At the launch of his Project for Peace and Justice, Jeremy Corbyn condemned Britain’s actions in Yemen. He gave pride of place to all events in Latin America where he supports the working populations and the progressive nationalists, in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Argentina, etc. He is one of the rare Labour leaders to view the events in Britain in the context of the defeats of the imperialist wars and revolutionary advances in Latin America. The false accusations of anti-semitism against him, and against his supporters in the Party, stimulate unprecedented debates in the Labour Party – just when the capitalist class and the Labour right-wing wanted to do away with free speech.
The Conservative government calls for Alexei Navalny’s “immediate release” from his Moscow prison. Boris Johnson wants “justice to be done” and a transparent investigation carried out to exonerate Navalny. In the Labour Party, Corbyn’s successor Keir Starmer and his shadow minister Lisa Nandy say that “Navalny should be released immediately” and that “his detention in Russia is an insult”. But neither of them had a word to say in support of Assange, whose detention they consider ‘in the national interest’.
It is not rare for Labour comrades to learn in the press of their suspension by the Party’s disciplinary. The accused are not permitted to know who is accusing them, and the reasons for the suspension can remain vague until the accused receive a questionnaire whose answers are then used as reasons for the suspension. Any suspended comrade who discusses their case with others can be expelled. As we see in the case of Assange, the world situation and the situation in the Labour Party converge to prove that one’s appreciation of ‘democracy’ is very much in the eye of the beholder.
In a recent speech to the Fabian Society, Keir Starmer asserted that it is “Britain’s role [..], alongside the USA, to face down Russia and China and reject authoritarianism”. But Mr Starmer never said anything about the authoritarianism of Narenda Modi of India, Recept Erdogan of Turkey or Emmanuel Macron of France. Although Jeremy Corbyn was legitimately elected MP by his Islington constituency, the Starmer leadership prevents him from taking his parliamentary seat because he has not apologised enough for his antisemitism. As the Starmer leadership instructed the whole Party not to discuss this matter, hundreds of local Labour officers who refused to do so have been suspended.
THE LABOUR LEFT REJECTS THE FALSE ACCUSATIONS
It has come to light that the Starmer’s office has created a new post of Social Listening and Media Organising Manager – and that the Manager is a former Israel intelligence secret service agent (of the murderous Unit 8200) called Asaf Kaplan. This sort of thing may explain how it happened that, in the last four years, thousands of left-wing Labour comrades – often Jewish themselves – have been reprimanded, suspended or expelled for ‘antisemitism’ (or other ‘offences’) discovered on their social media accounts.
The disgust at it all has driven Labour members to resign. But it is remarkable that, at the same time, the level of indignation and the political debate have risen. It is now known that the majority of the accusations levelled at comrades for antisemitism originated from a very small number of accusers. That these accusers have tended to belong to the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) who retain the right to remain anonymous. It is the Party itself however, and not these accusers, who arrange to get rid of the Labour left. What is at stake therefore is the war of the Party’s right wing against the Socialists and progressives in the Party. It is the class struggle in the Party.
Since the official adoption of the IHRA by the Labour Party (sept 2018), any Labour comrade who supports the Palestinians, or criticises openly the State of Israel, can expect a Party’s disciplinary letter. Recently, the Starmer leadership arranged for a resolution in praise of the IHRA to be ‘voted’ in the Labour branches without the right to criticise it! Feeling under surveillance, wrongly accused, bullied and gagged, comrades create circles to resist this phenomenon and organise. The epoch of the parochialism of each Labour branch is ending with much wider political debates opening up.
In Israel itself, many Jewish organisations reject Israel’s criminal treatment of The Right of Return March (2018). Recently, the Jewish Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem) spoke about Israel in those words: “A regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid”.
In the Labour Party as it stands, anyone who dares speak in these terms or refer to the Right of Return can expect exclusion. But as it has become impossible to discuss these matters inside the conventional frameworks of the Party, of course comrades discuss them outside those frameworks. This is how the Labour right wing stimulates the advance of the left which it wanted to prevent. As indignation and anger grows, and the political debate elevates on the role of Israel in the Labour Party and in the world, the Labour membership emancipates itself from the narrow pragmatism of electoral concerns, without repudiating these.
THE LABOUR LEFT IS NOT INTIMIDATED
World leading personalities like Jeffrey Bingham QC, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook and John Pilger explain that those who conflate the criticism of Israel with the criticism of ‘the Jews’ actually “weaponise” anti-semitism to turn it upside down. These leading world personalities have demonstrated how this conflation is an anti-Semitic act in itself, because it tarnishes ‘the Jews’ with the crimes of Israel. The conclusion is dire because in this manner, real anti-Semitism is allowed to hide and gain strength behind its campaigns to accuse others of what does itself.
Following his failure in the 2019 general elections, Jeremy Corbyn became accused by Keir Starmer and others of having poisoned the whole Labour Party with anti-semitism. Corbyn was himself suspended, and then reinstated, but Starmer then decreed that he (Corbyn) could not return to his Labour seat in parliament (Corbyn is now sitting as an independent MP).
The Party’s base is outraged at this, and even centrist sectors find this unacceptable. Eight of the biggest British Trade Unions have called on Starmer to reinstate Corbyn fully. The Islington Constituency where Corbyn is MP has protested that Starmer has no right to override their choice of MP. Some of them have also pointed out that Starmer has no right to interfere in Party’s disciplinary matters (forbidden by the rules) – because the Party won the right to rule itself through its executive, and not through the decrees of one man.
In August-September 2020, a public statement was released by twenty charities, many Trade Unions, religious groups and civil society organisations who condemned Israel’s intention to annex more Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The document enjoined Israel to respect human rights and International Law in Palestine.
In September, the National Congress of the TUC voted a resolution in support of the right of Return for the Palestinians. They also identified Israel as “a State practising apartheid”, a characterisation that the British government and the present Labour leadership repudiate with their perfidious campaigns to present Israel as ‘a democratic State’!
Not intimidated by the national and international ‘intelligence’ surveillance they are under, the Labour comrades experiment with new forms of resistance. After some decline, Momentum has partially regenerated. Academics and historians produce documents to show the role of Israel in Nato and in the wars of world capitalism, as the horrendous one in Yemen. The Campaign for National Disarmament (CND), Stop the War, NoToNato and Counterfire produce debates that contribute to a greater comprehension of the need for Labour to leave behind the imperialist way of thinking.
In the Labour left, although it is not yet homogeneous, the comprehension grows that capitalism is afraid. Those whom Corbyn used to call ‘the few’ are afraid. Out of the £400 billion that the government injected in the economy during the pandemic, only 100 have gone to support furlough and social benefits. The rest has boosted the profits of the top investors and shareholders. There are now 2.6 million unemployed in Britain and more every day. There are 22.5 m people below the socially acceptable standard of living, with 15m in poverty (23% of the population) half of whom had jobs in the gig economy until recently.
The ‘few’ – whose insane fortunes Corbyn wanted to use to rebuild the country – do not agree with any sort of Corbyn plan! Their organisation and their hatred are not confined to Britain. They are worldwide and form part of the incorporation of Israel into the war plans of world capitalism, which includes the silencing of the Labour left. Their hatred is directed at the left in every country, particularly the US, the UK, the EU. The war on the Labour left forms part of the war world capitalism is preparing against China and Russia, which the capitalists see as central to the confidence of the working class and population everywhere.
THE COUNTRY IS BEING GAGGED, NOT JUST LABOUR!
In October 2020, the Conservative government of Boris Johnson got the Coronavirus19 Emergency Bill passed in parliament. There were 321 pages of the bill to be voted in days through new zoom systems whose difficulties were used to justify no parliamentary scrutiny or proper meeting. The Bill was voted through because Labour did not oppose it, giving to the State 2 years of dictatorial executive powers.
From November 2020 to January 2021, the Overseas Operations Bill, the Health Protection Coronavirus Restrictions Act and the Covert Human Intelligence Source Bill have each granted new powers to the State, the police and the army. One of the bills exonerates from prosecution not only crimes committed by British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, but what soldiers may commit in the future. This opens the door to more such crimes to take place, and with new levels of impunity guaranteed.
The right to public meetings and protests has been cancelled for 2 years. 20,000 soldiers are now being deployed around the hospitals and the vaccination centres “in case of disorder”. In the name of ‘the national interest’ the Starmer leadership mandated its MPs to abstain on those bills, leaving only 18 Labour MPs to vote against. At each occasion, the SNP and the LibDems stood to the left of Labour.
The violent turn to the right by the Labour leadership has dug a massive gulf between the entrenched layer of Labour officials (who connive with the big corporations in the local councils and through parliamentary-governmental politics) and the mass of the membership that realises the need for the Corbyn ideas. It is interesting to note that in spite of resignations, expulsions, suspensions and intimidations, the Party still retained 496,000 members (517,000 in 2017) in Nov 2020.
The Labour comrades stand in solidarity with the campaign groups and trade unions (education and health mainly) that have defeated dozens of government attacks. The Project for Peace and Justice of J Corbyn may not aim at creating a consistent current of resistance in the Labour Party, but his supporters tend to use it in that way. The Labour left opposes vehemently the war on Yemen and on the Palestinians. The campaigns of capitalism against Russia and China try to whip up the fear of ‘despotism’ which capitalism likes to detect in Putin and Xi of China; but the closing down of free speech in the Labour Party (and in the country with all the gagging bills) provokes resistance. People worry about capitalism driving Labour and the country to catastrophe.
The pandemic and the raging capitalist crisis are drawing the Trade Unions and the Labour Party closer. If a Labour-Left-Trade-Union-Conference is called, as mooted, the Starmer leadership will wish to expel and suspend even more comrades. But this will have to happen in the full glare of the public eye, rather embarrassingly for a leader opposed to ‘authoritarianism’. Should a front between the Unions and the Labour left be allowed to grow and develop, free speech, organisation and programme may find the strength to put the Labour Party, or most of it, back on a socialist course.
Posadists Today, 28.1.2021