Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 16 March 2006

Socialist Party discusses with Respect

LAST YEAR the Socialist Party wrote to Respect, asking for a meeting to discuss how our two organisations could best collaborate in the task of overcoming the lack of political representation for the working class. As a result, we were invited to meet Respect on 7 March. Judy Beishon reports.

Introducing the discussion, Hannah Sell restated that the Socialist Party welcomes every positive step towards working-class political representation. She went on to say, however, that although we welcomed Respect's electoral successes, such as George Galloway's victory in the 2005 general election, it is clear that Respect is not at present developing into a sizable, effective force that can represent all sections of the working class.

It has not developed into a force even equivalent to other formations such as the WASG in Germany, the Left Bloc in Portugal and the Brazilian P-SOL.

One reason is Respect's political approach and programme. It is important, for instance, to recruit Muslim workers to a new workers' formation, but this must be clearly based on a programme of working-class unity across all sections of society. Otherwise, there is the danger that divisions will be exacerbated, rather than unity being developed towards formation of an effective mass force.

Unfortunately, the approach and material used by Respect, which has achieved its electoral gains primarily by work in Muslim communities on the issue of the Iraq war, has laid it open to the perception of being a party predominantly for Muslims, with the corresponding dangers this can bring. The Respect representatives at the 7 March meeting dismissed our points on this issue and, without presenting evidence, argued that Respect has broad appeal beyond the Muslim community.

Another reason for Respect's failure to develop as a vehicle of working-class political representation, and the fundamental reason why the Socialist Party has been unable to join Respect and argue for our ideas from within, is because Respect is not organised on an inclusive, federal basis.

It claims to be a coalition of different organisations and opinions rather than a centralised party, but a large majority at most of its meetings and rallies are members of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). So on Respect's constitutional basis of decision-making by 'one person, one vote', the SWP is able to decide the outcome on most issues, from overall policy to the selection of election candidates.

Many trade unionists, left activists and community campaigners amongst others, are very wary of a 'coalition' which can be manipulated behind the scenes by a single organisation. This is the more so for workers who have had direct experience of the past policies and methods of the SWP.

Because Respect does not have a genuinely federal constitution that would have ensured that major decisions are taken on the basis of agreement between the key participating organisations, or that would have prevented the dominance of any single organisation, it has prevented wider layers from joining.

Over time, with an influx of new workers and youth into one (or more) new formations, federation-based constitutions could be changed through democratic discussion and debate to structures appropriate for the larger size, tasks and degree of political agreement of the organisation.

But it is premature at this stage in England and Wales to have a 'party-type' constitution, especially considering the present level of left and trade union forces involved in the necessary processes.

Unfortunately, the three Respect representatives at the 7 March meeting made it clear that Respect would not reconsider the basis of its present constitution. SWP member John Rees, Respect's national secretary, said that its structure is already federal, as there is no 'party political agreed position' and its members can campaign for their own ideas. But such a broad political entity requires a corresponding organisational federalism, which Rees does not support.

The other Respect representatives present, Tower Hamlets councillor Oliur Rahman and International Socialist Group (ISG) member Alan Thornett, said that the Socialist Party should join Respect, but also believe no fundamental changes to be necessary.

Alan Thornett even argued that Respect needs more centralisation rather than less, despite the fact that his group recently produced a public statement criticising lack of accountability and democracy in Respect.

Most of the measures they have supported are being implemented, especially following Galloway's Big Brother performance, which clearly revealed to Respect members the need for accountability of public representatives. But the changes being made will not solve Respect's problems, or alone lay the basis for it becoming a larger, successful coalition.

The Respect representatives accepted that Respect is still 'in formation' and is not therefore the final word on a new workers' party. But when invited to sign Respect up to the Campaign for a New Workers Party (CNWP), they did not do so, though they agreed to raise it at their next national council meeting and will send a speaker to the 19 March conference.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 16 March 2006:

Iraq: for the immediate withdrawal of all troops

Will the US bomb Iran?

Is there a way out of the Iraq quagmire?

Mass protests sweep France

The case for a new workers' party

Campaign for a New Workers' Party - come to conference!

Socialist Party discusses with Respect

'We reject New Labour's policies and philosophy'

Sticking to socialist principles, looking after the community

Success in Kendal

Jean Charles de Menezes: No more cover-ups!

Action to defend our pensions!

Still fighting for equal pay

PCS overtime ban - the issues

Parents back striking teachers

NUT executive - vote for Linda Taaffe


Home   |   The Socialist 16 March 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleYoung people accused of extremism

triangleResignation of five Respect councillors in Bradford

triangleBradford Respect: Where did it all go wrong?

triangleThatcher death: readers respond 2

Socialist Party:

triangleYork Socialist Party: Building and financing a revolutionary party

triangleHackney Socialist Party: The Left Opposition's fight against the rise of Stalinism in Russia

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Refugee rights

triangleMembers dig deep into their pockets to support the party


triangleCampaigners continue to demand Chorley A&E is fully reopened

triangleSeeing-off the bigoted, billionaire toff!

triangleContinuing the fighting tradition of working class women

The Socialist:

triangleInternational Women's Day

triangleSocialist Party congress 2018


triangleAfter the Unite elections - now turn outwards

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Russia, spies and nerve agents



Zero new homes 'affordable' in Blairite Manchester



Spring Statement 2018: Tory austerity staggers on despite economic and political weakness


What we saw

What we saw



Sainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for 10 with no strings!



Profits up Wages down



Determined UCU strikers: We're out to win!



Capitalism oppresses women - fight for socialism!


Them & Us

Them & Us



Women's oppression: the struggle goes on



Snow chaos showed the bosses' coldness - but also workers' grit



May's EU speech kicks the can down the road



Toys R Us, Maplin: worsening retail crisis claims more jobs



Corbyn's customs union dividing line: now stand firm for pro-worker Brexit



Corbynism shows 'Clause IV' still relevant a hundred years on

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018