Friday notes: Chris Williamson, Angela Nagle, Stand Up To Racism and more
Chris WilliamsonThis week Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, is in the news as a group of London Labour student societies have refused to work with Westminster CLP after it invited Williamson, citing his antisemitism. I don't know if Williamson is "an antisemite" - I tend to reserve that term for people with a deep-seated ideological commitment to an explicitly antisemitic worldview - but I do know that he has time and again denied, minimised, apologised for or defended antisemitism in the Labour Party and is odious for lots of other reasons too.
The letter from Tessa Milligan in the Twitter thread starting here (unrolled here) gives a fairly comprehensive list of the times Williamson defended racists and Holocaust deniers or shared a platform with expelled Labour Party members. Here is a petition calling for the party to withdraw the whip from him because of this. Here are all of The Red Roar's posts on him, including about his basically Tory policies as council leader in Derby. Here is Anti-Nazis United documenting how often he retweets antisemites.
What would you call an MP - any MP - who blocks a constituent in these circumstances? pic.twitter.com/1kSGgtpqJ2— Paul Canning (@pauloCanning) October 28, 2018
For me, one of the most unforgivable things Williamson has done is promote Vanessa Beeley, a war crimes denier and fake news merchant. Here is an extract from Oz Katerji in the New Statesman on this incident:Hopefully these speak for themselves. pic.twitter.com/kErFvqRYXa— Blair McDougall (@blairmcdougall) August 19, 2018
Williamson, who was attending the Beautiful Days festival, tweeted of his “privilege” in meeting Vanessa Beeley, a blogger who described meeting the Syrian regime’s war criminal president Bashar al Assad as her “proudest moment” and has waged a relentless campaign of lies and distortion to promote the Assad regime abroad.
This is not Williamson’s first dalliance with pro-Assad trutherism, having voiced doubts over allegations that Assad was responsible for the gas attack on Douma while addressing a protest outside parliament in April 2018. Williamson has been no stranger to causing offence to Jewish Labour members in recent months, so his endorsement this week of Beeley, who has also been accused of anti-Semitism, marks another new low for the Labour party.
Responding in kind to Williamson’s endorsement, Beeley said in a Facebook post “Hats off to Chris Williamson, Labour MP - a genuine human being.”...
Williamson’s tweet provoked immediate condemnation, drawing a strong response from James O’Brien, who called Williamson a “disgrace” and referred to Beeley as “Assad’s very own Alex Jones.”
The Washington Post’s Middle East correspondent, Louisa Loveluck, responded to Williamson’s endorsement of Beeley’s “reporting” with: “Beeley has justified the use of incendiary weapons against civilians, recycled and championed debunked conspiracy theories, and described a meeting with Assad as her proudest moment. This is cheerleading, not reporting.”Noting that Beeley has viciously slandered the late Jo Cox (Beeley "has shamelessly accused her of being a “warmongering Blairite” and “al-Qaeda advocate” endorsing a policy of “wholesale devastation” on Syria.) Oz argues that the Labour Party has a choice between being the party of Jo Cox or the party of Chris Williamson.
Williamson's support for Assadism is of a piece with his wider geopolitical commitments: a vulgar form of Cold War second camp "anti-imperialism", in which any force, however authoritarian, that is opposed to "the West", is seen as heroic. Hence his backing for Maduro's increasingly repressive government in Venezuela.
Pleased to speak alongside Nicaraguan Ambassador Guissell Morales-Echaverry, Marcos Garcia from @VenezEmbassyUK & @sianlou82 today to express my support for self determination in Latin America and opposition to Trump's attacks. Great to see @Marcwads & @ken4london in attendance pic.twitter.com/gHd48hB2hb— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) June 9, 2018
And this vulgar anti-imperialist worldview is dangerous today, as it is easily weaponised by Russia, one of the most malignant global powers - hence Williamson's regular appearances on RT and other Russian government platforms (including on the show hosted by George Galloway), and in particular why his attempts to claim Russia wasn't to blame for the Salisbury chemical attack is so ominous.
Angela Nagle and the "left" case against no borders
This right here is the red-brown alliance killing the left- Angela Nagle, like Spiked in the UK, working hard to sell nationalism and nativism as a “left-wing” thing (in a right-wing pro-Trump outlet...) https://t.co/mIutWB6rMd— Bob From Brockley (@bobfrombrockley) November 20, 2018
... not a surprise to see it being picked up by Paul Embery (of Arron Banks cashrolled “Labour” Leave) and by Arron Banks’ other favourite leftist George Galloway pic.twitter.com/Pkl1QwQ3pF— Bob From Brockley (@bobfrombrockley) November 20, 2018
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton said the way to combat populism is to push for stronger borders. Not surprisingly, the luxury automated left (Owen Jones, Aaron Bastani etc) leapt to criticise Clinton, repeating their familiar mantra that centrism somehow always leads to fascism. But their failure to criticise leftists such as John McDonnell or Angela Nagle who say the same thing speaks volumes.
Spot on from Daniel here: https://t.co/YHGamQqTRl— Bob From Brockley (@bobfrombrockley) November 22, 2018
Migration restrictionism to pacify right-wing populists is wrong when centrists like Gordon Brown and Hilary Clinton propose it, and equally wrong when leftists like Jeremy Corbyn or Angela Nagle propose it.
Stand Up To Racism
After the rape scandal caused huge damage to its reputation on the left, the SWP set up several front groups to draw in new support, as well as funds, from people who might be repelled by the controversial party’s brand. Weyman Bennett, a member of the SWP’s central committee, became the co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, Joint-Secretary of UAF, and Director of Love Music Hate Racism. Not only are the same SWP figures behind these organisations, their social media accounts regularly tweet identical messages.
Labour frontbenchers, trade union leaders, and other public figures co-signed a letter earlier this month promoting the demonstration in The Guardian, which made no mention of its organisers. This was almost certainly a conscious decision to avoid the criticism Jeremy Corbyn and others faced for addressing a 2016 demo organised the SWP. Indeed, Weyman Bennett’s name was left off the signatories entirely.
In 2016, journalists Owen Jones, Dawn Foster, Abi Wilkinson, and Laurie Penny, as well as figures from alt-left sites Evolve Politics and Novara Media, protested Corbyn’s appearance at the Stand Up To Racism event with letters, social media posts, and articles in national newspapers. This time around, that criticism was nowhere to be seen. Most of the well-known signatories of a letter calling on Corbyn to “not let the SWP rebuild itself through Stand Up To Racism” two years ago stayed silent during the weekend’s march, while Owen Jones and Aaron Bastani retweeted several posts carrying its hashtags.
So why have previously outspoken critics of the SWP given in to this “cult which covered up rape”? And why do organisations with membership numbers and resources far outweighing the SWP continue to support its front organisations?
Finally, meet the Feminist Anti-Fascist Assembly.