SWP: bad times
If you believe the official SWP and Respect reports, everything is going swimmingly, with both groups marching steadily from one triumph to the next. But what about debacles like the defection of one of their councillors in Tower Hamlets to the Tories? And the recent Respect rally in Leeds (19 February), considered “big” enough for both John Rees and Oliur Rahman to travel up from London? The total turnout was 12 including the two speakers and interveners from other groups. Meanwhile, in many big cities such as Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester, SWP full-timers, once such an important part of the landscape of the left, have totally disappeared.
Every indication is that the SWP leadership will continue to hip-hip-hurray towards over the edge of the cliff. But perhaps some SWP members will be driven to ask what is going on.
SWP: bad politics
Workers’ Liberty members Laura Schwartz and Daniel Randall were recently invited to speak at the Oxford Radical Forum, a slightly academicky but well-attended and very interesting conference organised by students at Oxford University. Laura spoke in a debate on socialist vs radical feminism; Daniel as part of a panel on the way forward for the left.
Daniel was joined by the Greens’ Peter Tatchell and Hannah Sell from the Socialist Party - but not by the SWP’s Alex Callinicos, who withdrew on the grounds that he would not speak on the same platform as the supposed Islamophobe and pro-imperialist Tatchell (who must be really naughty if he ranks lower even than the AWL in Callinicos’ estimation...) The announcement of this fact from the chair drew a fair degree of hostility from the audience, as you can imagine.
It fell to the sole, unfortunate SWP student present to justify Callinicos’ decision. There is no point, you see, in taking part in small meetings (there were about seventy, mainly young people present) which will navel-gaze (read: discuss ideas) and only end up attacking the SWP. No, the really important thing is to build the anti-war movement, and mobilise for the Stop the War demonstration on March 15.
I’m not joking. That’s exactly what he said.
Left convention planned
About 30 people, representing a wide variety of organisations from the Manchester left as well as a few fraternal visitors, met on Sunday 24 February and agreed to organise a “Convention of the Left” at the same time as the Labour Party conference in September. This would involve a one day counter-conference on Saturday 20 September, followed by a day of protests on Sunday 21 and then a series of meetings through the following week.
The four “themes” around which the event will be structured were confirmed at the second meeting on 1 March: Peace; Public Services; Power, Politics, Participation and Oppression; and Planet.
The founding meeting was attended by supporters of groups including Manchester Trades Council, Workers’ Liberty, Permanent Revolution, the Green Party, CPGB, HOPI, CPB, CND, Red Pepper, Manchester Stop the War Coalition, ISG and Respect Renewal. The SWP were not present, and the Socialist Party declined to take part. The wide range of organisations interested is obviously promising, but the prominent involvement of Respect Renewal members means vigilance will be necessary to ensure the convention does not degenerate into populism or become a promotional vehicle for George Galloway.
Workers’ Liberty will be actively participating in the Convention.
• For more information watch this space and visit www.conventionoftheleft.org.uk