For an SA-SSP all-Britain party

There is no going back now. The success of the Socialist Alliance campaign and our organisational achievements have been outstanding. The foundation work to build a party is well advanced. A new party will surely be born.

There is no going back now. The success of the Socialist Alliance campaign and our organisational achievements have been outstanding. The foundation work to build a party is well advanced. A new party will surely be born.

Blair?s second term is predicated on further attacks on the working class. Spontaneous trade union disputes such as the successful wildcats of the postal workers last week, seem set to rise. Blair is out to further his big business agenda with a PPP general offensive. But he will face opposition on another front too. After the election dust settles, the Tories seem likely to be torn apart by open civil war. Consigned to parliamentary impotence for a further four or five years, a party whose sole reason is power will be increasingly tempted to resort to non-parliamentary methods.

Remember the two largest challenges to Blair in his first term came from the right: the Countryside Alliance and the fuel protests. With Paisleyite Northern Ireland saying ?no?, the Scottish 2003 elections, a ?national independence? referendum on the euro and ongoing crisis in the countryside, the Tories already have their weapons at hand. Thatcher has already laid the ideological groundwork with talk of an ?elected dictatorship?, as has Tebbitt?s accusations of MI6 plots around the UKIP wrecking operation. Blair?s victory is for them tainted and illegitimate. It is therefore right to rebel.

That is why the SA Liaison Committee needs to act quickly and resolutely to initiate the process of forming a Socialist Alliance party. Use the immediate period after the election to consolidate our gains. Pro-Socialist Alliance moves within the Fire Brigades Union and the Communication Workers Union show how far we have come just as much as our election results. Only a political party can take things forward. If we delay we risk dissipating things and a return to the narrow and dispiriting rivalry of the sects.

Across England, Scotland and Wales, all partisans of the SA, WSA and SSP and all class conscious workers will be looking at the election results, weighing up our votes, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of our campaigns. While the vote is important, we must understand this is not an end in itself. Elections are, after all, the lowest form of class struggle, yet they are an unequalled way to build the elementary sinews of organisation in a period of reaction. If we cannot get people to vote for us, it is unlikely we can get them to do much else.

If our only measure of success was votes then we have achieved a great deal. But if we are looking for enduring gains, if we envisage fighting the Tories and the New Labour government on the other, more important, fields of battle then we must measure our success in organisational terms. How many new alliances have formed? What new forces have been drawn in and consolidated? What media contacts have been made, locally and nationally? What about our finances? How firm are the political links between our comrades in England, Scotland and Wales?

Evidently rapprochement between the principal revolutionary organisations - sadly, apart from the Socialist Party in England and Wales - is preceding apace - something unthinkable even a year ago.

But there is still much that could go wrong. Keeping a high national profile after the election is even now under real threat. There is serious talk of simply closing down our national offices. A permanent headquarters is too expensive, say some leading comrades. There has not been authorisation for such expenditure, they niggardly complain.

While of course this initiative has not been formally approved by the SA executive or Liaison Committee, the Wickham House headquarters is vital. The money must be raised. Supporting organisations - in the absence of alternative sources - must come forward with the finances themselves. For its part, the CPGB will commit itself to a proportional weekly outlay to maintain the running of a national office along with one full-time seconded CPGB worker until the SA has sufficient funds.

To retreat would be criminal. What do we say to Neil Thompson, our brilliant SA candidate in St Helens South? And what about Louise Christian, Dave Church, Steve Godward, John Mulrenan, Dave Toomer and Joe Hearne? Thank you, comrades, and see you next election? I think not. Do we wind down our national presence and reduce our organisation to that of mere collection of local ginger groups? Again, no. We need to build on the huge momentum we have with so much energy and sacrifice created. To do otherwise would be an unforgivable abrogation of our res-ponsibilities. Central to our ever closer unity is keeping the national office open.

And there is a further point. The issue of democracy. If we were to shut our national office, in practice day-to-day SA work would end up depending entirely on the apparatus of the Socialist Workers Party. With volunteers from different organisations and independent activists staffing the office, a democratic culture is guaranteed. Reports carried in this paper have pointed to the occasional conflict between Socialist Alliance democracy at every level and the im-plementation of the latest SWP central committee edict. Maintaining the office represents a partyist culture. And surely our allies in the Socialist Party are not afraid of that, even though it necessarily entails a further evolution in their culture?

These new times are visibly leading to rapid, if jerky, changes in the SWP. Just last year, comrade Lindsay German said at a Liaison Committee meeting that her organisation was committed to the alliance for ?at least two years?. We then had the invention of the ridiculous ?united front of a special type? formulation to explain the reformist policies of the alliance to SWP members. Then the SWP said that the Socialist Alliance can become a party if they can be seen to be in a minority - a special united front indeed.

Responding to debate on the alliance versus party question, Chris Bambery seems to further develop the SWP?s position in the election issue of Socialist Worker (June 7). In fact the SWP?s position is all over the place, underpinned by its - opportunist - desire for short-term success.

The essence of comrade Bambery?s article is that there are some revolutionaries in the alliance and some reformists, and a forward-going movement must involve both forces at present. Agreed. Comrades from the SWP are saying though that a party formation would be ?too rigid? to accommodate them both. Why? Can there not be a democratic regime in which a reformist minority accepts - not agrees - with a revolutionary programme and fights alongside the majority in agreed action, all the while retaining its full freedom to openly criticise and present its own politics to the working class?

In Scotland, the SWP has joined the Scottish Socialist Party and formed a minority faction within it. Yet in England and Wales, to do so as a majority would be sectarian. Comrade Bambery must tell us why it is correct to argue for principled positions in Scotland, where the SWP is a minority (revolution not reform, British working class unity in Scotland). He must tell us why at the same time the SWP promotes reformist policies in England and Wales, where it is a majority. We must debate and together seek clarity.

I am confident that the SWP will overcome its present impasse - as it did on joining our Socialist Alliance, standing enough candidates to ensure election broadcasts and establishing a London headquarters. The logical trajectory of the Socialist Alliance is pushing the SWP towards acceptance of the necessity of a party.

Marcus Larsen
Socialist Alliance executive