Graham Hellawell has died, aged 55.
Supporters and members of Workers’ Liberty may well remember Graham from when he took an active and leading part in the Campaign for Free Education in the mid-1990s.
As President of Huddersfield University Students’ Union, Graham helped to set up CfE. For a while the Campaign was a very large force inside the National Union of Students battling against the Blairites’ attempts to ditch free education policy.
Graham was also active in Unison, in health campaigns and in the fight against racism and fascism. In the 2001 General Election he stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate in his home town of Huddersfield.
I first met Graham in 1982 when he was a hack in the Militant. He had the standard Militant hand actions and intonation. He had completely accepted the Grantite political framework.
But Graham was gay, and that was a problem in the Militant in 1982. Every year at the Militant-run Labour Party Young Socialists conference motions were submitted to support lesbian and gay rights, and every year the Militant refused to allow them to be discussed. They had a position then that homosexuality was a “bourgeois deviation” and would disappear under socialism.
Graham’s Militant framework was shattered. His problem was that he failed to replace Grantite socialism with anything stable, coherent and better. That made him difficult to deal with because although he knew he was – generically – on the left, he was adrift on big political questions, often agreeing with the last person who forcefully put their case.
In the CfE it was hard to come to an agreement with him that we knew would stick. And over the 1980s and 90s he was a member, at one time or another, of most of the left groups. He never joined the AWL, although he worked with us closely in the 90s, precisely because he was not politically stable on the big issues of politics.
I put this to him once: he smiled and agreed.