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(DV) Raphael: A Champion of Working People and Internationalism







A Champion of Working People and Internationalism
by Dan Raphael
August 29, 2005

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I’m Not The Only One, by George Galloway.
Penguin Books, London, 2005.
Softback, 213 pages
ISBN: 0141019395

George Galloway is a fighter. From his teenage years on, he has been active in the struggle for economic, social and political justice. Though no comparison of two individuals is ever completely right, it is strongly tempting to compare him with another fighter of the same caliber, Ralph Nader. Both are men of high principle and demonstrated commitment to the public good.

Unlike Mr. Nader, George Galloway did not come to party politics late in his long activist career. Instead, he began and continued to rise through the ranks of the Labor Party of Great Britain, first in Scotland and later on the national stage. His continuity of experience as an MP in the House of Commons and within various high councils of the Labor Party enables him now to offer a retrospective analysis of how the Labor Party was transformed from being the unquestioned champion of working people, to the “New Labor” of today.

He chronicles the mutation of Tony Blair and other Laborites from faux leftists through their moth like path towards the bright embrace of corporate agendas. The pension for old and disabled people; the National Health Service -- the crown jewel of Labor’s historic contribution to the people of Britain -- free college education; and even ensuring that wages of blue-collar workers keep pace with prices, have all been eroded by the “new” concern to serve business first. To give an idea of what this turn away from the people who supposedly were Labor’s historic priority means in human terms, Galloway notes:

The gap between rich and poor in Britain, during the second term of a Labor government, is wider than it was when Charles Dickens was chronicling the gin parlors, opium dens and dank slums of the Victorian era. Pensioners in Glasgow, it was revealed in a 2004 study by Strathclyde University, are more likely to die of the cold than any in Europe -- including Siberia.

This is the human outcome of a party that represents labor little differently than do other agencies jobbing out low-paying work by the day and the week to fill the shifting needs of employers.

So drastic is the degeneration of Britain’s historic protector of working people and the social services that protect the most vulnerable, that the very union who caused the Labor Party to be created a century ago, has been expelled from Labor’s ranks. This downward course has accelerated and taken turns previously unimaginable, even since the recent writing of his book; in response to the bombings in London -- themselves entirely predictable, given Britain’s military participation in the unjust war against the Iraqis -- the current “labor” government has stood behind the police who gunned down a Brazilian man deemed to have “looked like a terrorist”; holds in custody prospective deportees’ children as a kind of collateral until they actually leave the country; and is planning to deport religious leaders who spread “hate” -- as defined, of course, by this same government. Mr. Galloway notes that Britain has no constitution, no protections of speech, and thus is vulnerable to the tyranny of parties. In theory, the House of Commons is the great protector and barrier against the rule of despots, but the current conformity of the Labor majority puts the entire society at risk. Galloway favorably mentions the protections built into the American system -- Constitution, Bill of Rights, separate powers of the various branches of government -- though he holds no illusions that these are fail-safes. In dismissing the tired charge of being “anti-American,” he notes the historic “special relationship” of Britain and the United States. With characteristic wit, he suggests that:

We want a special relationship with the people of America. We just don’t want the Lewinsky-type special relationship: one-sided, unequal, illicit, easily dispensed with by the more powerful partner and requiring the weaker partner to be endlessly on her knees.

Even given his longstanding, deep involvement in the issues of life and freedom in the United Kingdom, what has made George Galloway’s name on the international stage, has been his passionate opposition to the war being conducted in Iraq by “the coalition of the killing.” He documents the falsehoods, fabrications, previously secret plans, and verbal sleights of hand that Prime Minister Blair presented along the path towards war. Galloway notes of Blair that “You only know he’s lying because his lips are moving.” The unprecedented international demonstrations in opposition to a war we now know was planned and insisted upon by Bush and Blair long ago, had seemingly no effect; Mr. Galloway suggests that in Britain, they have cost Blair significant political capital and quite possibly ensured that Britain will not be involved in future aggressions -- against Iran, for example.

Mr. Galloway wrote about what was coming in an article for the British press in 2003:

I warned there of a future of suicide attacks, car bombs, drive-by shootings, of merciless and ugly resistance as fierce as any war in history. And I warned in parliament that occupied Iraq would be the banner under which every enemy of the United States would gather. I told them they had opened the gates to hell.

While the pro-war Americans -- and Blair’s small clot of yes-men -- seem surprised by this, the evidence was always available for those who can read…and think. At least in America, it is considered almost a virtue to be ignorant of the rest of the world; coupled with the Messianic arrogance of the current administration in the White House, this ignorance continues to produce results catastrophic for all but the corporations favored by Cheney and Bush.

Expelled from the Labor Party after a brief show trial, George Galloway immediately participated in the organizing of Respect, the party meant to stand for all the things Labor has abandoned: “to be the champion of working people and internationalism,” fighting for freedom of speech, dress, and affiliation at home while striving to build solidarity and mutual assistance abroad. He was elected as the first MP of the fledgling party, defeating one of Tony Blair’s staunchest supporters, and has set his sights on increasing its representation in the House of Commons.

How do you sum up the hopefulness and energy of this inspiring activist? Perhaps his own words are best: “My flag is red, my country is the future.”

Dan Raphael has been an activist since the Vietnam war was heating up, and is a member of the Green Party of the United States.

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Other Articles by Dan Raphael

* The Screams That Deaniacs Need to Hear
* The Real Meaning of Red Lake
* Fake Religion, Real Philosophy
* Beguiled to Sleep, Awakened by Thunder
* Progressive Surrender, Progressive Renewal
* The Gates to Hell
* The Knave of Diamonds
* Baboons, Troops, and GI Resistance
* A Star of Liberation
* Get Off Your Knees!