Trouble at top

Liz Davies has resigned from the Socialist Alliance executive committee. Citing a breakdown of trust between members of the executive, comrade Davies has said that she will no longer be "able to discharge effectively her duties to the members". She remains a member of the Socialist Alliance. Comrade Davies raised her concerns at the executive committee meeting held on Sunday October 13. A subsequent emergency executive meeting on October 20 was convened to discuss the issues raised by comrade Davies's resignation. That meeting decided to implement a number of measures and the November 16 executive meeting will monitor and finalise arrangements arising from those decisions. While her resignation was triggered by what comrade Davies refers to as questions of "accountability" and "trust" among leading officers of the executive, many believe that there are deeper political issues at stake concerning the overall direction of the alliance, as well those relating to work in other arenas, such as the Stop the War Coalition. In order to overcome problems of communication and accountability between members of the executive and for the transparent setting of priorities for the national office, the executive has established a secretariat that will meet weekly. This temporary secretariat consists of Rob Hoveman, national secretary, Will McMahon, membership secretary, Marcus Ström, nominating officer, and Mandy Baker, youth officer. The secretariat will set the work and priorities for the national office and secretary on a week-to-week basis and will be fully accountable to the executive. To further promote the efficient running of the office a job description and employment contract for the office worker will be finalised, including the appointment of appropriate officers responsible for their work. Further decisions include the drawing up of guidelines, to be confirmed at the November executive, which will formalise the decision-making structures of the executive. While such arrangements are no cast-iron guarantee against any further breakdown of trust among executive members, these decisions will greatly increase the professional running of an organisation that still has a terribly weak national infrastructure. Given that the executive committee acted so quickly to redress these issues, it is unfortunate that comrade Liz Davies felt she could not remain part of the executive that is actively seeking to overcome shortcomings in organisation and accountability. Many hopes rest with the Socialist Alliance being a success and in the future developing into a political party that can compete with Labour for the loyalty of the mass of the working class. While we are still held back by amateurism and sect divisions, the Socialist Alliance remains the only game in town. It is the concretisation of the party question for communists and revolutionary socialists in the United Kingdom. Tensions are bound to arise with one of the principle supporting organisations - the Socialist Workers Party - being so dominant numerically. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the SWP persists in treating the Socialist Alliance as one of its many 'united fronts' - albeit of a 'special kind'. Though it poses as the champion of the SA's 'independents', this approach has not paid off. Neither for the SWP nor the SA. The SWP has not gained a new layer of recruits, nor has the SA. While the SA has a membership of a few thousand, there has been no influx of former members of the sects or former Labourites. Why join an SWP 'united front'? Nor has the SWP done a 'Scotland': ie, followed the lead of Alan McCombes and Tommy Sheridan and their International Socialist Movement (former Scottish Militant Labour), who have thrown their resources and energies into building a genuine party project. The SA therefore remains stunted at a half-way stage. It is in actual fact neither an SWP 'united front' nor a party. In that sense, the events around comrade Davies are reminiscent of when Dave Church resigned from the executive committee. Speaking of the December 1 2001 constitutional conference, comrade Church said: "We should have either remained as a looser federal organisation or moved over to a single party structure that recognises and welcomes its factions" (Weekly Worker May 30). In other words the SWP is holding back the logical development of the Socialist Alliance: ie, our transformation into a fully fledged party with a weekly or daily press, trade union fractions, councillors and a healthy culture of ongoing political debate. The executive is dealing with the organisational issues arising from comrade Davies' resignation. However, the Socialist Alliance as a whole needs to come to grips with the bigger political question. The executive committee has fixed the date of our annual conference as March 15 2003. From now until then the executive will "initiate a period of open and democratic discussion of the politics and operation of the alliance". The principal supporting organisations in particular need to grasp the nettle. In order to move forward, new members need to know that the Socialist Alliance is the primary project of all the significant forces involved. The equivocation inherent in the 'united front' approach is a source of constant instability and weakness. The March 15 conference should take the decision in principle to move towards a Socialist Alliance party. Marcus Ström Liz Davies As members of the Socialist Alliance executive are aware, I have resigned as national chair of the Socialist Alliance and from the executive. I have done so with deep sadness. I feel strongly that minimum standards of accountability and probity have not been upheld by some leading officers and members of the executive. Under the circumstances, it is clear to me that I will not be able to discharge effectively my duties to the members. The premise of the Socialist Alliance was that individuals and groups from differing political backgrounds and perspectives could work together on a common political project. It was always clear that trust among the elements of the Socialist Alliance, and in particular trust among members of the executive and national officers, was essential to this endeavour. As a result of recent events, I feel that trust no longer exists. I remain committed to contributing towards the development of a viable socialist alternative to New Labour. October 21 2002 SA executive We very much regret Liz Davies's resignation from the national executive. We greatly appreciate the contribution she has made on the national executive and as chair and thank her for this. We welcome her continued commitment to building a socialist alternative to New Labour, and we hope to continue to work closely with her as a member of the Socialist Alliance. As a result of Liz raising her concerns, the executive has taken urgent measures to deal with the important issues she has raised. Those measures will be monitored and finalised at the November meeting of the executive, which will also initiate a period of open and democratic discussion of the politics and operation of the alliance leading up to the alliance's annual general meeting on March 15 2003. The executive is looking forward to building on our excellent result in the recent Hackney mayoral election. Local alliances are already active in building broad labour movement support committees for the firefighters, and the executive decided to throw the whole weight of the alliance nationally behind this effort. With New Labour taking an openly anti-union stance against the firefighters, the need for socialists to unite in a campaigning organisation like the alliance has never been more urgent. The alliance is also in the forefront of the anti-war movement in many areas, and will be working to make sure that a clear and distinctive socialist message is heard in this new and growing movement. Lesley Mahmood and Steve Godward (joint vice chairs); Tess McMahon (treasurer); Marcus Ström (nominating officer); Rob Hoveman (secretary and campaigns officer); Will McMahon (membership secretary); Mark Hoskisson (trade union officer); John Rees (press officer); Nick Wrack (publications officer); Mandy Baker (youth officer); Weyman Bennett (race officer); John Fisher, Declan O'Neill, Alan Thornett, Martin Thomas (executive members) October 23 2002