For a workers' party

The SA Democracy Platform - supported by the CPGB, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, the Revolutionary Democratic Group and a bloc of individuals - has just issued this programmatic document


The Socialist Alliance grew out of attempts to unite the socialist movement against New Labour’s ideas and policies. The SA brought together a broad range of socialist organisations and individuals and united them into a national organisation around a common programme and a democratic constitution. We stood 98 candidates in the 2001 general election on the basis of independent working class political representation.

Since the election, the Labour government’s attack on the firefighters, the extension of privatisation, the illegal war against Iraq and its support for the neo-conservative Bush administration make the case for an independent working class party. The political vacuum to the left of the Labour Party must be filled by socialists working together to build a workers’ party which is serious about winning political power. An electoral alliance of autonomous socialist organisations and individuals does not measure up to the needs of the situation.

The actions of the Socialist Workers Party in the Bedfordshire and Birmingham Socialist Alliances, as well as the relationship of the SA to the proposed Unity Coalition, call into question the commitment of the SA leadership to our programme and constitution. These experiences have raised a question mark in the minds of many SA members about the importance of democracy in the founding principles of the Socialist Alliance.

We believe the struggle for democracy is an integral part of the struggle for socialism. The defence and extension of democracy in the Socialist Alliance, in the working class movement, in Britain and the rest of the world, is of fundamental importance in advancing the interests of the working class. To advance these objectives, we need the democratic organisation of socialists and militant workers into a party, as exemplified by the Scottish Socialist Party and Rifondazione Comunista in Italy.

Democracy and People before profit

Our candidates offer a working class alternative. If elected, they will be workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage. For them, representing working people is a privilege, not a route to a personal fortune. In the 2001 general election we proposed an emergency plan to meet the demands and needs of workers and the jobless, and to defend and extend democracy.

We are for the full version of People before profit, which combines demands for a democratic republic, for social change and for internationalism. We are in favour of the defence and further development of this programme.

For a democratic republic

People before profit has a series of democratic demands which, taken together, constitute a democratic republic or ‘republican democracy’.

For social change

People before profit has a series of policies which, taken together, constitute an expanded public sector, improved welfare state, redistribution of income and greater rights for trade unionists. These include:

For internationalism

People before profit contains a series of policies based on international democratic and socialist principles. These include:

In order to build a society in which need comes before greed, we believe our economy must be reorganised on a radically democratic basis. By socialism we mean nothing like the old Stalinist Soviet Union, with its repression and bureaucracy. For us, socialism is about making solidarity the guiding principle of society. We mean the working class organising to liberate itself from the rule of profit and create its own democracy, abolishing the privileges of managers and officials. Every major industry should be reorganised on the lines of social provision for need - publicly owned and democratically controlled by workers and the community. No rich and no poor, no profits and no wage slavery, no palaces and no homeless, no jobless and no overworked!

Democracy and the SA constitution

The Socialist Alliance was founded on democratic principles of inclusiveness, transparency, unity and accountability, tolerance and representation of minorities throughout the alliance in order to unite the broadest layers of socialist activists and socialist thought.

The ‘Charter of members’ rights’ explains: “The Socialist Alliance must be a model of civilised democracy, in contrast to the bureaucratism and control-freakery of New Labour. We need efficient decision-making on the alliance’s responses to political events; transparency and accountability in decision-making; maximum discussion before all important decisions; decision by consensus wherever possible; and autonomy for groups within the alliance.”

We will fight for the full implementation of democratic principles, as outlined in the SA constitution.

(i) Inclusivity

This is reflected in section A9 of the constitution of the SA: “The Socialist Alliance at all levels should be representative of the gender, ethnic minority and age balance in the population, amongst our voters and membership. We also recognise the desirability of balance and inclusiveness for political trends within the Socialist Alliance at all levels of the organisation. All local Socialist Alliances, as well as individual members attending national conferences, are encouraged to take this into account in electing officers, steering committees and selecting candidates.”

(ii) Openness, transparency and accountability

The Socialist Alliance was founded on the principles of openness and transparency in decision-making and accountability of all elected officers and committees. This is particularly reflected in section C6 of the constitution of the SA and point 9 of the ‘Charter of members’ rights’:

“The national officers will be accountable to the national executive, the national council and the annual conference. The national executive will be accountable to the national council and the annual conference of the Socialist Alliance. The national officers and executive are obliged to carry out the decisions of the annual conference and the national council.”

“All important decisions should be taken through written resolutions of appropriate conferences or committees. All decision-making bodies of the alliance must keep minutes of their proceedings, which include the text of all proposals adopted, defeated or remitted, and details of votes. These minutes must be circulated promptly to all Socialist Alliance members who request them, either free by email, or, on payment of an extra subscription sufficient to cover costs, by ordinary mail.”

(iii) Sovereign conference

A sovereign, democratic annual conference is an indispensable requirement of an effective working class, socialist organisation. There must be a firm commitment to, and adequate time for, the fullest debate and discussion, regulated by standing orders based upon best working class movement practice.

(iv) Democratic and accountable local branches

A democratic and effective Socialist Alliance can only become a reality if it is based upon a network of functioning and active branches, in which all members can participate. We will fight to build branches where they do not exist, or are moribund, or where existing officers and committees refuse to convene branch meetings. We are for the whole SA membership to be notified in advance of the agenda of SA executive and national council meetings, and of the proposals submitted to those meetings, so that local Socialist Alliances can submit their own amendments or counter-proposals if necessary.

(v) Unity in action

Membership of the alliance carries an obligation not to obstruct campaigns decided on by the alliance. We recognise, however, the right of minorities publicly to promote their views. In the event that an organised minority intends to take any action conflicting with a majority decision nationally or locally, that minority should inform the alliance at the relevant level of its intention to do so.

(vi) The charter of members’ rights

The ‘Charter of members’ rights’, as amended and adopted by the Socialist Alliance conference in December 2001 and appended to the constitution, is an essential template for building a working class organisation that truly belongs to, and is run by, its members:

(vii) Grievances and discipline

Members have a right to inform the SA executive of any incidents within the SA of victimisation, bullying, discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation, abuse of position or pressure to abuse one’s position, and sabotage, etc. Members have the right to submit any matters relating to grievances or complaints and disciplinary issues to the appeals committee. Members have a right to fair and equitable treatment without fear or favour. Members have a right to expect that decisions and recommendations of the appeals committee are made within an agreed time limit.

Democracy and the workers’ party

New Labour is a barrier to independent working class political representation. The working class needs to establish its own independent representation through the formation of a mass workers’ party committed to the struggle for socialism. Such a party, serious about winning political power, can and must be more democratic and united than an electoral alliance or coalition of autonomous parties, groups and individuals. We will fight for socialists to unite in a new socialist party, with ample rights of tendency, as exemplified by Rifondazione Comunista and the Scottish Socialist Party.

Socialists and organised sections of the working class in the trade unions must play a leading role in the struggle for a workers’ party. We will campaign for the Socialist Alliance to publish a weekly political paper. In the interim we will seek to publish a regular discussion bulletin. We will fight for the trade unions to assert themselves politically against the Blair government. We will support independent socialist candidacies where they are based on clear working class principles and a consistent effort to develop working class self-organisation. We will support and work with other socialist, independent Labour and left Labour candidates, including Socialist Party and Scottish Socialist Party. We will work to re-establish a working class socialist presence in electoral politics and seek to encourage local labour movements to act on that principle.

The Unity Coalition

The Democratic Platform fully supports the efforts of the Stop the War Coalition to mobilise opposition to the war and the continued occupation of Iraq. We recognise that political divisions within the SA have undermined our ability to intervene in the movement and win anti-war workers to the SA programme and the need for a workers’ party. The platform is concerned about reported undemocratic practices within certain STWCs.

The Socialist Alliance task group is currently discussing the proposal from George Galloway, George Monbiot and Salma Yaqoob for a new ‘Unity Coalition’ arising from the united campaign of the Stop the War Coalition. This proposed coalition aims to challenge the Labour Party in next June’s European and local elections. The organisers are approaching socialist parties, anti-globalisation campaigners, peace activists and faith groups to join this coalition.

In the fight for People before profit we do not rule out, in advance, alliances, whether temporary or strategic, with petty bourgeois democrats. Any proposals must be considered concretely and judged in respect of the struggle to advance our programme. In any such united front alliances, we will defend the independence of the SA and engage in open struggle against the politics of these allies. However, we do rule out alliances with bourgeois parties (ie, popular fronts) on the grounds that the bourgeoisie is under all circumstances the enemy of the working class.

The danger of liquidation

Broader alliances and coalitions pose dangers as well as opportunities for the socialist and working class movement. The main danger facing the SA is that it dissolves or liquidates into the popular coalition. We are against any attempt to dissolve or liquidate the alliance into a new liberal or non-socialist electoral coalition. Our attitude to any proposed coalition begins from the SA programme. If the SA leadership fails to fight for our full programme, and hence compromises the independence of the SA, we will oppose them.

Democratic decisions and accountability

We will campaign in particular for democratic control and accountability over the negotiations being carried out by officers of the Socialist Alliance with prospective electoral bloc partners. We therefore resolve:

(i) to call upon the executive committee, in the interests of openness and democracy, to include our platform in the task force discussions with the proposers of the ‘popular coalition’;

(ii) to circulate the proposal, the report of the task force and all discussion documents received before the end of December to all members and to convene a special conference at the end of January for discussion and decision;

(iii) in preparation for this conference, and even if it does not take place, to hold a further meeting of this platform to discuss the proposal and task force recommendations.

The Democratic Platform notes that the proposal for a Unity Coalition constitutes a fundamental breach of the resolution passed at the AGM of the Socialist Alliance in May 2003, which called for alliances with other groups and parties to be formed specifically on a “socialist” basis. The Yaqoob-Monbiot document is not a socialist document and its two proponents are not socialists, nor do they proclaim to be so. We call on the executive to explain this contradiction.

Proposed changes to the SA constitution and programme

We give notice that at any SA conference in 2004 we will propose changes to the SA constitution:

  1. Establish an editorial board to produce a regular national weekly SA newspaper.
  2. Adopt the aim of a workers’ party as one of the prime objectives of the SA.
  3. Adopt a structure that encourages affiliation and representation of affiliated organisations.
  4. Adopt a system of proportional representation for elections to all committees and representative bodies.
  5. Members have a right to expect that decisions and recommendations of the appeals committee are made within an agreed time limit.