Socialist Alliance: Learn the lessons

Dave Landau assesses the election results of the Socialist Alliance - and warns that we should not underestimate the success of the British National Party

The thing that disturbed me most about the Socialist Alliance annual conference was the triumphalism about the local authority elections in England.

Yes, I think that we should celebrate our victory in Preston and anywhere else we had good results - Telford, for example. But this should not blind us, surely, to the much more significant development - the success of the British National Party in those elections. Not only are they the second party in Burnley and won a scattering of seats across the country; they got significant results where they failed to win seats - they averaged 13% across Sunderland, where they stood in every ward, and came second in a couple of seats there as well as in Oldham. Unfortunately, Socialist Alliance results to do not compare.

The Socialist Workers Party’s attitude to my motion was worrying - not wanting to admit that the BNP are getting working class support in certain areas requires an extraordinary ostrich-like quality. These comrades need to recognise that the dictum ‘A chain is as strong as its weakest link’ cuts both ways: it informs us how to deal with our enemies, but it also warns us about the key role of socialists to strengthen the links on our side.

Where we had good reason for jubilation was about the Scottish Socialist Party successes. Unfortunately we did not follow this up by committing the Socialist Alliance to work towards establishing a similar organisation in England and Wales - the Merseyside motion calling for this fell.

However, it would be wrong to think that the Socialist Alliance is dead or cannot be won to this perspective. I would suggest that actually the majority of the people at the conference agreed with the sentiments of the Merseyside motion. If you ask Socialist Resistance comrades whether they want to create an organisation like the SSP or Rifondazione Comunista, they will say yes. Their tactic of only going as far as they can nudge the SWP leadership rather obscures this. And I also believe that there are a great many rank and file SWP members who share these views, but are presently confused by their education that the SWP is the embryonic party. A seismic shift in that organisation is possible if we keep putting the case.

Finally, the fiasco over the EC elections has alienated many, especially amongst the indies and those who thought they had escaped from such nonsense when they left the Labour Party. People at the indies lunchtime meeting decided that they wanted a slate with agreed independents on it. Indie comrades were unable to access the process and were given the impression that these nominees were on a slate, only to discover that one slate was being presented to conference without these nominees.

This proved conclusively that we were right to oppose this ‘system.’ For some, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and has led to resignations. This is unacceptable and must not be allowed to happen again.