Galloway faction splits from Respect

The rupture seems complete. SWP, the Marxist vanguard party that burrowed itself into Respect, has apparently succeeded in mangling, maybe even destroying it, as well as hurting themselves too. And here I thought solidarity was a bedrock principle of Marxism, silly me.

Whether the rupture was precipitated by Trotskyite design or simple blundering is unclear. Are their other causes for this? Sure. But SWP has played a central role.

Respect was co-founded in Britain by George Galloway, now a member of parliament. It is (was?) the major Left party in the country. But the sectarianism of SWP, convinced of their own inerrancy, managed to alienate and disrupt to point that Galloway himself has now left Respect. No doubt SWP saw Respect as a big juicy mass organization to recruit out of and control except for all those pesky non-SWP members who didn’t see things their way.

I guess SWP forgot the vanguard party led by Lenin allowed and encouraged dissent including opposing views and newspapers and didn’t force the wearing of ideological blinders. In a lot of ways, zealot Marxists are quite like zealot Christians except they bludgeon you with their beliefs by quoting from Marx and Lenin rather than the Bible. Dave Barry once said, “ever notice how people who want to tell you about their religion never want to hear about yours?” Indeed. But if you want to build a mass anti-war, anti-imperialist coalition then by definition it will include groups with differing views. How could it be otherwise?

Whether this turns into yet another Left circular firing squad or somehow everyone can just go their separate ways remains to be seen. Sigh.


From the Respect supporters blog

Just got back from a meeting with George Galloway and friends. Lots of very exciting news which will be posted on this site and the Respect (Renewal) Web site over the next few days.One thing I can promise you is that ‘Respect lives on’

See the comments for more.

  • No, George Galloway has not left Respect. The SWP have tried to control Respect and the members and most of the National Council are not having none of it!

    All the non SWP Respect National Council members bar two and most of the elected Respect local Councillors are supporting Respect (Renewal) which has called an open conference for members and non members on Saturday 17 November, at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, from 11am to 5pm – why not come along and see for yourself?

    More information is available at Respect (Renewal):

    Neil Williams

  • First of all Socialist Alliance was basically a coalition of left groups and independents. There were some of the reformist variety, and some to the left of Socialist Worker. Socialist worker basically argued, “we have already got a revolutionary organisation, Socialist Worker, so we don’t need another one. What we don’t have is “Old Labour” for all those people who want such an organisation deserted by New Labour. That is what Socialist Worker wanted the Socialist Alliance to be. So there were many in the Socialist Alliance who were antagonistic to Socialist worker because Socialist worker consistently made the Socialist Alliance reflective of reformist viewpoints, and somewhere where reformists could feel comfortable. Socialist Worker could just vote these things through because we had the most members, plus those to the right of us. One example. It was proposed that part of the Socialist Alliance manifesto would advocate the disarming of the police, Socialist Worker voted this down. Many felt unfairly treated by this and wanted minority groups, mostly those to the harder left than Socialist worker, voting rights that would give them greater say over the direction of Socialist Alliance disproportionate to their numerical standing in the coalition. (I think The Socialist Party left the Socialist Alliance over this) Many people also believed that Socialist worker was deserting its revolutionary tradition.

    The anti-war movement. Some in the Socialist Alliance bitterly disagreed with the emphasis and amount of effort Socialist worker put into the anti-war movement. They felt Socialist worker should have concentrated on building the Socialist Alliance. Because of the war and the anti-war movement George Galloway left Labour Party, but he wasn’t prepared to join the Socialist Alliance, and set up his own group. Socialist work argued it was stupid of the left to have two coalitions basically going after the same vote. Socialist Worker approached the George Galloway group about uniting the coalitions, but they would only agree to Socialist Alliance subsuming into respect.

    This was put to conference of the Socialist Alliance. Socialist Worker made every effort to pull out all the stops to win the vote for uniting the two coalitions. Once again they used their numeric advantage, and many people accuse them of “packing meetings”. There was indeed much bitterness about packing meetings, which basically means you organise better and get more people to turn up and vote for what you want. There was much bitterness that the Socialist Alliance, that many people had put a lot of hard work into, would cease to exist. However, the vote was won and the vast majority of the Socialist Alliance subsumed its mentorship into respect.

    So it isn’t really true to say the Socialist Alliance “foundered when non-SWP member parties could not accept the conditions laid down by the SWP.” it didn’t really founder, it was subsumed into respect. Those who disagreed with the subsuming, still keep a version of the Socialist Alliance going (very small indeed). It was those to the hard left who seemed most antagonistic to the things Socialist Worker argued for in the Socialist Alliance. “the conditions (SW) laid down” as you put it , were keeping Socialist Alliance as a reformist Organisation which I think you would have agreed with. Lastly I think most of the non-Socialist Worker members who were in Socialist Alliance joined respect.
    So in short Socialist Alliance didn’t founder, it did the right thing and became part of a bigger coalition, a coalition that has had much more success than the Socialist Alliance ever did, and more success than any organisation to the left of the Labour Party in a hundred years.
    Respect. Many would argue, quite right where in my opinion, That the Socialist Work members and nonmembers who split from the Socialist Alliance, (I’m not sure you can really call it a split because the vast majority of people agreed to subsume the organisation into respect), but for arguments sake those people who left to join respect did so to make the coalition a more right wing reformist Organisation, rather than a revolutionary organisation. George Galloway’s faction has recently done the same thing, except that they have done it without a vote. I think it is fair to call what they have done a split, without a vote mandate.

    The website you quote from its correct in that Socialist worker wanted respect to be a mass organisation. However, unfortunately Socialist worker was still probably the biggest grouping in respect. Respect has not recruited onto the membership as many as we would have liked. To be anywhere near successful, I would have put it and I think most of Socialist worker would have said, the members of respect non-SWP would have needed to outnumber SWP 10 to one. That would have been a success.

    There has been a number of issues, Big Brother, the claims of oil money, and our whole number of other it accusations made against George Galloway and other members of respect Which Socialist Worker has consistently and without public criticism defended Where we have agreed we did not agree with these actions, we have defended our selves by saying we cannot be held responsible for people with different views in a coalition. Coalitions demand that you allow other people to have different views.

    Now as far as I understand it, it is agreed respect has not grown as big as we would like, but George Galloway’s faction wanted to put the blame for this With Socialist Worker. They demanded John Reese resigned his office, think it was national secretary, and when Socialist worker refused to be held responsible for this and to have John resign, the Galloway faction said they intended to produce a public document criticising Socialist Worker. As far as I understand it Socialist Worker was prepared to discuss changes in tactics in the way forward and criticisms of Socialist worker as part of the internal coalition discussion, but was not prepared to be publicly attacked after spending so much time defending members of the coalition from public attack. Socialist Worker felt this could do nothing, the public attack, other than weaken respect.

    In short, I think the Galloway faction may have had some worthy criticisms of Socialist worker, but equally Socialist work could have made some worthy criticisms of Galloway and other members of the respect coalition. The difference being we chose to try and resolve these differences within the coalition. Why Galloway chose to make his public attack is up for discussion, I personally feel his former hatred of Socialist Worker made him a bit paranoid about Socialist workers intentions. It led him to the deluded belief that Socialist worker wanted to control respect, and so he wanted to provoke them to walk.
    Why do I think the belief Socialist Worker wanted to control respect is the deluded? In a crude way the original writers observation Socialist worker wanted to recruit from a MASS organisation is correct. In the short term membership of respect has actually had a deleterious effect upon the number of members in Socialist worker. Socialist worker thought this was a price worth paying for being part of a organisation that was thoroughly rooted amongst the working class. An organisation in which Socialist worker could argue for its strategies, which could be accepted or rejected by the non-revolutionaries socialists, and which could be measured as successful or unsuccessful in United action. But first of all we needed to make it a MASS organisation. By definition if respect was as we wanted it to be a MASS organisation, then by definition it would be something we couldn’t control. Numerically we would be outnumbered. And that is exactly what we always wanted.
    I haven’t been an active member for several years now, but that is how I understand events.

  • Thank you for your comprehensive comments on the history here, I appreciate it.

    Some of the problem I think, is that the goals of a vanguard party can conflict with the goals of the mass organization, ie, are they furthering the aims of the mass group or using it to recruit from. This can lead to friction within the group, with non-members thinking their group has been jacked while the members, often quite rightfully, saying we’re the ones doing all the work.

  • thanks for the reasonable response. Just a couple of things.

    SW recruiting from respect was always a kind of long-term thing, recruiting from respect in any significant numbers ONLY when the argument about the need for a revolutionary party had been won not only with respect membership, but probably most sections of the working class as well. This is never going to happen in the short-term, in fact it is only likely to happen in any significant amount in a period just prior to and at the time of a revolutionary situation.

    in the short term the aims of SW and George Galloway were he same, to build a mass reformist coalition.

    I think where things broke down, and this is only an opinion based upon what I’ve read from many different perspectives, is that George Galloway panicked. He realised quite rightly respect was not in a fit state to properly fight the possible snap election. Prior to this George Galloway had increasingly attempted to through Big Brother, his media career, and being advised about “winner” candidates (what I mean is picking candidates because they are likely to win for other reasons than their socialist politics), to take shortcuts to building a mass organisation. This is different from the vision SW had to building a mass reformist coalition.

    there were a number of occasions when pursuing this strategy meetings were packed etc, and SW lost the vote. In these circumstances SW still through the resources it did have at carrying through those decisions.when faced with the same prospect the George Galloway faction have chose to walk.

  • Also, one faction favored electoral politics and the other revolutionary politics. And both can’t co-exist for long in a coalition, seems to me.

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