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Socialism 2010 - Sessions packed to overflowing
Updated 11/1/10 with link to The Socialist feature article on Socialism 2010 and added quote. Watch the video of the event here.
Cindy Sheehan, the leading US anti-war activist, speaking at Socialism 2010, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Socialism 2010, hosted by the Socialist Party during the weekend 6-7 November, was attended by over 900 people.
Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
Many of the sessions were packed to overflowing as young people, trade unionists and anti-cuts activists flocked to take part in discussions on how the Con-Dem cuts can be stopped and on the socialist alternative to capitalism's diet of mass unemployment, cuts and poverty.
Speakers from the Socialist Party's sister sections across Europe - from Greece, France, Spain, Ireland and Italy - shared their experiences of mass strike movements against cuts.
While the movements are at varying stages in different countries, the fundamental message is the same; that the working classes of Europe are determined to resist the unprecedented onslaught on their living standards.
Trade union leaders from the FBU, the PCS and the RMT all spoke on how an equally determined struggle will develop in Britain.
Against the background of 30,000 students marching against increased fees in Ireland, representatives from the NUS, Socialist Students and Youth Fight for Jobs discussed how to defeat the Browne review and stop students in Britain being crippled by debts of £9,000 a year.
The discussions on Britain were not limited to the immediate issues. There were also large seminars on history - including how we defeated the poll tax, on the 'Made in Dagenham' strike, and the great unrest before the First World War.
Discussions on international issues also took place, including on how the Israel/Palestine conflict can be solved, on Cuba and Latin America, on Kazakhstan, and on the US anti-war movement.
Matt Wrack, Firebrigades Union (FBU) General Secretary, speaking at the Socialism 2010 rally, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
The highlight of the weekend was the Saturday evening Rally for Socialism. Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU was met with cheers of solidarity as he described the vicious attacks on his union by the capitalist media for the 'crime' of striking against huge cuts in London's fire service.
As Alex Gordon, president of the RMT, put it, that kind of slander is "a badge working class militants should wear with pride".
Alex called for a mass struggle to defeat the Con-Dems, including a national anti-cuts demonstration before Christmas, but added: "We will not solve the problems of the Con-Dem cuts just by getting rid of the Con-Dem government; the leader of the Labour Party also supports cuts".
Cindy Sheehan, the leading US anti-war activist, gave a barnstorming speech, comparing Britain with the US, where both Republicans and Democrats act in the interests of big business.
She explained how she is fighting for a socialist alternative. Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party, raised the need for independent mass parties of the working class in the US, Britain and worldwide.
He called for a 24 hour public sector general strike in Britain against the cuts. The final speakers at the rally were Yessenbek Ukteshbayev, from Khazakhstan, where the workers' movement struggles heroically in the face of brutal state repression, and Andros Payiatsos, from Xekinima, the Socialist Party's sister section in Greece.
Andros graphically described the six general strikes that have shaken Greece this year and the dramatically increased support for a socialist programme as a result.
The Fighting Fund appeal, made by Judy Beishon, raised more than £27,500 to help build the struggle for socialism in England and Wales.
Alex Gordon, Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers Union (RMT) President, speaking at the Socialism 2010 rally, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
The Sunday evening closing rally also had excellent speakers, including two who were fresh from the struggles in France and Spain.
Socialist Party (Ireland) MEP Joe Higgins, and Janice Godrich, president of the PCS, also gave inspiring speeches during the closing rally.
Over the course of the weekend, more than thirty people decided to join the Socialist Party.
See also: Socialism 2010: an inspirational weekend
I found Socialism 2010 a really inspiring event. As PCS President for members in the Department for Work and Pensions, every day I am fighting the cuts that threaten our jobs and the much needed benefits and services people rely on.
We listened to the inspirational lessons of the past - Tony Mulhearn recounting the brave stance Liverpool councillors took in the 1980s, refusing to make cuts but investing in jobs and homes instead, the lessons of the poll tax struggle and how we took on the Tories and won last time round...
Equally important was meeting up with hundreds of brothers and sisters from other unions and community campaigns who don't just want to defeat the cuts but want to build a real socialist alternative - translating the language of socialism into jobs, homes, services, and decent communities instead.
Building solidarity is critical at this time - together we really can win.