The Labour right has been at the forefront of attacks on the left and Jeremy Corbyn in all senses since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader – and the recent claims of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party have been no different in that regard.
However, as on so many occasions, the virtue signalled by the right is barely even skin-deep.
Stockton-on-Tees left-winger Steve Cooke found exactly this when his local branches rejected an emergency motion of solidarity on the Pittsburgh synagogue attack to condemn antisemitism and express solidarity with Jewish people – because of opposition from Labour right-wingers.
The proposed motion read:
We condemn the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which killed 11 people and injured several others on 27 October 2018.
We note that the alleged perpetrator of this heinous act is reported to have had a long history of antisemitic views and held a deep hatred for Jewish people.
We believe that these murders tragically demonstrate the dangers posed by the growth in antisemitic sentiments and hate speech internationally, which has arisen in a political climate where governments and opportunist politicians have encouraged the scapegoating of minorities.
This trend has been reflected in the growth in antisemitic conspiracy theories and a rise in antisemitic incidents and racist hate crime more generally in the UK, as shown in recent reports from the Community Security Trust, Tell MAMA (‘Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks’) and the Home Office.
To stand in solidarity with the Jewish community around the world and send our
condolences to all those affected by the tragic events in Pittsburgh.
To recognise that antisemitism exists in society and affirm our belief that such prejudice must be confronted and eradicated wherever it arises.
To call on the Labour Party to lead the way in opposing antisemitism and fighting racism in all its forms.
To support political education about antisemitism so that its history, causes, manifestations and effects are better understood in the party and members are confident to challenge it.
To publish this motion as a statement via our social media outlets.
In a Facebook post on the vote, Cooke said:
I am aghast to report that an emergency motion on the Pittsburgh Synagogue attack which I took to my Labour Party branch meeting last night was voted down…
The three Norton (North, South and West) branches hold a joint monthly meeting, with the option to break out into separate groups should a branch-level vote be required on motions. I am secretary of the Norton West branch as well as political education officer for Stockton North CLP and a member of its executive committee.
I imagined that the emergency motion I had drafted to condemn the Pittsburgh murders, criticise antisemitic hate speech and present the Labour Party as leading the way in opposing such prejudices would be approved without controversy.
I had received positive feedback when I shared the draft motion on social media earlier in the day and a number of Labour comrades asked me if they could use it in their own branches and CLPs. I also sent the motion to my trade union branch executive colleagues with a view to Unite the union’s Teesside Local Government branch bringing it to Stockton North CLP later in the month and all of those colleagues confirmed their support for the motion. The Norton Labour joint branches meeting was poorly attended on the night, but we had a decent discussion about the Labour Party’s policy on fracking and various other local issues.
When we got to the emergency motion, however, it was soon apparent that there would be resistance to the whole idea with the chair of the meeting… Arguments made against the motion included that it should say we were against all racism not just antisemitism. I pointed out that the motion clearly expressed concern about “racist hate crime more generally”, criticised governments and opportunist politicians for the “scapegoating of minorities”, cited Tell Mama UK, the Islamophobia monitoring organisation, and it affirmed our commitment to “fighting racism in all its forms”.
It was said that all the focus was on “antisemitism this, antisemitism that”, while other types of racism never even got a mention. I pointed out that I had presented a motion about Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism to the CLP in July and then our women’s officer Barbara Campbell and myself had organised a counterprotest against a far-right group (mainly members of Anne Marie Waters’ For Britain party) that marched in Stockton town centre later that month.
They wanted references to antisemitism removed from the Pittsburgh motion, but no demands had been made to make the aforementioned Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism motion more generic or to erase all mention of those specific types of racism when it was debated and then unanimously supported at July’s CLP meeting.
Comrade [X] said that the person alleged to be responsible for the Pittsburgh murders was a far-right activist, a Nazi, which was the very opposite of what the Labour Party stood for. Yes, I responded, that’s why the motion condemns what he did, describes his long held antisemitic views and states the party’s opposition to such bigotry. I said that I would be happy to add “far-right, neo-Nazi activities” to the motion’s clause noting that “the alleged perpetrator of this heinous act is reported to have had a long history of antisemitic views and held a deep hatred for Jewish people”, but the comrades weren’t prepared to accept that proposal either…
The comrade accused me of trying to bring the party into disrepute by associating us with antisemitism. It felt dreadful to be accused of this simply for proposing a motion that, in fact, would have strongly disassociated us from any form of hatred towards Jewish people and which would have shown how clear we were about confronting the evil of antisemitism…
Cooke goes on to describe the angry reaction of some members and the defeat of the motion, before noting:
I would add that the conflict over this issue does not follow the left-versus-right stereotypes presented in the media. Barbara Campbell and myself are easily the most leftwing members active in our branch (I was a member of Left Unity prior to joining Labour in 2016 and we’re both People’s Assembly activists) and we supported the motion.
It was the longer-established, Corbyn-sceptic members who opposed the motion… The pro-Corbyn left members mostly supported the proposal and the more ‘centrist’ establishment, mainly councillors, voted against.
The full motion can be read here.
How different a picture this paints to the portray in the mainstream media and the claims of the right of the party.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.