Monday, 15 October 2007

RESPECT and SWP: Tunes of War


The few, but very esteemed, readers of this blog will have probably already noticed the discussion that's going on over at Socialst Unity on the 3 relatively high profile expulsions from the SWP. It would be entirely inappropriate for the Squirrel Vanguard and especially myself, a member of an organisation so adversely affected by its association with our not particularly dear swips, not to comment on the unfolding events.

As you probably know -if you don't, shame on you- the Great Proletarian Hero Gorgeous George Galloway sent a letter to RESPECT's National Council containing sharp criticism of various RESPECT practices, regarding internal democracy and organisational efficiency. Of course, coming from Galloway, there was a sense of irony about the whole thing. However, the points raised were quite common-sense arguments that had been raised by serious socialist organisations within RESPECT like Socialist Resistance on various occasions in the past.

The letter came obviously as quite a shock to the SWP Holy Synod Central Committee, especially considering that it had been "leaked" to the public domain before they had a good chance to process it, come up with a line and feed it to their rank and file. The SWP replied after a few days with a piece written by John Rees. National Secretary of RESPECT and Elaine Leigh, National Treasurer, beginning with how much they regretted that Galloway's criticism had been "reproduced on various websites", that is, regretting that open and active debate would have to be had. They then proceeded to reply (in a rather weak manner) to the criticisms raised by the original letter. Alas, though, the game was on. The first signs of a rupture in what was seen as a fairly stable alliance between Gorgeous George and the SWP signaled that new political opportunities were being opened up for activists and groups within and out of RESPECT to put forward their own points of view, as well as to try and stir RESPECT towards a healthier political route. People rejoined, Salma Yaqoob published an article offering her own view of the potential development of RESPECT and more importantly, the National Council approved the proposals made by Galloway. All the relevant documents can be found under the RESPECT tag at Socialist Unity.

Immediately, the SWP leadership tried to make this look like a political battle between the left (them, socialists) and right (Galloway's group, communalists) wings of the party. In short, the SWP started attacking RESPECT using all the criticisms that have been leveled against it by the rest of the radical left since its foundation -aye, the same criticisms the swips have been rejecting as ultra leftist and whathaveyou. This was expectable as, like your average Bureaucratic Centralist organisation, the SWP cannot afford to have its One True Line criticised with legitimate arguments that might get their members thinking "hey, this is actually a valid point". The whole existence of a Bureaucratic Centralist formation rests on the legitimacy of the Central Leadership and its ability to withhold information (of all kinds) from the rank and file, allowing to perpetuate itself by preventing any political challenges.

What came as quite a surprise to me however was the expulsion of three relatively high ranking members of the SWP, two of them working for Galloway and the other one nominated for the position of National Organiser (one of the Gorgeous one's suggestions) which was supposed to complement that of the National Secretary, the post held by the Almighty Dear Swip Leader, John Rees. Said Swips were expelled for refusing to give up their posts and decline the nomination respectively. One would have thought that if the SWP cherished their control of RESPECT, they would not oppose the filling of yet another central administrative post by one of their own. Having mulled over it a bit while munching some nuts, it seems to me fairly obvious that the SWP could not be seen to accept the validity of Galloway's proposals by allowing Nick Wrack (that's his name right?) to become National Organiser, as that would in essence be an acceptance of the fact that the Light-giving Central Committee can actually be wrong, fatally compromising its prestige.

Another function served by the expulsions is that they serve as a tactic of burning bridges. The fact that the now expelled members did not submit to party discipline, refusing to give up their places indicates that a good section of the SWP rank and file might have gone native, so to speak, in RESPECT. By removing the most high profile of those from the party, the cult leadership minimises the chances of a mass defection in the event that the SWP loses the internal battle and decides to abandon RESPECT. That there is going to be a battle is of course not debatable. In fact, the SWP has already initiated operations on the ground.

It is imperative that socialists in RESPECT that do wish to see the project continue and evolve into something useful for the working class movement engage the SWP rank and file (those of them that are principled and approachable that is) in their branches and persuade them not to follow their leadership, if it chooses to abandon RESPECT. It should be clear to everyone by now that the swip leadership is not interested in building socialist unity not under its rigid and direct control. The destruction of Socialist Alliance and the split in the Scottish Socialist Party have been evidence enough of the incapability of the SWP to commit themselves to anything that is not their pet project. Whatever strategy the SWP follows if it leaves RESPECT it is bound to degenerate into nothing more than a Trot sect. Another unity project (especially one initiated by the swips, whom by now, nobody trusts) is bound to never get off the ground while an ultra left turn of going it alone and building "the Party" will lead in them meeting the fate of the WRP. In any case, it is important that the better, healthier elements within the SWP are neither allowed to be swept along by the CC, nor fall to apathy and drop out of politics altogether.

Finally, it must be said that it would be rather unfortunate for RESPECT to be rid by the SWP and then fall to Gallowayism, becoming an identity-less left opposition to Labourism, without a clear working class coordination. Any alliances socialists in RESPECT make with the filthy opportunist that is Galloway must be tactical and temporal and they should be prepared to organise themselves in a unified pole to counter any future swing to the right, whether on abortion, LGBT issues, or socialism itself.

These are my two nutshells. So long, humans.

5 comments:

Charlie Marks said...

I'm hoping that the CPB will get on board. Then there might be a bit more balance... Might.

Naturally, I don't want Respect to lose the SWP, Galloway or Yaqoob...

NIDH said...

What do you think of this blogger,

http://www.leninology.blogspot.com/

Korakious said...

He makes some interesting and informative posts every now and then. I do read him from time to time. However, he's too much of an SWP automaton.

a very public sociologist said...

Just wondering if you know how the SWP north of the border are responding to the faction fight in Respect. I know you're not in the same organisation any more, but surely you must have heard some murmurs ...

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