The Socialist Unity Network

You're either with us or against us?

There's a double but related myth - or at least attitude - which can be summarise as 'you're either with us or against us'.


Specifically about RESPECT it runs like this. Either a) You're in RESPECT - it's a SWP front (or George Galloway front depending who you talk to) that means you are giving their terrible project credibility, I hope you fruit withers on its vine and you're corns plague you intolerably. Or b) You're not in RESPECT. That makes you a vile sectarian, only interested in the clichés and slogans of the past. Your path leads to hell my friend and may I speed you on your way.


Mother Courage would like to say the reality is a little more subtle and complex. When you meet someone in the Greens do you immediately start with "Greens! they voted for the Balkans War in Germany, are a bit liberal for my taste and frankly I think they don't understand the need for a revolutionary party on the Bolshevik model" or do you think "Ah ha! A progressive - they are a good candidate to support the anti-racist / anti-war / whatever work we are currently engaged in".


The latter I hope. But when it comes to our friends on the left we are always rather less charitable I fear. The closer to Trotsky's transition programme two socialist are the more likely they are to hate each other with a vengeance.  Perhaps I'm being unfair (although I'm not).


The fact is that all political currents have disagreements on emphasis, policy and tactics. Sometimes these disagreements are absolutely key and we will go our separate ways on these questions (being in the Labour Party for instance) and sometimes the disagreements seem rather more obscure. But when all is said and done the trick is to part company where we can reach no agreement whilst remaining allies where we continue to agree.


That's something that the left has not always been wonderful at - although at times it seems we can get over our differences.


RESPECT has created such a split. The irony is of course that the left is almost entirely in agreement that we should unite, we just don't seem able to agree on how. It's clear that many independent minded and excellent socialists will remain outside of RESPECT for all kinds of reasons, let's make sure that RESPECT supporters are still holding out the hand of friendship to those individuals so we can form as effective a force as possible in the campaigns and battles that lie ahead.


Likewise, those who have joined RESPECT are not simply pawns in the SWP's game (and for that matter SWP members are not simply pawns of the central committee) and those who have problems with RESPECT should not throw the baby out with the bath water by saying "I think you've split from me, therefore I refuse to unite with you again."


Yes the waters get poisoned sometimes and particularly on a local level there can be individuals that are hard to work with sometimes. But let's remember one key thing - it is not the left that's the enemy, we're family. Whilst families often row we are bound together by far more than that which separates us.


If we can get that right, let's hope the rest will follow.


August 2004


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