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SA National Office bulletin
15 January 2003

 

It would be helpful if SA members could show this bulletin to members who do not have internet access. If you can, take it to your next local SA meeting. Suggestions for action are highlighted in the contents page.

Contents

  1. Blair in trouble
    • get people to the demo on 15 February
    • recruit anti-war activists
    • set up new local SA branches with people met in anti-war work
  2. Fire fighters
    • get the political fund pamphlet into fire stations - order copies from the office
    • encourage fire fighters to come to the anti-war demo
    • encourage fire fighters to join the SA
  3. Defend council housing
    • Encourage attendance at the Defend Council Housing Lobby of Parliament on January 29th
  4. Regional meetings for 2004 elections
  5. Annual Conference
    • Deadlines for resolutions - 24 January
    • Deadline for amendments - 21 February
    • Thinking of standing for the National Executive? - then send a 100 word biography to us so people can find out who you are!
  6. Women's day school
    • 25 January. Venue, creche and accommodation details
  7. New office worker
  8. Send in your quarterly electoral commission
  9. Policy groups
  10. Local news
  11. Websites
  12. Dates for the diary

Blair in trouble

Tony Blair is in trouble. Leading political journalist Jackie Ashley reported last week that the Cabinet wasn't divided - it was united against the war! In the face of growing disquiet amongst Labour MPs and even more so amongst Labour Party members, Blair has been urged to go on a whistlestop tour to rally the troops. Unfortunately, no doubt expecting a very hard time from anti-war activists, he has refused and instead tried to allay fears at Monday's press conference, and he will try again today in a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. But so far he has been entirely unsuccessful.

Many Labour MPs, including those who are normally utterly loyal, are expressing deep concern. This morning Anne Campbell MP claimed that half the Labour Party members in her constituency would resign if Blair supported war on Iraq without adequate UN sanction. Many MPs are demanding a further UN resolution before giving support to the war. Blair has refused to make this commitment, although he has suggested he doesn't believe there would be a problem getting such a resolution once a material breach of UN resolution 1441 has been reported to the UN security council. But Mandelson, clearly and remarkably once again acting as a mouthpiece for the Blair regime, has repeated that a new resolution will be unnecessary for appropriate UN authorisation of military action to 'disarm' Saddam AND, should any member of the security council wobble on authorisation, the US and Britain will still have UN authority to engage in military action 'in defence of their national interests'.

The scale of the divisions in Labour's ranks and in, as Tony Benn put it on Saturday, the ruling class as a whole, in advance of war on Iraq, are extraordinary and unprecedented, and they are now being compounded by Blair's decision to go along with the ludicrous and obscene Star Wars programme. At least two former British ambassadors to Iraq and Saudi Arabia respectively have spoken out in opposition to war on the grounds that no weapons of mass destruction have been found, Saddam doesn't represent a threat to British national interests, war will destabilise the Middle East, strengthen Islamic fundamentalism and very significantly increase the threat of terrorism. Church of England leaders have also increased their opposition to war without clear UN sanction this (Wednesday) morning. There are many reports of significant disquiet within the armed forces too, particularly at rank and file level.

All of this should give us heart that we can, through our activity building the anti-war movement, continue to put pressure on Blair. The fact is that if Blair turned round to Bush and said that he was not prepared to support war on Iraq, Bush would find it extremely difficult to continue on alone, with opinion fiercely divided within the US itself. The fact Blair would only do this under the most extreme pressure is a measure of his determination to continue to play poodle to the mad militarist in the White House and his culpability for any ensuing slaughter.

And whilst we should approach anyone who has doubts about the war with sympathy, we need to be absolutely clear about the UN. The five permanent members who have the right of veto over UN resolutions are the US, Britain, Russia, France and China. It includes therefore the two leading warmongers, the US and Britain, the butchers of Chechnya, the butchers of Tianmen Square and a crook who was only reelected because the alternative was a fascist. The UN is only as good as the governments represented there and they are almost universally rotten and corrupt and ready to be bought by the US. We should therefore have no illusions that the UN will ultimately act as a restraint on the warmongers and certainly no illusions that the UN will somehow legitimise a war which a secret UN report tells us will see as many as 500,000 casualties with hundreds of thousands more suffering enormously for years to come.

Of course anything could happen. Bush and Blair could conclude that it is too early to go to war although this would leave well over 100,000 troops kicking their heels in the sands of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for an indefinite time. It's also possible Saddam will go into exile, making way for some other more pro-US crony. But the greatest likelihood, as former US Nato chief Wesley Clark has said, that the US and British will go to war in late February.

Stop the War conference and demonstration

The extremely successful Stop the War conference on Saturday in London, with over 800 delegates from Stop the War groups across the country, made it absolutely clear how important it was for everyone to stretch every sinew to mobilise for the biggest demonstration possible on February 15th. February 15th has now become a key date for mobilisations in many countries across Europe and even beyond. It is possible there will be a very big demonstration in Cairo on that day, the repressive Mubarak government permitting.

The StW conference heard keynote speeches from George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn and Ahmed Ben Bella, a former leader of the Algerian independence struggle and first president of independent Algeria. All of them urged anti-war activists to try and make the 15th Feb demonstration even bigger than the 400,000 who marched on 28th September. If everyone who came to the 28th Sept brings a friend, it will be a mathematical certainty that it will be twice as large! The stand of train drivers in Motherwell to refuse overtime and rest day working on munitions trains supplying the Ark Royal was strongly supported and conference was reminded of the commitment to a mass campaign of civil disobedience once war starts.

The Socialist Alliance was prominently represented at the conference. We were the only political organisation with a stall in the conference itself, we widely distributed a special leaflet, pdf to be circulated shortly, and Socialist Alliance members are conspicuous in leading positions within the StW coalition. This is something we need to make sure happens in the StW groups locally, both in the organising meetings and at public rallies. We have a new leaflet to build for the demo and making the case for joining the SA. We also intend to produce a new tabloid before the demo, which we will distribute to local SAs for use in the build up to the demo and on coaches down. We will also be producing hundreds of placards for use on the demo itself. Please also ensure that we have a strong presence on local demonstrations. This Saturday there are demos in Bradford, Liverpool and Cardiff.

Fire Fighters

Fire fighters are due to strike for 24 hours on Tuesday 21st January with further 48 hour action following in the next couple of weeks. However talks have resumed at ACAS between the employers and the FBU, despite the fact that the employers have decided to base any negotiation on the Bain proposals to destroy the fire service as we know it. It is very important that we increase our contacts with fire fighters locally. We are firmly of the belief that concerted strike action is the only way fire fighters can expect to begin to get Blair to back off. We also need to be doing our utmost to persuade fire fighters to come to the demo on 15th February. The fact the government is prepared to bomb the hell out of innocent Iraqis at enormous expense as they also prepare to destroy the fire service should tell us all we need to know about whose interests this government represents. That's why we need to take up Andy Gilchrist's call to replace New Labour and ask as many fire fighters as possible to join the Socialist Alliance. We currently have a serving fire fighter Steve Cracknell standing for the Socialist Alliance against New Labour in a local by-election in Tottenham. A rally is planned for Tuesday 21st January with former Hackney mayoral candidate Paul Foot.

The FBU locally wanted to contribute from union fuinds to Steve's election fund, but this has been blocked because Labour continues to enjoy a monopoly over the union's political funds. The money was in fact and in the end raised by individual contributions from fire fighter colleagues. Again this is an important issue to be raising with fire fighters-that union rules need to be changed so the FBU can in future support fire fighters like Steve Cracknell who decide to stand in elections in support of the fire fighters and the FBU against Blair and his cronies.

Defending council housing

Another key area of confrontation between New Labour and its traditional supporters is council housing stock transfers. New Labour councils have been rolled over on a host of ballots across the country. But the battle goes on. This is a very important campaign for local SAs, if they are to get seriously rooted in the local working class. And of course it's an intrinsically important point of potential resistance to Blair. There will be a very important lobby of parliament initiated by DCH and now strongly supported by Unison on Wednesday 29th January. We need local SAs to be building for this lobby very hard and to be raising the profile of the SA in local campaigns, on local estates and with local activists. This is particularly important in relation to the forthcoming election campaigns, where we would hope stock transfers will be a big issue in some councils . Advertising for the lobby, transport details and a lot of other material are available from Defend Council Housing-their website and further contact details can be found at www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk

Regional meetings for 2004 elections

The National Executive is proposing to help establish regional meetings over the next few months. Already a meeting is scheduled for the North West region for Saturday 22nd February. The meetings will of course discuss whatever comrades locally feel appropriate but we hope they will focus in particular on the feasibility of standing in the Euro elections in 2004 and to establish a process of selecting candidates. We also hope time will be given to developing a strategy for growth in the SA both in terms of new members where we are already established and also spreading our organisation to new areas, both of which will be crucial if we are to make the most of the Euro elections. And we hope time will also be given to addressing the question of combating the BNP if they are active in your region. The National Executive is meeting on Saturday to discuss this further but it is likely in the first instance that we will be liaising with officers in local SAs to get together a preliminary planning meeting together in order to set up broader regional meetings.

Candidate selection

Please also let us know if you have already selected candidates for the local elections in May or what your plans are if you haven't. We are urging local SAs to set up public meetings over the next few weeks to raise the profile of the SA around the issues of war on Iraq, the fire fighters and building an alternative to Blair's New Labour. If you don't already have such meetings in place, we would suggest organising public meetings for the last two weeks of February (after the 15th Feb anti-war demo from which we could hope to attract anti-war protesters to local public meetings) or the first week of March. In London, where there are no elections this year, a big London-wide meeting at Friends House now looks likely in the first week of March. Comrades might want to take this into account in planning for local public meetings in London. We would hope to confirm arrangements early next week.

Annual conference

The annual conference will be on Saturday 15th 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 24th 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 21st February. A final order paper will then be sent to all members registered for the conference. The CAC has also decided to recommend that, whatever changes might be made to the method of electing the National Executive and the Appeals Committee at the annual conference, we should 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 at the national office by 24th January and for preliminary slates to be drawn up and submitted by 21st February. Nomination of slates will close at 2pm at the annual conference on Saturday 15th March. We have now received our first nomination for the National Executive.

The CAC's recommendations are of course subject to approval by conference itself, which has the final say. The CAC is intending to make appropriate preparations in case the conference decides to use an alternative system at conference for electing the executive.

The National Executive is also encouraging local Socialist Alliances to make time available at their local meetings in January to discuss resolutions and in February to discuss amendments they might wish to put forward to the annual conference.

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 margaret@homemanning.freeserve.co.uk. 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.

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 still being decided. We intend to close applications on Saturday 18th January at the National Executive meeting and then proceed to a selection process after that. As soon as these and other details are finalised we will post them out.

Quarterly returns for the Electoral Commisssion

The national treasurer, Tess McMahon, has to report quarterly to the Electoral Commisssion on donations to the Socialist Alliance, nationally and locally, including nil ones. She has sent letters and forms to treasurers or other officers of 55 local SA's. We've had a good number back and remind others to return them by 15th January. Any local SA which has not received one, please contact the national office even if you have no donations to report, and you will be emailed or posted one.

Policy groups

A Health Policy Group is now being convened by Geoff Barr from Exeter Socialist Alliance and Geoff Wexler from Cambridgeshire Socialist Alliance wants to establish a policy group on Genetically Modified Organisms. There is also interest in setting up an Economic Policy Group and a Crime and Socialism Group. The purpose is to develop the Socialist Alliance's policies in these areas. If you are interested in participating in either of the groups, please contact the National Office.

Dave Parks from Exeter SA writes: 'A Health Policy Group is now being convened by Geoff Barr, g.barr@exeter.ac.uk, from Exeter Socialist Alliance. Geoff asked me to set up a yahoo group to facilitate discussion for this - all SA members welcome. The details for the SAHealth group are: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAHealth Subscribe: SAHealth-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. It would probably help if new subscribers identified themselves as SA members, name & branch etc - by writing to the group moderators (Phil Pope & Dave Parks) at: SAHealth-owner@yahoogroups.com. Please forward details to local lists.'

Local news

Tottenham

Fire fighter Steve Cracknell is standing for the Socialist Alliance in a council by-election taking place in Haringey, north London, on Thursday 23 January. Steve is the branch secretary of Hornsey fire station which is in the borough. People nominating Steve include the chair of a local Unison health branch, the secretary of an Aslef tube branch, and the president of Haringey Trades Council.

Steve Cracknell writes: 'I've been a fire fighter for 24 years and I've voted Labour at every election. My union has always encouraged people to vote Labour. But after over five years of this government and the disgraceful way the government has insulted the fire fighters, I feel "never again". I don't know anyone in the fire brigade who'll vote Labour again. There is huge disillusionment with Labour, and it's not just because of what they have done to us. New Labour have forgotten their roots. Labour is supposed to represent the working class. They are out of touch with working people. There's growing feeling against the right wing direction Labour is going in. I cannot find one single fire fighter who can find even a small justification for waging war on Iraq.

'It is especially galling when the government claims there is no money to fund public services and the fire service, but they find millions of pounds to pay for one warhead. The political fund has become a huge issue. There are moves afoot to try to suspend FBU payments to the Labour Party.

'As a branch secretary I've never known so many FBU members requesting the forms to not pay money into the union's political fund-which goes straight to New Labour. It is ludicrous that we are supporting New Labour candidates who are cutting our services. Yet under the rules the FBU can't fund my campaign as a Socialist Alliance candidate. We need a political fund. Unions should be political. We have to change the union's rules so that we can support candidates who back our union's policies.

'I decided to stand because the Socialist Alliance stands against the war, the cuts, privatisation and PFI. It's against all the things New Labour is attacking its own supporters with. We're also campaigning locally as the Labour council is privatising the school dinner service and the borough's leisure services. We need to stand up for the people who New Labour has abandoned.'

To get involved in Steve's campaign phone 07736 064 045.

Holocaust day

Dave Landau writes: 'A coalition of organisations fighting for migrant and asylum rights, have agreed to a suggestion from the Jewish Socialist Group to have a demonstration outside the Daily Mail on Holocaust Day against their racist attacks on asylum seekers, highlighting their opposition to Jewish immigration in the past and their support for Oswald Mosely, Hitler and Mussolini in the 30s. Leaflet to follow but the details are 5.30pm MONDAY 27TH JANUARY - OUTSIDE DAILY MAIL, DERBY STREET, (High Street Kensington Station). This is the first shot in a longer-term campaign. Spread the word. More details in next few days.'

Websites

Please see attached file from Jim Jepps, in which he provides analysis and advice on running and SA website.

Dates for the diary

Wednesday 15 January - ESF mobilisation, University of London Union, Malet Street, 6.30pm

Thursday 16 January - National lobby for victimised fire fighter and SA national vice chair Steve Godward from 9am onwards at West Midlands Fire Service HQ, Lancaster Circus, Birmingham, called by the national FBU

Saturday 18 January - Socialist Alliance National Executive meeting, Birmingham

Tuesday 21 January - Lobby of parliament against the war on Iraq, 2.30pm onwards, called by CND, No War on Iraq Liaison Committee and Stop the War Coalition, followed by a vigil in Parliament Square from 5pm to 7pm and then a rally from 7pm to 9pm in the Grand Committee Room, Westminster Hall, hosted by Alice Mahon MP.
-Election rally, Tottenham

Thursday 23 January - Tottenham Hale by-election

Saturday 25 January - Socialist Alliance day school for women, Manchester

Tuesday 27 January - Holocaust Day protest outside Daily Mail offices, Derby Street, London, from 5.30pm over racist scapegoating and vilification of asylum seekers.

Wednesday 29 January - Lobby of Parliament for council housing called by Defend Council Housing

Saturday 15 February - Stop the War demonstration, London

Saturday 22 February - North West regional meeting, venue etc tba

Sunday 23 February - [NOTE CHANGE OF DATE] National meeting for all Socialist Alliance members and supporters in the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA in London from 12 noon at the Lucas Arms, Gray InnRoad, nearest station Kings Cross

Saturday 15 March - Socialist Alliance annual conference, London

Rob Hoveman, National Secretary

 

previous bulletins

War looms; Firefighters - 9 January 2003
Where is New Labour going?; The democracy debate - 17 Dec 2002
Firefighters; national newsletter; recruitment - 4 Dec 2002
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

 

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