REPORT OF THE SA AGM SAT OCT 10 2009 2pm Lucas Arms
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Members present: Ron Lynn; Jean Kysow; Gerry Byrne; Pete McLaren; Dave Landau; Toby Abse; Dave Church (DLP); Steve Freeman (RDG). Pete McLaren read out Comradely Greetings sent us by the Socialist Party USA
CONFIRMATION OF AGENDA
The Agenda was agreed as published
Terry Liddle; Liz Peck; John Golden
MINUTES OF SA AGM DEC 13 2008
Agreed as correct
MATTERS ARISING FROM THOSE MINUTES
Pete McLaren spoke to his written report as circulated. He highlighted the progress he felt the SA had made since the last AGM, when there was a motion to effectively close down the SA through merger, and when our Euro Election ambitions had been to raise enough money to fund a left list in one region, particularly to combat the BNP. In contrast, we had survived the merger motion, moved forwards, and had been part of the No2EU Euro Election campaign which had contested all eleven regions. We had implemented the resolution agreed at the 2008 AGM as far as we could by:
- Continuing to co-ordinate the LULC which had now held 5 meetings and had the support of all the main organisations on the left (15 in total) apart from the SWP, with whom we had now re-opened a dialogue.
- Promoting One Party for the Left through the LULC, CoL and No2EU-YestoDemocracy
- By giving critical support to No2EU we had helped bring the left back together, as well as playing our part in moves which clearly promoted the need for a new left party. He was pleased to have been one of two SA members to be No2EU candidates
- Assisting the CNWP to become a membership organisation, although he accepted that our additional aspirations for the CNWP had been thwarted by the CNWP's decision to put all its efforts into building No2EU and subsequent developments
The report went on to highlight the achievements of the No2EU campaign. It described the developments post-No2EU, with the Core Group of the RMT, SP, AGS and CPB agreeing to coordinate a class based left challenge in the General election. This notion had been given additional support by the calls from a number of leading trade unionists, left organisers and socialist groups for left unity in the face of the resurgence of the right and the far right. The Report concluded by suggesting we had achieved all that we could have done, especially given our size and lack of resources, and in many ways developments had moved our campaign for One Party of the Left further forwards. By agreeing to engage with all Post-No2EU developments without pre-conditions, and to fight for our SA policies within them, we had given ourselves further realistic targets for the coming months. Eventually, the report suggested, the SA may seek to become a faction within a larger left organization/party. It was important that we remained realistic about our priorities and kept up our campaign for unity of the left as part of the process of building One party of the Left. He also argued that we may well need to compromise on some policies when joining a new organization, along the lines of the 80/20 principle which had kept the original SA together, whilst continuing to fight for those of our policies the larger organization did not immediately adopt. We should not insist on everything at once – some policies may need to be argued for. The 80%/90% we could all agree upon would include all our main policies, at least in general terms, he felt. Die Linke had been successful in Germany in this respect, polling 15% after just two years. We were marking time at present, waiting for wider forces to move, and acting as a sort of ginger group to speed up that process.
Gerry Byrne agreed we had been treading water, and felt there may no longer be a role for the SA. We could hardly be a faction when we were divided down the middle as at present. We did not represent one political perspective, and could be facing the end of the road. The SP had done to the CNWP what the SWP had done to the original SA, turning their energies elsewhere. They had simply used a CNWP Steering Committee decision to do what they wanted. She disagreed with the Secretary about compromise on policy.
Pete McLaren spoke briefly to his written report which showed a balance of £150.95, compared to £127.95 at the end of 2008 – but there was a further NEC meeting and other activity to fund. We had cut down on travel and meeting costs by only having three NEC meetings, but were light on donations. He explained that our charge for printing needed to be raised as he was at present out of pocket. It was agreed in principle to raise the printing charge, and the NEC was asked to implement it. The Finance Report was accepted
MEMBERSHIP AND AFFILIATION FEES
It was agreed to keep the Fees as agreed last year: a) Membership Fee –£30/8 pa b) Affiliation Fee – £50 for organisations with over 50 members; £40 for organisations between 25 and 49 members; £30 for organisations with up to 25 members; £15 for local alliances.
AGM POLICY MOTIONS AND AMENDMENTS
The Chair, Gerry Byrne, explained that the various suggested changes to the Motion she was proposing was just one amendment, to be voted on in full. She also gave up the Chair for this item in order to move the amendment. Steve Freeman took the Chair. Pete McLaren wanted the amendment to be voted on in parts because some were more or less acceptable than others, but the Chair over ruled this Pete McLaren moved MOTION ONE: THE WAY FORWARD "We recognise the general progress made by the Socialist Alliance so far in 2009 A. Towards implementing the tasks it was set by the 2008 AGM in terms of
- Developing work to encourage the left to cooperate and work more closely and effectively together
- Taking forward our campaign for One Party of the Left, within the LULC, No2EU and throughout the left wherever we had the opportunity
- Working to gain the involvement of organistions not previously involved in the LULC
- Continuing to intervene in the CNWP whenever possible and assisting the CNWP to turn supporters into members, although developments around No2EU-YestoDemocracy, and post-No2EU, have meant that the CNWP has made limited progress so far this year
B. In its continuing ability to influence the socialist movement, particularly through
- Its work in organising and promoting the LULC which now has the support of 15 left/green left organizations
- Its participation in the RMT inspired No2EU-YestoDemocracy European Election coalition, with a leading left trade union keen to have SA members, including the National Secretary, as candidates
We also recognise that the No2EU-YestoDemocracy coalition, which stood in every English region, and which the SA supported despite some programmatic misgivings, may well have further promoted our goal of a new left party.
Such progress must be measured against the situation at and immediately after the 2008 AGM, when we had to fight off an attempt to effectively close down the SA through merger, and when our aspirations for the European Elections merely consisted of hoping to persuade other left organisations to join us in raising enough money to stand a left slate in just one region
We note that there have been developments post No2EU which could lead to further progress towards our goal of a new left party. These developments have arisen out of meetings of the post No2EU core group (RMT, SP, AGS and CPB), and reported progress made so far includes
- Discussing the formation of a Left Electoral Coalition for the General Election with a "class based electoral title" – an electoral block with support from trade unions and left/green left organizations.
- Accepting the need to attempt agreement on a number of key demands/policy points, covering socialist, democratic, environmental and trade union positions amongst others – with an acceptance that supporting organisations would also have the freedom to promote their own programme – a federal arrangement similar to how the SA operated in 2001.
- General agreement that other supportative organisations, like the SA, should be invited to join the discussions
- The calling of a national convention on the crisis in the lack of working class political representation in the autumn, which the RMT has now organised for November 7
We note that these were agreed, subject to ratification by organizations, to be endorsed at the next core group meeting. We accept we may need to be patient whilst organizations, especially the RMT, consult their members before declaring public support.
We also note the encouraging calls for left unity being made by a number of leading trade unionists and socialist organizations, including Jane Godrich (PCS Pres), Rob Griffiths (CPB Gen Sec), Dave Nellist, RMT leader Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka (PCS Sec), the SWP, SP and AWL
We welcome these developments, and we endorse the decision of our NEC to engage in any post-No2EU developments which broadly fit within our agreed policies, and to campaign within them for a political programme which is broadly in line with People Before Profit, the SA's election manifesto – we will fight within them for our SA programme. To this end, we will continue to seek representation on the various bodies which emerge, as they emerge.
Furthermore, we will campaign for the Coalition which emerges to be open, inclusive, fully democratic and without bans and proscriptions.
We will also campaign within it for it to develop more permanent structures, initially, at least, on a federal basis, which include individual membership as a step towards a new workers' party
Once part of the Coalition, the SA will play a full part in it, which may include standing SA candidates as part of the agreed umbrella, raising the necessary finances for that, and carrying out such administrative tasks as this may entail.
At the same time, the SA will continue its work to promote socialist unity both inside and outside post-No2EU developments
- In the LULC
- Within the CNWP, and for the implementation of our proposals on structure for the CNWP as agreed at the 2008 SA AGM (affiliation and automatic representation; working groups to develop policy). The need for a timescale for forming a new workers' party, out of the campaign for one, to be taken in context with, and conjunction with, developments elsewhere to build such a party, including the post-No2EU coalition
- In the Convention of the Left, if and when, that is possible
- And within any other unity projects and progressive movements/campaigns
We confirm that our main goal is the merging of all such socialist/green socialist unity projects and initiatives into one Party of the Left based solidly within the working class – with the intention that such a party would have support from trade unions, tenants groups, women, youth, black groups, anti-war protesters and environmentalists"
Gerry Byrne then moved the following amendment to Motion One Section B: Delete paragraph beginning “We also recognise that the No2EU-YestoDemocracy coalition...”
In para beginning “We note that there have been developments...” delete “post No2EU” and replace in second sentence “have arisen out of” with “include”
In para beginning “We welcome these developments...” delete “post-No2EU” .
In para “Furthermore, we will campaign...” reword to read “ for any electoral coalition which emerges to be open, inclusive, fully democratic and without bans and proscriptions.”
In para beginning “At the same time, the SA will ...”, delete “both inside and outside post-No2EU developments” .
Add new para: “The SA will attempt to intervene in any trade union initiative such as the RMT's conference on working class representation along the lines of its own socialist politics, in particular to challenge the nationalist bent of CPB-inspired fronts, and to emphasise the unity of all workers and for the free movement of labour.”
After a lengthy discusssion, Pete McLaren used his right of reply to argue against the amendment. He felt that the amendment denied or watered down the role of No2EU, almost pretending it barely existed. In any case the main motion clearly provided for engagement with Post- No2EU as well as other developments – nothing was excluded.
In her right of reply to the amendment, Gerry Byrne felt the references to Post-No2EU did not always need to be there. Without the amendment, the Motion suggested Post-No2EU was the only show in town.
Voting on the amendment was tied at 4 votes all. The Chair used his casting vote to defeat the amendment by 5 votes to 4. The substantive resolution on The Way Forward, as above, was agreed by 5 votes to nil with three abstentions.
MOTION TWO: REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST CONVENTION
This meeting agrees to sponsor the second Republican Socialist Convention in London in January/Feb 2010.
Proposed by Steve Freeman
The Motion was agreed by 7 votes to nil with one abstention.
MOTION THREE: “YestoDemocracy”
This meeting recognises that the “No2EU Yes 2 Democracy” election campaign forged the broadest electoral alliance of the left since the Socialist Alliance in 2001 supported by the RMT, Socialist Party, Communist Party of Britain, Alliance for Green Socialism, Socialist Alliance, and the International Socialist Group.
Our priority must be in seeking to build and strength this alliance for the 2010 general election.
Noting the crisis of democracy which has been highlighted by the MPs expenses scandal the SA will promote the slogan “Yes to Democracy” within this new alliance and seek to push forward our republican demands including those demands won by the SA within the Campaign for a New Workers Party.
Proposed by Steve Freeman
The Motion was agreed by 5 votes to nil with three abstentions.
MOTION FOUR Demolition of Migrant Homes in Calais
Conference expresses its disgust at the declaration by Alan Johnson that he is "delighted" at the destruction of the "Jungle" in Calais. What kind of person delights in the destruction of peoples lives, the lives of the persecuted with no rights, money or resources, thrown out of their shacks and makeshift tents and on to the streets? This is the attitude of a racist bully allied to the interests of the ruling class. It certainly is not the attitude of a socialist and should have not place in the labour and trades union movement.
That the Home Secretary can say this shows just how low the New Labour Government has stooped with regard to immigration. They put pressure on the French authorities to close down the Red Cross Centre in Sangatte. The "jungle" was the result. Now they put pressure on the same authorities to trash the lives of those who remain. For what? To look tough, to appease the fearmongering of the tabloid newspapers and the fascists. This can only lead to a strengthening of those fascists.
Socialist Alliance expresses its solidarity with the migrants in Calais. We re-iterate our opposition to all immigration controls in general and in particular demand the right of the migrants in Calais to come to this country if they wish, without risking life and limb in or under lorries and trains.
No One is Illegal!
Proposed by Dave Landau
The Resolution was agreed by 7 votes to 1
MOTION FIVE WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! JOBS FOR ALL WHO NEED AND WANT THEM!
Conference notes that across the world the recession is biting and jobs are being lost. Workers everywhere are competing for jobs and those in jobs are fighting to maintain their conditions of work – harder as the competition gets more bitter. But this is because of the insane economic system. There is no good reason for unemployment. There is plenty of useful work to be done, especially in the construction industry.
There are homeless people around the country, there are thousands of dilapidated houses lying empty, there are people living in the freezing cold because they cannot afford to heat homes that need insulation. And yet construction workers cannot get a job and fight over the right to build oil installations. There is plenty of work to be done in Britain, Italy, Portugal and other places. The threat to jobs isn'st from other workers from other places or other countries.
Conference is alarmed at the emergence of the slogan "British Jobs for British Workers" in recent struggles. Instead of workers being united in the struggle for jobs, wages and conditions workers are being divided against each other instead of against the bosses.
Conference expresses its disgust at the appalling misleadership by Derek Simpson who was featured in the Daily Star sandwiched between two young women wearing T-shirts adorned with the slogan "British Jobs for British Workers". Although some more sober union leaders distanced themselves from this slogan they nevertheless followed the same nationalist agenda. Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, talked about opposing the "exclusion of British workers" and the need to strengthen border controls.
The Socialist Alliance believes socialists must robustly oppose this approach.
There is an alternative. The Socialist Alliance believes in uniting as an international class against the bosses and 'sour's governments and fighting on demands that can unite migrant and non-migrant workers.
EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK! NO TO REDUNDANCIES! INVEST IN SOCIALLY USEFUL WORK INSTEAD OF THROWING MONEY AT THE BANKS! JOBS FOR ALL WORKERS! FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND THE RIGHT NOT TO BE UPROOTED!
Proposed by Dave Landau
The Resolution was agreed unanimously
MOTION SIX: BNP &UKIP
Conference expresses alarm at the election of two British National Party MEPs in the EU elections in June 2009 and the pushing of Labour into third place by UKIP in those elections. A major reason behind this was the massive number of people opposed to the BNP and UKIP who did not vote at all because they were contemptuous of the mainstream parties and there was no credible alternative. But it also reflected a significant vote for these parties that cannot be dismissed as a protest vote. There was a huge list of candidates for whom a protest vote could be cast.
UKIP is not a fascist party but its leader Nicholas Farage regards Enoch Powel as his political hero because of the Rivers of Blood speech and the party campaigned strongly on an anti-immigration platform.
Conference notes that in less than five minutes of BNP's Andrew Brons being elected, Labour Minister Andy Burnham was on the radio saying how Labour must "listen to what the electorate are telling us about immigration".
Conference believes that the watchwords of the anti-fascist movement should be:
- No appeasement of the fascists on questions of immigration, Islamaphobia etc.
- Defend communities – They Shall Not Pass. These successes will embolden racists, fascists and bigots of all kind – more harassment and attacks and actions against communities – witness the EDL demonstrations against Muslims.
- Build at the grass roots community level – not top down hierarchies that currently dominate the movements.
- Anti-Establishment/Anti-Capitalist. The BNP take advantage of the failure of the system to meet peoples needs. There is a danger in the current anti-fascist groups getting to closely associated with mainstream politicians.
- Hold the line on No Platform.
Conference believes that a united anti-fascist movement is more necessary than ever. But such a movement can never be sufficient to defeat fascism. The success of the fascists of the BNP and the racist nationalists of UKIP speaks volumes about the lack of a serious working class socialist alternative to the bourgeois political parties. The Socialist Alliance must continue to fight for this alternative amongst the left, in the trades union movement and in working class community campaigns.
Proposed by Dave Landau
The resolution was passed unanimously with the proviso that the "No Platform" position be deferred until further discussion by the NEC
ELECTION OF THE SA NEC
The following were nominated and elected unapposed; Gerry Byrne; Dave Landau; Pete McLaren; Toby Abse; Jean Kysow; Liz Peck
Pete McLaren, SA National Secretary 25/10/09
Report of the SA AGM Sat Oct 10 2009