The Socialist Unity Network

Marxism fringe report

Nick Bird

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.


July 2004


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism