Socialist Alliance roundup
Cambridgeshire Fish on a bike
Cambridgeshire Socialist Alliance met on Tuesday March 13 for its weekly assessment of our election campaign.
The campaign is making progress, with canvassing now a regular event every Sunday and plans being made for its continuation and significant intensification. The meeting heard reports from officers and from workshops which focused on various aspects of the campaign. Overall there is pleasing evidence that in this respect Cambs SA is moving forward.
It is not this area that provides the main cause for concern, however. Discussion of politics is still seen as subordinate to the technical details of organisation. The CPGB proposed that we decide in principle that we will schedule a public discussion meeting on the national question as our next public event. The response, especially that of the Socialist Workers Party comrades, is best illustrated by the remarks of comrade Howard Senter. In response to the proposal he stated that "We need a meeting on the national question like a fish needs a bicycle".
This, if indeed it is required, is further proof of the way politics and political discussion is totally foreign to the SWP's mindset and method. True, we are now about to enter a period of intense electoral campaigning, but this attitude has been prevalent all along. No doubt members who attended last Saturday's national conference in Birmingham feel that they have had their required dose.
Comrade Andy Lay, again of the SWP, said that the national question was "an abstraction". Yet the rise of the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, on the one hand, and demagogic appeals to 'Britishness' by the Conservatives, on the other, point to the fact that the reality is somewhat different from how our 'pragmatists' interpret it.
Another (non-SWP) comrade thought that the topic itself was not the best: "What people are concerned about is wages and conditions". This is the mentality that views the working class as a slave class - one that does not have a vision beyond the four walls of the workplace. The working class, we are implicitly told, should not bother itself with issues of high politics. It is apparently not concerned with democratic questions, questions that encompass the whole of society and secure working class hegemony over the struggles of all those who are oppressed by the United Kingdom state and rule of capital.
There clearly needs to a concerted effort to overcome this philistinism in the alliance. We should make discussion of politics a defining feature, as opposed to the moribund Labour Party, which offers us a clear illustration of where contempt for politics leads: to an inactive and atomised membership. The old Labourite programme voted for by the SA majority is also reflected organisationally.
Those who say that open struggle would weaken the Socialist Alliance must be told that the reverse is true: such a lively and honest culture will lend it vigour. It is a sign of our potential strength that we can have sharp political division and still unite in action. By contrast, the bureaucratic suppression of differences can only weaken us.
The danger of this was illustrated by the urgings of the chair "not to attack individual organisations" after Darrell Goodliffe criticised the SWP attitude. This sort of preciousness goes against the spirit of the Alliance.
However, the fluidity that exists was illustrated when the final vote was taken. Five comrades, including not just the CPGB and AWL, but two independents, voted for the meeting on the national question, with seven against. At the end the chair, comrade Jo Roberts, invited the CPGB comrades to bring the proposal back to a future meeting, an offer that was gladly accepted.
Dudley hospital striker Angela Thompson has been selected as the Socialist Alliance candidate in the Dudley South constituency.
Comrade Thompson, joint secretary of the Dudley Group of Hospitals Unison branch, is one of the healthworkers who have now been out on over 100 days of strike action since August 2000 against a PFI scheme. The action is still solid, with a further three weeks strike, which started on Monday March 12, now underway.
A website for the Dudley election campaign is up and running at http://www.socialistalliance.fsnet.co.uk
In south London Jean Kysow is the SA candidate for Lewisham East. Originally Lewisham SA comrades intended to put all their efforts into the election battle of the Socialist Party's Ian Page in Lewisham Deptford. However, since the SP announced that the Deptford contest will be purely an SP campaign, albeit under the SA umbrella, non-SP comrades have decided to stand in the neighbouring constituency.