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The Socialist Alliance no longer exists, the task of left unity continues

Andy Newman

(This is a slightly extended version of the speech actually given at the SA conference as at the last minute the conference shortened the time for the mover from 5 minutes to 3 minutes - the text here is the speech as it would have been given)

It gives me no pleasure to be standing here moving for the dissolution of the Socialist Alliance. I am a supporter of the Socialist Alliance project, I have been selected by Swindon Socialist Alliance as prospective parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming general election; and I am secretary of Swindon Socialist Alliance one of the remaining active SA groups.

However we must recognise that the Socialist Alliance no longer exists as a national organisation.
And comrades we have an obligation to remember that whatever happens at this conference today we must leave this room prepared to work together and prepared to unite again against our common enemy, the boss class; and to oppose the imperialist war in Iraq, to oppose PFI and to campaign to protect the environment. It is even more incumbent upon those of us who wish to see left unity; who believe that the task is to create in England a broad socialist party, more or less on the model of the Scottish Socialist party, with obvious differences to suit the English context. We must ensure that we learn the lessons of what went wrong with the Socialist Alliance, so that we don't make the same mistakes again.

In the last general election the SA was able to contest nearly 91 seats in the general election, and united most of the English left.

Since then we had the huge events of the anti-war movement. We had 2 million on the streets, and hundreds of thousands involved in continuing protest against the war. Yet in the build up to the February 15th demonstration the component organisations of the SA, particularly the largest one, the SWP, did not build the Socialist Alliance. Instead they prioritised recruiting to their own organisation, they prioritised selling their own paper, carrying their own placards, building their own public meetings. And the smaller groups followed suit so that instead of a united socialist voice there were competing voices.

And comrades, I don't know how big the SWP is, only the journalists for the Weekly Worker seem confident of knowing that - but if we are charitable and allow that the SWP had 1500 people selling papers on February 15th. The gap between the small cog of 1500 revolutionaries and 2 million demonstrators was too big - not just numerically but also politically.

Had we intervened as a united Socialist Alliance perhaps we could have recruited 10,000 members; perhaps it would have been us not UKIP that broke through in the Euro elections, perhaps it would have been us not the Liberal Democrats who made a break through in the council elections in 2003. But that opportunity was lost, and the responsibility for that lies with the leadership of the SWP.

So in March 2003, we voted at conference to recognise that the Socialist Alliance had not reached its potential and voted to explore possibilities for a broader organisation; looking to the growing rebellion in the unions against new Labour and to the anti war movement, For some the launch of Respect was the fulfilment of that resolution.

Certainly Respect has made gains in support from Muslims and other ethnic minorities. But it is by no means certain that the Socialist Alliance could not have made the same gains, had it been allowed to benefit from the anti-war movement.

But certainly I believed that when Respect was launched we would fight to keep the majority of the SA membership involved, but that has not happened. Instead the SA membership was demobilised, and in some places, Bristol and Exeter I know about, I am sure there were other case as well, functioning Socialist Alliance structures were voted out of existence by SWP members, some of whom had not been SA activists. There is also a problem of inclusivity with the way Respect operates.

Nevertheless, we are where we are. Face facts. The Socialist Alliance no longer exists as a national organisation, and there is no future for it continuing as a national organisation comprised of a few score individuals: all subcomandantes and no Zapatistas.

The Socialist Alliance as a national organisation must stop here today, because it is no longer a credible vehicle for left unity.

The task of left unity continues. For those of you who are thinking it is possible to just recreate the SA without the SWP, I tell you it is a pipe dream, the SWP and Respect cannot be leaped over. For those of you who believe we should just move on and all work in Respect, I tell you Respect cannot succeed unless there is a sea change in the approach and practices of the SWP leadership. I have no confidence in the SWP leadership. In the interests of future left unity I move for the dissolution of the Socialist Alliance.

 

February 2005

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