(fwd from Nigel Irritable) Re: The Socialist Party and the Socialist Alliance

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Thu Dec 6 08:57:19 MST 2001


After seeing the piece forwarded from Alec and Ed's
contribution I thought I'd add to the discussion.

Last Saturday was certainly one of the most depressing
days I have had for a while. Right up until the votes
were actually taken, I thought that the SWP would see
sense and agree to some kind of compromise. I was
wrong, and so the Socialist Alliance, which had been
set up by the Socialist Party some years ago,
effectively ceased to exist. A very different
organisation stood in its place.

The Socialist Workers Party mobilised enough of its
membership to push through a constitution for the
Alliance which placed all power in the organisation in
its own hands. It then systematically voted down all
amendments which would limit its domination. At that
point the Socialist Party and some independents left
the Alliance. More will follow.

The Socialist Party felt that we needed a broad,
inclusive and pluralistic organisation. One which
would allow groups and individuals to ally together on
matters of common concern without forcing all
participants to do the bidding of the largest group,
and which recognised that the British left simply
doesn't have the social weight to insist that groups
of workers moving into struggle abandon their own
identities in return for being allowed to join us. The
SWP did not share that conception of the Socialist
Alliance. It preferred to build an electoral version
of the ANL, yet another party front.

They even went so far as to issue a press release,
congratulating themselves on the "huge success" of the
conference. I suppose that from an SWP perspective the
conference was a huge success. The Alliance lost its
second biggest component, its chair, almost all of its
elected councillors and the majority of the members
who hold elected trade union positions, but the SWP
got what it wanted.

It is difficult to express how irritated I am at the
moment. The Socialist Alliance, an organisation we had
spent years nurturing, is now another SWP front, to be
picked up and dropped as the needs of SWP recruitment
ebb and flow.

As for how significant this is in a British context,
to use Ed's term, it depends on your perspective. The
Socialist Alliance only had 1,600 members. Its
electoral strength has been negligible outside of a
couple of small areas with Socialist Party councillors
(last week it managed to come way behind a couple of
fascist BNP candidates in byelections). So, taken as a
snapshot the loss to the British working class is
pretty small. The real issue, though, isn't what the
Socialist Alliance is now or was last week, but what
it could have become. It could have developed into a
real poll of attraction for workers moving into
struggle, even becoming the outline of an outline of a
new mass party. You'll forgive my cynicism if I point
out that it is unlikely to do so as a wholly owned
subsidiary of the SWP.

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill


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