Monday, 9 November 2009

Socialism 2009

This weekend just gone saw the annual Socialism event hosted by the Socialist Party in London - I guess its a bit cliched to say it was the biggest one ever, but it was! But this was reflected in the fact that 7 of us managed to get down from North Wales, almost doubled from the year before, which considering the cost of travelling for us is exceptional.

Anyways, I kicked off with a visit to the book stall and suprised myself by only spending £32, including buying a xmas present for someone too. I got books on Kenya, an account of the 1918 in Russia, the Red Clydesiders, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and a book about the Warsaw Uprsings during WW2. But then i ruined that by spending £60 on Trotsky's military writings. I also have borrowed a collection of books off a comrade on the Paris Commune after he kindly responded to my appeal. So my bag came away appreciably heavier than i set off with.

The first session I attended was on 'Is Cameron a new Thatcher' which had both Alec Thraves from Swansea and Tony Mulhearn from Liverpool speaking at it. The session was quite interesting, outlining the economic and poilitical situation that Cameron would inherit and drive him into a confrontation with the unions like Thatcher, out pointing out the obvious differences between the background to Thatcher coming to power 30 years ago and today. Most of the questions were directed at Tony Mulhearn about the Liverpool City Council dispute, but my notes of these were pretty poor as I had been up for quite while by this point.

After this came a quick meeting of those of us there from North Wales (such is the geographic spread of the branch that it takes being in London to organise a proper get together some times), in particularly discussing about the Community Festical Against Racism we are helping to organise through Wrexham Communities Against Racism in opposition to the divisive policies of the E/WDL.

Next came the Saturday evening rally. Every single speaker was really good, starting off with Brian Caton (POA General Secretary), then Matt Wrack (FBU General Secretary) and a very loud speech by Keith Gibson from Lindsey Oil Refinery. Next up was Bob Crow who was adamant of the need for an electoral coalition in the general election and also raised the idea of fully nationalising the banks and linking them up through the post office. According to comrades who had been at the earlier RMT conference, Bob Crow went a bit further with this speech than earlier in the day.

The rally then moved onto the last few speakers, Tracy Edwards from Youth Fight for Jobs (and also PCS Young Members Organiser), Peter Taaffe as ever, Senan from Tamil Solidarity and finally Joe Higgins, Irish SP MEP. The collection wasn't as large as last year, being at roughly £25,000, but then it is a recession!

To round off saturday night, I first had a drink with my old comrades from Huddersfield in a pub before heading off to the gig/social. To be honest I didn't pay loads of attentions to the bands, apart from Chairman Wow (did i get that right?) which seemed to be composed of Brighton comrades playing Clash covers (they probably played other stuff too, but that was what i remember recognising) but they were pretty good.

And then it was finally time to head off to the hostel, except i was in the difficult to find overflow hostel and to make matter worse someone decided to get up around 6am ish and take a ridiculously loud alarm clock with them to wake everyone else up with the process - suffice to say i was not impressed.

The first session I attended was Peter Taaffe speaking on 'In Defence of Leon Trotsky'. The background to this session was a review of Robert Service's recently published biography that Peter had written where he issued a challenge to Service to debate the ideas of Trotsky, which Service declined, and even pulled out of debate elsewhere when he realised Peter was speaking there. Peter outlined the contributions Trotsky made to Marxist ideas and the movement, and the discussion followed this course, as well as discussing why there is such a voluminous body of works attacking marxist ideas and in particular anything associated with the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The final session I went to was a discussion on 'Where now for the German Left Party?" introduced by Stephan Kimmerle. The discussion from this mostly focussed on the experiences of building new working class parties and the difficulties that had been faced in doing so. Unfortunately i had to dash off early from this session.
The final event of the weekend was the closing rally. In some ways this was a better rally than the previous nights, as the majority of the speakers were relating their experiences of disputes which when you spent the entire weekend really tired helped keep you more alert. The speakers there were Rob Williams (reinstated Linamar convener), Dave Nellist, Sean Figg, Hannah Sell, John Denton (CWU London Regional Secretary) and a British Airways union rep.
Of the contributions, I listened with the most interest to John Denton's appraisal of the deal that the CWU has struck with Royal Mail, by the sounds of it he sounded skeptical at first, but he sincerely believed the deal to be a big step forward, and commented that is Royal Mail renege on it the ballots are all still active and postal workers will be out once more. In my opinion it is possible that the CWU could have got a good deal, as one comrade pointed out to me, it would be unusual for it to be passed unanimously by the postal executive if it wasn't. But we will have to wait until the full details are announced (but in my opinion, surely a the details of a good deal should be announced immediately). The BA rep's speech was quite interesting too, particularly pointing out that BA had head-hunted some of the very people who'd drawn up to attack the CWU in Royal Mail.
Overall, I had a great, but very tiring weekend. Hopefully I shouldn't have to set off to future Socialisms at such a ridiculously early events as i did this one. For those of you that couldn't be there videos were recorded of some of the sessions and they will hopefully be online soon.

Reports from Previous Socialism events at Leftwing Criminologist

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