Respect: a barren conference

Submitted by Anon on 4 November, 2005 - 9:32

At the end of October, the Respect Unity Coalition unveiled a list of sixty resolutions (http://www.respectcoalition.com/?ite=900) which have been submitted to their conference (19-20 November).

Many are merely a rehash of existing policy — applying to the post-7/7 climate their positions of “troops out of Iraq now” and defending the “Muslim community” and, in effect, all its beliefs. It is worth noting, however, the lack of transparency in the wording of resolutions so that they can mean different things to different people.

For example, National Council’s resolution 1 says that “domination, discrimination and denigration of groups and individuals are always causes and sometimes justification for terrorism.” We might take this at face value — that oppressed communities are bound to fight back against their oppressors. But in the context of a motion on terrorism and in relation to the war in Iraq, it means that the occupation of Iraq legitimises the terrorism of the Islamists.

Equally, their resolution draws on the UN charter to explain a position that “struggles for the right to self-determination and struggles from oppression cannot be deemed illegitimate” — so their backing of the Iraq’s so-called “resistance” is justified by the charter drawn up by the victorious imperialist powers after World War Two!

A similarly middle-class opposition to New Labour is demonstrated by the position that “the fragile existence of democracy, and the very progress of moral civilisation itself, has always been predicated on the people’s struggle for liberty and the defeat of injustice and this sums up the sacrifices made by our forefathers during the Second World War” I’d thought that the Chartists were a bit more important in winning democracy than the Churchill government…

In contrast are some more principled (and critical) points from the branches. Resolutions 54-57 all strongly attack the manifesto for failing to defend — never mind extend — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights. They don’t explain that concessions to political Islam are the cause of this. But will it get passed?

The fact that there are no motions at all about the abortion rights which are currently under attack from the right, or indeed any women’s rights, is poor and highlights the Respect leadership’s unwillingness to offend reactionary religious opinion from some sections of the Muslim community. It is shocking that not a single branch would offer a resolution on women’s rights when this was one of the most glaring omissions from their election manifesto. Do none of the SWP comrades care about the right to choose, domestic violence or oppression of women by religious fundamentalists?

Motions on internal democracy (37, 38 and 41) are particularly apt given that the CPGB’s motions, against immigration controls and against religious hatred laws, were rejected on the grounds that they were submitted late (which the Weekly Worker denies). How convenient it is for the SWP leadership that they could find a reason not to accept two motions which contradict Respect policy.

The only bright spot is motion 22, from Cambridge, which commits Respect to support Iraqi workers’ organisations including the FWCUI and OWFI. We’ll see what response that gets from Galloway and the SWP!

The resolutions proposed for Respect conference reaffirm how barren the scope for socialists to work in the “Unity Coalition” is. The SWP leadership is merely going to extend its cross-class, Muslim communalist politics with a laughable defence of the “struggles” of the Iraqi “resistance”, large sections of which are far more opposed to democracy than Blair.

That is because the coalition is rooted in the rejection of working-class politics in favour of anyone “against Bush and Blair”, and cares about the “Muslim community” rather than workers and women in that community.

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