The ongoing Continuity Respect/Real Respect split has been really interesting for a lot of reasons. Quite aside from the comedy value, and the incredible self-delusion of some of those involved (I have seen more than one person compare it to the Bolshevik/Menshevik split) what really comes across is people's political priorities, ie what really matters to them.
As lots of people have pointed out, news reports and blog postings about the split are far more popular than those about more mundane issues. People are extremely passionate about the political battle lines of a faction fight in an organisation that has a membership in the low thousands and considerably less council representation than the BNP. The organisation itself (both wings) is clearly obsessed with 'big' political issues (principally the Iraq war) rather than focusing on local issues. That probably explains why they have been unable to break out of their small local strongholds.
To me it reinforces the point that too many people on the Left are principally theorists. They have developed a theoretical understanding that 'the system' needs changing and then go looking for cases that prove it. You can see it too in the way that Trots operate in the unions. For example lots of effort gets put resolutions passed about foreign policy issues that UK-based trade unions have very little influence over. They seem to see unions as a vehicle to achieve political ends. This is an over-simplification, as we all know Trots who are very effective union activists, but their big political agenda never seems to be far away.
This is, in my view, the opposite to the process that led to the formation of unions, and ultimately the Labour Party. In that case genuine, immediate concerns felt by working people led to the creation of unions as a vehicle for self-defence and collective self-interest. In turn the Labour Party was created to given the unions political expression. Modern day Trots, in my view, have it all back to front.
I think this is why they have so little political success. People can almost smell on them the fact that they see individual issues that you may care deeply about as merely a stepping stone to their larger, and more important, political goals. I can't be the only one to have spotted that when SWP people do 'angry' at meetings it just doesn't ring true. It's like they are switching it on.
More broadly I think this type of politics is a cop-out. I think it is actually easier to get stuck into 'big' issues because there is very little practical you can do about them, and what you can do can be enjoyable (rant on a blog, go on a demo etc). I imagine it can be quite fun having a conspiratorial view of history and economic relations, and a revolutionary programme to sort it all out. But it also means that most of the time you don't have to do anything practical. Hence the endless debates about what Trotsky said to a cabbie in 1924 and its implications for Tower Hamlets in 2008. It's more of a parlour game than anything else.
This is by no means limited to Trots. I was really disappointed when I was talking to a Labour councillor who was in his 20s a few years back. He said he didn't like it much because he was more interested in 'national' issues. Then why stand as a local councillor? And I'm not free of this affliction myself. I enjoy talking, writing and thinking about politics. I also like theorising about political strategies to achieve change. And, obviously, I'm interested in how a Left perspective can be developed in the financial system. But I know a lot of this achieves very little, and as such in a way it is more about me deriving pleasure from politics than me being actively 'political'.
But as a paid up member of the reactionary enemies of the working class I occasionally get called upon to deliver Labour leaflets in my local neighbourhood. I don't enjoy this. Where I live most of the houses are split into flats so it involves a lot of going up and down a lot of stairs. And being a total coward I am always worried that someone is going to shout at me or something (though it hasn't happened yet). It's not fun. But I recognise that a) it needs to be done and b) it provides a link between the party and its councillors and the local population. I hope at some point someone has read one of the thousands of leaflets I have delivered and maybe, for example, got one our councillors' numbers off it and called them up. It is a trivial, but practical, political act.
Basically I don't think real politics is very enjoyable. It can be boring, frustrating, demoralising and all the rest of it. In my experience of public policy work for example if you are going to be any good you really need to get into the detail and become a bit of an obsessive. And even then you might not win. But at least it is real. Genuine political activity is a sacrifice that may sometimes be very rewarding. But fun it ain't.