Fighting the witch-hunt as key part of building the foundations for an independent, democratic Labour left

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Lead motion agreed at our members’ meeting on May 4 2019

The witch-hunt in the Labour Party is accelerating. There are many new allegations, suspensions and investigations. In the run up to the May local and European elections, the campaign of the right in and outside the Labour Party is designed to smear Jeremy Corbyn in particular, and the left in general.

Overwhelmingly, it is clear that a number of party members under attack (often election candidates) are not guilty of anti-Semitic comments. Words are often taken out of context, twisted and misrepresented to prove their ‘guilt’. In the few cases where there is real evidence of prejudiced views or support for questionable conspiracy theories, patient discussion is usually the best option, with suspension or expulsion the last resort. As socialists, we believe in the potential for change; that people, through experience, joint struggles and rational argument, can learn.

Instead, we are again seeing automatic suspensions. The Labour right is energetically promoting this approach, of course – it facilitates the purge of Corbyn supporters and awkward trouble-makers.

Meanwhile, those like Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Tom Watson insult, sabotage, make bogus accusations and work hand-in-glove with the capitalist media – without any repercussions.

That such behaviour goes unpunished is the product of the short-sighted and futile attempt to appease the right. This can only undermine the Corbyn leadership and often plays into the false ‘anti-Zionism equals antisemitism’ narrative. Now it is “common knowledge” that Jeremy Corbyn is “responsible for antisemitism inside and outside the Labour Party”, as Ruth Smeeth MP recently claimed.

Appeasement is designed to stop more right-wingers leaving and getting Corbyn into No10. LAW notes the delay to the roll-out of trigger ballots, which conference in 2018 voted for. The delay is particularly worrying in the context of a possible snap election or, worse, a national government. The vast majority of Labour MPs are clearly deeply hostile to Corbyn and his politics. Even if he was Prime Minister, the right inside and outside the Labour Party would not stop their campaign against him. They want him either removed, taken prisoner or tamed. Labour Party members must be allowed to hold all their representatives to account.

Momentum has proven unfit for purpose. While a number of local Momentum branches continue to do good work, the national leadership of the organisation has often been deafeningly silent or actually supported suspensions and expulsions – something that even the Jewish Labour Movement recognised when it praised Momentum in the lead motion at its recent AGM.

LAW supports a Labour left that:

  • organises democratically and transparently;
  • both supports Corbyn against attacks by the right, and is independent and able to criticise the leadership when necessary;
  • is consistently anti-racist and internationalist, a stance which by definition includes anti-Zionism and supporting the Palestinians.

In addition to our aims and priorities outlined above, we also resolve to campaign:

  • for Labour CLPs and trade union branches to affiliate to LAW and Jewish Voice for Labour
  • for the immediate implementation of the reformed trigger ballots;
  • for the scrapping of all bans and proscriptions: if the mass of socialists in Britain joined the party, it would put us in a much stronger position in the ongoing civil war within the party.

In addition to our ongoing public campaigning we therefore instruct the steering committee to:

  • produce more model motions, statements and public interventions on the subjects and issues above;
  • approach other local, regional and national organisations and individuals who are interested in building a democratic and transparent Labour left;
  • start planning for an intervention around those aims at Labour Party conference 2019 in Brighton.
  • produce basic information for members who have been suspended or are put under investigation, including details of potential pro bono legal advisers.

We will prioritise the following three campaigns:

  1. For the reinstatement of Chris Williamson MP.
  2. For the Labour Party Party and other organisations to reject the definition of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
  3. To make Zionism a legitimate topic of discussion.