Alberta election – Party of Big Oil Defeats Party of Big Oil

APRIL 30, 2012 – There was something absolutely wonderful about the failure of Wildrose to win the recent election in Alberta. The party is made up of a gaggle of mostly former conservatives – so extreme in their views that their party earned the nickname “Tea Party North”, and was touted by almost every polling agency to be headed for a convincing majority in the April 23 provincial election. But in the end, the pollsters were completely wrong, Wildrose winning only 17 seats and 34% of the vote (CBC News 2012a).

Wildrose lost in spite of getting substantial elite backing. Many of the usual suspects of Canadian conservatism broke from their traditional support for the Alberta Tories, and backed Wildrose. The editors of the National Post led the way, saying “Alberta’s government could use some fresh blood and vibrant new ideas” (National Post Editorial Board 2012). The Edmonton Sun editors said that “the Wildrose party has the vision and energy to set Alberta on a course to a bold and exciting future” (Edmonton Sun 2012).

That exciting future might have been a little pale in colour. Ron Leech, Wildrose candidate in Calgary-Greenway, said on April 16: “I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage …. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can speak to all the community” (Gerson 2012).

A Wildrose future might also have proven to be a little warm. Leech’s party comrade, Allan Hunsperger, running in Edmonton-South-West, wrote on his church’s blog in June 2011 that the fate of those who did not live as heterosexuals would be to “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering” (Wood 2012a).

Now the good folks on the editorial board of the National Post were aware of these backward and reactionary views when they deliberated, but they nonetheless decided that Wildrose politicians would be the best stewards of Alberta’s future. Any new party running a full slate of candidates, they argued, “will inevitably be stuck with a few loose cannons” (National Post Editorial Board 2012). Perhaps, but cannons can be fired, and party leader Danielle Smith, when confronted with these two particularly obscene cannons, chose not to pull the trigger. She said, for instance, that Hunsberger was “free to hold his personal views” (Wood 2012a).

April 23, Smith found out that if she wouldn’t deal with Leech and Hunsberger, the people of Alberta would. Both went down to defeat. Revulsion over their views, and the way in which party leader Smith was willing to tolerate open bigots in her party, led to a surge in voter participation, rising sharply to 57% from the all-time low of 2008, when only 41% of eligible voters cast a ballot (Postmedia News 2012). The unexpected trek to the polls of thousands of people, enraged at Wildrose bigotry, meant that, far from winning the majority most predicted, Wildrose will have to be content with the status of official opposition. The provincial conservatives kept a 41-year unbeaten streak going, winning 61 seats with 44% of the vote (CBC News 2012a).

Three key dynamics

To understand developments in Alberta politics, it is necessary to quite closely study this surge in voter turnout relative to the election of 2008, in context with two other key dynamics. First, there was a substantial increase in support for Wildrose, its vote going from 64,407 votes to 444,996, an increase of 381,000. Second, there was a dramatic decrease in support for the Liberals – from 251,158 in 2008 to 125,000 in this election, a decrease of almost 126,000. Third, there was the surge in turnout, rising from 950,363 to 1,290,218, an increase of almost 340,000. Charts and tables to accompany this article can be found just before the reference list. The first chart (CBC News 2012a; Postmedia News 2012; Chief Electoral Officer 2008, 142) captures these dynamics visually. (The chart also captures a fourth dynamic – the increase in support for the NDP, whose vote increased 45,000, from 80,000 to 126,000. The increase in NDP support is interesting in itself, but not the main focus of this article).

Without question, the bulk of the Wildrose vote came from disgruntled ex-Tories, who felt that Redford was abandoning core conservative policies. The flight from the Tories to the Tea Party North was in fact, massive. We of course don’t know precisely who changed votes from one party to another. But we can reasonably identify the main trends. A big part of the rise in Wildrose support came from disgruntled ex-Tories. If you peg that figure at 70%, it drops the tory vote to 235,000. There was a smaller, but important current, of Liberals shifting to the Tories, because of fear of Wildrose, and because of the new “liberalism” represented by Redford. Certainly the majority of these switched from to the newly-minted Redford Tories. Using the same approximation of 70%, raises the Tory vote to 323,000, better, but still far behind Wildrose. Focusing on just these two dynamics is what led the polling community to almost universally call for a Wildrose majority.

Enter the new voters. In 2008 just over 950,000 cast a vote. This time, turnout surged to 1,290,218. The second chart (CBC News 2012a; Postmedia News 2012; Chief Electoral Officer 2008, 142) illustrates the way in which this and the other two key dynamics have led to a recomposition of the Tory vote in Alberta. The only way for the Tories to have achieved their final total of 567,051, was for them to have received the support of 70% of these new voters. This surge of new support for the Tories was in the main a surge of revulsion against Wildrose. It kept the barbarians at the gate, and confounded the pundits. Again, these figures need to be qualified. We of course don’t know why each of the thousands of new voters headed to the polls, nor who they voted for. All of the figures above are at best, educated guesses. But – the dynamics they represent “feel” accurate, for those who were in Alberta for the election. The hatred for the newly-liberal Tories that came from the conservative media was everywhere. The even more intense visceral hatred for Wildrose bigotry was palpable in coffee shops, on campuses, and on facebook. There was real fear that the conservative push for Danielle Smith would lead to a Wildrose majority, and intense worry about what a noxious “Tea Party North” government would do to Alberta. This translated into a passionate push, particularly by young people, to get to the polls and vote against Wildrose.

Redford knew this. She knew that her only road back into office was to be a Tory who didn’t look like a Tory. In a way that would seem very confusing to those outside Alberta, the Alison Redford led Tories were at pains throughout the campaign to present themselves as a liberal alternative to Wildrose, at one point in the campaign taking out a full-colour, full-page newspaper ad, saying “this is not your father’s” conservative party (Wood 2012b).

In fact the Redford Tories do represent, at one level, a quite different set of politics from the Alberta Tories led by Ralph Klein in the 1990s. Klein was a western twin of Ontario’s Mike Harris, gleefully embracing attacks on social programs as a badge of honour. Redford, the surprise winner of the Tory leadership race in September 2011, came out on top by advancing policies far different from those of Klein or Harris. In fact in a very real sense, she won by running against the Conservative record. She “dismissed the ‘arrogance’ of her own cabinet, slammed a controversial land law and pushed for a judicial inquiry into her government’s handling of the health-care file”. In the words of one reporter, “some of Ms. Redford’s policies are indeed liberal-esque: implementing comprehensive (and expensive) ‘family care centres’ as a pillar of what is already Canada’s costliest health system, proposing higher government payments to the disabled and supporting pay hikes for employees of non-profit agencies” (Wingrove 2011). This is the political profile of her victorious leadership campaign – a political profile that is very different from a Klein or a Harris. Redford’s victory – in part based on running against the Conservative record, led many liberals and even some NDPers to look to her as a “centrist” political option.

Prior to Redford’s accession to leadership, the Alberta Tories under Ed Stelmach had become deeply unpopular. In choosing Redford, the Tories had chosen to address their electoral difficulties, by moving away from some of their more right-wing policies. The pollsters confidence in a Wildrose victory was based on the assumption that this would backfire, lead to a conservative backlash and the growth of Wildrose, because politics in Alberta always moves to the right.

There was a move right, from the Tories to Wildrose. However, there was also a bigger and more important backlash against Wildrose.  The key factor in this election was not the conservative backlash against Redford’s “liberalism”, but an anti-Wildrose backlash as their reactionary politics became exposed. The National Post editors will have to ponder the fact that their preferred party lost because it was perceived as being too right-wing – in Alberta.

The Tar Sands

One other key issue also galvanized opposition to Smith – her stance on climate change. She angered many in the province when she argued, one week before the election, that the question of climate change was not yet settled (The Canadian Press 2012). This is an enormous issue in Alberta, centre of the environmentally catastrophic Athabasca tar sands. Smith herself acknowledged the role of climate change in her defeat, saying after the election that she and her party would have to reconsider some of their policies. “The fact of the matter is there are certain policies that clearly Albertans didn’t want to see implemented,” including on her list her questioning of climate change (CBC News 2012b).

But the fact that Redford is no Klein and that the climate-change skeptic Smith lost, leaves little room for complacency. Climate justice is likely to be just as much at risk from Redford as it would have been from Smith. The editors of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper of conservatism, backed the Tories not Wildrose. They saw Redford as a more positive voice for Alberta’s oil industry, arguing that “her Canadian Energy Strategy would facilitate the shipment of oil-sands oil to Asia, the U.S. and Central Canada; she also promises to help fund oil-sands extraction technology” (The Globe and Mail 2012).

The Globe and Mail editors were reflecting the point of view of big sections of Corporate Alberta. Those who travelled in the rarefied air of that section of Alberta, were very comfortable with a victory by either Wildrose or the Tories. Both parties received corporate donations running to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the case of Wildrose almost reaching one million dollars.

Most significantly, 25 corporations hedged their bets, giving cash to both parties, most prominently, companies in the petrochemical and energy industries. For Cenovus, Enbridge, Encana, Marathon Oil, North West Upgrading, NOVA Chemicals, Penn West Petroleum, Suncor Energy, Transalta and TransCanada Pipelines – there was a certain indifference. Smith or Redford would do. Either of them would be a good bet to allow the expansion of tar sands production into the foreseeable future.

The table at the end of the article (Wildrose 2012; PC Alberta 2012) lists all the corporations who made donations to both parties, beginning with those involved in petrochemical and energy. This is an astonishing table. Individual voters take our vote very seriously. We care which party is elected – which is why, of course, there are election campaigns in the first place. Very few people walk about the streets sporting buttons for two parties. People pick one, and cast their ballot. But corporate Alberta had a sweet situation. A victory by either the Tories or Wildrose would be fine. Under either party, it would be business as usual. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that both parties are parties of big oil. For big oil, the key is continuing the rush to pull oil out of the mud of Northern Alberta, regardless of the environmental consequences. We dodged the bullet on a government of social conservative dinosaurs. But we entrenched in power another majority government enthusiastically committed to Alberta’s boiling mud economy, absolutely focused on a systematic increase in the exploitation of the tar sands.

And – even though Wildrose lost, it did in fact come very close. For just under half a million voters to put an “X” beside Tea Party North, means that there is a very large base for extremist politics in the province. In addition, the fact that the Tories have become custodians of “liberalism” for now is disquieting. The Tories know very well how to be conservative. We can be absolutely sure that they will be loyal soldiers for Corporate Alberta. Very little in their background has prepared them to be loyal soldiers of progressive politics.

Redford has a comfortable majority, and can now rule without fear of a defeat in the legislature for a full four-year term. We’ll have another election sometime between March 1, 2016 and May 31, 2016 (Alberta 2006, 36). That doesn’t mean there will be an absence of politics for four more years. The most important political work always happens between elections, in the nitty-gritty work of organizing social movements from the grass roots up. February 16, hospital workers in Edmonton showed us what that kind of politics might look like, walking out on an unauthorized wildcat strike, angered at a terrible contract offer from their employer, Alberta Health Services (Kellogg 2012).

Not yet an Alberta Spring – but a lovely example of what real politics from the grass roots – and a more stable base for progressive politics – might look like.

Charts and tables referenced in the text

© 2012 Paul Kellogg

Publishing History

This article has been published as Alberta election – Party of Big Oil Defeats Party of Big Oil,” Global Research, 4 May; “Alberta Election: Big Oil Party Defeats Big Oil Party,” Climate & Capitalism, 30 April; “Alberta Election – Party of Big Oil Defeats Party of Big Oil,” The Bullet No. 628, 4 May 4


Alberta, Government of. 2006. Election Act.

CBC News. 2012a. “Albertans Elect Tory Majority Government – Alberta Votes 2012.” CBC News Canada, April 24.

———. 2012b. “Wildrose May Reconsider Some Policies, Smith Says – Edmonton.” CBC News Edmonton, April 24.

Chief Electoral Officer. 2008. The Report on the March 3, 2008 Provincial General Election of the Twenty-seventh Legislative Assembly. Edmonton: Elections Alberta.

Edmonton Sun. 2012. “Editorial: Time for a Change.” Edmonton Sun, April 22.

Gerson, Jen. 2012. “‘Caucasian Advantage’ Quip Casts Shadow over Wildrose Campaign Despite Poll Lead.” National Post, April 18.

Kellogg, Paul. 2012. “Angry Hospital Workers Wildcat in Edmonton.”, March 7.

National Post Editorial Board. 2012. “National Post Editorial Board Endorses Danielle Smith and the Wildrose in the Alberta Election.” National Post, April 19.

PC Alberta. 2012. “Progressive Conservative Party Releases Campaign Donors.”, April 22.

Postmedia News. 2012. “Alberta Election 2012: Alberta Voter Turnout Highest Since 1993.” The Vancouver Sun, April 25.

The Canadian Press. 2012. “Wildrose Leader Says Climate Science ‘Not Settled’.” CBC My Region – Alberta Votes, April 16.

The Globe and Mail. 2012. “Editorial – Alberta’s Conservatives Offer More Change Than Wildrose.” The Globe and Mail, April 19.

Wildrose. 2012. “Redford PCs End Campaign Like They Began – With A Broken Promise.”, April 22.

Wingrove, Josh. 2011. “Will Tories Roll Out Red Carpet for Redford?” The Globe and Mail, September 11, sec. A.

Wood, James. 2012a. “Wildrose Candidate Tells Gays in Lady Gaga-inspired Blog Post: ’You Will Suffer the Rest of Eternity in the Lake of Fire, Hell“.” National Post, April 16.

———. 2012b. “Alberta Election: ‘Family Feud’ Between Wildrose, PCs Heats Up.” Postmedia News, April 21.

The challenge of George Galloway’s ‘Bradford Spring’

APRIL 4, 2012 – In the end, it wasn’t even close. Britain’s most prominent anti-war politician, George Galloway, is back as a Member of Parliament for his Respect Party, after receiving support so overwhelming that he had, in the words of a reporter for The Guardian, “annihilated the Labour vote”. As impressive as was his 10,000 vote majority in the by-election in his new constituency of Bradford West, even more so was the social movement feel which accompanied his campaign, replete with “first-time voters shimmying up trees to hang Respect banners” and “taxi drivers competing to see who could cancel their Labour party membership first” (Phidd 2012). Invoking the great mass movements in the Middle East from last year, Galloway called it the “Bradford Spring”. He will now, again, have an internationally recognized public forum from which to be tribune of the anti-war movement, and support the long struggle of the people of Palestine. Responding to him will be a real challenge for the pro-war Con-Dem Coalition, and the New Labour “opposition”. His victory also highlights challenges facing social movements in Britain and elsewhere.

For Con-Dem (the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats) and New Labour, these challenges are obvious. All three major parties are deeply implicated in the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Galloway has been by far their most prominent opponent. He was suspended from the Labour Party in 2003, and ultimately expelled for saying that the U.S. and Britain had invaded Iraq “like wolves” and “urging British soldiers to disobey ‘illegal orders’” (Hall 2003).

Given the carnage which has happened in the years since, his position of 2003 looks prophetic. British casualties in Iraq, from 2003 until 2009, totaled 5,970 including 179 dead. In Afghanistan, the toll has been even higher. From 2008 through 2011, there were annually, on average, more than 2,400 British casualties. In total since 2001, 404 British troops have died (Casualty Monitor 2009; Casualty Monitor 2012). We have no idea about the civilian toll in the two countries – the U.S., Britain, Canada and the other coalition forces have shown no interest in keeping track. A very conservative figure puts civilian deaths in Afghanistan at 8,813 and the Iraq total at 100,000. Other figures go far higher – by one estimate 864,531 civilians killed in Iraq, part of 1,556,156 total casualties as of August, 2010 (Iraq Body Count (IBC) 2012; Unkown News 2010).

New Labour and the Tories both, of course, have this blood on their hands. New Labour was in office for the launch of both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. It was only able to enter the one in Iraq when massive backing from the Tories fended off the anti-war votes from 122 Labour MP (Blitz 2003). The Liberal Democrats have played a more equivocal role. They made a name for themselves as “the mainstream anti-war voice” by coming out against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But they supported going to war in Afghanistan in 2001, a war which has proven to be just as futile as the war in Iraq, and far more costly in terms of British lives lost (Russell, Cutts, and Fieldhouse 2007, 194). And now, of course, they sit side by side with the Tories, propping up the Tory-led, Con-Dem, pro-war coalition.

Galloway has consistently linked these wars to the ongoing occupation of Palestine. It was for his support of Palestine, and his criticism of what he called “the most extreme Israeli government in history” that Canada’s Tories banned him from Canada (a ban which Galloway and the anti-war movement in Canada fought and successfully overturned). Throughout the entire period of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, Galloway explained how both wars were linked to the occupation of Palestine. “The price of peace” he argued “is justice for the Palestinians” (Galloway 2010).

The price of war and occupation has been horrendous. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006 “resulted in at least 1,109 Lebanese deaths, the vast majority of whom were civilians, 4,399 injured and an estimated 1 million displaced” (Human Rights Watch 2007, 4). During Israel’s assault on Gaza between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, “the magnitude of the harm to the local population was unprecedented: 1,389 Palestinians were killed, 759 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18” (B’Tselem 2010).

In domestic politics, the most important issues facing Britain are the aftershocks from the Great Recession of 2008-2009. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Britain’s recovery from that slump has been short-lived, the economy having slipped back into recession (Inman 2012). But the domestic economic problems are in fact intimately linked to the three key foreign policy issues outlined here – Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. In Britain and elsewhere, the foreign wars and occupations in the Middle East and Central Asia, have served the domestic purpose of distracting the population at home by dividing people along racist lines. Islamophobia has become an ugly scar, cutting through community after community in Britain, even allowing the extreme right wing to begin to regain a foothold in British Politics. As Galloway was celebrating his Bradford Spring, the neo-Nazi English Defence League (EDL) was attempting to organize with similar groups from continental Europe in a racist “Stop the Islamification of Europe” event in Denmark (Norman 2012). This kind of racist Islamophobia cannot be challenged without simultaneously challenging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

For clearly staking out his position against war, occupation and Islamophobia, Galloway has become the target for some pretty awful abuse at the hands of the pro-war media. Much of this involves hurling insults to avoid responding to Galloway’s cogent arguments. The late Christopher Hitchens – who had by the 21st century wandered far from his left-wing youth, ending up in the pro-Iraqi war camp – railed against Galloway, calling him a “hysterically extremist political thug” (Hitchens 2007). Others have simply short-circuited discussion by labeling him the “Saddam-supporting British MP” (Raphael 2004). Sometimes the insults took a racialized turn. The Business in 2003 attacked Galloway and one of his supporters saying both “look like well-fed sheikhs” (The Business 2003). Some of the most vociferous attacks came from figures associated with the British left. Nick Cohen, writing in the New Statesman, said that “Respect, the alliance between the Muslim Association of Britain and the Socialist Workers Party [SWP], shows how ugly the far left in Britain has become” (Cohen 2004, 26). When Galloway was elected to Parliament as a Respect member in 2005, Cohen called it the “worst result” of election night because “an alliance between the intellectually bankrupt Marxist-Leninists of the Socialist Workers Party and Islamic fundamentalists” had been behind the victory. “Let’s not mince words. George Galloway’s defeat of [the Labour Party’s] Oona King is a disaster for the democratic left. As the campaign was fought on communalist lines, it is a disaster for multiracial London” (Cohen 2005, 11).

In politics, the term communalism has different meanings. In certain analyses, it is used to express the “democratic and potentially practicable dimension of the libertarian goal” (Bookchin 2001). Cohen was invoking the much more common use of the term, one often deployed in the Indian sub-continent. “Communalism is a political trend dating from the late 19th century that takes India’s religious groups (or ‘communities’) as the natural components of political life. Communalists thus seek political mobilization along religious lines, with high-caste Hindus and wealthy Muslims as the ‘natural’ leaders–and members of other religious groups as the ‘natural’ antagonists” (Vanaik and Lal 2004). In a careful analysis in 1992, Achin Vanaik said that the communalist movements “harden the divisions between different religious communities and increase tensions between them” (1992, 47 and 50). Bipan Chandra deploys the term with effect to analyze the ideology of the Hindu nationalist, anti-Muslim RSS (National Patriotic Organization) in India. Chandra is very blunt in his analysis. “Communalism in India is a form of fascism” (Chandra 1990, 42). The label of “communalism” then, is not one to be lightly thrown around. When directed at Respect – a party campaigning in Britain against war, against imperialism and against Islamophobia – its use is completely out of context and clearly absurd.

But in spite of this barrage of near hysterical criticism, a massive anti-war movement was built, with “Respect: The Unity Coalition” as its political face. Galloway has been, along with Salma Yaqoob, the most visible public figure associated with Respect and the anti-war movement – Galloway as the one Respect candidate to win a seat in the House of Commons, Yaqoob, the massively respected woman from an Islamic background, who has become an internationally-known symbol of the fight against war, imperialism and Islamophobia, and who from 2006 until stepping down for health reasons in 2011, was an elected Birmingham City Councillor (Gibbons 2011). The coming together of Yaqoob and Galloway, along with most of the key organizations and individuals of the British “left of Labour”, was an accomplishment which achieved international recognition, and from which many of us drew inspiration.

Between Galloway’s 2005 election win in Bethnal Green and this year’s win in Bradford West, Respect had to navigate a severe internal crisis. In 2007, the SWP, linked so closely to Galloway by Cohen in 2005, suddenly became his harshest critic. Prior to 2007, SWP publications had very effectively challenged the “communalist” charge, used in such a perverse way by Cohen in 2005 (Middleton 2006). But by late 2007, things had changed. Respect leaders such as Yaqoob had to defend Respect from the communalist charge (Yaqoob 2007), this time being levelled by leading members of the SWP itself (Harman 2008, 35–36). The divide between the SWP and Galloway was portrayed as a “left-right” split, the right being Galloway and his supporters (Socialist Worker 2007). Three very prominent SWP members who refused to part company with Galloway, were expelled from the party. To outside observers, the dispute was almost incomprehensible, particularly when it became framed in the context of obscure stories about century-old disputes in the European left, including a divide in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1903 (Socialist Worker 2007), and a divide between two rival groups at the founding of the Second International in 1889 (Harman 2008, 25).

Fortunately, Respect survived the crisis. Far from being on the right, leading Respect members such as George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob and Kevin Ovenden have played a prominent role as leaders of the Palestine solidarity movement in Britain. All three participated in the Summer University of Palestine in 2011 (Viva Palestina 2011a). Viva Palestina, which sponsored that university, has organized numerous aid convoys to Gaza, with Galloway playing a leading role. Ovenden, one of the three expelled from the SWP, was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked by the Israeli military in May 2010, leading to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens (Viva Palestina 2011b). And fortunately, the disputes of 2007 are no longer visible in 2012. There are now two organizations associated with those who led the SWP in 2007, and both of them warmly welcomed Galloway’s victory in Bradford West (Counterfire 2012; Bhattacharyya 2012).

Galloway is a complicated figure. He caused considerable embarrassment to the anti-war movement, with his strange 2006 appearance on the television show “Big Brother” (The Economist 2006). He is unapologetic in his support for the Soviet Union, calling the disappearance of that Stalinist state “the biggest catastrophe of my life” (Hattenstone 2002). More substantially, his position is very conservative and on the wrong side of history, when he argues that “abortion is morally and ethically wrong” (Cohen 2004).

But he doesn’t do international speaking tours about choice on abortion, or to be nostalgic about Stalinism. He does speaking tours to condemn the occupation of Palestine, to challenge politicians like Harper, Cameron, Blair, Bush and Obama who again and again and again, in the pursuit of state power and corporate profits, show themselves willing to sacrifice young people from their own country by the hundreds, and people of all ages from the Global South by the tens of thousands.

Galloway has demonstrated, over the last ten years, that principled anti-imperialism can be combined with an open challenge to rightward moving social democracy, and that opposition can move from the margins to the mainstream, finding an opening in electoral politics. Clearly this is of interest to the social movements in Britain. For those of us in Canada, faced with a rightward moving NDP under its new ex-Liberal leader Thomas Mulcair, those lessons are just as important. Stephen Harper, for one, is aware of the reality of this challenge. That is why he tried to ban Galloway from Canada.

Galloway, together with the anti-war movement in Canada, broke that ban, and November 25, 2010, I was one of an audience of hundreds in a packed auditorium at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he gave a magnificent presentation on war and empire. For one and a half hours, without notes, Galloway took the crowd on a tour through the Middle East and Central Asia, analyzed the dynamics of imperialism and national oppression, made the case for justice for the Palestinians and for an end to the war in Afghanistan – relating all of this to his own conflict with the current Tory administration in Ottawa. In his sum-up, he looked the audience in the eyes and said there were three words to take away from his presentation in the current period – “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” the three key words of the movement to build support for the people of Palestine (Palestinian BDS National Committee 2012).

Part of a marathon 10-city tour organized by a coalition of organizations – including the Halifax Peace Coalition, the Canadian Arab Federation, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and Independent Jewish Voices (Defend Free Speech 2010) – the Edmonton meeting was a magnificent example of how to convincingly present unpopular ideas to a mass audience. Galloway is an asset in the fight against war and imperialism.

© 2012 Paul Kellogg

Publishing history

This article has been published as Britain: The challenge of George Galloway’s ‘Bradford Spring’,” Links, 4 April; “Britain: The challenge of George Galloway’s ‘Bradford Spring’,” JK Alternative Viewpoint, 16 April.


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Bookchin, Murray. 2001. “What Is Communalism? The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism.” Anarchy Archives.

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———. 2012. “British Casualties: Afghanistan.” Casualty Monitor.

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———. 2005. “Weird – but Not in a Good Way.” New Statesman, May 9.

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Hall, Ben. 2003. “Expelled Galloway Could Exact Revenge on Labour at the Polls.” Financial Times, October 24.

Harman, Chris. 2008. “The Crisis in Respect.” International Socialism (117) (January): 25–48.

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Vanaik, Achin. 1992. “Reflections on Communalism and Nationalism in India.” New Left Review I 196 (November-December): 43–63.

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———. 2011b. “Viva Palestina – a Lifeline from Britain to Gaza.”

Yaqoob, Salma. 2007. “Challenges for Respect.” What Next?