Reading Bartley Crum in 2017

By Oscar Clarke

Lately, I have been reading Bartley Crum’s Behind the Silken Curtain, published in 1947 and included as a Left Book Club choice that same year. The author, a member of the Anglo-American Joint Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, was tasked with collecting evidence to help inform his government and ours in deciding what to do about the displaced Jews of Europe.

Of the book’s revelations, one of the most curious emanates from the author’s conversations with Chaim Weizmann. The first cataclysm of Zionism, Weizmann reflected, was the historical coincidence by which the Bolshevik Revolution occurred literally days after the Balfour Declaration.

After the Revolution of February 1917, during the brief liberal regime of Alexander Kerensky, Russian Zionists had raised hundreds of millions of roubles to fund emigration to Palestine (the country’s Jews had suffered terribly at the hands of the Black Hundreds, inspired, like the Nazis after them, by what Norman Cohn called a Warrant for Genocide, the outrageous Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

In 1917, Palestine’s Arab population was little more than half-a-million. There could have been, Weizmann claimed, a Jewish majority in Palestine by the early 1920s, and a largely frictionless solution to the problem of the disputed land. But the Balfour Declaration had convinced Lenin that Zionism was a tool of British imperialism. After the October Revolution, Zionism was banned in the USSR; the state confiscated all the money that the Zionists had raised and forbade Jewish emigration. The major consequence of this failed opportunity was not that the Zionist project was stalled, nor even that European Jews didn’t have a place of escape after 1933. The lasting legacy of Lenin’s appropriation was that intellectuals and regimes in the Arab world were given the time they required to embrace the same toxic ideology that had made Jewish life unlivable in Russia and Europe.

The bitter fruits of anti-Semitism, which has since burrowed so deeply into Arab culture, are borne not chiefly upon Israelis, but Palestinians. In the book, Crum recalled an observation of Wendell Willkie’s: that anti-Semitism is a virus, and that any society that practiced it would self-destruct. A few pages on, Weizmann is addressing the committee: “We warned you,” he said, “that the first flames which licked the synagogues of Berlin would set fire to the whole world.” In a disturbing remark quoted in Sebastian Haffner’s biography of him, Hitler promised to punish the Germans if they failed in their historical duty to eradicate the Jews. In his last testament, he admitted defeat in his imaginary war with international Jewry, then, with almost every German city reduced to ruins, he shot himself.

Crum’s book affirmed with moral clarity the Jewish people’s right to a homeland; it denounced the sordid imperialism of the British government, which was more concerned with acceding to the demands of Arab despots than abiding by the promises it had made to Europe’s long-suffering Jews; and it contained a message of hope, based upon the observation that Jewish immigration had improved the lot of Palestine’s Arabs. Crum contended that when freed from the toxic politics of cynical Arab rulers, Jews and Arabs demonstrated that they were not enemies.

It is dismaying to reflect that the above represented progressive opinion in 1947. For Behind the Silken Curtain was a Left Book Club Choice, and the Labour Party’s official position on the same subject, in 1944, was this:

“There is surely neither hope nor meaning in a Jewish National Home unless we are prepared to let the Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the war, and there is an irresistible case for it now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold-blooded, calculated Nazi plan to kill all the Jews of Europe.”

It is dismaying because seventy years have passed, and progressive opinion in 2017 has regressed beyond comprehension. Today’s bien pensants are interested only in the victimhood of the Palestinians and the cosmic evil of the Israelis. Whilst well-meaning celebrities put their names to open letter after open letter, decrying Israel, none of them stop to ask themselves if seventy years of Arab intransigence has made life better or worse for the Palestinians – if anti-Semitism is the virus they continue to suffer from. And another, incredible phenomenon: in 2017, at a demonstration in Central London, a large male crowd call for war against the Jews – “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud” (“Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning”) – and nobody is there to condemn it.

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Celebrating a century of anti-totalitarianism

By Oscar Clarke

This year is the hundredth since the victory of the totalitarian idea in Russia. And there is little to be thankful for about the world that was called into being by Lenin a century ago. The Revolution promised salvation, and a large part of the European intelligentsia embraced it with a religious fervour. It produced leader-worship, famine and slavery, all the while hunting heretics with an assiduity which renders the Papal inquisition inappropriately tame as an historical comparison.

But there is, nevertheless, something to be celebrated in the sanguinary centenary of Bolshevism, which becomes apparent when I glance at my bookshelf. There I see Koestler, Serge, Borkenau and Silone, the four writers to whom Orwell referred when he coined the term “the concentration camp novel” to summarise the literature of nineteen thirties Europe. I also see Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel, Sebastian Haffner and Victor Klemperer, Kanan Makiya and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To wit, I see a whole genre of literature – anti-totalitarianism – that also got started in 1917, which produced some of the most indispensible works of the last century.

Had the Russian Civil War gone the other way, something doctrinally akin to Nazism might have emerged instead. For the White Russians, like Hitler, saw murdering Jews as a war aim. They were among the first true believers in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, by which theory Bolshevism – like capitalism before it – was simply a tool in the Jewish plan for world domination. It was White Russian emigres who brought the conspiracy theory, in the early nineteen-twenties, to Germany, where they also introduced political murder: Vladimir Nabokov – father of the novelist of the same name – was shot three months before Walther Rathenau.

Following a fascist triumph in Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and the other old Bolsheviks would have emigrated instead, perhaps to Vienna, where they once fraternised in the same cafes as a destitute Hitler. But more likely to Germany, homeland of Marx, Hegel and capital H History, especially if the Revolution of 1919 had brought the Communists to power there.

Such a counterfactual history would make for an intriguing novel. The author might proceed through the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, trying to divine how the twentieth century would have been altered by a fascist Russia and a communist Germany. But when, to get a feel for his subject matter, he came to study the literature of the period, he would likely be met by a revelation: history might not have diverged much at all from its actual course. For fascism and communism were two sides of the same coin.

One source for this lesson, composed around the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, would have been Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. At the beginning of the novel, Rubashov, a victim of the Moscow trials, is having a nightmare about his arrest, years earlier, by the Gestapo. In the dream, he is awoken and forced to dress, but he can’t quite manage to do so, because his body is overcome by the paralysis which nightmares often afflict us with in their most fearful moments.

Meanwhile, two men are banging on his door. Only this time they are not there on Hitler’s behalf, but on Stalin’s. In the final moments of Rubashov’s dream, someone pulls a plug and he hears water running down the pipes behind the wall. He wakes and has time to recover his sense of irony as he observes the portrait of Stalin hanging above his bed, then Stalin’s men break through his door to play the same roles as the Gestapo men in the dream. This time, Rubashov is able to dress, but somebody pulls a plug and water comes cascading down the pipes behind his wall.

The two totalitarian regimes had become mirrors of one another. In the final semi-lucid moments of his life, at the end of the novel, this truth dawns upon Rubashov. After receiving a shot in the back of the neck, his dream recurs:

Outside, someone was knocking on the front door, he dreamed that they were coming to arrest him; but in what country was he?

Whose colour portrait was hanging over his bed and looking at him?

Was it No.1 or was it the other – he with ironic smile or he with the glassy gaze?

A shapeless figure bent over him, he smelt the fresh leather of the revolver belt; but what insignia did the figure wear on the sleeves and shoulder-straps of its uniform – and in whose name did it raise the dark pistol barrel?

The two totalitarianisms were not only united by their penchant for political liquidations, but by their attempts to submit truth to their dogmas. It was Franz Borkenau’s book, Spanish Cockpit, which was at the centre of the famous rift between Orwell and the editor of the New Statesman, Kingsley Martin. Borkenau had been an agent of the German Communist Party, but had left after learning the lesson that Orwell would learn in Spain: that Stalin was actually keen to prevent revolutions abroad (he preferred Hitlers and Francos). Orwell had been asked to review the book for the magazine, and he praised its honesty. But this honesty offended the Stalinist orthodoxy of the time. Martin rejected the review, explaining that “it implies that our Spanish correspondents are all wrong”.

In Orwell’s postscript to Homage to Catalonia, he wrote:

I remember saying once to Arthur Koestler, ‘History stopped in 1936’, at which he nodded in immediate understanding. We were both thinking of totalitarianism in general, but more particularly of the Spanish civil war. Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie… and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.

Spain had taught Orwell about the most frightening aspect of totalitarianism, its disavowal of the concept of truth. Just as, in Germany, truth was what Hitler thought and Goebbels announced, truth in British newspapers, in the name of solidarity with the Russian Revolution, was what Stalin decreed. Orwell’s publisher, Victor Gollancz, co-founder and proprietor of the Left Book Club, and a conspicuous “fellow traveller”, rejected Homage to Catalonia.

In The Totalitarian Enemy, Borkenau compared Hitlerism and Stalinism explicitly. He picked up on a more obscure feature of totalitarianism, which will be familiar today to anyone who has spent any time perusing the English language magazine of the Islamic State, Dabiq, named in honour of the town where IS prophesy their victory in a final, apocalyptic battle with the unbelievers. This feature is messianism. With the revolutionary sects of the middle-ages, the anabaptists and the French revolutionaries, the totalitarianisms shared “the idea that some complete salvation could be worked on this earth through an accumulation of atrocities.”

Hitler actually talked of the Third Reich lasting for one thousand years, just as Revelations promises the millennial reign of Christ. Trotsky, meanwhile, posited that a “man of the future” would be born when the Revolution had completed its work. In his memoir, Victor Serge recorded the following exchange between a Stalinist and a left oppositionist, which demonstrated the callousness by which the believers in this future sought to attain it:

“you can’t make an omelette,” says the Stalinist, “without breaking eggs.”

“I see your broken eggs”, comes the reply, “now where is this omelette.”

In antiquity, Borkenau observed, “there is no evidence that there ever arose… the idea that spiritual or material salvation could be won through the destruction of all higher civilization by inspired fanatics.” In the history of the Judeo-Christian world, by contrast, this idea has recurred again and again. Another of the great foes of totalitarianism, Albert Camus, left his readers to consider that thought, by concluding his allegory of the Nazi occupation of France, The Plague, thus:

And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

 

Just Beyond Ludicrous

Our own David Paxton on why the “efforts to deal with Labour’s antisemitism problem are going nowhere fast.”

David Paxton

In Labour’s antisemitism debacle, the Guardian’s Owen Jones is above reproach. He is above reproach because he has written articles explaining that antisemitism is bad and that it must be confronted. He has also written one explaining that the Holocaust was bad. What more could he do?

Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn has also said that antisemitism, and all forms of racism, are bad. His mother was at Cable Street so how can he be criticised for supporting and befriending unabashed Jew-haters? He then is also above reproach.

In his piece from March, Jones called for a commission on antisemitism and, because balance or something, one on Islamophobia too. He suggested these should be chaired by a Jew and a Muslim respectively.

Corbyn eventually called for an inquiry, it wasn’t to be chaired by a Jew but so what, it was to be chaired by Shami Chakrabarti. She is above reproach because she is Shami Chakrabarti. Or as she is…

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The Immorality of Corbynism

By Rob Francis

This is a cross post from the author’s Medium blog, reproduced with kind permission. This post is Part 1 of a series by the author.

In May 1987, eight members of the Provisional IRA launched an attack on the police station in Loughgall, County Armagh. Three men drove a digger through the perimeter fence with a Semtex bomb in the bucket, while the rest arrived in a van and opened fire. However, the British Army had received a tip-off about the plans, and ambushed the IRA unit, killing all eight men.

In London, a short while later, Jeremy Corbyn joined others in a minute’s silence for those killed whilst trying to murder police officers. He explained that he was “happy to commemorate all those who died fighting for an independent Ireland”.

The next couple of months will see a Labour leadership election which will test Jeremy Corbyn’s support in the party. My expectation is that he will win in September and remain in post; however, I very much hope for him to be defeated.

As I write, the news is covering Owen Smith, one of the potential candidates. Smith is discussing Corbyn in terms familiar to anyone who follows Labour politics; that Jeremy is a decent man, but he is not meeting expectations as leader and so must be replaced.

I suspect that it ultimately will be his performance that denies him his leadership of the party, either via the members deciding he isn’t up to taking the fight to the Tories, or by a crushing general election defeat. And in the second part of this piece, I will set out why I believe Corbyn will not be electorally successful.

But to focus on electability, as Smith does, is to sidestep a very serious conversation that Labour and the left need to be having. In this blog I will argue that it is his politics that should preclude him from leading the Labour movement. That Corbynism is an immoral politics, which the left should wholly reject. That Jeremy Corbyn is not the “decent man” he is often professed to be.

As with almost everything in contemporary Labour politics, it goes back to the Iraq war. Part of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise is undoubtedly due to his uncompromising opposition to the invasion, and already, his supporters are making much capital out of comparing Corbyn’s supposedly prescient stance against the war with Angela Eagle’s support.

I opposed the war. Yet I also recognise that the decision facing Blair and Bush in 2003 was a choice between two terrible scenarios. The brutal crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime are well documented. To not go to war was to acquiesce in leaving Iraq in the hands of a monstrous tyrant.

None of this seems to trouble Corbyn or his acolytes; for them, the war was wrong and that’s it. Jeremy Corbyn has no answer as to what the world should do about future Saddam Husseins, nor does he seem to care.

Still, any decent person who opposed the Iraq war should, at the least, have hoped for a quick end to the fighting, a rapid overthrow of Saddam, minimal casualties, and a successful transition to a stable, democratic Iraq. Regardless of your position, you should surely hope for the best possible outcome to the situation, the least bloodshed.

But in 2004, the Stop The War Coalition, of which Jeremy Corbyn was a founder and one of its leading members, said

“The StWC reaffirms its call for an end to the occupation, the return of all British troops in Iraq to this country and recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary, to secure such ends”

Jeremy Corbyn in 1987 held a minute’s silence for people whose aim was to slaughter police officers. Jeremy Corbyn in 2004 was part of an organisation which urged jihadists to kill British soldiers. Why?

To unpick Corbynism, it needs to be understood that everything is viewed through an anti-western prism. The “West”, typically America, Britain and Israel, are seen to be at fault for all that goes wrong in the world, the source of all problems. Everything else is subservient to this premise.

This explains why Corbyn so often forms alliances with toxic people. For him, anti-western politics is the focus of his energies; the character, words or actions of any allies he makes in the struggle become secondary or unimportant.

This is why, despite professing to be a staunch defender of human rights, he can be paid to appear on Iranian state television, on a channel that filmed the torture of an Iranian journalist, and which acts as a mouthpiece for a regime that executes gay people.

This is why he speaks at Cuba Solidarity events, in support of a regime that has an appalling human rights record, one with a long history of jailing gay people and trade unionists.

This is why he finds friends amongst people such as Raed Salah (jailed for inciting anti-Jewish violence in Israel, and found by a British judge to have used the blood libel), Stephen Sizer (a vicar who shared an article on social media entitled “9/11: Israel Did It”), Paul Eisen (Holocaust denier), and of course, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Is it any wonder that the Israeli Labour Party is extremely concerned? Do we not owe our solidarity to them, as our sister party? Do we not owe our solidarity to gay people facing persecution in Iran, or trade unionists in Cuba? Why would anyone on the left seek to side with their oppressors instead? These alliances are made because Corbyn places anti-western ideology above all else. His enemy’s enemy has become his friend.

So, is Jeremy Corbyn a decent man?

One way out of the above could be to argue that he is not bad, but instead hopelessly naive; a foolish man who romanticises revolutionaries. That should in itself be enough to prevent him holding any real authority, but let’s take some recent examples to test the decency claim.

Following the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into Labour antisemitism, Marc Wadsworth, a Momentum activist, stood up and accused Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish Labour MP, of colluding with the media. Wadsworth says he didn’t know Smeeth was Jewish. Perhaps not. But Jeremy Corbyn did. And accusing Jewish people of controlling the media is a classic antisemitic trope. So, confronted with this, what did Jeremy Corbyn do? He stood there and said nothing.

Except it was worse than saying nothing. Because later, Corbyn was caught on camera apologising to Wadsworth, and saying that he’d sent him a text message. Smeeth now understandably believes Corbyn has made Labour an unsafe place for Jews.

As a further example, consider his actions at the recent NEC meeting, which was to decide whether Corbyn needed MPs’ nominations in order to stand in the leadership election. Some committee members pleaded for the vote to be conducted in secret. One member was in tears as she explained her fears of intimidation, bullying and worse. Ignoring the distress of members, Corbyn voted against a secret ballot. He was not prepared to intervene to protect his colleagues.

After the NEC decision, Jeremy Corbyn went to a rally, and shared a stage with people who referred to senior members of the party as “fucking useless”, a “disgrace to Wales”, and told Labour MPs to leave the party. Corbyn said nothing, save for some laughable platitudes about being against abuse.

Every time, Corbyn puts himself and his ideology above people that he owed a duty of care to. Wadsworth was a comrade, an ally, so Corbyn had texted him before he’d even left the building. No such treatment for Ruth Smeeth. On the NEC, Corbyn’s priority was getting on the ballot, and he was happy to put other committee members in harm’s way to get there. Jeremy Corbyn saw no need to defend his MPs from the abuse at the rally. It was enough for him to disown abuse in general terms. His hands were clean.

Is he a decent man? Is this how decent people behave?

The problem of placing abstract ideology above real people is a facet of not just Corbyn but Corbynism. Witness Diane Abbott explaining how Chairman Mao is revered because “on balance, he did more good than harm”. Or George Galloway’s consistent support for tyrants. Or John McDonnell supporting theIRA bombing campaign. So committed was McDonnell, in fact, that during the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein had to ask Tony Blair to keep him quiet, as he was discouraging hardliners from accepting a deal.

The Labour Party Rule Book is explicit; we are committed to deliver people from the tyranny of prejudice, and to work with international bodies to secure peace and freedom for all.

If your allies execute homosexuals, or imprison trade unionists, or bomb shopping centres, or murder people who dissent, or hold deeply antisemitic conspiracy theories, I don’t see how you can claim to be upholding these aims. If you say nothing whilst members of the party you lead are insulted in public, are you living by the Labour values of solidarity, tolerance and respect?

None of this is a left I want to be a part of.

The left now needs to decide what it stands for. An anti-western, anti-American, self-righteous strand of thinking, nurtured by the Iraq war, is gripping the party ever tighter. We cannot let the Labour Party fall prey to people who believe that every brutal dictator who opposes America is to be venerated. We cannot let the terrible errors of Iraq turn us away from supporting those who suffer at the hands of tyrants; this road leads to Srebrenica and Nyarubuye.

There is an internationalist left, which does not rely on knee-jerk anti-westernism. Which believes in alliances with other liberal democracies and showing solidarity with those being persecuted rather than their oppressors. There is also a left which genuinely believes in those values of solidarity, tolerance and respect; not just in the abstract or in platitude, but in how we conduct ourselves, and the examples we set for others.

The Labour leadership election isn’t just about whether Jeremy Corbyn can beat the Tories. It’s about salvaging a morality that has gone desperately missing.

 

All Lives Matter, apparently

By James Dowthwaite

“All Lives Matter”: how could anyone take issue with that statement? When people, outraged by disproportionate violence against black people in the United States, set up the ‘Black Lives Matter’ hashtag and campaign, this was the inevitable right wing and alt-right reply. What a grotesque, outrageous response to what is very clearly violence committed specifically against black people. Its general truth in this case takes away from the specific truth of the issue at hand. It dismisses the glaring necessity of exploring the manifold issues which lead to the disproportionate accosting, investigating, and even shooting, of African-American people within American society. It suggests that this is a problem that can be easily solved by saying ‘all lives matter’. Yes, yes, your wife’s death is sad, but then so is any death. How callous. By abusing the general truth of this statement in order to cover up gaps in its validity, it so dangerously equates the deaths of actual African-Americans with fictional non-African Americans, thus avoiding dealing with the issue. One asks why, of course, anyone would think ‘all lives matter’ is an appropriate response to a campaign which highlights real demographic discrepancies and one concludes that such callousness is an indication that the proponents, at best, do not care and, at worst, are seeking to disrupt the investigation.

The similarities between the Far Left and the Far Right have often been conceived on the basis of the results of their political systems. Hitler and Mussolini had systems of government-sponsored terror keeping the population in check, killed and imprisoned political opponents, and promoted ideology as a thing worth dying for: so too Stalin, Pol Pot, or the Kim family in North Korea. As Hannah Arendt argued over half a century ago, if one strips away the niceties of their ideologies, one is left with gangsterism on all sides. Even in its theoretical forms, extremism has a misanthropic effect on its proponents: ideologies are seen as complex and people as simple; ideologies are the great course of history, and people are merely their conduits. People are therefore considered more expendable than ideologies. We all fall victim to such disturbing thinking at times: the key thing is to work to destroy this baser instinct within us and root it out of our politics.

These days, however, there is considerably more for us to ponder. Twitter is a very useful tool for gaining insight into the way that different people treat their MPs. From Corbynism to Britain First, we are seeing what is clearly a rise in abuse, attacks and, most concerning of all, death threats against our MPs. One of our MPs was recently murdered on the streets, meaning that we cannot simply dismiss such behaviour as the fantasies of “keyboard warriors” as we may well have done a few years ago. Strip away the niceties of their causes, and the death threats against Labour MPs from neo-fascists or from deranged far left conspiracy theorists (forget, as it were, the colour of the ink in which the note was written) and the threat is the same.

This is not to equate the far left with the far right, they are, of course, very different animals. Similarly, politics may simply be the chosen vehicle for psychopathic, pre-existing, non-political violence looking for a home – it often is. What I am trying to suggest is that politics of the extremes, so often governed by extremities of emotion, lends itself to the same kinds of dangerous and spurious claims and actions regardless of the particular side taken. As Nick Cohen has pointed out repeatedly and painstakingly for over a decade, not only is the left mistaken in thinking it always constitutes virtuousness and goodness, but it is mistaken in seeing itself as the natural opponent of the right. Left-wing support for totalitarian regimes, Labour MPs appearing on Russian and Iranian State TV, and the appropriation of neo-Nazi terminology for Israelis demonstrate that the left has much work to do to make its distances from the far right clear.

In fact, as those very few of you who have endured my thoughts on this know, anti-Semitism is one of the key links between the far right and the far left. I would have said conspiratorial thinking in general was the larger link, but that particular malaise dominates all of our political discussion nowadays. We live in an age of cynicism, conspiracy theory and paranoia. And such conditions are ripe for the imagining of shady groups arbitrating over all of us from behind the scenes, actively taking our wealth, freedom, or power from us. And as usual with conspiratorial thinking, Jewishness becomes an index of all that imagined evil.

Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism is widely documented, and I do not wish to repeat my arguments about this. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s defence against accusations linking him to anti-Semitism requires a little bit of scrutiny as it will be in the news again in the coming weeks. His defence, as many of you will know (perhaps some of you endorse it), is that he ‘is against all racism’. This is a noble thing, and as a statement on its own, how can one have a problem with it? Well, context. This was his response to David Cameron asking him to condemn anti-Semitism on its own terms. It smacks of the same abstract avoidance applied by his supposed political opponents on the right. What is it about anti-Semitism that means Corbyn cannot condemn it without adding what, effectively, feels like a caveat? ‘I condemn all racism’ seems to cover anti-Semitism, as it is a subset of all racism. For a man steeped in the excesses of identity politics, it is a curious response, though. In a way, it avoids taking on the actual issue, not least because Corbyn seems deeply unsure that the issues under discussion actually constitute anti-Semitism. Rather than nail his colours to the ‘it is not anti-Semitism’ mast, he chooses to make a generalised statement. Is anti-Semitism bad? Of course – but then all racism is bad. This seems to be acceptable to many of his supporters. And yet its logical counterpart on the right, ‘All Lives Matter’, would, I hope, be dismissed as what it is: a reprehensible attempt to avoid a necessary discussion.

So why should this be any different with anti-Semitism? Corbyn would, I suspect, wholeheartedly agree with me that ‘all lives matter’ is a sinister and spurious response. I suggest he applies that attitude to himself the next time he thinks that simply denouncing ‘all racism’ on the end of a specific question about anti-Semitism will suffice.

And Jeremy Is An Honourable Man

By Jayne Mortimer

This a cross post from Jayne’s own blog, reproduced by kind permission.

I’ve been umming and ahhing about this since Friday evening. And with a hangover caused by the events of Friday night, that’s not been easy. I have no doubt that a few people will tell the another. All I can say is that the following is what happened. If others disagree, well, I guess you’ll have to choose to take their word for it or mine. And here’s mine.

I went to my CLP, delivered a speech, was shouted down half way through with the tacit approval of the Chair who jabbed his finger at me, was ruled out of order, called a traitor, and heard sexist and misogynistic remarks throughout. The End.

Oh, you want more details? All right, then.

Friday night, 8th  July, I attended my CLP meeting. I’d submitted – as have others in many CLPs around the country, and indeed the Parliamentary Labour Party, a motion of ‘No Confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’. I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous. It’s fair to say it wasn’t greeted by the CLP with unalloyed joy, and two other members had submitted one of confidence in Jeremy’s leadership.

This was going to be… interesting.

Just before going in to the meeting, the Chair of the CLP walked over, thrust a copy of Chapter 15 of the Labour Party Rulebook into my hands and strode off without a word. Ok… He’d indicated with large X’s the paragraphs in relation to submitting motions. Due to timings, neither of the motions had been submitted via a branch and I guess he figured this was the most convenient way out of it for him. I grabbed one of the few seats remaining (the room rapidly became standing room only) and yes, it was great to have so many people there.

And then the Chair decided that as neither motion had been submitted via a branch, there would be a debate on whether  Jeremy Corbyn should remain leader of the party, after other CLP matters had been dealt with. He incorrectly identified only some of the CLP delegates supporting one or other of the motions but that could have been a genuine error, I guess.

Oh, that chapter I was handed; specifically said the motions could be submitted as Emergency Motions; it wasn’t allowed.

Jo Cox was remembered and the usual CLP matters dealt with: membership, reports, etc.

Then the debate.

A very passionate speech from our MP which paid tribute to Jo Cox and went on to explain why we so desperately need a strong leadership to get back in power and to help those who need a Labour government.

The Chair then said he would make a list of people who wished to speak, and announced that due to the amount of people  this would be limited to 2 minutes per speaker. This didn’t thrill me as I’d already prepared a speech of about five minutes. With a little help, I condensed it down to two minutes on my phone and read it from there.

And that’s when an already tense meeting turned… unpleasant.

Here’s the full 5 minute speech; I’ll put the the condensed version – or at least as I got before I was shouted down and instructed to sit down – immediately afterwards…

Let me say upfront that every person in this room who voted, less than a year ago, for the leader of our party, did so from the best of motives; I have no doubt about that. The election was fair and the result was decisive. Jeremy Corbyn had a huge mandate, both personally and for the policies he espoused.

Had.

He had a mandate. As did every other leader this party elected, some with bigger mandates than Jeremy, some with smaller. Neil Kinnock was elected by a higher percentage of the vote, Tony Blair with more absolute votes. Whilst I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader I of course respected the result as I hoped that any concerns I had about his potential leadership would lessen over time, as he put the Tories on the run, and inspired the membership, the PLP and the country. You know, what his supporters promised would happen. And as he said he would. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

Everything I’ve seen from Mr Corbyn, and his acolytes, since he was elected has confirmed again and again what I thought during the leadership campaign: that he does not possess the qualities, personal nor political, to lead this party to electoral success.

Any personal mandate he won in 2015 has been betrayed time and time again by his actions, behaviour and lack of political nous while in office. If any of us here had shown his incompetence doing our first 10 months in the job we would’ve been sacked or at least have to explain ourselves with more than “you never wanted me in the job anyway so yah boo sucks to you”. If the Executive Committee of a CLP voted by 4:1 they had no confidence in the Chair, there’s not a CLP chair in the land who wouldn’t resign as the honourable thing to do. And Jeremy, as we all know, is an honourable man.

A man who fought apartheid at a time when our current Prime Minister’s biggest struggle was getting the Bullingdon Club menu completed on time. (Pork, obviously.) A man whose fight against racism is matter of record… Apart, oddly, from any word of criticism against anti-semitism before 2015. A decent honourable man who apparently didn’t know until last Monday’s select committee appearance that wanting to kill Jews is anti-Semitic. An honourable man who repeatedly lied to the Select Committee.

An honourable leader who didn’t contact Ruth Smeeth MP for four days after she left a meeting in tears, the same meeting in which, moments after Jeremy decried the anti-Semitic trope of Jews controlling the media, Miss Smith was subject to that very attack yards away from him. In a room hardly any bigger than this one, Jeremy Corbyn did nothing. And continued doing nothing for four days.

We have been told by all sides of the labour movement that we should focus on attacking The Tories. Great idea; it’s a pity that our leader doesn’t share it. The architect of the most brutal hammering of the welfare system since Thatcher resigns; With a level of audacity that’s breathtaking, he hypocritically says he’s done it because the crackdown is too harsh. And Jeremy decides “it’s not really up to him” to say anything about it… Maybe he thought it would be dishonourable to kick a man when he’s down. And as we know… Jeremy is an honourable man.

Here’s a hypothetical for those of you who maintain that, whatever else his arguable faults, whatever else he hasn’t got exactly right, “But… Tories…”… Take a right wing MP, say, proud to be on the rock hard right of the Tory party. This man – let’s face it, it’s usually men – never makes a racist statement himself, but platform shares with overt racists, hosts them in parliament, says it’s his “pleasure” and his “honour” to host his friends and he thinks it’s a pity the government banned the other white pride racists he invited (he thinks that’ll be seen as a big mistake). He gives television interviews to affiliates of white power organisations, and defends white pride people as “honoured citizens” “dedicated to peace and justice”.

This man on the hard right of the Tory party makes statements against racism, but only ever in the abstract, condemning lynchings but never criticising those who carry them out; the closest he ever comes is saying in interviews that he doesn’t always agree with them. This right wing Tory MP says a man who wrote that “blacks are racially inferior and want to take over the white race” is an honourable man and he looks forward to having him for tea at the Commons.

What would you say of this right wing Tory? Racist or no?

Hamas and Hezbollah are overtly anti-Semitic organisations who want to kill all Jews around the world. But Jeremy calls them ‘dedicated to peace’, and Jeremy is an honourable man.

Jeremy attended events commemorating those in the IRA who died killing British citizens, but Jeremy says he never actively supported the IRA. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

After appearing on Russia Today and taking £20,000 from Iran to appear on Press TV, but Jeremy criticises others who take money from sources he considers abhorrent. And he should know what is abhorrent, for Jeremy is an honourable man.

Jeremy calls for loyalty from the Parliamentary Labour Party, despite showing no loyalty to any previous party leader during his time in Parliament, and voting against the party whip over 500 times. An honourable position, surely, for as we know, Jeremy is an honourable man.

This party cannot achieve government while Jeremy Corbyn is leader. But Jeremy says he always puts the party first, and Jeremy is an honourable man.

This party needs a leader of genuine honour, a leader of political skill, and a leader who can convince people who voted for other parties in the past to vote us into government. Jeremy Corbyn is none of those. I have no confidence in him as leader, and I ask you to show that you have none either.

And this is the condensed two minute version, at least as far as I got. You’ll see where I was shouted down and told to retract what I had said. Which I would not.

Every person in this room who voted for the leader of our party, did so from the best of motives in a fair election; I have no doubt about that. Jeremy Corbyn had a huge mandate, both personally and for the policies he espoused.

Had.

He had a mandate. As did every other leader this party elected, some with bigger mandates than Jeremy; Kinnock won with higher percentage, Blair with more votes.

And though I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader I respected the result, hoping any concerns I had about his leadership would lessen over time, as he put the Tories on the run, and inspired the membership, the PLP and the country. You know, what his supporters promised would happen. And as he said he would. And Jeremy is an honourable man.

But since the election, Jeremy has repeatedly shown that he does not possess the qualities, personal or political, to lead this party to electoral success.

He has betrayed any mandate he received by his actions, behaviour and lack of political nous and justified criticisms are met by “you never wanted me in the job anyway so yah boo sucks to you”. If the Executive Committee of a CLP voted by 4:1 they had no confidence in the Chair, there’s not a CLP chair in the land who wouldn’t resign as the honourable thing to do. And Jeremy, as we all know, is an honourable man.

A man whose fight against racism is matter of record… Apart any word of criticism of anti-semitism before 2015. An honourable man who apparently didn’t know until last Monday that wanting to kill Jews is anti-Semitic and who repeatedly lied to the Select…

———–AND JUST HERE IS WHERE I WAS SHOUTED DOWN, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE CHAIR WHO TOLD ME I COULD NOT CONTINUE —————–

Yes, of course I knew what I was saying was controversial. Unfortunately, it was nothing but the truth, unlike Jeremy Corbyn’s testimony to the Select Committee.

He lied. The Leader of our Party, the Leader of the Labour Party… lied.

Jeremy said – as has said on other occasions – that after Paul Eisen came out as a holocaust denier [in 2007] he never attended any more of his events. There’s photo evidence of him there in 2013. That’s a lie. He said Paul Flynn’s ‘dual loyalty’ slur on a Jew as a British ambassador was about politics. That’s a lie. Everyone said at the time it was about the ambassador being a Jew and besides, the dual loyalty thing is an anti-semitic trope going back centuries.

Here’s the full transcript of his testimony, courtesy of Parliament’s website.

Had I been a new member I would have been disgusted at the way the Chair stood up, pointed his finger at me and told me to take it back. Interesting sense of priorities, our Chair has; wants the truth left unspoken and, five minutes earlier, chose to allow a sexist comment about our MP.

And that’s what happened.

One final point: one thing identified and condemned in the Chakrabarti Report was that people  who raised concerns about anti-semitism in the party are often shouted down and also that any seasoned activist who says they have never witnessed anti-Semitic discourse within the Labour Party”must be wholly insensitive or completely in denial”. I’ll let that sink in and leave you to judge which applies.

Anyway, how was your Friday?

Labour’s Shibboleth

By Saul Freeman

It’s May 2016 and Ken Livingstone has just been removed from the Corbynite slate for Labour’s upcoming NEC election, due to his long history of Jew baiting finally catching up with him. Ken of course puts his fall down to an alliance of Zionist conspirators and the right leaning bureaucrats of his own party. He’s being replaced on the candidate list by Rhea Wolfson, a young socialist who has stated that “winning 2020 should not be the priority of the Labour Party” and asserts that “to focus only on elections loses sight of other ways of making effective changes in society”.

If Ken & Rhea didn’t exist, some of us would be tempted to invent them as clumsily drawn characters to use in our blog posts where we write about the moral and political collapse of the Left. And then enraged Corbyn supporting folk would pursue us on Twitter, pointing out that our use of such crude stereotyped invented placeholders demonstrates how the Red Tory Blairites are running scared of the truth. They’d almost certainly chuck in a bit of blaming a “Zionist” witch-hunt and point out the injustices endured by the Palestinians.

Now, of course Ken and Rhea are real. This makes them just a little bit more interesting to hang an argument on, though I suspect the same objections will be applied.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader together with the empowerment of McDonnell, Abbott, Milne etc has led to the worst local election results since the 1980s for Labour (as a party of opposition), a scandal over institutionalised anti-Semitism in the party and the mobilisation at both local and national levels of an aggressive baying-mob of social justice warrior politics which has demanded the heads of the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism and BBC political journalist Laura Kuenssberg amongst others. It’s seen a flood of entryism to the ranks of both party membership and £3 supporters from the fringes of the hard-Left and from mischievous Torys and UKIPers. It’s caused many moderate Labour members to tear up their party cards (not easy with the new plastic ones) and Jewish voters have abandoned the party almost completely (the first person to mention Michael Rosen or the 63 or whatever it is “asajew” letter writers wins a subscription to the Guardian). It’s caused ordinary, decent left-leaning folk to find themselves reading Guido’s blog for a sense check.

We’ve witnessed miserable performances at PMQs, political PR/spin own-goals that are crying out for well-informed footballing comparisons (no, I know nothing about football) and polling that suggests the Tories will be in power for the next 327 years. We see the Conservatives profoundly split over the upcoming referendum and getting away with it, along with getting away with pretty much everything else. We’ve also seen Sadiq Khan’s election as mayor of London for Labour after a campaign in which one of his key themes was to put clear (blue) water between himself and the current party leadership. We’ve gawped in disbelief (though we saw it coming) at the election by NUS of a President who flings anti-Semitic tropes around like confetti and announces that we should “await instructions” from the likes of Hamas et al and we’ve listened to generous applause for speakers opposing the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day on campuses.

Mostly, what we see is the entrenchment and growing self-confidence of a particular strand of Leftism and the cementing in place at the heart of the institutions of the Left of a world view that is probably shared as a coherent ideology by at most a few hundred thousand people across the UK electorate, though many others across key demographics may take on elements of this narrative.

This anti-imperialist, anti-West, anti-American, anti-“Zionist”, anti-capitalist set of core beliefs is most aggressively mobilised by those at the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition. Corbyn himself was of course a long-standing part of the STWC leadership until he was forced to reluctantly hand over the Chair on appointment as Labour leader and has spent a lifetime immersed in these particular radical Leftist holy waters, as has been widely documented at Harrys Place.

It’s the kind of political thinking that has in recent days led Shadow Cabinet member Diane Abbott to both dismiss claims of institutionalised anti-Semitism on the Left as a “conspiracy” and to also draw a financial, governance and moral equivalence between the governments of the UK, Nigeria and Afghanistan over the issue of political corruption.

It’s the kind of thinking that calls for the forced dismantling of the world’s only Jewish state, defends Putin’s gangster capitalist Russia, attacks Ukrainian European aspirations and makes allegiance with the forces of Islamist politics in the shape of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and other proxies of Iran and Shia militancy.
Now, the fact that those views are expressed is all good and proper. I’m all for the existence of a dedicated – if morally and politically flawed/disgraced – hard Left. That’s what you get if you adhere to the concept of political pluralism – and I do. I welcome the fact that STWC are part of our political landscape.

But I can’t welcome the fact that Labour has not only tolerated those views but has in recent decades actively embraced them as part of its much celebrated “broad church”. Apart from anything, it demonstrates a staggering complacency and a short term memory problem that would have most of us nervously making an appointment with our GP. Were the Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn as part of an effort to “widen debate” unaware of the 1980s struggles against Militant and other entryists? Had they heard of Healey’s battles with the Bennite Left (including a young Jeremy Corbyn) for the soul and the viability of the Party?

Fundamentally, how irresponsible do you have to be to hand over the keys of a political organisation to those who make it their business to operate the rule book and process in order that a minority group exerts power beyond its base?
These are the people who will push through a BDS motion at the NEC – against all published party policy – when half the meeting has nipped out for a crafty vape or whatever it was they were doing that evening.

In recent days, decent Labour MPs and others in the party have called on Jews to remain in the party and to fight for it in order to vanquish the scourge of anti-Semitism from Labour. But I have to ask those well-meaning people: “come again? You want what? Seriously?”
Let’s be clear. The Labour party defends the principle of a broad church but it is that very broad church that inevitably means that some within its ranks will express views/concepts and narratives that are anti-Semitic. And anti-West and anti-American and anti-capitalist etc. You can’t have a broad church on the Left any more without this stuff – it’s coded into the DNA of the STWC Hard-Left and it’s going to be around in one form or another long after I’m alive to get cross about it on Twitter. Sure, you can suspend or expel those who are so obsessed or stupid that they can’t moderate their behaviour in public. But that’s not the point of a political party, is it?

A party is supposed to stand for something and to stand against other somethings. That’s why a party bothers to get up in the morning. Or at least it used to be.

A broad church party that welcomes those who hold the views of the STWC Left doesn’t deserve the vote of Jews. That doesn’t mean no Jews will vote for it – of course some will. Again, that’s pluralism. But it sure as hell doesn’t deserve those votes. And the inherent logic of that plea that “Jews must stay to root out their tormentors” with the unspoken addendum “if you Jews don’t then frankly, almost no one else will” speaks for itself.

And beyond the particularised voting intentions of that tiny ethnic minority, why should anyone who embraces and celebrates their highly fortunate status/identity as a citizen of a liberal, European parliamentary social democracy vote for a party that empowers political extremists who see those credentials as badges of shame?
A broad church party that includes those seeking election to its NEC who sneer at the dull incrementalism of parliamentary social democracy doesn’t get my vote. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to empower those willing to graft away at the boring detail of politics and policy implementation and prepared to be held accountable for it at elections and by a free press. I don’t want my political structures to be replaced by the social justice warriors of social media seeking a narcissism-enhancing rush of excitement from the latest 38 Degrees petition. I can look to myself for that, thanks.

So I say to Labour as a voter: “you sort out your dysfunctional family/broad church and then maybe you get the votes”. Because we vote on what we see before us.

As an activist (though in truth I’m not really much of an activist and never have been) I could say: “I will stay and fight to dismantle the broad church that has brought shame on the party and which will keep it from office.” Only I don’t see any evidence that anyone in the Labour Party actually wants to do this. The broad church has become a shibboleth of the party, a reflexive instinct of denial about both the history and the future of the party. No one is talking about proscribing STWC and others on the mad/bad end of the Left are they? I don’t hear the voice of a Healey or a Kinnock bellowing out that a line in the sand must be drawn and that a battle for the very soul of the party is underway. If I did, I might have more to think about.

Now I appreciate that Rhea isn’t too concerned about this aspect, but how could I vote for Labour in 2020 anyway? It wouldn’t be the safe or responsible thing to do. I mean – and I know this is stretching the argument – what if Labour actually achieved power? Is anyone seriously suggesting that we vote to empower those that hold the STWC world view, in whole or in part? How might history judge us?

Yes, I know my position is hard on the many decent, honourable Labour folk both in Parliament and beyond who share almost none of the elements of the STWC world view. The party is full of those who are, like me, social democrats and not radical socialists, historical fact-mangling revolutionary polemicists or virtue-signalling social justice warriors.
But I say to them – tear down the broad church. It’s time – it’s the moment to cast aside that shibboleth of yours.