Alliance goes Dutch - or does it?

Tina Becker describes another example of the SWP's contempt for the Socialist Alliance

A purely tokenistic constitutional amendment on women's representation was proposed by Margaret Manning from Manchester SA. As the comrades from the SWP chose to use their absolute majority to vote it through, the Socialist Alliance is now lumbered with a policy which states: "The executive is composed of 50-50 women and men"; and "the national council has two delegates from each local Socialist Alliance - one woman, one man".

I was the only person allowed to speak against the motion. I argued against the prescriptive nature of the motion and that bureaucratic and rigid regulations cannot provide a solution for discrimination against women in wider society, which naturally finds its reflection in the SA. I argued for the SA to work towards a new culture that encourages women to come forward rather than doling out token seats. In Germany's Party of Democratic Socialism, where this formula has been operating for some years, there was many an election fought with seats number 3, 5, 7 and 9 kept open - in the hope that at some point a woman might come forward to fill the space. A ridiculous situation that we should not imitate.

A similar motion was defeated overwhelmingly at the last SA conference, merely 17 months back. But it seems the SWP comrades have changed their minds in the meantime.

One SWPer reported from the floor that she attended the SA women's conference and was disappointed that an amendment agreed there did not find its way onto the agenda on Saturday. Apparently, those present at the women's conference decided to put forward a motion that would "strive towards" 50-50 representation - something everybody could and should have supported. Still, she went on, "we should support the motion as it is because it tackles women's discrimination". So the SWP voted for the motion, prescriptive nature and all, unamended.

Not that it mattered to anybody, especially the SWP majority. Ten minutes later conference went on to elect the new executive - in breach of the amended constitution.

Our unconstitutional leadership consists of 13 women and 23 men - less than 40%. Our new appeals committee of five, which was supposed to be voted on "by the same method as election of the national executive", has only one woman in its ranks, the CPGB's Anne Mc Shane.

Comrade Rob Hoveman (SWP) told other members of the conference arrangements committee that they should not worry too much about the rule that had just been voted through, because the motion does not "specify when it should come into effect". A ludicrous suggestion. When exactly should it come into effect then? A week after conference? A month? At the next conference?

The motion was not only tokenistic in its content. By voting it through and then breaching it immediately afterwards, the SWP has shown that it does not intend to carry it out. Neither the SWP nor any of the other constituent parts of the SA operate according to any 50-50 stipulation. Not because they discriminate against women. But because working class organisations do not stand outside society and cannot simply abolish women's oppression by enacting bureaucratic mechanisms within their own ranks.

The SWP comrades display a certain contempt for the SA. They vote for the alliance to do one thing - and then use their absolute majority to do exactly the opposite.