Marxism fringe report
The 'Marxism fringe' is a handful of meetings
organised by smaller left groups during the SWP's annual Marxism
event. If the hope is to lure SWP members away from the official
programme then it is largely unsuccessful. However, in the spirit of
socialist unity I attended the meeting 'What went wrong with the
Socialist Alliance?' What better way to end a Sunday afternoon, I
thought, than to listen to my party being roundly abused by all sides?
Many of those present were supporters of the
Socialist Alliance Democratic Platform, which claims to have inherited
the legacy of the SA - a rather contentious claim given that most of
them walked out of the last SA conference having lost the vote.
Nevertheless, the SADP encompasses many viewpoints and it is in the
interests of any long term unity project to maintain a dialogue
between those of us in Respect and those regrettably outside who are
serious about building a non-sectarian, pluralist left.
I must be honest though and say that the general
tone of the contributions, from the platform and the floor, was not
very encouraging. To the extent that the meeting discussed the SA, we
had the usual list of the SWP's 'crimes' plus the personal experiences
of Steve Godward and Sue Blackwell, two comrades who may have been
roughly treated in the past but as a result seem set on a trajectory
that I can only regard as a political dead end.
There seems to be little willingness to engage with
Respect or even wait and see how it develops. AWL members in
particular were very negative, reciting the same tired charges against
George Galloway and dismissing Muslim activists in Respect as the
'organised right wing' of the Muslim community.
A Workers Power member declared that nothing short
of a full revolutionary programme should be put before the electorate.
Was he really from the same group that was supporting a single-issue
campaigner as the 'left unity' candidate in the Leicester by-election?
(A candidate of such broad appeal that he was subsequently defeated by
the official loony.) What's more, the SWP had abandoned the working
class and was building a middle class organisation!
In this context, some of the more constructive
contributions to the meeting came from CPGB members and other
individuals in the SADP who have joined Respect. Whatever political
disagreements may exist, they at least recognise that the coalition is
still in a formative state, politically and structurally, and want to
be part of the debate about its development.
But for those who ritually denounce Respect and
talk of standing against it, well, you cannot have a dialogue with a
recorded message. I expect they'll be back next year at another fringe
meeting but, for me, I think the memory of this one will be sufficient
for one lifetime.