Socialist Alliance: Manning quits

Comrade Margaret Manning resigned from the EC on October 6 - and has attempted to keep this matter a 'private concern'. Martin Blum thinks not

It is, of course, the business of the whole membership of the Socialist Alliance, and indeed the broader workers’ movement, as to the political reasons for the resignation of any member of the SA executive committee. Margaret Manning is no exception. Comrade Manning resigned from the EC on October 6 - and has attempted to keep this matter a ‘private concern’. Her resignation statement has now reached the Weekly Worker independent of its circulation on the executive committee. Therefore we print and comment … in spite of her wretched pleas for privacy.

While not important in itself, comrade Manning’s departure adds to a growing list: Dave Church, Tess McMahon and Liz Davies have previously resigned from the executive committee (not to mention Mark Hoskisson, who walked out with Workers Power). Others have left the alliance altogether. Meanwhile the Socialist Alliance is left in limbo until the Socialist Workers Party decides whether or not to throw in its lot with some vague ‘peace and justice’ coalition.

It is unfortunate that comrade Manning’s first written criticisms of the SA leadership are found in her resignation from the executive. This is the approach of a sleighted courtier, not a class fighter. Comrade Manning usually played along with the machinations of the SWP - in public at least. She almost always voted with it in the Greater Manchester Socialist Alliance and was instrumental in disbanding the South Manchester Socialist Alliance into more ‘manageable’ units. She rarely opposed the direction the SWP wished to take the SA on the executive. A refugee from Peter Taaffe’s bureaucratic sect, before the entry of the SWP into the SA comrade Manning championed the localist, green-pink politics of the John Nicholson leadership.

With British politics in flux in the aftermath of the war on Iraq - George Galloway expelled from the Labour Party; sections of the union bureaucracy rethinking their whole relationship with New Labour; and the mass of society increasingly cynical about a lying government - you would have thought that staying with the only surviving attempt at left unity was worth a go. Being on its executive, you would have thought, gives you a basis for organising a pro-party and pro-democracy platform in the alliance that can reach out to the rest of the movement. Not for Manning. Public solidarity with the SWP while keeping diplomatically silent on her private doubts and misgivings became too much. Like Liz Davies, she has had enough of fronting the SWP’s electoral vehicle but can see no alternative - apart from burying herself in union work.

It is not really surprising that this particular individual should leave in such a way. Indeed, she basically announced her intention to resign at the SA democracy forum in Birmingham on September 13. Lord knows why she chaired the occasion. It is telling that comrade Manning says she lost all trust in the SWP’s leadership. But building the Socialist Alliance has never been dependent on trusting the SWP. That is naivety in the extreme. We might hope to gradually to force a change the SWP’s sect perspectives, but trusting it in the meantime was never part of the equation.

The antidote to the lack of backbone and fight displayed by comrade Manning is to use the November 8 meeting of SA oppositionists to establish a politically coherent opposition within the SA. Our meeting in Birmingham must unite around a positive set of perspectives - upholding Socialist Alliance democracy, for a new workers’ party and for the defence and enrichment of People before profit.

Martin Blum


It will come as no surprise to many of you that I have decided to resign from the SA executive. It is sad after helping start and develop Greater Manchester SA in 1996 and the national Network of Socialist Alliances and then being on the exec from December 2001, and having high hopes that the SA could develop into a real united force on the left (which for so long has been and still is needed) to have to conclude this no longer seems likely.

I have given this much thought over the last few months and discussed with many SA members locally and on the exec about the problems arising from the way the SWP leadership nationally in the SA, and in Birmingham and some other places, have behaved in bulldozing through their choices for officers, etc. I have on many occasions raised the need for negotiation, when the SWP is the biggest group, as a way of proceeding as an alliance, and not a front organisation. I do not see any real acknowledgement of this, or recognition that they were wrong in the way they behaved by removing Steve [Godward] as national vice-chair, chair of Birmingham SA and other railroaded decisions. It is difficult to see how individuals can have confidence when, if the SWP deem you are not in line on certain things, they mobilise against you.

I have lost trust in the SWP leadership in the SA and, as has been said by many others over the last few months, once lost, it is very difficult to restore trust. I can happily work with those I disagree with on some issues, but not those I don’t trust.

I have worked well with some SWP in the regions and find it sad that others in their organisation do not seem able to learn how to work with others without wanting always to be in control.

As far as I am concerned the SA has to be really democratic and the leadership has to be accountable and act transparently, which I don’t think can be said of the way the SWP leadership on the exec have behaved. For the SA to really take off it needs to win lots of new people and show it is not just the SWP and for them to be a minority, but over the last year the SWP seem to have limited the profile of the SA in the anti-war movement and in the press, so it’s difficult to see how the SA can really take off.

There is still wide suspicion amongst many left trade unionists as to whether the SWP have changed their ways and learnt to work with others. I used to argue that most of them had, but now I can no longer defend the SA in this way.

I hope the Convention of the Trade Union Left is a success and does widen the appeal and base of the SA. Many others on the exec and in the regions still hope that the situation in the SA can be pulled round and I hope they are right, but personally I no longer have the enthusiasm to try. I will stay a member and if things do change I will gladly become more active again, but for the time being I want to use the energy and enthusiasm I have where I think it will be most useful - in Transport and General Workers Union and the Broad Left, the Social Forum and various campaigns, rather than fearing I am banging my head against a brick wall.

I still look forward to working with many of you in campaigns and hopefully a future SA and hope you will keep in touch.

Margaret Manning

PS: I do not want this email, or any part of it, printed in anyone’s’ papers, put on websites or email lists. I will send my decision to who I choose and hope all will respect my request not to publish it themselves.

Convention of the Trade Union Left

Saturday February 7 2004, Friends Meeting House, Euston, London. Union sponsors so far include: London region, Unison; London region, FBU; Essex committee, FBU; Cambridge and District Trade Union Council; Natfhe Western Region; Yorkshire and District Natfhe; Stratford No1 branch, RMT. Speakers include Bob Crow, general secretary RMT; Paul Mackney, general secretary Natfhe.

Organised by Socialist Alliance, tu-convention@yahoo.co.uk