An open letter to members of the SWP

Submitted by Anon on 23 June, 2004 - 12:35

Dear comrades,

Over the last couple of months, you and some other socialists have put a big effort into the Respect election campaign. Has it been worth it?
If Respect does get a reasonably big vote, that will not be because of the general leftish talk that it shares with the Greens. It will because of the chosen cutting edges of its campaign.

Respect promotes George Galloway as its hero. All its ballot papers, everywhere, say: "Respect - the Unity Coalition (George Galloway)". Respect's own definition of success is getting Galloway into the Euro-parliament. For sure, it is Galloway's!

George Galloway can make a leftish speech to left-wing audiences. But that is not what defines the Respect campaign.

Galloway gave one major press interview during the election campaign. Asked to describe his general politics "in one word", Galloway chose to emphasise that he is "not as left wing as you thinkÂ… Strongly against abortionÂ… I can't accept that [a woman's right to choose], because I believe in God" (Independent, 5 April 2004).

Shortly afterwards, the Muslim Association of Britain (a British offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) issued its one public statement so far on Respect's politics, saying that Galloway's statements about God and abortion made it much happier with Respect.

Having won that MAB endorsement, Galloway then told leftish Guardian readers that he was "not opposed to a woman's right to choose". This is the man Respect tells voters to trust.

On his own account Galloway is a long-time friend of Saddam Hussein's deputy Tariq Aziz. For 10 years he visited Baghdad monthly, running his political operation on money from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and a Jordanian businessman rich from a percentage on Iraq's oil exports.

  • On his own account also, Galloway "couldn't live on three workers' wages" and "need[s]" ÂŁ150,000 a year "to function properly as a leading figure in a part of the British political system." (Scotsman, 19 May 2003).
  • Respect appeals to Muslims to vote as Muslims for "George Galloway - a fighter for MuslimsÂ… Married to a Palestinian doctor, teetotalÂ… strong religious principles". This is as reactionary as asking Catholics to vote as Catholics for a candidate because he is a "fighter for Catholics".
  • In the West Midlands, Respect has a pact with the local pro-Pakistan Kashmiri-based People's Justice Party. In a leaflet which Respect supporters say has now been withdrawn, the PJP has called on Muslims not to vote Lib-Dem because the Lib-Dems are in favour of equal rights for gays and lesbians.
  • In Yorkshire, the Respect list is headed by Anas Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain. MAB's freesheet Inspire says that it should be "punishable by death" or at least "as an act of mutiny and treason" for people brought up Muslim to renounce Islam.
  • Respect opposes the US/UK occupation of Iraq. So do the Greens. When challenged to prove itself better than the Greens, Respect says that unlike the Greens it wants the US/UK troops out "now".

Since Respect has no more ability to switch US/UK policy "now" (rather than, possibly, by a long campaign) than the Greens, all this means is that Respect, unlike the Greens, solidarises with the Iraqi "resistance" - with the Islamist militias which are at war against the AmericansÂ… and against Iraq's reviving labour movement, and who would if they could impose a religious dictatorship on Iraq.

That is a right-wing, not a left-wing, stance.

  • Respect chimes in with nationalism by denouncing the European Union. It says that the EU is dominated by "big business". But the difference between the EU and a non-EU Britain is not that Britain is less capitalist! Respect's "anti-capitalist" excuse for Europhobia is no better than the "democratic" excuse of UKIP, which claims to oppose the EU because it is less democratic than a separate Britain would be.
  • Respect calls on voters to make 10 June "a referendum on Blair". But Respect will not get more votes than New Labour! 10 June is a "referendum" only if Respect sees itself as part of a common anti-Blair camp with the Lib-Dems and the Tories.

In January the SWP called a special one-day conference to convince its members to support Respect. You were told then that the campaign would draw into politics thousands of the new young activists from the anti-war mobilisations, and do it on an essentially socialist basis, with concessions only of detail and phrasing which only sectarians would object to. In March the Socialist Alliance was given the same story.

Whatever the count on 10 June, Respect has not done that. It has not drawn anti-war people, Muslim or other, towards socialism. It has done the opposite: it has converted socialists like yourselves, for the duration of the election campaign, into promoters of downright right-wing politics.

We have, of course, been here before - it is what the Communist Parties did during the notorious right-wing "popular front" period of the 1930s.

The entire Respect operation was designed, promoted, and justified on the grounds that it would win lots of votes. If it doesn't, then what price all the demeaning business of socialists doing their major public activity disguised as a vague new non-socialist coalition?

And even if "Respect (George Galloway)" does passably well in the vote count, what then?

Winning a lot of votes in elections does not necessarily advance socialism. It depends who wins the votes, and on what basis they get them.

A big vote for Respect takes us forward only if Respect is an effective organising vehicle for future working-class struggles.

It is not that vehicle. How can future working-class struggles be organised together with leading Respect candidate Anas Altikriti, who says that his religion teaches him that there will always be rich and poor, but that can be made acceptable by the rich accepting a duty of charity to the poor?

It is time for a proper balance sheet. Demand a recall conference of the SWP and a recall conference of the Socialist Alliance. Turn away from your destructive alliance with the Islamic fundamentalists and Galloway, and back towards working and discussing with other socialists.

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