Letters - The left and its friends

Contrary to Nick Cohen ("Saddam's very own party", 7 June), Respect is much more than the Socialist Workers Party and the Muslim Association of Britain. It is a party which has grown out of the anti-war movement, by people crying out for an alternative to new Labour. Most Respect members have no allegiances to either the SWP or the MAB. They are individuals who can no longer stomach new Labour's endless stream of war and privatisation. Cohen implies that the party associates with homophobics. Yet its founding declaration states opposition to all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs (or lack of them), sexual orientation, disabilities, national origin or citizenship.

Andrew Collingwood

Nick Cohen's generally accurate article is wrong on one point. The Muslim Association of Britain is not part of Respect and does not give it blanket support. It's not that stupid. It generally backs the Lib Dems in local elections, and backs Respect only in London (Galloway), Yorkshire and Humberside (the former MAB president Anas Altikriti), North-East (the Muslim convert Yvonne Ridley) and West Midlands. But he is right that the SWP and Galloway wanted these fundamentalist reactionaries in their "party"and were desperately disappointed when the MAB turned them down.

Jim Denham

Nick Cohen's critique of the far left's dodgy dalliances will be disputed but the need for solidarity with Iraqis trying to build a civil society should not be lost in the polemical heat. Whether one supported or opposed the war, there can be a common focus on backing Iraqi democrats. The unions had a small clandestine existence under Saddam Hussein while his stooge unions were a part of the repressive apparatus. Now several sectoral unions have been formed. See www.iraqitradeunions.org.

Gary Kent
West Wickham, Kent

This article first appeared in the 14 June 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Escape from UKIP