Dead Men Left

Monday, November 01, 2004

Respect: considerably less offensive than Nick Cohen

May write something more detailed about the Respect conference later. It was a resounding success: in its appearance, far removed from the Old Left stereotype - not old, white, male; in the quality of the debates, well-informed and politically astute; and in the seriousness of its purpose, a united organisation. For now, I'm pleased to report that these two motions were passed by overwhelming majorities.

Motion 38 (composite): Abortion - Hackney, Waltham Forest, York, Greenwich and Lewisham

Noting the following provisions in the founding declaration of Respect - the Unity Coalition:

- opposition to all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs (or lack of them), sexual orientation, disabilities, national origin or citizenship
- the right to self-determination of every individual in relation to their religious (or non-religious) beliefs, as well as sexual choices

Respect therefore opposes any change in legislation that restricts abortion rights and supports a woman's right to choose.

Motion 57: Gay Pride - Tyneside

This conference welcomes the production of a Respect leaflet for London Pride.

It supports the policies outlined in that leaflet, ie
- an end to discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people
- for equal partnership and pension rights
- for strong policies to tackle homophobia in all public bodies
- for an increase in public services that meet the needs of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people, rather than money wasted on war

Conference instructs the incoming National Committee to produce similar material for all Pride events next year and urges local groups to make sure material is distributed at events in their area.

I believe that Respect now has the most progressive policy on these two issues of any serious national electoral organisation. It saddens me to add, however, that the increasingly hysterical attacks launched on Respect by the so-called pro-war "left" - that it was "compromising" on womens' rights, or gay rights - seem motivated by the blind prejudices of isolated and socially conservative one-time radicals. "Muslim" does not mean "reactionary bigot": it should not be required to spell this out to anyone nominally on the left, and their inability to comprehend of British Muslims as anything other a sinister block is perturbing. For the rest of us, Respect continues to develop; the debate about electoral strategy drove home just how serious this project is. There are seats to be won in the general election next year, and a party to be built.