When "Solidarity" 'Defended' George Galloway!

Submitted by martin on 4 April, 2003 - 12:00 Author: Sean Matgamna

But the left shouldn't boost Galloway
These days the Sun, under its new editor, Rebekah Wade, is a tired parody of its old vile self.
Its coverage of the war reads like a joke version of its own bone-headed, putrescent chauvinism during the Kuwait war and the South Atlantic war of 1982. To the Sun, opponents of Blair's and Bush's war on Iraq are "traitors". Naturally.
It includes Fire Brigades Union leader Andy Gilchrist in its "role of dishonour". Its main target, however, has been George Galloway.
The Sun accuses Galloway of "treachery" because he says that "this invasion is illegal... the best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders".
If that makes Galloway a traitor, then we are all, those of us who oppose the present war, traitors many times over. British soldiers should refuse to obey "illegal" orders.
Opponents of the war will feel it an honour to be called "traitors" by the Sun. We wouldn't want to be anything else. But there is no honour in being bracketed with Galloway.
Galloway is Labour MP for Kelvin, Glasgow, but he is frequently described, and not only in papers like the Sun, as "MP for Central Baghdad". The Sun prints two photographs of him smiling warmly with Saddam Hussein on visits to Baghdad in 1994 and 2002.
Calling Galloway "MP for Central Baghdad" is one of the milder things one can say to describe what he is in British politics - and it is advisable to be mild and understated with Galloway, who is very rich and therefore able to use Britain's iniquitous libel laws punitively against critics. Under those laws, simply suing someone and forcing them to go through legal proceedings can involve them in ruinous costs. In the early 1990s, he took £5,000 from Socialist Organiser: we paid up because we could not afford the horrendous costs of going to court.
Galloway has mysteriously close emotional ties with Iraq and its fascistic, totalitarian Ba'ath party regime. He sometimes in speeches disavows "dictatorships" such as Saddam's, but in fact he functions as an uncritical advocate of Iraqi government interests.
In January 1994 Galloway went to Baghdad to present a pennant to the mass-murderer Saddam Hussein, and, his voice conveying awe and respect, told him: "Sir... we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability... We are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!" He later claimed that what sounded like "Sir" was "so", and that his words referred not to the butcher Saddam but to the Iraqi people. That is not at all the impression that the BBC recording of the meeting conveys.
To find anything like a parallel to Galloway's politics in relation to Iraqi and other Arab causes, you have to go back to the 1930s and 40s, to Western advocates, defenders and apologists for the Stalin regime in Russia, people like the Labour MP and barrister D N Pritt. Pritt was eventually expelled from the Labour Party.
But there is no full parallel to Galloway. Stalinists like Pritt believed that in serving the Stalin regime they thereby served socialism. If you accepted their premiss, what they did made perfect sense.
It is impossible that Galloway believes that in being "MP for Central Baghdad" he thereby serves socialism. What does think he serves? That is one of the big mysteries in this strange business.
In the 1980s Galloway was known as one of the Stalinist "tankies", of whom there were many in the Labour Party then, especially in Scotland. It is as if he has transferred to Iraq and the Saddam regime the emotional attitude he had to the USSR. But nothing explains quite how and why such a transformation came about.
How he has survived in the very intolerant Blairite Labour Party is also a mystery. Last year the junior Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw, in the House of Commons, called him an "apologist and mouthpiece" for the Iraqi government, and then the next day apologised for it.
The greatest mystery of all is why the pseudo-left tolerates Galloway, boosts him, even speaks of him as a prospective leader of a new left-of-Labour party.
He was the last, climactic, speaker at the 22 March rally in Hyde Park. He spoke there as a very strong opponent of the war, but from the point of view of passionate Iraqi, Arabic and even Islamic patriotism.
Why does an organisation like, for example, the SWP, which was shaped by anti-Stalinism, have Galloway on platforms? Catchpenny opportunism does not account for it: Galloway brings with him no large group of followers, and by giving him prominence the SWP catches, for itself and for the anti-war movement, some of the condemnation which the right-wing press can plausibly throw at Galloway.
I suspect that the answer is that they no longer have a clear idea of what they themselves stand for positively, and therefore have lost their powers of political discrimination. The self-same condition is embodied in their refusal to couple the slogan "No to war" with the message that keeps it democratic and internationalist, "no to Saddam".
Constituency boundaries in Scotland are to be redrawn before the next General Election. Galloway's constituency will disappear. His chance of being selected as Labour candidate for a new constituency must be small.
In any case, George Galloway is as out of place on socialist platforms as was in his time D N Pritt. The natural impulse to solidarise with a target of the Sun should not be allowed to obscure that.

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