Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Moshé Machover, Labour Party Marxists, the ‘CPGB’: Dispelling some Myths.

with 6 comments

This Blog has not the slightest animosity towards Moshé Machover.

But some myths are now becoming established which need dispelling.

As an example we can cite this letter in today’s Weekly Worker. 

Thank you to all the signatories of the open letter in defence of Moshé Machover. You have been part of a successful attempt to rein in the Labour Party hit squad, but much remains to be done. Moshé Machover has been reinstated in the Labour Party following nationwide outrage by party members – over 1,300 individual members signed an open letter deploring his exclusion and many party branches and constituencies passed resolutions calling for his reinstatement.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the letter he received (in the name of the party, but conceived and written by officials hostile to the Corbyn project) is grudging and petulant. It places all blame on Moshé for behaving in such a way that, in their words, “any reasonable person looking at the evidence available in public … would conclude that you have given support to at least one, if not both, of these organisations over a period of 10 years, including while you were a member of the Labour Party”. We remain of the view that “any reasonable person” would have asked him if that was the case instead of rushing to judgement. There is no hint of apology for accusing Moshé of being an anti-Semite – a hurtful and unwarranted suggestion.

They have the audacity to end their letter: “The party would like to urge you to take a cautionary approach towards any actions which appear to be clear prima facie breach of the party’s rules in order to avoid any future misunderstandings regarding your eligibility for membership of the Labour Party.” This continues a woeful practice of the party staffers insisting they were right, even when they fail to produce any evidence for suspension or exclusion. Many members who have not been found guilty of any misdemeanour have received letters which tell them that they remain under suspicion and are, in effect, ‘bound over to keep the peace’.

The campaign in support of Moshé will continue until there is full redress and the causes of this shambles have been eradicated.

Mike Cushman.

Weekly Worker Letters. 9th of November 2017.

Cushman refers to this, (Jewish Voice for Labour).

After Machover’s reinstatement – moving forward.

Push your CLP to pass motions demanding

  • All the damaging insinuations of antisemitism must be publicly retracted
  • A full apology as requested by Moshé must be published
  • The whole system that allowed this travesty of justice, which has brought the Party into disrepute, must be fully investigated and reformed and those who instigated this damaging course of action held to account
  • All the recent expulsions and suspensions to be reviewed and must be revoked where there is no clear evidence of breach of rule.

There must be no more Labour Party kangaroo courts. The Labour Party should adopt Trade Union best practice on discipline of members. Natural justice: not procedural unfairness based on prejudice. Moshé Machover must be the last to suffer this injustice.

Labour Party Marxists have published this interview:

“Discipline the rascals who are bringing the Labour Party into disrepute”

There is an urgent need to discipline the rascals who are bringing the Labour Party into disrepute with these scurrilous and unfounded accusations. It is a question of disciplining these individuals. This is important, but there are three additional political points.

First, the campaign to counter the ‘weaponisation’ of the charge of ant-Semitism must continue and be stepped up. This cannot be allowed to continue. The ‘achievement’ of the right has been to make it appear to the outside world that Labour is riddled with anti-Semitism. This is calumny on the Labour Party! An outrageous lie!

This must be fought and stopped dead in its tracks. As I wrote in the article back in May last year, “don’t apologise – attack!” (Weekly Worker, May 18, 2016). This vile campaign must be defeated and expunged from the party.

Since this since to be the accepted story on parts of the left it the following in Solidarity is welcome.

Had it not been distributed as a leaflet at this year’s Labour Party conference, Moshe Machover’s article “Anti-Zionism Does Not Equal Anti-Semitism” would have been just another turgid and distasteful article which had found a natural home for itself in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

A longer version of the same article – entitled “Don’t Apologise – Attack” – had been published in Weekly Worker four months earlier. According to that article:

• Anyone who thought that a retweet by Naz Shah MP – which had suggested that Israel (and, presumably, its population) should be relocated to the USA – “was anything but a piece of satire should have their head examined.”
• Jackie Walker “has been suspended for saying that there was not only a Jewish holocaust but also a black African one too.” (Wrong: that was not the reason for her suspension.)
• There was nothing antisemitic about NUS President Malia Bouattia describing Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost”.
• Ken Livingstone was “certainly inaccurate” in having said that Hitler supported Zionism until he went mad. At the same time, “the point he was making was basically correct”.

The inclusion of a shorter version of the article in a “Labour Party Marxists” bulletin distributed at Labour Party conference rescued it from obscurity.

Overnight, Machover’s article became a cause célèbre for left antisemites (and antisemites in general).

Another post, by Bob from Brockley, took apart the case with some care recently.

On Moshe Machover’s Labour Party membership

 This is a significant section,

In my Storify (below), I set out what was wrong with Machover’s article: (a) the dishonest way it deals with historical sources in order to portray “Zionism” (conceived as a monolithic entity) and Nazism as bedfellows, and (b) the conspiracist claim that “The whole campaign of equating opposition to Zionism with antiSemitism has, in fact, been carefully orchestrated with the help of the Israeli government and the far right in the United States.” Marlon Solomon adds more in this thread, but these are the key ones.

The Nazi/Zionist thing. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, mentioned in the expulsion letter, states that: “Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could… include, but are not limited to:… Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” But that isn’t what Machover did.

David Hirsh points out that

Even the rather hollow Chakrabarti Inquiry report makes clear that Nazi analogies and talk about Hitler in relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict are ‘incendiary’, ‘intended to be incendiary’, ‘bring the Party into disrepute’ and ‘undermine the cause of peace’.

I agree Machover is veering into that territory, but I don’t think Machover is a straightforward case of equating Zionism with Nazism. As the IHRA working definition makes clear, “taking into account the overall context” is vital in determining if a statement like this is antisemitic. I don’t think the IHRA definition is sufficient for ruling this antisemitic.

The conspiracy thing is also in a grey area. It violates the basic principles of anti-racism to say that charges of racism are orchestrated and in bad faith. But Machover avoids explicitly saying that all charges are false, and limits his claim to the supposed campaign of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Jewish racism. He also avoids putting Israel at the centre of the conspiracy: he says “orchestrated with the help of”.

My conclusion, then, is that really there are no clearcut grounds for expelling Machover for antisemitism. But watching out antisemites on social media clamouring for his reinstatement and using the case to push more blatantly antisemitic forms of historical revisionism and conspiracy theory, I cannot, unlike the leader’s office,  feel glad that he is back in the party. In short, the party has probably made the right decision, but Machover is a poor choice for our solidarity.

 This is exactly what he is calling for and more.

“Discipline the rascals who are bringing the Labour Party into disrepute”

The Labour Party Marxists article linked to above Machover  is full of disingenuous arguments

But this stands out:

He complains of the following rule.

A member of the party who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Labour Party, or supports any candidate that stands against an official Labour candidate … shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member …” (Rule 2.1.4b, Labour Party rulebook).

Machover opines,

First, it does not specify what “political organisation” means. For instance, it is certainly arguable that CND is a political organisation. By the same token, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is a political organisation. Does membership of these organisations make you ineligible for membership of the party? A “political organisation” is a catch-all phrase, that is crying out for abuse.

Secondly, what does its means to “support”? For instance, when they accused me of supporting the Communist Party of Great Britain and Labour Party Marxists, I was genuinely not able to say yes or no to the charges. They have not defined what ‘support’ means, let alone shown that ‘support’ for these organisations is runs counter to the existing rules.

Certainly, I support some positions that the CPGB stands on. For example, I support the call for all unions to be affiliated to Labour: so does the CPGB. The CPGB has argued this quite forcibly against other groups on the left – and I think they are right!

On other issues, I don’t agree with them. So how can someone be expelled – let alone automatically expelled! – based on something so indefinable and nebulous?

So, we have the twin, totally undefined categories of “political organisation” and “support” as a basis for peoples’ membership of the party.

A third issue is this word “automatically”! A member is expelled without any chance to defend themselves, to answer their accusers or even know who has said what about them. This runs counter to natural justice. The word “automatically” should be deleted, in addition to the phrase “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Labour Party”.

In his above comments on the “CPGB” Machover again demonstrates an ability to treat facts in a very partial way.

We have to untangle three things.

  • The right of Machover to express his views, which, however  much one may disagree with them, should be met by argument, not administrative measures to suppress them.
  • The broader issue of anti-semitism. As the Weekly Worker publishes another individual, Tony Greenstein, whose anti-Zionism, when he is not denigrating the appearance of his female political opponents,  is extremely virulent, this is a sensitive issue.
  • The CPGB, is it just a body that could be compared to CND and what kind of “support” is is calling for?

The publishers of the Weekly Worker and the ‘inspirers’ of the grandly named Labour Party Marxists are well-known on the left, though apparently not to a new generation of activists.

The full title of the group is the  Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee).

Now the Weekly Worker itself is widely read, and has published many people on the left, including Chris Knight (cited in the Guardian on Corbyn last Saturday The wilderness years: how Labour’s left survived to conquer), Paul Flewers, Toby Abse, and…myself.

It also publishes, as noted above, virulent ‘anti-Zionist’ pieces from this quarter, known as the Monster Raving Greenstein party. Greenstein’s views can be sampled in a pure form on his blog, most recently, “Emily Thornberry – Labour’s Racist Foreign Secretary in Waiting. Thornberry’s support for 2 States equals support for continuing Apartheid. Imperialism in the Guise of Peaceful Progress was always the basis of Labour Support for Empire.” And there are frequent letters from individuals such as Gerry Downing, expelled from Labour for, amongst other things,  his 9/11 conspiracy theories. Downing is well known for his opinions on the international Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, and their “vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers.”

The WW organised the Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) opposed both to Western Intervention in Iran and (unlike the ‘anti-war’ Stop the War Coalition) was against the Islamist regime in power in Tehran. HOPI drew on a wide layer of support in the labour movement, and included personalities such as Peter Thatchell.

There is another side to their activity.

The group was well-known, as a tiny faction with obscure origins,  called The Leninist, during the last years of the real Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

It was distinguished for its stunts. The most famous was standing outside the last Congress of the CPGB, which re-branded the majority of the party as  the Democratic Left,  shouting, “No matter how you change the name, you still play the bosses game”.

At the time the group claimed 500 members, a figure which in order to be believed would exhaust the salt mines of  Winsford (1)

It is said on the left that the leaders of the Democratic Left allowed the Leninist to take the CPGB’s title to spite the tendency which was and is the  Communist Party of Britain (CPB), the ‘inspirers’ of the Morning Star.

No doubt the leading cadres of the CPGB (PCC) have their own, different, version of this tale to tell.

Anybody acquainted with members of either current can discover that they are not fond of the CPGB (Provisional Central Committee). This  may explain that whilst the Morning Star was happy to print supportive articles on the Manchover case, they have remained silent on the expulsion of Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists.

In its activities inside the various alliances, proto-parties, and parties (including Respect and Left Unity) the group, which people estimate at about 20  members, it has been marked by ‘controversy’.

The support generated by the stunt, there is no other word to describe standing outside the Labour Party Conference with such a violently provocative leaflet with Manchover’s article highlighted, is part of a factional manoevre.

It is intended to propel the Labour Party Marxists (previously more widely known as the Labour Party Marxist) into the limelight.

That has been a success.

It is all the more reason for those who oppose Manchover’s specious writings to respond.

******

(1) For this and more information see: The Enemy Within.  The Rise and Fall of the British CP.  Francis BeckettPostscript. Merlin 1992.

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 10, 2017 at 12:46 pm

6 Responses

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  1. As you say, the provocation has succeeded – and those of us who dealt with the Chamberlain faction in the old days are indeed ‘not fond’ of them. But I don’t think there’s any truth in the tale that DL ‘allowed’ the Chamberlain group to take the ‘CPGB’ name. Having once discarded the name (which was never any kind of trade mark), DL had no way of preventing any other group from picking it up. If the CPB had been a bit more nimble, they could have tried to grab it first. But they weren’t, and they didn’t.

    Francis

    November 10, 2017 at 11:43 pm

  2. The CPGB(PCC) are entrists as are the various Trostkyist groups in the Labour Party. This is a practice that has been ongoing since the war. I’m not sure what purpose bringing in inter-sectarian lack of fondness into the question serves. I would hope that we’re not going to see various Marxist-Leninist groups of various persuasions ratting each other out to the Labour Party bureaucracy. I suppose that it would at least make for an entertaining farce.

    Eric

    November 11, 2017 at 11:49 am

  3. Not sure what your point about Tony Greenstein is either.

    I think its part and parcel of the degeneration of the left that smears, insinuation and general infighting are not only tolerated but actively rife.

    What have we become?

    Eric

    November 11, 2017 at 1:42 pm

  4. Greenstein is the Turkey of the Farce.

    Andrew Coates

    November 11, 2017 at 4:45 pm

  5. Eric: ” I would hope that we’re not going to see various Marxist-Leninist groups of various persuasions ratting each other out to the Labour Party bureaucracy”:

    No.

    Equally well, you’re not going to see some of us covering up for apologising for the kind of filth that Machover and his anti-Semitic friends in he CPGB. spread in that pamphlet

    Jijm Denham

    November 13, 2017 at 2:58 am

  6. But Jim – how can your judgement be sound? You think Raul Hilberg was a Holocaust denier.

    Eric

    November 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm


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