Has the Labour witch-hunt climaxed?

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We reproduce below an article about Sheffield Labour Party member Lee Rock, who is being investigated by Labour’s compliance unit for what might well be the most ridiculous charge we have yet come across. This investigation needs to be shut down – accompanied by a public apology and action taken against those who have made this vexatious complaint. The article first appeared on Labour Party Marxists’ website.

 

The witch-hunt against the left in the Labour Party has become even more absurd, reports Carla Roberts of Labour Party Marxists

All those who thought the witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party had reached its limits can think again. The recent arrival of leftwing general secretary Jennie Formby and in-house QC Gordon Nardell (a founding member of the Labour Representation Committee) are clearly no protection, when it comes to the party apparatus taking absolutely ludicrous decisions.

On Monday July 16, long-standing trade union activist and socialist Lee Rock received notice from the Labour Party’s “acting head of disputes”, Nareser Osei, that, “Allegations that you may have been involved in a breach of Labour Party rules have been brought to the attention of national officers of the Labour Party.”

Considering the current climate in the Labour Party and considering comrade Rock’s political biography, we would have expected that he was being accused of the now very popular charge of anti-Semitism (he is an ardent supporter of the rights of Palestinians).

Or maybe his “association with other groups” could have been misrepresented. For example, in 2002 and 2003 he stood as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance. He has even been interviewed by the Weekly Workera couple of times.

But no. The allegations against comrade Rock are of a more, shall we say, delicate nature. We read that the reason for the investigation is “your participation in an extended debate on a Facebook group, in which you argued in favour of masturbation in workplaces”.

Yes, you read that correctly. That is the sole and only charge raised against comrade Rock. He has not (yet) been suspended or expelled, but is being warned that the allegations are currently being investigated.

This clearly needs a bit of background explanation. In 2015, a certain Simon Danczuk MP was caught out when his phone had tagged a hard-core porn site on Twitter as a “favourite”, and he openly had to admit that he watches porn (like a large number of other men and women). However, much of the media feigned outrage.

Owen Jones, then still almost relevant, wrote a decent article, in which he asked, “Why should we care?” He pointed out that we are all “flawed human beings”, that politicians are “not perfect” and that we should instead focus on and criticise Danczuk’s rightwing politics. Quite right.

However, this article really upset some so-called radical feminists (now going under the label, Terfs – trans-exclusionary radical feminists). The “maternal feminist” group, All Mothers Work, published an article attacking Owen Jones’ description of Danczuk’s behaviour as “normal”. It described people who access porn at work as “unstable perverts who are so incapable of caring about basic social decency and the rights of others that they should be removed from society to protect the rest of us (women)”.

You get the drift. Something that more than 30% of the population admit to doing regularly at the workplace was presented as being a rather freaky habit (another questionnaire even put it at 39%). According to the first poll, rubbing the one-eyed snake at work is in fact more “normal” than people falling asleep at their desk (29%) or arriving late at work at least once a week (16%).

Somebody posted the article in a Facebook group and comrade Rock and others argued against the narrow-minded politics of it. The result was a long debate with over 150 comments – some funny, some deadly serious – which still “occasionally does the rounds on Facebook, where it is widely hailed as the most ridiculous leftwing debate ever”, as a comrade reliably informs us. The debate even produced its own satirical blog post.

We will spare readers the detailed ins and outs of people arguing over how and where you should be allowed to masturbate. They can read the whole exchange on Facebook, where it is still online. For comrades not on Facebook, the exchange is also available on the Labour Party Marxists website.

This comment sums up comrade’s Lee various interventions in the debate: “If the person next to me at work goes to the loo, I really don’t care if they have a shit or a wank.” Seems a reasonable view to take. But, of course, comrade Rock did not positively “argue in favourof masturbating in workplaces”, as Ms Osei claims in her letter.

Morality police?

Comrade Rock, however, did argue for the right of people – including the vile Simon Danczuk – to do whatever they wish in the privacy of their toilet cubicle. As long as it does not harm or inconvenience anybody else, there really should not be a problem.

But the point is a serious one: he is under investigation not for committingany kind of offence, but for arguing that what one does in the privacy of a toilet cubicle at workshould not be viewed as a criminal offence– especially not one that would lead to the ‘perpetrator’ being “removed from society”, as the terfs’ article hysterically demanded.

That the feminist morality guardians would disagree with this outlook does not come as a shock, of course. But that the Labour Party should launch an investigation over this issue is simply mind-boggling.

We note that masturbating at work is, of course, not illegal. It mightbe a sackable offence, but only if (a) you have been caught in the act (lock the door, perhaps?) and (b) your employer thinks you’ve broken one of their rules – for example, by taking too much time away from your work or having contravened a particular health and safety regulation.

You might have trouble fighting a claim for unfair dismissal if that happens, but then, unless you’ve done something crassly indecent, there would be plenty of mitigating circumstances: stress levels at work, family risk of prostate cancer (which, according to medical advice, can be reduced by masturbating a few times a day), etc, etc. Some psychologists and doctors even argue that employees should be positively encouraged to engage in auto-eroticism at work, as it can be a very effective form of stress-relief that also increases production levels.

Comrade Rock was not even a member of the Labour Party when this online discussion took place, by the way. Like tens of thousands of others, he only joined Labour in July 2016, in order to support Jeremy Corbyn in the face of yet another coup attempt. In other words, his comments were written 15 months before he even joined. Has the compliance unit not managed to look that up before launching an investigation?

On one level, it is difficult to take this case seriously. It would be laughed out of court by any worthwhile judge. But we would be foolish to believe that it will simply be dismissed. Yes, Jennie Formby and Gordon Nardell are way to the left of that rightwing backstabber, Iain McNicol, and his various minions, who have left party HQ in recent months. But the witch-hunt is far from over. Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are still trying to appease the right, despite all the evidence showing that it does not work (Margaret Hodge’s much-publicised rant at Corbyn for being a “fucking anti-Semite and racist” on July 16 being a case in point).

So we read in the letter to comrade Rock that “the general secretary has appointed Charlotte Walker, investigating officer, to arrange conduct of the party’s own investigation”. We cannot be sure if Jennie Formby has actually read the whole thread on Facebook. If she has, then shame on her for wasting members’ money on launching this nonsense investigation. If she has not read it, then shame on her for not putting more effort into preventing such ludicrous allegations from going forward. Of course, not all allegations made to the compliance unit are followed up by an investigation. Some are dismissed at an early stage, as this one should have been. We hope that Formby, Nardell or one of the other people at Labour HQ will see some common sense soon.

Comrade Rock is, of course, only the latest case in a long list of leftwing activists targeted by the Labour right. Somebody must have put in a considerable amount of time and effort to find this particular online thread, having to read all of Lee’s posts from the last three years. If the Labour Party disciplinary process was governed by any kind of natural justice or due process, comrade Rock would have to be told who his accuser is. Despite the new brooms at Labour HQ, there is little chance of that happening.

Left target

Why then have they got it in for comrade Rock? He has played an important role in organising the left across Sheffield and has made plenty of enemies in the process. Together with former Labour NEC member, Unite’s Martin Mayer, he has set up Sheffield Labour Left List, which organises the left across all six local Constituency Labour Parties (this has become even more important since Momentum Sheffield has been taken over by the pro-Lansman right). He was also a key figure campaigning for Jared O’Mara, the first Labour MP ever elected in Sheffield Hallam, transforming the local CLP in the process, which is now firmly in the hands of the left. More recently, he helped to stop the planned transformation of the district Labour Party into a mere cheerleading club for local councillors.

Now that Jared O’Mara has resigned from the party, potential candidates from the left and right are falling over each other to replace him as parliamentary candidate, with numerous rightwingers joining Momentum to look like they are pro-Corbyn (ironically O’Mara was also subject to discipline for inappropriate comments made on social media more than a decade ago, when he was in his early 20s). Maybe somebody, somewhere feared that comrade Rock might throw his hat in the ring – at least among local leftwing Labour Party members, he would be a popular choice. This move against him – especially considering the nature of the accusations – will at least make it more difficult for him to be chosen as a candidate for parliamentary or local elections.

This is happening all over the country, of course. Empty accusations of bullying and harassment are launched just in time to stop somebody becoming a candidate or to prevent members from voting at a crucial meeting. It is old-style machine politics, but it works. For the individual concerned, however, it is, of course, deeply unpleasant and often traumatising, with their personal reputation publicly tarnished or even destroyed. They might be cleared afterwards, but suspicions about their character often remain.

We presume that Lee’s accuser is hoping for the charge to be raised a step higher: ie, that the national executive committee will find that he has “brought the party into disrepute”, so that he can be expelled. This is how the right got rid of Tony Greenstein and Marc Wadsworth, after all – it is a beautiful catch-all phrase that can cover pretty much anything, as and when needed. Comrade Rock could be another notch in the belt of the witch-hunters – another case that proves how horrible and disgusting Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters really are.

Nevertheless, comrade Lee has been told that he not suspended from membership. A change from the past and maybe a sign that Formby and Nardell are reforming the disciplinary process. It is, of course, to be welcome that comrade Rock – unlike hundreds of other members falsely accused – has not been automatically suspended and is able to participate in all party activities. However, this small step forward is almost entirely cancelled out by the very fact that there is an investigation. It clearly needs to be shut down, now – accompanied by a public apology and action taken against those who have made this vexatious complaint.

Momentum, don’t expel those witch-hunted by the compliance unit!

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Having been expelled from the Labour Party on very spurious grounds and with a clear lack of due process, Tony Greenstein is now being threatened with expulsion from Momentum, too!

Find below the email exchange between ‘Team Momentum’ and Tony and, further below, a draft letter you could send in protest to info@peoplesmomentum.com and jon.lansman@peoplesmomentum.com


On 22 March 2018 at 14:12, Momentum Info <info@peoplesmomentum.com> wrote:

Dear Tony Greenstein,

It has come to our attention that you are no longer a member of the Labour Party, as reported here and here and elsewhere.

Under rule 5.8 of Momentum’s constitution, any Momentum member who ceases to be a member of the Labour Party, or acts inconsistently with Labour Party membership, may be deemed to have resigned their membership of Momentum. Under rule 5.10 of Momentum’s constitution, where a member may be deemed to have resigned in accordance with rule 5.8, there will be a right to be heard by Momentum’s National Coordinating Group or a delegated panel before a final decision is made.

A panel of the National Coordinating Group will meet on Thursday 29th March 2018 in order to determine whether or not to deem you as having resigned your membership of Momentum under rule 5.8. If you would like to make any representations to this panel, please do so in writing by Wednesday 28th March 2018.

Kind regards,
Team Momentum


Dear Team Momentum,

When you write to another member of Momentum, especially when it is a personal matter and not simply a mass mailing, I would expect that whoever wrote your email would append their name to it to.

Sending messages with no names is part and parcel of the corporate culture we live in and under. It is part of reducing human relations to an impersonal commodification.  Clearly the World Transformed festival you put on each year has taught you nothing.

It is not something I would expect from a socialist organisation, at least I assume you make a claim to be socialists.  It is not only rude and discourteous it suggests that you have contempt for the membership.  I would appreciate it if in any future correspondence the person who is corresponding reveals themselves. At least I assume that you don’t need a whole team to write one email.

Yes you are correct I was expelled from the Labour Party on February 18th.  I accept that under the imposed Constitution of Momentum I ‘may be deemed to have resigned….’.  However that process is not automatic.  I wish this to be dealt with in a comradely fashion and not legalistically.  However the Constitution, which functions as a binding contract, is quite specific:

5.8 Any member who does not join the Labour Party by 1 July 2017, or ceases to be a member of the Labour Party, or acts inconsistently with Labour Party membership, may be deemed to have resigned.

5.10 Where a member may be deemed to have resigned in accordance with Rules 5.7, 5.8 or 5.9 there will be a right to be heard by the NCG or a delegated panel before a final decision is made.  The second paragraph of your

I have emboldened the key phrase as your email to me is ambiguous. You seem to be suggesting that I notify you in writing by 28th March but you do not suggest that any provision has been made for a hearing.

Your time scale is virtually impossible to meet and the date of 29th March is impossible as I have child care on that evening. The following week would be very difficult but I could make Apri 11th, 12th and 13th in the week after.

Your email gives the distinct impression that this is merely a matter of going through the motions. I would however like to context the ‘deemed to have resigned’ provisions of the constitution and draw your attention to the phrase in Clause 5.8 may be deemed to have resigned.’ There is no obligation on you to deem anything and I wish to make strong, personal representations to this effect.

As I said your schedule is very tight especially if the written representations are going to be thorough.

I wish this to be dealt with in a comradely fashion and not legalistically. I was forced, because of the inherent unfairness of the Labour Party’s disciplinary process to go to the High Court to obtain an injunction. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/suspended-labour-activist-wins-high-court-injunction-against-disciplinary-hearing-on-antisemitism-charges-1.450088

I would not wish to have to make an application against Momentum but your email to me, apart from being high handed and discourteous, was and is unreasonable. I would hope that we can come to an amicable agreement. I do have part-time care of an autistic boy and if Momentum stands for anything it should be making reasonable adjustments in such cases.

Rather than having an exchange of correspondence I suggest you ring me. I couldn’t find a number for you but I can be contacted on 01273 xxx.

In solidarity,

Tony Greenstein


DRAFT PROTEST LETTER – please amend and send to  info@peoplesmomentum.com and jon.lansman@peoplesmomentum.com

Dear NCG comrades,

I was disappointed to learn today that Tony Greenstein, a member of Momentum based in Brighton, has been expelled – or “deemed to have resigned” – from the organisation.
Presumably, this decision was made in response to pressure from the right of the Labour Party, and those elements who wish appease it, following Tony’s participation in the Labour Against the Witchhunt demonstration outside Southside earlier this week.
Tony is an energetic and passionate activist whose campaigning work and writings have made a huge contribution to the labour movement, the Palestinian liberation struggle and anti-racist/anti-fascist causes.
At a time when changes in key personnel at Labour HQ – eg, the appointment of Jennie Formby as general secretary – offer hope that the appalling wave of suspensions and expulsions under Iain McNicol’s regime might be overturned, it would be shameful if Momentum took it upon itself to throw yet more sacrificial scalps to the anti-Corbyn right.
The comrade’s expulsion from the Labour Party last month was a disgraceful affair. Tony was suspended for alleged antisemitism in March 2016, yet no offences before that date were included on eventual charge sheet that finally emerged nearly two years later. He was suspended for one thing and then a trawl was undertaken to find other reasons to justify that. This is a witchhunting technique that many Momentum members have faced in the last couple of years as supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have been picked off one by one, particularly those who are active in pro-Palestine campaigns.
I urge you to review this decision as soon as possible.
In solidarity,
 XXX

LAW welcomes Jon Lansman’s decision to withdraw

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March 11 2018

Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) welcomes Jon Lansman’s decision to finally listen to his party comrades, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and withdraw as a candidate for the General Secretary post.

We are mystified as to why Lansman, who purports to back the greater representation of women at all levels of the Labour Party, ran against Unite’s Jennie Formby in the first place. LAW critically supports Formby for the job. We are concerned about her record on Labour’s NEC  where it appears she has, as recently as last week, failed to oppose the witch hunting of Jeremy Corbyn supporters by right-wingers who have weaponised false claims of anti-semitism despite Formby herself being the target of such smears. Nobody in the Labour Party can truly be a socialist if they support the purge and that includes the future general secretary.

Lansman, given his record in abolishing all democratic structures within Momentum and imposing a new constitution, is unfit to be Labour General Secretary.

He got rid of the right of Momentum’s “liberation strands”, such as Momentum Black Connexions/Caucus, to have direct representation on the leading national bodies of Momentum.  More recently, he closed down Momentum’s youth group. This demonstrates his serious lack of commitment to the self-organisation of oppressed and disadvantaged groups in the Labour Party.

Labour Against the Witchhunt believes that Lansman lacks the democratic credentials necessary to become general secretary of the Labour Party, especially in view of previous General Secretary Iain McNicol’s purge of thousands of pro-Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party members and the particularly those as a result of false accusations of anti-semitism and others based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B.

The Labour Party now needs a General Secretary who will put a decisive stop to the witch-hunt who will make sure that all disciplinary charges are dealt with fairly, swiftly, transparently and with the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Jackie Walker was suspended from Labour membership on trumped-up charges of anti-semitism, following Lansman’s pre-emptive action in removing her as Momentum’s vice-chair, and, at the time, making plain his sympathies with the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement who have championed the witchhunt in order to purge the party of Corbyn-supporting anti-Zionists.

Lansman’s constitution for Momentum bars from membership all those expelled by the Labour Party’s compliance unit. This rule that has been used exclusively against left-wingers. Lansman has since come out in support of keeping the rule (2.1.4.B) in Labour’s constitution.

He has also opposed our demands for the abolition of the Compliance Unit. We believe that all disciplinary matters should be dealt with by elected representatives.

Labour’s next general secretary should ensure the NEC immediately implements the recommendations on the party’s disciplinary procedure made by the Shami Chakrabarti Report of June 30 2016.

We believe that Unite’s Jennie Formby would be the best choice for general secretary. As a supporter of the rights of the Palestinians people we think her election would send a powerful political signal. We hope that her tenure would mark the beginning of the end of the witch-hunt.

Steering Committee
Labour Against the Witchhunt

 

Why we cannot support Jon Lansman’s Labour Party general secretary bid

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Some of us are members of Momentum, some have never joined – and some of us left the organisation after January 2017, when its leader Jon Lansman abolished all democratic structures and imposed a new constitution, riding roughshod over the organisation’s members.

It should be noted that, as part of this coup, Lansman abolished the right of Momentum’s “liberation strands” to have direct representation on the leading national bodies of the organisation. Among the consequences of this was the breaking up of Momentum Black Connexions/Caucus. More recently, he closed down Momentum’s youth group. This demonstrates his serious lack of commitment to the self-organisation, self-determination and autonomy of disadvantaged groups in society.

Wes Stressing MP: new friend of Jon Lansman’s

As a consequence of Lansman’s behaviour, Labour Against the Witchhunt believes he lacks the democratic credentials to become the kind of general secretary that the Labour Party now needs in order to heal the wounds inflicted by Iain McNicol’s divisiveness. As general secretary, McNicol was directly in charge of the discredited compliance unit and thereby responsible for the purge of thousands of pro-Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party members. The automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions overseen by McNicol – especially those based on alleged anti-semitism and those based on members’ alleged “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B – have brought the party into disrepute. They have prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while valuable resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change. Continue Reading “Why we cannot support Jon Lansman’s Labour Party general secretary bid”

Grassroots Black Left Submission to Labour’s Democracy Review

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I have been asked to distribute this to people and ask them to submit the following to the Democracy Review at democracy@labour.org.uk.  It has to be in by Friday 12th January 4pm.

I am also enclosing the Grassroots Black Left (GBL) criticism of Momentum owner Jon Lansman’s proposals on BAME. They are very critical of the fact that Lansman has wound up all the liberation strands in Momentum and is in the process of winding up the Youth Section as well.

Here is the link to Lansman’s Open Letter with which the GBL agree.  At the moment BAME is in the hands of the Right and is a rotten borough which excludes 99% of Black and Asian members of the Labour Party.

The Grassroots Black Left proposals reject the term BAME as a white term.  In particular they reject the concept of ‘ethnic minority’ which is ill defined and can include people who are not oppressed.  They call for a Labour Party Black Socialists group with 2 representatives, not one as Lansman proposes on the NEC.  They also call for an annual not a biannual conference.

If you agree with the Grassroots Black Left Proposals can you please submit them in your own name, with your membership number attached and contact details by tomorrow January 12, 4 pm at the very latest.

Thank you, Tony Greenstein

Please accept this as my submission to the Labour Party Democracy Review. I request an acknowledgement of receipt.

According to the Guardian’s Rajeev Syal Democracy review may put Keith Vaz’s position on Labour NEC at risk, fewer than 800 members voted for Keith Vaz as the BAME NEC member in August, despite an estimated 72,000 black and minority ethnic members.  This is unacceptable.  As presently constituted BAME Labour appears to be a self-selecting elite club which is not open to the vast majority of Black and Asian members of the Labour Party.  As presently constituted some 1% of Black and Asia Labour Party members are members of BAME Labour  and yet they elected Keith Vaz as the BAME member of the National Executive Committee.  It is clear that as presently constituted BAME Labour is a rotten borough.  The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader was supposed to lead to a wind of change, not a consolidation of the undemocratic practices of New Labour.  The old undemocratic institutions of New Labour need to be overthrown. Continue Reading “Grassroots Black Left Submission to Labour’s Democracy Review”