Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Galloway: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

A Matroyshka from Semyonovo - Russian dolls are highly controversial things apparently

I will write a longer post about George Galloway's decision to 'do a Kilroy' and abandon a democratically structured organisation to form a new party around his own ego and media profile later, but for now the best perspective for how Respect can move forward can be found here...

Edited to add: The Record: The SWP and Respect

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At 9:22 pm, Blogger Neil said...

Snowball you know full well that George Galloway is not leaving Respect or doing a 'Kilroy Silk'.

If fact 19 members of the Respect National Counci, including Jerry Hicks and Nick Wrack aand including the Respect Chair and Vice Chair are calling for a renewal of Respect. This is not about George Galloway and never was, its about a democortaic, plualralist, open Respect that is not controlled by the SWP and being attractive to the 100,000 who left the 'New Labour' Party or are part of no party.

There is NO witch hunt - and you are also aware (perhaps the SWP CC did not tell you) that the SWP made the decision to leave Respect some time ago to keep the patry intact - the SWP Respect conference is all about saving face while sowing as much confusion as possible in the hope of pulling some Respect memebers in the direction of the SWP.

While telling their members that the SWP were not leaving Respect (are are still telling the this) the SWP leadership were engaged in divorce negotiations on Thursday and Sunday of last week having managed to get the National Council cancelled on the back of this process - this is a matter of fact not speculation.

I would welcome the many great SWP members to stay in Respect provided and only provided that the SWP does not try to control Respect or its committees. It would appear however that both sides now need to move on.

In time we will judge who was right or wrong by the actions and not just the words of all involved over the next two years or so.

Neil Williams

At 9:43 pm, Anonymous lenin said...

I would be more impressed with Neil Williams' contribution if it didn't consist of a series of counterintuitive and counterfactual assertions. I offer the following observations.

1) The decision to circumvent Respect's consititutional structures certainly signals an unwillingness to be bound by the coalition's structures.

2) There was never any threat that Respect would be *controlled* by the SWP, which is a minority in the national officers and in the membership.

3) The SWP has been accused repeatedly of trying to 'leave' Respect, but we are the ones who have consistently argued for preserving it in its original form.

4) The SWP did not engage in 'divorce' negotiations. The SWP accepted that some people couldn't work in the original coalition, but has always insisted that it would not be driven out of Respect: hence, others would have to withdraw.

5) The 'Respect Renewal' conference is widely understood and recognised correctly as a split. The reason is that there is no provision for it in the constitution of Respect, and it handily gives those supporting George Galloway's position an excuse to avoid facing the members on the key questions (such as why they tried to depose the national secretary in circumstances outside the constitution; why they relied on leaking in bloggery and media initiatives rather than democratic discussion among members; why they wrecked meetings and ignored votes taken constitutionally etc).

The reality is that Galloway doesn't own Respect. He can't split and take the bame with him. The membership should have been given a chance to decide which side the Respect label belonged to at a democratic national conference, and now this is denied them.

At 9:55 pm, Anonymous fas said...

Sadly, Neil W. is either delusional or arguing against his better knowing. His blog carries the invitation to the 'renewal' happening by Galloway & Co, and he's got the dignity to label it 'SWP split from Respect'.

At 11:42 pm, Blogger Neil said...

Lenin i disagree with every point you make and I am a great a admirer of your blog (have a chat with Jerry Hicks some time).

You do not need to take any notice of my opinion what about those who are in the SWP or were in it until a week or two ago.
Try reading (for the readers of this Blog as i am sure you have read them):
Jerry Hicks (SWP until last week)- JERRY’S HICKS RESIGNATION FROM THE SWP at:
The contribution from the New Zealand Socialist workers Party -
RESPECT - A LETTER FROM NEW ZEALAND at (if only the SWP had taken notice!):
Nick Wrack (SWP until two weeks ago when expelled)- OUT TOWARDS THE OPEN SEA at:

Are ALL these comrades wrong Lenin?
Your other misinformation is answered by articles on my own Blog at:

Whatever the ins and out of this dispute answer this one question:

If the aim of Respect was to build a coalition that could attract many of the 100,000's who left the 'New Labour' Party, and those who belong to no party at all, how will the SWP achieve this when 95% of the non SWP people in Respect will not be at the 'SWP Respect conference' - just who will you be talking to at it, and just who will you be talking to you after it?

Neil Williams

At 5:10 am, Anonymous Canadien said...

Neil wrote: "If the aim of Respect was to build a coalition that could attract many of the 100,000's who left the 'New Labour' Party, and those who belong to no party at all, how will the SWP achieve this when 95% of the non SWP people in Respect will not be at the 'SWP Respect conference' - just who will you be talking to at it, and just who will you be talking to you after it?"

So, Neil, if the Respect conference - the constitutionally mandated one, not the Galloway roadshow down the street - has a lot more non-SWP people than that (ie. 5%), will you admit you were wrong? Or will you do like the other sectarian bloggers and simply claim anybody who is there is in the SWP by default?

At 1:06 pm, Anonymous Meaders said...

Neil asks, "Are ALL these comrades wrong?"

Yes. Yes they are.

(That was easy, wasn't it? I notice the irrationalism that comes through on the Galloway side: Neil has virtually no argument beyond a simple appeal to authority.)

By if anyone can think of a Latinesque name for GG's new organisation, I'd be very grateful.

At 1:59 pm, Anonymous Colin F saint-Denis said...

See my comments written for French comrades ('Own goal by English radical left')

La gauche radicale anglaise marque contre son camp …

La coalition RESPECT, formée seulement en janvier 2004, vit une profonde crise et se trouve au bord d’une scission définitive.

Le moins qu’on puisse dire est que cet échec constitue un revers important pour la gauche radicale en Angleterre. Se basant sur le dégoût d’une frange importante de l’électorat traditionnel travailliste pour la politique néolibérale et pro-impérialiste du gouvernement de Tony Blair et Gordon Brown, la coalition possède un député (George Galloway) et plusieurs conseillers municipaux. Ses élus de Tower Hamlets formaient avant la scission le deuxième groupe du conseil municipal de cette grande ville populaire et multiculturelle de la banlieue de Londres.

Le conflit a éclaté il y a deux mois, avec la publication par Galloway d’une série de critiques du fonctionnement des instances de la coalition et une attaque à peine voilée contre le Socialist Workers Party, et en particulier contre l’un de ses dirigeants, par ailleurs secrétaire national élu de RESPECT, John Rees. Un débat qui aurait pu, à priori, faire avancer la coalition a vite dégénéré au point où il existe aujourd’hui un manque total de confiance entre les deux camps.

Il semble que la situation très particulière dans la section de Tower Hamlets – où il existe effectivement des enjeux de pouvoir – a contribué à envenimer l’atmosphère. Des rumeurs, de fausses accusations et des exagérations, toutes répandues à une vitesse extraordinaire sur certains blogs (parfois malintentionnés), ont joué un rôle particulièrement négatif. De vieilles rancœurs ont refait surface. Comme dans toutes les luttes de tendances internes, des erreurs ont certainement été commises de chaque côté.

Il est très difficile dans cette situation de savoir qui a raison et qui a tort sur tel ou tel point. Les forces vives de la coalition sont profondément divisées. Beaucoup de militants dans chaque camp sont sans doute sincères, mais il ne suffit pas de revendiquer la légitimité « unitaire » pour avoir raison – surtout quand on jette en même temps de l’huile sur le feu. Si l’accusation lancée par la direction du SWP d’une chasse aux sorcières contre l’aile gauche voulue et orchestrée par le groupe ‘Galloway’ reste à prouver, l’idée répandue par les opposants que le SWP aurait délibérément provoqué une scission est manifestement un non-sens. S’il est légitime de critiquer les méthodes de telle ou telle composante de la coalition, il est politiquement malhonnête et injuste de se focaliser sur le seul SWP.

La participation de cette organisation au lancement de la Stop the War Coalition, puis de RESPECT, a été cruciale. Son journal, Socialist Worker, a correctement défendu George Galloway, en tant qu’opposant courageux et talentueux de la politique de Blair et de Bush, y compris quand certaines de ses activités jetaient le discrédit sur la coalition et certains de ses alliés actuels voulaient sa peau. Le SWP a également été en première ligne pour défendre la participation de Musulmans à la coalition, à un moment où la droite et la gauche pro-impérialiste jetaient l’anathème sur toute une population.

A l’heure actuelle, l’avenir de RESPECT semble plus que compromis. La conférence nationale, prévue de longue date mais boycottée par le groupe autour de Galloway (qui comprend, il faut le dire, des personnalités de premier plan comme Salma Yaqoob et Ken Loach), aura lieu le 17-18 novembre 2007. Les sections locales de RESPECT lui ont soumis un grand nombre de textes sur des questions aussi vitales pour la classe ouvrière britannique que la crise du logement, la discrimination raciale et la chasse aux réfugiés, la lutte pour un syndicalisme de combat, la violence dans les grandes villes et le mouvement contre la guerre. Le groupe d’opposants a annoncé la tenue d’un rassemblement, sous l’étiquette du ‘renouveau de RESPECT’, à la même date – un rassemblement qui n’a bien sûr aucune légitimité constitutionnelle.

Nous ignorons s’il est encore possible de sauver quelque chose de ce qui était un mouvement plein de promesse. Il faudra de toute façon tirer les conclusions avant de relancer l’unité de la gauche radicale, antilibérale et anticapitaliste. Pour l’instant, la priorité doit être le travail des militants dans les quartiers, sur les lieux de travail, dans les syndicats et dans la rue.

Saint-Denis, le 4 novembre 2007

At 6:02 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Meaders asked 'if anyone can think of a Latinesque name for GG's new organisation, I'd be very grateful'...

What about:

Ave Caesar! (Hail Caesar!)
Beatus (The blessed one)
Cave canem (Beware of the dog)
Cedo maiori (I yield to a greater person)
Credidi me felem vidisse! - (I tought I taw a puddy tat!)
De minimis - (With respect to trifles)
De nihilo nihil - (Nothing comes from nothing - Lucretius)
Delenda est Trotskyismo - (Trotskyism must be destroyed)
Decrevi - (I have decreed)
Divide et impera - (Divide and conquer)

That is just A-D - I am sure there are plenty of others!


At 6:32 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Warning - there is more...

E pluribus unum - (From many, one (motto of the USA))
Ecce homo - (Behold the man)
Ego (Consciousness of one's own identity)
Exeunt omnes - (All go out.)
Exeunt - (They go out)
Experimentum crucis - (Critical experiment)
Feles mala! - (Bad kitty!)
Heus, hic nos omnes in agmine sunt! - (Hey, we're all in line here!)
Imperium - (Absolute power)
In his ordo est ordinem non servare - (In this case the only rule is not obeying any rules)
Magister mundi sum! -( I am the master of the universe!)
Magnus frater spectat te -( Big Brother is watching you)
Maximus in minimis - (Great in little things)
Nascentes morimur - (From the moment we are born, we begin to die)
Nemine contradicente - (With no one speaking in opposition. )
In vita priore ego imperator romanus fui - (That's nothing--in a previous life I was a Roman Emperor)
Non compos mentis - (Not in possession of one's senses)
Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus - (Mountains will be in labour, and an absurd mouse will be born.)
Qui bono? - (Who benefits?)
Qui habet aures audiendi audiat - (He who has ears, let him understand how to listen)
Qui multum habet, plus cupit - (He who has much desires more - from Seneca))
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! - (Stand aside plebians! I am on imperial business!)
Ultimus Romanorum - (The last of the Romans)
Veni, vidi, vici - (I came, I saw, I conquered. -Julius Caesar)
Vitam regit fortuna, non sapientia - (Fortune, not wisdom, rules lives - Cicero))

And my personal favorite?

Stercus accidit - (Shit happens)

At 6:52 pm, Blogger Neil said...

So this is what the SWP have decended to - 'name calling' - how sad for what was a good, progressive socialist organiation that I had respect for and still respect many of its fine memebers. Not much better than the Socialist Workers Party Web site and its article with the the sub heading:
"Saint George and the Trotskyist Dragon"

Just who will you be left talking to in the 'coalition' after your SWP Respect conference?


At 7:45 pm, Anonymous Louis Proyect said...

It is simply impossible for people to work with the SWP in electoral ventures as long as it comes into them with these bogus ideas about the united front. If the SWP is the "revolutionary" component working with "reformists", you will inherently run into static. When Lenin and Trotsky wrote about united actions (and the key word is action) with reformists, he was talking about truly dreadful people who had murdered Rosa Luxemburg and scabbed on the Russian Revolution. I don't think that this term can be applied to George Galloway or the key people in Respect who are not members of the SWP. For your own sake, comrades, you have to stop thinking in these sectarian, binary modes.

At 7:56 pm, Anonymous Colin F Saint-Denis said...


People who show off in Latin are absolutely unbearable. That doesn't make them enemies of the working class.

'Saint George and the Trotskyist dragon' is what is called irony.

At 8:28 pm, Blogger Neil said...

'Saint George' hardly complimentary is it - ironic or not?


At 8:43 pm, Anonymous Colin F Saint-Denis said...

Louis Proyect seems to be carried away like so many other 'non-sectarian' socialists by all this anti-SWP hysteria going around.

Lenin was in favour of united fronts with reformists, the reformists in question were "truly dreadful" (i.e. people who murdered revolutionary workers), the SWP is in favour of a united front with reformists like Galloway et al, therefore the SWP believes that reformists like Galloway are no better than murderers, therefore no one should trust the SWP.

Could it just be that the SWP believes that in certain concrete circumstances revolutionaries and reformists can work together, and that by doing so revolutionaries can demonstrate in practice that their ideas are more coherent ? (If we didn't believe our ideas were more coherent, we wouldn't hold them).

Could it just be that we don't think the term "reformist" is necessarily an insult (the majority of workers are reformist, at best, most of the time), and that's it's worth working with people who don't agree with us all down the line ?

This is not being 'binary', simply recognising that there are differences between people who believe the system can be reformed through parliamentary action etc, and those who believe we need a revolutionary change. But such differences are not necessarily an obstacle to united action (including elections, comrade).

Such united action is even possible with people further to the right than Galloway, as in anti-fascist campaigns. We even work with trade union leaders or on occasion with people like Ken Livingstone, while fighting them in the unions when they scab on strikes etc. It's a question of having common interests at a particular time.

Building electoral united fronts is of course more complicated. Nobody said it was going to be easy, particularly given the maverick character of people like Galloway (who the SWP defended when all around were hoping he would go away). But there's nothing dishonest about trying, and nothing inevitable about failing.

At 8:55 pm, Anonymous Colin F Saint-Denis said...


Do you really expect the SWP to make complimentary remarks about GG at the moment ? I have however read a great many comments recently from SWP members praising Galloway for his public performances on Question Time etc, even at the height of sectarian attacks on their own organisation.

But surely the point is that comrades who have put in a great deal of effort building both RESPECT and the SWP and feel that their organisation is under attack (you may believe that it is not, but that's not obvious to an outside observer like myself reading some of these so-called 'Unity' blogs) are entitled to let off steam on a sympathetic blog.

This type of nitpicking, it seems to me, is part of the problem.

At 10:03 pm, Blogger Neil said...

Many of the people using the comments section of Socialist Unity have nothing to do with Respect and hate it, but Andy has a policy of no censorship which clearly has some drawbacks as well as many positive points.

I value and respect the work the many fine SWP people have put into Respect and I hope we can continue to work together in campaigns together and I also know I will see many of them in Respect (Renewal) with me.

There were also many, many members of the Labour Party that joined Respect that also worked hard that are Socialist in their own right and just as committed to progressive change for which they work day in day out.


At 10:14 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Colin - thanks for your solidarity comrade.

Neil - yes, apologies to people for being frivolous and 'name calling'. I would not want my personal comments on my blog to be taken as representative of all SWP members or a new 'SWP line'.

That said, what I have said about Galloway in the past on my blog is open for people to see - as a SWP member I have defended him against all sorts of witch-hunting, I have cheered his victories, and I even had time for him when he went on Big Brother to try and reach past the corporate media to engage a new audience with radical politics. However, it soon became apparent after Big Brother I was wrong to have placed these hopes in him and (unlike some socialists it seems) I am not now prepared to 'get fooled again' when he splits with Respect to form his own project. Sorry about that.

At 10:55 am, Blogger Neil said...

George Galloway is not spliting from Respect (this is ofocurse the SWP CC line which is attempting to sow enougth confusion to pull some members their way).

Respect will continue and the Respect (Renewal) conference on Saturday 17 November, at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, from 11am to 5pm is open to all both members and non memebesr and members of the SWP. It has the support on all the non SWP National Council members bar two and most of the elected Resect Councillors.

Its time to move (we can agree to disagree while showing respect to each other)on both sides and we DO NOT need to bring the house down around us just because there is a difference of opinion about the way forward.

For all the hear I state today that 'the door is still open for negotiations' for both sides to agree a divorce (which the SWP attended for two days the week before last and then walked away for the third days discussions last Monday). I am sure some sort of compromise agreeable to both sides can be sorted out with regard to the name 'Respect'. Would this not be helpful to all members?

I spoke to George Galloway yesterday and he quite rightly stated 'that the only people in the UK that would see Goerge Galloway as moving to the right are the SWP!!

So lets agree to dsiagree and part with dignity on both sides.

Here is the phone numbers for these divorce talks to restart:
Ghada 07958 450 867; Rob 07507 600 561; Kevin 07930 532 952

Neil Williams

At 12:30 pm, Anonymous stop stop the war said...

"A record of fighting unity and open, honest argument"

Was there ever a more accurate typo?

At 1:07 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Neil - you say Galloway is not splitting from Respect but then you want us to talk about divorce?
Sorry to have to break the news to you mate, but you are soon going to have to change the name of your blog to whatever new name Galloway comes up with...

Still I can understand why you are reluctant to face up to this reality - the 'Delenda est Trotskyismo Supporters Blog' doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?

At 5:39 pm, Blogger Jonny said...

Neil, could you clarify how you came to the conclusion that 99% of Tower Hamlets' Respect membership is supporting the "Respect" "Renewal" "conference"? That's 792 people.

At the last meeting of TH Respect, the people now pushing the Renewal con/farce were unable to get more than 30% of the well-over 100 members of Respect members present (of whom SWP members were a significant minority) to support their slate to conference. This is despite the fact that the meeting had been undemocratically and unconstitutionally called by the Renewers in order to maximise their attendance at the official Respect conference. It is also despite the fact that a significant chunk of those 800 members are paper members, bought-and-paid-for by a wealthy handful of these ambitious Galloway-acolytes.

Whether or not you agree with my description above, it is clear that your claim that 99% of these people support the Renewal conference is a baseless assertion as farcical as the conference itself. Also, your alteration to read 99% of elected officer is clearly a falsehood, please provide examples of who this 99% consists of - I get the feeling it's another porky, Neil! And your claim that 99% of the electorate support it is also utter nonsense. I'm assuming you've at least done a scientific random poll of a representative selection of Respect voters to back up your statement? Because to me and anyone with a modicum of intelligence, it stinks of desperation and idiocy!

In an aside, I have a suggestion to aid in your search for a new force to fill the (frankly indispensible) organising capacity of the SWP within your new, phoney organisation: George's loving TalkSport audience! You could be leafleting for the Renewal at the "Mother of All Egos" George Galloway fanclub convention this weekend. I'm sure there'll be plenty of recruits for you to pick up in between the cabaret, jokes about going down on Anne Widdecombe and the Castro-esque nine-hour speeches GG will be no doubt be delivering to his admirers...

"Until victory, until victory, until Blackpool!"

At 10:51 pm, Anonymous Louis Proyect said...

Colin F Saint-Denis: Could it just be that we don't think the term "reformist" is necessarily an insult (the majority of workers are reformist, at best, most of the time), and that's it's worth working with people who don't agree with us all down the line?


I am sorry, but by the SWP's logic, I am a reformist. So is the ISO in the USA. When you stop and think about it, the only genuine revolutionaries in the world are those who belong to the IST. This is an understanding of the word "revolutionary" that is fundamentally idealist. I would try to explain this to the SWP comrades, but I am afraid that my words would fall on deaf ears. The division between "revolutionaries" and "reformists" is virtually useless when it comes to formations like the Green Party in the USA, Respect, etc. Challenges to the left of New Labour and the Democratic Party have to be nurtured. People like George Galloway and Ralph Nader who have the backbone to run against the capitalist parties don't deserve to be called "reformist." "Reformist" is a insult. It is a term that is caked with one hundred years of polemical spittle.

At 5:38 pm, Blogger Un militant unitaire said...


Your method has me worried. If you keep inventing theories people don't hold in order to attack them (not very convincingly) there's not much point talking to each other is there?

"I am sorry, but by the SWP's logic, I am a reformist. So is the ISO in the USA."

What logic? Where have you ever seen anything written by the SWP suggesting they think - or should think, given their analysis - that ISO are reformists? This is just something you have apparently plucked out of thin air. It's possible to argue that the SWP leadership handled the argument with the ISO badly, but that's another problem.

"When you stop and think about it, the only genuine revolutionaries in the world are those who belong to the IST."

Another not-so-clever rhetorical trick. Of course, no-one in the SWP believes this, and if this is what they really thought, they wouldn't spend a great deal of time and energy discussing with other groups around the world. Just because they have criticisms of other groups doesn't mean they think they are reformist. In France I have some quite serious criticisms of the LCR, I think on some issues they're downright reactionary, but I wouldn't dream of calling them reformist, because it's simply not true. This of course is also the position of the SWP leadership. Now there are many so-called ‘revolutionary’ groups who literally believe this type of nonsense, most of them trying to build the umpteenth version of the International and denouncing every other group for ‘breaking with Trotskyism’ etc. Not the SWP.

"I would try to explain this to the SWP comrades, but I am afraid that my words would fall on deaf ears."

Thank for the compliment, comrade. May I suggest you take a look at some of the probably hundreds of articles SWP members have written over the last 50 + years on the nature of reformism, starting with Cliff's The Economic Roots of Reformism, or the work done on the role of the TU bureaucracy. In fact, the IS tradition is unusual on the revolutionary left in not starting out from the idea of 'betrayal', but trying to understand how and why reformist ideas generally dominate the workers' movement, how revolutionaries should try to relate to rank-and-filers etc. It is obvious to almost everyone that movements like the Anti Nazi League or Stop the War would probably never have existed or at least been so successful without the intervention of the SWP. In both cases, the SWP were attacked by the ultra-left because the ANL/Stop the War were not "revolutionary" enough (nonsense like "You can't fight racism if you don't call for the overthrow of the capitalist system"). The IS is also unusual in that in the absence of a serious electoral alternative such as RESPECT it has consistently called for support in elections for reformist workers' parties against openly Tory parties.

"The division between "revolutionaries" and "reformists" is virtually useless when it comes to formations like the Green Party in the USA, Respect, etc."

Yes and no. Even if the Greens in the USA et al are reformist in the sense that they don't call for the revolutionary overthrow of the system, it is well worth exploring how far it's possible to collaborate with them. In the British case, it's the Greens who have not been keen on electoral agreements. There are Left Greens and Right Greens, just as in every tendency. Many individual Greens have an extremely radical critique of corporations etc which can form the basis of a real dialogue. But some Green parties have taken extremely reactionary positions, participated in coalitions with Social Democrats and so on. This is simply to say that many political formations don't fall neatly into a left/right division and that there are conflicting tendencies within them. The same is true of 'altermondialistes' etc. This is the ABC of political analysis which I learned from ... the SWP. (By the way, the Australian section of the IST, as well as Socialist Alternative, another group in the IS tradition, are calling for a vote for the Greens in the coming general election.)

"Challenges to the left of New Labour and the Democratic Party have to be nurtured."

Precisely ! Odd you haven't noticed that it's the basis of IS/SWP strategy over the last few years. What do you think the SWP and other IST groups and individuals have been trying to do, more or less consistently, with RESPECT, Stop the War, Die Linke, Rifondazione, the collectifs unitaires in France, PSOL in Brazil, the Dutch Socialist Party, until recently the Socialist Alliance in Australia etc etc ? That's not to say they have always been very good at it, or that all these groups have been interesting, but as we know it's a lot easier to theorise than to put ideas into practice. You experiment, you commit yourself, you learn from experience. You don't stand aside from the real movement and preach 'revolution' from a soapbox. That's just elementary.

"Reformist" is an insult."

It's clear this isn't going to get through, but you are absolutely wrong, at least as far as the IS tradition is concerned. It's your interpretation again. 'Reformist' is a political category which can be used, with care, to explain why and how people behave in certain ways. We sometimes find ourselves on the opposite side from reformists; more often, we are in the same organisations and movements (trade unions, for example), competing for political leadership. There are some excellent reformists who are a damned sight more interesting than any number of 'revolutionary' sects. Tony Benn is certainly a reformist (who's moved left over the years). He's also in many ways a very positive figure, on the side of workers in struggle, against the war in Irak etc., and is frequently invited to speak by the SWP. In some situations (Germany 1919- 23) some reformist leaders side with the bosses and attack workers physically, killing their leaders. Others break away to the Left. There's a dialectic here. No-one - at least not genuine Marxists - is talking about fixed categories.

Now can we start to have a real discussion, please? (And sorry to be so long, but short ever-so-clever posts which ignore what other people are saying get me slightly annoyed).

Colin F Saint-Denis

At 12:46 am, Anonymous Louis Proyect said...

Colin F:
"Reformist" is an insult."

It's clear this isn't going to get through, but you are absolutely wrong, at least as far as the IS tradition is concerned.


Yeah, well, you have your traditions and I have mine. Reformist is a dirty word on the left, as is "Menshevik", opportunist, etc. As far as dividing the socialist movement between those who are for revolution and those who are against it, that doesn't get you very far. The CPUSA says it is for revolution, so do the Spartacist League. Basically, slinging these terms around is a function of the subculture created by the followers of Leon Trotsky--including Cliff, Cannon, Grant, Healy et al. Some day that subculture will disappear but for the time being those who want to embrace it will get no quarrel from me. I regard all small socialist propaganda groups as fulfilling a useful function in a period when the class struggle is at a low ebb. They promote basic Marxist ideas among students and working people. I am quite sure that many thousands of young people first heard about socialism from a member of a group like the SWP. I myself first heard about it from Nathan Pressman, a member of Daniel DeLeon's party in 1956. I regard people like Alex Callinicos as the Nathan Pressman's of today.


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