Taking things foward

The Colchester branch of the Socialist Alliance was set up in August 200. The majority of active members seem to be Socialist Workers Party, the rest of us individual members, some who have broken with Labour. We also have supporters still in the Labour Party who attend occasionally without voting rights but help in our campaigns. We are affiliated to the Defend Council Housing campaign and in this short time Colchester SA has campaigned successfully on three estates, encouraging the local Labour Party to rethink its earlier strategy, which is isolating Blairite councillors. One councillor has now published a document actually supporting our position and has given permission for it to go on our website. I have recently proposed that the loose structure of our branch is no longer up to the job of the challenges opening up before us, suggesting that perhaps a local constitution that does not conflict with the national constitution should be constructed, so I was glad to see Marcus Larsen's piece 'Neither localism nor bureaucratism', that touches on this subject (Weekly Worker February 7. It is wonderful; by the way, to see the vast coverage the Weekly Worker continues to give to Socialist Alliance issues, national and local.) I suggested that this proposed constitution would allow for annual elections of chairperson, branch secretary, treasurer, trade union officer, press officer and membership secretary as a minimum requirement. These officers and perhaps others would belong to a steering/management committee that would deal with issues passed to it for further research or discussion, and would meet in between the normal monthly meetings, reporting back to the membership at monthly meetings or special meetings, as the need arises. By simple majority of the membership this committee could be ordered to hold new elections if they fail to hold the confidence of the membership. No member present objected or spoke against the proposition in principle, but two independents and one SWPer suggested that it be initiated after the May local elections (in which we intend to stand some candidates), which I was happy with. It was agreed that it would be debated on our first monthly meeting after the May 2 local elections, and it was suggested that I have a blueprint ready as a basis for discussion. Prior to the branch meeting I had sent out emails to all the Socialist Alliances I could find on the web to ask them for details of their local rules, and from the results received so far I would agree with comrade Tina Becker when she says of Haringey: "... I suggested during the meeting that many Socialist Alliances had to all intents and purposes closed down after the elections" ('One ward, one candidate' Weekly Worker February 7). I have received just one reply to my request in the past 11 days, and that was a speedy and informative reply from Pete Radcliff of Nottingham SA (thanks, Pete - very helpful). Cambridge bounced back undeliverable, obviously having changed their email address but failing to update their site - in fact not many sites have been updated since the general election of last June. Where are the other replies I was expecting to receive? Are these alliances dead or sleeping? If you read this and are a member of these branches - Bristol, Cambridge, Darlington and Durham, Dudley, East London, Haringey, Harlow and District, Islington, Lancashire, Leeds Left Alliance, Manchester, Milton Keynes, North Derby, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Telford - please help us in our deliberations and answer your mail. We would like to hear from any interested parties with constructive suggestions (reply to merv.and.janine@ntlworld.com). A breath of fresh air at the meeting was when an independent comrade wanted to discuss the SA's position regarding the war against terrorism, a position he is not completely at ease with, commenting that he feels not enough analysis was given to the subject before the Stop the War project was initiated. As a medium of left unity with so much to gain by working together, and much more to lose if we fall out and walk away, I have always sensed that we tiptoe around each other as if walking on eggshells. As one SWP comrade said, "Never mind 'don't mention the war' - don't mention the politics." There was a brief but warm exchange with seven or eight speakers, showing that this comrade was not isolated in his opinion as he had previously felt, and at least three of us were unhappy about some conclusions reached by what we thought was an over-simplified analysis of the complexities of the subject, which could give the public the idea that we actually side with such forces as the Taliban, al Qa'eda and Hamas, which of course are just as anti-working class and anti-socialist as Messrs Bush and Blair. There was no nastiness, and I must say I hope more bones of contention are brought out in the future, for if it can be handled in the same way (mainly through the energetic chairmanship of comrade Jim Jepps), it will, I am sure, bring us closer together and therefore a more efficient branch. Just think, with our own journal or paper this hot potato may have been handled earlier! Mervyn Davies