Shambles on the Left 7

I have just accepted an offer to speak at Respect’s national conference. Let me be quite clear – I will speak against the war and Bush foreign policy, and in favour of human rights, to pretty well any audience. I spoke at the Lib Dem fringe, and am doing an event with the Tories in December. My politics are no secret – I tend to vote Lib Dem in England and Scot Nat in Scotland, sometimes at the same election! Nowadays my loyalties are to principles, not parties, and there are individuals I respect across most parties who I believe are broadly in line with those principles.

I am telling you this because Respect have split, and I will be talking to one of the shards. I would speak to any other shard if asked, too.

The far left in this country seems wonderfully self-destructive. Watching the Scottish Socialist Party, which had actually been electorally successful, tear itself apart over accusations that Tommy Sheridan had indulged in some of my hobbies, was morbidly fascinating. Why Respect think they have enough mass to split is beyond me. It’s the People’s Front of Judea all over again.

Peculiarly, the tensions between socialist politics and some of the more conservative views of Islam, which made Respect a strange alliance, do not seem to be what split it. I don’t really know what did cause the trouble. Power struggles between individuals are all I can discern.

The reason I care is that this all impacts on the Stop the War movement. I have moaned before that it is very unfortunate that a movement whose aims are supported by a majority of the British population, is organisationally dominated by those from a tiny minority perspective. The reason is, of course, that they are prepared to put in the work and know how to do the organising – the process is not sinister, but the failure of the Stop the War Coalition to turn mass support into a mass movement may yet prove to be a historical disaster. Lib Dems, Tories, Scot Nats, Plaid Cymru and old Labour are hugely outnimbered at STW conferences by less mainstream groups. I speak to STW meetings up and down the country still, though I do many more for Amnesty International nowadays. But the STW meetings in the provinces have shrunk right down towards their SWP core.

STW itself seems to be splintering over Iran. There is apparently a division over whether it is legitimate to criticise the Iranian government, while opposing any attack on Iran. My own view is that Iran has a dreadful government strongly influenced by theocratic nutters, the human rights situation is very poor, and it has stupidly handled the nuclear weapons question with unhelpful bellicosity. But I also think that the extremism would die down if the US stopped feeding it by mindless antagonism, and that an attack on Iran would be even more disastrous than the attack on Iraq. The tendency to whitewash anyone who opposes Bush – be it Ahmadinejad, Putin, Chavez or whoever – is one of the specimes of flabby thinking which prevents the anti-war case from being put with the force it deserves.

Meantime, I shall continue to do what little I can, by writing and by speaking to whoever will listen. But we must not give up on the anti-war movement – as time ticks on with the Republicans still on the back foot approaching the Presidential election, an attack on Iran becomes every day more likely. American electoral politics, not Iran’s nuclear power programme or international relations, will be the key factor.

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7 thoughts on “Shambles on the Left

  • Johan van Rooyen

    Excellent post as usual Craig. I greatly admire George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob but equally my respect, if you'll allow me, for John Rees and Lindsey German (and all the hard working cadres in the SWP) cannot be diminished by this very sad split. I do hope that people such as yourself can help build a bridge between the two camps that will create a de facto unity.

  • writeon

    Dear Craig,

    I'll just say that I agree with every word you've just written. At a time when we really need an effective oposition to the slide towards an authoritarian state, engaged in perpetual war against a phantom enemy, it almost beggars belief that the "Left" is fragmenting again and weakening itself, as if the "enemy" wasn't strong enough already!

  • Strategist

    Craig said "Why Respect think they have enough mass to split is beyond me"


    Johan said "I greatly admire George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob but equally my respect, if you'll allow me, for John Rees and Lindsey German cannot be diminished by this very sad split."

    I'm afraid mine, which was genuine, cannot but be diminished.

    Truth is, the above four are all grown-ups and so between them they could have chosen to avoid this situation if they had wanted. Nothing sad in the sense of unfortunately inevitable about it.

    They have chosen not to avoid it, which suggests that at least one of the above parties was determined to make it happen, despite the obvious truth of Craig's point that Respect clearly does not have adequate mass for either shard to survive a split. The fate of the SSP/Solidarity in Scotland just a few short months ago is what will happen at the London elections.

    All four must know that so what are they doing? Beyond me too. I hate to say it, but in the absence of a better explanation (which I'd be delighted to hear) it's just lunatic (or criminal) self-indulgence.

  • Randal

    "STW itself seems to be splintering over Iran. There is apparently a division over whether it is legitimate to criticise the Iranian government, while opposing any attack on Iran."

    This is a difficult issue for any modern antiwar movement because the majority of people don't perceive the intimate and vital sustaining link between busybody interventionism and western wars of aggression.

    Groups like Hopi, who say they oppose war but also oppose foreign regimes they don't like, are actually objectively supporters of the wars they claim to oppose. This is because each and every time they criticise the target regime they assist the vital process of demonisation, without which modern western military aggression cannot be politically sustained.

    Of course, knowing this does the antiwar cause little good, because it is politically effective to slander those who wish not to interfere in other countries' affairs as supporters of the status quo there. This in turn is because most people don't understand the distinction between noninterference and support for the status quo. At the same time, the process of exposing the warmongers' lies, which are the essence of the demonisation process, unavoidably involves taking the side of the foreign regimes in question, thereby giving another easy political score for the advocates of mass murder amongst us.

  • Randal

    It's worth observing that there is apparently a nice irony here, in that Hopi are objectively (but not morally) supporters of an attack on Iran, just as noninterventionists can be accused of being objectively but not morally supporters of the Iranian regime.

    The difference, in my own opinion, is that Hopi certainly assists the cause of western aggression against Iran, whereas in reality western verbal attacks and threats generally help keep repressive regimes in place rather than undermining them.

  • Monish

    The massive public brainwashing in America, combined with the devious, murderous, imperial governments since Ronald Reagan, has resulted in the pathetic state of affairs we see today.

    Given what Reagan and Co. started (along with the head of the Bushco mafia), the events of 2000 (the felonious Supreme Court, the electoral theft, the installation of a heartless, brainless, bloodthirsty buffoon), 2001 (a godsend of a Pearl-Harbor-esque event in NYC for a rudderless Residency), 2003 (a long-planned genocidal invasion of a sovereign nation), and everything else since (leading civilization to the very precipice of existence) could have been readily foretold.

    The saddest spectacle of all is the sight of the limp, unprincipled, and quite often actively enabling "opposition" in the U.S. They have proven Ralph Nader's principal theory re. the indistinguishability of the two parties absolutely correct many times over. The criminality of the Rs, and the active support of the Ds in committing international crimes and domestic illegalities and felonies is mind boggling.

    Faced with these deadly snowballing events, unity among leftists and progressives for a common cause is absolutely imperative. Figures such as Dennis Kucinich, George Galloway, Michael Moore, Ralph Nader, Hugo Chavez-and all others that care about the ruthless destruction of humanity by the imperial murder machine- must stand together.

    I sincerely hope that Respect does not splinter in the UK, much as the non-beltway forces must unite in the U.S. to resist the forces of imperial greed and stupidity. Too much is at stake to haggle over finer details.

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