The Socialist Unity Network

Respect and the Big Wide World Out There

Ben Drake

Respect 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:


October 2004


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism