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Trade unionists stand in solidarity with Maxine Peake
The following statement by Socialist Party members in Equity sets out our view on the unacceptable attacks on the name and career of our union sister Maxine Peake. There must be no return to the days of the BBC's 'Christmas Tree' files and political victimisation of left-wing artists. An open letter of solidarity partly based on this statement is now in circulation, and we are appealing for signatories (in a personal capacity) from Equity and the wider trade union movement: tinyurl.com/MaxineSolidarity
Many members of Equity, the union for performing arts professionals, are outraged at the completely false smears aimed at our fellow member Maxine Peake. We stand in full solidarity with her.
Keir Starmer used an interview with Maxine as the pretext to sack Labour left Rebecca Long-Bailey for spreading an "antisemitic conspiracy theory." There was no such thing in The Independent interview.
The line Starmer claims as antisemitic is this: "'Systemic racism is a global issue,' she adds. 'The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd's neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services'."
Figures on the right have alleged this is meant to suggest that Jewish people secretly control the US state and international affairs, or are responsible for the police murder of George Floyd. No reasonable person could interpret Maxine's passing comment on police racism in this way. It is plainly meant only to illustrate that "systemic racism is a global issue."
The capitalist wing of Labour, which Starmer represents, has for five years instrumentalised false claims of antisemitism as a smokescreen for a witch-hunt against left-wingers. Rebecca Long-Bailey was his target in this case; Maxine Peake, an actor and Equity member, was collateral damage.
Isolated and facing an onslaught from the capitalist press and on social media, Maxine issued a clarification on Twitter: "I feel it's important for me to clarify that, when talking to The Independent, I was inaccurate in my assumption of American Police training and its sources. I find racism and antisemitism abhorrent and I in no way wished, nor intended, to add fodder to any views of the contrary."
It may well be that US police did not learn the neck-kneeling technique from Israeli state forces. But it is a fact that state forces in the US, Israel, and all parts of the capitalist world routinely employ this tactic and other brutal violence. People oppressed on the basis of race are common targets - as is the workers' movement at times of class conflict. It is also a fact that state forces routinely share information and training.
False claims of antisemitism must not be allowed to muddy the waters. Starmer's move was an attack by the Labour right, and behind them the Tories and the capitalist class, on figures seen as representatives of socialist ideas. Maxine's comment was an indictment of police racism and violence around the world.
Equity members, and the union as a whole, should stand with Maxine. We must oppose right-wing witch-hunts against the workers' movement and left, and racism in all its forms.
- Email [email protected] to sign an open letter of solidarity, and for more information
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