Ian Donovan’s comments on the Galloway affair are ludicrous, even by his standards (Weekly Worker May 8).
A few points. First, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty does not support Galloway’s expulsion from the Labour Party on the charges which the Blairites are currently bringing against him: ie, that he called on British troops in the Gulf to disobey “illegal” orders. In fact, we wrote that “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’” (Sean Matgamna, Solidarity March 27).
Secondly, far from participating in a “witch-hunt”, we have repeatedly demanded “due process for all” and opposed “all expulsions and disciplinary action on grounds of dissident political opinion within the general parameters of the labour movement” (model trade union resolution on the Galloway affair, published April 24).
Thirdly, in 1994 we called for Galloway’s local Labour Party (not the Labour leadership) to deselect him because of his active support for the Ba’athist regime in Iraq. In particular, he had just appeared before Saddam Hussein and, his voice conveying respect and awe, told him: “Sir, we salute your strength, your courage, your indefatigability. I would like you to know that we are with you. Until victory! Until Jerusalem!”
To elide our stance on Galloway in 1994 and the Labour leadership’s current action is astonishing and presumably deliberately obtuse.
In short, we think Galloway put himself beyond “the general parameters of the labour movement” by supporting the quasi-fascist regime in Iraq. Quasi-fascist? Yes, not because we think “‘Arab state’ [is] synonymous with ‘fascist’” (come on, Ian, you can do better than that!), but because ‘fascist’ is an at least reasonably accurate description of a regime which destroys the labour movement, suppresses all democratic institutions and civil liberties, institutes a totalitarian, one-party state, based on a militaristic and chauvinist ideology, and initiates wars of expansion against its neighbours.
Of course, Ba’athist Iraq was not comparable with 1930s Italy or Japan in terms of power - but in terms of savagery it certainly was.
Ruth Cashman; Sacha Ismail
Alliance for Workers` Liberty
So now we know. At the Socialist Alliance conference last Saturday, our comrades from the Socialist Workers Party gave us their official line on why the British National Party is making electoral gains in many parts of the country.
It is a case of defecting Tories in solid Conservative Party areas like Broxbourne in Hertfordshire (Weyman Bennett); or in the Labour Party heartlands like Burnley or Stoke-on-Trent, the BNP’s victory is attributed to the “scum” on the council estates - thieves, thugs, drug-dealers and general low lives, who have nothing to do with the ‘real’ working class (Julie Waterson). Pathetic, self-deluding and untheorised rubbish.
Even in overwhelmingly prosperous Tory strongholds like Broxbourne, where the Conservatives hold 34 out of the 38 seats on the council, the victory of the BNP’s Ramon Johns (a 70-year old cabbie) in the Rosedale ward of Cheshunt cannot comfortably be written off as a mere manifestation of Tory malaise. This openly racist candidate polled just 32 votes less than the Conservative and Labour candidates’ combined total. Rosedale is basically a council estate, where Labour has traditionally done relatively well. But this time many, even perhaps hundreds of Labour voters, crossed class lines and voted for the BNP.
Why? Asylum-seekers and the chronic shortage of housing. Not that Broxbourne has even a solitary asylum-seeker within its council boundaries. But given the long council house waiting lists and some BNP lies about Bosnians, Afghans or whatever, that was enough. Were all the ex-Labour voters who were persuaded by BNP racist propaganda just “scum”? I think comrade Waterson, as a supposed partisan of the working class, owes them an apology. Like millions of working class people across the country, they feel totally betrayed by Blair’s New Labour. Disorientated, angry and fearful, they turn to plausible demagogues like Ramon Johns. They are, in fact, the Socialist Alliance’s natural constituency in this period, but we are failing to reach them.
Turn to an area like Stoke, and you see just how grotesque is comrade Waterson’s view of reality. Coal and steel are gone; the potbanks are in terminal decline and the Michelin factory is closing down. Against this background of severe unemployment and the arrival of several hundred asylum-seekers, for the first time in living memory the Labour Party has lost overall control on the council.
Admittedly, the SWP is thinly represented in this city of more than a quarter of a million people, but they could at least listen to the Socialist Party, which does have a significant presence. The lessons from the doorstep are the same: disillusionment, despair, anger and fear.
Are all of these formerly staunch Labour Party supporters just “scum”? Of course not. In the SWP’s imaginary political landscape the class seems to consist of two layers: the ‘politically conscious’ working class with its fundamentally ‘social democratic’ consciousness, derived from the Labour Party and trade unions; and the rest, who are dismissed and derided. It is axiomatic, from the SWP’s point of view, that no section of the ‘politically conscious’ working class can vote for the BNP.
The best thing comrade Waterson and her ilk can do is to get out there and discover the complex and contradictory truth, rather than peddle a doctrine that is a stupid and insulting libel against strata of the working class bereft of a real socialist alternative to New Labour.
What does our class need? A genuine socialist party built on a socialist programme. That is what the SA could become, but the SWP, who for their own sectarian reasons do not want this, can deploy their forces to ensure its failure.
Lib Dem gains
With regard to your article ‘Scotland shows unity is strength’, what really irked me was that the Liberal Democrats managed to outflank the left to become the beneficiaries of the anti-war vote (Weekly Worker May 8). This was notable in areas with large muslim populations.
The elections point, therefore, not only to a failure of the left (apart from the admirable support for Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialist Party) but to a missed opportunity for the Stop the War Coalition. Perhaps this can be placed at the door of its subordination to the Labour left, who would never have endorsed anti-war candidates standing against the Labour Party.
Over a period of time, particularly in light of the US-UK-led war on Iraq, the Weekly Worker has come to gain recognition for its democratic forum of open discussion. There has been no shortage of criticism regarding this. However, a substantial number of socialists from various ‘parties’ approve.
What worries me is that many people’s reasons for reading is that they are unlikely to hear such an honest analysis of political (mis)developments elsewhere and so they obtain this awareness from your paper, yet they do not heed the message of the CPGB.
At a time such as this, where the failings of leading socialist parties such as the Socialist Workers Party are made obvious (mainly by the CPGB because of its democratic nature) it is necessary to rectify these failings. Yet it is also apparent that the SWP would rather defensively respond with abuse and stunts such as the ‘no observers’ one than to admit errors and attempt to avoid making the same mistakes again.
It is extremely important that we all show opposition to bureaucracy within left organisations now because, as a means to achieve a revolution, bureaucracy is dangerous and counterproductive. We should have learnt from history how bureaucracy hinders socialism. The realisation of socialism depends on democracy and only a truly democratic party should decide how to create socialist democracy.
If showing this opposition entails defecting, then remember it will be in the interests of the working class. Socialists must unite before we can expect the working classes to do so and we can only achieve such unity through unrestricted democratic organisations - such as the CPGB and the Weekly Worker have proven to be.
If you are a socialist and you disapprove of bureaucracy and limited democracy within your party, then you will do more than just admire or praise the Weekly Worker’s forum. The majority of our objectives are the same and the methodology is absolutely critical to achieving these aims. If you aim to achieve socialism and if you honestly admire the openness of such democracy then you should join the CPGB. Yes, it would require supporting actions or policies you may disagree on but is that not the democracy you admire? How else can we hope to create a decisive revolutionary party?
I enjoyed your look at the various socialist parties in the UK (Weekly Worker May 1). It is essential that people are educated and told what the different groups represent, especially at a time when so many new people are being attracted to the left. There are at least four different communist parties in Britain, including your own, and I was wondering whether you could highlight all the main differences between them also?
Your article on the ‘Anatomy of the hard left’ was interesting and informative, but why did you not describe yourselves in it? How many members does the Communist Party of Great Britain have? I have never once seen anybody selling the Weekly Worker and I go to a lot of demos. So how many members do you have? Answer, please.
I’ve only just read your article on May Day and I know I shouldn’t be surprised that you fail to mention that the Haymarket Martyrs were all anarchists (Weekly Worker May 1). I suppose this doesn’t fit with your idea of anarchists being petty bourgeois, does it?