Thursday, 28 April 2016

Why Livingstone Was Suspended

Why exactly was Ken Livingstone suspended from the Labour Party?  Just to put things on the table to start with.  I think that some of the comments that Livingstone has come out with over the years have been highly dubious, as have some of the people he has been associated with.  A lot of that flows from the kind of "idiot anti-imperialism" that has characterised sections of the left for the last 30 or so years, and against which I have argued.  Part also comes from a failure to recognise that a legitimate opposition to Zionism, as a nationalist ideology based upon an oppression of Palestinians, and the maintenance of a confessional state, when it flows over into a demand for the demolition of the existing Israeli state, is itself implicitly anti-semitic, because such a demolition could only be achieved by a terrible violence, which would involve a genocide against the Jewish inhabitants of that state.

But, Livingstone, if he was going to be suspended, should then have been suspended, on that basis decades ago, rather than being welcomed back into the LP by Tony Blair no less, so as to stand for London Mayor.  Why is it that the Blair-rights have only just discovered these aspects of Livingstone's politics, and only now demand his suspension, and indeed permanent expulsion from the party.  The real reason is that the Blair-rights have found a hook upon which to attack Corbyn. Where Blair welcomed Livingstone back into the party to stand as London Mayor, Corbyn has today acted to suspend Livingstone on the same day that he is accused of making anti-semitic statements. But, that has also exposed the real reason for all of the furore and calls for Livingstone's expulsion by the Blair-rights.

The odious John McTiernan who was Blair's spin doctor, and, therefore, no doubt supported his master's warm welcome for the "anti-semitic" Livingstone back into the party, and his candidacy for Mayor, was quick to jump into a TV studio, to attack Corbyn for not acting fast enough, or decisively enough in suspending Livingstone!  Let us remind ourselves that this odious little man who loses no opportunity to attack Corbyn, and thereby the Labour Party's chances for the upcoming elections, was elected by no one to anything within the Labour Party.  The only reason the TV and media invite him on to spout his bile against Corbyn is because he fulfils the role of "useful idiot" for the Tory media in attacking the Labour Party, and it is a role he is more than willing to fulfil.

On BBC News this evening, Livingstone's radio interview was played, in which Livingstone referred to the meetings between Nazi leaders and leaders of the Zionist Federation of Germany.  Livingstone was accused by the Blair-right John Mann of being "a Nazi apologist", which, given the nature of Mann's behaviour, seems to me in itself a case for suspension, for bringing the party into disrepute.  It certainly gave the Tory media a field day of propaganda ahead of the upcoming elections.

The basis of Mann's rather ridiculous accusation was that Livingstone in referring to these meetings was lying, and re-writing history.  But, the fact of those meetings, as Livingstone said, is a matter of historical record.  The details of the Haavara Agreement are contained on Wikipedia, which Mann as a supposed expert on the issue could easily have checked.  Wikipedia states,

"The Haavara Agreement (Hebrew: הסכם העברה Translit.: heskem haavara Translated: "transfer agreement") was an agreement between Nazi Germany and Zionist German Jews signed on 25 August 1933. The agreement was finalized after three months of talks by the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Anglo-Palestine Bank (under the directive of the Jewish Agency) and the economic authorities of Nazi Germany. The agreement was designed to help facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine. While it helped Jews emigrate, it forced them to temporarily give up possessions to Germany before departing. Those possessions could later be re-obtained by transferring them to Palestine as German export goods. The agreement was controversial at the time, and was criticised by many Jewish leaders both within the Zionist movement (such as the Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky) and outside it."

In the radio interview, played by the BBC just before they interviewed McTiernan, Livingstone clearly states that Hitler was not a Zionist, that he hated Jews, and killed six million of them.  Yet Mc Tiernan when he came on continued the line that Livingstone had been claiming that Hitler was a Zionist, and that the holocausts was somehow, the fault of German Jews!

All of this comes after the suspension yesterday of Naz Shah, who Livingstone had defended.  Shah was suspended for some social media posts she had made back in 2014.  My first reaction when I saw the TV coverage of that controversy yesterday was that the interpretation of the posts was at the very least open to question.  The post where she places a map of Israel in the middle of the USA is rather silly, but not in itself anti-semitic.  Before the state of Israel was created after WWII, for example, the leaders of world Zionism looked at several places where they might establish a Jewish state.  No one would have accused them of being anti-semitic clearly for drawing lines on maps, inside the existing borders of other people's countries.  And indeed, the fact is that the state of Israel was created in precisely that way, by being forcibly located within the borders of Palestine, at the expense of the existing Palestinian inhabitants, who were thereby displaced.

If something like that were to happen today, the "international community" would have no qualms about describing it as an act of genocide, and a war crime.  Indeed, many of those who were at the forefront of establishing the Israeli state were themselves terrorists.

Marcus Garvey, the American black nationalist, argued for the setting up of a black homeland, carved out of the United States, to which black Americans could move, but no one suggests that Garvey was, thereby a racist!  And, of course, the carving out of such homelands in the United States is not new. The US itself, having carried out a genocide against Native Americans, moved the remaining tribes onto their own reservations, just as also South Africa sought to move black South Africans into Bantustans.

As I have written many times before, I think that all of those nationalist solutions to the problems faced by various ethnic groups of oppression are ultimately reactionary and divisive.  But, the reality is that the state of Israel is an historic fact.  It exists, and the job of Marxists is not to act like some kind of moral guardian of history, putting right what once went wrong, but to fight in the here and now for the greatest unity of the working class across the globe, to resolve our current problems in a progressive manner.  That is what is wrong with all those who can't get beyond their abhorrence that the state of Israel came into existence in the way it did, and who therefore, can't get beyond a wish that it did not exist.  Such a perspective is from the start necessarily divisive, it sets the Palestinian and Arab working-class against the Jewish working class, and is thereby implicitly, and sometimes explicitly anti-semitic.

Naz Shah's second post was set within the context of the Israeli attacks on Palestinians in 2014, attacks which were themselves condemned by the UN and others.  It mistakenly equated Israel with apartheid South Africa, and commented, that the actions of Hitler had been legal.  My interpretation of that, when I saw it on the TV, in that context, was that it was saying, that we should remember that just because a government has been elected, as the Nazis were, and just because their actions are thereby legally sanctioned, that does not make those actions morally defensible.  It is a concept that students of politics are familiar with, the concept of the tyranny of democracy, that a majority can always vote to oppress a minority.  It is why the concept of democracy, even bourgeois democracy can never be simply about voting, or the right of a majority to rule, but also has to include basic democratic freedoms for all, including the right not to be persecuted, even by a majority.

On the basis of what I have seen from those posts I can see nothing that is overtly anti-semitic.  And that is the other point here.  A few years ago when I was learning Spanish one of the language discs I listened to made the distinction between someone who is drunk and someone who is a drunk.  That is someone might be drunk, as a one off or infrequent occurrence, but that is different to a drunk who is habitually drunk.  Someone who breaks the laws on speeding has committed a criminal offence, but that does make them a criminal in the sense that crime is for them an habitual aspect of their behaviour.

Someone who supports immigration controls, as all the Blair-rights do, supports a racist policy, because it seeks to place the blame for capitalism's ills on foreigners.  But, that does not make the supporters of immigration controls overtly racist.  If it did, most members of the PLP would have to be expelled forthwith.  There is a difference between someone who supports policies whose implications are implicitly anti-semitic, and someone who is explicitly anti-semitic, in that they hate Jews because they are Jews, just as there is a difference between someone who supports immigration controls, which are implicitly racist, and someone who is explicitly racist because they hate foreigners.

All of this also comes on top of the attacks launched by Blair-rights against new NUS President Malia Bouattia.  The AWL who are renowned on the left for their pro-Zionist positions have themselves attacked the Blair-rights for distorting Bouattia's positions and statements.  And this gives the real clue as to what is going on with Livingstone's suspension.

The Blair-rights have been casting around ever since Corbyn was elected Leader for a hook to hang their opposition to him on.  They seem to have thought that by continually rushing into the media to denounce him, and undermine, and to ferment the idea that he was just a wose version of the disaster that was Michael Foot in 1983, they would quickly undermine support for Labour in the polls, which would then provoke a membership backlash, which could be linked up with their conspiracies within the PLP, ahead of a palace coup to remove him.

Unfortunately, for them not only did these manoeuvres only expose their own bankruptcy and treachery, but it saw Corbyn and McDonnell's support in the party grow even stronger.  What was worse for them, Labour's standing in the opinion polls did not fall either.  In fact, had they actually studied history rather than believed their own propaganda, they would have known that the same thing happened with Foot too.  After he became Leader, Labour's standing in the polls rose to a high point of 56%, something that not even Blair could match.

Things got worse for the Blair-rights, because when the first test of Corbyn's Leadership came with the Oldham West by-election, rather than a Corbyn Labour Party getting hammered, it increased its already large majority!  In recent weeks, as Corbyn has become more accomplished at PMQ's, and the Tories have gone into melt down over Europe and Academisation, and face problems over the steel industry, and a weakening economy, Corbyn's own personal standing in the polls has gone above that of Cameron.  

The likelihood is that, especially in traditional Labour areas, a Labour Party that has returned to its traditional roots, is winning back not just LP members, recruiting new ones, but is also winning back the Labour voters that were lost during the Blair/Brown years.  The Blair-rights were counting on a bad result in the local elections to reinvigorate their hopes of undermining Corbyn.  The more it looked like Labour would do well, the more desperate the Blair-rights have become.

The current attacks seem to be a belief that they have found a crack in Corbyn's armour.  As with the old Stalinist amalgam tactic, they seek to join together the dots of some statements that they can present as anti-semitism (some of which are and some of which aren't explicitly anti-semitic) and to tar Corbyn with the same brush.  Bringing in Livingstone at this point seems deliberately designed to try to cause Labour to lose votes in the London mayoral elections, because it links up with, and plays into the attacks on Sadiq Khan launched by Goldsmith and the Tories, who have accused him of being a radical, connected with various unsavoury characters.

The Blair-rights clearly calculate that if they can do sufficient damage to the Labour Party, so that Labour loses in London, and does badly in the English and Welsh Council elections (no one expects Labour to do well this time in Scotland after years of Blair-right damage done to the party there) then they can have some hope of provoking a membership backlash so as to undermine Corbyn.  The odious McTiernan made that clear in his interview on BBC News, where he blamed Corbyn for the statements of Livingstone and others, saying that Corbyn was not a friend of Israel.

And that again shows just how far the Blair-rights are prepared to go in causing collateral damage, just so as to further their own short term political agenda.  By making that kind of equation between opposing Israel and being ant-semitic, the Blair-rights undermine the real opposition to anti-semitism. It equates being Jewish with being Israeli, and being a defender of the Israeli state and its actions.  But, how could any democrat let alone socialist or social-democrat support the actions of the Israeli state?  The policies of the Israeli state in undertaking their decades long oppression of Palestinians, the brutal bombings and killing of Palestinians, that have even been condemned by the UN and described as war crimes, are not defensible.

Attacking anyone who criticises those actions, and who supports the rights of Palestinians, as being in some way anti-semitic can only link in the minds of others the idea that it is Jews who are thereby responsible for the plight of Palestinians and not the Israeli state.  But, just as the Blair-rights appear to have no compunction about undermining the Labour Party in order to further their own short term aims of undermining Corbyn, so they seem to have no compunction about undermining the real struggle against anti-semitism, in order to use whatever means they can to attack Corbyn, for the same ends.

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