'Our members, our alliance'

John Rees, in this imperious speech to conference, explicitly underlined that the Socialist Workers Party sees the SA as very much its possession

What I want to know now, from people [who criticised the SWP's approach to the war and downplaying of the SA], if you were right and we were wrong, how come it was our members that were elected in Preston, how was it that our strategy worked, how was it that the Socialist Alliance received the best votes that it has ever got?

We did it because we came out of the Stop the War Coalition and that is how we will continue to build this organisation.

The only effect of adopting the aim of a party, a paper, declaring ourselves to be a workers' party today, will be that you have changed the wording, but you have not changed the social forces involved, the actual people grouped together in this organisation, for one instance. You will still have exactly the same people in the room. The only way that it is built is by people being the most active contingent of the Stop the War Coalition, by being the best activists for the firefighters.

Then we group other people around us. The new alliance that can make a difference to the politics of this country is there when Michael Lavalette stands up alongside Maulana Said Ahmed [the imam who backed him] and says, 'We worked together to get the alliance elected in Preston'.

That's what the new alliance looks like. That's why the negotiations that are taking place are not a mythology. In a week's time, when I go to see the Communist Party [of Britain], people we have worked closely with in the Stop the War Coalition, to discuss whether we can form a common platform with them for the 2004 Euro elections; or two days ago, when I met the chair of the Birmingham STWC and an important figure in the Birmingham central mosque and they said, 'We think we have a great deal in common with you; we want to form a joint platform with you. Can we discuss it with you?' - that's what the new alliance means.

When we held a meeting across the road and half the representatives of the PCSU, the RMT, of the FBU, along with George Galloway and with me as the spokesman for the Socialist Alliance - that was the first time that a group of people had got together to determine collectively how to build an alternative to New Labour. These are the politics, these are the people - not the words, not the sloganeering, not the pointless resolution-mongering - these are the real social contacts, made through mass struggle, that are now paying off for the Socialist Alliance. (Stormy applause and cheering - from one part of the audience.)