Nationalist socialism is not socialism

The Workers Party of Britain (WPB) stood 152 candidates in the General Election on 4 July. It focussed primarily on opposition to the war on Gaza and in support of the Palestinian people.

Its leader George Galloway had won a by-election in Rochdale in February 2024, winning 40% of the vote on a much reduced 40% turnout, albeit Labour had disavowed its own candidate . The turnout in the 2019 General Election, which was won by Labour, was 60%.

Galloway’s by-election victory gave a huge fillip to the WPB and it drew new support, especially from areas with large Muslim communities. Its candidates in the General Election received some very impressive results, with three candidates winning over 25% of the vote, eight winning between 10-20%, and another 18 winning between 5-10%. However, Galloway lost his seat to Labour in the General Election, on an increased turnout, back up to 55%.

It is understandable that many on the left and in the Muslim community, who are horrified at the situation in Gaza, and who thoroughly detest Starmer for his early defence of Israel’s murderous onslaught, have looked to Galloway and the WPB as an alternative.

However, the programme of the WPB is a contradictory mix of limited reformist economic demands, which fail to challenge the capitalist system, and nationalism. When put together with Galloway’s own reactionary, conservative views on the family and gary rights, the WPB becomes a party that no serious socialist should support.

The WPB’s programme is a nationalist dead-end.

This may not be apparent to those who look no further than the WPB’s position on Gaza/Palestine. But it is there in its election material and party imagery.

The WPB claims to be a socialist party but socialism and nationalism are incompatible.

Below is a page from a WPB leaflet distributed in the Stretford and Urmston constituency in Greater Manchester.

This nationalist imagery – the use of the Union Jack – and the slogan – ‘People of Britain first’ – could have come from the fascist BNP or Britain First. It could have come from the far-right, anti-immigration Reform party. Starmer’s Labour Party has embraced the Union Jack, even putting it on its membership cards – to the dismay and disgust of many of its members.

This horrible, reactionary approach is going to mislead, miseducate and ruin a whole layer of people who have gravitated towards the WPB because they are opposed to the war on Gaza, among other things.

It won’t have escaped the attention of many that the WPB emblem deliberatedly uses the colours of the Union Jack and emulates the roundel used by the British Royal Air Force in World War II.

The use of the Union Jack, especially along with the slogan “People of Britain First”, cannot be regarded as anything other than an opportunist pandering to nationalist sentiment. It is appealing to the worst aspects of patriotism. It is especially dangerous when Reform and the Tory right are using exactly the same nationalism to reinforce their far-fight, anti immigration xenophobia.

Nationalism is the ideology of the right, not of socialism.

The WPB claims to be a socialist and working-class party. But Socialism is international and the interests of the working class in Britain are international. We do not put the ‘people of Britain first’. We put the working class of the world first.

The slogan implies that there is some national unity between all ‘people of Britain’. There can be no unity between the working class in Britain and its ruling class.

What is meant by ‘People of Britain’? If we put the ‘people of Britain first’, where does that leave the people of Gaza/Palestine? Or the people of anywhere else? It implies the exclusion of, and hostility to, foreigners – migrants, refugees. That is why the fascist ‘Britain First’ group use that slogan as its name.

Instead of combatting the reactionary nationalism of the far-right the WPB is pandering to the same reactionary xenophobic prejudices.

The slogan divides the working class. Socialists aim to unite it, across borders.

Starmer makes the point repeatedly “Country first, party second”, meaning that he and the Labour Party will put the interests of the British ruling class – British business – ahead of the class interests of workers. There is no national interest that can be shared by the working class and its exploiting class.

Socialists should give no support to the WPB but try to break the best working-class militants in its ranks to the ideas of genuine socialism, which is international and opposes nationalism.

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