Once More, “We are not Labour’s battleground…”
Foreseeing the almost inevitable fallout from the Labour Party’s seemingly endless internal battles, four months ago Beacon wrote:
As we go into the next phase of our public health crisis, facing twin economic and social crises, we will not stand by and allow our community to be smeared and divided by those who use Liverpool as a battlefield in their squabbles over who should control the Labour, or any other, party machine nationally.
As sure as night follows day, Labour’s internal war has erupted into the wider community.
Labour Against Anti Semitism director, Jonathan Glass, has stated that Liverpool, and specifically (for reasons best known to himself, maybe classic divide and rule, who knows?) Liverpool FC not Everton FC supporters, is the source of more antisemitism “than anywhere else”.
We would not be so naive as to claim Liverpool is a city without any presence of antisemitism.
In fact, Beacon has sought to address the roots of antisemitic conspiracy theories that were creeping into the coronavirus discourse through the various anti-lockdown “freedom” campaigns which gained some traction in the city in 2020:
“ One of the fallouts is that conspiracy theories are gaining traction. These are across a wide spectrum from 5G masts are to blame, to Bill Gates wants to make billions from a vaccine that will be compulsory.
These often soon spread into conspiracy theories hundreds of years old about Jewish bankers wanting to take over the world.
This dates to an old document called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which is a fabricated antisemitic text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination.
Hoax, which was shown to be plagiarized from several earlier sources, was first published in Russia in 1903.
Although it was proven to be fake Henry Ford paid for the distribution of half a million copies and from 1933 the Nazis forced German schools to teach it.”
However, in the absence of any actual evidence to the contrary, we will firmly repudiate claims that this city houses a hotbed of antisemitism.
To say otherwise flies in the face of both history and present.
The Cultural Guide to Jewish Europe states of Liverpool:
Grateful for the warm welcome and the access to all levels of society, much more than in most other English cities, Jewish refugees vividly encouraged their children to integrate, first and foremost through school, and participate in the radiance of the city.
Which explains the great number of local public figures, politicians (among them a few mayors), lawyers.
The Casa, a centre run by former Liverpool dockers, is home to a display that honours the more than 200 scousers of the International Brigades, who volunteered to fight fascism in Spain. 30 of these volunteers gave their lives.
While the International Brigades were fighting the rise of Franco, the British fascists were organising under Oswald Mosley.
Like its counterparts in Germany, Italy and Spain, Mosley’s British Union of Fascists was a movement based upon antisemitism, blaming the Jewish people for the country’s woes.
The British Union of Fascists did have some success in certain parts of the country.
However, Mosley (a toff from a rich aristocrat family) tried to spread the campaign to places where the Blackshirts had previously struggled for support.
And so it was that in October 1937 Mosley and his mob arrived in Liverpool and planned a parade, starting on Queens Drive, on to the city centre, followed by speeches.
Upon arriving at the starting point and throwing up a Nazi salute, Mosley was immediately attacked and hit with bricks.
He spent a week in Walton Hospital and the propaganda march through Liverpool was over before it began.
Mosley wasn’t the last far right leader to attempt to mobilise in Liverpool. Many have followed. Superficially, their targets have changed from Jews to Blacks to Irish to Muslims and, in the case of the abortive Ultra Nazi “White Man March” in Liverpool just a few years ago, back to Jews.
While the overt targets for hate may have been different from time to time, and the organisers’ flags were passed on from Mosley’s blackshirts to the NF to the BNP to the EDL to National Action, and so on, the outcome of these far right incursions into Liverpool never changed.
The working class people of the city mobilised and drove the fascists out of the city.
So, why Liverpool is in the firing line now?
Jonathan Glass specifically mentions supporters of Liverpool FC. To anybody with any knowledge of contemporary football supporters’ culture and the football supporters’ movement, this will at the very least raise eyebrows.
For obvious reasons, the city’s football supporters have been forced to learn what side their bread is buttered on.
This is not to say that there were never racists who supported Liverpool.
But they could never successfully organise as the wider support would never fall for the tricks of the far right.
Football has a special place in Liverpool for many reasons and BT Sport’s excellent “Two Tribes” documents the role that football played in the city’s defiant stance in the 1980s.
Football’s popularity among young working class men has, at times, meant that the game was not only somewhere for the far right to recruit and organise, but something to actually be used as a weapon.
Indeed, this week is the anniversary of the Dublin riot when England fans organised by the Ultra Nazis of Combat 18 caused havoc during an Ireland v England football match.
The far right has had successes in organising within and taking over “firms” from many English (and some Scottish and Welsh) clubs.
The St George flags, emblazoned with club team names from all over the country, are plentiful and in recent years many have become adorned with the logo of the far right DFLA.
In fact, several fan groups have taken to chanting the name of EDL leader, Tommy Robinson.
But not Liverpool.
Regardless of the reasons why, the racism that we have seen over the past 30 to 40 years from every football “mob” with far right affiliations (From NF to C18 to EDL and DFLA) has never materialised here.
Maybe that was one reason why Liverpool fans have never had the problems many others have had in Istanbul. Instead, whether it be away to Galatasaray or Besiktas or a European Cup Final, scousers fall in love with the place!
Football supporters in the city, of whatever shade, have been vigilant in preventing the various iterations of right wing infiltration of football’s stands and terraces.
Liverpool’s SOS supporters’ union have organised and voted against antisemitism and racism, supporter owned City of Liverpool FC have undertaken amazing activity that welcomes refugees, and Everton supporters have fought to rid themselves of an unwanted legacy of the 1980s with huge anti racist banners welcoming new signings.
All the time the DFLA and EDL were actually organising at many other clubs.
But Mr Glass says that the antisemitism is “never” from anywhere else. Never? That’s what he says. Never from Essex, never from Kent.
We respectfully suggest he asks our friends and comrades at the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust about the vile antisemitic abuse they get at certain football grounds, such as at Chelsea – a club with a large following in, yes, Essex and Kent.
The evidence could suggest Mr Glass is at best mistaken and, at worst, some could be led to believe that he is simply seeking to further his cause within the Labour Party at other people’s expense.
Mr Glass’ own words could actually be interpreted by some as leaning towards “othering” people of celtic heritage from three cities with a history and a present of solidarity and working class militancy – Liverpool, Glasgow and Dublin.
The Dublin lockout, the Liverpool transport strike, the Easter Rising, the militant action on the Clyde that was on the brink of revolution, the Anti Poll Tax Unions. Radicalism that endures right up to the present day.
Mr Glass ends by answering his own question – “Why do you think this is?”, which could be interpreted as “what have those 3 places got in common?”, with “Possibly religious antisemitism.”
Is the implication that maybe 3 cities with large catholic populations are centres of antisemitism?
Given the city’s support for the Labour Party, and the absolute mountain of votes from the traditionally Catholic Scotland Road, Vauxhall, St Joseph’s and Holy Cross areas that prop up Labour in Liverpool, such accusations from within that Party would cut to the core.
This city has supported Labour in recent times more than anywhere else. Look how safe those Westminster seats are, look at the list of councillors giving Labour a long-standing dominance in the Town Hall.
A city built on immigration, a city that The Cultural Guide to Jewish Europe says offered a “warm welcome”, a city that is overwhelmingly Labour, deserves to be defended against these attacks from within Labour. By our elected representatives. By the party itself.
Liverpool Labour is silent, sphinx like, on the matter. As if they’re simply hoping this prejudice from within their party will go just away.
Indeed, the best that a long-standing local Labour councillor, representing the area where Liverpool’s Irish Catholic heritage is strongest, could offer when questioned about this slur upon his constituents was to say that Mr Glass didn’t accuse “every” Liverpool supporter or Catholic!
Cllr Kennedy clearly has an opinion on this matter. If he, or any representatives of the Liverpool Labour Party, believe that Beacon’s analysis is incorrect and that there is a particular problem of antisemitism among the city’s Liverpool FC supporting or Catholic communities, then it is incumbent upon them to identify it, evidence it and confront it.
In taking on antisemitism, history shows Labour would be assured of solid backing from its Liverpool working class support.
If not, and if Beacon’s analysis is correct, then it is unequivocally the job of the Labour Party in the city to refute the accusations made by Labour Against Anti Semitism’s director in the most robust terms and demand that the party acts to sanction those making such unfounded and highly damaging allegations.
Whether in silent agreement with the allegations or in silent fear of igniting one of Labour’s most combustible debates, it certainly isn’t the role of Labour in Liverpool to remain muted while one of the party’s most loyal constituencies is smeared in this way.
This is a Labour Party problem and now entire cities are caught up as collateral damage.
The Party’s internal battles have spilled out and smeared communities in three great cities with proud histories of fighting racism and fascism.
Proud histories that Labour could learn from as it appears to veer down a dead end of flag waving nationalism https://beaconliverpool.co.uk/city-state-devolution-not-more-flag-waving-nationalism/
If Labour cannot address this issue then we in Liverpool, as the only Labour city of the three targeted, need to address Labour.
If the Party and its elected representatives are unwilling or unable to effectively oppose such a damaging narrative being flung from within the Labour ranks then Liverpool is entitled to rethink its loyalty to Labour.
If the party chooses to do nothing then Liverpool may ask of Labour, quoting Tony Blair when refusing the Hillsborough inquest, “what is the point?”
We’ve been tarnished before, by the establishment and the press. We fought back and the truth won. It will win again.
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Once More, “We are not Labour’s battleground…” Foreseeing the almost inevitable fallout from the Labour Party’s seemingly endless internal battles, four months ago Beacon wrote: