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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Losing all Respect

Back in the 1980s, through the highs and lows of the Thatcher regime, it was clear to many that the Socialist Workers Party would never make a revolution. Politics aside, they just didn't take security seriously. Before they could set up a workers' state, at the very least they would have to stop losing contact books/diaries/internal documents etc. every time they did a newspaper sale or went to NUS conference. Without professionalism, their (wrong-headed) politics wouldn't get practical results. (Admittedly, today 'security' is an issue that the pro-war left uses to criticise the SWP as cult-like, but its real absence meant I knew better than to give Tony Cliff's merry band my personal details, even at age 15.)

Cut forward to the present day and not much has changed. The Cliffites are now the majority faction in Respect, standing 51 candidates in the local elections where I live. Campaigning hard in an unfashionable area of London where the gentrification process is slow is no excuse for the usual sloppiness. Thrust into my hand on Saturday morning was a campaign leaflet and a canvassing rota. Thanks guys.

Good luck to Ahmed and Elias, Ismail and Fotik and Jackie and Shelim as they pound the streets in their assigned pairs. Not that I need to know these details, but I guess old habits die hard.

Running for Tower Hamlets council also means bashing its New Labour leader, Goldsmiths sociology professor Michael Keith. The comrades might want to think about whether this is the right rhetoric:

'Council leader Michael Keith is the Nutty Professor ... chair of the body which wants to cram 40000 more houses into the East End - as long as they're private and for outsiders. [Note the shades of the slogan 'Island homes for Island people' here - ed.] He is also holding down his day job as sociology professor .... send Michael Keith back to his classroom, his books and theories.' (Vote Respect 06, front page.)

Where does such philistinism leave (striking) Natfhe/AUT members, whose ranks include several SWP workmates of mine and SWP head honcho Alex Callinicos? Does the pressure elsewhere to sack lecturers with the wrong ideas mean that Keith will also be first against the wall? Or, less glibly, is it now Respect's line to keep academics out of local politics?

Congratulations to P and J on the birth on their son this weekend. Let's hope he takes after his mother ...


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