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Thursday, July 27, 2006

If Respect is the answer, it must have been a fu...

Respect's Annual Conference applauds George Galloway by videolink. Meanwhile new Respect member W. Smith wonders "Is chess institutionally Islamophobic?"

If the only "radical" alternative to the BNP is Respect, I might as well leave the country now. Seriously, how can an organisation which wants to relive the Bolshevik daydream AND embrace political Islam going to do well outside of the Muslim ghettoes of a few inner cities?

Dave Osler's blog shows that the SWP's political trajectory is one which embraces Allah rather than Marx:

Socialist Worker on Somalia
So ... has Britain's largest revolutionary socialist organisation really adapted its politics to Islamism since establishing Respect?

Let's consider this portrayal of the recent takeover of Mogadishu by the Union of Islamic Courts, published in the latest Socialist Worker:

'For the first time for many years there is a sense of relief and hope among many people in Somalia,' we are told in the opening sentence, which pretty much sets the tone of the entire article. There is not one single word of critique, not one indication that this development is anything other than entirely positive.

True, it is incontestable that the UIC have considerable popular support. The SWP attributes this to what it sees as the organisation's quasi-social democratic politics. The UIC are depicted essentially as armed reformists, delivering pavement politics through the barrel of an AK-47:

'Key to the success of the UIC was the fact that it was already an established and accepted presence in local communities, with a demonstrated social welfare policy.

'Apart from bringing security to areas under its control, through its own militia and justice system, it had also set up farms, schools, water points, health clinics and orphanages.

'Although the UIC did not initially have strong popular support, there was a feeling that it upheld moral standards and discipline, and had a unifying and familiar ideology in Islam ...'

Read that again. Slowly. Upholding moral standards and discipline, eh? Sound chaps. Most rightwing Tories would approve. But is it truly the job of revolutionary socialists to cheerlead for such moral standards as forcing women to wear the veil and the amputation of the limbs of thieves?

It's also open to question whether or not the UIC are capable of mounting a challenge to the clan system, as the SWP maintains. All but one of the Islamic Courts are associated with one single clan, the Hawiye.

And class analysis is nowhere to be seen. What is the movement's social basis? In the interests of which classes does it operate? We are not told. An astonishing omission on the part of what still claims to be a Marxist publication.

Ultimately, the definitive evaluation of what the UIC represents, from a socialist perspective, will have to wait until it has been in power for some period of time. Let's just see what the future brings, although I have to say the portents don't look too promising.

But even as a preliminary assessment, the SWP's position is at the very least imbalanced. The article's final sentence explains why any sense of perspective has been lost:

'There is no doubt imperialism has suffered a blow.'

And that's all anyone needs to know.

Meanwhile, Tribune journalist Paul Anderson's blog shows that George Galloway would do well as a member of Ingsoc's Inner Party...


My thanks to Ken Weller for alerting me to this, a nasty little piece by Galloway in...Counterpunch to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Spanish civil war. It purports to be an appreciation of John Cornford, the communist poet who died while fighting for the International Brigade in Spain at the age of 21 – but it is laced with venom.

“But for a bullet in the brain on the Ebro,” he declares, “Rupert John Cornford might have loomed as large as George Orwell in the British left-wing lexicon.” Fair enough. I’m not a great fan of Cornford as a poet, but he’s undoubtedly worth reading (and Orwell thought so too). But then Galloway goes on:

Orwell would probably have informed on him to his bosses in British Intelligence. For Cornford was a Communist.

And he continues, a propos the volunteers for the International Brigades:

their memory has been sullied by Orwell's slanders, unfortunately reinforced by Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom.

This is disgusting Stalinist drivel. Orwell did not have “bosses in British Intelligence”, and he did not inform on anyone: the famous list he handed over in the late 1940s to his friend Celia Kirwan, then working for a Foreign Office propaganda operation set up by a democratic socialist Labour government, was of people he considered should not be approached to write for it because of their pro-Soviet sympathies. Big deal.

And Orwell did nothing to sully the memory of the International Brigade volunteers. He did expose the vile role of the Stalinists in suppressing the Spanish revolution in 1937 – and his disgust at the failure of the British left to recognise what they did remained with him throughout his life. But that is not the same thing. There is not a word against the International Brigades volunteers anywhere in his work. Indeed, he became friendly with at least two veterans of the brigades, Hugh Slater and Tom Wintringham – both of whom parted company with the Communist Party soon after their experience in Spain and played key roles in the Home Guard in 1940-41 when the CP was defending the Hitler-Stalin pact. In the leftist jargon of the time, which of course Orwell hated and would never have used, his attitude to the International Brigades was that they were lions led by jackals. Which is a bit like the ordinary members of the Respect coalition.


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