Tuesday 17 November 2009

Respect Conference

Reports of conference are available on various blogs which I link to. For example here and here.

The official report is here.

I just wanted to give a few impressions as a delegate.

The positives are that Respect is on the up, growing in membership and hopeful that we can increase our Parliamentary representation, by adding Salma Yaqoob and Abjol Miah to George Galloway. Respect remains the strongest left current electorally (the Greens have more councillors but as yet no-one in Parliament).

On the downside we remain small and active in a comparitively small number of places. This really brings us to the nub of the biggest and most controversial questions facing us - if we can only win in a few places, who do we work with on the rest of the left and on what basis?

There were a number of motions about this at Conference, none of which were mutually exclusive and all of which were passed. But this paper unanimity does mask sharp disagreements about what the words really mean for different people

One group, which supported No2EU at the Euro-elections and is sceptical about the Greens, want to see Respect orient towards the new coalition which has just been announced between the Socialist Party and Communist Party of Britain.

Another group, around the leadership, is dismissive of No2EU and the latest coalition and sees co-operation with the Greens as a bigger priority. In Birmingham this has borne fruit with the Greens deciding not to stand against Salma Yaqoob after she supported the Greens at the Euro-elections, and a possibility of a similar deal in Manchester.

Socialist Resistance does not see the approaches as needing to be counterposed. We want to see votes for credible candidates to the left of New Labour in as many places as possible, be it left Greens, explicit socialists or indeed Labour lefts like McDonnell and Corbyn.

The left's priority must be to mount as big a challenge as possible at the general election to counter the swing to the right (and the far right) which is currently a very real prospect.

We cannot afford the luxury of bickering.

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