Any concessions on anti-imperialism will not only weaken Jeremy Corbyn but the whole of the radical left, argues Lindsey German
In modern British politics there has rarely been a time where both parties were in such crisis. Labour has been riven over the summer on the antisemitism issue, weaponised by the right of the party and now being used on an almost daily basis to attack Jeremy Corbyn. The latest form of this attack has come from Frank Field MP, who resigned the Labour whip allegedly over antisemitism but also because of ‘bullying’ from local Labour members – otherwise known as the democratic process of no-confidencing him because he voted with the Tories on Brexit. Amazingly, pro-Remain Labour rightwingers are praising Field, even though they bitterly oppose his policies, because their main aim is to defeat Corbyn. There is now talk of Labour MPs holding a no confidence vote in Corbyn, just as they did back in 2016.
On the Tory side, Theresa May’s dancing tour of Africa could not hide the continuing divisions, with talk of Lynton Crosby organising a coup to replace her with Boris Johnson. That’s the Boris Johnson who recently compared women who wore burqas with letterboxes and bank robbers. Tory divisions over Brexit are already boiling over, with May forced to keep repeating the ‘no deal’ mantra, even though it is clear that Michel Barnier wants to do a deal with the UK and the vast majority of big business in Britain agrees with him.
While Corbyn’s difficulties are magnified by the media and by his enemies on his own side like Peter Mandelson and Field, May’s problems face exactly the opposite treatment, with right wing papers like the Telegraph urging the Tories to stick together while allowing Labour to blow itself up.
So we can be sure that the Labour NEC meeting this week, which may well herald a full retreat on adoption of the IHRA code over antisemitism, will be headlined as a defeat for Jeremy Corbyn. It will follow on from the triumphalist tone of the Jewish Labour Movement conference, where Margaret Hodge, who called Corbyn a ‘fucking racist and antisemite’ was hailed as a hero.
We should be in no doubt that this will be a defeat for Corbyn, and for the wider movement for Palestine solidarity. It will lead to more disciplinary action, will give the right of Labour much encouragement – and will not stop the row over antisemitism. That’s because this row is not about a very small number of incidences of anti-Jewish racism or discrimination inside the Labour Party, but is about the whole question of Israel and Palestine.
There is increasing incidence of those attacking Corbyn and the left to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism. They are not the same. The latter is racism towards Jews as Jews. The former is opposition to a political ideology which many Jews reject, and which is adhered to by a range of right-wing politicians who are not Jewish.
It is interesting that attacks on Corbyn are increasingly over the question of Palestine. Here there is a massive amount of hypocrisy – as recounted by Azzam Tamimi in an article which shows the role of Blair, the Israeli and British governments in talking to Hamas representatives.
They come at a time when there should be more criticism of what is going on in Israel – the discriminatory nation-state law, the growing number of illegal settlements, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the shooting of protestors in Gaza, Trump’s cutting of aid money to Palestinian refugees – not to mention last week Benjamin Netanyahu’s semi-open declaration at the Dimona nuclear site that Israel is prepared to use its long-held nuclear weapons against, presumably, Iran.
It is precisely for these reasons that the row is so toxic, and why those who defend the Palestinians must resist any retreat on this question.
We have to also insist that it cannot be right to have this level of scrutiny over antisemitism in Labour, while Tory (and probably some Labour) Islamophobia is given a free pass.
Heads they win…
Next week is the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008. A study by the Resolution Foundation has shown that of the 2.1 million new jobs since then, more than half has come from the poorest households.
‘Employment across the bottom third of households has increased by over 1.2 million since the crisis. Those in the middle third have experienced the smallest employment gains, (360,000), while those in the top third fared marginally better (540,000).’
The numbers going out to work from the poorest households includes big increases in those from ethnic minorities, with low educational qualifications or with disabilities. The report also shows 800,000 workers on zero hours’ contracts, and confirms that pay levels are £13 a week less than a decade ago.
So we have effectively such a squeeze on incomes that the poorest are being forced to work in poverty-pay jobs, or to do second jobs. The austerity policies of cutting benefits, holding down pay and making people pay more for housing and services are working by pushing people into the labour market in extremely unfavourable circumstances.
Meanwhile, the banks are back to making huge profits. And the money lender Wonga, which went bust last week, typifies the situation. If you are owed money by Wonga for misselling of loans you are unlikely to see any of it. If you still have a loan, then you have to pay it back in full.
This is what fascism looks like – but resistance is growing
The MPs so vocal about antisemitism in Labour are remarkably quiet about what’s going on in Europe. Last week there was an effective pogrom against migrants and refugees in Germany, and anyone who was non-white, in the eastern city of Chemnitz, where hundreds of demonstrators did Nazi salutes. On Saturday, another far right march took place in Chemnitz, this time outnumbered by anti-fascists who blocked the Nazi march route and stopped them. All credit to them. The police – who leaked the details of Iraqi and Syrian murder suspects which triggered the original demos – had to be more tough with them this time.
The far right AfD was central to these marches, its leader Lutz Bachman tweeting the leaked suspects’ names and with plenty of its members joining in, no doubt also chanting ‘Luegenpresse’ (lying press) – an old favourite of the Nazis. But they have had to distance themselves from the Nazi salutes for perhaps obvious reasons. That’s why it’s important to always expose the fascists for what they are. In times like these, they gather around them people who accept some of their ideas but are not hard-line fascists to begin with. Stopping them marching and cadrising these people is crucial to stopping their advance.
A recent AfD delegation to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin constantly interrupted the guide, questioning the existence of gas chambers and one made antisemitic remarks, until the tour was stopped. This link to Nazism goes alongside a growing German nationalism and unrelenting hostility to Muslims and migrants.
The party is running much too high in opinion polls, pretty well matching the levels of the Social Democratic party. Its toxic messages have led to imitation by the mainstream parties, which only helps to make this level of racism respectable. These are the dangers facing us in Europe and we need the widest unity to confront them, internationally and here in Britain.
Not much good to say about the new liberal hero
I was always taught not to speak ill of the dead, but I can’t think of much good to say about John McCain, or the near-universal hagiography which has accompanied his funeral. It shows the depths of liberal despair when John McCain suddenly becomes a hero because he isn’t Donald Trump. Hallo. This was the man who bombed Vietnam, who always defended that war and attacked the Vietnamese, who was on the right of Republican politics, who thought it a vote winner to sing ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran’ to the tune of the Beach Boys song, who adopted the appalling Sarah Palin as his running mate against Obama.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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