Impatient sectarians slink away

The latest little sect to rubbish the Socialist Alliance is Red Action, which has announced its 'withdrawal' from an organisation it never actually joined. In a statement posted on its website, the grouping states: "The Socialist Alliance conference on December 5 [sic] saw the organisation adopt a constitution sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which effectively makes the alliance a centralised body under the leadership of the SWP, thereby effectively disenfranchising every other organisation or individual within it - should the SWP so wish" (January 19). To justify its own sectarianism Red Action has adopted the same ally of convenience as Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party: "This constitution was adopted, despite the Socialist Party (SP) (the only constituent member of the alliance with councillors) making it clear it would be forced to leave "¦ By its stance the Socialist Alliance made it clear that it no longer cares about 'unity'." Referring to such groups as Worker's Power and the CPGB as "current 'poodles' of the SWP", Red Action describes the alliance as just another of the "feeder organisations to the SWP without any internal dynamic of their own". But then how would they know? As the comrades admit, "We never joined the SA on a national basis, nor did we have any intention of working within the Socialist Alliances on a local basis." Red Action joined the London Socialist Alliance only - in the summer of 2000. At that time the LSA's constitution gave all affiliates automatic representation on its steering committee. In my view it was correct to do so at this early stage in order to achieve mutual trust amongst components not used to working together. But the drawback of maintaining this federalism on a permanent basis has been well and truly exposed by the example of Red Action, whose comrades simply turned up to LSA steering committee meetings without ever having the slightest intention of building the alliance into something worthwhile. Their sole objective was to "attempt to influence at least some sections of the alliance and inject some realism, analysis and strategic thinking into it" - ie, persuade the rest of us that our main enemy is not the system of capital and the UK state, but tiny groups like the BNP, and harangue us into adopting Red Action's muscular version of 'community work'. The comrades go on to admit that "in our 18 months' involvement RA did not do a lot". A slight understatement, I think. But, after all, "it immediately became apparent" that the other groups were not going to be persuaded overnight of RA's wisdom, so what was the point? There was certainly no point in remaining affiliated to the LSA, while refusing either to work with the local alliances that began to spring up across London or to join the national body. From the Greater London Assembly campaign onwards it was the local SAs that were taking the day-to-day decisions, while subsequently the Socialist Alliance nationally was at least beginning to discuss the big questions. While the rest of us were not only getting on with the work, but arguing our corner both locally and nationally, RA was sulking about the lack of LSA steering committee meetings. The running down of the only tier where RA was minimally involved (it sent a representative to eight meetings) is interpreted by Red Action as "internal democracy [being] rejected as both unsatisfactory and unnecessary". Having failed to instantly convert the left to the one true path, Red Action now feels justified in slinking off. More than that, it now proceeds to write off the SA as, literally, worse than useless: "Politically, the Socialist Alliance has never made an impact on the working class, nor, as it has made clear, does it have any plans to do so "¦ The SA is now firmly in a camp that is indifferent, when not openly opposed, to immediate working class interests ... The Socialist Alliance is doomed to fail and deserves to do so. Not only is failure assured, but to accelerate radical change, absolute failure may even be necessary." Since, of course, the SA is now to be regarded almost as the class enemy, "the prospect of cooperation in any form appears to be out of the question". Instead, RA will be backing what it describes as "independent working class candidates" in the forthcoming local elections: "In some cases, it is possible we will find ourselves in competition not only with the mainstream parties, but the SA." Well, let us hope that their candidates do not disappoint them in this "watershed election" with results similar to the "wretched" ones achieved by the SA in the GLA poll. In that case perhaps we will see these impatient sectarians ditching the electoral tactic too. Alan Fox * www.redaction.org