A Jewish Trade unionist at Tolpuddle

Miriam Yagud, longtime Jewish activist and trade unionist, posted on the Tolpuddle Facebook group explaining why she was going to the festival. Reproduced with permision.

Plus an interview with Miriam in the local newspaper, added 1st August

Many of you know, I’m not one of those who has ever been a 100% “Corbyn can do no wrong” supporter and nor am I now.

But he is the first leader of the Labour Party to give me enough reasons to support Labour AND to vote Labour in a general election for only the 2nd time since 1974. And to go even further and become a member of the party!

I have never doubted Jeremy Corbyn’s committment to antiracism because he has been one of the few Labour MPs who has been consistently vocal against all forms of racism and one of the very few Labour MPs who has supported or been present on anti racist and anti apartheid campaigns, marches and rallies I have attended and been involved with since the 70s, including that one in Wood Green that he organised to stop the racist and antisemitic national front marching through Haringey.

During those 45 years I have been a member of a synagogue, the Jewish Socialists Group, a resident of Stepney, Hackney and Stamford Hill, areas with large Jewish populations. I have never heard other Jews criticise Jeremy Corbyn for being anti Jewish.

I now live in deepest Gloucestershire where Jews are few and far between. I have been welcomed into the local party and my being Jewish is not an issue. I hold an elected position. My being Jewish is not an issue nor a barrier.

Many local members and our Labour MP, wrote letters in my support, including those who are implacably against Corbyn, when Ian McNicol expelled me for having previously stood as a Green Party candidate, to stop me voting for Corbyn in the 2nd leadership election. As a result, I was reinstated.

I feel I am a valued member and have been encouraged to stand as a councillor. My being Jewish is not an issue nor a barrier.

The diversity of our membership is valued as a strength and an asset both locally and nationally.

Many members of my local party are appalled at the antidemocratic impulse that drives the attacks on Corbyn and the membership and are angry at the accusations of antisemitism being levelled against us all.

Me and my Jewish family and friends and the Jewish communities I have grown up in and belong to, know first hand what antisemitism is. The Labour Party is not institutionally antisemitic.

I am one of hundreds of new Jewish members who have joined Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected. We joined for the policies and values of the more than 300,000 members who voted for him to lead the party.
Those are the values of antiracism and internationalism and the principles of equality and democratic representation.

Jewish people are all too aware of the need to strengthen democracy and oppose fascists and racists. That’s why so many Jewish people have joined Labour in the last 3 years.

As a new member, I find the political and social culture within the local and national Party reflects the memberships committment to equality and justice and people are much more aware of issues of prejudice and discrimination.
Casual everyday racism, including antisemitism is much less prevalent than I find in other areas of society.

When it does arise, it’s often expressed in comments about the Israeli government and using “Jewish” and “Israeli” interchangeably. This confusion is entirely understandable when you consider that Israel describes itself as “The Jewish State” and because Tony Blair has himself promoted Labour’s and his own support for Israel as a policy supporting Jews, rather than Israelis.

It takes time to change that institutionalised culture that has for decades conflated Jews and Israel as though we are one which can then leads non Jews to hold all Jews responsible for what the Israeli state does.

Under Corbyn’s leadership, this change is happening through discussion and education and it is to be applauded.

It’s a shame those individuals who now castigate members for this error were themselves so unaware of it until September 2016 and never criticised Tony Blair for doing so.

There are some Jews who have left the party recently. Reasons for leaving fall broadly into 2 areas:

1. Labour is no longer an uncritical supporter of the Israeli government and supports justice for Palestinians. They (and the Israeli government) call this antisemitism.

2. Opposition to Labours manifesto committments.

The overwhelming majority of those in the party who actively campaign against Corbyn’s leadership are not Jewish and their opposition is entirely unrelated to anything Jewish. They seem to have a knee jerk opposition to the policies and values that Corbyn represents and they are aligned with those opposed to Labour.

It’s not really Corbyn they are attacking, its the majority of members who voted for him to be party leader and the millions who voted Labour because they want the policies we offer and the values he talks up and reflected in our inspired and inspiring manifesto, For the many, not the few.
They seem to hate democracy and socialism far more than they hate poverty, injustice and antisemitism.

For the first time in 60 years Labour has a leadership that reflects it’s reason for existing in the first place: to represent the vast majority of ordinary working people and citizens in parliament.

To participate in the mother of all imperialist parliaments is hardly a revolutionary act.

If this moderate aspiration is enough to bring unity to the liberal and far right wings of the British establishment it’s a frightening and sobering insight into the lengths the privileged classes will go to defend their control over the country and maintain the cruelest government I’ve seen in my lifetime.
We have only to look around the world to see what happens to people who have achieved democratic representation in their parliament’s; in Turkey, India, Russia, Iran, Chile to name but a few.

This sustained, well funded and organised campaign against the democratic Labour movement has gone on for 3 years, has strengthened, has become disdainful and unconcerned about flouting the law, disrespecting the democratic process, lying and defamation and it doesn’t look to be running out of steam or money any time soon.

It is a forewarning of how far and how willing they are to destroy the bedrock of our less than perfect, political system and to silence those who have a right to be represented.

In a couple of days, I’ll be taking part in the festival to remember and celebrate the Tolpuddle Martyrs who organised to represent farm labourers. The judge who convicted them said “the safety of the country is at stake” and sent them to a penal colony.

Their courage and sacrifice led to changes in society that paved the way for working people to be represented by a trade union.

The struggle Labour faces today is the same – for representation. The charges against us are the same – that we are a threat. We are working for the same outcome – to elect a government that will act for everyone’s interests, not just the few.


Click  to enlarge

Comments (6)

  • Liz Brynin says:

    This is a beautifully written article, which says it all, clearly and simply!

  • different frank says:

    Not really on topic, but this is a great mural commemorating the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It is on Copenhagen St London N1. Click here

  • steve mitchell says:

    When I came into this world in July 1940 my country was at war with the Far Right in all its forms. Shortly after that my late father was called up and sent to fight. I saw him just a few times until he came home in 1946. It is entirely possible that when I leave this world my country will be under the heel of a Far Right government. Everywhere you look the Far Right is in the ascendancy. There are politicians and influential people in the UK who have the very same instincts as those we we defeated in WW2. The Brexit party is full of them. Richard Tice is the very incarnation of Oswald Mosley. If such a government comes to power it will be minority groups who will suffer most; Muslims and Jews in particular. The right wing of my own Labour Party will bear a heavy responsibility fir their suffering. From the moment Jeremy was elected leader of my party they have striven to undermine him. They have shown time and time again they will stop at nothing to have him removed.Accusations of antisemitism are ludicrous but are doing the Labour Party immense harm. It will be a strange paradox if the Jews again suffer at the hands of the Far Right that their own people emasculated the only institution that could have protected them.

  • Simon Lynn says:

    Great piece Miriam – nice to be there at Tolpuddle with you too!

  • John Webster says:

    Well said Miriam – and you are not alone in deepest Gloucestershire.

  • Jean Crocker says:

    I wonder if this article has gone to the EHRC? It would be an excellent submission. Even though the deadline has just passed, it is still possible to send things in

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