[Marxism] SWP and Respect -- a central issue is the national question

Tony Hartin tony.hartin at physics.ox.ac.uk
Fri Nov 9 10:10:50 MST 2007

Louis P wrote
>However, Respect was not a "united front" even if the SWP mistakenly 
>regarded it as so. It was an embryonic political party where the members 
>were expected to vote on proposals based on their merit. Unfortunately, 
>for groups that have never thought through the problems of "democratic 
>centralism" (even the SWP with all its positive reviews of Lars Lih's 
>book on Lenin), it has to be this way. I speak from bitter experience. 
>The American SWP operated this way and alienated every non-party trade 
>union, Chicano, Black, gay or feminist activist it came in contact with 
>over the years. We prided ourselves on our ability to influence the mass 
>movement and even enjoyed referring to ourselves as "the big red 
>machine" in caucus meetings. This mode of functioning, needless to say, 
>is inimical to the future growth of a genuinely revolutionary party but 
>I wouldn't expect people who are committed to the idea that their party 
>is the embryo of that future party to think otherwise. The sense of 
>petty proprietorship runs very deep in bourgeois society.

I agree partially, in that the SWP had a firm notion of a united front, the ability to bloc 
within that front and to understand that fighting for your position does not mean the 
end of the project but rather a means of it progressing. And yes, many other "individuals" did not have that 
conception and now resent what appears to them as a permanent faction. 

However, I dont believe that the problem was that the SWP wanted to retain control within RESPECT at all costs - 
I am sure that they would have happily argued a minority position. And its not as if they hide 
what their view of the world is and pretend to be something they are not.

The problem, I believe, lies in the state of the social movement in which RESPECT was born - i.e. the anti-war movement. 
That particular movement brought together a particular unique set of social/political groups. 
Now IMO the anti-war movement is in stasis, and the salient fact that most people see is that no matter how many demos
there have been the bloodshed continues. On the other hand RESPECT has enjoyed electoral success and 
seems to give hope to the idea that things can be changed via parliament instead.

Its no wonder tensions have opened up, but all the backbiting about who did what is just froth and bubble.
Even if the SWP simply dissolved itself the same tensions along similar lines - 
perhaps with different levels of support - would still exist because of what is going on in the outside world

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