Jerry’s Hicks Resignation from the SWP

jer-hicks.jpgJerry Hicks is a former AEU/Amicus convenor at Rolls Royce in Bristol. He is one of the most experienced trade union militants in the SWP, and a natural and charismatic working class leader. In 2006 he acheived 25% of the vote for Respect in the mainly white working class estate of Lockleaze, finishing second (ahead of Labour). He is a member of Respect’s National Council. He is a key member of the SWP in Bristol.  On a personal note, in the thirty plus years I have been involved in socialist politics, I have never met anyone I respect more than Jerry.

To the SWP Central Committee and membership: From Jerry Hicks:

Respect is in crisis. How did we arrive at where we are now?

Was it George Galloway’s letter sent out on 23rd August 2007 to all Respect National Council members stating some observations, expressing some criticisms and making some suggestions? Or was it the hysterical reaction by the SWP leadership in the weeks that followed? Despite apocalyptical warnings and assertions of “no capitulation” in the SWP road shows that took place in September, virtually all of Galloway’s solutions were agreed but only after weeks of vile and damaging blood letting.

On receiving the letter of August 23rd there were two ways of dealing with it. We had a choice to defuse or to ignite. We, i.e. the SWP leadership, chose to do the latter and have been fanning the flames ever since.

I attended the Respect National Council meeting 22nd September 2007 where it became evident for the first time to the overwhelming majority of the council that there have been very serious and deeply disturbing problems for nearly two years.

Every end has a beginning and a number of soul searching questions need to be asked.

As the SWP is by far the single largest organisation in Respect, should it not then shoulder the greatest responsibility to ensure that Respect not only survives but grows, flourishes and prospers?

How can it be that the national Respect membership numbers only 2500 when the SWP membership is nearly 6000. Obviously fewer than a 1/3 of the SWP membership are even in Respect?

When was the last time we as individual members of the SWP took part in a campaign or union activity and identified ourselves as Respect?

When did we bring anyone – friend, family, colleague or supporter of a campaign that we are involved in to Respect events or activities?

When was the last time as an individual we recruited or even asked anyone to join Respect?

Who is responsible for allowing this when the official line is that the SWP throws its full weight behind Respect?

Why have so many SWP members not even joined Respect yet are called to go to meetings around the country to discuss Respect and are now being urged to join Respect and to get delegated to Respect conference! See email below sent out on the 17th October 2007…………….

RESPECT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
‘The Respect annual conference is going to be very important this year. We are urging comrades do the following:

You can only get delegated to Respect conference if you are a registered member. You MUST be a paid-up member by THIS FRIDAY, 19 October .Deadline for resolutions is Friday 19 October.
Deadline for the election of delegates is Sunday 4 November. Once again we are urging as many SWP members as possible to get elected to the Respect Conference. If you have any questions please contact John Rees or the SWP National Office. Martin Smith, SWP National Organiser.’

We, in the SWP also need to ask ourselves the following questions.

Did we play any part in reaching this disastrous situation or is it all due to George Galloway’s letter of August 23rd 2007? When did it all start to go wrong? Was it August 23rd or long before that?

Who or how many knew of the issues? Why was there no debate or discussion within the SWP or Respect National Council immediately problems began to arise to try to resolve the differences and thereby avoid being where we are now?

In my view the responsibility rests with the SWP leadership for this situation of crisis to have been developing over many months, even years, whilst in the SWP we were told nothing.

Is Bristol different and is this only a London thing?

Lots of people in Bristol Respect have done lots of things but we only stood for one council seat in this year’s May elections. Let’s ask ourselves why. Was it because we had grown? Was it because we did not want to stand in any other ward?

Or, was it in part because not enough people in the SWP in Bristol had either joined Respect or done one single thing to help Respect?

Whilst we might not have the upheaval of Tower Hamlets, our own Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on 27th September 2007 was almost ruined by our full time SWP organiser who wanted to call all the SWP members out of the room 5 minutes before the AGM was due to start, leaving non SWP Respect members (a third of the meeting) sat there not knowing what the hell was going on.

That potential disaster was averted because I refused to let it happen, but it would have without my intervention. Who would bet that this is not happening elsewhere.

Galloway was and is a maverick, warts and all. We all knew this. I am not making excuses just stating the blindingly obvious.

The Big Brother experience was considered by many a mistake but his performance before the US Senate was unrivalled and made the name of Respect known across the globe.

To describe Galloway as right wing is farcical. To vilify him and demonise him as the enemy beggars belief.

The 27 members of the Respect National Council who are also critical of the SWP do not represent a “Galloway faction” as is being presented, nor are any of them right wing or witch hunters as we are being asked to believe. They include people like Ken Loach, Linda Smith, Victoria Brittain, Salma Yaqoob and Yvonne Ridley. They are all socialists, they are all remarkable people in their own right and they are all senior members of Respect.

I feel that our SWP leadership has created an atmosphere where an observation made is described as a criticism, where any criticism is taken as an attack which is transposed as being ‘right wing’.

Are we really supposed to believe that we were in an ‘all or nothing’, ‘them and us’ situation where everything we the SWP say must be true and that everything the ‘other side’ says must be lies. Everything we the SWP do is right but everything they do is wrong!

Frankly, as in life or politics this is ludicrous.
After having overreacted to Galloway’s letter in August, the SWP leadership rallied its membership to emergency party councils and road shows, seeking votes of endorsements predicated on half truths and contorted facts to justify their position, in a dishonest and degrading manner.

When sound judgement was needed we got poor analysis, when honesty and frankness were required we got a call for blind loyalty and expulsions.

The situation has been appallingly handled by our SWP leadership, with a series of misjudgements eventfully reaching a position of a self fulfilling prophecy.

Have we just thrown away a fantastic opportunity? Are we now dashing the hopes of millions having given others and ourselves a glimpse of what is or was possible?

Was it right that so many were ready to join the chorus of catcalls vilifying some of Respect’s brightest stars without more thoroughly questioning the denouncements.

I have seen things that I can no longer accept.
I have heard things from meetings I have been at described in a way that I don’t recognise.

No longer will these things be done in my name.

For the reasons that I have set out, as from this moment I am resigning from the SWP.

To those of you who will feel let down I offer an unreserved apology, to those who will feel disappointed I am truly sorry, to those who could not care less and who may from here on invent their own distorted version I wish you well in your world.

We all have to live with our own decisions and I know I am leaving the SWP with my integrity and honour intact and feel sure that I will be able to sleep well at night, safe in the knowledge that I did what I did for the right reasons at the right time and with the best intentions.

Jerry Hicks.

191 comments on “Jerry’s Hicks Resignation from the SWP

  1. Brilliant letter and excellent anlysis of what the SWP is doing and not doing. This is further evidence of the completly duplicitous nature of the SWP leadership. Any other socialists in the SWP who feel similarly as Jerry should do like wise.To try to stay and change the leadership is clearly pissing in the wind.

    Congratulations Jerry for taking a very courageous stand and doing what is right. May many follow you. You have made the right decision.

    Integrity!

  2. Personally I think it is a big mistake for Jerry Hicks to resign. Certainly his description of the undemocratic and bureaucratic mishandling of this crisis is accurate, but he doesn’t really get beyond that to examine the politics behind the SWP leaderships terrible, undemocratic methods.
    The SWP have always had a notion of the revolutionary party as an organisational centre. This stemmed from their view that socialism arose spontaneously in the working class and all that was necessary was for a socialist party to organise it.
    Initially this was posed as a rejection of “Leninism”, with the implication that if Lenin was right then the working class would no longer be the agents of their own emancipation.
    But in fact what it means is that the SWP downgrade the struggle for socialism – in favour of organisation.
    Hence when GG challenged their organisational hegemony in Respect they had no option but to fight to split. The split perspective, explusions, bureaucratic methods and so on, were inevitable once this had happened.
    And they go back to the SWP’s root false conception of how to fight for socialism.
    So that paradoxically in spite of all the vituperation from all sides, there is nothing really said about the struggle for socialism. The SWP claim GG has moved right – everyone knows that’s nonsense – as he was always on the right of the LP barring his relatively principled positions on Palestine and Iraq.
    All sides support the Respect tactic – a tactic predicated on ditching the overt struggle for socialism, when it is this entire tactic that needs questioning. The broad party has proved a disaster for the left and the collapse of Respect is the end of that entire series of initatives going back to the Socialist Alliance, SLP, SSP etc.
    It is the whole political method which is wrong and it is this political method that has created the bad organisational methods, not the other way around.
    Rather what SWP members need to do is to launch a fight within the organisation to fight and replace the leadership. They will have to do so initially in secret certainly, notwithstanding the pre-conference period, we have already seen how the SWP treat dissidents. And if necessary, if they are unable to break the control of the present leadership then split.
    But that is better than individuals resigning here and there.

  3. Ger Francis on said:

    The line of the SWP leadership is ‘predicated on half truths’ and justified in ‘a dishonest and degrading manner.’ Nothing more fits that description from Jerry than the latest lies told to justify the ‘stop the witch-hunt’ petition. SWP members have been wound up to believe that their organization was about to be subject to a ‘McCarthyite’ assault from George Galloway and others in the media. It never happened and was never going to happen. Instead all we have seen is a deeply cynical maneuver on behalf of the SWP leadership designed to shore up the weaknesses in their own position. This petition is a disgraceful con, and those that sign it are being used.

    There is a pattern here. After George’s mild criticisms the SWP went hysterical about being attacked and bandied around allegations about ‘communalism’, ‘homophobia’, ‘anti-trade unionism’ to whip their members into line. But they never produced a single shred of evidence to substantiate any of these charges. It is remarkable that while Salma Yaqoob produced both a devastating rebuttal of the communalism allegation, and an insightful analysis into the electoral pressures in inner city Birmingham wards, the SWP have produced nothing to explain and illustrate their arguments in more detail.

    And now, after all the guff about being the ones defending the democratic integrity of Respect, because they cannot win a majority in Tower Hamlets, the SWP have initiated a split.

    There is no point SWP members doing any more hand-wringing or pulling the duvet cover over their heads in response to this situation. You need to intervene to try hold your leadership to account and to stop their wrecking behaviour. Jerry Hicks has given you some ammunition to do so. Take it, if for nothing else, than to try and fight for the integrity of your own organization.

  4. Bill’s hasn’t got a great record in winning faction fights, so bear that in mind.

    What strikes me about this letter is the complete lack of political analysis,

  5. #5 “Bill’s hasn’t got a great record in winning faction fights, so bear that in mind.”

    Au contraire, we wmet through a faction fight and came out as a unified block; some of us- even me at one point- were impatient to leave but in th eend by staying in we fought for our postion, lost (just) but got as the result a new cohered group willing to look at left politics in a new way.

    So in general I think it may be better to stay in the group and fight- actually in the SWP a left opposition fighting for a turn to the left but allied with building real membership led democracy in the organisation may have a chance of winning and going through the experience would be a valuable one.

    However, if Gerry doesn’t want to stay in for the fight then that’s his decision and wish him all the best in finding new allies in the fight for socialism and in the workers’ movement.
    “What strikes me about this letter is the complete lack of political analysis,”

    Yeah at the moment – perhaps the politics will be fleshed out as people see the dust settle and try to work out where it went wrong. The whole idea of opportunist turns to build borad parties based on watering down socialism needs to be re-examined I think.

    The left needs to really think through all these issues; think about how to organise in the clas, darwing in new forces; th emore forces we can draw into these discussions, even just in terms of clarifying our differences, the stronger our politics will be.

  6. Jason

    “Au contraire, we went through a faction fight and came out as a unified block”

    Of about 4 of you in Manchester, but hey ho !

    Your experience is invaluable

  7. yeh it wasn’t very political.

    but it takes a massive jump to leave an organisation after so many years so respect to jerry for that.

    i guess the political direction of ger, nick, kevin, rob, jerry and any others will only become fully clear later on.

    jerry makes it clear though that there is no ‘galloway faction’ and does criticise george for goining on bb and being a maverick in general.

    are there any overtly political motions to respect conference? surely the swp should propose a left-wing socialist programme to take out the right wing politically?

    ks

  8. Another anti-anti-SWP comment from Martin Ohr, the non-member who’s ever ready to defend the CC.

    Let’s do a little test. Martin, can you tell us what the leadership of the SWP has done wrong during this crisis?

  9. In my view the idea that this is all about a dispute about the respective integrities of the SWP and important leaders in Respect, is as mistaken as the view that its all about a dispute between Leninism and Pluralism.

    When Gerry says that a range of things have come to light over a year and a half he is absolutely right. When you have attempts to present packing meetings as an excercise in grass roots democracy, or demands for more ‘professionalism’ being used to denounce those who criticise selection proceedures which let in people capable of defecting to ‘New Labour’ it seems to me your confronting left wing arguments to justify right wing political practice, as good a definition of a very British tradition of Municipal reformism as any.

    In retrospect reading through the contributions in the IB (which importantly have been published and are being read by every SWP member) what you have are sincere comrades being pulled by these well known electoral compulsions, and dressing up more familiar kinds of electoral compulsion in a pseudo-SWP language. I have no doubt that the pulls are real and that this is the result not of consious perfidy but of genuine disorientation in the face of a new situation. But the speed with which the language adopted has shifted to the kind of hysterical denunciations made by Rob and Kevin is rather shocking if perhaps the product of the, obviously and genuinely, shocking dynamic of the last month.

    This is though, of a piece, with a language of contempt directed not at any Socialists, its true, but any Socialists raising questions about selection proceedures (its interesting that George’s intervention focused heavily on this question). In other words its perfectly ok to be left wing so long as you are just a loyal foot-soldier in the electoral process and leave deeper questions of political strategy to the higher ups. This is after all a familiar enough pattern in British left wing politics and the reason is not that people are evil or bad but that if you focus only on the question of ‘electability’ its obviously true that its best to soft pedal on the politics, at least at the level of local commitee’s. The idea here is that our good general arguments would have much greater impact if we had more representation.

    The difficulty is that the result has been an increasing subordination of a general political orientation towards attempting to providing a political home for those moving between Labour and a left alternative towards the imperatives of building local electoral machines which contain methods of operation identical to the thing we’re trying to build an alternative to. The extremely bitter fight in Tower Hamlets (with Kevin trying now to reduce this to a family affair and a couple of demented Trots) escalated precisely because of a clash between a core of people who have done a huge chunk of the leg work and a section of the councilers who seem to have seen Georges intervention as an opportunity to marginalise all these irritating little russian dolls and their hangers on.

    Obviously its true that in the current climate we would hope for the support of many who are not socialists. I also stand by everything I’ve argued about the ludicrousness of suggesting that grocers are members of the British Bourgoisie. But if a logic starts developing where such people are given a whip hand over the activists (the vitriol and contempt towards socialist activists who ‘try the chairs patience’ etc) that is a logic which has to be challenged. Georges intervention, as stated, was directly related to these arguments. And sure enough straight afterwards you had a situation were a kind of ‘all power to the councilers’ move was taken, in the first by now notorious meeting. In the last meeting it was apparently enough that a majority of people who came did not support the councilers position but were more sympathetic to what some comrades in the SWP were arguing, as well as some councilers seen as supporting them, not only for their arguments to be dismissed, but for democracy to be abrogated.

    This to me is the logic of what is going on and this is what I mean by ‘right wing’. Not a conspiracy, not evil people, but a shift which structurally will lead us to the right. I’m told that socialist worker was contacted by two media organisations one of them channel 4. In the climate (particularly of Rob Hovemans intervention which I found grotesquely offensive) I may have over-reacted to the situation. Even Russian Dolls have tempers in this situation. I am very sorry if comrades of the quality of Jerry Hicks are resigning. Its terrible and tragic and I would be the last person to suggest that mistakes have not been made. But if the logic is as I think it is (and I think it is), then in political terms (and I am constantly being told to keep my head and be political by people who seem to me to be doing the opposite) on this one, the SWP is right to argue what its arguing.

  10. Errr, not quite. But anyway people can judge for themselves the result of our split. For me it was like having a good bath. You come out smelling nice and feeling all warm and cosy inside.
    Ger Francis epitomises the apolitical spirit of this discussion. It’s all fire and brimstone directed at the SWP’s bureaucratic ploys, but not a word of politics.
    If socialists are to take anything out of this mess, we need to assess what were the political mistakes that got us here in the first place.
    As I said earlier, it was the idea that the fight for socialism was an optional extra, but something that really got in the way of building a “broad” electoral coalition. Therefore it could be mentioned in the back rooms, the “socialists” could still sell their papers (although less and less from my observation), but they couldn’t fight for socialist policies to be openly advocated as the policies of the “broad” organisation.
    For the simple reason, if they did so, it wouldn’t be broad coalition for very long.
    And we can see the consequences now, after being told that socialism is an optional extra for three years, the members of the broad coalition have now decided that the socialists are optional extras too.
    The bad organisational practices flow from the bad politics. So to cure the bad organisational practices its necessary to cure the politics, so SWP members need to undertake a fundamental revaluation of the politics behind the dispute and not leave in the ones and twos, but organise themselves against the leadership that propagated this policy and if necessary take it to a split.

  11. Thomas Wooler on said:

    johng says, “I would be the last person to suggest that mistakes have not been made.”

    Let’s have it then. What are the mistakes you accept? Do you agree with the description of events inside the SWP given by Jerry Hicks?

  12. Some excellent points Jerry that I am in full agreement with. Incidentally, whatever the spin on Left versus Right, this issue Primarily is about accountability and democracy within such Movements, Campaigns, Coalitions etc.

    Indeed one can expect such spin in these situations and, at times change, it seems, cannot really be effected from the inside, but it can be, at times, from the outside. This, where such ways of working in Coalitions, Movements, Campaigns etc, can be collectively stood against and shown in their unaccountable and undemocratic light, to those not in the know.

    My last point on this issue, before I sign of on these discussions is this, either the SWP {and other such}, seek to work in a fraternal way, or I believe, they will further lose key members and support.

    Indeed, I believe an Internationalist – ‘United Activist Fraternity’, will continue to seek to see such Movements, Coalitions, and Campaigns, move to work that way, for the benefit for all.

    Signing off

    Davy Carlin – Belfast

  13. I think there is a tendency to the ‘evil’ and ‘bad’. I also though think this is fairly understandable probably on both sides, but has to be overcome. I know I’m pissed off. I also think we should have had this argument a year ago, and suspect it would be much less damaging and bitter if we had done that.

  14. Ger Francis on said:

    ‘In my view the idea that this is all about a dispute about the respective integrities of the SWP and important leaders in Respect, is as mistaken as the view that its all about a dispute between Leninism and Pluralism.’

    This really is the politics of hear no evil, see no evil, John. The call to defend those poor hunted SWP members being subject to a ‘witch-hunt’ led by those notorious McCarthyites Ken Loach and Alan Thornett is one of the most disingenuous and cynical moves I have witnessed in my 25 years of political activity on the left. There is no evidence to substantiate it. It is only effect has been to rally SWP members to a lie, and to shred any possibility of rebuilding trust. So, sorry John, integrity matters.

    Is this a dispute between ‘Leninism’ and ‘Pluralism’. I don’t accept that Leninist practice inevitably excludes pluralism. It just appears that the SWP version of ‘Leninism’ does. The only conception of Respect they appear to have is one in which Respect occupies a subordinate relationship to the SWP, to be switched on and off like a tap as fits SWP needs. This current conflagration could have been avoided if measures had been taken to restore confidence in the workings of the National Office. Why? Because there was a concern that we needed a more pluralistic culture inside Respect, and that any more grafting of the SWP’s internal culture onto Respect would only inflict the kind of damage on Respect that it has on the SWP, except with worse consequences. To that end it was the wish of the National Council that Nick takes up the National Organiser post. The SWP steadfastly refused this. Why? Because a more pluralistic model of Respect is one they feel they cannot tolerate. Devoid of real electoral influence on the ground, they have become reduced to control freakery at the top. This current debate has everything to do with the politics of how a broad, left-of-Labour organization can be built, and why a genuine commitment is pluralism is intrinsic to that project.

    The sad irony in all of this is that if the SWP had exercised more of the self-discipline and patience that they showed at the beginning of this project in dealing with difference, if they deliberately subordinated their ability to swamp the structures, if they retained committed to working in a coalition manner, if they retained a sense of reality about the fact that their ability to stack a Respect committee bore no resemblance to their real social base, then not only would that have been better for Respect, it would also have been better for the SWP. Instead they gave just given some text book lessons for the far left on how not to win friends and influence people.

  15. Thre is still every chance that out of this current crisis in Respect, there will emerge a core of socialist activists who have learned the lessons- that you can be a revolutionary and build large united front organisations of the working class and lever them into action. But you can’t do it by concealing your politics, making secretive deals behind closed doors and not involving the membership.

    There are though plenty of opporutnities for united front work for socialists, whether in defending the NHS, anti-academies, campaigns around asylum seekers, union rank and file intiatives. I’d also suggest the setting up of socialist discussion forums like the socialist unity one in manchester where socialists frtom whatever tendency (or no tendency) can discuss and clarify th epolitical lessons.

  16. bill j on said:

    But isn’t the idea that there can be no witchunt because it is “led” by Ken Loach and Alan Thornett, really the “disingenuous and cynical” one?
    Who seriously believes that, apart from maybe Alan Thornett and…Ger Francis?
    And for all his attempts to present some sort of political rationale for the blow up, it boils down to things could have been avoided, if;
    “…measures had been taken to restore confidence in the workings of the National Office.”

    In other words he presents a bureaucratic answer to a political problem. Get real.
    His answer is not unlike Ger Francis’ own attempts to stitch up the delegation from South Birmingham in advance of the recent meeting; as these things really shouldn’t be had out in the public domain, now should they? How off putting for the members to be appraised of the crisis in the organisation.

    And Ger Francis assessment of the origin of the SWP’s bureaucratic method is no more serious;

    “Devoid of real electoral influence on the ground, they have become reduced to control freakery at the top.”

    As if electoral influence was the key determining factor in explaining the SWP’s political orientation.

    No. Socialists need to reject the entire broad party schema whether presented by Ger Francis or the SWP. All they argue about is which particular faction controls the front, not the politics of the front itself. They present alternative bureaucratic non-solutions to a political problem.

    It is in the politics of the broad front that the problem starts and ends. By dropping key socialist, working class and democratic demands when they founded Respect, by claiming that these were not an essential part of the work of socialists in the everyday, that they were not indeed “shibboleths”, then the SWP sowed the seeds for this disaster; now the mandrake has grown, it has decided to devour its creator, and it’s making them both pretty sick.

    The answer to the crisis lies in a fundamental reassessment and rejection of the political method behind the “broad” party, not in any combination of organisational non-solutions.

  17. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Another anti-anti-SWP comment from Martin Ohr, the non-member who’s ever ready to defend the CC.

    Let’s do a little test. Martin, can you tell us what the leadership of the SWP has done wrong during this crisis?”

    Martin Ohr is of course a provocateur from the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Their supposed opposition to bureaucratic practices in the workers movement is shown up for what it is by their support for the bureaucratism of the SWP in this situation. The AWL are cheering for what they see as a bit of Muslim-bashing. Actually they’re all in favour of that in Afghanistan and Iraq as well, given their refusal to call for troop withdrawal and thereby implicitly for the killing of Afghans and Iraqis by the imperialist occupiers to maintain their rule. The fact that the SWP is being cheered for by these social-imperialist scum should give those of them who really are disgusted by the racism of people like this pause for thought.

  18. “The call to defend those poor hunted SWP members being subject to a ‘witch-hunt’ led by those notorious McCarthyites Ken Loach and Alan Thornett is one of the most disingenuous and cynical moves I have witnessed in my 25 years of political activity on the left.” Ger

    Thanks for that comment.I totally agree.

    INTEGRITY does matter.

    Maybe there is time to just salvage the meaning of ‘integrity’ as the definition of respect, for the moment lies, in tatters.

    INTEGRITY = entireness,wholeness,the unimpaired state of anything, uprightness…..honesty

    It should be interesting to hear about how the SWP “operates” at today’s Stop The War Coalition conference, which will no doubt give a further indication of their present insane trajectory.

  19. Ian,

    I have no idea who you are, and I’m not an AWL member, but I think you stop accusing the AWL of being racist, because they disagree with you. Either that start taking your medication again.

  20. Ger Francis on said:

    Bill j and Jason and whichever groups they belongs are entitled to the view that Respect is a waste of time and more serious Marxists like themselves should go elsewhere. I suggest you post elsewhere and stop clogging up this tread. This debate is really for and between those who feel Respect is important and worth fighting for.

  21. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    The politics of this are clear. The SWP leadership is retreating from what had been described as a central strategic priority – building radical left formations in opposition to social liberalism across Europe. Now its emphasis is on splits with the “right” in those formations. It’s a rationalisation after the fact, namely a minor critique of the methods applied in Respect which the SWP CC cynically claimed was an war of being or not being for the left. There’s plenty of self delusion as well, viz Martin Smith claiming at the start of this week that Ken Loach was “with the SWP” on the argument in Respect (when he was in fact signing a statement highly critical of the SWP) and that John McDonnell would be a player with SWP in some new formation – contradictory and delusional.

  22. “The fact that the SWP is being cheered for by these social-imperialist scum should give those of them who really are disgusted by the racism of people like this pause for thought”.

    Not really Ian. I don’t think anyone serious about this debate should pause even for a second over anything these idiots say or do. Its irrelevent.

  23. “Bill j and Jason and whichever groups they belongs are entitled to the view that Respect is a waste of time and more serious Marxists like themselves should go elsewhere. I suggest you post elsewhere and stop clogging up this tread. This debate is really for and between those who feel Respect is important and worth fighting for.”

    Certainly an illuminating point of view. I prefer Kevin Ovenden’s view though that we should be serious about building “building radical left formations in opposition to social liberalism across Europe”. The question is how?

    If as Ger sys you are unfriendly and unwelcoming to thinking militants outside Respect then you are effectively not wanting to engage with a new forces- whereas by contrast Kevin’s point is that we precisely need to engage with those forces.

    The best way to do so in my opinion is build ad hoc united fornt campaigns around immediate issues, having discussions along the way, including the possibilities of standaing candidates in elections when that tactic will strengthen the working class in struggle.

    Fortunatley not all members of Respect ar like Ger in this saying no one from outside should have anything useful to say- we have worked productively with both SWP and non SWP Respect members in the Sukula campaign, the Manchester mental health workers strike, anti academies allainces and so on and indeed did before in the Socialist Alliance.

    So let’s use this opportunity of open debate to be friednly and welcoming to all thinking militants and not be unwlecoming purely because someone is not in your particualr group.

    Jason

  24. Ian Donovan on said:

    paulm

    “but I think you stop accusing the AWL of being racist… Either that start taking your medication again.”

    I think you will find that quite a few people here think the AWL are racist. If you dont like that, I suggest you simply go elsewhere (to put it politely.

    johng

    “Not really Ian. I don’t think anyone serious about this debate should pause even for a second over anything these idiots say or do. Its irrelevent.”

    I dont think its irrelevant, but rather symptomatic, that people who really do spend much of their time squealing in the most exaggerated fashion about the crimes of the SWP, are now loudly claiming to support the SWP. Not only the AWL, but other professional SWP-bashers, are endorsing this nonsense about there being a witchhunt of the SWP, despite the fact that the only expulsions, and the only statements aimed at the mass media about this conflict, have come from the SWP and its sympathisers. How can this be, that so many diehard enemies of Respect and the SWP, are not only proclaiming their support for the SWP, but are prepared to deny obvious facts and argue a falsified version of reality to argue this case?

  25. bill j on said:

    I very far from think that the crisis in Respect is a waste of time. Its obviously very important – well in terms of the British left anyway – but that’s not the same thing as believing however, that there is anything good that can come out of Respect.
    Respect was always founded on a fatal abandonment of key political principles and is now collapsing as a result of that abandonment.
    I agree with Kevin Ovenden that the SWP are moving away from their previously espoused perspective, certainly in deed if not yet in word and in my view that is a good thing, the broad parties, SLP, SA, SSP, Respect, Rifondaze Communista etc. have been a disaster wherever they have been tried.
    It’s about time socialists began to address why.
    The problem is that the SWP leadership responsible for it (the entire CC), are not making a political accounting for that turn and are instead using bureaucratic measures both within Respect and in their own organisation to prevent a debate about where it went wrong.
    This means that the lessons will not be learnt. They are putting their own situation above that of the party as a whole. The SWP members need to hold them to account.

  26. Nonamesorrythanks on said:

    Hey Ger, when I lived in your ex-flat in Dulwich I stole one of your books on Lenin, are your books still there now, or can we use them to educate our members? Or do you need to re-read them? Wink wink.

  27. Ian Donovan on said:

    “I’m not sure whether the AWL actually do support the SWP ….when they are being witch-hunted by the right in Respect”

    Well indeed, Voltaire’s Priest is another one of these ‘supporters’ that John G will no doubt be none-too-pleased about. Again, if there is such a ‘witch-hunt’, why has there been not one SWP member or supporter excluded or even threatened with such from Respect? Why has there not been one single statement or interview being given to the reactionary media by the SWP’s critics, while several leading people have been expelled from the SWP and a press release has been put out by SWP members and sympathisers attacking and making unsubstantiated personal allegations against a prominent critic of the SWP within Respect (Abjol Miah).

    Why this Alice in Wonderland version of events where those on the receiving end of disciplinary actions and personal attacks are depicted as the intiators of a witch-hunt, while no detail is given (because none exists!) of how exactly they are supposed to have carried out this ‘witchhunt’? Or is simply questioning and criticising the way things are done tantamount to a ‘witchhunt’? In which case simple expression of political differences is re-defined as a ‘witchhunt’ and thereby out of order. The Stalinist logic of this should be quite obvious to anyone with any intelligence.

    So why are we getting this peculiar Stalin-like distortion and falsification of reality from die-hard opponents of the SWP, Respect and everything they ever stood for, in defence of the SWP? Why are long-time members and even former leaders of the SWP (such as Rob Hoveman) being vilified by SWP-haters as anti-SWP witchhunters? And how on earth can someone like John G, who has considerable intellectual and political ability, pretend that this bizarre turn of events is ‘irrelevant’? The SWP comrades have made a potentially fatal error, that could well be their undoing and expose them to centrifugal forces that could cause them havoc in the period to come. That is why the AWL and other SWP-haters are ‘supporting’ the SWP – they are licking their lips at the possible consequences for the SWP of their folly – and trying to drive a stake through the heart of the Respect project in the process. I dont think they will succeed in the latter, but the SWP are very politically vulnerable because of this bizarre sectarian turn and attempt to destroy their own work, basically out of petty pique.

  28. Ian Donovan on said:

    Hey Voltaire’s Priest… go and lick up the vomit from your mate Jim Denham’s latest drunken binge, there’s a good doggie. Funny to be baited about a ‘virtual’ political life by someone who is only known around here by his cyber-name. Everyone knows who I am – I am the secretary of the very non-virtual Respect branch in the very non-virtual London Borough of Southwark. And as for his perceptions of who is a socialist and who isnt, he thinks Jim Denham is a good socialist, so what more need I say?

  29. The AWL are irrelevent Ian and I’m not interested in pursuing that question any further.

    I’ve just heard that the same counciler who chaired the last fiasco of a meeting in tower hamlets has just sent out an email to TH respect members stating that those councilers who resigned the whip have been expelled from Respect.

    On what authority exactly?

  30. Paul Hunt on said:

    Ian, why the last post? I have worked with VP in Coventry and can vouch that he is a good socialist and a decent bloke (that got to be worth a pint next time I see you VP?!)

    anyway, of more interest, the statement from newham respect, elaine heffernan (unison activist if i remember correctly) is swp , what about the rest?

    cheers
    Paul

  31. Alex Nichols on said:

    Here are a few suggestions for SWP members to consider for improving the functioning of their organisation and accountability of the leadership:-

    1) A member of the SWP is someone who publicly promotes the platform of the organisation, is in good standing and has been accepted into membership by a properly constituted branch of the organisation.

    2) All members must be attached to a branch

    3) All branches must have an elected branch committee should be attached to a District, which nominates C.C. members, based on the number of members.

    4) 10% of the C.C. may be national members elected by conference.

    5) The C.C. should meet monthly, except in August.

    6) Minutes of all C.C. meetings should be circulated to branches with attendance records, a record of all debates and recorded votes.
    Up to 10 lay members of the organisation may attend a C.C. meeting on request in advance.

    7) National conferences must be held either Annually, or when 60% of the C.C. or 70% of districts vote for a Special Conference.

    8) There must be a 3 month notice period for conference discussion. During this period members may submit documents and motions to District Aggregate meetings.
    Motions must be proposed and seconded by members in good standing.

    9) District aggregates may submit agreed motions to Conference by a majority vote.
    If a document, or motion is voted for by the majority of a quorate aggregate meeting, it must be circularised to members and delegates nationally.

    10) The C.C. may employ full-time organisers for the organisation, who must be attached to a branch and attend branch meetings at least 6 times a year.
    Full time organisers will be paid a pro-rata salary, based on an average skilled workers salary and be appointed for no more than 3 years.
    On the expiry of their period of appointment, they will either be offered a continued 3 year post, or one years compensation for loss of earnings.

    The C.C. must appoint a National Secretary, National Treasurer, National Organiser and local Organisers.

    11) The property of the organisation will be embodied in a Trust, which adminsters it and is composed on members of the C.C. as annually elected.
    Overall supervision of the Trust will be the responsibility of the National Treasurer.

    12) The C.C. may enter into arrangements with other political organisations who do not share the SWP’s programme on a national or international basis.
    Any agreements to work with said organsations must be submitted for ratification by national conference and open to review on an annual basis.
    Such agrements may not be in conflict with the public platform of the organisation.

    13) Members of the organisation and full-timers may have their membership suspended or revoked for breaches of discipline, including publicly opposing the platform of the organisation, misuse of funds, or other offences specified in a national code of conduct. Suspension may be appealed after a month, expulsion may be appealed to a Control Commision elected from National Conference.

    14) Members of the SWP must be members of a trade union which organises in their workplace.
    Members of the SWP may hold membership of the Labour Party, or other political organisation which has TU affiliation.
    Members of the SWP may not hold dual membership of any other poltical organisation.

  32. Sorry to disappoint Ian, but I’ve no idea who you are, other than someone who writes the occasional letter to WW, and that you seem to be very offensive and very confused. At best.

    i return to my central point in all this, that neither Galloway or the SWP will ever be able to lead a healthy left. The former because he isn’t particularly left-wing and hated by the left, the latter because they don’t understand basic democratic norms, cannot work as a minority and because of that are also hated by nearly all of the left.

  33. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Sorry to disappoint Ian, but I’ve no idea who you are, other than someone who writes the occasional letter to WW, and that you seem to be very offensive and very confused. At best.”

    You seem to be under the delusion that I, or anyone else, cares what you find ‘offensive’. If you don’t like it, you’ll have to lump it, I’m afraid. Same goes for Voltaire’s Priest and others of the same ilk. Personal abuse from such types is a compliment, the more they indulge in it, the shabbier they look, which is all to the good.

  34. Jerry Hicks concludes his letter thus:
    “For the reasons that I have set out, as from this moment I am resigning from the SWP.

    “To those of you who will feel let down I offer an unreserved apology, to those who will feel disappointed I am truly sorry, to those who could not care less and who may from here on invent their own distorted version I wish you well in your world.

    We all have to live with our own decisions and I know I am leaving the SWP with my integrity and honour intact and feel sure that I will be able to sleep well at night, safe in the knowledge that I did what I did for the right reasons at the right time and with the best intentions.”

    However, half-way through his letter he states the following: “We, in the SWP also need to ask ourselves the following questions…” This sentence was emphasised by means of bold-type.

    At precisely which point in this letter did the pronoun “we” cease to apply to Jerry’s relationship to the SWP? Will he encourage his fellow-travellers to leave the SWP? Or will he tell them to remain behind to sign petitions to reverse the expulsions of Nick Wrack, Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman for breaches of party discipline and their capitulation to the witchhunt of the SWP membership? Or does he think “pluralists” ought not to recommend anything to anyone else, with, for example, homosexuals and homophobes doing their own thing?

    A further question. Jerry wrote: “How can it be that the national Respect membership numbers only 2500 when the SWP membership is nearly 6000. Obviously fewer than a 1/3 of the SWP membership are even in Respect?”

    Are we to take it that Jerry wishes that the balance within Respect was even further tilted away from non-SWP members? Possibly he would like all the SWP’s non-Respect members to sign up to Respect on the day of conference. Then again, perhaps not. After all, he denounces the SWP for trying to organise their members to join Respect before the closing date for applications, in order to maximise their representation at Respect’s conference. This is all perfectly constitutional. However, George Galloway’s base of support in Tower Hamlets has clearly been acting in defiance of the constitution. The SWP are behaving constitutionally, and doing so in order to prevent Respect falling into the hands of homophobic, anti-abortion businessmen. George Galloway’s supporters, on the other hand, are fighting their faction fight UNCONSTITUTIONALLY.

    Unfortunately, the activist left in England and Wales are so blinded by hatred of the SWP that they’re jumping onto this anti-SWP witchhunt, apart from the ‘plague-on-both-your-houses’ camp. There is of course a third group, represented on this blog by Permanent Revolution. In one respect, they are the mirror image of the second group of sectarians. They want to cuddle up to ‘the best’ of both sides in this civil war, for which they will continue to be shot by both sides. Their contributions to this blog are, however, infinitely preferable to the other anti-SWPers. Indeed, I agree with a much of what they say, and not just about HOPI. However, the balance of their polemics poorly reflects the current trajectories of the SWP, on the one hand, and the Galloway wing of Respect, on the other. The former are moving in a direction that all socialist should encourage. The witchhunters are moving in exactly the opposite direction.

  35. 30. “… the broad parties, SLP, SA, SSP, Respect, Rifondaze Communista etc. have been a disaster wherever they have been tried.
    It’s about time socialists began to address why.
    The problem is that the SWP leadership responsible for it (the entire CC), are not making a political accounting for that turn and are instead using bureaucratic measures both within Respect and in their own organisation to prevent a debate about where it went wrong.
    This means that the lessons will not be learnt. They are putting their own situation above that of the party as a whole. The SWP members need to hold them to account.”

    Comment by bill j — 27 October, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

    Bill J

    I would hardly call the SLP (Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party) a ‘broad party’ and the critical situation of the SLP is very different to the of the SSP and in turn to that of Rifondazione Communista in Italy.Of course, you can and you have lumped them altogether in one big heep but I think it is necessary to deal with each one in it’s own context.

    Moreover, prior to the Sheridan saga(ongoing) would you not accept that the SSP had achieved success in gaining increasing support for it’s policies and the fact that it had won several MSP.Or havent you got time for electoral work and dont think it is of any importance? Let’s not forget the significance of the SWP’s late entrance into and early exit from the SSP on the coat tails of T Sheridan and his muppets.If my memory serves me correctly, Galloway, opportunistically as ever steamed into Scotland at that point waving the Respect flag.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at and what you want exactly.

    Why not give your analysis of why you think all theses parties that you have mentionned are a ‘disaster’?

    Equally, how do you think the SWP membership(should it want to)should hold it’s leadership to account?

    Sure, I agree with you that the basic founding principles and structures (esp regarding the involvement of the ever notorious SWP fresh from gutting the Socialist Alliance)of the Respect coalition in the first place, were very rushed, poorly thought through and very dodgy in the first place, which does goes some of the way in expalining why there is such a mess now and why some of the chickens are indeed coming home to roost.

    Surely the lessons here are that Socialist parties or broad left parties call them what you like, need to be transparent, accountable and have genuinely democratic structures, which applies as much to the workings of the the SWP leadership and the SWP as it does to the likes of Tommy Sheridan and not so Gorgeous George.

    I think the SSP is seriously trying to take account of what did(is) happen(ing) with Sheridan and learn the lessons.

    It remains to be seen what happens in Respect.Whether you are in support of Respect or not, you cant ignore the fact that whatever happens could have very important consequences for the prospects of the Left for years to come because what is going to happen is going to be a watershed, without precendent and will effect any other prospects for any formation or reformation of a new left or Socialist party for years to come.

  36. all broad parties that degenerate into reformism, electoralism, opportunism etc. are clearly a waste of space. the whole history of social democracy can attest to that.

    this does not mean unfortunately that broad parties, or reformist parties if you like, can therefore be bypassed.

    the working class will find political expression in the shape of broad parties whether marxists like it or not. working class political representation is a massive step forwards, even if it’s expression is a mass reformist party.

    equally, it’s not guarenteed that a broad party will degenerate. it is possible that socialists and marxists can create a mass left wing and ultimately win the leadership.

    the mass of workers and other oppressed sections in society will never join tiny little revolutionary parties. any mass revolutionary party of the future can only come from mass splits in the mass parties of the working class.

    so it really is stupid to decry broad parties. it would be easier to just have a stand aside revolutionary party that grew in a linear proccess until it reached a million memberd or whtever and then took power! that’s not how it works though.

    a broad socialist party in britain that attracted thousands, and eventually millions, of workers towards it would be a massive step forwards because it would not only enable them to organise but to discuss and debate ideas and strategy. only out of such mass parties will a mass revolutionary party be formed.

    the small numbers of marxists and revolutionaries at the moment have a duty to help create such a new broad socialist party. they shouldn’t hide their own ideas, but they should be prepared to collaborate with others to get major sections of the workers’ movement on board to a new party.

    all the ‘pure’ revolutionaries that want to stand aside from the task of creating new parties are akin to the sectarians who ignored the development of the labour party. they’ll never lead anything.

    within a broad party it is totally necessary to build a marxist tendency to fight for a socialist programme and against reformism, electoralism and opportunism.

    are there any plans to build a marxist tendency in respect by those expelled from or choosing to leave the swp?

    ks

  37. 48 comments by KS

    Sorry I’m a bit thick, could you please explain exactly what you mean in clear english….you seem to want something but it doesnt seem to have any releationship to the present reality.

    Clearly you regard yourself as a “marxist”.

    What does that mean to you?

    You toss about and dismiss these terms such as ‘reformism’, ‘electoralism’. I dont really see what you can achieve or how it is possible to gain any support for anything without some actual concrete basis for your aims.

    So how does what you say relate to the present reality vis a vis Respect, the SWP, the British ‘left and prospects for a new Left party?

  38. Mark P (the Irish one) on said:

    It seemed fairly straightforward to me, Gramsci’s breakfast.

    He was arguing in favour of building a revolutionary socialist party, but disagreeing with sectarians who think that it can be done by building a stand alone sect. Instead he was saying that revolutionaries should look, where possible, to work in broad parties with a mass break. Mass revolutionary parties come out of broad workers parties not out of one by one recruitment to simon pure sects.

    As far as the specifics of Respect are concerned he was then asking if those suddenly outside of the SWP were going to organise as a Marxist group within Respect, or if they were simply going to work as individual activists.

    All clear?

  39. bill j on said:

    It seems fairly straight forward to me too he says;

    “a broad socialist party in britain that attracted thousands, and eventually millions, of workers towards it would be a massive step forwards because it would not only enable them to organise but to discuss and debate ideas and strategy. only out of such mass parties will a mass revolutionary party be formed.”

    Well yes wouldn’t’ it? And so would a lot of other things. There’s just a little problem isn’t there? How to magic this broard socialist party with millions of members out of thin air. If that’s all we’ve got to do, why hasn’t someone done it yet?

    And then not only do we have to build this fictional party, its the only way he says, that a revolutionary party will be formed. But why is it? There is, after all, one rather obvious example where such a schema didn’t work, Russia before the revolution in 1917.

    There’s nothing to stop socialists from working in all types of organisations, including parties (although paradoxically of course, the SWP denied this was possible in the Labour Party in the old days, on the grounds that if you did enter it you’d be inevitably transformed into being a reformist. Whereas with Respect of course, they transformed it into a reformist organisation from the outset to avoid this possibility occuring.) But not at the price of dropping the revolutionary socialist programme.

  40. Ian D,
    If I didn’t know who you are and a bit about your personal history, I’d now be very nasty about you. But your ex-comrades (and, in a sense I include myself) are all being vert tolerant towards you, despite your preposterous accusations of “racism” towards the AWL, “drunkeness” about me (OK – not quite so preposteruos) and gawd-knows-what about the CPGB. We have all defended you against some pretty nasty accusations from the Sparts…so you should tread carefully in bandying about accusations of “racism”, etc. My patience with you is at breaking point…and, yes: this *is* a threat.

  41. Norwegian on said:

    Re #53: The Red/Green Alliance in Denmark are having serious problems for the time being, due to the party majority’s reluctance to back a young, muslim woman originally selected to be the party’s parliamentary candidate. This socialist woman has been repeatedly attacked for being a muslim, wearing a head scarf, and supporting the Iraqi resistance. The party leadership wants to ditch her, and shamefully the small Fourth International section in Denmark agrees with the leadership.

  42. “On what authority exactly?”

    #37, john g. the man is the chair of tower hamlets respect. he is not a councillor. pretty much every time you have posted something, it’s turned out to be wrong. yet you seem happy to spread rumours which, hours or days later, you apologise for.

    whether he was right or wrong to say they were expelled, he is the chair of the branch. he also said they had expelled themselves by their actions. right or wrong, it’s a very different story from the stuff you posted. again.

    learn a lesson, john g: stop posting things that you hear third hand. you’re being used. again.

  43. oh what a load of bollocks point. ‘expelled themselves’.

    So anyway who here defends the expulsions?

  44. “So anyway who here defends the expulsions?”

    i would wait for confirmation and an explanation before trying to stir more shit, john g. i suggest you do too.

    difference between me and you is, i didn’t decide to post all over blogs with half the information – as you seem to keep doing.

    deal with the politics, not the rumours.

  45. re #51

    my post was arguing against those who crudely counterpose a revolutionary party with a broad party. i was trying, as best i could, to argue that a mass revolutionary party can only come out of a mass party (or parties) of the working class. therefore the task of creating a new broad socialist party, and hopefully/potentially a future mass party, is actually central to a mass revolutionary party ever developing.

    i was also trying to argue that marxists and revolutionary socialists need to organise and fight within any new broad party to advance a clear socialist programme, one that sets out the need to break with capitalism. they should also fight against any bureaucratisation, electoralism, reformism, opportunism, and ultra-leftism as well if that ever became an issue.

    how does this all relate to britain? well i think revolutionary socialists are right to help construct a new broad socialist party that draws in key sections of the workers’ movement, with the aim to become a mass party. i also think they shouldn’t liquidate into broad parties – but organise within them to promote their ideas.

    i don’t think respect will survive, but if it does, if it becomes broader and attracts new forces, then i will join it and try and collaborate with other revolutionary socialists within it.

    karl s

  46. ‘…We believe there must be an end to divisiveness and factionalism, we must reassert our vision – there is so much more that unites us than divides us; despite the fact that we have come together from various backgrounds and traditions. We appreciate our weaknesses and resolve to move forward and manifest the nation’s desire for a political organisation that reflects the most important aspirations for a just society.’

    This is what we need right now. This is a humble and hopeful statement from Newham and very welcome.

  47. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    ‘…We believe there must be an end to divisiveness and factionalism, we must reassert our vision – there is so much more that unites us than divides us; despite the fact that we have come together from various backgrounds and traditions. We appreciate our weaknesses and resolve to move forward and manifest the nation’s desire for a political organisation that reflects the most important aspirations for a just society.’

    This is what we need right now. This is a humble and hopeful statement from Newham and very welcome. WNP

    But I don’t understand. Elaine Heffernan of the SWP has signed the Newham statement. She will have also been instructed to sign this one – http://www.swp.org.uk/respect_appeal.php – but doesn’t appear on it yet (I’m sure it’s an oversight and she’ll get round to signing it soon).

    And yet the four Tower Hamlets Councillors who have signed the SWP one, are responsible for this:
    http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/templates/news/detail.cfm?newsid=8328
    Which if it isn’t “divisiveness and factionalism” then I don’t know what is!

    Anyone know why the three Respect Newham Councillors haven’t signed the Respect one yet?

  48. Tony Greenstein on said:

    As is usually the case, an endless amount of red herrings have been trawled across this debate.

    Whether AWL support or oppose the SWP in this is irrelevant. They are a social imperialist grouping whose views are frankly irrelevant.

    Likewise who Ian Donovan is doesn’t seem particularly relevant.

    The tragedy is that the International Socialists, the precurser of the SWP, from which I was expelled, did have a chance of becoming a genuine and large marxist grouping back in the early 1970’s until Tony Cliff interpreted Leninist democratic centralism in order to remove the democratic bit. From their they have zig zagged from one opportunity to another, becoming more and more right-wing in the process. Does anyone, for example, believe that the SWP would have put on at their Culture of Resistance festival or indeed at their Marxism jamboree an open anti-Semite like Gilad Atzmon? It was after all a social democrat, August Bebel, who coined the phrase about the socialism of fools. The SWP leadership contains many fools but socialists seem somewhat thin on the ground.

    If people like Ken Loach, who I’ve always seen as being in the SWP’s orbit are now abandoning them they are in real trouble, to say nothing of course of Gerry Hicks.
    What Gerry Hick’s letter demonstrates, for all its flaws (yes Ridley isn’t a socialist but you’d never have guessed from the pages of SW) is that the SWP is paying a heavy price for its culture of bureaucratisation and contempt for democracy. An organisation which internally has no democracy worthy of its name, such as a self-perpetuating central committee, is hardly going to tell the truth to its members about what has happened in Respect.

    Gerry Hicks is criticised because of a lack of ‘socialist analysis’. In fact democracy, being honest and open about what you are doing, is central to any concept of socialism. If it isn’t then, in the immortal words, I’m a banana.

    Some of us would argue that the Respect project was flawed from day one – an attempt to gain electoral success via the Muslim community by approaching its leaders. However, be that as it may, one would have thought that the SWP would be open and above board in what they had initiated and that they would have learnt some lessons from how they behaved in the Socialist Alliance, which they destroyed.

    Little things like slate elections, a favourite of Tony Blair no less, packing meetings etc. The fact is that as long as the SWP maintained a separate organisation outside Respect they were bound to see it as a recruiting venue rather than as something to build. It’s not that broad left formations are inevitable failures but that they haven’t been tried. And if the experience of the SA and now Respect is the means of judging that statement then presumably all democratic centralist Leninist organisations are also a failure since noone can point to a successful example of such a creature since 1917, in radically different circumstances.

  49. Point I am of course concerned about the expulsion of four councilers, and not whether or not I confused the ‘chair’ with the ‘chair’. But you are right about one thing. Its important that this doesn’t get any further out of hand. The Newham statement is the most hopeful thing I’ve seen in weeks. And I’m pleased Andy has said something about the irrelevent dross above.

  50. Victor on said:

    Can anybody help clarify this?

    Statement from Linda Smith

    “On Monday October 15 a national officers meeting with a built-in SWP majority voted
    against Nick taking up the National Organiser’s post and set aside the issue until
    conference. The same meeting voted against appointing Ian Donovan and Ghada
    Razuki to the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). ”

    But

    Officer Group minutes

    In attendance: Linda Smith, Nick Wrack, Oliur Rahman, Lindsey German, Elaine Graham-Leigh, Chris Bambery, Jackie Turner, Mehdi Hassan, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman, Sait Akgul, Salvinder Dhillon, Abjol Miah, John Rees, Glyn Robbins, Feyzi Ismail

    Apologies: None

    1. National Organiser
    The creation of the post of National Organiser was discussed at the last NC meeting in the context of an imminent general election. Linda Smith nominated Nick Wrack for the post of National Organiser. There was a long discussion about whether Nick should take up the post, given that the urgency over the general election no longer exists, and that NC members or National Officers were welcome to help out in the office anyway whenever they can. Glyn Robbins also expressed interest, as well as least one other NC member, in the position of National Organiser. Nick suggested he could spare time until Respect’s annual conference on 17th/18th November, while Glyn could spare time on a permanent basis every week.

    The meeting moved to vote on the issue, first with a procedural vote, then to the vote. The options were 1) Accepting Nick as National Organiser; 2) Deferring the vote to conference but allowing any NC member, including Nick, to come into the office to help out; or 3) Recalling an NC meeting to vote on the issue. The meeting moved for the second option (8 for, 2 against and 1 abstention).

    The numbers are wrong for a start (voters/atendees), and why only 2 against?

  51. “However, be that as it may, one would have thought that the SWP would be open and above board in what they had initiated and that they would have learnt some lessons from how they behaved in the Socialist Alliance, which they destroyed.” Tony Greenstein

    Well! what one might have thought the SWP might think is another thing altogether. I dont think these assumaptions can be made vis a vis the SWP leadership.I dont actually think that they do think about making things more ‘open’ and ‘above board’. It’s not there style(or lack of it). They just like to quietly (or not so quietly) slip in and out, control, manipulate and then take what they can then, they’re off. The problem is that they dont actually reflect on the way they do things.They are simply correct and you use whatever is necessary irrespective of shattering trust, principles, rules, agreement or understanding in the process. What they really are aiming to achieve re Respect who knows? Devastation? Scorched earth?

    They certainly dont reflect on their ‘mistakes’ because officially they dont make mistakes. As you well know, they had no qualms whatsoever about STITCHING UP AND GUTTING the SOCIALIST ALLIANCE when it suited them.

    They dont ‘seem’ to mind if they imperil the whole Respect project,(which, I agree was deeply flawed in it’s original conception in the first place) and further divide and demoralise the constituency for Respect and the broader left in the process.

    Which is all the more reason to try to win as many members of SWP over to the idea of working ‘with’ other activists and learning to work in a more open, transparent, accountable and clearly democratic way. Many SWP members are confused and disorientated by the twists and turns of their so called leadership. I think Jerry Hicks letter highlights alot of the internal problems and division ongoing within the SWP.

    If the SWP leadership cant or want compromise on their present manipulative wrecking ways, then it is best they go off and create their own so called mass revolutionary socialist party within a party within a party etc etc with other like minded minded deluded people who believe in the glories of ‘democratic(sic) centralism.

    In respect to ‘broad ‘parties, I feel that the Scottish Socialist party ‘was’ showing the way forward, gaining significant support, votes and influence until the Sheridan saga kicked in. One of the sore lesson being learnt there is to have greater democratic accountability of individuals and factions. Interestingly it was the SWP (among others) grouping which left the SSP with Sheridan. Well! with such appalling judgement and luke warm principles and commitment like that what more needs to be said.

    Whether or not the Respect project can be salvaged, resuscitated and then to be re-founded on a clear solid democratic socialist basis remains to be struggled for.We shall see.

  52. *72
    Funny you should ask as I too looked at the minutes and this caught my eye as well. So did point 3…

    ‘3. Conference
    There was a discussion about who is on the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) and a proposal that 2 additional people be added to the CAC, Ghada Razuki and Ian Donovan. The meeting moved to vote on whether they should be accepted right away or whether we should wait until next week, collecting more names, setting a deadline for additions to the CAC and decided on all nominations together. The meeting voted to wait until next week.’

    …which doesn’t seem to tally with Linda’s …
    ‘On Monday October 15 a national officers meeting with a built-in SWP majority voted against Nick taking up the National Organiser’s post and set aside the issue until conference. The same meeting voted against appointing Ian Donovan and Ghada Razuki to the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC).’

  53. Sorry WNP

    are you making a political point or are you trying to bore us with bureaucratic minutiae?

    What about the politics of the situation?

  54. Sometimes the devil’s in the detail.
    I think the two versions are interesting as there is a difference between a deferral and a refusal. Was the nomination of two new members of the CAC refused or deferred?

    I want the smoke and mirrors to go so that we can get to the politics of the situation.

  55. Did the SWP accept Ian and Ghada onto the CAC or not?

    Linda Smith and Ghada Rhazuki,both long term friends and alies of the SW say no. Why doubt them.

  56. You say “Did the SWP accept Ian and Ghada onto the CAC or not?”

    The minutes say ‘Linda Smith, Nick Wrack, Oliur Rahman, Lindsey German, Elaine Graham-Leigh, Chris Bambery, Jackie Turner, Mehdi Hassan, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman, Sait Akgul, Salvinder Dhillon, Abjol Miah, John Rees, Glyn Robbins, Feyzi Ismail’ between then postponed a vote until next week. Why doubt them?

  57. I am deeply hurt to know that Jerry has resigned the SWP. But I am happy to know that he is still with in RESPECT party. Jerry is a long standing politician and has a lot of experiance that would help the party to unite. And I am sure he will try and use everything in his power to do so.

    As for Salma with all due respect she needs to get her priorities right. Just last year she brought a motion to suspend George for going to “Big Brother” and this year she is supporting his views that SWP is the root of all probelms. She also needs to remind herself which party she is in, is it RESPECT or Ken’s fan club! Because just couple of months ago she wrote a letter to the RESPECT party members not to support Lindsey to stand against Ken!

    So quite clearly there is confusion, delution and problems at the top, which is effecting the party. It is them at the top who need to come together and ease everyone elses life

    I am however, surprised to see that lot of members from both sides are leaving; from the disaster that has started in Tower Hamlets RESPECT. Those of you that do not konw, it is a clear fight to the MP candidacy, and of certain senior members of RESPECT trying to ensure that all the resources being diverted to only three seats: Bethnal Green & Bow, Limehouse & Poplar and the third up north in Birmingham.

    We had a lot of RESPECT for George here in Tower Hamlets, but unfortunately he deminished this respect himself by siding with a hand full of members to ensure his own interest. That is what divided the members here in Tower Hamlets and the spilage unfortunately has gone nationally. Some of us like me are still confident that this will all go away and we will be fine. And therefore I urge that we all stay in and fight for the good cause and fight against LABOUR and not amoung ourselves

    So please have patients. Jerry is a great person he is devoted to the comunity and what RESPECT stands for. Unfortunately he did not see the motive of some senior members in the party, but one day he will realize the truth and understand what actually went wrong.

  58. Oh somebody get rid of Tim and his racist poisen for gods sake. Seriously.

    following on from Rabbi Ullah’s comments it is indeed remarkable how reticent people are to actually look at what sparked these arguments. They were all focused around the issue of candidate selection. The argument was that the SWP was being ‘divisive’ by having arguments about this. Maybe so. However in each case the SWP lost. And then went on to provide the bulk of activists to campaign for the candidates (who won). Then George intervenes and, basically, implies that we should not even have arguments about these things. The SWP says no, thats a step too far. And then an attempt is made to mount a coup in TH Respect, in one case a transparently dodgy attempt to pack a meeting in the second simply refusing to count the votes of people who are either in the SWP or support their arguments, or even just disagree with some of the councilers (interestingly by this stage, the section of the councilers doing this were losing the ability to command a majority, its been suggested to me that this was one reason locally things came to a head so rapidly and so nastily). The poisen out of this embitters existing tensions nationally.

    Whats the politics of this? Essentially the relationship between activists on the ground doing the campaigning and mantaining the branches, and those elected as councilers or MPs. Its not unusual in the history of the municipal left.

    Obviously there might be all kinds of things about the style of particular organisations or individuals. There might also be all kinds of things about how we mantain pluralism in a broad coalition (or how the coalition should be organised). But they’re hardly likely to be resolved when this kind of thing is going on. I think there is a fair bit of naivity about all this amongst some left bloggers, as well as a tendency not to know anything about the real politics of local situations (this is particularly so amongst islamophobic idiots actually).

    There is also a tendency for people who don’t have a dog in the race not to understand that in such situations those on the left who command no forces won’t be seen as a threat and therefore no one objects to them standing around smiling and making friendly noises. Its an added bonus if they start going on about the ‘control freakery’ and otherwise unpleasent behaviour of those socialists who do have an organised presence on the ground of course.

    To read the fine and nuanced programatic declarations of some well meaning individuals about all this is, if you have some knowledge about whats actually happened on the ground in the last few weeks, a deeply surreal experiance.

    In the context of inevitable clashes like this what needs to happen is for an understanding on both sides that this is a fight that cannot be fought to the finish if Respect is to survive (its why many of the more ‘programatic’ arguments are not so much damaging but irrelevent). Arguments about how nice individual swp members are in the context of what is locally a straightfoward left/right fight in the time honoured traditions of local electoral organisations, rather remind me of people who used to claim that they really liked muslims on demos just as long as they didn’t turn up in groups.

    disengenuous crap really.

  59. I have no idea what that is all about John, can you write it again in English please?

    Oh, and explain for us dummies, how the left right split has manifested itself in policy terms?

  60. Andy you are so funny.

    I have just been ready your thread on Afganistan, well argued, in a flowing political style. You indicated how much reading of State Cap theory you have done etc.

    Now you claim not to understand JohnG (but Cliff’s English presented no problem to you? Even his close comrades would acknowledge this as a difficult feat at times.)

    Was it the bit where he says, ‘how reticent people are to actually look at what sparked these arguments’.

  61. I’m amazed that Andy finds the possibility that there might be tensions between elected politicians and the activists who elect them incomprehensible. He has been knocking around on the British left for some time now I thought. More seriously perhaps comrade Rabbi Ullah’s comment deserves some sort of response?

  62. No i don’t doubt “tensions between elected politicians and the activists who elect them” at all JOhn.

    But you haven’t demonstrated that there was an actual left/right policy difference, as opposed to a potential one.

    We learn from one contribution to the SWP’s pre-conference internal bulletin, that the only clear policy disagreement between the councillors was over the issue of appointing a white malw cheif exec, when suitable black and women candidates had been passed over. The Abjol Miah group took the progressive position of challenging the appointent, and thr SWPp councillors and others took a more conservative position.

    Now I have heard rumours about potential differnces over the sale of council houses, but unles that issue actually manifests itself this is just hot air and speculation.(and bear in mind that one key SWP memebr n the area actually bought his council flat – it is not fair to say who on a public forum but I am sure you know).

    There is another issue that you imply that some of us don’t know what we are tlaking about, whereas as you have a direct line ro revealled truth. But there have been a few faction fights ove rthe last few years to defend the idea of broad pluralist parties, in Scotland, in Australia and here, and the similarities (as well as particularities) are very striking. Those of us comitted to the broad party concept who have stayed close to the drama in Australia and watched every act of the Scottish play have learned something

  63. The point is what sparked the dispute. The dispute was about whether the people who supply the bulk of activists in campaigns should be allowed to get involved in discussions about the selection of candidates. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that it is both an understandable tendency for people to subordinate politics to the selection of winning candidates and at the same time, if there is no counter-balence, a retrograde tendency. Marxists need to look at political processes connected with this a bit more closely. Whats occured in TH is an attempt, complete with packing meetings and denying voting rights to those not behind a group of elected councilers, to rig the composition of the conference delegation to exclude those people associated with this activist base. This is surely not the way to proceed in building a left of centre coalition. I was merely remarking that it is somewhat astonishing that the actual bone of contention in all this has remained undiscussed in preference for various peoples favorite hobby horses. As someone who is themselves hostile to the way dogma can obscure reality I would have thought you would at least acknowledge that this is a tendency (especially when along with the crisis everyone is discussing, there is a parrallel crisis amongst TH councilers which has actually led to a split, again something which has apparently not even been noticed outside of an attempt to present this as the result of SWP machinations (its not)).

    I just get the impression that, as indicated earlier, many people are indulging in a curious kind of wishful thinking, and ignoring, to coin my very own Newmanism, the bone in the room. In any case someone who is from Tower Hamlets Respect has now actually written in to bring a small dose of reality to the discussion.

  64. johng wrote: “someone who is from Tower Hamlets Respect has now actually written in to bring a small dose of reality to the discussion.”

    Who? Cllr Oliur Rahman?

  65. JOhn G, It is of course discussed by an SWP activist in the pre-confernece Internal Bulletin who draws completely the opposite conclusion to you.

  66. Andy wrote: “t is of course discussed by an SWP activist in the pre-confernece Internal Bulletin who draws completely the opposite conclusion to you.”

    Comment by Andy — 28 October, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

    It is not at all clear who Andy is addressing, or what conclusion he is refering to.

  67. I was addressing this to JOhn G.

    As he knows there was a discussion of the politics of the selection of candidates for the Shadwell by-election in a contribution in the IB that makes a lot of sense, and contradicts his left/right narrative.

    I don’t have permission from that comrades to reproduce it, so that will have to suffice.

  68. Ian Donovan on said:

    Regarding the SWP statement alleging a witchhunt against them, and the energetic promotion of ‘Unity’ appeals like those in Newham apparently by SWP comrades, these are very strange ways of conducting political activity. Particularly as I have it on very good information (I’m not going to reveal my sources, so dont ask!) that behind the scenes, SWP Central Committee members including John Rees, Lindsey German, Chris Bambery and Martin Smith, have been meeting with representatives of the Respect-loyalist majority of the National Committee, to negotiate a separation between the SWP and Respect. The SWP leadership have in fact stated in private to the representatives of the Respect-loyalists that as far as they are concerned, their involvement with the Respect project is over, and the only thing left to be worked out is the details of the separation. It is in these circumstances very unlikely that the Conference scheduled for 17-18 November will take place at all.

    So all this talk of an anti-SWP witchhunt, and all the talk of unity, the issuance of ‘unity’ statements in places like Newham, are in complete contradiction to what the SWP leadership are doing behind the scenes. There is no ‘witchhunt’, and no prospect of ‘unity’ either, because what they SWP wants is a split and they are trying to negoitiate one. I’ll leave others to draw their own conclusions as to what is behind the ‘witchhunt’ letter and the ‘unity’ offensive. I have my own views on that, of course. Whether they are correct remains to be seen.

  69. herbert on said:

    Sorry, off topic: is there any information if the recalled national council meeting did take place today? If yes, what was the outcome?

  70. Ian Donovan on said:

    My understanding is that it did not take place; it was called off because there is no point – negotiations are taking place about a separation between the SWP leadership and Respect-loyalists. Don’t know too much more as yet, but I’m sure more will become known fairly soon.

  71. herbert on said:

    If you are right, Ian, this is a scandal that rests with both sides in this factional dispute. The chair of a political organisation calls a meeting of the highest decision body and discussion is therefore raging throughout the blogs (and beyond, I hope). When the date of the meeting comes the whole membership of this organisation is told (without any notice before): Well, we decided to hold no meeting because we prefere to negotiate in secrecy. Whoever trusts one of these two factions has already lost all of his or her political conciousness (if this story is true, I repeat.)

  72. If told you my name i'd have to shoot you.. on said:

    Discussion is def raging, and rumours are flying. I reckon the divorce has been agreed in principle, and a long process of haggling over the terms is taking place. I can’t see what else explains the total silence, no texts, emails, blogs etc.
    There was def some kind of meeting today..
    Should have had the national conference, but i think one side realised that they would not just lose, but lose very heavily.

  73. Herbert/Dan

    Isn’t the language of “betrayal” and “scandal” a little lurid?

    The question of whether or not the national council meets in extraordinary session, and with what agenda is a question for the national council. And if you have ever been on a national executive body or an editorial board, you will know that a certain amount of horsetrading has to go on outside formal meetings, and sounding out of opinion can be canvassed by e-mail and telephone. That is all above board and democratic.

    If the specific agenda items that the national council had been called to discussed was subsequently overtaken by events, then it is up to them whether they proceed with a formal meeting or not.

    I also have heard something about what was planned for today, and I have not been authorised to discuss it, but it does not contradict what Ian has heard.

    Given the continual escalation of the situation by the SWP CC over the last few weeks, then some sort of denouement was inevitable. And it was looking increasingly likely that i) the conference could not take place (so an NC discussion of the CAC was less relevant) and ii) it was hard to see the SWP being able to work in the same organisational structure as the rest of Respect.

    If an amicable end game is negotiated then surely that would be better than a bare knuckle fight, whether at NC or conference. Whatever happens the members will need to be involved in the subsequent stages.

  74. Andy i don’t think the phrase betrayal is too much at all. I and others in my area have worked damn hard over the last 2 years to raise the profile and name of Respect, to the point where we are now accepted as a part of the local political landscape, albeit in a very minor role, but its a start nonetheless. Now that work is being thrown away by people at a national level whilst those of us at a local level are not consulted, questioned, asked or polled in any way, shape or form. Thats a betrayal. A betrayal of all the work put in by local members and a betrayal of all the people who believed in the Respect project.

  75. Respect will still exist. wait and see what happens

    :o)

    I do however exactly empathise with how you feel, which is the situation we had with our local Socialist Alliance, the majority of whom made it quite clear they would rather drop out of politics than join Respect, when Respect was first launched.

    One lesson I learned through that, is that it is absolutely vital to value the activist base like gold-dust, and empower them to make meaningful choices to stay involved in their own terms, and give them time to make choices.

  76. herbert on said:

    Andy,

    it seems I come from a complete different tradition than you (at least when political procedures are concerned).

    An extraordinary meeting of the national council is called. There is not a single member of this 50-people-body to speak against this calling up to the point when the meeting is to be started. Discussions and petitions are circulated through every possible channel. Each side presents its case “Save respect!” (indicating that the other side is about to destroy respect). SWP CC and GG are fighting for a majority for their ideas to take respect forward. There are a few thousand members spread all over the country engaged in this fight. Everybody is wanting to get through with its own political line, everybody fights. Meanwhile according to Ian and you, their “leaders” are doing a bit “horse-trading” while still giving the impression that they want to win this battle by issuing more petitions and appeals. Shame on this “leaders”! If this a demonstration of the sort of party-building and political educating the leaders of either of the factions have in mind, then this is clearly a “scandal” (and I uphold this formulation).

    Ah, sorry. You mentioned that members will be involved in subsequent stages. Very good. They then have the right to ratify what theirs leaders have put into effect beforehand. Just like in bourgeois democracy.

  77. Ian Donovan on said:

    It think it more likely, on the part of the Respect-loyal side, that they are not into ‘throwing away’ any of Respect’s political capital at all, but rather seeking to preserve it, given that the SWP leadership have already determined on a destructive split. An orderly separation, if it can be negotiated, is far preferable to a pitched battle at a shambolic split conference. That *really* would be destructive.

  78. “One lesson I learned through that, is that it is absolutely vital to value the activist base like gold-dust, and empower them to make meaningful choices to stay involved in their own terms, and give them time to make choices.”

    Something which has singularly failed to happen this time.

    As for Respect still being around, I fear we would be looking at a repeat of the SSP / Solidarity split. I have said all along that Respect without the “Gallowayites” (for want of a better desctiption) would be nothing more than an electoral arm of the SWP, something I don’t personnally want to be involved in or see working very well, and that Respect without the SWP will be limited to East London and Birmingham, with maybe a few outposts. Neither would be tenable as an electoral force.

  79. Herbert: “An extraordinary meeting of the national council is called. There is not a single member of this 50-people-body to speak against this calling up to the point when the meeting is to be started”

    That isn’t true, as I understand it there were loads of e-mails between NC members, and the SWP were desperate at the beginning that this NC should not take place.

    And it is also not true that both sides have presented their case. The Respect-loyalist side (galloway, Yaqoob et al) have used every avenue (including this blog) to try to explain politically to the membership waht is going on, and to involve the membership in the debate to save Respect.

    The SWP have only argued internally within their own organisation, and the fact that their views have come out is because documents have been leaked and unauthorised publication of their arguments has taken place (including on this blog), and becasue SWP members have resigned or been expelled from the organisation, and then once outside the SWP been able to express their opinions.

    For the last two perhaps three weeks the SWP have clearly been prepapring the political grounds for a split, and hardening the mood of their troops for it.

  80. Dan: “Something which has singularly failed to happen this time.”

    But it isn’t over yet.

    And we cannot leap over the fact that the SWP leadership expect their members – including the SWP members in respect – to be loyal first to the SWP. As the SWP leadership have not sought to argue their case politically with the Resepct membership, and make their own decisions and have their own discussions only with their own members, then i don’t know what could have been done about it. And that was the political problem that underlies the criticisms that galloway made back in August.

    If the SWP CC executes a turn out of respect, it is up to individual SWP members whether they follow that call or not.

  81. I son’t no anything about Jerry Hicks but hs’e leaving the SWP none to soon before the bad habits become permanent – such as grossly exaggerating their membership. 6,000!!! Maybe – if you include anyone who has ever signed an SWP/Respect/StWC petition in the last 5 years.

  82. Andy you say, ‘…If an amicable end game is negotiated then surely that would be better than a bare knuckle fight, whether at NC or conference. Whatever happens the members will need to be involved in the subsequent stages.’

    I would only add to this that an amicable divorce is preferable to a bloody split because in times to come we will have to work together as the need arises. Campaigns/strikes etc local and national will happen as sure as eggs is eggs and we have to be in the best shape to deal with them.

  83. “If the SWP CC executes a turn out of respect, it is up to individual SWP members whether they follow that call or not.”

    And how many won’t follow and will stay Andy? I can tell you that where I am none of them will stay. It will kill Respect locally.

  84. Doug

    The SWP CC claim a membership of 5938 in the Internal Bulletin, so Jerry is quoting that figure back at them. It doesn’t necessarily mean he beleives it.

  85. herbert on said:

    Andy:”(..) as I understand it there were loads of e-mails between NC members, and the SWP were desperate at the beginning that this NC should not take place.”

    Maybe, but this is not what it is all about. A “ordinary” member can only operate with what is presented to the public (or comes into the public, to which goal your honourable work is contributing not too little). There was no official or semi-official information from the SWP CC that they are against the meeting to happen, so it is worthless to argue with it. They (the SWP CC) has no other chance than to go to this meeting, since they never claimed it was against any rule or unproperly called. Do you see the point? In a faction fight, it is absolutely necessary to make all of your actions and intentions regarding politics and procedure public, otherwise all the people not included in the “club of information-posessors” is barred from intervening actively in the process.

    What is true, that the “respect-loyalist-side” (btw, is it clear that it is a faction now?) has more openly presented its views and arguments. But finally the SW came out with an editorial, so the best way is to hold them responsible for what they wrote there (obviously, this would them hurt most intensively, given your story about the split is true). But you can’t deny that a behind-the-scenes-deal would have the worst effect on political conciousness of ordinary members one could ever think of.

  86. tadpole on said:

    Hmm … so we have the authority of Ian Donovan, a CPGB member and political opponent of Respect, that the SWP leadership are preparing a split. Against this, SW vows that “the SWP is not going to be driven out of Respect”, and the same message is going out at SWP members meetings around the country. The SWP may be becoming reconciled to the fact that Respect may not survive as a viable entity, but that’s not the same thing as initiating a split.

  87. Andy

    That I agree with you on. I don’t beleive there was a witch hunt, but I do beleive that both sides have made mistakes in their handling of this whole affair.

  88. Ian Donovan on said:

    Er, sorry but I have not been a CPGB member since August 2004. I split to this over their hostile attitude to Respect, and that is very well known. I am the secretary of Southwark Respect, and have been for around 2 years. The only political organisation I support is Respect.

  89. Herbert.

    Firstly there is no declared faction, under any name, Ian Donovan used the term Respect-loyalist, and I repeated it becasue I thought it preferable to galloway-Yaqoob. There were however two signed statements last week circulating in competition with each other.

    We have tried to present as much information as possible. There is a cultural expectation that correspondence among committee members remains confidential unless ALL PARTIES agree to it being published.

    What we have definately tried to do is to as clearly as possible provide a political explanation of what the dispute is about, and promote the vision of Respect that Salma Yaqoob articulated so clearly.

    From what i can see, the prospect of there being a conference was blown up at the Tuesday Tower Hamlets members meeting, when at a meeting of over one hundred people, the chair refused to accept a vote on an alternative slate of delegates for conference, despite the fact that the slate submitted complied with the constitional requirements laid down by the branch secretary in her e-mail. When the 70 members who supported that slate left understanding the decision had been deferred to Thursday, the remianing 30 voted thorugh their original (half SWP) slate.

    Then when the SWP members in the Respect national office cahnged the passwords on the e-mail and membership so that the party’s chair Linda Smith couldn’t check. And when the Conference Arangements Committee seemed to preaped to accept student delegates without proper checks that they represented any members.

    All such things meant a legally constituted and democratic conference was always in doubt.

    Would the membership have been better served by a conference where two delegations both turned up for Tower hamlets, and one was excluded? And student “delegates” packed the hall?

  90. Tim I deleted another of your comments.

    If you constructively join in debate that is one thing.

    If you post potentially libellous one-liners they will all be deleted.

  91. I have not been following all the comments on this blog assiduously. However, I have just read a comment on PR’s blog that Ian Donovan said the following: “…behind the scenes, SWP Central Committee members including JohnRees, Lindsey German, Chris Bambery and Martin Smith, have been meeting with representatives of the Respect-loyalist majority of the NationalCommittee, to negotiate a separation between the SWP and Respect. TheSWP leadership have in fact stated in private to the representatives ofthe Respect-loyalists that as far as they are concerned, theirinvolvement with the Respect project is over, and the only thing left tobe worked out is the details of the separation. It is in thesecircumstances very unlikely that the Conference scheduled for 17-18November will take place at all”

    This is what I recommended they do when the SWP first responded to Galloway’s letter. If they move towards the CNWP/NSSN and John McDonnell’s supporters, then I will be very relieved. Fighting on inside Respect will only lead to a split between the SWP and pretty much everyone else, regardless of who wins the votes at conference. An amicable divorce is no longer possible. However, if there are any socialists left among George Galloway’s supporters who want to retain the Respect franchise, then they might want to cut a deal with the SWP. After all, there is zero prospect that they can win the votes at conference. If they want to carry on with Galloway and his pro-abortion priorities, and the Tower Hamlets businessmen, with their anti-Gay Pride agenda, but without the SWP’s activists, subs, organisers, weekly paper, then good luck to them. Nick Wrack, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman, Ger Francis, Nick Bird, Jerry Hicks and others may very well manage to hold on to some SWP members. But the party will be much better off without them.

  92. Tom

    I am sure you advice is greatly appreciated.

    I know how much you Scots appreciated being told what to do by us English during the SSP’s crisis.

  93. Mark P (the Irish one) on said:

    As a non-Respect member I don’t have any particular right to be told, but when will Respect members on the ground told be told what happened today? Any rank and file members of Respect who were following the row (as best they can given the lack of democratic structures in Respect) would know that the National Council was due to meet today.

    Now it isn’t clear if the Council has met and there are rumours flying around that various faction leaders may have met instead to negotiate a split. So what the hell is happening?

  94. “So what the hell is happening?”

    Good question. And as a rank and file member, I do feel I have a right to know.

  95. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    I think people are missing a major point. The SWP have come out with a public statement of where they are going – their two members on Tower Hamlets Council, along with two others, resigned the whip, issued a press release denouncing the Respect group on the council, and have formed an “Independent” group on the Council.

    The effect of this is also to demote Respect in its strongest area in local government from being official opposition to Labour in the council chamber. See:
    http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/templates/news/detail.cfm?newsid=8328

    That this action was not endorsed by the SWP CC is inconceivable – their comments and actions on the expulsion of Wrack, Hoveman and Ovenden, make clear that they exert iron discipline over their members within the structures of Respect and what they can and cannot do.

    The ‘gang of four’ are also the top placed four names on the SWP petition (not Lavalette who is actually the longest serving Respect councillor, nor Ray Holmes who is the most recently elected and known to be independent of the SWP, nor Rees who as National Secretary is actually the most senior signatory within the structures of Respect). This is more than symbolic

    I know of at least one longstanding independent in Respect who was persuaded to sign the petition because of the presence of four Tower Hamlets councillors, who is now having second thoughts having heard of their very public split actions.

  96. cameron on said:

    Odd as it might seem, Oli Rahman is claiming that the four councillors did it off their own backs, not in consultation with the SWP.

    Don’t shoot the messenger – all might be revealed at tomorrow’s press conference.

  97. herbert on said:

    Sorry. I’m just annoyed by the information policy and disregard for rank-and-file-activists by SWP/GG. Has nothing to do with you.

  98. cameron on said:

    Fair enough Herbert.

    Perhaps Andy, perhaps. Even for the keenest Respect/SWP watchers, there are riddles yet to be solved.

  99. Logan's Jog on said:

    Both Respect and the SWP keep the thousands of people who are not directly involved but have every right to know, in the dark. As to the SWP it has always had to deal with these allegations – not just from the mongrels who number around 30 in the country (AWL, ENS, CPGB, etc etc) and are jealous of the fact the SWP is the only socialist party to have achieved anything approaching a blip on the radar of British politics, but also from those who actually have legitimate criticisms to make. Only recently has the SWP website or paper shown any willingness to acknowledge the tensions in Respect, despite Galloway sending his letter months ago. Respect have also failed to keep their members in the loop about what is going on. It’s shameful that we sympathisers had to go to places like the Weekly Worker to read about the situation, places run by people who only want to see either Respect or the SWP fail so that they can rest assured that no one on the Left is any less insignificant than they are.

    The main problem in my mind is that the SWP are a party, and Respect (in stark contrast to StWC) are also a party. How can one have a party within a party? Simply because the wider party seeks electoral success on its own name and the party within the party seeks electoral success on someone else’s name, does not mean this contradiction can be brushed over, and we are now seeing the unravelling of it all. This split is unlike the divisions within the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, or even the Greens: in those parties, the one thing uniting all their activists and members is that they want that party, THEIR party, to succeed. When it comes to the SWP within Respect, which party do they want to see succeed the most? It seems that the SWP wanted to maintain its autonomy within Respect, and have its own way within someone else’s party – despite being part of Respect, they demanded their members be loyal to the SWP first and foremost.

  100. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    Re: Cameron

    Wrack was nominated to the post of Respect National Organiser. The SWP CC immediately told him to withdraw because it did not agree with him standing. When he refused, he was summarily expelled, and an announcement made to the SWP membership.

    Had the SWP CC disagreed with the decisions of its two members to form a seperate group on Tower Hamlets council and split the Respect group, it could have done exactly the same as with Wrack.

    That it did not, is a clear indication that the SWP CC agree with the actions of its members splitting from the Respect group and forming their own independent group on Tower Hamlets Council.

  101. Auntie Shenangins on said:

    I can concur with Ian’s posts. ( please note post 112, its not point slagging of Ian because of his past affliations) I also have it on good authority that negoiations have taken place between between the SWP CC and other members of the respect national council.
    You have to watch this space.
    But from what I understand it’s about the terms of the SWP’s departure, their decision to leave, not this ficticous witchunt. This them trying to stop the retreat becoming a rout with too many members staying behind in respect.

    I think you have to be very naive to believe that the four TH councillors who have ACTUALLY split from Respect, that this was sanctioned by the SWP CC.

    Somebody asked why the respect member haven’t been informed. In essence it because the office has been run a in such a cack handed & factional manner by Rees & co.

    You now have bizarre situation from what a friend up in Manchester has told me about. Where the SWP met last week to decide not to build a respect rally in North Manchester with Salma, George, and Michael Lavelette on the platform. This meeting was addressed by Chris Harman, yet the SWP is pushing a unity statement at the same time. They seem to want to have their cake and eat it. They have also decided now to not hand out the Manchester respect newspaper, even though their members had written for it

    This friend also informs me that the North Manchester Respect branch appears to have growing number of ex-SWP members which then presents a bit of a conundrum for the SWP. These are members of 15-20 years standing. If they are losing members with this experience then how to explain this to SWP membership

  102. Auntie Shenangins on said:

    “I think you have to be very naive to believe that the four TH councillors who have ACTUALLY split from Respect, that this was sanctioned by the SWP CC ”

    I correct my post, its late, I mean this decision to split was sanctioned by SWP CC,

    There I think that’s clear now !

  103. “think you have to be very naive to believe that the four TH councillors who have ACTUALLY split from Respect, that this was sanctioned by the SWP CC.”

    Absolute bollocks all down the line.

  104. Thomas Wooler on said:

    re 138#

    two of the councillors, Ahmed Hussain and Lutfa are members of the SWP. The other two are very close to the SWP.
    Have the two SWP councillors who have split the Respect group in Tower Hamlets been expelled, or even disciplined, by the SWP. Has there been a statement from the SWP condemning their split? On the contrary, SWP members in Tower Hamlets are supporting them.
    Who’s in favour of unity and who’s executing a split?

  105. Ger Francis on said:

    Re post 134: ‘When it comes to the SWP within Respect, which party do they want to see succeed the most? t seems that the SWP wanted to maintain its autonomy within Respect, and have its own way within someone else’s party… ‘

    Indeed. SWP behaviour has killed any belief that Respect can continue to operate along ‘coalition’ lines and buried their ‘united front of a special type’ formula. By their actions they have made the most convincing case why Respect should reconstitute itself as a party.

    Respect/SWP members are currently on the receiving end of two cons. Firstly, the so-called ‘witch-hunt’ appeal is totally dishonest. It was not George Galloway who launched a media attack on the SWP last week; it was the SWP on George. People who have signed the petition on the basis of defending the SWP from public attack have being deceived. It is revealing that those who signed did not denote whether they were SWP members or not. For good reason. If they had it would have been apparent that the overwhelming bulk of signers are SWP members. For example, of the small number who have signed from South Birmingham, not only are they all SWP members, but many have done little or no activity inside Respect.

    Secondly, and in tandem, while Newham SWP members were passionately making the case for ‘unity’, two of their SWP comrades among the Tower Hamlets councillors group were busy preparing the grounds for a split. Only two hours before the Newham meeting that johng believes offers signs for optimism, SWP Tower Hamlets supporters were holding a press conference explaining why they had walked out. The sheer cynicism behind all of this is breathtaking.

    The SWP attorney on this site, Johng, would try have us believe that such behaviour in Tower Hamlets is perfectly compatible with Respect membership. Apparently he sees no irony in this being a member of an organization happy to expel for a lot less. Of course, his argument is nonsense. By his sectarian, egotistical behaviour Oli Rahman has expelled himself from Respect, the National Council and being second on the GLA list. Ditto for his co-conspirators from their Respect positions.

  106. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Odd as it might seem, Oli Rahman is claiming that the four councillors did it off their own backs, not in consultation with the SWP.”

    To paraphrase Mandy-Rice Davies; “well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

  107. cameron on said:

    Indeed Ian. That would have been my reaction too.

    As I have said before, don’t shoot the messenger. The press conference could be interesting.

  108. It is also worth saying that this claim comes from CPGB/ Weekly Worker “Odd as it might seem, Oli Rahman is claiming that the four councillors did it off their own backs, not in consultation with the SWP.”

    I earlier expressed the opinion that the CPGB had been “briefed” by the SWP over the Tower Hamlets affair. But briefing wasn’t really what I meant.

    If you know the way the CPGB work, they despertately try to give the impression they are more involved and more in the loop than they are, and they do seem to rely on stuff told them in pubs, or in passing.

    As such they would be quite easy to manipulate if you wanted to leak some spin to them.

  109. Well at least Ger has cleared up his position on the expulsions.

    I wrote this in an argument with Liam about giving left cover to these machinations:

    Liam seems to have re-joined Tower Hamlets Respect because he thought it was a Faction Fight and that there would be a chance to put foward his own politics in a way he didn’t think possible before. What he’s actually walked into is a situation where a group of elected councilers are treating the activist base that got them elected like vermin and expelling any councilers who don’t toe the line. This is because they want the organisation to be controlled by its politicians rather then its activists. The line of march here is away from attempting to build a political home for activists moving away from Labour and towards building local electoral machines which may or may not have politicians who espouse good general positions on such issues as war and social justice. My argument is that the language of ‘faction’ fight is inaccurate in this situation, and that people who see it like this are in for a rather nasty surprise.

    The fact that people make formal statements about a range of questions (which they may very well believe) does not always capture what is really happening, as very often political results depart from individuals intentions. It is therefore foolish simply to add togeather formal pronouncements and see which set are closer to ones ‘program’. A coalition of the left which subordinates its activists to its elected councilers and MP’s and effectively tells the activists to shut up or get out has its own logic.

    Long term members of the Labour Party surely have some experiance of this.

    I think the account I give above (the one which says it blew up around candidate selections and connected issues) is an accurate enough summation of the line of development of the crisis. Which, yes, is how I see it.

  110. I also find it incredible that the desperate desire of ordinary Respect members for unity in Newham is being cynically portrayed as a mere piece of political skullduggery. Its of a piece with an argument which attempts to present the questions we face entirely in terms of relationships between various leaders.

  111. Also my understanding is that the rumours about negotiations are almost exactly the reverse of Ians speculations. But rumours about rumours are not a good way to proceed so I won’t proceed further with that.

  112. My argument is that the language of ‘faction’ fight is inaccurate in this situation, and that people who see it like this are in for a rather nasty surprise.

    Oh sweet naive John Game.

    George and the Jamaatis will screw you big time.

  113. Ian Donovan on said:

    “I also find it incredible that the desperate desire of ordinary Respect members for unity in Newham is being cynically portrayed as a mere piece of political skullduggery.”

    Its not the desire for unity that is being ‘portrayed’ as skullduggery. I have no doubt it is genuine at the base. It’s what is going on above that contradicts that which is the skullduggery. Encourage the natural desire for unity, while a split is being prepared behind the scenes. Also, though I am not going to reveal my sources, these are not ‘rumours’. My sources are primary, not second-hand.

  114. cameron on said:

    Andy, more nonsense. As you will see yourself, when you read the next WW.

    If Rahman is shown to be a liar before then, his words – yes, his words – will be judged accordingly.

  115. Ger Francis on said:

    Yes John, my position is very clear about what should happen to those who orchestrate splits from Respect. You on the other hand, duck the issue. Let me pose again to you some questions posted earlier you seem keen to avoid:

    “two of the councillors, Ahmed Hussain and Lutfa are members of the SWP. The other two are very close to the SWP.
 Have the two SWP councillors who have split the Respect group in Tower Hamlets been expelled, or even disciplined, by the SWP. Has there been a statement from the SWP condemning their split? On the contrary, SWP members in Tower Hamlets are supporting them.
 Who’s in favour of unity and who’s executing a split?”

    Your new line justifying this SWP supported split, that the divide in Tower Hamlets is really about all about nasty councillors not under SWP control treating others like ‘vermin’, is pathetic and only deserves contempt. You really are scraping the barrel in your increasingly desperate attempts to give cover to SWP sectarianism. I take back an earlier post about not questioning your sincerity, only your judgement.

  116. #147 Your understanding is wrong, Johng. The negotiations are about separation. Many people in Newham know this and are feeling used. You were conned over the claims that Galloway was going to the media about all of this. Now you are being conned that the SWP leaders want unity when in fact they are discussing a split.

  117. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    Absolute bollocks all down the line.

    Comment by johng — 29 October, 2007 @ 11:07 am

    =======================

    So when will the SWP CC be issuing an instruction to them to rejoin the Respect group? The SWP were quick enough to tell Nick Wrack he could not even be nominated for the role of National Organiser. They immediately expelled Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman when they refused to resign their jobs and asked for more time to discuss.

    The SWP CC have clearly shown by their actions that they are quite capable of taking immediate disciplinary action to enforce their line when members do not follow it.

    I repeat:
    it is inconceivable that the SWP CC have not endorsed the split of their members on Tower Hamlets Council.

  118. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    #144 JohnG – what political positions in council have the SWP councillors in Tower Hamlets been asked to follow that they disagree with? I think we deserve to know.

  119. The fact that people make formal statements about a range of questions (which they may very well believe) does not always capture what is really happening, as very often political results depart from individuals intentions. It is therefore foolish simply to add togeather formal pronouncements and see which set are closer to ones ‘program’. A coalition of the left which subordinates its activists to its elected councilers and MP’s and effectively tells the activists to shut up or get out has its own logic.

    I’m going to have to call you on this (again). Like many SU readers, I’ve read thousands of words about this crisis by Galloway, Yaqoob, Linda Smith, Nick Wrack, Kevin Ovenden, Ger Francis and Neil Williams, not to mention RESPECT members such as Andy, Liam and Mark P. Not one of those people shares your analysis of what is really happening. Which only really leaves two possibilities:

    1. It’s a power-play by Galloway and his allies in TH; Galloway’s lying and so are Salma, Linda, Nick et al.

    2. It’s a power-play by Galloway and his allies in TH; Galloway’s lying and he’s deceived Salma, Linda, Nick et al.

    Neither of these is very credible, but they’re what follows if we believe this pseudo-materialist rhetoric opposing formal pronouncements to what is really happening. Perhaps we could agree on something a bit more believable (and less offensive):

    3. There is a power-play by Galloway and his allies in TH; there are also other antagonisms within RESPECT, which fall along roughly the same line of cleavage as the dispute Galloway started and have been brought to a head by it.

  120. #154 Johng: you were wrong about Galloway going to the media. You are wrong about this, as will become clear.

  121. If you go back over this volominous correspondence (I honestly can’t be bothered) you will find a fowarded note Ger sent from someone on his side of the argument about this. Its appropriately enough dripping with venom towards the SWP and indeed all who ‘try the chairs patience’. But it does note that the splits amongst the councilers have their own dynamic. I think people are forgetting in all the obsession with the higher ups that Respect has a real base in TH and therefore many of these dynamics do not flow from the pen of anyone.

    I also think in the rush to present this as the SWP versus the rest, a number of realities about an, in reality, deeply divided council leadership in TH, (with a few point men pushing often reluctant moderates into this civil war, in reality I think two, with the rest intitially being desperate to stop this escalating) are being neglected. Its not true either that the this is a battle between a few mad whitey trots and ‘real people’ or on the other hand that what gets said by various leading figures adequately reflects what is really going on on the ground.

    As to Kevin and Robs expulsion its not ‘anyone’. Its people who work for a leading figure in Respect who has orchestrated a situation were some of the most dedicated left wing councilers are being expelled and presented as mere dupes of the SWP.

    I really don’t think, in retrospect, that there will be many SWP members who think a wrong decision was made. And I really don’t think that they would want to be in the SWP anyway. Perhaps they ‘expelled themselves’?

  122. ger francis on johng “I take back an earlier post about not questioning your sincerity, only your judgement.”

    Join the club.

    Four Respect councillors walk out from the Tower Hamlets Respect group, thereby demoting Respect from its opposition status on the council, and putting the Tories in its place. And all this with the blessing of the SWP CC (no expulsions, no criticism, but on the contrary the top four signatures on the SWP’s petition, remember).

    johng, noticing this is a little embarrassing for his case, decides to refer repeatedly to the four as “the expelled councillors” in the hope that anyone without his endless reserves of time to follow the affair might believe that the four councillors have suffered a terrible injustice.

    I think it’s called “the interpenetration of opposites”.

  123. As to Kevin and Robs expulsion its not ‘anyone’. Its people who work for a leading figure in Respect who has orchestrated a situation were some of the most dedicated left wing councilers are being expelled and presented as mere dupes of the SWP.

    That’s just silly. The councillors were ‘expelled’ (probably unconstitutionally) because they’d resigned the whip, split the group and deprived RESPECT of its ‘official opposition’ status. Any political party would discipline councillors who did that. Nobody’s presented any evidence that Galloway ‘orchestrated’ the situation leading up to Oli & co’s defection (although ‘orchestrate’ could mean anything). More importantly, all this happened after Kevin & Rob’s expulsion.

    But fair enough, I doubt they’d want to be members of the SWP now – being expelled often has that effect, particularly when other people spontaneously follow you out.

  124. JohnG

    Lets keep this really simple.

    A row over candidate selection may be sypmtomaitc of deeper political differnces. We can put that to one side as a truism. You aren’t making any new point there.

    But in politics a left/right split would manifest itself in actual differences that relate to the real world in terms of policy. Over what issue have the “left” councillors come out with a different policy from the “right” councillors?

    Why haven’t that policy disagreements that must exist if it is really a left/right split been brought to the fore by the SWP?

    Instead you make increasingly baroque arguments implying that none of us understand what is really happening.

    BUt if what is really happening is left/right (or councillors/activits if you prefer) then why is it so hard for you to describe how that has manifested itself in the real world?

  125. Ger Francis on said:

    Funny. I don’t remember the Kevin, Rob and Nick press conference denouncing the SWP. To try and make an equation between their expulsions from the SWP and the behaviour of those who split in Tower Hamlets only serves to highlight Johng’s political degeneration.

  126. Ian Donovan on said:

    Its not even clear that they have actually been expelled yet. Since the SWP control the national membership database, and had for a while even locked non-SWP national officers out of being able to access it, I don’t find it credible that they have actually been expelled from the national organisation. On the ground, Respect-loyalists in TH may regard them as ‘expelled’, but unless that has been confirmed nationally in some way, this is almost certainly not true formally. Mind you, I think there would be grounds to expel people who publicly split in this way, but some kind of body has to ratify that and as far as I am aware one hasn’t as yet.

  127. #164

    I am so glad you said that Ian

    Apart from JOhn G, has anyone actually said these councillors are expelled.

    What decision making body in Respect would have that authority? And surely the SWp would have opposed their expulsion?

    Can JOhn confirm where his information came frm that they have been expelled, and explain who made the decision, and under what authority?

  128. The chair of Tower Hamlets Respect has merely said that by their actions they have expelled themselves. Johng is increasingly entering fantasy land. And we still have had no explanation from him over why he spent last week telling us that Galloway was about to go to the media over the rows in Respect (what was it, Newsnight, the Today programme, Channel 4?) when he did not, despite having ample opportunity on his radio show and Question tiem.

  129. Ian Donovan on said:

    No-one to my knowledge has ever been expelled from Respect. I suppose the National Council would be the body, probably on recommendation from a local branch. But this is a loose coalition that has never had to do this yet.

  130. cameron on said:

    He got it from his mate Meaders/Meadway.

    I was oh so shocked to see that Johng is down on the SWP petition as a ‘Respect supporter’ only. Too tight to pay his subs?

  131. I was somewhat surprised by Ger’s ringing declarations about this actually (I understood that it was a bit politically embarressing to do this earlier given the assurences that there was no witch hunt on the same day). Given an attempt to claim that they had not actually been expelled inside TH there seems to be some over-enthusiasm going on here. Or perhaps not. The attempt at a clarification recently issued is genuinely difficult to make sense of.

    No I would not expect arguments of this kind to involve ‘progromatic disagreements’ Andy. Respect is not a Trotskyist sect. I would expect that these tensions would reflect themselves in precisely the ways seen: between elected politicians and activists. Although in TH its not even that simple. In reality there have been two councilers really pushing others who were willing to compromise (Galloway’s intervention in the meeting actually prevented a resolution when one was in fact on the cards. In terms of the attempt to come to a settlement over the slates it was one counciler, yes ONE, who refused a compromise, most others being happy with the idea of a compromise).

    There has been a systematic attempt to prevent one, whilst at the same time any attempt by ordinary activists to press for unity has been presented as an SWP conspiracy (frankly ludicrous if you look at some of the signatures on the petition, many of whom had also signed Georges appeal, but were subsequently horrified by the dynamic that had been set off).

    And that is not ‘baroque’. Its having some understanding (not secret information) about real political dynamics as opposed to a set of abstractions about ‘programs’ and the like.

    I would warn comrades trying to assess what is going on here to be aware that some of those who work for leading figures on the anti-SWP side of this conflict have an interest in playing up their base and support. Rather obviously and understandably.

  132. Could someone delete the remark above by cameron. You don’t out people’s names on blogs who don’t want to be outed. Although it is a classically political argument from cameron.

  133. Nas said “And we still have had no explanation from him over why he spent last week telling us that Galloway was about to go to the media over the rows in Respect (what was it, Newsnight, the Today programme, Channel 4?) when he did not, despite having ample opportunity on his radio show and Question time.”

    The explanation? On the launch of the petition, it was a damn good yarn to spin to those who needed some extra leverage before they were prepared to sign it. (Currently running at 825 signatures out of a claimed 5938 registered members.) It also helped to blur their perceptions of the reality: that it was actually the four SWP and SWP-aligned councillors who went on the attack in the press (interpenetration of opposites again?).

  134. Johng: that’s a poor explanation. Isn’t the truth that you and other SWP members were told by the national office that Galloway was going to go to the media. You believed your leaders. You were wrong to.

  135. cameron on said:

    So you don’t deny the source of the info johng? Or the fact that you are not a Respect member?

  136. Ger Francis on said:

    Johng: ‘I was somewhat surprised by Ger’s ringing declarations about this actually’

    ‘Surprised’ about what, exactly? That I said a group of TH councillors with SWP support split from Respect and have de facto expelled themselves from the organisation? Hardly ground breaking stuff. Can you stop all your sophistry. It only serves to demean your own reputation.

    Your discription of yourself as having ‘some understanding… about real political dynamics as opposed to a set of abstractions…’ in Respect did make me laugh though.

  137. JOhn #170

    In the very un-sect like Die Linke, Oskar lafontaine has drawn a line in the sand over the issue of privatisation, that die Linke should not partcipate in coalitions with the SPD that promote privatisation, like the Sparkasse in Berlin.

    This is a policy issue, around which descriptions of left and right make sense.

    Don’t lecture me about programmatic differences in trot sects, i imagine I have spent many more years in the Labour party than you, and those are the sort of issues that left/right manifest themselves over. I am not talking about different attitudes to Cuba, i am talking about bread and butter local politics, where if your analysis over left/right makes sense, then it would have manifested itself in behaviour.

    You are increasingly opaque in your contributions to this, and unwilling to relate to real world examples.

  138. well we disagree Andy. Who knows what programatic differences will eventually emerge, in this case the differences have to do with arguments about the relationship between electoral priorities and political ones, and people disagree about the implications of this. I would not expect, in such an argument, for people to get up and say, ‘lets have a vote about ensuring we’re not bothered by pesky activists who don’t understand the realities of political power, which require compromise’ (particularly not when you have to get some of them to vote for it!). Well not in public anyway, although I’m sure thats what some people think in private. Much of the rhetoric about the SWP serves this purpose rather nicely (if its about a bunch of control freaks rather then about this issue it will go down better). I think its a bit of a shame if you confuse your theoretical take on the absence of a distinction between reformist and revolutionary politics for this sort of thing. Then again it might be a practical consequence of your position.

  139. Oh just a clarification. Respect councilers did not split from respect. They resigned the whip. Its not the same thing. Expulsion would be a different stage. I’m still unclear whether this is an argument that they SHOULD be expelled or an argument that they already have been. The phrase ‘expel yourself’ simply means that there is a good case for expulsion or on the other hand that people have voluntarily left the organisation. The latter is untrue and the former would surely be a matter for some formal proceedure.

  140. johng: the natinal secretary of Respect has just orchestrated the press conference of the break away councillors in Tower Hamlets. Please don’t talk about unity. The SWP are splitting and seeking to wreck what remains.

  141. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    John G: “Oh just a clarification. Respect councilers did not split from respect. They resigned the whip. Its not the same thing. ”

    They did not just resign the whip – they constituted themself as an independent group on the Council with a leader (O Rahman) and a Deputy Leader (R Khan).
    http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/templates/news/detail.cfm?newsid=8328

    They also issued a press release denouncing their fellow Respect members – the first time anyone in this crisis has ever gone to the capitalist press.

    I still want to know what the political issues that led them to this act were – the only one I can think of is that they want their own party and are not prepared to work in a broader formation.

  142. Auntie Shenangins on said:

    Johng,you cannot have your cake and eat it. The Tower Hamlets (SWP ones and supporters) councillors resigned from the whip, and have set themselves up as ‘independent respect’ It amounts to the same thing.

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like duck, then its bloody duck, just as of a way of clarification

    I’ve observed your blogs on this site and Liam macs, You’re like king Canute in trying to stem the tide. It’s a valiant effort I’ll give you that. However, I’m still waiting to do a point by point rebutal of all the issues raised by Gerry Hicks in his letter.

  143. Auntie Shenangins on said:

    Opps, Should read

    I’m still waiting FOR YOU do a point by point rebutal of all the issues raised by Gerry Hicks in his letter.

  144. Michaelx on said:

    I for one support the SWP petition. People like Ken Loach have been ‘vilifying the left’ for too long. It is time we stood up to these running dogs…

    If/when Respect splits (if John Rees splits from Ken Loach does that constitute a ‘left-left split’??) we can expect the SWP to engage in a binge of ultra-leftism in order to cleanse themselves of their adventures in popular frontism. WRP-style purging and puritanism me thinks…

  145. JOhn I don’t like personal abuse in politics, but here goes anyway.

    Are you actully stupid or just pretending?

    In Die Linke, the left/right axis falls on a specific policy issue – whether as coalition partners should die Link support privatisation reluctantly to keep the red-red coalitions in power; and that policy issue is concerning a strategic question of whether socialist parties can acheive progress without participating in public office.

    In Rifondazione (PRC), the left/right axis falls on a specific policy issue – whether as coalition partners should PRC support Italisan troops in Afghanistan reluctantly to keep L’Unione coalition in power; and that policy issue is concerning a strategic question of the relative importance of the social movements, as opposed to maintaining the left coalition.

    In Respect, if there were left/right issues, then you would expect them to fall on questions like sell off of council housing, what alternative budget Respect present, etc.

    So it is incomprehensible gibberish for you to write: “I would not expect, in such an argument, for people to get up and say, ‘lets have a vote about ensuring we’re not bothered by pesky activists who don’t understand the realities of political power, which require compromise’ (particularly not when you have to get some of them to vote for it!). Well not in public anyway, although I’m sure thats what some people think in private. Much of the rhetoric about the SWP serves this purpose rather nicely (if its about a bunch of control freaks rather then about this issue it will go down better). I think its a bit of a shame if you confuse your theoretical take on the absence of a distinction between reformist and revolutionary politics for this sort of thing”

    Even within that gibberish you concede the key point though: “pesky activists who don’t understand the realities of political power, which require compromise’”

    What I am asking is what the compromises were? What compromises did the “right” expect the “left” to concede.

    If this is really a left/right split then this will be easy for you, in the same way that it is esy for me to say where the left/right axis falls in Die Linke and PRC, even from this distance.

  146. I do wonder if the SWP will ever go into print and try and rebutt the charges *politically*. Incredibly, some of their members are falling for it. One local SWP activist, who’s always been suspicious of Respect, spoke to me on Saturday and you could see the fire of zealotry burning in his eyes once again. Though he’d been making similar criticisms of Respect as the SWP leadership are now ever since I’ve known him, it was as if the outpourings of the central committee were news to him. Bizarre.

  147. “take back an earlier post about not questioning your sincerity, only your judgement”.

    Must have missed that earlier point.

  148. Auntie Shenangins on said:

    Just recieved this in my mail box, post it up Andy

    Response from national chair linda smith and others to SWP’s “Respect appeal against witch-hunting

    The text is now here

    For more information contact nick.wrack@tooks.co.uk; lindablackpool@hotmail.com; kevin.ovenden@gmail.com; robhoveman@yahoo.co.uk.

    See also the letter sent out to all members on 26 October titled “Statement from elected representatives and National Council members – Respect at the Crossroads”.

  149. It is sad to hear a Respect National Council member echoing what Tower Hamlets Respect chair is saying. Tower Hamlets (TH) Respect chair does not have any understanding of socialist politics as he’s a multi-millionaire.

    Can I just remind Ger Francis about the founding principle of Respect: Peace, Justice & Equality. I don’t know about the peace and justice but Equality has been forgotten by Ger and his gang. The Tower Hamlets chair is telling women comrades at the last meeting and meetings before (he has behaved like that front of George Galloway) to sit down and shut up and his supporters are telling women to stay at home, is this what Ger wants to see happening in Respect? As he has borrowed sentences from the Tower Hamlets chair (I must say that TH chair can’t write email like that so it must have been written by someone else), I and everyone would agree that Ger does indeed support above comments made towards female comrades.

    Comrades, we founded Respect as there’s a need for left wing alternative and that need is even greater at this point in time. What people are forgetting is that attacking a left organisation is attacking the whole left and it should not be supported by anyone who believes in social justice. As an ex SWP member and who calls himself a socialist, Ger should know that better. Comrades, in TH there’s two factions in Respect, the left and the right. It’s not divided on SWP or non-SWP. It’s very easy for people to make comments on TH issues from outside without knowing what really happen here and I would suggest Ger and others to come to one of TH’s meeting to see for themselves before writing garbage on the blogs.

    Two of the 4 councillors resigned are not SWP members therefore don’t give it a nonsense spin, be honest and stop playing with our members.

  150. WNP

    A confernce where Tower hamlets sent two delegations, and where half the members have no trust in the conferecne arrangements committee, where there are student delegates there represeting no-one, and there trust and confidence has utterly broken down would not lead to a calm political debate, and moving the organisation forward.

    The vey fact that as a loyal SWP member you see the question in terms of who can get the most delegates, rather than seeing it in terms of who can provide the politics to best move the situation forwards, speask volumes about you.

    It would also be difficult to see how alleged the left/right split would resolve itself at confernece, when for the first time in history the left and the right agree with all the same policies.

    Even last year in Scotland you didn’t have the cheek to say it was a left/right split.

  151. Not at all Andy it’s not a numbers game for me, although I suspect it is for some of the signatories. Your moral indignation can’t cover it up either.
    I actually think that a conference is not a bad place to resolve issues. As for students, I suppose its ok for them to deliver leaflets and do stunts but not ok to have a vote and take part in debates?
    I remember being a student and our ability to fill in paperwork necessary for conferences was a direct reflection of our level of organisation. Be careful not to alienate the youth, they are the future.

  152. Ian Donovan on said:

    Nothing wrong with students having proper representation, provided they actually are Respect members and have paid subs accordingly. The allegation, however, is that there are delegates ‘representing’ people who are not members of Respect. Membership of Respect means just that, not merely signing a freshers list for a society. The records of paid-up student membership are not part of the ordinary membership list, and seem to be unavailable to verify.

    And actually, if gerrymandering is alleged, it most certainly *is* a numbers name.

  153. It is only an allegation, and one among too many that are circulating at the moment.
    Disenfranchising the student wing of Respect due to this error in counting does not seem to be the best way to go though.

    I believe that a conference could be a cathartic experience for all involved. Some mass gathering needs to happen don’t you think? We need to be able to put the original vision up before the membership so it can debate the way forward.

    To be frank i am worried that this call against the conference is a result of the rumoured weekend discussions, and one side does not like the terms of the divorce.

  154. Martin Simmonds on said:

    Can you lot hear yourselves.

    If we want to be marginalised and treated like the Judea Unpopular Front, just carry on.

    Let’s fight Brown et al.. not each other. This is what I’ll niavely be saying at meetings and I hope that SWPeople I respect will listen.

  155. I sympathise with your point Martin and perhaps Andy and others will forgive me if I quote a post I made on another thread.

    “It is important to bear in mind that often socialists in action do co-operate. For example, only three days ago I attended a very productive planning meeting in which Respect members both from the SWP and not, members of Permanent Revolution and some other socialists and activsits discussed how we can launch a campaign for Flores Sukula, a student from Bolton take up her place at Manchester Metropolitan University in health and scoial care as a stepping stone to become a midwife.

    Despite the heat over current disagreements on Respect and other issues we all worked with examplary friendliness, energy and determination.

    Simlarly different socialists are planning action in Manchester against academies and privatisation of education, including a meeting under the name of a group Socialist Unity and supporting and working together in the Karen Reissmann strike. Don’t let our fraternal- and sometimes not so fraternal-disagreements blind you to the real unity in action it is possible to build.”

    That said- and I do think it essntial we do carry on this practical work- there clearly are lessons to be learned, a lot of soul searching etc. and I thereofre wish everyone good luck in doing that. Still remember the bigger picture and why we are socialists and activists in the first place.

  156. Timothy Baldwin on said:

    I have one email from the SWP national office on 17th October, it does not contain the text Jerry Hicks alleges it does.