Sunday, 9 November 2008

Socialism 2008: Some Impressions

This is the first of several posts I'm planning to churn out to give readers a flavour of the Socialist Party's annual Socialism school. Who knows? Perhaps it might even move some people to make the time and come down for the weekend next year? Over this week then you can expect me to comment on the Saturday and Sunday rallies and the three sessions I attended (on Pakistan, the debate between Hannah Sell and Martin Smith of the SWP, and the Fourth International). As yet none are available, but I expect footage of the rally and some of the sessions will be posted here. Also my comrade and fellow SP blogger, Leftwing Criminologist will also be discussing Socialism.

This post will be an overview of the decidedly non-political aspects of the weekend.

Stoke branch managed to sell a record number of tickets this year and equal it by transporting most of them down to sunny Bloomsbury, an achievement that dovetails the almost silly (but very welcome!) rate of recruitment us Stokies are experiencing at present. But anyway. The Potteries' Marxists managed to turn up some time between 11.30 and 12.00 on Saturday, having held heated discussions on Workers' Hammer, the old Stafford branch of Militant, the branch programme, and ... cat sick. Despite all this there was one thought occupying my mind - accommodation. Owing to a slight hiccup, eight of our contingent, including yours truly, arrived at ULU without a bed sorted. Visions of a cold night on a bench in Hyde Park beckoned ... But thanks to the tireless efforts of Kevin Parslow four were found beds/sofas/floors/airing cupboards in comrades' houses and the rest were packed off to the hostel. But more about that shortly.

This year brother N couldn't make it, so our fabled t-shirt stall didn't materialise. So it was down to other comrades to fill the entrepreneurial void. The Brummie Bolsheviks were seen about the place hawking a cushion full of rather smart Socialist Students pins. Centre had sorted a pile of their own socialist t-shirts and were flogging CWI-branded pint glasses. The Manchester and Liverpool comrades had put together a DVD of Terry Fields speeches, and the party used the occasion to launch Peter Taaffe's latest book, Socialism and Left Unity. Who says socialism and the entrepreneurial spirit is incompatible?

One thing that disappointed me was the relative absence of the ultra-left. Socialism regulars, the IBT were there flogging 1917 and plugging their Sunday fringe meeting on fascism and anti-fascism. I certainly fancied this meeting as an opportunity to discover how the IBT fights the fascists in the here and now, and to see if it would degenerate into a bun fight with the Sparts. I hope next year they will schedule their meeting so it doesn't clash with anything. As it was, because neither sent representatives to score points at the 'Fourth International and After' session, I can only conclude they were too preoccupied knocking lumps out of each other. Sadly Socialist Appeal, Workers' Action, the AWL and cpgbs were either absent or failed to make their presence felt. Presumably richer pickings were to be had at the Left Alternative/SWP conference.

I was greeted by a mad scramble after the end of the Rally for Socialism to try and introduce the new comrades to those they would be staying with. But somehow I muddled through. Then it was to Euston station with sister A and Brothers F and G1 for my annual Murder King and a series of bad taste observations from the latter comrade. Do all socialists have a (guilty) love of black humour? Before long it was to the traditional Socialism watering hole, The Euston Flyer for a little of a natter and gossip. It was all a bit of a blur for me - and I hadn't even touched a drop! Before I knew it, some comrades had decided to head to the hostel, the grimly-entitled Clink. Unfortunately, we turned left outside The Flyer instead of right and ended up pissing about outside for 40-odd minutes when we didn't need to. That wouldn't have been too bad if the weather had been kind. But no, the heavens opened. We were pretty soggy by the time we found The Clink.

The next morning I got my coco pops and settled down to hear comrades' dorm horror stories. I passed the night relatively lightly. The bloke on the bunk above me let out the occasional shriek and sigh, but nothing too untoward. G1 reported a chap near him let out a constant stream of guttural groans and squeals of what worryingly sounded like pleasure. But poor Brother F had it worse, the comrade could be psychologically scarred. At 3am on the bed next to him a couple of bonkin' Bolsheviks got down to "business". Nice!

I left The Clink with comrade R relatively early so I'd be able to get into the SP/SWP debate (the room it was due to be held in had only 55 seats - woefully inadequate for what was bound to attract a much larger number). But in a triumph of democratic socialist planning it received the old switcher-roo and moved to a 120 seater. And quite interesting and (mostly!) comradely it was too - but you're going to have to wait a bit for a report.

The Sunday just flew by and all too quickly it was time to board the mini-bus back to Stoke. I'm afraid politics took a dive out the window on the way back, and the conversations, among other things, descended into torture porn flicks, various drinking games/experiences and the infamous 2 Girls, 1 Cup. Yep, this really is what the flower of humanity likes to talk about. But all in all, everyone had a great time and look forward to doing the same in 2009!


Impatient Mark P said...

Do you have any idea how many people were there overall? I've heard vague impressions from a few people that numbers were higher than ever, but nothing firmer than that.

Hurry up and get the session reports up!

Mark P said...

Also, are you going to put up your more serious reports on socialist unity? (This one probably wouldn't be appropriate...)

big_d said...

mark p-

I'd guess around 1100 at the rally- there was just over a thousand last year and there seemed to be a bit more this year.

paddy garcia said...

Here are some pix from the weekend:

Please feel free to use them on blogs, etc.

Peter M. said...

I'm assuming those pint glasses were a Socialism-specific event, and there isn't much chance of getting them elsewhere? If so, that's just motivation to get the SP-USA to produce some of their own :)

I'm curious to see how the IBT folks presented themselves in their fringe meeting. Over here in the US, I've found my experiences with the IBT fairly pleasant compared with other ultra-left groups (ie, they make decently well-constructed points and don't use every other breath to denounce another group in the room). Then again, we also have the Internationalist Group over here, which are quite possibly worse than the Sparts, so that may colour my judgement somewhat.

Anonymous said...

hi comrades,
there was not over a thousand at the rally, was a truly top event though, certainly all the new members and supporters from Coventry thought so.

i have some funny experiences from the weekend - felt a bit dirty (not as much as some mentioned in phils report!) as i had two burger kings across the weekend, a packet of crisps, a king sized twix, loads of lucozade, and the biggest ham omelette i have ever seen with a load of chips.

top beano.

paul h

Mark P said...

Big D:

I think you are mixing up two different figures there. I think that last year the organisers said that there was around 1,000 people at the 2007 weekend at some point. The rally itself was definitely smaller than that.

The rally this year could well have been larger than last year but that wouldn't put it at 1,100. I doubt if you could squeeze that many into the hall with the aid of a rubbish compactor and a lot of grease.

brother_f said...

mark p-

my bad, I thought I heard 1000 at the rally last year. Anyway- I'd guess 100 more than last year at this rally.

brother_f said...

by the way phil- I have resurrected my blog!

Duncan Money said...

I certainly fancied this meeting as an opportunity to discover how the IBT fights the fascists in the here and now

I'm surprised they managed to find time to hold the meeting on Sunday at all. I imagine with all their experience of fighting fascism they'd have been pretty busy chasing the 100 or so NF off the Cenotaph as it was Rememberance Sunday.

Or not.

Dave Riley said...

It seems that is was a very succesful conference.

yabanji said...

Would you like to live in a world where money does not exist? A world where everything is free? A world without rich or poor? A civilization where all human needs are met by society working together as a whole? A world without boundaries, where people live together in peace and harmony?

Because all human beings are basically socialist anarchists at heart, most people will say 'yes'. But, they will ask, would it be possible?

The only way for this plan to work is for the message to be spread.

Tell people about the 2012 Strike for a Moneyless World . If they like the idea, tell them to tell their friends. Those friends will tell others, and by the year 2012 everyone on the planet will know about the strike and decide whether they are for or against it.

On that day a new moneyless system will begin which will change the world completely.

You might consider distributing copies of this flyer -



If you agree that the abolition of money would be a fine solution to most of our problems, and that we could create a much better system where EVERYTHING - food and drink, clothing and housing, water, heating, education, health-care and entertainment - shall be FREE for EVERYONE - why not join the World-Wide Strike on the opening day of the Olympic Games in 2012?

The Strike will begin the moment the symbolic Olympic flame is lit - the signal for all who support the abolition of money to stop work and demand a new fair world of true freedom and justice.


Leftwing Criminologist said...

the first thing i did when you mentioned the videos from the previous years was to have a look at last years (which i must have missed). amnd about 30 seconds in i saw myself chatting to clare doyle just before i chaired the burma session last year - i'd never noticed them filming at the time!! (i think i was trying to figure out the complicated way clare wanted to run the discussion adn the various video bits she wanted and the cnwp banner behind us actually fell down halfway through the discussion - about 1:27 in to the film you can see this)

My dorm was a lot less psychologically scarring than yours it appeards - i got a much better nights sleep than usual and did you see the toasters - they had to be one of the highlights of the weekend!

As for the attendence - it was definitely well up on last year - i was up on the balcony last year too and up there was much fuller this time and the hall was filled more - there were hardly any empty seats down there - i mean there usually isn't that many but it was hard to spot the odd ones about the room this year. There was a big exodus about the time of the financial appeal - was this to get in early at the pub - it didn't look as crowded as usual at the bar - but then i did go in the tramp over to the clink and back to drop off all the books i'd bought.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

i've posted about the session on The Fourth International and After

ModernityBlog said...


could you point your keen readers towards the MP3s, etc of the sessions

after all if the Morning Star is coming into the 21st Century,

then I am sure the SP wants to reach out to the millions on the web and put over their ideas directly to the masses :)

Phil BC said...

LC, you've saved me a job of work writing about the Fourth International lead off! Truth be told I nodded off at the start and end of that session - this isn't to say I didn't find it interesting! I just have my narcoleptic moments.

Peter M, the IBT here are generally a nice bunch. I had a very chummy chat with one of their comrades outside ULU - it's just a shame they cling to Spartoid politics. But it's also worth noting the few Sparts I saw seemed less ranty ranty this year. Maybe they're learning social skills too?