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An Erratic Orbit

A bipolar perspective on the 3rd planet

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The Labour Party (UK)

The Labour Party and the Dumbed Down Discourse on Racism

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.

Racism word cloud
Image: http://www.kharmasworld.com

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.

Towards a kinder politics

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.

On Ken Livingstone and Zionism

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. 

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