When I was a student at Tel Aviv University, far too many years ago, I dabbled in student politics. It was all-consuming. And it was all-consuming mainly because of the incessant battles over ideological purity between the Tankies (pro-Moscow Marxists) and the Trots (adherents of Comrade Leon’s perpetual revolution). I vacillated between the two.
I pretty much continued political activism from there on. And, when I returned to these shores after finishing my degree, I joined, quite naturally, the Labour Party.
But now after 30 years of membership, I am no longer a member of the party. And why? Simples. Jeremy Corbyn and the narrow-minded Trot-light cult that seems to have invaded the party. It’s called entryism, by the way. An old Marxist tactic.
I left the party the day Corbyn was chosen, because I knew that things could only get worse. And they did get worse.
Not content on calling the misogynist, homophobic, racists and anti-Semites from Hamas and Hizbollah “friends”, Corbyn’s Labour has refused to take action against Gerald Kaufman after his “Jewish money” outburst.
If I wanted to join a party whose leader calls misogynists, homophobes and racists “friends”, I’d have joined the BNP or EDL.
Now anyone who knows me, will be fully aware that I am no ultra-nationalist from a safe distance Zionist. As far as I am concerned, the settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are an existential threat to the third Jewish commonwealth, and Israel’s current far right, fundamentalist government is the worst in the state’s history and has done more to destroy the country’s standing than all the BDS actions in the world put together. To the power of 10. At least.
And no, I don’t think that all anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
However, Labour seems to be slipping back – and allow me a little indulgence here – to Karl Marx’s assessment of what he called the “Jewish Question” (“Zur Judenfrage”). In an essay from 1844, Marx wrote: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.”
Earlier this month, we got another jolt, which probably surprised a few people – but not I. Oxford University’s Labour Club was found to be rife with anti-Semitism. Alex Chalmers, the very brave young non-Jew who quit the club, wrote in the New Statesman: “In a way, the anti-Semitic incidents I witnessed in OULC are less troubling than the culture which allowed such behaviour to become normalised. It is common to encounter anti-Semitic individuals in all walks of life, but the mass turning of a blind eye that has come to characterise vast parts of the Left is chilling.”
He pointed specifically to the use of the word “Zio” – a term of abuse concocted by the not-right-on or PC Ku Klux Klan. “Returning to the term ‘Zio’,” he wrote, “in OULC it started off as the preserve of one or two individuals, but over the course of a year or so it began to inflect the vocabulary of a number of people who should have known better.”
Indeed they should have. But they didn’t.
So the incident with Vicky Kirby has not surprised me in the least. Kirby is the Labour candidate who was dumped because she tweeted that Hitler was a Zionist God and that Jews had long noses and supported Spurs – I don’t have a long nose, although I do support Spurs (but I’d rather watch Dulwich Hamlet because I hate modern football).
And now she’s she’s been readmitted and has become vice-chair of her local constituency Labour party in Woking. She’s been suspended again, but for how long?
Labour’s initial response was less than encouraging. “If new evidence [about Kirby] comes to light,” it said in response to a query, “the Labour party will review that evidence and make sure the rules of the party are upheld.”
Well, apparently new evidence that was as plain as the not-long nose on my face has come to light. But she should not have been re-admitted in the first place.
I know that not all Labour members are like Kirby (or anti-Zionist conspiracy theorist Gerry Dowding who was dumped. Hallelujah). Far from it. There are some good people out there – John Mann, Wes Streeting, Michael Dugher (him, they sack), Yvette Cooper, Tulip Siddiq, Mike Gapes (get well soon, Mike) and many, many others.
But, if newly rejoined member PCS union boss Mark Serwotka gets his way, these moderates (or red Tories as the ideological purists would have it) will be deselected. And it really only takes a few entryists in each CLP to deselect a sitting MP.
So no I won’t be rejoining the party of Clem Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair – who won elections from the centre – or Hugh Gaitskell and John Smith, who would have won from the centre if they hadn’t died so young.
This is no longer the party of Manny Shinwell, Ian Mikardo and Richard Crossman. And it ain’t mine either till the cult of Corbyn is defeated.
Joe is the author of Jerusalem: An Illustrated History of the Holy City (Andre Deutsch), now available on Amazon and in all good bookshops