George Galloway stunned many of his social-democratic followers when he sent the following tweet to his 600,000 Twitter followers and the wider Twittersphere:
“Given the nature of Labour’s Euro-fanatic candidates list and the crucial juncture we have reached in the fight for the full implementation of the Brexit referendum result and for one-time only I will be supporting @Nigel_Farage in the next months elections. @TheBrexitParty”. (17 April 2019)
He followed this up with a widely-viewed interview with RT, during which he condemned the identity politics of the traditional left, complained that Labour had deserted the working class, and condemned all those who accuse the British working class of simply being racist or fascist, without looking closer at the deeper meaning of their discontent over Brexit.
He pointed out that the forthcoming European election poll is quite clearly going to be a new, ‘soft’, referendum on the single issue of Brexit – which our parliament has been toothlessly chewing over for almost three years, unable and unwilling to deliver on the clear mandate of the Brexit vote of 2016.
Our party pointed out in our most recent free newspaper sheet – distributed to, and read with interest by, tens of thousands of workers – that British workers had demanded Brexit, and that the failure to deliver it was demonstrating to the mass of British workers the fraud of their so-called parliamentary democracy.
The opportunity for workers to gain an increased understanding of the true nature of Britain’s parliament, which in reality is a hollow talking-shop concealing the iron fist of the state apparatus and the dictatorial rule of the wealthy ruling-class elite, is clear.
So much so, that the issue of Brexit – despite the triumphalist broadcasting of large anti-Brexit marches and online petitions – far from going quietly away, looks set to upset the applecart of bourgeois politics in a fairly extreme way.
The Brexit party – Ukip mark 2?
Despite being registered in February and only formally launched in the past few weeks, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party has already “leapfrogged over all the other parties in the polls”. (Farage’s Brexit party launches in Cumbria by Alice Scarsi, The Daily Express, 29 April 2019)
An article in the Telegraph reports on the latest polling data. While polls should always be taken with a pinch of salt, and we don’t want to get bogged down in electoral politics in general, the phenomenon is nevertheless starkly illustrated by a graph showing voting intent for the upcoming European Union election. Support for the Tories dipped drastically and for Labour somewhat more slowly in the weeks after the Brexit party was launched; the Brexit party was topping the poll at 28 percent by 29 April, with Labour on 25 (down from 33 in two weeks) and the Tories on 13 percent (down from 28).
Seeing through the charade of May’s “Brexit means Brexit” shambles, workers clearly wish to demonstrate their opposition to all the scheming aimed at reversing the referendum. Thus: “A separate poll – also from YouGov – shows that more than half of those who voted Conservative in the 2017 general election intend to vote for Mr Farage’s new party in the European elections, with just 13 percent of leave voters backing Mrs May’s party.” (Farage could win majority of Conservative voters, as less than a third think Tories are pro-Brexit by Patrick Scott and Ashley Kirk, The Telegraph, 30 April 2019)
“The Brexit party is running for the European Parliament elections taking place on 23 May – and polls are signalling it may take over both the Labour and Conservative parties.
“Two recent YouGov polls show Nigel Farage’s Brexit party has surged by 12 percent in just four days, while the Tories are facing their worst defeat in 185 years.” (The Daily Express, op cit)
“Just 29 percent of those who voted for Theresa May’s party in 2017 feel the Conservatives are pro-Brexit with 31 percent seeing them as anti-Brexit, according to polling from YouGov conducted at the end of April.” (Telegraph, op cit)
Galloway noted in an article for RT: “I was ‘trending’ on Twitter in the UK for two whole days over the simple act of declaring where my vote will go in the European elections on 23 May, which now look inevitable in Britain. There was a huge reaction elsewhere too.
“Mind you, it was a controversial call.
“I have spent a lifetime on the left, joining the Labour party at 13 and spending nearly 30 years in parliament as a left-wing MP. And I’m voting for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party. How come?
“Ontology is important to me. I made a documentary for RT called The Patriot Game, which looked at the history of the far right in Britain; the history of fascism. The left-wing predilection to call everyone to the right of you a ‘racist’ or even a ‘fascist’ is not just juvenile, cretinous, but totally counterproductive, driving the subject of your insults irredeemably beyond your political grasp …
“Much of the outrage against my voting intentions comes from people who voted for Tony Blair in 2005, when he was dripping in blood from the invasion of Iraq – an act which would lead to the death of a million Iraqis – now THAT is racism! Farage, incidentally, opposed the war on Iraq, and Libya, and Syria – unlike the great majority of Labour MPs …
“More than three-quarters of the Labour party’s candidates in this election openly reject the result of the Brexit referendum, demanding a re-run of the vote. Almost all of them are supporters of Mr Tony Blair. Almost all of them are opponents of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. One of them (thinking she would not be standing in Euro elections again) recently said she was ‘only just’ Labour anymore.
“Their lead candidate, the inaptly named Lord Adonis, live on radio last week said he hoped that Brexit supporters would not vote Labour. As a student of Labour history, I can tell you that this is the first recorded example of any candidate for a major party asking 17.4 million people not to vote for his party – even though five million of them are Labour voters.
“Brexit is being stolen from the voters who won it, in front of their eyes, by establishment politicians of all parties. A real anger in the country has arisen at this grand larceny. This anger now has but one focus, the Brexit party. The remain camp can choose between Labour, Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, Green and the breakaway Change UK. It is a perfect dichotomy …
“So I’ll be voting for Brexit, nothing more but nothing less on 23 May. The surprise is that anyone thought I would or even could do otherwise …” (Why I’m voting Brexit in the European elections by George Galloway, RT, 22 April 2019, our emphasis)
Supporters of Labour party social democracy are up in arms. But this is not new for them. They have always issued hollow slogans to the workers of Britain along the lines of “Vote Labour to keep the fascists / BNP / Ukip / Tories out”. Their politics consist of calling for votes for Labour as an answer to all questions.
British workers are realising intuitively and by experience, however, that Labour is another capitalist party, just like all the others, even though most of these workers may not yet define themselves as anti-capitalist.
The days after the collapse of the banks in 2008, when everyone was demanding action against the bankers, have long been transformed by politicians and media into ‘the people’ apparently demanding action against immigration. In that fraud of protecting the rich and victimising the poor, all the capitalist parties have played their part, Labour first among them.
But that is not what is at issue here and now. The fact is that workers are realising that Labour is as much and more the agent of their misery as any other representative of the ruling class.
Is Galloway a fascist? Is calling for Brexit ‘fascist’?
Let us state unequivocally that we think Galloway made the correct decision to stand against Scottish independence, and now correctly stands against the EU when he calls for a one-time-only vote for the Brexit party in EU elections, which Britain should not be taking part in at all, in view of the “critical situation we have reached with the implementation of the Brexit referendum”. Neither position makes him a national chauvinist.
Mr Galloway has made no secret of his desire to return to the Labour party. It has been made abundantly clear to Jeremy Corbyn by his party that that won’t happen, and no doubt Mr Corbyn has made that abundantly clear to George. But that is not our concern.
There’s a parallel in the ‘unpardonable to stand with Farage’ line with that taken by many commentators and ‘historians’ who condemned the USSR for ‘standing with Hitler’ or, conversely, ‘standing with Churchill’ during WW2. In fact, the USSR stood with neither; she stood with the workers of the USSR and of all countries. But the tactical alliances she made enabled the Soviet Union to vanquish her mighty imperial enemies.
The meaning of Brexit
Choosing to ‘stand with’ the EU imperialists (imperialist ‘internationalism’) or to ‘stand with’ the British imperialists (imperialist ‘nationalism’): is that the essence of Brexit?
No. Brexit, as the CPGB-ML has emphasised since the beginning of the debate leading up to the referendum (in which 17.4 million voted to leave the EU, as opposed to 16.1 million who voted to remain), hurts European, British and US imperialism alike.
The harder the Brexit, the more the imperialists will be set back. Yes, some privileged workers will find that their privileges come under threat from this outcome, but that’s the way the winds of capitalist economic crisis are blowing in any case.
It’s the capitalist economy, stupid
‘Socialists’ who lament the ‘damage to the economy’ that Brexit will do are in a bit of a logical pickle.
The capitalist-imperialist economy is designed to favour the financial magnates. What is ‘good for the economy’, in their lexicon, is what will strengthen their grip on the means of production and their hold on the exploitation of workers’ labour-power.
Climate catastrophe, environmental degradation, low pay, poor social housing, abolishing the NHS, bailing out banks, austerity and cuts for the working class, superexploitation of the oppressed world, famine, disease, global poverty, prostitution, drug addiction, obscene military spending and perpetual war are all ‘good for the economy’. The EU imperialist alliance is a source of strength to the free-market-fundamentalist devastators of workers’ lives and of our shared planet.
The global capitalist economy is already in profound and deepening crisis – because the imperialists have impoverished the world’s population to an unbearable degree. The fact that large imperialist interests are hurt by Brexit should not concern us. The notion that we are all in this imperialist project ‘together’ is a profound lie.
It is the very essence of capitalist economy to rob the workers. It is the failure of the capitalists to be able to provide employment and decent living standards for workers even in the heartlands of imperialism (US, Britain and the EU – and Greece is the country we should examine when people talk of the EU being some kind of workers’ paradise) that is smashing the EU project. Not Farage. Not ‘racism’.
(The EU imperial project is most definitely also a racist one, by the way, and all imperialist parties, Labour included, are more than happy to play the immigration blame-game at pretty much every election – another sign of their bankruptcy.)
The EU bankers (and after them Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, and former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and former US president Barack Obama, and former British prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major, and an endless line of bourgeois spokesmen and women …) tell us that there is no life beyond the EU. The capitalists tell us that there is no life beyond capitalism. Our papers are filled with juvenile and apocalyptic stories of impending starvation and lack of medicines, as if Britain were incapable of switching to other forms of production and economy. Both assertions are wrong.
In the first instance, the poor of Britain, Greece and the rest of Europe are already suffering from lack of food and medicine. And what’s true for them is true for billions more workers across the world. Since when have our ruling classes cared a jot for the wellbeing of anyone but themselves when drawing up their hegemonic plans?
Submitting to the imperial ruling classes’ bullying on the basis that it will ‘help the economy’ is simply another way of saying: “Workers, know your place: accept cuts, accept austerity and help make our businesses profitable through your increased subservience and deeper exploitation.”
It is precisely the capitalist economy that is impoverishing the world’s people and destroying the planet. The last thing on earth any progressive should be doing is attempting to ‘save’ or perpetuate the capitalist economy.
A way forward?
There is no substitute for building an actual workers’ movement (the Labour party is not a workers’ party or a workers’ movement, any more than Ukip or the Tories are; beware of that all-too-common sleight of hand) that can put the workers’ interests and demands in a revolutionary manner, and teach the mass of workers to know and achieve their own ends through their own power.
In the meantime, it is not true to say that certain political events will not favour that revolutionary development.
Who is the greatest enemy of the workers?
The answer is generally the unseen enemy: the enemy who poses as friend, or who goes undetected.
Perhaps most glaringly false is the underlying assumption that Labour party imperialism, which has 100 years of imperialist crimes to its credit (and no economic plan other than yet more capitalism, austerity, exploitation and war) is somehow more benign than some random banker (Farage), who for his own reasons starts a single-issue campaign (against the EU).
Farage, like that other disrupter US president Donald Trump, may not realise that Brexit is against the broader interests of imperialism, but most of the other imperialists do. And while our pseudo-left will no doubt take the opportunity, supported by the ‘neoliberal’ and ‘internationalist’ wing of imperialism, to stage protests against Trump (not against US imperialism) when he visits Britain in a few weeks’ time, we note that these Labour gentry were falling over themselves to shake hands and show their glowing support and endorsement for US imperialism when it was headed up by the suave and sophisticated ‘democrat’ Barack Obama.
The false assumption of Labour’s ‘leftness’ has been under severe strain for decades, and particularly since the advent of Tony Blair to office in 1997. Many of the faithful have placed great hopes in the ability of Jeremy Corbyn to put Labour ‘back on track’, reverting it to a ‘golden age’ that never, in reality, existed.
No amount of talking about equality, justice or peace by Mr Corbyn and his well-meaning friends can change the nature of British imperialism; voting for nice people will not abolish poverty, inequality or war. We cannot transform capitalism; we must destroy it, root and branch.
Despite this, we would welcome the election of Corbyn as prime minister, because perhaps – and only perhaps, since those who ignore reality and the mass of historically accumulated evidence aren’t good at analysing new evidence either – some direct experience of ‘left’ Labour imperialism will finally kill off the myth of the ‘left’ or ‘pro-working-class’ Labour party – along with the myth that voting can change the nature of the bourgeois state – and allow workers to concentrate on building an effective vehicle of resistance to the onslaught of capitalism.
Ukip and the Brexit party are not the main problem for working people. Such parties are small fry when compared to the 100-year-old agent of imperialism in the working-class movement that is ‘Labour’.
A revolutionary shift that needs to be addressed creatively
What we are seeing on a global scale, decried as ‘populism’ by imperialist representatives and as a ‘massive shift to the right’ by the imperialist ‘left’ (social democrats, Trotskyites and revisionists), is, in fact, massive disillusionment with the effects of imperialist economic crisis and war, and consequently the established politics of imperialism.
It is the beginnings of a revolutionary temper among the masses, and only our weakness organisationally prevents communists from drawing mass support from this righteous anger and becoming a major force in British political life. This can change, but only if we adopt the correct attitude towards the working class’s desertion of the bourgeois parties: we must embrace it!
This desertion is creating an opportunity; one that continuing with the hackneyed, irrelevant, decadent and revisionist politics of promoting the Labour party as the ‘mass party of anti-capitalism’ (against all evidence) will be the best way to squander.
Some desperate Labour party supporters, fancying themselves the heirs to the heroic antifascist struggles of republican Spain, have gone so far as to reissue the slogan ‘No pasaran!’ – against Farage, and, by extension, against George Galloway, and, indeed, against all 17.4 million Brexit voters and supporters.
‘No pasaran’ means ‘They shall not pass’. It was the slogan of Madrid, the Spanish republicans and the International Brigades. As many of our readers will recall, republican Spain was a democratically-elected, popular and progressive antifascist government of the Spanish people from 1931 to 1939, supported by the USSR and by progressive workers all over the world.
The most reactionary feudal-capitalist elements of Spanish society attempted to overthrow that government by enacting a military coup in 1936, led by General Francisco Franco Bahamonde. Franco’s fascist troops were backed by Italian and German fascism, which in turn were backed by the most powerful European capitalists (Krupp, Flick, Bayer, Siemens, IG Farben, etc).
And the fascists were backed in their illegal participation in the Spanish civil war by the British, French and US imperialists, whose policy of ‘non-intervention’ was a cover for refusing to come to the aid of the legitimate and progressive Spanish government.
‘No pasaran!’ is not a slogan or a situation that has much direct analogy to our own; but if fascism represents the naked aggressive dictatorship of finance capitalism, then the EU imperialist alliance of billionaire bankers and capitalists, aiming to repress the European proletariat (the treatment of the yellow vests in France, or of anti-austerity protesters in Greece are good examples) and to crush the workers and rival capitalists of other nations (through trade war with the US, for example) and weaker, especially anti-imperialist, nations (the EU has been an integral component of Nato’s attacks on Libya and Syria, among others) with their racist ‘Fortress Europe’ plan, is far closer to the definition and actual composition of fascist imperialism than those who would seek to tear down the EU, regardless of their political physiognomy (be it Galloway, Farage or whoever).
The EU is backed by the most powerful British and US capitalists and their reactionary spokespeople, so again, it begs the question why any progressive person would feel happy to declare solidarity with the camp of imperialism (remain / EU) and arrogantly denounce anyone who stands against that actually-existing and really powerful and repressive imperial project as ‘fascist’.
Arguably, it is George’s ostracism, very much against his will, from the deadening embrace of Labour party social democracy that has allowed him to take this correct position.
Therein lies the greatest lesson for all British workers.