Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Socialism 2007: Rally

There were a fair number of comrades at Saturday evening's Socialism rally, and it was difficult to say whether attendance was up or down on last year. No matter, most were there to listen to what the speakers had to say rather than count heads.

The evening's star turns were provided by comrades Brian Caton of the POA, Matt Wrack of the FBU, and Mark Serwotka of the PCS. Brother S has promised a considered reflection on their comments, so I'll confine myself to offering yet another impression of what they said.

Brian Caton spoke first and thanked the Socialist Party and his comrades in the trade union movement for their support of the POA's recent action. He also mentioned that even if socialism has been abandoned by the Labour party, it is not the case with him and many of his members. He also mentioned the stupid ultra-left leaflet handed out by the IBT. He said facts had to be faced, as long as society has laws it will have prisons and people will be required to run them. It isn't an easy job, and the POA is well aware there are those who abuse their positions in its ranks. Unsurprisingly, I agree with the comrade. But he needn't have worried too much about the IBT, thankfully SP comrades tend to have a more secure relationship with the real world.

Matt Wrack spoke about the cuts in the fire service, and angrily condemned the neoliberal New Labour speak being foisted upon it. Apparently now, those unfortunate enough to require a call out are to be referred to as "customers". He also took the opportunity to pay his respects to the four firefighters who recently fell during the Warwickshire warehouse fire.

Mark Serwotka's speech was most tantalising, but ultimately disappointing. Don't get me wrong, his was the usual barnstormer but the content was frustrating. He spoke of his invitation to speak at four conferences on the day and managed to speak at three, and then went on to show how the different conferences underlined the need for left unity. At this point, it appeared he was limbering up for a significant announcement that could bring the process along, such as a union-sponsored initiative on political representation or some such, but it wasn't to come. He did advance on his previous speeches in calling for a left alternative to the Labour party but didn't talk about what role the unions could play in founding it. The comrade is a canny operator and knows a new workers' party will, at this moment in time, require that impetus. Maybe next year, Mark?

The rally also heard from Mel Mills of Huddersfield Save Our Services, who've won a partial victory over a rapacious neoliberal council who came for three nurseries, and were forced to limit their cuts to just one. Sadiq Abakar, a SP comrade originally from Darfur spoke in moving terms about the Home Office's repeated attempts to deport him, where he can expect a fate similar to that of his brother, who was murdered by the state-backed janjaweed militia. An anonymous Stoke postie then provided a bit of light relief by outlining the incompetencies and peccadilloes of the wannabe Hitlers who run his/her depot.

Peter Taaffe wrapped up the speeches with a talk about the political situation in Brazil, from where he'd recently returned. He also replied to Mark Serwotka, who unfortunately had left the hall. The comrade said left unity cannot just fall out of a tree because of the very real differences that exist between the SP, and the SWP. He noted how in this hall two years previously it was predicted Respect would come unstuck, not least because of the SWP's inability to work in genuine partnership with other leftists. And unfortunately, this has proven to be the case. He said the SP would be prepared to work with anyone in the labour movement, but not on the basis of diluting our socialist politics.

Lois Austen then took the mike for the annual Socialism fundraiser. I recall one of the SWP comrades I interviewed for my PhD asking me if we still did this, as she found it quite cultish; but I have to say I've always rather enjoyed the spectacle. Lois began asking for large donations to be given in, and gradually the totals asked for got smaller and smaller. It was very pleasing to see so many branches handing over in excess of £1,000. Stoke's contribution was no where near, but thanks to our Engelsian turn, I'm sure we'll have a pretty penny to hand over next year. In all, over £20,000 was raised.

Comrades then heard a speech from a Brazilian comrade, followed by a short film commemorating the October Revolution, and of course The Internationale. But by this time, I was outside flogging shirts once more. Overall, it was an excellent event, and once again we'll be pulling out all the stops next year. Building for Socialism 2008 starts now!


Anonymous said...

the socialist assesment of the socialism rally seems a bit too over optimistic dont you think

theres no way there were 800 people in that room

Phil BC said...

If you're referring to the photo above, there certainly doesn't appear to be from that angle. But there was - that photo is from Socialism 2005 (I couldn't find one for more recent).

But if you were there, no, there wasn't 800 in the room. But you've always got to leave a little for revolutionary inflation ;)