Arieh Kovler

How Jackie Walker split the far left

Labour activist Jackie Walker was first noticed by the Jewish community and the national media when she was suspended from the Labour party in May for claiming that Jews were the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” that resulted in “the African holocaust”.

Her Facebook comments came to light during the peak of the Labour anti-Semitism revelations, when it seemed a Labour member or councillor was bring suspended almost every day. This seemed straightforward: anti-Semitic remarks about Jewish money being behind slavery are common both among white nationalists and groups like Louis Farrakhans Nation of Islam. They could not be ‘justified’ by claiming she was talking about Israel. Her expulsion from Labour seemed inevitable.

But unlike many of the other people suspended by Labour, Jackie Walker was Vice-Chair of Momentum. Left-wing journalists like Owen Jones defended her, claiming she wasn’t racist. In what seemed to be a fix, her case was never referred to Labour HQ and was instead dismissed by a regional officer within only a few days, effectively clearing her.

Two weeks ago at Labour Party conference, Jackie Walker was filmed at an anti-Semitism training event where she questioned the need for security outside Jewish schools and said that Holocaust Memorial Day should also focus on “other holocausts” (Holocaust Memorial Day does already remember other genocides).

These comments, while offensive, weren’t as bad as claiming that Jews were behind the slave trade. But this time the Momentum leadership attacked her, former allies dumped her, she was suspended from the Labour party and removed as Momentum Vice-Chair.

As a result, some parts of the far-Left and allies of Walker accused Momentum itself of being run by a Jewish/Zionist conspiracy!

What changed between May and now?

Momentum is a coalition united only around one thing: They want Jeremy Corbyn to be the leader of the Labour party. Unsurprisingly, this makes Momentum an ultra-left-wing organisation. But simple loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn isn’t enough for a political organisation, and so Momentum has its own factions and internal politics.

Most Momentum members are members of the Labour party, but some are members of other parties or none. Some Momentum members are part of revolutionary socialist groups like the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) or the Socialist Workers’ Party. Some are devoted lifetime far-left political activists while others are the sort of people who voted UKIP in 2015 because they want to challenge “the system”.

This time the leadership of Momentum decided they’d had enough of Walker, who went to the anti-Semitism event in order to be controversial. They decided she wasn’t worth the trouble.

The AWL, a revolutionary socialist group that’s banned from the Labour party, but they are actually very sensitive to anti-Semitism. AWL figures decided that all Walker’s comments taken together made her someone who shouldn’t be Vice-Chair of Momentum.

In an ironic twist, the leaders of Momentum, Chair Jon Lansman and spokesman James Schneider, were targeted by an anti-Semitic outpouring, noting that they’re Jewish and claiming they’d been bought off by the ‘Zionists’.

Momentum will likely outlive Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. Its internal tensions, factions and struggles over tacking anti-Semitism will help determine what sort of an organisation it becomes.

About the Author
Arieh Kovler is a writer, political analyst and communications consultant. Before his aliya he was the Head of Policy and Research for Britain's Jewish Leadership Council and director of the Fair Play Campaign. He is a media commentator and founder of the Hat Tip.