For an "unofficial" Socialist Alliance paper
Joint leaflet by the AWL and the CPGB to the Socialist Alliance "independents'" conference, 19 January 2002
We welcome today's conference of Socialist Alliance independents and wish it well in its work.
Your meeting comes at a crucial time for the SA. Important challenges loom. The local elections in May of this year, beyond them the European elections in a few years time. These 'external' challenges to the SA are important tests of the resolve of the left to help the workers' movement rouse itself to assert independent working-class politics against Blair's new Labour.
However, in many ways the most important challenge the SA faces is an 'internal' one. Will it move forward from being a 'stop/start' campaign turned on and off at time of elections to being a more serious working class organisation with roots and an ongoing presence? Despite the allegations of the departing Socialist Party, the SA has the potential to be far more than just the electoral 'front' of the Socialist Workers Party. But that requires a bold move.
The SA needs a regular political newspaper. It need this because it has to have a political life of its own. It has to be able to collectively think and to engage in a dialogue with the working class.
We are calling for a paper for the SA to be launched in the near future. Our alliance needs a collective agitator, organiser and educator, both for itself and for wider layers in the workers' movement we are trying to initiate a dialogue with and influence. Such a paper should:
A majority of non-SWP members at the December 1 conference voted for the idea of an SA paper. The conference decision went against an official SA paper. But our constitution guarantees the right to contribute to and distribute publications. An unofficial SA paper is entirely legitimate in terms of the conference decisions.
We want to bring together SA supporters and groups who see the need for a paper in order to create one. It would not be an official SA publication, but it would be one that builds the Alliance in an open and honest way. It would not "dumb down" or evade controversy - it would guarantee all currents of opinion involved the right to have their say - but it would be a paper primarily oriented to working-class concerns and battles, to the labour movement, and to other struggles of the oppressed, a paper which could be sold at workplaces, in trade-union branches, on the streets and door-to-door, rather than one focused on internal disputation in the SA.
We are calling for the pro-paper trend within the SA to cooperate together in an open and transparent way to produce a publication that will initially be a paper of the alliance, even if it cannot yet be the paper of the alliance
Activists in the ranks of the SA have to be able to communicate horizontally, to make the SA an 'organic' political body capable of learning lessons and applying them. The current slapdash arrangements of SA email lists and the occasional bulletin are not up to the task.
More: we want to put the SA at the heart of all of the major debates and developments in the workers' movement. A paper is simply indispensable for this.
The Communist Party and the Alliance for Workers Liberty would commit major resources to ensure that such a project survived and thrived. Already, the January 12 aggregate of CPGB members resolved that the organisation would close its Weekly Worker paper to build a militant, democratic and partisan paper of the Socialist Alliance.
We are seeking discussions with other pro-paper forces on the way forward - perhaps in the form of a conference in the near future. How do we move a SA paper off the drawing board and onto the streets? What sort of picture of it do we have on the drawing board to start with? We recognise that many details need to be sorted out before the general idea can become precise reality. The devil, as often, is in the detail. We know that without discussion and agreement on a common conception, this paper cannot happen.
But we need that discussion. SA independents need a paper. The organised groups - despite their conservatism - need it. More importantly, socialist politics needs it. We urge comrades at today's conference to open discussion with us around this key task facing us.
Communist Party of Great Britain
Alliance for Workers Liberty