Why we are against Respect organizing in Scotland
After a week in which George Galloway said he was under pressure to stand in next year’s elections for the Scottish Parliament, Respect’s annual conference on November 13 voted, 59 to 15, to organise in Scotland. That resolution, published below, makes Socialist Resistance’s position inside Respect untenable. Resistance supported the establishment of Respect in England and has been central to the party’s leadership and work since then. As we explained in the leaflet distributed to the conference, because Resistance supports the Scottish Socialist Party the decision to organise in Scotland in competition to the SSP is a deep error by Respect, one which weakens Respect’s democracy and neglects the importance of Scotland’s struggle for self-determination.
The following amendment was passed by a large majority at Respect’s annual conference on November 13.
Conference notes that:
1. There will be elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011
2. These elections will be conducted under a form of proportional representation in which some MSPs are elected from a list
3. Respect has not organized in or contested elections in Scotland in the past because of the hegemony of other parties to the left of Labour
4. This hegemony no longer exists
5. In the context of unprecedented cuts by the Condem Coalition and disappointment with the Labour and SNP, there is now an opportunity for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish parliament with a realistic prospect of success
Conference therefore believes
1. National officers should start preparations for Respect to contest elections to the Scottish Parliament
2. Preparations should include immediately registering Scottish Respect as a description that can be used in Scottish elections and seeking to recruit residents in Scotland to Respect
This is the text of a leaflet distributed by supporters of Socialist Resistance in Respect who now feel that our situation in the organisation is now untenable.
We are strongly opposed to the proposition that Respect organise in Scotland, as proposed in amendment E to Motion 1
Socialist Resistance has supported Respect since its inception in 2004 and previously supported the Socialist Alliance. We supported George Galloway’s letter which sought to democratize the leadership of Respect and backed the majority in the ensuing split in the organisation in 2007. We put the resources of our newspaper at the disposal of Respect. We understood that George and Salma , given their role in the anti-war movement had a vital contribution to make in building a political alternative to New Labour.
But were a resolution to organise Respect in Scotland to be passed at this Respect Conference this would make our situation in the organisation untenable. We are against such a resolution being adopted on a number of grounds:
1) A controversial change of a long-held policy that Respect does not organise in Scotland should not be introduced a week before the conference and with no discussion at the National Council or in the branches.
2) The only purpose in organising in Scotland would be for Respect to stand candidates in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections and in subsequent parliamentary and local elections. Respect has no policy positions on the specific situation in Scotland, particularly the issue of devolution and self-determination an issue around which there would be several different positions. To go into a Scottish election with no debate on key political issues would be fundamentally wrong.
3) There are already two left parties in Scotland standing in elections and they intend to continue doing so, namely the SSP and Solidarity. The SLP also stands in elections in Scotland. The last thing the Scottish left needs is another left party standing in those same elections and dividing the left vote still further.
4) In Respect there have always been different views on which party to support in Scotland. We support the SSP. If this conference were to adopt a position on organising in Scotland and to fight elections SR members would be in an impossible situation. For a party to have members who advocate voting for a different party would be untenable – both for Respect and for SR.
5) Underlying this issue is an important political question; namely the right of the Scottish people to self-determination, including the right to independence. Therefore we reject the idea of English based parties organizing in Scotland.
6) We still haven’t managed to build Respect on an England-wide basis – a decision to stand for election in Glasgow will inevitably lead to the deprioritisation of Tower Hamlets.
We therefore urge the leadership and membership of Respect to avoid this course of action and to reject the proposal to organise in Scotland, avoiding both the undemocratic nature of such a decision and its consequences for the unity of the organisation.