JEWISH VOICE FOR LABOUR (JVL) is an organisation for Jewish members of the Labour Party and our non-Jewish supporters. We support the left wing shift in the Labour Party. We stand for democracy in our party, we are against racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism and for justice for Palestinians.
JVL was launched at the September 2017 Labour Party conference and, at the beginning of June, in a packed meeting hall, held our second AGM.
It seems astonishing that JVL has existed for less than two years. We are firmly on the political map - as witnessed by the wave of attacks on the organisation, on individual leaders and on members whom we have done our utmost to support. Allegations of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party continue to dominate the media agenda as well as that of many MPs and others on the right of our party.
Three new out of London members were elected to the Committee; we made constitutional changes, aiming for speedy responses while making sure that the membership is in control of the organisation. We endorsed the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of all Forums of Racial Discrimination and called on the Labour Party and all its affiliated organisations to support this in full.
There were many detailed and supportive questions on individual officers’ reports, which highlight that our members are engaged. A large percentage of members attended or gave apologies. We now have members in over half of UK constituencies. One of our members, Walter Wolfgang, died a few days before the AGM and, in the usual Labour tradition, we stood for a minute’s silence to honour a real hero of the labour movement. He arrived fleeing the Nazis; he started the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was vice-chair of Labour CND. He was in the socialist internationalist tradition in which JVL proudly places itself, where the majority of the Labour Party members place themselves - which explains why the ruling class is so hostile.
JVL wants to spend more of our time being proactive and less responding to attacks and defending our members and the leadership of the Labour Party. Even in the weeks leading up to the AGM, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced its inquiry into the Labour Party’s handling of complaints of antisemitism, and NEC member, Pete Willsman was suspended.
Co-chairs Leah Levane (left) and Jenny Manson at the JVL AGM Photo: Richard Kuper After the formal business, Graham Bash (JVL political officer) provided an inspiring introduction to our political discussion, emphasising the seriousness of the situation and the importance of our role. The full text is available on our website: (https://www. jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/ graham-ba s h - agm-po l i t i c al - discussion/).
He explained that the only hope for our movement is a Corbyn-led Labour government and, of course, the ruling class will always do what they can to prevent a government that genuinely operates in the interest of the many, rather than the few.
The ongoing impact of the 2008 banking crisis and the opening up of the process of electing a leader led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn who came under immediate attack. Initially, it seemed that Momentum would have Jeremy’s back but, as the attacks continued, there was less and less resistance and, it seemed, more and more advocating of accommodation to the attackers.
As we reported at the AGM, party members across the land tell us, “thank goodness for JVL, for the clear lead and for the information on the website”. Party members tell us that we seem to be almost the only organisation committed to supporting the left wing leadership of the party and the party members.
As one of the comments on our website on Graham’s speech put it, “I honestly had given up on reading anything in the cowardly, biased British media apart from a few independent sources on the internet who were still brave enough to withstand the torrent of abuse from the right wing. JVL is the voice for every person who wants peace. JVL cares about everyone and is concerned for the welfare of Palestinians... I want to express my gratitude, support and appreciation for JVL.”
JVL will continue to work tirelessly to counter the narrative that, I believe, is there to distract from the message of hope that a left wing Labour Party and government gives to people - to “The Many”.
We speak up because we have to, because we know what is at stake.
Hastings Borough Council and co-chair, Jewish Voice for Labour.