Socialist Alliance roundup
Unity around the Socialist Alliance project is going from strength to strength. Local alliances are beginning to choose their candidates for the general election. In Lancashire, four councillors have declared themselves for the Socialist Alliance (see below). After our Coventry conference, all the principal organisations of the alliance have declared our protocol a document we can work with. Even the Socialist Party are on board.
However, things are not running smoothly everywhere. In Leeds, Mike Davies and his grouping are moving to go it alone against the Socialist Alliance. Just two days after the Coventry meeting, the executive of the Leeds Left Alliance met and decided to begin a purge. The Socialist Workers Party is to be excluded from the executive ... and, to its credit, the Socialist Party is now opposing this attempt to witch-hunt the revolutionary left.
Citing supposed attempts to stack meetings, the Leeds executive wants to only allow SWPers non-voting associate membership. This outrageous move shows that comrade Davies is not presiding over the "open, participatory, honest and accountable" organisation he claims, but potentially an exclusivist rival to the Socialist Alliance.
Such an outcome was indicated by last weekend's annual meeting of the Green Socialist Network. With Pete Brown (of the defunct Independent Labour Network) in the chair, a vote to affiliate to the Socialist Alliance was passed by 14 votes to 13.
Mike Davies then harangued the chair and demanded a "recount", pressuring his sometimes allies in the GSN to alter their vote. He won. Now, rather than affiliating to the Socialist Alliances, the GSN is to pursue "merger discussions" with the newly renamed and presumably no longer localist Left Alliance.
This is an outrage. While no doubt it has many bridges to mend given its past there is no way in which the SWP in Coventry can be accused of "forc[ing] through an approach to the forthcoming general election which is ... contrary to the founding principles of the Socialist Alliance". Further, for the Left Alliance executive to claim "the SWP used the anti-democratic tactic of instructing a large number of SWP members to join the Socialist Alliance 'on the door'" is another deliberate misrepresentation. It was the SP which joined up most people on the day. While the SWP were a large component of the conference, they kept to the self-limiting agreement of ensuring they were not in an absolute majority. The fact that they did not win every vote confirms they were actually a minority.
At the heart of the problem with Leeds is the misplaced insistence that the Socialist Alliance is a "united front" or a place where Labourites, as Labourites, will 'feel at home'. Unfortunately the SWP has been bending over backwards in order to flatter left reformists. After all, the Socialist Alliance consists overwhelmingly of revolutionary socialists and communists. What is "missing" is the reformist left.
In our view this is a mistake. The Socialist Alliances should not only unite Britain's revolutionary forces, but unite them around clear Marxist politics and a Leninist minimum-maximum programme. Unfortunately at present the SWP is trying to attract left reformist forces by liquidating its revolutionism. Standing on a left reformist platform might win left reformist votes, but how does that win left reformists away from left reformism? Surely what the working class in Britain needs is not a resuscitated left reformism, but a single democratic centralist party.
It remains to be seen what will happen in Leeds. The SWP rightly wishes to be part of the Leeds Left Alliance, which is an affiliate of the Socialist Alliance. Comrade Davies was elected as a vice-chair at the Coventry meeting. However, given the undemocratic nature of the decision-making in Leeds, just what ramifications this blatant sectarian attack will have nationally is unclear. In the tradition of 'new realism' the Leeds Left Alliance executive is proposing an easily fiddled postal ballot of the membership to decide on the SWP, rather than a democratic and robust general meeting.
It is highly unlikely that the Left Alliance will be able to outstrip the growth of the Socialist Alliance. The LA is effectively limited to Leeds. Across Yorkshire, Socialist Alliances are all ready forming: in Sheffield, Huddersfield, Hull and Bradford. The revolutionaries need to strengthen the politics of the Socialist Alliances to prevent any further witch hunts - the CPGB has itself been the target of more than one.
As we select our candidates, we are also working towards our policy conference in February. The principles of international socialism and revolutionary working class self-liberation need to be at the very core of what informs the Socialist Alliance and its manifesto.
Over 150 people attended the East London Socialist Alliance public meeting last Thursday.
Speakers included former LSA candidates Kate Ford of Workers Power (chair) and Kambiz Boomla of the Socialist Workers Party; the current LSA local council election candidate for Stratford, Paul Phillips; and John Nicholson of the Socialist Alliance network. The atmosphere was spirited and positive, marking a good start to general election campaigning in this part of the capital.
One of the most positive aspects of the evening was the open nature of the meeting, with contributors from the floor able to inject a note of controversy.
Bob Paul from the Communist Party of Great Britain spoke of how the Socialist Alliance was in a prime position to tackle a number of wider democratic issues: the abolition of the second chamber, the right of self-determination for Ireland, Scotland and Wales and proportional representation.
Comrade Paul also argued for the building of a revolutionary alternative to both Labour and Labourism. He agreed with an SWP comrade who spoke of "learning the lessons of the past" and the need to organise separately from the Labour Party. Comrade Paul hoped that the 'Vote Labour, but ...' slogan was now well and truly consigned to the dustbin.
His intervention was in sharp contrast to John Nicholson's speech, in which he drew a comparison between the appearance of the Socialist Alliance and the launch of the Labour Party a century earlier.
The evening concluded with a motion naming Poplar and Canning Town and Dagenham as the two constituencies where the SA will stand in the general election.
The Stratford local council election is to take place on Thursday October 19. Canvassers are urgently required. Please call Maggie on 020 7474 1794 if you are able to help.
Around 150 comrades attended the launch meeting of Newcastle SA to hear Dave Nellist, John Rees and others argue the case for a strong challenge to the capitalist parties at the general election and the need for building a socialist alternative.
Comrades attended from the Socialist Party, Alliance for Workers' Liberty and Socialist Workers Party, although a majority of the audience were made up of unaligned leftwing individuals, including a smattering of former Socialist Labour Party comrades. The mood was upbeat yet serious. However, there was a cautiousness amongst some, war-weary at having seen false dawns before.
One pleasing note was the attitude of the local SP comrades, who have a reputation of being enthusiastic for broad work. This meeting was as much their baby as much as anyone else's.
Plans are underway to organise the contesting of two seats in Newcastle - perhaps a little conservative, considering the number and experience of many of the comrades involved. But hopefully the logic of the general election and the development of alliances across the country will embolden.
Councillors join up
Four independent councillors and their supporters have joined the Lancashire Socialist Alliance, making them England's first Socialist Alliance elected representatives.
Three of them - Terry Cartwright, Joyce Cartwright and Paul Malliband - represent wards in Deepdale, Preston, and the fourth, Andy Holder, is a Burnley councillor. The news follows a successful launch meeting held on October 4 at Preston's Guild Hall, attended by around 50 comrades.
The Lancashire SA will stand in the Preston by-election caused by the death of Labour MP Audrey Wise. It also stated intends to challenge Jack Straw at the forthcoming general election.
The Southwark Socialist Alliance October 10 meeting voted unanimously to stand a candidate in Peckham and Camberwell, against the former social security secretary and one-time Blair favourite, Harriet Harman MP.
While it was felt that Peckham was the most suitable constituency in the borough, given its political nature, geographical compactness and working class composition, contesting another constituency in the borough - possibly Dulwich and West Norwood, where cabinet minister Tessa Jowell sits - may be open to us if the campaign in Peckham were to acquire enough momentum for us to spread out.
Nominations for the Peckham candidacy were opened at the meeting, and the comrades are appealing for nominations not just from Southwark, but on an all-London basis as well, for a selection meeting which has been initially scheduled to take place in early November.