ON April 28 this year, veteran anti-racist campaigner and the man who introduced Nelson Mandela to the parents of Stephen Lawrence, Marc Wadsworth, was shamefully expelled from the Labour Party on the trumped-up charge of “bringing the party into disrepute.”
He thus becamea the latest “collateral damage” victim in the proxy war being waged upon the leadership by rightwingers both in and outside of the party.
This was the culmination of almost two years of smears and character assassination that attempted to paint Wadsworth as an anti-semite for pointing out a Labour MP appeared to be co-ordinating with a journalist from the vehemently anti-Labour Telegraph at the July 2016 launch of the Chakrabarti report and for having the temerity to question the under-representation of black and Asian people in the Labour Party.
The stain on Wadsworth’s name persists and he is still being linked to anti-semitism in internet searches.
In an attempt to redress the balance and put his case, so markedly ignored in the mainstream media, Wadsworth set out on a nationwide #Justice4Marc speaking tour.
After a motion in support of Wadsworth was passed by the general committee of Luton South CLP on May 10, it was decided by several Labour Party members to host the tour under the banner “A Luton Continua” — a play on words in homage to the slogan of the Frelimo movement’s “A Luta Continua” (The struggle continues) — as it will for Wadsworth until his name is cleared.
Despite Wadsworth having been sacrificed by the Labour Party bureaucracy, grassroots support for him remains firm and this was evidenced by a strong showing of Labour Party members at our event at the end of last month, among them three sitting councillors, including Jacqui Burnett of Grassroots Black Left, who chaired the meeting.
Wadsworth opened his talk by linking his case to the ongoing attempts from rightwingers to damage Labour electorally by creating the impression that it is institutionally anti-semitic and how this is evidenced by the latest manufactured outrage over Labour’s common-sense adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism, along with seven clear examples.
He mentioned that he had been coming to Luton for over 40 years at the invitation of former councillor Jim Thakoordin — himself a victim of the purge during the 2016 leadership election — and had known Jeremy Corbyn personally for at least a similar amount of time.
Solidarity was expressed with local MP Kelvin Hopkins and Wadsworth reminded us that his case was part of a broader witch-hunt which has not only ruined careers but cost lives, such as that of Carl Sargeant.
We were reminded that, when Wadsworth flagged up the issue of black and Asian under-representation at the launch of Chakrabarti inquiry, this point was both acknowledged and supported by Corbyn, before a Sun “journalist” made the now notorious “anti-semitism” comment that was then seized upon by Ruth Smeeth before being weaponised by a mainstream media looking for yet another stick to beat the Labour leadership with.
Wadsworth contrasted his treatment to that of other Labour Party members who have publicly and repeatedly courted controversy, such as Smeeth, who was rewarded with the position of PLP vice-chair, and Margaret Hodge, shielded from censure by a phalanx of rightwingers despite an outrageous attack upon Corbyn in the Commons that in any other job would have seen her sacked.
The “lynch-mob” of white MPs sent to intimidate Wadsworth at his hearing and influence its outcome was noted, as was his almost complete lack of support from Labour parliamentarians, apart from notable exceptions such as Chris Williamson.
Wadsworth wryly observed that he had never once seen any of those MPs whipping themselves up into a frenzy about his alleged “racism” at a single anti-fascist or anti-racist event and that those same MPs remained complicit in their silence over the racism behind scandals such as the Grenfell Tower fire and the Windrush generation.
In conclusion, Wadsworth told those present that his struggle was not one of right vs left, but right vs wrong.
Thirty CLPs had passed motions in support of his reinstatement, so how could it be right that the Labour Party bureaucracy has already spent approximately £100,000 of members’ money hounding him out of the party and is prepared to spend another £100,000 to silence him in the courts?
He contrasted this with his support from grassroots party members and Jewish socialist societies such as Jewish Voice for Labour, while reminding us of the need to continue transforming Labour into a member-led party from the ground up to stop such injustices in future and better reflect society as a whole.
In the Q&A session that followed, the first question put to Wadsworth asked why he felt that the Labour leadership would not publicly support him. His answer to this was that it must be viewed in light of the unprecedented and unrelenting pressure they are under from all sides and, although he, unsurprisingly, doesn’t agree with this position, he understands it.
Audience members attested to Wadsworth’s historic activism both in helping to set up organisations like Labour Party Black Sections and within the trade union movement.
Once again, the double standards applied to “foot-soldiers” like Wadsworth compared to certain Labour politicians was remarked upon and there was a consensus in the room to push for consistency in the disciplinary process.
The chair asked Wadsworth about the legacy of his experience for future generations and he reminded us that, as well as in the Labour Party, where we must fight for freedom of speech, the struggle continues on the streets, where we must face down actual fascists and racists like the Football Lads Alliance and their ilk.
The recent attack on Bookmarks only serves to underline this.
Coming back to the issue of anti-semitism, Wadsworth stressed the need to stick to a simple definition — “hatred of Jews because they are Jews” — and to take the fight to the floor of conference if need be to keep the current definition adopted by the Labour Party, without bowing to pressure from unrepresentative right-wing MPs to adopt a phalanx of “examples” that will only serve to silence free speech on issues like solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Reflecting on his own history, Wadsworth gave powerful testimony of his father’s service with the RAF in the second world war,and brief return to England in 1946, before finally settling after arriving on the empire Windrush in 1948.
He spoke of the shameful legacy of the government’s “hostile environment” policy and the effect this has had upon the Windrush generation, whose plight was initially met with silence.
Jacqui Burnett noted here that Luton Law Centre has been providing support to those affected locally.
Thus inspired, the meeting concluded with the launching of a Luton branch of Grassroots Black Left.
Markus Keaney is a member of the Labour Party in Luton South. This article is written in a personal capacity.
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