Two rival Respect conferences on 17 November

Submitted by dalcassian on 3 November, 2007 - 3:30 Author: Rhodri Evans

There will be two Respect conferences on the weekend of 17-18 November: an SWP-Respect conference at Westminster University, and a Galloway-Respect (officially, Respect Renewal) conference at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Moreover, according to the SWP, Galloway faction supporters have changed the locks on the Respect office, thus excluding the SWP from it.

Other recent news:

If there were any doubt about it before - and for a while now, there hasn't been, really - there isn't now. Respect has split, and the immediate question for those in and around Respect is which side to take.

For SWP members, there is a second question. Even if they side with the SWP against Galloway, as of course they should, they have to ask: who got us into this mess? Why aren't the SWP Central Committee fighting Galloway politically rather than just by ham-fisted appeals to loyalty? Can we, or should we, ever trust this Central Committee in future?

The rumour-mill has it that 40 people have been expelled from the SWP, across the country, for siding with Galloway. Whether that is true or not, it must be certain that some dozens, at least, will follow Nick Wrack, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman, and Jerry Hicks towards Galloway. It must be possible that they will not be content with just burying themselves in Galloway-Respect, but instead will form an "excommunicated" or "heretical" SWP-line group, such as exist in many countries, working within Respect. (Might they also merge with the rump ISG? Maybe).

However, my guess that the Galloway-SWP might draw in the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) seems, from the coverage in the Morning Star, to have been wrong.

The SWP has published the Central Committee statement endorsed by their emergency conference on 3 November.

It is a miserable statement. It does at last cite some politics in the Respect split:

Opportunist electoral politics began to dominate Respect... For such people their model of politics was that increasingly used by the Labour Party in ethnically and religiously mixed inner city areas — promising favours to people who posed as the 'community leaders' of particular ethnic or religious groupings if they would use their influence to deliver votes.

This is what is known as Tammany Hall politics in US cities, or 'vote bloc' or 'communal' politics when practiced by all the pro-capitalist parties in the Indian subcontinent. It is something the left has always tried to resist. We seek people’s support because they want to fight against oppression and for a better world, not because they stand for one group.

Indeed, the left has always argued against communalist politics. But, excuse me, who was out on the streets distributing leaflets for George Galloway in the June 2004 elections headlining him as "a fighter for Muslims" and as someone who had always "stood up for the Muslim people"? The SWP!

By launching Respect, the SWP renounced that long left-wing tradition of arguing against communalist politics, and became promoters of communalism.

SWP members should not be pharisaically bemoaning the bad "such people" who unaccountably "began to dominate Respect", but indicting their own Central Committee for the fact that "opportunist electoral politics began to dominate"... the SWP! And indicting the CC for recoiling not out of principle, but only when the opportunism fails to yield the hoped-for gate receipts!

Equally bad in the SWP CC statement is the playing-dumb "who'd have thought it?" line on Galloway now.

We never imagined he would suddenly blame us for resisting those who were pushing sections of Respect in the direction of electoral opportunism.

"Some Tribune of the People!", they exclaim now. "He achieved the dubious record of being the fifth highest earning MP, after Hague, Blunkett, Widdecombe and Boris Johnson, with £300,000 a year".

Lack of imagination? We can all suffer from that. But to see Galloway for what he was back in 2003-4 required no imagination, only a willingness to observe facts. The SWP CC's reply to that is in effect that they chose to deny or ignore facts.

We said what mattered at that moment was not what he might or might not have done in the past - i.e. the available facts about Galloway - nor what the level of an MP’s salary was. The key thing was that he had been expelled from New Labour as the MP who had done more than any other to campaign against the war.

Actually, on the war, the difference between Galloway and, say, John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn or other decent, respect-worthy left Labour MPs, lay not in doing more but (a) in being deliberately boosted (along with the MAB) on the big anti-war demonstrations by their SWP organisers; (b) in not being decent and respect-worthy. Specifically, in having a record of close ties with Saddam Hussein's hideous regime for nearly a decade before the invasion. In the facts! In "what he had done in the past"!

Why didn't New Labour expel Galloway before 2003? Maybe because the British secret services hoped to use him as a "back channel" for information about the internal workings of Saddam's dictatorship, or a link to dissident elements within the regime top brass. (Galloway himself says that he was approached by the British secret services to work for them, but he refused).

In any case, despite New Labour's typically bungled handling of the "trial", it is clear that they chose to expel Galloway because of his Saddam links rather than just because like many MPs - much more troublesome to New Labour on social issues than Galloway had ever been - he had opposed the invasion.

The SWP CC knew all this. In discussions in the Socialist Alliance's leading committee, it was plain that they knew the truth about Galloway. Members of the SWP: the root of the Respect fiasco is that the SWP CC chose to lie to you, and that it has a political method which says that lies to your members and to the working class on matters of political principle are fine so long as you expect "gate-receipts" from them.

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