the media frenzy over tuition fees and the Hutton report, you can be
forgiven for not noticing the launch in the same week of a new British
political party called simply RESPECT.
launching of RESPECT, also known as the Unity Coalition, was the
brainchild of a layer of people disillusioned with Blair who wanted to
form a left alternative to New Labour. The new party, if you can call
it a party, has the backing of the Muslim Association of Britain, the
Socialist Alliance, Socialist Workers Party and the Stop the War
Coalition. It also has the support of film director Ken Loach, author
and Guardian columnist George Monbiot and expelled Labour MP George Galloway.
hopes to become registered with the Electoral Commission prior to
standing candidates for the European parliament and Greater London
Authority (GLA) on 10 June. Apparently, George Galloway, MP for Glasgow
Hillhead, is intending to become the prospective MEP for London.
a big demographic and geographic spread”, said George Galloway. “Our
constituency is basically growing out of the anti-war movement. The
people who marched in the great demonstrations came up against the
limits of the politics of protest. No matter how many millions marched,
MPs voted for the war nonetheless. I think among the millions there’s a
big feeling we need to somehow break this democratic dysfunction that
exists in this country, where the people think one thing, want one
thing and the politicians do another.”
George Galloway, who courageously opposed the Blair/Bush war in Iraq,
wants to fight Blairism, he is misguidedly barking up the wrong tree in
imaging he can accomplish this by setting up a new “rainbow coalition”
party. No doubt he is sincere, but the road to a very hot place is
paved with sincerity.
his expulsion from the Labour Party, Galloway has bounced in a number
of different directions, from the need to fight within the Labour Party
to this new electoral adventure. Desperate to cobble something
together, he has jumped into bed with the sectarian Socialist Workers
Party and its front organisations. The SWP leadership originally put
their hopes in the Socialist Alliance as the way forward for
revolutionary politics, even taking it over, but as we predicted, the
SA failed to make any electoral advance whatsoever.
SWP, not to offend its newly found liberal allies, has been determined
to keep the Stop the War Coalition within the confines of pacifism. Now
it wants to inject this opportunism into the parliamentary field, eager
to embrace anybody to the left of Blair!
all, both Galloway and the SWP are falling over themselves to cement
strong relations with the religious Muslim community, in the form of
the Muslim Association of Britain. Under the Stop the War banner, the
SWP leaders provide platforms for Muslim fundamentalists, and set aside
time during demonstrations for prayers, desperate to keep these
religious bedfellows on board. The fanatical chanting of “God is great”
has been led from nearly every platform of the Stop the War Coalition,
to the approval of the SWP representatives.
Birmingham, the SWP were directly involved in the removal of local
anti-war activists from their elected positions and their substitution
by Muslim figures, such as Salma Yaqood, who became chair of the
Birmingham Stop the War Coalition. They stopped at nothing to build
closer ties with Muslim clerics, even shamefully giving into the
demands of the Mosque, that the sexes should be kept separate in
meetings. This was all part of their plan to bring the Muslim
Association of Britain (MAB) on board and ensure their support for
their new electoral adventure. Salma Yaqood is almost certain to stand
for RESPECT as a MEP for the West Midlands seat, where she will be
guaranteed support from MAB.
the anti-war movement would welcome the participation of religious
people, including Muslims, in its ranks, it should not pander to their
religious beliefs. If people want to pray, that is their personal
business and should be free to do so. But these religious activities
should not be part of official demonstrations or promoted from the
platform of the Stop the War Coalition. However, to adopt such a
secular stance would offend the hierarchy of MAB, something the SWP
leaders are not prepared to tolerate.
the meantime, these pseudo-Marxists attempted to cover their bare
backside on this issue by scandalously using the examples, completely
ripped out of context, of the Communist International’s dealings with
the Muslim peoples of the east! This is part of the SWP’s so-called
anti-imperialist bloc: together with the Islamists against imperialism.
“We must certainly learn from the early Comintern that you can be on
the same side as a certain movement (or even state)”, states Chris
Harman, “in so far as it fights imperialism, while at the same time you
strive to overthrow its leadership and disagree with its politics, its
strategy and its tactics.”
was this type of pseudo-radicalism that led this group to back the
Afghan counter-revolutionary “freedom fighters” (the Mujahadeen) during
the 1980s in their CIA-backed fight with the progressive regime in
Kabul. It is mixing up the banner of revolution with the banner of
counter-revolution. Here the SWP identified the Russians as the
“imperialists” and welcomed the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist
counter-revolution. This led to a devastating civil war and the victory
of the reactionary Taliban, which threw Afghan masses back into the
the taking of Kabul by the Taliban”, states Chris Harman in his
pamphlet ‘Prophet and the Proletariat’, “was not the first, or even the
worst, horror to beset the people of Afghanistan. For two decades a
succession of rival political forces, secular and religious,
pro-Russian and pro-US, modernist and traditionalist, have wreaked
havoc on the country and its people…
Afghanistan is a case study in what happens when a very poor country is
dragged into the maelstrom of inter-imperialist rivalry.” This,
however, did not prevent the SWP from supporting the “religious,
pro-US, traditionalist” Islamic fundamentalist forces of
counter-revolution against the Afghan regime. The SWP supported the
Mujahadeen in what they falsely described as the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.
imperialists whole-heartedly backed the counter-revolutionary
Mujahadeen. As Brzezinsky, US secretary of State in the late 1980s
explained: “What is more important from the point of view of history?
The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred up Muslims
or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
attempts to justify the SWP’s line: “many of the individuals attracted
to radical versions of Islamism can be influenced by socialists –
provided socialists combine complete political independence from all
forms of Islamism with a willingness to seize opportunities to draw
individual Islamists into genuinely radical forms of struggle alongside
some issues we will find ourselves on the same side as the Islamists
against imperialism and the state. This was true, for instance, in many
countries during the second Gulf War”, states Harman, and continues
“With the Islamists sometimes, with the state never”!
Rees, a SWP national organiser and leader of the Stop the War
Coalition, stated of RESPECT: “It’s basically going to be an alliance
of a very large number of anti-war activists, quite large sections of
the Muslim community and the socialist left, the vast majority of it
outside the Labour Party in England and Wales, who are coming together
to try and establish a political alternative to New Labour.”
concerns to keep the new initiative broad-based were unfounded as the
programme adopted was extremely broad indeed. Socialist policies were
deliberately rejected for fear of alienating the voters! These
“revolutionaries”, so full of verbal radicalism, are prepared to
abandon their ideas and programme to accommodate their liberal friends.
The word RESPECT apparently stands for Respecting Equality, Socialism,
Peace, the Environment, Community and Trade Unionism. Apparently, it
represents a programme broad enough to encompass the hierarchy of the
Muslim Association of Britain, keen to maintain a certain “radical”
German, another leading SWP member, backed up her comrade: “To those
who ask, why is it not more socialist, I say: because it is built on
the anti-war movement, and because there are large Muslim communities,
and we want to reach out to them as well as the traditional left.”
abject opportunism clearly reveals the SWP’s abandonment of “unpopular”
socialist policies. Their “revolutionary” policies it seems are only
suitable for the drawing room or student debating club. In reality,
they have no confidence in their ideas or the working class. They have
accepted the viewpoint of Labour’s rightwing that “socialism loses
votes” and “puts off the voters”. They therefore rush to embrace
demands that are acceptable to all – hoping that people will not be to
put off to vote for them.
so doing, these “revolutionaries” are busy promoting illusions that the
problems of the working class can be solved within the framework of
capitalism. This is fundamentally false. Only a socialist programme can
answer the problems of the working class, which are rooted in the
has decided not to stand any candidates in Scotland as the new broad
alliance dose not want to compete with the Scottish Socialist Party.
SSP leader Tommy Sheridan, who was at the RESPECT launch meeting,
supports the new initiative, saying it was “probably the most
significant development on the left in England for a very long time.”
The only thing is that he said the same thing about the launch of the
doomed Socialist Alliance some years ago. “I think they have looked at
our model and decided they have to try and bring the left together in
as broad and unsectarian a fashion as possible”, said Sheridan. “There
have been a lot of false starts up to now that have led to acrimony and
infighting. This is the closest they have got to a coalition of the
party has become so “broad and unsectarian” that he has sought to
broaden his appeal by embracing Scottish nationalism and has looked to
Norway and Denmark as models to emulate. The attempt to broaden the
appeal of the SSP has embroiled it in opportunist politics, which,
sooner or later will end in tears.
the attempts to build a new alternative to the Labour Party, as history
has shown, will come to nothing. Various attempts, of an ultra-left or
opportunist variety (they are head and tail of the same coin), all
ended in shipwreck. The different sectarian groups on the fringes of
the labour movement have been attempting to build the revolutionary
alternative to Labour for decades and achieved nothing. That is why,
having burned their fingers, they jump from ultra-leftism to
opportunism and back again. Why should this venture be any different?
It will not.
the fact that it has a shallow programme that does not go beyond the
framework of capitalism will not save it. On the contrary, forces are
already gathering within the trade unions to take back the Labour Party
for the working class. In the coming period, the edifice of Blairism
will come crashing down. The Labour Party will take a sharp turn to the
left as in the 1970s (after decades of rightwing domination) as the
unions press for working class policies. All the sects, including
RESPECT, will be left with their mouths open.
only thing these ladies and gentlemen can see is the surface of events.
They are incapable of seeing the subterranean processes at work in the
bowels of society. They are empirics, that cannot see further than
their own nose. They are the worshippers of the accomplished fact. That
is why they are constantly looking for a short cut to success, when
none exists. They are never able to learn from history, and simply
repeat all its mistakes.
method of Marxism, dialectical materialism, is a closed book to these
people. Marxism for them is at best a dogma, and not a weapon to
understand the processes at work. They are incapable of thinking
dialectically and fail to understand the real movement of the working
class in Britain or elsewhere. The whole of history has shown that the
working class, which has painfully built up its organisations over
generations, and will not abandon them lightly. When the mass of
workers move in a political direction, they will move through their
traditional organisations, the trade unions and the Labour Party.
initiatives like RESPECT can pick up a few disgruntled votes here and
there, they will never attain a mass base or be able to break the hold
of the Labour Party, or Blairism, from the outside. They are whistling
in the wind. Only by organising a struggle, with the rest of the trade
union movement, within the mass organisations of the working class, can
Blairism be defeated and the Tory carpetbaggers driven out. All other
routes are doomed to fail.