Taaffe pulls out at last

News that the Socialist Party has decided to quit the Welsh Socialist Alliance is, in many ways, unsurprising. After all, the decision taken by the SP to walk out of the Socialist Alliance (England) conference on December 1 2001 meant that its presence in the WSA was somewhat anomalous. It was perhaps only a question of time before matters came to a head. Yet there is a little more to the story than the SP's departure being simply an inevitable extension of the line in England. In particular, the recent behaviour of the Socialist Workers Party in the WSA has been nothing short of a disgrace and it bears at least some responsibility for the SP's announcement. As regular Weekly Worker readers may know, the WSA has since its inception in 1998 been the weakest link in the chain of socialist alliances in Britain. Emerging out an agreement between the SP and the left-nationalist Cymru Goch, the WSA was effectively stillborn. This was largely as a result of the SP leaders' decision in the very early days not to prioritise the building of the alliance. They were terrified by what was going on in Scotland. Scottish Militant Labour had gone native. Riding the nationalist tiger, the SML comrades in the Scottish Socialist Alliance were rebelling against their masters in London. Alan McCombes and Tommy Sheridan wanted to set up a broad Scottish Socialist Party, while Peter Taaffe simply wanted recruits to his own sect. As we know, it was McCombes and Sheridan who won and Taaffe who lost. Nevertheless Taaffeism still ruled in Wales and that ensured that the WSA would be little more than an electoral pact. Indeed, it was only with the entry of the SWP in 2000 that the alliance took on any real life. Although relatively weak in the principality - the SWP has not many more active members than the Socialist Party - its added energy led to a certain vitalisation of the alliance, culminating in the WSA standing in six out of the 40 Welsh seats in the 2001 general election. Yet immediately afterwards, except for electoral activity, the SWP itself started to scale down its activity within the WSA - at the same time trying to ensure that its grip on the alliance was strengthened. In England the SWP's operations inside the SA managed to follow the same strategy with a certain skill under the guidance of John Rees and Rob Hoveman. They ensured that the SA remained with safe bounds but still exhibited a certain amount of political life - witness the 1,000-strong trade union conference, for example. And they took most of the non-aligned SA members with them. Unfortunately, their comrades in Wales lack political subtlety. As a consequence the SWP suffered, at least initially, a series of setbacks which culminated in orders coming from London instructing them to withdraw the proposal for the WSA to exactly model itself to the SA in England. This was after a prominent SWP member - arguing that such a constitution would have the effect of reducing the WSA to a minuscule rump - resigned from his organisation at a national council meeting of the WSA (see Weekly Worker December 13 2001). Also, the SWP was unable to prevent our conference in January 2002 voting in favour of establishing a regular publication. Indeed the launch of Welsh Socialist Voice gave the WSA a short-lived fillip. But this was too much for the SWP to take. If the Welsh SA could have a publication, why not the much richer, much bigger SA in England? The SWP central committee presumably instructed its comrades in Wales to kill the project. Indeed at an SWP aggregate in Cardiff, Chris Bambery, foaming at the mouth, held up WSV and derided it as a "rag". After No3 WSV was effectively dead. The June national council meeting saw the SWP take control. No4 has yet to hit the streets and the odds are that it never will. Yet throughout all this SWP manoeuvring, the SP showed not the slightest concern. It nether came to the support of those who attempted to save WSV nor did it fight to maintain democracy in the WSA. It raised not so much as a grumble about the abuse of democratic procedures. Indeed an SP comrade accused those who attempted to defend democracy as being "constitutional cretins" (Weekly Worker June 20). Like the SWP, the SP in Wales showed no interest whatsoever in reinvigorating the WSA. Outside of elections it is hard to think of any alliance activity that the SP has thrown its weight behind. Here is the background against which one must view the SP's announcement. It is certainly true that the sectarianism of the SWP in Wales ensured that the SP would be unable to stand for the WSA in either of the two seats it had targeted. This writer knows for a fact that SWP comrades wanted the selection of an independent in the constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth - an area which the SP has been active in for many years. Clearly, as can be seen from the leaked Goss-Chapman email (below), the SWP was needlessly trying to humiliate the SP and thus effectively encouraging it to "take a hike". Yet it is difficult to view the SP's statement with much sympathy. It is full of inaccuracies and half-truths. Whilst many WSA members are likely to be appalled by the way the SWP has behaved, there will not be many tears shed for Taaffe's sect. Throughout its time in the alliance, the SP has consistently refused to take the WSA seriously. Indeed the SP has often done its best to sabotage any independent action of the WSA - even when it ruled the roost. What now, then, for the WSA? Apart from the SWP with around 20 or so active members, the WSA is made up of a handful of CPGB and Workers Power supporters, together with a small number of independents. This year has not only witnessed the exit of Cymru Goch and now the SP, but has also seen the resignation of some prominent independents. The Welsh Socialist Alliance is now much weakened. The CPGB, for its part, has no intention of leaving the WSA. As partisans of the socialist alliance project we will argue at the next conference in January 2003 that the WSA merge with the Socialist Alliance in England as a matter of urgency. As we have consistently said, unity is strength; sectionalism kills. Cameron Richards Take a hike Did the SWP deliberately provoke the SP walkout? This email purports to be from SWP member Julian Goss, secretary of the WSA, to Martin Chapman, former WSA chair and leading SWPer in Swansea, the weekend before the Swansea WSA nominating meeting Dear Martin I've talked today to John Rees. He asks: are we interested in the two seats the SP want to stand in? Answer: yes. Is there an organisational format for putting the question to the vote? Answer: yes. Can we win the argument decisively? If so, we should go ahead. If the SP can't accept a democratic decision, and walk out, then so be it. But beware that 'independents' who have moaned louder than we have about the SP may prevaricate when it comes to the crunch. We need to line people up beforehand. Talk to them individually. We must be absolutely sure that they will be prepared to push the matter to its conclusion, knowing the SP can be expected to take a hike as a result. Fraternally Julian