Respect Conference – A Shift to the Right

A comment on the recent national conference of the Respect Party by Ian Donovan.

This year’s conference of Respect saw the organisation formally change its name from the original ‘Respect – the Unity Coalition’ to the simpler ‘Respect Party’. Unfortunately, it also signalled a significant political shift away from any attempt to unite the working-class left into a broad party. Instead, Respect now stands committed to a political strategy that involves alliances with forces whose commitment to the working class and any meaningful struggle against neo-liberalism is at best questionable.

Respect now sees the Green Party, and the semi-Blairite soft-left in Labour around Jon Cruddas and his Compass group as its allies, not left wing trade unions, or Socialists and Communists outside Labour. Respect’s leaders exhibit public hostility to labour movement initiatives like the ‘No2EU’ platform that was put together by the leadership of the RMT rail union and three socialist organisations for the European elections.

They display even more hostility to the fact that a broader, more overtly socialist, coalition is being put together to fight a significant number of seats in the General Election. Indeed, the logic of this is to also see the remaining hard left in Labour, such as it is, as similarly inimical to the alliances that Galloway, Salma Yaqoob and others want to put together, similarly ‘dogmatic’ and old-fashioned in their view of the working class.

Which Galloway for one now considers to have been ‘unmade’ – a reference to the title of E. P. Thompson’s famous work ‘The Making of the English Working Class’. Thus he writes off the British working class as a force for social change, and furiously denounces those in Respect who disagree.

The shift to the right was capped when George Galloway, replying to those in Respect that wanted to actively participate in building the new broad left coalition being initiated by The Socialist Party, The Communist Party of Britain, the RMT leadership and some prominent union leaders and militant trade unionists, badly stated that he was utterly opposed to any such alliances. Because ‘Communists and Trotskyists’ are an ‘electoral liability’ and a barrier to gaining the votes of many of those people that Respect need to win the elections they have set themselves, according to GG.

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly given that he is Respect’s best-known public figure and sole MP, his views won out in the most crucial vote at the conference, as the conference voted not to hear a resolution that called for positive co-operation with the new coalition.

Though a number of the resolutions actually passed talk in an hypothetical manner about the possibility of co-operation with such a coalition were it to be formed, now that that the coalition has publicly announced its formation the real effect of the vote against the supportive resolution means a public political snub to those involved in the new initiative.

Galloway’s remarks about not involving Respect with ‘Communists and Trotskyists’ is a repudiation of the original vision of Respect. Because Respect, when it was founded in 2004, was an electoral bloc between George Galloway, a Labour MP expelled for his outspoken and meaningful opposition to the Iraq war, the Socialist Workers Party (the largest Trotskyist organisation in Britain) and a whole layer of other people, including Muslim activists who had no problem uniting with Trotskyists.

In fact, much effort was spent by George Galloway and others in the original Respect coalition trying to persuade the Communist Party of Britain to join Respect. This effort failed at the time because the faction within the CPB that is completely committed to a strategy of ‘reclaiming’ the Labour Party was then strong enough to stop the CPB doing so. Things have improved on that front since then, but now George Galloway doesn’t want them anyway. This is a complete about face on left unity, and a major rightward shift.

Galloway, Salma Yaqoob and others among the leadership of Respect justify this refusal to co-operate with the new coalition by pointing to their struggle to preserve the Respect name after the split with the sectarian, bureaucratic leadership of the Socialist Workers Party two years ago. But this is an example of misusing past exploits and victories to justify current misdeeds.

It is rather obvious that if Respect were prepared to take the bull by the horns, to engage positively with the forces comprising the new coalition, then the publicity and momentum this would generate would more than make up for any compromise that might have to be reached about the unified coalition name, how it’s component parts might describe themselves, etc.

The issue of the Respect name is a red herring in this debate – Galloway let the cat out of the bag when he said that Communists and Trotskyists were an electoral liability and that he was opposed point blank to such alliances irrespective of the practicalities.

Underlying this turn to the right is the looming General Election. Respect was set up to offer an alternative to Labour at the electoral level, as part of a project to try to defeat the ‘triangulation’ strategy of New Labour, the arrogant assumption that no matter how much Labour moved to the right, how much it attacked the working class, how much it adopted openly capitalist and anti-union, free market policies usually associated with the Tories, the working class and other oppressed layers had nowhere else to go. The whole point of Respect was to break that down, to offer the working class ‘somewhere else’.

Now this has been abandoned also. The call has gone out from George Galloway to vote for New Labour in the overwhelming majority of seats in the country, save where there is a ‘credible’ left wing candidate – one who has a chance of winning outright in most cases. By this, he means the three Respect candidates – in areas of large Muslim population – and a couple of others including the odd Green candidate, and Dave Nellist in Coventry who as a former Labour/Militant MP is difficult to portray as lacking ‘credibility’.

In this, Galloway is using Dave Nellist in particular as a fig leaf for a rotten policy of support for New Labour in virtually all cases. Dave Nellist is likely to stand as a candidate of the new coalition, but Galloway makes it clear that he considers the coalition not ‘credible’ and is for votes to New Labour against it generally.

Galloway is not completely consistent about this; he has a tendency to see politics as about personalities, and not ideas or the collective action of party memberships, and this foible leads him to do things that sit uneasily with his main political thrust – like campaigning for Tommy Sheridan – who lost his deposit and was beaten by the BNP –  in the recent Glasgow North East by-election.

But these are incidental foibles – the main political line is clear – Galloway has now embraced lesser evil-ism in this coming General Election. This despite the fact that there is no real difference of policy on the things that count between New Labour and the Conservatives. On the question of cuts in public spending to pay for bailing out the banks, for instance, both main parties (and the Lib Dems as well) have made it quite clear that there will be a programme of savage cuts after the election. Both parties are firmly committed to the imperialist war in Afghanistan, to maintaining anti-union laws, and to numerous other common reactionary policies.

If anything, Labour is so slavish, and its reactionary and authoritarian instincts so pronounced, that it has allowed the Tories to posture to its left on some issues, notably civil liberties and ID cards. Campaigning to re-elect this government, as well as being a vain endeavour most likely, amounts to, no matter what those doing it may say, an endorsement of, or at the very least, a willingness to overlook, its rotten record and an abandonment of the desperate need for an alternative.

The argument that Labour is still some kind of workers party, that merely by dint of its origins a century ago as a party founded by the trade unions, that is used by some of the more theoretically-minded socialists today who justify refusing to write off Labour completely, is not the decisive issue here.

I consider this position mistaken today – I think that the bourgeois element in New Labour has been strengthened to the point that it has become a cross-class party, not a workers party with merely a pro-capitalist labour bureaucracy at the head of it. Nevertheless this position is not hegemonic on the socialist left and many good socialists do not currently draw that conclusion.

It would be perfectly possible for Respect to back a more general left-wing challenge to Labour, to participate an a joint campaign (even if informal and only appearing in election literature, not on the ballot paper) with the ‘son of No2EU’ coalition and still advocate votes to Labour where no left candidate was able to stand.

But this slavish line of Galloway and others in Respect is not merely a tactical reflection of a belief that there is still some working class element or potential left in Labour. Taken together with the denunciation of ‘communists and Trotskyists’ as a liability, this can only be seen as part of an attempt to ingratiate Respect, and Galloway in particular, hoping to gain some political benefit, perhaps like Ken Livingstone in securing re-admission to Labour at some point.

In a future article, I will try to go into more depth about some of the reasons for this rightward drift, and some of the problems, prefiguring this development, that have emerged in Respect since the split with the SWP. One thing’s for sure. This is a most unwelcome development, a real blow to those who seek to build a broad socialist alternative to New Labour that can develop roots in the working class and re-arm our class with its own independent political expression.

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28 Comments

Filed under Broad Parties, Respect Party

28 responses to “Respect Conference – A Shift to the Right

  1. Prinkipo Exile

    “the ‘No2EU’ platform that was put together by the leadership of the RMT rail union and three socialist organisations”

    Important factual error here.

    It should say:

    “the ‘No2EU’ platform that was put together by the leadership of the RMT rail union, three socialist organisations and a bourgeois capitalist anti-socialist organisation”

  2. ID

    That is factually inaccurate – the Liberal Party nationally did not participate in No2EU – what happened in the North West was an anomaly involving a individual maverick.

    If it were true, however, it would mean that the Liberal Party is more prepared to ally itself with Communists and Trotskyists than Respect.

    Which is rather a damning indictment of the real perspectives of those who support the Galloway/Yaqoob position of manoevering with the Greens while shunning the working class left. Being more paranoid about the communist and Trotskyist left than some Liberals is not exactly a position to be proud of.

    I note Prinkipo says nothing to cricticise this almost Kinnock-like position. And in circumstances like this, silence implies assent.

  3. clever pseudonym

    “silence implies assent.”

    first they came for the ultra-left, but I said nothing, because, well, what would the point be?

  4. ID

    So you think the new coalition is ultra-left?

    Just goes to show how opportunism adversely affects the ability to comprehend political reality.

    The very idea of independent working class politics is being deemed ‘ultra-left’.

    Priceless.

  5. Prinkipo Exile

    ID: Your continued hiding your head in the sand over this is getting tiresome.

    The involvement of the pro-capitalist Liberal Party in the list of No2EU candidates in the North West has all been well documented but I shall repeat the issues here for the benefit of those readers of your article who are not familiar with it.

    The No2EU website is still up and provides all the information:

    “No2EU Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform. It is a trade union-backed alliance of political parties and campaigning groups.”

    Individuals are listed under the “Supporters” page, but not organisations. As well as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, the only other “party” mentioned is as follows:

    “Councillor Steve Radford – Liberal Party”

    Not “Radford – Liverpool Councillor”, but “Radford – Liberal Party”.

    Radford is not just an individual member of the Liberal Party but at the time of formation of No2EU he was the immediate past president and the number 1 on the only list the Party presented at the previous EU elections. No other party is mentioned (though one person appears as “Editor – The Socialist” which is the newspaper of the Socialist Party).

    As you well know, the formal inclusion of a Liberal Party member (Steve Radford) on the No2EU list in the North West was agreed between two of the founding organisations of No2EU – the CPB and RMT – and acceptance of this was a condition of the Socialist Party being allowed to join (a condition that was reluctantly accepted by the SP as their price for becoming involved in No2EU and having Dave Nellist included as a candidate – this was acknowledged with rather more honesty than you show by the SP in the pages of The Socialist).

    At the North West launch meeting for No2EU, the inclusion of the Liberal Party representative (who did not attend) on the list of candidates was questioned but those present were told that the decision had already been made nationally, and although there was room for manouevre on one or two of the candidates, the inclusion of the Liberal Party was non-negotiable. Indeed, RMT National Executive representative, Alex Gordon, a one time anarcho-syndicalist, actually argued at the launch meeting that the inclusion of the Liberal Party had been agreed nationally as essential, because they got 92,000 votes in the North West in the previous Euro election on a “No to the Euro” slogan and that No2EU hoped that some of these votes would switch to No2EU if the Liberal Party were associated with it (a prediction that proved falacious). Roger Bannister of the Socialist Party, long time opponent of Steve Radford in Merseyside, declined to comment from the platform on this statement despite being given the opportunity to do so.

    So the Liberal Party were an organisation that was both involved from the beginning in the launch of No2EU and provided a senior figure as a candidate, something that was regarded as a binding agreement by the founders of No2EU.

    What does it matter? Well it matters because your negative and destructive attacks on Respect alleged drift to the ‘right’, and your glowing uncritical praise for No2EU looks rather different when you realise that the No2EU coalition, with the CPB and RMT insisting on the inclusion of a right wing anti-socialist capitalist party in its coalition, is somewhat different in reality.

    And by claiming that No2EU was composed solely of trade union and socialist groups, you are making a gross distortion (if not to say outright lie) to justify your own polemic. Thats why a factual correction and withdrawal of the offending sentence would have been order. You will not do that however because it does not suit your polemic.

    By the way, supporting Labour against Tories has been a Marxist position in Britain for over 100 years and your new found allies in the Socialist Party were at one time its most enthousiastic supporters, even to the extent of supporting the party machine against dissident left wingers (eg Eddie Milne in Blyth).

    Why is it suddenly right wing now?

  6. ID

    Prinkipo complains bitterly about the presence of one Liberal councillor in one region of No2EU, as making it not a working-class initiative. All the interpretive Kremlinology above is pretty contrived, and cannot hide the fact that only in one region in the whole country was a Liberal included. They were not a national player in No2EU.

    He poses as a purist and writes off the whole of No2EU, and presumably the new coalition as well, on that basis.

    Yet his real purpose is to support alliances with the Green Party.

    I don’t actually see any difference in principle between electoral alliances with the Green Party and electoral Alliances with the Liberal Party. Both are non-working class parties. I suppose there is a slight difference, because the Greens have more of a leftist element on their fringe and some tactical innovations might be necessary to take account of that, but as to the parties’ mainstreams themselves, there is no difference.

    Prinkipo is not arguing for class independence, but for voting Green.

    And Prinkipo has the nerve to write of my “negative and destructive attacks on Respect alleged drift to the ‘right'”

    So then Prinikipo, do you agree with George Galloway’s remarks ruling out electoral coalitions with “Communists or Trotskyists” as an “electoral liability”? Or do you condemn those remarks? It would be nice to hear an answer to that question, one way or another.

    I have not heard Prinkipo, or anyone else, dispute that GG made those remarks at the recent Respect conference.

    If he does not condemn them, that signifies assent. If he does condemn them, that concedes that my analysis that Respect has made a major rightward shift is correct. That would be ‘destructive’, wouldn’t it? More to the point, it would also be true.

    By the way, supporting Labour against Tories has been a Marxist position in Britain for over 100 years and your new found allies in the Socialist Party were at one time its most enthousiastic supporters, even to the extent of supporting the party machine against dissident left wingers (eg Eddie Milne in Blyth).

    What the Socialist Party did or did not do in a different historical period is completely irrelevant to this question.

    My position is that the Labour Party is no longer a bourgeois workers party, that it was transformed under Blairism to a cross-class formation. Its bourgeois component was augmented to the point of changing its class nature. One can argue against that if one likes, on its merits. But arguing about what the Marxist position on Labour was in the period when it was run by labour bureaucrats – as opposed to privateers and spivs – is completely irrelevant to whether or not Labour is still a bourgeois workers party.

  7. clever pseudonym

    “So you think the new coalition is ultra-left?”

    No. I think you are.

    But your slavering willingness to believe that I was digging at the coalition rather than directly digging at you is, sadly, typical of the way you are conducting yourself here and over the whole “no2EU” debate.

    I’m sure that no matter what I write, you will now say that anonymous Respect supporters are calling the new coalition ultra-left on your blog.

  8. ID

    Well, ‘clever psuedonymn”: (a) you are anonymous; (b) you appear to be a supporter of the current Respect leadership; and (c) you cannot demonstrate any ‘ultra left’ position that I am arguing for that is not also the view of at least sections of the new coalition.

    So why not eleborate and let others in on the secret of my ‘ultra-leftism’? If you want to attack me for being a revolutionary socialist, then go ahead. But being a revolutionary socialist is not evidence of ultra-leftism. Not for Marxists anyway.

  9. Prinkipo Exile

    ID you are ignoring completely that both the RMT and CPB NATIONALLY wanted the Liberal Party involved in No2EU and imposed it as a condition on the SP. This was a not a North West specific issue but actually about the character of No2EU as an electoral platform and its appeal to voters. The RMT saw it as a chance to hoover up some votes while the CPB saw it is an opportunity to have some forces to their right to counter the leftward pressures (the fact that the Liberal Party didn’t play ball and once they’d got their candidate agreed didn’t bother participating in No2EU doesn’t affect an understanding behind the reasoning).

    The Liberal Party are certainly not very significant, but then neither are the AGS who DID get a mention in your article (as one of the three socialist groups). You cannot just wish away the fact that No2EU included non-socialist forces, and even the SP raised it as a criticism. That’s a sleight of hand.

    As for opposing the Labour Party on principle or supporting the Green Party, I simply note that some groups tactics vary over time without them getting denounced by you as “right wing”; so for example when the SP unconditionally supported Labour against left wing opponents, that’s not relevant but I notice that these days the international affiliates of the current Socialist Party support non-socialist Green Parties in elections in both the USA and Australia. Maybe you should have that discussion with them about your apparently more dogmatic views? I certainly don’t see any contradiction between favouring Labour as last resort against the Tories, while supporting some left wing Green candidates, but favouring building Respect as a socialist party with credible and winnable candidates.

  10. ID

    Prinkipo’s interpretation of these events is his own, and he seems to be under the impression that anyone who doesn’t go along with it can simply be hectored and bombarded with his interpretations as a substitute for argument. Fact: there was no Liberal participation in No2EU outside the North West. To me, that makes it a local anomaly. All the rest is tendentious intepretation.

    “You cannot just wish away the fact that No2EU included non-socialist forces, and even the SP raised it as a criticism.”

    Depends what you mean by a ‘criticism’. You can be critical of a flaw in something, but still regard it as supportable overall. That is not Prinkipo’s attitude however. He is just cynically using this anomaly as an excuse to damn No2EU for standing against the Green Party.

    “so for example when the SP unconditionally supported Labour against left wing opponents, that’s not relevant but I notice that these days the international affiliates of the current Socialist Party support non-socialist Green Parties in elections in both the USA and Australia.”

    That is outside of the framework of these issues. I wonder if they support these Green Parties against initiatives of the workers movements in those countries, however? I somehow doubt it. That is what this dispute is about.

  11. Prinkipo Exile

    ID: So, thanks for conceding that there WAS some Liberal Party involvement in No2EU, even if we cannot agree on how much there was, and that therefore your statement that it was based solely on socialist organisations was inaccurate. Fine – I’m happy that the record has been put straight though it would have been better had the original article been put right.

    As far as I’m aware Respect’s position was to support voting for the list of the Green Party in the North West only, primarily as the best placed party headed by a socialist (Peter Cranie that was able to deny the BNP a seat. As I understand it this was not a controversial position within Respect and was supported by the likes of Nick Wrack. Even No2EU at the North West launch acknowledged that they understood why that was. Some members of Respect chose to vote for the Green Party elsewhere, some may have voted Labour, some supported No2EU, Respect did not have a position but it was ONLY in the North West that Respect advocated a vote for the Green list to (try to) stop the BNP.

    You have extrapolated voting for one Green list in one PR election, in which incidentally your ‘workers movement’ alternative fielded a candidate of a bourgeois capitalist party against a slate also headed by a socialist, into a general assumption that support for the Green Party is involved.

    You then go on to compound that concatenation by suggesting that because the Green Party has the temerity to stand in elections it is standing against initiatives of the ‘workers movement’. Well the SLP stood against the No2EU ‘workers movement’ initiative and doubtless will do so against whatever comes our of No2EU. Does that place Arthur Scargill outside the ‘workers movement’ because he refused to support No2EU and stood against it? You suggest that the Green Party in this country is against ‘initiatives of the workers movement’. As far as I’m aware the Green Party has supported many ‘initiatives of the workers movement’ in this country on issues ranging from supporting strikes to demanding workers rights. Can you give an example of what ‘initiatives of the workers movement’ you believe that the Green Party are against?

    And isn’t the Labour Party the biggest electoral ‘initiative of the workers movement’ in this country still? Ironically, you are giving credibility to the right wing excuses for supporting Labour unconditionally by your flippant and stupid remarks against the Green Party. No one in Respect advocates joining the Green Party but if there are things we agree on then why shouldn’t we work together? I understand that the last Respect Executive Committee agreed to contact those involved in No2EU for discussions – have those involved in No2EU ever considered inviting Respect I wonder?

  12. ID

    Prinkipo Exile

    “So, thanks for conceding that there WAS some Liberal Party involvement in No2EU, even if we cannot agree on how much there was, and that therefore your statement that it was based solely on socialist organisations was inaccurate.”

    Is this point supposed to have some logic to it? Since I never denied that there was a Liberal on the No2EU list in the NW – to deny it would be like denying the curvature of the earth – then Prinkipo’s point is meaningless flannel.

    “As I understand it this was not a controversial position within Respect and was supported by the likes of Nick Wrack. ”

    Actually, it was argued against by Nick Wrack at an NC meeting that I was unable to attend. However, that took place before No2EU was formed so at that point No2EU was not an issue.

    “fielded a candidate of a bourgeois capitalist party”

    What is the meaning of the term ‘bourgeois capitalist party’? Can’t Prinkipo just say ‘ bourgeois party’ or ‘capitalist party’? This is just terminological overkill and hackery – the Liberal Party is a petty-bourgeois remnant and splinter group whose bourgeois support is virtually non-existent. Unlike New Labour, of course.

    “You then go on to compound that concatenation by suggesting that because the Green Party has the temerity to stand in elections it is standing against initiatives of the ‘workers movement’.”

    I plead guilty to believing that the Green Party, as a non-working class party, and is outside of the workers movement. Does Prinkipo want to argue that it is a working class organisation? I’d pay good money to see that!

    Though actually, I suggested that the position of Respect was to support the Greens against initiatives of the workers movement – such as No2EU. Prinkipo cannot even reproduce the arguments of those he is criticising accurately. He invents positions, ascribes them to others, and then argues against his own inventions. That’s the kind of thing that gives the left a bad name.

    “And isn’t the Labour Party the biggest electoral ‘initiative of the workers movement’ in this country still? ”

    No, it isn’t. It was fundamentally transformed under Blair into a cross-class formation – a completely new party as Blair accurately put it, dominated by bourgeois who to a considerable extent enriched themselves through privatisations carried out by this government – and indeed by previous Tory governments as well.

    The Labour Party is now run by these people – it is no longer dominated by a labour bureaucracy, but by privateers and their political representatives. If Prinkipo wishes to vote for that, then fine, but this is not voting for class independence but for the subordination of the workers movement to such people. Labour is no longer, even in a deformed sense, part of the workers movement and those unions that still support it are subordinating themselves to the bosses by doing so.

    Which is largely why the most strategic unions in this country are crippled and incapable of fighting for their members. The precondition for any real struggle is to break from support for New Labour and to break from any concern for the fortunes of this government.

    So, is Prinkipo going to answer my question as to whether or not he condemns George Galloway’s remarks ruling out electoral coalitions with Communists and Trotskyists because they are an ‘electoral liability’? I note that he failed to answer this question one way or another when it was asked previously. I wonder why?

  13. Prinkipo Exile

    Well my answer to the simple question is that I think George was mistaken in his phrasing – had he used the adjective ‘ultra left’ or ‘sectarian’ to qualify his use of the words trotskyist and communist, I think his intention would have been clearer. Without that qualification it was clearly mistaken, as Alan Thornett and Liam Macuaid have explained elsewhere.

    Now, will you make an unqualified statement that you agree that Alex Gordon and the RMT leadership were wrong to make a deal with a non-socialist (or “bourgeois/capitalist” or “petty bourgeois” party if you like)?

    Then maybe you can accept that your original article was not quite accurate and we can all move on?

    However I suspect you will not do that because to admit they were wrong is to accept
    1) there was a deal in the first place and that therefore the Liberal Party were involved in No2EU
    2) that just because a ‘workers organisation’ is involved doesn’t mean that they are not capable of making tactical mistakes, as the history of the SLP shows us.

    Your comments about the Green Party are just stupid. You said:

    “I wonder if they support these Green Parties against initiatives of the workers movements in those countries, however?” implying that
    a) Respect always supports the Green Party
    b) the British Green Party is consistently against the initiatives of the workers movement
    Neither of which are true.

  14. ID

    “Well my answer to the simple question is that I think George was mistaken in his phrasing – had he used the adjective ‘ultra left’ or ’sectarian’ to qualify his use of the words trotskyist and communist, I think his intention would have been clearer. Without that qualification it was clearly mistaken, as Alan Thornett and Liam Macuaid have explained elsewhere.”

    I wonder if George is so keen on Prinkipo’s amendments to his words? I know George well enough to know that he says what he means and means what he says – that is one of his strengths. I doubt he needs this advice on what to say, and I doubt he will take it. In fact, if someone were to offer it to him in person, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he told them to stuff it.

    I have already stated that I did not agree with the inclusion of the Liberal councillor on the No2EU North West slate. I made that clear long before Prinkipo cynically took it up and used it to justify voting for the petty-bourgeois, non-socialist Green Party against No2EU. The inclusion of the Liberal was an element of popular frontism in one local list, but it did not detract from the fact that nationally, this was a working class initiative, albeit not completely pure (few things are completely pure).

    And it doesn’t change the fact that Prinkipo is still rambing on regretting that working class organisations had the temerity to stand against the non-working class Green Party. Even he cannot take up the challenge of arguing that the Green Party is a working class organisation. Because it obviously isn’t.

  15. ID

    Prinkipo Exile

    “Well my answer to the simple question is that I think George was mistaken in his phrasing – had he used the adjective ‘ultra left’ or ’sectarian’ to qualify his use of the words trotskyist and communist, I think his intention would have been clearer. Without that qualification it was clearly mistaken, as Alan Thornett and Liam Macuaid have explained elsewhere.”

    Actually, thinking about this passage from Prinkipo, my posting above really doesn’t do justice to its cravenness.

    This is a statement that Prinkipo himself considers the Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party to be ‘ultraleft’ organisations.

    And yet, even from his moniker, he claims the tradition of Leon Trotsky. Talk about political degeneration.

    I wonder if Alan Thornett and Liam MacMacUaid, not to mention other supporters of Socialist Resistance, agree with Prinikpo Exile(!!!) that the Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party are ‘ultraleft sectarian’ organisations that it is wrong to ally with in electoral blocs. It would be interesting to find out the answer to that question.

  16. Prinkipo Exile

    Oh dear it looks like we are back to ABC.

    Lenin of course dismissed those elements of the original CPGB who had a same wrong position on the Labour Party that you now have, as “‘left wing’ communists” and an ‘infantile disorder’.

    The Socialist Party, who have a recent record of stupidity in standing against people like John McDonnell are clearly capable of being ultra left and sectarian when it comes to electoral tactics, though this is the opposite side of the coin to their previous opportunistic tactics of refusing to support left wing candidates under any circumstances against Labour . Ultra left posturing and sectarianism often go hand in hand with a deep opportunism as is shown by the CPB’s support for standing No2EU in the North West against a left wing Green and risking the BNP getting in at the same time.

    The CPB are generally opportunistic of course, but are capable of occasional bouts of sectarian lunacy.

    Your former friends in the CPGB who I understand you were a member of on rebounding from the Spartacists are clearly ultra left and sectarian on a range of issues.

    But of course Lenin was in favour of robust debate and telling it like it is, but still wanted all communists and socialists in the same international movement, which is an aim I also share.

  17. ID

    Love the way Prikipo tries to personalise this.

    Problem is, the passage above, which I quoted, didn’t refer to me.

    It referred to the Socialist Party/Militant and the Communist Party of Britain.

    Both of which organisations have a long history of being programmatically committed to the parliamentary road to socialism, though the British Road to Socialism (CPB) or the Militant’s ‘Enabling Act’ schema for the nationalisation of the top 200 monopolies.

    Both have left-reformist programmes, in other words.

    Of course, it is possible for left-reformist organisations to make bad tactical decisions and stand against other left reformists.

    But that does not make them ‘ultra-left’.

    The fact that Prinkipo considers them to be ‘ultra-left’ means that he considers himself to be to the right of these left-reformist currents.

    As a supporter of voting for the Green Party against initatives of the workers movement, that is correct. He is indeed to the right of these people.

  18. Neil Williams

    Prinkipo Exile completly fails to address the issue of Respect sitting on the side lines for the last two years with regard to the possibility of building a Left of Labour coaliton/alliance.

    Had Respect been at the “spear head” of any possible developments then many of the problems he refers too may not have occured. N2EU or some such other coalition/alliance could have developed earlier, have had more time to develop its programme and had a better name amoungst many other things. Respect could have had an impact on all this and much much more but it chose to abstain (and this was a deliberate decison by George/Salma and others). Now many of us in Respect thought that the whole point of Respect was to create a much larger socialist/progressive alliance (broader than that when first formed) but this is clearly not the view of the current leadership.

    George/Salma and their supporters like Prinkipo Exile see Respect with all of its 800 members (and possibly no more than 200/300 active members if that) as “the political alternative”. In reality it is no more than a cover for the political abitions (with minimum accountability) of three or four people with the “Party” being little more than door knockers and canvassers in any election (reminds one of new Labour does it not). And this is only a possibility due to the large Muslim communities in East London and South Birmingham. Far from braking new ground (if we were successful that is) these are the very same areas that the old communist party had MP’s for in past decades. Respect has still to make any brakethrough in a working class area that does not has a large Muslim population and we have avoided this issue all too often.

    I am afraid the outlook does not look good as like the Greens in the Euro elections Respect chances are being overhyped. Ofcourse we want to win in these key areas but it will be very, very hard. If we fail to work with others (in a meaningful organised way) on the Left outside of the Labour Party and the Greens how will we be seen after the election and what position will we be in then if we have no MP’s, which is the most likely situation? (the end of Respect i think).

    Thus it all adds up to Respect moving closer to the Labour Party and Greens as the way forward despite the adject failure of the left in the Labour Party over the last 50 years. Respect could have been at the centre of any change on the Left outside of the Labour Party. It has chosen not to do so and in doing has condemed others as “ultra left” etc . What happens after the election is as important as the election itself for the attacks on our public services will be like no other we have seen in our lifetime. Only unity (around the Peoples Charter etc) on the Left by Socialists (the “ultra lefts” derided by George) working together can we build the resistence that will be required.

  19. ID

    Prinkipo wrote:

    “The Socialist Party, who have a recent record of stupidity in standing against people like John McDonnell are clearly capable of being ultra left and sectarian when it comes to electoral tactics…”

    Actually, this is a classic example of left-wing jesuiticism as a subsitute for rational argument. Prinkipo, in his righteous desire to use orthodox ‘Marxist’ phraseology to justify voting for Greens against working class socialists, does not actually bother to investigate why the Socialist Party made the mistake (in my opinion) of once standing a candidate against John McDonnell.

    The explanation is actually quite simple, and it has nothing to do with supposed ‘ultra-leftism’. It is the result of a theoretical/analytical mistake by the SP in dealing with the transformation of the Labour Party from its previous nature as a bourgeois workers party, into something else. Many people think that something fundamental has changed with regard to Labour’s relationship with the working class – the SP are not alone in that. The question is, what has Labour been transformed into?

    The SP seem to have drawn the conclusion that Labour has been transformed into an out-and-out, homogenously bourgeois party. Hence any candidate standing for such a party can legitimately be opposed, and hence there is nothing wrong with standing against John McDonnell. The logic is very straightforward, it is also wrong. But desperate opportunists like Prinkipo, eager to draft the cult of Lenin to justify their own particular point of view without even thinking about why partcular positions were advocated by Marxists in particular historical conditions, do not even begin to question why such positions are arrived at. Better just to issue excommunications, taking on the mantle of Lenin as a surrogate secular pope (who just happens to be dead, of course, and therefore is unable to clarify anything about either today or the time he lived in).

    One can draw a different conclusion to the SP from the evidence of the bourgeoisification of Labour. That the enhancement of its bourgeois component means that it has been tranformed, not into a homogenous bourgeois party, but into a cross class formation – a ‘popular front in the form of a party’. Such parties are not unprecedented – the African National Congress, for instance, with the Communist Party affliated to it, cannot simply be called a homogenous bourgeois formation. But nor is it a working class organisation – even a ‘ bourgeois workers party’. Working class organisations are an organic part of it, but its dominant character is bourgeois. It is a class collaborationist bloc in party form, a popular front in the form of a party.

    Other such formations have existed in history, the Cardenas movement in Mexico, both in the 1930s and arguably today, has such a character. Then there is APRA, Peronism, and other such formations in the third world. Indeed, such formations have generally existed in backward countries. But there is no historical law that says they have to be confined there. It is entirely feasible that the tranformation of formerly social-democratic mass parties in Western Countries into overtly privatising, neo-liberal parties, could take this form, not least in order for the bourgeoisie to co-opt trade unions into supporting neo-liberalism.

    If Labour is now a popular front in the form of a party, as opposed to a homogenously bourgeois formation, then it is perfectly principled to give some level of support to overtly pro-working class elements within it, as a tactic in order to set the working class component against the dominant bourgeois leadership. As a tactic to split it, in other words. Therefore the SP were wrong to stand against McDonnell – they should have supported him, but their reasons for doing so did not flow from ‘ultra-leftism’ but from confusion about the exact contours of a new development in politics that socialists have urgently to grapple with.

    But for opportunists and cultists like Prinkipo, such debates mean nothing. It is enough to cite what Lenin said the best part of a century ago, and all current issues are therefore resolved. Such ‘logic’ is largely responsible for reactions to this such as George Galloways remarks excoriating the left for being obsessed with the statements of ‘dead Russians’. The irony is that some of his current allies are more inclined to this cultism than many of his critics.

  20. Prinkipo Exile

    Neil Williams – what ‘sidelines’?

    Respect has not been invited to participate in No2EU or any of the further developments since.

    Socialist Resistance, a component of Respect and the British section of the Fourth International an organisation behind the NPA in France and participating in Die Linke in Germany, wrote to No2EU on its public launch asking to affiliate and, unlike the Liberal Party whose outgoing President appeared on the public list of sponsors, was refused sponsorship or admission (by being ignored).

    The problem about the “possible development” of a “left coalition” is that this is a closed group that refuses to engage in discussion with anyone else and whose intention is to simply announce their presence and invite everyone else to support their already agreed programme and already agreed candidates.

    Contrary to your claims that Respect has not been in “spear head” of developments, in the North West it was Respect who initiated the invitation of the both the SP and SWP to the Wigan People’s Alliance launch (along with Community Action Party and Green Party). Furthermore, the Manchester Respect Branch at its meeting last Thursday agreed to both support the Socialist Party’s candidacy in the Wythenshaw and Sale East constituency and to invite itself to the SWP initiated “Manchester Alternative” open meeting to discuss standing in Gorton constituency, constituting a large proportion of the meeting. Following the Respect NC agreement earlier in the year to support the Green list in the European Election, the Green Party have agreed not to stand in the Blackley constituency against Respect chair Kay Phillips, and to coordinate local election candidates between Respect and the Green Party in that constituency. Respect also voted to support actively ONE Green Party candidate in the local elections, who is a member of Green Left.

    Respect members are also highly active in the Convention of the Left in Manchester, and in the Salford Left Forum which came out of the CotL, which both the SP and SWP are ignoring.

    I really do not see how anyone could be doing more to build a new coalition and practical unity – the only thing that is missing is an invitation to the secret talks going on between the various parties involved in No2EU from which Respect has been excluded by the AGS, SP and CPB, and those members of the RMT executive invited (the RMT itself has no formal role in these discussions). If either yourself or Ian have any influence over those people you are claiming are the “spear head” of creating a left coalition, perhaps you could ask them to invite Respect to their otherwise secret meetings?

  21. Prinkipo Exile

    Ian – your attempt to put a piece of cigarette paper between your own and the SP position that Labour are no better than the Tories is brave but a futile difference of terminology – ‘popular front’ versus ‘bourgeois party’. In practice it makes little difference, you both have an ultra left (or ‘leftist’ if you prefer) position when faced with the choice that the majority of the working class face in the election of choosing between Labour and Tory candidates at the next general election.

    Simply saying that the old position on Labour (that you agree with) is dogmatist is a red herring.
    It’s a bit like the old argument with the state capitalists – when exactly did the Labour cease becoming a “bourgeois workers party”, 1994? 1997? 2000? 2005? 2009?

    Again your friends in the SP had no such reference point, when they not only supported popular front or bourgeois parties such as the Jamaican PNP and Pakistan People’s Party, but actually favoured joining them and building them. So your polemic is all a bit of a meaningless diversion really. The fact remains that millions of workers will vote Labour at the next election and that millions are affiliated through their trade unions – in that sense the debate has not changed one jot since 1920.

  22. ID

    “Ian – your attempt to put a piece of cigarette paper between your own and the SP position that Labour are no better than the Tories is brave but a futile difference of terminology – ‘popular front’ versus ‘bourgeois party’.”

    Well there’s a piece of incoherent nonsense to start with. No difference between a bourgeois party and a popular front? Its not entirely unknown for there to be civil wars between outright bourgeois parties and popular fronts. Prinkipo is really saying that if I don’t agree that the Labour Party today is the same as Lenin said it was in 1920 then I am guilty of heresy. The same cult nonsense in other words.

    “It’s a bit like the old argument with the state capitalists – when exactly did the Labour cease becoming a “bourgeois workers party”, 1994? 1997? 2000? 2005? 2009?”

    Oh, I’d say when it had been in government for a whole parliamentary term promoting privatisation and enforcing Thatcher’s anti-union laws, with a parliamentary majority bigger than Margaret Thatcher’s when her government passed those laws, it was proof in real life that workers organisations have no say, or even way of exerting pressure, whatsoever over the politics or direction of the party or the government. The actual changes that made that possible took place before Labour was elected, but the first term – which unrolled as above – was historic proof that they were permanent and irreversible.

    Prinkipo argues like a classic Trot sect hack. He obviously hates and despises the Socialist Party for factional reasons; his venom against anyone who even half-agrees with it on any question is … reminiscent of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. For instance…

    “Again your friends in the SP had no such reference point, when they not only supported popular front or bourgeois parties such as the Jamaican PNP and Pakistan People’s Party, but actually favoured joining them and building them. So your polemic is all a bit of a meaningless diversion really.”

    As if the Socialist Party’s position on Jamaica or Pakistan matters one jot to what I am arguing in this discussion. Prinkipo is arguing with me, as an independent revolutionary socialist, not some SP member. It’s amazing that sectists think that by mentioning the political sins, real or alleged, of other groups they can trump the views not only of members of those groups, but of anyone else whose views on one question may overlap with such other groups.

    Perhaps our friend should go and argue like that with the many workers who will not turn out to vote Labour because of their disgust with the government. I can guarantee he would get a very rude response.

    “The fact remains that millions of workers will vote Labour at the next election and that millions are affiliated through their trade unions – in that sense the debate has not changed one jot since 1920.”

    Unions have disaffiliated from Labour in disgust at its anti-working-class nature (or been expelled for resisting that – same thing). There will be more. Labour is openly a party of business and doesn’t claim to be anything else. Millions of workers percieve that Labour is a party of the rich, that oppresses the poor. That is why they will lose the election – which is no more than they deserve.

    If Prinkipo can’t see that, it is simply because he, and people like him, live in a bubble of Trot-sectariana divorced from the lives of ordinary people. In a perverse way, even part of the ‘revolutionary’ left has been incorporated into the ‘political class’, which is a sad development.

  23. Prinkipo Exile

    Very amusing ID, this is one trot who’s in favour of the left being in a single organisation. But Respect is the best way to take that forward at the moment and your whinging from the sidelines about how it is moving apace to the right is laughable, especially when your ‘working class’ alternative is guilty of far more both ‘rightist’ and ‘leftist’ sectarian errors.

    If whatever appears from No2EU is credible, open and genuinely interested in left unity, then I am quite certain Respect will work with it. What we have at the moment however is a secret cabal that has the danger of imposing a sectarian blueprint on its activity. As a self-declared supporter of whatever they come up with, what you should be concerned to see is that any new grouping seeks to engage with and involve Respect and not denounce it for its spurious lack of ‘working class’ orientation.

  24. ID

    “Very amusing ID, this is one trot who’s in favour of the left being in a single organisation.”

    Funny, I thought Prinkipo was opposed to electoral blocs with ‘ultralefts’ like the CPB and the Socialist Party.

    At least that is what he said earlier in this thread.

    Those two statements are, to put it mildly, mutually contradictory.

  25. Prinkipo Exile

    CPB leave post-No2EU negotiations and will not join new electoral coalition…

    AGS leave post-No2EU negotiations and will not join new electoral coalition….

    RMT national executive leave post-No2EU negotiations and will not join new electoral coalition though local and regional branches may support individual candidates if they wish to…

    But the SWP announce that they will use the new coalition as a flag of convenience for half-a-dozen candidates for their beleaguered troops to rally round at the General Election …

    Well I still wish it well, but it’s in danger of going nowhere fast unless there are some serious changes pronto.

  26. Prinkipo Exile

    “I thought Prinkipo was opposed to electoral blocs with ‘ultralefts’ like the CPB and the Socialist Party”

    No, I supported the launch of No2EU (though it was a crap name), but think it should not have stood in the North West because there was a serious risk of Griffin of the fascist BNP getting in here and them gaining a national and international platform. I thought that only a vote for the Green list, headed by an excellent socialist and trade unionist who agreed to focus on anti-BNP campaigning, would stop the BNP. The electoral arithmetic was very clear and borne out by closeness of the result.

    Respect made an agreement with the Green Party not to stand and the Greens agreed to put Respect leaflets on their election leaflet well before No2EU got off the ground.

    This was all well before the Johnny come latelies of No2EU decided to do a deal with the Liberal Party to try to get their votes. Despite the launch of No2EU I still favoured voting Green rather than No2EU to try to stop Griffin.

    I now have a fascist representing me and my community, so I think I have justifiable grounds for my anger over the stupidity of the SP and CPB (and RMT) tactics. Of the 5 million people in the north west now represented by the BNP, I still have yet to hear anyone from No2EU up here defending their tactics, though I’ve heard plenty of people from London saying it in blissful abstraction, most recently Dave Nellist though not a soul in the room actually living here endorsed his argument .

  27. Respect now stands committed to a political strategy that involves alliances with forces whose commitment to the working class and any meaningful struggle against neo-liberalism is at best questionable.

    Penny finally fucking dropped, has it, Ian? Only five years after the event, but better late than never.

  28. ID

    In other words, for Dave Osler, this means Mooslims.

    I was talking about your co-party members in Compass, Dave. Who – along with the party leadership itself, are deservedly about to get their comeuppance on Thursday. Respect’s problem is that now they are trying to save these people from that deserved fate.,

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