Category Archives: The left

Joining the living dead

Carla Roberts wishes she was surprised that Jon Lansman has joined the Jewish Labour Movement

A psychologist might explain Jon Lansman’s decision to join the Jewish Labour Movement at the end of 2023 as some kind of an attempt to escape trauma, stress and anger by regressing to his Zionist roots and Orthodox Jewish upbringing, including his much romanticised stay on a kibbutz at the age of 16. After all Lansman has seen his world come crashing down. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party ended in a humiliating general election defeat. Embracing big business, Sir Keir Starmer has junked almost everything from the 2017 and 2019 ‘socialist’ manifestos, and if that were not bad enough, in July 2020 Lansman found himself replaced as chair of Momentum by a firefighter and a climate activist.

But joining JLM is still an odd choice. After all, JLM was one of the key organisations behind the defeat of the Corbyn movement. As an official affiliate of the World Zionist Movement and sister party of Israel’s Labor Party (Havodah), the JLM worked tirelessly to smear Corbyn and the left by making bogus claim after bogus claim about the supposed anti-Semitism problem in the party. The bourgeois press and the right in the party eagerly lapped up their nonsense, no matter how ridiculous or weaponised.

Surely, as one of Corbyn’s “key allies” and decades-long leader of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Lansman must know what a despicable role the JLM played in destroying the Labour left’s biggest opportunity in a lifetime? Corbyn put him in charge of setting up Momentum, so how could Lansman be so disloyal now and join the very organisation that helped bring him down?

The sad truth is that this was a long time coming. And it is not just down to Lansman’s soft Zionism. It is a reflection of the total bankruptcy of the strategy of the entire official Labour left.

From the CLPD and Momentum via the slightly less horrid Labour Representation Committee to the various bitty groups represented in the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance: they all operate under the illusion that the Labour left needs to make peace with the ‘centre’ of the party.

Lansman is a long-time admirer of Vladimir Derer, the founder of CLPD, who he considers his political mentor: “Like Momentum, CLPD is an organisation which seeks to democratise the Labour Party, not to operate like a party-within-a-party. Similarly, Vladimir [Derer] was determined for CLPD to reach out to the centre of the party, since without doing so we would inevitably lose. The same is true for Momentum now”, he wrote in 2017[1].

‘Winning’, for Lansman and the rest of the official Labour left, of course means Labour winning a general election (under any leader, no matter their politics) and forming a government – not winning the civil war in the Labour Party.

This is why Corbyn bent over backwards to appease the right inside and outside the Labour Party. And that is also the reason why Lansman closed down democracy in Momentum at the end of 2016. Lansman (and, sadly, Corbyn) never meant for Momentum to become a fighting organisation. He told the Jewish Chronicle at the beginning of 2023: “I wish we’d never had Momentum branches. It was never our decision to set them up – they set themselves up.”[2] But he certainly did his best to clamp down on them, not least by imposing his outrageously undemocratic constitution in a cloak-and-dagger-operation otherwise known as the ‘Lansman coup’.

With the full support of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and others in the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs he went on to cancel preparations for Momentum’s national launch conference, abolish the regions and downgrade the role of local groups. Lansman used a members’ survey to claim endorsement for his new constitution, ensuring he kept control of what was his private property, while also sneaking in a clause that banned from membership all those who had been expelled in the witch-hunt against Corbyn and the left. Although Lansman has since been ousted from Momentum, this clause remains intact and continues to be enforced by the all-new leadership of wannabe Labour bureaucrats.

Zero tolerance

In other words, Lansman might not have started the witch-hunt against the left, but he certainly enforced it. While maintaining that he supported Corbyn “100 percent”, he was always keen to state his view that there should be “zero tolerance” towards anti-Semitism.

From a communist point of view, zero tolerance towards any form of prejudice is entirely the wrong approach – we much prefer education and debate to convince people of their wrong ideas rather than tell them that they are ‘beyond the pale’. After all, there is a lot of prejudice, whacky ideas and racism within society – they are part and parcel of the capitalist class society we live in. We want to win people over and convince them that socialism and communism has something to offer them.

The problems with the strategy of trying to appease the right in the Labour Party are all too obvious.For a start, it is debatable how much better off the working class is under a rightwing Labour government of the Blair or Starmer variety: the self-censored left moans quietly about this war or that attack on the working class, while waiting for “the unions” to do something, anything.

And once you actually have a leftwinger in as leader, as happened by pure accident with Corbyn, the whole strategy quickly falls apart. The centre-right clearly had no interest in being appeased. There was no way they would have supported Corbyn as prime minister. They would have continued to plot, to sabotage, to undermine. Everybody could see it – apart from those on the official left who continued, right to the bitter end, trying to win them over by securing them in their cushy positions, be it in the regional offices, the CLPs or as MPs … all the while pointing their fingers at so-called ‘anti-Semites’ and keeping their cowardly distance from the victims of the witch-hunt (“we can’t have a suspended or expelled member speak on the platform”). This, sadly, included the Corbyn leadership itself, which – under its general secretary, Jennie Formby – vilified and smeared good comrades like Chris Williamson, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker.

Yes, Lansman is a touch worse than your garden-variety official Labour leftie, because his soft Zionism also made him a keen supporter of the much-criticised, fake definition of anti-Semitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the Labour Party under Corbyn (who made a half-hearted attempt to oppose it, but without publicly distancing himself in some sort of campaign, he had no chance).

Lansman fully embraced the attempt by the Israel lobby to redefine what anti-Semitism is: not hatred or discrimination of Jewish people, but criticism of Israel. He has stated, for example, that formulations like “I hate Israel” are not expressions of anti-Zionism, but are “clearly anti-Semitic”.[3]

He was more than happy to sell out Corbyn supporters and, pressed by Stella Creasy and Louise Ellman at the 2023 JLM conference, was quick to point to “anti-Semitic left activists around the country”, in particular those “in Riverside and Liverpool.”[4]

No wonder that he ended up joining Corbyn’s enemies in the JLM.

Lansman’s Zionism is very similar to his Labourism: he appeals to the sensible ‘centre-ground’ – which in reality means support for the hard right. In an interview with The Guardian in November for example, he expressed “sympathy” for Keir Starmer’s conclusion that calling for a ceasefire now in Gaza is wrong: “A ceasefire now could merely sustain Hamas as a continuing threat.”[5]

You see, “Israelis and Palestinians have been betrayed by their leaders – each side needs a new leader as soon as possible, each of whom wants peace and has the confidence of their own people!”, he recently tweeted.

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of the latter (nobody who is calling for “peace” at the moment has the “confidence” of the majority of either population), his whole political outlook echoes the dumb ‘bad apples on both sides’ of the establishment media. He has been sharing dozens of tweets by Standing Together[6], a campaign of Jews and Arabs living in Israel, which has been promoted in Britain by Nadia Whittome MP, fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The campaign still peddles the illusion that there could be a capitalist ‘two-state solution’, when clearly no mainstream politician in Israel has any real interest in it whatsoever (Labor’s Merav Michaeli pays mere lip service to the idea).

Standing Together focuses on “de‑escalation and solidarity within Israel” by offering hotlines, workshops and other such worthy things, run by Jews and Arabs. Their mission statement reads like the naive wish list of a 14-year-old who just ‘wants peace’. It is appealing to those in charge to be a bit nicer to the Palestinians and stop supporting illegal settlements on the West Bank. But the campaign makes no demands, for example, to change any of the racist laws that condemn Arabs within Israel to second class citizenship.

For Standing Together, the root of the problem is not Zionism or the structures of state oppression. It is just that for some unfathomable reason Jews and non-Jews don’t seem to get on too well in Israel. Something a de-escalation course or, indeed, a new set of leaders who “want peace” are unlikely to fix.

Lansman is not a stupid man, so he knows all of that. But just like in the Labour Party, he wants to leave the structures of inequality intact. His main problem is that he has no confidence in his vision of socialism or, indeed, in the working class as the only force that can overthrow capitalism and liberate humanity.

We would not be surprised if Lansman was rewarded for services rendered with an OBE, a CBE or even a KBE by Sir Keir at some point in the next few years (presuming a Tory general election defeat). One thing is for sure, though, Lansman has not only joined the JLM, he has joined the ranks of the living dead.

Labour Marxists

Of course, while Lansman has betrayed himself, what took him to there is far from unique. I have come across quite a few self-declared “Marxists” in the Labour Representation Committee who will quote this infamous passage from the Communist Manifesto to justify their opposition to ever building a Marxist Party: “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.”

Very odd, isn’t it, that a booklet with the full title The Manifesto of the Communist Party, written by Marx and Engels as a political programme for the Communist League (described by Engels as “the Communist Party in process of formation”) should argue against forming – a Communist Party!

Because Marx and Engels did no such thing. The German original makes it clear that in fact they said the exact opposite: “Die Kommunisten sind keine besondere Partei gegenüber den anderen Arbeiterparteien. Sie haben keine von den Interessen des ganzen Proletariats getrennten Interessen.”[7]

Hal Draper translates it as follows: “The Communists are not a special party vis-à-vis the other workers’ parties. They have no interests separate from the interests of the whole proletariat.”

In other words, communists do form a separate party – but they do work and engage with other working class parties, because they are trying to equip them with a winning strategy for socialism.

Despite the fact that this was laid out in detail in 1994 in Hal Draper’s very entertaining book The adventures of the Communist Manifesto (which pointed out many other mistranslations and misreadings), the official Labour left continues to ignore his important work – and continues to misquote Marx and Engels. A fig leaf for their own political cowardice l








Doubling down on genocide

Sir Keir’s Chatham House speech shows exactly where he stands. But, asks Kevin Bean, where will the official Labour left go, given the massive popular movement against Israel’s war on Gaza? An uncertain tincture of courage combines with continued fear for careers and expense accounts

If anyone had any doubts over where Sir Keir Starmer stands in relation to Israel’s war on Gaza, then his Chatham House speech would certainly have removed them: he lines up with US imperialism and the rest of the western imperialist powers in solidly backing the Zionist state’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. He does not support a ceasefire – that would leave Hamas intact and still a potential threat to Israel – but he is sympathetic to a “humanitarian pause” and relief efforts by the “international community”.[1]

It was, of course, a carefully crafted speech in which there were the obligatory hypocritical references to the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes, combined with cautionary reminders that states should always follow ‘international law’, when launching attacks on civilian populations! Sir Keir is a lawyer, you understand, and he knows all about these things. He also knows about bourgeois politics and, as the leader of British capitalism’s second eleven and widely expected next prime minister, he chose his words judiciously. After all, he has been setting out his stall in this way since becoming Labour leader, demonstrating that his new order really does represent a clear break with the old Corbyn regime.

Sir Keir could do nothing else because he was addressing several different audiences, with the most important being in Washington DC. However, Starmer also wanted to reassure the British capitalist class and the political establishment at home that he could continue to channel his inner Tony Blair by standing firm behind Israel and holding the line, irrespective of internal party criticism or successive mass demonstrations in London against Israel’s war. A little further down the list is the electorate and the various media that frame the limits of acceptable political debate so as to shape ‘public opinion’. In this respect the speech was no different from countless others he had made since 2020, in which he carefully triangulated with the Tories and showed he was a safe pair of hands who could be relied upon to uphold the Atlantic alliance, the capitalist system and the constitutional order.

The speech certainly did its job with the ruling class at home and abroad, receiving positive approval and editorial support where it matters.[2] Noisy protests by anti-war activists simply served to reinforce the message. Labour wants to be the next government, Labour wants to be trusted by the USA no matter who is in the White House.

So in that sense Sir Keir managed to steady the ship, but a lot of questions still remain about how the crisis in Gaza will impact on the Labour leadership and the party as a whole. Let us go back to the Labour conference in early October. The leadership was clearly in control and, apart from some purely symbolic votes on rail and utility nationalisation, the pro-capitalist Labour right swept the board. Nowhere was this more clearly illustrated than in Starmer’s conference speech, in which he unequivocally backed Israel … and, of course, condemned anti-Semitism. The staged standing ovations and staged applause served to highlight the contrast with previous conferences – was it really only four years ago when delegates waved Palestinian flags and enthusiastically grabbed copies of Labour Party Marxists because of Moshé Machover’s lead article denouncing Israel as a racist endeavour?

Throughout the witch-hunt against the Labour left and the smear campaign to equate anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism, the Palestinian cause acquired a huge political significance. The Labour leadership used loyalty to Israel to demonstrate its unswerving fealty to imperialism and the US hegemon, and to draw a clear symbolic boundary between itself and the Labour left, which has been totally cowed for the last four years, having surrendered to the leadership all along the line. Nowhere has this abject cowardice been more openly on display than on the key questions of war and peace in foreign policy – remember the way members of the Socialist Campaign Group withdrew their support from a mildly critical Stop the War statement on Ukraine following the merest hint of Sir Keir’s displeasure?

Initially the same was true about the Labour left’s response to the war on Gaza, with only the most circumspect comments during PMQs in the Commons on the civilian casualties and ‘the humanitarian crisis’ caused by Israeli attacks.[3] So confident was the party leadership and apparat that the official Labour left was servile, quiescent and effectively online. The HQ bureaucracy further clamped down on internal debate on Gaza in Constituency Labour Parties and even banned councillors and MPs from participating in protests against the war.[4] But the huge turnout on local and regional demonstrations, especially the huge numbers in London, the last one being 500,000-strong, that seems to have breathed some little courage into the official Labour left.

New challenge?

The size and character of the demonstrations, drawing in new layers of young people and mobilising the widest sections of the Muslim population, has surely had an impact on the previously quiescent and largely silent Labour left in parliament and beyond. Members of the SCG such as John McDonnell and Andy McDonald have spoken alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, and left trade union leaders Mick Lynch and Mick Whelan on the last two national demonstrations. Other signs of opposition to the leadership’s line have been letters and statements of protest from CLPs and significantly Labour groups in local government. There have also been a large number of resignations from Labour councillors and individual party members, which have had a significant local impact; in Oxford resignations of councillors have cost Labour its majority and control of the local authority.[5]

Starmer’s unequivocal support for Israel’s siege of Gaza and his support in a radio interview on October 11 for cutting water and fuel supplies to the Palestinian population acted a catalyst for much of the criticism, which began to extend beyond the ‘usual suspects’ of the Labour left to include London mayor Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.[6]


Perhaps the most serious challenges in parliament to Starmer’s line on Gaza was the early-day motion signed by 39 Labour MPs calling for the lifting of the siege, along with a number of other individual statements by Labour frontbenchers calling for a ceasefire.[7] Closer examination of the texts and the nature of the ‘support’ shown, such as retweeting Labour for Palestine statements, shows definite equivocation by shadow cabinet ‘rebels’, but, given the disciplinary measures taken previously against MPs for merely sharing such statements, this growing body of opposition to Starmer does have some real significance.

It seems that the Labour leadership was wrong-footed and initially drew back from confronting the opposition head on – after all it extended far beyond the official left and some in the party’s apparat feared that the usually reliable ‘Muslim vote’ might greatly diminish, with this section of the electorate refusing to back a party so clearly committed to supporting a genocidal attack on the Palestinian people. Some might be tempted, as in 2006, to look elsewhere. Thus, in an attempt to smooth things over, Starmer loyalists spoke publicly about understanding the ‘concerns’ of the critics and hoped that a ‘clarification’ of the leadership’s position could head off the growing criticism.[8] In media briefings before the Chatham House speech Wes Streeting and Chris Bryant prepared the ground by talking about ‘engaging’ with the critics on Gaza and addressing their specific issues.[9]

While there were some nods to the concerns of his critics, combined with the usual platitudes about a “humanitarian pause” and “international law”, Sir Keir’s Chatham House speech was in truth just a restatement of his pro-Israeli stance. Furthermore, in subsequent comments and interviews he doubled down by opposing any talk of a ceasefire and emphasising that his main aim was to support Israel without reservation in its Gaza war and its objective of crushing Hamas, whatever the cost to the civilian population. Just to show that he meant business and that the olive branches he had offered before Chatham House were merely a holding operation, the party bureaucracy followed it up by suspending SCG MP Andy McDonald for a speech he made at the national demonstration on October 28.

McDonald’s crime was to use an amended form of the widely used slogan, ‘Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea’: this slogan, identified by Suella Braverman and other supporters of Israel as ‘an anti-Semitic chant’, was changed by McDonald to read: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”[10] In this modified form it can be variously interpreted as supporting a one- or two-state solution, or merely a pacifistic call for an end to violence, but what it most definitely is not is anti-Semitic! However, in drawing on a slogan so dishonestly identified by the leadership as anti-Semitic, McDonald was putting it up to Sir Keir and testing the limits of Starmer’s patience with critics.

We know the political agenda that the pro-capitalist leadership of the Labour Party works to; in terms of Israel’s war in Gaza that has been very clearly set out in the House of Commons, as well as in the Chatham House speech. We also know how the Labour right and their media friends continue to use the big lie equating opposition to Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism. Starmer will not row back on his pro-imperialist strategy of lining up with the US and ‘the west’: that is one of the cornerstones of his politics and will remain so.

No, the more important question is how the official Labour left will respond to his continued defence of Israel’s war and his attempts to crush opposition to it within the Labour movement. Having discovered the merest hint of a backbone in making the mildest of mild criticisms of the Starmer line, will the SCG and the other remnants of the official left now go further and really open up an attack on his policy? The suspension of Andy McDonald is a real challenge to the Labour left: after three, four years of laying low, of apologising, of grovelling, of advising quietness, will they risk really aligning themselves with the truly massive movement that has sprung into existence against Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza?

All they have to lose are their parliamentary careers, their expense accounts and their not inconsiderable salaries. But there is a world to win l


[2].; and


[4].; and


[6].; and




[10]. Ibid.

Don’t mention apartheid

Sir Keir bans Labour banners at Palestine demonstrations, Jeremy Corbyn appeals to ‘international law’, while the Campaign Group of Socialist MPs sticks to empty platitudes, reports Carla Roberts

A few short years ago, Labour Party conferences were awash with Palestine flags. In 2018 and 2019 in particular, there was a sea of hundreds of them, many handed out by Labour Against the Witchhunt. In both years, there were also motions passed that were highly critical of the Israeli government.[1]

Even in 2021 – when Sir Keir had already been in charge for over 16 months – a motion was passed that heavily criticised the “ongoing Nakba in Palestine”, “the deadly assault on Gaza” and the “de facto annexation of Palestinian land”. Furthermore, the motion contained this interesting formulation: “Conference also notes the unequivocal 2021 reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that conclude unequivocally that Israel is practising the crime of apartheid, as defined by the UN.”

Fast-forward two years. The Liverpool conference could not have been more different. In the run-up to the stage-managed event, Labour HQ unilaterally removed the words “end apartheid” from the title of a fringe event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, leaving the title ‘Justice for Palestine’ in the conference guide.[2] The PSC protested, but to no avail, and was eventually told that using the word “apartheid” – a formulation also used by that radical leftie group, the United Nations (!), to describe Israeli policy[3] – is now “detrimental to the party”.

As an aside, it depends, of course, on how you define ‘apartheid’. The situation in Palestine is entirely different from the former apartheid regime in South Africa, where a small white ruling class massively exploited the black population. Israel’s aim, however, is not exploitation – more like mass expulsion. It wants to ethnically cleanse the occupied territories and get rid of all Palestinians.

Funnily enough, among the speakers at the PSC event was former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a keen defender of the policy of ‘zero tolerance’. He and Momentum founder Jon Lansman were the key people in Jeremy Corbyn’s team responsible for the disastrous tactic of trying to appease the right by apologising over and over again for the myriad of false and weaponised claims that the party was overrun by anti-Semites. The PSC meeting went ahead with the shortened title, but it would have been very ironic if McDonnell had become a victim of the anti-Semitism smear campaign after all.

It is, of course, not just Keir Starmer who has bent over backwards to the pro-Israel agenda of the establishment. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham allegedly tried to force the cancellation of a Unite Palestine solidarity conference fringe event. But, because she did not seem to have the guts to have her name attached to such an attack on free speech, the meeting went ahead unchallenged.[4]

Touching calls

After conference, Starmer and his enforcer, general secretary David Evans, turned up the heat some more. On October 11, Starmer stated that he backs Israel’s decision to cut water, food and medicine supplies to Gaza – “Israel has that right”, he repeatedly said, before ‘clarifying’ that, “obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has the right to defend herself”.[5] Well, you can’t have it both ways. Punishing a civilian population is clearly a war crime, as defined by the Geneva Convention. But international law is clearly very stretchy.

Jeremy Corbyn too has issued almost touching calls for “peace”, “moral principles” and for politicians to “defend international law universally and equally”.[6] He seems to believe in some form of neutral and just ‘international law’ that stands above all the squabbles in the world. If only it was enforced properly. No, Jeremy, just think about who has written ‘international law’ or indeed enforces it and to what purpose. The war against Iraq was entirely legal – they just made up a bunch of lies to make it just about acceptable at the time. The US government, the EU and virtually all western imperialist governments are unequivocally supporting Israel – and have been for decades. Why on earth appeal to such laws and organisations?

Then, on October 13, Labour general secretary David Evans sent an email to all constituency and branch secretaries warning that MPs, councillors and other representatives should not take part in any of the pro-Palestine demonstrations that were taking place the next day:

Elected representatives have been given strong advice not to attend any of these events, and I would urge you to exercise similar caution. Not only is this in the interests of our members’ safety, but also to avoid placing colleagues in a position where they may share a platform with, or are close to, individuals that threaten to undermine the values and principles of the Labour Party.

In the event that individual members are in attendance at these protests and demonstration, I ask that no Labour Party banners are taken along. Individuals will not have the ability to control who they will be photographed alongside, and this risks threatening the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against any form of racism and discrimination.

The email further outlines that “attempts to table motions at meetings that are prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party and risk infringing the Labour Party’s Codes of Conduct on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” will, “consistent with previous precedent, be ruled out of order”.

And, just to make sure that nobody gets away with any such nonsense or has posted something online “detrimental to the party”, the email reminds the snitchers of just how to snitch: “If you or someone else considers that a Labour Party member has breached our rules, this should be reported to us here …”[7]

It was, of course, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn that such ‘guidance’ emails started to come in thick and fast. His general secretary, Jennie Formby, was so keen to be seen to implement the demands of the pro-Zionist lobby that she sent out numerous emails ‘advising’ members not to pass motions, for example, against the witch-hunt or in support of Chris Williamson, who was the only Labour MP who dared to stand up to the vicious campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Overly eager branch and CLP secretaries and regional officers (most of them on the right, although there were not a few official ‘lefts’ among them) were only too happy to interpret the advice as outright ‘bans’. Labour Against the Witchhunt did a good job explaining the facts,[8] but many members were too scared to stand in solidarity with their smeared and vilified comrades. That was the point of it all, of course: self-censorship.

And, boy, does it work! It worked under Corbyn, when Labour left campaigns like the short-lived Don’t Leave, Organise and Howard Beckett’s even shorter-lived Labour Left for Socialism refused to associate publicly with anybody who had been expelled or suspended from the party. Needless to say, this policy helped to lead to their quick demise, especially after people like Beckett were themselves suspended.

And it continues to work now: I have not heard of a single Labour MP addressing any of the Palestine demonstrations around the country. They all seem to have toed the party line. A bunch of cowards the lot of them – especially the so-called Campaign Group of Socialist MPs. Their only effort so far has been an early day motion condemning Hamas and echoing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire. We know many of them are strong supporters of Palestine, but they probably feel even stronger about their own careers.

And, because the campaign to smear all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic was so successful in the Labour movement, it quickly spread beyond it. It was not designed to get rid of Corbyn – that was just a very welcome side effect from the point of view of the Zionist lobby. The key aim was always to prepare for exactly the situation we are currently witnessing: Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing going into overdrive.

But the campaign in the Labour Party and the left’s appeasement certainly helped to prepare the ground for today, where critics of Israel can be gotten rid of in record time. Innocent until proven guilty? Forget it. Now the smallest whiff of alleged anti-Semitism (actually anti-Zionism) is enough to get people suspended, sacked, their livelihoods ruined.

Just in the last week, there have been dozens of examples that show how the right to free speech has been hollowed out in the attempt of the establishment to back Israel hook, line and sinker:

More victims

  • Cartoonist Steve Bell has just lost his job at The Guardian. The paper confirmed that it “will not be renewing his contract” after he submitted what they claim is an anti-Semitic cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu. It shows Israel’s leader operating on his own stomach with boxing gloves on: the cut is in the outline of the Gaza Strip. Bell says his artwork was inspired by a famous cartoon of David Levine showing US president Lyndon Johnson with an operation scar on his belly in the shape of Vietnam. The Guardian, however, does not believe him. Oversensitised like all bourgeois media outlets, it has taken the cartoon to be a reference to the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, who demands “a pound of flesh” of Antonio’s if a loan is not repaid within three months. That seems to be quite a stretch, to put it mildly.
  • On October 16, former British ambassador and journalist Craig Murray was arrested at the airport by UK security forces under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, on his return from Iceland. His phone, laptop and other electronics were seized and he “doesn’t expect he will get them back”. He said he was questioned about his attendance at the Palestine demo in Iceland. He was also questioned about his involvement in the Assange campaign and “whether he is paid for such work”.[9] Inconvenient campaigners and journalists like Kit Klarenberg have similarly been detained in recent months.
  • Ofcom has just suspended its online safety director, Fadzai Madzingira, after the vile website, Guido Fawkes, published screenshots from her private Instagram account, in which she called Israel an “apartheid state” and wrote: “As if it wasn’t bad enough already, the UK is also set to participate in the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians. Shame on this vile colonial alliance. #freepalestine.” [10]
    It is difficult to imagine that any employment tribunal would not dismiss these posts as a valid form of free expression. But Madzingira’s career prospects are certainly looking gloomy after such an exposure.
  • After a fire alarm went off during a pro-Palestine rally at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the university suspended a number of students who took part in the demonstration. Later, members of the Palestine Society “that were not present at the rally were issued formal warnings through disciplinaries by the university, demonstrating this is a targeted act of political repression against the Palestine Society”.[11]
  • Even more seriously, counter-terrorism police in Brighton have arrested Palestinian Hanin Barghouti, an elected women’s officer at the University of Sussex students’ union, for the speech she gave at a pro-Palestine demonstration the day after Hamas’s attack. This is what she said:

Yesterday was a victory. For freedom fighters to break out of a 15-year blockade so successfully under the inhuman genocide of Israel was so beautiful and inspiring to see. It shows the world that we will always fight and always resist and we need to celebrate these acts of resistance, because this was a success. Revolutionary violence initiated by Palestinians is not terrorism – it is self-defence.[12]

Communists would disagree with calling the Hamas attack “a victory” or particularly “beautiful” – but clearly, this is a young Palestinian woman deeply moved by what has just happened in her home country. It would be absolutely appalling to charge her with ‘an act of terrorism’.

However, worse is probably still to come. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has announced his plans to “withdraw visas and deport anybody who commits hate crimes or supports Hamas”.[13] Seeing as “aggressively waving” or “wearing” the Palestinian flag could – according to Suella Braverman’s letter to the police[14] – now be constructed as proof of support for Hamas, that is a pretty low threshold. Some backbench MPs have called for pro-Palestine demonstrations to be banned altogether, “as in other countries” – though Braverman and co will probably be aware that that would guarantee a record turnout at such events.













[13]. i News October 15.


Not much left of the left

So many rival projects and not a serious idea amongst the lot of them. A week ahead of the Liverpool conference, Carla Roberts looks at what little remains of the once mighty Corbyn movement

The soft left has been in political and organisational disarray for some time, but its lack of purpose is perhaps symbolically expressed by the ‘Stop Starmer’ campaign.

Supported on Zoom by a number of individuals linked to the Not the Andrew Marr show, it has organised a protest for October 7, the day before the start of Labour Party conference – not in Liverpool, mind, where the conference will take place, but outside Sir Keir Starmer’s constituency office in London. The campaign is supposed to “bring people together who oppose the Labour leader” and “highlight the danger of a Starmer government”. Apparently, Starmer is “the most untrustworthy political leader this country has seen”.[1]

Quite a statement. But is Starmer really worse than the notorious liar, Boris Johnson? What about Tony Blair, who launched a war against Iraq based on outright lies? Or Winston Churchill, the guy who sent the army and tanks against striking miners in Wales? To paraphrase Harry Truman: show me a politician, and I’ll show you a crook.

Yes, Keir Starmer was the one who had to do the dirty work of cleansing the Labour Party after its infection with Corbynism. Would Yvette Cooper have been doing a less nasty job? Wouldn’t she have jumped on the anti-Semitism smear campaign to weed out the left? Would David Lammy not have grasped the opportunity to suspend Corbyn and his allies in the Parliamentary Labour Party? Would Andy Burnham have stopped short of proscribing critical organisations like Labour Against the Witchhunt? We know the answer.


It seems some of the organisers of this campaign feel personally hurt that Starmer has broken some of his lame promises – which he was clearly never going to deliver anyway. Starmer is not acting the way he is out of some personal spite or because he is a particularly nasty specimen of a human being. He is showing the ruling class that the Labour Party can once again be trusted to be a loyal servant of capital. Labour’s contradictory nature as a bourgeois workers’ party means that on this or that occasion it is pulled to the left – and after Corbyn, Starmer is now pulling it back to where it normally is, on the right. In other words what the mainstream media calls the ‘centre-left’. Starmer is a typical former state apparat, he comes from the left in his youth but long ago saw the light and reconciled himself to serving, not opposing the system. True, given where the world is at the moment he will probably be the most rightwing Labour PM in history. But the same goes for any other realistic alternative Labour candidate for the job. To pretend otherwise is to misunderstand what the Labour Party is and, worse, how capitalism as a system works.

In any case, socialists should never blindly ‘trust’ any ‘political leaders’. We should always critically engage and question whoever is leading working class organisations. Otherwise we are building up messiahs who have to be followed unquestioningly – a feature we see far too often on the left. Many organisations foster a culture of blind obedience, which will produce nothing but sects. A healthy working class party needs discussion and debate and a culture of free speech, where ideas can be challenged and contested. Otherwise it will wither away and die, sooner or later. And the ‘Stop Starmer’ campaign is a sign of the demoralised Corbyn left taking the short road to oblivion.

The main problem of the campaign is obviously the lack of any kind of political outlook that goes beyond ‘anyone but Starmer’. Who then? Another Labour leader? A different party? What kind of party? With what programme? This lack of a positive perspective of any kind – let alone a socialist one – has allowed all sorts of flotsam and jetsam to support the campaign. At the launch event in Conway Hall in September, for example, decent socialists like Andrew Feinstein and Audrey White rubbed shoulders with the Brexiteer and Ukip ally, George Galloway, who was able to advertise his national-chauvinist Workers Party of Britain. That is very much the opposite of useful.

The campaign is loosely linked to the snappily titled Organise Corbyn-Inspired Socialist Alliance, (OCISA)[2], which wants to stand a candidate against Starmer in his constituency of Holborn and St Pancras at the next general election on the basis of, you guessed it, the Labour Party’s 2017 manifesto. Like so many, those comrades are labouring under the illusion that it was this reformist programme in itself that inspired hundreds of thousands to support the Labour Party under Corbyn.

It seems unlikely that many of them actually read the rather turgid and dull document (which did not mention key issues like the monarchy or electoral reform, just constitutional tinkering). It was the prospect of some kind of ‘change’, however small, that excited many – and Corbyn seemed to have it within his reach to effect such change. Some local anti-cuts activist, no matter how deserving, standing on the same programme will be lucky to get more than 100 votes. Both campaigns are designed to fail, meaning that we will end up with something that is not exactly what the left needs: yet more demoralisation.

For the Many

You cannot blame Ken Loach for not trying – here he is, once again, doing his best to get some kind of organisation off the ground. He helped to launch Left Unity in 2013, which quickly went into hibernation after Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015. Loach joined the party and turned his back on LU, which is now involved in the new organisation, Transform. Transform also includes the Breakthrough Party, the Liverpool Community Independents and the People’s Alliance of the Left (which in turn counts the Northern Independence Party and the Socialist Party’s Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition among its affiliates). Transform, which wants to become a party, will be officially launched on November 25 in Nottingham. For the Many, which describes itself as a “network”, will be launched on October 9 during the Labour conference. If any reader knows of any substantial political differences between those two outfits, I would be keen to hear about them.

Quite why Ken Loach is not backing Transform is slightly opaque and seems to be down to the personalities involved. Many of the organisers who are driving Loach’s project are based in Liverpool – where the Community Independents are despised by much of the more principled left. The eight former Labour councillors at the core of LCI might have voted against budget cuts on Liverpool council, but they also voted in favour of the arms fair and kept their mouths firmly shut during the anti-Semitism smear campaign. Alan Gibbons even helped push the witch-hunt when he was running Momentum under the constitution written by pro-Zionist Jon Lansman, according to which anybody expelled from the Labour Party had to be expelled from Momentum. In a classic and predictable turn of events, he was ‘let go’ from Momentum himself when the witch-hunters eventually came for him.

We hear there are ongoing and quite heated arguments over whether For the Many should reference Corbyn. Some participants have objected, we hear, not because of any political differences – but because he comes with the ‘anti-Semitism’ baggage. I would have thought that naming the organisation after his 2017 manifesto would be a bit of a giveaway, as is the involvement of his wife, Laura Alvarez. But perhaps some people can be fooled some of the time that way.

For the Many describes itself as a “grassroots alliance seeking to unite the left, based on 2016-19 Labour principles, through a network for communication and coordination”. Presumably “grassroots” here refers to a number of individuals who were meeting behind closed doors to set up the new formation over the last few months (rather than the organisations involved in Transform, who were doing the same behind a set of different closed doors). Apart from Loach and Alvarez, the other leading people involved are Andrew Feinstein (a former minister under Nelson Mandela), Audrey White (Merseyside Pensioners Association) and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi (Jewish Voice for Labour). I would not describe them as ‘grassroots’ in any sense.

We have yet to see any programme or political statement from For the Many (if it indeed goes beyond Corbyn’s manifestoes), but if the organisers are too scared to deal with the anti-Semitism smear campaign head on then it will be of very limited value. After all, the campaign to conflate anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is continuing to grow and has spread from the Labour movement into workplaces, town halls, schools and universities.

This kind of debate also shows that some people have learned very little from the witch-hunt in the Labour Party. Appeasing the right and their smears, lies and slanders will not make us stronger – it will help our enemies, those we have to fight politically. Beyond taking on the witch-hunt, we would argue for any new organisation to have a clear socialist programme. And by that we do not mean motherhood, apple pie and platitudes, but a Marxist programme that takes the fight for political democracy seriously.


Unsurprisingly this is something that Transform, with its 10 short ‘core principles’, does not do.[3] It does not even reach the dazzling heights of Corbyn’s manifestoes. It wants to be a “left party” – not a socialist one. There is only one reference to socialism in the widest sense: it claims that Transform “is eco-socialist, supporting transformative political, social and economic change in order to build a truly sustainable world and achieve climate justice” (my emphasis). It wants to “redistribute wealth and power from the elite to the people” – a classic Lassallean formulation that Marx famously riled against. Marxists do not fight for ‘fairness’, ‘justice’ or a more equal distribution (or the even stranger ‘redistribution’) – they fight for the working class to become the ruling class, which owns and controls the means of production.

Having set up The World Transformed after Corbyn’s election, Momentum is now merely one of the 33 ‘partners’ of this annual jamboree, which runs parallel to the Labour Party conference and has absolutely no impact on it. As always, it will be snazzily and expensively produced and has a worthy, if slightly dull, programme, with lots of ‘can do’ workshops, films and speeches by big names (Jeremy Corbyn and Jamie Driscoll among them). It is going nowhere politically, but that is exactly the point of this festival, which has taken on a life of its own. A bit of harmless fun.

Momentum itself is still trying to find its feet in the post-Corbyn labour movement. It recently reconfirmed the Lansman rule that only Labour Party members can join. Non-Labour members (including those suspended or expelled in the witch-hunt) may become “Momentum movement builders” and may support the organisation financially, etc – but without having a vote or any say.[4] Not exactly a very attractive proposition and, unsurprisingly, Momentum provides no membership figures nowadays.

Momentum excited

It has clubbed together with what remains of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy to stand a couple of ‘joint slates’ in the various internal Labour elections coming up during and after conference. Both will also inform delegates via text messages and emails about they should be voting at conference. I would venture a guess that sooner or later those two organisations will merge – probably when enough people remember that they still have a subscription to Momentum and cancel it.

There is, however, no sense of any kind of fightback. The only thing Momentum has been getting slightly excited about is the planned abolition of the ‘equality roles’ for disabled, black and gay members in Constituency Labour Parties, proposed by Labour’s national executive committee. Of course, this is an attack from the right on what remains of the left, but we should seriously question how useful these positions really are.

In truth they are a patronising way to show that ‘we are taking the issue seriously’. Often, the opposite is the case: it leaves such matters to the ‘equality officer’ rather than making them into questions for the whole CLP. They are a reflection of the dead end of ID politics, where what you are is far more important than what you believe in or fight for.

Momentum disagrees, of course: “We must stop this – and we can!”, it proclaims in an email to anybody on its database: “To come into force, the rule change needs to be passed at Labour conference on Sunday 8th October. We urge all Labour Party stakeholders to reject this rule change on the conference floor.” If the petition on the subject is anything to go by, there is not a chance of that happening.[5] Although this is right up the street of the official Labour left, it has gathered a less than impressive 835 signatories. A figure which tells us everything about the current state of the official Labour left – and, of course, Momentum itself.

[1]. Morning Star September 5 2023.





Still getting it wrong

Diane Abbott has finally spoken out on Labour’s ‘fraudulent’ disciplinary process. But, asks Carla Roberts, is Sir Keir’s refusing to allow her to stand as a Labour candidate the result of racism?

It has been just over five months since Diane Abbott MP was suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party for her crass letter to The Observer, in which she wrote that Jewish people, travellers and “redheads” – basically anybody who is not black – “are not all their lives subject to racism”. Instead she claimed they are only subject to the lesser “prejudice” and in the process equated the persecution and mass extermination of Jewish people with the teasing experienced by redheads.

Of course, Labour leader Sir Starmer was quick to pounce on one of the few remaining Corbyn supporters in parliament. Abbott immediately and humbly apologised, blaming some computer mishap that allegedly sent a half-finished letter. (We very much doubt the other half would have been any better.)

Some on the left believe that Abbott should not have been criticised for her Observer letter, because showing ‘real solidarity’ demands that we do so uncritically. Kevin Bean’s article in the Weekly Worker at the time was widely criticised for ‘attacking’ Abbott.[1] What nonsense. Of course, we continue to oppose her suspension, as all socialists should. But we do so critically, because her letter, quite frankly, was a lot of ahistorical and apolitical nonsense. A reflection of the dire identity politics that remains popular on the left, despite the fact that it so obviously weakens and splits our class into smaller and smaller groups defined by colour, sex, gender, etc.

By reducing racism to simply a question of skin colour, Abbott drew on the very same ideas of a ‘hierarchy of racism’ that her letter was ostensibly designed to counter. It is just that Keir Starmer has got the pyramid the wrong way around, you see.

Abbott was, of course, correct to state that the trans-Atlantic slave trade and apartheid in South Africa were ideologically justified on the basis of biological racism. However, the same must be said of the oppression of Irish Catholics by the British colonial authorities, and Jews – above all under the Hitler regime. Indeed, Ireland was radically depopulated through a socially caused famine and an imperial neglect that justified itself on the basis that the ‘Africanoid’ Irish were inferior compared to the fine, upstanding Anglo-Saxons. The Nazis exterminated between four and eight million Jews … along with millions of Roma, Sinti, Slavs, homosexuals and Soviet POWs by putting mass killing onto an industrial footing.

Today, Romany gypsies and Irish travellers too, while they appear to Abbott as just another type of white people, are clearly and seriously disadvantaged when it comes to poverty, education, health, life expectancy, mental illness, etc. They are undoubtedly subject to overt racism by politicians, the media, the police and often also the local population that has been whipped up into vigorously opposing the setting up even of temporary camps in their neighbourhood.

Reading through Abbott’s September 19 statement[2] published on the social media platform, ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), it becomes clear that she continues to view politics chiefly through the prism of race – and herself. At no point does she try to link her suspension from the PLP to the wider witch-hunt and the anti-Semitism smear campaign. She writes:

The internal Labour Party disciplinary against me is fraudulent. The Labour Party has not charged me with anti-Semitism because they know it is untrue. As somebody who has fought all forms of racism all my life, I would consider it a very serious allegation. Instead, it has been used to smear me, my reputation, and decades of anti-racist work.

Before her

Her – and hundreds before her, of course. Why did she not speak out when others were falsely smeared as anti-Semites – at a time when it still could have made a difference? What about the disciplinary process, when it comes to Tony Greenstein, Chris Williamson and black activists Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth? Was that non-fraudulent? What about the hundreds who have since been publicly smeared as anti-Semites, often because they dared to criticise Israel? What about the bans and proscriptions? What about those who have been expelled because they ‘liked’ a social media post by Labour Against the Witchhunt? The list goes on, as we all know.

“I am the longest serving black MP,” she writes. “Yet there is widespread sentiment that, as a black woman, and someone on the left of the Labour Party, I will not get a fair hearing from this Labour leadership.”

At least there is some small recognition here (the only one in her statement) that her suspension might have something to do with the fact that she is on the “left”. But the “yet” implies that she believes she should have been treated differently to others on the left, because she is the “longest serving black MP”. Perhaps that is the reason why she “remained silent about this issue until now”. This was “in the hope that “some sense of decency and recognition of the tenets of natural justice might prevail”.

So she did not say anything before, because she thought, when it comes to herself, a black woman, a different set of criteria would apply, compared to the hundreds of others who have been vilified, smeared and persecuted? That is either extremely naive or extremely presumptuous.

In any case, Abbott – just like the rest of the entirely useless Socialist Campaign Group of MPs – in the main kept her mouth firmly shut. Instead of at least trying to take on the right, the official Labour left continues to this day to appease it, begging for forgiveness for the entirely fake ‘mass anti-Semitism problem’ of the party. In reality, it was exactly this silence and apologia that has allowed the witch-hunt to take hold, fester and become as successful as it is today. Corbyn and his allies showed their enemies exactly where they should best be attacked. The SCG is now so weak that Starmer can pick the remaining ‘left’ MPs off one by one, with little or no opposition.

As a result, not only has the left inside the Labour Party been crushed, but the campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism continues to grow and poison all areas of society – in the media, schools, universities, town halls, political parties, national governments and the European parliament.

The truth is that Diane Abbott’s suspension has nothing to do with anti-Semitism or indeed the colour of her skin. No, withdrawing the whip from Diane Abbott is just the latest round in Sir Keir Starmer’s campaign to show the ruling class that he really is a man they can trust. With talk of the next general election taking place in May 2024, Starmer will want to make sure that there is no chance of Abbott – or Jeremy Corbyn for that matter – coming back onto Labour’s benches.

Replace me

The question is, why does Abbott go public now, after having kept quiet for so long? It appears it has to do with her prospect of being re-elected to parliament – or, more precisely, the lack of such a prospect. Abbott believes that the shutting down of her local CLP’s executive committee and replacement of its principal officers has less to do with the recent conviction for paedophilia of the election agent of Meg Hillier (MP for the neighbouring constituency of Hackney South) and the “relevant child safeguarding issues” posed by “members in both constituencies” – but was merely done in order to “replace me as the candidate prior to the next election”. Perhaps, perhaps not.

But it seems to have dawned on her at last that Starmer will indeed not make any kind of exception for her or let her off with a slap on the wrist. “Others have committed far more grave offences,” she complains, yet they “have been immediately excused as supporters of this leadership”. A rather weak defence, you would think, but the Morning Star editorial of September 21 makes the same point – listing various unpunished “offences” by rightwing MPs:

The racism is blatant once the record under Starmer is considered. Shadow cabinet member Steve Reed accused a Jewish businessman of being a ‘puppet master.’ He apologised – no sanction. Veteran backbench MP Barry Sheerman speculated about a ‘run on silver shekels’ when two Jewish businessmen did not get a peerage. He apologised, referencing his long support for Labour Friends of Israel – no sanction …

The editorial continues:

It may be as relevant that they are factional allies of the Starmer regime, which is also trying to hound Jeremy Corbyn and Jamie Driscoll out of office. But the racism in the difference in treatment is unanswerable.

Factional – yes, obviously. But racist? Really? It is now commonplace for many on the left to accuse Starmer and the Labour Party of ‘institutional racism’. Anti-black racism, obviously – not anti-Semitism, as the accusation against Corbyn went. The Forde Report, many claim, exposed such institutional racism. Wrong. Martin Forde KC wrote that Labour was “in effect operating a hierarchy of racism or of discrimination” and that it was not taking accusations of anti-black racism or Islamophobia as seriously as allegations of anti-Semitism.[3]

We all know why, of course. Those allegations were inflated and weaponised, because that is the stick with which to beat Corbyn. Many on the left now see their job of reclaiming the said “hierarchy of racism” – but with anti-black racism on top. Diane Abbott’s Observer letter is a (not very sophisticated) reflection of that widespread adherence to ID politics (‘My experience of racism is worse than yours’).

The boring truth is that the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer is not institutionally racist. Just as it was not anti-Semitic under Jeremy Corbyn. As a party with a membership of hundreds of thousands, of course, there is no doubt there will be a small minority of racists (and anti-Semites), reflecting what exists in wider society. But does that mean that either the leadership or the mass of Labour activists are racist?

It is absurd to claim that the straight-laced Starmer, who is going out of his way to show that he is capable of running ‘multicultural’ British capitalism without rocking the boat, would do so by running the Labour Party in a racist manner. Black and British-Asian members of the shadow cabinet, over 40 Labour MPs from “ethnic minority” backgrounds[4] and a commitment to official anti-racism paint a rather different picture.

Of course, what goes unquestioned is national chauvinism, unity around British red, white and blue nationalism, pursuing our national interests and loyalty to the UK monarchical constitution. But then most of the official Labour left share that exact same outlook which amongst them simply passes for common sense.

[1]. ‘Race, prejudice and stupidity’ Weekly Worker April 27:




Sir Keir’s abstention disgrace

Labour’s official left either meekly followed orders or stayed away – there were less than a dozen rebels. David Porter reports

Last week’s second reading of the Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill tells us a great deal about the dire state of politics in Britain – whether in the form of the first eleven of capitalism, the Tories, or the second eleven, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

The bill is designed to stop public bodies like local councils and universities boycotting Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In other words it is an attempt to kill off the campaign for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions, which so infuriates the Israeli government and all those who support the Zionist settler-colonial project. Naturally enough the charge is that BDS is anti-Semitic, anti-Zionism being routinely equated with anti-Semitism nowadays. This was all quite evident during the parliamentary debate, when Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the proposed legislation, repeatedly smeared opponents of the Israeli state, including the left. He even claimed that anti-Semitic “events” increase after the activities of the BDS movement, “including”, apparently, “supermarkets removing kosher products from their shelves following specific protests.”

Doubtless true, if those kosher products were made in the occupied West Bank. But nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism. In the same way supermarkets might well have removed South African products from their shelves after anti-apartheid protests. Does that mean, however, that the anti-apartheid movement was anti-white? No, no, no, the suggestion is as stupid as it is outrageous.

Although the bill’s provisions are all of a piece with recent Tory attempts to limit democratic rights and narrow the room for political protest, it is done, of course, in the name of combating racism and promoting community cohesion. Compared with Winston Churchill, Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher, a sort of progress. The Tories are all for combating racism and for community cohesion now – well, apart from blaming migrants for the NHS crisis, the housing shortage, the lack of school places and wanting to send them to Rwanda or lock them up on giant prison barges.

But there is an even bigger hypocrisy: it is Israel.

Here is what UN rapporteurs have repeatedly called an apartheid state. Zionism being a colonialist ideology and therefore a form of racism in its own right, because the original inhabitants of the land have to be oppressed, driven out and replaced. Even within Israel proper the Arab population is subject to second class status and faces systemic, racist, discrimination. Israel, is after all, a Jewish state for Jewish people – not for all its citizens. But what does Gove care about that? He and the Tory government are out to legitimise a greater Israel and delegitimise any opposition to what is a Zionist one-state solution.

There was a possible parliamentary bonus too: wrong-footing Labour. By voting for the proposed legislation, Labour agrees that BDS really is anti-Semitic; by voting against, the party shows that it remains as ‘anti-Semitic’ as it was alleged to be under Jeremy Corbyn. In the end the Labour leadership got off that hook rather easily. Lisa Nandy claimed the bill “drove a coach and horses” through the necessity of distinguishing between Israel proper and the occupied territories and therefore ran counter to the so-called two-state solution. Labour tabled a killer amendment and, when that predictably failed, abstained on the second-reading.

But, both in the days preceding the debate and during the debate itself, the official leadership line was to repeat their objections to BDS and to generally support the government’s position: identifying opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism. Given that Starmer had promised to ‘cleanse’ Labour of the non-existent ‘widespread anti-Semitism’, and the Labour right more generally had utilised arguments similar to those of Gove against the Labour left, how could it be otherwise?

Amidst these parliamentary games, however, the main reason for the Labour leadership’s position became clear. The debate showed that the big lie that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is more than just an effective weapon with which to beat the left: Starmer’s explicit pro-Zionism, combined with the usual cant about the entirely bogus two-state solution, is both a practical and symbolic demonstration of Labour’s renewed commitment both to the foreign policy of British capitalism and to the global hegemon, the United States.

Support for Palestinian rights was an important issue during the Corbyn period: passing critical conference motions against the occupation and delegates waving the Palestinian flag were an all too visible sign that Labour was unfit for government as far as the establishment was concerned. So, falling into line behind Israel is the absolute sine qua non to show that the ‘dangerous leftism’ of the Corbyn period is now a thing of the past and that normal service in British politics has been well and truly resumed.

Second eleven

At exactly the same time as last week’s parliamentary debate, Israeli forces were carrying out an air and ground onslaught against the Palestinian population of Jenin, with the aim of crushing any resistance to the occupation. This resulted in at least 12 Palestinian deaths, hundreds of injuries, and widespread damage. Far from condemning these attacks and expressing political solidarity with the Palestinian people, rightwing Labour MPs, as expected, lined up with the Tory apologists for the Israeli state in making false accusations against the BDS campaign and its supporters.

Also, as expected, the official parliamentary Labour left proved incoherent and ineffective. In the last few weeks, after a long period of largely keeping heads down, a few voices, such as John McDonnell, have become a little louder in complaining about the intolerance and the internal lack of accountability under the Starmer leadership. Some have speculated that the previous silence had been a cunning plan to lay low in the hope that, in the event that Labour has only a small majority after the election (say 20 or 30 MPs), this will give left MPs a much greater influence over the direction of government policy.

Leaving aside the ifs and buts, and the likelihood of a general election being at least a year off, this brilliant plan is clearly an example of wishful thinking. After all, Sir Keir and his apparatchiks are ready, waiting and wanting to suspend and disbar any left MPs for no matter how trivial an offence. Hence, while there are some 30 MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group today, after the next general election there will be far, far, fewer of them. Meanwhile, though, the cunning plan provides a much needed excuse for being good boys and girls and doing nothing too naughty.

The official left’s response to the anti-BDS bill, its role in the parliamentary debate and division, show just how ineffective it has become. A few left MPs spoke – not least Jeremy Corbyn, who, though still a Labour member, sits as an independent. He denounced this “truly appalling piece of legislation” and made the telling point that “the bill would have made it impossible to campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and would also ban any effort by public bodies to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen”[1] (echoing the legal advice from Richard Hermer KC, given to, but ignored by, Starmer,).

However, the SCG as a whole played no organised role, and, when it came to the vote, the bulk of those going through the ‘no’ lobby were SNPers, dissident Tories and other odds and sods: most of the SCG either abstained, in line with the official whip instructions, or absented themselves.[2] Only 10 of the 70 noes came from Labour Party MPs. Where were Diane Abbott, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Richard Burgon and Bell Ribeiro-Addy?

Some justifications for the poor showing of the official left have been made following the vote, such as: pressing business elsewhere; and the argument that this was only a second reading, with the main division coming on the third reading. Pathetic apologetics. Given the political and symbolic importance of this bill, especially in the week of the Israeli attack on Jenin, you would have thought that even a moderately engaged left MP would have been stirred into enough life to turn up to vote. So much for the principled fighters for Palestinian rights and so much for an effective left opposition to the pro-imperialist politics of Keir Starmer! If genuine supporters of the Palestinian people and real partisans of militant politics are looking for a lead, they will obviously not find it in the SCG.



Open for business

Starmer is determined to display his loyalty to big business, the state and the Atlantic alliance by purging what is already a totally marginalised and useless official left. But, asks Carla Roberts, what if Jeremy Corbyn stood as an independent?

Sir Keir Starmer was quick off the starting blocks after the misnamed ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ report predictably cleared the Labour Party of the “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” it had allegedly been guilty of under Jeremy Corbyn. He announced that Corbyn would not be standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election.

For the EHRC, Sir Keir’s “action plan to drive out anti-Semitism” (also known as his purge of the left) has apparently done the trick! Sure, it took a redefinition of what anti-Semitism actually is: instead of ‘hostility against Jews’ (which very, very few Labour Party members could be convicted of), it is now almost universally understood as ‘criticism of Israel’.

The EHRC is, of course, far from independent – nor very much interested in human rights, for that matter. It is a deeply partisan body whose members are appointed by the government, and it is now firmly in Tory hands. Corbyn should have told the EHRC to get lost when it first launched its investigation of Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ back in 2019 when he was still leader. But his active cooperation was yet another symptom of his futile campaign to appease the right. It is quite astonishing that he continued to pursue this strategy to the bitter end. Even in his final moments as leader, Corbyn sought to reward deputy leader Tom Watson with a seat in the House of Lords, though this witch-hunter continued to stab him in the back.

With the EHRC’s clean bill of health in his back pocket, Starmer moved to his coup de grâce. When  asked if Corbyn will be a Labour candidate at the next election, Starmer bluntly pronounced: “Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for Labour at the next general election.”

The day before publication of the EHRC report, Starmer confidently wrote in The Times:

The changes we have made aren’t just fiddling around the edges or temporary fixes. There are those who don’t like that change, who still refuse to see the reality of what had gone on under the previous leadership. To them I say in all candour: we are never going back. If you don’t like it, nobody is forcing you to stay.[1]

As most of those members who actively and loudly supported Corbyn have now been expelled, suspended or have simply resigned in disgust, it does beg the question: who was he talking about? The few ‘leftwing’ MPs in the Socialist Campaign Group have clearly given up the fight. Showing up on a picket line is the most radical thing that some of them are prepared to do. But even that seems to be going too far for some of them: they have recently set up an alternative group entitled ‘New Left’, which so far acts as a group within the SCG.[2] The neo-Blairite undertone of their name surely cannot have escaped MPs like Clive Lewis, Dawn Butler, Sam Tarry and Nadia Whittome (the latter a fellow traveller of the pro-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty). Apparently, they model themselves on ‘The squad’ of politicians in the US, despite the fact that this opportunist quartet has pretty much collapsed.

As for Starmer, he was really talking to big business and the mainstream media, to those who used to love Tony Blair. He might not have the same alleged ‘charm’ and media savviness, but he is certainly a lot more brutal, when it comes to reshaping the party and purging the left, as shown by his decision to pursue five former Corbyn staffers in a civil case for leaking what was going to be Labour’s submission to the EHRC. The unredacted 860‑page report highlighted the right’s campaign against the Corbyn leadership (as well as that leadership’s appeasing efforts to push out Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker and others falsely accused of anti-Semitism). Even though this case might cost the party between £3-4 million, this is money well spent for Sir Keir. It signals that Labour is, once again, open for business. Starmer might have stood for Labour leader on the 2019 Corbynite manifesto, but he has certainly washed his hands of it now.


It is rather incredible that, at the same time, the official Labour left is still barking up the ‘unity’ tree. “The blame for this polarisation in the party lies with Starmer and his fixation on the left, while there is so much wrong in wider society,” says Mike Cowley on the dying Red Line TV show, which is loosely linked to the Labour Representation Committee. Why, oh why, can’t Labour concentrate its fire on the Tories instead of attacking the left?

Cowley is, of course, encapsulating the political outlook of the official Labour left, despite its obvious and painful failure in the last eight years. It is exactly such useless appeals for ‘unity’ that have led to Corbyn’s futile strategy of trying to appease the right rather than take it on.

Starmer’s ultimatum serves as a reminder that the Labour Party is still a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’. The party has trade union affiliates and still relies on hazy notions of class to get votes, but the right commits itself to maintaining the existing constitution and pursing common interests (read: the interests of capital). Of course, Starmer is doing his best to limit the damage caused by the presence of active socialists in Labour’s ranks to the carefully crafted pro-big business image. But the continued affiliation of the big trade unions, representing millions of workers, means that for now Labour remains an arena of the class struggle.

And no, that does not mean that communists believe that the class struggle can be decisively ‘won’ in the Labour Party and even less that socialism can somehow be realised through a vote in parliament. But, as should have become crystal-clear over the last eight years, the bourgeoisie did everything in its power to prevent a Corbyn government, which was clearly a manifestation of the class struggle.


In his bid to shift the party still further to the right, Starmer may well be investigating the possibility of yet more bans and proscriptions.

Momentum might well be put on the list, despite the fact that the organisation has loyally implemented the witch-hunt. Its founder, Jon Lansman, actively and eagerly participated in it and his various heirs and successors never strayed much from this path. To this day, they are continuing to implement the witch hunt in their own ranks. Momentum does not allow anyone to be a member who has been expelled from the Labour Party. They are harmless, loyal and entirely useless as an opposition. So they may be spared.

Ditto groups like the Labour Representation Committee and the even more ineffective Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. While the LRC somewhat flaccidly stood up to the witch-hunt, supporting this or that protest or open letter organised by the likes of Labour Against the Witchhunt and Jewish Voice for Labour, it is barely alive nowadays.

Red Line TV was perhaps the last spark of life emanating from that corpse and it is now “taking a break”. At its Kafkaesque AGMs, the LRC continues to elect John McDonnell as its president – the same man who has embraced the anti-Semitism smear campaign and goes on about “zero tolerance”. Naturally he did not raise the rafters when his old friend Graham Bash, editor of Labour Briefing, was expelled. President McDonnell used to write a monthly column … so presumably he is in Starmer’s cross-hairs.

CLPD guru, Barry Gray (also a leading member of the Stalinoid sect, Socialist Action), has given out the message that it is heads down for the next 10-15 years. The hope is that eventually some leftwing leader will come along and bring salvation. All the while he and his chums kept their silence as comrades were purged one by one. When founder-member, Pete Willsman, was suspended and then expelled in November 2022 (for – you guessed it – false claims of anti-Semitism) the CLPD looked the other way.

Jewish Voice for Labour, one of the few organisations that did dare to speak out, has been a likely candidate for proscription, but perhaps Starmer has been fearful of the obvious charge of anti-Semitism being made against him! It seems that JVL too has been struggling, as most of its members have themselves been suspended or expelled from the party. It does put such groups into an existentialist crisis – their whole political outlook is based on work in the Labour Party. It is not surprising that there is so much demoralisation on the left.

An anonymous “Labour figure” speculates on the Skwawkbox website that the Stop the War Coalition could be next on Starmer’s hit list, which, given the ‘withdraw your signatures of else’ instruction to the spineless SCG 11 back in February 2022, seems quite possible.[3] Jeremy Corbyn is deputy president alongside the Communist Party of Britain’s Andrew Murray. And, of course, StWC dares to criticise the US/Nato proxy war in Ukraine (even if it does so in a peacenik kind of way). Such a ban could lead to all sorts of Labour lefts being expelled, including Corbyn.


Many on the left are now pinning their hopes on Corbyn standing as an independent in Islington North. And, while he has chosen not to publicly speculate about such a move yet, the odds are that he would win, having served as the local and popular MP for over 40 years. It is unlikely though that Corbyn would receive any kind of support from the cowards in the Socialist Campaign Group. They much prefer saving their own stalled careers and keeping their heads down until it is time to cash in their lucrative parliamentary pensions.

Corbyn is also unlikely to form any kind of a political party, which is what many on the left urge him to do. That is rather surprising, considering that he was prepared to sacrifice hundreds of his own supporters in the witch-hunt, many of whom are still being vilified as anti-Semites in the national press. Reputations have been ruined and not a few livelihoods and careers badly affected. Thanks to the internet, this will be so for decades to come. But, incredibly, for many the man still seems to walk on water.

A Starmer government might take on the unions if they cause UK plc too much trouble over pay and conditions. A serious confrontation might see some big unions disaffiliating and forming a new version of the 1900 Labour Representation Committee. Should any such new kind of ‘broad left party’ emerge, communists would of course participate. It would be sectarian and stupid to do otherwise. But the main task remains fighting for a mass Communist Party l

[1]. The Times February 14.