Like many reactionary enemies of the working class in the Labour Party, I am primarily following the Respect split for its comedy value. Partly this is straight up schadenfreude. Respect is a pain and an electoral challenge for Labour in some areas. And its splitting of the Left vote has helped a Tory win a council by-election recently, something Respect actually crowed about on its website.
But more so it's the kind of discussion you see on the far left about the split. I have seen the main protaganists be compared to people the Bolshevik/Menshevik split, or to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, without a trace of irony. It's a tiny corner of the UK where you can go and watch people talk about whether the USSR was state capitalist or a degenerated workers state as if their lives depend on it. And such factional issues are far more important to members of this community than current issues. It's telling that on the (actually rather good) Trot blog Socialist Unity, posts about the Respect split have recently often attracted more than 100 comments. Yet an article by Martin Wicks on the same blog about private equity - which you might think has been a rather important issue for the labour movement this year - has just one comment. And that's mine!
I realised the other day that what it actually reminds me of is the Amish community in the film Witness. Like the Amish, the far left has cut itself off from the rest of society and refuses to live in the modern world. It's an inward-looking community that has its own arcane language that no-one else uses. Members talk about 'layers of activists' and 'recomposition' and use the word 'bourgeois' a lot. This is terminology that leaves me, as a lefty, feeling cold and I share a little bit of common ground with them. My other half, who is a 24 carat prole from a council estate in Northern Ireland, and as such presumably the sort of person they ought to be appealing to, just thinks they are loonies.
Equally they have built giant belief systems on top of premises that the rest of society no longer shares. Whereas for the Amish this was the existence of God and strict religious rules, for the far left it's Marxist mumbo jumbo that has predicted 15 of the last death throes of the capitalist order. For both groups the fact that the rest of society shows no interest in their belief system does not demonstrate that they are wrong, it shows that the rest of society doesn't 'get it', primarily because they haven't read the right books.
Part of me has some grudging respect for their decision to stick so firmly to their principles, like the Amish sticking to non-violence despite provocation. But, like with insular religious groupings, my overwhelming reaction is that it's a community I have no desire to ever be a part of.