Fighting back against racism

MPs Diane Abbott & Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Images: Wikipedia

The Labour left is under attack, with black members and MPs in the frontline.

The leaked Labour Party report revealed:

    1. A cabal at the most senior levels of the party bureaucracy working to undermine the party’s twice elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, organising against the left membership of the party and, scandalously, helping to prevent a Labour victory at the 2017 election, and
    2. A culture of racist and Islamophobic abuse against black members and, in particular, against Diane Abbott.

It is clear that the party has widespread and visceral problems of racism which require a thorough overhaul of all its structures and procedures.

It was to provide a forum for members to discuss these quite shocking revelations that Don’t Leave, Organise, of which JVL is a supporting organisation, held a zoom meeting on the leaked document. The meeting was a rare opportunity in lockdown conditions for the 600 participants to express their outrage at the activities revealed.

The meeting was organised as most such discussions are: four speakers, including two black MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, followed by questions from a large and scattered audience.

Unusually for left meetings it was covered in the mainstream media. But they didn’t focus at all on the business of the meeting: the total betrayal of trust shown by senior paid party officials. Nothing of that was reported. The only thing the media were interested in was the fact that among those called from the audience to make contributions to the discussion were two dissidents who have been rendered non-persons, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein.

The two MPs were immediately attacked by the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), for “sharing a platform” with expelled members. The BoD called for “swift and decisive action” against the MPs, citing its Ten Pledges which had been agreed to so speedily by Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer. And Starmer promptly reprimanded them both, in a move which was widely interpreted as an intensification of the drive to marginalise and intimidate left and black members of the party who dare to speak out.

In an Open Letter to the two MPs, Greenstein and Walker wrote:

“The Board’s current demands are a continuation of their campaign to politically castrate the left. Their aim as ever is not to promote anti-racism but to prevent criticism of Israel and Zionism. It has nothing whatsoever to do with opposing antisemitism…

“We hope the time will come when the swell of support from the grassroots, from oppressed minorities and from those who stand in solidarity with them will empower you [Rubiero-Addy and Abbott – ed] to speak with the clarity, truth and passion we know is yours. We need your voice so we can raise ours to a pitch that cannot be ignored.”

In a petition on the issue Labour Against the Witchhunt states: “We believe that these expulsions – like the vast majority of others – were hugely unjust and the investigations deeply flawed….While antisemitism and other forms of chauvinism exist in the Labour Party (as in wider society), the number of real antisemitic incidents in the Labour Party has been grossly exaggerated for political purposes.”

And it calls on the labour movement to:

  • campaign vigorously against the implementation of the BoD’s Ten Pledges and to fight for the right of free speech and free assembly in the Labour Party and wider labour movement;
  • proudly appear on platforms and in meetings with those who have been unjustly smeared, vilified, suspended and expelled from the Labour Party in the campaign against Corbyn and the left.

We join with them to call for the party membership to unite in support of our comrades under attack – Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, as well as Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker.

At stake is the right of free speech and open debate and discussion. Two black female MPs have been silenced, bullied and intimidated; two expelled members of the party are being reduced to non-persons; and anyone who meets them in an online conversation is deemed guilty by association – and beyond the pale. We must fight this tooth and nail.

 

Comments (16)

  • dave says:

    I see there is a Facebook page called Socialists against Antisemitism that is calling Walker and Greenstein ‘antisemites’ in a report of this Zoom meeting (which I was on), and a few people have tried to take them to task on this. At least we know where we are with the BoD etc but it’s worrying that there are bogus socialists trying to fool people.

  • Edward Hill says:

    The final words of the leaked report, “Never again”, should apply not only to the victims of genuine antisemitism, but also to the victims of unproven accusations.

  • Clarissa Smid says:

    What no one is talking about is that this culture of racism against BAME people, the widespread bullying of Lefties across the party and the cabal identified in the report is not just concentrated (note I use the present tense…) within the central party staff, but is actually located at all levels of the party, from our branches, CLPs and regional boards and offices.

    We have to tackle a fundamentally sick culture across the Labour Party by looking at the structures and processes by which thugs like these find and take a stranglehold.

    We also have to face up to the possibility that in line with BAME experience in our wider society, the non BAME members of our party (the majority) are subject to a deeply unconscious racism that many of us haven’t recognised when we see it, nor when we practice it ourselves.

  • Julian says:

    It is perhaps time to revisit McCarthy in 1954: “have you no decency, sir?” … ” at least, have you no sense of decency?” on

    https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Have_you_no_sense_of_decency.htm

    and

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svUyYzzv6VI

    if you are short of time, start 5 minutes in and watch to the end.

    Witch side do you think the BOD would have been on there?

  • Philip Ward says:

    I fully support the sentiments of this statement, but is it really necessary to use the term “politically castrate”? I know some people may call me a snowflake hung up on “identity politics”, but suggesting in a letter to two women that it is necessary to have testicles in order to be effective politically is a bit much.

  • David Hawkins says:

    I think the problem is that we have allowed this discussion to become fragmented. We aught to be able to agree as socialists that:-
    1. All human beings have an equal value and are fully entitled to equal respect.
    2. All racism is equally bad and aught to be judged by similar moral standards. There is absolutely no justification for treating one form of racism differently to any other. All racism is equally disgusting.
    3. Ethnic Cleansing and violent racism are never ever acceptable methods for achieving a political objective and the victims and their families should always be entitled to a right of return however long it takes.

  • I am in my 80’s and been a Labour member for years, always voting for them. Jeremy Corbyn has been the most decent person for a very long time. I am disgusted with what has gone in with the treachery, back stabbing against Jeremy Corbyn. A man for the people, more genuine than a lot of Labour MP’s who was for the people! I have no faith in the present Labour government, actually disgusted with them! I wish Jeremy would start his own Party and the present lot would be finished!

  • In response to Philip Ward’s objections to ‘politically castrate’. The letter was a joint effort and that particular phrase was Jackie’s not mine!

    The actual phrase

    ‘The Board’s current demands are a continuation of their campaign to politically castrate the Left. ‘

    does NOT suggest that possession of gonads are a necessary prerequisite for Diane and Bell to be politically effective. It doesn’t refer to them at all, rather it is a metaphor for the activities of the BOD in relation to the Left.

    We could have used the verb ‘weaken’ instead of ‘castrate’ but I think the latter is somewhat more effective.

    I wouldn’t call Philip a snowflake. Pedantic though I might!

  • Andrew Tidman says:

    Totally agree. I respect your fight for justice for those wrongly accused and your continued determination to uphold the values and principles of the party. I have been on the point of leaving the party so many times after Jeremy’s disgusting and heartbreaking treatment and the treatment of good socialists. You continue to give me hope. Thank you

  • Sandra hague says:

    If this betrayal is not addressed the Labour party will cease to exist,I for one will no longer belong to a party which allows such behaviour

  • Bill Risebero says:

    I can’t help being reminded of the SPD during the Weimar period, which pursued the Left, while ignoring the growth of Nazism. It’s grotesque that the present Labour leadership seems readier to attack the Left than challenge our vicious ultra-conservative government.

  • DAVID JONES says:

    As far as I’m aware Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein were not expelled for AS. Also, where is it in the LP rule book that you cannot talk to expelled members?
    Basically what have the 2 BAME female MP’s done to warrant such stiff “justice” from a confirmed Zionist (Starmer).

  • Margaret Mc Blain says:

    I support the statement fully.

  • Barry Wentworth-Wood says:

    This is not the labour party that I have any whish to belong to

  • Paul Smith says:

    I wonder if Starmer’s statement that ‘I support Zionism without qualification’ means that he is opposed to the Palestinian ‘Right of Return’?

  • Allan Howard says:

    As I said in a previous post (in another thread), it’s interesting to note that there were no quotes in the press coverage from the usual ‘moderates’ regarding Diane and Bell, but we can be 1000% certain that had it happened whilst Jeremy had still been leader, they would have been attacking him and condemning him for not suspending them, and along with the BoD et al continuing to ramp up pressure on him (and the LP) until he did so.

    But then again, the BoD has accomplished its objective, which was to make sure that Labour Party MPs refrain from sharing platforms with people who have been suspended from the party (and make Labour councillors and members think twice before doing so). And I think Keir Starmer is fully aware that THAT was the objective of the BoD et al AND played his part, as such – ie he didn’t give Jackie and Bell a warning because he felt under pressure to do so, and he knew that the BoD et al WEREN’T going to ‘pursue’ him to suspend them (as they would have done had Jeremy been the leader at the time) and keep ramping up the pressure until he did so.

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