One of the most surprising aspects of the discussions on the left about the Respect coalition is the extent of the reaction to the SWP's decision to drop the demand for MPs "on a worker's wage".
In principle, revolutionary socialists would not necessarily let their own commitment to a worker's wage for MPs stop them forming limited agreement for some common action in the class struggle with Labour MPs who rejected that idea.
Yet this issue has triggered a strong recoil from the Respect enterprise by many members and supporters of the SWP. Why?
People understand of course, that the SWP leaders are just waffling when they say that the demand is only being dropped for now, out of, so to speak, Respect for George Galloway and that, of course, the SWP itself still favours putting MPs on a worker's wage.
Respect is where it matters now; and an election is where it becomes a clear and immediate issue.
People know that this being so, SWP leaders' private commitment to "MPs on a worker's wage" is no more than a case of rampant vice paying hypocritical tribute to political virtue.
Old timers know that this is just an example of the ingrained approach of the SWP leadership, which the late Tony Cliff once put like this: "tactics contradict principles."
The "common action" involved in this case is an electoral bloc with the ex- "MP for Baghdad Central"; its only practical objective is to get that gentleman into the European Parliament (and maybe, on Galloway's coat tails, the SWP's John Rees).
And of course people know - even if they don't admit it, not even to themselves - that what is involved in the Galloway case is not an otherwise good, or anyway useful, MP wanting to hold on to his political salary, but someone who has said publicly that he needs a minimum income of £150,000 a year. Who thinks - he has also said this publicly - it is nothing to be ashamed of that he took large sums of money from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and a Jordanian businessman (whose links with Iraq would lay him - and his beneficiaries - open to the suspicion that he was only a conduit for Iraqi "slush fund" moneys).
The Guardian was for long so "soft" on Galloway that Solidarity felt obliged to comment on it (see editorial in Solidarity 3/45). All the more effective then was the Guardian's recent investigation into where Iraqi "oil for aid" money went, in stripping away a lot of Galloway's credibility.
Yet, as far as we know, it provoked no large-scale loss of respect for Respect and its architects by members and unorganised supporters of the SWP. (Socialist Worker, brave as ever, did not comment on the Guardian article. John Rees told the Socialist Alliance Executive that they had nothing to add to what Galloway had said.)
Any half-way serious socialist who knows the facts cannot but feel unease at the sight of the SWP's leaders happily splashing about in the same mud pool as the ex-"MP for Baghdad Central". Is it too much to suggest that this unease is finding an indirect expression in the reaction to the ditching of the demand for "MPs on a worker's wage" - a proposal dropped in deference to a man who is known to have received from important people who prize his political activities a very great deal more than even an ordinary MP's wage?
Galloway on a worker's wage? That really would be taking things too far! Perhaps supporters of the SWP should raise - as their "minimum demand" - that the SWP and Respect should insist that George Galloway should be limited to an honest bourgeois MP's wage. That would be progress! And the SWP's John Rees, Galloway's political servant and putative partner in the European Parliament? "Rees to the European Parliament on the wages of an MP's gofer!"