Recipe for disaster
Labour’s election results have given Corbyn only a temporary reprieve, predicts Tony Greenstein
Those who welcomed the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership campaign and want to see him become prime minister in 2020 have to fact up to the fact that he is drinking in the last chance saloon. The vultures are circling and it is a matter not of if, but when, they strike.
Labour “hung on”, in Corbyn’s words, in the local elections last week despite, not because of, Labour’s election campaign. The only reason that Labour only lost 11 local council seats was because of the Tories’ own near political collapse. Part of the desperation of the false ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was motivated not just by the local elections, but the referendum campaign. It is conceivable that the Tory Party could go into meltdown and even split on the issue. In such circumstances Labour could be expected to almost walk into power. It is this scenario above all others that haunts those who are behind the current ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. We should not underestimate the sense of determination of Corbyn’s foes.
Labour did terribly in Scotland, it stood still in Wales and improved its percentage of the vote slightly in England. Overall it gained 31% of the vote, which is nowhere near enough to win a general election. Of course, the results in Scotland were a legacy of Blairism and what is called Red Toryism.
With the Tories in disarray politically, Labour should have done far better. The Tories were forced into a series of U-turns on cuts to disability benefits, tax credits and school academies. Iain Duncan Smith resigned, the cabinet is split over Europe and the junior doctors’ strikes have rocked the government and forced health secretary Jeremy Hunt back into negotiations. Why then was Labour unable to capitalise on all this?
Blame the right
There is one primary reason. The right of the party - not least in the shape of John Mann and Wes Streeting - did their utmost to ensure that the Labour Party did as badly as possible. It was a case of deliberate sabotage. John Mann’s farcical confrontation with Ken Livingstone at the doors of parliament was staged-managed specially for the cameras. The only thing we learnt from this is that Mann has apparently read Mein Kampf!
Instead of immediately withdrawing the whip from Mann, the leadership suspended Ken Livingstone for making some undiplomatic but essentially correct statements.1
Ken was suspended at the instigation of the British branch of the Israeli Labor Party, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, in conjunction with the Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli embassy, whose ambassador, Mark Regev, was previously a spokesman for Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as a polished PR apologist for Israeli war crimes. Regev has been busy this week speaking to the press on Labour’s crisis.
Indeed Isaac ‘We aren’t Arab lovers’2 Herzog, leader of the Israeli Labor Party, threatened in a supreme act of irony to break all links with the Labour Party because of its ‘racism’!3 Unfortunately there is little chance of him keeping his word!
Max Blumenthall shows4 how what we are seeing is a live version of Chris Mullin’s A very British coup, where Harry Perkins was the Jeremy Corbyn character. The difference is that Perkins was a former steelworker with nerves of steel, whereas Jeremy Corbyn seems to have a spine made of rubber. Corbyn has been pushed from pillar to post by the right with barely a squeak.
I have showed5 how the campaign over ‘anti-Semitism’ has actually nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with destabilising Corbyn and Labour’s election campaign. It is a witch-hunt, in which every past utterance by those targeted is held up to the light and distorted. What we are seeing is not the rise of anti-Semitism, but an informers’ charter, in which people are afraid to speak their mind for fear that they will cross an invisible boundary. In practice it is not racism, but anti-racist discourse, which is being scrutinised. All the worst practices of McCarthyism have come to the Labour Party, presided over by Corbyn and McDonnell, who are seemingly oblivious of what is happening around them. No-one will dare debate any controversial issue - least of all Palestine, Zionism or anti-Semitism - for fear of falling foul of the modern-day equivalent of the Salem witch-hunt.
Support Palestinian resistance? That’s ‘terrorism’ and you will be denounced as readily as America’s communists (and many who were not communists) were to the FBI. Under John Stolliday’s compliance unit denunciation will result in automatic suspension in Labour’s version of Arthur Miller’s Crucible! Instead of the House UnAmerican Activities committee, we have Labour’s national constitutional committee. Asa Winstanley on The Electronic Intifada website has showed how virtually all the ‘anti-Semitic’ incidents that have led to suspensions from the Labour Party have been invented or embroidered.6
Corbyn is steadily ceding ground politically to the right. Indeed at times he shows signs of political incoherence. John McDonnell has already had to go through the embarrassment of agreeing to Osborne’s fiscal limits last autumn and then reversing his position.
It was embarrassing to watch Corbyn at the May 4 prime minister’s question time being taunted by David Cameron over his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’. Instead of rebutting the suggestion that Hamas and Hezbollah were genocidal anti-Semites and terrorists, he simply wilted, merely repeating his condemnation of anti-Semitism. He could have responded that Hamas has indeed condemned the holocaust,7 He could have thrown back Cameron’s accusation, pointing out that it was Cameron who was aiding terrorism - state terrorism - by the vile Saudi Arabian regime, with arms supplies that have killed thousands of Yemeni people. He could even have pointed to Cameron’s anti-Semitic friends in the European Conservative and Reform group, to which Tory MEPs belong.
Corbyn seemed to forget entirely all those speeches of his about Israeli confiscation of land, its ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, its apartheid laws, etc. It is as if everything he has said on Palestine for the last 30 years was just meaningless waffle. He could have pointed out that Hezbollah would not have existed but for Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon that killed 20,000 people and injured over 80,000.
Corbyn might, with people like Seamus Milne briefing him, have pointed out that it was Israel that helped create Hamas as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism.8 It should not be beyond Corbyn’s intellect to work out that the suspensions of up to 50 people on anti-Semitism charges, including myself and Jackie Walker, has been got up by the right and the Israel lobby as part of their campaign against him.9 Yet all he has done is to ritually condemn ‘anti-Semitism’, even though his opponents have a very different definition of anti-Semitism from him.
Given Corbyn’s experiences of being accused of consorting with holocaust deniers over the summer,10 it would not take a genius to work out that all this had more to do with political calculation and destabilisation than a sudden outburst of actual anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. For anti-Semitism is not a word game played by Labour’s thought police: it is hatred, discrimination and violence against Jews (there is not one single example of anyone Jewish being abused in this way in the Labour Party), married to overarching conspiracy theories. It is not calling Israel a racist state or Zionism a racist ideology. Anti-Semitism is not calling racist Zionists ‘Zio’ on Twitter (where everything is shortened because of the 140-character limit). It is not discussing Jewish involvement historically in the slave trade. Nor is it Naz Shah, a Muslim woman - who was horrified at the murder of over 2,000 Palestinians in Operation Protective Edge, including 551 children - dreaming of how all this might put Labour in danger of breeding a generation of Matthew Hopkins.
Perhaps it is Norman Finkelstein, the American Jewish, anti-Zionist professor, who has best summed up the hypocrisy and cynicism of Labour’s witch-hunters:
Finkelstein was asked about Shah, whom the absurd John Mann MP has compared to Eichmann,11 posting an image that has been presented as an endorsement of a “chilling ‘transportation’ policy”.12 Finkelstein responsed that Mann’s comparison was “obscene”:
It’s doubtful these holocaust-mongers have a clue what the deportations were, or of the horrors that attended them.
I remember my late mother describing her deportation. She was in the Warsaw Ghetto. The survivors of the Ghetto uprising, about 30,000 Jews, were deported to Majdanek concentration camp. They were herded into railroad cars. My mother was sitting in the railroad car next to a woman who had her child. And the woman - I know it will shock you - the woman suffocated her infant child to death in front of my mother. She suffocated her child, rather than take her to where they were going. That’s what it meant to be deported.
To compare that to someone posting a light-hearted, innocuous cartoon making a little joke about how Israel is in thrall to the US, or vice versa - it’s sick. What are they doing? Don’t they have any respect for the dead? All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks, dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position. Have they no shame?13
“Desiccated Labour apparatchiks” is a fitting description of Labour’s Blairite general secretary, Iain McNicol, and his hatchetman, John Stolliday. Yet it is symptomatic of his leadership that Corbyn has failed, as Jon Lansman has told me, to reign in and control the Labour Party civil service.
There is only one thing that will instil the fear of god into Labour’s right. That is deselection. It is rumoured that Corbyn did not want to suspend Livingstone, but was forced into it by the threat of shadow cabinet resignations. If true then he should have called their bluff and made it clear that they would face the consequences. It is still possible for Corbyn to confront the right. It is still possible for Momentum to stop sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. But for that to happen Jon Lansman must be removed and a democratic structure put in place.
Instead of John McDonnell saying, ‘Of course we don’t want reselections’, Momentum should declare war on the hard right. Those who voted to bomb Syria should be top of the list, with John Mann suspended for bringing the party into disrepute.
At the moment the right are winning the battle for delegates to the annual party conference. The left has not organised. Neither the Labour Representation Committee nor Momentum. Momentum has seen its vice-chair, Jacqueline Walker, suspended over the same ‘anti-Semitism’ charges as myself. Apparently a black-Jewish member of the party is not allowed to discuss the black holocaust of the slave trade, still less Jewish involvement in it, even though the latter is a fact.14 What we are seeing is the political equivalent of book burning.
Ken Livingstone’s comments about Hitler’s support for Zionism were tactically inept, but they were not anti-Semitic and they were pretty near the truth too. He did not say that Hitler was a Zionist nor that the Nazis supported the Zionist project. What he meant was that the Nazis supported the Zionist solution to Germany’s Jewish population - which was that they should be sent to Palestine primarily. It is a fact that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis.
Those on the left who attack Livingstone and even support his expulsion are not merely betraying Ken, but they are ultimately betraying Jeremy Corbyn. Ken Livingstone has given fulsome support to Corbyn since his election. The right would dearly love to see his expulsion and anyone on the left who goes along with that - and it would appear that Jon Lansman and Owen Jones are willing to do so - is the political equivalent of Judas Iscariot. The only difference is that it has not been necessary to bribe them with 30 pieces of silver, since they are willing to offer their services completely free of charge.
Particular mention should be made here of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The AWL is in a dilemma. Its main person in Momentum, Jill Mountford, has been expelled. The AWL itself is a victim of the right’s slow witch-hunt - a witch-hunt that Jeremy Corbyn has done nothing to prevent or put a stop to. The AWL cannot therefore be seen to be supporting the witch hunt.
On the other hand, it has been guilty for nearly 30 years of conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, and now Labour’s Zionist witch-hunters are doing the same thing. In the case of Ken Livingstone it is unable to let its opposition to a witch-hunt get the better of an ingrained hostility to Livingstone. Hostility to Livingstone, and particularly George Galloway, is almost its raison d’être.
In a textbook exercise in mendacity and Stalinist distortion, AWL leader Sean Matgamna writes: “If the enemies of the Labour Party and of the left have found a soft target, it is a legitimate target.”15 This is nothing less than crossing class lines. Livingstone is the target of the right as a whole, not merely the Zionist right. To let your own vicious sectarianism come before unity on the left is a disgrace. It is the equivalent of scabbing on a strike.
Matgamna, who is a self-declared Zionist, continues: “A big part of the pseudo-left believe or assert that ‘Zionists’ (that is, for practical purposes, most Jews) are historically tainted by Nazism.” Having bound his organisation hand and foot to imperialist politics, he finds it necessary to reflect and ape the distortions of the bourgeois press. Socialists and anti-imperialists make a sharp distinction between Jews and Zionists - unlike the Zionists and their echo chambers. Nor does anyone I know suggest that Jews are “tainted by Nazism”. It is true that Zionism today is indeed tainted by Nazism, whether it is the poster of the Israeli far-right group, Lehava, that declared that Hitler had got the wrong nation (it should have been the Palestinians) or the welcome given to Heinz Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s formerly neo-Nazi Freedom Party.
Matgamna continued by suggesting that anti-Zionists have argued that “‘the Zionists’ ‘collaborated’ with the Nazis in making the holocaust and share responsibility for it”. Again a perfect example of the worst kind of bourgeois distortion, worthy of the Daily Mail and Sun newspapers. No-one I know has ever suggest that the Zionist movement “collaborated” with the Nazis in making the holocaust or that they “share responsibility for it”. Certainly the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis. This really is indisputable. What Matgamna is saying is a bit like suggesting that Marshall Pétain collaborated with the Nazis in the invasion and occupation of France. Of course, once the Nazis had occupied France, he collaborated with them, but no-one has suggested he collaborated in helping the Nazis invade.
Matgamna approaches the outer reaches of lunacy in suggesting we argue that “‘the Zionists’ manipulated even the Nazis during World War II and especially share responsibility for the Nazi murder of one million Hungarian Jews in 1944-45”. There is a very serious argument that collaboration in Hungary increased the number of those Jews who died. Instead of 430,000, it could have been far, far less, if, for example, the Zionist leadership under Rudolf Kasztner had not suppressed the ‘Auschwitz protocols’ - a detailed account of the workings of Auschwitz by two escapees, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler. As even Israeli holocaust survivor professor Yisrael Gutman has conceded, Kasztner received a copy of the protocols in April 1944, but he had already made a decision, with other Jewish leaders, “not to disseminate the report in order not to harm the negotiations with the Nazis”.16
The suppression of the protocols - in order to preserve an agreement with Eichmann regarding the provision of a train carrying 1,684 of the Zionist and Jewish elite out of Hungary, is a matter of fact. The Jerusalem district court, in 1955, found that Kasztner, in testifying for a leading Nazi, Kurt Becher, after the war at Nuremburg, had indeed collaborated with the Nazis.
I should therefore be grateful that the AWL has called for the lifting of my suspension! Its article states:
Tony Greenstein is himself Jewish. He has been an often strident critic of anti-Semitism, including on the left [not completely true - I do not agree with the concept of ‘left anti-Semitism’ - TG]. He also adheres to an extreme version of that strand of far-left politics on Israel/Palestine which exceptionalises Israel as a uniquely evil state and Jewish nationalism as a uniquely reactionary nationalism. He has long been hostile to Workers’ Liberty on issues to do with Israel [the last sentence is true!].
His comments, if they are indeed the subject of the allegation, were rhetorically wild. They were not in and of themselves anti-Semitic, but that is not to defend them: Greenstein will be well aware of the way in which anti-Semites, including left anti-Semites, often hyperbolically and cynically compare Israel to Nazi Germany, in a deliberate attempt to instrumentalise the collective trauma of the memory of the holocaust against Jews. His comments feed into that discourse.
Nevertheless, that does not justify his suspension, the manner of which is an affront to any basic notion of justice. Those accused of a misdemeanour have, at the very least, a right be informed by their accuser what it is!17
As Toad said of his defence lawyer in Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the willows, “It’s not much of a defence”!
The right has no intention of allowing Corbyn to lead Labour into the general election. The only question is when they will strike. That is why they have to be defeated. Appeasement is a recipe for disaster. The local elections results have given Corbyn a temporary reprieve. But Sadiq Khan has begun the attacks.18
The question is whether Corbyn uses the time to mobilise his forces or whether he is going to continue to be a willing hostage of the right. The only possibility of Corbyn remaining leader is if those Labour Party members who joined in the wake of Corbyn’s victory are mobilised. At the moment the new members are not attending what are frankly the boring, routine meetings of the Labour Party. Labour’s rhythms are electoral, not political. It centres around activities such as canvassing, even though most canvassing is a waste of time. People do not decide whether to vote and who to vote for on the basis of doorstep chats, but because they are convinced that the party is going in the right direction and has the right answer to their problems.
There is no possibility of Labour being in a position to convince anyone it is a serious, credible anti-austerity party unless it removes from the Labour Party the influence of the Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, and his cohorts. And if anyone should be expelled it should be the old war criminal himself, Tony Blair.
Good party activists are being accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ and suspended by those who supported the Iraq war and who are indelibly associated with Islamophobia. It is the representatives of the racist regime in Tel Aviv who are calling the shots. By the logic of the Zionists and the Labour right, people like archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish African National Congress former police minister, are also anti-Semites. Indeed most of the ANC are anti-Semitic for supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
Tutu and Kasrils have condemned Israel’s system of identity cards and checkpoints in the West Bank as being worse than anything that was experienced in the days of apartheid19 - South African anti-apartheid activists know what Israel is really like because they were confronted with apartheid security forces, who had been armed, equipped and in many cases trained by the Zionist regime in Israel.
It is time to fight back, but the breathing space afforded by the elections will not last long.
1. See www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2016-05-07/what-ken-livingstone-didnt-say.
2. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/yitzhak-arab-lovers-herzog-is-concerned.html.
5. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/who-is-driving-anti-semitism-witch-hunt.html; and http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/britains-cointelpro-how-israeli-embassy.html.
7. See ‘Hamas condemns the holocaust’ The Guardian May 12 2008.
8. See ‘How Israel helped create Hamas’: www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas; and ‘How Israel helped to spawn Hamas’: www.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847.
9. See https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/labour-suspends-jewish-activist-over-african-holocaust-post?utm_source=EI+readers&utm_campaign=1b88ec59c6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e802a7602d-1b88ec59c6-290649781.
14. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/labours-thought-police-claims-another.html.
16. R Linn Escaping Auschwitz - a culture of forgetting p72, London 2004.
18. See, for example, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/07/sadiq-khan-attacks-jeremy-corbyn-hours-after-winning-london-mayo.
19. See www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/29/south-africa-boycott-israel; also www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.599422.