I WAS invited to London Young Labour’s Summer 2018 event to present my union’s position against the EU and in favour of Brexit.
I even cancelled a solidarity visit to a picket line in Wigan to do so, so enthused was I by the new spirit in the Labour Party and a new audience prepared to open up debate and allow dissenting views on the neoliberal consensus that has dominated politics for so long.
The night before the event I was smeared as an anti-semite for the crimes of stating my belief that Jeremy Corbyn is not anti-semitic and saying that some of the claims being made were cynically using the despicable crime of anti-semitism to undermine the socialist leadership of the Labour Party.
I was further libelled as an anti-semite for retweeting Michael Rosen and George Galloway. I had also compared the Labour Party’s treatment of Margaret Hodge with that of Marc Wadsworth, whose expulsion is opposed by my trade union.
One panellist who was supposed to be debating me pulled out, ‘no platforming’ me as an anti-semite, which led to a chorus of right-wing voices and people who I don’t know and have never met repeating the charge that I was an anti-semite and abusing me on twitter, in a way which often had a distinctly anti working class tone to it.
I have been a lifelong anti-fascist and was only two weeks previously demonstrating against the far-right with a group of RMT activists when we were targeted and subjects to a vicious attack. A group of 40 far-right casuals suddenly ambushed us, glassing my assistant general secretary in the face. We reacted defensively to prevent further injury to members of the public.
I have consistently opposed anti-semitism, including being part of a mobilisation to physically defend the Jewish community in North London when a Jewish community event was violently attacked in Mansfield Park by fascists a few years ago.
I along with many others lost what felt like nearly every weekend for a number of years chasing the EDL and associated garbage off our streets and have never seen any of these people now accusing me of bigotry on any anti-fascist event ever.
I was met on the way to talk by two young activists who claimed George Galloway was an anti-semite and, as I would not condemn him, I had to leave. I refused.
One of the first political demonstrations I went on was the million-strong march against Blair’s illegal war in Iraq and, in my opinion, we must not ever forget the heroic contribution Galloway has made to the anti-war and labour movement in his time.
I debated them politely, told them I disagreed with them and I thought they were wrong and then took part in the panel which went very well with good debate.
The atmosphere leaving was warm and friendly, with many introducing themselves and thanking me for my contribution. However my online roasting the night before was only a taste of things to come.
The following week I appeared on Sky News, again defending Corbyn against the charge of anti-semitism which led again to large negative response on twitter laced with ever more open class hatred.
It is hard enough as a working class activist entering the media arena without the classist abuse. It’s always a strange and slightly intimidating task speaking in a place where the polished opinions of the professional commentators are never those of the people I know, work and live with and having to attempt to say what everyone I know is thinking and saying.
The responses to my appearance seemed to confirm all the prejudices harboured towards people of my class. I was repeatedly referred to as a thug, a racist, of being uneducated, thick, with many mocking my London accent of which I’m proud. Some went as far as to call me an EDL member.
I disagreed with Rabbi Sacks — well who was I to challenge the opinions of a Lord, unelected or otherwise? One tweet warned ‘people like me’ would be in a position of power in the event of a Corbyn-led Labour victory.
These campaigns led by people like Margaret Hodge and Chuka Umunna are not a genuine attempt to rid the party of anti-semitism at all but to rid the party of working class trade unionists and left wing activists who support Jeremy Corbyn and the Palestinian people. The Blairites have realised these groups generally overlap, so by making pro-Palestinian politics forbidden, they rid themselves of a large section of the working class left also.
The struggle between the left wing of the Labour Party and the neoliberal wing is a class struggle. They hate the working class and do not want to see it on TV, let alone see it in power.
The only way they want to see people like me is like a charitable cause, a political prop to use in a clever argument but never an advocate of our own class struggle, articulating our own politics, in our own voices.
Although they call themselves socialists, they are really radical liberals. They see their political stances as a set of personal, ethical statements of virtue. That is liberalism, not socialism. Socialism is collective politics, socialism is class politics. Even more plainly, socialism is the politics of the working class.
For radical liberals, the appearance of actually working class socialists can be thoroughly embarrassing, as we tend to go off the script they have written for us.
And we should take every opportunity to do just that. Despite the abuse and intimidation, working class leftists must take any platform offered. If you check the small print, it is meant to be our platform in the first place.
Eddie Dempsey sits on the national executive of the RMT. This article is written in a personal capacity.
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