This report by Chris Jones on the discussions on Merseyside about launching a new "United Socialist Party" is abridged from the Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform email list.
The sub-committee formed by the "Campaign for a Mass Workers' Party" [initiated by some of the former locked-out Liverpool dockers and Liverpool Labour councillors] to discuss the name and constitution for a new organisation met for a second time on Saturday 21 August.
The meeting had been circulated prior to the meeting with three sets of amendments to the “dockers' constitution”. [Some amendments from a Liverpool member of the Socialist Labour Party (Arthur Scargill) were accepted]...
The introduction by Jimmy Nolan [ex-docker, ex-SLP] made clear the view that the position was ‘polarised’ between the dockers' aim of a party and the Socialist Party and otheers who wanted a loose campaign... The nub of the differences was that the dockers proposed all political organisations should dissolve into the new body within 12 months... The differences focused around the issue of a time being set for groups to dissolve into the new body.
Workers' Power (Mark Hoskisson) and the Revolutionary Democratic Group argued that there was a third position. This position was in favour of a party project, understood the urgency of the coming General Election, but did not believe a fixed timescale could or should be set for the dissolution of socialist groupings into the new body...
Would the dockers accept the amendment proposed at the previous meeting... for a future AGM of the new organisation to decided when and if groups should be asked to dissolve into the new organisation.
The dockers, through Jimmy Nolan, explicitly rejected any further compromise... The meeting pressed for a vote on Tony Mulhearn’s amendment putting any decision about dissolution of groups to an annual general meeting... The amendment was put and seven votes recorded in favour. At this point Jimmy Nolan did not ask for votes against or abstentions, and it was assumed by all that the amendment had carried.
Jimmy Nolan then argued that the committee should vote on the constitution... without mention of the seven votes or taking the new constitution as amended following the vote.
This caused confusion and requests for the chair to acknowledge the vote for the amendment. It was only at this point votes were taken for and against, after Jimmy Nolan had issued threats from the dockers to withdraw from the entire process. The vote tied at seven for seven against... It was agreed by the committee that both positions should be put to the future full meeting.
Jimmy Nolan refused to commit to a date for this meeting and it was not clear if the dockers would proceed with the process or go off alone.
Both the Socialist Party and their allies, and the dockers, are moving towards a split. The main responsibility for this I see as the dockers deliberate intransigence. A compromise was possible and... could have widened support out nationally... but the dockers in my view do not want this. The attempt is to cast the new organisation into a mould already conceived of by them an SLP mark 2.
It seems that the dockers think that their loose post-strike group plus the remnants of the SLP on Merseyside, a very small and disunited bunch, can form the core of the new party.