Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Strange Case of George Galloway

Firstly, I am not sure how many readers I still have left as I have so neglected this blog of late, but for those who still remain apologies - I feel I owe you something.  Obviously, there is much one could talk about - the world crisis - the ongoing processes of revolution and counter-revolution in the Middle East and North Africa, and the current anger of millions of people against the Tories means it looks as though we are in for a distinctly hot autumn" in Britain, and there are many upcoming conferences and demonstrations in Britain I really should remind people about - not least the demonstration on October 20 in London that could just possibly turn out to be the biggest demonstration in British trade union history and if so could then give enough confidence to people to lead to, just possibly, the first General Strike in British history since 1926.   But I am instead sadly going to briefly blog about George Galloway, the MP of the small left-wing party - Respect - that seems to be in the process of imploding so soon after its recent dramatic success in Bradford West earlier this year - and for reasons oddly directly related to Galloway himself.  I say sadly, as what looks like it could be the beginning of the end for Respect is not something to be welcomed by anyone who wants to see a credible democratic socialist alternative to the austerity politics of cuts and privatisation of the mainstream political parties in Britain.

It is too soon to really pass any kind of judgment on Galloway himself - the future is unknown and perhaps in the future this current moment will come to be seen as one of the many downs in a careers that has been full of ups and downs - or perhaps when political historians of the British left come to look back at this particular moment, it will register merely a footnote.  Lets hope so.  But at the moment, it seems to me that Galloway is currently bearing some eerily strange resemblances to another independent socialist MP 100 years ago - Victor Grayson, who was elected against all the odds to parliament to represent a seat in Yorkshire - Colne Valley in 1907.  

Lenin described Grayson as 'a very fiery socialist but one not strong in principles [esp on imperialism] and given to phrasemongering,' but as Brian Pearce noted, Grayson's 'name became for a few years an inspiring symbol to advanced workers... His election threw the official leaders of Labour into consternation. But in a comparatively short time, he eliminated himself from the political scene owing to personal weaknesses.'  His biography - entitled The Strange Case of Victor Grayson - was written by Reg Groves, a pioneering British Trotskyist.

There are important differences between Grayson and Galloway (Grayson was politically weak on imperialism and his personal weaknesses included alcoholism -whereas Galloway is generally strong on imperialism and famously a teetotaler), but it seems here that a personal weakness of Galloway - in this case his sexism which recently manifested itself with respect to the Assange case (forcing Respect leader Salma Yaqoob to resign from the organisation and Respect's parliamentary candidate in Manchester, Kate Hudson, to resign as candidate for Respect) looks like it has been the undoing of his party and may well ultimately come to cost him his own political career - particularly because he seems so unapologetic and unrepentant about what he has said on the matter of Assange.  Of course sexism is not just a 'personal weakness' as such but rather also reflective of the limitations of Galloway's political make up (famously an odd, heady mix whose main ingredients include Third Worldism with a strong strain of Pan-Arabism combined with Old Labourism with a dash of Stalinism, where 'working class' tends to be identified with masculine, 'macho' connotations).  Anyway, the apparent current implosion of Respect is a sad moment for socialists in Britain - but the coming looming struggles ahead mean that the potentialities and possibilities for forging a new left and a genuine socialist alternative from below remain.  Hopefully the great majority of Respect members and former Respect members will still feel able to be part of that broader political project - a project which has to be against not only racism and imperialism, but also sexism and other forms of oppression.     

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