Socialist Party Wales letter to WSA

Socialist Party Wales has decided unanimously at its all-members meeting on October 20 that we have been left with no choice but to withdraw from the Welsh Socialist Alliance. This decision has not been taken lightly nor does it indicate a change of approach by the Socialist Party on united fronts of the left. Recent events in the Welsh Socialist Alliance have confirmed to our party that the Welsh Socialist Alliance has ceased to provide a vehicle for the left to work together in Wales. Instead it has become an impediment to a united front of socialists in Wales. In particular the manoeuvres to prevent Socialist Party candidates from standing in the assembly elections under the banner of the WSA in Swansea, together with similar efforts in Cardiff, have convinced us that the only way to stand in future elections is to withdraw from the Welsh Socialist Alliance and stand Socialist Party candidates independently in consultation with all other socialist organisations. The WSA which was set up partly to enable all socialist trends to stand in elections is now being used by the Socialist Workers Party and its supporters to prevent the Socialist Party from standing in elections. The packing by SWP members of the Swansea WSA branch meeting to decide the assembly candidates for the Swansea seats and other manoeuvres were aimed not at maximising the impact of the WSA, but purely at driving the Socialist Party out of the electoral field in Swansea. The Socialist Party has the greatest weight on the left in the Swansea working class and youth and a long and distinguished history in the Swansea labour movement. In previous elections in Swansea, we have achieved some of the best electoral votes of any socialists in Wales. Nevertheless we still bent over backwards to work together with other members of the WSA in Swansea for the assembly elections. We stood down from our original choice of Swansea West where we stood in the general election in favour of another candidate and proposed instead standing in Swansea East. The use of dishonest tactics to prevent a Socialist Party candidate from standing under the banner of the WSA, by packing the meeting to 'win' the vote and announcing an SWP candidate for Swansea East at the last minute, has given the Socialist Party little choice but to stand independently. Some may question why the Socialist Party too did not pack the meeting and win the vote at the Swansea WSA meeting. Certainly in the short term it would have been to the advantage of our party to have won the selection for one of the seats. But such tactics are incompatible with the idea of a socialist alliance, in which should exist a spirit of cooperation and compromise. Dishonest and underhand methods are a recipe for turning the WSA into a sectarian battlefield, an alien arena to the working class and to the layers of anti-capitalist youth looking for an alternative. When the sudden appearance of a third candidate for the two Swansea seats was announced we suggested delaying the decision to allow a discussion between all interested parties to reach an amicable resolution of the problem, which was immediately rejected by the SWP. The Welsh Socialist Alliance was founded nearly five years ago by the Socialist Party, Cymru Goch and other socialists to provide an organisation in which socialists in Wales could work together in an electoral front ensuring that all trends of socialist opinion could stand candidates under one umbrella and could play a role in other campaigning issues. At that time it was envisaged that as the WSA gained the support and credibility of the working class in Wales it would take on real flesh and would evolve into a closer union of socialist forces in Wales. All socialist organisations were invited into the WSA, including the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP, however, declined because of its principled opposition to standing in elections. Even then we and the rest of the WSA bent over backwards to work with the SWP and other socialists outside the WSA. When the SWP changed its position and decided to stand in the 1999 assembly elections, but still refused to join the WSA, the Socialist Party and the majority of other members in the WSA entered a pact to stand in the elections with the SWP under the banner of the United Socialists. Since the belated entry of the SWP into the WSA we have attempted to work with them in the WSA, but this has increasingly become difficult, as the SWP struggled to gain control of the organisation. An attempt to remove the rule ensuring that no party can gain more than 40% of the leading positions of the WSA at the 2002 conference was thwarted by the wide opposition of WSA members, but other conference decisions have been undermined or distorted by the SWP members in leading positions to ensure that the SWP retains a disproportionate influence over the WSA. The decision of the conference to produce Welsh Socialist Voice on a monthly basis was sabotaged by the SWP, who put insuperable obstacles in its way, so that when the editorial board collapsed the SWP's position - defeated at the conference - of a quarterly journal under the control of the WSA officers was implemented. Similarly the proposals by the SWP organiser of the WSA day school excluded the Socialist Party and Cymru Goch from having any of the 13 speakers at the day school. It was only the intervention of a Socialist Party member on the organising committee in the face of SWP opposition that enabled each of these organisations to have one speaker each in a four-way debate. With the exit of the Socialist Party most of those who helped found the WSA as a non-sectarian and pluralist socialist alliance have left. There are less branches than at the WSA conference at the beginning of the year and the ones that still meet are (apart from candidate selection meetings) small and irrelevant, as the SWP concentrate on its other fronts. Following the disaffiliation of Cymru Goch, this means that both the founding organisations of the WSA have felt compelled to leave. To lose one founding organisation could be unfortunate; to lose both can only mark the decline of the WSA as a genuine alliance. Socialist Party Wales has been forced to leave the WSA with some reluctance, but certainly no pessimism. We look forward optimistically to taking part in the struggles of the working class and leftward-moving youth and also to working with others on the left, including those in the WSA, in the battles that lie ahead - on the electoral front, in the trade unions, in the anti-war campaign and wider community-based campaigns. We will support cooperation by the left and new alliances in fighting for socialist policies in the trade unions, community campaigns and in elections. But this cooperation can only succeed if the left has an open, flexible and democratic approach, where we work together on the issues that unite us whilst respecting the right of all trends to put an independent position. * Taaffe pulls out at last