Partners or rivals

At the AGM of the Green Socialist Network on October 5 and the national meeting of the Left Alliance held the following week, it was agreed that the two organisations should fuse into a new body - the Alliance for Green Socialism. This is to be ratified at a founding conference to be held in March. The product of a long process of discussion, with around 350 members the new body will be bigger than many existing groups. The Green Socialist Network started out as a component of Democratic Left, which arose from the liquidation of the old CPGB in 1991. The GSN eventually parted company with DL, as the latter moved ever further to the right. The Left Alliance was formed by people who left or were expelled from the Labour Party after its national executive refused to endorse Liz Davies as a parliamentary candidate in Leeds, where its membership is almost exclusively based. The fusion of the two groups was not entirely problem-free. The GSN had a few Labour Party members and a greater number of Green Party members. The constitutions of both organisations forbid membership of other parties, yet the AGS aims to register as a political party. A way around this was envisaged, whereby Green and Labour Party members join the Green Left 'think tank', which would become an affiliate of the AGS. By this circuitous method Green and Labour Party members would be deemed AGS affiliate members. The ban on Socialist Workers Party comrades from membership of the Left Alliance will, it seems, be carried over into the new AGS constitution, which grants the national committee power to determine that certain people are eligible only for associate membership, "according to criteria including membership of other specified organisations" (clause 4.2). At the GSN AGM Nick Long moved a number of amendments to the proposed new constitution, which were aimed at safeguarding the rights of individual members. These were heavily defeated. This means that, as things stand, individual members of the AGS will have no voting rights at conference, which only members of "local groups", or branches, enjoy. Only three of these exist at present - two in London, one in Leeds. Previously individual members of the GSN were able to propose motions and vote at the AGM. Members not in a local group (at present the majority) would be allocated to a 'national group', with the national committee acting as group executive. Comrade Long also tabled a motion on relations between the AGS and the Socialist Alliance. The motion stated: ""¦ turning away from the SA will not see the GSN/AGS flourish." It continued: "The GSN could have become the 'green left' of the SA", and concluded: "This AGM therefore resolves to encourage its members to join and play a full and active roll in the SA, both locally, regionally and nationally. This AGM instructs the new steering committee to work to ensure the constitution of the SA is amended, removing the slate system of voting and allowing affiliation of separate organisations." Due to lack of time, the motion was not taken and remitted to the committee. Comrade Long not being present at the last committee meeting, the motion will not now be discussed until December. While some GSN members were active in the SA, since December the relationship between the GSN and the SA has consisted of a GSN observer attending the SA national council and Liz Davies addressing a GSN committee meeting. There is considerable antagonism to the SA from some AGS members, who see it as an alternative to the new formation. There is an irony in people who were members of the 'official' CPGB for decades describing the SWP as "Stalinist" in its practice! However, there is a strong pro-SA element in the AGS and the newly-formed South London group has made it clear it does not see itself as an alternative to the SA. Members will be supporting Jean Kysow in the forthcoming council by-election in Downham, Lewisham. The Left Alliance had already announced its intention to contest the European elections in Yorkshire and Humberside and had contacted other organisations about a joint list. The only reply came from the Socialist Party and there followed a meeting between the two organisations. But at the GSN committee meeting former SA executive member Dave Church said it was wrong to present other organisations with a fait accompli and felt there was a need to start again with a blank sheet. If the new AGS can act positively towards the SA, it can be a step forward. If, however, it acts as a rival, the result could be more splintering in an already fragmented and fractured left. Ed Casson