There ain’t no party like a George Galloway party!

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Having written so extensively about the Respect crisis and nailed my colours as firmly to the mast as they’re likely to get at this stage, it was only natural I would want to toddle along to the conference and see what was going on. But which one? Hmm… well, even assuming that I would have been let into the Swoppie conference, I had a fair idea what was going to be said there in advance. The Renewal conference seemed a much better bet – that side has made a far more attractive case. Would it live up to expectations?

 By and large, yes. It was lively. It was unpredictable. It was at times a bit chaotic, but that’s only to be expected – it’s a sign of life. And the signs were that Respect was very much alive and kicking. Certainly morale was extremely high.

George was on his normal barnstorming form, of course. Love him or hate him, there’s no political entertainer quite like him. I especially liked his comment that he wouldn’t be stooping to personal attacks on former friends, as it’s undignified (not something that worries me as much as George) and, besides which, calling somebody a great man for several years and then calling him the devil tends to put your honesty in question. You said it George.

A good thoughtful contribution from Salma, who’s getting to be a more and more impressive operator. Nick Wrack’s rallying call was brilliant if I may say so; Ken Loach raised some of the most pertinent points about how we got where we are and where we go next.

The Swops of course did come in for some stick, which is in no way surprising when you consider their behaviour of late. Perhaps not surprisingly, the harshest criticism of the SWP came from a series of SWP cadre with, I would estimate, well over a century of membership between them, who clearly know what they are talking about. Best of all was the contribution from the wonderful Jerry Hicks, a man the SWP should be thoroughly ashamed of losing.

After all the spin about the Bengali contingent, I was extremely impressed by the contributions from East End councillors Abjol and Hanif, neither of whom I had ever seen before but both of whom were first-class speakers. Both laid heavy stress on their Old Labour credentials, which was pleasing for people who have been represented as “Muslim communalists” of late. Abjol in particular is someone who, if he was just out for a political career, could walk into the Labour Party and be handed a berth – that he hasn’t speaks well of him.

The general tone was very much leftwing and socialist – not quite as clearly socialist and class-struggle as I would have liked, but then that’s an occupational hazard of attempts at building a broad party. Certainly this didn’t look like a right wing to me, not in any meaningful sense.

As I say, morale was high. Upwards of 300 people at a conference organised at 10 days’ notice is not bad going at all – that the SWP rally attracted a roughly equivalent number (almost exclusively Swops and fellow travellers, from what my spies tell me) gives you some idea of the balance of forces. The attendees were firm in the conviction that they are here to stay and will go forward. More than one speaker mentioned a feeling of liberation, a relief at having got rid of the millstone around their neck. This is not of course the SWP as a whole, which everyone agreed contains many great activists, but the rotten methods of its permanent leadership clique. Amen to that.

So that’s a preliminary assessment. As for how things pan out for the renewed Respect, whether it can pick up lost momentum, and what becomes of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Respect, only time will tell. The May elections and the conference scheduled to follow will of course be crucial. But this wasn’t a bad start, not bad at all. Quite promising in fact.

28 Comments

  1. Andy Newman said,

    November 18, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    You should have said hi

  2. Jim Denham said,

    November 18, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    You’re eally taken in by Galloway, Yaqoob, and that bunch of ultra-right shysters, aren’t you? Just remember the words, “Sir, I salute your indefatigability..”
    Then speak to *any* left-wing Iraqi regugee presently in Britain…Then consider if you’re in savoury political company.

  3. Liam said,

    November 18, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Andy you were standing only feet away and if you hadn’t rushed off you could have come for a pint and a curry.
    Splintered, Beavis and Butthead haven’t quite persuaded you. Have they?
    Jim, what do you do politically? Ranting on the internet doesn’t count.

  4. Andy Newman said,

    November 19, 2007 at 1:23 am

    I rushed off becuase I have children

  5. November 19, 2007 at 1:36 am

    [...] also refer you to the interesting report at Splintered Sunrise, who has certainly been no partisan of the Respect [...]

  6. Jim Denham said,

    November 19, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Liam: I don’t have to answer to you. but I suspect that my record of practical political engagement will stand comparison with yours. Now; what do you have to say to leftist Iraqi refugees, aboutyour grovelling to the international-scab galloway?

  7. johng said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Oh!! I didn’t realise that this was actually a renewal blog! Loved the rubbish about how the other conference was ‘exclusively’ swoppies and ‘hangers on’. A number of very neutral observers contradicted that. The full on propaganda here is very entertaining though.

  8. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:28 am

    A Renewal blog? Hardly – I’ve been fairly sceptical of the entire Respect project. I’m just giving an impression of the event, which didn’t look much like an alliance of right-wingers and Muslim fundies to me.

    I should of course have mentioned that the SWP is not alone in this. You have the support of the AWL and Workers Power, for what that’s worth. ;)

  9. dave bones said,

    November 19, 2007 at 10:02 am

    This might make you all laugh.

  10. Martin Wisse said,

    November 19, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Hey Jim, don’t I remember you being for the War on Iraq? Bit cheeky to worry about its consequences now, eh?

    And I doubt any cause that has your support is particularly happy with anyway, considering your winning personality.

  11. Madam Miaow said,

    November 19, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Dave! You NAUGHTY boy.

  12. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 19, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Pity I didn’t see you Andy. I’ll no doubt be around again.

  13. BK said,

    November 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    i should have warned you about the blog johng when i noticed your name attached to a perfectly reasonable question a day or two back. this is not so much a renewal blog as an extended whimper by someone who apparently had their hamster eaten by the swp long ago; basically a sectarian gossip column–occasionally lurid, sometimes contrived cutting edge, but mostly just pathetic.

    when he stoops to comment on belfast politics ss seems to rely very heavily on secondhand accounts in the local press, which would suggest that he doesn’t actually get out that often, or cannot bring himself to be active around any of the issues that the youthful, grubby and unschooled ‘actually existing left’ are involved in. this does not prevent him from offering sage advice at every turn, and we’re lucky of course to have it.

    remarkably (or not) the respect crisis has brought ss to life, rekindling in him an activist spark, or at least a contemplative one, even apparently inducing him to get off the couch and fork out for a ticket across to london for the weekend. it was up in the air for several hair-raising days which way he would come down on the crisis in respect, and the suspense has been almost unbearable, but there you go–this is what you get when an agile mind attempts to come to terms with a complicated and rapidly developing situation. fortunately (again!) his pronunciamentos carry great weight in the antiwar movement and we will be able to correct our past mistakes accordingly. So in the end its all good.

  14. November 19, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    [...] may allready have read my report below of the Respect Renewal conference, and that on the Splintered Sunrise blog. In addition here are some videos of speeches. I will be highlighting some of them over the [...]

  15. Cian said,

    November 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    How can you be very neutral? Surely there’s got to be a limit on neutrality?

    Fuck, I’m turning into Justin…

  16. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I am of course always glad to hear from the great and totally non-sectarian Belfast SWP. Has Kieran deigned to show you his letter supporting the Brits yet?

  17. Binh said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Saw the pics of the conference. The average delegate age seemed a bit high to me – 40s-60s? Where were all the young people?

  18. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    The age profile wasn’t the most youthful you could have hoped for. But then again the left isn’t generally as fresh-faced as it used to be, and there was quite a big contingent of Asian youth from East London, which was good.

  19. Garibaldy said,

    November 19, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    In fairness I thought some of SS’ stuff on Belfast politics showed a great deal more local knowledge than quite a lot of the press. While we’re on the subject of local politics, does the split in Respect and the attack on communalist politics mean Anthony MacIntyre will no longer be PNG after the cartoons thing?

  20. Madam Miaow said,

    November 19, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Oh dear, BK, did Splinty eat your hamster, then?

  21. Andy Newman said,

    November 19, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Binh

    I even have some photos of young people at the conference, I will put up at some stage.

  22. Mark P said,

    November 20, 2007 at 12:07 am

    BK:

    Given that you think this blog is “an extended whimper by someone who apparently had their hamster eaten by the swp long ago; basically a sectarian gossip column–occasionally lurid, sometimes contrived cutting edge, but mostly just pathetic.”, you will have to forgive me if I think it a little strange that you are a regular reader. After all you have posted a fair few comments, including on this very thread, and you say yourself that you noticed johng commenting on another thread.

    I suspect that my political disagreements with the blogger are at least as strong as yours and I’ve had my fair share of rows with him here, but there’s no point in me saying something along the lines of “there’s no point reading this stuff, it’s all tedious bullshit”. After all, I read it myself and were I to post such a thing it would be on one of his threads, using a comments facility which he provides.

    Splintered Sunrise has a particular political angle and a particular set of experiences and takes on those experiences. I think his politics, in an Irish context at least, are woeful (and I’m sure he returns the favour!) but he’s not just someone motivated by anti-SWP bile. And you can learn something even from people you disagree with.

    By the way, I know it was probably a rhetorical question initially, but I genuinel am interested. Has Kieran Allen shown you the letter sent to the British organisation? And has your leadership actually circulated the letter sent to all IST groups by your New Zealand sister organisation? And if the answer to either of these questions is No, don’t you think that tells us something?

  23. babeuf said,

    November 20, 2007 at 3:05 am

    Splintered, that’s a picture of one of the many happy Student Respect DELEGATE groups that came along to the I-Can’t-Belive-It’s-Not-Respect DELEGATE Conference. I don’t know why you use it at the head of an article about the Respect (Witch-Hunter) Conference.

    But your strangely arbitrary choice of pictures is one of the many charms of the site.

    Mark P said: I think his [SS's] politics, in an Irish context at least, are woeful

    Now that I find myself in the same organisation as you, Mark, I’m compelled to wonder what you find “woeful” here. I trust I’ll have your comradely support when I put forward a motion at Conference next Spring committing Respect(W-H) to the burning down of Orange Lodges.

  24. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 20, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Babeuf, I had no idea S Club 7 had reformed for the SWP’s Respect conference. Now that might have tempted me the other way…

    And this would be Mark P of the Irish SP, with whom I do have disagreements on Irish politics. Not the other Mark P whom we now find in Renewal.

  25. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 20, 2007 at 7:57 am

    I don’t believe I have ever knowingly spoken to BK, never mind eaten his hamster. But I do know that BK, who is neither youthful nor grubby, is an intelligent bloke and I would welcome his considered thoughts on the Respect crisis.

    On the other hand, since he doesn’t like reading the content here, I direct him to Stalin’s Iron Lung, whose comments policy is strangely reminiscent of the Sun letters page.

  26. November 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

    [...] Spaltung: da wird von grossen Erfolgen bei der provisorischen Erneuerung gesprochen, selbst SkeptikerInnen zeigen einen vorsichtigen Optimismus und andere stellen gar ihre Zeitung zugunsten der Gesamtpartei [...]

  27. Lobby Ludd said,

    November 21, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Jim Denham:

    “You’re eally taken in by Galloway, Yaqoob, and that bunch of ultra-right shysters, aren’t you? ”

    Ultra-right? Get a grip Denham.

    We all know that the Shachtmanite path is narrow and fraught with danger, but try not to fall over the edge quite so soon. At least give Sean a way back – you know he’ll need it.

  28. November 26, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    [...] this evidence alone, Respect Renewal are going to be having a whale of a time (as There Ain’t No Party Like A George Galloway Party), where as the recall conference for ‘I can’t believe it’s not Respect’ [...]


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