Respect crisis: "the passwords have been changed"

Submitted by Duncan on 25 October, 2007 - 1:08 Author: Rhodri Evans

Linda Smith, chair of Respect, an FBU activist previously close to the SWP, has published a sort of manifesto for the anti-SWP, pro-Galloway side of the row in Respect.

The text is on the Socialist Unity blog. More here.

"The passwords to the membership database and office email have been changed", Smith reports, "and the National Chair [herself] has not been given access to them". You can't get much more definite evidence of an impending split than that.

"The real issue", Smith says, "is whether Respect develops as a pluralist organisation in which no single component part dominates or controls".

Like the SWP's claim that the issue is George Galloway trying to force the SWP out of Respect (how would he do that, when the SWP controls the Respect office and must command an absolute numerical majority in Respect's small membership of 2000?), this definition makes no sense.

Although Respect had a larger sprinkling of non-SWPers when set up in 2004, it has never been anything other than controlled by the SWP.

The difference is that until recently that SWP control was used to keep socialists (SWP members, mainly) in line behind Galloway and to suppress any criticisms of Galloway's dealings with the Saudis, the Emirates, Pakistani governments, and Tariq Aziz; his anti-abortion stance; his defiant insistence that he "is not as left-wing as you might think" (indeed he isn't!); his self-projection as a "fighter for Muslims"; his Big Brother appearance...

Now Galloway has got fed up with the SWP - he never concealed his contempt for "Trotskyists" even of the most decayed, broken-down variety. The SWP has decided that the game is up, turned against Galloway, and started uttering a fraction of the truth against Galloway with the pretence that it is something new.

The idea that a Respect without the SWP, run by Galloway, would be "a pluralist organisation in which no single component part dominates or controls" also makes no sense. All Galloway's projects in politics have been ones centred on his personal authority. He will play along with Linda Smith and others only so long as they do the job John Rees used to do, of suppressing socialist criticism of Gorgeous George.

Signatories to Smith's letter include several different elements:

(1) Galloway himself; the journalist Yvonne Ridley, who now works for an Iranian government news outlet; Dr Mohammed Naseem, chair of Birmingham Central Mosque, Respect's major donor at the 2005 election, who is also a member of the Islamic Party of Britain. The IPB claims that “the Jews” did the 7/7 London bombings, through Mossad working in tandem with the Blair government; it rules out “intermarriage” between people of different religions; it praises the Taliban for establishing “protection for ordinary people” in Afghanistan; and it advocates the death penalty for public displays of “homosexual lewdness”.
(2) Abjol Miah, leader of the Respect group on Tower Hamlets council; Abdul Karim Sheik, leader of Respect group on Newham council; and a number of other Tower Hamlets and Newham councillors.
(3) Ger Francis, former SWP Birmingham organiser, and Nick Wrack, former chair of Respect and leading SWP member. (Both have been expelled from the SWP, Francis a while back, Wrack recently).
(4) Salma Yaqoob, a Respect councillor in Birmingham, an activist who seems to have moved genuinely to the left in the anti-war campaign of 2002-3 but was "stopped halfway" by the SWP, who used her as the "Muslim woman" front of Respect until they fell out with her.
(5) Alan Thornett and John Lister, representing the residue of the International Socialist Group ("Socialist Resistance"), which until now had functioned for at least seven years pretty much only as a small satellite of the SWP;
(6) The well-known journalist Victoria Brittain.

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