Dead Men Left

Friday, June 04, 2004

Neither George Bush nor Sacha Ismail

I mysteriously failed to spot John Denham's Respect-bashing in yesterday's Guardian. The letters in response are mainly excellent: five in defence of an anti-Labour vote by the left, and one supporting Denham's stand, a two-paragraph smear from Sacha Ismail:

Since George Galloway cannot seriously believe Respect is going to win any election, his desire to "defenestrate" Blair implies a silent coalition with the Tories, Lib Dems and all other anti-Labour forces (Mea culpa, June 2).

A vote for Respect is not at all "unambiguous": it is a vote not only against the occupation of Iraq, but for its leader's shameful links with Ba'athist Iraq; for his opposition to a woman's right to choose; for a communalist appeal to the "Muslim vote" in place of principled working-class politics. The left needs to emblazon "Neither Blair nor Galloway" on its banner.
Sacha Ismail

Sacha, for those who don't know him, is a leading apparatchik in the tiny (and seriously misnamed) Alliance for Workers' Liberty. I mention this biographical detail as those familiar with the AWL's frenzied red-baiting style will recognise it instantly in his letter, and obviously naming and shaming Sacha as an AWL member hardly qualifies any longer for "red-baiting". Galloway's personal views on abortion are not Respect's, and he has issued a public statement to that effect, saying he will do nothing to restrict or impede access to abortion rights; his "shameful" links with Ba'athist Iraq consist of malicious forgeries circulated to the media - and I never, ever see Tony Benn criticised for meeting Saddam; and, for an alleged Trotskyist, Sacha appears to have forgotten the revolutionary's role as "tribune of the oppressed". I cannot think of a more oppressed group in this country than the Muslim community, though Sacha's snide remarks about the supposedly "communalist" appeal of claiming to defend a community against state-led racism does its own little bit to put the boot in.

Of course, I was being a little disingenuous earlier. To be fair to Sacha, he does not explicitly state he supports John Denham's position. Explicitly calling for a Labour vote would rather spoil the fun the AWL have in pretending to oppose Blair. Sacha merely suggests that a serious attempt to "defenestrate" Blair (find me a window, and quickly) "implies a silent coalition with Tories, Lib Dems and other anti-Labour forces." Unless the AWL now supports a vote for those well-known exponents of "principled working-class politics", the Green Party - principled, yes; working-class, no - the clear implication is that only those within the Labour Party are entitled to doing anything much about its leadership. For the rest of us - what? There will be no "Labour, but opposing the war" box on June 10. A vote for Labour is as good as a vote for Blair, and he will certainly interpret it as such. Do we perhaps stay at home, and let the BNP in? The entire thrust of Sacha's miserable letter is to demand not a break with Labour on the solid anti-imperialist basis Respect provides, but to troop back into the polls and demand another seven years of Blairism.

Respect is an unambiguous vote: you vote Respect, you oppose the invasion, the occupation, and the war on terror. You vote Labour, and you may or may not support the invasion; you may or may not support the occupation; you may or may not support the war on terror - but you can rest assured that Blair will claim your vote to his credit.