The stakes are so high now. For example, many European countries might make it clear that someone expressing Nazi hate speech, as Katie Hopkins did, is a security risk and is not welcome. This would serve to heighten the contrasts between the inclusive, multicultural, fully internationalist vision of Corbyn -supported by the youth and popular in most of our cities- and the insular, ultimately fascistic, perspective of the right. The question is, are liberals who see themselves as progressive capable of finally fully recognising the twin threats of a runaway right wing media and a tendency in the current Conservative Party towards isolationism? If so, they would pull out of Labour marginals, recognising the crucial importance of a Labour government that can work with Europe as well as clamping down on the excesses of the Press.
We are still a long way away from sensible discussion about racism across the Labour Party. Racism in the modern sense as understood by those who take the most trouble to examine it as methodically as possible is not just the evolutionarily ingrained (and most probably adaptive before civilisation) distrust of people recognisable as “strangers” by appearance, and neither is it the bigotry of individuals (presumably acting from some nineteenth century notion of sinful free will). It is most certainly not an excuse for the categorization of individuals based on isolated statements or Facebook posts. It is trivial to demonstrate prejudice on such a basis in almost any adult, particularly public figures. Harvard University have tests that will show anyone at least some of the implicit prejudices that are prone to sway our opinions, often unconsciously: racist, sexist, and homophobic.
Modern racism has the distinguishing feature of virulence. That is, both in the sense of a hostility to ethic minorities unknown in the ancient world and in terms of pervasiveness and harmfulness. The isolation of left wing individuals does practically nothing to combat racism in The Labour Party, although it might make some of us feel better that ‘something is being done’ about racism. This is of course an illusion. You and I are far from immune from its influence. In fact, it is striking that the most high profile recent cases of suspensions involve long-time anti-racism campaigners, almost all women, and almost all from ethnic minorities. This should cause consternation and discomfort to anyone who wants to inoculate themselves from white supremacy.
Modern racism has its roots in, especially, Elizabethan England’s uneasy relationship with Spain, Spain’s own power battles, and the greed of Europeans who saw profit in free African labour. To make it all about individuals is superficial analysis, conservative commentary, and plays into the hands of reactionary forces.
My emotional resilience, ‘bouncebackability’ and capability to ride a storm serenely, is low. The majority of Labour Party members have relatively very high emotional resilience. This is a great asset.
Now, there has been much talk of kinder politics but you can’t have an effective kinder politics when there is a political class. Middle and upper class people, mainly white, on a conveyor belt from Oxbridge into Westminster.
The obsession with politeness amongst many of the Labour Left is naive, it is manipulated by the right, it shuts down diverse voices (and especially the oppressed) and it’s horribly bourgeois. Yes there are public messages to get out that should be positive. No I will not and should not pretend to be nice to everyone in politics about everything. And neither should anyone on the genuine left.
If you ultimately want a kinder politics, use the resilience you have to be unrelenting in the fight for diversity of membership and MPs. Empower.
Fight for quotas for BAME and disabled people, for all internal positions especially. Fight for ease of access to participation. That means not only physical access but online participation and varying meeting days and times.
Fight for transparency. Fight to change the overbureaucratic structures.
Accept that your prejudices exist and bring in measures at local level to tackle unconscious bias. Learn from Korean airlines and transform the culture. Accept your imperfections and mistakes. You are human and your status should not depend on impossible standards.
Don’t police language or tone.
Insist on the resignation of those who are deliberately failing to recruit members or to inform Corbynite members. Don’t be kind about it and don’t let up on them. They are cheating and being unethical. Let them know constantly their behaviour is unacceptable. Don’t be polite. Be a thorn in their self-interested sides.
Most importantly, always speak up and never censor yourself for a phony unity. Dissent is a responsibility and it is transformative.
When a disciplinary hearing requires experts to discuss the finer points of whether signing an agreement negotiated with Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland – and other activities in support of self-described Zionists- constitutes support for Zionism, we’re going way beyond meaningful attempts to tackle bigotry in the Labour Party. The best you could call it is a step towards a dangerously authoritarian insistence on impossible standards of ideological purity of individuals, which is of course a vainglorious pursuit, and all the more distasteful when one considers that the loudest voices calling for this within the Party use what they call ‘ideological purity’ to denigrate both founding principles and Socialist aspirations.
I find the notion that such esoteric and subtle nuances of truth as this could be grounds for permanent expulsion from the Labour Party extremely worrying. Totalitarianism and anti-intellectualism aren’t deliberate directions for most people to move towards but I feel we should be very concerned when the Party is thinking of expelling a member for statements which even IF not strictly true fall under a category more akin to “Broadly true but it’s more nuanced than that, and there are these pitfalls we might avoid, these are considerations an expert historian takes note of…” and so on, as opposed to obvious falsehoods.
Going down this road, then beware all members who don’t have at least a History degree in this Party for the working people.
…The Eddie Schnecter Trio
John Lennon laid back, head casually on my lap as we lounge about in a white hotel room. I could see the odd nose in the curtains. We were talking about newspapers, bottles of beer, sweets (candy), ice lollies (popsicles), and so on, and how before ’63 George and me, or John and George – well, that doesn’t matter (I am you are he is we are me and we are all together, you know?) – back then we could nip off to the shops, “What do you want John?”, and… now, that’s just impossible. And off we went, two heads of JohnPaulRingoGeorge, on an errand, messing about and talking about The White Album.
There was some legal letter we had read, we’ve all read a lot of Latin over the years, and… it was art. It was the perfect comment, unintentionally, on the whole circus. I said we should put it on the wall with one of those little placards – the place was a bit like an art gallery – but John, perceptive chap now and then, was totally against it.
“Don’t be reflexive for the sake of it.” he said, “It’s got to mean something. In other words, you have to feel it, brother mine.”
I remember asking him, some time in the 21st Century, about mental health. “Well I certainly didn’t get the help I needed.” he said. So he is we set about changing the way people look at the world instead. Not consciously, we were just a little rock and roll band in our eyes, you know. John really was A Spaniard In The Works. Your friendly neighbourhood enemy within. When he went to live in America with Yoko, the CIA wanted him deported. John Lennon. Think about that. They should have built a statue of him on Wall Street. Of course, he would have seen bitter irony in that, like the airport where he used to spit in the sandwiches he served for fuck all an hour.
I was watching Star Trek last night. An alien called The Traveller, of an advanced species, knew the secret:
He had the power to propel The Enterprise billions of light years in barely any time at all, by channelling the thoughts of the crew.
At the end of the universe, beginnings. The crew began to experience scenes from the past. Chased by a rape gang. Ballet lessons. A beloved childhood pet.
Of course, The Traveller was a kind of Mary Sue. For him, light years in the Star Trek universe are only a thought away.
The journey weakened him, and a successful return depended on the crew focusing their thoughts on The Traveller’s well being. He got them home in time for crumpets, but -exhausted- he phased out of their reality in the process.
Today is the anniversary of George Martin’s death. You don’t get presents for that. Or maybe you is we are he should.
“I don’t care where the pieces are.” I said.
Of course, this cannot be true. I meant to imply I don’t care where he is, as long as he doesn’t try to pin me.
Later, he said “If you think I am some king-”
I could have stopped him there. A clumsy knight on a small board, only a monopoly property, a collection of listed buildings, front line of one battle between rich and poor, connected and disenfranchised, and inside an entire swirling life of privileges and disappointments, of failing to live up to expectations, of making it and not making it, of opening letters to see your grades, the judgement upon you, the codes of conduct, Les regles de jeu, the crimson rising to the cheeks of the transgressor, the urgency of the moment behind the chip shop, the flat cap, the outsider looking in, the streets paved with gold, the relatively comfortable childhood home, coins in the fountain, Dickensian Christmas days, the peeling of an orange…
And beyond the window, a snowstorm.
If the desired outcome were an easier time, to keep me hence, for a little while, then wrong move. I burn brightly , too brightly some say, and my attention focuses on those who cause ripples within and around me. This is my meagre gift and curse: I feel as waves the ripples others ride. My board unbalanced, into the black water I go. Big fish, little fish swimming in the water. (Come back here man and give me my daughter).
In the Samuel Lewis Buildings on Liverpool Road, the neatly composed Scot, each movement quietly thoughtful, her posture well aligned, “We have been engaged in navel gazing.”
Omphalos. I am not supine on the New River, the tendrils of my flower
sleeping, the skin of the green algae
bathing, the early evening sunlight
splashing, coins on the glass table
dancing, discarded cans of lager
rattling, the clatter of the pieces
swimming, in my enamel coffin
I come up for air. The bishop bobs by, mocked by the great blue sky and the deep green sea.
“Yes, you are entirely correct. Homosexuality is not a sin.” she does not say. She hides behind her castle, welcoming, inclusive, and other decorous adjectives. Coward and dissembler.
Every action is power, every actor a metonym. I am a lighthouse. Batten down the hatches and lash yourself to the mast, we are steering hard to port.