Friday, 29 April 2016

Ken Livingstone, Labour, and Anti-Semitism

1. Ken Livingstone is a massive dickhead. It's high time he acted like a member of the Labour Party, not the Ken Livingstone Party. I and many thousands of activists, including plenty on the left, are fed up with his frequent foot-in-mouth moments that damage his own reputation, that of Labour's new leadership, and the standing of the party as a whole.

2. But Ken is not an anti-semite. Without wanting to predetermine the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry (not that an occasional blogger from the backwoods can), I am virtually certain her investigation shall reach the same conclusion. Ignore the people who fell over themselves on Twitter yesterday calling for his head and focus on the facts. Here are the transcripts of everything said over the last couple of days. It would be a stretch to describe any of those comments as racist towards Jews.

3. That isn't to say Ken isn't bloody stupid. Leaping to a Nazi analogy as soon as issues around Jews, Israel, and Zionism are raised is just so crass and offensive. Yes, it is a matter of historical record that there were links between leading Nazi figures and the Zionist movement in the 1930s. Yes, as Zygmunt Bauman establishes in his seminal Modernity and the Holocaust, the murder factories of the Third Reich were an outcome the Nazis evolved toward as the most expeditious "final solution" to the "Jewish Question". But there is a time and a place for discussions of these kinds, and I would suggest in the middle of a highly-charged political row about anti-semitism isn't one of them.

4. It's worth noting at this point that anti-semitism in the Labour Party is vanishingly rare. Considering the efforts journos and opponents of the leadership have gone to to find Jeremy supporters sharing dodgy memes and saying deeply unpleasant things, all they've turned up is a swivel-eyed Trot entryist and a couple of no marks from places even more obscure than my beloved Stoke-on-Trent. In other words, what we might call fringe people on the fringes of the movement. The idea that anti-semitism is endemic to our party is bullshit.

5. There is an issue when it comes to some of the hard left. As with the case of Malia Bouattia, there are activists who use sloppy language and clumsy tropes when talking about Israel and its lobby operations overseas. This can be and is construed as anti-semitic, is sometimes interpreted as dog-whistling, and is exploited by cheerleaders for Israeli policies. Matters aren't helped when the same sections of the left indulge Islamists who have no such compunction about framing their opposition to Israel in racist terms. The left is still capable of being its own worst enemy.

6. And the enemies of Corbyn are exploiting this row. John Mann's public rant at Ken Livingstone for the lunch time bulletins yesterday screamed contrivance. Mann knows very well that Ken is neither a Nazi apologist, nor that anything said is supportive of their crimes. But it ratcheted up the volume, feeding a confected mythology that everywhere you look in the Labour Party, on every committee and underneath each pile of leaflets is an anti-semite hiding. This is being whipped up and exploited by those who wish to see Jeremy turfed out of the leadership, and they will use any means to do so, no matter how damaging it is to the party and its immediate electoral prospects. That doesn't let Ken off, nor those bits of the left whose rhetoric sails close to the wind, nor those actual anti-semites who got kicked out. It is quite possible for the left to shoot itself while presenting a big red bull's eye to its enemies.

7. The sad truth is that while anti-semitism isn't a really existing problem for the Labour Party, it has become more so for society at large. Attacks on Jewish people in London last year increased by 60%, with a 200% jump in Tower Hamlets alone. However, nationally there was a 22% fall from the 2014 peak of incidents (924 vs the preceding 1,179). This is set against a resurgent anxiety among British Jews. What people whipping up this hysteria for factional advantage have got to ask is how do they think portraying the Labour Party as a hot bed of anti-semitism will play to Jewish communities that have supported Labour in the past, but feel anxious, increasingly marginalised, and under threat? Thankful the community have insincere windbags like Mann sticking up for them? Or more alienated from our party and perhaps a touch more fearful in general?


Strategist said...

John Mann's public rant at Ken Livingstone for the lunch time bulletins yesterday screamed contrivance. Mann knows very well that Ken is neither a Nazi apologist, nor that anything said is supportive of their crimes.

Contrivance - exactly. The utter shamelessness of John Mann and co is the truly sickening thing about this.

The timing is key and it is utterly deliberate. The people who decided to ignite this row this week did it one week before the London elections for a reason. They want a Muslim candidate for Mayor of London (who is not a Corbynite) to lose the election as a means of toppling Corbyn from the leadership. The Tories under Lynton Crosby are fighting the most nakedly sectarian campaign I have ever seen and the Labour Blairites are acting in their support. It's foul.

It's unbelievably grotesque behaviour to use all the dead of the past and all the miseries of today's Middle East as a pawn in their pathetic political game.

Chris said...

All of the people who suggest there is an antisemitism "problem" in the Labour Party are filth aiming only to undermine Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. The fact that they would use antisemitism as a political weapon shows just how lacking in morals they truly are.

Let me make this clear: the only acceptable response to this is total, unreserved support for Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah and complete rejection of the idea that there is antisemitism in Labour. Anyone who won't do this is a scab Tory agent.

Speedy said...

I don't think Ken considers himself an anti-semite but he was dead wrong about the history, misunderstanding Hitler's remarks about Zionism, while he never "went crazy" (as if it was somehow sane to be anti-semitic) and decided to kill the Jews later on, Hitler explicitly stated his desire to do so in Mein Kampf in 1924.

Livingstone, like many Leftists, sees himself as the champion of the weak, yet appears to have forgotten that Zionism came about precisely due to centuries of Western oppression. At the same time he has no problem calling out imperialism and providing a voice for the likes of Hamas and the IRA, and many on the Left excuse their sympathy for Islamism as being a reaction against the very same Western oppression Zionism was developed in response to.

It is almost as if, once the argument is won, the Left has to turn against it - now Israel has Western support the "evil" it does, though understandable by the IRA or Islamist terrorists, is now unacceptable.

This is because it is not really about Jews, it is about capitalism, and the Jews, now they have support by the US, become the fall guy. So the Jews (or lets call them "Zionists") become stand ins for the evils of capitalism, again. Now, what other people did that in the name of "socialism"?

The National Socialists believed in nationalism and socialism (supposedly) - only by removing the Jew from the nation could the socialist paradise be achieved. In a sense, even though he may not consider himself an anti-semite (apparently having been inoculated against this by shagging some Jewish women), Ken's anti-Zionist rant has far more in common with actual Nazism (as opposed to pure anti-semitism) than he may actually realise.

John Edwards said...

I agree Livingstone should not have made his intervention at a crucial time before important elections. His unnecessary comments about A Hitler were very unwise. However, the bigger picture is important. Asa Winstanley in a very interesting post on the Electronic Intifada showed (with the evidence) how allegations of anti-Semitism are being fabricated to damage both the Palestine solidarity movement and Jeremy Corbyn. It is revealed for example that the source of the allegations about Oxford University Labour Club was an intern with BICOM the British Israel lobby. I think this is a strong indication that the allegations were politically motivated. As for John Mann's thuggish rant against Livingstone we should remember what the judge had to say about his evidence in the infamous Fraser v UCU employment tribunal case.

Paul Canning said...

To say that John Mann's rant was 'contrived' is shameful indulgence of conspiracism, presented without evidence.

In fact all the evidence - as well as plain common sense - says otherwise

Mann is a longtime campaigner against anti-semiticsm. He has an investment in challenging it wherever he sees it. If it were any other group, including women, who were being used and abused in the way that Livingstone has been doing then Mann would be cheered.

Perhaps Mann could done it in some other way which would have met the taste threshold for the author and some readers here but I am disgusted that the defence of Ken has descended to seeing conspiracies when racism is challenged. This is the same sort of behaviour as when people on the right yell about 'political correctness' and the 'BBC/USSR'.

Mann is the good guy here, not Ken.

John Edwards said...

The judgement in the in the Fraser v UCU made some withering and very instructive comments about John Mann.
"We did not derive assistance from the two Members of Parliament who appeared before us. Both gave glib evidence, appearing supremely confident of the rightness of their positions. For Dr McShane, it seemed that all answers lay in the Macpherson Report (the effect of which he appeared to misunderstand. Mr Mann could manage without that assistance. He told us that the leaders of the UCU were at fault for the way they conducted debates but did not enlighten us as to what they were doing wrong or what they should be doing differently. He did not claim to have witnessed any Congress or other UCU meeting. And when it came to anti-Semitism in the context of the Middle East, he announced, "It's clear to me where the line is...". Unfortunately he eschewed the opportunity to locate it for us. Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making speeches. Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking"
It does not get more damning than that. Mann is a windbag who does not know what he is talking about even on his supposed speciality.

asquith said...

Do you know how "intersectionality" "activists" say it's impossible to be racist against white people, because racism requires not just prejudice but power and privilege?

(It's a pretty odd worldview in which unemployed blokes from Chell Heath are powerful and privileged, but best not to talk about class given that "activists" are oddly reluctant to check their own privilege).

A lot of people on the ultra-left vaguely think Muslims are oppressed and thus are absolved from being responsible adults with agency who can do bad things. They also assume that "Zios" are on top and thus almost by definition antisemitism can't be a problem, which will come as news to all the victims of violent "protests" who have had to flee Europe, but still.

Also worth noting is that many Israeli Jews have no connection to Europe, their ancestors lived in Arab countries before being forcibly expelled in 1948. What are the lessons history has to teach them? Because something tells me it won't be that Hamas and Hezbollah are a good idea.

Anonymous said...

"Let me make this clear: the only acceptable response to this is total, unreserved support for Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah and complete rejection of the idea that there is antisemitism in Labour. Anyone who won't do this is a scab Tory agent." - Chris

Using this logic, Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and John McDonnell are now scab Tory agents. James Schneider too.

Let's have a look to the future, to a Corbyn transformed Labour Party. Let's assume that there is a transformation of the Party and the anti Corbyn faction leave to pastures new. What happens next?

The battles which have led the Far Left in the UK to disintegrate, to marginalisation and to complete and utter uselessness will manifest within Labour. The only difference is, it will be played out on a national stage over the Middle East, Labour Councils implementing cuts ("sell-outs! Remember Liverpool!") and the kind of rows we've seen in NUS over identity politics.

The Livingstone row is an inkling of the first and the Lambeth libraries campaign the second (Lambeth Momentum backed the protest, National Momentum Steering Group did not- see Jill Mountford's Momentum blog). The Far Left does not need the Labour Right to cause ructions; they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves. Each pro-Jeremy grouping are, ultimately, manoeuvring for influence, for building their Party and fighting for leadership of the left as they sincerely believe that their political programme and organisation is what will lead the masses to socialism.

Unfortunately, the lesson of history over the last few decades have shown a complete inability of the Far Left to work together for a common purpose for any length of time. The Scottish Socialst Party, Socialist Alliance and Respect - all completely destroyed by their component groupings.

It's the culture of "Scab Hunt" rather than "Witch Hunt". Look at Owen Jones's Twitter feed from over the last few days to get some idea of the future. The next big inter left battle will, of course, be whether Livingstone comes back into Labour and, if so, whether he remains on the Left Slate for the NEC. It may even split the Labour Left in a similar manner the Sheridan case split the Scottish Left.

John R

David Parry said...

John R

Jeremy Corbyn and co are not fucking far left! Get back on your meds!

Chris said...

John R, sadly Jones, Lansman and McDonnell are indeed scabs.

They have betrayed us and I'm not sure they can ever be forgiven.

Chris said...

Oh, and John R, I am not on the far left.

I voted for Yvette Cooper.

I just believe in honesty and honour - concepts that are totally alien to the likes like Mann, Khan and Phillips.

I also believe in courage and standing by your convictions - concepts that the likes of Owen Jones clearly do not believe in.

If I have to be the only person in the party who stands for truth, so be it.

Matt Wardman said...

I don't buy this analysis Phil; it reeks of the standard denials using mispeaking, semantics, and "I really didn`t mean what I said", in the hope that life will go on as before.

I don't think it will go on as before. I will concede that for some this may be a problem of casual, rather than explicit, racism; but for others they have internalised the mad idea that `victim` status excuses you from all responsibility for your own actions. See for example the latest waitress-abusing incident involving the Rhodes Must Go goofballs.

That though will make it more difficult to deal with. It will take a long time looking in the mirror for these people on the Labour Left, and especially the Green Party, to recognise themselves.

I do wonder whether younger people, such as Naz Shah, are boil-a-frog style victims of the casual-racism tolerating culture on the far left created by the likes of Livingstone, Corbyn, Milne, McDonnell and so on. I will need convincing though fair play to Naz for making a start.

Livingstone himself is a poisonous, anti=democratic, shit; but we have all known that since at least 1980.

Anti=Semitic attacks went up most in Tower Hamlets? What happened there? And who has been most supportive of the corrupt politics there?

The list of supporters of Lutfur Rahman over the last few years will be one of the more interesting ones to emerge.

(Sorry for the confused symbols, but this is a Turkish keyboard.)

Badger said...

John Edwards is entirely correct to remind us of the unpleasant role Mann played in the Fraser affair. It is also obvious that this whole business is a part of the get Corbyn strategy. Phil makes a vital point: anti-semitism is not a serious problem within the LP but is a growing danger in society as a whole. This demands care when supporting the legitimate grievances of the Palestinians. It is within the context of a growth of anti-semitism in society that caution should be exercised is dis,cussing the relationship between some Zionists and the Nazis. If a robber waves a gun in my face and demands my money, it is scarcely collusion if I hand my wallet over. But that threat of violence overshadows those relationships between a fringe of Zionism and the early attitude of the Nazis. To fling these facts of contact into an overheated argument risks making the unprincipled equation between fascism and the Jews, which is anti-semitism.
The difficulty for those of us who support the rights of Palestinians in using the term Zionism is that now, unlike the thirties, it has the support of a majority of the Jewish people and it is such a broad catagory.Zionist can describe a liberal supporter of a two state solution across to out and out racists if not fascists.
Although elements of this present furore are synthetic, we should learn from it. Ken may not and is busily trashing an honourable anti-racist past.

BCFG said...

Was Livingstone correct to say that Hitler and the Nazi’s held a Zionist position in 1932? And who does this comment offend?

Firstly, Livingstone’s comment was historically inaccurate and a distortion of the truth, in that Zionism was an idea born from oppression while the Nazi’s wanted to forcibly transfer the Jewish population within their sphere of influence. Where they wanted to transfer the Jews to changed over time for a variety of reasons. Madagascar was considered at one point. History knows the final solution was to transfer them off the planet.

So Livingstone’s comment was too flippant and you shouldn’t be too flippant with this sort of history. Whether he was being anti Semitic is a different question altogether and no one can arrive at a firm conclusion. I would Livingstone is not anti Semitic.

Now who does Livingstone’s comment offend? Well the unfree media were quick to tell us, he offended the Jews. Liberal concern swung into action to decry the comments on the grounds it was offensive to Jews. At this point no one has entertained the idea that the comment was also offensive to Palestinians, but who gives a toss about them, right?

Well I do so here goes. Even though Hitler entertained the idea of transferring the Jews to land that was already occupied by other people he cannot take one atom of blame for the crimes committed against the Palestinians. He did not have any hand in the land theft, the ethnic cleansing, the systematic dispossession of the Palestinians. The Nazi’s cannot be blamed either for the 60 year brutal and sadistic oppression of the Palestinians, the economic violence, the squeezing into ever denser territory, the periodic collective punishment, the road blocks, the daily terror inflicted upon the Palestinians. None of this should be confused with the actions or thoughts of Hitler. The fact that it is only deflects responsibility from those who are responsible, and it is an affront to Palestinian suffering to conflate the issues this much.

It is interesting how liberal concern does not show this concern. We have an avalanche of stories regarding anti Semitism, this at the time we have seen one of the most virulent Islamophobic spectacles re the London Mayoral race. No headlines about that, no concern for that.

Why no concern shown for Islamophobia and why is no concern for racism against Palestinians, which is implicit in the arguments of those claiming anti Semitism among the left? The reason is twofold, firstly they don’t give a toss and more importantly liberal concern is Islamophobic and regards the crimes against humanity carried out against the Palestinians as historically progressive.

Compared to Livingstone, liberal concern is beyond the pale, as are those claiming anti Semitism on the left.

It is about time the left came of fighting on this subject.

Igor Belanov said...

The idea that Livingstone is 'jeopardising Labour's election chances' over this is ridiculous, and amounts to closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. The controversy had already been raised over Naz Shah, and would have continued anyway without Livingstone's intervention. The real problem for next week's elections has been all the Labour politicians queuing up to suggest, against all the evidence, that their own party is anti-Semitic.

Oh, and I've never really been able to grasp the idea that Jews only belong in one tiny country in the Middle East. Sounds a bit anti-Semitic to me.

Lidl Janus said...

My position is probably predictable, and I don't think people are going to read Freedland in the Guardian unless they were going to anyway.

And yes, you can cry about how this is an attack on Corbyn, but this was always a potential event ever since the Hamas/Hezbollah row during the leadership election. It wasn't addressed then, and I doubt it's been settled now. Surely even Corbynites can agree on this: Seumas Milne is a really, really shitty spin doctor. The unironic use of the phrase "I could do better" may well be in play here.

asquith said...

What have you got to say about the persecution of Arabs by Hamas, Hezbollah and related bodies, BCFG? Or are you only bothered when "Zios" can be blamed for it?

What about the way Syria and Jordan treat Palestinians, or the Kurds, or are they just western stooges too?

I'd take out a subscription to partisangirl if I wanted to read this cobblers, at least she's fit.

Mathias Alexander said...

Wikkipedia say that Hitler paid Zionists to take Jews to Palestine.
Ken Livingstone mentioned this (I don't know why) and said Hitler supported Zionism. I suppose it depends what you mean by "support".
He did not say Hitler was a Zionist.
The whole interview is on You Tube.

What's the problem?

Mathias Alexander said...

Here are some Jewish scholars talking about, among other things, Hitler's dealings with some Zionists.

Anonymous said...

Dear David Parry,

Whether or not Jeremy Corbyn and Co are "fucking far left" in your (or my) opinion is neither here nor there. It's the culture of the Far Left I was talking about - the culture of splitting again and again and being unable to keep a unified organisation. This is what is happening over, for example, views regarding Ken Livingstone and his suspension and subsequent expulsion or readmission.

Dear Chris,

You will, of course, have to add Jeremy to your "scab" list and every other Labour MP. None of them have opposed his suspension.

John R