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South West Socialist Party members inspired by conference
Robin Clapp, South West regional organiser
Long-standing Socialist Party member Mark Baker declared it to be "excellent", while Nick from the soon-to-be-formed Torbay branch left "feeling very fired up and fighting the good fight with so many solid people". Aaron from Plymouth summed up the mood best of all: "It may have pissed down all day, but it never dampened our spirits. Really inspired by the Socialist Party. Despite all the chaos in the world, I feel at home here and the future may well belong to us."
These were just a selection of texts and messages sent to me after our brilliantly successful Socialist Party South West conference on 6 February, where 70 party members from 20 different villages, towns and cities across the region met in Bristol to discuss global and British events under the title of World in Crisis. Seventeen others were forced to send apologies, many of them young members trapped in retail zero-hour jobs who dared not risk missing a shift for fear of being thrown on the stones.
General secretary Peter Taaffe provided the incisive introduction which drew appreciation measured not only by the stormy applause that followed but also by a magnificent collection which produced £1, 972 for the party's Fighting Fund. This was later made up to a nicely rounded two grand.
Workshops followed, on: selling the Socialist; work in trade unions; building more support among women; and developing our key youth and student interventions; and the day was rounded off with a session on 'Building the Party' which I introduced.
A new branch in Cornwall which the day before had defied Atlantic storms to stage our first sale of the Socialist in Falmouth since 1974 (selling nine copies and gaining five new potential members); big successes in Torbay around anti-cuts work; the beginning of new work in Wiltshire and Bournemouth; and the likelihood of a second branch in Gloucestershire during this year; were all causes for further celebration.
A party's success is not measured only by fine words spoken in a congress, but by the successful overcoming of political and organisational challenges thrown up in the class struggle. Nevertheless we heard many fine words and it is clear that the South West Socialist Party branches have proven their mettle in a period that has not always been the most favourable.
Moving ever westwards, who's going to bet against us building next on the Isles of Scilly!
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 8 February 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.