demands a sovereign Momentum conference”. You are two years too late, comrade.

Certainly, the civil war in the Labour Party seems to be approaching its climax, especially with the prospect of a UK constitutional crisis. Faced with the prospect of a mad-cap, no-deal Brexit under prime minister Boris Johnson, it is entirely possible that a large number of rightwing Labour MPs might yet resign the whip to build some kind of alliance with the ‘remain’ Tories, Liberal Democrats, Change UK, the Greens and the Scottish National Party. This makes it all the more important for the left to start organising for trigger ballots – and for the full implementation of the rule change agreed at conference 2018. The recent back-peddling over comrade Williamson does not bode well for the rest of the NEC’s meeting on July 9, which is supposed to look at issuing a timetable and guidelines for trigger ballots (or not). Unless we can get rid of the rightwingers in the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Corbyn project will be sabotaged.

In this ongoing civil war, Momentum nationally has proven to be utterly useless. Yes, it has occasionally played a useful role in organising activists to travel to marginal and winnable seats. But first it failed to speak out on the witch-hunt – and now it has come out on the wrong side of it. Chris Williamson, however, is incredibly popular among Labour members, chiefly because he has been campaigning for more party democracy and because he has stood up for many of those who have wrongfully been accused of anti-Semitism.

As I write, Labour Against the Witchhunt’s ‘Open Letter to the NEC’, demanding Chris’s immediate reinstatement, has been signed by over 3,300 people in just two days. Its page listing all statements and resolutions in support of Chris Williamson has been liked by almost 6,000 people. And there is the centrist website, Labourlist.org, which organises a weekly, highly biased, poll of the sort that finds Keir Starmer “the most popular member of the shadow cabinet” – participants usually do not exceed 5,000. This week, however, 10,066 people took part – and 61% of them thought that “Chris Williamson should be readmitted”.

We understand that there are now moves underway to build a new transparent and democratic Labour left to challenge Momentum – and unite the myriad of already existing local Labour left organisations, dissident Momentum groups and so on that exist on the Labour left. This is highly encouraging and long overdue. Maybe this campaign might even get Jon Lansman off the NEC.

Reinstate Chris Williamson

NEC lobby: Tuesday July 9, 9am-12 noon

Labour Party HQ, 105 Victoria Street, Southside, London SW1.

Please come along to show your solidarity with the only MP who has dared to stand up to the witch-hunters. The only one who has defended members wrongly accused of being anti-Semites.

Now it’s our turn to stand with him!

Organised by Labour Against the Witchhunt