The death of Hugo Chavez

By George Galloway MP

The death of Hugo Chavez at just 58 is a body blow for the poor and the oppressed, throughout Latin America and the wider world. The most elected leader in the modern era, Chavez transformed Venezuela by the force of his will and a popular revolution which encompassed the marginal, the ethnic minorities, the workers, and key sections of the progressive intelligensia who saw in him a veritable Spartacus.

He rallied an army of not slaves, but those despised by the oligarchy as hewers of wood and drawers of the oil which previously made only the rich richer. Under Chavez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.

Chavez’ ambitions were not limited to Venezuela alone. He fostered Latin American unity promoting democratic and socialist movements throughout the continent. He founded a Bank of the South, a University of the South, even a television station of the South – Tele Sur. And further afield he championed the Palestinian cause, giving citizenship to stateless Palestinian refugees. When Israel invaded Lebanon, from where I write, in 2006 he expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas – relations which remain severed. He stood up to North American hegemony and with the victims of imperial domination everywhere.

I knew him as a warm gregarious bear of a man, a force of nature. My wife and I spent almost two weeks working in his presidential campaign late last year. It is heartbreaking to be writing what amounts to his obituary so soon after yet another of his great political triumphs. He will be remembered as a man who lived and died for his people, as a paratrooper, a tank commander, a president. Hasta siempre Comandante. Presente.

Published in the Independent

Newham Respect Public Meeting

Boycotting Israel to support Palestine

by John Wight 

George Galloway’s decision to walk out of a recent debate at Oxford University as soon as he realized that the opposing speaker was an Israeli was both principled and correct. It has been deemed controversial only because of the willful and ongoing denial, prevalent within the British political, media, and cultural establishments, of the fact that Israel is an apartheid state.

The real controversy, and the only j’accuse vis-à-vis Israel that should be levelled, involves those whose cowardice prevents them from not only acknowledging this truth, but worse from acting to end what is by any reckoning the most sustained and systematic injustice inflicted on a people by a state in modern history.

George Galloway has spent his entire political life speaking and standing up for the rights of the Palestinians – who have and continue to be blamed by Israel and its apologists in the West for their own suffering. In the over three decades of Galloway’s unfailing support for the Palestinians, he has endured more calumniation, smears, attacks, and attempts at demonization than any single political figure not only in Britain but the entire West.

Pakistan, A Fractured Society

The Pakistani Shia community has once again suffered at the hands of hard line Sunni groups. A second bomb attack on Shia Hazaras took place in a busy market area. The human casualties this time were more than 80 people killed and nearly 200 injured. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence in Pakistan in recent years. Sectarian violence is slowly, but surely, destabilising the country and creating more enmity between Muslims in an all-ready deeply fractured society.
Fundamental differences in creed between the two groups have led to a deep historical and religious schism. These differences are so deeply ingrained in the consciousness of some Muslims that to them it legitimatises using violence as a means of advocating the righteousness of their own beliefs. Surely this is flawed logic, as the message these hard line Sunni groups are trying to proselytise is essentially then lost amongst the mindless bloodshed and carnage.
This problem is further exacerbated by the negligent stance taken by the Pakistani government. They face criticism from many quarters because they are failing to protect some of the most vulnerable groups (Shias) in their fragmented society. This poses the pertinent question - how can a government that cannot protect minority groups serve in the best interests of the majority?
Moreover, this is a sad and precarious situation because arguably there are more important issues that Pakistan needs to be focusing on such as poverty, corruption and the drone attacks the Pakistani government condones. Muslim groups in Pakistan should be uniting to produce a strong voice which tackles the more pressing issues affecting Pakistan.
Globally, all Muslims share one creed and testify to uphold and believe in the strongly monotheistic nature of Islam. So let this commonality be the unifying stance by which Muslims protest, rather than them expending their energies on the diverging elements of the religion. A united Ummah can effect change, Real Change!

Respect on Question Time

Galloway responds to David Cameron

Bradford West MP George Galloway responded to Prime Minister David Cameron's refusal to answer a parliamentary question, by resorting to a cheap insult, by detailing the Arab tyrannies and puppet presidents Britain backs.

'I asked a reasonable question, to detail the difference between the jihadists in Mali we oppose and the jihadists in Syria we back and in response to a legitimate inquiry I received a sneering insult more fitted to the gutters of Eton than the Mother of all Parliaments,' Galloway said. 'Britain is guilty to backing the worst, most bloodthirsty dictators in the world, bar none. This country backs and arms the foul Saudi Arabian sheikhdom which has the least democracy and probably the worst human rights record on the planet.

Stop the war on Mali

The French government (with British logistical support – though the planes keep breaking down) has launched a military adventure in the former French colony of Mali. As with all the Western interventions of the last decade, this will destabilize the region and lead to greater conflict rather than less. It must be opposed in the strongest terms.

Mali has been subject to ‘Western help’ for the past 20 years and has imploded largely as a result of it. French intervention is to support a military government mired in corruption and every bit as brutal in its torture and murder as those being bombed. The rebels being bombed were given their battle training and weaponry in Libya by the very Western forces now seeking to crush them.

The British government is behaving shamefully in offering support in this dangerous adventure. There has been no public discussion or Parliamentary vote on British involvement. Instead, the British military are being dragged into an ethnic conflict that reaches back to the appalling mess made in Libya in 2011.

Equality of Sacrifice

This government is out to drown the poor. In a sinking ship, the bankers and the millionaires seek safety and comfort while pushing everyone else out of the life boats or down the ladders. This is the 21st century that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats want for us.

They will not punish the bankers or the tax evading companies that produced this economic mess because these are their chums. They are hell bent on using the mess they created as an excuse to roll back the role of the state to help the poorest and turn it into a mere clearing house for profitable government contracts in health, education, transport, even prisons.

By 2020, the TUC estimates that living standards will have been cut for the majority by a further 15%. This comes on top of the most consistent fall in living standards since the 1930s. From 2005, living standards have fallen by an average of 1% per year. Last night, the House of Commons voted for a Welfare Bill that will make 7 million working families worse off and increase the despair and desperation of the unemployed. The government ministers laughed and joked as they did this, including the Prime Minister, whose family wealth was secured in tax avoidance schemes.