This is a guest post by Phil Carmel
Jon Lansman’s Road to Damascus moment seems to have arrived.
Writing below the line on his own blog, Left Futures, the organ of the once Bennite and now Corbynite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Mr. Lansman was forced on March 18 to write a quite revelatory comment while deleting everyone else’s to an article entitled: “Labour and antisemitism; Let’s keep the problem in perspective”.
The article http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/03/labour-and-antisemitism-lets-keep-the-problem-in-perspective/ in question, I hasten to add, cogently tried to argue that the level of antisemitism in the Labour Party is nothing new, not the preserve of the Left of the party, and as the author so charmingly puts it, should be kept “in perspective”. Mostly though, and that I suppose is fair enough given where it was published, it seeks to exonerate the party leader and his close comrades of responsibility for the presence of – and the dealing with – the current wave of antisemitism in Labour.
I am though ready to admit that both the author of the article and Jon Lansman do address some points at where anti-Zionism becomes antisemitism and where the current rhetoric is going. So far, so good.
I haven’t seen the comments to the article because Jon Lansman has deleted them all – so it’s therefore fair to publish for the wider world his single comment as gatekeeper of the blog in its entirety.
I have deleted all comments on this article and will publish no more. Some comments were just offensive, others in my opinion antisemitic. I have no objection to serious critiques of Zionism nor to opposition to Israel government policy — I am myself a strong critic of the policies of the Israeli government, its occupation of the West Bank and unilateral annexation of Palestinian land as regular readers of this site will know, but it not acceptable to use the term “Zionist” as a term of abuse. One comment included libelous statements about named individuals. Unfortunately, in view of the nature of these comments, comments are now closed on this article. I apologise to commenters whose comments were critical of these things but felt that I could not delete part of a comment thread without deleting all of it.
I will leave aside Mr Lansman’s initial purity statement and his need to preface comments about antisemitism with a bare-all proof of his anti-Zionist credentials, a practice I regard as unnecessary at best and at worst, cowardly.
But I do know, as Mr. Lansman and his comrades have never failed to inform us, that there has been a massive increase in membership since Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in September last year and that many if not most of these people have been mobilised because of Corbyn’s victory and come from a section of what we are suitably informed is the once disenfranchised far-left who can now find home and succor in a new and more pluralistic Labour Party.
And equally, as I’m sure even Mr. Lansman would admit, Left Futures is not a mainstream online publication. I doubt it is widely read outside the admittedly growing area of the left of the Labour Party. It is not, for example, The Guardian or The Independent, where below-the-line justification of antisemitism and direct antisemitic tropes are peddled with regularity. In short, Left Futures is the preserve of the Labour Left, Jon Lansman’s comrades, the people he helped mobilise to put Corbyn and his mates where they are now.
Put bluntly, Jon Lansman has been forced to admit that his own part of the Labour party is riddled with antisemites. These below-the-line comments are not from the far-right or from Tories and neither was there a line handed out at the last Progress gathering to troll Left Futures.
So there’s the first perspective. Antisemitism isn’t endemic to the Labour Party, it’s endemic to Jon Lansman’s wing of it. If there ever was a section of the neanderthal Labour right riddled with antisemitism of the type Ernie Bevin once had at times, it’s been long gone. And, let’s face it, so far, there haven’t been a lot of Blairites expelled for it.
Which brings me on to the second point where I fundamentally agree with the Corbynistas. The contention that the Labour right, Blairites, Red Tories and assorted class traitors utilise antisemitism on the Left as a way to get at Corbyn. You know something, they probably do, and they are completely justified in it. Because Corbyn and the Corbynistas are part of the problem. Sorry, let me correct that. They are the problem.
It is the Corbynite bi-polar worldview into good and evil – US, West, Israel, etc. evil; Putin, Hezbollah, Iran, Hamas, IRA, good – that allows Jews to be columnised into the former camp. If the Labour party, or rather, the Labour left, is riddled with those who publish antisemitic tweets and talk of the “Jewish Problem”, or those who justify them and plead their cause, it’s because the party now provides houseroom to these people, a natural home if you like.
So the solution to that problem is clear. If you want to get rid of antisemitism in today’s Labour party, you have to unapologetically want to get rid of the people currently running it. The question of whether Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite – and he isn’t – is irrelevant. His presence as leader allows for it. His very presence in fact nurtures it.
And that finally brings me to another statement from the Labour left which I also fundamentally agree with.
John McDonnell has unfairly been accused recently of being a sort of entryist into the Labour party, maintaining his far-left views to join a party he himself, until very recently, fundamentally disagreed with. McDonnell told his comrades four years ago http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/Politics/article1677842.ece that he had joined the Labour party as “a tactic” because it was a “useful vehicle”.
McDonnell joined a Labour party historically committed to democratic Socialism, to gradualism and yes, to uncompromisingly fighting all forms of racism and antisemitism. He saw and sees the party not as an end in and of itself but as a tool for the furtherance of a particular ideology. Frankly, so do I.
At some point therefore, and maybe we are already there, the Labour party is no longer a true Scotsman and therefore, as much as Jon Lansman and others on the left may think it so, it’s no longer the same Labour party, nor indeed any Labour party of recent recollection.
At which point, being in it is merely a tactic and so is the decision whether to vote for it. Or not.