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Respect crisis approaches a D'enouement

by Dave Riley

The crisis that has erupted in the English electoral unity coalition, Respect seems to be coming to some resolution via the D'enouement of a split. The actual form of that is still unclear as there is a lot of manoevre-ing still in play. If you want speculation, gossip and the like, the left of the web is chokers with it.

Opinions vary so much you are sure to drown in them.

I've tried to monitor the politics involved as closely as I can from a distance while extrapolating from my own regroupment experiences here in Australia.

In that context I recommend this assessment by Andy Newman which was buried among the hundreds of exchanges on the fracas:

  1. Let us step back a moment.

    There is a lot of heat being generated.

    Firstly, if we only look at what has happened in respect in institutional and organisational terms then both sides can find fault with the other. This is the problem with the approach of Canadien and John G.

    However, if you look at the question in terms of the overall political context first –there objectively exists the space to create a broad left of labour organisation, but that space cannot be filled by the soi-dissant revolutionary left.

    What is more, due to low levels of class consciousness and trade union participation, a political party based only upon traditional organised Labour cannot be the whole answer. But at the same time, there is a big rise in a general ideological opposition to neo-liberalism, imperialism, and environmental destruction.

    So the space to the left of labour needs to be filled by a pluralistic force, that includes diversity, and in order for that to succeed we need democratic structures that empower the membership.

    As a result we need to work on two tasks simultaneously.

    i) practical cooperation between socialists of all persuasions, which ever political project they subscribe to, over campaining issues, and within the trade unions.
    ii) Building trust and cooperation over a long period to build a progressive political alliance against new Labour

    While neither side of the current debate in Respect are saints, the truth is that the SWP leadership have politically isolated themselves, because they have prioritised their institutional prestige and organisational interests within Respect and by so doing destroyed trust, and undermined the working relationships with other leading members.

    Since August, the SWP have turned a loose and disparate group of figures in the Respect leadership who had different concerns about the direction of the project, into a united block with a shared understanding that the SWP’s way of working is incompatible with building a pluralistic project.

    Naturally, the process has been much accelerated at the top of Respect, with those closest to the disputes. Many Respect activists will not have understood what was going on, and many SWP members working in local Respect groups may have been behaving in an exemplary way, and so the criticisms of the SWP leadership might not match some people’s experience.

    But we also have to say that in most of the country, Respect is a very small organisation that is hardly greater then the SWP and one or two others, and the SWP turn it off and on only for elections.

    So the real strategic asset of Respect, apart from Galloway himself, are the electoral bases and relatively mass membership if East London and Birmingham.

    Galloway is Galloway, and like all of us he has both his strengths and idiosyncrasies. It is also true that some of the figures in Galloway’s corner now have a past history of acting in the way they now criticise when they were SWP members themselves.

    But the experience of the last few months have proven that that way of working must be ditched forever. And the political task confronting us cannot be achieved with behind he scenes deals and control freakery.

    There are no guarantees in politics, but coming out of this dispute will be a group of Respect activists, including at a national level almost everyone not in the SWP. They will have an MP and still some dozen councillors, with an electoral base. What is more there will be a commitment never to go back to the top down culture.

    The immediate tasks will be to rebuild the confidence and involvement of the members, which means proper functioning democratic structures; and also a much more modest assessment of Respect. Repositioning Respect as a partner and bridge builder to other progressive forces, not as the final answer.

    If we can resist hubris. If we can do these simple tasks, and if we can avoid recrimination against the SWP, then Respect has a future.

    Comment by Andy — 1 November, 2007 SOURCE Link

1 Com:

Anonymous | April 27, 2009

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