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Editorial: Jeremy Corbyn's suspension is a declaration of war

JEREMY CORBYN’S suspension from the Labour Party is a declaration of war by the leadership against all socialists.

It throws down the gauntlet to the entire left to rally in defence of the leader who brought socialism back as a major force in British politics.

The ostensible reason for Corbyn’s suspension rests on a sleight of hand by which anyone who dares to query contentious allegations is deemed guilty of the claims under dispute. So for making the widely shared observation that “the scale of the problem [of anti-semitism in the Labour Party] was dramatically overstated for political reasons,” Corbyn is labelled “part of the problem.”

As a lawyer, Keir Starmer is well aware that this is a travesty of justice more akin to the proceedings of a witch hunt than any semblance of due process. 

He does not care, because the decision to suspend his predecessor is not motivated by Corbyn’s response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC’s) report. It rests on the calculation that the new leadership is now strong enough to expunge the left’s influence from the party altogether.

A key factor in that calculation is undoubtedly that Labour’s internal democracy has been largely suspended since March’s lockdown, with branches unable to properly meet and heavily policed in what they are and are not allowed to do.

The chaos engendered by the pandemic, with restrictions on public activity around the country, make it difficult for the left to mobilise the kind of game-changing solidarity rallies that displayed its relative strength during episodes like 2016’s “chicken coup” by MPs (who included Starmer) trying to subvert the members’ vote and depose Corbyn.

And the right’s trump card is that a likely reaction by many left-wing members – to quit the party in disgust – does not bother them. Establishment politicians do not approve of mass politics. 

A far smaller Labour Party, funded by millionaire donors as the Tories are, which competes with the latter for the job of most competent manager of the status quo once every five years would suit their purposes far better than an unruly mass membership organisation packed with activists who want to change the world.

Even so, socialist members will be sick of exhortations to “stay and fight,” especially given the necessity of paying membership fees to an organisation that seeks to silence their voices and defame the few MPs who represent their views.

Whether or not individuals decide to stay, it is incumbent on all of us to fight — or all of us who recognise the need to challenge a capitalist system that is removing our livelihoods, starving our children and poisoning our planet.

We must stand by the most anti-racist leader the Labour Party has ever had, Jeremy Corbyn, and comrades who are the victims of an appalling smear campaign and insist that Labour and trade union figures do so too.

It is absurd to suggest that this indicates tolerance for anti-semitism, which Corbyn has always condemned and fought.

It does not even mean a blanket rejection of the EHRC report, which itself notes problems of racism in other parties, contains useful recommendations for changing procedures and acknowledges the importance of previous investigations, such as the much-maligned Shami Chakrabarti report. 

Nor should the report be granted unqualified acceptance, given its tendency to stretch the boundaries of the English language (for example by defining “repeatedly saying that allegations of anti-semitism were fabricated” – the expression of an opinion that might or might not be justifiable in any given context – as somehow constituting “harassment.”)

But the report’s pros and cons pale beside the political use to which it is being put — the destruction of the Labour left in order to return the party to uncritical support of British imperialism and the capitalist system at a time of profound social and economic crisis.

Everyone opposed to that outcome must stand with Jeremy Corbyn.

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