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Large turnout at South West Socialist Party conference
"It was amazing to learn from some brilliant and thinking people yesterday. I've buried my head in the sand for too long and it was inspiring. Capitalism must end and I'd like to learn a lot more about how I can go about bringing about that change".
That was the verdict from Chris, one of three young people who joined the Socialist Party at the end of its largest South West regional conference for a number of years.
On Saturday 25 May Socialist Party members and supporters from 19 different towns and cities packed into a room in Bristol to hear Socialist Party deputy secretary Hannah Sell deliver a thorough analysis of the volatile situation unfolding in Britain and Europe.
Over 20 members followed this up with contributions that dealt with attacks in the workplaces and how we are helping to organise the fightback; a programme for opposing the far-right; lessons from struggles in Greece and Spain and the over-arching question of capitalism's chronic inability to take humankind forward in the 21st century; and why therefore a socialist alternative is imperative.
Workshops on women, youth, and building in the workplaces followed. Each resulted in practical initiatives keenly being agreed, including the organising of a regional women's meeting early in July, the stepping up of the 'Sick of your Boss' campaign from Cornwall to Cheltenham, and a trade union meeting in Exeter in September where the building of the National Shop Stewards Network will be one of our priorities.
Recruitment and finance
Robin Clapp, South West regional secretary, introduced a closing session on the progress made in the last 12 months. The rate of recruitment in the region is up by 50% over 2012 and every area has enthusiastic new people eager to take on a role in helping us to build.
It was agreed we would set up a branch in Somerset where we'll trigger fast progress by organising a Saturday 'super stall' in June with the aim of selling 75 papers and getting new members.
This follows on from the highly successful initiative in Poole where we sold 82 papers in four hours, 10 'join' cards were filled in and £46 was raised in Fighting Fund.
Conference committed itself to smashing through the new paper sales targets. This shouldn't be too difficult, given that every branch has already exceeded these targets on at least one occasion since March.
Mid-week stalls are now the norm in Plymouth and Bristol, workplace sales take place at council offices in Gloucester, and sales outside Bristol Temple Meads rail station have yielded 10-12 sales in a single session.
At the beginning of the conference, Plymouth and Gloucester branches had each recruited eight new members since January. By the end of the day, the Devonians were ahead having signed up somebody in the meeting. They have three more knocking on the door, Bristol has five who have agreed to join and this welcome infection is spreading rapidly across every branch in the region.
The viciousness of the Con-Dem attacks is polarising society, making many of those who have previously spent their evenings screaming at the television decide it's time to stand up and seek out a party that is serious about fighting for change.
The mood of optimism suffusing through the conference was expressed concretely by a magnificent collection which yielded £1,125 for our party funds.
The excellent Gloucester branch 'catering company' raised £70 towards our funds from selling their delicious food and Bev Anderson's fairy cakes went down a treat and gave us another £20.
The last word must go to Matt Stabb from Trowbridge who is new to our ranks but a veteran in the struggles of disabled workers:
"Cheers for a brilliant South West congress yesterday, comrades! Thank you for making me so welcome. It was so good to meet other comrades and feel part of the good work that is going on".