No to witch-hunt
A week after our lobby of Labour’s first pro-Corbyn national executive committee meeting, an impressive gathering of over 70 Labour Party activists convened in London’s Conway Hall on January 29 at Labour Against the Witchhunt’s first public meeting. A total of £400 cash was collected, and another 33 comrades signed up to LAW, bringing membership to over a hundred. Just a beginning.
Speakers from the floor matched the impressive panel, with longstanding Labour members, veteran socialists, anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigners reporting how they have been suspended, or automatically expelled, by the petty Blairite bureaucrats still employed at Labour HQ.
Hundreds of leftwing and pro-Palestinian members remain expelled or suspended, many on “bogus charges of anti-Semitism”, which, in the words of Ken Loach, are “absolute nonsense”. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, but, as Tony Greenstein explained, everything to do with destabilising Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The absurdity of Israel’s anti-Semitism smear campaign against its critics, now being utilised by Labour’s right wing, was highlighted when Israeli citizen Cyril Chilson, the son of holocaust survivors, who had spent 16 years in the Israeli Defence Force and was sickened by the abuse meted out by soldiers to Palestinians in the occupied territories, told that he too is now suspended for alleged anti-Semitism.
LAW chair Jackie Walker recalled that the anti-Semitism smears began suddenly, three years ago, as soon as Jeremy got onto the ballot for Labour Leader. “LAW demands that there should be no more disciplinary hearings in the Labour Party until the recommendations of the Chakrabarti report on natural justice and due process have been implemented,” she said. “The current disciplinary system is contrary to the ethics of our party, which are about protecting the weak against the strong and maintaining principles of justice for all.”
Marc Wadsworth complained: “It is deeply disturbing that life-long anti-racists campaigners like Jackie and Tony, who are Jewish, and myself, a black man, have been targeted. Yet anti-black racism and Islamophobia, which are more prevalent than anti-Semitism, have been ignored by the Labour Party.” He added that LAW has to “work hard to give the new leftwing majority on the NEC the strength, the backbone, to stand up to the witch-hunt”.
LAW honorary president Moshé Machover reminded us that, after first being accused of anti-Semitism, he was expelled simply for allowing articles he had written to be published in the Weekly Worker and Labour Party Marxists. Rule 2.1.4.B is available for apparatchiks to automatically expel, with no right of appeal, a member or “supporter” of any political organisation which is not affiliated to Labour and which is not a Labour Party unit. “I asked them repeatedly what ‘support’ is supposed to mean, but got no reply,” said Moshé. Nevertheless, he was reinstated after dozens of Labour Party branches and CLPs issued motions in his support, and an international protest campaign got under way: “The compliance unit suddenly decided that I did not support either organisation or newspaper. A few weeks earlier they had decided exactly the opposite, based on exactly the same information.”
Ken Loach laid into the treacherous majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party: “When Jeremy became leader, almost the entire PLPrefused to serve. With a united party, we would have won the general election. Many local election pamphlets did not mention Jeremy and omitted manifesto policies. Keir Starmer, for example, might as well have been standing under Blair. We now need to defend and extend the manifesto. We need to get a new party in parliament. And being a Labour MP is not a job for life. It is the democratic right of members to select their candidates.”
The next gathering of witches will be the lobby of Tony Greenstein’s disciplinary hearing in Brighton, on Sunday February 18 (venue to be announced). To keep informed, go to the LAW website and sign up for our email newsletter (www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org).
Over 50 Labour members gathered in Birmingham on January 30 for the city’s launch of LAW. Jackie Walker spoke first and got straight to the point - the witch-hunt is about weakening Corbyn’s position as leader and forcing the next Labour government to the right by removing left activists. She reminded us that the ‘problem’ of anti-Semitism in the party arose from nowhere when Corbyn became leader. She explained that LAW isn’t just about defending the victims and providing solidarity: it also demands fundamental change in the party’s disciplinary processes.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi gave examples of left activists in her part of London who’ve been suspended for over a year on the basis of trumped-up charges. She urged LAW to quantify the scale of the problem by getting the NEC to reveal how many members are suspended pending a hearing, how long have they been waiting and how many automatic exclusions have occurred.
Marc Wadsworth called for the immediate implementation of the Chakrabarti report in respect of the party’s disciplinary procedures. That would introduce the concepts natural justice and due process, and enforce time limits for each stage.
The discussion that followed revealed that unjust suspensions and expulsions are nothing new in Birmingham - they’ve been going on for decades. And those responsible in the party’s regional office are still in place today.
From the floor Stan Keable explained how clause 2.1.4.B of the party rules has been used to exclude him, and how any member can be deemed to be contravening it. He also questioned the emphasis other speakers placed on legal challenges, and relying on the courts to force the hand of the Labour bureaucracy. His suggestion that instead we should mobilise the membership to challenge unjust decisions was met with applause.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to organise further LAW activity in the city.
Moshé Machover really is tying himself in knots as a would-be Marxist in trying to bend modern-day social reality to assuage his own fear of appearing to echo some kind of anti-Semitic ‘trope’ (Letters, January 25).
He ascribes to me some kind of demonic desire to justify a thesis about “international Jewish power” in my letter of January 18. But he does protest too much, since my letter did not mention this concept and I do not subscribe to classless notions that a particular undifferentiated (by class) group wields ‘power’ in itself. The concept is his - or, more accurately, he fears that if he does not bend both Marxism and material reality in a particular way, he will fall into the trap of echoing this ‘trope’.
Moshé complains that I have exaggerated the extent of Israel’s Law of Return by not noting that a Jewish person born abroad has to migrate to Israel to exercise it. But my whole point is that this particularly gives Jewish bourgeois born abroad a virtual birthright to a share of the Israeli state. The migration requirement is an insignificant barrier, as Shlomo Sand noted in a book he wrote in 2014:
“It is enough to make a short visit to Israel, readily obtain an identity card, and acquire a second residence there before returning immediately to their national culture and their mother tongue, while remaining in perpetuity a co-proprietor of the Jewish state - and all this for simply having been lucky enough to be born of a Jewish mother” (How I stopped being a Jew London 2014, pp84-85).
Obviously, it is particularly insignificant to the wealthy, who also by virtue of their bourgeois status, immediately become ‘co-proprietors’ of the Israeli bourgeois state. Moshé implicitly concedes this point; he does not contradict it in theoretical/programmatic terms, but simply tries to dodge it by grossly exaggerating the difficulties in exercising this very bourgeois right.
The other side of Moshé’s facile argument leads him into Kautskyism. He seriously argues that the theoretical ability of some wealthy people to buy citizenship of marginal European states like Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria, or of tax havens in the Caribbean, means that there are no national bourgeoisies any more and that “the capitalist class, irrespective of religion, is international”. He argues that buying a citizenship of one of these marginal European states amounts to buying into the “EU ruling class”.
An absurd argument that takes as its starting point the notion that there is an “EU ruling class” that encompasses the ruling classes of all of its component states, and that buying into the Maltese, Cypriot or Bulgarian bourgeoisies would mean buying into this “EU ruling class”. I guess the Greek ruling class, whose economy has been strangled by austerity dictated by the main EU imperialists, Germany and France, would demur from the absurd notion that they are part of a unified “EU ruling class”.
The EU is not a bourgeois state, but a bloc between several imperialist and some semi-colonial bourgeois states, in which the relations between the states are put into a rigid, but quite brittle framework. Its incapacity to unite and generate a single ruling class and a single state is a prime indicator of why the bourgeoisie is not a genuine international class. The Jewish-Zionist bourgeois caste is a very partial exception, which itself proves the rule, for its apparent internationalism is driven by an anomalous form of particularism. This is driven by political Zionism as a form of pseudo- or semi-nationalism that still does not transcend national chauvinism, but just expresses it in a different way.
Moshé’s assertion that the capitalist class is an international class is anti-Marxist nonsense, basically identical to Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism, which posited an increasingly peaceful world, as the various ‘ultra-imperialists’ grow into each other and national antagonisms dissolve. That is not the world we live in.
The BBC’s equal pay agenda does rather emphasise just how unequal bourgeois ‘equality’ can be. By limiting news readers’ salaries to £33,300 it demonstrates not only that men are being paid more than women, but also that some women are being paid much more than most - apparently about 10 times more. On top of that isn’t it more about reducing the pay of men rather than increasing the pay of women?
Interestingly it does not apply to sports reporters. Gary Lineker will continue to be paid much more than Claire Balding. The BBC is driven by the need to offer competitive pay rates to retain its ‘best’ talent (and news is of less commercial importance than sport these days). The battle for sexual equality between the rich and superrich has not been won. Unsurprisingly, it is being fought out almost exclusively in terms of money, as if that was the be-all of equality.
The BBC is not Hollywood, so there are no sexual shenanigans to concern us here. But, if there were, the Confederation of British Industry has a simple, foolproof answer: more women on the board of directors. For many, many years there were plenty of powerful women in Hollywood who never said a thing in public about sexual harassment. It’s the job, stupid, and its worth being harassed to get to the top (if you don’t get to the top it’s a different matter). So I’m glad to see solidarity being displayed now, however late in the day. But the message these scandals leave behind is that money trumps solidarity almost every time. The judicious use of sexual favours can be of immense benefit to the individual, but it is selfish.
In traditional hunter-gatherer society equality is the result of an overall social balance of power, based on female solidarity. While it starts with the enforcement of sexual equality, it extends to limit the power of all individuals and groups. It positively prevents the growth of inequality by providing sufficient psychological space for everyone within a collectivist ideology. But then hunter-gatherers were communists.
The present debate within identity politics is not leading to human solidarity, but to division - at times bordering on madness. I wonder which section of society will benefit most (or suffer least) from the divisions.
When it comes to the current public release of energy surrounding sexual harassment or, even more poignantly, around physical attacks by sexual ‘predators’, it seems to me that many comrades are content to nestle within an ideological comfort zone, whilst simultaneously spouting platitudes. These are platitudes (or anyway easy-fit explanations) pushed forward via a ‘one size fits all’ formula; by all too readily waving Marxist maxims, such as ‘power equals abuse’.
In parallel, of course, the hotchpotch of tribalism that’s running rampant on this topic right now creates an extremely risk-laden zone for any leftist to enter. Scattered amongst the entirely corrupt and deeply corrosive self-interest of our mass/corporate media are many pertinent traps. Hovering within the short-sightedness of that both glitzy and narcissistic ‘Hollyweird’/TV celebrity-base involved are many others. When viewed together, that nonsense of theirs leads nowhere except towards a cemetery for any healthy comprehension or advancement.
Having said all that, we overlook at our peril any of the less than glaringly obvious factors involved in scenarios of human sexual interaction - certainly where there’s either conflict or associated differing perceptions. Perhaps most notable is the consideration that either gender is perfectly capable of being irrational, confused and messy. Anyone can possess a shitty-plus-boorish side to their nature. Any woman can be contradictory or even undesirably ‘dark’; they can be no less destructive than any male equivalent within our human species. In a nutshell, either gender has the potential to be dodgy, dubious or outright malevolent in their sexual practices, behaviour, inclinations and motivations - and, consequently, in their aberrational intentions, their ‘unconscious’ objectives.
And somewhere within that twisting kaleidoscope of variables the sheer agony of wrongful arrest, followed by wrongful prosecution, lies hidden; the rubble and dust of ‘miscarriages of justice’ patiently lies in wait. In fact, there proactively is invited all the tragic, tawdry, dramatic and extremely horrible rest of it.
And if chemical substances such as alcohol or drugs are thrown into this already fiery-hot mash-up of eroticism, passion and psyche, then a whole new world of difficulty is ignited. In that manner, nothing short of a spinning galaxy of errors, foolishness, stupidity, misjudgements, miscalculations, accidents and all consequential damage lies super-primed to explode!