WSA journal to be launched
Up to 60 people attended the fourth annual conference of the Welsh Socialist Alliance in Rhayader on Saturday January 19. Members of the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, Cymru Goch, Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty participated in the conference, as well as around 20 non-aligned socialists. Contrary to rumours that had been circulating, neither the SP nor CG walked out. Both organisations behaved in a comradely way and business was conducted in a largely fraternal atmosphere. Among the many positive proposals passed were motions for a 'Socialism in Wales' day or weekend school, to take place in May or June, and one calling for closer links with our Socialist Alliance and Scottish Socialist Party partners in England and Scotland (see below). The most significant decision was to set up a regular WSA publication. A large majority of the delegates (including the SP) voted for the Gwent branch motion moved by comrade Richard Morse. Disappointingly, most members of the SWP abstained, perhaps indicating that, had the vote been less clear-cut, the SWP would have voted against. In fact, SWP members made a lame attempt to prevent debate on this motion. They seemed to hope that by carrying over a debate from the morning and requesting that the Ogmore by-election candidate speak to the conference in the 75 minutes allotted for organisational motions, there would be no time left to debate the issue of a publication. It was placed eighth on the order paper for that section. However, Gwent WSA outmanoeuvred the SWP by formally moving five of its other motions. The debate on the publication went ahead. In the discussion that followed supporters highlighted the crucial need for our own journal. In a telling contribution, comrade Danny Bowles from Swansea WSA noted that a regular paper would help to move the WSA from appearing to many merely as a flag of convenience wheeled out at election time. It could start to be an organisation that was serious about moving in a partyist direction. Thus, in spite of the palpable weaknesses of the WSA, the organisation has, in one important respect, achieved something the SA in England failed to at its December 1 conference in London. The SWP voted down the proposal for an SA newspaper; in Wales the alliance will have a journal. Let us hope, though, that SWP comrades in Wales now wholeheartedly seek to ensure that the new publication is the a resounding success. An editorial board was elected consisting of Steve Bell (independent), Mark Jones (CG), Des Mannay and Alan Thomson from the SWP, Jamie Loftus (independent) and Catrin Williams (SP). Initially, a monthly magazine format is planned and comrades are keen to see the first issue hit the streets as quickly as possible. However, a worrying feature of the day was the SWP's lacklustre approach. Although the biggest organisation in the alliance, it does not command a natural majority. This fact appeared to dictate its behaviour at the conference. As previously reported, the SWP had originally planned to move its constitutional amendment which would have given the WSA an almost identical constitution to the one adopted by the SA on December 1. This would inevitably have led to an SP walkout, as in England. However, at the request of the WSA national council the SWP agreed to withdraw its amendment until the convening of a special conference to debate the future of the alliance. Yet the SWP was none too keen that this take place too soon. When an amendment was moved by the CPGB to confirm May as the date of the special conference, the SWP held back and instead supported a proposal that the conference be delayed until October. An indicative vote took place and the CPGB amendment (supported by the SP) was defeated by 22 votes to 23, although the national council will take the final decision. The SWP is obviously wary of WSA developments, given its inability to command an absolute majority. The alliance is still fragile. One good conference has not changed that. The winter 2002 edition of the SP's Socialist Wales - the quarterly supplement to The Socialist - comments that, while the SWP's constitutional proposals have been "temporarily withdrawn", this "merely delays the decision that the WSA must make to remain a voluntary alliance or become a centralised political party in all but name ..." Clearly, storm clouds still loom. The decision not to press ahead with the conference in May encouraged CG to argue that it had been correct not to withdraw its constitutional amendment on an independent Welsh socialist republic. A debate followed later in the day on the national question. CG's amendment was overwhelmingly defeated, with only eight votes in favour. Time pressures meant that debate on the three motions on the international conflict since September 11 - from the SP, SWP and the CPGB - was restricted. At one point it appeared that the SP might bring itself to support the CPGB motion, which combined opposition to the imperialist war with intransigent rejection of the politics and deeds of islamic fundamentalism. However, after comrade Julian Goss of the SWP confirmed to the SP delegates that the sentence in his motion which stated that "the WSA does not try to be even-handed in its condemnation of both sides" did not imply tacit support for islamic fundamentalism, the SP capitulated. Both the SP and the SWP motions were passed, whilst the CPGB motion was defeated by 28 votes to 11. The SP couldn't be heroes, just for one day. Cameron Richards Key resolutions Socialism in Wales This conference agrees to organise a 'Socialism in Wales' day/weekend along the lines of the SWP's Marxism week and summer/day schools held by other socialist parties. A central theme at such a conference should be a perspectives-based 'Which way forward for the WSA' and the national question. The WSA day/weekend should also set time aside to discuss international issues and provide a forum which includes sessions such as an introduction to socialism and a history of Welsh labour, etc. This conference shall assign/elect one member from each party represented and three non-party members to organise the conference and speakers. The conference/event should aim to take place in May/ June 2002. Closer links This conference notes that many issues that we campaigned on during the general election were issues that affect our class regardless of where they live. To that extent a greater pool of resources, ideas and personnel between the English and Welsh Socialist Alliances and the Scottish Socialist Party could have resulted in us making bigger gains than we actually did. To that extent we seek to reaffirm closer links with both organisations and representation at their meetings in an observer capacity in order to exchange news of developments, political ideas and resources. The WSA will write to the SA of England and the SSP giving them a fraternal invite to be represented at all national council meetings and seek a reciprocal arrangement for national council meetings and conferences. WSA publication This conference believes that is essential for the WSA to produce a regular publication for distribution/sale among its members and the general public. This conference believes that such a publication, if successful, could raise the profile of the WSA and be a very useful forum for debate about socialism in Wales. This conference resolves to elect an editorial board of five members at this conference to establish such a publication.