2 Nov 2007

The Death of RESPECT?

Had this from the always informative Socialist Unity blog, once edited by a certain Jim Jepps....its the left wing soap opera...the latest conflict in RESPECT, lesson one don't build political organisations with the Socialist Workers Party.

Incidentally Morning Star are not really online, as a left newspaper they should be on the web..anyway here goes...hopefully something positive will come out of this mess...

The following article then appears in today’s edition of the Morning Star.

The death of Respect (Wednesday 31 October 2007)

The die is cast, argues ANN DOUGLAS - Respect’s woes spell the end for the coalition and the question now is where to find fresh allies against new Labour.
RESPECT national secretary John Rees is adamant that his Socialist Workers Party has no intention of splitting from Respect.

But he can have been in no doubt of the likely outcome of his sharing the platform at a press conference this week with three Tower Hamlets Respect councillors, who are part of a quartet that has resigned the Respect whip, citing “differences” with group leader Cllr Abjol Miah.

His peremptory dismissal of any intention to split - “Of course not. We founded Respect, with others” - sits uneasily with the reality of him, as Respect leading official, effectively encouraging the splintering of the largest Respect council group.

Similarly, the fact that the Respect national office, effectively controlled by the SWP, paid for the venue for an event that was bound to exacerbate divisions contributes to the image of a fatally wounded organisation.
This week’s press conference did not arise out of the blue.
It was the culmination of a long-festering feud that has been highlighted in a number of left-wing blogs.

The main protagonists are the SWP on the one hand and, on the other, George Galloway, Birmingham Cllr Salma Yaqoob and the majority of the national council, including independents such as Ken Loach and Victoria Brittain and representatives of both community and left-wing groups.

The initial conflict centred around complaints from, for lack of a better term, the Galloway camp that the SWP-dominated party apparatus was sidelining Yaqoob, one of the party’s major assets.

This developed into a generalised assertion that the SWP was acting as a party within a party, was stitching up meetings with pre-gatherings of its members and was holding back party growth and development.
Matters went from bad to worse when the Galloway side proposed SWP member Nick Wrack for the new post of national organiser.

His party told him to refuse nomination or resign from the SWP.
Wrack refused and was expelled, together with SWP members working in Galloway’s office, Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman.

Since then, leading SWP industrial militant Jerry Hicks, the victimised Amicus convener at Rolls-Royce Bristol, has resigned from the party while remaining on the Respect national council.

While it appeared that, for a time, the main protagonists would try to keep the dispute in-house and, possibly, rebuild the fast-crumbling unity, a succession of contentious meetings, leaked position papers and personalised attacks, including an editorial in Socialist Worker attacking Galloway, made this impossible.

There have always been stresses and strains within Respect, as would have been expected, not least over questions of gender and sexuality, but these ought not to have been insuperable.

It was first launched by George Galloway in October 2003 as a “unity coalition, which will seek to unite the left, the peace movement, the anti-war cause, the Muslim community in Britain, persuading people of all parties and none to fight new Labour in the European elections in June.”
However, it rapidly took on the trappings of a party, with individual membership encouraged.

If its main electoral base was Britain’s various Muslim communities, its activist core was the SWP, although there are various interpretations as to why a party that claims 6,000 members could subsume itself within a coalition that, even then, would claim barely 2,000 individual members.
Respect had been due to hold a national conference later this month to plan future work.

The conference certainly will not take place, if for no other reason than that the two sides cannot agree on the composition of delegations.

The SWP-aligned side alleges gerrymandering, especially in Tower Hamlets, citing borough chairman and Galloway ally Azmal Hussein, while their opponents quote from SWP documents that urge members to sign up to Respect and back party comrades as conference delegates.

In addition, there are complaints that Respect student branches’ membership has been padded to increase delegate entitlement.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, the die is cast.

Respect is no more or, alternatively, there could even be two groupings calling themselves Respect, since both claim legitimacy.

The main questions facing both sides now are how to defend the integrity of the Stop the War Coalition and where to find new allies to develop opposition to new Labour policies of war and privatisation.

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