T.O. Weekly 18 (Part 2)

PART 1 OF ISSUE No. 18 (sent out Jan. 11, 2021):

– Socialist Organizer Statement on the January 6 Events and Their Aftermath

– From Our Archives: No Backtracking on the Employee Free Choice Act (September 2009)

– Joe Manchin: “The Most Important Man in the Senate” and How to Fight His Policies


(1) Jan. 20: Caravan for Justice — Biden Listen: No More I.C.E. or Deportations; No More Detention Centers; No More Kids in Cages!

(2) Our Position on Two Political Questions

(3) MEXICO: Responses to Questionnaire by International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation (IWC) — reprinted from IWC Newsletter No. 175

(4) “People Have Been Weaponizing Accusations of Anti-Semitism for Political Ends” — reprinted from Labour Internationalist (UK) No. 13

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(1) Jan. 20: Caravan for Immigrant Justice

Dear readers and supporters of The Organizer,

We call upon you and other coalitions you are a part of to endorse this call to action for pro-immigrant mobilizations on inauguration day. [Also see text of call below.]

The call is made by the Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network (for immigrant rights) and the 40+ undocumented families and formerly detained immigrants leading this campaign. 

Endorsements are due by Wednesday, January 13. 

For monolingual-Spanish-speaking organizations and communities, please distribute this endorsement letter in Spanish.

In Solidarity,

The Editorial Board

The Organizer Newspaper

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This inauguration day undocumented families and formerly detained immigrants in Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Monterrey County are launching an independent campaign by and for undocumented people. We, the undocumented, demand an immediate moratorium on all deportations, the liberation of all immigrants from detention centers, the reunification of immigrant children with their parents, the end of the Muslim ban and asylum bans, and demand the legalization of all 11 million undocumented immigrants, without exception.

We issue this call to organize protests on inauguration day across the United States because our movements must mobilize now to demand justice. Already the Biden transition team is walking back his campaign promises on immigration and racial justice. We cannot let the Democrats deceive us again. Undocumented people pay $79.7 billion in taxes every year and in return receive nothing but injustice. As we speak, the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging through our communities and is spreading like wildfire inside jails and immigrant detention centers, putting everyone’s lives in danger. No immigrant should ever be detained for civil violations let alone during a pandemic, and immigrants should never again be caged in detention centers for being undocumented.

We issue this call to action with the understanding that our struggle is linked to the struggles of all communities of color in this country, specifically the struggles of the First Nations and the Black community who have been fighting for justice for over 400 years. We thus stand firmly with the Black Lives Matter movement and join their call to end police terror and mass incarceration in this country. We also recognize that in the deportation system it is Black immigrants who are disproportionately detained, brutalized, and deported. In our fight for immigrant justice, we refuse to exclude those immigrants who are the most marginalized and brutalized by over-policing, mass incarceration, and deportation.

For these reasons we, the undocumented, reject the bipartisan policies of immigrant detention and family separation that characterized the Obama and Trump administrations, and which resulted in 4 million deportations (3 million of which were carried out by Pres. Obama and Biden). We also reject the Democratic Party’s failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform strategy of exchanging immigration relief for some at the expense of the many through more ICE enforcement, deportations, and militarization of the border.

Heeding the valiant example of the Black Lives Matter movement, we, the undocumented, recognize that only an independent movement in the streets can achieve our demands. We are 11 million strong, and united we can win.

Thus, we call on all immigrant rights organizations and all grassroots movements for justice, to endorse this call to action, to join the Caravan for Justice organized in San Jose, CA on inauguration day, or organize solidarity protests in your own city for immigrant rights and against racism and inequality.

Feel free to share far and wide. 

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(2) Our Position on Two Political Questions

(1) A number of activists on social media have argued, to take one example, that “Trump is basically equal to Hitler with only a few differences.” We disagree. This would mean that we are already living under fascism in the United States — which is not the case. It would mean that the working class has been defeated — which is not the case. That there is a turn toward heightened authoritarianism is unquestionable. But Trump is not Hitler.

The U.S. judicial system, the State security apparatus, the military, and even sectors of Trump’s own inner circle broke ranks with Trump. This is a sign that the U.S. ruling class is not ready to destabilize its institutional form of rule by embracing a neo-Hitler. Biden is the best choice for imperialism. He is the one mandated by Wall Street and the military-industrial complex to co-opt and contain the U.S. labor movement and the Black liberation movement — neither of which has been defeated. Biden is the one needed to impose the drastic cuts and layoffs domestically, and U.S. hegemony worldwide.

(2) Another issue concerns the struggle against lesser-evilism — a struggle that has been at the center of Socialist Organizer’s political work since our inception 30 years ago.

In another post on social media, the author argues that, “In the current elections, to say that Trump has committed fraud is to defend the vote count; it is a way of placing a progressive sign on the Democrats.”

In our recent Socialist Organizer statements we have argued that socialists and working-class activists cannot remain indifferent to the full-court-press effort by Trump and his cabal to invalidate the votes of millions of people — predominantly Blacks and Latinos — in his quest to remain in office. We opposed the attempt by Trump to steal the election by seeking to invalidate these Black and Latino votes — via state election officials, state legislative bodies, and the courts, and through countless other forms of voter suppression.

Moreover, we did this while maintaining clearly that in so doing, we were simply affirming the right of all votes to be counted; we were not supporting Biden and the Democrats, far from it. We stated this time and again clearly and unambiguously.

The issue of voting rights in the United States, especially the Black vote, is no small matter. Blacks only earned that right in 1965, after hundreds of years of bitter struggle — many of their battles drowned in blood — and that right has been whittled away year after year through gerrymandering, indirect tax polls, shutting down voting booths in Black and Latino neighborhoods, denying prisoners and parolees the right to vote, and more.

In our articles, we have lambasted routinely the Electoral College and the lack of democracy in the United States. The two-party system is inherently and structurally undemocratic, we have insisted. Third parties are basically denied the right of representation.

Our position is clear: Revolutionaries must defend all past gains, such as the right to vote for Blacks and other oppressed peoples, if we are to win new gains. — The Editors

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(3) MEXICO: Report to Questionnaire by International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation (IWC)

(reprinted from IWC Newsletter No. 175, January 8, 2021)

By Liliana Plumeda and Juan Carlos Vargas, Members of the Political Organization of the People and Workers (OPT)

1/ What have been the consequences of the health crisis for the population — especially for the working class? What has the COVID-19 impact been on employment, how many jobs have been lost?

According to data from the Mexican Social Security Institute, the cumulative loss of formal jobs from March to the end of November was 1,113,677 – but this number is lower than reality, because it only records formal jobs in the private sector. It does not take into account workers who work illegally and are not registered for social security, nor does it include workers in the so-called informal sector, which accounts for 60 % of the labor force according to INEGI (National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information).

The informal sector, i.e., precarious workers without rights or organization, has suffered most from COVID, particularly due to social distancing measures and the cessation of economic activity.

In the public sector, there have been no layoffs in the unionized sectors, but there has been a reduction in temporary contracts, task work or subcontracting, which is a form of contract that is widespread in the administration, especially in areas such as cleaning and security.

As for GDP, a contraction of about 12 per cent per year is expected, and inflation has remained stable at 4 per cent, largely due to the reduction in fuel prices encouraged by the federal government.

2/ Are there any figures available concerning the lives lost of workers in general and particularly front-line workers, including doctors and other hospital staff?

According to the Johns Hopkins University, Mexico is the fourth country in the world in terms of deaths due to the pandemic, and the thirteenth in terms of the number of people affected by the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

As of December 31, the cumulative number of infected people was 1,426,094, official figures presented by the Ministry of Health, but these data, depending on the methodology used, are only an approximation; they only count those people who use the health system for testing (most of the time with severe or moderate symptoms). Thousands of workers go undetected because of the lack of widespread testing; thousands more refuse to be tested because of lack of resources; thousands more refuse to be tested because of fear of knowing they are infected (there are many rumors circulating in social networks encouraging people not to go to health services, feeding on distrust of health systems), or because of a lack of knowledge of the procedure.

The official national death toll is 125,807, which has accelerated in recent weeks due to winter and to the increase in the rate of contagion in the second wave.

Health authorities also reported that as of December 21, there were 1,884 deaths among healthcare personnel. To date, 140,196 cases of infection have been confirmed among healthcare workers, mainly in the country’s capital and in the state of Mexico. An estimated 3,362 (about 2 %) are active cases. Nurses are the most affected sector, with 41 % of cases, followed by other healthcare workers with 29 %, doctors with 26 %, laboratory technicians with 2 %, and dentists with 1 %.

One sector that has been hard hit is that of maquila [pass-through sweatshops] workers, especially on the northern border, where the number of deaths in these factories is in the hundreds. In Tijuana alone, in the first few months (May), it was reported that more than 500 maquila workers died from complications of COVID; the same happened in Ciudad Juárez and Matamoros. In the case of the automobile industry, independent trade unionists complained that conditions for returning to work were not adequate, resulting in dozens of deaths, especially in factories in the center of the country.

3/ What measures were taken or not taken by the government to cope with the pandemic? Were any wage deductions imposed by the bosses and governments?

The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared a state of health emergency and issued two presidential decrees ordering the closure of non-essential activities, the protection of the most vulnerable population (over 60 years old, chronically ill) and the guarantee of full salary for one month for all workers in non-essential companies.

At the State level, government activities were reduced to a minimum and the majority of office workers were locked down. Educational activities were suspended face-to-face and were conducted remotely, via television channels.

However, companies systematically violated these decrees, accompanied by international pressure from the United States. The parent companies organized to force local and federal governments to consider the maquiladoras as essential businesses, arguing that they are part of the supply chains in the United States, according to the new legal figures of the T-MEC (Mexico-US-Canada Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA 2.0).

In many companies, there has been a reduction in wages, sometimes with the complicity of the leadership of the “charro” trade unions (company unions), which are approving temporary wage-reduction agreements ranging from 25% to 45 %; in other cases workers are being asked to count their days off or holiday time as part of their home leave, or they are being asked to resign voluntarily with the promise of re-employment after the pandemic.

The reopening of the economy has also favored layoffs, for example in the “orange” zones, only 30% to 50 % of company activity is allowed, which legitimizes the dismissal of “surplus” workers.

4/ What new attacks against workers’ rights and democracy were launched by the bosses and governments during this year, as they took advantage of the pandemic?

Many large companies have infringed the call for social distancing or closure of non-core activities, exposing their workers to contagion, illness and death. In recent weeks, it has been reported that some companies do not recognize COVID as an “occupational disease” that involves full payment of wages during vacations, classifying these cases as general illnesses.

Business organizations have demanded a financial rescue plan, but the government has not agreed to implement it as in other countries. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not approve a package of direct support to large firms, but instead provided non-repayable credits to small businesses and continued to distribute funds from social programs. But it has supported some sectors of the capitalist class through other means, such as giving 500 million pesos to private television channels to set up distance learning, which is produced and carried out by the public sector, which absorbs the costs, but is transmitted by private channels that set up additional channels, despite the fact that the State has its own channels and the power to open more channels.

The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, largely under the pressure of the signing of the T-MEC trade agreement, has promoted a series of legal reforms in the labor legislation that allow for the free unionization and the improved labor rights. But the pandemic has been the perfect excuse for not implementing them. In recent months, the government has renewed legal recognition for pro-corporate union leaderships, while independent and democratic unions have been denied this recognition or have been subjected to additional requirements, as was the case of the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers (SME). Various labor conflicts were triggered during the pandemic and the government’s failed to respond in favor of workers. This was noticeably the case of the university strikes or the strike by workers of the Mexican State news agency NOTIMEX, which lasted more than 315 days.

A particular case that shows the acuteness of the class struggle in these moments of pandemic is the increased repression against workers who demonstrate against the conditions generated by COVID.

The first months of the pandemic were used by the governments of the border states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas to imprison lawyer Susana Prieto, legal advisor to the 20/32 movement. (There were strikes by 70,000 maquila workers in 2019.) Authorities in these states accused her of damage and threats against public officials. Using fear of illness in order to avoid a reaction from workers in favor of Susana and in order to strike a blow against SNITIS (a union created in the aftermath of the strikes), members of the union’s leadership were also kidnapped and threatened weeks later.

Fortunately, the mobilization and solidarity action in many parts of the country, in the United States and around the world (of which the IWC was a part), succeeded in pressing for Susana Prieto’s release, although her legal proceedings are still ongoing.

In the automobile industry, dozens of workers were fired when they protested against working conditions. Currently, a day of action is being prepared for January 21 to demand the reinstatement of four independent union leaders in the auto industry.

5/ For years, the number of workers in the informal sector has continued to increase. The fight against precarious labor should lead the labor movement to think about organizing these workers. The workers in the informal sector have paid a very heavy price in the health crisis. What’s been their situation since March 2020? What reactions has this triggered?

As a result of the “free trade” and deregulation policies, the precarious workers have become the majority of the working class in Mexico. Without the right to union organization, hired through “subcontracting,” for a limited period of time, or working as “independent professionals,” workers in all sectors face the violation of their most basic rights.

It is not only in the private sector that this reality is observed; the Mexican State itself, as a result of privatization policies, is the largest subcontractor in the country, from specialized workers in the energy, oil and electricity sectors, to cleaning workers in public offices who work without the right to a definitive contract or to unionization. Most of the public sector union leaderships, being complicit in the precarious situation, have given up recruiting these workers into their organizations.

Young people are the sector most affected by precariousness. In most collective bargaining, they are the bargaining chip between employers and union leaderships, who have agreed that corporate restructuring will only affect new employees, jeopardizing the future of young people and destroying collective-bargaining agreements..

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched a legislative initiative to prohibit outsourcing, which – although very limited – has provoked a very harsh reaction from corporate CEOs, who completely rejected it, to the point of threatening to fire 200,000 jobs after its approval. AMLO has faced opposition within the ranks of his own party from several deputies who, together with the pro-corporate unions, the main trade unions and the secretaries of State, have agreed to freeze the project and keep it under discussion until later in 2021.

The pandemic also has highlighted the exploitation faced by electronics workers, mainly young people, who have been sold the idea of “self-employment”, “being your own boss” or “an entrepreneur”. Without social security, without a base pay, thousands of young people risk their lives in the delivery sector, without any responsibility for the employer. It is in this sector that resistance began, and there have been some demonstrations of discontent and attempts to organize so that the character of employed work is recognized. Another sector where organizing began was that of private teachers, who have begun to build a union.

6/ Women
been particularly hard hit. They are the first to lose their jobs, the last to be taken back at their workplaces when they reopen. They have to take full charge of their children, who are essentially deprived of schooling. Domestic violence has increased with the lockdown. What form has it taken in Mexico? What mobilizations have taken place to defend the rights of working women?

Regarding Young Women Students: Up until the pandemic, 6 out of 10 uneducated people were women in the population aged 15 and over. Today, after the lockdown and elimination of face-to-face teaching hours, the educational future of many adolescent girls and young women attending high school and university is threatened, due to the burden of household chores and caring for young children, and the role of tutoring for children’s distance-learning courses at home, a role that is imposed on young sisters or aunts, to the detriment of their academic progress. In addition, access to technology or the Internet is precarious in the country (which affects both working class men and women). In some cases, there is only one computer for everyone at home. Generally, young women are culturally forced to give up their time to the care of their families, which reduces the amount of time they can devote to school activities.

The lockdown has meant a greater workload for all women, regardless of age (statistics indicate that girls aged 5-6 are included in the obligation to contribute to domestic chores. It is women who are in charge of housework, child and elder care; all these tasks that are not recognized as work. This is not insignificant, since the economic value of unpaid work in the domestic and care environment represents a little less than 24% of Mexico’s GDP, which implies a huge saving for the capitalist system.

Another area that weighs on the shoulders of working class women and girls is healthcare for the family and the sick, mainly those who are sick from COVID. According to figures from the healthcare sector in Mexico, women contribute 70.3 % of the equivalent economic value of unpaid work in healthcare.

Regarding Employment: The COVID -19 pandemic in the Mexican labor market has increased inequalities for women, according to the socio-demographic statistics of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI). In July 2020, there were 3 million fewer women employed than in the same month in 2019. During the same period, the number of unemployed women increased from 800,000 to 1.2 million and the number of unemployed women from 27.3 million to 30.5 million.

In other words, an inequality that already existed was followed by the COVID -19 pandemic, which further limited the return of women to the Mexican labor market, because they were employed mainly in activities that were not considered essential. In addition to the fact that precarious jobs and telework have a higher rate of feminization than formal jobs, official figures estimate that recovery will be slower in sectors where women have obtained more work.

As labor income declines, there is an increase in domestic work and unpaid care work. In the second quarter of 2019, women spent an average of 19.4 hours and men 9.7 hours. In April 2020, women reported 25.7 hours of unpaid care work.

Regarding Violence: While the majority of victims of violent deaths in the streets are men, women are killed in their homes, according to official statistics, even before COVID. The only thing that has happened during the lockdown is that the number of reports of violence has skyrocketed, as well as the demands for entry into shelters, which are insufficient. Instead of increasing the money allocated to them by the State, the State has decreased it.

Regarding Motherhood: Children are confined to their homes due to the closure of daycare centers and schools. Working mothers are faced with the choice of stopping working, leaving them in the care of older daughters in the family, or paying for private childcare. Whereas they should be allowed to receive full pay and stay home until conditions permit.

Regarding Mobilizations: After the beginning of the pandemic, feminicides and domestic violence became more visible, and as a result, sectors of women began to mobilize in several cities of the country while even the trade unions were immobilized with the argument of lockdown.

These small, largely disorganized mobilizations were subjected to brutal and disproportionate repression, one of the most extreme of which took place on November 9 in the city of Cancun, where fire was opened on a peaceful demonstration that was mobilizing to shed light on the latest feminicide in the city. The federal, state and municipal governments, although showing a “feminine face,” denied or minimized the problem, taking advantage of the demobilization provoked by COVID.

We have raised our voices from a class perspective, because bourgeois feminism has monopolized the media with its radical/separatist positions; the informal media or social networks attracted young working class women at first, but later they distanced themselves from the movement feeling unrepresented by their slogans; for this reason we participate and claim the right to assert our position, with the LCI, in response what is happening in Mexico.

7/ With the new technologies, the capitalists dismantle labor relations, restructure companies and destroy jobs. What are the consequences and what are the threats to labor relations in the coming period?

In addition to layoffs and wage cuts, telecommuting has been one of the new means used by the capitalist system to take advantage of the pandemic and increase exploitation.

Telework has resulted in the double exploitation of workers, with the cost of technological tools falling on the workers, the purchase of equipment, supplies, mid-and high-end computers or cell phones, and the payment of higher electricity, water and Internet bills.

These ways and means of working facilitate the increase in the extraction of absolute added value by largely eliminating working hours and replacing them with production targets or the completion of projects in limited terms outside agreed working hours.

In the sphere of private enterprises, it has facilitated layoffs and the concentration of work on fewer isolated workers. The dispersion of the working class and its transformation into isolated individuals makes union organization and communication among workers difficult, facilitating this unfair distribution of the workload.

In addition, working conditions at home are poor; most workers live in social housing that does not exceed 60 square meters; overcrowding is a constant in the homes and has increased stress and domestic violence.

8/ What positions have the workers’ organizations and their leaderships taken during this period? What were the demands? What was their attitude towards the plans designed by the bosses and governments?

The majority of the unions are corporatist unions, that is, company unions. They have supported the bosses’ organizations, and they have approved unemployment, partial unemployment and wage cuts, without consulting the rank and file.

However, there has been resistance, such as the hundreds of healthcare workers who waged street demonstrations to express their discontent over working conditions in hospitals by means of banners in front of the hospitals or on social networks. They have demonstrated, in particular, against the lack of proper protective equipment for the care of the sick, against late payment of wages and against corruption in the healthcare system.

Members of the National Independent Maquila Union (SNITIS MOM 20/32) have maintained a constant mobilization and denounced the violation of health and safety conditions in the maquila companies in the northeast of the country. As described above, the mobilization for the release of their legal adviser, Susana Prieto, showed that it is possible to act in solidarity, despite the conditions of the pandemic.

Another sector that has taken to the streets, albeit in a limited way, has been the teachers who reject the distance education plans and have renewed the mobilization for the total repeal of the education privatization reform, which has only been partially cancelled by the current government. Several sectors of public-school educators are mobilizing for concrete demands such as the creation of tenured positions, the payment of salaries for temporary teachers, the hiring of graduates from teacher training colleges, against the closures of schools.

The workers of the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) also mobilized for the recognition of their union leadership, against the repression and imprisonment they have suffered in recent months, and they are once again advancing the demand for the renationalization of the electrical industry, which puts at the center the repeal of the energy reform approved under the government of Peña Nieto.

For its part, the Nueva Central de los Trabajadores (New Workers Central, which, although a minority, includes various unions and cooperatives) has made several calls for mobilization in relation to the presidential initiatives. The NCT’s National Political Council has just approved the call for a national popular consultation to prohibit outsourcing, a consultation through which millions of workers will be able demand that the President and Congress go to the root of eliminating this form of exploitation.

It is difficult to cover all the different effects of the pandemic on the working class. This report is only a snapshot of the most relevant ones. We hope that it will contribute to the international discussion and the preparation of the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, for the Workers’ International.

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Jeremy Corbyn

(4) UK: “People Have Been Weaponizing Accusations of Anti-Semitism for Political Ends”

(reprinted from Labour Internationalist, UK, issue no. 13 — December 2020; the original British spelling and grammar have been maintained)

The following article is based on views expressed to us and in the public domain, in response to the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party and the later withdrawal of the Labour whip after his suspension was ended. This was done under a false implied accusation of “anti-Semitism” – in fact, condemning Corbyn for having supported the Palestinian people!

Corbyn’s political fall is very much of his own making. In the name of “Labour Party unity”, he refused to take the lead in the struggle to carry out the mandate given by the Brexit referendum, and has since accepted all the conditions imposed by the right-wing leadership.

But this does not prevent all those who defend freedom of political expression in the labour movement from fighting against this denial of democracy. It reinforces the need for an independent class policy in defence of the interests of the working class. If there is one lesson to draw from Corbyn’s experience, it is that the ruling class and its agents will show no gratitude to those who seek an accommodation with its needs.

Of course, this goes beyond Corbyn himself and even the problems of the Labour Party and its leadership. The issue is what forms the key focus of the OCRFI Manifesto: the struggle for even the most limited demands by working people can be fulfilled only by starting from a clear break with the ruling class, its governments and its reactionary institutions.

The Labour Internationalist Editorial Team

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We would like to share some facts and thoughts about the withdrawal of the Labour Party (LP) whip from Jeremy Corbyn and the whole “Labour is anti-Semitic” row, and what this all means in a wider context.

When one speaks of anti-Semitism today, it evokes the genocide of the Jewish people in Europe and the Nazis. To attempt to malign Jeremy Corbyn by calling him an anti-Semite – whatever the political differences one may have with him – is at the same time intolerable and ridiculous.

We think that, in fact, the current situation has very little to do with the genuine struggle against anti-Semitism and everything to do with two separate projects which are running in parallel and sometimes overlap through both indirect and direct co-ordination.

Firstly, the real issue is not the struggle against supposed anti-Semitic trends inside the Labour Party, but the push by the Starmer leadership to silence, suspend or simply expel anyone who might oppose its collaboration with the capitalists and its Tory government in the so-called “national interest”, including the 300,000 people who joined the LP after 2015 in the hope of a new left-wing revival of the party around Jeremy Corbyn.

Secondly, this campaign is also part of a wider international campaign aimed at banning from the labour movement any expression of solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for their national rights, by equating that struggle with anti-Semitism. This is often referred to as the “new anti-Semitism” project in academic circles. It should be noted that many people of Jewish origin as well as entire sections of the Israeli left are also fighting in support of the rights of the Palestinians, despite ongoing attempts to write the Palestinian people out of history.

The “new anti-Semitism” project is closely linked to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. It is an inherently political project – some would argue that as the creation of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton with others, the IHRA was a vehicle for their international agendas regarding close links with the State of Israel, which necessarily spilled over into their domestic political agendas, since their imperialist perspective on Israel needed to predominate over the perspective of the anti-colonial and anti-racist left.

Today, the whole point of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is to try to redefine anti-Semitism in order to argue explicitly: “in the old days, anti-Semitism was targeted at Jewish people as Jews, but nowadays anti-Semitism is targeted at the Jewish nation, embodied in the State of Israel”. So, the IHRA definition is a clear attempt to restructure the whole debate on Israel-Palestine.

But it does not do so directly through the definition itself, but through the examples given by the IHRA which “may serve as illustrations”, and in particular: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.” Applying this logic, you can say that the State of Israel is racist now, in its current laws (e.g. the Jewish Nation-State Law passed in July 2018), but you cannot say that the State of Israel itself is a racist endeavour.

At a stroke, this argument tries to erase from any discussion the basic historic fact that the State of Israel was created in 1948 as an ethno-state based on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It aims to shift the debate away from 1948 to 1967 onwards, limiting it to the question of the Occupied Territories – in effect, saying that racism only started in 1967. And this being the case, the Palestinian people’s Right of Return is automatically excluded, just as Israel has consistently fought to exclude it from the so-called “peace process”.

What this wider project depends on is the legitimacy of those who claim to speak on behalf of “the Jewish community”, as if a person’s religion overrules any other consideration, such as social class, financial status, political beliefs, specific affiliations, etc. The fact is that just in the UK, there are dozens of Jewish organisations covering a wide political spectrum (including explicitly political organisations such as Jewish Labour Movement, Jewish Voice for Labour, Yachad, Jewdas, etc.), with all this implies regarding views on Zionism and the repression of the Palestinians by the State of Israel. But that multiplicity of views is ignored when a pro-Israel and/or anti-left project is underway.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-founder of Jewish Voice for Labour and the recently-suspended Vice-Chair of Chingford and Woodford Green CLP (more on this later), has highlighted (for example, in her clip dated 25 November 2020 for Double Down News on YouTube) the problem that the Jewish community tends to be treated as one monolithic bloc (“a typical trope of all forms of racism”), and the fact that if you criticise the State of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians, you are branded “a self-hating Jew” or “the wrong kind of Jew”, and no-platformed and ignored by the media. She said: “The media have totally sidelined and ignored left-wing Jews. Not only left-wing Jews, but eminent Jewish scholars who have written extensively on the subject of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and demonstrated that the [IHRA] definition that is being pushed to define what is anti-Semitic is untrustworthy, faulty and actually dangerous, because it conflates being Jewish with being a supporter of Israel, being Jewish with being a Zionist.”

This is where the two projects referred to above overlap, with a detrimental effect on the real struggle against anti-Semitism. In Wimborne-Idrissi’s opinion, “people have been weaponizing accusations of anti-Semitism for political ends. The fact that this is going on seriously undermines and endangers our chances of dealing with genuine anti-Semitism.

Moshe Machover – a respected mathematician and philosopher, also a socialist activist noted for his writings against Zionism – was suspended from the Labour Party on 30 November 2020. The LP is now investigating whether his online and offline conduct represents “conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party”. In his public response to his suspension (see https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/mos he-machover-suspended-again-he-has-issued-a-public-response/), Machover said: “I joined the Labour Party in 2016, when it opened its doors to socialists – who are, by definition, anti-imperialists. I regret I am now among the numerous victims of a purge driven by right-wing heresy hunters, bureaucratic enemies of free speech. But at least I can use this occasion to promote the views I have been advocating for many years; in particular, socialist opposition to the Zionist project of colonisation and the Jewish-supremacist regime of the Israeli settler state.”

Accusations of anti-Semitism were being used as a weapon before Kier Starmer assumed the leadership of the LP, as just another way of attacking political opponents. But what is new under Starmer is that he and his clique are using accusations of anti-Semitism and other things in a conscious offensive against anyone – including Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jeremy Corbyn and others – whom they consider to be an obstacle to their policy, which at this point is focused on their willingness to support the Tory government in the so-called “national interest”.

The result is that, beyond the specific LP members who are being targeted and victimised, the party itself is being ripped apart (50,000 members have resigned under Starmer’s leadership) as a party of the British working class. If this offensive is successful, and therefore gives the Starmer leadership a free hand to pursue its policy of collaborating with the Tories, it will ensure that the working people whom the party claims to represent will suffer the direct consequences of that policy. Every month, thousands of people are dying from COVID-19 for lack of sufficient testing resources and tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs and incomes, and meanwhile the clique that is leading the Labour Party is focused on suspending party members and launching disciplinary proceedings.

For example, in July the pro-Starmer right succeeded in removing Labour control of Brighton and Hove City Council and handing it to the Greens after losing three councillors in an “anti-Semitic” witch-hunt. As a result, the Labour-led campaign to prevent a local primary school being designated an academy is now in question, as well as the funding priorities for local services.

Following an internal delegate meeting of Chingford and Woodford Green CLP, held via Zoom on 30 November, the speeches by CLP Chair Gary Lefley and Vice-Chair Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi were leaked to the Jewish Chronicle. The newspaper published an inaccurate report on 1 December, and both officers were suspended shortly afterwards.

Gary Lefley said in his speech (which was transcribed and posted on the Jewish Voice for Labour website): “The government’s mismanagement of the virus has been catastrophic from day one (…). Add to this the serial corruption at the heart of government, with inflated contracts being awarded to friends, family and corporate class associates. Share values going through the roof while workers are furloughed, and while unemployment rockets and public workers’ wages are frozen. The overall picture is that of the most incompetent, unashamedly class-driven and corrupt UK government of my lifetime. (…) So why, after eight months of unrelenting government health-care ineptitude, of gross economic mismanagement and corruption, with, I repeat, the worst death toll of the 51 states of Europe, why did this catalogue of catastrophe not merit censure from the Labour Leadership? (…) Why was Keir Starmer still colluding with the government? If you think the word “collusion” is a touch strong, here are Sir Keir’s own words, spoken in interview with Andrew Marr as late as 20 September. Starmer said: (…) “I’ve reiterated the government message because I think that is the right thing to do in the national interest.” But whose ‘national’ interest? That of Rees-Mogg and his corporate buddies – or the rest of us? (…)

With the health service, the economy and millions of working people on their knees, Keir Starmer decided this was the moment to suspend the former leader of the Party, and expel him from the Parliamentary Labour Party. (…) And it is Starmer, not Corbyn, who has plunged the party into internecine warfare, when we should be exposing and combatting this vile class-driven, corrupt government, something we should have been doing for 11 months. (…)

Personally, I have no confidence in Keir Starmer to unite this Party – his leadership election pledge – in fact, he is ripping it to pieces. I do not have confidence in him to expose and defeat the Tories.”

In her speech, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi referred to the current wave of suspensions from LP membership simply for debating motions on Corbyn, after LP General Secretary David Evans had instructed members and MPs that they are banned from discussing Corbyn’s suspension from the party:

I’m absolutely horrified that one of the people suspended recently is chair of a CLP in Nottingham, Louise Regan, who is a former President of the National Union of Teachers [section of the NEU], a very well-known and respected trade union leader, still active in the union (…) of which I’m a member and several others of us are members. (…)

We’ve got a General Secretary who is making up the rules as he goes along (…). If there are people in this room who want the 300,000 people who joined because of hope delivered by Jeremy Corbyn and the movement around him, if you want all those people to leave, carry on as you are doing. If you actually believe what Keir said about being the man to unite the party, and the man who was going to stick to 10 pledges based on the previous leadership’s manifesto, then, you know, let’s hold him to that, shall we? There are motions of no confidence going in around the country to our leadership, and there is good reason for that.

The gagging edict issued by David Evans has caused an outcry across the LP. In the last two weeks, CLP Chairs and Secretaries from around the country have signed an open letter addressed to Evans, protesting at the ban on discussion of topics such as the withdrawal of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn. As of 14 December, the letter had been signed by 272 CLP Chairs and Secretaries from 187 CLPs (roughly one-third of the UK total). In the open letter, the LP officers said that David Evans’s “restrictions on items of party business that can be discussed in meetings, accompanied by threats and suspensions,” go against the fundamental human right to freedom of expression “that was long fought for and has been traditionally upheld by the Labour Party, including in our party meetings. The right to freedom of expression is not only about the right to speak but it is also about the right to listen to others and for different views to be heard. Party members should have the right to express their views, including on whether the whip should or should not be restored to Jeremy Corbyn.

So, in conclusion, let us repeat what should now be clear to everyone who has read up to this point: the experiences of LP members like Moshe Machover, Gary Lefley and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi stand as proof that the whole “Labour is anti-Semitic” row has very little to do with the genuine struggle against anti-Semitism. At the international level, it expresses the Starmer leadership’s complete alignment with the policy of imperialism, and at the national level it is an expression of the leadership’s “national unity” approach which implies the destruction of the Labour Party as a party of the working class.

Labour Internationalist — December 16, 2020

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