Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury. Photo: Ralph_PH / CC BY 2.0

Leah Levane argues that the film banned from venues including Glastonbury and Tolpuddle should be viewed because it demonstrates the role of the ruling class in wanting to prevent a Corbyn government

I could review this film artistically, or as an objective documentary, and I would certainly have my criticisms; I think there is a better film to be made about how the ruling class rallied to make sure that Jeremy Corbyn would never become prime minister and, more to the point, that his ideas, which were (for them) frighteningly popular, would never have a chance to be implemented. And there is a better film to be made about the weaponisation of antisemitism as the key tool used to delegitimise him and his programme.

So here is my very brief review of the film itself. I think it would have been better with more interviewees making shorter contributions and I think it could have looked at more issues as the same point is made several times. So basically it is not a great film as a film but it is essential viewing and I agreed with everything it said. The fact that intense  pressure is being put on venues – from community centres to pubs to Unite premises to Glastonbury and even Tolpuddle – shows that the campaign has not ended with Corbyn losing the whip as well as the election and that there is real fear about the truth getting out there.

The reason to see this film is the content itself; it is the reminder of the onslaught, a reminder of the power of the ruling class and a reminder of how many were fooled by the campaign even when there was no evidence. Despite, regrettably, being caught up in trying to fight the attacks, there were incidents that I had forgotten – especially that from the start US and UK military generals made it clear that they would not allow a Corbyn led government.

Antisemitism

The film focuses on the lies and distortions in terms of the allegations of antisemitism. Note that the best evidence available is that less than 0.4% of the Labour Party’s membership was even accused of antisemitism or, for example, making antisemitism-related statements. Given that there were without any doubt people searching social media accounts, this is the reality. Even if we assume all of them were guilty of being antisemitic, that is so far from a party rife with antisemitism as to be laughable. And yet, the allegations continue to be treated as though they were proven facts and, as in far too many arenas, feelings – those loudly and forcefully expressed, are treated as more important than facts, than evidence. Of course feelings matter but that they should trump reality? 

So we have the absurd situation whereby Jewish people who are critical of the state of Israel and especially if they are critical of the ideology of Zionism, were five times as likely to be disciplined for antisemitism as non Jews. Activists, such as members of Jewish Voice for Labour were about thirty times more likely,  and every single member of the eleven strong JVL Executive has had some form of disciplinary action. Four of us have been expelled and two given long term suspensions at the end of which they are supposed to undergo compulsory training about antisemitism (actually the new antisemitism, which includes criticism of Zionism); the others have had conduct warnings, sometimes after shorter suspensions. 

What the film does do is give some idea of the hurt and anger felt by those who had been so accused. Should the film have tried to be more objective and to try to hear from both sides? Well, it may have made a better documentary but I doubt any of those who opposed the Corbyn Project so strongly would have agreed to be interviewed. Also the film was trying to be a bit of a counterweight to the plethora of the one-sided reporting that we have been subjected to. 

Why Corbyn failed

The Corbyn Project was defeated by the ruling class but helped by the failure of Labour’s leadership to confront it head on and by the so called ‘hard’ left such as Momentum and Novara Media who seemed to run scared rather than demand the evidence, which was extremely scarce. Of course there were incidents of antisemitism, which should be dealt with. Antisemitism is important and must be taken seriously but the disproportionate attention and distortion has left Black party members, Brown party members, Muslims, Roma and Traveller party members almost ignored.

I would add that to whip up a real fear that many Jewish people have lying just under the surface because of the Corbyn project is wicked. Shamefully, too many in the mainstream Jewish institutions and Zionists – most of whom are not Jewish – have allowed those understandable fears to be exploited in the interests of the ruling class.

Some of the current allegations of the film, such as that by Paul Mason, are that it focuses on conspiracy about Jewish groups and that makes it antisemitic. But, like so many others, he conflates Jewish organisations and Zionist organisations. There is a strong case to be made for considering this very conflation of Jews with Zionism to be antisemitic. In any event, what is the word when there is engagement by multiple parties in a process, some of it in public view, some of it conscious, where multiple participants have different goals but all of which will be served by the achievement of a common objective? What do we call a situation where the convergence of the various parties on that common objective is so clear and public that they don’t need to persuade or plot but where nevertheless discussion and coordination of plans is pure common sense, for example where three Jewish newspapers on the same day publish the same article with the same headline?

Institutional racism

This month has marked the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush and I am reminded of what Liz Fekete wrote expanding on her contribution to JVL’s webinar with the Haldane Society on how the EHRC got it so wrong in terms of its report into how Labour handled complaints of antisemitism:

“The EHRC claims that the investigation was undertaken because of high levels of ‘public concern’. But the Equality Act 2006 makes no mention that the instigator of an investigation should be ‘public concern’, a subjective concept open to media manipulation. And only two such ‘concern’ driven investigations were conducted between 2010 and 2018. Compare EHRC concern over anti-semitism amongst members of the Labour Party to its timidity in the deployment of its enforcement powers over institutional racism in the Home Office and the Windrush scandal. Compare the promptness on one investigation to the dilly-dallying on the other, compare the fact that the one  was a full section 20 investigation under the Equality Act 2006 to the other, far more limited Public Sector Equality Duty Assessment.

“The Home Office’s policies towards the Windrush generation resulted in at least 180 people being wrongfully deported, at least 11 of whom died before November 2018, and at least 9 more after applying to the scheme but before receiving any compensation – and countless others made homeless, or excluded from benefits. It was, in Sivanandan’s important distinction, not so much about the racism that discriminates, as the racism that kills. And yet, when the EHRC produced its report, even though it had the power to serve a compliance notice enforceable by the High Court, requiring action, it did not do so, merely ‘recommending’ that the Home Office agree an action plan (they did so but the EHRC only recommended that).”

This is the context for this film and important to bring out in the discussions that follow the showings.  Arrange to get it shown, organise speakers for Q&A on the film but more importantly as part of thinking about ‘what next’?

Leah Levane is JVL Co Chair writing in a personal capacity

To book the film, contact the producer Norman Thomas on [email protected]

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