Car crash on the Left. Respect Renewal and SWP

car crash

Red Pepper on the Respect / SWP rupture.

The SWP will carry on in the original organisation. But without the strongholds of Tower Hamlets and Birmingham and national figures like Galloway and Yaqoob, not to mention a distinct lack of coalition partners, it is difficult to see it going far. Meanwhile, the other side hopes to attract sections of the left that were initially put off by the SWP – trade unions, greens, communists – to their pluralist vision. But the fact remains that with the SWP gone they will have lost at least half the membership and a good number of key activists.

Plus, the well has been poisoned. It’s difficult to see how the two groups could work together in coalitions like Stop The War, and the British antiwar movement may suffer because of it. My guess: Respect Renewal, the pluralist group, will gain strength and members over time as they appeal to a wide range of people. SWP, meanwhile, will become smaller and perhaps have a bracing good time in the future arguing about maddeningly trivial points of Marxist theology to a full meeting of seven members (four of whom will soon fracture off and form their own group.)

Ultimately there were two visions at the heart of Respect. The SWP saw it as a ‘united front of a special kind’, a catchy term for an electoral alliance that came second to the party’s interests, while the others regarded it as something more permanent and the primary focus of their activity.

That will always be a problem when a Marxist vanguard party works within a coalition. The goals of the party will sometimes conflict with and come before the interests of the coalition at large.

But on one point they are agreed – there is still a yawning gap to the left of Labour. With the split in Respect, the British left has once again shown a particular skill in failing to fill it.