CHALLENGING New Labour in 2002 was the theme of the first meeting of the new Socialist Alliance national executive, which took place in the run-up to Christmas.
Agreement was reached after a constructive discussion and sometimes robust debate, but with nearly all decisions being made through building a consensus. The 16 March Socialist Alliance trade union conference on democratising trade union political funds was a major item.
Matt Wrack, mover of the successful democratisation of the political fund resolution at the firefighters' FBU conference last year, has agreed to write a pamphlet on the issue for the alliance. Members will also be receiving a model resolution calling on union branches to support the conference and send delegates.
The importance of the conference cannot be overstated for the alliance. New Labour's trade union bureaucrats have sensed the real political danger this initiative represents and will try to block the conference every step of the way.
A growing number of trade union activists are questioning why funds are being given to underwrite New Labour's rolling privatisation programme. The May 2002 local elections also present an opportunity to develop and strengthen local Socialist Alliance groups, and to raise the national profile of the alliance.
Our campaign will be based on the 'People before profit' general election manifesto, and will be discussed at a national council meeting on 16 February to which all local alliances can send a delegate. Local alliances should discuss where and who they want to stand at members' meetings early in the new year.
In the general election we stood as many candidates as possible, in part to ensure an election broadcast. In May there is little doubt that a focus on a key ward or wards will be better.
The January national executive will debate the alliance's precise electoral attitude towards other left groups and independents that stand. However, it was agreed that, where possible, local agreements should be reached to avoid clashes.
This approach was clearly meant to include the Socialist Party, whose departure from the alliance was regretted by every member of the executive. Finally, it was agreed that local membership drives for the alliance should begin in January.
As agreed at the December conference, fees are £24 waged and £6 unwaged, split half and half between the national organisation and local groups. All memberships fall due on 1 January 2002.