Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Socialism 2007: Some Impressions

This is the first of several posts on the "forgotten" event of last weekend, the Socialist Party's Socialism 2007. In other posts over the next few days Brother S and a few guest comrades will be reporting back on their experiences. In addition to this one, I'll be making posts on the Saturday evening rally and Lynn Walsh's excellent session, 'Can China save global capitalism?' For a visual impression of what went on, you can view a video diary of the weekend here.

The vanguard contingent of Stoke branch arrived around Saturday lunch time and were the first in the boozer just up from ULU for curries, fish and chips, and pints. Then we hit the union to sell the T-Shirts printed up by comrade N as an Engelsian way of raising branch funds. I don't know what this says about me, but as soon as I saw the shirts on the table my inner Del Boy was unleashed, I went from solid bolshevist to petit bourgeois huckster in the blink of an eye. Having found my calling in life, I wasn't seen very far from the stall all weekend. We had to face stiff competition from centre-sponsored 1917 shirts, and the enterprising Shropshire comrades did a roaring trade in badge sales. Late on Sunday, our paths again crossed at Northants service station and a nefarious fund raising plot was hatched. I would tell you what i was, but then I'd have to kill you.

I digress. The first session I sort-of attended was 'Who were the Bolsheviks?' with Alec Thraves. His lead off focused on the unfolding revolutionary process between February and October 1917, while the discussion for the most part dwelled on what we do in the here and now. Bob Davies (wearing a Steve Freeman hat?) of the cpgb made a sensible contribution on raising political demands, such as the abolition of the monarchy and House of Lords, while not minimising the importance of economic demands. Other comrades looked at the state of the working class in Britain and how it is slowly groping towards struggle. Unfortunately, I didn't take any notes so can't really remember much beyond that.

After a stall stint before and after the rally, I found myself with brothers N and G in Euston Street Station's Burger King. I there suffered my first whopper (tm) meal in years, and though the experience was repeated on the way home, I won't be indulging again in a hurry. But I cannot fail to mention comrade G, who kept us entertained with some of the most disgusting jokes I've ever heard. What is it with socialists and black humour? But these were truly foul. Communist morality prevents me repeating them on what is a family blog, but if Satan was a comedian, these would be in his stand-up routine.

About 11 we hauled ourselves into the Euston Flyer and managed to get ourselves served in record time (less than half an hour!) Everyone had a bit of a mingle and a gossip, though methinks some comrades were up for a scandalous old time. Before long we headed to the much loved (de)Generator, and for me and brothers N and F, and sister A, it was time we rested our weary bones. It fell to comrades TP and G to keep Stoke's hardcore creds in the black. They got themselves kicked out the Generator bar at three in the morning, and then went for a wander around central London for an alternative watering hole. They homed in on such an establishment several miles away, but balked at paying a fiver for the privilege of consuming overpriced drinks for half an hour. It seemed the bracing November air addled the comrades' brains, and they confessed to splashing out £20 on a 6 mile taxi ride back to the hostel. The cabbie must have seen them coming.

The following morning we were up bright and early. I grabbed my coco pops from the communal cereal dispensary, G moaned about "feeling like filth wrapped up in shit", and we were off to the morning session. First up was the China one, which will be dealt with separately. I was able to have a short chat with Mark Fischer to see if he had the low down on the other left meetings. Apparently the cpgb had a hostile reception at Respect (SWP) - what a contrast to ours where they had no problem getting a stall *inside* Socialism. But then many comrades have been predicting a return to sectarian type, so this comes as no surprise. As for the LRC, he didn't find it the most inspiring of events, just very business like but lacking a bold strategic vision.

In the afternoon, I went to the debate between Hannah Sell and Adam Lincoln of the IWW. Unfortunately, he didn't show so Hannah was forced to shadow box with anarchist ideas. Luckily, a Socialist Student comrade from York who described himself as an anarchist was able to take up most of Hannah's points toward the end. He argued anarchists are not opposed to organisation per se and supported workers taking power into their own hands and constructing a new society on that basis, but he had major problems with the hierarchical character of parties and their tendency to encourage situations of power abuse. I had to duck out at that point.

I missed both the closing rallies because of T-Shirt duty, but because I was always doing something instead of hanging about the weekend went incredibly fast. It seemed no sooner we arrived it was time to pack our stuff away, switch on the bangin' old school hardcore pirate radio station, and race our way back up the M40.


Anonymous said...

Am I reading that right? You let the CPGB have a stall inside the venue?

Anyway, the event sounds excellent and I'll look forward to more reports.

Frank Partisan said...

I went to the matching event in Minneapolis. I'm on the email list of the local Socialist Alternative, and I hope they sum up the conference.

I'm in the Int'l Marxist Tendency. On the local level we get along well.

Our most vigorous discussion was in the Venezuela workshop. We invited your comrades to work with us on issues we can agree, as no interference from imperialism, in Venezuela.

Phil said...

Yep, the cpgb did have a stall inside the event, which goes to show the self-confidence the SP has in its ideas.

The Sparts and IBT were about too. The latter were handing out a pathetic leaflet, 'Screws out the TUC' or some such rubbish. They had a meeting on this on Sunday, but this year I didn't fancy a debate with the most unserious organisation on the British left and so didn't bother (this was how I characterised the IBT at last year's meeting, and so was flattered to see a Spart repeat my line word for word in the China session. Gives you that warm glow to know you've contributed something useful to the movement).

Apparently the AWL were about, as were Socialist Appeal, but I didn't catch them. It's a shame really, I wanted to sell them a T-Shirt.

Anonymous said...

I missed the HOPI meeting because of hunger, and the IBT meeting because... I have a life...
I did manage to get some video done (see http://stage6.divx.com/user/Kirogl/video/1877997/ for the first one, and I'll get the rest on-line ASAP).


Mike Ballard said...

I'm an IWW member from Australia. I'm neither an anarchist nor an anarcho-syndicalist. I am for social ownership of the means of production. I'm for grassroots democratic control of production. I'm for production of goods and services for use and need:I'm also opposed to commodity production within a socialist society. I'm for, "living in harmony with the Earth". I'm against the wages system, even the ones set up by CP dictatatorships. Sometimes, I describe myself as a communist; sometimes as a socialist. Marx and Bakunin did that too. But most times, I'd just say, "I'm a Wobbly."