Socialist Worker

Respect strategy to build on its by-election successes

Issue No. 1911

RESPECT’S national executive met on Saturday to plan a strategy for building on the by-election successes in Leicester and Birmingham.

Here are some of the activities they are suggesting.

All those who have joined or supported Respect need to be contacted immediately and told about how well Respect did in the two by-elections. This should happen across the country, not just in Leicester and Birmingham.

Respect branches should be built in local areas by developing existing networks and tapping into new ones.

Respect will be gearing up for a probable general election next year, as well as targeting wards for next year’s council elections and looking at any by-elections that come up.

Imaginative ways of bring people together should be explored, such as picnics, cultural events, film showings, and regular newsletters to keep people in touch.

Those who support Respect need to become members, as the organisation depends on the financial contribution of its members.

Three Respect executive members, George Galloway, John Rees and Salma Yaqoob, outlined this strategy at the final rally of Marxism 2004 on Friday of last week.

George Galloway said, “Lenin said there are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen. What a transformation of the political landscape we have seen in the last few weeks and months.

“The Liberal Democrats have been saying we cost them the Hodge Hill by-election. We owe the Liberals Democrats nothing.

“People in Leicester and Birmingham voted a year ago last May to sweep New Labour out of their council chambers. But they woke up to find the Liberal Democrats had got into bed with the Tories, and were closing schools and sacking workers.

“I have been in politics for 36 years, but their campaign still took my breath away with its hypocrisy—they issued a leaflet with black faces for one street and white faces for the street next door.

“We didn’t get involved in politics to help other parties, to try and choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We are in politics because we believe in something.

“The council by-election in east London on 29 July is a real opportunity. We can turn the Ocean Estate into a tidal wave of opposition to New Labour.

“We need to reach more people, like the pensioners who are the poorest in the Western world living in the fourth richest country in the world.

“We are winning support from trade union branches, and we need to do more to win the hearts of those who make the wealth and provide the services. And we need to multiply the membership of Respect.

“At the general election we will be a dagger at the heart of those New Labour MPs who have betrayed us so often for so long.”

John Rees, the candidate in Birmingham Hodge Hill, said, “The campaign by the established parties was as low as you could go. They couldn’t stop talking about teenage yobs and asylum seekers, but they didn’t have anything to say about the war, or about the 1,000 job losses at Alstom.

“We have to win people’s trust. We have a lot still to do.

“The anti-war movement was a huge achievement. But it just skimmed the surface of the lives of the 60,000 people living in Hodge Hill.

“The core of the movement—those in the RMT, the FBU, the CWU and civil servants—are fed up and bitter, and they have a palpable desire for a new political force.

“There is no more important task for us than to build it.”

Salma Yaqoob said, “We are the activists. Any change, any progress, has been won by the activity of people like us. The Tories, Labour, the Lib Dems—what choice did they offer us? For two long we have been blackmailed into backing the least bad option. We have a huge responsibility to be effective, strategic and organised. We have to tap into the networks. Who do you know in each street, workplace, mosque, temple, church or community centre? Do you know them well enough to invite them round to your house? Ordinary people are used to politicians promising them things. But when they know you, they trust you. Already, we have achieved things beyond our wildest dreams.”

Join the Respect campaign for the council by-election in St Dunstan’s, east London. Meet candidate Oliur Rahman and other campaigners each weekday night at 6pm, or on Saturday and Sunday at 12 noon outside Limehouse DLR station.

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Sat 24 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1911
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