Respect and the Election Results

by Nick Wrack and Alan Thornett (May 6th 2008)

The New Labour project is falling apart at the seams. Its local elections results were the worst in 40 years, with only 24% of the vote and coming third behind the Liberal Democrats. This is a disastrous result for Brown. In London, the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor and the presence of a BNP member on the Greater London Assembly will disturb and depress all who value the multi-cultural diversity of the city.

The most immediate catalyst for the collapse of the Labour vote was the abolition of the 10% income tax rate (i.e. Labour attacking a large part of its core base), but looming large behind that is the economic crisis ­ the credit crunch, rising fuel and food prices set against continuing low wages for a big section of society. Added to this was Brown¹s inability to spin the New Labour project in the way Blair could do it. All of this raises the prospect of a further electoral disaster in the European elections in 2009 followed by a drubbing in the general election of 2010 and the possible election of a Tory Government.

Against this background what are the prospects and possibilities for building a left-wing alternative to New Labour¹s neo-liberal policies. What is the terrain and what can be achieved?

Firstly, nothing in the general political situation has fundamentally changed since the launching of Respect in 2004. Large numbers of traditional Labour voters remain alienated, disillusioned and demoralised by the right-wing policies of New Labour. Some seek solutions in a “change” and vote for the Tories. Many more abstain, casting a plague on both parties.

Such is the nature of party politics in Britain today, and the media coverage, that the rivalry between the main parties has become one of
presentation and personalities. Ideological differences have been left far behind as all the establishment parties support neo-liberalism to the hilt. Differences are miniscule, reflected by petty point scoring. In these circumstances voters can cast a vote for the opposition in order to register their dissatisfaction without, in fact, registering a vote for any fundamentally different policies.

At the same time, there is widespread anger at rising prices and the budget attacks on the poorest. There is opposition to privatisation and a fear about the future of the health service and education. The war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, although receding as an issue, remains of concern for millions.

Of course, not everything flows in the same direction. Fears about crime and the issue of immigration are factors used by the press and politicians to drum up support for right-wing views. In general, however, disillusioned working-class voters and the progressively minded sections of the middle class will not swing to the Tories. Some may be tempted by the social liberalism of the Liberal Democrats but most will withhold their votes unless and until they see a serious, viable, alternative. When the threat arises of a Tory win most of these will vote once again for New Labour with heavy heart and holding their noses whilst doing so. This was a significant feature of the Livingstone vote in the London Mayoral election. Such an attitude will be played upon by the right-wing trade union leaders to argue against “rocking the boat”, arguing that New Labour has to be supported to keep out the Tories.

In these circumstances, there are possibilities for building a left-wing alternative to New Labour but it will not be easy or swift. We may not like where we are starting from but every journey has to start from where you are.

The first point to register about the performance of the left parties in the recent elections is that they confirm that there is the basis of support for such a project. Although the experience was very limited, with only a few handfuls of good results outside of London, the results demonstrate that where consistent and patient work has been invested, support can be obtained for left-wing candidates.

Respect’s results confirm this. In Birmingham Sparkbrook, Respect’s Nahim Ullah Khan won 3,032 (42.64%) and became Respect¹s third councillor in the ward. Elsewhere in Birmingham, Respect polled 25% in Springfield, 17% in Nechells and just under 5% in Moseley and Kings Heath. These are extremely significant results. They indicate the possibilities of obtaining very good votes in elections and demonstrate that it is possible to win. They augur well for Respect’s prospects in the city at the general election.

In Manchester¹s Cheetham Hill ward Kay Phillips polled 14.4% following an energetic campaign that built serious links with the local communities. In Moss Side Respect polled 5.8% and in Wigan 6.7%. In Bradford Manningham ward Respect won 7.5% and in Walsall 7.6%. Of course, these are very few wards contested but are small indications of what can be obtained in the first instance if there were forces to contest more widely.

A few of the results for the Left List also demonstrated the same potential for the left. They received a very good 37% and 25% in Preston and Sheffield respectively to 12% and 10% in Manchester. It is worth mentioning that the result in Preston and Sheffield are the products of work over a long period of time with a commitment from the core activists to the building of a broad electoral left alternative; a completely different approach from that of the SWP leadership.

In London the most impressive result was the vote for Hanif Abdulmuhit in the City and East constituency. Here, Respect came third, polling 26,760 votes (14.59%), an increase of 7,085(36%) against the background of a polarisation of the vote between Labour and Conservatives. This was a tremendous vote, beating the BNP and consolidating Respect¹s position in its east London stronghold.

Across London Respect¹s vote did not fare so well. Respect did not stand any candidate for Mayor or in any other constituency apart from City and East.

Respect polled 59,721 (2.43%) in the London-wide list, a disappointment to the many Respect supporters who had hoped to win at least one seat on the Greater London Assembly by obtaining the minimum 5% required. Notwithstanding the high profile of George Galloway this was always going to be difficult in the circumstances. However there is no doubt that the response to Respect’s campaign, albeit limited by a lack of resources and any real presence in large swathes of the capital, confirmed the potential to build outwards from the success in east London.

This was not a bad result in the circumstances. There was a massive polarisation in London around the Mayoral election which no doubt squeezed smaller parties. Perhaps more importantly, the war no longer featured to anything like the same degree as in 2004. Although Respect has a broad array of policies covering the breadth of the issues facing the electorate it is probable that most people still see Respect as the anti-war party. This needs to be addressed. What exactly is Respect and what does it stand for?

There is no doubt that the split in Respect damaged the party’s prospects, both in terms of voters seeing Respect as damaged goods and weakening the party¹s ability to campaign across London.

We did not have a Mayoral candidate, which meant that we did not get an entry into the booklet which went to every household in London. Nor did we have an election broadcast.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Newham and Tower Hamlets, Southwark, and some pockets in North London and elsewhere, Respect does not exist as an active force with an organisation on the ground. This is a consequence of four years of neglect, compounded by the split last year. The lesson of last years Southall by-election demonstrated again in these elections, is that Respect cannot expect to get significant support unless it carries out regular, consistent work in an area.

Respect was not able to overcome these difficulties. It shows that Respect has to be built across the capital, with branches in every borough, if we want to become a real force in London. The vote in City and East, however, demonstrates that we can build in other areas by developing an active base carrying out regular and consistent work within the local community. Of course, our priority areas are Tower Hamlets and Newham in the east where we have to continue to build and consolidate, but no national party can be built on the basis of support limited to two or three areas.

The London results
Neither the victory for the Conservatives, nor the election of a BNP member to the London Assembly, contradict the argument that there is a need and a realistic possibility of building a left-wing alternative to New Labour. In fact, the election results demonstrate the need for such a party more than ever. The neo-liberal policies of New Labour will lead some to try out the Tories and will even drive some working-class whites into the arms of the racist and fascist BNP. A party espousing policies that benefit working-class people, rather than big business is the only way to cauterise that flow.

An election is only a snapshot of political developments and these results should not be seen as a generalised move to the right. Given the absence of any authoritative left-wing party it is not surprising that many voters plump for the Œother¹ party in the hope that things may improve marginally.

But the vast majority of traditional Labour voters still vote Labour or abstain. There is a sizable proportion of working-class voters, especially newer immigrants in low paid jobs, who no longer have any allegiance to Labour.

Notwithstanding the election of Johnson and the election of one BNP member to the GLA, the London elections show that the situation is much more complicated -than simply being a reflection of a shift to the right. Livingstone’s 1st preference vote increased by 208,336. His combined 1st and 2nd preference vote increased by 340,358. While there was massive discontent with New Labour¹s policies and with Livingstone’s own performance, the fear of Johnson winning drove Livingstone¹s supporters out in massively increased numbers. Unfortunately, this increased turnout for Livingstone could not match the increased Tory turnout, which added over half a million votes to their 2004 result. Following the election of Cameron as leader the Tories have cynically repositioned themselves towards the centre ground of politics to increase their appeal particularly to a new generation which did not know Thatcherism. Alongside this the selection of Johnson as Mayoral candidate has seen a confidence returning to the Tory supporters, especially in the suburbs. Livingstone appeared jaded, grey and on the back foot in the campaign and the Tories scented a huge scalp. They turned out in force to take it. This produced a fairly narrow Tory victory for Mayor. This shows that, notwithstanding the increasingly personal nature of political contest in Britain, there was still a clear left-right contest taking place. Voters for the most part understood this. No matter the serious concerns that many on the left would have with Livingstone, it was clearly understood that Johnson had to be beaten.

Whilst the vote for Livingstone went up in the inner city areas it could not compensate for the doubling of the Tory vote in some of the suburban constituencies. The Mayoral election was overwhelmingly a class vote. There was a clear ideological aspect to the vote, fuelled by the massive attacks on Livingstone led by the Tory-supporting Evening Standard. It was understood that the multicultural nature of London and its public services were seriously at risk. Johnson¹s victory will demonstrate very quickly how justified that fear was. It was a huge victory for the Tories and a defeat not only for New Labour but also for all those to its left, – particularly when taking into account that the BNP are now on the Assembly.

Part of a wider trend

New Labour’s defeat came directly out of the New Labour project itself. It is part of a wider and more fundamental picture involving the direction of social democracy at the European level. Over the last two decades European social democracy, without exception, has abandoned its traditional roots and adopted the full neo-liberal agenda. Now, one after another, these parties are suffering the backlash from this and falling into disarray. Italy is the most recent example where social democracy, after a disastrous period of coalition with a centre right Prodi administration, has collapsed and now we have a Berlusconi government and a fascist mayor of Rome. France is another example of a centre left government opening the door to the right, bringing Sarkozy to power. In Germany at an earlier stage it resulted in the election of Angela Merkel.

Right across Europe social democratic parties have moved to the centre ground and the ideological difference between them and the centre-right parties has disappeared. Politics are reduced to sound-bites and spin. In Britain, New Labour comprehensively rejected its traditional electoral base and, initially, successfully reached out to middle England – to win three elections with such support. But such support can disappear as fast as it comes. Unless governments rest on ideologically-based core support they are continually vulnerable to the latest twists and turns of the political situation or stunts pulled by their opponents.

Does this mean the end of new Labour? No. It might mean the end of this particular phase of New Labour in the sense that they are heading from office at a rate of knots. But any idea that they might draw the conclusion that the neo-liberal path has been wrong and that they should now turn back towards some kind of old Labour model is unlikely to materialise. This will become clear enough when the new policy review is published in the next week or two. They are more likely to conclude that they have not gone far enough and the way to get their voters back from the Tory Party is to embrace the market even more.

The response of the left to all this right across Europe should be clear enough. The need to build broad parties of the left, based on broad
socialist policies, designed to embrace all those looking for a political alternative could not be more sharply posed. This is not an easy project. It requires determination, élan, openness, patience and consistency. But it has to be done.

The way forwards after the election

The basis for a broad pluralist party clearly exists, despite the current divisions on the left and despite a reduced vote in the London elections. If we take the very good results in Birmingham and East London, along with some of the other results outside of London and the 3.6% won by the various left parties on the London list, there is clearly the basis for a much bigger party of the left than has been built up until now.

Respect therefore has a two-fold task in the post election situation: to consolidate the important and central bases in Birmingham and East London and start to extend outwards into other areas with the objective of establishing a national spread for the organisation.

This requires a rapid turn back from election work to party-building work through patient but energetic and lively local activity together with strengthening our national profile. We need to recruit and consolidate new members and build branches where they don¹t yet exist. The structures of Respect must be strengthened. The paper should be utilised to win more supporters and sympathisers. We should begin to prepare for a conference in the early autumn which can consolidate the organisation and reach out to others.

We must renew our approach to all those people in the communities with whom we have been working during the election but also find new areas to work in.

We must reiterate our commitment to reach out to and work with all others on the left who want to build a left alternative – the young people of the environmental movement, those opposing racism and islamaphobia, and local community activists. This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation. We should participate in initiatives like the “Convention of the left”.

Forging links with serious organisations on the left will not come easily or quickly, but we must show ourselves committed to the project of working with others to build a bigger, united left-wing party.

In the meantime, we work to build our support in an open and inclusive way.

ADDENDUM on results follow this link:

Some statistical extracts

In 2004, Respect polled 19,675 (15%) for Oliur Rahman in the first past the post constituency election in City & East, coming third. In 2008, Hanif Abdulmuhit polled 26,760 (14.59%), an increase of 7,085 (36%), again coming third. In 2008 Michael Gavan, standing for Left List polled 2,274 (1.24%). In 2004, Respect polled 21,795 (15.5%) on the London-wide list in the City & East constituency. In 2008, this fell marginally to 20,442 (%). The Left List polled 2,121 i.e. 10% of Respect’s vote. In 2004, Lindsey German, standing for Respect, polled 17,585 votes for Mayor in the City and East constituency (12.7%). In 2008, standing for the Left List, she polled 1,851 (1.01%) in that constituency.

In 2000, standing as an independent, Ken Livingsone polled 667,877 1st preference votes (39%) and 178,809 (12.6%) second preference votes. A total of 776,427.

Frank Dobson, the official Labour Party candidate, received 223,884 (16%), coming third behind Steve Norris, the Conservative Party candidate with 454,434 (27.1%) 1st preference votes and 188,041 (13.2%) second preference votes. A total for the Tories of 564,137 votes.

The Greens got 38,121 (2.2%) in 6th place behind the Lib Dems, 4th on 11.9% (203,452 votes) and the CPA, 5th on 2.4% (42,060).

The BNP came 7th with 33,569 (2.0%).

In 2004 Ken Livingstone was the official Labour Party candidate. He won 685,541 (35.7%) 1st preference votes and 250,517 (13%) 2nd preference votes. Total of 828,380.

Steve Norris, again the Conservative candidate, polled 542,423 (28.2%) 1st preference votes and 222,559 (11.6%) 2nd preference votes. Total of 667,178.

Simon Hughes for the Lib Dems came 3rd with 284,645 (14.8%) and Ukip came 4th with 115,665 (6%). [The elections coincided with the European elections, benefitting Ukip.]

Respect¹s Lindsey German came 5th, polling 61,731 (6.2%), beating both the BNP (58,405, 3%) and the Green¹s Darren Johnson (57,331, 2.9%).

In 2008 Ken Livingstone increased his personal vote for Mayor to 893,877 1st preference votes (36.38%), an increase of 208,336 on 2004. He polled 124,977 2nd preference votes making a total of 1,028,966. His combined 1st and 2nd preference votes increased by 200,586.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate won 1,043,761 1st preference votes (42.48%) and 124,977 2nd preference votes, making a total of 1,168,738. The Tory vote increased by 501,338 1st preference votes and by 501,560 overall.

In 2004 turnout was 1,920,513 (36.95%). In 2008 an extra 536,477 people voted, making a total of 2,456,990 (45.33%).

Paddick for the Lib Dems came 3rd with 236,685 (9.63%), a drop of 47,960 votes.

Sian Berry for the Greens came 4th with 77,374 (3.15%), an increase of 20,044.

The BNP came 5th with 69.710 (2.84%), an increase of 11,305.

Next came Ukip with 22,422 (0.91%).

In 7th place, beating only the English National Democrats and an Independent, was Lindsey German for the Left List. Her vote fell from the 61,731 she polled as the Respect candidate in 2004 to 16,796 (0.68%) a fall of 44,935.

Interestingly, German¹s Mayoral total of 16,796 was 5,787 less than the Left List vote on the London-wide Assembly vote of 22,583 (0.92%).

In two constituencies, the Left List polled fairly well in the first past the post election but their vote did not transfer across to the Mayoral election. In Enfield and Haringey, Sait Akgul polled 5,639 (3.56%) but German polled only 2,048 for Mayor in the same constituency. Sait had stood before for Respect and has built up a certain local following.

In North East, Unjum Mirza polled 6,019 (3.04%) but German polled only 2,310 for Mayor.

88 comments on “Respect and the Election Results

  1. That two otherwise intelligent time served socialists still retain illusions in the possibility of constructing an electoral pole to the left of Labour speaks poorly of their grasp on reality.

  2. Another interesting aspect of the vote was that against all trends, in City and East the Labour vote went up massively.

    38085 votes in 2004 (29.1%), and 63635 (34.7%) votes in 2008

    I think this probably reflects the concern against Boris Johnson bringing inner city voters to the polls, but also probably the effect of the anti-BNP campaigning by Searchlight and others in Barking and Dagenham.

  3. john nic on said:

    this is all useful material. it should start a debate that needs to take place.
    it underlines also the need to discuss why we are taking part in elections at all – the electoral system and the resulting governmental institutions are not of our choosing (or making) – and there are consequences both to contesting them (does that mean we continue to do so, in the same places, because to do otherwise would mean deserting communities and becoming the same as all other parties – ie you only see us at election times?) and to winning (support needs / accountability of elected members).
    meanwhile, being involved in elections (or not) does not mean we shouldnt be developing an organisation of The Left in any case.

  4. martin ohr on said:

    There certainly seems to be a large element of wishful thinking in this analysis. In particular this sentence stood out “The first point to register about the performance of the left parties in the recent elections is that they confirm that there is the basis of support for such a project.”

    The problem for me is that Respect was the SWP attempt to shortcut to sucess by bypassing the working class and appealing to the anti-war movement as an agent of change.

    Notwithstanding the fact that the SWP (and others) effectively sidelined the socialist alliance by using their positions in the stwc and UAF to promote liberals and tories on the platforms to build the biggest broad movements rather than equiping those two campaigns with policies which would effectively challenge the basis for war or fascism. Instead of the socialist alliance profitting from the anti-war movement that we worked so hard to build, we saw support being dropped into the laps of the liberal democrats. Respect was born from that failure.

    The results on Mayday at least confirmed that both wings of the repect project have failed. SWP will go through the motions of running Left List but will be waiting for the next big thing to swing behind so that LL can be put into cold storage; in the meantime expect SW to have a much greater focus on union work and strike support.

    Respect(George Galloway) has shown to have shot it’s load with the victory over Oona King. Whatever you think of him, Galloway is not a stupid man, he’s not going to soil himself by voting with labour next week for a 25% pay rise only to see it go to someone else at the next general election. You’ve got to expect that at the minimum the decision to move to another constituency will be reversed, or he’ll be looking to re-jig the party or bail out completely. Aside from one ward in Birmingham the Respect(GG) votes were universally poor, Bradford shows that without a local base of activists with a long term campaign embedded in the local community no matter how good the candidate you have to be very lucky to get anywhere.

    In fact the left lists best results came in places (Preston/Sheffield) where the legacy of the Socialist Alliance remains. It’s stupid to try to shortcut past the working class in an attempt to make electoral advances.

    As in previous years Leeds AWL will be organising a public meeting for members of all the left groups to discuss the results and perspectives from the elections, obviously we don’t expect the SWP to return our calls or send anyone along, but hopefully the socialist party, AGS and former SA people will be prepared to discuss with us. Each year we’ve agreed to work closer together, elt’s hope that the sobering impact of may day will make it a reality this time.

  5. Luke on said:

    So, no mention of the Greens nor the Green vote in that annalysis. It would be unwise to suggest that the Greens did not pick up votes from those that voted for RESPECT back in 2004, who were clearly disillusioned by the split within that group.

    One cannot speak of building a left of Labour alternative without seriously paying attention to the Green vote and the Green demographic, and the continuing role of the Greens.

  6. solidarity on said:

    As well as the good results for the Left List in Enfield & Haringey and in North East the Left List did well in Birmingham 11%, Bolton 14.8%, Cambridge 15.5% and 10%, Manchester 12.5% & 9.6%, Preston 37% and Sheffield 23.2%. Left List candidates also polled in excess of 5% in other seats in Leeds, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston and Walsall.

    In the difficult circumstances with a name or no name on the ballot paper these are credible results.

    ‘we must show ourselves committed to the project of working with others to build a bigger, united left-wing party.’

    Noone I expect will disagree with this statement. One can only hope Socialist Resistance will have more success than their record to date. Having failed to build a credible national organisation of their own since the fracturing of the IMG.

  7. martin ohr on said:

    solidarity, don’t know quite which figures you’re working on, but the excess of 5% in leeds was in one ward only where the turnout was less than 20% and was less than labour, libs, tory and bnp, it was still a pitifully small vote in terms of number of votes. In the other ward in leeds the respect vote was 1.82%. The 110 votes that Katie got in that ward was not only a disaster for the SWP but took crucial votes away from labour and gifted the victory to the lib dems, ensuring the continuation of lib/tory control of the council.

  8. Paul Hunt on said:

    have i missed it?
    there is no mention of the SP results. apologies if im wrong

  9. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    “There is no doubt that the split in Respect damaged the party’s prospects, both in terms of voters seeing Respect as damaged goods and weakening the party¹s ability to campaign across London.”

    Well, yes, that is true in a very narrow sense, but given that Warack and Thornett are also meant to be gauging the effectiveness of the Left, the “party’s prospects” were never going to be signifcantly better than what was achieved. This is a coalition that hates democracy and allows itself to be moulded by one or two individuals, who are accountable to no one. What is astonishing is that anyone can be bemused by Respect’s inability to get anywhere. It won’t and it doesn’t deserve to do so.

    Respect is very much like Newcastle United: those at the top exhibit absolutely no seriousness (or measure seriousness by column inches), surround themselves with incompetent lightweights, fight amongst themselves, boohoo when the success they believe is their right does not come their way. Newcastle’s KK is Respect’s GG.

  10. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    There is much wrong with Martin Ohr’s assertion that Respect was an attempt to “shortcut to sucess by bypassing the working class and appealing to the anti-war movement as an agent of change.” – it was the fact that anti-war feeling was the most militant and forceful expression of the anger of a section of the working class that Respect attempted (and succeed with election of Galloway) to tap into.

    However, in a (not necessarily negative) way we WHERE trying to traverse a shortcut, a route out of the old tiny left swamp. We concentrated on attempting to key into the mass feeling, on building a wide layer of supporters, and hoped that the grassroots would follow.

    Whatever the original merits of this approach (it did have some) it has certainly (with aid from the split) stalled now. So the line I welcome most in this article is the one that asserts that we now need “patient but energetic and lively local activity together with strengthening our national profile”.

    We need to get down to the long slog of building a real broad radical left political party rooted in our local areas and under the democratic control of its members.

  11. “This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation. We should participate in initiatives like the “Convention of the left”.

    Forging links with serious organisations on the left will not come easily or quickly, but we must show ourselves committed to the project of working with others to build a bigger, united left-wing party.”

    will the rest of the left touch respect renewal though?

    given the questions around democracy, accountability, george galloway, lack of class and socialist programme and methods, electoralism, adaptation to muslim religious and community leaders and small business men and others, it seems rather unlikely. even the cpb wouldnt play ball.

    anyway i don’t think this is a bad article by any means. is this the view of everyone in respect though i wonder? is this a document to be voted on at the nc? or is this an article just for the ‘left’ or respect and not for the actual branches and leading members?

    ks

  12. Matthew on said:

    Well an piece entitled ‘Respect and the Election Results’ can be forgiven for not analysing Greens, Socialist Party, etc.

    Martin is right about Leeds. In 2007 Respect got 520 votes in City and Hunslet, almost 15%, and third behind Labour and the Lib Dems (who only got 32 votes more). This was well ahead of the Greens (215) and a hapless candidate from the AGS (42 votes). This time, 272 votes – ahead of the Greens, but someway behind the BNP. looks like a bit of a collapse to me.

  13. to #4, #15 and indeed the main article

    ““This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation. We should participate in initiatives like the “Convention of the left”.

    Forging links with serious organisations on the left will not come easily or quickly, but we must show ourselves committed to the project of working with others to build a bigger, united left-wing party.”

    Interesting and a possibility though I think some way off-

    what is possible here and now- or at least in the very near future, will be working allainces around common campaigns and struggles such as the strikes, community campaigns against an academy, school closure or hospital closure, housing cuts or evictions.

    This is urgent and necessary both in itself and to combat the rise of the BNP. Out of these alliances perhaps some kind of left project may emerge, or may be not but we can all build our own groups much better within a common struggle.

    We are holding a meeting in London on this theme,http://www.permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=2062

    as well as supporting the convention of the left http://www.conventionoftheleft.org

    and should be major theme I’d hope of the Leeds meeting and other local meetings.

  14. Actually we should also try to involve the socialist party as much as possible- they;ve some committed activists in the NUT for example (and I’m sure elsehwere but I know th eones in NUT well- e.g. St Helen’s, Lewisham)

  15. Clive Searle on said:

    “anyway i don’t think this is a bad article by any means. is this the view of everyone in respect though i wonder? is this a document to be voted on at the nc? or is this an article just for the ‘left’ or respect and not for the actual branches and leading members?”

    what a strange set of questions. Members of respect have been discussing the outcome of last Thursday across the country. The views in the article are clearly those of Thornett and wrack, though the thoughtful tone will, I’m sure, find much agreement. We will certainly be discussing the issue at the Manchester branch meeting tomorrow night.

    We will make copies of this article which will be part of the discussion I’m sure. As for the ‘leading members’ I’m not sure how you would descibe Alan and Nick but I’d have thought they were leading in their own right.

    We’ve no need to come to a definative analysis overnight. The wonders of being part of a plural left organisation is that we take time to discuss and debate rather than having an immediate line for the great and the good handed down from on high.

    Though comparing the above to the ‘analysis’ emanating from the left list over the weekend I know which I would rather adopt as a basis for discussion.

  16. well it is wonderful to be plural!

    I’m never sure what it means, though

    however, it would be good to have some agreement on common prioriteis for action to really seriously begin rebuilding working class organisations and united front campaigns

  17. leigh on said:

    have to say i expected something better from the likes of alan thornett! an activist with decades of experience on the left and he completely fails to mention the green party (ignored the sp too i believe) Trying to pretend the greens arent there wont make them go away! anyone seriously interested in building the left in england has to talk to the greens its as simple as that. Incidentally it appears to me that respect’s vote was no better than that gained by the late and – in my view at least – much lamented socialist alliance, while the left list actually seem to have fared more poorly than the deliberately killed SA! Which begs the question for the likes of thornett, galloway and german et al – what on earth were the last 5 years about!

  18. Ray S on said:

    Jason, #18:- Lewisham NUT comprises both SP and SWP. In all honesty, the SWP inside the NUT are much better – for example they are inside the Socilaist Teachers Alliance, the SP have recently split to build their own thing and stand candidates against the STA. The SP Lewisham NUT secretary is credible and can be worked with (as secretary of a neighbouring branch, I have no problem there). But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking or acting on the basis that only non-SWP forces on the left can be worked with. In your previous post, you suggest that we involve ourselves in anti-academy campaigns, then the ones led by SWP are generally much better, although I wouldn’t take anything away from the Lewisham NUT secretary.
    In addition, you raise the need for aliances to defeat the BNP. I know that UAF have a large involvement of SWP, but I would hesitate to support anything else as despite some misgivings of the SWP’s role and the ill thought out timing of the carnival, UAF is the body to be built and I’m happy to do that with the SWP (and hopefully a few others!)

  19. David Rosenberg on said:

    I think Joseph Kisolo’s representation of the anti-war movement as a militant section of the working class is too simplistic. It also represented a significant split within the middle class – among people willing to take a principled stand on this (and on issues like third world debt, fairtrade etc) but not that keen to be drawn to class struggle politics, but on the other hand willing to be drawn to something more radical than the lib dems.

    I don’t think either manifestation of Respect can draw much comfort from the vote – and the Left List really looks like a dead duck. But Respect Renewal if it wants to offer something more subtstantial and attractive in the longer term will probably need to ask itself whether Galloway is an asset or a liability. I think the latter and he might solve the question anyway by jumping ship when he can’t draw an MPs salary any more for his efforts and he will feel the need to put more time to his media career(s).

    To win the support of a lot of socialists let alone a wider group of people potentially attracted to left politics, a left alternative to labour needs to have an egalitarian democratic spirit, and having a Stalinist/Saddam apologist/ super-ego still stamping his personality on the movement undermines that. Myself and many socialists I know prefer to give Galloway a wide berth, while being sympathetic to the motivations for Respect Renewal

    In this repsect (no pun intended) – apart from the need to properly engage with the Green party in a serious way, starting with mutually non-threatening gestures, and seeing them as people basically on our side, we should look long and hard at the democratic structures of the Greens – they seem pretty impressive.

    I’ve voted Green in pretty much every election in the last 15 years and felt that my vote has been for principled candidates and not been wasted. I was a member for a few years but found the local branch meetings soporific, but am considering rejoining especially as Green Left seems to be up and running.

  20. #23 well I wasn’t making it a competition between swp and sp!

    But Ray S I think we quite urgently need to build a rank and file network in the NUT wider than the STA but also using the STA and campaign teacher network-

    I think the SP were mistaken to leave the STA actually though there are issue with its leadership- the answer though is to make it democratic, accountable and build th eorganisaion. However, the STA barely exists outside London, though we have got it sort of semi running up in Manchester (2nd meeting coming up). It will be interesting to see how th eleft vote in the exec meeting on Thursday. 2000 teachers voted -informally- at the london meeting for a further ballot, lots more round th ecountry did so, i think there’s a real mood for action- let’;s at least ask the membership. I have little faith in the left on the exec at the moment. Both Courtney and Kenny seemed to be a gainst it- I hope they’ve changed their minds and will allow ordinary members to decide.

    Contact me jason2inethiopia @yahoo.co.uk to discuss further

  21. Clive Searle on said:

    David, could you possibly expand on what you mean by this – “apart from the need to properly engage with the Green party in a serious way, starting with mutually non-threatening gestures”

    Could you explain what you envisage by this. I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m curious as to how you see this working. What exactly are these mutually non-threathening gestures you suggest.

  22. TLC on said:

    “the unknown Abdulmuhit”

    just goes to show how little you know, doesn’t it?

  23. Howard T on said:

    I have read and re-read the posting and I think there are some important points for debate:
    ‘nothing in the general political situation has fundamentally changed since the launching of Respect in 2004’ Nothing? Well the economy has moved from relatively low levels of inflation, Blair and Brown seeming reasonably competent and not directly attacking the working class to a crisis that has killed New Labour in all but name. If you state that Labour voters are disillusioned and go overe to the Tories, surely something has changed?
    As you say, ‘Livingstone’s 1st preference vote increased by 208,336’. The problem is that the tory vote increased by half a million. Why? It isn’t just because Livingstone was tired, although by the end he no doubt was. What is the new Toryism that can mobilise those numbers?
    The next interesting point is ‘Over the last two decades European social democracy, without exception, has abandoned its traditional roots and adopted the full neo-liberal agenda’. Apart from the fact that Sarkosi replaced Chirac, the last of the Gaullists and therefore opened up the French bourgeoisie moving closer to NATO, what is the material basis for this change? Perhaps we have to look what was happening over the last two decades and why Social Democracy existed in the first place – in particular why it emerged after 1917 and why it inevitably declined after 1991. (Small thing known as the Soviet Union comes to mind).I was always told to avoid those nasty communists because we can always achieve soialism here democratically and the proof is the schools, hospital, welfare and nationalised industries. That was the labourism that dominated the working class as it was. The need for material concessions from the bourgeoisie diminished, so with it Social Democracy and instead we got Blair.
    I think its right to pronounce the end of this phase of Labour, but what emerges after the Tories come into government (which I think they will unless there is a miraculous upturn in the economy) will be a different Labour. Whether it lurches to the right, re-grows etc remains to be seen, but it is right to say that it won’t lose the allegiance of the labour movement orientated part of the working class.
    I do think in general the analysis of Respect is accurate. It does beg the question as to what happens next? The 10p tax was not an accident – it was Brown testing the water for an attack on the working class although the harvest he’ll reap will be for Cameron to carry forward that assault in the interests of capital. In London the loss of Ken may be much more than some of his left opponents bargained for in terms of material well being.
    If Labour isn’t going to collapse and disappear, what are the prospects for parties to the left of Labour and how do we go forward? First of all, Respect has to be built but has to do so as an anti-imperialist party that encompasses an agenda of the type it was founded on – not just industrial struggles, but the wider political agenda; not just opposition to the war, but being up front against Islamaphobia and racism, but not to the exclusion of opposing homophobia and sexism, of course. The CP, despite all their faults, were always participants in internaional solidarity campaigns and be it Palestine, Cuba or Venezuela, Respect must have a role. It is possible for the first time since 1945 and the CPs success to build a party to the left of Labour with some roots in the mass of the working class as demonstrated in East London and Birmingham. It is not realistic to think that Social Democracy will collapse. After all, the rulling class are much too smart to allow a party of the left to be the main opposition on the left to the Tories!

  24. Ray S on said:

    Jason, #26:- You are wrong to suggest that the STA doesn’t exist much out of London – it’s betetr to explain that the other, less politicla group CDFU (Campaign for a Democratic Fighting Union) exists elsewhere and not in London. Also, the highest density of NUT membership is in London – must be the cheap accommodation.
    I’m also not sure where your criticism of Kevin and Alex comes from. They were largely the main architects of the 10,000 turn-out in London and worked tirelessly to achieve that. The informal vote that was taken at the London Rally was proposed by Alex Kenny. The executive, which is now left led is in favour of more action, but another one day national strike isn’t being proposed as the next step by anyone and isn’r realistic this term – although other forms of action, including discontinuous action as well as non-strike forms of action are being considered and will be balloted for. Not being party to executive discussions, I am not sure where this is going at the moment, but the mood is up, more confident, but still cautious

  25. I am not aware of STA being active outside London tho’ now we have got a it sort of semi up and running in Manchester. If Kenny and Courtney vote for a ballot this term on discontinuous action then fine

    That’s what the teachers at the rally in Bolton. London and I’mn sure many other places are demanding. I hope they will but even some in the SWP

    “but another one day national strike isn’t being proposed as the next step by anyone and isn’r realistic this term ” you’re right no one is proposing another one day strike action so why bring it up? #

    We need ongoing strike action. And it is essential to have this this term: but some on the left previously were against this including Kevin and Alex at th econference. I hop e you’;re right and they;ve changed thier tune.

    The mood is up, confident, far form cautious but will be wasted if not moved on quickly enough

    let the members decide

  26. by the wya how do you get on campaign teacher e-list I have e-mailed Kevin but no reply- understandable of course but I think we should try and organise together e-mail em please Ray S

  27. martin ohr on said:

    #34 Off topic I know: Jason, of you don’t get any joy getting on campaign teacher email list let me know (via this or the awl website) and I’ll get one of our NUT comrades to sort it.

  28. thanks martin just e-mail me the details please sorry to be off topic but I’ve been asking for weeks (seriously!)
    jason2inethiopia @yahoo.co.uk

  29. to go on topic it’s OK this article in parts- relatively sober and some good suggestions

    but I think it’s too focused on elections

    Alan says, .”
    The response of the left to all this right across Europe should be clear enough. The need to build broad parties of the left, based on broad
    socialist policies, designed to embrace all those looking for a political alternative could not be more sharply posed. This is not an easy project. It requires determination, élan, openness, patience and consistency. But it has to be done.

    The way forwards after the election

    The basis for a broad pluralist party clearly exists, despite the current divisions on the left and despite a reduced vote in the London elections. If we take the very good results in Birmingham and East London, along with some of the other results outside of London and the 3.6% won by the various left parties on the London list, there is clearly the basis for a much bigger party of the left than has been built up until now.”

    Surely the experience should lead us to question the ‘broad pluralist’ party?

    Perhaps people want a party based on a new imaginative style of inclusive politics not tired old formulas?

    Now you may say quite rightly if I think that why don’t I go out and build that party? OK I will.

    However, we’ll only get a fighting party whether the tired old pluralist left or a new imaginative reconnected politics or whatever when we get working class campaigning and fighting organisations up and running.

    That is far more impoirtant and absolutely primary- far more important than bulding an election party or any other kind of party

    if the wider work is only a party building exercise then I think people will smell a mile off

    I absolutley agree with Alan and Nick when they write
    “We must reiterate our commitment to reach out to and work with all others on the left who want to build a left alternative – the young people of the environmental movement, those opposing racism and islamaphobia, and local community activists. This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation. We should participate in initiatives like the “Convention of the left”.

    but the altenrative must not only be seen as electoral. Alan and Nick are abosultey entitled to build their broad left party- of course. But the struggle and participation ins truggles isn;t just to build a party, is it?

    It’;s to struggle against injustice, against racism, against poverty. Now ultimately you may argue that without an election we cna never get a decisive difference. I’d say we need a different type of society and world run by working class people- but whatever, each to their own.

    Let’s create the mass movement. let;s do it together.

  30. Irish Mark P on said:

    The side issue about the left in the NUT has at least provided me with some entertainment. I was wondering what all this apolitical, unexplained gibberish about the SWP being “better” than the Socialist Party in the NUT was about. And then it became clear: The SP think that the STA isn’t worth the hassle.

    It isn’t immediately obvious to me that they are wrong about that. The unions have been in retreat in so long that a whole generation of “left” activists have been worn down by defeat and the grim reality of partnership unionism. Quite a few union “left” organisations aren’t that “left”, organise only a relatively tired layer and simply aren’t going to play a significant role in developing new militancy or new militants. This isn’t necessarily their fault, but it is far from irrational to take that view that in some unions.

    If the SP think that something better than the STA can be built in the NUT, well, it isn’t obvious that they are wrong. They may be, but time will tell.

  31. well I think we should try to build something better- but work with STA where they exist in a meaningful way and work with SP as well.

    But far more important is getting new layers of activists involved and in communication with each other.

  32. Alan on said:

    One of the things I would have thought that this leads us to is PR- that way the Left would have more influence whenever Labour takes power because Labour would have to coalesce with us to acheive things.

  33. This seems a little over the top;

    “The first point to register about the performance of the left parties in the recent elections is that they confirm that there is the basis of support for such a project.”

    I would have thought the first point to register about the performance of the left parties in the recent electons is that they confirm there is very little basis for the project, that it was unable to appeal to wider layers, that it couldn’t unite the left in any meaningful way, it was a diversion from the real task of building in the unions and working class campaigns, it abandoned any pretence at a socialist programme for not very much, it was all in all pretty poor all round.
    (Rant over)

  34. I joined the STA a few years years ago at NUT conference. Apart the odd Socialist Teacher magazine, banging on about Cuba, the standing order seems wasted. Mind you, the Classroom Teacher blog seems fairly dull too, although the Classroom Teacher newsletters are useful when talking to colleagues.

    ‘This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation.’ Which sections? When? Why now, not earlier?

  35. martin ohr on said:

    #13 Joseph: “- it was the fact that anti-war feeling was the most militant and forceful expression of the anger of a section of the working class…”

    Even if this part were true, then the way to realise that anger would be to make the anti-war movement political: by arming it with socialist politics. The various players for their own reasons- swp because they wanted the movement to be the broadest possible recruiting pool; galloway, socialist action and the cpb because they don’t believe in socialism from below; the greens because they are not socialists; and the various independents because they bought the official reasoning of one of the above- all sought to keep the anti-war movement on the minimum possible political level. Arguing for a movement that could genuinely stop the war by challenging for power was never part of that agenda.

    The same mistake will be repeated with UAF, the swp -and others- refuse to argue(within UAF) for the politics required to turn the anti-fascist movement into something that can actually defeat fascism. So instead we’ll have music festivals and videos presented by gordon brown. Seemingly the anti-fascist front, the trades union front, the anti-war front must be kept seperate at all costs.

    Anyhow I look forward to receiving the promised call from Thornett and Wrack: “This also means approaching trade unionists and other sections of the left to argue for a regroupment broader than Respect, which can reflect the full potential available to the left and which can more adequately address the crisis of working-class representation”

  36. Ray S on said:

    Given that the STA is probably the only left current in the trade union movement that goes back to the 70s, it’s not doing too badly. SP and SWP have both at times tried to build something else. No one on the left has been prevented from participating. Everyone calls for a democratic and accountable movement in the unions, but when one exists, it seems that we have to build something outside of it – in this case some suggest a front organisation for the SP – very democratic! I’m not always in the majority in the STA by any means. But as none of you have built anything better, I’ll stick with them.
    I don’t think these criticisms of Alex Kenny and Kevin Courtney hold much water anyway. All the motions and ammendments on action in relation to pay were carried unanimously, so how could they have had a different position? Let’s not create straw people, please.
    For the record the STA has a memebrship in many places outside London. Manchester has been mentioned, but theres’ many othe places, inc Birmingham, Sheffield, Barnsley,Coventry, Liverpool,Bristol and so on.
    I would criticise many of the actions of SWP, including their split from Respect, but they have played a serious role on the left in the NUT in recent years, at least.

  37. Howard T on said:

    #43 Martin Ohr ‘make the anti-war movement political: by arming it with socialist politics’. Maybe I’ve missed something, but calling for the end of an imperilaist war is fairly political – in my book, more political than a struggle against the bosses for higher wages.
    Socialists will always be the best leaders in the fight to stop such wars, but the demand of ending the war that mobilises all classes – in particular the petty-bourgeoisie who are not instinctively socialist has worked well throughout history.
    It seems that Martin Ohr wants to establish a movement that will drive out forces such as the Greens. The forces that can be mobilised against the fascists and the war are much broader than those calling themselves socialists,(let alone those you would consider socialists) I couldn’t think of anything more sectarian at the moment than tying what is essentially the fight for democratic tasks to policies that only socialists can support.

  38. Perhaps there might be some questioning in the SWP of the Rees-German misleadership. The latest issue of the Socialist Worker does not even mention either of them – let alone have any articles by them on the election fall-out. Is this a sign of shifts in the leadership? At least it means the Socialist Worker analysis is devoid of the poisonous swipes at Galloway and Yaqoob which Rees inserted into the Left List response.

    Let’s hope that friends of the SWP have finally got round to telling the leadership that it’s no longer possible to cover up for the two twits. Of course, that leaves the difficult question of who might take over, given that they are all compromised by this debacle. But at least the door has not yet been closed on SWP members engaging in an honest discussion about the way forward, which involves them coming to terms with the disastrous role of their leadership over the last few months.

  39. Harry on said:

    Lets remember that their was actually a swing to Labour in London

    and hopefully can put together a coaltion against Boris, the BNP and the Tories

    Richard Barnes ex Hillingdon Tory leader is particularly rabid

    Andrew Boff also ex Hillingdon Tory Leader has a far more intresting past

    uuuuummmm where did they both stand on Clause 28…..AGAINST………

  40. Harry on said:

    That is that both Barnes and Boff where against the repeal of Clause 28 while Hillingdon Tory councillors in the 1980’s……

  41. Remember Scotland? The wee land to the north? From where I’m located one of the main limitations of web based chat in regard to the broad left party debate has been a chronic failure to address the Scottish events of the last so many years with any serious analysis. After the split that seemed to be it and the Scottish Socialist Party was more or less ignored except for an excuse for rancor over who did what when.

    But the SSP survives and does its work day in day out but not, obviously, as primarily an electoral party.In fact the SSP’s strength was that it wasn’t just an electoral project despite its initial success at the polls.

    Most of the debate I’ve read on Respect and Respect (R) has tended to be about elections and polling such that that is presented as the only coat hanger to hang the project on. This comment — Only the Good Die Young – Glyn Robbins on Respect — is a food example of that outlook. Genuine. Considered. But victim , nonetheless, I think, to that sort of POV.

    I beg to differ. If indeed the preference is to format Respect in electoral terms alone then you cannot presume to advance the project very far after any defeat because elections are the most fickle of interventions. That’s always going to be your only or at least ultimate measure.

    I’ve seen this outlook here in Australia especially from the POV of comrades who come from the SWP/IST tradition. It’s magic bullet politics. The ‘broad party” or the ‘broad united front( of a very special kind)” is loaded up with this hope.

    While I agree with Thornett’s and Wrack’s projection here to “build broad left parties” — how are you (and ‘us’ too) going to do that given that the polling day route isn’t perhaps so giving as it was thought to be?

    Thats’ the challenge here in Australia too you see for a few reasons similar to but also different from the situation in the UK. Because the key aspect of the ‘broad left party’ marker is the tactical orientation rather than any individual tactic (such as running in elections).

    It’s the way you do politics and the way you consciously decide to engage with working people. That doesn’t preclude the broad objective context that is logged in this post by Wrack/Thornett. Nor is it just a head space thing.

    Ultimately I believe it has to be recognised that we are still building the socialist parties we have been constructing these decades past by dint of “the primitive accumulation of cadre” but by another route, a route engineered though a complex series of partnerships and outside the political narrows and shibboleths..

    Anything else is going to be unstable and maybe unsustainable — as this breast beating in the wake of the poll there seem to indicate — as people are flagging that they intend to jump ship.

    And do what?

    As the Scots (through Pam Currie) pointed out (and I fear so very few were listening) it’s about holding your nerve.

  42. #42 Ray- I’m saying we have to build a network of rank and file teachers up and down the country- I actually criticised the SP for leaving STA if you look. But I’ll work with anyone in rank and file meetings.

    If there are lots of STA memetings outside London fantastic! But they need to get a national network to communicate decisions.

    Kevin and Alex work very hard – if they now vote for a ballot as soon as possible to ask the members where to go next, for discontinuous action, fantastic. If they don’t it is right to criticise them and push for a ballot as soon as possible.

    We need to get organised Ray. i’ve asked you to e-mail me 2 times jason2inethiopia @yahoo.co.uk – looking forward to your e-mail.

    This is not really a derailing of this thread becuas eit is getting allainces and networks of militants in unions and communities that will make a difference.

    Jason

  43. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    I have heard the question of how we should organise posed as: “Should we concentrate on the building the new left electoral project or should we concentrate on single issue campaigns?”

    Sounds like a good question, but it gets things totally muddled.

    Building a radical mass left party isn’t just about standing in elections, its about building an organisation that can pull together and generalise the struggles, its about building an organisation that can give people a space to discuss how we change the world and its about having a structure that can mobilise people across the different struggles.

    I agree with Dave Riley’s formulation on the party that “It’s the way you do politics and the way you consciously decide to engage with working people.” (post 47).

    So we shouldn’t measure Respect (or whatever project you chose) merely by elections. We should measure them by how healthy there local branches are, how locally implemented their members are, how many members they have, how many new people are joining, how many links to trade unions etc. etc.

  44. Doug on said:

    If you asked an SP teacher why they left the STA they would tell you that they didn’t want to damage their credibility with actual or potential future rank and file militants. The STA became a body dominated by the SWP who tailed the union bureaucracy on virtually every important domestic issue, in exchange for getting through the national conference support for motions on Palestine, Iraq and the UAF etc. And they tail the bureaucracy in other unions as well, except, surprise, surprise, the PCS – which they can’t control so they indulge in ultra-Left posturing towards.

  45. jean van heijenoort on said:

    I don’t want to dismiss the war as a factor in the election but clearly the war is much less of a factor than it was and this is a problem. The anti-war issue opened up a space in which a sizeable number of voters were prepared to vote with their hearts for a radical anti-war party. This particularly applied to sections of the Muslim community but not only to them. With this issue receding in importance, it has made this vote more vulnerable to the old politics as usual, and also in the London election to the squeeze put on by the fear of Johnson.

    It is remarkable in this context that Respect’s vote held up so well in East London. In many respects this is an incredible achievement given the recent past. But there are no grounds for complacency. Having established itself as the voice for many in the Muslim community, as well as others opposed to war and neo-liberalism, Respect has suffered many blows over the last two years including defections and splits which have clearly damaged it – although, the vote shows this damage has not been not irreperable.

    Crucial now is for Respect to get much better organised and to use its position, particularly in East London, to be at the forefront of all progressive campaigns, big and small and to have a record of consistent exposure in the media and on the streets. Respect has two years both to consolidate and build on its vote to secure success in the local and parliamentary elections. This can certainly be achieved in my opinion.

    Hopefully, there will now be fewer distractions from the SWP/Left List nonsense. But while I’m on the subject of the war, surely Lindsey German’s position as convenor of the Stop the War Coalition must now be in grave question. After all, she invoked the Stop the War Coalition as a supporter of her Left List candidacy which clearly it wasn’t, she mercilessly attacked Livingstone who is an important supporter of the STW Coalition and she denounced as sectarian a rally which included Tony Benn, Bruce Kent, Kate Hudson and Walter Wolfgang, all of them prominent opponents of the war. With an utterly humiliating election result, she has lost all credibility as “leader” of the Stop the War movement.

  46. tim on said:

    “surely Lindsey German’s position as convenor of the Stop the War Coalition must now be in grave question.”

    this attempt at witch hunting another socialist in STWC must stop. I can’t believe how sectarian some and I stress some members of RR are. If this infects the anti war movement then it will be another set back. Lindsey German whether u agree with her politics or not has given immense work for STWC. I seriously do not know who else has done as much. She did not say STWC was backing her election campaign simply that she was convenor of it, Galloway stated that he was a leading figure in the anti war movement and of course thats fair enough. It is very sad to see the vitriol directed at other socialists on this site by some. If the left is to gain in the future then red baiting is not going to help.

  47. tonyc on said:

    “She did not say STWC was backing her election campaign simply that she was convenor of it”

    What do you think she meant when she said in an interview that she had the backing of “the stop the war group”?

    I love the way that any criticism of an SWP member is a “witch-hunt” or “red baiting”. Essentially, this method is designed to make sure that none of us can criticise anything you lot do.

  48. stuart on said:

    Some very useful analysis from two contributors influenced by Trotskyism.

    In fact many of the interventions on this site have IMO been informative since the pretty awful election results. What is good about the Wrack/Thornett piece is that it utterly denies the possibilty that New Labour will somehow shift left in the face of electoral disaster.

    One thing missing however from the many insightful postings has been a more realistic appraisal of the ‘Respect Renewal’ project. It seems to have been forgotten that, for all the self congratulatory talk of ‘pluralism’, the Galloway side declined to attend the Respect conference. Renewal then relied on the obscenely bureaucratic behaviour of one person, Linda Smith, who was entitled to declare who could and who couldn’t enter the election under the Respect name. I think even Stalin would have blushed.

    Now if we recall, the SWP allegations at the time of the split amounted to saying that Respect Renewal was a Galloway vanity project that relied upon unprincpled, apolitical, ‘cross class’ local Muslim networks to the deliver votes. Has anything happened to prove such a diagnosis incorrect?

    Galloway surely calculated that his best chance of success was to unburden himself of the SWP and hope such non political networks could deliver. The indication has to be that such an approach is unlikely to bring the desired outcome. And remember, the electoral terrain is far more important to Galloway than the SWP.

    Of course, the Left List showing was, apart from a few places, pretty appalling. However there is a clear distinction between the two projects. Left List, like the Socialist Alliance, is unambiguous. It’s all in the name. But the transition from Socialist Alliance to Respect clearly represented a shift into a greyer area of politics (a necessary one that responded to the Iraq war). It seems to me unclear as to how RR supporters can confidently call their vote a ‘left’ vote in the true sense.

    ‘Respect/George Galloway’ comes across an attempt to combine a vague sounding enterprise with name recognition. Galloway, at least politically, is best known for his excellent and principled anti-war stance. That’s fine but, as some note, the war whilst still massively important is lower profile electorally. And that presents something of a problem. Moreover, Salma Yaqoob may just build her career on such a strategy but she would be well advised to check out New Labour or the Lib Dems as alternative options.

    What of the Left List? For me the pattern of some half decent results alongside some derisory ones recalls the Socialist Alliance. The SA performance could range from Lavalette winning a council seat to votes as low as twelve! I suspect however that the average LL vote is much lower than the average SA one – but that can largely be explained by circumstances.

    There are some important questions in the coming period. Surely all on the left must say loud and clear that New Labour will not shift left and the forces to shift New Labour to the left are non existent (inside the Labour Party). The danger will be that many well meaning lefts will be tempted to not criticise New Labour in order to ‘keep the Tories out’, in a similar way to the refusal to criticise Livingstone despite there being so many left wing reasons to do so. A mistake IMO.

    But for the purposes of this site it is the Respect Renewal position that needs to be primarily addressed. The are clearly many well meaning and very well informed posters who naturally seek optimism. But you need to ask, where is RR going? To boast about this wonderful ‘pluralism’ is frankly dishonest. And further, RR supporters need to give separate consideration to the personal ambitions of the, now unchecked by the SWP, likes of Galloway and Yaqoob.

    When advocating a point of view consider, what would George think and what would Salma think and how does this fit in with the electoral landscape?

  49. sergo on said:

    How very tedious that Stuart #55 wishes to reprise the Respect split so selectively. The SWP packed the conference in order to ensure that they mainitained control of Respect. In such circumstances, no self-respecting member of Respect could possibly have wanted to give this nonsense any hint of credibility by attending the conference. And as for the equation of Linda smith exercising her legal rights in the face of the SWP’s wrecking tactics, the equation with Stalinisim has about as much validity as Rees’s accusations of ballot-rigging.

    The Left List has just been humiliated and with a very small number of exceptions outlined in the Thornett/Wrack document has absolutely no future. It did worse than the Socialist Alliance, make no mistake, and that is because it is less than the Socialist Alliance.

    As for George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob, lets’s take Salma Yaqoob first. Salma Yaqoob, who the SWP leadership decided to send to Coventry almost three years ago and seriously discussed driving out of Respect just a year ago, has shown her complete commitment to the Respect project by turning down flat the numerous offers from New Labour of safe seats, etc. What makes you think she is going to change now that Respect has won its third seat on Birnmingham City Council?

    As for George Galloway, the SWP worked its whole strategy, when Rees and German fell out of love with him, on the basis Galloway could be encouraged to leave the political scene for a career elsewhere. They clearly underestimated his desire to make a political difference. He put himself on the line in the London elections. He did not get the result he and everyone who genuinely wanted the left to progress wanted. But he got easily enough on which to build. So I agree with #51. It’s all still to play for and the sectarian doom-mongers should go off and play with themselves for a while.

  50. tim on said:

    sergo
    Is it possible to make a contribution which doesn’t include all attacks on the SWP. It is a bit tedious to be honest.

    Out of intrest Tony C quotes German as saying she had the backing from the stop the war group.could a link to the interview be provided as of course it is coutesy to provide the evidence for serious allegations.

  51. lurker on said:

    “What do you think she meant when she said in an interview that she had the backing of “the stop the war group”?”

    She didn’t, and you can’t quote her doing so. She said she got support from within that movement, and said the same about trade unions too. You can’t seriously believe she was claiming she had the official endorsement of Trade Unions – you know full well she was saying that some (prominent) members of those groups were backing her, i.e. she had support from that group. Which was true. But you’ll spin it – by which I mean lie about the quote – anyway to show her/SWP in a bad light.

    Nonetheless, I’ll retract this when you can show a statement saying she has the backing of the Stop the War group (as opposed to got support from, which does not mean the same thing). I won’t hold my breath.

    The SWP/Left List spin reality too, to hammer Renewal. I would have thought the election results might have a) led to a bit of humility on both sides after that level of public support and b) led to a reevaluation of priorities. Is it really important for two, currently small and politically insignificant, former allies to spin each others words to make them out to be pathetic, when we have an increase in both Tory and BNP electoral success?

  52. Ger Francis on said:

    Stuart: ‘Now if we recall, the SWP allegations at the time of the split amounted to saying that Respect Renewal was a Galloway vanity project that relied upon unprincpled, apolitical, ‘cross class’ local Muslim networks to the deliver votes. Has anything happened to prove such a diagnosis incorrect?’

    What happened is that this diagnosis was wrong in the first place. The attempted SWP explanation about the dynamics of race and class inside the Muslim community, and the support for Respect from a section of it, was always crass. Salma Yaqoob exposed it as such and provided a much more sophisticated and insightful analysis:

    http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1406

    ‘Moreover, Salma Yaqoob may just build her career on such a strategy but she would be well advised to check out New Labour or the Lib Dems as alternative options.’

    The allegation that Salma is seeking to join one of the mainstream parties has absolutely no purchase in Birmingham for the simple reason she has publicly dismissed many times in the press. The only people who continue to throw it around tend to be her SWP/ultra left critics.

    As for where Respect goes now, the facts remain that we have a small but real electoral base. That is not going away and provides a platform from which we can build for the future. We have particular challenges to overcome in order to widen our support, but we are in this for the long term and I see no reason we should not be confident about our future.

  53. stuart on said:

    Ger #59,

    I’ve read the Salma Yaqoob piece. One passge interests me in particualr. Revealingly she says…

    “The coalition model that Respect was founded upon had its merits. In the future, however, I am convinced that we need to organise much more along traditional party political lines. We need to be clear that we are building a political party”

    She rejects the coalition model, a coalition that involved the SWP. To be able to move from coalition to party the SWP would have to be ditched or ‘witch hunted’. Could Salma have won a vote on this issue at a Respect conference? Best to side step the conference?

    Fair enough if Salma stands as Respect against the Labour Party on a clear left position she is to be applauded for that. However the chances are that there will be tremendous pressures not to challenge Labour candidates in the face of a strong Tory onslaught. We got a tase of this when Renewal, immediately upon their formation, decided not to stand against Livingstone or even criticise him to any degree, despite a clear Respect position to do just that. For me that signified a revealing move rightwards.

    Of course I never said she would do this or that, only that a career minded person would be well advised to consider multiple options.

  54. TLC on said:

    #57/58

    Check the link. We’be been here before.

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-7398.html

    PN: Are you hoping for a seat on the Assembly this time?

    LG: I hope so. I got very close to it last time and I hope to be able to do it this time round.

    I think there’s a lot more discontent with Labour and I’ve got support from the Stop the War group and also from the trade unions, so I hope that we can do it.

    Mmmm- make your own minds up.

  55. Dumbo on said:

    “Of course I never said she would do this or that, only that a career minded person would be well advised to consider multiple options.”

    This really is slippery, nasty stuff, isn’t it? Is stuart a ‘career minded person’, I wonder? What kind of career can you expect writing material full of smears like this? A ‘career’ in disinformation and character assasination by innuendo. Why not try the security services, they have need of ghost writers and hacks to write material like this, to plant in the media. On the other hand there’s plenty of this stuff out there already.

  56. lurker on said:

    “Mmmm- make your own minds up.”

    Exactly. She also says she has support “from the trade unions”. Does anyone on the planet think she was claiming that “the Trade Unions” officially endorsed her bid, or – as organisations – supported her candidacy or party?

    No, no one does. Everyone who can read knows that she’s saying she has support “from” the trade unions – i.e. people in trade unions support her.

    She says exactly the same thing about support from the stop the war group, which no rational person could deny she had as there are many SWP people in there, and yet there’s ridiculous spin saying she’s claiming the organisation endorses her.

    People pushing it either can’t read, or are wilfully spinning this. Either way, it’s pretty pathetic.

  57. stuart on said:

    Sergo #56,

    You write..

    “Salma Yaqoob, who the SWP leadership decided to send to Coventry almost three years ago and seriously discussed driving out of Respect just a year ago”

    How were they to do that? In Feb 2007 SWP were printing Yaqoob’s letters in SW, a debate about selection. The SWP lost the vote but still urged support for RESPECT candidates.

  58. tonyc on said:

    Lurker, I asked the question: What did she mean? I think it’s clear that when someone says “The trade unions”, she may be talking about one or more unions, officially. But there’s only one “stop the war group” that German could be talking about, and it’s a brilliant coalition of different political parties and traditions.

    If I was the convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, I think I’d be very, very careful before giving interviews saying I had support from it.

    I think it puts the political coalition at risk.

    But as always, you guys will defend anything, so there’s not much point continuing.

  59. lurker on said:

    Stuart in #60 is equally spinning madly. Salma’s statement about standing as a political party doesn’t imply she supports a witch hunt – she may well have – almost certainly – intended the coalition to evolve into a party, with all it’s parts.

    Similarly, he also spins about her alleged careerism with “Of course I never said she would do this or that, only that a career minded person would be well advised to consider multiple options.”.

    Dishonest, nasty, arse-covering spin. The hacks on both sides are at it in full, determined to bring down their, er, mortal class enemies: the other half of their previously united party.

    Anyone still wonder why the people aren’t turning to respect or left list to address their dissatisfaction with the current government? Anyone?

  60. lurker on said:

    ” “The trade unions”, she may be talking about one or more unions, officially. But there’s only one “stop the war group” that German could be talking about, and it’s a brilliant coalition of different political parties and traditions.”

    Which Union do you think German was claiming she had the official endorsement of then?

    “If I was the convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, I think I’d be very, very careful before giving interviews saying I had support from it.”

    Really? Would you think about saying you had support from the working class? Would you think about saying you had support from public sector workers? Would you think about saying you had support from the muslim community?

    Anyone who understands the language knows what she said. It’s either a comprehension problem or dishonesty, but either way I’d drop it.

    “I think it puts the political coalition at risk.”

    It would if she’d claimed the coalition supported her candidacy, but no one debating rationally would say that she had.

    “But as always, you guys will defend anything, so there’s not much point continuing.”

    I assume by ‘you guys’ you mean SWP. I’m not in the SWP – I’m a democratic socialist, as I’ve said before, and couldn’t stand to be involved in a bitter and frequently wrong organisation like that, run on fundamentally undemocratic and unnaccountable lines.

  61. lurker on said:

    (to be clear in #66, when I say “she may well have”, I mean that to be the start of the phrase: “she may well have – almost certainly – intended the coalition to evolve into a party, with all it’s parts.”, not that she may well have meant she wanted to start a witch hunt. I think there’s no way her statement was evidence of her wanting to start a witch hunt against the SWP).

  62. passing socialist on said:

    The whole political spectrum for the mayoral elections where as we all know a very large protest vote for new Labour acros London.
    For the BNP to undertake an almost secret mission to get the voters out we need to look more carefully to the left with went so wrong and how we can build from this.
    The Left List had a huge opportunity with the teachers strike and the free stop racism festival in Hackney Victoria park just days before the election we have to look what went so wrong.
    Galloway and team almost passed there own fate when they supported people to vote for Ken this was to the downfall of not having enough voters to support Respect GG it was the most confusing of ballots more so in an area where there were by-elections going on One was being held where GG holds his weekly advise surgeries,
    To the people it seemed that Respect wanted to give Ken the vote and voted for him and the labour party this is shown in the results with Labours vote up in Tower Hamlets and down for Galloway in comparison to the Newham results.
    The split had a huge impact to Respect and there are certainly people who lost faith in the party ,
    but there must be some good from all this you need to see the Respect turnout in places where Respect has never ventured The radio show must have fielded people that would have never have supported GG and Respect in the past this I would say quiet a result but it is something that must be built upon/
    There were people in Harringay who thought they were voting for the Respect party by the leaflets that were circulated by the LL but this is now all past and its not worth dissecting ,
    we

    We on the left who really think there is a possibility to retrieve some good from the ashes need to divert there attentions to the Respect party
    the SWP Left List had a huge opportunity to make some inroads but they failed miserably they now need to get into talks with what is left and try for the sake of all to move forward in one direction and not career of the road with self interest

  63. solidarity on said:

    #47Dave ‘As the Scots(through Pam Currie)pointed out’ Are you serious?

    Anyway on the subject of Scotland here’s an interesting article for you all from Neil Davidson in last week’s Socialist Worker.

    ‘Scottish TUC conference marks growing tensions between unions and Labour
    by Neil Davidson

    This year’s Scottish TUC annual conference was a showcase for the debates taking place within the trade union movement over political representation.

    Gordon Brown was invited to address the opening session. His appearance was only made public the day before in order to prevent demonstrations.

    Nevertheless he was greeted by a protest from the PCS civil service workers’ union delegation, which held up placards calling for fair pay for public sector workers at the start of his speech.

    The speech was the usual collection of empty platitudes (“better together than apart”) and illogical scaremongering that now characterise his performances in front of labour movement audiences.

    Although at least some of the delegates had been primed to give him a fake standing ovation at the end, there was virtually no response to anything in the speech itself.

    Another leading Labour figure, Wendy Alexander, was also wheeled out to address the conference.

    In a truly surreal speech, the leader of Labour’s Scottish MSPs reaffirmed Labour’s left wing credentials against the supposedly right wing policies of the Scottish National Party (SNP) administration.

    Most of us had previously failed to notice the socialist convictions burning below the surface of a politician best known as the embodiment of neoliberalism.

    Alexander’s speech is an indication of Labour’s desperation. The fact is that although the SNP is working within the same neoliberal economic consensus, in social terms they have introduced more reforms in the last 12 months than Labour did in the previous eight years.

    Opposition

    The SNP was not invited to address Congress while they were in opposition, of course, but the general council could scarcely refuse Alex Salmond the chance to do so as first minister.

    Salmond is as consummate a performer as Brown is inept, reflecting his political self-confidence and the accurate perception that Labour is in disarray.

    He was able to announce that the hospital complex currently being built in Govan in Glasgow – the biggest in the entire history of the NHS – will be built entirely with public funds, rather than PFI or any compromise with private capital.

    In marked contrast to Brown’s reception, Salmond drew applause for this and for his condemnation of the “illegal and immoral war in Iraq” and “weapons of mass destruction” – Trident.

    The STUC general council still has no strategy for putting demands on the SNP government. The reason for this refusal is what might be called the dangers of success.

    If the SNP introduced reforms supported by the STUC, the former could plausibly claim to be more radical than Labour in Scotland. But it would also raise the question of why it is so difficult for Labour across Britain – with access to far greater resources and powers – to do similar.

    The STUC’s fear of putting pressure on Labour is at the root of their reluctance to put pressure on the SNP, whatever the cost to members of affiliated trade unions.

    The STUC is split into a still-dominant wing of diehard Labour supporters apparently prepared to cling to the wreckage of Labourism no matter what, and a more pragmatic or – in a small minority of cases – principled socialist wing who are prepared to put the interests of their members first.

    In Scotland, the contradictions thrown up by the SNP government are likely to become more intense, allowing the opportunities for socialists to argue for both a break with Labour and a strategy to put pressure on the SNP, to test the limits of its radicalism.

    Neil Davidson was a PCS union delegate to the STUC. He writes here in a personal capacity.’

  64. sergo on said:

    #64 This has been on the blogs before Stuart. Do catch up.

    German, Rees etc wanted to set her a test of loyalty. She was going to have to support German for mayor whatever the circumstances. And if she would not sign up to the loyalty test, they wanted to kick her out, even though the Respect constitution had no provision for such a purge. As I understand the argument from those who heard it, German, Rees and the SWP leadership wanted to get rid of her in May 2007 rather than have her come out against German in March 2008.

    As it turned out Salma Yaqoob chose not to challenge the decision to stand German for mayor, although she made her reservations clear. So they backed off trying to purge her.

    In my view, Salma Yaqoob’s reservations about standing a mayoral candidate who would be obliged to attack Livingstone from an ultra-left position and in turn alienate many Muslim supporters from Respect proved spot on.

  65. Personallly I wouldn’t want to make too much of the Link News interview by Lindsey german, she may have beeb misquoted. If she had said she had support from the Stop the War movement , that would be broadly true. And couold easily have been misquoted by a journo as stop the war group.

    Similarly, I wouldn’t want to say that Lindesy german is compromised as convenor of thr STW Coalition by her attacks on Livingstone; or describing the Londoners for Peace rally as sectarian. That is just politics, and she should be judged n her behaviour within the STW Coalition itself.

  66. jean van heijenoort on said:

    #72 I’m afraid I don’t agree. The roles of chair and convenor of the Stop the War Coalition should be to command general support from the wider movement for the Coalition, as well as to think up initiatives to take the movement forward.

    Lindsey German used to command this support and to perform this role alongside Andrew Murray. Indeed some might think she went a little too far in trying to preserve the broadest possible coalition, including moderate trade union leaders, at the expense of the militancy of the anti-war movement.

    It’s not that she stood in the elections. She did that in 2004. Nor that she played politics in doing so. It is that she played a particularly sectarian game of politics, in relation to Galloway, Livingstone and a platform of speakers that would have graced any StW gathering.

    Her credibility as StW convenor is therefore fatally compromised by her performance in every respect in the London elections. What she does and has done outside her specific role as StW convenor has had a profound impact on how she is seen as convenor, rightly in my view.

    It’s only because she is on the SWP Central Committee that a) to suggest she steps down in the interests of StW is described as a witch-hunt and b) she thinks she has the position of convenor as a right and forever.

  67. #74

    The thing is jean, that the STW Coalition is already in trouble. Locked in a cycle of marches and public meetings, and for the last couple of years no initiative to build the branches at a local level.

    The national steering committee seen as only a conveyor belt for the huge wisdom of the London based political full timers.

    An occasional conference, whose decisions are not then enacted by the officers group.

    And a national organisation that is clearly punching below its weight now, in terms of political impact in the mainstream, at the same time that it has lost its political breadth.

    So when I say she should be judged on her performance as Convenor of the STW Coalition, that isn’t a ringing endorsement on my part!

  68. Actually Andy, you are, I think, being rather too soft here. Had the interview contained just this ‘error’ I may have ignored it but she also used it to demonstrate her distance from those more ‘extreme elements’ in the Muslim community who were probably backing Galloway. She is not stupid and she knows how her words would be interpreted. As the Convenor of StWC she has a real duty to make sure she chose her words well.

    Her words in the LL broadcast , albeit delivered in an emotionless monotone, also sought to overplay her role. “I’ve organised the big anti-war protests…..” So no one else helped?

    She could have said ‘I’ve got support from within the anti-war movement’. She could have said ‘I helped organise the big anti-war protests …’

    She chose not to. Now you may say we should give her the benefit of the doubt and I’ve no desire to see her deposed as Convenor but the truth is the Coalition deserved honesty and it got ambiguous half-truths. From a woman who claimed to be able to spot all shades of hidden meaning in GGs August letter she should really have known to chose her words more wisely. But she chose these words instead. Cock up or conspiracy? Stupidity more like.

  69. “Her words in the LL broadcast , albeit delivered in an emotionless monotone, also sought to overplay her role. “I’ve organised the big anti-war protests…..” So no one else helped?”

    Yeah, I must admit, when i heard that on the broadcast – i did real slightly peeved… 😉

  70. Kieran on said:

    In reply to Dave Riley at 47- What you say makes alot of sense in the context of the australian Socialist Alliance, which never got very good votes but this did not rule out it’s usefullness. I do think we were a bit too hard on opposing non-electoral forms of organising and activity.

    But there is a strong logic pointing towards electoral activity in the current period. It is due to the fact that the struggle at least here (australia) is occuring at a very low level, and we need to relate to it where it is. For every commited activist there are several hundred people willing to vote or identify with left wing ideas at some level. The number of Greens voters is almost the same size as the number of trade unionists.

    Now to be sucessful electoral interventions should be a route into activity, and build the weight and numbers of the left. Here the far left can play a usefull role, we are small in number but effective activist organisations.

    Leaving aside some of the setbacks encounted by SA, the issue of the vote is still important. SA as it stands may be usefull as some sort of looser hard left party, but to capitalise on the current situation a much broader regroupment is necessary.

    I am becoming more convinced as a medium term project that the energies and ideas of the far left need to be combined with the support base of the greens, and that we need to orient this coalition towards labour.

    But more generally, SA has done some great work, but mistakes have been made and its potential and strength are unfortunately limited. I know the DSP are having some real discussions regarding the role of SA. I would say that it was absolutely the right thing to do back in 2000 and represents a healthy step towards trying to relate to a broader audience. But to go forward the weaknesses need to be acknowledged.

    Starting from the standpoint that regroupment and a stronger and more united far left would be a step forward, an honest appraisal of what has worked, what mistakes have been made and what possibilites exist would be a very fruitful discussion.

  71. I think its the same discussion in Ol’ Blighty. And I agree with Kieren re the Greens — a factor I think is missing from a lot of the discourse in the UK.

    The problem is as Kieren poses it and I think many pose it similarly in England:”…to capitalise on the current situation a much broader regroupment is necessary.”

    Mais oui. And I’d like a year of free lunches too…but hoping and projecting such an coalescence doesn’t make it so.

    Thats’ what I think is a key lesson I was arguing for above. Once you have an asset — the SSP, the SA, Respect (whatever) — you build on it, regardless of where the moment may have taken you.

    “Regroupment” or “unity” is not one thing or another but many things over time. Perhaps several stages, new initiatives — but always a conscious tactical orientation to consolidate a range of partnerships and alliances.

    Kieren says it has to be towards the Greens we should be looking. Sure, that’s true (the SA has always done that). But that’s not the complete story because the Greens are a handicapped political force and it isn’t something you “do” only when an election is called. This is an everyday thing and to relegate your set party piece to electoralism alone won’t cut the mustard.

    That’s the SWP’s mistaken line.

    The SA is presently discussing stronger conjoint work and the like with a range of ethnic political parties for whom the Greens offer nothing whatsoever but because of our ongoing alliance work with them and the fact that some of their members are already SA members these new everyday partnerships are being forged. (This is the case already vis a vis a section of the Indigenous movement and within some trade unions. These are alliances that can only be built on real ongoing partnerships day in day out. )

    Similarly it’s a touch schematic to argue that a “more united far left would be a step forward”. Of course. But then Kieren suggests a more united far left should be premised on the SA (or the DSP ) admitting its mistakes.

    Well, we have a national SA conference coming up in November and that’s what they’re held for.Any member is welcome to contribute whatever they desire in way of criticism and perspectives. But I think the key marker is Lenin’s question: What is to be done? — rather than history wars.

    It’s also the case that when I rejoined the Democratic Socialist Perspective back in 2005 a major factional dispute was unfolding — a dispute that went on for almost three years. The politics of the Socialist Alliance was centre piece in that dispute and it was raked over relentlessly through two decision making conferences,taking up a succession of national committee gatherings, within the pages of hundreds of written contributions and in oral real time debates at times on a weekly basis.

    So I’ve been debating SA this and that up to pussy’s bow.

    After all that I believe (that’s me personally) that the divide in the far left is almost absolute on the question of broad left party politics. The events in Scotland and England only confirm that in my estimation.

    This parallels the debate in the UK I suspect. But within the DSP, I suggest, we got a very frank and exhaustive exchange on the topic..

    The Australian far left is divided between those who support the SA board left perspective now (& not “regroupment” penciled in some time far off) and those who don’t. And no amount of chit chat alone is going to salve that divergence. In the end real gains and real politics will rule. Not talk.

    So it behooves the Alliance to generate more real concrete and self evident gains before the rest of this far left will think it’s missing out on something.

    That doesn’t mean that the SA doesn’t do the united front work with the far left orgs. Such coalitions are the back bone of many campaigns across the country. But the gains the SA is making are elsewhere and to be drawn into circle spirit mode with its penchant for a propaganda edge and endless discussions about programatic detail undermines what the SA is — a campaigning anti capitalist alliance (which also stands in elections).

    I think that’s the main thing. Far left or broad left — the main thing is what you do — as much as you can manage — together .

    Struggle rules.

    [Note: I’m generating this slideshow on the SA’s activities. It’s still under developed but it gives you taste for the range of our activity.Respect should do one.]

    This is very relevant to the way the ant-privatisation campaign is unfolding in New South Wales. I think that movement is a major test for the Socialist Alliance.

    It’s too early to call it of course…

  72. bill haymes on said:

    Whilst the analysis is carefully-argued, the prognosis that there is sufficient, galvanisable support out there to the left of Labour is not going to happen outside of a serous rebellion from the Labour Movement itself….i believe that the authors have underestimated the likelihood of this rebellion and the imminent end of Brown, if only because most Labour MPs know they are out without radical change and an end of neo-liberal policies…. the thought of Cameron is just too ghastly to contemplate, and its vital for the Left to build coalitions , avoid futile splits to see off what is a horrendous con-trick being assembled by his elite to rob the British people, especially those who cant remember Thatcher.
    I cannot foresee hope without a massive and wide-ranging rebellion from the Labour Parliamentary Party a rebellion which ignores the catcalls of the Right-wing press for an immediate election and pursues with real commitment a new anti-war, anti-poverty agenda, taking the poor out of tax altogether, paying the police and the teachers, bringing all troops home at once, supporting the Post Service etc etc

  73. Kevin E on said:

    Bill I admire your optimism of the wide rebellion from the Labour Parliamentary Party but the reality is it is not going to happen. It has not happened over the last five years and will not happen over the next two. The Labour Government will move more right wing, it is already happening. Labour will lose by a big margin the next general election. Sure left wing organisations should talk to the left in the LP but the direction for any thing progressive must be beyond Labour.

  74. alexander poskrebyshev on said:

    Nice to know that someone in the SWP’s Marxism 2008 “Festival” office still has a sense of humour. Top slot, on his own, in the Logan Hall (capacity around 1,000 souls) on Saturday afternoon (5 July) at 3.45, is one John Rees speaking on “Why You Should Be A Socialist”. A more inappropriate speaker on this topic it is difficult to imagine. Get your tickets quick for what could be a sell out!

    Funny thing is I heard that Michael Bradley, Martin Smith, Charlie Kimber, Pat Stack and other anti-Rees members of the SWP’s leadership bodies were going round reassuring sceptical members that Rees’s star was falling before Christmas and that regime change was imminent. To misquote Samuel Johnson, clearly a shiver has been going round the SWP’s best and brightest looking for a spine to run up.

  75. alexander poskrebyshev on said:

    #80 Other highlights include Martin Smith on Women’s Oppression and Revolutionary Parties, Lindesy German on Socialism and the Art of Rhetoric, Alex Callinicos on Humility, Arrogance and the Dialectic of Academia, Chris Harman on World History and My Role In It and Chris Bambery on the beer – just kidding, but the Rees meeting is (sur)real and advertised here:

    http://www.marxismfestival.org.uk/2008/timetable.pdf

  76. correction on said:

    “Martin Smith on Women’s Oppression”

    This is the Martin Smith who, I’ve been told by a number of different people, told a woman SWP member to “shut your mouth” at the party council?

  77. Also featuring Chris Harman and Ian Birchall looking back at 1968. By contrast, a forthcoming public meeting in Manchester features Colin Barker and Alex Callinicos, both described as “1968 veterans”. Colin Barker’s a good bloke, and (like Harman and Birchall) old enough to have been active at the time, but I’d never have associated him with the movements of ’68. Nor, indeed, Professor Callinicos, who would have been in his first year at Oxford at the time.

  78. “…Nor, indeed, Professor Callinicos, who would have been in his first year at Oxford at the time…”

    During the recent Radio 4 mini-history I seem to remember Alex mentioning that he’d only just become active and joined the IS after being frog-marched to a subs form that year. Lyndsey missed May ’68 in France by one month – she’d apparently visited in April during her “gap” year before starting at the LSE. Rees was probably still in diapers…

    Martin Smith and Michael Bradley were gelatinous left-overs from a BBC special effects unit after closing down the Quatermass series.

  79. Howard T on said:

    I can’t understand why SWP would really want to look back to May 68, quite honestly. Ernest Mandel of FI fame referred to the three sectors of the world revolution and how 1968 typified that. However, when you analyse it, we didn’t get as far as the nostalgia would suggest. De Gaulle smashed the left via a general election, which shows how the balance of forces wasn’t as kind as some suggest. Worse still, the Prague spring was crushed by a Tanky summer. The odd one out was the Tet offensive led by the Viet Cong against American imperialism that in the end defeated the latter. However, as that was led by the Vietnamese Communist Party (Stalinist through and through), I can’t understand why they’d make a fuss about these events any more than we can expect them to celebrate 50 years of the Cuban revolution in a few months.
    Sadly, most of the 1968 veterans are no longer with us or have crossed over to the other side. IMG emerged as a result of Vietnam Solidarity, but IS (SWP) weren’t really noticeable, although I ahve to admit it was slightly before my time (not by much, alas)

  80. sergo on said:

    #84 Indeed. Professor Callinicos cut his teeth as a young revolutionary some years after 1968 as a militant in the great struggle to establish a Central Student Union in Oxford Univesity, where the Prof was busy studying the wit and wisdom of Louis Althusser. For Callinicos’s efforts on behalf of the student masses, he was, in the quaint language of that august university, “rusticated” for a year, ie suspended. Inexplicably this momentous episode is not mentioned in Harman’s People’s History of the World.

    Speaking of Harman, and due to unprecedented advanced bookings for Marxism 2008 following the SWP’s liberation from Galloway’s popular frontism, this other great man is doing an additional meeting on “What My Girlfriend’s Sister Told Me About Respect And How Horrid It Was”. A wrapped audience is expected.

  81. Howard T on said:

    I’ve only heard Callinicos speak once and Chris Harman twice and on no occasion was I impressed – nothing to do with prejudice, just the other speakers were more memorable.
    Neither Chris Harman nor Alex Callinicos will worry too much about the comments made about their personal history as once again a new layer of young enthusiasts will be exposed to the SWP’s version of Marxism and some will join SWP – that is their success criteria. The problem is that they arer able to miseducate hundreds of potential revolutionaries within an essentially ultra-left perspective, with little regard for the movement as a whole – in essence they are building a sect, rather than being hegemonic.
    We do the movement no service ourselves if we worry about SWP individuals rather than their politics that drove them from Respect. That is its not the type of car that John Rees drives or anything else in his personal life (any more than it is with George)It’s their belief that they have to build the party and Respect is an obstacle as opposed to building a party to left of Labour that revolutionaries, reformists and anti-imperialist organisations can work within.
    That they cannot see the signifcance of Respect vote holding up without them in East London and Birmngham while their Respect List reverted to the size of vote of Socialist Alliance indicates that they have no grasp as to how Labour’s vote can be broken to the left.
    Far worse than the leadership of Lindsey German is that they are in danger of deepening their errors. Instead of working with others through UAF to build anti-fascist committees, they are arbitrarily calling a demo in June because they can control that (and of course build the party). Respect has to re-orientate and deal with these issues. Learn the correct lessons from Respect’s histories. Foe example, whatever happened to the ‘Fighting Unions’ conference, it was initiated by Respect and attracted union leaders such as Labour’s Billy Hayes and could be seen as the sort of initiative that can be meaningful, rather than a party recruiting front.
    Now the elections have gone, we’ve got to move on with lessons learnt – the SWP have moved on having learnt the wrong lessons.

  82. sergo on said:

    As on so many issues Howard T is right. 1968 was a turning point for Trotskyism. Both the IMG and the IS grew strongly in the following few years and even the SLL grew through to the mid-1970s I think. Similarly the LCR, LO and some others grew strongly in France in the aftermath of Les Evenements.

    Since the mid-1970s Trotskyism seems to have got rather stuck. Of course there were exceptions. Militant’s period of rapid growth was primarily in the 1980s. More recently the LCR seems to have experienced some growth and there are other examples. But it is all pretty small beer compared with the original aspirations and expectations.

    The future is inherently unpredictable, but there are few signs that the world, Europe or Britain are becoming more receptive to the revolutionary message or likely to in the near future, notwithstanding economic turbulence.

    An obsession with growing the organisation, and certainly growing it quickly, in these circumstances seems to have been counter-productive and certainly seems to me to lie behind the ultimately disastrous intervention of the SWP in Respect.