Monday, January 29, 2007

SWP expels leading member

I have waited a couple of weeks before breaking this news, because I wanted to hear it from independent sources, so as not to compromise those SWP members who told me earlier in confidence.

Respect National Council member, Ger Francis, has been expelled by the SWP, over Ger’s role in swinging a selection of candidates in Birmingham contrary to the SWP’s wishes.

This isn’t just gossip, because the relationship between the SWP and broader left projects such as Respect, is a vital part of the left landscape in these islands. Indeed, the recent decision of ISG members, Alan Thornett and John Lister to withdraw from Respect’s national officers’ group leaves Respect without a fig leaf.

Ger’s expulsion raises some important issues.

Firstly, the constant argument used by Respect’s supporters, usually SWP members, is that it has achieved electoral success.

This is true, but there is need for some perspective, and I carried out the following analysis of the 2005 general election. (See also my psephological round up in 2004, and this analysis of the European elections.) “Respect's good votes predominantly came in about 10 constituencies, where there was no prospect of a Tory victory, and where there were large Moslem populations.”

The 2006 local elections reinforced this trend, and it was remarkable that most Respect councillors elected were Muslims. Jim Jepps analysed the 2006 election results , and demonstrated that there was nothing unique about the preference of Respect’s voters supporting Muslim candidates in wards with a large Asian population. Instead: “there is a strong tendency for the voters of all the parties to favour (sometimes only slightly) candidates with Asian names over those with non-Asian names”

However, Respect’s over-identification with the Muslim community did raise an obstacle towards Respect growing beyond that small proportion of voters for whom the Iraq war was the overriding issue. The SWP in Birmingham wanted the candidate for the 2007 local council elections to have a gender and political balance that better reflected the diversity of Birmingham’s population. However Ger Francis both argued against and voted against the SWP in favour of a slate of candidates with a preponderance of Muslim men. For this he was expelled.

This is a serious blow for Respect, as if the elections result in their base of elected councillors being even more predominately Muslim, then they have lost perhaps they last chance to break out of the bridgehead they have established. Ger seems to have pandered to a backwards and incorrect position that electoral success requires Asian candidates.

As I have argued before the electoral success of respect has simultaneously strengthened the existence of a space to the left of labour, while creating an obstacle to the left actually filling that space.

Of course the other problem for Respect is that is not only seen as an SWP front, it is an SWP front. As Liam Mac Uaid reports: “The problem was distilled to its essence by one comrade who put the question "How can I ask someone to join Respect? It's got a MP who does what he wants, no internal political life and is dominated by a semi-Stalinist organisation?"”

The rise and fall of Ger Francis exemplifies the unacknowledged “star system” that the SWP employs.

This was described by the now defunct International Socialism Group as follows: “Once a new perspective is declared, a new cadre is selected from the top down. The CC select the organisers, who select the district and branch committees - any elections that take place are carried out on the basis of `slates' so that it is virtually impossible for members to vote against the slate proposed by the leadership. Any members who have doubts or disagreements are written off as `burnt out' and, depending on their reaction to this, may be marginalised within the party and even expelled. These methods have been disastrous for the SWP in a number of ways: Each new perspective requires a new cadre (below the level of the CC), so the existing cadre are actively marginalised in the party. In this way, the SWP has failed to build a stable and experienced cadre capable of acting independently of the leadership.” (This ISG has no relation to the current USFI section, also called ISG)

Sadly, Ger was and is a political thug. He has played a disastrous role in both Birmingham Stop the war Coalition, and the Socialist Alliance, as has been fully documented by Sue Blackwell and Rumy Hassan. Ger polarised the left in Birmingham, using bureaucratic manoeuvres and allegedly even physical intimidation, to exclude those, like Steve Godward, who were regarded as “unhelpful” to the implementation of every wheeze that came from London. Instead of developing an empowering environment for independent minded activists, Birmingham SWP have sought to reduce the anti war movement to an army of automatons who will do what they are told. Ger was a star comrade because he got “results”. As recently as last September he was re-elected as an SWP member back onto Respect’s national Council. Even after being sacked as a full timer in 2002 he remained the SWP’s main figure in Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.

Because the SWP does not have any internal democratic mechanisms for the cadre to independently debate and resolve these sort of differences, the political gap between Ger and the London leadership has been conducted by the granting and then withdrawal of patronage. This political culture has allowed the SWP itself to operate for a number of years, relatively insulated from the harsh political climate, but it is a serious obstacle when it comes to working with other activists more used to the traditional democratic norms of the British labour movement.


Tawfiq Chahboune said...

Respect is a funny organisation. It's an unholy alliance between Galloway (an MP who will say and do whatever he wants) and the SWP. The only thing that they seem to agree upon is that democracy is a bad thing and that people are too stupid to have a say in almost anything. The neocon "Left" are mad to call Respect "fascist"; it's just an amusingly pointless coalition.

I don't know how many of you have read that pamphlet concerning Galloway's expulsion from Labour. It's meant to make him look like some sort of hero. In fact, it makes him look very silly indeed. GG fought like mad to stay in the Labour Party. It was only after his expulsion that talk of creating a Party off (or even on) the back of the Socialist Alliance.

He showed no interest in such an enterprise until he found himself facing losing his seat and unable to run for another. It was sheer opportunism that made him throw in his lot with the SWP. Otherwise, he'd be doing the Tony Benn routine: the Labour Party is the only solution. How depressing.

As I always say, the solution to all our problems is the Labour Party, which is also substantially our biggest problem. Those brilliant socialist comrades in it are giving it a veneer of respectability. Can you imagine what would happen if the campaign group split from the Labour Party? That's the start of a mass organisation. Respect would then wither away, as it should and surely will.

The revolutionary Left would be a segment within a mass, truly Left Party and their revoultionary Leninist-Trotskyist vanguardist fantasies would be diluted by building a Party that can organise a population against war and privatisation, and start the rollback of Thatcher-Blair.

John B said...

I agree that coming 2nd in a parliamentary seat and getting a councilor elected was a complete waste of time and totally vindicates the position of people like Jim Denham in Birmingham. How dare the SWP join with MUSLIMS! to out vote other SA members. We could all be sitting around right now discussing the incompatability of Islam and Marxism rather than wasting our time with council chambers.

As for Ger Francis I reserve judgement. I heard that he persistently went against agreed party positions. If i'm wrong then I will take an interest.

And yes there is an appeal mechanism. In my experience people never use it because in most cases the political differences are real.

And yes its perfectly true that the culture within the SWP over emphasises action over debate and this is potentially a problem. But look outside the SWP at the general level of activity and the disproportionate amount of pessimism and factionalism, god look at the utter level of confusion with regard to Islam, look at the utter failure of non aligned leftists and heinz beans parties to group together and start working in a coherant way. The SWP hasn't developed its culture in isolation

Youd think the absence of the SWP would be a god send. Or is this our fault as well. Its not like there arn't hundreds of small towns and boroughs across the UK without an SWP presence, the field is open, go to it and show us how it should be done.

As for Respect being an SWP front- well you can try it, but its going to be hard with only 2 of the 20 odd elected representatives so far being SWP members.

In the end I guess we will be proved right or wrong. The point is surely that the way we organise at least alows the question to be posed.

What does all this axe grinding achieve, or is part of some situationist plan to take over the world by blog?

And what democratic traditions of the British labour movement are you referring exactly? The Labour Party, the CP… please.

badmatthew said...

Is the ISG defunct? Do they know?

Respect ain't over. I agree it is mostly an SWP operation and that is a shame, but you don't demonstrate by quoting Liam to say that Galloway is unaccountable. It just shows that it isn't a total front for the SWP! And Ger Francis's expulsion just shows that the SWP is trying to build something wider than what they've got - and that must be a good thing!

AN said...

John B,

You are arguing against a straw man, obvioulsy I don't agree with Jim Denham, and your attempt to conflate his position with my argument is a little disingenuous. But hey if you shout the word Islamophobia everytime someone disagres with you, then you won't have to indulge in any debate at all.

There is a serious argument that could perhaps be made about how the current anti-democratic culture in the SWP has evolved in opposition to other left groups, particularly the AWl and its ancestors, but the fact that we can understand where somthing has come from does not mean we have to accept it.

With regard to Birmingham, the vote acheived are impresive, but only at enormous cost in terms of damaged working relations on the left, and to a large extent the Birmingham events torpedoed the Socilaist Alliance at a national level. Respecxt is already finished, so we know you have been proved wrong - of course as an organisation it will stagger on a bit loinger, and may even get some more councillors elected, but no inxddependent left activists are ever going to touch it with a barge.

I agree with you that it is much easier to organise in towns like swindon where we don't have the SWP anymore. I know other comrades in smaller towns have the same positive experience, but at a national level we cannot work around the issue of the SWP and the SP.

Your argument about resepct not being an SWP front is of course partially correct, you also have elected representaives who are unaccountable. Who is Salma Yacoob answerable to? are there democratic mechanisms to guide her work? BUt the national structures, and nearly all the local structures are totally dominated by SWP members.

With regard to democratic traditions, well actually before the more recent rule changes the labour party did have a democratic structure, and many of us grew up with it. (and the CPB is also more internally democratic than the SWP).

And even though many unions are not very deocratic - they do (usually) follow the rule book - and activists are often dismayed by SWP rewriting the rukes of organisations for short term factional advantage (Brum STW springs to mind)

AN said...

Matthew, not the ISG as the Brit section of the USFI, but the ISG that were around in the 1990s, as split from the SWP(what was the name of the full timer who formed it, i cannot remember, I know I voted to endorse the Control Commission account of his expulsion at conference!).

You know - the ones who published Jim Higgins' book.

cbmilne33 said...

Tuesday/30 January/2007.Sender:Colin Bruce Milne.Te Awamutu.Waikato.3800.New Zealand.Dear Comrades/Citizens,It is such a shame to see that the Trotskyists are getting to be no more different from the Stalinists in their Great Purge Mania.I would like to recommend the formation of a World Socialist Alliance who would be able to put the different national/sectarian issues in the greater Global Perspective-remember the good old slogan:Workers Of The World Unite.Incidentally can you please get listed on Vast Left Wing Conspiracy Website:Vast Left Wing Conspiracy
,it could help you to get linked up with your fellow Leftists.Yours Fraternally,C.Bruce Milne.C.B.Milne.

Liam Mac Uaid said...

I think I can prove that GG is unaccountable. Only two members of Respect knew that he was going into Big Brother. He rarely attended branch meetings and only once attended branch committee meetings during my time on the BC. A lot of the time most members didn't know which country he was in, never mind what he was doing in the consituency. Anytime I tried to bring in Labour Party type structures various SWP staff members would rubbish the idea. Have a look at his website. Does it resemble that of a MP fighting his party's corner or a man preparing his post parliamentary media career?

Louisefeminista said...

But it is interesting that people are commenting about the structures of the LP and comparing them to democratic centralist orgs like the SWP and many others. Interesting as well what Liam says about bringing in LP type structures. There are Blairites who, I am sure, prefer the idea of democratic centralism and following the line.

AN said...

let us be clear here Louise, I am talking about the historical structures of the labour party.

the Blairites have irrevocably broken the relationship between the CLPs and conference, and local authorities no longer have the power to build a base.

Labour is finished as a vehicle for the left.

Louisefeminista said...

"Labour is finished as a vehicle for the left".

Well, tell that to the Labour Left oh and tell that to the McDonnell supporters in the LP as well. Frankly I get sick of that argument as it is getting past its sell by date.

Cheerleading from the sidelines gets you nowhere. At least lefties in the LP are trying to make their voices heard.

What, pray me tell, are the people outside the LP doing?

AN said...

The fact that you are tired of hearing an argument is not exactly a refutation of it!

The left aroung mcDonnell is very small, and has no prospect of success.

The onus is on those of you in the Labour Party to make a case for membership.

the "cheering from the sideleines" argument pays no recognition to the reality. What do uou personally actually acheive by being an individual member of the party?

Anonymous said...

A few points: Firstly, Ger was not a 'leading member' of the swp. He has basically operated 'freelance' for at least two years, but has never actually broken discipline before.
Second, towns like Swindon may have cosy relationships on the left, but do they actually get anywhere? We need progress not just cuddles!

AN said...

note the following discussion about resect on Dave osler's blog:

AN said...

Well "anonymous", Ger was a former full timer, who was on the Respect national Council, and a leading figure on Birmighnam STW. He was described by JOhn Rees at the respect 2005 conference as "salma Yacoob's right hand man" and indispencible to the devlopment of respect in birmingham.

If you don't reagrd him as a leading memebr, then that reinfoirces the truth of the argument that the SWP has no layer of independent cadre between the CC, and the rank and file.

This preceisly proves the "star system" where comrades who fit the current line are lionised and promoted, and when the line changes, a new layer of star comrades are pushed forward.

SActually, yes we get a lot done in Swindon.

Do you actually get anywhere? I first joined the SWP in 1978, when we claimed about 3500 members, and the party is clearly no more than half the size it was then. Older, more tired, less respected, lower theroetcial level, and less embedded in the unions. Some progress.

the paid print sale of the paper was 20000 in 1980, what is it now? 4000? 3000?

If you thin I am wring, then what are the membership figiuresl, and what are the paper salles, and what is the union fractions compositions?

Anonymous said...

The CP left the stage of history in Britain and the SWP took its place. It's just another stalinist organization representing the union bureaucracy and the white collar workers ie labour aristocracy. But lets put it into historical perspective - the CP once had 50,000 members and 2 MPs answerable to the party. The SWP probably have no more than 5000 members on paper and an MP who is answerable to himself and Allah.
It is only due to the sorry state of the British left that the SWP seem so significant. With the death of Cliff it is only a matter of time before the wolves fight over the sorry spoils of what's left of his legacy and then it will be up to the historians to write their footnotes and obiturary. RIP SWP!

The Sentinel said...

You want to play under handed games? Fine.

I am just going to keep posting now, you remove it, I repost it.

You may as well enable 'comment moderation' now and show everyone what a hypocritical shallow bunch of deluded fools you really are: censorship and 'fascism' is all your about.

John B said...

AN it seems to me you have a formulaic view on how a new left alternative will arise, based on a rose tinted view of the SA and a demonstably wrong analysis of the SSP which has trajically proved to be far from some pluralistic unifying force. A new democratic outward looking (see my party coding there) left party simply isnt going to be built by an acumulation of 'independent' leftists and groupiscules.

To put it simply I would be happy to take a work colleague to a Respect meeting/conference but would cringe of the thought of taking them to an old SA meeting (dunno maybe youre experiences were better).

One of the points of centralised party leadership is the ability to draw in experiences across the country and identify the key oportunities for advance. That is what led to the transformation of the SA into Respect. Because of the experieces people were having in big population centres within STWC. The frustration of individuals who were becoming comfortable with small town SA identities is understandable but to base a national strategy on such parochial experiences rather than the national picture would have been a abnegation of party leadership. Therefore I'm with Rees on that one.

I simply dont agree with you about democratic structures in the UK left, ive been in several SWP branches and never seen any inteferance by the centre in the election of conference delegates, which is more than I can say for the LP. Dont know enough about internal CP democracy to comment.

And to say Respect may get more councilors but is already dead frankly sounds rather contrary and a bit like wishful thinking on your part.

Respect may fail if and when it looses electoral momentum. One would have to ask why Labour is taking it so seriously on the ground if their organisers thought it was a dead duck already?

Anyway, best of luck with your campaigning comrades.

Anonymous said...

As Robin Cook used to say when asked why he would not work with Galloway.
"look for the taxi receipts"

War on Want.
4 Am cabs to mistress.
Young baby at home
expenses fiddling.
spiv first Stalinist second.

The old communists in Dundee sussed it a decade before.

Jim Denham said...

Seeing as how this episode has pretty well confirmed everything I (and the AWL) have ever said about 'Respect'...why is Andy Newman so keen to say that "obviously" his analysis has nothing to do with my position (over the past several years) on 'Respect'?

I can understand a purely tactical, opportunist reluctance to be seen by the SWP/Respect and their periphery, to be seen to be agreeing with sharp and consistent critics of communalism like myself and the AWL.

AN said...

JOhn B, yu say: "ive been in several SWP branches and never seen any inteferance by the centre in the election of conference delegates"

But delegates are no longer eledted by bracnches but by disricts and the full time organiser is involved in drawi up the slate, or if not the district committee does. Actually it is hard to get delegated from an outlying branch now. This is not necessarily interference, but it is tip down. My experience n more recent year was that it was hard to find anyone prepared to go to conference.

Jim. some of what you say is right, and some is wrong. In prticular you make a mistake of extrapolating from the Birmingham experience of STWC and assuming it is like that everywhere.

AN said...

and JOhn B, I certny don't have a formulaic view of how we procedd to a new left oarty, as I don't know what we need to do next.

Nor do I mythologise how oos the SA was, it had many of the same faults as Rrespect, but Respect has them worse.

Dave A said...

The AWLcriticise communalism while opposing demands for the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq now.That's just a slightly different flavour of opportunism that the SWP's project in the undemocratic, populist Respect. Two different dead ends.

badmatthew said...

The latest SW has an interesting account of the fall-out in Birmingham Respect. It would need someone with participant knowledge and no axe to grind to commne t on its accuracy, but it certainly provides evidence that Respect isn't simply a front for the SWP. They didn't get their own way on having Helen Salmon as a candidate, just as they don't seem to always get thir own way in Tower Hamlets. It might well be different elsewhere, but in two key places for Respect, saying 'front' just doesn't work.

Jim Denham said...

Yes,'Badmatthew': where it isn't an SWP front, it's even worse: a misogynistic group of small businessmen and Islamic bigots.

AN said...

Well I'm not sure I would agree with that charctaerisation of the Muslim component of Respect, I certanly know some Muslim supporters of Respect who are not bigots or misogynist.

It would seem the SWP control the ational structures, having come to a working understanding that they will make no attempt to control galloway (or even more bizarrely Ron MacKay), but at local branch level there are loyalties around certain local Asian personalities.

So while I don't quite agree with the way Jim Denham decsibes it, he dosn have a point.

Anonymous said...

The position of McKay is certainly bizarre.
Galloways corrupt thug sidekick seems to be able to do as he pleases.
He does of course know where all Georges financial sketons are to be foun d,so I guess that makes him untouchable.

AN said...

As an editorial comment from the published of the blog (in the sens eof legal accoountabilty)

I am sure that anonymous intended to refer to the notoriously litigous Mckay and galloway thus:

"Galloway’s allegedly corrupt thug sidekick seems to be able to do as he pleases.
He does of course allegedly know where all George’s alleged financial skeletons are to be found, so I guess that makes him untouchable.

Anonymous said...

yes. thank you.
The same Ron McKay who allegedly received Oil payements direct into his personal account, and six years later moved them to the "correct" account.

AN said...

Yeah, the bit i loved about that story is that it was something like £10000, and Ron McKkay is alledged to have said he hadn't noticed it.

Even very rich people might notice having an extra £10k nin the current account.

Also, the money was incorrectly paid into the perosnal acocnt, alledgedly but should have gone to AVL Media holdings Ltd. Which is allegedly jointly owned by galloway and MacKay.

Anonymous said...

Thats not quite true.
Ron spread a story

Yesterday Mr McKay said he had now checked his bank statements and was able to confirm he had received a payment from Mr Zureikat and $15,666 had been transferred into his personal account in August 2000.

He said the payment went into a personal account by mistake and that it was intended to be sent to a business account, into which it was later moved.

"I've had many business dealings with Fawaz Zureikat over the years. He was a director of a company that we were in together," he said.

"The payment was nothing to do with oil. I have not benefited from it. It was later channelled to where it should have gone."

The payment to Ron was in 2000.
The business with Zureikat as a director was ATV Established in late 2002

Here he made the contacts that secured him an interview with Saddam Hussein on the eve of the 2003 Gulf war. The interview, conducted by Tony Benn, was criticised as too soft on the dictator, but attracted world-wide publicity for Mr McKay's new TV station, ATV, which was being underwritten by Fawaz Zureikat, a business friend of Mr Galloway's in Iraq.

I wouldn't be too worried about this thug (threatened Newsnight Journo,on tape over Galloways secret cash from Pakistan to fund Asian Voice) suing you.

AN said...

I am very happy to be corrected on this anonymous, but what exactly was it I wrote that wasn't true.

It seems consistent with your clarification, or have I missed a subtlety?

I am not realy worried about being sued, but why are you posting anonymously?

Anonymous said...

Sorry,I dont have a blogger account.

AVL was used to fund Respect at the beginning.
I doubt whether these two experienced movers of money were dumb enough to put the cash from Zureikat into that company (6 years after it was placed in the "wrong" account,Rons personal account details strangely were in Zureikats posession)

AN said...

Are you sure?

I was advised by a very credible source that Galloway had not put any of his personal money into Respect.

Anonymous said...

he hasnt recently (the stuff about money from his speeches was a lie) but the Electoral commission shows

Received by



Date accepted


Head office
Mrs J Turner
status: Individual

£ 7,000.00

Head office
Mr George Galloway
status: Individual

£ 5,029.17


Register of donations to political parties
Your search matched 11 donations with an overall total of £ 62,004.67

Types of donations:
Cash (6 donations) totaling: £ 40,547.17
Non cash (5 donations) totaling: £ 21,457.50

Printer-friendly format of all matches

Non cash
Received by



Date accepted


Head office
A V L Media Ltd
status: Company
company reg no: SC202190 2b Seaford Street
£ 6,000.00
nature: Battle bus.

AN said...

Ok = but that is a drop in the ocean compared to theri expenditure.

Intersting jackie turner listed there, who after making large donations is on the National Council.

Her husband (presumably, anyway another Turner from Tower hamlets) also made a big donation, and immediuately afterwards was asked to write an article for the Guardian as resepct's "economocs advisor."

John B said...

AN the election of SWP delegates revolves around local discussions about getting new people and experience to conference in the way it always has done. So I don't know where your info comes from.

Jim Denhams lovely. I'll pass on his regards next time I see an islamobiggot.

AN said...

John B, I spent 20 years in all in the SWP, and still know people in it, including some who have been in it longer than I have.

You say that the slates for conference are drawn up in the way they always have been. Well that isn't true is it, beacsue up until a few years ago branches sent delegates, and now districts send delegates. Do you deny that is different? You must also know that in the bigger geographical districts that means comrades from the more far out towns don't usually attend.

In any event, the fact that delegates are elected in the way they always have been means that a slate of delegates is put forward by a district commitee, (or in the past a branch commitee), in which the full timer has input.

Is this true or not?

That is my expereince.

Anonymous said...


Jackie Turner is a respected socialist, a member of the SWP amd secretary of Respect in Tower Hamlets, and is not known as being a millionaire, and your implication of "cash for national council places" or that it was in exchange for the financial rather than political contribution to Respect that she got a place on the national council is pretty appalling and I would ask you to retract your statement

Like a few people enthused about the Respect project she has been prepared to plough a lot of her personal income into the party.

My experience of delegates elected to National Conference of SWP is similar to John B., usually branches nominate a mixture of experienced comrades active in various campaigns and the branch and new members.

AN said...

It is hard to discuss with people who hide behind anonymity.

I am happy to unreservedly withdraw any implication that Jackie Turner's national council place was secured for any other reason than political merit. I also apologise to Jackie for that implication. I admit that is the clear meaning of what I wrote, although it was not my intended meaning.

However, after Jackie and Graham Turner donated £20000 between them to Respect, Graham Turner co-authored an article in the Guradian,,1462344,00.html

He was billed by the Guaridan, and I quote as "Graham Turner is an economic policy adviser to Respect"

Immediatly after this I e-mailed Jackie Turner (of course I may have had the wrong e-mail address, I used Jackie.turner AT, but also attempted to contact them through Respect's press office to inteview Graham, about how he had become economic policy adviser, what his qualificatiosn are for that positioon, had he been appinted as such by the national sterring committee. and how he had become involved in writing the Guardian article. And of course what Respect's economics policies were.

I received no reply.

I am sure you can understand this is a legitimate public concern.

With regard to the SWP's conference delegates, I don't really know what is in dispute between us. I agree that delegates are elected - I understand it is by districts and not by branches, that was certily the case in 2005, perhaps you recently changed it again.

Of course you select delegates with the best of intentions to reflect what you regard as the best experience, that is not in dispute.

We all know however that delegates who expereince confirms the current line of the party are preferred to those whose expereince does not confirm it - that is what happens. And that is what makes confernce a guaranteed affirmation of the CC's line.

Anonymous said...

"I am very happy to be corrected on this anonymous, but what exactly was it I wrote that wasn't true."

Let's not be coy. It's not "anonymous" - it's Tim Robinson, Labour Party smear-merchant who works closely with the arch-Blairites who have done so much damage to the party.

Tim Robinson, who will do anything in his power to split and divide the left, and who will do anything to excuse Blair's crimes in Iraq.

Well done for giving him space to spread his muck.