Tuesday 15 May 2007

Starting Over

As you may have noticed, it's been a while since I last posted. This once I'll skip the usual roll call of excuses and jumpstart the blog by promising nothing. Over the last few months I've promised posts on this and that without having the time to actually write them. It was as if to conjure the outlines of what I wanted to say from the recesses of my mind would be enough. All that remained was the short work of reeling them off and hey presto! A new post would be born. Unfortunately blogging's not like that. So all I can promise are pretty infrequent updates here and over at Militant.

Stoke Front

Things have got interesting in Stoke. Starting with the bad news, the BNP got three more councillors elected to the city council. But they say every cloud has its silver lining, and that around the black cloud of the Stoke fash has been particularly shiny. First well known BNP'er Steve Batkin got beaten in his ward by Labour, no doubt owing to his incompetence, some sharper UAF-style leaflets going out, and canvassing by Keele Labour Students(!). Good to see some in the Labour party have still got the guts to address working class people, even if the politics they're pushing is the same old same old. Second, Batkin side-kick Mark Leat (another BNP councillor in Longton North) has received his marching orders from fash council group fuhrer, Alby Walker. Word is incompetence and being off-message led to Leat's excommunication - so what else is new? If this means the far right vote will be split in Longton next time round, and some disillusioned fash activists drop out, so much the better.

Some of you sad enough to follow the fortunes of erstwhile Socialist Party councillors, the Sutton brothers, may be interested in their results. By the standards of what the far left can expect their vote was respectable (Dave managed 360 votes (11.6%) in Tunstall, Paul 287 votes (10.2%) in Abbey Green), but I would imagine both would be very disappointed with these figures, especially Dave as he was the sitting councillor. As both were of the mind it was the SP's fault Paul lost his seat last time, one wonders what cock n bull story they'd come up with to explain this.


On the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, there has been some movement. Yes, despite what our friends in Workers' Power and Permanent Revolution would have you believe, the CNWP does have a life independent of annual conference. Sometimes. Yours truly chaired its public meeting a fortnight ago today down in Stoke Town Hall. What was interesting about the 28 people who came to this was that the majority were entirely new people I'd never seen at a Stoke lefty meeting. Even some of the SP comrades weren't the usual activist suspects. In my opinion the meeting went really well, but whether it can be judged a success will be determined by the number of comrades who will come along to the N Staffs CNWP group meeting later this month. Watch this space when the time comes.

As for the national CNWP conference held last Saturday, I thought it was alright. In many ways it was better than last year's. One thing that irritated me intensely about that particular occasion were the number of comrades, including some in my own organisation, who got up and waxed about how bad New Labour is without offering a way forward for the campaign. There was much less of that this year. Where comrades did make that style of intervention they remarked on the CNWP's potential to relate to workers in struggle, a potential greater than any of the revolutionary socialist organisations of the British left at the moment. As usual, comrades from Workers' Power, cpgb, and Campaign for a Marxist Party disagreed. In fact, WP went so far to say they would quit if a reformist programme was adopted. Well, no programme, reformist or otherwise was voted through by the conference. There was a list of What We Fight For-style demands that were, but these can hardly be said to constitute a programme. It was perhaps for this reason that comrades Brenner, Dewer, and a couple of shouty shouty Revo types from Leeds stayed put.

Overall it was more business-like and more focused, but it did reveal a few underlining problems. The first was the total dominance by my organisation - the officers are nearly all SP comrades. This in my opinion isn't a bad thing in itself, but it makes it much harder to counter accusations of the campaign being just another front organisation. On the other hand, the ultra left seemed content to leave it this way. Only Phil Sharpe from the CMP put himself forward for election, and that was for the rather innocuous position of press officer. Second were numbers. 350 or so comrades attended, which is about a hundred fewer than last year. Also, I suspect numbers of non-SP comrades were down while the proportion of SP comrades up. While there were some new people there, they were few and far between. Finally, there seems few concrete examples of functioning CNWP groups in evidence. A motion was put by Berkshire CNWP, but that was about it. From what I can gather public meetings are taking place on a fairly regular basis up and down the country, but whether it leads to permanent groupings is a lot less clear. There is no point skirting around this issue. If the CNWP isn't built from the ground up, if local groups aren't initiated and assume an active existence, then next year's conference will be a very forlorn affair indeed.


On a final note, the PhD's coming along at a steady pace. I did until recently have some difficulty getting hold of SWP comrades, but in the best traditions of the cosmic joke, you wait for one and two show up at once. Nevertheless I'm still looking for volunteers to be interviewed between now and the end of July. If you're an SWP comrade I want to hear from you. If you're an ex-SWP or ex-SP comrade I want to hear from you. If you're an ex-SWP SP or an ex-SP SWP comrade I want to hear from you! Apologies to 'vanilla' SP comrades with a burning desire to be interviewed, my quota's full up!