Review of 'I'm Not the Only One', George Galloway, Penguin £10
George Galloway has spoken at hundreds of meetings for the anti-war movement. He has travelled literally thousands of miles to argue the case against war and occupation. He captures his audience with a mix of insight, passion and humour. Despite numerous attempts to smear and isolate him (generally from the establishment but also from a few small disengaged sects on the left), the anti-war movement recognises George Galloway as one of our key spokespeople. Now George has brought out a book that combines a retrospective on how he got to his present place with his vision for the immediate future.
In many ways the book is like his speeches - it is honest, it is biting in its attack on his enemies and it is funny. It is an easy and quick read that will enliven odd gaps in the day. The book is a bit like a sandwich. The 'bread' is an analysis of New Labour and the present state of the world, and a passionate plea for an alternative in the shape of Respect: The Unity Coalition.
In the first few pages we find biting attacks on Blair and his cronies. We should not be surprised that Blair lied about war and WMDs, because Blair has always lied. He retells stories of how Blair invented his 'working class' childhood - trying to stow away on a flight from Newcastle to the Caribbean (at a time when there were no such flights), or sitting on the Gallowgate End at Newcastle United games long before there was any seating there.
Throughout the book all the leaders of New Labour get the same treatment. Galloway was in the Labour Party a long time, and is able to reveal the nastier side of people like Blunkett, Brown, Reid, Straw, Cook, Milburn, Darling, Byers, McShane and Mandelson. They all get the Galloway treatment - and most of it is quite entertaining! There are also quite detailed accounts of the corporate takeover of New Labour and its consequences for ordinary Labour members, and detail of the immoral and growing divide between the wealthy minority and the majority at the bottom - in Britain and in the world.
There can be little doubt from these pages that there is a crisis globally - sparked by global neoliberalism backed up by a rejuvenated and aggressive US imperialism - and a political crisis in Britain caused by a growing democratic deficit which has left ordinary people without a political voice.
Less convincing, however, are some of the suggestions George puts forward to solve the problem, such as his commitment to a reformed UN, or his advocacy of a smaller, more professional parliament - but these are points for future debate. I certainly agree with his depiction of the problems we face.
The 'meat' in the sandwich is taken up by the Middle East - particularly by Palestine and Iraq. Galloway has spent much of his political life working in various solidarity campaigns with the peoples of the Middle East. Here he explains how this 'love affair' came about - how he led a successful campaign to twin Dundee with Nablus on the West Bank, his later campaign to raise awareness at the human cost of the economic embargo of Iraq (primarily through the Mariam Appeal) and his two meetings with Saddam - including an explanation of that speech praising the courage, the strength and the indefatigability of the Iraqi people.
At the end of the book George comes back to the need for Respect. The last two chapters are a clarion call for a better world - a world of peace, equality and justice both at home and abroad. In the great anti-war movement of the last two years he sees the hope that at last we may be in a position to sustain a viable organisation to the left of Labour.
Over the next few months we will start to assess where we are up to with this large project. There is no doubt that George Galloway's speeches - and now his book - will be part of our armour to convince thousands of people that Respect is the alternative we need.