Tag Archives: Ken Livingstone

Report: Defend the Left!

William Sarsfield reports on a successful meeting in solidarity with Chris Williamson and Jackie Walker

Just over 100 comrades attended the March 25 ‘Defend the left!’ meeting in central London, hosted by Labour Against the Witchhunt. Platform speakers Ken Livingstone, Graham Bash and Jackie Walker opened a discussion on the state of the Labour Party, the ongoing purge of left comrades and how we can fight back and defeat the ‘anti-Semitism’ provocation against us.

Tina Werkmann – who chaired the event – read messages from Chris Williamson and Ken Loach. She also observed that the left has never been in a better position … but the right is fighting back with every trick in the book. The most effective weapon of the right has proved to be the baseless accusations of anti-Semitism. That has cowed large sections of the ‘official’ left into silence. Those who dare speak out are the exception. But that is exactly what must happen if we are going to win the prize. To be silent in the midst of a witch hunt is to be complicit.

Ken Livingstone kicked things off with a checklist of the various calumnies he has faced over the years. “Anti-Semite” (obviously), but additionally a tax-dodger, a violent thug, corrupt, alcoholic, a Soviet spy, Gaddafi asset and …. a fan of gay group sex in various sleazy clubs, where he was once sodomised by six men.

On the day that he became leader of the Greater London Council in 1981, he was branded by Thatcher as a man with well-made plans to impose on the UK “a communist tyranny” akin to eastern Europe. Nonsense, of course, but it did not stop the mainstream media from suddenly becoming very interested in the ideological implications of cutting tube and bus fares in the capital – “the Daily Mail brought its war correspondent back from the Middle East” to cover the revolution in County Hall and demanded that he file six stories per day. “I’ve never seen a reporter under so much bloody pressure,” Ken quipped.

His key point was that there was nothing new about these provocations against leftwingers. In this country, it means lies and smears about anti-Semitism; in other parts of the world it can mean assassinations. He reminded us of the role of the right in the Parliamentary Labour Party – specifically in the shape of that oaf, John Mann, who ambushed Livingstone with absurd charges of “Nazi apologist”, conveniently with a BBC news team in tow. Ken hit the nail on the head when he recounted his own experience with the Labour Party’s disciplinary unit – “a Labour machine controlled by all the old ghastly Blairites … and doing everything possible to get rid of” Corbyn. Thatis what has fuelled “all this stuff about anti-Semitism”, he correctly pointed out.

Listening to all this, I could not help thinking what a shame it was that Ken Livingstone had decided to ‘help out’ Jeremy Corbyn by resigning from Labour in May 2018, instead of continuing to fight the ridiculous accusations made against him, which saw him suspended from the party for two years.


Next up was Graham Bash – stalwart of the Labour Representation Committee and Jewish Voice for Labour, but speaking in a personal capacity. With Chris Williamson’s suspension from the Labour Party, we have reached a “pivotal moment”, the comrade declared. This is another coup attempt and the attack on us “will not stop” until the right  has reasserted the “primacy of the parliamentary party over the membership”.

Since the day that Corbyn was elected Labour leader, the key task has remained the same, the comrade emphasised. “The only possible way to fight” the “powerful opposition forces” was to create an “anti-establishment insurgency from below”, channelled through a “democratic, grassroots movement”, with the declared aim of transforming the party. That is the “nub of the problem we face”, he said: “the tension between the PLP and membership – exacerbated by the political degeneration and incorporation of the leaders of Momentum – has now reached a critical moment”.

Our dual task is to be “both supportive and independent of our leaders”, he told the meeting.

Clearly, Graham was articulating the frustration of many left comrades in the party and he highlighted some key tasks that Labour Party Marxists has consistently agitated for since Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Yes, that will require an organisational expression of the left that can coordinate, initiate and make a decisive impact in the inner-party battle. Momentum is the private property of Jon Lansman and – as comrade Bash correctly stated – its leaders have now crossed the line and, in my opinion, should be effectively regarded as allies of the right in the party.1)In the general discussion following the speakers’ presentations, a comrade read comments from Lansman to the effect that “Jackie Walker is an anti-Semite and leads the anti-Semites of this country”. Above all else, however, the Labour left needs to draw a clear line of political demarcation/independence from the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership.

Corbyn’s strategy of concession and accommodation of the right wing in the party is hopeless and is in real danger of demoralising and demobilising the mass membership base. Meanwhile, it seems pretty clear that John McDonnell has effectively caved in to the PLP right – he has “fallen apart”, as one speaker from the floor put it later. Some comrades I spoke to after the meeting suggested that the absenceof an organised rank and file had left Corbyn and McDonnell vulnerable and susceptible to pressures to compromise and backtrack. No doubt, the strains on both these figures have been immense and must have cost them a great deal personally. We are where we are, however. The political autonomy of the Labour left that comrade Bash calls for must find one important expression in sharp criticism of Jeremy Corbyn and – yes – open condemnation of some of the political positions John McDonnell has taken (a stance that comrade Bash explicitly rejected in the debate).

In a highly personal, very moving speech, Jackie Walker usefully highlighted an illusion that the vast majority of Labour lefts have historically entertained. That is, the Labour Party – as “a broad church” – was defined by “a deal with the other side” (ie, the Labour right). “Now that we had won the leadership via democratic means”, after having “supported loyally” that wing of the party in elections and campaigning, we thought they would now “do the same for us”. But “we were wrong,” she bluntly concluded. Quite right. The pro-capitalist, war-mongering reactionaries of the right of the Labour Party should not be regarded as ‘comrades’ that we may have gentle disagreements with. Labour needs to be refounded on the basis of genuine working class politics and in the form of a permanent united front of all socialist and communist groups, leftwing think tanks and progressive campaigns.

As we fight for this, we should explicitly state that there would be no place in the ranks of a Labour Party transformed in this way for the likes of today’s PLP majority. We should not regard them as a legitimate trend within any workers’ movement worthy of the name.

As if to underline this point, comrade Walker herself – having also been suspended for two years – was finally to face her hearing over further absurd ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations the next day. She was, of course, expelled on March 27 – not actually for ‘anti-Semitism’, of course, but for making “prejudicial” comments that were “grossly detrimental” to the party (such as stating, “I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with”).

It was clear that the majority of comrades were not simply exasperated with the softly-softly approach that has characterised Corbyn’s attitude to his opponents in the PLP, but now appear to be willing to support a political initiative to organise the left in the party as an independent political actor in the battle for the heart and soul of Labour. This is long overdue and something that we should all energetically support.

[1]. In the general discussion following the speakers’ presentations, a comrade read comments from Lansman to the effect that “Jackie Walker is an anti-Semite and leads the anti-Semites of this country”.



1 In the general discussion following the speakers’ presentations, a comrade read comments from Lansman to the effect that “Jackie Walker is an anti-Semite and leads the anti-Semites of this country”.

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

Call time on Corbyn fanboyism

Capitulation will never be good enough for the right – so the Labour left has no interest in compromise, argues Jim Grant of Labour Party Marxists

Another week, another great torrent of spurious anti-Semitism allegations.

We would go through a few of them, but, really, why bother? There is nothing new here – just the same fetid concoction of lies, innuendo and smears, lightly seasoned (if that) with actual examples of anti-Semitism invariably culled from a few cranks on the internet. By equally valid means could the Labour Party be just as fairly accused of being a Russian mafia front, a giant paedophile ring, or – alas! – an instrument of world Jewry’s conspiracy against the white race.

We are more interested – which is to say, quite exasperated – by the refusal to fight back against such smears by wide sections of the left, including the Labour leadership and its outriders in Momentum and the like.

Even when the left fights back, it seems to capitulate. Take a piece from Jacobin by Daniel Finn, deputy editor of the New Left Review. It is vastly preferable to Richard Seymour’s spineless intervention, and is on the face of it precisely what we are after – a denunciation of the witch-hunt, an exposure of the defamers and their dishonest methods. Yet, for all that, comrade Finn is bizarrely keen to insist that there is a problem, even if it is not so crippling as all that. “There is no evidence that anti-Semitic views are more prevalent in Labour than in other parties,” he writes (emphasis added). “If the party has even a single member with anti-Semitic views, that’s a problem. Only a fool would claim that Labour has managed to eliminate every last trace of bigotry from its ranks”; and so on.

No offence

Things get weirder still when we get to the Chakrabarti report. Finn does a reasonable job of exposing the cynicism with which it is denounced as a “whitewash”, but then goes on to say:

Chakrabarti’s report contained some very sensible recommendations about language: she urged left activists to “use the term ‘Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse” and to “resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel/Palestine in particular”.

He then cites the Ken Livingstone affair as an example of how not to do things.

A famous saying, attributed to Edmund Burke, has it that for evil to triumph all that is necessary is for good people to do nothing. Yet we know that there are numerous kinds of inaction, and here we are faced by a very contemporary one. So we might rephrase the pseudo-Burke aphorism: all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to silence themselves for fear of offending the evil-doers. The backsliding of Jeremy Corbyn and his clique is well documented in this paper, as is the timidity of Owen Jones on the question; and in last week’s edition the indefatigable Tony Greenstein dealt at length with the increasingly rudderless Richard Seymour’s platitudinous meanderings on the subject.

For what else are we to do with leftwingers who hem and haw about using the word ‘Zionist’ because it gives offence, or the admonition of our Jacobin writer that comparisons with the Nazis are out? If we were to take this offence-taking at its word, we should perhaps greet it as good news, for it would mean that Zionists – by taking fright at the use of their movement’s historic, self-chosen name – were ashamed of it. Perhaps they are finally learning! Perhaps when he described himself and the disgraced advertising mogul, Martin Sorrell, in their student days as “slightly leftwing Zionists” in the New Yorker recently, Simon Schama was launching at his younger self a vigorous piece of self-criticism.

Alas, we doubt it. What is going on is, in fact, far more mundane. When an anti-Zionist uses the word ‘Zionist’, they are by definition describing an enemy. Zionists, being possessed like all other humans with the capacity to resolve ambiguities in language, know that to the speaker the word ‘Zionist’ has negative connotations. There are only two ways to avoid using ‘Zionist’ as an insult. One is to use different words to express your criticism – but that merely shifts the problem, since no doubt being accused of ‘blood-and-soil nationalist colonialism’ is just as offensive as ‘Zionist’ when it comes down to it. The other is to not attack Zionism at all – either because one is a Zionist, or even indifferent to the question; or because one is intent on disarming oneself.

As for Nazi comparisons, what of them? If we can’t use Nazism, can we use apartheid, or the conquistadors, as points of reference? We merely end up asking our enemies for permission to criticise them. (Nobody asked any of us if it was all right to accuse us of anti-Semitism.) It is also worth noting that the Palestinian solidarity movement is not the only place where the comparison occurs to people: we commend to comrade Finn a fascinating and disturbing piece from Ha’aretz some years ago on the odd tendency for the Israeli security services themselves to throw out such comparisons: for example, a group of Israel Defence Forces soldiers, stationed in Ramallah during the first intifada, who nicknamed themselves the “Mengele squad”, out of some combination of nihilistic hatred and repressed guilt.

Our own petard

The question arises as to why our side is so paralysed. There is no shortage of anger about these scandalous smears; the rank-and-file of the Labour Party seems, at least since its explosion in size during and after Corbyn’s election, to be overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian. The Zionists and also opportunistically pro-Zionist rightwingers are loud, and they are nasty, and they have the media on their side, but they are numerically tiny. Yet they have a habit of outmanoeuvring our much more numerous troops, who – surely – have the potential to be far more militant than appears currently to be the case.

The explanation, so far as we can see, has two essential aspects to it. The first is that the left, including its socialist (and even revolutionary) components, has over time adopted an essentially liberal approach to overcoming oppression. In countries where Maoism was the prime beneficiary from the student movement of the 1960s, a policy of ‘alliances’ with organisations of the specially oppressed that gave the political lead to those organisations was a straightforward matter, authorised by popular frontism. In countries like Britain where Trotskyism did better, the ostensible approach was to turn discontent on the women’s, black, etc questions into militant action, in order to win leadership for the Marxists on those questions, but in reality that had the same result, where the Marxists ended up as ‘the best fighters’ (if they were lucky) on behalf of politics substantially set by the ‘self-organised’ oppressed.

As state policy turned from artificially propping up patriarchal family relations and white predominance in politics and economic life, however, the centripetal force of common struggle was overpowered by the centrifugal force of sectionalism. It became far more readily possible for oppressed groups to achieve some marginal advantage or another comfortably within the system. Whatever attraction revolutionary politics once had for people whose whole horizon was the women’s question, or the black question, was eroded. The left did not notice this change, however, and continued to trail increasingly anti-left forms of identity politics.

The result is that purely liberal identity politics has nearly uncontested ‘mindshare’ among the wider progressive and left milieus. And purely liberal identity politics has no answer to the problem of someone announcing that, as a Jew, they are very offended that leftwingers keep on going on about the crimes of Israel; to deny that this offence is legitimate is impossible without breaking with liberalism here, but by tailing liberalism we put people on our side in the impossible position of having to break with it as atomised individuals. They cannot, and do not.

From top down

Which leads us to the second problem, which is the problem of leadership.

There is a certain old-mannish tendency for grizzled left curmudgeons to complain about the state of the people who make up the hundreds of thousands who joined the Labour Party in its recent, fascinatingly turbulent period of life. The newcomers are young; they think everything is about the internet; they’re obsessed with celebrity, and just want their selfie with Jeremy; they don’t stand up straight; they should get off my lawn.

This tendency is to be rejected, as it curses us to complacency, but above all because the fact that we have a new generation at all, and have gotten some of the old generations back, is an extraordinary blessing, which we do not get often, least of all in the mostly bleak three decades to the present date.

Yet there is always a grain of truth to these things. In this case, it can hardly be denied that the political level of Corbynite Labour activists is very low, and does not seem to have risen at all in the last couple of years. No chinks have appeared in the armour of identity politics. No slogans have emerged as a stiffer alternative to ‘For the many, not the few’. Strikingly, there seems to have been no noticeable growth in the organised far left at all – not those parts of it energetically tailing Corbyn, not those taking a sectarian stand against it, nor any of the other approaches that have been tried. We starve amid plenty.

The truth is that everything depends on leadership. For somebody coming into the movement at this moment, there is a very clear candidate for the leadership – Corbyn. There is secondarily Momentum, which has made a few odd moves recently, but still enjoys the prestige inadvertently donated to it by the scurrilous attacks of the rightwing press. Both these loci of leadership tell people, first of all, to submit themselves to all the defects our grumpy old men list out above – Bonapartist hero-worship and so on. This is not some sort of cultural decline, but the result of people making the correct decision to get involved in the mass movement, and taking advice from the leaders of that movement as to what they ought to do. Those leaders are, precisely, grizzled leftwingers; they are ‘our kind of people’. It is us who are responsible for misleading those masses that a historical accident has thrown into motion, and who are trying to direct that motion.

The strategy of the movement’s leadership is to avoid as strenuously as possible conflict over issues which it does not plan to fight an election on, which in practice means issues that divide the Labour left from the centre. In practice, this means the single issue of austerity. So much the worse for the Palestinians; for the policy on Israel and fake anti-Semitism accusations is simply to give ground, again and again, to no noticeable effect. Why bother denouncing such allegations if even Ken Livingstone gets thrown to the wolves?

The abiding lesson of this fiasco, then, is a simple one: the time for Corbynite fanboyism is very much over.


John Mann MP: “Expel Labour Party Marxists”

It had to happen sooner or later. Now Labour Party Marxists has been accused of being “anti-Semitic”. John Mann MP and the Holocaust Educational Trust demand our members be expelled from the Labour Party for the crime for carrying an article in our latest edition of Labour Party Marxists by Moshé Machover, which discusses if Zionists really did collaborate with the early Nazi regime.

We call on socialists to read the actual article and make up their own mind.

Below is the article in today’s The Times (September 27) carrying the accusations.

And here the article by Moshé Machover, a lifelong anti-Zionist Jewish Israeli campaigner.

The Times: Throw out antisemitic party members now, Corbyn urged

Jeremy Corbyn has been called on to investigate a left-wing group accused of producing and circulating antisemitic literature on the fringes of Labour’s conference.

Labour MPs and the Holocaust Educational Trust demanded a personal intervention by the Labour leader to identify and discipline members of the Labour Party Marxists group, which disseminated a leaflet quoting a prominent Nazi.

The organisation is not affiliated with Labour officially, but James Marshall, a senior figure in the group, said that all of its supporters, including himself, were card-carrying members.

The leaflet handed out in Brighton discussed the “commonality between Zionists and Nazis”. It quoted Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi architect of the Final Solution, saying in 1935: “National Socialists had no intention of attacking Jewish people.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “I don’t understand how it is acceptable to be handing out such disgusting literature outside Labour’s conference quoting one of the 20th century’s most notorious antisemites and architects of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich.”

She added: “The Labour Party Marxists’ guide to motions at the conference suggests that at least some of their supporters are party members — Labour needs to identify who is linked to this group.”

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism, said: “The Labour Party Marxists should all be thrown out of the party, every single one of them. We want them investigated and then thrown out. Their scurrilous publication, which contains antisemitic material, is good only for the recycling bin.”

As the row threatened to overshadow the party’s four-day gathering, the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove council warned that it could be the last time the party hosts its conference in the seaside town unless it gets a grip on the problem. Warren Morgan said he was very concerned at “the antisemitism being aired publicly in fringe meetings and on the floor of conference”.

Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor of London, also joined the row, telling TalkRadio: “Some people have made offensive comments, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently antisemitic and hate Jews. They just go over the top when they criticise Israel.”

Mr Livingstone, 72, has been disciplined by the party for comments he made about Hitler last year and is banned from holding office in Labour until next April, but is still a member of his local party.

A heated debate took place in the conference hall on a rule change on antisemitism. Mike Katz, a delegate from the Jewish Labour Movement, welcomed Mr Corbyn’s backing for the new rule, which strengthens the party’s disciplinary process for dealing with antisemitic and other forms of prejudicial views and behaviour.

During the debate one delegate, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, accused the party of policing “thought crime”, saying: “Obviously if you express hateful opinions you’ve got to be disciplined, or at least educated — but holding them? We can’t be having it.”

Yesterday the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said Labour needed to do more to prove it was not a racist party.

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said: “Anyone who says Labour doesn’t have a problem with antisemitism is in cloud cuckoo land.”

Mr Corbyn rejected accusations that Labour had become the new “nasty party”. “Nobody should be abused, whoever they are,” he said. “We have just passed a motion on racism and antisemitism which is comprehensive and inclusive and is supported by all wings of the party and unanimously agreed by our national executive.

“Anyone using antisemitic language, anyone using any form of racist language, is completely at odds with the beliefs of this party.”

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, last night claimed the row was “mood music created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”.

Mr Marshall, of the Labour Party Marxists, said: “The idea the Labour Party Marxists article in question is antisemitic is risible. It was written by Moshé Machover, a Jewish Israeli. They [the critics] are equating antisemitism with antizionism.”

Jewish Labour Movement
The only Jewish community socialist society officially affiliated to Labour. The pro-Zionist organisation boasts MPs and councillors among its supporters. The JLM helped to devise the rule change that Labour backed yesterday strengthening the party’s disciplinary process. Some Labour members, including Jewish party backers, have complained the JLM does not represent their views.

Free Speech on Israel
The independent group says it “was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK. Criticism of Israel and of its founding ideology, Zionism, has been misrepresented as antisemitic.”

Labour Party Marxists
The independent group has published many articles about Israel. It was accused of producing literature quoting Reinhard Heydrich, architect of the Final Solution, that was antisemitic — an allegation it rejected — and handing it out on the conference’s fringes.

London Communist Forum April 9: Defend Ken Livingstone!

Sunday April 9, 5pm, The Calthorpe Arms, 252 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8JR.

Co-sponsored by LPM and CPGB

Mike Macnair, CPGB
Tony Greenstein, Jewish anti-Zionist

The media fuelled furore over Livingstone’s (admittedly clumsy) remarks on the limited collaboration between some Zionist organisations and the Nazis in the early years of the fascist regime is a profoundly distasteful provocation against the left of the Labour Party. The historical truth is that the Nazis initially explored different policies to deal with Germany’s Jewish ‘problem’. These included social and financial pressures on Jews to emigrate, forced relocation, evictions, measure designed to pauperise the population and confiscate their possessions … and some degree of collaboration with Zionist groups to promote emigration: http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1112/why-ken-livingstone-was-right/

So, Livingstone’s comments were clumsy and historically hazy – but not fantasy, still less ‘anti-Semitic’. The continuing ‘anti-Semitism scandal’ is nothing but the continuation of the right-wing’s coup against Corbyn. Which makes it all the more regrettable that he still choses to follow a path of appeasing the right.

Come along to discuss this complex question.

Jackie Walker, Norman Finkelstein and the new definition of anti-Semitism

Jackie Walker wandered into a political minefield when she innocently asked at a training workshop on anti-Semitism at Labour Party conference 2016: “In terms of Holocaust Day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all people who experienced Holocaust?” She was robustly corrected by some right wingers in the room that formally the supposed ethos of the 46 governments who came together to create the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 2000 was to “remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides” (our emphasis). However, she really got into trouble with additional, uncontroversial observation that “In practice, [HMD] is not actually circulated and advertised as such.”

Ken Livingstone, another comrade who is also in trouble for making clumsy comments with a kernel of truth, made the incontrovertible observation that “I suspect you’ll find the majority of people in Britain didn’t know the Holocaust Memorial Day had been widened to include others,” he said.

Norman Finkelstein’s 2000 polemic described how the Nazi holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry became the “The Holocaust”: an “ideological representation” of this real historical event, that has is now presented as “categorically unique historical event” which “cannot be rationally apprehended … Indeed, The Holocaust is unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique” (pp41-45).

And which, it must be added, via the ruthless battle for the ‘memory’ of the holocaust becomes a form of the class struggle itself. That, not the bilge about ‘anti-Semitism’ is the political significance of the attacks on comrades Walker, Livingstone and many others in the Labour Party.

LPM recommends Norman G Finkelstein, The holocaust industry: reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (Verso 2000)

Norman Finkelstein
The new Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust Industry

A video of Norman speaking at Communist University 2016 on the issue is available here.

When Norman Finklestein’s The Holocaust Industry first hit the shelves in 2000, he must have anticipated that his punchy little polemic would stir the pot a little. You wouldn’t imagine he anticipated the shit storm that was about to break over him:

  • This book “provides considerable comfort to every holocaust denier, neo-Nazi and anti-Semite on the face of the planet” (Tobias Abse New Interventions autumn 2000).
  • Finkelstein comes “dangerously close to giving comfort to those who dream of new holocausts” (Alex Callinicos Socialist Worker July 22, 2000).
  • “How different is [Finkelstein’s] assertion that ‘the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not plain fraud’, from the holocaust revisionist David Irving’s rantings …?” (Socialist Worker July 22).
  • Finkelstein was “a Jew who doesn’t like Jews” and who “does the anti-Semites’ work for them” (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian July 14, 2000),
  • “He’s poison, he’s a disgusting self-hating Jew, he’s something you find under a rock” (Leon Wieseltier, Zionist intellectual and literary editor of New Republic).

Holocaust industryOn the surface, Finkelstein has impeccable credentials to write on the horror of that broke over European Jewry in WWII. Both his mother and father were survivors of the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps. Apart from his parents, every family member was exterminated by the Nazis. In the words of Finkelstein, “My earliest memory, so to speak, of the Nazi holocaust is my mother glued in front of the television watching the trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961) when I came home from school” (p5).

It is also very ironic that Finkelstein’s project is rather moderate in its scope and its intentions – essentially, all he wanted to do is make the holocaust a subject of rational inquiry. This entails rescuing real history from the clutches of “holocaust correctness” (p65) and so-called ‘holocaust awareness’, which, to use the words of the Israeli writer, Boas Evron, is actually “an official, propagandistic indoctrination, a churning out of slogans and a false view of the world, the real aim of which is not at all an understanding of the past, but a manipulation of the present” (p41).

Finkelstein’s project is to strip away all the self-serving myths and falsehoods which envelop the holocaust, which can only mean stepping on a lot of very sensitive toes – some powerful, some just desperate for a crumb of ideological absolutism in an uncertain and disturbingly relativistic world. As he clearly puts it in his mission statement, “In this text, Nazi holocaust signals the actual historical event, The Holocaust its ideological representation … Like most ideologies, it bears a connection, if tenuous, with reality. The Holocaust is not an arbitrary, but rather an internally coherent, construct. Its central dogmas sustain significant political and class interests. Indeed, The Holocaust has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon” (original italics – p4). In other words, Finkelstein wants to understand how the Nazi holocaust became “the Holocaust” – a “categorically unique historical event” which “cannot be rationally apprehended … Indeed, The Holocaust is unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique” (pp41-45).

As a graphic example of the “sacralisation of the holocaust”, as the liberal scholar Peter Novick dubs it, some have been infuriated by Finkelstein’s blunt statement that “much of the literature on Hitler’s ‘final solution’ is worthless as scholarship. Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud” (p55).

Finkelstein’s remit is to explain the way in which the ruling class and reactionary forces in general have managed to expropriate the ‘memory’ and discourse of the holocaust – to the extent that the almost unimaginable suffering endured by the victims of Nazi rule has become the virtual political-moral property of the reinvented, post-World War II bourgeoisie, which never tires of parading its new-found anti-racism/fascism.

The semi-hysterical reaction to Finkelstein’s birth described above illustrates the alarming climate of censorship that has grown alongside this ideological appropriation. It says it all that the Socialist Workers Party, former Finkelstein fans, issued a call for the works of David Irving to be prohibited from public libraries. If Finkelstein’s views also come “dangerously close” to Irving’s, as Alex Callinicos wrote in Socialist Worker (July 22 2000), then why not demand that The holocaust industry also be removed from public libraries? A very slippery slope.

‘The Holocaust’ – as opposed to the Nazi holocaust – is largely a retrospective construction by those with various (and sometimes rival) ideological and ‘special interest’ axes to grind. Indeed, ‘The Holocaust’ would not have been recognisable to most people who went through World War II and Nazi rule. In some respects, an anachronism (‘The Holocaust’) is being introduced as an alternative to understanding contemporary responses to real events. Substituting for a rational examination of the specific historical dynamics that led to the Nazi holocaust, we have the mystifying fog of ‘holocaust awareness’.

This is easily observed by the way that Martin Niemöller’s famous mea culpa (“First they came for the communists …”) has been radically doctored for political reasons. Infamously, Time magazine’s ‘new’ version promoted the Jews to first place and dropped both the communists and the social democrats. Al Gore publicly did the same too – and for good measure he dumped the trade unionists as well. Gore, Time and others have all added Catholics to Niemöller’s list – even though he did not mention them. In the heavily catholic city of Boston, they were added to the ‘quotation’ inscribed on its holocaust memorial.

Naturally, the establishment-sanctified US Holocaust Museum airbrushes out the communists from its roll call of official victimhood (but, interestingly, the holocaust bureaucrats decided to retain the social democrats as authentic, bona fide victims). Others have decided to include gays – the fact that Niemöller did not was obviously a mere ‘oversight’ on his part.

This footloose and fancy-free attitude to what should be a basic, easily verified and hence non-contested truth clearly demonstrates that the ruthless battle for the ‘memory’ of the holocaust is a form of class struggle – and a handy indicator of the current balance of class forces. Once upon a time, at least in the US, to ‘harp on’ about the Nazi holocaust was a sign of dangerous pinko-commie leanings. Now it is a badge of moral and bourgeois uprightness. Niemöller himself symbolises this shift in bourgeois ideology.

In the 1940s and 1950s the protestant pastor, who spent eight years in Nazi concentration camps, was regarded with grave suspicion by American Jewry in the shape of organisations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti Deformation League. Niemöller’s instinctive opposition to the McCarthyite witch hunts made him persona non grata for America Jewish leaders who were desperate to boost their anti-communist credentials – to the point of joining, and partly financing, far rightist organisations like the All-American Conference to Combat Communism and even turning a blind eye to veterans of the Nazi SS entering the country. Indeed, the AJC enthusiastically joined in the establishment hysteria whipped up against the Rosenbergs, and its monthly publication, Commentary (November 1953), actually editorialised about how the couple – executed as Soviet spies – were not really Jews at all. (This tradition of toadying before the US establishment continues – the Simon Wiesenthal Centre made Ronald Reagan the winner of its ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ award in 1988.)

Another significant aspect to the debate is the so-called uniqueness of the holocaust, an idea heavily pushed in schools, colleges/universities, books, TV documentaries, films, etc. Banally speaking of course, every single event that has ever happened, and ever will happen, is ‘unique’. The evangelists for ‘uniqueness’ have a different agenda though.

Take Deborah Lipstadt, occupant of the holocaust chair at Emory University, an appointee to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and author of the widely lauded, Denying the holocaust: the growing assault on memory and truth. Lipstadt became a liberal hero for successfully slugging it out with David Irving last year in the British courts, after the Hitler-admiring historian filed a doomed libel suit against Lipstadt for branding him “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for holocaust denial”.

What was not mentioned in the mainstream press coverage of the time, and which throws a different and less salutary light on Lipstadt’s motivations, is that she is on record declaring that if you do not accept the ‘uniqueness’ theory, you must be effectively classed alongside those who deny the very historical fact of the Nazi holocaust itself. We are all potential Irvings then. Thus, in Denying the holocaust, Lipstadt rages against the drawing of “immoral equivalences” with the Nazi holocaust – like the Armenian genocide. This has “intriguing implications”, according to Finkelstein, who observes: “Daniel Goldhagen argues that Serbian actions in Kosovo ‘are, in their essence, different from those of Nazi Germany only in scale’. That would make Goldhagen ‘in essence’ a holocaust denier. (The holocaust industry: reflections on the exploitation of Jewish sufferingLondon 2000, p71).

Inconsistencies, contradictions and paradoxes may abound in the ‘uniqueness’ school of Wiesel, Goldhagen, Lipstadt et al – but it is strongly recommended that you make loud, approving noises if you want to find yourself with your feet well under the table, and if you are non-Jewish it could also mean that you are actually feted (always nice). Reject the doctrine, however, and purdah beckons – doubly so if you are Jewish and thus an abominable ‘self-hater’.

MOTION: Labour Party ‘anti-semitism’ smear and witch hunt:

Model Motion promoted by Labour Party Marxists:

Labour Party ‘anti-semitism’ smear and witch hunt:

This branch/CLP/Conference

Rejects the Zionist concept of so-called ‘new anti-Semitism’. There is no basis for equating political criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Jewish racism. It is right to condemn the political ideology of Zionism and the ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land.

Rejects the recent ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign prompted by the Israeli establishment and carried out by the mass media, the Tory Party and the Labour right. The claim that anti-Semitism – ie, anti-Jewish racism – is rife in the Labour Party, particularly in the left wing of the Labour Party, is simply untrue.

Calls for the immediate lifting of all of the suspensions and expulsions from Labour Party membership in any way connected to the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. That includes Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Gerry Downing and numerous other supporters of the Palestinian cause.

Calls for disciplinary proceedings to be instigated against John Mann MP. He publicly attacked Labour NEC member Ken Livingstone in front of TV cameras, calling him a “disgusting Nazi apologist”. An accusation, of course, without foundation. Mann’s attack played a key role in stepping up the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign and could only but damage Labour’s chances in the May elections. Presumably the aim is to create the conditions for the removal of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Condemns the willing collaboration of the Labour Party’s Compliance Unit and the Labour Party general secretary, Ian McNicol, in the witch-hunt. They have been more than ready to accept at face value obviously false and malicious complaints of anti-Semitism.

Condemns the lack of due process in the suspensions and expulsions of Labour Party members. The failure to apply the principles of natural justice brings the Labour Party into disrepute.

Calls for the abolition of the Labour Party Compliance Unit and for the establishment of democratic, transparent disciplinary procedures which follow the principles of natural justice, and in which disciplinary decisions are made by elected representatives, not by paid officials.

Rejects the Zionist concept of so-called ‘new anti-semitism’, which conflates anti-Jewish racism with political criticism of the state of Israel and its ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land, and with criticism of the political ideology of Zionism.