While at Oxford, I sketched out for my college magazine a quick profile of that most irksome of university’s characters: the Pseudo-Revolutionary Student. It was part of a series on Oxford Stereotypes, and I christened mine “Comrade Jack”:
Comrade Jack is nineteen years old. He spends his evenings at non-hierarchical meetings earnestly discussing whichever absurd shard of Trotskyite thought is en vogue this week. He obsesses over the implications of language to such a degree that he is impossible to converse with, feels a burning need to tell you that your steak was “murdered,” and hates Oxford for being a bastion of privilege and imperialist, royalist, chauvinist history — but nonetheless seems to have applied there. Comrade Jack wears a Che Guevara T-shirt or Mao suit jacket and lots of buttons, and considers everyone who disagrees with him to be a “fascist.” He feels solidarity with a lot of people, almost none of whom he actually knows. He thinks that Rage Against The Machine has something worthwhile to say, his favourite author is Noam Chomsky, and he is convinced that the Soviet Union was either misunderstood or strangled at birth by the West. Comrade Jack does not laugh because laughter is redolent of the bourgeoisie. Those who have fallen foul of this disease are almost certainly beyond redemption.
That last line about redemption was thrown in as an afterthought — as a hyperbolic bookend, intended to insinuate that the Comrade Jacks of my acquaintance appeared to be impervious to reason, and not that that they were necessarily destined to maintain their illusions indefinitely, in a life of Peter Pan adolescence. But having watched George Galloway’s behavior in recent years, I am beginning to wonder if the first idea isn’t the more accurate.
Galloway, a boorish member of the British parliament from the north of England, is the perpetual student — not so much a rebel without a cause as a braggart without judgment. It is one thing to have fallen for the counterfeit charms of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, as did the tragic naïfs of the Bloomsbury Set; it is only marginally better to have equivocated between the First and Second Worlds during the Cold War, perhaps striking a “better red than dead” pose for fear of siding with the enemies of the Left; but it is something else altogether to maintain such a belief a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Galloway does just that. “Yes,” he said during an interview in 2002, “if you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes, I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life.” This view he had the gall to characterize as “anti-imperialist.” The millions who died in the parallel “catastrophe” of the Gulag could not be reached for comment.
I have witnessed this form of inscience before, but rarely outside of a university setting. At Oxford, such fatuous proclamations were often followed by bad behavior at the college bar, perhaps serving as an overture to one’s being thrown out of a fancy-dress party. Adults tend to have outgrown both the views and the behavior they accompany. But not our George. A few years after he had reaffirmed his belief in the good old USSR, the BBC records, “Mr. Galloway, 51,” dressed up as a cat, “went on all fours, purred and pretended to lick cream from actress Rula Lenska’s hands, as part of a task set on the Channel 4 show” Big Brother. This display did not embarrass the man. On the contrary. It was “good for politics,” Galloway explained. Insofar as it afforded the British public a chance to affirm that some collective commonsense remains somewhere on the Isle, he was right. Seventy-two percent of those who responded to a BBC poll declared that, on balance, loudmouth MPs dressing up as cats on television wasn’t especially helpful.
Like many a second-year student, Galloway has found himself unable to keep quiet about the sexual victories he’s racked up while travelling around Europe in service of the socialist cause. Asked a dry question about his participation in a 1987 global-poverty conference in Mykonos, Greece, he changed the subject, boasting instead:
I travelled and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexual intercourse with some of the people in Greece.
Evidently, Galloway doesn’t want anybody denied such opportunity. Defending Julian Assange, he cast the conduct that led to Assange’s being wanted for rape as “bad sexual etiquette.” Yes, yes, Galloway said, “it might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Do you mind if I do it again,’” but women who are “already in the sex game” should expect a little force. After all, “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.” This, might I remind you, from a man who wins elections under the standard of the “RESPECT” party — which, amusingly, is an anagram of “Sceptre.”