Gorgeous George and Bradford West….
Apparently, the Conservative candidate in Bradford West is delighted by George Galloway’s candidacy. I don’t doubt they are; not only is ‘Gorgeous George’ leaching away Labour voters but in doing so he is potentially opening up an important breathing space for the government during which is a difficult period for it. I don’t have much time for Galloway personally, he is a-typical of the slightly egomaniacal leaders that left attaches itself too. His relations with the likes of Saddam Hussein are not only questionable but highly contemptible from a left-wing standpoint. His candidacy is similarly opportunist and lamentable. I am reminded of the appalling decision of the Trades Union and Socialist Congress to stand locally against an exceptional and left-wing Labour candidate.
Comrades outside the Labour Party suffer from the sectarian disability which sees carrying a Labour Party card as disbarring you from being a proper socialist. They need to get over this attitude because it is nothing if not a godsend to the Labour right who consequentially can secure their hegemony over the Labour group identity which even left-wing Labour members then feel obliged to defend against the hostility of outsiders.
Galloway’s candidature opens up the habitual space between decent democratic socialists who are divided by the border-fence of Labour membership. The left has never really been able to cope with Labour’s existence and tends to flit between awkward alliance and outright hostility. On one level this is understandable given the sometimes odious policies of Labour’s leadership. It’s completely understandable that good people on the left look at, for example, the leaderships stand on welfare and find it too morally repugnant to bear being near. However, on the other though this reflects a deeper theoretical inability to reconcile itself with the system of parliamentary and representative democracy that Britain has. In other words, it’s yet another example of the lefts inability to grapple with a real world which is complicated and messier than our ideals would normally allow for. At best is viewed as a irrelevance, a place to make propaganda, but of course it isn’t that, for so many it is the place where they really engage with politics and think about things politically.
Many on the left welcome the current disaffection with government in Westminster. I don’t. This disaffection is not a positive aspiration for better but a negative rejection of democracy in its entirety and is it is a dangerous breeding ground for sentiment that could be harnessed by either a naked dictator or a semi-constitutional oligarch, somebody similar to Vladimir Putin. Once again, the left is incapable of telling the difference between two fundamentally different things – one poses the question of positive social transformation in democracies favour, the other poses the question of democracies destruction and a deepening of the social divides and inequalities.
We need to defend what we have in order to win more; rather than let that be taken away. If the left had a better understanding of representative democracy and in some ways a better appreciation of not just its limitations but its benefits then it would probably have a more sensible understanding of the centrality of the Labour Party when it comes to social struggles. It is truly laughable, for example, to hear very intelligent people insist that the Labour Party is the same as the Conservative Party. How many trade unions do the Conservatives have affiliated too them? None as I understand it – so, to say they are the same thing doesn’t stand up to a moments serious examination. I appreciate many on the left don’t want to carry Labour Party cards and understand their reasoning but I think ultimately they need to work with those within Labour if they are to have a hope of achieving the dream of a better society rather than alienate them and strengthen the right. No matter how much they screw up their eyes and wish, the Labour Party will simply not vanish into thin-air and at this moment it is still part of winning the war for radical social transformation.