I'll start with his hubris, his belief that he is somehow one of the global figureheads of the Islamic resistance. "When housemates on Celebrity Big Brother were asked to rank themselves in order of fame, he mused: “If we’re talking worldwide fame, I’m most famous. Virtually every Muslim in the world knows who I am.”" This self-belief must be linked too to his perverse obsession with strongmen, the pathology which leads him to glorify the likes of Chavez and Ahmedinejad.
Now, it is true that there is a certain similarity between Chavez and Ahmedinejad: both are authoritarian, populist demagogues; they do indeed share the same enemies. But while Chavez's brand of authoritarian populism, however un-democratic, does have a social base in the impoverished majority - a social base it has ensured by making genuine social and economic reforms - this cannot be said of Ahmedinejad. Ahmedinejad's regime has pursued a neo-liberal policy of privatisations and austerity. At best, it has handed out some of the crumbs from its oil wealth to some less advantaged social groups. And of course it is far more brutal. Galloway's talk of class here is nothing more than an alibi, from a man that takes the theocracy's shilling for his Press TV antics.
I thought this sentence was revealing: "I believe strongly that every people have the right to choose their own leader." Galloway appears at first glance to be talking about democracy, which would be bitterly ironic given the way that the Iranian theocratic regime is set up in such a way as to make the vote meaningless, and then when it still lost it stole the vote anyway. But note the phrasing: every people. For Galloway, what is important is not the people in the sense of the demos, but a people in the sense of ethnos. In Galloway's worldview, every "nation" has some kind of manifest destiny. The world is an enormous clash of peoples, of national civilisations.
And this brings us to Galloway's "Second Campism" - that is, his ultimate insistence, even if disavowed, that whoever is the enemy of America is his friend. Galloway's worldview is a kind of inversion of the GW Bush/Samuel Huntington thesis, in which anyone who is not with the Great Satan is with Galloway. "I do think you can measure a man by his enemies, and both have the same enemies. My main interest in Iran is that is should remain an independent country and not a puppet of the West." In other words, he has little interest in the actual lives of the people of Iran, mere pawns in his geo-political fantasy.
Similarly, he cares nothing for the lives of Muslim people in Britain. His attitude to British Muslims mirrors his attitude to Palestinians and Iranians. As far as he is concerned, they can be bullied by whatever reactionary thugs have power and authority in their communities, so long as they fulfil his Orientalist vision of glorious resistance to Western power.
George Galloway has done perhaps more than anyone else in the country to help politicise marginalised Muslim communities, introducing to them left-wing politics as an answer to racism, Islamophobia, imperialism and neo-conservatism. But there’s another, more reactionary, current amongst Muslim communities that seeks to present itself as the sole representative of Islamic identity. I ask Galloway if Respect could do more to challenge religious fundamentalism and social conservativism amongst the communities it represents? “No,” he says, “I think the first part of our agenda is big enough. The question of social conservatism within Muslim communities is a matter for them largely.”Yes, George, who cares about misogyny, social conservatism and theocracy, so long as it is only brown people who suffer it, and not the likes of you.
Footnote: I just read the two comments on the interview by DavidR (1, 2) and strongly recommend them.
Previously: Ahmadinejad's British stooges, Why the left gets it wrong, Galloway defends Iranian homophobia, Galloway's anti-internationalism, Saluting dictators, Iran, drawing clear lines, Iran and the left.