In December 2019 George Galloway announced the formation of a new political organisation, the Workers Party of Britain (or is it “Great Britain”?) which claims to be “socialist”.
In its programmatic statements the WPB rejects the Corbynite project within the Labour Party which it characterises as “as fully integrated into the workings of the British state”. At the same time we are told that “The Workers Party fully believes in the importance of a planned economy, in the directing role of the state. Free-market fundamentalism has gutted Britain of its industries, undermined our manufacturing and productive industries, castrating our society and adversely destabilising proud working class traditions, culture and way of life.”
The WPB “positively embraces Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. They claim that freedom from EU regulations removes barriers to bringing sections of the economy into public ownership. Also it claims Brexit would allow controls over the free movement of capital out of the country and free movement of labour into it. The WPC says it is anti-imperialist and wants Britain to withdraw from NATO.
The enthusiasm of most British leftists, such as Galloway, for Brexit should be questioned. It smacks of a “Little Englander” mentality whereby Britain is seen as uniquely different from other countries, that somehow conditions here are more favourable for moving towards socialism than in other countries. The Brexit leftists – e.g. Socialist Workers Party and Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) – opportunistically ignore the fact that a lot of the support for Brexit, particularly among working class people, has a nationalistic and racist basis.
There is nothing progressive about these sentiments, most strongly held among older working class people in parts of Britain which have experienced the decline of traditional industries. In talking about controlling the “free movement of labour” the WPB is pandering to anti-immigrant sentiments. Also it mentions the “destabilising of proud working class traditions, culture and way of life.” Well, yes, the decline of steel, coal mining etc. did disrupt traditional working class communities but there is no going back. It was developments in the forces of production that were the primary reason for these changes. It was not simply the application of Thatcherite neoliberal policies. Also we should not overlook the negative side of traditional working class life, not least for women. We should look to the future and not romanticise about a past gone forever.
Although it talks about the progressive role it claims the British state can play, the WPB does not specify the character of this state. It does not make it clear that it is a capitalist state structured so as to protect the interests of the capitalist ruling class. The political line that socialists can use the British capitalist state as a vehicle for moving towards socialism is not new. It was put forward in the revisionist political programme, The British Road to Socialism, adopted by the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1951. This political strategy claims that the transition to socialism and communism can be brought about by peaceful means thus avoiding the necessity of violent insurrection by the working class and its allies. Since then the fallacy of this revisionist political line has been shown in a number of countries, e.g. Italy, France, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc. The outcome of practising it has been either the impotent fading away of socialist and communist parties or the bloody suppression of the workers and peasants these parties led.
This notion that Britain is somehow different from other countries and that this facilitates a peaceful transition to socialism is widespread among British leftists. This is as true of the Trotskyites as it is of those who claim to be Marxist-Leninist, e.g. the Communist Party of Britain. These people ignore the fact that the British capitalist class is the oldest and most experienced one in the world. It is an expert in asserting political control by means of ideological manipulation and violent oppression. Just look at what it did in Northern Ireland and in Iraq through the agency of Labour governments. Recently we have seen how the threat of the election of a Labour government with mildly social democratic policies was pushed back by means of campaigns of vilification in the media against Jeremy Corbyn. If it feels that it is threatened there is nothing the British ruling class will not do to defend their position. They are the scum of the earth.
Galloway’s new political initiative reminds one of the Respect project back in the noughties. Arising out of the Stop the War campaign, Galloway together with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. launched a new political party to stand in elections on an anti-war and mildly reformist programme. In order to drum up support from Muslims, Respect climbed down on issues such as women’s rights. Galloway had been a Labour MP but had lost his seat because of parliamentary constituency boundary changes. Given the strong stance against the invasion of Iraq he had taken, he would not be selected to stand as a Labour candidate for another seat. In the General Election of 2005 the SWP pulled out the stops to campaign for Respect candidates. They even sold their substantial printing works to raise funds. Yet Galloway was the only successful Respect candidate. He became increasingly aligned with the Muslim elements in Respect and within a few years this led to the break-up of the organisation. It also led to a major split within the leadership of the SWP with some of its main figures leaving to form a new organisation; Peoples Assembly. The only person to benefit from the Respect project was George Galloway.
Now this consummate egotist has found a new partner, the Communist Party of Great Britiain (Marxist-Leninist). It is in fact the sponsor of Galloway’s latest enterprise with one of its Vice Chairperson, Joti Brar, as the WPB’s Deputy Leader. This is all very reminiscent of the Respect project where SWP thought it was the dog waggling the tail of Galloway whereas in fact it turned out to be the other way around. The CPGB(M-L) and Galloway do in fact have quite a lot in common. Their “anti-imperialism” takes the form of supporting fascist despots such as the late Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Also they claim that Russia, under the leadership of fascist Vladimir Putin, is “anti-imperialist”. The CPGB(M-L) claims to be a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party and they are very critical of the Labour Party. Yet they do not actually advise people not to vote Labour. They opportunistically refrain from taking this step as also, incidentally, do the Revolutionary Communist Group. Either the CPGB(M-L) is an authentically Marxist-Leninist party, in which case it makes clear to the working class that only violent revolution can bring about revolution, or it is a revisionist party, which despite its pretensions, is reverting to the reformist CPGB programme of 1951. This sort of duplicity treats the working class with contempt.
As for “Gorgeous George”, as he was once known, now trying to disguise his baldness with a Leonard Cohen type hat, who obviously wants to get back into the British Parliament, he is is the most likely winner of this unprincipled political alliance.