Wednesday, September 05, 2012

One more contribution to the problem of left unity

Over at Socialist Unity, Andy Newman and Tony Collins are pleading for some unity on the left.

It's always good to hear that people are calling for some unity.  Unfortunately, I think the call is being pitched over the wrong issue.  I would be happy to unite with Andy Newman and George Galloway over other issues, such as their opposition to racism and war.  I obviously agree with them that the US is attempting to extradite Assange, and that this should not be allowed to happen.  But I don't want to unite with them over the issue of rape. I think they've made a big mistake first in trivialising allegations of rape, and second in rationalising that trivialisation; and I think the Left should be on the opposing side of that argument. It's not a question of joining the chorus of highly personalised denunciation. But there is an issue at stake here that is bigger than George Galloway, and which goes beyond the immediate case he was commenting on, which is a decades long struggle to change the political and cultural climate regarding rape.

Second, even if this was an issue we could unite around, the call is pitched in the worst possible way. Tony Collins, (who used to moderate the comments on this blog), complains that the SWP wants to destroy Galloway's career.  I know there's a lot of lingering resentment from the Respect debacle, but this is silly scapegoating: it isn't the SWP who are destroying George Galloway's career; he is doing that, and I really wish he wouldn't.  It's sad that this has led to such a serious setback for Respect, so soon after Galloway's astonishing success in Bradford.  But only George Galloway could have prevented this, by listening to his critics and perhaps admitting that he'd been in error.  Collins adds that the rest of the Left never wished Galloway well anyway, and that liberals and the right hate his guts. So, then, who is there left to unite with? 

Third, it's all very well complaining about the irrational hostility Galloway draws from certain quarters.  I am well aware of this tendency, and have no desire to encourage it.  But it is impossible in cases like this to disentangle that from real disappointment and despair. You only have to consider the comments in the Socialist Unity blog and in the thread below it - such as the snide rebuke to Kate Hudson implying careerist motivations, the finger-wagging you-should-take-this-up-in-private attitude - to sense the scale of the problem here.  Leaving aside the fact that, it's highly likely these concerns were taken up in private over several strained discussions (I am speculating, but I think I'm on reasonable ground here), this looks like a very narrow group of male socialists who want to tell everyone else what to say and do, reserving the right to smear them if they stick to their guns. Is that socialist unity?  Aren't calls for unity which require some groups, women in this case, to subordinate their own interests to a wider cause, actually rather divisive?  And, if I may try to dignify this unhappy detour, didn't a famous Sardinian suggest a rather different model of unity?