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Respect at the crossroads

from SOCIALIST UNITY

The following document has been sent by National Chair of Respect(the English unity coalition), Linda Smith, to the Respect office in order for it to be circulated to all Respect National Council members.

RESPECT AT THE CROSSROADS

A very serious situation has developed inside Respect, in particular over the past two months. It comes at a time when the need for a broad pluralist organisation of the left has never been greater. The political conditions facing Respect today are even more favourable than when we launched the Coalition in January 2004. Millions remain opposed to the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Brown has tried to present a different face from Blair, but his support for Bush remains.

Trade union members in key unions like the CWU postal workers union are disgusted with the government. Union members are openly campaigning for the political fund no longer to go to the Labour Party. Where the RMT and the FBU led, other unions will inevitably follow. The RMT are discussing forming their own party and standing their own candidates in the GLA elections next May.

Across the country young people attend political events on issues such as the war, climate change, the arms trade and racism in their thousands. Muslim communities continue to face the lash of popular prejudice. All of these people need a political party, to draw together the growing discontent with the political establishment and especially with New Labour.

Unfortunately, the good work undertaken and achieved by Respect over the last three and a half years is now in danger of being completely undermined by the behaviour of the leadership of the SWP.

On the ground many SWP members have worked alongside other members of Respect to great effect.

However, it has become clear over the last two months, and the last two weeks in particular, that the actions of the SWP leadership imperil the very existence of Respect as a broad, pluralistic and democratic left alternative to New Labour. Since the letter from George Galloway, which echoed some of the criticisms others had been making earlier, was sent to the members of the National Council on August 23, the SWP leadership have demonstrated that they are incapable of engaging in open and frank discussion with those who have disagreements with them.

The chain of events in this crisis is contrary to the ethos which Respect has been seeking to develop and which is reflected in its constitution: “Respect is a broad, open and inclusive organisation… It is politically pluralistic and will encourage all its members to participate in its campaigns and activities”.

George Galloway’s letter criticised aspects of the way Respect has been run, and proposed some changes, in particular the appointment of a new post of national organiser to work alongside John Rees, the National Secretary. Behind the national organiser proposal was an attempt to bring more diversity to Respect and to start to restore confidence in the way the national office functioned. This proposal - and indeed the letter itself - was responded to with great hostility by John Rees and the leadership of the SWP, who characterised this as a part of a right wing attack on the left in Respect. Salma Yaqoob’s document “Challenges for Respect” refuted this and the outrageous allegations of communalism, which the SWP leadership had raised.

In fact, the real issue is whether Respect develops as a pluralist organisation in which no single component part dominates or controls.

The National Council on September 22 unanimously reaffirmed the principle of accountability throughout the organisation, including the elected leadership and elected representatives. The National Organiser issue was debated for several hours by the NC on September 22, adjourned to September 29, where agreement was eventually reached that the post would be of equal status and there was consensus that Nick Wrack take up the post on a temporary basis, if he could.

Following the circulation of an email by John Rees calling for suggestions about the National Organiser’s position Alan Thornett added his support to the proposals from Victoria Brittain and George Galloway that Nick take up the post until conference. Nick was instructed by the SWP Central Committee to withdraw his name. When he refused he was expelled from the SWP. At the same time Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman were instructed by the SWP Central Committee to resign their full-time employment with George Galloway’s office. Had they resigned it would have seriously disrupted the work of our only MP’s office. When they refused they were also expelled. from the SWP.

On Monday October 15 a national officers meeting with a built-in SWP majority voted against Nick taking up the National Organiser’s post and set aside the issue until conference. The same meeting voted against appointing Ian Donovan and Ghada Razuki to the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). The following night Tuesday October 16 there was a meeting of the (CAC), at which Linda Smith, the national chair of Respect, raised the issue of the constitutionality of the CAC itself (which has never been endorsed by the NC).

She also asked for the membership and financial records of the student members. She was unable to get such records or resolve the problem of the CAC itself. The same night, October 16, there was a major dispute in Tower Hamlets Respect branch at which the business of the meeting could not be concluded. Most of the 110 members present on the night left the meeting believing that the issues were to be resolved at a committee meeting to be held two days later. SWP members and a few others stayed behind and purported to vote through a completely unrepresentative list of delegates to the national conference.

At the committee meeting two days later the committee voted to reconvene the all members meeting to settle the delegate question. The SWP’s 10 committee members opposed this and when defeated walked out. Astonishingly, a letter was sent out from the Respect national office at 1.35am that night containing a “transcript” of the committee meeting with a subject line containing obscenities.

On Friday October 19 attempts were made by the SWP to block the election of delegates in Birmingham. Meanwhile the SWP has sent out a circular instructing its members to get delegated to conference.

The passwords to the membership database and office email have been changed and the National Chair has not been given access to them.

All these actions have struck a huge blow at the unity of Respect and put a legitimate conference in jeopardy.

We are appealing to members of Respect to support us in defending the coalition’s plurality. We can no longer allow Respect to be jeopardised by one section.

SIGNATORIES
Linda Smith, National Chair
Cllr Salma Yaqoob, National Vice-Chair
Ken Loach, National Council
Victoria Brittain, National Council
Yvonne Ridley, National Council
Abdurahman Jafar - Muslim Council of Britain
Abdul Khaliq Mian - National Council Member Newham
Clive Searle - National Council Member Manchester
Mobeen Azhar - National Council Member Manchester
Berny Parkes – National Council Member Dorset
John Lister - National Council Member
Nick Wrack, National Council Memberr
Cllr Abjol Miah, National Council and leader Respect group Tower Hamlets council
Alan Thornett, National Council London
Rita Carter, National Council London
Dr Mohammed Naseem, National Council Member Birmigham
Ger Francis, National Council Member Birmingham
Ayesha Bajwa, National Council Tower Hamlets
George Galloway MP, National Council
Abdul Karim Sheik - Leader of Respect Group of Councillors Newham
Hanif - Newham Councillor
Mamun Rashid - Tower Hamlets Councillor
Abdul Munim – Tower Hamlets Councillor
Dulal Miah - Tower Hamlets Councillor
Haroun Miah - Tower Hamlets Councillor
Fuzol Miah - Tower Hamlets Councillor
Mohammed Ishtiaq - Birmingham Councillor

1 Com:

Dave Riley | October 25, 2007

Here is an e mail that has been sent out to Respect members from the national office. Source: MacUaid
An Appeal to Respect members


There is a crisis in Respect and we are appealing to you to help us resolve it. Please read this appeal and show your support by signing it.

There is now overwhelming evidence that the democratic structures of Respect are being circumvented and marginalised. Some national officers are attempting to unilaterally by-pass the existing democratic structures of Respect and to witch-hunt socialists including the SWP.

In order to justify this, accusations are being made that the national officers group is dominated by the SWP when only 7 of its 16 members are in the SWP. It should be also be noted that the National Council of Respect is composed of 50 members only a minority of whom are members of the SWP.

There are attempts being made by some national officers to refuse Student Respect groups any representation at the national conference on the same basis as they were elected last year despite the decision by the national officers earlier this year that Student Respect groups would be allowed to elect delegates to conference.

In Tower Hamlets hundreds of new members have been registered in the last month, many of them in huge batches brought to office by a small number of individuals and virtually all at the concessionary membership rate. The decisions of a properly constituted branch meeting has been overturned by a margin of just one vote on the Tower Hamlets committee, attempts have been made to dismiss elected officers and a witch hunt of the left has begun.

In other places members meetings are being called without informing the existing officers and SWP members are being excluded from them.

Even more seriously there is a campaign of vilification of the left in Respect that can only result in Respect’s destruction as a serious left wing force.

We call on Respect members to demand that the forthcoming national conference call a halt to this campaign and re-establish the democratic culture of Respect. We call on all members to stand together in defence of Respect as a democratic, radical left wing project capable of mounting a principled challenge to New Labour.

Councillor Oli Rahman (Tower Hamlets), Councillor Rania Khan (Tower Hamlets), Councillor Lutfa Begum (Tower Hamlets), Councillor Ahmed Hussain (Tower Hamlets), Councillor Michael Lavalette (Preston), Councillor Ray Holmes (Bolsover), Elaine Graham Leigh (National Treasurer), John Rees (National Secretary), Sait Akgul (National Officer), Helen Salmon (National Council member), Jackie Turner (National Council member), Dominic Alexander (Tottenham Respect), Lindsey German (Respect Mayoral candidate), Chris Bambery (National Council member), Jeannie Robinson (National Council, Chesterfield) , Tony Dowling (National Council, Newcastle), Paul Fredericks (GLA candidate), Carmel Brown (National Committee, Liverpool), Mehdi Hassan (National Council, Tower Hamlets), Maxine Bowler (National Council, Sheffield).

To add your name reply to: respectappeal@ gmail.com

1. Rebecca Bryson, Sheffield Steering Committee
2. Estelle Cooch, Chair of LSE Student Respect
3. Laura Penketh, Preston Respect
4. Julia Armstrong, Sheffield Respect Activist
5. Andy Barr, Treasurer, Sheffield Respect
6. Keith Chadwick, Pendle
7. Mick Mulcahy, Preston
8. Martin Whinnery
9. Nick Burke, South Birmingham Respect
10. Shaun Doherty, George Galloway’s election agent for Bethnal Green and Bow (2005) and National Council member
11. Martin Lynch, Respect local election candidate in Walsall
12. Elaine Abbot, Respect local election candidate in Preston
13. Terry James, National Council member
14. Paddy O’Keeffe, National Council member
15. James Eaden, Election Agent, Bolsover
16. Balvinder Rana, National Council member
17. Miriam Scharf, National Council member
18. Audrey Glover, Preston Respect
19. Eugene Doherty, Preston Respect
20. Nahella Ashraf, Chair, Manchester Stop the War
21. Tom Woodcock, Respect local election candidate in Cambridge
22. John Molyneux, Convenor, Portsmouth Respect
23. Richard Brackenbury, Secretary, West London Respect
24. Sarah Cox, Respect by-election candidate in Brent
25. Rob Owen, National Council member and NUS National Executive Committee
26. Andrew Cunningham, Campaigns Officer, Manchester University Students’ Union
27. Alex Castro, Communications Officer, Manchester University Students’ Union
28. Alison Smith, Vice President Education and Welfare, University of Plymouth SU
29. Clare Solomon, National Council and Co President Finance and Services, SOAS SU
30. Mike Simmons, Secretary, Hackney Respect
31. Mike Barton, Secretary, Waltham Forest Respect
32. Chris Barnes, Steering Committee, Respect North East
33. Dean T Huggins, Respect local election candidate in Newcastle
34. Debbie Reed, Steering Committee Respect NE and Secretary Stop the War Coalition
35. Mahmoud Kurdi, Treasurer, Respect NE, Chair, Newcastle Muslim Association of Britain
36. Tommy Gardner, Steering Committee Respect NE and Stop the War Coalition
37. Alliya Stennet, NEC Member, UCU (personal capacity)
38. Lynne Chamberlain, Greenwich and Lewisham Respect
39. Pete Jackson, North Birmingham Respect
40. John Cooper, Student at King’s College London
41. Martin Chapman, Swansea
42. Gareth Dale, Southwark Respect
43. Nick Martin, Secretary, Nottingham Respect
44. Richard Dunn, Respect member
45. Angela Shann, UCU NEC/regional chair for Yorkshire and Humberside (pc)
46. Steve White, Waltham Forest Respect
47. Tony Phillips, Waltham Forest Respect
48. Ali Dworniak, Waltham Forest Respect
49. Des Barrow, Waltham Forest Respect
50. Sandy Nichol, SOAS UNISON Branch Secretary (pc)
51. Dave Compton, Respect member
52. Ray Smith, Secretary Newcastle Central Unite (Amicus Section) 1901 Branch (pc)
53. Fionntan MacDermott, Respect member
54. Sam James, Tower Hamlets Joint Vice Chair and Committee member
55. Dave Fysh, Portsmouth Respect
56. Sasah Simic, Hackney Respect
57. Sadia Jabeen, Respect local election candidate in Leicester
58. Martin Empson, Manchester Respect, previously Tower Hamlets Respect
59. Jenny Compton-Bishop, Respect member
60. Christine ViƩ, UCU NEC member
61. Julie Fowler, Tyneside branch Respect and SWP
62. Simon Behrman, Hackney Respect
63. Pat McManus, GLA list candidate and Brent and Harrow constituency candidate
64. Sharon McDuell, Islington Respect
65. John Cranwell, Respect member
66. Feyzi Ismail, Respect member
67. Manus McGrogan, Brighton & Hove Respect
68. Berlyne Hamilton, GLA list candidate
69. John Davies, Tower Hamlets UNISON branch officer (pc)
70. David Golan, Croydon and Sutton Respect
71. Andrew Collinson, Respect member
72. Paul Sutcliffe, Calderdale Respect
73. Simon Byrne, Respect member
74. Glyn Oliver, Southampton Respect
75. Bobby Noyes, Southampton Respect
76. Kim Gibbins, Respect member, Stirchley Stop the War, NUT
77. Keith McKenna, Respect member, Stirchley Stop the War, NUT
78. Eamonn Kelly, Bristol Respect member
79. Andy Strouthous, Islington Respect
80. Robin Burrett, Respect member
81. Hazel Sabey, Respect member
82. Mujgan Kazeroonian, Chair, Brent and Harrow Respect
83. John Taylor, Leeds Respect
84. Mike Thompson, Electoral agent, Loughborough, Lemyngton
85. Ed Huxley, Respect Member
86. Sarah Murdock, West Central Respect
87. Ian Mckendrick, Oxford Respect
88. Unjum Mirza, Political Officer, London Transport Region, RMT (pc)
89. Florence Durrant, Respect member
90. Robin Hirsch, Respect Tower Hamlets member and Convenor, Bow Stop the War
91. Ricky Thamman, Respect member and Tyneside Stop the War Steering Committee
92. Mark Krantz, Respect candidate 2005 and South Manchester Respect
93. Nicola Field, Respect member
94. Paul Topley, Treasurer, Harlow Respect
95. Maureen Topley, Respect by-election candidate in Harlow
96. Tom Topley, Membership Secretary, Harlow Respect
97. Maggie Falshaw, Election campaign coordinator, Tower Hamlets Respect
98. Matt Bradbury, Plymouth and Cornwall Respect
99. Giles Bentley, North West London Respect
100. John Cooper, Birmingham Respect
101. Angela Stapleford, PCS Member, Tate Modern and Respect member
102. Beverley Kirwan, Respect member
103. Rahul Patel, Respect member
104. Matthew Raine, Treasurer, North Birmingham Respect
105. Margaret Bulaitis, Respect member
106. Julie Simmons, Oxford Respect
107. Luke Stobart, Student Respect delegate to NUS (2006)
108. Judy Rafferty, Birmingham NUT and Respect member
109. Alistair Wingate, South Birmingham Respect
110. Jon Gamble, Watford Respect
111. Darren O’Grady, Waltham Forest Respect
112. Lina Nicolli, Waltham Forest Respect
113. Carole Vincent, Waltham Forest Respect
114. Paul Brook, High Peak Respect, UCU Convenor (pc)
115. Andy Coles, Respect member

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