Momentum and the JLM have teamed up to take on David Icke – why bother says Carla Roberts
Who would have thought that the mad ideas of David Icke would be the thing that forges unity between Jon Lansman’s Momentum, the rightwing Jewish Labour Movement and the ‘centrist’ Open Labour. Together they have attempted to organise joint protests outside the venues hosting Icke’s latest speaking tour. Labour First is supporting the protests too. Maybe Progress was busy when Lansman called.
Earlier this year Lansman, a self-confessed Zionist, raised eyebrows when he attended a conference organised by the JLM. But this joint campaign is clearly going a step further. The JLM is an openly Zionist grouping, affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation and the sister party of the Labor Party of Israel. Its leaders (among them Ella Rose, Louise Ellman, Mike Katz and, until recently, the disgraced Jeremy Newmark) are virulently anti-Corbyn and helped to organise the March 26 ‘Enough is enough’ demonstration outside parliament.
In other words, they are very much part of the campaign that is orchestrating the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn. At the anti-Icke protest in Crewe on December 3, former Momentum employee Navendu Mishra (on the left) proudly posted this selfie posing in front of the JLM’s banner. Thanks to Jon Lansman having put this political no-name on the ‘left list’ pushed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance, Mishra is now one of the new members on Labour’s national executive committee. No wonder things in the party are not improving at a great speed.
As if that were not bad enough, it looks like Lansman had (at least) a helping hand in the setting up of a new Facebook page called ‘Socialists Against Anti-Semitism’ – another sponsor of the protests. Momentum’s campaign video on Icke shows Yannis Gourtsoyannis (a Lansman ally on Momentum’s national coordinating group) holding an SAAS banner. In an article on Labour List, he describes how he attended the event “called by a new Labour grouping called Socialists Against Anti-Semitism, and supported by groups including Momentum and the Jewish Labour Movement”.
Officially set up by Barnaby Marder, a previous vice-chair of Red Labour (which makes sometimes amusing online memes), SAAS claims to want to occupy the political space between the Jewish Labour Movement and Jewish Voice for Labour. Its Facebook mission statement states:
“We think that there are anti-Semites in the Labour Party, or people who have (sometimes unknowingly) said anti-Semitic things, or who have given comfort to anti-Semites. But we also think that the issue has been magnified, by those who want to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party, and used cynically to that end.”
Yes, it has been “magnified”, but it is still a very serious problem, according to SAAS. At first glance, the page looks like it could have been set up by the social-imperialists of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, who claim still to be part of the socialist left, while accusing all and sundry of being anti-Semitic.
But incredibly, the ‘Socialists Against Anti-Semitism’ are actually worse. They accuse Chris Williamson MP of “enabling anti-Semitism through promotion of people with anti-Semitic views, and then remaining silent when confronted with their anti-Semitism” (they specify that they mean, of course, anti-Zionists Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein). Plus: “Williamson has been a key mobiliser for Labour Against the Witchhunt, and we in Socialists Against Anti-Semitism find this problematic.” I am sure that LAW feels the same about SAAS.
SAAS have also published an ‘exposé’ featuring a Labour councillor, who has already been “reprimanded by the compliance unit of the Labour Party for some pretty nasty tweets, and told to tone down his social media outbursts”. But that is not enough for our witch-finders, who “sadly [!] have to report that some rather more serious tweets and comments have come to light, which we reproduce for you here”. Their screenshots, with their neat yellow highlighter, look suspiciously identical to those we have seen anonymously submitted as ‘evidence’ in many disciplinary cases.
With denunciations like this, these ‘socialists’ are happily doing the dirty work of the compliance unit. In the name of defending the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, they are actively cooperating with those who will stop at nothing to get rid of him.
SAAS states on its Facebook page: “We are not at present an organisation, although that is likely to change in the future.” Hmm. The left in the Labour Party – and Jeremy Corbyn – need these ‘useful idiots’ like a hole in the head.
Meanwhile, inside the Crewe Lyceum, David Icke was telling the 200 or so people in the audience that there had been numerous threats against his tour venues. ‘No-platforming’ is nothing new, of course. For as long as I can remember the Socialist Workers Party has been engaged in campaigns to disinvite those it deems to be unacceptable speakers and organising protests outside venues featuring said speakers. What is relatively new, however – and has become increasingly popular with the growth of the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign – are organised attempts to cancel events by making anonymous threats against venues that feature ‘anti-Semites’ like Chris Williamson or, as in the case of an attempt to screen a documentary about Jackie Walker at Labour Party conference, bomb hoaxes.
Freedom of speech
Marxists oppose attempts to restrict free speech. For that right to make any sense at all, it must include the right of those you vigorously disagree with. We instead favour open debate to expose dangerous ideas and prejudice – that is the only way you will actually convince somebody to change their mind.
Marxists also have no truck with calling on the state to ban certain groups or ideas – after all, we are likely to be next on the list of those deemed to be spouting ‘dangerous’ ideas, especially when the working class once again becomes a force that can seriously threaten the status quo.
Lastly, shutting down – or even just attempting to shut down – the events of those we disagree with is bound to help make them into martyrs. Thanks to Momentum, hundreds – maybe thousands – of people have looked into the crackpot ideas of David Icke in the last couple of weeks. Judging by online comments, quite a few of them seem to think that he ‘has a point’ – for example, when it comes to his rants against the elites.
Any half-decent conspiracy theorist knows that it is of utmost importance to have at the heart of your ideas a reasonably large kernel of truth. Otherwise, people will not connect with your theories, will not buy your books, come to your events, donate their life savings, etc. Former footballer, sports presenter and Green Party spokesperson David Icke’s ‘truth’ is that he rails against “the elite” that is manipulating world events to keep themselves in power, spread fear and keep most of us down in the gutter, while moving towards a “global fascist state”.
Obviously, this is not a particularly unique ‘truth’ and one that is shared by many successful sects and preachers. They connect to the sense of alienation and powerlessness that people often experience in the soulless and heartless system of capitalism. However, where Marxists try to provide answers based on science, historical materialism and a realistic political programme, those sects and oddballs often feed off and perpetuate this sense of alienation by providing ‘answers’ that rely on interpretation/channelling through the preacher, the sect leader and, in our case, David Icke.
In 1991, shortly after his much-ridiculed TV interview with Terry Wogan, he really found his conspiracy feet, resigned as press officer of the Green Party and announced that he was the “son of Godhead”, who had been told that the world was coming to an end in 1997. Clearly not put off too much by the lack of any world-ending events in that year, he developed his theory of “different dimensions” and that UFOs and ghosts are signs of crafts and people “shifting between frequencies”. He went on to claim that the usual events that conspiracists like to harp on about (the assassination of JFK, the death of princess Diana, the attacks of 9/11, 7/7 etc) were the work of the elite, which – and this certainly was a new take on things – is made up of “inter-dimensional reptilians” called Archons, who have hijacked the earth and formed the “Babylonian Brotherhood” or “illuminati”. Oh, and they can shape-shift.
Famous members of this brotherhood apparently include the whole royal family (especially the queen mother, who he described as “very reptilian”), various US presidents, Ted Heath (“both of his eyes, including the whites, turned jet black and I seemed to be looking into two black holes”) and, as you would expect, a fair chunk of prominent Jews – ie, those with money and power. Like many conspiracy theorists, he strays into common anti-Semitic tropes. For example, he likes to label members of the elite “Rothschild Zionists” – though, contrary to the claims of SAAS that he uses the term as a “code word for Jews”, he clearly includes all members of the “elite”, including many non-Jews. In his book The robot’s rebellion, he makes numerous references to the forged Protocols of the elders of Zion (which purported to detail secret plans for Jewish global domination), describing them as the “illuminati protocols”, which, he says, were produced by “Zionists”.
There is, however, very little evidence to back up the claim that he is a “holocaust denier”. I have found many references that describe him as such because he argues that actual holocaust deniers should have the right to free speech – clearly that is something quite different.
Contrary to Momentum’s claims, anti-Semitism is not at the “sinister core” of Icke’s theories – although the cleverly edited short campaign video very much gives that impression. Clearly, those theories are characterised chiefly by his, shall we say, rather fragile state of mind. Or, as the entry on his RationalWiki puts it rather neatly: “He also has been flirting with holocaust denial, but in Icke’s case it’s less likely a sign of anti-Semitism than yet another manifestation of all-round insanity”.
That does beg the question as to why Momentum would prioritise a campaign against Icke’s new UK tour – while, for example, leaving it up to the Socialist Workers Party to call a demonstration against Tommy Robinson’s mass mobilisation on December 9? Surely, if you are serious about fighting racism (including anti-Semitism), a scumbag like Robinson should be your chief target? Icke gets a few hundred people coming to his events, while Robinson has tens of thousands of followers – many of them wannabe neo-Nazis. But, of course, Robinson is now a staunch Friend of Israel and self-declared “Zionist”?
Icke is a very easy, if not outright lazy, target. It is not difficult to take some of his weirdo lizard claims, edit in a comment about Zionism, a funny look by comedian Larry David and – hey presto – you prove that you are really serious about fighting anti-Semitism. A bit too easy, actually. There is a certain unpleasantness about Momentum’s video – a bit like laughing at a disabled person.
Perhaps this bizarre campaign is Lansman’s attempt to finally stop simply following the smear campaign – but take a leading role in it. He seems to have swallowed the lie that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism and has long supported the campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. This started way back in 2016, when he dumped Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum, after she was first suspended from the Labour Party. He has since campaigned successfully for the Labour NEC to adopt the misleading ‘working definition on anti-Semitism’ published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which labels criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.
His Momentum constitution (imposed on the organisation without any debate in his January 10 2017 coup) declares that anybody expelled by the Labour Party is also expelled from Momentum – which, of course, includes anti-Zionists like Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Marc Wadsworth and possibly soon Jackie Walker. He dumped Pete Willsman, his comrade in the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy of over 30 years, from Momentum’s list of recommended NEC candidates, after he was falsely accused of anti-Semitism. Lansman has long given up the fight for mandatory reselection (even if he briefly and opportunistically jumped on the bandwagon just before conference 2018) – which would have been the obvious way to get rid of some of the most violently anti-Corbyn and rightwing MPs, who will do anything in their power to stop Corbyn becoming the next prime minister.
We hear that ever since the Willsman affair Jeremy Corbyn has not been on speaking terms with Lansman (apparently, he personally told him twice to add Willsman back onto the NEC slate, but Lansman refused). He has also burned all bridges with the Unite union, when he thought it was a good idea to stand against Jennie Formby for general secretary of the Labour Party. Perhaps Jon Lansman is trying to build a future political career as somebody who can be relied upon to appeal to both the right and the soft left.
His ambitions and self-belief clearly know no bounds, however misguided.