Council challenge in Leytonstone

The recent resignation of a Labour local councillor has spurred Respect into standing in Leytonstone and around 65 people enthusiastically discussed the possibility of getting a candidate elected at a meeting last week. Abdul Khaliq opened proceedings by stressing the importance of everyone using their vote to put people into power who will say 'no' to war and campaign against injustice. He was adamant that the differences that divide us be left outside so that the "unity coalition" can be built. George Galloway followed and urged other left groups to join Respect. He suggested that the Greens should consider an electoral coalition and thought it silly that the Socialist Party continued to stand separately in elections. Comrade Galloway went on to call for an "East End charter" that will deliver proper housing, education and health to local people. A charter that will reflect "a real new deal" for people to organise and fight around: "It will be used in the build-up to the elections and well past the elections. It will address local and international issues." All speakers from the floor were in favour of Respect standing. Mike Barton outlined the appalling track record of New Labour when it came to housing. Instead of building more council houses and flats they chose to focus on cracking down on 'illegal bedsits'. A CPGB comrade urged that all councillors and MPs needed to be accountable. Whilst she said Respect did not go far enough on the issue of migration, and that Respect should call for open borders, she felt it was out of order for George Galloway a couple of months back to have advocated a "points system for immigrants" in the Morning Star. Especially when this was not even Respect's policy. Steve Cushion from Natfhe stressed the importance of building a "coalition of the willing", as was done in Tower Hamlets around the defence of local firefighters. Mark Campbell said that an increasing number of rank and file members are looking to Respect for answers. He called for more trade unionists to join as a matter of urgency. A young student spoke passionately about the desperate need for decent accommodation for people from his college. Comrade Sue, an adult education worker, urged people to defend the threat of closure of life-long learning facilities in the area. There was a good range of people who attended the meeting and all were eager to see Respect stand and hopefully win a seat in Leytonstone. Over £600 was collected in donations and a candidate's selection meeting has been set for June 14. The left in Leytonstone should rally around and support the campaign, however critically. To give an example of critical support, when Galloway suggests that leftwing groups should join Respect what does he expect? Does he expect such comrades to join and raise revolutionary socialist demands within the party? If so, we support him on this. Leading SWP comrade Chris Harman refers to the important role of the revolutionary left after the huge anti-capitalist protest in Seattle in 1999. After Seattle, the revolutionary left acted as a necessary pole of attraction to counter reformist or autonomist arguments, he says (International Socialism autumn 2004). If, however, Galloway simply expects members of left groups who join to leave their revolutionary principles at the door - as is the expectation of many SWP comrades (who, it has to be said, would prefer it if we stayed out altogether) - then we would have to oppose him on this. For instance, the revolutionary demand for open borders is inextricably bound up with the idea that the working class needs to link up internationally and fight along class lines to really change things. Anything short of open borders plays into ruling class hands. Immigration controls consciously foster divide-and-rule tactics and set one group of workers off against another. Revolutionary socialists, on the other hand, recognise that, if the self-emancipation of the working class is to come about, then everything that keeps us apart must be swept aside. Michelle Euston