Say no to hate speech
HOT’s Sean O’Shea continues his discussion of the prevalence of hate on the left and suggests how it can be addressed at local Labour Party branches. He argues that unless it’s accepted that the personal is political, socialists may be condemned to repeat the patterns of the past and face a future in the political wilderness.
Demonising individuals and groups that don’t agree with us has no place in the new politics or in civil political discourse. However at Momentum’s A World Transformed Festival last year the sale of ‘We still hate Thatcher’ T-shirts and ‘Tories are vermin’ mugs was regarded as acceptable (see A World Trasnformed). And reference to Tories as ‘vermin’ who should be ‘eradicated,’ in spite of policies prohibiting such language, is still tolerated and defended in some local Labour Party circles as a reasonable way to indicate severe disapproval of an opponent’s political position.
It is ironic that if a sixth former at one of our local schools spoke to or texted another young person in these terms, his parents would immediately be informed and the school would insist on a prompt apology to the unfortunate child that was the target of such hostility. If the offending young person attempted to rationalise his behaviour by insisting that he passionately hated his Tory schoolmates and was only using words, which he knew were once used by the esteemed Nye Bevan, it would not be considered a justification for the abuse. He would be reminded that all human beings are worthy of respect, and that he should try to emulate his hero’s strengths not their weaknesses.
If any of our local Labour councillors received an anonymous letter through their letter box, or texts or emails describing them and their children as ‘vermin’ who should be ‘eradicated,’ they would understandably be upset, and more likely than not report the incident to the police. And it would of course be their civic duty to do so.
All of the above are fairly basic human decencies and considerations, but they appear to no longer apply in parts of the Labour Party. It is the intemperate, narcissistic posturing of Donald Trump rather than the humanity and decency of Jeremy Corbyn or Tony Benn that are sometimes echoed by impassioned Labour Party supporters both young and old. The lesson that you don’t defeat political opponents by descending to the lowest level of mutual abuse and personal vilification unfortunately remains to be learnt, and this resistance to learning may have damaging effects on the party’s electoral prospects.
Indeed during the Labour Party leadership election last year, the atmosphere became so toxic that all branch meetings were prohibited for a time, allegedly in the interest of protecting party members from the wrath of their own comrades.
Say no to hate speech appeal
Hate is a strong word. It communicates to individuals or groups that they are unworthy of being treated with basic human respect and decency, and Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to ‘stamp out hateful language’ in the Labour Party
Some local Labour Party members recently organised a ‘Say no to hate speech’ appeal. Writer and HOT contributor Chandra Masoliver (above) was amongst those who attended a leafleting session on Tuesday 28 February outside the Central Hall, Station Rd, where the Hastings and Rye Constituency Labour Party held their AGM. While party officials expressed irritation at this alleged ‘diversion’ from the task of winning the local elections, most attendees responded positively to the action.
What you can do
If you are a Labour Party member and want to support Corbyn with the implementation of this exacting pledge, here are some things you could do:
- Challenge comrades who use or condone hateful language
- Contact your local Labour councillor and ask them to endorse Corbyn’s pledge renouncing the use of hateful language.
- Request that your local branch debate and approve a motion repudiating the use of hate speech in the Labour Party
What you might learn
If you are new to the arcane procedural protocols of the Labour Party you will learn something about the process of getting a motion seconded and accepted for debate and decision at a branch meeting. If at first you encounter resistance, or can’t find anyone to second your motion, don’t be disheartened; talk with your comrades and try again when you feel you may have more support for the issue. You will learn something about the degree of democracy that obtains in your local branch and, by implication, the nature of the obstacles that may be in the way of Jeremy Corbyn’s democratising project.
A better world is possible, but until more people on the Left accept that the personal is political, and that they need to demonstrate what a respectful, reflective and self aware form of social relations might look like in the present, they will be condemned to repeat the patterns of the past and face a future in the political wilderness.
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