Editor’s note: Our party was a motive force in launching the Workers Party of Britain in December 2019, and communists were at the heart of its most vibrant campaigns. However, developments since that time have led our comrades to consider that the WPB has failed in its stated aim of becoming a truly broad movement within which communists could work openly, transforming itself into a left-social-democratic vehicle for bourgeois parliamentarism and anticommunism. We have therefore withdrawn our members’ efforts from the Workers party project. Our stance towards the Labour party in particular and social democracy in general remains unchanged.
On Saturday 1 February, George Galloway received a standing ovation from assembled activists when he addressed the first public rally of the newly-formed Workers Party of Britain at the Carrs Lane Church Centre in Birmingham city centre.
The morning session was chaired by Joti Brar, deputy leader of the WPB, who hailed the meeting as a historic occasion and introduced Comrade George by recounting the recent words of the Venezuelan foreign minister, when he told a meeting in Caracas that Lenin had been right in his definition of imperialism – the main enemy of workers everywhere. (See this article for more details.)
Comrade George opened his remark by saying that Lenin had not only been right about imperialism, but also about the nature of the capitalist state.
Recognising the nature of Britain’s capitalist state machine
Despite not being a communist himself, George put many who claim that they are to shame with the content of his following observations.
Many of us here, he said, grew up in the mist of a mythology that we lived in a democracy; that if we persuaded enough people to vote for us, we could peacefully, democratically achieve our goals. And that there were institutions in Britain which stood aside from the partisan political fray that we could rely on; that were as old as the hills.
George’s own father, he said, was one of those who believed that Britain was a special kind of place in that regard; that our institutions were actually better and more dependable than the institutions of many other countries. He would talk about corruption in government, for example, as being something that happened somewhere else, because we British didn’t have that problem.
He could see that the police in America might be discriminatory, profiling and victimising certain people unjustly, but not ours. That the Americans had awful television, but we had the BBC.
Courts was another important example. The idea that we could have a corrupted judicial system was something beyond the ken of George’snfather and millions like him. And yet anyone following the Julian Assange case now knows that that too is a lie.
This is not ancient history, said George, these kind of things were generally believed until quite recently. But the belief that ‘the state’ represents ‘the people’, and that its armed forces, its intelligence services and so on are independent of politics and will obey the ‘constitutional order’ – that died for many workers a long time ago.
Comrade Galloway recounted stories told to him by former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson (1964-66, 1974) about the campaign that had been waged against him by the state. Wilson had been bugged, burgled and destabilised by the security services, even while holding high office, and despite the fact that he was not remotely left-wing and cherished no socialist ambitions! The movie A Very British Coup was entirely factual.
Just the faint possibility that Wilson might have such leanings was enough to set Britain’s state machinery in motion against him and his government.
The treatment meted out to Jeremy Corbyn over the last five years should dispel any remaining doubts on this topic, said Galloway. He was quite clearly subjected to a conscious and coordinated campaign of destabilisation by state institutions across the board, and that disruption would have continued into active sabotage if Corbyn had actually been elected and tried to implement all of his programme.
What happened to Corbyn, said George, was the state as it actually is deliberately and systematically destroying the possibility of any decisive break with the prevailing orthodoxy – in particular with Britain’s imperialist foreign policy.
The ruling class may be able to absorb the shock of a penny or two more on wages or taxes, or a minute or two off the working day, but what it can’t accept, said Comrade Galloway, is the possibility of a government that might not fully cooperate with its aggressive war plans.
Despite all his back-peddling, our rulers felt that Corbyn was not a reliable tool for imperialism; they couldn’t be sure Corbyn would join imperialist wars, or that he would not boycott or sanction regimes in the world that were oppressing millions of people. They could not be sure that Corbyn would press the nuclear button if ordered to do so.
Our rulers could not be sure of Corbyn’s loyalty – not to the British people, but to the British state and its role in the world. And the state and the people are different, entirely separate things, said George, and Lenin was right about that.
Brexit, the Workers Party and working-class confidence
Summing up several stories that indicated how so many on the left had happily given up their supposedly Marxist principles to follow well-paid careers propping up imperialism in the Labour party (former Trotskyite Alistair Darling bailing out the banks, for example, or former communist John Reid supporting the mass murder of Iraqis, both of whom have since been elevated to the House of Lords), George appealed to all real socialists in Britain to join the Workers Party.
Speaking about the need for Brexit as a necessary step towards being able to swing the pendulum of class struggle back in workers’ favour, Comrade Galloway described the European project as one that aimed to create a bankers’ superstate, ruled over by an unelected and unremovable leadership.
The outpouring of grief from privileged sections of the working class – the ‘remoaners’ – over Brexit is a symptom of the collapse in working-class confidence. We have lost faith in ourselves, he said; why should we look to politicians in Luxembourg or Brussels to protect workers’ rights here?
Workers had rights in Britain before the EU existed. We won them through struggle. And we lost those rights while we were in the EU, which didn’t lift a finger to stop Margaret Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws being passed – laws that were buttressed by subsequent governments and which went untouched by Labour governments with record parliamentary majorities.
Recounting how he had asked Tony Blair about this, George reported Blair’s now infamous answer: “There are some things that Mrs Thatcher did on which I have to build.”
We don’t push the fake patriotism of the scoundrel, said Comrade Galloway, but we believe in our people. We believe in their achievements and their capabilities. We are convinced that if they are properly led and organised, there’s nothing they can’t achieve.
We believe in Wat Tyler, who led the peasants’ revolt. We believe in the Chartists. We believe in the Tolpuddle martyrs. We believe in the working class and its leaders and heroes.
Why should we not embrace the story of Boudica, he asked, referring to some disapproval he had received for ‘liking’ a tweet referring to the queen of the Iceni, one of ancient Britain’s tribes. She saw an empire coming into her country and she fought against it: what’s wrong with that? Wouldn’t all of us do that?
If Hitler had arrived here, wouldn’t we have fought him? Of course there are those amongst the privileged and ruling circles who would have greeted him with open arms and sought to do business with him, but patriotic bourgeois and the mass of the workers would have fought.
British workers will not accept foreign domination, invasion and occupation any more than anyone else would, but the mass media push an imperial illusion that workers abroad are somehow less than us; that foreign domination is acceptable in their case, even though we would not tolerate it for ourselves.
But why should we imagine that Afghans or Iraqis love their country less than we love ours, or that they will allow foreign armies to occupy their cities, towns and villages?
It is our job, as a party of the British working class, to imbue our people with a proper pride in their real achievements, devoid of any superiority complex, and to organise their best capabilities for a better life.
We oppose domination by the EU just as we oppose Britain’s participation in imperialist wars, and Brexit is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the Britain we want to see.
What happened to Jeremy Corbyn?
Talking about the membership composition of the Labour party, George described what he felt had been a cultural shift in the party during his time as a member. He had joined as a 13-year-old in Dundee and had enjoyed the language and culture he found in the branch there.
In the days when trade unions were still a major force in working-class life, George had slept at the party office in his hometown, immersing himself in the meetings and activities of local trade unionists.
But the days when Labour’s membership was made up of working men and women, active in local politics and workplaces, are long gone. We are on the verge of seeing a new ‘new’ Labour, led by that highly respectable peer of the realm Sir Keir Starmer. In fact, said George, referring to the collapse of Greece’s formerly huge social-democratic party into political extinction, Labour is being Pasoc-ed.
Let us remember that large parties can disappear and small parties can grow, he said. Just ask former premier Francois Hollande, whose socialist party ruled France for decades but which has now collapsed ignominiously to the dust. All the indicators are that Labour is heading in the same direction.
He recounted how he had personally and repeatedly lobbied Corbyn not to give way to the pressure to renounce his principles. If you don’t run, George told him, they can’t chase you!
Unfortunately for all those who had pinned their hopes on the possibility that meaningful change might be delivered for the working class via a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn at its head, Corbyn tried to pacify those who came after him, giving ground continually when he should have stood firm.
But no concession could ever be enough for the witch-hunt. As one after another of his supposed allies abandoned him, Corbyn threw his principles and his remaining friends under the bus – but all to no purpose. When he finally allowed Labour to become an anti-Brexit party, he sealed his electoral and political fate.
For a whole section of the working class, this was the last straw. They have had it with the Labour party for good, and it is highly unlikely that they will ever go back, said George. But these people have not had it with socialism – they can and they must be won to real working-class politics.
Meanwhile, Labour has become a liberal party in form and content, endlessly fetishising over diversionary and divisive identity politics. Its members and support base are overwhelmingly from the privileged sections of the working class – overentitled, narrow, and totally condescending in their attitude towards the masses.
We all have our separate identities, said George, and we bear no ill will towards anyone; we welcome all workers without prejudice. But the identity that can unite us all and can change the country, can change the world, is our class identity – and that’s what we stand for and will fight for.
Comrade Galloway closed the morning session by introducing a working-class poet and comedian from Teesside (northeast England), Chris McGlade, whose heartfelt and moving contribution received another standing ovation.
Those present in the hall were left feeling enthused, ready to begin the long march of rebuilding working-class politics in Britain. The road will be hard, they were told, but the prize will be worth the effort.
At the time of going to press, the livestream of the event had received 11,000 views on George Galloway’s YouTube channel alone.
A summary of Comrade McGlade’s speech will be published on this website soon.
Video of all three speeches made during the morning session is available on Proletarian TV.
Video is also available of the afternoon session, which featured two outstanding NHS campaigners, Dr Ranjeet Brar and Dr Bob Gill.
Dr Gill’s film, The Great NHS Heist, is essential viewing for all those who wish to understand what is really happening to Britain’s health service. His speech will appear soon on the party website and in print in the next issue of Proletarian.