George Galloway: Anti-war campaigner smeared

GEORGE GALLOWAY’S name has been added to the notable list of those who stood against the might of the British political establishment and were subsequently ferociously witch-hunted and smeared.

After the smears against miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and the Liverpool councillors, including Militant supporters, in the 1980s, this attack on George Galloway is the most vicious attempted character assassination of any Left leader for some time.

Coinciding with a carefully orchestrated slander campaign, the ’chance’ finding of documents by a Daily Telegraph correspondent alleging George Galloway had a financial link with the Iraqi regime seems more than just a strange coincidence – given that these documents survived while the rest of Baghdad burned.

Waiting their moment, it appears that the vicious British establishment is now circling round George Galloway; singling him out in order to revenge the Blair government’s anxieties and humiliations at the hands of the anti-war movement – which George Galloway is a leading figure in.

An orchestrated furore has accompanied the Galloway ’revelations’, with the Attorney General, the Charities Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions all pitching in, even threatening him with prosecution for treason.

Compare this hysteria to the lack of serious scrutiny by journalists and government agencies of the lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) found in Iraq, which according to the same Attorney General was the only legal justification for the British government participating in the invasion of Iraq.

Or contrast it to the lack of widespread media anger at the corruption and long-standing links of US and British governments and firms with the Saddam regime – notably when Saddam was gassing the Kurds in Halabja.

Nor has there been such a slanderous outcry at the financial involvement of British New Labour cabinet members and ministers with businessmen under investigation, or of New Labour’s over £8 million in donations from Lord Sainsbury.

Lies and attacks

THE STINK of hypocrisy surrounding the whole affair is more pungent than a rotting corpse. And the government, with the support of media hacks like former Stalinist David Aaronivitch in The Observer, appears determined to try and smear and divide the anti-war movement further.

They repeat libels about the anti-war movement and the Left being apologists for Saddam and taking Iraqi gold – well-worn lies that have been around since the labour movement began. These kind of lies, began in the mid-1970s, were used in recent years in the attacks against Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party), although then it was Moscow gold.

Socialists, trade union activists and anti-war campaigners must express their support for George Galloway MP in his campaign against these smears

The government-inspired lies about George Galloway serve as weapons of mass distraction from the growing problems faced by US and British troops in Iraq, the absence of WMDs and their inability to track down Saddam or Osama bin Laden.

On the same day these accusations came out, UN weapons inspector Hans Blix confirmed that British intelligence forged documents – purportedly from Niger – allegedly outlining Iraqi efforts to acquire nuclear arms. He added that the UN inspectors’ work was disrupted by US and British intelligence services.

It’s little wonder that one letter in the Guardian asked if the documents relating to George Galloway weren’t signed by Zinoviev – a reference to the forgery involving British Intelligence and the Daily Mail in the 1924 general election which claimed that Moscow Communists were running the Labour campaign.

Public representatives

HOWEVER, SOME on the Left have asked why a socialist like George Galloway is linked with Arab businessmen and writing for capitalist newspapers. He declares earning £71,000 a year from writing a column for the Scottish Sunday Mail and has allegedly made ’sympathetic’ statements about Saddam.

There is nothing wrong in principle with socialists writing for mass circulation capitalist newspapers, particularly if there is the freedom to put a socialist point of view without editorial or proprietorial interference.

However, what’s necessary for anyone representing working people is to be seen to be above the corruption or influence of big business. This includes living the same lifestyle of the average constituent/member that any MP or socialist councillor or trade union leader represents.

That’s why Socialist Party members have always stood on the programme of a workers’ representative on a worker’s wage – with any fees received from writing for the capitalist press or other activities connected with their public position being donated back to the workers’ movement after any necessary expenses.

All of this needs to be done in a publicly accountable way. When Socialist Party member Dave Nellist was a Labour MP, he published monthly accounts which were circulated to all Labour Party members and trade union branches in the area he represented.

This practise allows the widest scrutiny of his accounts and activities among Socialist Party members, supporters and the public at large and continues to this day.

New mass party

MORE DIFFICULT for George Galloway may be the incorrect perception from ambiguous statements (which he may now regret) that he has supported the Saddam regime.

This is not true. George has been on record since the mid-1980s in opposing the regime – long before New Labour and the Tories discovered their ’moral opposition to Saddam’s brutality – and latterly he has made it clear he also opposes al-Qa’ida and Osama bin Laden.

In order to avoid misconceptions, George Galloway is correct to say he is willing to open the books and stand accountable for actions relating to the current controversy; something he will have to do if the libel cases against the Daily Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor proceed. This should include clearing up any confusion about his contact with Arab governments and businesses.

Even then, no matter how much detail is revealed, the right-wing press and Labour Party machine will continue their smears and campaign to remove George Galloway as an MP.

But, in the meantime the labour movement should establish an independent campaign to defend George Galloway and anyone else in the anti-war movement who is an unjustified victim of similar smears. Part of this campaign could include setting up a labour movement commission into the smears, which could look at the issues without being pressured by the hysteria of the capitalist media.

It’s clear that the Labour leadership are trying to kick George Galloway out of the Labour Party and also trying to scupper his chances of remaining an MP. The obvious question is who would want to stay in such a party that orchestrates such a vicious witch-hunt.

For George Galloway to remain as an MP and give a voice in Parliament and elsewhere to the working class and oppressed masses of the world, he and others need to urgently call a conference to establish a new mass party of the working class.

Such a party, calling on the support of the millions who supported the anti-war movement, could build a mass socialist alternative to New Labour which could drive their witch-hunts and smears into the gutter where they belong.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales.

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May 2003