Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Respect

Hear me now. I am not, as you know, one of those bloggers who delights in ersatz 'controversies' of various left-wing groups. It generally tends to consist of gossip, which is empty and ineffectual. In light of the very real crisis in Respect, there have been calls for me to 'take a stand' in public, as if it makes the slightest bit of difference. There are two reasons why I won't participate in this kind of thing: 1) I think it's wrong to air internal disputes on websites and other public fora unless it becomes unavoidable to do so (always a judgment call, of course); 2) I don't wish to encourage the trivial and hysterical pursuit of 'clues' and gossip; 3) I fear I'd bore most readers who don't follow that trivia to death. I notice that a few of the less serious blogs decided to take my post about Political Islam last week as some sort of indication that the Left is regretting an alliance with Islamists in Respect. This is a preposterous misreading: I in fact restated my position, which is that the Left should work with Islamists. Far more importantly, this isn't the nature of the crisis in Respect at all. The nature of the crisis is a division between those in Respect who cleave to socialism and those who have always tended toward electoralism. So it now comes to a point where this has to be stated in the open. Sadly, George Galloway has decided to drive a witch hunt against the main far left group in Respect. I am not interested in rehearsing Galloway's actual or alleged flaws. The important issue is the need to defend a coalition which has had unprecedented success for a small electoral coalition in its infancy.

We have laid blow after blow on New Labour heartlands despite the fact that we had a fraction of the resources and membership. We did so because we refused to subordinate our campaigning to psephological considerations: we promised to be fundamentally different from New Labour and the opportunist politicians of that mould, and such is the promise I want us to keep. George Galloway was central to building this coalition, but it is my view that he now has a different idea in mind: one that is more oriented to reformism and whose strategy is one of electoralism. He has changed his mind about the basis of the Respect coalition. I direct you to this editorial in Socialist Worker, which I agree with wholeheartedly. It doesn't simply state the position that I agree with. It makes a call I would like to echo: for all those who support Respect and have enjoyed watching us challenge and sometimes inflict humilitating defeats on New Labour; for all those who want it to remain a left-wing coalition with the emphasis on socialism; for all those who want to see it thrive and survive as an alternative to New Labour's corrupt mendacity, its neoliberal domestic policies and neoconservative foreign policies; the appeal is to support our position. The conditions for a strong left-of-Labour coalition could hardly be better, and the need for it hardly stronger. For example, we are the ones supporting the postal workers, while the Labour government bullies them. We are the ones who have defended council housing in an era of desperate shortfall in housing, while New Labour rolls back the entire council housing system. We are the ones who most vociferously defended Muslims when the government launched its vicious attacks last year. If you find a Respect candidate on Question Time, it's one of the few times when the programme isn't as dull as dishwater and conformist. You can see why I am so fond of this coalition, and why I want to see it preserved.