“THERE IS A SPLIT IN RESPECT”
“North Manchester Respect is now aligned to Respect Renewal – and is committed to entering into a dialogue with others across the city and the region to build a broad, mass based left party.”
Last night at the North Manchester Respect Members Meeting a resolution was carried to recognise the split and manage it as best as possible, separating North Manchester into one Respect Renewal branch and another Bury Respect branch.
This was approved by 35 to 16 (appended at the end of this report).
Another resolution (standard SWP – “resolving to continue the work of building Respect – the Unity Coalition”, “recognising the Fourth Annual Respect Conference … as the only national decision making body of Respect”, and agreeing to support its decisions) was defeated by the same margin.
The meeting was very well behaved, with almost entirely reasoned, measured debate on both sides. There were over 60 people present (including observers). The debate was well chaired, by consent of all present, by Geoff Brown (Chair of Trades Council, SWP member). People spoke for or against, in turn, and kept to time.
The resolution (below) was introduced on the basis that everyone present opposed the war and privatisation and supported Karen Reissmann, sacked Unison steward (and SWP member). [Note - Karen was the Socialist Alliance candidate in the 2001 General Election in North Manchester; though she was not present last night.] The disagreement was on what to do on the left of Labour – and no-one had the answer. It is a debate in France, Germany, New Zealand, and even in Venezuela they get things wrong sometimes. But people here are not going to agree – even though there will be craziness of different placards and leaflets on demonstrations. The other resolution is wrong to recognise one conference only. The future of Respect wont be settled in Manchester. But the future of the Manchester Left should not be allowed to let divisions harden here.
The SWP opposed this and proposed their resolution, admitting right at the start that they had been wrong to say that those who attended the Renewal Conference had left Respect. Their position was that Respect had been successful, but success brought problems, Tower Hamlets Councillor defecting to Labour, not holding to policies elected on. The split is only a victory for Gordon Brown. However, there has to be a split. There are two separate organisations. This needs to be clarified.
Other speakers amplified these points. [Note: this is in order of debate, without further indication of the political origin of the comments.] The split isnt ours, but due to egomania in London. But there should be a split, as people havent been serious about building Respect. On the other hand, we cant solve political disagreements organisationally. The act of not going to the (official) conference is turning one’s back on an organisational. Respect’s orignal vision – RUC – or a new organisation? We should build a mass party, functioning, not just at election time. The SWP want a united front of a special kind, this is putting a privileged position for the SWP. We have had a paper in Manchester, the SWP only want SW. Respect came out of Stop the War, split has occurred, must follow it locally. In Birmingham, people paid for members to join at a selection meeting; this was compromise with businessmen. But you can’t have a coalition with yourselves. SOAS report showed the unconstitutional student delegations, and that is why elected delegates went to Renewal instead of Westminster conference. Renewal Conference was not full of people who were “right wing”, “communalist”, “witch-hunters”. There are still lots of decent people in SW (and this was applauded at Renewal Conference); but the SW leadership is wrong. We cant go on aruging instead of getting on with activity.
For the SWP, you dont have to come to meetings to show commitment. Respect Renewal – what type of party is it going to be? So broad that issues such as gay, women’s socialism are on the back burner? [but isnt this what SWP were criticised for in starting Respect?]
For North Manchester comrades, it was said that every Saturday they have had members standing on the streets; while other people (SWP) were in Respect but not committed to it – for the SWP the response was that the fact that they had not been seen before didnt mean they werent activists. “Huddling on a corner on Cheetham Hill Road doesnt build a movement” [this was probably the only truly insensitive and insulting line in the whole debate].
Concluding speakers said that Respect Renewal was no less left than Respect; the division was about a broad socialist left party and a united front. A member of Socialist Unity in Greater Manchester (who recently joined Respect) quoted some of Lenin and suggested that the division between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks was organisational as well as political. The final SWP speaker admitted that Respect had not been their priority and was “sorry that some of the best socialists are running off with Galloway”.
The vote was taken, counted by Chair and two observers, and the result was 35-16 in favour of managing the divisions.
The SWP then left the meeting and North Manchester Respect continued with the business for which the meeting had originally been convened.
North Manchester Respect – Renewal – Across the Manchester Area:
A paper was introduced (this is 2 sides of A4 and I dont have it on computer) – outlining the consistent work done by North Manchester Respect [and it should be said, by the North Manchester Socialist Alliance before that] and calling for continuing this activity, together with friends and comrades in the SWP (and other left groups and individuals). The decision arising was that North Manchester Respect was aligned to Renewal, committed to support a national newspaper (and a local paper – 1000 copies to be out this Saturday), committed to building democratic, pluralistic and inclusive branches across the locality, and to fighting effective election campaigns, and doing this through dialogue with others across the city and region to build a broad, mass based left party.
In discussion it was clear that this recognised how North Manchester Respect would from now on be a focus for all the Respect members (and others who had joined and left, or who had never joined) across the Manchester area, who wanted to work in an inclusive left organisation.
This was all agreed unanimously by the 30-40 people who had remained for the meeting. [Some observers clearly stayed for this meeting, though some may have left; it is not clear if anyone else had left other than those who had voted for the other resolution.]
The meeting then proceeded to debate forthcoming elections (this was one of the prime purposes of the meeting, as notified publicly at the Galloway / Yacoob / Lavalette / Reissmann public meeting on November 6th) and agreed unanimously to support Kay Phillips for Cheetham Hill Ward (to stand against the odious Labour councillor Pagel who is on the Board of the Mental Health Trust currently sacking Karen Reissmann). Kay stood for this Ward and gained over 500 votes in 2004 – she was subsequently prevented from standing by changed Respect priorities in the following years.
The meeting also agreed that comrades would put further proposals – on whether or where to stand, with reasons – to the next meeting (January 10th, Saffron, Cheetham Hill).
Fund-raising and other activities were also discussed and comrades were thanked for their proposals – details of more activities to be circulated.
Appended – Successful Resolution – Carried 35-16
A proposal for managing the divisions within Respect in the North Manchester & Bury area.
As campaigners and activists there is more that unites us than divides us.Many of us have stood alongside each other in countless struggles over the years. It is vital for the outcome of current and future struggles in Manchester that the Left and other progressive forces can work together in a spirit of cooperation and unity.
However, there is a split in Respect. This is not something that anyone would have chosen. There are two visions of Respect. This is what lies behind the split. Both sides of this debate are equally convinced of their position.
We have to manage this division as best as possible. We have pull back from unnecessary confrontation and stop a bad situation from getting worse. The decisions about the future of Respect will not be decided in North Manchester. There is no value in meeting up on a monthly basis in one room to see divisions harden and deepen and to watch political relationships deteriorate.
We therefore propose this solution.
We separate North Manchester and Bury Respect branch into two separate branches. One branch will be a Respect Renewal branch aligned with the Bishopgate conference and accepts RR members. The other branch accepts those who support the Westminster Conference decisions. This arrangement is for the mutual benefit of all activists. No side of this debate should proclaim a ‘victory’ over the other in this agreement
The two branches will work together jointly over campaigns and struggles. This will necessitate an ad-hoc coordination on an open and fraternal basis