5 February 2005
Socialist Alliance conference agrees by 73 votes
to 63 to disband the Socialist Alliance.
7 February 2004
Alliance Trade Union Convention
THE SOCIALIST Party took the decision to leave the Socialist
Alliance (SA), England in December 2001 after its conference voted
for a constitution which completely changed the nature of the
The Alliance was initially formed as an open, inclusive
organisation uniting socialist groups and individuals. We explained
that the new constitution would destroy what remained of this
concept of a genuine Alliance. Instead it would be dominated by the
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and become little more than an
electoral front for their organisation.
Now Liz Davies, one of the most prominent members of the SA has
resigned from its executive and from her position as national chair,
appearing to confirm our perspectives for the Alliance.
Statement From Liz Davies Resigning From The Socialist Alliance
"As members of the Socialist Alliance executive are aware,
I have resigned as national chair of the Socialist Alliance and
from the executive. I have done so with deep sadness.
I feel strongly that minimum standards of accountability and
probity have not been upheld by some leading officers and members
of the executive. Under the circumstances, it is clear to me that
I will not be able to discharge effectively my duties to the
The premise of the Socialist Alliance was that individuals and
groups from differing political backgrounds and perspectives could
work together on a common political project.
It was always clear that trust among the elements of the
Socialist Alliance, and in particular trust among members of the
executive and national officers, was essential to this endeavour.
As a result of recent events, I feel that trust no longer
exists. I remain committed to contributing towards the development
of a viable socialist alternative to New Labour. "
Liz Davies October 21 2002
Open letter from Socialist Party Wales to the
Welsh Socialist Alliance National Council
Socialist Party Wales has decided unanimously at its all-members
meeting on 20th October that we have been left with no
choice but to withdraw from the Welsh Socialist Alliance. This
decision has not been taken lightly nor does it indicate a change of
approach by the Socialist Party on united fronts of the left. Recent
events in the Welsh Socialist Alliance have confirmed to our party
that the Welsh Socialist Alliance has ceased to provide a vehicle
for the left to work together in Wales. Instead it has become an
impediment to a united front of socialists in Wales.
In particular the manoeuvres to prevent Socialist Party
candidates from standing in the Assembly elections under the
banner of the WSA in Swansea, together with similar efforts in
Cardiff have convinced us that the only way to stand in future
elections is to withdraw from the Welsh Socialist Alliance and stand
Socialist Party candidates independently in consultation with all
other socialist organisations.
The WSA which was set up partly to enable all socialist trends to
stand in elections is now being used by the Socialist Workers Party
and its supporters to prevent the Socialist Party from
standing in elections. The packing by SWP members of the Swansea WSA
branch meeting to decide the Assembly candidates for the Swansea
seats and other manoeuvres were aimed not at maximising the impact
of the WSA, but purely at driving the Socialist Party out of the
electoral field in Swansea.
The Socialist Party has the greatest weight on the left in the
Swansea working class and youth and a long and distinguished history
in the Swansea labour movement. In previous elections in Swansea, we
have achieved some of the best electoral votes of any socialists in
Wales. Nevertheless we still bent over backwards to work together
with other members of the WSA in Swansea for the Assembly elections.
We stood down from our original choice of Swansea West where we
stood in the General Election in favour of another candidate and
proposed instead standing in Swansea East. The use of dishonest
tactics to prevent a Socialist Party candidate from standing under
the banner of the WSA, by packing the meeting to ‘win’ the vote
and announcing an SWP candidate for Swansea East at the last minute,
has given the Socialist Party little choice but to stand
Some may question why the Socialist Party too did not pack the
meeting and win the vote at the Swansea WSA meeting. Certainly in
the short term it would have been to the advantage of our party to
have won the selection for one of the seats. But such tactics are
incompatible with the idea of a socialist alliance, in which should
exist a spirit of co-operation and compromise. Dishonest and
underhand methods are a recipe for turning the WSA into a sectarian
battlefield, an alien arena to the working class and to the layers
of anti-capitalist youth looking for an alternative.
When the sudden appearance of a third candidate for the two
Swansea seats was announced we suggested delaying the decision to
allow a discussion between all interested parties to reach an
amicable resolution of the problem which was immediately rejected by
The Welsh Socialist Alliance was founded nearly five years ago by
the Socialist Party, Cymru Goch and other socialists to provide an
organisation in which socialists in Wales could work together in an
electoral front ensuring that all trends of socialist opinion could
stand candidates under one umbrella and could play a role in other
campaigning issues. At that time it was envisaged that as the WSA
gained the support and credibility of the working class in Wales it
would take on real flesh and would evolve into a closer union of
socialist forces in Wales.
All socialist organisations were invited into the WSA including
the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP however declined because of its
principled opposition to standing in elections. Even then we and the
rest of the WSA bent over backwards to work with the SWP and other
socialists outside the WSA. When the SWP changed its position and
decided to stand in the 1999 Assembly elections, but still refused
to join the WSA the Socialist Party and the majority of other
members in the WSA entered a pact to stand in the elections with the
SWP under the banner of the United Socialists.
Since the belated entry of the SWP into the WSA we have attempted
to work with them in the WSA, but this has increasingly become
difficult as the SWP struggled to gain control of the organisation.
An attempt to remove the rule ensuring that no party can gain more
than 40% of the leading positions of the WSA at the 2002 conference
was thwarted by the wide opposition of WSA members, but other
conference decisions have been undermined or distorted by the SWP
members in leading positions to ensure that the SWP retains a
disproportionate influence over the WSA.
The decision of the conference to produce Welsh Socialist Voice
on a monthly basis was sabotaged by the SWP who put insuperable
obstacles in its way so that when the editorial board collapsed the
SWP’s position, defeated at the conference, of a quarterly journal
under the control of the WSA officers was implemented.
Similarly the proposals by the SWP organiser of the WSA day
school excluded the Socialist Party and Cymru Goch from having any
of the 13 speakers at the day school. It was only the intervention
of a Socialist Party member on the organising committee in the face
of SWP opposition that enabled each of these organisations to have
one speaker each in a four way debate.
With the exit of the Socialist Party most of those who helped
found the WSA as a non-sectarian and pluralist socialist alliance
have left. There are less branches than at the WSA conference at the
beginning of the year and the ones that still meet are (apart from
candidate selection meetings) small and irrelevant as the SWP
concentrate on its other fronts. Following the disaffiliation of
Cymru Goch this means that both the founding organisations of the
WSA have felt compelled to leave. To lose one founding organisation
could be unfortunate; to lose both can only mark the decline of the
WSA as a genuine alliance.
Socialist Party Wales has been forced to leave the WSA with some
reluctance, but certainly no pessimism. We look forward
optimistically to taking part in the struggles of the working class
and leftward-moving youth and also to working with others on the
left, including those in the WSA, in the battles that lie
ahead, on the electoral front, in the trade unions, in the anti-war
campaign and wider community-based campaigns. We will support
co-operation by the left and new alliances in fighting for socialist
policies in the trade unions, community campaigns and in elections.
But this co-operation can only succeed if the left has an open,
flexible and democratic approach, where we work together on
the issues that unite us whilst respecting the right of all trends
to put an independent position.
Socialist Party Wales
PO Box 589, Cardiff, CF24 1YG
( 02920 635783
Tower Hamlets by-election:
Socialist Alliance Provides No Alternative
A SOCIALIST ALLIANCE (SA) candidate polled just nine votes in
the Blackwall & Cubitt Town council by-election in East London's
Tower Hamlets borough on 27 June 2002.
The Socialist Party left the Socialist Alliance in December,
after the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) used their majority to push
through an undemocratic constitution, and we take no responsibility
for this poor result.
Unfortunately, however, the by-election vote will be used against
all socialists, in the trade unions and elsewhere, who are arguing
for an alternative to New Labour.
There were some factors peculiar to this by-election that would
have made securing a substantial socialist vote a difficult task. A
large part of the ward is in the Isle of Dogs, the old Millwall ward
where the BNP's Derek Beackon was elected as a councillor in 1993.
The BNP leaflets referred to that victory but also to their more
recent successes in Burnley to claim that they had a realistic
chance this time. In fact they polled just 87 votes (3.96%) but
their presence had some effect in shoring up the Labour vote.
Another factor was the 'Islanders first' independent candidacy of
Terry Johns, who polled 252 votes (11.48%), mainly from disgruntled
Terry benefited from the decades-long record of community
campaigning of his father, Ted Johns, a former Labour councillor.
(In 1970 Ted was elected 'president' of the Island when community
groups declared 'UDI'; during the anti-poll tax struggle he spoke
alongside the Militant [now Socialist Party] MP Dave Nellist to
publicly back the non-payment campaign).
Although the Socialist Alliance candidate was a local community
centre worker, she did not have the same profile.
Nevertheless, how the SA campaign was conducted must have had
some impact on the result achieved. Although the candidate is not a
member of the SWP, the bulk of the SA campaigners were.
Sixty promised votes were picked up from canvassing and extensive
leafleting but the inescapable conclusion is that the SA were unable
to convince those 'identified supporters' to come out and vote for
them. The turnout overall was only 24.6%
Socialist Party vindicated
THE SA's recent electoral performance further affirms the
decision of the Socialist Party not to participate in the Socialist
Alliance as it is now constituted.
The Tower Hamlets result follows another by-election in Luton on
13 June where, in the safe Labour ward of Challney, the Socialist
Alliance polled just 18 votes (0.85%), compared to 814 for the
winning Labour candidate.
The Socialist Party, however, has shown that it is possible to
win electoral support for socialist ideas. In May's local elections,
our candidates averaged 296 votes per candidate (11.48%), with two
Before December's SA conference, the Alliance had a 'federal'
structure which allowed supporting organisations such as the
Socialist Party, within a common framework, to run election contests
with their own campaigning methods and political ideas.
Yet at the conference SWP speakers made it clear that this
arrangement would end. Using their numerical majority they would
dictate to candidates from other organisations within the SA the
politics and campaigning methods.
This was unacceptable to the Socialist Party, a more successful
electoral organisation, and the recent results once again show why.
Of course, electoral success is never guaranteed, even with the
right policies and approach. The early pioneers of the labour
movement, such as Keir Hardie and James Connolly, in their own time
suffered electoral debacles.
But if nothing else, such experiences should at least puncture
the conception of the SWP that the SA under their domination is the
only alternative to New Labour, which all other groups and
organisations should defer to.
The Socialist 5 July 2002
Socialist Alliance conference setback
THE SOCIALIST Alliance (SA) conference on 1 December was a
setback for socialist unity. With a narrow overall majority, the
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and a handful of allies pushed through
a new constitution. This will effectively transform the SA from a
federal, inclusive organisation into another Anti-Nazi League-type
SWP ‘front’, which the Socialist Party can no longer participate
Potentially, the SA could have played an important role in
bringing together different socialist organisations, trade unionists
and community campaigners. As workers respond to the deepening
crisis that Blair’s second-term government faces – on public
spending, growing job losses, the aftermath of the war on
Afghanistan etc – a democratic and inclusive SA could have helped
speed up the development of a mass alternative, a new workers party,
to represent workers’ interests.
Now however, far from being able to fulfil that role, the SA
could, like Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) before
it, become another complicating factor on the road to an independent
working class political voice.
A sense of proportion
WHILE THE outcome of the conference was a setback, there is,
however, a need for a sense of proportion. The SA, with just 1,690
members nationally, has not established itself as an authoritative
In fact, the forces initially attracted to the SLP in 1995-96,
including the figure of Scargill himself, were of greater social
weight than the SWP and their allies who have succeeded in changing
the character of the Socialist Alliance.
The early electoral successes of the SLP (Hemsworth, February
1996 – 1,193 votes, 5.4%; Barnsley East, December 1996 – 949
votes, 5.3%) compare favourably with the recent performances of the
SA. Certainly, its electoral standing will not be enhanced by
forcing out the Socialist Party, the most successful electoral
component of the Alliance.
The Socialist Party, then Militant Labour, was also represented
in discussions with Scargill on how the new party that he was
proposing would be organised. Then we also argued for a federal
structure, similar to the proposals the Socialist Party presented
before the Socialist Alliance conference.
Our proposals were not accepted by Scargill, however, and
consequently the Socialist Party declined to participate in the new
party, warning that Scargill’s approach would repel a new
generation moving into political action, as proved to be the case.
Scargill’s refusal to adopt an inclusive approach was a setback
for the prospects of building a broad, socialist alternative to New
Labour, as is the refusal of the SWP to build a broad SA.
But in reality, the debate over the future of the SA is largely a
dress rehearsal for the tumultuous events that lie ahead in Britain
and internationally, that will put a new workers’ party on the
The Socialist Party will push for electoral unity and, at same
time, will work in any new networks that may emerge as the reality
of life in the new SWP-‘Socialist Alliance Party’ becomes clear.
And while striving for socialist unity, the Socialist Party will
re-double its efforts in the trade unions, in community and social
struggles, and on the electoral plane, to build the forces of
socialism and support all steps towards a new mass vehicle for
working class political representation.
What happened at the conference?
THE CONSTITUTION debate was organised into two distinct
sessions. The first, immediately after the opening rally, was a
debate on six alternative ‘stem’ constitutions, one of which was
to go forward into session two for detailed amendments to be moved.
This was the most critical debate in the conference. The
Socialist Party never insisted that only our proposed constitution
could strike a balance between the rights of component political
organisations of the SA and individual members.
There were many amendments which, if our ‘stem constitution’
had been passed, could have substantially modified the details of
our ‘improved federalism’ approach but which would still have
enabled us to remain in the SA.
Moreover, while voting, obviously, for our constitution first
preference, the Socialist Party explicitly recommended a second
preference vote for a modified version of the existing constitution
which was being moved by independent SA member, Pete McLaren. While
insufficient, in our opinion, to properly protect the rights of both
component organisations and individual members, it had kept the
Alliance on the road up to this point and was the bottom line for
Our willingness to compromise, however, made no impact on the SWP
or their allies. Their proposed constitution, based on one member
one vote (OMOV), in reality, takes away all rights from individual
members and minority organisations because the SWP are currently
able to mobilise enough people to outvote all other forces in the
SA. But they were determined to push it through.
What was implicit in the constitution, was spelt out clearly in
the contributions. The new executive of the SA, under the SWP
constitution, will now be able to "disaffiliate local Socialist
Alliances and remove individual membership or refuse to ratify
John Rees, SWP central committee member, made it clear that this
power would be used to prevent Socialist Party members running as SA
candidates while retaining control over their own propaganda and
campaign. In a bizarre inversion of reality, electoral campaigns
which have won the most votes were deemed ‘narrow and unsuccessful’
while those with less votes were ‘broad and inclusive’.
One speaker even demanded that there should be ‘no more
Lewishams’ – i.e. a council which has two elected Socialist
All amendments with even a hint of ‘federalism’, however
ineffective, were defeated. Even the modest proposal to limit the
number of NEC positions held by members of any one political
organisation to 40% was voted down as ‘institutionalising
A new organisation
THE CONFERENCE itself was proof of what ‘one member, one
vote’ really means in the SA as it exists today. In the run-up to
the conference 23 local meetings had been organised to discuss the
SA constitution, attended by, at most, 380 SA members. (This in
itself shows the limited base of the SA).
While there was not a majority for our proposals in many of these
meetings, neither was there a majority for the SWP’s constitution.
The overwhelming mood was that the SWP, as numerically the largest
organisation, had the responsibility to ensure that the SA held
This sentiment also explained the high vote (97 votes, 14.7%) for
Pete McLaren’s constitution at Saturday’s conference which,
together with the vote for the Socialist Party’s proposals (122
votes, 18.5%), amounted to a third of the conference.
But with 345 votes (52%) the SWP won a narrow overall majority of
34 and pushed through their proposals almost completely unamended.
As the final constitution was approved and, in effect, the AGM of
a new organisation was about to begin, Dave Nellist in the chair
announced a recess.
The Socialist Alliance, he argued, was now a different
organisation to the one that the Socialist Party had helped to found
nine years ago, and the Socialist Party couldn’t participate in
the business of an organisation they were no longer members of.
Appeal for socialist unity
Letter from the Socialist Party to the Socialist Alliance
"THE SOCIALIST Party deeply regrets the decision of the 1
December Socialist Alliance conference to adopt the constitution
sponsored by the SWP and others.
As we made clear in the run-up to the conference, we believe that
enshrining a ‘majority-takes-all’ approach into the SA
constitution would seriously curb the freedom of action, including
electoral activity, of organisations participating in the SA, and
others who might have joined in the future.
On this basis, as we made clear on Saturday, we felt we could
not, with any honesty or integrity, work under the confines of the
constitution you adopted.
However, as we also made clear, this decision does not mean that
we will not work for socialist unity where that is possible.
We note that the Socialist Alliance has, as recently as this
June, approached both the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the
Greens to see if an electoral arrangement could be reached – if
not to mutually sponsor candidates, at least to avoid electoral
In Hackney also, although the details are still a matter of
contention, the local Socialist Alliance has discussed with the
Communist Party of Britain (CPB), the publishers of the Morning
Star, the idea of SA-sponsored CPB candidates in next year’s local
In this light we urge you at the earliest opportunity to discuss
with us the possibilities for establishing a committee for socialist
electoral unity. In this way we may achieve, with any other
socialist or trade union organisation that we can together involve,
the greatest possible socialist unity in the May 2002 local
elections and in any future by-elections.
on behalf of the Socialist Party executive committee
Sheffield Socialist Alliance
THE SHEFFIELD Socialist Alliance met on the Monday after the
conference (3 December 2001).
A resolution was moved by Socialist Party members calling for
early discussions, locally and nationally, between the SA, the
Socialist Party, the SLP, and any other serious socialist or working
class campaign "to try and achieve electoral agreement".
An SWP full-timer moved that the resolution be referred to the
local Socialist Alliance steering committee but the meeting insisted
on a vote and the resolution was passed.
Irish Socialist Alliance dissolved
ON 23 NOVEMBER, the Socialist Alliance in Ireland was formally
dissolved, one year after the first discussions to get it
established took place.
The Socialist Party in Ireland, which has a TD (MP), Joe Higgins,
in the Irish parliament, consistently attempted to establish a
broader unity on the left as a step towards the formation of a mass
Joe was elected in 1997 as a Socialist Party candidate but worked
in collaboration with other significant forces as part of a ‘Justice
in Taxation’ coalition. Those forces, however, including the
Tipperary TD Seamus Healy, decided not to participate in a Socialist
Alliance at this stage, leaving the Irish SWP and the Socialist
Party as the only significant organisations involved in foundation
discussions. With no agreement reached, the Socialist Party declined
to be formally involved in the Alliance which, however, the SWP and
others launched earlier this year.
The experience of what happened next is instructive, particularly
for the co-sponsors of the SWP’s constitution at Saturday’s
conference – the International Socialist Group (ISG). In the words
of some of their former co-thinkers in Ireland, the SWP
"behaved as if the Alliance and its activities could be run in
the same way as their own organisation.
"They fought against attempts to draw the Socialist Party
into co-operating with the Alliance. This resulted in a situation
where the Alliance was seen – rightly – as no more than the ‘SWP
plus a handful of others’, and therefore many good socialists
refused to get involved" (Report to the European
Anti-Capitalist Left Conference, Brussels, December 2001). The
inevitable denouement followed.
Preston lesson for SA
IN NOVEMBER 2000, the SA contested the Preston parliamentary
by-election, polling 1,210 votes (5.7%) for its candidate – the
Labour Independent councillor, Terry Cartwright.
This result was hailed then by the SWP as evidence that the SA
had ‘arrived as a national electoral force’ but in the June
general election the SA didn’t contest the Preston seat. Fellow
Labour Independent councillor, and Socialist Party member, Paul
Malliband, in a statement issued for Saturday’s conference,
explains the reality of what has happened in Preston, and the
lessons for the SA constitution debate:
"I have considered the proposals put forward by the
various organisations in the pre-conference bulletins and have
concluded that at this stage of development of the Socialist
Alliance the best way forward would be to endorse fully the
constitution put forward by the Socialist Party.
"The Labour Independent Group in Preston have consistently
argued within the Lancashire SA (LSA) for a federal approach as per
the original constitution, steadfastly retaining our own identity.
As a group we would not support a move to a party structure at this
time. We joined the LSA because it was ‘an alliance’, a forum of
Broad Left groups operating through consensus on a united-front
basis, with no one group dominating.
"We are only a small group and need protection from the
larger organisations like the SWP who, through greater numbers at
LSA meetings, have already turned it into what they now propose for
the national organisation.
"In November 2000 we fought a parliamentary by-election in
Preston. Terry Cartwright was selected by the LSA but then the SWP
convenor tried to get the LSA to reverse that decision, even after
we had released it to the press. I was appointed as the election
agent only to be constantly ignored by the SWP faction during the
"Whilst they marched and flag-waved, the experienced
campaigners got down to the serious business in what we viewed as
our strong areas. The outcome was a saved deposit for the LSA.
"That the bulk of this vote came from our established roots
was confirmed in the county council elections in June 2001, when the
Labour Independent Group alone stood Terry in a county division
which basically consisted of two of the 13 electoral wards that made
up the Preston parliamentary constituency.
"Once again, as in the November by-election, but this time
with the general election on the same day, we polled 1,200 votes. In
comparison the LSA were busy in Blackburn yet, with all the
resources of the organisation plunged in there and no help offered
to us whatsoever, the LSA managed to poll just 532 votes (1.31%),
getting beaten by a member of Scargill’s SLP who only announced
that he was standing at the close of nominations.
"The Socialist Alliance should work to its strengths and not
the pipe dreams of a dominant faction. Experience of the local area
should be embraced not shunned. The SWP do not have a mandate for
what they propose within the Alliance and they certainly do not have
any authority to speak on behalf of the Lancashire SA as they have
not even attempted to consult the membership or called any meetings
to air their views.
"Should the SWP proposals be adopted, the wider appeal of
the Alliance to other groups and individuals will be lost and set
back our cause considerably".