Last Saturday I wandered outside the University of London Union building, only to find the pompous Stuart Richardson laying into our comrade Sofie Buckland.
Stuart, a leading member of the International Socialist Group (British section of the “Fourth International”), had the Respect Renewal newspaper on him, which led me to assume that he was having a go at Iranian gay people, or perhaps substantiating his leader’s claim that embryo research “blasphemes against the very idea of God”.
After all, since the ISG joined up with George Galloway and disbanded its own newspaper in favour of the RR organ, it has not written a single word in criticism of the Stalino-Catholic MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and its members have somersaulted through all sorts of logical contortions to justify Galloway’s bigotry.
But no, Stuart was telling Sofie about her alleged support for a US attack against Iran. Funny, she’s never said or written anything to that effect, and plenty to the contrary. Not a very interesting argument.
Anyway, I hadn’t seen Stuart for a while, and I always enjoy a chat with him, so I took the opportunity to ask him about his theft of over £400 from the bank account of North Birmingham Socialist Alliance four years ago. Stuart was defensive about this ‘Mariam Appeal moment’ – after pretending for a while that the allegation that he had taken money from the SA was simply untrue, he then said that he hadn’t done it for personal gain. Rather confirming my initial claim that he wanted to transfer the funds to Respect.
Of course, I wouldn’t dream of casting aspersions on the financing of Respect Renewal – I’m sure that Galloway’s massive salary and expenses are quite enough to keep them going, and the Iranian regime probably doesn’t even need to pay Galloway to be their useful idiot. It is the politics of the ISG comrades which are disappointing – is this really the continuation of the Left Opposition and the Fourth International?
For what the ISG were getting up to inside ULU was even worse than the arguments they made on the steps. Having written nothing in response to two articles in Respect by Galloway calling for a first preference vote for Ken Livingstone, not even on their own website, the ISG decided to make an independent stand at their conference. A stand which, I might add, has only been publicised via an eight-line “article” on the blog of ISG fellow traveller Liam MacUaid.
The stance they took, amazingly, was to call for a first-preference vote for the Green Party candidate Sian Berry in the London Mayoral Election. Seems funny, given that the social base of the Green Party is the petty-bourgeoisie and they have not one union affiliation. Seems funny given that Jenny Jones – one of their two London Assembly members – voted against the sacking of police chief Ian Blair.
Of course, we all know that the reason is the ISG’s shift to “eco-socialism” - largely characterised by cosying up to the leaders of the Campaign Against Climate Change and having nothing to say about the working class or transitional demands – and presumably they think that they can tap into the wishy-washy liberal Green vote if they boycott their own politics. This closely parallels their reason for immersing themselves in Respect Renewal – namely that the ISG has nothing to say and no reason to exist, and after tailing the SWP for a while has found a niche for itself by licking the boots of Galloway, now that the rest of the left wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.
We might recall that the first line of Trotsky’s Transitional Programme, cornerstone of the Fourth International, reads “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat”. This was always a bit of a red herring (even in 1938 it was hardly the case that the proletariat was chomping at the bit but constantly sold out by reformists), although that’s hardly cause to give up on the working class altogether.
I’m sure that Sian Berry is sincere and probably quite left wing. But that’s the answer to the wrong question. How does backing the Greens (I’m sure it will be essentially uncritical support) serve the cause of working-class political representation? How will it help the ISG relate to workers disaffected with New Labour? What does it do to further the cause of left unity?
The ISG doesn’t care. They are only interested in surfing on the wave of popularity for the not-so-great-and-good, like Galloway and the Green liberals. They have dismantled their own public presence. They mask their own existence. They abandon all of their own analysis, ideas and understanding of the world. They try and find a niche in bourgeois politics. They become a pisspoor impression of Socialist Action.