Another SWP Member Resigns

To The Socialist Workers Party

I have been a member of the SWP for three years. I became involved in politics and the SWP as a result of the war in Iraq. I stood for Respect in the 2007 election in Palfrey ward getting 14% of the vote, coming third, and beating the Lib Dems.

Most of the activists in Walsall are members of the SWP and though they don’t usually live in the wards where we stand, they have put a lot of work and resources into the project.

For this reason I took a subscription to the paper (Socialist Worker) and joined the SWP. I have always said that I am not a Trotskyite or a Leninist and have no interest in the Russian Revolution. I am a Muslim and agree with fighting for socialism in a world of consumerism, neo liberalism and privatisation. I rarely mention the war now without accompanying it with a comment about privatisation or exploitation.

I do not want Respect to split however it appears that this is inevitable. Up until now I have always tried to trust the people who I work closest to and I have signed statements of unity and against a so called witch hunt of the SWP.

The problem now is that since I said I wanted to attend the Renewal conference to hear the other side of the story, I was told by local SWP spokesperson (Martin Lynch) that I would be deselected as candidate for Palfrey ward. It would appear that my position would be ok as long as I follow the party (SWP) line within Respect.

Not only that, when I phoned Martin to discuss, I heard various clicks on the line, and when I asked him if he was recording the conversation, he said yes! I cannot work with people who feel they have to record my phone calls for whatever reason. I am disgusted by this type of behaviour. I feel it is bullying.

I trust that you will understand my situation and will undertake the relevant procedures for cancelling my membership of the SWP.

Thanks

Arshad kanwar (Respect)

292 comments on “Another SWP Member Resigns

  1. Oh dear – perhaps we need a group for people who have been done in by the SWP – we could call it the International SWP Recovery Group. It would be a massive left International

  2. The new SWP-Respect ‘unconstitutional’ National Council:
    How many are not SWP?

    Oliur Rahman – Chair
    John Rees – National Secretary
    Elaine Graham-Leigh – National Organiser
    Dan Allen
    Chris Bambery
    Jackie Turner
    John Clossick
    Carmel Brown
    Tony Dowling
    Paddy O’Keefe
    Helen Salmon
    Miriam Scharf
    Maxine Bowler
    Tony Mercer
    Balwinder Rana
    Salvinder Dhillon
    Richard Brackenbury
    Ray Holmes
    Jeannie Robinson
    Sait Akgul
    Rob Owen
    Michael Gavan
    Ahmed Hussain
    Rania Khan
    Lutfa Begum
    Mehdi Hassan
    Michael Lavalette
    Mukhtar Master
    Kumar Murshid
    Muserat Sujawal
    John Devies
    Noreen Fatima
    Nahella Ashraf
    Umit Yildiz
    Clare Soloman
    Lindsey German
    Pat McManus
    Jonathan Jones
    Mukul Hira
    Shaun Doherty
    John Molyneux
    Sarah Creag
    Tom Woodcock
    Rashad Khan
    Explo Nani-Kofi

  3. Recording phone calls – bloody hell. I’m assuming this is all supported by evidence. this is crazy stuff and the sooner the SWP CC rejoin negotiations to end this with as little further damage as possible the better.

  4. RR

    i am still cheecking this, so this is a provisional assessment, but we estimate perhaps between 23 and 27 are SWP members.

    This is up from 19 on the previous NC, and the NC should be 50 strong but they could not find enough non-SWP allies to fill up the list.

    This means that there is a considerable political narrowing of “I can’t beleive its not Respect”, and a built in SWP majority on the NC.

  5. And I note one person’s name on the list, who was described to me as someone for whom it was “impossible to find a job beneath his talents”, so there is a bit of barrel scraping even among the SWP members.

  6. “I have always said that I am not a Trotskyite or a Leninist and have no interest in the Russian Revolution.”

    So why join the SWP in the first place?

  7. I am in the SWP. I do not believe that Mr. Arshad Kanwar should of left.
    If anything Martin Lynch should be expelled. It is wrong for Kanwar to assume that an action undertaken by one individual represents the whole party.

  8. Secretly recording phone calls is at the mild of current SWP practice.

    We’re rapidly moving into the WRP zone.

  9. Larry R on said:

    This is tragic.

    I like Arshad’s comment that:

    “I have always said that I am not a Trotskyite or a Leninist and have no interest in the Russian Revolution. I am a Muslim and agree with fighting for socialism in a world of consumerism, neo liberalism and privatisation. I rarely mention the war now without accompanying it with a comment about privatisation or exploitation”.

    This is exactly the sort of person who the SWP should be recruiting, retaining and developing.

    ‘MA’ (post # 6) in this commentary thread asks if he was ‘not a Leninist or a Trotskyist’ then why did he join the SWP in the first place?

    But a proper revolutionary socialist organisation should not restrict its recruits to doctrinaire and chemically pure ‘Trotskyists and Leninists’. A serious revolutionary socialist party should recruit the best socialists within the working class, and hopefully then educate them in Marxism via practice in the class struggle and discussions.

    At one time Lenin said the Bolsheviks should even recruit radical priests!

    Arshad sounds like his politics were loads better – a socialist who wants to make the links between war, privatisation and neo-liberalism. Recruiting such people to a socialist organisation from within the Muslim working class is exactly the kind of happy outcome many of us hoped for from the Stop the War Coalition and Respect.

    Thats why its such a tragedy that the SWP’s control freak culture and degenerated internal regime of bureaucratic centralism has repelled him.

    They should have let him go to Respect Renewal conference and been confident enough in their politics to be able to deal with any questions and arguments emerging from his experience there. But they are not confident in their politics or their reasons for the split! Because their rationalisation of the split is less than the truth.

    So they resort to threatening him with deselection and record his phone calls!

    This little episode is very instructive. It shows the great strengths of the SWP – to be able to engage people in the struggle and recruit brilliant activists from within the Muslim and other diverse sections of the working class (while silly little sects talked Islamophobic crap and only try to relate to pure ‘Trotskyists and Leninists’!)

    But it also shows the SWP’s great weakness – its 40 year old internal degeneration, leading to its attempt to control its members (and wider movements) through a bureaucratic full-timer apparatus, rather than by its sometimes excellent Marxist politics.

    It is indeed the best of times and the worst of times. We sometimes saw the SWP at its best in the mass mobilisation against the war. And now we are seeing it at its worst in the Respect split. Of course, the best of times and the worst of times are dialectically linked – (so much so that one could almost attribute this phrase about the French revolution to Hegel rather than Dickens!)

    A tragedy – and the SWP is tragic – in the true sense of the word, where a reversal of fortune flows from the nature of a character.

  10. #10 I just mean, I have no interests in the Russian Revolution or any of those things either, and that’s why I’m not in the SWP. But I take your point.

    By the way, I agree that (if true) then it’s out of order for his call to be recorded but, as has been said, he should have reported the person doing it. If he wanted to see what the renewal lot were saying, he should obviously have been free to do that as well. I also agree that printing this letter here is pretty out of order and barrel-scraping behaviour.

    What’s the point of all these pretty tedious ‘look here’s another one over on the SWP’ blog entries, anyway?

    There’s a million and one things that could be printed up to show that the renewal side are not the most inspiring faction in this split, starting with the fantastic speech from Mark Serwotka on Saturday condemning your attacks, the fact that Karen Reissmann and Michael Gavan and all the really great activists on the ground are with us, the distinctly old and distinctly male turn-out at the Renewal rally compared to the very diverse crowd at the annual delegate conference, the very bitter and vitriolic speeches at renewal compared with the measured and rational debate at ours, etc etc etc, but what would be the point of that?

    If I lived to run a website based on ‘getting at’ another section of the left I think I’d be on anti-depressants by now.

  11. “And I note one person’s name on the list, who was described to me as someone for whom it was “impossible to find a job beneath his talents”, so there is a bit of barrel scraping even among the SWP members.”

    But who said that to you? Are you implying it was someone in the SWP?

  12. MA said (#6): So why join the SWP in the first place?

    I think you already know the answer to that, MA.

    The SWP (unlike 80s Militant) has a recruitment policy that doesn’t set pre-conditions for new members; they don’t have to pass an exam, and they don’t even have to sign their name to “Where We Stand”. I’ve no objections to this.

    There used to be serious attempts to discuss the SWP’s more fundamental political ideas with new members on a regular basis, and to win them over to these ideas. For young members, this was their first political education; for older members, it was a way of bringing their experience as trade unionists into a broader explanatory framework (like “why do union bureaucrats so often sell out and undermine solid strikes?”)

    This tradition has atrophied in recent years, and little or no concern is shown when people whose politics were some distance from ours when they joined don’t show any sign of changing their ideas after a couple of years in the Party, and yet they can still be promoted to positions of leadership.

    I know SWP members who have just been elected to the National Council of I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Respect who certainly don’t share some of the most basic ideas of our tradition, but who’ve shown themselves to be obedient footsoldiers who don’t question orders.

    So there was no concern that a comrade like Arshad Kanwar wasn’t being won over to our ideas, and he could even be put in a position of leadership (as a candidate) – it didn’t matter, because he was obedient enough even to sign the fraudulent “witch-hunt” petition. But as soon as he showed a desire to question the latest tactics, the dire consequences were spelt out for him.

    You’ll have to ask yourself whether a party of such obedient, footsoldiers below and cynics above is going to be of much use in class struggle in the long run.

    But I’ll grant you that a party run along these lines is probably a suitable vehicle to pay for the maintenance of the full-time apparatus.

    It’s still my hope that there are enough SWP members who can prevent the party from withering into a mere sect – IB2 showed there was some fighting spirit left. We’ll see at Conference.

    In the meantime, a welcome to Arshad in Respect Renewal, and a word of advice from Marx: “Question everything!”

  13. Canadien on said:

    How nice, how unifying here on Socialist Unity – Andy deletes posts that disagree with him – though he doesn’t see any irony in attacking Lenin’s tomb for having an editorial policy. Lenin doesn’t block everyone who criticizes the SWP, just the trolls. However, for Andy, it seems any criticism is too much. So it’s ok to:

    1) be McCarthyite and go through the democratically elected NC to find out who is in the SWP. Nope, no witch-hunt here.
    2) Slag personal insults on individuals. Very political.
    3) Engage in sectarian barrel-scraping by publishing an individual’s letter from someone who had a problem with an individual but didn’t pursue it inside the party. It’s unfortunate for them – they should have.
    4) Delete posts that disagree with whatever Andy is arguing, for instance, that sexism should be taken seriously.

    I’m sure this will be deleted as well, just like my previous post. Forward to the democratic and plural Respect Renewal where all opinions are respected – as long as they agree with Andy and GG.

    Shame.

  14. Teddy Boy on said:

    Respect Renewed will be the benefactors,when comrades like Arshad resign or refuse to give continued support to the SWP cc.

    It is not a case of “a plague on both your houses” It is that many of SWP members are taking stock once they realise that that something is stinking in the state of the their central committee’s mind.

    As many bloggers say the SWP cc are now out of control with their imposition of blind faith or “all power to the central committee”. Is it democratic centralism by the front door, or it is totalitarianism by the the back door?.

    Their cc will say its the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. People may not be able to define proletarian but they certainly know what dictatorship means. Its seems to be the only tool left in the SWP cc locker.

    I refer you to “Respect Renewed blog 146” and point out that their cc is in a no win situation. Compromise is not an option only sacrificing John Rees may halt the haemorrhaging temporarily. They have a long way to go to regain trust, if ever. Dont they realise that they are in a goldfish bowl. Juvinile? Its infantile

  15. Larry R #9

    I think you raise some very important questions that are relevant to the future potential or not of Respect Renewal and other broad party exercises. IF ” a serious revolutionary socialist party should recruit the best socialists within the working class, and hopefully then educate them in Marxism via practice in the class struggle and discussions.” how can that be done outside the context of formations like the SWP? Can it be done within the present RR and, if so, how?

    And it’s not simply a question of theory either. It also relates to how you develop comrades who are relentlessly committed to going on the attack.

    We know that orgs like the SWP milieu and what have you can create and train people politically so that they are seriously and professionally engaged with the core business of social change.It trained Andy Newman and Nick Wrack and God knows how many others dropping by here who are in or outside the SWP.

    Thats’ where they got the good oil…I’d assume. Where they learnt their political DIY.

    And while it may be de riguer to abhor the SWP’s modus operandi sometimes, that still doesn’t answer the question of how you are going to create the sort of dedicated and serious activist with a broad grounding in socialist theory that we know the movement for socialism requires if it is to succeed.

    Thats’ these new party projects Achilles heel, I think, unless of course, that issue is consciously dealt with.Otherwise you end up with just another and occasionally progressive liberal exercise. I mean its’ hard enough doing this within outfits like the SWP — given the ideological bullets you are up against — its’ not going to be any easier doing it cold in an environment like Respect or Respect Renewal.

    So theres’ a trade you need to negotiate.

    Thats’ part of the debate we are having here in Australia. And to be fair, I think it is one of the concerns that had prompted the SWP to be so stand offish in regard to forming a new party. They could not get their head around a party building exercise that included more than them,and their party,as everyone’s primary political activity on a partnership basis.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think it can be done, just so it’s consciously done. I think that within these projects are the best venue on offer today to “recruit the best socialists within the working class” and ” educate them in Marxism via practice in the class struggle and discussions.”

  16. Irish Mark P on said:

    I rather suspect, Dave, that Nick Wrack would be surprised to be told that he had received his political training in the SWP.

  17. They should have let him go to Respect Renewal conference

    More to the point, party full-timers shouldn’t have been ‘un-building’ for the RR event in the first place. This is another example of the ‘effective ban’ on SWP members imposed from within the SWP.

  18. Canadien: Firstly, I contribute to this blog and I don’t agree with either Respect (R) or Respect (SWP). I have my own position on building the Left. However:

    “4) Delete posts that disagree with whatever Andy is arguing, for instance, that sexism should be taken seriously”.

    Where’s that? Canadien you are just peddling this particular guff ‘cos people also disagree with the group you defend to the hilt with the cries of McCarthyism. Whatever.

    I think people are allowed to take positions and that includes ones you disagree with.

  19. Jesus, Canadien, what the fuck happened to you? Just take a look at the nasty, sneering, muck-raking shit you’re posting these days.

    The issue I have with people like you, Richard and others is, you are making it impossible to discuss this in a friendly way with you. You really have adopted a scorched earth policy of destroying as many working relationships as you can and simply posting to cause trouble. It’s not even to do with the actual issues we disagree on – it’s an entirely sectarian, sneering sort of behaviour that you’re engaged with.

    There is a massive space open to all of us to talk about what’s happened and to move forward. Andy has started deleting comments because people are just continuing to *only* post non-political abuse, which to me is a deliberate ploy of theirs to STOP us moving on and developing new working relationships.

    Richard at Lenin’s Tomb is even deleting my comments now, despite me not having changed my politics one bit – I speak the same as I always have, I argue the same as I always have, yet cos I disagree, what was acceptable when it was aimed at one side is now a “sectarian attack” when it’s aimed at the other side.

    That’s not even an “editorial policy”. It’s just nuts.

    It’s designed to make me not want to debate with SWP members (certainly I no longer visit, let alone attempt to comment on, Lenin’s Tomb – another victory for you guys). Ditto the behaviour of Michael Bradley towards me at the conference at the weekend, refusing to shake my hand, looking down at the floor when I said hello to him twice (similar behaviour from everyone except one other person, who spoke to me when I registered her, but only to attack Kevin Ovenden).

    It’s not gonna work. I’ll talk to and work with any serious activist. The people who were passing my emails on to the CC, the people who delete my comments etc., they can go whistle.

    But that leaves the other 99% of the SWP, who are good people with whom I simply disagree on the future direction of a few things.

    I don’t feel the need to go onto Lenin’s Tomb and say “why did the SWP remove Lutfa’s video, huh? HUH? HUH?” or “what about Ahmed and his call for Galloway to be ‘put down’? HUH?” – yet that is what you, “The East Is Red” and the other people from Lenin’s Tomb are choosing to do.

    Remember, you talk of witch-hunts (and it’s rich to use the example that you did, given your recent behaviour on here), but the SWP has a leader who has tried to drag Linda Smith through the mud; the leadership of the SWP has lied about and smeared leading comrades, denied others access to the democratic bodies of the party and is now busy cutting out people who disagree but have stayed in the party.

    If you want to just stop trying to cause trouble, there is big room for us to debate things.

    I’ve not changed my politics at all. I’ve not changed my allegiances at all. I’ve not even changed my wish to work with as many people as possible. And I’ve not changed my behaviour towards people.

    You should question the way you have switched from being willing to discuss things openly (even when I’ve disagreed with you on LT, it’s always been friendly), to only firing pot-shots at people who have clearly decided are an “enemy” to be at war with.

    What the fuck is up with people that that is their political method of dealing with things?

  20. I don’t dispute Arshad’s honestly, but I do wonder if Lynch was joshing when he said he was recording the conversation – I really find it hard to believe that an SWP fulltimer would genuinely record phone conversations.
    Out of interest, I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I have had odd phone experiences as Secretary of my local anti-war group. My phone line becoming really distorted when I’m discussing demonstrations, my voice echoing, the line suddenly cutting out as I’m telling someone the assembly point, clicking etc.
    It doesn’t bother me much

  21. So it’s ‘McCarthyism’ for people to ask how many SWPers there are on the NC? Whether they have a majority? MCarthyism, of course, meant that poeple lost their jobs and were persecuted. They suffered economic and social consequences. Lives were ruined. You just have no sense of proportion Canadien.

    And when is somebody from the SWP going to condemn John Rees’s attack on Linda Smith, or of course…provide us with the evidence?

  22. “I do wonder if Lynch was joshing when he said he was recording the conversation”

    Problem is, you shouldn’t really talk like that during a period of tension.

    Don’t forget that in a cleverly-worded email, Rees claimed that a Tower Hamlets meeting was “recorded”, and that the email contained a “transcript”.

    Clever stuff, and it led to Galloway refusing to meet SWP members in Newham, cos he said he no longer knew whether he was being recorded or not.

    So they guy shouldn’t be joking about stuff like this, not least when the SWP leadership is muddying the waters over what is recorded and what isn’t.

  23. “Up until now I have always tried to trust the people who I work closest to and I have signed statements of unity and against a so called witch hunt of the SWP.”

    That’s the most important part of the guy’s letter. When you work closely in an organisation, you want to be able to trust people.

    You need to be able to trust people, even if you don’t like them very much. When you then feel like your trust has been betrayed, as I did and as this guy did, it throws everything else into question.

    There are a lot of people who signed that “loyalty pledge” who now regret it, cos they feel they were lied to. Remember, it was sold on the basis that Galloway had gone to the media.

    At each point, Rees has been the one who went to the media first. Even before the conference, we got involved with the media only once we found out that Rees had agreed to assist Newsnight in attacking Galloway and that Oliur Rahman had agreed to allow Newsnight to portray Galloway’s allies as violent people.

    The BBC must have been very grateful for their assistance.

  24. clicks on the line? That went out in the 1970s… its all digital these days, there would be no “clicks”… er me thinks there is something no quite right here.

    lol

  25. Chris Edwards on said:

    Not a Leninist or Trotskyist? Not interested in the Russian Revolution What was this person doing in the SWP in the first place?

  26. dan wright on said:

    Amazing how everyone can discuss someone they don’t know! Lots of people join the SWP becuase of the activism. Most then become convinced by revolutionary politics, but we do live in the real world where ‘majority ideas are those of the ruling class’ and some people, whilst good activists and socialists remain unconvinced. Similarly, some people are happy in the party until they disagree over something. As far as I can tell his branch regularly meets and he should have raised his issues there, the branch should then vote and everyone abide by the majority decision – thats democracy. Equally, its quite valid for someone who disagrees with the SWP to be a RESPECT candidate – but backing a breakaway group seems to me invalidate their candidacy. He was elected by RESPECT members to be a RESPECT candidate not by renewal members to be a renewal candidate. I think all candidates and elected representatives should be accountable to their members, which means accepting majority decisions.

  27. when things have got so bad you have to wonder why people may tape calls. The only people I have met who tape them are those who are being threatened.

  28. Ger Francis on said:

    ‘Equally, its quite valid for someone who disagrees with the SWP to be a RESPECT candidate – but backing a breakaway group seems to me invalidate their candidacy.’

    Hmm…I expect Desperate Dan will be calling for John Rees’s resignation, then? After all he sanctioned a breakaway group in Tower Hamlets.

    The Walsall candidate is a Respect member, who attends a Respect event of Respect supporters including our MP and the majority of our elected councillors, to listen to discussions about what Respect should look like, and you think that ‘invalidates’ his candidacy!? So much for the SWP commitment pluralism and differing views. What’s happened to him is bullying, pure and simple. And it is a disgrace the SWP members defend secretly taping conversations with other SWP and Respect members.

  29. Canadien, I can still read the comments by you criticising Andy for deleting comments critical of him. As your compatriot Alanis might say, isn’t that ironic?

    Please show us a single comment from Lenny’s blog which criticises his comments policy. Go on.

  30. Teddy Boy on said:

    #32….. Similarly, some people are happy in the party until they disagree over something. As far as I can tell his branch regularly meets and he should have raised his issues there, the branch should then vote and everyone abide by the majority decision…
    Dan that applies to John Rees and the SWP cc , he and SWP should have engaged with the leadership. Both have acted above accountability to all us non SWP Respect members and their own membership.

  31. he should have raised his issues there, the branch should then vote and everyone abide by the majority decision

    Are we talking about Martin Lynch here? If not, why not?

  32. dan wright on said:

    ‘Hmm…I expect Desperate Dan will be calling for John Rees’s resignation, then? After all he sanctioned a breakaway group in Tower Hamlets.’
    Fact: John Rees didn’t sanction it the councillors withdrew the whip, not membership on their own volition, despite being asked not to. Simply, the bullying and intimidation was too much for them.
    Fact: Only the Respect conference had elected delegates to it and was the only properly constituted conference. One of the few requests respect make on members, like the Labour party, is that they vote for Respect candidates. Renewal candidates are a separate party.
    Fact: South Birmingham Respect branch hardly ever met. So much for democracy and accountability

  33. dan wright on said:

    To Teddy boy, then you should have voted him out at conference. However, he was accountable to the NC which he frequently attended unlike many of the renewal NC members

  34. Adam – the Red Pepper article is a good one; she bigs up Lavalette (quite rightly) and is highly sceptical of Galloway. Of course, there is that part about the SWP’s sectarian determination always to build itself rather than put its considerable capacities into building of a far, far more broadly based and plural political voice of the left, which I guess might not go down too well on one side of the fence.

  35. Dan – if there had been a prior branch decision that no member should attend the Renewal event, or that attendance by an electoral candidate would be grounds for reselection, then presumably Arshad wouldn’t have used the words “I was told by local SWP spokesperson Martin Lynch”.

    You have to start from the assumption that somebody’s telling the truth as he/she sees it – if only because the assumption that they may be lying licenses you to draw literally any conclusion you like.

  36. dan wright on said:

    Hi Andy, I’m curious about how many hits this site has? Mainly as it will be interesting to know how many people in the class are reading this and other sites and therefore an indication of how far news of the split has reached the wider public. Thanks Dan

  37. Ger Francis on said:

    ‘Renewal candidates are a separate party.’

    I think you will find we are all in the same party for the time being, until the divorce is finalised. In the mean time think of Renewal as a platform, which members are prefectly entitled to establish according to the constitution, if that’s not too difficult for you to imagine.

    ‘Fact: John Rees didn’t sanction it the councillors withdrew the whip’.

    Really? Some back tracking here. How come no disciplinary measures or condemnations from him, then?

    As for your Birmingham rant. SWP members have not once put proposals for holding addittional members or ctte meetings that have been refused. We have had at least 4 South Brum meetings in the last three months. Our fifth is taking place next week. Please come along, ‘out ‘ yourselve, and express some of your views about Salma to the members in person, instead of hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure they will have one or two things to say in return.

  38. dan wright on said:

    Good to here we’re still one party! 4 meetings in 3 months? Until recently there were 3 branches making up what is now South Brum branch. Months and months have gone past in Sparkbrook with no branch meetings, but I guess that would allow members to ask questions of our elected reps. Strange how in a split ostensibly over organisation, democracy adn accountability, its where the SWP are weakest that Respect branches are also organisationally weakest!

  39. dan wright on said:

    Oh and do you really expect the general secretary to condemn Respect councillors? He defended galloway over Big brother too if you remember, when your new allies in the ISG wanted to attack him

  40. Ger Francis on said:

    Post 46: What are you blattering on about? Maybe you can make yourself a bit clearer at next weeks meeting.

  41. Ger Francis on said:

    Glad you thought so Johng. I thought it was a pretty obvious point myself because in essence that is what exists. Two platforms, in fact. The SWP V everybody else.

  42. Sure, but its a bit of a shift from suggesting that Respect Renewal are the only real Respect. I’m quite happy with that.

  43. Teddy Boy on said:

    tell me Dan Wright, why has many members of Respect, who for over 4 years worked in harmony with others, including the SWP now feel disinfranchised by John Rees and the SWP cc,

    I include all the current expelled and resigned members, such as ashad kanwar. Where have we gone wrong?

  44. Its a legitimate question. On the other hand how do you find yourself accusing so many people you’ve worked with of all these horrible crimes. As many people have I’ve just trawled through some of the speeches at the Respect Conference, watched Rania Khan’s piece (the bit with Nick Wall was quite funny but hardly the dark horror that Ger tries to paint it, certainly no-one involved thought so), and then just came across this. Stooge? Evil? what? It really makes very little sense. Does it not make more sense to see this as being the result of legitimate political differences which became prematurely inflamed for reasons we can disagree about?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvDN4GxfCi8

  45. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    “watched Rania Khan’s piece (the bit with Nick Wall was quite funny”

    Have Nick Wrack and Derek Wall swapped names? Which one did you mean?

  46. Dan Wright on said:

    With regard to the 0.17% of the membership who have resigned or been expelled each will have their own reasons. For some, frustration at not seeming to get anywhere led a minority to focus solely on RESPECT rather than also looking at industrial organisation, post strikes etc plus building party branches educations, UAF and all the other spheres of work. Focusing solely on electoral work gives a disjointed picture of working class struggle and I believe increases the pull of Electoralism. Electoralism is very tempting if you don’t see class struggle advancing and see elections as a short cut to success, rather than as a way of helping to advance class struggle as a whole. When Galloway launched his attack on the SWP, some members who are more drawn to electoralism will have found it convincing. It should be remembered its a very small number who have left, by my estimate 0.17%. Thats the broad answer, individual cases I’m not going to go into.
    As for solutions, I think branches need to strenghened, and places where everyone discusses United front work and are involved in it. Naturally, there will be times when more resources should go into Respect in the run to elections or when involved in a campaign for housing or a hospital etc and there will be times to try to increase the number of collections done at work over disputes such as karen Reissmans. Hope this helps. Got union stuff on now so won’t be back on until later in week. Take care, Dan.

  47. Oh I knew I’d done that. I almost said Pat. Some of my best friends are Greens (really and truly) but I’m not familiar with their main people (I probably would not be appointed as main liason with the Green Party!). I understand by all accounts, that he is extremely left wing and made a very good speech. Which is why, so I’ve heard, Rania was indeed a bit mortified. But Derek thought it was quite funny. You learn something every day.

  48. Interesting letter. And very amusing that people think its a good thing that someone who has no interest in the Russian revolution, and is not a Leninist or “Trotskyite” (sic) should join the SWP.
    Of course he can now join Respect Renewal. Good luck to him.

  49. At the Respect Renewal conference I bumped into a comrade (not a member of the SWP) from one of the North London branches of Respect, who told me about his own experiences in the organisation.

    A year ago he and other officers decided to invite Sian Berry of the Green Party to speak at a Respect branch meeting on the subject of environmentalism and the left. Apparatchiks at Respect’s national office went apeshit when they heard, instructed the branch to disinvite Sian Berry and announced that they would be sending two speakers to the branch to explain why it had been wrong to invite her in the first place.

    My contact said he told them to fuck off and hadn’t been much involved with Respect since then, and I notice that one of the other prominent non-SWPers in that branch who came into conflict with the apparatus over this issue has since left Respect and joined the Greens.

    I have it from another source that, presumably because of the problems arising from non-SWPers pursuing an independent course within that Respect branch, the SWP leadership issued a three-line whip to local members that they should all join Respect, which not all of them had done at that point.

    One longtime SWP member declined to do so, on the grounds that she didn’t think Respect was a productive use of her political time and energy. Consequently she was expelled from the SWP and her partner left with her. They have about half a century’s membership of the SWP between them and had been actively involved in the SWP’s trade union work. But they both fell victim to the leadership’s obsession with crushing dissent.

    It’s bad enough when this sort of bureaucratic centralism is applied to the SWP’s own members, though in many cases loyalty to the organisation will ensure compliance with the leadership’s diktats. But when the same methods are extended to non-SWPers in Respect – a broad political formation in which ordinary members are hardly likely to accept being bullied by a self-styled Leninist vanguard – the self-destructive irresponsibility of this behaviour beggars belief.

    I thought the anecdote told by Salma at the conference – about how she fell out with John Rees two years ago over organising a meeting in Birmigham with Tariq Ramadan, and how Rees had barely spoken to her after that – said it all really. Such is the SWP leadership’s control-freakery that they’re prepared to marginalise Respect’s most popular and effective spokesperson because she defied them over a secondary tactical issue.

    What is surprising – and very depressing – is that some the politically more sophisticated SWP members, who must be intelligent enough to know how counterproductive this authoritarian, top-down organisational culture is – angrily justify all this nonsense and mindlessly recite the line they’ve been fed by their leaders. But then, I suppose this is the mentality that’s required for membership of a sect.

  50. Kent&CanterburyDan on said:

    “Glad you thought so Johng. I thought it was a pretty obvious point myself because in essence that is what exists. Two platforms, in fact. The SWP V everybody else”

    Sorry Ger that is not the case and you know it. However much people try to pretend the Westminster conference was entirely constituted of SWP members it is still nothing but a lie. My branch sent 3 delegates, 2 of them (myself included) non SWP members. There were many many people from outsied the SWP attending and to portray this split as “The SWP V everybody else” is not simply misleasding it is an outright lie.

  51. “I thought the anecdote told by Salma at the conference – about how she fell out with John Rees two years ago over organising a meeting in Birmigham with Tariq Ramadan”.

    Can you explain to those of us who don’t understand, what exactly was the problem? Does Rees not approve of Ramadan? Or did he object to Salma doing a solo run?

  52. Ger Francis on said:

    Johng: ‘On the other hand how do you find yourself accusing so many people you’ve worked with of all these horrible crimes.’

    My accusation against the SWP is one of ultra-leftism. The SWP’s allegation against the rest of us is that are part of a right wing/communalist/homophobic/anti-TU/witch-hunter bloc. I think most people know who it is that’s making accusations of ‘horrible crimes’ here. And once these kind of allegations were made this whole issue moved beyond resolvable ‘legitimate political differences’.

    As for Rania, I question her judgment and company, but good luck to her. I hope she emerges from this unscathed and is still involved in politics in a few years time.

    On another point more relevant to this tread, why couldn’t you or anyone else from your side find it within yourselves to say that if SWP members in Walsall, or anywhere else, are secretly trying to tape record discussions with other members, it is just wrong? What have you got to lose in making that simple point? Has the culture of self-censorship gone so deep that you can’t even condemn behaviour that has no place in any labour movement organization because some on your side might be guilty of it?

  53. Ger Francis on said:

    Post 59. Relax! I was using shorthand. I know there are non-SWP members with the SWP on this issue. Just very few of them.

  54. Kent&CanterburyDan on said:

    “Post 59. Relax! I was using shorthand. I know there are non-SWP members with the SWP on this issue. Just very few of them”

    Again Ger I question your honesty. “Just very few of them” ? I use my own branch as a reference, we have a (bare) majority of non-SWP members, our meetings comcermimg the split have been open and frank, with some lively discussion but always resolved by the end. NOT ONE of our members has expressed interest in RR – all have expressed a wish in no split at all. This is the case for the vast majority of grass roots members, both SWP and non-SWP and like I said, to pretend otherwise is both disingenious and a lie.

  55. To paraphrase Trotsky when someone like Ger Francis accuses you of ultra leftism you know you’re doing something right.
    What does Ger Francis’ ultra leftism consist of? Simply the assertion of the primacy of class in socialist politics. He objects to the idea that when Tories switch to a new organisation with a view to furthering their electoral career, this could be anything other than progressive. And so on. And so on ad infinitum.
    Is it the case that just because the SWP have pointed out the communalist, right wing, homophobic etc. nature of the Respect project that these criticisms are untrue?
    Of course not, it certainly reveals something about the fundamentally dishonest nature of the SWP leadership, but it doesn’t mean that just because they say it, then it is necessarily wrong.
    And there is heaps of evidence to support exactly these points – I won’t bother to regale you with it again – the fact that the SWP only discovered it three years too late and that they continue to avow the deeply unprincipled, electoralist basis of the whole Respect project, simply demonstrates how cynical their own leadership is.
    And of course Ger Francis could never be accused of being an ultra-left.
    But that’s hardly a compliment now is it?

  56. This is the first time I’ve heard that the SWP and Salma fell out over Tariq Ramadan.

    I’m not sure why the SWP would oppose a meeting with Tariq Ramadan? Galloway has spoken on the same platform as him, and the SWP in the NUS issued a very good and eloquent statement defending Ramadan against the AWL who got the NUS to issue a statement attacking him.

    Tariq Ramadan does take positions that are wrong, in my opinion, for example he has taken part in community cohesion projects organised by the Home Office and is sometimes moderate when I think he should be militant.

    But he is certainly an extremely articulate, interesting and stinulating speaker – possibly the leading Muslim intellectual in Europe.

    I first heard him speak at a seminar at the European Social Forum and was so impressed I went to 5 other meetings at the event where he was speaking. He is a very thought-provoking speaker

    I am surprised that he has never been involved to speak at any StWC events since he’s currently resident in the UK.

  57. It certainly doesn’t make sense; I thought the falling out had to do with the fact that, out of 7 Respect candidates selected for Birmingham council election, no SWPers were included. Seems a more likely explanation for sure.

  58. Ger would be better placed than me to give the details, but what I understood Salma to be saying is that after 7/7 she organised a meeting in Birmingham with Tariq Ramadan, directed towards young Muslims and putting the case against the dead end of jihadist terrorism and in favour of constructive engagement with the political process. John Rees told her to cancel it.

    I imagine Rees’s reasoning was that Respect should respond to 7/7 by making political propaganda against New Labour – putting the case that the cause of the London bombings was the British government’s involvement in the Iraq war. And he probably thought that the priority was to win Muslim youth directly to Respect rather than make the more general case in favour of political involvement.

    Plus Rees no doubt dismisses Tariq Ramadan as a wishy-washy reformist who doesn’t promote a sufficiently rigorous anti-imperialist line. Richard Seymour has been quite scathing about him in the past (“Tariq Ramadan is a hate figure for the pro-war liberals who accuse him of being an Islamist radical, but he’s actually a lot closer to them politically than they would like to admit”) and Lenin’s Tomb is (as we’ve seen during recent events) usually quite a reliable guide to the views of the SWP leadership.

  59. the digger on said:

    When Salma repeated her ancedote about the meeting with Tariq Ramadan did she include the bit about some SWP members being excluded from the meeting. Maybe a early indicator of things to come!

    I have seen Salma’s complaint about only having a couple of phone calls from John Rees since the meeting and wondered how many calls Salma made to him?

    I have a lot of admiration for Salma, but it normally takes two to disagree. If fact the standard refrain on here (as well as from Thornett) is that it is all the SWPs fault.

    It makes me wonder waas it a different SWP who worked so well with others, to set up Respect? Have the SWP politics and organisation changed or is the critics who have changed. I know Gers politics have, and I completely understand why socialists who no longer believe in revolutionary politics, and some like Arshad who never did, end up leaving the SWP. Its sad, but they won’t be the first or unfortunately the last.

  60. Ger Francis on said:

    Re the break between Rees and Salma over the Tariq Ramadan meeting in Birmingham.

    The background was the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 bombings. Salma’s was concerned young Muslims in Sparkbrook being pulled towards terrorism by phoney theological justifications and wanted to undercut that ground. The platform included Tariq and Moaazam Begg, Shahid Butt and Salma. Tensions were very high and it was a risky meeting to hold. There was real concern that something might kick-off, because HT types and worse were in attendance. In the end however it turned out to be was an amazing success and over 400 people attended (more below).

    Rees went nuts seeing it all as evidence of ‘separatism’, or what he would call today as ‘communalism’, and threatened that he, Andrew Murray and others would publicly denounce her. She didn’t take too kindly to being threatened and bullied and felt she was in a stronger place to gauge the mood of young Muslims in Sparkbrook post 7/7 than John Rees was sitting in his SWP HQ in London. So she went ahead in the face of SWP hostility. Because of their dumb ass sectarian behaviour on the night, the two SWP organizers were asked to leave the grounds of Central Mosque.

    From then on the attempts to sideline her began properly inside STW, Respect and wherever the SWP had any control over platforms.

    Why did the SWP behave like that? Ultra-leftism delivered with a quite breath taking arrogance. But just like Abjol in Tower Hamlets, Salma will not be bullied by anyone, least of all some jumped-white lefty with an exaggerated sense of what he actually represents.

    Below is from an email exchange I sent Alex Callinicos (another one of the above) that goes into the issues in more detail:

    ‘Unlike you, I do not see any contradiction between Salma’s commitment to Muslim/non-Muslim unity and her deciding to organise a Muslim-only meeting at a mosque. She called this meeting with the specific aim of attacking the ‘dodgy theology’ and separatist religious sectarianism that was used as a justification for the 7/7 bombings. Her judgment, as somebody who is familiar with this constituency, was that to engage most effectively with those who are attracted by these viewpoints the meeting needed to be distinctly Islamic. This is why the meeting could not be held under the banner of Stop the War or Respect (although Stop the War held its own, successful, meeting a Week earlier).

    Incidentally, she never had any doubts about the correct platform under which this meeting should be held – I was the one who floated with John Rees whether it would be appropriate to have ex-jihadists on a STW platform.

    The outcome, both in attendance and politics, was overwhelmingly successful. In particular, the ex-jihadists, argued powerfully against religious sectarianism and for political engagement with non-Muslims (specifically praising the role of the anti-war movement). They did so, however, in the framework of a discussion among Muslims, utilising ideological concepts that are shared by other Muslims.

    We, of course, would have profound differences With these ideologies. But the discussion served to reinforce the kind of arguments we would wish to make – about the importance of unity; the necessity and legitimacy of the struggle against imperialism; etc.

    Individuals whose whole political life had been spent in a Muslim-only framework were able to talk with authority, to those who respect them, about the evolution of their political understanding. The dynamic, which the party failed to grasp, was not towards ‘separatism’ but in the direction of unity with the left.

    The striking thing about the contributions at the meeting was the combination of a defiant, militant and unapologetic Muslim identity with a willingness to see the possibilities of making common cause with others.

    As I said in my previous email, to see this ‘separatism’ as a danger is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What matters is the dynamic of the situation. There are times when respecting self organisation is a necessary prerequisite to building unity. Indeed this method of organisation has been a feature of how we have operated in Birmingham post 9/11 and played a central role in Salma’s successful general election campaign.’

  61. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Eugene is right, although the conduct of John Rees was much worse than he suggests. And as Digger knows why the SWP were excluded, why didn’t he explain the reason?

    Rees was opposed to Salma holding a meeting for Muslims, in a mosque, within a couple of weeks of the 7/7 bombings. The meeting was not held under the auspices of any particular organisation, so I am not sure why he thought it was his business to interfere, but he was entitled to say his piece. Unfortunately, he went further.

    He told Salma this type of meeting was totally at variance with the practice of Stop the War or Respect, because it was aimed at Muslims only. The fact that this came at a time of great tension and fear among Muslims seemed to escape him. Salma’s view was very clear – the theological justifications for terrorism had to be tackled head on. This was an argument (obviously) that could only be conducted by others from within the same faith.

    He said he would ask Andrew Murray (due to speak for Birmingham STW the following week)to denounce it (probably an idle threat, as Andrew Murray did no such thing).

    When she refused to cancel the meeting he told her the SWP had the ‘right’ to attend and make their arguments against it. That is, SWP members have the ‘right’ to walk into a mosque, and lecture Muslims on the dangers of separatism and Muslim-only meetings. The arrogance was breathtaking.

    He then instructed his 2 full time organisers to attempt to gain entry to the meeting even though they had been specifically told by Salma not to attend. Needless to say they were not allowed into the meeting.

    The meeting was a huge success. Tariq Ramadan was exceptionally clear and forthright. Moazzem Begg spoke of how the unity between Muslims and non-Muslims in the anti-war movement had had a massive impact on his political thinking, and urged everyone present to participate in it.

    Excluding the SWP organisers was the right thing to do. They had no right whatsoever to attend a meeting held by Muslims in their own mosque unless invited to do so – respect has to be earned and they forfeited it.

  62. Ger Francis on said:

    Re Digger. Rees National Sec who has responsibility to liaise with everyone, not just those who agree with him. You embarrass yourself by making excuses for his behaviour. My overall political views are not that interesting to bore people with here. Finally, writing in a rush. ‘Jumped’ is missing an ‘up’.

  63. Illogical on said:

    Salma has argued that the 7/7 attacks were “reprisal attacks”
    What was her theological opposition?

  64. Kevin Murphy on said:

    #14 Canadien
    So it’s ok to:

    “1) be McCarthyite and go through the democratically elected NC to find out who is in the SWP. Nope, no witch-hunt here.”

    How is that a witch-hunt? Look, the Galloway red-baiting, telling SWP members to “fuck off”, having ‘negotiatings’ that start off with “you’re leaving”, etc. that most definately could be described as a witch-hunt, however inept. Asking how many leaders of Respect NC belong to that majority party is a quite appropriate question given the context and concerns of the non-SWP Respect members.

    If what Arshad Kanwar says is true about the organizer taping his conversion, that is completely indefensible, WRP cult-like behavior.

  65. the digger on said:

    My recollection of the leaflets for the meeting did not state it was a Muslim only, and I attended as I had never heard Tariq Ramadan speak and a valuable experience it proved.

    I was not the only non Muslim present, but would not have attended if it was clearly a meeting for Muslims only, rather than a meeting aimed at Muslims.

    I concur it was an excellant meeting, and the case for Muslim/non Muslim unity was powerfully put by Salma, as well as Moaazam Begg.

    However language like “jumped (up?) white lefty with an exaggerated sense of what he actually represents” shows how difficult it is in in Birmingham to have a political diagreement with Salma or Ger without it degenerating into name calling and “breaks”.

  66. Ger Francis on said:

    Re 76. It was not the organiser involved. But thanks (genuinely). I know the guy in question, he is angry and upset, and you are the first SWP member to call it like it is.

  67. Teddy Boy on said:

    #70 “but it normally takes two to disagree”
    and it only takes one to dictate.

    Many of us are shocked about how the national secretary assumed he had total power over each one of us.
    He was trying to boss everyone and Salma stood up to him,so much for him building bridges with the muslim community. He is “Rees the destroyer”.
    How many victims has John Rees and the SWP cc brought about by their lack of shared responsibilities with Respect.

    I cannot accept that only 9 members have resigned. I know at least 20 SWP members who are considering their position and have seen through this blog, at least 5-10 expelled or resigned comrades

  68. I don’t want to comment on the debate but should make clear that my comments on Ramadan on the Tomb were directed at the absurdity of describing him as a dangerous radical.

  69. Ger Francis on said:

    Re 78. In fairness to Salma, that’s my phrase not hers. It is provocative and deliberately so. The arrogance of SWP behaviour in insisting that they knew best, despite the fact that they had no feeling about the mood on the ground, was infuriating to witness and I warned Rees and others at the time that irrespective of whether he disagreed with Salma, he should back off and deescalate the situation. The meeting would come and go. What does he do? He presses the nuclear button (sound familiar?) and we are discussing it two years later.

    And Digger knows full well he can discuss political disagreements with me anytime…

  70. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Digger,

    The meeting was not intended to be Muslim only – although clearly it was a meeting for Muslims, held in their own mosque, to discuss these events in terms that they understood through their faith.

    It became necessary to exclude the SWP organisers because of their arrogance and stupidity which threatened to wreck a very brave initiative at a a time of great tension. That is why the SWP organisers were told that attendance by non-Muslims was at the discretion of those holding the meeting (Muslims, of course, are entitled to enter the mosque).

    I was there too, along with perhaps 10 other non-Muslims in an audience of 400 or so. And the reason we were there is because we were willing to sit and listen (and learn). We were not there to abuse the trust of those we work with by arrogant declarations of our ‘right’ to enter a mosque and wreck a meeting with lectures on separatism.

    If the SWP organisers had taken the approach you did, they might have learned something as well.

  71. Graham Day on said:

    Illogical, you’d probably be best reading the whole of the document you posted up, and the context in which she used the word “reprisal”.

    Also, the word “reprisal” doesn’t indicate “support” in any way shape or form – which seems to be your implication. For example, the Nazi liquidation of Lidice was a reprisal for the assination of Heydrich; my saying so is in no way to suggest that it was justifiable.

  72. Graham Day on said:

    Illogical, are you suggesting that the citizens of Lidice had done something to deserve what happened to them?

    See, I can make specious arguments too.

    Sorry, I’m going to stop feeding the troll now.

  73. Thanks Ger (#71) and Birmingham Respect Member (#72) for setting out the details of the July 2005 meeting. This is crucial to our understanding of how Respect was on a collision course under the old regime, even from a year and a half into its existence.

    Digger (#78), thanks for affirming that “it was an excellent meeting, and the case for Muslim/non Muslim unity was powerfully put by Salma, as well as by Moaazam Begg.”

    Digger, you also point out (#78) a contradiction: that the meeting can’t have been Muslims only and it can’t have excluded all SWP members, since you were able to attend. Although I’m speaking as an outsider, it seems from what I’ve heard that the point was that the meeting was specifically held on a Muslim platform, and that Muslims should feel free to discuss theological issues in detail rather than have to water down, explain or abandon such comments because of a large non-Muslim presence. As for the supposed exclusion of the SWP, it would seem that SWP members who were known to be coming solely to denounce the meeting, on John Rees’s instructions, were excluded; on the other hand, SWP members like digger (to your credit), who were happy to accept the meeting’s remit were not excluded. So I don’t think there’s any point of substance over which there is disagreement.

  74. Illogical on said:

    Thats precisely the point Graham.
    Salma implies complicity, not me.
    Or did she mean to say “random” rather than reprisal.

  75. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 72 “Rees was opposed to Salma holding a meeting for Muslims, in a mosque, within a couple of weeks of the 7/7 bombings. The meeting was not held under the auspices of any particular organisation”

    Now that is pretty dumb, because Mosques are generally attended by….Muslims.

    Of course anyone born a Muslim should also have the right to attend any Mosque.
    So if an SWP’er like Hassan Rahamdallie (what’s happened to him?) had wanted to attend, he could have just walked in and put the arguments.

    Of course, if someone had organised a meeting for Muslims only under the name of a socialist party, it would have been a split issue. At least if you accept the policy of the Bolsheviks towards the Jewish Bund (who in fact called themselves socialists and were one of the first socialist organisations in Russia).

    Perhaps some people in Respect(R) might want to justify a double standard policy at this point, or provide a theoretical argument for why Lenin and Trotsky were wrong on this?

    On the other hand, the SWP’s crass misuse of Lenin’s line against the Bund might go someway towards why their prepared to work with a character like Gilad Atzmon.

    The one really definite thing you can say about his politics is that he can play the saxophone.

  76. I posted before Birmingham Respect Member (#84) had given the same answer, but with first-hand knowledge. Obviously I defer to his/her account.

  77. Illogical on said:

    Now that is pretty dumb, because Mosques are generally attended by….Muslims.

    Of course anyone born a Muslim should also have the right to attend any Mosque.

    ever heard of the Quaker meeting house Alex?

  78. Illogical on said:

    So if an SWP’er like Hassan Rahamdallie (what’s happened to him?) had wanted to attend, he could have just walked in and put the arguments.

    Isn’t he an apostate Alex?

  79. Oh and Ger I haven’t commented on the specific case because I know absolutely nothing about it, and experiance has shown that very often these stories turn out to be either untrue or distortions. Nor, as far as I’m aware, going by published statements, speeches at our conference etc, was I aware that we were arguing that this battle involved describing your side of the argument as ‘right wing, reactionary homophobic, businessmen’ etc, etc. I’ve argued that as far as I’m aware its been an argument about how to respond to the pressures of electoralism. John Rees argued the same at conference. I go via the public political issues not gossip.

  80. NOT ONE of our members has expressed interest in RR – all have expressed a wish in no split at all.

    The trouble is, ‘no split at all’ isn’t one of the options. I don’t think anyone positively wished for a split – Yaqoob herself said she came to the RR meeting ‘with a heavy heart’. There are examples of good and bad RESPECT practice on both sides; Hilary Wainwright’s piece in Red Pepper singles out Yaqoob and Lavalette for praise, which I’d tend to agree with. But ‘Yaqoob and Lavalette’s group’ isn’t there any more.

  81. Just to clarify; some people claim they were non-Muslims attended, others claim that non-Muslims were not allowed. What was the case?

  82. johng (#96) said: I go via the public political issues not gossip.

    John, you’ve just been offered first-hand accounts of that July 2005 meeting and the events surrounding it from three individuals who were there (one of them is even on your side of the Respect dispute). This is not “gossip”: the very word implies information received at several removes from the source.

    You may hope, for the sake of maintaining your own political position, that the accounts are untrue, but you are not in a position to refute them. I suggest you ask John Rees for his account, although I doubt you’ll get very far. In June, when I brought up the matter of the rift with Salma at a (closed) SWP meeting that was advertised as a “free and frank discussion about Respect” with a CC member who was also on the Respect NC, he at first attempted to talk over me, and eventually dismissed what I’d said (which was purely drawn from Party Notes, 29 Jan 2007) as “tittle-tattle”, even after I’d said that I was quoting Party Notes and that others at the meeting knew that to be the case. So I hope you have better luck, John.

  83. the digger on said:

    Babeuf, your reading a bit too much into my positive view of the content of the actual meeting. I think John Rees had a perfectly valid concern of the dangers post 7/7 of a retreat into the Muslim community, and advocated the kind of platforms assembled in Respect and Stop the War was the best response to 7/7.

    Gers post 71 states Salma’s perspective on the meeting and its objectives. It possible to understand both these points of view, and debate them on their merits. Unfornately on this blog and elsewhere it is reduced to a debate between good and evil.

  84. Babeuf you can see my comment on the above question on the other thread (rather typically I start off irrelevently with a discussion on Gramsci the hatchet man and Rosa Luxemberg the bank robber). I’d just like to add that reading through my putrid prose on the Ramadan article made me wince, and, just this once, (and I’m not starting a prescedent I want to make absolutely clear) I’m prepared to concede that its not the most well judged of pieces. Round about that time we were fighting a horrible Islamophobic witch hunt and I read a single article by Tariq which made me see red. Dangers of blogging.

    Politics (as opposed to blogging rubbish) is like that too sometimes. There can be all kinds of contexts for people doing all sorts of things. Its quite dangerous to follow discussions or make judgements about people purely on the basis of blogs. And thats true of everybody, and not just people who happen to agree with me.

  85. Tonight’s Socialist Worker article: “Respect Renewal rally launches new organisation with attacks on SWP”.

    The daily growing arrogance of the SWP and their paper (no opinions on anything, ever, unless its conforms with the SWP CC line)beggers belief. To at least state that there are two factions or two platforms in Respect would at least be nearer the truth.

    The 350 (SW you got it wrong again) brothers and sisters who attended the Respect Renewal Conference ARE RESPECT – no one has left RESPECT and we did not try, as the SWP did, to pack a delegate conference with their own people + supporters(not allowing any suggested changes to the CAC or even a National Council meeting to review conference arrangements – cancelled at the insistance of the SWP NC members for divorce negotiations to start, which they then walk out off).

    At least those of us who support RESPCT Renewal have had the decency to put the word ‘Renewal’ after Respect to avoid confusion. I warn some members who are currently staying in branches with SWP members under the unchanged ‘RESPCT’ title to be careful – the SWP will try to use you as a ‘cover’ as their headline in Socialist Worker makes clear with the clear implication that all those branches support their actions.

    Its not too late for the SWP CC to return to the negotiating table and resolve all the outstanding ‘divorce’ issues for all in RESPECT or would they rather this all ends up in a messy court case – lets hope not – surely Socialists who were friends until a few weeks ago can resolve these divorce problems around a table?

    Here is the number for you to ring for these talks to restart:

    07958 450 867

  86. #58. What an amazing thing to happen. It would be funny, were it not depressing. Imagine those people with state power.

  87. OK, I guess there are 2 anons now which makes things a bit confusing…. I presume, to answer the other Anon, that the meeting couldn’t possibly have been segregated since presumably Salma was there.

  88. Teddy Boy on said:

    According to the SWP’s rag, Respect Renewal is an outside organisation. This a baiting attempt to push us into taking legal action. There is no chance of any meeting

    The front page also makes no mention of the events leading up to the 2 platforms.

    Disgraced John Rees says we are not idealogical sound. What sweeping arrogance

  89. whatever on said:

    Please do not forget that although all the complaints against the SWP as overbearing parents may be valid/invalid the real reason why this split has happened at this moment rather than earlier is that the selection of the parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green and bow was comming up.

    There was a chance that Abjol Miah georges current prefered candidate may have lost the vote to be selected. The reason that for him losing would have being due to a fomation of an anti abjol alliance that was being formed in towerhamlets respect. Kumar Murshid, Rania Khan, Oliur Rahman, Luthfa Begum, Ahmed Hussain and other were agreeing to support each other to block abjol. This was not made up by the SWp .The problem was that with this grouping and the SWP abjols dominance of respect in tower hamlets would be taken away.

    The reality is that that although the SWP tried to dominate or influence (however you want to see it) decisions in respect on key issues the SWP lost the vote.
    On the issue of candidates for council election , leadership election. The entry of Kumar changed this. It brought in a new element and created a power shift which in my view was fundemental to this split.

    George welcomed Kumar into respect and infact appeared to endorse him as a candidate. I dont know why he changed his mind, it maybe because he decided to stand and it meant one less seat was available i’m not sure

    The split is political it just hard to decifer it at the moment.

    I do not wish to demonise Abjol or anyone that has similar views, I believe he is sincere in his own belifs however there will be political difference between him and other in the new/old respect project on a number of issues. How these difference are dealt with is important. I think the left black white and muslim can work with anti imperialist who may or not agree with socialist ideas. How we do this needs to be worked out.

  90. “There was a chance that Abjol Miah georges current prefered candidate may have lost the vote to be selected. The reason that for him losing would have being due to a fomation of an anti abjol alliance that was being formed in towerhamlets respect. Kumar Murshid, Rania Khan, Oliur Rahman, Luthfa Begum, Ahmed Hussain and other were agreeing to support each other to block abjol. This was not made up by the SWp”

    This is probably a story being fed by people who dont really know the true facts. Lutfa had her eye on become an MP and getting her daughter to become an MP well before the council elections in which she become a councillor. This was not out of sincerity to the cause of Respect but for her own selfish reasons. She actually said this to some people (in Tower Hamletes) before she became a councillor. The issue is that Lutfa, Rania, Ahmed and Oli have been manipulated by SWP to pull down Abjol because of the support he has from the Tower Hamlets community. SWP realised Abjol was too powerful and did not want him to start taking power away from them. This is why John Rees blocked Abjol becoming leader of the council initially and then after 2 seperate elections he took the selection of the council leader to the membership. It was when the members decided that they wanted Abjol to represent them that John Rees really broke down the democratic process and imposed Oli as the chair of the councillors group to undermine Abjol’s leadership. What do you think happened next? The membership said enough is enough! The membership decided that they will not be taken for a ride just to allow someone like John Rees to come in and manipulate them. This just the tip of the iceberg of the things John Rees and SWP did with the Tower Hamlets community that joined Respect!

    The thing a lot of people dont realise is that Oli, Rania, Lutfa and Ahmed became councillors because the TH community voted them in. When they resigned the whip(out of their own selfish desires) they effectively left Respect and turned their back on the community that voted them in. Did they even consult the people who voted them to ask them if the constutients would be happy for them to resign from the whip? What right did they have to resign from the whip without asking the people who voted them in?

    Be sure that the people that voted them in will be the same people that will vote them out!

  91. digger said (#104): Babeuf, your reading a bit too much into my positive view of the content of the actual meeting. I think John Rees had a perfectly valid concern of the dangers post 7/7 of a retreat into the Muslim community, and advocated the kind of platforms assembled in Respect and Stop the War was the best response to 7/7.

    Thanks, Digger, I realised you’ve gone as far as you can, and I won’t try to draw you into saying that Rees was wrong. Since I’m free to say it though, Rees should firstly have been prepared to concede that Yaqoob’s first-hand knowledge of the situation should take precedence, but secondly, even failing that, he shouldn’t have reacted in the way he did to what was only a passing disagreement over tactics. I see you’re not trying to haul this into the “communalism” narrative, and respect that.

  92. johng said (#105): Babeuf you can see my comment on the above question on the other thread … reading through my putrid prose on the Ramadan article made me wince …

    I wouldn’t take you to task for that, John, since I remembered that the context was very different.

    johng said: Politics (as opposed to blogging rubbish) is like that too sometimes. There can be all kinds of contexts for people doing all sorts of things. Its quite dangerous to follow discussions or make judgements about people purely on the basis of blogs.

    Just in case you meant this to apply also to the exchange on the 2005 Birmingham mosque meeting (maybe you didn’t), I’d remind you that so far I’ve got details that match from two separate individuals on one side, and only stonewalling from the CC’s side.

    That suggests to me (but doesn’t prove) that the CC member concerned didn’t think Rees’s actions could convincingly be defended even in front of a purely SWP audience (this was back in June), whereas the other side is happy to present its case and does so consistently.

    If you can present any information that would put those events in a different light, I’ll listen (that’s meant as a request, not a taunt – I don’t think it’s impossible).

  93. JJMurphy on said:

    Re Birmingham: I am trying to make sense of what is being claimed here so perhaps I will summarise what I see here in my own words.
    1. Leading member of Birmingham Respect Salma organises with others a public meeting in a mosque, although it is not Muslum only.
    2. John Rees, NS of Respect, argues robustly to Salma that the meeting is a mistake. He takes it seriously enough to say he thinks if it goes ahead in that form leading figures in Respect and STWC should criticise it publicly.
    3. As a consequence of this argument, particular members of Respect and SWP are banned from the public meeting because of what they will argue (the banning is at Salma’s instigation? or with here colleagues?)
    4. As a result of this relations between SY and JR cool.
    5. This shows how horrible the SWP is (not, you understand, the poor, misguided members–or dwarfs as we must now call them–but the leaders).
    My conclusions: Let us suppose that the SWP position was a load of bollocks, we would assume that their arguments, had they had an opportunity to put them at the meeting, would be met with cold indifference or open hostility by the people there. Any political activist who has been round the course will have had days like that. No problem, cut and thrust of debate, etc (we might almost say “pluralism”, and all the other recently fashionable buzzwords).
    But no. A leading Respect figure appears to use their influence to prevent fellow Respect comrades from attending a political public meeting because of the political views of those they are excluding.
    Of course putting the matter baldly like this is not “on message” so instead we must pepper the accounts with words such as “arrogant”, “bullying”, “white”, etc.
    Am I beginning to get the hand of Renewed debate and NuSocialistUnity?

  94. “5. This shows how horrible the SWP is (not, you understand, the poor, misguided members–or dwarfs as we must now call them–but the leaders).”

    Argue like that and you don’t deserve a serious reply, let alone any credibility.

  95. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    JJMurphy the political debate over the meeting is one thing, what seems important to me is the fact (if true and I have herd no one trying to claim that it isn’t) that John then stopped engaging with Salma, stopped calling her etc.

    This is not the correct behaviour for a Naitional leader who’s job should not primarily be to push one argument or another inside Respect but to make sure that the organisation functions propally and that all sides have a chance to put their debate, resolve it in a fraternal manner and that we always focus on the people beyond us.

    The problem seems to me that John was confused about his role because he (following the ‘united front of a special kind’ model) couldn’t see Respect as a place for the germination and discussion of ideas and tactics. Rather he consicived it as a coalition were people could unite around a minimal set of idea’s that are germinated outside Respect’s structures with the SWP playing the primary role as the pusher of the best ‘revolutionary’ tactics.

    i think that it is imporatant to have a poltical idea of John’s shortcomings rather then just attributing them to his personal failings (tempting as that may be).

  96. Joseph may have a point on John Rees not calling Salma (and I’ve no idea if he’d argue that he has, though I also haven’t heard a denial).
    But Salma’s actions that day in getting another Respect supporter (who was a big bloke) to physically prevent the two organisers from going into the meeting were an overreaction. Certainly the swp took this as being a very hostile act.
    I certainly think there was room for an argument about both the rights and wrongs of the meetings, and the swp’s opposition to it, but that was an occasion when Salma overreacted imo.
    (I’d argue the Kings heath selection malarkey was another).

  97. whatever on said:

    REPLY to J_R

    I did not say that Luthfa, rania, kuma etc course are not under electoral pressures, all of them are including abjol. There are two things that are problematic in your argument.

    Like abjol you seem to see the tower hamlets community as homogenous. The community is on his side. An to paraphrase him “his comunity”. We know that although many in tower hamlets may be with him everyone in tower hamlets cannot be.

    I would not denounce any of the councillors that were elected in towerhamlets respect (except wais who left to join the labour party) as self serving. All have including george and salma have joined either for the “cause” or. This does not stop them wanting to promote themselves at times as many have.

    We must also note that the swp members had a right to vote to support candididates they felt rightly or wrongly were going to put forward a left wing agenda. Is this not what any left wing organisation (socialst resistence/ unity etc) would do. Maybe the way the SWP has acted is not perfect but the reality is the SWP lost votes and accepted there position. Others in respect were not willing to accept a shift in politcs/personalites that came from outside the SWP.

    Abjol miah in my view and i am maybe be wrong believes that he represents the majority in tower hamets and that it was on the whole his enthusiasm expert abilites to engage the community that led to the growth of respect in tower hamlets. I think he is both wrong and right. Yes there are may bengalis who take a similar viewpoints to Abjol but the truth is the reason why he is involved in politcs unlike many of them is that his politcs is more formed and particular (like the SWP). So in that way he is not a man of the street.

    Yes he played an enourmouse part in developing respect in towerhamlets but that does not mean he owns it and can patent it. If Abjol had tried even with his excelent skills to argue for people to vote for an organisation like respect before the war he would not have been able to.

    There also another argument that was put when candidates were being selected for Couincil election in tower hamlets. The argument goes like this. It is mainly bengalis that are voting for respect so the candidates should be bengali, some even went on to argue that white SWP candidates should not leach off bengali votes. There are two problems here. Firsly if people feel SWP members should not be candidates in winnable seats because they are not “representative” fair enough appoint other white left candidates who are not SWP. For example when Abjol objected to John rees why did he not not propose Glyn Robbins or Carol Swords as replacements rather than Waise Islam who later defected to Labour. He argued that White canadidates could not win in Whitechapel, the sad thing about this is if people like Abjol had the politcal will and did not lose there bottle they could have elected more left wing bengali / white / somali etc candidates. These people need not have bween under SWP controle/ influence etc.

    On the part of the agument on whether white socialsit candidates can represent muslim residents please consider Micheal Lavelatte (SWP) who has been one of the more effective councillors respect has elected. He it could be argued in part played a part in developing the repect model before it was even invented by getting elected on a socialsit allance ticket.

  98. Teddy Boy on said:

    @118 Joseph

    Shortcoming or failings. John Rees has not made himself available to accountability. He and the SWP are putting themselves beyond questioning
    Most of us come from organisations that have good order rules and procedures that we adhere too.

    The SWP cc apparently only adhere to applying a kangaroo court whenever their members or anyone else have a different view from them and John Rees is Judge Roy Bean whenever it suits him or his SWP cc.

    The extension to his logic is we would be all be hanging from lamp posts if we challenged his omnipotence. He is a leader of a lynch mob.

  99. I quite like the idea of people going round the community in TH telling people that they are planning to stand in elections for their own selfish reasons. I don’t find this enourmously plausible I have to say. I also enjoyed the idea that SW is supposed to refer to the ‘two platforms’ in Respect when this is an idea I first heard yesterday from Ger (I don’t want to do my very own version of kreminology, it probably means nothing). Its also true that SW will tend to reflect the views of the SWP. Its our paper.

    On the Salma Yakoob/John Rees thing. All kinds of ways to read this. I’m sure its true that the SWP can sometimes be arrogant and insensitive. Its also true though that the SWP can sometimes be very sensitive and also, for that reason, very useful. Most activists know this. I’m pretty sure that that sort of duality is not unique to the SWP and also applies both to other organisations and other individuals. The key thing for me is not so much the question of whether or not a mistake was made, but whether the consequences were as dramatic as is being made out. This listing of horrors and final straws just seems a bit contrived to me.

    Sorry.

  100. muon (#119) said: But Salma’s actions that day in getting another Respect supporter (who was a big bloke) to physically prevent the two organisers from going into the meeting were an overreaction. Certainly the swp took this as being a very hostile act. I certainly think there was room for an argument about both the rights and wrongs of the meetings, and the swp’s opposition to it, but that was an occasion when Salma overreacted imo.

    But was it an overreaction? John Rees had sent the two organisers to undermine the meeting. It wasn’t a case of them disagreeing with a point of view that would be put in the meeting – rather, they were there because Rees didn’t agree with the meeting itself. Since Salma considered the meeting both highly sensitive and urgent, she had to calculate whether it was viable at all with this disruptive presence (I’m not saying the organisers would have started throwing chairs, but a few hostile interventions could easily have reduced many of those attending the meeting to silence). In this context, being prepared to bar the two organisers from the meeting was in all probability a condition for the meeting being viable – in which case there was no overreaction.

    In any case, I don’t think this should be too difficult to swallow for anyone who accepts the right of the SWP to remove disruptive members of the audience (quite rightly) from meetings that aren’t sensitive.

  101. Teddy Boy on said:

    If it was a “only for” meeting. Why don’t we respect that. Why, if John Rees thought it was so important, did he not send Muslim SWP members.

  102. Tariq Ramadan is well worth hearing speak, but I’d like to post an interesting account of a debate between him and a guy described as the Belgian Malcom X: http://www.tariqramadan.com/article.php3?id_article=601

    I have to say as a “rank and file” member of Respect my personal experience of John Rees has been positive. He is the only member of Respect’s leadership who has taken an interest in our branch and regularly visits and has generally been quite approachable and helpful.

    His concerns over the meeting that Salma was organising seem valid concerns.

    I also have to say that I worry that Ger, who I would presume is still a marxist, seems to have forgotten the trotskyist dictum that in a united front you work both with and against someone. He seems to raise no disagreement with any aspect of the politics of people like Salma Yaqoob.

    On the subject of Hizb-ut-Tahrir I actually have some respect for their activists I have met. While I think their ideology is a dead end, I think socialists can have a dialogue with them because they are people who are raging against the system and want an alternative society. I actually think that marxists could win many people who are attracted to islamist politics to their banner because we have a very hard analysis of imperialism and our politics are definitely not liberal or fluffy.

    While I have great respect for Salma Yaqoob, I think many of her ideas on integration, britishness are plain wrong, I don’t think would cut it with angry young muslims on the street, I think she should be more militant, I find it disappointing that after all this time she still doesn’t call or talk about socialism. There are many people who are muslim, christian and catholic who are quite willing to call themselelves socialist

  103. Teddy Boy, it’s already been established that non-Muslims weren’t banned from the meeting. Atheist comrades like digger were able to attend the meeting. The point was that the two organisers were being sent specifically to declare that they either didn’t recognise the legitimacy of the meeting at all, or opposed Salma’s participation in it. This meant that they were potentially disruptive, and even if they fell short of that, they could still render the meeting inviable.

  104. ‘John Rees had sent the two organisers to undermine the meeting.’

    This is the key point, and yet again, we are in ‘what if’ territory. (eg what if Nick Wrack had been allowed to be the organiser? – the swp say that there would have been yet more demands from the GG side and the screw would have turned further).
    I don’t think they intended to undermine the meeting, and in practice, faced with Moazzem begg and similar on the platform they would have been very measured in their approach. But we’ll never know will we.

  105. I was going to enter into a debate with Adam J, which in other circumstances I’d very much enjoy. But then I reminded myself that this whole discussion is not a discussion where we are trying to clarify for ourselves how to operate in this new terraine, but an attempt to argue that because there were these disagreements, we had to split the movement. So another time, another place Adam. You raise interesting points, although I’m not sure I agree.

  106. muon (#128) said: we are in ‘what if’ territory …
    I don’t think they intended to undermine the meeting…

    Since I can’t give a first-hand account, I’ll use the words of those who can in answer. First point, no-one on that night had a “right” to attend the meeting in the mosque:

    Birmingham Respect Member (#72) said: [John Rees] then instructed his 2 full time organisers to attempt to gain entry to the meeting even though they had been specifically told by Salma not to attend. Needless to say they were not allowed into the meeting. … Excluding the SWP organisers was the right thing to do. They had no right whatsoever to attend a meeting held by Muslims in their own mosque unless invited to do so – respect has to be earned and they forfeited it.

    Second, they had already entered the grounds of the mosque, and were told to leave on account of their behaviour (you’ll have to ask Ger to provide more details on this):

    Ger Francis (#71) said: Rees went nuts seeing it all as evidence of ‘separatism’, or what he would call today as ‘communalism’, and threatened that he, Andrew Murray and others would publicly denounce her. She didn’t take too kindly to being threatened and bullied and felt she was in a stronger place to gauge the mood of young Muslims in Sparkbrook post 7/7 than John Rees was sitting in his SWP HQ in London. So she went ahead in the face of SWP hostility. Because of their dumb ass sectarian behaviour on the night, the two SWP organizers were asked to leave the grounds of Central Mosque.

    As I’ve said before, I’ve had details provided from Salma Yaqoob’s side, whereas I only got stonewalling when I raised the matter with an SWP CC/Respect NC member who was at an SWP meeting that was called specifically as “a free and frank” discussion of Respect (June 2007).

  107. Right, babeuf, let’s see if I have you right. The meeting did not bar non-Muslims, but the SWP organisers couldn’t attend because they were non-Muslims who hadn’t been invited? That doesn’t seem to make any sense? Are you sure you’re not a dialectician?

  108. Teddy Boy on said:

    Babeuf Thanks for enlighten me. I always stand to be corrected. However in this quagmire created by John Rees, and the SWP cc. Its so easy to get out of sync.

    Can I say Babuef, many members like me, working class, anti war, anti privatisation, are abhorred by New labour policies, see RR as the bridge to a better life and we are fair scunnered at John Rees and the SWP cc.
    I have many friends within that org and his undemocratic actions now makes it difficult to have a working relationship with in the future.
    I had no formal education as a matter of fact I have been in care situations all my life. I could not read or write until I was 13/14. in the 40’s it was residentials homes with no educational facilities.
    I do get pissed off with the most high faluting discussion in this blog but I try and glean something out of it.
    I try and put over a Trade Union and labour movement view about sticking to the rule book,
    I am not alone. Please stand up for democracy and fair play
    Think of the many who are not accustomed to intellectual debate

  109. ‘Second, they had already entered the grounds of the mosque, and were told to leave on account of their behaviour’

    Every account of these events i’ve heard before says that the decision to exclude was taken before the meeting. Never heard anything about any behaviour on the night. I’d be very dubious about any details suddenly ‘remmembered’ two years on.

  110. Give us a shout, Teddy, when RR has the democracy you stand up for.

    Particularly interested in the idea of accountability. That’s to say, first, are delegates elected or appointed? Do these delegates go to conferences that decide things? Do they choose a central committee or is that voted on by the whole membership? What happens in between conferences? Who decides on policy in between conferences? If your delegate or representative or ‘people’s representative’ (ie MP or local councillor) doesn’t stick to what the representative body of the organisation thinks he or she should do, what happens then? Is it possible to withdraw delegates and/or representatives from their positions? How?

  111. I have many friends within that org and his undemocratic actions now makes it difficult to have a working relationship with in the future.

    I think this is one of the stranger ideas involved in this dispute – that one side can claim a monopoly on ethics. Rees, who is much maligned, at least has a political analysis of what is happening to Respect. It is superior in every sense to the “SWP-wants-to-control-everyone” meme, that people who ought to know better are passing around. Yet, the latter is all that George Galloway and others can muster in their analysis. They can’t make sense of it without recourse to this Pythonesque caricature.

    I think that indicates a serious intellectual and political degeneration, possibly only temporary, due to the disorienting effect of such a painful split.

  112. That’s a superb summary of my argument, and so I henceforth renounce Galloway and all his works.

    Well, I did try to read it as generously as possible, and whichever way you look at your argument, you gainsay yourself when you claim that the meeting was not closed to non-Muslims but that these particular non-Muslims couldn’t attend because they were infringing on a Muslim event. When you claim that Salma had instructed these individuals not to attend (they may have felt that they had a right to do so, being members of Respect), and then add that they were only kicked out because of their ‘behaviour’ (so far hinted at ominously but not elaborated), you again contradict yourself.

  113. A decision to exclude SWP organisers from a meeting because it was thought that there was a good case for believing they would be insensitive and that such insensitivity would prevent a better and more useful discussion (people might not speak) has somehow been transformed into the allegation that ‘the swp organisers were excluded from the mosque because of their behaviour’.

    It transforms what was undoubtably a pretty damaging argument about which much could be said, into something quite different and a good deal more shocking. What it also does, interestingly, is remove all political agency in this argument from one side of the dispute. People will walk away thinking ‘a meeting was held in a mosque, and swp members turned up and behaved so badly they had to be excluded’. Actually it seems swp members turned up, went in, and behaved pretty well, whilst a decision was taken before the meeting by Salma and others that the SWP organisers should be excluded, because of John Ree’s hostility to calling the meeting. A bit of a different story really.

    I’m not sure if this is just the logic of how blogdom works, or if this is by design. But it sure as hell demonstrates that anyone reading about all of this should be very careful about drawing conclusions simply on the basis of reading these discussions.

  114. Teddy Boy on said:

    # 136 Michael Rosen
    From the August proposals by GG,its John Rees and the SWP cc only that have caused “a them or us” By usurping the cac. So you give me a shout, something like FOUL!!! will do. Get used to it. spoiler

  115. Mike (#136), I attempted to answer a very similar question of yours in detail a couple of days ago:

    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=1075#comment-17495

    but your reply simply didn’t acknowledge what I’d said. Now you return to this again.

    Have you read the SWP’s Internal Bulletin 2? If you do, you might reconsider whether unconditional support for the line of the current CC (and unyielding denigration of their “enemies”) is really the same as supporting the SWP. The political tradition of the SWP – which I believe you value highly – is bigger than a set of individuals at a particular juncture in its history.

  116. johng (#140), you’ve plenty of arguments to draw upon in comments #71, 72, 123, 132 and others. You’re not doing yourself any service reducing all of this to one point that I’ve already said you’ll have to ask Ger Francis about (or Birmingham Mosque). The infantile spig has cornered the market in this – you can do much better.

  117. Teddy Boy on said:

    Spig this political analysis of Rees it is not revelant or has any bearing to the actual events. Its a smokescreen. He has remained dumb about his undemocratic actions. When will you admit it he has done a runner

  118. babeuf, I got the point about Spring 2008. Aren’t you a teeny bit concerned that leftwing democracy has to wait six months to get going? And though the post you’ve referred me to is really interesting, it doesn’t seem to address the matter of what a leftwing organisation ‘does’ with its public representatives. Do they have special status? Do they by right sit on the organisation’s CC? Do they have more, less or the same say in decision making as anyone else? Can they as individuals take decisions on their own – ie as representatives/delegates mandated by the public? or are they directly answerable to the organisation?

    Obviously, you don’t have to answer any of these questions. I’m only putting them in the form of questions as a way of raising them as matters that much concern any leftwing organisation. Sorry that Teddy B. assumes I’m a ‘spoiler’. Bemused as to why I seem to be the only one who keeps raising these really tedious procedural questions, but to tell the truth, I don’t see the point of any leftwing organisation that isn’t trying to grapple with these. I can see an enormous amount of grappling going on on these pages, but it’s mostly to do with who said what and when and why.

  119. Ger Francis on said:

    It is disappointingly predictable the way most SWP bloggers on this site allow defensiveness and self censorship to overpower their ability to self-criticise, acknowledge mistakes, and learn from them. In keeping with his role on this site, Johng just can’t help himself from playing the SWP’s attorney and trawling over the entrails of the meeting while avoiding the politics in his latest quest to defend the indefensible. It is difficult to have anything other than contempt for those prepared to consistently debase themselves out of a understanding of party loyalty that firmly belongs in the stalinist tradition.

    I was centrally involved in the organisation of the mosque meeting. It was aimed at a Muslim audience. It was expected a small number of non-Muslims would attend. When relations with the SWP deteriorated and concerns grew about their behaviour they were asked to respect the wishes of Salma and not attend. The same request was made of the Socialist Resistance people, who in fairness to them, had not been engaged in any debate around this, but respected the request anyway. We expected the SWP to behave likewise. There was no security on the door preventing people from going in. Some non-Muslims, totally unaware of the behind the scenes stuff, turned up and walked in. At least one SWP non-Muslim member totally aware of the request turned up and walked in anyway. Most SWP members respected the request. The two SWP organisers ignored the request in the most provocative way and harangued Salma on her way into the meeting. They were escorted off the premises.

  120. Michael Rosen is raising some key points for Respect Renewal, which if not properly and patiently addressed will mean all the undemocratic malpractices of one organisation will just end up being transferred to another.

    I am sure however that MIchael is aware that the last few months have been pretty torrid for all concerned. Splits, denunciations, expulsions, resignations these take time to recover from. I would suggest that thise in both SWP-Respect and RespectRenewal now accept that they are in two entirely separate organisations. For the sake of all concerned I just hope the name issue is settled as quickly as possible.

    As a RespectRenewal supporter I would very much want us to then start out organising in a way which reflects our broad values, this will be very different to SWP-Respect. In particular the new formation needs to be pluralist, participative, practicve a prefigurative politics and be a pleasure to be a member of (the latter is a feature unfamiliar to members of most pre-existing left parties). I would argue that if we can develop these core values then the organisational forms will then follow.

    Your questions are key, taking time to find the answers dosen’t in any sense diminish their importance. As for SWP-Respect you will be tested too I’m sure by your own supporters, continue as a narrow coalition in which the central component consistentlly prioritises building its own organisation and RespectRenewal will very soon be the more popular, and effective choice. Time will tell.

  121. Ger seems to be self-censoring much of the time. There are points when s/he appears to be saying something, but then holds back. S/he hints at relations with the SWP ‘deteriorating’, but no indication of why this should be so. Concerns about their alleged “behaviour” are not explained. The only thing that really seems to matter is that Salma expressed a wish, and the SWP didn’t defer to it. So, having failed to showe adequate deference before the meeting, they behaved “provocatively” during it, although we are not allowed to know in what way this is the case. And then were (ahem) “escorted off the premises”.

    This garbled language is itself firmly in the Stalinist tradition of smear, insinuation, and (apparently) defense of the indefensible.

  122. Ger’s comments are interesting: He now says that not only the SWP were banned, but Socialist Resistance were banned from a meeting he was organising! In effect, he was saying that all socialists were banned but a few didnt realise and turned up on the night. This is truly incredible. While you wouldn’t want socialists to turn up “en-masse” I’m sure most comrades involved in the anti-war movement would have acted in an appropriate way at someone elses event

    This is quite incredible. As secretary of my local anti-war group, I have visited mosques and built up a good relationship that means I have been invited to predominantly muslim events such as the Iftar recently. It certainly is a problem if Respect’s most high profile figure in Birmingham bans all socialists from attending mosque events.

  123. I would suggest that thise in both SWP-Respect and RespectRenewal now accept that they are in two entirely separate organisations. For the sake of all concerned I just hope the name issue is settled as quickly as possible.

    But, then, why don’t the Renewal guys stop pretending they’re a ‘platform’ within Respect? Why don’t they simply update their website from time to time, and alert people to the fact that they intend to create a new membership organisation based on their rally, with a structure settled by Spring 2008?

  124. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Adam J:

    1. Socialist Resistance were not “banned”. As Ger said they were requested not to attend, and respected that request. They were willing to engage in a discussion about it, and understood the reason for the request.

    2. Secondly, just read back what you wrote: “As secretary of my local anti-war group, I have visited mosques and built up a good relationship that means I have been invited to predominantly muslim events such as the Iftar recently.” EXACTLY – you have built up a good relationship that means you get invited. Try treating people with disrespect and arrogance, and see how quickly that relationship deteriorates.

    3. There is nothing in this discussion to support your absurd conclusion that “Respect’s most high profile figure in Birmingham bans all socialists from attending mosque events”.

  125. Do I have a “role” on this site? Wasn’t aware of one. Its also true that if there is a dispute, finding out what actually happened is not in my view, by definition, a practice which belongs in the ‘Stalinist’ tradition.

  126. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    By going over and over the tiniest questions of detail about the Birmingham mosque meeting we are in danger of not seeing the wood for the trees. If you have little appreciation of the context, then you will not understand why the SWP organisers were excluded.

    Few people seem to grasp just how sensitive this meeting was. There was a great deal of fear and tension among Muslims in the immediate period after the 7/7 bombings. Reactionary sectarian currents were intervening among youth in the area, and there was a real possibility of them intervening into this meeting in a way that could have done enormous damage. The meeting was aimed at tackling this type of politics head on. The platform for the meeting was controversial in itself – stretching from Tariq Ramadan (whose reformist interpretations of Islam are not universally popular) to individuals who openly talked of their previous jihadist activities. I hope I don’t need to spell out in any more detail the risks of a meeting like this in the immediate aftermath of 7/7.

    People seem to be struggling to understand the gravity of this situation. Salma really went out on a limb over this meeting. She was not a councillor at the time – and there is not a lot of precedence within the Muslim community for a woman placing herself in such an exposed leadership position. It was a brave and audacious initiative. It could easily have backfired.

    In that context, the SWP’s blundering tactics were astonishingly ill conceived (to put it mildly). And, once again, they inflicted upon themselves a completely unnecessary wound.

    Fortunately, Salma’s judgement was proved correct. The meeting was extremely successful, and strongly re-inforced the appeal of the anti-war movement as a political vehicle for dissent uniting Muslims and non-Muslims. But it is no surprise that a great deal of damage was done in terms of relations between the SWP and Salma.

  127. Few people seem to grasp just how sensitive this meeting was.

    Well, that part is clear enough. And we can all agree that the meeting was necessary. But I missed a part of the syllogism – the part where the sensitivity of the meeting means that socialists shouldn’t be present. There’s a missing stipulation somewhere here.

    There are also the usual assertion without any clarification – you describe the SWP’s “blundering tactics”, but offer no elucidation. I guess they wanted to be present at a meeting to make a particular kind of argument and show solidarity. This could be a blunder, but you haven’t explained how.

    Why is it that everyone continually neglects details and important parts of the argument? I think if you want to win people over, you have to be crystal clear about your meaning.

  128. Elephant in the room on said:

    There has been much discussion of accountability of the SWP within Respect. Can I ask who George Galloway thought he was responsible to in Respect? And as Michael Rosen points out who will the MP be responsible to now in RR?
    Everywhere Galloway has operated he has left behind more enemies than friends. In Respect he seems to be behaving true to form.

  129. On 16th November, Michael Rosen wrote:

    “I really think it is pointless to keep imagining that there is some special kind of tinkering with what this or that group should do that will provide the magic formula that can turn these hundreds of thousands into some kind of mass party IN THE PRESENT TIME. All you can do is to have an organisation capable of producing theory, helping and initiating the single issue campaigns, keeping up the production of books, newspapers, leaflets, being productive about ways of creating alliances. That in itself requires immense effort and self-sacrifice and of course people get tired and disillusioned. I really don’t think that is necessarily or even mainly the fault of the organisation(s). It derives much more importantly from the outlook of people in the present time in this country. This is not to write them off, it is not to give up on socialist ideas, or the prospect of creating a better society. Precisely the opposite. It’s holding to those hopes but being realistic and patient about them. We live here in a time when capitalism appears to deliver the majority of people a reasonable standard of living. The fact that in order to do so it needs to wage wars and wreck the planet doesn’t impact all the time or necessarily very deeply – YET. Things will change. What is going on is not sustainable forever. What is important is to keep the ideas and activity going. The exact form of that activity is less important than the act of doing it. To imagine that the exact form and finding the exact form is the answer to the present impasse, is I’m sure, an illusion.”

    On 22nd November, Michael Rosen wrote:

    “are delegates elected or appointed? Do these delegates go to conferences that decide things? Do they choose a central committee or is that voted on by the whole membership? What happens in between conferences? Who decides on policy in between conferences? If your delegate or representative or ‘people’s representative’ (ie MP or local councillor) doesn’t stick to what the representative body of the organisation thinks he or she should do, what happens then? Is it possible to withdraw delegates and/or representatives from their positions? How?”

    All important questions, but – as Mark P says – that doesn’t mean they’ve got to be answered before we can go anywhere. On the contrary, as Michael says, What is important is to keep the ideas and activity going. The exact form of that activity is less important than the act of doing it. To imagine that the exact form and finding the exact form is the answer to the present impasse, is I’m sure, an illusion.

  130. Spig

    but some socialists were present at the meeting.

    Clearly the SWP were not intending to attend the meeting just to show solidarity, as you put it, becasue JOhn Rees opposed the meeting taking place at all.

  131. “I actually think that marxists could win many people who are attracted to islamist politics”

    Am I the only one who finds such comments utterly patronising about the sincerity of religious beliefs that such people have?

  132. Ger Francis on said:

    Post 154. The meeting was aimed at Muslims, conducted in an Islamic discourse. The SWP were deeply hostile to it, and gave every indication they would express that hostility in the meeting. There was real fear a crass intervention from them would play into the hands of religious sectarians present. The SWP did nothing to alley those fears, in fact the actions of their organisers under instructions from Rees, increased them. We lost all confidence in their political judgement and how the organisers would conduct themselves. In view of the sensitivity of the meeting it was viewed that their participation was a risk not worth taking. The success of the meeting vindicated that call.

    The political issue that SWP defenders want to avoid is this: do black and Asian people have the right to self-organisation? If so, when they exercise that right, should white people respect that right? My answer to both, is yes. And if there are disagreements in relation to the tactics they must be conducted in a fraternal and respectful way. The problem with the Rees is that he thought he could relate to Salma as if she was one of his minions. And when that didn’t work he tired some threats and bullying. Well, that was never going to work either.

  133. I can remember the aftermath of 7/11 as well, and the different kinds of hard arguments that had to be had and how frightening it was. Thats because I work a couple of hundred yards from one of the explosions. I certainly would not rule out the possibility that the SWP was mistaken about the import of this particular meeting (I am in no position to judge). But what seems to have happened is that we objected to a meeting which officially called for Socialists not to attend (perhaps seeing this as establishing a prescedent of some kind). Like I said could have been right could have been wrong. But one of the comments above suggests that Salma was not yet counciler. So we’ve had an entire subsequent history of political success in Respect in Birmingham, and as an SWP member, I felt tremendously proud of knowing that Salma was a counciler. Whatever relations between leaders or indeed political differences and tensions, I would surely have been aware somewhat earlier if there was some kind of a sustained campaign against Salma? I would also add that whilst I value very highly the kind of work Salma carried out in the aftermath of 7/11 there was lots of other work carried out as well, in a variety of different and difficult situations. I can’t really see how a row that happened a couple of years ago invalidates all that.

  134. phil, you’re quite right to spot a contradiction in what I was saying. Excellent. Now for the explanation. What I was trying to say about the ‘exact form’ was that Respect had a structure and a form. The SWP and other left groups adopt some version or other of democratic centralism. When splits occur, quite often there are complaints about eg leadership, behaviour of general secretaries, central committees etc. So does this mean that the democratic stuctures so far adopted by left of labour organisations are no good? that they can be corrupted? Do central committees and/or delegates and/or representatives start off by being accountable but then start to become less accountable? In my first para, you quote, I was trying to suggest (perhaps wrongly) that the perms and comms of what kind of organisation to have have already been invented haven’t they, so let’s get on with the activity. Perhaps I’m wrong and some new uber-democratic setup will emerge in either or both organisations. I’m backing the one with the structures in place, and which haven’t (to my mind) to be shown to be at fault. I have yet to see someone show me that either the branch, regional or national or ‘public representative’ procedures were at fault. I have of course read stuff about claims that people didn’t abide by procedures, in which case, the issue is accountability, isn’t it? If you don’t abide by procedures, you have a choice: start abiding by them, try to change the procedures democratically, or leave. That’s what’s happened isn’t it?

    If people start up a new organisation, but seem (to me) only to be objecting about personnel, then this sounds to me like people not being able to work within the organisational framework ie not prepared to argue within the structures created for the purpose. So, my questions remain about what are the alternatives?

  135. the digger on said:

    Cos of my age and the mists of time my recollection of the meeting might not be 100% but I would like to make a number of points.

    1. It was a public meeting with leaflets widely circulated.

    2. It was clearly aimed at Muslims but did not state it was a Muslim only meeting.

    3. No SWP organisers were given instructions to attend or disrupt.

    4. John Rees was accountable to the NC and Officers Group, and Salma is on both.

    5. By Salma’s account John only rang her a couple of times after the meeting, Salma does not state if she ever rang John, but it would appear not and the debate over the meeting appears to have created a frosty relationship between them. I know on this blog this must be all Johns fault, but I take the view it takes two to tango.

    6. Does everone in a broad movement have to be great friends. I think good relationships help but as Tony and Gordon have shown if you have a similar political stance it is not crucial.

    7. Such issues are not a basis for a split.

  136. My comment, “I actually think that marxists could win many people who are attracted to islamist politics” was described as patronising to those of religious belief.
    I didn’t mean it to be!
    For a few years in my youth I became very seriously religious going to the Catholic Church every day. Oddly, I have always seen my past interest in religion and current revolutionary politics as being entwined in a strange way as arising from a deep sense of alienation and disatisfaction with the world as it is. I wanted to feel a sense of transcendence, of genuine community and togetherness, that life had a purpose, that human beings had value and dignity. I couldn’t believe that the nine-to-five nightmare was all that there was to life.
    However, I wasn’t talking about peoples religious beliefs but more the political ideas and strategies that these people want to pursue. I think that the ideas of seeing class as a key divide in society, workers control, a marxist analysis of imperialism, marx’s denunciation of the idol of money etc. are ones that would resonate with many people attracted to islamist politics.
    I’m not the first to note this axis. Terry Eagleton started off as a radical catholic and later joined the International Socialists, recently he quipped the good thing about the transition from Catholicism and Marxism was that it meant that you can skip Liberalism. He also said the route from the tridentine mass to trotskyism was more straightforward than many believed and expressed how both the philosophy of Thomism and Marxism appealed to him because of they were “total” philosophies and systems.
    Some people might find this a peculiar thing to say, but some of the people I have met in very militant islamic organisations in the UK have more affinity in their temperament with the radical left than with left-liberalism and certainly are inspired by a deep loathing of the world as it is and hate the existing set-up. I don’t agree with their solutions but I share their rage!

  137. Comment No. 158 – “I actually think that marxists could win many people who are attracted to islamist politics”
    Am I the only one who finds such comments utterly patronising about the sincerity of religious beliefs that such people have?

    Well I suppose it depends on whether you make a difference between Islam and Islamist politics. Supporting Islamist politics doesn’t necessarily have to have a lot to do with religion as such, but more about politics. And ‘winning’ these people to some kind of socialism doesn’t have to involve them abandoning their religious beliefs.

  138. Digger #162:

    5. By Salma’s account John only rang her a couple of times after the meeting, Salma does not state if she ever rang John, but it would appear not and the debate over the meeting appears to have created a frosty relationship between them. I know on this blog this must be all Johns fault, but I take the view it takes two to tango.

    Was JOhn Rees the national secretary? Surely there is no symmetry then. It was his job to ring Salma.

  139. Ger Francis on said:

    Johng: ‘I would surely have been aware somewhat earlier if there was some kind of a sustained campaign against Salma?’

    Well, the fact Rees broke contact with Salma from that time should tell you something! I raised all these issues when inside the SWP. Both myself and Salma wrote to the CC expressing our concerns. I spoke to Martin Smith directly about them. Despite this they did nothing to bring these concerns to the attention of their own membership, which they should have. Unfortunately, they were helped in this regard by a very supine cadre in Birmingham.

  140. Tell the Truth on said:

    John the party built no independent dialogue with Salma. If it had it would have been clear that a meeting in the Mosque of her network had nothing to do with the party, it was her meeting not a Respect meeting.Why the fuss – did we get anxious that Muslims were self-organising independtly – it is their right to do so. Come on Helen and Pete tell the truth you built no relations with her and now seek to blame other individuals for your mistakes which has now been escalated to the debate on the above. If you are now saying that the meeting was wrong on a principle waht are these then? it was not a Respect meeting yes or no?

  141. Point 7 by Digger is the crucial one. Its also true that, just reflecting on this argument for a moment, and putting it in larger context, whatever went wrong in relationships between leaderships, at the national level both SWP members and non-SWP members in Respect and in the StW coalition (after all in those days the divide between these things wasn’t absolute, and we’re all a bit worried about these things, because, outside the loonier sectarians living vicariously off all this, every single one of us who is concerned about Respect is also concerned about the StW coalition) played an absolutely crucial role in moving very quickly, in very difficult circumstances, to defuse the backlash after 7/11. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what sounds to me like a pretty unpleasent argument in Birmingham, it strikes me that every single person on either side of this dispute has much to feel proud about in this respect. At all levels of the movement people moved and it made an enourmous difference. Despite our differences we all collectively did much to make sure that the right were not able to go onto the kind of offensive they wanted. Tough days but crucial ones.

    Secondly however, and I really don’t want to sound small minded (and this is not intended to be a small minded point) despite the backdrop of these arguments and all the bitterness that has accrued about this (I only found out anything about any tensions after the selection debate and that bit in SW and remember just feeling a bit disquieted about it. I only found out last week about what we’re discussing now), subsequent to this falling out and the frosty relations, SWP members across the region mobilised to help get Salma elected (which would be absolutely no more then would be expected). All components of Respect played a role in our successes, but I also suspect, that all components must take a measure of responsibility for the things that went wrong. But in saying that you have to ask yourself if the things that went wrong were actually worth the cost of this split.

    I think thats what the divide between us is really all about. I don’t think it was. Time will tell.

  142. Having met the aforementioned Pete a few times in passing, I’m sure he wouldn’t have gone all AWL at the meeting and denounced the organisers or been so crass, I suspect he would have diplomatically presented his own analysis without criticising anyone. Anyway count yourself lucky, the local minions here actually got me driven out of an organisation I had done more than anyone else to build and replaced me with a clapped out stalinist!
    I’ve only been to Birmingham once so can’t comment on these intricate debates but I do see Mr Rees’s point.
    Ger talks of “dodgy theology”. Well it is quite understandable that believers want to arm their members with the theological answers to the fundamentalists – but I don’t actually think that the solution to young Muslims and sympathy to terrorism takes place on this plane.
    For a start, it re-inforces the idea that terrorism is rooted WITHIN the muslim community rather than realated to wider issues in society.
    Secondly, can you imagine in the 1970s trying to respond to young Catholics in Ireland or Mainland Britain sympathetic to terrorism with a discussion of theology? Everyone recognised that these were political not religious issues and one of the problems is much of the ideological leadership of UK Muslims has bought into the idea that this is a problem of the Muslim community and also seem obsessed with the (understandable) need to prove that they are good subjects, British etc. rather than adopting the defiant maxim of the Asian Youth Movement I quoted earlier, “Here to stay! Here to fight!” and asking integration? Integrate into WHAT? On whose terms? On what basis? And saying we don’t want to integrate into society but change it.
    As I see it this question of 7/7 is answered by talking about imperialism, war, analysing racism as a divide and rule strategy used by our ruling class, building alliances across communities, talking about the issue of Class WITHIN the muslim community.
    There’s nothing wrong with Salma wanting to organising an event aimed at her own community, but it would have been good if she (as a member of Respect) used this as part of a strategy to build an event that directly linked terrorism to British foreign policy.
    From what I have seen, Salma Yaqoob seems to support the idea of “Britishness” and “integration”, this might resonate with Middle Class muslims but I prefer the Malcolm X approach

  143. Adam: I prefer the Malcolm X approach

    That would be the malcom X who wouldn’t let “white devils” into meetings????

    Malcolm X interviewed in 1963:

    LOMAX: And you will continue to preach separation from the white man?

    MALCOLM X: Yes, sir.

    LOMAX: Just a moment, if I may, Minister Malcolm. Now, you talk about separation from the white man.

    MALCOLM X: Yes, sir.

    LOMAX: You even take it so far as to suggest that we shouldn’t even get on airplanes and ships with white people. Am I correct in that?

    MALCOLM X: Yes, sir, on the whole. Yes.

    Honestely, how can anyone take seriously the arguments from white leftists who have been asked not to go to a meeting of a self-organised oppressed minority, and then whine “but I’m on your side”

    The point about self-organisation is THEY decide, and if we recognise their right to self-organisation then we abide by it, without complaining.

    This was not an SWP meeting, This was not a Respect meeting. You had no entitlement to be there unless you were invited, and it speaks volumes of you attitude that you feel aggreived that you were not autmoaticaly entited to take part.

    get over it.

  144. I kind of agree with Adam J on this but also don’t think such debates or differences should be raised to the plane of making or breaking political alliances. Have to admit I quite enjoyed Salma going on about Britishness on Question Time, especially the perplexed look on establishment politician’s faces when she suddenly started going on about the Magna Carta (I also very much enjoyed the deft way she handled the Galloway question: a ‘phew’ I remember). The integration thing was what worried me at the time about the Tariq article but I’ve got nothing in principle against debates about theology, whilst understanding that this is not the main reason we’ve got a problem. I would argue that great care should be taken to ensure that these arguments take place across the movement and not just in particular places, but again, all sorts of qualifications.

    I always rather enjoyed the fact that there were these different approaches to think about, and enjoyed the broad variety of positions emerging within the movement and the kinds of arguments which ensued. The traditional left was all the better for it, but also, I think, this was a two way process. I don’t really think, whatever the frostiness between leaders, that this underlay the way these tensions sharpened beyond breaking point (have to admit as well that I am a bit irritated by having to hear about all this leadership business. Its not why I became a Socialist).

    I think this has much more to do with the objective situation we found ourselves in, where differences which could have been accomadated within a growing and expanding movement, ossified. I also think there was a growing feeling of tiredness and frustration about that objective situation. frankly not greatly helped by the stranger and stranger behaviour of a person who ought to have been our ace in the hole. I’d advise those familiar with the Leninist tradition to keep a stone in their sling. I don’t think blaming the SWP for all this is either justified or likely to be helpful. People won’t agree but I think there is an odd kind of displacement going on here.

  145. Ger Francis on said:

    ‘There’s nothing wrong with Salma wanting to organising an event aimed at her own community, but it would have been good if she (as a member of Respect) used this as part of a strategy to build an event that directly linked terrorism to British foreign policy.’

    She did. Read the accounts of the meeting from SWP and non-SWP alike: it was a powerful call to harness anger at foreign policy into the anti-war movement by working alongside non-Muslims.

    ”dodgy theology…re-inforces the idea that terrorism is rooted WITHIN the muslim community rather than realated to wider issues in society’.

    No it doesn’t. It acknowledges the reality that some are drawn to terrorism by distorerted readings of Islam, given purchase in a climate heightened by war and occuaption in the Middle East. Read her Guardian article again, it is clearly stated.

  146. Malcolm X is very inspiring but if I had been working in the same organisation as him I’m sure there would have been arguments. And, in addition, so far as I know, Salma Yakoob is not Malcolm X. In a good way. There are different ways of being a white liberal Andy, and your suspiciously sounding like a white liberal on a different parrallel track.

  147. John G

    At least half the time I have no idea what you mean.

    For example: “I’d advise those familiar with the Leninist tradition to keep a stone in their sling. I don’t think blaming the SWP for all this is either justified or likely to be helpful. People won’t agree but I think there is an odd kind of displacement going on here.”

    You seem to specialise in cryptic ambiguity in a sort of passive- agressive way.

  148. Actually it was very silly to quote Malcolm X in a discussion of integration. He once quipped while pouring cream into his coffee – “Coffee! The ONLY thing I like integrated!”. But he did move on from this narrow Black nationalism – I would say more, but Kevin Ovenden might turn up on this thread any minute! Suffice to say that Andy’s quote doesn’t represent Malcolm in his last year.

    I was just thinking of when Malcom criticised Martin Luther King’s powerful vision of Black people integrating into America with comments like “American Dream? I see an American nightmare” and “American? Your not an American – you’re a victim of America”.

    I loved it when the AL-Muharijoun guys used to chant “UK! Go to Hell!” it showed a healthy anti-patriotic sentiment.

  149. Teddy Boy on said:

    Andy, do you know the geographical spread and biographical details of “the unconstitutional nc”

  150. stone in sling. a well known phrase for those familiar with Cliff’s volume on Lenin. And intended for them in cryptic Russian doll style. I would just remember the old adage that if you watch someone fuck someone else over, do not be at all surprised if they later do it to you.

  151. Passive/Aggressive? Moi? I really think, perhaps, and maybe, you may be mistaken but, you know, don’t let it worry you, I certainly don’t mind etc.

  152. My information is now leaning towards the higher end estimate of SWP membership. At least 27 SWP members out of 45.

    many of the remaining 18 are VERY close to the SWP.

    I have no intention of “outing” individuals, but I am sure that the SWP will publish at least the geographical spread of the “NC members” of “I can’t believe its not Respect” some time soon.

  153. JOhn G – on Cliff.

    Worth reading again Chapter five, on the 1903 split after the London congress, page 98 onwards in the 1975 edition.

  154. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Adam J: Where to start…..

    1. “There’s nothing wrong with Salma wanting to organising an event aimed at her own community, but it would have been good if she (as a member of Respect) used this as part of a strategy to build an event that directly linked terrorism to British foreign policy.”

    Just ignorance. Firstly, her speech covered all these points. Secondly, Stop the War held a packed meeting the following week covering all of this. Thirdly, doesn’t your grandmother need to be taught how to suck eggs?

    2.”From what I have seen, Salma Yaqoob seems to support the idea of “Britishness” and “integration”, this might resonate with Middle Class muslims but I prefer the Malcolm X approach”

    Ridiculous. You cannot distinguish between the Gordon Brown offensive against multi culturalism under the guise of imposing a fake British identity, and Salma’s rather clever subversion of this notion as she did on Question Time. Or the innumerable references in her published articles both defending the right of minorities to their own culture and lifestyle, and her integration of this with a staunch defence of unity on the basis of common struggle. Muslims are continually painted as ‘outsiders’ or the ‘enemy within’ and pointing out the actual ‘integration’ of Muslims into British society (with the anti-war movement cited constantly by Salma as the shining example), is necessary and principled.

    3. “I loved it when the AL-Muharijoun guys used to chant “UK! Go to Hell!” it showed a healthy anti-patriotic sentiment.”

    Absurd and dangerous ultra-left rubbish. Carried away by the words, and no consideration of their meaning or effect. There is nothing “healthy” about their ‘anti-patriotic’ sentiment. It goes hand in hand with their absolute rejection of working with non-Muslims. It is a provocation and an attempt to pit Muslims against non-Muslims. It would be disastrous to fall into their trap.

  155. The idea that Respect stopped a backlash after 7/7 is complete nonsense. On the contrary, you people thought it was going to be another Spain where the public lashed out against the government. That’s why Galloway famously misread the mood of the country by trying to blame the bomb’s on Blair in its aftermath; you were all utterly astonished that Blair’s popularity actually went up instead of down, leaving you in despair.

    That is also why you latched onto the Menezes incident with such vigour a few weeks later in a desperate attempt to try to whip up some anger againt the state.

  156. Does anyone else find it ironic that Tonyc is bitching about the comments policy on lenin’s tomb?

    Tony is the person who begged lenin to start deleting people’s comments in the first place, and even convinced lenin that he should become a moderator.

    Now you know how it feels Tony, you big hypocrite. You started it.

  157. yeah we ‘latched onto’ the idea that the police shooting people and then telling lies about them was out of order. Classy, classy stuff James. What we all did, collectively, was to ensure that people like you would spend the rest of your lives getting nastier and more isolated and trolling on blogs like this.

  158. Strangely enough I tend to agree with Birmingham on the above points. Which is what makes all this a bit dispiriting (not a put down of Adam J by the way, despite calling me the Yoda of the left…whose Yoda?).

  159. Its not entirely true about Tonyc. He’s a bit of a softie really. Which is why its all the sadder that I’m going to have to kill him.

  160. George Galloway was demonised for his comments on 7/7 but a week later opinion polls showed that 86% of the UK public thought that their was a link between British foreign policy and terrorism. If Ken Livingstone, Labour Left MPs and Nationalist MPs had all had the guts to say the same thing, the debate in the media would have shifted away from a debate on Muslims and put real pressure onto Blair. In fact, changing UK foreign policy is the best way to stop terrorism.

    To Birmingham Respect Member: Firstly, I am criticising Salma Yaqoob as someone who would like to be in the same political party as her. I have a great deal of respect for her.

    Nobody would argue that Salma Yaqoob and Gordon Brown mean the same thing when they talk about Britishness, but the real way to undercut Brown’s talk of integration and Britishness is not to adopt their language but rather talk about issues of class, power etc. It is precisely because the Middle Class leadership of the Muslim community pander to ruling class ideology that organisations like Al-Muhajiroun can get a hearing, they tap into a genuine sense of disaffection and alienation felt by Muslim young people.

  161. Talking of George, do people think he is in general, (past, present and future) someone who wants to be accountable to an organisation, or will he be someone who any organisation will have to make exceptions for, on account of the impact he has through speeches, radio etc?

  162. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Adam J: OK, fraternal criticism is a lot better than the alternative, and we can all learn from it.

    But try to base it on the facts.

    For example, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4698963.stm for a report of Ken Livingstone’s comments to the Today Programme on 20 July 2005, including this:

    “Mr Livingstone was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme what he thought had motivated the bombers. He replied: ‘I think you’ve just had 80 years of western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the western need for oil. We’ve propped up unsavoury governments, we’ve overthrown ones we didn’t consider sympathetic’…He also denounced ‘those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy, as we have occasionally seen with the Israeli government bombing areas from which a terrorist group will have come, irrespective of the casualties it inflicts, women, children and men’…He continued: ‘Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves.”

    George Galloway was probably the first to come out and say this, but I don’t think he was alone.

  163. Kent&CanterburyDan on said:

    “Talking of George, do people think he is in general, (past, present and future) someone who wants to be accountable to an organisation, or will he be someone who any organisation will have to make exceptions for, on account of the impact he has through speeches, radio etc?”

    I think you’ll find the second statement is true. George is a maverick and always will be.

  164. Oh I don’t know. I agree a bit with AdamJ as well (although I would say that Salma does in fact quite often speak about issues of class and poverty as well). Its not only TonyC that is a bit of a softee I suppose. My main point would be that none of these things are arguments to split a movement like Respect over. But, Mike’s question is quite an important one, because for all the talk of democracy and pluralism, there is not a lot of evidence so far, that, other then saying warm and nice things, there will be much room to speak about accountability of leaders to the members inside Respect Renewal. Aside from the lack of any constitutional arrangements almost all of the discussion really reflects frustrations of other leaders and an attempt to funnel some frustrations of members behind that. Whether these two things really fit togeather is unclear. But we’ll have to see of course.

  165. socialist monster on said:

    #179 Andy, what does ‘VERY’ close to the SWP mean? Is this a secret SWP membership category?

    I didn’t know people could be outed for geographical area – in that case, OK, I admit it, I live in London. (the shame, the shame, etc…)

  166. Geoffrey on said:

    #189 Adam J: “George Galloway was demonised for his comments on 7/7 but a week later opinion polls showed that 86% of the UK public thought that their was a link between British foreign policy and terrorism. If Ken Livingstone, Labour Left MPs and Nationalist MPs had all had the guts to say the same thing, the debate in the media would have shifted away from a debate on Muslims and put real pressure onto Blair.”

    There’s no question that the 7/7 bombings demonstrated a link between British foreign policy and terrorism. That was clear at the time and the posthumously released videos made by the bombers only served to underline it.

    There was, however, the tactical question of when and how this point could be made most effectively. Galloway jumped in straightaway to place the blame on foreign policy, but I think the Labour Left reasoned that the general public, who were still shocked and horrified by the killings, would regard that as making political capital out of people’s deaths, which would be counterproductive.

    There was also the real fear that a violent backlash against the Muslim communities would result from 7/7. From that standpoint, the appropriate immediate response, in addition to forthright condemnation of the bombings, was to emphasise the need for cross-community solidarity and insist that the actions of a handful of terrorists should not be allowed to divide us.

    That was the approach Livingstone pursued and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after the attacks that he spelt out the wider political causes of 7/7 (as noted by Birmingham Respect Member) – to predictable howls of outrage from the Right:

    http://www.melaniephillips.com/articles-new/?p=344

    You could argue that this approach was more effective than Galloway’s knee-jerk response. As I say, it was a tactical call. But given that Adam J seriously recommends Al Muhaj’s chants of “UK! Go to Hell!” as a means of combating right-wing notions of Britishness, I think it would be fair to conclude that tactics aren’t really his thing.

  167. How very strange. Here I am defending George again. I see trouble ahead if this kind of thing reflects a debate inside RR.

  168. Its also just true that those of us on the ground could not wait for weeks and weeks. A marker had to be laid down. This was George at his best. It gave everyone the courage to do what had to be done. I well remember the trepidation of leafleting and attempting to hold open air public meetings in London. The sense of how vulnerable everyone felt was heightened for me because I was at the early stages of trying to help someone being attacked completely unfairly (and entirely ridiculously) for being a potential terrorist. And then bombs were going off all around us. Can you imagine? A few weeks later really doesn’t cut it. The whole thing was knife edge there and then. Which is why when people talk about the fraught nature of what was going on in Birmingham I both understand, but at the same time think that there is an underestimation of how high the stakes were overall, which is why I’m not entirely surprised that there could be an emotive and difficult argument, which may be hard to understand now, but which reflected the enourmous pressures of that moment.

    I can still remember how wierdly disempowering those first moments were, and what an incredible relief it was to find the movement around me speaking out. A woman I bumped into handing out leaflets on her own. I joined in. The kind of memories I suspect many of us have of that period. I don’t much remember speeches three weeks later. By then the ground had been laid.

  169. *120

    ‘The extension to his logic is we would be all be hanging from lamp posts if we challenged his omnipotence. He is a leader of a lynch mob’

    Just out of interest is this the language of political debate? What does your policy of not allowing inflammatory posts reduce to Andy?

  170. Can we have a moment of unanimity and just shoot this James creature? I think it would be better even then reading Gramsci.

  171. Adam J mentions he was religious for a few years. But it’s a leap from that specific to the general; to assuming Islamists generally have shallow religious feelings only inspired by earthly concerns, and they would easy to convert to another idealogy with no religious basis. I imagine Eagleton is the exception rather than the norm.

  172. A bit heavy handed to remove all my posts.

    The only debate that is allowed is between Respect and Respect Renewal.

  173. Geoffrey on said:

    #198 johng: “… those of us on the ground could not wait for weeks and weeks. A marker had to be laid down.”

    Well, I don’t think it was a matter of “weeks and weeks”. Galloway made his statement about foreign policy and 7/7 in the House of Commons on 8 July and Livingstone offered his analysis in a radio interview on 20 July. So that was a difference of 12 days.

    In the interim, Livingstone had concentrated on appealing for inter-communal solidariy in order to counter the threat of an anti-Muslim backlash, which was understandably his primary concern as the mayor of a multicultural city like London with a large minority Muslim population.

    As I say, it’s possible to have tactical differences over this. johng may think that Livinsgtone’s approach was too conservative, but others of us might think that Galloway’s response was too far in advance of popular consciousness, and less effective for that.

  174. As indicated I’m sort of inbetweeny about Adam J’s intervention. I do agree that he is wrong about his reading of the slogan ‘UK go to hell’ but he’s also absolutely right (in my experiance) about the alienation this appeals to (particularly the disillusionment with established community leaders). Its a good point about genuine religous convictions but whilst many might become attracted by ‘dodgy theology’ in any case, getting someone to walk into tube stations and blow themselves and others up is a very different thing. Its really not the same thing, and it is important to understand that. What many call ‘literalism’ of various kinds, and ‘dodgy theology’ has a very long and complicated history. But it is as often associated with traditions of quietism as it is with Jihadist strains. When you look at people who were directly involved in such actions they were people actually alienated from their own communities and established patterns of belief. The argument about the route follows reminds me of arguments about the relationship between cannabis and heroin. The fact that most Heroin users at one point smoked cannabis (or indeed drank or smoked) does not establish any casual relationship between Cannabis (or booze and tobacco) and heroin use.

    The same is true in my view about the relationship between dodgy theology and people actually taking the step to blow themselves up in public places. If you think about it, if these connections were truely causal, it would be hard to explain why this kind of thing has not happened more often. It is in some ways (and this is depressing) rather amazing that it hasn’t happened more often anyway. It actually says something about the moral and political resilience of Muslims in Britain. So far its been entirely isolated behaviour by quite isolated and alienated individuals.

  175. good point about genuine religous convictions but whilst many might become attracted by ‘dodgy theology’ in any case, getting someone to walk into tube stations and blow themselves and others up is a very different thing.

    No, that’s the absolute heart of the matter. You have to believe in a very brutal form of Islamism to do it. Nobody on the antiwar left has blown themselves up.

    If there is no Islamism, then there will be no Pakistanis blowing themselves and murdering many others with them on the tube.

  176. No James you stupid nitwit. How do you explain the fact that the dodgy theologies we are talking about have been in existence probably since the latter part of the 19th century, but the phenomenan of British youths blowing themselves up in metro’s is one which has only occured in the last couple of years?

    Bit of a poser that one really.

  177. hmm. Interesting parrallel Phil (genuinely: made me stop and think). However that development can’t really be understood outside the political context of the rise of the moral majority of the mid-1970’s can it? Its also unclear to me that the real challenge here would be arguments about theology (actually for identical reasons: its not the case that people very theologically opposed to abortion would naturally start blowing up clinics). My point about ‘dodgy theology’ is that movements within Islam usually referred to as ‘dodgy theology’ have yielded a very wide variety of practices. The practice of suicide bombing is almost uniquely related to circumstances of political conflict. Outside of direct conflicts of that kind (ie in London or the US) it is, in fact, remarkably marginal (when compared for example to attacks on Abortion clinics). People can believe all kinds of things. There remains a huge gap between belief and action, in the case of Islam in the West probably greater then the gap between Christian fundementalists and attacks on abortion clinics (just statistically). Its remarkable when you think how very few attacks there have been, how very few people have been involved, in western Europe and North America, when you compare it to almost any other form of modern urban terrorism, and the roots such movements often find in disaffected communities.

    I think its a mistake to say fundementalism per se (whatever this perhaps inaccurate term means: I’m using it simply in the sense that people talk about ‘dodgy theology’) is the problem. That doesn’t mean I don’t think its A problem (as opposed to ‘the’ problem). Its just that there are great dangers in equating the two (similarly the belief that terrorism is caused by being unassimilated and, for example, not speaking English: no evidence whatsoever for this). Rather more pertinent to tell people to avoid British young offenders institutions.

  178. I think it’s a mistake to say fundementalism per se (whatever this perhaps inaccurate term means: I’m using it simply in the sense that people talk about ‘dodgy theology’) is the problem. That doesn’t mean I don’t think its A problem (as opposed to ‘the’ problem). Its just that there are great dangers in equating the two

    For once we’re completely in agreement. (Comment 290 is not one of mine, btw.)

  179. how horrible the SWP is (not, you understand, the poor, misguided members–or dwarfs as we must now call them–but the leaders).

    Can we put this one to rest?

    1) Galloway referred to “the leaders of the SWP” and then to “the juvenile dwarfs with whom they are travelling now”. I’m not a mind-reader, but that would be a very strange way to refer to the members of the SWP – especially since Galloway said later on that SWP members had played no part in the dispute other than being misled by their leadership. It seems much more logical to conclude that he was talking about the leaders of smaller organisations which are currently aligned with the SWP with regard to this one, e.g. the AWL or CPGB.

    2) About the ‘horrible’ leaders vs the ‘poor, misguided’ members: naturally I don’t recognise those terms, or Stuart’s reference on another thread to ‘good’ members and ‘bad’ leaders. There’s a political dispute going on, in which the RR side disagrees strongly with the SWP leadership. RR sympathisers recognise that SWP members are not mindless automatons; we recognise that they’re good activists, and that they’re capable of making their own political choices. If they choose to join the RR project, they’ll be welcome. If they choose to rally behind their leadership, too bad – although of course we’ll continue to recognise them as good activists & work with them where we can.

  180. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    I agree with johng about the gulf between belief and action, and the existence of ‘fundamentalist’ interpretations of Islam based on ‘quietism’. The issue of confronting the theological justification for terrorism should not be taken to mean that there is a simple causal connection between the two.

    We have concentrated on the sideshow in relation to the Birmingham meeting, but the actual discussion approached this general question in a much more rounded way.

    Yes, there was an attempt to vigorously attack interpretations of Islam used to justify terrorism. But a much more dominant part of the discussion was a defence of the right to struggle against injustice, and the most effective methods of waging that struggle (as well as the identification of those methods which were excluded for both moral and political reasons).

    Some of the speakers also talked in very revealing terms about their experience of growing up in Britain, their experience of racism, and the impact that had had upon their thinking and practice. And subsequently the impact that the anti-war movement had had on shifting that thinking to some degree.

    It was unlike any meeting I had been to before, because of the explicitly Islamic concepts used, which resonated with those from that faith. But the over-riding impression that I came away with was of unambiguously militant and determined individuals who were not going to kneel before anyone (but God, obviously!) but who were equally determined to find common ground with all those seeking justice.

  181. No James you stupid nitwit. How do you explain the fact that the dodgy theologies we are talking about have been in existence probably since the latter part of the 19th century, but the phenomenan of British youths blowing themselves up in metro’s is one which has only occured in the last couple of years?

    That’s a crap answer. On your on premise British imperialism has been going on in the middle east for hundreds of years – why haven’t Muslims been blowing themselves up during that whole period.

    I ask you again; why has nobody on the antiwar left blown themselves up? What is the difference between you and the people who do?

  182. Hey, a whole new area of study opens up in the wake of phil’s post: exegesis on the texts of George Galloway…who exactly are the ‘juvenile dwarfs’? Does he mean ‘juvenile’ in the sense of ‘young’? Or was he using ‘juvenile’ metaphorically and perjoratively? Did he really mean that these people were a) dwarfs b) small people c) a perjorative sense of having a dwarf intellect? ie did he mean young and stupid, childish and stupid, young and small, childish and small…or what? And who exactly was he referring to: SWP hangers-on, SWP members but not the leadership, groups who have backed the SWP? individuals who have backed the SWP? Are all or some of these people young? stupid? small? childish? If so which ones? Are we absolutely sure he said ‘juvenile dwarfs’ and didn’t say, ‘you vile dorfs’? Or perhaps he was referring to the Roman satirist Juvenal and was making a literary point about the greatness of Juvenal dwarfing others? ie there is more to this sentence: Juvenal dwarfs…who? what? Was this a political jibe at the feebleness of leftwing satire?

    I don’t think we can leave the interpretation to phil.

  183. I don’t think we can leave the interpretation to phil.

    Thus far, evidence supporting this opinion is thin.

    Galloway quotes the proverb about not wrestling with chimneysweeps, then says he’s not going to ‘wrestle’ (metaphorically) with the leaders of the SWP, then says he’s certainly not going to ‘wrestle’ (metaphorically) with the ‘juvenile dwarfs’ (metaphorical) with whom said leaders are currently ‘travelling’ (metaphorically). ‘Juvenile’ here seems to refer to the limited age and shallow roots of some of the organisations which have weighed in on the SWP’s side, and ‘dwarfs’ to their small size.

    Cancel out all the metaphors and you end up with something along the lines of
    “I’m not going to lower myself to respond to John Rees, and if I’m not going to respond to Rees I’m certainly not going to respond to the Weekly Worker.”
    I think it’s pretty straightforward.

  184. Birmingham,

    It does sound like a very interesting meeting. I have heard discussions like this before but probably not in such a charged situation. What I find a bit difficult about this discussion is that, outside the disagreement that obviously occured about this particular meeting, and outside the obviously fraught political relations that existed outside of that, I don’t think you would find many SWP members (up to and including John Rees) who wouldn’t find such a discussion interesting. I mention John Rees not to be deliberately controversial but because I know of his involvement in the Cairo Conference (and I also know that Salma was involved with the same conference). As I’ve been attempting to stress I think to present any of these people (or the rest of us currently tearing bits off of each other) soley in terms of these destructive arguments is a bit distorting. Someone not familiar with the movement of the last five years reading these threads would walk away with the impression of a bunch of self destructive maniacs incapable of driving down the street without running over passing strangers. This worries me because I do know people internationally who have looked to us (when I say us, I mean both sets of us).

    Its a bit bizarre really.

  185. Ger Francis on said:

    Ultra-left and sectarian maybe, but not bizarre. Rees vehement opposition to the meeting was based on a political viewpoint which is deeply suspicious and fearful of any form of Muslim self-organisation.

  186. ‘Rees vehement opposition to the meeting was based on a political viewpoint which is deeply suspicious and fearful of any form of Muslim self-organisation.’

    Which would explain why Rees and others have always championed the involvement of MAB in STWC, and tried to get them on board with Respect in the early days. Not.
    This is the conscious rewriting of history.

  187. Muon

    My experience is that the SWP is deeply suspicious of any form of political self organisation that challenges the hegemony of the SWP within campaigns.

    For example they were very suspicious of “Grassroots FBU” which they saw as a rival to “Red Watch”, even (or especially) as Grassroots FBU had much greater genuine rank and file involvement than Red Watch.

  188. I would refer people to an excellent speech made by Tariq Ali that lays into Ken Livingstone and expresses what I think quite eloquently:

    “Dear friends, we meet in sad times. Before I start talking about the subject of this evening’s meeting, I think it’s important to speak a few words about what we’re living through at the moment.

    What we’re living through is an attack, by a group of terrorists, on ordinary working people in London. It is not behaviour that anyone on the left can support.

    But why did these attacks happen? That is the key question which the entire media and the entire political class in this country is trying to ignore. They are trying to ignore it because the government and the main opposition party know perfectly well why it happened. They have a guilty conscience.

    It happened, without any doubt, because Tony Blair decided to lock himself in a coital embrace with the US president, from which he could not be easily dislodged. He decided to take a sceptical public into a war it did not support.

    Opposition to this war was not confined to anti-war campaigners or the left, it existed in the upper reaches of the establishment. The week after Baghdad fell, a senior foreign office intelligence figure, who was national security adviser to 10 Downing Street, wrote a letter to the Financial Times.

    He explained why the war was wrong, how we were stampeded into the war by lies, and why going to war was placing Britain itself at risk.

    London mayor Ken Livingstone has taken to quoting Winston Churchill these days. We’ve been here before. Why can’t they think of anyone else to quote? Whenever there’s a crisis it’s back to the Second World War.

    Ken himself, on a platform with myself and others, once said that one reason he was opposed to the war was that it endangered the lives of citizens in London. He was right then and he should get a grip on himself.

    Unless you give people a political explanation for what has happened, the only other explanation is a civilisational one, which the prime minister gave—barbarians versus civilisation.

    Blair says this, his wretched cabinet members have been repeating it, and even Bush has picked up a few phrases.

    We have to be very clear. If the killing of innocent civilians in London is barbaric, and it is, how do you define the killing of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians?

    In the dominant culture of the West there is a deep-seated belief that the lives of Western civilians are somehow worth more than those living in other parts of the world — especially those parts being bombed and occupied by the West.”

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php4?article_id=6943

  189. As Tariq Ali puts it quite bluntly, “If you don’t give people a political explanation of 7/7 the only alternative is to see things as a clash of civilisation to do with evil muslims”.

    It worries me that members of Respect Renewal and Andy are defending Ken Livingstone’s intervention on 7/7 especially as it was followed by his backing the public execution of Jean Charles De Menezes.

    Ken Livingstone did much later suggest that maybe there was a link between foreign policy and terrorism, but at the CRUCIAL moment he backed Tony Blair.

    I have never been more proud to be a member of Respect than when our only MP dared to mention the Elephant in the room on 7/7 that nobody else had the guts to mention. Far from being in advance of popular consciousness, opinion polls showed that 86% of the British public had the same analysis.

    Talking about religion, I have always believed in the prophetic tradition that sometimes it is important to tell the truth to the people even if it is unpalatable. Malcolm X did this when he refused to join the eulogies of JFK and instead said, “The chickens have come home to roost” and described the violence of JFK backing the murder of Lumumba and imperialism across the world. On 7/7 Galloway had a prophetic moment in which he spoke truth to power.

    The debate over 7/7 was framed in terms of the “enemy within” and the demonisation of Islam.

    Imagine if Ken Livingstone had made a speech on 7/7 directly linking UK foreign policy to the London Bombings. The debate in the media might have shifted away from muslims onto British foreign policy, Blair and New Labour would have come under real pressure.

    This would have had the effect of lessening Islamophobia and taking the heat off our Muslim communities.

    Ken Livingstone had a moral duty on 7/7 to speak the truth even if it was unpalateable.

    He chose to side with the establishment.

    George Galloway in an amazing 5 minute speech cut through the hypocrisy of the entire British political class and guaranteed that there was one disonant voice in the sickening crocodile tears of politicians who have no problems with bombing children in Fallujah, Gaza and Kabul but shed crocodile tears when people die in London.

    His intervention was absolutely correct:
    “Contemptible – Yes! Contemptible – Yes! But entirely predictable.”

  190. Ger Francis on said:

    Muon,

    There is nothing ‘revisionist’ in saying the SWP are hostile to black/Muslim self organization. Where they have control or influence, whether inside the SWP or anywhere else, they seek to undercut such trends. Whether you think that is right or wrong is irrelevant. It’s a fact. The SWP have no control over existing Islamic organisations like MAB. But there are worrying signs of a growing hostility towards them. This is expressed inside STW itself where the SWP downplays the role of the British Muslim Initiative and Islamic organisations that have real roots – in favour of a “Muslim Network” headed by two SWP members. This is not a real attempt at facilitating self-organisation, but a ruse to undermine it.

  191. Ger Francis on said:

    More generally, current SWP analysis of the Muslim community is in danger of already undermining the orientation of STW towards it. As part of the SWP’s rationalisation for the absurd claims that George Galloway’s critique of the state of Respect in August was actually a call to arms for a right wing/communalist assault on socialists, its leadership argued that Muslims were becoming de-radicalised, hence were retreating into conservative patterns of politics to which Galloway was supposedly accommodating.

    This is all supposed to have happened after 7 July 2005. There are a huge number of problems with this claim. First, events organised by coalitions of Islamic institutions such as the Global Peace and Unity conference have continued to grow after 7/7 and have developed a critical, radical edge. They attract tens of thousands of participants.

    Second, there is no evidence that the layers of Muslims who have been politically radicalised by the war and in response to Islamophobia are falling in behind Home Office attempts to incorporate establishment Muslim figures.

    But for the SWP this appears to be hardening into a piece of dogma, born of a faction fight.

  192. The SWP established links with the BMI and MAB, wasn’t it actually the SWP who helped propel people like Salma Yaqoob into the leadership of the anti-war movement. The SWP fought for Muslims to have a role in the anti-war movement against other sections of the left.

    Ger seems to have gone over to thinking that we mustn’t criticise anything about these organisations/

  193. Ger it is a simple statement of fact that many of the muslim organisations (not individual muslims) are being co-opted into the establisment and Ken Livingstone plays a particularly vicious role in using his past radical and anti-racist credentials to disorienatate the Muslim organisations who have great respect for him.
    Remember this is the Livingstone who propped up Blair over 7/7 backs Sir Ian Blair over De Menezes – he steers muslim organisations away from a more militant confrontational politics that as found in community organisations in the 70s and 80s into “safer channels”, he is the left cover for New Labour and ruling class ideology

  194. Geoffrey on said:

    #223 Adam J: “As Tariq Ali puts it quite bluntly, ‘If you don’t give people a political explanation of 7/7 the only alternative is to see things as a clash of civilisation to do with evil muslims’…. Ken Livingstone did much later suggest that maybe there was a link between foreign policy and terrorism, but at the CRUCIAL moment he backed Tony Blair.”

    The Tariq Ali article was published in the 16 July 2005 issue of Socialist Worker and Livingstone’s statement about the basis of the 7/7 bombings – not just in the Iraq war but in the whole history of imperialism in the Middle East – was made in a radio interview on 20 July.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4698963.stm

    So the whole dispute boils down to whether Livingstone should have said what he said a week or 12 days earlier. As I’ve already explained, I think there were good reasons for timing it the way he did, and as a result his intervention made more political impact than it would otherwise have done. But this involves a judgement on tactics, and you can have an honest difference of opinion on such matters.

    Adam J’s comments are characteristic of the sort of stupid polemic that prevails in some sections of the Left and makes it almost impossible to have a serious political discussion. There’s a certain ultra-left mindset that responds to anyone who doesn’t share their own hardline views on any particular tactical issue, not by arguing that their opponents are mistaken but by denouncing them as traitors.

    I give John Rees credit for being politically rather more sophisticated than Adam J, but the way he reacted to Salma over the Tariq Ramadan meeting in Birmingham was another example of this sort of destructive sectarian mentality.

  195. Geoffrey do you think it right that in the crucial 12 days after the London Bombings, not a single political figure was prepared to say that there was a link between the bombings and british foreign policy? – if we hadn’t had a Respect MP in parliament, this argument would not have even been heard.

    People might say it is “insensitive” to make a political analysis so close to the events. But the problem is that the other side is already doing this. The trouble is that the media and establishment were already going into overdrive to deny that there was a link between British foreign policy and terrorism and focusing on the demonisation of Islam.

    Do you also defend the public execution of Jean Charles De Menezes?

    I know friends of mine who have no sympathy for the far left and quite reactionary on many issues, who hate Galloway but said that he had a point on 7/7

    Ken Livingstone is the left cover for New Labour.

  196. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Adam J: I do wonder if you pay any attention to the facts at all.

    As Geoffrey has argued above one can debate the tactical choice not to come out – on 7/7 itself – with a denunciation of imperialism, but it is simply not true that Ken Livingstone “chose to side with the establishment”.

    That doesn’t square with the interview he gave on 20 July which I referred to earlier. Choosing to make the immediate focus the unity of all communities, and refusing to bow to the demonisation of Muslims may or may not have been the best tactic, but it is certainly not ‘siding with Tony Blair’.

    A debate about whether Ken should have said it on the 7th, 8th, 10th or 20th July does have some limited importance. But what he did say could not have been clearer – which is why the vast majority of anti-war and anti-racist Londoners are likely to vote for him. And as the votes of those Londoners will be needed by any left candidates for the GLA, this is something we ought to take into account.

    “Ken=Blair” doesn’t seem to me to be the wisest approach if we want to maximise a left vote against New Labour.

  197. the digger on said:

    Ger is completely wrong about the position of the SWP on self organisation of Muslims, black people or any other oppressed group.

    The SWP consistenly defends the right of oppressed groups to organise themselves. In NALGO it was the Birmingham Branch that championed black self organisation in the union, supported by SWP members who were prominent within the Branch.

    However that does not mean that we advocate that self organisation is the best way to fight back in all situations. When Muslims are under attack we think think that class unity is the best defence mechanism.

    That is why Stw has played such a significant roll in promoting Muslim and non Muslim unity.

  198. Brum Respect Member is re-writing history.
    The old Ken Livingstone who invited Sinn Fein over in the 80s would have linked British foreign policy to terrorism on 7/7 without hesitation. But Livingstone fell into line and decided to play the statesman. This might have got him a pat on the head from the Labour leadership but was a betrayal and indirectly helped fan the flames of islamophobia.
    Livingtone chose to speak out at the precise moment where his words would have negligible political impact.
    He spoke out after Galloway had been shouted down on Newsnight and taken all the flak, after even Charles Kennedy had tentatively suggested the link, after opinion polls had shown that millions of people thought that there was a link between terrorism and UK foreign policy.
    ie. when it was safe, when he had been shamed by the left quoting his own past words back at him.
    The old Ken Livingstone would have probably spoken on platforms of the Justice4Jean campaign. The new Ken Livingstone has backed the police 110%
    This wasn’t tactics it was capitulation.
    The choice on 7/7 was clear: To speak out the truth to power clearly and risk the consequences OR to place your relationship to the establishment and power structure, and personal popularity over the truth.
    Admirably, George Galloway took a principled position.
    Deplorably, Ken Livingstone sided with the establishment and betrayed the thousands of victims of British imperialism around the world by contributing to a narrative that was simply false.

  199. Looking over this discussion I suppose its time for me to say what I think about the topic of self-organisation. I think it is certainly a right, sometimes a neccessity, but never an end in itself. I accept both that those who do see it as an end in itself have a perfect right to do so, and at the same time, many for whom self organisation in relationship to identity is important, don’t see it as an end in itself (the stepping stone model).

    Given that Ger was a member of the SWP for such a long time he’ll be familiar with the general position. The rub is always working out what these general principles, which I believe all socialists ought to have, mean in practice in any given situation. In the aftermath of 7/11 in Birmingham I would in principle have nothing against the kind of meeting which was held (which sounds like it was an interesting and useful initiative, as well as being a brave one). The difficulty is how such meetings would fit into a more general strategy (imagine for example if, in the wake of the Birmingham Pub bombings, a broad left coalition had restricted itself to meetings in the Irish community), and at the same time, the emergence of a pragmatic division of labour around these questions. You mention that John Rees was worried by the question of ‘seperatism’. As I’ve indicated I’m in no position to know whether such worries were correct, but certainly, in the light of the dangers in the situation, such worries would not neccessarily indicate hostility to respecting the right of Muslim’s to self organisation, hostility to Muslim organisations, or any such thing. Instead they would relate to worries about how Respect was handling the situation and the relationship between a leading and well respected Respect activist and the rest of Respect, in that very fraught, and very dangerous situation, where all of our political responsibilities went beyond the boundaries of self organisation. Was the priority preventing young Muslim’s being taken in by Jihadist propaganda, or was the priority on ensuring that there was a united response across communities to possible attempts to witch hunt Muslims? Of course there is no iron wall between these things, of course the one kind of activity can feed into the other, but I do not see this argument as, in itself, a symptom of ‘hostility to the principle of self organisation’. More plausible are two possibilities. We the SWP got it wrong on that day, and misunderstood the significance of the meeting. We the SWP were correct to be worried about this, but then after the argument went on to mobilise to get the individual concerned elected anyway.

    My own feeling is that there are many reasons why a certain kind of pragmatism would lead not to seperatism but to the kind of division of labour that the SWP were later to complain about, and which Ger treats in some cases as instances of ‘self organisation’ and in other cases as simply pragmatism. I think there are also many reasons why, in a place like Birmingham this might have unintended consequences that went beyond questions of self organisation and beyond questions of pragmatism. Most activists have the experiance (particularly and shockingly where they feel otherwise secure and confident) of happily marching along and suddenly feeling the ground open up under their feet as a really nasty undercurrent in wider society takes them by surprise.

    In many ways I would argue that its worries about this kind of thing, rather then hostility to Muslim right to self organisation (again, and this is a little Gallowayesque, this is something we’ve been almost unique on the organised left in championing) or a desire to simply ‘build the SWP’ which account for the existence of these arguments. Its always possible that these arguments are misconcieved in a particular instance, and its always possible that they’re handled badly (If I can be allowed just one personal quip: I do think Ger, that you are not, I know I am not either, someone who can never be said to have mishandled an argument or used too heavy handed a method to drive something home: The attempt to attribute this tendency purely to the SWP’s training seems to me mistaken: its usually the product of political impatience and sometimes panic.)

    Actually, just to finish, I was sceptical at first about all the Ken Livingstone dimension, but reading the above comments I do find it striking how important this argument has become for some people. And I would say that refusing to criticise someone who refuses to call for the sacking of a Police chief who is an odious murderous liar, and has been shown to be an odious murderous liar, stating that, well Ken doesn’t like neo-liberalism, but he has to work with people who do, and that it is ‘ultra left’ or even ‘sectarian’ to mention these questions, is a) simply impossible for the kind of ordinary activist in London who we would always have hoped to have in Respect and b) a shift to the right precisely under electoral pressure.

    Whether such a shift to the right is the smart move politically is the ONLY thing which seems to me a subject for legitimate debate, not whether it is a shift to the right. And I suspect that these kinds of questions, much more then abstract debates around self determination are what lies ultimately at the root of these tensions. The possibility that a few people on either side of the debate have occassionally behaved like arses not withstanding. I have more respect for both sides of the debate then to believe it can simply be reduced to that.

  200. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Adam J: I give up. Your politics is so riddled with ultra leftism as to be a joke.

    “Fanned the flames of Islamophobia…capitulation…sided with the establishment…betrayed the thousands of victims of British imperialist around the world”…You missed out the words “running dog” and “lackey” – and I suggest you get them in next time, or you will be accused of centrist deviations.

    It is this kind of impressionistic nonsense that leads you to applaud Al-Muhajiroun for their ‘healthy anti-patriotic sentiment’.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world…

  201. Oh and on Ger’s attempt to argue that the fact that the SWP would take a different line within an electoral coalition to in the StW coalition, in some way undermines the line of the StW for the broadest possible unity against the war, this is simply false. For us Respect is not the same kind of thing as the StW, and this is one of the reasons why we reject the idea that these arguments should be identified with each other. There are plenty of people (the vast majority) in the StW movement who are not in Respect and would not want to be in Respect, including many of the organisations under discussion, and this is entirely legitimate. We do not see the StW movement as a front for Respect. Thats because it isn’t.

  202. To Brum Respect Member.
    I’m not ultra-left just with a grasp of philosophy and logic.
    At a key and crucial moment Ken Livingstone lined up with the establishment who wanted to ignore the elephant in the room on 7/7 – British foreign policy.
    As Tariq Ali eloquently put it there were two views of 7/7 – a political explanation and a non-political explanation.
    Refusing to give a political explanation inevitably leaves the ground open for an alternative political explanation: The clash of civilisations, the demonisation of Muslims as the enemy within.
    If Ken Livingstone had made a high profile speech making some of the same points as Galloway the debate in the national media would have been forced to shift into a political discussion of why 7/7 happened away from the demonisation of muslims.
    By refusing to be political, Ken Livingstone gave succour to the Establishment and INDIRECTLY (note my choice of words) helped fan Islamophobia because as Tariq said, “If you don’t give people a political explanation of events there’s only one other alternative”
    It wasn’t a question of tactics but principles.
    Ken Livingstone chose to appear the statesman over telling the truth.
    He contributed to the narrative being boomed out by the establishment on 7/7 that Britan was the innocent victim of evil terrorists rather than a nation that has murdered thousands of people all over the world.
    As Noam Chomsky said, “If the West wants to end terrorism it should stop participating in it”
    Ashame that Livingstone couldn’t have said the same.

  203. Brum Respect Member seems unable to reply to the fact that his hero still – even after all the information that has come out – backs the Met slavishly over the murder of an innocent Brazillian electrician.
    Let’s be clear, de Menezes was murdered because the police thought he was a Muslim.

  204. Ian Donovan on said:

    ““Ken=Blair” doesn’t seem to me to be the wisest approach if we want to maximise a left vote against New Labour.”

    Agreed. But just because Livingstone cannot simply be equated with (Tony) Blair does not mean he cannot be challenged. It does mean, however, that the challenge itself should be nuanced, should recognise that illusions exist in some key sections of Respect’s working class and minority constitutency in Livingstone, that do not exist in say Gordon Brown.

    We should ideally advocate a second preference vote to Ken, but a critical one, noting the contradiction between his often fine words opposing war, Islamophobia, his seeking relations with Chavez, etc, and his other, anti-working class actions carried out on behalf of the political masters to which he is so often servile, despite his left rhetoric.

    The fact that this discussion exists is not a sign of a left-right split between Respect renewal and the SWP ‘Respect’. It is, however, a line of potential division within Respect renewal and the basis for an extended democratic debate, one that could be carried out in the pages of the upcoming Respect newspaper. If the SWP had treated those who held these positions in a reasonable manner, as comrades with whom we disagree and can have a good, comradely debate (instead of sending them to Coventry), and then take a vote, then it could have played a similar role within a unified Respect. But that was blown away for reasons that have nothing to do with any putative divisions over this question.

    This debate about standing against Livingstone for Mayor is a little abstract and unreal, in any case, because it assumes that Lindsey German’s campaign for mayor is still intact. Personally, I think it is mortally wounded and I doubt it will go ahead as anything but a joke candidacy (if that) as a result of this SWP leadership-engineered disaster. The leading circles of the SWP want rid of Respect; all that happened in terms of the Westminster conference was an elaborate charade and an attempt to hide the fact that the SWP-Respect is no longer a coalition of any type.

    There is no point to SWP-Respect as a non-coalition; it is only a matter of time before it is junked. The Tower Hamlets splitters are doomed politically, the question of what happens to Lavalette and Ray Holmes is a sticky problem for the SWP. If they have no national project, will they stick with the SWP in the long run? Personally, I think the immediate outcome of this split is that the GLA elections are a dead duck for Respect, and what Respect Renewal should be looking forward to are the General Election in 2009 or 2010 and the council elections in 2010 (in London) and elsewhere sooner (eg. Brum). So discussions about the rights and wrongs of if and how to stand against Ken next year are all very well, but have little purchase on reality.

  205. To Ian Donovan,

    I wasn’t arguing over whether Ken Livingstone for Mayor should be supported (I personally think not, but I can understand those who might want to vote “Ken without illusions) What astonished me was Brum Respect Member was defending Livingstone over 7/7 and so far hasn’t replied to my mention of Livingstone’s support for people who kill innocent civilians because they look like muslims on the London Underground.

    While Respect “Unrenewed” certainly faces a problem that it’s most publicly well known figures and elected representatives have jumped ship, I would suggest your claim that Respect Renewal is a “national project” is overly optimistic.

    Galloway and Salma Yaqoob have a local activist base but no national organisation on the ground and indeed it is seriously debateable if Galloway could have got elected in 2005 without the SWP machine throwing it’s weight and activists behind him so that Respect could rival the powerful labour machine.

    There are possibly only 3-4 existing Respect branches that have thrown in their lot with Respect Renewal.

    In fact, it seems to be the leadership who have split rather than the members who overwhelmingly wish to stay united in one organisation.

    I doubt whether outside of East London and Birmingham there are any Respect branches that are split into two opposing camps.

    The result of this split is more likely that many activists will just drop out of political activity rather than nail their colours to either faction.

    I think Respect Renewal should be drawing up a set of conditions that would like met for them to form somekind of unity with Respect Unrenewed.

    The priority should be seeking away to reunite Respect and connect with wider political forces.

    It has already been reported that Labour Left’s who were ready to be part of a wider re-allignment of the left have responded to the implosion of Respect by arguing that they may as well stay within Labour.

  206. the digger on said:

    Post 238 “The leading circles of the SWP want rid of Respect”. I always love it when people like Ian Donovan state they know what other people think based on a feeling in their own bunions.

    One ISG member at a meeting in Brum this week said that the SWP in their Internal Bulletin and Socialist Worker have clearly stated that they no longer believe in building broad parties to the left of Labour (or similar formations in other countries). What tosh. No such articles exist. He backed up his assertion with a report on a two day visit to Glasgow where he saw SWP members at an event selling Socialist Worker but not giving out any leaflet for Solidarity. Case proved!

    Why don’t bloggers deal with the actual public views expressed by parties and individuals (there is enough there to diagree on) than invent things to disagree with.

  207. Interestingly former 4th Internationalist, Raghib Ahsan is reported as speaking at an event with Lavalette on the Respect (classic version) website – does this mean he is not in the Salma/Ger faction of Brum Respect?

  208. Or possibly like me, wants to knock the heads together of the leaders of Respect (both factinos) and tell them to get their act together and stop destroying our party.

  209. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Why don’t bloggers deal with the actual public views expressed by parties and individuals (there is enough there to diagree on) than invent things to disagree with.”

    Sorry, but the person who said this can’t see the wood for the trees. If the SWP leadership wanted to be in a broad coalition with the forces in Respect Renewal, they would have bent over backwards to ensure that they continued to be in that coalition. It is rather obvious to anyone that they did the opposite – they bent over backwards to drive out anyone who was not under their control. Even to the point that delegates who were “off message” at their own SWP-Respect conference were excluded from speaking by manipulation of the speaker-slip system! The political logic is obvious, and the fact is that SWP-Respect is not any kind of coalition. Reality will kick in about that soon enough. No one with any nous in the broader labour movement will regard SWP-Respect as any kind of broad coalition for one moment.

    “I can understand those who might want to vote ‘Ken without illusions'”

    Never understood the logic of this slogan. The whole point of the critical support tactic is to engage with people who do have illusions, not to encourage people who don’t to vote for politicians they are disilluioned with. If we are picking up people who have some illusions in Ken Livingstone, but nevertheless want to build an alternative to New Labour, that is part of life’s rich tapesty.

    I agree with many of the arguments used over Livingstone against ‘Birmingham Respect member” by Adam J here, but I would point out that the fact that such arguments are taking place is a good thing – a sign that we are engaging with some of the better people who have illusions in Livingstone, not something to be regretted as a sign of Respect being ‘polluted’ by nasty Livingstone supporters, or Socialist Action, or whoever.

  210. Ger Francis on said:

    Digger: ‘The SWP consistently defends the right of oppressed groups to organise themselves. … [but] When Muslims are under attack we think think that class unity is the best defense mechanism.’

    This is exactly the problem with the SWP’s understanding of the rights to self-organise: they unnecessarily counter pose it to class unity, whereas at times it is a necessary step towards class unity. The meeting in Central Mosque was one of those instances. But locked into a dogmatic schema about how people bearing the brunt of racism should fight back against racism, the SWP ended up opposing an event, which by Digger’s own admission, ‘was an excellent meeting [in which] the case for Muslim/non Muslim unity was powerfully put’. An event, in other words, which took a step towards class unity.

    Rees badly handled the meeting and its aftermath. It is revealing that SWP members who believe this to be the case on this site cannot bring themselves to admit it in public, even from behind the safety of a disguise. I find their political cowardice pathetic.

  211. Ger always finds things ‘pathetic’ rather then addressing any actual arguments. I find this ‘pathetic’. More seriously though, on Adam J’s point that he was not even raising the question of the election, but just a discussion: In Newham we find that Ian Blair has refused to condemn or do anything about the continuing harrassment and, in fact death threats, from the Met, of two lads they almost murdered last year (and as is by now routine in the Met under Ian Blair’s leadership) told lies about, largely on the basis that the victims are (very understandably) too frightened to mount a formal complaint. Ken’s fulsome defence of Ian Blair, when even very moderate, even right wing politicians, are saying this is a bit much, raises questions, not just for the very vanguard of the vanguard, but for any activist at all concerned in the slightest way about Police racism and violence: of course it is also directly linked to wider fears about repressive security operations directed against the Muslim community.

    It would be difficult to imagine a local campaign about this which did not criticise Ken for his failure to act on this, and for his uncritical defence of Sir Ian Blair. I’m happy to relate to the better people who have illusions in Ken Livingstone. But people who denounce anyone who mentions of any of these things as ‘sectarians’ or ‘ultraleft’ do not strike me as symptomatic of ordinary people who have illusions in Ken Livingstone.

  212. Geoffrey on said:

    From the Daily Mail, here’s Melanie Phillips’ recent assessment of Livingstone’s motivation in backing Ian Blair:

    “Sir Ian is the most PC of police officers. He has made the Met a shrine to victim culture and gesture politics, turning justice on its head by giving precedence to minorities and thus fashioning his force into a weapon against the society it is supposed to be defending.”

    I think this is, in its own bigoted way, an accurate assessment of Livingstone’s motives – and also those of Len Duvall, the Labour chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority which has just voted down a motion of no confidence in Ian Blair, and the Green Party’s Jenny Jones, who voted with the Labour group on the London Assembly against a Tory-LibDem motion calling for Blair’s resignation.

    So there is a section of what might broadly be termed progressive political opinion which has opposed attempts to get rid of Blair.

    Mad Mel also provides an insight into why the campaign to get rid of Blair has been led by the right-wing press. This campaign dates from well before the Menezes shooting.

    Blair, you may remember, was denounced by the likes of the Daily Mail for insisting on disciplinary action being taken against a police officer who described Shiite Muslims as “Shitties” and said they wore tea cosies on their heads. After 7/7 Blair visited London’s major mosques to assure the Muslim community that he would take action to defend them if there was any racist backlash resulting from the bombings, and he was condemned for that too.

    Blair has been opposed not only by the right-wing press but also within the Met by those forces who have resisted implementation of the Lawrence inquiry report’s recommendations on combating institutional racism.

    If Blair were removed as Metropolitan Police Commissioner he would almost certainly be replaced, not by someone with more progressive views, but by someone to his right – less “PC”, less committed to fighting racism within the force and less favourable to building relations between the Met and minority communities. This would have definite adverse practical repercussions for Black and minority ethnic people in London (though not, presumably, for johng and Adam J).

    That, I think, is why Livingstone and others have taken the position they have.

    How should the non-Labour Left have responded to the Menezes shooting, apart from condemning the killing of an innocent man? I’m not really sure, to be honest. But as you can see, it’s a more complex situation than some people would like us to believe, and there are some real problems with the Left aligning itself with the right-wing campaign to force Blair’s resignation.

    Of course, even raising these issues will be denounced as political treachery in some quarters.

  213. more to the point, Ger has ducked my question over Raghib Ahsan – is he with “I can’t believe it’s not Respect/SWP” then?

  214. Geoffry if we take the logic of your argument to extremes we would end up describing the attempt to set up an electoral alternative to the Labour Party as an excercise in sectarian ultra-leftism. However such an argument is to the left of an argument suggesting we should defend the met chief guilty of heinous crimes on the basis that there are even worse ones. One thing that was supposed to make Respect different was that we would precisely not play into this kind of a logic. Are we supposed to explain to people concerned about Police accountability and angered by the disgraceful lying and utter lack of accountability of the met chief, that in the broader scheme of things he ought to be supported? This is no way at all for an activist organisation to the left of New Labour to behave. Or are we supposed on the other hand to counterpose his on paper progressive credentials with his unfortunate practices which are simply the product of these unfortunate circumstances of a terrorist threat (ie the very argument anyone concerned with civil liberties has to oppose: Ken has argued that we must not discipline Blair because in these circumstances it would mean police wouldn’t do their job…so the Muslim community and anyone who looks like a Muslim will just have to take their chances). Do you doubt for a second the anger provoked by these arguments in the community in Newham?

  215. Teddy Boy on said:

    “And the wrestlers go into the centre of ring, sizing each other up”.
    “Oh, the one the bright scarlet frilly shorts is fucking off to his corner”
    “OH he has thrown the towel in”
    “I cant believe it”
    “Lets hear what this pure loser has to say”. He is refusing to give an account to spectatators and his own fans about the events leading to his capitulation”.
    “My what a stramash in the arena”.
    “Rival fans are facing each other shouting I am going to blog you forever and ever .
    “The winner is standing on his “stool” Shouting Fuck off, Fuck off the lot of you” I return you to the london boat race, with the dramatic news that Lindsay german’s boat has sunk and amazingly she is walking on water to the finish line. You could not make it up.

  216. In response to Geoffrey, if a senior surgeon in a hospital (even one hitherto respected) so bungled an operation that a man ended up dead un-nessarily he would be held to account.

    Yet the leader of the police force in Britain’s capital city should not be rapped over a series of bungles and a concerted smear campaign against Jean Charles De Menezes?

    Including attempts to suggest de Menezes had false id papers, was a rapist, a convicted criminal etc. etc.

  217. Geoffrey on said:

    As I said earlier: “Of course, even raising these issues will be denounced as political treachery in some quarters.” Once again my Marxist powers of prediction are vindicated!

    It might be better if johng stopped and thought for a moment before he dashed off his denunciations.

    I didn’t in fact argue that the non-Labour Left should support Ian Blair. I pointed out that there was a current of progressive opinion who took that position and that they had rational reasons for doing so.

    They may be mistaken but I don’t think it helps to dismiss them as advocates of police repression against minority communities. Their motives are in fact the reverse of this.

    I also pointed out that there were some real problems with the Left aligning itself with the campaign, headed by the most racist sections of the right-wing press, to remove Blair. Presumably johng doesn’t see a problem here.

    I naively hoped that I might prompt comrades to think a bit more seriously about the issue. But evidently that’s beyond the capacity of johng.

  218. From Ger’s profound silence, I assume that former IMG member, an ex-President of Brum TUC and left wing Labour councillor, Raghib Ahsan has chosen not to allign with his faction?

  219. Sam Durk on said:

    Having personally known Arshad Kanwar and Martin Lynch for a long time, I feel I cannot be silent when I see stuff such as this being posted. There is a huge segment completely left out of the story here by Arshad(Ash) and though I wished for it to be kept confidential, when Ash turns against someone like Martin Lynch for no reason and starts trying to smear him, I feel I cannot leave the full story untold.
    The reason Martin Lynch the so-called ‘bully’ was recording the phone call with Ash was for a completely different reason. Ash has recently taken a serious turn, and has on numerous occasions threatened me and my family and in an extremely aggressive and violent way as well as sending dozens of death threats. He has done this is person, and through a barrage of texts and calls. He has done this as he believes (wrongly) I am involved in several conspiracies against him, despite the fact I have done nothing but try to be a good friend to Ash for the last year.
    I contacted Martin Lynch for help as I did not know what to do, and Martin was immensley helpful to me, and I dont think I could have coped without him. Martin showed patience and understanding with Ash for a long time, but unfortunately was not able to change his aggressive stance towards me. I feel Ash’s recent moves are all motivated by a desire to get elected, not out of princpled politics, and that he is trying to use this recording incident to deflect attention from himself.
    I’m sorry if this sounds like a bit of a bitch, but I just cannot let stuff like this be posted without the full story being known.

  220. Geoffry your rather missing the point. My understanding of Respect was as not simply an electoral organisation, or indeed a ginger group of progressive opinion, but as an organisation which wanted to bring togeather activists on the ground involved in a broad variety of campaigns around the war, neo-liberalism, anti-racism etc. It is simply impossible to imagine a more counter-productive argument in that mileau then the one put togeather by Ken Livingstone. And as I said its a logic of argument which, in the broader sense, I believe Respect was set up to over-turn. I think what I charecterise as ‘vast and enourmous’ talk, is the kind of talk we’re very familiar with from various left of centre magazines which we’ve all looked at occassionally over the last twenty years.

    Its a deadend.

  221. Geoffrey on said:

    I think it’s you that’s missing the point johng. Let me repeat it.

    I’m not arguing that Respect should adopt Livingstone’s argument re Ian Blair. What I’m pointing out is that there are people like Livingstone, and Jenny Jones for that matter, who are on the left and for entirely progressive motives oppose the calls (mainly emanating from the Right) for Ian Blair to resign.

    I’m not saying you have to agree with them. What I’m saying is that they have arrived at that conclusion for well-intentioned reasons. It makes no sense to denounce them for advocating more police repression against minority communities when in fact they are trying to achieve exactly the opposite.

    And there remains the problem of how the Left can support calls for Blair’s resignation without aligning itself with the the most unpleasant sections of the Right, who have been making the running on this issue. Otherwise you end up with a present-day equivalent of the “Red Referendum”.

    I’m just saying that a more thought-out approach is needed.

  222. I hate to be a Russian Doll Leninist Geoffry but what would this actually mean? What would a more thought out approach actually look like? Surely it would involve pointing out at some stage that people who argue like this are quite simply wrong. And that just because right wing opinion is for Ian Blair’s resignation (whatever they say, largely I suspect because they think this would add to the governments woes) does not mean that those who have suffered the consequences of this governments strategy on terrorism should have to put up with it. What else would one say?

  223. #259. There is a real Sam Durk in Respect. But, whose to tell. Horrible stuff. In any case its this sort of thing which makes me loath to jump in. And I’m of course loath to jump in about the providence of this mail as well.

  224. Teddy Boy on said:

    #259 Hi Sam,
    You claim death threats to you and family. I take it you called the police in. If not, why not. You confirm that Martin Lynch was recording phone calls. Where does this stop?
    Why dont you take these incriminating texts and witnesses to the local cop shop. After all you say your family was threatened in the texts.
    Until such times that you do your citizen’s duty, many inside this blog and of course outside it, will find it hard to accept your word. And the many who know Ash will be taken back by your allegations
    It is easier for anyone to use a blog to mislead, wether its Ash or you. I find it hard believe that you have came out “I cannot Be silent” after Ash’s resignation.
    Give the police their place if you have the evidence,maybe you have done that. But I dont think so

  225. Ian Donovan on said:

    “And there remains the problem of how the Left can support calls for Blair’s resignation without aligning itself with the the most unpleasant sections of the Right, who have been making the running on this issue. Otherwise you end up with a present-day equivalent of the “Red Referendum”.”

    No, that’s actually a totally wrong analogy. Ian Blair’s right-wing critics are not the equivalents, in modern-day politics, of the Nazis, nor is Ian Blair the equivalent of a SPD provincial administration(!!) The difference between Blair and any likely successor are going to be over nuances at best, and probably not even that – the most likely replacement for him would be a clone appointed by the same government that appointed Blair in the first place.

  226. Teddy Boy on said:

    #263 Hi Johng, I totally agree with you. Wether its a falsey or true one, but you have to direct people to the proper authorities when these serious allegation are made.

    I think there is a bit of stirring going on. People dont use a blog for to defend Martin Lynch, surely the priority is to protect you and family.

    I do give my support to Ash as I matter of fact I believe I had a meal with him on Saturday Night in Brick Lane. Is he a big sturdy laddie?

    Its the first time I have agreed with you and I hope its the last.

  227. I’ve just heard its true. But its horrible nonetheless. I think though your getting your arshad’s mixed up. Don’t worry, agreement doesn’t lead to contamination. But I think for everyones sake (and I mean everyones) this particular story should be made to die quickly.

  228. Sam Durk (#259) said: has on numerous occasions threatened me and my family and in an extremely aggressive and violent way as well as sending dozens of death threats.

    So according to this comment, supposedly from an insider who knows both Arshad K and Martin L well, we’re supposed to believe that the seriously unhinged individual portrayed here was acceptable to Martin as a Respect candidate and only had the threat of his candidacy withdrawn when he suggested he would like to go to the Respect Renewal Conference.

    I don’t believe anyone in the SWP would stoop to such vile and ill-thought out rubbish. Comrades (on both sides of the split), this is the work of a provocateur and should be given no further credence.

  229. Geoffrey on said:

    #262 There’s no objection to saying that people on the Left we disagree with are wrong. My point is that we have to deal with political differences in a rational manner. I’m against this pervasive culture on the far Left of denouncing everyone to our right as traitors and agents of New Labour.

    It’s a particularly futile approach when the political figures we’re denouncing are supported by the very progressive forces in society who we are trying to appeal to ourselves – and by very many more of them than support us.

    On the issue of the Menezes shooting, this has become a rather redundant question now that the MPA has backed Ian Blair. I think the main issue was the decision by the CPS not to prosecute anyone, though of course the appeal against that was lost almost a year ago.

    Any campaign by the Left against Ian Blair should, I think, have been accompanied by an attack on the motives of the Right who were opposing him for very different and highly reactionary reasons – which went well beyond mere party political manoeuvring.

  230. Oh dear, a further mistake. 268 and 269 were from me, Babeuf. This is a serious matter, and I only use “the lyrical witch-hunter” on the odd occasion for a laugh. The comments box simply defaulted to the last name I’d used, and I failed to notice this.

  231. I’m going to write to Andy off-line about this as this has gone on long enough #268.

    Geoffry that you take the white wash of Ian Blair seriously, I think raises very serious questions about your politics. I would ask how this kind of nonsense can possibly be taken seriously by anyone on the left at all. Anyone who was not filled with rage by that report is no kind of comrade that I would recognise, and I am quite happy to have nothing further politically to do with such a person. So no problems there.

  232. Sorry, what do I have to click on to send a message to Andy Newman personally. Serious request.

  233. Sam Durk is obviously not a provocateur. If the SUN blog allows these allegations about taping phone calls to be made, then Sam Durk’s account should also be heard. This blog is turning into a real sleaze-pit, by the way.

  234. #273 John, there isn’t any link available on the site, but you can put in a request on the comments box for Andy to send you a blank e-mail, and then you can send him your message.

    Given the “commercial” messages that are piling up in other comments boxes at the moment, he may not be around at the moment.

  235. Ger Francis on said:

    Johng: Your comments about my ducking issues are a bit rich in view of the fact that by your own admission you knew practically nothing, for over two years, about either the meeting, or the political fallout as a result of it, because of the decisions of your leadership to keep you ignorant of their behaviour and the debate, and fracture, it created in Birmingham.

    Exactly what political arguments am I not addressing in relation to the entire debate around the Central Mosque meeting?

  236. The one’s I made Ger. About the different ways of seeing this, and the different kinds of issues involved. In particular that concerns about ‘seperatism’ do not neccessarily involve hostility to self organisation. I spoke myself about how there was no neccessary divide between self organisation and working class unity, but that there might be situations where these issues become a problem. But its not really neccessary for you to come back on these things. I think we’ve all moved on now. One problem I have is trying to work out how many of these emerging political differences were there all the time and how many are simply the product of the current political acrimony. It does seem a bit incredible that some people begin by discussing ‘tactical differences’ over the Ian Blair question and then a few comments later act as if the white wash of Ian Blair resolves everything anyway. And this obsession with Ken Livingstone. Its really wierd.

  237. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    Johng – straight question: did you know about the row over the Birmingham Mosque meeting before last week? And if you did know, how did you come to know about it and when?

  238. I knew about the disagreements about the selection (the one that resulted in a debate in SW), I did not know about the argument about the meeting two years ago until last week. If the CC had made an issue of this and briefed members nationally to take sides in that dispute the split would have happened a lot earlier I suspect. Which would have been a shame as, in the intervening period, Salma was elected as a counciler with the support of both SWP and non-SWP members in Respect. It would also have been a shame because we would have missed out on Salma’s public appearences as a counciler on TV which were a bit of an inspiration, for me anyway, as well as the kinds of opportunities that were opened up locally by this success, opportunities now being squandered in favour of endless backbiting about tensions which have their origins in an incident which happened two years ago. I do actually think activists have a right to expect more then this kind of pettiness.

    Sorry thats how it seems to me.

  239. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    johng – so it seems to me that you accept Rees and the SWP were in the wrong to sideline Salma over “this kind of pettiness” then, and that it was perfectly okay for Galloway to raise questions about it in his letter to the NC in August?

    Another straight question: why did the SWP never respond or reply publicly to Salma’s letter in Socialist Worker concerning the candidate selection? Do you not think it deserved a reply?

    “Debating Respect’s selections in Birmingham

    Socialist Worker (Debate at selection meeting, 3 February) reported a selection meeting for a Respect candidate in Birmingham.

    I am concerned that a misleading impression is being created of the debates in Birmingham Respect.

    There is no dispute on whether Respect should be a “representative and inclusive coalition”.

    Our selection procedure is very open – any member is entitled to nominate themselves or someone else. Established branches select their candidate. For other areas a city-wide committee decides.

    Last year out of the five Birmingham candidates selected, four were women. This year only one woman candidate submitted a nomination. All the other nominations were from Asian male candidates.

    So far seven have been selected. It is wrong to problematise this, especially in light of the huge under representation of ethnic minority representatives in Birmingham City Council.

    There are, however, 33 other wards in Birmingham for which we have not selected a candidate. I see no reason why we should not stand in other wards, and why we cannot find good women candidates to put themselves forward for selection.

    There are several experienced SWP members in Birmingham who would make excellent candidates.

    I hope they, and others, can be persuaded to stand on behalf of Respect.

    Salma Yaqoob, Respect councillor, Birmingham

    Socialist Worker, 10 February 2007”

  240. No I don’t agree with that at all Prinkpo. I think differences over such questions are inevitable in a broad coalition, and I think the fact that successful electoral campaigns could be waged despite them, should have put a cap on these things. I don’t think there ought to have been a reply to Salma’s letter no. Its quite clear that there are different readings of what took place and I don’t see what useful purpose would have been solved by continuing this local argument in a national context. Both the positions were there and people could make their own minds up. To push it further would have led to simply raising the ante. Its not always wise to do this as recent events have demonstrated. And no, I don’t think George’s letter was reasonable at all. It was an attempt to rule out any questioning of a certain kind of electoralist logic which was causing genuine argument in places like TH. This was prompted by panic at approaching elections. The fact that he took absolutely no responsibility for some of the difficulties in Respect is unfortunately symptomatic of some of the serious weaknesses George has had, notwithstanding his many strengths (which to be fair I’ve emphasised even in this difficult situation).

    A politicians revolt masquerading as a peoples revolt is the way I see it. And if you think about it, every single argument here is about leaders falling out, and we’re all expected to be tremendously sympathetic about their awful suffering. Sorry. Thats not my world view. Which I’ve no doubt makes me sound a bit nasty.

  241. Also as far as I can see, in that selection dispute, what happened was that Salma encouraged a comrade to stand, and then when there was an argument about a candidate in another ward, got fed up, and at the last minute withdrew her support and mobilised against her. In this letter she says ‘what are you complaining about stand somewhere else’. Locally probably the response was, as I stated before, something like ‘feck off’. I don’t think such a response should be printed in a national socialist newspaper.

    I also said that, whatever else is said about them, such disputes are pretty usual in organisations which stand candidates, and I don’t think thats a basis for a split. Its something which is annoying on both sides, and probably did signal some real differences (which is why SW felt the need to signal this) but in the end it really ain’t no big.

  242. er a socialist newspaper published nationally. god the glee that my ‘national socialist newspaper’ would cause HP. Ah well. My secrets out.

  243. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    I post this, my SWP resignation letter (from a few weeks ago), not because I think I’m any one of particular import (I’m not) but because I think people are losing sight of the political arguments in this debate and starting just to slang each other off – which is a waste of time.

    Dear Amy and SWP membership office,

    After coming becoming active in politics at Sheffield University before the beginning of the Iraq war, I have spent the entirety of my political life in the SWP. I believe that the party has worked hard to break the left from a political ghetto, embraced the idea that the anti-capitalist movement could breathe life into the political soul of the country, pushed a pluralist StWC when others wanted to keep it ‘anti-imperialist’ pure and archived many other impressive things.

    However, I now have to reluctantly announce that I wish to resign from the party. Given the above, it makes me very sad to do this, but I feel that the political differences I have with the theories and methods of the party regarding the building of a new left project leave me in a position were I can no longer follow party discipline in good faith.

    I totally agree that we were right to help initiate Respect. It has, in the short time it has been in existence, made a huge impact on the political scene because of the organic way in which it emerged from the anti-war movement and because (as Tony Benn notes in a recent interview with Socialist Review) the majority of the public think to the left of the Labour party on issues from the war to privatisation.

    I totally disagree with the left isolationists who criticised the Respect project as not ‘socialist enough’; those who wanted to stay pure in their political ghettos. I also believe that it was a rejection of this position that lead us to theorise the notion of a ‘united front of a special kind’, we rightly wanted to escape from the past of inward looking abstraction and embrace a new outward looking perspective and believed that avoiding party like structures would allow us to do this. However, as powerful as this formulation was in helping us to look outwards it also has some major limitations that have become more acute as Respect has started to mature.

    While our approach has allowed us to reach a wide new audience and win recognition amongst a wide layer, it has also limited the ability of grassroots members to play an active and ongoing part Respect’s decision making. It has also meant that Respect has not been able to sustain its membership, we have pushed out but had nothing to bring activists back to other then a hollow ‘pushing out’ machine sustained only by the fact that a major component (the SWP) is properly organised as a party. Nick Wrack is right to say that Respect is “…is not a union of forces for a temporary fight on a single or several limited demands but a permanent formation around a wide-ranging political manifesto.” (Nick Wrack, “Out towards the open sea”). From this it seems to me clearly to follow that it requires a internal life of its own.

    I believe that the notion of ‘a special kind of united front’ has allowed us to practically break from sectarianism but has also obscured the remaining problem of vanguardism. It has allowed us to believe that we are embracing the pluralism of the radical progressivism of the anti-capitalist movement while retaining the fear of the ‘danger of liquidationism’. We need to accept that we cannot have our cake and eat it, we cannot still operate as a theoretically ‘pure and clean’ revolutionary party and build a coherent new left project that has a life of its own.

    I do believe that the ‘special kind of united front’ formulation would work for a true coalition political grouping, that is for a group that is formed from different independently organised political groups coming together to show a united front for election times, this however is not the current political reality. We are facing a situation were old left organisations are dead and we need to build a new political ark for a new generation of anti-capitalists.

    My disagreement about ‘special kind of united front’ vs. party organisation has come to a head now because I believe that the root of the current conflict lies with the tactics that follow from it. This is for two main reasons;

    * Firstly, in seeing ourselves as the only people really capable of an organised coherent response, the only people able to create effective political tactics, we become very threatened when our power is challenged. We wrongly believe that any loss of our ability to set the agenda can straightforwardly be equated with a huge defeat for the left.
    * Secondly, because the internal political life of Respect has been limited, political and tactical decisions become decided primarily by discussions between national figures rather then created at grassroots. This leads to a situation where rather then different ideas interacting organically to develop into polices that are a synthesis of them, different ideas face each other as opposites were only one set can succeed and that success becomes equated with the success (or defeat) of individuals.

    I believe that these factors (plus a cynical dose of ‘troop rallying’) explain how the CC leadership came to present the present dispute as “a deep-seated battle between ‘left and right’ in Respect, with a right wing bloc supposedly attempting to crush or subordinate the socialist.” (Nick Wrack, “Out towards the open sea”) even though in the past they have argued strongly against the idea that such deep seated differences existed. This has enflamed and distorted the situation, and has united people with different visions of Respect against us. None of which means that I do not have problems with Galloway or that I do not accept that their may have been dirty tactics played but it does mean that we have dealt with the situation incorrectly.

    Perhaps I should stay and argue from within the party, but I am cynical about the extent of the democratic culture within the SWP, with many comrades automatically privileging the CC line rather then rationally engaging with it, and I am also unwilling to follow party demands such as that I should not attend the North West Respect Rally, that I should not engage in debate were I make my position clear outside the party and that I should not promote an alternative vision of Respect.

    I still respect the work that SWP activists do and I will continue to work with party members to build united fronts such as StWC and UNITE and hopefully I will be able to join you in continuing to build a new radical left project for our socialist future and at some point I will join with you again in a revolutionary grouping (be it a party or a current within a wider party).

    Yours,
    Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko
    South Manchester respect

    I received no reply.

  244. Thanks for posting your letter Joseph. My problem with it is that, whilst it might be argued that worries about the wreaking propensities of sectarians (very real: neither StW or Respect would have even existed if they had not been neutralised) led to Respect not having an ‘internal life’, its not really true. I don’t know of any of those most central to this split who ever thought this was an important issue before George Galloway’s letter, aside from, possibly sincere, but to be honest utterly marginal small groups of Socialists. I think the tendency to imagine that this dispute is the fulfillment of their programatic demands is utterly self-deluded, and I think the analyses that this is about electoral pressures and how to respond to them is much more persuasive.

    But thanks for posting the letter.

  245. anticapitalista on said:

    #287 me

    I should add/ask if you brought up the issues you raise in your SWP branch or added to the IB. If you did do these things and felt you were getting nowhere, then of course you have every right to resign from the SWP.

    I just don’t think it is useful posting your letter on this blog.

  246. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    Johnj, perhaps it is because my argument is not clear but I don’t recognise my argument in your reply.

    I do not think that it was the “possible wrecking power of sectarians” as such that lead to Respect having no internal life. I don’t believe that it had ‘no’ internal life rather that its internal life was limited. To repeat, I think that the ‘united fount of a special kind’ tactic was positive in that it helped us to push Respect in a positive direction but negative in that it privileges the internal organisation of the SWP over the internal organisation of Respect – and hence ultimately holds Respect back.

    It is not a conspiracy theory that the ‘united fount of a special kind’ tactic lead to the holding back of internal organisation inside Respect – it is in the content of that theory. What do you think that the coalition verses party argument was all about?

    You say that “the analyses that this is about electoral pressures and how to respond to them is much more persuasive” – well it might be to you but I doubt it would be to any of the people at the renewal conference.

    I agree that not all renewal members would articulate the problems in Respect as being down ‘united front of the special kind’ but I think that the problems that they do articulate (SWP too controlling, SWP thinks it has all the answers etc.) are the result of this essential issue.

    There are some on the renewal side who are crudely putting the argument down to the SWP just wanting to be controlling and wanting to keep Respect small for this reason. I think this is incorrect, I think the SWP cc as well as its grass roots members did want Respect to grow but it is a matter of record that they wanted it to say as a “loose” coalition while at the same time pushing SWP out as a highly organised tight organisation. The effect of such a set up is always going to be that the organised party can control the loose coalition.

    anticapitalista: I expected a reply from my district organiser or from the membership office, at the very least a ‘we are sorry to hear you are leaving’ thing – I expected that a revolutionary organisation would fight to try to retain its membership. Having spoken to others who have left the SWP it seems a general theme that nobody engages with them over their reasons for leaving.

    I agree that the world of blogs has many problems and flaws, I post my letter only because I think that people on both sides are getting caught up in “he said/she said” bollocks and I hoped to inject a little more politics back into the debate.

    On the question of me bringing up the issues in my branch – yep many a time – for example when the district organiser decided we should have less Respect meetings, from our previously agreed 2 organising a month with political lead off’s and one big push out meeting, to 1 pushout meeting and the rest of the stuff to be organised by committee, I argued against this. I lost the debate which is fine but nobody engaged with the fact that the the argument that ‘no one wants to come to meetings’ didn’t fit well with the fact that as the SWP we were continuing to organise very regular branch meetings on top of city wide meetings.

    How can it be right that a section of a left-wing party should meet more often then the party itself?

    I also put in a slip at a SWP national conference to speak in a section on SWP sub’s. I wanted to make the point that if we were now asking people to join Respect then they would need to give some of their financial resources to Respect and thus less to the party. A member of the Central committee approached me and asked me to withdraw the slip because it would be a distraction from the drive to get people to increase their subs. I didn’t. But I wasn’t called anyway.

    I argued that we should give more resorces to respect so that for exapmlple we wouldn’t have had the situation on the Manchester StW march that there was one Respect stall and 6-8 SW stalls!

    I have to admit that I didn’t write an article for the IB. I always felt a little intimidated to be honest. My bad.

    Once Renewal has some interal life

  247. anticapitalista on said:

    #Joseph Kisolo

    How refreshing to get some serious political reasons here on why you left the SWP and prefer RR, though I disagree with your political reasons.
    I am not in the UK, so can only get information from SWP members, and ex (most are still in Respect not RR), that I am still in touch with in Manchester.
    Still, I hope that at least in STW, union work, climate change etc, both sides can work together (if not “from above”, but “from below”).
    Hope the Karen Reissmann demo went well today and there was a spirit of unity.

  248. Its a boy on said:

    “This breakdown in relations has occurred because the SWP leadership arrogantly refuses to countenance any situation in which they are not dominant and do not exercise control. They are determined to put the interests of the SWP above that of Respect.” Part of RR statement.

    Teddy Boy is correct.
    1) If they (SWP) had absolute power they would sack people that are employed by the other platform.

    2) No leader is above reproach. However, wild accusations by the SWP apparathicks of ballot rigging should be dismissed with the comtempt it deserves .

    TB has brought into question the substance of one leader’s utterances of a witch hunt.He believes, this is part of the political cut and thrust of leaders seeking support within their unions. Its a misleading one.

    Its clear that some like Johng put leaders on pedestals and as TB says they are inclined to topple over from their precarious heights.