History of The Lynching
In October 2016 I was removed as vice Chair of Momentum and suspended from the Labour Party. It was the second time in a year I had been suspended, each time for anti-Semitism and ‘bringing the Party into disrepute’. But that’s only half the story.
Threats, abuse, smears and suggestions – I should be burned, sent to a Muslim rape gang, lynched – it was a deluge!
You can read more about my political lynching here – https://www.opendemocracy.net/tony-greenstein/lynching-of-jackie-walker
It didn’t stop with social media. Without checking the story with me (normal journalistic practice), every national newspaper and TV station joined in, repeating the inaccuracies and smears of the Jewish Chronicle, a little known paper that ‘bats above its weight’ edited by Stephen Pollard, right wing journalist and escapee from a Fleet street scandal. He appears to have taken the Chronicle to new depths of inaccurate reporting. Here’s just one snippet about him;
“Mr Pollard, who was one of the Express’s regular leader-writers, used the first letter of every paragraph to spell out the phrase “Fuck you Desmond”. His verbal two-finger salute was hidden within a fairly benign leader column about problems facing the farming industry. One insider at the Express said “It’s very unprofessional. It’s the kind of thing you might do when you were starting out on the Harlow Gazette. But not if you are an executive on a paper.”
The threats and smears kept coming. That might have been the end of the story but I knew about political lynchings, I knew something about witch-hunts. As a child, I’d heard my mother talk of what happened to her and my father in America during the struggle for black Civil Rights. I’d heard of the persecution of the left during McCarthyism and I was sure – this was not the time for silence, this was a time to speak out.
Want to find out more about McCarthysim and the persecution of the left in America in the 1950s? There’s lots of information on line, for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/arthur-miller-mccarthyism/484/
There have always been well thought out ways to oppress and silence people of colour in America. During slavery, the notion of a white person murdering an enslaved person was in many ways a contradiction. After all, a slave was property and as such their only legal status was equivalent to an animal’s – there at the behest of your owners. When slavery ended in the United States, methods of control over the black population needed to develop new forms- lynching – a form of legalised murder, was one. While there were lynchings of blacks across the US they were mostly concentrated in the Southern states which still depended heavily on black labour and where segregation maintained an apartheid society. Legislation to prevent lynchings were repeatedly blocked in the Senate. The terror of lynching was not simply needed to keep control of the black labour force. Blacks had to be silenced, prevented from taking up their rights as free people to vote and play a part in decision making. Who knows how many lynchings occurred – many thousands – but their main purpose and effect was to strike fear into the hearts of black people – keep your mouth shut, or else.
Photographing lynchings became popular with postcards made. According to Time magazine,
“By the time lynching exploded, photography had become a well-organized profession and a mass-market plaything. Even the Nazis did not stoop to selling souvenirs of Auschwitz, but lynching scenes became a burgeoning subdepartment of the postcard industry. By 1908, the trade had grown so large that the U.S. Postmaster General banned the cards from the mails.”
In recent years, lynching black people has been replaced by other methods – the police killings of black people, the metaphorical lynching of destroying a person’s public and social credibility. The purpose is always the same – to silence, control and oppress.
How did this happen in Britain in 2015?
Let’s face it, those who have it, never want to let power go. Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party in September 2015, as his campaign got underway, the main stream-media was suddenly full of stories of anti-semitism, both about Corbyn and members of the Labour Party. Now you may ask, how come we had never heard these stories before? How could one of the best known, anti-racists in Parliament be a racist? Well, if you have no scruples, have friends in the media and are prepared to twist the truth, it’s seems anything’s possible!
But it wasn’t just the Leader being smeared, Labour activists and ordinary members, including a number of Jews and life-long antiracists, were suddenly having their private Facebook posts ‘trawled’ and being reported as ‘Jew haters’. Party members were encouraged to ‘inform’ the disciplinary unit of the Labour Party (the rather aptly named Compliance Unit) of abuse. Thing was, the Compliance Unit seemed to many more concerned with abuse that might condemn those on the left.
If you want to find out more about the political links between support for Israel and the right, both inside and outside the Labour party, try some links here.
Claims of racist abuse – anti-semitism to be specific – began to reach extraordinary proportions as thousands of Labour Party members were suspended and put through ‘judgement by media’ and a Party disciplinary process that seemed to have little to do with natural justice. Private data, confidential discussions held by the Labour Party were routinely and illegally leaked to the media (breaking Data Protection legislation). At times, leaks appeared to be coming from closed NEC meetings before they had even finished!
This was happening at the same time as all available research showed that while Jews were at times subjected to bigoted, racist comments they were well represented, at all levels of the Labour Party.
My first suspension in May 2016 was one of the shortest (4 weeks) but it barely mattered, the damage was done. My reputation was trashed. Every word I said had the potential to be recorded, taken out of context and twisted. I had been set up for the next suspension.
Fast-forward to the Labour Party conference 2016 and a training session run by the supporters of Israel, affiliates of the Labour Party, supported by the right wing group Progress – the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) . http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/who-are-jewish-labour-movement/#sthash.1PMYtkdp.dpbs
The training session was a closed meeting; you couldn’t get in without being a member of the Party. According to witnesses, a senior member of the JLM was filming. Edited highlights of the event were circulated to the media. Some might question why the Labour Party has still not investigated this breach of data, in particular as you could argue it was the breach that brought the Party into disrepute. By the way, the JLM Official alleged to have filmed has since become a Labour councillor. If you want to see the full version of what happened, have a look here.
When the TV station Aljazeera showed their 4 part documentary ‘The Lobby’ that exposed the shinnaneygans behind the Israel lobby in the UK, in particular in the Labour Party, I was sure I would at last get some redress. Surely there would have to be an enquiry (I was told there would be on the highest authority). I was sure – the media would at last give me space for a proper response. No way!
Want to watch The Lobby? Here it is. The Training Session (programme 2) concentrates on what happened to me. http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/
The Guardian, that had happily regurgitated the smears first printed by the Jewish Chronicle, refused to take an article from me for Comment is Free. They simply said they were not commissioning stories at the moment (ridiculous!). That’s when I got the idea – if I was censored by the gatekeepers of the media, I’d have to take my story direct to the people.
Forget speeches, forget articles. I wanted to find a way of getting to the emotions of it, to the ‘personal is the political’. I asked Norman Thomas, a political comrade, activist, writer and director I’d collaborated with a number of times, to collaborate on a show. This seemed particularly apt as he’d been a witness to the JLM’s so called training session as well as so much else that the story was about. For some of Norman Thomas’ story, go here – https://thanetwatch.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/jackie-walker-statement/
Norman agreed to collaborate and over the next few months we wrote and rehearsed. It would have to be basic – we had no money. We could only use a few props – all very Brecht. We’d have to fund-raise or get people to donate venues. There would be opposition, there would be dirty tricks. Never mind.
I’d tell the story, play all the parts, even sing a few songs AND give the audience 30 minutes to ask questions or make comments. The aim was to ‘do’ politics in a new way, perform the show a few times in Thanet, take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and finish with a performance at the Labour Party Conference. That was the intention. We knew – for each person who saw The Lynching we’d be reaching maybe 10 more. But what would we call it? Given the history, there could only be one name – The Lynching.
Threats to the Amsterdam Hotel, the first venue in Brighton (Labour Party conference 2017) – they pulled out.