If the left doesn’t get on the front foot, the attacks will only keep coming, argues Shabbir Lakha
Over two weeks after Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party, the campaign against the left continues. On Monday, Labour began investigating a complaint against Gemma Bolton, who has just been elected to Labour’s NEC, for a social media post that called Israel an apartheid state. Jo Bird, a Councillor and left wing Jewish Labour member, is under investigation again for speaking about the EHRC report. Last week, Bristol West CLP had several members including the chair suspended for supporting Jeremy Corbyn.
This is a political attack on the left, and retreating won’t stop it.
When Jeremy Corbyn said in his response to the EHRC report that “the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated”, he was absolutely right. As he expanded in an interview afterwards, polls had shown that public perception estimated the proportion of Labour members accused of antisemitism at around a third, while the real figure was close to 0.1%. This is a fact.
Despite this, Corbyn has been under immense pressure to apologise for his statement and has been branded an antisemite. The response to his suspension from the Labour left has been weak and no serious challenge has been mounted to Starmer’s authority by left MPs or groups.
A number of Socialist Campaign Group MPs called his statement ill-advised, more refused to sign a letter calling for his reinstatement and outgoing NEC member and former Momentum head Jon Lansman plainly said Corbyn is wrong.
This approach by the Labour left to accept allegations of antisemitism in good faith or to treat resisting the attacks as ‘the wrong hill to die on’ has only allowed the right to keep attacking. It was the logic behind the wrong decision two years ago to adopt the IHRA definition with no caveats, to allow members to be suspended on spurious grounds and to constantly apologise.
So with the amount of pressure Corbyn is under and the bad advice and lack of a fight around him, it’s unsurprising that he has today put out a statement backtracking on his response to the EHRC report.
But we should be clear that it won’t stop the attacks. The Board of Deputies has already issued a statement that calls on Keir Starmer to reject Corbyn’s “pathetic non-apology”.
Even if Labour’s NEC vote to reinstate Corbyn, it’ll be a short-lived victory because the message to the right is that they can keep attacking and the left will only keep backtracking. This isn’t only about Corbyn’s membership of Labour, but the damage being wreaked on the wider left, and on the Palestine solidarity movement which is increasingly being censored.
If the left doesn’t get on the front foot, call out the witch-hunt for what it is and refuse to go along with it, the attacks will only keep coming.
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Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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