Brexit means racism … slow learners finally work it out

October 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm (Europe, posted by JD, Racism, SWP)

The SWP campaigned for Britain out of Europe and even launched a chimera called ‘Lexit‘ promoting the ludicrous idea that a ‘left wing’ exit was possible.

Stand Up To Racism is an SWP front organisation (that the likes of Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn should have nothing to do with – but that’s not my point right now). Last week it put out the following press release:


Diane Abbott MP and anti-racist campaigners round on Conservative’s ‘Hard Brexit’ Fortress Britain ahead of national conference this Saturday.Saturday 8th October: Confronting the Rise in Racism: Stand Up To Racism National Conference 2016
Friends Meeting House Euston, London NW1 2BJ
More information at:

Following Theresa May’s speech today, anti-racist campaigners have rounded on the ‘nasty party’ policies of the Conservative Party who this week have announced a number of ‘hard brexit’ policies by Home Secretary Amber Rudd which target international students, migrant workers and doctors.

These proposals have been criticised cross-party representatives, business leaders in the CBI and by teaching union UCU for ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ regarding overseas students.

A broad alliance of MPs, Faith Communities, Cultural Figures, young people and students will attend the Stand Up To Racism National Conference to challenge the spike in racist incidents that has occurred in the aftermath of Brexit

Stand Up To Racism will bring together campaigners to present a powerful message that rejects the racism of recent months, opposes anti-migrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and unites communities against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Diane Abbott MP said:

As the Pound slumps and NHS waiting lists spiral out of control, the Conservatives engage in a blame game against migrants. ‘Hard Brexit’ is unleashing UKIP-style reaction from the Tories who are intent on creating a ‘Fortress Britain’; a distraction from the real problems we face. At a time when racist attacks are soaring, it is irresponsible to target international students, migrant doctors and to force businesses to publish lists of foreign workers.

Such proposals will create division, tension and only make us poorer. Migrant workers are a benefit to the economy and to essential services like the NHS.

Theresa May should be debunking myths, not pandering to them. This is why I’m proud to be speaking at the massive Stand Up To Racism Conference on Saturday

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary said:

We urgently need to show the world that the UK remains a place where people should want to study, work and settle.
The social and economic contribution from foreign nationals is a positive. Pulling up the drawbridge will be wrong for us in education, health, agriculture and industry. It will damage community relations in this country.  I would urge the government to think again

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers said:

Politicians have a serious responsibility to conduct debates about public policy in ways which do not divide people. We see the divisive comments amongst children in our schools. Stereotypes about race and ethnicity are deeply entrenched and lead to real harm- they fuel exclusion and narrow opportunities for BME communities.

Politicians must lead the way and ask us all to aspire to be a country where everyone is valued and all people of goodwill challenge racism, Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism.

Edie Friedman, Jewish Council for Racial Equality Executive Director said:

We face a global refugees crisis in which child refugees are paying a terrible price. 10,000 children have already disappeared. We look forward to hearing what concrete steps the government will take to alleviate their plight as children are right now languishing in the camps in Calais and elsewhere

Sabby Dhalu, Co-Convenor of Stand Up To Racism said:

Now is not the time for a resurgent ‘Nasty Party’ like the one on display at Conservative Party Conference.  Theresa May should be taking affirmative action on the post-Brexit spike in racism:  An Islamophobic attack on a pregnant Muslim woman who miscarried, attacks on Ethnic shops, assaults on the Polish community. Instead, this Government has overseen the deportation of Jamaican people who have been here for generations.

In response, hundreds of anti-racists from all walks of life are coming together this Saturday to reject the rise in racism. The Government is offering no solutions, no leadership on how to tackle this division and hatred. On the contrary, their policies on immigration and ‘hard Brexit’ will only serve to exacerbate an already hostile climate.

Weyman Bennett, Co-Convenor of Stand Up To Racism said:

“Under Theresa May’s government, all forms of racism and discrimination have increased.  A better society for everyone is one without scapegoating immigrants and Muslims.”

Notes for editors:

Stand Up to Racism is a national organisation, dedicated to opposing the rise of racism, supported by major trade unions such as Unite and Unison.

Stand Up To Racism are the organisers of the annual march for UN Anti-Racism day which this year attracted over 20,000 people to take a stand against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and welcome refugees. Next year’s demonstration, supported by the TUC, will take place on 18th March.

Stand Up To Racism plays a central role in the refugees welcome movement including the massive demonstration in September 2015 and convoys of aid and support to Calais from around the country.

For further enquiries, email us at

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De Niro on Trump

October 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm (anti-fascism, celebrity, elections, posted by JD, United States)

I’m usually quite sceptical about showbiz people commenting on politics; but in this case I’ll make an exception:

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Leading CP’er “dismayed” by Morning Star’s defence of Walker

October 9, 2016 at 9:44 am (anti-semitism, CPB, labour party, posted by JD, Racism, stalinism)

The day after the Momentum steering committee voted to remove Jackie Walker as vice-chair, the Morning Star , a newspaper closely linked with the Communist Party of Britain, published an editorial condemning the decision as part of the Labour “witch-hunt” and accusing the steering committee of “political cowardice and confusion”. The editorial contained a number of factual inaccuracies (for instance, claiming that four of the seven votes to remove Walker were from the AWL – a claim now removed from the online version), but more seriously, seemed to deny the possibility of antisemitism existing on the left – a reality that an earlier, more thoughtful M Star editorial had recognised.

Yesterday’s M Star published a response from Momentum chair Jon Lansman, which can be read here. It also published a letter from a leading and long-standing Communist Party member, Mary Davis. As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, we publish it below:

I am writing to express my concern and dismay at both the tone and the content of the editorial in the paper (M Star October 5). On Sunday we will be marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. A rare victory made possible by the mobilisation of the East End Jewish community together with the inestimable role of the Communist Party.

In 1936 the party did not have a problem in understanding the nature of antisemitism and the need to fight against it. The Labour Party today is clearly making a similar effort. Hence it established the Chakrabati inquiry and seems determined to tackle the issue.

Given this background, I would have expected our paper with its full support for Jeremy Corbyn, to have welcomed Momentum’s decision to suspend its vice-chair, Jackie Walker. Instead it has taken precisely the opposite position.

It may be that Walker has not found an acceptable definition of anti-Semitism, but that should not, given our history, preclude us from having one and acting on it.

Walker had been suspended (although re-admitted) to the Labour Party for her comment that Jews were the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade.” Other of her comments on the Holocaust and the misuse of security at Jewish schools have been criticised by Momentum as being “ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive.”

The comments in the Star’s editorial writing off the Jewish Labour Movement (because they attacked Walker) as a zionist organisation would correctly incur criticism from Chackarbarti, who in her section on “zionism and zionists” makes the following observation: “Crucially, I have heard testimony [about] … the way in which the word ‘zionist’ has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for Jew.

“My advice to critics of the Israeli state and/or government is the use the term ‘zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.”

Manual Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA and a strong backer of Corbyn, called on Walker to resign from the Labour Party immediately. I concur with this view and counsel our paper to support the left Labour position on anti-semitism.


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The left, Corbyn and ‘Stop The War’ must protest Aleppo massacre by Assad and Putin

October 8, 2016 at 6:13 pm (Guardian, hell, Human rights, labour party, posted by JD, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, Stop The War, Syria)

Above: Syria Solidarity campaigners outside Stop The War’s conference today

It’s come to something when it takes a Guardian columnist to call the supposed “left”, the lying wretches of the so-called ‘Stop The War Coalition’ and Jeremy Corbyn to order on their elementary duty towards the people of Aleppo:

We’re watching as Aleppo is destroyed. Where is the rage?

Where are the demonstrations in western capitals to denounce the brutal onslaught on Aleppo? Around 300,000 people are exposed to carpet bombing, including bunker-busting and fragmentation ordnance. Is the weather so bad that no one wants to stand on a square, or in front of a Russian embassy? Or does no one care? Does no one think protesting would make a difference? (read the rest here)

Statement from Syria Solidarity UK:

Protect the Children of Aleppo: Stop the War in Syria

250,000 people live in East Aleppo, including an estimated 100,000 children. These people are not terrorists; they simply don’t want to live under a leader, Assad, who has killed, raped and tortured their kin.

On Wednesday the Syrian military warned these civilians to flee or meet their “inevitable fate.” Russian and Syrian airstrikes are targeting hospitals, schools, bakeries, and underground shelters. This policy of deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime that will cause trauma for generations.

The leaders of Britain, America, Russia, Iran, etc. have done nothing to protect Syria’s civilians; it falls to us who do care to organise and speak out on their behalf.

Please join us to call for an immediate end to the bombing in Aleppo and a properly enforced UN ceasefire.

Syria is the worst war of this decade, even of this bloody century so far.

What will you do to stop the war in Syria?

READ: Left activists call on Jeremy Corbyn to speak out on Syria

Below: Syria activists leafleting outside today’s Stop The War conference in London.

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Jill Mountford on Jackie Walker, antisemitism and Momentum

October 7, 2016 at 8:58 am (anti-semitism, AWL, labour party, left, posted by JD, Racism, zionism)

Jill Mountford (writing on her Momentum blog) on the removal of Jackie Walker:

Momentum Steering Committee’s removal of Jackie Walker as Vice Chair – how I voted and why (part 1)

On Monday 3 October I voted at the Momentum national Steering Committee to remove Jackie Walker from the position of Vice Chair.

Jackie was elected by the Steering Committee to serve as Vice Chair, with Jon Lansman as Chair, in February. In fact, originally the two of them were appointed only as Chair and Vice Chair of the Steering Committee, not of Momentum as such (this was made quite explicit), but somehow over time these positions morphed into supposedly leading the organisation as a whole.

After Jackie’s removal, she remains a member of the Steering Committee without portfolio (she is not the BAME rep; Cecile Wright is), as well as a member of the National Committee which elected her to the Steering Committee (on the National Committee she is one of the two LRC reps).

I want to make two arguments: one about the left and antisemitism, which I will focus on in this article; and another about the problems with the way Momentum is run and its general political orientation, which I will touch on here but also publish something specific about in the next few days.

Why I voted to remove Jackie; her defence and what it tells us

For a longer article I would recommend on the politics of this controversy, focusing on antisemitism, see here. I would like to quote it at length to explain my position:

“Walker said Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, which principally commemorates the Nazis’ planned, industrialised mass murder of Europe’s Jews, should also refer to other genocides. In fact, it does; and, anyway, as someone pointed out, the objection is like going to a funeral for a murdered family and complaining that the ceremony does not give equal attention to all other murder victims. Or like responding to “Black Lives Matter” by saying it should be “All lives matter”.

“Walker also questioned people being concerned about Jewish schools having to organise extra security, saying that all schools have security. After such events as the murders at a Toulouse school in 2012, by a killer who said he did it just because the children were Jewish, this was at the very least obtuse.

“Violent antisemitic incidents in Europe ran at about 150 a year in the 1970s and 80s; since the 1990s they have risen to between 500 and 1,000 a year. In France, for example, 51% of all the racist acts recorded in 2014 targeted that country’s 0.8% minority of Jews.

“Walker’s response, and that of many of her supporters, has been to say that the issue of antisemitism is being “exaggerated for political purposes”.

“The response shows an underlying problem. When other victims of prejudice complain about racism, anti-Muslim behaviour, sexism, homophobia, the first reaction is to examine the cause of complaint.

“Too often, and including on the left, the first reaction to complaints of antisemitism — unless they are about gross neo-Nazi-type acts — is to impugn the motives of the complainers. They are assumed to be powerful people with no real grievance, using the complaint to deflect criticisms of Israeli government actions…”

Now, I’m not saying Jackie’s statements were clearly antisemitic; but they were statements which Momentum could and should reasonably be concerned about when they were made and defended in public by its Vice Chair. They show serious insensitivity and even indifference to questions of antisemitism (which is not changed by the fact that Jackie has Jewish background). The idea that something is either out-and-out racist or there can be no issue at all makes no sense.

To be clear, I’m not into the common habit on the left of condemning people on the basis of half-formed thoughts or off-the-cuff remarks with no opportunity to clarify. The point here is that Jackie has defended her comments, that she has repeated them very publicly and that they form part of an ongoing pattern – note her comments about Jews and the slave trade earlier this year.

Jackie was not removed from the Steering Committee, let alone suspended or expelled her from Momentum. Deciding to remove her from a position which she was originally elected to by the same committee seems to me perfectly reasonable and proportionate.

Free speech on Israel?

To continue quoting from the article above:

“Supporters of Walker picketed the Momentum committee meeting with placards saying “Free speech on Israel”. Momentum was doing nothing to limit her free speech… And none of Walker’s complained-about statements mentioned Israel.

“The Facebook post for which Walker was suspended from the Labour Party in May this year (then quickly reinstated) did not mention Israel either: it complained about insufficient attention to African suffering through the slave trade, and said: “Many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean”.

“Walker explains this as a meditation on her personal background. It is hardly just that. In any case, it is not about Israel.

“But when Jews complain about antisemitism, they get the reply: “You are just trying to stop criticism of Israel”.”

Momentum’s statement

The statement Momentum put out after the meeting, explaining its decision, is weak on at least two levels.

Firstly, it fails to say that we oppose Jackie’s suspension (as opposed to potential expulsion) from the Labour Party. I proposed including this, but lost.

Secondly, and somewhat bizarrely, it fails to even seriously attempt to educate anyone on the political issues involved, in particular the relationship between the insensitive and politically bad remarks Jackie made and the problem of failing to deal with antisemitism and even perpetuating antisemitic ideas. This is typical of the way Momentum nationally is often more concerned with political positioning and manoeuvring than stating things clearly, promoting discussion and educating the movement.

At the time of the controversies leading to the Chakrabarti Inquiry, there was – at my instigation – debate in the Steering Committee about antisemitism. In the end, despite repeated arguments, no statement was issued because people were afraid of political controversy on various sides.

This time I also lost the argument for including a statement that Jackie was not being removed for her views on the Israeli state and Zionism per se. While I think her views on those questions are linked to her weaknesses on antisemitism, I think it was also important to draw the distinction. (I thought we had agreed to include this point, but it was not in the final statement. I may have misremembered or it may have been agreed but not included, deliberately or not.)

My motivations

There have been some suggestions that I and others voted the way we did because of pressure from the Labour right and from the leadership of Momentum, in particular Jon Lansman – ie that it was not a genuinely believed and principled stance, but an act of opportunistic positioning. This is wrong, but also simply makes no sense.

I felt no serious pressure at all from the right of the Labour Party or the right of Momentum – not because there was no attempt to exercise pressure, but because it did not bother me. I did feel pressure from Jackie’s supporters on the left, in particularly because I was concerned about taking a position on this in the context of Jackie’s suspension by the party. Obviously, no one is under obligation to believe me when I write that. However, my record in Momentum and the movement speaks for itself.

I have consistently criticised the undemocratic, politically conservative, accommodating-to-the-right way Momentum operates and sometimes made myself quite unpopular in doing so. The idea I suddenly became a follower of Jon Lansman, after months of criticising and clashing with him about Momentum’s functioning and direction, is ludicrous; though less ludicrous than the idea I am trying to placate the Labour right, who have expelled me from the party for being a class-struggle activist and revolutionary socialist!

I have a lot more to say about that, but will do it in my second article on this controversy, to be published over the weekend or early next week.

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Cable Street: They Did Not Pass!

October 6, 2016 at 5:23 am (anti-fascism, history, London, posted by JD, solidarity)

Above: Ghosts of Cable Street (music by The Men They Couldn’t Hang)

Ruah Carlyle looks at the 4 October 1936 Battle of Cable Street, where anti-fascists stopped the police clearing a route for Oswald Mosley’s fascist march in East London.

In 1936 Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists turned its attention to East London, and there built the only truly mass base fascism ever built in Britain.

The East End branches of the BUF became, by spring 1936, the centre of BUF activity. Why? What was it about East London that focused BUF attention? The Jews of the East End provided the fascists with a unique target. East End Jews were concentrated in small areas: in 1929, 43 per cent of the national Jewish population were concentrated in Stepney alone.

East London had been an immigrant gateway for centuries. In the 17th century, French Protestants, Huguenots, sought refuge there from Catholic persecution. The mid 19th century saw a big influx of Irish immigrants. After 1881, when systematic pogroms set Russian and Polish Jews to begin their exodus to the west, large numbers of them settled in the East End, first in Whitechapel then fanning out towards Stepney and Mile End.

Anti-Jewish agitation, loud or muted, active or latent, had existed in the East End since the time of the first large Jewish settlements.

It was against this background that, in September 1936, Mosley announced that the BUF would march through the East End on 4 October. It was to be the biggest show of fascist strength ever, in this their strongest area. It could have developed into a pogrom.

On 4 October, the thousands strong Blackshirt march was to begin in Royal Mint Street, pass along through Gardiners Corner (now the top of Whitechapel Road) and on to four separate street meetings in Shoreditch, Limehouse, Bow and Bethnal Green. It never even got going! The march was stopped dead. As many as a quarter of a million people, East Londoners and outsiders, jammed Gardiners Corner. Only an army would have cleared the way for the Blackshirted thugs. An army of police tried and failed.

Tram drivers abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the road. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Phillip Game, had drafted in a third of the London police force, 6,000 policemen, the whole of the mounted division, and had a primitive helicopter, a gyroscope, flying overhead.

Despite these forces, which made numerous charges at the anti-fascist crowd, breaking many heads, no throughway for the fascists could be cut.

The Police Commissioner then proposed a diversion through the dock area around Wapping, and along Cable Street. There a virtual war was fought between the police and the defenders of the anti-fascist barricades. British, Irish and some Somali dockers fought the police. The anti-fascist barricade was constructed of furniture, paving stones and a lorry.

Pretending to retreat, the anti-fascists lured the police forwards, and took up positions behind secondary barricades while from the upstairs tenements on either side of the street other anti-fascists threw bricks, stones, bottles, marbles for horses’ hooves, and boiling water down on the bewildered police.

While the outnumbered and powerless fascist heroes waited in vain for a path to be cleared for them, the police faced chaos. Rare in British street battles, stray policemen were taken prisoner by the barricaders. For those moments the rule of the British state in East London was suspended.

At about 5 p.m., after a three hour battle, the Commissioner said to Sir Oswald Mosley that he would not longer be held responsible for the safety of the fascists. Speaking as one knight to another, he said: “If you go ahead sir, it will be a shambles!” The beaten police cancelled the fascist march, and sent them off to the Embankment. They did not pass!

Cable Street coincided with the siege of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. The anti-fascists, overwhelmingly working-class, painted the slogan “No Pasaran” (“They Shall Not Pass”) all over East London, linking Mosley’s march with Franco’s rebellion in Spain. They took the workers of Madrid as their model and inspiration.

A Stalinist myth surrounds the Communist Party’s role in the Battle of Cable Street. The CP had a grand anti-fascist reputation, but an increasingly spurious one.

Up to 1934, the CP had been in the throes of the Stalinist policy known as the “Third Period”, when, so they said, revolutions were just about to happen everywhere. This was nonsense, and in Germany led the CP to play into Hitler’s hands, but it had meant that the British CP was willing to throw itself physically into fighting fascism, perceived as the last-ditch defenders of a dying capitalism.

By 1936, this view had changed dramatically. Stalin was pursuing a policy of creating a “democratic anti-fascist front” of the USSR with the capitalist powers France and Britain against the German Nazis; the British CP, like CPs everywhere, was now advocating a Popular Front. This meant allying with non-working-class organisations opposed to German fascism, and in Britain by the late 1930s this would include “progressive Tories”.

The British CP was trying to gain respectability, aping mainstream politicians in the hope of allying with them. As a result, the CP did not always oppose Mosley militantly, because they feared that continued militancy would make it impossible to ally with “respectable” politicians.

By 1936, they were shying away from physical confrontations. Abandoning class politics, they more and more attempted to compete with the fascists as British nationalists, and even as protectors of religious freedom against “compulsory idolatry” in Germany. They were loudest in demanding blanket police bans on the fascists, and counterposed campaigning for bans to organising on the streets. That was their initial approach to what became the Battle of Cable Street.

The CP only threw their considerable weight behind the East End anti-fascist mobilisation when it was clear three days before that they had lost control of their own local members and sympathisers, who would follow the Independent Labour Party’s call on workers to block the route of the fascist march.

At first they told workers not to oppose the fascists in the East End, and instructed CP members to go to the Embankment and then Trafalgar Square instead.

Joe Jacobs, a local CP branch secretary who later broke with the party, was instructed by his superiors four days before the fascist march not to get involved and instead to build for a demonstration, miles away in Trafalgar Square, in support of the Spanish Republic against the Spanish fascists.

His instructions were clear: “Keep order, no excuse for the Government to say we, like the BUF, are hooligans. If Mosley decides to march, let him. Our biggest trouble tonight will be to keep order and discipline.”

In his posthumously published autobiography, Jacobs explains the reason for the eventual change of line very clearly: “The pressure from the people of Stepney, who went ahead with their own efforts to oppose Mosley, left no doubt in our minds that the CP would be finished in Stepney if this was allowed to go through as planned by our London leaders.”

The Labour Party and the trade union movement were against the fascists, but they also opposed direct action — physical force — to stop their activities. Like the Liberals, they instructed people to rely on the police to prevent disorder.

But unlike the establishment the labour movement feared destruction at the hands of the Nazis, not just discomfort. Even those who opposed direct action helped arouse the working class. The Labour Party and TUC research department published many pamphlets and leaflets which compared the BUF to Italian and German Fascism. In this climate, the militant “actionist” opponents of fascism gained support for physical opposition, even from normally non-militant Labour Party and trade union members.

The Independent Labour Party, not the CP, was the most consistently confrontational anti-fascist force in the East End and beyond.

The ILP had been one of the early constituent organisations of the Labour Party. It had split from the Labour Party in 1932, moving to the left. By 1936, the ILP, though it was still a hybrid political formation, in which bits of reformism, pacifism, and revolutionary socialism were confusingly mixed, was much nearer to being a communist party in the old sense of the word than the official “Communist Party” was. Some of its members were Trotskyists.

The ILP broke up fascist meetings by way of massing opposition, heckling and fighting. They barred fascist processions, organised petitions, and defended Jewish areas — particularly in the East End — from attack.

The Jewish Board of Deputies vehemently opposed the fascists, but it told the East End Jews to rely on the police. On no account should they oppose the fascists physically; that, the Jewish leadership insisted, would only add fuel to the fires of anti-semitism.

To many young Jews, political or not — and large numbers of Jews were members of the Communist Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Labour Party, and of Jewish left-wing groups like Hashomer Hatzair and the Workman’s Circles — the proper response to fascists marching through Jewish areas was simple: don’t let them!

The Jewish community had its own ex-servicemen’s anti-fascist militia, the Blue and White Shirts. British Jews, branching out from their orthodox background, were often attracted to revolutionary politics, many joining the CP. There were also many smaller, local anti-fascist bodies.

Cable Street entered working-class legend. It is rightly remembered as something the working class and its allies won against the combined might of the state and the fascists.

The Battle of Cable Street led directly to the Public Order Act. Rushed through the House of Commons, it became law on 1 January 1937. The Public Order Act is often and falsely seen by reformists as a significant hindrance to the fascists, and by some as the thing that finally killed off Mosleyism.

That is an illusion. The Act banned political uniforms, gave the police added powers to ban marches at will, and strengthened laws against racist abuse. Though it was an annoyance to the fascists, the Act did not cripple them and did not ”finish them off” as some too legalistic interpretations of its effect seem to suggest.

Even after the defeat at Cable Street, the BUF achieved and sustained a mass base of support in East London which, if repeated elsewhere, would have given them major political weight and at least the possibility of power. Not until the Second World War was the BUF really finished off, when fascism abroad became the universal enemy, and the BUF was increasingly viewed publicly as merely a satellite of the Nazis.

The POA was a broad blanket measure, designed more to help the police control left-wing opposition movements, for example the hunger marchers, than to suppress the BUF. For decades after Mosleyism had vanished down the great sewer of history, the POA was being used against the labour movement.

The POA did nothing to stop anti-Jewish harassment (despite a few prosecutions). It did not even stop the large-scale violence. On 3 October 1937 there was great violence when the Mosleyites, no longer Blackshirted, tried to march through Bermondsey, South London. Despite appeals by Doctor Salter, the much respected local Labour MP, to let the fascists pass and “protect their free speech”, local people erected barricades and there was serious fighting, not far from the scale of Cable Street.

The Public Order Act did not quell the BUF any more than the banning of nazi uniforms at one point quelled Hitler. If it appears so in retrospect, that is only because the BUF went into decline soon afterwards. The POA played at best a secondary and conditional role in that decline.

The fundamental determining factors in the BUF’s eventual failure were that economic conditions and the political relations built on them did not favour a radical counter-revolution in Britain.

Yet it was not “objective conditions” that stopped the police forcing a way for the British Hitlerites into Jewish East London: it was a quarter of a million workers massing on the streets to tell them that they would not pass, and making good the pledge by erecting barricades and fighting th BUF-shepherding police. A year after Cable Street, it was the working-class and the socialist movement which again put up barricades in Bermondsey to stop the fascists marching.

The great lesson for today is that the determination of the labour movement and Jewish community limited the effects of BUF terror and opened the prospects of defeating the BUF, irrespective of what the establishment did, including the labour movement establishment.

• This is an abridged version of an article in Workers’ Liberty 35

* Cable Street 80 official site  (events, etc)

*March and rally: Sunday, 9th October

Assemble 12 noon @ Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel Road, London E1.
March to a rally @ St George’s Gardens, Cable Street. Speakers before and after the march include: Max Levitas (Cable Street veteran), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Frances O’Grady (General Secretary, TUC), Unmesh Desai (GLA member, City and East London)

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Momentum removes Jackie Walker: the right decision for the wrong reasons

October 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, labour party, left, reformism)

Picket by some idiots in support of Walker outside yesterday’s meeting 

Yesterday’s meeting of the Momentum Steering Committee voted to remove Jackie Walker as Vice Chair, and issued the following statement:

Momentum’s Steering Committee has voted, seven to three, to remove Jackie Walker as its Vice Chair, a position it elected her to. She remains a member of Momentum and its Steering Committee.

Jackie’s actions at Labour Conference, in her subsequent Channel 4 interview, and by not understanding concern caused by her statements, have led the Steering Committee to view her behaviour as irresponsible and lose confidence in her as Vice Chair.

Having read reports of what Jackie Walker is alleged to have said, listened to the leaked video, and heard Jackie’s version of events, the Committee does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be antisemitic. However, the Committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the Committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset caused and should have been careful about statements on this and related subjects, whatever her record as an anti-racist, which the Committee applauds.

Momentum is concerned that footage of a training session was leaked to the press. The leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education. Momentum also calls on Labour to apply the principles laid down in the Chakrabarti report in its investigation of Jackie. On the basis of the evidence the Committee has seen, Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour Party.

The Shiraz view is that this was the right decision, but the statement is an attempt to satisfy everyone, which will in fact satisfy no-one.

It fudges the crucial political issue (Walker’s now self-evident antisemitism) and, if taken literally, is illogical:

As in: “Her comments were offensive but not antisemitic”: but who specifically was offended by them, and why? And if the comments were not antisemitic, why would anyone be offended by them?

And if her comments were not “individually” antisemitic, does it mean that taken collectively, they might be antisemitic, but the Momentum Steering Committee doesn’t want to go there?

According to this statement, Walker’s only misdemeanours have been not to have apologised sufficiently, and not to have explained in more detail what she really meant. Our view is that the problem is just that: what she really meant.

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To see the World Transformed, Momentum first needs to be able to transform Labour

October 4, 2016 at 8:43 am (campaigning, labour party, left, posted by JD, socialism)

By Rachael Ward at Novaramedia


Last weekend saw Momentum’s celebrated The World Transformed (TWT) festival of politics, art and culture run alongside a Labour party conference where the left sustained one of its most catastrophic conference defeats for years.

Rule changes mean the left has now lost its majority on the national executive committee (NEC), which could well cost Jeremy Corbyn his leadership and will certainly be a block to many of the party reforms the left needs to make (say goodbye to a fair trigger balloting process or shadow cabinet elections). How did this happen? And what tensions does TWT expose in Momentum going forward?

TWT didn’t integrate with the Labour conference.

As with many things, location is everything. The way a space works makes a huge difference to the success of something like conference where you have thousands of fringe events. Liverpool’s conference centre was actually not ideal itself, with spaces that felt far too large and too far apart, and there was a shortage of communal spaces to mingle. Likewise, the extent to which TWT felt like a part of conference was always going to hinge on its physical proximity to the main complex. Unfortunately, with the venue over a mile from the conference centre, movement between the two was limited and impractical.

Even small tokens of integration – for example an advert in the conference fringe programme or leaflets for the festival – were completely absent from the main complex. At the conference centre the only sign that something new and exciting might be happening down the road were a handful of people like myself donning stickers on the back of their conference passes, wearing them like bizarre envoys between these two distinct worlds.

Why hold TWT during conference?

You could argue it doesn’t matter whether or not TWT integrated with conference. After all, TWT was hugely successful in bringing in new people who would usually find conference too expensive or ‘wonkish’ to contemplate going. However, if the primary function of TWT was just to engage the new membership then why hold the festival the same week as conference? Surely the purpose of TWT should have been to shape the narrative at conference, influence delegates and organise for votes?

TWT could have been an opportunity to lead the conversations which were rife at conference itself about how Labour can meaningfully engage a mass membership, and how Labour can update its party structures to suit this. Conference always has ‘themes’ of conversation; this year the theme was the rule changes (to gerrymander the left out of its majority on the NEC) and a growing sense from left and right that the party structures are ill-quipped to deal with the new membership surge (the left thinking the structures need updating, the right thinking the membership needs to stop surging).

Momentum, as the champion of the new members, should have been at the heart of these discussions – it was the question at conference. Instead TWT focused on big ideas about socialism and crafting a new vision for the world, whilst seemingly oblivious to the huge defeats the left was sustaining on conference floor.

It wasn’t Labour right-wingers who were annoyed by TWT.

Considering the uproar the right made about a ‘rival conference’ when TWT was first announced, you could be forgiven for thinking they complained about it non-stop at conference. But they didn’t – they didn’t care, it made zero difference to them. For the left, however, it was intensely irritating to be moving back and forth between two events a mile apart. Most people at conference have stuff to do – whether a delegate, a fringe organiser or just leafleting. Rule number one of being a faction: don’t make it harder for your own people to organise.

Conference is about winning votes – not art, workshops and fringes.

It’s not just that TWT’s separation was often a hindrance for the left organising at conference; its stated aims also mark a peculiar departure from the fights of the established Labour left. TWT’s programme tells participants they can expect to ‘participate in discussions, learn new skills and meet new people’. This all sounds fantastic, and is absolutely a part of what the left needs to do in general – but it actually has nothing to do with conference.

First and foremost, conference should be about winning votes. It is the highest decision-making body in the party. Tony Blair depoliticised it and turned it into the collection of boozy fringes we have today. For decades it has been the left who have been fighting for it to be the sovereign decision-making body again. Indeed, the first point in the mission statement of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (a left faction that predates Momentum but is politically close to it) is to fight for ‘a real policy-making annual conference’.

For Momentum to host a festival that barely acknowledges conference, does not discuss its votes, and takes people away from conference floor is a real divergence from old Labour left. It is a step backwards from conference as a place to make democratic decisions, and a move towards conference as a place to just hear from interesting speakers. Of course those of us on the left want both, but the emphasis should very much be on the former. Discussing socialist utopia is all well and good but it will not happen if the left loses votes in the very place Labour party policy is set.

Momentum must be the organised faction for left-wingers within Labour, not an alternative space for them.

The left’s defeats on the conference floor – sustained while Momentum held a packed festival a mile down the road – have opened up a tension which has been brewing for some time: the purpose of Momentum. Broadly speaking this is between those on the Labour left who have been party members for years and know how critical internal organising is, and those who came in during the Corbyn surge and see Momentum as a community organising tool.

People from the established Labour left grow exasperated as they ask themselves how can it be that an organisation which has the muscle to muster rallies of thousands at a moment’s notice cannot get a majority of conference delegates elected and can lose such critical votes, all whilst support for Corbyn amongst the membership has been growing all year.

There is a danger that spaces like TWT become safe havens for the new membership, particularly when so much of the party establishment has treated them with contempt. But Momentum must be the mechanism for the left to organise within Labour – not a parallel structure. Right now it sits dangerously close to the ‘party within a party’ criticism. The perception of so-called ‘entryism’ is not the main reason this is dangerous to the left. The main danger is that the left simply cannot win internal battles if large swathes of the new membership do not get involved in Labour party structures and feel a sense of affinity with Labour that can outlast a vulnerable left-wing leader.

Momentum must be the mechanism for this integration, not the alternative to it.

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The Dream may Never Die … but SNP election promises do

October 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm (corruption, crime, MPs, posted by JD, scotland, SNP)

 Chris Law
Above: Chris Law: yet another SNP’er under police inverstigation

By Dale Street

Last week saw Chris Law become the third of the SNP’s 2015 intake of MPs – elected on a promise of a “new politics”, free from traditional Westminster sleaze – to be investigated by the police about their financial dealings.

Law, who owns a £140,000 Aston Martin and has just put in a bid for an “offers over £620,000” castle, spent the 2014 referendum campaign touring Scotland in a 1950s Green Goddess fire engine painted in the colours of the saltire.

It was his own personal “Spirit of Independence” campaign. Allegations of embezzlement concerning donations made to the campaign are reported as the reason for Law being questioning by the police.

Last week also saw Natalie McGarry – elected as an SNP MP but no longer holding the SNP whip – charged with embezzlement of funds from Women for Independence and her local SNP Association. A report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

The third SNP MP under police investigation, Michelle Thomson, who likewise no longer holds the SNP whip, is still awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation into a number of property deals which she and her husband were involved in.

There were plenty of other broken SNP promises in the news last week.

Scottish Government accounts revealed that student loans are the government’s largest financial asset. They had increased by 11% over the past year and now amount to nearly £3 billions.

This was bad news for the SNP because it came to power with a promise to wipe out student debt. So, steady progress backwards on that promise.

A SNP promise of loans to farmers as a way of providing a financial cushion pending the payment of EU financial support collapsed into chaos after the SNP Government admitted that it had miscalculated loans for hundreds of farmers.

This was particularly bad news for the SNP. The loans scheme had been introduced because of an earlier SNP failure to pay out EU support on time – the result of a malfunctioning computer system bought by the SNP Government which has already gone 74% over budget.

So, two broken promises there for the (over-budget) price of one.

Other figures released last week showed an almost ten-fold increase in spending by Scottish MPs on Scotland-to-London business-class flights in 2015/16 compared with the previous year: up from £61,000 to nearly £600,000.

The explanation: Unlike their predecessors, and two of three remaining non-SNP MPs in Scotland, SNP MPs fly business-class. (The one non-SNP MP who keeps the SNP MPs company on their business-class flights is, of course, a Tory.)

In 2015 SNP candidates had promised to “stand up for Scotland” if elected to Westminster. Clearly, what they actually meant was: Sit down for Scotland in the comfiest seats.

The same figures showed that nine of the ten MPs with the highest expenses claims were SNP MPs. Highest claimer of all was Michelle Thomson (£106,000). But SNP MP Steven Paterson, coming in at number five (£99,000), merits particular mention: He claimed £40 to pay for looking after a dog.

Another 2015 election promise from the SNP was: “The SNP will never stop doing our best to make Scotland’s NHS the very best. Under the SNP Scotland’s NHS has been protected and improved.”


Figures released last week revealed: just over 28% of GP posts are currently vacant; the number of posts unfilled for more than six months has nearly doubled over the past year; waiting times for cancer treatment are at their worst level since records began; and over the last five years the number of radiologists has increased by 3% but their workload by 55%.

The SNP had a chance at Holyrood last week to deliver on its promise to “protect and improve the NHS”, by voting for a Labour motion demanding that the Scottish Government “call in” for ministerial decision a series of cuts in services being proposed by local NHS Boards.

Instead, the SNP moved a wrecking amendment to the Labour motion. When that was defeated, the SNP abstained on the final vote.

The SNP, being the SNP, didn’t just make election promises to look after the sick. It also promised “security in retirement” and “better support for the most vulnerable in society and protection of pensioner benefits”.

But figures released last week showed that the SNP Holyrood government has cut £500 millions from the social care budget of Scottish local authorities, resulting in 12% of the elderly suffering a cut in the services they receive.

Sturgeon blamed the social care budget cuts on a Tory cut of 5% in funding to Holyrood. She must have attended the same accountancy course as Chris Law and Natalie McGarry: The SNP government’s cut to social care spending (11%) is more than double that.

Another promise which the SNP may come to regret was one made last week by SNP Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif. Speaking at a public meeting in his ward, Hanif promised that he would bring Sturgeon to see the appalling housing conditions in the Govanhill district.

But Hanif was then exposed as the landlord of a flat in one of the worst streets. According to the Daily Record:

“Hanif’s flat is at the top of a dilapidated close. It is infested with flies and has a shooting gallery for heroin addicts on the ground floor. The bannister is broken and on the verge of collapse. There is a strong stench of urine throughout the building. The walls are filthy and the stairs are caked in grime.”

Hanif, who lives in a £700,000 house in Newton Mearns, charges a family of five adults £500 a month for his two-bedroomed flat. And why Sturgeon needs an invite from Hanif is a mystery: Sturgeon is the constituency MSP.

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Peres: a man of peace? Not exactly … but …

October 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm (history, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, zionism)

The photo which no Israeli paper published this week – Peres, Arafat and the Oslo Accords

Adam Keller writes:

A man of peace? Not exactly. But still…
The first demonstration I ever attended was at the end of 1967. On one school day, the principal went through all parts of the school, announcing: “The last two classes are canceled, everybody is going to demonstrate at the French Embassy!”. We broke into a great cheer and went through the school gates. En route to the embassy we encountered the pupils from other schools, all joining in the great organized spontaneous demonstration. Someone started chanting “De Gaulle / Has a big nose!” (it rhymes in Hebrew) and everybody joined in.

In the Israel of late 1967 it was very fashionable to hate France, and in particular to hate French President Charles de Gaulle. As we read in newspapers and heard from our teachers, France had betrayed Israel and violated the alliance with us at the crucial moment and imposed an arms embargo on Israel. (Israel won the war anyway, but that’s another issue.) And to add insult to injury, we were told that de Gaulle had said anti-Semitic things, though we did not know exactly what. Therefore, we were very happy to demonstrate at the French Embassy instead of studying. Some of us also wanted to throw stones and break the embassy windows, but the police prevented that.

As it happened, a few weeks later I was browsing at a dusty back shelf in my favorite lending library. There a book with an intriguing title: “A Bridge Over The Mediterranean”. On the front page appeared a large photo of the Israeli Minister Shimon Peres shaking hands with French President Charles de Gaulle, both smiling broadly, over the background of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris skyline. I read the first chapter in which Shimon Peres spoke at very great length about the strategic alliance between Israel and France. As described in the book, it was a strong and enduring alliance, serving the best interests of both countries. (As far as I can remember, the one thing Peres did not mention was the French aid in building the Dimona Nuclear Pile…).

Actually, it was not such an old book. It had been published just three years earlier, in 1964, but it seems somebody at the library decided to exile it to the back shelf. It was then, at the age of 12, that I was first introduced to Simon Peres “the man of great visions and designs” (not always the same visions and designs…).

In 1976, during a brief leave from the army, I participated with several dozen youths at a Tel Aviv protest against the new settler movement, “Gush Emunim” (Block of the Faithful), whose members were determined to establish themselves at the heart of the Biblically-hallowed “Judea and Samaria”. After the demonstration, we sat in a cramped office and listened to the news on a tiny, black and white TV set. “Again, Gush Emunim activists managed to evade the military checkpoints, reach the old railway station in Sebastia and barricade themselves in.” said the announcer “Evicting them is expected to result in violent clashes with soldiers”.

“What is this nonsense about their evading the checkpoints?” cried one of the organizers. “Defense Minister Shimon Peres is the settlers’ best friend. What more do you want to know? It’s a con game, pure and simple”. In that small office, we all felt a very visceral hatred of Shimon Peres.

The next morning, in the bus on the way back to base, I read of “compromise agreement” reached late at night with the blessing of Defense Minister Peres. The Gush Emunim settlers were allowed to remain “temporarily” at a nearby military base. Later, temporary became permanent, the settlers stayed and the it was soldiers who eventually left, and the military base became the settlement of Kedumim.
Shimon Peres definitely had a major share in this outcome.

May 1981 – a crowded meeting at the Tzavta Hall in Tel Aviv, to celebrate the election of Francois Mitterrand as President of France. The keynote speaker was Shimon Peres – Leader of the Israeli Labor Party, Leader of the Parliamentary opposition and Vice President of the Socialist International. “Europe is becoming a Socialist Continent!” cried Peres. “This is the wave of the future, and we in Israel should become part of it!” It was the first time I heard Shimon Peres praising Socialism, and it did not last long. (In truth, Mitterrand himself, as well as the other members of the Socialist International, have not shown a real commitment to the principles of Socialism…)

September 1982: the First Lebanon War had been raging for three months, culminating with the terrible massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. A wave of demonstrations and protests throughout the country, I have spent the previous night at the Abu Kabir Detention Center in south Tel Aviv. A crucial meeting between major activists of the “Committee Against the Lebanon War” on one hand and the leadership of “Peace Now” on the other.

– “Peace Now wants to have on Saturday night a very big rally, a huge one, on the Kings of Israel Square. It should really be a mass event, bigger than anything anyone of us ever did before. But you of the Committee got first to the police, you have the permit for using the square on that night. If you don’t pass it on to us, Peace Now will not be able to do it. And you, too, know that if you mobilize only your own supporters, the rally would be much smaller.” – “OK, we are ready to give you the license.” – “But there is a problem. The Labor Party is ready to join, to change their position. They are going to stop supporting the war in Lebanon start speaking out against the war. Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin are willing – they very much want – to mount the podium and speak very sharply against Begin and Sharon. But I hate to say this, Peres and Rabin are not willing to share the podium with anyone from the Extreme Left. ”

All eyes in the room turned to the radical poet Yitzhak Laor, who was going to be the keynote speaker for the Committee Against The War. After a moment of silence he muttered a pungent oath and said: “The hell with it! No one will be able to say that I spoiled a big rally against the war crimes. Let Rabin and Peres have the podium to themselves and welcome!”. So was born the memorable “Demonstration of the Four Hundred Thousand”, the biggest public event in Israel’s history until then.

Some two or three years later – again a small demonstration of several dozens, and again sitting afterwards to see the TV evening news at a dusty office (color TV this time). In this demonstration, as in many protests and events held at the time, we chanted “Talk peace / With the PLO / Now, now, now!”/ . We distributed to the indifferent Tel Avivian passers by leaflets about the meetings which activists of the Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace held with PLO officials, and about the positive messages which they got from the Palestinians.

On that evening TV interviewed Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s cabinet. Peres rejected out of hand the option of negotiating with the PLO – “It is a terrorist organization, they are opposed to peace, they have nothing positive to contribute – absolutely nothing.” Conversely, he greatly praised King Hussein of Jordan – “The King is a serious, reliable partner. The real option for peace is the Jordanian Option!”

“What an idiot!” said one of the people sitting next to me. “He wants to give the Territories to Jordan. And then the Palestinians will say that the agreement does not bind them, and will continue fighting Israel. What a clever deal – pay the full prize and get nothing in return! How can such a stupid person get so high?”

As we learned later, at that time Peres had held a secret meeting with King Hussein in London and reached a draft agreement, but Prime Minister Shamir vetoed it and the initiative failed. We did not share Peres’ outrage and protest at “The loss of a historic opportunity”.

April 1990 – the government coalition crisis which came to be known in Israeli history as “The Dirty Trick”. With the outbreak of the First Intifada the Jordanian Option was definitely off the agenda. The Americans suggested that Israel negotiate with a Palestinian delegation not officially representing the PLO but including representatives from East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Shamir rejected the proposal out of hand and accused Foreign Minister Peres of discreetly encouraging the Americans. Peres and the other Laborites resigned and brought down the Shamir Government in a parliamentary vote of confidence.

Thereupon, Shimon Peres announced that he had managed to form a new government headed by himself, and that it would be presented to the Knesset on the morning of April 12. But on that morning, as we waited, the hours passed and there was no sign of the new cabinet. There were increasing rumors the ultra-Orthodox have abandoned Peres at the last minute and deprived him of the expected parliamentary majority. This turned out to be true. By noon, Peres appeared on the screen, tense and pale, and announced “a delay in presenting the new cabinet”. “Damn!” said one of my friends. “This means that we remain stuck with Shamir, and he will continue to block everything. God damn the ultra-Orthodox to Hell! ”

1994 – After the Nobel Peace Prize Committee announced the award of Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres for their part in the Oslo Agreements, Yedioth Ahronoth published a nasty commentary. The writer attacked Peres harshly, accusing him of being “a publicity stunt man” who had “pushed through the signing of the horrible Oslo Accord” for the sole purpose of getting the Nobel Prize.

So I immediately sat down and wrote a Letter to the Editor. I don’t have the exact text (at that time, such things were not yet preserved on the computer), but I remember quite clearly that I expressed unreserved support for Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. I wrote that he was a statesman of the first order, of whom any country could be proud. I wrote in that letter (as I wrote and said very often, at the time) that Shimon Peres deserved praise and the Nobel Prize for understanding that Israel must end the occupation and achieve peace with the Palestinians – not only for the sake of the Palestinians but also for its own future.

I praised Peres for understanding that in order to talk to the Palestinians one needs to talk with those that the Palestinians themselves regard as their representative – namely, the Palestine Liberation Organization and its Head, Yasser Arafat. I also wrote that Peres deserved to be praised for having managed to overcome his bitter rivalry with Yitzhak Rabin, work closely with Rabin and convince the Prime Minister to shake hands with Yasser Arafat.

For all these reasons, I concluded, Shimon Peres fully and rightly deserved the Nobel Peace Prize – more so than many others who got it before him. “Yediot Ahronot” shortened my letter, but the essential parts did get published on the next day.

November 1995 – The bitter night of the Rabin Assassination. A very successful peace rally on the square, the big crowds who came to express confidence in the Peace Process that began in Oslo, Rabin and Peres on the podium singing the Peace Song. The rally over, hundreds of young people dancing merrily to the tune of Brazilian Samba music from the loudspeakers. Suddenly the honking of a long column of police cars, wild rumors of a terrorist attack, the news that Prime Minister Rabin was hit by an assassin’s bullets, hundreds of people running all the way to the gate of the Ichilov hospital, Cabinet Spokesperson Eitan Haber appearing and reading out the communiquי: “The Government of Israel announces with shock …”.

Returning to the square. Sitting in mourning circles around the lighted candles. The radio reported that the cabinet convened in the middle of the night for an emergency session and elected Shimon Peres as Prime Minister Pro Tem, pending Knesset approval. Several youths walk to the wall of the nearby Tel Aviv Town Hall and spray paint a huge graffiti: “You will never walk alone, Shimon Peres!”.

Already that night, we started talking about what Peres should do. Immediately dissolve the Knesset and call new elections, so as to win a large majority? Act firmly and strongly against the settlers, now that their public standing is at a low ebb?

Alas, Shimon Peres did not follow any of our “advices”. Instead, he soon got entangled in a completely unnecessary, bloody military operation in Lebanon – “Operation Grapes of Wrath”. In April 1995, after 106 Lebanese civilians were killed by a stray Israeli artillery shell at the village of Qana, I was at a protest outside the home of Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Ramat Aviv. It was a militant demonstration, with very sharp slogans chanted against The Prime Minister, including such terms as “murderer”, “assassin” and “war criminal”. We collided with the police cordon which barred our way, and came very close to spending the night in custody. Yet, during the dispersal I told my fellow demonstrators: “There is no choice. Despite everything, in the elections we will have to vote for him.” – “What? For this bastard?” – “What else? Do you want Netanyahu as Prime Minister?”.

At that moment, the expression “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu” still seemed a kind of science fiction, a remote and highly unlikely eventuality. But a bare month and a half later, it became a reality that accompanies the state of Israel up to the present. On elections night we sat awake, with the predictions showing a victory for Netanyahu – a victory by a narrow but clear margin. Hour after hour we sat in front of the screen, hoping against hope for a change – until with the morning light, predictions became certainty and Shimon Peres lost irrevocably his last chance at holding Israel’s helm of state.

I could continue this article on and on and specify more moments in the life of Shimon Peres – lights and shadows, contrary landmarks, times when we were very angry with him for agreeing to serve Netanyahu and represent him on the international arena and other times when Peres tries at least to some degree to face up to the leader of the Likud and take all sorts of initiatives to promote peace. There was the failed attempt to be elected as the (purely titular) President of Israel and a second attempt which succeeded. And the last years, when he was very popular with the general Israeli public and increasingly pushed aside the vision of peace and of The New Middle East and chose to focus on a new, non-political dream and vision – i.e. the intensive promotion of nanotechnology and of the enormous blessings nanotechnology could give to mankind.

Still, now that Shimon Peres’ long career definitely ended in a huge state funeral in the presence of Heads of State and assorted VIP’s from all over the world, I’d rather finish my personal review with that decisive moment of failure in the 1996 elections.

Was Shimon Peres a Man of Peace? Many of my political friends are skeptical about that, to say the least. It is not difficult to gather damning evidence and point to black spots all along Peres’ career.

As for me – I would have been very happy indeed if it were possible to turn the wheel backwards, go back to May 1996 and give Shimon Peres the extra thirty thousand votes which would have made him a Prime Minister for an extra four years and reduced Netanyahu to a forgotten footnote in Israel’s history.

The Shimon Peres of 1996 was completely committed, politically and personally, to the Oslo Accords. There is good reason to believe that, with a solid mandate for four more years, Peres would have embarked with his typical energy and determination on the Permanent Status negotiations with the Palestinians. That he would have seriously tried to reach an agreement by the May 1999 deadline agreed upon. And that with an agreement reached, he would have worked very hard to implement it on the ground.

Would he have succeeded? Would we now be living in a completely different situation, in a real New Middle East? Or would Peres have wasted this chance, too, and ended in a dismal failure? We will never know.

In reality it is impossible to go back in time and change history. Hopefully, we will still succeed to change the future.

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