Many thanks to one of our London subscribers who approached the Stop the War Coalition for an article about the impact of the anti-war movement on the recent British elections. We thank Lindsey German from the coalition for her contribution. Lindsey, who was a candidate for the Respect Unity Coalition, scored more than one-fifth of the vote in West Ham. An excellent achievement.
One her running mates, George Galloway, is now a renowned international political figure after winning his seat, beating Labor. His impassioned anti-war speech in the U.S. Senate brought cheers from anti-imperialist forces around the globe. These developments are certainly welcome. The solid vote for Respect was a conscious vote against the war.
The Freedom Socialist Party has not yet had a full political discussion about the character of Respect as an organisation. We would certainly share the concerns of critics alarmed by Respect’s ambiguous stance on abortion rights, with Galloway himself being morally opposed to abortion. Respect has also drawn criticism for fudging on the demand to abolish the monarchy and refusing to support the free movement of labour through the call for open borders. Galloway rejected the position — traditional in socialist election campaigns — that candidates, if elected, will not accept more than the average workers’ wage.
The Freedom Socialist Party advocates a vote in elections for explicitly anti-capitalist candidates. In Seattle, we are currently running Linda Averill as a socialist candidate for City Council (see page 29). When Averill ran two years ago on a strong socialist feminist platform, she got 11% of the vote in a six-candidate race.
Was the Respect campaign for the 2005 elections socialist? Many British election commentators saw the coalition as a single-issue, anti-war party. Its webpage proclaims, “ours are the politics of hope, honesty, courage and equality.” Comrades from the Communist Party of Great Britain, who are working inside Respect, report that when they proposed an explicitly socialist platform for Respect at its national conference, leaders of the organisation argued that this be rejected on the grounds that Respect is not a socialist organisation. At this stage, Respect seems to be a left populist coalition. Respect did, however, campaign in a vigorous manner and went out into multiracial working class communities to win active support. It argued, “Britain deserves better than Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The parties of privatisation and war know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” The Socialist Alliance in Australia — which centralised leadership and resources at its last conference — would do well to absorb the lessons from Respect’s outward looking, community-based campaigning.
We learn equally from victories and mistakes. Discussion about how the Respect Unity Coalition unfolds over the next period is an important question for socialists everywhere.