Above: Rees has many faults, but seems an unlikely racist
Ex-SWP’er Anna Chen, who blogs at ‘Madam Miaow Says’ is a writer and performance artist of Chinese-British extraction. She recently wrote a piece, re-published and/or quoted on various blogs, criticising Ken Loach’s film The Spirit of ’45 for ignoring black people. My personal view is that while she has a point, she possibly overstates her case, given the film’s concentration upon the 1930s and ’40s, before large-scale black immigration into the UK. But Loach’s dismissive response on Radio 4, “That’s how it was. That’s the record of the time” does him no credit.
Anna has a Comment piece in yesterday’s Guardian (print edition) in which she again criticises Loach’s film for only showing white people, and she also makes some well-aimed criticism of Maurice Glasman and David Goodhart (both said to be influential in Labour Party thinking on race, immigration and “community”).
But Anna also makes an extraordinary allegation against ’Counterfire’ and People’s Assembly big-wig John Rees:
“The blind spot that so irritated Orwell is alive and well on the left today: in one shocking example, John Rees – a former leading member of the SWP (and now the People’s Assembly leader) – argued that ‘it’s British workers who count, not Chinese’ soon after 58 dead Chinese migrants were found dead in a truck in 2000.”
Let’s be clear: Anna is accusing Rees of racism: there can be no other interpretation placed on her allegation. Anna does not provide the full context of Rees’s alleged words, but it’s difficult to conceive of any context that would make such words acceptable.
I have not always considered Anna an entirely reliable source of information in the past and, indeed, the Guardian piece contains at least one howler: since when has the Grunwick dispute been considered a “famous victory”?
The charge against Rees is about as serious as it gets, and presumably the Guardian‘s lawyers cleared it. But does anyone know when, where and in what context Rees is supposed to have made that comment? As regular readers will know, I don’t have much time for Rees and his degenerate ‘Counterfire’ outfit, but I have to say I find Anna’s allegation against him difficult to credit. And if she can’t back it up, she ought to withdraw it.
NB: I see that the online version of Anna’s article (linked to above) omits the alleged quote from Rees and carries the following disclaimer:
• This article was amended on 17 July 2013 following a complaint from John Rees, an organiser of the People’s Assembly and a former member of the SWP, to remove remarks which he denies making.