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
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.