April edition of Red Pepper
is pretty good. Great cover with a variety of our favourite politicians in
PD style mugshots with the title 'defeat the war criminals' sets the tone.
Just time to focus on the pre-election coverage, which includes Tariq Ali's
already well-publicized and increasingly threadbare call to 'Punish the
warmongers: vote Lib Dem', and a piece by the excellent Craig Murray about
his stand against Jack Straw in Blackburn: 'A vote for Labour is a vote for
But of most interest is an assessment of
Respect by Natasha Grzincic: 'Respect where it's due'. This is the best and
most balanced piece on Respect that I've seen, capturing both good points
and areas of doubt. The focus is on Newham well displays the enthusiasm and
effort that has gone into building Respect out of local anti-war networks.
As Newham has a high percentage of ethnic minorities, including
Muslims, it's only natural that a high proportion of Respect's support is
going to come from those minorities. There is a claim that Respect has 250 -
or even 500 - 'dedicated workers' in the borough. If that's right then
Respect really has made a big breakthrough. The conclusion is that Respect's
strategy in Newham is working.
The article also raises other points: what are
the effects of it playing down its 'socialist roots'? Could the dependence
of Respect on the Muslim community backfire? The situation in the many parts
of the country where 'Respect is still an Aretha Franklin song, not a
realistic left challenge to Labour' is mentioned. Grzincic also has an
interesting discussion of the campaign for Janet Alder in Tottenham,
pointing out the real problems they have in attempting to get anywhere near
the level of support in East London, but also the efforts they are making to
reach out and build links.
Doubts about Respect by other activists are
raised. A Green says "There's a perception that the Socialist Alliance fell
apart because of the SWP, so it doesn't give us confidence that Respect
would be successful and democratic." And Grzincic raises issues for the
future. Is Respect "becoming a single-issue, almost single-constituency
party?" What will it do beyond the general election? Can it survive if it
doesn't raise its profile elsewhere and on other issues? Can it build wider
trust and unity across the left?
Grzincic's final words: "To avoid Newham/Tower
Hamlets being a more radical version of the Kidderminster effect, it has to
address the problem of building trust among a wide range of independent
campaigns and movements, and finding, along with the rest of us, a way of
building a united democratic alternative to New Labour" speak to all of us.
At last someone has gone beyond the usual dichotomy between Respect as the
greatest thing since sliced bread versus the grumpy sectarian write-off. I
don't think this is available on the web-site, so you'll have to buy the
There are other worthwhile things in this
latest edition of Red Pepper, including a thoughtful, sympathetic but
critical review of Paul Foot's The Vote by left liberal academic
David Beetham, a useful introductory guide to the Bolkestein directive on
services and a good set of articles on civil liberties issues; but Natasha
Grzincic's piece makes this a must-read magazine. The link to the Red Pepper
election blog is worth following as well.
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