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Socialist Party regional conference reports: Wales and North West
The children of Grangetown in Cardiff set the scene for this year's Socialist Party Wales conference on 21 February. Two days before, they occupied county hall against cuts to their play centre (see page 3), making it clear what kind of year 2016 will be!
The day started with a discussion introduced by Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe on the tumultuous events around the world.
Such events have shaken Wales in the last year too. This includes the terrible blow to the steelworks in Port Talbot, as well as more brutal cuts to public services carried out without a whiff of opposition by Labour in the Welsh Assembly and all parties running councils in Wales.
Socialist Party Wales members have worked hard to build support among steelworkers and the wider community for the socialist nationalisation of steel to stop job losses.
Looking ahead, members discussed how this year's Welsh Assembly elections will be the first test for Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. Opponents of Labour's current leadership still dominate the party in Wales, with catastrophic results.
First Minister Carwyn Jones has presided over a reduction of 2,000 NHS beds in the last five years for example. Jones is getting his excuses ready for Labour's likely losses, implying the blame lies with Corbyn and the "infighting" his victory has caused.
Conference heard how Socialist Students is now represented in the majority of universities in Wales, with easily the biggest left campaigning presence on campus.
We're getting a friendly reaction from supporters of Corbyn who have joined Labour.
But we also heard how Socialist Party members have been excluded by the old Labour left from taking part in discussions about forming a united front to defend Corbyn. Welsh Labour Grassroots recently refused to let our members even enter the room to a meeting they organised.
With Welsh Labour's leadership ignoring the anti-austerity message sent by Corbyn's victory, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Wales is discussing standing candidates in the regional lists in the Assembly elections, in order to explain that the Welsh Assembly could open the possibility to end austerity in Wales.
Members donated over £600 in the fighting fund appeal to ensure we have the resources to fund this campaign and to continue building the revolutionary socialist party the working class needs.
Ross Saunders, Socialist Party Wales
The Socialist Party North West regional conference on 20 February drew members from across the region to discuss perspectives and plans, including the re-election of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) councillor Kevin Bennett in May.
The enthusiasm generated was shown in the fighting fund collection which raised over £420. Conference adopted a £4,000 target for our election fund appeal in the region, and promptly raised £730 in pledges for it!
Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser, introduced the session on Britain. This debated the prospects of political crises for the main parties around the elections and the EU referendum and workers' struggles including the junior doctors' dispute. All of this was discussed against the backdrop of a weakening world economy.
Jackie Grunsell, regional treasurer, introduced the session on finance. Subscriptions have increased by £800 in the last year, with plans to hit a £4,000 monthly income by December.
Fighting fund is regularly exceeding 200% of our national target and the region should hit its target for subscriptions to the Socialist by the end of 2016.
Jackie explained why we're aiming for a £4,000 regional election fund - we have to secure the re-election of Kevin Bennett, fight two mayoral elections, and the North West has more council seats up for election than other regions.
In a session on the elections, Kevin Bennett explained how TUSC is fighting for re-election in Warrington with press work, stalls, local petitions, leafleting and canvassing. Meanwhile, Labour's local establishment is in disarray with councillors publicly attacking each other.
In May's elections, TUSC will be the only 100% anti-cuts force putting forward policies in line with the public who want re-nationalisation, higher wages and affordable housing. "It's crucial we keep a strong TUSC presence," concluded Kevin.
John Neill explained some practical lessons from the general election campaigns by our sister party in Ireland. This set the stage for our final session, a report about the work of the CWI (the international organisation the Socialist Party is affiliated to).
The situation is not simple, in Britain or internationally. But clear Marxist ideas and a determined attitude to fighting for socialism underpin the growth of our ideas and organisation going forwards.