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Opinion We’re fighting Labour’s anti-socialist purge in the High Court

SAMEH HABEEB explains why the Left Legal Fighting Fund is taking Labour to court to defend the reputations of members slandered by the right

YESTERDAY, I was among a group of Labour activists who won an important early-stage victory in a legal battle against the Labour Party that could impact thousands of members.

I know the price of fighting injustice. In 2008, when Israel’s bombs were raining down on my home city of Gaza, I took action by showing the world what life under siege meant, reporting for CNN, ABC, the BBC and countless others. International journalists were few and far between. Israeli authorities had blocked access to foreign reporters so that the rest of us inside Gaza who were still covering the massacre could also be picked off as military targets or intimidated into silence. The next year, my family home was partially demolished by Israeli occupying forces. 

The struggle had been constant. During the Second Intifada in the early 2000s sparked by Ariel Sharon, I lost several family members to Israeli attacks. I had been shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper in 2003. 

The destruction of our home was the last straw. I had to leave. 

Not long after arriving in Britain as a refugee, I began campaigning for the Labour Party. I thought it shared my values. I believed that it had been a force for good in British society, fighting for the rights of workers, women and the marginalised. I thought it could overturn the coalition government’s austerity programme and set out a bold new vision for international policy.

But Labour let me down. I’d campaigned for the party from 2011 onwards and joined when Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership. The leadership was ambitious but the party’s management remained unreformed, even when supposedly controlled by leftwingers. In the Corbyn years, under two successive general secretaries, the party executed mass purges of pro-Palestine socialist members on trumped-up charges of anti-semitism. 

I had been suspended, like thousands of others, when the party credulously used attack lines passed to it by pro-Israel groups to target their adversaries. This came, as usual, with a hail of media smears. In my case, there was insult to injury – I was suspended while standing as a Labour candidate for local government. 

I was not about to give in. I knew these purges were unjust, politically motivated and had to be fought. I knew there were many people like me who had suffered attacks on their character. That’s where the Left Legal Fighting Fund came in. The Fighting Fund was set up through the proceeds of Chris Williamson’s High Court victory against Labour bureaucrats after the party unlawfully suspended him. It stands up for protesters, whistleblowers and activists who have suffered injustice, defending them and pursuing the abusers. 

Since the Fighting Fund was established in 2019, it has already assisted several of British socialism’s leading lights. When left-wing media outlets and their prominent figureheads have been targeted by malicious libel suits from lawyers aimed at bankrupting independent socialist publications, the Left Legal Fighting Fund has stepped in. It has also assisted Black Lives Matter protesters facing recrimination for demonstrating against racism, ensuring they have access to the best legal advice and representation possible.

The Left Legal Fighting Fund struck me as unique. We had failed to build a Labour Party that treated its members fairly and that people could believe in because we hadn’t built institutions capable of protecting fellow socialists when the inevitable attacks came. Whilst there was constant pressure on the Corbyn movement and the Labour Party from the right, there was very rarely any recourse for people on the left. The Left Legal Fighting Fund is changing that. 

As part of a broader campaign to get justice for purged socialists, the Left Legal Fighting Fund is supporting a group of us who have taken the Labour Party all the way to the High Court to fight our unfair suspensions and to seek remedy for the shocking ways we have been treated. Some of us have been suspended for years, left in a permanent sense of suspended agony: our reputations undermined; our livelihoods at risk; and all of us living under the cloud of suspicion. This is blacklisting by another name and it’s our own party doing it. 

Ours is a landmark case which could set an important precedent and force the Labour Party to treat its members with respect at last. We won a very important preliminary hearing in the High Court yesterday but there’s a long way to go. If we’re going to create a Labour Party that isn’t hostile to socialists, where we can campaign for ambitious policies and be free to speak out against injustices around the world, cases like ours are vital. 

But we can’t do it alone. We need your support. The Fighting Fund is your shield too and every donation you make to it helps protect our fundamental rights. This time, it could lead to a transformation of Labour’s disciplinary procedures. And without that, there’s no hope of a socialist Labour government.

www.fightingfund.org/donate 

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