REPORT OF THE SA AGM SUN NOV 21 Lucas Arms
CONFIRMATION OF AGENDA – The agenda was confirmed as circulated.
Steve Freeman complained that his late resolution had not been circulated.
APOLOGIES – Terry Liddle; Patrick Black; Liz Peck
MINUTES OF SA AGM OCT 2 2009 – Agreed as correct
Pete McLaren spoke to his previously circulated Report. He mentioned the priorities set for the SA by the last AGM and then described the extent to which they had been implemented. There had been a Left Electoral Coalition for the General Election with a "class based electoral title" – TUSC. We had continued our work to promote socialist unity both inside and outside post-No2EU developments
o In the LULC
- Within the CNWP
- In the Convention of the Left, if and when, that is possible
- And within any other unity projects and progressive movements/campaigns
He argued that there has been some, uneven, progress towards meeting those goals. The LULC had continued to try and encourage greater unity and co-operation across the Left, and had been meeting much more regularly – 6 times in the last 12 months. It played a useful role during TUSC's General Election campaign. However, attendance at meeting had generally waned, and he argued we needed to put more work into it
The CNWP had continued to move forward at a fairly slow pace. We continued to push it towards having a greater commitment to being an actual Workers' Party rather than a campaign for one. We gained the unanimous support of a recent CNWP Steering Committee for the CNWP to establish the prototype of a new Left Party before the end of 2011 at the latest.
There had indeed been a Left Coalition for the General Election with a “class based electoral title” as we had hoped. SA members got involved at a local level in the Election campaign. However, it had not proved possible for smaller supporting organizations like the SA to become part of TUSC as of yet, and clearly TUSC is not at present open, inclusive or democratic. It is a Coalition, not a new Party, although it does have the potential to build one, he suggested.
The Socialist Alliance had been a key player in the national meeting of left/progressive community/local parties and national left organizations which was held in Rugby in July. In the event, the meeting was attended by 13 different left/community organizations, and a further 8 sent positive apologies. After hearing reports from each area/group present, it was agreed to set up a Network with the interim title 'People before Profit Network' However, he expressed concern it had not held any further meetings since July, and argued the SA would need to be more pro-active in helping to move this project forward.
In conclusion, he argued that overall 2010 had so far been a year of reasonable progress in terms of our agreed priorities, and very gradual progress towards the formation of a new workers' party. In many ways we continued to punch above our weight, given our very small active membership at national level. And in many respects our resources are severely stretched.
Yet, despite these limited resources, we continued to have an influence, he suggested. We had influence largely because of our background and tradition, and in particular our commitment to socialist unity as part of the process in building a new Left Party. To that extent our position is unique, he argued, and this in itself is a good enough reason to continue along much the same lines as long as our aims remained realistic and achievable. He accepted that in many ways we were marking time, waiting for wider forces to agree the need for a new left formation or party, whilst at the same time 'doing our bit' to speed up that process.
He went on to suggest we had a further role in trying to persuade the different national anti cuts bodies to work together. At present, there were a number of organizations vying for the co-coordinating role, including the Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work and the Shop Stewards Network.
He ended his report suggesting we would have to remain patient. The drip, drip effect of our call for One Party of the Left, based solidly within the working class, would resonate if we continued promoting it and acting upon it. We do have something different to say, and we must continue to work to make people listen. We can not expect to have more than a gradual influence on events given our size.
Discussion followed on the Report. Points raised included the following;
- The report included a statement about why TUSC had not backed Steve Freeman's General election candidature in Bermondsey which was based on hearsay
- The secretary's report should not be used to comment on amendments or resolutions, however briefly
- The statement on Bermondsey was not based on hearsay; it was as reported to the SA secretary at the time and immediately passed on to both SA Chairs
- The Secretary's report was his view of events and was inevitably subjective
Regarding the reported statement on Bermondsey, Gerry Byrne moved that the AGM distanced itself from that sentence at the end of the first paragraph under 'TUSC' as quoted in the Report, and this was agreed by 5 votes to 1.
Steve Freeman moved that the Secretary had overstepped his mark in singling out his amendment for comment in the Report. This was defeated by 2 votes to 1 with 3 abstentions.
b) Chair External
Steve Freeman reported that the Republican Socialist Convention, which the SA had sponsored, had been a positive meeting with 20 present. He explained that republican socialism addresses social conditions and the class struggle, and comes from below – the Levellers, Diggers and Chartists were good examples. These movements were eclipsed by the rise of Labourism and Stalinism. The conditions were ripe for republican socialism today with the questions of popular democracy and nationalisation of the banks, he argued. The problem was that the left was Labourist or Trotskyist. With the crisis of capitalism, republican socialism was more relevant than ever, he concluded.
c) Chair Internal
Gerry Byrne expressed a sense of outrage that the wealthy were 22% better off despite the crisis affecting everyone else. The Welfare State was being dismantled – yet the left was split and had experienced abysmal General election results. She was concerned about what she saw as a diminishing influence of the SA. A fightback was developing, but it lacked leadership. The Rugby initiative had been positive, but it had gone nowhere
Points made in the discussion included the following:
- Socialist Resistance has left Respect – they are part of TUSC and we should talk to them
- Green Party councillors have voted for cuts packages, including Damien Johnson
- We should not be too pessimistic – there have been moves to the right throughout Europe
- The left is not acting particularly well to what is coming out of the struggle
- The SA needs to be there because the established left will try and party build out of the anti cuts movement whereas we can promote unity
d) Treasurer – FINANCE REPORT
Pete McLaren reported a balance of £125.58. Less had been spent this year on printing and room hire, but there would be further expenditure on travel to the LULC, printing and room hire. He appealed once again for a Treasurer to be elected to help raise finances and undertake the bureaucracy. The Finance Report was accepted
MEMBERSHIP AND AFFILIATION FEES
a) Membership Fee – at present it is £30/8 pa
b) Affiliation Fee - at present it is £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.
It was agreed that both fees remain the same for 2011
AGM POLICY MOTIONS AND AMENDMENTS
RESOLUTION ONE ON THE WAY FORWARD Moved by Pete McLaren
Pete McLaren moved his resolution on the way forward. He outlined how the SA had implemented the tasks set by the last AGM, as itemised in the Secretary's report. He went on to outline developments since our last AGM – the emergence of TUSC; the LULC meeting more regularly but with varying attendance; the CNWP which had not been very active but there had been an Open Steering Committee meeting which had agreed to support the SA call to establish the prototype of new Left Party by December 2011. He then outlined the actions being suggested to move the SA forward, which included continuing to coordinate the LULC and seeking more regular participation in it; putting work into the PbP Network; continue building the CNWP into that Party and make it a priority that the CNWP does establish the outline structure of a new Party, with a constitution, by end of 2011; pushing for a date for a Founding Conference for that Party as agreed in principle; continuing to work to open up and democratise TUSC arguing for automatic affiliation; encouraging members to attend TUSC Conferences and supporting SA members who want to stand as TUSC as far as we can; attempting to persuade the various national anti cuts Coordinating Bodies to work together/merge. He concluded by suggesting that the main priority was to build on recent developments; seek greater left/green left cooperation and take as far as possible forward our campaign for One party of the Left based solidly within the working class
The amendment moved by Dave Landau was accepted by the mover.
Steve Freeman moved the following amendment:
“We recognise the (delete steady) progress made by the Socialist Alliance in the last year towards implementing the tasks it was set by the 2009 AGM in terms of promoting socialist unity and (delete turning and add “pressing” the CNWP (delete into and add “to become”) a more effective campaign.
[Delete the rest of the resolution and substitute]
The SA recognises the major impact the 2008 US-UK banking crisis, spreading across the world, has had on British politics. Whilst reinvigorating the case for socialism the crisis has triggered a major capitalist offensive against the international working class (for example in Greece and Ireland). In the UK it led to the election of the reactionary Con-Lib coalition government. This AGM believes:
• That the Con-Lib coalition's cuts are the most savage attack on our class in living memory;
• That there will necessarily be a fight-back, but we do not know the exact form it will take;
• That the left continues to be tiny, fragmented, disunited, and therefore in a very poor position for
any battle with this government and its international class allies.
The most important and immediate issue for the working class and working class activists is the need to form a working class party. The government attacks will inevitably generate protest movements to defend existing services, provisions and entitlements. These must be supported by all socialists. However socialists must conduct their own independent campaign for democracy, or popular sovereignty, and the public ownership of the banks and other services. A republican socialist party is indispensable as the means of organising a political-ideological counter-attack against the government.
The SA supported the initiatives around the CfNWP and TUSC. The election of the Con-Lib government has shown that these initiatives are a completely inadequate. The CfNWP is neither a party nor a substitute for one. At the 2010 election TUSC acted like a new party but failed to support radical democratic reform on the basis of popular sovereignty and parliamentary reform. If the SA continues to follow these initiatives it will be seen as both complacent and irrelevant to the needs of militant working class.
Whilst recognising our limited resources and membership, the SA resolves to take all practical and ideological steps, both locally and nationally, to campaign for and build a republican socialist party rooted in the anti-cuts movement which fights the government in the next round of elections. This perspective is consistent with the SA constitution and will inform our continued work with the CfNWP, TUSC, Left Unity Liaison, the Republican Socialist Convention and the People Before Profit Network. “
He stressed the last paragraph, arguing the NEC could work out the detail later. The SA was so small and it needed to change direction. The SA had hit the buffers and was not going anywhere. We had to face the fact the world had changed and adopt a new perspective or continue as it now and effectively cease to exist.
Gerry Byrne moved her resolution. She was not pessimistic about the struggle ahead, but was concerned the left remained dis-united. We needed a new workers' party. We need a political response to give coherence to the fight but our own voice is not strong enough. A Republican Socialist Party is not the solution. The SA should promote a socialist response to the crisis.
Pete McLaren spoke against the amendment moved by Steve Freeman. He explained that he had always argued that all socialists were automatically republican, and that the SA stood for socialist unity based on socialism, environmentalism, democracy and republicanism, internationalism, and being opposed to racism, fascism and all forms of specific oppression, giving them all equal weighting as spelt out at the NEC in May 2006.
The amendment was arguing that a Republican Socialist Party was indispensable to any defence of our services despite that not being our policy or a position that would resonate anywhere. The amendment left many questions unanswered:
- How has the 'election of the Con-Dem Govt shown that the CNWP and TUSC “are completely inadequate”?
- How is TUSC irrelevant to the needs of the militant working class?
- How is a campaign for a new workers' party irrelevant to the needs of the militant working class?
- How can the six active members of the SA nationally build a new Party? Can we tell our two or three local alliances to do likewise??
He then described what the amendment, if passed, would remove from the original resolution – the need for left unity, and to link this with need for new Left Party – our unique position. It would leave out the specific/realistic tasks included in the Resolution. The amendment was muddled and contradictory. Republicanism, as presented as the be all and end all, is not immediately relevant to working class struggle in England today and we can include a firm commitment to it without becoming a Republican Socialist Party (RSP).
The following points were amongst those made in the discussion of the resolutions and amendments:
- Both resolutions are complimentary and Motion 2 moves us forward
- The cuts may give the ruling class an opportunity to divide the working class
- Republicanism and democracy are important alongside our other socialist principles
- Is the Republican Socialist Party about a different way of running things, or is it a new idea to try and act as a bridge between reformism and revolution?
- We need to continue what we have been doing and move outwards as well
- People in their localities would not support republicanism
- We should all work locally and link that to a Party perspective
- We can not just announce a Republican Socialist Party, but we need to find ways of bringing it to fruition by raising the question of democracy
- The additional paragraph in Dave Landau's amendment promotes republican socialism without flying the flag of the RSP
Steve Freeman summed up for his amendment. Gerry Byrne announced she would abstain on the Resolution because it was too much 'business as usual' and over indulged the CNWP. She would also abstain on the amendment because of its final paragraph.
Votes were taken. The amendment to Resolution One from Steve Freeman, as above, was defeated by 4 votes to 1 with 1 amendment. The substantive Resolution, including the amendment in the name of Dave Landau and accepted by the mover, was agreed by 4 votes to 1 with 1 abstention. Resolution Two, including the amendment in the name of Dave Landau and accepted by the mover, was agreed unanimously. The resolutions, as agreed, are as follows:
RESOLUTION ON THE WAY FORWARD (as amended) Moved by Pete McLaren
We recognise the steady progress made by the Socialist Alliance in the last year towards implementing the tasks it was set by the 2009 AGM in terms of promoting socialist unity and turning the CNWP into a more effective campaign.
The 2009 AGM noted that there had been developments post No2EU which could lead to further progress towards our goal of a new left party, including discussing the formation of a Left Electoral Coalition for the General Election with a "class based electoral title"
It was hoped there would be agreement on a number of key demands/policy points, and that other supportative organisations, like the SA, would be invited to join the discussions
We accepted we may need to be patient whilst organizations, especially the RMT, consult their members before declaring public support.
We also noted the encouraging calls for left unity being made by a number of leading trade unionists and socialist organizations.
We also agreed to campaign for the Coalition which emerges to be open, inclusive, and fully democratic and 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
At the same time, we agreed to continue our 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. We confirmed our view about the need for a timescale for forming a new workers' party, out of the campaign for one, and for this 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 confirmed that our main goal was 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
Developments since our last AGM have been as follows:
- Whilst there was a Left Coalition for the General Election with a “class based electoral title” and a limited socialist programme – the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – it has not proved possible for smaller supporting organizations like the SA to become part of TUSC, and TUSC is not at present open, inclusive or democratic
- The LULC has met more regularly, six times in the last twelve months, and although participation has varied, the LULC became a particularly effective body during the General Election, becoming a type of 'shadow steering committee' for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – a forum for discussion which could be fed back into the TUSC discussions.
- The CNWP has not been particularly active, especially whilst TUSC was being built, but an extended Steering Committee meeting in September unanimously supported the SA call for the CNWP to establish the prototype of a new Left Party before the end of 2011 at the latest. This process will include a specific session at the CNWP 2011 conference in March which will consider an outline draft constitution for consideration by a future founding conference.
- The CoL has only met once, and has put itself on the back burner
As a result of this uneven progress, and in recognition of our own resources, the SA needs to be realistic about its goals. It is vitally important that we continue to promote the need for left unity, and link this to the need for a new Left Party based solidly within the working class.
This is a clear message to promote. As the Socialist Alliance, we are one organization – maybe the only one because of our history and tradition – that could do that.
Specifically we will do this by
- Continuing to co-ordinate the Left Unity Liaison Committee (LULC) which we set up two and a half years ago. Fifteen left/green left organisations have attended LULC meetings including all the main players apart from the SWP – and we will continue working on that, whilst seeking to persuade all left organizations of the need to participate in it on a more regular basis
- Putting further work into the initiative launched this year to set up a national network for progressive, local/community and socialist parties – the People before Profit Network. The Socialist Alliance was the main organisational driving force behind this attempt to link together the various rather isolated local political parties with each other and national left organisations. We will ensure a follow up meeting is held in the near future, and we will aim to make that body effective.
- Continue our commitment to building the Campaign for a New Workers' Party into that Party. In the past, our proposals made to the CNWP, including the move for a membership based campaign, moves to a pro-party alliance or pre-party formation, and to begin work to determine the structure and rules for such a party, were accepted
- Having gained the unanimous support of a recent CNWP Extended Steering Committee for the CNWP to establish the prototype of a new Left Party before the end of 2011 at the latest, with a federal constitution including affiliation, individual membership and clear democratic structures, we agree to ensure the necessary discussions take place, and we will make it a priority that we will have an outline of a new Left Party by the end of 2011
- We will push for a date for a founding Conference of such a new Left Party. However, we recognise that a new party cannot be launched through the CNWP so long as there is only one substantial force in it – the Socialist Party – and the CNWP is seen as a creature of the Socialist Party. Comrades in the Socialist Party themselves recognise this problem leading them to a degree of caution about moving the CNWP to its next stage.
- We will continue to work on making TUSC a more open, democratic and representative body, arguing for the affiliation of all supportive organizations to it. We will encourage members to attend the TUSC Conference for possible anti cuts candidates, and support SA members who wish to stand as such candidates to whatever extent is practically feasible
- We will attempt to persuade the various national anti cuts bodies to work closely together with the longer term aim of merging into one organization – this would include the NSSN, Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work, Youth Fight for Jobs
The SA agrees that its main priority in the year ahead is to build on recent developments including those outlined above, and to actively seek greater positive cooperation within the left and green left; and to take as far forward as possible a campaign for One Party for the Left (i.e. the socialist movement) based solidly within the working class – with the intention that such a party would have support from trade unions, tenants groups, anti cuts groups, women, youth, black groups, anti-war protesters and environmentalists.
RESOLUTION TWO FROM GERRY BYRNE (as amended)
This AGM believes:
- That the ConDem coalition's cuts are the most savage attack on our class in living memory;
- That there will necessarily be a fight-back, but we do not know the exact form it will take;
- That the left continues to be tiny, fragmented, disunited, and therefore in a very poor position for any battle with this government and its international class allies.
- That the ConDem's talk of the "Big Society" is primarily an attempt to make these cuts appear more palatable by wrapping them in a package claiming to empower communities and giving people greater control over their lives. In as much as this claim has any reality at all, it will be largely to increase the influence of the middle classes on services at the expense of the working class.
We further believe that the Socialist Alliance, while small, represents an important beacon of socialist unity.
We resolve therefore to continue our efforts to encourage unity, at every level, in the fight-back against this and any other anti-working class government's attacks.
We will continue to make the case for a unified, principled, socialist response, against sectarian and top-down moves by any group to claim to be the 'leadership' or sole voice of the movement.
We will support all bona fide campaigns that are in general agreement with our aims, and fight for them to co-ordinate and unite against a common enemy.
We will argue in these campaigns and across the left that it is important not to leave the questions of democracy and control to the ConDem's "Big Society" society, but on the contrary, to take the opportunity to go beyond a distorted statist vision of socialism to a vision based on the self-emancipation of the working class and develop concrete demands around increasing working class community control of the social, economic and physical environment.
ELECTION OF THE SA NEC
The following members were nominated and elected unopposed: Gerry Byrne; Pete McLaren; Toby Abse; Dave Landau; Liz Peck
Ron Lynn suggested we promote ourselves more and spread outwards. As a result it was agreed that we would leaflet the following Saturday's Coalition of Resistance Conference – Pete McLaren to draft the leaflet, circulate for comment, and then send to Dave Landau for printing and distribution
Pete McLaren, SA National Secretary 26/01/11
Report of the SA AGM November 2010