The election of George Galloway and Respect at the Bradford West by-election is not a victory for the left. On issue after issue Galloway lines up with ruling class oppression across the globe. He has worked for the Iranian's regime propaganda news network Press TV, he has supported the murderous regime of Bashir Al Assad in Syria, he is a life long opponent of women's reproductive rights. He is a homophobe who even tried the justify the hanging of LGBT people in Iran. That he is the most famous anti-war figure in Britain says much for the parlous state of our movement then it does about his demagogic politics.
There are some very significant aspects of this win that demand our attention.
Firstly, it reminds us that the disillusionment that working class people feel with the Labour Party is still strong and deep even in their supposed heartlands. This especially true of young working class people from Muslim backgrounds who were at the sharp end of New labours attack on civil liberties and still suffer from police harassment. The Labour leadership continuation of support the futile and brutal war in Afghanistan remains a lingering cause of disenchantment. As long as the Labour councils are cutting jobs and services and the Labour leadership condemns workers taking action to defend their living standards this disillusion will continue.
Secondly, that the three major parties and Respect took reactionary communal and sectarian approach to campaigning. Labour has a long and shabby history of treating Asian people in Bradford as a block vote regardless of class to be corralled by unaccountable community leaders. Respect was founded as a communalist project, a popular front of the SWP, Galloway and various petty bourgeois Muslim organisations. In Bradford Galloway's campaign deliberately played on religion to win over influence over the more conservative elements amongst Bradford's Muslim population. One release said "I, George Galloway do not drink Alcohol and never have, Ask yourself if you believe any of the other candidates can say that truthfully". Another piece of literature hints Muslims will have to account for voting Labour in the afterlife! However ironically many young Asian people switched to Galloway to break away from that communalist tradition of voting the way the community leaders directed. They deserve better representation then Gourgeous George.
Thirdly, this win could lead to people on the left out of desperation drawing exactly the wrong conclusions. Although Workers Liberty and other always abhorred the demagogy and support for brutal regimes that Galloway revels in, it took others on the left years to realise Galloway is a false friend who damages working class socialism, yet realise it they eventually did. During the recent campaign Galloway had no organised left wing support outside the husk of what used to be Respect. Now socialists desperate for victories and good news my try to claim Galloway as one of our own or replicate his politics and methods. This is a dangerous dead end that disorientates rather then educates our class.
The victory of George Galloway does show a large number of working class people rightly reject the ideology of the ruling class and its cuts. We cannot win over working class people of Bradford who voted Respect to revolutionary socialism without an honest accounting and calling out Galloway as a self aggrandising apologist for murderous despotism and oppression.