Battle yet to get new Socialist Alliance; possible "son-of-No2EU" coalition

Submitted by AWL on 13 June, 2009 - 7:42 Author: Martin Thomas
Socialist Alliance

The "No2EU" coalition may be continued into a new coalition at the General Election. But it looks as if we still have a big battle on our hands to pull the socialist left into a new Socialist Alliance.

The Left Unity Liaison Committee, which has existed in a low-key way for some time, met on 13 June. Although the SWP's "Left Alternative" has been represented at some meetings in the past, and the organisers had made special efforts to get the SWP along this time, the SWP did not come.

The meeting was valuable for information and discussion on what the left groups involved in "No2EU" make of their 4 June results, and their perspectives now.

Pete McLaren, an organiser of the small group which still keeps the name Socialist Alliance going, introduced by giving an upbeat report on the 4 June results.

Speaking from AWL, I dissented. One per cent is not a good election score. And it is all the worse because the "No2EU" enterprise was based on its participants shelving any socialist or working-class political profile in favour of (so they hoped) gathering broader support with a narrower anti-EU appeal.

Clive Heemskerk from the Socialist Party noticeably did not question that the score was poor. He attributed it to two factors. One was the improvised nature of "No2EU", its lack of a profile built up over a long time. The main reason, though, he thought, was the "low level of organisation and consciousness in the working class" (for example, he said, the PCS union simply can't get any number of members to its political "Make Your Vote Count" meetings). "The No2EU results reflect the reality".

"No2EU", he said, was "significant primarily because of the participation of the RMT leadership group". Citing the participation of Visteon convenor Kevin Nolan, Lindsey shop steward Keith Gibson, and Linamar convenor Rob Williams, he claimed that "No2EU" had "coalesced around it the best trade union militants in Britain today".

Clive Heemskerk dismissed the SWP's recent appeal for a "united socialist alternative" as "a political stunt", "not a serious appeal for unity at all". The SP has been trying to get talks with the SWP for some time, but been fobbed off; now the SWP appeals to the world in general for "unity". The SP will write "a political reply" - meaning, I think, a polemical one.

Although "No2EU" was explicitly billed in advance as a one-off coalition, to be dissolved after 4 June, the "No2EU" groups - the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star), the RMT leadership (around Bob Crow, who is close to the CPB), the SP, and the Alliance for Green Socialism - have agreed to meet once again, to discuss next steps, before the RMT conference opens on 28 June.

Responding to AWL's call for a new Socialist Alliance, Clive Heemskerk said that he did not think a Socialist Alliance was the way forward. "If the coalition that came together around No2EU can be broadened out - though it's not certain it can - that's better".

Surely the revolutionary socialist left would be in a better "bargaining position" with the RMT leadership if we were united in a Socialist Alliance? Even apart from that, wouldn't it help us to unite locally in local socialist alliances?

For the present, however, the SP doesn't want to have to go to talks with the RMT leadership arm-in-arm with the SWP, doesn't think the SWP is remotely interested in unity anyway, and is keeping the loose electoral coalition it has with AWL and the Alliance for Green Socialism, the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, pretty much on the back-burner.

The SP will go to the meeting with the CPB, RMT leaders, and AGS with a proposal for an electoral coalition - not a party, but a coalition tight enough to have a common electoral description that all its candidates stand under (as "No2EU" had). The SP wants "socialist" or "workers'" in the electoral description, but is not sure it can get that. The SP has not yet worked out its proposals for a political platform for the coalition, but will do.

In the best case that the SP is able to give a fairly clear socialist and working-class character to the coalition, it may indeed be of interest. But the CPB and Bob Crow will have their own ideas. They allowed the SP virtually no input into the platform of "No2EU". CPB general secretary Robert Griffiths wrote in the Morning Star (13 June) that: "the [CPB's] People's Charter needs to be built... This is the best basis on which socialist and trade union organisations can discuss the potential for developing a broad alliance which could also have a realistic, unifying and non-sectarian approach to electoral policy".

AWL's view is that the People's Charter is no substitute for a class-struggle workers' plan. At the LULC meeting Clive Heemskerk said: "I suspect the People's Charter may turn out to be the core. Our opinion is that it's inadequate, but it could turn out to be a real basis..."

Some union officials in Scotland (including from the RMT) are discussing a project whereby they would use the People's Charter as a "measuring-rod" to identify "left" candidates across Scotland, and if possible "select" one "left" candidate in each constituency - maybe SNP, maybe Labour, maybe SSP, maybe Solidarity (Sheridan), perhaps some Greens.

Clive Heemskerk said: "The Scottish approach could turn out to be the approach nationally" - i.e. a coalition which endorses candidates from different parties, rather than standing candidates under its own name. "It is almost a retreat to Lib-Labism, but still it could be a step forward".

Will any other unions besides RMT be involved in the "daughter-of-No2EU" project, if it comes off? It is not clear yet. Clive Heemskerk said that the Prison Officers' Association and the FBU had shown some initial interest in "No2EU", but recoiled because they disagreed with what it said about the EU. No other unions than the RMT are due to be invited to the meeting scheduled for before 28 June.

The Labour Representation Committee sent a message to the LULC meeting, in the name of Andrew Fisher. It appealed (rightly) for support from any left electoral lash-up for left Labour MPs like John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. Oddly, also for leftish Green candidates like Caroline Lucas. (Proposals from AWL to the 2008 and 2007 LRC conferences for the LRC to broaden out into a Workers' Representation Movement which will back local labour-movement bodies like Trades Councils in standing working-class socialist candidates even if they weren't Labour were voted down by a majority on the grounds that we must stick by Labour Party discipline. Backing working-class socialist non-Labour candidates is out, but backing Greens is OK?)

Andy Hewitt was at the LULC meeting representing Green Left, a group within the Green Party. Clive Heemskerk recalled the SP's appeals to the Greens to discuss clash-avoidance agreements in elections, appeals which have always been rebuffed. Andy Hewitt expressed sympathy, but said that the Green Left is currently pushing within the Green Party for it to stand down at the general election in favour of George Galloway in East London.

He also reported that the London Green Party has endorsed the People's Charter.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.