I think it is important to begin by stating what this review will be and what it won’t be. It will then be clear to the reader what is being offered. As I value your time, I want to set expectations accordingly.
This will not be a thorough and in-depth look at details contained within Garratt’s book; suffice to say that others far more experienced and qualified than I have already done this work, and concluded, as I do, that this is a well-researched, well-referenced and comprehensive record of the events which transpired between 2015 and 2017, as they relate to Chris Williamson MP and his hounding out of public office by the Labour Party.
The curious among us, regardless of party loyalties, would do well to read this, if for no other reason than to see just how absurd, cynical, dishonest and ruthlessly effective an organisation can be at destroying the character and career of an individual, without ever having to produce a single piece of evidence or substantiate a single claim. It’s effective, and we need, collectively, to wake up.
What this article will hopefully convey to the reader is the importance of two things: the first is how crucial to the democratic process the existence of honest, good-faith media institutions are to the reporting of political events, and how the British media have failed us all in this regard. Secondly, there is an essential requirement that we, as readers, are able to situate events in the correct historical context. The British media are actively attempting to obfuscate at every step of the way.
A dismal record
The forty years which preceded Corbyn’s arrival onto the main stage in 2015 paint a dismal record of a Britain enthralled to the US-led neo-liberal, imperialist agenda. These were four decades replete with illegal wars of aggression in Argentina, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and Libya. There were retrograde steps in addressing the climate crisis; increasing CO2 emissions and irreversible environmental damage ignored by our government and a never-ending list of state-owned wealth and public services being transferred into private, capitalist, hands. We had NHS privatisation, the introduction of higher education tuition fees (now amongst the highest in the world) and state provision of housing, elderly and social care disappearing almost entirely. To say that capitalism, or more accurately Necro Capitalism, is destroying the planet and the lives of the people on this planet is a mainstream, sober and accurate analysis of our current predicament.
To anyone who came of age, politically speaking, in the years between 2010 and 2015, the entire phenomenon of the short-lived Corbyn Project must seem like a daydream. We had a brief glimpse of what ‘could have been’, an antidote to the horrors detailed above, a progressive, socialist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-NATO, anti-austerity and anti-capitalist society. It was of course anti-capitalist to a degree, alas not quite a Communist or Ecological Socialist (Bookchin). It was something which felt both right and natural to those who had experienced the destruction of the global crash of 2008, perhaps especially through the impact it had on their parents’ lives, in combination with the ever ratcheting-up of Tory-LibDem austerity, the final conclusion of what Thatcher began: the death of the social contract).
So far, so dramatic you might say. For a book review which deals with a small number of events across a very narrow time period, involving an even smaller cast of protagonists – a handful at most – this might seem like an unnecessarily sensationalist introduction. Respectfully, however, I would disagree. Almost twenty years of neoliberal New Labour policies, drenched in blood and suffering (with a smattering of wealthy capitalist winners, as usual) accompanied by an ineffective and unquestioning media are very much the appropriate backdrop against which to contextualise Lee Garratt’s ‘Labour, The Anti-Semitism Crisis & the Destroying of an MP’.
Now, more than ever, context is incredibly important. It is the context in which the events surrounding the demise of Project Corbyn and his faithful and loyal MP, Chris Williamson, took place that matter, both in the scale of the day-to-day unfolding of events but also in the context of national and international politics across the global stage. The geopolitics of our time IS capitalism writ large, and so it is no surprise that it was never Jeremy Corbyn ’the man’ they wanted to be rid of but rather what he represented: Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-imperialist, Jeremy Corbyn supporter of Stop the War and, crucially, Jeremy Corbyn the staunch, life-long advocate of the Palestinian cause with his unwavering support for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. He terrified the capitalist class.
There is no global conspiracy out there, but, if there’s one thing which can unite the multitude of wealthy and powerful political and private actors across the media, political and military landscape, it is the mere possibility that their untrammelled ability to pollute, profit, kill and destroy at will might be curtailed. Israel, with its arms and cyber industries as part of the West’s military industrial complex is very much at the nexus of the United States’ geo-strategic plans in the Middle East. Jeremy Corbyn and, by extension, Chris Williamson were always going to be a lightning rod for reactionary Zionist, Imperialist, Colonialist, Racist and even Fascist forces. (Keith Starmer’s post 2020 Labour Party has them all in spades, it’s worth noting.)
What Lee Garratt’s ‘Labour, The Anti-Semitism Crisis & the Destroying of an MP’ offers the reader here is a detailed account of what took place behind the scenes between Chris Williamson and the Labour Party by way of focusing on some of the pivotal political events and their subsequent handling by the media, of the period between 2015-2017. Garratt shows clearly how the capitalist owned and operated media and their representation of events was not only wildly off the mark, but was intentionally and knowingly so.
Designed to mislead the general public, with the ultimate objective of undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts at winning political power, the Labour Party and the liberal British media establishment collaborated fist-in-glove, none more so than Owen Jones and The Guardian, and found their most effective – in fact only remaining – strategy was to cynically weaponise the scourge that is antisemitism and impute that the Corbyn Project and its leader were antisemitic. It was a scam and it worked.
It’s worth stating that antisemitism is of course always wrong and absolutely about the hatred of Jews for being Jewish, and nothing more. Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism, although Israel and its allies present it as such. It would also seemingly follow that to smear Williamson and Corbyn with the accusation that they were antisemites is, on the face of it at least, an easy accusation to either confirm or deny; one checks the public record for their spoken words and actions and decides accordingly.
The Heart of the Issue
However, therein lies the heart of the issue Williamson (and Corbyn) faced: four distinct but connected concepts intersect to make the accusation that Williamson and Corbyn faced so powerfully effective.
1) The Israeli state’s insistence that Israel is the home of ALL Jews and that it alone speaks for the Jewish people in matters of faith, politics and persecution.
2) The British public’s ignorance surrounding the political ideology of Zionism (a home for the Jews at the expense of an existing people, the Palestinians), the jump-starting of Israeli colonialism of Palestine by the British Empire in the 1920s, the Palestinian 1948 Nakba (their expulsion & genocide at the hands of Jewish Zionists) and Israel’s continued 70+ year illegal occupation of Palestine.
3) The British public’s absolute fear of being labeled Anti-Semite and all-round timidity to engage with the subject in general, quite understandable when located in the shadow of European collective memory and the Nazi persecution of Jews in WW2.
4) Israel’s centrality to the West’s power projection across the Middle-East, as a bulwark against Iran/Syria/China and a guarantor of continued access to oil, has afforded Apartheid Israel a revered and protected status among Western governments. The financial and political patronage afforded Israel by the United States and other G7 world economies totals in the billions of USD$ of grants, loans and military and technology sales and extends to the United State’s UN P5 Security Council Veto This means that Israel as a political entity is essentially immune from criticism, sanctions or military action.
Once the reader appreciates how these four ideas overlap and reinforce each other, it becomes easy to see how, in the hands of a cynical, manipulative, right-wing politician or journalist, Anti-Semitism can be intentionally conflated with Judaism to insulate Israel from all criticism.
The violent and essentially colonialist project of nation-building Israel in the heart of the Palestinian homeland in British Mandate Palestine/former Ottoman Empire means that Jeremy Corbyn and his followers’ socialist politics are antithetical to everything Israel stands for. A political victory for Jeremy Corbyn would have resulted in seismic repercussions in the geopolitics of the West, and it was for this reason that the forces of the British political system and British media found themselves aligned between 2015 and 2019 with the sole objective of removing the threat of a Corbyn government.
Garratt’s book provides an essential vignette into the microcosm of events relating to one man, Williamson, and is a detailed, coherent and enjoyable read for anyone looking to understand what precisely went wrong. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that Garratt’s focus on the details allow us to appreciate the wider context of the last forty years of neoliberalism and Necro Capitalism – forces which not only enabled this to happen but actively conspired, colluded and worked in concert with each other to guarantee that Corbyn’s hugely popular vision of socialism for the masses, not the 1%, would be replaced by the Covid-murdering Kleptocracy that is epitomised by Cummings, Sunak and Johnson.
The rest, as they say, is history.
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