Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Why Galloway Shouldn't Be Allowed Back

According to the Morning Star, chief Corbyn ally and top Unite mover and shaker, Andrew Murray, has intimated that George Galloway should be allowed to return to the Labour Party. You may recall the Gorgeous One was removed for bringing the party into disrepute after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Opposition to Blair's ruinous and stupid war was one thing, but exhorting troops to refuse orders and arguing for Iraqis' right to resist gave Blair the pretext to get rid.

The problem many on the left of Labour have with Galloway isn't his anti-war stand per se, though his brand of anti-imperialism, which are often read as apologias for the most appalling regimes is bad enough. No, it's his sexism. Galloway has deeply dubious form in this regard. In his old Daily Record column, some 10 years ago he wrote "Take Kylie Minogue. For a singer she's always been not a bad looker. I voted with the majority for a change when her rear was the year's champion sight. I even bought my woman Kylie's range of underwear." Classy. Then there were his comments in defence of Julian Assange, which went above and beyond with observations like "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion" and "Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you're already in the sex game with them." What about consent? What about the right of a woman to withdraw consent?

And then there was the 2015 General Election, which saw Galloway lose out to Labour's Naz Shah in Bradford West. Readers may remember the campaign was particularly filthy, with Galloway and supporters disputing Naz's claim of being a survivor of forced marriage. Infamously, this led to Galloway waving around a false birth certificate at a hustings that "proved" Naz was married at 16 and not before, a claim that was easily refuted. Well, Galloway did learn the art of dirty politics working his way up through Scottish Labour, so one shouldn't be surprised about this spell in the gutter.

Galloway may now have seen something of a light, attacking the sexist blowback against the appointment of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor, for example. But not once has he retracted these comments nor made amends for past behaviour. Therefore I cannot but agree with Emma Burnell who noted how his re-admittance would send an appalling message as the party gets to grip with its own shameful history of harassment and sexual assault.

Then why are we even talking about this? For Andrew Murray, what we're seeing here is some kite flying, a testing of the waters to see the kind of reaction the suggestion of Galloway's return might provoke. And it is what you might expect it to be: a lot of people are pissed off. But who are they, and what would they do? Plenty of Corbyn supporters wouldn't welcome him back but they would, on balance, lump it and carry on. However, for more than a few soft lefties, centrist types and Progress-y right wingers Galloway's re-admittance would be the final straw. Handy from the narrow standpoint of factional argy-bargy.

Handy, but ruinous from the standpoint of the party. I can't speak for Murray, but we all know there is a section of the left for whom the politics of sexism, like anti-racism and homophobia, are so much distractions from the class struggle. That so-called identity politics are an epiphenomenon and are inessential to the building of a new society. They are wrong. Identity politics is not a manifestation of false consciousness or some such horse shit, they're absolutely central to how advanced capitalist societies are organised and class struggle is expressed. Ignore that and readmit a celebrity sexist has-been like Galloway, you run the risk of alienating the people who are making Corbynism possible.

So, no. George Galloway shouldn't be readmitted to the Labour Party, and let this idiocy not be raised again.

12 comments:

Phil said...

I had a brush of sorts with Galloway in the mid-80s, when he steamed into War on Want (I volunteered for them when I was on the dole in 1984-5). WoW at the time had a network of regional organisers - the NW organiser being Angela Hale, co-founder of Women Working Worldwide - and a chain of shops; the Manchester shop was also a base for local NGOs and campaigning organisations. Galloway didn't give a damn about any of this; like Ian McGregor, he wanted to balance the books, and he duly had the organisers sacked and the shops sold off. I heard at second hand about one long and difficult meeting where Angela had tried and failed to persuade him of the intrinsic value of running a local campaigning hub and community space. Eventually she gave up and said, "I suppose I'm just a child of the sixties.". Galloway smiled back at her, standing there in his dark suit and tie, and said, "But so am I!".

Git.

To be fair, Galloway's hard anti-imperialist turn is interesting and unusual; he could have been an asset to the Left at one time. But neither this nor the (valid) sexism charges are decisive for me. I think he is at heart what he always was: an unprincipled Stalinist machine politician.

Ed said...

I basically agree that Galloway shouldn't be invited to rejoin, above all because his track record over the last 10 or 12 years has made abundantly clear that he has no sense of collective disipline or responsibility to anyone but himself. People who tried to work with him in Respect found he was a law unto himself and there was no point expecting any better. His misognyist antics often seem to stem directly from the same vanity and inability to listen to wiser counsel.

BUT ... I will always see his stand against the Iraq war—including and especially his call for soldiers to disobey orders, and his support for the right to armed resistance to a brutal occupation—as something to be commended, especially when seen against the long, ignoble tradition of British Labour when it comes to imperial wars, past and present. I'd take Galloway, with all his egregious flaws, over a thousand Ernest Bevins, John Spellars or John Woodcocks. In fact it's one of the main reasons I feel frustrated by his repeated, wilful idiocies over the past decade, which have pushed him past the point of no return for so many people: we could do with a few more people who are willing to challenge the Labour right's rancid foreign-oolicy nostrums with the same passion and eloquence. This is something that I feel especially strongly after reading the full text of Emily Thornberry's shameful, stomach-turning speech at LFI's gathering last week, which might as well have been scripted by Mark Regev—I can't help thinking fondly of Galloway telling a Sky News anchor, to her horror, that the Israeli army was getting 'a bloody good hiding' after invading Lebanon in 2006.

So yes, ultimately I think the Corbyn project (or whatever you want to call it) would be better off without Galloway trying to impose himself on proceedings. But if it becomes a topic of debate, it's not enough to leave it at that. Tony Blair is still a member of the party in good standing, as far as I'm aware: his trips around the world to shill for tyrants and war criminals do infinitely more to bring it into disrepute than anything Galloway said about Iraq. And there's plenty of lesser crooks such as Kim Howells, who was so brazen as to pose for a photo with one of Colombia's leading death-squad organizers and his men.

Anonymous said...

"They are wrong. Identity politics is not a manifestation of false consciousness or some such horse shit, they're absolutely central to how advanced capitalist societies are organised and class struggle is expressed."

I agree wit you there. But "identity" also includes ethnic group, nation, and religion, all factors which people like you (Marxists) typically disregard. You can't have your cake and eat it.

I don't altogether trust Galloway, mainly because he appeals specifically to the Muslim community and makes it clear to them that he is himself a Muslim while refusing to discuss his religion in mainstream settings. I totally support his right to do either of these things, but not both at the same time as it is dishonest. Secondly I dislike his association with the Iranian state TV and his support for Hamas (although he has strongly opposed Islamists at some risk to himself, but Hamas are Islamists, again he's running with the fox and hunting with the hounds).

But I'm betting a lot of the resentment against GG is more about his being the best public speaker in this country by far- I've heard him and Tony Benn together when Benn was still in good health- he was good but GG was in a different league.

As for his thoughts of Kylie Minogue- get a grip already! Only media types and ivory tower academics get worked up about such things.

Mathias Alexander said...

Gorgeous George, can be amussing, says some things that should be said (sometimes). I can't work out why anyone would want to put him in charge of something at War on Want or anywhere else. Labour would probably be better off without him but is that a fair reason for excluding him?

Anonymous said...

Disagree somewhat with the praise of "identity politics." To my mind, when I am feeling cynical, it looks remarkably like a form of "divide and conquer" that has roots in the Thatcherite cult of individualism (now metabolised by millennials who have never known anything else). There's only one form of privilege, and that's wealth. All other forms of cultural resentment - which is what identity politics is really about - spring from that concern.

It's good that society is more aware of identity politics, but the downside of that is that not everyone involved in such activity is (to be quite blunt) reasonable, sensible, or worth listening to out of anything more than politeness. In this, I should add, they are no different from anyone else. Does someone automatically become wise or insightful by being discontented?

Of course, it's not an either/or situation. You can have class consciousness and partake of identity politics. I think a bit of the latter is generally a good thing, but the trouble with it is that it is primarily a product of the 'level playing field' illusion provided by social media, in which hierarchies are rendered more or less inoperative. There isn't that much identity politics going on in 'meatspace'.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that the grounds you site, alone, are sufficient to refuse party membership. (I suspect he will, for vanities sake, only apply to re-join if “invited). There are plenty of people within the party who hold similar, or worse views, and we have also taken on floor-crossing Tories without significant analysis of their previous positions.

What we have here however is a former MP who, like as not, sought expulsion with his comments, but then went all out to damage the party. He did so in 3 parliamentary elections, it is probably not fair to describe his 2017 candidature nor his London Mayoral run as harmful. These were all dirty campaigns involving unacceptable reliance on communalism. In line with your observations on 2 of these occasions this involved women, BME candidates – Oona King probably being deliberately targeted. Both were horribly treated. Respect also damaged the party in local elections.

Though Respect folded – finally due to the Assange comments you cite – he grandiosely saw it as a “rebirth” of Labour. Forget celebrity big brother, his RT shows, his appalling use of litigation to silence opponents, and even the issues on which you rightly take him to task. Until he offers some honest political accounting for this there can be no place for him in the party.

SP

Mark Livingston said...

Agree on Galloway. But good to hear that our new leadership team are at least thinking about addressing the injustices of New Labour's purges. Dave Nellist, for example, should be allowed back.

ejh said...

Labour would probably be better off without him but is that a fair reason for excluding him?

One of those questions that come with a pre-supplied answer.

asquith said...

Does he still think appearing alongside Nigel Farrago in the Brexshit campaign was a good idea?

Is he still a supporter of Russian imperialism, the only good kind according to "anti-imperialists"?

Anonymous said...

George should definitely be back in the Labour party. It's an absolute travesty that Tony Blair remains while he does not. So many lies have been peddled to undermine George many by the right who are scared to death of his knowledge and honesty. He turned out to be right about the Iraq war, he was right about the case against Assange and he's also completely right about leaving the EU. Get him back quickly.....if only to give the friends of Israel a run for their money.

Jay Cee said...

thanks to 'Ed's' comments i have just read emily thornberry's 'stomach churning' speech to the lfi - 'stomach churning' doesn't really do it justice, it is quite simply unbelievable arse-licking stuff. (well yes, ok, that IS stomach churning). my estimation of that lady has gone right down the pan. give me george galloway any day. one of the complaints against him was that he said if you take your clothes off and get into bed with someone, have sex and then fall asleep it can be assumed you are into a sexual situation with someone. i'm female and i agree with what he said. to be honest if a man i'm in the habit of having sex with said to me 'can i have sex with you ?' i would say no ! he should know by the fact i'm with him and by my physical reaction to him that the answer would be in the affirmative. if i don't want to have sex with him i won't be in his bed - end of story.
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Robert said...

Galloway is like the little girl in the nursery rhyme; when he's good he's very very good and when he's bad he's horrid.