[Marxism] Prospects for Respect

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Feb 18 15:46:57 MST 2004

I agree with Len W's assessment of RESPECT.  It was great when Aretha 
Franklin did it, but this new one ain't gonna be a hit.

The British SWP has argued that the Socialist Alliance failed to be able 
to build out of the mass antiwar upsurge in Britain, and that this 
justifies the formation of RESPECT.

This is a pretty cynical and dishonest argument on the part of Rees, 
Callinicos et al, as it was the SWP which sidelined the Socialist 
Alliance during the antiwar campaign, thereby ensuring the SA was unable 
to grow as a result.  The SWP did this for entirely sectarian reasons - 
namely, the SWP leadership assumed their organisation would recruit 
thousands of antiwar marches and they didn't want competition from the 
broader Socialist Alliance.

Having stuffed the SA's chance of growing out of the antiwar movement, 
the SWP leadership then used this failure as a justification for the 
establishment of RESPECT.  At the founding conference of RESPECT, SWPer 
after SWPer got up and opposed basic socialist positions like open 
borders, a workers' wage for MPs and so on.  The SWP bloc vote ensured 
that one socialist policy after another was voted down.

The SWP leadership are likely to find, however, that their alliance with 
Galloway will be full of problems.  Galloway is about as capable of 
building a mass, or even mini-mass, party as Arthur Scargill. 
Scargill's megalomania ensured the SLP was still-born and Galloway is 
cut from the same cloth, except unlike Scargill he has no base 
whatsoever in any section of the working class.

I think the other component parts of the Socialist Alliance should stay 
away from RESPECT and leave it to the SWP and Galloway.  The SA could be 
reformed, by the rest of the far left.  It would have a good chance of 
getting back the groups that have left - Workers Power and, especially, 
the SP.

They could just get on with building the Socialist Alliance and maybe 
trying to work with some other groups, like the Independent Working 
Class Association, which seems to have a pretty good London mayoral 
candidate that a reformed Socialist Alliance could support.

The SWP-Galloway project will end in tears.  There's no reason for the 
rest of the left to put energy into it and simply disillusion their own 
members.  Since the SWP leadership want to control it, let them have it 
and let them carry the can for the coming disaster.

It's time for the rest of the left to just forget about working with the 
British SWP and get on with their own independent politics.

Philip Ferguson

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