Socialist Worker

Debates and divisions in unions and the left on how to respond to the attacks in Labour

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2729

Solidarity with Palestine has to be key to how the left responds to right wing attacks in Labour

Solidarity with Palestine has to be key to how the left responds to right wing attacks in Labour (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Two online rallies revealed debates on how the left should respond to the right’s assault on the left and Palestine solidarity.

Four Labour MPs spoke alongside union officials and party activists at a rally organised by Labour left group Momentum on Friday.

Speakers said the accusations against Corbyn were part of a right wing assault to discredit the left. But most thought the answer should be to accept the EHRC report.

Labour MP John McDonnell said, “There was mounting evidence of antisemitism under our leadership.” He said the leadership hadn’t been “ruthless enough” in dealing with antisemitism accusations.

McDonnell made the same speech at a rally on Sunday organised by a new organisation, the Radical Alliance.

Labour MP Ian Lavery said Labour members “must not under any circumstances leave the party”. But he said they had to “be very careful—because if anyone steps out of line there’ll be suspensions”.

Activist Salma Yaqoob insisted the left has to defend support for Palestine. “The sad reality is we have not even been able to name the battle line for fear of being branded racist,” she said.

“I’m going to name the elephant in the room and that is the witch hunt against anyone who has even a tenuous link with standing up against the oppression of Palestinians.”

She said many of those who want to clamp down on solidarity with Palestine have pushed Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism.

The right may allow Corbyn back into Labour, but under conditions that silence him and the left. Demanding Corbyn’s reinstatement is not enough—defending Palestine has to be key.


Divisions among union leaders

Trade union leaders are split over whether to support Keir Starmer or Jeremy Corbyn.

Dave Prentis, leader of one of the biggest unions, Unison, praised Starmer’s “clear and categoric leadership” over his response to the EHRC report.

But several trade unions affiliated to Labour—including another major union, Unite—demanded Starmer “repair the damage” caused by Corbyn’s suspension. Their statement didn’t say how this should be done.

And it wasn’t backed by Unison or the third major union, the GMB.

For most of Labour’s history, union leaders have backed the right because they want a party “responsible” enough to govern.

But they were sidelined after Tony Blair’s leadership.

Many backed Corbyn because he restored their influence in the party. Now they’re worried about being driven out with him—but aren’t necessarily committed to defending left wing politics.

Union leaders were pivotal in forcing Corbyn to back down against the right over some key battles—including over the right to criticise Israel.


Who says?

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite role is that of the victim’

‘Liberal’ commentator Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer newspaper


‘He is a narcissist’

Rawnsley continues his attack


‘Shameless’

The Sun ‘newspaper’ attacks Jeremy Corbyn


‘Corbynism, in all its guises, needs to become an annex of Labour history’

Labour MP Phil Wilson


‘The Labour Party will be like France after the liberation. Everyone will have been in the resistance’

Labour Lord Ian Austin


‘Jeremy is a decent man, but he has an absolute blind spot and denial’

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner goes along with the witch hunt


‘The Labour Party is dead as a vehicle for progressive change’

Former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who was also hounded over his backing for Palestine


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