17 Nov 2007

Two RESPECT conferences hear Dr Wall

What a surreal day. The bit which was most surreal was vigorously clapping a speech by Tower Hamlets Councillor Rania Khan attacking me. It is polite to clap, even when one is being slated.

I get lots of invites from other political parties, I have even spoken to my local Tories in Berkshire, certainly I have talked to every socialist group you can think of, once did a speech in defence of Mumia Abu-Jamal at a Spartacist rally (in an official Green Party capacity). So today, I spoke to both RESPECT conferences. I even heard Andrew Murray of the Stop the War coalition deliver the same speech twice. And yes I bumped into friends at both conferences. Very bizarre. I think that within political parties bitter disputes are almost universal but this is a particularly bitter one, certainly heard criticism of the other side at both.

Both talked much of the values I espouse as a green...peace, justice, environment. Same leaflets and literature at both.

It was a great opportunity to have a platform, I talked about how capitalism with constant economic growth was the root of environmental crisis, how we could develop a new economy with prosperity without pollution, name checked the green bits in Marx, flagged up the commons and the gains in Venezuela. Thought it churlish to say 'join the Green Party' but while thanking both made it clear that I was in another political party.

At the Respect Renewal, I unveiled a huge banner against rainforest destruction in Tasmania and urged people to make sure their Aussie friends voted in the General Election.

Councillor Khan, who apologised to me to her credit, condemned Respect renewed for having 'Derek Wall from the Green Party' on the platform, she didn't realise that I was to speak on the same platform as her about 20 minutes later. Very funny.

Only got a few speakers at the University of Westminister event, at RR was impressed by Jerry Hicks a very funny passionate guy and Salma Yaquub gave a great speech.

I don't think either RESPECT is going to fly, although I would like to see Greens work with socialists, the socialists outside the Green Party are painfully divided, Socialist Party and Labour Representation Committee from the Labour Left had conferences as well today. At least I and other speakers at both conferences were able to flag up important work that all radicals could get involved with...solidarity with Venezuela, 'building' support for the climate change march on December 8th and the February 9th Trade Union Conference on climate change.

Gave me two bites of the cherry to talk about all the things I talk about on this blog, gay and lesbian rights ('I think we call them human rights'), radical green politics, the need for commons, green bits in Marx, liberal Islam.

Difficult to judge and not for me to do, both conferences a couple of hundred, the RR seemed much more upbeat but clearly not just the SWP are in the other one. I don't think that two RESPECTs will flourish but party politics for radicals in England is a tough game. Even in Scotland with the divisions between the Socialist Party and Solidarity and Green losses, politics looks a lot fresher, more radical and green.

I think I was invited to talk about ecosocialism and I did, at least both greens and socialists are thinking more about ecosocialism, so we are winning on this!


andy said...

Well done for speaking at both conferences and thanks for such an insightful and balanced report.
Vicious factional battles like this appear bizarre from the outside and it's easy to forget that many of the activists involved are good honest people passionate about fighting for a better world.
I've spoken to a few friends in and around the SWP and many are genuinely impressed that you were speaking at the conferences, perhaps making it easier to get them out campaigning for Caroline Lucas in Brighton...

Anonymous said...

I was at the SWP/Respect conference, you spoke very well, highlighting the Bolivarian struggles, and how their language about eco issues appears to be innate. Also your quote from Marx Cap Vol 3 which describes sustainable development. Socialists are not going to agree with, they would say that greens work within the capitalist framework, and what we need is o appropritate the means of production etc, and there is a debate about this in Red Pepper. However, I see the re-working of the ecosocialist manifest as a worthwhile project to agree on the concepts and language of what greens and socialists are trying to achieve, and move closer together.
You recommended a book on Venezuela, what was the title and author?


Derek Wall said...

thanks for the comments,

we can't avoid disagreement but there is a lot to get on with. spend most of my time telling Greens to reject conventional economic growth and for Marxists to read Marx!

Just sat down and reviewed the book for 21st century socialism site and then had a computer glitch and lost it!

Changing Venezuela by Taking Power by Greg Wilpert...its not perfect but a good sympathetic account of the promise and contradictions of 21st century socialism in the country.

Karl-Marx-Straße said...

Is your speech online anywhere ?

Derek Wall said...

i will keep you posted both speechs were fairly spontaneous, flagging up a bit of green politics and ecosocialism and suggesting ways that people in different electoral parties could work together...if they are on line I suspect it is a while before I hear about it.

Anonymous said...

In terms of left and green unity, there is a clear issue for unity over the coming months - re-electing Ken Livingstone and defeating Boris Johnson the mayoral election next May.
There's a good article here
setting out some of the issues in terms of climate change and the environment in London.

Anonymous said...

Hi Derek, thanks for speaking at Respect's annual delegate conference at Westminster uni. Your speech was great.

Rania Khan didn't actually attack you on a personal level and moreover, she said what she did when she thought that you were picking sides, and so it is not surprising that she would react to the Greens with hostility under those circumstances. (But of course, it was somewhat shocking that a Green party representative backed Ian Blair when even the Tories didn't.)

But it was good to hear you on Saturday - thanks for your solidarity.

Anonymous said...

The renewal conference seemed 'more upbeat' - in what way?

It certainly seemed less diverse. From the photos it seems that most of those attending were older (and primarily male). There do not seem to be many students or young people at all.

You praise Salma's speech but the one I saw (was there more than one from her?) was full of vitriol and attacks on her former comrades. That is not what left-wing politics is about and it certainly isn't inspiring. She needs to get rid of that bitterness she is carrying around before it eats her up.

Abjol Miah penned a poem about being rid of the 'leeches', another speaker said she would rather vote Boris Johnson than Lindsey German, and there were t-shirts celebrating Galloway telling Respect activists to 'F*** off the lot of you'.

The annual delegate conference on the other hand discussed the crisis in a measured way, and all videos are available for proof of this.

We have the activists, the students (including the wonderful Noreen Fatima, chair of Student Respect who spoke so eloquently), the backing of Mark Serwotka (who refused to speak at the renewal conference because of their attacks on socialists), Karen Reissmann, Michael Gavan, the most principled of the councillors who were forced to resign the whip because of the misogyny, careerism and bullying; Kumar Murshid who left the Labour party because of its inherent corruption; even Carole from Big Brother was there. ;-)

Our conference was positive and productive and very inspiring. If I thought I was going to turn up to a series of rants, I would have stayed away. No wonder Salma had such a heavy heart that day.

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