Reasons to Back Lindsey German for Mayor?

lindsey-german.jpg Guest post from Liam Mac Uaid on why he argues Respect Renewal should campaign for a first preference vote for the SWP candidate for London mayor.

The absence of a clearly identified left of Labour candidate in the London mayoral elections will disenfranchise all those who can no longer support the three major pro-capitalist parties. This is a significant constituency which comprises many of those who have dropped out of Labour Party membership in the last decade, Labour voters who can no longer give political support to a right-wing, pro-war, pro neo-liberal programme, large numbers of anti-war protestors, younger people who are starting to radicalise due to climate change and increasingly sections of public sector workers on whom Gordon Brown is imposing pay cuts.

The timing of the election is lucky for those of us trying to create a class struggle, socialist party. Northern Rock, Société Générale, rising food and energy prices, sub-prime mortgages in the United States and the lack of social housing provision in London are all strong agitational issues on which to fight a left of Labour campaign. With the right candidate and the right sort of approach it is possible to run a campaign which serves as a pole of attraction in working class communities and organisations for those who are starting to suffer the effects of inflation, pay freezes and financial insecurity.

No left of Labour candidate is going to win such an election. At this stage that is not the point in standing. Without an explicitly socialist candidate, one who supports workers’ struggles and self-activity, there will be nothing to slow the move to the right in London’s politics. Livingstone’s anti-imperialism sets him apart from most prominent Labour Party figures. But that sort of rhetoric does not cost him anything politically these days. There is nothing in anything either Johnson or Livingstone has said recently to suggest that they will support restrictions on police powers, roll back the pervasive surveillance of London or commit to build the necessary numbers of social housing stock. A solution to London’s housing shortage requires precisely the sort of class-based attack on property developers that neither candidate has the stomach for. As for the police, Livingstone’s defence of Ian Blair shows where he stands. Even this thumbnail sketch of Livingstone’s current positions indicates how the absence of a countervailing pressure from the left will free him to shift ever closer to the New Labour mainstream.

Is it possible, as several supporters of Respect Renewal maintain, to call for support for Livingstone while arguing the need for an independent presence on the Assembly which will be able to back Livingstone against the Tories and Lib Dems when he is right, and put pressure on him from the left when he is wrong?

Declaring that your organisation is unwilling to stand against him because he is the only alternative to the Tories is an admission of your own redundancy. Unless an organisation is willing to take an independent stand, even when it is in a minority, a figure like Livingstone will always be able to use the Tory demon as a reason for not disagreeing with him. As an option for building an independent left of Labour Party that is a strategy with serious flaws.

Livingstone is not so much its weakest link as New Labour’s strongest electoral card in London. If the party stood any other mainstream Labour figure identified with the its largely neo-liberal programme the Tories would definitely win. Whose responsibility is that? This goes some way to explaining why, as Andy has pointed out, a minority of Respect’s 61 371 first preference voters actually did give a second preference for Livingstone in 2004.

Most of the arguments in favour of supporting Livingstone could be used in the United States to justify voting for the Democrats. They are marginally less vile than the Republicans. They are supported by the overwhelming majority of progressive opinion and the represent the political consciousness of much of the trade union movement and the working class electorate. The result is that the Democrats are the major obstacle to a working class party in the US.

There is a process of political recomposition taking place in Britain at the moment. Respect Renewal is its most recent development. By abdicating the right to stand a credible candidate opposed to those of the three pro-capitalist parties, even one with as contradictory a record as Livingstone, we would immediately be putting limits on Respect Renewal’s development. If the Labour candidate were someone with a real commitment to class struggle, like John McDonnell the issue would be completely different.

In the real world the question is whether or not a credible left of Labour candidate exists. According to her website “Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, was selected last year at a meeting attended by over 300 London Respect members to stand as Respect candidate for London Mayor. She will be battling the mainstream parties once more to establish a London wide left wing alternative.” Credibility can be a little bit tricky to define but you usually know it when you see it. Lindsey German’s credibility as an election candidate rests more on her leading role in the anti-war movement than on any laurels earned in Respect. For those of us who are keen to see a serious socialist challenge to Livingstone’s New Labour politics comrade German’s campaign will have to quickly establish itself as being one which is inclusive, actively seeking to build alliances on the left and with working class organisations and which can persuade those who want to vote for her that it wants to be more than a three month bout of hyperactivity. An obvious first step is to start assembling a range of supporters and endorsements from outside the rather narrow field it currently appears to have.

73 comments on “Reasons to Back Lindsey German for Mayor?

  1. cameron on said:

    Liam says’For those of us who are keen to see a serious socialist challenge to Livingstone’s New Labour politics comrade German’s campaign will have to quickly establish itself as being one which is inclusive, actively seeking to build alliances on the left and with working class organisations and which can persuade those who want to vote for her that it wants to be more than a three month bout of hyperactivity. An obvious first step is to start assembling a range of supporters and endorsements from outside the rather narrow field it currently appears to have’.

    Liam’s article is surely a spoof.

  2. Insightful (inciteful?) post from Tim as always.

    Just thinking aloud. One of the arguments against a Lindsey challenge is there is no guarantee the majority of her 2nd preferences will go to Ken, even if, like last time (I believe) Respect did make such a call. As this is the case, isn’t it reasonable to assume if Lindsey didn’t stand her support, such as it is, wouldn’t vote for Ken as first pref in large numbers anyway?

  3. Chris Brooks on said:

    Phil, the people who will vote first preference for Lindsey will probably be no more or less likely to have a preference for Livingstone were she to not stand. I think that the decision to not give a second preference to Livingstone is often a deliberate choice, reflecting real political difference. Without Lindsey’s candidature, those votes would simply turn into abstentions.

  4. Ian Donovan on said:

    A credible candidate against Ken Livingstone is a great idea. Coupled with a prominent call for second pref. vote for Livingstone. Pity Lindsey is not credible, she blew it big time with her antics over the past several months. She won’t be standing as Respect; many who would have supported her before the SWP-engineered fragmentation of Respect won’t support her now. Her vote will be derisory for good reasons – if she stands at all. The resources for an alternative left candidacy do not exist at this point. And there are special reasons why indifference to Livingstone’s fortunes in the election is not a viable option, given the illusions that exist that he is a real barrier to racism that do not exist about Labour in general. So I don’t think this is a viable perspective at this point.

  5. john nic on said:

    “The timing of the election is lucky for those of us trying to create a class struggle, socialist party”

    “lucky”?

    there is something more than the orbit of the moon that needs to explain why the two last surges of left electoral activity in england were in 2000 (socialist alliance) and 2004 (respect).

    the answer – for anyone outside london – is obvious.

    and, even giving importance to the capital city, in its own right, there is something more than electoral activity needed to confront the politics of livingstone-london-labour.

    but the left in this country (and in this respect, particularly the swp) has become struck with the notion that electoral activity is all. so the debate becomes whether people will be more likely to give their second preferences to someone they wouldnt give their first preferences to…… not whether it makes any difference at all and whether we would be better off using our time to build the unity liam describes as essential for a true left campaign, instead of forcing ourselves into some pretence of it around some particular candidate at some particular time (which purely coincidentally comes round every four years) (in london).

  6. Roland on said:

    “but the left in this country (and in this respect, particularly the swp) has become struck with the notion that electoral activity is all.”

    This is hilarious, the swp, obsessed with elections! hahahahahahha

  7. working class on said:

    hmmm…so what does the ‘not right-wing of a left-wing grouping’ split that is RR supporters think of Ken’s comments last night on the news that should the RMT and TSSA strike over a raft of issues there will be and I quote ‘No concessions, nothing more on the table if they do so it will only waste a days pay’

    That sentence alone encapsulates why those who say they shouldn’t back a left candidate and claim to be socialists are betraying their class.

  8. this is consistent with livingstones previous position. He is for privitization of the underground and therefore opposed to the rail unions and shows he is committed to neo liberal economic policy. Those who want to give him their first preference vote are increasingly backing someone who has called on workers to scab. no amount of rhetoric for chavez covers up livingstones convernsion to the main tenants of new labour economic policy. RR cannot back him against German, if they do so I am afraid any ounce of credence from me will be lost. I am a bit shocked

  9. solidarity on said:


    Challenging Livingstone’s housing policies

    Housing campaigner and Respect Greater London Assembly candidate Glyn Robbins explains why Ken Livingstone’s housing policies are letting ordinary Londoners down.

    ‘The biggest and most serious failing of Livingstone’s regime is his housing and planning policy and for this reason alone, his position as Mayor should be challenged. I am sometimes described as a ‘housing expert’ (I’m not), but you don’t need to be an expert to see that current London housing policy is betraying millions of Londoners.

    The biggest and most serious failing of Livingstone’s regime is his housing and planning policy and for this reason alone, his position as Mayor should be challenged. I am sometimes described as a ‘housing expert’ (I’m not), but you don’t need to be an expert to see that current London housing policy is betraying millions of Londoners. Its no surprise that the Mayor published a survey last week saying that housing is the number one concern of Londoners going into the May election, but Livingstone’s policies have done very little to address these concerns. The supply of ‘affordable’ housing, taking even the weakest definition of that word, is failing to meet the demand – almost 350,000 Londoners are on the waiting list. Much of the so called ‘affordable’ housing provided is nothing of the sort for Londoners on low or average wages. Mayor Livingstone has stated that housing that is designed for those earning £42,000 a year can be counted as ‘affordable’.

    Across the capital private property developers and housing associations are allowed to run amok, hiding behind the fig leaf of bogus ‘affordability’, with little intervention from Mayor Livingstone. In Tower Hamlets, the borough with some of the worst overcrowding, property developers build ten luxury one bedroom flats for every family home, At a big development near Liverpool Street station, the developers propose to provide only 4% ‘affordable’ housing, again with no apparent objection from the Mayor’s office.

    In the Olympic zone, on land that is effectively publicly owned, the Mayor is still satisfied to accept crumbs from the private developers’ table. His headline target of 50% ‘affordable’ is rarely met. If it’s public land, bought at public expense, he should be demanding 100% genuinely affordable housing and yes – council housing. He has the power to do it. The Mayor sets the housing and planning policy for London and has increasing spending powers to go with it.

    Sadly, I don’t believe public housing is what Ken Livingstone believes in any more. He’s no longer ‘Red Ken’ – perhaps ‘Magnolia Ken’ is more accurate. His policies are far worse than an old-style Labour mixed economy approach. They are straight out of the New Labour, neo-liberal handbook. The Mayor is contributing to a demographic shift in London, with an increasing number of working class people (and especially black and Asian people) finding that they can no longer afford to live in their own city. In the name of ‘regeneration’ and the ego-trip of creating a ‘world city’, Livingstone is presiding over a from of social and ethnic engineering, at the expense of working class Londoners.’

  10. “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” might be a good slogan for Lindz?

    There is no way, Lindzee can be considered a “viable/credible” left candidate. She should step down now and spare us all the embarrassment. Given the engineered split in Respect (which she is in no small way associated with and responsible for) I would be surprised if *any* section of organised labour (and from the sounds of it the RMT & TSSA would be first on the stump list) would get within 10ft barge pole limits.

  11. Gosh, if only Respect Renewal contained some leading RMT activists on the tube so we could work out what to do.

  12. The SWP is a sectarian destructive but still Left of Labour socialist organisation, Livingstone’s domestic record stinks, most working class people retain a profound anti-Toryism and are unlikely to look kindly on anyone who is perceived as letting in Johnson. Surely, revolutionaries (well, actually, real socialists of any description)can only do one thing – call for German first preference, Livingston second and briefly explain why in election material.

  13. Glyn Robbins claim that Livingstone is presiding over ethnic engineering in London is very silly (#11). There are lots of things wrong with what Livingstone is saying and doing, but wild exaggeration like this is unhelpful.

  14. ‘Gosh, if only Respect Renewal contained some leading RMT activists on the tube so we could work out what to do.’

    Vote for KL, and learn why striking is not the answer. It’s just a waste of a day’s pay after all.

  15. If comrades really that keen that Ken Livingstone should win the election, they will of course be able to vote for Respect and then second preference Livingstone. His privatisation of the East London Line, the colossal waste that is the Olympics and his call for RMTers to cross picket lines are ample reasons to support an SWP candidate. I say that as a member of the AWL, and at that one very critical of the SWP’s record.

    Having seen Galloway and his followers depart, I do not think Respect can meaningfully be characterised as a popular front, and now think the SWP has the opportunity to learn from its sectarianism and make a turn towards the rest of the left.

    However, a united socialist left project for the elections should not just be a lash-up between the Trots. We should also seek to engage with unions disaffected with Blair-Brownism, in particular the RMT. The AWL had last year keenly supported the idea of the RMT running a slate for the GLA elections (the London regional council voted to do so in September), although this was sadly thwarted thanks to the vocal opposition of SWPers in the union. Now is the time for the SWP to admit that this was a mistake and seek to bring together working-class forces for the campaign.

    Sadly, I think that this is off the agenda. I went to the Respect pre-election rally last week, which was small, crudely optimistic and allowed close to zero (ten minutes) discussion from the floor. I do not think there is any chance of German being elected to the GLA. The SWP leadership is still no friend of dissent or debate.

    But that will not stop us trying to relate to (and engage in debate with) their members, or stop us fighting for a culture on the left which permits discussion, tolerance of opponents and allows unity built around democracy rather than the “unity” of following the orders of the SWP leadership.

  16. Peter Cranie on said:

    “the London mayoral elections will disenfranchise all those who can no longer support the three major pro-capitalist parties”

    “an independent presence on the Assembly which will be able to back Livingstone against the Tories and Lib Dems when he is right, and put pressure on him from the left when he is wrong?”

    As a party, we the Greens are far from perfect, but if you look at what we have got through the Mayor’s budget, and the work we have done, we are definitely to the left of Labour.

    Sian Berry is a signatory to Green Left and a direct action campaigner and is 4th on our Assembly list. Noel Lynch is very active in the Green Party Trade Unions group and is 3rd on our Assembly list.

    A question for Respect Renewal supporters – whatever you think of our existing members, shouldn’t Respect Renewal also consider, even handedly, a first vote for a Green candidate for Mayor as well?

    Incidentally – some very good news. The BNP has just lost a councillor in Havering.

  17. I agree with #12

    No one in the trade union and the progressive movement want to support such an unreliable individual as Lindsey German. It will be an embarressing result for the SWP cc.

    Liam is cheering on a plague on both their houses, the SWP’s and Lindzee’s

  18. Don’t worry Ianu: the AWL are supporting the SWP so all’s well there. Liam’s call for the SWP campaign for mayor to be open to others and part of building a broad left sort of shows what the problem is. It is obviously going to be nothing like that.

  19. Lindsey German is an incredible candidate.
    Her candidacy will not rally the left behind her – no one will trust the SWP after the shamless role they played in the Socialist Alliance and then Respect debacles.
    Lindsey German of course was particularly notable for her willingness to ditch any political principle which got in the way of winning votes – surely almost the definition of opportunism?
    All the more risible for its total failure.
    And her platform doesn’t even call for taxes on the rich! Socialism appears no where in it. I daresay she must have forgotten what it is.
    http://electrespectcoalition.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=18&Itemid=27

  20. Sunshine1 on said:

    We have a problem with Ken in many respects but Lindsey is not an option. I did vote for Lindsey the last time and i think the time before that, this time i am not able to broker any support not after the circumventive and deceiving actions of the circus that is the SWP.

  21. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    The argument over the problems with Ken is I think essentially correct. The issue is then whether Lindsey represents a credible candidate?

    Hmmm … The dirt and dust kicked up by the Respect debarcle still looms large with the SWP leadership still refusing to make any effort towards rapprochement its hard to see how a RR supporter could currently get involved in such a campaign. The nessisary political solidarity seems to have been given a good kicking, one wonders how it could be resurected in such short time.

    On the other hand in my locality there are people who remain in SWP-Respect who I think would make great councilours and I would def’ campaign for them.

    Of course as voting goes, if i lived in London I’d vote Lindsey first.

    An interesting thought experiment; What would the SWP leadership recommend voting if the only lefty was a socialist party candidate?

  22. Nice one Liam. It’s good to see the members of Respect Renewal have not completely lost their minds.

  23. Is LG a ‘credible’ candidate? If we allow our votes to be decided on the basis of credibilty lets just accept an eternal game of tennis between politicians from the capitalist parties. Ken is against workers in struggle, in favour of privatisation and will defend murder by the police. He is part of a party which is gradually privatising health and education and which actively defends the ineterests of multi-nationals against their workers.

    Ok – the SWP is often a destructive force (something that RR was happy to ignore until v. recently, when the way the SWP operates should be no secret to anyone who has observed them in the SA, or in the unions. But it is in the interest of anyone who wants to see the creation of a new worker’s party that LG’s vote is as high as possible. Yes, it might be fun to smirk if LG gets a derisory vote – but that will discourage the RMT and others from taking further steps toward building a genuine left alternative if it seems that becoming a political laughing stock is the result of standing. I hope LG gets a very ‘credible’ vote.

  24. Sadly it’s a symptom of the wholesale weakness of the Left in London and in Britain in general at the moment, that the issue of who to vote for in the London May mayoral elections,is either not so Red Ken and his neo liberal, privatising, big business, anti trade union agenda (with some anti war and anti imperialist Chavez gloss) and as ever, right on time, the so called Left candidate on behalf on the ever opportunistic and thorougly disingenuous ultra Serious Wreckers party.

    It’s time to expose the throughly undemocratic and unrepresentative corrupt nature of the politics of the whole London mayor and the London assembly set up as conceived by Blue Labour under Bomber Blair with no real discussion, debate or democracy. It stinks!

  25. “Looking at the dismal feedback from the “launch” meeting they’ve gotta be having second thoughts…”

    What you seen?

  26. #23 states they have some problems with Ken without specifing what but no way voting for Lindsey. Now then Ken (red according to GG) Is in favour of defending the head of the met when he smeared the victim of a racist police killing, supports neo liberal economics around the olympics and the city of london, calls for workers to scab on their colleagues and just a few days ago derides their strike action…. Lindsey on the other hand fell out with GG. which is the bigger crime…if RR supporters like this sunshine character thinks its Lindsey then really RR has sunk to petty sectarianism and frankly appears to be courting new labour figures fort he sake of some short term advantage.

  27. For those of us who have been through the recent events in Respect LG is strongly associated with the political methodology that destroyed the organisation. That is problematical for us but is not likely to be a consideration for potential voters, a few of whom do not share our interest in the subject.

    On past form it is a bit of a long shot that the SWP will be able to build a campaign that is capable of being a pole of attraction for the non Labour left. Though hope springs eternal.

    What such a candidacy will do is provide a socialist candidate to give a leftward pressure on Labour and a person to vote for if you find Labour too right wing. The candidacy has to be seen as part of a long term creation of a new party rather than an end in itself.

  28. so when does the memberhsip of rr get to decide??? i mean I know GG and Salma are awaiting the demoicratic view of their organisation before going public so to speak!!! but time is moving on isn’t. I am sure the meeting for all rr members has been arranged given the importance of this debate and the speed at which they are moving. so if andy could let everyone know when the open and honest meeting will be ………

  29. Liam, Then you go and spoil it all,by saying something stupid, like. “potential voters” Who? people from Mars?

    Away and pull the other as there will not be any significant rise, if any.

    I am going with the last GLA elections percentages and of course the present lack of confidence created by her backers, the SWP cc actions against the fellow left.

  30. the politics of madness

    ‘The candidacy has to be seen as part of a long term creation of a new party rather than an end in itself’. (Liam)

    These are the politics of bankruptcy…..Socialist Resistence as part of Respect Renewal, of which Liam is a member, is now saying that although the canadidacy of Lyndsey German is problematic for Respect Renewal, as she is part of the SWP cabal that orchestrated the destruction of Respect,it is nevertheless important to support her because the ‘potential voters’,’a few of whom do not share our interest in the subject’……this really is unprincipled crass politics on the hoof gone mad.

    To what extent is the thinking of liam reflective of the overhwhelming majority of Socialist Resistence and Respect Renewal members? If so, then both are in a severe state of confusion, disorientation and trouble.

    What do you know of what ‘a few voters’ think , perceive, know of the whole affair?

    What you ‘seem’ to be saying Liam, is that the issue is not problematic in the overall scheme of things, looked at in the bigger picture, because you think the average London voters is ignorant of the whole Respect affair,so we should all get behind the candidacy of LG and further encourage the SWP in their wholly oportunistic election grandstanding, for which Socialist Resistence likes(liked) to you pride itself that it was critical of precisely this during the wrangling years in Respect .

    Furthermore,I think the whole affair illustrated that the SWP has clearly demonstrated once and for always that it regards itself as different and beyond reproach and certainly not part of a future Socialist unity party or as you put it, as part of the long term creation of a new party. To belive otherwise is frankly highly deluded and almost masochistic.I thought that was what Respect Renewal was all about. In which case we have done a comnplete somersault and ended up back where we started, to all intents and purposes, wanting and needing to rely on the ‘strength’ of the SWP.

    Except of course there seems to be wholesale confusion withoin Respect Renewal about what exactly is the party line with Liam saying one thing. Gorgeous George saying another, Alan Thornett saying another.

    If Respect Renewal were intent on establishing itself as a credible alternative then it should be showing the way by putting forward it’s own candidate.

    Isn’t what they…..the SWP have done in terms of serious damage to the Left in general(Socialist Alliance, Respect, the Scottish Socialist party, within the unions, the Stop the War coalition and anti war movement,the anti racist and anti fascist movement, the Social forum movment),while continuing to sew divsion and despair amongst their own members in particular, isnt this ENOUGH?

    If Respect Renewal were intent on establishing itself as a credible alternative then it should be showing the way by putting forward it’s own candidate.

  31. Ian Donovan on said:

    #37 “Except of course there seems to be wholesale confusion withoin Respect Renewal about what exactly is the party line with Liam saying one thing. Gorgeous George saying another, Alan Thornett saying another.”

    So what’s wrong with that? There is no ‘party line’ as yet, no vote has been taken on any body on this and we are not some secretive sect where everyone has to act like clones in public. This is also a tactical question; not a question of principle. That’s what a broad left party is like. It may not be what people are used to, but they’re going to have to get used to it.

    #18 “However, a united socialist left project for the elections should not just be a lash-up between the Trots. We should also seek to engage with unions disaffected with Blair-Brownism, in particular the RMT. The AWL had last year keenly supported the idea of the RMT running a slate for the GLA elections (the London regional council voted to do so in September), although this was sadly thwarted thanks to the vocal opposition of SWPers in the union. Now is the time for the SWP to admit that this was a mistake and seek to bring together working-class forces for the campaign.”

    Its really sad to observe the irony of this, given David Broder’s hostility to Respect Renewal. Since what is laid out here is the essence of what RR is trying to do. And there is far more likelihood of RR being able to achieve something like this than the SWP. Who in the trade union movement wants to sign up with the SWP for another project given the dead certainty that at some future point, when it suits the SWP, they will get the same treatment that was dished out to Liz Davies and George Galloway?

    Mind you, it’s nice to get something political and interesting posted by a member of the AWL’s left-wing minority, even if it is mistaken.

  32. Come off it – ‘the party line’ involves RR members being presented with a fait accompli by GG. The reason RR won’t stand its own candidate is because GG’s politics are closer to Livingstone’s than people in RR may care to admit.

  33. Glyn Robbins on said:

    Dear Nas (no.16), if you look at the GLA’s own research, you will see that black and Asian Londoners are far less likely to be able to afford housing in the private sector. Given that this is the type of housing that has been explicitly encouraged by Ken Livingstone and that there is less ‘social’ housing being built now in London, than there was ten years ago, I don’t see how else it can be understood. Tracking demographic shifts is a tricky business, but if you go to New York, where housing policies are very similar to those of Livingstone, the movement of black peoople out of the inner city and in to the suburbs is very clear. I see no reason why a similar trend will not happen here, do you?

  34. Karen Elliot on said:

    I find the comments, for and against, the idea of RR’s democratic deficit confusing.

    1. It’s no wonder that SWP supporters find it so easy to laugh at the notion that RR should contain within itself different positions wrt the GLA – they are used to speaking with one voice and therefore find it odd in principle that different supporters of the same group should openly disagree. It doesn’t match the image of disciplined Bolshevism they have in mind. In other words, there are aspects of democracy that they have come to feel instinctively to be suspicious.

    2. On the other hand, the actual state of democracy within RR is still undetermined, so I can’t see how anyone can yet defend it, and it remains vulnerable to the criticisms being put. Until RR has properly functioning democratic structures it simply *isn’t* democratic. And, I’d add, GG doesn’t have a great record in this regard, so there are no grounds for anyone to feel sanguine that this will be resolved satisfactorily.

    3. There is something hypocritical in an SWP supporter criticising GG et al imposing their position in RR. If you looked at it honestly you might even think that this was at least preferable to the situation in the SWP where the CC invent policy but then get everyone to ratify and genuflect toward it at conference and elsewhere (remember, in the SWP. At least in RR (assuming for the sake of argument that it is true that policy will simply be imposed by GG & the other ‘leading lights’) no one makes you abase yourself by having to follow whatever policy is foisted on you and pretend to agree with it wholly. In other words, the SWP currently have more of the appearance of democracy, but without any of the substance, and so have nothing in reality to crow about.

    NB. I am not at all defending the situation within RR, just saying that the situation in the SWP / RR-SWP is ultimately no better.

  35. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Come off it – ‘the party line’ involves RR members being presented with a fait accompli by GG. The reason RR won’t stand its own candidate is because GG’s politics are closer to Livingstone’s than people in RR may care to admit.”

    Complete nonsense, I’m afraid. Both positions are argued on our website, in case you haven’t noticed, which is rather a change from the old SWP-run Respect – where such a duality never occurred to my recollection. A real first. And there has been no vote on this, so there is no ‘party line’.

  36. Ian Donovan on said:

    “On the other hand, the actual state of democracy within RR is still undetermined, so I can’t see how anyone can yet defend it, and it remains vulnerable to the criticisms being put. Until RR has properly functioning democratic structures it simply *isn’t* democratic. And, I’d add, GG doesn’t have a great record in this regard, so there are no grounds for anyone to feel sanguine that this will be resolved satisfactorily.”

    But this is a temporary situation. RR is a provisional body that has not had a proper conference, as yet. One is planned for the late spring. A provisional body, a lifeboat for Respect when the SWP leadership decided to seize the bridge and steer the project onto the rocks. I don’t share this pessimistic view of George Galloway – he has suprised detractors (or former detractors in some cases) in the past with his willingness to fight for the Respect project – and there may be more such surprises in store.

  37. #30 Sure: all that’s true. But accusing Livingstone of ethnic engineering is OTT, unhelpful and totally undermines the point you’re trying to make. It sounds vaguely Spartish.

  38. “Complete nonsense, I’m afraid. Both positions are argued on our website… and there has been no vote on this, so there is no ‘party line’.”

    Yet lots of us got an official Respect Renewal email saying “George Galloway and other prominent Respect members have made it clear they cannot support the mayoral candidacy of Lindsey German under whatever label she might eventually stand. George said, ‘It would be self-indulgence, a luxury the left can no longer afford, to stand a candidate of the left against Livingstone for mayor. The danger of Livingstone being defeated by the right is too great. With opinion polls varying between neck-and-neck and a substantial Tory lead, a left candidate opposing Livingstone really could aid the Tories and risk handing the keys to City Hall to the rancid reactionaries around Boris Johnson.’”

    If you’re trying to build an organisation which purports to be based on honesty and transparency then it doesn’t help to have people arguing that black is, in fact, white. Or that at least no decision has yet been made on the question when an email from the national office has gone out asserting the blackness of black.

    Take a tip from Andy and fall back on the “emerging consensus” line rather than outright denial. That’s marginally more plausible as a defence.

  39. Ian Donovan on said:

    The email was wrongly worded. But that doesn’t change the fact that both positions are on the website. It also doesn’t change the fact that RR does not have an official position on this. Sometimes the process of breaking with old habits is not a linear process. Sometimes also, despite the best of intentions, mistakes happen.

  40. How was the e-mail wrongly worded, Ian? Did GG and other prominent Respect members not say those things? Or do you think that if a conference voted against that position then GG would accept the majority decision?

  41. Adamski on said:

    #46

    I’ve browsed the Respect Renewal website: http://www.respectrenewal.org/ and can’t see any article articulating the view that it would be right to stand a socialist candidate against Ken, but I did see an article very prominently displayed by George Galloway calling for a first pref vote for Ken Livingstone.

    “The email was wrongly worded”.

    Ian, you don’t have a leg to stand on. If RR doesn’t have an official position then it is totally wrong to send out emails attacking another candidate (Lindsey German). But Respect Renewal is not really democratic is it? We know who calls the shots.

    Socialist Resistance and Alan Thornett have clearly been stitched up. They are decent socialists, but they are just making themselves look like fools. Especially as the newspaper they edit didn’t even print an article with their position.

    Despite Andy’s claims that there is a debate within RR, you wouldn’t get this idea from RR official organs which have all been campaigning for Ken Livingstone first pref.

  42. Adamski on said:

    “. It’s no wonder that SWP supporters find it so easy to laugh at the notion that RR should contain within itself different positions wrt the GLA – they are used to speaking with one voice and therefore find it odd in principle that different supporters of the same group should openly disagree. It doesn’t match the image of disciplined Bolshevism they have in mind. In other words, there are aspects of democracy that they have come to feel instinctively to be suspicious.”

    No Karen, the point is that RR haven’t agreed even agreed a position on the London Mayoral Contest. There’s no problem with disagreements and a debate taking place within an organisation. But don’t you think that it’s a bit contradictory that RR have emailed their supporters with attacks on Lindsey German, print an article in their newspaper backing Ken Livingstone and have an article on the website also supporting first pref for Ken.

    The point is that RR supporters are claiming that there’s a “debate” when all their official media have been pumping out propaganda for Ken Livingstone. From reading RRs official media channels you would get the impression that RR are calling for a first preference for Ken Livingstone. You don’t get any sense that there’s a debate going on or different positions.

    Do you not think Karen it is a bit undemocratic for only one view in the “debate” to be heavilly pushed in RRs newspaper, website and emails to supporters? With not a single conflicting voice?

  43. The SWP and its supporters have now taken to parsing every clause of every part of every email and every document.

    This is what they used to attack sectarians for doing.

    I guess, to them, democracy is scary.

    The position for a revolutionary should be: Fight for your position, but accept that you’re gonna both get it wrong and lose arguments.

    There was always loads I agreed with and loads I disagreed with in Respect. Trouble is, if the SWP supported it, I was never allowed to argue against it.

    At least now I am.

    My position over the LA and mayoral elections has moved and evolved, cos there are now free-flowing discussions going on.

    It is scary in some ways. But had the SWP ever really believed in Respect as a true coalition, necessarily grounded in reformist politics, it would’ve embraced the fear and argued openly.

  44. Ian Donovan on said:

    #46 “I’ve browsed the Respect Renewal website: http://www.respectrenewal.org/ and can’t see any article articulating the view that it would be right to stand a socialist candidate against Ken, but I did see an article very prominently displayed by George Galloway calling for a first pref vote for Ken Livingstone.”

    Try this.

    http://www.respectrenewal.org/content/view/156/11/

    Or try clicking on the menu item ‘articles’. Would help if you are looking for an article.

    Yesterday, both articles were on the home page. Today more material has supplanted them. GG’s article is not on the front page either. On the articles page, GG’s article is below Alan’s because Alan’s is more recent.

    That’s the way websites work, you know. But then you know that, don’t you?!!!

    So Adam, tell me when an article critical of the SWP’s positions has ever appeared on the Rees-pect website?

  45. Ian is correct that no decision has been taken, and we have no policy.

    The press release is also correct that George has spoken forcefully against a left challenge to Livingstone in the current context. The content of the press release was discussed (via e-mail) among NC members before it was drafted.

    This is all a bit surreal though, as Lindsey german has not got a credible mayoral campaign anyway.

  46. cameron on said:

    Have others seen Serwotka’s ‘unity’ article and Taaffe’s reply in this week’s edition of The Socialist? Quite interesting.

  47. Tony – an email punching me between they eyes with an unambiguous statement that the leadership of Respect would under no circumstances support Lindsey German is not “parsing every clause of every part of every email and every document.”

    Ian’s to his credit has at least owned that it was “wrongly worded” and a mistake.

    Perhaps you’d like to make the case to convince me that I would actually find this democracy of which you speak in Respect Renewal rather than pretending the email doesn’t matter?

  48. “So Adam, tell me when an article critical of the SWP’s positions has ever appeared on the Rees-pect website?”

    Absolutely key point. Only Respect Renewal has to reach these standards of perfection.

  49. M, you still haven’t recognised that I feel no duty to convince you, or any of the other anonybots, of anything.

    Really, you’re just not that important.

  50. Thanks for that Tony. Nice one. Be careful what assumptions you make about people, though. You’ve provided an interesting talking point for the ongoing debates I’m having with people who are trying to convince me that RR is a viable alternative.

  51. Adamski on said:

    Interesting that the Alan Thornett article is buried away on the website, where the George Galloway one in support of Ken was prominently displayed and headlined on the front page. But I guess Thornett is a small fish.

  52. Ian Donovan on said:

    This is Adam’s rearguard. Both articles have been ‘headlined’ on the front page, and both have now been pushed off it by more recent items. Tell me again, where are the critical articles on the Rees-spect website?

  53. “You’ve provided an interesting talking point for the ongoing debates I’m having with people who are trying to convince me that RR is a viable alternative.”

    Oh drop the “OH MY GOD I WAS GONNA BE INTERESTED UNTIL YOU WERE RUDE TO ME” stuff. We saw enough of that from Adam J.

  54. “How are you finding campaigning for Ken Livingstone in your RMT branch, Tony?”

    See, this is what we’re dealing with.

    Adam, you are a liar. You know I am not “campaigning” for Livingstone.

    You’re that pathetic, this is where you have to stoop in order to try to get a rise.

    Anyone actually interested in debate would actually ask what people in the RMT now think of Livingstone and the alternatives. Given how much time you spend here asking your deeply searching questions, I would’ve thought you would’ve seen the stuff I’ve written on here about the collapse in support for Lindsey in the RMT.

    Not you, though. You’re too blinded to actually want to be serious.

  55. And Ian is correct: We had George’s article ages before Alan’s. Both got prominence at the top of the site. They were then removed from the “spotlight” as other more timely things – meetings, demos etc. – came along, at which point they started to fall down the running order.

    Only Respect Renewal people are expected to defend the prominence things get on their website.

  56. Adamski on said:

    Well, I think we are going around in circles and will have to agree to disagree. Perhaps better to stick to the central topic. Is it right or wrong to stand a socialist candidate against Ken Livingston?

    TonyC should ask himself why it will be a close contest between Livingstone and Boris? The answer to this question will explain why their was near unaminity on Respect’s National Council (pre-split, with the exception of Salma Yaqoob and Ger Francis) that it would be right to stand a socialist candidate against Ken Livingstone. And why it marks a shift to the right that Respect Renewal now call for a first vote for the man who encourages scabbing on picketlines and defends the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes.

    Lindsey German was nominated as a Respect candidate in a mass meeting at which all London members were eligible to attend. By what authority do you claim to overturn the democratic decision of the Respect membership?

    Having some sympathy with some of the arguments of the group you are part, I find it sad that you are defending Respect Renewal’s sudden infatuation with the neoliberal Ken Livingstone.

    For example, didn’t George Galloway who is now fulsome in his support for Ken Livingstone write to the Morning Star defending standing a socialist candidate against (Not so) Red Ken a while back? His road-to-damascus conversion therefore seems a little intellectually dishonest.

    We’ve been through this movie before. Wasn’t a similar argument put against Ralph Nader in the last US elections. That he would allow Bush to stay in power.

    At one time, Ralph Nader organised a massive campaign that mobilised and meshed in with a growing anti-globalisation mood among young people and galvanised the imagination of a layer of activists to get involved.

    The next time he stood things were different.

    His allies such as Michael Moore turned on him (as did other sections of the left).

    A whole section of the left said we have to all mobilise for a John Kerry victory, despite Kerry being a pro-war neoliberal, and said that Nader would let Bush in.

    The logic of this position was to demobilise the anti-war movement and refuse to put any pressure on Kerry. Left-Liberals & Musicians like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon. Noam Chomsky and Patti Smith who had campaigned for Nader now fell into the “lesser-evilism”, “you have to supprot Kerry to stop Bush” mode. Some even attempted to claim that Kerry was anti-war and got angry if Kerry’s record was criticised by those on the far left.

    The result was a catastrophe for left wing politics in the USA. Bush was returned to power and the left was demoralised. Things could have been very different with a unified with a strong candidate of the left.

    This is gonna be a tough year for independent, left-wing candidates. Our ideas of anti-privatisation and anti-neoliberalism can resonate with a wide layer. Whether we recognize this and use our campaigns to help build up the meager forces of a left committed to fighting oppression, war and exploitation or succumb to the pressure to chase imaginary shortcuts will determine their value.

    Respect Renewal’s sudden shift into the Ken Livingstone camp is a betrayal of the project of building a left alternative to Labour and a political dead-end.

    It is time that the left, trade unionists and peace activists broke from the politics of supporting the supposed lesser evil and began organising in support of equality, justice and peace.

    When you are on the wrong road there is no point carrying on down it. Standing a socialist candidate for Mayor points in the right direction.

  57. “Oh drop the “OH MY GOD I WAS GONNA BE INTERESTED UNTIL YOU WERE RUDE TO ME” stuff.”

    Calm down. If you can’t politically discuss my reservations about the gap between RR’s claims of democracy while handing down a line that hasn’t been voted on, don’t compound them by behaving like a kid throwing a hissy fit.

  58. “Calm down. If you can’t politically discuss my reservations about the gap between RR’s claims of democracy while handing down a line that hasn’t been voted on, don’t compound them by behaving like a kid throwing a hissy fit.”

    I don’t think you read what I said properly. I’m not interested in what an anonymous person thinks or says. I’m even less interested in someone who thinks it’s a “talking point” that someone else said something else when they were talking about something else to someone else.

    Let’s be honest here. You’ve done enough sneering on this site over time to convince me that you don’t consider RR “viable”. And if you did, and your “consideration” can be swayed enough by the rude man being rude about your motives, then you’re clearly not acting out of any principle.

    You get no credit or credibility for asking me to take you seriously, when all you call yourself is “M”. It’d be like you standing outside a public meeting demanding answers to questions without letting any of us even see if you were a real person or not.

    Pretty much all of us on the RR side post here under our own names, or enough of our own names for us to be easily identified. You lot post under names like “jj” and “M”. Don’t ask me to take your complaints seriously.

  59. Adam, the thing that none of the Lindsey supporters have begun to understand is that they’re right in what they say politicall – but they are now wrong in their response.

    It’s not hard to comprehend.

    I watched Lindsey German’s speech to the SWP/Respect’s unconstitutional “selection” meeting last week (please don’t ask me to justify “overturning” anything – if you believe you belong to the real Respect, you should surely be demanding that they at least formally expel Linda Smith, instead of lying about her “withdrawing” as a candidate), and aside from her pretence that the SWP had actually wanted negotiations, I didn’t disagree with her politics.

    Cos I don’t disagree. I don’t disagree about the space to the left of Labour. I don’t disagree about disaffection, about privatisation, about Ian Blair.

    She’s correct in her politics. She’d be hard not to be.

    What I disagree with her about is her method and her assessment of what we should do.

    I’ve said elsewhere, two things have changed: The situation on the left, and the electoral situation.

    Ken is still guilty of the things I said he was guilty of before. He’s still attacking my job, and I’ll still be organising a dispute against him and LUL.

    He is responsible for the close gap between him and Boris. Not entirely him, of course. But when you ask me things like that, it shows that you don’t grasp what our disagreement is:

    That stuff is true – it’s what we do about it that has changed.

    There is a major attack from the right on Livingstone. Our job should’ve been to support him during that.

    Lindsey and the SWP chose that exact moment to join in the attack, giving left cover for it. As they have done in giving left cover to attacks on Galloway recently.

    Her actions, and the actions of the SWP lately, has caused a complete collapse in support for Respect inside the RMT. There will be no campaign for Lindsey by any RMT activists.

    In fact, I think the SWP’s meeting last week tacitly accepted it. Even though they expanded the size of their list, they didn’t get a single RMT member to be a candidate. A year ago, there would’ve been 6-10 people willing to do that.

    Things have changed. That doesn’t mean the politics of the people urging Lindsey to stand are wrong – it just means their response is.

    I just think people should stand back and try to grasp it: If we accept that elections are tactical considerations for the left, we have to accept that there are plenty of times when it is wrong for a left candidate to stand.

    Now is one of those times. The split in Respect, the witch-hunt against Livingstone, and the resurgence of the Tories are reason enough.

    Now, if you could just stop arguing by distortion and stop lying, we could get somewhere. I am not “campaigning” for Livingstone. I do not have any kind of undying support for him. There has been no sudden turn – there’s been a sudden split which has led to space opening up for political debate.

    “Standing a socialist candidate for Mayor points in the right direction.”

    Sometimes, yes. Not now though.

  60. There have been a lot of comments about how Lindsey isn’t a credible candidate, so therefore we vote for ken.
    This is ludicrous stuff.

    What we are talking about comrades is a left alternative to Ken and his ever increasing love-in with the neo-liberal agenda. Now, however much you dislike lindsey, the SWP, what’s happened, that does not detract from the main point here. A left alternative to Ken Livingstone. Is she to the left of Ken? Yes. Does she have better politics than Ken? Yes. Does she represent the needs of working class people? Yes.

    Comrades may have an issue with her, the SWP or Respect, however they are losing sight of the politics when it comes down to ‘how she’s acted in the last few months’. Personally i support Lindsey and don’t think she’s done anything worse than anyone else in this sorry state of affairs, maybe comrades should step away from the sectariana and question this in terms of class politics.

    I always had a very hard time with Galloway; never liked him, never really trusted him and got jeered and mocked by others for the fact he went into BigBrother. However, I defended him because that was the right thing to do politically. I’d have dearly loved to say exactly what I thought but the unity of Respect and what we stood for was far more important than my personal feelings or even the fact he was unaccountable. I ask comrades to pause and try to swallow whatever bitterness or distrust they may feel.

    We all want to push socialist politics, we all want a united left. Let’s start with voting for a left alternative to Ken Livingstone, being lindsey, and calling for a second vote for Ken.

    ~x~

  61. Let’s start with voting for a left alternative to Ken Livingstone, being lindsey, and calling for a second vote for Ken.

    With the best will in the world, I think most of us can only manage two out of three.

  62. “Adam, the thing that none of the Lindsey supporters have begun to understand is that they’re right in what they say politicall – but they are now wrong in their response”.

    Its unusual for people arguing a position to admit they’re wrong. If they think they’re wrong they stop arguing them.

    Arguments have been put foward here suggesting that because Ken is anti-war and because the right are attacking him we should not respond. Those arguments I think are wrong. The ‘re-assessment’ thats gone on here seems either to be motivated by a more right wing position then you used to hold (those who have the kind of vision of re-alignment represented by Andy and Mark P, and occassionally Ger), or by bitterness about the split, or on the other hand what it is realistic for those to the left of the politics of George, Andy and Mark P to do, given that its important that your project hangs togeather.

    I don’t think, given the second preference vote, given the fact that it clearly IS the case that the kind of campaign being waged is precisely about calling for a second preference vote, being hostile to Boris as well etc, that almost any of the arguments aside from the three points above hold much water, even in their own terms. There simply is no principled reason outside the context of the split for not standing a left alternative. The process of discussion Tony refers to, to an outsider like myself, looks very much like making the most of a bad situation and taking up right wing positions with a bad consience.

    There are more important things then the respect split, and the argument against standing is a huge ideological concession even in terms of everyday arguments at work. Just say you don’t like Lyndsey and the main thing is to ensure that nothing the SWP is involved in is successful as the conservative left must be routed. That at least has the merit of not conceding that we should not stand against Labour party politicians implementing neo-liberal policies if they also happen to be anti-racists.

  63. #37 “Except of course there seems to be wholesale confusion within Respect Renewal about what exactly is the party line with Liam saying one thing. Gorgeous George saying another, Alan Thornett saying another.”

    So what’s wrong with that? There is no ‘party line’ as yet, no vote has been taken on any body on this and we are not some secretive sect where everyone has to act like clones in public. This is also a tactical question; not a question of principle. That’s what a broad left party is like. It may not be what people are used to, but they’re going to have to get used to it.(Ian Donovan)

    Thanks Ian, that really helps move on the discussion. Who is ‘we’ by the way. You seem to be excelling yourself at the moment.Your comment is by far the most unintelligible thing I’ve read for a long time. The clear decomposition of the Left in Britain.’That’s what a broad party is like’…Oh really! I dont actually think the Scottish Socialist party feels the need to present such a mass confused and contradictory selection of somersaults, back flips and about turns when deciding on it’s electoral strategies.

    What exists as Respect Renewal maybe your kind of ‘broad party’ Ian, but just to say that that is the way it is and people have got to get used to it isnt very helpful at all.You dont exactly inspire much if any confidence for the future.THIS IS THE POLITICS OF MUSH

    Of course, there are a wide difference of opinions within any one group or party and that’s what discussion and democracy should be all about but it’s another thing presenting such a confused mish mash of contradictory positions to the voter.RR seems to be fumbling forward in the dark not knowing what it’s really saying or doing or where it’s going at all nevermind being concerned for how this might be perceived.

    Surely much better to take stock, reconvene,seriously take time to reestablish and discusss the basic roots, foundations and principles of the party in an effort to genuinely bring in all those alienated by the machinations of the SWP, who left or never joined Respect in the first place. Carrying on in the present vein is simply a recipe for a complete comdey show and utter meltdown of what could have been part of the growth and development of a genuinely new and inspiring innovative LEFT.

    It hasnt taken Respect Renewal much time to disappoint on all that it aspired to,leading people to believe that we might possibly see some form of transparency, accountability, common sense and democracy

    Decomposition or recomposition of the Left ?

  64. I’m not sure I get why there’s so much debate. Even as a non-Londoner, I can see that the electoral system allows for a second preference vote. True, a minority of Respect first preference voters voted Livingstone second preference in 2004, but that was a different situation. Firstly, the Respect voters in 2004 were not all necessarily left wing. Most of the reactionary elements will have either left, defected or joined RR since then. Secondly, Livingstone was effectively a shoo-in four years ago, and so Respect voters may have felt they had greater scope for a second preference vote for the Lib Dems or Greens rather than for someone who had recently rejoined warmongering New Labour.

    This time, the vote is tighter, and the likelihood of the first preference Respect voters (most, if not all of whom, would identify as strongly left wing) not voting Livingstone second preference would be very slim. I hold no candle for the SWP in saying this, but I think the undemocratic decision of RR to not even tacitly support a left wing candidate over a New Labour RMT-basher and pal of the City reflects the awful politics of that organisation.

    If Livingstone loses it’s his fault, not the SWPs.