[Marxism] Galloway faction splits from Respect

Jscotlive at aol.com Jscotlive at aol.com
Mon Nov 5 03:03:28 MST 2007

The problem within Respect, and in other like united front formations, is  
that the contradictions inherent in revolutionaries and reformists working  
together are forgotten, or put on the back burner, in times when the  struggle 
around which the formation has been formed, or arisen, is at a high  level. 
Respect was formed based on the huge antiwar demos that took place in  England in 
the run up to the war in Iraq. The excitement of that time led the  SWP to 
believe, mistakenly, that this wave of antiwar consciousness could be the  
platform for a political formation. GG had been expelled from the Labour Party  for 
his stance on the war and so the two came together through force of  
But what was missing from the SWP's analysis was an understanding of the  
fluid nature of the antiwar movement. By definition it is a transient movement  
and far too heterogeneous to offer the basis of a lasting, radical political  
party that could occupy the ground vacated by New Labour. By definition, unless 
 it is pulled left and moves further towards a position of avowed  
anti-imperialism, StwC will remain cross-class, and when in a period  of contraction, as 
it is now, the contradictions lead to the various factions  involved blaming 
the other for the lack of progress, when in fact it is rooted  in unfavourable 
objective factors. The political party spawned by Stop the War  mirrors its 
composition and when the call for a snap election loomed,  the fault lines that 
were always there opened up. 
In short, the SWP's hopes for Respect were doomed because their analysis of  
its potential as a vehicle for a coherent and effective pole of  attraction 
for the working class was incorrect. Their ambition is to  be commended, for in 
trying to unite the Muslim and immigrant communities who  were and are under 
assault at home due to the war and the manner in which  it has impacted on 
British society, with the white working class who are  increasingly under attack 
in a neoliberal assault, they were following Lenin's  dictum of 'Workers and 
Oppressed People's of the World Unite.'  Unfortunately, they misread the 
objective conditions within British society and  thereby the extent to which both 
sides, the Muslim community and the white  working class, would fail to see the 
virtue in such a union. There is  a massive cultural divide in the UK between 
the immigrant/Muslim and white  working class communities, and unfortunately 
the struggle, the attacks on each  are not yet severe enough to push both into 
one anothers' arms.
There are also subjective factors to take into account. The SWP have  earned 
a bad reputation among the non-SWP Left and others who have worked with  them 
in the past for their methods. Much of the criticism they receive may be  
unfair and sectarian in nature, however it would be foolish to dismiss all of  it. 
I have worked with the SWP and have come to respect their strengths - a  high 
level of commitment, morale, and organisation - but also to recognise  their 
weaknesses - over emphasis on the radical intelligentsia and students at  the 
expense of the organic working class, a tendency to equate  hyper-activism 
with progress, and, at times, astounding hubris and arrogance  displayed towards 
other socialists and activists who do not share  their analysis.   
GG's appearance on Big Brother seriously damaged the ability of Respect to  
broaden its constituency. The Muslim community which was in at the  beginning 
would remain more or less loyal as a result of the war, but  the white working 
class, for whom the war remains largely an abstraction in  terms of its 
material impact, were able to write off Galloway in its aftermath.  The huge respect 
and credibility he gained from his superb performance in front  of the Senate 
Committee in Washington was utterly destroyed in the eyes of those  who were 
just starting to listen to him. He gave his enemies, through the  mainstream 
media, the rope with which they have hung him since. 
The statements and papers that have been issued by both sides over the last  
few weeks have made it difficult for those outside this dispute to get a clear 
 handle on where fault lies and on what, if any, was the defining moment  
responsible for what began as a dispute turning into an all out faction fight.  
The SWP have just released a comprehensive history and accounting of their role 
 within Respect. In it they have levelled the same criticisms at GG that many 
on  the Left, the puritanical Left, have levelled at him for years - the 
workers  wage, his perceived bourgeois habits and lifestyle, his fixation with 
being in  the spotlight, and his lack of adherence to Party democracy, etc. The 
only  problem is that these were precisely the faults or aspects of Galloway's  
practice which they were defending not so long ago. This flip-flop only  
serves to paint them as opportunist rather than principled. 
They maintain that they wanted to take the dispute to the Respect  Conference 
and let the membership decide, while the Galloway faction maintained  that 
the SWP had seized control of the CAC responsible for organising the  Conference 
and were intent on manipulating membership lists in order to pack it  out 
with their own delegates. 
Another problem for the SWP is their assertion that Galloway and his  
supporters were trying to drive the Left vision out of Respect. You only  have to 
look at some of the people who have lined up with Galloway to see that  this is 
not true. People like Ken Loach, Victoria Brittain, Alan Thornett,  Jerry 
Hicks, Kevin Ovenden, and others are principled socialists  of good reputation with 
a long history in the movement  and radical politics. 
Sadly, the SWP have been left damaged whatever happens. It is to  be hoped 
they can recover and repair the damage before it impacts on their  vital work in 
the antiwar movement.
As for the Left in the UK, now is the time for Bob Crow and other Left  union 
leaders to enter the political arena. 
Their time has come.


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