Tag Archives: Emily Thornberry

Labour Party conference 2018: Aspirations frustrated

Emily Thornberry posing left to justify the witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters was one of the many lowlights for Carla Roberts, who gives her impression of conference. 

It was a very successful conference – from the leadership’s point of view. It managed to put a lid on the huge disagreements over Brexit. The defeat of open selection has assured rightwingers that Jeremy Corbyn is not out to get them. And John McDonnell’s proposals for limited nationalisations and handing some workers some shares has persuaded even commentators in the mainstream press that Labour might be ‘onto something’. The Independent gushed that there

was something different about the Labour Party conference this year – something not seen perhaps for two decades… the party and its leader seemed to be, if not reconciled, at least prepared to unite in the common purpose of winning an election.

Is Labour under Corbyn finally safe for capitalism? Corbyn and his allies are certainly trying their hardest to give that impression. In that sense, conference has certainly shown very vividly the huge gap that exists now between the aspirations and the hopes of many members about what the Labour Party is and what it could achieve – and the attempts by the Labour leadership to steer the organisation into another direction altogether.

Take John McDonnell’s key speech, in which he outlined his plans for “true industrial democracy”. Companies employing more than 250 staff would have to pay 1% of their assets, or up to 10% of their shares, into an ‘inclusive ownership fund’. Although they would not be compelled to pay out dividends, McDonnell reckons that most companies would do so, which would mean up to £500 a year for perhaps 11 million workers.

Anything above £500 would be paid into a fund to help finance public services. McDonnell believes that would provide an extra £2 billion a year for the NHS, etc. Although he was trying to sell all this as being very radical, he was careful to emphasise that it was actually in the interests of capital too. You see, “employee ownership” is likely to increase “a company’s productivity” and encourage “long-term thinking”.

No wonder many bourgeois commentators seemed sympathetic to the idea. Because in reality there is nothing radical about such sub-John-Lewis-type schemes. They are designed to paper over the cracks of capitalism in decline. Far from empowering our class, the intention is to emphasise a ‘common interest’ with the capitalists – if we cooperate, both sides will benefit, right? That is why similar programmes have been introduced in several countries – often by rightwing parties. Surely if we have a share in the ownership of the company employing us, that will make us more likely to work alongside the bosses to help increase profits, won’t it? And it would not be a good idea to go on strike.

This scheme would be unlikely to make workers better off. It is obvious that funds diverted to shares for employees would have to be taken from somewhere – companies would argue that this additional cost would reduce their ability to increase wages.

McDonnell, of course, knows that workers and capitalists have no common interest and that, far from promoting a more cooperative form of capitalism, we need to establish our own system, based on production for need, not for profit. But now, instead of targeting the system of capital itself, he restricts his criticism to the “financial elite”.

When it came to the proposed public ownership of industries like water, energy, Royal Mail and the railways, McDonnell reiterated that this would not represent a “return to the past”. This time the nationalised sector would be “run democratically” – with workers’ representatives sitting alongside state appointees.

Despite this vision of a more ‘ethical’, participatory form of capitalism, McDonnell ended his speech by describing it as “socialism” – before shouting “Solidarity!” to the largely approving delegates.

While he might have won over most delegates and somecommentators in the political mainstream, the problem he and Corbyn have is that, no matter how much they go out of their way to reassure the establishment, the latter just does not buy it. It knows that, with their past record of siding with the workers, neither can be trusted to run the system.


The apparent ‘unity’ that was achieved over Brexit is also rather fragile. The key paragraph of the composited ‘super motion’ adopted at conference reads:

Should parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no deal, conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate general election that can sweep the Tories from power. If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remainingon the table, including campaigning for a public vote.

In other words, a continuation of the ‘studied ambiguity’ that has characterised the leadership’s position in the last two years. Not a bad tactic – from Corbyn’s point of view: let the Tories mess it up and then we’ll come to the ‘rescue’ (anything will look better than their shambles). Let’s not rule anything out, but let’s be as vague as we can in our proposals.

There is only slightly more emphasis in the motion on demanding a snap general election. The idea is obviously that Labour would win it. And then? Would a Labour government see through Brexit – or call a people’s vote? In fact, the motion clarifies nothing at all. There are clearly ongoing huge disagreements between those who insist on going ahead with Brexit and those who want a second referendum (in order to overturn the first one, of course).

Yet, if we read between the lines, there must have been some promises made to the proponents of the People’s Vote – otherwise, why would they support a motion that actually took out their key demand? They could have insisted on pushing an alternative motion on this key issue.

It seems that the proponents of a People’s Vote are actually rather aware of the fact that saying so – openly, now – would cost the party a huge number of votes (especially when there might be a snap election very soon). Poll after poll indicates that another referendum would lead to almost exactly the same 50-50 split in the population – and many ‘remainers’ would probably vote for the Liberal Democrats instead – at least they have been consistent in their message. So the plan seems to be to resuscitate this issue only when Labour is in office – trick people into voting Labour, in other words.

Of course, the main problem here is that Labour, as a party wedded to the British constitution, is incapable of breaking free from this false choice of ‘Brexit’ or ‘remain’. This also finds reflection in most of the Labour left, which feels it has to opt for one side or the other. However, few take it as far as the campaign, Another Europe is Possible, led by Luke Cooper (ex-Workers Power) and Michael Chessum (a supporter of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty). AWL members were busy at conference handing out hundreds of free T-shirts, canvas bags and campaign packs with the logo, ‘Hate Brexit, love Corbyn’. All financed by George Soros’s £70,000 donation to AEIP, we presume.

In his post-conference piece in The Guardian, Chessum says: “Corbyn must lead the ‘remain’ campaign with a vow to go into Europe and fight the elite.” Hmm, like George Soros, for example? Most capitalists want to remain in the European Union, of course, because it often makes it easier for them to make a buck. The left should stay well clear of such forces.

Unite and open selection

Unite leader Len McCluskey has taken much of the flak for the fact that the very popular demand for open selection – whereby current MPs are no longer automatically reselected – was defeated at conference and now cannot be discussed again until 2021, thanks to Labour’s undemocratic three-year rule.

To a degree, McCluskey deserves the stick he got, of course. At conference, he told anybody who would listen that he would instruct his delegates to vote in favour of mandatory reselection of parliamentary candidates – but only if that rule change reached conference floor. In the meantime though, he did everything to avoid exactly that.

Over 90% of CLP delegates wanted to hear (and presumably vote in favour of) the rule change moved by International Labour – but they were defeated by the almost solid union bloc vote. Clearly, some reform is needed here. The fight to democratise the Labour Party cannot be separated from the fight to democratise the trade unions. Trade union votes at conference should be cast not by general secretaries, but proportionately, according to the political balance in each delegation.

But, of course, as McCluskey explained, the union tops (apart from Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union) were only following the wishes of one Jeremy Corbyn:

These plans were presented with the full backingof Jeremy Corbyn at the NEC as a sensible and democratic way forward. I only regret that the leadership did not make that clearer at conference, since doing so would surely have taken much of the sting out of the debate, even if some delegates might have remained unhappy If Jeremy and his team – taking the overview of the entire political landscape, including the situation within the parliamentary party and the leadership of Momentum – urge a particular course of action, Unite is not going to go against that without the most serious reasons … Anyone, including good comrades like Chris [Williamson], who uses ultra-leftist terminology like ‘machine politics’ and ‘bureaucratic machine’ risks undermining the wishes of Jeremy Corbyn and the unity he has created.

McCluskey is unfortunately correct – not just about Jon Lansman’s ambivalent position on the issue, but also the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has not called for mandatory reselection of MPs. The strategy of Corbyn and his advisors and allies has from day one been that of conciliation: in the hope that, by keeping the centre on board and neutralising as many rightwingers as possible, he would be swept into Downing Street.

Remember, the method of selecting parliamentary candidates was not even part of the remit of the Party Democracy Review – the NEC proposed the reform of the trigger ballot system in order to stop open selection in its tracks. It is interesting how little Jeremy Corbyn gets blamed for these types of manoeuvres.

This is particularly inept tactically, when we consider that the majority of Labour MPs have been plotting against him from day one, if not before. Should Corbyn become prime minister – which is far from certain, even if Labour wins the next general election – he would be held hostage by the Parliamentary Labour Party. In all likelihood the right would try one manoeuvre after another to get rid of him.

By refusing to back mandatory reselection, which would have allowed the membership to rid the PLP of the anti-Corbyn right, Corbyn has seriously undermined his own position.

No Momentum

Momentum played almost no role at conference. Of course, it organised The World Transformed across three venues, but with varied levels of success. It felt smaller than previous events and much less relevant, with most sessions having been outsourced to other organisations. While Freedom of Speech on Israel, the Liverpool 47 and Labour Against the Witchhunt were denied spaces, those allowed to organise at TWT made use of it by putting on such valuable sessions as ‘Decolonising yoga’ and ‘Acid Corbynism’.

Last year, Momentum made a huge effort in advance of conference to gather data from delegates, so that they could be regularly sent text messages, carrying frequently useful voting guidelines. None of that happened this year. Momentum had published an app, but, unless you actively went looking for recommendations, you would not know how Jon Lansman (the owner of Momentum’s database) felt about the various conference motions. Momentum also did not put forward any candidates – or voting recommendations – for positions on the conference arrangements committee.

And crucially, Lansman badly folded on the question of mandatory reselection. Having opportunistically jumped on the open selection bandwagon about a week before conference (and collecting 50,000 up-to-date names and email addresses with a petition on the issue), he let it be known during the debate on the Party Democracy Review that Momentum would now prefer that delegates voted in favour of the NEC motion after all – ie, a reform of the trigger ballot rather than its abolition.

Momentum has proved once again how utterly useless it is, when it comes to actually organising the Labour left. Things really started to disintegrate in the wake of the coup on January 10 2017, when Lansman abolished all democratic structures and imposed his own constitution. But the farce over the defeat of the principle of mandatory reselection exposed rather dramatically the huge vacuum that exists on the left of our party. We urgently need a principled, effective organisation of the Labour left that can coordinate the fight for the democratic transformation of the party and sustain a national campaign for mandatory reselection and other important democratic demands. Momentum clearly cannot play that role.

There is some hope that the campaign around the fight for open selection might become permanent and take on the fight for other democratic demands. The FBU’s Matt Wrack has declared that his union would support such a move. Chris Williamson MP, in the meantime, has indicated that he will keep his ‘Democracy Roadshow’ going and continue his campaign for open selection.

Emily Thornberry

Last but not least, the role of Emily Thornberry at conference was very interesting. It is becoming more and more obvious that she is being groomed to take over from Jeremy Corbyn – by both ‘moderates’ and some on the left. Note John McDonnell’s repeated demands that the next leader has to be a woman (she is the highest-ranking woman in the shadow cabinet). It was also interesting that she positively referenced fellow soft pro-Zionist Jon Lansman in her speech. As a member of the pro-Zionist Labour Friends of Israel, unlike Corbyn she is not tainted by the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in the party.

Her rousing conference speech cleverly showed that she’s all about ‘unity’: she made positive references to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to tickle the tummies of the right; but her main rhetorical fire was directed at reeling in the left: She positively mentioned the suffragettes, International Brigades and the Anti-Nazi League:

We were there in Spain fighting Franco in 1936. We were there in Cable Street that same year fighting alongside the Jewish community to stop the Blackshirts. We were here in Liverpool a year later, when Oswald Mosley tried to speak in this great city and was forced out without saying a word. And we were there in the 1980s – I was there myself – when we marched against the National Front.

She clearly was playing rather fast and loose with working class history. For a start, the Anti-Nazi League, set up by the Socialist Workers Party in 1977, started to wind down in 1980 and finally closed shop at the beginning of 1981. While the Independent Labour Party sent volunteers to Spain, the same cannot be said of Labour, which officially kept its distance (though Clement Attlee did visit British volunteers in December 1937). Also the Labour Party did not support the anti-fascists in Cable Street, though individual Labour Party members were present. As Dave Renton points out,

The main way Labour responded to Cable Street (ie, afterwards) was by calling for a ban on public demonstrations – by the left or the right. Labour conference was shortly afterwards. And announced that it would support what became the Public Order Act. If I recall rightly, the first demo banned after Cable Street was one called by the local and Labour-run trades council. The Labour Party’s general approach to Cable Street was neither pro-left nor pro-right, but pro-police.

Lawrence Parker, author of Communists and Labour: The National Left-Wing Movement 1925-1929, told us:

The CPGB had begun to colonise the Labour Party at this point and was already in a very strong position in the Labour League of Youth; so, while the Labour Party may have been officially opposed, there were Labour Party organisations at Cable Street, some of whom would have been influenced by the CPGB. The boundary lines between Labour and the CPGB were very blurred after the Comintern told the CP to enter into Labour. So, when individual Labour members went to Cable Street, some were probably following the instructions of the party… the Communist Party!

We very much doubt whether a careerist like Emily Thornberry would have been amongst those who went against the official Labour Party line on any of these occasions.

Of course, historical accuracy was not the point of Thornberry’s speech. No, having established herself as a defender of all that is good and noble in recent British working class history, she went for her killer blow – firmly directed at appealing to the right:

There are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed. These people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party, the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool.

She basically justified the witch-hunt against many Corbyn supporters who have been accused of anti-Semitism by comparing them to fascists: comrades like Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth – both already expelled – and Jackie Walker, who is about to be thrown out. All of them have been found guilty of anti-Semitism in the media and by rightwingers in the party, even if the official charge is ‘bringing the party into disrepute’.

But none of that should surprise us, because Thornberry is a member of Labour Friends of Israel, which features various articles on its website attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his ‘softness’ on anti-Semitism and proudly declares that it “works closely” with Israel’s Zionist Labor Party. LFI is run by Joan Ryan MP  (she of the no-confidence vote) and Louise Ellman MP (who used to run the Jewish Labour Movement).

At an LFI event last year, Thornberry criticised the boycott movement and all those who “deny Israel the right to defend itself from military assault and terror attacks. That sort of bigotry against the Israeli nationhas never been justified and it never will be.” The same rationale is, of course, employed by Binyamin Netanyahu, when he orders his snipers to take out unarmed kids or shoot paramedics in the back.

According to Asa Winstanley of the award-winning Electronic Intifada, at this year’s conference Thornberry tried her best to water down the motion on Palestine. In an hour-long meeting, she heavily leaned on the movers to delete any reference to the nakba (Israel’s expulsion in 1948 of some 800,000 Palestinians to establish a “Jewish state”) and demanded that the motion’s call for an immediate arms trade freeze be removed. But the movers refused on both counts and even made reference to her in their speech. Good on them! Thousands of comrades waved Palestine flags, handed out by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Labour Against the Witchhunt – a fantastic sight.

Emily Thornberry is no leftwinger. And she would be a ‘unity’ candidate of the worst kind: using slightly leftwing rhetoric to keep the Labour left quiet; painting herself an internationalist, while firmly siding with the Zionist regime in Israel. She would steer the party back to where it was under Neil Kinnock – if not Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Rhea Wolfson and Emily Thornberry: pro-Zionist sisters in arms

On Tuesday afternoon, Labour Party conference staged the absurdly titled session ‘Security at home and abroad’, which included the debate on Brexit – and Palestine. This session was, incredibly, chaired by NEC member Rhea Wolfson, a member of the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement. She started the session by warning conference to stay away from “inward-looking debate which focuses on internal matters and NEC decisions. Please be careful about the language you use. Make everybody feel welcome and do not boo.”

Hilary WiseWolfson was, however, less than “welcoming” when Hilary Wise from Ealing and Acton Central CLP spoke passionately about the anti-Semitism smear campaign (Youtube video here). She stated that as a campaigner on Palestinian rights for 30 years, she had “never seen anything like the current campaign of slurs and accusations made against Jeremy Corbyn and the left in the party. I am afraid it is an orchestrated campaign and if you want to know how it works I urge you to watch ‘The Lobby’ on Al Jazeera.”

At that point Wolfson warned her: “I would ask you to be very careful. You are straying into territory here.”

Comrade Wise went on to warn quite rightly that “this campaign will only get worse and the list of people being denounced as anti-Semitic will get longer, often simply for being proponents of Palestinian rights.” Wolfson interrupted her again: “I urge you to be careful” and then went straight on to tell her abruptly: “Take your seat – your time is up now.”

After two minutes and 45 seconds, that is. All other delegates got a minimum of three minutes, with Wolfson gently requesting that they finish when their time was up. But Wolfson is not just a member of the JLM: she used her vote on the national executive committee (NEC) to send Jackie Walker to the national constitutional committee (which will in all likelihood expel her later in the year), pushed through the ‘working definition’ on Anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and has ambitions to become an MP. She will fit in well with the current PLP. Her fellow travellers in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty must be so proud (she was – until very recently – listed as an editor of their magazine The Clarion).

In this context, the role of Emily Thornberry at conference was interesting: As a member of the pro-Zionist Labour Friends of Israel, she is not tainted by the ‘anti-Semitism scandal’ in the Labour Party and is groomed by ‘moderates’ and some on the left alike to take over from Jeremy Corbyn (note her positive reference to fellow soft Zionist Jon Lansman in her speech).

palestine flagsAccording to Asa Winstanley of the award-winning Electronic Intifada, in an hour-long meeting, she heavily leaned on the movers of the motion on Palestine to delete any reference to the nakba (a reference to Israel’s expulsion of some 800,000 Palestinians to establish a “Jewish state” in 1948) and demanded that the motion’s call for an immediate arms trade freeze be removed. But they refused on both counts and even made reference to her in their speech. Good on them! Thousands of comrades waved Palestine flags, handed out by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Labour Against the Witchhunt – a fantastic sight.

Then came Thornberry’s already infamous conference speech – well-delivered, but playing hard and fast with working class history, using references to the International Brigades and the Anti-Nazi League to support the witch-hunt against many Corbyn supporters who have been accused of anti-Semitism (most of them falsely).

“There are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed. These people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party, the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool.” Her dramatic shouts of “No pasaran, no pasaran!” tricked some people into giving her a standing ovation.

Needless to say, Rhea Wolfson made no attempt to reign in Thornberry, who was basically comparing comrades like Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth (both already expelled) and Jackie Walker, who is about to be thrown out of the party, to fascists. Thornberry is a fellow Zionist, after all.

To quote Chris Williamson MP at the fringe organised by Labour Against the Witchhunt:

“The only way you stop a playground bully is to stop running. The monster is getting bigger, the more you feed it. Stop feeding the beast! They are trying to pick us off, one by one. Which is why we need to call this campaign out for what it is: a pile of nonsense.”

Chakrabarti: A toxic climate of fear

Shami Chakrabarti’s call for Ken Livingstone’s expulsion shows where appeasement leads, says Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

You could almost hear the sigh of relief coming from the right wing in the Labour Party on April 27, when, after three days of torturous deliberations, Marc Wadsworth was finally expelled from the Labour Party on the catch-all charge of ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. Comrade Wadsworth’s case was perhaps the most difficult for the witch-hunters, with the ‘evidence’ against him so thin that it would be laughed out of any court room. Not, however, the kangaroo court of the Labour Party – officially called the national constitutional committee (NCC) – where proceedings are devoid of any form of natural justice or due process. It is clearly dominated by the right and misused for political purposes.

This was an important ‘victory’ in the witch-hunters’ campaign. It has cleared the way to go full steam after the other outstanding cases. It is no longer a question of if Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker get expelled (both have been suspended for close to two years) – but when.

Rightwingers in and outside the Labour Party have been sharpening their knives for those two for some time, of course. In April 2017, for example, when Livingstone’s suspension was extended by another 12 months, almost half of Labour’s Parliamentary Party (plus 40 peers) signed an open letter penned by the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, which called the decision not to expel him a “betrayal” of “the party’s values”. The JLM, of course, is not primarily loyal to the British Labour Party (and whatever ‘values’ it thinks the party espouses to) – but to the state of Israel. This has been proven by Al Jazeera’s outstanding documentary The Lobby. Not that much proof was needed: the JLM’s politics make it pretty clear where its political loyalties lie.

This week then, the new leader of the business-friendly and Tory- supporting Jewish Board of Deputies (BoD), Marie van der Zyl, used her first interview to demand the expulsion of both Livingstone and Walker and added: “We are not saying don’t vote Labour, but – as we’ll be seeing from the results, especially in Barnet – the voters have spoken.” She was a bit more frank about her political views before her election when she said that Jeremy Corbyn is “infested by his bigotry”. 1)The Guardian May 14

If she needed any further encouragement, she got it from Shami Chakrabarti, who joined the witch-hunt last weekend. Chakrabarti threatened on the BBC’s Sunday Politics that she would quit the Labour front bench if Livingstone did not get expelled:

I don’t believe that Ken Livingstone can any longer be in the Labour Party. We can’t run away from the fact that he has repeated really, really incendiary remarks. To compare somebody who was trying to escape Nazis with Nazis themselves, and to do so again and again and again and again, even when you know that this has caused the deepest hurt and upset and embarrassment to the party, is completely unacceptable in my view … He has brought the party repeatedly into disrepute. He has brought shame upon it and his own legacy.

Due process

Chakrabarti’s view is rather important, of course. Not only is she the shadow attorney general: she is a Corbyn ally and, crucially, it was her report that was supposed to put a lid on the fabricated ‘anti-Semitism’ scandal two years ago. Instead, it was branded a “whitewash” by the BoD, with van der Zyl adding: “She has sold out the Jewish community.”

It is easy to see why the BoD objected: many of Chakrabarti’s recommendations, when it comes to disciplinary procedure, are entirely supportable from our point of view and, more than that, would – at least in theory – put a quick end to the more absurd aspects of the witch-hunt against socialists and anti-Zionists in the party. For example, members are still being suspended without any notification of what exactly they are supposed to have done wrong. In the case of Tony Greenstein, for instance, all the evidence eventually produced at his NCC expulsion hearing was based on comments he made after he was suspended.

However, these measures have still not been implemented – more than two years after they were produced. John McDonnell has claimed that this was the fault of former general secretary Iain McNicol. Well, John, the witch-hunter general has been gone for a few months now. If anything, the campaign against leftwingers and anti- Zionists has intensified in that time; the atmosphere in the party is becoming ever more toxic and fearful. Many people are wary of writing or saying anything political, out of fear that it could be twisted, taken out of context and made to look like an anti-Semitic comment. It is very easy to do.

One of the latest victims of the smear campaign is Phyll Opoku- Gyimah, who was frontrunner to become Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate in the safe seat of Lewisham. Guido Fawkes sensationalised a Facebook post of hers on the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, when she wrote: “Today is the day when we remember all those affected by holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur – I’m adding Palestine to the list.” What’s the problem? Clearly, Israel is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians, a policy that could be described as a slow genocide.
  But this post was enough to send the media pack and pro-Zionist hyenas screaming for her blood. We cannot blame Opoku-Gyimah for quickly withdrawing her candidacy, citing an “unexpected family situation”. It takes a very strong person to withstand the kind of onslaught she could have expected, had she stood firm.

Rather than standing up to this increasingly unhealthy culture, which starts to resemble more and more the practices of a police state, Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are still trying to appease those running the campaign. More than that, they have become implicit.

For example, it is certainly starting to look as if Corbyn and the NEC have made the conscious decision to delay the implementation of the recommendations made by Chakrabarti – at least until the difficult and prominent cases of Livingstone and Walker are out of the way.

Of course, for most of those suspended and expelled, Chakrabarti’s recommendations and suggested rule changes are – even if they are all implemented – not worth the paper they are written on. It all depends on who interprets these rules and to what purpose.

They are only of potential use for those members who can afford to go down the road of a legal challenge – financially and psychologically. Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone are all in that camp.

Chakrabarti certainly proves with her intervention in the Livingstone case how ‘flexible’ her own sense of justice is. In her 2016 report, she made a strong case for “due process” and “natural justice” that should be followed in all disciplinary cases. In her interview, she blatantly ignores all that: not only has she already found Ken Livingstone guilty – and that in public: she also has handed the NCC the reason for which he should be expelled and has put enormous pressure on its members, should they not follow her advice by threatening her own resignation.

Worst perhaps is the fact that she clearly has put words into Livingstone’s mouth. She claims that Livingstone “compared somebody who was trying to escape Nazis with the Nazis themselves”. Did he really?

What he said

It is worthwhile re-examining what Ken Livingstone actually said – and if what he said is wrong. In an interview with BBC radio he said: “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism until he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Yes, he got the date wrong: Hitler came to power in 1933. It was also wrong to claim that it was Hitler’s state of mind that was responsible for the (changing) attitude of the Nazis to Jews. But in essence his comments were historically accurate.

Moshé Machover has written a whole article on this question, in which he shows how the Nazi government and the Zionists did indeed adhere to a similar approach in the 1930s: both tried to encourage the emigration of all Jews from Europe to what was then Palestine. As comrade Machover writes,

Official Nazi policy was for the exclusion of the Jews from political and civic life, for separation and for emigration. Quite naturally the Zionist leadership thought this set of policies was similar to those of other anti-Semitic regimes – which it was – and the Zionist approach was not peculiar to the Nazi regime. The founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had pointed outthat anti-Semitic regimes would be allies, because they wanted to get rid of the Jews, while the Zionists wanted to rid them of the Jews. That was the common interest.

Of course, Nazi policy changed dramatically – but only after Germany’s Operation Barbarossa attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. At the Wannsee conference in January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich informed Nazi tops of how the Führer now intended to implement the Endlösung der Judenfrage (final solution): through the mass extermination of the European Jewry – a policy that was soon put into practice on an industrial scale.

In any case, Livingstone did not equate the Nazis with the Jews, as Chakrabarti (a lawyer!) claims. He said – correctly – that for a while the Nazi regime had the same goal as the Zionists.

Of course, neither Marie van der Zyl, nor the Board of Deputies, nor for that matter Chakrabarti actually care if what Ken Livingstone said was historically or factually wrong, right or just confused. For them, what he said was much worse than that: it was, they claim, morally wrong. It might be factually true, but the truth can no longer be told because it upsets some people.

For the same reason, Momentum’s owner, Jon Lansman, has argued for a ban on the word ‘Zionism’, because “to the Jew in the street it might only mean the Jewish state of Israel, safe and secure, nothing more than that, not a separate ideology.”2)Today Radio 4, April 3: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb Emily Thornberry supports Ken Livingstone’s expulsion, because his words are “a complete insult”. Not a lie. An insult – to Zionists.

People like Livingstone really mess up the party leadership’s ongoing attempts to appease the pro-Zionist right and those who (often cynically) support their witch-hunting campaign. Disgracefully, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn have refused to defend Livingstone (or any other victims of the witch-hunt), instead calling on him to apologise. But, credit to him, he has refused to do so – he has got nothing to apologise for.

Clearly, this campaign will not end with Livingstone and Walker. It actually has very little to do with what they have or have not said. They are merely collateral damage in the campaign to take down and/or tame Jeremy Corbyn, and making sure that Britain remains a loyal ally of the US and Israel.

Britain, for example, is expected to take part in the latest campaign for war in the Middle East. If not by dropping bombs, then at least by providing political cover for this necessary war to ‘prevent another holocaust’. A Labour leader and potential prime minister who has been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians is, in this context, untenable. Labour cannot be allowed to become an anti-war party.

Clearly we cannot rely on Corbyn and Lansman to stand up to the pro-Israeli lobby. Socialists and supporters of the cause of the Palestinians in the Labour Party must now step up their campaign and increase the pressure on the Labour leadership to turn the organisation into a democratic, anti-war party.


1 The Guardian May 14
2 Today Radio 4, April 3: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcsdb