"For Respect in its current form, this is also a question of survival. SWP leaders need to get a number of local councillors elected in order to prove - mainly to their own comrades - that Respect is successful."
"Apart from George Galloway’s election to parliament, however, Respect has so far not exactly been a runaway
success story; and even this had more to do with the man himself than the organisation he represents. The official
membership figure stands at around 3,500 - far from a mass organisation, especially as in reality even this figure seems to be rather inflated, judging by the turnout at local and national meetings. No trade unions have affiliated to Respect, nor has the organisation any roots in wider society."
Both quoted from http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/605/respect%20-%20hackney.htm
The bulk of Respect is clearly made up of the SWP as is clear from the following (3,000 of 3,500). However, what must be more worrying for the SWP is that they have actually been losing members since the birth of the anti-capitalist movement in the late 1990's.
"The SWP claimed to have 10,000 members in the late 1990s. The 2004 Party Conference reported a membership figure of 7,585 members, although other socialist groups estimate it to now be closer to 3,000. There is debate within the party as to the reason for failure to grow out of the radicalism of the anti-war movement."
Quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Workers_Party_%28UK%29
Well may the SWP pose the question of their failure to grow from the anti-war movement (ie. their participation in the front group STW coalition). But also their other front groups have been equally unsuccessful at attracting members to the SWP - ie. Respect, Globalise Resistance, Unite against fascism, Defend council housing, SWP student society). UAF has some success in reducing the BNP vote, DCH has managed to stop some stock transfers, and the SWP always seem to recruit their usual quota of students for their 3 years of university.
But, none of this seems to garner many long term members for the SWP. The numbers who have passed through the
SWP's ranks over the years must be massive. It could be argued that it is a symptom of their opportunism and arrogance. They have never appealed to the working class and are prepared to jettison Marxist principles when it suits them, but any criticism is rejected with finger-wagging of the "we know best" variety. It would appear that they don't.
Members of Respect may be slightly disconcerted by the RMT union calling a meeting for debate about working class
representation on Sat Jan 21 2006 at Friends Meeting House, Euston road, London from 12-3pm. Speakers include RMT gen sec Bob Crow, Tony Benn, a Labour MP, a Green MEP, Scottish Socialist MSP, Forward Wales AM, Socialist Party councillor, but no representative of Respect or the SWP. The aim of meeting is just for discussion and there are no plans to form a new party, but it is clear the rest of the left do not see Respect as the answer to the crisis of working class representation in Britain caused by New Labour.
As much as ultra-leftists such as anarchists might hope that the decline of mainstream politicians presents an opening for them, the sad fact is that without a left-wing workers party the far-right capitalises on working class disillusion and marches from strength to strength in the ominous form of the BNP.