Tony Greenstein | 14 December 2019 | Post Views:

Labour’s Electoral Disaster is the Price of Appeasement – You Don’t Apologise to Someone Trying to Kill You

Lansman, McDonnell and Owen Jones Did What the Right and Labour’s Enemies Couldn’t Do – They Undermined the Corbyn Project from Within

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining – at least Smeeth, Swinson, Berger, Chuka and Ellman are gone

What is so infuriating about Labour’s defeat, the biggest electoral defeat since 1935, was that it didn’t have to happen. Time and time again I and others warned that the allegations that Labour was riddled with anti-Semitism, that it was institutionally anti-Semitic, were part of a deliberate campaign of destabilisation.

When the history of this period is written and the files are opened, not least in Washington, then we will learn the origins of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. I have no doubt that the ‘anti-Semitism campaign’ was coordinated and orchestrated by para-state forces and then taken up in conjunction with the Tory tabloids and the Guardian. It did not arise spontaneously.

What is also clear is that these allegations could have been made over the past 100 years with much greater accuracy. It was Sydney Webb, Colonial Secretary under Ramsay MacDonald and founder of the Fabians, who wrote that there are 

no Jews in the British Labour party” and that while “French, German, Russian Socialism is Jew-ridden. We, thank heaven, are free”, adding that was probably the case because there was “no money in it”. (Paul Kelemen, The British Left and Zionism: The History of a Divorce, Manchester University Press 2012, p.20)

Or Herbert Morrison, Home Secretary in the war-time coalition who strained every muscle to prevent Jewish refugees entering Britain.

Yet people like Owen Jones made themselves feel good about spreading the lie that opposition to Israel’s genocidal attacak on Gaza in 2014, when 2,200 people were murdered, including 550 children, was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Owen Jones said in response to a speech by Glenn Secker of Jewish Voices for Labour that ‘I strongly oppose calling the JLM ‘a fifth column’ – who I regard as comrades and have been proud to speak at their events.’

Jon Lansman also thought he was so clever when he repeatedly spoke at Jewish Labour Movement meetings.  The JLM, which is the overseas wing of the almost dead Israeli Labour Party is also an affiliate of the World Zionist Organisation, a body which funds settlements and steals land from Palestinians.

Lansman must have been brain dead if he did not realise that the only purpose of the JLM was to remove Jeremy Corbyn. His particular invention was ‘unconscious’ anti-Semitism. Quite how one can recognise something if it is invisible and unconscious, indeed why it is even important, he never explained. Don’t we have enough all too conscious racism?

I have called Lansman a racist, not because he hates people of a different colour but because he consciously promoted the idea that anti-Semitism, a minor marginal prejudice against a section of White people, was all important whilst saying nothing about the very real racism that led to the murder of over 70 people in Grenfell and the death of Black Britons who were illegally deported by Theresa May to the West Indies in the Windrush Scandal.

Instead of calling out the Labour Right, Ian Austen, Tom Watson and those Labour MPs who didn’t even vote against the 2014 ‘hostile environment’ Immigration Act Lansman focussed on Jews.

I’m not aware of any Jews who are at risk of deportation because they are Jews or of police violence or disproportionate imprisonment of Jews or any other measure of state anti-Semitism.

If there was any doubt that the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was bogus then the campaign to force the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism was the final, clinching proof. The only purpose of the IHRA is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

But it wasn’t just Lansman.  John McDonnell never hesitated to give the allegations his backing, to ‘prove’ that unlike Corbyn he was genuinely concerned about ‘anti-Semitism’. He told Ken Livingstone to apologise ‘because the Jews are a forgiving people’. He also told Chris Williamson to apologise but not once did McDonnell call into question the fact that the Board of Deputies represents a minority of the most reactionary Jews in this country.

Not once did any of the above 3 ask themselves why it should be that anti-Semitism had only now arisen as an issue.  Or why the Daily Mail, not a paper known for its commitment to anti-racism, should be so concerned about anti-Semitism.

It was obvious, even before I was suspended in March 2016, that this was not a spontaneous phenomenon.  It was contrived, sponsored by Zionist groups like the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and pushed by a Board of Deputies which has never fought anti-Semitism.  

I can remember in the 1970’s they did their best to play down incidents of anti-Semitism like grave daubing. They attacked the Anti-Nazi League because it was backed by the anti-Zionist SWP.I wrote 3 articles during the General Election for my blog and Weekly Worker and another one for Al Jazeera. The first one, just after the election was called was:

Corbyn can win BUT it is unlikely without a clear position on Brexit and a clear rejection of the anti-Semitism narrative – A hung parliament is likely but 2019 will not be a rerun of 2017-Johnson is not May

I wrote that ‘those who imagine that Corbyn is going to gain a majority are going to be disappointed’

At the last election Momentum was seen as having contributed significantly to the result.  This time because of its lack of democracy, in essence a plaything of its owner Jon Lansman, it is unlikely to be able to repeat the performance.  … No one has done more than Lansman to lose this election through his sectarian Zionism and his endorsement of the Israeli, US and British strategy of destabilising Corbyn.

I  confess I agonised over saying outright that Labour was going to lose the election because, like most people, I desperately wanted them to win.  But the longer it went on, the more certain I became that Labour couldn’t win. The ‘anti-Semitism’ smears were being deployed increasingly effectively. Perhaps the turning point was when the Chief Rabbi wrote his infamous article Labour antisemitism: Corbyn not fit for high office, says Chief Rabbi Mirvis

What was Corbyn’s response?  Did he go onto the attack and point out that Ephraism Mirvis had blessed the racist Boris Johnson?  Did he point out that Mirvis was a supporter of the far-Right settlers in Israel or that he had endorsed Norman Tebbit’s infamous ‘cricket test’? No, he suggested a meeting with Mirvis!

Last week I wrote in the Weekly Worker Expect the Worst – Hope for the Best. I wrote that Corbyn’s throwing Chris Williamson was ‘pivotal and marks the end of the Corbyn project as we know it.’ Williamson was one of a number of friends who Corbyn had dispensed with as excess baggage. There was Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Peter Willsman etc.

I also wrote an article last week for Al Jazeera Is Jeremy Corbyn a ‘threat’ to British Jews? about the suggestion that Corbyn represented an ‘existential threat’ to British Jews as the Jewish Chronicle and other Zionist newspapers had written. Finally, on the eve of poll, I laid the blame for what was to come on his ‘strategic advisor’ Seamus Milne who had plotted Corbyn’s disastrous strategy of appeasement.

I wrote ‘Your strategy of apologising for ‘anti-Semitism’ neutrality on Brexit and Appeasement of the Right has led to Disaster’. By then I was convinced that the election campaign had been nothing less than a car crash. What we didn’t know was how bad this disaster would be. I had expected that maybe we would see a loss of 20-30 seats.  I didn’t realise that it would be the worst performance since 1935.

The question is why? Was it inevitable?  The basic ideas in the Manifesto,  nationalisation of rail, an end to the tax dodging of multi-nationals was popular but it has to be seen as part of a coherent strategy, not just as a series of give aways like free broadband.

The anti-Semitism attacks were designed to give the Tories a moral legitimacy. It was not, as liar Ruth Smeeth has stated, because people on the doorstep were mentioning anti-Semitism.

The problem was that Corbyn, instead of pointing to Boris Johnson’s record of racism including his anti-Semitism, had repeatedly apologised, accepted his opponents barbs and promised to do better.

Corbyn never understood and here the failure is above all that of Seamus Milne, that the ‘anti-Semitism’ smears were designed to create a narrative of the untrustworthy, weak Corbyn. Corbyn completely played into their hands. The ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks were framed in such a way that they could never be solved to the satisfaction of his accusers.

It is always possible to find the odd racist or anti-Semite if you look hard enough. The Tory Party is full of them.  Why Tory MEPs even sit alongside anti-Semites in the European Parliament.

The analogy I use is of paedophilia.  Of course the Labour Party will have its share of predatory paedophiles. All parties have them, but do we therefore say that the Labour Party is ‘overrun’ by them? 

Boris Johnson wrote a book, 72 Virgins packed with racist stereotypes, about Jews, Black people, Muslims. He wrote about Russian oligarchs ‘who ran the TV stations (and who were mainly, as some lost no time in pointing out, of Jewish origin),’ The Independent noted that ‘Near the beginning of the book Mr Johnson uses an extended metaphor to depict a traffic warden working in Westminster as a “hunter-gatherer” because he is an African immigrant.’

As a number of Jewish academics and other personalities, including the former Chair of the JLM, Jeremy Newmark, wrote in a letter to The Guardian, Boris Johnson

portrays a Jewish character, Sammy Katz, with a “proud nose and curly hair”, and paints him as a malevolent, stingy, snake-like Jewish businessman who exploits immigrant workers for profit. There is nothing subtle about this. We know what antisemitism looks like.

Yet the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies had nothing to say because Johnson has always been 100% pro-Israel.  That and only that was Corbyn’s failure.  He had been seen as a supporter of the Palestinians.

Of course it was difficult to combat the systematic distortion and defamation by the mainstream Tory media, including the Guardian. But it was not an invention of the Daily Mail that Corbyn had apologised for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

When Andrew Neil repeatedly asked him to apologise to the Jewish community what Corbyn should have done was say he had nothing to apologise for.  Instead he avoided the question.  He should have gone onto the attack and said that he wasn’t taking lessons from someone who had employed holocaust denier, David Irving, as an ‘expert’ to examine the Goebbels diaries. Neil’s excuse for employing Irving and paying him a six figure sum was that ‘He is a technician, one of the few qualified technicians in the country. It is as a technician we are using him.’

If Seamus Milne had his wits about him then Corbyn could have used this to devastating effect.  Instead?  Nothing. 


The other major problem was Corbyn and Milne’s approach to Brexit. Yes the northern working classes had supported Brexit but why?  Because of despair and disillusion they turned to nationalist and chauvinist solutions. It was Labour’s duty to point out that it was not Europe that had deindustrialised the north of England but Thatcher and the Tories. An open position on Remain would have won over much of the South and Labour could have campaigned for Reform and Remain in the North.  It is the job of political parties to win people to their side not to accommodate racism and bigotry. Behind Brexit, a project of the Right and far-Right, is a racist agenda.  That’s why Trump is so supportive of Nigel Farage and Brexit.

Instead we had the idiotic idea that Corbyn would negotiate a new Brexit agreement, put it to the vote and then not even take a position on his own negotiated settlement. How can that be credible?

As D.D. Guttenplan wrote in The Nation:

The first duty of an opposition leader is to mount an effective opposition, and on Johnson’s signature project—dragging Britain out of Europe—Corbyn was never close to effective.

Where do we go from here

As could be expected the BBC and media are full of the idea that if only Labour turns to the Right and returns to the golden days of Blair then all will be well.  They forget that Blair’s government took us into Iraq and Afghanistan.  That it was a government of war which attacked migrants and benefit claimants. As time wore on, they lost 4 million votes.  Gordon Brown beget David Cameron.

All over Europe the rightward parties of social democracy are declining.  In France the Socialist Party of Francois Mitterand barely exists.  In German the SPD is also declining. In The Netherlands and Sweden too.  Right-wing social democracy has no answers to neo-liberalism and the rise of the far-Right.

The real question is whether the Left in the Labour Party can get its act together.  One thing is for certain.  Momentum is brain dead and useless.  It is a private company not a movement.  It’s no wonder that when Farage set up his Brexit Party he modelled it on Lansman’s private ownership of Momentum.

We have a Socialist Campaign Group of MPs in parliament which has proven totally useless at opposing the witchhunt and the anti-Semitism narrative. They are a set of prima donnas jockeying for position like Ms Long-Bailey. The last of the old guard, himself ill, Dennis Skinner has lost his seat in Bolsover.  A real and genuine tragedy for a man who put everything into the 1984/5 Miners Strike.

The Socialist Campaign Group’s co-Chair Lloyd Russell-Moyle lied to me about the position of Chris Williamson, saying that he had been given a road back to reinstatement when it was clear that the Right objected to him coming back at any price. His fellow co-chair, Laura Pidcott, has lost her seat, which is a genuine tragedy.

The Labour Representation Committee has withdrawn from the Labour Left Alliance, thus continuing the tradition of the Left in splitting and resplitting.

If the hopes of 2015-2017 are to be maintained then there will be a need to build a new organisation of the left which can overcome its systematic sectarianism.

We need to face fairly and squarely the problems of the age we are living in.  We have trade unions which are today much weaker than they were 40 years ago, with half the membership.  We have an extremely low level of strikes. The northern working class no longer remembers its tradition of militancy because it no longer has the same bases of power. The dockers are no more, the miners don’t exist. We have a working class that has been restructured and atomised.

The Corbyn project, which was a genuine mass movement that came into the Labour Party is no more.  Momentum is today a shadow.

I had Laura Parker, Momentum’s General Manager and Lansman’s faithful puppet writing to me just before the polls closed saying:

‘However tonight goes, it’s clear something special is happening.You see it in our faces as we campaign. You feel it in those countless moments of warmth and new found friendship. Every cup of tea shared on a cold night canvassing. Every smile from a passerby when they see you’re with Labour.

Our movement feels different now. Bigger and shot through with hope and determination. Held together with bonds of solidarity that connect us like never before….I feel so lucky to have shared this election with you. Now let’s move forward

As Private Eye used to say ‘pass the sick bag Alice.’ Momentum is the group in which Jon Lansman, with the support of Corbyn and McDonnell,  mounted a coup against democracy.  The membership of Momentum has no control or power over the leadership

A new movement can only arise over the dead body of Momentum but it cannot simply be an alliance of the usual sects.  Can it be done?  Quite frankly I a sceptical. The Left does not have a good track record in overcoming sectarianism.

Our message is not that Labour’s General Election defeat was inevitable but that the Right in the Party, in alliance with their friends at the BBC and The Guardian, consciously planned and hoped for defeat as a way of defeating the Left.

Unless that is recognised then all will be lost.  Before the Labour Party can be transformed we have to ‘encourage’ its Red Tories to depart and for all those expelled and suspended to be reinstated.

In other words we need to return fire with fire.  It will be interesting to see who in the  Campaign Group has the guts to take up the fight.  And who will finally have the courage to nail the fake antisemitism campaign? Labour must attack the racism of the Tories not other Labour members. And that must include the disaffiliation of the JLM which couldn’t even support the party it is affiliated to

However we should not be too despondent.  Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, the purveyors of fake victimhood have been removed.  As has Louise Ellman and the Lib Dems reactionary leader and Jo Swinson and Nigel Dodds of the DUP. Swinson’s defeat was particularly sweet.Tony GreensteinSee also Neil Faulkner and Phil Hearse’s Election analysis. A victory for the Far Right. A crisis for the Left.

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