The split between the SWP and Galloway-sycophants in Respect has politically destabilised and reduced both sides. Destabilised in the sense that the SWP was presented with the problem of sticking to its perspective of building a populist alternative to New Labour whilst the Galloway faction lost its best organisers and activists. Reduced in the sense that both sides fared miserably in the recent London elections.
The SWP, having lost the “cachet” of the Respect name through purely legalistic manoeuvring, resorted to running a campaign under the “Left List” title. In the face of major obstacles they managed to drum up at least £30,000 from members and sympathisers to get Lindsey German into the mayoral election booklet. They must have spent many thousands of pounds more on leaflets, postcards and posters. Let’s guess that in total, the London election campaign cost the SWP £40,000.
What did the SWP get for its money and the considerable effort members put in to the campaign? 1.3% of the vote on the GLA lists and just 16,000 first preference votes for mayor. For a relatively small group of revolutionary socialists, with limited resources standing across London this is not an insubstantial vote. But the SWP did not stand as revolutionary socialists, did not campaign with socialist propaganda. The “Left List” platform wasn’t even very left-wing — barely distinguishable from the Liberals on the environment and housing; positively asinine in its statements on transport and trade unions.
Had the SWP drawn some obvious conclusions from the political disintegration of their one-time members and allies, re-assessed the principles under which socialists make alliances and organised efforts and actually engaged in a process of addressing the issues at stake for independent working class representation, the vote would not have been so bad. But to waste so much money — the money of SWP members, revolutionary socialists, trade unionists and workers — on such a dire political campaign was a travesty.
The annual general meeting of the flat earth society is abuzz, positively bristling with excitement. One of their fellow flat-earthers, recently returned from a trip into space, is due to address the conference. “Ladies and Gentlemen, comrade flat-earthers: after a long and arduous journey, a journey conducted with no small risk to my person, a journey undertaken with the utmost of bravery and purpose of intention, I can reveal to you the facts — indisputable, concrete facts — that confirm the flatness of our planet”. The audience erupts into applause, flowers are tossed at the speakers feet.
When the crowd settles, someone raises their hand. Called by the chair, she asks: “Comrade flat-earther, what did you see? What does Earth look like from space?” Taken aback by this impertinence, the astronaut responds: “That is a very good question. But it is a question that I am unable to answer”. “Why?” asks the questioner. “Well, I didn’t look out of the window. But I can tell you without doubt that the planet Earth is flat!”
The Workers’ Power group has something of the flat-earth society about it. After attending a recent AWL youth dayschool and hearing more than one thing that offended his view of the world, WP member Simon Hardy contacted Iraqi academic Sami Ramadani to gather his “thoughts” on Muqtada Al Sadr. Ramadani replied: “It is despicable of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty to ... accuse the Sadr movement of assassinating trade unionists”. Ramadani goes on to down-play the Sadrist movement’s attacks on women and students.
Sami Ramadani is a useful idiot for the political idiots of the Workers’ Power group. Like the astronaut who failed to look out of the window, Ramadani lends his credentials as a bona fide Iraqi to those sections of the left locked into apologetics for clerical fascism.
Any regard for the statements and appeals issued by Iraqi trade unions, women’s and socialist groups tells a very different story. A story of attacks, intimidation, threats and murder from groups like the Sadrists against those fighting for the workers’ movement, women’s rights and democracy.
If Simon Hardy thinks he will convince anyone that Sadr and his militias are the friends of our brothers and sisters in the Iraqi labour movement by an appeal to Sami Ramadani, he’s kidding himself. WP members should take a trip into space and if they still refuse to look out of the window, they should consider staying there.