Socialist Alliance Liaison Committee

Call for SA paper

Fifty-five members of the Socialist Alliance Liaison Committee met in Liverpool on March 24. Understandably, much of the day was taken up with reports of detailed preparations for our electoral contest.

There were, however, three points of broader political interest that came up during the discussion.

First, under the item on campaigning materials a resolution was taken from the Communist Party that called for a "regular publication in the lead-up to the general election", aiming to "come out at least weekly".

The minutes of the meeting - speedily issued by comrade John Nicholson - note that our proposal was "defeated on grounds of administrative difficulties". It is certainly true that the (assumed) proximity of the general election makes such an undertaking far from straightforward - a point conceded by us in moving the resolution. However, that simply underlines the fact that we have been correct in calling for this initiative since last year.

The key objections previously - articulated afresh in Birmingham by the SA chair, Dave Nellist - remain political, however. Comrade Nellist suggested that what lay behind our resolution was an impatient desire to impose on the Socialist Alliance process more unity than it was ready for. The majority agreed, with just a smattering of hands around the room being raised for us.

Of course, what comrade Nellist's intervention presumed was that the paper would naturally be the exclusive mouthpiece of the numerically dominant trend, with other opinions excluded. In other words, a version of the political cultures and internal regimes that presently characterise most 'parties' and groups in the bloc. With that assumption, a collective paper would not indeed be possible now. It would never be possible in fact.

But our resolution called for "a democratic editorial board ... appointed by and accountable to the executive committee and including at least one representative from each of the six principal supporting organisations". A step towards an open, centralised and democratic party structure, in other words. This is what prompts the objections to our call, although it is gratifying to hear of SWPers around the country starting to support this eminently sensible and logical proposal.

The second resolution put forward by our organisation caused more friction. This called for "democratic and inclusive decision-making" regarding the organisation of meetings, rallies, etc, and "as far as possible" information regarding such events to be made "equally available to all constituent components".

Comrade Fischer emphasised that naturally a balance had to be struck between the demands of democratic inclusion in decision-making and the need to get things done quickly, especially as the election loomed. However, it was vital that we bore in mind the nature of the organisation as a politically disparate bloc and the need to be bending over backwards to be seen to be inclusive. He was supported by Mark Hoskisson of Workers Power.

While our resolution was originally prompted by a dispute in London over the organisation of a series of rallies, it has general, national application, and ought to be considered as 'best practice'. But John Rees of the Socialist Workers Party vigorously opposed the motion, claiming that a strict application of the letter of the text would make organising such rallies impossible. Others - foolishly - suggested that an inclusive approach would mean that every platform creaked with 12 or more speakers.

Perhaps sensing that the meeting's working consensus was in some danger, comrade Nellist - who had already expressed some doubts about taking the item at all - cut the debate short with a ruling. As "three quarters" of the resolution reiterated "existing policy" and the "contentious" item was London-related, the matter should be "referred back to the London Socialist Alliance" - which does not now meet until after the general election, of course.

Lastly, it was reported by Rob Hoveman of the SWP that the SA in England now stood at 80 candidates selected or about to be selected - an impressive achievement and a vindication of the ambitious approach advocated all along by the CPGB. This figure puts us within striking distance of the 88 required for an election broadcast. It was generally agreed that - if necessary - we should put up paper candidates to get us over the hurdle.

Also - very encouragingly - the meeting agreed to seek an additional broadcast together with the Scottish Socialist Party and the Welsh Socialist Alliance. Whether or not logistics and legalities prevent it, this expresses a very positive political development.

Mark Fischer