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Beyond Reproach? Labour, the left and white supremacy

‘What Enoch Powell says today, the Tories say tomorrow and Labour legislates on the day after.’ — A. Sivanandan

“The Labour Party, which I’ve been a proud member of for 40 yrs, is not institutionally racist. To suggest it is shows no understanding of either the work or the history of our party” — Jenny Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party

I am not a Labour party member. I am however a member of a trade union so feel I can say to this white Labour party grandee you are wrong and no you do not know your own party.

Three week ago things came to a head when Chuka “how do I avoid Trash” Umunna branded the Labour Party institutionally racist. I haven’t seen so many outraged tweets flying around since um last week when the Labour Party was branded institutionally anti Semitic.

Anti semitism, and Islamophobia are all intertwined with racism and both Jews and Muslims regardless of the colour of their skin are racialised as “other’. But antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-black racism are also separate and distinct. Hence why I didn’t really agree with writer and co-producer of Who Is America with Sacha Baron Cohen, Lee Kern when he called Labour’s BAME group “shameful and ignorant” for seemingly not counting Antisemitism as ‘real racism’

In a bold claim BAME Labour who are I presume staffed by actual black, Asian and minority ethnic people said that they ‘condemn the assertion that Labour is institutionally racist. Our party has a proud history fighting racism that continues today’..

Anti semitism has its own storied, distinct and horrific history. Same too with Islamophobia and anti Muslim rhetoric. And Anti black racism that saw the scourge of slavery become normalised and has even to this day led to modern day slavery of black Africans in Libya and the ongoing anti-African pogroms in Israel (I wrote about those in Ceasefire magazine 6 years ago.) Somehow the online anti-semite hunters never have much to say about it even though Ethiopian Jews are targeted alongside the mostly Eritrean refugees. Indeed the celebrity left who have been vocal about the rampant antisemitism in our midst have been somewhat quieter over the years about rising and pervasive anti-Muslim rhetoric and the platforming of far right fascists in the streets, on our TVs and in our papers of record. The Tories recent decision to support an anti-Semitic party and not condemn its leaders was one such instance where the celebrity left were quick to exercise their Twitter fingers.

@davidschneider

Interesting though that a group called the i) Torah Jews came out in defense of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn two weeks ago with a tweet saying BREAKING in capital letters. BREAKING: Leading UK Rabbis have released a letter to repudiate the false notion that British Jews are against @jeremycorbyn and/or the @UKLabour.

Now that might have been the end of Labour’s summer of discontent if it hadn’t been for that pesky ex DJ, Ibiza loving, non-Streatham dwelling MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna declaring that Labour are institutionally racist. I bet they wish they had deselected him back in 2016 when the first Labour coup was attempted.

You might think that this media shit show is just another storm in a teacup and that there are more important things to think about than the Labour Party being institutionally racist. Like the Tory party being institutionally racist or the BBC being institutionally racist, not to mention classist or like countless British citizen being deported in the Windrush Scandal. I say countless because they literally don’t know how many grandmothers they deported. Or how about the murdered and missing black children? Or Prevent criminalising Muslims from cradle to grave and forcing teachers to report on 7 year olds who express empathy for Palestinians? Or the Nottingham Two who were imprisoned under trumped up charges of terrorism. When those charges were dropped they attempted to use the hostile immigration system against them. Or the UK government licensing 4.7 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia to turn Yemen in to a car park etc etc ad infinitum. But in a UK context all these things are just as important as institutional racism, in fact they are connected.

Fear mongering in The Times about Muslim babies, fear mongering about Muslim foster carers in a now widely condemned article is connected. Indeed this was the sum up “Muslim fostering’: Times journalism utterly discredited” .

But yes we must take antisemitism seriously when we read stories such as this: A gay Jewish student was found in a shallow grave days after his murder. A white supremacist Nazi used Grindr to meet him, he then sent pictures of the man’s dead body to people on Grindr.

But let’s not forget 17 year old Abdi Ali who went missing for 8 months, his family frantic with worry when he was found dead on bank holiday Monday, stabbed, and with head wounds. Two people Gary Hopkins, 36 and Stacey Docharty, 28 both of Hartmoor Mews have been charged with murder and perverting the course of justice. The fact that there was barely a murmur raised by the chattering classes or the Labour Mayor of London and his deputy for a 17 year old missing black Muslim kid stinks of institutional racism to me whether they be brown or not. Would a similarly sweet looking white boy from the other side of London, say Chelsea have caused such a whimper of concern?

I don’t think so. I can say with confidence that none of the luminaries of the left bar Ash Sarkar and Jack Shenker signal boosted the fundraiser for Abdi Ali’s funeral. Not even champion of the working class Clive Lewis. I know because I asked him to.

But let’s separate the Labour Party from the left for a moment. Labour the institution has failed to represent and detrimentally skewed leftist discourse. Many of our Labour party MPs have dealt with the accusations of anti-Semitism horrendously. That’s both the Labour Left and Labour right. I’m not sure who the Labour centre are these days. The Lib Dems?

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I wrote about my experiences working on a construction site with all white working class men mainly from Newcastle and Durham a few weeks ago and spent some time replying to the comments. Yes I went below the line where the people who work for a living in non glamourous jobs usually are found joining in the ‘discourse’ . The overwhelming feeling was that the Labour party does not represent the white working class anymore.

A representative sampling of the comments: 1. Labour are now a party for the chattering classes. Indeed Labour couldn’t give a stuff about the working class — to Momentum supporters they are all “Gammon”

2. often leftist views are no more than sneering and virtue signalling, this is a good read and deserves serious consideration — except for the quotas ;)

3. Labour despises the working class and has for decades, it’s probably due to the fact that they are from the middle and upper classes, over educated for their roles in some pit of a uni that instilled in them that educated socialists always know best and are holier than thou!

Not pretty but it is why ‘opinion formers’ should always take the time to look below the line when we have dispensed with our ‘wisdom’. We might learn something.

So if the Labour party doesn’t represent the white working class and doesn’t represent us black, brown and Muslim working classes who do they represent? Middle class elites? Or are we missing something here?

Well the history of the Labour Party’s particular brand of institutional racism may enlighten us. Nigerian British secular humanist writer Ralph Leonard says: “I cringe whenever I see the phrase “the Labour party has a proud history of opposing racism”. Really?! Where was it when the rest of us were fighting for racial equality? Or have they forgotten about Labour’s complicity in racist immigration controls for over 50 years? There is a reason why A. Sivanandan used to say as I quoted at the top of the article, ‘What Powell says today, the Tories say tomorrow and Labour legislates on the day after.’ Whilst Pukkah Punjabi who last wrote for the Guardian in 2014 said in reply: “The answer being, in 1968 they were busy passing the Commonwealth Immigration Act to restrict non-white entry to Britain and in 2017 they were pledging more border guards. Add virginity testing and expanding detention tenfold and that’s the “proud history” of the Labour Party.” On that virulent history please find a delightful twitter thread here by @mixedforestzone.

Liberation fighter Lee Jasper put it succinctly:

“All parties are institutionally racist. Some more than others. The test is the extent to which, structural racial inequalities are effected as result of policies. Austerity has greatly amplified racial inequality. Left must focus on structural inequality not offensive language.”

Lee Jasper on the right

Near forgotten Labour party history is when Sharon Atkin was famously deselected by Neil Kinnock in 1987 for calling the Labour Party racist at a public meeting in Birmingham. She had been goaded into it but still…

In 2007 then Prime Minister Tony Blair giving the Callaghan lecture in Cardiff said ‘What we are dealing with is not a general social disorder; but specific groups or people who for one reason or another, are deciding not to abide by the same code of conduct as the rest of us… The black community — the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law-abiding people horrified at what is happening — need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids. But we won’t stop this by pretending it isn’t young black kids doing it.’ As anti-racist organiser and black marxist Dr Adam Elliot-Cooper said to me “We didn’t hear a peep out of Chuka “I want to be leader, now I don’t” Umunna then.” (he wasn’t an MP until 2010 but I get the sentiment) The Guardian quite rightly opened their leader on the fiasco by saying ‘Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.’

Then there’s MP Jess Phillips and her history of gaslighting, enabling abuse and swearing at a Black woman. The first Black woman elected to parliament no less. But Nadya Ali in her article about the toxicity of white feminism has laid waste to Jess Phillips better than I ever could, 'in offering Lena Dunham her understanding, and in asking us to extend ours (as a sympathetic feminist audience), Jess Phillips is making these forms of racism normal again.' And to really drive it home Dr Ornette Clennon added, "it is so important to understand other facets of white supremacy that are not dressed as the usual toxic masculinities (i.e. Trump et al)"

In May 2017 Operation Black Vote published an article which alluded to a letter that had been sent to the Labour leadership;

‘Labour’s African and Caribbean male activists are furious with their party, that no new African or Caribbean male candidates have been selected to stand in a winnable seat this time round.

OBV has seen a letter written to Labour party chiefs asking for an explanation, not least why African and Caribbean male candidates were told they couldn’t stand for the Slough seat, only to find out that some other male minorities were allowed to stand.” suggesting that the Labour party had a particular problem with anti-black racism.

An immigration enforcement hotline was called 68 times by MPs or their staff last year, it has been revealed by Charities including ‘Migrants Organise' that many migrants are now afraid of contacting their local MP.

Of the 68 calls by MPs to the hotline, 34 were from Conservatives, 32 from Labour, one DUP and one Lib Dem.

Mr Salhab of ‘Migrants Organise said ‘he feared those reported would be caught up in the "Home Office’s unjust broken system", citing the Windrush scandal, in which migrants from Commonwealth countries were wrongly categorised as illegal immigrants.’

So the Labour party are institutionally racist, just like the Tories are institutionally racist. Just like every British institution is. It’s the nature of a country and empire that colonised the world. A country where its black and brown, East Asian and mixed race citizens are routinely asked, “Where are you really from?

What Chuka Umunna has done is use the work and words of activists whose shoulders he stands upon to hypocritically further his own agenda: that being a war against socialism. It was Doreen Lawrence OBE and a host of other black activists who in a gargantuan fight against the establishment and police over a number of years brought the phrase “institutionally racist” into popular parlance. He has betrayed and insulted them by wielding it as a tool to remove his party leader.

At the top of the page I said I belonged to a Trade Union. Unions give part of their members fees to the Labour party, and I am happy to contribute. So to paraphrase James Baldwin when he talked about his love for America — I love the Labour Party more than any other party in Britain, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually. Because I believe they/we can change.

Lester Holloway on the right

In 2015 writer and political activist Lester Holloway did a study of the BAME candidates running for election. He found the following: Out of 153 BAME prospective parliamentary candidates standing for the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, 82 percent are of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi background, 17 percent are Caribbean and 7 percent African.

What all these numbers mean is that would-be politicians from an African, Caribbean or black mixed ethnicity are roughly half as likely to be picked to represent a major party as someone whose heritage is from the Indian subcontinent. This raises serious questions about what is causing this imbalance between black and Asian aspiring MPs.’ — Lester Holloway

So if the Labour party don’t find my criticisms above worthy of reflection, hopefully they will light a fire under the arses of those dealing with the nitty gritty of getting MPs elected.

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But we have another problem. The Labour Party as an institution and its MPs are one thing. The Left and its activists are another. As I mentioned I wrote for the Telegraph recently. This was out of desperation because for a month before I was trying to tell some of the media hotshots of the left that we were in a crisis. I believed that we needed to change the discourse about and to working class people especially white working class men. And we needed to change it quickly. Not for any illustrious reason, but because the British steel industry was about to be targeted by Donald Trump in the most egregious of ways. In his protectionist manner he intended to put unreasonable tariffs on imported steel meaning that the little that’s left of our steel industry after Thatcher gutted it in the eighties would be brought to its knees.

I tweeted the following and I and many other black, brown and Muslim working class tweeters tried to get attention for it from early August onwards all while still working 7 am til 6pm on a construction site in Wandsworth. Crickets.

Lo and behold last week it was announced that 400 jobs in the steel industry were to go. Now a trade union isn’t always the answer but I believe in this case if we had been able to organise in the month I first told Owen Jones and Aaron Bastani and others that this was going to happen we could have at least forged some solidarity between the steel workers plus construction workers even if we didn’t save those 400 jobs.

That didn’t happen. Now we are chasing from behind. What is it about a black working class woman that white middle class men don’t like? And hence won’t listen to? What is it about losing jobs and not being able to feed your family that middle class men or those who have moved into the middle class by virtue of education not get?

Then there’s Paul Mason getting in bed with an anti Semitic party because of their coalition with a Greek socialist party, Syriza. I would say he did it ‘for the culture’ if he was black. But he isn’t so it must have been ‘for the greater good’. As Lester Holloway prescient as ever said the far right anti-immigration Independent Greeks (ANEL) are ‘a bit less Nazi than Golden Dawn but then again the BNP are probably a bit less fascist than Combat 18. Owen Jones wrote: ‘This is what the politics of hope looks like.’ Paul Mason wrote an article that the Guardian called the inside story of Syriza’s rise to power it was titled ‘Hope begins today’

In case you forgot the German Communist Party linked up with Hitler’s Nazis in 1931. Remember how that turned out? Well we see the seeds of it all across Europe from Sweden to Holland to Germany to Britain where there are now more white people arrested as potential terrorists then those pesky Muslims the Times so loves to hate. And it is the Left’s fault in my opinion.

Some other examples of racism on the left, why must they always bring Africa into it? As whoever wrote the bible said in the Book of Exodus 5:1 ‘Let my people go!’.

Is Cathy Newman on the ‘left’? If yes her shenanigans in a mosque 3 years ago are even more egregious.

Remember when Owen Jones completely forgot that there are black and brown working class people too and we did not “revolt’ against the establishment by voting for Brexit?

In fact Black people voted for Remain in higher numbers than every other ethnic as well as social and economic group.

Individuals and groups (by virtue of their politics or cause) who believe themselves to have progressive politics (I want to emphasize BELIEVE here) often place themselves in structures/positions where they feel they are beyond reproach. It’s why the SWP harboured a rapist in their midst.

It’s why Oxfam will put an unidentified malnourished child in an unidentified African country on a poster while paying their senior execs hundreds of thousands. It’s why Alan Rusbridger whilst editor of the Guardian didn’t examine himself giving £100k to a racist and islamophobic magazine post a terror attack in France, that horrific as it was had a body count in the single figures. Whilst at the same time he barely mentioned in public anyway that 2000 people were killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria on the same day. I wrote about him in 2015.

It’s why people are happy to point fingers at Louise Mensch, but say “don’t malign Cathy Newman”, “she must have had a reason for her lies, you must have misunderstood!” “She’s progressive!”

It’s why people will point fingers at the Daily Mail forgetting that the Guardian has a similar amount of black and brown staff members. i.e next to none.

I’ve said before that there will be no revolution without people of colour leading it and it will be ‘liberal’ progressives who will hold us back, because in all honestly, they are not willing to examine the white supremacy in their midst.

Because progressive = beyond reproach. But if you don’t believe me, maybe you will listen to Assata Shakur or Martin Luther King Jr.

Lots of left and liberal writers are making their names from writing about inequality. More often than not though it’s a thought exercise that pays the bills. Black, Muslim women and Muslim men (you can be both you know) are always the first casualty in these thought exercises, because “we’re helping” equals we are beyond reproach.

It’s why I will call out black male writers known for their righteous polemics about police brutality, school to prison pipeline, but write not one specific word about violence against and murders of black women.

It’s why I can ask why the Green party have a separate Manifesto for ‘BAME’ people and have white activist after activist say, “why us? Look over there, look at the Tories”. It’s why I can say that “the Greens are even whiter than UKIP” (look it up)and a white activist will do the Twitter equivalent of saying “I have black friends”, and not feel a moments disquiet. But when they say ‘I’m progressive’ all I hear is “I’m beyond reproach”.

The British Left’s racism is more insidious than the rights, in the sense that right-wing racism is often pretty apparent and virulent (Windrush deportations aren’t subtle) and easy to point out, whereas the Left’s racism is often cloaked in many more layers of rhetoric and international (as opposed to domestic) policy measures, especially in terms of the Middle East.

But let’s not mention the Middle East, that would lead to talking further about 5 million Yemeni children being at risk of imminent starvation. I haven’t heard a peep out of the celebrity left about that.

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i)The True Torah Jews quote. There is dispute over whether the letter is real. Also this is a rather shocking quote from their website (https://t.co/FC2hhL5AyQ):

"The right way to approach the Holocaust is to analyze the spiritual decline in the Jewish people that brought it on, and repair that decline."

There are many different views within the Jewish community but this is not cool. However after publishing I don’t believe in just deleting parts of the article after something is flagged

Further reading:

How working on a construction site taught me the truth about Brexit | Samantha Asumadu

Black, British & Muslim; We’re not just a "Complication" | Momtaza Mehri via Writers of Colour