New step to unity

The officers of Socialist Alliance in Hackney have taken a very positive step by agreeing a structure that will cement and develop the unity that has built up over the past year.

The next members? meeting will have before it proposals for the election of 15 officers on an inclusive and recallable basis. However, this seemingly uncontroversial set of principles was only arrived at after a series of two debates. Debate one: Will McMahon (Hackney SA secretary), a non-aligned comrade, and Anne Mc Shane of the CPGB (chair) came forward with a formula which would reflect the political make-up of the SA, while stressing the need for permanency and accountability. These proposals were supported by leading independent Mike Marqusee and by George Binnette of Workers Power.

However, Socialist Workers Party members argued that we need a loose, ?flexible? structure with perhaps a rotating chair and new people being coopted onto the committee on a regular basis. They were resistant to the idea of any degree of permanency and suggested that votes should be taken at officers? meetings by anybody who turned up, whether they were elected or not. One comrade stated that he did not want the SA to become a revolutionary party and that the McMahon-McShane proposals were in danger of moving it in that direction.

Non-aligned comrades, together with CPGB and WP members, responded that while constant involvement of new forces on a voting basis might sound very democratic, in fact it was the opposite. Officers should be accountable to the members who had voted for them - something that obviously cannot apply to comrades who simply turn up. However, all officers? meetings should be open to members to attend in a non-voting capacity with the right to speak. Things were left unresolved.

Debate two: in the intervening week SWP members rethought their position and came back with proposals essentially the same as those they had previously argued against. This, with amendments, will go forward to the next members? meeting from the officers as a whole. The SWP?s change of mind is very welcome and the comrades are to be congratulated for recognising the need for democracy and accountability. It must have come as a surprise to the SWP to see ?ultra-lefts? uniting with the ?right wing? against the attempt to stall the development of more permanent structures.

Having come to an agreement and being clear that we are working together, the atmosphere became very positive. We moved on to discuss the local elections, the anti-cuts campaign and, significantly, the decision of some Turkish and Kurdish organisations to involve themselves in the SA in Hackney.

All working together - all except the Socialist Party, that is. Its representative unfortunately was not able to find the meeting. We are still in the dark therefore as to what the SP is going to do regarding the SA. Hackney SP comrades have discussed their involvement. But we do not know what their decision is. It was agreed by the officers that we should try to speak to them and ask them yet again to come back into the SA.

Part of the recommendation on structure concerns the desirability for all organisations to be represented on the committee, although this is not an automatic right. However, ultimately it is up to the SP.

With the Audit Commission urging the government to step in and sort Hackney out, the crisis in the borough continues. To ensure that the working class makes its mark on events we need to strive for the greatest degree of unity. A demonstration has been planned for the next council meeting on July18. The SA will be building for that, aware that the Labour bureaucrats running the council are still out for our blood (see ?Appeal for democracy?, and the covering note by Liz Davies and Paul Foot, below).

Unfortunately it seems already that the SP is not only marching separately, but attempting to set up a new front organisation to fight the cuts and stand in elections. SA members will be turning up at a meeting called by the SP to launch this new campaign demanding that the SP stop its sectarian antics and put the interests of the working class before Peter Taaffe?s petty sectarian ambitions.

Anne Mc Shane
chair, Hackney SA
(personal capacity)