Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Vaxxers’

Private Eye’s Biased Reporting of Power Struggle in Socialist Health Association

March 1, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 22nd February – 7th March 2019 ran an article by ‘Ratbiter’ about a messy power struggle for struggle of the moribund Socialist Health Authority. This blamed its current leader, Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, for taking it to the point of death. Dr Scott-Samuel was described as a conspiracy theorist, who appeared alongside anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield on a show broadcast on David Icke’s forum and had unjustly attempted to get one of his Association’s employees, its director Martin Rathfelder, sacked.

The article, ‘Socialist Malaise’ ran

The once respected Socialist Health Association is looking peaky. If not dead, it’s certainly in a coma. 

The Association campaigned for the creation of the NHS in 1948 and has fought to defend free healthcare at the point of use ever since. But it hasn’t published a policy statement since 2017, and calls to its office are likely to go unanswered since it sacked its only staff member last year. Who could have brought a proud campaign group to the brink of death? Step forward Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, chair of Liverpool Wavertree Labour party.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell assured worried Labour supporters that Scott-Samuel and his comrades were drying to get Luciana Berger MP deselected (prior to Berger leaving Labour of her own accord) not because they were anti-Semites, but because of “other issues”. These honeyed words became harder to swallow when it became clear Scott-Samuel had made comments promoting a “Rothschild” conspiracy theory that led Liverpool University to emphasise last week that it no longer employed him.

Scott-Samuel’s arrival at the Socialist Health Association was part of a wider move by Jeremy Corbyn supporters into Labour’s 20 affiliated socialist societies. They have a seat on the party’s national executive committee (NEC), which is handy as Labour fights its civil wars. More significantly, the societies have impressive voting rights in local Labour parties. A minimal presence in a constituency gives the Socialist Health Association the right to send five delegates to the local Labour party and help purge the sitting MP and councillors, should they so desire.

Martin Rathfelder, the association’s direct, told the Eye that “everything changed” when Scott-Samuel and friends took over the association in 2017. As a neutral officer, Rathfelder said his job was to encourage doctors and nurses to stand for election. “They really didn’t like that,” he said. “They saw it as me threatening their control.”

Scott-Samuel saw his chance to strike when Rathfelder lost his temper with a YMCA worker in Crewe who was refusing to let members into a hall the association had booked. He sacked Rathfelder for “being abusive” and encouraging “candidates to run against a sitting officer”. The purge ended in fiasco. Unison was appalled and withdrew its funding from the association. Rathfelder appealed and secured a very generous settlement-so generous that the association has been unable to hire a replacement.

Even though it is now a moribund organisation, surely Scott-Samuel can still defend public health in a personal capacity as a good socialist must? He had that chance in his latest appearance on The Richie Allen Show (broadcast on conspiracist David Icke’s forum) when he was on air alongside a supporter of discredited anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield. Once upon a time the Lancet, Private Eye and most of the national press took Wakefield’s claims that the MMR vaccine might cause autism seriously-but now every sensible person accepts Wakefield is a fraud. Not so Scott-Samuel. When presented with a chance to warn parents that listening to the anti-vaxxers could put their (and other) children’s lives in danger, he ducked it for fear of offending his fellow conspiracists.

At a time of mounting concern about mental illness, social care, obesity and measles epidemics, the Socialist Health Association is now not only useless, but also dangerous. (p.10).

Now I don’t know what the facts behind this article’s account of these events really are. It’s possible that Dr Scott-Samuel really is a raving anti-Semite, who believes in an odious conspiracy theory about the Jews centred on the Rothschilds. And if he didn’t speak out against the anti-vaxxer’s nonsense, then he was seriously, dangerously wrong not to. There is indeed a surge in the diseases Ratbiter mentions, especially in America amongst predominantly right-wing communities that are against vaccination. But Private Eye also has its own biases, that cast serious doubt on parts of the narrative as told here.

Firstly, as you can see, the story is very anti-Corbyn and determined to push the view that he, or his supporters, are Jew-haters. And Ratbiter is one of those involved in pushing it in Private Eye. I think I can remember an article by the redoubtable and definitely Jewish Tony Greenstein on his blog, where he revealed who Ratbiter was. Or the identity of one of the people behind the pseudonym. As we’ve seen, Wavetree wished to deselect Luciana Berger, but I’ve seen precious little evidence that genuine anti-Semitism is involved. Berger has suffered some horrendous anti-Semitic abuse, but she’s pointed her finger in the wrong direction when it comes to culprits. There’s no evidence that anyone in the Labour party or who supports the Labour party has ever sent her anything anti-Semitic. The local party wanted her out because she’s a lazy, entitled Blairite – she was parachuted into this very safe constituency when she was in a liaison with Blair’s spawn, Euan. Who was rumoured to be the new leader of the Centrist party a few months ago.

Going on to Scott-Samuel’s views on the Rothschilds, the banking dynasty is indeed the centre of any number of conspiracy theories about the Jews trying to take over the world, and enslave and destroy White gentiles. They also figure in more sanitised versions in which the culprits aren’t the Jews, but the New World Order or Illuminati, or there is a distinction made between good Jews, those murdered by the Nazis, and evil Jews, like the Rothschilds and other elite bankers. But the Rothschild’s are hardly innocent or above suspicion. During the 1930s and ’40s they did lend money to the Nazi regime, even when it was persecuting and murdering Jews in the death camps. Recently Mike mentioned on his blog the case of a female Labour supporter/member, who was accused of anti-Semitism after a Tweet or Facebook post she made about the Rothschilds. But Mike made the point that the Rothschilds are immensely rich and powerful, and asked why they should be exempt from criticism or their power and influence from legitimate questioning. I don’t know, but Scott-Samuel’s case could be another like this.

And lurking behind these events and machinations is the article’s bias about the SHA itself. This, we are told at the start, is an organisation that campaigned for the NHS and for free healthcare ever since. But I remember a few years ago, when Blair was still a power in the land, the Eye ran a story about a socialist health organisation – it might be the SHA, or it might be the Socialist Medical Society – which complained that it had been taken over by the Blairites and turned into a mouthpiece for their privatisation campaign. This organisation was also described, if I recall correctly, as almost on its last legs. If this was the SHA, then the Blairites cannot complain about being displaced by Corbyn supporters in their turn. Well, they can, but they’d be hypocrites. Which definitely wouldn’t stop them.

And note another unspoken assertion in the article: the Blairites in the Labour party apparat – the party bureaucracy – are the victims, who rightfully hold their position, while Corbyn’s supporters are invading, disruptive supporters. But the opposite is almost certainly the case. Blair’s supporters within the Labour party are numerically small, and they hold control of party’s bureaucracy against the wishes of the majority of party members. Whom they have been desperately trying to purge, using their positions. And it would only make the party more democratic and accountable if they were forced out. They were put in place by a firmly centralising Labour administration, determined to make sure that no-one was appointed to any position of authority within the party without the express permission of Blair. And in the case of the student union, that meant that the system of election by the students themselves was removed and replaced with appointment from above. By Blair.

Ratbiter’s Private Eye article is thus, whatever the truth about its allegations of Dr Scott-Samuel’s conduct and views, just another piece of Blairite anti-Corbyn propaganda. It is designed to preserve the Labour party as the exclusive property of wealthy, entitled neoliberals like Luciana Berger, keen to carry on Blair’s noxious and destructive policies of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. And as inveterate enemies of Corbyn, the Eye is more than willing to give ample space to Ratbiter’s and the other Blairites’ lies and smears.