Socialist Worker

Crucial tasks for Respect’s future

The coalition’s annual conference is meeting this weekend despite attempts to stop it. Chris Bambery looks at some key issues for the organisation

Issue No. 2077

Merseyside Respect members were part of last year’s lively protests against Condoleezza Rice (Pic: Alan Brown)

Merseyside Respect members were part of last year’s lively protests against Condoleezza Rice (Pic: Alan Brown)

Respect came from the anti-war movement and opposition to war and imperialism must remain central priorities.

The “war on terror” is part of a global drive by the US that goes beyond occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. It is accompanied by the attempt to force through a “one size fits all” neo-liberal model globally.

New Labour has signed up to the “war on terror” for the duration. It continues its attacks on our civil liberties and promotes an agenda that demonises its Muslim citizens.

It has also helped turned Britain into one of the most corporate dominated societies in Europe – at the expense of those working class people who traditionally voted Labour.


When Respect was launched one of our aims was to become a “voice for the voiceless” for those who find themselves abandoned by Labour and have no one to represent them politically.

Mainstream politicians fail to address one of the biggest concerns haunting working people – housing.

Our city centres see more luxury flats put up each week – priced way out of reach of the vast majority who pass by them.

For those who’ve plunged into debt in order to buy a home the growing threat of repossession looms.

Respect needs to put itself at the head of a mass rebellion over housing – demanding affordable council homes.

Alex Salmond’s Scottish executive has ended the right to buy for new council homes and allowed rents to be used to build new council houses.

This may be a limited first step, but it represents a break from the “market must provide” mantra of Gordon Brown and David Cameron and shows that change is possible.

But it’s not just housing – from health to education, Respect should be central to campaigns for change.

In London Respect has held a series of local meetings on gun and knife crime attempting to address problems faced by many young people such as stop and search, school exclusions, lack of youth facilities and the use of Asbos.

Young people

These have allowed us to connect with parents and with young people – including a growing number of black people.

Respect is at its strongest when it represents the rich mix which makes up Britain’s working class in the 21st century.

This requires making sure that women – who have been to the fore in opposing war and free market policies – have equal representation.

It also means more than this. The fight against sexism, racism and discrimination will be a very long one if it is just a matter of words. It needs deeds to burn this oppression away.

We have many Muslim members and strong support from many Muslim voters. We should be proud to represent and speak for some of the most oppressed people in Britain.

We must do the same for newly arrived Polish workers, as well as for white working class people – who are insultingly portrayed as “chavs”.

Respect is pro-trade union, pro-working class and stands proudly on the left. From climate change to Palestine, from housing to lesbian and gay rights, Respect has fine policies and a record second to none.

Democracy and accountability are in very short supply in New Labour. Respect must be very different.

Members must make the decisions and we must ensure our democratic structures cannot be overruled by anyone.

All our elected representatives must be accountable.

No one person, whatever their position, should be able to flout democratic procedures and act without being responsible to Respect’s members.

Our elected representatives should be a megaphone through which working people can express their views, as well as being a focus around which resistance can grow.

That requires local Respect groups that are rooted in their local community.

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