A Crisis of Antirationalism

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pledge.jpg

The Israel lobby must be delighted with the events of the last 48 hours. With the exception of Clive Lewis, all the Labour leadership candidates have signed up to the BoD’s (Board of Deputies’) ten point pledge. And Lewis, struggling to secure the PLP signatures he needs to progress, will now be under immense pressure to follow suit. This signals the collapse of the finest achievement of Corbyn’s leadership – the commitment to an ethical foreign policy.

Jewish Dissident 13 Jan 2020

I welcome and support the statements of Jewish Dissident and Jewish Voice for Labour and Labour Against the Witchhunt.

Make no mistake these are not ten requests: they are ten demands and one threat. The threat to each of the candidates for leader of the Labour Party is in effect – accept our demands or we will attack you as enablers of antisemitism just as we contributed to making Jeremy Corbyn virtually unelectable. This not only brings shame on the Board of Deputies. It also brings danger to Jews living in the UK who will be seen as claiming a privileged place in determining how the country will be governed.

Jewish Voice for Labour 15 Jan 2020

These statements are very correct, very obviously correct, in pointing out both the threat and the impropriety of these audatious demands.

We believe that the BoD’s ‘10 Pledges’ are an outrageous political interference by an organisation that is overtly hostile to today’s Labour Party and everything it stands for. If implemented, these policies would for example, result in the suspensions and expulsions of the thousands of Labour members who have stood in open solidarity with those wrongly accused of antisemitism, including Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and Marc Wadsworth.

Labour Against the Witchhunt 15 Jan 2020

The collapse of an ethical foreign policy, the danger to Jews from being associated with a demand for political privilege, the suspensions and expulsions of thousands of Labour members. All of these are matters of grave concern and it is worth reading through each of these articles for their arguments against the ten pledges.

My own principle concern, however, is with the threat posed by these pledges to our commitment, as a society, to truth and rationality. The terms ‘rationality’, ‘rationalism’ and ‘reason’ all refer to the principle of basing opinion and action on experience and knowledge, logic and analysis rather than on emotion or authority, power or privilege.

The commitment to reason should be held as a trust more sacred than any political or pragmatic ambition. The betrayal of reason opens the door to all other betrayals and all other vices. I cannot overstate this. No one who abandons reason and makes obeisance to antirationalism is fit to lead a political party that aspires to lead a nation. And this is what Labour’s aspirants to leadership have done, publicly, blatantly, bizarrely and shamefully.

I did not have to read far into the statement of Rebecca Long-Bailey to come to the following paragraph:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rlb-1024x692.jpg

The only acceptable response to any accusation of racist prejudice is self-scrutiny, self-criticism and self-improvement.

Rebecca Long Bailey 12 Jan 2020

Gathering the fragments of a mind blown by the blatant antirationalism of that statement, I continued to RLB’s statement of absolute commitment to implement the pledges:

We now have a duty to respond to any recommendations they make by enacting them swiftly and in full.

I will also enact all of the Board of Deputies’ recommendations, and I believe that our processes must be transparent, fully independent and with proper independent scrutiny. When elected as Leader, I will work with the Jewish Labour Movement to reform them further.

Rebecca Long-Bailey 12 Jan 2020

The first quoted paragraph sets the tone for the commitment in the second quotation so there can be no doubt that Long-Bailey has abdicated her duty as leader and as a human being to be fully independent and to apply fully independent and rational scrutiny in all matters.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Emily_Thornberry_2016_Labour_Party_Conference_2.jpg

Emily Thornberry’s first paragraph also shocked me:

When an expert looks into a problem you have – whether it’s a doctor, a mechanic, or a plumber – you take their advice and follow it without thinking twice.

Emily Thornberry 8 Jan 2020

What? To take anyone’s advice ‘without thinking twice’ is irrational. It is lazy and dangerous and the consequences are often disasterous. I know; I’ve been there and done that and have always promised not to do it again.

Thornberry recovers her reason somewhat in her second paragraph:

So when the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and imminently the Equalities and Human Rights Commission give the Labour Party specific recommendations about how we need to root out the poison of antisemitism from our movement, our starting point must not be to dispute their proposals but ensure every single one is implemented unless we can rationally explain why not.

Emily Thornberry 8 Jan 2020

The second paragraph somewhat mitigates the first but given the tone of the first paragraph and the whole of her statement I hold out little hope for a commitment to rational debate. However I refer Thornberry and her supporters to the arguments of Jewish Dissident, Jewish Voice for Labour and Labour against the Witchhunt for rational explanations as to why the ten pledges should not be adopted.

That’s it then. This essay has gone on long enough and I wish thank anyone who has had the patience to get this far. But there’s more and if you will indulge me a bit longer I offer an alternative ten commitments (to be read to the tune of the ten pledges).

Ten Commitments to Challenging Discriminatory, Threatening, Inappropriate and Antirationalist behaviour in the Labour Party.

1. We will assess, investigate and resolve all cases involving complaints or allegations of discriminatory or otherwise threatening or inappropriate behaviour against members as swiftly as possible and in accordance with such a schedule of processes as is necessary to ensure that complaints are dealt with in a way that is fair and is perceived to be fair.

2. The Party’s disciplinary processes will avoid the risk of being influenced by partisanship and factionalism by being based on clear and objective criteria agreed to by the membership. The stages of assessment, investigation and resolution will refer to the agreed criteria. Where the resolution and consequent decisions regarding an individual’s status in the party is challenged then there should be a process of appeal that, where appropriate, can involve adjudication by independent and legally qualified agencies.

3. All disciplinary processes will be open and transparent. This means that all parties involved in complaints will be informed of the processes through which judgements have been made and the criteria on which they have been made. Updates will be given at the end of initial assessment, the end of investigations and as part of the final judgement. Personal information regarding individuals involved in the case will remain confidential as per our legal obligations.

4. All members have an equal right to fair treatment regardless of their prominence or obscurity. Their having left or having been expelled from the Party should in itself not bar them from readmission. Reasons for expulsion may be re-examined with regard to whether their expulsion was fair and with regard to whether those reasons still exist.

5. The right of MPs, Peers, councillors, members or CLPs, as citizens, to freedom of thought, speech and conscience and to dissent from a decision taken by the Party or some agency within it shall not be infringed. Nor shall their rights of freedom of association be infringed.

Justice is not complete without the right to question and challenge decisions. Suspensions only occur where an individual is suspected of discriminatory or otherwise threatening or inappropriate behaviour and in strict accordance with agreed criteria for making such an assessment.

6. The Party adopts the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination:

Discrimination between human beings on the ground of race, colour, or ethnic origin is an offence to human dignity and shall be condemned as a denial of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and as a fact capable of disturbing peace and security among nations.

The Party applies the same principles of respect for persons with regard to discrimination on grounds of Religion, Gender and Sexual Orientation.

The Party accepts the principles and recommendations of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in 2001. (https://www.un.org/WCAR/index.html).

7. We will initiate a four year anti-racism and anti-discrimination discussion that seeks the involvement of all sections of the community at local, national and regional levels. All CLPs and BLPs will seek to involve their members in conversation to extend our collective understanding of racism and discrimination and to challenge its occurence within the party and in society in general.

8. We will seek engage wih all ethnic communities via their representative groups but also via groups within those communities that may represent strands of thought that differ from majority opinion within those communities and also via individuals that represent only their own individual perspectives.

We recognise human rights as essentially individual rights deriving from respect for persons and from the dignity of each human being as an end in his or herself rather than as a means to the ends of any other individual or any collective. To this end we seek the broadest interface of engagement with communities and individuals of all ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.

9. Communication that is authentic and passionate is important as is communication that is measured and courteous. As we free communication to be authentic and passionate we must also ensure that it remains measured and courteous. The way we express ourself should be such that encourages rather that suppresses legitimate debate, that is to say debate that does not intimidate or oppress and that adheres to collectively agreed criteria that will themselves be a matter of debate and review. Paragraph

10. Leadership means responsibility. Any leader would be expected to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the Party and of all of its members. No individual or group within the Party should be subject to discriminatory behaviour of any kind. The leader of the Party will build structures and take actions to tackle all form of institutional unfairness and will take actions to eliminate discrimination at all levels of the Party.

The leader and all members have a responsibility to call out all forms of unfairness and discrimination without fear or favour but within the parametres of justice, courtesy and measured action. No individual or group has more or less right to fair treatment than any other individual or group.