[Marxism] Prospects for RESPECT

Len Walsingham lha.walsingham at btopenworld.com
Wed Feb 18 07:48:05 MST 2004

	The talk in the British labour movement seems to be between
those who want to 'reclaim the (Labour) party' and those who want to go
the Socialist Alliance/RESPECT route. I feel this is a false dilemma and
the prospects of both 'horns' are dismal.

	Those in favour of this are the SWP, including Lindsey German
and John Rees; George Galloway MP; Salma Yaqoob a Muslim; Linda Smith,
London Region Treasurer of the Fire Brigades Union and Ken Loach, the
film director. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Civil Servants
union and Bob Crow of the RMT have stood down from a central role. But
Serwotka is only there in a personal capacity not representing his
union, which is to ballot soon for a political fund.

	Andrew Murray of the Stop the War Coalition and John Haylett,
Editor of the Morning Star were in favour of engagement with RESPECT.
But the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) of which they are members
rejected this view at a Special Congress in January. It's General
Secretary, Robert Griffiths was also in favour but they lost out to the
likes of Scottish Secretary, John Foster and Anita Halpin, Party Chair
and General Treasurer of the NUJ.
	Also against are the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) and the
CPGB (Weekly Worker) who see it as insufficiently socialist. The Green
Party is against it as it will be standing its own candidates.
	Incidentally the Weekly Worker www.cpgb.org.uk/worker is a good
source of developments on this.
	The journalist and writer, George Monbiot has now dropped
	It would now seem that the Socialist Alliance can only be
mothballed as what role can it have now, especially when its leading
personnel have turned to RESPECT as a vehicle.

	RESPECT (website www.respectcoalition.com) is now aiming to
raise a million pounds to stand candidates in the European Parliament
and Greater London Authority elections on June 10. Galloway believes
"There has now crystallised a potentially critical mass of disaffection
in Britain." and that "We are now in the stage of qualitively turning
the head of steam that we have built up into a surge of democratic
power." He sees June 10 as a kind of referendum. On June 11 he and all
the others that have raised so much money and put in so much work are
going to be very disappointed and disillusioned. They are counting on
PR, which applies in these elections but not generally in Britain. These
high hopes are just moonshine. There is no basis for them materialising.
Socialist Labour and the Socialist Alliance have stood before, including
the last GLA elections and the votes were derisory. In some ways they
are repeating the same mistakes that the CP made years ago. They will
say that, of course, they were Stalinists, while we are untainted, fresh
socialists but it will make no difference. The reality is that the
turnouts are likely to be down as people are alienated from politics. In
the next General Election pollsters already think that the turnout will
dip below 50%. Even if Galloway manages to win a seat it will not change
anything. There have always been individuals that have succeeded in
various ways in the past: Ken Coates in the European Parliament for
example, but any 'qualitative upsurge' or on the scale of a 'referendum'
is not on the cards.

Reclaiming the Labour Party
					The first thing about this is
that it is not a new cause: people tried to do this in various ways
throughout most of the 20th century and they failed.
	Secondly, how are they going to do this, given the
constitutional changes that Blair has effected. It would no longer be a
matter of passing a resolution at the Annual Conference or the NEC --
Labour doesn't work like that anymore. Even the trade union vote as a
whole would no longer be sufficient.
	Third, who is going to do this? Some of the 'reclaimers' are
talking of sending thousands of people, principally trade unionists,
into the Labour Party. This would be without precedent. People don't
normally join parties to change them anyway. Trade unionists are not
soldiers to be ordered about either -- who outside the politically
committed is going to set out on this journey? How long is the whole
process likely to take? 10? 15? years and what happens meanwhile?
	Then, assuming the reclaiming is accomplished, what is to happen
then? There is no real strategy in place. The whole 'Reclaim the Party'
thing is so cumbersome and depends on so many imponderables that it
cannot possibly succeed. It would be 'a good idea', as Gandhi once said
of western civilization, but that is about as far as it will get.


Mike Pearn:
> Within the anti-war movement as a whole the RUC has
> failed dismally. Not only has Monbiot quit but no one
> else has been won to it's support. An attepted hookup
> with John Marek the Welsh Assembly members tiny
> Wrexham based backward Wales party has probably failed
> if rumours are true. Plaid Cymru too has rejected the
> RUC on the basis of it's, or rather Galloways, British 
> nationalism. And the very petty bourgeois Green Party want 
> nothing to do with the RUC but condemn it's manifesto for 
> plagiarism and rightly so.
> Meanwhile in the workers movement, or near it, only
> Mark Serwotka of the PCS has joined the RUC. Any other
> trades unionists involved with the RUC are either SWP
> members or close allies like Nick Wrack. And none have
> managed to convince even a single unin body to endorse
> the RUC. Rather idiotically a 'Convention of the Trade
> Union Left' called by the Socialist Allaince recently
> was unable to actually agree on any common action and
> confined itself to debating the Labour-Union financial
> link. 
> The Socialist Alliance itself is in freefall with
> branches being mothballed by the SWP majority except
> where the tiny Democratic Platform exists. And
> sections of the DP are likely to leave the SA in the
> near future in any case over the issue of the RUC to
> which they are oppposed.
> The RUC, despite having flopped as a living organism,
> may however actually succeed in electoral terms. This
> as turnout for Euro elections is low and falling.
> Therefore as long as enough bodies can be mobilised to
> vote the return of Galloway for a Euro seat is
> actually possible. And ironically this might be
> achieved by the media campaigning against Galloway
> thereby renewing his appeal to the less active layers
> of the anti-war movement. Not by coincidence this
> Pyrrhic victory would endanger the return of the Green
> Party's own anti-war MEP's.

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