Wednesday 25 February 2009

Building the Socialist Party

The second session in the Socialist Party's West Midlands regional conference dealt with building our party into an effective weapon for our class. The lead off here fell to G, the full timer responsible for our region. He opened with noting how 2009 has proven a very busy year for the party. Branches have hit the ground running after the Christmas break, responding to picket lines, protests, occupations and demonstrations, all signifying a massive upswing in activity by pissed off workers and students. This doesn't necessarily mean socialist ideas will appear attractive from the off, especially as the neoliberal boom and collapse of Stalinism continue to exert an ideological hangover - but when workers enter into struggles in large numbers that is the best environment for the party's growth.

It cannot be denied that the boom years were difficult for socialists in general and the SP in particular. It was a struggle to hold the organisation together when the entire labour movement was in retreat and struggles were relatively few and far between. But even then the party remained rooted in the working class and proved capable of winning first-past-the-post council elections. But the challenge for our members now is to
adapt, of shaking off some of the habits of the slow period and be ready to make the most of new political opportunities.

There are now grounds to be more optimistic about recruiting to the party but here, G thought, there is room for us to be bolder. Getting more people into the party requires more energy and more time being set aside for chasing up contacts for discussions, and it needs to be the collective responsibility of all branches and not just a few grizzled recruiting veterans. Likewise it is everyone's task to strive to develop rounded out self-organising activists through more educationals, developing campaigning skills, hosting more cadre schools and increase guest visits to other branches, because if the experience of the Lindsey oil refinery strike tells us one thing, it's that a single member can make a very significant difference.

G also set out new subscription targets for
The Socialist and a new figure for our monthly members' subs.

In the discussion a Birmingham comrade told how the branch had been transformed by its development of youth work, which has enabled it to build at all of the city's universities, hold a regular series of public meetings and crucially make interventions into the local car industry. A comrade from Shropshire outlined the difficulties of operating in one of England's largest inland counties, especially when members are scattered right across it but has found that regular contact and a programme of common activity - here around public meetings and the
CNWP - have helped cement the organisation and attract a steady stream of recruits.

A Stoke comrade spoke about our
branch activities around Gaza in conjunction with Keele Socialist Students and how the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign has hit a nerve among workers of all ages on our regular street stalls. Another Potteries comrade discussed our local success in producing cadres, but who've had the unfortunate tendency to end up leaving Stoke and doing the business for other branches. He also allowed himself a moment to hark back to the 80s when Militant had 13 full timers in the West Midlands alone, before stressing the need to increase the circulation of our paper.

After a few more contributions Peter Taaffe quickly came in to say he will be pleased to report back our region's progress to the national office. Echoing earlier speakers he thought the movement against Israeli aggression in Gaza was extremely significant because students tend to be a barometer - he likened them to the light cavalry who move into action before the heavy battalions of the working class.

Wrapping the session up G paid tribute to comrades who have recently passed away before outlining additional tasks. He argued we have a special responsibility to ensure we win over women, BME and LGBT workers and make sure the party not only welcomes them but facilitates their development into the cadres of tomorrow - if the party is to be a rounded-out organisation it cannot be otherwise. But in conclusion he thought we can be proud of what we have achieved, which is a solid foundation to build the effective socialist combat party the situation demands.

After ending the meeting in the
traditional way (with the proper lyrics, of course) comrades repaired to the bar for another kind of socialist party.

Ever since becoming a party member I have attended many West Midlands educationals and aggregates, but what I found particularly heartening were the large numbers of new faces in the audience and the fact new branches are being founded and refounded. The Socialist Party is a left force whose time has come again. If you're not a member now you ought to think seriously about getting involved.

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