Socialist Alliances

Nigel Irritable nigel_irritable at
Wed Feb 27 09:28:12 MST 2002

Domhnall wrote:

> We have been hearing a number of accounts of how the
> Socialist Alliance has been taken over by the SWP -
> mostly from CWI->affiliates.

Actually nobody has mentioned the English Socialist
Alliance on this list in quite some time. Nor were the
CWI the only people to note this takeover. Red Action
have also walked out of the new model SA, and a series
of other participants have found themselves in
conflict with their new masters.

This is a depressing topic for discussion. The
Socialist Party, along with some local groups and
independents, set up the Socialist Alliances a few
years ago. They were designed to provide a forum for
various leftists to discuss and cooperate and to
hopefully begin to provide a pole of attraction for
the wider working class.

They were partially succesful at least in so far as
they aided left wing cooperation on issues of mutual
concern. They existed as local bodies, linked by a
network and relationships within them were mostly

Unsurprisingly, the SWP refused to get involved.
Later, though, dropping their long-standing opposition
to standing in elections and jumped in. Their
opposition to "electoralism" was never a matter of
principle in the first place. It was just a way of
shielding their members from their own lack of support
amongst the working class - their 1970s electoral
engagements had caused some serious embarassment on
that score. At first this engagement was tentative,
but as the GLA elections approached it began to occur
to some SWP leaders that a Socialist Alliance slate
might be a way of getting Paul Foot elected.

And so the SWP got involved in earnest, setting up
local "Socialist Alliances" which actually consisted
of their local branch.

As with any other broad body the SWP touch, it soon
turned to shit. By the time of the conference before
last, the few local alliances with a genuine
organisational existence of their own were getting
very worried about an SWP takeover, the Leeds Left
Alliance and the Leicester Radical Alliance most
notably. This worry was not paranoia - it was little
more than the capacity to learn from experience. On
the one hand, the SWP have a long history of taking
over broad organisations and no history of succesfully
and collaboratively working with anybody else on
anything. On the other, they had shifted their mode of
operation to one of burying themselves in a series of
fronts, one for each sphere of activity. It looked
like the SWP just wanted an electoral ANL, a handy
flag to be taken out and put away as the search for
organisational gains dictated.

By the Dec. 1. Conference, the SWP had made it clear
that they did not want the Socialist Alliance to
evolve into part of a new workers party to challenge
the bosses' New Labour. That was to be the job of the
SWP itself.

They had also made it clear that they found having to
treat other members of the alliance as allies rather
than subordinates rather tiresome. They didn't want
any structures in the organisation to give any other
participants any democratic guarantees whatosever.

And so, they mobilised for the SA conference and voted
through a new constitution which was more to their
liking. Now they call the shots at every level, and
can quietly mothball the "alliance" when activities
around one of their other fronts take priority and
dust it off again come elections.

And so we reach a situation where two failed attempts
to start putting together something which might
eventually form the outline of a new workers party are
still knocking about, the SLP and the SA. Their
corpses still twitch at the command of their
leaderships (Scargill and the Central Committee of the
SWP respectively), but as useful organisations they
are dead.

So we are left in an unenviable situation. New Labour
is no longer any type of workers party. It represents
the interests of British bosses. There is no political
representation for the working class and there is no
existing organisation capable of providing such
representation on its own.

The overriding question for socialists in Britain at
the moment has to be how to we help bring an
organisation capable of representing the working class
into existence. We can't do it by force of will. There
aren't enough of us and we don't have the influence in
the working class. Ultimately a new workers party will
only come out of working class struggles. It is our
job to help and support such moves in any way we can.

> In Friday 22nd's Morning Star (the only daily left-
> wing paper produced in Britain),

Trainspotting fact: The Morning Star is not the only
daily left-wing newspaper 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:

I agree that the Morning Star is wise to include a
wide range of non-agitational material - to position
itself as a mainstream daily newspaper which happens
to have left wing politics. I wouldn't go so far as to
say that it's an example of what a left-wing daily
should be like - it is amazingly dull and filled with
fawning reports on the antics of trade union

> 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.

"Last ditch"? Only the best part of a decade too late.

> "At its December 1 National Conference, attended by
> more than 700 paid-up
> members,

Almost half of its total membership, a large number of
whom were members of consituent organisations joining
on the door.

> the Socialist Alliance replaced its old, largely
ad-> hoc arrangements with a new constitution.
> Contrary to lurid reports elsewhere in the left
> press,

These "lurid reports" would presumably include those
carried in "The Socialist", whatever Red Action's
press is called and of course the "Morning Star"

> the new constitution is far from "centralised" and
> does not imply any "Socialist Workers Party
> (SWP) takeover,

A remarkable, but unsurprising line for Davies to
take. The new constitution gives the SWP the right to
make all of the decisions at every level of the
alliance. All other participants can have their views
taken into account only on the sufferance of the SWP.
That, as far as I was aware, was not really in
dispute. The dispute was over whether or not, as a
majority, the SWP is entitled to that position.

> nor did SWP members comprise the majority at the
> conference.

The SWP, with its ISG auxhilliary, made up either an
overall majority at the conference or so close to it
that it makes little odds.

> 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.

In actual fact, the new model Alliance constitution
gives other participants only two real rights: The
right to do as the SWP says, or the right to what they
want outside of the SA. Of course, only the first
right counts when it comes to matters electoral, which
is the only part that the SWP is really interested in.
Other issues are dealt with through other specialised

> On the newly elected executive of 21 members, 13 -
> an absolute majority -
> are independents unaffiliated to any of the
> organised left groups.

What she doesn't tell you here is that all of the
participants on this committee, "independent" or
affiliated are only there on the say-so of the SWP.
And that the SWP can use its numbers to overturn any
decisions made by this committee in the highly
unlikely event that they get uppity.

> Among us
> are many with extensive Labour Party experience -
> including six former
> Labour councillors.

Amazingly, six is the exact number of present day
Socialist councillors that were forced out of the SA
during the SWP takeover.

> 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.

This is pure fantasy. There is no chance whatsoever of
the CPB getting involved in the Socialist Alliance.
None. That isn't a result of the 1 Dec. Conference, by
the way. Even when the SA was a reasonably democratic
and open organisation, the CPB were never considering

Anyway, I've wasted too much time on this post
already. The SA is no longer an organisation which is
worth discussing. It's barely an organisation at all.

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

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