Debate Magazine

Momentum is Taking the Pizza on Black Representation

Posted on the 18 March 2016 by Lesterjholloway @brolezholloway
    Momentum is taking the pizza on Black representation

The Jeremy Corbyn fan club that is Momentum has been seeking the deselection of MPs, like deputy leadership candidate and Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, who has campaigned hard on payday loan companies.

But for Momentum to target a Labour member who isn't even an MP, in an effort to torch her political career almost before it has begun, marks a new low.

Labour's party-within-a-party is apparently furious that Florence Eshalomi, a Lambeth councillor, is organising a pizza and politics fundraiser for her London assembly campaign next Wednesday. The move was slammed by Chuka Umunna (see Huff Post article here).

They claim she is a "Blairite". I'm unclear what the evidence is to support this terrible allegation. Is it her ten years serving local constituents or her work combating violent crime? Or maybe her links with local churches? None of these things seem particularly Blairite to me.

What about her work for a national race equality think tank with almost 50 years history of advancing race equality policies in Britain? No, not conclusive evidence of Blairism there either. The Arts Council? The Co-operative Movement? Sorry, none of this passes the 'beyond all reasonable doubt' test. And anyway, do Blairites even really exist these days? Or are all moderates automatically Blairites?

To the best of my knowledge Florence is on Labour's moderate wing. For this treasonous offence Momentum plan to picket her fundraiser event in a bid to stop her becoming the first politician of Nigerian heritage elected to City Hall, a city with a very high Nigerian population.

I can only assume that evidence of a decade as a local councillor and community activist was disallowed in the court of Momentum. I cannot believe that Corbyn himself approves of the actions of his disciples. Throughout decades as a rebellious backbencher Labour's leader has shown he 'gets' race equality. He has campaigned on a multitude of issues side by side with Diane Abbott and the late Bernie Grant.

Even the old Black Sections that got Diane and Bernie elected in 1987 was supported Black members who were not on the hard Left. They were included in the cause for Black political representation. The Black Sections enjoyed some support on the Bennite Left, but also opposition from them. To succeed, that generation of Black activists simultaneously fought the Kinnock-Hattersley leadership and elements in the Unions and other sections of the Left... and won.

The implication of Momentum's activity against Elashomi is that Black politicians must be 'one of them' to avoid deselection or pickets outside a pizzeria. It is a highly insulting and patronising view of Black representation which assumes that communities need or deserve only one 'type' of elected representative. It denies the reality that Black Labour voters have a spectrum of views on the Left or that this progressive spectrum should be reflected.

It wouldn't be so bad if the Left had a long record of being in sync with Black communities. But the reality is that the hard Left regard class analysis as supreme while the cause of tackling racism is relegated to ad hoc campaigns viewed entirely through that class prism. Over any period, the hard Left can point to many worthy campaigns for rights and justice for people of colour but closer inspection reveals gaps between these fads.

In recent years the hard Left has tacked onto asylum and immigration, running campaigns against regressive legislation, but sidelined long-running issues of institutional racism and unequal racial outcomes for Black people in Britain. Their attention is peaked by examples of clearly explicit racism, such as remarks and incidents, but show little appetite for engaging in the harder grind of policy solutions for unequal racial outcomes.

Rising Islamophobia rightly occupies their attention, but the hard Left often describe this as 'the new racism' as if the old racism went away. They profess support for liberation struggles and indigenous rights across the world, but are not quite so active on the challenges facing Black communities on a daily basis. Apart from putting it all down to the capitalist elite, that is. Thanks, that really helps.

They will support Black justice campaigns but only if the bandwagon looks big enough, and will engage in Black organisations but only if they are successful enough to be worth taking over. And Unite, which has a fair few Momentum supporters in its' ranks, has a pretty miserable record in backing Black wannabe-MPs in constituency selections where they effectively hold the casting vote.

To the cause of racial equality the hard Left are fair-weather friends, and to the cause of proletariat revolution racism is merely an opportunity for occasional campaigns to advance loftier goals.

Moderate Black politicians like Eshalomi don't make good backseat passengers on the hard Left's meandering journey to worker liberation. In their eyes, years of community activity are the surely actions of a self-serving Blairite seeking to uphold an oppressive Imperialist system. Countless evenings spent in council committees merely a cover for secretly planning more wars to feed the military-industrial complex. Black political representation? Only if the white Politburo agree.

The African struggle for independence drew support from Soviet Russia, but was also the cause of friction due to the African desire for true independence of destiny, of not wanting to swap one 'master' for another. And so it is with Momentum today. Black representation should reflect the full range of views and perspectives to be truly representative across political parties and within them. Diversity of opinion and the right to choose are all key.

Black politicians face enough challenges without a new one of not being Momentum enough. So let Florence and her supporters enjoy their pizza in peace. You never know, they might even order a stuffed crusty.

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