Respect to Explode?

The following is an extract from this week’s internal mailing for the SWP, “Party Notes”

“Two week’s ago Respect won a spectacular by-election in Shadwell in Tower Hamlets. For Respect activists and the Labour Party it demonstrated that Respect had not gone away and had a real chance of winning a seat in the GLA elections and George Galloway of winning the seat of Poplar and Limehouse. “Sadly, last week George sent out an eight page document to all members of the Respect National Committee outlining major concerns about the direction Respect is going in. George’s document also makes a number of criticisms about the way the Respect Office operates.

“The SWP disagree with George’s claims and we have sent a letter to the 14 SWP members on the Respect National Committee refuting the technical issues George has raised.

“Obviously the situation is very serious for Respect. The SWP is 100% committed to the Respect project and is currently doing everything it can to keep the show on the road. Next week a meeting will take place between George and the SWP to attempt to resolve the issues he raises. We will be holding a members meeting for all SWP London members to discuss the outcome of the above meeting. We will also be holding meetings for members outside London soon. “

I am sure we all look forward to further details.

41 comments on “Respect to Explode?

  1. Andy Bowden on said:

    Any idea what the dispute is about here?

    Looks pretty serious, the tone is similar to what we saw at the early times of trouble in the SSP, though obviously it remains to be seen if it will be that serious.

  2. GG’s document is a thorough critique of the SWP’s method. My favourite section is his description of how Respect tends to “anathematize” political voices critical of the leadership’s way of working. While it may be possible to pick holes in this or that factual point GG makes his overall analysis is spot on and that’s why the SWP is probably choosing to fight on “technical” rather than political issues. The document does not say anything about the accountability of elected officials but maybe he’ll put that in the sequel.
    The irony in all this is that GG colluded in a lot of the things he has now identified as problems, including the demonisation of dissenters, and as a result has driven out the majority of those who would have been on his side in this row.
    On reading GG’s document I was struck by its similarity to a lot of the points Socialist Resistance has been making over the last couple of years.

  3. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    So his Gorgeousness is peeved at the direction of Respect, eh? And in other news, the Yokshire Ripper blasts Jack the Ripper.

    Presumably GG is saying all this with a straight face. After what he and the SWP did to Respect (no internal democracy, Big Brother, purges, coming up with a stupid name and ruining the chances of a major left movement), the man needs psychiatric help or is suffering from amnesia. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  4. Mark P on said:

    There is something distinctly unsavoury, not to mention undemocratic, about the way major debates, changes in strategy , leadership elections and the like are held almost entirely in secret by most parties of the Far Left. And this terrible culture of abandoning basic democratic standards for inner-party culture has clearly impacted on RESPECT.

    The CPGB in the 1970s-1990s had plenty of faults but one thing it got right. All inner party pre-congress discussion was publicly available, membership figures were published, almost all the congress sessions were open to the press. And hence party debate was largely accesible to both the membership and the public.

    It is impossible for RESPECT members, SWP members, the interested public to take account of George Galloway’s critique of the RESPECT leadership and organisation or the SWP’s response unless these documents are made public. This has nothing to do with pandering to bourgeois democracy or making an organisation vulnerable to the intelligence services, its called having trust in your members, practicing the democracy we demand of others, being transparent and accountable.

    The internet has the capability of exploding the last remnants of the largely discredited rigours of democratic centralism. If Andy or Liam have access to these documents – as Liam certainly indicates – and if RESPECT won’t make them available, they should, post them as far and wide as possible and let a proper debate develop.

    A day spent posting the document on the blogs would reach a vast audience and cetainly ensure any attempt by interested parties to suppress it in order to limit the terms of any debate fails. Resistance to ensuring a proper debate on the vital issues that Liam hints at George Galloway raises will reveal who the real conservatives are on this matter.

  5. The simple thing about this move on the part of GG is that is a power play based on the success of GG’s Muslim allies which provides him with a base to challenge the position of the SWP at the heart of Respect. In short the charlatan wants to further marginalise the SWP in what they thought was their ‘front’. One can but hope that this falling out between the Rees-German claque and GG and Co. will result in the collapse of this petty bopurgeois monstrosity. Which would be the best thing for the SWP, as a socialist grouping, and any prospects for building a working clas political alternative distant though such prospects are at present.

    In decencies sake though I can but echo other posters here and express the wish that GG’s document is soon published. Although I have no doubt that it will be prove to as hypocritical of as much value to the workers movement as the Zinoviev letter once was.

  6. Sorry to detract from the discussion, but I would like to let you know that the Lair has reopened with an extremely interesting post.

    Looking forward to wasting many hours of my life away on the blogosphere again :)

  7. Alex Nichols on said:

    The fact that Galloway is talking about “dissenters” is interesting.
    Who are the dissenters, he’s referring to?
    The SWP’s record at cracking down on its opponents from the left is well known
    But unless Galloway has undergone a conversion to workers’ democracy, it’s probable he wants an even more right-wing populist organisation.
    Galloway’s stalinoid politics are well known and have never been retracted.
    The SWP know what they’re dealing with, but haven’t got the politics to counter them effectively.
    This is especially true on the issues of Venezuela and Cuba, where he has the ability to outflank them from the left.
    Once he starts his “Son of Che” tour, what do they say then?

  8. Ian Donovan on said:

    “In decencies sake though I can but echo other posters here and express the wish that GG’s document is soon published. Although I have no doubt that it will be prove to as hypocritical of as much value to the workers movement as the Zinoviev letter once was.”

    Considering that the Zinoviev letter was probably forged by British intelligence, I take it from this that Mike Pearn is effectively saying that George Galloway is no better that a police agent. I tend to see Mike Pearn and scumbags like him in a similar manner.

    Typical of scum like Pearn, who with his chums like Matgamna never issued one word in defence of Galloway against the Daily Telegraph witchhunt, but who tried to foment his own against Salma Yaqoob over alleged involvement in supporting ‘terrorism’.

    Witchhunting, racist agent-baiting lowlife like Pearn don’t deserve the benefits of workers democracy. If anything, Respect particularly in its earlier period was too ultra-democratic – when the scab Matgamna stood up rant his Daily Telegraph-inspired filth at the ‘convention of the left’ in January 2004, he should have been not merely booed and catcalled, but pelted with rotten fruit. Ditto for Pearn – any project that this scabby, arse-licking creep plays any role in is one that should be shunned like the plague.

  9. Hi Ian I love you too! Now do please have a cup of herbal tea and a lie down.

    As for the Zinoviev letter the point is that it damaged the workes movement by creating a anti-communist atmosphere. If GG’s document is an attack on the SWP then the same will be true of it. Which does not suggest that he is a police agent simply a self seeker.

    In reply to Alex Nichols I note that the SWP is formally to the left of GG in that they do not support the capitalist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

  10. Old habits die hard.

    Is GG still laying into Comrade Loach over Land and Freedom and his Trot perspective?

    I see several bald men – and at least one woman – fighting over a comb, and not a decent tune among them.

  11. Mark P on said:

    Its an excellent document. Yes there will be those who want to cast aspersions based on who said what and when but if Galloway can bulldoze this through he might just shove Respect towards becoming the effective, democratic and participative party of the Left which is so desperately needed.

  12. Given that Respect financial position is so parlous I’m surprised that their head office have not replied to my generous offer posted a month ago.
    Sadly Rob Hoveman does not seem to thin Ron and George can provide the paperwork.

    Rob
    Ron McKay was paid by Zureikat, and he claims was a business deal rather than Oil cash.
    If it appears in his 2000/01 Tax return I’ll give a grand to Respects Poplar & Limehouse campaign.
    If Galloways Coop bank account received no transfers from his wifes Jordanian Citibank Account (the repository for the Oil cash) in the period 2000-2003, I’ll pay another grand to Respects campaign.
    Let me know
    Tim

  13. Having read the document, an anti-SWP screed from start to finish, I’m struck by how much its style resembles an SWP internal perspectives document. Although it bears the name of GG I wonder who actually wrote the damned thing. Now can anybody name any former SWPers who have gone ‘native’ in Respect?

  14. Mike: “Although it bears the name of GG I wonder who actually wrote the damned thing

    I did wonder emyself about the actual author, given that it doesn’t read at all like GG’s personal style.

    Mike: “Now can anybody name any former SWPers who have gone ‘native’ in Respect?”

    I have no info on who wrote it, but in answer to your direct question the only person I can think of is Ger Francis?

  15. Maria Victoria on said:

    another person to have gone native in Respect and who might write in this kind of style would be Nick Wrack

  16. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Hi Ian I love you too! Now do please have a cup of herbal tea and a lie down.

    As for the Zinoviev letter the point is that it damaged the workes movement by creating a anti-communist atmosphere. If GG’s document is an attack on the SWP then the same will be true of it. Which does not suggest that he is a police agent simply a self seeker.”

    “Damaging the workers movement by creating an anti-communist atmosphere”, he says while trying to keep a straight face, while in the real world he has sold any shred of integrity he ever had to joining in the most sustained McCarthy-style witchhunt against an elected left wing representative in this country since the anti-communist witchhunts of the 1940s and 1950s. The Iraq war, and indeed the whole imperialist offensive whose excuse was 9/11 and ‘terrorism’ are events of considerable historic significance. Particulary crucial in the crisis of social democracy. Amid these events the Labour Party only produced one dissident MP it considered dangerous enough to expel for his anti-war activities.

    Those who actually joined the witchhunt and maintained a miniature campaign of vilification against Galloway alongside and overlapping with the official imperialist campaign, instead of seeking to go to try to make something positive out of this, are not really left-wingers or socialists at all, however they may delude themselves. They have soiled themselves among genuine socialists and progressives.

    If Pearn had any kind of socialist principle in his soul, he would be contemplating suicide in remorse for this alone. Really, for all his self-delusional belief that he is the sole repository of socialist principle and conscience of the left in this country, he really belongs in the Harry’s Place camp. As do more significant people of his ilk, like the followers of Sean Matgamna.

    And this is the problem about this. There is a strong whiff of Harry’s Place-ism about that has spread to quite a few of the anti-Respect ‘left’ websites, a nasty mixture of people with confused criticisms who might, possibly, have something to offer if, and only if, they were able to draw a hard class line against the witchhunters they hang around with, with lowlife of the Pearn type. Why are some of those wiseacres who post here not OUTRAGED by Pearn’s earlier attempts to (vainly, except to cretins like himself) associate Salma Yaqoob with ‘terrorism’, or about the fact that there is a section of the left that cheered for the Daily Telegraph in its losing libel suit and appeal against Galloway? I am not a member of the SWP, or any other organisation except for Respect, and all I can say about the current debates is that, whatever flaws GG may have pointed out in the functioning of the SWP or anyone else, compared to these flaws by Respect’s opponents, they almost fade into insignifance.

    I really do not think that people who crossed class lines over the anti-Galloway witchhunt should ever be forgiven; unless, of course they make a complete retraction and self-criticism. But I suspect pigs will fly first. Harry’s Place, and more significantly the camp of the neocons and imperialism more generally, is where they belong.

  17. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Give that man an ice-pick.”

    Well, if you are fantasising about hitting me over the head with an ice-pick, Andrew, it just makes my point in a different way, doesn’t it?

  18. Spot on Ian (can’t keep away can I?). Just been at Dave’s Part and its extraordinary the way in which there is this section of the blogging left which treats regular posters at HP as if they are part of the left. Unsavoury alliances indeed.

  19. jOhn and Iam

    What i find a bit unsavoury ( as we are using that word) about your method of argument recently is the approach of amalgamation. two seperate people say similar things – even though from different perspectives – therefore you assume they are allies.

    the type of debate involved in blogging can attract a wide range of responses, and unless we explicitly say that we agree with someone commenting here, there is no reason to assume that we do agree with them. Yet this is not the first time that you both have sought to imply a guilt by association. We had the same approach from you becasue English nationalists sometimes post here then you assume we agree with them.

    Note that this blog does not now and never will link to Harry’s place, or any other part of the pro-war “left”.

    You will also note that the comments by regaulrs on this blog have been largely positive about the development of debate within respect.

  20. Surely the question John G should be asking himself as a poster on Lenin’s Tomb, a broadly pro-SWP blog, is why George Galloway’s document has neither been posted there let alone debated. Same applies to Snowball’s blog.

    Either they do not think the issues raised by Galloway are important. Which would be quite extraordinary. Or they would prefer to keep the debate secret and closed. And then they wonder why the vast majority of the Left outside Brownite Labour long ago lost any illusions in the control by higher committees of free and open debate aka democratic centralism.

    Just one example of the consequences of this quaint enduring pretence of the virtues of Leninist vanguard organisation in the early 21st Century. RESPECT has adopted the ‘Recommended List’ system for electing its National Council. This existed in the old CPGB and was bitterly opposed by all who campaigned for the democratisation of the party. The Recommended List system ensures that the outgoing National Council controls the nomination of its successors. It institutionalises patronage, one of the worst abuses of democracy in any organisation. The only parties that continue to practice this perversion of democracy are Leninst organisations and as a ‘gift’ to RESPECT the SWP architects of Respect’s constiution and standing orders have lumbered the organisation with it. So instead of championing the development of a pluralist, participative party they have significantly narrowed its inner-party culture to one in its own image. And now the consequences of this are being found out, the result pretty unpalatable to a veteran of the Labour movement like George Galloway.

    So enough of the lecturing and pseudo revolutionising. When are you going to debate George Galloway’s document on YOUR blogs?

  21. Ian Donovan on said:

    Its rather obvious why Lenin’s Tomb is not debating George Galloway’s letter. It is because the SWP are obviously still debating their response to it internally, and that discussion is not concluded. You can regret that if you wish, but that is the way the SWP’s version of democratic centralism has always operated, and if you are expecting them to change their rules because this circumstance is of particular interest to you, then you will undoubtedly wait in vain.

    Andy is wrong, however, about amalgams. There is no amalgam. It is about the manner in which the likes of Harry’s Place etc are treated. Why are they not continually denounced as enemies of the left, and instead generally treated with politeness on quite a few left blogs? In a left blog worthy of the name, these people should be crucified, ridiculed, abused and even accused of being donkey-fuckers and child-rapists the moment they raise their miserable heads. Ok, the last point is a humourous exaggeration, but not by much – that is more or less how left-wing commentors are treated at Harry’s Place. Yet on a number of left blogs, they are treated politely, and when some on the left complain about their prescence, we are lectured about tolerance and the need for openness and democracy. These people, however, are not polite, left wing opponents who merely beg to differ about a few points. They wish to see us, the genuine left, either in jail, or dead. When they try to comment on a left-wing blog, they should get the distinct idea that the feeling is mutual. But on your blogs, they generally dont, because people like you are soft on them.

    And when has Mike Pearn ever been scandalised about his vile attempt on various e-lists to vilify Salma Yaqoob as a supporter of ‘terrorism’, and thereby set her up for vigilantism and victimisation by the state? His reasoning was obviously nuts – a real tenuous ‘amalgam’ – and the product of a poisonous and bigoted mind, which is why it fell completely flat, but the intention was there. Why have you people not scandalised this character for this, and continue to debate oh-so-fraternally with him? Answer – because you are soft on him and his sort of politics. Nasty ‘left’ Islamophobia and all. Just as, in a different way, you are soft on some the English nationalist types who posted on this blog earlier, and get all upset when someone gets a bit too stroppy with them.

  22. that is more or less how left-wing commentors are treated at Harry’s Place. Yet on a number of left blogs, they are treated politely

    Yes. Andy in particular has a very consistent record of treating commenters politely, whoever they are & however strongly he disagrees with what they’re actually saying. As a rule you don’t get censored, attacked personally or ridiculed for disagreeing with the management on this blog. I don’t think this is a failing.

  23. Thanks Phil, That is a nice thing to say :o)

    I think the culture of a blog is importnat, and is the responsibility of the blog proprietors.

    I do find myself being sucked into slanging matches on other blogs sometimes, and always feel bad about it afterwards.

    We do try to prevent that happening here fr the most part.

    Andy

  24. Oh dear me Ian, what a lather you have worked yourself into!

    For the record I oppose and have always opposed any imperialist intervention anywhere. Most obviously I oppose the current occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, for the record, my views have exactly nothing in common with those of the AWL. For example I despise their opposition to a single state on the entire territory of Palestine.

    As for Ms Yaqoob my point was and remains that her earliest known political activity, contrary to her oft voiced claims, was in support of young men convicted of terrorist offences in Yemen. I further note her brother, a lawyer specialising in islamic tax avoidance schemes, represented the young men in question despite having no knowledge of Arabic or of criminal law. There was and is no suggestion on my part that ms Yaqoob is a terrorist or supports terrorism.

    On the other hand I’m happy to admit to supporting those ‘terrorists’ fighting the British occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  25. Ian,

    The thing is here, that you seem to be requiring that we choreograph the comments so that the debate does not stray outside an approved range of opinions, which I am not prepared to do,

    Also that we should judge people not only n what they have posted here, but also what they have posted written elsewhere, or even by the fact that they do post elsewhere.

  26. Ian Donovan on said:

    “There was and is no suggestion on my part that ms Yaqoob is a terrorist or supports terrorism.”

    On that, Mike Pearn is simply telling porkies to save his shamed face. The whole point of his digging into this business was to argue that Salma was a ‘sinister’ individual associated with ‘terrorists’: guilt by association at three removes – one because these people were accused, not convicted of terrorism, two, because her brother provided them with a legal defence (as part of Gareth Pierce’s legal team) and three, because she was associated with her brother, the lawyer who defended them, and spoke to the press on his behalf when he was arrested and tortured in Yemen for providing them with that defence. An amalgam at three removes, so pathetic that no-one else with any sanity could be made to go along with it. But the intent was there. Pearn raised this, made a big song and dance about it, and whenever he claims to be in some way a ‘principled’ politician, I will remind him of it, as it shows that he is an Islamophobic witchhunter.

    And of course, his level of vituperation against Galloway is legendary, and he has never uttered a single word in defence of Galloway against what I will re-state is the most sustained witchhunt against an elected left-wing representative in this country since the McCarthy period and its reflection in Britain in the late 1940s.

    I dont care what fine ‘orthodox’ words and Sunday speechifying Pearn raises to cover his nakedness, that is his real record. I will continue to harry him on this whenever he seeks to Harry (pun intended) Respect.

    So the logic is, when class enemies like ‘Tim’ post hate-filled rubbish against Galloway or the left in general, then we should be nice to them. I dont care about your policy on censorship one way or the other, but I am not going to be friendly and polite to provocateurs who would like to see the left crushed. I am not going to cease to point out that they are sinister, criminal people and to scourge them for their crimes. It’s called class hatred and class struggle, it has its tradition since Marx wrote ‘Herr Vogt’, a pretty ‘nasty’ publication where Marx dealt with anti-communist provocateurs of his day. Not easy reading. But a necessary part of genuine left politics, when such people raise their heads.

    It’s not about ‘disagreeing with the management’, that is hardly the point. When hate material is posted by someone who obviously wants to see left-wing people victimised, that’s not ‘disagreeing with the management’, that’s an attack on the working class movement by a class enemy. The fact that you equate the way that socialists should debate strategy with *each other* about how to advance the left, with the way we should deal with enemies who would like to smash us only underlines that you don’t understand that there is a class line involved. And of course, the political point behind this is that the ‘war on terrorism’ has led to some on the left trying to keep one foot in each camp. Such as the AWL and Pearn. They should be scandalised for this, for the fact that they have one foot in the enemy camp. The likes of ‘Tim’, ‘Modernity’, and their mates, on the other hand, are *outright* enemies, and need to be treated as such. ‘Banning’ or not is a tactical question, just as it is for them, but we had better understand that they are enemies. Because of this phenomenon, of part of the left having one foot in each camp, at the moment they are treated as merely errant friends on a number of left blogs.

    This is not a matter of being polite or being rude, a question of style. I can do both when appropriate. It is ultimately a question of politics.

  27. It’s nice to see that Ian hasn’t left behind him the method of argumentation he picked up from his old comrades, the Pabloite-Shachtmanite revisionists of the ostensibly revolutionary Spartacist League.

  28. Ian Donovan on said:

    “It’s nice to see that Ian hasn’t left behind him the method of argumentation he picked up from his old comrades, the Pabloite-Shachtmanite revisionists of the ostensibly revolutionary Spartacist League.”

    So do you want to argue that ‘Harry Steel’, David Taub and his mates are *NOT* people who want to see the left crushed? I notice your use of the term ‘Pablo-Shatchmanite revisionists’ which itself sounds rather Spartish (or perhaps WRPish) – language I have not come across for quite a while and which I haven’t used for many years. Funny how ultra-Trot gobbledegook rears its head from people trying to divert attention from the actual issues by evoking the spectre of …. ultra-Trot gobbblegook!

  29. You grow ever more repetitive and thus boring Ian. Pointing out that Salma Yaqoobs claims regarding the date and reason for her initial political involvement is not Islamophobia. It simply proves that she is a liar. As for Galloway I have no reason or desire to defend that dodgy charlatan.

  30. Ian, I’m hardly in a position to preach about this, but arguing with Islamophobes is a waste of time. It becomes really clear when you watch someone else do it. ‘I’m not an Islamaphobe, its just that Salma Yakoob has dodgy relatives and (TERRORISM), is a LIAR (MOOSLIMS) and is PETITE BOURGOISE (betrayel of left wing principles thumps table) etc, etc.

    Its not worth it.

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