Over 250 people attended a national council of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) last Saturday to discuss the crisis engulfing Respect and the way forward for the left in Britain.
Elected branch delegates and national council members voted overwhelmingly to back a statement from the party’s leadership setting the record straight on the SWP and Respect.
Martin Smith, the SWP’s national secretary, opened the discussion by outlining the political factors underlying the dispute in Respect.
It is an argument over future direction, he said – whether Respect should stay true to its original vision as a radical left wing party with appeal across the working class, or whether it should restrict itself to patronage politics aimed at electing a few big names.
He added that there was an attempt from George Galloway’s followers to drive the SWP out of Respect and prevent the annual conference from taking place.
Martin ended by noting the thirst for a left alternative to Labour has not gone away.
A wide-ranging discussion involving contributions from delegates and observers from across the country followed.
Margot Hill from south London noted how Respect and Stop the War activists from the Muslim community in Wandsworth and Merton had rallied to the defence of the SWP against the witch-hunt launched by Galloway’s followers.
John Molyneux from Portsmouth said events had proved wrong those who believed that Galloway’s initial letter to the Respect national committee was merely about organisational issues rather than being the first shot in a wider war on the left in Respect.
Jonathan Neale from Oxford underlined the need to explain the truth about the situation to those caught in the middle or unsure of whom to believe.
“We have to argue with people who aren’t close to this argument. We have to say how sick at heart we are about what’s happening.
“But we have to tell people that this is a political dispute and that we’re not lying about what’s going on.
“The sad truth is that Galloway is launching a campaign to wreck the left in what are in fact very good circumstances for the left.”
To read the statement passed at the meeting go to » www.swp.org.uk/respect_cc.php