US attacks strain relations

Finally, after what seems like an age of relative inactivity, Nottingham Socialist Alliance has stirred into life once again. It is unfortunate, however, that is has taken a small group of religious fanatics and the death of over 5,000 men, women and children to wake everyone up.

It all started on September 11, the day of the attack on the World Trade Center, when Pete Radcliff, our general election candidate for Nottingham East and a member of the Alliance for Workers? Liberty, circulated a statement, of his own drafting, on the Notts Socialist Alliance e-group condemning the attacks. Pete?s wording, as ever, was strong and forthright. He called for an emergency meeting the next evening.

The September 12 meeting agreed that all the component organisations of Notts SA should work together in joint anti-war activity in the city. A leaflet would also be drawn up, and a further meeting was arranged for two days later. So far, so good then. However, immediately before the Friday meeting Pete received notification that the Socialist Workers Party did not at all agree with the statement drafted during the previous meeting.

The SWP had already decided to launch joint anti-war activity under prominent local SWPer John Shemeld and refused to discuss the WTC bombings within the SA. After comrade Radcliff angrily posted their exchange of e-mails on the national SA press list, comrade Shemeld replied with a volley of his own. He made it abundantly clear that any discussion of the political differences between the position of himself and comrade Radcliff was out of bounds. He reckoned that Notts SA should unite around a limp statement, falling way short of condemning the terrorist attacks, but stating our ?opposition? to such actions.

But what makes the whole affair particularly depressing - particularly after the level of unity built up during the general election campaign - is not only the SWP?s refusal to debate out our differences, but the organisation of its own public meeting without any consultation with the SA. Comrade Shemeld blithely informs us of the meeting, as he signs off his e-mail, posted on the SA Press list: ?Look out for the posters!? His position seems to be that, where the SA components do not agree, then we should not waste time with debate and discussion, let alone joint work.

Tempers are certainly running high in Nottingham. However, comrade Shemeld is right in one sense: we should indeed ?calm down?, step back and avoid rushing into hasty declarations that the SA is on the brink of collapse, as comrade Radcliff came close to doing. We need the SWP in the SA; we need their comrades? experience and enthusiasm inside the organisation, not apart from it. We must criticise them with this in mind.

This malaise is symptomatic of the attitude of a handful of SWP comrades towards the alliance since June 7. Whilst the other affiliated groups (CPGB, AWL and Socialist Party), along with the independents, have been in regular contact over the summer, the SWP has been concentrating on its Anti-Nazi League and Globalise Resistance work. We are now informed that GR (ie, the SWP) has organised a coach to the Labour conference demo, deserting the official SA one. This is patently ridiculous, not least in economic terms, as both coaches are now likely to be less than half full.

Sam Metcalf