Respect and the Big Wide World Out There
expresses a broader ambition than the Socialist Alliance. There the
idea was to bring together existing far left groups with the Labour left
in an explicitly socialist challenge to New Labour. Whereas Respect has
grown out of the anti-war movement, and aims to mobilise that much more
diverse range of people who are broadly anti-war, anti-racism and
anti-privatisation, but many of whom don't see themselves as socialists.
And some organisational choices flow from that ambition. First, while
Respect wants as many groups on board as possible, socialist groups
don't have some sort of automatic priority over everyone else. Those
who demand Respect do this-or-that in order for them to join might want
to reflect whether it's really that simple?
In reality the Respect programme is not revolutionary and only partly
socialist, precisely because it reflects the real forces involved. A
full-on Transitional Programme might be more satisfying for us Trots,
but is it worth finding ourselves declaring it to each other in an
otherwise empty room?
Of course that leads to the question how do we (revolutionary
socialists) stay honest in Respect? The answer is the second
organisational choice, that Respect should stay a coalition. That
allows each group to retain our distinct analyses and basically to be
honest about what we think, while maintaining unity.
The third and crucial point is that everything about Respect, every
policy and debate, must be linked to action. It's all too seductive
(I've done it) to slip from building revolutions to drafting
resolutions. However correct a position, without a real live campaign
it means nowt. Usually better to start with the campaign and write the
policy to fit.
And linked to that, let's retain perspective on electoral politics all
told. Respect is worth it, the opportunities for meeting people, making
arguments, challenging New Labour are fantastic. But we know ultimately
elections won't save the world. We should work to make Respect a
success, but it must also be part of the broader movement we all
continue to contribute to in our workplaces and communities.
And on that note, don't forget to come to the
European Social Forum: