Friday, 30 March 2012


A Vote for Ken Livingstone for London Mayor: 
A vote in favour of the Global South and London's working class and black communities

Sukant Chandan,
Sons of Malcolm
30 March 2012

The historic election victory of George Galloway and his Respect party in Bradford West is the first real sign of a socialist-oriented and anti-imperialist resurgence in England in a context of a generally right-wing trajectory.

Wales, Ireland and Scotland however are seeing a progressive and leftward national trajectory, indicative of the many decades and centuries of English colonialism resulting in a right-wing England comparatively to more the progressive politics and struggles in the other nations of these islands.

Galloway's election win will only be the start of a resurgence if it is followed by other considerable victories of anti-imperialist socialism in England, whose immediate manifestation should be the victory of Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.

My political life started several years before New Labour came to power in 1997. My education as to imperialist and white supremacist policies was those by the labour party in government. When I was detained and arrested many times for anti-war activity (or just looking like a Muslim), and when my closest friends and comrades were arrested and beaten up for by police for opposing the wars Britain, the labour party was the political elite in charge of the wars, and they disgusted me then, and they disgust me today. This is part of the reason why I am so happy with Galloway giving them a historically big bloody nose in Bradford.

With the coming to power of the Lib-Dem Tory coalition, I couldn't help but be over the moon that the party of war, the party which had killed and injured so many of my people were finally thrown out. But having had discussions with a close brother who whose own political development happened under the tory government, and coupled with the trenchant attacks on the most vulnerable and poor in society by this present government, I was forced to reflect on my previous position and now understand that a tory government is in general worse than a labour government. Trust me, that's very hard for me to admit, but it's the truth as I see it.

I am loyal to the peoples and nations of the Global South fighting for full independence and progressive development. I a world democrat, I am on side with the majority of the oppressed of the world who are non-white, and in the 'third world'. Therefore I will always side with the Global South over the west, even if under a labour government they throw a few crumbs like the minimum wage to make us forget they are making war plans on all the nations of the Global South.

So it was a pleasant development to witness a Mayor of London  - Ken Livingstone - someone who is essentially a labour party animal, albeit to its left-wing but someone who was not only making moves to develop positive and mutually respectful and beneficial relations with the rising Global South, but also making progressive social reforms as best he could within his remit, and taking progressive political positions on many other issues.

Mayor Ken was opening essentially diplomatic offices for London in Delhi and Beijing, again signalling that Mayor Ken was in step with the world changes in favour of the Global South, and trying to develop politics in a real and professional manner that unites the west in a respectful relationship with the rising South.

At every bus stop in London under Mayor Ken there were signs informing us that the Venezuelan Bolivarian Republic was helping to finance the London transport system and make it affordable, so that children under 18 could ride buses free. Having worked with young people professionally and taking a keen interest in the rights of young people throughout much of my adult life, I know this was important to many working class youth. For it to have been developed with one of the vanguard countries of the struggle of the Global South was a real and meaningful act of internationalism by Mayor Ken's administration. Ken Livingstone has also stated that he is committed to keeping public transport down in London and maintain the Freedom Pass for the elderly.

The Education Maintenance Allowance, a weekly allowance made a real difference to working class people from the age of 16-19. The current government scrapped it, and Ken Livingstone has promised to reintroduce it if he is elected, receiving general support of young people across London.

Looking back on Ken's mayorship, an ugly moment was when Brother Jean Charles DeMenezes was killed in an extra-judicial execution by British police following the London terror attacks in July 2005. Mayor Ken defended the police action, some argue he couldn't have done otherwise, but even President Obama criticised the police when they harassed a black academic in his home, Obama dealt well with the fall out from his comments. Why couldn't have Ken done the same, at least some kind of criticism?

Nevertheless, this was an unpleasant moment in an otherwise progressive and competent administration run by Ken. Perhaps the De Menezes issue rankled that much more because Mayor Ken took very progressive positions being anti-war, pro-Palestine and generally anti-racist, engaging with many of London's diverse communities and encouraging that they celebrate their presence in the capital in part by holding many a festival.

Mayor Ken also took a clear stand against another form of racism - Islamophobia - that has been the vogue form of open racism in the media for many years now.

For all these moves, he inspired the wrath of the right-wing media and parts of the establishment. This is why you see a clear bias in the media for tory-boy-toff Boris Johnson, who as soon as he got into office started to roll back those progressive policies of Ken that actually made a positive difference to London, especially to working class communities.

Therefore its important that communities of the Global South and working class people in London come out in support of Ken Livingstone. We all can feel the depressed atmosphere in our communities as a result of the growing unemployment, housing problems and other stresses as a result of the government policies which are making our peoples suffer for a crisis created  not by us, but by the political and financial elites.

I will never 'like' labour, but Ken has a definite pass. Also, I know that a tory victory in London would be a continuing disaster for working class people, it will take us into greater confrontation with the Global South as this government is doing, and in contrast a win for Ken will assist in lifting us to a possible political turn around in England for our interests.

George Galloway's election wing shows that radical black and working class youth can make all the difference. No doubt many young people, especially South Asian Muslims will be looking at their counterparts in Bradford and thinking that it is possible to make a progressive change in London.

The message from Bradford is also that pro-working class and anti-imperialist politics can win. An election victory for Ken after Galloway's in Bradford will be a good start and important ingredient to a possible anti-imperialist and socialist political resistance and resurgence in England.

Vote Ken Livingstone for Mayor: For developing respectful and positive relations with the Global South, for the social rights of working class people.

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