SA National Office bulletin
4 December 2002
The demonstration on Saturday will still be big and very important, despite the suspension of the fire fighters' strike. Many fire fighters will be coming on the march to show that as far as they are concerned, the dispute isn't over and they are not going to lie down and let the government to destroy their jobs and conditions and the fire cover that the public needs and deserves. We have produced placards with the slogans 'Fair Pay, No Cuts' and sub heads 'Blair, Prescott - hypocrites' and 'Support the fire fighters - tax the rich to fund public services'. We will be leafleting with a leaflet raising the argument for democratising the political fund and our national newsletter. We need as many comrades as possible to help with leafleting and placarding. We will be near Embankment tube from 10.30am. Please also remember to bring your local Socialist Alliance banners with you.
The National Executive is also encouraging local Socialist Alliances to set up Socialist Alliance forums/debates with titles along the lines of 'Iraq, Firefighters ... Where Is New Labour Going?' with a panel of speakers from trade unions - particularly from the key Labour affiliated unions like the FBU, the RMT, the CWU etc.
If you think you can put on a forum/debate effectively before Xmas, go ahead. Otherwise it would be good to plan for this to be a very well publicised meeting say towards the middle of January. We will produce pdfs for leaflets and posters within the next week for local adaptation. If you need any help with speakers, especially speakers from the SA National Executive, please contact the National Office. The events of the last few days have raised the political debate to a much higher level and increased the potential impact of the Socialist Alliance. The government originally politicised the fire fighters dispute by vetoing a pay deal and making it clear that they wanted to teach the FBU a lesson. This wasn't because they haven't got the money-paying the fire fighters the £30K is a drop in the ocean of public spending - but because they needed to ensure there is no encouragement to public sector workers to fight to end low pay and to resist 'modernisation', i.e. job cuts and privatisation. Brown's investment plans for the public sector crucially depend on ensuring the squeeze is kept on public sector workers and that 'modernisation' is fully implemented.
The strategy of the FBU has been to try to portray the government as unreasonable, but this has been at the expense of galvanising the kind of political challenge which has the chance of winning, thereby holing New Labour below the water line. Andy Gilchrist upset this strategy last weekend by saying that, when he had time, he intended to work for the replacement of New Labour with 'real Labour values', by mentioning the war and effectively indicating his opposition, etc. He predictably brought on his head vilification from New Labour hacks, the right wing, Blair-loving press, and various TU leaders like the right winger Roger Lyons of Amicus. But even the newly invented 'lefts' like John Edmonds brought pressure to bear to get the FBU to cool the atmosphere. The FBU exec majority rolled over in the face of this pressure, pulled the strike to prove they weren't political, and resorted to ACAS.
Some fire fighters are angry at the FBU exec's decision, some relieved they won't be losing more pay, and many more are disorientated, wondering if the FBU leadership has a strategy to win. For many fire fighters and trade unionists generally, they will be staggered at the depths to which New Labour has gone in the last few days with a Labour member of the Scottish executive describing fire fighters as 'fascists', others referring to fire fighters as 'lazy bastards', and Labour ministers originally threatening to order troops to cross picket lines (who refused) and then the police (who refused) and Raynsford now talking about banning strikes in the fire service, etc, etc.
We therefore have an enormous opportunity to raise the question of the future of the political fund link to Labour and more generally the need to build a socialist alternative to New Labour - an alternative which crucially has to be independent of Labour in order to resist the pressure that those who have a loyalty to Labour will be vulnerable to. The issue of the link will be massive at next year's union conferences both in the wake of the fire fighters' strike and the impending war. This is why it needs to be a very high priority for the SA. The anger against Labour can go in directions we would prefer it not to - individual withdrawal from the political fund, termination of the fund (and unions will probably have to ballot their members again next year over whether they wish to continue with the political fund), the RMT strategy of targeting support on left MPs etc. - none of which addresses the key question of giving members the choice and beginning the long process of breaking up Labour's monopoly and attracting support from organised labour to the Socialist Alliance.
We have produced a national newsletter for Winter 2002. This is going out in a national mailing in the next few days and is also available on the website [here (pdf file 332Kb]. We will be distributing it widely at the fire fighters demo. If local Socialist Alliances wish to order copies, please contact the national office. Due to constraints on finance we have had to limit the print run but we should have some copies available and if we get orders, we will be able to reprint. You can order 50 for £7 including p&p; or 100 for £13.50 from the National Office.
Stopping the war
The Stop the War Coalition conference has now been rescheduled for Saturday 11 January from 10am to 5pm at the Camden Centre, Judd Street, London, nearest station Kings Cross. We continue to urge comrades to take out standing orders with StW, affiliate local organisations, including your local Socialist Alliance and to come to this very important conference. We also need to make sure that the Socialist Alliance locally is building local Stop the War Coalitions and their initiatives and that we have a high profile in meetings, activities etc.
Membership and recruitment
We continue to get new recruits to the Socialist Alliance, the latest from someone in Guildford who says she has been thinking of joining for some time 'but the government's attitude to the fire fighters strike has finally decided me'. We really need to plan a serious membership drive in each local Socialist Alliance. New membership leaflets are available upon request from the National Office. With the new rolling membership scheme, there is no virtue in holding off until January to join. We also understand there are also plans afoot to set up new Socialist Alliances in Scarborough, Hartlepool, and the Halifax area. If you don't have a Socialist Alliance in your area or your Socialist Alliance hasn't been meeting recently, please contact the National office for assistance in getting something going in your area.
Italian prisoners protest - 12 December
Enrico Mandelstam, from the UK branch of Rifondazione Comunista, writes: 'As you may know, twenty Italian activists have been arrested and charged in the last weeks. They have been charged with vague but serious offences including holding opinions against the state! Several charges were made under laws enacted during the fascist rule in the 1920's which were never repealed. Some of the prisoners are still being held in solitary confinement.
'The arrests follow the extraordinary success of the European Social Forum in Florence in early November which brought together 60,000 anti- capitalists, trade unionists and NGO campaigners to discuss opposition to the neo-liberal disaster. All those arrested were centrally involved in the forum.
'The Italian movement has mounted a massive defence campaign. 100,000 people demonstrated in the small southern city of Cosenza to free the prisoners, 20,000 marched in Florence - more mass protests are planned.
'Globalise Resistance alongside Italian movement organisations in England has launched an open letter and is calling a third, mass protest at the Italian Embassy in London to demand the prisoners are released and all charges dropped. We must not allow the criminalisation of the Italian movement. We call on all the movements, unions and parties who were in Florence and those who oppose neo-liberal policies and war to stand up against this blatant injustice.'
Protest: Free the political prisoners - drop the charges now!
5.00-7.00pm Thursday 12 December
Italian Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London (tube: Bond St)
Julia Brandreth from Southwark Socialist Alliance writes: 'Tenants on Tabard Gardens estate in the London Borough of Southwark have been successful in defeating plans to sell their estate off to Peabody Trust. A stock transfer ballot was planned for November, but opposition from tenants has meant that Southwark Council have backed down and cancelled the ballot. A year ago, tenants on the Aylesbury Estate voted overwhelmingly against transfer and the latest defeat for the council on Tabard Gardens will increase the pressure on the council. Socialist Alliance members gave vital support to the campaign against transfer and have raised the Alliance's profile and reputation with tenants in North Southwark.'
Congratulations both to the Tabard Gardens tenants and comrades in the Southwark Socialist Alliance. This report reinforces the importance of Socialist Alliances being involved in local campaigns and particularly Defend Council Housing which has called a national lobby of parliament in January. We also very much welcome reports of initiatives taken locally by Socialist Alliance members.
Women's Day School
There will be a Day of Discussion and Campaigning Ideas organised by the Socialist Alliance for women only on Saturday 25 January from 11am to 5pm at Cross Street Chapel, Cross Street, Manchester. The agenda will include meetings on The effects on women of globalisation, Neo-liberalism and the US/UK warmongering, How to make the Socialist Alliance more attractive to women and workshops on campaigns and programmes, including the situation facing young women today, womens' under-representation in the Socialist Alliance, trade unions and labour movement. A creche will be available if booked in advance - email for the creche and further details from Margaret Manning at email@example.com. The day school will be open both to women who are SA members, but also to non-members. If women want accommodation on Friday/Saturday evening, this can also be arranged with SA members in Manchester. A leaflet with more details will be available at the National Council on 14 December.
New office worker
The Socialist Alliance is now advertising for a new full-time office worker. If you are interested in applying for the job, please contact the national office. Job description, terms and conditions of employment are currently being decided
Health policy group
A health policy group is being convened by Geoff Barr from Exeter Socialist Alliance. The purpose is to develop the Socialist Alliance's policies on the health service. If you are interested in participating in the group, please contact the National Office.
The May 2003 local elections are a big opportunity for the Socialist Alliance to make further significant electoral advance. The elections will be taking place in the context of the vicious attacks on the Fire Brigades Union, a declining economy (due to 'turbulence' in the world economy according to Gordon Brown) and war on Iraq. But to make the most of the opportunities, we need to be planning for the elections now. This means beginning to get candidates in place and establishing the presence of the Socialist Alliance in the wards in which we intend to stand.
The National Council will meet on Saturday 14 December at the South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London N1, nearest station Euston, from 12noon to 5pm. A revised agenda is below. Resolutions for the National Council have been sent out separately:
- Apologies, minutes and matters arising
- Report on matters relating to the resignation of the chair
- Fire fighters strike and related trade union matters
- Stopping the war
- Elections in 2003 and 2004
- Annual conference - 15 March 2003
- Other resolutions
- Any other business
The annual conference will be on Saturday 15 March, 2003 at the South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London N1. The Conference Arrangements Committee has decided there will be a deadline of Friday 24 January for policy resolutions and constitutional amendments, which may be submitted by individual SA members, local SAs or the National Executive. The resolutions and constitutional amendments will then be sent to every registered member. Amendments to the policy resolutions and constitutional amendments must then be submitted by Friday 21 February. A final order paper will then be sent to all members registered for the conference. The CAC has also decided that, whatever changes might be made to the method of electing the National Executive and the Appeals Committee at the annual conference, we will use the existing method as passed in December 2001 for the election of the National Executive and the Appeals Committee at the 2003 Annual Conference. This is election by slate using the alternative vote system of voting. However the CAC is urging those who might wish to be considered for election to the National Executive to put in their nomination, with up to 100 words of biography, to the CAC by 24 January and for preliminary slates to be drawn up and submitted by 21 February. Nomination of slates will close at 2pm at the annual conference on Saturday 15 March. The National Executive is encouraging local Socialist Alliances to make time available at their local meetings in December and January to discuss resolutions they might wish to put forward to the annual conference.
Dates for the diary
Wednesday 4 December - European Social Forum mobilisation meeting, 6.30pm, room 3C, University of London Union, Malet Street.
Friday 6 December - Love Music, Hate Racism launch party at the Ocean, 270 Mare Street, London E8 featuring Heartless Crew and many others from 10pm to 6am, tickets £15 in advance. For more details contact the ANL.
Saturday 7 December - Manchester LMHR launch party, Contact Theatre, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 featuring Grand Central and many others from 7.30pm to 2am, tickets £5 on the door. For more details contact the ANL.
Saturday 7 December - National demonstration in London for the fire fighters.
- Protest at Miss World contest, Ally Pally, London, 6.30pm
Thursday 12 December - Italian prisoners protest, Italian Embassy, London 5-7pm
Saturday 14 December - Socialist Alliance National Council meeting, London
Saturday 11 January - Stop the War Coalition conference, London
- Meeting for independent members of the Socialist Alliance, Birmingham, venue and time tba
Saturday 18 January 2003 - Socialist Alliance National Executive meeting, Birmingham
Saturday 25 January - Socialist Alliance day school for women, Manchester
Wednesday 29 January - Lobby of Parliament for council housing called by Defend Council Housing
Saturday 15 February - Stop the War demonstration, London
Sunday 2 March - National meeting for all Socialist Alliance members and supporters in the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA in London, venue and
Saturday 15 March - Socialist Alliance annual conference, London
Rob Hoveman, National Secretary
Firefighters; Steve Godward; Stopping the war - 27 Nov 02
Firefighters; War; Women's day school - 19 Nov 02
Firefighters' strike is on - 12 Nov 02
Firefighters; Political fund; Stop the war - 5 Nov 02
Stop the War; The political fund debate - 29 Oct 02
Strike off; Labour turmoil over Iraq - 6 Aug 02
All out to stop the war on Iraq - 30 Jul 02
TU meeting/Conference on Europe/ESF - 2 Jul 02
Mini-bulletin - 27 Jun 02
Perspectives for the next two years - 17 Jun 02
Taking the long view - 12 Jun 02
Capitalising on our election success - 6 Jun 02
Contact the SA office by phone on 020 7609 2999 or by email