Labour: selections, factionalism … and Akehurst

December 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm (AWL, democracy, labour party, left, Momentum, posted by JD, reformism)

Above: Labour First factionalises

By Will Sefton (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity)

We may well have reached ‘peak Momentum’. These are the most favourable political circumstances Labour’s hard left could envisage.

They feel politically vindicated by the general election result, have a well-funded, well-staffed organisation holding a vast amount of data on Labour members and have reshaped Labour’s membership through successive rounds of mass recruitment.

So says Luke Akehurst, secretary of Labour First, writing a sober article about Momentum and local council selections in the course of the last couple of weeks of right-wing hysteria from the bourgeois press, with Roy Hattersley and Angela Rayner making (politically differentiated) contributions.

Akehurst is relatively realistic on Momentum’s political advances. The “centre-left”, as he calls his wing of the party, did okay on nominations to Labour’s National Executive, although Eddie Izzard still has 100 fewer Constituency Party nominations Momentum-backed candidate Yasmin Dar. One of the “centre left” candidates — Izzard, Johanna Baxter or Gurinder Singh Josan — could win a seat.

Across the UK, the left of Labour is, in fact, not sweeping the board. The picture is mixed. In Haringey, the campaign against the £2 billion Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) regeneration plan has ensured nearly all of the incumbent Progress-dominated council Cabinet have been ousted by Corbyn supporters. In Lewisham East, the right retained control of the party. In Watford a Momentum-backed trade unionist would not have got onto the shortlist for the MP candidate without an intervention by the National Executive.

The two organised right wing groups within Labour – Progress and Labour First – are not identical, though they work closely with each other.

What really bothers Progress, so they say, is the lack of experience of the left candidates as against established right wingers. Akehurst and Labour First are more worried about the kind of politics that these councillors will be putting forward and who they feel they are accountable too. He mourns the passing of cosy dinners and drinks receptions with lobbyists and property developers.

Undoubtedly it is true that many of the new intake in councils in 2018 will be relative newcomers, some involved in politics within the last two years. That only indicates that the pressure on new left councillors to make cuts, to carry out “tough decisions”, will be intense. It highlights the importance of discussing the strategy for councillors in a fight against austerity. It cannot wait till May. It needs to be more than an anguished plea for a Labour Government in 2022. Without such a strategy the left will be caught up in passing on more cuts and participating in running services in a dire state following seven years of Tory austerity.

Having a layer of Labour councillors who are accountable to Labour members and the local labour movement, who want to mobilise it to fight, is long overdue. But can we get this?

Minimally local council candidates should call for the next Labour government to restore all the money that has been cut since 2010. Local labour movements should call meetings to discuss the needs of the area and what strategy is needed to defeat the cuts. Our movement has historical examples that can be learnt from — victories at Poplar and Clay Cross, as well as those that ended in defeat as with the fight of the local government left between 1979 and 1985.

We must be absolutely clear that there is no subversion of democracy, no underhand coup, going on in Labour. Members are simply exercising their democratic right to select the representatives they want. Some right-wingers are moaning about an increasingly factional atmosphere and condemn the fact that Momentum has used its membership to mobilise people in ward and selection meetings.

Roy Hattersley notes that Momentum is not as tightly controlled as Militant, but has a much further reach. He raises the spectre of the “far left pamphleteers” being a dominant and aggressive force once more. But the movement could do with more pamphleteers and more engagement with tough arguments! Healthy labour movement organisation relies on members engaging with political arguments. Factionalism is simply arguing for a point of view and winning people over to it.

Both Labour First and Progress do just this! It is what Hattersley is doing. In this sense, we will need more factionalism, more organisation and more opportunities if members are to exercise their democratic rights. Unfortunately some on the left have chimed in in with the furore. Quoted in the Times, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said that established MPs and councillors had an “absolute right” to be there and to be listened to.

Rayner seems to have got confused between the divine right of Kings, which many councillors seem to want, and the open political debate in which all sides have the chance to make their case. Typically, as in Haringey, right-wing councillors would rather duck a political fight. There the right have resigned rather than go through an open selection process. They have refused to be held to account, and they have branded local members as bullies and unthinking drones who are mobilised purely to cause trouble for hard-working stalwarts.

Akehurst offers a more active strategy. “We have to build up our capacity to out-recruit Momentum by mobilising the larger latent public support of the centre-left and some centrists who want an electable Labour Party. This will require huge investment in digital and press recruitment advertising, coherent messaging, an attractive candidate for whenever Jeremy retires, and fresh policies, not 1997 answers to 2017 problems (though these are preferable to 1917 or 1977 ones).”

“Sadly, the existence of Momentum requires similar factional rigidity and structure on our side…This is contrary to the historic culture of the Labour Party, which until 2015 was not factional…we are buzzing around them as an incoherent rabble of individualists.” This is utter nonsense.

The Labour Party has had factions for all its history; only, before Corbyn, the left was much weaker and the party was a rump. Akehurst is rewriting history, presenting the Labour Party as a friendly place where everyone used to get along, to try and weaken the grip of the left and to convince people that it is both wrong and irregular for there to be disruption to the normal boring, bureaucratic and cliquey goings on of local parties. In the face of the false nostalgia, we need to assert and fight for a democratic party that debates its policies and political differences in the open.

  • Coatesy’s view, here

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Labour Against the Witchhunt admits anti-Semites -“but let that not detract from the useful role that LAW intends to play”

December 8, 2017 at 9:02 am (anti-semitism, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, CPGB, labour party, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", wankers)

Above: Gerry Downing of the anti-Semitic ‘Socialist Fight’ on the BBC’s Daily Politics last year, following his expulsion from Labour

Extracted from the current issue of the Weekly Worker:

The meeting included a discussion on the participation within LAW of Socialist Fight. The steering committee had taken the decision to exclude SF from the campaign because of the group’s position on Jews, which can only be described as anti-Semitic (my emphasis – JD).

SF declares that Jewish “overrepresentation” amongst the bourgeoisie is a major factor explaining imperialist backing for Israel. At the meeting itself SF’s Ian Donovan stated that, while this “overrepresentation” “doesn’t determine everything”, it “determines quite a lot”. He also talked about the undue influence of “Jewish communalist politics”, while the SF leaflet handed out at the meeting stated that “Jews” today have become “an oppressor people”.

The SC sought approval from the meeting for its decision to exclude SF from LAW – on the basis that a campaign which places a large emphasis on its opposition to the disgraceful, knowingly false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ wielded by the right against principled anti-racists should not itself tolerate individuals whose public pronouncements are clearly anti-Semitic. To do otherwise opens us up to claims that we cannot be taken seriously when we say the right’s accusations are nothing but smears – after all, it would then appear that we ourselves cannot tell the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Labour Party Marxists put forward a motion, directed against not only Socialist Fight, but also the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty:

LAW does not wish to be associated with those who excuse the ongoing witch-hunt in the Labour Party: ie, support the expulsion of Ken Livingstone. Nor do we wish to associate with those who advocate anti-Semitism: ie, those who explain US and other imperialist countries’ foreign policy on the basis of the number of Jews in the ruling class.

Unfortunately neither this motion nor one from the steering committee, which called for its decision to exclude SF to be endorsed, was successful. Only nine comrades were in favour of endorsing the SC position, with 12 against, plus a number of abstentions; as for the LPM motion, there were 12 votes in favour and 12 against, and so it was not carried either.

One of the arguments that carried a good deal of weight amongst those who voted against was the claim that an organisation set up to oppose exclusions should not itself exclude people. SF’s own motion quoted the official (but largely ignored) Labour Party position that “the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions” should not be grounds for exclusion.

This is at best a highly naive position. Should we welcome into LAW out-and-out reactionaries and open racists? (I am not, obviously, including SF in this category, whose comrades seem to sincerely believe that their line is not anti-Semitic!). There is also a difference between a specific campaign like LAW and a party like Labour, which today contains all manner of viewpoints, not least warmongers such as Tony Blair.

At least the SF motion – which not only favoured ‘free expression’ (including for anti-Semites) within LAW, but also called on the campaign to invite George Galloway to “play the role of our honorary president” – was also defeated. It received five votes, while eight comrades opposed it – the clear winners on this occasion were the abstainers.

While, of course, we in LPM accept LAW’s right to make democratic decisions, the participation of Socialist Fight remains in our view a problem that might well have to be revisited.

But let that not detract from the useful role that LAW intends to play – now is the time to really step up the campaign.

  • Coatsey’s view, here

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Brum bins dispute: on balance, a victory

December 2, 2017 at 9:44 am (Brum, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, workers)

Strikers and supporters on the picket line
Strikers and supporters at the Lifford Lane picket line

After 12 weeks of action Unite members have agreed a deal to settle a long-running dispute over changes to waste management services in Birmingham.

On balance, this has to be considered a victory for the workers.

The Labour City Council have agreed to withdraw proposed redundancies in exchange for giving the affected workers new job titles and duties. Grade 3 workers will now be promoting recycling among residents but still be working on bin lorries and maintaining their current grade, pay and conditions.

In addition a victimised shop steward will be reinstated, unions will be included in a forum on future changes to the waste management service, and there will be no changes for at least 15 months. The concession the union has made is to agree to a five-day working week but there will be no increase in working hours.

The council has also agreed to pay Unite the Union’s legal costs. They have spent over £6 million of public money in an attempt to defeat the action and break the union.

The local authority’s leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said the deal had been struck after the council had reached “a legally-sound position, going through the governance processes which we must follow”.

Unite meanwhile described the agreement as “a victory for common sense”.

The dispute dated back to June this year, when the union warned that proposals for changes to the service could lead to the loss of more than 100 jobs and pay cuts of up to £5,000.

The tactics that Unite and the workers opted for – one-hour stoppages each day involving a return back to depots on each stoppage – proved to be effective in creating maximum disruption. This approach also minimised the loss in strikers’ pay and retained a limited service under the effective control of the workers.

On August 16th  it seemed that a settlement had been reached at ACAS and the action (then into its seventh week) was suspended: then the Council tore up the deal (incredibly, even claiming that there never had been any deal!) and Unite re-balloted and resumed the action.

The then-leader of the council, John Clancy, was forced to resign over this fiasco. The (unelected) council chief executive Stella Manzie (who earns £180,000 a year), a well-known ‘gun for hire’ who has worked for various local authorities, cutting jobs and services, joined forces with Tory and LibDem councillors to destroy the negotiated settlement. Labour councillors then demanded Clancy’s resignation.

South Birmingham Momentum gave active support to the workers on picket lines, and also organised a campaign of support within the Labour Party, demanding that the council honoured the ACAS deal and/or negotiated a similar settlement with Unite.

In September a High Court judge ordered Birmingham to withdraw redundancy notices it had served on 113 refuse workers ahead of a full hearing.

High Court Judge Mr Fraser, describing former council leader John Clancy’s management of the dispute and its ensuing chaos, said: “I could use the words remarkable, extraordinary and more.”

He said there had been an “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council as rubbish accumulated in the city’s streets.

Mr Fraser also criticised a “schism” between councillors and council officers, saying there had been “chaos” between senior managers and that at times councillors and officers were “positively working against one another.”

A council statement earlier that month said it had issued redundancy notices to ‘grade 3 leading hands’ in the refuse service to protect its legal and financial position.

Under the new proposal, the grade three bin loader role, which was to be deleted, will now be retained. However, this will be with a change of job title and added responsibilities such as data collection for refuse compliance. Refuse workers will transition to the new roles in February 2018. They will also move from a 4-day week to a five-day week.

The deal meant that a High Court hearing scheduled for 27 November did not go ahead. The council has agreed to pay Unite’s legal costs and a court order is expected to cement the agreement.

More information on the agreed proposal can be found here.

Cllr Ward said: “I made it clear that my top priority on becoming leader was to resolve this dispute – the disruption caused for the citizens of Birmingham has been completely unacceptable, and everyone recognises that.

“This has always been about providing an efficient and effective refuse collection service for Birmingham, as that is what citizens rightly expect and deserve from us. Neither the council or Unite wanted things to escalate in the way they did, so I am pleased that through quiet, open and honest dialogue we have been able to reach a legally-sound position, going through the correct governance processes that we must always follow.”

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This deal secures the grade three role and protects the pay of workers who faced losing thousands of pounds.

“It is a victory for common sense and a victory for the people of Birmingham who no longer need worry about the disruption of industrial action.”

Beckett added: “This deal, which protects the livelihoods of hard working refuse workers, would not have been possible without the determination and solidarity of Unite members.

“Rather than rolling over, they stood firm through thick and thin to defend their jobs and the service they provide to the city of Birmingham.

“The stand that Birmingham’s refuse workers took and the victory they have secured should be an inspiration to others right across the trade union movement.”

But serious socialists need to be clear: this deal will mean added responsibilities such as data collection for refuse compliance. Grade 3 refuse workers will transition to the new roles in February 2018. All refuse workers will also move from a 4-day week to a five-day week. In the present industrial climate, we can properly call this a victory – but we shouldn’t exaggerate the extent of the victory, as some are doing. Nor should we allow the ambitious Howard Beckett to use this as a springboard for his campaign to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite.

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Distinctions on left antisemitism

November 29, 2017 at 8:42 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, israel, labour party, left, palestine, posted by JD, Racism, stalinism, zionism)

Left antisemitism

By Martin Thomas (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website)

Workers’ Liberty has been debating theories of racism and their relationship to left anti-semitism. This contribution is a response to Carmen Basant (Solidarity 454).

Modern political antisemitism consists in damning the very existence of the Israeli state (however modified) as inescapably racist and imperialist, and thus damning all Jews who fail to renounce connection to or sympathy with Israel (however critical) as agents of racism and imperialism.

More traditional racial antisemitism consists in damning Jews, as a hereditary supposed “race”, as constitutionally malevolent and disruptive.

There is no Chinese wall between these forms of antisemitism, or indeed between either of them and other forms of antisemitism in history (Christian, reactionary anti-capitalist, etc.) However, there are distinctions, and it is important to understand these if we are to convince left-minded people influenced by strands of antisemitism rather than only cursing them.

I adduce five reasons for distinguishing between political antisemitism and racial antisemitism.

1. The term “racism” has acquired a diffuse width of meaning, and at the same time come to be cognate with crimes and immoralities rather than with erroneous (or hurtfully erroneous) ideologies. When we are arguing with people who have strands or traits in their thinking of political antisemitism, but who (by their own lights) abhor racial antisemitism, to call them “racist” cuts short the argument. It conveys to them that we do not wish to dispute political ideas with them, but instead to brand them as criminal.

2. Antisemitism is much older than racism. It is possible, of course, to stretch the term racism by back-defining it to cover many phenomena from centuries before the term existed. But to do that blurs rather than clarifies. In particular, it blurs the ways in which antisemitism operates quite differently from general racism (or, if you insist on putting it that way, from other racism).

3. It is indeed, as Carmen points out, disorienting to identify racism exclusively or overwhelmingly as an offshoot of European colonialism. But it is equally disorienting to identify it as a characteristic offshoot of nationalism, presumably of irredentist and revanchist Arab nationalism. Political antisemitism has a dynamic different from both nationalism and racism.

4. Being Jewish does not license antisemitic views, any more than being a woman licenses hostility to feminist demands. But the high-profile Jewish political antisemites are clearly not “self-hating Jews”, either.

5. If we abandon the distinction between political antisemitism and racism, then that makes us no longer able to point out and denounce where people drift over the line. Read the rest of this entry »

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Progressive United Left (sic) Scotland

November 21, 2017 at 9:05 am (labour party, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Unite the union)

Above: Lennie, some flowers, and Agnes
 .
By Anne Field

Even by its own sorry standards, the grossly misnamed “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS) – summoned into existence by the bureaucrats of Unite the Union Scottish Region in 2016 – excelled itself at the recent Unite Scottish Region Labour Party Liaison Conference.

(Regional Labour Party Liaison Conferences are open to all Unite members who are CLP delegates. Apart from hearing speeches, they also elect the Regional Labour Party Liaison Committee for a three-year term of office.)

The PULS slate for the Scottish Labour Party Liaison Committee was elected in its entirety. Who was on the slate was rather less significant than who was not on it, i.e. who had been targeted by PULS for removal from the Committee. These included:

Helen McFarlane: Vice-chair of the United Left at a national level. Labour candidate for Airdrie and Shotts in the general election. Lost by just 195 votes. (Pity that no-one in PULS bothered to campaign for her.)

Scott Walker: Former chair of the United Left Scotland. Current chair of the Unite Scottish Region Executive Committee. Unite convenor.

Jim Harte: Current chair of the United Left Scotland. Was chair of the outgoing Labour Party Liaison Committee. Labour councillor on Renfrewshire Council. One of the founders of the rank-and-file electricians’ campaign of 2012 against BESNA.

Vince Mills: Former chair of the Campaign for Socialism, and current vice-chair of the campaign. Currently setting up a “Morning Star Readers Network” in the Campaign for Socialism. (In the United Left’s political universe, that counts as a good thing.)

Other one-time members of the Labour Party Liaison Committee did not need to be voted off it by the PULS slate.

In 2016 three PULS members, handpicked by Unite Scottish Regional Secretary Pat Rafferty, sat on a ‘disciplinary panel’ and banned three members of the United Left from holding office in Unite for a minimum of five years.

Not content with removing leading Labour Party and trade union activists from the Labour Party Liaison Committee, PULS made a laughing stock of itself by not only including Agnes Tolmie on its slate but also ensuring her election as the Committee’s vice-chair.

That’s the same Agnes Tolmie who joined Les Bayliss’s “Workers United” grouping and backed Bayliss against McCluskey in the first post-merger election for Unite General Secretary.

The same Agnes Tolmie who long ago lost the support of the United Left Scotland after circulating a series of unfounded and scurrilous criticisms of members of the United Left Scotland.

The same Agnes Tolmie who had a hand (or rather more than a hand) in dragging Unite in front of the Certification Officer after the Unite National Executive Council had voted unanimously – with the exception of A. Tolmie – to allow a blacklisted member to remain on the Council.

The same Agnes Tolmie was backed by the right-wing and pro-Coyne Unite Alliance when she sought re-election to the Unite National Executive Council earlier this year – because no-one else was prepared to go anywhere near her.

She lost. But, thanks to PULS, has now re-emerged as a stalwart of the Labour Party Liaison Committee.

How ironic that just when Richard Leonard’s election as Scottish Labour Party (SLP) leader signals a shift to the left in the SLP, PULS is dedicating itself to driving the SLP’s biggest affiliate in the opposite direction: from bureaucratic inertia to full-blown sclerotic paralysis.

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Len McCluskey, Unite and Jewish Voice for Labour

November 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, zionism)


Len has never witnessed anti-Semitism: 4.16

Len McCluskey (BBC Newsnight 26/10/2017): “I’ve never recognized [that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism]. I believe it was mood music that was created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In 47 years of membership of the Labour Party, I’ve never been at a meeting where there was any anti-Semitic language or any attacks on the Jews. They would have had short shrift in any meeting I was at.”

“Unfortunately, at the time there were lots of people playing games. Everybody wanted to create this image that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had become misogynistic and anti-Semitic because they wanted to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”

Shami Chakrabarti (replied): “With the greatest of respect to Len, I was the person charged with investigating this. It wasn’t Len,” she said. “I have seen things which Len hasn’t seen. I would ask Len to read my report.

“There are real reasons why someone like Len may not have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. There is an obvious reason why he may not have experienced it. I was charged with investigating by Jeremy and the National Executive and I set out my findings, warts and all.”

In the same week as making those ill-advised comments on anti-Semitism, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey attended the launch meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) already had the backing of such absolute anti-Zionist outfits as the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign and the ‘Electronic Intifada’ website; at the meeting, McCluskey and Aslef’s  Tosh McDonald seemed to affiliate their unions to JVL.

JVL’s chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself: Perhaps this is why McCluskey felt it appropriate to affiliate Unite without having consulted the Executive of the union – supposedly the highest decision-making body of Unite (which prides itself upon being a “lay member-led union”).

The JVL website (well worth visiting if you want an insight into the true politics of this organisation), hailed McCluskey’s support as a major breakthrough, but when I commented:

“Did Len consult anyone (even the Exec) before stating that Unite supported JVL? … Ironically, many of those associated with JVL are very keen on democracy elsewhere, and under other circumstances, within the labour movement”

… I was admonished by the “JVL’s webperson” thus:

“No need to be snide, Jim. Len knew that it would have to go to Unite approval [sic]. That process is in train” 

… which would seem to suggest that McCluskey and JVL had done a deal in advance, without consulting the Unite Exec, or any other Unite body.

McCluskey no doubt thought he was doing Jeremy Corbyn a favour by backing an organisation whose main objective seems to be to deny that Labour has any kind of problem with anti-Semitism, beyond that of false accusations cooked up by right wingers and agents of the Israeli embassy. Unfortunately, as Chakrabarti’s response to his foolish Newsnight comments, demonstrates, McCluskey’s hasty and undemocratic backing of JVL is likely to cause Corbyn a lot of embarrassment.

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The death of Carl Sargeant and the backlash against women

November 14, 2017 at 4:18 pm (conspiracy theories, crime, Daily Mail, Human rights, Jim D, labour party, law, misogyny, tragedy, Wales, women)

Let’s be clear from the outset: the death of Carl Sargeant was a tragedy and no-one should be using it to score points or make political capital.

That’s why I’ve hesitated before writing anything on the subject, and I certainly have no intention of seeking to pre-empt the findings of either the coroner or the independent inquiry ordered by Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones.

The anguish of Carl Sargeant’s family and close personal friends is entirely understandable: but that doesn’t mean we have to simply go along with what they say.

Less still do we have to go along with those who are not family or friends of Carl Sargeant, but simply people who think the whole issue of sexual harassment in politics has ‘gone too far’, and have seized upon this tragedy as – supposedly – evidence that the whole sexual harassment business is now ‘out of hand’, etc, etc, with wrongly accused men as the main victims.

From the outset of the sexual harassment in politics scandal, we were assured by Charles Moore in the Telegraph, that women were now on top and the worry is whether they will share power with men or just “crush us”. Peter Hitchens, in the Mail On Sunday, warned that the “squawking women” would end up in niqabs if they carried on. Meanwhile, David ‘Mr Somewhere’ Goodhart tweeted that it was only the women of the metropolitan elite who were bothered about sexual harassment.

As news of the Carl Sargeant suicide broke, the Daily Mail’s front page claimed he’d been “THROWN TO THE WOLVES” and denied natural justice by Carwyn Jones and the Labour party.

But what, exactly, is Carwyn Jones supposed to have done wrong? As far as I can judge, he did indeed do things (as he has said), “by the book”. Carl Sargeant was, apparently, made aware of the general nature of the allegations, but not (at the early stage of the investigation) given precise details or the names of his accusers: he would, as I understand it, have received this information in due course and then been given every opportunity to defend himself. In the meanwhile, he was dismissed from his ministerial post and suspended from the Labour party. Carl Sargeant’s family were not satisfied, which is understandable; opportunistic calls for Jones’s resignation, eminating from the Tories, sections of the press, some in Plaid and even some Labour people, are not.

It may be that the coroner and/or the independent inquiry will point to shortcomings in the way the case against Carl Sargeant was handled, and it may be that more support should be offered to all those mixed up in allegations of this sort – especially when peoples’ mental health is at risk. But it would be outrageous for anyone to seek to use this tragedy to downplay the seriousness of sexual harassment, or to deny its prevalence in politics and public life.

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Machover cites a Nazi as a reliable source against “the Zionists”

November 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, CPGB, fascism, history, labour party, Livingstone, posted by JD, zionism)

Moshe Machover’s expulsion from the Labour Party has been rescinded and he is once again a member. The expulsion was not due to the contents of the leaflet discussed below, and neither is his re-instatement. His expulsion was due to concerns about his relationship with the so-called ‘Labour Party Marxists’, the CPGB and the Weekly Worker paper: these concerns have now been cleared up.

Reinhard Heydrich worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Above: Machover’s source

Dale Street comments on the leaflet:

Had it not been distributed as a leaflet at this year’s Labour Party conference, Moshe Machover’s article “Anti-Zionism Does Not Equal Anti-Semitism” would have been just another turgid and distasteful article which had found a natural home for itself in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

A longer version of the same article – entitled “Don’t Apologise – Attack” – had been published in the Weekly Worker four months earlier. According to that article:

• Anyone who thought that a retweet by Naz Shah MP – which had suggested that Israel (and, presumably, its population) should be relocated to the USA – “was anything but a piece of satire should have their head examined.”
• Jackie Walker “has been suspended for saying that there was not only a Jewish holocaust but also a black African one too.” (Wrong: that was not the reason for her suspension.)
• There was nothing antisemitic about NUS President Malia Bouattia describing Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost”.
• Ken Livingstone was “certainly inaccurate” in having said that Hitler supported Zionism until he went mad. At the same time, “the point he was making was basically correct”.

The inclusion of a shorter version of the article in a “Labour Party Marxists” bulletin distributed at Labour Party conference rescued it from obscurity.

Overnight, Machover’s article became a cause célèbre for left antisemites (and antisemites in general).

Zionism is essentialised. Machover unceasingly refers to “the Zionists … the Zionists … the Zionists.” Unlike any other nationalism, Zionism is portrayed as a uniformly negative monolith.

Legitimate complaints about antisemitic arguments and ways of thinking are dismissed as a Zionist concoction: “And so the Zionists and their allies decided to launch the ‘Anti-Zionism equals Anti-Semitism’ campaign.”

This “campaign” is an international (cosmopolitan) one: “The whole campaign of equating opposition to Zionism with antisemitism has been carefully orchestrated with the help of the Israeli government and the far right in the United States.”

Antisemitism is defined in such a way that its existence in the labour movement can simply be denied as being of no account:

“The handful of people of the left who propagate a version of the ‘Protocols of Zion’ carry no weight and are without any intellectual foundation.”

Unlike others who share his current politics, Machover does not define Zionism as a form of antisemitism. But he does portray collusion with antisemitism as inherent in Zionism: “You can also attack Zionism because of its collusion and collaboration with antisemitism, including up to a point with Nazi Germany.”

This brings Machover round to the trope of Zionist-Nazi collaboration: “Let us now turn to the Zionist-Nazi connection. … The Zionists made overtures to the Nazi regime, so how did the Nazis respond? … In other words, a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism.”

The “friendly mention of Zionism” cited by Machover is a quote from an article written in 1935 by Reinhard Heydrich, published in the Das Schwarze Korps, the in-house magazine of the Nazi SS:

“National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism.”

Heydrich was a hardened antisemite from the early 1930s onwards. He was one of the architects of the Final Solution. Only a few months earlier he had made clear his attitude towards Jews in another article in Das Schwarze Korps:

“In order to preserve our people, we must be harsh in the face of our enemy, even at the cost of hurting an individual or being condemned as rabble-rousers by some probably well-meaning people. …

“If someone is our enemy, he is to be vanquished subjectively and without exception. If, for example, out of false compassion, every German should make an exception for ‘only one decent’ Jew or Freemason whom he knows, we would end up with 60 million such exceptions.”

Ten years before Heydrich’s article Hitler had already dismissed a Jewish state as “a central organisation for their (Jews’) world swindling … a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.”

Thus, to illustrate the “basic agreement” which Zionism supposedly shared with the Nazis, Machover quotes an architect of the Holocaust, from an article in the magazine of the organisation which played a leading role in carrying out the Holocaust.

It is not about supporting the Palestinians. Machover says explicitly: that’s not enough. You must also demonise “the Zionists” as an evil essence running through history to link Jews today back to the taint of the Nazis.

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Tony Greenstein: sexual harassment allegations are a right-wing conspiracy (just like anti-Semitism)

November 6, 2017 at 9:30 pm (A sick man, anti-semitism, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, crime, Jim D, labour party, misogyny)

Mr Tony Greenstein has seen through the right wing (and, no doubt, Zionist) conspiracy.

Sexual harassment in the Labour party? It’s all been got up by the right wing, and the “BBC’s Tory Kuenssberg” says Mr Greenstein – just like “anti-Semitism.”

He’s especially upset about poor Kelvin Hopkins – and just look at the photos of the woman making the allegations!

Here’s Mr Greenstein’s blog-post, complete with comments about Ava Etemadzadeh’s dress and appearance (written by him, not me, I should emphasise):

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Framing of Kelvin Hopkins MP

First it was ‘anti-Semitism’ now the Labour Right (& the BBC’s Tory Kuenssberg) are weaponising Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is much like anti-Semitism.  No one wants to be accused of it and the immediate thought when faced with the accusations made against Kelvin Hopkins is that there is no smoke without fire.

Kelvin Hopkins

The use by a man of pressure, by virtue of an economic or other relationship of dependancy, because it is nearly always a man, on a women to gain sexual favours is by definition despicable.  That was why George Bernard Shaw described marriage as a legalised form of prostitution.

I know this because in my Momentum group in Brighton for the first few months a number of people thought that I must be guilty if I was suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’.  It was only after people like Jackie Walker and others began to be accused of the same crime that it dawned on people that this was a cynical ploy by the Right to divide the Left.  And because the Left has a conscience, because socialists as opposed to the neo-liberals of the Right don’t act like cynical automatons, people do take these things seriously.  The same is true of sexual harassment.

Perhaps more so with sexual harassment because all men are, to a greater or lesser degree, guilty of possessing power in relationships and using that power.  I doubt if there is any man who can honestly say they haven’t, at some point in their life been guilty of some form of sexual harassment or coercion or pressure.  You live in this world and are part of it, a world framed by patriarchal relations.  You can’t live outside the social relations that you are a part of.

Ava dressed up as a schoolgirl by her Telegraph minders for her interview

That is why just like anti-Semitism has been weaponised, so sexual harassment can be and it would appear is being weaponised at this moment.  It is clear that the Tories epitomised by the monstrous lech Michael Fallon are clearly guilty of gross acts of abuse and worse.  However there is a determined effort by the BBC and the Tory press to turn the attention on Labour.  The Right are doing all they can to encourage this and the Left should stand up and ask where the proof is, because apart from Ivan Lewis MP there seems none.

It is almost certain that Kelvin Hopkins is innocent of the charges against him. I must confess that when I first saw Etemadzadeh I rubbed my eyes. Why is she dressed up as a schoolgirl? Is this to try and suggest she is young, virginal and innocent? She must be at least 23-24, what is this school girl image for?  And the poppy?  No socialist activist would be seen dead wearing a symbol to British military imperialism.

A very different Ava E in her Linkedin profile

 I confess on Friday night, after just coming out of hospital, I had BBC News 24 on and the news goes round in cycles and Etemadzadeh seemed to be on interminably as I half listened, and got on with writing and posting a blog.  Perhaps because I listened to her more than once it gradually occurred to me that she had been very carefully coached – her interview seemed incredibly staged and even forced.  At the end she described an alleged conversation where Kelvin said that if he were young, he would have been proud to have her as her lover and then she said ‘and if he was young he would be happy to have her as a lover’ and then the killer punch ‘but he’s not’ made me feel that this was not spontaneous.  It now appears that it was a put up job with John Pina.

More details have come about concerning Ava.  She is a member of Progress and she has been working with the Telegraph, hardly a Labour paper.  She seems to have been put up to it by a Progress MP (Wes Streeting?) just as the Jewish Labour Movement have constantly run to the Times and Mail when they wanted an anti-Labour story printed.

Too much of this story doesn’t hang together. The one conflict of evidence is where Etemadzadeh says that Hopkins rubbed his crotch against her when saying goodbye at Essex.  If that is the case, then why the hell did she go out of her way to make further contact with him?  It’s not as if she had to.  There was no financial or contractual or employer-employee relationship between them.

There were 3 separate messages sent by Etemadzadeh to Kelvin Hopkins, none of which square with his alleged behaviour.  And why wait 3 years if indeed all this transpired?  It may well be the case that Hopkins told her that if he was young he would happily fall in love with her.  That is no more than saying that he found her a nice woman.  Certainly you can question his appalling sense of judgement but it hardly constitutes sexual harassment.  She doesn’t allege that there was any further alleged physical or sexual contact.

She was also an intern with Michael Dugher, who was special adviser to the most right-wing of all Labour MPs, John Spellar, an old associate of the Electrical Trades Union and its anti-communist leadership.  Dugher was also a special adviser to Geoff Hoon, Blair’s Defence Minister and latterly he worked as a corporate lobbyist for American multinational Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the government’s largest IT contractors.

Left-wing men of course feel very queasy about standing up to this and that is precisely the problem.  The Labour Right, both men and especially women, are unscrupulous in using peoples’ abhorrence of sexual harassment or racism for their own devious political purposes.  Taking out left-wing men is a game to these people.

I am referring to people like Jess Phillips who is quite happy to say she’d stab Jeremy Corbyn in the front rather than the back or who tells Dianne Abbot, who unlike her has a record of standing up to oppression racist bullying, to ‘fuck off’, without of course meriting any punishment from Labour Party HQ.

Phillips is the archetypal right-wing feminist, a woman who attacks left-wing men as the ‘enemy’ but seems more than happy to be friends with the backwoodsman Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who believes that a woman who is raped should be denied an abortion.  His chivalry apparently bowls the simpleton over.

No self-respecting woman could count a misogynist like Rees-Mogg, the man who never changed a nappy, as a friend.  Phillips is a fraud and a fake as are most right-wing feminists, precisely because they see their liberation as taking place at the expense of the most oppressed women.  That is why some of the vilest Zionists happen to be women on the Labour Right.  We have a good example of that in Brighton Labour Party where the execrable racist Progress Councillor, the mad and bad ‘Poison’ Penn, willingly use scurrilous allegations against socialist men, in order to pursue a far-Right Zionist and racist politics.

I include Hattie Harman in this, a woman whose feminism didn’t prevent her cutting benefits for single parents as soon as she became a Cabinet Minister in 1997. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enough equivocation: the left must campaign to Stop Brexit!

October 20, 2017 at 11:35 am (Anti-Racism, AWL, Brexit, campaigning, Europe, labour party)

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DMVt6zWWsAEquYe.jpg

Illustration: John Rogan (via Tendance Coatesy)

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Opinion polling on 10-11 October showed 64% saying that the Tory government is doing “badly” in negotiating Brexit, and only 21% saying it is doing “well”. 47% said that, with hindsight, they thought the vote for Brexit in June 2016 was wrong, 40% that it was right.

Only a small minority say that Brexit will make Britain better off economically — only 23% overall, and only 12% of Labour voters. 44% think Brexit will make Britain worse off. 39% expect Brexit to be bad for jobs, just 22% think it will be good. 31% expect Britain to be bad for the NHS, 25% good. Among Labour voters, 51% expect “bad for the NHS”, 17% good.

Meanwhile the Tories’ talks with the EU are going badly. On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th ministers, and then chiefs, from the 27 other EU states will hear a report from Brexit negotiations after five rounds of talks. The EU 27 are insisting that the UK must promise a clear list of closing-the-account payments before they will even start discussing a new deal on trade. That new deal itself will be difficult. Canada’s trade deal with the EU, with much less baggage to impede it, took eight years to negotiate and ratify, and nearly collapsed.

There is no sign of progress towards the trade deals with other countries which the Brexiters airily promised back in 2016. With right-wing nationalists like Trump gaining ground in many countries, the terrain is more difficult for such deals. All that should be a signal for the left and the labour movement to start a drive to stop Brexit.

We should oppose and harry the Tories at every point. We should demand — as some pro-EU Tories are already demanding — that any exit deal must be voted on by Parliament. Not just in the my-way-or-the-highway alternative the Tories are offering — their deal or a crash exit with no deal at all. And not just by Parliament.

The June 2016 referendum had the defects of all referenda — a poor form of democracy. It was biased because 16-17 year olds and EU citizens resident in Britain were denied votes. It was run in a way which artificially limited the mass media debate to a Tory-vs-Tory contest. And on top of all that, it was a one-off vote about a very vaguely-sketched alternative.

Democracy means stopping elites like the Tories grabbing full power to make and shape things to their own liking from such vague mandates. The populace must retain its say. Minorities must retain a chance to become majorities. Given we’ve already had the first referendum, probably the only way to stop the Tories trashing people’s rights is a second referendum.

“A Labour MP”, quoted by the Financial Times on 17 October, said: “the public would need another vote on whether to go ahead, given that the Leave camp had offered a more positive manifesto [than any possible exit deal] in June 2016… It would be a ‘final say’ now that we know the facts. The people would want to have the final say over all of this”. That MP also told the FT: “this would not be a ‘second referendum’, despite all appearances to the contrary”. Huh? It would be second, and it would be a referendum, wouldn’t it?

In any case, the MP is right. We didn’t want the first referendum, but now it’s happened we must demand a “final say” for the populace. The alternative is to let the Tories have their way unchecked, to let them cancel the rights of EU citizens and of British citizens to be able to work and study in the EU, to let them make difficult-to-reverse decisions, all on the authority of an old referendum and the Parliamentary majority of a moment. Our basic guideline should be working-class solidarity and social levelling-up across borders. Immediately, we should also be backing French workers in their battle against the very pro-EU but anti-worker Macron government.

Also, however, we cannot let the immediate issue of the re-raising of economic and social barriers, and the suppression of rights to free movement, wait on the general and longer-term issue of reorienting the labour movement towards a workers’ Europe. “Stop Brexit” and “Second referendum on any exit deal” should be immediate slogans, alongside “Freedom of movement”.

On 12 October, Jeremy Corbyn said that he would vote Remain in a second referendum, but in these terms: “There isn’t going to be another referendum, so it’s a hypothetical question but yes, I voted remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind on that”.

Last week I met by chance, on a bus, a member of Corbyn’s inner circle, someone I’ve known for decades. I can’t quote him by name, because it was a conversation on a bus, not an on-the-record interview. But those who have followed Labour statements on Brexit will recognise his responses as only a snappier and more candid rendering of the official line.

What should Labour do about Brexit? Response: oppose the Tories, criticise the Tories at every step, wait and see, and avoid further commitment. What if the Tory government falls before it can complete a deal? Won’t Labour then have to say something definite? Response: long silence. Then: “That would be very difficult”. The Corbynista insider was sure of one thing: Labour cannot, must not, come out for stopping Brexit. Labour must equivocate in order to keep both its pro-Brexit and its anti-Brexit supporters on board.

This craven, manipulative approach to politics is incompatible with socialism, and unlikely to work in the long or even medium term. Tens of thousands joined a “Stop Brexit” march at the Tory party conference on 1 October in Manchester — some of them chiming in with pro-EU Tories like Stephen Dorrell, some of them going on to join the anti-austerity march the same day.

So far there’s still a majority for the resigned view: Brexit will be not very good, or positively bad, but now we just have to go through with it. That majority is beginning to break up. Probably it will wane and wax in the next months and years as the talks between the Tories and EU go worse or better. A determined drive by the left and the labour movement can and should turn the majority into a minority, and stop Brexit.

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