I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
I thought this was a nasty, racist spoof created by Galloway’s enemies to make him and ‘Honeyglaze’ Jasper look and sound like a pair of total jerks (not that it’s difficult to do that). But apparently it’s genuine. If you haven’t already seen it, brace yourself and prepare to cringe:
Hopefully, the humiliations at Croydon North and Rotherham, coming hard on the heels of the resignation of Salma Yaqoob, will finally kill off the reactionary, communalist vanity project that is/was ‘Respect.’
On the eve of the election this appeared on the Respect Site.
We are on the edge of a political earthquake in British politics. In polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over Labour. Labour has panicked and launched a vicious and negative campaign of dirty tricks against Respect but this has been sidelined by our magnificent positive campaign with the Respect battle bus, advertizing truck and campaign groups in every ward.
Polling conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency.
This is what happened (including the Middlesbrough by-election),
“Labour has won three by-elections, holding Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham parliamentary seats.
It increased its share of the vote in all three seats, but its majority was down in Rotherham, where the previous MP had quit over expenses claims.
The UK Independence Party came second in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, and finished third in Croydon North.”
How did Respect fare?
|Rotherham by-election, 29 November 2012|
|English Democrats||David Wildgoose||703||3.30|
|Liberal Democrat||Michael Beckett||451||2.11||-13.87|
|Trade Unionist & Socialist||Ralph Dyson||261||1.22|
|no description||Clint Bristow||29||0.14|
|Croydon North by-election, 2012|
|Liberal Democrat||Marisha Ray||860||3.5||-10.5|
|Christian Peoples||Stephen Hammond||192||0.8||N/A|
|National Front||Richard Edmonds||161||0.7||N/A|
|Monster Raving Loony||John Cartwright||110||0.4||N/A|
|Nine Eleven Was An Inside Job||Simon Lane||66||0.3||N/A|
|Young People’s Party||Robin Smith||63||0.3||N/A|
This is a good thing.
That is despite (as Toby says) the fact that the Labour winners in Rotherham and Croydon are part of the hidebound right-wing of the party.
It is still an anti-Coalition result.
The sensation of these elections is of course the UKIP vote.
These ‘fascists in blazers’ are the weevils of the British politics.
What for the left?
TUSC (261, 1,22 % in Rotherham and 277, 1,6% in Middlesbrough) and the Communist Party (119 votes) did not do well at all.
Ridley’s votes (1,778, 8, 3,4%) are far too many for any socialist to rejoice about.
Somebody who says this, ““[Respect] is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.” She explained that government support “goes towards that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East”. She went on to attack the Tories and Lib Dems, saying that all the mainstream parties are “riddled with Zionists”” represents forces that have no part in the labour movement.
Still one cannot but smile as ‘Rapper Jasper’s’ result: a lost deposit.
And at the pitiful attempts to draw comfort from their result by Respect supporters (wonder how long this link will last before these ‘democrats’ take it down).
The obvious fact is that Respect have drawn from the old (and now unused) Liberal Democrats’ by-election strategy: publish boosting made-up door-step reports and ‘polls’ just before an election.
And the truly magnificent score of the Rotherham Liberal Democrats (2,11% below an Independent, 2,73%) brings a spring to the step.
Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the massacres (designated as genocide by the UN General Assembly), at Sabra and Shatila. These were two mainly Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of West Beirut, set up in the aftermath olf the 1967 war, and at the time under the control of Israel following their penetration into Lebanese territory, the evacuation of PLO forces and the declaration of a supposed “ceasefire.”
Although Israeli forces did not carry out the massacres, they resulted from an alliance between Israel and the Lebanese Phalangists – a Christian semi-fascist party and militia. Israel supplied the Phalangists with money and arms. Israel’s aim was to drive the Palestinians out of Beirut by means of terror directed against civilians – women, children and the aged.
The decision to move into West Beirut was taken by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, in violation of of the “ceasefire” and, indeed, of promises made to the US after the PLO evacuation.
Sharon and Israel’s Chief of Staff, Rafael Eitan decided that Phalangist forces should storm the two camps and assigned the operation to to Eli Haqiba, a senior Lebanese security official at a meeting at which Fadi Afram, Commander of the Lebanese forces, was also present.
On Thursday 16th September, the Phalangists attacked, watched by the Israeli army, which had surrounded the camps. In the chilling words of one account*, It was “a three-day orgy of rape and slaughter”. The Israelis provided the attackers with lighting, bulldozers and maps. Palestinians who manged to escape were captured and returned to the camps by Israeli forces. By the end of the third day, bodies were everywhere: “Many of the victims had been mutilated by axes or knives; others had their heads smashed, their eyes removed, tyheir throats cut and the skin had literally been stripped from their body. Severed limbs lay strewn about the floor and others had been disembowelled.”
Shatila camp, Beirut, 20 September 1982 (Photo: UNRWA/Beirut)
The exact number of victims is not known and probably never will be, not least because the Lebanese authorities refused to co-operate with the Red Cross and would not open mass graves. The likely figure is between 3,000 and 3,500, about a quarter of whom were Lebanese and the rest Palestinian.
The Israeli public was horrified when reports began to come through and 30,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv, demanding the resignations of Begin and Sharon.
In 1983 the Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut, established by Israel to investigate the events, found Sharon to be “unfit for public office”. He was elected Prime Minister in February 2001.
On this day we must remember and honour the victims. And we must redouble our efforts for the only just settlement of the whole Israel/Palestine tragedy: two states for two peoples.
* ‘War Crimes and Atrocities’, by Janice Anderson, Anne Williams and Vivian Head, published by Futura, 2007.
The Guardian – not a publication known of its criticism of Islamic fundamentalism or, indeed, any other form of religious bigotry, today publishes a powerful piece by Mohammed Hanif. If you read nothing else today, read this:
How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan
The country’s blasphemy law is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. As the case of 14-year-old Christian Rimsha Masih gains global attention, author Mohammed Hanif recalls a few of the tragedies that have unfolded as a result of the law, and explains why politicians have failed to act.
Fourteen years ago, around the time young Rimsha Masih, now in jail under Pakistan‘s blasphemy law, was born, a Roman Catholic bishop walked into a courthouse in Sahiwal, quite close to my hometown in Central Punjab. The Right Rev John Joseph was no ordinary clergyman; he was the first native bishop in Pakistan and the first ever Punjabi bishop anywhere in the world. He was also a brilliant and celebrated community organiser, the kind of man oppressed communities look up to as a role model. Joseph walked in alone, asking a junior priest to wait outside the courthouse. Inside the court, he took out a handgun and shot himself in the head. The bullet in his head was his protest against the court’s decision to sentence a fellow Christian, Ayub Masih, to death for committing blasphemy. Masih had been charged with arguing with a Muslim co-worker over religious matters. The exact content of the conversation cannot be repeated here because that would be blasphemous. The bishop had campaigned long and hard to get the blasphemy law repealed without any luck. He wrote prior to his death: “I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people.”
Joseph had been pursuing another case, in which an 11-year-old, Salamat Masih, along with his father and uncle, was accused of scribbling something blasphemous on the wall of the mosque. We don’t really know what he wrote, because reproducing it, here or in court, would constitute blasphemy.
The boy’s uncle, Manzoor Masih, was shot dead during the trial. The Masih case went to the high court, where a judge, Arif Bhatti, applied common sense and released him. A year later the judge was murdered in his own chambers, and his killers claimed that the judge had committed blasphemy by freeing those accused in the blasphemy case.
Frustrated and in a fit of rage, the bishop meditated and reached the conclusion that he should kill himself publicly to make his point.
You could argue that Joseph should have organised candlelight vigils, gone on a hunger strike, hired better lawyers. But he had tried everything and realised that a bullet in the head in the middle of a court was his only way to draw attention to this colossal absurdity called blasphemy law.
He was wrong. The law stayed. Many more Christians were killed.
There are situations though, where confronted with the prospect of a 14-year-old being sentenced to death, as a celebrated community leader you can’t do anything but take a gun to your head.
And hope for the best.
How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan
A young girl carrying trash in a plastic bag in a slum in the capital of Pakistan is not likely to arouse much curiosity. Not unless the girl is a Christian. Not unless there is a Muslim boy who wants to inspect the contents of her bag. Then this certain young man, Hammad, takes the trash bag to the local mosque to show it to the imam, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti (also known as Maulana Jadoon), who decides that the contents of the bag are, indeed, blasphemous but wonders if they are blasphemous enough. So he inserts some pages of the Qur’an in the trash bag. What the girl was carrying was a book of alphabets, taught to children, may or may not have had a verse from the Qur’an in it. Reproducing an image of the contents of this trash bag would be blasphemous, so we are never likely to know. We discover the imam’s role in sexing up the blasphemous contents two weeks later when one of the imam’s deputies cracks up. By then Rimsha has been arrested, refused bail, sent to jail and a medical board constituted to ascertain her age and mental health. We are still not sure if she is 11 or 14, we don’t know if she has Down’s Syndrome as was originally claimed. In the initial days of the case, human-rights workers pinned their hopes on Rimsha’s mental condition. As if those who demanded her arrest, those who arrested her, those who denied her bail and put her in jail were all mentally “normal”. Her family has gone into hiding; another 300 Christian families have been forced to leave their homes and are struggling to find shelter in one of the Islamabad forests.
So what can constitute blasphemy under the blasphemy law, which has killed dozens in the past decade, made thousands homeless and millions live in permanent fear about what might be found in their trashcan. It’s up to the lawyers to argue over how to avoid: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles …” but here are some of the everyday situations that can turn you into a blasphemer:
1. Transporting ashes in a plastic bag to a rubbish dump, as has happened in Masih’s case.
2. Discussing conjugal rights according to Islam with fellow Muslims if you disagree with them. You might think you are with a fellow Muslim, around a water pump and relatively safe. That is what a schoolteacher in Chakwal thought. And got into an argument. He has been in jail for the past 10 months. His 14-year-old daughter told the daily newspaper Dawn last week that kids won’t talk to her because her father is a blasphemer.
3. Not minding your spellings. Last year a teacher checking exam papers called in the police after he found blasphemous material in an answer sheet. The police wouldn’t reveal the exact material because that, you know, would be blasphemous. Later it transpired that it was a case of bad spelling.
4. Writing a novel called Blasphemy. Last year there were calls to put an author on trial because she had been disrespectful to religious scholars and spiritual saints. Last I heard she was fine but not writing any more novels with any other name.
5. Writing a children’s poem with a lion as its central character. Pakistan’s most famous social activist, Akhtar Hameed Khan, who spent his life helping people in Asia’s largest slum, tried his hand at a poem like that and spent his last years in courts facing blasphemy charges.
6. Refusing someone a drink of water. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who among other blasphemous things (which can’t be repeated for reasons by now obvious to the readers of this article) refused her co-workers a drink of water. The local imam accused her of blasphemy. The then governor, Salman Taseer, came out in her support, talked about changing the law, and was killed by his own police bodyguard. The policeman’s picture adorns many shops and businesses in Pakistan. Taseer’s name has become synonymous with “going too far”. And nobody, really nobody, wants to mention Bibi’s name in a discussion about blasphemy law.
7. Throwing away a visiting card. A doctor in Hyderabad did that to a pestering pharmaceutical salesman and found himself in serious trouble. The salesman had Muhammad as part of his name.
Blasphemy: a children’s story
An academic subject called Islamic Studies was made compulsory for all students in the early 80s. As a student you were taught a story about the prophet Muhammad’s life. It was part of Muslim folklore, repeated over and over again in Friday sermons, and told to little kids as a bedtime story. When the prophet started preaching in Mecca, there was a lot of hostility towards him. People pelted him with stones, made fun of him and his new upstart God and his teachings. There was one woman in his Mecca neighbourhood who was particularly nasty to him. As he left his house every day, she would be waiting for him with a basket of garbage that she would empty over him. It happened day after day but he never rebuked the woman, nor changed his path. Then one day he walked the street and no garbage was thrown at him. He turned back and went looking for his tormentor and discovered that the woman was ill and bedridden. He inquired about her health and told her that since she hadn’t come out to insult him like she did every day, he was worried about her. The woman, impressed by his generosity, converted to Islam.
There is another story that kids are taught these days. This story has almost become the new folklore, repeated endlessly on social networking sites and narrated in graphic detail by the supporters of the blasphemy law. According to this story when prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca he announced a general amnesty except for those who had committed blasphemy against his person. He ordered them to be beheaded. One blasphemer was killed even when he tried to take shelter in the Khana Qaba in Mecca, the most sacred place for Muslims, where it is strictly forbidden to kill anyone.
A common Muslim might be puzzled over how both these stories could be true? But before puzzlement starts to border on blasphemy, one must seek the guidance of Pakistani Islamic scholars, who tell us that Islam is the most humane of religions, that there is nothing wrong with the blasphemy law, that it is the implementation which is problematic. Before the current law came into existence, in 60 years there were six reported cases of blasphemy. Since the current law was constituted there have been more than four thousand. But the law has such power that even pleading the statistics is considered blasphemous. When Governor Taseer challenged it, they killed him, and then many of the same Islamic scholars refused to say his funeral prayers.
The fear of Allah v the fear of mullah
Not too long ago, the role of the clergy in a neighbourhood was confined to birth and deaths, funeral and special religious occasions. You went to the mosque to offer your prayers, you prayed for better crops, for the rains to start or stop; travellers could expect to find shelter for the night. A mosque is no more just that. Equipped with a powerful public-address system and controlled by sectarian religious groups, it’s become a little battle headquarter for the neighbourhood. The continuous Shia massacres across Pakistan are not hatched in some far-off land, by enemies of Pakistan or enemies of Islam as Pakistan’s maulanas pretend; they are preached, planned and executed from local mosques.
People listen to religious scholars.
“If she is innocent, she should be released,” thundered a dozen maulanas on TV screens after Rimsha was arrested. “And if she is guilty, the law must take its course.” They completely ignored the fact that an illiterate child is not likely to even know what constitutes blasphemy. And the law they want to be implemented has led to a situation that even when the accused is found innocent, they are condemned for life.
All you need to do to condemn someone for life is to switch on a mosque loudspeaker and make the allegation. Before Chishti was caught in his own trap in the Rimsha case, no accuser had ever been arrested or tried. The laws against hate speech are weak, and almost never implemented. And how can it be considered hate speech when all they are doing is expressing their faith that might include demanding death for all Shias and Ahmedis, and an occasional Christian who may or may not have crossed the line.
There are enough sectarian organisations in Pakistan to wage perpetual war. There are enough factions within these organisations that will shoot down every argument, every appeal to rationality. You can’t reason with Allah, so you mustn’t reason with a mullah, because that too might be blasphemous.
A few days before it was found that Chishti had planted evidence against Rimsha, he was interviewed on TV. He was asked if he had been campaigning to expel Christians from his neighbourhood. He seemed puzzled for a moment, then rebuked: “This is a Muslim country, Allah has given it to us. If these Christians make noise at the time of our prayers, then they should be asked to leave.” I am certain that even when Chishti was stuffing pages from the Qur’an in the poor girl’s trash bag, he believed he was doing Allah’s work.
The Christian work
There is a well-off Christian businessman in Karachi who fusses over the trash basket in his office, handles his work file carefully, because, you never know, a stray scrap of paper can ruin you, your family, your business.
Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistanis, the majority of them very poor. Many of them are converts from low caste Hindus, who embraced Christianity in the hope of better status, but most end up sweeping the streets and cleaning clogged up gutters. Because of rampant unemployment the sanitary profession is not exclusive to Christians any more – there are thousands of Muslims, mostly migrants from rural areas, who sweep the streets and haul the trash but because of old prejudices, it’s still considered a profession beneath Muslims. The Christian businessman in Karachi was hiring a cleaning person for his office and inquired about his background. The candidate told him: my family comes from farming but because of bad times we are forced to do this Christian work.
My father, the blasphemer
My father was as devout and zealous a Muslim as I have ever seen. Never missed a prayer, built a huge mosque in his village and always preferred the stricter, literalist version of religion. He also had a mysterious stomach ailment and the only cure was a verse from the Qur’an recited by the only Christian gentleman in the neighbourhood. This accidental healer was also the neighbourhood sweeper. When I think of these two old men huddled in a room, reciting verses from the Qur’an to cure a minor ailment, I wonder if they were committing blasphemy?
For the first time since the Right Rev John Joseph shot himself, there is some public support for a blasphemy victim. Some religious scholars have come out in Rimsha’s support, an odd politician or two have talked about this case becoming a tipping point in the blasphemy debate. But let’s not have any illusions: no political party has the courage to rewrite a single word in the law let alone repeal it. The 11-year-old Salamat Masih who Joseph had fought for was sentenced to death. A higher court later overturned the decision but it was obvious the boy would never be safe in the country. A Christian charity helped him find asylum in Europe.
Rimsha (if found not guilty) has been offered sanctuary by one of the country’s largest seminaries, Jamia Banuria, in Karachi. Banuria is also a staunch supporter of the blasphemy law. Rimsha probably doesn’t know that she might end up spending the rest of her life in a Muslim seminary or be left at the mercy of a Christian charity.
In Joseph’s hometown in Faisalabad, in a Muslim seminary called Jamia Rehmania, they made a monument to his sacrifice. Jamia Rehmania also supports the blasphemy law. The memorial, called Bishop John Joseph Memorial Hall is the only monument in Pakistan dedicated to a blasphemer.
“I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do” - Kate Hudson.
Kate Hudson, prospective ‘Respect’ candidate for Manchester Central, has put out the following statement:
It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to stand down as Respect Party candidate for the Manchester Central by-election. This has been a difficult decision to make because I am in no doubt that the Respect Party has the right policies to meet the challenges facing Britain today, and that its redistributive anti-austerity and pro-investment platform is exactly what is needed to turn around Britain’s failing economy and meet the needs of Britain’s population. Political events across Europe demonstrate that Respect is not alone in working to fill the political space vacated by Labour and its sister social democrat parties as they have moved to the right and embraced neo-liberalism, from Greece to France and now Holland.
However, I cannot in all conscience, stand as candidate for a party whose only MP has made unacceptable and un-retracted statements about the nature of rape. To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do.
I stand by the position taken by Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, who has stated:
“Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.
There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty. By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.”
Unfortunately George Galloway’s subsequent clarification of his remarks was totally inadequate.
To continue to represent the Respect Party in this context does not accord with my political principles, which include the continuing struggle for justice and respect for women, as well as fighting against austerity, war and racism. I will continue to work within the Respect Party to ensure that our values and principles with regard to women’s rights match up to the Party’s – and George Galloway’s – outstanding record in these other areas.
I would like to thank our members and supporters in Manchester and across the country for the strong support extended to the Manchester Central campaign. The struggle for a left politics based on justice and equality, where society is organised to meet the needs of the many, will continue.
Exclusive report from Bruce Robinson:
About 100 people attended Wednesday’s debate between Clive Searle of Respect and Lucy Powell, Labour PPC for the Manchester Central by-election. Unfortunately there was only an hour for debate which followed a Trades Council meeting, so little time for speakers.
The introductions were largely about the Bradford West campaign. Searle opened by saying that people had tried to dismiss the result as a Muslim bloc vote, but that was not true and he was, anyway, proud of Muslim votes. The Labour Party was in denial. Ed Miliband had said one couldn’t talk to people who denied Israel’s right to exist, but millions of people do so. The result was also a message on a range of other issues – for instance student fees, There is an alernative to trade unionists giving money to Labour. Interestingly, he made no mention at all of Galloway. Later in the discussion he said: “We want Labour to be more like Old Labour.”
Lucy Powell was very conciliatory, saying that Chris Searle had made a compelling case and that there was a lot Labour could learn from Respect. They had a common enemy in the government. Labour puts down Respect at its peril. People in Bradford had wanted change and there’d been a deficit in political leadership. George Galloway was charismatic and principled and there was a place for him within the Labour spectrum. Labour remained the only way to get rid of the government.
Initial contributions from the floor were largely pro-Respect, including those from SWP’ers and a woman who was once in Socialist Action, who said she was thinking of leaving the Labour Party to join Respect. There was also lots of criticism of the (Manchester) Labour council’s cuts, turning the city over to private developers, etc, etc.
I got to speak for a couple of minutes. I made the point that the politics of both Miliband and Galloway are symptomatic of the crisis in working class representation and attacked Galloway’s appeal to religious identity as a “better Muslim” as communalist. This brought some muttering from SWP and Respect people. Powell gave a wry smile when I pointed out that Galloway had recently come out against public ownership.
Kay Phillips, one of the ex-SWP people who’d stayed with Respect, replied saying it was a libel to say Galloway supported the clan-based Bradree/Biradiri system – which of course was not what I’d said. Much was made in the discussion, of the Respect campaign’s appeal to young people and women through the challenge to the traditional system (ie: Bradree/Biradiri) of patronage and clan loyalty.
There was an interesting contribution from a Labour Party member from Bradford who described how the Labour campaign had not nadressed non-Asian voters and had based itself upon Bradree/Biradiri clan loyalties.
Star contribution of the evening came from an Asian Labour Party member from Preston, who said that as one of the very few Muslims in the room there were two people in politics he couldn’t stand: Tony Blair and George Galloway. Galloway was leading Muslims up the creek without a paddle. He noted that Respect had never won anything where less than 40% of the electorate was Muslim, and challenged them to stand elsewhere.
In the summing-up Searle said he was going to stand for Respect against Powell in Manchester Central which certainly doesn’t have a 40% Muslim population, so we shall see.
I had an amusing and political bus journey home…
From the archives: Galloway’s boot-licking and kow-towing to “strong”, “courageous”, “indefatigable”, bloody butchers.
Matgamna on Galloway, May 2003:
There is a strong case for dismissing the charges made by the Tory Daily Telegraph and others against George Galloway, of having been a bought and paid-for agent of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq – namely, the character and bias of those baying for the blood of an MP who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the recent US-British war with Iraq.
The Telegraph has published documents which appear to show that Galloway had been taking at least £375,000 a year from Saddam Hussein’s quasi-fascist Ba’ath regime in Iraq.
He is being investigated by the Charities Commission for his use of moneys collected by the “Mariam Appeal”, which he founded.
The putrid Sun has joined in the outcry against Galloway; the News of the World has unearthed a story involving Galloway in sex and conspicuous consumption in Cuba. And so on.
On principle, no-one should trust those who are in full cry against Galloway.
Galloway’s recent associates in the campaign against Blair’s and Bush’s war have defended him. The editor of Tribune, Mark Seddon, wrote in the Times. Tony Benn has indignantly defended Galloway against the charge that he is corrupt and paid by Saddam Hussein.
Socialist Worker has said: “The pro-war press owners are trying to smear George Galloway MP and, through him, the anti-war movement… Even if every word the Telegraph alleges were true it still would not justify the paper’s headline.”
The Stop The War Coalition “publicly expresses its full support for George Galloway and regards the attacks on him – which he has announced he will challenge in the courts – as a politically-inspired witch-hunt”. Tariq Ali, the grizzled but still determinedly, perennially trendy anti-war campaigner, has appeared on TV to defend Galloway.
Yet if Galloway has been a paid agent of the Iraqi regime, it would make political sense out of something that, otherwise, is incomprehensible. How could Galloway, an old-style Scots tankie Stalinist who still mourns the collapse of the USSR, identify with the Saddam regime which, among other things, has repressed and massacred the Communist Party of Iraq?
In political terms it is a sin against nature for someone with Galloway’s background to hold the Saddam regime in anything other than wholehearted loathing. Galloway started out as a Stalinist critic of Ba’athist Iraq. As he sometimes reminds us, he denounced the massacre of Kurds at Halabja in 1988. To oppose the 1991 or 2003 Gulf wars he need not have made any shift to “softness” towards the Iraqi Hitler in Baghdad.
Yet, for a decade now, Galloway has got himself described in Britain as “the MP for Baghdad Central”, or (by a Government minister last year in the House of Commons) as an “apologist and a mouthpiece” for Ba’athist Iraq.
In January 1994, Galloway appeared before the butcher of Iraqis and Kurds, the initiator of the very bloody eight-year war with Iran, the invader of Kuwait, and, his voice and body-language conveying respect and awe, told him: “Sir we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability… We are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!”
In 2002 he interviewed Saddam Hussein and came out to tell the world (Mail on Sunday, 11 August 2002) that the “shy” dictator with the “gentle handshake” loves British chocolates. In 1998 he told the New Worker, newspaper of the unrepentantly Stalinist New Communist Party, that: “The politicised people – which are quite widespread; the mass organisations and the Ba’ath Party which is extremely well-organised and deeply rooted now in Iraq… [have] high morale. High levels of motivation and mobilisation. A high spirit of resistance. Certainly an acute consciousness of who the real villains of the piece are…”
The situation was spoiled by “the vicious effect of elements of the Iraqi opposition, who should know better. They’ve so poisoned the well of potential good-will to the Iraqi people in this country…
“We have a situation where sections of the Iraqi Communist Party, for entirely understandable reasons – they’ve been subject to massive repression – have allowed themselves to be put into a pro-imperialist position… The Iraqi Communist Party and CARDRI (Campaign Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq) have ended up defending imperialism”. (8 August 1998).
Galloway has occasionally said that he is against “dictatorships” like Saddam Hussein’s, but it has been something perfunctory, “for the record”, with no consequences for his championing of Saddam’s Iraq.
If Galloway did all that for money, then something otherwise politically incomprehensible makes good, though disgusting, old-fashioned sense. Otherwise, you have to look for an explanation in terms of a peculiarly twisted psychology. You have to speculate about the shifts an old-style Stalinist has been driven to in order to gratify his taste for boot-licking and kow-towing to “strong”, “courageous”, “indefatigable”, powerful, bloody butchers.
Of course we don’t know whether what the Daily Telegraph says about Galloway is true or not. Galloway has, it seems, now accepted that the documents were found in the Baghdad building: he only denies that what they say is true. He has threatened the Daily Telegraph with a libel suit, though so far – and he has been notoriously quick on the draw with libel suits – only threatened.
For the politics of the affair as they affect the left and the fake left we do not have to wait for a libel court to pronounce. In his public self-defence Galloway has made available facts about his affairs which would shame and embarrass, if they were capable of shame and embarrassment, those who put him up on the platforms of the anti-war movement.
How was the paper East, which Galloway published for a period in the 1990s, financed? By the Pakistani government, for its own political ends, or so several newspapers have reported without Galloway contradicting them.
Were the funds donated to the “Mariam Appeal” – which appealed for funds to provide medical assistance for needy Iraqis like the little girl with leukemia after whom it was named – used to finance Galloway’s globe-trotting? Yes, replies Galloway, most of the funds were used for “political campaigning”, like his trips to Iraq (“maybe 100″ of them in 1993-2002, so he told Islamonline.net).
Was the Mariam Appeal used to channel Iraqi-originated money? Galloway has responded by stating that the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and a businessman in Jordan with Iraqi links, provided most of the funds.
Did Galloway, as the Telegraph documents say, meet a junior Iraqi intelligence agent? Why should I do such a thing, responds Galloway, when I had access to the top leaders in Baghdad. He tells us that he spent Christmas Day recently as the guest of Saddam Hussein’s deputy Tariq Aziz. And so on.
Even if there was nothing financially corrupt in Galloway’s relations with the Iraqi regime, even if he was not a venal self-server but only a confused and disoriented Stalinist moron, the story he tells in his defence against the Telegraph’s charges pose a major question for his associates on the left.
What were you doing working with such a man, whose general attitude towards Saddam Hussein’s quasi-fascist Iraqi government you knew perfectly well? Have you forgotten who and what you are in politics – you who call yourselves “Marxists”, “socialists” and “Trotskyists”? Don’t you care? Have you lost your political wits?
Or is it that you think that someone whom junior minister Ben Bradshaw, in the House of Commons, plausibly calls a “mouthpiece” and an “apologist” for the Ba’athist regime is nowadays just one more variety of bona fide left-winger?
For example, who is Tariq Aziz? He has been Saddam’s lieutenant for decades, during which time Saddam Hussein has done far worse things to the peoples of Iraq – in the first place to the Iraqi working class – than Hitler did to Germans, not excluding Jewish Germans, before World War Two. Saddam and Tariq Aziz imposed and maintained a totalitarian regime that systematically deprived the people living under them of all civil rights, uprooted and destroyed the elements of an independent working-class movement, killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds…
Who in Hitler’s entourage would have been the equivalent of Tariq Aziz? Rudolf Hess? Martin Bormann? Josef Goebbels? Hermann Goering? 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 contacts because he had been Hess’s, or Bormann’s, or Goebbels’, or Goering’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 replied to accusations that he had received money from the Hitler government by saying that his political campaigns had instead been financed by, say, the Japanese government, or Mussolini, or Franco?
We were right to oppose the war. But our opposition should have been – and, so far as we could control it, should have been seen to have been – opposition to our own ruling class on the basis of independent working-class “third camp” rejection of Saddam Hussein no less than of Bush and Blair. “No to war, no to Saddam”.
Put at its weakest, the attitude of those who controlled the anti-war movement has been that it was perfectly all right to associate with the man widely identified as “the MP for Baghdad Central”. They saw nothing wrong in letting the anti-war movement be identified as a pro-Iraq movement, or in making it easy for such as the Daily Telegraph to smear us with George Galloway.
Of course, the same people saw nothing wrong in linking arms with the Islamic fundamentalist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
And it was not just in the anti-war movement. On 10 April the Socialist Alliance trade union committee (members of the SWP and Workers’ Power, and Alan Thornett of the ISG) decided that at trade union conferences this summer the Alliance should focus on getting in on fringe meetings led by Galloway.
There is a mystery in all this – a real and not a rhetorical mystery, that we are at a loss to understand. Why?
Nine years ago (27 January 1994) our predecessor Socialist Organiser carried an editorial entitled “The Old Left Continues To Rot”, in response to two events. One was the crazy suggestion by the black MP, the late Bernie Grant, that black people in Britain should be given money to persuade them to accept voluntary “repatriation”. The other was George Galloway’s appearance before Saddam Hussein – recorded by the BBC – to tell him how admirable he found his “courage”, etc.
Galloway’s performance in the presence of the mass murderer Saddam Hussein seemed to us to be an extreme case of a Stalinoid who had lost even the few political marbles he had had as an admirer of the USSR. We wrote: “Galloway should be thrown out by his local [Labour] party”.
Not quite a decade on, broad swathes of the erstwhile Marxist left have tainted themselves with what was then only the Galloway syndrome.
In the build-up to war, Tony Benn went to Iraq – initially employed by a never-launched TV company in which Galloway was involved – and delivered the sort of innocuous, respectful questions to Saddam Hussein that allowed him to come back to Britain with what was nothing other than a “party political broadcast” for Saddam.
Nobody will be able to accuse Benn of being a hired mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein. We do accuse him of contributing, through political foolishness, to the rot in the left that has progressed astonishingly in the last nine years.
Nine years ago, in political terms, George Galloway was an aberration, a freak. The left did not follow his lead, but tolerated him when it shouldn’t have. We commented: “It is possible for the honest left to get into such a state that nothing creates an impression… Standards collapse. Hopes of anything better go…
“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….
“With that approach, the regeneration of the left will prove impossible”.
Today the left which then culpably tolerated Galloway is not too far from identifying with him. For example, in response to a protest from Workers’ Liberty against the Socialist Alliance trade union committee’s decision, the committee’s secretary writes: “I completely disagree with your assessment of Galloway’s politics on Iraq. I agree with him considerably more than I agree with your organisation…”
Whatever the jury and judge in an eventual Telegraph libel case may conclude about Galloway’s motivation in championing Saddam’s Iraq, the “left” described here is not bought. It is suicidally confused.
In regard to Iraq, there is an element of inverted chauvinism expressed in the attitude: “This is a Third World country. What else can you expect?” The same attitude finds expression within Britain in a manipulative, superior attitude to the Islamic population here – the view that they can only be approached and mobilised through their own reactionaries, the Muslim Brotherhood. What better can you expect?
We are faced here with a political, moral, and intellectual collapse of the old left, and with the cumulative result that the “left” no longer knows quite what its own identity is. How and why has this happened?
Isn’t it that much of the left, or more accurately the pseudo-left, no longer defines itself positively, in terms of what it is for? No longer measures political organisations, classes and regimes by how they relate to what we ourselves fight for?
Instead, the “left” defines itself negatively, by what it is against. It is against capitalism. Against imperialism. Against America. It is on the side of whomever at any given moment is against them – on the side, even, of those who are worse. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was certainly worse.
Of course socialists could not have had any confidence in, or given support to, the US and Britain. But still less could we give anything like support to the quasi-fascist regime in Baghdad.
Again and again the post-USSR left – the pseudo-left, the fake left – lets itself be pushed by its antagonism to the dominant powers into supporting worse. If going for “the best” can sometimes be the enemy of going for the merely better, here opposition to the bad, to the enemy at home, to the immediate enemy, becomes, again and again, support for the worse overseas!
It happened in the Afghan war of 2001, when in antagonism to the Americans Socialist Worker let itself half-apologise for the Afghan Taliban regime’s treatment of women (6 October 2001).
Most terribly, it happened in 1999 with the Balkans war. Opposition to “imperialism” – to one imperialism – led the fake left to line up with the primitive Serbian imperialism at the point where it was trying to sweep Kosova clean of its Albanian population (90% of Kosovars).
Never mind the unproven charge that George Galloway took money from Saddam Hussein. Socialists, or even half-decent liberals, who do not feel embarrassed by the things George Galloway admits to, who do not feel shame at having had Tariq Aziz’s Christmas house guest on their anti-war platforms – those socialists have lost the plot. To call them socialists without some qualifying adjective like “fake” is now an abuse of language..
Galloway: 18,341; Labour: 8,201
It seems that the loathsome worshipper of tyranny and preening self-publicist Galloway has carpet-bagged his way back into Parliament by playing his usual, communalist and utterly reactionary game. Here’s an example of the literature he put out in Bradford West:
“God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you.” Not drinking alcohol seems to be the key test here. Now take a look at the kind of material put out by Galloway’s supporters:
The Bradford councillor is Labour’s new hope in the Bradford West seat, being contested by Respect’s powerhouse George Galloway.
A bi-election has been called following the incumbent, Marsh Singh’s announcement that he is to stand down due to health reasons.
If Hussain can’t get his Labour colleagues to help him out canvassing, he might have to rely on his trusted pals John E Walker and Jackie Daniels to give him a hand.
Make no mistake, George Galloway is giving Hussain a real run for his money. Respect and Labour are neck and neck and Respect have the capacity to deliver a historic blow to Labour’s strangle-hold in Bradford. In fact, George could end up giving Imran “both barrels” (but not the barrels Imran was hoping for).
The constituents of Bradford West have a clear choice between the councillor who represents the party that thinks it has a right to rule in the Northern seats, that started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that brought the economy crashing down around our ears, or the candidate who is a tee-totaller and has consistently shown he has the courage of a lion, who has taken on the Zionist scourge, who and is a defender of Muslims and Bradford West’s last hope.
It has to be said that it would appear that Labour, too, played the communalist card in this sorry by election. But make no mistake: Galloway’s victory is a serious setback for class politics and a major victory for communalism, identity-politics and “personality”-based populism.
This blog has, for some time, been deliberately ignoring the foul creature that is Galloway. It looks like we’ll have to start writing about him again.
More on this result shortly…