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Respect Onwards and Upwards

Socialist Workers Party


Respect has hit the big time. Galloway's journey into the lion's den has put Respect well and truly on the map. He has gone from being a pariah to a national hero! The senate hearing has electrified politics; he articulated what millions of people across the globe felt about Bush and Blair's illegal war and occupation. Over 26 million people watched the senate hearings on Al Jazeera TV. The Respect Office tells me that over 2,500 people have contacted them to find more details about the coalition, some from far a field as Texas, Bulgaria and Iceland!

On Wednesday night 1,500 packed themselves into Friends Meeting House to hear John Pilger, Salma Yaqoob, Mark Serwotka, George Galloway, Lindsey German, Abdul Khaliq Mian and John Rees. It was electrifying. For all the sneers of Respect as being a Muslim front, what came out of the rally was a fighting socialist strategy and not just from John and Lindsey; Salma, George and Abdul all outlined a militant strategy for Respect all based on the mobilisation of the working class.

Another indicator of the massive effect that Galloway's senate appearance had was the fact that at very short notice Question Time changed their panel to include George. He had a massive impact on the show. He got an ovation at the end of the programme Dimbleby said that that was the first time he had seen such a thing on his show.

Did you see the Labour woman's face on the panel of Question Time? The hatred in her eyes said it all. Labour is not going to sit back and let us challenge them on their home turf. The smears are going to continue and they are going to try and undermine our base.

Our job is to go all out to build Respect, there can be no ifs and no buts. Sunday's National Committee argued that we have to make a complete turn. There are no longer "Respect specialists" in the SWP, we are all Respect specialists. Every member has to join Respect. Every SWP member has to build Respect wherever they are, in their workplace, college or community.

We need to turn the huge media coverage for Respect and the public sympathy for Galloway into mass membership. That means in every area we have to develop a strategy to pull in new members now.

The temptation at the moment is to just wait for Galloway to come and speak in your town/city. This is a mistake and you might have to wait along time. Have you seen George Galloway's timetable?

We have to start building now, that means organising the kind of events that can pull in new members. Manchester have a rally set up with Salma Yaqoob and Chris Bambery, any town could organise this kind of meeting with leading Respect speakers. However as we've said before rallies are not the only option. The big cultural events, the meals etc can pull in hundreds of people and show that Respect is a different kind of party. A Respect meeting should not look like an old Socialist Alliance meeting. We could set up a brilliant platform to discuss Why do Black boys underachieve or Tariq Ali on the re-launch of his street fighting years book, the key is imagination. In Leeds Respect has set up three showings of George Galloway's savaging of the lickspittles in the US senate. The pace of events at the moment surely means that a once monthly meeting is not enough?

We cannot reduce Respect down to a paste table. The point is that everything Respect does has to be big, bold and exciting.

The other main discussion at the NC was how to keep up Respects momentum. The 2006 council elections are our next major target. If we are serious about building our base in East London and Birmingham and breaking into new areas then the campaign starts now.

That means Respect groups have to have strategic discussions about were we are going to stand. We have to analyse were we did well in the Euro elections and make a decision if these are the wards we are going to target again. Then we have to start systematically campaigning in these areas, monthly bulletins, take up local campaigns and win the trust of people in these communities.

The key to building Respect is the networks that exist in every working class community - trade unions, community groups, churches, mosques etc. They are the networks that we have to brake into if Respect is to be successful. We can work as hard as we, but if we reduce Respect down to the left then we will stand still. A good Respect campaign is also about motivating these people to see Respect as their own and to help build it and make it a success.

There is one big danger: everyone agrees with this strategy but think it relates to East London and Birmingham. There can be no exceptionalism. Of course in some areas around the country we are further forward than others with this project. But Galloway's election and the trip to the senate mean that we can build Respect in every town and city.

Let's look at Watford (I am not picking on them, it was just the first town that sprung into my head). Of course we are not saying that Watford can become Tower Hamlets overnight but we can make real gains in short order. On average we get about 6 members to an SWP meeting. It should be possible if we do the work to build a Respect group of 50-100 members. This is the way to build a new left. What we are not talking about is taking over Watford council, but what we are saying is that it is possible to win a councillor and build a vibrant organisation on the ground.


On Sunday comrades raised the question of how the party organises when the main priority is building Respect. We have to repeat the starting point has to be Respect. If we start with the internal question of the organisation of the SWP we will just be gazing at our navels and miss the best opportunity we will ever have to create a new left. The SWP has to fit around Respect not the other way round. For the time being we will have to be flexible about the form the SWP takes. But for the time being we need to continue to hold monthly SWP meetings. (However over the next 3 or 4 weeks we need to be holding Respect meetings / Rallies). Secondly we need to continue with our sales, and then in weeks where Respect is not meeting we should hold branch meetings / caucuses to tackle key questions that arise inside Respect.

The essential role of the SWP branch is to organise the sales of Socialist Worker, recruitment to the SWP and build Marxism.

In election week we sold over 500 copies of Socialist Worker in East London, as you can imagine this was not a week when we were organising tube sales etc. At Respect's London rally we sold 319 copies of the paper! If you take out SWP members and those on subscription that means around half of the audience got the paper. There is a huge audience for Socialist Worker inside Respect. With a mass Respect we can build a mass audience for Socialist Worker without worrying about the weather on Saturday mornings! That means we now need to organise to get Socialist Worker< to every Respect event. And we need to run a systematic campaign to win activists to take out a 3 subscription to the paper.

As far as recruitment goes we have already seen a layer of Respect activists joining the SWP. If the SWP is a driving force in building Respect then we can expect to pull many more of the best activists into our ranks in Newham we are already doing this, building Respect and building the SWP.