George Galloway wrong

Susan Pashkoff and Terry Conway respond to George Galloway’s video:

This video from George Galloway – which appeared on The Guardian website – is extremely offensive and misogynist. Galloway, in seeking to defend Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange not only against the US government and threats of extradition from Britain but from allegations of rape by two women in Sweden, made a series of indefensible statements in his weekly online broadcast, Goodnight with George Galloway.

Galloway trivialises women’s experience of rape and sexual violence by speaking about bad manners and sexual etiquette. He claims that consent is not necessary every time someone wants to have sex.

Lawyers and anti-rape campaigners have rightly pointed out that this is not true under British law – thus trouncing Galloway’s further claim – made in a subsequent statement that “I don’t believe, from what we know, that the director of public prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain. What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. ”
In this second statement Galloway does also say “No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape” but his other remarks indicate that he has in no sense withdrawn the core of his unacceptable position.

Galloway has been roundly criticised by the leader of his own Respect Party, Salma Yacqoob who says on her blog that “George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong”. It is absolutely commendable that Salma has done this.

Rape and all forms of sexual violence are completely indefensible. Sometimes these acts are committed by people – overwhelmingly men – who see themselves as progressive and act in radical ways on other questions.

In consenting to have sex with a man on a particular occasion, a woman is not consenting to have sex with him on other occasions. In consenting to have protected sex a woman is not consenting to have unprotected sex. This holds in all situations whatever the nature of the relationship. Part of feminist campaigning to get rape in marriage recognised has been to make this point.

Many testimonies from people who have been raped show that a myriad of emotions including shock or a sense that what has happened is your responsibility rather than that of the perpetrator mean that people don’t always act immediately to press charges. Indeed some never do – and some never talk to anyone about what has happened.

Similarly some people who are subjected to rape fight back physically. Others talk about freezing so that they are not able even to speak let alone try to ward off their attacker or not doing so because they also fear they could be killed or face serious physical injury.
Most of us don’t know whether any of these issues apply to the Julian Assange case. Whether or not they do we stand with women across the world in their determination to make into reality: “Whatever we wear, where ever we go yes means yes and no means no!”


  1. Yes means yes
    No means no
    Not saying yes means no

    Consent is not a season ticket

    Well done for being one of the (sadly) few socialist organisations to take sexism in our movement seriously

  2. As i understand it, Assange penetrated two different women that he had slept with without a condom while they were asleep. In a world of multiple sexual partners and AIDS, i find this particularly disturbing. It is also true, however, that the women did not press charges and the case has not been tried. I do agree with Ecuador’s position that they would like to have the rape charges dealt with (which could have been done, at least initially, in the UK) but will not release Assange if he will be extradicted to the US which is clearly the US intnent. Both the US and Swedish governement are shamefully using the rape charges, not because they care about women, but to trap Assange for his whistleblowing. This is just like Bush’s attempt to use women’s rights as a reason to invade Afghanistan for his own imperialist purposes. Or those “progressive” commentators from Galloway to Michael Moore, who were all too willing to through women’s rights under the bus in their rush to defend Assange against illegitimate claims of the US government.

  3. No, Galloway is right. What Assange is accused of has never been considered rape anywhere in the history of the civilized world. It amounts to basically a two-second “rape” sandwiched in between several hours of otherwise consensual sex. If you think otherwise, show any other rape conviction in the UK that corresponds to the allegations against Assange. There is none, ever, in the entire history. Galloway is completely correct, and it is entirely emotion driving his detractors, not reality.

  4. Peg Rapp, I agree completely. We do need to separate the issue of the rape and the danger of extradition to the US. This piece specifically addresses the argument advanced by George Galloway that what happened would not be considered rape or sexual assault. It most certainly is as you point out; consent to protected sex is not consent to unprotected sex, consent to sex once is not carte blanche to sex another time. Thesse women did not consent to unprotected sex or to sex again. The fact that I am watching people that claim to be progressive demonstrate their misogyny over and over again is more than a little disheartening; to protect Assange from extradition to the US is a different matter than recognition that rape is nonconsensual sex. Glad that you and Heather are here supporting this position and again want to stand with Salma Yacqoob in her criticism of George Galloway.

  5. Surely Assange more at risk of extradition from UK than Sweden. Why on earth did he run Wikileaks from Sweden if he thought was in danger of extradition to US if he exposed its malpractices? Seems to me a smoke screen for not facing up to arrest and charge for rape in Sweden.

    • Presumably the rationale would be that in Britain there have been several strong campaigns against extradition to the U.S. and related anti-terrorist legislation; plus the pro-wikileaks campaign has quite a strong base here; so it would be politically harder for the authorities here to extradite him than for the Swedish authorities to do so.

  6. In Manchester shortly before Galloway’s comments we secured him to speak for the Annual Tom Hurndall Memorial Lecture (details at Now we are faced with a complicated political task; to honour Tom Hurndall with a lecture by a speaker who has been active on the question of Palestine, and to acknowledge objections to the speaker’s recent comments. Some of Galloway’s comments about the Swedish women in the Assange case in his YouTube video crossed the line, and it is quite right that he be tackled about that. An intervention in the form of a leaflet to all participants at the lecture would be one way of doing that. As an organiser of the event I am happy to facilitate that. However, this is one occasion in a year that Tom Hurndall is remembered publicly in Manchester, and during the lecture and discussion itself we want to focus on Hurndall’s legacy and the question of Palestine. It should be pointed out that Galloway’s comments reported in the mainstream media were taken out of context, and in the video itself it is clear that Galloway condemned Assange’s behaviour as ‘brutish’ and ‘loathsome’ and so on, those are the bits that were not reported by the press. In the video he also says that it is important to be clear about ‘rape’ so that the term is not devalued by those who use it to cover a variety of other unpleasant and violent activities (and this is rather like the importance that we would give to the precise use of the term ‘fascist’ or ‘Zionist’, so that the term does not degenerate into a general term of abuse for people we don’t like). See the Galloway of YouTube with offensive comments starting at about 21 mins: Other recent comments which were purportedly about disabled people he has unreservedly apologised for. He sure is not perfect, but the line he takes is very close to that of some women’s groups (such as ‘Women Against Rape’) who are against the extradition of Assange (See the WAR statement in Guardian via their website: This is not to defend Galloway’s comments, but to be clearer about what the lines of the argument are, and is consistent with recent criticisms of him on the left (including from within his own party), such as, for example, the Socialist Resistance statement on Galloway (at Other speakers that were contacted and invited to speak for the lecture (such as Robert Fisk who has just published a report that comes close to endorsing the Syrian government line on the uprising) are not perfect either. So, overall, we should still take Galloway for his good work on Palestine (and he can stand up for himself if he is challenged publicly about the other things). It is difficult and messy. There is debate needed about this, and challenge is necessary, but in this case not by denying Galloway a platform to speak well about the things he speaks well about.

  7. Raphie
    “Surely Assange [is] more at risk of extradition from UK than Sweden. Why on earth did he run Wikileaks from Sweden if he thought was in danger of extradition to US if he exposed its malpractices?
    Seems to me a smoke screen for not facing up to arrest and charge for rape in Sweden.”

    Because Assange, believed in the persistent myth of “liberal” Sweden.

    There are no firm legal grounds on which the UK government could extradite him to the US.
    Whereas the Swedish rape allegations have been an effective way of putting Assange out of circulation.
    Not only has he been smeared, but he’s under effective house arrest.

    If Sweden extradites him, he might eventually be delivered to a US court.
    But the political fall- out from a US trial on espionage charges could very damaging.
    Assange could be given the opportunity to turn it into an international trial of the US government over freedom of Information.

    Every other major whistleblower against the US State has been subjected to smear campaigns.
    So why should Julian Assange be any different?
    It was wikileaks allegations that provoked the uprising in Tunisia and the resulting “Arab Spring”.
    The US state department has been frantically pedalling to recover lost ground ever since.
    Of course they hate him!

    There are ample motives for a frame-up, which suit Assange’s political enemies down to the ground.
    Which is why the allegations against him should be treated with extreme scepticism.
    No faith should be placed in the impartiality of the Swedish courts.
    If there was a convincing case for bringing a criminal prosecution against Assange, why didn’t the State prosecutor bring it before he left Sweden?
    Why has his subsequent offer to be interviewed in London been refused?

    Raphie seems to believe that unproven allegations automatically justify criminal charges, whatever the ulterior motives of the accuser.
    Funnily enough, a similar method to that employed by the Stalinists in the 1930’s.
    He has nothing to say about the blatant imperialist manipulation surrounding the case.
    Had the Latin American governments not threatened retaliatation against British embassies, it’s quite likely that the UK police would have raided the Ecuadorian embassy.
    It very much looks like a case of a little bully being pressurised by a bigger one to deliver its enemy to a willing lackey.

  8. Ian Parker, its hard for me to relate to your dilemma about Galloway. Is it really only the rape comments and disability gaffe that make him a problematic choice for speaker? I wonder If you would really honour he memory of Tom Hurndall with this speaker.

    • The lecture scheduled for 22 October is CANCELLED. George Galloway accepted our invitation to speak on 25 July. Following his comments on rape, and the understandable anger of women’s groups in Manchester, we attempted to guarantee the integrity of the Hurndall lecture by inviting Galloway to give some time after the lecture proceedings for a discussion of those other issues. He refused to accept this solution and withdrew. Apologies, we will endeavour to reschedule the lecture with a different speaker later this academic year.

  9. Well said Susan and Terry,
    The online debate on George’s stupid comment has gone rather surreal with all sorts of progressives playing some kind of childish version of Trumps, with anti-imperialism as the ace beating all.

    Yes the wikileak’s crew, and it is a team of people supported by a network of hackers, leakers and financial supporters have done and are doing a great job- there recent Syria files are a case in point.

    Yes Assange shouldn’t be extradited to the US by the UK or Sweden.

    But yes Assange should be questioned by the Swedish prosecutors to see if there is a case in these two allegations.

    Good people in one arena can do bad things in another. That applies as much to George as it does to Assange.

    The ongoing trial by Trot and Tankie of the women in question and what constitutes rape is a travesty of what the Left should stand for, it’s the Healy defence. We wouldn’t stand for it if it was the right wing media doing the ‘Women in short skirts’ type of rape justification, yet when the tables turn it seems perfectly acceptable to some comrades to play the same revolting game to the full.

    And people wonder why the militant left is male dominated, maybe its our paper commitment to women’s issues that are more slogans and not reflected in the political culture of our organisations and methods.

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