Put socialism at core of coalition

Nick Wrack, chair of the Socialist Alliance, has issued a statement welcoming the Respect coalition's draft declaration of principles and announcement that it is to contest the European and Greater London Authority elections in June 2004

As comrades will no doubt be aware, in line with the decision of the SA annual conference in May this year, the Socialist Alliance has been involved in a series of discussions and public meetings with the aim of participating in and building a new leftwing electoral coalition. A series of rallies and meetings under the title ‘Britain at the crossroads’ has been addressed by an array of speakers including, at every meeting, a representative of the Socialist Alliance. It has been quite clear at these meetings that there is an enormous enthusiasm for such an electoral coalition to challenge New Labour from the left at the Euro and GLA elections in June 2004.

On Sunday November 30 2003 a meeting of those who have been involved in speaking at these meetings met to discuss the steps needed to bring these discussions together with concrete proposals to establish this coalition. This meeting was attended by George Galloway MP, Salma Yaqoob, Lindsey German, John Rees, Lynda Smith (London Fire Brigades Union) and Ken Loach. Unfortunately George Monbiot, Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka were unable to attend.

The meeting discussed:

Please find below the text of the declaration which has now been agreed by all those who attended Sunday’s meeting. The text has subsequently been agreed by George Monbiot and we anticipate that it will be endorsed by Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka.

People will be able to join the coalition. Although no constitution has been discussed, there was general agreement that it should also be open to affiliation. There was general agreement that the coalition membership would come together in a national conference after the June elections, possibly some time in the autumn, to discuss a more formal constitution and a more detailed programme.

The Convention of the Left will discuss the declaration and take amendments to it. It will also elect a steering committee to take the coalition through to the June elections and beyond until the conference later in 2004. It is envisaged that the coalition will have branches to carry out the activity of the coalition in the run-up to June and to create a forum for debate and allow for full participation in the running and decisions of the coalition. Of course all of this still needs to be worked out in detail.

Unfortunately it is inevitable, given that the initiative for the coalition had to come from somewhere, that there is a certain element of it simply being presented as an accomplished fact. However, the Convention and the meetings both before and after it will give everyone who supports the project the opportunity to have their say in its development and direction.

The Socialist Alliance will hold a national council on January 17 to discuss this initiative following a national executive meeting on January 3. There will be a national conference of the Socialist Alliance on March 13 to debate our participation in the coalition.

At the November 2003 national executive the following resolution was passed with one vote against:

 “The SA welcomes moves towards a left unity coalition to contest the EU elections. The SA will engage with this process and fight for it to adopt a working class and socialist platform in an open, democratic and transparent process.”

At all times I have participated in the discussions surrounding this declaration and made contributions, included in the final draft, which have attempted to implement the decisions of the conference, national council and national executive.

In my opinion these steps are fully within the spirit and the letter of the May 2003 SA annual conference decision. Of course, the SA conference on March13 2004 will have to discuss this whole project and to decide its relationship to the coalition. However, I would argue strongly that members of the SA, individually and collectively, should enthusiastically and energetically put their efforts into building this coalition. I believe that the declaration is an excellent document around which socialists can organise with others and, with the agreement of the national executive committee, I have put my name to it on behalf of the Socialist Alliance.

There will be a series of local meetings to build for the convention on the 25th and, following the convention, to build the local branches of the coalition. These events will give socialists the opportunity to put their ideas in front of a much broader audience than for many years and to put socialist ideas at the core of the coalition. Attendance at the convention will be open to those who fill in an application form and pay £10.

The current working title for the electoral coalition is Respect - the Unity Coalition, where the word ‘Respect’ is an acronym, standing for ‘Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, Trade Unionism’.