Long expected move

Nick Long has resigned from the Socialist Alliance. The now former chair of Lewisham Socialist Alliance has cited articles in Socialist Worker and Socialist Resistance on congestion charges as the "final straw", announcing he has applied to join the Green Party. Comrade Long thinks that a flat tax on cars entering city centres is the way and the light to cleaner living. The SWP, the International Socialist Group and others in the SA oppose congestion charging. Not much of a difference of principle and hardly an issue worth splitting over. Comrade Long has always been a mercurial character. He was initially a pro-Scargill witch-hunter in the Socialist Labour Party, then was an oppositionist for a few days before flopping out. As a founder of the wonderfully misnamed Socialist Democracy Group, he led the unsuccessful attempt to expel the CPGB from the first London Socialist Alliance (set up on our initiative). Championing 'speed bump' localism, reformism and just downright opportunism, he was never going to provide the firm foundations upon which a militant, partyist, opposition to New Labour was going to be built. This flotsam has now 'jetsammed' into a petty bourgeois dead end. Some may well say, 'Good riddance', but this would be a very childish and short-term view to take. The Socialist Alliance - and the party that will hopefully follow it - should easily be able to incorporate such characters as Nick Long. Any mass party of the working class will have people with ill thought-out or even reactionary views joining its ranks. In one sense, this is no big story. Yet Nick Long's departure is not an isolated event. The anti-war movement is building by the day, yet the SA is hardly growing at the same pace. Liz Davies has left the executive. Local branches are largely inert. There is a growing feeling among SA supporters of a lack of direction. We have said here time and again that the SA is becalmed. Without a regular political newspaper, without functioning union fractions or networks, and without local branches that act as the real political centres for activists, the SA cannot move forward. The Socialist Workers Party, while one of our greatest assets, is also a liability, holding the alliance back. Campaigning for the SA to become a party does not fit into its sterile, sectarian world view of constructing numerous "united fronts" around "the party", which is already meant to exist in the shape of the SWP itself. At the local level, the SWP's involvement in the SA is patchy, to say the least. A minority of its members are active in the alliance. Now, for a self-styled democratic centralist organisation, this means that the leadership is either keeping the majority of its members off in richer recruiting pastures (such as Globalise Resistance or the Stop the War Coalition) or they have big difficulties organising their own membership. Either way, there is a problem. While the departure of a fair weather socialist like Nick Long is not much to cry about in and of itself, it is another sign that the Socialist Alliance needs to take itself more seriously. Marcus Ström