Rees sides with Blair

The University of Manchester had its first Respect Students Society meeting on October 7. About 30 students gathered to listen to Respect national secretary John Rees speak about government attacks on civil liberties. Yvonne Ridley was unable to attend, having been taken ill after fasting for the first time since converting to islam. The audience was not as pro-Respect as I had imagined and criticisms were made about the emphasis on George Galloway and the image of Respect as a single-issue party. This was dismissed by Susie Wylie from the National Union of Students, who claimed that Respect is "much more than just one MP". As for being single-issue, on the contrary, "Respect has something for everyone and unites all activists from pacifists to environmentalists." Echoing the posters around the room, both comrades Wylie and Rees repeatedly focused on "peace, justice and equality", neither making any mention of socialism in their speeches. I asked why the SWP was allowing the right wing within Respect to set the agenda, including the leaders of reactionary religious associations. Ignoring this, John Rees simply pointed out that the majority of muslims are working class. He ignored my point because he is also acutely embarrassed at the fact that he finds himself siding with the Labour government, which he so adamantly opposed in his talk, in support of the religious hatred laws. Presumably he believes those same religious leaders will come down in favour of Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, although that is far from being the case. For 15 minutes comrade Rees spoke of his disgust at the current anti-terror legislation and how it was another step closer to creating a police state within Britain. Why then does he not recognise that the bill is merely an extension of this legislation? In response to my queries he told me that the reason he favours the proposals was because he was "against religious hatred". Silly me. He then tried to allude to some kind of islamophobia on my part and suggested that organisations such as the CPGB should stop "targeting muslims" and focus on the real problem - christian fundamentalists such as Bush, Blair and education secretary Ruth Kelly. The religious hatred legislation will do nothing for muslims rights or for the minorities it claims to protect. It will restrict freedom of speech on religious questions, for believers and non-believers alike, and in reality is another weapon in the state's armoury to be used against its potentially most dangerous enemy, the organised working class. It will be leftwing criticism that will be targeted next. Emily Bransom click here to read all our motions to Respect conference 2005 20 signed up Respect members can present a motion to conference. Send an email to respect@cpgb.org.uk if you support one or all our motions. Remember, the deadline is Friday, October 14.