Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 25, 2008

The fight in the SWP, part five (Lindsey German)

Filed under: revolutionary organizing,sectarianism,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 10:56 pm

This response to Lindsey German’s article is the fifth and concluding entry in a series of posts that is less about the specifics of the strategic and tactical differences between the SWP’ers and more of an attempt to take a step back and put the fight into a broader context. (I should add that I have a postscript planned that will present my own ideas about how to build a revolutionary party. Mostly they boil down to ideas I absorbed from Peter Camejo in the early 1980s and have since embellished with my own.)

In my view, the SWP’ers are simply reaping the fruits of a sectarian party-building methodology that will defeat the efforts of any Marxist to build a party like Lenin’s. Ironically, the Leninist party that they have in mind when they go about their tasks is not like the historical Bolshevik party but a schematic attempt to create a cookie cutter version of Bolshevism good for all countries and all times.

The man most responsible for this flawed methodology was Gregory Zinoviev, who made the same kinds of mistakes found in Regis Debray’s  “Revolution in the Revolution”. Just as Debray sought to mechanically apply a rural guerrilla warfare strategy throughout Latin America that was based on a one-sided understanding of the Cuban revolution, so did Zinoviev seek to impose a one-size-fits-all version of the Russian party on the rest of the world. While it took about ten years for Latin American Marxists to figure out that the Debrayist conception was in error, the Zinovievist model persists until this day-75 years after it was conceived. Perhaps if Lenin had lived, another approach would have been taken. Even before Zinoviev came up with his party-building concepts, Lenin felt instinctively that something was wrong as this comment made in 1922 about attempts to codify a “Bolshevik model” would indicate:

At the third congress in 1921 we adopted a resolution on the structure of communist parties and the methods and content of their activities. It is an excellent resolution, but it is almost entirely Russian, that is to say, everything in it is taken from Russian conditions. That is its good side, but it is also its bad side, bad because scarcely a single foreigner–I am convinced of this, and I have just re-read it-can read it. Firstly, it is too long, fifty paragraphs or more. Foreigners cannot usually read items of that length. Secondly, if they do read it, they cannot understand it, precisely because it is too Russian…it is permeated and imbued with a Russian spirit. Thirdly, if there is by chance a foreigner who can understand it, he cannot apply it…My impression is that we have committed a gross error in passing that resolution, blocking our own road to further progress. As I said, the resolution is excellent, and I subscribe to every one of the fifty paragraphs. But I must say that we have not yet discovered the form in which to present our Russian experience to foreigners, and for that reason the resolution has remained a dead letter. If we do not discover it, we shall not go forward.

Lindsey German, who is John Rees’s partner, was a co-leader alongside him in Respect and her article is similar to his in trying to put the best possible spin on the Respect fiasco. She writes:

We were right to do it: it is hard to remember now how much enthusiasm there was for an electoral alternative to Labour in the aftermath of the Iraq war. It was palpable and could have organised tens of thousands.

But Respect faced problems from the very beginning, principally that no Labour MP other than Galloway broke from Labour, and that we didn’t win significant trade union or other left forces. That was to do with the enduring, if decaying, hold of Labour, and the refusal of especially the CPB to join us.

The result was that the project at a national level revolved around an agreement between George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob and the SWP. There was a tension from the beginning in the sense that both our main allies refused to accept an overtly socialist name and that Salma always tended to follow her own agenda (including rewriting the agreed founding statement when she got back to Birmingham and pressurising the rest of us to accept the changes).

There is no need for me to recapitulate my take on the Respect affair and would only refer you to my post of November 2007.  However, something needs to be said about German’s griping over the refusal of Galloway and Yaqoob to accept “an overtly socialist name”. This to me encapsulates the sectarian and idealist framework of the Marxist-Leninist left today. If your main goal is to construct a leftwing alternative to Labour, why insist on naming it socialist? Doesn’t it occur to German that many people, who had not fully developed a socialist consciousness but were angry over the “war on terror” and attacks on Muslim people, were ready to join a leftist but not explicitly socialist party? In the end there must have been some kind of compromise since the “s” in Respect stands for socialism. (RESPECT = Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism.)

In 1981, when I hooked up with Peter Camejo in order to help build a new, non-sectarian left in the U.S., he told me that he chose the name North Star Network in order to break with a sectarian past in which every new group had to have the words socialist, communist, proletarian or workers in its name. He chose “North Star” because that was the name of Frederick Douglass’s newspaper and a symbol of our own struggle rather than that of the Russians. He was inspired to a large extent by the example of the Nicaraguan revolution which also decided to use a Nicaraguan icon (Sandino) rather than a hammer and sickle.

German also blurts out what might have been in the back of the minds of many SWP’ers when they began to complain about the presence of Muslim “notables” in Respect:

Accident also played a role: if I had been elected to the London Assembly in 2004 (as I very nearly was) then the balance of forces in Respect would have been very different. If white socialists had been elected in 2006 in Newham and Tower Hamlets (as they very nearly were) then the balance of forces and level of politics in those areas would have been raised. If Gordon Brown had not flirted with calling an election in autumn 2007 then maybe Galloway would not have attacked so rapidly.

While I have no problem understanding how German would have liked to have seen more “white socialists” elected in 2006, I simply cannot understand how she would have allowed herself to put such a racist formulation in print. If anybody wrote something along these lines on Marxmail, they would be unsubbed immediately.

Near the end of her article, German refers to Neil Davidson’s attempt to rethink the “organization” question:

An even more serious development it seems to me is coming not from the CC itself but in some documents, especially that by Neil Davidson, which appear to involve a whole rethinking of the methods of organisation we have followed since 1968 and which have got us to where we are.

There is a kind of revisionism going on which appears to be challenging the whole way in which Cliff built the party. Neil argues that a sign of the maturity of the party will be when it can have a more objective assessment of Cliff’s weaknesses as well as his strengths.

For those interested in Tony Cliff’s ideas about how to build a revolutionary party, the Marxism Internet Archive has a lot of material including his 2-volume book on Lenin. While I am much more familiar with Cliff’s writings on “state capitalism”, I took a look this time at what he had to say about party building questions. In “Lenin: His Ideas are the Future” (an article I nearly refused to read just for the ponderous title), Cliff has the good sense to include this quotation from Lenin:

A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfills in practice its obligations towards its class, and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification – that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.

I couldn’t agree more. It is too bad that today’s “Marxist-Leninist” organizations have proven utterly incapable of acknowledging a mistake, especially the SWP’ers when it comes to the matter of the Respect fiasco.

Back in the early 1980s, around the time I was getting involved with CISPES and working with Peter Camejo to get the North Star Network off the ground, I bought a copy of Playboy for the interview they had conducted with Sandinista leaders. (Trust me, I would never waste $5 to look at Playboy models.) When Playboy asked them about the problems with the Miskito Indians on the Atlantic Coast, Tomás Borge replied along these lines if I may paraphrase him:

Yes, we made a serious mistake. We sent inexperienced and arrogant party members to the Atlantic Coast who made terrible errors that turned the Indians against the revolution. We are doing everything in our power now to rectify these mistakes and hopefully will see peace on the Atlantic Coast in a year or two.

Borge was correct on both scores. The FSLN made mistakes and peace came to the Atlantic Coast before long. While I find next to nothing worth emulating from today’s FSLN, the party of the early 1980s still represented a kind of breakthrough. In my final post, I will try to explain how a revolution in a desperately impoverished country like Nicaragua can help us figure out as Lindsey German puts it in the final section of her article: Where do we go from here?

26 Comments »

  1. “While I have no problem understanding how German would have liked to have seen more “white socialists” elected in 2006, I simply cannot understand how she would have allowed herself to put such a racist formulation in print.”

    I’m curious as to what understanding you have about why German “German would have liked to have seen more “white socialists” elected in 2006”. I think we can be generous enough to assume that the racism in the remark was unintended, but that aside, it is indicative of a patronising and sectarian attitude. If she simply said “Marxists” or “SWP members” it would have been different, but that’s not what she said. She seems to think it important to have whites elected, presumably to counter the argument that Respect was a party of Muslims and Asians. Why? What’s wrong with having a lot of Asian or Muslim activists elected in an area that has such a high proportion of that community? Can anyone tell me, what is her actual political point?

    The whole history of Respect has been marked by controversy on the left. I find it hard to disentangle all the knots, but the SWP do seem to have squandered all their opportunities. What a waste.

    Comment by Ben Courtice — December 26, 2008 @ 1:55 am

  2. Her main political point is that she’s an idiot who shouldn’t be in the SWP Piss-Up In A Brewery Organising Committee, let alone the CC.

    I think her intention, though, was to point out senior SWP members (who happened to be white) came very close to being elected, and their presence would have helped the SWP side in Respect’s disputes.

    What it really shows, of course, is that a genuine revolutionary party in the UK won’t be “white”.

    Comment by Alan B — December 26, 2008 @ 6:45 am

  3. German is here re-iterating New Labour’s “self-criticism” as to why their government is so unpopular, which is that “we have ignored the white working class for too long”. Which is the same argument of the fascist British National Party. So well done Lindsey German, for bringing not only Blairite thinking to a workers’ party, but also BNP-speak.

    It shows distrust towards Muslim/Asian minorities, saying they are backward wife-beaters and that they need Whitey to educate them and speak for them until they learn “enlightment values”, while at the same time quieting down the fears of all those concerned about immigrants, muslims and “darkies in our midst”.

    And all that “Galloway is pandering to the muslims/imams” etc is just that: a fundamental mistrust of the muslim and asian minority (today the MOST oppressed section of British society) as too backward to “get” socialism.

    Galloway is reported to have said the SWP leadership “Go on, fuck off!”. I say, well said indeed.

    Comment by Antonis — December 26, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  4. I agree with you that the “white socialists” remark is racist. But it is revealing in the sense that the whole Respect project was a racialised one, an alliance of nominal socialists with radicalised “Muslims”. A project which united with “Muslims” as a racial group and which limited its programme on key points, women’s rights, lesbian and gay, indeed socialism, so as not to injure the feelings of that group. It was therefore doomed from the outset.
    What’s as revealing about German’s document in particular, but its shared by Callinicos and Rees, is just how apolitical it is. Disputes mentioned include whether there were too many placards taken on a demo. Given this is likely to be her swansong, its feeble to the utmost.
    On your remarks about Lenin, Zinoviev and the Comintern, its notable that the resolution you refer to in 1922, is very different in tone and structure than Zinoviev’s resolution at the Second Congress in 1920;
    http://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/2nd-congress/ch03a.htm

    Indeed the 1922 resolution is a hotch potch of old Lenin articles from before 1903, including Letter to Comrade X amongst others. The 1922 resolution is a reaction to the 1920 one, but even then as you point out Lenin was well aware of its limitations. The hierarchical, top down, sect like, structure of the contemporary left, including a ban on discussions of internal business outside the “part”, a fetish of “recruitment” etc. is a weird hybrid of Zionviev, certain elements of Trotskyism in the 1930s (under the threat of death from the Stalinists) and the post war Trotsky epigones, including of course Cliff.

    Comment by bill j — December 26, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  5. I suppose what German says is, here we have a majority of white-working class-Englishmen who have nothing to lose but their H’s (This was Orwell’s joke) and their racism of course, so for not to be deprived of their support, we have to appeal to their racist ideas by electing more white Englishmen bureaucrats. Meanwhile, she is sure about her clear-cut racist remark will not be taken seriously because she is a confirmed-registered Marxist-Leninist. This is an appropriate example of deceiving people by telling the truth with the confidence that certainly they will not believe it.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — December 26, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  6. >>Meanwhile, she is sure about her clear-cut racist remark will not be taken seriously
    >>because she is a confirmed-registered Marxist-Leninist.

    Ha ha! The SWP version of “i can’t be a racist because some of my best friends are asians”

    Let me also point out, that contrary to what LG wrote, Galloway did not leave Labour by his own will, he was kicked out.

    Now this little detail is not trivial: LG is trying here to say “we thought that Galloway was more radical than he turned out to be. Therefore we were correct at the time, it’s Galloway who deceived us”. Utter bollocks.

    The SWP are the ones deceiving themselves. They were defining Repect as a “united front” to justify joining it, and now accuse Galloway who founded it for “running a one-man show”. The problem with this argument is that Respect IS a party, just like the SWP, which is why the SWP should have never joined.

    Another self-deception is what we all know but the SWP will never own up to it: that they went in in order to appropriate Respect/increase recruitment. I suppose this is the ugly subconscious of the SWP: they have to face up to it in order to be cured in psycho-analytical terms. Denial will only make the problem worse.

    Unless they own up to it

    Comment by Antonis — December 26, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  7. With the fall of RESPECT, does that mean an end to their ambivalent politics towards Islamism?

    Comment by Renegade Eye — December 27, 2008 @ 6:25 am

  8. I don’t agree that the comment was racist at all. She is a leader of the SWP and hence like a member of the Socialist Party, LCR, (US) SWP etc, etc is not a racist. It’s just silly name calling to allege such

    I can’t be sure what she meant – she should have written it in a better manner – but my guess is something like:

    ‘councillors whose primary political motivation was not religious; those who considered themselves socialists before anything else.’

    Now the problem with such sentiment is that there are of course socialists of a Muslim, Buddhist, what have you, background and who may or may not be religious and who are not white e.g. PCS (civil service) trade union militant Oliur Rahman, who was elected as a Respect councillor (he switched to Labour) who met the requirement of what she sought – he is/was a socialist.

    Other Respect councillors (who just all happened to have not been white) are/were just Muslim social activists and were always liable to switch to whichever party best served their interests.

    So, yes, possibly more like Rahman and less wannabe Mullahs may have led to a different outcome.

    Comment by Southpawpunch — December 27, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  9. One odd thing here is that I heard Lindsey saying that if Respect had ‘socialist’ in its name she wouldn’t have joined it, so turning round to complain about it not being called socialist or having to compromise about the name and politics contains a certain amount of hypocrisy.

    Comment by Graculus — December 27, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

  10. Southpawpunch: ‘less wannabe Mullahs may have led to a different outcome’. What an ignorant, offensive and racist comment.

    The constraints that RESPECT faces had nothing to do with its level of support in sections of the Muslim community, something unprecedented for the left in this country, and everything to do with the limits of anti-war radicalisation, compounded by the British first past the post electoral system which makes it very difficult for smaller parties to register their real support.

    We gambled on the fracture generated in traditional British political loyalties as a result of the war going deeper than it actually did, especially in the broader labour and trade union movement. Having said that what we have built represents a significant step forward for anti-imperialist and anti-racist politics in this country, is rooted in some of the most multicultural, working class and poorest sections of the two largest cities in Britain, with some solid presences elsewhere, and has survived an SWP inspired wrecking operation. No mean achievements.

    Comment by Ger Francis — December 28, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  11. But its not socialist. And on key democratic demands, a woman’s right to choose an abortion or on lesbian and gay rights, not to mention immigration controls, a workers wage, and too many other things to mention, its got compromised and bad positions.
    And so is not a way forward for the left.

    Comment by bill j — December 28, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  12. For my sins I spend four hours every month sitting in the full council meeting of the Birmingham City Council, one of the largest local authorities in Europe. Whether it is the issue of lack of public housing, or the plight those doing worst in schools (disadvantaged white working class boys), or the Private Finance Initiative to sell of the maintenance of the city’s roads, or the plans to privatise more of our schools via the introduction of City Academies, or the disenfranchisement of Asian women and young people via the system of postal vote on demand, or the demonisation of the Muslim community because of the ‘war on terror’, or a host of other issues that only the left champion, the only councillors who speak out about them are RESPECT councillors. They are consistent in opposing neo-liberalism, racism and imperialism. It is simply toy-town bolshevism to dismiss those political stances as not being ‘socialist’ and to dismiss those who don’t adhere to revolutionary Marxist positions likewise. RESPECT is not the only way forward for the left, we don’t claim to be the holders of the one true message, but if every city in the UK had RESPECT councillors, the totality of the left would be stronger for it.

    RESPECT’s position on abortion is to defend a women’s right to choose. On the issue of gay and lesbian rights, Salma Yaqoob in particular has put an unprecedented marker down against homophobia inside the Muslim community. She argues the if Muslims demand that non-Muslims should defend their right to make lifestyles choices that they might disapprove of, like for example, the right of Muslim women to Islamic dress, then Muslims must also defend the rights of others to make lifestyles choices that they might disapprove of, like for example, the right for full equality for gay and lesbians.

    One of the problems with much of what passes as commentary about RESPECT is that it usually conveys more ignorance and sectarian prejudice about the topic, than insight.

    Comment by Ger Francis — December 29, 2008 @ 2:09 am

  13. Ger, there is a convention in the Left (you should know, you were a SWP leading cadre for a long time) that you don’t call someone else in the Left a racist, a scab, a police agent or more without justification.

    There is one person being offensive here and that is you for that scandalous and baseless slur of ‘racism’. I look forward to your retraction or would be interested to see you try and justify your comment.

    I worked for the (undivided Respect) and it was quite clear to me that there were two big poles – Lefts (like Rahman) maybe from a Trot background or a LP background or just, for example, young Asian students. The other main pole was those whose interest where primarily derived from their religious views (which were either all or overwhelmingly from Islam).

    There are, of course, crossovers and people without such definition but the contrast was stark, even early on.

    I considered whether to vote for a Respect candidate in an election, Googled him and found that he wrote extensively and apparently exclusively on Islamic jurisprudence.

    I looked carefully for his views on his website and elsewhere and found not a word on issues that would concern Lefts e.g. housing, jobs. I couldn’t even guess whether he supported trade unions or not never mind have a Left view of wanting strong trade unions.

    I meant exactly people like him when I say ‘wannabe mullahs’ and my view, from outside, is that characters like him (and I understand that those who pay many of the bills are such) now seem to be more dominant than the Left/Galloway faction.

    Comment by Southpawpunch — December 29, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  14. You’re nothing if not unoriginal Ger Francis. “Toy Town Bolshevism” never heard that one before. Please try harder. George Orwell once remarked that the poverty of political discourse was exemplified by the inability of its participants to think of anything original to say. How true.
    What I don’t get is why you can’t be honest? You were amongst those who opposed Respect being a “socialist” organisation. This was the whole reason for ditching the Socialist Alliance. Presumably you had a reason? What was it? Why can’t you honestly say?
    You were one of those who oppose Respect campaigning for a woman’s right to control her own fertility – who opposed instructing your MP George Galloway to oppose anti abortion legislation in the house of commons – presumably you had a good reason? What was it? Why can’t you honestly say?
    You were one of those who supported Respect leaving lesbian and gay rights out of it 2005 election manifesto. Why not just explain your rationale?
    Respect has ditched the struggle for socialism and many basic democratic rights, its not like its not all on public record.
    Ger Francis, for whatever reason, wants to pretend, at least on leftist blogs, that this is not the case. That’s not exactly original either.

    Comment by bill j — December 29, 2008 @ 11:38 am

  15. Southpawpunch, I didn’t mean Lindsey German is similar to Martin Amis or some thug from Nationalist Party. I just said that her remark is racist. However, my impetuous conclusion might be revised: Let’s say, in Freudian terms, Ms. German’s remark of “white socialist” is a joke, but a “tendentious joke” devised to overcome a subjective or symbolic constraint, i.e. to articulate the impermissible.

    I am not an idiot as such (“It’s just silly name calling to allege such”), I know very well what she was referring: Her wish of balance between the dismissive attitude of the French Left and the indulgent approach of RESPECT towards Asian-Muslim population. So what is the impermissible and repressed aggression here? Ironically, it is exactly the denomination that you applied: “wannabe Mullahs”. So, Ms. German transfers her aggression via a middle object “white socialists” because as an authorized figure she is not permitted to a direct primary satisfaction of employing an expression such as “wannabe Mullahs”. And again, I don’t think you or Ms. German is racist. But, both her and your expressions are highly problematic. Anyhow, your objection about a particular RESPECT candidate is understandable and requires further discussion. But my main concern here is, I’m afraid, this kind of expressions make the members of religious and ethnic minorities feel like a John the Savage.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — December 29, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  16. Billj: Quoting George Orwell will not give cover to the fact you are reduced to making untrue allegations. You claim in relation to myself that ‘You were one of those who oppose Respect campaigning for a woman’s right to control her own fertility’. This is completely untrue. You claim ‘you were one of those who supported Respect leaving lesbian and gay rights out of it 2005 election manifesto.’ Again, this is completely untrue.

    You claim ‘Respect has ditched the struggle for socialism’. Well, in light of the fact that you consider yourself, and the mirco sect you belong to, as the sole holders of the socialist truth, this comment is not surprising. But you seem to suggest the Socialist Alliance was someway socialist, whereas RESPECT is not. It you compare the programmes of both, there is no fundamental difference of policy between either.

    As for the claim about ditching ‘many basic democratic rights, its not like it’s not all on public record.’ Well, show me the record then? In a previous post I outlined some of the issues we have raised which are on the public record. For example, we have pioneered the campaign to abolishing the postal vote on demand, which is nothing less than protecting the right to vote, especially for minority ethnic working class women and youth. Your statement is simply idiotic.

    Southpawpunch: Your blanket comment about ‘wannabe Mullahs’ was at best stupid and offensive, and at worst, racist, whether you meant it to be or not. For your own sake, in future, try curb the anti-RESPECT bile before you hit the keypad. It is clouding your judgement somewhat.

    Comment by Ger Francis — December 29, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  17. Mehmet, Thanks for your interesting reply. I appreciate you taking time to justify your views (unlike – see below). I am interested in your comments that the term “wannabe Mullahs” is “highly problematic” and “this kind of expression(s) make(s) the members of religious and ethnic minorities feel like a John the Savage.” I think the key words you may make here are “religious and ethnic minorities”.

    Whilst an atheist myself, I have worked amongst Lefts, even revolutionary ones, who also identified themselves as Christians (although very few).

    I think they are wrong on this issue but it is of no direct consequence and I haven’t heard they complain about attacks by their comrades on Christianity or churches. They may not agree with it all but I am not aware they have ever seen these attacks as against Christians, like themselves, but rather against such beliefs and those that exploit the believers (the churches).

    But then as a Christian in Britain, they are not a member of a religious minority (although are actually a minority – although that’s another issue). I think the status of “member of religious and ethnic minority” may add an element of insecurity; a BNP (or even Labour, Tory) government expelling (or worse) all Muslims, or anyone not white, is pretty unlikely but also conceivable.

    There is an undoubted war against Muslims in Britain. You only need read the tabloids to see the not much disguised bigotry they fuel, and reflect, against Muslims (who interestingly, and tellingly, would once have just been called ‘Indians’, ‘Pakistanis’ ‘Asians’ etc and also, tellingly, will also be referred to now as a ‘Muslim’, even if they may be agnostic or atheist).

    I suspect that many from a Muslim background (be they religious or not) will sometimes see an attack from the Left against ‘their’ religion and its promulgators e.g. ‘wannabe Mullahs’, as an attack on them all.

    I think it would be quite understandable if this was the case and there are times were it is stupid to do such e.g. whilst the criticisms of religion would have remained, a Left series of publications including ‘What’s wrong with Judaism’ would have been very wrong in 30s Germany.

    But it’s not those times now. It is necessary. My attacks on ‘wannabe mullahs’ (or priests, rabbis etc) are not attacks on followers of those religions but on these characters and their (usually) reactionary Koran, Bible, Talmud etc based view on how things should be.

    Respect did very well in getting involved a large number of people who hadn’t been noticeably part of the Left before, in particular Asians. Like I am sure in much of the West, there is a noticeable lack of non-white faces save perhaps some graduate Asians in the British Left .

    When I would go to Respect events there would be, in roughly equal thirds – 1. White Lefts (familiar faces), 2 young Asian people (from the religious to the secular) and 3. older Asian men (often local businessmen, always religious). Of course there are exceptions to this, but sense was spoken by the first two groups; reactionary cant came from the third.

    With not many of 1. or 2. may now be Left it in Respect, it is a crying shame that the Left could not convince 2. they are an integral part of 1.

    The attack of ‘wannabe mullahs’ is part of an ongoing war to show that the class interests of e.g. Yasmin, aged 25, who works as a bank clerk and happens to identify herself as a Bangladeshi, Muslim, Asian and Briton (in that order) lie with the Left. They are with a middle aged local slum landlord, who also identifies as Muslim and Bangladeshi or with a young Asian solicitor, who wants Sharia law for Britain and who identifies himself as a Muslim and who could well end up as a Labour councillor if Respect fails.

    @Ger, I note again you make no attempt to justify your comment (how it is such) – but just reply with a bald, unsupported statement “and at worst, racist”. Pathetic, and it puts your beyond the bounds of sensible debate.

    I am also interested in how I am indulging in “anti-RESPECT bile” given that I write above that I volunteered for the (undivided) Respect. Even now I would most likely vote for Galloway, and any other Left (but not a non Left e.g. a wannabe Mullah, Priest etc), standing for Respect in an election.

    Comment by Southpawpunch — December 30, 2008 @ 2:38 am

  18. Para 3 from end should read “They are NOT with a middle aged”.

    Comment by Southpawpunch — December 30, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  19. The record speaks for itself. Respect was founded in order to ditch socialism and basic democratic rights. Lindsey German explained at the founding conference that the socialist alliance had been “too socialist” and that’s why it was necessary to found a non-socialist organisation – Respect. She had previously explained that it was also necessary to ditch socialist “shibboleths” like lesbian and gay equality, in creating the new alliance. Which it duly did, it abandoned opposition to all immigration controls, it dropped opposition to religious schools, the monarchy, MPs recieving ridiculous salaries, support for a woman’s right to choose an abortion, lesbian and gay equality etc…. the list literally goes on and on.
    What I don’t get is you were a prominent supporter of this. So presumably you think ditching socialism and equality in key areas was a good idea. Necessary for some reason. Rather than denying the facts, why don’t you explain what those reasons were?
    Of course your response is typically bilious. That’s not new either. But it also rather confirms the point doesn’t it?

    Comment by bill j — December 30, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  20. Southpawpunch, Thanks for additional explanation of your position. I had little to no information about the RESPECT quarrel, or no interest, more than taking a look at Mr. Project’s occasional posts on Marxmail and here. My first comment was the result of a sudden charge of sympathy towards the people that I feel excluded by L. German’s expression. I thought, if I were living in London and attending a RESPECT conference, I might be regarded as a part of the distinctive group which is dismissed by a fraction in the party. It had nothing to do with the intention to start a debate with the members of the SWP or with people of different point of views, neither I contemplated on my judgment carefully (I usually prefer to speak at first and later on I spend some time to think of what I said), it was just an act of rebuffing a crude classification with a similar dismissive manner. Yet I’m still standing behind my initial reaction since it was a sort of a natural consequence of Ms. German’s bizarre selection of words. That is to say, I wasn’t attempting to justify my opinion, which was not an opinion at all, but thinking of it. I mean I was pondering on why she chose this phrase which certainly signifies way too many thoughts that it probably intended be.

    I acknowledge your concern about the 3rd group, older Islamist-capitalists, who are probably among the first who exploit the cheap labor of young Muslims. However, I prefer that next time Ms. German will directly attack the reactive subjects of political Islam within RESPECT rather than offending the 2nd group or someone in the 1st group of socialists who doesn’t identify with the other two but nevertheless isn’t an Englishman.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — December 30, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  21. More bluff and bluster from billj. If you find my tone robust it is because you have made specific allegations about my political viewpoints which are untrue. I asked you to substantiate but of course you could not. That fact speaks volumes about your method of political debate.

    Comment by ger francis — December 30, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

  22. We live in a context in which ‘mullah’ is casually used to label Muslims and conjure up images of dangerous, religious fanatics. For someone who so beats their chest about their socialist credentials to throw the term around to denigrate those whose political activism is rooted in their faith, and then provide a long winded justification for doing so, only highlights how pernicious the racist virus can be.

    Comment by ger francis — December 30, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  23. @Ger

    Providing a “justification for doing (something)…only highlights how pernicious the racist virus” is, if that explanation is wrong. It’s not, my explanation is right.

    It’s fairly standard communist view of religion – attacking the ideology and institutions of same but not the believers; and also acknowledging believers (and even clerics) can be socialists.

    If you think that such an argument is ‘racist’, (or more properly, Islamophobic), you’re an idiot.

    Comment by Southpawpunch — December 31, 2008 @ 6:55 am

  24. Stop shifting the goalpost and being so politically dishonest. As you are well aware, the issue is the language you used not whether you are critical of religion.

    Comment by Ger Francis — December 31, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  25. Ger Francis – ever the innocent.

    Comment by bill j — January 2, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  26. […] From my post The fight in the SWP, part five (Lindsey German) […]

    Pingback by Has John Rees’s crew been reading Unrepentant Marxist? « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — April 11, 2010 @ 10:10 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: