[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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