It appears within the Labour Party metaphors are out of use. They are grotesquely offensive and either everyone displaying outrage over it almost in synchronised fashion was asleep during the English literature lessons in school, or it is just manufactured outrage as a point of deflection.
The outrage on the left is palpable; from the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to columnists such as Owen Jones and of course, everyone on Twitter who is part of that nauseating #SocialistSunday. There is plenty of outrage, as ever these days in Labour whenever someone laments the party’s debilitation on anti-Semitism. How can these moderates be so unprincipled and devoid of integrity that they want to genuinely fight racism and make Labour Party a safe space for Jews?
The point of outrage this time was around Chuka Umunna who used the phrase “call off the dogs” when referring to the abuse that the moderate wing of the party was receiving. The politics editor for Manchester Evening NewsJennifer Williams tweeted that she had predicted this. So did anyone except those who studied literature and cannot fathom why there is the outrage there is. It’s ironic that McDonnell should be lecturing anyone on language. Using a typical English metaphor like “call off the dogs” is “grotesquely offensive” but repeating calls for a female MP to be lynched is just kinder, gentler politics.
Members since then begun criticising Umunna, reminding him that he should be grateful to be an MP, after he criticised the party for being institutionally racist. If you want to see principles without introspective honesty in a progressive movement then Labour is the party for you. Having created an Equalities Conference where the discriminated groups defined and led conversations on their own suffering, we now have the seemingly implausible situation where a party of largely middle-class white members are telling a black MP on what institutional racism is. And what evidence does he have besides the repeated associations of Jeremy Corbyn with known anti-Semites, the mural, Chris Williamson endorsing known anti-Semites and one of them now sitting on the NEC? No evidence at all. Just wisps of smoke without the fire. Not an inferno spreading fast at all. Please people, there’s clearly more evidence of Jews running everything in the world than Labour suffering from anti-Semitism.
So it appears that liberation comes after factionalism. But then Labour’s Jews knew about this. The party has long since desisted from being a safe space. Right now, Labour is regurgitating the far-right language on free speech, regarding anti-Semitism as a cover for shielding Israel. For all that they would fight the far-right, the far-left borrow the same methods liberally. Anti-Semitism and criticising the terrible human rights-violating policies of the Israeli government are conflated not out of intellectual laziness but genuine disregard for Jewish feelings. Prominent in this is Novara Media, who have sought to normalise this atmosphere of toxicity and denied Jewish activists the agency to define their suffering, to the point where desecrating one of the last surviving walls of the Warsaw Ghetto where an estimated 92,000 Jews were killed with messages regarding Palestine is not anti-Semitic at all and enough to get you to speak at Momentum’s festival. Yet had someone spray-painted a local mosque with something about Isis, you can be rest assured that these same voices would have written pieces deploring Islamophobia, and everyone would have been outraged. Rightly, it must be said. But the concerns and traumas of Jewish people just isn’t taken seriously enough. As the journalist Hugo Rifkind said, “Weary of Corbynite Twitter hacks who claim to totally accept the left has an anti-Semitism problem but also unfailingly exonerate literally every example of left-wing anti-Semitism they are presented with.”
Right now the party has become a cocktail of institutional racism and dictatorship apologia, neither of which make it very appealing. It’s gotten so bad that the BBC have even made an online guide for understanding what’s happened and what’s happening At the heart of it, the reason for why the anti-Semitism is at a point of severe crisis for the party, is the leader himself. People have since shifted from whether Corbyn is an anti-Semite or not to whether he enables it or not. They are in effect the same question if you’re gauging by outcome. The sad truth is, when Corbyn has made it abundantly clear that he tolerates the presence of anti-Semitism, will it not be the case that these very people will flood the party in knowledge that their new leader will not kick them out? This feeling of being empowered to express bigotry towards Jews is only emphasised by Labour’s complete mishandling of Ken Livingstone and Sky’s determination to reel him out every few weeks for the latest headline-catching furore. But the party has resisted from asking questions of Corbyn, to the point where genuine criticism is dismissed as smears and agendas fuelled by hidden motives. It is of course classic anti-Semitic tropes driving this snuffing of dissent. It’s also a portrait of the authoritarian attitudes of the far-left towards liberal concepts such as freedom of expression or a free media. They have followed the leader and chosen the hill to die on (don’t worry members, I’m not telling you to die on a hill). Their socialism is coiled around the image of one man, to the point where they embrace themselves as Corbynites but insist it’s not a cult. No, far more plausible than an entire movement building itself unthinkingly, unflinchingly and unquestioningly around one man, is that that one man is without flaws, hence the complete absence of criticism.
And anti-Semitism? It’s just outbursts of prejudice and not in any way tied innately to Corbyn and his brand of politics. And hey, even if it is, we have an uncompromising, all-out war on the sickening and horrifying disease of anti-Semitism. We’ll just start off with all of Corbyn’s Jewish critics. You first, Margaret Hodge.