January 20, 2005
George Galloway's Brechtian Solution for Iraq
Far left follies
Bertolt Brecht wrote a little poem about the June 17 1953 workers' rising in East Germany. His poem was about the way Stalinists thought of 'The People' as a kind of Platonic idea which the Central Committee of the Communist Party would protect, if necessary against the actually existing people. If the people got in the way of The People then the tanks would roll in. Thus the left was perverted and turned into its opposite. Brecht's poem was titled 'The Solution':
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
I was reminded of those lines watching Newsnight on January 18. George
Galloway (a leader of the Respect Coalition and the Stop the War Coalition) was being interviewed by John Harris. Here is the exchange: George Galloway: "Actually, the Iraqi Resistance does not target its own civilians, but the people that are being fought by the Resistance in Iraq are the people who are working for the occupation (..) Our county in 1941 stood alone when the Americans were watching the war on newsreel. Hitler was at the Channel Ports and might have crossed. If he had crossed he might have occupied our country. If he had occupied our country there would have been a British Resistance. And no matter how hard up a family was the idea that they should join Hitler's
occupying police force and not become a target of us, the British Resistance, is preposterous."
John Harris: "Do you think there is a moral equivalence between Hitler's Nazi occupation of Europe and the British and American Occupation of Iraq?"
George Galloway: "…There is no difference at all."
George Galloway offers a Brechtian solution to the agony of Iraq. Support the resistance, he says, for the resistance 'does not target its own civilians'. Notice how odd Galloway's formulation is – 'its own civilians'. Orwell would have loved that. Galloway is not claiming that the 'resistance' does not target civilians. He is claiming that the 'resistance' does not target 'its own' civilians. Only those
'working for the occupation' are 'fought' (ie killed, AJ). But who is 'working for the occupation' according to the resistance? Ah, there's the rub. It turns out to be the vast majority of Iraqi people.
First, the Shia are 'working for the occupation'. The Shia support the election and the UN-backed political process. The Shia have representatives in the Interim Government. As such they are 'working for the occupation' and are legitimate targets. The 'resistance' has massacred the Shia since the first days of the war. The Shia, it seems, are not 'its own' civilians. They may constitute 60% of the Iraqi people but that will not save them. They are not 'the Iraqi
Second, the Kurds are 'working for the occupation'. The Kurds weigh in at around 18% of the Iraqi people but this does them no good as – supporting the elections - they too are not part of 'the Iraqi people'. Kurds don't qualify as 'their own' civilians.
Third, all democrats – Sunni included - and all who would participate in the UN-backed elections and political process are 'working for the occupation'. Men like Hadi Saleh, the trade union leader who on January 4 was tortured and murdered by the 'resistance' because he seeks a sovereign Iraq via the route of elections, politics and building the workers movement. For this crime he had his face beaten to a pulp, was tied to a radiator and strangled.
This third group - the democrats - is large indeed. Heroic election workers helping Iraqi to their first poll in thirty years are 'working for the occupation' (I think those election workers are the glory of democracy and should have trees planted in their name after the election, stretching along a boulevard leading to the Transitional Assembly building). Members of the Iraqi Communist Party who fight for social justice and Iraqi sovereignty by political means not suicide
bombings are 'working for the occupation'. Men and women who work in schools that are to be used as polling stations are 'working for the occupation'.
Polls reported on Al Jezeera show an average of 81% of Iraqis support the elections and 19% oppose the elections. No matter, the 81% are 'working for the occupation'.
Don't forget the humanitarian aid workers who are 'working for the occupation'. Nor the engineers and the brickies rebuilding the electricity substation, the rail workers taking consumer goods to Mosul, the guard protecting the oil pipeline, and the labourer rebuilding the water-treatment plant and the hospital. Each and every one of them, 'working for the occupation'. And anyone seeking to join
the Iraqi police force and protect the Iraqi people from the small minority who murder define themselves them by that very act as enemies of the Iraqi 'People'. As for the burned-out Christian churches, do these targeted Christians not count for the 'resistance' as 'its own' civilians?
When Hadi Saleh, a giant of a man, was building the underground Iraqi trade union movement George Galloway was dining with Tariq Aziz, [Iraq's then deputy prime minister] who "puts HP sauce on every dinner. There's HP sauce every time you sit down with him", said Galloway).
And he hailed Saddam inside his palaces ('Sir, we salute your courage,
your strength, your indefatigability') while talking like a schoolboy about the tyrant's Quality Street chocolates ("He didn't have a chocolate either, which is interesting").
Galloway called an Iraqi free trade unionist a 'Quisling' in the Morning Star and it was reported in the Arab press. While those trade unionists were fighting Saddam's agents in exile, and living with their own terrible memories of being tortured in Saddam's jails, Galloway gave an interview to The Times with this little revealing gem ('I tell him how much I like his suit. He looks pleased, and thanks me. I ask him what make it is. He shows me the label to the jacket -
Kenzo. Is that a designer label? "It's famous, but not top of the label." I later discover that you can't get much more "top of the label" than Kenzo').
There is a campaign of assassination and intimidation against the Iraqi people, including the nascent labour movement, by a small minority - in essence, right-wing death squads - who fear democracy and seek to impose secular or religious dictatorship on the Iraqi people in the name of The Iraqi People.
We need a decent left that fight for the democrats in Iraq, for labour, for women's rights, for social justice in the economy of post-war Iraq, and for the speedy withdrawal of coalition troops as part of a political settlement that gives Iraq a future. Most trade unionists and peace activists want that. They do not support the thugs who killed Hadi Saleh.
It is time for the decent left to saddle up and reclaim the leadership of their own movement.
As for George Galloway himself, would it not be easier if, having lost his confidence, he dissolved the Iraqi people and elected another?