Let’s look on the bright side first. SWP-Respect is reaffirming the need for a left challenge to Livingstone as London mayor.
George Galloway and his Respect-Renewal are now backing “Red Ken”, and appealing for a vaguely-left “Progressive List” for the Assembly. SWP-Respect says it will run candidates in the London mayor and assembly elections (May 2008) to respond to the needs of “working people” and present a “positive alternative”.
SWP-Respect is emphatic — has to be, I guess, following the split-away of Galloway and most of the Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets — about the need to win votes across London and not just in Tower Hamlets and Newham, where Respect won a large chunk of its votes last time round, in 2004, on a “Respect-is-the-party-for-Muslims” pitch.
So up to a point SWP-Respect is trying to do the right thing. But its leaflets for the London elections, and for a current by-election campaign in Leyton, East London, contain no reference (even by implication) to the working class or to socialism — only a fairly random list of “bullet-point” demands, presumably chosen on the calculation that they represent left-wing ideas which will play well with the electorate.
On Thursday 31 January SWP-Respect called a rally of its London supporters to choose candidates to fill the gaps left in its London Assembly list by the Galloway split.
Two of us were there from Workers’ Liberty, with a leaflet advocating that SWP-Respect go back on its previous opposition to the rail union RMT initiating a broad working-class left list for London (a vocal minority opposition in the London Transport region RMT, which may have been a factor in the RMT Executive’s decision that there wasn’t enough momentum behind the idea of a list to make it viable was fomented by the SWP). We advocated that SWP-Respect make a positive turn away from the “party-for-Muslims” line by seeking to support and participate in a broad working-class left list initiated by the RMT or other unions.
We didn’t get to speak, because the “discussion from the floor” in the meeting consisted of four obviously pre-planned speeches.
The rally launched a fund-raising drive for the £30,000 they’ll need for the London election.
It seems that the SWP has decided, for now, to try by “voluntarist” means to sustain SWP-Respect as an SWP electoral front, without seeking any new alliance to replace the broken one with Galloway.
Not a good basis for rebuilding an electoral base after the Galloway debacle, or for allowing (let alone encouraging) serious debate on that experience.