Of course there are serious issues involved, but I’m happy to admit that, for the outside observer, there is a good bit of perverse entertainment to be had in the Respect split. I know Bambery and Rees are bumming and blowing about McCarthyism at the moment, but for me what leaps to mind is ITV wrestling. You can almost hear Kent Walton: “Iiiiiiin the red corner, Gorgeous George!! Aaaand iiiiiiin the blue corner, the Sheriff of Nottingham!!!!”
But I want to consider for a moment the international aspect. A few days ago I had a bit of a dig at Swiss Toni and chums for sending the Brits a pre-emptive blank cheque, but that is just standard behaviour for the Irish franchise. They did the same over the excommunication of the Yanks, and likewise without bothering to have a discussion. In fact, when the PC did deign to address the membership at conference – several months after the fact – they told the members a pack of lies.
It’s this sort of carry-on that often leads me to think of Kieran as if he were the premier of a Soviet satellite state – Bulgaria, perhaps. Or a closer analogy may be with the South African Communist Party in 1968, famously endorsing the invasion of Czechoslovakia several days before it happened. For sheer slavish loyalty to the mothership the Irish give even the Canadians – or, as an American ISO comrade once described them to me, “those fucking asslickers in Toronto” – a run for their money. The peculiar workings of the SWP’s Pomintern are too convoluted to go into here, although no doubt I’ll come back to this subject in the near future, but Swiss clearly knows on which side his bread is buttered.
On the other hand, more cheerful news comes from a far-flung part of the IS Tendency, with this letter from the Kiwi SWO. If you haven’t read it, please do. I don’t entirely agree with it, but it’s really a very good contribution to the discussion, drawing on the mutual destruction of the two factions in the NZ Alliance five or six years back. From the point of view of SWP politics, it’s almost unarguable, and points a clear way forward – if the SWP CC were interested in resolving this issue in a serious way.
Unfortunately, this looks less and less likely. After weeks of relative radio silence, SWP loyalists – and some particularly boorish sectarians among them – have been turning out in force on the blogs – see the Socialist Unity discussion for a good sample. The CC is continuing to play silly buggers, with the sudden defection of the Tower Hamlets Four a particularly shameless example. (Oliur Rahman, who is far from stupid, states that he has no political differences with Galloway, but pointedly refuses to rule out standing against him. The four councillors – two SWP members, an SWP member’s daughter, and a bloke who applied to join the SWP – claim the SWP didn’t tell them what to do. The national secretary of Respect just happens to wander into the press conference and endorse the defection.) The latest pronunciamento from Rees could be put in any dictionary as a definition of “disingenuous bullshit”.
Plus, you have the CC going on a Great Loyalty Oath Crusade that would have Catch-22’s Captain Black looking to his laurels. Apart from the novel tactic of putting the SWP’s membership list on the web, this is obviously designed to enforce uniformity in the ranks prior to the mooted Respect conference. Given that an SWP majority at the conference can’t be confidently predicted, and that 20% of last year’s SWP conference voted for John Molyneux’s platform of party democracy (which would call into question how monolithic an SWP delegation would be) this may make sense to the CC, but doesn’t exactly bode well for a sensible discussion. In fact, all indications are that the CC is attempting to whip the members up into a frenzy of party chauvinism.
So it’s nice to see the New Zealanders considering this in a sober and sensible way, and coming out with a sober and sensible contribution. They are to be commended for approaching the crisis in a sensible way and thinking it through, rather than just offering knee-jerk support to the Poms. But, if I were in their position, I’d be watching my back. Alex has reined himself in a bit after the Americans’ expulsion into exterior darkness went down badly with people he was trying to make friends with, but he still isn’t known for his tolerance of uppity colonials.