SOCIALIST ALLIANCE CONFERENCE 10 MAY 2003
Resolutions passed at conference
SUPPORT FOR GEORGE GALLOWAY
The brutal reality of the war on Iraq and its real purpose become clearer every day. This was a war for US domination of the oil-rich Middle East, not a war against weapons of mass destruction or for the liberation of Iraq. Now New Labour is witch-hunting George Galloway because he was and is the most active and outspoken Labour MP against the war on Iraq. The attack on George Galloway is an attack on the whole anti-war movement. The Socialist Alliance is proud to give its wholehearted support to a campaign to defend George Galloway. We oppose the witchhunt against him in the press, the Labour Party and the political establishment. We urge our members and everyone in the anti-war movement to raise support for George Galloway in union branches, through petitions and letters of protest to the Labour Party.
This conference calls on the Socialist Alliance to:
1. To support the campaign of the Stop the War Coalition in opposing the attack on Iraq led by Bush and Blair.
2. To encourage local Socialist Alliances to become fully involved in local Stop the War coalitions
3. To encourage Socialist Alliance members to become supporters of the Stop the War Coalition, to affiliate organisations of which they are members to the Coalition, to become involved in its work and to attend its conferences.
At the same time local Alliances should integrate anti-war work into their own activity. Alliance stalls and local literature should present the war as a top priority. discussion on campaigning and on the war itself should feature prominently on the agenda of local Alliance meetings. Local Alliances should build and give full support to local initiatives against the war.
Whilst the Alliance cannot and should not attempt to substitute itself for the highly successful Stop the War Coalition it should seek to build itself, increase its profile, and recruit out of the radicalisation taking place around the war particularly amongst young people.
Blair is becoming increasingly isolated. Large numbers of Labour Party members are leaving the Party in disgust at his total support for Bush and military action. The war takes to a new level the issue of a broad political alternative to new Labour. New initiatives towards left formations might emerge from the trade unions, or even from the Labour Party itself under these conditions. The Alliance needs to see its job as ensuring that a viable political alternative to Blairism is presented alongside the campaign against the war itself. It must be prepared to link up with such new initiatives should they occur.
EXECUTIVE ELECTION METHOD
Slate for 2003 and a new system for 2004
This conference supports the use of the slate system for the election of the National Executive at the 2003 annual conference as the best way of ensuring the best balance of regional, gender, ethnicity representation at the current stage of the Socialist Alliance’s development.
This conference instructs the National Executive to devise a system of election for the 2004 annual conference which balances the need for inclusive representation based on regional, gender and ethnicity and using a proportional system which is supported by the National Council and ratified by the 2004 annual conference.
Women constitute one third of the membership of the SA and are severely underrepresented in the Socialist Alliance at all levels. We would want equal involvement and representation to reflect women being half the population and because they are still oppressed in so many ways. It is now part of Trade Union practice to aim for/ ensure women’s equal representation. We should ensure this is at the core of the Socialist Alliance.
We therefore agree that-
The executive is composed of 50/50 women and men.
That the National Council has 2 delegates from each local Socialist Alliance one woman/one man
That local SAs should ensure half the officers/committee are women.
That where PR elections make this possible half the candidates should be women.
Where elections are not PR every effort should be made to have half the candidates women.
Section C17 - add after "must not be members of the executive": "election of the AC shall be by the same method as election of the National Executive".
Add after "non-voting basis": "where vacancies arise, the Appeals Committee may co-opt replacement members by a simple majority vote."
Add a new C18, and renumber accordingly. "Conference will elect, by First Past The Post, two internal auditors. Their duty will be to carry out internal checking, verification and audit of the Alliance’s financial accounts. The Treasurer and other officers must give them full co-operation in this work. The internal auditors report to the Executive and to the Conference. They can be requested to carry out special audits by the Executive or the Appeals Committee".
2. Tied votes
After the new C18 (on auditors, above) add a new C19, and renumber accordingly. "In the event of a tied vote on any Alliance decision-making body, status quo applies".
3. Membership of the Alliance
Add to B5. A person is a member of the Socialist Alliance if they hold a current SA membership card.
This conference supports the affiliation of working class, progressive or socialist organisations to the Socialist Alliance. This resolution gives enabling powers to the incoming National Executive to devise an affiliation structure that, within the legislation passed and the Guidelines of the Electoral Commission, strikes a balance between protecting the financial independence of affiliating organisations and enables their greatest participation in the Socialist Alliance.
This conference instructs the incoming national executive to:
1. Prepare such a structure for agreement by the June 2003 National Council.
2. Actively encourage affiliation by organisations from the June 2003 National Council onwards.
3. Present the scheme devised by the NEC and approved by the National Council for ratification at the 2004 SA Annual conference.
FUTURE OF THE ALLIANCE
A new initiative for left unity
The future of the Socialist Alliance
This is an important AGM for the Socialist Alliance, if we are going to adequately address the radically new political situation created by the invasion and occupation of Iraq by imperialist forces with a Labour government playing a major military and political role. This has created the biggest potential audience for a new left alternative for generations. It triggered the biggest Parliamentary revolt by Labour MPs ever, large Numbers of LP members have torn up their cards. We need a new and more determined approach to this situation if the left is going to rise to the opportunities presented.
The Alliance has been fully committed to the unprecedented anti-war movement which emerged in this country, and will continue to be so. While the military conquest of Iraq may be complete, for Bush and the American Republican right the objective is still the New American Century of US domination
It is not just their role in the war which defines the reactionary nature of new Labour, far from it. This is the government that introduced tuition fees, that is privatising our schools and letting profit dictate what happens in our health service, that is threatening to ban strikes in the fire service if there is another strike in the current pay dispute. It is the government which has stoked up racism, and strengthened the far right, by its continuous and scandalous attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers and its social and industrial policies.
A new initiative for left unity
As a result of all this, the crisis of working class representation, which has been evident for some time - and which the Alliance was created to address - has become more acute. Working class people no longer have a political party that speaks for them or is answerable to them.
We do not, however, think we can answer this crisis of representation on our own. The development of the Socialist Alliance is one stage in the development of an alternative. We would like to see a new and broader-based initiative built out of current and unfolding political events. It means that this AGM needs to be effectively a relaunch of the Socialist Alliance, or at least a relaunch of the idea behind the Socialist Alliance: that in order to fill the vacuum which has opened up to the left of new Labour we need a new level of unity amongst the left itself.
We should therefore call for the widest possible discussion amongst those on the left on the increasing need for a united left alternative. This should be addressed to the many activists of the anti-war movement. It should be addressed to those who have left the Labour Party in disgust at Blairism and the war and those who will do so over the months ahead. It should be addressed to those in the Muslim community who have been radicalised to the left by the Afghan and Iraq wars and who have worked positively in the StWC. Religious belief is no barrier to being part of such a project, many are Labour voters. They feel betrayed by new Labour in all the ways that other workers feel betrayed over the NHS, education, public transport and so on. They also feel betrayed by new Labour’s support for the new imperialism and the racism promoted in defence of it.
It should also be addressed to the militants and activists in the trade unions, many of whom have been responsible for the higher levels of trade union struggles over the past few years under very difficult conditions. These are the activists who directly face the crisis of representation and the issue of paying the union political levy to bankroll a government which continually attacks them. The new radical leaders who have been elected in recent years in a number of unions are a reflection of all this and have potentially an important role to play.
We also want to discuss with those on the left who are not currently inside the Alliance and argue for their participation in a new initiative. We are not simply appealing to people to join the Alliance as it is although we are keen to recruit.
We have an open mind on the organisational form that could emerge from such discussions. It could be the Alliance as it is, a relaunched Alliance, or a new organisation entirely. We would insist only that it is open, inclusive, democratic, and of course socialist.
The young people who are joining the anti-war movement are turning towards politics, in particular anti-imperialist politics. The last thing they are going to do is join the Labour Party, the party that is carrying out this war. But an organisation that puts forward a principled alternative to the policies of new Labour, which supports the anti-war movement and the struggles at home can win many of that new generation to its banner.
To this end this AGM instructs the new EC, to be elected at the AGM, to launch a new initiative aimed at creating a broader based coalition of the left as an alternative to the right-ward march of new Labour. This to involve the following practical steps:
a) To initiate discussions (formal or informal as appropriate) with those political parties, organisations, campaigns and trade unions or trade union activists, which it judges to be possible partners in such a project.
To continue to promote the debate on the democratisation of the political fund.
c) To distribute the SA pamphlet on the crisis of working class representation as the basis of a new discussion amongst the left on a political alternative to Blairism.
d) To promote such discussions as wide as possible including at local level organised by local Alliances.
e) With the creation of such a broader initiative we should aim to build for a big intervention into the next general election with the goal of ensuring that there is a socialist candidate in very constituency.
Practical steps to build the Alliance
This means that the Alliance needs to strengthen its campaigning activities at every level. We need to strengthen, and make more consistent, our electoral work. We need to recruit many more people to the Alliance and strengthen the local branches. We need to further strengthen our work in the trade unions - in particular around the political fund. To advance this objective conference resolves:-
* To campaign for maximum involvement in the anti-war movement, its initiatives and campaigns.
* Full support to the firefighters, and other working coming into struggle
* Campaigning in the unions, including on the political fund
* Continuing involvement with the Conferences of the European Left, including seeking to be part of a European wide left slate for the European Elections 2004
* Mobilising for the ESF in Paris
* Developing Left Turn as a more regular and substantial publication of the Alliance with and editorial structure.
* Prioritising a campaign to win bases of support around a broad socialist programme in areas threatened by the BNP. This involves raising the profile of the alliance in the campaign to defend asylum seekers and communities victimised and criminalised for resisting the BNP.
* To hold the promised “New Imperialism and New Internationalism” conference aimed at youth and students.
* Prioritising a campaign, capable of gaining a wide base of support among women’s organisations, poor communities and the labour movement, for a national child care service.
* Use every opportunity to build strengthen and recruit to the SA and to strengthen its resources both the financial and practical level.
* Urge local Alliances to maintain a high profile through stalls and public meetings and political development though regular discussions and debates.
FINANCIAL REPORT (as previously circulated)
RACISM AND FASCISM
This conference believes:
that the recent election of a fourth BNP councillor in East Lancashire is a very serious development.
that the rise in support for the BNP has been fuelled by the disillusionment with a New Labour government and New Labour councils which have pursued Tory policies of cuts and privatisation and failed to represent working class people and their interests.
that the Socialist Alliance has a key role to play in turning the tide against the BNP by demonstrating that there is a socialist alternative to New Labour which will stand up for working class people and against racism and bigotry.
This conference resolves:
to try to establish vibrant Socialist Alliances in every area where the Nazi BNP is currently trying to organise, to initiate an anti racist campaign or work in existing broad anti racist campaigns working to undermine the underlying causes of racism; and also with a view to standing candidates in elections to challenge the Nazis as well as New Labour.
to help finance and produce Socialist Alliance material -such as a national leaflet, a tabloid based upon the model used in the Hackney mayoral election, for use particularly in Blackburn, Burnley, Oldham, Stoke, London and wherever the BNP is organising, which combines both the local and national issues such as opposition to the war and support for the fire fighters and campaigns against cuts and privatisation.
The Socialist Alliance must become the champions of the poor, disadvantaged, disenfranchised and disillusioned.
We have to vigorously campaign for an alternative to poverty and neglect and show that scapegoating one group or another is not a solution. We have to work together with other groups in our communities for decent housing, public services, decent benefits and wages and against racism.
This conference also recognises:
that the Anti Nazi League and some other anti racist campaigns have had a long histories of effectively fighting Nazi organisation dating back to the late 1970s, continuing in the early 90s in relation to Derek Beacon and continuing into the present.
It is vital that Socialist Alliances are involved in national and local anti fascist and anti racist campaigns and those in support of Asylum seekers and Refugees
that the Anti Nazi League and other anti racist groups have a vital campaigning role to play today in exposing the BNP as a Nazi party and in denying them platforms which they would use to establish their credibility and to promote race hatred and violence.
That the Anti Nazi League has affiliation from some 17 national trade unions which can send up to two delegates to the ANL steering committee, has a steering committee, elected at the annual conference, which now includes Labour MEP Glyn Ford, Labour MPs John Cryer and Mark Hendrick, PCS General Secretary and prominent Socialist Alliance member Mark Serwotka and CWU National Executive member Bob Gibson.
Conference recognises that amongst the many facets of racism – including discrimination, policing, lack of representation etc - two features stand together as an imminent virulent danger to black and ethnic minority peoples in Britain and the across Europe, and ultimately to the wider population, in particular the working class:
The attack in legislation, enforcement and ideology on immigrants and refugees.
The rise of fascist and other far-right forces
This has been exacerbated by the reinforced Islamophobia following the events of 11 September 01 and the ‘war on terrorism’.
1. Immigration and Asylum
1.1 Nearly everyday, David Blunkett or other Government spokespeople speak out about how they are being tough on immigrants and refugees. They talk of swamping. Everyday the tabloids, in particular the Daily Mail, runs headlines, centrespreads and editorials about how Britain is a ‘soft-touch’, overrun, threatened with disease, being culturally destroyed, threatened with terrorism and so forth by asylum seekers. Even the BNP does not dare put such poisonous material in its leaflets and newsletters.
1.2 As an inevitable consequence physical attacks on refugees increase, as do the attacks on Black and ethnic minority people in general.
1.3 The recent legislation on immigration and asylum brings in a range of measures, cutting off means of survival, ending the right of in-country appeals, introducing a ‘white list of countries’ (chosen currently to stop immigration by Roma people), reception centres, segregated education, cutting off benefits - the list goes on.
1.4 This legislation, however, is just another brick in the wall of immigration controls, all of which is racist. Conference re-affirms its opposition to all immigration controls and will argue for this principle in the labour movement and in the community. In particular Conference will:
- Encourage local Socialist Alliance Groups to support and/or taking the lead in establishing anti-deportation campaigns, working closely with the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns.
- Encourage local Socialist Alliance Groups to take a leading role in the campaigns around detention centres, reception centres, returning centres and so forth. Such campaigning will be against right wing campaigns against the centres. We will work closely with Barbed Wire Britain in this regard.
- Encourage local Socialist Alliance Groups to organise support for those being dispersed and vulnerable in areas, organising with others around questions of community self-defence, destitution and so forth.
- Argue for and help organise inside the trades unions on the basis of defiance in the face of implementation of immigration legislation.
- To work with others to unionise undocumented migrants.
- Campaign for equal welfare and civil rights for all regardless of immigration status.
- Socialist Alliance shall affiliate to the NCDAC, Barbed Wire Britain and the Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers.
- Where possible the Socialist Alliance will emphasise the slogan and message, ‘Asylum is a Right’ in national literature, in preference to ‘Asylum Seekers Welcome Here’ or ‘Defend Asylum Seekers
2. Fascist Threat
2.1 In Britain and across Europe fascists have made gains out of the State and media attack on immigrants and refugees. In turn these gains have pushed the Governments even further to the right, under the guise of ‘taking the ground from under the fascists’. What this has meant has been accommodating to more extreme racist and fascist ideas. Socialist recognise that the real way to take the ground from under the fascists is to confront them, their ideas and the material conditions upon which they feed.
2.2. In Britain the BNP has gained four council seats - 3 in Burnley and 1 in Blackburn. These electoral gains in turn will raise the profile of the BNP and give it a legitimacy that it hasn’t had before, which it can turn to its advantage.
2.3 The BNP developed a new, more sophisticated leadership around Nick Griffin. Griffin is determined to shed the organisation of its old image of fascism and violence. Nevertheless, the Socialist Alliance has no doubt that this is fundamentally a cosmetic exercise. The BNP’s fascist credentials are not in doubt as intelligence from inside the organisation confirms. Violence, carried out by others, has been key to its electoral success in the North West. Then the BNP steps in saying, ‘I told you so, the multi-racial society doesn’t work.’
2.4 The BNP has been focusing on Muslim targets suggesting that Mosques and other Islamic institutions constitute a terrorist threat.
2.5 The BNP has made a turn to what it calls ‘community politics’. This turn began some years ago but has accelerated since the new leadership defeated John Tyndall. This involves focusing on particular boroughs and within that particular wards, picking up on local issues and producing a newsletter ‘The X-ward Patriot’.
3. The Socialist Alliance and the United Front Against Fascism
3.1 The United Front would mobilise against BNP paper sales, meetings, marches and rallies and would provide support for people being targeted by racists and fascists.
3.2. Local Socialist Alliance Groups will have to fight to build this United Front. It will probably not be sufficient to rely on claims of existing anti-racist or anti-fascist organisations to be the umbrella.
3.3 The Socialist Alliance will seek to encourage the different wings of the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement to work together in this project. The Anti-Nazi League will be one element. The National Assembly Against Racism at its conference on 7 December 2002 announced its urgent negotiations with the TUC to launch a ‘Coalition Against Racism Campaign’ across the country to fight the BNP. Any United Front project will have to take at least both the ANL and this Coalition into account.
3.4 The Socialist Alliance, must build to put itself and its ideas forward as the real alternative to the failures of New Labour as opposed to the BNP. Local groups must take the fight for a socialist alternative into the wards targeted by the BNP. This is not something that the United Front can be expected to do.
3.5 The ‘turn to the community’ is the natural direction for socialists, although on a diametrically opposite basis that the turn made by the fascists.
3.6 Although they must be seen as distinct, the boundaries between what the United Front might do and the Socialist Alliance does in its own right will in practice be fluid and a judgement of the local group. For example, it is essential to have a regular progressive community newsletter against the X-ward Patriot. This might be X-ward Socialist, which as well as an anti-racist message, would include hard-hitting articles against New Labour and about what socialists would do to improve the estates, provide resources for the local youth etc. Alternatively there could be a broader X-ward Anti-Fascist newsletter in which more mainstream trades union officials and maybe the local vicar are prepared to write. Ideally we would like both but this might not be realistic.
3.7 Crucially, all the above activity should be taking place systematically, building a base, not just something that is done around election time.
Tactics in Elections
4.1 If the BNP are standing a candidate the activities of the United Front will be crucial to the process of opposing them. Equally, however, the Socialist Alliance will need to have an individual high profile presence arguing for a genuine socialist alternative.
4.2 If the Socialist Alliance is strong enough and has begun to build a base in the ward, then standing a candidate would normally be the best way of taking the process forward in an election.
4.3 However, if the local group assesses that it is likely to get a derisory vote in comparison with the BNP this path may be counter-productive. A larger vote for the BNP will increase their morale but demoralise us, and more importantly demoralise the Black and ethnic minority communities in the ward and perhaps the whole borough. These points are put into sharper relief if there is a chance of the BNP actually winning.
4.4. If it is inappropriate for the Socialist Alliance to stand a candidate it does not mean that the Socialist Alliance need have no independent presence. On the contrary we should still put out anti-racist material and material that addresses the local issues in the election, making demands upon the Labour candidate that show to those disaffected with Labour, what we would do if we were able to have a councillor.
ELECTED NATIONAL EXECUTIVE
New executive members
Louise Vanderhoeven Tyneside
Gordon Rowntree Middlesbrough
Matthew Caygill Leeds
Sue Wild Barnsley
Jeannie Robinson Chesterfield
Jim Jepps Colchester
Michael Lavalette Preston
Ameen Hadi Oldham
Heather Cox Telford
Lyn Hubbard Birmingham
Andy Newman Swindon
Charlie Balch Cardiff
Sandra Johnson Plymouth
Simon Joyce Camden
Sid Platt Camden
John Mulrenan Southwark
Glyn Robbins Tower Hamlets
Cecilia Prosper Waltham Forest
Fiona Prior Redbridge
Existing exec members re-elected
ELECTED APPEALS COMMITTEE
TWO INTERNAL AUDITORS