Over 500 people have attended an unofficial inquiry into shocking dirty tricks and undemocratic practices in the Labour Party. Called the ‘Not the Forde Inquiry’, the online event on Saturday June 5 was held as a protest against the long delay of the official inquiry under barrister Martin Forde set up by Keir Starmer.
One of the organisers, Christine Tongue, said: “This was a hugely significant occasion. As well as the 500 people at the inquiry, over another 1,000 watched it live-streamed via Facebook. The event demonstrates the level of anger among Labour members about the outrageous goings-on in their party.”
The official Forde inquiry was set up in May 2020 to investigate a leaked internal Labour Party report. This included sensational allegations of racist attitudes, hyper-factionalism and electoral sabotage by party officials. The inquiry was supposed to report by Christmas 2020, but its report was shelved - pending, it’s claimed, parallel investigations by the Information Commissioner’s Office. “Few people think this is the real reason for the shelving of the report. We believe Keir Starmer is just trying to bury the truth,” Christine said.
Speaker after speaker at the ‘Not the Forde Inquiry’ gave detailed accounts of how they claimed party officials had treated them. “People spoke of being smeared, suspended and expelled on thin and bogus evidence,” Christine said. “Shockingly, some members also believed that officials actively undermined their election campaigns in 2017, redirecting resources and people to constituencies they favoured politically.”
The inquiry also heard a special message from film director Ken Loach, who said that he believed the Starmer leadership was trying to rid the party of “troublesome activists”.
The organisers of the event, the Labour In Exile Network (LIEN), say that they were deluged with evidence of dirty tricks in the party. According to Christine, “We had far too much material to even skim the surface of what’s been happening. We’re now planning to launch a ‘Not the Forde Inquiry II’.”
To see a full-length recording of the event go to youtu.be/x49nrPYb4uo
Labour in Exile Network
Just say no
A message went out on June 4, “Just say no to ‘antisemitism training’ from the Jewish Labour Movement”. I was surprised. The message comes as a joint statement from Labour Against the Witchhunt, the Labour Campaign for Free Speech, the Labour Left Alliance and the Labour In Exile Network.
Labour Party general secretary David Evans has sent a message out to members to join “an awareness training session”, so that we can all understand anti-Semitism - and perhaps thereby understand why Jeremy Corbyn is still without the Labour whip. We’re going to learn all about it from the Jewish Labour Movement, “which has been the Labour Party’s Jewish affiliate for over 100 years”.
This is clearly nonsense. This is an attempt by the right wing to drum up some support from the more ignorant amongst the Labour membership - possibly in some panic after the criminal acts of the Israeli government over the last few weeks. After all, the story in the mainstream media lately has been about the terrible ‘spike’ in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK and around the world - dead Palestinian children are mostly just a side show.
But who’s going to attend? I would guess, they fall into three categories; those who know it’s nonsense, but want to observe; those who believe and/or propagate the ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ lie; and ignorant bystanders. But the ‘Just say no’ notice is calling on those in the first group to stay away. I would guess that there will be plenty to ‘critique’ in the ‘training’, but who is going to deliver that critique? Nobody from the above organisations, except those of us who are, to say the least, surprised at the message.
The ‘Just say no’ message includes the comments: “These sessions are unlikely to be run in a democratic manner. The chat is likely to be switched off. If members are allowed to speak - and speak critically - they are likely to not just be reprimanded in the session, but perhaps even be reported to the governance and legal unit.”
In the extremely unlikely event that speaking or chat were to be allowed, no critic of Evans, the JLM and co would surely be foolish enough to pile in. They would only be allowed to add to the already long list of comrades to be expelled.
Go along. Observe. We can chat about it another day. But ignore it? How can you say it’s rubbish if you haven’t heard it (even though it will be)? Let’s hear what, in their desperation, they have to say.
My eye was caught by the mention of comrade Juan Posadas in Paul Demarty’s piece on UFOs (‘Flying saucers over Washington’, June 3). I had the dubious experience of having served on the central committee of the Revolutionary Workers Party (Trotskyist), the British section of the Fourth International (Posadists), during a brief right lurch from anarchism in the 1970s. We were all tarred with the brush of being ‘space men and women’.
Actually what Posadas said was quite a reasonable proposition, based upon Marxism and dialectics. There had been many sightings of UFOs over Argentina and Latin America in general at the time and many workers were engaged in speculations on their origins or existence. Posadas reasoned that in order to overcome the vast distances of time and space involved to travel the universe and further, the basic pullback on scientific and engineering development of class society must have been overcome. Basic class contradictions would have to have been overcome too and some sort of equalitarian communist society reached.
Left like that, no problem. Unfortunately some overoptimistic comrade in Belgium had turned out a leaflet during a mass strike calling upon the ‘intergalactic comrades’ to come to the aid of their fellow communist exploited masses on planet Earth! That sort of blew it really.
I have no idea where Paul gets the idea that the “Posadists turned to guerrilla struggles” - armed struggle was not something they would ever have contemplated. I remember during the Chilean coup, and the birth of Chilean solidarity campaigns, the Proletaria bookshop in Dunscroft, which sold RWP(T) literature, displayed a large poster of the Chilean Flag and an AK machine gun in a clenched fist. It was quickly taken down by ‘the party comrades’, who informed us: ‘The gun is not a symbol of communists. We are not putschists.’
During the God-almighty punch-up in Grosvenor Square at the height of the Vietnam struggle many workers emerged from the fray bloodied and battered, but ‘our comrades’ were selling Red Flag away from the melee. When asked where the fuck they had been in the battle, they replied that the party intervenes “empirically” in such struggles - a word I took henceforth to mean ‘not actually doing anything’. Guerrillaism from Ireland to Bolivia was always described as ‘heroic’, but was basically an impetuous impatience with the mass class struggle. So hoofing about in the jungle with a beret on your head and a gun was never the style of the Posadistas, I’m afraid.
Comrades interested in the internal life of the RWP(T) might like to read my The wheel’s still in spin, which you oft can find on eBay.
David John Douglass
There was an eye-catching headline in The Guardian on June 2 - with a somewhat unsettling front page picture of Keir Starmer in his youth. The headline began, “Havana syndrome” and continued: “Why experts in US think Russian microwaves may be the cause of mystery illness.” I thought immediately that the obvious answer to the question is that this is what the “experts in the US” would do themselves.
But apparently not. This is a story that has arisen almost as often as the UFOs that Paul Demarty discussed in the last Weekly Worker (‘Flying saucers over Washington’, June 3) and The Guardian - that staunch champion of US foreign policy - can’t let it go. Apparently the weapons used “have been developed by several countries in recent years” and we know this because it is asserted by “leading experts”. The favourites are, apparently, Russia and China - so not Cuba then? Maybe Russia or China through Cuba? (there is a rather nice picture of Havana to accompany the article). Surely not both of them together?
Anyway, “several countries” presumably means more than two - though only two are suggested. Who else could there be? One might suspect the USA, but, although work was done to develop a microwave weapon for the marine corps, it was apparently dropped because of “ethical considerations”. One might suspect that even The Guardian might take this with a pinch of salt, but no.
In the US there are now fears that other countries may be too far advanced for the Americans to understand fully what is going on. Allegedly Russia is “more advanced in understanding microwave weapons, partly because it did not face the same ethical constraints”. Presumably these are the ethical constraints currently being enjoyed and appreciated by Julian Assange, the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, prisoners and asylum-seekers in US custody - and so many others, for that matter.
There is an old saying (or joke?) by journalists that if you want to get an inkling of the truth behind a florid headline then you should keep going until the 19th paragraph. Well, there are only 18 in this article (in the print version anyway) and in paragraph 17 we are introduced to “Cheryl Rofer, who worked on laser and auditory weapon research in the 1970s at Los Alamos National Laboratory”. She says, in paragraph 18: “Thinking about something and actually building it are two different things.” And the article continues: “the experience of seeing billions spent over the decades, with little to show for it, has left her sceptical about new claims of microwave weapons development.”
Not The Guardian though. So, what’s this about? Is the US government currently thinking of another invasion of Cuba? A war against Russia and/or China? Or is this just a move to keep the kettle on the boil for any future action. Whatever it is, The Guardian can be trusted to maintain its unstinting support for the American hegemon.
When the South African Airways pilots’ union takes on the government in the labour court on July 15, the issues raised should go far beyond the fact that the pilots - locked out of work since May 2020 - have not been paid for more than a year. The case may also bring into focus what was once dubbed the “scab clause” in the 1995 Labour Relations Act here in South Africa, which allows for the use of “replacement labour”.
The SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) went on strike after most members were locked out of the collapsing airline amid a swirl of corruption allegations involving management. The union then took the former chair of the SAA board, Dudu Myeni, to court, where she was declared a delinquent director, having been found to have been “dishonest, reckless and grossly negligent” in her SAA role.
The issue of non-payment at SAA has echoes for the South African public-sector unions, which are awaiting a constitutional court decision on the fact that the government has refused to pay an agreed increase for 2020. In both cases, it has been widely - and wrongly - implied that the workers involved are overpaid, greedy, selfish and even unpatriotic.
SAA pilots are part of a higher-paid category because they are highly qualified and take on life and death responsibilities for passengers. But, across the board, they earned less than the global average - and certainly less than senior managers in the public service. Pay started at R28,000 (£1,461) a month and the average was R57,000 (£2,975) - with the top notch, for a pilot with the highest qualifications, at some R90,000 (£4,697) after perhaps 25 or more years experience.
What this argument about pay rates has brought to the fore is the whole question of social class. If you are an honest, hard-working individual with an income of more than R50,000 a month and you own a house - even if bonded - and drive a late model car, are you middle class, with interests different to other wage-earners?
The answer should surely depend on where the money comes from. If your income derives from serving the profit-driven interests of a boss, whether in the public or private sector, you are objectively a member of the working class.
But that does not mean that, in your own mind - subjectively - you may feel that you do not share the interests of workers; that you belong to a level above the common herd, that you are ‘middle class’. But that is usually only so long as you still have a job with a better than average salary. That image of yourself can change very rapidly if you lose your job and income, and discover how parlous your economic and social situation is. Then the objective reality may hit: you are a worker, employed and paid only so long as the boss needs you.
This harsh truth has been made even more abundantly clear to many more once quite affluent workers in the wake of soaring unemployment, exacerbated by the arrival of Covid-19. The range of job losses also explodes the myth that skill and income alone elevates workers to a class that no longer shares the interests of all wage-earners.
Whether wages are paid weekly, based on an hourly rate, billed as casual or zero-hours labour, or received as a salary paid monthly, with or without bonuses or commissions, an employee, serving the interest of a boss, is objectively a worker. And it makes no difference whatever the gender or ethnicity of the worker or the nature of the work done.
There also seems to be a common reason why many workers - better paid because they possess perhaps scarce skills and experience needed at a particular time by bosses - regard themselves as being middle class. They tend to see themselves on an apparent betterment trajectory, halfway (or more) up an illusionary ladder leading to everlasting affluence and happiness.
The idea that such a ladder exists has for generations been used as an enticement to workers with specific skills needed at a particular time by the owners and controllers of business and the economy. But in the past 50 years alone many believers in this ladder, have suffered rude awakenings: aspirant members of the middle class, or what is known in some quarters as the ‘labour aristocracy’, have suffered massive job losses across a range of now largely digitised and automated industries.
In a South African context, this situation is complicated by the legacy of apartheid and the continued racialisation of the political, social and economic discourse, where the need for transformation is real. But the arguments remain valid. When workers at whatever level of earning, and in whatever industry, demand their rightful due, especially regarding pay, they can expect to be labelled in unsavoury ways by their bosses and their public relations machines.
But common adversity can also provide the impetus for that core value of trade unionism: solidarity. For example, retired, retrenched and other former SAA pilots have rallied to the union to provide a fund to help the remaining 360 SAA pilots (there were more than 800 in 2010), many of whom are in danger of losing their homes.
The governments of the G7 nations have announced radical plans to tackle tax ‘evasion’, especially when carried out via ‘offshore havens’, as well the intention to introduce a minimum international tax rate for corporations - probably one to be set at 15%.
Marxists must meticulously take note of this development - that’s to say, not only its surprising sophistication and extensive reach, but also in how it demonstrates capitalism’s adaptability. This entire business of tax collection/offshore havens, etc is, of course, nothing much more than gangsters engaged in their re-divvying of territories, plus restructuring of devices for exploitation and oppression. But also to be noted is how ‘public opinion’ (ie, the management of working class perceptions) remains high on the list of priorities for our capitalist elites - prime evidence for which being how Rishi Sunak’s opening sentence in his official announcement to the world’s media was how he considered “the main takeaway from this is fairness”!
So, as I say, surely attuned and adaptive recognition of what are really quite profound ramifications is called for from modern-day Marxism - none of our overly simplistic stuff about the evils of our enemy’s system, its primitivism or even ‘barbarism’ in contrast to our socialist ideas and potential future-scape. Can we not come up with that same level of ingenuity as the capitalist machine is demonstrating - obviously in our case ingenuity and devices rooted in hugely progressive values and ideals and upon entire truthfulness rather than cynical manipulation? That’s assuming we’re interested in becoming once again a dynamic player in this both class-based and global game - as at one point in the not-so-distant past we used to be?
By sheer coincidence, all of this comes as a kind of expansion of comrade Hasan Keiser’s remark in his letter last week: that the “main problem” is how Marxists can so easily be “too stuck in history and the ‘classical’ cases” of things, to the extent that it leads us to “ignore the obvious sides of current phenomena we investigate”. It’s crystal-clear to me that an almost boundlessly significant example is brought to bear by the actions and intentions of the G7 (and soon thereafter G20) governments.
And surely a superb opportunity for modern-day Marxism is on offer here - one which will allow us to demonstrate our own sophistication and equivalent abilities for adaptation to an ever-changing world. Needless to add, this latest exercise in smoke and mirrors from a notionally ‘globally cooperative’ capitalist mafia is never going to be transformational - something which remains solely as our task in hand!
Last week this paper published a letter from Tony Greenstein, who took issue with the claim in Moshé Machover’s article on Israel/Palestine the previous week that Israel’s “murderous onslaught against Gaza” was “driven by Netanyahu’s narrow personal interests” (‘End Zionist oppression’, May 27’).
In fact that statement appeared in the introduction only and was added during the editorial process. In the article itself comrade Machover specifies that the assault on Gaza was not pre-planned.
We apologise for this error.
It is now 12 months since over one thousand people marched through Rugby in the middle of a worldwide pandemic to protest against racism. This was the largest demonstration in Rugby anyone can recall and the protest was in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the brutal, racist murder of George Floyd in the USA, amid an awakening of a new movement to eliminate racism once and for all.
(It is worth noting that BLM publicly states that all lives matter, but we need to stress that black lives matter at a time of racist attacks, and continued discrimination both here and elsewhere.)
At the time of last year’s protests, Boris Johnson said the UK had made “huge strides” in recent decades and that his government was “committed to eradicating prejudice” and “creating opportunity”. But he added: “There is so much more to do.” Was Boris right? What did last year’s protests achieve? Has anything changed?
On the positive side:
- Just as #MeToo empowered survivors of sexual violence to speak out, BLM kick-started uncomfortable conversations about diversity, discrimination and colonialism that many felt were overdue.
- Over the past year several police forces have announced strategies to boost recruitment of black and ethnic minority officers, while the National Police Chiefs’ Council said in June that it was drawing up a “plan of action” to address concerns over stop and search, the use of force and the underrepresentation of black and ethnic minority officers.
- Hundreds of schools have committed to reforming their teaching to better reflect the contributions to British society of black people and those from ethnic minorities, while addressing the legacy of colonialism.
- Thousands of businesses, public bodies, schools and universities have changed their hiring practices, updated their teaching materials and rewritten the rules on the language they use - largely as a result of public pressure.
- Statues and other memorials to the slave trade have been moved or removed.
- Footballers have continued to take the knee to show their opposition to racism. They voted as a profession to keep on taking the knee last December, and last week the England football team decided to continue the anti-racist gesture into Euro 2021.
On the negative side:
- In hospitals, black and ethnic minority doctors and nurses had been dying from Covid-19 at a much faster rate than their white colleagues, and black men in the general population were found to be 2.7 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts.
- Black women remain more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women, and black babies have a 121% increased risk of a stillbirth.
- Black people with degrees earn a quarter less than their white counterparts. They are far less likely to own their own home.
- Black women are four times as likely as white women to die in pregnancy.
- Black men are up to 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general population.
- Although only 3% of the population are black, about 8% of deaths in custody are of black people.
- At the start of this year there were no black executives in the role of chairman, chief executive or chief financial officer at Britain’s 100 biggest companies for the first time since 2014, according to a report on boardroom diversity by Green Park, a consultancy firm.
- Black and mixed-race workers earn on average 5%-15% less than their white colleagues.
- A year of lockdown has seen an increase in racism. Over the summer, the Victim Support charity saw a 62% increase in referrals mostly regarding race and homophobic abuse.
What should we conclude? A recent poll by YouGov found that 42% of black, Asian and minority ethnic adults think race relations in Britain today are no better than they were 12 months ago, while 33% believe they have got worse. On the other hand, Dr Halima Begum, CEO of the Runnymede Trust, was more positive, suggesting the issue of race equality was now a matter of debate in classrooms, boardrooms and living rooms.
In our opinion, there is still a long way to go before we can claim any real progress in achieving racial equality. However, as a result of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matters movement, which we fully support, perhaps for the first time in history the tide seems to be definitively turning in favour of race equality. Let’s hope that really is the case.
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition