An outgrowth of Britain’s anti-war movement, RESPECT — The Unity Coalition is a joint venture between the Socialist Workers Party and the Muslim Association of Britain. Founded in 2004, this London-based organization goes by the acronym RESPECT, which stands for its ideals of Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, and Trade Unionism. The group’s aim is “to build a broad-based and inclusive alternative to the [political] parties of privatization, war and occupation.” It proposes to accomplish this by “intervening in elections at [the] national, local and European level[s], building RESPECT as a campaigning organization, [and] involvement in [the] trade union and workplace struggle.”
RESPECT’s positions on a number of key issues include the following:
- Economics: Advocating a socialist economy, RESPECT “stand[s] with those across the world suffering from global capital in its various forms.” “The capitalist system,” the organization elaborates, “breeds competition between individuals, and divides us by fueling things like racism, sexism and homophobia. It sends us to work to produce goods we will never own, at a work process over which we have little control. The system produces what Karl Marx called alienation. And this means that sometimes people get lost in despair and sometimes lash out against others.”
- Crime: “[W]hat we think of as crime is not neutral but [is] actually shaped by the kind of society that capitalism is and what its priorities are. … [C]rime is created by poverty, inequality and alienation. [It] is a horrible by-product of the system under which we live. Ultimately dealing with the problem of crime means dealing with the system that produces it.” In RESPECT’s calculus, punishment is not a viable solution to the crime problem. Rather, society must “tackle the real issue — the causes of crime,” which RESPECT traces to the alleged evils of “free market policies.”
- Education: RESPECT maintains that education is “a public service, not a market or business,” and thus “the profit motive should have no place” in it. Opposed to private schools, RESPECT supports “a well-funded comprehensive education system” financed entirely by the government. Specifically, the organization calls for an end to “SATs and other unnecessary tests”; free education for everyone, from pre-school through the university level; a “radical reduction in class size”; free after-school clubs and play centers “for all that need them”; full- and part-time nursery and day-care facilities “as a right, for all who want them”; an end to charitable status and tax breaks for private schools; the abolition of tuition fees and student loans; and “free and life-long access for all to high quality vocational education and adult education.”
- War on Terror: Denouncing the “imperialist war” in Iraq, RESPECT states: “Having created disaster in Iraq, [U.S. President George] Bush and [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair are now repeating the process by ratcheting up the threats against Iran — another Muslim country with very large oil reserves — accusing it of using its nuclear power program to develop nuclear weapons. … Blair wants us to forget that he took us to war on a pack of lies — or that the war has been declared illegal by the UN Secretary General [Kofi Annan].” Demanding that the U.S. and Britain withdraw their troops from Iraq immediately, RESPECT condemns “the torture prisons of Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.”
- Civil Liberties: “Bush and Blair’s ‘war on terror’ has spawned repeated attacks on civil liberties and human rights across the globe. … Muslims, in particular, feel the sharp end of these measures. They are demonized by Islamophobia and subject to ‘guilt by association.’”
- Climate Change and Energy Policy: Lamenting “the destruction of the environment inherent in the profit system,” RESPECT states: “Global warming and climate change are spiraling out of control. … Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe … This situation is created predominantly by human activity, in particular by a reliance on fossil fuels, resulting in the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” To address these problems, the organization calls for a 60 percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels by the year 2050, and massive investment in solar, biological, wind, and water power. It also advocates “an international treaty which goes way beyond Kyoto.”
- Migration: Impugning America’s and Britain’s “racist attitude towards migrants and asylum seekers,” RESPECT “rejects the notion that [such people] are a burden on society, or that Britain is full up and cannot take any more people.” “The rich countries,” says RESPECT, “including Britain, are well placed to protect some of the world’s most oppressed and vulnerable people.”
- Employment Rights: RESPECT calls for the minimum hourly wage to be increased to £8.00, or approximately $16.00 — “which is the European Union’s decency threshold.”
- Women’s Rights: Lamenting that “[w]omen … in full-time work still only earn 82 percent of the male wage,” RESPECT advocates: an end to such wage “discrimination”; “universal childcare in publicly funded nurseries for the full working day”; “after-school clubs for all children”; and “extend[ed] parental leave entitlements [for] all employees regardless of size of workforce.” It also considers sexual harassment in the workplace and domestic violence in the home to be serious problems afflicting Western societies. Moreover, it supports women’s unfettered right to government-funded abortion-on-demand.
- Lesbian and Gay Rights: “RESPECT condemns, and will campaign against, all homophobic attacks and acts of prejudice. We recognize that there has been an escalation of homophobic attacks … [and] homophobic bullying in schools … [which] makes the lives of so many young people intolerable, … leading many to take or attempt to take their own lives.
- Multiracial Britain: “RESPECT is proud of our multiracial, multicultural society. The tremendous mixing of people over the decades has enriched the lives of everyone in Britain. Yet at each stage, and again today, there have been politicians and sections of the press that have sought to scapegoat newcomers and those who have already settled here.” To address this problem, RESPECT advocates “a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system to end discrimination”; “urgent action to address the underachievement of black children and others in schools”; and “tougher penalties for employers who discriminate.”
- Young People: RESPECT believes that everyone should be permitted to vote in political elections from the age of 16. It also opposes criminal punishment for youthful offenders. To reduce rates of criminality among young people, RESPECT calls for “a fully-funded youth service” and “massive investment in community and youth facilities.”
- Health Care: Strongly opposed to “a free market in health care,” RESPECT “believes that there is no place in the [National Health Service of England] for the private sector … The only way to ensure a comprehensive and equitable service accessible to all is through a publicly financed, publicly provided and publicly controlled and planned service.”
- Animal Welfare: RESPECT calls for a ban on hunting with dogs; an end to factory farming; an end to animal experimentation “for cosmetic or other unnecessary purposes”; “control of sea fishing to allow stocks to recover”; a ban on “sea-fishing methods … which kill sea mammals and birds”; and “strict regulation of the pet trade.”
To fund the foregoing proposals, RESPECT calls for “a massive cut in military spending”; a “transfer [of] resources from military to useful production”; a hike in the top rate of income tax and inheritance tax; a large increase in corporation tax; “an additional tax on the super-profits of the oil companies and the banks”; “higher duties on other transfers of wealth and financial transaction[s]”; and “increased stamp duty on stocks and shares.” RESPECT also declares its “international solidarity … with peoples across the world who are denied their national rights or live under oppressive regimes or face the threat of intervention by the imperialist powers.” Among these allegedly threatened populations are Venezuelans, who RESPECT lauds for “the stand they have taken against … intimidation by the USA.” Similarly, RESPECT supports “the Palestinian people [who] have suffered more than half a century at the hands of the Israel.” In 2004, RESPECT announced that its founder, British Member of Parliament George Galloway, would be its candidate for the European Parliament. In the election, Galloway garnered only 1.5 percent of the vote. Anothr notable member of RESPECT is the British journalist Yvonne Ridley, who detests the State of Israel.