The definition of anti-Semitism concocted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has been adopted by many British public bodies - sadly, the Labour Party and some trade unions too.
These bodies were the great hope for supporting Palestine in the UK, but currently Zionists have made it dangerous for members and staff of these bodies to acknowledge, even privately, the racist nature of the Israeli state. This has made a mockery of rights to freedom of speech on Israel. To win freedom back, I have set up a ‘death-wish’ petition for UK Labour Party members, addressed to the national executive committee, stating: “Israel is a racist endeavour”. It is at tinyurl.com/israelihra and has over 900 signatures from members, inviting expulsion if the party considers them anti-Semites. If they will not expel them, the NEC must abandon the IHRA definition (which claims calling Israel racist is anti-Semitic) and return to the Oxford English dictionary definition of anti-Semitism as “hostility to or prejudice against Jews”.
It is important this petition succeeds, for, if Corbyn suggested sanctions against Israel just now, he would be branded an “anti-Semite” and expelled by his own party. We want to see him unfettered by the Zionists - ideally as prime minister, implementing sanctions and dismantling Israeli apartheid.
For my pains, I am now under investigation by Labour as an “anti-Semite”, while my union, the GMB, has suspended me as shop steward in the NHS, where I work - the only GMB rep for 24,000 staff in Lothian. On December 19 the GMB hearing will be held which will likely lead to my expulsion for ‘anti-Semitism’. Expulsion must be challenged in the courts - I will have the best QC in the UK batting for me (Michael Mansfield); a judicial review will attract much publicity, but will cost around £12,000. Financial contributions can be made at tinyurl.com/legalihra.
Last week the Weekly Worker published David Shearer’s account of Labour Against the Witchhunt’s December 1 membership meeting. I travelled from Scotland to attend, seeking to get LAW to drop its opposition to my petition. As David’s account says, the meeting overwhelmingly rejected my motion calling for LAW support. I must point out that David throws in a red herring. He claims I say “Jewish leaders” were against genuine democracy in Israel/Palestine. Weekly Worker readers could check the petition wording themselves (in case I have gone gaga), but I have never used the phrase “Jewish leaders” in anything I have written (until now). Or perhaps David was at another meeting in a parallel universe, where I made such a statement? But the rest of what David wrote is accurate.
I am pleased that my model motion for trade unions and Labour branches to adopt (at tinyurl.com/unionihra)was approved at the meeting. It’s a start; the big challenge now is to find comrades brave and mouthy enough to start lodging it. Armchair socialism will not win this war.
Small groups of like-minded individuals can confidently shred others’ efforts, but they will achieve far more in this world by doing what evangelists do - getting out and preaching to the unconverted. It is oh-so-easy to denigrate others’ attempts. Meanwhile Palestinians suffer and Zionists rejoice, for they have quite strangled freedom of speech on Israel and all things pertaining to Jews there. You’ll not find a politician in the UK that dare vent an opinion on Israel now, even when Zionist settlers pump their shit into a Palestinian primary school, as they did on the November 1.
Getting support from LAW was (and still is) crucial - because my petition is, frankly, the only game in town. LAW is now seeking to draft their own petition, which will not directly challenge the NEC. For this reason, as I said at the meeting, it would be a busted flush. The marketplace abounds with useless petitions - all well-meaning, but to no avail. They may serve to bring people together for an instant, but decision-makers ignore almost all of them. LAW’s one will be no different. My petition, on the other hand, will.
The problem is that I am alone; I had hardly heard of LAW when I set up the petition - there is no LAW activity in the UK north of Leeds. Yet now my efforts are mocked. I have the greatest respect for Tony Greenstein, Stan Keable and Tina Werkmann, but I am no Marxist - and I fear that is why I am left in the cold. I doubt being Scottish helps much either. But I think I sing from the same song-sheet where LAW is concerned.
Yet because I have no LAW support, the project suffers. For, whenever LAW mentions my petition publicly, they are at pains to point out why they will not support it. This has the effect of undermining what I and the 900 others who’ve signed the petition (some of whom helped draft it) are trying to do. LAW cites its concerns in every single press release or statement it makes about either me or my petition.
Recently it provided a statement of support to use at my GMB disciplinary hearing, but even there it felt duty-bound to say: “While we have disagreements with some of the wording of Peter’s petition …” LAW’s concerns have been picked up in the media: Labour Briefing and other publications refuse to condone the petition or publish my articles seeking support, presumably because of LAW’s objections.
The LAW website states: “Firstly, we disagree with some of its wording - eg, before it adopted the full IHRA definition on September 4, Labour did not allow ‘full freedom of speech on Israel’. On the contrary, the witch-hunt was in full flow long before that.”
However, in July 2018, when the IHRA was first adopted, because the four examples suggesting anti-Semitism for calling Israel a racist endeavour or comparing them to the Nazis, etc were left out, technically there was full freedom of speech on Israel. I agree the witch-hunt was in full flow long before that, but Labour’s decisions could be - and were - challenged. Michael Mansfield QC kept Ken Livingstone from being expelled because he had not, technically, breached the Labour code of conduct. Ken was in limbo because the Zionists in the NEC wanted him out, but did not actually have the means to expel him.
Admittedly he was being witch-hunted - as were others, like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth et al - but Labour was acting illegally in suspending or expelling these people. If Marc had been able to afford Michael Mansfield, I imagine he would have been able, through judicial review, to force the party to readmit him. That these poor unfortunates were penalised for stating the truth was, I believe, more related to the usual parallel claim, beloved of bullying bureaucrats everywhere, of “bringing the party into disrepute”. So I feel LAW’s claim is specious - an excuse for not supporting the petition.
The LAW website continues: “Secondly, some of the formulations in Peter’s supporting documents internalise the racism of Zionist ideology, failing to distinguish clearly between the Zionist movement and the Jewish population, and attributing a non-existent collective political identity to ‘the Jews’: eg, ‘the Jews have so much leverage here [in the UK]’.”
My full comment was that “the Jews have so much leverage here [in the UK] that they could call for the beatification of Margaret Thatcher and the country would probably jump to their desire”. In a footnote I observed: “Note - all Jews have leverage here - on account of how the UK treated them in the run up to World War II and how they suffered in the war. Our collective guilt is profound … But only Zionists use those levers.”
In spite of this explanation, LAW continues to misunderstand my comment. They imply that one might read that I was holding all Jews responsible for the actions of Israel - which, if anybody bothered reading everything I have written, is plainly not the case. What I say may be upsetting to Jews, but that does not make it wrong.
Why can there not be a political identity attributed to “the Jews” when considering the holocaust? I consider that a shared experience of oppression defines a people’s political identity. Since it is widely considered that the Jews have been the most persecuted race in history, their political identity is utterly defined by that persecution.
Why do I open this can of worms of Jewish “leverage” around the holocaust? Because, unless we can understand and acknowledge the reason why so many of those in power in the UK feel duty-bound to keep up their support for the IHRA, we will never be able to get them to relinquish it. Their shared guilt over the holocaust and Jewish persecution means they give Zionists power and influence that the left could only dream of. Jews have the leverage, but only Zionists use it.
At the LAW meeting, as soon as I had dealt with the committee’s concerns, other objections to the petition were raised. Every single one was, in my view, nit-picking. And I did offer to change the petition to help meet fresh concerns - an offer that was ignored. I think 20 voted against me - there were two abstentions and I was the only one in favour. I was upset, but I am used to losing motions.
Anyway, it was worth going to LAW and doing this. I think they understand better where those who helped me draft it - and those who’ve signed it - are coming from. I think, in time, they might come to regret their lack of support. We shall need to see ... But it has given me new energy to see this thing through.
Why else must I continue asking LAW to support the petition? Because I and the other 900 folk who have signed it do not want to be expelled from the Labour Party. They are party members because they support the Labour project; they want Corbyn inside number 10. We are vulnerable when so few: the more who sign, the greater our safety will be. Those signing know as well as any that sunlight is the best disinfectant; to get the petition into the mainstream media will make it unstoppable and our cause more noble.
Full public discourse is needed to pick apart Israel’s manipulations and this petition seeks to do that. It will have greater impact if LAW can voice its full and unequivocal support and lend its weight to our campaign.
Comrade A Holberg - writing in response to my article, ‘Ignoring the problem’ (November 29) - objects to the idea that we should proceed from the bare reality that immigration controls do not stop migration to opposing such controls by a process of logical deduction (Letters, December 6). As well he might - such an inference would be exactly as preposterous as he makes it sound by comparing the matter of murder: “At least since Cain and Abel,” he writes, “human beings have committed murder and no law has ever stopped this practice. However, all societies have regarded it as a crime and forbidden it.”
Needless to say, that was not my argument. We should say, first of all, that the comparison does not quite hold. When murder is criminalised, the purpose is simply to reduce the murder rate, that being desirable purely in itself. The same is not true when a law is passed to restrict migration. The purpose there is to achieve some other goal - whether that’s preventing terrorism or the spread of disease, as is commonly argued by the far right, or to reduce pressure on wages and social provisions. Instead of banning X to prevent X, we ban X to prevent Y.
From this point of view, my argument is that constricting legal migration makes conditions worse - and it does so in part because people continue to move and stronger borders have limited effect on the physical displacement of people at best. It is as if we banned murder and then the murder rate increased, or murders became more violent in character.
What gets missed both by comrades like Holberg and the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, which supports restrictions on migration, and Socialist Workers Party writers like the comrade I criticised in my article, who oppose border controls on a liberal basis, is the wider issue of the global class struggle. We get locked into talking about this as if it were a wonkish policy issue for Britain (or wherever), but that is a bad idea, because at this level the argument is rigged. Either the bourgeoisie bludgeons us with unrestricted social dumping, or defeats us by dividing the workers into documented and undocumented, to the disadvantage of both.
So, when Holberg concludes that “we ought to fight for different strategies to favour the wellbeing of the people in and outside the imperialist countries”, he is exactly wrong. Different tactics, sure. The only effective strategy, however, is internationalism: the cultivation of concrete solidarity and joint action across borders and between national populations within them.
In debates, it is always good to find common ground and I accept A Holberg’s statement that “‘Open borders’ is identical to no borders and thus to no state ...” A worthy goal to aspire to. However, would it also mean mass migration, as it appears he assumes, and then end up with the consequent immiseration of the native-born population, as he infers it would?
About one in five potential migrants - or about 147 million adults worldwide - named the USA as their desired future residence. But would they turn up if US border controls disappeared? 3.4 million Puerto Ricans have the legal right to live in the USA. A past Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 90% of Puerto Ricans were dissatisfied with the way things were going on the island - a figure which we can safely say has risen in recent years. The median household income a year in Puerto Rico is $20,000 against over $60,000 on the mainland United States. In 2014 the number of Puerto Ricans leaving for the USA was 84,000, (although there was a sharp spike after Hurricane Maria.) Not such an influx when the ‘floodgates’ are wide open then.
The fertility rates in what Holberg calls the “imperialist countries” is on the decline. Falling populations and the shift in demographics - to a situation where an increasing number of elderly are dependent upon fewer of working age - will result in its own rise in poverty. It may not appeal to the nationalist populists, but the need is for more immigration - much more.
Immigration and immigration controls are both intrinsic parts of the capitalist system. As such, effective opposition to immigration controls ultimately means challenging the very foundations of capitalism itself. The First International stated: “The poor have no country, in all lands they suffer from the same evils, and they therefore realise that the barriers put up by the powers that be, the more thoroughly to enslave the people, must fall.”
Another worthy goal to achieve.
Socialist Party of Great Britain
A few points about Carla Roberts’s article, ‘Zionists in the Labour Party, unite!’ (December 6).
Firstly, the SWP does not “engage in campaigns to disinvite those it deems to be unacceptable speakers and organising protests outside venues featuring said speakers”. It engages in campaigns to ‘no-platform’ fascists - not homophobes, not racists, not those who cover up rape (cough, cough). It is, in fact, quite dogmatic in reserving ‘no platform’ exclusively for fascists.
Secondly, comrade Roberts writes that “Marxists oppose attempts to restrict free speech” - and on the CPGB’s Facebook page, an admin categorically confirms in a comment, “Marxists oppose no platform”. I’m open to be convinced of this new approach, but it seems a bit of a departure from the CPGB majority view thus far. I thought the CPGB favoured free speech and debate in general, but opposed the idea that any anti-fascist tactic was a matter of principle.
For all the German Communist Party got wrong in the struggle against fascism, one thing it got right was that it didn’t shy away from publicly debating with Nazi militants on one occasion and kicking their heads in on another, thus arguably restricting their freedom of speech somewhat.
On the subject of David Icke: Anti-Fascist Action and other such groups have opposed his events since the 90s, and this time around, many house and garden anti-racist activity types were on board too - despite the Jewish Labour Movement’s part in the protests. So this really is nothing new, sinister or witch-hunty in itself. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time to try and shut down David Icke for much the same reasons as it was a waste of time to try and shut down a concert by Death in June (See ‘Aiming at wrong target’, September 1 2011). The mode in which Icke presents his ideas does little to stir up fascist combativeness - if anything, his speech serves to reinforce the atomisation of the alienated individuals he targets.
Having said that, Icke’s anti-Semitism is clearly not just a minor addition to Icke’s all-round ‘insanity’, but a central component of his world view. In fact, much of the ideology he regurgitates in diluted and popularised form can be directly traced back to the writings of pre-war fascist esoteric and intellectuals, including those who stood with Mosley. I believe comrade Roberts’ failure to recognise this is a result of insufficient familiarity with far-right ideas.
Icke is not just an innocuous eccentric, but neither is he worth getting your knickers in a twist about. Stormtrooper detachments in tin-foil helmets are not expected to march in British high streets any time soon.
Last Saturday a section of the English left met in London to launch Another Europe is Possible as a democratic membership organisation. The English normally disguise themselves in a British cloak and AEIP was no exception. The machinations of Perfidious Albion were on display on the issue of Catalonia.
A resolution recognised the right of nations to self-determination and said: “We condemn the actions of the Spanish government and state in violently suppressing the Catalan people exercising their right to hold a referendum, and call for the immediate release of political prisoners. We support the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.” This was voted down.
At first it seems bizarre that a ‘British’ conference would vote against a resolution in support of Catalan political prisoners and a Catalan republic. This republic stands in sharp opposition to Generalissimo Franco’s Spanish constitutional monarchy. But what has this to do with the United Kingdom?
The Spanish state fears the threat from Scotland in the same way that British nationalists smell danger in Barcelona. If Catalonia is able to leave Spain, then this would create a ‘bad’ example for the UK. Andrew Coates therefore came forward to defend the British union against the Catalan prisoners.
The best way to make sense of this is through the prism of the CPGB motion published in the Weekly Worker (November 29). This recognised left ‘leave’ and left ‘remain’ as reflecting or tailing the politics of the reactionary and liberal wings of the capitalist class. The CPGB focused on left ‘leave’ - the SWP, SPEW and CPB - and left ‘remain’ - the AWL, Socialist Resistance and Left Unity, etc.
However, the CPGB motion ignores the main trend after the 2016 referendum - the ‘remain’ democrats. These people voted ‘remain’, but accepted the majority voted to leave. Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘remain’ democrat, as are the Labour front bench. I identify myself as a ‘remain’ democrat’, not left ‘remain’.
In 2016 I called for England to abstain. But I also called for a ‘triple backstop’, whereby people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales voted to remain. This would curb the mad excesses of Anglo-British chauvinism. So it is nice to see the Tories hung out to dry by Northern Ireland.
The failure of the CPGB motion to identify the ‘remain’ democrats indicates a big hole in the perspective. Most ‘remain’ democrats have been taken over by the ideology of British exit, which demands limits on free movement inside the European Union. The alternative to British exit is the demand for a democratic exit.
In June 2016 the peoples of England and Wales voted to leave the EU, while Northern Ireland, Scotland (and Gibraltar) voted to remain. The case for a democratic exit recognises the UK as a multi-nation state. It does not deny a UK-wide majority, which gave the government a mandate to trigger article 50.
Democratic exit recognises a mandate for the Denmark-Greenland option, in which different nations within the same state have different relations with the EU (Denmark is a member of the EU and Greenland is not). There was no mandate to leave the single market or the customs union, or for the Norwegian, Swiss or Canadian-type deals.
The Denmark-Greenland option would enable HMG to meet the democratic mandates given from nations within the UK, but would not require any economic borders - either within the UK, between the UK and the Irish Republic or with the rest of the EU. The free movement of working people between the UK and the EU would not be compromised by a negotiated settlement along these lines.
Democratic exit represents the best interests of the working class in the current crisis of the EU. It takes account of majority voting, a divided working class, and the rights to free movement across the EU and the need for ever closer unity with workers across Europe. It is consistent with the CPGB motion, which says the working class is better off in than out.
So, whilst Corbyn is a ‘remain’ democrat, he slips over into an all-British exit and thus concedes to the racist case for immigration controls. The Tories tie Brexit to ending free movement. Before 2016 Corbyn supported free movement, but now Labour has embraced the need to ‘control’ immigrants.
Democratic exit supports a ratification referendum, but opposes a second or repeat ‘remain’ referendum - or a dog’s dinner referendum with three or more questions. The people must be allowed to vote on the Tory deal. A ratification referendum is the nails hammered into May’s political coffin. Then the call for a general election becomes possible, realistic and necessary.
But if she departs without a ratification referendum, then Labour still has to deal with the issue in its general election manifesto. Corbyn and his allies do not understand or do not make the distinction between a ratification referendum and a repeat referendum. He has dug his own hole which he can’t seem to get out of.
A ratification referendum can help unite the working class and expose the duplicitous game of the ‘remain’ liberals. A repeat ‘remain’ question would further divide the working class and, as Mike Macnair recognises, “Diane Abbott has rightly said that a new referendum under present conditions would probably be won by ‘leave’ again”.
My criticism of the CPGB motion is not over the United States of Europe or the need to work on a “continental scale” and break with constitutional loyalism and “actually to campaign for the idea that another Europe is possible”. This requires the left in England to urgently address the severe democratic deficit in England, otherwise known as ‘Britain’.
The CPGB does not address immediate questions beyond boycotting everything. No referendum and no general election, because a Corbyn government would be worse for the workers’ movement than the Tories. Stop the class struggle, because we are not ready. Perhaps this is like an airplane in a holding pattern circulating around Heathrow airport waiting to land and hoping the bad weather changes before we run out of fuel.
Oh so British
Rather than concentrating upon organisational and somewhat mundane aspects of both the life and times and directly linked trials and tribulations of Kate Osamor MP, Jim Grant should have given far more consideration to less tangible, but actually far more meaningful, considerations (‘Fall of the house of Osamor’, December 6). Most particularly, to the oh-so-very-British way of doing things - that process as is best absorbed during an upbringing within our gently self-serving middle class, or otherwise the even more concretely duplicitous (not to mention entitlement-imbued) uppermost echelon of our ruling elites.
In the particular case of Kate Osamor, the point I’m trying to make is this. It seems clear that - being a new arrival into that realm - she fell foul of its more nebulous rules. She hadn’t yet picked up on the signals from that socio-cultural system of theirs: the poor woman neither designed nor developed her antennae swiftly enough. Maybe surprisingly so, given how those around her were positively bristling with carefully maintained examples of suchlike devices.
In respect of Jim Grant’s coverage of the mini-farrago concerned, I’d say this. The comrade’s failure to recognise and then take full and proper account of these more subtle considerations is somewhat understandable, but nevertheless a dangerous trait, in the sense of it overlapping (albeit 100% unwittingly) with an exclusionary bias, when considering the lives and experiences of victims of these hidden and silent as well as ultra-tawdry forces at play. And, yes - to all intents and purpose they are victims, despite any transgressions they may perpetrate within that framework.
And here re-enters Kate Osamor MP into this narrative - briskly and Labour-reformist stage left! In a nutshell, then: rather than a case purely of what she did, the woman didn’t know how to go about doing it, so as to be ‘acceptable’. That being the case within a habitat where many more serious breaches occur, only to be dealt with in a distinctly relaxed style, or - better still - not at all (ie, by being brushed under a notably plush and regularly shampooed carpet!).
But, as I say, rather shockingly suchlike aggregated considerations or elements never - or at least only rarely - become factored in, even by solidly worldly/socially-vigilant communists: in their specific case, possibly due to an exaggerated wish not to appear as patronising or even as racist, where relevant.
All in all, in his somewhat technical and thereby stubbornly ‘non-spiritual’ coverage of matters to hand, I think Jim Grant missed a trick, and in doing so a golden opportunity to present our communist way of thinking as something finitely different to what’s on offer from the bourgeois/conventional mainstream (finitely as well as downright beautifully different, may I suggest?).
In conclusion - and lest it appear that thoughts expressed here indicate a pernicious trap of introspection has been fallen into (sadly the one so prevalent within our early 21st century communism) - let me add this. Right now there exists both more significant and more extensive political ‘self-mutilation’ on the UK left wing other than those misdeeds of Kate Osamor MP, let alone anything whatsoever to emanate from comrade Jim Grant. Even more to the point, in a wider world there runs an immeasurably longer list of incalculably greater crimes as perpetrated by our capitalist elites - especially when acting out their destiny as rabidly controlling/ruthlessly oppressive, not to forget blood-drenched, imperialist barbarians!
Thank you for the great political analysis (‘Little cause for optimism’, December 6). I’m from Rifondazione Comunista and we believe in the need to build a more traditional left alternative to the Partito Democratico. In Italy things are not very good right now - racism and xenophobia are distracting people from the actual economic problems of our country.
But I personally don’t think there is much chance of a communist left reappearing on the stage over the next few years.