We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism

by Rob Marchant

Momentum is on a roll. It has just secured three places on Labour’s NEC. It is now on course to easily force deselections in seats where it does not like the sitting MP. It has also, as its first act in that newly-constituted NEC, just ousted the long-serving head of the Disputes Committee, Ann Black, on the left of the party – the Campaign Group, no less – but widely respected as fair and neutral.

“Fair” and “neutral” are words that we might struggle a little more to apply to her replacement, Christine Shawcroft. Shawcroft, you may remember, was one of the few party members who supported disgraced Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, after he had been forced from office for electoral fraud and had not even been a party member for five years. A trick which got her suspended from the party (now reinstated). Amazingly, she was still defending him on Tuesday as the victim of “a terrible miscarriage of justice” (Rahman was also struck off as a solicitor a month ago).

Given Black’s long and distinguished tenure at the Disputes Committee, one wonders what motive there could possibly be for replacing her, other than to ensure that people on the far left that she might have found unpalatable will be allowed to join, re-join or have their suspensions lifted. You can almost picture Ken Livingstone and George Galloway rubbing their hands with delight as we speak. But more of Shawcroft later.

Momentum is clearly making moves towards its clear-but-as-yet-unstated objective of calling the shots within the Labour Party (if not necessarily of beating the Tories and securing a Corbyn government, a seemingly secondary priority).

Moderates everywhere should be concerned, not least because they are now at the start of a long process of being gradually squeezed out, constituency by constituency. This has been clear for some time and demonstrated by the examples we are about to give.

What is perhaps less obvious is that Momentum, unlike Labour, does not have such tight entry criteria or such an active Compliance Unit as Labour. This means that, although there is surely a majority of decent and well-meaning folk within Momentum’s 30,000 souls who essentially think that Corbyn is a good chap, there is a minority, for example from the old SWP, who have rather more disturbing methods of organising – a la Militant – and also more disturbing views.

And so we come on to anti-Semitism on the left. I first wrote about it here six years ago long before it penetrated deep into the party itself, when it was still a fringe phenomenon. It is no longer.

Exhibit A: Jackie Walker, twice suspended from Labour and stripped of her Vice-Chair at Momentum (although now back at the top table) for allegedly anti-Semitic comments. Who thinks Jews were “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. Walker still maintains she is a victim of a “witch hunt” and indeed this summer she did a one-woman, Edinburgh show around this theme.

If you still wonder if she is disingenuous or for real, it is interesting to note – as the Jew Know blog points out – that even her claim to be Jewish is rather odd, given that she was baptised a Catholic, as was her mother (as is well known, your mother needs to be Jewish for you to be Jewish). Neither, it appears, were Jewish rituals observed at home or was it even mentioned in her autobiographical book. Could it possibly be, one wonders, that the Jewish claim might not be a rather useful shield, to be trotted out in convenient moments, such as being accused of anti-Semitism?

And finally just prior to Ann Black’s removal on Tuesday, we had a rare insight into how she and her friends on the hard left actually think, from the Independent’s Ben Kentish:

Walker, in the above screenshot, discusses Black’s suspension with prominent Momentum figure Tony Greenstein (also suspended from Labour, pending a disciplinary hearing next week) and another member. “It’s exactly the same with Iain McNicol [party General Secretary]. We have to disillusion people in her [Black]”, says Greenstein.

These groups are not having robust debates about politics here. They are actively trying to undermine both the party organisation and individuals within it, all the while attempting to maintain a façade of innocent idealism; of defiant victims of maltreatment. It is, frankly, sick.

Exhibit B: Haringey Labour Party. It is by now common knowledge the purge that has taken place among Haringey’s councillors, in favour of Momentum-backed candidates for the coming London borough elections.

A fine example is Momentum’s Charley Allan: selected in place of a long-time councillor; supporter of “liberation movement” Hamas (not terrorists, of course); columnist for the Morning Star; etc.

Unsurprisingly, Allan defends Ken Livingstone’s conspiracy theory that there was a Zionist-Nazi collaboration in the 1930s. And when confronted with the anti-Semitic Hamas Charter which openly calls for the murder of Jews, apologises for it as the result of “occupation and humiliation”.

Start to see the picture? Momentum, attempts to target individuals and the defence of anti-Semitic tropes.

Exhibit C: Hastings and Rye CLP. Toby Helm’s recent Observer piece interviews some fresh-faced Momentum members there, full of enthusiasm. But scratch the surface, and it seems that, there too, there are strong signs of hard-left interest. Council leader Peter Chowney and others accepted the pro-Corbyn “loyalty test” pledge that elected representatives are now being asked to sign. There are reports of numerous local councillors who have been deselected and others leaving in disgust. Corbyn has done a number of rallies there.

Interestingly Leah Levane, a local member, is prominent in Jewish Voice For Labour, an “anti-Zionist” group. The CLP proposed an alternative (lighter) change, later withdrawn, to the motion adopted at Conference supposedly cracking down on anti-Semitism.

One honestly wonders what the good burghers of Hastings, not unreasonably wanting their bins emptied, must make of a local party so seemingly fascinated by Israel and Jews.

And then there is the shortlisted candidate for the constituency, Michelle Harris. Who is, among other things, a member of David Icke’s Facebook fan group and happily sharing anti-Semitic tropes on the Rothschilds, Israel/Holocaust comparisons and so on.

Finally, news from late yesterday: Christine Shawcroft’s first action as Disputes Committee Chair was to have a meeting in which three anti-Semitism-related cases were considered. Only one of the three was referred for a full NCC hearing, the other two let off with warnings.

We can see that Labour’s major problem with anti-Semitism is clearly being treated to the velvet glove containing the, er, velvet fist.

And let’s be honest: Labour has hardly been taking anti-Semitism seriously since the Corbyn accession. You have only to look at the fiasco of the Chakrabarti report to see this. But you can see from all the above that Momentum takes it even less seriously – for example, they never suspended Walker – in fact, there are numerous examples of individual members moving to defend those accused of it.

Yes, Jon Lansman – who is Jewish, for the record – has made a useful acknowledgement that anti-Semitism is a problem in Labour. But ironically, what he fails to acknowledge the role of his own organisation in the problem. Normal Labour members do not share these obsessions. More importantly, one honestly wonders if he can anyway control the monster he has created.

In short: the links are clear. It is obvious that not all members of Momentum are anti-Semitic; one suspects relatively few. However, what is clear is that Momentum, in the areas where it has established a strong presence (Brighton and Liverpool are two more), looks like it is nurturing a “safe space” where those few feel comfortable to make or post anti-Semitic comments. Given the successful takeover currently taking place in various constituencies, it is surely only a matter of time before this culture takes root in Labour as a whole.

In other words, with Tuesday’s coup on the Disputes panel, it is clear that that Momentum’s attitude to anti-Semitism is poised to become the Labour Party’s.

We can debate the politics of centre versus left within Labour, fine: we are all on the same team and let the best argument win. It’s called the battle of ideas. But let this pernicious culture loose, as seems to be currently happening, and not only Jews – it is mostly too late for that – but most decent people are likely to simply leave the party in disgust.

Ironically, such an exodus would actually be an accelerator of Momentum’s takeover of the party. But it would also truly be its kiss of death as an electoral force.

Even those genuine, idealistic supporters of Momentum who are not from the old, Trotskyite left must now realise there are cuckoos in their midst and they must be dealt with.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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30 Responses to “We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Good article,but you say we need to talk about it, unless it’s illegal or the atory party, use it to destroy labour,or Corbyn does so,thing,nothing’s going to change, are pro momentum,non anti Semites, not just deniers going to do anything,
    Ans for the record ,imagine,if a different wing took over, Blue labour, Labour first, the Fabians, ado-op, Ed milifans, Blairites and they were full of people with prejudices, would militant/Mimentum/ Corbynistas be able to call them out, it’s they qhole structural problem, rhwreyll be non existence, moribund CLPs outside the momentum area that , will be ready for corruption, unless we organize,

    Wait till a non Corbynista is expelled for islamophobia, or not supporting transgenders on all women shortlists, or a brexiter, is accused of racism,by a Blairite,

  2. Daniel Bennett says:

    1. Why are the bits in “quotes” false quotes not accruately repoting what has been said ?

    2. why are there 5 named people you have targeted as antisemites jewish ?

    3. why would you, someone who isnt jewish but is on the right of the labour party, wish to accuse 5 jewi sh leftists as antisemites ?

  3. Mike Homfray says:

    Are you promising to leave the party in disgust? Its just that you have threatened it so many times before but haven’t carried out the threat

    Thank goodness that the pernicious witch-hunt and the use of bogus claims of anti-semitism will now be ended. And not before time

  4. Corbynite No 9 Please says:

    So, Anne Black didn’t preside over the suspension of 1,000s of Labour Members (the purge 1 and 2) for ridiculous reasons such as liking or sharing a Green Party post on twitter before they were even a Labour Party member?

    Sounds to me like she was rightly targeted for the chop. Cut the corruption out of the NEC.

  5. John Wall says:

    As I wrote several weeks ago http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2018/01/03/a-fortune-cookie-for-2018/ “it’s more important to be a ‘comrade’ than a member of the human race.”

  6. Greggo says:

    What a load of embittered bile…

  7. Reg says:

    Splitter!!

  8. Gordon says:

    Who are you kidding, Rob? Your mealy-mouthed language and attempts to downplay the literally dozens of examples of Labour anti-semitism in the last couple of years is only one step up from Momentum’s own evasions.

    Lansman’s acknowledgment wasn’t “useful” – it was a naked attempt to downplay the sick racism against Jews that Momentum enables. He used his own heritage to claim an undeserved credibility in this sphere.

    How can anyone with a shred of decency remain a member of the Labour Party? You are in denial and, to excuse your own moral collapse, you are forced to proactively set spurious limits on the problem. Like the rest of Labour you have become desensitised to anti-semitism in a way that would be utterly unimaginable were Labour members ranting against any other minority. Can you imagine if anti-black tropes and memes were being shared by Labour members on Facebook? If black Labour members were being held to account for failings in African nations? If cartoons promoting racist stereotypes against black people were being posted on Twitter by Labour Party office holders? There would be absolute outrage.

    And then imagine the NEC chose not to pursue most of these cases and to allow racists to remain as Party members in good standing. And imagine the Party leadership gave every impression of not giving a stuff.

    You would resign. But it’s Jews who are the target, and you haven’t. Instead you write articles like this one that purport to tackle the problem but that end up downplaying it. Even those in the vanguard of the hard left takeover of the Labour Party do not have their motives challenged: “there is surely a majority of decent and well-meaning folk within Momentum’s 30,000 souls”

    Jeez – no wonder the bastards are winning.

  9. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I think Rob Marchant is right to be concerned about Momentum and its motives. I think however he is not helping his analysis by bringing into his deliberations the dubious ascertion that there are within Momentum influtential figures that are anti semitic and that they are using Momentum as a vehicle to express these views. I dont believe that.
    I think it is true that there are Labour supporters (Momentum members or not) that are sympathetic to the Palestinian’s plight, and sincere in their belief that Israeli government policy over decades has treated the Palestinian people disgracefully. I think this is indisputable and I say that because I know there are Jewish groups in the US and within Israel itself that are of the same opinion.
    I also am of the opinion that there are powerful, effective and well funded pro Israeli lobbyists working within the US and Europe’s political parties and universities. Further, I think these groups (maybe individuals) us the claim ‘anti semitism’ to counter reasonable and honest voices, however, recently, some Labour people have been careless with their use of language on this subject and this has as I say been picked upon and the accusations are sticking.
    This is why I say Rob Marchant should keep the anti semitism argument seperate from his thoughts on, what Momentum is all about.
    I am not a Labour member. I am merely an interested observer, but I do find the Momentum ‘reasons to exist’ hard to understand. It is unclear what policies Momentum stand for. Moving Labour to the left, getting JC elected PM are not policies. It appears to me that the only thing Momentum will do is destabilise Labour. Political parties, any organisation for that matter need a structure that is clear and logical and that everyone understands. People need to know what the reporting lines are. Momentum does not help this. Momentum makes The Party structure incomprehensible. Is this deliberate?
    I think constituency parties (any party) have the right to select their candidates, but when an organisation like Momentum is set up within the body of The Party with the stated aim to deselect sitting politicians then that is going to lead to schism.
    I dont have an answer to ‘what is Momentum for? Looking at it from where I do, Conservative Party Central Office (or some office) have a mole placed deep within The Labour Party’s core.

  10. ghost whistler says:

    Pathetic innuendo. Shameful

    Do you want Labour to lose again?

  11. anosrep says:

    “as is well known, your mother needs to be Jewish for you to be Jewish”

    No. That is a gross over-simplification that betrays either ignorance or dishonesty. The question of whether someone is Jewish is far more complex than that and depends on whether one is speaking in ethnic or religious terms, and if the latter, which of the various demoninations of Judaism and interpretations of Jewish theology applies. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_is_a_Jew%3F for an overview, as you clearly need one.

    Regardless – and whether or not you yourself are Jewish (as to which I have no idea) – you do NOT, in your arrogance, get to decide whether or not someone else is Jewish.

  12. John P Reid says:

    Mike homfray, “witch hunt” “bogus” you’re denying anti semitism? Do you want those seuspended expelled for it allowed back in?

    Corbynite no.9, If someone canvasses for another party including putting on their web feed a picture “vote for another party” then wants to join labour rhe next day it’s wrong,it’s different than crossing the floor,if there’s hasn’t been a election for at least a year

  13. @Daniel: I am always amazed, when talking about anti-Semitism, many people’s first preoccupation is whether you are Jewish or not. Not really relevant, is it, Daniel? Btw if you would like to explain which quotes you think are misquoted, please be a little more specific.

    @Mike: Not aware that I have *ever* threatened to resign, Mike. Much less numerous times. I think your memory is failing you. But please by all means point me to where I have.

    @Richard: I am glad to see you are (rightly) concerned about Momentum’s motives. However, if your concern is regarding whether or not prominent Momentumites have anti-Semitic histories, that is easily cleared up. If you would like to DM me on Twitter, I would be happy to share chapter and verse on a whole list, of which these are just examples. There is no shortage of evidence. Also, would highlight that Jackie Walker was not just anyone in Momentum, but its Vice Chair. If you would like to just join the Labour Party Forum, you can see the kind of comments I got for writing this piece.

    I should point out that the movement against anti-Semitism in Labour is not even factional any longer. Most former activist Jews who are fighting it are now doing so from *outside* the party. They have pretty much given up hope of rescuing the party and are now fighting what they see as something which is simply wrong and to be confronted.

    @anosrep: Oh, rubbish. Judaism is a matrilineal thing, end of.

  14. @Gordon: I guess I can’t win, can I? For everyone that tells me “move along, nothing to see” there’s someone else telling me I can’t stay in Labour because it’s a hotbed of anti-Semitism. The truth is in between, I’m afraid. There are many, many thousands of decent people in my party.

    If you’re not happy with my rationale and thinks that taints me, so be it. But I would like to try and rescue 100 years of Labour history before giving up on it. Sorry.

  15. john P Reid says:

    If a party wasn’t anti Semitic that lost, it wouldn’t be worthy of the name labour anyway

  16. anosrep says:

    I hate to break it to you, but repeating a lie (for you can no longer claim blameless ignorance) doesn’t magically make it true. Not even if you add “end of”.

  17. Mike Homfray says:

    But you have Rob
    Trouble is it’s always with the caveat that thousands of other right wingers will do the same and start a new party. But they haven’t the courage.
    So you’ll just have to accept that you remain a member of a party which dies not reflect your political views and hopefully never will.

  18. Vern says:

    There must surely be more moderates in the Labour party than hard lefts like Corbyn and this Momentum rabble. We had not heard a peep from Corbyn as he rode the gravy train for the first 35 years of his political career. That suggests he was largely an irrelevant figure within the party. Fast forward to 2014/15 and he is the Labour leader voted in somehow under “the moderates” watch. It sounds like 1930’s Germany. Momentum is his and his architect of hate and division McDonell’s replica of the SS. Alll cloned, all pumped full of anger, hatred of opposing viewpoints, creative wit the truth and downright bloody nasty individuals. And Anti-Semitic behaviour will increase because it’s what their Master desires and they too shall follow.
    I hope it’s not too late for the moderates to take back control of what used to be The Peoples Party. You can see those that opposed Corbyn and Momentum have been brainwashed. Eg: Tom Watson leading the “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” chant at last year’s conference. Others put their pay packet before their principles…..
    Corbyn, McDonell and Momentum have Labour running scared and it’s time to take the party back off them and banish these cretins for good.

  19. Tafia says:

    Daniel Bennet – Because it is a deliberate ploy to try and confuse anti-semitism with being anti-Israel and anti-zionist.

    There is a massive difference between all three but certain parts of the Labour Party (usual suspects in the Labour Friends of Israel group) try to label anyone who is anti-zionist or anti-Israel as anti-semites – which is a blatant lie. Likewise if you expect Israel to abide by UN resolutions or face enforced sanctions/limited military action if they don’t, again you are ant-semite. Which is bollocks.

  20. Tafia says:

    anosrep – Being jewish is passed down the mother side, not the father side.

  21. buttley says:

    Ann Black ousted by a democratic vote of 22 against 15.

    Ann Black was fair & neutral but not her replacement, Christine Shawcroft.

    Christine Shawcroft, who defended Lutfur Rahman’s treatment at the hands of the NEC, back in Sept 10, when by a vote of 20 against 3, the NEC imposed a Mayoral candidate upon Tower Hamlets, against the clearly expressed will of the membership.

    This Guardian article has some very useful below the line comments, for a clearer picture of what was really going on, on the ground.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/davehillblog/2010/oct/01/tower-hamlets-mayoral-candidate-helal-abbas-allegations-against-opponent

    She still maintains to this day, his treatment at the hands of the NEC, “was a terrible miscarriage of justice”.

    A vote of no confidence, based on an anonymous doggy dossier.

    The NEC should have no business in imposing candidates. Is what she is contending.

    Yet you smugly & confidently allude to her guilt by verbal association.

    Proudly proclaiming she still supports him after he had been forced from office for electoral fraud.

    Its cheap, you deliberately write to deceive, you conflate, two statements out of context, attempting to mislead the reader.

    You do it again here,

    “Christine Shawcroft’s first action as Disputes Committee Chair was to have a meeting in which three anti-Semitism-related cases were considered. Only one of the three was referred for a full NCC hearing, the other two let off with warnings.”

    She chaired a meeting, did she vote? no.

    Did she have any input in considering the cases under review? no

    Then you imply two cases, were in fact guilty, seeing as you claim they were “let off”.

    Care to share your greater knowledge of their guilt with us, & what form of words did this “warning” take?

    Again, your intention is to mis represent.

    Your fake news links, (2 articles in a row now)

    The “She was still defending him on “Tuesday” link” which leads to a Daily Mirror Article, via the Gruaniad Blog, which quickly got pulled because the author was lying / making stuff up about Ken Livingston, good link that one Rob.

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/head-labour-disciplinary-panel-ousted-11861188

    Reminds me of the deputy director of Progress, jumping on the fake Paul Waugh story.

    https://i2.wp.com/skwawkbox.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/el4c.png?resize=682%2C1024&ssl=1

    I took the time this week, to learn for myself about Christine Shawcroft, ironically Ann Black, the “ousted” victim in all this, has a blog.

    http://www.annblack.co.uk/

    She has reported on all the NEC meetings she has attended. It goes back to 1999.

    Searching, for Shawcroft, pulled up every NEC meeting where Ann Black saw fit to mention Christine Shawcroft & her comments.

    On nine out of ten votes on the NEC, both Ann Black & Christine Shawcroft were in the losing minority. They come across as good friends.

    Christine Shawcroft speaks loudly & clearly against many things, which with the benefit of hindsight, have proved her judgement to be correct.

    Ann Black’s writing is concise & engaging, she has produced an invaluable resource for anybody interested, in what actually goes on at the NEC.

    I would encourage every reader to see for themselves what she stands for. Its all there.

  22. John Wall says:

    @Tafia – if it’s now acceptable to decide your gender, why not extend that to ethnicity…..

  23. John P Reid says:

    John Wall https://mobile.twitter.com/renieanjeh/status/951795782184833024

    Two Labour Party activists agree , I’m apprehensive about showing this tweet, as I admire both of them I understand some real women feminists who don’t think transsexuals should be on all women short liars have been threatened with expulsion

  24. Tafia says:

    John Wall – because it’s up to the jewish faith to decide what the rules for their faith are, not outsiders.

  25. buttley says:

    John Wall,

    Now that i have taken delivery of my new skin, i can self-identify as being in my second trimester, with the stroke of a bike pump.

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Preggo-Perv-Alien-Latex-Costume-Equipped-with-Gas-Mask-Breast-Horn-Alien-Fetus/191770704167?hash=item2ca66cb927:m:mhxGkxZpefjfuQZTlsDcd5g

  26. Nedzo says:

    Asking moderates why they haven’t resigned in disgust/despair from Corbyn’s Labour Party is like asking passengers on a ship being steered onto the rocks by its captain why they haven’t jumped into the sea.

  27. buttley says:

    Ann Black says

    “As is widely known, Christine Shawcroft was elected Chair of the disputes panel with 22 votes against 15 for me. The move was known to The Independent in advance, but not to Pete Willsman or to many other NEC members. I do not believe that it presages greater lenience in enforcing party rules: all cases are discussed by the panel as a whole, and every NEC member is responsible. It is true that the Chair attracts blame for unpopular decisions. This happened to me, and it will happen to Christine: it goes with the territory. In nine years I have never been personally involved in any case as a witness or supporter, and I have tried to work collegially with all NEC members and with staff. My chief regret is failing to make more progress in resolving the backlog of appeals and referrals, and at this meeting, regrettably, we deferred two cases. Christine also replaces me as an NEC officer, but that will not change the existing political balance.”

    25/1/18

  28. buttley says:

    Another example of the toss, within this article

    “What is perhaps less obvious is that Momentum, unlike Labour, does not have such tight entry criteria or such an active Compliance Unit as Labour.”

    http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/faq

    Who is eligible to join Momentum?

    Anyone is eligible for Momentum membership provided they meet the following criteria:

    Aged 14 or over

    Is a MEMBER of the Labour Party and no other political party nor an organisation disallowed by the National Coordination Group

    Agrees to be bound by the rules of Momentum, including its code of ethics.

  29. @Buttley: so please, tell me, who exactly has been thrown out of Momentum, with its oh-so-strict membership criteria? Names, please.

  30. buttley says:

    @Rob, i don’t know,

    but you are the one making aspersions,

    how many members thrown out of the Labour Party, are still members of Momentum,

    names please.

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