Yvonne Ridley, Journalist and broadcaster
The future is bright, the future is Respect! Thanks to a brilliant campaign which saw George Galloway elected the focus must now switch to next year’s local authority elections and any other by-elections which emerge.
Far from putting up our feet and relaxing, we need to draw on all our resources and run with the momentum created from the historic east London victory. We have established a beachhead for Respect, now we need help from all those socialists who have dozed off over the last decade, disillusioned and overwhelmed by apathy and neglect.
I would urge them to wake up and rush to help Respect off the beach, up the cliffs and inland before there are more enemy attacks on the existing members.
We need to swell the ranks of Respect, and in double quick time because if you thought the battle for Bethnal Green was hard, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
This campaign is not for the fainthearted but the rewards — hundreds of Respect council seats — are immense. I know we can rely on the enthusiasm of our young members and the patience and experience of our older members, but we do need a national membership drive.
And I believe the disillusioned socialists who abandoned New Labour in their thousands, should now be targeted by Respect. I can almost hear hoots of derision from some sections of the far left, but hang on a minute… aren’t they the same ones full of pompous invective who stood on the sidelines sneering: “Galloway can’t win”?
Well he did — and I can tell you it feels so good to be on a winning team. Come and join us and have some fun at the same time.
Abdurahman Jafar, Human rights lawyer
We have strength in our diversity. When I see us toiling together for a singular purpose that speaks to all hearts I wish there was a way we could present this as a showpiece of how we may look as a society one day. On the subject of diversity I also believe that the most distorted area of politics is immigration.
As a country we are committed to our historical tradition of welcoming the persecuted but simply don’t know how to react when confronted with tabloid headlines labelling refugees as spongers.
It is fundamental to the growth of our economy that we realise the potential of this neglected and vulnerable section of society, to invest in the refugee community and empower them to contribute.
This should be presented as an alternative to “encouraging controlled immigration” which is simply a way of transferring the privileged in the Third World to the “privileged” First World.
There are other areas of concern that may not be traditional to some of our ideological heritages but I believe we must debate with open minds. We must not be held back by dogma in confronting new challenges with new approaches.
Oliur Rahman, Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets
Respect is here to stay. We will continue to fight for the working class movement. Now our intention is to take control of the Tower Hamlets and Newham councils in east London at the May elections next year. I believe we can do that.
We are already targeting seats in our aim to get rid of the Blairites on the council. The Labour Party in Tower Hamlets is going through difficult days. They are divided among themselves.
The local paper has reported that seven Labour councillors are planning to defect to Respect. We will have to see if that is the case, and look at their record, but we will give serious consideration to Labour councillors who want to join Respect. It shows that even the Labour councillors know their days are numbered in Tower Hamlets.
Our future is bright and we will have to build up our work in the community to show the people that we are the right people to represent them.
The real work begins now. People have voted for us and now they want to see improvements in their lives. The big issues in east London are housing, Crossrail, education and health. People will vote on these issues next year.
We have 12 months to prove that we are the people to represent them. Everyone should join Respect and help build a party that we can all be proud of — a party for the people and nobody else.
Sait Akgul, Kurdish activist
I hope Respect grows into a political organisation that brings continued hope to many more people in the United Kingdom as well as the communities across the rest of the world.
The uncompromising struggle for justice and tolerance is not currently advocated by any other political party but Respect. We are living in a world where almost all living creatures are suffering due to the wave of greed which is also affecting the environment as well.
It is a fact that capitalism does not deliver to the majority in society and the technological revolution should have been used for the happiness of human beings and the protection of the environment.
The senseless wars against states and communities in the Middle East are products of superpowers out for more and more profits. I hope that Respect never changes its identity in terms of its unity against the capitalist stance that causes all this destruction.
Respect should be the voice of people in the UK to register their protest at the ballot box whilst it is also a force for organising masses for a fairer society where the representative and the represented are not so far from each other.
Those who are to the left of New Labour should be represented by Respect. The lack of representation for this strong current of opinion shows the failure of democracy in Britain.
I hope Respect campaigns for proportional representation to fight back against the parliamentary dictatorship which is used by New Labour to launch its neo-liberal policy attacks against the poor and low income masses in this country and the persecuted nations of the world.
Hilary Wainwright , Editor, Red Pepper
The election results, whether Galloway’s victory or New Labour’s reduced majority, showed the impact of the anti-war movement. To everyone but himself, Blair came out of it clearly the guilty man — symbolised on election night by his evident embarrassment during the speech of Reg Keys.
How do we build on the power of the anti-war movement — a broad alliance around clear and principled demands? How do we simultaneously open up the possibilities for a left-green political force in the future (at present the left’s weakness lies in the fact that no one part of it can adequately reach out to the constituencies looking for an alternative to New Labour)?
The G8 provides us with an opportunity to build a movement to make inequality history by focusing clearly on the systemic causes of poverty. The proposals on nuclear power provide the moment for a far reaching debate on how to halt climate change with expansion of the rail system, regulation on air travel, building the true environmental costs into economic decisions.
These issues raise the central question of public control of the market, pointing to the importance of a large scale struggle with a strong international dimension, against privatisation and for democratic public services.
In building these movements, socialists must seek to build democratic and open forums of political collaboration with each other — and turn our backs on sectarian competition.
Join at the Respect website www.respectcoalition.org