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An analysis of George Galloway's defence of communism


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I suppose one really ought to salute his strength, his courage, and his indefatigability. None are so able, so reliable, so tireless in their defense of the indefensible as George Galloway.

Mr. Galloway appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, ostensibly to defend the (second) Russian revolution; the one which saw Lenin take power in what Mr. Galloway’s opponent, Peter Hitchens, calls (rightly) a putsch.

In fact, what Mr. Galloway seemed most keen on doing was making the announcement of his own detachment, and therefore his availability.

The Soviet Union is gone. Saddam let him down. Castro is dead and his country reduced to beggary. Assad and the mullahs of Iran are waning. Chavez lies in his grave whilst his countrymen starve.

In short, Mr Galloway’s list of clients is looking rather thin.

He needs a new patron, to move on like a spunk-drunk harlot. And he possesses that trait, found elsewhere in the animal kingdom, of being able to discern the most viable seed. He wanders around, stomach sloshing with the previous suitor’s deposit, looking for a more valuable buck.

So we were treated, by way of his defense of the Russian revolution, to his courtship ritual. His target is China, the regime of which he rather likes, as well he would.

Not for him the suggestion that President Xi Jinping is an autocrat, that China is an authoritarian state which commits the most grievous abuses against its people on a scale which would make lesser despots blush at their own ineptitude.

China, he says, has festooned itself in the colours of the Russian revolution, and its astounding growth is evidence of its success. (Never mind the old division between China and the USSR, never mind the communist critique of China’s hybrid economy; never mind history.) It is proof of the veracity of the phrase deployed by Jeremy Corbyn in his eulogy for Hugo Chavez: a ‘better’ way of doing things.

It might seem odd that a supposed leftist, like Mr Galloway, parses his praise in the language of economics, singing songs of percentages whilst ignoring the millions of workers who have been starved, tortured and murdered to achieve it.

Capitalists are often accused (and often rightly) of callousness in their treatment of humans, deriving their morality from spreadsheets charting productivity and balance of payments deficits. I do not think it cheap to point out that the German economy grew under the Nazis, a party to which we shall return.

Yet here Mr Galloway borrows their language, only a minor departure from Hobsbawm’s not-famous-enough proclamation that, if 20 million more had to die to create a communist state, then 20 million was a price worth paying.

Alas, we cannot dismiss such vile utterances as the sole preserve of mad, twitching, wide-eyed fundamentalists. The figure, from a recent Harvard University study, which has support for capitalism amongst ‘adults’ aged between 18 and 29 at 51%, is not necessarily alarming.

But the growing support for autocratic alternatives like communism (often wrongly assumed to be the axiomatic alternative to capitalism), like authoritarian forms of socialism – or indeed socialism with authoritarian characteristics – certainly is.

When a majority more readily associates Tony Blair and George Bush with dictatorial tendencies and crimes against humanity than it does Nicolae Ceaucescu, Enver Hoxha or Pol Pot, we are truly staring down the barrel of an egalitarian blunderbuss.

It speaks to a growing ignorance, a generation for whom history is immaterial. That ignorance is exploited by the likes of Galloway, who on Sunday praised the Soviet Union for defeating Nazism, suggesting that none of us would be alive if it hadn’t only later to refuse to answer a hypothetical question – which he had the gall to call ‘counterfactual’ – about the relative merits of a Menshevik Russia.

He was right to say that the Soviet Union killed Nazism. But he was not asked – for too few know enough to ask – whether the Reich could ever have prosecuted its rape of Europe had it not first signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, which it did in 1939. I suspect Mr Galloway and his ilk would happily revive and alter Milan Astray’s most famous proclamation: death to history, long live death.

Too few people recall this episode. We are likewise ignorant of the death toll for which the USSR is responsible.

This ignorance is compounded when otherwise well-intentioned and intelligent people claim that Stalinism was a corruption of the communist ideal, and thereby exculpate communism from the charge of multiple genocides, mass-murders and deliberate famines.

My friend Josh White, one of these otherwise well-intentioned and eminently intelligent people, has proffered by way of a defense of communism that racialist policies do not necessarily follow from its dogmas, doctrines and theories.

They are not innate to communism as they were to National Socialism. Therefore communism, whilst it has overseen many times more deaths than National Socialism, is not itself responsible for the deaths.

Never mind that one could make the same defense of Italian Fascism, of Franco’s Falangism, of Hirohito’s Imperial Way Shintoism. Never mind that no one would mount the same defense of any Fascist regime, a disparity which deserves to be explored and which reveals much when it is.

That communism has invariably led to class being treated as race was by the Nazis, and that it has so-often enabled and justified the pre-existing racialist tendencies of its supporters (a fact which saw Ukranians suffer far more under the USSR than Russians) suggests that communism’s defenders, whilst making much of the people and the workers, are wilfully ignorant of the nature of people and workers except when they wish to exploit them.

George Galloway is as much a symptom as a cause of this resurgent dilemma. Too many naively supposed, during his wilderness years, that he – and those like him – had been confined to the refuse pile of time, thrown out along with their causes. Too many believed that myths, once expunged from the collective consciousness, could never rise again. These people, indolently lounging in Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’, have created the conditions in which the old ideas can flourish, the swamp in which creatures like Galloway can grow and breed and multiply.

Now they march again, sometimes pulling at and sometimes hanging on the coattails of their creed.

I could close with Santayana, but I doubt many of my generation would remember him.

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