Sunday, 2 December 2007

Disrespecting Respect, Yo

The head-to-head that never was...damn!

One consequence of Gordon Brown not calling a General Election this Autumn is the divisions in Respect between George Galloway and the SWP came out in the open. Civil war was averted when it seemed that GB was going to go to the country, but when the General Election was cancelled, all hell broke loose in the struggle between GG and the SWP.

Now there are two Respects: Respect and Respect Renewal. Both held big meetings on November 17th (also meeting on that day in London were the Socialist Party and the Labour Represenation Committee- whoever said the British Left cannot get their act together!). Respect 1 is basically the SWP. I cannot see them getting anywhere, as the SWP never prospers on its own- it always needs a front organisation or front people to work behind. I think it will be a case of "Back to the Campuses, Comrades!" and an abandonment of electoral politics before not too long. Just like the SWP operated back in the 1980s when I first came across them. Perhaps they will revive their old slogan "Vote Labour But Build A Fighting Socialist Alternative" in time for the next General Election too.

As for Respect Renewal, Galloway's Gang, there has been speculation that they could be a rallying point for a Left/Progressive fightback against New Labour. It would get support from Muslim areas, particularly in East London and Birmingham, but whether that will be enough to get George Galloway back into the Commons next election along with Salma Yaqoob for a Birmingham seat is doubtful. To be honest, the party RR reminds me of is Veritas, Robert Kilroy-Silk's breakway from UKIP. Both were founded by an extremely vain ex-Labour MP with a high-profile media career. If Galloway does not get re-elected (and I think Labour will throw everything except the kitchen sink into ensuring that GG is no longer an MP after the next General Election) Respect Renewal will be finished politically, though it might limp along, in the same way that Veritas limps along now sans Kilroy-Silk.

Frankly, I think supporting either side in the great Respect debacle is a waste of time. I think it would be much better to support something like the Socialist Pary, the Greens or the Independent Working Class Association, who have cast their jaundiced eyes on the car crash:

Respect’s demise deserves derision not sympathy
7 November 2007

Now that the third and possibly final effort by what remains of the Leninist Left to reinvent itself has crumbled, a variation of the fault-line evident in the predictable collapse of the Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP), and its unity successor the unlamented Socialist Alliance (SA), is again evident in the dual attempts to renew the Respect Coalition.

In case you haven’t being paying attention, there are now two ‘Respects’. One is run by maverick MP George Galloway and the other by the Socialist Workers Party. Why, is not really important. Suffice to say that a Respect party without the profile of George Galloway, and the attendant devotion to the exclusive concerns of Muslim communities, will quickly metamorphose back into the ‘Socialist Alliance’ in all but name.

Which is to say a political party without a national profile, without a day to day strategy and without the prospect of having a single candidate associated with it elected anywhere in the entire country. Ever.

The prospects of its Galloway led rival are hardly any better, if the appeal issued by the leadership is anything to go by. What did for the SLP from the outset was the one-eyed approach to the trade unions. Within the so-called ‘labour movement’, there was, Scargill believed, everything required to sustain a radical assault on the New Labour ‘project’.

What he ignored was that the majority of the working class were no longer organised in, or had any particular reason to show fidelity to this or that union, who for the most part had operated as ‘business unions’, (exclusively and solely concerned with the interests of their members) for more than twenty years previously.

That very same mistake (among others) is again being made by the Galloway version of Respect. In a statement of aims it states that it wants to "reach out to all those in the trade unions who feel betrayed by New Labour under Brown as under Blair.”

Of the many millions of working class people not in trade unions there is not a mention. And we can be sure this is no oversight. Because to reach them would require a very specific strategy and there isn’t mention of any. Indeed when the opportunity to reach out to the broader indigenous working class arises, the same blind-sidedness is evident. Amid the usual and predictable check list of liberal pieties there is one glaring indeed elephantine omission.

“Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities who suffer racism and Islamophobia” are all referenced. As are “the dispossessed, the asylum seeker, the migrant worker and to all who defend them.” Not forgotten either are “those who want to fight against discrimination, whether or the grounds of religion, gender, sexual orientation disability or age.”

Entirely absent however are the principle victims of the system they sustain; the indigenous working class majority discriminated against on the grounds of their birth and the social class they are born into. This oversight can hardly be considered to be accidental. For after all, the multicultural strategy, from which the likes of the Socialist Alliance and Respect, like to draw inspiration continues to regard the white working class majority as little more than an enemy that ought to be made to bend the knee, or better still be defeated by the lovingly name-checked and more deserving oppressed.

Accordingly whatever electoral success Respect has had, has indeed come from inner-city Asian/Muslim enclaves (outside of Muslim dominated areas, candidate’s returns resemble that of the SA, rarely if ever reaching double percentages) which ought to have given pause for serious thought rather than celebration. But there was no evidence of any analysis of this and despite the pretence of an adherence to high-minded ideals by the SWP, the current split is certainly not the result of any such soul searching.

Instead the same deep and unremitting suspicion for the strategy followed by the IWCA, that from the outset consciously departed from the aforementioned orthodoxy in order to embrace the entire working class without fear or favour, will remain a cornerstone of any attempted renaissance. In little over a decade the SLP, SA and now Respect, despite a vast, indeed obscene (considering what use it could have been put to) financial investment, are no longer in contention to fill the political vacuum in the former Labour heartlands.

If the IWCA has undeniable limitations in this regard as well, the basic approach has proved to be sound and so unlike our Bolshevik detractors a lack of potential was never one of them. The brutal truth is that even prior to the implosion, Respect could not hope to have succeeded.

Indeed any party that deliberately fawns on a racial minority in the manner of Respect deserves derision not sympathy from the progressively minded, if for no other reason than that it plays in and legitimises the likes of the BNP, as the right-wingers were only too happy to acknowledge in the past. Indeed that the BNP, for self-serving reasons too, might if only briefly, be the only ones to mourn Respect’s passing says everything you need to know about the wrong-headed nature of the adventure.

1 comment:

Madam Miaow said...

That's "Reespect".