SWP Left Lift fiasco

Mark Fischer sees a sect cohering around its leaders as Rees and German press ahead to save political face

As we always expected, the Socialist Workers Party version of Respect will not be able to stand in May’s Greater London Authority elections as Respect.  Indeed, not long after last week’s issue rolled off the press, confirmation reached us that SWP-Respect is planning to stand in its lemming-like electoral stunt under the banner of the ‘Left List’.

Interestingly, this news (common knowledge for those in the loop) has not yet been officially announced. You will find no mention of this decision in official SWP publications. Go to the Respect-SWP website and search for ‘Left List’ and you will find only two, obscure, references - one on a bilingual Turkish-English leaflet calling for troops out of Kurdistan, Afghanistan and Iraq (www.respectcoalition.org/pdf/f771.pdf). A case of someone jumping the gun, or an oversight?

True, our friendly critic ‘Southpawpunch’ takes the Weekly Worker to task for its “silly” prediction that “Lindsey German … will be pulling out of May’s Greater London Authority elections (Letters, February 28). But for us that was always more of a tactical assessment than a cast-iron prognosis. Either way, the SWP’s John Rees-Lindsey German duumvirate are clearly determined to waste yet more of their members’ time, energy and money on a doomed project that will attract a derisory number of votes to a sub-reformist political platform that is largely indistinguishable from the Galloway-run outfit.

On the face of it, this seems pretty insane. After all, Rees and German had the perfect opportunity to retreat in good order after the electoral commission ruled that ownership of the name ‘Respect’ resided with Linda Smith of Respect Renewal. Blithely stupid assurances from Lindsey German that this was “not a barrier” aside, this was the golden opportunity to save face, duck the looming ballot box wipe-out and make some energetic and worthy propaganda about the iniquitous nature of Britain’s electoral laws (Weekly Worker February 7).

Other than a collective spasm of lunacy on the part of the SWP tops, the only explanation for this seems to be calculations inside the central committee itself - ie, the need for some collective solidarity in the face of rank and file anger directed in particular against Rees and German.

It is reasonable to assume that these two - the leaders most closely associated with the whole sorry Respect project - are pressing ahead to save political face and to forestall any attempts at serious questioning of the Respect popular front. If true, this underlines the naked contempt that the leadership of the SWP has for its members.

This process is a familiar one for seasoned SWP watchers. The ‘Left List’ appears as an election-time ‘business-as-usual’ campaign, but is in fact part of the narrow process cohering a sect around embattled leaders who have been thoroughly discredited in the wider movement. ‘Loyalty to Lindsey’ and her ill-fated campaign will now be a measure of loyalty to the SWP and socialism itself. The ‘talking tools’ of the SWP - the ordinary members - deserve, and should demand, much better.

There was no political balance sheet of the Respect debacle drawn at January’s SWP national conference. No leader - certainly not German or Rees - has been held to account. Yet now rank and file SWPers are mobilised for an entirely pointless electoral campaign run for little more than to salve bruised egos. These people would be reduced to the ranks in any halfway decent Marxist organisation.

The Left List is a typical SWP concoction. In part it is designed to save the bacon of Rees and German. In part an ongoing vendetta against George Galloway. In fact, the Rees-German leadership seem to be pursuing a calculated plan to turn Galloway into a non-person. He has been excluded and cold-shouldered at every opportunity.

Eg, no invite to the AGM of Tower Hamlets Stop the War Coalition or the presentation of its petition to Downing Street (which included Jeremy Corbyn in the delegation). Nor has Galloway been asked to participate in any of the current ‘Eyewitness from Lebanon and Iraq’ tour meetings. Things have even reached the stage that Rees actually refused to allow the chair to read out his message of support at the Bristol tour meeting from Galloway.

Other similar incidents have been reported. The SWP’s Defend Council Housing organiser pointedly refused to even explain to Galloway why he had not been invited to its parliamentary ‘inquiry’ event on January 22. Ditto the SWP’s Unite Against Fascism organisers no-platformed him at the protest against David Irving and Nick Griffin in Oxford. Now the SWP organiser of the Twin Jenin Palestinian Women’s Tour, based in east London, has declined to ask Galloway to meet the visiting Palestinian women.