Hostile and unhelpful

The London Socialist Alliance committee meeting on March 7 underlined the crisis of the Socialist Party

Other participants in the meeting were very harsh in response to the two SP reps - Simon Donovan and Jim Horton, whose interventions were almost uniformly hostile and unhelpful.It is crystal clear that the SP in London does not have a commonly agreed approach. What was on display on March 7 was the antagonism of one particular faction - that around Bill Mullins, industrial organiser - rather than the SP as a whole.

A large portion of the meeting was taken up in a pretty fruitless debate on the attitude the alliance should adopt to Ken Livingstone. Representatives of every organisation apart from the SP endorsed the materials quickly produced in the immediate aftermath of his announcement confirming he would stand. These prominently displayed the perfectly correct slogan, 'Vote Ken for mayor, vote LSA for the London assembly' - the consensus position agreed at our previous meeting.

The SP reps objected both to the fact that such material was produced - more evidence, they suggested, of the presumptive and undemocratic behaviour of the Socialist Workers Party - and to these slogans. Comrade Horton advocated we adopt a "wait and see" stance, suggesting that the LSA could be compromised by its support for Livingstone if he lurches further to the right. Comrades from a number of other organisations criticised the essential passivity of such an approach. By attaching ourselves now to Livingstone, we are fighting to ensure that he does not produce a "rancid platform", as comrades colourfully put it.

The incoherence of the SP position was underlined when they actually refused to register a vote against the 'Vote Ken, vote LSA' position. They abstained, reasoning that it may be correct in the future and therefore they did not want to be seen to oppose it. This is crazy. 'All power to the workers councils' will be a correct slogan in the future, but it does not make much sense as agitation now. Surely, the judgement as to whether a slogan is correct or not has something to do with when it is raised.

Considerable impatience was expressed with the obstructive behaviour of SP comrades. It is true that their demeanour is surly and uncooperative, but room to discuss their objections must be found in the LSA's meetings, no matter how churlish those objectives seem. The SP has talented and committed comrades, with wide experience of campaigning. They could be an asset to the alliance. Close involvement with the LSA, with patient discussion and argument from other comrades, is the best way to overcome these minor irritants, to ensure that the crisis in the SP in London is resolved positively.

One last point. Comrade Horton challenged me to substantiate our observation that the SP has previously called for a vote for the CATP slate, against the LSA's. Perhaps my mind is not as supple as it once was, but I am a little puzzled by what he is getting at. For example, here is the comrade himself writing in the February 11 issue of The Socialist:

"... given the LSA's decision to stand against the CATP list" [blatantly untrue - it is the CATP that has consistently refused unity overtures, as Jim well knows], the Socialist Party will not participate in or support the LSA slate." "The LSA should support the CATP list for the assembly elections and only stand LSA candidates in the 14 constituencies ..." (my emphasis). How much more explicit could he have been?

The crisis-wracked SP has consistently been a drag on preparations for the LSA challenge. Clearly, the organisation is unnerved by any engagement with the London left, preferring, if it could, to atomise the campaign into the local constituencies. Instead of focussing on what the movement requires, the SP leadership sets its priorities according to the narrow concerns of their little sect.

Despite this type of friction, the LSA campaign is going well. We have already gained tremendous media coverage for our challenge and people are signing up in their hundreds as volunteers. The general mood of the meeting was one of great confidence.

Mark Fischer