Whither The Respect Party?


The general consensus amongst the non Socialist Workers Party UK Left, seems to be that no matter what the two opposing factions within the Respect Party might do after their respective conferences next weekend, the Respect Party is doomed to whither away. A substantial number of these leftists also believe that the brouhaha is lacking any real political differences. I’m not so sure about this as there are clear differences between the two factions as to how the Respect Party would evolve in the future. For if one looks at the Statement from Nick Wrack, a part of which I have posted as O/R ‘Quote of the Week,’ it become pretty clear that the Galloway faction see Respect as the embryo of a new Left Party. Whereas the SWP tops do not; and I am certain never have had any intention of working to turn the Respect Party into a new Left Party, thus these are are real political differences by any ones standards.

Leaving aside the personalities involved, which is not easy I agree, one gets a glimpse at the core of the current problems within the Respect Party. Once the SWP leadership realized that senior; and rank and file members of the SWP working within Respect were gradually going native, they concluded that the value of the Respect Party as a propaganda vehicle, which could be brought out periodically at national and local elections to beat the SWP recruitment drum, may well have out lasted its usefulness. They acted quickly in an attempt to regain control of their membership within Respect, unfortunately for them their problem became greater when George Galloway got in before them, all but claiming he had become sick of the SWP continuously putting the brake on the Respect Party attaining the structures of a normal political party.

Never the less the SWP realized if they lost control of the Respect Party machine, by for example John Rees being sidelined or removed from National Secretary’s post, the days of manipulating Respect from the outside would come to an end. Better to implode it as they did with the Socialist Alliance. Although this will not happen in the same way as the SWP tops do not have a pet project in mind into which they can channel their memberships energies. In all probability they will continue to go through the motions with SWP/Respect, bringing it out at election time whilst entering into negotiations with other sects about future plans. In time it seems certain that without Galloway’s contacts within the muslim communities, the SWP/Respect will whither and die, not least because it is unlikely to maintain its current level of electoral support, let alone improve upon it.

The most dispiriting thing about the Respect Party’s current difficulties is that as far as I’m aware, neither factions have made any public statements, comments to the press, or on the internet as to the needs of the communities in which Respect is strongest, for we should not forget if Respect implodes the working class muslim communities will once again be politically at the mercy of the Neo-liberal supporting Labour Party, Lib Dem’s and Tories. It is to Galloway’s credit that he is at least making every effort to keep the Respect Party viable once the SWP has withdrawn from the Asian working class communities in London’s east-end, the Midlands and North west.

The Galloway faction now has two options, it can either attempt to bring on side the Trade Unions, CPB, disgruntled ex LP members, the Socialist Party and independent socialists, none of whom have gone near Respect due to the controlling presence of the SWP, and jointly with the aforementioned organizations make a real attempt to form a democratic Left Party. That England is crying out for a new viable Left Party is obvious to most leftists, that any new party must be based on a solid democratic foundation is equally obvious, as to is the fact that if it is to gain support from the working classes it must be a left reformist party that welcomes revolutionaries into its ranks as individual members.

The second option is for Galloway and his supporters to batten down the hatches of Respect[GG] and turn in a communal manner to Britain’s Muslim communities for support. If successful in the latter he would gain access to considerable funds and activists from the likes of the Muslim Association of Britain. Whilst these will never fill the shoes of the best SWP activist, they should not be dismissed as they have ability and contacts. If George Galloway chooses this road, whether the likes of Nick Wrack and Rob Hoveman stay on side is debatable, for in the wake of the aforementioned muslim activists will come the petty bourgeois businessmen that make the traders within Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar look like honest gentlemen. The sad fact is George Galloway is comfortable in this type of company having experienced the generosity of such people throughout his political career.

If the Galloway faction choose the first option and turn for support to the left and the working classes in general, which include those workers who adhere to the islamic faith, the Respect Party could still have a progressive role to play. If it chooses the second option, then the Respect Party is finished as a progressive voice and within time it will undoubtedly wither away and die.

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5 Comments

Filed under Respect Party, Socialism/Politics/UK/EU/Democratic accountability/Left

5 responses to “Whither The Respect Party?

  1. Charlie Marks

    Great post, Mick. I share the same view of Respect as you, and am optimistic that renewal can take place…

  2. Brandy

    I have been somewhat following the Galloway/SWP fight within Respect, but my knowledge is limited as I am from the other side of the pond (US).

    I will say that it would be such a shame if Respect folded. As hard as it is for the UK left to form a left party, you guys have it much easier than we do here in the United States because you ahve a parlimentary system. I hope, for the sake of the British people that have had to suffer uner Labour that something can be worked out.

  3. Mick Hall

    Charlie,

    Thanks for your kind words, very generous.

    Brandy

    Good to hear from someone from across the pond, it cannot have been easy for progressive minded people since GW Bush became President.

    I was talking to a baggage handler [also Trade Union activist] at Minneapolis airport some years ago, we were discussing Bill Clinton and he said something which struck me at the time. he said, “the thing about Clinton is at least he left office with the country no worse than when he came in”.

    Sure as hell the same cannot be said for Bush as the whole world is worse off after his period in office. Unless the left can get itself organized to a level where we can influence events far more than we do at the present, as dispiriting as the thought is, what my friend in Minneapolis said is about the best we can hope for.

    Which is pretty sad and spurs me on.

    Best to you both.

  4. Anonymous

    Mick,

    I fear your prejudice against sectarian “vanguard” parties has led you to see the dispute in Respect through a distorted prism. Even if we accept that mistakes might have been committed by the SWP in the midst of the Respect faction fight, it is ludicrous to claim the SWP is simply a “propaganda” organisation which was never interested in building Respect as a new left party.

    The success of Respect in becoming just such a party, at least in a handful of strongholds, has been due in no small part to the involvement of the SWP. The party’s involvement in Respect in Preston for instance, which reports in this week’s issue of Socialist Worker give some flavour of, are proof enough of that. Respect here has won over prominent ex-Labor councillors as well as sections of the local Muslim community through the work of SWP member and Respect councillor Michael Lavellette. See http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=13533 and http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=13532

    The dispute has political roots in the tensions that developed in Respect over electoral strategy, however the split appears to have been driven more by Galloway’s desire to break with the SWP than their desire to break with him, as I see it.

  5. Mick Hall

    Comrade [anon]

    I for one would not belittle the hard work members of the SWP put into Respect, if my piece came across to critical of people like the comrades in Preston then that was not my intention. However I stand by my claim that the SWP leadership never had any intention of Respect become the embryo of a new Left Party. Why would they for they believe the SWP already occupies that place.

    I also believe I am correct in believing that the SWP became very worried when people like Rob Hoveman, Nick Wrack and other SWP members working within Respect started believing that Respect could become much more than ‘a United Front of a special kind’.

    I agree I am totally opposed to vanguard politics as I feel it has been the curse of the English left post the 1960s. The problem with your argument is the SWP has a bit of a history here, as it imploded the SA when it became pretty clear that most of its members were beginning to believe that it should become the embryo of a new Left Party.

    They got away with that by teaming up with Galloway, but its legacy was that many former members of the LP and indie socialists were rightly or wrongly unwilling to enter Respect due to the dominance of the SWP.

    The left must understand that when differences occur a split is the last thing that should happen, not as is always the way with many english leftists, the first.

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