100 Years Ago

Back in May 2020 I wrote a post summarising some of the points I’d taken from Labour’s leaked report (now on archive.org). At the time admitting to having read or downloaded the leaked report was disciplinarily problematic, let’s say – never mind discussing its contents – so I changed all the names of the organisations involved and reskinned the whole thing as sf. With the Forde Report now being available, I think this degree of circumspection is no longer called for. So here’s what I was actually writing about.

– We’re here to consider some problems that have recently surfaced in the Labour Party. Take this, for instance.

“OK. So, what we see here is that there was an election coming up, and one individual with responsibility for election-related and other forms of campaigning within the Labour Party writes: Let’s hope the Liberal Democrats can do it. I’m sorry, what?”

– The person in question appears to hope that the Liberal Democrats will win the election in question.

“Thankyou, I had got that far. But the person in question is responsible for the Labour election campaign. You wouldn’t expect them to have any doubts about who to support.”

– Or to express those thoughts to Labour colleagus, on a Labour communication channel.

“Good grief. Were they – all of them – actually working against their own party? Why?”

– Firstly, not all of them, but quite a few – up to and including the then General Secretary. As to why… well, let’s look at the next piece of evidence. So, here’s somebody who enjoyed ridiculing the leadership…

“The Labour leadership?”

– Yes, their own leadership – there’s going to be a lot of this, so I should get used to the idea; they enjoyed ridiculing the leadership and dismissed anyone who supported them as Trotskyite subversives.

“Trotskyite… I did read about this. Meaning… very marginal to the Party and very bad?”

– Meaning a whole variety of things – but yes, in this context the main meaning was ‘very bad’.

“And why do we care about this unpleasant and disloyal individual?”

– Mainly because they came under suspicion. Not from the leadership – from their colleagues; they were suspected of being a bit of a Trotskyite on the quiet.

“You mean to say, people in responsible positions at the Labour Party were so obsessed with the threat of these… Trotskyite tendencies… that they ended up working against the leadership of their own Party – and even dismissed anyone who didn’t agree with them completely as a Trotskyite in their own right? How did they ever get those positions of responsibility? How did they keep them? Were they just astonishingly good at their jobs?”

– Here we come to the question of antisemitic abuse.

“Ah, I remember the part about antisemitism. So at this stage our traitorous office-holders are dealing with… sorry, how many? In a party with half a million… surely there were more cases than that? And they’re taking… what? Why are they taking so long? And they haven’t got a process for tracking cases? None at all? Sorry, that’s a lot of questions.”

– All good ones.

“Ah, but weren’t these… Trotskyites, was it… weren’t they also supposed to have trouble with Jews? Maybe the reason those people weren’t processing complaints was that the leadership were slowing them down.”

– Actually, no. The leadership appears to have washed their hands of some close allies and personal friends, if those people seemed to be using antisemitic language or getting close to it.

“I’m confused now. The Party was dealing with them?”

– Ah, no. I said that the leadership washed their hands of them, not that they were promptly removed from the Party itself. This note here, for example, shows that one prominent individual’s case was allowed to drag on for two years. Jewish groups were up in arms about it. And, since this person was politically and even personally close to the leadership, naturally people suspected that the leadership was responsible. But they weren’t; if anything they were pushing for expulsion.

“Let me get this straight. People working within the Party, with responsibility for membership and discipline, believe that the leadership are all Trotskyites, and Trotskyites are all antisemites. A friend of the leadership makes statements seen as insulting to Jews. The leadership cuts this person off, but the Trot-hunters – who are the ones with the power to kick them out of the Party – do nothing about it, for…”

– For two years, yes.

“Were they just very, very inefficient? What’s this say – they had a very basic system for tracking complaints about members, which they then replaced it with another equally basic system, which they didn’t consistently use? Again, whyever not?”

– Very hard to say – not using a system doesn’t create much evidence. But it doesn’t seem to be an antisemitism-related thing, if only because all sorts of complaints were being dealt with just as slowly and just as inefficiently. As far as we can see the only time these people really sprang into action was when there was a leadership election, and a chance of party members deposing the leader.

“I suppose they would want to help that along.”

– It’s more that they hindered the people who wanted to vote for the leadership. Lots of Labour members suddenly discovered they were ex-members, or else that they’d been suspended for the length of the contest.

“They used membership of the Labour Party as a political tool?”

– To be granted and withheld as they saw fit.

“Ah well. At least it didn’t work. Still, you’d think the leadership would have noticed what was going on; you’d think they’d complain about having people in charge of membership who were good at kicking out allies of the leadership and bad at kicking out actual antisemites. I mean, assuming there were any actual antisemites in the Party to begin with, and it wasn’t just part of the big Trot hunt…”

– Let me stop you there. Antisemitic prejudice has deep historical roots, takes many different forms and can be found in all the main political parties, the Labour Party included.

“I just thought, seeing that so few of them were being expelled, perhaps there wasn’t enough…”

– Oh, there was plenty of evidence. After the General Secretary – well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Anyway, to answer your question, the leadership were well aware that their membership and discipline specialists were kicking out far too many of the wrong people and far too few of the right ones – not least because some pro-Jewish activists made sure that they knew about it.

“That’s where this [REDACTED] individual comes in, is it?”

– Yes. Quite suddenly the membership people are being bombarded with hundreds of vague, half-formed accusations against people who may or may not have been in the Labour Party to begin with. And they deal with this in two ways.

“Let me guess – number one is ‘very badly’?”

– And number two is ‘by reporting that everything was fine’.

“This all looks quite efficient, though. They’d had this many complaints from the [REDACTED] account; they’d all been investigated; this many were against Party members, and investigation had led to this many expulsions. What’s wrong with that?”

– Read this part.

None of it was true? And we know that none of it was true – the data was right there and they… they lied about it? Even though they were all in favour of getting rid of antisemitic activists, even though it had the potential to embarrass the leadership – which, as we know, they wanted to do?”

– I suppose visibly failing to deal with the antisemitism problem had the potential to be even more embarrassing to the leadership. Or they may not have thought that far ahead; they may just have been extraordinarily inefficient.

“At anything other than kicking out allies of the leadership and other suspected ‘Trots’.”

– Yes. The Party was a hard organisation to get kicked out of, if you weren’t an ally of the leadership. You could post antisemitic propaganda or various other forms of bigotry online; you could even advocate joining the Conservative Party. If you were reported once, it was an isolated occurrence; if you were reported twice or three times, your case had already been looked at so there was no need to do anything else.

“That isn’t sectarianism, though – just rampant inefficiency; these people seem to have treated senior jobs in the Party as if they were sinecures requiring only that they turn up for work, and gone on acting that way even when there was vitally important work to be done.”

– Let’s not lose sight of the broader picture. It would be fair to say that these individuals exhibited both sectarianism – in opposition to their own leadership – and rampant inefficiency. There is a happy ending of sorts, though: at this point here, there’s a new General Secretary, and almost all of the other people mentioned here resign. The disciplinary process becomes considerably more efficient as a result, as you can see here.

“A ninefold… no, a tenfold increase. No, wait. A factor of 25. In fact, in one sense it’s a factor of 45. It’s a big improvement, anyway.”

– But there’s more. If you’ll just watch this programme…

“Unwritten guidelines… leadership interfering… antisemitic sympathies… obstructing their investigations… This just isn’t true! It can’t be true.”

– I’m afraid witnesses’ veracity can’t always be relied on.

“Clearly. Apart from anything else, if the leadership had the power to impose these ‘guidelines’ which supposedly slowed everything down so much, how could all of those leadership sympathisers have been excluded? And how could the process of dealing with the antisemitic element have got so much better when the leadership had a new General Secretary and new people in place? What they say here simply cannot be true. One can sympathise with them in a way – nobody likes being reminded of how inefficiently they’re working, least of all when they have ceased to support the goals of the organisation they’re working for. But this reaction is… excessive.”

– Some would call it a pack of lies.

“I dare say they would. So, remind me, what’s the remit of our investigation?”

– We’re to investigate the content of this leak.

“Quite right too.”

– Also, the circumstances under which it came to be leaked. Oh, and we’ll be working with individuals nominated by the Party under its new leadership, specifically including one known supporter of the former General Secretary –

“I’m sorry, the former General Secretary?”

– If I might finish – one supporter of the former General Secretary, and one individual who was actually a staff member in this period and whose name appears in the leak.

“What is wrong with this party?”

– I imagine we’re about to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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