By Cathy Nugent
Sixty or seventy Socialist Alliance "oppositionists" met in Birmingham on 13 September - non-aligned socialists as well as representatives of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, CPGB (Weekly Worker), International Socialist Group and Revolutionary Democratic Group. The meeting had been called to discuss infractions of democracy in Alliance, particularly in Birmingham where newly signed up SWP members of the Alliance managed to remove the entire Executive of the local Alliance.
Most of the meeting was spent discussing the problems in the Alliance and with the SWP's role in it. Some contributions were excellent, especially from comrades in Birmingham, who explained how making long-term alliances with the hierarchies in the local mosques, or with political Islam, was debilitating and dangerous - one Iranian comrade described his personal experience of physical intimidation and threats of violence from the cadre of the fundamentalist organisations.
Unfortunately there was not enough time for discussion of proposals. The decision-making process at the end of the meeting was messy and unstructured. Nonetheless some decisions were made.
A decision was made to set up a platform. That's fine, but the politics of this platform are not in the least bit clarified: that was a practical impossibility given a lack of discussion over the summer or time to develop ideas during the meeting itself.
Surely a platform should be clear about its political purpose?
That was why the AWL proposed that a further meeting be called to discuss the politics of this grouping. That should not stop a campaign for democracy from going ahead, but we need to do more that.
The SWP's political approach is still taking shape, and even though we do not know where we will be in five months time, the idea - this was particularly expressed by the International Socialist Group - of being a "loyal" platform in the SA is mis-expressed.
Opposition needs to be much more politically hard-headed and worked out.
We already know quite a lot about the SWP's project for the Alliance and we ought to regard it as fundamentally at odds with what we want for a socialist left unity project:
- They are fed up with working with other socialist groups in the SA unless those groups are quiescent and "supportive" like the ISG.
- They see the Stop the War Coalition as a get-rich-quick story and want to find a way to apply the same recipe on the political-electoral front. Yes, organise the activists from the anti-war movement. But we should not reduce the "Muslim community" to an electoral bloc, secured by making alliances with non-working class religious organisations and the priests of that religion at the expense of working with secularising people in that community and with workers and youth.
- If the SWP need to, they will repeat what happened in Birmingham elsewhere. They are now imposing their own regime on the SA, and that is the regime of the single admissible "line".
A follow up meeting will be called in two months time, and written proposals will be submitted. Policy from the May 3 Committee (Campaign for a Workers' Party) was also passed on democracy, in favour of a campaign for a workers' party, establishing a discussion bulletin and opening up discussions with other socialist groups.
Draft sponsorship statement: Campaigning for a Workers Party
1. Millions of workers feel disenfranchised by New Labour, which is pro-war and governs in the interests of big business. The emergence of a mass anti-war movement on a global scale and the development of parties such as the Scottish Socialist Party, and Rifondazione Comunista in Italy shows that it is necessary and possible to build a workers' party in today's conditions.
2. It is necessary for all trade unionists, socialists and communists in favour of a new workers' party to combine our efforts in a campaign for a workers' party.
3. Such a campaign for a workers' party should function within the Socialist Alliance, make links with the Labour left and oeprate within the broader workers' movement to unite with other socialist and trade union organisations and activists who support the founding of a workers' party.
- To add your name to this statement or to be put on the mailing list write to Gerry Byrne, PO Box 28124, London SE6 4WS.