Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Right Wing Attack on Young Labour

Glancing at the polls, we find Labour are flatlining in the early 30s. Keir Starmer's personal ratings are heading south, reporting minus 39% at the latest posting. In indicative ballots, Labour Party staff - the literal apparat who've overseen dirty tricks and bureaucratic exclusions during their inglorious history - are prepared to countenance strike action against the general secretary's ham-fisted redundancy plans. Labour is absent from the national conversation around Afghanistan, surging Covid infections, and pretty much any other political issue one can mention. And yet amongst it all, David Evans - him again - has unilaterally declared Young Labour persona non grata at this year's party conference.

Jess Barnard, chair of YL, writes about how the national party has ignored preparations and representations made by YL about their conference day, a provision mandated by the party rule book. Despite everything getting submitted on time Evans has effectively cancelled their conference because "due diligence" of speakers is impossible to complete before the doors open on 20th September. Bureaucratic screw up? Obviously not. As Young Labour are firmly on the left of the party and encompasses all party members under the age of 26, a leadership whose politics are driven not by winning elections but by making Labour safe for their careers has good reasons for reducing or abolishing it.

Naturally, as Starmerism is essentially a cowardly political formation. Whether it's standing up to the Tories or taking on its factional targets, it cannot fight openly, politically. It has to rely on bullshit, obfuscation, or the kindness of outriders. YL is obviously not to the leadership's political tastes, but rather than do battle themselves fools rush in where the disdainful fear to tread. People like Henry Jackson society signatory and Tony Blair cheerleader, Oliver Kamm.

Writing for CapX, the publishing outlet of last resort for articles too stupid for publication in the right wing bourgeois press, he argues YL should be shut down because it has no attachment to democratic politics. Beginning his piece with a tendentious description of Militant Tendency thuggery and accusations of violence against opponents he performs a clumsy sleight of hand by eliding the two as being "very distant from democratic politics." Militant allegedly shut doors to prevent other delegates from entering a meeting. YL's horrendous sins against liberal democratic politics is ... asking Jeremy Corbyn and a supporter from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to speak. But wait! Kamm has more dirt.

The first is YL's issuing their solidarity and support for Cuba against the long-standing US blockade. With a mouth awash with foam and the gnashing of teeth, he cites Human Rights Watch's critique and condemnation of state authoritarianism and exercise of arbitrary powers. Given this is what he thinks about Cuba, are these really such an affront to the Labourist tradition? For example, the Iraq War - an adventure Kamm supported on "democratic" grounds - was launched in defiance of public opinion, against what passed for the "laws" of the rules-based international order, paid no mind to the wishes and fates of hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis, and ended up bequeathing an unstable, corrupt and fractured statelet. This, an outrage to democratic politics by any measure, was enthusiastically embraced by Kamm in violation of liberal norms. Second, and yes, I am going to do what aboutery, during his hero's time in government Tony Blair chummed up and palled around with a range of plutocrats and dictators: Gaddafi, Putin, the Saudis, Bashar al-Assad. Out of office he advised Nursultan Nazarbayev, the brutal strongman of Kazakhstan on public relations, and Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi - who came to power after overthrowing his democratically-elected predecessor. Given these associations, one might form the opinion that Kamm's concerns with democratic niceties are factionally based and not deeply held.

The second objection is YL's opposition to NATO. Apparently, being critical of the military alliance or suggesting that Britain might want to leave it is also "anti-democratic". He takes objection at NATO's activity being described as "continual aggression", a fact that can easily be verified by the numbers of bombs NATO member states have dropped on defenceless people these last 20 years versus other powers. As the motion YL passed at its 2017 conference rightly stated, "From Guyana to Vietnam to Iraq, the Labour party [has] all too often been complicit in American overseas aggression." Kamm's chosen example of the "good war" - the bombing of Serbia in 1999 targeted civilian infrastructure, including the RTS broadcasting HQ in Belgrade and, some might recall, the Chinese embassy. Indeed, what was classified as military targets had an expanded definition. All very above board and humanitarian.

Lastly, Kamm's claim YL stand for a second Holocaust because it raises the slogan 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free' is utterly risible. He knows Palestinians and their supporters are pushing for a democratic resolution to Israeli colonialism and dispossession of residents in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. What you might call a South African solution as opposed to his bad faith invocations of the final solution. As Alex observes, such casual, frivolous use of mass murder says a great deal about his complete lack of seriousness. One might also add his moral vacuity too.

In other words, as per other right wing defences of Starmerism and attacks on the left, Kamm's argument is based on twisting words, imputing motives that do not exist, and ascribing positions to his opponents they do not hold. It's also an example of the most tedious and boring genre of politics writing: a clueless wiseacre condemning the activities and attitudes of the young. Undoubtedly the audience for whom this diatribe is intended - LOTO and a cadre of the most unhinged right wing Labour MPs and their hangers on - will lap it up.

But what's the end game here? When it comes to weighing up factional manoeuvring and appreciating one's position in the party, none think these matters through more thoroughly than the Labour right. Sidelining and disestablishing Young Labour certainly helps their consolidation, but its absence can justify the eventual return of the one youth organisation right wing Labourites have never had a problem with: Labour Students. And for them, this is a strategic priority. Generations of Labour MPs have had what passes for their training in student politics. This is where they learn to fix, shaft others, articulate arguments no one really believes, and lie. This is their cadre school, and the long-term health of the Labour right, especially that section of the right allergic to trade unions and the requisite soft left posturing depends on bringing it back. If in the mean time it cuts the party off from young people and sends the message that they're not welcome in the party, the Labour leadership and its supporters are happy to go along with it. For that reason, the defence of what remains of democracy in Labour demands the left and the unions stand by Young Labour to see off this latest, petty, stupid, and entirely factional attack.

Image Credit


Jim Denham said...

Obviously, the treatment of Young Labour is a disgrace and they should be absolutely free to have Jeremy Corbyn and a PSC representative speaking at their event.

But, as a matter of fact, the slogan "From the river to the sea" does mean wiping out Israel (*any* Israel - including one that exists behind pre-67 borders) and Jews are not being unreasonable when they regard the slogan as genocidal - even though the majority of people who join in with the slogan don't realise what it means.

Stokeyblokey said...

Sorry Jim but that's not true -

Phil said...

What a surprise, Jim defends Kamm on his slurs against Young Labour. What a pitiful sight.

Anonymous said...

Tbh not sure that Kamm's idiocy is part of any wider conspiracy here - the man is both a nutter and a danger.

Phil said...

There is no conspiracy - Kamm has done this entirely off his own bat. HOWEVER he does personify and is typical of a trend of opinion among elite circles and is part of a collective effort of the Labour right to delegitimise the left.

David Lindsay said...

Kammiknickers in a twist because Young Labour fails to pledge fealty to NATO and to the Israeli Labor Party, neither of which has had any meaningful existence during the lifetimes of its members, and each of which has finally died. Incidentally, Kammiknickers is characteristically frivolous and ignorant in calling for supporters of Cuba to join the SWP.

NATO was only ever going to last until the Americans were no longer prepared to pretend that they could see the purpose of it, and that point has now been reached, as it would have been under either of last year's realistic Presidential candidates. The base at Bagram is the size of a respectable town, and it is now in the hands of the same Taliban who triumphantly fly Black Hawks over Kandahar, thereby demonstrating that, unlike 20 years ago, they now had people who were capable of doing so.

Kammiknickers is obsessed with Labour's role in creating NATO, but at least as instrumental were the extremely recent Nazi officers who were immediately given senior positions in its command structure. In any case, the likes of Kammiknickers have never shown the slightest interest in defending any domestic aspect of the legacy of the Attlee Government. Their beloved Blair regime brought the privatisation of the National Health Service from the outermost fringe, where Margaret Thatcher had firmly kept it, to the heart of government. And which industry that was nationalised by Attlee would Kammiknickers renationalise today?

British Jews have barely voted Labour in decades, and most of those who have done so have been opponents of the IHRA Definition. Therefore, Keir Starmer is gaining nothing in return for his loss of most other, far larger, ethnic minorities by his failure of the litmus test of one's attitude to the specific phenomenon of white violence against people of colour throughout the world, including in Britain. His ignorance has also lost Labour a million Kashmiri votes, largely in key electoral battlegrounds. Kashmir is another legacy of the disastrous overseas policy of the Attlee Government.

Between them, Meretz and Ra'am have more Members of the Knesset in the ruling coalition than Labor has. When Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid can deal directly and fruitfully with Meretz and Ra'am, then what is Labor for? As for the British Labour Party's historic links to it, I shall do Kammiknickers the courtesy of assuming an awareness of the sometime Agent of the Durham Miners' Association, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (Durham Area), and longstanding member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, Sam Watson.

There is a room named after Watson in the Knesset building, which is not the kind of honour that is conferred on a casual acquaintance. He conspired to close pits, he opposed all local strikes, he supported the sacking of his own due-paying members, and he secured for the Durham miners the lowest wages in the country, a situation that was not rectified until the strikes of 1972 and 1974. Good riddance to "values and history" like that.

Jim Denham said...

Phil: learn to read, mate! I did *not* agree with Kamm against Young Labour. On the contrary I wrote "the treatment of Young Labour is a disgrace and they should be absolutely free to have Jeremy Corbyn and a PSC representative speaking at their event."

Is that clear enough for you?

Your objection is that I've explained exactly what "From the river to the sea" actually means - the only rational meaning that the slogan can possible have - but you're in denial about that.

Anonymous said...

Jim Denham,

"the only rational meaning that the slogan can possible have"

Well, that's very obviously not true.