The Old Left Continues To Rot (1994)

THE "George-Galloway-loves-Saddam-Hussein" affair gave the Tories a
brief respite from their own scandals and sensational revelations last
week.

It brought no respite to socialists concerned at the continuing decay of the old left. It was the latest putrescent manifestation of that decay.

The Tories needed the respite, and though in fact it was the BBC monitoring service which "broke" the story, we got tabloid front pages.
Beneath the abuse, they must have loved George Galloway!

"Where's your nose been Galloway? ...Presstuck up Saddam's junta, that's where!" grimly chortled the dingy Star. The Express was less vulgar but not less stark in its judgement on Galloway's speech in the presence of the Iraqi dictator: "Treachery". The Mirror called
Galloway "the mother of all idiots".

There is a reckless hypocrisy here, of course.

George Galloway offered
Saddam Hussein only dollops of gooey flattery and a pennant when
he met him; the Tories who rushed to denounce Galloway had given
him a secret supply of arms in the build-up to the 1990 Iraqi invasion
of Kuwait. Where were the frontpage tabloid denunciations then, or later?

Two things need to be said here.

The first is that George Galloway is right to call for an end to the sanctions against Iraq. Saddam Hussein has survived sanctions. Thousands - perhaps many thousands - of Iraqis have not. Vast numbers of poor Iraqis are today
suffering privation and hardship because of those sanctions.

The second thing that needs to be said is that the outcry, disgustingly hypocritical though it was, for once was justified.

Saddam Hussein has misruled Iraq for a quarter of a century. The independent Iraqi labour movement was long ago crushed, its militants killed and jailed. Saddam Hussein is an Iraqi-style cross between Hitler and Stalin.
His regime is one of the most murderous in a world in which savagely repressive regimes are no rarity. Now, despite Saddam Hussein, it
was necessary to oppose the US-led onslaught on Iraq three years ago
—as Socialist Organiser opposed it.

It is necessary now to oppose sanctions. But that does not require of
socialists that they support Saddam Hussein, fawn like power-worshipping courtiers before a mass murderer, or make tight-throated, awe-struck, speeches in his presence, in praise of his "strength", "courage" and "indefatigability".

Indeed, to link the demand that UN sanctions be lifted with praise for Saddam Hussein is to discredit the anti-sanctions cause with many
who do not want to go on punishing the Iraqi people with sanctions
but would like to see Saddam Hussein in hell.

The facts seem to be these. George Galloway, MP for Dundee East, was. one of a delegation of European MPs who presented Saddam Hussein with a pennant from Palestinian youth in the Israeli occupied territories. His
Scottish voice grave with sincerity. Galloway stood within smelling distance of the Iraqi Dictator and addressed him directly:

"Sir ...we salute your courage, your strength and your indefatigability".

He then went on to assure Saddam Hussein that Palestinians he had just visited were naming their children after him. He ended his speech with the words "we are with you", and then some words in Arabic which the BBC translated as: "Until victory! Until Jerusalem!"

At first Galloway tried to weasel it out, denying thafhe had been addressing Saddam Hussein. He had, he said in face of the evidence of cameras and microphones, merely been, saluting the Iraqi people,
not Saddam Hussein. He later admitted under pressure that the words, which began with "sir", were addressed directly to the indefatigable and, unfortunately, strong dictator.

A salute to the peoples of Iraq would be spectacularly ill addressed
were it to be delivered to a dictator who oppresses and slaughters Shi'as
and Kurds, who make up the majority of the people in the Iraqi state.

Kurds and Marsh Arabs alike rose in revolt three years ago when they thought they saw the chance that the US war. would topple Saddam Hussein, and-they paid a very bloody price for it.

The US and its allies did want to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but they have
been carefuFto preserve the regime even under Saddam Hussein, in
order to prevent the artificial Iraqi state from breaking up.

Galloway's "meant no-harm" account of what he was doing when he flattercd the dictator will seem sick tomost of "the peoples of Iraq". To
pretend that this dictator represents the Iraqi people is to side with ihe
dictator against "his" people.

Sicker still was Galloway's last salutation in Arabic to the man who rocketed gas bombs on Israel three years ago: "Until Jerusalem!"

What can that mean if not blatant warmongering! until "we" have conquered Israel?

The sight of Galloway standing respectfully before that mass murderer and oppressor of his own people, and presuming to speak in the name of the left of the British labour movement when he told him how"brave" and "strong" and "indefatigable" he is, and that "we" are "with" him "until victory" and "until Jerusalem" — that is the latest terrible measure of the moral, political and intellectual decay of the official left.

The basis for Galloway's reputation as a "left" MP has always been
something of a mystery. Yet he is still accepted as one of their own by
the Morning Star left and by the left wing of the PLP.

The Labour Party gave Galloway a slap on the wrist, eager to get the
matter off the front pages. The "official" leaders of the left have, as
far as we know, done nothing to dissociate from Galloway. George
Galloway will continueas an ornament of the left.

Galloway's antics come on the heels of Bcrnie Grant MP's call at
the end of last year for "voluntary repatriation" of black people to
Africa or the West Indies.

Grant is an altogether more sympathetic character than Galloway.
He is a black man with long experience in the labour and socialist
movement. He has been driven to this "go-but-get-a-good-price-for-
going" surrender to racism by the relentless racist pressures which he
feels as a black man inside British capitalist society.

Yet he too belongs to the same pseudo-left as Galloway, on its
"Trotskyist" as distinct from its "Stalinist" wing. Grant is
clearly a man who has lost his bearings. His opposition to
white racism is communalist, not socialist or even properly
liberal. If we are not in favour of full integration and full
equality then the "left" will be to the right of the hypocriti-
cal official rhetoric of the Tory Party!

The call for "repatriation" has been the rallying cry of the
racist right of all shades since Enoch Powell made his "rivers
of blood" speech in 1968. Here it is in the mouth of one of
Britain's black MPs!

This idea is either a weapon of malevolent "cleanse Britain"
white racists, or. to put it in blunt English, it is plain crazy.

Where can the vast numbers of British blacks, many of them
people born here, go "back" to? The comedian Lenny Henry
said that he'd love to have the NF — whose natural slogan
this is — give him £2.000 to "go home", because the fare to
Wolverhampton was much less. But he was joking, sending
up the idea for the vicious racist nonsense it is. Bernie Grant,
left-wing MP for Tottenham, is not joking.

To make such a proposal is to sell the pass on black peo-
ple who are determined to make a home in this country
where many of them were born, and to win equality here. It
concedes that there is something "wrong" with them.

And to start talking about the price for selling residence here
is to start down the slope at the end of which might well be
not voluntary but forced repatriation. Grant's proposal might
have been designed to feed the development of a mass racist
neo-fascist right in Britain. Of course, that was not his inten-
tion.

The advocacy of the repatriation of Britain's black citizens
should not be tolerated in the labour movement.

Neither should fawning before mass murderer Saddam
Hussein and what looks — and curiously the press scarcely
commented on this — very like advocacy of a new Islamic
war against Israel.

Galloway should be thrown out by his local party. Bernie
Grant should be asked by his party not to advocate "repatriation".
He should be dismissed as Tottenham's Labour candidate if he refuses to agree. We, of course, would advocate
that he be replaced by a left-wing alternative.

Both these measures are necessary for the health not only
of the left, but of the broader labour movement. Yet such an
approach is not likely to meet with widespread approval on
the left.

It is possible for the honest left to get into such a state that
nothing creates an impression. There is evidence that the left
is in such a state.

Standards collapse. Hopes of anything better
go. The belief that it is possible to do anything about a
bad situation goes too. Nobody knows what "left" is any-
more, so anything goes. Judge not lest ye be judged! Do not
react lest that be "witch-hunting", and lest ye too be witch-
hunted.

That is the common wisdom on the left now.
With that approach, the regeneration of the left will prove
impossible. Those who want to regenerate the left must
abandon this approach and the demoralised, beaten-down
fatalism that goes with it.
We say that what George Galloway did and said in face of
Saddam Hussein proves him unfit to be a Labour MP and
that he should be deselected; that an MP, black or white, who
continues to advocate voluntary or any other sort of racial
expulsion from Britain is not fit to be a representative of the
labour movement, and that Bernie Grant should be deselected
if he continues to defend such views.

The left must begin to pull itself together. Vigorous asser-
tion that we have nothing in common with the advocacy of
"repatriation" of black people, or with fawning to military
dictators, is as good a place as any to start.