By Mark Buckley
The decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn is clearly intended to be a witch-hunting measure, the first step in a broad attack on the left as a whole. What is at stake is whether this vicious Tory government will meet any resistance at all, or whether Starmer’s servile approach to the Tories is to continue.
To be absolutely explicit, the suspension of Corbyn is a political frame-up. He is not now and never has been an antisemite. Even the extremely biased EHRC report does not claim that. Instead, there is an attempt to justify Corbyn’s suspension on grounds that he minimised the issue of antisemitism. It is completely threadbare. Again, the EHRC Report explicitly makes clear that expressing opinions on the scale of antisemitism with the Party is protected by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. The relevant clause in the EHRC report is below.
The political context is that the Tories have catastrophically mismanaged the public health crisis, with an enormous death toll which is already rising sharply. Rather than protect the public, the government have both prioritised supporting their big business donors and used the crisis to launch enormous attacks on jobs, wages and conditions.
At every point the Starmer leadership has completely backed Johnson, even demanding a tougher approach in the reopening of schools. The Labour left does not accept this national unity government approach. It is noteworthy that recent rebellions by the Labour left in parliament against a string of draconian laws have grown in number, and in direct conflict with the line of the Labour leadership. These MPs, many of the Socialist Campaign Group, all faced threats of disciplinary measures and some were forced to resign from the frontbench.
It is no accident then that a series of disciplinary complaints were lodged against 16 other Labour MPs, mainly on the left, almost immediately after Corbyn was suspended. At the same time, newer MPs on the left are starting to experience a low-level ‘warfare’ attack, using spurious legal grounds to undermine them. This includes both Claudia Webbe and Apsana Begum, and others may well be in the pipeline.
Corbyn’s suspension has shed some of the fake left, who have refused to defend him. Notably, the commentators Paul Mason and Owen Jones, Workers Liberty and some of the MPs who claim to be on the left such as Clive Lewis so far do not appear to be defending Corbyn. The common thread is that, to one extent or another, they support imperialism. Clearly, for them Corbyn’s refusal to support the US-led war machine trumps any natural justice.
At the same time, important forces have come to Corbyn’s defence, including UNITE’s Len McCluskey, Momentum nationally, and leading left MPs such as Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, and Zarah Sultana. They have clearly defended Corbyn. This is an acid test for anyone who claims to be of the left and should feature strongly in both NEC elections and in the various elections for trade union general secretary posts.
The campaign to defend Corbyn is vital for the entire left. Corbynism will be crucial in the battles ahead, to block the government’s catastrophic response to the pandemic, to oppose the enormous austerity offensive already under way, to fight the disastrous effects of Brexit, to fight resurgent racism, and many other issues.
In all these cases the voice of the left can be decisive, which is why Starmer, who openly supports the Tories and is egged on by the Tory press, is determined to shut it down. The campaign to defend Corbyn is likely to be a prolonged one, but is vital for all socialists.