As anyone who reads the leading left blogs will know, the Socialist Workers' Party has expelled three of its leading members as part of their fight with George Galloway over the future of Respect. It seems that the comrades were disloyal to the SWP and were willing to take part in Galloway's coup against John Rees (see their official explanation below).
The fact that they were chucked out by the SWP does not make them martyrs. I say that first and foremost because I do not accept the Cliffite "logic" that you determine what you are for according to what you are against - I am not on the side of the homophobic Stalinist George Galloway just because he is against the SWP. That would be ludicrous - one of my main objections to the SWP is its willingness to ally with such figures.
Frankly, I think the SWP had every right to expel members who undermined their organisation's position, even if I disagree with the "coalition" to which this whole fiasco relates. It would be wrong to empathise with ill-disciplined pro-Respect popular frontists out of pleasure in the Socialist Workers' Party's difficulties (though nor do I condone the SWP's allegedly undemocratic behaviour in Tower Hamlets Respect).
There is of course some possibility that the Galloway-Rees clash will make some people realise how bankrupt the whole project is - the very mild criticism of religious communalism which has started to emanate from the SWP will surely lead some members to ask themselves why they lined up with Stalinists, Islamists and Brick Lane businessmen to start with. Most of those who grow disaffected with the SWP will no doubt give up on the left, blaming that organisation's culture on "Leninism" or working class politics. I have met dozens of anarchists who used to be in the SWP cult.
What the collapse of Respect shows is the futility, even on the most dishonest and "tactical" level, of abandoning socialist politics in favour of a shot at the big time. The ego clashes are irresolvable, never mind the contending class forces. We need to unite the socialist left around working class politics - like the RMT's proposed candidature in the London Assembly elections - a step which may help save at least some activists from becoming mere débris of the Respect faction fight.
From the SWP's Party Notes
Last weekend 3 SWP members - Rob Hoveman, Kevin Ovenden and Nick Wrack were expelled from the SWP.
Kevin and Rob
Kevin and Rob are SWP members working for George Galloway. However, recently this situation has become increasingly difficult. The party leadership has come to believe that it was impossible to have two comrades working for someone who has openly attacked the SWP in recent months. This was a position several leading members of the SWP articulated at the recent Party Council. Also over the last year there have been a number of meetings between the CC and Rob and Kevin.
At these meetings the CC raised major concerns with the way both these comrades worked in Respect. We believe that they were more concerned with promoting George Galloway’s line in Respect than the SWP’s position.
More seriously, they have denounced the SWP to individuals and organisations outside the Party.
Two members of the CC met with Kevin and Rob last week, they were asked to resign their posts in George Galloway’s office. Kevin and Rob have subsequently written to the CC refusing to stop working for George Galloway despite the party’s concerns.
The recent Respect NC voted to create a new position of National Officer. The SWP believed that the post was created to undermine Respect National Secretary John Rees. However, after some changes to the way the post was defined, the SWP agreed to setting up of the post. George Galloway then suggested that Nick did the job. Nick said he would seek various people’s opinions.
The SWP made it clear that we didn’t think Nick should accept the job because he had publicly disagreed with the line being put by the party about Respect. This would have created confusion in the Respect national office. Nick met with two members of the CC and agreed to accept party discipline and not take the post. Several days later his name was put forward by a member of International Socialist Group for the post. When asked, Nick refused to withdraw his name saying he had changed his mind and now wanted his name to go forward.
Despite a further meeting with two members of the CC and several phone calls, Nick refused to withdraw from standing for the post. There are occasions when the CC may ask a comrade not to take a post, perhaps a full time trade union position, or promotion to a job that puts someone in an untenable position. Nick was therefore expelled because he refused to work under the direction of the SWP leadership and reneged on the agreement he made with the CC.
It is important to make one thing clear, the three comrades have not been expelled because they disagreed with the Central Committee. It is because they failed to accept Party discipline and worked against the nationally agreed SWP line.
Expelling comrades is not something the CC does lightly, but in all three cases we felt we had no choice.