Until we stop ‘hunting for bigots’ and can start to have proper discussions of the institutional nature of racism and its relation to power, and especially the primary props of State power and inequities of capital, actions taken will be ineffective and in fact will contribute to oppression, in UK cities to the USA to Palestine and beyond.
The supposedly liberal outrage at inherent “racists” as if we have to find only those pure souls for The Labour Party without a ‘racist bone’ is ascientific and privileges the white liberally educated. Ultimately, it is itself racist.
We see few better illustrations of the centrist and right tendency to enable fascism by perpetuating oppression than the bull-in-a-china-shop approach to anti-Semitism of the supporters of the Labour Party organisations where the current Israel government has most influence.
If you want to find bigotry and prejudice, and you are capable of questioning yourself, you’ll find it within you and without you. It’s probably there in your perception of white van man, your views on benefits, your most laissez faire attitudes to redistribution of wealth, the demographics of your friends, and those implicit attitudes you’ve never bothered to uncover about the minorities you have least interest in finding out about.
What do we hope to find? The racism gene?! Education not witch-hunts and education for YOU (me) first of all.
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.
- I know what happens at their dinner parties. I know what they talk about. And I know your life.
– You do !NOT! know my life.
– So true. I misspoke. I only know how you appear to spend your days.
Unconscious. I assess who, from appearances, may likely betray who at which point. I do not know the intricacies of past moments and future scenes that will make heroes and villains.
Three shrink away from the door and another does not. Who though? Depends on the door. My mind… full of doors. And doors within doors. Doors in the ceiling. Doors in the floor. Anyone could open a door and you never quite know just who might walk in. Horror of horrors… are they dressed for the occasion?
Compassion is not enough. Psychology is not enough. Not even the finest politics. And religion? Least of all. But myth! Myth is transformative, in the right hands.
Who would give themselves to make the future better? Heroic sacrifice could come from anyone, perhaps. What does it mean, though, to sacrifice? It may be bravery or cowardice to give up one’s life. Jesus was, after all, an ape. What example do we mimics set?
I know this. That the least gave up what they found to be most precious. I poured and drank. How much ritual, reciprocity, and desire?
Time is precious too. I thank you. There is much to speak of regarding Time and tension, if only we-
In the twenty-first century, as society becomes ever more complex, so conservatism, born of a normalising instinct that evolved in small groups, goes into overdrive. Compliance becomes an acceptable goal. Then, Assimilation.
The political “centre”, a self-reinforcing coterie of sheltered and often awkward socially liberal elites, attempt to accommodate everything that has given them their advantages. This includes the very worst of capitalism.
The attempt to encompass all they know, to reconcile the oppressive with their socially liberal attitudes, they interpret as “realistic”. After all, living with these tensions is especially real to them.
Interventionism, being a political “reality” (or, behind the screen, a continuation from colonialism) is justified with falsehoods, from fabricated evidence to the rhetorical appropriation of Socialist principles. The centrists even begin to pander to the racism of the voters they have lost to the right, always convinced that triangulation keeps them on course between two sirens. As suits, they can look to the right and feel ethical, or to the left and feel “in touch with the public.”
They defend, or ignore, the indefensible. They justify atrocities as “pragmatism”. They have the contempt of the left for their lack of principles, their hypocrisy, their authoritarianism, and – ever more- their silence. The public hates them for their hypocrisy and their failures. They must fail after not too long, because the containment of capitalistic excess through appeasement is not achievable: They flatter themselves that they have influence through their alliances with the powerful and unscrupulous. It is they who are corrupted.
The lesser lights, at least, are aware that the centrist faction is both reactionary and at the mercy of bullies. They say to themselves that they are flexible, cognisant of political complexity, when in fact the constant turning of their heads ensures they allow the plight of the vulnerable to worsen in the long term.
“If only we still had power” they say, unaware that their self-interest and lack of integrity can justify anything and will always lead to rejection.
“I believe I did the right thing.” The narcissist’s excuse. As if faith and self-justification were morally relevant.
And for the pleasers, who will always find themselves in the centre with sore necks: deep down, they don’t want too much to change. To be a part of the heady club prevents them facing their awkwardness. The cowardice behind their complicity is hidden from them. They fit in, after a fashion. They even have a little power.
I see them as a grotesque magnification of tensions that of course we have to face on the left. How much are we ourselves prepared to let go of? Where and when we do need to step aside?
Trolling, or otherwise disrupting the ability of others to debate is not acceptable, nor is consistently mentioning or making contact with others when this is unwelcome.*
You’re playing a board game with a strange rule that you’re out of the game if any move you make is “unwelcome”. You play for a while then Aaron claims one of your moves upset Betty. Although Betsy says she isn’t upset, Aaron says Betsy is intimidated. All the players have a chat about whether Betsy is upset or not… The practical upshot, short of hiring lawyers, you all decide, is that a player must say “Not Welcome” to remove another player from the game. You wonder why the rules were so ambiguous. When there is something at stake, and players with conflicting goals, an exclusion rule based on something as ambiguous as a feeling doesn’t lead to a harmonious experience.
The obvious way to win this game is to be the last player. You don’t say anything except “Not Welcome”.
Bad enough for a board game, even worse for a debating club. When it’s politics and the referees have shown that they can’t be trusted, the less detailed a new conduct policy, the more dates in court.
On Social Media, no-one is obligated to debate with you, but we don’t need a rule for that. They can stop. If they are really upset they can block you.
What if you feel someone is harassing you? Is that a matter of your interpretation? NO. For a very important reason.
Nobody has the right to not be offended. If they did, slavery would still be legal and the LGBT+ community would live in fear of stoning or chemical castration. Nobody bristles quite like a privileged person (or at least, one who has to spend a fair amount of time negotiating with a variety of people) when pulled up for abusing that privilege. There are even some foolish people who vainly think themselves beyond anything so far from perfection.
Every concession, recognition, and right earned by minorities or the working class has met with resistance. How much easier life would be to close down discussions that made the ignorant uncomfortable. How wonderful if we could say our piece, flounce, and then not be called to account! How relieved Mr Blair, and indeed much lesser lights, might feel if they could insert a “No further mentions” clause into public discussion. How much more at ease public servants might feel blocking people on Twitter.
Harassment is a complicated legal matter. The disciplinary arm of the Labour Party is under a cloud. Unless the intention is to waste more money in court, I find this part of The Social Media policy to be both unnecessarily authoritarian and rather casually written. A worrying combination.
Gary has given a thorough response to the article backing the suspension of Jacqueline Walker written by Joe Muchall and published by Hope Not Hate:
When an author writes serious allegations they have duty to hold themselves to a high bar, to be scrupulously fair in their arguments, to avoid distorting or putting words into the mouth of the one(s) they accuse.
Sadly, this article fails badly by that criteria.
It is mixture of straw man arguments, distortion and innuendo designed to discredit someone who has actively engaged in anti-racism all her political life.