Respect: Which Party?/ Charlatan backs Charlatan

Submitted by AWL on 22 February, 2008 - 2:49

One of the four SWP-Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets has defected... to the Tories.

SWP-Respect issued a statement on 14 February: “We are sorry to hear that Cllr Ahmed Hussain has joined the Tories. We had discussions with him yesterday where he agreed that he was going to stay with Respect. We issued a statement saying that, in good faith, but clearly his assurances meant nothing.

“He has joined a party which supports war and privatisation, which has little representation among ethnic minorities, and which has few supporters among working class people in Tower Hamlets or anywhere else.

“This is a betrayal of the principles on which he was elected...”

The East London Advertiser reports:

“After being greeted like a king at Tory HQ in Millbank yesterday morning, Cllr Hussain had a sudden last minute attack of nerves sparking a day of dramatic twists and turns...

“About an hour before he was due to inform council chief executive Martin Smith of his move, he told Tory group leader Peter Golds he needed ‘more time’...

“Respect Unity group leader Oli Rahman and SWP boss John Rees then issued a press statement in the early hours of this morning attacking the Advertiser’s story as “a rumour”. They insisted Cllr Hussain remained firmly on their side.

“But after spending the night thinking, Cllr Hussain called the paper at 9.30am to confirm he was defecting.

“Three hours later, he met Cllr Golds and former Tory group leader Simon Rouse to sign his party membership forms, then emailed the council’s chief executive shortly after.

“It means the Tories, who less than two years ago had just one councillor at Tower Hamlets, now have eight and have become the main Opposition group...”

Every left movement in history has suffered defections. But it’s hard to think of a parallel.

Hussain went in the Respect split with the SWP — with the side that said it was the left, and indeed would have been the left if it had spelled out any politics instead of just whingeing about being allegedly “witch-hunted”.

On Wednesday afternoon he was going to the Conservative Party. Wednesday night, he was staying with the socialist, revolutionary SWP. A few hours later... he is with the Tories.

When the former Russian revolutionary populist leader Lev Tikhomirov went over to Tsarism in 1888, soon becoming a leading right-wing journalist, at least he knew he had a lot to explain. He wrote a whole book: Why I ceased to be a revolutionary.

What has Hussain said to explain his defection from the cause of labour to the cause of capital? “I’ve signed the forms and I’m just relieved it’s now all settled so I can look forward to the future.”

It shows the falsity of the SWP’s idea that with Respect they can build a “broad left” movement with just a few “bullet point” slogans and a puff of ballyhoo instead of clear politics.

Charlatan backs charlatan

THE second issue of the Respect Renewal newspaper (established when the ISG stopped publishing Socialist Resistance and handed over its operation to Galloway) featured an article by the Great Leader announcing he would be standing for the Greater London Assembly on a “progressive” list. The article also announced his backing for the individual the headline bizarrely described as “Red Ken”.

Galloway makes some limited criticisms of Livingstone (privatisation of the East London Line, support for the Met over Jean Charles de Menezes, but nothing about strike breaking or embracing City capitalists.) However, he backs him on two grounds.

Firstly, Boris Johnson and the Tories are really bad. (Yes, really!) Secondly, Livingstone’s opposition to the Iraq war, his support for Latin American Stalinism and populism and “his support for Muslims” — in fact softness on Islamic communalism and Islamist reaction — makes him a “left candidate” whose defeat would be “a disaster for London and the left”.

The AWL is advocating a first preference vote for Lindsey Germany of Respect/SWP, and a second preference for Livingstone on the basis that the breaking of the Labour Party’s ties to the workers’ movement, though now completed, may not yet be consolidated. We reject the kind of popular front politics of “Anyone but Boris” and “Good old Ken” which Galloway’s article expresses with such wonderful crassness.

The politics of the “Progressive List”, and even who might be on it, are left totally undefined. In addition, since Galloway was previously backing Lindsey German for mayor and has only recently discovered the pressing need to keep the Tories out, a big dose of anti-SWP sectarianism appears to be involved.

Galloway’s article has sparked sharp debate in Respect Renewal, with Andy Newman of the Socialist Unity blog defending him, and Alan Thornett of the ISG replying with some very accurate criticisms of Livingstone (though he gives too much credence to the idea that he was really red in the 80s).

The AWL has many disagreements with the ISG, but this prompts us to say to them: comrades, why are you in this appalling organisation?