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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Tūmanako*: New Zealand’s Labour-led government

October 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm (elections, New Zealand, posted by JD, reformism)

By Lesley Maher (this article also appears in the latest issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Jacinda Adern
Above: Jacinda Ardern

Twenty-six days after a general election, and on the eve of the Labour Day holiday weekend, (21-23 October) Aotearoa (New Zealand) has a new Labour-led coalition government. New Zealand’s Labour Day public holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1900. The Liberal government of the day offered the new public holiday instead of acceding to labour movement demands for a lawful eight-hour working day. It is poignant that it was this weekend when we learned our wish to be rid of the outgoing National (Tory) government meant swallowing the rat of a coalition government with the nationalist New Zealand First party. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 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)


_____________________

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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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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Labour conference: Brexit and freedom of movement not to be voted on

September 25, 2017 at 1:11 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, solidarity)

By Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Momentum

Big disappointment that freedom of movement was not discussed at Party conference. Conferences should be about debating differences not only giving predictable 99 percent near universal acclamations.

All the indications are that freedom of movement would have safely won if it had been debated.

Before the priority vote, a 1,000-strong demo took place outside conference largely organised by Lib Dems and Greens. I would guess at least 20-30 percent of demonstrators were migrant workers. There are a great number on the South coast. These people and their friends are seriously concerned about the mixed messages from the Party.

I was loudly selling Clarion to the demonstrators with its free movement front cover and many articles on the Labour Campaign for Freedom of Movement. There was excitement when I told them that we might get freedom of movement debated and passed at Labour conference.

I had a great response. Demonstrators were forcing on me ten pound note contributions – that doesn’t often happen!

The lessons of Labour’s success in the recent general election is that our policies need to be simple and clear. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’.

We will see what the NEC statement says today. I fear those migrant workers will scratch their heads, if they even read it.

Labour’s needs to say clearly, as Corbyn said last year, that immigration is NOT a problem. Capitalism, exploitation are.

Solidarity with migrant workers. Fight on for freedom of movement.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? Btl comments welcome here at Shiraz and at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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Matgamna on Skinner: “yap on little poodle”

September 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm (class collaboration, Europe, grovelling, labour party, nationalism, posted by JD, reformism, stalinism, Tony Blair, Tory scum)

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Skinner votes with Tories against Corbyn and Labour

September 12, 2017 at 3:18 pm (Andrew Coates, class collaboration, Europe, labour party, nationalism, reformism, stalinism, strange situations, Tory scum)

Andrew Coates reports:

Image result for dennis skinner votes with tories

 As we vote on the it was a pleasure to see Dennis Skinner joining us in the Aye lobby.

The Telegraph reports:

Dennis Skinner rebels against Jeremy Corbyn as he votes with Tories for Repeal Bill

Dennis Skinner MP, who has previously flicked the V-sign at Labour rebels and claimed to never have contemplated doing “cross-party stuff”  shocked many as he voted against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for the Repeal Bill on Monday night.

He has also said in the past he refuses to be friends or work with Tories — so his vote may surprise those who count on him as a Jeremy Corbyn supporter.

Mr Skinner, who is usually on the side of Jeremy Corbyn, voted for the Tory bill along with Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, and Graham Stringer.

14 Labour MPs, including Caroline Flint, abstained on the bill.

Corbyn supporters have said that MPs who voted against the whip should “find new jobs”.

Dennis Skinner is the MP for Bolsover – which voted for Brexit by a large margin. 70.8 per cent voted Leave, while 29.2 per cent voted to Remain.

He also was a staunch supporter of Brexit during the referendum, saying it was because he wanted to escape the capitalism of the EU and protect the future of the NHS.

 

The Telegraph notes that Labour supporters have called for those who backed the Tory bill to be deselected, and asks if this applies to Skinner.

This is how one Tory reacted:

As we vote on the it was a pleasure to see Dennis Skinner joining us in the Aye lobby.

The best the Telegraph could find to explain Skinner’s vote was an (unsourced) article in the Morning Star, from which this quote is taken.

Mr Skinner said at the time: “In the old days they could argue you might get a socialist government in Germany, but there’s not been one for donkeys’ years. At one time there was Italy, the Benelux countries, France and Germany, Portugal, Spain and us. Now there’s just one in France and it’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth.”

Here is the original, Morning Star, Friday 10th of June 2017.

Speaking to the Morning Star yesterday, he confirmed he was backing a break with Brussels because he did not believe progressive reform of the EU could be achieved.

He said: “My opposition from the very beginning has been on the lines that fighting capitalism state-by-state is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’re fighting it on the basis of eight states, 10 states and now 28.

“In the old days they could argue you might get a socialist government in Germany, but there’s not been one for donkeys’ years.

“At one time there was Italy, the Benelux countries, France and Germany, Portugal, Spain and us.

“Now there’s just one in France and it’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth.”

Even some on the pro-Brexit left argued against the Tory Repeal Bill.

Counterfire published this: A very British coup: May’s power grab Josh Holmes September the 11th.

If Theresa May carries off her coup, the Government will be given a majority on committees, even though it doesn’t have a majority in the House. This may sound merely technical and a little arcane, but it has the most serious consequences for democracy. It means that the Tories will win every single vote between now and the next election – which may well be in five years’ time.

May says she needs these powers because, without them, it will be hard for her to pass the Brexit legislation. She is right: it will be hard, and the legislation probably won’t end up looking like what she wants. It will be subject to proper scrutiny, and Labour, the SNP and every other party in Parliamentwill have a real say in shaping its final form. Britain’s post-Brexit future will not be written by the Tory party alone.

Skinner has many good points, and many weaknesses, which are well known in the labour movement.

I shall not go and see this soon to be released film for a start:

Dennis Skinner film director on Nature of the Beast

A film director has been given rare access to follow Dennis Skinner for two years to make a documentary.

Daniel Draper, who has made Nature of the Beast, told Daily Politics presenter Jo Coburn it was “fair criticism” for some who claimed he was guilty of hero-worshipping the Bolsover MP.

Image result for dennis skinner the nature of the beast

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Contemporary Left Antisemitism: a review

August 25, 2017 at 2:35 am (anti-semitism, civil rights, conspiracy theories, labour party, left, reformism, stalinism, zionism)


Above: Dave Hirsh on left anti-Semitism and the Chakrabarti Inquiry 

Dale Street reviews Contemporary Left Antisemitism by Dave Hirsh (Routledge).


This is the third book on the theme of left antisemitism to have been published in less than twelve months. It follows Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism (published in September 2016) and Antisemitism and the Left – On the Return of the Jewish Question by Bob Fine and Phil Spencer (published in February 2017).

Different aspects of left antisemitism and how it manifests itself today are covered in different chapters of Hirsh’s book: The “Livingstone Formulation”; the Labour Party since Corbyn’s election as party leader; the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel; conflicts over definitions of antisemitism; the nature of contemporary antizionism; and antizionism within the Jewish community. (Hirsh’s orthography is deliberate. He uses the terms “antizionism”, not “anti-Zionism”, to make a political point. What passes itself off today as a critique of Zionism has got nothing to do with real-world Zionism. As such, it is not anti-Zionism, nor even a form of anti-Zionism.)

Although discreet aspects of contemporary left antisemitism are covered in the different chapters of the book, a number of common themes run through all of them. Hirsh locates today’s left antisemitism within the broader context of the political degeneration and ossification of (broad layers of) the left. That left exists in a binary political universe: good nations and bad nations; oppressor and oppressed nations; imperialism and “anti-imperialism”; white people and people of colour. The universality of class politics has been replaced by the politics of “campism”. Rational political argument has been replaced by a “politics of position”.

Anyone positioned in the wrong “camp” is to be denounced rather than reasoned with. This, argues Hirsh, represents a reversion to the political practices of early-twentieth-century totalitarian movements. Such a world view is conducive to a particular interpretation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which, in turn, is conducive to antisemitic ways of thinking and antisemitic consequences.

Israel is in the camp of bad, white, imperialist, oppressor nations. Palestinians constitute the antithesis of Israel. To be “of the left” is to be on the side of the Palestinians and against Israel — not just the policies pursued by its government but its very existence. This demonisation of Israel — which itself constitutes an expression of left antisemitism — opens the door to traditional antisemitic tropes. Jews are uniquely cruel — they murder children in particular and are committing genocide of the Palestinians. They are uniquely powerful — they control US foreign policy and the global media. And they are uniquely dishonest — they cry “antisemitism” to avoid being called to account for their crimes. Indeed, they are so uniquely evil that they alone of all the peoples of the world cannot be allowed to exercise national self-determination.

Of all the states in the world, the Jewish one alone is singled out for (the traditional antisemitic “strategy” of) boycott and ghettoisation. Similarly, of all of the nationalisms in the world, the Jewish one — Zionism — is uniquely evil. It is racist, genocidal and akin to Nazism. Hirsh uses the expression “flattening”: The different currents within Zionism, the historical context of the emergence and development of Zionism, and the distinction which socialists otherwise make between state and people are all “flattened” in order to create an essentialist interpretation of Zionism and “the Zionist state”.

But the result is not a critique of real-world Zionism. It is an ideology of antizionism which justifies its politics by reference to a “Zionism” of its creation. Hirsh also makes the point that there is a world of difference between opposition to Zionism before and after the creation of Israel. The former was opposition to a political idea. The latter entails opposition to the existence of the state in which the Zionist project has been realised.

Arguments that such an approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict are antisemitic in substance and in consequence are brushed aside by their opponents through invocation of the “Livingstone Formulation”, to which Hirsh devotes an entire chapter. (Named after Ken Livingstone. Not because he invented it — he did not — but because of the level of egregiousness and notoriety which his use of the Formulation has achieved.) The “Livingstone Formulation” can be summed up as “I am not antisemitic and have not done or said anything antisemitic. You are accusing me of such things only because of my entirely legitimate criticisms of Israel.”

This is not simply a modern manifestation of an antisemitic trope (that Jews raise accusations of antisemitism in bad faith). It also shuts down any space for rational argument — because it rules out a priori any need to assess the validity of this “bad-faith” claim of antisemitism.

Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader makes this left antizionist antisemitism a contemporary issue, not in some general sense but in a very immediate sense, for three particular reasons. Corbyn himself belongs, at least in part, to that tradition, as is evidenced by his support for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War Coalition, his involvement in the “Deir Yassin Remembered” campaign, his defence of Raed Salah and Steven Sizer, and his attitude to Hamas and Hizbollah. A broad layer of Corbyn’s rank-and-file supporters share to some degree the left antizionist approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and its antisemitic consequences. Some of them do more than just share that approach. They energetically promote it. And the Labour Party under Corbyn has to date failed to politically confront the issue, as is exemplified in particular by the Chakrabarti Inquiry of 2016.

Chakrabarti’s superficial conclusion was that manifestations of antisemitism in the Labour Party were just the classic case of a few bad apples, rather than something rooted in a widely shared set of political assumptions.

Hirsh describes his book as “among other things, a gathering together and a distillation of the work I have been doing over the last decade.” The fact that some readers will already be familiar with the book’s arguments from earlier articles by its author does not reduce its political value. In fact, some of the most damning material in the book is not Hirsh’s general political analysis of left antisemitism but the “micro-descriptions” of the abuse and harassment meted out to members of the UCU trade union who argued against an academic boycott of Israel. But there are some issues in the book which are either open to challenge or would have merited further exploration and explanation.

Hirsh rightly points to the prevalence of left antisemitism on the British left and in the broader labour movement. But he goes a lot further: “It is not accidental that the issue of antisemitism has become pivotal to this process of defining who is inside (‘the community of the good’, to use Hirsh’s expression) and who is not.” Hirsh seems to be saying that an acceptance of antizionism has become the decisive test for membership of the left. But this claim does not stand up to scrutiny.

Just as antizionism essentialises Zionism, so too Hirsh seems to be essentialising the contemporary left. Hirsh hints at a dystopic future for the Labour left and the Labour Party. The Corbyn phenomenon is “not currently a physically violent movement.” Opponents of antizionism are “not yet, in the Corbyn Labour Party, (dealt with) by physical violence.” Corbyn’s election as Prime Minister “might” see an increase in “the denouncing of most Jews as pro-apartheid or as defenders of racism and neoliberalism.” If these sibylline musings are meant seriously, they should surely have been substantially expanded upon. As they stand, they merely provide an easy target for those who want to condemn the book without engaging with its core arguments.

These momentary visions of the use of totalitarian physical violence to crush political dissent and the unleashing of government-sanctioned antisemitic campaigns also sit uneasily with Hirsh’s lesser-evilist approach to the election of a Labour or a Tory government: “In this context (of a choice between two variants of populism), of course, it is quite legitimate to prefer Labour populism to Tory populism.”

In dealing with antizionism within the Jewish community Hirsh tends to focus on individuals who have been prominent in debates in academia. Antizionist Jews with a high profile in promoting left antisemitism in the labour movement are hardly mentioned (save in relation to the UCU). Tony Greenstein, for example, escapes scrutiny entirely, even if he makes an anonymous appearance at page 113 of the book: “Some of those activists who had already been making the same speeches about Israel for thirty years suddenly found themselves being given huge standing ovations at union conferences for speeches in favour of boycotting Israel.” And while it is understandable that a senior lecturer in sociology might want to sing the praises of sociology, the chapter which portrays sociology as a key to understanding antisemitism (“Sociological Method and Antisemitism”) really makes little contribution to an understanding. (In any case, it would have been more appropriately entitled: “I Used To Be a Trotskyist. But Then I Discovered Sociology.”)

Like any other writer, Hirsh could use only the material available to him at the time of writing his book. Thus, the Ken Livingstone of his book is simply someone who thinks that Hitler supported Zionism (until he went mad). Jackie Walker did no more than use some unfortunate turns of phrase in a Facebook post and in an intervention at a Labour Party fringe meeting. And Bongani Masuku is a heroic South African trade unionist unjustly accused of antisemitism. But by the time of the book’s publication earlier this month, things had moved on.

Livingstone was alleging “real collaboration” between Nazis and Zionists, with the big-hearted Nazis supposedly acceding to Zionist requests for help with training camps, weapons and banning sermons in Yiddish. Walker was likening her treatment to that of a black lynching in the Jim Crow states, claiming that she had been targeted (by Zionists, of course) in “an attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and an entire political movement.” And Bongani Masuku had been found guilty of antisemitic hate speech by the South African Equality Court, while the trade union federation of which he was an employee surreally denounced the verdict as an attack on “workers’ rights to offer solidarity.”

That’s sums up the problem with writing a book about contemporary left antisemitism: By the time of its publication, the examples which it cites have become examples of yesterday’s left antisemitism. Hirsh’s book is a valuable contribution to understanding the forms and nature of left antisemitism. It provides not just a better understanding of the phenomenon but also a political challenge to its influence. His book is the third book on the same theme in less than a year. It would be surprising if it was not followed by at least another three over the next twelve months.

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