What happened to the anger and the hope?

Four years ago today, 8 June 2017, it was the day of the General Election. I had spent the night before at Jeremy Corbyn’s final Election rally. After trailing around the country speaking to a few indoor and many outdoor rallies, some of them really huge, he was back on home turf in the jam-packed and beautiful setting of Union Chapel in Islington, speaking to several hundred enthusiastic supporters. It was an electrifying evening. But the scene that greeted us as we emerged from the rally was even more extraordinary. Hundreds more supporters and campaigners, especially young people, who had booked too late to get a place inside the event, had gathered and stayed nearby through the 2-hours of the rally, and were continuing to party outside.

For most of the last two weeks of the 2017 campaign, the mainstream media and seasoned pundits were united that the Tories were heading for a landslide victory. They were only just starting to edge back cautiously from that utter certainty in the last two or three days before the election. Clearly most of the revellers outside Union Chapel were oblivious, or chose to ignore the msm.

I had been taking soundings from knowledgeable friends and contacts around the country and recognised a deliberate attempt to demoralise Labour’s supporters and potential voters, that was conflicting with the reality I was consistently told about and was experiencing on the doorstep. It was on that basis, not blind faith, that two weeks before the election, I popped into the bookmakers round the corner (on the site of what had once been a Maoist bookshop) and put a £40 bet on a Hung Parliament, for which I got generous odds of 11/1, and a very decent payout that more than compensated for all my wasted bets on years of Grand National races.

On that morning of 8 June 2017, I wrote a post on Facebook, illustrated with a photo from back in the day, of Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn together:

Benn and Corbyn

“Woke up thinking of the late great Tony Benn, and how proud he would have been of the astonishing uncompromisingly socialist campaign that Jeremy Corbyn has led in these past weeks. Benn always said that the ingredients for social change were hope and anger, and Jeremy has provided huge dollops of both of these across the country, plus a third element that shines through in every speech he makes – compassion. Let’s keep our hopes high and, whatever happens, let’s see this as a new beginning.”

Just two years after Ed Miliband had failed miserably in 2015, scraping barely 30% of the vote, winning just 9.3m votes, Labour had a mountain to climb, but its bold manifesto, For the Many Not the Few, recaptured the imagination of those who had been deserting Labour because it had seemingly abandoned any radical transformative programme in the New Labour period, and had backed horrific and devastating unjust wars. That manifesto was unashamed to say it was going to begin a process of dramatically redistributing economic and political power in favour of working class people. It tapped into people’s anger that the Tories had protected the bankers over the crisis they created and hit the living standards of ordinary people though callous austerity measures, and particularly hit already mariginalised communities.

The manifesto and Jeremy’s commitment to change that shone through his speeches, gave genuine hope to a new generation of first time voters, a significant number of whom were becoming party members after Jeremy won the leadership, by a mile, despite a barely concealed effort from within Labour’s bureaucracy to remove thousands of Corbyn voters from the register on the flimsiest of pretexts. It was no surprise to me that in 2017 the election turnout was greater in 2017 than either 2015 or 2010.

Of course Jeremy was helped by a very wooden, lacklustre campaign by the Tories which included the laughable “Strong and Stable” mantra, repeated ad nauseam, by every Tory spokesperson, and the wonderful interview of May in which Julia Etchingham asked her about the naughtiest thing she had ever done her life and she replied: “I have to confess… me and my friend, sort of, used to run through the fields of wheat – the farmers weren’t too pleased about that.”

A relentlessly negative press campaign against Corbyn from the day he was elected leader, aided and abetted by his opponents within Labour’s PLP, who were regularly tweeting against Corbyn to the right wing press during Shadow Cabinet meetings; the wasted months through 2016 when the PLP tried but failed to mount a coup against a leader elected with a huge mandate (a coup in which the current Labour leader was implicated); the cynical and largely evidence-free campaign by a clutch of right wing, mainly Tory-supporting, very pro-Zionist Jewish organisations, to ludicrously claim that there was a “crisis of antisemitism” in the Labour Party – a campaign amplified even more cynically by the mainstream press – all contrived to give the Tories a huge opinion poll lead at the onset of the 2017 campaign.

But once the actual campaign started and media agencies were obliged to give more (but in practice never equal) coverage to Labour, it was Labour that hit the ground running. its manifesto was “leaked” a few days early, clearly wrong-footing the bitterest and most scheming of Corbyn’s opponents within. That leak generated a huge buzz of excitement on the weekend before the actual launch.

Every week of the campaign saw Labour drawing closer and gaining in confidence. And we know now from the Leaked Report, how much ground they recovered and how near they got to the possibility of a minority Labour government: a matter of less than 2,500 votes spread over several constituencies. We know from that Report that key elements of Labour’s bureaucracy were diverting resources to safe Labour seats of right wingers at the expense of winnable ones. it would be nice to see that further confirmed if the Forde Report ever gets published, but I doubt we will ever see it.

Despite the sabotage, Labour won 3.5m voters more than it achieved in 2015 and won 40% of the vote against the Tories 42%. Remember Labour was barely on 30% in 2015 (2% and 1m votes lower than the 2019 result, branded with the big lie that it was “Labour’s worse result since the 1930s” ). If the 2017 campaign had lasted another few days, they would have been level pegging with the Tories or may have overtaken them. As it was, the Tories could only continue to govern with a huge bribe to the Ulster Unionists.

Corbyn had successfully channeled the hope and anger that his mentor Tony Benn had identified as the key to the left’s success. The Tories, and the whole establishment were truly shaken by that election, though the real devastation was on the ashen-faces of Labour right wingers who were willing Labour and Corbyn to lose heavily. They had to wait until 2019 to get what they and the Tories wanted, and we have all paid a terrible price for it, and will continue to do so.

The anger within the country among the most exploited, the most in need, the most oppressed, is still there but the hope has gone. Almost completely. And the demoralisation of the generation that were radicalised by Corbyn is painful to watch. Labour is now led by, as one tweeter put it, paraphrasing a Beatles song, ” a real nowhere man, living in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody”. Starmer doesn’t want to fight the Tories, but fight the left, while pathetically pleading with the Tories to be a little bit gentler, a bit less unkind. Sir Oswald Mosley once dreamed of “a Government unencumbered by a daily opposition”. Starmer has made Mosley’s dream come true for the travesty of a human being that is the current Tory Prime Minister

And despite the attempts of some of the worst, most sanctimonious, most cynical, immoral people on the planet to put the knife into Jeremy, he is still standing strong, still a powerful voice for the oppressed and exploited on street and online local and international platforms. Though on the petulant whim of Labour’s struggling current leader, Jeremy remains cast out from the Parliamentary Labour Party, for revealing a truth, in his calm assessment of the EHRC Report on Antisemitism and the Labour Party, a truth which he was entirely within his rights to state, and one on which many of his Jewish constituents fully concur with him.

I hope Jeremy Corbyn is able to look back with real pride on that remarkable campaign in 2017 when he and us – the movement he engendered – scared the hell out of the British establishment.

The sounds of silence

All the “Cummings” and goings involving newly-wedded philanderer Boris Johnson over the last few days have provided a handy distraction from the fact that, last Friday, Britain’s Prime Minister saw fit to welcome Victor Orban, Europe’s most Islamophobic and anti-migrant Prime Minister, to a cosy chat at No 10.

Orban calls his country the “last bastion’ against “the Islamisation of Europe”. He describes migrants as “poison” and Hungary’s longstanding but marginalised Roma communities, as “aggressors against the majority”. He used vile antisemitic conspiracy propaganda against the Hungarian Jew George Soros, in his last election campaign in 2018, utilising the far-right “Great Replacement” theory.

The “softer” version of this theory is the claim that Muslim migration to the West undermines Western Christian civilisation and values. Orban likes to go one step further, fingering a pro-migrant Jewish financier as responsible for organising this replacement. Traditional antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money are woven through Orban’s description of Soros as “a speculator who operates a mafia network. Migration is good business for him”. Soros, “and his army”, says Orban, “don’t like Christian Europe. They don’t like Christians at all.”

Soros’ grinning face featured on billboards all over Hungary in that election campaign, with the caption “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.” Orban told a mass election rally of his battle against “…an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not national but international, does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

Who else are soldiers in Soros’ army? Feminists, actually. Orban blames them for low birth-rates among native Hungarian women. He laments that Europe has fewer and fewer children, and condemns Western nations who look to migration “…so that the numbers will add up. We Hungarians have a different way of thinking. Instead of just numbers, we want Hungarian children. Migration for us is surrender.” In Orban’s Hungary, native women can access free IVF treatment if they are heterosexual and under 40.

You might have expected that some of the leading Jewish community organisations, such as the Board of Deputies (BoD) and the Community Security Trust (CST), who are not usually coy when it comes to exposing and challenging antisemitism, might have had something to say about Johnson’s welcome for a man who has also been busily rehabilitating the reputation of Hitler’s Hungarian collaborator, Admiral Horthy. Or indeed, when that someone has removed the work of Hungary’s sole Nobel Laureate for Literature, Imre Kertesz, a Jewish Auschwitz survivor from the compulsory education curriculum, but inserted the works of pro-Nazi, antisemitic writers.

Even more so, you might have expected an intervention from such Jewish organisations, after the deep embarrassment both bodies endured the weekend before last, when the Far Right guru, EDL leader, and former BNP member, Tommy Robinson, turned up with a few of his mates at the “Solidarity with Israel” demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy. This event was organised by the Zionist Federation with the President of the Board of Deputies a prominent guest speaker, and the CST running the security. Videos from the event showed how some among the crowd queued up for selfies with Robinson, while others welcomed him warmly with hugs and handshakes.

You might think that these bodies would seek to polish their tarnished reputation with a strong denunciation of Orban’s visit and condemnation of Johnson, but it’s a little awkward. You see, Orban has perfected the art of being antisemitic (alongside his other bigotries) while being full of praise for the Israeli Government. And the BoD can hardly claim to be unaware of Johnson’s record when it comes to minorities, his horrific stereotyping of Africans and his deeply racist comments about Muslims, not to mention his 2005 novel that was replete with antisemitic stereotypes.

And no, as you are asking, they never do mention that 2005 novel. But Johnson too is full of love for the government of Israel led (for now, but maybe not for much longer) by Benjamain Netanyahu. Whether it was Johnson’s love of Israel or the BoD’s irrational and obsessive hatred of Jeremy Corbyn that led them into this mire, we may never know. And I don’t really care. But they have remained shamefully silent on Orban’s meeting with Johnson.

Not a peep either from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a supporter of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, who had (ab)used the authority of his (unelected) office shortly before the 2019 General Election to denounce Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour, thereby aiding the racist, Boris Johnson’s victory. Rabbi Mirvis claimed at the time that it was his “moral duty” to denounce Corbyn. His silence over the Johnson-Orban meeting speaks volumes. His moral compass seems to have disappeared where the sun doesn’t shine.

And while it may be true that no one chooses their family, is it just a coincidence that Netanyahu’s son, Yair, is a great fan of both Tommy Robinson and Orban?

Meanwhile the anti-Zionist Jewish Socialists’ Group stood shoulder to shoulder with Muslim, Roma, Hungarian and other anti-racist activists outside Downing Street, protesting against the meeting. They had nothing to be coy or embarrassed about.

Neither did one of the speakers at the rally, another left-wing Jew, also an anti-Zionist, who described how, on the same day as the Orban-Johnson meeting – May 28 – but in 1944, 963 Jews were transferred from Auschwitz to Mauthausen concentration camp for medical experimentation. It was the height of the Nazi Holocaust. They were rounded up by the Hungarian state, by Hungarian police, Hungarian civil servants and Hungarian officials. 95% of provincial Jewry (in Hungary) perished. One in two Jews in Budapest, members of this speaker’s family among them. All under the Horthy regime that Orban continues to praise as that of an “exceptional statesman.”

Photo: Guy Smallman

Who is remembered and what is understood on Yom Hashoah? Critical thoughts…

I have taken part in Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, on 27th January, marking the day that the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, since 2001, when it was established in Britain. But the Holocaust commemorations I was first regularly attending and participating in, from the early 1980s, were organised in London’s East End by the Friends of Yiddish.

These took place on April 19th – the anniversary of day the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began – and were conducted through readings, memories, poetry and song in the language spoken by the majority of its millions of Jewish victims. These small, very emotional gatherings –usually around 25-35 people – included Holocaust survivors who were ensuring that the memory of those who were exterminated lived on in their own precious language.

What also struck me powerfully was that the chair of this event and lead-speaker, Majer Bogdanski a bundist (Jewish socialist), whose wife, Esther and most of his family were murdered, would always honour, in addition to the millions of Jewish victims, the “tsigayner” (Gypsies/Roma), whom he reminded attendees “were murdered in the same way for exactly the same reason”.

Yom HaShoah – Israel’s national day of remembrance of the 6 million Jews who were murdered –which falls on a different day here each year as it is marked according to the Jewish calendar – leaves me with different feelings: uneasy feelings.

Every year, when it comes around, I have two quotes in my head. One is from Boaz Evron, a left wing Israeli writer who died a few years ago, who wrote a brilliant and controversial essay in 1983 which began: “Two awful things happened to the Jewish people in the present century: the Holocaust – and the lessons drawn from it.” The other is from Marek Edelman, the Bundist Polish Jewish socialist and lifelong anti-Zionist, Second in Command during the Warsaw ghetto Uprising. He said: “We fought for dignity and freedom… not for a territory, nor for a national identity.”

In his essay, Evron rails against narrow nationalist and mystical interpretations of the Holocaust which locate it outside of history, and focus on it as an exclusively Jewish event, which Israel’s leaders (who had recently conducted the horrific war in Lebanon) have tied to Israel’s national fate, as seen through their eyes alone.

During that war in Lebanon, in which you had the first significant refusal to fight by many dissident Israeli army reservists, the murderous ultra-right-wing government of Begin and Sharon described the Palestinian leader, Yassir Arafat, under siege in Beirut, as “Hitler in his bunker”.

Boaz Evron

Edelman stayed in Poland and remained a resolute anti-nationalist, and an internationalist who called out racism and human rights abuses wherever they occurred, and he too gave the lie to the dominant Israeli historiography. He was treated as persona non grata in Israel, abused through its media, and, through the intervention of Holocaust historians at Yad Vashem, was denied honorary degrees for which he had been proposed at Israeli universities.Both Evron and Edelman are no longer alive. How much we could do with their collective wisdom today! You can find Evron’s article in this edition of Shmate “an American journal of progressive Jewish thought:

Marek Edelman


By chance, this year, in our calendar here, Yom HaShoah coincides with International Roma Day (the 50th anniversary of the first World Roma congress in Orpington, Kent in 1971). Events of the last week have done so much to heighten consciousness among progressives of the continuing oppression of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities

And tonight, who is the guest speaker invited, shockingly, by Liberal Judaism organisers in Britain? Tsipi Hotovely, Israel’s new and current ambassador in Britain: an ultra-nationalist, supporter of racist settlers, an advocate of ethnic cleansing, who labels and condemns Israeli-Palestinian love relationships as “miscegenation”, and describes the most catastrophic event in Palestinian history – the Nakba – as an “Arab lie”, “a made up story”. What, indeed has been learnt and understood?

What is rising to the surface this Easter?

YouGov email me (and many thousands of others) every week because I once signed up to give my opinion on issues of the day on their “chats”. Yesterday they asked whether we thought levels of racism in the UK had got better or worse over the last 50 years, and several related questions. I didn’t get around to answering until today. By then full-on anti-GRT (Gypsy/Roma/Traveller) racism had reared its ugly head again in the form of Labour local elections leaflets in Warrington.

In the 1980s when I worked for the Runnymede Trust, I thought things were worse than the 1970s, even though that decade had lots of fascist violence and racist murders. Since then things may have improved for some segments within minority communities, but racism is still deeply entrenched in the system.

Now, in hindsight, I look back at the 1980s/1990s as a period of much more hope in the fight against different kinds of racism. There was a great deal of grassroots self-organisation happening and resistance among minorities on the streets was strong. Innovative challenges on race and other inequalities were made by the GLC and a number of left-wing councils

Education initiatives created by progressive teachers and youth workers mushroomed in different settings. The far-right were there still, but, unlike in the 1970s, they were kept to the fringes. At Runnymede our materials were mostly about negative impacts of policy or neglect on Caribbean and Asian minorities, but the targets of racism and racists were already widening.

In my last year at Runnymede I proposed that we produced a report on Gypsies. It met some resistance at first, but eventually it got published in May 1990. it was called On the Verge: the Gypsies of England (by the late Donald Kenrick and Sian Bakewell.) Looking back at it this evening, in the light of the last 24 hours, it really is quite chilling.

In one section it describes Tory officials in Bradford before the 1987 election handing out car stickers which said “KEEP THE GYPSIES OUT – VOTE CONSERVATIVE”

That year, another Tory, Christopher Murphy MP tried to get a bill through Parliament that would have designated the whole of England and Wales as areas where Gypsies could not stop – Priti Patel’s fantasy today. I wondered what happened to Murphy. He actually stood down in 1987 though nearly 20 years later he re-emerged to fight a seat unsuccessfully for UKIP.

The next paragraph of the 1990 report continued: “However, at local level there has been little difference between Labour and Conservative Councillors in their attitude to providing sites for Gypsies.” In the de Beauviour area of Hackney, in 1988, a Labour official praised two Labour councillors for how they had ensured “the eviction of Travellers.”

In the very week when the Tories are sneering at their opponents and critics, and celebrating a report that flies in the face of all evidence, and clears them of the institutional racism that is a daily reality, we are reminded of other longstanding racism and discrimination within the Labour Party too.

We had an all too brief period of nearly five years from 2015 in which many Labour voters expressed a feeling that for the first time on their lives they could be proud to vote Labour as a party unashamed to be anti-racist and pro-migrant and refugee.

Is it indeed a coincidence that on the very weekend that Keir Starmer celebrates one year of his leadership, one year in which he has tried to bury the idealism that Corbyn represented under a thick layer of centrism overlaid with Union Jacks, that the longstanding racism that Corbyn had sought to remove once and for all from Labour has risen to the surface again? What, if anything, will Starmer do about it?

The question anti-racists should ask

Talk given at the World Against Racism online rally 20 March 2021

In the last 12 months, our eugenicist, profit driven Tory Government has presided over COVID carnage. The extraordinary death rate, however, reflects also the Labour Party’s failure to popularise an alternative strategy.

I lost an aunt and brother-in-law to COVID but people from Black and other ethnic minority and marginalised communities, such as Gypsies and Travellers, disabled and elderly people, were hit so much harder, as structural inequalities were magnified.

I’ve had one jab but I’m not vaccinated. We need two. Track, trace and isolate as well.

As an anti-racist I want to tear down borders so we can fight for people to live as equals. The virus crosses borders to inflict harm. Our response must be internationalist. No one is free of the virus until we all are.  The most depressing political intervention by both parties during the pandemic has been “vaccine nationalism” and the claim: “we will be the first country to be vaccinated.”

Anti-racists should ask: who will be the last country? And why? I am proud that my MP, Jeremy Corbyn, is campaigning against the collusion of Big Pharma and wealthy governments to bag the vaccine supplies first.

But at grassroots level during the pandemic, the best of humanity has shown itself in two ways. Mutual Aid – with its proud history in Black American and immigrant Jewish communities – has reasserted itself enabling us to support each other locally in the COVID crisis. And Black Lives Matter mushroomed internationally after the killing of George Floyd.

Lockdown has simultaneously forced us to concentrate on building organic local anti-racist alliances. And it brought Zoom into our lives – connecting us with struggles far away.

In January, Jewish socialists here gave a Zoom platform to young American Jewish trade unionists and anti-fascists involved with Black Lives Matter and support for Muslims, migrants and refugees. We are witnessing the strongest Jewish campaigning against US state racism since the 1960s. They are fighting antisemitism too in a country where Trump’s Proud Boys display shirts with “6mwe” – Six Million Wasn’t enough.

We, and our American comrades, know that the danger of antisemitism comes from the right and far right. Apart from a few ignorant and malevolent individuals, the left are our trusted allies against it.

In Europe too, Polish and Hungarian politicians spread antisemitism, Islamophobia  and anti-Roma racism. Victor Orban accuses the Hungarian Jew George Soros of assisting Muslim refugees. There are Jews in Hungary who assist Muslim refugees. We are proud of them as we are of all Jews, whether in Budapest, Washington, or Jerusalem, who refuse to be enemies of Muslims, and refuse to tolerate racism against any targets.

Solidarity!

One year on from the most crucial month

I’ve been thinking so much about this time period exactly one year ago. Early March 2020. It was obvious how quickly the COVID crisis was escalating in Britain, and we had simple comparisons to make with similar countries which were a few weeks ahead of us in terms of infection rates.

But the Tory government was delaying and delaying an inevitable lockdown, allowing two huge events to take place – the Cheltenham Festival attended by 250,000, which ended on 10 March, followed by the Liverpool v Athletico Madrid football match on 11 March, when 3,000 away fans from a city already affected by a greater rate of COVID infections came to Liverpool and enjoyed spending time in bars all around the city centre before the game.

On 16 March 2020 it was finally announced that significant restrictions would be coming but they were not put into place by the Government until 23rd March. Wasted weeks. Wasted lives.

We know the Government made so many wrong choices (and has hardly, if at all, diverted from that), but what of the opposition?

I looked back this morning at a Facebook post I wrote a year ago today, where, as a Labour Party member, I made a suggestion to the opposition (who at that time were in the middle of their leadership contest):

“The height of this crisis is not a great time for a change of leadership and I believe that should be delayed.” I suggested instead that Jeremy Corbyn (still in place as temporary leader) and the three leadership contenders should form a temporary, collective, emergency leadership in the Shadow Cabinet that needed to “put Johnson’s half-baked and half-hearted plans to one side and imagine that it [Labour] is in government now.”

I argued that “Labour must state the principles behind its plan to confront the threat from the virus – a people-first, safety for the community, especially the most vulnerable, approach. Labour must list the key things that need to be done with clear priorities. And at the same time it should mobilise and empower Labour members to play a central role in their communities in making this a reality, in the absence of a useful lead from central government.”

With hindsight we know what actually happened. The Labour leadership contest continued. Starmer and Rayner had their coronation moment. The next day they started showing what they thought ought to be done, but unfortunately not with the COVID crisis. They met instead with the Board of Deputies of British Jews which many ordinary Jewish people, especially those left of centre, regard as an irrelevant, self-important, anachronism . Starmer kept repeating and repeating that tackling “antisemitism in the Labour Party” was his “first priority”. Astonishing. Rayner, once seemingly a committed part of the Corbyn project, who had months earlier been outspoken about how accusations of antisemitism had been used cynically to undermine and derail Corbyn’s leadership, simply sat back and quietly nodded along. (A few months down the line she would say and do much worse when choosing to address a Labour Friends of Israel/Jewish Labour Movement event coinciding with the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.)

Any objective observer who looked at the evidence around allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, would conclude that this problem was infinitesimal, but still needed to be addressed proportionately. They would also surely conclude that it had been deliberately distorted and blown up out of all proportion during the Corbyn-leadership era by a viciously anti-Labour media, egged on by Tories, the Labour Right, and certain Jewish establishment bodies for political and factional reasons. But it was stated that this was the prime focus of Labour’s new leadership, even as the COVID crisis started to burn through the population.

Starmer and Rayner made the mildest, most muted criticism of Johnson during their first few weeks as leaders even as Johnson’s and Cummings’ blunders were rapidly morphing into murderous crimes. While so many people looked for a sign of an alternative strategy that Labour, as “opposition” would take the lead in mobilising, we had the wasted months where, at best, Starmer called the Tories “chaotic” and “incompetent”, but still backed their strategy, and repeated the hopeless mantras: “We support the Government”, “we want the government to succeed.” Starmer was even more gung-ho than Johnson in promoting the disastrous push to get pupils back to school from last April, despite rising infection levels and the dangers to school staff, children and their families. In pushing the “back to schools” line he was mouthing almost word for word the lines produced by Tony Blair’s Global Institute in that same period.

Internally though, Labour were much more focused and decisive as they shut down democracy, suspending decision-making meetings for several months, arbitrarily outlawing discussion of certain topics and suspending members with alacrity. They claimed they wanted unity but engaged in all-out war against the Left, attempting to drive the Left out of the party. It is estimated that 100,000 or so have voluntarily departed, young and old, many no doubt demoralised after the incredible hope, energy and excitement that change was possible, that was generated between 2015-19.

So much for mobilising and empowering our members to play a part in a productive community response. Where that mobilisation and empowerment has happened, that has been primarily through the Mutual Aid movement which many Labour members have contributed to in spite of, not because of, the party’s perceived priorities.

A year on, the sickening death total – the worst in Europe (even with the massaging of figures by the Tories) – speaks for itself. The breakdown of those figures makes even tougher reading with ethnic minorities (especially those in vital front-line work), older people, disabled people, poorer and marginalised people, disproportionately meeting an early death. On top of that, the debilitating effects of long-COVID on individuals, who will need a lot of health care, are still to be fully realised.

I know of course that the principle drivers of this disaster have been our eugenicist Government committed so much more to the economy – or rather their and their friends’ economic interests – than to community health and safety. But it shames me beyond measure how much the leadership of the Party I am still an active member of, has been complicit in a catastrophe whose scale was far from inevitable. COVID makes people ill – very ill. But the death rate we have experienced has been brought about by political choices by Government and “opposition”. The numbers who have died have varied considerably from country to country, with those countries adopting a serious Zero-COVID strategy emerging the least-scathed, and with their economies the most intact.

As scientists begin to warn of a third wave, there are still choices to be made.

Restore the Labour Whip to Jeremy Corbyn!

This morning, Julia Bard and I have sent a letter as Jewish Labour Party members to Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner calling for the immediate restoration of the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn. On 18th February 2021 it will be three months since it was withdrawn.

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner

We are Jewish members of Islington North Constituency Labour Party and we are calling for the whip to be restored to our MP, Jeremy Corbyn. Since we moved into the constituency in 1996, he has continuously represented us as a Labour Member of Parliament, winning overwhelming majorities in every election.

We agreed with the conclusion of the National Executive Committee panel, who decided unanimously and on the basis of legal advice to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn on 17th November 2020 after he had been unjustly suspended less than three weeks earlier. So, like many others, including a substantial number of NEC members, we were dismayed by the injustice of withdrawing the whip immediately after his reinstatement to the Labour Party.

We consider ourselves privileged to be represented by such an exemplary constituency MP. Until the whip was removed, Jeremy Corbyn attended every CLP General Meeting unless there was an absolutely unavoidable reason for his absence, and gave the CLP detailed regular reports on all his work, local, regional, national and international.

Unlike so many other Members of Parliament, he is rooted in and committed to serving the people of his constituency. He knows every corner of Islington North and has built constructive relationships with every community in it. This is an area where many individuals and communities are suffering from poverty, discrimination and fear. Jeremy Corbyn is always accessible to his constituents and is tireless in his support of those who are struggling to sustain themselves and their families, to live decent lives and to fulfil their potential in the face of inequality and injustice.

We are both involved in Mutual Aid – two of thousands in Islington who rushed to volunteer as the pandemic struck, to ensure that everyone in our community is cared for. We are proud to reflect this culture of solidarity and kindness which our MP has been so instrumental in establishing in Islington, and we have had his active and consistent support and appreciation throughout this tragic period.

As Jewish Party members, we sympathise strongly with his critique of the political and media commentary on the EHRC report on the Investigation into Antisemitism in the Labour Party. Many other Jewish and non-Jewish Labour Party members have, like us, privately expressed similar responses to the report in the absurd situation where we are forbidden to discuss within Labour Party meetings a report on the Labour Party. As Jews who have been combatting and educating people about antisemitism over decades (including being educators on trips to Auschwitz for trade unionists, students and antiracist activists), it was clear to us that Jeremy Corbyn’s comments confirmed the facts, which were misused by people with factional political agendas and were misreported by the media.

Here is just one of a number of examples of such misuse and misreporting. In February 2019, Margaret Hodge tweeted about having submitted 200 complaints of antisemitism to the Labour Party. Inevitably, the media headlines unquestioningly reproduced her claims. In fact, as the then General Secretary Jennie Formby clarified, the Party had investigated and found that many of those reports were duplicates and actually referred to 111 individuals (not 200), and of those, only 20 were Labour Party members (The Guardian, 12th Feb 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/12/formby-denies-labour-leadership-is-ignoring-mps-on-antisemitism). The General Secretary published data on all the complaints of antisemitism the Party had received, the actions that were taken and the outcomes. In response, according to the BBC, “Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge tweeted a warning not to trust the figures.” (11th Feb 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-47203397)

While we believe strongly that allegations of antisemitism must be treated very seriously, unlike some of those making the complaints, we support the legal principle that accusations need to be supported by evidence in order to be proven.

Furthermore, we resent non-Jews queuing up to tell us how Jews feel,  dictating a single prescribed response to the EHRC report and treating the EHRC as infallible. This is especially concerning given two stark criticisms of the EHRC shortly after its publication. Firstly, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights declared: “We find that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been unable to adequately provide leadership and gain trust in tackling racial inequality in the protection and promotion of human rights.” (p.4 https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3376/documents/32359/default/. Following this, the EHRC was condemned by women working at the BBC for its report on the Corporation’s gender pay gap (https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/bbc-equal-pay-findings-come-under-fire/). No one in the Labour party has been threatened with suspension for allowing discussion of these reports.

We know that antisemitism in British society is real and growing on the watch of Conservative governments since 2010. This ranges from prejudice, harassment, conspiracy theories and verbal hostility through to violence and desecration of synagogues, cemeteries and other institutions. But like hundreds of other Jews who we know personally or know of, we challenge the claim that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party. We have always felt safe, welcome and valued within our ward and Constituency Party. In this situation, what does make us feel unsafe is the strong sense that antisemitism is being used instrumentally, for political purposes, and not out of concern for the wellbeing of Jewish people. This instrumentalisation creates confusion about actual antisemitism and undermines attempts to challenge it.

The Jewish community, like all other communities and societies, is diverse, pluralist and embodies conflicting experiences, interests and perspectives. There are several bodies in the Jewish community which claim, falsely, to give a unified voice to this diversity, and they have declared their support for the Party’s summary punishment of Jeremy Corbyn. As many Jewish Labour Party members have said repeatedly since the claims of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn began (coincidentally, when he was elected as leader of the Party), these institutions do not represent us or our experiences. Indeed, we struggle to understand how they have more right to comment on the internal disciplinary procedures of a Party they neither belong to nor support than Party members like Jeremy Corbyn.

Three months after the the whip was unjustly removed from him, we call for it to be immediately and unconditionally restored. We look forward to continuing to work with our many-times-democratically-elected MP on the crucial issues of human rights and social justice, locally, nationally and globally, to which he has so consistently devoted himself.

Yours sincerely

Julia Bard and David Rosenberg

Members of Islington North CLP

History and Freedom on trial

Two weeks ago I was preparing a talk for a PCS union branch for Holocaust Memorial Day. That day commemorates the liberation of the Nazis’ largest death camp, Auschwitz, by the Red Army. Jews from more than 20 countries were deported to their deaths there. But in that talk I remarked that the prime focus on Auschwitz obscures a key aspect of the Holocaust that needs to be assimilated: that, on the eve of the Nazi invasion, half of the Jews who would be murdered in the Holocaust were citizens of Poland.

Jews comprised 10 per cent of Poland’s entire pre-war population. In Poland’s capital, Warsaw, and its textile centre, Lodz, Jews formed one-third of the population.

Auschwitz accounted for around 300,000 of Poland’s Jews who were murdered under Nazi occupation. Much larger numbers of Polish Jews perished at Treblinka and Belzec; others starved in ghettoes, but a few hundred thousand Jews escaped from ghettoes or avoided being rounded up.

Some fled to the forests and formed partisan groups; many others were hidden by Polish Catholics, despite the Nazis threatening the death penalty for Poles caught hiding Jews. Among my valued personal friends are two Polish-born Jews who survived because, as children, they were hidden by Polish Catholics.

But they were the lucky ones. Painstaking research by Polish historians has revealed that two out of every three of those Jews who went into hiding were murdered in Poland. And not just by the Nazis, but by Poles themselves. Many were handed over to the Nazis by local Polish civilians who had captured them.

Last summer I attended an online Yiddish course based in Warsaw which included guest lectures. One lecture in particular was a real eye-opener. It focused on the 18,000-strong Polish Blue Police, that the Nazis incorporated as an auxiliary in liquidating Poland’s Jews. They specialised in hunting down Jews in hiding.

The lecturer was Jan Grabowski, born in Warsaw to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father who was a Holocaust survivor. Grabowski emigrated to Canada in 1988 and is a history professor at Ottowa University. In 2003, he co-founded the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research, whose director is Warsaw-born Barbara Engelking, a sociologist specialising in Holocaust studies.

Grabowski’s lecture demonstrated that Polish complicity in the Holocaust was not just a matter of assorted individuals and groups undertaking actions, but was institutional. The Blue Police operated under the auspices of the Nazi occupiers, but carried out their tasks with independent initiative and considerable enthusiasm, becoming a “key element in the implementation of the Final Solution.”

This week Grabowski is back in Warsaw where he and Engelking are awaiting the verdict of a libel trial expected today brought against them as editors of a two-volume study Night Without End, published by the Centre for Holocaust Research. Based on thousands of testimonies, it describes the fate of Jews in nine districts of Poland, and reveals, in the centre’s words, “ample evidence of the important, and previously underestimated levels of … complicity of certain segments of Polish society in the extermination of their Jewish neighbours and co-citizens.”

The libel case has been brought by 80-year-old Filomena Leszczynska, whose uncle, a village elder, was named. The study acknowledges that he saved the life of one Jew, though he robbed her of some possessions, and alleges that he collaborated with the Nazis in the betrayal of 22 Jews in a nearby forest.

Leszczynska says she is fighting the case not only for her right to “enjoy the remembrance of a deceased person” but her right also to “national pride and identity … to a fact-based history of World War II” and to “receive truthful information from historical research” paid for by her taxes.

That wording suggests that this goes beyond an individual seeking dignity for her family’s reputation. And it does. She was urged to pursue the case by the Polish League Against Defamation, a body that is strongly aligned with the ruling populist-nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), and has received generous state subsidies.

Since PiS came to power in 2015 it has paid great attention to history, condemning an alleged “pedagogy of shame … of disgrace” that was “attacking Polishness, Polish values and traditions and Polish identity” in Poland’s educational institutions. It wants to replace it with “a pedagogy of pride” emphasising “Polish heroism” and “noble behaviour.”

These themes have been advanced by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) a body that has come under more direct political control since PiS came to power, described by critics as an increasingly sinister “ministry of memory.” In 2016 four PiS representatives replaced independent members of the IPN’s ruling body.

The following year IPN came under fire when it was discovered that the deputy director of its publishing office, had, as an independent publisher between 2009-14, reprinted works by Holocaust revisionist David Irving. IPN rejected calls for his dismissal.

In February 2018 the Polish Teachers Union appealed to the media to stop using the term “pedagogy of shame,” which they argued was a cover for seeking “the denial of parts of historical knowledge.” This appeal came in the wake of PiS adopting an infamous law, drafted by a hardliner, seeking to criminalise those who talk and write of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was adopted by the Sejm (Polish parliament) on January 26 2018, the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.

That law was controversial for Poland’s close right-wing allies in the US and in Netanyahu’s Israel, and PiS were forced into a partial climbdown — reducing it to a civil rather than a criminal offence — hence the current libel case brought by an individual citizen.

It has undoubtedly had a chilling impact on the work of historians, and those who have sought to withstand the pressure are condemned and abused as “traitors” and “falsifiers of history.” Online newspaper articles about the libel case have attracted comments from readers such as: “…deport people who spit on Poland Poles”; “Jews attack Poland with the help of lies slander… they are a fifth column”; “take citizenship away from this liar”; “People like he [sic] should be loaded into the cattle cars and sent East where they belong”; “Kick this Jewish scum out of Poland.”

Rafal Pankowski of the Never Again Association, a Polish body monitoring racism and fascism, described the 2018 law as a “turning point” for Poland that “changed norms” and “opened the discursive space … to organise politically around antisemitic tropes.”

There are, he acknowledges, “few physical attacks on Jews in Poland” which he attributes to “few visible Jews walking the Polish streets,” but Never Again has documented “many acts of violence against … symbolic sites, such as Jewish cemeteries or monuments to the victims of the Holocaust” and a “high level of hate speech cases” since the 2018 law.

Critical historians are right to view this current case as a dangerous attack on freedom of research, critical inquiry and free expression. If it succeeds, it could well herald a number of other civil cases, to the detriment not only of historians but to the foundations of a free society, which are increasingly dominated by nationalist-conservative norms, nurturing a revived antisemitism alongside other bigotries against LGBT and women’s rights.

And while attention has rightly focused on the significance of this libel case, under the radar, PiS recently appointed a new deputy education minister, Thomas Rymkowski, a former MP for the far-right Nationalist Movement coalition, who Rafal Pankowski describes as “notorious for extremely hostile statements about minorities, including Jews.”

This article was first published in the Morning Star 9 February 2021

Asking the right questions

Speech made at the Holocaust Memorial Day event organised by Stand Up To Racism 26 January 2021

I’m honoured to be on this platform that marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was the most extensive of six death camps the Nazis constructed, all of them in Poland, where the victims were industrially slaughtered in gas chambers designed by educated architects and engineers, in a process organised and recorded by skilled administrators. Private companies made handsome profits supplying materials for death factories. The Holocaust happened in the context of modernity and capitalism.

But to learn more from it we must recognise that Auschwitz and other death camps were the very end of the process. That process began in Nazi Germany several years earlier with labelling, discrimination, exclusion, scapegoating, dehumanisation and brutalisation of particular communities – especially the Jews, but also Roma and Sinti Gypsies and disabled people. That ideology, however, was not confined to Nazi Germany.

In February 1935, years before Hitler advocated the endlosung – Final solution – one fascist wrote: “…the most certain and permanent way of disposing of the Jews would be to exterminate them by some humane method such as the lethal chamber.” His name was Arnold Leese, a retired veterinary surgeon, who had worked in Lincolnshire in the 1920s and served as a local councillor for a fringe fascist party. By the the mid 1930s, Leese lived in Surrey and headed a small, virulently antisemitic grouping in Britain called the Imperial Fascist League.

Jews were transported to Auschwitz from more than 20 countries. In many of them the Nazis were helped by home-grown collaborators. Had they occupied Britain they would have found collaborators here too. Leese and his comrades, as well as many members of Mosley’s much larger British Union of Fascists, would have happily assisted.

The entity that we call Auschwitz actually had three different components – Auschwitz 1 was a prison/concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, trade unionists, gays, soviet prisoners of war…where many died from starvation and brutal treatment. A second camp, Monowitz, consisted of slave labour factories. The 3rd component was a killing centre at Birkenau, 2 km from Auschwitz 1. It was dedicated only to killing and reserved principally for Jews and Gypsies. Around 1 million Jews and 21,000 Gypsies were exterminated there in four gas chambers.

Auschwitz 1 is now a museum. It has horrendous displays, with chilling documentation, that offer irrefutable proof of what happened, and how, for anyone inclined to take notice of Holocaust deniers, but it is a large annotated map there that always shocks me. It shows how far the inmates were transported from their homes. One long line stretches all the way to Norway, where, in November 1942, hundreds of Jews were rounded up to be transported 1,600km to Auschwitz.  

One of the ships that transported some Norwegian Jews on the first part of their journey, was damaged and captured by British forces in 1945. It was repurposed and later renamed Empire Windrush. In 1948 that same ship brought hundreds of Jamaicans to Britain, who helped make Britain a more culturally rich multi-ethnic society, despite institutional racism and the attempts by generations of racists to demean, marginalise and oppress minority cultures, and deny the horrors of Empire and colonialism.

By chance, the history of that ship has entangled the fates of Blacks and Jews. Auschwitz-Birkenau entangled the fates of Jews with Roma and Sinti Gypsies. In 2021 Jews who are conscious of our history should actively embrace these entanglements of fate and not leaving things to chance. But that is not just down to us. All anti-racists and anti-fascists should work for unity between the persecuted, oppressed, discriminated against, exploited or marginalised. In the dismal last 12 months, Jewish solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in America, and also here, has been one of the few bright spots.

In terms of solidarity, the words of a Polish Jewish Marxist, Isaac Deutscher, who came to London in April 1939, as a correspondent on a Polish Jewish newspaper, and lost so many family and friends he never saw again, ring so true for me. A year before he died, he wrote: “…what then makes a Jew? Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I, therefore, a Jew. I am however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated.”

Deutscher wrote with great sadness of what was almost entirely lost. Not only people, but an overwhelmingly working-class Yiddish culture and civilization of music, poetry, theatre, literature, art, humour, that developed over centuries. Ninety per cent of Poland’s 3.3m Jews were wiped out by the Nazis. Jews had comprised 10% of Poland’s population and 25% of its trade unionists. From the mid-1920s Deutscher lived in Warsaw where one third of the population were Jews. It was later the site of the most astonishing acts of anti-Nazi resistance – cultural, political, spiritual, physical – culminating in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943. when a united fighting force of a few hundred Jews waged a three-week long guerrilla struggle against the most powerful army in Europe. The oldest of the fighters was 40, the youngest just 13, a member of the children’s organisation of the Jewish socialist Bund. Most fighters were in their 20s.

I want to end by returning to 2021 and explaining how a key demand from the Black Lives Matter movement can also help us understand and act on the meaning of the Holocaust.

That demand is to start decolonising education by asking the right questions about slavery, empire and colonialism.

It is also time to decolonise Britain’s Holocaust history in school and ask the right questions.
• Why was Britain so reluctant to take refugees from Nazism in the 1930s despite receiving 600,000 asylum applications?

• Why did Britain’s civil servants and politicians refuse to believe credible information about the extermination of Jews in Poland as It was happening, and ignore demands to take exceptional action such as bombing the railway lines that transported Jews to death camps?

• Why, after the war, did Britain’s immigration policy favour refugees from Eastern Europe, including former members of Waffen SS and Nazi police units, over non-whites and Holocaust survivors languishing in DP camps?

It is time for answers.

First time as tragedy, second time as farce

When Boris Johnson announced a lockdown in November in the face of rapidly rising COVID infections, there was relief that he had finally taken some action but dismay among many, especially among teaching unions, that he had excluded schools from this lockdown. Not that Johnson came under any pressure at all from his opposite number Keir Starmer to do so. On the contrary, Starmer insisted that any pause in children’s education would be a sign of a government that was failing. Whether lives might be saved by such a pause was, it seemed, outside of Starmer’s frame of reference.

The teaching unions had been sceptical about the full return to classrooms last September. In June they had released a 10-point-plan aimed at making schools safe and challenging the educational inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-crisis. By September, so little of what they had demanded had even been acknowledged by the Government or, indeed, the Opposition leadership, let alone put in place.

Unsurprisingly, within the first two weeks of term there were outbreaks of COVID in hundreds of schools. Children contracting the virus were taking it back with their homework. In poorer inner-city areas this often meant taking it back to overcrowded, multi-generational home settings. PPE for school staff was inadequate and there was poor ventilation in most schools. The government did not care because, for them, children back at school meant parents available for work again, meant the economy would be boosted, and rates of profits revived.

For four and half years from September 2015 Labour was led by politicians with humane and explicitly socialist values, who put people before profit, who made the health and welfare of ordinary people and especially the most impoverished and marginalised, their litmus test of a successful policy. When the establishment succeeded in defeating Corbyn they knew then that Corbynism had not been vanquished. Their favoured candidate for the new Labour leadership, fawned over in the establishment’s media, could only achieve that victory by promising that he would take forward radical policies himself.

It was a cruel deception. There is barely a single one of the 10 pledges that Keir Starmer made, in order to win the popular vote of Labour members, that he has even gone near to fulfilling. The biggest price for that failure has been paid by families and individuals devastated by a COVID crisis which could have been mitigated by a real opposition in parliament that challenged the terrible choices made by the Johnson government, and simultaneously validated and encouraged opposition to government policy within the base of society.

If Johnson was recklessly sending children back to educational settings that were effectively incubators of COVID, he was egged on mercilessly by Starmer who was not merely demanding that children be back in school in September, he was expecting children to return: “No ifs. No buts. No equivocation.” Starmer was thus complicit with Johnson in the infections, illnesses and deaths that had their origin in educational settings from September onwards.

Despite feeling pressure from so many within communities who were experiencing or observing the unfolding tragedy, Starmer still could not bring himself to call for a lockdown, but eventually he asked for a limited “fire-break” . When Johnson did act at the beginning of November, he outflanked Starmer and went for a four-week lockdown. But with Starmer having been so gung-ho about children not missing any education, by physically being in school, (and ignoring union proposals for blended learning and a shift to online teaching), he was in no position to call for schools to be part of the lockdown. The consequences have been so dire and devastating.

Of course Johnson holds an 80-seat majority, so he could have simply dismissed Starmer if he had indicated a change of policy, but Starmer was mainly caught in a trap of his own making. Or was it? Was anyone else implicated? Let’s go back to the early days of the pandemic hitting Britain and the first lockdown in March and April. While communities on the ground were busy setting up Mutual-Aid networks to ensure that the most vulnerable were being supported with practical help in the face of a government influenced by eugenicists obsessed with “herd-immunity”, Starmer spoke up enthusiastically in Parliament in mid-April about the need to get children back into schools with the knock-on effect of boosting the economy. This was just days after Tony Blair’s Global Institute had published a report with the very same prescription in very similar words. To close observers, the new Leader of the Opposition was beginning to sound like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

By early December the unions were publishing compelling updated evidence that, within the wider population, infections had been rising especially rapidly in Primary and Secondary schools. When some local authorities expressed a desire to close schools a week earlier than normal before Christmas they were threatened with legal action by Johnson’s government. And any parents tempted to take matters into their own hands by withdrawing children were threatened with fines.

The teaching unions were fuming, knowing that they and their pupils would be forced to re-enter workplaces at the beginning of January that were completely unsafe. Decades of aggressive anti-union legislation that Thatcher had bequeathed, made industrial action, especially in schools, extremely difficult. Any ballot would require a period of around six weeks to enact. The virus was not about to take a winter break while that process played out. And the teaching unions were given no confidence whatsoever that the Labour opposition had their back. It didn’t. So the unions did it for themselves by holding mass Zoom meetings, and taking every opportunity to put their case on News reports. The result was that 48 hours before the enforced return to schools they had huge numbers of teachers willing to defy the government and assert their rights under Section 44 of the Health and Safety Act to refuse to work in a hazardous environment.

The Government were not going to give any ground to unions. While exempting a number of schools in London and the South East, where it seemed the new variant of the virus had taken hold strongly, and allowing a delayed start of up to two weeks to secondaries, most primary school children were expected to return to their classes, and mix in them, albeit in huge “bubbles”, on 4th January, though many teachers would be absent.

Even after a huge NEU zoom meeting that tens of thousands of teachers participated in, (streamed to more than 100,000 people), where the union set out its defiant position around using Section 44, Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer and Shadow education minister, Kate Green, were stressing the importance of returning to school on Monday. By mid-afternoon there was a leak that Johnson was going to speak to the nation and would most likely announce a new lockdown including schools.

Starmer could see which way the wind was blowing and he began to give interviews in which he said he supported a new lockdown, but he kept hedging and deflecting on schools, merely saying it was “tragic” but “inevitable” that more schools would have to close. Still not a word of support for teachers, support staff, premises managers, administrative staff, cleaners and others, expected to return to unsafe sites. Not a word of acknowledgement or support for the leadership that unions had shown on behalf of their members.

The interviews with a squirming Starmer as the afternoon wore on were painful to watch. A total farce. And so lockdown has come. The vaccinations are beginning to take place. I’m typing this against the constant background noise of ambulance sirens. But schools still have not got any solid government commitments to any of the constructive plans that their unions offered last June, plans that any Labour leadership that had the real human interests of children and parents at heart, let alone workers in schools, should have already embraced. That, unfortunately does not seem to be their priority.