Respect Renewal Conference – A marvellous new beginning

nick-at-platform.jpgby Nick Wrack

The Respect Renewal Conference was a stunning success.

It took place at the Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London on Saturday 17 November 2007. Notification of the conference had first gone out only on Saturday 3 November. In the intervening two weeks hard work by a team of volunteers ensured a wonderfully uplifting day.

Called at just two week’s notice it could have been a desultory affair. Given that it came after an acrimonious split in Respect it could have been rather depressing. Instead, it was a lively, if at times unpredictable, event attended by over 350 people. [A full credentials report will appear soon.]

As the Morning Star reported (Monday November 19), “The hall was packed out with a genuinely diverse crowd – young and old, men and women, black and white, Asian, Muslim, Christian and those of no faith, plus trade unionists and socialists from different traditions.”

People came from all over the country, with significant delegations from Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Dorset, Manchester and Bristol. Birmingham brought a coach load.

The hall was decorated with banners and photographs showing Respect’s successes and from the anti-war movement. Stalls from various left-wing campaigns hugged the walls of the conference hall. A tremendously inspiring video display projected onto the back of the stage images of working-class struggles from the last hundred years.

Behind the scenes a large army of volunteers ensured that the conference was properly prepared and ran smoothly.

There were two cameras video-recording events and several photographers taking pictures, see here, here and here.

At many times throughout the day there was standing room only. Refreshments prepared by a fantastic team of volunteers kept everyone going. A marvellous cake was eaten by everyone at the end.

When George Galloway’s letter to the Respect National Council, containing criticisms about the administration and organisation of Respect, was sent out on August 23 no-one could have predicted that we would end up, just twelve weeks later, with two conferences being held on the same day. No-one could have predicted, and no-one surely wanted, the split in Respect that has taken place.

However, the way in which the dispute was conducted by the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party meant that this split became inevitable. This was recognised by the SWP leadership itself and they entered into negotiations to separate.

It was an irony that the Respect Renewal Conference was taking place in the Bishopsgate Institute. This was the venue where the four breakaway councillors who had resigned the Respect whip in Tower Hamlets held their press conference on Monday 29 October.

That press conference was organised and attended by John Rees, SWP Central Committee member and National Secretary of Respect. This was one of the key events in the developing division, with the SWP leadership condoning and encouraging a split in the Respect group on Tower Hamlets council.

It’s been a pretty unpleasant three months for most of us as we have watched Respect split asunder. This split could have been avoided, if only the SWP leadership had been prepared to discuss criticisms and implement agreed compromises. Instead, at each stage it has increased the temperature of the debate, refusing to implement compromise decisions of the Respect National Council, illegitimately ruling out valid delegates to conference while ruling in other invalid delegates and vilifying those who disagreed with it.

Ludicrous claims of a witch-hunt against the SWP are still being made, despite the involvement of many prominent socialists in the Renewal conference. Criticism, even were it unwarranted, does not make a witch-hunt. The political justification for this by the SWP leadership is that there is a left-right split taking place. Again, this will come as a surprise to those at the Respect Renewal conference who will all identify themselves as being on the left.

A political split on the left is seldom good for either side. It can reinforce the idea that the left cannot be unified, that minor differences always outweigh agreement on bigger issues.

We recognise that this split is a set-back. However, there was a sense of liberation at the Renewal conference which reflected a feeling that we can now get on and do many of the things we should have been doing over the last three years – building branches across the country, linking up with others on the left and promoting our image and politics to a much wider audience.

young-asians.jpgThe spirit of optimism and enthusiasm was demonstrated by the response to the financial appeal in which over £2,000 was collected. This was on top of the registration fee and travel costs that people had already had to pay. Membership forms and standing order forms for Respect Renewal Conference were also filled in or taken away.

There were many speeches, both from the floor and from the platform, which expressed the frustration that Respect’s development had been held back by the controlling hand of the SWP leadership. This is because of the SWP’s approach towards Respect, which sees it as something to be turned on for elections (in very few places) and then turned off. Those attending the Renewal Conference were very much of the view that Respect needs to be built continuously and broadly across the country. It has to contest elections but it has to be more than solely an electoral organisation. In order to win elections you have to be active and present all the time in between elections.

It is clear that Respect Renewal represents the overwhelming majority of non-SWP members in Respect. Our disagreement has not been with the many SWP members who have worked hard to build Respect but with the SWP leadership, whose political approach and behaviour over the last three months has alienated most of those outside the SWP and, indeed, many within it.

The conference was opened by Linda Smith, Respect National Chair. Because of her position as chair, Linda has headed up the list of 19 National Council members who have opposed the bureaucratic methods of the SWP leadership. She has also had to suffer a campaign of vilification from some members of the SWP in an attempt to undermine her.

George Galloway, Respect’s only MP, introduced the first session with one of his usual tours de force.

A great way to start conference. He outlined the reasons the Renewal Conference had been called and answered some of the ridiculous charges that the SWP leadership have levelled against him and others on the Renewal side. He poured scorn on the idea that this was a left-right split, or that he was anti-trade union.

Salma Yaqoob, Respect National Vice-Chair, spoke. She outlined her opposition to free market capitalism and the idea that there is no alternative to it. She explained how US capitalism relied on its massive military might to dominate economically. She repudiated the charge of ‘communalism’ made against her by the leaders of the SWP, outlining the practical steps she and other Respect supporters have taken in Birmingham to overcome tensions between different communities.

Ken Loach, world-renowned film director and winner of the Palme d’or, calmly outlined some of the reasons for the split and offered some suggestions for the way forward.

Guest speakers Andrew Murray, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition and Sami Ramadani, Iraqi Democrats against the Occupation, spoke about the need to continue our opposition against the war and occupations and to remain vigilant about further military actions. They both correctly warned about the importance of the split in Respect not being carried into the Stop the War movement and weakening it.

Anas as-Tikriti, from the British Muslim Initiative, reminded conference that he had relinquished his position as chair of the Muslim Association of Britain in 2004 in order to head Respect’s list in Yorkshire for the European elections. He is one of many talents that Respect has not called on in recent years.

Throughout the day there were many speakers from the floor. They spoke about the reasons for the split and about how to go forward. Inevitably, there were many contributions that dealt with the role of the SWP leadership. Several of these were all the more powerful because they were made by people who have recently resigned from the SWP: sacked union militant Jerry Hicks gave the most impassioned speech, along with Jo Benefield (35 years in the SWP), Richard Searle, Kay Phillips and Nadir Ahmed, a young member from Newham who resigned from the SWP during his speech.

The presence of these and other former members of the SWP should be answer enough to the suggestion that Renewal is right-wing or anti-trade union.

The SWP leadership were given the opportunity to put their case, with Weyman Bennett and Michael Bradley, both members of the SWP Central Committee, called in to address conference. They were listened to politely.

We were very pleased to have Derek Wall, principal male speaker of the Green Party addressing conference in a personal capacity, together with Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper. We look forward to working with Derek and others from the radical environmental movement in the future. We hope that we can reach out with Red Pepper to the many thousands of unaffiliated people on the left, to work together on the many issues that concern us all.

One of the silliest arguments made by the SWP leadership against those at the Renewal conference is that we reflect the right of Respect. It was amusing to watch the SWP-Respect conference systematically ask each of the speakers that had agreed to speak at the Renewal conference to speak at theirs. This included Andrew Murray, Sami Ramadani and Derek Wall, who quite rightly took up the invitation to speak at both conferences. Derek’s comments on the two conferences can be found at his blog

Derek Wall makes the amusing point that Rania Khan, speaking at the SWP-Respect conference, attacked the Renewal conference for having Derek speaking at it – only to then learn that he was speaking at her conference as well.

Brian Caton, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, one of the more militant of British trade unions, sent greetings and best wishes to the conference but I stupidly forgot to pass them on.

Several of our councillors spoke. Mohammed Ishtiaq councillor for the Birmingham Sparkbrook ward answered the charge of communalism by explaining that one of his opponents had come from the same village as his family. People had tried to persuade him not to stand against this person but he had stuck to his guns because it was a matter of policies for him, not family or village.

Three councillors from east London who haven’t normally been put on Respect public platforms until now revealed their tremendous abilities, which will no longer be hidden. Councillors Sheikh and Hanif from Newham spoke. Councillor Abjol Miah, leader of the councillors group in Tower Hamlets addressed conference with a powerful speech, showing his prowess as a speaker and his politics as being clearly on the left.

Patricia Armani da Silva, the cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was brutally murdered by the police on 22 July 2005 spoke about the campaign to get justice for Jean. She called for the resignation of Metropolitan Police chief Ian Blair, a demand that was unanimously endorsed by conference.

Francisco from the Venezuela Information Campaign and Penny Duggan from the French Ligue Comuniste Revolutionnaire (LCR) both addressed key international issues and added an important international dimension to the day. Pakistani lawyer and veteran socialist Anwar Dholan spoke from the floor about the state of emergency and repression in Pakistan.

In the final session National Council members Alan Thornett, Clive Searle and I mapped out the way forward for Respect Renewal supporters. Conference endorsed proposals that the 19 National Council members who had called the conference continue to co-ordinate Respect Renewal work over the next six months, along with volunteers who want to help to organise things.

There will be a series of rallies and smaller meetings across England and Wales to discuss and debate the way forward, culminating in a recalled conference either in the Spring or after the May elections next year. Everyone who wants to contribute to the debate will be welcome.

One of the most important announcements was that the Socialist Resistance group, whose members had played a prominent part in building this conference, have agreed to hand over their paper to Respect Renewal. The first edition will appear in time for the Climate Change demonstration on 8 December.

The main message from this conference is that the task of building Respect and the broader opposition to New Labour continues. Of course, there are weaknesses. Emerging from a split means that we have only the skeletal outline of an organisation in most places outside east London and Birmingham. Although there were significant contingents of young Asian men and women from east London and Birmingham, we do not have anything like as many young people as we want. We need to reach out to young workers. We need to begin work in the further education colleges and universities to recruit students. This work will now begin. There are very few African and African-Caribbean members of Respect and we need to address this issue urgently.

Respect is not the finished article – far from it. We are just one small part of the process of building a new party to represent working class people. We have had fantastic successes in Respect’s short existence, with the election of an MP and several councillors. But that cannot be enough.

We want to build Respect Renewal. But we also want to reach out to everyone else who wants to build a left alternative to New Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. We want to build a bigger, broader and more unified party of the left, representing the desire of working-class people for change. That is our main task: to work with others to create a radical, left party for all, whatever background or tradition. We have energy, enthusiasm, optimism and – most importantly of all – we have the radical, left-wing politics to appeal to millions.

If you want to join or find out more about Respect Renewal then contact us at Respect Renewal:

Fill in a Standing Order form or make a donation to Respect Renewal Conference.

205 comments on “Respect Renewal Conference – A marvellous new beginning

  1. whatever on said:

    If the SWp were not putting abjol on platforms it was due to a mutual concensus. Abjol wished to concentrate on tower hamlets and the SWP prefered some other speakers.
    Abjol wished to hide the SWp in the his back room and the SWp wished to hide him in the back room. If you see respect as a house with different entrances and people see which side of respect they want to see, ie Anti imperialist, socialst, green or whatever, it kind of works.

  2. AVPS

    There is a meeting of the 19 NC members this weekend, at which they will discuss the next steps.

    Key would be, in my personal opinion:

    i) resolving relations with the SWP and “I can’t believe its not Respect”
    ii) working out a plan for RR activists on the ground, particularly in the areas where things are complicted
    iii)drawing up a strategy for liaison with the rest of the left (this will be a long term process I think)
    iv) widening the existing political base of the NC by co-option
    v) planning for a proper delegate conference

  3. Kevin Murphy on said:

    “It was an irony that the Respect Renewal Conference was taking place in the Bishopsgate Institute. This was the venue where the four breakaway councillors who had resigned the Respect whip in Tower Hamlets held their press conference on Monday 29 October.

    That press conference was organised and attended by John Rees, SWP Central Committee member and National Secretary of Respect. This was one of the key events in the developing division, with the SWP leadership condoning and encouraging a split in the Respect group on Tower Hamlets council.”

    What a pathetic crock of shit. Could someone from Socialist Disunity please explain whether the motivation for splitting behind the backs of the membership was caused by the four councillors listening to John Rees’ advice or NOT listening to John Rees?

  4. garagelanduk on said:

    I just wanted to make a very similiar point to AVPS. Most of the Left was at one point united, if only briefly, within the Socialist Alliance. The Respect split should be located within a process going back to the Socialist Party leaving the SA, the split in the SA when a third walked out of the conference which essentially shut down the SA in favour of Respect, and now the split in Respect. Those forces once united in one orgnisation are now scattered at a local and a national level. The national groupings that have arisen are, in no particular order:

    1. Respect Renewal
    2. Respect SWP
    3. Campaign for a New Workers Party (SP dominated)
    4. Socialist Alliance (attempt to continue the SA – small in size)
    5. Campaign for a Marxist Party (Launched by Critique and supported by the CPGB, Democratic Socialist Alliance – split from SA)
    6. Socialist Green Unity Coalition (backed by the SP, AWL, and Alliance for Green Socialism and Socialist Alliance)
    7. United Socialist Party (from the Liverpool Dockers iniative)

    A plethoria of groups with the name “unity” or “coalition” in the title. Then of course there is also the Labour Representation Committtee. My apologies if I have missed any of the national groupings – there are many of the small left parties as well of course e.g Permanent Revolution, Workers Power, CPB & Morning Star etc etc.

    Then there are numerous local groups. Some of the old SA groups still meet as local left groups, e.g. Exeter, Swindon, Manchester (?). Other areas have had their own localised Left groupings – I don’t know if the Leicester Radical Alliance or similiar such bodies still exist or not.

    However you look at it the situation is absurd. Perhaps Respect Renewal could have a relatively unique position as not being seen as being dominated by one of the sects – that could give it a unique chance at reaching out across the whole Left to see if some sanity can be brought to the prceedings of the Left. However – this requires some bold thinking, for a start reaching out to those who rejected Respect from the outset. It also means a serious engagement with all of the groupings mentioned above – maybe especially the Campaign for a New Workers Party – and for that there can be no pre-conditions – like “we have the right answers and organisation join us”.

    One practical thing that would be useful would be even something as basic as establishing a directory of Left groups around the country (would require contact details that can be made public). Maybe regional conferences to bring together forces – genuinely open to all on the Left. It might be tempting to exclude any number of Left groups -but that is no way to proceed if genuine regroupment is aimed for.

    For the bulk of us in the Exeter Socialists none of the existing national Left groupings are worth joining – although some individual members of various groupings are involved with us. We do work with the SP on many issues and with individual SWPers in various campaigns such as Stop the War. Most of us despair at the possibility of there ever being a party of the Left we feel able to join – and if that is the case for mostly hardened old activists who have been involved for decades between them – what must it be like for people who are relatively new to Left politics? I am fairly wary of “unity campaigns” – the more divided the Left becomes the more of them are ! However – the Left faces its own slow demise if it doesn’t sort itself out.

  5. garageland – I agree with nearly all that.

    I think the key is to have an honest and open discussion of what practical collaborative work we can engage in, not with the aim of cobbling something together quickly, but with the aim of long term trust building, undermining misunderstandings, and woring for gradual convergence over the issues we find we agree on.

  6. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    One issue I have to take up with Nick is his statment that “A marvellous cake was eaten by everyone at the end.” – Not true! I didn’t get any 🙁

  7. Well, on the cake issue…that’s something I will raise at the LRC NC. Cake has an important function in the Labour Movement and so has energy giving carbs… Deffo let them eat cake!

    Joseph: you need to elbow your way to the front to get to the cake and good manners and polite behaviour goes out of the window!!

    🙂

  8. You see Joseph and Louise, Respect/SWP aren’t fighting for a bigger piece of the cake – we want to run the whole bakery!

  9. “You see Joseph and Louise, Respect/SWP aren’t fighting for a bigger piece of the cake – we want to run the whole bakery”!

    Gawd blimey…it’s gonna be jokes about cakes, pies ….and bakeries now.

    Cake wars not flame wars!

  10. Kent&CanterburyDan on said:

    “Who elected the 19 NC members at the Respect Renewal rally?”

    Nobody. So much for democracy.

  11. Kent&CanterburyDan on said:

    “An SWP member concerned for democracy – you surely must have been blushing as you typed it.”

    I’m not an SWP member, Doug, never have been and probably never will be.

  12. And it goes on…
    as soon as anyone casts doubt on the newly formed Respect Renewal then they must be an SWP member!
    McCarthyism anyone?

    ~x~

  13. ‘The 19 NC members were elected by the last constitutional Respect conference which happened in 2006’

    …but Respect Renewal is a newly formed organistion; how can you on the one hand not recognise the official Respect conference, but on the other hand declare its constituional clarity from a year ago?

    A justification for democracy…

    ~x~

  14. Not still bleating about Mccarthyism are we – dear God, do you know what went on in America back then. You’re pathetic.

  15. Teddy boy, you might pause and consider the people currently in the frame in union witch hunts. There are more then just the people headlined. All of them are either SWP members or with Respect rather then Respect Renewal. Do not imagine if you introduce language about ‘Russian Dolls’ and all the other crap into the mix this does not interact in the real world with this kind of rubbish. The demonisation of activists who really are day to day at the sharp end of these things, is a shameful, no, not shameful, PATHETIC thing about all this. Oh the oppression of elected MP’s and Councilers. Pass the bloody sick bucket.

    Oh, thats not very helpful is it? Think about it.

  16. The demonisation of activists who really are day to day at the sharp end of these things

    would be disgusting if anyone was actually doing it.

  17. Teddy Boy on said:

    Johng away and give yourself a reality check and then use the bloody sick bucket. Bloggers are gobsmacked by your#22 comments. Just you think about it.

  18. #23 – An utterly bizarre comment

    Are you uggesting the vicious attacks on Trade Unionists are fiction?

    ~x~

  19. Teddy Boy on said:

    the reality is not what platform I am on I am still a Respect member willing to go the extra nine yards for victimised trade unionists and even if I was not on a platform I would still support the victimised. I wonder about your commitment when you come away with guff like that. Gie yerself a good shake Johng

  20. I don’t think so. If you let a dog off the leash like this it will run. In the main this is not a debate between people who’ve been on the left for fifty years. Language like that cuts.

  21. John

    I have no idea what you are tallking about.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the spliit in respect over the last few weeks has any impact upon the victimisations of SWP members in UNISON that have been running for the last months and years?

    Also a large part of the increasing temperture has come from the SWP itself, the CC seem to have decided they would lose less members if they crashed out of Reseppct in acrimony rather than negotiated a civilised divorce.

  22. Teddy Boy on said:

    Johng #27 comments if they are directed at me then try and be mature as your infantile remarks are not worthy for this blog

  23. Why doesn’t Richard Seymour point out in that piece that he is a member of the SWP and not an impartial onlooker?

  24. What I find most remarkable from Richard Seymour, is this statement:;

    “On the night before the events, BBC Newsnight took salacious glee in reporting on the worsening divisions — and worse, a number of supporters of George Galloway took part in the programme to ram the divisions home.”

    Without mentioning that Oli Rahman and John Rees took aprt in the programme as well, and from what i have heard were the first ones to agree to go on Newsnight.

    Apart from that ,Seymour is keen to join the rnaks of those academics who see their role as providing ex post facto spin for sordid real politik.

  25. No I wasn’t Andy. What I am suggesting is that if you use language like this to describe people who are, in any case, witch hunted in the real world, do not be surprised if some people with whom you might not agree eventually take up your arguments. This is a lesson that ought to be have been learnt after Olli was beaten up. Do you not understand how this argument about ‘Russian Dolls’ might be taken up in the movement, and do you really not understand that outside of the narrow haunts of the left, this language has a real charge quite apart from our quarrels? And how irresponsible and offensive it is?

  26. Are you uggesting the vicious attacks on Trade Unionists are fiction?

    Of course not. But I’m suggesting that nobody on the RR side contributes to or condones them – and that John G’s attempt to link the political sackings of good socialists with a legitimate dispute within RESPECT should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

  27. sunshine1 on said:

    Good report but it’s time to move on with vigour and renewal, the future under capitalism is bleak, none of us can be secure from its attacks upon our lives. Even if it does not attack you economically by throwing us out of work or taking away our homes or forcing us to live in a slum or on the street, you may work in a sweatshop or worse still for Newham Council, you may be suffering waiting in the hospital queue, there is no escaping from the real fact that we are all prisoners of capitalism culturally and emotionally. We are all prisoners of a system which treats us like dirt-no more than cogs in the profit-grinding machine. It is a prison, with Respect Renewal i do beleve we have a key to the door if we choose to open it.

  28. The official attendance figure for the Respect Renewal Conference on Saturday Saturday 17 November 2007 was 371 people registering and attending which I think makes it the largest of all the many conferences that day.

    Now I await the many apologies (some hope)from the SWP bloggers who have tried to talk down our wonderful conference and our fantastic attendance. For your penance you can one by one donate £5 to the Bangladesh Cyclone Appeal at: http://www.dec.org.uk/

    AND

    “Lower your flags and march straight back to the SWP HQ, stopping at every home of every Respect Renewal supporter to beg forgiveness for the 50 years of SWP control culture, and arrogance. Do this and your members shall be forgiven. Do it not, and every one of you will be known for what you are”.

    or even better:
    “There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you the SWP CC with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it by joining Respect Renewal”.

    Thanks to:
    William Wallace – Braveheart

  29. “The presence of these and other former members of the SWP should be answer enough to the suggestion that Renewal is right-wing or anti-trade union.”

    This ‘argument’, i.e. it cant be a left/right split, cos x, y or z is on the side of renewal – repeated in various forms by various people – completely misses the point. The notion of a split between a left and a right has nothing to do with which personalities are on which side. It wouldnt make any difference if chris harman were with renewal. How much will it take before the renewal side address _any_ of the political arguments from the other side?

  30. Thing is, JA, those who have left Respect and started a new organisation seem to want to continue to portray their splitting as having no “political” content. That makes it very hard for them to address the political arguments from those who have stayed in Respect.

  31. “What I am suggesting is that if you use language like this to describe people who are, in any case, witch hunted in the real world, do not be surprised if some people with whom you might not agree eventually take up your arguments.”

    One of Stalin’s main arguments against Trotsky was that Trotsky’s criticisms of the leadership of the USSR were picked up and repeated by the bourgeois press, thus proving Trotsky was a bourgeois agent.

  32. The notion of a split between a left and a right has nothing to do with which personalities are on which side. It wouldnt make any difference if chris harman were with renewal. How much will it take before the renewal side address _any_ of the political arguments from the other side?

    Actually, faced with the charge that the Renewalists are all bean-eating Pythagoreans, “I’m not a Pythagorean and neither is Alan Thornett” is a good and telling reply. Faced with the charge that even though Renewalists may not individually be Pythagoreans, nevertheless the underlying dynamic of the split is between Pythagoreans and non-Pythagoreans, as is clearly demonstrated by the Renewalists’ failure to engage with the principled anti-Pythagoreanism of the Rees faction, the only good answer is a weary sigh. Arguments can be principled, logical, internally coherent and highly persuasive without necessarily having any purchase on the real world.

  33. Just on this left/right thing. I think people who think what we need to do is sit in small rooms laying down the correct proletarian line are (in the current situation), to the left of members of the Socialist Workers Party who believe in the ‘United Front of a Special Type’. On the other hand I think that people who believe that the distinction between revolution and reform is old hat, are to the right of the SWP but (in some cases) to the left of those who believe that in a new party formation we should make no distinctions between politicians generally recognised as being part of a broad progressive alliance. George Galloway is to the right of the SWP but to the left of Ken Livingstone. And so on. Of course saying that someone is to the left or the right doesn’t make them right or wrong. It depends.

    But I think that, its perfectly possible to suggest that what is currently going on represents a left/right argument: without being some kind of a lunatic. The absolute refusal to engage in a political argument about this is, incidently, a rather typical right wing tactic. Well thats a better parallel then Stalin’s defence against Trotskyist criticism anyway. On my above comment about ‘running dogs’ I do just think its a bit odd to have so many insulting epithets about people who make up such a large proportion of militants on the frontline at the moment. If they really were such a collection of dwarfs and autonotoms its a bit hard to know why they would have such a position in the movement.

  34. If there is an essential political question to this split, it’s how or even if reformists and revolutionaries should work together in broad-left organisations. The essential question is whether the SWP was right to react the way it did to Galloway’s challenge to its authority as the leading organised force in Respect. Which brings up the deeper question of what exactly revolutionary organisations should be doing in the early 21st century.

    As we see it, it’s a question of whether narrow parties or broad parties are what the working class need at this historical juncture.

  35. “If they really were such a collection of dwarfs and autonotoms its a bit hard to know why they would have such a position in the movement.”

    In his statement on the expulsion of the American ISO from the IST in 2001, Alex Callinicos said something like “revolutionaries establish themselves in the first instance through their effectiveness in [common] activity. Political discussion, of course, is important, but it is most likely to emerge organically from the work of the movement rather than originating from abstract topics artificially introduced by the revolutionaries.”

    I thought Alex’s argument was convincing the first time I read it, but in retrospect (heh, almost typed “reTROTspect” there), it seems to be an argument for winning political arguments by organisational means. Winning a position in the movement because of hard work and organisational efficiency is, I think, a different proposition from doing so by winning the political arguments.

  36. Graham Day on said:

    Johng: “George Galloway is to the right of the SWP but to the left of Ken Livingstone”

    Oh really, you don’t know Galloway at all, do you. What’s his voting record on abortion (for example)? Ask him about the “princes of the Catholic Church”. I’d take Livingstone over Galloway any day.

    That said, I also have a realistic view of how elected representatives may have to behave, particularly when they have some measure of power. Which Livingstone has, and Galloway doesn’t.

  37. elizabeth on said:

    I’ve just received an agenda for a Bristol Respect meeting with a motion from an SWP member which expects the members present to support the decisions of the SWP dominated conference last week and elect a new steering group in their image so that they have complete control. They’ll try to remove Jer Hicks which is nauseating considering that he has been the leading light in Bristol Respect, and former comrades will vote him out! Already SWP members who for years have not supported Respect, let alone join it, are subscribing to become national members in time to carry out the dirty deed. They have gone into a frenzy of activity to achieve these hollow victories. What a sad bunch of people who live in a world where they make empty speeches in near empty halls to each other (and then convince each other that they’ve had great successes). They dream of having just a touch of leadership charisma so that others will follow them. Dream on – you really are only talking to yourselves.
    Liz

  38. Teddy Boy on said:

    #54 We are now sadly witnessing Respect withering into Reespect.
    Those that we have some admiration for, within the SWP must wake up to the fact that this is the deliberate strategy to dis-unite the coalition for sectarian gain. Bristol is being repeated all over.

  39. With due Respect, Jerry Hicks doesn’t want a united Bristol Respect but wants to set up a separate organisation or split the organisation. He should either: 1) Put a straightforward motion forward that Bristol Respect votes which Respect faction it affiliates to 2) Put a motion that the branch stays united but members can be part of either faction 3) Openly state that he is setting up a separate Respect Renewal branch and people can choose which Respect branch they want to be a member of.

    Either way it is a pretty demoralising state of affairs. As I’ve said previously, in my own branch there are people on either side of this debate, but we work well together and we would not be a viable branch if we split into two and nobody has any desire to.

    The majority of Respect branches oppose the split and think it’s a catastrophe. I was actually extremely sympathetic to Socialist Resistance’s analysis of how to build Respect but believed that Thornett, Galloway, Yaqoob should have stayed in Respect and put there arguments at a conference. Maybe a split was inevitable, but they should have delayed as long as possible.

    People can delude themselves but the Respect Renewal Conference was SMALL! London Respect have had far bigger meetings in the past three years. And for a national organisation to only be able to attract 300+ people to a launch conference is poor.

    If we had an all-day event in the town where I live with Ken Loach, George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob, Tariq Ramadan etc on the platform – we could pull the same number!

  40. Kevin E on said:

    The unity calls in both sides of Respect. I can sympathise with but the reality is there are now two organisations.

    Both will look to re-build and set up Branches. Unified Branches as per the past are not going to happen. It will be a waste of effort to attempt this play.

    So the SWP and RR need to go forward without illusions – we shall see in the next 12 months who succeeds on an orgnaisational level.

  41. Kevin E the reality is that there are very few Respect branches that are polarised despite disagreements over how nationally to build the organisation. What will probably happen is that far from being two vibrant organisations or even one vibrant organisation (whichever “Respect” organisation “wins”) there will be a far weaker Respect with many activists just dropping out in despair.

    It is clear that SWP/Respect is in a far stronger position with a national organisation as it’s backbone. Respect Renewal seems to be an unholy alliance. I have yet to see any criticisms of Galloway from your camp or of the problems in Tower Hamlets.

  42. Teddy Boy on said:

    #57 What a fine mess we have been left in by the SWP cc refusing to work in partnership with others on the national council, simply because of a set of proposals meant the National secretary would have to share accountability.
    It has nothing to do with what is happenning out in the shires or how red we are or are not. These are all smokescreens by the SWP cc and the clueless meanderings of sad, boring confused paper intellectual nerds using this blog.

  43. To be honest I don’t feel too comfortable with Respect Renewed or Unrenewed.

    What I find strange is that the Respect Renewal conference criticised the SWP non-stop but didn’t question the dilletant behaviour of George Galloway. This guy could have been the Nye Bevan of his generation, an amazing tribune of the oppressed. Liam Mac Uaid has spent the last 12 months viciously attacking Galloway for not having been seen in his constituency for over a year – yet not a single ISG in the new “critical”, pluralistic, open Respect could bring themselves to mention this at the conference. Apparently every thing that went wrong in Respect was entirely down to the SWP.

    As someone else put it on this board, when Galloway was elected with 12 Respect Councillors they thought that Tower Hamlets and Bethnal Green would become the storm centre of British radicalism, that people would want to move to this borough because it was where stuff was happening.

    The reality has been very disappointing.

  44. Teddy Boy on said:

    George Galloway, with all your faults, I still love you. You are an amazing tribune of the oppressed.

    #60 Adam J Try and get used to it .

  45. It’s hardly the first time that Seymour has held his readers in contempt and I assume it won’t be the last. Of course, any criticism of his article over on his website will be judiciously pruned as right-wing hysteria.

  46. With due respect, on another section of this blog, I have been praising and defending GG for his brilliant 7/7 speech against members of Respect Renewal. I have more respect for George Galloway than any other MP in parliament, I love his bombastic anti-imperialist speeches and romanticised language – but I don’t think he is above criticism and I think such an amazingly talented and skilled individual isn’t fullfilling his own potential.
    On 7.7, up in front of the US senate, speaking up and down the country denouncing US/UK foreign policy George Galloway has been amazing and I’m proud to have been part of a party with such a skilled orator and fiery anti-imperialist – but one can’t help think that he lets himself down and could be a far greater figure on the left.

  47. Teddy Boy on said:

    Adam, with due respect you do give succour to over the top unfounded criticism of him. Have you asked his office why you or a constituent cannot see him in the constituency the whole year. As someone who knows him, I think there is a little bit of exageration to blog ” question the dilletant behaviour of GG.

  48. Well obviously much of the criticism of Galloway from the mainstream is politically motivated and he is someone who has devoted a huge amount of energy denouncing imperialism not just speaking at a phenomenal amount of meetings in Britain but across the world.
    But it does seem to me that the performance of Respect in Tower Hamlets has been disappointing for a borough where we have been the opposition with a Respect MP. For example, George Galloway should be standing again in Bethnal Green not moving to a neighbouring borough.

  49. Teddy Boy on said:

    Kev and Rob # 66 I have heard the tabloids saying the same things, so its best I ignore your tedious yellow press mantras until you have something new to contribute. Go home and think again or is that impossible for your collective single IQ

  50. “On the night before the events, BBC Newsnight took salacious glee in reporting on the worsening divisions — and worse, a number of supporters of George Galloway took part in the programme to ram the divisions home.”

    Did Richard Seymour really write that? That kind of proves the degeneration I’ve been witnessing.

    I was with people when phone calls started to come in saying Rees and Rahman were appearing on the BBC. It was at that point that decisions were made that we had to try to get our side of the story out too. Up til then, no one had even thought about the media, except to reply to the people emailing in asking for press credentials.

    Given that Rees has been to the media twice already with Oli, despite getting people to sign the “witch-hunt” loyalty oath on the basis that it was Galloway who went to the media, it was fair enough for our side to want to put our case.

    But to a) make it sound like we were the ones who instigated media contact, when it was Rees who did so, and b) to then not mention that Rees and Rahman assisted the BBC in portraying Galloway as the enemy, is a disgrace. The rest of the article is similarly peppered with distortions and lies.

    Richard had a reputation for being pretty thorough with his facts. It’s a real disappointment that he’s now merely a dishonest propagandist.

  51. In fairness, I think that Rees was (himself) fairly diplomatic.
    Interesting, I have heard rumour that Andy who now bays for the scalp of Rees started a campaign to drive Wrack out of his post.
    Swings and roundabouts.
    An unholy alliance.

  52. Ian Donovan on said:

    “For example, George Galloway should be standing again in Bethnal Green not moving to a neighbouring borough.”

    Except that he stated during the 2005 campaign that he would only serve one term in BG&B, and hoped to be succeeded by a Bengali candidate. If he stood again in that seat, he would be breaking a promise.

  53. I’m not going to waste time debating everyone here, but tonyc says this:

    Richard had a reputation for being pretty thorough with his facts. It’s a real disappointment that he’s now merely a dishonest propagandist.

    The fact is that neither Rees nor Rahman attacked individuals or groups in the coalition. One described an outrageous attack, and the other appealed for unity and made no criticism of George Galloway MP. Both Ken Loach and Nick Wrack, by contrast, attacked the SWP in a deliberate attempt to magnify divisions. This is because they have no serious political analysis of what caused this – instead, it’s all this demonology about “Russian Dolls” trying to ‘control’ Respect. No wonder Nick Wrack approved of Crick’s “Life of Brian” analogy.

    Everything I’ve written in that article is entirely accurate, and I completely stand by it.

  54. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Richard: that’s pathetic. Any natural reading of what you have written shows it is dishonest – at the very least by omission.

  55. “I’m not going to waste time debating”

    Well, we knew that already, Richie. Pontificate, then ban comments directed back at you.

    “Tomb” is a very apt description for your blog: hermetically sealed, dusty and dead.

  56. To members of Respect Renewal:

    Is the NC of Respect Renewal pleased that it’s only MP is going to Jordan to campaign for a businessman?

    I wish that Galloway would support socialist and working class politicians abroad.

  57. The reason I bring this up, is that Respect Renewal have claimed that in this new project, George Galloway will no longer be unaccountable like in the old days but will submit himself to democratic accountability.

  58. Ian, I’m not witch-hunting Galloway. I’m just asking is it appropriate for socialist MPs to be campaigning for Jordanian businessmen?

    Respect Renewal have explicitly sold themselves on the line that Galloway will now be accountable and that the organisation is open, democratic and pluralist.

    So I’m asking if the Respect Renewal NC will reprimand Galloway for what is a bad move. I should note that I haven’t heaerd of Galloway flying abroad to support any working class, socialist candidates.

  59. Ian Donovan on said:

    I would oppose any attempt to censure George for his political activity in the Middle East. Why do you suddenly sound like Tim?

  60. Anonymous while away from work on said:

    I’m supporting the Respect majority on this (ie. not Galloway), and I have been critical of the way that this blog has taken sides in the split, which I do think has been “misssion creep” from its name, but in fairness to Andy (#69): the person who first pointed out the shift in his position was … Andy himself, two weeks ago (as I remember it). He suggested that both his position had changed and so had Rob’s. And so indeed had Nick Wrack’s.

    It’s unfair and pointless to criticise him for that.

  61. Kevin Murphy on said:

    72: Kevin O
    “Richard: that’s pathetic. Any natural reading of what you have written shows it is dishonest – at the very least by omission.”

    Dishonesty by omission? Then list of liars is pretty long on both sides Kev. Perhaps the venom aimed at Richard is because he has presented a convincing argument on his blog (and elsewhere) for the majority that the split was indeed political. Aside from the usual blogosphere nutjobs, nobody has responded to his comments.

    Why not raise the level of discussion here Kevin and respond to Richard’s piece in detail?

  62. the digger on said:

    Post 54 just to even things up, and this is no joke, I have just received a letter inviting me to a meeting of South Birmingham Respect meeting from Salma Yaqoob, advising amongst other of the election of a Committee and that in order to vote you must either be an existing member or pay before the start of he meeting.

    Also there will be a report from Salma on ‘the conference’.

    Personally I don’t have a problem with Bristol or South Birmingham meetings. Respect needs more members, and decisions should be taken deomocratically.

    I even have a completely stupid view that most members don’t want to see Respect or Respect branches split in two, but obviously there will be difficult discussions based on the fall out from two conferences.

    But on this blog one meeting will be “packed” and the other “building” Respect (or maybe Respect Renewal).

  63. Ger Francis on said:

    Digger would be less confused if he stopped swallowing his own side’s propaganda so easily. At the moment we are all part of the one organisation until the divorce comes through, albeit on opposing sides. He is on the SWP side which follows the direction of John Rees who believes his ‘worst nightmare’ would be for George, Salma, and Abjol to get elected to parl. I’d like to see him defend that one at a meeting of Respect supporters in Birmingham.

  64. Teddy Boy on said:

    #83 Ger, The facts are that SWP cc see us as sheep, and themselves as wolves. If we dont timidly get out of their sight they will destroy us for no reason at all.

    Aesop over 2000 years ago wrote about it in his fables. Just as well we have proved we will not be bullied out of Respect. And when the divorce comes, I hope they dont get a teaspoon, never mind the tables and chairs

  65. elizabeth on said:

    The Bristol meeting proposed motion is breathtaking – I assume it’s come from SWP national Committee as it’s so ridiculously tortuous. At the meeting,it’s demanding the election of a new steering group even though there was an AGM just 2 months ago at which anyone could be nominated but of course the SWP weren’t that interested then so they only have 2 on it. So next Wednesday they will ensure their resolution is passed and then try and get control of Bristol’s steering group. No doubt they’d like to have a few token non SWP people for credibility (so certainly not Jer Hicks). The resolution refers to establishing a broad, diverse and united Respect and in the next line says ‘there can only be one Respect’ and that the National Secretary should address a Bristol meeting ie John Rees.So there will be a coup by the SWP, people who haven’t shown any interest in Respect and what then? They say they’ll call monthly meetings but they’ve never been able to attract anyone beyond there own circle. Last week saw the ‘launch’ of South Bristol Respect.The only non SWP members there were the invited speakers and the current steering group who are not in the SWP or have just leftit. Yet in Party notes the lie was put out that this was a success!! Have they no shame or conscience in what they do?
    Liz

  66. anticapitalista on said:

    But didn’t exactly the same happen in TH recently when the existing Respect committee was ‘replaced’ by tonyc and another (can’t remember the name)?
    tonyc proudly mentioned it somewhere in one of the threads on this blog.

  67. Nuruzzaman Hira (Mukul) Camden Branch on said:

    I was Labour member till Tony Blair joined Bush for the war in Iraq and his policy’s towards right wing. I then joined Respect since it started, thought this is the voice for working class, against war, against privatisation.
    Its sad to see Respect split but I still believe that the matter can be resolved, within debates rather then separation. I am Muslim first and believe in principals, and was in Respect Conference (Westminster University) Regents Street.
    I don’t believe that the Conference coup by the SWP or lead by them, it was clearly open for debates and proceeded by the constitutional procedure and I condemn those cowards whom choose violence against comrades for their undemocratic behavior, shame on those whom attacked Cllr Oliur Rahman, Cllr Rania Khan, Cllr Lutfa Rahman, just for their pocket politics.

  68. At the moment we are all part of the one organisation until the divorce comes through, albeit on opposing sides.

    Meant to say this in response to Michael’s organisational queries – questions about how RR organises will inevitably have different answers depending on what RR is. Is it:
    – one of two platforms within a continuing RESPECT
    – RESPECT, minus an SWP-dominated split
    – a split from a continuing RESPECT
    – one of two successor organisations to a defunct RESPECT.
    Option 1, sadly, would probably suit the membership best, but the 17th November conferences have effectively ruled it out. Option 4 is probably the only one suited to both groups, but it will need to be agreed.

  69. #77. Of course you’re not witch-hunting Galloway. I mean…..how could writing a few words of criticism possibly be construed as a witch-hunt eh?

  70. # 56. “1) Put a straightforward motion forward that Bristol Respect votes which Respect faction it affiliates to 2) Put a motion that the branch stays united but members can be part of either faction 3) Openly state that he is setting up a separate Respect Renewal branch and people can choose which Respect branch they want to be a member of.”

    I think 2) is the option that ought to be adopted in Respect branches. That is, the branch stays united, but members can be part of either faction until we can reconvene a national conference of both sides of the split and try to discuss the issues calmly and rationally with a view to re-uniting. We do not want another SSP-type shambles in Wales and England.

    I am not denying that there are strongly held feelings and debates about how Respect is run. But what I strongly resent is that the RR people refused to allow the national membership to try to resolve the issues democratically at a national conference. Instead, the branches nationally were presented with a split as a fait accompli. The membership was simply cut out of the whole debate by a self appointed clique of big wigs in London and Birmingham.

    This is precisely what Nahella Ashraf from Manchester argued at the Westminster Uni Respect conference. She said: “Nobody asked me about how I feel about the general secretary…nobody asked us about how we run and build and Respect.” See this clip of her well argued speech:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6wxhfuTlKQ

    It is time for the RR people to reconsider their damaging moves and for them to backtrack.

    If we don’t hang together, we may all hang separately.

  71. Let’s face a hard fact here, the founding meeting of stop the war had 3000 people, the founding two meetings of Respect (first was british politics at the cross roads then the second was the first conference) had 1500 people, 300 people at the founding conference of Respect Renewal, is tiny. And I’m not even going to go into how the room can only hold 210 seated.

    And you can talk about the excuses and go through the apologia for why there wasn’t enough people there for the next ten weeks, a far as I’m concerned, if your politics and your message was strong enough, you should get more, you should have attracted the “left” to your rally, but you didn’t.

  72. Ian Donovan on said:

    “It is time for the RR people to reconsider their damaging moves and for them to backtrack.”

    Sorry, but this is all a load of cant. If I, and others, wanted to be a member of a bureaucratic sect, I would have joined the SWP. I chose not to. And the SWP-Respect is now simply the same bureaucratic sect with a stolen name. There is no way I, or anyone else from Respect Renewal, is going to ‘re-consider’ putting ourselves under the SWP’s bureaucratic regime. You know where you can stick that. Unity requires self-criticism and backtracking from the SWP, not those purged and driven out by the SWP.

  73. Nobody should pretend that either SWP-Respect or RespectRenewal start from a position of seriously depleted foreces. The trest in the next twelve months will be whether the break ends up strengrthening one, or both organisations.

    Chris Edwards’ suggestion is trimely and generous. Yet it is seriously flawed. When half the elected leadership of an organisatiion decide their annual conference is unconstitutional it behives the other half to stop and think. And the same can be said about half the membership too (ref: the 1100 odd who signed the SWp appeal out of around 2500 Respect members, and roughloy equal attendances at each conference). The sensible thing at the very least wouyld have been that SWP-Respect held off electing an NC and sought an accomodation for the 2 platforms to co-exist ahead of a reconvened Unity conference.

    That might, just, have been possible. But no….. full steam ahead, elect Rees, Rahman and Graham-Leigh as the officers and a 46 member NC. On what possible basis can the two platforms then co-exist?

    Instead we must plead with both SWP-Respect and RespectRenewal to settle the name quickly and definitively, two organisations then emerge. What next? I would hope partisans of each will concentrate on building their own organisation rather than attacking the other one.

    We can then reconvene in a year’s time and see the outcome.

    If you want a prediction I would suggest a seriously depleted SWP will find it impossible to sustain both their own party and without any other allies the huge effort required to keep Respect going. Lindsey German does poorly in the GLA elections, BNP win one or two seats, by this time next year SWP has reteated into building the SWP keeping Respect alive only for the 2009 General Election.

    RespectRenewal? A skeleton organisation starts to evolve around East London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol with small branches elsewhere. Membership recovers to around 2000 and theres the beginnings of both an internal party culture and connections with a broader debate on the need for a Plural Left. Not an enormous step forward but ends up a sizeable party organisation in comparison to the Far Left parties with some continuing electoral appeal. On this basis RespectRenewal, and with George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob’s rising national profile, Abjol Miah’s local profil, ends 2008 at least able to credibly contest 3 Parliamentary Seats with a realistic chance of winning them.

    In the meantime just get the name dispute sorted, surely that something we can all agree on!

  74. Nobody should pretend that either SWP-Respect or RespectRenewal start from a position of seriously depleted foreces. The trest in the next twelve months will be whether the break ends up strengrthening one, or both organisations.

    Chris Edwards’ suggestion is trimely and generous. Yet it is seriously flawed. When half the elected leadership of an organisatiion decide their annual conference is unconstitutional it behives the other half to stop and think. And the same can be said about half the membership too (ref: the 1100 odd who signed the SWp appeal out of around 2500 Respect members, and roughloy equal attendances at each conference). The sensible thing at the very least wouyld have been that SWP-Respect held off electing an NC and sought an accomodation for the 2 platforms to co-exist ahead of a reconvened Unity conference.

    That might, just, have been possible. But no….. full steam ahead, elect Rees, Rahman and Graham-Leigh as the officers and a 46 member NC. On what possible basis can the two platforms then co-exist?

    Instead we must plead with both SWP-Respect and RespectRenewal to settle the name quickly and definitively, two organisations then emerge. What next? I would hope partisans of each will concentrate on building their own organisation rather than attacking the other one.

    We can then reconvene in a year’s time and see the outcome.

    If you want a prediction I would suggest a seriously depleted SWP will find it impossible to sustain both their own party and without any other allies the huge effort required to keep Respect going. Lindsey German does poorly in the GLA elections, BNP win one or two seats, by this time next year SWP has reteated into building the SWP keeping Respect alive only for the 2009 General Election.

    RespectRenewal? A skeleton organisation starts to evolve around East London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol with small branches elsewhere. Membership recovers to around 2000 and theres the beginnings of both an internal party culture and connections with a broader debate on the need for a Plural Left. Not an enormous step forward but ends up a sizeable party organisation in comparison to the Far Left parties with some continuing electoral appeal. On this basis RespectRenewal, and with George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob’s rising national profile, Abjol Miah’s local profile, ends 2008 at least able to credibly contest 3 Parliamentary Seats with a realistic chance of winning them.

    In the meantime just get the name dispute sorted, surely that something we can all agree on!

  75. Ian Donovan on said:

    Here’s more evidence exposing as cant this stuff about ‘unity’ from the SWP leadership and their hacks, who are trying to manipulate both the SWP membership and non-SWPers in Respect, in a dishonest and disloyal manner. The content of this letter, which I had occasion to send out to our local membership today, speaks for itself:
    —————————————–

    I regret to inform you that there appears to be an attempt, by representatives of the local Socialist Workers Party acting in a sectarian and duplicitous manner, to organise a fake ‘Southwark Respect’ branch meeting behind the back of the elected officers of the branch. I have it on very good information that a room has been booked at Southwark Pensioners’ Centre on Thursday 29th November, for an evening meeting that purports to be a Southwark Respect meeting. This is apparently the initiative of Dave Sellers and Ady Chadwick, local SWP loyalists.

    Apparently emails have been sent out, by these representatives of the SWP, to some members of Respect in Southwark, but not others, advertising this unconstitutional meeting. The fact that elected officers of the branch, for instance myself as branch secretary, and Margot as membership secretary, have not been informed of this meeting nor even approached about organising a branch meeting (which in any case would normally take place in December – we have already had our November meeting), makes it obvious that this meeting was supposed to be organised without our knowledge. The elected officers of the branch, that is, were to be excluded from this ‘Respect meeting’. Obviously this has no legitimacy.

    It is barely a week since the two conferences last Saturday. There has barely been time for many comrades with commitments to catch breath after the factional conflict of the past few weeks, and yet already SWP-loyalists are trying to organise a coup against their partners in the coalition locally. By organising a meeting without the knowledge or participation of the elected officers, or, one presumes, that part of the membership that did not approve of the SWP’s undemocratic hijacking of the Westminster Conference on 17 September, they are in effect treating those who boycotted that illegitimate conference and went to the Respect Renewal conference as non-members of their ‘Respect’. But this is null and void, the Westminster conference was gerrymandered and unconstitutional, it ‘elected’ a phoney 46 strong ‘national council’, a clear majority (24, according to one informed commentator) of whom are SWP members. This is clearly not in any sense a ‘Unity Coalition’.

    Since among those who refused to attend that travesty were our only MP and the majority of Respect’s councillors, it is clear that this attempt to exclude the non-SWP component of Southwark Respect is part of a coordinated national drive to further gerrymander branch meetings the way the conference itself was gerrymandered. This is not a Southwark Respect meeting, it has no constitutional status and can take no decisions on behalf of Southwark Respect. Elected officers of Southwark Respect cannot be unilaterally sacked by the SWP – any such decisions are consitutionally, and no doubt also legally, null and void.

    Fraternally

    Ian Donovan
    Secretary, Southwark Respect

  76. Did you make contact with the people you mention to find out if your ‘good information’ was actually accurate or did you just go ahead and send the letter anyway?

  77. Ian Donovan on said:

    The good information came from a member of the local SWP with many years membership. Right from the horse’s mouth.

  78. Ian Donovan on said:

    Actually, to my embarassment, I have got one surname wrong in my letter as posted: its Ady Cousins, not Ady Chadwick. Apologies for this glitch, can this be edited if possible. This error is a product of my appalling memory for names.

  79. ‘The good information came from a member of the local SWP with many years membership. Right from the horse’s mouth.’

    So second hand then.

    Except that the swp are all part of an evil collective intelligence that will turn us all into insect slaves, so speaking to any one immediately tells you what the rest are planning.

  80. Ian Donovan on said:

    Pathetic. Are you saying that this SWP comrade is lying? I have no reason to believe that and unless you do, you are talking through your bottom.

  81. Duncan B on said:

    It’s a topsy turvy world. According to Andy, the Annual Conference of Respect made up of elected delegates from Respect branches from all over, advertised and organised in compliance with the constitution, is illegitimate.
    On the other hand the Respect Renewal rally, made up of anyone who wishes to attend, which is organised out with the Respect constitution, with no elections, or no motions or anyway in putting resolutions to the rally, is the authentic one. Not is only the Respect Renewal rally out with the constitution, it is held on the very same day as the constitutionally convened conference. Andy, I really don’t see how you can sustain that the Renewal rally is the authentic voice of Respect.

    Now you may argue that one party organised to win delegations to the conference, but then doesn’t every organised group do that? And surely one of the arguments against the SWP in Respect it’s that we are not fully committed to the organisation? Or are you only for the SWP if we don’t win positions?

    For geographical reasons I’m not a member of Respect, but even from Scotland, it doesn’t make any sense.

  82. Teddy Boy on said:

    Ho Ho John Rees!
    How many have resigned to-day!

    I would have wetted myself listening to his mealy mouthed and sham words at GPU 2007 embracing peace and unity.

  83. Anticapitalista, I was gonna reply to your sneering message, but I remembered what someone (not on my side of the argument) said to me a few days ago: People like you, who are only able to sneer and distort, are poisoning the blogs.

    You’re just not worth it. You’re not open to argument or debate; you hope only to poison the atmosphere.

  84. “shame on those whom attacked Cllr Oliur Rahman, Cllr Rania Khan, Cllr Lutfa Rahman, just for their pocket politics”

    “Attacked”? If you’re talking about physical attacks, why are you bringing that into the discussion of conferences and splits?

    Oh, silly me. You want to smear Respect Renewal by association. Very good. Just like Oliur Rahman assisting the BBC in making that connection by using his time on Newsnight to talk about how he was attacked, rather than talking about the politics of Respect, and him and John Rees holding a press conference about the same.

    Well done!

    I hope that the people – including Richard Seymour, Canadien and others, so intelligent and aware of what they’re doing, are proud of the role they played in associating George Galloway and Respect Renewal with violent attacks. When the history of the revolutionary left comes to be written, I hope they’re glowing with pride at the role their propaganda played in lowering the level of politics to the gutter.

  85. Ian Donovan on said:

    “It’s a topsy turvy world. According to Andy, the Annual Conference of Respect made up of elected delegates from Respect branches from all over, advertised and organised in compliance with the constitution, is illegitimate.”

    “On the other hand the Respect Renewal rally, made up of anyone who wishes to attend, which is organised out with the Respect constitution, with no elections, or no motions or anyway in putting resolutions to the rally, is the authentic one.”

    The Respect Renewal conference was indeed outside Respect’s constitution. Which gives it equal legitimacy to the SWP-Respect conference, which was gerrymandered in a manner that wouldn’t stand up legally for one moment as being ‘constitutional’. All its decisions are null and void.

    However, politically, the Respect Renewal conference represents Respect as it was founded – it includes every component of the original Respect, including much of the original SWP component – more as time goes on, I’ll wager.

  86. *99 and *106

    but Tonyc is the comparison fair though?

    (Although so far Southwark is less substantiated at the moment IMO)

  87. #96. Ian, why not send out a mailing to all the Southwark branch members suggesting that it adopt option 2) in #91 as a way of avoiding a split in the Southwark branch?

    Why not go along to the SWP organised Southwark meeting and make the proposal directly to the people there too? Try to keep people together and avoid the squandering of Respect members and periphery which inevitably happen if the branch splits.

    I know that, unlike everywhere else, the atmosphere in London/Birmingham at the moment is polarised and fractious (something in the water down there?), but I think it is necessary to try to strive for the stated objects of this blog–socialist unity–and adopt a framework that will allow people to affiliate to either side. This will enable members to continue to work together and provide the opportunity to debate the issues in a less fraught atmosphere.

  88. We all need to step out of the bubble. Recrimination and accusation will build nothing.
    If you want a united Southwark then do what Chris suggests. If you dont then ignore the meeting and get on with creating a positive group that fights in your locality.
    ‘He said/she said ‘ cannot be our method.

  89. We all need to step out of the bubble. Recrimination and accusation will build nothing.
    If you want a united Southwark then do what Chris suggests. If you dont then ignore the meeting and get on with creating a positive group that fights in your locality.
    ‘He said/she said ‘ is not attractive and cannot be our method.

  90. Ian Donovan on said:

    I love the way SWP hacks elide the question of responsibilty for events such as in Southwark. “Accusation and recrimination will build nothing” says mm. This is spin worthy of Millbank at its worst. Neatly the responsibility is transferred away from the SWP’s bureaucratic regime to those on the recieving end of it, who engage in ‘accusation’ and ‘recrimination’, i.e those who complain about undemocratic practices. Actually, it is the SWP’s bureaucratic regime that will ‘build nothing’, and needs the widest possible exposure to ensure it cannot do its destructive work in the future.

  91. Ian I am nowhere near Southwark, and do not feel responsible for events there. Equally, i do not feel responsible for the meeting in Tower Hamlets that anticapitalista linked to.

    I do think however, that Chris gave you sound advice.

    Like i say, time to move on. Consign the negative vocab ‘hacks, spin, regime, undemocratic, exposure, destructive’.

  92. Ian Donovan on said:

    Sometimes the negative has to be shown up clearly in order for the positive to be born. In any case, Chris’s ‘advice’ is superfluous, Respect members have as much right to support Respect Renewal as they do SWP-Respect. The only people asserting otherwise are SWPers carrying out the orders of the CC.

  93. anticapitalista on said:

    #106 tonyc

    You like arguing like this when you don’t like the question. You did it fairly often when you were on LT.
    Now tell me what is the difference between the ‘coup’ in TH and the ‘attempted coup’ in Southwark?

  94. No one has addressed my point that the national membership was excluded from the decision to split. Its opinions were not sought and the highest decision making body of Respect, national conference, where the membership could have expressed itself, was arbitrarily undermined and sidelined by RR. That showed a certain contempt for the membership, don’t you think?

    The problem with splits is that the soft, outer periphery of the membership vanishes and what is left is a demoralised, hard core rump on both sides. Lost also is a large element of the electorate which will not take seriously an organisation of warring factions that splits and dissipates its forces unnecessarily on the eve of a national conference. That is, without giving the membership a chance to explore all the possibilities for avoiding a damaging split.

    Look at what happened to the SSP/Solidarity!

    There is still the possibility to reconvene a national conference of both sides in the early part of the New Year. The ranks of Respect must demand this and hold their leaders to account. Branches should tell the splitters that they are acting irresponsibly.

    In the meantime, there is absolutely no reason why branches should split before such a recall conference has been properly convened. There is too much at stake here–we cannot simply throw away everything that Respect has achieved.

  95. Ian Donovan on said:

    “No one has addressed my point that the national membership was excluded from the decision to split. Its opinions were not sought and the highest decision making body of Respect, national conference, where the membership could have expressed itself, was arbitrarily undermined and sidelined by RR. That showed a certain contempt for the membership, don’t you think?”

    Come off it. The SWP leadership is not accountable to the SWP membership, but rather the other way round. They also gerrymandered the student delegations, and the Tower Hamlets delegation so that a mainly bengali branch returned a mainly white SWP delegation (one quarter of delegates). And even given that, and the boycott of most of the opposition, at the Westminster conference the odd off-message delegate was still excluded from speaking by the speaker slip system. There was all the democracy of Pyongyang at the Westminster conference.

  96. elizabeth on said:

    As regards Bristol, no one in the SWP has given an explanation of why SWP members have put a resolution to the members meeting next week – I assume they’ll pack it to make sure it’s passed, otherwise why bother – which asks for nominations for a new steering group to be set up in December. The AGM was only 2 months ago and the SWP didn’t want all the positions. How can this be valid or credible? Why are they doing it if not to take control? Inevitably it will drive away the non SWP members who will see through it at once. What will they then do? Have two parties to run with tiny numbers? What’s the point apart from saving face? How on eath do they think these actions will attract people to them? Sounds like the same thing is happening in Southwark.
    Liz

  97. There is a resolution and there are members. The rest is assumption. How about you being part of making sure that future meetings are fraternal and outward looking Elizabeth? How about you pick yourself up and dust yourself down like the rest of us. Brown is in trouble and we need to be focusing on that.

    Any Respect branch that doesn’t meet after recent events would seem a bit out of touch, in my opinion.

    Chris is right about the rank and file and periphery being left out of many of the recent discussions. That does not have to continue though.

  98. Ian Donovan on said:

    Shocking, that Tower Hamlets Respect – the clear majority of TH Respect, by the way, both in terms of membership and elected representatives – is holding a public meeting and candidate selection meeting today. Just rushing off to join the public bit. I notice that in Tower Hamlets, the branch split before the conferences – when the 4 councillors split away. A bit rich for the likes of ‘anticapitalista’ to complain about TH Respect replacing those who organised the split with officers loyal to … TH Respect. The common factor between TH and
    Bristol, Southwark and the rest is that the SWP is taking the initiative to split branches on the ground. The only difference is the timing.

  99. Teddy Boy on said:

    No matter how the SWP cc attempt to distort the real facts, the many know exactly that John Rees and the SWP cc refused to engage at the most crucial time.

    How can we ever trust them again. It is clear at this late stage the door is still open for a solution, yet we only experience deafing silence to these sensible overtures from John Rees and the SWP cc.

    The only movement we see is expulsions and resignations on anyone within their organisation for asking them to think again.

    I would ask SWP members to look at the historical documentation of these events and make their own conclusions. It is not vice versa as one SWP blogger.

  100. outsidethebox on said:

    Daily it is clear that the only way forward is for each side to go their own way.

    In fact it is dangerous and counterproductive, in my humble opinion, for Respect Renewal supporters to stay in branches with an SWP majority that they, the SWP, will claim supports the SWP CC line (and such a waste of energy on internal matters rather than looking outwards).

    Only by building new Respect Renewal branches will we be able to move out of the crippling embrace of the ‘sect like’ control of the SWP and their arrogant assumption that they, and only they, are the true heirs of the 1917 Bolshevik Party (in reality in their recent actions more like Stalin than Lenin). How sad and deluded can you get!

    Wake up, this is not 1917 peasant Russia and we need a workers social democratic socialist party first, before we can move on, if that is what some of you want.

  101. ‘we need a workers social democratic socialist party first, before we can move on…’

    Moving on to me is simply dropping the name calling, the pretence, and the rancour.
    That would be so refreshing.

  102. This is what I have written about the split in Essay Ten Part One (links indicated by $-sign have been removed):

    “Sad though it is to say, Trotskyism’s one major area of success has been to split more times that a schizophrenic amoeba, which is, of course, one reason why it has been such a long-term failure. Believe it or not, comrades will bemoan this in one breath, but in the next refuse to believe that their core theory (dialectics) has anything whatsoever to do with it! They will not so much as consider it –, not even as a partial cause of our side’s 150 year long tendency to fragment and fail. [Why this is so is explained here $.]

    [Anyone who doubts that should check the response I received here, here and here $, for just *suggesting* this possibility. But this is a regular, almost stereotypical reaction.]

    …[C]onsider the ease with which former ‘friends’ and ‘comrades’ can soon descended into lies, gossip, fabrication and smears in the recent collapse of Respect. A good place to see much of this is at the Socialist Unity website — named such because it (unwittingly) records the opposite tendency, one presumes.

    [See also the acrimony and personal vitriol expressed the recent (Summer 2007) split in the US Communist League. $ Expect many more of these before we finally ruin the planet…]

    Check out also the rabid optimism that now abounds in Respect, and in Respect Renewal (the ‘breakaway’ party), especially here (even the cake served was “marvellous”!) –, and this after another split! 300-odd turn up, 150 years after the Communist Manifesto was published, and that is something to shout from the rooftops! Single-celled organisms learn faster, it seems. [This report now appears at the official Respect Renewal web-site.$]

    Of course, not everyone involved in this split is a fan of dialectics, but the social/class nature of the vast majority is the key issue, here, for it is in this petty-bourgeois soil that sectarianism grows — this is analysed in more detail in Essay Nine Part Two.$]

    More here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%20010_01.htm

    And click on this Quick Link on that page: “UK-SWP”

  103. outsidethebox on said:

    Post: 131 “Sad though it is to say, Trotskyism’s one major area of success has been to split more times that a schizophrenic amoeba”

    Now lets get this straight – the majority of Respect members are NOT Trotskyists have no intention of being Troskyists and are not Marxist/Leninits working for the revolution.

    Time after time contributers on this Blog fail to mention or take regard of the other major group in the origional composition of Respect and that was the many 100’s who joined having been in the Labour Party and the many independent Socialists. It is these groups of people who are daily signing up with the new Respect Renewal.

    We are working to create a new Socialist Party with others that will be part of our parliementary system, in which Marxists will be welcome to argue and fight for their position and any recommended action (and on this score I think Hugo Chavaz is setting a good example of what is possible way beyond anything we have ever seen in the UK) but not at the expense of taking control over any new Coaliton that one day will be part of this new party with many, very many others.

  104. Outside the box: correct. But I am addressing fellow trots, and if you are not one, you can ignore all I have to say.

    I note however, your ‘new’ party has inherited the rabid optimism of dialectical Marxism.

    Now *that* I can explain.

    But, you go back to sleep; I am sorry I tried to wake you…

  105. outsidethebox on said:

    Post 133:Rosa
    Its not me thats trapped in a time warp of 1917.
    Marxism has much to add to our understanding of the world today but taken as a creed and mixed, shaken and stirred with Leninism (I mean your interprtation of Lenin)it becomes a dead weight around the neck of working people and becomes no better than another cult, and all cults need their leaders who know better than us the rank and file!

    Its clear that some Marxists have a better understanding of how to use the ideas of many great thinkers and men of action in todays circumstances as witnessed by the valuable contribution made of late by the New Zealand Socialist Workers Party.

  106. Rosa Lichtenstein said: I note however, your ‘new’ party has inherited the rabid optimism of dialectical Marxism.

    I think that’s a timely comment by Rosa, and we in RR would do well to be on guard against the tendency towards frantic over-optimistic hype. We’re supposed to be learning from the mistakes made within Respect in the past (from whatever quarter), and we certainly won’t be doing ourselves any favours by reproducing the “vibrant/brilliant/massive” vocabulary of hype that the SWP favours.

    There’s a trade-off between expressing enthusiasm on the one hand, and sounding trustworthy to interested outsiders on the other.

  107. Eddie Truman on said:

    I think the idea that dialectical materialism has got anything to do with “over optimism” is frankly bizarre.

  108. I look forward to the enthusiam. At the moment anything that shifts the vocabulary and tone would be welcome, IMO

  109. #136 chortled: Hey babeuf, in a post on this blog you used the word ‘contradiction’.

    The concept of a contradiction has perfectly legitimate uses in the everyday language of workers, and that’s how I was using it in the post you mention.

    It’s only the absurd and mystificatory misuse of the word that I object to. We Marxists should keep well away from such ruling-class habits (or to be precise, the habits of the scholars employed by the ruling class adopt to justify the actions of their employers). Of course, if the leadership of a political organisation wants to browbeat, confuse and bully its members into submission, Dialectics works very nicely indeed, as Stalin found out for himself as he suppressed all internal opposition in the Party.

  110. Outside the box, you seem to know a lot about my views of Lenin without having read my essays.

    That’s a neat trick working people will be keen to learn from you — mind reading, I think it’s called.

    For my part, I prefer to call in ‘invention’, which is, of course, another trait you share with dialecticians.

  111. Dialectics is linguistic idealism.

    Nobody adopts its jargon other than Marxists. Why aren’t there Dialectical scientists? Why has nobody ever heard of Dialectics outside of the 1000 or so Marxists?

    It is nothing but old school dogma that was laid to rest with the onset of Analytical Philosophy. The fact that our so-called professional revolutionaries cling to it is not reassuring.

    Consider the three laws:

    1) Quantity into Quality

    2) Negation of the negation.

    And

    3) Interpenetration of opposites.

    Far too much play can be deployed with regards to the meaning of these so-called governing laws of the universe that it renders them meaningless. To assert that the universe is a giant concatenation of contractions is idealistic. However, when Stalin asserts that less democracy is more democracy, you’ll know what it is all about then.

    There have been allsorts of metaphysical idealisms throughout history. Such as the ‘holy trinity’ in Christianity, Kant’s idealism, and a whole bunch of other constructs by various philosophers over the years.

    It is not science.

  112. ET:

    “I think the idea that dialectical materialism has got anything to do with “over optimism” is frankly bizarre.”

    Who said it had, but it is a trait you mystics share with christians.

    And, if you bothered to check your facts before you made a fool of yourself in public, you’d have been able to figure that out yourself from my essays.

  113. I made a mistake, it sould read:

    “To assert that the universe is a giant concatenation of ‘contradictions’ is idealistic.”

    However, it still makes just about as much sense as before.

  114. anticapitalista on said:

    #139 (me chortling again)The concept of a contradiction has perfectly legitimate uses in the everyday language of workers, and that’s how I was using it in the post you mention.

    But don’t tell Rosa.

  115. Eddie Truman on said:

    #142
    I’ve read your ‘essays’, they are junk intellectualism.
    You conflate laws of science with those of sociology, it’s the mistake of a dabbler.
    In the realm of human society there enters the unknown quantity of the human being.
    That’s why Trotsky defined the crisis of humankind as the failure of the leadership of the working class.
    That’s why the question of socialism or barbarism is posed; because there’s nothing inevitable in the development of human society.
    And your web pages are embarrassingly amateur, at least get you page properties sorted out if you are going to attempt to get people to take you seriously.

  116. Can people accept that there has been many a pseudo-science and that Dialectical Materialism is one of them?

    To quote some examples:

    Astrology, phrenology, social darwinism, psychoanalysis, intelligent design and the free market’s ‘invisible hand’

    And like all pseudo-sciences – no scientist bothers with them!

  117. To stop this spinning off at a tangent, let’s get back to the point. Outsidethebox said: Only by building new Respect Renewal branches will we be able to move out of the crippling embrace of the ’sect like’ control of the SWP and their arrogant assumption that they, and only they, are the true heirs of the 1917 Bolshevik Party (in reality in their recent actions more like Stalin than Lenin). How sad and deluded can you get!

    The point of Rosa’s intervention here was to remind us that shedding particular individuals who had proven impossible to work with can at best only provide a short-term solution to the problem.

    Put it this way: the Marxist tradition (the SWP certainly included) has been able to produce a class-based analysis that explains why trade-union bureaucrats tend so strongly towards selling out their members. When a rank-and-file member of a union gains a position in the bureaucracy and begins to ascend through its ranks, s/he discovers that his/her material interests are not the same as those of the rank-and-file members s/he left behind.

    It should not be hard for people who have grasped such analyses to realise that if this is the case for union bureaucrats with solid working-class backgrounds, then it can also be the case (and still more so) for the leaders of revolutionary or other far-left political organisations, where petty-bourgeois backgrounds often predominate. And yet it is hard, because the leaderships of such organisations are understandably reluctant to subject their own positions and interests to the same kind of Marxist analysis they’re keen to apply to others. Rosa, I think, has made a brave start on this at her site, and I think her work is worth reading for this (even for readers who don’t need immunizing against Dialectics).

    So ensuring RR will not go down the same road as the pre-split Respect is not as easy as shedding Rees and those who followed his orders. The same tendencies will be present in the leadership, because they arise from material conditions rather than from personal character quirks. To counteract this, it would take a strong framework of democratic checks together – most importantly – with a membership that habitually insists on exercising democratic control of the organisation on a daily basis, and not just at conference time. It will not be easy to sustain this in the conditions that prevail in this country: workers need confidence to win and maintain democratic control, and a long period of defeats for the class is not conducive to such confidence.

    This is not to say that the open-ended RR project is fatally misconceived. But it is to say that the avoidance of the mistakes made in its predecessor organisation will require constant vigilance on the part of the membership, and in the longer run, revived class struggle in this country to at least the levels France enjoys today.

  118. ET:

    “I’ve read your ‘essays’, they are junk intellectualism.”

    You cannot possibly have read them (there are over 1 million words in my essays) — what you read was a summary, as I have pointed out to you before.

    But even if you are telling the truth, I suppose you prefer the mystical intellectualism of Hegel do you?

    “You conflate laws of science with those of sociology, it’s the mistake of a dabbler.

    In the realm of human society there enters the unknown quantity of the human being.

    That’s why Trotsky defined the crisis of humankind as the failure of the leadership of the working class.”

    Well, it shows how much attention you were paying, for I do not do that — unless, of course, you can prove otherwise with a quotation or link.

    Can you?

    Deafening silence…

  119. Anti-C:

    “But don’t tell Rosa.”

    Indeed, you do not need to tell me, for it is a point I have made myself, but the everyday use of the word is not the same as a ‘dialectical contradiction’ an incohate notion that even to this day resist all efforts to explain it — not that anyone has tried all that hard.

    No point looking at you for any help, though, is there? You are just good at sniggering…

  120. anticapitalista on said:

    Rosa on LT you have criticised people for using the word ‘contradiction’ in everyday use. be consistent. Either it is ok to use the term or it isn’t.
    I agree that the term ‘dialectic contradiction is meaningless. Just use the word contradiction.

  121. Eddie Truman on said:

    So ‘Rosa Lichtenstein’, I cannot criticise your position unless I have read your essays but I cannot possibly have read your essays because they are over a million words long.
    That’s just an intellectually bankrupt way of inoculating yourself from criticism.
    And if I cannot possibly know what you argue in your essays because I have only read your summaries of them what does that tell us about the summaries ?
    I thought the whole point of a summary was to convey the basics of your argument in summary.
    At the end of the day I think you’re little more than an attention seeking crank.

  122. Hang on Babeuf why are you using anti-capitalista’s name. Or….anti-Capitalista why are you using Babeuf’s name?

    The world of blogs is somewhat confusing.

    Nice to see TonyC continuing to minimise physical attacks on left wing trade unionists and councilers. Lets discuss the POLITICS.

    Incredible.

  123. Still no reply from Brum Respect Member or Ger Francis to my simple question – is former 4th Internationalist,ex-Labour Cllr, ex-President of Birmingham TUC, Raghib Ahsan with Respect/SWP?

    He is mentioned in a report on the Respect website as speaking alongside Michael Lavalette.

    I have to say that I am very sympathetic to the structures of Respect that have been proposed by Socialist Resistance in the past, but the more I hear from the Respect Renewal team the more I get the sense that this is an unholy alliance united by hatred of the SWP rather than any principles. One of it’s key claims that Galloway is going to suddenly become accountable have already been seen to be false. I always got the impression that John Rees was in an odd position as Respect National Secretary: George Galloway was an unaccountable primadonna who would threaten to walk out of Respect unless he could do what the hell he wanted.
    It seems this will continue in Respect Renewal. I actually think this is the reason the SWP gave him cover over Big Brother because they were afraid that he would just walk out of Respect – this is not a healthy situation.

  124. martin ohr on said:

    Andy,

    I posted a reply to your open letter to the AWL and the whole thread has now disappeared, is this a bug with your site or censorship?

  125. No the article was only in draft form and had never been intended for publictaion in that form. I had written it in haste, decided not to pblish, aand at some stage the draft must have been published by mistake, so presumably you found it by googling.

  126. martin ohr on said:

    Andy,

    No found it by selecting the category anti-racism, it was the first result.

    Although you explanation sounds highly implausible, if you didn’t mean to publish and my comments were a reply to a draft and you aren’t actually calling on the AWL to expel one of it’s members for racism, and you don’t think we are white supremacists or supporters of the bnp, then fair enough. I’m sure you can understand why I was a little concerned at it suddenly disappearing.

  127. Teddy Boy on said:

    #155 Andy J
    Try and get used to to the fact that GG is acountable to the rule book and he has not breached it. He is so unlike John Rees who has blatantly abused it from the front cover to the last.
    If you are so concerned about image why are you not taking the SWP cc to task about why they expel members who dare to only question their sordid behaviour in creating the split.
    I am glad that GG and expellees have shown bottle to the movement that something is stinking in the state of the SWP cc.
    That is the milk we need to lap up. If you cannot see it, then you have a single digital IQ. We (RR) dont carry dead weight. Move on.

  128. Martin

    You can think what you like is plausible or implausible. What i said is true.

    I will return to the issue again, with a more considered piece, less shooting from the hip

  129. Martin

    in terms of its plausibility, do you tihnk that I could have published that several weeks ago and your been the first comment???

  130. martin ohr on said:

    Andy,

    I totally believe you, it must be hard to keep up when you are deleting things from the awl constantly, mistakes are bound to happen.

    Are you still claiming that the AWL has a racist member who should be expelled though?

    Martin

  131. Re: dialectics and our anti-dialecticians.

    I think you lot are concentrating on a red herring. You’re attacking the reified ‘dialectical materialism’ doctrine that so few Marxists have time for, but in so doing you’re chucking out the baby of the Marxist method with the idealist bathwater.

    I may not have the time or inclination to write a million words on dialectics, but as an activist I do know you cannot get anywhere without starting from the standpoint that social phenomena are interconnected to greater or lesser extents, that relationships are fluid and open to change, and there is a tendency for them to assume contradictory characteristics. There is nothing idealist of mystical about this.

  132. a very public sociologist (#167) said: as an activist I do know you cannot get anywhere without starting from the standpoint that social phenomena are interconnected to greater or lesser extents, that relationships are fluid and open to change, and there is a tendency for them to assume contradictory characteristics. There is nothing idealist of mystical about this.

    Quite right, these things are all a necessary part of our analyses if we want to channel our activism in effective directions, and there need be nothing mystical about this.

    It’s Dialectics, however, that tries to claim that the everyday language of workers is incapable of dealing with change, and demands that we substitute an incoherent and idealist theory that can explain nothing.

    Now in practice, most Marxists who believe in Dialectics don’t want to look ridiculous by following the consequences of the theory, so they normally just use a smattering of Dialectical vocabulary to label changes that they’ve already had to explain in ordinary language. But if that’s all Dialectics amounted to, then they couldn’t claim to have a theory of change, but only a bag of metaphors applied selectively at the moments when they sound faintly plausible.

    But look, neither Rosa nor I are saying that Dialectics is some kind of evil agency that destroys the left from within. We’re only saying that it’s one symptom among others of petty-bourgeois tendencies within the leadership of the left, tendencies that bring about splits like the one we’re witnessing, and which lead to leaders who seal themselves off from the democratic expression of criticism.

    I tried to indicate the relevance of this to the current dispute in #147, which I accidentally sent under the name “antidialectista” rather than “babeuf” (the other name was a left-over from an earlier wind-up)

  133. johng (#154) said: Hang on Babeuf why are you using anti-capitalista’s name?

    Behind that bright façade where things more or less make sense, the world is a dark, confusing and frightening place, johng. Preserve your sanity and avert your gaze from the uncanny and inexplicable portents of this hideous truth. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Or, if you want the long story:

    I’d used the name “antidialectista” as a wind-up in an earlier reply (#139) to anticapitalista. The comments-box system then retained this name, and, unnoticed by me, my next comment (#147) went out under that name instead of “babeuf”. I discovered this a little later, and sent another comment (#148) to explain that the previous message had been sent by me, babeuf. Unfortunately, I made a typo that only deepened the confusion: I wrote “anticapitalista” instead of “antidialectista”. If that sounds unconvincing or too complicated, then I’m afraid you’ll have to go back to the first option.

  134. anticapitalista (#152) said: “Rosa on LT you have criticised people for using the word ‘contradiction’ in everyday use. be consistent. Either it is ok to use the term or it isn’t.”

    This apparent inconsistency only arises because you’ve persuaded yourself that workers, in everyday speech, talk about things like “the contradictions of capitalism”. To be charitable, I suppose you might once have been on a picket line and tried out just such a phrase on one of the strikers, who resisted the temptation to say “sounds like a lot of bollocks to me, mate” and amiably heard you out.

  135. A very public sociologist attempted to defend dialectics. However, in the profile on his blog, he listed “For Marx” as one of his favourite books. Unless this not Louis Althusser’s book of the same name, then his defence of dialectics is most unwelcome. Althusser was a STALINIST! Althusser is THE god of academic Marxism! While the eleventh thesis on Feurbach was engraved on Marx’s tomb for a good reason, Athusser dismissed all eleven theses as riddles! In reality, of course, they constitute THE core of dialectics, as soon as we move beyond the natural world into the social world, and in particular the world of those whose guiding principle is thesis eleven.

    Notwithstanding Rosa Lichtenstein’s devastating critique, a Marxist who rejects dialectics is no Marxist. And that, by the way, is an example of dialectics at work. Dialectics not only can be employed to the natural world, as Engels famously did, it has to be. This is for the reasons spelt out best of all by Trotsky in the collections of essays that go by the name of In Defence of Marxism, and a lesser work called The Problems of Everyday Life.

    There is an alternative to dialectical logic. It is the formal logic of Aristotle. This is a logic that is satisfactory, but only so long as we examine things in themselves, abstracting these so-called things in themselves, rather than take appreciate them as processes, ones that by definition change over time. However, nothing exists outside time. And nothing is a thing in itself that can be defined in abstraction from things that it is not. The concept of totality has to be employed to make sense of the real world. These two concepts are fruitful for natural scientists every bit as much as for revolutionary Marxists. Formal logic does have it’s place. But only so long as we deal with things that do not change IN RELATION TO THE THINGS THAT INTEREST US, which introduces the concept of subjectivity, which is key to all Marxists, but not to Althusser. Trotsky explained that the notion of TOLLERANCE has to be employed to explain why although everything does change, some changes don’t constitute a change in essence, not when we introduce the subjective element. Within such limits, Aristotellian logic applies. However, this logic gives us an inadequate picture of the world: it is akin to a world of photographs, which fails to capture our imagination the way a series of such images in rapid succession does when we watch a movie. In the same way, while all things are related to other things, we are NOT constantly dealing with one big swamp. Things ARE distinguishable, from things that they are not, but only when we introduce the concept of subjectivity. The bourgeoisie and proletariat are not the same, even though they do define one another. There are tensions, struggle, contradictions. Individual sabotage at work, go slows (officially sanctioned or not), works to rule, partial strikes, factory occupations, mass strikes with workers’ militia, revolutions.

    Although materialist dialectics can, and must, be applied to natural science, significant aspects of it apply ONLY to the human world. And in particular to scientific socialism, incorporating the eleventh thesis. Pure above-class science is, from a materialist point of view, absolutely impossible in a world divided into antagonistic classes. The extent to which ideas are polluted by class antagonisms varies between disciplines. It is possible that bourgeois prejudices do have some bearing on the different interpretations of quantum mechanics. Marxists are simply not in a position to tell, partly because we too are prisoners of class societies, and we crucially lack the material resources to set up experiments capable of testing these various hypotheses. Only a future classless society will have the benefit of peering into the truth of such suppositions. However, when we deal with economics, Marx exposed very clearly how the class position of the bourgeoisie made it impossible for them, and their paid lackies to penetrate beneath surface appearances to the truth. By means of adopting the perspective of a class with radical chains, on the other hand, Karl Marx WAS able to explain where profit comes from, and how capitalism creates above all else it’s gravedigger.

    In the fields of psychology, philosophy and all the other social sciences, bourgeois prejudices are more obvious still. Those who reject Marxism take the individual human being as their starting point. From Rene Descarte to Adam Smith to Sigmund Freud, the starting point is the isolated protagonist all alone in the world. Marx and Engels, by contrast, started with preexisting social relations, and a preexisting natural world that was a precondition for the evolution of the human species, and all the societies created by and destroyed by this species. Materialist doctrines that explained the evolution of our species and of necessarily preexisting non-organic matter fed into Marxism. Darwin and other scientists applied materialist dialectics, although they were unaware they were doing this. Most scientists are unconscious dialecticians, as Trotsky explained.

    However, where materialist dialectics comes into it’s own is when we move beyond all this. It is when we embrace the truth of the eleventh thesis: the philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it.

    As Engels (who in his euology described Marx as “above all else a revolutionist”) once said “our doctrine is not a dogma, but a guide to action.” Exactly. And that is why Althusser is no hero of Marxism. What dialectics most of all unites for scientific socialists is the unity of subject and object. When we are dealing with non-organic evolution, and with non-human evolution, and reconstructing the histories of pre-capitalist societies (employing the methods culled from Marx’s 1859 Preface to a contribution to the critique of political economy, Grundrisse, German Ideology and elsewhere), the unity of subject and object cannot apply in the way it does in the world of political practice. When, on the other hand, scientific socialists develop strategy and tactics in the manner of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Gramsci, this is where subjectivity and objectivity become genuinely unified. And this is why Lenin’s theory of the party, and Lenin and Trotsky’s strategy of the united front (as also developed by Gramsci in between 1924-26) are key. Democratic centralism is an absolutely indispensible mechanism for working class self-liberation, a liberation that is simultaneously the liberation of the rest of humanity. The working class can only achieve this self-liberation by becoming the tribune of ALL the oppressed: women, gays, ethnic minorities, Muslims in Britain and the rest of the West, asylum seekers, economic migrants. A nation that oppresses another can never itself be free. This is why Marx demanded that the British working class take up the demand for Irish national self-determination. In exactly the same way, a sex that oppresses another can never itself be free. Or a sexuality. Or a religious group, or a race, or an age group. The isolated struggles of different oppressed groups have to be united, rather than allowed to adopt the common sense of the capitalist class that their competing demands put them at odds with one another, given limitted economic resources. Only the working class is capable of incorporating all these disparate groups into a movement that can liberate them all. And it has to do this on an international scale. Scientific socialism, incorporating materialst dialectics, is the means by which this self-liberation of the working class can open up a world where there are no more class antagonisms, and therefore no more materialist basis for ideology, as distinct from pure, above class, scientific knowledge.

    And in the process, dialectics allows scientific socialists to understand why strategic errors in the formation of Respect lhas just ead to Galloway splitting away with an organisation built on the basis of hostility to democratic centralism. Respect Renewal bows down at the alter of “pluralism.” It does this, because pluralism is the do-as-you-please democracy of the petty bourgeosie. Pluralism is the antithesis of the collectivist democracy of the working class. And this pluralism of Respect Renewal contains within itself it’s own destruction. And sooner rather than later.

    John Molyneux is one of the two most profound dialecticians in the SWP. He really ought to use his new role on Respect’s national council to teach the rest of Respect (including most of the SWP’s rank and file, including Rosa Lichtenstein) about the importance of dialectics. And he might want to dust off his rather moribund blog to help him do this. In fact it would be an excellent idea if John took some time off his job to become more of a professional revolutionary, like his hero Gramsci. Maybe John could become to Respect what Andy Newman is to Respect Renewal.

  136. ET:

    “So ‘Rosa Lichtenstein’, I cannot criticise your position unless I have read your essays but I cannot possibly have read your essays because they are over a million words long.

    That’s just an intellectually bankrupt way of inoculating yourself from criticism.”

    On the contrary, it exposes you as a liar. You said you had read my essays, now you admit you haven’t.

    You do not have to read my Essays, but making ill-informed and erroneous comments about them is merely to expose yourself as a fool.

    We both know what you’d say about someone one claimed to have ‘refuted’ Marx after reading only a few pages of his work, and mis-reading those too.

    Well, we can now say the same about you.

    “And if I cannot possibly know what you argue in your essays because I have only read your summaries of them what does that tell us about the summaries ?”

    You even got those wrong. I challenged you to substantiate your allegations; the fact that you have not done so says it all.

    You, like others, are content to just to make stuff up — then bury your head in the sand, looking forward to another 150 years of almost total failure.

    I was not addressing my Essays to idiots like you, but to those who want to see Marxism a success.

    “I thought the whole point of a summary was to convey the basics of your argument in summary.

    At the end of the day I think you’re little more than an attention seeking crank.”

    Yes, I am a little more than you.

  137. Anti-C:

    “Rosa on LT you have criticised people for using the word ‘contradiction’ in everyday use. be consistent. Either it is ok to use the term or it isn’t.

    I agree that the term ‘dialectic contradiction is meaningless. Just use the word contradiction.”

    Wrong; what I did there was to criricse the misuse of it. I have absolutelu no problem with the ordinary (or the logical) use of this term

    Unless you can prove otherwise.

    So, have you got the links to where I am alleged to have said all this?

    Now, the ordinary use of thew word ‘contradiction’ does not mesh with the use of a typographically similar word ‘contradiction’ as dialectical Marxists use it.

    How can the forces and relations of production ‘argue’ with one another?

  138. Very Public S:

    “I think you lot are concentrating on a red herring. You’re attacking the reified ‘dialectical materialism’ doctrine that so few Marxists have time for, but in so doing you’re chucking out the baby of the Marxist method with the idealist bathwater.”

    No, I am attacking every version of this mystical creed; the stuff you find in Lenin, Lukacs, Plekhanov, Engels, Trotsky, Mao, Tony Smith, Bertell Ollman, upside down Hegel…

    You name it, I have demolished it.

    “I may not have the time or inclination to write a million words on dialectics, but as an activist I do know you cannot get anywhere without starting from the standpoint that social phenomena are interconnected to greater or lesser extents, that relationships are fluid and open to change, and there is a tendency for them to assume contradictory characteristics. There is nothing idealist of mystical about this.”

    Fine, stick with the ‘theory’ history has already refuted.

  139. Tom:

    “Notwithstanding Rosa Lichtenstein’s devastating critique, a Marxist who rejects dialectics is no Marxist. And that, by the way, is an example of dialectics at work. Dialectics not only can be employed to the natural world, as Engels famously did, it has to be. This is for the reasons spelt out best of all by Trotsky in the collections of essays that go by the name of In Defence of Marxism, and a lesser work called The Problems of Everyday Life.”

    These are among the very worst things Trotsky ever wrote, and the dialectical parts have been thoroughly demolished in my Essays.

    And, what you say about Marxists and dialectics makes it true by definition (and an eternal truth, too — which dialecticians turn their faces against, I thought). But, I also thought Lenin taught us that no theory is beyond criticism.

    Well, if we have an erroneous theory (but I go further, I claim that dialectics is in fact far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether it is correct or not), then we should abandon it.

    Especially if it has presided over 150 years of failure — which is, of course, what you’d expect of a theory pinched from a ruling-class hack like Hegel.

    “There is an alternative to dialectical logic. It is the formal logic of Aristotle. This is a logic that is satisfactory, but only so long as we examine things in themselves, abstracting these so-called things in themselves, rather than take appreciate them as processes, ones that by definition change over time. However, nothing exists outside time. And nothing is a thing in itself that can be defined in abstraction from things that it is not. The concept of totality has to be employed to make sense of the real world.”

    This is wrong from beginning to end:

    1) Even Aristotelian Logic can cope with change (examples a-plenty in Essay Four, at my site).

    2) Dialectical Logic cannot cope with change; here is the proof:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

    3) Modern Logic (Modal, Temporal and/or Non-standard Logic) can cope with change even better.

    4) Comrades who make such claims generally know no logic, and they are content merely to copy such assertions off Trotsky. But, when asked, they can point to no logic book, ancient or modern that supports such allegations.

    I will not comment on the rest of what you say, I have tried Andy’s patience too much as it is — but it is no less inaccurate than the things I have commented on above.

    All of them have been demolished in my Essays.

  140. Kevin Murphy on said:

    Rosa 175:
    “No, I am attacking every version of this mystical creed; the stuff you find in Lenin, Lukacs, Plekhanov, Engels, Trotsky, Mao, Tony Smith, Bertell Ollman, upside down Hegel…

    You name it, I have demolished it.”

    Yikes. Andy, could you please start a new “Respect scandals, yellow press reports, sectariana and rumors” thread? I think this one is pretty much done.

  141. Kevin:

    “Yikes. Andy, could you please start a new “Respect scandals, yellow press reports, sectariana and rumors” thread? I think this one is pretty much done.”

    Stick to Russia, mate. Philosophy is obviously beyond you… 🙂

  142. There’s another good effect of the the renewal of Respect:
    “The number of internet readers of the Weekly Worker has, for reasons I don’t understand, been falling over the last few months. In June we peaked at 47,977 in a single week, but now we are down to 24,725 over the last seven days.”
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/698/lrc.htm

  143. Possible Rosa, they were so inspired by the brief synopsis in Weekly Worker they are currently all reading the full one million word version, and don’t have times for the latest from the Conrad party of Great Britain.

  144. Rosa Lichtenstein reccomended that Kevin Murphy “Stick to Russia, mate. Philosophy is obviously beyond you… :)”

    Sorry Rosa, your “thoughts” on dialectics will never win the Deutcher prize, before or after the revolution. A feature in pseud’s corner, if you are lucky. Dialectics is essential to every thinking Marxist. It has been defended well within the SWP by Chris Harman and John Molyneux. Prison Notebooks and History and Class Consciousness deal with it in great detail. Dialectics is alive in everything Lenin ever wrote. The same is true of Marx, Engels, Trotsky and Luxemburg. As far as I am concerned, the best place for a young Marxist to begin their studies is Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism, which contains invaluable material on dialectical materialism and democratic centralism. SWP members will disagree profoundly with many of the conclusions Trotsky drew from dialectical materialism, vis-a-vis the class nature of the soviet union. However, this only proves that this method, like all scientific methods, are capable of leading to mistaken conclusions. Take the best mathematical equation and you can still end up with nonsense: garbage in garbage out.

    For Rosa’s benefit, and everyone else’s, here is a brief extract from one of Trotsky’s most profound defenses of dialectical materialsm:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/12/abc.htm

  145. Rosa Lichtenstein’s ideas on dialectics are dross. Sorry comrade. Deutcher prize winner, Kevin Murphy, on the other hand, has produced literature that any Marxist would be proud to have written. One of the most famous words of any scientist came from the mouth of Isaac Newton: “I see further than others not because I am a giant, but because I stand on the shoulder of giants.” Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Trotsky would repeat these words (even though they contain more than an element of false modesty). All the giants of scientific socialism can echo this false modesty, but not Rosa Lichtenstein. His ignorance of materialist dialectics is only outweighed by his arrogance towards those who came before him. I simply do not take his word that he has read ANY of those he claims to have studied. He is, I strongly suspect, name-dropping in the hope of impressing others, and scaring us off from exposing his nonsense. No one, inside or outside the SWP, should pay any attention to his nonsensical views. If Rosa wants to win my respect, and the respect of others who actually read these texts (or at least the ones that genuinely matter), I suggest he takes some time off to go back to basics. Start with Trotsky. Track down an article Harman wrote in ISJ 19 (from memory) on Marxism and Philosophy, which was the first in a series of critiques of Callinincos’ Althusserianism. This article is not available on the net, and it is no longer in print, but you can get a copy by inter-library loan, and Harman wrote other pieces along similar lines that are available: an excellent piece on base and superstructure, for instance. Molyneux delivered a lecture at Marxism around 1995, with some excellent contributions from the floor. There may be a recording somewhere on the internet. If not, you might be able to buy a tape of it.

  146. Apologies for trying your patience, Andy with more dialectical stuff. I’m going to have to ask you to bear with me once again.

    First @ Tom, rejecting Althusser out of hand because he was a Stalinist, a patron of seminar room radicals, etc. is hardly a scientific approach to someone’s work. FYI I don’t consider myself an Althusserian but I stand by some of the work he undertook. The reason why For Marx remains one of my favourite books is because it is a genuinely fascinating and provocative work that had a big impact on me when I read it.

    @ Babeuf, I suspect we’re pretty much singing from the same hymn sheet. The difference is that I continue to refer to the materialist method as dialectics/dialectical whereas you do not.

    @ Rosa, if you think “social phenomena are interconnected to greater or lesser extents, that relationships are fluid and open to change, and there is a tendency for them to assume contradictory characteristics” has been proven wrong by history, then why does this method underlie pretty much every modern day work of social theory I’ve read in the last ten years, whether avowedly Marxist, anti-Marxist, or indifferent? If the above shorthand is not the case, then what is?

  147. The first article I ever read on dialectical materialism was was written by Ian Birchill, in Socialist Review in 1982. He was not a fan. Dialiectical materialism was nonsense invented by Engels, and made even worse by Stalin. I took this to be the official SWP position. John Molyneux wrote a book on Trotsky that appeared a year or two later. Molyneux subjected Trotsky to a critique based on the Hegelian Marxism of Gramsci. Inspired by Molyneux and Harman, I studied History and Class Consciousness and Prison Notebooks. In my dissertion, I compared the strengths and weaknesses of both, a dissertation I was proud of at the time, but now recognise as syndicalist, insufficiently materialist, and veering towards a real-politic that I now think crude. Although HCC and the PN are both wonderful books, they have both contributed to a mistaken attitude towards Engels. Both subject Engels’ writings on dialectics to lots of criticisms. There are problems with Engels’ writings. However, both Lukacs and Gramsci went too far. Eventually I got round to reading Dialectics of Nature and Anti-Duhring. I also decided to check out In Defence of Marxism. Lukacs and Gramsci both (independently) identified in Lenin’s theory of the democratic centralist vanguard party, the missing link between theory and practice, touched on by Marx in the third thesis on Feurbach over half a century previously. The PN and HCC are the greatest intellectual confirmation that Lenin was right. The problem with Engels’ studies are two-fold. Firstly, the limitations in his knowledge of scientific advance was greater than he realised, and science has moved on. This is not an insurmountable problem, though. Much more serious is that Engels paid insufficient stress on the unity of subject and object, which does not apply in any sense to the pre-social world. Even when we are reconstructing our own history as a species, our various anthropologies, the rise and fall of great civilisations, the revolutionary struggles, and the mutual destruction of contending classes, we are still putting together pieces of a puzzle that are independent of our own actions. Scientific socialism is more than that: it is a guide to action; it is the theory of the self-liberation of the working class, and on a global scale at that. It explains how capitalism creates it’s own grave-digger, and reconstructs the whole of society in it’s own image, thereby ending all class differences: after all, if everyone is a worker, then no one is. For the first time since humanity divided into ruler and ruled, oppressor and oppressed, we can all view the world from the same point of view. Ideology comes to an end. The dialetics of nature and anti-duhring stress the materialist bedrock upon which Marxism is founded. However, in doing this Engels contributed to the impression that this “negation of the negation” as applied to the socialist revolution is on a par with natural cycles, such as acorns becoming oak trees, and reproducing themselves. When Ian Birchill and John Molyneux turned their backs on Dialectics of Nature, they did so on the basis of recognising this error in Engels. It is in Trotsky that we find a proper appreciation of Engels’ genuine strengths (and others who made worthwhile contributions, such as Plekhanov and Mehring) alongside all the things missing from Engels.

  148. Tom:

    “Sorry Rosa, your “thoughts” on dialectics will never win the Deutcher prize, before or after the revolution.”

    So what?

    I suspect you are just pissed-off because I exposed you pontificating about logic from a position of total ignorance.

    “It has been defended well within the SWP by Chris Harman and John Molyneux.”

    They make the same mistakes as you, and also show they are happy to pontificate about logic when totally ignorant of it. I have posted several corrections at John M’s site. Harman’s ‘defence’ is embarrassingly poor, too.

    “All the giants of scientific socialism can echo this false modesty, but not Rosa Lichtenstein. His ignorance of materialist dialectics is only outweighed by his arrogance towards those who came before him. I simply do not take his word that he has read ANY of those he claims to have studied.”

    1) This is the weakest way to defend this mystical ‘theory’ of yours, appeal to tradition. You are the sort of person who would have argued in the 1860’s: “Who are you Herr Marx to question Ricardo?”, or 300 years earlier, “Who are you Galileo to question Aristotle…?”

    2) I have studied and made detailed notes on all the classics, and more dialecticians than you have ever heard of. And if you examine my Essays you will see the extent to which I demolish the lot.

    You do not have to read what I have written, but making ill-informed remarks like this will only win over fools.

    “Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism, which contains invaluable material on dialectical materialism and democratic centralism. SWP members will disagree profoundly with many of the conclusions Trotsky drew from dialectical materialism, vis-a-vis the class nature of the soviet union.”

    thi sis a lamentably poor defence of dialectics, and I note that the Stalinists and Maoists use dialectics too to show Trotsky was wrong, just as Cliff used it to show all three were.

    This contradictory ‘theory’ of yours can be used to defend anything you like, hence the damage it has done to Marxism:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm#CaseStudies

    “He is, I strongly suspect, name-dropping in the hope of impressing others, and scaring us off from exposing his nonsense.”

    He?

    Anyway, you are totally incapable of exposing my “nonsense” since you know no logic, and precious little philosophy, to boot. [And you refuse to read my essays, but still you know what they contain!]

    But you *are* good at the bluster, I’ll give you that.

    “Take the best mathematical equation and you can still end up with nonsense: garbage in garbage out.”

    And there’s even more ‘dross’ if you take any thesis from dialectics whatsoever.

  149. Tom:

    “Rosa Lichtenstein’s ideas on dialectics are dross.”

    You think that repeating something makes it true, I suppose?

    But, you would not know whether my work is as you say, since you have not read it.

    Or are you a psychic? :O

    “His ignorance of materialist dialectics is only outweighed by his arrogance towards those who came before him.”

    You keep saying this, but I bet you cannot prove it.

    “If Rosa wants to win my respect, and the respect of others who actually read these texts (or at least the ones that genuinely matter), I suggest he takes some time off to go back to basics.”

    What makes you think I want to win the respect of an ignoramus like you? Or, of someone who pontificates about my work and about logic in total ignorance?

    “Start with Trotsky. Track down an article Harman wrote in ISJ 19 (from memory) on Marxism and Philosophy, which was the first in a series of critiques of Callinincos’ Althusserianism.”

    What has Althusser got to do with my work?

    I have not only read the above, I have taken them all apart. But you would know that wouldn’t you — from your ability to read stuff without actually consulting it?

    Harman’s essay is, anyway, not about the dialectics of nature (in fact he wrote nothing about this mystical ‘theory’ before 1988) — he restricts ‘contradictions’ to class society, for example.

    “Molyneux delivered a lecture at Marxism around 1995, with some excellent contributions from the floor. There may be a recording somewhere on the internet. If not, you might be able to buy a tape of it.”

    In fact, I tackled John at Marxism 1990, and wiped the floor with him.

    But, he like you, does not learn, and prefers dogma to science.

  150. Very Public:

    “Rosa, if you think “social phenomena are interconnected to greater or lesser extents, that relationships are fluid and open to change, and there is a tendency for them to assume contradictory characteristics” has been proven wrong by history, then why does this method underlie pretty much every modern day work of social theory I’ve read in the last ten years, whether avowedly Marxist, anti-Marxist, or indifferent? If the above shorthand is not the case, then what is?”

    I have no problem with this, but cannot understand why you ruin it all with a loose use of “contradiction”, or rather “contradictory”.

    Check this out for the problems such sloppy language creates:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2007.htm#Dialectics-Cannot-Explain-Change

  151. Tom:

    “The first article I ever read on dialectical materialism was was written by Ian Birchill, in Socialist Review in 1982. He was not a fan. Dialiectical materialism was nonsense invented by Engels, and made even worse by Stalin. I took this to be the official SWP position.”

    This is partly what attracted me to the SWP at that time; only now I push these ideas much, much further — as I have told Ian.

    Too bad you slipped back into confusion…

  152. Roy Lichtenstein wrote: “By the way, keep up the ill-informed attacks, guys — the number of hits my site is receiving has gone through the roof.

    Pals the lot of you…:)”

    Roy (I am not going to sully the good name of the Marxist Rosa to accept your rediculous nom de plume), when you name drop a long list of influences, I simply put this down to name dropping. In other words, I am not prepared to take your word that you have read any Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Engels or any of the rest. The fact that you list alongside these Marxists, Stalin and Mao confirms my belief that you have no idea what you are talking about. For the first four, materialist dialectics was the guide to action of the class that is the most important reaction of capitalism: it’s very own gravedigger. Stalin and Mao were heads of counterrevolutionary bureacracies, butchering revolutionaries at home and abroad. You simply do not have a clue what you are talking about. When you say that no one knows what dialectics is that PROVES that you have not read the books you claim to have read. Had you done so, then you would realise that not only do all the great Marxists know what it is, a few of them managed to find some time to set down on paper for young Marxists the conclusions of their own intensive studies. As a guide to action, Lenin learnt more from his studies than anyone else. However, his marginal notes on Hegel’s Logic were never intended for publication. They contain brilliant insights, but there remains ambiguity that he would have eliminated had he went for publication. As he wrote in the concluding sentences of State and Revolution, practical politics forces some issues of theory to be placed on the backburner. This explains why when his studies of Hegel revolutionised his attitude towards dialectics, he never found the time to correct some crudities in his only major work on philosophy: Materialism and Empiriocriticism. Prison Notebooks and History and Class Consciousness are the two best books on the dialectical relationship between theory and practice. They both acknowledge that Lenin’s theory of the democratic centralist vanguard party is the missing link between theory and practice, and both accepted that this link is the concrete solution to the puzzle of the third thesis on practice. Neither of these books deals in any substantial way with dialectics as it applies to the non-social world. Engels more than anyone else dealt with this. However, Engels lack of scientific knowledge proved a hostage to fortune. The same would be even more true for any Marxist who tried to explain quantum mechanics, which is open to a variety of competing philosophical interpretations within the scientific community. String theory is not even in principle testable, according to many serious scientists. Scientists are coming up with earth shattering discoveries about dark matter, dark energy, the incredible fact that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing, in defiance of all previous expectations. Books popularising the most radical science are requiring revision all the time. That is one reason why anyone who tried to do today what Engels did over a century ago would risk instant ridicule. A CWI member has just published a book that tackles some of these issues. However, it seems to focus only on the big bang. Trying to prove this theory is a bit like trying to confirm that the earth really is not flat. Supporters of Ted Grant might reject the big bang, but no one else does. As materialists, Marxists don’t defy the evidence. When theories are proven experimentally to be inadequate or plain wrong they drop them. Marxists had no material incentive to defend big crunch theory, which is why none of us should have been upset when it was finally disproved a few years ago. We do have a material incentive to disprove some “scientific” hypothesis, such as alleged genetic proof of the inferiority of some races or one of the sexes. The dialectic relationships between subject and object offers a materialist explanation for why Marxists focus on certain contested ideas, while adopt a neutral stance towards others. Anyone who has genuinely read Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci and Lukacs will understand this. You, Roy, are incapable of understanding any of this because you have apparently not read these Marxists. Your writings do not rise about the petty bourgeois philistinism of James Burnham, that Trotsky made so much fun on in “In Defence of Marxism”. Dialectical materialism helps Marxists select what to read, and re-read, to study, to make notes on. It also helps us identify pisstakes by people whose writings are only good for a laugh. If that. Your writings fall into the latter category, Roy. If you want to become a Marxist, then the best thing for you to do is to take a sabatical, at least where this subject is concerned. Either do some serious study, beginning with Trotsky, Harman and Molyneux. Or else simply accept that this subject is beyond you. But when you have gotten yourself lost in a theoretical black hole, stop digging.

  153. In his “In Defence of Marxism”, Trotsky subjected James Burnham to a quite devastating critique. Aristotelian logic was counterposed by Burnham to materialist dialectics. Trotsky did not deny that Aristotellian logic has it’s place. However, it was poor in comparison to dialectical logic in much the same way as a photograph is poor in comparison to a series of photographs that, when combined, can capture the world as it unfolds in our world of fourth dimensional space-time.

    Much to the amusement of everyone on this blog Roy Lichtenstein has actually managed to make an even bigger a*** of himself than Burnham did. So kudos, Roy, for finding a means of bringing Respect and Respect Renewal members together. While Burhnam’s Aristotelian logic was the logic of the still photograph, Roy’s logic is that of the comic caricature. If Roy wants to impress people, then I suggest he gets in touch with the 22 children who contributed stories to the the following Roy Lichtenstein competition: http://blog.tate.org.uk/tate-tales/?p=17

  154. As I said, I will publish a reply to ‘Tum’ (I refuse to use a good working-class nmae for this numpty) at my site in the next few minutes, and post the link here soon.

    If he wants to reply to me further, he can set his own site up.

  155. Tony Greenstein on said:

    Haven’t got the time to plough through all the comments but I note there are the usual sour grapes from the SWP. I think it is cause for congratulation that at 2 weeks notice RR garnered over 350 people in attendance and had a by all accounts good conference/rally. It may or may not succeed but what is clear is that the SWP/Respect is going nowhere because the whole point about Rees and the CC engineering a split was to divorce from Respect. They are literally caught on their own petard.

    It is to be hoped that RR will be able to reach out to other sections of the left because left unity in these dismal times is a precondition of the advancement of the class. PFI, privatisation, the collapse of the dollar, racism and asylum seekers – these are some of the issues that matter, and not just victimisations incidentally – and the Left at the moment is extremely weak. Far from seekign to strengthen the Left the SWP has tried to build itself at the expense of the Left – and fallen flat on its face in the process.

  156. Its a shame that Respect has to split at the end, but what I can assure that many whom have been attended to Respect Conference at central London are not belong to SWP.

  157. I condemn the physical or any personal attack on Cllr Oliur Rahman and others due to the split of the party is inhuman act, such action must be condemn by the Respect Renewal.
    We must not forget that Oliur Rahman tirelessly worked for the party when Respect formed three years ago.
    I am not a member of SWP but remembered the time Respect MP entered the Big Brother, and only SWP members and John Rees was defending him while Salma Yaqoob were ready and determined to suck Respect MP George Galloway from the party but today circumstance changed, I wonder how long?

  158. martin ohr on said:

    Andy #165, you never did come back to this and explain yourself. It’s probably too late now to remember what the fuss was about.