The Tower Hamlets Respect meeting was chaired by Kumar Murshid, a former Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets and former adviser to London mayor Ken Livingsone. Kumar quit Labour to join Respect earlier this year.
He spoke to Socialist Worker about why he left the Labour Party and why he is committed to the original vision of Respect.
“One thing that caused me to move away from Labour was the culture of political division and ‘pocket members’ that took hold in the party,” he said. “That is not how I want to operate.
“I’ve seen these same tactics used in the Labour Party for many years. It’s always been something I’ve fought tooth and nail against – but it always had some kind of support from the party machine.
“It was a tactic used to back the right wing candidates.
“If you don’t challenge it, you allow that culture to take hold in the party, which becomes thoroughly depoliticising and disempowering – it drives the genuine activists out.
“You get one or two people with 50 or 100 pocket members who come into political meetings to decide positions or nominations. They grab power without any support in real terms – and the politics just gets thrown out the window.
“And it’s corrupting – these pocket members are never engaged with politically, they’re just used as fodder to get someone nominated. I don’t want to see that kind of thing happening in Respect.
“I think the relevance of Respect as a political entity is as valid as it ever was. There’s a huge amount of space created by Labour abandoning the left of the political spectrum almost entirely.
“There’s a huge vacuum, more so than ever now that the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all centre or centre right parties. There’s nothing else on the left which can claim to be a political entity committed to socialism and genuine equality.”