Another last straw

JVL Introduction

Jay Blackwood has had enough and is leaving the Labour Party.

As he puts it “[T]he performance of the leadership candidates at this week’s hustings proves conclusively that whoever is elected leader the Labour Party is determined to steer back onto its traditional course of loyal support for the Israeli state. Anyone who opposes that will be silenced.”

We understand Jay’s choice and wish him well. We have no doubt he will remain a committed grass-roots activist and socialist fighting for the things we all believe in. Unlike him, we still believe the Labour Party to be a crucial locus of the struggle.

We have not lost there yet, and must do what we can to stem the tide.

This article was originally published by Jewish Dissident Blogspot on Fri 14 Feb 2020. Read the original here.

Resignation

Like so many others, Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader inspired me to rejoin the Labour Party after a long absence. I was energised by his determination to do politics in a new way.

I was fully aware of the limits of Labourism when I signed up. But I believed that Jeremy’s election represented a real opportunity to start a fightback against the policies of war, austerity and union-bashing that had characterised the previous period. I felt that Corbyn’s Labour was where serious socialists had to argue the case for fundamental social change.

But in the wake of the general election defeat we have seen a seismic shift not only within the Left of the Parliamentary Party, but within the grassroots as well, judging by reports coming in from CLP meetings around the country. It now seems clear that the Corbyn project has failed.

There are many reasons for that failure, including Jeremy’s own diffidence and modesty, which worked against him in the end. Faced with the bogus antisemitism offensive, Jeremy and his inner circle seemed to believe that retreat was the best form of defence. Along with endless hand-wringing apologies for a problem that never really existed, Jeremy stood by while good socialists and anti-racists were drummed out of the Party. The wholly predictable net result was to embolden the anti-Corbyn forces in the Parliamentary Party, and encourage the Israel lobby and its supporters in the media.

This disastrous strategy, which played a major part in the general election defeat, was also the political line of Jon Lansman’s Momentum group. Momentum, which started so promisingly, has effectively destroyed any possibility of building a genuine grass-roots movement within the Party. It is owned lock, stock and barrel by its leader, and it reflects his rotten politics. It has sucked all the air out of the room, occupying the space that a genuine grassroots movement would occupy, and stifling any real possibility of building an alternative.

Crucially, the strategy of retreat on Israel/Palestine and the antisemitism allegations has not just continued following Jeremy’s decision to step down – it has accelerated. The humiliating decision of all the leadership candidates to sign up to the Board Of Deputies’ ‘ten conditions’, which hands control of the Party’s disciplinary processes to an unelected external body, was bad enough. This week’s embarrassing performance at hustings organised by the virulently Zionist JLM was even worse, showing just how far Jeremy’s heirs are prepared to go in order to appease the Israel lobby.

Over the past few weeks, activists critical of Israel and Zionism have begun to brace themselves for the inevitable wave of expulsions that will follow in the wake of the leadership election, regardless of its outcome. Some, like Asa Winstanley – who was faced with suspension for the second time on trumped-up charges – have simply had enough and have opted to leave. Others, like Nat Sims and Haim Bresheeth, have referred themselves to the Compliance Unit for ‘antisemitism’, in order to underline the absurdity of the current situation.

Meanwhile, the Party has suspended NEC election candidate Jo Bird, the only Jewish candidate to take part. Jo was the joint front-runner until her suspension, which we can only assume was to do with her support for Palestinian rights and her closeness to JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour, the Party’s pro-Corbyn grassroots group). Given that her suspension opens the way for the election of Momentum’s preferred candidate, it seems likely that that organisation had a hand in it at the very least.
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Until this week’s JLM hustings, my own position was that we should stay in the Labour Party and fight. And I absolutely respect those comrades who are determined to stick with that strategy. They argue, with some justification, that we shouldn’t do the Blairites’ and Zionists’ job for them. But as far as I’m concerned the performance of the leadership candidates at this week’s hustings proves conclusively that whoever is elected leader the Labour Party is determined to steer back onto its traditional course of loyal support for the Israeli state. Anyone who opposes that will be silenced.

Of course there will be opposition among the grass-roots. But I believe two factors will neutralise that. The first factor is the growing exodus of large numbers of Corbyn supporters in the wake of his resignation. The second is the increasing willingness of people who only gave provisional support to Corbyn in the first place to accept the realpolitik arguments of the new leadership, who will say that winning back the trust of the Jewish community (by which they mean the official, self-appointed leadership of one section of that community) is more important than maintaining Jeremy’s principled commitment to Palestinian self-determination.

For anti-Zionists, not least Jewish anti-Zionists like myself whose feelings about the issue of Israel/Palestine are visceral, there is a difficult choice to be made. Do we immerse ourselves for the next few years in what has justifiably been called resolutionary politics, and in an interminable round of suspensions/appeals/expulsions? Do we continue to censor our actions and language to avoid providing our political enemies with ammunition? Do we accept the bizarre rules of the Looking Glass World that Labour has become, where Jews and anti-racists are constantly at risk of expulsion for ‘antisemitism’ and where a loyalty oath to Israel is a minimum requirement? Or do we take our energy and commitment elsewhere, seeking to direct it into more practical channels?

The decision each of us makes will inevitably have a personal element to it. And personally I am not prepared to work for a political party whose leadership believes that ‘defending Israel’s right to exist’ is a prerequisite of membership. Nor do I believe that a ‘Left’ leadership that caves in with such alacrity to the Israel lobby stands a cat in Hell’s chance of implementing genuine socialist policies in the face of media opposition should it ever come to power. Rebecca Long Bailey, like the other prospective leaders, has proven this week that she lacks the principles and the backbone that a real socialist leader would need.

I fully respect the views of those who disagree, but for this particular Jewish anti-Zionist the real terrain of struggle is no longer the CLP meeting, the committee room or the floor of Labour Party conference. The real struggle will be found where it has always been – on the streets, in the workplaces, and in the communities hit hardest by years of Labour and Tory austerity policies. On the issue of Israel/Palestine there is much work to be done, not least the construction of an internationally based organisation bringing together all those Jews who oppose the corrosive, racist doctrine of Zionism and the brutal state it has given birth to. I believe that such an organisation can and will be built over the next few years.

There is much to fight for. But for me at least that fight can no longer be within the Labour Party.

In solidarity,
Jay Blackwood.

Comments (16)

  • RH says:

    I can’t argue with any of the fundamental analysis of this piece. Only the conclusion – but that disagreement is only one of personal preference.

    In listening to the sad apologies for leadership faced by the bullies of the ant-Labour, anti-Palestinian JLM, I was reminded of the great soeech by Nye Bevan – made in Trafalgar Square – about the 1956 Suez Crisis. I am depending on memory, but the key sectio was somethinlike (on Eden) :

    “If he believes what he is saying, he is too STUPID to be Prime Minister. If he doesn’t believe what he is saying, he is too DISHONEST to be Prime Minister.”

    That we should have to apply the same measure to Labour candidates for leadership …..!!

  • Matthew Stiles says:

    Not to blow my own trumpet but it was because of us leftwingers who stuck it out under Blair that JC got elected in the first place. Groups like SA and TUSC went nowhere. I hope Jay reconsiders.

  • Alasdair MacVarish says:

    All candidates are running scared [not Richard Burgon -ed]. The Zionist lobby should have been tackled head on rather than appeased years ago as Chris Williamson stated.

  • Mike Cohen says:

    Having discovered, in my mid-seventies, and somewhat to my surprise, that I am an antisemite (or as some would have it a self-hating Jew) I have referred myself to the Compliance Unit.

    Even if, as I suspect, Palestine is not a major concern for the bulk of Labour voters, Jay is quite right to point out that the spinelessness shown by the leadership candidates in the face of relentless bullying by Israel’s local lobbies is a grim sign of where the party is heading.

  • CHF says:

    I understand that Jo Bird’s suspension has been withdrawn – thankfully. Can I persuade you to think again and remain in the party to vote for her?

  • Jan Brooker says:

    In the 3 months since I submitted my first *defence* [at that point on unspecified charges, but now a *standard* 3 [of racism, AS and hampering the LP’s fight against racism] couched in *mealy-mouthed* terminology ~ I have helped 3 organisations get funding: 1. Radio Diamond, who operate from Moss Side, Manchester ~ the heart of the Black community; 2. a multi-racial group based in Toxteth, who will seek to help new migrants [and others] keep their housing, and 3. supplementary education for Sudanese children in Bolton. Clearly my racism know no bounds!!! It did make me look out the Business Plan and funding bid I wrote for the Liverpool Jewish Representative Council, though! My antisemitism obviously being put to good use?

  • Allan Howard says:

    Whilst I have every respect for Jay Blackwood’s decision to resign from the party, in his statement he says, on the one hand, that:

    Faced with the bogus antisemitism offensive, Jeremy and his inner circle seemed to believe that retreat was the best form of defence. Along with endless hand-wringing apologies for a problem that never really existed, Jeremy stood by while good socialists and anti-racists were drummed out of the Party. The wholly predictable net result was to embolden the anti-Corbyn forces in the Parliamentary Party, and encourage the Israel lobby and its supporters in the media.

    This disastrous strategy, which played a major part in the general election defeat…….

    And on the other hand, Jay says the following:

    But as far as I’m concerned the performance of the leadership candidates at this week’s hustings proves conclusively that whoever is elected leader the Labour Party is determined to steer back onto its traditional course of loyal support for the Israeli state. Anyone who opposes that will be silenced.

    Yes exactly, just as Jeremy and the leadership have been regarding the A/S Smear Campaign. To deny it was a problem just led to MORE condemnation and vilification – ie MORE smears.

  • Sheila says:

    I just feel really sad for Jewish people who have had their race and religion taken over by this cruel apartheid body

  • Guillaume Dohmen says:

    I think Jay Blackwood is right. The Labour Party now reminds me of the 1930’s when small groups of bigoted people try to control everything and do away with free speech and respect for other people’s freedom is completely abandoned.

  • Billie Dale Wakefield says:

    I have every intention after the election, to report myself to the Compliance Unit, as several have already done, and for the same reasons. I cannot support a Labour Party that overtly supports the oppression of the Palestinian people, nor the suppression of voices for the Palestinians.

  • Tony says:

    I see that the moderator was Robert Peston. That hardly fills you with confidence, does it?

    “It is completely clear from video footage that @MattHancock’s adviser was not whacked by a protestor, as I was told by senior Tories*, but that he inadvertently walked into a protestor’s hand. I apologise for getting this wrong.”

    Robert Peston (@Peston) December 9, 2019

    * And made no effort to verify before repeating it

  • Peter Crack says:

    I respect your argument Jay but am saddened that you have arrived at your decision. What are you going to do now? How, practically, are you going to “construct an internationally based organisation….”? Of course the Labour Party has its limitations but what is there outside. Like many Comrades back in the 90s I left the LP over the decision to support the US invasion of Iraq in 1991. After flirting with other left organisations I found that I had and was achieving nothing other than a ‘holier than thou’ self-satsfying isolationist position. But I was achieving precisely nothing. At least in the Party I have a platform from which to argue, discuss and build a consensus. I can legitimately knock on doors, speak on picket lines, march as part of an albeit flawed organisation. Jay, please reconsider your position. We need people like you with integrity, passion and commitment to fight with us to try to keep the LP on the path reinvigorated by the Corbyn project. The time to resign is not now, this is the time to fight for the ideals about which we so strongly believe. Now more than ever we need the strength of unity of the left to fight for the Socialst alternative. Please stay.

  • Charlotte Peters Rock says:

    The Leadership contest should – in this emergency situation – of bullying and interference, with procedure and Candidates,for leader, Deputy and NEC – be suspended. And the Current Labour Leader,who has not yet stood down, should remain, for the foreseeable future, in order to new get on with the business of expelling the ‘monstering’ Disciplinary Committee members, replacing them with fair-minded individuals, with a membership agreed, fair set of rules. Also, there is now an urgent need to put out and prosecute the people making false accusations, which ruin reputations,earning power and shorten lives. Labour cannot currently win any Parliamentary arguments requiring a vote; so this is the ideal time for a clean up to occur. Corbyn is the Leader to do it, together with Burgon. Who else will also pick up the idea of Corbyn remaining as a ‘clean-up Leader’?

  • RH says:

    As an addendum to Tony’s comments about the unfitness of Peston as a moderator, we should note that Asa Winstanley has highlighted Peston’s sectarian intervention which commented on Corbyn’s words :

    “it should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact” on Palestinians.”

    … calling such remarks ‘a disgrace’.

    So … in the dominant media narrative, perfectly rational and evidenced analysis is now ‘a disgrace’. Nick Davies’s ‘Churnalism’ captured in one word.

    Orwell ,,.. were’t thou living at this hour.

  • David Pike says:

    RLB ..she isn’t Corbyn in disguise..she is a servant to Momentum and it’s boss Jon Lansman.

  • Jenny Ogilvie says:

    Wow! That is a very clear and coherent picture of where the Labour Party now stands, particularly as regards “anti-semitism” and Israel..

Comments are now closed.