A fair society - social justice and ecological sustainability
An opening statement from the Liaison Group for the Network of Socialist Alliances in England: our future aims, methods, perspectives and structure
The Network of Socialist Alliances in England is working towards a fair and truly sustainable society. The transition to such a society will require fundamental social, political and cultural changes, which will only be possible through the involvement of a clear majority of people. It is essential to pursue change through a variety of avenues - in the community, in the workplace, in elections, through appropriate educational and campaigning efforts - according to the opportunities and expediencies of the time and the place. We therefore aspire to offer organisation, facilitation and encouragement, as appropriate to whatever efforts and developments are contributing to this process of change. We will also provide political support and solidarity to those who are involved in fighting back against environmental destruction and all other injustices of capitalism, here and across the world.
This is because we believe that there is an alternative to the global, unregulated free market and that the wealth exists in society to meet people’s needs. We aim to galvanise mass opposition to the injustice, inequality and environmental damage which the free market causes and to replace it with a popular republic, based on democratic ownership and control of the key sectors of the economy, a system based on social justice and ecological sustainability.
We recognise that the current Labour leadership has dismantled whatever aspiration to socialism the party ever had. It has embraced the free market and removed all methods of reversing this new direction from within the party. In its failure to challenge current conservative free market ideology, Labour encourages a climate where far right and fascist views may fill the vacuum.
Opposition to this must therefore come from developing policies, campaigns and political representation which engages socialists with the environmental, direct action, anti-racist and industrial struggles, working together in genuinely new ways to put forward the alternatives to New Labour and its partnership with multinational business and media tycoons. Our intention is to do this by establishing a broad organisation, through the Network of Socialist Alliances, based on accepted principles and open to all individuals and organisations who support these and who agree to join in working together in non-sectarian, cooperative and positive ways.
The following represents an interim arrangement to allow individual socialists/greens and autonomous socialists/green/direct action organisations to work together towards agreed common objectives. It is recognised that whilst differences between the participating individuals and organisations exist, genuine trust is developing and there is a greater element of political agreement upon which activity can be based. Where appropriate, it is recognised that this could involve the adoption of appropriate agreed electoral arrangements.
It is the hope, intention and expectation that by developing unity through practical action, the individuals and groups involved will in the future move towards a closer and more permanent organisational structure. For the present, a balance needs to be struck so that small groups and individuals have sufficient influence alongside larger organisations, parties and alliances: a balance which encourages involvement and activity and at the same time avoids any imposition of policy on local Alliances, national groups or individuals. It is for this reason we are opposed to automatic representation on affiliation: our new way of working needs organisation which is dispersed and is not hierarchical whilst being representative of the diverse nature of opinion within the Network.
Any interim structure needs to be of an on going federal type which can be changed, with representation and affiliation encouraged from local and national groups, while individual membership can be built and individuals can feel part of any structure which is developed. In the longer term, groups and parties might dissolve themselves into one structure.
Network of Socialist Alliances in England
Our aim is actively to help create a socially just and ecologically sustainable society. This is one in which social justice is defined as incorporating:
- The political organisation of society in the most open, democratic, participative and accountable manner practicable;
- The maximum freedom of the individual commensurate with the freedom of others;
- The ultimate abolition of all forms of economic exploitation and social oppression, in such ways as to secure for the people the full return of all wealth generated by industries and services of society, by means of common ownership and democratic control;
- The promotion of peace, nationally and internationally, and of a system of justice which gives defence from tyranny, prejudice and the abuse of power; and in which ecological sustainability is defined as incorporating:
- The promotion of only those social, economic and cultural structures which may be sustained indefinitely without causing any form of irreversible damage to the global ecosystem;
- The guaranteeing and, where necessary, restoration of such biological diversity as is essential to the viability of both global and local ecosystems.
Our methods of working
To achieve our ultimate aim, bearing in mind the prevailing political, economic and social conditions, imperatives and opportunities of any given time and location, we shall from time to time develop strategic and tactical objectives. These will be:
- attainable goals valuable in themselves
- stages towards greater change
- catalysts for the wider propagation and discussion of information, ideas and action commensurate with our aim.
In pursuit of our aim, or of any strategic or tactical objective conducive to this, we may assist, encourage, enjoin or affiliate with any local, national or international organisations.
Our immediate objectives are to promote the formation of locally based radical Socialist/Green Alliances and to encourage constructive dialogue between these and other organisations and individuals, where this may help the pursuit of our aims or objectives.
We have developed as an organisation which recognises the variety of green and socialist views held by many different groups within the Network: indeed, we see this as a strength. We have agreed, as a first step towards a possible common political programme, to unite and campaign around the 80% of policies we can all accept: these are contained within the 80/20 proposals agreed as a draft for Alliances to develop. Such policies will be the matter of continual debate and refinement as the various strands of the Network work closely together in activity.
Principles behind the interim structure
- Any structure must reflect and encourage concrete liaison between all socialist, green, direct action and other radical groups and individuals who agree on the need to work together in non-sectarian, cooperative and positive ways.
- Central to the work of the Network must be the building and strengthening of local Alliances.
- The Network should be a confederation of local Alliances - a loosely federal structure, interim and adaptive to new circumstances, with safeguards to ensure a balance is struck so that smaller groups and individuals have sufficient representation alongside larger organisations, Alliances and parties with guaranteed rights for individuals and minorities.
- Individual membership will be actively encouraged.
- Groups and parties who agree with our aims should be asked to affiliate, financially on a proportional basis, and be encouraged to maintain their own identities whenever they so wish.
- The Network should have an elected Liaison Group which acknowledges and represents the diverse nature of opinion between the individuals and groups who are part of it. Functional officers, including joint convenors, treasurer and bulletin editors, should be elected at a conference and join 10 supporters elected by ballot as follows: five (50%) elected by local Alliances; three (30%) elected by national organisations and parties; two (20%) individuals elected by ballot of individual members.
- The role of the Liaison Group would continue to be organisational, and would include recruitment; publicity; the dissemination of information; and the holding of forums, conferences, etc.
1. Individual membership is open to anyone living in England.
2. Any individual, organisation or group which broadly agrees with the aims and agrees to abide by this structure and the anti-sectarian, cooperative and positive way of working which are involved in it, may join the Network.
3. The Network is a broad, open, inclusive and flexible organisation, based on voluntary participation. The Network is politically pluralistic and encourages all individuals, organisations and groups to participate in our vision of a socialist society and our way of working as an alliance. Such parties, organisations and groups which affiliate are expected to be able to keep their identity whilst participating fully within the development of the Network.
4. To further this, all organisations, groups and political currents participating in the Network must be affiliates. Affiliation assumes a political and financial commitment. It also assumes a commitment to an anti-sectarian and cooperative way of working, looking to build unity rather than set out a position to create discord, positively supporting and encouraging the notion of alliances and ensuring that any critical debates are conducted in a positive manner and without personal attacks. All affiliates should be paid up to the Network and should also ensure individual paid-up membership from within their respective organisations. All representatives from affiliated organisations must also be paid-up individual members of the Network.
5. Individual members are welcome from other groups and organisations, whether affiliates or not, and membership should be declared on application/renewal of membership of the Network.
- £50 per year per party, national organisation 500 members +
- £20 per year per party, national organisation 0-500 members
- £10 per year per campaign, single issue group
- free per local Socialist Alliance or related local group
- £6 (waged)/£3 (unwaged) per year per individual, to include annual subscription to The All Red and Green.
1. Policy will be decided democratically by an annual conference, open to all members.
2. The implementation of policy and new activities between conferences, and the organisation of annual and any other conferences, shall be carried out by an elected Liaison Committee. This consists of five officers and 10 other members elected by conference. The officers include a chair, three joint convenors (including bulletin, membership, correspondence) and a treasurer. The members include five places for local Alliances and related groups, three places for national affiliated organisations, parties, single issue groups, and two places directly for individuals. The Committee will also have the ability to invite other organisations or individuals to ensure effective liaison (eg, trade union, Socialist Alliances in Scotland and Wales, green-left, parliamentary, direct action). Such invitations and/or cooptions will not total more than a quarter of Committee membership.
3. Every individual, every Alliance or related group, and every affiliated organisation participating in the Network is entitled to make nominations to the Liaison Committee; with the limit that no one political organisation shall have more than 30% of membership of the Committee or any other elected body within the Network, and that the organisations as a whole shall not have more than 50% of such membership.
4. There shall be political meetings and conferences of the Network, open to all members to attend, as determined by the Committee. If one quarter of the paid-up membership requests it to the Committee, there can be decision-making meetings of the full membership of the Network called in addition to the above and to the annual conferences.
The Liaison Committee will be responsible for the running of the organisation and for finance, membership, arrangement of meetings, communications with local groups and individuals, national bulletin production and distribution, liaison with other groups and organisations, and arrangements for seeking and enabling electoral unity; and any other matters delegated to the Committee by the Network as a whole.
Dissolution of the Network
The Network may be dissolved by a resolution of a special meeting, called for this purpose by the Committee or by one quarter of the membership (as above). Any assets of the Network shall be disbursed to any organisation or organisations having aims consistent with those of the Network, as agreed at such a special meeting.
Changes to this structure
This structure and its contents may be altered by resolution of the annual conference or by resolution of a special meeting called by the Committee or one quarter of the membership, provided such resolution receives two thirds of the votes at such a meeting. This structure is in any case intended to perform an interim function for the Network and developments are expected as part of its progress.