The truth about the Socialist Aliiance National Conference (Dec 1)

Domhnall donaloc at peterquinn.com
Wed Feb 27 03:44:15 MST 2002


We have been hearing a number of accounts of how the Socialist Alliance has
been taken over by the SWP - mostly from CWI-affiliates. In Friday 22nd's
Morning Star (the only daily left-wing paper produced in Britain), Liz
Davies gave her side of the story. As it isn't on-line, I've typed the
relevant section of her article. As an aside, the Morning Star is a great
example of what a left-wing daily should be like - it's only 12 pages long
(unfortunately) but finds room for two pages of sport, one page of TV
listings, an Arts/Culture review page, two feature pages (usually on
politics), two pages of news, three of articles and the front page. It's
website is: www.poptel.org.uk/morning-star/

For those who mightn't know, Liz was elected onto the Labour Party's
National Executive Committee in 1998 along with three other grassroots
alliance supporters. In my opinion, this was a last gasp attempt to stop the
rot within the party. She was drummed out and joined the Socialist Alliance.
She is now chairperson of the Socialist Alliance.

"At its December 1 National Conference, attended by more than 700 paid-up
members, the Socialist Alliance replaced its old, largely ad-hoc
arrangements with a new constitution.

Contrary to lurid reports elsewhere in the left press, the new constitution
is far from "centralised" and does not imply any "Socialist Workers Party
(SWP) takeover," nor did SWP members comprise the majority at the
conference.

The new constitution explicitly guarantees all Socialist Alliance members a
wide range of democratic rights - in relation to selection of candidates and
formation of policies, freedom of opinion and expression as well as
democratic mechanisms for holding officers to account.

For those of us who experienced witch-hunts and authoritarian behaviour in
the Labour Party, such guarantees are essential. We have also agreed a
straightforward one member, one vote method of selecting candidates and
determining policies at local meetings and national conferences. At the same
time, local branches enjoy considerable latitude in shaping their own policy
and campaigning priorities.

On the newly elected executive of 21 members, 13 - an absolute majority -
are independents unaffiliated to any of the organised left groups. Among us
are many with extensive Labour Party experience - including six former
Labour councillors.

We aim to work as much as possible through consensus and a flexible
approach. We welcome dialogue and co-operation with others on the left. In
many communities, we've succeeded in bringing together a diverse alliance of
experienced activists.

During the general election, when the Labour left's voice was muffled, the
Socialist Alliance campaigned on the vital issues excluded by the big party
consensus - low pay, privatisation, trade union rights, asylum-seekers,
racism, national missile defence, the arms trade and many others."

She goes on to extol the successes of the Scottish Socialist Party and to
call for unions to reallocate their funds to a socialist party. The earlier
part of the article deals with the lack of democracy within the Labour
party. It must be remembered that the piece was written for the organ of the
CPB, which supported Labour generally, whilst standing a handful of
candidates itself. The party did not act in cooperation with the Socialist
Alliance and where both stood candidates at the last election, the CPB came
out the worse for wear. The article is therefore part of the ongoing
discussions occuring within the CPB on the nature of their engagement with
the Labour party and whether they should jump ship for the Socialist
Alliance. Tony Benn is pulling the other direction and is currently doing a
speaking tour throughout Britain in which he is trying to get greater
popular engagement within the existing Labour party. Overall, the discussion
is being held with the sort of comradeship and openness you can expect of
the Morning Star. The letters column has representation from right across
the (red-green) political spectrum, it's only a pity that they don't put the
entire paper on-line as I tend to get my copies two or three days late. The
CPB is a small organisation and is primarily focussed on the task of
maintaining the daily paper. However, it seems to have very good union
connections although they would include Bill Morris, that paragon of
class-collaboration and pro-imperialist collusion. It would be nice to see
the CPB change its strategy and the Morning Star would then take
centre-stage in the anti-Blair crusade.

Domhnall.



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