Friday, September 30, 2016

In praise of John Penney

I just read this great comment by John Penney on an excellent Left Futures post by Andy Newman about Labour's current antisemitism controversy. Newman is not always someone I agree with, especially on geopolitical issues, but on issues of anti-racism and anti-fascism he often calls it right. Anyway, here's John's comment:
Jackie Walker’s bizarre repeated insistence on playing some sort of sick competitive “top trumps” comparison between the WW2 anti Jewish Holocaust and the centuries long mass enslavement and holocaust of Africans, should be utterly unacceptable to socialists. Particularly when she repeats that utter historical lie, propagated mainly by the previously deeply, and openly, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam movement in the USA, that: 
many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean.”
“Chief Financiers” of the slave trade? This is an utter lie, with no historical basis whatsoever. It is an anti Semitic trope, playing into a long established seam of anti-Semitism within the US, but also, UK Black communities. 
Add this to her more recent, extraordinary comments, which show a staggeringly cavalier disregard for the facts about Holocaust Memorial Day, and the conclusion must be clear – Jackie Walker’s membership of both the Labour Party and Momentum is utterly unacceptable. 
As a lifelong anti fascist and internationalist socialist, and a Momentum organiser in North Shropshire, I feel personally offended to be in the same organisations as this person – and deeply concerned that the Momentum Leadership ever allowed Ms Walker to remain in Momentum after her first extraordinary outburst. 
If Jackie Walker isn’t expelled from Momentum after her latest offensive intervention (which appears to me to be simply an example of some strange deliberately controversial attention seeking behaviour) I’m sure many of us will have to reconsider our membership of Momentum.
It's always a pleasure to come across John's comments online. I've never met him, but he is one of the unsung heroes of post-war British militant anti-fascism and (via Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action) had a major indirect influence on my own political development half a generation later. If the left had more comrades like him, I'd feel a lot more at home here.

So, here are a few of his comments which I've bookmarked over the years. I've taken the liberty of adding a couple of hyperlinks and tidying up some of the punctuation.