The creation of No to Nato, No to War is potentially a major change in British politics. On 25th November, responding to a call by Chris Williamson of the Socialist Labour Party, and George Galloway of the Workers Party, around 1000 Communists, Socialists and Anti-Imperialists met up at Bolivar Hall in Central London, the Venezuelan cultural centre. They met in three separate sittings due to the limited size of the hall (holding around 350 people at maximum) and voted, three times therefore, for a motion to constitute No2NATO as a new, anti-imperialist anti-war coalition, with an initial, interim leadership of Galloway, Williamson and ASLEF Vice-President Andy Judd, until a broader leadership can be elected.
The ruling class evidently fears this new coalition and had mobilised its spooks and other agents – or at least their online contingent – the troll army of NATO that is titled NAFO (‘North Atlantic Fellas Organisation’) to try to prevent the conference from being held. Previously, two bigger venues had been booked, first St Pancras Church, and then Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, and each time the venue management had capitulated to a campaign of cyber terrorism – threats of disruption, sabotage and violence, and some sort of boycott emanating from the trolls and no doubt business interests of various kinds, to coerce them to cancel the event. The feeble cowards surrendered within hours to criminal activity.
This could potentially cause legal problems for these venues, as they both signed contracts with the organisers, who are centred around two legal left-wing political parties that are both registered with the Electoral Commission. Or the ruling class could openly dispense with ‘democracy’ and seek to ban the parties and the movement itself. But such a thing is unlikely at this juncture, as it would likely backfire. Popular sentiment has swung to acute scepticism about the Ukraine proxy war, and the dangers of a wider, nuclear conflict and the Nazi proclivities of NATO’s proxies are becoming more widely known. It’s a major scandal waiting to erupt.
An alternative to Stop the War. It ought to replace it!
The new anti-war coalition is based on opposition to NATO and not the pro-imperialist politics of the Stop the War Coalition, which professes to be neutral in the conflict and to condemn all sides, but which prominently raises the slogan ‘Russian Troops out of Ukraine’. The reason why there has been no anti-war movement here thus far is summed up in that slogan. Because that is NATO’s main war aim – to drive Russia out of Ukraine so that Maidan Ukraine can join NATO and become a threatening base for aggression, including nuclear aggression, against Russia. It does not matter that STW expresses pious words of criticism or even condemnation of NATO for expansion and its lies about a ‘peace dividend’ after the Cold War. That will simply be ignored. The demand for ‘Russian Troops Out’ is what is operative, and it simply makes Stop the War a left cover for NATO and its proxy war in Ukraine.
Though even that is not enough for the disgusting imperialist ‘Ukraine Solidarity Campaign’ which, when Stop the War called their own national demonstration on same day as the No2Nato event, actually waged a counter-demonstration and provocation against it, briefly trying to seize the front of the march. These imperialist types produced a statement demanding tanks and warplanes, and other arms to US imperialism’s Nazi puppet regime in Kiev, whose Head of State, Zelensky, posts images on his official Instagram account of his troops wearing SS emblems like the Death Head, the Lion badge of the SS Galician Division, and even the cracked skull symbol of Hitler’s personal bodyguard. This obviously has the blessing of the Labour Party leadership around Starmer, but it is an index of the grotesque capitulation to imperialism of much of the remaining Labour ‘left’ that it was signed by John McDonnell and Ian Lavery.
Thus, these people finally show their true nature. Even the social imperialists in both world wars refrained from embracing the perpetrators and advocates of genocide. In Germany, the SPD avoided even the appearance of complicity with Nazism by supporting the ‘Allied’ coalition against Hitler, led by imperialist US, Britain and France but also including the USSR (which did most of the actual fighting). Now we have decisive elements of West European social democracy, in Britain and Germany, under US guidance (of course), calling for arms for Nazi puppet forces that embrace a cult of Nazi criminals like Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Hitler. This is a major political departure for social democracy, a further stage in its degeneration.
The Galloway/Williamson initiative has great potential, in that it represents a significant break to the left of the most previously ‘left’ reformism in the Labour tradition, where both main initiators have their roots. Chris Williamson is the only parliamentary representative in the Corbynite movement who came out of that situation with his political integrity intact, who defied the witchhunt with considerable consistency and refused to grovel to the witchhunters. He was rewarded with suspensions from the party on the basis of lies and quotation-chopping so laughable that it bears comparison with the frauds of Stalin’s secret police in the 1930s, in the worst period of the Soviet labour bureaucracy’s attempts to crush their left critics.
Chris Williamson and the SLP
The attacks on Williamson were so blatantly unlawful that he has won two legal victories against them. One in court against an unlawful 2019 suspension from the Labour Party (though they immediately contrived another one). Also, the government quango, the so-called Equality and Human Rights Commission, which produced a pseudo-report in 2020 mendaciously claiming the Labour Party under Corbyn had discriminated against Jews, was compelled to remove a smear against Chris from its screed for fear of legal action – a similar smear of ‘anti-semitism’ to the ones former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and former Labour councillor Pam Bromley are now litigating against.
After being deprived of the chance to stand as a Labour candidate for his own Derby North seat in the 2019 General Election by this fraud, Chris stood as an independent, though in the middle of the defeat of Labour engineered by the right-wing saboteurs, compounded by the smear campaign against him personally, he predictably did poorly. But after leaving Labour, he founded the Resistance Movement, also known as Resist, as a left-wing ‘grassroots movement’ which sought to involve itself in working class campaigning activity. It later voted to transform itself into a political party, initially registered under the name System Change due to the onerous requirements of the Electoral Commission. But in 2022 Chris proposed that Resist merge with Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, which has existed since 1996, and the proposal overwhelmingly carried. It was a bold move, as mistakes in the SLP’s way of organising in its early days – a rigid and bureaucratic way of dealing with political debate and the factionalism on the far left, blunted its potential and led it into a ghetto of stagnation, isolation and decline. This appears to have been vindicated as the influx of Resist supporters has somewhat revived the SLP and Chris has become perhaps their most prominent figure in terms of public activity.
Both over Zionism and Ukraine war, Chris Williamson has taken principled anti-imperialist positions, speaking out in defence of the people of the Donbass, and therefore, to defend them, being compelled very publicly to defend the Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in the Donbass, which is the only thing standing in the way of an imperialist Nazi-fuelled Zionist-type project of ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Donbass people, likely akin to what was done to the Palestinians. In that, he has much in common with the SLP historically, which was rooted in the militant National Union of Mineworkers when led by Arthur Scargill particularly during the heroic 1984-5 miners’ strike, who didn’t flinch from defying ruling class anti-Sovietism during the Cold War. But Chris’s embrace of labour movement democracy as a crucial issue in Labour – his ‘democracy roadshow’ and demands for accountability in the Corbyn-led Labour Party was one thing that put the wind up the Blairites (while Corbyn himself prevaricated and capitulated) – points to a much more democratic and outgoing party project than the flawed original SLP. Chris Williamson has deepened his critique of Labourism and its role in support of imperialism and colonialism, and denounced Attlee’s 1945-51 Labour government at the conference for its role in creating NATO in 1949. He has also taken to quoting Lenin on the nature of the Labour Party as a “thoroughly bourgeois party … composed of workers … [but] led by reactionaries”, something that points to potential evolution much further to the left.
George Galloway and the Workers Party
George Galloway also broke to the left from Labour in the context of the Iraq War, being expelled in 2004 for ‘incitement’, in other words, a principled opposition that went much further than the usual social-pacifist bleating of left social democracy, when he called on other Arab countries to come to Iraq’s defence against the US/UK 2003 invasion and occupation. His electoral victory in 2005 in Bethnal Green and Bow, under the banner of the left-wing coalition RESPECT, was one of the most powerful blows against imperialism and pro-imperialist Labourism in the history of the British left. RESPECT was initially a coalition with part of the far left, mainly the SWP under the leadership of John Rees and Lindsey German, and a layer of amorphous Muslim radicals based mainly in the Pakistani and Bengali immigrant communities in several major cities. Later, when the SWP retreated from what was in fact the most left-wing phase in its history, and tried to destroy RESPECT because its coalition partners refused to blindly obey it, RESPECT became a short-lived party in its own right. It hung around for a few years in the changing political environment of the early 2010s before being formally dissolved when Corbyn gained the leadership of the Labour Party, though one early sign of Corbyn’s cowardice in the face of the right-wing was his refusal to fight to reverse Galloway’s 2004 expulsion for a principled anti-imperialist position.
Galloway is a contradictory figure, as his ‘anti-imperialism’ has often been very strident and principled, but at the same time mixed with conservative religious views on some questions. Notably, he has long been opposed to abortion on ‘conscientious’ religious grounds as originally a Catholic of Irish origin (though his religious beliefs today appear more eclectic). He has also evidenced various degrees of hostility and suspicion towards Trotskyism as a movement, though he has also worked closely with some on the left who claim elements of the Trotskyist tradition. Such conflicts are not unusual, as many of today’s groups that claim the tradition of ‘Trotskyism’ are downright treacherous and have repeatedly crossed class lines, betraying the entire tradition. He could be described as critically aligned with Stalinism. Galloway has been stiff-necked and principled in the face of Zionist hatred for his militant anti-Zionism and anti-imperialism, and has suffered personally for his view. For that he deserves admiration and solidarity.
However, one product of this personal suffering and isolation has been disorientation at times, and the taking of political positions that are problematic and erroneous, and that have somewhat damaged his reputation. Some of them are also no doubt the product of personal damage done by reactionary attacks, that acquired a political manifestation. The seminal example was the brutal beating of Galloway by the Zionist assailant Neil Masterson in August 2014, a violent attack on a 60-year-old by a vicious thug 20 years younger. It caused broken bones; it could even have been fatal. At the time Galloway was the member of parliament for Bradford West, yet virtually no one parliament, or even in the Labour Party had the political courage to condemn the assault and show basic solidarity with the victim. Not Corbyn, not McDonnell, not Abbott. Not any of them. The only MP in the British parliament who dared to condemn the attack was the sole Green MP Caroline Lucas. Most of the ‘far left’ also said nothing to condemn the assault.
Such a betrayal can easily produce disorientation and hatred of those who purport to be on the left, on the part of the victim. There is evidence that some of these things happened to George Galloway. There was a political change in Galloway after that betrayal that was not present previously. This is shown over questions of Brexit, and immigration. The shift in politics was clear – in 2009 when RMT leader Bob Crow initiated the electoral intervention No 2 EU, Yes to Democracy which was a precursor of Lexit, Galloway refused to be involved, saying he did not like the anti-immigrant nationalism that was implicit in it. In fact, in the whole of his political career up to the watershed of 2014, Galloway often boasted of being “the most pro-immigrant politician in Britain”. Though his actual position was similar to the CP position of demanding ‘non-racist’ immigration controls, he was certainly not seen as in any way hostile to immigrants.
However, after the 2014 beating and the evidence disillusionment with the left that came flowed from it, Galloway adapted to the right-wing populism that came to be expressed over Brexit and the rise of Trump. He joined with Farage during the 2016 Brexit referendum in something called the Grassroots Alliance. Later, as the various clamours in favour of a second referendum were made from elements of the Labour Party, cynical mischief-making from the right (e.g. Starmer) and genuine disquiet at the anti-immigrant implications of Brexit from the left, Galloway volunteered to become a candidate for Farage’s short-lived Brexit Party in the 2019 General Election. Such was the disquiet at these positions that it appeared reasonable to us, even as the Corbyn movement was coming to an end, to be opposed to votes for Galloway’s new-born Workers Party organisation, originally born in a bloc with the Brar family’s Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), a hard-line Maoist-Stalinist group. They has also at times shown softness on ‘working-class’ right-wing populism, and hailed Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election as a “blow” against “the imperialist system” and for “progressive humanity”.
Right Populism and the Working Class
This adaptation by some of the most militant, anti-imperialist elements on the left to right-wing populism is paradoxical, but also has its roots in the contradictions and decline of neoliberalism, which have given rise to working class support for this kind of right-wing populism in the first place. The biggest problem that has militated in the 20th Century against working class revolution and socialism in the advanced, imperialist countries, has been the subliminal understanding by a labour aristocracy – a well paid layer of the working class – that they benefited from the activities of imperialism in plundering and unequal exchange, sucking value out of the economies of poorer, underdeveloped capitalist countries and providing a material basis for social gains and benefits for militant workers in the advanced countries. This sizeable labour aristocracy, and the pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist labour bureaucracy that sits on top of it, is a major force in determining the pro-imperialist politics of the trade unions and what Lenin called ‘bourgeois labour parties’ in the imperialist countries (Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, 1916). But recently there has been a change, as the large-scale export of productive, industrial jobs from particularly the main Anglo-Saxon imperialist countries, the US and Britain, to the Far East (particularly China) has hollowed out that social reality and represents a massive attack on the living standards of workers who were very much influenced by that sense of benefitting from imperialism.
The result has been a growing “workless class” of formerly proud and militant workers, now degraded and impoverished, with their families prey to opiates and the like, who previously supported the bourgeois labour parties (or the left of the Democrats in the US, who sometimes used to pretend to be something similar). They adopted an imperial nostalgia, demanding their old living standards back again. Hence “Make America Great Again” as the slogan of the Trumpists in the US. The resentment of many US workers against China is fuelled by the fact that China has become a major industrial power, the “workshop of the world” as an unintended and unexpected by-product of this imperialist profiteering operation, which was originally intended to be at the expense of the Chinese workers also. But China’s hybrid character as a former workers state with considerable still state ownership and centralised economic management overlaying its own capitalism, allowed them to resist being screwed in this way. Hence the violent anti-Chinese resentment that fires up the Trumpists in the US. And working class support for Brexit here had a similar basis – the real thrust of working-class right-wing support for Farage was ‘Make Britain Great Again’, very similar to Trumpism.
The adaptation of Galloway (and the CPGB-ML) to Brexit, Trumpism and the like is based on a misunderstanding and one-sided interpretation of a complex development that has arisen in real life. Right-wing populism is a post-imperial delusion. But it can also be a short-lived phase of disillusionment and trauma for sections of the working class. Brexit in Britain has not benefitted the working class at all. It has further degraded working class people. The ultimate outcome of this in terms of working-class consciousness has to be a realisation that this demand that the neoliberal imperialist bourgeoisie give back to the working class their former privileged status, simply will not happen. It is materially impossible. Once that becomes obvious to the masses – and it will – then the inescapable conclusion can only be that working class people in Britain and the US have a common interest with the working class of countries that have been oppressed and plundered by imperialism. It must lead to those sections of the proletariat in advanced countries, who previously saw their interests as counterposed to those of workers in the oppressed countries, joining a real international proletarian movement.
A Genuine Workers Party is Needed, not a Bourgeois Workers’ Party
So why this apparent digression? The reason should be obvious. The two parties whose leading figures have founded No to Nato, No to War, both aspire to found real ‘Workers’ and ‘Socialist Labour’ Parties. This is crucial. We need to properly understand the roots of working-class illusions in right-wing populism in order to overcome both those illusions, and the confusions of some on the left who have at time been influenced by such illusions. As a Marxist tendency, we seek to replace the bourgeois Labour Party that the British working class has been saddled with for more than a century, with the genuine article, a real workers party. We can only welcome this development and regard it as a positive step.
It does appear that the outbreak of the imperialist proxy war in Ukraine has sharply pulled Galloway back to the left, to found a coalition along with the leading active representative of the SLP, that itself, like the movement against the Iraq War in the early 2000s, has the potential not merely to generate another anti-war protest movement, but to generate a new class party. This weakness towards populism and Trumpism, with its chauvinist element, needs to be overcome in further political struggles.
Galloway’s speech at the No 2 Nato conference on 25th February, where he fervently welcomed, as a likely outcome of a defeat for US imperialist hegemony, the global defeat of imperialism, is very much at odds with the thrust of Brexitism and Trumpism. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine has led to Galloway being galvanised as an opponent of imperialism and his speech of 25th Feb itself points to that next stage in the evolution of working class consciousness, if the implications are properly understood:
“the Pentagon issued a warning to China three days ago before president Xi’s peace proposals, when they didn’t know what was in the peace proposals: ‘There will be consequences for China should it choose to deepen its relations with Russia’. Think of the arrogance first of all of that – we’ll come to the stupidity. But think of the arrogance, of one superpower, threatening a second superpower, with ‘consequences’ were it to decide to have more friendly relations with a third party. The sense of exceptionalism you must feel to think you are entitled to do that. To think that you are entitled to warn other countries of who they can be friends with.
“But let’s turn to the stupidity of it. You know from Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger onwards it was the policy of the United States to keep Russia and China as far apart as it was possible to keep them, and, if possible, to keep them at each other’s throats. In the last few years the policy of the United States and NATO has made Russia and China virtually one country, certainly militarily and economically, one country, and now, they think China is going to obey orders from somebody called Anthony Blinken? The day when China could be ordered around by foreigners is OVER, OVER, OVER! Ditto South Africa. South Africa was warned ‘why are you having joint exercises with the Russian and Chinese navies?’ As the leadership in South Africa pointed out: ‘when you Western colonialist countries were supporting the apartheid dictatorship in South Africa, the only countries that stood with us were Russia and China, and you want us to consider them our enemies?’
“I’m so old, I was there. Every dinner that the African National Congress fighters ate in the bush came from Russia. Every uniform that they had, every gun that they carried, every international initiative, campaign, that they were able to mount to bring about the freedom of South Africa, came from the then Soviet Union and from China. And now you want South Africa to be an enemy of Russia and China? Are you crazy? And South Africa has said ‘No’! India has said ‘No’! Iran has said ‘No’! Latin America, from North to South, has said ‘No’! Asia has said ‘No’! The Arab world, even the Saudis, and the Kings and the Sheikhs in the desert, have said ‘No’! The world is not against Russia and China! Don’t imagine you speak for the world!
“‘The West’ – if you include in it countries that are very definitely not in the West. The last time I looked Australia is not in the West, New Zealand is not in the West. But even if you allow them to call themselves ‘The West’, is 13% of the people of the world, of the world’s population lives in what could loosely be described as ‘the West’. And we are here to say, even in the West, there are millions and millions and millions of us who reject your domination, and your wars, and your clubs.”
We need to build No2Nato, No2War as a broad anti-war bloc to mobilise opposition to the NATO proxy war, and we cannot be doctrinaire or purist about this. But we must also use the movement to propagate the highest level of revolutionary politics and programme, based on the elementary view that the main enemy is at home. Indeed, that was said clearly by the initiators of No2Nato on 25th Feb. Out of such an anti-war movement a new working-class party can and must be born. Two important components of such a party are already in place in No2Nato, the SLP and Workers Party. We advocate a principled unification of them and the creation of a bigger, broader party able to appeal to more workers and with a democratic ethos, evoking Chris Williamson’s work in the Labour Party under Corbyn, that would be capable of political and programmatic development towards a genuinely communist, anti-capitalist mass party. Not another sect on the rigid model of the Third or Fourth internationals, but something that could go much further and lead masses of workers in the process, as happened in Russia once before. Nor is this going to be any parochial process, as the founding resolution of No2Nato said, it must be global. We see our work with (currently) smaller revolutionary groups around the globe in trying to cohere an international Zimmerwald type left as complementary to involvement in endeavours like this. All avenues must be explored, and the emergence of a new international movement to abolish capitalism globally is likely to be uneven. It still has to be embarked upon, and this is a start.