John Rees, Respect national secretary
Quite remarkably there is now a chance to build something that many on the left have only been able to dream about for years — a fighting, left alternative to New Labour.
Respect’s election results show that there is a huge appetite among working people to succeed in this task. But the election campaign and its aftermath also show that the New Labour establishment and the wider political establishment in Britain will resist the rise of this alternative with all its might.
This means that Respect has to grow and grow quickly. It must capitalise on its success and strive to become a mass membership party as rapidly as possible.
But Respect must also broaden its appeal to working people by fighting on a broad range of issues that are absolutely central to their lives — housing, the NHS, privatisation and trade union rights for example.
We will never desert the anti-war movement because we were born from it. But we must now show the same campaigning spirit on every issue that touches the daily life of working people.
There is just one year until the next test at the local council elections. Every member of Respect must give everything they can to achieving these tasks with the greatest possible speed.
Chris Bambery, Editor, Socialist Worker
The promise of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair was to excise independent working class politics from Britain by reducing choice to a US style one between different brands of free market parties.
Class is the great issue crying out to be addressed in Britain today. The working class is not disappearing nor has it been reduced to an “underclass”.
The vast majority of us work to survive, are training to work or are retired from work.
For three decades we have been on the losing side in a one sided civil war. The anti-war movement brought us together in vast numbers. Whatever our differences we rallied in a common cause. The next and vital step is for us to recognise our common identity, and power, as a class.
During the election every time we raised issues like housing, low pay, pensions and lack of services on the doorstep, it got a great response.
Over a century ago a generation of socialists — Eleanor Marx, Frederick Engels, Tom Mann and others — saw the need to break from the left ghetto in order to help create a mass movement of the British working class.
They threw themselves into the New Unionism and the creation of the Independent Labour Party.
Today we face a stagnating trade union membership, lack of organisation like tenants’ organisations in too many of our communities and moribund student unions. Loyalty to Labour is a block to creating an alternative to this.
Respect has to break that log jam and bring the vitality of the anti-war movement into our workplaces, colleges, schools and communities.
John Lister, Respect national council and Oxford Respect
In areas like Oxford, where there was no general election candidate, the task of tapping in to the potential support in this new situation is not as simple as it may seem.
Local supporters were all but unanimous in their view that we don’t want to sit out another election campaign with no local candidates, and we never want to see anti-war, anti-Blair votes stolen as they were this time by the Lib Dems.
But that means we have to go out, recruit and organise a much bigger Oxford branch, and work to develop a serious platform of policies which will enable Respect in Oxford to reach out to wide sections of the working class and local communities.
We have agreed a process which begins with a policy conference on 25 June, and aims to have a panel of candidates selected and target wards chosen by the beginning of September.
This would give us a six month space before the next council elections, to build up the profile and campaigning credibility of Respect among trade unionists, students, young people and various key strands of the community.
And while we want to produce publicity materials as part of our local campaigning, we are also very keen for Respect to begin to punch its weight as a substantial organisation at national level.
It is especially important in cities like Oxford, which are a long way from Respect’s strongest areas, to ensure that we have a regular and political national publication projecting our electoral successes, George Galloway’s sterling performances, the latest in the anti-war movement, and updates on other campaigns.
If we are to recruit and retain a new, broader layer of supporters, we need to give people something to think about as well as activities.
Join at the Respect website www.respectcoalition.org