Accusations of anti-Semitism associated with our Party must be investigated without unreasonable delay. My own opinion is that failure to accept the international definition of anti-Semitism is a mistake, a godsend to our opponents and, most importantly, a disservice to those it is there to protect.
Soon after the Great War of 1914-18 a European ‘Leader’ of the Hard Right declared that a view repeated often enough will infect a whole population. The view need not be true – it has only to be repeated, again, and again, and again, through the mass media for it to become engrained in the public perception. His anti-Semitism was not unique, but it was fed into the public mind through mass propaganda nurtured on the most virulent of lies.
The UK’s Right-leaning mass media needs no orchestrated direction or lessons in propaganda. Its subtle conception of the political ‘natural order’ merely reflects unspoken ‘Establishment’ ideology. Is it accidental that its pages and broadcasts are now redolent with accusations associating the leader of the Labour party with anti-Semitism? Is it accidental that its so readily parroted vilification of him accelerates just when the Tory Party’s civil war over Brexit has led to a tipping point that could trigger a general election?
Demonised by anti-Labour media, intent on engineering his resignation to the electoral advantage of the Tory Party, Corbyn nevertheless responds, for himself, on every charge. He has made plain that if there is even remote substance in the accusations of anti-Semitism in our party, then it is axiomatic that it must be rooted out. Yet every word of explanation, or correction of inaccurate or biased reporting, is obscured with new counter-blasts to discredit him.
My perception is perhaps influenced by having been brought into the world (on Paris Liberation Day 1944) by our Jewish family doctor – long before the NHS was founded. Fifteen years later I joined the Labour Party, during the 1959 general election. My earliest political influence came from our Member of Parliament for Newport – Frank Soskice (whose Ukrainian parents had resisted the Czarist regime in revolutionary Russia). Frank later became Labour’s Home Secretary. Under his influence I was introduced to the crucial importance of ‘Clause IV’ – at the very heart of all the Labour Party stood for. Leo Abse, Labour MP for nearby Pontypool, was another strong influence. Leo is perhaps best remembered for his pioneering equalities legalisation. After more than half a century I still recall his, and Frank’s, powerful accounts of the history-changing gains of Attlee’s Labour government. (Notwithstanding that it was the foundation of Labour’s greatest achievements – not only under Attlee but also providing the foundation for rights at work and safety protections under the Wilson Governments – Clause IV was excised from our constitution during ‘New’ Labour’s intellectual drift to the Hayekian neoliberalism inherited from Mrs Thatcher.)
Leo and Frank were unforgettable. It is worth looking up a little more about them in the web reports that are so easy to find by just typing in their names. They were ‘Mainstream Labour’ – men worth hearing. I have no recollection of their racial identities having figured at all, or of any anti-Semitic feeling in the Labour Party I knew in those days. Yet that was a time when racism, sexism and homophobia were huge problems, yet to be tackled – and people like Frank and Leo were very much at the front of that fight. Manny Shinwell and Ian Mikardo also impressed me as a teenager through their contributions to such papers as the ‘Daily Herald’ and ‘Tribune’. Sadly, I rather think there are some, including in the PLP, who might today regard these ‘Mainstream’ Labour Party giants as rather too ‘Left wing’.
For those of us who have no similar experience of anti-Semitism these reports are deeply disturbing. In my fifty-nine years of membership, I have not personally seen it in our Party. In the ward I represent there was once a synagogue, yet I recall no anti-Semitism in the three decades I have lived here – not only ‘not in the Labour Party’ but not at all.
I did not encounter it in the Welsh Labour and Trade Union Movement in the sixties and seventies. I did not experience it in my years as a senior lecturer in higher education. I did not hear anything of it when I was a Labour Party member in Scotland during the eighties – nor during my years as a trade union Regional Official in Northern Ireland in the early nineties. I have not encountered anti-Semitism at all in my lifetime of service to the Labour and Trade Union movement. However, I recognise that what I have not experienced may exist elsewhere in the Party. Wherever it does, as so many believe, it is abhorrent and must be dealt with robustly – and speedily. It is fundamental and must not become entangled in right-left squabbles.
We must get back to implementing our Party’s Mainstream socialist economic ideology, so forcefully vindicated by the 2008 world economic crash and so effectively articulated in Labour Party policy under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.