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Making the case for socialism
Socialism 2008, photo Paul Mattsson
IN FRONT of a stage backed with the words: 'Socialism 2008, making the case for socialism', 900 people gathered in the main hall of Friends Meeting House, Euston, for the centrepiece event of Socialism 2008.
Socialism 2008, photo Paul Mattsson
The rally got off to a rousing start with the showing of a specially-made film covering the recent upheavals in the world economy and the political consequences and reactions. Then the rapt attention of the audience was held through the course of eleven invited speakers (interspersed with more film), all of whom added without exception to the event's success.
Robbie Segal, who recently gained 40.6% of the vote in an election for the general secretary of shopworkers' union Usdaw, was the opening speaker. She explained that 360,000 households - mainly of low paid workers - had received her socialist message during the election, and she thanked Socialist Party members and supporters who had distributed her leaflets in their local shops. >>View video of Robbie's speech (8:24 mins)>>mp3 audio of Robbie's speech
Janice Godrich, president of the Public and Commercial Services union, spoke of how craven the leaders of most of the Labour-affiliated trade unions are in the way they support Labour's pro-market agenda and just accept scraps that are thrown back in return.
She reminded the audience that it is not a natural progression of events for trade union leaders to sell out their members, and that the PCS leaders are different. Although the national PCS strike planned for 10 November was called off to allow talks to take place, the action will be restored if necessary. >>View video of Janice Godrich's speech (11:14 mins)>>mp3 audio of Janice Godrich's speech
A Fords worker from the Southampton Fords plant outlined the struggle that has taken place so far to save the plant from closure. He paid tribute to local and national Socialist Party members for their help in the campaign. (No filming was allowed.)
Tony Mulhearn, the president of Liverpool Labour Party during its battle with the Thatcher government in the 1980s, said that Gordon Brown bringing back Peter Mandelson into the cabinet is like inviting Dracula to be in charge of a blood bank or Billy Bunter to take charge of the school tuck shop. As socialists did in the 1980s, it is urgent again now to campaign for jobs, homes and a future for all young people. >>View video of Tony Mulhearn's speech (14:46 mins) >>mp3 audio of Tony Mulhearn's speech
Natalie Powell-Davies, 14, made an excellent and moving speech about the election campaign which led her to become the deputy youth mayor of Lewisham in London. She said that although young people don't like careerist politicians, they are interested in politics and will vote for real change. >>View video of Natalie's speech (3:19 mins) >>mp3 audio of Natalie's speech
Onay Kasab, one of the four Unison members being witch-hunted by their own union, said that the four were only guilty of demanding "democracy not bureaucracy". He outlined the recent admirable work of his Greenwich council union branch in defending a worker who was sacked for being pregnant and another worker who is disabled. >>View video of Onay Kasab's speech (10:05 mins) >>mp3 audio of Onay Kasab's speech
Nicos Anastasiadis, from Xekinima in Greece, reported on the new left formation in Greece, Syriza. Over the last two years Greek workers have come to the fore in what has been "the most determined movement since the start of the 1990s". Both the main political parties are falling in standing, and Syriza has great potential, especially if it adopts a socialist programme. >>View video of Nicos Anastasiadis' speech (14:12 mins) >>mp3 audio of Nicos Anastasiadis' speech
Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, voiced most people's relief at the departure of US president Bush and described the victory of Obama as "a defining moment". He made a number of points about the world economic crisis, and called for "the nationalisation of the whole British banking system and a state monopoly of foreign trade". We are witnessing "a generalised crisis of capitalism. .... The whole situation is crying out for socialist ideas". >>View video of Peter Taaffe's speech (33:38 mins) >>mp3 audio of Peter Taaffe's speech
David Redelberger, a German school student, described the scope of the present movement in his country's schools. There will be school strikes in 40 cities on Wednesday 12 November. He had needed to "look up on a map" where some of the new student committees are springing up. >>View video of David Redelberger's speech (9:52 mins) >>mp3 audio of David Redelberger's speech
Christel Dicembre from the group 'Lotta' in Italy also spoke of a huge movement against education cuts. One million school students demonstrated in Rome on 6 November and two million university students are expected to demonstrate on 14 November. It is the biggest student movement in Italy for 30 years. >>View video of Christel Dicembre's speech (5:13 mins) >>mp3 audio of Christel Dicembre's speech
Fang Guoli, a Chinese socialist, in the final speech of the rally gave a flavour of the tens of thousands of strikes and demonstrations that are taking place in China every year, and explained that although the highly repressed Chinese workers' movement is still relatively unorganised, the power of workers is "increasing by the day". (No filming was allowed.)
There were lots of interesting discussions and some inspiring speakers. I went to the session on the 1918 German revolution and it gave me an insight into a period of history that isn't widely known, even in the labour and trade union movement. We can all learn important lessons from it for the future.
Claire Laker-Mansfield, Brighton
I was very impressed, especially with the talk about how the Socialist Party is campaigning for free education. I very much liked hearing about the campaigning work for socialism in China as well.
Dan Collins, Worcesteshire
Because I had to go to a wedding I could only make it to the session on Pakistan. It was insightful, unintimidating and everyone was drawn into the discussion. I learned a lot. You can quote me on that!
Kay Shipley, Walthamstow