George Galloway has always been a controversial and colorful figure on the left of British politics.
His outspoken support for the causes of Palestine and his opposition to the war in Iraq marked him out for special treatment by the press who have harrassed him continually. These attacks were attacks not just on Galloway but on the whole anti-war movement and George was quite rightly supported by almost all on the left. I was happy when George won his most recent libel case.
However the key to understanding his actions lie in his politics. There are a number of strands to comrade Galloway's politics. A left Arab nationalism is an important strand, a sympathy for the former Stalinist regimes and their politics is another and an attachment to the Labour Party is the third. George has never been a member of the old style Morning Star CPB or CPGB, but can be seen to be broadly in the category of fellow travellers that they had in the LP. He supports the 'British Road to Socialism' and rejects alternatives to London control and the unity of the British state.
All of this has left George with a dislike of the SSP almost from the beginning. He doesn't like 'trots', those who were critical of the Stalinist regimes. He doesn't like what he would term 'nationalists', those who want to see the break up of the United Kingdom and the creation of a Scottish Republic. He also hated the fact that the SSP stood against New Labour whilst he was still in the party. In fact he devoted a portion of his speech at the last Westminster elections to attacking SSP members as 'thugs' (they had heckled his 'battle bus' as it toured the constituency asking for votes for the Labour Party.)
Despite this I was surprised by George's attack on the SSP in his Mail on Sunday column this Sunday. In this piece he 'announced' that Respect had plans to stand in Scotland in the next Holyrood elections ("The MP, who vowed the Labour Party would "rue the day"it ditched him over his anti war views, said Respect had already started to explore the best way to use the proportional representation list system to win Holyrood seats at the 2007 elections.") and that he saw himself and Tommy Sheridan as being the 'dream ticket', the SSP had 'betrayed' Sheridan and he should leave to stand for Respect.
There was one problem however. George had not discussed this with Tommy or anyone in the SSP. Whether he had discussed it with anyone in Respect is not clear at the time of writing. Certainly I imagine it came as a surprise to Scottish members of the Socialist Workers platform. The SSP has sought clarification from Respect.
Tommy, who played a central role in creating the SSP, did not share George's light-minded approach to destroying the party in favour of a loose coalition which has a very basic programme and does not claim to be a socialist party. He rejected the proposal in friendly and diplomatic terms. "I don't know why George is raising this idea. "I am absolutely committed to the Scottish Socialist Party and expect to be a leading candidate for the party in the 2007 Holyrood election."
The outcome of this is that Respect supporters in Scotland will be left confused and defensive. And George has burned his bridges with the SSP. Those like myself who have defended Respect will find it harder to do so in future.
I know that many members of Respect have been supportive of the SSP, they must realise that the tactics the right-wing press will use against the SSP will also be used against them. Smear, split, divide. Don't go along with it, maintain the unity of the movement and the supportive attitude that the SSP and Respect have maintained towards each other until now.
:: | 2:18 pm | | | |
It is odd - as far as I know there was a relatively amicable agreement between Respect and the SSP (Sheridan speaking in Respect's support at the ESF, for instance), hinging on Respect not standing north of the border. I imagine - you're right about SWPlatform people being confused as a result, having been plugging away building the SSP for three years now, it'd be strange if they wanted to throw it all away.
Well I certainly hope that this is just mischief making by George, or the continuation of an old grudge. Already one SW Platform member has said he will resign if Respect stand against the SSP.
I'm not surprised by that. I'd add that whatever effect it has in Scotland, it'd be pretty terrible down here, too, to have Respect standing against the SSP.
This is an archived story. See current posts here!