Continues from » Part 1
In the afternoon session of the Respect conference – which focused on ‘Campaigning Priorities’ – there was a wide ranging discussion of Respect’s commitment to operating as a campaigning organisation. A number of motions were passed on the future of Respect.
Lindsey German, the Respect candidate for London Mayor, reiterated Respect’s commitment to the Stop the War Coalition, and to campaigning against the proposed attack on Iran.
She said, “We should remember we came from out of the anti-war movement. Gordon Brown is now playing the same role as Tony Blair did in the run up to attacking Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Looking forward, Lindsey added, “Respect needs to be working hard to involve as many as people as possible and be involved in as many struggles as possible. The more we campaign, the more we can combine that with electoral success.”
Andrew Cunningham was elected as Manchester University student union campaigns officer for Respect. He said, “We managed to inject Respect politics into the union – taking a big delegation to the last Stop War protest in London and occupying the college over free education.
“Only last week, over 1,100 students turned up to a meeting to defend our student union’s commitment to twinning with Palestine. Respect is unique – hopefully we can really build it from here.”
Pat McManus, GLA candidate for Brent and Harrow spoke in defence of civil liberties, since New Labour is attempting to increase the time allowed for detention without trial from 28 days to 56.
He said, “I left the Labour Party a year ago to join Respect. I grew up in Northern Ireland. I spent part of my youth having my door kicked in. Then my children were pulled out their beds because I was an activist.
“The frightening thing in this country is the proposed terror laws. It will lead to people being arrested, beaten and held for 28 days without a solicitor. It may not just to Muslims it could happen to trade unionists as well.”
Paul from Harlow Respect said, “We have tried to support and initiate a number of campaigns – for instance against the closure of a local comprehensive school.
“We have also campaigned to save a local youth centre and our members are at the heart of Harlow Defend Council Housing and Stop the War.
“The Respect project is alive and kicking. We know we have a long way to go but we’re looking forward to it.”
A motion was passed on building Respect. It was proposed by the National Council and moved by Salvinder Dhillon. It included an amendment arguing against the attempts to witch-hunt the Socialist Workers Party.
While proposing a motion which re-emphasised the diversity of Respect, Angela from Sheffield described her delegation to the conference. It contained a member of the national executive of the UCU lecturers’ union, a local NUT member, a Defend Council Housing campaigner, and members of the Kashmir Earthquake Relief Fund and Sheffield Campaign Against Climate Change.
Tower Hamlets Respect councillor Rania Khan said, “I joined Respect because it is anti-war and anti-capitalist, because it works for the working class and trade unions, because it promotes social justice. It is because of these things we are here today.”
Chris Bambery from the Respect National Council spoke about the harsh divisions in British society, “We are seeing the demonisation of young people. We are seeing the destruction of council housing – yet we live in communities, where flats can cost £500,000.
“Respect should be the voice of the voiceless. It should be the voice of working class people written off by the system, celebrating the diversity of that working class.”
He added, “One area where we are under attack is over a women’s right to choose. There are attempts to further reduce the time limit on abortion. I am certain we will implement Respect policy fighting to defend abortion rights.”
The conference heard from the Chair of the Stop the War Coalition Andrew Murray and Derek Wall from the Green Party.
Chairing the final session Tower Hamlets Respect councillor Oliur Rahnam took an emergency motion from Preston Respect on the crisis in Pakistan which condemned the Musharraf regime, and called on the organisation to build with others for democracy in Pakistan. This motion too was passed.
Closing the conference John Rees called delegates to build the Stop the War coalition World against War conference next month and to move forward to build up Respect as a vibrant organisation of the left.