Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1006/27830
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Corbyn antisemitism smears
The antisemitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn are not new. In 1981, when Tony Benn stood for deputy leader of the Labour Party, the gutter press compared him to Hitler, Mussolini, and other disgusting individuals. A few years later, Militant, now the Socialist Party, faced similar accusations when we led a successful campaign against Thatcher's cuts in Liverpool.
There is no limit to how low the Tories - blue and red - will stoop in their campaign against the left. They will say and do anything to stop a movement that threatens the profits and interests of their class.
Corbyn and his supporters should draw inspiration from this history. These accusations were not weathered through apologies, but by coming out fighting.
Tom Barker, Leicester
For a teenager like me, it feels easy to look at just the headlines or all the clickbait online and believe that Corbyn is an antisemite. But then you go off, read the claims, and understand that things like Corbyn sitting next to a Holocaust survivor who compared Israel to the Nazi Germany he lived through isn't antisemitism.
The antisemitism scandal isn't true, it's ugly. Ugly that we're fed all these lies and meant to believe it.
The media fixates on finding claims of antisemitism to tarnish Corbyn's record. It takes away from the realness of genuine antisemitism and insults those who had to suffer through it!
Furthermore, the establishment likens anti-Zionism and anything anti-Israel to antisemitism just to shut down debate and run a smear job. Meanwhile, an undercover reporter filmed an Israeli diplomat plotting to "take down" Labour MPs that support Palestinian liberation.
We must remember free speech and open debate is vital to any form of progress. It's not easy to keep up with lies.
Adam Abdullah, Lewisham, south London
Dave Prentis, writing as Unison's general secretary, penned an article in the 10 August New Statesman. He said the public service union's Labour Link committee "has adopted the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition" of antisemitism, "with examples" - including the one which restricts legitimate criticism of Israel, the focus of one of the latest battles - "and supported calls for Labour to do the same."
No doubt, Prentis and the Blairites will now face challenges from ordinary Unison and Labour members - including those Labour Link officers and members who were not consulted on this decision taken by their national committee - to explain themselves.
Democratic accountability of union leaderships, like calls for mandatory reselection in the Labour Party, is essential.
Meanwhile, a more conservative organisation that has weaponised antisemitism claims is the Community Security Trust charity. It describes its role as serving to "protect British Jews from antisemitism and related threats" and "to speak responsibly at all times, without exaggeration or political favour, on antisemitism and associated issues."
But a recent press release suggests the Community Security Trust struggles to "speak responsibly":
"The reason Labour's antisemitism problem dwarfs all of its other racism problems is because it originates from the far-left culture that Jeremy Corbyn and his closest advisers and supporters have always belonged to. That culture now dominates the party."
None of this is true - and when it comes to antisemitism, they know it! It was only last September the Community Security Trust helped fund the Institute for Jewish Policy Research study 'Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain', which said:
"Looking at the political spectrum of British society, the most antisemitic group consists of those who identify as very right-wing. In this group about 14% hold hardcore antisemitic attitudes and 52% hold at least one attitude, compared again to 3.6% and 30% in the general population.
"The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more antisemitic than the general population. This finding may come as a surprise to those who maintain that in today's political reality, the left is the more serious, or at least, an equally serious source of antisemitism, than the right."
Wouldn't it be useful if Jon Lansman, and other self-identified Corbyn supporters, raised this when attacked?
Mike Barker, Leicester
"Being 'present' is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial, my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support... Where is the apology?"
Such is the logic of ultra-Blairite MP Luciana Berger. She was referring to Jeremy Corbyn's attendance at a memorial for the 47 Palestinians killed in a 1985 Israeli bombing in Tunisia four years ago.
Another critic, Louise Ellman MP, appeared on BBC's Newsnight, claiming she was "appalled" to find out about another past event arranged by Corbyn... at which Jewish Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer criticised Israel. But there are now claims that a letter Ellman apparently wrote at the time to Tribune shows she was in attendance as well.
Ellman's alleged hypocrisy is matched by Berger and Jess Phillips MP (who previously threatened Corbyn by saying "I won't knife you in the back, I will knife you in the front"). They have joined Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attacking Corbyn for standing up for the Palestinian people.
The right-wing Spectator magazine reported that Phillips attended its lavish, champagne-laden 190th birthday party, and pictured her next to Berger. Also attending was the rabid antisemite Panagiotis 'Taki' Theodoracopulos - an outspoken racist who has also written in praise of Greek fascist party Golden Dawn.
Under Berger's own logic, doesn't their attendance show "association" and that they "support" Taki's views?
Of course, Berger and co will not be pressed on the contradictions of their anti-Corbyn rhetoric as it fits the capitalist media's narrative. It therefore falls to the labour movement to raise these issues and expose this attempted coup for what it is.
Carl Harper, Peterborough
Gender Recognition Act
The Tories' consultation regarding changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is now open until October. This invites anyone in England and Wales to express their opinion regarding how the GRA should be changed.
The online form asks for opinions regarding how adequate the current process to legally change your gender is.
One such question is about the cost to apply to change your gender - currently £140. For working class people this can be too high a cost, especially in the age of austerity. However, this does not even consider the other costs that many transgender people face to be recognised as their gender.
The current NHS waiting time to access hormone therapy is a year, which is too long. As a result, many trans people feel their best option is to access private healthcare, despite the costs.
This is not sustainable for most people. The consultation doesn't discuss these issues, nor will changes to the GRA alone address them.
Some of the problems facing trans people are referred to, for example in accessing employment, mental health services, and so on. However, the consultation itself does not address these issues or how the GRA would affect them.
In fact, Tory changes to the GRA would likely not address them at all - and could potentially exacerbate them. The government could say that easing the restrictions to legally changing gender would make existing trans services obsolete, to justify cutting them, leaving trans people worse off.
Furthermore, the consultation is only for England and Wales. Scotland has already had its consultation. And Northern Ireland is not going to be affected - once again, LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland are being left behind in potential advancements of LGBT+ rights.
Socialists need to campaign for changes to the Gender Recognition Act that are suitable for all trans and non-binary people. We must also fight for all LGBT+ services to be fully funded, as well as the NHS, so all people can receive the care they need without being forced into the private healthcare system.
Maddy Steeds, Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire
Plastic and food
I found Pete Dickenson's article on plastic waste in issue 1004 a far more rounded-out analysis than anything on the issue I've seen in the mainstream media ('Plastic waste - capitalism's Frankenstein monster' at socialistparty.org.uk).
In his article, Pete correctly spells out the huge amounts of plastic food wrapping and the need to reduce this or find alternatives. He also correctly points out that plastic packaging is often used to prolong the life of perishable food.
But it's not just the plastic packaging that is used to extend shelf life, but chemical coatings on such packaging, a modified atmosphere contained by the plastic - and, particularly with ready meals and other processed foods, the very components in the meals themselves.
For example, one common chemical food preservative, ascorbic acid, is referred to by investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman as "using a toxin to kill toxins." 'Modified-atmosphere packaging' used often in pre-cut foods generally adds five to six days to the shelf life of a sandwich, and poultry increases from a four to seven-day shelf life to a 16 to 21-day shelf life - at the cost of food rapidly going off as nature catches up.
In such situations, is this really just a question of simply replacing food packaging? Or should it be about seeking a more fundamental reorganisation of how our food system is organised, one that aims to help people eat more fresh food and avoid over-processed junk?
Like the question of food packaging itself, this isn't a question of putting the emphasis on consumers. After all, ready meals fill a vacuum created by long working hours and commutes, as well as ever-longer supermarket supply chains, all products of capitalism's drive for profits.
It is a question, instead, of making the food industry work for ordinary people, both in reducing environmentally harmful packaging and in creating high-quality, affordable school and workplace canteens to provide genuinely fresh, nutritious food to ordinary people.
This is turn requires taking the key sectors out of the hands of big business, bringing into public ownership the big food producers, distributors and supermarkets, under democratic workers' control and management.
Iain Dalton, Leeds
Nation of accountants
The Financial Times had an article on 6 August which exposed the absolute rottenness of the dominance of finance capitalism in the British economy.
In a study, a professor from Sheffield University explained that Britain now has more professional accountants than the whole of the EU put together! There are some 360,000 accounts - compared, for example, to less than 35,000 GPs to look after people's health.
He makes the point that Carillion, for example, was signed off by one of the big four accountancy companies, PwC, as a healthy company just before it went bust.
And that was because, as it is all too common, the accountancy companies have a vested interest in getting the business of big business by "upward revaluations being treated as legitimate profits while often ignoring future foreseeable losses. This leads to executives and shareholders extracting cash from companies through bonuses and dividends on the basis of illusory profits, as happened at Carillion."
Bill Mullins, Bermondsey, south London
Ferrari or rent?
Meanwhile, back in the States... I was watching the TV show Chasing Classic Cars and it was auction time. The host said "this Ferrari is special," and so it was. The hammer fell at $25 million and the multimillionaire host said "that makes me quite emotional." I also felt emotional as I wondered how I was going to pay the rent!
Trump and socialism
Trump's visit reminded me of two events that stick in my mind.
Last year I went to Poland and went to a Christmas party. I got talking to an American man who lives in Sweden and has done for the past 20 years. His wife is Polish. We got onto the question of Trump.
He said he was a Democrat supporter and if he had lived in America he would have voted for Bernie Sanders. He also said many, many of his friends in the States who are lifetime Democrats told him they voted for Trump, as they could not bring themselves to vote for Clinton.
It just shows that what the Socialist was saying at the time was right. If Sanders had run for president against Trump and Clinton, putting forward a radical alternative, he would have got enormous support.
Secondly, I remember a reporter on the BBC speaking a day after Trump got elected. She had covered the US election. She said she and other journalists on the campaign trail thought Clinton would win, and, in her words, "did not see it coming" - that is, Trump wining.
She recalled a conversation with a voter in the Rust Belt, which she said she should have taken more note of. That voter was a 32-year-old steel worker and shopfloor union rep who had voted Democrat all his life and for Obama twice.
He pointed out that he and many of his colleagues were voting Trump as he had promised to fight to save their jobs. He said the Democrats had forgotten about workers and were out of touch. The establishment is in for a shock, he said.
Is he a racist? Many establishment newspaper reports after Trump's election in the US and Britain were saying racism explained the victory for Trump, especially in the Rust Belt.
If that is the case, then how do they explain that in those same states, many voted for Obama before? I think a more sober analysis came from that 32-year-old steel worker.
Again, just imagine if Sanders had stood. He would have won over workers like that. Although it is a long way until the next presidential election, it cannot be ruled out that Trump wins again if a radical alternative is not put forward, if the vacuum is not filled.
Many people are repelled by Trump, but that is not enough. A radical, socialist alternative which can alter people's lives needs to be put urgently now, in terms of jobs, housing, health, education and welfare. A reality - rather than empty promises of "hope" - which is entirely possible given the resources the US has.
Chris Fernandez, Derby
In The Socialist 22 August 2018:
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