The Marxist societies at UCL, KCL, and LSE stand by Labour MP Chris Williamson, who has come under attack from Labour student societies in London and elsewhere.
UCL Labour recently released a statement on Twitter saying that they would no longer provide campaigning support for Westminster CLP, because of the CLP’s invitation of an “anti-Semite” speaker to one of its events.
The speaker in question, Chris Williamson MP, is one of Labour’s most left-wing MPs - a consistent defender of socialist ideas and of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
UCL Labour’s statement has subsequently been echoed in statements from Labour student societies at Birkbeck, LSE, Edinburgh, and elsewhere. We ask these Labour clubs: on what evidence is this accusation of anti-Semitism based?
Due to @WestminsterCLP's invitation of anti-Semite Chris Williamson to speak, UCL Labour will no longer be campaigning for that CLP and we urge other Labour clubs to do the same until he is uninvited and an apology issued. Anti-Semitism has no place within the Labour Party— UCL Labour Society (@ucllabour) November 21, 2018
The only concrete reason given thus far for slandering Williamson is his defence of anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth. Wadsworth was expelled from the Labour Party earlier this year for a comment made in 2016, in which he accused Ruth Smeeth MP of “working hand in hand” with a right-wing newspaper, the Telegraph.
Smeeth claimed that this “verbal attack” was directed as an insult against her Jewish identity. But there is no evidence whatsoever for this allegation. In fact, Wadsworth’s comment was accusing Smeeth - like many other so-called “moderate” Labour MPs - of politically colluding with the right-wing media in attacking Corbyn and left-wing Labour members.
These allegations of anti-Semitism against Williamson and Wadsworth are part of a wider campaign of politically-motivated smears aimed against Jeremy Corbyn and the left wing of the Labour Party. This smear campaign is being led by a clique of Blairite MPs, with the full support of the establishment media, the Tories, and now - it seems - a handful of Labour society committees.
Grassroots Labour members, however, have not fallen so easily for these slanders. Indeed, organisations like Jewish Voice for Labour have consistently defended Corbyn and figures such as Williamson against accusations of anti-Semitism, highlighting the political motivation behind this witch-hunt.
Rather than making unilateral decisions to attack left-wingers such as Chris Williamson, we call on the Labour society committees in question to call open meetings, where they should explain and justify their decision to Labour society members, with all members given the right to question the committee and hold them to account.
We reiterate: we support Chris Williamson MP, and we support the decision by Westminster CLP to invite him to speak. Enough is enough - this smear campaign against Corbyn, Williamson, and the Labour Left must end.
Signed by UCL Marxists, KCL Marxists, and LSE Marxists
Smears and slanders cause crisis in Sheffield Labour Students
By Stan Laight, Sheffield Hallam CLP and Sheffield Marxists
In the first six weeks of this academic year, the Sheffield Labour Students (SLS) society at the University of Sheffield saw mass-resignations from their left-wing committee and cancelled an event involving Chris Williamson MP. Now less than half of the committee positions are filled and SLS is in danger being taken over by the Blairites.
These resignations have come about because SLS committee members have been unable to argue against or challenge the bogus charge of anti-Semitism that has been levelled against Williamson by the leadership of the Sheffield Jewish Society (SJS).
Back in April, a group of activists who were involved with the student-worker solidarity campaign during the UCU strikes and the occupation in Sheffield put together a left slate to take over the Labour club from the Blairites at the SLS AGM [Annual General Meeting]. This slate was successful and the takeover was viewed as a success by the wider group who promoted the slate.
After a summer of lacklustre activity from the committee and one resignation, SLS had a poor freshers’ fair. Then, just four weeks into the term, SLS were already holding their 2nd EGM [Emergency General Meeting] to fill several positions. These included a new co-chair and secretary. The EGM managed to elect some new first-year members to fill empty positions, but these members are yet to express any substantial political views.
The Events and Publicity officer (EPO) and the Political Campaigns officer (PCO) had helped organise a talk on ‘Why we need an anti-war government’. Williamson and Steven Bell (from Stop the War) were invited as speakers.
But a letter was then received from SJS, which scandalously alleged that Williamson’s presence posed a “threat to Jewish students on campus”. The EPO immediately capitulated and opposed the event that they themselves had organised.
The remaining committee members then voted to postpone the event. Only three members stood firm and called for the meeting to remain. This included a Jewish Voice for Labour comrade on the committee.
Despite this concession, several of the SLS committee resigned under pressure from the SJS leadership. One of the SJS co-chairs, for example, publically rescinded their Labour Party membership in protest at the Williamson event.
The mass resignations from the SLS committee have now left a space for right-wing society members to mobilise and take back control. An EGM is to be held. If mandatory positions are not filled, SLS will be forced to fold under Sheffield University Student Union rules.
In the end, the postponed event - with the original speakers - was finally held on Thursday 8th November, re-organised by Sheffield Labour Left (in the town, not the university). They had planned to host it at a hotel, but had to relocate it to Sheffield Labour and Trades Club after “anonymous threats” were sent to the hotel.
What has happened to SLS should serve as a warning: the Labour left must stand firm in the face of this smear campaign.
Unfortunately, instead of highlighting the political motivations behind these lies and slanders, the left-wing student activists who took over SLS capitulated under right-wing pressure.
This fiasco in SLS also demonstrates the ongoing struggle that is taking place within Labour Students and the wider Labour Party. The cynical smears and attacks on the Labour Party left are the product of a desperate attempt to prevent a left-wing Labour government.
All this demonstrates is that the fight for socialist ideas in the Labour Party must continue with renewed vigour. There are clearly still people within the Party who don’t support Corbyn, even though the vast majority of us do. And this minority is trying to undemocratically sabotage our movement.
We urgently need to democratise the Labour Party, starting with the automatic right of local parties to reselect parliamentary candidates – something that Chris Williamson has consistently argued for.
Only with a party that is united in its commitment to fundamentally transform society can we solve the problems faced by ordinary people today.