Graham Hellawell 1964-2019

Submitted by AWL on 23 October, 2019 - 8:50 Author: Dan Katz
graham

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.

Comments

Submitted by Alan Brooke (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 12:10

This 'obituary' is slanderous. Graham was a principled revolutionary. He was not 'adrtift' as this article claims. He gravitated towards wherever struggles were taking place since he was guided by the needs of the oppressed and would work with anyone who shared his views. For 'politcally stable' in the above, read - NOT DOGMATIC.

Submitted by sean hellawell (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 15:45

Did you actually know my brother? before writing this rubbish?

Submitted by cathy n on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 19:31

Hi Allan.
Graham was a principled revolutionary? Yes, he was a revolutionary. And yes he backed the oppressed. But it is possible to “back the oppressed” in lots of different ways, some of which are opposed, contradictory, maybe even harmful.

And his ideas changed a lot, from the Militant and then in and out of several other groups. Groups that differed from the Militant, and each other, considerably.

Not the mark of someone who was particularly stable, politically. I think the Militant’s framework gave him a certain stability, for a while, and when he broke with them that coherence was never replaced with another, fully-rounded set of ideas (right or wrong). He knew he was generically “on the left”.

Hi Sean. Yes, I knew Graham, for a while, exactly as I wrote in the obituary. For what it is worth, I had a lot of time for him. And I know that his role in setting up the CfE was useful and even important. Which isn’t to say I always thought he was consistent or even, sometimes, coherent. And what I wrote I also said to him directly, and discussed with him face-to-face.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.