Due process and justice
In the interests of political debate and clarification we publish Gerry Downing’s appeal against his expulsion
To Labour Party NEC
March 16 2016
I am in receipt of your letter of March 10, re-expelling me from Labour after my earlier successful appeal last year.
What I am first seeking to appeal against is the lack of due process in the procedure, as put forward in the letter. This is contrary to Labour Party democracy in a double sense: one is that prior to this expulsion and the previous one, no proper hearing was held and I was not invited to put my case to the body that decided the expulsion. In both cases, this was an anti-democratic procedure that is a disgrace to a party that claims to want to be a force for defending democracy in British society. The letter also says that “no appeal is possible” against this latest expulsion.
This lack of due process is contrary to the democratic traditions of the working class movement that the Labour Party is supposed to politically represent. It is rather like the extremely undemocratic procedures that have been rife at times in those trade unions with the most corrupt, bureaucratic leaderships, such as the EETPU under the late Frank Chapple, to give a notorious example.
This anti-democratic procedure (no hearing before expulsion; no right to appeal) was initiated by the Labour Party leadership of Tony Blair, which was involved in extensive criminality against working class people at home and abroad. Such as, most notoriously, the Iraq war, where the Labour Party leadership bore responsibility for over a million deaths, caused by the unprovoked invasion. It was also involved in terrible abuses of democratic rights, such as torture and ‘extraordinary rendition’, and even complicit in the American sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. So it is hardly surprising that a party whose leadership did things like this evolved procedures that show contempt for the seemingly more mundane democratic rights of ordinary Labour Party members at home. If Labour is really trying to improve itself from the days of Blair, it needs to adhere to due process, proper hearings before expulsion, and full rights to appeal.
Previously the appeal body (NEC Panel) decided that support for Socialist Fight, the Marxist publication and trend that I support, was compatible with membership of the Labour Party, since it has never stood in elections against Labour in the past and had no intention of doing so in the future. This is still true, contrary to the sole charge in the letter that I am in breach of clause 2.1.4A of the Labour Party’s rules on supporting “a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party”. If this description is now deemed to apply to Socialist Fight, it also logically applies to Progress, or for that matter the Labour Friends of Israel. I note that unlike these two organisations, Socialist Fight has no external sources of funding whatsoever.
Now, as a result of an intervention by David Cameron, the NEC has either changed its mind or had its mind changed for it by someone. The sheer speed of the expulsion, only hours after Cameron’s denunciation, suggests the decision was taken in an arbitrary manner with no consultation with the members of the NEC or any other body. After all, the appeal against my previous expulsion took many weeks to be processed. There was no reason for such a political decision to be taken in such haste and without a proper procedure being gone through. It is obvious that massive shortcuts were taken in terms of democracy and due process in my case, and what happened was basically a form of summary ‘justice’ driven by political panic.
The letter claims that ‘new evidence’ has emerged about the nature of Socialist Fight. But all material mentioned as being supposedly ‘new’ was in the public domain when the original appeal took place. Even in its own terms, if taken at face value (which it should not be - see later), this implies either negligence in carrying out the original appeal or, more likely, a political fix to appease David Cameron.
I openly stated my revolutionary socialist beliefs in the original Twitter profile that was the basis for my original expulsion, and did not in any way disavow those beliefs in making my original appeal - in fact I reiterated them. My revolutionary Trotskyist views were taken into account by those who granted the appeal and all my political positions were available to them. There is no ‘new evidence’ that was not available to the people who granted my previous appeal. Morally the original appeal should stand, according to the basic norms of the British legal system among others, when an acquittal can only be overturned in the event of genuinely new evidence, which was not available to the original trial or appeal, being found. The claim of ‘new evidence’ is fraudulent.
Now I will deal with the real politics underlying my summary and anti-democratic expulsion. Three accusations were made against me and Socialist Fight by David Cameron, the Tory blogger, Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes), and various rightwing Labour MPs and media people. These were:
(1) that I am a 9/11 apologist;
(2) that I am a in some way a supporter of Islamic State;
(3) that the material published by Socialist Fight on the Jewish question is in some way ‘anti-Semitic’.
All these allegations are false and mendacious. I will demonstrate this below.
First there is the question of Socialist Fight’s militant anti-imperialism. I note that Jeremy Corbyn has stated that the Tony Blair-led Labour government was involved in war crimes in invading and occupying Iraq, and has called for Blair to be extradited to The Hague for trial. Yet Tony Blair is still allowed to be a member of the Labour Party. I note that among the most vociferous political figures demanding my expulsion were people who supported the Iraq war. As anti-imperialists, myself and Socialist Fight oppose all wars against semi-colonial countries by imperialist powers such as Britain and the United States, and defend the peoples and institutions targeted. We consider that they are all lesser evils to imperialist rape and pillage. Complementary to this, we oppose all attacks on civilians anywhere, such as 9/11 and the more recent massacre in Paris last November.
9/11 and imperialism’s wars
A large and hypocritical fuss was made about some phrases in a recent Socialist Fight article by myself that was in fact debunking so-called ‘9/11 truth’ beliefs: ie, that the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in September 2001 were carried out by the US government and/or the Israelis. In debunking this I talked about the motivation of the attackers and the crimes of western imperialism - in particular the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s that led to the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children.
When Madeleine Albright was US ambassador to the United Nations in May 1996, she was asked: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” She replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it” - obviously to achieve the political objectives of the USA through sanctions in that period.
The death toll from the 2003 invasion of Iraq was reported from various sources to be in excess of one million. I noted that it was the thirst for vengeance for such crimes that drove such people and that, however much you abhorred the loss of civilian life in the 9/11 attacks, you could not condemn the rage and motivations of those affected by the mass murder of Arabs, including children, by the west in carrying out its objectives. And you had to say that condemnation had to be directed to those who reduced the relatively advanced lands of Libya, Syria and Iraq to rubble by destroying their infrastructure for ‘regime change’ - for ‘peace, justice and democracy’ which never came and will never come from that source.
But this was not a statement on an event that had just happened. This was an article discussing motivations, and conspiracy theories, involving an event that happened nearly 15 years ago. In other words, it was discussing a historical event in broad-brush, generalised terms, not taking a position on something current. When it comes to events as they occur, it is clear Socialist Fight condemns indefensible attacks on civilians. I quote the statement that Socialist Fight issued about the Paris attacks in November 2015, which make our position on this abundantly clear:
Socialist Fight condemns utterly the barbaric terrorist action carried out on Friday November 13 in Paris, which has left around 130 dead, and another 300 injured, 80 critically. These came only hours after other bloody actions targeting Shia Muslims in bombings in Beirut, where 41 died, and Baghdad, where 26 were killed.
We condemn these actions as bloody crimes against the French, Middle Eastern and international working class, and indeed the civilian populations more generally. We extend our profound condolence, sympathy and solidarity to the families and friends of the murdered victims and the wounded.
As Marxists we are totally opposed to methods of individual terrorism, however ‘anti-imperialist’ the motivation of the perpetrators may be. The inevitable consequences of this is civilian casualties, intended or not. And the attack never weakens imperialism, it always strengthens the repressive forces of the capitalist state against the working class and its aspiring revolutionary leadership.
This attack in Paris is qualitatively worse than the Charlie Hebdo massacre, because, however misguided that was, at least it was against targeted victims who they held to be in some manner, however distorted, responsible for the wars in the Middle East and North Africa. This attack was for openly reactionary motives specifically targeting defenceless civilians which can only result in increased Islamophobia and repression of the entire working class and further moves towards a police state.1
There is no contradiction between this statement, about a recent and contemporary event, and my statement about the motives of the attackers in September 2001. I was referring to the events that motivated the attackers, being driven by western crimes against the Arab peoples. There is abundant evidence that it was the crimes of the US-led forces in Iraq and the sanctions regime that led the previously pro-western al Qa’eda Network led by Osama bin Laden, that previously fought on the US-UK side in Afghanistan against the USSR, to turn against the west.
IS and imperialism
The second point concerns my statements about Islamic State. It is a principled position of Marxists that we oppose all attacks by imperialist forces - that is, the armed forces of advanced western capitalist countries - on the peoples and regimes of dependent, third world, semi-colonial countries. We consider the western countries, so long as the long established capitalist ruling classes in those countries remain the real ruling power in society (which is true even under reformist Labour-type governments under capitalism), to be by far the main predatory force in the world.
This has not changed since the heyday of the colonial empires, though the successful struggles for independence since World War II have modified the way that this predation is carried out. We therefore, as a matter of principle, support the right of indigenous forces in such countries to resist imperialist attacks. We also say that it is the duty of the workers’ movement in imperialist countries to assist them in defending themselves when possible. This is the meaning of the phrase about “tactical military assistance” that has been so often quoted, again out of context. In the current situation such assistance would most likely take the form of political strikes against a given war. In a developed revolutionary situation, more might be possible.
If this is considered impermissible in the Labour Party, let me recall that the Labour Party was split down the middle over the issue of armed resistance to British colonial rule in the days of the Irish war of independence before 1921. More recently, under Tony Blair, a Labour government, jointly with the administration of George W Bush, committed a terrible crime in invading Iraq in a blatant neo-colonial war. The Iraqi people, and indeed its government, had every right to expect support from working class organisations in the west to resist the conquest.
The Iraq war led to chaos in the entire region. The destruction and destabilisation of Iraq spilled over into Syria with the outbreak of the Arab spring. The west, along with close allies in Israel and also Saudi Arabia, backed some of the Islamist forces that spilled over from Iraq in a very cynical policy aimed at overthrowing the Assad regime. Similar things happened also in Libya, this time with direct western military intervention and, unlike in the Assad case, actually succeeded in overthrowing Gaddafi. The result: murderous chaos.
A Guardian article on October 25 2015 recorded that Tony Blair admitted the rise of IS was due to the Iraq invasion of 2003:
Blair indicated that he saw merit in the argument that the Iraq war was to blame for the rise of Islamic State (Isis). “I think there are elements of truth in that,” he said, when asked whether the Iraq invasion had been the “principal cause” of the rise of Isis. He added: “Of course, you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”
Western militarists propose to combat the chaos that they have already caused in the Middle East by more attacks, this time on forces like IS in Iraq and Syria, having previously tried and failed to cohere an armed coalition to overthrow Assad the way they overthrew Gaddafi. We have the same principled position on these attacks and proposed attacks as we did over the Iraq war. We are utterly opposed to all such imperialist attacks and support the right of semi-colonial peoples and forces to resist these attacks, whether it be on Assad, IS or whoever. At the same time we do not support the politics of any of these forces.
IS, no matter how reactionary they are, should be supported only in these circumstances and only against imperialist attack. David Cameron quoted half a sentence to propose that I was giving them unqualified and uncritical support. The criminal barbarians in Raqqa commit crimes that are relatively minor compared to the million or so Iraqis evaporated and slaughtered by high-tech ‘smart’ bombs that only inflict incidental ‘collateral damage’.
This is a completely principled anti-imperialist position: if the Labour Party prohibits such views, while allowing the perpetrators of crimes like the Iraq war to call the shots, it shows that it is still basically a party whose role is to assist in imperialist crimes against the peoples of dependent, underdeveloped countries. Labour needs to break from this, as I am sure the party leader, most members and the most progressive members of the shadow cabinet agree.
Then there is the furore about the Jewish question. Many of the allegations made against me and Socialist Fight are libellous and would not stand up in a court of law. Our tradition is rooted in the ideas of Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and particularly the Belgian-Jewish Trotskyist, Abram Leon, the author of The Jewish question: a Marxist interpretation (1942) and a heroic leader of working class clandestine resistance during Nazi occupation in World War II, who for his activities was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Contrary to various ignorant innuendos and amalgams made by unscrupulous and often racist people both inside and outside Labour, my views of and those of SF on this are based solidly on a long tradition of socialist and Marxist thought and have nothing to do with Nazism.
It should not even be necessary to defend oneself against such smears in this day and age. I thought we had moved on from the terrible days of Stalinist domination, when leftwing people had to defend themselves against unscrupulous allegations of support for fascism. But we are living in a period where those who defend Palestinian rights are coming under anti-democratic attack on a wide scale from pro-Israel forces in western societies. If you believe that all peoples are equal, and the right of Palestinian Arabs not to live in conditions of impoverished exile from their own country, and be massacred on a regular basis, then you must be concerned to unearth the political roots of these attacks on democratic rights.
Israel’s supporters (including those in the Labour Party) say that Jews have every right to steal land from the Palestinian people by force and mass expulsions, and have the right to ‘defend’ the territory so taken by force from their victims in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’. The argument goes that this is acceptable because of the genocide committed in Europe by the Nazis in World War II, and because of the origin of the Jewish religion in Palestine and the existence of two Jewish states there around 2,000 years ago. In the face of all these ideological arguments, in which Jews and Zionism as a form of Jewish nationalism feature very heavily, we in the Labour Party and the left are supposed to defer to the Friends of Israel and refrain from analysing the Jewish question independently of them on pain of being accused of anti-Semitism.
I disagree. I think these are fundamental attacks on democracy and anti-racism. I support the right to return of the Palestinian refugees - a position endorsed by the United Nations general assembly in 1948 and 1974 - which would result in a narrow, but clear, Arab majority in historic Palestine and make any ethnic-based state impossible. And in a democratic party opposed to racism I would have every right to argue my point of view against others.
For me the Jewish question is inseparable from the Palestinian question and has no meaning without that. Israel says it is the Jewish state, and claims to represent all Jews. Israel’s supporters in the Labour Party both support that claim as the moral basis of Israel’s ‘case’ against the Palestinians, and at the same time lie that any attempt to analyse the real relationship of Jews to Israel is in some way ‘anti-Semitic’. This is a deeply hypocritical position.
In particular, it is inseparable from the drive to suppress pro-Palestinian activism in the UK and other western countries. Apparently it is unacceptable to question whether organised ethnocentric politics is involved in this and influences western governments. But it can be clearly demonstrated that part of the capitalist classes of important western countries, including the US and the UK, have a material stake in the maintenance of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. The mechanism of this is a well-known racist law: the 1950 and 1970 Law of Return, which says that any person born of a Jewish mother anywhere in the world is entitled to Israeli citizenship by birth. Whereas any non-Jew born to parents of Palestinian refugees driven out of Israel proper in or since 1947-48, which even then amounted to over two-thirds of the Palestinian Arab population, is entitled to nothing at all. Of course, there is no Palestinian Law of Return for the 6.5 million exiled so brutally from their homeland since 1948.
In practice the state in all capitalist societies is dominated by sections of big capital which are tied to a particular state, particularly by ties of residence and/or citizenship. This is so pronounced that in 1914 in Europe, different national ruling classes, defined in this way, fought each other for domination and killed millions of workers in the process. In Israel, the state is partly ‘owned’ in this way by Jewish capitalists overseas with dual citizenship according to the racist Law of Return. This is the material stake just referred to. This section of the capitalists has over decades since World War II acquired a broad authority among the western ruling classes and the clout to exert great political pressure in western countries.
This is why Palestinian solidarity activity is being incrementally banned in a number of western countries, including many US states, the UK and most notoriously France. This is the material basis of Zionist power in western societies.
Part of this banning of Palestine solidarity activity is the attack on myself and the denial of due process and right of appeal. This is entirely alien to Labour movement democracy. It is, however, in the spirit of Israeli racist tyrannical practices, such as ‘administrative detention’, where ordinary Palestinians who dissent from Israeli oppression and abuses are locked up without rights of appeal. A little bit of Israeli contempt for democracy has been imported into the Labour Party.
The mechanism for this is the Labour Friends of Israel, which is a racist, anti-Arab Zionist ‘party within a party’, aiming to garner support for the ongoing Naqba against the Palestinians and to suppress sympathy with their plight by a mendacious narrative that says that solidarity with Palestinians is driven by Nazi-style race hatred against Jews. Ironically, this narrative is a prime example of a technique pioneered by the Nazis: Goebbels’ technique of the Big Lie.
I will quote Ronnie Kasrils, one of the key leaders of the struggle for liberation in apartheid South Africa, who is himself of Jewish origin:
The people within the West Bank and Gaza are literally imprisoned under the most unjust conditions, suffering hardships and methods of control that are far worse than anything our people faced during the most dreadful days of apartheid. In fact any South African, visiting what amount to enclosed prison-ghettoes - imposed by a Jewish people that tragically suffered the Nazi holocaust - will find similarity with apartheid immediately coming to mind; and, even more shocking, comparisons with some of the methods of collective punishment and control devised under tyrannies elsewhere. An Israeli cabinet minister, Aharon Cizling, stated in 1948, after the Deir Yassin massacre: “Now we too have behaved like Nazis and my whole being is shaken.”2
It is pretty clear that on the spectrum of racist terror and tyranny, Israel is considerably worse than apartheid South Africa, though obviously so far less severe than Nazi Germany itself (though it should be noted that Hitler’s regime lasted only 12 years - Israeli terror continues unabated after 70 years). Apartheid South Africa did not seek to eliminate its black majority the way Israel has tried to do with its Arab majority population, more than two thirds of which were expelled in 1947-49. Obviously it has not attempted to physically exterminate the Arab population outright. But the terror involved in Gaza, particularly, has been characterised as “incremental genocide” by prominent Israeli-Jewish dissidents such as Ilan Pappe, the historian who has documented the Naqba in painstaking detail.
There is a terrible logic in seeking to get rid of an ‘unwanted’ population that has a dynamic that can lead to outright genocide. The ethos of the Israeli state is to change the composition of the population of historic Palestine through the elimination from the country of the Arab majority, and the creation of an artificial Jewish majority, in an ongoing Naqba.
Could Labour have tolerated a ‘Labour Friends of White South Africa’? Or a ‘Labour Friends of Nazi Germany’? Such things would be a disgrace, and an obscene insult to blacks and Jews, as well as anti-racists who sympathise with them. Why should it therefore tolerate a Labour Friends of Israel? That it does so is an equally obscene insult to Palestinians and those who oppose the racist treatment and abuse of them.
LFI is a communalist organisation that promotes anti-Arab racism in the Labour Party and acts in collaboration with the Conservative Friends of Israel and similar groups to promote support for Israeli ethnic cleansing in wider British society. Its activity in concert with David Cameron, who is a declared supporter of Conservative Friends of Israel, in demanding my expulsion from Labour, is proof of this. This is characteristic of a racist, cross-party, cross-class, anti-Arab coalition aimed at destroying Labour Party democracy.
The narrative that Israel is ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East is another Big Lie. It is the only ‘democracy’ in the world established by expelling the majority of its native population and replacing them with armed settlers. It is not a democracy, but an ethnocratic tyranny of the worst sort. Any support for this is contrary to the interests of the working class, for whom drawing a class line against racism is of the highest necessity.
Unproscribe the militant socialist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist Socialist Fight trend! And hence reinstate myself as a Labour member with full rights, as part of restoring democracy and due process in the Labour Party.
Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
Finally on the question of what is anti-Semitism and what is anti-Zionism and the difference between the two, so assiduously confused in the allegations against me and Socialist Fight. I would cite four leftist authorities to defend me, Socialist Fight and the Labour Party in general against the false charges laid against us in the present wide-ranging witch-hunt, initiated by the far-right blogger, Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines), and David Cameron.
The four are Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Marder and Tariq Ali, who have argued that the characterisation of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitic is inaccurate, sometimes obscures legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and actions, and is sometimes a political ploy to stifle criticism of Israel.
Professor Noam Chomsky argues:
There have long been efforts to identify anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in an effort to exploit anti-racist sentiment for political ends; “one of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all,” Israeli diplomat Abba Eban argued, in a typical expression of this intellectually and morally disreputable position (Eban, Congress Bi-Weekly, March 30 1973). But that no longer suffices. It is now necessary to identify criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitism - or, in the case of Jews, as ‘self-hatred’, so that all possible cases are covered.3
Philosopher Michael Marder argues:
To deconstruct Zionism is ... to demand justice for its victims - not only for the Palestinians, who are suffering from it, but also for the anti-Zionist Jews, ‘erased’ from the officially consecrated account of Zionist history. By deconstructing its ideology, we shed light on the context it strives to repress and on the violence it legitimises with a mix of theological or metaphysical reasoning and affective appeals to historical guilt for the undeniably horrific persecution of Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere.
American political scientist Norman Finkelstein argues that anti-Zionism and often just criticism of Israeli policies have been conflated with anti-Semitism, sometimes called new anti-Semitism for political gain:
Whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle such as the Intifada or international pressure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, American Jewish organisations orchestrate this extravaganza called the ‘new anti-Semitism’. The purpose is several-fold. First, it is to discredit any charges by claiming the person is an anti-Semite. It’s to turn Jews into the victims, so that the victims are not the Palestinians any longer. As people like Abraham Foxman of the ADL put it, the Jews are being threatened by a new holocaust. It’s a role reversal - the Jews are now the victims, not the Palestinians. So it serves the function of discrediting the people levelling the charge. It’s no longer Israel that needs to leave the occupied territories; it’s the Arabs who need to free themselves of the anti-Semitism.4
Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani historian and political activist, argues that the concept of new anti-Semitism amounts to an attempt to subvert the language in the interests of the state of Israel. He writes that the campaign against “the supposed new ‘anti-Semitism’” in modern Europe is a “cynical ploy on the part of the Israeli government to seal off the Zionist state from any criticism of its regular and consistent brutality against the Palestinians ... Criticism of Israel cannot and should not be equated with anti-Semitism.” He argues that most pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist groups that emerged after the Six-Day War were careful to observe the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.5
The above is extracted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.6
1 . http://socialistfight.com/2015/11/17/the-paris-massacre-imperialisms-chickens-coming-home-to-roost-17-11-2015.
2 . https://electronicintifada.net/content/ronnie-kasrils-speech-s-african-parliament-40th-anniversary-occupation/6992.
3 . N Chomsky Necessary illusions New York 1989.
4 . www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/5104.
5 . T Ali, ‘Notes on anti-Semitism, Zionism and Palestine’ Counterpunch March 4 2004.
6 . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Zionism.