The Stand Up to Racism Vigil Against Antisemitism Controversy – Some thoughts

This post is about the controversy surrounding the SUTR demostration against antisemitic graffiti in Hampstead and Belsize Park.  See the JC article for a rundown.

Thoughts.

  1.  There are many, many reasons I dislike the SWP.  I’m happy to expound on them at length for anyone who wants.  That’s not the focus of this article though. The purpose here is to tease out some wider lessons for the (non SWP controlled) anti fascist movement, in particular its militant wing.
  2. It’s equally the case that the Jewish Chronicle (and Lee Harpin specifically) have recently taken a serious hit to their credibility. It’s also the case that they have promoted and apologised for Islamophobes.  That’s also not especially relevant here. Especially as I haven’t seen any arguing with the facts outlined in the JC article, just the interpretation of them.
  3. Weyman Bennett’s reported comments that

    “Anyone who is opposed to antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism is welcome to attend Stand Up To Racism events whether they are Zionist and non Zionist.”

    suggest that SUTR are trying to take an agnostic position on Zionism & Israel.  I’d actually agree that this is the correct position to take.  It was the position of Anti Fascist Action (definitely) and the 43 Group.  And there is no need for a British antifascist organisation to take a position here. In fact, doing so is counterproductive and pointless.

    However, it’s not possible to take a neutral position if you’re allowing attendees, especially those in an organisational position, to openly take sides.  It just makes you look dishonest.

  4. Which raises an obvious question.  What kind of fucking tosser thinks it’s a clever idea to wear a BDS badge to a demonstration against antisemitic grafitti?  I don’t actually think that BDS is de facto antisemitic.  I also don’t think that a “there is no God” badge is Islamophobic.  But I’d still take issue with any idiot wearing one to a demonstration against Islamophobic graffiti. Context matters.  And this is an obvious example of something where somebody decided their pet issue mattered more than the easily foreseeable offense that was caused to some attendees.  And the overheard reference to “Zionist journalists” removes even that benefit of the doubt.
  5. This is especially damning as Simic was apparently an organiser and (if not current) a previous member of the SWP.  Considering how heavily centrist the SWP are and how quick to enforce the party line on their members it’s unquestionably the case they could have stamped on this. They chose not to.
  6. This incident also shows why, leaving moral considerations aside for one moment, the front organisation strategy is bankrupt.  It simply leads to non members of the controlling organisation feeling cheated when they realise that the organisation is controlled by a specific party.
  7. It also shows a flaw in the modern concept of “solidarity”. In this case, it’s clear the solidarity on offer was conditional and unwelcome by many members of the Jewish community in the form it took.  It was forced solidarity rather than taking the approach of talking to the community and asking what practical support was needed.
  8. In fact, I’d suggest that a more militant approach of “mutual alliances” is more productive.

    Traditionally, that’s been the approach of militants.  We have our own agenda and strategy, based round militant antifascism.  And, if we have enough common ground, we’ll work with you on that basis. Nobody needs to agree on everything else or subordinate their personal/organisational integrity to anyone else.

    I’m not pretending that approach doesn’t have its own problems. In particular (and I’ve done this myself) some militants have a tendency to fall into Millwall style “nobody likes us we don’t care” swaggering.

    But it’s honest and cards are on the table.  Ironically (because this runs counter to our reputation) I’d go as far as to say this is clearly the less sectarian of the approaches.  No substitutionism.  Just agreement that we have enough common goals that we should work together at this time.

  9. The reportage that

    Also present at Monday’s event was a paper seller from the Revolutionary Communist Group, which has repeatedly called for “no concession to Zionism” which they have called “racism through and through”.

    feels like something of a red herring, particularly without any evidence of the RCG fraternising with other demonstrators.  The RCG turn up to other people’s demos without being invited. They aren’t involved in the organisation of SUTR and there’s no love lost between them and the SWP.

    There’s a possible discussion to be had here about unwelcome people turning up on demonstrations and how to deal with it. But if we’re going to have that discussion seriously we need to revisit issues like the presence of Roberta Moore on the Ahava demostration and who she was photographed marching alongside.  And other similar issues.  Which, I suspect, many people happy to condemn the RCG presence here and other platform sharing they (legitimately) dislike won’t be willing to actually address.

    For any progress to take place on this particular controversial issue I suspect it would need to take place in a small group willing to take a hardline on this across the board. At the moment, it’s selective.  “Their dodgy attendees are proof of their malignity.  People I consider allies being photographed with dodgy people is irrelevant guilt by association” isn’t going to cut it.  General principles, applicable across the spectrum regardless of the accused’s position on Israel or anything else, are necessary.

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