Diary of a Corbyn Foot Soldier
by Michael Murray
Dictionary definition of “foot soldier”: “…a dedicated low level follower…”
Michael Murray: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: Michael Murray London
Labour and anti-Semitism:
- Chris Williamson’s Suspension
- Lies, damn lies and statistics
It seems ironic that Chris Williamson has been witch-hunted into suspension from the Labour Party for his efforts to have a film called “WitchHunt” more widely known and discussed in the Party. I’m sure that, after this, there will be some who see the forthcoming production in East London’s Yard Theatre of Arthur Miller’s classic play, “The Crucible,” as more than coincidental. Miller’s play is about another witch-hunt, ostensibly set back in a Puritan-dominated English colony in the Americas, but as everyone now knows, hitting at, the then, infamously vicious contemporary McCarthyite Cold War witch-hunts in the US. Does The Yard Theatre see a contemporary British relevance? I’m looking forward to finding out.
A very serious question arising from all this: is it anti-Semitic to deny the accusations that the British Labour Party is “institutionally” anti-Semitic? Should a Corbyn foot soldier, like myself – a denier of widespread institutional Labour anti-semitism – be worried? It certainly has felt like that over the last three years – coincidentally, the years in which Corbyn has been party leader. Or, is it anti-Semitic, or conspiratorial thinking, even to make that connection? Things have come to that.
The film WitchHunt is due for online release after a nation-wide tour, and a trip over to Derry, before its 17th March release. It has been widely denounced by those who haven’t yet seen it and lauded by those who have, including two of Britain’s best known Jewish film makers, Mike Leigh (recent credits: Peterloo, Mr Turner) and Peter Kominsky (Wolf Hall, The Promise).
I was privileged to see it at its first showing and can say without reservation it has to be seen for the eye-opener it is on the whole issue of Labour and anti-Semitism. But it has more than that going for it. It is a well-executed insight into the social history of migration, and resultant enriching intellectual and cultural cross-fertilisation. As the story of ordinary individuals impacting on, and impacted by, political change it has great human depth. A lot happens in this 62 minute film. As its own press release says: “It combines extensive archive material with authoritative new interviews, featuring experts in media, Jewish, black and labour history, racism and the politics of the Middle East. The film raises urgent questions about racism, democracy and the responsibilities of the media.”
Leigh called the film “an impeccably-executed film.” Kominsky: “It tells a story we just aren’t hearing at the moment.” Ken Loach refers to the centrality of the Jackie Walker disciplinary case within the narrative and urges people to “see the film and make up your own mind.”
Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, Oxford University, has weighed in also. “Anyone who speaks or writes in the public domain about anti-semitism and the current state of the Labour Party has a duty to see this film and address the issues it raises.”
International Law Professor Gordon, of Queen Mary University, who was due to speak in an after-showing discussion, described the banning of the Westminster showing of the film as “outrageous.”
(2) Lies, damn lies and Statistics
In its journal, The Jewish Voice for Labour, which, by the way sponsored the cancelled film showing, released these statistics on the prevalence of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, based on the Party’s own data for the last 10 months.
The Labour Party has a membership of over 500,000.
– 1,106 referrals of anti-Semitism allegations
– 433 had nothing to do with the party
- Of the remaining 673, 220 were dismissed for lack of evidence.
- This left 453
- 96 of these resulted in Suspensions
- There were 12 expulsions
The JVL article surmises: “This isn’t a wave of anti-Semitism. It’s not even a ripple. In nautical terms it’s almost a dead flat calm.” But the smears and accusations continue, including from within the party, and from amongst its recent defectors.
“If the facts are at such odds with the accounts of leading politicians and mainstream media, there can be only one explanation – these accounts are driven by ulterior political agendas.
Other forms of racism, for which manifestations in the UK are 70 times more prevalent than those for antisemitism, barely get a mention.”
The persistent attacks on Labour for its stance on anti-semitism are debilitating as well as being disproportionate, as we’ve just seen. Elsewhere, the JVL suggests that all the available research puts anti-Semitism across Britain as lying in a range of 2 to 5%. In any likely future General Election the anti-Semitic accusations thrown at the Labour Party, its Leader – and his most loyal supporters, like Chris Williamson – could seriously dent its chances in a, likely, close-run election. And, in the meantime, they serve a very useful purpose of keeping Corbyn and his supporters on the back foot. That’s what all this threatens, and the purpose it serves. And it’s working.
A recent motion to affiliate our Labour Party Branch to JVL failed. So, I exercised my individual right to apply for “Supporter” status membership – not being Jewish.
Aaaah! That last statement brought back a memorable line in Wolfe Mankowicz’s lovely play “The Irish-Hebrew Lesson,” set in Tan-War 1920s Cork City.
IRA MAN: Our schoolmaster said we Irish were one of the lost tribes of Israel.
JEWISH PEDDLER: (LONG PAUSE) They couldn’t have got that lost….