When I browse articles, or Twitter and Facebook, if I see something I like, I re-post it, re-tweet it, or ‘like’ it and often comment on it as well.
But just lately for Labour Party members, that has become increasingly difficult.
Since April, there has been what some call ‘a witch hunt’ in the Labour Party. Members who are passionate about politics and about particular issues are finding themselves suspended, often without immediate explanation as to why.
A lot of the suspensions appear to be on the grounds that the member has been accused of saying or posting something ‘anti-Semitic’, or even, in some cases, of re-tweeting or ‘liking’ something of this nature. It is usually described as ‘not being in line with Labour Party values’ or something similar.
Of course, if the accusations were true, this would be very understandable. But often the accusations appear to be based upon a reading of ‘anti-Semitism’ that says that it is wrong to criticise political Zionism, or the activities of the state of Israel. And yet, this is not included in the description as used by the Labour Party, or, indeed, by any of the usual definitions of anti-Semitism or racism.
Another accusation of anti-Semitism, which led to the suspension of anti-racist activist, Jackie Walker, was based upon a disagreement by some parties with her reading of a fairly long-standing and highly controversial argument between historians and others, about the nature of the sugar and slave trade, who was involved, and in what numbers. And, as that argument still goes on today among historians, I wonder how on earth anyone from Labour’s ‘Compliance Unit’ could possibly be expected to make a definitive assessment on the issue. Luckily, common sense prevailed and Jackie Walker’s suspension has now been lifted.
Nevertheless, on the same day, another left-wing Labour Party member was suspended.
And so it goes on….
Along with this are suspensions of other Labour Party members who have been described as ‘to the left of the Party’. In this case, it is often for supporting political parties (usually left wing) other than Labour before they were Labour Party members, which to me appears ridiculous when we have seen it published that ex-Tories have joined with no fuss and even some fanfare.
And it seems to me that the majority of the suspensions, whether for ‘anti-Semitism’ or another reason, have been of this type of member – to the left of the Party and usually a Corbyn supporter, even more so if they are also a member of and active in Momentum.
I’m a member of Momentum also. In the run-up to the council elections, I was standing as a Labour candidate. I was aware of what was happening with the suspensions, but in the last few days of campaigning, I kept my head down and got on with the job. I thought that the suspensions were suspect and worrying, but I hoped that people in the Party would realise that I was ‘a good Labour Party member’, in that I was doing my utmost to get elected for the Party.
And afterwards for a few days, I found myself checking what I was posting, re-tweeting, or even ‘liking’.
But then, with more time to think, I realised that the person I was becoming wasn’t me.
I am a political activist because I feel very strongly about issues that affect us all and I want to do something to change things. I am a socialist and I am proud of that. I am also a reasonably good writer, who can write passionately about political issues.
And I hate injustice and I need to speak out about it wherever it occurs.
If being careful of every single word I say or write, or even ‘like’, is the way I am expected to behave as a Labour Party member, when I know I am a caring person who hates discrimination and who cares about all human beings, then there is something wrong with the Labour Party, not with me.
I hope that the Labour Party as a collective body will realise that the present regime of instant suspensions is not doing the Party any good and is causing a great deal of anger and uncertainty among ordinary members – the grass roots and the bulk of the Party. And I hope that in the days to come, ordinary Labour Party members begin to feel safe again in their ability to speak out without the threat of immediate suspension on suspicion.
Either way, it’s time to speak out again.
Otherwise, what’s the point?