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March 2012, Week 5

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Sat, 31 Mar 2012 14:40:59 -0400
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George Galloway's Respect Could Help Britain to Break
the Political Impasse

    UK politics has been governed by Thatcherism
    for decades. Galloway's triumph should force
    people to rethink their passivity

By Tariq Ali
The Guardian (UK)
March 29, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/31/george-galloway-respect-tariq-ali?INTCMP=SRCH

George Galloway's stunning electoral triumph in the
Bradford by-election has shaken the petrified world of
English politics. It was unexpected, and for that
reason the Respect campaign was treated by much of the
media (Helen Pidd of the Guardian being an honourable
exception) as a loony fringe show. A BBC toady, an
obviously partisan compere on a local TV election show,
who tried to mock and insult Galloway, should be made
to eat his excremental words. The Bradford seat, a
Labour fiefdom since 1973, was considered safe and the
Labour leader, Ed Miliband, had been planning a
celebratory visit to the city till the news seeped
through at 2 am. He is now once again focused on his
own future. Labour has paid the price for its failure
to act as an opposition, having imagined that all it
had to do was wait and the prize would come its way.
Scottish politics should have forced a rethink. Perhaps
the latest development in English politics now will,
though I doubt it. Galloway has effectively urinated on
all three parties. The Lib Dems and Tories explain
their decline by the fact that too many people voted!

Thousands of young people infected with apathy,
contempt, despair and a disgust with mainstream
politics were dynamised by the Respect campaign.
Galloway is tireless on these occasions. Nobody else in
the political field comes even close to competing with
him - not simply because he is an effective orator,
though this skill should not be underestimated. It
comes almost as a shock these days to a generation used
to the bland untruths that are mouthed every day by
government and opposition politicians. It was the
political content of the campaign that galvanised the
youth: Respect campaigners and their candidate stressed
the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan. Galloway
demanded that Blair be tried as a war criminal, and
that British troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan
without further delay. He lambasted the Government and
the Labour party for the austerity measures targeting
the less well off, the poor and the infirm, and the new
privatisations of education, health and the Post
Office. It was all this that gave him a majority of
10,000.

How did we get here? Following the collapse of
communism in 1991, Edmund Burke's notion that "In all
societies, consisting of different classes, certain
classes must necessarily be uppermost," and that "The
apostles of equality only change and pervert the
natural order of things," became the commonsense wisdom
of the age. Money corrupted politics, and big money
corrupted it absolutely. Throughout the heartlands of
capital, we witnessed the emergence of effective
coalitions: as ever, the Republicans and Democrats in
the United States; New Labour and Tories in the vassal
state of Britain; socialists and conservatives in
France; the German coalitions of one variety or
another, with the greens differentiating themselves
largely as ultra-Atlanticists; and the Scandinavian
centre-right and centre-left with few differences,
competing in cravenness before the empire. In virtually
every case the two- or three-party system morphed into
an effective national government. A new market
extremism came into play. The entry of capital into the
most hallowed domains of social provision was regarded
as a necessary reform. Private financial initiatives
that punished the public sector became the norm and
countries (such as France and Germany) that were seen
as not proceeding fast enough in the direction of the
neoliberal paradise were regularly denounced in the
Economist and the Financial Times.

To question this turn, to defend the public sector, to
argue in favour of state ownership of utilities or to
challenge the fire sale of public housing was to be
regarded as a dinosaur.

British politics has been governed by the consensus
established by Margaret Thatcher during the locust
decades of the 80s and 90s, since New Labour accepted
the basic tenets of Thatcherism (its model was the New
Democrats' embrace of Reaganism). Those were the roots
of the extreme centre, which encompasses both centre-
left and centre-right and exercises power, promoting
austerity measures that privilege the wealthy, and
backing wars and occupations abroad. President Obama is
far from isolated within the Euro-American political
sphere. New movements are now springing up at home,
challenging political orthodoxies without offering one
of their own. They're little more than a scream for
help.

Respect is different. It puts forward a leftist social-
democratic programme that challenges the status quo and
is loud in its condemnation of imperial misdeeds. In
other words, it is not frightened by politics. Its
triumph in Bradford should force some to rethink their
passivity and others to realise that there are ways in
which the Occupiers of yesteryear can help to break the
political impasse.

____________

This Was Bradford's Version of the Riots

    Bradford's peaceful democratic uprising that
    elected me comes from the wellspring of
    discontent that swept Britain last summer

By George Galloway 
Guardian (UK) 
March 30, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/30/bradford-version-of-riots?INTCMP=SRCH

The Bradford spring. No matter how seemingly powerful,
no corrupted, out-of-touch elite can last forever. The
people of Bradford West have spoken, and politics in
the city and in this country will never be the same
again. Anyone who took part in this historic campaign,
or who observed it dispassionately, knew by last
weekend that something spectacular was going to take
place.

A 5,000 Labour majority was transformed into a 10,000
majority for Respect - the same total vote for me as
the outgoing MP had in a general election - winning
across every ward in the constituency. It was the most
spectacular byelection result in British political
history.

The word revolution was on many lips in this deprived
and hitherto disenfranchised city well before Friday
morning's result. And, like the Arab revolutions, this
is a movement, above all, of the young. Bradford has a
young population. By 2020 half the population will be
under 25. They have grown up in the years when Tony
Blair and his successors murdered the real Labour
tradition, taking for granted the loyalty of working
people - nowhere more so than in this city, where the
precursor to the Labour party, the Independent Labour
party, was founded in 1893.

A rotten combination of complacency, incompetence,
opportunism and rule by clique has presided over
Bradford's decline. It was going down even during the
13 years of New Labour government, which included the
richest decade in British history. Now it is in danger
of sinking under the sado-monetarist austerity of the
Con-Dem coalition.

Labour's opposition in parliament is feeble to the
point of paralysis, because so many share so much of
the grim orthodoxy that has plunged the world into the
great recession.

This, and the continuing support of all three old
parties for war and occupation abroad, has created a
chasm between the political class and so many working
people, especially the generation that faces a future
of extortionate tuition fees, a privatised NHS, mass
unemployment - and, for those who find work, an ever
diminishing pension and a rising retirement age. So,
while support came from all quarters in this election,
it was young people who moved first and created a
critical mass, which drew around it ever wider layers
until it became unstoppable.

Many had never voted before, including in their 40s. As
hundreds of them threw themselves into the campaign,
those who remembered what a real party of labour should
look like could see it forming before their eyes and
they too moved. Among them were activists who had held
the labour movement together through the dog years of
Thatcherism.

Mass face-to-face campaigning was combined with the
tools of this century - Facebook, YouTube, Twitter,
mass texting, bespoke apps - all run by the generation
for which they are as familiar as a printed political
leaflet once was. Every night, and late into the night,
hundreds gathered at our headquarters provided by
Chambers solicitors to rally, plan and organise on and
offline.

This peaceful, democratic uprising comes from the same
wellspring of discontent and alienation that fuelled
disturbances in British cities last summer. But it is a
positive counterpoint - bringing forth a new generation
of political leaders, not another cohort trapped in the
criminal justice system. Every politician should take
notice, as they did not last summer.

Labour, above all, should learn this rude lesson. It
cannot continue on the disastrous path set by Tony
Blair, of war and occupation abroad and inequality at
home. That's what lay behind the loss of a "safe seat",
held for 38 years, just as the party lost London's East
End in 2005.

The real Labour values I stood for in this election
swept the Tories and Lib Dems away, and swept into
every part of the constituency - including those areas
where some voters, only a few years ago, had succumbed
to the siren calls of the racists and fascists.

The media, especially the London media, should also
smell the coffee. Something is happening in this
country outside of the echo chamber. The council
elections take place in May in many parts of the
country: prepare for more shocks to come as people find
their voices at the ballot box and in mass, democratic
opposition to an elite that is failing them.

___________________________________________

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