Centre-left or socialist?

Ananda Samaddar saw George Galloway speak in Newcastle

Over 100 people crammed into St John’s church hall in the centre of Newcastle for a meeting addressed by George Galloway and organised by the Morning Star. There were three main speakers: Galloway himself, as well as Ann Green and Martin Levy from the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain. The meeting itself was introduced by NUM general secretary for the north-east, David Hopper, who also contributed during the interludes between the main speakers.

The first speaker was Ann Green from Leicester CPB. Comrade Green spoke about the economic conditions of the working class in Britain today. Throughout her speech there were constant references to the privatisation of public services and the erosion of the welfare state, rounded off with the usual anti-war rhetoric regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. The speech finished with an impassioned plea in support of the Morning Star. Comrade Green informed us that she read the Star because it “gives the truth about these issues” and that leftwing campaigners needed a daily newspaper. “Why not the Morning Star?” being the closing rhetorical question.

The second speaker was Martin Levy, an active member of Tyneside Stop the War Coalition and district secretary of the CPB in Newcastle. His speech consisted of the Morning Star’s usual left-nationalist rhetoric. As if we did not already know, New Labour has fought two recent imperialist wars and made massive cuts in public spending. The solution to our problems apparently is to reverse these cuts and oppose the bosses of the EU and the euro.

National sovereignty is the absolute axiom of the CPB’s polemic and we obviously need ours back. Strange, when you consider that comrade Levy is in favour of what he calls “internationalism”. It is quite clear that the Morning Star has not and will not progress from its degenerate, ‘benign’ Stalinist posturing.

Of course everyone gathered had come primarily to hear the star speaker, George Galloway, and a fiery speech he did deliver. Comrade Galloway began by invoking the spirit of ‘Red Clydesider’ William Gallagher. This was followed, bizarrely, by a plea in favour of the Star. Comrade Galloway informed us that he “hadn’t missed an issue for 30 years”. He would later make a direct request to the CPB to join the Respect coalition and pool its organisational expertise.

The content of the address itself was standard Galloway fare. He began by attacking the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with a generous dose of humour, before outlining the desperate situation facing muslims, students and pensioners in the UK. Also included were Galloway’s thoughts on the asylum issue - he accused the government of “feeding the racist beast”. His intention is to unite all these oppressed sections of society in what he hopes will be - and I quote - “a centre-left social democratic party”.

Hang on a minute: isn’t that what the Labour Party’s meant to be? When questioned on the Socialist Alliance and other left forces by a member of Tyneside SA, he replied that he had no wish to unite the left parties in Britain whose national conventions could be “held in a telephone box”. The Respect coalition itself was seen as an amorphous entity, and comrade Galloway was unsure as to whether or not it would even be socialist or (heavens above!) Marxist.

Galloway stated that he had no intention of attempting to rejoin the Labour Party à la Ken Livingstone. He decried Labour’s lack of democracy and stated that during his expulsion hearing Tony Benn’s and Michael Foot’s contributions were not allowed to be heard. Galloway then stated unequivocally that he would be standing in London during the forthcoming EU elections, in an attempt to help remove the rotten clique that runs the country.

The Respect coalition itself has in this author’s eye some very worrying tendencies. The inclusion of what Galloway refers to as “radicalised muslims”, students and the possible inclusion of the CPB should set alarm bells ringing.

One only has to look to the SWP’s recent attempt at a ‘Peace and Justice’ party to realise that this is more of the same. Comrades should approach the Respect coalition with some caution and take a critically supportive stance: we do not want to be involved in yet another attempt at cross-class popular frontism or dilute our politics to ‘serve the greater good’.

What is needed is open discussion and an exchange of ideas. Within any organisation that grows organically out of the Respect coalition, sincere working class partisans should intervene in a positive way and put forward a programme consisting of solid socialist principles.