Having got back late yesterday from the Socialist Party's Organisers School near Buxton in the Peak District, it seems like a good time to gather my thoughts on the weekend.
After having a bit of a nightmare travelling there from Bangor, it was a good experience to spend the weekend with over 100 party activists from across the country. The attendees for the most part were members who have joined over the last year and have begun to help organise the work of their local branches. People like me who have been knocking around for a few years now were definitely in a minority and for the most part were confined to the younger party full-timers and a few of our leading members in certain areas of work. The vast majority of the people there I hadn't met before and I found it really good to meet so many people. To give a good illustration of this, of the delegation from Yorkshire, of which I used to be a member in when I first joined the party, I knew less than half of them, and most of them I'd met in the last year - and this in a region that I have always tried to keep quite effective contact with!
The weekend itself was a mix of commissions and plenary sessions. The two plenary sessions began and ended the weekend, with Peter Taaffe discussing perspectives and Hannah Sell discussing build the Socialist Party. I'm not going to comment much on these apart from note how I seem to get mentioned in everyone of Hannah's leadoffs on party building, obviously I've found favour somewhere!
The commissions were the focus of the weekend, giving more of an opportunity for newer activists to contribute (that said most of the Welsh delegation spoke in the first plenary session). The first day had political commissions on six different topics (which were repeated in the evening) - I went to the role of the State and to Sri Lanka and the national question - both of which were really good interactive sessions. The session on the State took a question and answer style, whereas the Sri Lanka session, featured video footage of the situation there in the camps and a discussion around the current political situation in Sri Lanka, as well as discussing the history of the national question there, which is intimately bound with the history of Trotskyism in the country, all of which deserves one (if not more) posts all to itself to do the subject justice.
On the second day we had two different sessions - one on recruitment to the party and the second set of sessions looking at different aspects of party work. I went along to the session on the role of a marxist in the workplace. The session had a wide range of participants, from those like Rob Williams where the party has a big influence in that particular workplace and has led the struggle to defend jobs and improve conditions at that factory, as well as recently defending Rob from victimisation, to workplaces where we have just one member and there is no trade union at all. It was really good being able to discuss, share and learn from each others experiences.
A few last things, in my opinion the weekend was an excellent experience with just two flaws. The first was the lateness of the reading lists for the political commissions, which no doubt meant that some members where less prepared than they could have been for the discussions and meant those discussions necessarily had to cover a little more ground than they needed (due to mny extensive reading I had already read the materials for the sessions I attended, but if I hadn't I wouldn't have had the time to do so if otherwise). And the second was the lack of preparation at the hostel for the weekend, which meant they didn't have enough staff on and the bar ran out of beer!
I for one thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and really enjoyed discussing with our new activists from around the country, so much so that I was last up both nights we were at the hostel. And despite how useless I am a football, I even scored a goal in the saturday lunchtime game - a great result all round!