SLP joins Teeside Socialists
Saturday June 24 saw the launch of a broad coalition of the left in and around Middlesbrough going under the banner of Teesside Socialists. The meeting was attended by around 25 comrades, with numerous apologies given for holidays, attending the 'defend asylum-seekers' demo in London and over-indulgence on Friday night. Comrades from the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, Alliance for Workers' Liberty and, significantly, the Socialist Labour Party were present, alongside various non-aligned socialists and trade unionists, and a healthy atmosphere of comradeship and respect persisted throughout the day.
The first speaker, Alan Docherty of the Darlington SA and chair of Darlington Unison, spoke of the need for SAs to be formed in order to present a united challenge in future elections and to mobilise activity against xenophobia and racism, particularly in view of an increased presence of the National Front and the hysteria surrounding the scapegoating of refugees, which features prominently in the local press. The witch hunt in Unison was also touched upon, as was his view, as an ex-SLPer of how that organisation had failed to provide the breakthrough for the left that he had hoped for.
The second speaker of the day was a current SLP member, representing his party's candidate for the forthcoming Teesville by-election. The comrade was perhaps overly coy in saying he did not understand the different 'isms' on the left. However, he went on to say that he felt bad for having berated a particular SWP comrade, who was present at the meeting, for years and that he was now happy to cooperate with comrades in campaigns, if not within a tight organisation, because of the SLP constitution.
There was some discussion following the speech from the SLP concerning the nature of the new local organisation. A compromise was arrived at whereby the SLP comrades would not be held accountable to the discipline of the new body, but were welcome to participate in campaigns and activity as observers. This in turn would not deny the rights of the other comrades to involvement in the national structure of the alliance.
Some confusion arose on the question of elections, the SLP comrades stating that they would not stand as 'Socialist Alliance'. This was cleared up quickly. Most comrades wished they would stand as SA candidates - just as they wished the SP would do the same - in order to build the SA. However, at this stage it was felt that the most important thing was to avoid electoral clashes. The meeting resolved to help the SLP in the Teesville by-election.
Later discussion centred on the possibility of building the campaign against housing sell-offs, reclaiming the trades council and developing an anti-privatisation campaign. The meeting broke up into workshops, discussing rank and file movements, partnership agreements and privatisation of services, all of which engendered considerable discussion. The afternoon saw Dave Nellist speak about the betrayals of New Labour, the developments and nature of the socialist alliances and the prospects of building a new workers' party.
The meeting elected a steering group and agreed to meet again in one month. As a newcomer to the area the day was for me a pleasing introduction to the local left. There was a real enthusiasm for developing the SA, rather than, as in the past, such a body being seen as just the latest move to build a particular group.Lawrie Coombs