A Formal Response to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry

Please be absolutely clear that Marc Wadsworth is not a member of MBC despite the current media attention that suggests otherwise. Marc Wadsworth was dismissed from MBC for gross misconduct in April 2016.

There are a number of matters raised in the Chakrabarti Report that Momentum Black ConneXions (MBC) is happy to endorse.  Our belief that the Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism specifically, confirms the general belief held by MBC. On the wider question of whether racism including Afriphobia, antisemitism and Islamophobia influences the Labour Party such that it is overrun by it, MBC would assert that it does and is. We recognise that the Labour Party is a  reflection of the society it seeks to serve and we are clear that British society is profoundly structured through White supremacy and many other forms of racism causing a Political Black Perspective to be substantially reduced in the Labour Party at both a local and national level. MBC would argue that White supremacy is essentially ‘the elephant in the room’ that directly undermines all Political Black Perspectives. Lambeth Labour Council for example, currently presides over a borough that is now reported by the Runnymede Trust (March 2016) as the highest in England and Wales for inequality across Education, Employment, Housing and Health.

Runnymede Report on Inequalities

MBC would assert that it is directly through the shaping of policies that this occurs and that these policies are ideologically driven through at best indifference to race and at worse, blatant racism against Black communities in particular. Policy decisions cannot be detached from the private prejudices being held by Labour Party officers. Indeed, we cannot detach the current racist attacks in the country from the conduct of Parliament both currently and historically.

Without any desire whatsoever, to undermine antisemitism, we would point out that in order for a Political Black Perspective to be truly respected, it is necessary to acknowledge conflations or intersectionality such as between Semitism and Whiteness for example. That is to say and by way of example, MBC would ask the Labour Party to consider the potential silencing of Ethiopian Jews and African Palestinians, when the Chakrabarti Report states the following,

‘Other hideous human rights atrocities from African slavery to the killing fields of Cambodia, the Armenian and Rwandan genocides are all of course to be remembered and described, but diluting their particularity or comparing degrees of victimhood and evil does no service to anyone.’

There is a danger that ‘diluting their particularity’ is to deny the continuing impact that the African holocaust has on African people in our society today and indeed upon the way in which some White Jews relate to some Black Jews and Black people both here and internationally. Indeed how some White or Arab Muslims relate to some African Muslims, can also be highly problematic. There is a racial hierarchy in our society that positions Black African/Caribbean People as the highest in police stop and searches, imprisonment, unemployment, poor health and education. In general, the social status of Black people is lower than that of others. In the media for example, the common image of Black people is still to be seen as ‘drug dealers’ and ‘prostitutes’ whilst White people, as leaders and saviours. Because the Labour Party is an honest reflection of society, it needs to acknowledge the degree of racism within itself in order to set those higher ‘gold’ standards that the report recommends.

We note and are deeply disappointed that whilst the report appears to have received very few contributions from African/Caribbean organisations, the contribution given to the Inquiry by Africans for Momentum (Africans for FJC Values) for example, has nevertheless been ignored by the Inquiry. In the report from Africans for Momentum, they referred to the specific problems of Afriphobia as indeed has Momentum Black ConneXions. When one considers the Inquiry has referred to 35 Jewish Organisations, 23 Muslim Organisations, 22 non-race specific Organisations but only 5 possibly Black African Caribbean Organisations, we are surprised that the contributions of Africans for Momentum was not regarded as integral to the Inquiry’s considerations? We would remind you that Africans are also, for example, Jewish, Muslim and Christian.

An important political objective of MBC is to raise the British and international conscience of the African Holocaust in order to address the unfinished business of reparations.  It is our deliberate intention to move away from the term African Slave Trade for that term defines the slave owners experience though we totally reject the thinking of ourselves merely as slaves or ‘trade’ which is both reductive and deeply offensive. Recognising those facts is a part of our decolonisation process. Instead, we embrace the term Maangamizi, Kiswahili for the African Holocaust that speaks to the continuum of chattel, colonial and neo-colonial forms of our enslavement. Therefore, we reserve the right to refer to the African Holocaust without the presumption as the Chakrabarti Report intimates that we might by doing so, appear to be undermining the experience of the Jewish Holocaust? This in our view would be absurd. Moreover, a consequence of the African Holocaust was the extermination of Africans in the Jewish Holocaust and we would also wish to raise people’s consciousness around that without accusations that we are undermining the experiences of others or are in anyway being anti-Semitic. In such circumstances we would logically ask, is it anti-Semitic to discuss such a thing or is it anti-Black or Afriphobic or even anti-Hamitic to object to this? Our very genuine focus is upon the liberation of all Black People so it is important that we feel free to express ourselves in our work within, as well as outside of the Labour Party. Although the report expressly states it does not want to shut down debate, there is the risk that it could do so.

Freedom is a state of mind

We thank the Chakrabarti Report for recognising the justified concerns expressed with regard to the complaints procedure and the internal disciplinary process. MBC is also grateful for the comments made with regard to local parties and the unchecked power of regional staff. With regard to reviewing disciplinary procedures we would request that anyone facing discipline should be entitled to have another person present who can also advise and speak on their behalf if and when needed. This is necessary in order to protect the vulnerable from vexatious claims and to provide equality of opportunity to respond. We also ask that in relation to the disciplinary procedure that there should always be someone that reflects the peerage of the person subject to the complaint to create a sense that their peers are judging them. On a racial matter, an all-White panel should not judge a Black member, for example. Whilst we accept White people are capable of making just and fair decisions in relation to Black people, this would also provide the perception of fairness in addition to the substance. We think there should always be some degree of expertise from those that are sitting in judgements against others. Because of inevitable political fractions such as the current Compliance Unit overly represented by the Labour Right, we believe those sitting in judgement in disciplinary matters, should always consciously reflect the broad face of the Labour Party with the possible involvement of a Layperson to reflect independence.

We welcome the Reports recommendation on education and training and ask that there be a conscious introduction to the Political Black historical involvement in the Labour Party. MBC would be happy to assist the Labour Party. Like the Report itself, MBC remains deeply concerned with the lack of representation of Black members on the Party’s NEC and believe this requires a new way of looking at this whole situation including that of Black Political representation throughout the Labour Party. As the report states,

‘The Labour Party has good cause to be proud of having more BAME MPs than any other party, and that they now constitute over 10 per cent of its contingency in the House of Commons. However, the proportion of BAME constituents in Labour seats may be as much as double this. So there is surely no room for complacency. Nor, I think, should anyone feel completely satisfied with only 2 BAME members out of 24 on the Party’s NEC.’

There are now 40 seats (over 6%), of MPs in the House of Commons / House of Lords from ethnic minority backgrounds (Labour 23, Conservative 17, LibDems are all white) against a 13% ethnic minority population (so could be 85 instead of 40 seats). The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of Commons has nearly doubled from 11 (1.5%) in 2010 to 20 (3%) in 2015 so that is good news. In 2010, there were 22 Jewish MPs. (13 Conservatives and 9 Labour). The Jewish population in the UK was in 2010, 280,000 (0.46 %). There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, proportionately, Jewish entitlement appears to be only 3 seats, which means, of course, that other groups must be under-represented, including Muslims. The UK Muslim population is 2.4 million (nearly 4%) so proportionately, they would be entitled to 26 seats but they have only 8 seats. If Muslims were overrepresented to the same extent as our Jewish communities (i.e. eight times), they would have 200 seats, with no doubt, heightened Islamophobia in our wider society, to go with it.

Under the circumstances, the report should have identified something symptomatic in the Labour Party race narrative.  The report has recognised the deliberate denial of so called ‘BAME’ members to leadership or representative positions and their reduction to mere foot soldiers again suggesting something endemic and possibly sinister when stating the following,

‘Another excuse with which too many BAME members have been presented as to why they have not been preferred for various leadership or representative positions or candidacies (whether at local or national level) is a lack of appropriate activist experience. Years of active engagement and/or leadership in e.g. a local church, mosque, Gurdwara or other community service or activity, are sometimes thought to be an inadequate alternative to years of door-knocking or attending ward, branch and constituency meetings. Relevant professional experience may also be over-looked (a classic example of the kind of stereotyping which I discussed earlier).’

Suffice to say, in many ways, the report contradicts itself in recognising there is poor representation of Black members throughout the Labour Party yet, nevertheless concludes, ‘The Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism’. How then does it explain the “unwelcoming environment” that Black people experience and how will these recommendations honestly address the above concerns?

‘I am sorry to report that “a welcoming environment” has not been the overwhelming experience of many BAME members, including those from Afro-Caribbean, Muslim and Sikh communities in particular.’

In conclusion, MBC recognises that the Chakrabarti Report has made some important suggestions that could improve some procedures in the Labour Party. However, we are overall, disappointed for its lack of courage and the risk it has created in potentially closing-down important debates concerning references to the holocaust, Hitler, Israel and Palestine and White supremacy political discussions. We also believe there has been far too little consideration of African / Caribbean perspectives despite these communities being lifelong Labour Party supporters who have generously given their vote for little in return. Had the Report been more courageous, it would have perhaps made greater inclusive recommendations and in that respect, it is an opportunity that has been lost.

Momentum Black ConneXions

Interim Steering Committee

Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Labour and the Left

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1 Comment

  1. I generally support the content of the submission, and have long argued that members should be aware of the content of the Equality Act 2010 otherwise how can be keep Local National Government to account as well as all of the public services covered by Section 149 of the Act?

    I am a Jewish women whose father was a Nigerian Christian and am aware of the facts and significance of the Holocaust as well as the facts and impact of the transportation and colonisation of millions of African peoples over 3 centuries. It is not a competition to mention both, and to recognise the political and social consequences of both.

    Liked by 1 person

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