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Socialist Party Congress 10-12 March 2012
In Clacton-on-Sea at the weekend, 295 delegates and visitors took part in a very successful Socialist Party annual congress.
New members at their first ever party congress and more experienced members alike went back to their home areas inspired by the discussions and determined to push on with developing the party's work.
In keeping with the democratic tradition of the party, delegates elected by party members in branches throughout England and Wales discussed and voted on resolutions covering the main political issues in Britain today, and the work of the party in participating in events and building our membership.
Resolutions and amendments had been submitted by the party's national committee and by many of the branches. The resolutions agreed will serve as guidelines for the party's work in the coming year.
As usual, a national committee was elected to lead the work of the party in between this congress and the next.
Indicating great enthusiasm for building the party, over £9,000 was raised for the party's Fighting Fund in a congress appeal, and over £900 a month of increased monthly donations (party members' subs) were pledged.
Welcomed to the congress were a number of visitors from sister sections of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), from France, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland Republic as well as some of the leaders and staff of the CWI itself.
Also very welcome were visits to give fraternal addresses (in a personal capacity) by president of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union Alex Gordon, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association Joe Simpson, assistant general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union Chris Baugh, and London regional organiser of the RMT Steve Hedley.
The congress included a moving memorial tribute to former Coventry Socialist Party councillor Rob Windsor, who died on 14th January.
The congress sessions were:
- Europe - A Continent in Crisis, introduced by general secretary Peter Taaffe and replied to by Socialism Today editor Lynn Walsh. This discussion touched on events across the world, but particularly focused on the economic crisis and mass strikes and demonstrations in southern European countries Greece, Spain and Portugal.
- British Perspectives, introduced by deputy general secretary Hannah Sell and replied to by executive committee member Clive Heemskerk. The magnificent 2011 strikes and demonstrations of public sector workers against cuts in pensions were discussed and analysed, as were the prospects for further action on this and other fronts. However, like the discussion on Europe, this was a very wide-ranging session, and it also covered issues such as the national question in Scotland and in Wales and the state of the UK economy.
- Party Building, introduced by executive committee member Judy Beishon and replied to by London region secretary Paula Mitchell. It was reported that the number of members and branches of the party have increased over the last year, and how best to continue and accelerate this progress was the subject of this session. As well as recruitment and integration, it included points and contributions on the May 2012 elections, anti-cuts campaigning, work among women, the role of the Socialist (and writing for it and reading it), LBGT work, political education, high-speed rail (HS2), party websites and the work of Tamil Solidarity.
- Building in the Trade Unions and Workplaces, introduced and replied to by industrial organisers Rob Williams and Jane James. Contributions from Socialist Party members in the unions Unison, Unite, NUT, CWU, RMT, PCS and UCU gave a picture of discussions and events across the trade union movement. The session also stressed the importance of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and its next conference on 9th June.
- Youth and Student Work, introduced and replied to by youth and student organisers Claire Laker-Mansfield and Paul Callanan. Everyone attending the congress was very impressed by the large number of young delegates who approached the top table wanting to speak in this session, too many to fit into the time available (other sessions also had this difficulty of limited time). The lack of a decent future in Britain today for young people was discussed, as was helping to build Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, and Socialist Students.
- Finance, introduced by national treasurer Ken Douglas and replied to by editor of the Socialist Sarah Sachs-Eldridge. Raising money is essential to finance all the party's work, so this session discussed the many avenues for doing this, including by increasing sales of the party's paper and other publications. Congress delegates were able to look at reports of the fundraising that has taken place over the last year, and how it has been spent.
- CWI report, given by secretary of the CWI Tony Saunois. The congress concluded with a very inspiring report of the work of other sections of the Committee for a Workers' International and a singing of the Internationale. The CWI is working in 45 countries so it was not possible to hear about all of them, but the report touched on many, including on the US, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Israel.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 13 March 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.