Jackie Walker Speaking at Labour Against the Witchhunt Public Meeting

This is a video I found on YouTube of the superb Black Jewish anti-racist activist, Jackie Walker, speaking at a public meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt on the 29th January 2018. Labour Against the Witchhunt is a group founded to protest against the anti-Semitic smears and expulsions of decent party members and activists. Among its founders and leaders are Tony Greenstein, a long-time Jewish enemy of racism and Zionism as well as Walker herself. Also present on the panel with her is the Israeli mathematician and anti-Zionist intellectual, Moshe Machover, and Marc Wadsworth, the Black anti-racist activist, who was smeared by Ruth Smeeth.

It begins with Walker introducing herself and stating that she is the chair of Labour Against the Witchhunt. She has not only been suspended, but processed by Labour’s NEC and she is still waiting to hear when she will have a hearing by the NCC, the highest court in Labour. The explains that she is mentioning this because the structures of the Labour party have a lot to do with the reason they were meeting that evening. They don’t just want to see individuals like Moshe Machover being let off, but also a revision of the disciplinary process. Two or three years ago, before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party there was no link between the Left and anti-Semitism. There was no link between the left and abuse, and if you had said that at the time people’s mouths would have fallen open. But the smears started when Corbyn became a candidate. And suddenly things began to appear in the press and the media – stories about abuse, misogyny and anti-Semitism. She says its extraordinary, and it was an extraordinary learning curve for her about how the media in this country works.

At LAW they don’t want to see the end of all disciplinary processes, because every organisation needs them. What they want to see are proper disciplinary processes that are appropriate for a party that has a proud record of defending the oppressed, in terms of being the party that wants justice and transparency. She notes that many people there were trade unionists, and says that as trade unionists they would be appalled if they had to defend people in tribunals with processes like Labour’s. For example, you may not know all the charges against you until you actually arrive on the day. You may not be able to pay for representation, as the party insists you have to have an acting solicitor who speaks for you. You cannot just take a friend, who will represent you. You cannot know who you accusers are. She says that in fact your accusers are protected more than you are. She says that as someone who has had her personal data not just sent to the papers, but to all the news media. And she had it tweeted out from what must have been a closed session of the NEC. They want to see the kind of processes that are right and apt for the type of organisation they have.

They are also not rejecting the fact that racism exists in the Labour party. The Labour party is a reflection of society as a whole. Except usually it’s better than society as a whole. Racism exists. Anti-Semitism exists. But it exists at a level a lot lower than in the Tory party. How dare the Tory party with Boris Johnson point his finger at us as racists with his attitudes towards people of colour and others. She says that proudly as a picaninny with even more than a watermelon smile.

Very soon after the smears against Corbyn started he was being called a terrorist. They got that footage and they did what they did to all Labour activists – they cut it how they wanted and took it out of context. I’m sure Ken [Loach] could make any of us look saints and sinners using his skills, and they made Corbyn out to be a terrorist sympathiser. This is the MP that has probably had the reputation in the last 20 or 30 years of being the person who stands out the most for civil rights and anti-racism. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has had over a hundred articles suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. You could say that they are just another bunch of trolls, except that the disciplinary unit are using material from them against people like herself, Greenstein, and Wadsworth. What is happening in an organisation that is falling over itself to discredit its own leader?

She says that she thinks the LAW was established, it has been hugely successful. And one of the reasons is that they are not just interested in people, who have been hauled up with false allegations of anti-Semitism. This is important, as in the last leadership election a woman was suspended because she liked the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters are a pop group, and Walker says she thinks somebody in the NEC didn’t know who they were or read the charge properly. They suspended hundreds of Corbyn supporters at that time, and one of the accusations made against Walker and some of the others is that they have said that there is a witchhunt against the Left. The irony is that if you say that there is a witchhunt against the left, you are guilty of being anti-Semitic, or abusive, or something. It’s quite, quite a laugh.

Since the LAW was established they’ve held very successful public meetings, they’ve had a really good lobby of the NEC, which she hopes people will continue to support. That lobby was followed by the media, and they even had excerpts on TV, which is extraordinary, as many of those, who have been suspended, have found it impossible to get their voices out into the media.

So what is the way forward? Walker suggests that one way is to insist that the party implement the findings of the Chakrabarti Commission. She would like Chakrabarti to go further. Here is a party that commissioned the report, the report disappears from its website, to reappear after inquiries, but it still waits to be implemented. And those of the party, who have not appeared yet before the NEC and NCC should not be processed until the Chakrabarti recommendations have actually been put through. Labour stands for justice, for justice for the small people against power, and this is what Labour Against the Witchhunt is about, and she hopes that the audience will encourage people join and attend their events.

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