The New Stasi

I will repeat myself. I will probably upset some people. I will undoubtedly bore many people. But I make no apology for this. I feel obliged to bang on about this. No one is obliged to read anything I write.

Let me start (for beginners) by quoting an entire Guardian article:

The new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has ordered an immediate review into a leaked internal report into antisemitism in the party which concluded that factional hostility to his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, hampered efforts to tackle the problem.

Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner, said on Monday that an independent investigation would examine the leaking of the 860-page document, details of which emerged over the weekend, as well as its contents including the “wider culture and practices” it refers to and the “background and circumstances in which the report was commissioned and the process involved”.

The report uncovered many failings in the process for tackling antisemitism complaints before Jennie Formby, the current general secretary, took over in 2018. It said there was an “abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in party HQ in this period, which appears to have affected the expeditious and resolute handling of disciplinary complaints”.

It was intended to be submitted as an annex to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission inquiry into Labour’s approach to dealing with antisemitism. It is understood that it will now not be submitted.

The report was completed this year in the last months of Corbyn’s leadership and its conclusions clash with complaints of whistleblowers, formerly working for Labour, who told BBC Panorama last year there had been political interference in the process from the top of the party under Corbyn.

The report, seen by the Guardian, says it found no evidence of antisemitism complaints being treated differently from other forms of complaint, or of current or former staff being “motivated by antisemitic intent”.

“We have also asked for immediate sight of any legal advice the Labour party has already received about the report,” Starmer and Rayner said in a statement.

“In the meantime, we ask everyone concerned to refrain from drawing conclusions before the investigation is complete and we will be asking the general secretary to put measures in place to protect the welfare of party members and party staff who are concerned or affected by this report.”

The previous Labour leadership’s handling of allegations of antisemitism against party members overshadowed parts of the 2019 general election campaign. During a high-profile televised interview with Andrew Neil, Corbyn repeatedly declined to apologise to the British Jewish community for the way his party had handled complaints.

The previous Labour leadership’s handling of allegations of antisemitism against party members overshadowed parts of the 2019 general election campaign. During a high-profile televised interview with Andrew Neil, Corbyn repeatedly declined to apologise to the British Jewish community for the way his party had handled complaints.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/labour-leader-sir-kier-starmer-orders-urgent-review-leaked-antisemitism-report

This is an example of reporting that gives a broadly factual account of an event or circumstance without giving any indication of iimportance through omission of the event’s most salient aspects and/or through failure to discuss its context.

The context of the leaked report is that it details the findings an internal investigation into the handling of allegations of antisemitism submitted to the Labour Party. It had been alleged by employees of the Party, charged with dealing with these allegations, that they were prevented from doing so through interferrence by Jeremy Corbyn and/or members of his office. The report argues that this allegation of interferrence is false and that staff making the allegation, members of the party’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU), delayed dealing with complaints of antisemitism because they were much more concerned with undermining Jeremy Corbyn and that they deliberately frustrated efforts to resolve the issue. To this end they used their brief to persecute supporters of Corbyn rather than deal with actual incidences of antisemitism. In addition to this, their behaviour and their speech was racist, sexist and openly hostile to Corbyn and his allies. Many instances of behaviour designed to undermine the leader and the electability of the party under that leader are detailed in the report with evidence from their WhatsApp communications.

It is rightly a matter of grave concern to Labour Party members and leaders that an identified group of Party staff conspired to sabotage the programme of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and that these staff made allegations of interferrence in their work by Corbyn’s office. These allegations are part of a complaint alleging institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party that is being investigated by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It would seem obvious that an internal report that contradicts these allegations should be submitted to the ECHR but the current Labour leadership under Kier Starmer decided not to submit the report. Had it not been leaked, the public, and presumably the ECHR, would not have seen this report.

Labour Party members are very reasonably asking why Starmer and the Labour leadership would decide to suppress this very relevant evidence. But while I have seen extensive discussion on Facebook and Twitter among members of the Labour Party, there has been, so far, little comment from Labour Party MPs and the mainstream media has not,so far, disussed the issue much beyond the bare (and bleached?) bones given in the quoted Guardian article.

I note that people who are talking about the report are talking about how staff colluded to undermine Corbyn and sabotage Labour’s election chances; but, in my view, profoundly worst than this is the abuse of members who did not know that when they signed up to join the Party that they were also signing up to be surveilled under a “new stasi system” (the term used by the GLU staff). If members do not understand the implication of this system and its implicit ethos, those who abused their trust apparently did. If members do not take this seriously. I do. I find it terrifying.

At a moment when states are taking more and more control of the physical aspects our lives and, working with social media corparations that we depend on for our communication, have increasing power to monitor everything we say and do; do we really wish to entrust the reins of government to a party whose instinct is to monitor and censure heterodox opinion and conversation and, essentially, to constrain and control thought?

A society in which people are afraid to express opinion and engage in free and rational discourse cannot be called ‘open’, ‘free’ or ‘democratic’.

Everyone has a line, a territory or cause, that they consider sacred ground and that they will defend with passion. I believe that this, the issue of freedom of thought and discourse is my sacred ground.

I will never vote for and will always oppose any ‘new stasi’ party be it of the left or of the right. As with everyone who has a cause that they believe is important, I am obliged, and it is all that I can do, to try to persuade others of its primary importance.

Report Exerpt
Report Exerpt

See Link to Full Labour Report:

See Wikipedia on the Stasi:

The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) or State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD), commonly known as the Stasi (IPA: [ˈʃtaːziː]),[n 1] was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies ever to have existed…

One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung, literally meaning decomposition). It arrested 250,000 people as political prisoners during its existence.[9] Its Main Directorate for Reconnaissance (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung) was responsible for both espionage and for conducting covert operations in foreign countries. Under its long-time head Markus Wolf, this directorate gained a reputation as one of the most effective intelligence agencies of the Cold War. The Stasi also maintained contacts, and occasionally cooperated, with Western terrorists.[10][11]

Wikipedia