The motion passed by the final conference of the Socialist Alliance on 5th February 2005 decided that all the funds would be disposed of and the bank account closed before 31st March 2005, and decided that the funds would be split equally before 28th February between the following organisations: Alliance for Workers Liberty, Communist Party of Great Britain, International Socialist Group, Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform, Socialist Solidarity Network, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Unity Network.
It may come as a surprise therefore that the bank account was still open in January 2007 and had around £2500 in it. What is more, rather than dispose of these funds according to the democratic decision of the members there has been apparent agreement between former officers of the SA to thwart the decision of the members and pay these funds instead to the low profile organisation, the Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers.
This is a difficult issue to deal with, but I feel it is in the interests of the left for there to be a public discussion of how the Socialist Allaince was administered and closed, as it has a bearing on the political practices of some of the left organisations involved, and we need to understand this context for future left regroupment projects to prosper. I will return to this history in later posts on this blog.
E-mail correspondence started in January this year between comrades Rob Hoverman, (the national Secretary), Heather Cox (the treasurer), another comrade who was not an office holder at the time the closure motion was passed, and Jim Jepps, a member of the national executive.
All the comrades except Jim Jepps agreed to pay the money to CDAS, at the suggestion of the comrade who was not an office holder, and not on the national executive. Jim pointed out that this decision was contrary to the legally binding decision of conference, and absolutely properly forwarded the correspondence to other members of the national executive. Both Rob and the non-office holding comrade responded to Jim’s argument (that there was a legal and moral obligation to respect the decision of the members) with terse one line e-mails saying they still thought the money should be paid to CDAS.
I then wrote to all the comrades involved in this exchange, in the following terms (these are extracts from a longer mail):
Constitutionally there is only one LAWFUL outcome, which is to dispense the remaining monies as decided by the Emergency General meeting which closed down the SA. Which is to split it between the left groups named in the closing motion.
There is no lawful basis for even 20p going to CDAS - however worthy that cause might be. This was not agreed at the EGM, and therefore any subsequent decision by exec members was and is ultra vires. I have no recollection of any decision being made to pay anything to CDAS -( indeed I have never heard of the organisation)
It is not at alll clear whether an e-mail consultation involving even the full exec may be considered a meeting of the exec competent to take decision within the constitution.
An ad hoc exchange between only a few members certainly has no constitutional standing within the SA.
Let us be clear, that we are only in this mess becasue the national chair and secretary of the SA failed to carry out the express mandate of the closing EGM, which decided specifically that there would be an immediate meeting of the exec convened (which Nick [the chair] never organised), and that the closing balances would be dispersed and the account colsed within one month of the final EGM. (responsibility for which lay with the national secretary)
Had the bank account been closed within weeks as originally intended then no substantial sum of monies would have accrued. Having failed to close the account (for over two years!) in knowledge that substantial standing orders would continue to be paid into it, then if a decision is made to pay those monies to anyone other than the lawful owners as decided by the EGM, [this would be wrong]
As such, I would recommend that of you want to pay the monies to CDAS, then you first seek independant professional legal opinion as to the standing of that decision, and share that opinion with alll the exec members, including those not on e-mail. As we would be collectively responsible.
I may of course be wrong about the legality of a decision to pay the money to CDAS - which is why i recommend we take legal advice before embarking on that course of action.
Alternatively, why not split the monies as we are legally obliged to, and issue a recommendation that monies could be paid to CDAS.
Although I sent this e-mail to the correct e-mail addresses, that Rob and Heather had been using, neither of them have had the courtesy to reply, and we currently have no idea whether the funds have been disposed of improperly.
It is because the office holders apparently consider themselves unaccountable to the national executive, and apparently not willing to honour the decision of the membership, that I feel I have no alternative other than to make this issue public. I have the support of several other former members of the SA national executive in taking this course of action.
I trust that the office holders will now respond to me and other members of the former national executive accounting for what has happened to the monies and confirming that the decision of the membership will be honoured.
The exact words of the motion passed by conference were (extract only):
The Socialist Alliance's remaining funds should be used to pay off debts and the bank account closed. Any remaining funds should be distributed between supporting organisations of the Socialist Alliance. This is a reflection that there is no consensus over which "organisation or organisations [have] aims consistent with those of the Socialist Alliance." Distributing the funds between the supporting organisations of the Socialist Alliance will allow the assets to be disposed of broadly proportionate to the views of the Socialist Alliance membership.The supporting organisations of the Socialist Alliance are: Alliance for Workers Liberty, Communist Party of Great Britain, International Socialist Group, Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform, Socialist Solidarity Network, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Unity Network. Any remaining funds should be distributed equally between these seven organisations. This conference notes that the share of the funds for any organisation who supports Respect the Unity Coalition may at the discretion of that organisation be paid directly to Respect instead.The Socialist Alliance national executive elected at annual conference in 2003 will continue in office until the debts are paid off and remaining funds distributed, which must take place no later that 28th February 2005, at which point the Socialist Alliance ceases to exist. The national executive should meet immediately after this conference closes to elect a sub-committee to carry out the winding up of the Socialist Alliance.A final treasurer's report will be prepared, audited and published on the web-site www.socialistalliance.org. This will be posted no later than 31st March 2005. A printed version will be available to any member or former member who requests one before that date by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.