Open Letter to John McDonnell – What Purpose Do You Serve When Hauling Up The White Flag Is Your Only Strategy?
As Miners’ Leader Mick McGahey Once Said, ‘They’ll Stop Chasing You When You Stop Running’
On 18th February, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Stop the War Coalition issued a statement calling for an end to the war, whilst addressing the underlying causes of the war, namely NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe. NATO expansion had been contrary to repeated assurances that Bush, Baker, Genscher and others had given to Gorbachev at the time of German unification in 1991.
It was pretty mild stuff and yet 11 members of the Campaign Group who signed the statement, including yourself, were threatened by Starmer with loss of the Whip. Instead of standing up to him you all meekly complied. Not one of you had the courage to defy him.
On March 2 Starmer threatened you and Diane Abbot with the loss of the Whip if you spoke at a Stop the War rally. Again Starmer threatened you with loss of the Whip. Again you complied. Under Starmer’s Stalinist regime free speech has been abolished.
StWC described NATO as an offensive not a defensive alliance referring to ‘its record in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Libya over the last generation, not to mention the US-British attack on Iraq.’
These are incontestable facts but you didn’t even mount a protest at what had happened. What is the point of your gestures of opposition if at the end of the day you always back down?
The reaction of Starmer was predictable. He was elected as leader on the basis of 10 pledges, number 4 of which promised to ‘promote peace and human rights’.
No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.
This was of course a lie. In a contest between Johnson and Starmer one would be hard pressed to decide who is the bigger liar. Yet you didn’t see fit to point these, simple facts, out.
NATO’s willingness to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian was an ideal issue on which to make a stand but once again you bottled it. You could for example have pointed out that the United States and Britain have openly armed neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine. You could have asked how this squared with his commitment to rooting out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. You did none of these things.
The obvious response to someone who makes a Dalek seem an empathetic human being was to tell Starmer to go take a swim in the River Thames. Preferably without a life jacket. But you did none of these things.
You and the Cowardly 10 chose to place a premium on your seats in parliament even though Starmer has made it clear that you are unlikely to be allowed to stand for Labour again.
To put your behaviour in context it is worth looking at what happened during previous witchhunts by the Right and how the Left responded.
In 1939 Sir Stafford Cripps and Aneurin Bevan refused to back down when they supported an anti-fascist united front with the Communist Party. As a result they were expelled.
Bevan first and then Cripps were readmitted to the Labour Party. Bevan went on to found the NHS and Cripps, who at one time rivalled Churchill in war-time popularity, became a member of the War Cabinet and in 1947, Chancellor of the Exchequer. As George Orwell wrote:
The outstanding thing about Sir Stafford Cripps, however, has always been his utter unwillingness to compromise his political principles.
I doubt if even your best friend could say that about you John. If there is one thing that marks you out it is your willingness to surrender. No principle is so precious that you won’t give it up.
Do you remember that toe curlingly embarrassing interview with Andrew Marr on Labour ‘anti-Semitism’? Not once did you challenge the assumption that Labour was overrun by anti-Semitism. You simply took as gospel what the supporters of Israeli Apartheid said.
Today we face not only NATO inspired carnage in the Ukraine but the possibility of nuclear conflagration if the US continues find pretexts for war in order to retain military and economic hegemony. That is why it has created the Aukus Pact as part of its pivot to Asia and undeclared war against China. Always of course in the name of ‘human rights’!
Graham Bash, who was recently expelled after 53 years membership, described you as the best Labour MP he had known, which makes me shudder as to the rest of them. You are 71. After 25 years in parliament you will have a good parliamentary pension. You and Dianne Abbot will not suffer if you are deselected. Who knows you could even win against Starmer Labour.
However bad Blair was Starmer is even worse. What is it that prevents you and what’s left of the Socialist Campaign Group mounting a political attack on Starmer, who is the Tory enemy from within, and his shadowy backers like Mandelson and Labour Friends of Israel?
Starmer himself is insignificant. A political nonentity. He has less charisma than the average mannequin. There is no lie that he is not willing to tell, nor any promise that he is not prepared to break.
He was a fervent Remainer but now he supports Brexit. He promised to ‘root out’ Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ and then he expelled record numbers of Jews! So much so that if you are a Jew in Labour then you are 5 times more likely to be expelled than non-Jews.
The only true thing Starmer has said since becoming leader is that he is a Zionist ‘without qualification’, i.e. a racist for whom Black Lives Matter was a ‘moment’. Starmer has readmitted to Labour racists like Trevor Philips, for whom Muslims are a nation within a nation and Luke Stanger for whom Roma and Gypsies are ‘a nasty blight on society.’ Through all of this you have kept silent.
If there is any one individual, bar Jon Lansman, who bears responsibility for the defeat of the Corbyn project, it is you. It wasn’t long ago when you were ‘tearing your hair out’ about anti-Semitism. You apologised for non-existent anti-Semitism. You told us that we should take the advice of the Zionist Board of Deputies on anti-Semitism even though the BOD has a proven record of attacking Palestinian supporters and anti-Zionists as ‘anti-Semitic’.
Even worse you and Lansman supported the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which was designed precisely in order to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
It was as if you had loaned out your brain. I was the first Jewish person to be expelled from Labour as a consequence of the ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations. The first person to welcome my expulsion was Starmer. It was clear then that the concern of the Tory press and the Labour Right about ‘anti-Semitism’ was contrived. Yet you and the Campaign Group remained silent.
When Ken Livingstone was suspended instead of defending him you told him that the Jews were a forgiving people! Perhaps, but Zionists aren’t that forgiving.
Did you ever ask why should those who demonised asylum seekers and Muslims should be so concerned about anti-Semitism? It was New Labour, with Alan Johnson as Home Secretary, who first created the ‘hostile environment’ policy that Theresa May ran with. If Jews were genuinely suffering from anti-Semitism, then the Tories and Labour Right would be the last people to complain.
Did you never ask yourself why The Times, whose editor Geoffrey Dawson forbade all criticism of Hitler’s anti-Semitism in the 1930s, was so concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’? Or the Daily Mail which led with ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ and employed a neo-Nazi, Katie Hopkins as a columnist, was a cheerleader for Hitler in the 30s?
When Hitler ‘won’ the unfree elections in March 1933, the Mail wrote that if Hitler used his majority “prudently and peacefully, no one here will shed any tears for the disappearance of German democracy”. Yet we are supposed to believe that the Mail has now repented and it too is now concerned about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’.
What possessed you to praise the Board of Deputies, a body that has never organised a demonstration against genuine anti-Semitism? In October 1936, it advised Jews to stay away from the anti-fascist mobilisation against Moseley’s British Union of Fascists in the East End of London. The Jewish working class, which today does not exist, ignored the BOD. Did it not strike you as strange that their first demonstration against ‘anti-Semitism’ in March 2018 was against Corbyn? A demonstration which those well known anti-racists Ian Paisley and Norman Tebbit attended?
It was obvious in 2016 that the British Establishment and the US and Israeli states had resolved that someone opposed to NATO and its wars could not be allowed to be the leader of the second major party in their closest European ally. Anti-Semitism was their chosen weapon.
Instead of standing up to the Right and its false anti-Semitism narrative you betrayed the Left and appeased the Right. When Margaret Hodge, whose call for a Whites only housing policy had been praised by the BNP, called Jeremy ‘a fucking anti-Semite’ it was you who opposed any disciplinary action.
This was the same Hodge that demanded that Starmer remove the Whip from Corbyn or she would resign. Is it any wonder, according to Owen Jones and Pogrund/ MacGuire that Corbyn refused to talk to you for many months as a result?
This is the same Hodge who covered up a child abuse scandal in Islington Council when she was leader and who libelled one of the victims. As Matthew Norman wrote With a past like hers, Margaret Hodge might show a bit more humility. Hodge’s reward was being made Children’s Minister by Blair, an act that defied irony yet nonetheless you sought to appease this despicable creature who is now the Jewish Labour Movement’s parliamentary representative.
A different path was always available to you. You could have supported Open Selection of MPs and got rid of Hodge and her detritus. The PLP could have been transformed. Instead you thought you could win over the Ian Austins and John Manns of this world!
It is no surprise therefore that as soon as Starmer barked you and the SCG jumped. The SCG has 35 MPs yet only 11 were even prepared to sign StWC’s statement. As Dylan wrote, you threw it all away.
Today it would be difficult to put a piece of paper between Starmer and Johnson. They are both liars and they are both ‘patriots’ who wrap themselves in the flag. As Samuel Johnson observed, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
If you had an ounce of courage or principle you would challenge Starmer for the Tory he is. You would appeal over his head to Labour’s membership and start a campaign against this reactionary representative of the Deep State with his persecution of Assange, his protection of Jimmy Saville and his support for extraordinary rendition.
Instead you retreat in sullen silence. Indeed you even attempted to flatter him. ‘Keir’s got this exactly right’ was your response to Starmer’s Covid strategy. But what was Starmer’s strategy? He promised to support Johnson ‘in the national interest’.
If you are not going to fight Starmer inside the Labour Party, the principled thing to do would be for you and the SCG to accept that Labour has abandoned even the pretence of socialism. Your one service to socialism would be to help in the formation of a new, socialist party.
The Labour Right is determined that there will never be a return to the Corbyn era and you seem determined to help them in that.
The only thing that puzzles me is why the Labour Representation Committee still keeps you on as their President. Perhaps its a case of misplaced nostalgia or just wishful thinking.