Friday, March 09, 2007

Socialist Alliance - where is the money?

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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]

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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.

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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 socialistalliance2000@yahoo.co.uk.

25 comments:

Snowball said...

This is the one question that has really been bothering me ever since 2005. Forget the countless dead in Iraq, what ever happened to that tenner I paid in membership fees to the Socialist Alliance back in 2003?

I mean - the low-profile Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers, I ask you? Never heard of them. They sound distinctly dodgy don't they? Who the hell are those guys? What is their real agenda, huh?

I would far rather that, if there was anything left of my tenner in the kitty, it was split seven ways between the organisations you mention. Only after I know that a fraction of what is left of my tenner has been safely deposited with such high profile dynamic campaigning organisations as the Socialist Alliance Democracy Platform or the Socialist Solidarity Network - organisations will doubtless will be vitally instrumental to any future regroupment of the Left in the Britain - will I be able to rest in peace. Until then comrades, La Lotta Continua!

Keep up the vital work, comrades. We shall overcome.

Louisefeminista said...

But it is a matter of political principle.

The point is you can't just change your mind from what the original resolution stated (who do the people changing the terms of the resolution represent)?. Utterly undemocratic. I think there has to be a discussion.

I was at that "sureal" final conference taking place in the aptly named Room 101 and I voted for that specific resolution.

The Left, rightly so, criticises the lack of transparency, accountability, democracy and responsibility in various structures in society and in other orgs (LP, for instance).

Therefore we should damn well be practicising what we preach.

AN said...

Snowball, the issue here is not the relatively small amount of money, but rather the failure of officers of the alliance to follow the mandate of the memebrship expressed by a vote at a properly convened generall meeting.

We will never build a viable left alternative unless we build trust, and respect democratic process.

Your dismissal of such concerns as irrelevent is frankly scanadalous, becasue it is based upon the assumption that the judgement of your party, and you as an individual is so self evidently correct that your priorities should be followed even when the democratic process has reached a different decision.

What is more the incompetent way the leading SWP members in the SA acted built up a lot of hostiity and has fed into a more difficult context for Respect.

Incidently, it is easy to mock, but the issue only exists beacsue of the uter failure of SWP member Nick Wrack and Rob Hoverman to act on the decisions of conference and close the bank account. Their failure has led to several comrades continuing to pay standing orders, and we have a fiduciary duty to handle their money in a democratically accountable way.

The fact that you don't think abiding by democratic decsions is importnat totally contradicts the professed belief of the SWP in control from below.

if this is how you run a left organisation thank god you will never run a state.

AN said...

Incidently Snowball

Your mockery of the decision to split the money between 7 organisations conveniently ignores the fact that on the day the SWP voted for it, including very many Central Committe members.

If the SWP felt the monies should be used in some other way then the democratic way of dealing with it would have been to submit an amendment ot the closing motion.

Also as the closing motion only dealt with residual funds, they could have propsed a substantive motion requesting money be paid elsewhere - as was sucessfaully done by the motion which was passed saying that the debt to the walsal democrtic labour party should be discharged with higher priority.

That would have allowed the membership to decide.

Also your argument that we should just be talking about how bad Iraq is and not discussing democracy on the left is also scandallous, because I am active in campaigning against iraq as well - and your implication is that only comrades who never question things realy count.

The way you have responded is frankly dishonourable, becasue you have not had the bottle to actually defend the undemocratic behaviour of Rob Hoverman and Nick Wrack, rather you have said we are somehow incorrect to mention it.

This is excatly the same line of argument used to isolate the comrades who objected to cult of personality and other excesses of Stalin. Can you really not see that?

Mark P said...

How dare you worthless sectarians try to enforce basic standards of labour movement democracy and accountability! Don't you realise that such things don't apply to the SWP?

Louisefeminista said...

Mark, Basic LM democracy and accountability, it just sounds soooo damn reformist as well......Shocking!!

Anonymous said...

I'm actually pretty sure that Lenin and Trotsky had this pragmatic attitude to democracy - dissolve the constituent assembly!

AN said...

I'm not sure if you are being sarcastsic anonymous one, in case you are not -

We could argue about whether or not the constituent assembly had a better democratic mandate than the workers councils, but as we are unlikely to ever swim in that river again, what is the point?

Come to that, I am also sympathetic to comrades like Samora Michel or Fidel Castro who under the external pressure of imperialism had to curtail formal democracy.

Neverthless, these are not the circumstacnes we are talking about.

the fact that democratic institutions may be suspended in some exceptional circumstances does no mean it is justofied in ALL circumstances.

Just as someone might consent to being castrated for a medical emergency at the advice of a qualified doctor, doesnt mean that any sadist in the pub would be justified in cutting their balls off.

AN said...

BTW - it just strck me as an ironic after thought that the last publication from the SA was a apmphlet called, "whose money is it anyway?"

darren redstar said...

the campaign to defend asylum seekers is a swp front just not a very active one since gorgeous george decided that respect policy wouldn't include open borders.
Although there is a certain irony for the SUN to post an article complaining about the untrustworthyness of the swp, after all we all told you enough times when you did the swps dirty work and moved the resolution that closed the SA down
darren red star

AN said...

darren

SUN did not move the motion, it was moved in the name of individual SA memebrs, myself, John Nicholson, Peter Green and Nick Bird.

In truth the SA was already non-viable and al our motion did was give it a decent burial - this was a tactical decsiion, because any moion from the SWP would have been worse.

Tony Greenstein said...

My only problem with this is that the SADP, via the newly formed SA, has received £300 from the final funds of the old SA. I also know that the Walsall District Labour Party received back their £3,000 which Conference deemed they should have.

I assume the other organisations have also received their share, so I suspect that this £2,500 is solely the result of the said standing orders continuing to be paid. Now where should it go? CDAS does not exist as far as I'm aware. There was a branch in Brighton but it closed at least 2 years ago. I suspect the same is true of other regions.

If it exists it is as a shell front of the SWP. So what we may have here is a little corruption. Either way officers have no way to dispose of it other than by an equal division among the groups specified by the last conference.

Or they could at least give it to an organisation like the National Coalition of anti-deportation Campaigns which does exist and is active.

And re the last post, I'm not sure that if someone tries to kill you that you should offer to commit suicide instead.

Tony Greenstein


Tony G

AN said...

Tony

What happened is that the bank account should have been closed back in March 2006, when the seven cheques for £300 each were sent out.

It was not closed and so more standing orders have been paid in since, currently standing at around £2500 I believe.

With reagrd to the £3000 paid to Walsall, this was also a tremendous fight as you may know to get this paid. Not only did the Walsal comrades get the run around of ignored e-mails etc, but it was only eventually paid after several e-mails from myslef to the officers, and finally an open letter signed by a wide raft of former SA national exec members and officers.

rob said...

I thought snowball was quite funny tobe honest.
The cash should of course be divvied up the way the conference decided.
But to be honest it's nothing I'd lose sleep over.
The Socialist Alliance was a tiny and irrelevant failure by that time and I'd be perfectly happy if sectarian islamophobic groups like the AWL and CPGB never saw a penny.

Snowball said...

I was actually being deadly serious rob, deadly serious, and I am greatly encouraged by the news from Tony G that my tenner was safely subdivided out to every socialist group under the sun - and did not go to the sinister CDAS after all.

The issue of what now happens to the money that was then paid by people into the SA account once the SA was dead remains a burning issue of the British working class movement and all I can say is thank goodness there are people like the SUN around to fight and fight again to save us all from the menace of the CDAS.

I am sorry if any of my comments remind people of the horrors of Stalinist state terrorism - feel free to carry on denouncing me as supporter of the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people though if it helps in the struggle against the CDAS.

AN said...

Snowball, you are disingenuous to the point on insolence.

You are fully aware that the issue here is democracy within the movement, and the fact that leading officers of the SA did not consider themsellves bound by a conference decision.

The lack of a credible alternative to the neo-liberal labour party is indeed a burning issue on the working class.

It is thereofre worth examining why initiatives like the SA and Respect have failed. And the undemocratic beahviour of the SWP was an importnat factor in their failure, (but far from the only factor, obvioulsy)

As someone who thinks that building a broad left alternative to Labour is the pressing task, then obviously I consider a debate about the factors which impact on that important, one of which is the undemocrtic behaviour of the SWP.

Obvioulsy your expereince of Leeds respect is that it is a roarway success and is the automatic home of most class conscious workers, and is serioulsy worrying Labour, so these issues are irelevent to you.

Oh no - leeds respect is a failure, and consists almosts exclusisvle of the SWP. Do you never wonder why?

Dave said...

Snowball, Rob -

Well ... I care where the money I gave to the Socialist Alliance - a damn sight more than the tenner minimum sub, actually - goes.

That you can take the piss over a decision democraticly arrived at in a labour movement body says it all about your attitude to such questions.

AN said...

What I canot understand is why Snowball doesn't mount an argued defence of the behaviour of the offociers seeking to give the funds to cDAS, and explain why they are not boound by the democraticly reached decision.

Instead we get juvenile sraw man arguments. Of course i am not arguing tat cDAS is a threat, ot that diverting funds (or forging singantures on cheques for that matter) is on the same level as Stalin's purges.

However, the argument, why are you discussing lack of democrcay when there are thousands of dead in iraq, is the same sort of argument that CP loyalists used agianst those who criticised stalin.

Thats hould be cause of relection for sWP members at the very least.

With reagrd to giving money to the CPGB and AWL. well firtsly thes egroups did actualy pay money into the sA, but more importantly splitting the money was a reflection of the lack of consensus within the SA membership over what should be done with it, and although not my personal choice either the AWl and CPGB were as entitled as the other groups.

rob said...

Dave,I did say I thought the cash should be divvied up the way the conference decided.I have no problem with decisions arrived at democratically in a labour movement body.
By the way I don't consider the AWL or CPGB to be part of the labour movement.
As noted above the disputed cash went into the account after what was originally there was divvied up.
I see no problem donating the remaining balance to a campaign.
Maybe Stop the War would have been a less controversial choice?

Snowball said...

Stop the War? C'mon Rob - get with the programme son. Its 2007 now - we are not back in 2003.

Now the Democratic Socialist Alliance Campaign for a New Marxist Party - now we're talking...

rob said...

I stand corrected Snowball . The
DSACNMP it is then.
I know a garden shed we can hire for the national conference.

AN said...

You see rob does have a substantive point here, that the original remit of the confernce decsion was to dispose of the SA's assetts and then close the account.

it could be argued that becasue the bank account was inadvetantly not closed, then the assets that subsequently came to the SA were not covered by the conference decision. (I don't think this argument is correct by the way)

However, even if we accepted this argument, then the subsequent disposal of the assetts could not legitimataly be made by an e-mail discusssion involving only a sub-set of national exec members(who the conference decision decided all stayed in office until the sA'a assets were disposed of) - it certainly could not include just two or three exec members and somoone who wasn't on the exec.

A properly convened meeting of the exec would need to be called - it would be easier to split the oney 7 ways. each of the groups could then be advised that there was a question mark over how the money should have been dealt with and we could recommend they pay it to a third party campaign of their choice in recogniction of this.

I am glad that Snowball continues to find the idea of democracy in the movement so humerous. Actually i suspect that many of the people who are stil paying Stading orders to the sA might objecct to some of their share going to the sWP!

AN said...

Rob

the garden shed could also be used for all the non-SWP socialists in respect.

Snowball said...

Andy argued that 'many of the people who are stil paying Standing orders to the sA might objecct to some of their share going to the sWP!'

They may well, Andy, they may well. However, one might speculate about such people's grasp of political reality if they are still paying money to an organisation which is not only long dead but also thanks to you recieved 'a decent burial'. Perhaps if we all just let the Socialist Alliance rest in peace now - and stopped starting blog posts about it as if it was still alive and kicking - the message might get through to such people that they really should get round to cancelling their Standing Order at some point. Otherwise their money - money that could be usefully spent by the well-known and well-respected DSACNMP might get inadvertently diverted to such self-indulgent and 'here today - gone tomorrow' campaigns like the CDAS. And then where would the British labour movement be?

AN said...

Snowball, clearly my post did not refer to the SA as if it was "alive and kicking".

You repeatedly fail to respond to the central issue which is that the decision of a properly constituted labour movement conference should be acted upon.

Indeed the people who are not acting upon it even voted for the motion they are now not follwoing.

I would be genuinely intersted in readfing why you think the decision is non binding, and whay they have not been prepared to answer correspondecne from other members of the national executive concerned about the issue.

instead all we get is insolence from you, raising the utterly irrelevent smokescreen that some of the organisations who stand to gain are not very big or important.
This is a childish line of argument, and to my mind refelcts a defensiveness, because you know on the substantive issue you are wrong.

with regard to discusssing the SA - surley it is correct to analyse what happened? And seurely those many comrades who put months and years of effort into building the sA are entitled to express an opinion about £2500 being disposed of in a way not according to the democratically decided intentions of the members?