The Left

Why Galloway is doing the left a favour

Having given the Socialist Workers Party’s Paul Foot a platform for his invitation to an SWP sponsored rally with George Galloway “topping the bill”, today the Guardian has space for an obviously pre-written piece by Galloway himself promoting his new political movement which he says will contest the European elections in June.

I will now seek to challenge New Labour at the polls. In the European elections next June, I will be part of a list – in a proportional representation contest – which will seek to unify the red, green, anti-war, Muslim and other social constituencies radicalised by the war, in a referendum on Tony Blair.

We will not be a political party, but a coalition around which we hope many will rally – some perhaps only for the day, merely lending us their votes – to show the true colours of the British people.

So far, the only information that has come out of the meeting in London last night, is that the Galloway led coalition, is primarily backed by the Socialist Workers Party. It is not clear whether this means the formal end of the failed Socialist Alliance project that was the SWP’s previous attempt at mobilisations for elections.

One of the elements the Socialist Alliance always lacked was a recognisable leader who was a ‘name’ – it is clear that the SWP now see Galloway as that leader. The other difference is that they are now looking beyond the ranks of other Trotskyist parties – the ‘Muslim community’ (whatever that means politically), greens and other elements of the Stop the War Coalition are the key allies for the SWP and Galloway now.

Galloway has always scorned the idea of left breakaways trying to take on the Labour Party and has mocked those Trotskyists who attempted to build a ‘socialist alternative’. But with typical opportunism, now that he has been expelled from the party he has embraced the idea enthusiastically.

The new SWP-Galloway alliance (how convenient that it is not a political party which would require such basic democratic elements as a constitution, elections, members rights etc) is therefore a representation of the most reactionary elements of the anti-war movement and the anti-democratic left.

It will consist of an activist rank and file made up of foot soilders from the totalitarian SWP, people who view Islamic terrorism as part of an ‘anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist fightback’, led by a Stalinist apologist for Saddam Hussein, a man who even urged the Iraqi dictator to go on “Until Victory, to Jerusalem”.

So why do I think George Galloway is doing the left of favour with this move?

Well, for a start, if there really were any supporters of Galloway or his politics in the Labour Party (and it is worth noting that most of those who opposed his expulsion were not actually members of the party), then he is now encouraging them to leave Labour. Let’s hope they do so – good riddance.

Secondly, those on the left who supported the anti-war movement despite Galloway and the SWP’s position in the leadership, those who said the cause had merely made them temporary allies on the same demonstrations, will now be forced to decide which way they are going to jump. By forcing the anti-war movement into electoral politics, the SWP and Galloway, are splitting not only the Socialist Alliance but the Stop the War Coalition.

No longer can Galloway and the SWP claim to be leading a broad protest movement, they are now heading a de facto political party. So Greens, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party members who took part in Stop the War Coalition will have to think long and hard about whether they want to back leaders who are going to be standing as candidates against their own parties and demonstrations and events which are promoting them.

But most important of all yesterday’s announcement should draw a clear line between those on the anti-war left who are committed to democratic politics and who oppose tryanny and those who do not. The likes of the AWL, who have made clear there hostility to Galloway and the SWP, are going to be forced to come out against this move or else have their credibility shot to pieces.

Signing up as a supporter of George Galloway and the SWP is a clear political statement – we should be happy that there is now a chance to see who is willing to do that.