HERE THEY COME, Labour’s right wing – gunning for Corbyn, just as we predicted three days ago. Behind their current claims that Corbyn is soft on opposing anti-semitism is the recognition the only way the Right can regain control of Labour is if Corbyn’s Labour Party does badly in local elections – and that’s what they are trying to engineer by attacking their own Leader.
Let’s be clear: of all the racisms rife in the world (most promoted by the right), anti-Semitism is especially pernicious. It is a long-standing prejudice – and it has fuelled more hatred, violence and killing than just the holocaust carried out by the Nazis during World War 2, significant though that was.
Anti-semitism must be condemned and opposed. Few people know that more than Muslims who face Islamophobia day to day and recognise that all those who suffer oppression on the grounds of their colour, race, religion or other defining characteristic must unite to fight all discrimination – not each other.
The same has been said many times within the walls of the London Muslim Centre, not least when ordinary women and men – among them Jews, Muslims, Christians, aetheists and LGBTQ activists – have sat together planning to defend the East End against the EDL.
But that practical solidarity is not on the agenda of Labour’s right. Because if they were so worried about anti-semitism being rife in the Labour Party: why has it taken them till now to notice it? Many of these people have been MPs for several years – why were they so quiet about all this anti-semitism before?
Yes, in that the Labour Party reflects society as a whole, there will be anti-semites as well as instances of conscious and unintended anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Anti-semites need to be rooted out, and Labour members need to be more aware of anti-semitism and call it out when it happens. The same is true for probably every mainstream political party in the UK (and many beyond).
Here’s a new thing: the Labour Party is full of sexism. There’s all manner of men sexually harassing women and quite a bit of unconscious sexism. But when women want to fight that behaviour, they don’t put out tut-tutting statements in the press accusing Jeremy Corbyn of condoning sexism. They work with Jeremy on how to change things.
Another thing: the Labour Party is full of racism and Islamophobia. There’s lip service to multiculturalism – but in practice there’s racist attitudes and comments and behaviour (not least when it comes to the NEC endorsing duly selected mayoral candidates). But when Black and Asian and anti-racist members want to fight racism in the Party, they don’t put out tut-tutting statements in the press accusing Jeremy Corbyn of condoning racism. They work with Jeremy on how to change things.
Why is it different when it comes to anti-semitism? Why do the accusers not go to Jeremy and ask to work together on stamping out anti-semitism?
Here, there are two agendas at play. There’s the Labour Right, the bewildered Blairites who unite to hurl anything from mud to leadership contenders at Corbyn every Spring, in the run up to May elections. There’s also the Zionist lobby, who have seen the Labour Party oppose actions taken by the Israeli state against the Palestians – and who fear things will get worse if Corbyn continues as Labour Leader and could be catastrophic if Corbyn were ever to become Prime Minister.
These two have a simple objective, and they have joined forces to try to achieve it: “anyone but Corbyn”.
How will the Labour Left react? Much of it has actually swallowed the Zionist argument that there is lots of anti-semitism in the Labour Party and they are spending their time defining and re-defining anti-semitism and protesting they are against it. It’s as if they were hoping that if they speak loud enough and often enough, the Zionists will say “OK: we thought you were anti-semitic, but now you’ve gone on and on about how you’re not, we believe you – and we’ll go away.”
In this way, even the Labour Left is missing the big picture. To risk sounding like a punter in a seated area in the football, there’s only one Jeremy Corbyn. There isn’t another one waiting in the wings. Only Jeremy Corbyn can hold this Labour Party together long enough for the “many” to take control from the “few” and begin to change society.
Jeremy Corbyn is trusted by so many voters who agree with his politics – but, even more importantly, by so many voters who were disillusioned by politics, not least by Blair. No one else has that trust. Though eventually someone must take over, there needs to be time for someone to develop the stature and public confidence it took Jeremy Corbyn over 30 years to build up.
It is not good enough for the Labour left to skimp on their support for Jeremy Corbyn in the naive belief that “there’ll be another one along in a minute.” Unite is a big and influential union; Unison and the GMB and some of the smaller ones, acting together, can give it a run for its money. The Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, always able to win around 50% of the vote in national ballots, is now on a winning streak – but it, even with recent support from Momentum, is not invincible.
If the Labour Left gives up on Corbyn now, this once in a lifetime opportunity to change society will be lost for another generation. Today’s younger activists never saw how Ken Livingstone’s GLC radicalised London – and how much was lost when Thatcher abolished the GLC. South Africa has not been able to find anyone to fill Nelson Mandela’s shoes; and nor could the Bolsheviks replace Lenin. Don’t imagine Clive Lewis MP or Angela Rayner can repeat Corbyn’s success.
In the next few weeks, Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour Party need to fight off accusations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party with a robust cry of “when it occurs, we deal with it.” They need to use the next five weeks to build and re-build support for Corbyn’s political agenda on the doorsteps, to regain the battleground over what the political future for our country is going to be.
Around the country, they need to spend every waking hour identifying and recording Labour voters, ready to get them out on polling day to keep up the Labour vote and defy the Labour Right’s attempts to reduce it. Only relentless action and a tireless campaign can keep our hopes of political change in Britain – and in Palestine – alive.