Popular fronts and why our principles matter

What sort of political formation is Respect? Before its launch on January 25 2004, Rob Hoveman, Socialist Alliance secretary and trusted Socialist Workers Party functionary, insisted that, despite the skeletal and altogether vague platform, Respect is "absolutely socialist". SA chair Nick Wrack came up with a similar phrase: Respect is "implicitly socialist". And Alan Thornett, leader of the International Socialist Group, enthusiastically agreed: Respect is "essentially socialist". However, at the October 30-31 2004 Respect conference the SWP majority bloc voted down a motion calling for nationalisation of "British-based multinationals" and the more serious CPGB motion scientifically defining socialism as the rule of the working class. The SWP's Lindsey German spoke against both motions. In the name of maintaining "tremendous diversity" she rejected anything which would make socialism a "defining characteristic" of Respect. In her final peroration she shrilly announced: "I would not have joined Respect if it had just been socialist" (quoted in Weekly Worker November 4 2004). As if socialism were a narrow, sectional and one-sided project. Still there are those desperate people who by their finger nails hang onto the phrase in Respect's founding statement about a society "based on need, not profit". Sad. In Respect-speak such formulations are designed not to clarify, but bamboozle. The SWP wants to reconcile irreconcilables: socialism with islam, green with red, social democracy with Marxism, middle class utopianism with working class self-liberation. Take Respect's forthcoming manifesto. Instead of principled statements and concrete demands we will get humbug, empty phrases and tawdry lies. In a word - populism: "a form of politics which emphasises the virtues of the uncorrupted and unsophisticated common people against the double-dealing and selfishness to be expected of professional politicians and their intellectual helpers. It can therefore manifest itself in left, right or centrist forms" (A Bullock, O Stallybrass and S Trombley [eds] The Fontana dictionary of modern thought London 1988, p668). This muddled, non-class approach is understandable from George Galloway. But for John Rees, Lindsey German and the SWP it represents a practical and theoretical collapse into popular frontism. As the leading figure in the anti-war movement, Galloway tirelessly exposed the cynical lies of both Tony Blair and George Bush and bravely urged British troops to disobey illegal orders. Because of this unpatriotic 'crime' he was callously witch-hunted and then expelled from the Labour Party after a kangaroo trial. Nonetheless, with his mind still mired in Stalinism, left reformism and third worldism, it is hardly surprising that Galloway suffers from confusion: he envisages Britain undergoing some kind of democratic revolution involving socialists, liberals and conservatives. Towards that end, he understandably advocates lowest-common -denominator get-togethers. Eg, writing in the Morning Star, Galloway blithely declared that by uniting "as the Bolsheviks once did" behind simple slogans like "Peace, bread and land", Respect could have turned the June 10 2004 European and London assembly elections into a "referendum" on "Bush and Blair, privatisation and war" (Morning Star January 24 2004). Revealingly, we often heard identical ahistorical nonsense from SWP activists. The fact of the matter is that the Bolsheviks took the greatest care in formulating and developing their programme: unlike the SWP, which fearfully avoids adopting a programme. All the SWP membership have is their leaders' latest get-rich-quick hunches and the thumbnail bullet points carried each week in Socialist Worker. In complete contrast to the SWP's prog-rammophobia, the Bolsheviks exhaustively debated out their differences and painstakingly enriched their collective roadmap. By 1905 the result was a comprehensive programme with concrete positions on all vital issues: land nationalisation and the necessity for controlled capitalist development and working class hegemony over the peasant masses; the coming anti-tsarist revolution and its strategic relationship to socialism in western Europe; a constituent assembly elected by universal suffrage; joint rule by the workers and peasants and a revolution which proceeds uninterruptedly to the tasks of socialism; opposition to separatism and support for national self-determination within a unified republic; replacing the standing army with a people's militia; thorough-going democracy and combating bureaucracy with radical measures, such as the recallability of all elected representatives and limiting their pay to that of an average skilled worker; women's equality; etc, etc. Naturally there were majorities and minorities at congresses and conferences, but no genuine Marxist was asked to leave anything behind at the door before they came in: all viewpoints were rigorously discussed. "Every step of the real movement," Marx memorably said in his May 1875 letter to Wilhelm Bracke, "is more important than a dozen programmes" (K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 24, London 1989, p78). Time and time again this remark is cited by SWP comrades. It is profoundly wrong, however, to infer, as they do, that Marx or Engels - or any Marxist, for that matter - treated their programmes with anything other than the utmost seriousness. Marx was writing here in the context of the "altogether deplorable" unity-mongering being pursued by his German comrades. August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht and co wanted to fuse with their Lassallean rivals. In his subsequent Critique of the Gotha programme Marx took off the diplomatic gloves. The policy of programmatic compromise was savaged. Given the choice between maintaining the existing Eisenach programme of 1869 and unprincipled unity, Marx definitely preferred the former. He steadfastly defended the ideas of the Communist manifesto and the theoretical knowledge the real workers' movement had accumulated, especially since the Paris Commune of 1871. Not that communists oppose legitimate changes. On the contrary. Our programme is a guide to practice, not holy script. Following the February 1917 revolution, Lenin tenaciously fought at meeting after meeting to programmatically reorientate the Bolsheviks. The overthrow of tsarism had happened as predicted, but had produced an entirely unexpected and unique situation. Not workers' and peasants' rule; rather dual power and a Menshevik-Socialist Revolutionary majority in the soviets which was intent on handing power to the provisional government and by inference the capitalist class. The idea that the Bolsheviks united behind "simple" slogans is a complete travesty. They united behind the updated minimum programme first outlined by Lenin in the notes now known as the 'April theses'. Bolshevik slogans altered constantly with the ebb and flow of events. Slogans serve tactics and tactics serve to advance the programme's strategic plan and vision. Slogans without the programme have no more significance than cheap advertising jingles. Slogans certainly cannot substitute for the programme. Take 'Land, bread and peace'. Each word, for the Bolsheviks, and their audience in Russia, had a definite, fully theorised and thought through, content. They were not empty phrases. 'Land' signalled the immediate seizure of the big estates by the peasants; 'bread' signalled workers' control over production and distribution; 'peace' signalled opposing the so-called revolutionary defencism of the Right SRs and Plekhanov's Mensheviks and transforming the imperialist war into a workers', peasants' and soldiers' revolution. Auto-Labourism What of John Rees and the SWP's practical and theoretical collapse into popular frontism? Undoubtedly this collapse stems from a crisis of perspectives - specifically the crisis of auto-Labourism. Not so long ago the SWP - like other left groups, such as the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, International Socialist Group, Workers Power, etc - considered itself duty-bound to vote Labour in elections. Auto-Labourism was something of an article of faith. The same affliction also gripped what is now Peter Taaffe's Socialist Party in England and Wales and Tommy Sheridan, Colin Fox and Alan McCombes in Scotland - they were deep entryists. As one, the lot of them advocated unconditional support for the Labour Party on the grounds of class, not politics. Britain's Labour Party was an example of what Fredrick Engels and Vladimir Lenin famously called a "bourgeois workers' party". The Labour Party rested upon the organised working class - above all the trade unions. Politically, however, the party was led by reactionaries who acted fully in the spirit and interests of the bourgeoisie and the system of capital. Often this correct designation was employed by the auto-Labourites alongside a completely spurious lesser evilism. Labour might be bad. However, the Tories - they are far worse. Workers were thereby told to choose between the butchers. Standing alternative candidates was contemptuously dismissed. Auto-Labourism hit the buffers on May 1 1997. Most of the organised left excused the call to vote for Blair's Labour Party by insisting that getting rid of the hated Tories would trigger a 'crisis of expectations' along the lines of France in 1936. Deceiving no one but themselves, they prattled on about the "wild upsurge of hope and expectation" (Workers' Liberty May 1997). Yet Blair's manifesto offered next to nothing, and New Labour had campaigned to ratchet down popular expectations. They wanted to stress to big business that a New Labour government would be eminently safe as far as the interests of capital were concerned. Despite that, those below would, supposedly, impatiently take matters into their own hands. The "wild upsurge of hope and expectation" would fructify into mass action. A huge wave of militant struggle was only a breath away. Suffice to say, it did not happen. Nothing like it. Instead there was sullen acceptance. Hence the 'crisis of expectations' was experienced not by the working class, but the left. And there was not an explosion, but an implosion. All the old certainties of auto-Labourism melted into disappointment and a dramatic shredding of members. And from there into confusion and finally into complete disorientation. That is how the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales and the Scottish Socialist Party were born. Auto-Labourism produced its opposite. The SA and the SSP rejected auto-Labourism only to adopt auto-anti-Labourism - along with the thoroughly opportunist attempt to steal the clothes of left social democracy and, worse, in the case of the SSP, petty nationalism. s an aside, we should emphasise that the CPGB consistently opposed auto-Labourism. Likewise, we argued against auto-anti-Labourism. A correct attitude towards the Labour Party is vital. The Labour Party still has the majority of trade unions affiliated to it and commands the loyalty of the mass of those who consider themselves working class. The Labour Party is therefore a key strategic question in Britain. Labourism cannot be wished away: it has to be positively superseded. Although the bourgeois pole is dominant as never before, Labour remains a bourgeois workers' party. Of course, our goal is not the revival of the Labour left. What objective circumstances cry out for is an all-Britain revolutionary party of the working class - its correct name being 'Communist Party'. In light of that necessity, to write off the Labour Party as a field of struggle is to desert the organised working class and therefore to give up on a mass Communist Party. That is why the CPGB, for example, calls for direct engagement with and support for certain Labour candidates, ie, those who opposed war, oppose the occupation of Iraq and call for the immediate withdrawal of British troops. And, while favouring the democratisation of trade union funds, we consider calls for disaffiliation to be tactically wrong-headed, mistimed and potentially retrogressive. Frustration with the Labour Party is perfectly understandable. Immediately breaking trade unions from Labour could, however, herald depoliticisation. Taken prisoner For the SWP, the Socialist Alliance quickly proved to be a disappointment. The SWP leadership had, from the start, fashioned the SA with the aim of capturing waves of disillusioned Labourites as members and far greater numbers of them as voters. On both counts the SA failed ... at the first hurdle. Not surprisingly, disillusioned Labourites found the prospect of joining a fake left social democratic, on-off, SWP front unattractive. Nor did voters flock to give their support. Frustrated by the SA's lack of obvious success, yet increasingly intoxicated by the mass anti-war movement, the SWP leadership made its next desperate turn. This time to what became Respect. Respect - also known as 'the unity coalition' - is in fact an officially registered political party with an individual membership, a directly elected executive, an annual conference, a detailed constitution and what passes for a programme. Yet, while committed muslims are few and far between in Respect's rank and file, the SWP's Alex Callinicos has described it as uniting "secular socialists and muslim activists" (Socialist Worker November 20 2004). This wish is indeed the SWP line and, in the name of this defining goal, prominent members of islamic organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain and Birmingham Central Mosque have been persuaded to accept seats on its executive. Undoubtedly they exert a grossly disproportionate influence. Standing in elections requires from Marxists an historically evolved programme, or at the very least the outlines of a coherent and logically consistent world view. Opponents and enemies will ridicule vagueness and ruthlessly expose all weak points and contradictions. Respect, however, is anything but coherent or consistent. It is fragile, unstable and riddled with contradictions. To state the obvious, "secular socialists and muslim activists" are fundamentally at variance in terms of their world view. Take the rights of women and gays, for example. According to the Koran, the female is deemed to be a lesser human being than the male. Homosexual acts are condemned by islam as abominations in the sight of god. Voters - and certainly opponents - do and will demand to know what stance Respect candidates take. How do Respect candidates respond on such issues? Not well. SWP candidates and members alike are dishonest, avoid giving straight answers and guiltily prevaricate. The collapse to the right is impossible to disguise. The SWP leadership abandons one principle after another for the sake of maintaining "tremendous diversity" and not frightening away the largely phantom right. In swapping auto-Labourism for auto-anti-Labourism, and now an electoral alliance with "muslim activists", the SWP has retreated from deformed class politics and has instead adopted the far worse politics of the popular front. What is a popular front? It is not, as some erroneously suggest, any and all examples of cross-class cooperation, let alone marching on the same demonstration as muslims. To condemn such alliances is brittle sectarianism, completely alien to the tradition and practice of Marxism. The Bolsheviks certainly experienced no problem marching alongside old believers, muslims, Jewish separatists and all manner of middle class dissidents. No, a popular front typically refers to an electoral formation in which the working class component, which is usually the majority, self-limits itself to achieving a 'just' or 'peaceful' capitalism, a progressive non-socialism, and towards that end advanced demands are displaced by lowest common denominator and all-things-to-all-people platitudes. Often the liberal bourgeoisie or the trade union bureaucracy set the programmatic limits. Those who dare criticise this shameful approach naturally constitute an accusing reminder of principles once held dear and life before the fall. Left critics are therefore polemically attacked, surgically removed or, failing that, brutally crushed. Not surprising: the logic of the popular front is counterrevolutionary. Well known governmental examples being: Kerensky's in 1917 Russia; Spain's in the 1930s; Leon Blum's in 1930s France; Salvador Allende's in Chile in the early 1970s; and Lula's in Brazil today. The results have not been good. On the contrary, workers have often paid the price in blood. Of course, with the SWP we are not dealing with a popular front which involves mass parties of the working class. The SWP is minuscule and there is no chance that Rees and German will get a call from anyone asking them to help form a government. Respect is therefore one of those unpopular fronts of the type sponsored by the 'official' CPGB in the 1930s - it consisted of the CPGB, plus an ill-assorted collection of pacifists, left reformists, anti-fascists and christians who had little in common "apart from opposition" to the Tory-dominated national government's foreign policy (S Bornstein and A Richardson Two steps back London 1982, p45). Its name was the United Peace Alliance ... impressive mass rallies were held, all kinds of famous personalities shared its platforms and inroads were made into various pacifist groups and local peace councils. Despite all that, the United Peace Alliance failed to make a serious electoral breakthrough. Both the Labour Party and the trade unions shunned the project. Yet for the sake of this alliance the 'official' CPGB put socialism on the backburner and systematically downgraded its commitment to internationalism and the class struggle; nonetheless, it never went as far as the SWP in forming a joint party designed to accommodate Michael Redgrave, Eleanor Rathbone, the Duchess of Athol and the Red Dean of Canterbury - the Anas Altikritis and Yvonne Ridleys of their day. The SWP cannot turn on left critics in the horrendous and murderous way seen in Spain during the late 1930s. The 'official' Communist Party of Spain took the lead in exterminating left anarchists, left socialists and POUM - the Workers Party of Marxist Unification. However, it cannot be denied that the popular frontism of the SWP has led to an almost obsessive hatred of everything to its left - above all the CPGB, of course. Just one example will suffice. In July 2003 the then SWP national organiser, Chris Bambery, now editor of Socialist Worker, orchestrated an assault on CPGB members outside the SWP's Marxism school. Supposedly our comrades were handing out "shite" anti-islamic leaflets. Their real 'crime' was defending the Socialist Alliance's commitment of "no compromise" with sexism and homophobia - a "shibboleth" Lindsay German had just announced she was quite willing to ditch for the sake of unity with "muslim activists". Though MAB keeps its distance (having no official representatives on Respect's executive, it maintains only "brotherly" relations), the SWP has, for its part, bent over backwards in the attempt to bring MAB on board and meanwhile not to offend. An unseemly, painful and ultimately thoroughly self-destructive posture. In fact that stance amounts to being taken prisoner ... in the last analysis by bourgeois ideas and the bourgeoisie. Eg, at Respect's October 2004 conference the SWP majority bloc saw to it that all motions which championed, mentioned or even hinted at 'secularism' were rejected - including when it came to an innocent, sadly conventional, call that a one-state Palestine should be 'secular'. Officially, of course, that is the SWP 'line' - whatever that means today. Suffice to say, too much for the SWP, at least when it came to Respect and actually addressing Britain's electorate. Secularism is nowadays, for the SWP ... dangerous, a divisive and embarrassing liability. It might cost votes and allies. Such a "shibboleth" cannot be allowed to stand in the way of "making a difference" and getting people elected. Reject, reject, reject. Or, as John Rees boasts, "We voted against things we believe in, because ... of the millions out there. We are reaching out to the people locked out of politics. We voted for what they want" (Weekly Worker January 29 2004). Such is the general method of the SWP leadership ... and that polluting opportunism is siphoned down into the heads of SWP activists .. and from there it comes out of their mouths. Today SWP members serve as the main conduit of petty bourgeois ideas into the labour movement. Déjà  vu. In the 1980s Neil Kinnock and the Marxism Today wing of the 'official' CPGB advocated exactly the same slippery slope. Stop banging on about socialism, purge the extremists and start saying what you think ordinary people want to hear. That way alone can you get big votes and thereby make a difference. Blairism and New Labour was the direct and logical outcome of this 'new realism'. Yet the SWP is also informed, stung, divided ... and evidently partially pulled back by principled left criticism - most notably, once again, by the CPGB ... and the respect for and fear of the sizeable readership enjoyed by the Weekly Worker. The SWP is centrist ... it flips and flops from left to right and vice versa. The issue of abortion immediately comes to mind. Once it was just any other politically correct "shibboleth" to be sacrificed in the name of maintaining "tremendous diversity". Hence, albeit with teeth gritted, the SWP allowed George Galloway to "determine" the "political direction" of Respect on this issue throughout the June 2004 Euro election campaign. Interviewed by The Independent on Sunday, he spelt out his bizarre catholic moral objections to a women's right to choose. Galloway reaffirmed that he is "strongly against abortion. I believe life begins at conception and therefore unborn babies have rights". He added: "I believe in god. I have to believe that a collection of cells has a soul" (Independent on Sunday April 4 2004). Of course, Galloway's medieval obscurantism perfectly dovetailed with the social agenda of MAB - it quickly issued a press release supporting his obnoxious stand. And prominent SWPers rushed to excuse Galloway. Eg, comrade Candy Udwin - a central committee member - defensively pronounced that abortion was a political irrelevance. Abortion was not an issue on the doorsteps, she blurted. Other SWPers argued that support for abortion would "exclude catholics from Respect" (Weekly Worker May 6 2004). Under the lash of criticism, however, albeit months later, the SWP was forced to concede a mealy-mouthed defence of the existing 1967 legislation in Respect. Despite this, how Respect's elected representatives vote on relevant legislation will be dictated by their own personal conscience - a get-out clause and a thoroughly bourgeois approach to politics. Needless to say, any support for a woman having an abortion is a complete anathema for MAB (and its co-thinkers in the muslim world). Yet, though it was taken almost to the finishing line, a compromise formulation on this question with MAB higher-ups proved impossible to obtain. Sadly, Respect's SWP leadership was desperately seeking one. But, in terms of direction, the SWP did compromise time and again on this and other "shibboleths". The SWP duly voted down the CPGB motion calling for a women's right to have an abortion - as early as possible, as late as necessary - and a binding obligation upon all elected Respect representatives. Yes, we insisted that all Respect representatives campaign for this elementary demand. Then there is the principle that workers' representative should only take an average skilled worker's wage. They voted that down in Respect too - and, at their Socialist Worker Forums SWP speakers dare invoke the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg! Showing how fast it is moving to the right, only a short time ago the SWP experienced no problem whatsoever voting for this principle. That was when it led the Socialist Alliance. Indeed there was unanimity amongst us. Every one of our 98 candidates in the 2001 general election - not least our chair, Dave Nellist, a former Coventry Labour MP - proudly proclaimed that they were not like the self-seeking career politicians who dominate establishment parties. They were not in it for the money. This approach was unproblematically extended to the entire labour movement. People before profit - the Socialist Alliance's 2001 general election manifesto - demanded that trade union officials must be regularly elected, accountable and "receive the average wage of the workers they represent" (People before profit London 2001, p7). Martin Smith, SWP national secretary, echoed this sentiment. After slating the "astronomical" salaries enjoyed by the trade union bureaucracy, he confidently promised that "a rank and file trade union official" would be expected to take home the "average wage of the workers he or she represents." (M Smith The awkward squad London 2003, p26). But that was before the formation of Respect and the alliance with George Galloway. He has publicly stated that he needs a minimum of £150,000 if he is "to function properly as a leading figure in a part of the British political system" (Scotsman May 19 2003). Principles The principles of Marxism - eg, as presented in our CPGB Draft programme - matter. They are not disembodied dogmas, sentimental relics or artificial ways of distinguishing true believers from non-believers. Our principles are vitally important because they represent living, established, relevant and far-sighted truths. Our principles are nothing but the crystallisation of accumulated Marxist theory, a summation of the real historic movement and experience of the global working class. In short, our principles point to what is needed in practice if we are to move away from capitalist social relations and working class disunity; and towards working class unity and the vistas of socialism and communism. That is why Marxists strive to unite theory with practice. We prove ourselves strong, not when we have the 'courage' to vote "against things we believe in". On the contrary we show our strength when we steadfastly uphold our principles and seek ways to inform the real movement of the working class with them. Our road lies from revolutionary principles to becoming a majority, not from being a majority to revolutionary principles. To repeat what people "out there" say they want is just to reproduce a pale copy, a caricature, of Labourism and its reliance on admen, pollsters and spin doctors. What happens when, due to false consciousness, fear and manipulation, a majority say they want to keep migrants out of Britain? True, Socialist Worker's 'What the SWP stands for' column claims: "We oppose everything which turns workers from one country against those from other countries. We oppose all immigration controls." But this carries as much conviction as Labour's old clause four used to do under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. It is there for show, wheeled out for rallies and special occasions, but not something intended for practical implementation or, nowadays, even for election manifestos. There is no unity - rather a dichotomy - between theory and practice. After all, when given the opportunity - and the certainty of success - in Respect, the comrades voted down 'What the SWP stands for': ie, the CPGB motion calling for the free movement of people and an end to immigration controls. The SWP's Elaine Heffernan claimed that such a principled stance would be "a step backwards". Instead the SWP voted merely to defend existing rights of "refugees and asylum-seekers". Clearly, just like the 1930s unpopular fronts, Respect is a "broad" formation, which sees the "radical forces" bow down before "the political priorities of the most conservative forces". Predictably, since the Respect conference, the SWP has, by default, once again, allowed George Galloway to "determine" the "political direction" of Respect. Writing in the Morning Star, he explained to its readers that "nobody serious" is calling for the ending of immigration controls. Each state, he declares, must have the "right" to keep out unwanted people. On the other hand, when capital is experiencing a "labour shortage" - ie, wages are high and investment in technology is considered unprofitable - the state should be encouraged to import the labour that capital needs "¦ naturally in a "non-racist", "colour-blind" way. Like Michael Howard and Charles Clarke, Galloway thinks there should be a "points system" to determine which migrants suit "our own needs" and therefore can be allowed in, and by inference which migrants are going to be deemed not suitable to "our own needs" and therefore kept out (Morning Star February 12 2005). Who is suitable and who is not suitable is, of course, defined by the market and thus capital. For capital, an influx of migrants means overcoming labour shortages, putting off technological innovation and the costly introduction of machines, weakening trade union bargaining power, capping or reducing wages. If, however, there is a labour surplus, then the state should close the door. The number of unemployed and those on expensive benefits should not be added to. Feigning an internationalist concern for the so-called 'third world', Galloway writes that "the scrapping of immigration controls" would equate to "urging all the most accomplished and determined people to leave the poor countries of the world and come to the richest - this would make the poor countries even poorer and the rich countries richer". In some way.s this actually describes the present situation. The "most accomplished and determined", together with the rich, find their way to Britain. Work permits are already issued on the basis of specific job vacancies (ie, to individuals deemed "accomplished" enough to fill them). As to the "determined", they are the ones prepared to risk getting into Britain illegally through people-smugglers, etc. And what is this "urging" people to leave their countries? A barefaced lie. It is like saying if you advocate the right to divorce you are advocating that every couple gets divorced. Most people do not wish to leave their families and friends - and would not do so if they had a chance of a decent life. They go abroad because material circumstances force them to leave. We support the fight to change the material conditions in every country. However, we also support the right of people to leave their country of origin ... and settle wherever they choose. That is true for people who want to leave Britain, it is true for people who want to come and live in Britain. We neither advocate a Berlin Wall to keep people in, nor do we advocate bans, a points system or quotas to keep people out. Stripped of Galloway's politically correct niceties, what his social chauvinism means in reality is, on the one hand, encouraging the working class movement in Britain to carry on seeing its interests as identical, akin or compatible with those of capital and the capitalist state. On the other hand, it legitimises a whole bureaucracy of border officials, an army of spies, snoopers and immigration control enforcers, who together hunt down, detain and expel those who sneak through into fortress Britain, ensuring meanwhile that they are kept in a state of fear, insecurity and rightlessness. Not that Respect, or the SWP, has the moral backbone to admit its moral responsibility for the terrible human suffering this entails. We, in contrast, take as our starting point not the British state and the unity of British capital and British labour, but the world's working class. All attempts to pit one national section of our class against another, everything which "turns workers from one country against those from other countries", must be forthrightly and unyieldingly opposed. Without such an approach there can be no hope for socialism, which is international or nothing. Though the SWP still possesses the organisational weight to do whatever it wants in Respect, clearly the project suffers from the political "fault" that the "radical forces" are subordinated "to the political priorities of the most conservative forces" - all that keeps the conglomeration of incompatible class and political forces together is their mutual opposition to the Blair government's foreign policy: specifically its participation in the US occupation of Iraq; that and increasingly hazy memories of the vanished social democratic past. Clearly, Respect - and the SWP - is inherently unstable, wildly zig-zagging, desperate, bankrupt and surely spiralling towards a crash. As for MAB, within Britain it can happily face two ways: march with the left against the occupation of Iraq and join pickets against Jerry Springer - the opera. However, internationally, within the muslim world, it must be widely viewed as going native. Should communists work in Respect? Our answer has been an unhesitating 'yes'. Is it wrong in principle to take part in a popular frontist party? No, not in our view. We know of no such principle in Marxism. And, whatever one may think of Trotsky's tactics in the mid-1930s, it is worth emphasising that he urged his co-thinkers in France and Spain to join the socialist parties, which in each country were playing a central role in the popular front governments with the support of the communist parties. Trotsky also argued that POUM "could not become a mass party"; first it was necessary to "overthrow the old parties". It was possible to overthrow them only by an "irreconcilable struggle", by a merciless exposure of their "bourgeois character" (L Trotsky The Spanish revolution New York 1973, p363). Communists work within Respect as communists. To take part in the miserable sub-SWP style of the International Socialist Group and the Socialist Unity Network would be to sow illusions and is worse than useless. Of course, the SWP has done its best to gerrymander conference delegates, bar our motions and generally exclude us. Close the front door on the CPGB they can. We merely come back in ... by way of the back door, by the window, down the chimney. Why? In order to expose the rotten SWP leadership and draw sharp class and political lines: we seek to break genuine revolutionary socialists from popular frontism and separate socialists from non-socialists. No vote for non-working class candidates! At the present moment that is the clearest possible formula for ending Respect's current character as a popular front. And that is our slogan l Jack Conrad