The SWP Takes a Step Backwards

salmayaqoob01small.jpgby Cllr Salma Yaqoob

Of all the words written about the split in Respect, the least important are those dealing with who did what at some meeting or other. Of much more interest are those articles attempting to provide some political explanation of these events.

Two recent articles from Martin Smith and Chris Harman[1] attempt to provide this political explanation. What I propose to do here is to address three aspects of this debate. Firstly, the SWP’s echoing of attacks once the preserve of those more known for pandering to Islamaphobia than challenging it. Secondly, the SWP’s crass understanding of the dynamic of race and class inside the Muslim community, and the conclusions they draw from it. And thirdly, how best to protect the political integrity of the newly emerging Respect as an entity rooted in opposition to war, neo-liberalism and racism.

A spectre is haunting Respect?

Leading members of the SWP are conjuring up the spectre of reactionary religious forces on the march inside Respect.

In his article in the December 2007 issue of Socialist Review, SWP National Secretary Martin Smith quotes, with apparent approval, an opponent of Respect as saying: ‘The split will strengthen the weight of the Islamists in Respect Renewal, some of whom have links to Jamaat-e-Islami [Pakistan’s largest religious party]. I don’t think that’s going to make the party very hospitable to socialists.’[2]

Chris Harman echoes the theme, but goes for a double whammy, invoking two apparently sinister organized forces at work inside Respect: ‘…some of Galloway’s allies in the Islamic Forum of Europe have connections with the Bangladeshi group Jamaat-i-Islami…It was involved in the military suppression of the Bengali liberation movement in 1969, before developing separate Pakistani and Bangladeshi wings, both of which still use force to drive the left from university campuses’[3]

This argument could not be clearer: conservative Islamic organisations are organizing inside Respect against socialists. It is an argument that we have heard time and time again from those who most viciously opposed Respect from the start, as part of their pro-war agenda. That the SWP now echo these arguments is astonishing.

To ascertain whether there are conservative Islamic religious forces exercising their weight inside Respect, it is first helpful to evaluate whether they are emerging in broader British society. Writing about this nearly two years ago my estimation about Muslim radicalism, – those engaging in political activism from a self consciously religious perspective – was as follows:

‘…the dominant character of Muslim radicalisation in Britain today points not towards terrorism or religious extremism, but in the opposite direction: towards political engagement in new, radical and progressive coalitions that seek to unite Muslim with non-Muslim in parliamentary and extra- parliamentary strategies to effect change…the existence of this new and progressive radicalism is a sharp break from those who would lead British Islam into confrontation with all levels of British society.’[4]

As evidence I pointed to increasing Muslim participation in an array of campaigns and initiatives, from the anti-war movement to the European Social Forum, from political alliances with the Mayor of London’s office to the emergence of Respect.

Two years later that process has deepened. The decision of the MCB to end their boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day[5], the comments from its chair Mohammed Bari that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference was ‘obnoxious’,[6] and the growing relationship between the MCB and the Trades Union Congress represents important progress. Reactionary and conservative religious radicals certainly exist, and their influence has to be continually countered. But the general political trajectory of Muslim radicalism is still towards progressive politics.

That general trend is much more dramatically pronounced inside Respect, which has gathered together a significant grouping of Muslims who combine their Islamic faith with a commitment to the struggle for social justice.

One indication of which way the wind is blowing has been the complete absence of any serious dissent inside Respect over the kind of secular/religious fault lines that run through wider society. This includes issues such as abortion law, homosexuality, gender equality or faith-based schools.

For many people these are matters of personal morality and religious belief. For that reason we would be wise to deal with them with some sensitivity[7]. But these issues, of course, have a wider political and social significance that we cannot ignore. In this context, an argument about the importance of the right to self-determination, freedom and equality is very powerful. I have argued on many occasions that if Muslims demand respect for their beliefs and lifestyle, then the same tolerance and respect for the rights and choices of others is obligatory.

What we have achieved is the creation of an alliance which emphasizes universal themes of justice and equality. Within this there will be all sorts of ideological (and theological) views. But they are united by the defence of the rights and freedoms of all. It is an alliance that has advanced support for progressive social causes.

There is no evidence of any Muslim bloc inside Respect seeking to give our political agenda some Sharia flavour. There is no evidence that members of Jamaat-i-Islami or any other Islamic organization are on some ‘entryist’ mission inside Respect.

There is no evidence of the SWP raising concerns about undue religious influence in all the time I have been Vice Chair. And there is no evidence that such forces are about to emerge in the absence of the SWP. Quite the opposite, in fact. When we were organizing the Respect Renewal conference the Islamic figure our Bengali councillors in Tower Hamlets wanted to speak was Tariq Ramadan, the most progressive exponent of a modern European Islam.

The SWP allegations are groundless. They are driven more by the dynamic of a faction fight in which they are grasping around for ideological cover to mask what is in reality sectarian manoeuvres to entrench their control. The danger for the SWP, in repeating arguments which first emanated from the so-called pro-war ‘left’, is that in so doing they allow the waters of Islamaphobia to lap at their feet.

Are Muslims in retreat from the struggle against war and racism?

The SWP have suggested that there is a retreat from engagement in radical politics by Muslims, and that George Galloway was adapting to this reversion to conservative community politics. They locate this retreat in the impact of the 7/7 bombings. This claim is wrong.

There is no evidence that Muslims, radicalised by the impact of war and Islamaphobia, are falling in behind Home Office attempts to incorporate establishment figures on the basis of softening opposition to British foreign policy or to their campaigns of demonisation against Muslims. The handful of Muslim figures who have taken such a view patently do not have the support of the wider community. Any political benefits the Labour party have gained from the ‘Brown Bounce’ have very much disappeared. While there is fear and concern over new government threats to our civil liberties, there is simply no evidence that the Government’s agenda is substantially weakening the anti-imperialist or anti-racist consciousness among any significant layer of Muslims in Britain today.

The SWP attempts to justify this argument with reference to a decline in the numbers of Muslims attending anti-war marches. This is far too simplistic. The inability of the anti-war movement to prevent the invasion of Iraq inevitably had a certain demoralizing effect, across all communities, undermining a belief in the power of social movements to make a difference. It was not just Muslim participation on anti-war protests that subsequently declined.

But the anger over the war on terror has not gone away. It re-emerged over the Israeli attack on Lebanon, and would undoubtedly emerge again in the advent of any new escalation like an attack on Iran. Furthermore, events organised by coalitions of Islamic institutions such as the Global Peace and Unity conference and Islam Expo have continued to grow after 7/7 and have continued to develop a critical, radical edge. These attract tens of thousands of participants.

It is a mistake therefore to conflate a dip in Muslim involvement in a single set form of activity – a Stop the War demonstration – with a major political regression to community politics.

Does Respect pander to ‘community leaders i.e. small businessmen’[8]?

Related to this mistaken analysis, is a crude understanding of the appeal of Respect inside the Muslim community. The SWP states: ‘This logic of electoralism has led Galloway and his supporters to be drawn into making alliances across the whole Muslim community’, wherein, George Galloway, myself and others will become increasingly dependant upon ‘community leaders’ i.e. small businessmen’.[8]

It is true that Respect does have an appeal across the whole Muslim community. There are two possible explanations for this. One, traditionally favoured by the ultra-left and now by the SWP, is that Respect has consciously courted the support of community leaders/small businessmen, at the price of politically compromising ourselves. Again, no actual evidence is produced to substantiate this, nor is there any explanation as to why sections of the Muslim business community would think their class interests are best served by hitching their wagon to a fringe political party.

Another explanation lies in an understanding of how racism impacts on all Muslims. This racism affects all Muslims, although of course it is mitigated by class background.

Firstly, though, one must be clear about the nature of Muslim communities in Britain today. Muslim communities are dominated by disadvantage and poverty[9].

• Around 69% of Muslims live in poverty.
• 35% of Muslim households have no adult in employment – double the national average. Overall, they are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than the population as a whole.
• 73% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi children live in households below the poverty line – compared to 31% for all households
• 32% of Muslim households were overcrowded, and generally Muslims have poorer housing conditions, and are more reliant on social housing
• 28% of young Muslims are unemployed
• 20% of Muslims are self-employed – frequently in marginal and insecure occupations

These are the communities where we have won our strongest support – in some of the poorest wards in the country. Our support does not come primarily from the small, or not so small businessmen, seeking to advance their interests. It comes overwhelmingly from those who experience poverty and disadvantage.

But, in tandem with this poverty and disadvantage, is racism. Irrespective of their class background, Muslims are constantly aware of the discrimination and prejudice they face. It is no less real for the self-employed taxi driver, or the owner of a small grocers shop. There is anger throughout the community at this racism, compounded by anger at the blatant double standards of Western foreign policy.

A consequence of this system of disadvantage and exclusion is the pitifully poor political representation imposed on these communities. For many years this has been dominated by the Labour Party, happy to rely on the large votes from Muslims, but desperate to retain control over them.

So when politicians come along who articulate the feelings of the community, they will get respect, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. One of the biggest reasons why Muslims say they support me is that I make them feel proud of who they are, even to the extent of thinking I am a role model for their children.

This sense of pride and community loyalty applies to Muslims who are unemployed, it applies to Muslims who run corner shops, and it applies to our handful of more wealthy backers.

There are Muslim businesspeople who live in million pound mansions in leafy suburbs, while operating businesses in our communities paying low wages and delivering poor conditions for their workers. But I have not yet found these people to be natural supporters of a fringe left-wing party. There are other businesspeople who both live and work in our communities, and who retain a close connection with the community they come from, and who have the same interest as their brothers and sisters in confronting racism, opposing war, and seeing good representation for the disadvantaged areas they live in.

Respect’s base is among the poorest sections of our communities. And the experience of anti-Muslim racism, and disgust at imperialist war, motivates some small business people in those communities to join us. The roots of our cross community support do not lie in right-wing, anti-working class politics. They can be found in a commitment to oppose racism and war, and the significance of a political party being seen to speak out in defence of that community’s interest.

Running through the SWP’s analysis is a crude reductionist attempt to read off all political actions from some supposed economic interest. If this is too simplistic in trying to explain Respect’s support from some people who own small businesses, it is even more so in relation to people seen as community leaders. The single biggest reason such individuals acquire weight and influence is not wealth, it is reputation.

South Asian communities are built on the basis on migration. New immigrants settle where they have already family or personal links. As a result, most of Birmingham and Tower Hamlets Muslim communities live in areas with others of a similar background. That background invariably lies in common village roots in Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh, with ties reinforced through marriage. These strong community ties bring real benefits. They have provided an indispensable leg-up to newly arrived immigrants from rural areas as they navigate their way around their new country.

The value of such support is incalculable, and is not readily forgotten. And on the basis of their records in doing such work, certain individuals can acquire prestige and influence. It is insulting to our voters and supporters to reduce the prestige which certain individuals in the community have, to some form of patronage or favour they dispense.

Of course this influence can be, and often is, abused. Family and clan loyalties have allowed influential figures in the community to claim control over blocks of votes that can run into the hundreds. This system can stifle genuine political debate, and at its worst can lead to corruption of the electoral process.

But the existence of such loyalties is a reality that cannot be wished away. Family or clan loyalties are not an invention of ‘community leaders’. They originate in the social structures of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and persist because of the experience of migration and the importance of mutual support and interdependence in the daily lives of South Asian communities in Britain today.

This social reality can be both a strength and a weakness. And it leads to real pressures which we have to resist by asserting the primacy of principled politics.

Our campaigns to end the postal vote have to be seen in this context. It is for the reasons that biraderi (extended clan) networks can exert undue influence that we have been campaigning vigorously in Birmingham against postal votes. Women in particular have been disenfranchised. Postal votes are filled out in the “privacy” of one’s own home. But it is not private when family members, candidates or supporters, can influence – subtly or otherwise – the way you complete your vote. Community leaders may claim to be able to yield significant voter blocs, but no one can interfere with the secrecy of the polling station. A secret ballot means that loyalties to family and friends can be maintained in public, but political arguments can still win out in the real privacy of the voting booth.

Ultimately, however, we have to stick to principles and lead by example. Last year in Birmingham Sparkbrook we came under considerable pressure when we selected a candidate whose family were originally from the same village in Pakistan as the sitting Lib Dem councillor. It was alleged we were splitting the biraderi vote. And that we could not win by so doing. We resisted those pressures, just as we resisted pressures when the same people said we could never win by standing a women candidate. And we were proved right on both occasions.

The SWP’s allegations that we are in thrall to ‘community leaders i.e. small businessmen’ are as ignorant of the communities they profess to be knowledgeable about as they are misleading about the actual activities of their critics.

Respect: the politics of ‘Tammnay Hall’ and ‘pocket members’?

The SWP claim that following the outcome of selection meetings in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets the character of Respect changed, and there was a move ‘away from the minimal agreed principles…towards putting electability above every other principle’.[10] They also claim that ‘Tammany Hall’ politics i.e. the buying of ethnic voter blocs in return for political favours, have now corrupted Respect.

These are about as serious a set of allegations as can be made.[11] You would expect therefore that the SWP to produce evidence to substantiate them. You would expect them to be able to point to how the political programme of Respect has been subsequently watered down; or to cite examples of our elected councillors pandering to a pro-war, neo-liberal agenda; or to give a single instance where our councillors have abused their elected positions or brought Respect into disrepute. Yet no evidence is forthcoming.

The SWP’s attempt to evoke an analogy between Respect and the practices of the Democratic Party machine – known as Tammany Hall – is particularly ludicrous. For decades, Tammany Hall politics played a major part in controlling politics and carving out ethnic voter bases in cities like New York City and Chicago through patronage, bribery, kickbacks. It was first and foremost based on the use and abuse of power – a real power which, by any definition, is lacking among Muslim communities in Britain.

There is no parallel between the Tammany Hall system and the attempts by disadvantaged and excluded minority communities in Britain to organize themselves to exert influence over the political system. The former is a colonial-type operation to keep politics in the hands of big business. The latter is a struggle for justice and equality by those kept out of the corridors of power. One would have thought the SWP could tell the difference between the two.

All sorts of groupings organise to maximize their influence in society. I see no reason – other than ignorance and prejudice – why the organization of minority communities should be singled out for particular hostility, particularly when representatives of those communities do not wield significant political power in our society.

Of course, pressures exist and have to be countered. We have seen allegations, over many years, of ‘pocket members’ bought and paid for by individuals with the sole intention of influencing selection meetings.

These undemocratic practices can be dealt with. Membership rules can be tightened, or in extreme cases a national party can intervene if a local organization is bringing it into disrepute. Prior to the split I am not aware of the SWP either proposing new measures to tighten membership requirements or raising at a national level their concerns about selection processes inside Respect.[12]

Instead they overplay the outcome of a few selection meetings where their preferred candidates did not get selected. There is more than a touch of double standards here. The SWP complain about candidates encouraging their supporters to ‘pack’ a meeting.[13] Yet the SWP goes through the same process every time it approaches a contentious meeting or conference. It will have its full-timers ensuring that the membership details of its supporters are up to date – no doubt in some cases using SWP district bank accounts to speed the process. And when their side wins, they congratulate themselves on a ‘good mobilisation’. When the other side wins, they cry foul about meetings being ‘packed’!

The SWP, with a half a century of political existence behind them, came into Respect as a well-organised party, with an apparatus staffed by fulltimers and an extremely top down and centralised decision making culture. With a familiarity of operating in committees and party political structures that the vast majority of Respect’s new supporters and members did not have, the potential for an organised political grouping having an influence wholly disproportionate to its social base among Respect voters, was very real.

As it became clear that Respect’s strongest voter base and elected representatives came from within sections of the Muslim community, where the SWP had virtually no influence, so they increasingly resorted to bureaucratic manoeuvrings and control to exercise influence. By packing a committee with their members, by acting in committee meetings to a prepared plan and in a disciplined manner, they could lockdown the decision making structures in their favour. New Respect activists learnt the only way to challenge this was to outplay the SWP at their own game, and ‘pack’ meetings better than they could, which they duly did.

Whichever side ‘wins’ in these sort of contests, it has to be admitted that the process brings with it an unhealthy dynamic into our internal life. The coalition model that Respect was founded upon had its merits. In the future, however, I am convinced that we need to organise much more along traditional party political lines. We need to be clear that we are building a political party, and not making some form of temporary agreement between rival interests for electoral purposes.

Conclusion

I see nothing that has happened in the last year or so that fundamentally challenges my view that the political foundation upon which Respect rests; opposition to imperialism, neo-liberalism or racism, is anything other than solid.

Those in the leadership of the Renewal wing of Respect are implacable on all these three fundamental issues. Likewise, the bulk of our members and supporters have essentially old Labour values, given backbone with anger at war and racism. Our members feel pride when they hear Respect leaders like George Galloway articulate their concerns with his trademark eloquence and uncompromising anti-imperialism and anti-racism.

Many come from backgrounds in the South Asian sub-continent where they are all too familiar with the reality of political corruption, and certainly in inner city Birmingham, they will have seen similar practices replicate themselves in the behaviour of the Labour party. By contrast they see us as embodying political principle. This is what our reputation rests on. But we can’t take it for granted. We have to work hard to protect it.

We must create a more rounded and extensive political culture so that our members absorb through a variety of means our fundamental principles, and where new leaders and candidates are moulded out of our traditions. That is a process. It will require determination and consistency on our part. To that end the production of a Respect newspaper is one important step in the right direction. More steps will follow. However I am confident of the political direction we are travelling. I am also confident that Respect is emerging reborn and renewed from its recent difficulties.

NOTES AND REFERENCES

1 Martin Smith, ‘Where next for Respect?’ Socialist Review December 2007
Chris Harman, ‘The Crisis in Respect’, document sent to IST members, December 2007. (This document is available here)

2 Smith opt cit.

3 Harman opt cit.

4 A point George Galloway repeated in his letter to the SWP concerning their attempt to brow beat Muslim councillors into participating on a Gay Pride float.

5 Salma Yaqoob, ‘British Islamic Radicalism’ in Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Perspective, editors Raymond Tallis &, Tahir Abbas, Edinburgh University Press, 2006

6 http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/paper/index.php?article=3299

7 http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-13179-f0.cfm

8 John Molyneux, ‘On Respect: a reply to some points’, SWP pre conference discussion bulletin 3, 2007.

9 http://www.nya.org.uk/Templates/internal.asp?NodeID=92837

10 Harman opt cit.

11 For somebody who allegedly prides himself as a practitioner of a scientific Marxist method, the paucity, anecdotal and one-sided nature of Chris Harman’s evidence is striking. The fact that in order to substantiate his claims about Birmingham Respect he is reduced to reproducing a comment from a friend’s sister, who apparently happens to live in Birmingham, and who allegedly thinks Birmingham Respect is ‘communalist’, has more than a touch of desperation about it. Nobody that I know has ever heard of the source he quotes, for all I know she might not even be a Respect member. And if she is, she is certainly not an active one. It is revealing he can’t find any members from his own organization active in Birmingham Respect to publicly reiterate and substantiate the ‘communalist’ charge. They certainly have never made any such charge at any Respect meeting that I have attended.

The only other piece of evidence Harman produces in relation to Birmingham is a disputed selection meeting held last year. He cites the fact we selected seven Asian male as evidence of succumbing to conservative patriarchal pressures from inside the Muslim community. He conveniently ignores the fact that the most high profile Respect figure in the city is a Muslim woman. He also ignores any reference to my request to the SWP that they come forward with female candidates for the outstanding 33 uncontested wards: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=10628

The bigger question SWP members should be asking themselves about the Kings Heath selection meeting is why, in a catchment area that included Birmingham University and a 6,000 plus student population, the SWP could not recruit even half a dozen of so students to support their candidate, Helen Salmon.

12 The SWP proposed changes to membership only after they had elected to go ‘nuclear’ over George Galloway’s letter and Respect was in the process of dividing into two.

Their proposal was that members should be restricted as to how many members any individual member could recruit in any one month, that the National Office should be able to ask prospective members for proof of their right to the concessionary rate and that new members had to attend a minimum number of meetings prior to voting for candidates etc.

The first of these proposals was clearly unenforceable but also bizarre in its demand that members should limit their recruitment aspirations. Respect’s problem has not been too many members but too few. The second proposal promised a potentially racially inflammatory test of the veracity of members. Bangladeshi members in Tower Hamlets have already had plenty of experience of condescending white members demanding ID from them as though they were having to pass an immigration entry test. The third and most significant restriction however was clearly an opportunist device to keep control over selection of candidates and election of officers in the hands of those for whom attendance at political meetings was a way of life, this likely to be, of course, mostly SWP members. So much then for trying to create a new kind of organisation which would help to enfranchise those who had for so long been disenfranchised. Most extraordinary of all, these proposals also promised restrictions which are not to be found in either the Labour Party or the trade union movement.

The SWP proposals threatened to entrench the tendencies marked in many areas of making Respect an extension of the local SWP branch’s campaigning activity rather than giving it a life of its own.

13 Rob Hoveman adds the following background information in relation to Tower Hamlets:
 ‘In four years in Tower Hamlets, in the area where we have the biggest support for Respect electorally and where we have had an MP for almost three years, an examination of the membership of Respect in the borough revealed that the SWP had recruited virtually
no-one white to Respect outside the SWP itself. This represents an abysmal failure. Moreover, according to their local organizer, a Tower Hamlets SWP branch meeting was told that 60% of the SWP members in the borough had not joined Respect and that they would, in the face of the “witch-hunt” the party was facing, now be trying to get them to join!

Much has been made about the process of candidate selection in Tower Hamlets for the council elections in 2006. What was most apparent in the run-up to the local elections, however, was, on the one hand, the lack of white candidates to put up for election and, on
the other, the fact that the SWP candidates, most of whom were white, had had no real prior connection with or involvement in the Bangladeshi community which was inevitably going to be the major source of votes in the election.

Few, if any, of the SWP candidates in Tower Hamlets had serious roots in the wards in which they stood. Of no-one was this more true than John Rees. Although he had worked in the area for many years, as this was the site of the SWP national office until the last couple
of years, he had not been involved in local campaigns and in fact lived in Hackney.

He wanted to stand in Whitechapel because this is where he though he was most likely to get elected. A number of Bangladeshi activists thought this unlikely as no-one in the Bangladeshi community in Whitechapel had any prior knowledge of him. This was the one source of acute division at the candidate selection meeting in the Kingsley Hall, where the room divided almost but not exclusively on racial lines over his standing in Whitechapel. Although his candidacy was confirmed at that meeting by majority vote, he subsequently concluded that he could not win there and switched to Bethnal Green South as a more promising prospect. Even so he did not really start his local campaign until four weeks before the election and concentrated heavily on getting SWP members in to canvas by knocking on doors.

I was in favour of John Rees standing in the election but the tactics deployed to try to get him elected seem to me to have been fatally flawed. Throwing in wave after wave of canvassers in the last few weeks, when most psephologists will tell you most votes have already been decided, shows an incredible lack of understanding about how confidence, and therefore votes, are won amongst sections of the community. And hoping to ride the coat-tails of Bangladeshi candidates who do have roots and the connections betrays an electoral opportunism (unsuccessful in this as in other cases) entirely counter to the long-standing SWP position that SWP members need to build real roots in the community.

Finally, in relation to SWP claims about there being something underhand about new members being recruited before the candidate selection for Bethnal Green and Bow in November 2007, what they did not point out was that many of the new members who were being registered were being registered by SWP councillor Lutfa Begum in order to vote for her daughter Rania Khan to be the candidate. Rania Khan incidentally was the SWP’s own preferred candidate for the nomination. There may well be nothing improper in Lutfa Begum encouraging new members to join in the run-up to a selection. But what is improper is the SWP’s double standards when it comes to such actions.’

206 comments on “The SWP Takes a Step Backwards

  1. I publish Chris Harman’s article referred to by Salma here: http://www.socialistunity.com/?page_id=1260

    This came to me at the beginning of December from a source neither within the SWP nor its international affiliates in the IST. It has been advertised as the lead article of the SWP’s theoretcical journal – the ISJ – but is not yet available on-line from the SWP.

  2. Nah,tim at no. 3 , I expect she’ll be off to new labour along with most of the Tower Hamlets renewal councillors when they realise they’ve got rid of all the canvassers they need to get re-elected .

    Interesting that Salma has signed the statement in the Guardian from prominent Muslims backing Livingstone .

    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/open_letter/2008/01/supporting_ken_livingstone_as.html

    Has this article been published elsewhere or is it a Socialist Unity exclusive ?

    It comes across as very factional and very bitter retreading much of the stuff that’s been argued to death around here . It’s all “you said this.. we said that..” Not much politics in there .

    It’s a shame Salma is reduced to this petty name calling stuff . To think she used to be a significant figure in the anti-war movement .

  3. Mark P on said:

    Rob get a grip. There is no ‘petty name calling stuff’. Rather it is a highly political critique and response to the SWP ‘United Front of a Special Type’ misdemeanour. The fact you don’t agree with Salma’s analysis doesn’t mean’t its lacking in politics, in fact it is frankly patronising to suggest any such thing.

    The SWP will have to learn with the fact that a significant chunk of the outside Left no longer rate them politically, the SWP has been revealed as highly conservative and more and more, including in their own seriously depleted ranks, are questioning the basis of this conserrvatism whilst exploring the possibilities of a plural Left.

  4. Andrew Coates on said:

    Just something which does not seem to have been caught up with: George Galloway’s interesting comments in the Morning Star, opposing Kosovan independence. The movement, led, by gangsters (his words) all a result, he seems to allege, of a US-NATO plot.

    As a true anti-imperialist Yaqood will no doubt be backing Galloway’s sterling call for the defence of Serbian national territory against the mechinations of international military neo-liberalism.

  5. Andrew,

    i don’t know what George’s view is. Mine is that socialists should oppose Kosovan “independence” at the current juncture, which is of course not independence at all; and the links between the neo-fascist KLA/UTC with gangsterism are well documented. The sharp increase in ethnic cleansing since the withdrawl of Serbian troops from Kosavo has also been well documented, including by Human Rights Watch, who are usually more obedient to US interests.

    But we will have plenty of opportunities to debate that in the future without hijacking this thread for it.

  6. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andrew Coates

    That would be the article that says, “The Nato occupation of Kosovo did not bring an end to ethnic cleansing. It emerely reversed it… Kosovo itself became a haven for trade in drugs and prostitutes. Far from control over their own destiny, the people of Kosovo because occupied by 16,000 Nato troops, their economy overrun by gangsterism and their state structures overseen by one or other European Union potentate.”

    You know, if you are going to try to shit-stir you’d be better giving an accurate account of what someone says rather than “he seems to allege…”

    Anyway, back to the thread. A very useful and important piece by Salma. The key, for me, is the understanding that we are involved in a drawn out process of (re)building a left political culture. That requires patience.

  7. someone on said:

    “…A very useful and important piece by Salma. The key, for me, is the understanding that we are involved in a drawn out process of (re)building a left political culture. That requires patience.”

    Come off it kevin what sort of finger-pupetting is this? -it’s plain to see that Salma did not write this article, it’s clearly written by more than one person, one of whom is presumably you.

  8. What a load of rubbish. #8

    Asian woman writes an article, so it cannot possible be her own work?

    Despite the fact that it is written very much in her own voice and that it makes the same political points she has been arguing consistently.

  9. I’ve just read the Guardian letter by Salma et al supporting Livingstone. Funny about some ‘Leftists’ who become more militant the further away the cause. No criticisms whatsoever of Livingstone’s less than principled domestic activities e.g. his privatisation antics and encouragement of scabbing during an RMT dispute. If that’s the way the wind is blowing with Respect Renewal i.e. no class politics, they deserve to head for the same irrelevant obscurity as the SWP.

  10. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    JB

    Giving Ken Livingstone a third term is, however, the official position of the pre-October 2007 Respect. Lindsey German and George Galloway went into print in the Morning Star last summer making exactly that point.

  11. Ian Donovan on said:

    In what way is the question of racism and Islamophobia ‘far away’ from the concerns of the many Muslim and black activists who signed this letter? Seems pretty close to home to me.

    Actually, I dont agree with the pitch of this letter, though I understand what produced it in terms of the illusions of minorities who feel under the gun in Livingstone as a defender of minorities against racism. We need to argue for a critical attitude to Livingstone particularly over his class betrayals, while also taking account of these illusions. Ideally that would have meant running a mayoral candidate ourselves while calling for a second preference to KL, though this is probably not now going to happen thanks to the recent car crash.

  12. By the way, a classic “don’t look at that, look at this” diversion being played by the SWP-Respepct supporters here.

    A pleasant diversion, or even better from their point of view, a slanging match about Ken Livingston, instead of having to confront the substantive issues Salma raises.

  13. Re # 16. The ‘issues’ raised by ‘Salma’ are all dealt with in the Harman article you’ve finally decided to (sort of) publish.

  14. OK, on the substantive issues, then. At the end of the first section Salma argues a classic straw person: There is no evidence of any Muslim bloc inside Respect seeking to give our political agenda some Sharia flavour. There is no evidence that members of Jamaat-i-Islami or any other Islamic organization are on some ‘entryist’ mission inside Respect.

    Both points are true, but they are not the point that Martin Smith and Chris Harman argued. Salma doesn’t seek to refute the allegation that some of the people around RR have links to Jamaat-e-Islami, and she doesn’t seek to refute Charis Harman’s characterisation of Jamaat-e-Islami as a reactionary group. It’s possible that the reason she doesn’t seek to refute either of these points is that they’re true.

  15. An interesting article by Yaqoob, if only for its absolutely consistent disavowal of class politics. For example;

    “There are other businesspeople who both live and work in our communities, and who retain a close connection with the community they come from, and who have the same interest as their brothers and sisters in confronting racism, opposing war, and seeing good representation for the disadvantaged areas they live in.”

    This is what you would expect from a populist politician of this type, but let’s not pretend its got anything in common with socialism. Muslim businesspeople do not have a common interest with the workers and poor who make up the mass of the “Muslim community” and feel the sharp edge of racism and discrimination.
    I vividly remember during the Oldham riots a few years ago how the Muslim elders co-operated with the police in quelling the riots after the BNP attacks on the “Muslim community”.
    The SWP may be reductionist in reading off politics from economic interest, but in Yaqoob’s case, as a small business person herself, it it would be fair to say that her politics as outlined in this article, are absolutely consistent with someone in her class position.

  16. Ian Donovan on said:

    So how are Harman’s points linking RR to Jamaat different from the attacks of many ‘left’ Islamophobes on Respect’s earlier promotion of candidates such as Anas Altikriti of MAB, for ‘links’ with the Muslim Brotherhood?

  17. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Ian

    It would also be interesting to see what Harman thinks of the Cairo conference process, given that it has participants from the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. And, as John Molyneux dismissively characterises George Galloway as a Nasserist, his thoughts on Cairo, with its contingent of Nasserists, would also be welcome.

  18. Kevin , where does Harman say it’s wrong to work with Islamists as you seem to be implying?
    You can work with people you have political disagreements you know . Of course that’s different from bending over bacwards to accomodate middle class carreerist councillors .

  19. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    mm

    I used to think I did – but then I used to think I knew Harman’s position on working with Islamists in Britain and Molyneux’s on working with George Galloway. The point is that once you attempt to justify a break with people on spurious political grounds you end up having to revise all sorts of positions – either that, or accept a hopeless muddle of flat contradictions – viz, we cannot work with the Stalinist/Castroite Galloway, but we seek to be in the Party of the European Left along with Fausto Bertinotti and the PCF (neither of whom, of course, have a trace of Stalinism).

    So my questions remain valid. What are their views of the Cairo process, given their stated reasons for breaking with George Galloway and Salma Yacoob?

  20. Kevin, you (‘Renewal’) were the ones leaving Respect and forming a new organisation, not the other way round. So you should ask your question to GG and Salma Yacoob, not to Harman & Co. That is, after all, the main thrust of Harman’s article – what processes within and outside Respect caused Galloway and a few other people to change their views on working with the SWP. I listened to Galloway at Marxism last year, and at that time he was still praising the party for its work in Stop the War and Respect. Then, a few weeks after, the SWP had suddenly metamorphed into a vicious band of ‘Russian dolls’ that had proved impossible to work with. Harman’s article explains why. And it has got nothing to do with working alongside islamists or stalinists, as you must surely know.

  21. Ian Donovan on said:

    So if its nothing to do with working with ‘Islamists’, why does it denounce RR people for having links with ‘Islamists’?

  22. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    ydna

    George and Salma made a series of criticisms about the administration, under John Rees, of Respect – including over the Dubai cheque that was put through the “fighting unions” account. The reponse of the SWP leadership was to “go nuclear”, declare there was a left/right split in Respect, claim they were being witch-hunted, support the breakaway of four councillors in Tower Hamlets and then claim a specious political justification for the split.

    George was still trying to work with four members of the SWP leadership to sort out the cheque business when they were claiming he was a witch-hunter and Linda Smith was a ballot-rigger.

    It is George and Salma who have maintained that there were no material differences in policy with the SWP. It is leaders of the SWP who are claiming this was about communalism, attacks on the left, and alliances with reactionary Islamists which will make Respect minus the SWP inhospitable to socialists.

  23. Get real, Ian. You are talking about a FOOTNOTE in Harman’s article, and the point being made in the note isn’t about islamism, but about the supposed absence of close-knit groups and coordination on the ‘Renewal’ side. You are chasing straw men, both of you.

  24. Ian Donovan on said:

    Straw men? No, I just note that an Islamophobic critique I rejected in order to get involved in Respect is now being put forward by people who used to argue the opposite. In any case, this point ain’t a ‘footnote’ in Martin Smith’s article in Socialist Review. This is a propaganda point that is being made more and more … and it shows the SWP retreating from broadly correct positions it argued in the past.

  25. I presume you are referring to the December issue of Socialist Review. Still, I can find nothing in that article to support your allegations, but I guess you mean this:

    “What has evolved around Galloway is a coalition of interests more resembling a popular front – not consciously created as by the Communist Party in the 1930s, but more a spontaneous expansion of allies to include those far from the roots of class politics. This logic of electoralism has led Galloway and his supporters to be drawn into making alliances across the whole Muslim community, where he feels the key to winning elections lies.”

    http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=10186

  26. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    ydna

    Scroll up one par in that article and you’ll find this:

    ‘Such developments prompted one observer, usually hostile to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP,) to tell the Independent (9 November 2007): “The split will strengthen the weight of the Islamists in Respect Renewal, some of whom have links to Jamaat-e-Islami [Pakistan’s largest religious party]. I don’t think that’s going to make the party very hospitable to socialists.”‘

    This follows the same Martin Smith approvingly quoting in the Party Notes he edits the Observer’s Ned Temko, who claimed the tensions in Respect were all about Galloway wanting to move it in a more “anti-Zionist” direction.

    An entirely wrong assessment, which is explicable for a Zionist propagandist like Temko, but utterly opportunistic for the SWP leadership.

  27. Ian Donovan on said:

    How about this bit (same article)

    “Such developments prompted one observer, usually hostile to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP,) to tell the Independent (9 November 2007): ‘The split will strengthen the weight of the Islamists in Respect Renewal, some of whom have links to Jamaat-e-Islami [Pakistan’s largest religious party]. I don’t think that’s going to make the party very hospitable to socialists.'”

  28. Rudebwoy on said:

    Britain

    Respect – the Unity Coalition was founded in 2004 by the anti-war MP, George Galloway, and the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP). Now, Respect has split acrimoniously down the middle: the SWP on the one side, George Galloway and most other forces in Respect, on the other. HANNAH SELL reports.
    The crisis in Respect

    Crisis will be used to argue it is impossible to build a mass force to the left of Labour.
    Hannah Sell, Socialist Party, England and Wales

    Continues http://www.socialistworld.net/

  29. Chris Harman’s article is referenced, and a link is provided to it on this site. However, the date given at the top of the article is December 9th, which is obviously inaccurate. This is the first time I’ve seen this article. Exactly how long did Andy spend attacking it before he gave the rest of us a chance to read it? And why is he pretending that it has been on-line for a month already?

  30. Andy justifies Respect Renewal’s chair supporting Livingstone for Mayor on the basis of it being “in a personal capacity.” This exposes, yet again, the utter bankruptcy of Respect Renewal. The “pluralism” beloved of the anti-abortionists and supporters for scabs and apologists of state-sanctioned murderers is the “democracy” of the liberal petty bourgeois. Galloway and his entourage demand the right to do as they please, to exploit their access to the mass media to stab their fellow comrades in the back. They grant their rank and file the same rights, content in the knowledge that the media allows them no such access. Their role in Respect Renewal is to applaud Galloway, Yaqoob, Miah et al. Socialism is anathema to these people because working class democracy demands collective responsibility. And they split Respect on precisely this basis.

  31. The article references an article by John Molyneux, in internal bulletin 3. Yet Molyneux is criticised without our having access to his article. Why not? What kind of “pluralism” is this?

  32. stuart on said:

    For me, one of the most revealing bits of the Yaqoob piece is the follwing assertion..

    ” In the future, however, I am convinced that we need to organise much more along traditional party political lines. We need to be clear that we are building a political party”

    Clearly Salma, and presumably her buddies, wants to make the clear leap from ‘coalition’ to ‘party’. The point is that RESPECT was not formed as a PARTY, it is a UNITY COALTION. There is an obvious dsistinction.

    It is clear also that RESPECT would not have been persuaded to become a PARTY through the traditional route of a democratically convened conference. SWP supporters would have voted against.

    So the only way to form a PARTY is to manipulate the ‘removal’ of the SWP from RESPECT UNITY COALITION. But if the SWP don’t leave how does RESPECT become a PARTY?

    It doesn’t. Salma and friends will have to form their own party if that’s what they want but they must accept that they are entirely separate from the RESPECT UNITY COALITION.

    They have done that to a point by calling a rally on the same day of the RESPECT conference, however they still seem to make some kind of claim on RESPECT despite avoiding putting their views to conference.

    In fact they appear to talking about using the state machinery , including the law, as well as their media contacts, in an attempt to bring about a RESPECT PARTY even though this not how RESPECT was originally constructed.

    Seems like a witch-hunt to me.

  33. Ian Donovan writes “So how are Harman’s points linking RR to Jamaat different from the attacks of many ‘left’ Islamophobes on Respect’s earlier promotion of candidates such as Anas Altikriti of MAB, for ‘links’ with the Muslim Brotherhood?”

    And how were Trotsky’s criticisms of the Soviet Union different from from the Nazi’s and US and other imperialism’s? Bereft of the socialist activists provided by the SWP, the weight of the Muslim part of this socialist/Muslim coalition gives it a gravitational attraction that will pull in more of the same. The microscopic, albeit highly vocal, “socialist” wing will not hang around all that long. My guess is that none of them will need to be expelled. They will simply walk away, a scattering of demoralised individuals.

  34. laughing on said:

    molly @39

    The article references an article by John Molyneux, in internal bulletin 3. Yet Molyneux is criticised without our having access to his article. Why not? What kind of “pluralism” is this?

    Why not? Because Andy would not like John Molyneux’s article in IB3. No, not one little bit.

    Andy does not respect other people’s internal documents, but he does have a certain sort of squeamishness about the ones he doesn’t agree with.

  35. Hi Laughing.

    It was a rhetorical question. I was drawing attention to Andy’s tattered democratic credentials. Andy criticised Harman’s article for around a month before summoning the guts to make the text available to the rest of us. Although he pretends to believe that Salma Yaqoob wrote this critique of Harman’s article without any help (denouncing those of us who suspect otherwise as in being sexist!), the reality is that he knows that this is a joint effort. And he had to wait until Galloway, Ovenden, Wrack, Thornett et al cobbled together a piece they could all sign their name to, while crediting only one of them. This article is clearly not submitted in a personal capacity. It is an official Respect Renewal offering. Now that Andy has been handed down the line bureaucratic centralist fashion, he and his friends will swallow it blindly. If they ever manage to work out a line on John Molyneux’s article, then no doubt Andy will get round to publishsing that as well.

  36. someone on said:

    Andy: Comment 9 -you can put away the pretend outrage, or do you really believe that salma wrote this sentence herself: “For somebody who allegedly prides himself as a practitioner of a scientific Marxist method, the paucity, anecdotal and one-sided nature of Chris Harman’s evidence is striking”.

    This was clearly written by someone who does consider themself to be or have been a marxist.

    My point wasn’t that it is wrong for Salma to put her name to something she clearly didn’t write herself, but that it is sock pupetting of Kev Ovenden to praise an article he has clearly had a major part in writing by pretending Salma herself wrote it.

  37. someone on said:

    actually having looked it up on wikipedia I think the correct term for Kev’s behaviour is astroturfing.

  38. stupid asian woman on said:

    Astroturfing is a neologism for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising that seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Wikipedia

    That’s right. I can only exhibit “spontaneous, grassroots behaviour” (I got a clever man to explain those long words to me). Obviously I can’t produce a long structured argument all by my little self.

  39. We got the point Andy just chose to miss it.

    Salma’s voice can indeed be heard in it and I am sure she agrees with the piece, but there is an intertextuality here too.

  40. Teddy Boy on said:

    You are saying she has ghost writers. You run away from the issues by smearing Councillor Salma

  41. someone on said:

    All I am saying is that Kev clearly wrote significant parts of the article, but then he went onto praise it in the comments without acknowledging it.

    Teedy Boy -do you actually believe that Salma wrote the article herself?

  42. stupid asian woman on said:

    Yes, the help of clever intertextual men doing their clever intertextualising business, that’s what we women need. They’re the engineers who build the car, we’re just the models draped on the bonnet. Perfect harmony.

  43. She’s a smooth operator, Ms Yaqoob.

    But a closer look reveals the emptiness of this. Attacking assertion and responding with assertion seems rather pointless.

    And this habit of supporting assertion with ‘evidence’ – by quoting yourself. This is a propaganda trick, and not even a very good one.

    Thanks for confirming that you were hostile to Respect socialists all along, Salma. I suspected as much, but it reassuring to hear it confirmed in your own words. Good night, and good luck in your new career.

    And on that word…

  44. Ger Francis on said:

    The SWP responses on this tread are almost devoid of any serious political content and reduced to questioning authorship. All this smoke blowing is the hallmark of those lacking confidence in defending their case. If the SWP members on this site had any left they would attempt to engage with Salma’s devastating critique of their leaders nonsense about Tammany Hall politics, pocket members, RR pandering to religious fundamentalism and ‘community leaders i.e. small businessman’. This latter phrase belongs to John Molyeaux in an article in IB3 notable for its ignorance as much as it’s arrogance and by far the crudest presentation of the SWP argument I have yet seen. I wish somebody would republish it because it is easy meat to rip apart.

  45. Lobby Ludd on said:

    It does not matter who wrote the article – Salma Yaqoob put her name to it.

    Address the article, not the person.

    Simple stuff, really.

  46. Articles get drafted and passed around, amended and extended. It’s common practise and exactly what will have happened to CH’s ISJ article for example. The extent to which Salma’s piece has been handled is unclear, but let’s be honest here, KO is one of the most likely to have read and commented on it before the final copy appeared. His innocent post was like a cookoo in the nest.

  47. Ger Francis on said:

    Salma’s article was circulated in draft for feedback. Rob Hoveman’s are included in the footnotes. And?? As mm says this is standard practice for ISJ articles. Now, how about trying to address its political content?

  48. Matthew on said:

    You know the SWP has contributed a great deal to the movement (’70s ANL, role in the anti-war movement, role in launching Respect, etc.) and it contains some admirable activists. We must keep this in mind as we read through the pro-SWP comments here as the admirable activists are clearly off somewhere else leaving the troll duty to the sadder epigones.

    What are the main themes.

    1. Salma Yaqoob didn’t write this, instead this is ‘finger-puppeting’. That this this should be alleged by people called things like ‘someone’ and ‘mm’ strikes an ironical note. ‘Tom'(#44) knows things so absolutely that I feel he must actually be George Galloway. But there’s also clear textual evidence that Tom is really Molly. Yes we must demand immediate publication of John Molyneux’s article – I suspect Andy of holding it back in a ploy to keep the number of SU visits higher than those for Lenin’s Tomb! Maybe the comrades in the SWP could oblige! You know Fredrick Douglass wrote the first version of his autobiography in reply to those racists who argued that no slave could be as eloquent as him. The phrase ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ comes from Sojourner Truth’s response to those pro-slavery hecklers (trolls we call them in this context)who tried to shut her up by demanding she proved her sex. Let’s be clear this is troll-noise designed not even to prevent debate, but to fill the emptiness in their heads.

    2. Salma is bad because she supports Ken: well actually I’ve got me worries about this and would like some debate in RR about this, but there aren’t the structures – yet (I hope) and it’s early days.

    3. chjh (#21) typically makes a good logical point (and isn’t trolling), but I have this feeling that if true the SWP wouldn’t mind if they were getting their way in Respect to the extent that they wanted and would be denouncinng the likes of chjh as islamophobes for suggesting it. And that is what it is about isn’t it.

    4. Molly (or is it Tom) is just shouting at random – ‘drink, girls, feck’ is the kind of effect.

    5. Stuart (#40)is a fine example of the paranoid strain in politics – he thinks he’s being logical, but its chop logic at best; he’s shouting witchunt but his evidence is pretty thin – they said ‘party’, we said ‘coalition’. Hah, I wondered about those infiltrators who pretended to be in the SWP, but gave themselves away as Galloway pod people by habitually slipping into the language of ‘party’. As I said, shouting ‘witchhunt’, but if anyone’s got a paranoid conspiracy-seeking witchhunting approach it’s our Stuart.

    It’s all a shame isn’t it – there could be a serious debate about the way forward for all of us, but the trollers don’t want that, they seem to need to shout the first thing that comes into their head, not just to shut other people up, but to drown out any actual thoughts they might have. Bring back johng!

  49. Ian Donovan on said:

    “And how were Trotsky’s criticisms of the Soviet Union different from from the Nazi’s and US and other imperialism’s?”

    Ah, I’m sure that kind of Trotskyese gibberish will really convince Muslims targetted as a ‘reactionary’ influence in British society that the SWP is really SO different from the run-of-the-mill liberal Islamophobes who come out with this kind of crap. Or maybe not.

    Or are ‘molly’s’ posts being ghost-written by Sean Matgamna?

  50. Ian Donovan on said:

    “For somebody who allegedly prides himself as a practitioner of a scientific Marxist method, the paucity, anecdotal and one-sided nature of Chris Harman’s evidence is striking”.

    Actually, this sentence does not imply that its author considers herself a Marxist at the present time (though one can but hope for such political evolution;-)).

    It does mean, however, that Salma is dissing Harman’s overblown claims of scientific truth. Very appropriately, since he is writing crap, and unoriginal crap at that.

    Why could not Salma have written this? If this is not stereotyping, what is?. This questioning of the authorship of someone who does sign her name by anonymously-trolling hacks is a new low.

  51. On Islamophobia – the attack from the AWL and other supposed leftists was on anyone whose politics derived from their religion Muslim background having influence in a left organisation.

    That’s a completely different matter from making specific political criticisms of specific Islamist organisations. Salma takes examples of the second, and uses it to suggest the SWP’s doing the first. No, we’re not.

  52. Ian Donovan on said:

    I wouldn’t get too excited about this nonsense from Tom and ‘molly’. They are both manifestations of Tom Delargy, judging by the conspiracy mania and the unfortunate slip when molly ‘forgot’ and posted as Tom. Tom was just trying to hide his embarassment at his widely swinging political line. After months of ranting against George Galloway and all associated with him, remarkably a few days ago he was attacking the SWP and praising GG on Liam’s blog. Now he has changed his mind back again, but had to use a false name to hide his embarassment.

    Neither Tom nor ‘molly’ have anything to do with the SWP. I’m sure they are relieved about that.

  53. Ian Donovan on said:

    So where is the explanation as to why those associated with Muslim Forum (Europe) are bad, whereas those associated with say, MAB are OK? Apart from geographic origins (Pakistan/Bangladesh vs Middle East) there is hardly a massive ideological difference between them. People from both backgrounds have been radicalised towards the left, and that is to be welcomed. Isn’t it?

  54. I would be intrested if Ian could let us know if he agrees with Salma that local buisnessmen have the same class intrests as those of the working class in a given area? that seems to me to be the crux of the matter.

  55. Ger Francis on said:

    Chjh: Smith and Harman are not just making ‘specific political criticisms of specific Islamist organisations’. They are saying RR are giving succor to reactionary religious currents. The political message in the quote Martin Smith uses is unambiguous: ‘The split will strengthen the weight of the Islamists in Respect Renewal, some of whom have links to Jamaat-e-Islami [Pakistan’s largest religious party]. I don’t think that’s going to make the party very hospitable to socialists.’

    These are the kind of smears I normally associate with the likes of the AWL. The fact that the SWP are now carrying similar arguments is indicative of a political degeneration on their part.

  56. Ger. do you agree there is the same class interests with local buisness people and local working class? if you do this seems to me to be a significant departure from your previous positions.

  57. Ger -as a communalist/Islamist – doesn’t like socialist arguing for class politics. he’s more at home with small businessmen who might give him a job. Or baiting gays. or trying to stary punch-ups with socialists. or threatening iranian refugees. He’s simply…scum. drop him, Nooman, while there’s time.

  58. Ger Francis on said:

    Jj, you cannot understand why Muslim ‘small businessmen’ would support Respect councilors without understanding the way racism impacts across the Muslim community. The roots of any ‘small business’ support does not lie in an expectation that Respect will represent their class interests, it lies in a reaction to anti-Muslim racism and anger at foreign policy.

  59. Ger. i have no problm in general in what you are saying its just that Salma states there are no different class interests involved. To my mind this appears to be problematic and the whole issue is one of which class interests dominate and lead is it not? and if the support of local buisness people is seen as important then those issues outside racism and imperialism will have a tendency to be downplayed as it cuts across that support.

  60. Adam J on said:

    Could anyone answer my question? I’m curious:
    How many branches does Respect Renewal have and somebody name them?

  61. Ian Donovan on said:

    “I would be intrested if Ian could let us know if he agrees with Salma that local buisnessmen have the same class intrests as those of the working class in a given area?”

    I’m not aware that she said that at all. The sense of what she wrote was rather was that a common experience of racism and discrimination drives some small business people who suffer that oppression towards the left and the working class. That’s not quite the same thing as bald ‘class interest’ in an economistic sense. Incidentally, in previous generations of the left it explains why Jewish petty-bourgeois like e.g. Trotsky became communists. Not out of class interest per-se.

    Incidentally, which small businessman is JJ referring to? Kumar Murshid perhaps? Or doesn’t he count because he is on the same side as JJ?

  62. “There are other businesspeople who both live and work in our communities, and who retain a close connection with the community they come from, and who have the same interest as their brothers and sisters in confronting racism, opposing war, and seeing good representation for the disadvantaged areas they live in.”

    don’t want to get into a semantic arguement but the last element to Salma’s statement above suggests common interests. do local buisness people really have the same interest in good representation for the poor which I am sure we would all agree would be to alongside giving a voice be about encouraging resistance to the bosses local and national etc. there is no agreement on this due to class positions. what if there is a proposal to increase buisness rates for example to give better services to the poor- would all parties agree? what about a strike in a local buisness- would all support it?

  63. Adam J on said:

    Why will nobody clarify how many Respect Renewal branches there are in England and Wales?
    And where they are?

  64. i would also suggest the way racism is confronted is also closely alligned to class and is not the same for all sections of the community.

  65. Adam J on said:

    Very strange that Respect Renewal members refuse to tell us how many branches they have in England and Wales and where they are?

    I’m genuinely curious

  66. 75:” i would also suggest the way racism is confronted is also closely alligned to class and is not the same for all sections of the community.”

    All animals are equal but some of us haven’t finished our milk and apples.

  67. JJ when it comes to racism it affects all members of a community. Just think about it for a second.

    When the Nazi SS were loading the Jewish men, women and children onto the cattle trucks you never heard them asking each one ‘are you a middle class Jew’, ‘a working class Jew’ or even a ‘small buisness owning Jew’?

    So when it comes to the possible effects of racism and discrimination Salma is quite correct, it is in the interests of all Muslims and all non Muslims to oppose any form of discrimination and racism, and it is no suprise that those who are most affected are attracted to those who speak out, like Salma, be they Muslims or non Muslims wheather they work in the the local factory or own a family shop.

    Because Muslims are attracted to Respect’s anti racism and anti discimination and stands out as the one organisation that will stand shoulder to shoulder with them when they or any other community feels most vunerable, does not mean and will not mean we are selling out to local buisnessmen. Salma is clear about this in her artilce but clearly there are those who do not wish to hear what was clear to me.

  68. Ian Donovan on said:

    Well, you can argue about some elements of semantics, but (1) there are almost certain to be ambiguities and some element of difference about such matters in any broad left organisation. Many of the kind of people we are talking about – the corner shopkeeper in a poor, minority area – are very socially close to the local working class in the same areas.

    If you are talking about racism, the keeper of a corner shop is just as vulnerable to victimisation as someone who lives in a nearby block of flats, for instance. Sometimes more so, since small shopkeepers can be very exposed to all sort of crime etc. Incidentally, its not so long ago that the fascists were terrorising Brick Lane. Also, in many cases the move into small business is an attempt to get round discrimination in the job market, which is also a potent factor.

    This is hardly the same as someone whose wealth gives them the chance to live in more upmarket, segregated developments (i mean by wealth). Though even in such cases nothing can be assumed.

    As regards to strikes in local businesses, reforms of business rates, etc, that could indeed cause differentiation, though I would be wary of making rash predictions about such things either. People can be drawn to the left by other means than simple class interest, and that will not necessarily be overridden according to some pre-programmed reflex labelled ‘class interest’ in changed circumstances.

    Indeed, in a period when economic class struggles are at a very low ebb, but anti-war radicalisations and the like are occurring both among working people who have virtually no experience of economic struggles, and elements of the ‘old’ and new middle classes, that is just political life at the moment, and can’t be wished away.

    Incidentally, its good to have some decent political discussion with JJ.

  69. Why will nobody clarify how many Respect Renewal branches there are in England and Wales?

    Perhaps you could ‘clarify’ why you’ve asked the same question three times in the space of twenty minutes, having already asked it twice on another thread. It wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve answered it once. Here you are again:

    Adam: that’s a trick question, as there is no such organisation as Respect Renewal. I look forward to the day when there is such an organisation – I might even join – but at present RR and RESPECT/SWP are still joined at the hip. I believe there were some negotiations a while back to resolve this unsatisfactory situation; whatever happened to them?

  70. Neil
    the point is not that all sections face racism- albait often in differing ways- the example of the gas chambers is really a bit off the mark compared to todays situation. the point I made is that do all sections regardless of class have the same intrest in fighting poverty etc I don’t think so, some sections of that community profit from it! indeed the profit margins in smal buisnesses are sharper than large scale capitalist enterprises.
    I stated that the way to confront racism differs due to class positions-to me that is fairly non controversial buit obviously for you this is a problem. As far as I see it racism does not do away with class division.

  71. Phil
    I think the point is there have been attempts to set up rr branches with its own membvership forms and subs arrangements. as far as I can tell Manchester south (i think?), south B’ham, tower hamlets and newham have branches not aware of any other significant ones but might be wrong. It is clearly a seperate organisation and may I add one that looks without internal discussion to be backing Ken Livingstone as no1 choice. Not sure what Thornett et el will make of that.. remains to be seen. whe is the 2 nd paper due out?

  72. Socialist on said:

    Phil, take a look at the RR website, they’ve even got their own National Council. Of course it’s a separate organisation, albeit a small one.

  73. do local buisness people really have the same interest in good representation for the poor which I am sure we would all agree would be to alongside giving a voice be about encouraging resistance to the bosses local and national etc. there is no agreement on this due to class positions.

    I think we would all agree that encouraging resistance (etc) is desirable, but I don’t think that’s what Salma actually said. More to the point, I don’t think a class perspective has ever been a core part of RESPECT’s policy or practice, in the same way that opposition to war, racism and neo-liberalism has been. Maybe it should have been; maybe it should be in future. But criticising Salma for apostasy from RESPECT, when her statements are consistent with most of what RESPECT was doing and saying before last autumn, is a bit specious.

  74. “I don’t think a class perspective has ever been a core part of RESPECT’s policy ”

    well to be honest that is news to me- how do you resist neo liberalism from no class perspective?
    should repsect support strikes? policy on mininmum wage, housing, tade union rights are all from a class perspective as far as I can see- how could they not be?

    If Salma is arguing that there is no class perspective in repsect then there is clearly a major political divide between RR and RESPECT.

  75. But class isn’t so clear cut is it?

    For example I know a number of electricians who drift in and out of empolyment and self-employment depending on the job market, and the same is true of plumbers, computer programmers, et al.

    As Ian has explained, one of the imperatives for immigrants who suffer discrimination in the job market is to turn to self-employment, sometimes through small shops, but traditionally also barbering or fast food. Such small shop-keepers can often be poorer than their customers, who are in conventional empolyment, and one of the ways they keep their head above water is by using extended family and other social connections to work long hours.

    In some cases the fact that people are self employed is becasue of racism, or because language or other culturally diacritical characteristics disadvtange them in the job market.

    A class reductionist approach that argues that racism can only be defeated by working class organisation and politics clearly doesn’t match reality. Ideological and political challenges to racism in all its aspects can and must involve much broader layers of society.

    In the case of many self-employed people, their income level, economic insecuroty, cultural context and their friendships and social networks tie them very closely to the working class.

    In other cases, even where such close linkage is absent, shared language, culture or religion can give people a strong shared identity. Again, for an immigrant population who are mainly proletarian, some individuals may enrich themselves and by so doing assimilate to the dominant society, or buy themselves a niche within it; but others will continue to identify with the cultural commonity which provides them with full social acceptance, while despite their wealth they may never fit in to the gulf club circuit – this is particularly true for immigrant communities with a different religion or who are, for example, teetotal.

  76. Oops – the link should end at ‘key figures of Respect’; the rest of the text is all mine.

    “I don’t think a class perspective has ever been a core part of RESPECT’s policy”

    well to be honest that is news to me- how do you resist neo liberalism from no class perspective?

    Now you’re putting words into my mouth as well as Salma’s.

    I stand by my original point, which was that a statement like Salma’s – about businesspeople … who have the same interest as their brothers and sisters in confronting racism, opposing war, and seeing good representation for the disadvantaged areas they live in – is entirely within the mainstream of RESPECT’s policy and practice. We might agree that a stronger class line would have been desirable, but to argue that RESPECT has had a stronger class line in the past would be really hard to sustain.

  77. andy
    it is not a case of not looking to build alliances but on what basis- call it reductonist if you like but yes I do think that Working class organisation in its many forms is central to that. the issue is not plunmners etc we are talking local buisness people who have relatively significant income which whilst part of the community and often with real influecne do not share the common interests of the working class. even if its true that racism is a common factor for all sections of the community hat about other parts of life- low pay, no trade union representation, poor welfare services etc the local buisness people benefit from low wages do they not? benefit from no trade union and a rise in resistance will be a threat to them as well- what shoudl respect do in these circumstances?

  78. #88 phil i simply think this is wrong- if you think respect did not have a central class perspective then why do the stuff we did? I mean if it wasn’t a class perspective then what was it and by that I don’t mean it had to be revolutinary etc but based on an understanding of class divisions and looking to buold resistance to the bosses- this seems abc to me.

  79. In Yaqoob’s reference to John Molyneux’s article, she takes issue with him for failing to distinguish between community leaders and small businessmen. Unfortunately, while she delights in putting these words in John’s mouth, she can’t bring herself to give us a quote to justify this. And Andy fails to provide the text so we can see for ourselves. I do not believe for a second that Molyneux would make this mistake. Community activists come from all classes, but primarily from the working class. Most such activists would not dream of describing themselves as community leaders. So, who exactly are these self-appointed community leaders? Are they or are they not small businessmen? The fact of the matter is that the non-socialist wing of Respect selected small businessmen as their prefered candidates. That is a fact. And that is one of the many things that set alarm bells ringing amongst many SWP members. Unfortunately, this was an inevitable consequence of attempting to put an electoral coalition together between socialists and others. By definition the only Muslims that were part of a socialist/Muslim coalition had to be non-socialist Muslims. The S, T and one of the Es in the acronym were redundant as far as Miah and co are concerned. They were dismissed on a take it or leave it basis. Chris Harman is attempting to put Respect back together on a new basis, a much harder basis, a principled basis. And that is why Yaqoob, Galloway, Miah and co want to have no part. Socialists need to unite with non-socialists on a wide range of struggles. However, when it comes to uniting behind a single candidate, there has to be a much higher degree of unity. This is not the time to split around the merits or otherwise of a parliamentary road to socialism, socialism in one country, or the theory of state capitalism. It is, however, the time to split between anti-abortionists and pro-abortionists, between those whose attitude towards equality does not imply that some sexualities are more equal than others. And it is a time to split between those who pay lip-service to trade unions on the bizarre basis that “we need all the trade we can get!” There ARE serious problems with the way the SWP have dealt with others in the Socialist Alliance, the SSP, Respect and this is happening in Solidarity. Chris Harman’s article does not adequately deal with these concerns. Having said that, this article is a massive step in the direction of defending what was good about the SWP’s electoral intervention, and why it was necessary to not to surrender to Galloway’s blackmail.

  80. JJ wrote: “I would be intrested if Ian could let us know if he agrees with Salma that local buisnessmen have the same class intrests as those of the working class in a given area?”

    In February 2004’s Socialist Review, John Molyneux discussed:

    “…the mistake, quite common on the left, of confusing people’s personal class situation with their political class position. They see Respect as involving certain middle class individuals such as George Monbiot and (they think) Salma Yaqoob, who are ‘not part of the labour movement’ and therefore accuse it of being a cross-class alliance, like the popular front. In fact, left wing movements, whether revolutionary or reformist, have always included non working class and even upper class individuals – think of Engels or William Morris or Tony Benn…”

  81. daphne
    not of the above suggests there are no seperate class interests between local buisness people and the working class.
    Molyneux refers to individuals from the labour and radical movement whose background was from a differenct class!! not a local capitalist whose has no track recorsd of resistance. now Engels, morris and Benn in very different ways!! have a connection to workers struggle again in different ways etc. this is not the same as selecting candidates because they are locally connected through buisness interests.

  82. perhaps daphne can let us know if she thinks there are no seperate class interests betwen local buisness people and locla working class. the point is not do we accept sme of these into joint political activity but what weight do we give them and how central should it be to get them on board.

  83. Daphne does not know what she is talking about. She quotes Yaqoob stating the following: “local buisnessmen have the same class intrests as those of the working class in a given area.” This was a second-hand quotation, and I have not checked whether it is accurate or not. However, Daphne quotes this approvingly. She then attempts to defend this nonsense with reference to an article from John Molyneux written four years ago. Molyneux was criticising those who adopt a crude workerist attitude that denies the ability of people from a non-working class background to cut themselves off from their background and adopt the perspective of the working class. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg all did this. To a lesser extent many from a privileged background have attempted this. While no revolutionary socialist, Benn is an excellent example of how this detachment remains possilbe. All revolutionary socialist organisations tend to have a large preponderance of intellectuals who came from a privilleged background. This was particularly true in the days before a large section of workers received a college education. However, does any of this have a bearing on Salma Yaqoob’s words? Absolutely not. As a petty bourgeois liberal, she sees no need to distingish between the classes. She wants respect between the classes, whereas socialists support a healthy disrespect of this exploitative system we call capitalism. Yaqoob’s supporters in Tower Hamlets select small businessmen because they have proven how dynamic they are, they are the best representatives of her community. For socialists, their having something to lose other than their chains, and their extracting surplus value from their wage slaves, makes them amongst the less deserving to act as standard bearers of the working class in parliament or the council chamber. It is incredible that the editor of the paper of one of the IST’s sections peddles this reactionary nonsense.

  84. The SWP has always had its own, inner, ‘axis of evil’. Now that the Rees-German-ites have seen the inevitable break-up of their ‘United Front of a Special Type’ there are two stark choices for them: Roll back to the equally inevitable ‘class analysis’ of RespectRR being filled with the same social composition as the early Nazi party or to dwindle-off into disenchanted obscurity.

    Respect was a formation cooked up in the heady days of StW’s peak demonstrations. The new ‘theoretical’ framework for it relied heavily on undergrad-level readings of Gramsci and Lukacs. It became coded as ‘the Project’. It was Eurocomm 2.0.

    Harman and Molyneux had been allowed their peripheral roles and were wheeled-out whenever the ‘return to the class’ was deemed necessary. The fact that they are in the picture again is no surprise and Salma’s piece is perfectly tuned to split them from those in the SWP who were accussing any left-leaning criticisms of Respect of “Islamophobia” only a few months ago (think johng).

    The old saying, “ultra-leftism and opportunism go hand-in-hand,” couldn’t be more fitting for the SWP.

    What is astonishing is that folk put up with the endless oscillations (build the party, build the front, ooops, build the party…). Rob Hoveman’s footnote in the main article was simply incredible; I could almost smell all those nervy white folk having to ‘engage’ with the ‘community’ for the first time. LMAO. I hope there will soon be a SWP-Renewal conference chaired by the ghost of Duncan Hallas.

    PS. B. Obama just won in the Iowa caucuses!!!

    Peace

  85. I remember a few weeks ago when Andy was selectively quoting a piece by Chris Harman, myself and some others demanded it be posted. Now I found, to my surprise, that Harman’s article is in fact available on SU, though it never made the “front page” of the SU website or (to my knowledge) was ever made visible in any way. Now we find it tucked away in a footnote to Yaqoob’s piece. Are we also to believe that it was actually posted on December 9?

  86. stuart on said:

    December 9th is very misleading. Andy has finally published the article not available for publication just before it is likely to go on line officially and long after he has released extracts onto his site and after Salma has the benefit of reading it and writing her critique.

    Onto the debate and specifically to Matthew’s reply to me on #55.

    Salma seems to be saying that there was a bit of electoral opportunism in RESPECT but not enough to really worry about, Harman thinks socialists should worry a lot more – people can just agree to differ or argue about degrees of opportunism.

    Harman is persausive when highlighting how a lack of class struggle can have the effect of bringing electoral opporunism more to the fore in a set up like RESPECT.

    Matthew is wide of the mark when accusing me of paranoia. I repeat that for me one of the the most concrete elements in this debate is Salma’s wish for the formation of a party. The point is both she and Galloway set up a UNITY COALTION, not a party. That was clear from the start. And they would both know that the SWP would not collapse their party into a ‘broad party’ formation.

    They obviously calculate that nothing can be gained for them by working through the agreed democratic structures of RESPECT, hence they boycott the conference.

    They should now do the honest thing and set up an entirely new party. Unfortunately they still appear to want to claim RESPECT and are dropping hints about using the law (as opposed to democratic procedures).

    Salma and co can debate the points about electoral opportunism, business interests, class struggle or lack of it via the democratic mechanisms or they can form a completely new organisation having broken from the Unity Coalition.

    They want their cake and they want to eat it.

  87. Phil, since you couldn’t find the Renewal NC on their web site

    ‘Socialist’: that’s exactly the same page I linked to!

    jj: if you think respect did not have a central class perspective then why do the stuff we did?

    I’m not sure how to reply to this. RESPECT has done some valuable work, but it’s been conspicuous by its refusal to either propagandise around class or apply class-based criteria to its candidates. I have never been in any danger of confusing RESPECT with the IWCA.

  88. erlingb on said:

    If SWP hacks are referring to Salma as someone “who used to be a leader of the antiwar movement” than this split and the SWP’s disastrous handling of it is going to do still further damage to the international left.

    Salma is an organic leader thrown up by the movement of recent years. Chris Harman is a veteran obfuscation machine on behalf of a tiny, discredited coterie of bureaucrats and intellectuals calling themselves a party…

  89. Socialist on said:

    So you know they have their own National Committe. Then why did you go on about the ‘celecbrities’ in the ‘Renewal’ camp, then? ‘Renewal’ is a separate organisation from Respect. Period. But of course, you were never a member of Respect, and not of ‘Renewal’ so your role here is to slag off the SWP.

  90. erlingb on said:

    Hey, I made a little typo in a post so some woman of colour must have writing for me…

    Despite the sexist crap above, I’ve heard both Salma and Chris Harman speak, and Salma is much more articulate and compelling in expression her ideas, even if she can’t split doctrinaire hairs like Mr. Harman, a rather sad hacktivist who has gone from writing great useful survey histories (people’s history of the world) to denouncing Cuba-Venezuela, and now to denouncing the most impressive new leader to come out of the antiwar movement. For shame.

  91. ‘Renewal’ is a separate organisation from Respect. Period.

    Saying something in comments on a blog post doesn’t make it so. Not even saying it over and over again.

    But of course, you were never a member of Respect, and not of ‘Renewal’ so your role here is to slag off the SWP.

    Curses, you’ve unmasked my evil plan. I’m particularly proud of the way I manage to keep slagging off the SWP without ever actually slagging off the SWP. Fiendish, eh?

  92. erlingb on said:

    Phil, I’m happy to actually do the deed, they deserve plenty of slagging I’m afraid…

  93. Teddy Boy on said:

    When you read all the posts, it comes over clear that the SWP cc are dropping out of Respect.

    Their project of a special kind is in tatters and who in, the future would accept that as an agreement with the SWP.

    This is central to the split/walkout and its the only (in)valid reason the SWPcc can put up for arguement and it does not stand analysis. Why should they be the “special ones”

  94. Socialist on said:

    Yes, Teddyboy, “reading all the posts” on this sectarian blog seems like a sound platform to base your politics on. Good grievance!

  95. Teddy Boy on said:

    #107

    “sectarian” I would think that jibe, is best directed at “the special ones”

  96. “If SWP hacks are referring to Salma as someone “who used to be a leader of the antiwar movement” than this split and the SWP’s disastrous handling of it is going to do still further damage to the international left.”

    After her recent behaviour and unforgiveable rants at the ‘RR’ rally, she has done this all to herself I’m afraid. It is not exactly surprising if people can no longer look at her in the same way.

    And I’m not sure why she has written this article anyway? She showed that she is not able to able conduct a debate with her fellow members within Respect when she chose to attend a rival rally on the same day as conference. As if that was not bad enough, she chose to give speeches that were simply in the gutter.

    Now she has written another article, once again ignoring the very real concerns of figures such as councillors Rania Khan and Oli Rahman or Respect student chair Noreen Fatima, and she is instead conveniently pretending it’s all about the SWP, even using a Galloway tactic of reaching for baseless, and frankly in the gutter, smears (e.g. comparing attitudes with that of the ‘pro-war left’). I suppose she does not have much of substance to reach for however, so this is not surprising.

    The time for debate was at the conference and she shunned that – she was, along with George Galloway, too above talking to the little people, so I’m not sure what she is trying to achieve now or who she is talking to. Another marathon article which leads to yet more bickering on the internet. Woo hoo. If she was not afraid of debate with people she is in a dispute with, she would have come along to conference, instead of smearing the vast bulk of people she was, until not long ago, in a coalition with.

    After her cosying up to Ken Livingstone and expressing interest in supporting Labour party students over Respect students, I am not sure why she does not just jump ship and join them – it’s not like they haven’t approached her before. And if she does decide to do this, who would be surprised? I’m sure George is terrified this will happen, hence his dramatic turnaround in so vocally championing the person he not long ago used to call ‘Blair’s Mayor’. He has to keep his few friends happy now and can no longer swan around saying what he pleases.

  97. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    The National Council members cited on the Respect Renewal site were elected at the last properly constituted conference of Respect – in 2006. That’s why they are listed as National Council members who support the renewal of Respect.

    As for the sexist rubbish about Salma not writing her own article. Let’s just clear one thing up – I didn’t write a word of that article and the only comments I have made on it are on this thread.

    As for the issue of “separate class interests” between small businessmen and others in particular communities. Well, for those of us who believe that there is such a thing called class interest which derives from an objective location in the class structure this is tautologous, isn’t it? Class A is separate from class B, ergo members of class A have separate class interests from members of class B.

    The point, however, is what are the central class and political conflicts upon which political organisation can be built to advance the self emancipation of the working class?

  98. #66 Ger – I suspect most readers will actually be able to tell the difference between a specific political critique and the smears of the AWL. I note you don’t actually disagree about the influence of Jamaat-e-Islami, or about their politics.

  99. Charlie

    The politics of Jamaat are somewhat simliar to the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood who the SWP are happy to work with in the cairo conference, and the SWP has been happy to share platforms with Hamas and Hizbollah.

    i note that even in Pakistan the socialist LPP have engaged in a coalition with Jammat in working for a boycott of the election.

  100. Ger Francis on said:

    Mary: ‘I am not sure why she has written the article anyway’. Therein lies the problem. If the seriousness of the SWP National Secretary evoking arguments normally the preserve of the Islamaphobic ‘left’ does not register with you, I am not sure what will.

    One of the problems with this debate and the specific issues Salma raises is that the vast majority of SWP members have no subjective experience of building in the commuities she is writing about. This lack of engagement against which to guage what the likes of Harman and Smith are saying makes them more susceptible to crude arguments about the dynamic of race and class inside those same communities. Mary would serve her party better by seeking to engage with Salma’s critique of SWP analysis instead of replying with knee-jerk defensiveness and tired old SWP smears about her selling out to Labour etc etc. (Who, incidentally, in the last month made their latest pitch about Salma defecting, dangling the offer of a safe seat, and were sent packing. Again.)

    Chjh: If you are alleging that ‘Jamaat-e-Islami’, or its proponents, excerise any influence in any way shape or form in the political direction of Respect, either pre or post split, I fundamentally disagree. If all Harman and Smith were saying is that they are a right-wing, religious grouping, they would only be stating the blindingly obvious. But of course, they are going way beyond that.

  101. bill j on said:

    But this rather begs the question. According to Yaqoob;

    “The single biggest reason such individuals acquire weight and influence is not wealth, it is reputation.”

    How then to explain why the people with weight, influence and “reputation” are disproportionately wealthy? Not just amongst the Muslim community but society in general.
    And the answer of course is that “reputation” in capitalist society generally speaking depends on money, can you buy good press coverage? Are you able to meet the movers and shakers? etc.etc.etc.Can I get me a job? Promotion? Will you take up their legal case? Can you find them a home? etc.etc.etc.
    In a capitalist society, the ability to wield influence and thereby establish “reputation” fundamentally rests on whether or not you are rich – or have influence with the people who have money.
    Of course working class organisations, an idea that Yaqoob would no doubt describe as “economic reductionism”, or “ultra leftism”, can wield influence through class struggle against the capitalist, but given that Yaqoob is clearly not in favour of such an organisation, this avenue is obviously not open to her.
    And Yaqoob herself is of course a good example of how “reputation” is linked to money – as she is a business person herself. That is not to say of course that all business people necessarily (although invariably they do) adopt a particular ideology or world outlook, but in Yaqoob’s case, we are able to judge her own ideology against her class position and we can conclude that it is fundamentally in synch.
    Her politics acurately describe her class position.
    All quite straighforward really.

  102. Bill J

    You exhibit a paucity of experience of detailed work with immigrant communities. For example, the person with the most weight and infleunce in the muslim community in Swindon has been Khan Nawaz, who is a retired warehouse worker. he came here in the early 1960s and his reputation has been built on helping later immigrants and showing them the ropes. (Indeed earlier this year the GMB organisd for him to run an advice session for Polish migrants, and even at 80 years old he regularly helps other people with forms and red tape).

    the current leader of the Swindon islamic association, Azim Khan, has in later life become quite a succesful small businessman, but he was for most of his working life an AEU shop steward in Pressed Steel, and much of his enhanced reputation recently has come from the tens of thousands of pounds he raised for the Pakistan earthquake appeal, not because he has ten bob in his pocket.

    Among the large Goan community here there are also some individuals who have considerable moral weight due to their work to help others in their community, and thouugh the catholic church.

    This human facing helpfulness and solidarity often gives prestige among immigrant communities.

  103. Ger Francis is right again. The apologists for the SWP in this thread display a bone-chilling ability to ‘forget’. The formal correctness of all the points about ‘class’ (and Salma’s ‘objective’ orientation to be on the other side of the barricades) were true before and during the SWP’s “intervention” in the “wider movement”.

    But that was OK, back then. Heaven forefend that anyone during that period make left-leaning criticisms. Back then they were soft racists, Islamophobes, sectarians and irrelevent. Until machine politics turned out to be harder to master than the SWP’s CC had assumed.

    Back in olden times the SWP used to be fairly decent about its United Front work (not of any ‘Special Type’ either). Think Anti-Nazi League, Rock Against Racism, Right to Work, Miners’ Strike, Poll Tax etc.. They were open about wanting to recruit to the SWP while being the best activists. Quite simple really.

    The fact that a desperately dwindling membership bought the Rees/German “Project”, I suppose, isn’t surprising. What is fascinating is how the ‘rehearsal’ for the type of internal arguments needed for survival are being played out here.

    I await more eviscerating analysis of why Yaqoob is a class traitor and why socialists need to keep a healthy distance.

    Personally, I think the SWP should sack Rees, pick up the phone and do a deal with Respect. It is the ‘only’ way out of this situation. Otherwise, they’re simply gonna run out of cash and fold.

    All the old bollocks about Salma’s money, George’s Armani collection and how Ger Francis is a thug (the one that makes me laugh loudest btw) simply makes the SWP sycophants look bad to worse. If I were still a member, and still had my razor-sharp tactical mind, I’d propose a return to the “Downturn” analysis.

    ‘bill j’ could then spend more time on the objective situation and less time on making himself look like a complete ass.

    Peace

  104. Well Battersee, the funny thing is that Bill J is a member of “Permanent R-r-r-revolution”, but as you can see the SWP supporters are becomig indistinuishable from the workers power, AWL, PR “left” critics of Respect now.

  105. BPS: If the SWP were to sack Rees this weekend at their conference it would be a major step forward (though the whole of the leadership are implicated in this debacle). It might open the door to the SWP reorientating and seeking some kind of working relationship with the rest of Respect rather than hysterically denouncing them.

    It would also indicate at least some acknowledgement that the SWP CC does not consider itself infallible. It is extraordinary following the OffU cheque business, which must have put union activists associated with the OffU initiative in a very difficult position, especially in UNISON, that Rees is still in a position of supreme authority in SWP-Respect, OffU and the SWP.

    Surely SWP trade union activists must have something to say about that? What about their members in UNISON? They must see what a gift this has been to the right, the ones who have been guilty of a genuine witch hunt, just at the time that Reissman and Gavan have been sacked.

    If SWP members just allow this stuff to go on, it’s going to demoralise them and also their friends on the left.

  106. I was asked this question, “what is happening to OFFU?” at a meeting of the SW region National Shop Stewars network last night by Dave Chappel, the national chair of NSSN, and conmrades almost literally fell of their chairs in astonishment when they heard of the Dubai cheque, and the compromising position that Michael Gavan had been put into by Rees.

    Someone told me that in a converstaion with Alex callinicos at the recent Historical materialism conferennce, Callinicos said that Rees was out, but I suggest this may be kiddology from Alex.

  107. Andy: I’m not surprised at the reaction at the Shop Stewards meeting. Aside from the absurd uberloyalist defenders of the SWP CC who happen along here – JOhng, for example – everyone I know is horrified at the whole Dubai business, including SWP members. And it must have been very damaging for Michael Gavan.

    I’m also skeptical of what Callinicos is reported to have said. He, of course, along with German and Bambery, knew about the OffU cheque and Galloway’s concerns about its connection to PFI rackets in Britain on 10th September last year.

    I think Rees should get the chop for this – and I think that would help make SWP members feel less defensive. It could be like those old successions under official communism where all the party’s failures get blamed on the outgoing general secretary.

    It would be a massive hypocrisy – what with Callinicos, Bambery and German all being implicated up to the hilt. But maybe people could turn a blind eye to a bit of hypocrisy in order to seek a fresh start. The underlying problems of the SWP’s approach would need to be addressed, but dumping Rees might create a climate where that could happen to some extent.

    If the SWP just rally round him their going to put themselves in an awfully defensive place where all they can do is lash out. That wouldn’t be good for the left.

  108. Adam J on said:

    Interesting to read that Andy is now attacking and trying to undermine socialists and trade unionists.

    I don’t want to re-hash old arguments but I still don’t see anything wrong with taking the cheque morally. Profits from PFI would usually go into the hands of businessmen, if for some bizarre reason a businessman decides to give money with no strings attached to a militant trade union organisation who will use the money to agitate against his class then what’s the big deal?

    Now Andy raised a valid practical point that Labour trade unionists could make cheap attacks on OFU such as “well your funded by PFI profits” but morally there was nothing wrong with taking the money.

    Andy’s argument that it would be morally okay for Stop the War Coalition to take the money but not OFU is plainly illogical.

    Kevin Ovenden writes:

    “As for the issue of “separate class interests” between small businessmen and others in particular communities. Well, for those of us who believe that there is such a thing called class interest which derives from an objective location in the class structure this is tautologous, isn’t it? Class A is separate from class B, ergo members of class A have separate class interests from members of class B.

    The point, however, is what are the central class and political conflicts upon which political organisation can be built to advance the self emancipation of the working class?”

    Now Kevin Ovenden has a very sharp mind, in my opinion, but the above is the kind of strange prose arguments that one would read in the writings of some Pseud-Left Review type.

    Clearly the argument is not that small businessmen are occasionally selected as Respect candidates. A small businessman may work extremely long hours and for less pay than an average worker and certainly doesn’t have the freedom of a journalist, doctor or lawyer etc – occupations which all socialist parties have stood as candidates and have as members, the problem is when in Tower Hamlets this strata seems to be driving seat of the organisation, not good for a workers organisation?

    As a Respect member outside of London, I watched with some display the spectacle of Respect candidates and elected representatives slipping and sliding back and forth with the mainstream parties. Tower Hamlets should have been our flagship with a socialist MP and 12 socialist councillors in opposition. Yet, in my opinion (observing from afar), Tower Hamlets Respect didn’t seem to be in the stormcentre of socialist politics today. Interestingly, when Red Pepper spoke of two Respect success they mentioned Salma Yaqoob’s work in Birmingham and Michael Lavalette’s in Preston. Newham and Tower Hamlets Respect Councillors don’t seem to have attracted much praise from the UK left?

    I have yet to read Alan Thornett or Kevin Ovenden address these issues

  109. Clive Searle on said:

    #124 “the problem is when in Tower Hamlets this strata seems to be driving seat of the organisation”

    Perhaps “(observing from afar)”, you vision has got somewhat blurred and so you’ve decided to solve the problem by adding the word ‘seems’ to your statement. Hence you can imply a serious critique without providing any evidence to back it up.

  110. Adam J: As you say, you’ve observed from afar and through the lens of people such as Harman who have distorted all the true picture. You actually have no idea of the class composition of Respect’s councillors in Tower Hamlets. One reason they have not received the recognition they deserve is that the SWP have systematically trashed their reputations. I think a lot of people at the Respect Renewal conference were pleasantly shocked by Abjol Miah’s speech and Hanif Abdulmuhit’s from Newham.

    You may not have any problem with accepting the Dubai cheque. The issue is that others in whose name it was accepted by Rees, ie the members of the OffU committee and all associated with the initiative, do have a problem with it but were never given the opportunity to voice it. Instead, Rees took the money and then dismissed Galloway’s objections to doing to. Now SWP trade unionists and others have been put in a vulnerable position thanks to his arrogance.

  111. “I think a lot of people at the Respect Renewal conference were pleasantly shocked by Abjol Miah’s speech”

    Which bit in particular? The poem about leeches that he penned and read out proudly? It was such an inspiring speech that all traces of it were removed from the internet as soon as he was declared as the candidate for BG&B. Wonder why?

    As for Hanif, I heard he was about to jump ship and join the Labour party – has he done it yet?

  112. Adam #124: “Tower Hamlets Respect didn’t seem to be in the stormcentre of socialist politics today. ”

    Come to that, to what degree have dave Nellist and the SP councillors been “the stormcentre of socialist politics today.”.

    It is asking a lot given the very limited powers that a councillor has, especially if they are not in the group controlling the council.

    What is revealling is that Adam J criticises the newham councillors, who were close to John Rees and Lindesy german, and Newham Respect was regarded as a model by the SWP.

    But there is something very reprehensible that the class position of the Respect councillors is simply inferred by Adam J from their bengali origin. Obviously Adam is not a racist, but see where this type of assumption leads you. One day you might look in the mirror and see jim Denham.

  113. bill j on said:

    But its not necessary to argue that the class position of small business people is important in RR because of Newham, one need only read Yaqoob’s piece kindly posted by Andy above.
    Yaqoob is after all a small business person and her politics are absolutely consistent with someone of that class position. She is what could accurately be described as a liberal. And she argues that Respect should have liberal politics, it seems to me pretty successfully. And there’s nothing wrong with that, its what she believes.
    The question for socialists remains however, is the project of building a small liberal party one worth pursuing?

  114. Adam J on said:

    #125

    I don’t live in Tower Hamlets so I can’t judge the situation except from what I hear from others. I did hear George Galloway and John Rees hint that the Respect Councillors were going to shake things up in the manner of Militant in Liverpool and allusions to the Rebel Councillors of Poplar.

    I have also been concerned to see that a guy can stand as a candidate for the Tories, then two years later is a Respect candidate, then he gets elected as a Respect Councillor, then he leaves Respect. Another Respect Councillor defects to a bourgeois party

    I heard the Vice-Chair of Tower Hamlets defected to the LibDems (the seat he was a candidate for was actually won by Respect)

    As a socialist, I couldn’t fail to be concerned that in our strongest area, some of our councillors (while not in the style of LibDem, Plaid, Greens, SNP, LabourLeft voting for neoliberal cuts and attacks on services) didn’t seem to be the kind of tribunes of the oppressed that we need.

    I have to say that from afar, Manchester Respect seems to have constructed a good model for Respect branches, but as I’m not active in Manchester, I can’t really judge. I did correspond with Roy W over your campaign on the congestion charge and some environmental matters.

    #128

    I didn’t infer the class origin of Respect Councillors from their Bengali origin.

  115. But Adam, in both the example you quote of Militant in Liverpool, and the Poplar council in London, they controlled the council.

    And Adam, you wrote:

    A small businessman may work extremely long hours and for less pay than an average worker and certainly doesn’t have the freedom of a journalist, doctor or lawyer etc – occupations which all socialist parties have stood as candidates and have as members, the problem is when in Tower Hamlets this strata seems to be driving seat of the organisation.

    Either you have inferred their class positioon from the bengali origin, or you actually know what the jobs of the TH councillors are for a fact.

    I don’t have this infornation so could you please share this with me?/ If you don’t have it either, then how do you know that a strata of small businessmen are in the driving seat? Unles you infer they are small business men beacsue they are bengali?

  116. Bill J’s class reductionism at #130 is so total i did wonder whether he was being sarcastic.

    Apparently, in the new scientific age it is possible to deduce people’s political opinions from the jobs.

    This makes elections redundant in Bill J’s world. All we need to do is select the House of Commons based upon the percentages of each profession in the country.

    Bill will next be explaining how he can predict the weather from sea-weed

    One can only marvel at the sophistication brought about by decades of orthodox trotskism. Ahhh, these are the leader of the working class in preparation.

  117. Clive Searle on said:

    The trouble Adam is that you look at the people who left Respect – and then infer something similar about the councillors who didn’t.

    Perhaps if we had won more seats and controlled TH council we could have stirred things up more. But the reality is that we didn’t.

    Now with the defection of the SWP supporting councillors to their ‘independent’ group we have even less chance of shaking things up.

    But the reality of councillors work should be fairly clear – the most effective work of councillors is often that which doesn’t hit the news – helping to sort out individual people’s problems. Not earth shattering but nonetheless vitally important if the left is truly become “the kind of tribunes of the oppressed that we need.”

    Now if we are to create a political culture that ties our councillors and other elected representatives closer to the orgainsation we need to create an independent political and social culture within that organisation. That of course is precisely what the on-off ‘united front of a special kind’ strategy failled to create.

    As for Manchester branches – we have seen two conflicting strategies employed over the last three years. I’m not going to claim we’ve got it all right up in the North of the city. I suggest we wait a year and see which stategy works best.

  118. Adam J on said:

    Clive,

    It was your branch that I was referring to.
    I thought your paper was of a good quality
    As I understood it there was some measure of consensus from both wings of Respect that the loose coalition model had served it’s usefullness?

    I am very disappointed and disheartened by the current split in Respect, do you think that there is a possiblility that Respect will re-unite as one organisation?

    I find it disappointing that there isn’t a single broad left wing party in the UK when the neoliberal offensive is so relentless.

  119. stupid asian woman on said:

    billj (#130) said: She is what could accurately be described as a liberal.

    It’s good we stupid asian women have clever white men to tell us what our politics are, otherwise we’d be all over the place. Left to our witless little selves, we can do things like give speeches to striking car workers calling on them to occupy the plant. But that must have been wrong, since it’s not what liberals are supposed to do – oops, sorry. (a man helped me with the long words)

  120. Look Adam

    You seem like a decent and committed socialist, it seems a shame that you have been sucked into playing the role you are doing at the moment.

    Note that there is almost no-one who is actually in the SWP arguing their position here any more,, it is you, mary Alan and Tom Delargy, none of whom are SWP members.

    My strong feeling is that the SWP are on the way out of Reespect.

    perhaps you disagree with some of the tactical (or even strategic) steps we have taken – but step back, wait six months, and see who is still standing.

  121. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Bill J: You keep referring to Salma as a “small business person”. Why?

  122. Clive Searle on said:

    Sadly I don’t think that there was a consensus about the loose coalition model. Indeed what I witnessed in the last year was a hardening of the ‘united front’ view of Respect from within the SWP.

    I think we HAD agreed that the ‘concentration’ strategy in key seats had run it’s course – so the obvious thing to do was therefore to push out into new areas, re-engage with old allies and take Respect to a new staqe.

    Now George’s August letter could have been a starting point for just such a move but …… the rest is history.

    You are right that it is “disappointing that there isn’t a single broad left wing party in the UK when the neoliberal offensive is so relentless” but it does take more than one to tango. For such a party to function – past it’s first tentative steps – it needs to be the main focus for people’s activity throughout the year and noy just a for a few weeks before elections.

    Now RR is hopefully in the process of reaching out to the various left communities that exist in Britain. How successful we will be remains to be seen – there are too many people to damaged by their experience of the far left for it to be easy. But there are thousands of radicalised young – and not so young – who have never been so tarnished and could be brought together in a newer, broader formation.

    If the SWP chose to join such a formation I think their leadership would first have to learn a few lessons. Not least is the need for a little bit of humility and lot more honesty.

  123. There is also a pertinent issue for you Adam, that whatever you think of them, the electoral and political space for a left of Labour alternative in Wales is to a large extent occupied by Plaid.

    For example, where Respect has been seen as the natural anti-war party among many Musliims, in Wales plaid has certainly filled that space, with Mohammad Ashgar elected as Plaid’s first Muslim assembly member, and there are three muslim plaid councillors.

  124. Londoner on said:

    For those criticising Salma for her perfectly correct position in support of Ken Livingstone’s re-election, you are merely setting yourselves against the position that will be taken by the overwhelming majority of Muslims in London, who have a clear interest in having the anti-war, pro-Palestinian, anti-Islamophobic, anti-racist mayor re-elected.

    See this
    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/open_letter/2008/01/supporting_ken_livingstone_as.html

    and this
    http://www.bminitiative.net/

    as well as this rancid Tory response to Muslims backing Ken that includes attacks on Salma
    http://philtaylor.org.uk/?p=1011

    Indeed, in reality you are merely setting yourselves against the basic interests of the overwhelming majority of Londoners who stand to lose big time from the election of Boris Johnson and removal of a progressive mayor from City Hall.

  125. bill j on said:

    Well I was at a meeting in Birmingham (not of Respect I might add) and I gathered that Yaqoob was indeed a small business person – I stand to be corrected, but given that people who no her better than me haven’t questioned it I’m assuming its correct.
    The reason it is pertinent to this discussion is because she raises the issue of the influence of small business people on the politics of RR in her piece above, denying that there is influence.
    Whereas in my view her politics, a variety of liberalism, are typical of small business people and therefore, paradoxically she personally demonstrates the thing she is arguing against – the influence of small business people on the politics of RR.
    Hope that answers your question.

  126. Bill,

    #138 is someone who knows Salma and is indeed questioning it.

    Who told you she was a small business person?

    The reason this is important is becasue there is an islamaphobic under-tow from some of the “left” critics of Respect that is frankly informed by stereotyping.

  127. Kevin Ovenden wrote “The National Council members cited on the Respect Renewal site were elected at the last properly constituted conference of Respect – in 2006. That’s why they are listed as National Council members who support the renewal of Respect.”

    And there has been a subsequent conference since, properly constituted. Kevin appears to think his friends were elected for life. Not so. Life moves on. So should they. If they are determined to act like a bunch of disruptive entryists, then expulsion beckons.

    Kevin goes on: “As for the sexist rubbish about Salma not writing her own article. Let’s just clear one thing up – I didn’t write a word of that article and the only comments I have made on it are on this thread.”

    And you can vouch for everyone else? You know for a fact that just because she did not ask you to contribute towards this article, she never asked others? As for her sex, that is completely irrelevant. If Abjol Miah’s name appeared instead, do you really think we would take his word that he was the sole author? Maybe I should be accused of Islamophobia since the only two I have cast doubt on are Muslim. Anticipating this ludicrous charge, let me remind Kevin and co that Galloway’s original letter to the national council was suspected of being written, at least in part, by others, Ger Francis and Alan Thornett’s names getting a mention. Maybe I include Galloway because I am anti-Catholic as well as Islamophobic. I am Catholic, so the charge is rediculous. The charge of sexissm is a smokescreen, and from the same people who invited us all to ogle women’s buttocks, with the sound turned down. Although Galloway’s column appeared in a mass circulation newspaper, it was submitted in a personal capacity, just like Yaqoob’s support for a scab and apologist for state sanctioned murderers was done in a personal capacity. So that’s all right then.

    And Kevin demonstates his “Marxist” credentials thus: “As for the issue of “separate class interests” between small businessmen and others in particular communities. Well, for those of us who believe that there is such a thing called class interest which derives from an objective location in the class structure this is tautologous, isn’t it? Class A is separate from class B, ergo members of class A have separate class interests from members of class B.

    The point, however, is what are the central class and political conflicts upon which political organisation can be built to advance the self emancipation of the working class?”

    Firstly, if the small businessmen in question are not simply self-employed but those who actually employ others, then we are not discussing, disinterestedly, different interests. Jazz fans and punk fans have different musical tastes, although some may like bits of both. However, the relationship between a boss and his/her employees is not simply different. It is ANTAGONISTIC. For a Marxist, this struggle has been at the heart of historical development for tens of thousands of years. The point of socialist politics is to reunite humanity. Different interests will remain, even in a future socialist society. But these will not be antagonistic interests based on economic exploitation. “Small businessmen” is abused as a concept by Yaqoob and co. First of all, she makes it a synonym for community leader, implying community activist, and then places this nonsense in the mouth of John Molyneux, without quoting him, and for obvious reasons. Secondly, the term “small businessman” fails to distinguish between the self-employed, on the one hand, and, on the other, those who actually extract surplus value by employing others. The amount of hard work, of hours put in, by the latter category of small businessman is utterly irrelevant. It is irelevant as soon as we are dealing with those who profit from the exploitation of others. It is clear that many of those in George Galloway’s camp in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere are EMPLOYERS. The fact that their employees are relatively small in number does not make them part of our extended class, nor do they have the same interests as our class in the surrounding area or anywhere on the planet. They constitute part of our class enemy. The self-employed and those who employ only a handful (who often only members of their own extended family) shade into one another over time. Both live a precarious existance. Both can be plunged into the working class, and some members of our class claw their way into this category, at least for a time, because they dispair of anything other than an individual solution to their many problems. Such people are NOT part of our class. They have different interests. Trotsky explained that, small businessmen (of the self-employed and small employer varieties), under certain conditions, can be driven to the extreme right wing. They formed the core of the fascist movement in both Italy and Germany. Even in normal times, they defend economic policies that are anything but progressive. They are often even more hostile to trade unions than monopoly employers. They denounce health and safety legislation, and anything they take to be “red tape” that hampers their ability to make a buck. Such people are relatively large in society. They can go either way. A strong working class movement can drag them into the orbit of the genuine left. In the absence of a strong working class party fighting for socialism, they tend to be very conservative, notwithstanding the odd exception, and those who fight on a variety of progressive causes, because they are dear to their heart: ethnic minorities, for example, will hardly line up with the BNP. Salma Yaqoob’s dismissal of class antagonisms between the working class and small businessmen demonstrates her lack of understanding of the ABC of socialist politics. She signs up to the ‘S’ in Respect for one reason: she defines socialism the way George Galloway’s hero John Smith did, the way Eduard Bernstein did. The way, it would appear, Kevin Ovenden now does.

  128. 142 “Well I was at a meeting in Birmingham (not of Respect I might add) and I gathered that Yaqoob was indeed a small business person – I stand to be corrected,”

    Then be corrected. A thirty second google search will reveal Salma’s occupation and, guess what, she doesn’t own a cornershop or curry house…

    “The reason it is pertinent to this discussion is because she raises the issue of the influence of small business people on the politics of RR”

    If it is so pertinent why have you not done the basic minimum groundwork to establish to your own satisfaction that you are not spouting total bollocks?

    Go away, do a bit of clicking, and come back when you can comment without embarrassing yourself.

  129. I am the ortho-Trot, not the SWP! Tell me what someone does, and I’ll tell you what they think. I’m only half-kidding. I prefer “workerist” to “class reductionist.” I think that the term “class reductionist” is middle-class in and of itself. Probably reflects someone’s job. Oh, and…for some US left humor… http://www.myspace.com/sectarianworker

  130. “It’s good we stupid asian women have clever white men to tell us what our politics are, otherwise we’d be all over the place. Left to our witless little selves, we can do things like give speeches to striking car workers calling on them to occupy the plant. But that must have been wrong, since it’s not what liberals are supposed to do – oops, sorry. (a man helped me with the long words)”

    It’s quite crude that posters here are continually screaming “racist! sexist!” in response to every slight criticism of Salma Yaqoob. Where is the proof of any of this?

    This attitude that she is an Asian woman and therefore someone that should be tiptoed around and heaped with nothing but praise is in itself deeply offensive and patronising to say the least.

  131. stupid asian woman on said:

    Thank you, Mary, for your kind advice. I really ought to know my proper place by now, but sometimes I forget.

    Since you sound like a clever person, Mary, can you tell me if a psychotherapist is a kind of businesswoman? (a clever man told me to shut up and use the ****ing spell-check for a change – they can be cruel at times, but we love them all the same)

  132. Oh no, Asian women don’t get tiptoed around in these heah parts, no ma’am, not at all.

    Big Boy Pasha. He sets them up and he knocks them down.

  133. Rob M redefined the term small businessman as an oner of “a cornershop or curry house…” Leaving aside the racist connotation, this is a useless definition. Once again, it fails to distinguish between the self-employed and those who derive profit by the purchasing of labour power. Rob takes a comrade to task for misidentifying Yaqoob’s class position (according to his own rediculous definition of the term) as herself a small business person. If one of her critics described her inaccurately, then there is nothing wrong with this inaccuracy being brought to the attention of the rest of us. The individual who made the error (and I am happy to take your word that it is an error) should in fact be grateful for being put straight (he did in fact ask for clarification, by the way). However, Rob M uses this factual error as yet another smokescreen. The criticism is NOT that Yaqoob is herself a small business person (Engels, after all, spent many years as a rather big businessman, although, thankfully, diverting his profits to some good causes, including helping sustain Marx during his studies in the British Museum). The criticism of Yaqoob is that she argues that employers (albeit small employers) and their employees share identical interests. This is rediculous. It speaks volumes about the petty bourgois, anti-socialist politics at the heart of the Respect Renewal project. And it is symptomatic of their activists that when they get caught out promoting anti-socialist drivel, they change the subject, accusing their critics of racism and sexism. This is a project doomed from day one.

  134. With regard to the Labour Party councillors in Poplar and the Militant tendency (sic) councillors in Liverpool I note that in both cases they did not act like revolutionaries but rather behaved as left reformists or centrists. I further note that the Militant cuncillors did not control the cuncil but in fact formed a faction within the leading Labour Party group which did control the council. In any case by compromising with Thatchers administration they played a disgraceful rle in islating the miners.

  135. Tom post 151 “The criticism of Yaqoob is that she argues that employers (albeit small employers) and their employees share identical interests. This is rediculous. It speaks volumes about the petty bourgois, anti-socialist politics at the heart of the Respect Renewal project”

    Actually Tom what it shows is a complete lack of understanding of yourself and some in the SWP of how racism and discrimination affects the Muslim community at every level. It also shows me once again that the SWP and friends are moving to the right and witdrawing into their own small ‘perfect world’.

    Yes it is very possible for a shop keeper on a low income rooted in his/her community to want to aline themsleves with other progressive Muslims and non Muslims and support a Socialist Coalition like Respect putting anti racist and anti Islamophobia at the top of its agenda.

    In fighting racism their interests ARE indentical. It is very likely that the small shop keeper, small business man/women (and here we are talking about people who are on low income)in a Muslim community on a low income living in their community has more in common with their own working class than many skilled working class people with a trade earning say £30,000 to £40,000 a year.

  136. I am not going to refer to the individual who describes himself/herself in racist and sexist terms. At least not by his/her chosen moniker. I don’t know if we are dealing with a woman or an asian. The “stupid” description, however, is obviously apt. Probably just a stupid white man. Nice to see that Respect Renewal does not discriminate: liberal idiots of both sexes and all races unite. You have nothing to lose but your businesses.

  137. Tom is great isn’t he:

    “The criticism of Yaqoob is that she argues that employers (albeit small employers) and their employees share identical interests. “

    well Salma doesn’t say they have identical interests in all things, but clearly they do have identical interests in some things.

    For example, “employers (albeit small employers) and their employees” all share identical interests in not being struck by a giant asteroid. More prosaically we might agree with Salma that: “There are other businesspeople who both live and work in our communities, and who retain a close connection with the community they come from, and who have the same interest as their brothers and sisters in confronting racism, opposing war, and seeing good representation for the disadvantaged areas they live in”

    This seems an utterly uncontroversial statement.

    I think I know what would make it acceptable though to Tom and Bill J. Imagine that Salma had written:

    “As Trotsky wrote, there are some members of the petit bourgeoisie who both live and work in the same communities as the proletarians, and who retain a close cultural connection with proletarian life, and they therefopre have the same interests as the proletariat in confronting racism, opposing imperialist wars, and securing improved political representaion for the disadvangtaged areas they live in”

    Is that better? Perhaps people like Bill J and Tom who have a strong and fundamentalist religious faith need some allowances made for them.

  138. With regard to Salma Yaqoob and her class position it is insufficient to say that as a professional person that she is not politically petty bourgeois. As a professional she can be said to belong to the so caled new middle classes who occupy a contradictory position between the boss class proper and the working classes. A position then not unlike that of the older petty bourgeois layers of which the liberal professions formed a particular section.

    It is important in Ms Yaqoobs case t note that not only does she personally occupy a cntradictry position in class sciety but members of her family do s as well. Indeed two of her brothers run and possible own all of part of a non-union distributive cmpany based in Birmingham while another brother, Rashad a lawyer, is an expert in Islamic finance and a wheeler dealer figure known to work for major financial companies for whom he has signed multi-million deals.

    It seems fair to suggest that these familial and class loyalties do in fact form the basis for Ms Yaqoobs petty bourgeois and populist politics. Hence her denial of the centrality of class and class struggle. A position that she holds in common with many strains of Islam and come to that with those Xians who adhere to Catholicism for whom this osition is cdified in Rerum Novarum. In any case it is an anti-socialist worldview.

  139. And as the late, great Ian Mikardo (who BTW used to represent George’s consitituency) used to argue, socialists support small businesses. TESCO is the bigger enemy of the corner show, than shop workers’ union USDAW.

  140. Louise on said:

    “it’s plain to see that Salma did not write this article, it’s clearly written by more than one person, one of whom is presumably you”.

    Well, I can’t get over the comment from way back at #8 (sorry I should keep up)written by someone, actually it was written by someone.

    Firstly, how can you take someone seriously when they hide behind a meaningless identity and secondly, would they say the same thing if the article had been written by a bloke, questioning the authorship? Somehow, I doubt it, would even bet currency on it….But if a woman writes something….well that’s different…there’s gotta be a bloke somewhere……

    Newsflash just in: Women now have the capacity to walk and……chew gum at the same time. Amazing!

  141. Neil Williams argues that the petty bourgeois and the worker who both suffer from racism have a common interest in fighting it. That may be true but only working class methods can effectively fight racism which means that at some point in the struggle the latter must break politically from the former because the former will sabotage those methods of struggle. In other words forming a party that contains elements drawn from what are at root antagonistic classes is treachery to the cause of communism.

  142. Blimey Mike,

    Are you joining in the masterclass of demonstrating the bankrupcy of those who treat marxism like a revealed religious truth.

    You simply cannot deduce anything from any one individuals job or profession – politics, ideology and consciousness are simply not deterministic in that way. Even less can you deduce things from their relations (and I have no idea, nor do I care, what salma’s brother does for a living).

    We might just as easily conclude that Alex Callinicos’s support for undemocratic behaviour in the SWP is due to his being a relative of Lord Acton, and his shared ancestory with the crowned heads of Europe.

  143. #160

    “only working class methods can effectively fight racism”

    This is clearly and utterly demonstrably not true. Racism is also regarded as offensive by many non-working class thinkers and social movements, becasue it contradicts the liberal ideology of political egalitarianism that underpins capitalism.

  144. The point Andy is that ms yaqoob, a very able figure in myopinion, has acted exactly as one would expect a petty bourgeois liberal to do so and in no way as one would demand a socialist ought.

    As for Prof Callinicos I have always assumed that his Zinovievite bureaucratism is due to his admiration fr the insane French Stalinist Althussar.

    With regard to fighting rcism the only effective struggle against it cannot be other than the struggle for a communist society as the only other option is its continual revival at times of crisis.

  145. Neil Williams quoted me thus: Tom post 151 “The criticism of Yaqoob is that she argues that employers (albeit small employers) and their employees share identical interests. This is rediculous. It speaks volumes about the petty bourgois, anti-socialist politics at the heart of the Respect Renewal project”

    Actually Tom what it shows is a complete lack of understanding of yourself and some in the SWP of how racism and discrimination affects the Muslim community at every level. It also shows me once again that the SWP and friends are moving to the right and witdrawing into their own small ‘perfect world’.

    Neil, firstly let me thank you for expressing your support for Tommy Sheridan. I did not expect support from George Galloway or any Respect Renewal member, and I am not delighted that you and some others let class instinct guide you here. I also want to remind comrades such as yourself that when I read the document from the Scottish SWP leadership vis-a-vis Solidarity, I withdrew my unconditional support for the SWP in the split in Respect. I seem to have moved back to taking sides. I do so on the basis of the arguments put by Chris Harman. However, I accept that disasterous mistakes by SWP members have pushed good socialists out of Respect, and you appear to be one of them. I look forward to reconciliation with the likes of yourself into a single socialist organisation. Genuine united fronts on issues like racism will continue between Respect and those who have split. The bitterness of the split will lead to both groups attempting to isolate the other within such united fronts. This will take time to come to an end. More likely one or both organisations will disappear. I confidently predict the early demise of Respect Renewal, with the best members moving towards the CNWP. Respect is not the finished article. It too will have to fuse with other forces, especially the CNWP. This will take time. Electoral pacts, united fronts, joint work in the unions and colleges will bring them together. Sectarians from all sides will work to keep them apart. Chris Harman is trying to defend the past of the SWP as well as the new orientation. This is unsustainable. Comrades will have to chose. You, Neil, defend the politics the SWP defended until recently. As does Wrack, Ovenden, Hoveman etc. But this was not socialist politics. The working class needs to be enfranchised. It needs socialist politicians. United fronts with non-socialists of all religions and none to fight racism is essential. But uniting behind an anti-racist or anti-war candidate who rejects socialist politics is unprincipled. The politics you are defending today (and the SWP leadership was defending a few months ago) is a retreat beyond the third international of the first four congresses upon which Trotsky built the fourth. It is a retreat even beyond the politics of the Erfurt program and the foundations laid by the second international. Broad working class parties are necessary today. There is no point splitting the working class vote on issues like the impossibility of the parliamentary road to socialism, self the emancipation of the working class, whether the capitalist state needs to be smashed, whether you can have socialism in one country, the theory of state capitalism, the negation of the negation.

    Neil, you want to reduce class to a question of income. But the key is not income but the source of income. In the years running up to the victory of the Nazis, the organised working class managed by means of collective struggle to defend some of their living standard in the face of recession. The petty bourgeoisie and small employers could not pass on inflationary costs the way the monopoly employers could. Nor could they go on strike. They blamed their bankrupcies and the destruction of their savings on the working class and big capitalism. The Jewish self-employed and small and even big businessmen tended not to line up with the Nazis, for obvious reasons. For exactly the same reasons, Asian self employed and small businessmen are not going to line up with the BNP. United fronts in defence of all the victims of racism and Islamophobia is an imperative for all socialists. However, the attempt to move from a working class united front to a cross-class popular front was tried by those whose sectarianism allowed Hitler to come to power. This politics is every bit as bankrupt as third period Stalinism. This, unfortunately, is the politics that the SWP was supporting until the last few months, and it is the politics that Respect Renewal is adopting. Chris Harman, John Molyneux and the rest of the SWP leadership have to face up to the misakes they made in the past, before they will find it easy to win back those who have left.

  146. #164: a retreat beyond the third international of the first four congresses … the Erfurt program and the foundations laid by the second international … the negation of the negation.

    Strong and … profound.

    It’s all beyond me, but I’m sure he’s right.

    If only Miss Mary hadn’t lost her temper and gone away – I’m sure they’d make a beautiful couple.

  147. Sorry, been at work – struggling with my contradictory class location – and only just caught up on the thread…

    Wanted to thank ‘Nas’ for his thoughtful response (post #121 or thereabouts). And to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the *idea* of Rees being sacked as a huge step forward but won’t be holding my breath.

    Unless you’ve been in the SWP it’s hard to describe the ‘boot camp effect’ of joining and being an active member for a while; the slow disassociation of your instincts from your brain. I think the Americans call it a cult with deep Helsinki Syndrome side-effects.

    It would be bloody marvellous to see Rees go though. And it would do that group the power of good too. In the eyes of the rest of us, his dismissal (along with a few other wanky cohorts) is fast becoming the precondition for any kind of dialogue.

    We can but hope.

    Peace.

  148. Birmingham Respect Member on said:

    Re: whether Salma is a “small business person”

    Yes, the reason I was questioning it is because it isn’t true. Although it seems that some people really want it to be true because it would confirm their prejudices.

    As Andy said: “The reason this is important is becasue there is an islamaphobic under-tow from some of the “left” critics of Respect that is frankly informed by stereotyping.”

  149. Adam J on said:

    As I understand it Salma Yaqoob works (or worked) as a psychotherapist.
    Nick Wrack is a lawyer, Alex Callinicos is a professor, Paul Foot was a journalist, the Socialist Party stood a GP as a candidate.
    The International Socialists were heavily dominated by students in their early days.
    Clearly, the question is whether the party is orientated towards the working class and whether as class struggle rises, workers will be firmly in the leadership of the party.

  150. Adam that is rubbish

    The IS were not domonated by students in the early days, unless you are now claiming that people like Geoff Carlsson, Geoff Mitchell and Jim Higgins were students.

  151. Adam J on said:

    #140 on Plaid

    “There is also a pertinent issue for you Adam, that whatever you think of them, the electoral and political space for a left of Labour alternative in Wales is to a large extent occupied by Plaid.

    For example, where Respect has been seen as the natural anti-war party among many Musliims, in Wales plaid has certainly filled that space, with Mohammad Ashgar elected as Plaid’s first Muslim assembly member, and there are three muslim plaid councillors.”

    Well, you should be aware that the LibDems have muslim councillors in Wales? It is quite natural that muslims and workers in general disaffected with New Labour will switch their alleigance to another mainstream party rather than a small radical left one. This is the case across the UK. Though it does seem a little incongruous Muslims joining a Welsh nationalist outfit! Apparently, from hearsay, many of the Muslims who joined Plaid in South Wales in the last few years haven’t stayed with the party.

    In fact, where I live, traditional Labour voters are switching to the LibDems. In the seat I live in – Cardiff Central – Plaid have never ever retained their deposit and in the seat where they have two councillors, Cardiff West, Plaid came 4th! So the picture is not a clear one of traditional Labour voters switching to Plaid en masse, though Plaid have certainly expanded from a limited voter base off the back of disillusionment with Labour.
    Where I live Plaid is quite unattractive for many working class people being perceived as the party of middle class Welsh speakers.

    Andy should also ask why people like John Marek, Ron Davies, or Peter Law, Trish Law and the Blaenau Gwent crowd didn’t defect to Plaid? It is clear that many old labour people and trade unionists don’t see Plaid as their natural home.

    People interested in “activism”, you know the kind of people who flyposter and do stalls for anti-war meetings or organise street protests and public meetings and all the stuff that get people into far left politics don’t generally see Plaid as an attractive option. It’s just another mainstream party like New Labour and the LibDems and operates in exactly the same way to the same model

    Interestingly, I have visited PCS and CWU picketlines and attended a large meeting called by the local trades council over smashing the wage freeze and didn’t meet any Plaid Councillors there.

    Plaid’s record on the war is better and more consistent than the LibDems but not as great as depicted and certainly not anti-imperialist. I can’t recall Ieuan Wyn Jones ever saying anything memorable against the war or occupation of Iraq.

    Some examples, during the invasion of Afghanistan, the leader of Plaid in parliament, stated his support for “limited military strikes”. Plaid have also consistently fudged the question of actually pulling the troops out of Iraq. More recently Adam Price became one of the first UK politicians to call for Iraq to be partitioned (perhaps the best riposte to this was from Ewa Jasiewicz of Hands off Iraqi Oil who described the total opposition of oil workers to partition) and finally Plaid have slavishly supported a huge privatised Military Academy, we say: “Keep Wales out of the War on Terror: Keep the War on Terror out of Wales! And Bring the troops home now!”

  152. Adam J on said:

    #169 I was referring to the period around 1968, clearly the IS made a concerted effort in the early 70s to transform itself into a working class organisation and build up a base in the working class.

  153. Well it is equally clear that neither are the former supporters of Forward Wales nor the supporters of Trish law ever going to be attracted to an SWP front organisation.

    If you regard your political model as people “who flyposter and do stalls for anti-war meetings or organise street protests and public meetings and all the stuff that get people into far left politics” then you really are trapped into a very conservative mind-set that will never break into mass influence.

  154. #171

    You said the IS was “heavily dominated by students “. You now say in the period around 1968.

    Well. clearly that was not the case in the period you are describing. Neither the national council nor the EC had a majority of students on it; and the paper under Roger Protz’s editorship was firmly addressed towards experienced industrial workers.

    the IS did indeed recruit a lot of students, but in that period, and until the expulsion of thr IS opposition, the IS had a culture very conducive to working class militants.

    The IS had always been an organisation with a working class base, the fact that this was later squandred by Cliff is a story for another day.

  155. Adam J on said:

    Amdy,

    The question is a politics that is focused on workers self-activity and organising at the base through mass movements, political education to raise the consciousness of members, debate and the idea that change has to come through the actions of the mass of people, or a politics that is based on elected professional politicians to do it all for us.

    On the point you quote, I phrased it poorly, but many people are attracted to “activism” they want to get their teeth into the process of changing the world, to feel empowered, to discuss ideas. Young people enthused by the anti-capitalist movement or anti-war movement will not find a natural home in Plaid, trade unionists in struggle will not find a natural home in Plaid.

    Of course, any left wing organisation wants to find a wider audience. Obviously, picking on issues that will resonate with a wide layer of working class people and agitating around them will gain you a hearing.

  156. Adam J on said:

    #173

    To be frank, I was not born in 1968. I said in it’s early days the IS was heavilly dominated by students. This was a misrepresentation, but if you read Jim Higgins own account he speaks of the influx of workers into the organisation:
    “The increase in the proportion of workers in IS, did give rise to some problem for the Treasurer. With a largely white collar and middle class membership, most subs were paid by bankers’ order, which led to a pretty slack attitude to collection in the branches. Manual workers, however, were generally “unbanked” and paid subs in cash, except that branches were not geared up to collect them. This was to give rise to some heart-rending appeals from Jim Nichol.”
    “Between March 1972 and March 1974 the membership of IS increased from 2,351 to 3,310. The number of manual workers increased from 613 to 1,155 during the same period. This welcome improvement in the social composition of the Group was not the whole story: during the membership campaigns of 1973 about 750 additional workers were recruited but could not be integrated into IS. During this same period, the Group was trying very hard to develop a factory branch structure. By July 1974, there were a total of 38 workplace branches, organising some 300 members. A measure of the difficulties, and of IS inexperience, in this work can be seen by the fact that from March 73 to July 74 a total of 56 factory branches had been recognised but 18 of them disappeared or were dissolved.”
    (Chap 11. More years for the Locust)

  157. bill j on said:

    Well judging the evidence it does appear reasonable to suggest that Yaqoob is sociologically petit bourgeois in terms of her own profession and family background, (notwithstanding the fact that she may not own businesses herself).
    In judging whether this background shapes her politics we need only read her own words in the article above, where she consistently downplays the signficiance of class conflict within the Muslim community and suggests that influence within it rests not on “wealth” (like in the rest of capitalist and pre-capitalist society) but on “reputation”.
    In other words she is a liberal.
    As these politics seem to dominate Respect, the issue remains whether it is useful for socialists to build a small liberal party.
    Personally I don’t think it is.

  158. Adam

    Don’t wriggle.

    You said that the IS was “heavily dominated” by students.

    then you provide a quote that instead says that the IS had “a largely white collar and middle class membership”

    We have a choice, believe Jim Higgins, who says not that the IS was heavily dominated by students, but that the majority of the membership was white collar and middle class. In his favour as credible witness, he was natioal secretary and on the Ec at the time.

    The IMG of course really was heaviliy dominated by students, and developed its theories of red bases in the colleges in consequence. The politics of the IS had not sprung miraculously from the head of Cliff and Kidron, but were the prolonged product of building among industrial workers.

    Or we can believe you that the IS was “heavily dominated” by students, despite the fact you admit you were not even born at the time.

    A tough choice.

  159. Adam – nothing about students there (quote: “With a largely white collar and middle class membership, most subs were paid by bankers’ order”). I’d stop digging if I were you.

  160. #176

    Following Bill J’s method, that we can deduce whether someone’s background is reflected in their politics, I wonder whether Bill J is a clown in a circus?

  161. she consistently downplays the signficiance of class conflict within the Muslim community and suggests that influence within it rests not on “wealth” (like in the rest of capitalist and pre-capitalist society) but on “reputation”.

    So if Salma is referring to ‘reputation’ as code for wealth, she’s class-collaborationist and therefore an untrustworthy liberal – and if she isn’t, she’s deluded and therefore an untrustworthy liberal.

    I’m starting to wonder if Salma could say anything that wouldn’t damn her in your eyes, short of launching into variations on a theme of Proletärier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!

  162. bill j on said:

    See I was under the impression that the point of “broad” parties, was to provide an opportunity for socialists to argue for socialist politics in a wider millieu.
    But apparently it appears the point of “broad” parties is to pretend that liberals are socialists.
    Yaqoob is of course perfectly at liberty to argue any politics she chooses. But it is amusing how, if one makes some pretty obvious criticisms those politics, it produces a welter of slander and personal abuse.
    Keep it up.

  163. Andy, fantastic! “Billj’s” method has won me over.

    I now realise that you are a dental hygienist with no place in the struggle for human liberation. The “Louise” character obviously employs assistants to run her high-end dog kennels in Hampstead and therefore cannot be trusted. “Ger Francis” ‘manages’ a not-for-profit boxing club for boys in harm’s way and should have his posts heavily editorialised. “Kevin O” is obviously scabbing on the Screen Writers strike whenever he makes an appearance. Do I need to go on?

    My own family’s appearance in ‘Who’s Who’ should have no bearing on these issues. Like ‘johng’, and other fine supporters of the SWP’s current ‘turn’ to the class, I find that not having worked anywhere near a grubby assembly operation or contributed to ecological disaster through driving my lorry, or of having contributed to the ‘commodification’ of all things from the other side of my corner shop’s counter, has , in fact, clarified most of my analyses.

    I do ‘know’ a fair number of teachers, social workers and admin staff in state institutions however. But these are hangers-on from my student days. I was forced to complete an undergraduate degree at a ‘red-brick’, but did get in on a full grant.

    With these impeccable credentials the future is crystal: Disassociate from anyone discussing progressive or even socialist ideas, anywhere. I will continue to put my faith in the leadership of my groupescule where we can imagine what it’s really like to work the third shift at Dagenham.

    Was it Lenin or Intel’s owner who wrote: “Only the paranoid survive!”?

    Peace (while allowing class war, of course).

  164. But Phil,

    In Bill J’s world where political ideas flow so directly from a person’s social condition, perhaps the Big Man only wrote “Proletärier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!” because he was from a transnational cultural minority?

    This would also (in Bill J’s words) “fit with his profession and familly background” and “In judging whether this background shapes [his] politics we need only read [his] own words”

  165. #183 Bill

    Please do not mistake our mockery at the ineptitide of your cricisms for a “welter of slander and personal abuse.”

    If your current political trajectory doesn’t work out, Perhaps you could try Marxism?

  166. Louise on said:

    “The “Louise” character obviously employs assistants to run her high-end dog kennels in Hampstead and therefore cannot be trusted”

    Ahhh, BatterseaPowerStation, or should I call you Sherlock, your powers of deduction using Bill’s tried and tested method is impressive. Unfortunately….., tis true, you have FOUND me out. 😉

    I wear Barbour jackets, hush puppie shoes, and twin- set and pearls. I drive around in a SUV, run a top notch kennels for pedigrees (none of those mutts…thank-you-very-much)called PedigreesRUs in Hampstead…And the “assistants” who help run the kennels are paid the minimum wage but thankfully…we have none of those pesky bloody unions organising here thank-you-very-much.

    Sorry, have to dash….someone has just dropped off their poodle…

  167. bill j on said:

    Please try harder.
    I didn’t say that everyone’s ideas flowed from their social condition, I said that Yaqoob’s did.
    At least she fights for what she believes in.

  168. As John Rees was fond of saying, “Class doesn’t determine consciousness.”

    Until it does.

    And that’s when honest comradely critiques are needed.

  169. And Bill, what gives you such special insight into Salma Yaqoob that you can attribute her views to her social background, and not to other influences?

    The reason i am somewhat firm on this is that there is a sterotype that Asian people are all self employed, curry houses, corner shops, etc.

    We get this with “left” critics claiming that Tower hamlets’ bengali members of Respect are the small business wing. In truth these people have no idea what the TH councillors do for a living, but they are bengali … …

    I am sure you can clear this misunderstanding up quickly and easily by showing examples where you have made connections between a white person’s political views and their social background.

  170. Yeshiya ben Azriel on said:

    I think Salma Yaqoob’s argument that “Muslim radicalisation[is] towards political engagement in new, radical and progressive coalitions that seek to unite Muslim with non-Muslim in parliamentary and extra- parliamentary strategies to effect change” is genuine enough.

    She also gives clear examples of this when she mentions “the decision of the MCB to end their boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day.., the comments from its chair Mohammed Bari that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference was ‘obnoxious’.. and the growing relationship between the MCB and the Trades Union Congress represents important progress. Reactionary and conservative religious radicals certainly exist, and their influence has to be continually countered. But the general political trajectory of Muslim radicalism is still towards progressive politics.”

    i.e. the dominant trend within the MCB and Respect is an integrationist, left-labourite sort of politics, which seeks to maintain religious identity and allow for the overlap between those who attend mosques and want to be involved in politics.

    Clearly this is something very different from the politics of the separatist religious chauvinist types who were around the StWC, but weren’t the dominant trend in it.
    That’s something that should be recognised and welcomed.

    The SWP’s change of line seems more borne of the leadership’s political ineptitude at dealing with this new hybrid formation and their pique at finding the star politicos not being able to benefit electorally.

    None of which is to say that this guarantees that such a “progressive alliance” will come up with the right solutions when the going gets tough, as the political waverings of Ken Livingstone show.

    There are a few ambiguities contained in the article, such as where she mentions the “absence of any serious dissent inside Respect over the kind of secular/religious fault lines that run through wider society.”

    Surely this is because there was never a serious attempt to debate the Faith Based School question from a socialist point of view and a diplomatic agreement on religious conscience over Abortion Rights?

    Both of which omissions offer a hostage to the right, which undoubtedly utilising the former issue and always trying to shift the ground on the latter.
    Overall I’d see her document as an argument for a united front form of politics, not a fully fledged party.

    A lot of the problems in the Respect split stem from the failure recognise that a “united front of a special type” will almost certainly never reach programmatic agreement.

  171. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    The funny thing is that b4 all this split if the substantive points from this article had been printed in SW under the name of John Rees say, and the group who was claiming ‘communalism’ was CPGB say, then most SWP members would have accepted the points as correct.

    For me the key part of the article is the following;
    “The coalition model that Respect was founded upon had its merits. In the future, however, I am convinced that we need to organise much more along traditional party political lines. We need to be clear that we are building a political party, and not making some form of temporary agreement between rival interests for electoral purposes.”

    As an SWP member I was proud of the fact that SWP comrades were the best at pushing out; i.e. at putting out shed loads of leaflets of building the biggest meetings etc (2 all u doubters – u know this is true). The United Fount of a special kind strategy fitted with this picture brilliantly.

    By ignoring ‘sectarian’ worries about internal structure and by forgetting about boring regular branch meetings or such like (too much for us to expect Respect supporters to get involved in this way – though oddly the death of ‘old time political organisation’ by passed SWP internal culture as we still held regular branch meetings and public stalls?) the argument ran, we could break the block that has kept socialist groups small and build a mass socialist party – sorry I mean a mass loose left-wing political grouping, with a well organised revolutionary core (the SWP) ready to one day become the mass party in good time for the coming revolution. Sounds good?

    Now (with my post-SWP head on) some of this remains correct, the left has been stuck in a tiny ghetto which navel gassing in dull meetings rather then concentrating on pushing out was never going to solve. But there comes a point were you gota say that pushing out is only good when you then bring people in. With little internal structure and few ways for any non-aligned individual (who wasn’t a national figger) to have a say about the big issues, we had nothing to bring people back to.

    Sure Salma, and George especially, didn’t nessissary clearly push for a party structure before the current crisis, but people aren’t static they have reached political conclusions from this debarcle and the need for an internal life on top of the still vitally important work of pushing out, is the most important of them.

    Conversely, what is the key lesson that the SWP cc take from this debarcle? I’m not sure? Maybe it will be clear after today’s SWp conference but if they think the problem was that electorialism was to big a pull in the old Respect, how are they going to change the new official respect to stop this happening?

  172. “Note that there is almost no-one who is actually in the SWP arguing their position here any more,, it is you, mary Alan and Tom Delargy, none of whom are SWP members.

    My strong feeling is that the SWP are on the way out of Reespect.”

    Andy are you for real? SWP members choosing not to fill their heads with poinsonous clap-trap on this site = them being on their way out of Respect? You really do have a high opinion of your site don’t you? It couldn’t possibly be because coming on here is completely draining, unproductive and a complete waste of energy, could it?

  173. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    Mary you may be right, or perhaps its that comrades have remembered that they were breaking with SWP discipline by exposing themselves to sectrain alternative idea’s on the interweb and that party culture dictates that you should only read SW.

    The draining nature of debate probally also explains why, dispite the fact that there has been a sizable minority inside the party disagreeing with the cc line, SW has carried not a single letter putting forward the any view of the Respect crisis deviating from the cc line and why Socialist Review just carries a fluff letter claiming that the ‘Respect project is brilliant’ but not even mentioning the split.

  174. Adam J on said:

    “Mary you may be right, or perhaps its that comrades have remembered that they were breaking with SWP discipline by exposing themselves to sectrain alternative idea’s on the interweb and that party culture dictates that you should only read SW.”

    C’mon, this is bullshit. The SWP have never operated a culture that you only read their publications. Bookmarks carries many books by non-SWP members, Socialist Worker carries many articles by non-SWP members and the Marxism event invites many speakers who are not from the SWP. Maybe when you were a member of the SWP you only read SW?

  175. ‘Mary’, nope.

    This site has a wider readership in a week than a year’s SW sales (according to your own figures). Even if I were a party loyalist, I’d take it fairly seriously as a platform for my own ideas.

    The SWP would feel more ‘fulfilled, productive and energised,’ if their activities and arguments could stand up to scrutiny. And if members began criticism of the Central Committee they’d likewise ‘feel’ much better about themselves and their party.

    Quick question, now that the party conference has wound down, did the cadre come away engergised? Could you give us any indication as to why, if the answer’s in the affirmative?

  176. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    Adam J, perhaps my point was a little to strongly made but it is certainly the case that the reading of socialists newspapers other then the SW is both frowned upon and ridiculed by SWP members.

    It is far from true that Socialist Worker carries many articles by non-SWP members, it carries a few, and very very rarely in contentious areas.

    In the current debate in a number of socialist worker meetings there were comrades putting across the view that those siding with some of the arguments of the Renewal crew had had there heads messed up because they had been reading ‘sectarian’ websites.

    It is undoubtedly the case that despite the fact that there has been a seizable minority inside the party disagreeing with the cc line, neither the SW nor the SR has carried a single letter putting forward the any view of the Respect crisis other than the cc line.

  177. I’d be very surprised if SWP members were encouraged to spend time on blogs such as this. That would seem a very odd thing to do.

  178. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    #198, where as ridiculing comrades for reading alternative information, such as the original Salma Yaqoob, Galloway etc. documents before the party sanctioned the reading of them, yea that’s not an odd thing to do?

  179. I think there are some issues with the way the SWP has (failed to) come to terms with the electronic age. It’s a shame, it seems to me, that this causes a situation where some things are left to scurrilous sectarians (in the generally used, rather than the pure sense) to publish first. I can understand why some members of the SWP might want to avail themselves of such places at times. I think the SWP needs to have a(nother?) good, long, hard think about this.

  180. bill j on said:

    Yes very easily Andy. Tho’ it says something about you then whenever anyone criticises Respect you accuse them, explicitly or implicitly, of being a racist.
    We’ve established that Yaqoob’s background is almost classically petit bourgeois (i.e. small capitalist) and if you read her article above you will find that her politics too are classically petit bourgeois i.e. liberal.
    It seems eminently reasonable to assume therefore, that her politics are an accurate representation of her class position.
    It’s been asked what I expected of her, I can answer nothing more. It’s exactly as I expected.
    The issue was and is, whether building a small liberal party is an activity that socialists should spend their time on. I don’t think it is.
    But if they want to, then go ahead. It’s not like I’m stopping you is it?
    Anyway I’ve repeated myself enough times now, and I’m not responding to Andy’s insults anymore.

  181. ‘batterseapowerstation’ – shock, horror, etc, I am not in the SWP. So can’t answer your question.

    And just because this site apparently has a high readership, what does that prove? That everyone reading is of course a rabid anti-SWPer like the handful who post here? I think the fact that a very small number of people have been attracted to RR says more, don’t you?

  182. ‘billj’, when the SWP was ‘in’ Respect its members accused everyone with criticisms of being ‘soft racists’. It would drag the infrastructure of the internet down to re-quote the likes of ‘johng’ in that vein.

    Were you one of the SWP members before launching Respect that held a ‘class against class’ critique of the ‘intervention’? It’s important to clarify this because Andy’s wariness of lumping progressive Muslims into curry-shop owning petit-bourgeois categories is perfectly legitimate.

    Could you point us to an article or two in Socialist Worker / Reviev / ISJ or IB during the run-up to launching Respect that reads off the inevitability of ‘building a small liberal party’ as a key danger?

    Without any public correspondence or demonstration that sections of the SWP ‘knew’ that in the Respect road lay a route to dilution, your arguments smack of rank opportunism.

    Good heavens, ‘billj’ has me writing in the style of ‘johng’!

    Now, of course, this all assumes that ‘billj’ (bilge?) is a member or supporter of the SWP. If s/he’s not then please ignore all of the above but bear in mind where arid ultra-left nonsense gets you.

  183. ‘Mary’, my apologies.

    From your tone, I took it that you were defending the SWP, my mistake.

    You go on to ask, …”And just because this site apparently has a high readership, what does that prove?..” Well. That it has a high readership.

    From which we may be permitted to deduce that; a lot of left-leaning folk are justifiably concerned at the way the SWP behaves (looking at thread counts), that there is still a significant interest in building a left-of-NLabour formation, that socialist ideas have an audience, that there is a growing sophistication as to picking one’s friends, that no one has all the answers and that open forums are tough places to ‘win the argument’.

    All very refreshing and energising, don’t you agree?

    Peace

  184. BatterseaPowerStation: I am not in the SWP but yes I have and will continue to defend their members. So you weren’t mistaken completely. I don’t believe that it is possible nor desirable to build a left of Labour movement without their input. There is a reason that so many of the best activists are attracted to the SWP whether people here will ever admit this or not.

    Over the last four years every Respect campaign and election I have been a part of, has involved working with a great many of their members up and down the country, and I have yet to see any evidence of the ridiculous things that they are accused of on this site, nor have I ever met anyone on the ground who hates them as much as they do here. I think the hysteria towards them promoted here is bizarre, unjustified and damaging and it’s hardly surprising that their members are sick to the back teeth of ‘Socialist Unity’ which I’m afraid is a completely Orwellian title for this forum.

    It was only last July that George Galloway said ‘there would be no Respect and no anti-war movement without the SWP’ – deep down I think most people here would agree with this statement.

    Peace.