Sunday, February 18, 2007

Guest Post -Why I am Leaving Socialist Resistance and Joining the Labour Party

Tami, from Unknown Conscience, has posted this on her blog and is happy for it to be a guest post on Stroppyblog.

Tami is going to get involved with the Feminists4John group , so I look forward to working with her on the campaign.

Over to Tami ...

Yesterday I joined a number of others at a stall in Camden campaigning for John and had an inspiring and interesting time. I recognised that this is what I now wanted to be doing politically and hope to join the contingent at next weekend's anti-war demo. This was sent to members of Socialist Resistance this morning.

I suspect this may come as a surprise to some and perhaps no surprise to others but I have now decided to quit my affiliation with Socialist Resistance to join the Labour Party and work with the John McDonnell campaign.

My decision to resign from SR and its editorial board comes after many months of weighing the options and finding myself increasingly distanced from majority positions that the supporters of the Socialist Resistance have aligned themselves with. Some of you may be aware that I resigned from the steering committee last year because of lack of time, but also because of major differences that I had with nearly every member of the body on our orientation towards and participation in Respect and it is this issue which has provided the decisive breaking point.

My opposition to Respect has been ongoing since early 2006 and has only increased with time. Members of SR have at various times defended the behaviour of George Galloway, refused to oppose his support for Blair to be blown up by suicide bomb and most recently, refused to recognise the absolutely corrupt nature of the organisation following the candidate selection meetings in Birmingham. Every time evidence presents itself as clearly as possible that Respect is going nowhere, SR comrades simply try to explain it away and claim that more work needs to be done to improve Respect.

Further, I have become convinced that Respect is not a socialist organisation. It is not based in the working class and gears its ideas and propaganda towards the anti-war movement alone. Many of the recent half-hearted attempts by Respect to get trade unionists involved, such as the November trade union conference, come too little and too late. Given the unpopularity of Blair, any decent alternative to New Labour should be recruiting people by the handful – but this simply has not occurred.

Increasingly, an emphasis has been placed on “getting elected” and members of SR have fallen into this trap no matter how rubbish the positions of the candidates. Most recently with the fiasco in Birmingham, one need only read the interview with the Respect candidate there to see that he has no class consciousness and may or may not have a political consciousness at all. A friend of Salma Yaqoob’s brother and son of a local businessman, he believes he can get elected because he is “respected” in the community. This has nothing to do with being an alternative to New Labour. In my view, it is precisely because Respect pays only lip service to left principles but has no basis in the working class that this type of behaviour can flourish.

Respect has had a very bad record on being honest and open about defending LGBT rights and a woman’s right to choose (abortion, not the hijab). Their upcoming women’s conference is supposed to be addressing these issues and things like the problem with “raunch culture” while their members have handed out leaflets outside mosques advocating the shutting down of strip clubs on a moral basis and Galloway called for those using the clubs to be publicly “named and shamed”.

While the view of Respect has changed to being marginally more critical among the majority of the supporters of SR since I have been involved, it remains the case that this is a fundamental and essential campaign of the organisation and will continue to be for some time to come.

I should clarify that I have a great deal of respect and affection towards a number of the comrades I have worked with in SR. Their aims are genuine and they do believe in making a better future however much I politically disagree with them.

So – why Labour?

Well, there are numerous reasons for this move but first and foremost it is to work with the campaign for John McDonnell to be Labour Party leader. I am not a trade union member at present so the only way I can seriously contribute to the campaign is to join the Labour Party.

So what if John doesn’t get nominated at all? I am not sure I think that the LP can ever be reformed, but I do think that whatever comes next for the British left must be based in or around and not outside of the trade union movement. Until the LP decisively breaks the trade union link and until much more of the working class stops thinking of it as their party, I believe it is where socialists should be – not simply practicing “entryism” but participating fully in the party and supporting left MPs and campaigns of the left and fervently opposing Blairism and Brownism.

Further, I have been studying quite a bit in my British History course about the origins and history of the Labour Party and despite the New Labour leadership which is like a cancerous growth feeding off of the good will of the working class, it is evident to me that this is still the party of our class. Perhaps it is because I come from the United States where we have never had a mass party of labour, but I am loathe to give up on something which many workers still identify as their party and which despite Blair’s rubbish leadership, still has a number of MPs who are excellent social activists and fighters who are opposed to the war and racism and for social justice. This is in stark contrast to the Democratic Party in the States who have virtually no such representatives and have never been based in the class, despite what the trade union bureaucracy there chooses to believe.

Additionally, the Labour left contains those I most closely agree with. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and others hold political views much closer to my own and have a much clearer record of defending women’s rights, LGBT rights, workers’ rights and immigrant rights than any current Respect politician I can think of.

I remain strongly committed to left unity, which is one of the most important things that I believe must happen in the future if progress is to be made. Sectarianism has had its day. I look forward to working with SR supporters and will always consider them comrades, however much we may disagree and hope that we may all work in one organisation once again in the future. In the end, we are all committed to a better world.

Liam has written a post debating the issues raised by Tami.