This article's (lightly edited) interview with George Galloway may be seen on video by clicking here.
LONDON -- There are few politicians in Britain who are attacked by the courtiers in the press and the mandarins in power more ferociously than George Galloway, a former member of Parliament and an icon of the left. They routinely shower him with insults and accusations. This is because there are few politicians willing to as ferociously name and condemn the crimes and injustices carried out by the American and British governments. He has for many years unequivocally stood up to defend the human rights of Palestinians, thundered against Israeli war crimes and demanded justice, leading him to be attacked as an anti-Semite. He has long opposed the Western sanctions and the endless wars in the Middle East, generating charges that he is a defender of terrorists. He has steadfastly raised his voice on behalf of those persecuted by the American government, including WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange.
The Economist once described Galloway, who spent more than 25 years in Parliament, as "the hate figure for the British establishment," which, given who constitutes the establishment, is the highest of compliments.
I interviewed Galloway in London.
Chris Hedges: Let's begin with this strange political moment -- the rise of figures like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, a very Trump-like figure, perhaps a smarter version of Trump. How did we get here? From the start of your political career, you spoke out on behalf of the working class, how it was being attacked through neoliberalism, which corrupted the Labour Party the same way it did the Democratic Party in the United States.
George Galloway: Ontology is important. We need to define what is right-wing and what is populist. Some of the appeal of Trump, of Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party in Britain, is the very non-right-wingness. The apparent standing up for the little man, standing up for the worker against big business, against the bankers and the establishment -- Trump played that card very well in the Rust Belt of the United States. Nigel Farage played it very cannily in similar places in the Brexit referendum in Britain. The support they garnered was not in fact right-wing, but left-wing. It was an anti-capitalist critique of the kind of finance capitalist model that has beggared millions of people and whole areas of your country and mine. When they say populist, I wonder if they really mean popular. I am attacked as a left-wing populist. But what does that actually mean?
My politics have not changed -- perhaps this is a condemnation of me -- not a single inch from my teenage years. I stand at exactly the same place. It's everyone else that moved around me. Insofar as the kind of politics and approach and style that I'm employing are popular, that's what drives the prevailing orthodoxy crazy. Dr. Johnson, a great Englishman of letters, said, 'The grimmest dictatorship of them all was the dictatorship of the prevailing orthodoxy.' I stand up against that from my political standpoint. So does Farage. So, to an extent, does Trump.
Now we come to the ontology of what you call the resistance. The pussy hats and the achingly liberal resistance to Donald Trump leaves me entirely cold. I know they would not be out there protesting worst crimes that the Clinton crime family and the crooner Obama would and did commit. It's the vulgarness, the brashness, the ugliness of Trump they oppose. But Trump is just American imperialism without the lipstick. Hillary would have had the lipstick. But the crimes would have been the same -- arguably much worse.
CH: Figures like Trump and Boris Johnson are con artists. They are using the issues you spent your political career actually fighting for. "
GG: Certainly Boris Johnson. Beyond the mop of blond hair and the rancid morals, I don't think there's that much to compare between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Boris Johnson is unequivocally a character of the 1%. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. He has spent his whole life in the milieu of the ultra-rich. The real upper class. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is to some extent on the outside. He was fabulously rich, although six times bankrupt. Perhaps not as rich as he claims. He has some identification with those on the outside. Con artist, definitely. But not the same kind of con artist as Boris Johnson. I was not happy that Donald Trump became the president of the United States. But I was very happy that Hillary Clinton did not.
CH: The Clintons, like Tony Blair, betrayed their base. Obama [did so] as well. He was quite conscious of what he was doing, unlike George W. Bush.
GG: Trump is failing the people he conned. Whereas Boris Johnson won't even try to con them. He will not pretend to the British working class that he's in it for them. Not really.
CH: What is the attraction of figures like Johnson and Trump who turbocharge the looting and pillage by the 1% and the consolidation of power by the global oligarchic elite?
GG: The way they win power is by correctly identifying real, material, objective realities amongst the masses of the people. Trump said to the people in the so-called Rust Belt [that] it's the Clintons, NAFTA and super-nationalism, and the finance capital model that these people represent, that have done this to you. That was a correct identification and correct analysis. The fact that he's a creature of the same swamp, and far from draining it is filling it, only comes later. But the existence of these grievances is what the left ought to have been doing. The British Labour [Party] movement, not just in Parliament, but in a broader movement, even in trade unions, in political parties of the left, bought into neoliberalism. The failure of the Labour government of the 1970s, the rise of Thatcher Reaganomics, knocked the stuffing out of the left. They began to follow the line "if you can't beat them, join them."