Socialist Worker

'I will not be silenced'

George Galloway told meetings last weekend why Blair won't crush him or the movement

Issue No. 1875

'IT TOOK them all of 36 seconds to tell me I was expelled. That's one second for every year I've been a member of the Labour Party. It was a bitter blow, to be expelled by this anti-Labour clique. The Labour leaders say they want freedom of speech in Baghdad, but they don't want freedom of speech in Westminster. They want a puppet parliament just like the one Saddam Hussein used to have.

My expulsion is about intimidating others and building a dam to stop the torrent of opposition, analysis and criticism threatening to overwhelm this government. But I am in good heart. Look at the scale of our movement. We intend to make this government pay for its crimes. I am listening to the movement over what to do next. This week certainly marks a turning point.

I didn't want to be expelled. But it's also not been easy over the last few years to be a member of the Labour Party. There have been so many betrayals of the basic socialist principles. Just consider two of the most recent.

On Tuesday of last week the BBC broadcast a superb piece of journalism. An undercover reporter exposed a chilling and sickening level of police racism. It was a very brave undertaking.

And what of Labour home secretary David Blunkett? His department tries to have the programme suppressed and he accuses the BBC two days before the broadcast of 'seeking attention' and 'creating the news'. The reporter is arrested and still faces charges. Blunkett, a Labour home secretary, is to the right of Tory old Etonian Oliver Letwin.

And from the Labour backbenches, where is the call for Blunkett's resignation? Or take the planned event in three weeks time. What PR genius thought to invite George Bush to Britain for 19, 20 and 21 November?

Here you have Tony Blair, revealed by the Hutton inquiry to have lied over his involvement in making the name of scientist Dr David Kelly public. A prime minister who took us to war on a lie, whose popularity is plummeting. The occupation of Iraq is sinking deeper into disaster daily.

And in the midst of all this, some apparatchik in Downing Street suggests it would be a good idea to invite the warmonger in chief for three days of photo opportunities. I hope we can mobilise the outrage at the visit sufficiently to ensure Bush is sunk in shame and embarrassment, and Blair with him.

At the Labour conference in Bournemouth, I was offered, through an important intermediary, to be merely reprimanded if I was prepared to apologise for what I said in the run-up to and during the war.

But if I had apologised, I would never be able to face anti-war audiences again. I would rather have the words of support I have heard in packed meetings across the country than all the standing ovations that Tony Blair got at his stage-managed rally in Bournemouth.

All the bluster from the Labour leadership cannot hide the fact that 6,000 US soldiers have been medically evacuated from Iraq since the war began. Thirteen have committed suicide. Hundreds have been killed. It's because we don't want our young men and women to kill or be killed for Bush and Blair that we call for the occupation to end and for them to be brought back.

But this government is putting them in harm's way all for the interests of Bush's re-election and the corporate looting of Iraq. The US has divided Iraq into three regions-leaded, unleaded and diesel. The war and occupation are increasingly unpopular in the US. Democrat presidential contenders and even some leading Republicans are openly critical of George Bush's foreign policy.

And his great defence is that Blair, a social democrat, was in on the escapade too. The purpose of Bush's visit here is to boost his chances in the election next year.

Only a few years ago it was still impossible to believe that the Labour Party would degenerate to such an extent that its leader would seek to prevent the US Democrats-even the Democrats-from beating a hard-right Republican president.

That is how far we have come. I say to those who want to reclaim the Labour Party, I wish you well, but it is not looking very good. If someone like me can be thrown out and if the Labour Party conference can be cheated of even voting on the war, then we have serious problems in reclaiming Labour.

Every country needs a labour party, even if at the moment we do not have one here. Either we get this one back, or we have to build a real labour party. Whole sections of the population are now unrepresented in parliament. Millions of trade unionists have been stabbed in the back. They have given hundreds of millions of pounds to the Labour Party only to see their accumulated efforts thrown back at them.

I sat there in parliament when the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was being called the enemy within. The FBU has supported the Labour Party for three quarters of a century. It had not had a national strike for a quarter of a century. Its officials and members did so much to resist the onslaught by Margaret Thatcher. They fought so hard to get the Tories out.

Then they are pilloried not by a Tory government, but by a Labour government which would not be there were it not for trade unionists. And there is barely a murmur of dissent from the Parliamentary Labour Party,

A parliament where working people do not have a voice cannot be a democracy. Who's speaking up for the asylum seekers, reviled in the press? The Labour government joins in the scapegoating, even though immigrants have been at the forefront of creating the labour movement since even before the Chartist revolt a century and half ago.

Who's speaking up for the young people burdened with £10,000, £15,000, £20,000 debt for going to university? Who is speaking up for the pensioners? Who's speaking up for the peace movement, millions strong?

It is the biggest movement of our generation, uniting young and old, drawing into political activity the Muslim communities of Britain for the first time on any major scale-all behind a simple idea. We reject the notion that the world is some kind of white man's burden which the US and Britain have some god-given duty to take up.

No return to the empire. That was ended 50 years ago, and not a moment too soon. Yet Tony Blair has taken us into five wars in six years. No other leader in the history of this country has done that.

We have slipped, almost imperceptibly, back into being a colonial power. This, at the beginning of the 21st century. What is the result, beside the mayhem unleashed in Iraq and threatened elsewhere?

If you go to the Foreign Office website, you will find a list of countries as long as your arm which your government is telling you it is not safe to visit. They have put us in the front ranks of the hated across the globe. And, of course, it is now established, beyond any reasonable argument, that this country is governed by a liar.

This Labour government has become a sordid shield for the most right wing government the US has ever had. Opinion polls show that 70 percent of Iraqis consider the US to be a colonial occupying power. Even the tiger in Baghdad's zoo bit the hand off a US troop. Whether he was a remnant of the old regime or not, he acted for most Iraqis. When Bush comes, we must turn our country into a festival of opposition to Bush, Blair and their axis of evil.

Matters will not rest there. Our movement is not going away. We have an opportunity in the elections next June. We must build a mass movement demanding the resignation of Tony Blair, and providing an alternative to the disastrous policies this government has pursued.'

'It is Bush and Blair who should be expelled from civilised society'

GEORGE GALLOWAY was due to speak at a major rally on 'British Politics at the Crossroads' in London on Wednesday, after Socialist Worker went to press. That will be followed by similar meetings around the country over the coming weeks. In the few days since he was expelled from the Labour Party last week George has already addressed packed meetings across Britain.

It was freezing last Friday night in Bury, but that didn't stop one of the biggest political meetings anyone could remember taking place. The local paper reported that 300 turned out and it was standing room only in the hall. The meeting constantly erupted into cheers and applause as George and others addressed the crowd.

Sondes Adbul Makel represented the Muslim Association of Britain. She raised the roof when she told the audience, 'I was going to talk of the situation in Iraq, of the horrors taking place in Palestine, but I ripped my speech up and started again when I heard that George Galloway had been expelled. We need more politicians like George Galloway who forsake personal advancement to stick by their principles. George Galloway is a champion of the oppressed. He was expelled for saying what we all have been thinking.'

Sue Bond, the vice-president of the civil servants' PCS union, told Socialist Worker, 'It is Bush and Blair who are the real war criminals here. It is Bush and Blair who should be expelled from civilised society. Thousands of trade unionists and anti-war activists will be shocked by this decision. The best thing for them to do is to get out and organise against Bush's visit and show how strong support for George and the anti-war movement is.'

Sue Arnall told Socialist Worker, 'I am still in the Labour Party but I know there will come a time when I will leave. It's more a question of when than if. I used to be a councillor. I stopped because, like Tony Benn, I wanted to spend more time on politics. George Galloway is being used as a scapegoat. He has been expelled for speaking the truth. I am sure Labour Party members will see his expulsion as another nail in the coffin of their membership.'

George addressed another packed in Putney, south London, on Sunday, when over 100 people packed into the historic local church. Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, told the meeting, 'I want to express our outrage at the expulsion of George Galloway. The Stop the War Coalition offers our full support to George.'

After the meeting Raqeeb told Socialist Worker, 'I have been a Labour supporter for years, for all my life. Where can I go now? If the party expels people like George Galloway, and makes an illegal war, I cannot support them any more. 'Maybe this is time for a new sort of party-it's hard to do it, but what else can we look to?'

Speaking out

'George Galloway's expulsion is a further, breathtaking demonstration of the intolerance of dissent within Tony Blair's Labour Party. It underlines the importance of constructing a credible socialist alternative.'

Mark Serwotka, general secretary PCS civil servants' union (personal capacity)

'George Galloway's expulsion is an attempt to silence critics of the warmongers at Westminster. It will not succeed. The vast majority of our members expect us to expose the hypocrisy of ministers saying there is no money for investing in universities and colleges when they can find limitless resources for an illegitimate war and occupation of Iraq.'

Paul Mackney general secretary Natfhe lecturers' union (personal capacity)

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