Interesting development in the English SA

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Thu Dec 19 19:05:40 MST 2002


Thanks for alerting us to the new site:
<http://www.movementsforsocialism.com/>

Does anyone on this list know what sort of support there is
for this move (see below) in the SA?

Peter Boyle
peterb at dsp.org.au


Socialist Alliance: Time to Organise
James White
Secretary, Barnsley Socialist Alliance

The run-up to the Annual Conference of the Socialist
Alliance (SA), on March 15th next year, will be an important
period in shaping the future direction of the SA. The March
conference is seen by some as a "crunch" time for the
Alliance, as a growing feeling of frustration develops
amongst SA members who are not aligned with any of the main
groups (and some that are). Talk of a crisis is perhaps
overdone, but it is clear that the SA must make some
concrete steps forward to develop itself as an organisation
if it is to capitalise fully on the favourable situation
that is developing.

The groups and individuals now supporting Socialist
Resistance have long argued that there is growing political
space for a unified left alternative to Blairism. That
potential has been tapped into by the Scottish Socialist
Party, which is currently consistently polling 7 - 8%
support across Scotland, and is expanding beyond the
traditional areas of strength for the Left in the central
belt of the country. Developments in Australia, Italy and
France are showing that there is a basis for SSP-type
parties in many of the advanced capitalist countries, as the
traditional reformist parties become increasingly
"Bourgeiosified". It is in this context that the debate
around the future of the Alliance must be had.

There have been some positive features about the development
of the Alliance to date, and the very fact of its existence
is a step forward for the Left. It is also true however that
there are major weaknesses in the Alliance - it is inactive
or barely functioning in most areas of the country, except
around elections. It has no national publication, of even a
modest type, and the National Executive is seen by many as
detached from the local groups. Electorally there have been
successes, but there have also been some very poor results,
and the tendency of the National Office and some on the
Executive to describe any half-decent result as "brilliant"
and a "breakthrough" should be resisted - the recent result
in the Hackney mayoral contest was no better than some of
the local election results earlier this year, and the recent
election of a fourth BNP councillor, in Blackburn, puts the
SA's achievements into perspective.

There are some key areas that supporters of a "Socialist
Party" need to organise around in the run-up to SA
conference next March:

Conference arrangements - the delegate fee, of £15 per waged
comrade and £6 unwaged, seems excessive when the conference
is being held in a school hall, and is certain to deter
people from attending. Local groups and the National Council
should request an explanation for this figure, and press for
it to be revised downwards to a more reasonable amount. The
pre-conference bulletin should allow for groups and
individuals to present short political documents for
discussion, as well as the actual motions to conference.

A publication of some kind is essential if the SA is to
develop a sense of itself as a national organisation. Given
the technology and resources available to the left as a
whole, there is no organisational reason why this could not
happen - the issue is one of political will. A motion needs
to be drafted for conference that will secure the widest
possible agreement, and we need a campaign in the SA to win
support for it.

At the moment the National Executive receives most of its
information via the national office. There is a perception,
particularly in the North of the country, that the executive
is too London-oriented. Conference needs to give Executive
members responsibility for liasing with particular regions
or clusters of SA groups, to improve communication.

We need to give an organised expression to the "Pro-Party"
forces in the SA, which include many independents as well as
some of the groups. A Members Platform (suggested title:
Campaign for a Fighting and Democratic Socialist Party)
around the SA needs to be launched, which will campaign on
the issue in the run-up to conference and beyond. Early
discussions should begin to agree a motion to Conference.

We should be clear that if the SA does not go forwards, it
will begin to go backwards. Whatever the facts behind the
resignation of Liz Davies as Chair, the episode has led to
unease about where the SA is going. The next 12 months will
be crucial in determining the future of the SA. We need to
organise to ensure that that future is a promising one.

Motion for March Conference of Socialist Alliance
A Fighting and Democratic Socialist Party

Conference Notes:

1. That the evolution of the Socialist Alliance (SA) has
been an important step forward for the Left. The SA has
succeeded in drawing together most of the socialist groups
in the country, along with a layer of non-aligned activists.
There have been some good election results, and individual
SAs have played important roles in some local campaigns.

2. That: 24 months since the introduction of a national
membership system, the SAs membership remains much smaller
than the combined membership of its supporting groups local
groups are inactive or barely functioning in many areas the
SA has made no real progress towards developing the policies
and political approach set out in the 2001 General Election
manifesto, People not Profit. the SA has primarily adopted
an approach of supporting other campaigns (anti-war,
anti-racist, strikes etc) rather than launching initiatives
of its own. Consequently the SA struggles to maintain a high
profile beween elections.

3. The development of parties such as the Scottish Socialist
Party and Rifondizione Communista, which have established
themselves as serious political forces through a unity of
purpose towards making the Party the focus of public work,
and an consistent approach of raising the profile of their
parties in working class communities and amongst young
people in particular. The SSP now consistently polls 7-8%
support in Scotland,and is expanding beyond the traditional
areas of strength for the Left in the central belt of the
country.

Conference Believes:

1. That the growing hostility to the New Labour government
presents us with major opportunities, as the break-up of the
Labour Party's class base continues.

2. That developments in Australia, Italy and France are
showing that there is a basis for SSP-type parties in many
of the advanced capitalist countries, as the traditional
reformist parties become increasingly "Bourgeiosified".

3. That the SA cannot continue indefinately in its present
form. Alliances and united fronts are transient formations
that arise out of a specific set of circumstances - they
either develop into more permentant, integrated structures
or they fade away/are formally disbanded.

4. That in order to capitalise fully on the favourable
political situation, the SA needs to begin a process of
working towards becoming a united socialist party in the
forseeable future, and that the activities and campaigns of
the SA should be organised with that objective in mind.

Conference Resolves:

1.To amend the constitution as follows:

add after "...accept" in Section A8: "Our aim is to become a
democratic, broad-based Socialist Party which can
effectively challenge New Labour for the support of working
people. Our campaigns and practice will reflect that aim."

2. To instruct the National Executive (NE) to issue a public
statement announcing the SAs intention to lead the campaign
for a new Socialist Party, using the issues raised by the
Firefighters strike and the oppsition to privatisation, war
in the Middle East etc. All the SAs public material should
make reference to our policy on this question.

3. To instruct the NE to organise a national rally in the
next 12 months around the theme of a new socialist party,
and give the building of this event priority in terms of
resources and time. Building for the event should be linked
with all of the SAs campaigns and interventions. Proposals
for the event should be approved by National Council.

4. To instruct the NE to draw up proposals to stimulate a
process of discussion within the SA and the wider movement
on the issue of a new party, to include debates, seminars on
policy etc. NE to present a progress report to the next
conference of the SA.

Proposed: James White

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