Socialist Alliance -- The Fight for an Alliance

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Fri Sep 13 13:09:50 MDT 1996

Here's an article about the building the Socialist Alliance in Manchester.
It's from the latest Socialist Voice.

It's too bad the Unity-list moderator Per Mathisen decided to kick me out.
The experience of trying to hammer out a common line described in this
article is what left unity is all about. It could have provided a starting
point for some constructive discussion on a list ostensibly devoted to the
topic of left unity. Their loss, not ours.





By Peter Money

The Greater Manchester Socialist Alliance held its first conference in the
middle of July.

It was attended by over 50 people. There were 'supporters' (the Socialist
Alliance currently talks about supporters not members) from the
International Socialist League, Militant Labour, Socialist Outlook,
visitors from the Socialist Labour Party, the Labour Party and the
Communist Party and a number of independent socialists.

The most important thing about the conference was that it showed, in a
similar way to the Scottish Socialist Alliance conference which took place
earlier this year, the strong desire for unity and working together that
exists amongst a wide range of socialists and socialist organisations. For
the most part the conference was conducted in a very fraternal and
comradely way although there were many different political viewpoints
represented at the conference.

The main purpose of the conference was the agreement of a charter of
demands and this was achieved. A draft charter, which ran to over ten pages
including an introductory overview and position statement, had been
developed over a series of pre-conference meetings. It had attracted 72
amendments. These were all dealt with and the charter was agreed. However,
the conference also showed that there are still some lessons to be learned
about how to arrive at a principled agreement.

The Charter, if it is to be a charter that all in the Alliance can support,
has to be a document of common agreement, which facilitates common work in
the working class, such as in supporting the dock workers, fighting against
racist attacks, hospital closures etc. Areas of difference should be left
out and become the subject of further discussion. Although that was the
general spirit of the conference, it did not happen on the section of the
conference where there was, in fact, the most disagreement. That was over
Ireland. Militant Labour had put an amendment comprising five points one of
which called for support for the formation of a socialist party 'in the
North'. There was strong opposition from a large section of the delegates
to the idea of a seperate Northern party . It was proposed, therefore, that
the amendment be taken point by point. Militant Labour objected to this,
saying their amendment had to be taken as a whole, but they were overruled
by the chair. In the event, Militant Labour won the vote, primarily because
they had the largest number of delegates but it would have been better to have
withdrawn the contentious point and to agree that there should be further

Of course, every member of the Alliance has the right to put
their own position, but there has to be full discusion. Imposing policies
will not develop the Alliance but tend to split it. We should try and
operate in the spirit of what Dave Nellist from Coventry Socialist Alliance
and Militant Labour said at the beginning of the conference, which was that
the Alliances should concentrate on "the 80 per cent that unites us not the
20 per cent that divides us". Nevertheless the conference was a step

The big question now facing all the Alliances is where do they go now.  The
most important thing is that they turn to the struggles of the working
class and seek to build an alternative to the Labour leadership. The
question of a mass Alliance can only develop in conjunction with a mass
movement of the working class. We believe that such struggles will come up
primarily after the election of a Labour Government and it will be only
then that the question of a new workers' party will take real form. We
cannot jump over developments. But that does not mean we should not stand
in elections against Labour as Socialist Outlook said.

The working class has already been politically disenfranchised by Blair. We
are in a period of preparation and learning how to work together and how to
learn from one another.

Socialist Voice is the journal of the International Socialist League, the
British section of the International Workers League/Fourth International

E-mail: socvoice at

Snail-mail: ISL, PO Box 9, Eccles SO, Salford, M30 7FX

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