No to witch-hunt
It is clear from reports such as John Rentoul in The Independent (May 21) that Ken Livingstone’s resignation was not voluntary, but the result of pressure exerted by Jeremy Corbyn and his close associates.
We refer in particular to Shami Chakrabarti’s disgraceful attack on Livingstone on BBC’s Sunday politics (May 13), when she threatened she would quit the Labour front bench if Livingstone was not expelled. Chakrabarti has not only ignored her own recommendations on natural justice and due process but she has also destroyed her own reputation, as a former director of Liberty, as a champion of freedom of expression.
Nothing Livingstone was alleged to have done could in any way be described as anti-Semitic. His remark that “Hitler supported Zionism” is confirmed by a host of holocaust historians. If he gave offence to supporters of Israel and Zionism, it is because of the appalling record historically of Zionism, when it comes to fighting real anti-Semites.
The attack on Livingstone and the expulsions of Marc Wadsworth and Tony Greenstein were all part of the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt. It is noticeable that, when it came to laying charges, the Labour Party avoided for legal reasons accusing people of anti-Semitism. Instead the catch-all charge of ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ was used.
Livingstone is the latest victim of a witch-hunt pursued by the pro-Israel lobby and the right wing in the Labour Party. The fact that it is supported by the same tabloid press which has employed Katy Hopkins, Rod Liddle and Richard Littlejohn should dispel any idea that this is about racism or anti-Semitism.
It is about Israel and defence of imperialist interests in the Middle East. It is about stopping the transformation of the Labour Party into an anti-war party that will stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and refuses to be dragged into another devastating war in the Middle East.
It is shocking that two years after the Chakrabarti report into racism was published, none of its recommendations around “due process” and “natural justice” have been implemented. This delay is not an oversight. It is clear that the party bureaucracy has been trying to get the high-profile cases ‘out of the way’ first. And now Jackie Walker’s expulsion hearing is imminent.
Jeremy Corbyn and his allies operate under the illusion that if they sacrifice enough members to the witch-hunters then their campaign will come to an end. They are seriously mistaken. Appeasement merely feeds the appetites of the witch-hunters.
This setback will only strengthen the resolve of Labour Against the Witchhunt activists. We fully understand the agenda of Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement and Progress: to re-establish the politics and economics of neoliberalism in the Labour Party.
We call on Jeremy Corbyn, general secretary Jennie Formby and the national executive committee to finally put an end to this ongoing witch-hunt against the left in the party:
- LAW does not recognise the legitimacy of the expulsions/exclusions of party comrades on trumped-up charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ and will continue to organise with them to defeat the right.
- All those summarily expelled or suspended from membership without due process, or as part of the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt, should be immediately reinstated - and that includes Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Stan Keable, Tony Greenstein and Cyril Chilson.
- We need a moratorium: no more new cases to be sent to Labour’s kangaroo court (national constitutional committee), which is dominated by the right; all cases currently in front of the NCC should be referred back to the national executive.
Labour Against the Witchhunt
Shame on Hammersmith and Fulham council. The decision to sack me on April 21, after 17 years of unblemished service as a housing enforcer, for expressing my political views - namely, anti-Zionism - on the March 26 Jewish Voice for Labour demonstration in Parliament Square, has brought the council, and the Labour Party, into disrepute, and rubbished its own much vaunted anti-racist reputation.
Does the H&F Labour council really want to forbid criticism of Zionism - the official ideology of the racist Israeli state? Does the council support the ethnic cleansing of the 1948 nakba (‘disaster’ - the forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians), the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian Israeli citizens and the ongoing ethnic cleansing on the West Bank?
At the very moment when the Zionist Israeli state is massacring its own Palestinian citizens, imprisoned, impoverished and starved in the siege of Gaza, H&F forbids the criticism of Zionism, becoming the first council to extend the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ charade from the suspension and expulsion of pro-Corbyn Labour Party members to the dismissal of employees. This opens the way for the introduction into the UK of the notorious West German practice of Berufsverbot - the wholesale sacking of socialist teachers and civil servants under the 1972 ‘anti-radical decree’. Logically, I suppose all job applicants should now be vetted by asking the question, ‘Are you an anti-Zionist?’
My dismissal letter is entitled “Strictly private and confidential”, but the attempt of a Labour council to ditch freedom of speech and assembly is a threat to the employment rights of millions and a matter of public concern. Freedoms have always been fought for and won in public.
I can remember, in slightly more rational times, when serious disciplinary cases - those involving “gross misconduct” and possible dismissal - were heard by councillors, not paid officers. It is ridiculous today that an employee, the director of environment, who is no doubt competent in dealing with environmental issues, should be tasked with resolving a political issue that has nothing to do with work, while elected Labour politicians can wash their hands of the matter like Pontius Pilot.
I shall, of course, be submitting an appeal, and/or taking the matter to an employment tribunal, where I feel sure the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech - including the right to express views which are irritating or offensive to a section of the public or the state - are more likely to be upheld. Freedom of speech is nothing if it does not include the right to offend.
I’d like to call out the Weekly Worker and the left generally for largely ignoring the increasing adoption of ‘hate crimes’ by the state to ban and prosecute any speech that is not to its liking.
As reported by the BBC, we have 19-year-old Chelsea Russell - arrested and prosecuted for posting a popular Snoop Dogg music lyric in memory of a friend who passed away. We have a whole area of London where today if a person were to stand completely peacefully with a sign saying that they personally disagree with abortion they will be arrested and prosecuted. We have comedian Count Dankula arrested and prosecuted for training his pug dog to do a Nazi salute in order to wind up his girlfriend.
And the depressing refrain I hear from many of my friends on the left is: ‘But we obviously don’t like those things, so all is fine.’ Give me strength! Just how long do you think it will be before the state starts to use these ‘hate crimes’ to attack us on the left? Moreover, why is the left willing to leave the mantle of free speech in the hands of Katie Hopkins and her ilk?
The left needs to wake up urgently and start protecting the right to speech, as well as the right to hear contrary opinions, views and ideas, before the net and concept of hate speech grows any bigger.
The Barnet result in the local elections was a consequence of the anti-Semitic witch-hunt against Labour and how Jeremy Corbyn responded.
His acceptance that this was a very serious problem in Labour - far more serious than it was a problem in the Tory Party and in society as a whole - convinced the relatively prosperous Jewish voters in Barnet and the rest of that middle class layer that the working class leadership was weak and ineffectual and that the workers as a class were hostile not only to Jews, but to the whole middle class. Therefore their salvation lay in defence of what privileges they had by voting Tory.
If he had told the Tory/Blairite reactionary mob to get lost, defended Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone, then he would have projected an image of a strong opponent of the whole capitalist system and its austerity programme of repression.
That threatened Labour sweep of London would have happened. The anti-Semitic offensive that began with the false allegations about a mural and escalated from there would have stopped dead if Corbyn had come out fighting instead of grovelling. No doubt he was advised by Seamus Milne, but ultimately it was his own gross error.
May 26 2018 marks the centenary of the establishment of the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia. It was a republic that Trotsky smeared in his sectarian pamphlet Between red and white.
Last year saw the publication of The experiment: Georgia’s forgotten revolution 1918-1921 by Eric Lee, which rebutted the smears. In particular - and contrary to Bolshevik assertions - Bolsheviks were unpopular in Georgia, while Mensheviks were popular. The alleged collusion with Anton Denikin’s White Army was inaccurately portrayed (something Kautsky realised too). Trade unions were strong, with the right to strike.
In 1920, on a visit there, Kautsky and two Belgian socialists, Vandervelde and Huysmans, described it as “the most perfect socialism in Europe”. Lee says it was a pluralist, multi-party democracy of free elections, where the constitution guaranteed universal suffrage, a free press, separation of church and state, and abolished the death penalty.
The Communist manifesto’s instruction - “The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy” - was not for socialists in industrialised democracies like Britain, but for peasant societies like Georgia or Russia. Mensheviks correctly observed that impoverished, backward societies cannot skip historical stages and proceed to create socialism.
Bolsheviks wrongly claimed they had done otherwise in Russia. Russia conquered Georgia in 1921, where Stalin addressed a crowd of workers. He congratulated them on “overthrowing the Menshevik yoke”, whereupon audience members heckled “Lies! There was no Menshevik yoke here! There was no Communist [Bolshevik] revolution in Georgia! Your troops have removed our freedom!”
Jon D White
Socialist Party of Great Britain