Anti-Socialist Workers Party

Building an alliance of socialists. With this motto, non-aligned members of the Socialist Alliance held their second national conference of independents on Sunday June 23. At the national constitutional conference of the old Socialist Alliance, last December, the Socialist Workers Party were able to use their position as the largest single political grouping represented to impose their constitution: a constitution which, in the opinion of some of the other groups and many of those who did not belong to the SWP or any other political grouping, severely curtailed the power of the alliance to make its own decisions, debate issues openly and democratically and emerge as a force in its own right. Their refusal to compromise on the constitution provoked a walkout by the Socialist Party, whereupon instant elections were hurried through, during which a privately prearranged 'slate' was elected, which included a small number of SWP members and a majority made up of outsiders who went along with SWP plans for the alliance. This led members who had no other loyalties than to the alliance itself to get together and try to reclaim some of the spontaneity, independence and enthusiasm - some of the socialist spirit which they had hoped for from the alliance at the time of its foundation. These 'independents' held their first conference some four months ago. It was well attended (about 60), but this number included many 'visitors' from the new leadership, which took up valuable conference time and made it very hard to come to a consensus. Many also came as 'observers', or quasi-supervisors. This time there were no more than 15 comrades present: less, but perhaps better. The event marked a significant breakthrough. Despite the short notice, comrades came from as far apart as Colchester, Exeter, Walsall, Southampton, Sheffield, the London boroughs of Lambeth, Newham, Camden, Lewisham and Haringey. All came as enthusiastic activists at the centre of various struggles. None came in their official capacity (in fact, despite the fact that all SA independents were invited to come and/or to post up resolutions for debate not one of the national committee independent members did so). However, Dave Church, who recently found himself with no other option than to resign from the national committee, travelled up and participated vigorously, as did RMT activist Grahame Campbell, reporting from the front line in the battle against racism on the estates. Apologies were given from a substantial number of comrades who were not able to be present. Two had sent resolutions, which were discussed, notably a wide-ranging paper from David Landau (Islington), outlining approaches on fighting fascism and racism. Uniquely among all the meetings which have taken place under the auspices of the 'Socialist Alliance' - including those of the 'independents' - there was not the slightest hint of a 'hidden agenda'. Resolutions and/or discussion papers had been actively sought and had been posted on the net for all to see and prepare for. A full range of views was represented in lively and constructive, not to say inspiring, debates. In all likelihood there were as many definitions of what was meant by 'socialism' as there were comrades present. But everybody was inspired by a common ideal: they wanted the alliance to emerge from under the SWP wing, and become a body which would be financially, organisationally and politically independent, which could resist attempts to disperse it into outside single-issue campaigns, which could discuss its aims, objectives and strategy for itself - could thrash out policies on the issues it was involved in openly and democratically - its officers being appointed by and fully accountable to its members. Resolutions were agreed which pledged those present to urge on the alliance a greater emphasis on local campaigns and direct action - compared, for example, with the protest slogans and the detailed psephological accounting procedures which seem to have become the officially sanctioned obsessions of the organisation. After all, it would only be our willingness and ability to act dynamically and effectively in local community actions that would earn us the right to ask voters to trust us. And, in the event that an SA candidate were ever elected, it would only be to the extent that they could speak as spokespersons for communities that could they hope to bring about even the slightest reform. It was agreed to carry on campaigning for the right of community groups, trade unions, etc to affiliate to local SAs (or 'branches', as they ought to be called). Initiative, imagination, creativity, independence should be highly prized, and a much greater degree of autonomy should be granted at individual and branch level. It was the general feeling of the meeting that we should make it clear that our aim had to be the eventual formation of a mass socialist party of the working class, perhaps along the lines of the Scottish Socialist Party. Meanwhile, a first step along the road to becoming a real alliance of socialists would be a journal in which we could exchange views and recruit among the people we come across at work, in the community, in outside campaigns, etc. The strong support already expressed at the first independents' meeting for a Socialist Alliance publication was once again confirmed. It was accordingly agreed enthusiastically to launch a quarterly journal forthwith, to be open on a democratic basis to all members of the Socialist Alliance, pending the assumption of responsibility for it by the national council. Julian Silverman * 'Independents' meet