Socialist Worker

Respect — our hopes for this new party

Following the election of George Galloway, and his barnstorming performance in front of the US senate, various contributers discuss what’s next for Respect

Issue No. 1954a

Respect mobilisation for mass canvassing in Bethnal Green & Bow during the general election campaign (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Respect mobilisation for mass canvassing in Bethnal Green & Bow during the general election campaign (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Salma Yaqoob, Respect, Birmingham

The political language and culture of this country has been so infiltrated by big business interests that even talking about public services being about people’s needs first is dismissed as being old fashioned and impractical.

The challenge for Respect is to shatter these myths and lies with the same energy, dynamism and determination that we did around the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Blair wanted the mantle of Winston Churchill when it came to being a wartime prime minister, and led this country into the criminal massacre that was Iraq — egged on by the multinationals and oil companies to make profits.

Similarly, he wanted a place in history for following through the legacy of Margaret Thatcher on the domestic front.

The anti-war movement and Respect has denied him the first, by making sure Iraq has damaged, not enhanced him. He has received a slap on one cheek for the lies he told the people of this country in pushing through an unpopular foreign policy.

Unchristian as it may sound, our job now is to give him a slap on the other cheek for pushing through a domestic agenda based on yet more lies that will do untold damage to generations of people of this country to come.

We must connect with the millions of people who want to reverse the course begun by Thatcher and now continued by New Labour.

The majority of people want decent healthcare and pensions, free education for their children and an efficient transport system. We have to be their voice.

Whether we have been elected or not, we have to act like local councillors, listening to people and helping them. Respect members must make a difference to the areas people live in, as well as being the champion of ideas.

Build opposition to empire, past and present

Richard Gott, writer on Latin America

Respect has grown out of discontent with the bi-partisan nature of Britain’s foreign policy that has lasted since the Second World War.

Now it is important to formulate a fresh policy based on the twin themes of opposition to empire past and present.

Respect must campaign for an end to Britain’s alliance with the US, an end to Nato, an end to intelligence sharing, and an end to US military bases in Britain. At the same time, it should advocate that Britain should seek to draw other countries together in a worldwide campaign to curb and curtail US power, the chief threat to the world today.

Respect must also campaign to rid Britain of the vestiges of its former imperial role. Gibraltar should be returned to Spain, the Falkland Islands should be returned to Argentina, the UK military bases on Cyprus should be returned to Cyprus, and the islanders of Diego Garcia should be allowed to return to Diego Garcia.

In addition, Britain should abandon its nuclear weapons programme and withdraw from the Security Council of the United Nations. Britain should also be obliged to revise its aid and development programmes in the Third World, and cease to operate as a state assistance scheme to British firms. The execution of such a simple programme would revolutionise Britain’s role in the world and strike a significant blow against US hegemony.

‘We have to live up to people’s expectations’

Lindsey German

Respect punched a hole in the right wing consensus that was supposed to be what this election was about. We campaigned against racism and in defence of asylum seekers, against the Iraq war, we stood up for the Muslim community — and we still got four of the top ten swings in the whole of Britain.

While BNP successes are played up by Labour in order to frighten their supporters into line, our results are ignored. But one of the big stories of this election was the rejection of the racist agenda.

People talk about Respect being a single issue party based on one community, the Muslims. But we campaigned around much more than the war. We also took up housing, tuition fees, the NHS, pensions and privatisation.

This meant we appealed to working class people, especially traditional Labour voters.

So in West Ham we attracted votes from trade unionists and socialists, pensioners, ethnic minorities and students. The “Muslim vote” was divided politically, on grounds of class and politics. Now we need to build on our successes, and to create a mass Respect across Britain.

We have to prove that our words are matched by deeds and that we campaign around housing, fees, education and pensions. People have put a lot of faith in Respect and we have to live up to their expectations.

Respect presents a great challenge for the left. If we want to be able to change things in Britain than we can’t sit on the sidelines. To the complaints that people don’t like some aspect of the coalition, we should reply that coalition politics are precisely about agreeing on certain issues around which we can unite.

That doesn’t mean we don’t raise other issues — there are many questions to be debated. But it’s only by engaging with one another and trying to overcome these differences in practice that we can move forward.

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Fri 3 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1954a
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