An empty gesture: but still a nasty one

June 29, 2007 at 11:17 pm (Jim D, left, national liberation, politics, Racism, stalinism, SWP, unions)

The victory of the anti-semitic “left” at Unison’s conference the week before last, is important. Not because it will have any effect whatsoever on events in the Middle East, but because of what it tells us about the tactics of the “boycott Israel” racists: primarily the SWP/Respect, a section (but not all) of the “Morning Star“/CPB, and most of the  activists of the  Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

At the Unison conference they carefully used two-state people, rather than admitting to their true anti-semitic agenda – the total destruction of Israel. Their argument was “something has to be done” and they succeeded in portraying the AWL, the Socialist Party and other anti-boycotters as wishy-washy, abstract supporters of working class unity, where none is possible. Helen Jenner, on behalf of the union’s executive (which supported the ‘boycott’ motion), stated that she did not interpret the motion as mandating Unison itself to operate a boycott (so what, exactly did  it commit the union to?) The AWL account of the debate at Unison conference is here.

We can expect something fairly similar to take place at next week’s T&G Biennial Delegate Conference, where there is a resolution (#170) from the Birmingham Vehicle Builders’ District Committee, calling for “a boycott of Israeli products and goods”.

Usually I preface my remarks about such boycott calls by stating that the people making them are well-meaning. But I know the bunch of vicious, superannuated old Stalinists who passed that motion. Several of them, at least, are nasty anti-semites. One of their chums calls people who won’t buy a round “Jews”, and when challenged will justify his racism by ranting on about Israel. Morning Star readers, of course.

This is not a T&G Broad Left supported motion, but the worrying fact is that the union’s Broad Left will probably (in its majority) support it: the Broad Left convenor, when questioned about this, said “we support all the international motions – they’re all progressive” That is what were’re up against.

The vital issue at the BDC, is to prevent the “boycott” motion being composited in with the only other motion on the Middle East: motion 169, which supports the ‘Enough’ campaign, but does not call for a boycott. If we can keep the two motions seperate, we can have a debate which the anti-racist left can win. If the two are composited together, then this shameful little piece of anti-semitism will very likely go through on the nod.

The AWL are holding a fringe meeting during the BDC: Solidarity yes, boycott no! It’s at the Friends Meeting House (Room 3), Ship Street, Brighton, on Wednesday 4 July at 5.30 pm. T&G delegates: forego your piss-ups and attend!  The AWL leaflet for the meeting is here.

Download Eric Lee’s anti-racist poster here


  1. johng said,

    Given the complete failure of ridiculous attempts to smear those who passed these motions as either silly ill-informed liberals, or vicious anti-semitic scum, do you think it might be time for a change of tactics Jim? Like honestly addressing the arguments for example? Don’t know why I’m giving you advice but this is looking increasingly quixotic.

  2. modernityblog said,


    as you are seemingly a bit of an expert in this field (you often talk about it with a degree of authority), could you recommend any books on antisemitism?

    which particular scholarly works did you find informative on the topic of antisemitism?

  3. Jim Denham said,

    Which particular aruments should I be addressing, John? This one, perhaps:
    “This conference deplores the actions of the Isaeli government in its treatment and attitude towards the Palestinian people in failing to recognise their legitimate aspiration of a Palestinian state.
    “We therefore call upon conference to support a boycott of Isaeli products and goods and call upon the government to take a stronger stance in support of the Palestinian people”?
    That’s an argument that I simply can’t answer, John.

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