Plans to strengthen the Labour Party’s stance on racism, and specifically anti-Semitism, have been proposed the Jewish Labour Movement to drive this social disease out of the party. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have endorsed the plans which will likely mean that the proposals will be agreed to at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool later this week. The philosophical basis for this change obvious but the other aspect of this is about how the current rules of the party turn people off about politics.
The proposals will elevate the seriousness of discriminatory views, whether homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism etc., to be of equal severity in the eyes of the party as actively supporting another political party. At a leadership hustings in North London, which was hosted by Jewish community leaders, both Smith and Corbyn agreed to support the plans at conference, which will unite the Labour Party against anti-Semitism.
The response from the Jewish Labour Movement, unsurprisingly, has been overwhelmingly positive. There now needs to be some truth telling. If Corbyn is re-elected as Labour leader, which is widely thought to be inevitable, there needs to be an end to claims by some within the Jewish community of the Labour leadership under Corbyn doing nothing about anti-Semitism. Corbyn set up an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party under Shami Chakrabarti, and at conference would have supported tough rules against anti-Semitism which were proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement.
If the inferences continue that Corbyn is anti-Semitic or doesn’t care about anti-Semitism then I don’t know what to say because these criticisms would no longer bee based in reality. I’m not excusing the idiotic and offensive comments of people who have been suspended from Labour, but if the response from some sections of the Jewish community is nothing Corbyn can do is good enough then I am lost for words.
What I fear is that there are some within the Jewish community who equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, which would explain how hostile some have been towards Corbyn’s leadership. Again I’m not trying to offend anyone or minimize the legitimate concerns of the Jewish community, but if the Labour leadership openly supports the end of Palestinian oppression and you are threatened then you probably know that Israel is doing something wrong.
The phenomenon known as ‘New anti-Semitism’ is real and there are some who use criticism of Israel as a guise for their disgusting opinions about Jews, but it doesn’t logically follow that all supporters of Palestinian statehood are anti-Semites. The policies of every major country in the world is a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine, which necessitates the creation of a Palestinian state. Questions about Corbyn’s commitment to stamping out anti-Semitism are fine, especially when there has been a rise in these incidents, but ignoring the everything he does is illogical. As if this needed to be stated, this is not a generalization about all members of the Jewish community because there are some organisations like Jews For Jeremy and The Jewish Socialist Group who are with Corbyn at the forefront of ridding the Labour party of racism.
Aside from the issue at hand, I’d like to comment on the existing rules. Until these rule changes are adopted at conference, the Labour party treats membership of another political party as worse than being racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic. This is a mindset that turns people off about political parties. I understand that if you want to be in a political party you cannot have divided loyalties, but if you are part of an organisation that has largely similar aims, this shouldn’t be treated as worse than being an anti-Semite.
For example, TUSC is often cited by Blairites as a nefarious organisation but TUSC literally stands for ‘The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’. The Labour party could easily be described as a coalition of trade unionists and socialists. Being in another political party shouldn’t be the most heinous action of a Labour member. The Left as a whole needs to collaborate more effectively to unite the working class and campaign against continued Tory rule. Practically speaking I understand that it is not politically expedient for Labour to share platforms with these organisations because the right-wing press will have a field day. But if these people want to support the aims of Labour, then the party should extend a hand of friendship, not label them as extremists.
The factionalism on the Left leaves many people completely cold, and because the Tories have authoritarian tendencies that enable them to support leaders unquestioningly, the Tories are always more united. If Labour wants to win elections, it needs every vote it can get. Does this mean appealing to people who voted for the Tories? Absolutely. But does this mean also bringing in people who support traditional Labour policies like state ownership and strong trade unions? Yes it does. The silver bullet to winning an election is to put forward a radical alternative to the Tories and marketing it effectively to the widest possible audience.
The Labour party needs to stop the infighting and come together as one cohesive force, but in the mean time important internal reforms like increased democratic involvement and tougher rules against anti-Semitism are vital. In order to tackle perceptions of lingering anti-Semitism dogging the party, the Labour leadership needs to get into the heart of the Jewish community and outline the extensive work they have done to tackle this anti-intellectual scourge. Further, the party needs to bring together people from all over the country behind a radical platform that will transform Britain for years to come. Division will undermine the party going forward and people from all backgrounds should not fear being persecuted by left-wingers, but we must also make sure this doesn’t culminate in silencing dissent.