By Martin Thomas
What is the "new coalition"? The Socialist Alliance conference on 10 May voted for a motion to "relaunch" the Alliance "as part of a coalition of broader left-wing forces".
The first meeting of the new Alliance executive, on 7 June, should have made it clearer whom the "new coalition" might include, and on what political platform. Unfortunately it did not.
The exec had a letter from Birmingham Socialist Alliance which asked for some accounting on a rumoured bloc there - to run Salma Yacoub, a prominent Muslim activist, as a "Peace and Justice" candidate for the West Midlands region in the 2004 euro-election, possibly with officials of Birmingham Central Mosque involved - and a resolution from Coventry Socialist Alliance condemning this bloc as a "popular front" move.
But leading members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP, the dominant force in the Alliance) refused to go further than to confirm that discussions on such a bloc are underway, at a tentative stage. At the 10 May Alliance conference John Rees of the SWP said that he would be discussing with the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star) about a bloc for the euro-elections. Requests for further information on that got the reply that the talks are "confidential", and Rees is talking on behalf of the SWP, not the Alliance.
The executive set up a "task force" to oversee talks for the "new coalition", but it is heavily dominated by the SWP and close allies. Its members are Rob Hoveman, Lesley Mahmood, Will McMahon, Cecilia Prosper, John Rees and Nick Wrack.
The SWP and its allies insisted that the new coalition would be "socialist". But does that mean much, politically? Over one hundred and fifty years ago, Karl Marx felt the need to conclude his Communist Manifesto with sections marking off his working-class socialism from "reactionary socialism", "conservative or bourgeois socialism" and "utopian socialism".
Use and abuse of the word "socialism" over the years since then by despots, dictators and demagogues has made clarity and demarcation even more necessary. The Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru call themselves socialist. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has allied with a group called the "Socialist Labour Party" - whose main campaign was for the imposition of sharia law.
Saddam Hussein's regime called itself "socialist", and no doubt George Galloway would call himself "socialist", too, though he stresses that he has never been a member of the left faction among Labour MPs, the Campaign Group.
Even if called "socialist", the new coalition looks like being a pink-green bloc with no clear working-class identification.
To go into such a "broad" bloc means narrowing the Alliance. The new exec - much larger than the previous one, and with a much higher proportion of SWPers - started to do that.
Steve Godward (unaffiliated) was removed as a vice-chair of the Alliance after Rob Hoveman of the SWP argued that Steve had "a minority view" within the exec.
Proposals from John Fisher (unaffiliated, usually close to SWP) and Lesley Mahmood (sympathetic to SSP) which would have kept Steve on were voted down.
Nick Wrack (close to SWP) is now chair; Lesley Mahmood and Cecilia Prosper (SWP) are vice-chairs; Rob Hoveman is secretary; John Rees and Will McMahon (close to SWP) are press officers.
Rob Hoveman also proposed that Marcus Strom (CPGB/WW) be removed from the largely technical post of nominating officer on the grounds of "minority views", but John Fisher succeeded in defeating that proposal. Some SWPers did not vote with Hoveman on it.
The next Alliance National Council is on 19 July.
- Thanks to Steve Godward and Marcus Strom for information for this report. Because of multiple clashes with other meetings, no AWL representative attended the exec.
- For more on organising for working-class politics against the new turn by the Alliance, see www.independentsocialistalliance.net