Our answer to the alleged “witch hunt” in Respect

Dear Respect Member,

Our answer to the alleged “witch hunt” in Respect

Last Friday 26 October a letter titled “Respect Appeal against the witch hunt” went out to all members from the Respect National Office.

We deplore the fact that the letter, which has been circulating through non-Respect channels for a week by the SWP, is titled “Respect appeal against witch-hunting” as though it had some kind of official sanction. It has never been agreed at either the National Executive or the National Council. It is not a “Respect Appeal”.

We, as members of the Respect National Council who are not members of the Socialist Workers Party, wish to answer this petition.

There is no witch-hunt against “socialists including the SWP” in Respect.

The letter claims there “is now overwhelming evidence that the democratic structures of Respect are being circumvented and marginalized” and that “some national officers are attempting to unilaterally by-pass the existing democratic structures of Respect and to witch-hunt socialists including the SWP.”

No evidence is provided to substantiate these or any of the other claims in the letter.

Unfortunately, it is the SWP leadership which is orchestrating a campaign of misinformation against George Galloway and others of us who disagree with them.

The SWP leadership carried an editorial in last week’s edition of their paper Socialist Worker, publicly attacking George Galloway.

At no time has George Galloway or any one of us attacked the SWP in the national media. Regrettably, as a result of the SW editorial an article about divisions within Respect appeared in yesterday’s Observer.

We reject the other accusations made in the letter:

The SWP leadership is attempting to delegate students to the Respect conference where there is no entitlement to these delegates. We have no objection at all to student delegates properly elected according to the constitution.

We completely disagree with the interpretation of events in Tower Hamlets. SWP members there prevented a members’ meeting from electing delegates and then purported to elect an unrepresentative list of delegates at an unconstitutional meeting held when the overwhelming majority of members had left.

We no longer have confidence that the conference called for 17/18 November will be validly constituted.

We are shocked that access to the Respect database and therefore communication to Respect members was denied to the chair, Linda Smith, and the vice-chair, Salma Yacoob, when the access codes were changed unilaterally by the SWP leadership. Only under pressure has that information been released.

We further deplore the fact that four councillors in Tower Hamlets split from Respect on Thursday evening, a fact they announced in a widely circulated press release. The four include two members of the SWP and two close allies. They are, in fact, the first four signatories to the SWP’s ‘Respect Appeal against the witch hunt”.

Instead of deploring the split by these councillors and asking them to rejoin Respect, SWP members in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere are supporting this step.

We, however, remain absolutely committed to the principles and policies of Respect as contained in our founding statement, subsequent manifestos and conference decisions: Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, Trade Unions.

Yours in solidarity,

Linda Smith, National Chair
Salma Yaqoob, National Vice Chair

Mobeen Azhar, National Council
Ayesha Bajwa, National Council
Victoria Brittain, National Council
Rita Carter, National Council
Ger Francis, National Council
George Galloway MP, National Council
Jerry Hicks, National Council
Abdurahman Jafar, National Council
Abdul Khaliq, National Council
John Lister, National Council
Ken Loach, National Council
Abjol Miah, National Council, Leader of Tower Hamlets Respect Councillors Group
Bernie Parkes, National Council
Yvonne Ridley, National Council
Clive Searle, National Council
Alan Thornett, National Council
Nick Wrack, National Council

25 comments on “Our answer to the alleged “witch hunt” in Respect

  1. Tony T on said:

    Of all the lies and disingenuous claptrap perpetuated by the SWP leadership in recent days, the most obnoxious – because it is similtaneously a smear AND an insult to the intelligence – is the line that there is a witch-hunt of ‘socialists’ taking place within Respect.

    How typical, both in its grandiosity and its dishonesty, of the SWP CC to conflate the SWP with ‘socialists’. An exciting new form of substitutionalism! The idea that Smith, Loach, Francis, Thornett, Wrack, Searle, Hoveman, Ovenden and all these other well known non-socialists are attacking ordinary, innocent, unaffiliated socialists is absurd.

    In reality, the only witch-hunt going on is within the SWP and is being conducted against those who dare to dissent from the Rees dictatorship.

  2. Norwegian on said:

    Does this mean that this unholy alliance has called off the November conference, then?

  3. I suppose it is too much to expect that there might be a concerted
    attempt at a calm, rational discussion of the reasons behind the sharp
    divisions in Respect? Launch an internal discussion bulletin? An online
    forum? Put out a call for documents so that a proper, reasoned exchange
    of views can take place about why we are in this political mess? Must we
    relate to each other by stealth, skulduggery and manoeuvre?

    Anything to raise the abysmal level of relations that now appear to
    exist between people in Respect.

  4. re #3 chris edwards

    “I suppose it is too much to expect that there might be a concerted
    attempt at a calm, rational discussion of the reasons behind the sharp
    divisions in Respect? Launch an internal discussion bulletin? An online
    forum? Put out a call for documents so that a proper, reasoned exchange
    of views can take place about why we are in this political mess?”

    Hi Chris, I think that would be the mature approach to dealing with major political differences. Unfortunately it’s not going to happen though.

    The SWP leadership don’t have real political differences with the rest of Respect -it’s purely about control in my view.

    The SWP leadership may also possibly be worried that staying in could split the SWP further apart. Many SWP members, mostly older long standing members, are not too keen on Respect’s populist reformist approach. Many have abstained from Respect work or they have dropped out of the SWP completely even. On the other hand, others, mostly newer members, students etc. are very keen on Respect and they may want to liquidate into it completely. So, two different wings pulling in different directions. The SWP CC may calculate that it’s better to get out now and keep both wings together, with as few losses as possible.

    re #2 i doubt the conference will go ahead – and if it does one side will walk out pretty soon after it starts.

    socialist greetings,

    ks

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

    Well, while this letter includes a reasonable defence of the position of the non-SWP side, it doesn’t really include much in the way of new information. We no longer have confidence that the conference called for 17/18 November will be validly constituted fairly strongly implies that there will be no conference, or at least not one involving both camps. Which almost certainly means that there will be a split before then.

    What this letter conspicuously doesn’t tell the Respect membership is:

    1) Whether or not the National Council which was supposed to meet to sort out most of these issues actually met.

    2) If there are negotiations ongoing about a split.

    3) If so, which side is planning to actually leave Respect and go it alone.

    The non-SWP side have made much more of an effort to keep the rank and file involved and informed than the SWP has. But being “better” on that score than an organisation which tried its best to keep non-SWP members out of the discussion entirely doesn’t say all that much.

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

    While I’m here, what exactly happened at the Tower Hamlets breakaway press conference? What was said? Were the SWP openly supportive of the breakaway?

  7. The answer to those last questions is here, in a further letter from Linda Smith et al.

    SWP leadership splitting from Respect

    We are astonished that the Respect National Secretary John Rees has spoken publicly in support of four councillors who have split from Respect in Tower Hamlets.

    Today, Monday 29 October, there was a press conference called by four former Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets. They announced that they had resigned the Respect whip on the council and were forming a Respect (Independent) party. This is a clear split from Respect.

    John Rees answered questions at the press conference. He expressed his support for the four breakaway councillors. In answer to questions from journalists he said that Respect (Independent) candidates could be standing against Respect candidates in elections. Cllr Oliur Rahman, who was a member of the National Council and a national officer, did not rule out standing against George Galloway, who is Respect’s only nominee to be the Respect parliamentary candidate in Poplar and Limehouse.

    No party could be expected to tolerate its purported National Secretary colluding with those who have split from the organisation and discussing standing candidates against it.

    By this action he has betrayed the members of Respect and the party he is supposed to advocate, defend and build. He has forfeited his position as National Secretary and as a member of the National Council. He has clearly indicated that he and the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party are splitting from Respect.

    Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the duplicitous behaviour of the SWP leadership, which has been asking for support for its petition against “witch-hunts” whilst preparing its forces for a split from Respect.

    Yours in solidarity,

    Linda Smith, National Chair

    Salma Yaqoob, National Vice Chair

    Ayesha Bajwa, National Council

    Victoria Brittain, National Council

    Rita Carter, National Council

    Ger Francis, National Council

    George Galloway MP, National Council

    Jerry Hicks, National Council

    Abdul Khaliq Mian, National Council

    John Lister, National Council

    Ken Loach, National Council

    Abjol Miah, National Council, Leader of Tower Hamlets Respect Councillors Group

    Bernie Parkes, National Council

    Yvonne Ridley, National Council

    Clive Searle, National Council

    Alan Thornett, National Council

    Nick Wrack, National Council

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

    If that’s accurate, it seems to mean that the split has now happened and that there are currently two different groups calling themselves Respect.

  9. cameron on said:

    This has appeared on Urban 75.

    Text of letter sent to Respect, October 29 2007:

    Misleading Article on Respect Website

    I am extremely concerned at the contents of a news item on the Respect Website which claims in the heading that RMT’s London Region has voted to support Lindsey German for Mayor. The article also states the London Transport Region supports her for the GLA elections next year.

    The report misleadingly gives the impression that RMT members for the London Area have pledged support for Lindsey German. This is unequivocally not the case. Nor does support for Ms. German represent RMT’s official position on candidates for GLA elections, or for Mayor. Firstly, the London Transport Regional Council does not represent the London Area, but merely Branches on the London Underground. Secondly, the London Transport Regional Council, or indeed any Regional Council, does not have the authority to take such decisions. Official support for political organisations or candidates is solely the province of the Union’s Council of Executives.

    It is a matter of deep disquiet that the Respect website contains such misleading statements and reference to persons claiming to be speaking on behalf of RMT’s London Area when they have no such authority. This article represents an unwarranted and unwelcome intrusion into this Union’s internal political discussions and gives members and the general public the impression that a decision has been taken on the question of support for GLA and Mayoral candidates when this is emphatically not the case.

    In the circumstances, I should be grateful if you would take the necessary action to remove the offending item from your webpage.

    Yours faithfully,

    Bob Crow
    General Secretary

  10. Norwegian on said:

    So, first we have 19 people out of a 50 strong NC declaring that the four TH councillors have ‘split’ from Respect, after the same four councillors in their press release explicitly stated that they would not leave Respect. And now we have 17 members of the NC declaring unanimously that the whole of the SWP (no, sorry, only the SWP leadership!) have ‘split’ from Respect. Do anyone really doubt that this is in fact a minority abandoning ship?

  11. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    #13 Norwegian. You have not been reading the posts. The four Tower Hamlets Councillors have formed their own ‘independent’ group on the Council and have elected a ‘leader’ (O Rahman) and a ‘deputy leader’ (R Khan). They also issued a press release and have now called a press conference to use the bourgeois press to attack their one time fellow Respect members – one week after the SWP went hysterical that Galloway was going to do precisely the same thing (he didn’t – it was all a lie).

    If that’s not a split I don’t know what is.

  12. I think the most damaging turn of events for the SWP leaders today is the sharp put down by the RMT. It overshadows any success in getting limited support in a vote last week for German (when at the same time she was over the other side of the Euston Road negotiating a split from Respect).

  13. It strikes me a odd that these ex revolutioanries such as Ovenden and Hoveman are backing Galloway to the hilt. I mean this is the man who tells socialists to “Fuck off” whilst standing on a chair at a memberhsip meeting! he is the man who stated he wanted to stand against a labour MP because that MP was “Strongly in favour of gay rights” clearly thinks the SWP have a majority on their side so manipulates the selection procedures and then when that doesn’t seem to work call off the conference. Oh by the way didn’t consult anyone about Big Brother, Sarah Plamer Tomkinson, anti abortion comments and refusing to do meetings because of his radio show comes first. I understand that verbal and physical threats have been cited as reasons for the 4 councillors resigning form the Respect whip. I also notice from Galloways mob no attempt to recognise that having 2 candidates go to New lABOUR in Tower Hamlets is a bit of a problem. It is worth considering this- look at the names on the SWP petition- does Hoveman and Ovenden think the way to build the left is to expel all those people. These include significant Union figures, local activists and those central to the anti war movement. Galloway has made it clear – for him the SWP is a liability in his bid to get re elected Hoveman and Ovenden clearly think winning elections at all costs is the central issue of the day and if it means pandering to bigots then so be it- jeeez how many meetings had they gone to or done expalinging the disaster this logic ends up with!!
    The idea that Galloway is after recent PR disasters a major attraction to working class militants is a joke. If they succed in witch hunting the SWP out of RESPECT then outside of East London and B’ham they will ahve nothing.. Me thinks Ovenden et el took the lucre and who pays the piper calls the tune. No wonder the SWP asked Ovenden not to take the job in the first place- should have been expelled when the lure of the bright lights addled his brain.

  14. oh big deal Bob Crow attacks Lindsey German and RESPECT … given he can’t abide the SWP is it any surprise. The way people on this site think the SWP is the main enemy is weird!!

  15. JJ has swollowed the SWP smear sheet whole.

    Galloway never once said he opposed Jim Fitzpatrick on account of gay rights. The person who claimed he did was Peter Tatchell – who has also run several propaganda campaigns against the SWP. Ovenden started working with Galloway with the full agreement of the CC. He told people that at the time as did CC members.

    Claiming a committed socialist has sold their soul for a 25k a year job is an incredible libel.

    Galloway is doing meetings , his radio show is on Friday and Saturday nights which is hardly a hinderance.

    Being on a TV programme where you get to talk to a mass audience about east end working class history is a good thing for the left.

    Lastly, don’t underestimate just how many people on the left are sick of the SWP claiming that they are the socialists. They are not. There are socialists who disagree with the SWP and that doesn’t make them right wing.

  16. JJ ought to ask him/herself why practically everyone outside the SWP in Respect have taken serious offence to its behaviour, and why on the left generally the SWP is so disliked? Is it because everyone one of us outside the SWP are madhead sectarians, or is there something deeply alienating with the way the SWP itself operates?

  17. Andy BH on said:

    In all of this, I am still waiting to see any credible evidence that there is a witch-hunt against the SWP, still less of who is supposed to be behind it. Similarly any evidence of any attempt to dilute the socialist content of Respect. Oli Rahman’s comment at this press conference – that he has no policy disagreements of substance with GG about…well….about anything – says it all really.

  18. NAS – the quote from the radio broadcast by GG states the following

    “Mr Fitzpatrick strongly supports equality for Gays and for these reasons (citing other voting patterns) there will be a mother of all elections”

    Now I heard this on the link from GG website. Anyone can go and listen to it.
    Likewise GG main objection to the SWP argued position in Respect is
    1. Having an intervention in Gay Pride and being asked to attend.
    2. Trade Union conference

    Nas- a coupel of years ago you would be in favour of both. Now because the Boss man says no can do you just toe the line.

    I see the democratically elected Mayor cnadidate has been deposed by e mail- how democratic!!!
    I am just saying that in SWP circles Ovenden had a reputation for being a bit of a flash show off who only wanted to hob nob with the stars.

    there is obviously a way of sorting this out- allow a conference to take place. That does seem to be the most obvious solution. I know NAS th problem is you might lose but that called democracy.

    NAS- Any news on the threat of court action against Cllr Khan? or the bricks thrown threw Cllr Rahman’s windows? Don’t see any staements from GG condemning these actions against a Tower Hamlets CLlr- it reminds one of Stalinism….. umm makes one think doesn’t it?

  19. whatever on said:

    If the SWP had been silent and pretended to be in control as they have done in the last few years then all would have been well. Instead they said they would not support Abjol Miah, georges prefered candiate for the general election and all hell broke out.

    To make it worse a real coalition was growing against Abjol with figures such as Kumar Murshid, Cllr Oliur Rahmen Rania Khan Cllr Shahid etc forming a block that may have with the support of the SWp block Cllr Abjol Miah.

    All this and Gordon Brown didnt even call the election.

  20. JJ: I’m haven’t got a clue what you are talking about. And I’m not sure others have either.

  21. Hooray,Hooray, The SWP have been knocked out from respect. Their leadership are the most infantile thinkers of the left