Bristol South Passes Motion of Solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn

As Mike has reported in his piece about Jeremy Corbyn calling in m’learned friends, Bristol South has passed a motion of solidarity with the former Labour leader. This was one of four motions, one of which commented on the EHRC report on anti-Semitism in the party.

Bristol South is my local Constituency Labour Party, and I was at the meeting. Due to the lockdown, it was held on Zoom and was packed. It was a long meeting, partly because of problems some members had accessing the meeting and the polling system with their machines.

The current secretary, David Evans, has issued a diktat stating that it was ‘not competent business’ for local Labour parties to repudiate the EHRC report or comment on the disciplinary proceedings against members. Hence the meeting was very rigidly controlled in order to prevent people unfortunately breaking those rules. The four motions were present to the members, who were called on to suggest amendments. However, because of the danger of transgressing Evans’ decrees, people were not allowed to discuss them. This was naturally resented by many members, but the local party leadership made it clear that they were not going to change their rules for the evening.

One of the motions was, I think, passed unanimously or almost so. This was presented by the CLP’s LGBTQ+ officer. It noted that there was rising levels of prejudice and abuse against other minority groups, such as Blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, gay and transfolk, and the disabled as well as Jews. It called for the party to treat hate and discrimination against them as seriously as anti-Semitism, for officers dealing with cases to receive special training.

The first motion commented on the EHRC and there was some bitter opposition to it and to the motion of solidarity with Corbyn from those members, who I assume are members of the party’s right-wing or have been taken in by the lies of the establishment smear merchants. These members wished the motions to be altered to omit a number of clauses. One of these was a condemnation of the political interference now being done by the leadership, because it was bringing the party into disrepute, just like the political interference in the anti-Semitism cases condemned by the EHRC in their report. Others stated that it was a pity that the EHRC had not waited until the party’s own reports into the handling of anti-Semitism cases had been published before publishing theirs. The motion also contained a clause requesting the party issue clear guidance on how anti-Semitism cases should be handled. Despite very strong opposition, the proposed amendments to remove them failed and the clauses remained in the motion.

A young man tried to amend the motion of solidarity with Corbyn so that it removed all reference to him and became instead a pledge of unity that the party would go forward to combat racism, Fascism and anti-Semitism. This chap clearly believed that Corbyn was a terrible anti-Semite, but his motion was also defeated. It’s noxious for a number of reasons. The most important of these is obviously that Jeremy Corbyn is not and never has been an anti-Semite, despite the screaming lies by the right-wing British establishment. Secondly, the reason why Corbyn and his supporters have all been grossly libelled as anti-Semites is because Corbyn is an opponent of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. The supporters of the current Israeli government have tried to defend the indefensible by decrying the country’s critics as anti-Semites. They’ve been doing that since the 1980s, which is why one Jewish critic of Israeli racism, Norman Finkelstein, has called the Israel lobby a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites. Thirdly, you cannot pick and choose which racism you oppose if you are serious about combating racism. You cannot, say, denounce and fight anti-Black racism or Islamophobia while ignoring anti-Semitism. At the same time, you can’t oppose institutional racism against Blacks while defending the Israeli apartheid system which viciously discriminates against the Palestinians. This is why Jackie Walker, a Jewish Black woman, came to become an opponent of Israeli apartheid. She had been a member of the movement against South African apartheid in the 1970s, and somebody asked her how she could oppose that, but not Israeli discrimination against their indigenous population. She couldn’t, and so became an opponent of Israeli racism along with the other noxious varieties. This is why the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement took it upon themselves to smear her as an anti-Semite, as they have done so many Jewish critics of Israel, despite her Jewish heritage, marriage and faith.

I am very glad that these motions have been passed, and fully appreciate the reasons for the very tight restrictions the local party leadership placed on their debate. As the secretaries made clear, these are very emotive issues, quite apart from the fact that it has been made clear that any breach of Evans’ rules would result in disciplinary action.

I hope the current leadership will take these motions on board and reinstate Jeremy Corbyn fully, restore the whip to him and adopt the recommendations of the other motions in order to make the party more just and fair in dealing with cases of prejudice and discrimination.

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