For Tories and their supporters in the corporate media, the accusation of anti-Semitism is something that they seek to selectively weaponize, all the better to attack socialists. Likewise, for supporters of Tory policies, like Blairite MPs, the slur of anti-Semitism is something that is regularly used to attack the leader of their own party.
This week Blairite MP Luciana Berger rehabilitated an old smear upon Jeremy Corbyn by going public with her demand that he gives an immediate response to her over a comment he left on facebook six years ago (“Labour MP Luciana Berger pressures Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitic mural,” The Times, March 23).
Although this issue, and Corbyn’s apology, is now saturating this weekend’s news, we should be mindful of the fact that this is old news, as this attack item was first hurled against Corbyn nearly two years ago from the dark Tory depths of the Daily Telegraph – alongside other spurious examples of Corbyn’s alleged anti-Semitism (“Pressure grows on Jeremy Corbyn as dossier of anti-Semitism in Labour Party is revealed,” Daily Telegraph, May 1, 2016) Although that said, the ongoing “Mear One” attack on Corbyn actually first came to light within the pages of the Jewish Chronicle (“Did Jeremy Corbyn back artist whose mural was condemned as antisemitic?,” November 6, 2015).
Yes, I would be the first to admit that it is correct that Corbyn, like other humans, makes mistakes. But let’s be clear, Corbyn has always opposed anti-Semitism, and the facebook comment from 2012 was a genuine mistake; in fact, his misjudged eighteen word comment actually contains two typos, with Corbyn misspelling the names of two of the famous people he referred to (Rockefeller and Diego Rivera). Moreover, on the same ill-fated day that Corbyn made this mistake he was, as always, busily engaged in organising against illegal wars of aggression, which shortly before he posted his “Mear One” comment on facebook led him to tweet this message:
“Stop the War event; Tony Benn, Paul Flynn and others TODAY at 5.15pm Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester. Please RT and come!” (Tweet, October 2, 2012)
All this leads me to think whether Luciana Berger or her fellow Blairites in Parliament believe they have ever made mistakes?
Here I am particularly reminded of an anti-war protest that I attended in my hometown of Leicester in December 2015, when hundreds gathered to oppose the bombing of Syria which had been supported in Parliament by the Tories and 66 Blairites (including Berger). Two of Leicester’s three Labour MPs also backed this act of war – these being Liz Kendall and Keith Vaz.
This issue comes to mind, because the continuing bloodbath in Syria is a hot topic of conversation at the moment, with protests taking place all over the world to condemn the authoritarian Turkish government for their slaughter of Kurds in Syria. Only yesterday, for example, I attended a protest in Leicester of around hundred people who were united in demanding that our government take the immediate step of condemning the Turkish government’s murderous actions. However, just one local Labour MP, Jon Ashworth, sent a message of solidarity to the protest.
But one leading Blairite MP takes the opposite line from Ashworth and Corbyn on the issue of Turkey, Syria and the Kurds. His name is John Woodcock and in addition to backing the 2015 bombing of Syria, and using the Tory press to attack Corbyn at every opportunity, Woodcock recently visited Turkey to show his support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the contribution of his vile government to ongoing human rights abuses of Kurds in Syria.
In an interview Woodcock conducted with a pro-Erdogan newspaper he openly stated: “We in Britain stand beside our Turkish allies and friends in their fight against domestic terrorism.” (December 20, 2017, Daily Sabah) Of course Woodcock has never uttered a word of criticism about the Turkish government’s longstanding and violent repression of Turkey’s left-wing opposition party, the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), nor of Erdogan’s promotion of anti-Semitism to fuel the longevity of his right-wing regime (which it should be noted is not a fascist regime, although the government certainly has fascist elements contained within it).
This is all significant as just prior to Woodcock’s recent jolly to Turkey, Britain’s Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign launched a Free the HDP campaign in Parliament, which quickly received the backing of socialist Labour MPs like Chris Williamson (who happened to speak at a Labour Party housing conference in Leicester yesterday). In the wake of Woodcock’s uncritical backing of Erdogan, the co-secretary of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, Rosa Gilbert, had this to say:
“It’s remarkable that John Woodcock MP has gone out of his way to line up with Erdogan and his AKP fascists and everything they represent — from the military destruction of Kurdish towns and cities [and] the funding and sustaining of jihadists in Syria to the mass imprisonment of journalists, public-sector workers, academics and activists in Turkey.
“British Labour politicians should be speaking out in defence of their PES/Socialist International allies in the HDP, nine of whose elected parliamentarians are currently in Turkish jails.
“Why does the MP for Barrow see fit to provide propaganda and solidarity to a regime which persecutes and imprisons our democratic socialist brothers and sisters?”
Little wonder that Woodcock has been eagerly stoking the attacks upon Corbyn’s over his “Mear One” mistake. On 23rd March, Woodcock even retweeted a post made by Rupert Murdoch’s Times columnist David Aaronovitch, who commenting on Corbyn’s apology tweeted: “Corbyn’s statement is a lie.”
If it wasn’t clear already, the ongoing actions of Blairites like Berger and Woodcock demonstrate once and for all that the Labour Party must be democratised so that Labour members can be represented in Parliament by socialist politicians, not unrepentant capitalists.
Of course, the Blairite proponents of smears, war, and capitalism will never willingly relinquish their parliamentary power. So, if Labour are serious about coming to power and bringing about the socialist transformation of society, then the introduction of democratic reforms like the mandatory reselection of all Labour MPs is, more than ever, an urgent priority.