Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Socialist Resistance # 22 Feb 2005

The new Socialist Resistance (#22, Feb 2005) continues the tradition of messy design.

Still out of the jumble of items there is much of interest. I'm going to focus on its coverage of Respect here. Alan Thornett provides a useful account of what's going on in Respect with a report from its Election Dayschool and National Council in January (and where else can we find out?). A new approach - canvassing - is emphasized (oddly the SWP were the opponents of canvassing in the 2001 General Election, but this does fit in with having a restricted number of candidates), as is gender balance and having a Respect newspaper - raised by Salma Yaqoob.

There's also an interview with John Rees about Respect's first year and oddly enough Respect comes out of it pretty well. Rees meets the argument that Respect is over-dependent on Muslim communities by talking about the Labour Party and Communist Party's roots in particular areas, in those cases with strong Jewish connections, but in case in an uneven way. Rees also says it was a bit slow off the mark in building links with unions, but gives very encouraging examples around the FBU in East London and East Anglia. And a quote: "Anyone who is a member will know that Respect is a very unsectarian organisation."

This might be contrasted to the story on the opposite page. Bob Whitehead reports from Birmingham. He's in favour of Respect and trying to build it, but:
The meeting that adopted the two candidates ended in extreme acrimony. The controversial issues concerned members not being informed of meetings; the decision of the interim committee about when to hold the selection meeting had been overruled and changed by per-sons unspecified; and a request for minutes of the committee to be available. These issues, raised mainly by Socialist Resistance(SR) supporters, were met with intolerance and abuse, we were caricatured as doing it for sectarian reasons. The bad atmosphere carried on to the first meeting of the new committee, where the one SR supporter had to sit through two lectures about our naughty behaviour. One SWP member said that if this carried on we will do to Respect what we did to the Birmingham Stop the War campaign.. (This was shut down for 10 months in the period leading up to the war and led to a split in the local anti-war movement). The December committee meeting was poorly attended and the January meeting was cancelled only 24 hours in advance and the re-scheduled meeting was announced with less than 24 hours notice, with the effect that the one SR member could not attend. For anyone coming to Respect from the Labour Party, after suffering at the hands of the right wing, this will not go down at all well. Neither would it be a good political education for inexperienced people. Women with children would effectively be excluded. It has to be challenged. Respect is not only diverse in terms of its social composition(which is very good) it is also diverse politically. That should also be a good thing, but it seems to be a big problem.There will always be minorities, and these have rights to be properly represented on leading bodies of Respect. In the case of Birmingham, the minority is essentially composed of SR supporters, who worked hard for Respect during the election campaigns. The political differences that we have expressed have been on self-organisation within Respect and on abortion, for example. When voting, we have usually made up about one fifth of the votes. Yet at the meeting where the committee was elected we were grudgingly given one place out of fifteen. Respect has a lot of potential, but it has to have a democratic, vibrant, internal life if it is to attract people and retain them. There is some way to go on this in Birmingham."

Also to be recommended is the article on the Iraqi election by Phil Hearst, but thanks to the curse of a monthly production schedule, is already out of date by the time it appeared and includes the odd plainly wrong prediction, such as the high turnout by middle-class exiles.


Post a Comment

<< Home