Friday, June 03, 2016

Labour activists unite in opposition to racism



I was very pleased to chair on Wednesday night, a meeting co-organised by the Sussex Labour Representation Committee and Momentum Brighton and Hove concerning the issue of racism.
In spite of the distribution of a poorly produced leaflet by two hostile individuals who did not attend the well-attended meeting, it was a positive and constructive meeting, addressed by leading Labour Party member Jackie Walker, Ian Saville of the Jewish Socialists’ Group and Louise Purbrick from StopMFE.
It was great to hear from Jackie so soon after her unjustified suspension from the Labour Party (over absurd allegations of anti-semitism) had been lifted, as it was to hear a contribution from the floor from local activist Tony Greenstein (who remains suspended against the democratically expressed wishes of local Labour Party members).
Ian Saville was able to respond to questions about the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) – affiliated to both the Labour Party and the World Zionist Organistion – which, he reported, had refused to accept him into membership because he is not a Zionist.
It is absurd for anyone to suggest that opposition to Zionism, or to the often appalling conduct of the Israeli state, is anti-semitic. Yet this is a view that is being advanced both by those who sincerely (if wrongly) believe this and by those whose agenda is to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.
Anti-semitism must always be opposed – and I therefore wonder if the lonely protesters outside last night’s meeting will be joining those of us who were inside the meeting on Saturday in opposing the fascists intending to pollute the streets of Brighton?
As contributors from the floor of the meeting made clear there are massive issues about racism in our country – and these need to be addressed by, within and beyond our Labour Party. Numerous minority groups experience this racism and we should stand in solidarity with all these groups.
There need be no hierarchy of racism. All racism is wrong and is to be opposed, whatever the average income of members of a particular minority group, whatever the unemployment figures for that group, whatever the other evidence of the concrete disadvantage experienced in everyday life by that particular minority.
The attack upon Jackie had been based in part upon her reference to the slave trade as an African holocaust. It does seem that there are some who think that the word “holocaust” can only be applied to one historical episode – the Nazi genocide.
There has been more than one holocaust in history and we need to accept that it is the duty of socialists to stand in solidarity with those who have experienced these holocausts and their consequences and in opposition to all forms of racism.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party can be trusted to stand in opposition to racism as his opponents within the Party cannot. The Labour Left needs to stop running away from absurd allegations of anti-semitism.
I am one of those who has in the past been wrong in failing sufficiently to oppose the nonsensical proposition that “zero tolerance” of oppression means a presumption of guilt and immediate suspension of those accused. This is a recipe for the use of administrative means to silence political opponents.
Corbyn supporters need to be reflecting upon how we restructure the Labour Party so that its disciplinary procedures cannot so easily be manipulated – and upon how we mobilise the majority of Party members who support our leadership to express their will through the democratic structures of our Party.
If I am honest I remain to be convinced that Momentum is a useful vehicle for this journey.

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