It seems all is not well within the Respect Party, an organization which came into being after the leadership of the English Socialist Workers Party crashed the Socialist Alliance [SA] to enter into an alliance with the former Labour Party member and MP George Galloway. Anyone who was active within the SA and had a little political savvy would have seen that the new organization named Respect was going to be an extremely bumpy ride.
That the new party was named Respect, despite there already being an anti racist group working under that name speaks volumes in itself. The bitterness and anger that erupted when the SWP closed the SA down almost over night, without consulting any of its branches or membership made the new organization a complete pariah to most independent socialists. Many of whom having had first hand experienced of the way in which the SWPs leadership cadre operates, had no interest in repeating that experience by joining Respect. It is interesting that many of the complaints against the SWP that George Galloway has now combined in a document, mirror those that the Indies within the SA experienced. Not least the shoddy if not corrupt manner the SWP cadre within the SA machine dealt with financial matters, which at best can be described as the Maxwell way with other peoples money.
Although it must be said that the experiences of the SA Chair Liz Davies, and other comrades when dealing with the SWP were in the public domain and should have forewarned George Galloway about supping with the SWP. At the time he was not interested, so I fear he will get very little sympathy from that quarter. It is extremely pertinent and pretty amazing that in his document * George Galloway fail’s to mention the lack of democratic accountability, as almost all the problems he raises stem from the lack of it within Respect and the inability of the SWP CC to understand that democratic accountability is an essential element within a progressive political party in the 21st century. For without democratic tentacles reaching into every corner of a Left Party, what you get is simply more of the same old bureaucratic top down structures that have failed so dismally in the past.
Of course any insistence for democratic accountability will be resisted to the death by organizations like the SWP, for they know only to well that if a front organization is run along democratic lines they have no guarantee that they will maintain control, indeed this was one of the main reasons why they so hastily shut down the SA, as its membership outside of the SWP cadres were demanded democratic accountability within the organization.
Until organizations like the SWP begin to accept that Democratic Centralism has been a major fault line for the left since Lenin’s Bolsheviks insisted that all parties within the Comintern must practice this organizational methodology, as far as building a left Party is concerned they are not fit for purpose.
George Galloway and anyone else who wishes to build a new left party must realize that the SWP is part of the problem, thus it cannot in its present form be part of the solution, not least because it reeks of sharp practice due to its top down methodology. Although from their reply to Galloway’s document, in which they could not even bring themselves to call Respect a Party, having downgraded it in NL speak to merely a ‘project,’ one of many I expect them to claim. Is this a sign that the SWP tops have tired of Respect as they have in the past of countless front organization that their membership worked their fingers to the bone to established, only to see their leaders discard them without a backward glance when they failed to provide recruits to the SWP.
Unless the left start showing working class people some respect and understand that we will never sacrifice bourgeois democracy, despite being well aware of its shortcomings, for a party dictatorship of the type that in the past has had disastrous consequences for millions of working class people, then they they are pissing in the wind as far as gaining mass working class support. The purpose of a Left Party today is three fold, to defend the gains of the past, to stretch the envelope of State democratic accountability and to place ourselves in the same trench as the wretched of the earth, whether at home or abroad..
One can only hope that Galloway, like many of us has finally come to realize that the Trade Union’s, the Labour Party Left and other leftist organizations will not come within a mile of Respect whilst the SWP hold the Respect machine. Although it looks very much like George is hoping that there is a 50-50 chance that the Trotskyist minnows that have traditionally clung to the carcass of the SWP so they can fish in a larger political pond will side with him and not stay with the SWP, not least because of the countless past slights they have suffered at the hands of SWP bureaucrats like Rob Hoveman and John Rees.
Whether the SWP and George Galloway patch up their differences is for them, but what has become increasingly clear is the Respect Party on its own will not be the harbinger of a new English Left Party. The serious task of building a new Left Party based on the TU and those on the left who have a modicum of understanding about the English working classes is still a work in progress. Whilst I see no reason why Galloway’s Respect Party cannot be part of that process it is difficult to see how in the long run organizations like the SWP in their present form can be. For once a new Left Party is eventually founded, the SWP will refuse to merge its organization into the new party, because they still believe their own party is the vanguard of the working classes and thus they will always put the best interest of the SWP before that of a Left Party and indeed the working classes themselves. The fact that George Galloway is only now coming to realize this is a story in itself, but we will leave that for another day.
To conclude on a more upbeat note, elsewhere in Europe there are more optimistic signs. In Germany the Die Linke [Left Party] has been established after the final amalgamation of the PDS, former left members of the SDP, Trade Unionists and Left organizations like the WASG has been completed.* In its first General Election the Left Party gained 54 seat’s in the Bundestag [German Parliament] and for the first time since WW2 there is a viable Left alternative to the SDP.
* George Galloway’s Document can be found here.