Tag Archives: Jewish Chronicle

Corbyn should speak up

Labour HQ has decided upon yet more suspensions. Carla Roberts reports on the appalling consequences of appeasement

Tom Watson’s inaugural meeting of rightwingers in parliament this week certainly looked quite impressive in terms of numbers – there are reports of up to 140 people present, including between 60 to 80 current Labour Party MPs, among them “at least 13 members of the shadow front bench”. But dig a little deeper and the thing looks decidedly uninspiring.

Despite its name, ‘Future Britain’, this outfit is looking firmly back towards the past: “I feel that the voice of the social democratic and democratic socialist traditions hasn’t been strong enough in recent times,” said Watson. Darren Johnson, MP for Bristol North West, expanded: “This is the coming together of the TBs and GBs.” So we presume Tony Blair is supposed to be the social democrat and Gordon Brown the democratic socialist? Have we got that right? It does not matter, really. “Even some of Watsons’ supporters remain unsure what his ultimate intentions are,” writes The Guardian, not known as a friend of Corbyn’s.

Apparently, the group wants to “concentrate on policy development”, move alternative papers to those of the national policy forum and other such exciting things. The New Statesman believes that Tom Watson is “in effect trying to provide a support network and safe space for Labour MPs contemplating life outside the party”.

They can call it what they want, but we know that it is part of the ongoing slow coup against Corbyn. They know they cannot challenge Corbyn in a leadership contest, because they are bound to lose. The membership is still firmly on his side. So Future Britain is very much part of the campaign to kill Corbyn’s leadership through 1,000 cuts, as is the formation of Chuka Umunna’s The Independent Group. In and of themselves, they would not amount to much.

But they have to be seen within the exceptionally successful and very much ongoing campaign to paint Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites. This was the only muck that ever really stuck – because Corbyn and his allies allowed it to stick. They bent over backwards to try and prove to the right that they would take the allegations seriously and ‘sort it out’ – when clearly it was only ever a miniscule problem, reflecting the low-level prejudice and racism that exists in wider society.

But, by suspending one person after another on false and trumped-up charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ (or expelling them for ‘bringing the party into disrepute’) and by adopting the much-disputed definition of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the party could only ever achieve the opposite: ie, it is demonstrating that Labour has indeed a ‘huge problem’. The fact that 12 members have been expelled over anti-Semitism does not prove that the party is dealing with that problem – but that it has let off the other 661!

Now the Jewish Labour Movement, which has sadly voted to remain a part of the Labour Party for now, has succeeded in getting the government quango, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, to open an investigation into the Labour Party over anti-Semitism. And at the same time – as if to show how important such an investigation is – the compliance unit seems to have lost all sense of proportion.

Not only have automatic suspensions for the most minor of accusations been reinstated – in clear contravention to what Shami Chakrabarti recommended following her inquiry. We have also seen members being suspended for even questioning the claim that there is a big anti-Semitism problem in the party.

For example, part of the case against Jackie Walker (whose expulsion hearing takes place on March 26) is that she described the witch-hunt against her and others as … “a witch-hunt”. That charge was, of course, added after her suspension. So fighting back against your suspension becomes part of the charge sheet against you – that is clearly against all natural justice and reeks of Kafkaesque madness.

New victims

These are just some of the latest suspensions that we have become aware of:

– Councillor Stuart Porthouse, former mayor of Sunderland, was suspended for sharing an interview with George Galloway on Sky News, in which the former MP said the party was not-anti-Semitic.

– The suspension of Chris Williamson MP also clearly falls into this category: he is not charged with saying anything anti-Semitic, but questioning if the party’s tactics were wise.

– Councillor Jo Bird from the Wirral has been suspended for making a number of jokes, like changing ‘due process’ to ‘Jew process’ (she is Jewish herself).

– Sean McCallum, mayoral candidate in Mansfield, has been suspended on the basis of two 25-months-old tweets questioning the origins of a meme that Naz Shah MP had posted three years ago.

– Asa Winstanley, investigative journalist with the Electronic Intifada, has been suspended for calling out the Jewish Labour Movement on Twitter: “Israeli embassy proxy the JLM confirms it was responsible for the referencing of Labour to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for supposed ‘institutional anti-Semitism’. Shameless sabotage of the party.”

– Last but not least, we are also seeing a new attempt to ‘get’ eminent Middle Eastern expert Moshé Machover, who John Mann MP and the JLM first tried to have suspended back in 2017, after we reprinted his article, ‘Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism’, in our Labour Party conference issue of Labour Party Marxists. But the compliance unit did one better and expelled him under clause 2.1.4.B (‘Exclusions’) in the party’s rulebook. You see, because comrade Machover attended meetings organised by LPM and the CPGB, it was seen as ‘proven’ that he was a member of LPM, CPGB (or both) and therefore not eligible for membership of the Labour Party.

Comrade Machover, however, managed to get not only some very pointed lawyer’s letters to the compliance unit: his expulsion also led to an international outcry and the party was flooded with supportive statements and resolutions. Within 30 days, the party reinstated him as a full member. The original charge that his meticulously researched article was anti-Semitic was never looked into, “because you are not currently a member of the Labour Party”, as his expulsion letter stated.

This week though, the Jewish Chronicle is fronting another attempt to get him on those allegations. As part of the campaign to charge Jeremy Corbyn with ‘interfering’ with disciplinary cases, the JC reminds its readers of comrade Machover’s crime: “He quoted Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the final solution, to support the notion that the Nazis supported Zionists before the holocaust.” I mean, where do we get if we actually start quoting sources to make a point?

The JC has also dug up a number of newish quotes from comrade Machover, “who has continued to make controversial remarks”: for example, “Mr Machover also claimed Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs had driven an ‘immense public campaign’ in the UK against Labour’s new guidelines on anti-Semitism.”

That is, of course, common knowledge – as well as the fact that the pro-Zionist lobby put enormous pressure on the party to accept the disputed IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, including all 11 examples. The paper also quotes from a speech at Labour Against the Witchhunt’s conference, when he “compared incidents of anti-Semitism in the party to the hunt for paedophiles – suggesting eventually someone will be found”.

Of course, he did not “compare” the two. As opposed to the hack from the JC, I was actually there. Comrade Machover said: “… of course there are some anti-Semites in the party, just as no doubt there are some paedophiles, but it is definitely not the major problem it has been portrayed to be”.

None of these so-called accusations would hold up in any bourgeois court system. But unfortunately, we cannot be sure of what kind of madness has broken out in the compliance unit – we would not put it past them to suspend comrade Machover too. Having accusations printed in the Jewish Chronicle is usually the first step in the campaign to get somebody suspended – Asa Winstanley first learned of his own suspension from that rag. Comrade Machover, however, is not one to go down quietly. The compliance unit might well stretch itself too far with such a move – which could have all sorts of unintended consequences.

We hear that Jeremy Corbyn is getting increasingly unhappy about some of the recent suspensions – especially that of Chris Williamson MP. How much longer can he simply watch, as one of his supporters after another is handed over to the witch-finders in the compliance unit?

Yes, he is a prisoner of the rightwingers in the Parliamentary Labour Party and it is true that even his long-term ally, John McDonnell, now appears to have fully jumped on board the ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis bandwagon (which Momentum’s owner, Jon Lansman, has been sitting on for quite some time).

But Corbyn still has a voice – and he is, after all, the reason why hundreds of thousands of members have joined the party. If he spoke up – publicly – in support of Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Jo Bird, Moshé Machover and Asa Winstanley, he could make a massive difference to the outcome of the civil war in the Labour Party.

The witch-hunt by the right continues

As the Ken Livingstone case demonstrates, the right’s call for ‘party unity’ should not be taken at face value, argues David Shearer of Labour Party Marxists

(this article first appeared in the Weekly Worker)

Reports from around the country confirm that, for the moment, the Blairites and Labour right are no longer directly attacking, condemning and generally criticising Jeremy Corbyn. How could they? Two months ago, Labour bounced back from the trouncing it seemed to be heading for just a couple of weeks earlier and won the highest proportion of votes for Labour since Tony Blair’s first campaign as leader in 1997.

And now, because of the fragile nature of the Conservative alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, the ability of the minority Tory government to carry through the main strands of its legislative programme is by no means a certainty – as everyone knows, another general election could be called at any time. Quite clearly then, the right wing, which dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party, must do nothing to undermine Labour’s chances, upon which the survival of its MPs depends.

As I noted in an article just before the election,

An increase in the popular vote for Labour next week would put the right on the back foot and hopefully instil fresh confidence in the likes of Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, who have been busy back-pedalling on previous long-held progressive positions in a futile attempt to appease the Parliamentary Labour Party and the right in general. Such an outcome would add momentum to the necessary fight to rid Labour of those saboteurs.

It is true that Corbyn and co are behaving slightly more confidently. For example, at the July 18 meeting of the national executive, they won a narrow majority for a new system for selecting parliamentary candidates in a small number of target seats. The power to do that will rest with locally elected panels – as opposed to the current centralised control of the party machine under general secretary Iain McNicol.

However, in general there is little sign from Corbyn of a forceful demonstration of authority and the reassertion of the kind of left positions he used to uphold – let alone a campaign to defeat the “saboteurs” of the right once and for all. To appease them Corbyn is, for example, continuing to suppress his own deeply felt disgust at nuclear weapons – after all, the party has decided that Britain needs Trident and the leader must not comment on the obscenity of nuclear mass murder.

In fact the leadership is going along with the right in its insistence that Labour is a ‘broad party’ – with plenty of room for the overt pro-capitalists, as well as those who attempt to promote (or pretend to promote) the interests of the working class. For the present that means the right is making no overt move against Corbyn.

For example, reports are coming in of Constituency Labour Parties – even those dominated by the right – voting for motions, originating with Momentum, which “call on all elements of the party … to come together and support the leadership”. Such motions “congratulate the party leadership” on the “great result in the June general election” and hail “the socialist policies set out in the manifesto”. In general the right is prepared to go along with them.

For one thing, it is well aware that the “policies set out in the manifesto” were far from “socialist” – overwhelmingly they were acceptable even to the Blairites. And, as I have said, for the moment the right is willing to make the appropriate noises in favour of ‘unity’ and even pretend it favours “support” for the current leadership.

For instance, a circular issued by Luke Akehust on behalf of the rightwing Labour First faction reads:

We will be working all out to ensure the strongest possible moderate voice at annual conference, to promote party unity and to stop divisive and partisan changes to Labour’s rules. We want an annual conference that focuses on showcasing what unites Labour, on our team and policies for government, and preparing us in case there is another general election. We will be working to stop Momentum from turning it into a 1980s-style conference about what divides Labour, about factionalism, internal rule changes, and disruptive and boring procedural wrangling. 1)My emphasis – update, July 31

As this makes clear, the right is hardly reconciled to that leadership. That is why it is targeting Momentum – set up specifically to generate and consolidate support for Jeremy Corbyn. It is true that Corbyn has continued to compromise, giving the right grounds for hope that he could yet be ‘tamed’. But he is still unacceptably leftwing for both the Labour right and the whole political establishment.

In reality the adoption by the right of the ‘united party’ slogan is a continuation of its civil war. So, because Labour must be a ‘broad church’, the right demands that there should be no deselection of sitting MPs – irrespective of their contempt for party democracy. The new selection panels may well be set up in those 75 target seats, but before they can operate there must first be a vacancy: there is no question of a general deselection of current MPs.

‘Anti-Semitism’

The right also insists that Corbyn must not ‘interfere’ in disciplinary cases – which over the past couple of years have been used overwhelmingly to target the left. In fact McNicol is now inviting applications to join his witch-hunting team investigating suspect (ie, leftwing) individuals and groups operating in the Labour Party, as the following advert makes clear:

The Labour Party is looking to recruit an Investigations Officer, to work as a key member of the disputes team. The post holder will assist in the investigations relating to individual Labour Party members or groups of members, which may lead to disciplinary proceedings or other interventions by the national or regional parties.

The successful candidate, who will be employed at the party HQ in London, will need “experience of conducting investigations or fact-finding” and of “regulatory or governance issues” to qualify for the £35,000 salary, plus £1,000 annual allowance.

No doubt the new recruit will continue the good work of disciplining, suspending and eventually expelling leftwing comrades – particularly those accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ simply for opposing Zionism and actions of the Israeli state.

Last week the Jewish Chronicle reported that the ‘investigation’ into Ken Livingstone’s 2016 comments in defence of Naz Shah MP – in which he said that Hitler had “supported Zionism” before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews” – is still ongoing.

Livingstone was suspended for two years in June 2016: not, of course, for actual anti-Semitism, which would have been totally absurd, but for “bringing the party into disrepute” (for saying something that some people – not least Zionists and supporters of the Israeli state – claim was ‘anti-Semitic’). Since then he has refused to apologise for his comments and stated that they were factually correct.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, “Labour sources have confirmed to the JC that another probe into the former mayor of London ‘is underway’”. Apparently he is accused of “failure to show any remorse” for his original comments, even though “those bringing the new complaints against Mr Livingstone are believed to have been advised not to revisit the original remarks on Hitler and Zionism”.

Those “new complaints” are said to centre on Livingstone’s subsequent media interviews, when he correctly insisted that his original comment was (apart from some inaccuracies and clumsy phrasing) simply a statement of fact. It is indeed true that, as this paper has frequently pointed out, the Nazis did at first cooperate with the Zionists in order to achieve a shared aim – the emigration of German Jews, so that they could settle in Palestine. It is, of course, this cooperation which today’s Zionists and Israeli apologists wish to cover up.

But Corbyn went along with the witch-hunt and went so far as to condemn Livingstone for his “grossly insensitive” comments, claiming that his failure to apologise for telling the truth had been “deeply disappointing”.

Surely now is the time to say, ‘Enough is enough’. Corbyn should state the obvious – the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign was and is a witch-hunt and all those who were falsely accused, including Ken Livingstone, should be reinstated. He should exercise his authority as party leader to demand that the compliance unit and the right-controlled party machine calls off that farcical campaign.

References

1 My emphasis – update, July 31