Analysis comment Guest article

Forde: damning of both sides – a former Corbyn staffer’s analysis

The Forde report is indeed damning of both right and [some of the] left – but not for the reasons the media and Labour right have presented, says former LOTO worker Phil Bevin

The Forde Report has finally been released and it is damning of both the Labour left and right, although not in the way represented by the mainstream media or even the Forde Report itself. As background to this analysis, you may find it useful to read my previous Skwawkbox article regarding the decision by Labour’s NEC to adopt the deeply flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s well-judged resistance to the proposal.

Many on the left are claiming vindication because, although the Forde Report’s conclusions are shamefully slanted to save the blushes of Labour’s right wing, the detail reveals that a sustained factional campaign was waged against the left and allegations of antisemitism were “weaponised” to this end. The “mainstream” left’s reading of the situation asserts that the detail of the earlier Leaked Report has been corroborated and confirmed. There is some accuracy in this interpretation but it is also dangerously wrongheaded in many respects. Far from justifying the left’s response to the allegations, the implications of this truth condemn the actions of the complaints unit under the direction of a “left-wing” NEC.

What both the Forde Report and Leaked Report get wrong

The confirmation that the much-publicised narrative of Labour’s “antisemitism crisis” was a factional crusade against the Labour left reveals the left as both victim and co-perpetrator of this disgraceful campaign. This is because the left adopted the right’s narrative as its own, seeking to prove that it was dealing with the problem and, in the process, endorsing the false claim that incidents of antisemitism were disproportionately prevalent within Labour and a problem specific to the Party. It is this false narrative that frames the Leaked Report and the Forde Report, both of which promote fallacies.

Like the later Forde Report, the Leaked Report is self-contradictory and, at times, illogical. The introduction to the Leaked Report correctly states that the incidents of antisemitism within Labour were low but also argues that,

This report thoroughly disproves any suggestion that antisemitism is not a problem in the Party, or that it is all a “smear” or a “witch-hunt”. The report’s findings prove the scale of the problem and could help end the denialism amongst parts of the Party membership which has further hurt Jewish members and the Jewish community.

It should be noted that this statement also contradicts Jeremy Corbyn’s accurate assertion on the release of the EHRC report that, although the hurt felt by a number of Jewish communities at the perceived scale of antisemitism within Labour was real, the scale of the problem had been exaggerated for political purposes. The narrative that underpins the Leaked Report is therefore built on a false premise, which it fails to reconcile with the evidence it presents, particularly the actual case numbers.

Interestingly, the Forde Report is slightly more nuanced on this on this than the Leaked Report but it essentially reaffirms the same narrative. It supports the Leaked Report’s assertions regarding the “scale of the problem” and accusations of “denialism amongst parts of the Party membership”. It claims to “thoroughly disprove” any suggestion that “antisemitism is not a problem in the Party, or that it is all a “smear” or a “witch-hunt”.

The report certainly does debunk the view that Labour is completely free from antisemitism and that it is all a smear and a witch hunt. But nobody serious is making either of these claims. Rather, those of us with an understanding of the facts point out that an extremely small number of incidences of antisemitism did take place within the Party, reflective of the prejudices within wider society. However, a false perception of the scale of the problem was propagated as a means of waging war on the left, which developed into a witch hunt. Not all allegations of antisemitism were inventions made up to justify the witch hunt, but there certainly was (and is) a witch hunt based on a false perception of the size of the problem and maliciously weaponised false allegations.  In criticising so called “denialism”, the Forde Report is attacking a straw man of the Leaked Report’s creation, not a genuinely prevalent narrative within the left. Even the most strident critics of the witch hunt, victims like Chris Williamson and Jackie Walker, recognise that antisemitism was and is present within the Labour Party.

Furthermore, Forde’s findings undermine his other findings. It is clear that antisemitism was used as a “factional weapon”. This essentially confirms (as if such confirmation was needed) that there is a witch hunt because the effect and intention of weaponizing antisemitism allegations for political purposes is to denounce individuals via false accusations of antisemitism. That this did happen is a matter of record – it is fact.

Hierarchy of Racism

The Forde Report has been rightly criticised for narrativising its findings to soften the blow landed upon the Labour right by the weight of evidence it presents. However, for me, one of the most shocking claims within the report, which is both accurate and which I believe genuinely applies equally to left and right, is the perception that “the party was in effect operating a hierarchy of racism or of discrimination with other forms of racism and discrimination being ignored.”

The left did not submit the right to the same level or intensity of weaponised antisemitism allegations that they themselves faced. Quite the opposite: some accepted the false narrative that antisemitism was a uniquely prevalent problem within Labour and behaved accordingly.

The best summarisation of the deeply damaging position adopted by the left has been provided by James Schneider in his analysis: “Our Bloc”. Although Schneider is, in my view, dangerously wrong, his argument is revealing of the point of view that underpinned the Labour left’s disastrous approach to antisemitism:

Socialists have both been insufficiently aware of antisemitism or empathetic to its victims, and have failed to call out the dramatic overstatement of the problem in a heavily mediatised moral panic that hurt Jewish people more than anyone. The perception of Labour antisemitism towers over the reality like King Kong over a gorilla. The gorilla must be tackled, but doing so will be harder if we are scanning the skyline for its more terrifying cousin.

If the Forde Report constructed a straw man to tackle in its conclusions, we might term Schneider’s creation a “straw gorilla”. The logical fallacy is the same in both. The statistics prove that the instances of antisemitism in Labour are very small, so it hardly seems fair to criticise Labour members for being “insufficiently aware” of a problem they may never have encountered. And again, the vast majority of people raising concerns about the witch hunt were not being insensitive to real cases of antisemitism but criticising the weaponisation of often false allegations made to serve political purposes. Schneider’s approach is ultimately equivalent to Momentum’s preferred “walking whilst chewing gum” strategy that has been effectively demolished through incisive analysis elsewhere. However, for my purposes, it’s worth pointing out that the Schneider strategy made it far easier to attack Labour members for supposed “denialism”, as it asserted the need for constant vigilance over antisemitism, while also legitimising the idea that Labour members were not sufficiently concerned about what was, in reality, a very small problem within the party. 

Nevertheless, it bears repeating that, as is clear from the Forde Report, this disastrous strategy led to antisemitism being given a greater focus than other forms of racism. Moreover, the toxic cocktail of an acceptance of the framing provided by the Labour right and the clumsy implementation of a fundamentally flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism led to the creation of a hierarchy of racism. Within this developed a differentiation between the treatment of antisemitism cases brought against, on the one hand, supporters of Israel and, on the other, critics of the apartheid state.

Behind the scenes of the disciplinary process

My own experience attests to this. For about a month in 2019, I was seconded to Labour HQ from LOTO to help speed up the processing of complaints. This did not amount to political interference in the complaints process but processing the inbox, logging complaints, collating evidence and forwarding the information to more senior colleagues so that they could take the issue forward and make decisions.

When I saw the inbox, it was immediately clear that many of the cases were being raised by one or two individuals. Often, the complainants were referencing comments which simply amounted to criticism of Israel; in many cases the allegations were levelled at people who were not identifiable as Labour members and many complainants reported the same instances of alleged antisemitism. The volume of complaints therefore did not by any measure correspond to the number of instances of actual Labour antisemitism.

This might have been less of an issue if the complaints unit was wholly staffed by individuals with a nuanced understanding of antisemitism, but, in my opinion, this wasn’t the case. I even recall one member of the team – known to be a “left winger” – describing Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Jewish Labour members who are critical of Israel, as “antisemitic”. Even more disturbingly, the Leaked Report shows that, in its handling of Jackie Walker’s case, the complaints team drew upon the “expert” opinion of Dave Rich, Director of Policy at Community Security Trust – a pro-Israel, anti-“Boycott Divestment Sanctions” organisation – which is funded by the British Home Office, as “crucial” testimony in the case against Walker.

In this context, it is hardly surprising that individuals like Jo Bird, Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi – all of whom are Jewish critics of Israel – and many others would be so horrifically wronged by the disciplinary process; this is a tragedy, a great injustice and a dark stain on the reputation of the Labour left. It also evidences a bias in favour of pro-Israel points of view, which corroborates my own impressions from the time I was there. I was only at HQ for a short period of time, so my experience may not be wholly representative. However, my impression was that, while there was considerable focus on allegations of left antisemitism, the form often manifested in right wing ideology – such as the trope of the “wrong sort” of Jew – was not subject to the same level of concern.  

As the existence of a “hierarchy of protected characteristics” implies, it is arguable that the complaints process as managed under the oversight of a left led NEC was itself racist, if unintentionally, because it instituted a hierarchy of racism that prioritised antisemitism. Moreover, in its handling antisemitism cases, the process implemented policy in a way that had disproportionately negative implications for Jewish critics of Israel.

The temptation, to which parts of the Labour left have already succumbed, is to see the Forde Report as a vindication of the narrative that presents it as a victim of an extreme factional crusade. The truth is that the Labour left is both victim of and accomplice to a despicable project that led to the party to adopt policies that were racist in their effects if not intent. For a movement that claims to be progressive and anti-racist, this is a crushing indictment. Nevertheless, all the signs are that lessons have not been learned. The Labour left and some of its outriders continue to take advice and endorse arguments by people who became willing accomplices to the witch hunt.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty and the Ideology of the complicit

In the process of researching this article, which has been in progress for a couple of years, I noticed the same rhetoric repeating itself from different sources; again and again came the unevidenced assertion that the left has not properly grasped the prevalence of antisemitism in the Labour Party – the logic underpinning the “walking whilst chewing gum” position. Eventually, it occurred to me that the failure to both walk and chew gum by so many advocates of this strategy may be an outgrowth of a more deep-rooted, ideologically driven agenda.

I was particularly struck by an article published by World Socialist Website, which names a member of the complaints unit – a “left winger” – who the article identifies as having been a member of the Alliance for Workers Liberty. I cannot verify this claim myself, but its implications are worth exploring.

The AWL is considered by parts of the left to have “imperialist” tendencies. It is a relatively strong supporter of apartheid Israel (and denies that Israel is an apartheid state) and firm opponent of the kind of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions policy that brought down apartheid South Africa. Such policies, it argues, can “only lead to a Jew hunt”. It is also opposed to a true right of return – a fundamental human right – to Palestinians displaced from their land during the Nakba. The AWL position as set out in 2019 is also fairly relaxed about the ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their land by Israeli settlement building:

Should policies like Netanyahu’s continue unchecked they may make a two-state settlement unworkable by hemming in, fragmenting, and reducing the Palestinian population in the West Bank so much that it can longer hope to win self-determination. That would be a historic tragedy. But it is one that, if it comes to pass, will take place through drastic changes over decades, not through continuation of present trends for a few years more.

This position denies the reality that the expansion of Illegal Israeli settlements into the West Bank and the construction of roads to connect them has already fragmented the area. This has effectively transformed the West Bank from a contiguous territory into a series of isolated Bantustans with freedom of movement between areas impossible for many Palestinians. For this reason, I consider the AWL’s position on Palestine to be one of apologetic for apartheid and incompatible with social justice and human rights, which must always underpin true socialism.

The AWL is also a proponent of the “left antisemitism” narrative. It praised Keir Starmer for settling legal cases with the “whistleblowers” who appeared on the BBC’s Panorama Programme covering the subject.  It has also published an article, which asserts that “the problem [of left antisemitism] goes beyond the aberrational”, a view that echoes the false narratives promoted by the Leaked Report, Forde Report and Schneider’s analysis. Considering that Party statistics, the Forde Report and Leaked Report all confirm incidences of antisemitism to have been low, this statement is demonstrably inaccurate: the problem of left antisemitism in the Labour Party may be real but it is the definition of aberrational.

Given its troubling position on human rights and dubious grasp of the extent of antisemitism within Labour, we might expect the progressive Labour left to give the AWL a wide berth. However, when searching the website, a number of prominent names are featured. For instance, John McDonnell, who has urged Jeremy Corbyn to “keep on apologising” over allegations of antisemitism was interviewed by the group for an article in 2020.

Journalist Grace Blakely also wrote an article for the site in 2018 and the organisation has praised Nadia Whittome MP for her stances on the EU and Ukraine. Curiously, earlier this year, the site published an article that praised Paul Mason for his criticism of China.

Of course, being interviewed for, publishing articles in, or being praised by an organisation does not automatically make you a supporter or fellow traveller. Nevertheless, the AWL is stridently critical of its rivals on the British left, sometimes to the point of dogmatism, and so it seems unlikely that it would platform individuals whose perspectives are not broadly compatible with its general line.

The willingness of parts of the Labour left to legitimise an organisation that denies the right of displaced Palestinians to return to their land and resists the identification of Israel as an apartheid state raises the uncomfortable possibility that an imperialist tendency exists – perhaps even predominates – within the Labour left. Furthermore, it may be that the facilitation of the witch hunt by parts of the Labour left is an outgrowth of an ideology that instinctively judges trenchant critics of Israel – particularly those who advocate Boycott Divestment, Sanctions, support the Palestinians’ right of return, and believe Israel to be an apartheid state – very harshly. In particular, the treatment of comments by a representative of an explicitly pro-Israel organisation as objective expert opinion on antisemitism in the case of Jackie Walker is not only wholly indefensible but evidence that, unconsciously or otherwise, an imperialist political ideology influenced the Labour Party complaints process.

This hypothesis requires further research, but it may explain the disproportionate targeting of some of the most strident critics of Israel — who also happen to be Jews – by the Labour bureaucracy, even when it was led by the left. Recent events, such as the removal of JVL activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who was herself falsely accused of antisemitism, from the left NEC slate – allegedly by Momentum – despite her receiving the backing of Jeremy Corbyn, makes further investigation all the more imperative.

It now seems clear to me that the Labour antisemitism controversy and its disastrous handling by the party’s left points to an underlying contradiction at the heart of Labour politics: that it is impossible to be both a socialist and a defender of any aspect of the global Anglo-Saxon-led military industrial complex, including apartheid Israel and its British state-sponsored advocates. It follows that members of the Labour left, who support the apartheid state and facilitate the purging of its critics, cannot be regarded as true socialists. In effect, the interests of the ruling class are served by both Labour’s right and left, and the class struggle cannot be won through the structures and processes of the Labour Party.

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  1. I’ve only scan read it so far, but I have already seen much that I agree with and some that I am less sure about.

    1. Well Steve H I am a believer in keeping the truth simple,The AS scam was what it says to rid the labour party of socialism.The best way to deal with scams of that type is to keep it simple and always remember
      “He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do a second and a third time ,till at length it becomes habitual.He will tell lies without attending to it ,and truths without the world believing him” Thomas Jefferson “Maybe there is now anti semitism in the labour party and I would be suprised if there wasnt after the” witchunt “but any faults are at the door of a near bankrupt labour party and the fascism that morphed from the treacherous PLP and their hatred of socialism and the leader of the Labour party jeremy Corbyn..You made your bed now” LIE in it “

  2. ‘When I saw the inbox, it was immediately clear that many of the cases were being raised by one or two individuals. Often, the complainants were referencing comments which simply amounted to criticism of Israel; in many cases the allegations were levelled at people who were not identifiable as Labour members and many complainants reported the same instances of alleged antisemitism. The volume of complaints therefore did not, by any measure, correspond to the number of instances of actual Labour antisemitism.’

    Having named some, of the victims, it would have been helpful to name the ‘one or two individuals’ who made the complaints.

    We are aware who one of them was – at least we’ve heard the believable rumours. Confirmation would have lifted the veil, a little more.

    We are also aware of Margaret Hodge’s use of emotional blackmail, and overblown sense of importance, in threatening to ‘walk’ if Jeremy Corbyn was – not – suspended.

    When will Margaret Hodge be suspended, and Jeremy Corbyn reinstated? He has, now, been cleared of all charges by two non-partisan Reports. The EHRC Report, and, now, The Forde Inquiry Report.

    How many more Reports does The Labour Party need?

  3. Going on this “Staffers” ridiculous analysis, one wonders how long has he been faking his political position??

  4. I believe that this is the most important article that you have ever published. Those with open minds, should follow through.

    Thank you, Steve. 🙂

  5. Since its ‘completion,’ two years back, what has been done with (or to) the Forde Report? Has it simply lain untouched (and unmodified) by interfering hands and minds?

    Also, there is something very Johnsonesque in Starmer’s determination not to be drawn in engagement with anything which appears to cast him in a poor light. Of course, it is the owned MSM that has enabled Starmer to do this. It’s not quite hiding in a fridge but it might just as well be.

  6. Great analysis of the Forde Report by Craig Murray:

    “Forde pulls well over a hundred pages of linguistic tricks to try to hide his basic “finding”, that the “allegations” of the “Leaked Report” are both accurate and fairly and honestly reached. Yet he can’t quite obscure it. He continually bangs on about the authors of the “Leaked Report” being “young and inexperienced”, as though that somehow detracts from the fact they wrote the truth. Forde is left to rest upon the very shaky ground that their truth was only a “factional” truth, so somehow doesn’t count.”

    A must read…

    1. I wonder if in reality that is more like Forde and the Master Establishment/TrilatCom Finetooth Comber, Loopholer, FOI Redacteur and Crucial Doccument Vanisher, BlueKeef, pulls well over a hundred pages of linguistic tricks to try to hide his basic “finding”, that the “allegations” of the “Leaked Report” I have a feeling that BlueKeef spent more time on that Report than Forde did.
      A two shell trickster remains a two shell trickster no matter what invisible clothing you adorn them in.

    2. PS thanks for the link Baz! It is always good to have trustworthy people like Craig Murray and Steve Walker, who can speak, understand and translate Establishment Mainstream, so that we don’t have to waste valuable time doing so!
      No BlueSteveH that does not mean that anyone should just blindly trust anyone, but Murray and Walker have proven themselves trustworthy allies a long time ago and even then if one doesn’t agree or feels the need for further research, all those opportunities are usually still freely available.

  7. If anti-Semitism was a big problem, especially in the Labour Party, how has it now just gone away? Has LOTO performed a miracle & cured this racism simply by eliminating Socialism from the Labour Party? Do we still need training for a problem that no longer exists? Why doesn’t MSM celebrate his only major achievement? I often hear Tories congratulate him on ‘getting rid’ of Jeremy Corbyn, but not with reference to anti-Semitism.
    I am one day older than Jeremy & was a member of the Labour Party for many years. I have lived in many different parts of the country but have never encountered any trace of anti-Semitism anywhere, except in the press……so I must be an anti-Semitism Denier. I believe that there is evidence that catholics are more discrminated against in Britain, especially around ‘bonfire night’; can you imagine if Guy Fawkes was Jewish?
    There is some form of discrimination everywhere & I am not saying that some Jews do not experience hatred simply because they are Jews, but MSM has constructed a ‘moral panic’ to eliminate Socialism in the guise of anti-Semitism; a useful stick that keeps beating.. Everyone can & should discriminate logically, but not on the basis of skin colour; gender; sexual orientation, religion or age. It is strange how language changes because it wasn’t so long ago that descrbing a person as discriminatory meant they had good taste or judgement. Now anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, much like Socialism..

    1. Steve Richards….from a person who has had his effigy burnt in front of a crowd of seventy thousand people in Lewes Sussex and covered by the BBC as a form of culture with Guy Fawkes and the Pope being paraded through the main high street to the site along with my effigy and ridiuled and laughed at then you know that hatred comes in all sorts of disguises especially if it is backed by the establishment and the media.No popery here festooned across the shopping centre in the county town of Lewes still carrys on despite my best efforts from many people disgusted at home and especially abroad were even the China morning post ran a article of how archaic the British system of freedom and democracy is…..Discrimination in Britain is highly selective.but AS scam was absolutely wicked and jeremy Corbyn suffered far more than me in Lewes and paid a higher price than myself and my family .

  8. Other than being angry at the calumny inflicted on us ,and particularly on Mr Corbyn,by many in the party and by the media there is little we can do . We can rail amongst ourselves about injustice but the total media blackout on Forde demonstrates our impotence. Meanwhile we have a Labour leadership who oppose nationalisation,won’t defend the unions or the disadvantaged and look to further privatise the NHS. We can at least do something about that. Mass demonstrations against shadow cabinet members appearing in public will gain the attention of the media and maybe initiate the debate. Can I urge everyone to make their voices heard in Liverpool today and everywhere else one of these quislings turns up to tell us lies.

    1. If you deny Democracy WTF do you expect people to do, sick and tired of reading the blah blah blah from people who will never suffer, have never suffered and dont know anyone who has

  9. None of the reports deal with vexatious claims, particularly against Jewish supporters, the lowest level of anti semitism
    Margaret Hodge is a f7ck8ng anti semite and a racist and needs to be kicked out of the Labour Party yesterday
    Does anyone know what happened to JC’s legal cases

  10. Firstly, it seems an odd conclusion of this article that, whilst accepting the leaked reports evidence of staff under McNicol actively undermining not only the Party but also elections (which have disenfranchised not only LP members but also the electorate), just because someone from the ‘left’ (Jenny Formby) was nominally in charge this would magically disappear.

    Notwithstanding the complicity of the ‘Official (Loyal, internal organisation, Opposition) left’ under Lansmen – who were and remain just as willing to utilise the anti-democratic practices of its counterparts on the Labour right (particularly in getting its PPC slate candidates in place in the autumn of 2019) – the fact remains that most of the employed staff at National and Regional levels were recruited and put in place via the same vetting processes employed against members.

    The implicit notion that just because Formby replaced McNicol the kind of activities revealed in the leaked report would somehow magically end because it was a ‘left’ winger at the helm displays an incredible level of naivety as to how organisations and organisational systems/sub-systems actually work and operate in practice, in the real world.

    Secondly, despite this specific basic schoolboy level of thinking, the analysis in regard to ‘left organisations and their far from ‘left’ policies and approaches is certainly delving into an area of analysis which has been neglected for far too long.

    The approaches of the AWL which are highlighted, for example, are merely the tip of an extremely interesting iceberg. Its (the AWL) parroting of Official Narratives is not limited to apartheid policies applied by Israeli Governments/governments but encapsulates a whole range of Officially sanctioned Western State Establishment/Oligarchy Narratives from China and Russia to Syria.

    To the extent that they (the AWL) are even prepared to quote discredited State puppets and front organisations like Bellingcat as credible sources for their fantasy narratives:

    The point being to focus attention on the consistent usage and promotion of official narratives across a range of issues from this particular source, among others, in the evidenced based known context of evolving strategies by Establishment Corporate State agencies to manipulate and control discourse and activism to generate desired outcomes.

    A focus which raises reasonable questions as to how much of a role continues to be played, as already extensively documented, by State Agencies in apparent left ‘turf wars’ using organisations like the AWL?

    1. Dave – It does make one wonder why Corbyn and his team didn’t have the political nounce replace McNicol as soon as Jeremy took office.

      1. It would not have made any difference for reasons which have already been explained multiple times in Janet and John terms.

        When it has not sunk in after multiple iterations the evidence is conclusive that further repetition will be unlikely to produce different results.

        As the Germans say du kannst kein Schweinefleisch erziehen.

      2. Dave – Thanks for your opinion but that is all it is. I am sure that everyone will be suitably impressed by your knowledge of German.

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