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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“Oh Jeremy Corbyn”: the left must resist *all* personality cults

October 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm (celebrity, cults, labour party, populism, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism)

The unity, enthusiasm and upbeat self-confidence on display at the Labour conference was in most respects, excellent, and in stark contrast not just to last year’s event, but also the wretched Tory debacle that followed.

But one aspect of the conference was less attractive; one delegate’s contemporaneous comments appear the present issue of Solidarity:

A pernicious and probably controversial issue is the unstoppable adulation and hero worship of Jeremy Corbyn.

Not all of the adulation is the fault of the enthusiastic delegates in the room. The Labour machine now appears to be cashing in on Corbynmania with a range of Corbyn-themed items.

It is very impressive that a whole crowd at the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury are so enthused that they chant his name, but do we really need a seven minute delay in his conference speech to chant, or the chanting of his name when other shadow ministers speak? Or delegates taking valuable time to ask pointless self congratulatory questions about the importance of Corbyn?

All of this must stop!

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Clarion: review of Labour conference 2017

October 4, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Brexit, campaigning, Cuts, democracy, Europe, health service, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, unions)

The world (partly) transformed:

By Maisie Sanders (Lewisham Deptford youth delegate, pc) and Sacha Ismail (Clarion editor)

Lots of people have been saying that Labour Party conference was a huge step forward for the left. They are right, as long as you add that there is a lot of work now to do and that it won’t happen automatically or through just pushing further down the same road.

There were many more delegates, something like 1,200, and they were much more left-wing, with a clear majority of Corbyn-supporters. Apparently 13,000 people attended some meeting to do with the conference – the conference itself, official fringes, The World Transformed and other fringe events.

The average delegate or observer was much more “scruffy” than in previous years – lots of people with badges, etc, many of them young. Of course many Clarion supporters and people we know were delegates. Getting into discussions, selling the magazine (the conference special we produced as well as issue 9) and promoting left-wing causes was easy. With determined effort but not back-breaking exertion comrades collected £1,370 for the Picturehouse strike fund.

The Clarion supported and our editor Rida Vaquas spoke at a packed fringe meeting about fighting unjust expulsions and suspensions put on by Stop the Labour Purge. We held a joint social and produced a bulletin with Red Labour supporters

Anecdotal evidence as well as reports in the press suggest that the Labour right is extremely demoralised. Many MPs and members of the House of Lords did not even bother to attend the conference.

Moreover we are seeing the beginnings of a living Labour Party democracy again.

Things in Brighton were in many ways wonderful, but at the same time a mixed bag, reflecting the wider situation on the left. The atmosphere was sometimes celebratory to the point of being unthinking – one minute conference was cheering calls for dismantling the border regime, the next minute cheering Mi5 and Mi6 (literally). The conference was a mix of left-wing and stroppy and a bit back-slapping, uncritical and “follow your leader”. Thus:

• More time had been allocated to policy discussion, with pointless external speakers eliminated and speeches from shadows ministers, etc, squeezed. To some degree this time was used well. There was some interesting and inspiring discussion and contributions. More left-wing motions got submitted and passed – on the NHS, on the right to strike, on housing and other issues. On three occasions (over stopping and reversing benefit cuts, NHS privatisation and democratic control of schools) delegates used their newly established right to say that bits of the National Policy Forum reports were not left-wing enough and refer them back.

• A clear majority of CLP delegates voted to reject the Conference Arrangements Committee report after complaints about virtually all emergency motions being ruled out of order (though the CAC was saved by the union vote). Even the finance report caused a delegate to get up and ask how much is being spent on the Compliance Unit!

• The bulk of the motion promoted by The Clarion on trade union rights made it through compositing, with the result that the conference voted unanimously for a strong position on workers’ rights, including support for the Picturehouse, McDonald’s and other strikes and the demand to repeal the 1980s/90s Tory anti-union laws. That is a major advance. Momentum NHS did something similar with policy on the health service.

• Hots on the heels of the left’s victory in the Conference Arrangements Committee elections, left candidates Anna Dyer and Emine Ibrahim easily won the elections for places on the National Constitutional Committee (which are elected by conference). This could potentially be important in raising, stopping and reversing unjust expulsions and suspensions of left activists.

• The two democratic rule changes proposed by the National Executive Committee – to expand the number of elected members’ representatives on the NEC from six to nine, to reduce the nomination threshold for leader from 15 to 10pc of the parliamentary party, both passed easily with little fuss. (So did the rule change on dealing with racist, anti-semitic, etc, behaviour.)

• Corbyn, McDonnell and other’s speeches were more left-wing than previously, for instance in terms of cancelling PFI contracts and supporting strikes (though not without ambiguity).

However:

• Delegates voted, at the instigation of Momentum and CLPD, to deny themselves the right to discuss Brexit and stand up for free movement. In some ways this discipline and ability to totally dominate the conference agenda was impressive – but it was also a total abdication of responsibility. In keeping these issues off the agenda, the “official” left did exactly what the right did last year! It would be interesting to know who made the decision that Momentum opposed discussing Brexit.

• Despite an increased number, there were relatively few motions on the agenda. That is in large part because of the procedural barriers to doing it, including large numbers ruled out. However it also seems to reflect relative lack of interest among some left activists (and certainly a lack of leadership from Momentum – see below).

• Some delegates seemed more comfortable making speeches about themselves, their experience, how bad the Tories are, how great Jeremy Corbyn is than about the motions on the agenda or specific ideas, issues and demands (to be fair, the way the conference is still organised, with many motions discussed at once, leant itself to this).

• Leading figures seemed not bothered about what is passed or not passed. At the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom fringe meeting, for instance, not a single speaker mention the motion on union rights going to conference that afternoon. A shadow minister said at the same meeting that he supports the right to solidarity strikes but it is not party policy – when in fact it was passed unanimously in 2015.

• As a result of the NEC’s call, all democratic rule changes except the ones the NEC had proposed were remitted to the forthcoming democracy review. The exception was a rule change from Brighton Pavilion on removing the need for motions to refer to “contemporary” events – the CLP’s delegates did not not accept remission and instead it was voted down. Not exactly a model of bottom-up democratisation and a stalling of the pace of reform…

The Momentum office’s role in the conference was mixed. It was more together than last year, when they had almost no intervention at all. In justice it must be said that Momentum played an important role in some of the successes described above – for instance the left victory in the NCC election and organising delegates to refer back sections of the NPF report. But again, with the exception of Momentum NHS, which is an autonomous campaign with a different political bent, they seem to have got no motions submitted and discouraged discussion of motions in their pre-conference delegates meet ups (and did not discuss it publicly anywhere else); they did not help delegates caucus and discuss, with even the daily briefings promised not seeming to materialise; and they actively prevented discussion on migrants’ rights.

Mobilising people to attend and linking them up to an app telling them how to vote is good, but no substitute for democratic organisation and serious political discussion and intervention.

The World Transformed fringe featured many interesting and useful sessions and speakers, with some real highlights, as well as showcasing many important struggles. Once again its team should be congratulated for a good event. But there were some rather glaring and it seems politically-determined gaps – what we should advocate about Labour council and cuts, for instance, and the Russian Revolution! Some of the sessions would have benefited from having more left-wing grassroots activists and fewer medium-sized names who just waffled generalities.

So, real and enormous progress, but a lot more to change to achieve even quite limited goals in terms of reviving the labour movement, let alone socialist advance. In particular:

We need a wide-ranging discussion and a big fight around democratic reforms, with the fundamental aim of a sovereign conference. The review announced by the NEC should be approached positively but not trusted. There is a real danger that it will be tightly controlled by the leadership and the big unions, with more radical proposals excluded and thus made much more difficult to pass at conference. As part of democratisation, we need a renewed fight to prevent further expulsions and suspensions, reinstate expelled and suspended comrades and create a transparent, accountable disciplinary and membership system.

We also need to push the new, left-led CAC for much more immediate and easier reforms to how conference itself functions – basic things like clear standing orders, motions being published in advance, speeches for and against, proposers getting a chance to respond.

We need a focus on policy. Clearly the leadership is becoming bolder, but before you get to the much wider questions of how to challenge capitalism or even “big” policy problems like ownership of the banks and free movement, there are still numerous gaps and inadequacies. On union rights, the NHS, social care, council housing, public sector pay and more, either the policy passed is not adequate or there is evidence it will be at least partially ignored or softened. This is not a matter of denunciation or nitpicking, but of applying pressure and seeking to firm up and develop things. Again, we need to insist that it should be conference that decides what Labour Policy is.

We need a serious discussion about what Labour councils should do to fight the funding cuts which are now reaching crisis level.

We need to build constituency-level Young Labour groups and campus Labour Clubs as vibrant centres of discussion and campaigning. There was almost nothing about this at the conference, except what Clarion supporters raised.

We need to mobilise the party, at every level, to actively support workers’ struggles, linking this to Labour policies for higher wages, security at work and, now, abolishing the anti-union laws.

Let us know what you think. Write a reply here at Shiraz and/or at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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What Venezuela tells us about Labour Party foreign policy

September 30, 2017 at 6:12 pm (democracy, labour party, Latin America, stalinism)

By Paul Canning 30 September 2017
(Also posted at Open Democracy)

Venezuela has been reduced to a political point scoring exercise in the UK – whilst it plunges deeper into an enormous humanitarian disaster. Did we learn anything new from Labour party conference?

A week after the debate in parliament about Venezuela this month, the Political Editor of the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire tweeted a response to a story about Yemen and Saudi Arabia:

“And not a peep on the terror of a British Govt ally from those who pretended to care about Venezuela only to have a pop at Corbyn”.

Now there’s a few things going on here. You might think that he’s responding to the likes of the Tory John Redwood:

But it seems that Maguire may also be having a go at Labour MPs like Catherine West, Kevan Jones, Siobhan McDonagh, and Mike Gapes, who’ve all asked questions in Parliament about Venezuela, and at Graham Jones MP, who had organised the debate on Venezuela and set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), having had a long-standing Latin American interest through his membership of the APPG on Latin America.

In the background to his comments we have the widely circulated, and wrong, claim that Graham Jones was only setting up an APPG to hurt Corbyn. Read the rest of this entry »

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What does ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ actually stand for?

September 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm (anti-semitism, Free Speech, israel, Jim D, labour party, palestine, reformism, Unite the union, zionism)


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Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) had its official launch at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

JVL 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.

JVL already has the backing of the “Free Speech on Israel” campaign, the “Electronic Intifada” website and Len McCluskey of Unite (who claims never to have encountered anti-Semitism within the labour movement), and Tosh McDonald of Aslef, both of who have taken it upon themselves to affiliate their unions to JVL.

Last Monday at the Labour conference there was a fringe meeting of the so-called ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign (prop: Anthony Greenstein esq) at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton.  It was chaired by Jenny Manson.

The Mirror reported on the meeting:

Israeli-American author Miko Peled told a conference fringe meeting Labour members should support the freedom to “discuss every issue, whether it’s the holocaust, yes or no, whether it’s Palestine liberation – the entire spectrum.

And you can listen to the clip here.

Was he – and the Labour members sitting in the room – really suggesting that the historical reality of the Holocaust is a legitimate topic for debate? Did Jenny Manson agree with him? We cannot say, because Ms Manson has made no comment (as far as I’m aware) on the matter.

However, Ms Manson does have a letter in today’s Guardian that takes the paper’s John Crace to task for confusing JVL’s fringe meeting with the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ fringe meeting (understandably, one might think, given Ms Manson’s prominent role at both):

Jewish Voice is not an anti-Zionist group
John Crace, whose contributions are always good value, has got it wrong (Sketch, 27 September). I chaired the meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour he mentions in passing. What he discusses in his sketch is in dispute but, in any event, it happened at an entirely separate meeting – not ours. JVL is not, as he claims, an anti-Zionist group, nor was the Holocaust mentioned, let alone questioned at our hugely popular launch on Monday evening at the Labour party conference, attended by close on 300 people.

Our mission is to contribute to making the Labour party an open, democratic and inclusive party, encouraging all ethnic groups and cultures to join and participate freely. The sole ideological commitments members make is to broadly support what is contained in our statement of principles. These include a commitment “to strengthen the party in its opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism”. Describing JVL as “anti-Zionist” fundamentally misrepresents us. Our statement of principles makes no mention at all of Zionism. Rather our objective is simply to uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities. I gave an assurance from the chair that, in accordance with our statement of principles, you need hold no position on Zionism – for, against or anything else – to join and work with us.
Jenny Manson
Chair, Jewish Voice for Labour

There are two obvious points to make about this letter:

(1) Anti-Zionism is, in itself, a perfectly respectable ideology, and the Bund has an honourable history (even though the holocaust proved it to be, eventually, on the wrong side of history) so why does the Chair of the anti-Zionist JVL seek to deny the obvious?

(2) Why didn’t Ms Manson take the opportunity to clarify the links between JVL and ‘Free Speech on Israel’, whose meeting she chaired and at which the controversial comments on the holocaust were made?

A much more detailed – and honest – description of the politics of JVL was given in a speech by David Rosenberg, published in today’s Morning Star.

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Chakrabarti slaps down McCluskey’s stupid remarks on antisemitism

September 27, 2017 at 11:18 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, crap, Jim D, labour party, plonker, Racism, Unite the union)

Len McCluskey (on BBC Newsnight): “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: “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.”

  • See also, Coatesy on Labour’s new rules to fight anti-Semitism, here

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The Brexit hypocrisy of Labour’s ‘moderates’

September 27, 2017 at 8:23 am (democracy, Europe, labour party, left, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism, unions)

From The Clarion:

By Rick Parnet

Leading people on the right or self-styled “moderate”* wing of the Labour Party are making a fuss about Momentum, in defence of the leadership, keeping the Brexit/free movement debate off this week’s conference agenda.

It is understandable why left-wing delegates who did not want Corbyn to suffer a defeat went for this, but Momentum (and CLPD) were wrong to do it, both because the issues of Brexit and migrants’ rights are so important (and the leadership needs correcting on them) and because conference has been denied the opportunity to debate this hugely important issue (sure, with its own consent). Left-wing activists should organise to call those who made this decision to account and challenge them politically.

However, it would be foolish to think that most of the leading “moderates” are either genuinely concerned for party democracy or sincere and consistent on the issues. On both most of them display large elements of anti-Corbyn opportunism. (What I describe here largely concerns the leading people on the right, not necessarily everyone sympathetic to some of the things they say, especially on this issue.)

Dominating the conference till this year, the right specialised in keeping controversial issues it feared losing on off the agenda – and by far less democratic methods than winning a prioritisation vote. In fact, even this year, the out-going, right wing-led Conference Arrangements Committee has ruled out numerous motions – on nationalising the banks, for instance, and on stopping arms sales and military support for Saudi Arabia. It ruled out 24 of 26 emergency motions, including all 23 from CLPs – and, please note, TSSA’s emergency motion on Brexit and free movement.

Much of the left leadership’s record on democracy (for instance in Momentum) is poor, but the idea that we need lessons from those who have spent thirty years attempting to suppress every spark of independent life in the Labour Party and labour movement – and are continuing to do so, though with less and less success – is absurd.

On the substantive issues too, people on all sides have short memories.

It was only last year that the right, then much more in control of the conference, worked to keep Brexit and freedom of movement off the agenda, because it feared that delegates would vote to defend free movement! Like Momentum and CLPD this year with eg rail, last year the right championed the uncontroversial issue of child refugees – helpfully put in a different subject area by the CAC – precisely in order to stop free movement being discussed.

This was when Jeremy Corbyn was still standing tough in defence of free movement – before he gave in, after many months of right-wing and Stalinist and media pressure and with no support from Momentum as its office, directed by Jon Lansman, ignored its democratically agreed policy.

Remember the arguments during last year’s leadership election and still being made now – that Corbyn was “soft on immigration” and so couldn’t appeal to “working-class voters”. No doubt many “moderates” genuinely believe in migrants’ rights and are happy to take a more liberal position. But the idea that their leaders are consistent advocates or reliable allies in this struggle is wrong. Note that their motions for conference on the single market did not mention migrants’ rights or free movement (unlike the motions from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement). The right pitched these issues only when they wanted to appeal to people on the left.

In the coming arguments it would be absurd to rule out temporary and limited tactical alliances with people on the right of the party who are willing to stand up for free movement. But the left needs to maintain fierce independence and hostility at all times, including by exposing the right-wing leaders’ real record and motives, and to seek to take the lead in this fight.

* Apparently we are no longer allowed to say “the right” because it offends people. On one level I don’t care what we call them. But

i) Whinging about being called “the right” (which clearly means the right of the Labour Party), from people engaged in a determined campaign of name-calling, lying, cheating, bullying, expulsions, etc, is a bit rich.

ii) Their conduct is far from “moderate” and so are many of the positions they spent years defending, ie privatisation, PFI, growing inequality, “flexible labour markets”, etc – not to mention migrant-bashing – under Blair. I am proud to be “extreme left”, but what the Labour right have promoted and are still reluctant to break from is not moderate social democracy but a fairly extreme version of neo-liberalism.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply btl here at Shiraz and/or at  theclarionmag@gmail.com

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