These are bad times for the Socialist Action group. Not only did the defeat of Ken Livingstone mean the loss of their sinecures at City Hall, their front group “Student Broad Left” has now almost disappeared. In an attempt to shore up their position, SA have hit out at their erstwhile allies in the SWP.
Ruqayyah Collector, the outgoing NUS Black Students' Officer who embarrassed herself as the self-appointed “left unity” candidate for NUS president, is probably not a member of Socialist Action — she isn't even notionally a socialist, more of a populist, semi-Islamist liberal. However, she has been selected to do the organisation's dirty work.
The leadership of the Black Students Campaign — who are linked to Student Broad Left by clique affiliation, but never openly use that designation — has come under pressure from the growing strength of Student Respect, who stood their comrade Assed Baig (an independent, not an SWP member) for Black Students' Officer against Ruqayyah's heir-apparent Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Although Bell won, with Assed second and a right-wing candidate third, SBL are clearly feeling panicked, as their bureaucratic control over the Black Students' Campaign is really all they have left.
Thus Ruqayyah's lengthy diatribe against Assed and the SWP, accusing them of an alliance with the right wing in the campaign. The article is stuffed full of typically nonsensical Socialist Action rhetoric about “black unity” and “powerful” and “progressive” policies. Her real motivations become clearer, however, when she describes Assed as “standing fraudulently as Respect”. Ruqayyah, along with SA, are enthusiastic supporters of George Galloways' Respect Renewal group. In NUS Black Students' Campaign as in Unite Against Fascism, the Respect split is manifesting itself in a war between SA and the SWP.
Both SWSS and Assed have published response to Ruqayyah (and she has responded in turn!) As far as we can tell, their refutation of the claim that they made an alliance with the right is truthful (though of course SWSS has not hesitated to back right-wingers against Workers' Liberty students in past NUS elections).
We have to be sharply critical of Student Respect, whose politics on anti-racism and black liberation, as on other issues, concede a great deal to the classless, populist worldview of which Socialist Action are the logical conclusion. At the same time, if we oppose both the SWP and SA, the two sides of the triangle are not the same length. The emergence of a left opposition in the Black Students' Campaign is positive, as is any contribution the SWP may make to destroying the noxious bureaucrats of Socialist Action.
We would like to know why, so many times in the past, the SWP student leadership have promoted an alliance with these same bureaucrats against fellow revolutionary socialists in the student movement. We would urge SWSS and Respect students to demand that their organisations turn seriously to the left, towards an alliance with ENS and other socialists, instead of renewing an alliance with the remnants of Student Broad Left.
For Ruqayyah Collector's attacks on the SWP, see www.officeronline.co.uk/blogs/ruqayyahcollector/275557.aspx
For Assed's reply, see leftnow.blogspot.com/2008/06/lies-damn-lies-and-hypocrisy-response.html
All the documentation and a reply from ENS will appear soon at www.free-education.org.uk