The deeply worrying implications of Stan Keable’s victimisation by Hammersmith and Fulham Council must be a matter of grave concern not simply for comrades on the left of the Labour Party, but for all democrats, defenders of free speech and, indeed, those of us who simply believe it is legitimate to reference historical facts to make points about contemporary politics. Clearly, the witch-hunt in the Labour Party is spreading ever further into society and is now threatening people’s livelihoods.
Stan is the secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, a leading supporter of Labour Party Marxists and was a housing enforcer for the west London council for 17 unblemished years. He attended a counter-demonstration organised by the Jewish Voice for Labour to challenge the March 26 ‘Enough is Enough’ anti-Corbyn demo/provocation staged in Parliament Square by a coalition of rightwing Jewish organisations and a smattering treacherous Labour MPs. The comrade mingled with the anti-Corbyn crowd, distributing leaflets and engaging individuals in conversations – some calm and useful, others less so.
One of our comrade’s less edifying encounters was secretly recorded by the BBC Newsnight editor, David Grossman. In this, Stan can be seen briefly alluding to the well-documented (and uneasy) collaboration between the early Nazi regime and Zionists. (The same episode that Ken Livingstone has been crucified for citing.)
The next day, this snippet of Stan’s comments were splashed over the pages of scab rags like the Evening Standard, Jewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail. On Twitter, local Tory MP Greg Hands demanded action be taken against Stan and followed up with a letter to Steve Cowan, Labour’s leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Then, on April 21, a letter – which began with the warning that its content was “Strictly private and confidential”– informed our comrade that he was dismissed for the nebulous crime of having “brought the Council into disrepute”, a charge that was upheld when comrade Keable was dismissed a few weeks later after a hearing (“Disrepute” in who’s eyes? How does this verifiable 1930s episode bring shame on today’s Hammersmith and Fulham Council?)
To make matters worse, he was also let down by union Unison, which advised him to apologise instead of fighting the charges. When he refused that advise, they informed him that they would not represent him.
The logical implications of a ruling like this are deeply worrying:
- Comrades should read the full article of this exacting Weekly Worker commentary by Tony Greenstein (who defended Stan at the hearing), but one of the points he makes there is particularly worthwhile highlighting. The Council’s justifications for its actions state that Stain “failed to avoid” putting himself in ‘discredit’s way’, as it were, not only by “making the comments” that were splashed all over the rightwing media, but also by “attending [the JVL] counter-demonstration”! In other words, a part of Stan’s culpability lies in the fact that he attended this demonstration – he could have been Sphinx-like in his inscrutability on the day and still have breached the Council’s strictures simply by being present at the JVL event.
- This is made explicit later in the letter where – incredibly – we are told that “in attending a counter-demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 26 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct”! (Our emphasis) There is some slippery use of language here. Stan certainly aired his views on the March 26 actions, but the sensitive issue of Nazi-Zionist collaboration is not a viewpoint. It is a historical fact that people can have different interpretations of – but it did happen.
- Apparently however, citing this concrete historical fact equates to “offensive comments” according to Hammersmith and Fulham Council. And anything deemed to be “offensive” is – literally – unsayable. The infamous Berufsverbot was the name for given to a system under German law of automatic prohibition of entry into some professions. Originally introduced by the Nazis, it was widely used in West Germany after a 1972 decree to ban people with “radical” views from employment in the German civil service. (A wide category that included teachers, for example.) Although touted as a response to the reactionary armed actions of the miniscule Red Army Faction, it was used far more widely to deny employment to thousands of leftists.
Are we moving towards norm where it will be demanded of all job applicants: “Are you now, or have you ever been, an anti-Zionist?”
“Unison has withdrawn support because I rejected the bad advice of their regional organiser to plead guilty, throwing away the right to demonstrate and to freedom of speech – so I need funds for a barrister and potential legal costs to challenge my political victimisation at an employment tribunal, as well as for campaigning for reinstatement.
“My dismissal extends the McCarthyite witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party to the area of employment. Don’t let me be the first of many political sackings.
“Please give generously. Any surplus funds will be passed to Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) for campaigning.”