Left groups and people

The record of Chris Williamson

The issue with the suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson is not, as some in the Labour Party think, one off-beam remark in a Sheffield Momentum meeting, or a few incautious tweets. Detailed web postings by RS21 member Dave Renton and socialist blogger “Bob from Brockley” have shown that Williamson has used his position as a prominent Corbyn-supporting MP to give the ideas of a segment of the far right a channel into the labour movement. Williamson’s support for Vanessa Beeley, who makes an industry of supporting Syrian dictator Assad and his allies, came to prominence in August 2018 after he...

Rearguard fight by Labour’s Brexiters

The wretched Skwawkbox blog, as ever representing the most craven and regressive forces within the apolitical Corbyn fan club, is presently promoting an open letter to Tom Watson, penned by one Chelley Ryan: “One of the likely reasons we have lost support over Brexit, is because many MPs like yourself, refuse to put the case for our sensible compromise position” bleats Chelley. Skwawkbox’s editor, the businessman Steve Walker, can scarcely contain his enthusiasm: “An open letter to Tom Watson about his behaviour regarding Brexit – condemning it, detailing the damage it is causing and reminding...

Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism

Robert Fine, who died on 9 June 2018, was a socialist writer unafraid to stand up to much of the left’s received wisdom on the questions of Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism. He opposed the “absolute anti-Zionist” standpoint that one should unreservedly object to (a) Israel’s very existence, rather than the oppressive practices of the Israeli state, and (b) any feelings of Jewish communal or national identification with Israel, even when such feelings are accompanied with harsh condemnation of the Israeli government or genuine horror at the Palestinians’ suffering. Fine opposed the blanket...

Edge of Democracy

Petra Costa was a child when Workers’ Party (PT) leader Lula da Silva became President of Brazil in 2003. Her parents had been detained and worked underground for the PT and the overthrow of the military dictatorship of 1965-1985. This documentary is a personal quest to make sense of her deep disappointment at the overthrow of the PT government of 2003-2018 by supporters of that military dictatorship. She has assembled footage of her family, of protests, of interviews with PT supporters, with the two PT Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, and, of parliamentary proceedings. Opponents...

Letters

Missing the mark on Willsman Sean Matgamna’s piece in Solidarity 509 “A victim of panic” appears to miss the mark. Sean says that Pete Willsman “Possibly he gives credence to some form of ‘Jewish Conspiracy’ theory”. This underplays what Willsman said and in doing so seems to excuse him as a fool rather than someone who knows what they think. I would give Willsman more respect than that. I think he genuinely believes what he says and he does so from a position of influence with the votes of 70,000 Labour members (including my own) behind him. Sean asks if expulsion should only be reserved for...

Labour after Peterborough

Labour’s victory in the 6 June Peterborough by-election has reduced the threat of a right-wing challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership challenge. The Peterborough result was won by a vigorous and well-resourced campaign. But it gives no grounds for complacency. The Peterborough campaign was not left-wing. It focused heavily on demands for more money for the police. Labour won essentially because the Tory vote held up better than in the 23 May Euro-elections. Enough Tory voters thought that they will soon have Boris Johnson or another hard-Brexiter as leader, and so no longer have to protest by...

The left in Israel

Maya Ilany is the deputy director of Yachad, which campaigns for a two-state settlement to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Eric Lee is the editor of LabourStart, and when living in Israel in the 1990s ran the BibiWatch website. They participated in a panel on “the future of the Israeli left” at Ideas for Freedom 2019, alongside Tom Harris. Maya and Eric spoke to Solidarity (in their personal capacities) about the context for the discussion. There’s still a majority for two states What are the prospects for the left, following the poor results in the 9 April elections? Maya Ilany: When we talk...

The Willsman affair

On 31 May, Pete Willsman, a veteran of the Labour left and a current member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), was suspended by the Labour Party on charges of antisemitism. The suspension followed publication of comments made by Willsman at a chance meeting with a journalist. How should the left respond? Simon Nelson and Sean Matgamna present different views. A victim of panic Sean Matgamna The new Pete Willsman affair shows yet again that you cannot effectively fight antisemitism unless you have a working definition of what it is. In my opinion, the definition should be advocacy...

Open letter to Livingstone

Ken Livingstone, billed since January as debating with us at the Ideas for Freedom summer school on 22- 23 June, has now withdrawn, pleading family commitments. Sean Matgamna responds with an open letter. Ken: it’s a shame you have bottled out of our scheduled debate. I’ m bitterly disappointed. I was looking forward to kicking your butt. It’s been quite a while since I had a chance to do that. We will keep an empty chair on the platform for you in that session, and give extended speaking time to anyone ready and willing to come and argue your case. You have been an active antisemite since at...

Letters

Defining people's oppressions? I’m canvassing opinions on the call for marginalised groups of people to “define their own oppression”. The LGBT+ organising group at the National Education Union conference argued for a definition of transphobia which I agreed with. It was however defeated on the basis that there are conflicting views on what constitutes transphobia and that the amendment was anti-woman. The arguments in favour were largely that trans members had agreed on the motion and we should, as a union, listen to them. I think this is a relatively weak line of argument. For example, if a...

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