Some of my best friends are non-Jews - I must confess, one of them is an Arab! So I have no prejudice against non-Jews. But I do deny their right - indeed anyone’s right - to tell me that my feelings are hurt by an alleged instance of anti-Semitism - all the more so when that alleged instance as based on a false accusation.
I would go further: a false accusation of anti-Semitism is itself an instance of anti-Semitism - at least (but not only) insofar as it shows a reckless disregard for peaceful coexistence between Jews and others. It is even more anti-Semitic when the accusation is directed against Jews.
Jewish people accused of anti-Semitism! One might regard this as ridiculous, indeed grotesque. But at least 24 Jews have been so accused. Can advocates of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report show that Jews have not been disproportionately charged and sanctioned - open your copy and show me the relevant statistics!
But it is not hurt feelings I wish to address, though my own feelings have certainly not been hurt by Ken Livingstone’s crude summary of the historical truth about the Ha’avara exchange agreement; nor by his endorsement of Naz Shah’s adoption of the Jewish Virtual Library cartoon, which attacked Harry Truman’s refusal to let holocaust survivors into the USA; nor by Pam Bromley’s use of the phrase ‘fifth column’ - after all, like you, I have sung the phrase, “While cowards flinch and traitors sneer”. Yes traitors - fifth columnists.
Nor am I very greatly offended, though I am disgusted, by the racist implications on p55 of the EHRC report, which tells me that I am more likely to complain about anti-Semitism than non-Jewish members of the Labour Party. Would that be because I am held to be keen to promote specifically Jewish interests, or because I am held to be touchy or pushy (slightly old-fashioned phrases, I know)? That, comrades, is the only statistic in the report which goes to the issue of proportionality - a racist slur against Jews, such as myself. Or would it be because non-Jewish Labour members are held to be less likely than me as a Jew to be concerned about anti-Semitism - an outrageous insinuation? This racist smear against all members of this party must be repudiated if the report is to hold any credibility, But instead general secretary David Evans has added to it by proclaiming that Labour Jews are so thin-skinned that we cannot abide straightforward political discussion on vital issues.
But it is far worse than that. The whole thrust of the EHRC report and the policy of the Labour leadership is profoundly anti-Semitic. Not subjectively - I know personally that leadership supporters feel passionately, and often proclaim, that they are protecting British Jews, but they are profoundly mistaken. While subjective anti-Semitism is a repulsive sentiment, far more dangerous is objective anti-Semitism - the pursuit of a policy which in fact endangers Jews. What could that policy be? Surely one which gives substance to the anti-Semitic view that a Jewish conspiracy desires and even possesses unaccountable power. This view derives its main strength from its appeal to profoundly democratic feelings: ie, that power must be accountable.
When the British public sees the BoD telling the Labour Party to jump and obey 10 pledges (and the leadership replies, ‘How high?’), those democratic feelings will begin to stir - and their target will often be not merely the Board of Deputies, or the Jewish Labour Movement, the Jewish Leadership Council or the rabidly anti-Labour Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). No, such bodies purport to speak in the name of a monolithic ‘Jewish community’. So all British Jews will be the target of democratic resentment. A policy which, no doubt unthinkingly, recruits subjective anti-Semitism is objectively anti-Semitic - objectively because of its effects, not because of the principles of those who provoke it.
No disciplinary measures by the Labour bureaucracy can combat this purportedly democratic - in fact demagogic - feeling. On the contrary, they will intensify demagogic resentment of unaccountable, purportedly Jewish, power. Like the holocaust deniers, they will see arbitrary and unaccountable repression - persecution - and have field day, with their vociferous cries of ‘Defend free speech!’ They will do so with boots, bricks and worse. Any casualties - they may be corpses - will be Jewish.
The easiest targets will be those most identifiable as Jews, in particular the orthodox Charedim of Stoke Newington, for example, so many of whom, such as Shraga Stern, respect Jeremy Corbyn for his efforts on their behalf. Unlike the BoD and its allies, they do not demand secular power for Jews - not even in the eastern Mediterranean. But their distinctive costumes and beards makes them a fine target for the demagogically driven anti-Semitism that our virtue-signalling bureaucrats and leaders are inciting. Those virtue-signallers think they are tearing anti-Semitism out root and branch. On the contrary, blindly and gradually they are building a funeral pyre for British Jews. No doubt this will take a long time, and I shall not live to see it. But we all have a duty to avert a British Kristallnacht by opposing the EHRC document and the policies which drive it.
However, I prefer to look to the future, if indeed it is the future, rather than another medieval past. By this I mean that, according to the EHRC report, and according to a pledge promulgated by the BoD, certain very specific Jewish associations are to be given the automatic right of representing me and other Labour Jewish members (and indeed all other British Jews in the construction and perhaps the operation of the new, allegedly independent disciplinary body). They will also provide ‘education’ on racism and specifically anti-Semitism for staff and members of the party.
I regard this as medieval, specifically because of the privilege assigned to the BoD - to which, like a plurality of British Jews, I owe no allegiance whatsoever, and for whose political opinions I personally have no respect (usually contempt). Other, equally partial bodies are to be set above all party members, but especially as purportedly representative of Labour Jews, include the so-called Jewish Labour Movement, the Community Security Trust (CST, which provides marshals for Zionist demonstrations) the Jewish Leadership Council and particularly the CAA, which has generated at least 230 complaints of anti-Semitism - allegedly on my behalf.
The so-called CAA is a fake charity - its charitable status is currently and rightly under review, as it engages mainly in anti-Labour propaganda and scaremongering - in regard to the latter even the very pro-establishment CST has rightly rebuked it. Such scaremongering is directly anti-Semitic - crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre ... as indeed do Keir Starmer and his allies.
This is not only profoundly anti-democratic; it consigns Labour Party Jews to a political ghetto, to be dominated by bodies set above us by non-Jewish powers, such as the EHRC, and the Labour tops, whether parliamentary or bureaucratic. So far, so modern, so autocratic, so dictatorial. But giving a religious body the power to interfere in secular affairs savours of the Middle Ages.
The British army, in its concern for the spiritual wellbeing of its cannon fodder, used to register all recruits who did not specify another religious denomination as ‘Church of England’. Now I and fellow Jews in the Labour Party are by a similar process to be compulsorily registered as subjects of the Board of Deputies. What could be more medieval?
What can you say about a party which imposes this sectarian conscription on those who are Jews by ethnicity, but whose passionate religious convictions impel them to regard the BoD as blasphemous (the Charedim - some 20% of the British Jewish population - very many of whom supported Corbyn’s efforts in their defence), as well as converts to other religions than Judaism, not to mention tens of thousands of secularists, agnostics and atheists, who make up about 50% of the British Jewish population? Is this a progressive, democratic, modern - indeed a civilised - party?
I am aware that the general secretary has threatened us with his investigators, and with the malice of the capitalist press (‘close attention’ will be paid to what we say, he boasts), but it is craven to submit to such blackmail. I offered to help my own branch to select six particular pages of the EHRC report for special study and was threatened with accusations of partiality. Those pages included the ridiculous comparison of the improved procedure for sexual harassment cases (which focus entirely and rightly on the need to protect the complainant from direct confrontation with the respondent) with the substance of racism cases. The difference is laughably offered as a proof of (perhaps institutional) discrimination on p95. I hope comrades will support me in rejecting any proposal to tolerate a disciplinary or educational process which is based on such medieval - nay, such barbarous - foundations.
The disciplinary processes of the Labour Party do indeed command little confidence - their secrecy precludes any membership trust in their processes or their outcomes (this is grossly unfair to those elected members who have tried to operate such a system, which consists almost entirely of flaws). But the procedure proposed by the BoD would make a bad system worse - flouting almost every tenet of natural justice and abolishing any democratic input, let alone oversight.
The 10 pledges taken by Keir Starmer are in themselves enough to invalidate any disciplinary procedure which incorporates them. As a result of these pledges, when the BoD orders ‘Pledge!’, Sir Keir Starmer , Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey whimper, ‘I obey’.
This awareness cannot but lead to increased anti-Semitism, not merely on the part of rightwingers, but on the part of broad masses with democratic sentiments, who will rightly be suspicious of such unaccountable power. Do we really want in this manner to strengthen genuinely anti-Semitic forces? I fear such a prospect. Don’t you? Shouldn’t you?
In that light, I am not ashamed that I have been convicted of obstruction during peaceful protests against a racist shopkeeper in Manchester. I hope you will not push me to resort to civil disobedience against these proposals of the bourgeois state, and risk a second conviction.
Once portrayed as the great hope for Britain’s left as leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn’s praises were sung everywhere from the high street to the Glastonbury music festival. With one voice, they sang together: “One Jeremy Corbyn”, and now - thanks to Keir Starmer, the BoD and the EHRC - there is “only one Jeremy Corbyn”: while reinstated as a member of the party, he is no longer part of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Alone, cast adrift, the parliamentary whip is still denied him.
Are we witnessing the political epitaph of Jeremy Corbyn? Is this lifelong Labour activist, socialist in the shadow of Tony Benn, man of the people and once a contender for leader of the nation now paddling his own canoe? Is it seconds out for Jeremy? Will he throw in the towel? Has Starmer counted him out? The future for Corbyn does seem very bleak.
Has he paid the ultimate price for failing to defend victims of the Trojan horse of false anti-Semitism smears levelled against Jeremy and the Labour left? Having failed to defend Christopher Williamson, former Labour MP for Derby North, and Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, Corbyn was then hung out to dry as the leader who ‘failed to stamp out anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party.
This attack was fuelled by the British Board of Deputies, the mainstream British media (especially the BBC) and from centrist and Blairite devotees in his own party, who wanted to purge Labour not only of anti-Semitism, but of the socialism which Jeremy Corbyn embodied - a just world for the many, not just a few.
Corbyn’s first blunder as leader was to renege on the people’s vote to leave the European Union by offering a second referendum, thereby disenfranchising huge swathes of traditional Labour voters in the north of England, who demanded to leave a political entity which had left them abandoned - many jobless, and living in desolate, soul-destroying, failing towns from Leeds to Bradford and from Birmingham to Manchester.
Once he lost the general election to Boris Johnson, who knew he could gain votes in the north for the Tory Party by remaining steadfast on leaving the EU, Corbyn then resigned as party leader, allowing Starmer, a Blairite acolyte, to gain control. Thus in an almost Shakespearean setting, the die was cast and the purge of socialists and socialism from the Labour Party is now in full swing.
Many socialists are anti-Zionist, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism has helped to transform being anti-Zionist, which is a legitimate political choice, by equating it with anti-Semitism - a repugnant form of racism, condemned by all socialists.
Jeremy’s suspension from the Labour Party has been overturned, but not from the PLP - he is in effect at this moment an independent. Should Starmer choose to leave him as an outcast, who will represent Labour in Corbyn’s home constituency, come the next election? He may choose to resign rather than run against his own party. Or, as a Labour man through and through, he may simply walk off into the retirement sunset.
His was a magnificent career burned by false smears and a Julius Caesar-type betrayal in the corridors of Westminster by his enemies within the PLP. The one true leader for a divided Britain? The one man who stood for justice, equality and freedom from the ravages of austerity? The one man who could unify the people? The man who was the antidote to the selfish accumulation of wealth from the many by the few, who promised so much, but was allowed to deliver so little - is he finished? I’d say yes.
Starmer, the PLP conservatives and centrists in disguise, the media and the establishment do not want a socialist pro-Palestinian as leader of the country. They have effectively neutered Corbyn, destroyed the Labour left and paid homage to the EHRC, the Board of Deputies, Labour Friends of Israel, the IHRA and the Zionist lobby, ending any hope that the left will ever be elected to power in Britain.
We now have a two-party duopoly just like in America: corporate-funded, pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, capitalist parties, working on behalf of big business against the likes of you and me. The losers are the vulnerable, the working poor, the working class, the homeless and the hungry. The winners are Keir Starmer, the British establishment, the banks, corporations, big business and the pharmaceutical military-industrial complex.
One Jeremy Corbyn? The king is dead! But where does the British left go from here?
In Greek mythology a siren was part bird and part woman, who would lure sailors to their destruction with the sound of her sweet voice. Hopefully, the left in the Labour Party won’t listen to the siren-like voice of John Smithee, who is calling for a new mass workers’ party on the grounds that the Labour Party is no longer such a party, but has, in spite of trade union support, become more like the Democratic Party in the US (Letters, November 26).
Comrade Smithee thinks that those who reject the call for a new workers’ party lack an understanding of dialectics, and therefore can’t see how quantitative changes have produced a qualitative transformation of the Labour Party from a bourgeois workers’ party to an ordinary bourgeois party. However, the first rule of dialectics is comprehensiveness, which means taking everything we know into consideration, or starting from the general. From the starting point of dialectics, the call for a new mass workers’ party - based on the argument that Labour is no longer such a party - is a sectarian demand, and this is why such initiatives have such a high rate of failure.
The Smithee line starts from the ‘capitalist roaders’ in the leadership of the Labour Party rather than the coming energy crisis. The truth is that it’s far better to have a rightwing leadership in the party at this stage than a leftist leadership which is unaware of the coming energy crisis, and which ends up alienating middle class voters by acting prematurely, rather than waiting for the radicalisation of the masses - both the working class and middle classes.
The big difference between all the previous crises of capitalism and the coming collapse is that all depressions or recessions were unrelated to a geologically imposed end of cheap energy. In past depressions and recessions it was possible to revive the economy one way or another - ie, Roosevelt’s ‘new deal’ in America, fascism in Germany, and so on - based on some form of Keynesian interventionism. Now these methods will be unable to revive capitalism, because the cheap energy base which made recovery possible is now at an end. Now only prolonged economic depression, brought about by rising energy costs, can keep oil and other energy prices in check in the short term. This is why it’s quite possible that the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown is really about slowing the economy down to stop oil prices from rising again to the levels they did back in 2008. Whether this argument is correct or not, the pandemic is certainly serving to slow down the global economy and contributing to keeping oil prices in check, at least for the time being.
The energy crisis, when it gets deeper and begins to bite, will trigger a social collapse, which will force the Labour Party to begin the process of breaking with capitalism, while sections of the bourgeoisie itself will begin to turn left - abandoning ship because they will have no choice. Those who doubt that the bourgeoisie can turn left should read Marx in the Communist manifesto. It should be obvious that the call for the left to break from the Labour Party - when the party will, at a certain stage, be forced to break with capitalism in a period when the bourgeoisie itself will begin to turn left - is clearly a foolish policy.
In Britain, in view of that coming crisis, the left in the Labour Party must reject the call for a new mass workers’ party as totally pointless. In essence, the end of growth will become the end of capitalism, which will begin to play a reduced role in economic life. It is this which will determine the evolution of the Labour Party in Britain, and the Democratic Party in the United States. Either by revolution or reform capitalist society will be transformed into socialism by the coming energy crisis. The role of the left is to make sure we get a democratic rather than a bureaucratic socialist society.
It’s very heartening to see ongoing articles in the Weekly Worker grappling with the thorny, but vital, national question in Britain today. As comrade Mike Macnair makes clear in his latest article on Biden’s victory, dealing with constitutional issues is key when it comes to democracy and building a working class alternative (‘Decline and decay’, November 26).
Comrade Demarty’s ‘Showdown looms’ article in the same issue deals very well with a lot of the problems we face with regard to the rise of Scottish nationalism. I’d only say that his statement, “It was not accidental that the long-term result of devolution was the success of the SNP in dominating Scottish politics, both in Edinburgh and Westminster”, doesn’t take into consideration that the proportional representation voting system adopted by the Scottish parliament was chosen precisely to ensure that there would be no domination by the Scottish National Party, but this failed utterly. This must surely be taken as another example of proof that Scotland has already expressed its desire for self-determination to be in the form of independence from the UK.
Which brings me to comrade Peter Manson’s reply to my previous letter. He states that I’ve “clearly misunderstood why the CPGB champions the federal republic as a solution to the national question in Britain” (Letters, November 26). In fact I was asking, and continue to ask, why, given such importance, the federal republic has been given so little study by the CPGB.
The most basic proof of this is when he says: “In a federal republic, the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly would have the right to vote for separation. But why would they do so - especially if all nations within Britain enjoyed genuine equality?” Given the size of England, how can such equality be a given? Even Gordon Brown, as quoted by comrade Demarty, is ahead of that with the call for further devolution in England. Surely this key constitutional issue also deserves much more thorough and rigorous examination and debate?
There are moves afoot around the rump of the Scottish Labour left to promote ‘devo max’ as an third option in any coming referendum, particularly on the part of Neil Findlay, who was Corbyn’s Scottish election agent. This seems to be some form of federalism and was also raised by the Scottish TUC conference last week. Their statement aims to offer an alternative to the ‘Growth Commission’ (neoliberal) independence on offer by the SNP or the status quo, whilst demanding Scotland’s right to self‑determination through another referendum. There is perhaps room for debate and even united front tactics along such lines and I urge comrades to look on the STUC website at the statement, ‘STUC will approach Scottish elections and referendum debate without fear or favour’ (November 17).
At the same time Scottish Labour’s new ‘constitution’ spokesperson, rightwinger Anas Sarwar, has immediately ruled out a referendum for the next four-five years in order to concentrate on dealing with Covid. This says more about how much former Corbynite Richard Leonard has been weakened as Scottish Labour leader and, if that position is maintained, it will surely further decimate the party’s standing in May.
Like the CPGB I say there’s no need for another referendum - though not using such useless anti-democratic lines as Scottish Labour. But I have to ask comrade Manson, are these not the exceptional circumstances he offers “where separation on a temporary basis is the only way to promote such unity in the long term”? What’s been going on in Scotland and the UK looks pretty “exceptional” to me. That’s what I’m getting at with the recognition that we need to get beyond the national question by accepting the demand for independence. Comrade Manson is raising the further hurdle, not me. In Scotland there’s been almost as little discussion on federalism as the way forward (never mind republicanism) as there has been in the CPGB.
Lastly for now, can I ask about comrade Eddie Ford’s raising of democratic centralism as the ultimate goal beyond the federal republic (‘An arm of the state’, November 19)? I was always of the impression that it was a form of Communist Party structure rather than general governance.
Tam Dean Burn
Expect the usual
“The business of America is business”, as the US president, Calvin Coolidge, once said. There has been no president, as far as I’m aware, who would disagree and that will certainly include Joe Biden.
The wicked beast is soon to lumber off, but what will replace him. There are clues and I’ve been looking at some of them: the recent history of Democrat presidents following Republican ones, Biden’s own record and who he plans to take with him for the ride.
Let me start with Republican Ronald Reagan: he crushed the unions and slashed high earners’ taxes. He also managed to invade Grenada and attempted to take down the Sandinista government in Nicaragua by getting rightwing gangsters - and drug-runners - to kill teachers, healthworkers and other non-combatants. His major claim to fame was the end of the ‘evil empire’ - or the USSR, as it was sometimes called. His buddy, George Bush senior, boosted US warmongering with the war against Panama - no US president wants to bite off more than he can chew - but he only lasted one term.
But then the world was ‘saved’, not for the first or last time, by the replacement of a ‘rightwing maniac’ with a ‘decent Democrat’. Bill Clinton gave the US ‘welfare to workfare’ - all those people wouldn’t be poverty-stricken if they’d only get off their asses and find a job. Or, as Biden himself commented at the time, there is “a broad social concern that the welfare system has broken down - that it only parcels out welfare checks and does nothing to help the poor find productive jobs”.
Clinton also ramped up incarceration, with the heartfelt support of Biden. “It’s the economy, stupid,” Clinton used to say, and so he organised the North American Free Trade Agreement that did so much to destroy millions of US jobs, while wrecking the Mexican economy at the same time. Clinton was guilty of trying to get a ‘peace dividend’ with the end of the USSR, even while he got one of Africa’s few pharmaceutical suppliers blown up, for reasons pretty much unfathomable at the time.
At the end of the 20th century we had the ‘Project for the New American Century’ (PNAC). While the ‘evil empire’ had been defeated and China was now onside (this was a few years ago), America still faced great peril. Clinton had ‘defunded the military’ (no, he hadn’t), there was an urgent need to ‘sort out the Middle East (no, there wasn’t) and the US had better get on with new technologies (drones and stuff) before somebody else did.
So Bush and the PNAC gave us a whole new gang of rightwing maniacs. With wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (we mustn’t forget Tony Blair’s help there), the arms industry got what they always want - they don’t just want you to buy arms: they want you to use them. If they’re used then they need to be replaced - the US doesn’t have ‘forever wars’ for nothing.
There was a bit of a problem though: the global economy was in a big recession. But the world was saved yet again, as Barack Obama came to the rescue (and, of course, he had Joe Biden at his side to help him). They saved the banks, including the bonuses of senior bankers, but unfortunately this came at the cost of millions of people losing their homes and their jobs.
But what did he accomplish for ‘the American people’? Incarceration stayed up, a record number of whistle-blowers went down, record numbers of drones killed ever more civilians around the world and Guantanamo Bay stayed open for the duration. Oh, and he kept Bush’s last-minute tax cuts. So not very much.
And then an even more maniacal rightwinger came onto the scene. Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’. He didn’t actually accomplish the task, urgent though it still is. But he built a bit of a wall, killed a few more people - mostly Muslims - and gave even more money to the Pentagon.
Thank goodness he’s been replaced! By Joe Biden? A swamp man, if ever there was. His primary objective has always been ‘the American economy’: that is, the economy of rich Americans. He was, after all, a senator for Delaware and lives in Wilmington, which is the US capital for corporations that don’t want to pay much (if any) tax.
In his political life he has opposed bussing, and coincidentally made a great friend of the well-known racist, Strom Thurmond. He was very keen on Clinton’s cuts to welfare, as I’ve noted, and even more keen, if such a thing is possible, on sending more people to prison.
But he’s been welcomed by most of the establishment, and their press, in the US and all around the world. Even Bernie Sanders, in a piece in The Guardian, said: “Biden ran for president on a strong pro-working class agenda” (November 26). Thank goodness for that!
But what about his team? Not surprisingly the ones we’ve heard about so far are reliable retreads from Obama/Biden - much to the relief of much of the mainstream media - plus a lot of other folk who are familiar with the military-industrial complex. There has been much on US websites about the latter: one can look at Jacobin, Counterpunch, The Intercept and Tomdispatch, for instance. These people have a history and are well known in these circles.
Tony Blinken is to be secretary of state, while another co-founder of the ‘consultancy’, WestExec Advisors, Michele Flournoy, looks set to be defence secretary. There are plenty of others - from WestExec and other groups - that mostly seem to have in common their great friendship with Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and many more. In other words, Biden is making sure that the military-industrial complex is going to be well-served by his new government. The establishment and its press are not surprisingly making much of the ‘diversity’ of his team - some women, maybe even some black or brown people. No poor people though.
There are useful things that he could, and even might, do: relax some sanctions, so that children can eat in Iran, pull Saudi Arabia back from Yemen, so that children might not get blown up. In the US Trump has laid waste to environmental laws and hence the environment. Will Biden undo some damage? He might do, but that would make him an unusual Democratic president.
But, in words that will chill the spines of millions in the US and around the world, he has said that America is back: “Ready to stand up for our values”.