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Socialist Party national council report
Travelling back home from the Socialist Party's national council, one of our new, young members said: "I just want to do more to build the Socialist Party because it is the most important thing in my life now".
Mike Forster, Huddersfield
Her comments summed up the mood of the 150 delegates and visitors who attended the meeting that took place in London over the weekend of 26 and 27 February.
Peter Taaffe opened the discussion on the world today, concentrating on the unfolding economic crisis in the world economy and the parallel crisis in the Middle East because of America's disastrous invasion in Iraq.
The huge debts of the US, the world's dominant economy, are unprecedented in history. If other countries, such as South Korea, Japan and China, stop supporting the dollar then the US could be plunged into economic crisis. This would massively affect these same countries. They depend on exporting their manufactured goods to the US, while the US needs to keep importing goods from these countries so that they will, in turn, continue supporting the dollar. Economist Larry Summers has described this as "the financial balance of terror".
In eight years the US spent $500 billion on its disastrous war in Vietnam. But it is going to spend the same amount in half the time in Iraq. The quagmire of the Iraqi occupation is likely to limit the capacity of the neo-conservatives around Bush to launch attacks on Iran or Syria, both options that were hinted at following Bush's election victory.
The anti-war movement continues to be of key importance, even if the demonstrations aren't as big as they were two years ago.
Resistance to the crimes of imperialism are growing. The World Social Forum in Brazil featured the new workers' formation, P-SOL, reflecting the anger at the pro-capitalist policies of the former workers' parties like the PT.
Speakers in the debate also mentioned the fresh struggles breaking out in France and Greece. Karim from Belgium explained how the general strike movement in France has erupted against threatened privatisations and attacks on the 35-hour week.
Upul from Sri Lanka gave a first-hand account of the marvellous work of the United Socialist Party (USP) in responding to the devastation of the tsunami
Introducing the discussion on Britain, Ken Smith contrasted the dizzy wealth being accumulated by the banks and oil companies to the ongoing misery and deprivation being faced by the poorest sections of society in Blair's Britain.
By 2023, students going to university will have combined debts of £90 billion and household debt has surpassed £1 trillion, the highest in Europe. The disillusionment with Blair is now finding an organised expression in the planned public sector strike against pension cuts. As Marion Lloyd from the PCS said: "Public sector workers have had enough and are coming out fighting".
Ray Gunnion brought fraternal greetings to the conference from the International Socialists, the section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) in Scotland, and gave a first-hand account of the recent Scottish Socialist Party conference where members of the CWI had made a great impact (see the socialist issues 381 and 382).
On Sunday, Jane James gave an inspiring report on finance, reflecting our growth in support over the last year. We have had a record year on the fighting fund - reaching the annual target for the first time since 1974!
Regular subscription income was the highest for six years; members have also raised £39,000 so far for the election appeal and a marvellous £12,500 for the Sri Lanka appeal. The discussion underlined the importance of every branch going all out to ensure that they reach their fighting fund target by 8 April.
Introducing the session on building the Socialist Party, Hannah Sell outlined the numbers of young people who are looking for a socialist alternative. She emphasised that we must have the aim of finding people who are interested in joining, and then actually asking them to join, on every activity that we do - in the general election campaign, on the 19 March anti-war demo and of course the public-sector strike on 23 March.
The floor was taken by our new young members. Leah from Newcastle, Max from Stafford, Tom from Leicester, Adam from Stoke, Ian from Huddersfield, Tom from Bristol, Nick from Brunel University and Neil from Reading. The meeting spilled over with examples of new members, new branches and plans to make an impact in the election.
Zena Awad explained how there are now 33 Socialist Student Societies and we have members at a further 30 colleges and universities and a chance to get two members elected to the NUS executive.
While International Socialist Resistance and Socialist Students continue to campaign against the occupation of Iraq and education cuts and tuition fees, we are also making headway in the national campaign against low pay among young workers.
Tony Saunois brought greetings from the CWI with a brief thumbnail sketch of the main successes of our international work and Sarah Sachs-Eldridge gave a first hand account of the recent World Social Forum, complete with T-shirts, where there was clearly a thirst for socialist ideas.
The national council finished with an enthusiastic rendition of the Internationale, confident that we are at the beginning of a new stage in the development of the Socialist Party.
In The Socialist 5 March 2005: