Wednesday, 18 February 2004

The Return of the Looney Left?

Clive Summerfield @ Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Wondered what George Galloway MP was up to since his expulsion from the Labour Party?

Wondered what the RMT Union was up to after its expulsion from the Labour Party?

Well, the answer is that they're all looking for a little Respect.

Along with a rather diverse selection of members, Respect is attempting to recapture the Left. And when I say diverse, I mean really diverse. The Respect Executive includes Ken Loach (Film Director), Mark Serwotka from the PCS, Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition, Nick Wrack from the Socialist Alliance, John Reese from the SWP and leader of the Muslim Parliament Dr Siddiqui to name but a few.

It would be nice to be able to come up with a clear and concise summary of their position, but one glance at their founding declaration is enough to make one realise that such summation is next to impossible. In some cases they make sweeping statements such as tax the rich to fund welfare and to close the growing gap between the poor and the wealthy few, and in others they get very specific with Raising the minimum wage to the European Union Decency threshold of £7.40 an hour.

However easy it would be to ridicule them for being an amorphous lump of old Lefties, there is a desperate need for some form of structured and coherent Socialist option in this country. Everyone is fed up with the same old Left vs Left battles, and if Respect could somehow put a stop to the incessant infighting that has characterised relations between the SWP, SA, SP, CPGB, etc then I for one would not decry their efforts.

But it won't work if they attempt to create a separate party to try and counter the Labour Party's current lack of socialist credibility. It would be very easy to argue that in the current situation we are facing a return to the days before Kier Hardy, but that is in many ways a defeatist position. It is saying that the Labour Party has not only failed, but is incapable of salvation. While is indeed true that many of the Labour MPs are so glad to be government that they appear to have ripped the page with Socialism on it out of their dictionaries, the recent back bench revolt over tuition fees shows that the patient has not yet expired.

It would appear that the Greens have seen the dangers inherent in Respect as an external entity; witness their refusal to enter into an electoral pact for the European and London elections. And this is where the real danger lies. There is a real risk that all Respect will manage to achieve is to split the minority socialist, anti-Blairite, alternative vote, and potentially allow in hard-Right parties such as the BNP.

History has show that Respect is pretty much doomed to failure, as were all previous attempts to create a more Left-ist (of any shade) alternative to the Labour Party. In their revolutionary desire to create a mass movement to oppose Blairism they have completely overlooked the cyclical nature of Labour's direction over the last hundred years. Blairism is just the current fashion, and will be no more enduring that any other -ism based on the cult of the individual rather than collective thought. The (at the time) apparently inexorable drift to the Right is almost invariably followed by a swift, sharp swerve to the Left.

If they truly want to break the mould, then they should do so by being the first group to try and organise reasoned, coherent and effective opposition from within. But they're too opportunistic for that because, at the end of the day, Respect is fundamentally the SWP trying to wrap itself in Joseph's Technicolour Dreamcoat. Anyone involved who can still spell Marxism or Socialism will hopefully wake up shortly with a stinking hangover, and deservedly so. This is no way to take things forward.

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