Galloway witch-hunt and Stop the War

"The more highly developed a democracy is, the more imminent are pogroms or civil war in connection with any profound political divergence which is dangerous to the bourgeoisie" (VI Lenin Collected Works Vol 28, Moscow 1977, p245). The above quotation, from one of Lenin's most famous polemical pamphlets, Proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky (1918) should give pause for thought to those of us on the left or in the anti-war movement confronted by The Daily Telegraph's accusations that the leftwing MP, George Galloway - now suspended from the Labour Party and under threat of three enquiries - is or was a paid agent of Iraqi intelligence. Comrade Galloway was one of the most prominent spokespersons for the anti-war movement that recently shook Blair's government and whose sheer massive social weight continues to reverberate even after the war was won. So much so that in the local elections, in an unprecedented development, there was a distinct and measurable electoral punishment of the Labour Party for its leadership's waging this unjust war. New Labour lost control of Birmingham, Britain's second city, in large measure because core votes in heavily muslim working class council seats deserted. Birmingham is of course just one example of the 'Baghdad buckle' in Labour's vote - Scotland is even more important in this sense, with both the Scottish Socialist Party and the Greens making real gains, in part out of their articulation of mass discontent with Blair's war. This year has seen the largest anti-war demonstrations, by far, in British history. And in terms of the fortunes of the war itself, the Blair government had quite a narrow escape. On top of the two-million-strong February 15 demonstration, the government faced the March 22 demonstration, which took place just after the war had started. This time around 750,000 turned out - absolutely enormous for a protest called at short notice, and more significantly, while British armed forces were engaged in combat. In fact, the war was not at that point going according to plan: the 'cakewalk' boasted about by Richard Perle - that it would be all over in a few days - failed to materialise and for a couple of weeks the coalition faced stiff and determined Iraqi resistance. What appears to have happened subsequently was a deliberate decision to capitulate by the very top leadership of the Iraqi regime - most likely Saddam Hussein himself - in the context of the American moves to encircle Baghdad. This is partly circumstantial and speculative at this point, but it appears that, faced with American moves to initiate the long-anticipated siege of the city itself, the leadership did not wait to be captured, but put into action some long-prepared plan of escape - to where is anyone's guess - before the city could be completely surrounded and escape cut off. The inevitable result being, the leaders having fled, subordinates were left floundering and the up-to-then stiff resistance rapidly fell apart - somewhat fortuitously for Blair. With the sheer size and unprecedented potency of the anti-war movement, a major crisis was on the cards if the war had not been won very quickly. And there are still intimations that the mass, incipient and inchoate anti-imperialist sentiments that produced that movement have not gone way. From the standpoint of the top sections of the British imperialist bourgeoisie - the 'former' Tories who have at least for the moment transferred their loyalty to Blair's New Labour - this was probably the most dangerous mass anti-war movement for at least two generations. For the bourgeoisie, knowing full well that, given Britain's historic role as the United States' 'unsinkable aircraft carrier', now reaffirmed by this war, and the existence of the US neo-conservative project for a 'new American century', this connection will undoubtedly be called on again and again. But the British population is at the moment perceived, quite rightly, to be somewhat out of step with this project, influenced by nasty anti-war agitators. It has in fact, been widely commented on that there has been an unprecedented boom in Britain in sales of historical and political science-type books on the Middle East. Hitherto (relatively) obscure specialist books on the history of the Arabs, islam, Iraq, Palestine, etc, which would previously have not got a look in, now sell like hot cakes and have been showing up in and around the bestseller lists. A significant, educated layer of the population has gained the impetus to find out about the venal history of imperialist crimes in the Middle East. Rather worrying for an imperialist ruling class that aspires to play junior partner to US imperialism in a new Pax Americana in that very region. Hence the need to strike back. The bourgeoisie may not be ready at this point to resort to "pogroms" or "civil war" in Britain, but there are lesser weapons of a similar type in its arsenal. Hence the Galloway witch-hunt, straight out of the McCarthyite stable. Comrade Galloway is a leftwing social democrat, with a particular bias in his politics that leads to a passionate, vicarious support for Arab nationalism, which he evidently considers the nationalism of the oppressed. This is not an uncommon point of view on the left: it is often held in various forms by people who regard themselves as revolutionary socialists. Comrade Galloway, as shown by his choice of a career as a Labour MP, is of course not a revolutionary socialist, but is rather someone on the extreme left of social democracy, who at times strays to the very limits of what is compatible with reformism, as with his courageous call for British troops to refuse to obey orders to fight in what he considered to be an illegal war. Comrade Galloway, unfortunately, is also a prisoner of a knee-jerk political weakness common among the most militant sections of the workers' movement - the 'enemy of my enemy', if not considered 'my friend', is at least an ally to be made use of in the struggle. Hence, in pursuit of his entirely justified campaigns to highlight the massive, murderous effects of imperialist sanctions against the Iraqi people over the last decade, he has quite openly rubbed shoulders with elements of the Iraqi regime and fraternised with them. He has also sought funds from two other Arab regimes (the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) for some of his political activities along the same lines (as well as funds from the democratically elected government of Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto for a different, Kashmir-related project) - these facts are and were well known and led to him being dubbed the 'MP for Baghdad Central' by reactionary elements in the parliamentary milieu. Thus Galloway is able, effectively, to rubbish the claims that he was engaged in contacts with Iraqi intelligence, pointing out that his easy access to top leaders of the former Ba'ath regime would render such things superfluous in any case. More to the point in terms of political logic, the idea that the Iraqi bourgeois-nationalist regime would seek to pay a leading leftwing figure in the workers' movement to mobilise a mass anti-war movement to protect itself from imperialist war (which is basically what the reactionary press is alleging) is putting the cart before the horse. Such movements come from below. They cannot be summoned up at the call of petrodollars. Moreover, it ascribes to the bourgeois nationalist Ba'ath Party a perspective of mobilisation against imperialist war something akin to that of the Bolsheviks after October 1917 - appealing to the German masses against the armed intervention of the kaiser's troops. Very strange. Of course, conspiracy-mongering is the very stuff of politics for those - members of the officer corps, Tory MPs, little England capitalists, retired and practising spooks, first rank civil servants, anti-euro Atlanticists, etc - who look to The Daily Telegraph as a weapon to justify the status quo. For them the militant working class movement is by definition a criminal conspiracy - and any stubborn individual or trend that actually stands up and fights them must fall into a similar category. For such types, even if the evidence does not exist to actually prove it, it can be forged with a perfectly clear conscience - in this police mentality, the people they frame are guilty of something, aren't they? But that serious elements in the workers' movement should take seriously the idea that reporters from an ultra-Tory, British newspaper are allowed by the US military to stroll into the captured intelligence headquarters of a conquered adversary government and just gather up useful stuff from the files for a good story back home is beyond belief. Indeed, the Galloway 'file' is not the only useful thing for the imperialists that has 'emerged' from this batch of dubious material. Note coincidentally, some of this stuff has been used to try to posit the elusive link between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qa'eda, a link that even the mainstream of MI6 and the CIA is widely reported to believe is non-existent, by means of alleged Iraqi support for an obscure Al Qa'eda anti-Ugandan rebel group operating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is so tenuous a link, in fact, that despite the potential 'big story' nature of the question if such a link could be proven, it has been virtually ignored by the international media. Then there is the proven use of forgery by the pro-war camp in the lead-up to the war - notably the faking of documents purporting to show Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, to the plagiarism of a 10-year-old graduate dissertation by the Blair government in an attempt to pass it off as evidence, part of a dossier 'proving' Iraqi possession of banned 'weapons of mass destruction' (of which not a trace have been found, despite Iraq having been occupied by coalition troops for several weeks now, and which of course was the whole official justification for the war - a lie). The Galloway witch-hunt stinks, by its whole political logic, as well as its obvious motivation and the proven serial forgery of the pro-war milieu that are pushing it. Quite frankly, one would have to be pretty gullible, or have some other dogmatic or political motive, to believe a word of it. Unfortunately, a truly incredible example of how the left should not respond to this issue is the attitude of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, which has, out of its hatred of Galloway because of his Arab nationalist political views, simply joined in The Daily Telegraph's witch-hunt. Indeed, the AWL, which of course claims (rather hypocritically, it seems) to be the best 'democrats' and advocates of left unity, actually advocated Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party long before the Telegraph published their 'scoop'. The AWL baldly equates Arab nationalist resentment and revanchism against Israeli colonisation and the driving out of Arabs from Palestine with anti-semitism, without the slightest conception that there is a relationship here between oppressor and oppressed - and here the Israeli Jews are hardly in the position of the oppressed. Therefore it sees nothing wrong with equating Saddam Hussein's odious but fundamentally junior and subordinate reactionary dictatorship with that of Hitler's Germany. Sean Matgamna fulminates against Galloway's contacts with Tariq Aziz and other leading figures in the regime as part of his campaigning against the prolonged starvation blockade and imperialist aggression in a manner that is utterly bizarre. "Who in Hitler's entourage would have been the equivalent of Tariq Aziz? Rudolf Hess? Martin Bormann? Josef Göbbels? Hermann Göring? Joachim von Ribbentrop? What would you think of a 1930s socialist - or for that matter a 1930s Liberal or Tory - who would reply to the charge that he had contact with a lowly Nazi agent by boasting that he couldn't need such agents because he had been Hess's, or Bormann's, or Göbbels', or Göring's or Ribbentrop's guest over the Christmas of 1938 or 1939? Would you have him on your anti-war platforms? "What would you think if he had replied to accusations that he had received money from the Hitler government by saying that his political campaigns had been financed by, say, the Japanese government, or Mussolini, or Franco?" (Solidarity May 1). For all the AWL's rambling about Galloway's one time Stalinism, it seems Matgamna's own Stalinist past is re-emerging with a vengeance in this rant. The verbiage is of a pure totalitarian type. One gets the distinct impression that Matgamna, for all his proclaimed credentials as a democrat, would like to take his logic an elementary step further, and demand George Galloway be hanged for treason in the manner of that previous hob-nobber with (real) Nazi would-be rulers of the world, William Joyce (aka Lord Haw-Haw) in 1946. Reactionary Arab ex-colonies and imperialist oil-clients, or even elected bourgeois governments in muslim, but non-Arab, Pakistan, are here equated unproblematically with imperialist world contenders Germany, Italy and Japan, in their fascist heyday in the 1930s. Indeed, 'Arab state' (whether quasi-feudal or bourgeois-nationalist) seems to be synonymous with 'fascist'. What utter anti-Marxist nonsense! The United Arab Emirates is really a world rival to US imperialism, is it not? I am sure its mighty submarine and aircraft carrier flotilla is getting ready to target the US fleet even as we speak - Pearl Harbour lives again. And the elected Pakistan regime of Bhutto really is a good analogue of Franco's Spain? Perhaps that explains why the AWL was quite happy to support the Afghan mujahedin in the 1980s against the USSR when they were being funded and armed by the Pakistani 'fascist' dictator Zia ul-Haq. In reality, Galloway is following third worldist politics to a tee - politics that are not 'fascist' at all, but are characteristic of a deeply flawed but genuine trend in the international workers' movement, which has to be dealt with politically. Perhaps he may have also been influenced (a little too literally) by the kind of logic that is inherent in Trotsky's old arguments that in a war between an imperialist power with a democratic regime, and a backward, oppressed, underdeveloped country with a military- or fascist-type regime, socialists should invariably support the underdeveloped country, irrespective of the actual issues and aims of the war, because the victory of the underdeveloped fascist regime would be a blow against imperialism. Wrong of course, but if Galloway has ever read Trotsky, no doubt he would take that as a license to develop the appropriate contacts to render 'aid' to such a struggle. What Matgamna, due to his 'a little bit Zionist' politics, is completely blind to is the fact that there is a real, tangible national oppression of the Arab peoples as a whole under the current, imperialist world order. Galloway, with his own idiosyncratic form of left reformism, is acutely sensitive to that oppression - and has come up with methods of fighting it that are incompatible with Marxist principles - hardly surprising for a left reformist. But since when has an adherence to Marxist principles been a precondition for the defence of a figure in the workers' movement against a reactionary witch-hunt? By giving support to this witch-hunt, the AWL has crossed class lines. The Galloway witch-hunt is a transparent attempt by the most venal, reactionary and sinister circles of British and US capital to strike back against the anti-war movement by a McCarthyite attack against one of its most prominent spokespersons. It should be met with militant resistance, on the simple principle that an injury to one is an injury to all. Ian Donovan